Title: A Sense of Poise and Rationality
Description: Tags: Catherine Willoughby
John Chauncey - April 10, 2010 04:24 AM (GMT)
John made his way quickly through the winding corridors of the palace, hurrying to get to his father's rooms, since he was apparently already supposed to be there. Isabel had come running from somewhere, out of breath and looking like a mess, to tell him that their father was looking for him, and he had taken the time to berate her for traipsing around the palace like a fool and reminding her that she was no longer at liberty to hitch her skirts up around her ankles and run if she needed to get somewhere quickly. Honestly, he loved his sister, but she was such an innocent about some simple graces that most everyone else seemed to understand naturally. And besides the fact that he hadn't set off straight away, Isabel had been looking for him for nearly an hour, and he was sure his father was quite impatient.
Sighing, John rounded the corner of the final corridor, coming into view of the rooms where his father did business when he stayed at court. He racked his brain, trying to think of what he could possibly have forgotten to do lately--he'd finished the books for the latest shipments days ago and left them for his father, and he had double-checked all the numbers. Perhaps something had gone terribly wrong, in which case, he would feel guilty later for scolding Isabel. But perhaps it was good news, although that was never quite as urgent. His father had revealed to him only a week ago the great expansion he'd taken on, the reason he'd been so lax in attending to their lives at court, to their status--they were in the process of setting up offices in three different countries now, having bought out another, smaller shipping merchant also located in London. John had never seen his father so pleased with himself--it definitely meant more security, financially, which was comforting at court, but John had yet to see any real benefit from the expansion, besides triple the amount of work on his end.
John pushed open the door of the entrance chamber, which doubled as his father's office. He was not often at court any more, preferring to leave John to his business there, and his rooms were accordingly simple. John stepped over the threshold, fully expecting to see his father hunched over his desk, and he opened his mouth as soon as he had one foot in the room. "Father, I heard you were looking for me--I apologize for--"
John cut himself off, freezing as he took note not of the scene he expected--his father, alone, waiting impatiently for him--but instead something entirely unfamiliar and rather off-putting. His father was standing, dressed in his finest clothes, and chatting pleasantly with him was a woman John did not recognize. Confused and slightly flustered, he made a hasty bow to the woman and began his apology again. "Forgive me, Madam, I did not expect--"
Richard waved away his son's apology. "None of that, now. You may be late, but no matter--we are waiting on another party. For the mean time, may I introduce the Lady Mary Willoughby. Lady Mary, this is my son, John."
Willoughby. John schooled his features, trying to keep the shock off his face at the sound of the familiar name. He made a second slight bow in the lady's direction, though he couldn't help but think of the brief encounter he had had with her daughter not long ago. Utterly confused, John glanced back to his father, about to inquire what this meeting was about, when the sound of the door opening again stopped him. He turned around, just in time to see Catherine Willoughby enter the room, and he was sure his face gave away his surprise. John glanced confusedly back at his father, clasping his hands behind his back to keep from voicing the perhaps quite impolite question that was running through his mind: What is she doing here?
Catherine Willoughby - April 10, 2010 05:04 AM (GMT)
Catherine had been reading by herself in her room when a page came to her room, handing her a letter. It was a summons to a room that was with the other courtiers, and it was in her mother's hand. She had spoken with her mother earlier, when she had arrived, and there was nothing said about some talk. She wondered what she was going to be asked or lectured about as she tucked the letter into the pocket of her gown and headed out of her room. All the while, she thought and thought, going over anything that could have possibly been passed on to her mother. She came up with nothing as she opened the door, stopping mid-step as she glanced from the eager face of her mother, to a man she did not recognize, to a younger man she certainly did. Catherine gritted her teeth. What was this about?
However, what she said was very different from what she was thinking. Catherine had to put on her obedient daughter face. "Mother, what is this about?" she asked, giving her mother a strained, obviously false smile.
"I have been writing letters back and forth to Sir Richard Chauncey," said Mary Willoughby, immediately recognizing the look on her daughter's face. She disregarded it. Now was not time for a lecture, now was time for news. Finally, this all had been settled. She gestured with a beringed hand to John's father.
