Chapter two, in which we learn that Grandfather has ruined everything…
Mary stood and clasped her hands together. “Have Henrietta prepare my puce gown. Janey, you win. I shall be the one to change, green is now too festive for me to wear. Charles, would you be so kind as to write Mr. Peterson and cancel our luncheon? It is no longer appropriate for me to accept his invitation.”
“Good God girl, what has transpired for such drastic actions?” Charles blustered about the sitting room.
“Maybe we could still accompany Mr. Peterson, and explain to Grandfather?” Janey pleaded. At least she understood the predicament their grandfather had put Mary in.
Mary bit her knuckles and faced out the front window. “How can I?” She faced her sister and brother-in-law in the room so quickly her skirts twisted, and twirled one direction and then back in the opposite direction. Mary grabbed a fist of the acidic green skirts to keep the fabric from further movement.
“Janey, show him.” Mary nodded at the crumpled telegraph her sister now held.
Janey held up her hand with the paper to her husband. “Oh, Charles it is simply horrid.”
Charles took the paper. His eyes scanned over the message more than once. “I guess congratulations are in order,” he chuckled with egotistic mirth.
“Oh Charles, how could you?” Janey collapsed against the arm of the couch.
Mary swept from the room and climbed the stairs to her chambers.
Grandfather had secured and accepted a proposal for marriage from a wealthy man in San Francisco. She didn’t even know the man’s name. All Grandfather’s missive said was that she needed to return to San Francisco immediately, a husband has been located for her.
She shivered. He was probably one of Grandfather’s cronies, old and fat, and slobbery. He wouldn’t have mustaches as handsome as the young Mr. Peterson.
Mary stood numbly as Henrietta changed the festive green dress for the more simple day dress with a smaller, understated bustle.
She descended back to the main floor of the house only to stop in her tracks. She had distinctly remembered requesting that Charles cancel with Mr. Peterson. There had been plenty of time to jot down a note and have it sent out in the post. But here was Mr. Peterson handing over his walking stick and hat.
“Miss Mary, you look well.” His smile was hidden under his waxed and style mustache.
Mary gathered her senses about her and extended her hand in greeting as she continued down the stairs. She had not intended on making an entrance, and yet, here she was, making an entrance.
“Mr. Peterson, I’m caught off guard. Did not Charles send you a note explaining our situation in this morning’s post?”
Pythagorus Peterson pulled Mary into his sphere of space and tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. He stepped toward the parlor.
He held up a folded, yet still sealed, envelope. “This came just as I was stepping out to attend you here. I must confess I have yet to read it. Since I have traveled all the way here why don’t you tell me what this says? Whatever the news I would much rather hear it from your delightful lips.”
A sob escaped Mary’s throat. She turned to hide her face against his arm. “Mr. Peterson you are too bold. You make presumptions.” She pulled away and ran to hide behind the sitting couch, unaware that she posed in the sunlight framed but the front drapes.
Janey stood and reached for Mr. Peterson. “Oh, we have had distressing news, Mr. Peterson. We have only now been made aware that Mary had been betrothed and must return to San Francisco.”
“You see it would be inappropriate for me to dine with you this afternoon,” Mary cried into her handkerchief.
“Nonsense, we are old friends, and we are allowed to dine together. I will hear none of this. Charles would you, your lovely wife, and her delightful sister, please join me for lunch today? The arrangements have all been made, and I am starving. And my dear Mary, now that we have been downgraded to merely friends I insist you call me Py.” He smiled brightly at them all.
Mary blinked tears from her eyes, he was charm itself. She would miss his company once she returned to the bay area.
“Janey you are too lovely in my favorite color not to insist that Charles bring you out this lovely day.” Pythagorus extended his hand to her and pulled her to her feet. He wrapped Janey’s hand around his arm and patted it.
“I expect you to tell me everything you know about Mary’s fiancé, do fill me in.” He guided Janey from the room.
Mary stared at Charles with wide eyes. It looked as if they were headed to lunch at the Palmer House after all, and she was wearing puce.
@2018 Lulu M Sylvian