Friday, 23 May 2008
The diary Of A Regency Lady
This is the story I began as Anne Herries on the UK Historical blog. I became too busy to finish the episodes and so I am putting it up here in its entirety. Enjoy!
The diary of a Regency lady. /Anne Herries
December 15 1811. Mama gave me this journal today. She says that I should begin the habit for it will help me when I am married but I do not know what I should write. Except that I am not sure I wish to be married – at least I should not wish to marry any of Papa's friends. They are all so dull and I wish that something exciting would happen!
December 16. 1811. We dined with Mrs Henderson last evening. Her brother Colonel Bridgeworth was there and he put his leg next to mine under the table and kept calling me his dearest Anne. I do not call that exciting for he is at least forty and he smells of the stables. We had baked carp for the fish course and the sauce was lumpy. Oh I do wish something would happen! Mama says that we shall go to town next season but it is so long to wait and I am bored. It would not be so bad if Paul were here, but my brother is away fighting for King and Country, as Papa says. I am very proud of him, but I miss him so much. Rosie is all very well, but she is still in the schoolroom and very precocious.
December 21. 1811. Something has happened! Oh, I do not know if I dare to write about it! If Mama were to read my journal it would be too awful – but I can't bear to keep such exciting news to myself and Mama swore that my diary was sacrosanct.
It was at the Hamilton's Christmas party. I expected that it would be as dull as it usually is with not enough young men to go round. I was dreading having to dance more than once with Colonel Bridgeworth – but I didn't have to because Sir Roger Daventry had brought his houseguests with him and they included five presentable young men. They were all very pleasant, good mannered and interesting…but he was so gorgeous! The moment I saw him my heart stood still, and when he came over with Mrs Hamilton and asked if he might be presented, it raced away like mad and I am sure my cheeks were quite pink. And then he danced with me and I thought I should swoon. His name is Harry Carrington and his uncle is Lord Carrington…and if I write another word I swear I shall die! But it was a wonderful evening and tomorrow we are to meet again…
(Me talking now) I don't have much news at the moment so thought for a bit of fun, I would give you the diary I might have kept had I been a regency lady. More another day. Love to you all, Anne H.
December 12 1811
I saw him again. He was just as handsome as ever and he smiled at me. My heart beat so fast that I think my cheeks must have turned pink. We walked in the long gallery at Daventry Hall to admire the pictures and it was all I could do to stop laughing, for he described them all in such a droll way. We spent half an hour together before we had to join the others for nuncheon and it was the very best time of my life!
December 14 1811
Papa asked him to dine with us on Christmas Eve. We are to have thirty guests for dinner that evening and Mama is in a frenzy of apprehension. She is always the same whenever we have a large party, preparing lists and then losing them and plaguing poor Cook with all manner of instructions about how the goose must be cooked and how many courses we ought to serve. I think that when I am married I should like to be mistress of a large house and too grand to go down to the kitchen. I shall employ a housekeeper to do all that instead of fussing as poor Mama does. However that means I should have to marry a rich man and I am not sure that he is very rich.
I have been working very hard at my sewing for it is nearly Christmas and I have not finished all my presents. I have made a handkerchief for Papa with his initials in the corner and the same for my brother Paul – but I made him a pen case too for in his last letter he told me his was lost with some more of his baggage when they moved camp. I am not sure when I shall be able to give him his presents because he does not talk of coming home, but they must be ready just in case. I have made a pretty nightgown for Susie, which Mama helped me to cut out, and I saved my pin money to buy Mama some lavender water, which she had been wanting. I cannot wait for Christmas Eve! If he does not come I think I shall die!
I have not been able to write for several days, because we have been so busy. Mama has been in such a frenzy over the Christmas dinner, that I am sure it causes her more worry than pleasure. However, it is all over now and she is talking of it being a success and seems very pleased so perhaps she does enjoy it after all.
On Christmas Eve Harry Carrington came to dine with us. He really is very handsome and so generous. He brought Mama some wonderful sweetmeats in a pretty box bought from an exclusive emporium in London. Papa received a bottle of fine French brandy, and Rosie had a box of marzipan sweets, which she liked very well. My gift was wrapped in silver tissue and it made me gasp for I have never seen anything like it before.
At first I thought it was a walnut, but then I saw it had a catch and when I opened it, found it was lined in blue silk. Inside was a pair of miniature scissors made of gold, a tiny, tiny gold thimble and a little case for pins. Mama told me it was properly called an etui. I was so pleased with my gift and I thanked Harry several times. He laughed and said it was a mere trifle, but I knew it was very special and it made me feel warm and happy. Mama and Papa and Rosie gave me some nice presents – but all I have been able to think of is Harry's present and the way he smiled at me as I opened it.
I think he likes me very well. I like him as much as my brother, and Paul has always been my favourite person. Harry said that he would be staying with his friends until three days after Christmas. I hope he will come to see us again before he leaves.
December 27: Harry has gone away without calling on us again, though he did send Mama a letter to thank us for our hospitality. He said nothing about writing to me and I fear that I may not see him again for a long time. I am trying not to cry, because it hurts but I know I am very silly for he made me no promises. Perhaps we shall meet again when we go to town in the spring.
January 15 1812: Now I think I really shall die for I have heard that Harry Carrington is engaged to be married to Miss May Chesterfield. I feel so very foolish for it appears that it was arranged some months ago – and yet he never told me. I want to weep but Mama keeps asking me to do things for her. I think she has guessed that I was a little in love with him. If I am truthful I thought myself completely in love, but I must not let anyone else guess for I should feel so humiliated. If this is how it feels to fall in love I hope I shall never do so again!
January 18th: I have decided that I must forget all that silly nonsense over Mr Carrington. Something far more important has happened. Paul has been wounded and he is to return to us very soon. Papa has gone to see him for is being nursed by the sisters of Mercy and I am afraid that he is very ill. I shall pray for him every minute until he is with us again, and I shall put my childish folly away.
Mama always says that we should behave with moderation and I have been justly punished for I lost my head and my heart to a man who gave me nothing in return. I have given the etui to Rosie for her birthday. She is very pleased with it. I shall not let myself remember him. I must think only of my brother now.