Catherine ground her back teeth, listening but not really taking in the words. She didn't care. What was this about? she asked herself again, hoping it wasn't what she was fearing. "You have?" she asked, trying to keep her voice from squeaking. She just stared at her mother. She did not want to give John, who she met once and certainly did not like due to his arrogance and presumptuousness, dirty looks in front of their parents. If her mother was here, and his father-- oh, no.
She knew exactly what this was about before her mother opened her mouth.
Mary cleared her throat. "After much consideration and debate, Sir Richard and I have decided the best thing for both of our families is to have his son, John, be your husband." She glanced sidelong to John's father, as if indicating him to say something, anything, before Catherine exploded. She knew her daughter well enough. It was going to happen, she just did not want to be there to see it.
Catherine's mouth dropped open. She was blindsided by this development, though she had feared it the moment she walked in the door. How would this be an advantage? For her? John Chauncey was nothing. His father was knighted, they had money, that was it. She was a Baroness, suo jure; no one, not even a husband, could take it from her. He would not have her title, but he would have were vast lands, wealth and estates at his command. She had the advantage; this was a step down. Her mind worked overtime, trying to figure out what to say, what to do, how to convince her mother this was a bad idea and she could not possibly go through with it, mostly because the only things she knew of John were unfavorable. Perhaps if they had spoken more congenially in their first meeting a few weeks ago, she would not have been so averse. "But...this is not to my advantage, to our family's advantage," she managed to say. My God, my mother is truly desperate, she thought, finally sending a dirty look John's way. She hoped to God he felt the same way about this. It was a farce.
John Chauncey - April 10, 2010 05:38 AM (GMT)
Catherine might have remained in his presence solely because their parents had summoned them there, but John hadn't missed the way her jaw tightened when she saw it was him standing there and not someone--probably anyone--else in the entire palace. It was a pity she was averse to him, for he thought her a rather intriguing woman, based on their very brief meeting, even if she could be rather irritating. The way she spoke irked him, though he was glad that she was the one to voice the question he so wanted to ask, strained as her smile was. John didn't bother with that sort of politesse; he simply glanced back to his father, as though to pose the same question, though it was Catherine's mother who answered it.
"I have been writing letters back and forth to Sir Richard Chauncey."
The woman went straight to the point, rather like her daughter. Perhaps it was genetic, this speaking your mind, saying whatever you wanted and not caring who you offended. Though John didn't have much time to ponder that; as soon as Catherine's mother gestured to his father, something in John's brain seemed to click, and his eyes widened. This was definitely the meeting he'd been waiting for since he'd first come to court, but he had never imagined it would happen quite like this...or with the woman next to him in the room. John turned his gaze over to Catherine, who seemed to have figured out the same thing he had in exactly the same moment. He couldn't say she looked pleased, and that in itself was just...well, it was to be expected, if he was being honest. She hadn't seemed too keen on him since they had met before. Still, she might have at least tried to look pleased.
"After much consideration and debate, Sir Richard and I have decided the best thing for both of our families is to have his son, John, be your husband."
There, it was confirmed then. The idea of marriage was certainly not offensive to John; in fact, he'd been awaiting rather eagerly the day his father would finally see fit to marry his children off. It meant more freedom, it meant he was at liberty to make his own way, even if he was still ensconced in the family business. And marriage to Catherine...well, whatever had passed between them, he was sure they could get over it. Those sorts of things were less important, in the grand scheme of things...though a small voice at the back of his mind warned him that she had the potential to make him completely miserable, if she wanted. She didn't seem like a woman who would happily obey her husband.
As if to further prove his point, when he looked over to see Catherine's reaction, he caught her with her jaw practically on the floor, and that bothered him. Was it so unfathomable, that the two of them should be betrothed? Could the woman not pull herself together, at least in front of their parents?
Richard cleared his throat, and John turned his attention back to his father, still a bit shell-shocked, unsure whether he should be pleased at the news or furious at Catherine's reaction. "We are both quite pleased with this arrangement, and the timing of it. It has been a rather lengthy process, but the timing is now right, and we do hope the two of you will be content."
John waited, wondering if he ought to say something--what exactly was the procedure, here? It wasn't exactly something he was familiar with, not having been present at Isabel's first betrothal, which had been rather informal and quickly broken anyway. Luckily, Catherine seemed to be more eager to speak.
"But...this is not to my advantage, to our family's advantage."
