Truth and Trickery

The Cast of Characters:

The Lindleys

Sir William Lindley, father

Lady Harriette Lindley, mother

Henry Lindley, son, one-and-twenty years of age

Emma Lindley, eldest daughter, nineteen years of age

Ellen Lindley, youngest daughter, eleven years of age

The Radclyffes

Colonel Frederick Radclyffe, father

Charles Radclyffe, son, two-and-twenty years of age

Charlotte Radclyffe, daughter, nineteen years of age

Juliana Hayfield, cousin, orphan, seventeen years of age

The Leightons

Stratford Leighton, only son, heir of Whiteacre Estates, three-and-thirty years of age

Louisa Archer, niece, ward of Mr Leighton, fifteen years of age

William Archer, nephew, ward of Mr Leighton, thirteen years of age

Summary

Emma Lindley is meant to marry Stratford Leighton since infancy, but what happens when the charming Charles Radclyffe catches her fancy? Or is the narrator, Emma's eleven-year-old sister, Ellen, mistaken?

Disclaimer

This is an Austenesque attempt to recreate Regency Era country gentry's antics.

One

It is of my opinion that there is scarce any body that will deny that in order for one to be judged of good manner and of superior morals, one must have a high regard for the privacy of others. Though those that deem this characteristic fashionable rarely ever follow it. It is inherent of human nature to regress to the nosiness that can be traced back to our ancient ancestors. And as such, I decided to follow our most primitive urge and read a concealed letter belonging to my sister Emma. I might include that I only resolved to read the letter after much deliberation, and only after it fluttered indiscreetly out of her bedside drawer. Just what I was doing in her bedroom had nothing to do with being sneaky, though as I perused the note, an unsettling sneakiness was felt. But my regard for my sister's privacy was immediately dissolved after reading the first line of the letter, which was more than passionate.

"MY DEAREST EMMA,

There is but a night that I do not think of you and your golden beauty. I wish to feel your warm character and be in the presence of your handsome face. I know it is never destined to be so, and despite my yearnings or your wishes, our love is doomed. However, I cannot help but think of your lingering touch that still burns my skin at this very moment, or your honey-coloured eyes that pierce my soul. Please know that I hold only the deepest affection and admiration for you, and that regardless of the desires of your parents and society, I shall love you always.

YOUR LOVING RADCLYFFE."

I thought to myself: Oh, poor Mr Radclyffe! He loves my sister so, but in vain. He is, no doubt, aware of her being meant since infancy for Mr Leighton, who, though infinitely tiresome and unhandsome, is worth more than one-hundred pounds in estate alone and thus, infinitely more appealing than Mr Radclyffe to my parents.

My thoughts were interrupted by my sister, who upon seeing her letter held guiltily in my hands, proceeded to have a fit.

"Ellen Lindley! Pray tell me, what are you doing in my bedroom?" said she.

I lowered my gaze and stared at the floor. "Mamma told me to fetch you, for Mr Leighton will be visiting this afternoon."

"As he does every day." She replied as she rolled her eyes at the mere thought of his dreary company. "Now, as for that letter in your hands, may I ask whom it belongs to?"

She knew very well whose letter I held. "Yours. But I assure you, I was not going to read it, and I was going to place it back."

"It looks as though you were distracted from the task."

My bottom lip trembled, as it always did when Emma was displeased with me. "I did not mean to, I swear."

She smiled soothingly, and addressed me, "Come, now, Ellie. Do not cry. I will not have my favourite sister crying."

"But I am your only sister," said I in between sniffs.

She ruffled my hair playfully and tenderly. "So you are." She smiled once more, her easy countenance and kindness pacifying me. She held out her hand and took the letter, gingerly placing it back inside her drawer.

We stood there in truce, our row never escalating above a small displeasure.

A soft tap on Emma's bedroom door could be heard as my brother Henry popped his white-blonde crown through. "Make haste, sisters. Mr Leighton has arrived, and with guests, nonetheless."

Two

Mr Leighton arrived punctually as usual, bringing with him two guests. The first was a young woman of mousy hair and of mouse-like qualities; the second was a blonde cherub of a boy of an age akin to my own.

"Mr Leighton, it is our pleasure to receive you." said my mother as she greeted him.

"Likewise, it is mine. I am always delighted to be received by such honourable personages as your self and Sir Lindley." He bowed. "And now, I have the pleasure of introducing you to my newly acquired wards, Miss Louisa Archer and her brother, William. They are of my late sister, rest her soul."

