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Katara: The Noblewoman
“Daughter, daughter where are you?” Father called. After eighteen years he still can’t remember my name, and I only have three other sisters and our names are very easy. My name is Nicole Marie De Ghent, not too hard to remember, after all the latter is his own last name. “Daughter, can you hear me?” I flip my hair and stare out the window but then finally he found me, hopes and dreams dashed. “Daughter...dau- oh there you are! Did you not hear me calling? Your mother and I have been calling you...” Here he paused and cleared his throat waiting for me to remind me of his name. “Nicole,” I said curtly. He didn’t catch my tone and merely continued, “Your mother and I need to talk to you about something, this moment in my chambers.” I followed him quickly wishing I was somewhere else. I knew that he was going to be talking about my engagement. Mother had been looking at me with that same look she had given Elizabeth when she was to be engaged. I closed my eyes thinking of arguments right now, better to be prepared. We entered his chamber and I saw mother sitting at his desk with a chair in front of her waiting for us. As soon as he sat down Mother began, “Lionel, I mean your Father and I have agreed that you both have reached a marrying age. You are a wonderful daughter...you can sew, dance, paint, play the piano, and also the violin. So we both agree that you should marry like your sister Elizabeth.” NO!! I screamed in my head. NO, NEVER NO!! I KNOW WHAT YOU DO NOW THAT YOU ARE MARRIED AND I AM NOT FOLLOWING IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS!!!!!!!!!!!! NO, I REFUSE! Yet somehow I couldn’t convey those thoughts into speech so I merely said, “Really?” “Are you not excited Nicole?” Mother asked questioningly, looking at me with a puzzled expression. I could’ve said lied and said yes but I couldn’t. “I don’t feel marriage is most pleasurable at this time mother,” I merely replied. “Your marriage will benefit the family and will continue on our bloodline.” Father argued. “I understand Father, I do really. It’s just that I wa-” “Then you can have no objections,” he interrupted. Father smiled then got up and left. Mother stayed behind and looked at me strangely, “Nicole...you’ve never had objections to marriage before, why the sudden unwillingness?” “The subject has never been brought up Mother,” I replied sourly. “Elizabeth was married and you had no objections to marriage then either.” “Is Elizabeth happy?” I asked. “I believe so, every time she has visited she sounded happy and said happy things,” Mother replied gently. I knew Elizabeth being unhappy would upset Mother, Elizabeth was after all Mother’s favorite child but that’s why I need to use her as an example. “Mother, she says those things to make you happy. She is not happy with Thomas at all. Even if she was happy I see the way Father is with you, he bosses you around like you’re his servant,” I said boldly. “Your Father loves me very much, besides he is a man and he must be treated as such.” “He is a man, not a God,” I muttered. “No more! I will not take any more of this complete and utter disrespect and disregard for your Father and my wishes. You will marry and you will marry to help your family, I hope you understand that,” Mother snapped, than she paced out of the room. My Mother was the example of what I would become if I married. Marry for my family, Elizabeth might be able to do so but I refused. I ran out of Father’s chambers and back to my own room. I cried for a little while lying on my bed when suddenly my maidservant, Katara, entered with several letters. “These are for your Father. They are about your marriage.” “How do you know about that?” I asked. “The maids know everything,” she replied with a grin. I took the letters into my own hands knowing father would never notice if they were already open. There were four, I tore them open as quickly as possible the first one read,
Dear Count Lionel De la Ghent,
My son, soon to be Squire Philippe O’ Brian Thermopolis is interested in marriage to your daughter, Nicole De la Ghent. My wife has spoken to your wife, Countess Mary De la Ghent, formerly Mary Jane Bennett, and she seems to approve of the match. Upon my death my son Philippe will inherit my estate- as he is my only son - a total of 100 acres, 50 servants, and two abodes. We request and audience with you on the 21st day of April 1796.
