New York City, 1868
“Georgiana? Are you almost ready? The guests will be here any minute.”
The voice floated up the stairs and into her bedroom. The eldest daughter of Robert and Karen Endicott rolled her eyes. She pinched her cheeks for color and did a twirl before the full-length mirror in her bedroom. Georgina was as ready as she would ever be. It was her 18th birthday and this evening marked it with a celebration that had been planned in her honor. There was no more time to revel in the gaiety of her girlhood. She was a woman and, as such, she needed to start acting like one.
“I’ll be right down, KK.”
KK was the nickname Georgie had always used for her mother who was not actually her mother. In fact, KK was not even related to Georgie by blood. The woman who had raised Georgie was the wife of her Uncle Robert, her father’s younger brother. Georgie’s parents had been killed in a carriage accident when she was just six years old.
George Endicott’s last will and testament had stated that his only child was to be raised by his brother, who was his daughter’s godfather. So Georgie had been moved into New York City. She would never again see the green pastures of the New Jersey farm that was the only home she’d ever known.
Instead, Georgie had grown up in her uncle’s townhouse on Washington Place. Her childhood had been happy, if not difficult. Aunt Karen and Georgie didn’t get along. She knew it was a source of sorrow for her uncle but there was nothing she could do. KK resented her and feared that somehow Georgie would take away from her own children. And Georgie had always lived with the uneasy feeling that she would do something to displease her aunt and then be sent away.
That was all over. Now that Georgie was 18, things in her life were going to change. She was an adult now and things were bound to change drastically. Soon her aunt and uncle would talk to her about marriage.
Karen, Georgie was sure, would want her out of the house in less than a few years. Susan and Ellen, her cousins, would be ready to court in a few years. Karen wouldn’t want Georgie around when she was trying to find the best possible matches for her daughters.
It had always been a sore spot with KK that although her daughters were beautiful in their own rights, they didn’t hold a candle to Georgie. Georgie was considered one of the most beautiful young ladies in her circle of friends and acquaintances. Something that mattered not at all to her. Susan and Ellen, on the other hand, were called very pretty.
The three girls had the blonde good looks of their fathers. Delicate features, high cheekbones, unblemished skin, and fine teeth. But while Susan and Ellen had the sea green eyes of their father, Georgie bore the large pale brown eyes of her mother. It was an interesting combination and received its fair share of attention.
They were all on the tall side, but while the sisters were not exactly large women, Georgie was more small-boned. Her figure was one that most men admired and most women envied. Basically, if one were to meet the three girls they would know immediately that the girls were related. But whether they were sisters or cousins was difficult to tell.
So what about it? The three girls were as close as sisters, the younger ones not having any issue with the fact that their cousin was considered the beauty of the family. At least it had never been an issue.
Uncle Robert had told Georgie that she could live in this house forever if she wanted to. She was his own brother’s only child. He’d made a commitment to care for her and Georgie appreciated it, although she knew who the ruler of the household was and it wasn’t Uncle Robert. She imagined that her uncle must have heard a lot about the arrangement over the years.
While Georgie and her aunt had indulged in the occasional argument over the years, the woman had been good to her. They had, by this time in their lives, learned to live with each other in a kind of truce.
“Georgina! Come down this instant. The guests are arriving. Their carriages are pulling up to the house. You must greet them. I put this party together for you, after all.”
“Coming, KK.” Georgie dashed out of her room and down the hall. Yes, it was her party, but it was all of her aunt’s friends in attendance and none of her own. She ran down the stairs, then on the landing composed herself, and walked down the final flight to the first floor. KK was waiting in the foyer, a frown covering her face.
“It’s about time you came down. Are you actually trying to embarrass your uncle and me?” she hissed.
“Why can’t you be on time? For shame, Georgina.”
Georgie went to the parlor window and peeked out. “I’m sorry KK. No harm is done. Look, they’re just getting out of the carriages. I have plenty of time.”
Karen tapped her foot and rolled her eyes. “Will you just come here and greet them with me? My word, Georgina. Do you act the way you do on purpose, just to vex me?”
Georgie didn’t answer and joined her aunt at the door. KK was always on edge when she entertained. As much as she purported to love hosting soirees, KK would be ill, often on the day of her party, until about an hour before the guests would arrive. Then hurrying to get dressed. Georgie never understood it. If that happened to her, she swore she’d never host a party in her home. When she finally had her own home, that was. Or if she finally had her own home.