Better up until then. Maybe he should have opened his mouth; anything he could possibly have said would have been better than that. What exactly did she have against him, other than she had simply taken a disliking to him? His family wasn't as well-established as hers, but that didn't mean they weren't capable of great things, especially when aligned with a family like hers. John knew right then that this marriage, whether or not it was a good idea, was never going to be dull, at the very least.
"Forgive me for being contradictory," he piped up at last, directing his comment towards Catherine, his tone polite and deferential. "But I am not sure it is either of our place to decide what is most advantageous at this point."
Catherine Willoughby - April 10, 2010 06:30 AM (GMT)
Oh, so now he had to say something. Catherine frowned at John. She didn't care that he was, at least in the presence of their parents, being polite. She was right. This was not advantageous to her in the least. That perhaps could be a way to get out of it, though she knew damn well it would be a difficult enterprise. She may have said her own mind, but she was also obedient like women were expected to be. If there was no way out of it, then she would learn to live with it as so many did, but she would not do so quietly.
Maybe she would. Catherine opened her mouth and shut it quickly at the look she got from her mother. It was a warning for her. She could complain and argue all she wished, just not around her mother--or his father. She knew her mother had moved heaven and earth to get this to happen. Catherine, for a brief moment, wistfully wished she had never met John. That she was one of those girls who could at least fantasize about happiness, not meeting her intended husband until the moment they saw each other in the chapel. Of course, they had met, and he nettled her. She didn't even know exactly why.
"I am sure," she said dryly in response to John's father, deciding to hell with it, she would say whatever she wanted. All bets on being a poised, accepting young lady were off. Catherine did not like this one bit and she was not going to hide it, even if she knew eventually she would have to accept it.
Sending her daughter yet again a dark look, Mary said, louder than Catherine's grumbling, "I assume you two know each other." She smiled, just faintly, like she had been sucking on lemons, at her headstrong child. "At least judging by how I see you scowling at him, Catherine. It is most unbecoming. You two must talk. This is how it shall be. I do not want either of you to be unhappy. You will learn together how to...deal with one another. Count yourself lucky." Looking over to Sir Richard she said, "Perhaps we ought to let our children get to know one another more now that they know their futures are together."
Annoyed, Catherine ground her back teeth, clenching her firsts and then relaxing, her gaze shifting from her mother to John. This time she had looked more irritated at her mother than him, she was almost appraising him. He was good-looking, not too much older than her she assumed; at least he had those two things going for him, even if she thought his personality left much to be desired. Of course, it didn't help that she was comparing him still to her infatuation with the King's painter, who was so very different: intelligent, not arrogant in the least, someone she could talk to about anything and everything. She had a feeling John Chauncey certainly was not that sort of man, whoever he really was outside their one and only meeting before today.
"Yes," said Catherine in a well-modulated, falsely pleasant voice, her eyes settled on the man her mother had decided she would marry. She would turn this to her advantage, however she could. Despite her sweetness to those close to her, she had a quick mind and she knew she would have to be the stronger one, perhaps veiling it wifely obedience, getting him to see things her way. She didn't know how she could do it, and she was still quite angry about the situation, but over-thinking was her specialty. If she could not get out of it, which she suspected she could not, then she would handle him. It would not be the other way around. "I suppose we should."
John Chauncey - April 10, 2010 04:40 PM (GMT)
"I am sure."
John shot a sharp look at Catherine; the girl had no idea how to keep her mouth shut, did she? It bothered him that she felt she could speak that way to his father. She could talk to her mother however she saw fit, disagree though he might with the way she said whatever she wanted, but he didn't like her looking down her nose at his family. It was easier when she sneered at him--not that it was in any way pleasant--but John had nothing but the utmost respect for his father and the things Richard had done for their family, despite any minor disagreements they had had over priorities in the past. It wasn't right that a woman, even one of Catherine's status, should disregard a man who had raised his family up from practically nothing to be respectable enough a people to be at court. What had she accomplished that was as substantial as that?
"I assume you two know each other...they know their futures are together."
John couldn't keep the smirk off his face when Catherine's mother put the girl in her place, and he had to look at the floor for a moment to school his features. Though Catherine was somewhat correct--her marriage to him didn't seem to be as advantageous to her as it was to him--he was beginning to get an idea of exactly why her mother had agreed to the arrangement. Men of power and importance wanted wives who would be obedient, who knew their place, and his very limited experience with Catherine so far led him to believe that she posessed neither of these characteristics. Apparently, it was better she give him a perpetual headache than her mother. Honestly, he had to respect the lady Mary for that move.
