Beth

This is also a historical fiction.

Beth Emmerson may be rich, but she doesn't have everything; her father thinks she's proud and her distant cousin, Gordon Banks, clearly hates her enough to appear cold and distant. But when a strange poem is presented, written by an apparent admirer, Beth's entire world is flung upside down and she must venture to find out more about her family than she has ever known before. To do this, however, Miss Emmerson must first hear the tragic story of two lovers; one player and one young lady, who is dead and has been for five years. As the past and present collide, the nasty intentions of the mysterious poet is revealed and Beth must, and will, make her decisions.

SEQUEL TO ELIZABETH MARTON

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7. 7.

Upon returning up to the house - Pickely - lunch was then served, a cold one, made mostly up of fine meats, cheeses, fruits-of-the-season and crusty white rolls, and Beth spent the meal with Eddie and Rose, the latter whom looked inexplicably cheerful. Miss Emmerson yearned, after the dizzyingly exciting events of the past week, for only the familiar, calm company of her elder sibling, a feeling that the said sibling evidently shared, for his behaviour towards his sister was warmer, even, than usual and he had more things to say.

"The company is charming, do you not think? was the first remark to slide off her brother's tongue.

Beth shrugged. "Perhaps." she said. "But I do find one or two of your aforementioned company rather... antisociable."

Eddie knowingly smiled, for he could tell full well that his sister was speaking of Mr. Banks. "Indeed. But the others are perfectly conversible."

Beth nodded. "They are." but, before she could get any further, then Rose Fitzwield came up behind them, a glass of punch in one hand and a plate of cheeses and cold meats in the other."

"How, so far, are you liking the company?" she asked with a smile.

Beth exclaimed. "But that is just what we were talking of!" she said. "And Eddie and I both agreed that we were very well pleased with it."

Eddie laughed. "Oh, yes. Apart from - I think I heard that you were displeased with - perhaps one certain gentleman?"

"Really?" came Rose's well-fired question. "Tell me: Which gentleman was this?"

Beth dropped her voice to a whisper. "I am sorry to have to say it - despite the fact that nobody can have failed to see things the same - that I find the company of Mr. Banks quite intolerable. He is, I find, abominably imposing and not nearly talkative enough."

Rose nodded. "That may be said, but his wealth! It would not make such a difference to your lifestyle, should he decide to marry you, Beth, but if it were somebody like me... Golly, what fine things I should then have!"

But Beth only shook her head. "No." she said. "I strongly feel as though, if you are, perhaps, looking to invest in matrimony for wealth, then you should be by far better off marrying Eddie. I say this, despite the fact that both gentlemen are equal in fortune, because my brother clearly has more to offer in terms of a gentlemanly image."

Eddie Emmerson, however, turned to his sister with his mouth hanging open in an expression of shocked horror. "I think not! Rose is my immediate cousin!" he cried. "And, therefore, any thought of marriage between us is imprudent and, if I may be frank, vulgar!"

Beth sighed, exasperated rather. "I was not, necessarily, referring only to Miss Fitzwield; my expressions could have been being directed towards any young lady with a fortune smaller than yours." and she smiled mischievously, for she was thinking of Daisy Ephram and the dances she knew her brother had danced with her at Hardon Hall last week. Evidently, Eddie was thinking the same as his sister, for he blushed furiously and did not reply.

It was then that Rose Fitzwield, whom had been, during the siblings' short exchange,  staring busily up at the ornate ceiling, with a very angelic look upon her face, turned back to Beth and Eddie and re-joined their conversation.

"Oh, well." she said, referring to the rejected idea of her marrying Eddie. "Imprudent, or not, Mr. Banks is better-looking."

Beth snorted. "Tehtch! That is no reason to assume matrimony! You must look into a number of other things, besides!" she cried, amazed at her cousin's shameless wording.

"What do you mean?" asked Eddie incredulously, his embarrassment having now been forgotten. "Are you stating that you believe one should marry for a more material reason? Like money, perhaps? Money alone?"

Beth momentarily thought about it, then slowly nodded. "Well, I may at least say that it is obvious that wealth is not an object to merely be cast carelessly into a corner." she said.

"Nay!" cried Eddie. "Sister, that will not do! You must not be so cold-hearted! You forget, clearly, for there can be no alternative explanation, about the true goodwill and beauty of the true item. Why -  love itself!"