I have been busy writing all kinds of things recently. I hope my little story will amuse for a few minutes. It isn't going to be a just romance but about all kinds of everyday incidents. Love to you all, Anne H
24th January !812:
Papa brought my poor darling Paul home this afternoon. The men carried him into the house on a chair. His face was very pale, but I think Papa's was even whiter. Mama was hovering at the top of the stairs and I knew that she was on the verge of tears. Rosie and I were banished to the parlour for Mama said we must not upset Paul. I do not see why it would have upset him to see us – though Rosie was in tears.
Later, Mama said I might go in alone if I was very quiet and said nothing to disturb him. Paul was lying with his eyes closed, but he opened them as I approached and smiled at me. He said that he was sorry to be in such poor form, and I was to forgive him for not bringing a present for Christmas or Rosie's birthday. I told him that the only present we wanted was to have him home.
'You are always so practical and good, Anne,' he told me. 'I do value you so much, my dear sister.'
His words almost made me cry but I held them inside for I did not want him to see that I was affected. I did not stay long for the journey had tired him, but I knew that he was glad to be home and I felt much better than I had when I saw him carried into the house.
4th February !812: Paul is a little better at last. I carried his tray up to him but he said he was sick of the nourishing broth that Mama keeps sending him. I took it back to the kitchen and stole some fresh scones and honey while Cook's back was turned. Paul loved them and ate every piece that I buttered and spread for him. He was like a child having a midnight feast and made me promise that I would bring him some meat and pickles the next day. I said that I would, though it will be more difficult.
At supper Mama scolded me for taking the scones. She did not think they were for Paul and said that if I continued to eat so much I should get fat and lose all my chances of marriage. I let her scold me for it did not matter and I knew that Paul had enjoyed his meal
10th February. Mama came in when Paul was eating his meat and pickles. We were laughing together and did not notice her at first. She looked serious when I turned to look at her and told me that she wanted to see me in her parlour in ten minutes. I sensed that she was cross with me, but when I went down later, she merely scolded me for stealing the food. She said that cook had blamed one of the kitchen maids and that I should be more thoughtful of others.
'Could you not have told me that Paul wanted something more substantial?' she asked. I begged her pardon and she was very forgiving, for she said that Paul was very much better for my visits – and then she cried. It was very upsetting to see Mama cry like that, but afterwards she blew her nose and said that her tears had healed her spirit. She told me that she had thought Paul would die, but it seemed that a small miracle had taken place and he was beginning to be stronger. The wound to his side was healing, though he was not yet certain of recovery.
I kissed Mama and told her that I believed Paul would recover in time, and she said that I was probably the best judge of any of us, and that she was content to leave his convalescence to me – but that I was to ask for help if I needed it. I thanked her for the compliment and said that I would do everything I could for my brother. She said that it was in God's hands, but that I was a big help to her.
Mama has never said as much to me before and I felt very honoured to be given the charge of my brother. I pray that he will soon be much better. When he tells me that he wants to get out of bed I shall know that he is through the worst.
March 11th 1812
Paul is so much better! I am so happy because today my dearest brother was able to leave his bed for the first time. We walked about his bedroom together and he sat in a chair by the window and looked out.
'It is so good to feel the fresh air again, Anne,' he told me when I opened the window for a while. I had begun to think that I should never rise from my bed again.'
'Of course you will,' I said and kissed his cheek. 'You are strong and brave – and you deserve to be happy.'
'I am happy here with you,' Paul replied. 'You have been the best companion a brother could want.'
I blushed when he praised me. 'I have done very little. It was a pleasure to me to sit with you, my very dear brother.'
'And I have enjoyed your company,' he said. 'But now you must begin to resume your own life, Anne. Mama is planning to take you to London soon and you should start to plan your new clothes.'
I knew that he was right. Had he not recovered I do not think that Mama would have carried on with her plans for my season, but she had that morning mentioned that she would be asking a seamstress to call very soon.
'If I must go, I shall,' I told him with a wry look. 'But I am not sure that I wish to marry anyone. I think that I love you better than I shall ever love my husband, Paul.'
He looked at me seriously for a moment and then shook his head. 'The love we bear each other is not that kind of love, Anne. You think that you would be content never to marry at the moment, but I know you. You need a home and children of your own – and for that you need children.'
The seamstress came this morning to begin my wardrobe. We were with her for more than two hours and Mama ordered so many gowns that I am sure I shall never wear the half of them, but she insists that I must be properly dressed!
Something odd happened today. Mama had a visitor, a lady of some consequence. She called me down to her after her guest had gone and told me that she had heard the engagement of Miss May Chesterfield to Mr Harry Carrington is not to take place after all. She looked at me oddly as she told me the news, and for a moment my heart raced madly.
'Are you affected by that news, Anne?'
'No, Mama, except that I am sorry for Miss Chesterfield.'
'It was she who jilted him, Anne, though I do not know why she did such a thing.'
'Oh…' I swallowed hard. 'It does seem unkind of her, Mama, though perhaps she had her reasons.'
'Yes, perhaps,' Mama said and smiled. 'You are a sensible girl, Anne. I had wondered if we should cancel our trip to town, but if you are not affected I shall continue with my plans.'
I thanked her and kissed her, though I was not as unaffected as she imagined. To think of Harry is less painful than it was, but I believe I should be very foolish if I allowed him into my heart once more.
April 3rd 1912
Today Mama told me that it was time I learned how to manage the stillroom. We spent the morning preparing lotions and creams that might be needed for a large household. We made cream to help soothe sore hands, for poor Nellie, our kitchen maid sorely needed something to take away the redness of scrubbing floors with soda and hot water. We almost made a lotion for Rosie's freckles, and various other common remedies that Mama bade me copy down into a receipt book. I enjoyed myself very much, and think I shall like to work in my still room when I marry…if anyone asks me, of course.
I have heard nothing more of Mr Harry Carrington and I do not know if he intends to visit his friends in the near future. I know that I told Mama I was sorry for Miss Chesterfield, but I have allowed myself to think of Mr Carrington once or twice – which I know is foolish!
Today the seamstress came with several of my new gowns. We were two hours taking fittings for it seems that I have lost weight about my waist. Mama says that is a good thing, but I feel sorry for poor Madame, who has the extra work.