"Yes... I suppose we should."
John glanced back over to Catherine, surprised by the sudden control in her voice, and found her looking at him, as though she was trying to study him. For the second time in this brief meeting, it occurred to him exactly how challenging it would be, having a wife who said and did what she pleased. His only advantage at this point was that he knew he could annoy her into a frenzy if he wanted to. Smiling mischeviously, he caught her eye and winked, forgetting for a moment that he was supposed to be the agreeable one in this situation.
"We have indeed been introduced," John said to Catherine's mother. "Though I think both of us would appreciate time to become better acquainted."
Richard Chauncey nodded in agreement, still looking quite pleased with himself despite Catherine's reaction to the news. "Yes, an excellent idea. It is settled, then, and I am sure you two will find a way to be amiable. Let us give them a moment, shall we, Lady Mary?" he inquired, offering his arm to the lady.
John moved aside to allow the two of them to leave, nodding respectfully to his father and Lady Mary as they made their way out of the small room. As the door clicked shut behind them, he sized up the woman his father had decided to make his wife. Whatever pretty face she put on, he knew she was fuming inside--she had made her disdain all too clear, and now he wanted to make it clear that he didn't appreciate her blatant contempt for him and his family.
"Darling wife," he intoned dryly, knowing the endearment would irk her. "I can see how overjoyed you are at this new arrangement. Please, do not hold anything back for my sake."
Catherine Willoughby - April 11, 2010 03:52 AM (GMT)
The last act of politeness towards their individual parents was to bob a respectful curtsy as they left the room. Catherine gave her mother a bland smile and received a look in return. Her mother expected her to behave, to be a good example, this, that, and the other; she knew it just by the look in her mother's dark eyes before she swept away. The door closed. The two were alone. It was strange, considering Catherine knew being alone with a man was not exactly something young women were encouraged to do, though she had done it anyway. It was all innocent chattering. What did they think would happen? Suddenly they would get on and all would be well? Bitterly she thought that would probably never happen, even if they could reach some sort of understanding somehow by God's graces. Judging by his cutting tone, he wasn't exactly happy with this situation either. Only for a moment did Catherine have sympathy for him.
He had to go call her 'darling wife,' purposefully pushing her buttons. Was this how it would be? They would irritate the hell out of one another for the rest of their lives?
She stared at him, her lips set in a straight line. "For certain it seems I am doomed to be your wife and you my husband," Catherine said, in the same dry voice he used, "though do not mistake yourself. Darling. Hmpf." She snorted with derision. If he was going to annoy her, she was going to be just as immature back. Turning away from John, she wandered over to the window, her gown swishing behind her on the wood floor. Her back to him, she instead focused on the comings and goings she saw out the window that looked onto the base court.
"I do not want to marry you because all I know of you is how you seem to be an arrogant fool. Maybe now that we are forced to be together you may prove me wrong." Catherine spoke slowly, gathering the words she wanted to say. If they had to be married, she was going to be honest with him whether he wanted to hear it or not. "Mayhap someday we may come to some cease of hostilities," she continued, turning to him, her voice dripping with sarcasm though there was a little smirk on her face. This was like a war, a war between two people who were destined not to get on despite having to now figure out how they would work out their lives together. "But I doubt it."
John Chauncey - April 11, 2010 05:29 AM (GMT)
John simply stared at her as she turned and flounced off to the window, having said her piece. He was pleased to have gotten any sort of reaction out of her, and even more impressed that she hadn't yet thrown anything at his head or made some murderous attempt on his life the moment the door had closed. If all it took was a bit of sarcasm to reach her, maybe the two of them could find a way to make this work, after all.
"I do not want to marry you because all I know of you is how you seem to be an arrogant fool. Maybe now that we are forced to be together you may prove me wrong."
Ah. Clearly, by even hoping that there was a way the two of them could be at peace, he had cursed the entire arrangement. He didn't bother to hold back an amused laugh at her words; they were ridiculous, in his opinion. He might be arrogant--though he wasn't sure exactly what he had to flaunt in front of her--but he could easily turn any accusation she made against him back around on her. In the short time he had been acquainted with Catherine Willoughby, she had been nothing but unpleasant and snobbish, completely unchangeable, like a petulant child who was used to having her way. And yet she was the one flinging accustations at him.
