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Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Most Unsuitable Beau

Another Snippet from A Master Passion.
Here, Betsy's little sister Cornelia takes up with an unsuitable beau:

Betsy was not surprised when one morning her father and young Washington retired to the study.  In the broad downstairs corridor, on her way to fetch something for Mama, she heard the rumble of her father's voice, that most authoritarian tone, and knew, without catching a word, that a suitor was being rejected.

              Soon, Papa banged his cane on the floor and ordered the carriage.  From upstairs came the sounds of bags being packed, of doors slamming, of Cornelia sobbing.  The old General accompanied the young man to the wharf and stayed until he'd seen both the unwanted suitor and his baggage on board the noon sloop to New York.  Back at the house, Cornelia wailed and smashed china, much as her eldest sister Angelica had done twenty years before.

              "I'd just as soon marry you to some unlettered frontiersman.” The General roared back. “This Mr. Morton has no idea of responsibility, has done nothing yet except peacock about upon the foolish generosity of his father! Now, Cornelia, promise me you will have nothing further to do with him ‑ either by word--or by letter."

              "I cannot do that." Cornelia’s dark eyes were full of fire.  All too clearly, she saw herself as a heroine of one of those popular British romances.

              "What?!"  The General banged his cane on the floor.  "Do you mean to disobey me?"

              "I cannot bind myself, Papa.  I will not promise."

              "Disobedient girl!  Great God!  What have I done to deserve this? Go to your room at once and stay there!"

              Head high, Cornelia swept up the stairs.

              "Where does she get this language?  This defiant deportment?  It's those damned novels, isn't it?  I swear to God – if I find any of that trash in found this house it shall be burnt at once."
              Betsy thought it far more likely that the two earlier elopements had been the corrupting influence. As she watched the scene from the window seat, chair back embroidery in hand, she again wondered how it was that she—Elizabeth--was the only Schuyler girl who hadn’t had to climb out of an upstairs window for a husband...  




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