Thirty minutes later all the guests had been greeted and led to the parlor, where there was champagne for their aperitifs and hors d’oeuvres. Georgie took a glass from the sideboard and ducked out of the room to walk downstairs to the kitchen. She was getting hungry and wanted to see what was on the menu. As it was a party in her honor she thought some of her favorite dishes would be served, but KK had made up the menu. Georgie didn’t know what they were having.
The maids were busy getting the sumptuous meal together. It was hot in the kitchen and the three women helping the cook were red-faced and grim as they worked. Georgie quaffed back her champagne and left the glass just inside the kitchen door on a shelf and ducked out. There was no way the women would stop to chat with her about what was for dinner. If everything wasn’t perfect, Georgie knew they would hear about it from Karen. It occurred to her that she’d never known one single person, except for her aunt, who could disrupt the even keel of anyone. Sometimes she wondered how her uncle was able to stand the woman’s nervous outbursts. Thank goodness her own daughters didn’t take after her in this respect, although Ellen occasionally got over-emotional in the same sort of vein.
Back up on the first floor, Georgie took a deep breath and prepared herself to be the birthday girl. In the parlor, one after another the guests spoke to her.
“Happy birthday, darling. Just think, you have your whole adult life ahead of you. I wish you all the best.”
“You’re as lovely as a rose, darling, happy birthday.”
“When may I call, Miss Endicott?” This last was from William Tuttle, the son of KK’s best friend. Georgie thought he was nice enough except for being such a nincompoop. And arrogant. He wasn’t charming either, but pompous and full of himself. He was, however, good looking and many young ladies had been known, to the chagrin of their mothers, to throw themselves at the very coveted Mr. William Tuttle.
Why was he here? It seemed odd that the guests had not brought their children with them. All of the guests were well over the age of 30 with the omission of William Tuttle, Georgie’s cousins, and herself. It was a strange seating at the table as well. Georgie thought KK must have something up her sleeve; she just couldn’t, for the life of her, imagine what it could be.
Georgie smiled briefly at William, nodded at someone else, then made her way through the group of people waiting to give her birthday presents. That each and every guest was one of KK’s friends just did not make sense. Where was her dearest, best friend in the entire world? Where was her Betsy?
“Um, everyone? Let us go into the dining room now. My butler says dinner is served.” Karen smiled and used her gloved arm to make looping shapes that called people to her.
Georgie stepped up to her as KK sent the guests in. “KK? Where is Betsy?”
“Shush, Georgina. I’m trying to get everyone to their seats, dear. Now, go on in. You’ll see your place card. Go now.” KK gave her a slight but definite shove in the direction of the dining-room door.
She found her place at the table and glanced at the card to her right. As the guest of honor, she was seated to the right of her uncle at the head. John Armstrong, a young man who’d recently gotten married, was to her right, with his wife directly across from him. Georgie wondered who her aunt had put across from her.
She didn’t have to wait long. William Tuttle, the son of a business colleague of her uncle’s and, of course, Karen’s best friend’s only child, came along, saw his card, and took his seat across from her. He smiled in a shy manner and nervously sipped his champagne.
“Good evening, Miss Endicott. I count myself among the lucky that I should have the pleasure of gazing at your face while I take my dinner.”
“Good evening, William.” She wanted to keep it casual.
He was nice enough if not a bit dense, and of course she reminded herself there was his abundant arrogance. The thought that he’d probably never heard the word ‘no’ came to her. Well, it wasn’t his fault if he was spoiled. He was the only son of very rich and doting parents.
Georgie didn’t like William or dislike him. He was that boring to her. He seemed perfectly happy in his everyday life, which was a nice trait, but other than that the man held no interest for her. She’d never been able to engage him in conversation, his main interests being gambling, drinking, and traveling. And she had no doubt that he had sampled every gambling parlor and regional alcohol in each place he visited. She’d also heard he was very casual with certain ladies of a certain persuasion. Ladies who weren’t ladies.
“Oh, good. You two are chatting.” Karen flitted by, stopping for a brief instant and acknowledging William. As she moved away, she gave Georgie a firm look that Georgie could only interpret as a scolding. Georgie could only imagine that she didn’t look as enthralled at William’s words as she was supposed to. How could she help herself? She didn’t want to spend the evening discussing wagers at whist and what a card shark her dinner partner was.
Georgie watched as a blush crept up from under William’s collar, and traveled across his neck and up into his face. She couldn’t fathom what it was he must be thinking. Why would he have such an odd response to her aunt? She noticed KK winked at him. She shrugged.
