Index > Ongoing Stories > Daphne Welby Acknowledges the Truth to Herself
Daphne Welby Acknowledges the Truth to Herself
The Mabry’s carriage had just rolled away to carry them home. Daphne shut the door against the cold winter night. She turned and saw her sister rapidly ascending the stairs. _Coward_, she thought. She noticed their housekeeper Mrs. Westfield was lingering by the doorway of the kitchen. It would not do to have a row when she could possibly overhear it. Daphne made sure the front door was secured for the night, then turning smiled at her servant. “Ah, Mrs. Westfield. I don’t require anything else this evening. Please, do go on to bed. I appreciate all your efforts this evening.” The woman curtsied and with a tired sounding, “Thank you, Ma’am” retreated into the kitchen. Daphne headed up the stairs, her anger mounting with every step.
Without ceremony she opened Hester’s bedroom door. “I demand an explanation!” she exclaimed as she entered the room. “What would possibly justify the wholly impertinent and brazen way you acted toward Mr. Mabry? The poor man came with his sisters to dine with us and you treated him in the most insolent manner!”
“I can’t imagine what on earth you are talking about,” replied Hester languidly. She was seated at her vanity, engaged in taking down her hair, and steadily regarded Daphne via the mirror before her. She put the pins in her hand down on the table, picked up her hairbrush, and turned composedly to face her irate sibling. “I thought the evening was a famous success. The Mabry’s all seemed to me to have an excellent time.” She started brushing her hair. “I think your choices for the menu were very well received. In fact, if Mr. Mabry for any reason expected that you wouldn’t have a fine table laid for your guests then I would be shocked if he still harbored such thoughts now.”
“I have no idea what his expectations as to the meal were, but I am _absolutely_ certain that he did not expect to be questioned as to whether or not there was a “lovey Italian lady” whom he was planning on marrying!” Daphne cried in exasperation. “It was completely disrespectful! How could you do say that to him? What possible reason would you have to…to…”
As Daphne struggled to find the right words Hester ceased working the brush through her dark locks. She looked at her sister with raised brows. “I thought you would _want_ to know whether or not he had an attachment to another lady. That way you could either work at putting him out of your mind before your own attachment to him grew too great; or you and I could plot together on how to cure him of his regard for a prior _inamorata_.”
Sheer shock caused Daphne to sit rather heavily on Hester’s bed. “W-what?!” she stammered. “What do you mean, I – I have no attachment to him!”
“Stop cutting shams! It is obvious that you are partial to him.”
“Nonsense! He is the brother of a dear friend. How could I not be polite to him? Or hospitable?” She glared at Hester. “You, on the other hand, were abominably rude.”
Hester peered at her with what could best be described as a pitying look. “I’m sure he barely had a chance to dwell on anything I said tonight. You were always so quick to rush to either defend his opinions, or to agree with his assertions, he would have had no time to think about my contributions to the discussion. And it has certainly been that way since we became acquainted with him. Admit it, you have developed a _tendre_ for him.”
“That is absurd!” Daphne rose and drew herself up to her full height. “I like him, I esteem him, certainly. But the only romantic thoughts I’ve had about Mr. Mabry are to try to encourage a match between the two of you!” She fixed her sister with an angry stare and pointed an accusatory finger toward her. “But you, you hoyden, have displayed such a want of manners and propriety starting with the day of the picnic that of course I would have to try to smooth things over – to endeavor to foster a good opinion of you in his mind. And it has been uphill work, I assure you!”
Hester now stood too. She was not as tall as Daphne, and never had been. But they were not little girls anymore that Daphne could intimidate her with her height or her strictures on behavior. “I’m so very glad that you’ve decided now to be honest about your plans” she said in a challenging manner. “And I do not doubt that at the outset you did intend to try to shackle he and I together. But to be sure, I have never thought of him as anything but a very amiable yet boring gentleman. He does not suit my tastes at all, which you surely must have noticed very soon into your scheme. However, YOU kept on seeking reasons to spend time with him. Not for my sake – but because you enjoyed his company! And I am glad for you, truly. It has been some four or five years now since that devil DeCoucy broke your heart. It is high time that you allowed yourself to move on.”
Daphne flinched at the mention of Nicholas. She realized that in Hester’s view, and probably in the view of their whole family, she was confining herself to spinsterhood because of him. But it was not because of what he had done – it was because of what she herself had done. “You don’t understand - ,” she began, softly. But Hester interrupted without hearing her and went on.
“And I must say, dear sister, that I was impressed at how easily you manoeuvered to _accidentally_ take his hand at the end of dinner. It was expertly done.” Daphne gasped at Hester’s insinuation. “You didn’t stay in the dining room long enough to see it,” she went on in a conspiratorial tone, “but the effect that brief touch had on Mr. Mabry was quite noticeable. You should be gratified with that knowledge, at least.”
If the mention of Nicholas DeCoucy had been enough to divert Daphne’s mind from her anger before, the fact that Hester was assuming that Daphne would adopt Hester’s type of tactics quickly brought it back to the forefront of her mind.
She fixed her most icy stare on her younger sister. In clipped tones she declared, “That is enough! While I am well aware of the fact that you would employ any number of deceitful stratagems in pursuit of what you wanted, up to and including the attentions of a gentleman, I NEVER would do so.” She took a step toward Hester, causing the younger lady to back away, right into the stool of her vanity. With a jolt she suddenly found herself sitting and looking up at Daphne, whose voice had gone from cold composure to revealing a barely contained fury.
“If you are not interested in Mr. Mabry, despite his excellent qualities and character; if you cannot appreciate a gentleman who is well read, knowledgeable about the world, kind to his sisters and even to his sisters’ friends, who is responsible and thoughtful – if you do not see that he would make any woman an excellent husband then rest assured I no longer think YOU worthy of HIM! Have no fear of my further interference! I will immediately cease any and all efforts to play matchmaker between the two of you!” Daphne turned and walked toward the door jerking it open in one angry motion. She whirled back around and fired one parting shot at her sister. “However, given your behavior this evening I can hardly imagine that any efforts of mine would be enough now to convince him that you are anything other than a rude, hurley-burely sort of a girl, let alone a lady of good breeding and intellect who would make him a suitable wife!”
She stormed out, yanking the door shut as she went.
Once she entered her own room she rapidly undressed and prepared for bed. But sleep would not come right away. In addition to being generally upset about having quarreled with Hester she found that conflicting thoughts and emotions spun around in her mind. Daphne was forced to admit to herself three undeniable facts. First, Hester’s comments about her efforts to be in Mr. Mabry’s presence and the nature of her conversations with him not being completely altruistic hit home. Perhaps, although she could not concede it to herself before, perhaps she had developed an attachment to him. Second, and closely following the first point, it pleased her to think that Mr. Mabry had maybe not minded when she had accidentally clasped his hand while reaching for that cursed glass. Lastly, crushing the bloom of happiness that the second point had created, she acknowledged that could not in good conscience make any effort to fix Mr. Mabry’s interest. A ghost-like image of Nicholas DeCoucy appeared in her mind. Daphne cried herself to sleep.
|Posted 2 weeks ago|