"You think me arrogant?" John inquired, crossing his arms as he threw his words in her direction. "When you stood here only moments ago and sneered down your nose at my father for no reason other than his title is not as good as yours? I fail to see how the fact that you are allowed to be better than everyone and I am not even allowed to speak to you on the grounds makes me the arrogant one in this situation. And as to being a fool...perhaps I am, for before you opened your mouth, I was pleased--for the briefest of moments--about this entire arrangement. Though I can assure you, I am no longer suffering from that fleeting malady."
"Mayhap someday we may come to some cease of hostilities. But I doubt it."
John pondered that statement for a moment. Despite her tone and the obvious disdain she expressed at the idea of being his wife, there must be some part of her that wanted a nice, stable, peaceful life, much the way he did or she would not have mentioned the possibility of a ceasefire in what was sure to be a long, ongoing battle. If he was being honest, he thought he would find her rather agreeable if she could find a way to tame that sharp tongue of hers--or at least, to learn not to wield it against him. Better not to let that slip now, though; better to keep the upper hand until he knew exactly what she was thinking.
"No," he answered, meeting her gaze across the room. "I cannot imagine that. Not as long as you insist upon expressing your derision for me and mine. That is something I cannot tolerate."
Catherine Willoughby - April 13, 2010 03:36 AM (GMT)
The look Catherine turned on John was pinched. She bit the inside of her cheek hard so she wouldn't say anything, though she wasn't exactly listening. She was quiet, yes, but it was a case of in one ear and out the other. She took in only bits and pieces of what he said, and the frown on her face indicated her annoyance with what he was saying. She was better than him. For someone who hated arrogance in others, Catherine was proving herself to be quite the hypocritical young lady; she was not self-important, per se, but she certainly had a heavy dose of pride in her position. A very large part of her wanted to still fight with him, but the rational part--the grown-up part of her that knew no matter how much they disagreed or argued they would still be standing before a priest soon enough--tried to shut her instincts down.
Deciding perhaps it would be better to listen to her more rational side for once in her life, Catherine gathered her pride from somewhere around her feet (thanks to his comments of her being a petulant child and so on). "Yes, I am sure you would be pleased," she muttered, touching on the one thing that really irked her about this match, "for you shall be taking what is mine. You may do as you wish and I will be nothing." Her voice had something light and flippant to it, as if she were shrugging off her worries, but there was a hard undercurrent of bitterness to it. She was, like any girl, brought up to marriage. It was the only permissible state for a young woman with her position. No woman could manage on her own, it was said. Catherine thought differently, but while she had pride she did not have the courage to defy convention like that. She may complain all she wanted, she knew, but it would still not change the situation. Considering she had already voiced her fears about the estate of marriage to those close to her, it was only logical in Catherine's mind to tell them to the man she was told she would marry. She thought she was being most generous and kind, despite the bitter, almost angry, tone to her voice; but this time the anger was not with John, but only about the situation the two found themselves in.
"Please tell me," she continued on, not wanting him to butt in with his opinion, "what it is I would be getting out of this marriage." Catherine took a step away from the window, looking down at the shine of the wood floors. She touched the rim of a round table in the corner, not looking at it to examine the workmanship but looking at it so she could gather her thoughts. She knew what she wanted to say, but because she had decided that throwing her words as daggers in his face was objectionable (because it would not get her what she wanted, however self-righteous she was), she had to actually think about how to say it. This was a difficult thing for her to do. Finally she looked up at John from her position across the room. "You will be getting estates, land, money, all from me and mine. You say I deride you. No, I do not." This was an effort, keeping her voice controlled despite the anger there. "I am stating the facts, am I not? Your family wants you to marry me because I am a baroness, because I will make you wealthy, give you connections. That is all marriage is about: how to make one rise in the world. By marrying me, you will. That is all well and good for you. But for me?" She paused to take a breath, trying desperately not to raise her voice or otherwise be the petulant child he thought she was. She was better than that. She was! "You are getting anything one could want from a marriage. I am not. Of course," she mused with a tiny half-hearted smile, "I don't know what I would want. Anyhow. I will make you a deal, then. I will make no fuss about this, as long as you agree to inform me of anything. If you wish to spend my money, you will tell me. If you wish to do anything with my property, you will tell me. You are getting all of this through me. You will not command me, nor will you do anything without my permission." She fancied herself quite clever, trying to back him into a corner like this.