Her aunt was a flirt. If it was male, the woman flirted with it. It had always annoyed Georgie how KK would respond to men, whatever their age. She always acted like a giddy girl around them. Even if her husband was present, KK would flirt with other men, dance with other men, and take refreshments with other men.
It was one of the peculiarities that the woman possessed. Georgie’s uncle turned a blind eye to his wife’s unseemly behavior and she continued to act as if she was a girl. In fact, Georgie had often seen her uncle chuckle, as if he found the behavior of his wife amusing, to say the least.
It was no use trying to figure any of it out. Georgie had long ago given up any hope of ever understanding her aunt and uncle or their friends. She didn’t like socializing with them because there was always a moment like the current one. Georgie would find herself with a friend of the family and have absolutely nothing to talk about. Then she would feel uncomfortable and like she’d somehow let her aunt and uncle down. KK would be sure to embellish her account of the events to further embarrass Georgie when she told Robert. It seemed to Georgie that KK delighted in making her look the fool.
And the next morning over breakfast, KK would be sure to bring up every event of the previous night that she wasn’t happy about. There were always two or three things KK wanted to discuss with Georgie. It was if she just could never do the right thing as far as her aunt was concerned.
But, what were Georgie’s options? She lived at the mercy of her family. Yes, she had her own money, her inheritance. But women of her set didn’t live alone. Moving out of the house or getting a job was unheard of for women in Georgie’s sphere. There were many, many rules that women, especially young women, had to adhere to. She hated it. But it was her life. The best she could hope for was to keep her unmarried status and live out her life on Washington Place. She had no interest in selling the tiny bit of freedom she did have to a man. She would be happy enough living out her life in the townhouse on Washington Place, in spite of KK. Georgie could take her meals in her room and be a genuine recluse. There was something about the idea that tickled her fancy.
Or she could travel the world. She’d always wanted to see Paris and Seville. She hoped to take a tour of the continent someday. Maybe that’s what she could do in lieu of staying in her room all the time.
When everyone was seated, dinner commenced. There were many delicious offerings, starting with oysters. They moved to tomato soup and buttered rolls, then roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, Brussels sprouts, sautéed mushrooms, and a variety of pastries for dessert. The birthday cake would be later when they opened the champagne and the dancing started. It promised to be a fun time. For everyone but Georgie, she thought. She would have preferred to be in her room reading, although Uncle Robert was a very good dancer. It would be fun to take a few turns about the room with him.
When dinner was through, the men usually went into the parlor to enjoy cigars and brandy. Then they would join the women back in the dining room for music, card games, and tonight dancing. That made the arrangements a bit different. After dinner the ladies would recline at one end of the dining room and the men at the other, while certain servants rolled up the rugs in the parlor and moved the furniture for the dancing.
Just before the announcement was made to retire to the opposite ends of the room, Uncle Robert stood up at the head of the table and raised his glass. Every one of the 25 guests looked in his direction.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a very happy announcement to make on this, the occasion of my niece’s 18th birthday. As you all know, Georgina came to us a mere six-year-old orphan and brought a light to our lives we’d never known before our own two girls came to us.”
Everyone looked around at one another, smiling and nodding, then set their eyes back on their host. Georgie fiddled with the edge of her napkin.
“Tonight, on my niece’s 18th birthday, I would like to announce her engagement.”
Her head snapped up. She hated being the center of attention. Being so always seemed to point out her differences and her perceived flaws. It always made her uncomfortable.
But this was completely unexpected. What was going on? She leaned forward. Had her uncle just announced that she, Georgie, was engaged? To whom? What could he be talking about? It was more than a shock to her that she’d known nothing about this occurrence. She hadn’t been informed of it until this minute. In fact, she had never been proposed to. The room swam a little before her eyes and she saw William Tuttle smiling at her. The guests at the table broke into happy applause. What was going on?
Uncle Robert smiled and nodded and lifted his hand again to quiet the group. “Mr. William Tuttle is soon to be a member of our dear family. He and our darling Georgina are to be wed.”
Again, everyone broke into applause with some light cheering. Someone called out, “Toast!”
Georgie’s eyes grew wide? What was this? If she hadn’t known better, she would have taken it for a bad joke. As it was, it seemed that it was much worse. Why hadn’t they talked to her about this before announcing it? What had her uncle and aunt done? Had they made marriage arrangements for her without consulting her at all? They both knew she had no interest in getting married. She’d discussed it with both of them separately and together, asking if she could stay in the house, in her own room. Being courted by anyone was not in the picture for her, she’d told them. Georgie wanted to remain unmarried.
