Scarlett – Hildie McQueen

At her desk in the study, Lady Eugenia Price placed her pen down beside her journal and peered through the window to the wet street outside of her home. Spring showers were in full effect, the steady droplets like a sheet of silk. Although it was lovely to watch, at the same time quite annoying if one planned to go anywhere. She wondered if her pupil would come that day. If it were her, she’d prefer to remain indoors and away from the rain and rapidly forming puddles. Then again, it was nice to see other people from time to time; so chancing the weather could be worth it for her student. A black carriage rumbled by, its wheels sinking into puddles and sending muddy water up and over the sides. No, it was not a good day to be outside, as there didn’t seem to be any end in sight to the rain. Her maid, Bettina walked in. “Would you like tea?” She let out a sigh. “I hoped to wait a bit, but I don’t think she’ll come with the weather being so awful. I may as well have a little something.” Lady Price stood and walked to the window to get a better look up and down the quiet street lined with thick trees and well-spaced homes of the wealthy. In the distance a slight figure appeared. A woman huddled in a coat walked with quick steps, moving sideways on occasion to avoid puddles.

“There she is. My goodness, if I’d known she didn’t have transport, I would have sent Clarence.” Lady Price turned to Bettina who’d joined her at the window. “Be a dear and fetch towels and set out some dry clothes for the poor thing.” When her maid hurried off to do as told, Lady Price rushed to the front door and pulled it open. Thankfully there was enough of a cover over the door to keep her dry as she waited for the young woman to near. The wet woman walked faster and climbed the three steps to where Lady Price stood. Indeed, upon close inspection, the unfortunate creature was soaked. Her hair was plastered to the sides of her drawn face and her clothing hung limp, dripping water onto her sodden shoes. Scarlett Franklin looked up at her with sorrowful eyes.

“I’m afraid I can’t possibly come inside until I dry a bit.” She let out a soft sigh. “I apologize for my lateness. My reticule was snatched just as I signaled for a coach.” “Oh no. That is horrible.” Lady Price took her by the shoulders, careful not to get too close. “Come into the parlor. We’ll get you dried up before you catch a cold.” “I should at least remove my coat here,” Scarlett said.

“Don’t be silly,” Lady Price replied, tugging her in. Leaving a trail of water, Scarlett shuffled inside, her gaze moving from Lady Price to Bettina who swiftly instructed she remove all of her clothing before taking another step into the house. It was no use to correct the willful maid who pretty much ran her entire household like a well-oiled machine. Lady Price helped hold up a blanket as Scarlett did as told. They bundled the young woman into the blanket and Bettina guided the overwhelmed girl to a bedroom to change into dry clothes. Lady Price chuckled when a younger maid hurried in and picked up the wet clothing while making a dour face. “Tis not right for a woman to be out alone in the rain,” the young girl said in a thick Irish accent. “That a miserable rat took her reticule is the least of what could ‘ave happened.” “Eavesdropping again Innis?” The girl’s eyes rounded. “No ma’am, she said it loud enough that I didn’t ‘ave to.

” Innis dashed away before Lady Price could say anything more. Bettina returned with a tray of tea and small cakes. “She’ll be out shortly. Is there anything else you require?” “Please see that her clothes are hung up to dry. She may require a coat, as hers seems to be ruined. Look in the back room for one that I may have placed there for donating to the poor.” Moments later Scarlett entered the room. The transformation was astounding. The young woman seemed pretty upon first inspection. However, once one took notice of her violetblue eyes and petulant lips, she was captivating.

Her deep brown almost black hair was pulled back from her heart shaped face, showcasing thickly lashed eyes. The dress, a simple frock in a soft cream, suited her coloring perfectly. Across her shoulders she wore a shawl that Lady Price had put aside to give away. With an eager expression, Scarlett neared and sat across from her in a settee and clasped her hands together on her lap. “Are you well? You will warm up quickly. The fire from the hearth is quite good. How is your father?” Lady Price asked. “Yes, thank you. I am perfectly comfortable now. I appreciate the loan of these clothes.