Mama had a visitor again this morning. After the lady left, she told me that she had news of Mr Carrington.
'I am not sure how you will feel about this, Anne,' Mama said. 'But it appears that Mr Carrington has taken a commission and is to join Lord Wellesley immediately.'
'Oh…' I swallowed hard for I was not sure what that meant. I thought of Paul and how ill he had been of his wounds, and I could not help feeling a little frightened for Mr Carrington. 'I see…'
'I believe it may have been his intention to take up an army career that led to the break up of his engagement to Miss Chesterfield,' Mama went on with a frown. 'Apparently, she hoped that he would make his career at home, and when he told her she refused to follow the drum. She withdrew from the engagement, saying that she did not wish to become a widow before she was hardly a wife.'
'Was that not a little unkind of her?' I asked. 'Unless she had not known of his intention previously, of course…'
'I think she hoped to persuade him to give up his ideas of the army.'
'Yes, perhaps. I am glad to know that, Mama, for I had thought he might have done something to offend her.'
'I daresay she was offended by his refusal to do as she asked, Anne.'
'Yes, but…' I shook my head. 'No, I shall not take sides for it is not my affair.'
'You speak as you ought,' Mama said. 'As you know, we go up to town next month. If you were to meet Miss Chesterfield it would be best not to mention this affair.'
'I should not dream of it, Mama,' I said and she gave me a smile of approval.
'Then I am pleased we have had this talk,' Mama said. 'And now, I think that I should tell you. Papa wishes to speak to you in his study.'
'Mama?' My heart raced for I could not think what I had done to displease him, but she smiled and shook her head.
'Go along, May. I think you will find he has a nice surprise for you.'
Papa gave me fifty pounds for my pin money and a beautiful set of pearls that had belonged to his own Mama when she was young.
'Your grandmother wanted you to have these for your come out, Anne,' He told me. 'She would have been proud to see you wear them.'
'Papa! You are so good to me,' I cried. Opening the box I was overwhelmed when I saw that it contained not only a strand of creamy pearls but also eardrops, a bangle of gold set with pearls and a tiara for my hair. 'These are wonderful. I do not know how to thank you.'
'You must behave properly, as you always do,' he said with a smile, 'and then I shall need no thanks.'
I kissed him and he gave me one of his special hugs. When I went upstairs Rosie was envious of my treasures, though she tried not to be. I gave her the seed pearl necklace Mama had given me once and she hugged me and told me I was the best of sisters.
Paul told me he would miss me when I went to London, but some of his friends have started to call and he is able to walk out with them, though he cannot yet ride his horse. I believe Mr Symonds brought his sister Hester to call this morning, and Paul seemed to like her. Perhaps she will visit him more often when I am away
Tomorrow we go to London. Our trunks are packed and we had our friends to dinner yesterday evening, because it may be some weeks before we are home again. I wish Papa and Paul would come with us, but they are quite happy to stay at home. Paul is having lots of visitors now and I hardly see him. He is so much better and it seems a long time ago when we all thought that he might die. He says that he thinks Hester Symonds is a very good sort of a girl. I wonder what he means?
What shall I have to tell you, my dear Journal, when I next have time to write?
We attended a large ball last evening and it was beyond my dreams. I wore a dress of white silk that Mama commissioned from one of the most fashionable seamstresses and the pearls Papa gave me. I had pink silk roses in my hair and I carried a posy of roses that Lieutenant Robert Jones sent to me. He is one of Paul's closest friends and has just come home. He called on us the first afternoon we were at home, and was so kind to me. He paid me so many compliments, and asked that I would keep two dances for him.
I was sure that I should have plenty of dances to spare and told him so, but it was not the case. I danced every dance! The gentlemen were all so kind and said some very foolish things. I did not expect to be such a success and I must admit that I enjoyed myself very much, though Mama said that I must not let flattery go to my head. Indeed, I shall try not to – but it was very exciting.
Oh, I do not know what to think! It is the most extraordinary thing and a little disconcerting. Lieutenant Jones took me driving in the park this morning. He has some fine horses and I was enjoying myself very much until I saw him. He was staring at me in a very odd way. At first I could not believe it was Mr Carrington for I had understood that he was going to be a soldier and I do not know how he comes to be in London.
Mr Carrington was at a card party we attended last evening. I was told that his commission has been delayed because he had to attend the funeral of his uncle, Lord Belmond. It seems that Mr Carrington has unexpectedly been left a considerable fortune, because his cousin was killed only last month in a riding accident. I cannot help wondering what Miss Chesterfield feels now.
Mr Carrington smiled at me but I moved on and did not speak to him. I daresay we shall meet again soon for we are both to attend Lady Waterfield's ball tomorrow evening.
May 11 1812
I have been invited to a waltzing party this morning, held by Caroline Lamb. Everyone is enchanted by this dance now and they say the Regent loves to waltz. Mama was a little dubious at first but she is reconciled to it now and I think it will be delightful. I have to say that I have seen the Prince Regent twice now and he is very fat. Perhaps I should not say such a thing, but I can share it with my journal.
This evening we went to a ball and he was there again. I had not realised but he is now Lord Belmond and our hostess introduced us. He asked me to dance and I could not think of a way to refuse politely. He danced well, but we did not talk very much and he seems much changed – more serious. I was not sure what to say to him
The papers are filled with stories of riots in the North. Mama says Papa is concerned because his brother owns a great deal of property there and may have been caught up in it. I feel a little as if we should not be giving ourselves up to pleasure when there is so much trouble elsewhere. Lieutenant Jones told me that he was being sent north to help quell the troubles with Luddites in the North. I do not think he truly wished to go. He hesitated for a while and I thought he meant to ask me something but he did not. He said that he would call on at me at home one day if he did not return to London before the end of our visit.
I met Lord Belmond while out walking with Mama. He stopped to speak to us and asked if he might call. Mama has invited him to dine with us this evening. He smiled at me and asked me if I was enjoying my first visit to London. I said that I was enjoying it very well. He seems so different and I am not sure how what to think. I am a little nervous of meeting him at home this evening.