Now the announcement had been made, which was tantamount to practically being married. Once it was out, she would be bound to it. It didn’t make any sense to her. Why had her aunt and uncle done this? And without her knowledge? She felt trapped. This would not do.
Aunt KK and Uncle Robert had no right to arrange a marriage for her. And then the awful truth hit her. The realization that now she was 18, KK wanted her out of the house. KK had given years of her life to Georgie and had raised her as her own child. Well, almost as her own.
And now, it was to end. KK didn’t want her anymore. She’d committed to raising Georgie until the age of 18, and that was today. So now, she would be married off, with complete disregard as to Georgie’s wishes.
It was unfair and a red-hot anger rose up within her. How dare they? How dare all of them? Now William’s discomfiture and shyness made sense. He’d known also that Georgie was to be tricked into having to marry him because the engagement had been announced.
It was impossible to break an engagement without offending your own family and the family of the other person. Offending them in a most grievous manner. It could cause a woman to seriously damage or even lose her reputation.
Georgie wasn’t having it. She refused to be manipulated this way. It wasn’t fair. It was mean. If they wanted her out why didn’t they just tell her? She could have gone and stayed at Betsy’s house.
Suddenly, she pounded her little fist on that table top and stood up. She heard her own voice speaking in a harsh tone. As she gazed at the faces around the table she saw jaws drop and eyes widen. The guests looked to one another as if to say ‘we’re not hearing this correctly, are we?’ KK’s face was stark white and looked as if she’d eaten something bad.
“No! This is a mistake. My aunt and uncle must have had a bit too much champagne. Is that what is happening here, Uncle? I am never going to marry. You both are well aware of this. KK? Uncle Robert?
We’ve discussed it many times. Many times! I cannot imagine that you wish me to marry without my knowledge of the plans being made. It doesn’t seem appropriate, does it, that I have no say in my own future? I ask you, all of you, would you do such a thing to your daughters and sons?
“Of course, Mr. William Tuttle is aware of this. I, dear guests, have been left in the dark, just as you all have been. This is a complete surprise to me. And I must say an unwelcome surprise.”
Uncle Robert looked hard at her. “Georgina, dear, sit down. Dear guest, please forgive this outburst from my niece. Eighteen is an emotional birthday for a young lady, is it not? No longer a girl. A young woman ready to take her place in the echelons of society. I’m in the middle of this. Let me finish the announcement, dear.”
“I’ll do nothing of the sort, Uncle Robert. I will not be married off to, to a dolt. Or anyone else for that matter. I don’t want to be married and you and KK know that.” Her breath came in short gasps and the room swam again before her. Tears threatened to fall from her eyes and she turned and sped from the table to the hall and up the two flights of stairs to her room.
Closing the door, she leaned back against it. Her lungs burned and the hot tears fell. This was the work of KK, she was sure of it. KK wanted her out of the house. She was 18 now. Her aunt wanted to focus on finding and making good matches for her daughters. Her own-borne children. She wanted Georgie out of the way. Why KK was doing this with the involvement of Mrs. Tuttle was another mystery. Georgie would think that KK would want Susan or Ellen to marry William Tuttle. None of it made any sense and she was not going to involve herself in it. This was the end of it.
Uncle Robert and KK had no right to dictate her life this way. It was not only unfair, it was immoral. Not to worry, though. Georgie was positive she would be the talk of the town come the next day. She had caused a stir, a scene really, but that was because her parents, the only parents she could ever remember, wanted her out of their house. Fine. She’d find a place to go, even though she was sure she’d ruined her reputation.
Georgie stayed leaning against the door until her breathing returned to normal. The tears continued to come. She’d made a fool of herself and embarrassed her family. She’d seen the look on her cousin, 16-year-old Susan’s face, as she’d stormed out of the dining room. They’d all probably never speak to her again. She crossed the room, pulling her hair out of its chignon as she did so, and fell to the bed.
Suddenly the door to the room flew open with a force that caused it to hit the wall and bounce back. KK stood there, bosom heaving, eyes flashing.
“Well, I hope you’re happy with yourself. You embarrassed your uncle and everyone else. Not to mention William. Cathy and Will are most upset. This is not able to be fixed, Georgiana. What do you have to say for yourself? I warn you that you should have a very good reason for your despicable behavior tonight.”
