Saturday, 27 December 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014 - ,

Mail Order Mary

by Abigail Armani
Published: Oct 31, 2014
Words: 37,805
Category: western, romance
Orientation: M/F
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England, 1876

When Mary was summoned to the parlour, she could tell by the expression on her mother's face that something momentous had happened. In a state of great excitement, Lady Ashford surged forward to greet her daughter.

"Sit, my dear. Your father and I have some wonderful news!"

"Indeed we do," affirmed Sir Henry Ashford. "You may perhaps be aware that the Marquess of Stirling has been showing more than a passing interest in you, my dear."

Mary frowned, for Walter Ponsonby, whether he was a Marquess or not, was an odious man. "Yes Papa, but the interest is not reciprocated."

"It soon will be," continued her father, "for he has most graciously asked for your hand in marriage, and I have accepted."

Stunned, Mary stared at her father in disbelief. "No! I don't believe it."

"Yes! My dear daughter, think of it - you will be a Marchioness!" gushed her mother. "What greater honour is there?"

"I will not marry him," said Mary. "He is old. He is fat. He is ... abhorrent in every way!"

For a moment, there was a shocked silence, and then the expression on Lady Ashford's face changed to one of hostility. "How dare you say such dreadful things about the Marquess! You should be thankful he has even noticed you."

"I am not thankful in the least, Mother, and I will NOT wed him."

Sir Henry Ashford rose from his chair, his face flushed with anger and outrage, matching the red hue of his silk cravat which brightened up his black Victorian attire. "You will, and you will do so with good grace." He smiled thinly and dropped the next bombshell. "It is all arranged, daughter. One month from now, you will be the Marchioness of Stirling."

"I will not," declared Mary emphatically. "I would rather die!" She rose and left the room, slamming the door behind her in a most unladylike manner. Ignoring the commands to return, she ran upstairs to her room and flung herself on the bed. Balling her fingers into fists, she smashed them down repeatedly on the lavish counterpane then burst into floods of tears.

And that was how Kitty found her. The lady's maid approached, full of concern for her mistress. "Why my lady, whatever is the matter?"

In between sobs, Mary told her what had occurred. "If I must marry, I will marry a man of my choosing. Though quite how I would meet such a man remains to be seen. I am a prisoner here, Kitty. I am subject to endless stupid balls and social gatherings full of disagreeable men and even more disagreeable vain and silly women. I hate my life here, Kitty. I hate it!"

"There, there, my lady," soothed Kitty. She frowned, for she knew what her mistress did not - that Sir Henry Ashford had acquired a certain reputation at the gambling tables, and rumour was rife that he owed a considerable debt to the Marquess of Stirling.