At the end of her little speech she exhaled and realized she was holding on to the edge of the little table, her knuckles white thanks to her grip. Catherine withdrew her hand and moved to entwine her fingers together somewhere at her waist, only then thinking of how anxious she had been speaking to him like this. It was much harder than making a scene.
John Chauncey - April 21, 2010 02:48 AM (GMT)
John had to bite back a smile as he listened to Catherine reveal what was apparently her true issue with the marriage, trying to be as calm as she could, though he could see the effort she put forth to keep herself in check. He wouldn't have thought a woman like Catherine would be concerned about losing status or power upon her marriage; she seemed so accustomed to making her presence and her opinion known that it hadn't occured to him that she might harbor such doubts. She had never, in all of their short acquaintance, been anything but confident--perhaps too much so. He found it amusing that part of it might be for show alone.
John opened his mouth to assure the girl across the room that he would only ever act as her dutiful husband, would keep her interests always in mind, as it seemed so important to her--but before he could say a word, his betrothed plowed on, inquiring rather boldly, in his opinion, what she was supposed to get from their marriage. John shut his mouth and frowned; it was a most unbecoming question, especially from a woman, who--in his experience--was not supposed to be the one worrying about arrangements such as these.
"I am stating the facts, am I not? . . . You will not command me, nor will you do anything without my permission."
As she went on, building steam in her civil tirade as she did, John grew less and less amused, pulling his gaze away from her to stare pointedly out the window instead, his jaw clenched, his arms crossed as he let her say what she wanted. He supposed a small part--infinitesmal, in fact--of him ought to be grateful that she was at least trying to control herself, difficult as it must be when she seemed to be so used to saying and doing whatever she wanted. But it was difficult to see the silver lining when with every word she spoke, it became plainer and plainer that Catherine was used to having her way. It might not have been a problem, but John was used to having his way, as well. Isabel had never demanded much from their parents, and he had often had the command of his younger sister, as well. She had been an easy sort of girl to live with. Catherine, however, was not going to be the same story.
He waited a moment after she had finished speaking, let her relax her grip on the table's edge, allowed the silence to hang heavy in the room before he tore his gaze from the window and focused on the woman in the room with him. Sighing, he uncrossed his arms and forced a note of civility into his voice; if she had done so, he could as well. "Yes, I suppose you are stating facts," he said, the effort it took him to stay polite clearly evident in his tone. "I do not contest any of these--that my father struck up an arrangement with your mother because it would be most advantageous. As you said, is that not what marriage is about? But as to your end, I would have thought the advantage plain--a husband, even if he be me."
He smirked, but went on, before she had time to work herself into too much of a righteous fury. "Last I had heard, it was still a generally accepted fact that it was better to be a married woman than a single one. You may debate that point with my sister all you like, but whatever the academics say, society has remained unwavering. As to your other affaires...I am glad you take such a vested interest, but I do hope you shall worry less about such things once we are married. I assure you, I would never act outside of your interests, for will they not be the same as mine? Though," he added, the diplomacy he had worked so hard at faltering for a moment. "I do not expect to be commanded by anyone, either."
John refrained from adding "and especially not my wife," but his tone clearly conveyed the meaning. Unsure exactly how violently Catherine would react, he decided to breeze over the unpleasantness. Perhaps, in time, she would forget these were the first things they had spoken of upon realizing they would be passing a good many years together. "We are quite ahead of ourselves, in any matter," he said, forcing his voice to sound merry. "There will be a good deal of time to deal with such sundry matters. Are we not supposed to be better acquainted by now? I do not even know whether you prefer the court or the country. Perhaps we might start there, for now."
Catherine Willoughby - April 22, 2010 02:49 AM (GMT)
Her words did not have the desired effect on the situation. It nettled her. Catherine was not as persuasive or clever as she thought, then.