“I have nothing to say for myself. I don’t need to say anything for myself. Why do I owe you some kind of explanation when it’s you who has decided to plan my own life for me? Who do you think you are?”
“Who do I think I am? You ungrateful brat! If it wasn’t for your uncle and me, you wouldn’t have the privileged life you have. You’d be scrubbing floors or worse if it wasn’t for us. And all because your uncle is a kind man. And you take everything for granted.”
“Yes, my uncle is a kind man, much kinder than you deserve.”
Georgie couldn’t help herself. It was the first time she’d ever come close to telling her aunt what she thought of her. While KK had never been outright nasty to her, Georgie had known by the age of seven that KK viewed her as competition to her own daughters, Susan and Ellen.
Her uncle, of course, tried to be a father figure to her and was sincere with her. But Robert was controlled by his domineering wife. He would do nothing to vex her. So Georgie knew he had put his foot down to have her in the house.
He would always take care of her, he’d told her many times. But Georgie knew that care would, and had, come with a price. The price of constantly being reminded by KK that she was somehow beholden to them even though her own father’s money was used for her education, clothing, and anything else. There was also a small stipend that went to her uncle for the household expenses. It had all been set up by her father when she’d been just an infant and all the money came out of Georgie’s inheritance. Of course, no one thought the directives would ever have to be followed.
“My uncle is the only person who’s ever helped me. You have always resented my being here.”
“Don’t you sass me, Georgiana. I’ve had enough of you and your disrespect. Your free-loading ways would have you live here for the rest of your life if my husband would let you. Well, I won’t let you. You’ve ruined any chance of making a suitable marriage by pulling that stunt you pulled just now. I’ve never seen such a wanton display of emotion. You acted like anything but a lady. How dare you make a mockery of this party that I will have you write apology notes to everyone who was here tonight; mainly the Tuttles. They, of course, are as disgusted with you as I am. When I say you’ll write an apology note, it’s to save your uncle’s and my faces. There is no way this wrong can be made right. You’ve ruined your chance of marrying William, or anyone who might have seen fit to think of you as more than the selfish chit you are.”
“You can insult me until your heart is content. I don’t care how you feel about me. I don’t care about any of it, KK. You’ve resented me since the day I came here – not, I remind you, of my own will. You spent most of your time with the girls. You all but ignored me. I grew up in the shadow of your girls and you never let me forget that you saw me as an intruder. I was only a child, and you made it clear to me that you were doing me a favor allowing me to live here.
“And it wasn’t a favor. I paid to be here and now you’ve had enough of me. My uncle cannot argue with you and I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to marry me off to get rid of me. You want to focus your efforts on finding marriages for Susan and Ellen. You’ve always set us up in competition with each other. So you found the only man you thought suitable to marry me. William Tuttle. I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that he took a banking position in Boston. You would have me leave the city as well as my uncle’s house.”
KK’s eyes turned to slits. “This is my house. My father gave this house to me, as a gift when I was betrothed to your uncle. He signed an agreement before he married me. The agreement stated that I shall always have this house, no matter what should transpire between my husband and me.
“Do you understand, Georgina? It’s my charity you’ve been taking all these years, not your uncle’s. And my charity has come to an end. You will leave here within six months even if I have to marry you off to a cowboy.”
Georgie said nothing more. She knew that if she kept her mouth shut, her aunt would tire of trying to bait her into further arguing. It was her own inheritance that had paid for her to be in the house. But KK would never admit to it. Her aunt had been telling people for years that she’d sacrificed much to raise her niece.
A long pause ensued in which the women glared at one another. Finally, KK turned in a huff and pulled the door behind her, slamming it when she left the room.
The following morning, Georgie dressed and went down to the sitting room for breakfast. Her father hadn’t left for the office yet.
“Good morning, Papa.” She leaned down to give him a kiss on the top of his head and went to her seat. He was reading the newspaper. Her cousins were in their chairs, eating already.
“Your aunt is not feeling well, Georgina. She’s quite upset about your poor behavior last evening. I must say, I’m not too happy about it myself.”
Georgie poured herself a cup of tea. Leave it to her uncle to take sides with KK. She figured it was the right thing to do – he was KK’s husband, after all. But it seemed, by the fact that he didn’t lift his eyes from the gazette, as if Georgie’s point of view of the previous night didn’t matter to him.
“Papa, we want to go shopping with Mrs. Reidy. She said she’ll take us to that new department store up on 19th Street. May we be excused?”
