Clarissa: Chapter Eleven

It was afternoon when Clarissa and Roland, accompanied by a trusted servant to keep watch on them and ensure that nothing untoward happened, rode around Lord Lipton’s estate.

“Does this estate remind you at all of where you grew up?”

“The countryside of the Loire looks much different, but in some areas there are broad similarities. Your tenants live in better houses than ours did. There is more economic health here than where I grew up, but you and your family live much as we and our family did, that is true. In that sense, yes, in staying with your family I am reminded of the sort of life that we had before the Revolution.”

“Does that make you sad at all?”

“Only a little. In some ways, this current life feels like a dream, or perhaps a nightmare that one wishes to wake from. Much of the time I hope that I may wake up some time and find my family back in its estate, but such a time has hot happened yet.”

“Would that change how your own life would be?”

“In some ways, I suppose, but not in others. I am not bound to inherit the estate as long as my elder brother lives, and he is safe and sound in Vienna, and so even if my family’s estates were restored to us tomorrow, I would still have to make my own way in the world.”

“How do you plan on doing that?”

“I am a soldier, bound to report to my regiment soon.”

“I know that, Roland, but what about after that. Soldiering is for young men. What do you plan on doing after that?”

“I am not sure.” He frowned thoughtfully.

“What kind of life would you want to live?”

“I would like a quiet estate of my own. It would not have to be too big, but something that can allow me a pleasant garden and enough to live on. One might not need the highest society, but it would be important to have the respect of one’s neighbors and a settled place in this unsettled world.”

“How much would such a life cost?”

“I do not know how much it would cost. I know the English are keen on determining the worth of someone by how much they have in lump sum or in annual equivalent, but such ways have always mystified me.”

“It is not so complicated as you make it out to be. If someone has a cash inheritance or prize money of some kind, their money is given out as a lump sum, for example, the dowry that a woman like me would bring into a marriage. If someone owns an estate, though, or has invested that lump sump into the four percents as most sensible people do, then their income is given as an annual amount, and from that it can be determined what sort of living they are to have off of that.”

“How much does Lord Lipton make?”

“It depends a bit from year to year, but it is twelve thousand or so even in the worst of years, and in the best of years considerably more so based on the proceeds of his business with my father.”

“And that is very well off?”

“Absolutely. There are only a few hundred families in the entire nation as well off as my family is, and he is titled as well.”

“But you are not?”

“No, I am not titled like Lord Lipton is. I am not even a legitimate-born woman.”

“Your parents were nor married?”

“No, my father never married my mother. He carried on some sort of long-term relationship with her after his wife died while giving birth to his younger son, but my mother was some sort of actress or singer in London and there was never any hint or thought of marriage between them. While my mother lived, we were well supported by him in town, but when my mother died I came to live with him, and that presented difficulties. Fortunately for me, Lord Lipton was willing to take on my maintenance even though I was almost a stranger to him, and has served as my faster father now for nine years.”

“Does that bother you?”

“It does, when people look down on me as being some sort of agent of immorality and corruption. I cannot blame my father for keeping my mother, but I wish it did not make people think less of me or encourage them to be rude.”

“On the continent, you might guess, it is not uncommon for a gentleman to have a mistress and raise up a family, and no one thinks to look down on someone simply because they come from someone’s secondary family. It was never the habit of my family to engage in that behavior, but certainly many people did and do.”

“Lord Lipton has never been the sort of man to do that, credit be to him, but I hope you do not think less of me for my upbringing.”

“Hardly. I would not wish to torment you with the thought that there were other women and children in my life, but you certainly have been raised up to be someone’s wife, that is clear, and you deserve respect accordingly.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“We as men essentially look at women and see them as one of two types of people. There are some women whom we see as being like our mothers, our sisters, or our wives, women who live with certain standards of decency and are treated by us with considerable respect, to the point where anyone who insults the honor of such women is to be responded to with violence and hostility, and there are other women who are clearly not the sort of people who behave with honor and dignity and to whom we see ourselves as having no such obligations to protect and defend.”

“Is it related to money?”