Signed this 15th day of April 1796 by Squire Hector O’ Brian Thermopolis
I searched my memories then remembered Philippe, he was pompous and annoying there was no way he was a suitable husband. The second letter said,
Dear Count Lionel De la Ghent,
My son, Patrick Darcy, is interested in betrothal to your daughter Nicole De la Ghent. He is currently nineteen and studying at a university in London. He is soon to inherit all of my estate and is currently earning money of his own.
Signed Lord Hector Darcy
Patrick I remembered well, he was stupid, I can’t imagine how he ever got into a university. Earning money as well!? Well either way he wasn’t suitable either. The third one read,
Dear Count Lionel De la Ghent,
My son, Wolfgang Jeremiah Smith, requests your hand in marriage to your daughter, Nicole De la Ghent. He is twenty five and lives on his own in his estate near my land. We would like to have an audience with you on April 19, 2008. Please reply as soon as you can.
Signed Sir Joseph Smith
Another unsuitable husband, was the fourth letter going to save me? I hoped so, so desperately. Yet it was the last letter that scared me the most. It read as follows,
Dear Count Lionel De la Ghent,
I am interested in marrying your daughter, Nicole De la Ghent. I believe her an eligible, elegant young woman and I hope that you may accept my request. I currently own, 5 houses, twenty serfs, one hundred servants, seventy-five horses, and fifty acres of land. I request an audience with you, your wife, and Nicole on the first of May.
Signed Lord Rupert Grove
I could feel the tears in my eyes. I wanted to cry...Lord Rupert was 65 years old and although he was so much older than me he had more money than any of the others who had offered proposals. Lord Rupert didn’t have any children and he was sure to die soon and when he did I would inherit all of his estate, every last bit of it and that would please Father since he could get some of it for himself. I had to stop this I couldn’t get married to him...I just couldn’t. I took the letter in my shaking hands and ripped it to shreds, I knew Katara might get in trouble but I would try and save her for now I just had to make sure that Father didn’t find out about Lord Rupert’s interest in me. I slipped out of my room and sprinted into our sitting room. I threw the shreds of letter into the fire and suddenly Mother came into the room. “What are you doing?” she asked staring at the fire. “I was just burning something I didn’t want to remember,” I said hurriedly trying to run back to my room. Mother swiftly cut me off and said to me pityingly, “Darling, I understand that it is hard. When my parents announced that I was to be engaged to your father I was not exactly ecstatic. Yet look at me now, I’m happy, I have four girls, do I seem unhappy?” I was about to say something to her but instead I just replied, “Of course not Mother.” She smiled than patted my head and walked away. I walked back to my room thinking about my plan...it was perfect; Mother would never suspect a thing.
The next morning I woke up with a smile on my face. I called Katara to my room and asked her if she had any other letters. “No miss, I don’t but do you know what happened to the other letter I gave you?”she replied to me anxiously. “Katara, I tore it up you can’t tell Father, you just can’t. Now I need you to do something else for me. I need you to go into Father’s study and get his quill and paper with the stamp.” “Nicole, are you crazy!?” “Katara trust me...please I really need you to do this for me,” I pleaded. I could see the tears forming in her eyes, if she was caught by Father there was no limit to the things he could do to her. I knew it was a big risk but Lord Rupert? No I refused. Finally she consented and she returned later that afternoon with the paper and quill. I took the quill and tried to not to think of what I was about to do. Then with my entire body shaking I wrote the following letter,
Dear Lord Rupert,
I am pleased and thankful for your request for my daughter’s hand in marriage. I was amazed at your financial achievements but alas at this present time I have already decided on two eligible candidates for Nicole’s husband. Again thank you for your offers but we must decline your offer of marriage and request of an audience with us.