Lord Belmond dined with us last evening. He was charming and talked seriously, and Mama told me afterwards that he seemed much changed. I think she has decided that she likes him, and she looked at me oddly once or twice, as if she were wondering how I felt. I am glad that she did not ask me, because I should not have known how to answer her. It seems such a long time ago since I thought myself in love with him.
Mama has had such a letter! My brother wrote to her to say that he was considering making Hester a proposal of marriage. Mama has been in a fluster all day, because she does not know what to think. Paul hardly knows Miss Symonds, and I think Mama wonders if he has been influenced at a time when he is vulnerable. I believe she would like to go home, but she does not wish to disappoint me. She is torn between wanting to talk to Paul and seeing me enjoy myself in town. We were to have stayed for another two weeks, but if Mama is distressed I would rather that we returned home.
Mama has written to Paul, asking him to delay his proposal until after we return. She asked me how I felt and I told her that I would not be too upset if we went home early. She says that we must stay until the end of next week at least, because we have so many engagements. I was able to tell her that I thought my brother far too sensible to do something impetuous.
'Paul always thinks things through, Mama. If he is considering making an offer to Hester, it must be because he loves her.'
'But he has been so ill,' she said, looking anxious. 'It is easy to make mistakes when one has been near to death. Do not mistake me, Anne. I like Miss Symonds very well, indeed, I should be pleased to have her as my daughter-in-law, but I want Paul to be sure.'
'I think you may rely on him to be sensible, Mama,' I reassured her. 'And I believe he will wait until we return, since you have asked it of him.'
Mama seemed reconciled after we had talked. She seemed as if she wanted to ask me something, but she did not. I am glad that she was patient, for in truth I do not know my own mind.
I saw Lord Belmond again as I walked in the park. He was charming as always, but just before we parted he said something that made me a little uncomfortable. He asked if I had forgiven him for his behaviour at Christmas, telling me that he had regretted leaving without speaking to me. I told him that there was nothing to forgive, but I gave him no encouragement. I think that he may make me an offer, but I was not his first choice and I am no longer sure that I wish to marry him.
I have heard disturbing news of the troubles in the north and I cannot help wondering whether Lieutenant Jones has been caught up in them.
May 19th 1812
I danced with Lord Belmond last night and then he took me outside for some air because it was so very hot in the ballroom. He asked me if I was enjoying my visit to town and I said yes. He told me then that he was leaving very shortly to join his regiment. I said that I should be sorry not to see him in company and he smiled a little sadly and said that he would miss me. He asked if he might take me driving in the park the next day. I hesitated and then said that he might, in the morning because I had engagements for the afternoon. He promised that he would call at half past ten and the look in his eyes made my heart beat very fast. I think that he may be intending to make me an offer – dear journal, what shall I do? I believed myself in love once, but now I am not so sure. Why did Miss chesterfield break off their engagement – was it because she believed he was merely marrying her for her money?
I spent a restless night for I truly do not know what I shall say if Lord Belmond asks me to be his wife. If only he had asked me last Christmas how happy I should have been then. I shall write when I return from my drive, though it may not be until tomorrow, because I have engagements all day.
May 21 1812
It has happened! I am in such a state for I swear I do not know what to do. I have not told Mama for I think she would scold me for not knowing my own mind. Indeed, I should know it but I confess that I am confused. If Harry – as he has asked me to call him – had asked me to marry him last Christmas I should have said yes without hesitation for I thought myself deeply in love. So much has happened since then and I am not as innocent as I once was. I like Harry and perhaps I feel something more but I have asked him for time to consider.
Was I wrong to make him wait? I do hope that I am not subconsciously punishing him for what he did to me when he left without speaking and I learned that he had asked Miss Chesterfield to marry him. I asked him why their engagement had been broken, and after some hesitation, he told me.
'Miss Chesterfield felt that I did not sincerely love her,' he said a little awkwardly. 'She believed that I was marrying her for two reasons: one was that our families expected it, which was true…' He looked straight at me then, 'Secondly, she had been told that I was marrying her for her money…'
'Was that true?' I asked, meeting his gaze steadily. 'I heard the rumour too…'
'Did you?' His eyes were intent, serious. 'And did you believe it?'
'I thought it might be true, because I had believed…' I faltered and blushed.
He nodded, looking serious. 'You thought that I was very attracted to you, Anne – and you were right. At first I just found you refreshing and charming, but then I began to realise that I was very attracted and I thought you might be also. It made me realise that I had behaved badly. I left quickly, hoping to limit the damage that had been done…'
'I was very hurt that you said nothing.'
'Yes, I understood that when we met again.' He reached out to touch my face. 'Will you forgive me? I did not think then that I could disappoint Miss Chesterfield and marry you, for two reasons – one was that I knew she expected an offer, and the second, though I am ashamed to admit it was that I knew I ought to marry an heiress…'
'Oh, I see…'
'Please do not censure me,' Harry begged. 'It sounds so cold and callous, but I have a mother and a sister to support and…my father died in debt. My sister had no chance of a good marriage without a dowry and I…had become accustomed to think that it would be a good thing…'
He looked ashamed and I was moved to touch his hand, 'It is not uncommon for gentlemen to think as you do, sir.'
'You are generous,' he replied with a sad smile, 'but after I proposed I began to see that it would not do, because…I did not feel as I ought towards her.'
'I think I understand…' I frowned. 'But did you not expect that you would inherit your uncle's title and fortune?'
'Since my cousin died I knew that the title would be mine one day, though my uncle seemed a fit man and I did not expect it for some years – but he and my father had quarrelled. He refused a request for help from my mother some years ago and I had not seen him for some time. I was surprised when I learned that apart from some personal bequests everything had come to me for the bulk of the estate was not entailed.'
'I see…' I nodded, understanding the predicament he had found himself in. 'Well, I cannot pretend that you did not behave badly, sir – towards both Miss Chesterfield and me. She must have been distressed when she discovered that your feelings towards her were not what she might have expected.'
'She was piqued,' he replied, 'but not truly hurt, because she liked someone else better. She too had felt that she ought to marry to oblige her family, but when she realised that I did not truly care for her she told me that she had discovered she could not marry me and broke off the engagement. I think she had realised where her own heart lay too late.' A flicker of wry amusement touched his mouth. 'I know that many will wonder why she would have done such a thing, for it was both serious and shaming – and I am sure that some may think me wicked, for why should she have done it if I were not?'