“Yes, yes, girls. Run along. Don’t give Mrs. Reidy any trouble. I don’t want her quitting on account of you two. She’s the best housekeeper in town.” He lowered his paper and smile indulgently at them.
Susan and Ellen left the table, Georgie noticed, without having said anything to her. They were probably too excited about going out on a shopping trip. She reached over and took a scone and some butter and sipped her tea. Her uncle had gone back to his newspaper as if he’d forgotten she was there. She waited for about two minutes of silence to pass before speaking.
“Uncle, KK has no right to try and dictate my life.”
“Actually, Georgiana, she does. This is your aunt’s house. You were just a little thing when my brother died. I put my foot down with Karen. I said just until you turned 18. And my wife did that for me. She raised another woman’s child. Alongside her own.”
“If that’s what you want to call it.”
While she’d never been treated poorly outright, there were always subtle innuendos from KK that made Georgie feel unwelcome. Realistically, she always knew she would have to leave the house. And, traditionally, she would be expected to move from her current residence into her husband’s house. Her place in society limited her choices of a husband.
The circumstances of her place in life made it impossible for her to stay unmarried if KK insisted she get out of the house. And that was exactly what her aunt was doing.
Robert put down the newspaper. “I won’t have you talk ill of Karen, Georgina. You and I have had this discussion before. You’re my niece and I love you. But Karen is my wife and my first loyalty is to her. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is.”
“I would never and I don’t expect you to hold me above her, Uncle, but she has no right…”
“She has every right. If I were you, I would make myself scarce around here for the time being. Your aunt will have to do a lot of explaining to reinstate herself with her society friends. You thought only of yourself last night. All of the backlash from your unacceptable behavior fell on Karen’s shoulders. And mine. But I’m not at sensitive to the whims of society as she is. You might not care about your own reputation, Georgina, but it would behoove you to think of the reputations of the others in this house. You have two young cousins who will be of marrying age soon enough. Neither is being courted yet, and I daresay it will be a while before they are, thanks to your antics.”
Georgie rolled her eyes. As if the fact that she didn’t want to be married could hurt the chances of her cousins. Everyone was too dependent on the opinions of society and all that went with them. Why should her poor behavior harm her cousins? It was ridiculous.
“Fine. I’ll be sure to stay out of everyone’s hair.” She stood and left the table. In the hall, she grabbed the big brass knob of the door.
“Georgina! Where are you going?” Her uncle’s voice followed her out of the house. She hurried down the steps and over to Fifth Avenue. A Hansom cab was on the avenue and she hailed it. It was unseemly for her to be out alone, but she didn’t care. She was so tired of the never-ending roster of daily etiquettes and responsibilities. Why couldn’t she live her life the way she wanted to? She told the driver to take her to Irving Place, where her best friend Betsy lived.
The coach pulled up to the house and the driver came down off his high seat and around to the door to assist her out.
“Thank you, Sir,” she smiled and went through the wrought iron gate, turning to her left to enter the house through the servants’ entrance.
“Miss Endicott, how nice to see you.” Mrs. Cabbot, the housekeeper, was just coming out of her office. Georgie almost bumped into her.
She liked Mrs. Cabbot. She’d known the kindly housekeeper since she was six and she’d first met her friend Betsy at a birthday party for a boy they both knew. The boy’s name was William Tuttle and Georgie had felt exactly the same way about him that she felt 12 years later. He evoked no interest in her whatsoever unless it was to try and figure out just how he managed to be so boring.
She brought her attention back to the housekeeper. “I’m wondering if Betsy’s at home. She didn’t go riding did she?”
“No, dear. Her lesson is tomorrow. She’s in the sitting room. You can go on in.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Cabbot.”
Georgie left continued down the hall to the sitting room in the back of the house. It bordered the kitchen; in fact, there was a small door in the wall that went into a pantry and then into the kitchen. It was similar to the setup her own family used. The sitting room was the center of family life and often they took their meals there.
She knocked on the door.
Georgie opened it and peeked inside.
“Georgie! Come in. I’m so happy to see you. This is a lovely surprise.”
“Oh, I’m so happy to see you too, Betsy. I’m sorry I didn’t send a card first. But this is an impromptu visit. My aunt and uncle are ready to disown me for good. KK wants me out of the house.”
Betsy giggled. “What else is new!” For years the two friends had conjectured as to when and how Karen Endicott would try to rid her life of Georgie.