Signed Count Lionel De la Ghent
I looked the letter over and thought it was what Father might write. I hoped it was and took the envelope, stamped it with our family crest the n got Katara to mail it. If this didn’t work than I was doomed, Father was very strict and he didn’t stand forgery or any other insubordination I just had to hope he didn’t find out. “Nicole, it is time for breakfast!” Mother cried in a shrill voice. I jumped into action pulling on a simple dress and rushing down the stairs.
There, laid out on the table was a huge breakfast of eggs, toast with jam and chicken. Usually we only had bread with -if we were lucky- a spot of butter. I took in every spot of food I could. My youngest sister Mariah could hardly eat for fear that the food would somehow magically disappear. I love Mariah but she is not my favorite sister, she is sweet...but a little too simple for my taste. Diana is my favorite sister, she is a bit like me yet she has an own sense of herself.
Breakfast was soon over and Mother called us to the music room. “Mariah please start practicing your violin, Diana start your flute, Nicole I need to speak with you,” Mother said calling me to the far part of the room while Diana and Mariah looked at me worriedly starting on their instruments. “Nicole...your Father has received three offers of marriage! Proposals to you, you my daughter I’m ecstatic. One from Wolfgang Jeremiah Smith- your remember him he came to Ghent-Cook Ball- Patrick Darcy, and Philippe O’Brian. Aren’t you happy?” she asked when I didn’t respond. I said, “Of course Mother...I’m just so...amazed!” She grinned at me, too excited to notice I wasn’t smiling.
Hours later I was still playing my piano. I liked the piano. Mother didn’t like us writing so it was the only way I could express myself unlimitedly. I drummed away at the keys wishing I could just disappear. Why did I have to get married...why? Answer me that one question and I will be silent forever, why? The piano keys are my only escape. Diana walked up to me, unnoticed, and put her hands over the keys. “Nicole ...you won’t solve this by beating yourself up. Oh darling...you have to find a happy medium. I know you are sad...but we’ll find a way out of this, I promise,” Diana said draping her arm across my shoulder. Her words comfort me but I know they have no meaning. What can Diana do? When she is my age she’ll be in the same predicament I am in.
I don’t love or truly know any of the men and even if I did I wouldn’t want to marry. I am eighteen don’t I ever have a choice? But I know the answer to that question...no. “Diana...I love you but what are we to do? We will suffer the plight of being women in a man’s world then we will marry horrible husbands and die.” “Hey don’t push all that gloomy stuff on me. I’ve still got a chance!” Diana said jokingly. We both stare at each other for a bit then burst out laughing, not because any of it is funny but rather...because it’s all we have to do.
I went to bed that night feeling sick. Diana made me feel better, she and Mariah played games with me that we used to play as young children. Maria told wonderful fantasy stories, she wound tales of dragons, mermaids, knights, and princesses. Yet no matter how much better I felt I could still feel the marriages in the pit of my stomach.
The next morning was a almost a repeat of the earlier morning. Father announced the offers of marriage at breakfast. Our older brothers, Richard and James applauded me, Mariah did too. Diana squeezed my hand comfortingly under the table; at least one of my siblings knows how I feel. Finally breakfast is over, and I can leave. “Daughter, I’d like to talk to you,” Father said to me, beckoning me with his hand.
I walk patiently to his room, waving at Diana, Mother pacing behind us. “You may leave us,” Father said dismissing her with a wave of his hand. She looked hurt but immediately recovered, pulling her emotions under control. “Good bye darlings, I will see you later this afternoon.” Mother paced briskly back to her room, she didn’t look human though, like a slave following his every command. And she wonders why I don’t want to be married. I thought bitterly.
Finally we made it to his chambers and he asked us to sit down. “Daughter, there was something I didn’t mention today at breakfast. There was another offer, this morning Sir Rupert came to me and said he sent a letter like the others who proposed. Yet I didn’t receive anything but he said he received a letter declining his proposal, I must have seen it without remembering. Yet I was very excited by his offer. I want to accept his proposal. Yet I feel that we should meet and observe the other candidates first. Do you agree?”