"Oh dear, Mr Leighton, I am sorry to hear of such sad tidings."

"It could not have been helped." He shook his head. "When my dear sister's husband acquired some land in America, he willingly went to cultivate and manage it; and from my understanding, he contracted Whooping Cough, or some other dreadfully savage disease. My sister, I believe, died of a broken heart soon thereafter."

"It is very good of you to take her children on as your own, Mr Leighton. Very selfless, indeed." She looked at Emma as she said this, seemingly urging her to see the quality aspects of his person.

He shook his head. "I am merely a guardian, but these children," he indicated the brother and sister with a sweep of his hand, talking about them as if they were not present, "are quite self-sufficient. The late Mr Archer left them a large sum of money, and at present, William owns Ashfair Manor near Shropshire and has an inheritance of over one-hundred thousand pounds. Likewise, Miss Archer has an inheritance of thirty-thousand pounds." He would have continued, but was interrupted by my mother.

"Well now, it seems that Mr and Miss Archer are quite prosperous. But still, it is most generous of you to care for them. And now that they will be residing at Whiteacre, they can enjoy the company of my son, Henry, and my youngest daughter, Ellen." As she spoke, I saw her eyes calculating the enormous benefits of rich spouses for her two yet engaged children. She turned to my brother and I, "Henry, Ellen, will you please show Mr and Miss Archer around the estate, I am sure they would be pleased to be acquainted with their new surroundings."

My brother and I acquiesced, but I sighed inwardly at Mr Leighton's ungentlemanly disclosure of the Archers' worth and my mother's obvious scheming.

As we took our leave of Mr Leighton and my sister, Emma, who curiously were now alone, I turned to William Archer, "I am sorry to hear of your misfortune."

His light blue eyes clouded. "I barely knew my mother and father. My only sorrow is my having Mr Leighton as a guardian. He is quite droll."

I covered my mouth with my hand in order to stifle a giggle. Miss Archer glared at her brother, her mouse-like face becoming even more pointed, "Mr Leighton is kind to let us reside at Whiteacre."

William shrugged. "A man can be kind, and still quite droll."

Three

The Archers and Mr Leighton left shortly after a turn about the estate, only after promising to call on us to-morrow. I could not help but wish William Archer visited more oft than his sister.

As they departed, the Radclyffes came unexpectedly to visit us. I could not think of Mr Radclyffe with out also dwelling upon his scandalous letter. And as he kissed my sister's hand in greeting, the phrase "your lingering touch that still burns my skin" came to mind. I thought that Mr Radclyffe would aflame in my view, but he merely made my sister grin. I saw her glance at Miss Radclyffe, who was her dearest friend, and they exchanged sheepish smirks. No doubt they had been formulating the pairing of Mr Radclyffe and my sister for some time, despite the wishes of my family or the persistent Mr Leighton.

My brother, Henry, seemed not to notice the affection between Mr Radclyffe and Emma, for he was too busy with the lovely Miss Radclyffe. And, trying to imitate his lifelong and more charming friend, he also bowed to kiss Miss Radclyffe's hand. Miss Radclyffe instantly drew back at his advance, and nodded politely. Henry returned the nod, but reddened about the cheeks at her slight.

Miss Radclyffe was far from rude, but I suspected her ardour did not match that of my brother.

I looked upon the couples and noticed how unlikely they seemed, or perhaps rather too complimentary. Mr Radclyffe had a dark air about him, with black hair and hawkish, yellow eyes that induced an indeterminate mystery. Emma, conflictingly, was rather fair, with sweeping golden locks and honey-coloured eyes, as Mr Radclyffe's letter was quick to mention, as well as an open disposition. My brother, Henry, was much more fair than Emma, with nearly white-blonde hair and crystal blue eyes, furthermore, he was rather uncertain and ungainly, the very contradiction of his partner, Miss Radclyffe. She was dark like her brother, having the same black tresses, but there was a certain expression in her chocolate eyes that made her considerably more pleasant, and she possessed a biting wit that was uncommon in fashionable ladies, but charming nonetheless.

They shuffled uncomfortably before me, and I flinched, feeling as if perhaps I was intruding on an awkward moment that should only be shared between the four best friends.