“I’m afraid the new element is that I’ve turned 18. My aunt wants to set me up to be married to get me out of the house.
“Don’t be silly, Georgie. You’re taking it too seriously. You know how KK is. She’s high-strung. That’s all.”
“No, Betsy. This is very bad.”
“What happened? Do you want some tea? I’m sorry. What a poor hostess I am. I can’t imagine that your situation at home is as terrible as you’re making it out to be.”
“Yes, it is. It’s worse than terrible. My aunt and uncle fixed me up to be married without my knowledge. Then they announced it at the end of the meal at last night’s dinner party.”
“Oh, dear. What happened then?”
“I stood up from the table and announced that I would do nothing of the sort. I refused to be married.”
“Georgie, you didn’t! Not at the table. With all your guests there?”
“My guests? Everyone invited was a friend of my aunt. You weren’t invited. None of my friends were. It’s all my aunt’s doing. She wants me out of the house as quickly as she can get me out.
“The one saving grace is that I know Uncle Robert will not let KK put me out. Although she actually called me a freeloader when she knew that my father had left a trust for me. That is the money that was used to raise me. Some of it was also used to refurbish my aunt’s parlor, among other home improvements. She doesn’t know that the bank informed me that she’s been pulling from my account for years.
“Twelve years went by before someone there realized that while my uncle was listed as the handler of my account, my aunt was not. But the damage is done. Thankfully, I still have enough to set up a household of my own.”
“What do you mean by that? Women of our station don’t live alone, Georgie. Not unless they’re widows of rich and powerful men. You’d be a laughing stock; you’ll bring disgrace to your family.”
“They’re not my family, which my aunt so very clearly informed me last night. I mean to leave New York. I’m going away.”
“Georgie! That’s a preposterous idea. You can’t do that.”
“Because it’s not done. It’s inappropriate. You can’t pick up and move away just like that. With no man? People will talk.”
“They’ll talk anyway. I don’t care. Being appropriate means always giving in to someone. I refuse to give in. I need a few months to make my plan. First, I’ll withdraw my money from the bank, and then leave here under cover of night.” Georgie knew Betsy was much more conventional than she herself was. Betsy would never imagine going against her parents. But then again, Betsy was close to her mother. KK and Georgie had always entertained a strained relationship, even at the best of times.
“But where will you go?” Betsy sipped her tea.
“I don’t know. Boston maybe?”
“Oh, Georgie. I can’t believe you made a scene last night,” Betsy giggled. “You’re very brave, I must admit.”
“Courage had nothing to do with it. It was self-preservation. They wanted me to marry William Tuttle. Can you believe that? He’s such a ninny.”
“But his family is better off than yours or mine. The Tuttles are highly respected. You would have a carefree life if you married him. I hear their summer house up in Newport is absolutely gorgeous.”
“What do I care about it? I couldn’t spend my life shackled to another family as hypocritical as my own. Mrs. Tuttle and my aunt are best friends, Betsy! I’m surprised KK set me up with William in the first place. I’d think she’d want to wait and pawn him off on Susan if he’s such a great catch.”
Betsy sighed. “Well he’s not the oldest, so he won’t get much when his father dies. His older brother is unmarried. That’s who your aunt has her eye on for Susan. Mark my words. William is about to turn 20. His brother, Charles, is the oldest. He will inherit everything. But even so, I must admit to a fair amount of envy that you will walk down the aisle to William.”
“Betsy! What can you possibly mean by that? Envy! We’re talking about William Tuttle! Being married to him. A fate worse than death if you ask me.”
“But he’s a good catch. He’s handsome, rich, polite – even charming at times.”
“I’ve never encountered his charming side, Betsy. I’ll take your word on it. I have been privy only to his doltish side.”
“Be that as it may. I wouldn’t say no to such a match, but that’s where you and I differ. You’re right, of course. I know you wouldn’t be happy in a situation like that. But it begs the question now what will you do?”
“I won’t get married, that’s for sure. To anyone. I’ve ruined any chances I might have had with any of the young men in our circles. At least that’s what KK said, and I’m inclined to agree with her. Not that it bothers me too much. But she said I’d brought shame to the house. That hurt my feelings. I’ve never gone against her, Betsy, you know I haven’t.”
“I know, but I’m afraid your aunt is right, Georgie. No one wants a scandal at their door. It sounds like you might have started one. A big one.”
“So you think it’s all my fault? Because I behaved poorly? I refuse to apologize for trying to have my own life. I’ve had enough of being under Karen Endicott’s thumb. I’m going to do as I please. If everyone thinks I’m shameless, I don’t care.”