Catherine was glad that he was speaking to her in the same way she had spoken to him: civil, but barely, with that undercurrent of annoyance. At least they had that in common. There was only one pleasing thing to come out of this conversation so far, and that was him acquiescing--however little--to her demands. She had to admit to herself that he made a point: their interests, as a married couple, would or at least should be the same. She wasn't foolish enough to really believe it considering how little she knew of him, but she could perhaps hope. Maybe she would have to reconsider him. She wanted to kick herself for being so combative, now spurred into obedience. "If you try to command me you will find yourself with a very unhappy and angry wife," she told him, her eyes meeting his. "But I will not command you. It is not my place." She knew the position of a wife, and he was right: it was better to be married than to be alone. The one good thing about being at court was that it swept away the vast loneliness she had felt growing up. Catherine never wanted that again. If it meant being an obedient wife, at least in some fashion; if it meant being kind to this man she only had a negative viewpoint of, she knew she would do it. She was beginning to wonder if this could possibly work out, if they could get past the thorns they had in their sides.
She didn't like to admit she was wrong; Catherine decided to pretend she was still annoyed as opposed to vaguely pleased that they had come to some sort of an agreement, however built on dislike it was. The only reason she was doing this was because she did not want to suddenly be turned around by his words. The consequences of her fury lived on far longer than she was actually angry, but she didn't want to let him know that. She wanted to keep it the way it was, how she felt it, that she had the upper hand here. It did not help that she was a very transparent person. If it was on her face, she was feeling it. She had not gotten much better at holding her emotions in check or lying about them with a poker face since she had come to court. It was one thing that embarrassed her. Her eyes were no longer so hard as she looked at him and however much Catherine would have raged, she felt John would have noticed it. This upper hand she believed she had was slipping. She knew she let go when she admitted to him in a quiet voice, "You are right. I would rather be married than alone." My God, that was painful for her to say.
She had told herself she would be a rational young woman. They had to go on like this, so why not make it pleasant? Why fight? "You do have a point," said Catherine ponderously at his last words, looking at the tapestries on the wall, no longer wanting to look at him as evenly as she had. She knew he would see right through her wall of anger, that she was softening just a little towards him. They had fought, or something like it, and her concern was resolved--at least somewhat. Now she was supposed to tell him everything about her? That would be easy. There was not much to tell. "It depends," she mused in answer to his question, taking a few steps towards him, though she still was not looking at him. "I do love the quiet in the country, but it was lonely. I think for now court is better suited for me." Catherine did not want to seem vulnerable, but she knew she opened herself up to it with her words. She had been honest with him earlier, in her anger, and now she was honest with him now, trying to be more of the Catherine her lady friends knew, the side of her John had certainly never seen before. "And what of you, then? And you said you had a sister, tell me of her?" Now that they had gotten their aggression out of the way, they could actually have a conversation. Did she like him? No, not really. Did she possibly think they could work this out? She had to admit: yes.
John Chauncey - April 22, 2010 03:33 AM (GMT)
John was completely befuddled. Everything he knew about Catherine so far told him that he should be expecting anything she could throw to come flying at his head if she disliked a single statement of his. Angry words, he expected; sarcasm, he anticipated; anger, he was used to, but this simple acquiescence caught him completely off-guard, even if it was guarded by her act of annoyance. John took a step back, almost as though she had flung something at him and held her gaze, shocked momentarily into speechlessness. What was he supposed to say? No, of course it's not your place to command me? Clearly, they were in agreement on that point, however much he knew it would have bothered Catherine to admit it. Just the fact that she had, after all, was progress, though towards what, he was still unsure. He watched her hesitantly, wondering if he was imagining the way her gaze softened just slightly or if it was simply another new tactic to keep him on his toes.
"You are right. I would rather be married than alone."
If Catherine was playing games with him, she was by far the best actress John had ever encountered. He had thought she was easy to read; she said and did whatever she felt, and her thoughts seemd to be on her face--at least, when she was angry they were. But despite the fact that she sounded slightly annoyed with him, as she always seemed to be, he thought something had changed, just slightly. It was a rather honest admission, if it was indeed true, and he had no idea how to react--he had never really thought much about living his life alone. He had always assumed this sort of arrangement was in his future somewhere, and he had been so busy trying to help his father so that it could come about that he hadn't stopped to consider his future had he not, in fact, been able to take a wife. And yet, his sister worried about her marriage constantly; perhaps it was simply something women fretted about.
"I do love the quiet in the country . . . tell me of her?"
