Her love wasn’t moulded by class, but they were right…
235- A, Northampton Road
It has been a long, long time since we last talked.
Elizabeth Dursling was born to the best family of the town.
For her first birthday, Elizabeth got a diamond tiara. For her third, a gold-studded dollhouse. For her 15th, she was given her personal cab and chauffeur. But her 20th had to be unparalleled. Elizabeth wanted to get the grandest present till now.
“Is there a special guest this year as well, father?”
Mr Dursling stood up from his trademark armchair.
“Yes. And I expect you to behave yourself in front of him. He’s important”.
Elizabeth was sitting in solitude when she heard someone approach and lifted her head.
The approaching man had an attractive face; his attire looked theatrical but shabby, as if he did not possess the means to rise up to the grace he held inside, and despite his mismatched appearance, Elizabeth was interested.
If he had been some quintessential elite individual, Elizabeth could have flirted. But it was unusual; he had an enigma she had never encountered before. He looked like someone who would value an intellectual conversation over lace gowns and birthday presents.
“Aren’t you the birthday girl? What a coincidence to have run into you”. He smiled. “I’ve been noticing you for a while now. You really captured my interest.”
“I have not had the pleasure of meeting you ever before?”
“Victor Stanton, madam. I am Victor Stanton of Scotland.”
I will not take much of your time.
It appears to me that you will read this at a late point in time, when I am no longer around.
The Durslings would have been furious if they knew about Victor. Lowly descent was the last thing they would desire to add into their family.
But had Elizabeth been one to care, she would have chosen the suitor who had been her 20th birthday present. He was a prospect of merger. Marriage was a profitable contract.
But things had escalated since her last birthday. Elizabeth was no longer interested in gifts and birthdays and wealthy suitors. She was interested in Victor Stanton of Scotland.
“You cannot keep hiding our relationship, Eliza.”
“Oh, don’t fret too much, Victor! I am an intelligent woman.”
“An intelligent woman,” Victor said, chuckling, “And mine.”
“Don’t you think you’re being rather territorial, sir? I am still very much a British spinster with no legitimate relation with you.”
“You will, soon. In fact, I have already found a way to be nearer to you.”
Elizabeth lifted her head from his shoulder.
“How so, Mr Stanton?”
“I accepted a job your father offered me for a butler.”
Elizabeth felt as if her wits had disappeared.
She was indignant.
But she said nothing. After all, her love wasn’t moulded by class.
Haughty orders were all that passed between us in public, but in the glorious light of the full moon, we met. I treasured it.
“Stanton, bring in the wine. Elizabeth, what are your occupations for today?”
Elizabeth blinked at her father.
“Nothing special. Why?”
“Thomas Heathridge is coming for dinner tonight, the suitor from your last birthday. Sabina and I are of the opinion that this time he is going to formally ask for your hand in marriage.”
Elizabeth was incredulous beyond words. How could her father invite her suitor over without her permission? To think the nobility had become more adhering to the needs of their women after the war!
Tears moistened the brinks of her eyes.
Victor filled her wine glass without another word.
That night, they met under a maple tree for only 20 minutes. The butler had jobs to do.
It was always forbidden but some time, hope grew and blossomed like the rosiest of flowers. I was captured like a bird in the net of affection. I memorised all your perfect imperfections.
Three days later, Thomas came to visit.
“I believe that it would be in the best interests of both Heathridge Company and Dursling Production to merge after my marriage to Eliza.”
Mr Dursling beamed.
“This was on my mind too.”
They turned around a maple tree in the yard when Thomas suddenly froze.
“Thomas, my boy, why did you suddenly stop?” Mr Dursling said, confusedly.
“Do you have no dignity, Mr Dursling?”
Thomas beckoned into the distance. His face wore an expression mixed with rage and disgust.
“To think that I would do business with the father of this shameful girl!”
“That disgraceful man! How dare he seduce my daughter right before her marriage?”
Mr Dursling was furious.
“You ignorant woman, how could you put the honour of your family at stake? You lost me a merger! This is the credit I get for wasting my money on you? You repay me by planning elopement with a scandalous butler?”
“Father, I voluntarily…”
“Voluntarily? Oh my lord, you immoral woman! How dare you admit to something so outrageous?”
Elizabeth cowered as he raised a hand above her. He lashed out at her, violently beating her with all he could muster. And when he got tired, he left.
In life, Mr Dursling had failed to realise that his daughter believed that walls were made to be broken and there were no inequalities. She had all she could ever have, yet she wished for more.
Elizabeth’s 22nd birthday was different to all the previous ones.
There were no celebrations.
Elizabeth dragged her dresses on. She glossed her lips and patted her hair down, hoping it was satisfactory. But when she peeked into the mirror again, all she saw was a ghastly being. Against her pale skin, the makeup looked unrealistic, as if a corpse had been painted like a bride.
Someone knocked on the door.
“You have a guest. Your father requested that I remain here throughout the conversation. You have five minutes.”
Elizabeth’s eyes remained fixated on her reflection.
The maid beckoned the visitor.
“Good morning, Miss Dursling. I won’t take much of your time”.
Elizabeth closed her eyes. It was a hallucination. It was not him.
“Miss Dursling, I have told your father all that you ever wanted to conceal.
I have informed your father of your illicit advances towards me. I have told him of how lust drives innocent hearts insane. I do not blame you, so fear not, Miss Dursling.
You seduced me, threatened to spill false rumours about me. After a while, you started calling our forced relationship ‘love’ and started talk of marriage. When I informed you of our mismatch, you told me you were carrying my child.
And then I was tied up with you for a year, until the day your father found us. That was the day I found out that there was no child. Mr Heathridge insists you get your deserved punishment if there is to be a business merger.”
Elizabeth felt the ground leaving her feet.
“I will press charges now, madam, for public indecency, for blackmail and for scandal. Forgive me if you can, but this is justice.”
She asked for no explanation. This was the end of it all.
“If that is all, you will follow me, Mr Stanton. You have an offence report to sign.”
It was a hazy Sunday morning when the most awaited court trial of Northampton was scheduled.
It was all going as expected.
It must be safe to say that the moment you entered my room is forever committed to everlasting memory. And when you spoke, I thought it was a dream. I wish that I had been dreaming.
“Mr Victor Stanton, the plaintiff of the trial, step up to the jury and testify.”
And today, Mr Stanton, I will complain just once. I will ask you one question that would’ve haunted me had I been permitted to live.
“Mr Stanton, do you promise under all circumstances to respect the laws of honour, and hereby speak the truth and only the truth?”
“I do,” answered Mr Stanton.
“And do you confirm all that has been said and proved against the accused?”
“I do,” he replied.
Did you fake it all?
“Mr Stanton, do hence sentence her to the punishment of death proposed by her father for wrongful accusation, public indecency and blackmail?”
I know you shall not be expecting my letter. But I hope to surprise you. You always did like surprises.
Maybe I should despise you. But can you ever despise love?
Mr Stanton, I wish you all the happiest moments in the world. May you love someone who loves you like I once did. May you remember me hereafter. They were right. Wealth shapes lives.
Elizabeth Dursling (deceased)
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