"You are mistaken." said Beth calmly. "I do not forget about love at all. But you overrate it. Indeed, I feel that love is more of a lesser importance when it comes to these things, for many women, including, at present, myself, search only for the comforts of a decent home and it is there where a man's consistent wage comes to the forefront of all matters... However, perhaps I am not the best example of this, for I do have more money than rather a lot of the other young ladies I know, despite the fact that I am second-born to you, brother, and do not quite equal you in fortune."

But Eddie was still shaking his head. "No, Beth. If I may be perfectly honest with you, then I disagree strongly and passionately with your claims and nor am I afraid of telling you so. Matrimony ought be only sprung from the deepest affection, the most open kinds of ardent love. Neither wealth, nor grandure, nor even social status should, in my eyes, have any say in the fair field of courtship, whatsoever." he firmly said.

Rose attempted to reason. "But that is because you are some rich male heir of thirteen thousand a year and so you need not think of it.! she helpfully pointed out and Eddie scowled and slunk sulkily away, pointedly sidling up to his father and asking loudly "Father, do you much believe that love is important in the case of marriage?"

Furious with her brother, Beth, at once, turned back to Miss Fitzwield. "And do you, at least, share my opinion? Surely you, with your father only having an income of eight thousand a year, feel that the proportion of money, which is possessed by each lover, should have the loudest voice in a relationship? Is it not so?"

Rose sighed and placed down her plate on the nearby baufet*(an old-fashioned word for 'buffet'). "Indeed, my dear cousin, I see perfectly where you are coming from. And if I did not love anyone myself, than I should be sure to make money my sole object - as is what you wisely suggest. However, what with my own situations and opinions, too, which must be taken into account, I am still inclined to believe that, where there is a strong bout of stout, healthy love, the nourishments which the comforts of grandeur may bring, are no longer solely necessary."

Jaw set, Miss Emmerson nodded, although she was still not in the slightest bit moved by Miss Fitzwield's expressions, nor her brother's sentiments. She glanced over to the opposite corner of the room, where her father and the said brother stood, huddled together, and speaking in low voices, with a certain urgency about them; Eddie, Beth noticed, was being very expressive, brandishing his hands and frequently glancing in her direction. Twice, also, Mr Emmerson glanced his daughter's way, seemingly in a couple of unsuccessful attempts to catch her eye. However, Beth was determined to avoid the contact and likewise was she held in her resolve to keep to her original Ideas and opinions. She therefore moved away from Rose Fitzwield and, for the rest of the visitors' visit, avoided almost everyone.

 

There came a time, however, after the guests from Hardon Hall had left, late in the evening, as Beth sat in her room, when she could avoid her family no longer and it was as she was pressing the pretty red rose - the very one she had picked that morning - underneath several stacks of books, then there came a knock at her bedroom door.

"Come in." Beth warily called and the door opened and her father came in. She sighed, but got up from her chair and moved a little way towards him. Mr Emmerson, however, held up a hand to stop her before she had got mid-way and gestured, instead, for her to sit on the window seat.

This, Beth obediently did and her father sat quietly down next to her, a small silence following the movement.

"Do you much mind my intrusion? I have, merely a subject which, with you, I should like to discuss." said Mr Emmerson after several moments.

Beth made no objection, although she thought she knew exactly what it was that he wanted to say to her.

"I spoke with your brother, earlier this lunchtime." began Mr Emmerson, first of all. "Out conversation, in fact, concerned you. Eddie seemed almost worried about you, dear girl. Do you wish to know why?"

Beth took a breath, swallowed, then nodded. She still said nothing at all and she braced herself for the talk about love and happiness that was to come. Se knew it all, already and had heard it many a time before, the reason for this being that it was one of her parent's favorite lectures. In fact, she - Beth - and Eddie had been given the talk, particularly as they got older, so many times that Beth knew it almost entirely off by heart - the general gist if it, anyway." However, what Mr Emmerson said next was not, to begin with, at least, even anything at all which began with the sentence 'in due course, passionate feeling may occur, often which, may be directed at a certain member of your acquaintance' nor anything at all to do with love. Instead, he began to speak of...