'Oh no!' I cried. 'Surely not?'
'Do you think I would be ungallant enough to deny that it was my fault?'
'No, I do not,' I said and smiled at him. 'I think you are a gentleman, sir – and I like you very well. I am just not sure that I wish to marry you. Nor am I certain that I do not. Would you think it very bad of me if I were to ask for time?'
'No, of course not,' he replied and kissed my hand. 'But I do not have much time for I must leave at the beginning of next week. If you wished for it we might have been married, but perhaps it would be best if we were to wait?'
'I shall give you my answer tomorrow,' I promised. 'Come to the house at eleven in the morning and I shall tell you then.'
But what, dear journal, shall I tell him? Do I wish to be Lady Belmond – or is there another I would rather wed? He has not asked me yet but I think he means to when he returns from the north…
Oh, what shall I do?
May 13 1812
Dear journal, I have thought long and hard about what I should do, and I have decided that I shall accept Lord Belmond's offer. I know it will please Mama, and I believe it will make me happy to be his wife. After all, there was a time when I believed I was desperately in love with him, and perhaps I shall be again once I have accepted the situation. Harry says he loves me. I must take his word and forget the past. If there was another I liked very much, I think I must forget him. He has made no attempt to write to me and I know Mama expects me to take my chance of a good marriage. So I have decided that I shall.
My feet hardly seem to have touched the ground since I told Lord Belmond that I would be happy to accept his offer. He kissed me and it was very pleasant, and then he gave me a beautiful diamond ring. We showed it to Mama and she was delighted with everything. She says we shall leave London tomorrow and go home to make preparations. Harry told her that he wished to marry me and take me with him to his regiment, and to my surprise she agreed. I really thought that she would ask us to wait, but she did not. Harry is to purchase a special license and he has requested an extra week before he joins his regiment in Spain – and so I shall go with him. Mama was determined that we should have a beautiful wedding, and she rushed me off to the seamstress, who is to alter a ballgown she was making for me so that it is suitable for my wedding. I shall wear ivory silk with pink beads and a pink bonnet with a white veil to wear in church. I cannot believe it is all happening. I keep thinking that I shall wake up and find it is a dream.
May 16th 1812
When we arrived home I discovered that a letter was waiting for me. It was from Lieutenant Jones. He had sent it to my home, because he believed that I should be there before he could come to London. It seems that he was hurt in a skirmish soon after he reached the scene of the riots and he was too ill to write until this!
I was shaking by the time I had finished reading to the end of his letter. What should I do? I felt confused and distressed for had I known this was waiting for me I might not have accepted Lord Belmond. But I have given my promise and it would be impossible to draw back now. Besides, I am not certain I want to. It will be pleasant to be lady Belmond I think. And yet Lieutenant Jones writes with such warmth. From the tone of his letter I am almost certain that he means to ask me to marry him when he comes – and he says he shall visit as soon as he is properly well again.
I feel terrible! I know that I must have given him cause to hope. Indeed, I do like him very well. If only he had sent the letter to us in London! I am sure that at the very least I should have asked Lord Belmond for time, which means that I cannot truly love him – can I? If I did I would not feel so unsettled by this letter. I do not know what to do. How can I answer this letter? My promise is given to Harry and it would hurt him if I asked him to release me, to say nothing of my reputation. I cannot show it to Mama for she would blame me. The only person I can ask is my brother. I know Paul will not judge me.
I have not been able to speak to Paul about the letter. I saw him only for a short time and that was in company with his fiancée. He had waited only for Mama to return and give him her blessing before leaving to pay a short visit to Hester's home. He will return for my wedding, but that will be too late! I must make up my own mind what to do. I have no choice. I must go through with the wedding, because it would be so shameful if I did not – and I am fond of Harry. There are times when I think I love him, but at other times I do wonder what I might have said had Robert asked me first.
I think I must be a shallow sort of person, though I have never thought it – but how can I be torn this way when I have given my promise to Harry? If I had never met Lieutenant Jones everything would have been so wonderful, but now I am torn two ways. I know Mama has noticed something. She asked me if something was wrong but I could not tell her. I am too ashamed! I must write to Lieutenant Jones and tell him I am to be married, but it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I am not sure how to begin.
Today is my wedding. I woke this morning and my first thought was one of terror. By this evening I shall be Harry’s wife. I was too much of a coward to tell him I had changed my mind. Mama would have been so angry, and disappointed. I wish that I had thought a little more, but of course I did not know that Robert meant to ask me to be his wife. I do not know it for sure now. He has not come, but he may have seen the announcement in the papers. I am sure that when he knows he will be hurt and that hurts me. I feel so wicked. I do not like to hurt people, and I am determined to be a good wife to Harry. I like him very well. As for love I hardly know what that means, except that sometimes when Robert looked at me in a certain way I suspected that he loved me – but I must stop now for Mama will be here soon and the day will begin.
I have been married three days. My dear Harry is very good to me. He teases me and makes me laugh, and he was very gentle when he made me his wife. I think I was foolish to fear being married to him and we shall do very well together. We are to leave for the south coast in the morning. Harry will join his regiment and I shall meet the other wives who are travelling to Spain with their husbands. In all the turmoil of the past weeks I had almost forgotten that there was a war on. However, that is behind me. I am married now and shall think no more of…a certain person. I believe that I was foolish to imagine he cared for me. Had he truly wanted to marry me he would have said something before he left for the North. So I shall put all that nonsense from my mind. Perhaps I should not write in my journal anymore now that I am married, and yet I have become attached to it and I may have exciting things to relate once we are in Spain. I feel nervous and excited, just as I did over my wedding, and now I can see that it was all nonsense. Of course I love Harry. He is my husband and will be the father of my children.
Oh, I hardly dare to put this down, but I have seen Robert. He looked at me with such reproach in his eyes that it broke my heart. We did not speak, but I learned that he will be travelling on the ship with us when we leave next week with Harry’s regiment. I hope that I shall not see him often for it is hard to bear when he looks at me so! I am Harry’s wife and nothing can change that – and I care for him, I really do – but there is something in Robert’s eyes that makes me feel I shall swoon with shame!