“Some people are so vulgar, but I was not raised that way. A peasant’s daughter may, if she has been raised by people with real moral sensitivity, be the sort of person who could be respected as someone’s future wife or present sister or daughter, for example, even if her family lives in a hovel and lacks even livestock for property. Similarly, the daughter of a noble family may be so wild and without restraint that she is not seen as wifely material no matter how much wealth her family possesses, because she lacks the right sort of moral excellence. Whatever the circumstances of your birth, you clearly have moral sense and Lord and Lady Lipton deserve credit for having encouraged whatever native characte3r you were born with.”

“I do feel myself as owing them a great deal, in that they have always treated me as their own child, never made me feel inferior to their children by birth, and never tolerated anyone socially cutting me by giving credence to the view that I was somehow less than other young women in my position as wards of a noble house. They always treated me as a young lady, worthy of honor, and taught me how to conduct myself accordingly, and set a good example of honorable treatment in their own behavior.”

“Yes, Lord Lipton reminds me a bit of my own father.”

“I hope that is something to be celebrated.”

“It is a very positive statement. My father is a great and noble man; I only wish that he could live out his old age surrounded by his family in peace and prosperity, but it does not appear that he will be that blessed.”

“Why not?”

“My brother early joined the counter-revolutionary forces in Vienna alongside the Emperor when things started going downhill in France, but the rest of my family stayed behind and hoped that things would improve. Word came to us suddenly through discreet sources that my father and I were wanted for arrest for our lack of enthusiasm for the revolution, and so we quickly fled to the coast with what we could bring with us while my mother and sister kept things going at home. We have, of course, been unable to return home or even to send much in the way of messages back and forth, so it seems unlikely that we will be able to enjoy a reunion anytime soon.”

“That is a great shame. I would hate to be so entirely cut off from the rest of my family.”

“I can understand that. Where would you consider yourself to be cut off, though, from them?”

“Behind enemy lines, certainly, but so long as there was a way between where I lived and here that could be traversed I would not feel myself to be so forsaken.”

“What areas of this land do you know?”

“I have spent most of my time over the past ten years or so here in Yorkshire, though I spent the entirety of my first few years in life in London, and since living with Lord and Lady Lipton I have traveled between here and our townhome in London. I have not had the opportunity to travel wider than that, at least not yet.”

“Do you think you would like to?”

“I think it would be great fun. I know Lord Lipton has talked about his own travels as a younger person and even now I think it would appeal to him to take a trip to see the mills that my father and him have been setting up in the West Indies in preparation for emancipation. Perhaps he will be made governor of some island and can take up an estate there to be served by freedmen and freedwomen while pursuing such interests more closely.”

“Is that kind of position available to people like your foster father?”

“Very much so. He is known to be gouty so his health is not the best, but yes, he certainly has the rank and the personal experience to serve in such an office, and to do credit to it.”

“As a soldier, we can be posted to all kinds of postings. Do you think you would appreciate living where my regiment was stationed if we wed?”

“I do not know if that would be appreciated, but if it would be dignified and proper, I am sure it would be great fun.”

“I am sure such a thing could be arranged, at least at some point. I am only a lowly lieutenant now, but such a position may improve and I know of captains and majors, to say nothing of colonels or higher, who live well and have households of their own.”

“Perhaps we may be permitted to dream of such splendor, then.”

“Indeed, you may dream away about such things. I know I shall.”

“I hope when you are faced with life in some barracks that you can dream of returning by a ship to spend time with me.”

“I shall think of such things often, I think.”

“Do you know where you will go after you report to your regiment in Newcastle?”

“Not at all. I am sure we will have some action, seeing as England and France are at war, but where that action is, I do not know in the least.”

“Will you tell me, insofar as it is not some sort of government secret?”

“I will do so, though I have heard that the letters of those returning home are often censored for the interests of safety and security.”

“I suppose I shall have to put up with it if such letters are censored, though I am relieved that you will tell me all that you can.”

“Do I have permission, then, to write you?”

“I hope you shall. If you feel constrained to write only to Lord Lipton as a potential patron in your military efforts, feel free to write him, as he will tell me that which is of interest to me.”

“I am glad you trust him in such matters.”

“I believe he knows my feelings, and that your being here and able to enjoy some private time with me, with only one solitary witness, is a sign of his trust of both you and me.”

“I do not wish to betray such trust and confidence, my dear Clarissa.”

“Nor I, my dear Roland. Nor I.”

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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