"Pride." said Mr Emmerson simply, discreetly letting one hand fall across his daughter's knees. "It has long run free in the systems of the nobel families, playing multiple, prominent rolls in the histories and daily lives of our ancestors. Wars, feuds, intermarriages and even some of the most malicious scandals have, over the years, been the result of it. Did I ever tell you of the time I kissed your mother? - I shall not talk of it now, but it was a scandal. Oh, yes... but pride has been at the root source of many things worse, I can tell you-" But Mr Emmerson stopped, smiling slightly, at the sight of his daughter's face, upon which, there was an expression of pure shock.

"This is not what you were expecting me to say, was it? he asked gently.

Beth looked at her knees. "No." she mumbled. "It was not."

Pausing lightly, Mr Emmerson continued. "Even today, my family is brimming, yes, brimming, with pride - even myself... In fact," he corrected himself "especially myself. And, yet, despite my familiarness with the habitat of this pride, I still fail in my quest to do something about it." And Mr Emmerson grimaced slightly and stared off into the distance, before recollecting himself. "Pride is, however, a sentiment which, in most cases, is not a thing to be ashamed of, for it is perfectly common to feel proud of who you are and what you heritage is. But you must be aware of the fine line line that runs, so conspicuously, between the good and the sin. Material pride and family pride, Beth, and there is a fine difference between - No. I am uselessly repeating myself."

Reluctantly, Beth smiled at her father's mild frustration, but the smile vanished at Mr Emmerson's succeeding words. "My conversation with Eddie did, in fact, feature mainly pride and I am sorry to have to say that we managed to place you as possessing both kinds of it. This is where we delve properly into why I came. Your brother, Beth - now please, for my sake, do not take offence - is worried that you are, perhaps... Overflowing in pride."

Beth's head snapped up and she stared at her father in horror.

"What!?" she gasped. "Eddie? Eddie, who has never found and displayed a negative fault in anything in the whole of his life, thinks that I am all ate up with pride? Me? His own sister?"

Mr Emmerson smiled, but sadly.

Beth could not believe it. How dare Eddie accuse her of such a thing! To go running to her father and blab about her in such a way! To call her proud and haughty behind her back. The words flashed repeatedly through her brain, like tine, frozen shards, each a tiny pinprick of pain. Selfish. Arrogant. Wealth. Gordon Banks.

... Gordon Banks! Was she really so proud as so people thought she was like him? No. No, she couldn;t be. She refused to believe it. Even 'proud', she thought, was an insufficient word to describe her as. It wasn't even true... Glancing at her father, Beth silently begged him to reassure her on the matter, to say, to just tell her that he thought that Eddie was wrong. But he only looked at her, the sad sort of smile still etched upon her features.

 

"I believe you and Eddie were, in fact, having a conversation of your own before he came to me." Mr Emmerson said, quietly, after their longest pause yet.

Beth could not bring herself to speak.

"He told me that you seem to feel as though wealth is the only important thing in marriage." continued her father.

Beth forced herself to speak. "Well, it certainly ought not be ignored." she said.

Mr Emmerson smiled, properly this time.

"In some cases, that may be so." he said. "But for someone of your station, it is unneccessary. Nor is it especially wise philosophy to adopt."

"I have still yet to experience love, father." replied Beth curtly. "Indeed, I am not as secure as, perhaps, some girls about romance, and so I do not, I suppose, understand, quite, the motives which one may be given lease to acquire when falling in love. I can only base my opinion on what I know, and as-"

Her father interrupted. "-As you have never been in love, you are not aware of how it feels. Yes, I know." and he waved his hand impatiently. "There is no point in us, during out present conversation, going rattling off into the deep-end about all this. We have spent long enough on the subject already. The point is: Your brother was concerned that you were, as of your pride, to marry only for money and comfort and I, as I am, to both of you, your father, took it upon myself to warn you against it and, at the same time, reassure Eddie of your not doing so. If you are now fully acquainted with my ideals and are perfectly willing to adopt them in replacement of your own, then my work is done and I will consider the matter as absolutely settled. I do not see the point, and nor, I am sure, do you, in lecturing you any longer over this. A longer talk will over-complicate things and you have now heard what I want from you. All I need now is for you to promise me that, for definite, you will at least take love into account upon the day it becomes your turn to accept a husband. Do I have your word?"

Beth steadily looked at him. "Yes, sir." she said, and Mr. Emmerson got up from the window seat.

"Good." he said. "And do you swear, also, to steer clear, well clear, of ever being blinded by pride?"

Satisfied, then, with his daughter's response, Mr. Emmerson made to leave hesitated, but then changed his mind again and, with a slight bow, quitted the room.

 
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