We have been sailing for two weeks now and this is my first time on deck. I have been tied to my cabin and feeling so ill! It seems that I am not a good sailor. Harry was very kind at first but then he seemed to be annoyed that I could not find my sea legs. I was sorry to be sick all the time, for it made the cabin smell unpleasant, and perhaps that was why Harry seldom stayed with me for long. However, I am beginning to recover and the fresh air on deck has done me good. I did not see Robert. I am glad, but I do not think it will be possible to avoid him for the whole voyage.
I met Robert as I was strolling round the deck this morning. He stared at me so coldly and I thought he would walk right past, but then he stopped and inquired kindly if I was feeling better. I thanked him and said that I was, but I longed to say much more. It would be foolish to raise the subject of Robert's proposal for it is much too late. However, I am glad that the ice has been broken and I hope that we can be friends again. It would have been awkward if we were not for as brother officers, Harry and Robert will be in each other's company quite often. Besides, I am quite happy as Harry's wife. If things are not just as I had imagined…well, I am a foolish girl with too many romantic notions in my head.
So we are in Spain at last and Harry found a nice house for us to stay. It is small but adequate and we have servants to look after us. However, I am not sure how long we shall stay here for already there is talk of a move. I should like to be settled for a while, but I know that Harry must go where he is ordered. He is not in the same regiment as Robert so I imagine I shall not see much of Robert in the future. I do not mind. I have quite made up my mind to forget all the foolishness!
I have been crying. Harry told me that he has orders to move on but I am to stay here. I begged him to let me accompany him, but I refused. Some of the other wives are going with their husbands, but Harry says it is too dangerous. He says that I shall be safe here, because at least six of the other ladies are staying. I tried to persuade him but he was adamant. I think there must be some talk of a battle…
I have heard nothing from Harry since he left and I am worried that something has happened to him. I have very little money and I do not know what to do. Most of the English wives have moved on, and the local people are not as friendly as they were. If Harry does not write or send me some money soon I do not know how I shall manage.
Some English soldiers came through the village today with their wives. They say that the fighting was all over more than a month ago. Wellington entered Madrid even before Harry left me. I do not understand what has happened. If there has been no large battles since then how can Harry have simply deserted me?
I asked one of the ladies if she had heard any news but she said that I should have gone with my husband when he moved on. I did not like to ask for money, but I am desperate. I have sold some of my jewellery, but the money was not one tenth of its worth. I have taken to picking fruit from the trees that grow along the road but the local people look at me angrily. Why has Harry abandoned me? Why have I heard nothing from him in weeks – and why did he not take me with him when other wives went with their husbands?
I have not eaten for three days. I do know what I should do. I would beg for work but I cannot make myself understood. Why has Harry abandoned me?
I was walking in the village and I fainted for lack of food. When I came to myself a woman was tending me. She gave me some soup and tried to talk to me, but I only understood a few words. If I have enough strength I must try to get to the coast. I can sell what I have left of my jewellery and perhaps purchase a passage home. Harry must be dead for no one has news of him and he has not written or returned for me. I must make some effort to help myself or I shall die here, far away from my home.
Why has Harry not written? He must surely have been killed. There were no more large battles, but I have heard of some skirmishes. Why has no one told me?
I wish I knew what to do for the best….
I have not been able to write in my journal for some days, because I was so ill. I think I should have died had Robert not come for me. He tells me that I was delirious when he found me. He tended my ills, fed me on nourishing broth and brought me back to my senses. I owe my life to him. He says that as soon as I am strong enough he will take me home. I asked him how he could do that and he told me that he has been released from duty. I am not sure if he is disobeying orders and it worries me.
I was able to walk outside for the first time today. Robert stayed with me, supporting me as I took my first steps. He was so very kind. Later, I asked if he had heard anything of Harry, but he was unable to give me any news other than that his troop had been involved in a skirmish with the French. He believes they may have been renegades who had fought rather than surrender.
I fear that my husband is dead for if not he would surely not leave me for so long, knowing that I had so little money. I shed tears when I was alone. I can hardly believe that he has gone so soon after we were married. All I want now is to be at home with Mama. I asked Robert if I should write to her but he said that we should be home as soon as the letter for there is a ship leaving the day after tomorrow.
I have been turning things over in my mind. What will Harry think if he comes to find me and discovers that I have returned to England? Robert says that if we do not take this passage we may have to wait months. I feel that he is hiding something from me but I do not know what it could be.
I decided to go with Robert. We are on board ship now. I went down to the cabin immediately to settle my belongings, then I returned to the deck and stood with other women returning home. Two of them were wearing black and I knew from things they said that their husbands had been killed. I feel so sorry for them, but I cannot grieve for Harry. Sylvia and Maria told me that their husbands made sure they were looked after and would have money enough if the worst happened.
Why did Harry just abandon me? I could not think he would do such a thing; therefore I must conclude that he is dead.
We have been at sea two weeks now and I have been ill most of the time. Robert has been devoted to me and I have begun to think of the future. If Harry is dead…but it is wrong of me to have these thoughts for I cannot know for certain.
I am feeling much better at last. The weather has been good and I have spent much of the time on deck. Robert is with me all the time. We talk and talk, about everything. We have so much in common! I know that he cares for me, because his eyes tell me so, but he says nothing. We both know that it would be wrong to discuss out feelings until we are certain that Harry is dead.
I am so wicked! I should grieve for my husband but I cannot. The first calf love I felt for him died long ago. I knew when I married him that I did not feel the same, but he was persuasive and…I suppose I wished to be the wife of a wealthy and titled gentleman. I know now that I made a foolish mistake. Had Harry come for me when I was ill I should have put all thought of Robert from my mind, but he saved my life – he is my constant companion and I delight in this journey. I wish that it might go on forever. We shall be together for several weeks, depending on the weather and the winds, but it cannot be long enough for me. When we finally reach home Robert will have to leave me. I must pass some months in mourning but until I know for certain what happened to my husband I am in limbo.