“Don’t talk like that, Georgie. Please don’t. It will die down in time. All gossip dies as soon as the next scandal happens. But you must make amends. I would start with a letter to Mrs. Tuttle. Have your aunt help you with it. That way she’ll feel you need her and her nerves will be calmed.”
“I’ll do nothing of the sort. I don’t have the energy to placate KK that way. She’s impossible. The more you give her the more she wants from you. She’s exhausting. I swear I don’t know how my uncle has done it all these years. I’m only happy that I’ll be away from her soon.”
“Including KK in your apology to the Tuttles is the only way. You’ll have to grovel, but just a little bit. Georgie, you’re the most beautiful woman in New York. They all want to marry you. KK did you a favor in choosing William Tuttle. He’s malleable. You can turn him into the man you want him to be.”
“Trust me, Betsy. William Tuttle does not want to marry me. And I don’t want to marry him, malleable or not. His parents would never accept an apology from me. Not that I intend on giving them one, but it’s too late for that sort of thing. KK told me I have to send apology notes to all the guests from last night. I told her I’ll do nothing of the sort.”
“I’m sure that went over well,” Betsy stated with dripping sarcasm.
Georgie laughed. “Nothing I do ever goes over well with my aunt.”
“I’m sorry, Georgie. I imagine it’s fortunate that you don’t care what others think of you. It gives you the freedom to pursue the things you want and to leave those that you don’t.”
Georgie stayed at Betsy’s house and they had lunch in the sitting room. Betsy’s mother had poked her head into the room to tell her daughter she was going calling. The woman seemed surprised to see Georgie and only gave her a brief nod.
Georgie knew then that Mrs. Pittman must have heard something about last night’s party. Probably her aunt’s servants had gossiped that morning at the market with servants from the Pittman house. The story of Georgie’s disgrace would be common knowledge by suppertime. And the fact that Mrs. Pittman was going calling meant she would be at the townhouse on Washington Place comforting her friend Karen Endicott.
Mrs. Pittman left the room.
“I’ve been coming to this house for over ten years. In all that time your mother has never been cool to me, much less cold.”
“It’s the gossip. Besides, my mother received a note this morning at around ten. Shortly before you arrived here. I imagine KK must have told her everything that had happened.”
“Yes, I figured she was going over to the house. As for me, KK has declared open warfare, I believe. All the more reason for me to leave New York. And on that note, I should get home. Look how we’ve whiled away the afternoon.”
“Dinner is in an hour. My goodness, I must change. Come on, dear. I’ll see you to the door. Mr. Jones will take you back home in our extra carriage.”
“That won’t be necessary. I’ll take a Hansom.”
“Please, Georgie. Arrive home like a lady. It’s unseemly for a woman to take a Hansom alone. Show your aunt and uncle that you know how to behave yourself.”
“Oh, Betsy. Only for you will I allow Mr. Jones to escort me. Would that make you happy?”
Betsy broke into a broad smile. “Yes. Thank you, Georgie. My mother would never forgive me if I allowed you to take a Hansom cab.”
“Where Love Takes Control” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Georgie Endicott’s strong-minded and rebellious nature has caused her and her family many troubles. However, the worst is yet to come! Unbeknownst to her, her parents will scheme against her, sending Georgie away as a mail-order bride. As her whole world collapses and her only dream to travel and maintain her unmarried status is violently destroyed in an instant, she desperately looks for a way out. During the 10-day trip to her new home, she gets to meet Thomas, an interesting man, who is different from anyone she has ever met before. Will she manage to escape the appalling fate that her parents orchestrated for her? Can she ignore what is written in the stars?
Thomas Beauchamp is a mischievous but honorable man running a successful ranch in Montana. What he needs now is a strong woman to share his life with. While still keeping his identity secret, Thomas decides to see with his own eyes if Georgie, his future wife, is really the one for him by joining her train ride. After a peculiar turn of events, and even though Georgie confesses her spontaneous plan to cancel her imminent marriage, he finds himself falling deeply in love with her. Will Thomas convince her to give love a chance? Will he find what he is actually looking for in her eyes?
Thomas and Georgie have many challenges to overcome before they reach happiness. Is Georgie brave enough to listen to her heart instead of her stubborn mind? Could they make this relationship work out, against all odds? In a heart-stopping moment, their lives will turn around once and for all…
“Where Love Takes Control” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.