” Immediately Scarlett’s expression changed. “Father is not well at all. No change actually. He lingers in bed. The doctor is unsure what else can be done.” “I will pray your father recovers quickly so he can see how well you are prepared for the next social event.” By Scarlett’s expression, she didn’t agree. But although she frowned, she remained silent. Lady Price motioned to her attire. “You are welcome to keep the clothes.

They were to be donated and now they’re yours. Scarlett nodded. “Thank you, I will then.” “Today we will discuss proper dining room etiquette,” Lady Price began. The lesson would be long as Scarlett had not been able to come the prior week due to her father’s illness. The young woman straightened. “I have to admit, this will all be for naught if father doesn’t recover. Besides, I doubt anyone will invite me to any events, being no one really knows me.” “Pick up your tea and sip like this,” Lady Price instructed, picking up her cup and sauce while crossing her legs at the ankle. She waited watching Scarlett mirror her actions.

“It’s not like you to be down in spirits. I understand your father’s illness is worrisome, however, you must remain positive. It will help him to know you believe he will get better.” Scarlett’s hand trembled a bit as she attempted to place the cup down gently. Thankfully none of the tea spilled over the side of the cup. “I have a confession.” She looked out the window seeming to consider what to say. “I don’t think my father will recover and it becomes more clear by the way the doctor only checks him and doesn’t prescribe more than medication to make him comfortable. I overheard my stepmother ask him bluntly the other day what the diagnosis was. The doctor said he fears the worst.

” Scarlett let out a long breath looking to Lady Price. “Whatever will I do? I’ve only just recently moved here and began to know him.” Lady Price knew that Scarlett’s father was dying. It had been kept from the young woman by the stepmother who wished for her husband and newly found daughter to have time together without the burden of Scarlett having to fight against sadness. “You will continue on with the life your father wants for you. It was his idea that you come here and learn the proper ways of society. You will live with your stepmother until you marry and then you will have a family and a perfectly happy life.” A soft smile lingered on the edges of her lips as her pupil took a fortifying breath. Shoulders squared, Scarlett picked up the cup. “The garden is beautiful.

I can’t help but admire the placement of the flowering camellias. The colors compliment perfectly.” The young woman was a quick study, learning the subtleties of polite society conversation. Her beauty alone would garner attention from men. Her dowry, although modest, would attract a husband, who would possibly not be wealthy but of good social stature. Lady Price followed Scarlett’s line of sight to her blooming plants. “It’s taken me years to figure it out. Now tell me, what brings you to Philadelphia? I hear you lived in the south. It must be a culture shock for you.” Having to consider her reply, Scarlett did as instructed and looked down to her lap with a soft smile.

“After my mother died, I moved here. Although I do adore the south, Philadelphia has so much to offer. I look forward to learning more about this city and getting to know people such as yourself.” “Very good. Keep the answers to the truth, but not divulging too much. They will not be asking much more as it will be impolite to do so. Although, I must warn you, they may fill in the blanks with assumptions.” Scarlett sighed, her gaze taking in the room. Lady Price knew what she saw, wealth and opulence. Thick carpets on marble floors, lavish ceiling to floor drapery, and well-appointed handmade furnishings.

Everything was imported from Lady Price’s home country of England. She’d meticulously chosen each piece, from the art to the china and silverware. The paintings on the walls had been purchased during travels she and her late husband had enjoyed. The oils, many of which were priceless, were all something they’d actually loved, not just purchased because of who the artist was. Funny how, although beautiful, her home felt empty since losing her husband. Nonetheless, the constant charitable causes and now tutoring of Scarlett kept Lady Price busy so that she was able to function day to day. Then there was the Matrimonial Gazette, a mail order bride venture with a friend out west. “Scarlett, what exactly do you wish for?” Lady Price studied the forlorn young woman. “If you had your choice of a future husband, what would he be like?” Scarlett bit her lip in thought, something Lady Price had tried unsuccessfully to break her out of. “He would be strong and proud.

He would also be a man who knows how to treat a woman without insult or harshness. I wish for a husband who wants children, a strong family man who works hard, but doesn’t ignore his home life.” “In other words, the perfect man.” Lady Price chuckled. Scarlett shook her head. “Oh, I know the perfect man doesn’t exist, but one can wish.” Her earnest expression made Lady Price laugh. “Yes I do believe in wishing and praying for exactly what you want in a husband.”



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