Today there was a storm. I could not stay on deck. Robert did so for a while but then the crew told him to go to his cabin. Instead, he came to mine. It was a mistake, because in the cramped confines of the cabin we could only sit close together, and perhaps it was inevitable that we should kiss. Our lips touched and the feeling was so wonderful. I know that I should have sent him away, but I could not. I truly could not for I wanted him to make love to me – and it was so sweet. I did not know that the act of love could be as beautiful as Robert made it for me.
Afterwards we looked at each other and the guilt was awful.
‘That should not have happened, Anne.’
‘I know. It was wrong but we could not help ourselves.’
‘You know that I love you? I have always loved you.’ Accusation was in Robert’s eyes. ‘Why did you marry him?’
‘I believed I loved him once…and you did not write. If you had written…’
‘You would have married me?’
‘Yes…I would, should have married you.’
‘Because you love me as I love you?’
‘Yes…but I do not know…we do not know if…’
‘You must ask for a divorce,’ Robert said urgently.
‘How can I? He has done nothing…’
‘He left you to starve, Anne. Had I not heard you were in trouble you would have died.’
I wept then, because things are so difficult. I wanted to make love with Robert. I want to do as he says, but if I went with him without knowing whether I am a widow or a wife I should lose the respect of others and myself.
‘We must be careful,’ I said. ‘I love you, Robert, but it cannot happen again.’
‘Then I must keep my distance,’ he said. ‘It was not my intention to dishonour you, Anne – but I love you and I shall not give you up.’
January 29th. I813.
I have not dared to write in my diary since the day of the storm. Robert has kept his distance, though I know he longs to be with me as we were that day – as I long for the taste of his kisses. Sometimes as I lie in bed I am in an agony of longing. I want to be with Robert. He is the man I should have married.
In a few days now we shall be in England. I have begun to wonder what my mother will say when I tell her I have left India without knowing whether my husband is alive or dead.
Will she think I have behaved badly?
I have never known Mama to be so angry! She accused me of abandoning my husband and at first she did not wish to receive me. Robert told her that when he found me I was near death, but she would not believe me. It was only after Paul made her calm down and listen that she began to understand how I had suffered.
‘You should have made more effort discover Harry’s whereabouts,’ Mama said. ‘Supposing he has been badly wounded? You should be there at his side, Anne.’
‘I did not know what to do,’ I told her, but I could not meet her eyes. ‘Harry promised to return in a few days. He left me with hardly any money and made no provision for my safety. Most of the other wives had gone to places of safety, but Harry left me without telling me what to do if he did not return.’
‘He expected to return,’ Paul said. ‘I am sure that whatever happened it was unexpected and left him unable to contact you.’
‘Yes, perhaps…’ I felt the sting of tears. What would my family think if they knew what I had done on board ship?
Robert has left us. He says he must return home. He told me that he resigned his commission so that he could bring me to England. Had I known then I should have begged him not to take such a drastic step.
‘My father will be glad to have me home,’ he said. ‘I am not the eldest son, but I can help with estate affairs and I have a small estate of my own. I may find some employment in civil life – such as a parliamentary secretary for some great man of affairs.’
‘Oh, Robert…’ My heart caught in my throat. ‘I shall miss you so much.’
‘Your family would think it odd if I stayed longer.’ Robert looked down at me, his expression serious. ‘I intend to make inquiries regarding Harry. I shall do what I can to discover the truth of his disappearance.’
‘Supposing he is confirmed dead?’
‘I shall come to tell you – and when a decent time has elapsed I shall ask you to marry me.’
‘Thank you…’ My heart was in my mouth and I could not answer.
Only to you can I confess the secrets of my heart, dear journal. I do not wish Harry dead, but I wish with all my heart that I were free…
May 21st. 1913.
I have been helping Mama to bottle the first of the soft fruits from the garden. She looks at me oddly sometimes and I think she suspects my secret – my terrible secret that I dare speak of to no one.
I am with child. I am carrying Robert’s child. There, I have put it down for the first time. The knowledge terrifies me, because I cannot hide my shame for much longer. Mama knows even though I try to hide it. Soon she will make me confess it.
A letter came from Robert this morning. He says that he has heard that a wounded man has been discovered after being missing for some months. He was hiding out in the Spanish hills but his memory has gone and he does not know his own name. No one has yet identified him, because of burns to his face – but there is a possibility that he may be Lord Harry Belmond. Apparently, he has a ring that belongs to Harry…
When I finished reading Robert’s letter I sat staring into space for nearly an hour. Could this man be Harry? Robert says that he has been brought to the coast and will be sent home as soon as he is well enough to travel.
Unless that was almost immediately he would arrive after my child was born. I was numb with shock, unable to decide what I ought to do. In the end I decided that I must speak to Mama. She will think me at fault, but perhaps I may benefit from her advice.
I can hardly believe that Mama suggested it. She says that by the time Harry arrives – if it is him – the child will be grown sufficiently for us to hide the date of his or her birth.
‘You mean I should lie to him?’ I stared at her in dismay for I did not lie the idea. ‘Mama – would it not be best to tell him?’
‘Do you wish to be shamed before the world? He would certainly divorce you – as he may do now for leaving him. It will not be just your shame, Anne. The rest of us must bear the burden if your husband casts you off.’
How could I tell her that I wished for a divorce? She would not have listened. I had asked for her advice and she has given it.
My back aches so that I can hardly bear it. My ankles have swollen of late and I feel so tired all the time. Mama shows me no sympathy. I know she believes I have brought shame on her and all my family. Sometimes it is more than I can bear living here. I wish that Paul was here more but he and Hester have their own house now and they visit us only now and then. I have no one to turn to for Mama insisted that I write to Robert and tell him he must not visit me here.
If the child does not come soon I think I shall die of my grief. I know Mama thinks it is a fitting punishment that I should suffer for my sins. It cannot be much longer now before the child is born.
The child is safely born and he is adorable. His eyes are very like Robert’s, though Mama says they may change as he grows. Little Charles was born a week or two early, because I turned dizzy on the stairs and fell. Mama says it was a good thing because we can explain the child’s small size by saying he was born early.
‘But Harry will know it cannot be his child when I tell him the babe was born in June – even if he was early.’