Mr Radclyffe broke the silence, "I desire to send my best wishes to Sir and Lady Lindley."

"I wish they were here to receive you," said Emma, "but I am afraid they had to go to town on some business." A lie: so as not to offend the Radclyffes and to remind them of my parents' dislike of their commoner roots and meagre fortune; and thus reiterating their unwillingness to greet them.

"I am sure Mr Leighton was displeased to be received with out the acknowledgement of Sir and Lady Lindley."

"Quite." Replied Emma, as she and my brother cleared their throats.

"Well, we should be merry then, as there will be no interruption as we play a game of loo."

"I should love to join you in a game of cards, Charles." answered my brother cheerfully, "and perhaps we could enjoy some fishing later."

"That sounds capital."

Four

Upon realising that the game of loo was sufficiently played, as well as Commerce and Vignt-Un, conversation turned to the more intimate issue of the newly arrived Archers.

"We were informed, by a bumbling Mr Leighton, that the Archers are worth more than one-hundred thirty pounds total," voiced my brother Henry.

"Making them considerably more attractive to your mother, no doubt," interjected Miss Radclyffe.

"I believe she already has designs of me marrying Miss Archer, but I hope there are some that would object to the union." said Henry as he glanced at her.

As she remained silent, her brother added, "I daresay that I would find Miss Archer much more attractive if she were worth fifty-thousand pounds, as then she could take care of my gambling debts."

We all laughed at his jest. "I am sure, dear brother that if Miss Archer were worth fifty-thousand pounds she would be in dire trouble if she were to look at you," supplied Miss Radclyffe, "for, I am sure she would marry you, and two years hence, she would need to inherit another fifty-thousand pounds in order to support your proclivity for gaming."

"I am afraid," furthered my sister, "that Mr Radclyffe is much too expensive for any lady to want to venture to marry him."

"You are quite correct, truly." conceded Mr Radclyffe. "If only I could persuade some naïve girl to fall in love with me, and I believe that Miss Archer would be a most auspicious start, then perhaps enraged with jealousy, Miss Lindley would settle to marry me."

Emma and Miss Radclyffe exchanged a curious glance. My brother, anxious to add his own two pence, continued, "Oh, but I am afraid, that Miss Archer is destined to be my wife, as my mother wishes it so, and so therefore, it shall be. Once my mother gets an idea in her head, it is quite difficult to dissuade her otherwise."

"As evidenced by Mr Leighton's daily visits." concluded Miss Radclyffe.

"Now, Charlotte," added my sister with a smile, "Mr Leighton does supply the occasional merriment, and he has introduced both my brother and my sister to their future partners."

Mr Radclyffe laughed at the thought of me conceding to marry at eleven years of age. "Truly, Miss Lindley, you shall be a breaker of hearts, and poor William Archer will be the first. What judge you of the young man?"

I blushed under the scrupulous eyes of Mr Radclyffe. My sister encouraged me to answer, "Go on, Ellie."

"He is not too terrible to look at. And he mentioned he thinks Mr Leighton to be quite droll."

Mr Radclyffe laughed and said, "A boy after my own heart,"

His sister included, "And a good judge of character."

Five

My sister conceded to play the piano-forte for an encouraging Mr Radclyffe, with his sister volunteering to turn pages for her. Henry and Mr Radclyffe retired to a corner of the room, as I read pleasantly. Even though Emma played and the music swelled with in the room, I could faintly make out the conversation between my brother and his friend. Trying not to be nosy, I concentrated on perusing the novel held before me, but upon seeing the distraught look on my brother's face, thought it too tempting not to listen.

"I am sure your sister detests me," moaned my brother, "she has not once glanced in my direction, nor objected to my marrying Miss Archer,"

"You can hardly be surprised. That is her natural disposition; she would never be entirely coquettish."

"I suppose that is a saving trait. What man desires a woman who fawns at the very parting of his lips?" my brother looked nauseated.

Mr Radclyffe smiled at his unease. "Henry, I assure you, if Charlotte fawned at your every word, you would not find her so very exciting," he patted my brother's back, "whilst I am worried because it is so with your sister. She is entirely too sweet, it makes me faintly suspicious of her true feelings."

"I find it very curious that you should question my sister's admiration for you when she treats you kindly, whereas I should feel distraught at the neglect of your sister."

"It is entirely too difficult to determine the true feelings of the fairer sex, let us not dwell upon such trivialities."