An Improper Derailment: Chapter 2

Chapter two, in which we learn that Grandfather has ruined everything

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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.

A husband.

Husband.

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 the 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

Next month with Py get his cake and eat it too?

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 1

Chapter one, where Mary receives bad news…

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Mary sat, perfectly poised. The crumpled telegram in her fist, and the white knuckles rimmed with red, strained skin were the only clues to her anger.

If the message had been delivered an hour earlier she would have taken to her bed, at least for a few days, maybe longer. But she had already endured the ritual torture of being laced in and dressed. Besides, if she took to her bed now she would miss lunch with Mr. Peterson, a cousin to the Washington Porter. Mr. Chicago fruit himself. Her grandfather should be pleased she was making such prudent and profitable connections.

Janey at least was thrilled that Mr. Peterson began calling on her younger sister. They had a constant delivery of fresh fruits, thanks to the Porter family connection. She told Mary this at every turn.

“Was Mr. Peterson to be expected today? Do you think he will bring us some oranges? Would it be rude of me to ask if he could get us grapes? They ship wine don’t they?”

She always asked Mary with a mischievous wistful air, but she never once spoke of fruit or wine to Mr. Peterson directly.

Mary breathed through her nose slowly. She had to calm her nerves or she would do herself a grievance. This corset was laced a bit too tightly. That was for the benefit of her lunch companion. He had stated he was taking them to the Palmer House, and then a stroll afterward.

Janey and her husband Charles would accompany them to lunch. And then the chaperones would ever so discreetly walk a distance behind them during their stroll so they could discuss matters privately.

Mary anticipated a declaration of some form this afternoon. A request to speak to her grandfather, maybe even an actual proposal, after all, Mr. Peterson was a bit daring when it came to the rules of proper society. He had already insisted that Mary refer to him by his nickname Py. She couldn’t even bring herself to call him by his given name of Pythagoras.

But this telegram changed everything.

“Mary I do believe—” Janey stopped abruptly as she swept into the parlor. “Well, this won’t do. We both can’t wear green.” She coughed delicately into a handkerchief. “You need to go put on that lavender dress.”

Mary did not suppress the glare she gave her sister. If anyone should change it was Janey. She looked dreadful in green. Almost as if she too took on a verdigris pallor emphasized by her color choice.

Charles languidly strolled in after his wife. “I say, that telegraph was inconveniently early.”

Mary wanted to scoff at his complaint as if he were the one to open the door and shoo the poor boy away. At the time Charles was barely awake and in a dressing gown.

“What telegraph?” All thoughts of almost matching dresses gone from Janey’s head in a blink.

The longer Mary stayed in Chicago, the longer she realized how well matched those two were. Selfish to the core. Charles may be self-centered, but he was ridiculously wealthy, and that’s why grandfather allowed Mary to visit for so long.

Grandfather was a forty-niner, and he struck gold. But everything for him became about hitting the next vein of wealth. Mary knew he was living off the remaining dust of his fortune, and he expected his granddaughters to keep him elevated in the financial ranks.

The easiest and only way for this to happen was for them to marry wealthy. Mary was ahead of the game. A match with the Porter family, even a cousin of the Porter family should make the man happy. But he was an interfering bastard.

Mary felt her eye widen and her cheeks flush with the rude thought.

With as deep of a breath as she could manage, she handed the crumpled paper over to her sister.

Janey stumbled as her knees weakened.

Charles led his wife to the settee next to Mary.

Janey gave Mary a look of pained pity.

“I guess lunch is canceled then?”

 

@2018 Lulu M Sylvian

Find out what the telegraph says next month…