‘There is no need for your husband to know the exact day or month,’ Mama said. ‘I shall arrange for the date on the doctor’s bill to be altered. Your child arrived soon after you got home, which is why you had to leave Spain. You knew that Harry would wish for his son to be born in England.’
‘Mama! That is such a terrible lie!’
‘If you are to tell one lie others cannot hurt,’ she said. ‘You must consider the weight on your conscience your punishment for lying in the arms of another man. You cannot tell Harry the truth – besides, if he is still ill and suffering from loss of memory it would be unkind to reveal the truth. Do you not agree?’
‘I suppose it would be unkind, but…’
‘I will hear no excuses, Anne. You will do as I say or I shall disown you.’
Mama is right. I have brought shame on the family. I must do as she says and try to hide my wickedness as best I can.
We have received a letter from Lord Belmond’s secretary. Harry begs my pardon but he cannot visit me for some time. His illness is of such a nature that he does not wish to appear in public. He asks for patience. In time he will speak to me personally so that we may discuss the future.
At the bottom of the letter the secretary had scribbled a few words of comfort.
His lordship is ill and very tired, my lady. He is certain to feel better when he has had time to reflect.
I do not know what he can mean. I am very fearful of what will happen when Harry sees the child. Mama has written to him telling him of the birth for I could not bring myself to do it.
Robert came to visit me today. Mama was angry and at first she would not let me see him, but when he told her the news she relented. It is terrible news indeed. Now at last I understand why Harry did not come back to me. He was so terribly injured that he is blind and mutilated in the most awful way. His face has been burned and he has lost one hand. I have spent the day weeping, because I feel so distressed.
How lonely Harry must feel. He has shut himself in his room and will see no one but his valet. No wonder that poor man wrote me such a cryptic note. He must have a very difficult job for Harry is a proud man and if he has hidden himself away from the world he must feel humiliated.
Mama says it is my duty to go to him, but Papa says that I must wait, because it would be too hard for Harry. He has not yet come to terms with his injuries and needs time to overcome his pain.
It is true that I suffered when I was left alone, but Harry was too ill to know what had happened to me. He should perhaps have left me more money or told me how to find friends if he did not return, but now that I know how badly he was injured I cannot feel as I did about his desertion.
Robert says that I must do nothing, because if Harry refuses to see me it will be easier to arrange a separation and in time a divorce – but I do not think Harry will let his son go. I believe I must tell him the truth for I cannot allow him to bring up another man’s child. Mama says that his blindness makes it easier to deceive him, but I am filled with guilt.
What must I do?
Harry’s secretary has written to ask me to bring the child to him at Belmond. Mama says I must go and truly I believe I must. I have not told Mama my reasons. She believes that her threats have won and that I shall do as she insists I ought – but I am determined that I cannot deceive a man who has been so cruelly served. I shall tell Harry the truth and beg him to let me go.
Robert says that we may live abroad, perhaps in Italy. After a few years people may have forgotten my shame and perhaps I shall return.
It will be hard to tell Harry the truth for I have not behaved well to him and it shames me to confess my secret – yet I shall do it for it is wrong to deceive my husband.
Oh, the pity of it! I can hardly bear to write these words for Harry’s beautiful face has been so badly burned that I want to weep. He cannot see the terrible scarring and for that I thank God, because I do not think he could bear it.
I do not know how to write things that took place when Harry admitted me to his bedchamber. He sat in the shadows, his curtains drawn so that at first I could not see him – and he begged my pardon. His words broke my heart.
‘I wronged you, Anne,’ he told me. ‘I should have sent you with the other wives to a place of safety in the mountains, but I believed that the danger was passed. I did not expect to be so badly wounded that I could not return to you within a few days.’
‘You should not apologise, Harry. Forgive me – I should have found some way to come to you…’
‘How could you when you knew nothing of what happened to me? I was caught when an ammunition cart exploded. Some of my men were killed and the others were too busy fighting for their lives to realise that I was still alive. I believe I looked more dead than alive when a Spanish peasant and his wife found me. I owe my life to them, though I wish they had left me to the elements and a swift death.'
‘Harry! You must not say that,’ I said in a whisper that was more a cry of pain. ‘In time you will come to terms and find some happiness…’
‘I do not think it, Anne,’ he said. ‘My one happiness is that you have given me a son. If it were not for the boy I should give you your freedom – but since we have a child I must try to endure this agony. I know that you will not wish for our marriage to continue and you have my permission to live in town or wherever you wish. I ask only that my son is brought to visit me at least once a month…’
‘Harry…’ My voice failed me. How could I tell him that the child was not his? How could I take away the one thing he had left to him? ‘I will live here with you. I will be your wife and perhaps there will be more children…’
‘You do not know what you say…’
Harry rose, went to the window and drew back the drapes so that the light fell on his face. I could not prevent the gasp when I saw him. He flinched and clenched his hand at his side.
‘Now you understand. I am not selfish enough to demand that you live with the sight of this every day of your life.’
‘I could grow accustomed to…’
‘No!’ he said harshly. ‘You may divorce me for desertion if you wish. You are young and beautiful and one day you will love again.’
‘No…’ My voice was stronger now and I knew what I must do. ‘I shall live here, Harry. Sometimes I may go away but I shall return and…’
‘Go! Leave me…’
‘I shall leave you, but later I shall return and bring Charles with me. I shall live here in the house, but you need not see me unless you wish.’
I left him without a word. I have made up my mind. Mama was right, I must stay with him and I must allow him to believe Charles is his son. I shall do this, but not for Mama’s reasons. I care nothing for the scandal, but Harry was my first love and even though I have come to love Robert in a different way I know that I still care for the man I married. I shall write to Robert and tell him of my decision. It means hurt for him and for me but it is what I must do. My decision is final.
This is the last time I shall write in you, my dear journal. After this I must lock you away somewhere no one will ever find you. Perhaps in time I can help Harry to find a little pleasure in life. It will take time and I fear involves pain for us both, but I am determined to do it.
I am no longer the girl who began this journal with hopes and dreams. I am become a woman who knows what it is to live and to feel true pain. One day I may begin another journal if I have something of interest to report
Posted by Linda Sole at 00:34