Return Of The Native Son: Chapter Thirty

Meanwhile, Lord Lipton’s carriage brought Lady Martin, Clarissa, and Miss Wood over to Cheapside where they soon found the pleasant house where Mr. Bennett was staying. The three ladies got out of the carriage, but not before Sir Martin kissed his wife and wished her well on her mission before himself continuing on his trip to the colonial office where he hoped to discuss various matters about the state of the Bahamas.

When the three lades were let into the house they were told that Mr. Bennett would be down to see them before too long and that they should make themselves comfortable in the sitting room. This they agreed to do so happily, and without any trouble found themselves sitting down on a sofa that was large enough for the three of them, each of whom had different feelings about the situation. Clarissa was the most nervous of the three, both because she believed (correctly) that this visit was on her account and because she properly felt a sense of awe for her father, because he was her father after all. Lady Martin, a considerably older sister to her brother, the only son of the family, did not hold her brother in awe at all, and was pondering how she would say what she had to say. Miss Wood was curious about what was going on but was more there for moral support and to encourage and comfort the anxious Clarissa.

Before too long Mr. Bennett came down to see the three ladies sitting together. While he was always pleased to see Clarissa and her lovely and kind governess, the thought of seeing his older sister, who was almost certainly the driving force behind this visit, filled him with less pleasure. Nonetheless, he sat down across from the ladies and opened a conversation with pleasantries, expressing his hope that everything was going well and that his sister had enjoyed a pleasant trip from the Bahamas.

Lady Martin replied that she had enjoyed her trip from the Bahamas but had some business she had wanted to discuss. Of course the woman got to the point quickly. Lady Martin quickly and pointedly asked Mr. Bennett why it was that without warning and on merely a slight acquaintance that he had been so willing to abandon the care of his daughter to her son. Mr. Bennett replied that he had done a very good job and had shown his willingness to protect her from the abuse his sons were directing her way when he met them. He also commented that he knew her son had the means and had obviously demonstrated the willingness to provide for his daughter, and that he was glad that things had turned out so well.

By this he wanted to mollify her, but she was still on the warpath. She replied that she has glad that her son had proven himself to be generous in dealing with a relative in a vulnerable position and that she had always known, and sometimes dreaded, the fact that he was so kind-hearted to the fate of young women in distress, but that it was not his responsibility to do so but rather that of her father. If his sons were being abusive, it was his job to stop that abuse and to remind those sons that she was their sister and was to be treated with kindness and love on that count, and that it was not to be tolerated that they should treat her as anything less than a young lady.

Mr. Bennett replied that it was not quite that simple. She was his daughter, yes, but she was not a legitimate daughter, and he had scarcely known of her existence before the death of her mother landed her in his care. He certainly did love his daughter but found explaining her presence and relationship to him to be somewhat uncomfortable and his sons were certainly very hostile to her and had gotten more hostile once they knew she was their sister and not some random servant girl they could abuse with near impunity. Lady Martin looked at her brother with a withering glance. What had he meant in pursuing a clandestine relationship with a woman after the death of his wife? He replied that after his wife had died in childbirth when his younger son was born, that he had been nearly inconsolable but had found consoling in a friendly foreign actress who worked in one of the London theaters. He had not known that she was pregnant or had given birth to his daughter in coming years when she continued to console him as a single man who had not remarried. And he had been startled when she died to find out that they had a child together he was unaware of.

Lady Martin again railed at his folly and asked if he had any plans to marry again. He said that he had not made any such plans but at the same time struggled to find the right kind of company for his longings. Lady Martin pointedly replied that those who burned with passion had better marry, because there was no other morally acceptable way for people to fulfill their longings and desires. Lady Martin, it can be said, was not a prudish sort of woman. She had been married twice and was able to speak eloquently on the problem of desire.

Mr. Bennett pondered his options. He asked her if she had come here merely to upbraid him for his choices in life. She replied that she had not only come here for that purpose but also sought to ensure the well-being of her niece, who she had reasons to be much fond of from what she had seen since last night. They had conversed in the carriage and Clarissa had showed herself to be a friendly girl and it was obvious that life in the Viscount’s household was an enjoyable place to be.

With some hesitance and a bit of irritation Mr. Bennett outlined the various financial arrangements he had made with Lord Lipton. Lady Martin nodded and noted with pleasure that her son had been rather shrewd in dealings, looking to get involved, indirectly, in business that could serve the well-being of the freed peoples of the Caribbean in a way that also served to make Mr. Bennett responsible in some way for the care and provision of his daughter. This was pleasing to her and she also inquired after her nephews and wondered how they were doing. Mr. Bennett replied that the elder son was being prepared to help take over the family business and learn how to run it well but that the younger brother was being set up in the military and was in education and would then be in training for one of the regiments going to East India.

This left the business portion of the trip to be concluded, and Mr. Bennett offered to show the ladies around the house. This was to the pleasure of everyone there, and the ladies went with the housekeeper to tour the house while Mr. Bennett himself went off to his warehouses to work, as he still had productive things that needed to be done and as important as it was to socialize with relatives and deal with unfortunate and awkward conversations, one also had to get one’s work done as best as possible as well, and so he went to do so. None of the arrangements he had made with anyone would work, after all, if his own business did not keep running.

While Mr. Bennett was thus occupied the housekeeper showed the ladies around the house and then, when this task was completed, the ladies decided to rent a carriage to return back to Lipton house. When they came back they saw that Lady Sydney and Miss Sarah were still there and that Miss Sarah was doing a good job taking care of the unfortunately disabled Lord Lipton. This was pleasing, as these ministrations demonstrated, at least to her, that some sort of understanding had been reached between them, which all of the parties concerned, with varying stages of color on their cheeks as they did so.

For the party, at least, the rest of the day went well, and after they all had tea, some of them sitting with Lord Lipton in his room as he tried to find the least painful way to lay down, so that at some point in the evening he might pass out if merely from exhaustion. It distressed the party to see Lord Lipton in such pain as he was, and so unable to move around, but at the very least they were happy that the marriage was going to go on and they hoped that his legs and feet would feel better enough for him to move around at least slightly normally before too long. And it was in that hope that they went to get ready for dinner while Lord Lipton tried to read to distract himself from what he was feeling.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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