Confused thoughts still swirling in his head, John pulled himself out of his reverie to catch Catherine's words--and to note that she did not sound exactly hostile, that she had moved towards him, even if she no longer met his gaze. Interesting, that she preferred the court to the country; he would have thought she would detest putting up with the nonsense that went on.
"I prefer the court as well," he replied, his tone hesitant. He was still unsure if she was being sincere with him or if she was working towards some new angle, but he was at least pleased there was no immediate danger of a shouting match. "I have not lived in the country for several years, though my sister loves it. Her name is Isabel--I doubt you have met, for she seems to hide herself away in the library whenever possible. She is a sweet girl, and well-mannered, but she needs a sort of...courtly influence. Much as she tries to fit in, I think she finds it difficult."
John shook his head, remembering the manner in which Isabel came running out to deliver the message from their father that he should appear in this very room. It seemed like an age ago, but had been perhaps an hour. He was sure Isabel would adore Catherine--they seemed to share a certain perspective, though Catherine clearly had the greater ability of expressing her opinions. He found, though, that he rather liked to hear what she had to say when she wasn't lashing out at him verbally. Perhaps the two of them might be able to have civil--or heaven forbid, pleasant--conversations after all.
Catherine Willoughby - April 30, 2010 12:26 AM (GMT)
He was confused. Good. So was she. They were two fools together, then. Catherine had already decided to leave the anger, although it was bubbling under the surface. Without the raised voices, the two of them lashing out in anger and annoyance at once another, she felt tension. She wondered if it was just what she was feeling, her uncertainty at how to proceed in conversation with him now that she was not hurling verbal daggers at his shocked face. Her blue eyes focused on the scuffed floors, as if the interlaced panels were the most interesting thing in the world to her. It was much better than meeting his eyes and perhaps giving him an in to her discomfiture. This was the one time in her life where she had gone into one of her flying rages (though it wasn't so bad as it could have been) and have it fade only to find that she was unsure of herself. It was easy for her to be angry, to let it out, to let it go, and then go on as if nothing had happened. She almost felt bad for him. He would have to learn to live with it, just as she would have to learn to live with...what? There was little she knew about him.
She cleared her throat, brought back from her thoughts to reality as she looked up at him. Catherine still had that mildly intrigued look to her face she had earlier when she regarded him, as if by looking at him she would know more about him. "I only like it here as I am not alone," she said. "I have friends. It is a novelty for me, you see. I assume you know how my father died when I was a girl. My mother did not wish for me to come with her to court--she served the late Queen Elizabeth--and so I was by myself with only a governess, maids and tutors. Sometimes I would come to court with her." She smiled, remembering, as she added, "That is how I met Queen Margaret, when we were both but children. Thank God she is queen now or else I am sure I would still be rotting away in Lincolnshire!" Catherine could talk and talk if she wanted to. She was trying hard to forget the anger she had towards him. In fact, she had to bashfully admit to herself that she forgot exactly why. She was angry at the situation she was put in like so many other ladies and she took it out on him. The gaze that set on John's face was for a moment apologetic.
She found it so easy to have silly talks with Madge, with Renna, with Arabella. It was quite different trying to have a serious conversation with a man. When he spoke of his sister, she tilted her head, listening. Isabel sounded like someone she would like. She understood exactly how it was: coming to court, trying to be someone you were not to win friends. Perhaps Isabel could be like a sister, just as Arabella had been during Catherine's girlhood. A tentative smile alighting her lips that reached her eyes, she said in a gentle manner that surprised even her, "I would very much like to meet her. Fitting in here is difficult. You must wear a mask all the time. That is what I don't like about court, you can never be yourself, you always have to be on the look out for those who would happily slander you." Well, this was going better than expected. They were talking civilly, weren't they? At least she was. That was a victory. Catherine was proud of herself. "So..." She trailed off as she walked around the desk, unceremoniously plopping herself down. In most company, she sat up straight like a lady. Here she was leaning back, her gown in folds around her, her ringed hands clutching the carved armrest. If her mother had come in at that moment she probably would have slapped her. "Tell me of yourself, then, as we seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot the first time we met." In a voice that was a little brighter, she added, "See, I am trying to be kind to you." Later perhaps she would tell him how her anger came and went, and she rarely meant anything by it. Powerful emotions had to get out. She could not keep them in, be them happy or sad or infuriating.