The unscrupulous proposal of Richard Myers received the disdain it so rightly deserved. The father would have none of it and insisted he would not interfere in his daughter’s private affairs. It was a relief to Catherine, who did not consider it necessary to discuss such an imperious letter. Although her mother, Mrs Ashington, questioned her relationship with an acquaintance of Lord and Lady Haxley, who had been identified as an imposter. On the grounds, the letter amounted to nothing more than blackmail, hoping it would persuade them to accept his proposal, Catherine was not prepared to discuss the matter any further.
Mr Ashington agreed and insisted that the implications of such a letter implied he should in some way be indebted to Richard Myers. When Mrs Ashington inferred they were looking at it all the wrong way and that Richard was merely trying to protect Catherine, her father became infuriated.
“Nonsense!” Mr Ashington shouted, “If, he had any decency at all, he would have first discussed it with Catherine—personally.”
The matter then escalated until Mr Ashington bought his fist down, heavy on the drawing-room table, asking why Richard had not had the decency to discuss it with him first. Catherine found it all so upsetting and quickly ran to her room.
The following night they had agreed to attend a formal gathering to celebrate Richard Myers promotion. Mr Ashington decided he would take the opportunity to express his displeasure at receiving such an unscrupulous proposal.
The announcement of Lord and Lady Haxleys arrival was like the sound of a great wave breaking on the shore before receding in a gentle hum of disbelief.
Robert, the butler, looked horrified and continued a little perplexed, “Accompanied—by—”
With horror, Richard Myers frantically began to search for Catherine. He was in no doubt who had accompanied them. His father would attend to the Haxleys, but he would have to move fast to prevent Catherine from seeing the scoundrel.
Thomas Benton then tapped the base of his glass on the table several times.
“Hear—hear!” Thomas shouted. “Hear—hear!”
His sudden authoritative burst stole the announcement of Paul Watkins, who had accompanied the Haxleys.
“Good heavens!” He exclaimed, “You look as horrified as I was when I first heard of Richards promotion.”
Awkwardly Richard smiled, twisting his large frame through the small congregation.
Thomas continued to welcome the guests and congratulate Richard Myers on becoming a partner in the family’s long-established law firm.
After only a few minutes, Richard saw Catherine standing dutifully beside Mr and Mrs Ashington.
He hesitated for a moment to tidy himself up.
Instinctively he turned to find George Thurston, reaching for his hand.
“Congratulations, my boy.” Vigorously he shook Richards hand, who felt his entire—attire dishevel once more. “I’m sure you’ll make us all very proud, my boy.”
“Thank—you,” Richard replied in a restrained grimace of discomfort, “I’ll—try, to do my best.”
His view of Catherine diminished behind Albert, who too wished to congratulate him. After a few more pleasantries, he managed to excuse himself on a matter of urgency, only to find she had gone. His heart sank in fear of her finding the wretched fellow.
Paul Watkins relationship with the Haxleys had allowed him the privilege to attend such occasions. Although he always remained unapproachable and seemed to prefer his own company. He had caused more than a few people to speculate that he was not of this world. On one such occasion, he did suffer and, it was Catherine who took pity on him. She led his pale, sunken image out into the cold dead of night.
It was nothing but mere superstition as far as Richard was concerned. The idea that this fellow was some unearthly creature who had somehow stolen her soul was ridiculous. Catherine had merely felt sorry for him and, it was in her nature to nurture something back to health.
“Are—you alright, Richard?”Aunt Geraldine inquired startled by his sudden need to support himself with the arm of her chair.
It was with an exhaustive slump of his shoulders and a harsh glare that he finally saw Catherine again. He looked down with an open mouth and shook his head in disbelief. Geraldine Myers lifted herself slightly in anticipation he was taking a turn for the worst, but he quickly tapped her on the shoulder and insisted he was fine.
He watched them standing there together; she seemed to laugh at almost every gesture he made. He cursed her child-like mannerism, although he did, however, concede it was a quality he found most endearing. After all, she was not yet aware of his feelings.
“Richard!” His Aunt called after him as he followed them out into the night.
They strolled over the large terrace and down onto the lawn. Richard carefully avoided the full ray of light emitted by the lanterns. She then hesitated a moment; she looked up as if in awe of the soft moonlight. It was a clear perfect sky. The stars seemed to enhance its magnificence, flickering harmoniously with the romantic sound of orchestral music his father had requested. If not for Paul Watkins, he would be enjoying such a night.
“What!—What!” he growled, “Are you doing now? Facing, each other like that.”
Paul was offering her his wine glass; she took it. Paul immediately moved around her, removing his dark brown cardigan. Richard watched very closely as he then proceeded to place it over her shoulders carefully.
Catherine looked so beautiful in the soft moonlight. An exchange of pleasant offerings appeared to follow. Oh, how he despised the fellow. Then Paul started to make his way back up towards the house. He felt a little unnerved at the idea of having to enter into any pleasantries with him.
Myers then turned in a squint to try and make out who it was meandering along the far side of the lawn. Harry—yes, it was, his old friend from university, he assured himself. Immediately he put up his hand and began waving, “Harry, old chap—over here.”
Harry continued slowly, with his hands clasped behind his back, and his pipe was hanging from one side of his mouth. Myers started to feel a little nervous when he realised Paul was almost upon him. Quickly he shouted again, but this time rushed down the steps, then with a sly glance over his shoulder at Paul, he rushed over to his friend.
“Harry! Old chap, been looking everywhere for you.”
Harry appeared somewhat perplexed by Richard’s, complete relief at seeing him.
“Oh, Harry, thank—God!”
“I say, is everything alright old chap?”
“Yes, actually—no, well—” Simultaneously, Richard lifted his finger then immediately bent over slightly to catch his breath. “I wasn’t sure whether—” he continued, “—or not, you’d turned up.”
“By Jove! You look in a frightful state, old chap?”
“I’m alright—just a little out of breath, that’s all.”
“I mean, anyone would think you were running for your life or something.”
Richard straightened himself up, chuckled weakly, then put out his hand, “good ter see you, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
Harry replied reflectively, “Well, yes. I suppose it has rather,” then, he popped his pipe back into the side of his mouth, only to withdraw it again and point it at Richard, “Now see here! Never mind all that. What the dickens! Is all this nonsense about?”
Myers glanced about them quickly, then drew close to Harry, “I think Catherine’s life is in danger. You remember Catherine, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course—go on,” he replied in a whisper spontaneously returning his pipe to the corner of his mouth.
As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work. There is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.
Thank you for your interest, Andrew.
Original short story by A I Moffat
Illustrations by justanemotion.com
©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021
The featured image for The Unscrupulous Proposal of a downhearted woman was by Artsybee.
Photo of a boy and the butler Robert was by Puplicdomainpictures.
Illustrations, including fancy page break, was by Annaliseart.