Defying Conventions (Part XI)
Peering across the hall to where his apprentice was supposed to be studying, Mr. Randolph perceived that the young man was quite distracted on that particular evening. He would look down at his books, but seemed almost to be staring right through them into the floor. Mr. Randolph rose from his chair and strode quietly to the sitting room.
Camden looked up as he entered, seemingly caught off guard and appearing to be unsure whether he would be reprimanded for not attending to his work.
“You’re distracted,” Mr. Randolph began, “but I must know why. It does little good to identify a problem without also identifying how to remedy it.”
“I apologize, Mr. Randolph. I am distracted, yes, but I cannot identify a single source of that distraction. So much happened in Philadelphia, both with the convention and with everything else. So much is uncertain there and then . . .” The young apprentice trailed off and gazed back down at his book.
“And then?” Mr. Randolph offered. He could see that Camden was hesitant and so supplied the words for him. “And then there is your growing love for my niece. That is what you were thinking, am I not correct?”
Camden nodded but did not immediately look up.
“It certainly is nothing to be ashamed of, but I understand why you are hesitant to discuss it. Much like the future of our country, the future of your life and hers remains uncertain. You have hopes, of course, but do not know whether they will ever be fulfilled.”
“Mr. Monroe seemed to think it obvious that I was corresponding with a lady, though I never told him so. Was it equally apparent to you that I have come to love Georgiana?”
“My boy, I should have been surprised if you had not come to find that you love her. Aside from that, however, while you have been away she has visited me on more than a few occasions. It did not take all of my skills of reasoning to work out what had grown up between the two of you. I have no doubt that the affection you feel for her does not exceed the affection she gives in return.”
“What distracts me the most, I suppose, is that there seems to be nothing that can be done. Senator Burwell has already made up his mind about me. He stated his rejection in such certain terms that I cannot imagine how his opinion could be reversed.”
Mr. Randolph put his hand on Camden’s shoulder for a moment. The young man may have acted rashly before, but he was intelligent enough not to make the same mistake twice. Besides that, he must certainly now be more open than ever to receiving wisdom from his elders.
“I do not think that all is lost, but having been a young man once myself I can understand how you could come to that conclusion. I will speak to my brother in law on your behalf. He can be adamant, yes, but I know him well enough to discern how best to persuade him. Unless you would prefer that I not take that risk?”
“I . . . Mr. Randolph, I cannot hope to repay such a kindness as this. I have no right at all to expect such a favor from one to whom I am already so greatly indebted. If I should--”
“You need say no more. Georgiana’s happiness and yours will be all the thanks I need.”
Mr. Randolph peered over at the book open on the desk to see that Camden had been in the thick of a long discourse on the law of descent and entails, a dry subject even for one undistracted by other matters.
“Perhaps you should put your reading aside for the evening and start afresh tomorrow.”
“Thank you, sir, but I really should--”
“In that case,” he said, reaching over and shutting the book, “I insist. Now get upstairs. Rest. Rest your mind and your body.”
Camden obeyed this time. As he dragged himself out of the sitting room and up the stairs, Mr. Randolph was sure that he could see a weight being lifted from his shoulders. Perhaps the young man would very soon have more to worry about, but for now at least he could find some rest.
It was early afternoon, when her uncle arrived. Andrew was taking his day off and so it was Georgiana herself who greeted him at the front door.
“Uncle Joseph, how good of you to come. I can only assume you are here to see Father?”
“Yes, in fact I am.”
“I trust all goes well with the ratification process?”
“Fine, yes. I need to speak with your father about another matter, however.”
“Oh. Well, we expect him home shortly. Andrew is gone for the rest of the day, but if there is anything you need I will be at your service. May I take your hat?”
“My visit actually concerns you, Georgiana.”
She was taken aback for an instant, but it immediately became clear to her what he meant.
“And Mr. Page.”
“I see. May I try to guess the subject of your conversation?”
“I posit that you have come to appeal to my father on behalf of Mr. Page in order that the prohibition on his being permitted to call on me be lifted.”
“You are, as usual, very perceptive,” he said, with a familiar twinkle in his eye.
“Since that is why you have come, I must make a confession.” She girded herself for what she must say next. “The letters you and Mr. Page received that forbid him to come to our home were not sent by my father. I sent them.”
She paused briefly, hoping to read something in her uncle’s expression, but his face gave not the slightest hint at his thoughts.
“When Mr. Page delivered his letter months ago,” she continued, “I opened and read it. He couldn’t have known how he had breached social convention in being so bold so soon. The prospect of not being able to speak with him again caused me to act rashly and that is why I misled both of you. At the time it seemed the only thing to do.”
She dreaded her uncle’s response. He had always played the part of the indulgent uncle in her youth, but she was unsure how he would take this. He stood there for a moment with his arms crossed before he began to speak.
“You thought you would escape notice, did you?”
“I realize now that it was foolish to try to hide it from father, but--”
“No. What I mean is did you really think that it would escape my notice?”
Georgiana raised an eyebrow; of all the possible responses she could think of, this had not been one of them.
“Georgiana, you needn’t look surprised. You are indeed very clever, but I knew from the very beginning that the letters were yours. Mr. Page certainly would not have recognized your handwriting, but it was immediately obvious to me.”
Georgiana blushed. She could not believe she had made such an embarrassingly simple error.
“I also understood why you must have thought you had to take the course you did. If I had thought it was truly your father who sent the letters, I never would have agreed to facilitate any sort of correspondence between the two of you. I spoil you--about that there can be no doubt and it is my prerogative as an uncle--but I would never counsel you to defy your parents.”
Georgiana hardly dared breathe until she heard her uncle’s next word.
“Nevertheless,” he began, allowing Georgiana to exhale in relief, “I intend to appeal to your father on Mr. Page’s behalf today. I believe I can make your father see that the two of you might some day make an excellent match. If he consents, then I trust your judgment to know when it will be best to tell him of your little scheme.”
A wave of joy swept over Georgiana so fully that the last words had hardly left her uncle’s mouth before she had embraced him. “He will see, uncle! I know he will. Thank you!” He seemed to her to be taken somewhat by surprise; she had never been one to have such demonstrative bursts of emotion and so had surprised herself a little as well.
From the other room, Georgiana heard the familiar sound of her father arriving. He called for Andrew.
“Oh, he must have forgotten that he gave Andrew the rest of the day off,” Georgiana whispered. “Will you--”
“Of course, my dear. I’ll greet him now. If you felt this much emotion with me, you might very well faint away to see your father now.” He winked and left to greet his brother in law.
Georgiana went upstairs, perfectly content to bask in the bliss of the moment until she was called down for dinner.
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