“Sir Peters ,” I curtsied respectfully, pulling my dull and ugly dress up. He looked lovely , which was only expected from a man of such a class with the kind of money he had. He wore his gray cotton stripped 3 piece suite with a high collar dress shirt and a colorful blue and green tie. He held a cane in his left hand and a removed his gray hat as he greeted my mother and I .
“Mrs O’Connor ,” he turned to my mother taking her hand and placing a gentle kiss on it. ” Mother sends her greetings , she was very disappointed that she couldn’t come , but my sister is very heavy with child you see…”
“Oh Sir Peters,” my mother swooned , ” It is alright, but how I miss her. Send my best wishes to your sister will you .”
“Yes ma’am , ” Sir Peters replied , switching his gaze to me. He paused a moment as if shocked or seeing me for the first time. I had seen him once at my father’s funeral a few years ago and I had encountered him a few times in town while going on errands , we had greeted respectfully , knowing our Fathers used to be great friends.
His eyes sweeped over my blue one shape dress and at my now quite blushed face , making me feel very self-conscious. I was not used to male company. Besides our Billy and Father Francis at the cathedral , who helps us with food at times , I did not spend time with anyone of the male species. So when he finally cleared his throat and turned towards my mother again I was relieved.
My relief was short lived , “Mrs O’Connor , may I have a seat?” My mother gestured towards the chair beside her and he took it , putting his hat on his lap. I took that as a signal to exit the room but when I was about to excuse myself he cleared his throat again nervously and spoke , ” Miss Jenny I would appreciate it if you were present also.”
I was confused. Why would he want me there , when we’d barely said 10 words to each other , what contribution could I possibly make to their conversation.
I was about to tell him this when he spoke again , “Do sit down please.” Gesturing to a chair on the other side of my mother’s.
I sat down out of respect than anything else. This was a man of a high class and I did not wish to bring embarrassment and shame to my father’s house. My mother would be disappointed.
He cleared his throat one more time and I fought the erg to ask him if he had come down with a cold , ” Mrs O’Connor , Miss Jenny ,” he said ,looking between the two of us respectfully , ” I have come here to ask you , Mrs O’Connor , if it was alright for me to take Miss Jenny here , to a picnic on my farm.
Take me to a picnic? Ask my mother’s permission? What was this the cave ages? Did I not have a say in any- ” Oh, of course you can take our Jenny to picnic, Sir Peters!” My mother chirped happily. I frowned at her.
She had always been worried that I would grow old unmarried and would stay with her, lonely and childless , which was ridiculous! I was only 19 and still had plenty of chances at marriage , if and when I wished to get married.
I had told her only to be awarded with a slap on the cheek.
“Only Nineteen?Only nineteen you say?I was 15 when I married your father , 16 when I had our Billy, 17 when I had our Elizabeth and 19 when I had you! Your sister was married at 16 and at 19 she was already heavy with her first son! ” she had scowled at me as if I was a child , ” You should be on your first if not second child now! So don’t tell me your only nineteen.”
I didn’t reply to that , knowing it would only award me another slap. I only nodded to please her.
That was 2 years ago and now , at 21 , I should not have been surprised to see her ecstatic about Sir Peters wanting to ‘take me on a picnic ‘. But I was , atleast I was shocked at how she openly showed her joy at a man ‘having interest in me ‘ , even if it was Sir Peters.
He was my senior and had been divorced by his wife who suspiciously died of a ‘heart attack’ at 26 , 2 days after the papers were signed.
Miss Moorcock , Mrs Peters , had inherited a fine fortune from father, Sir Moorcock , when he died and had come into her marriage with Sir Peters with her own share of fortune. Sir Peters hadn’t been poor of course , his father had also earned from a few kilo meters of potato and orange farms around town , but his money was far smaller then Mrs Peters (Miss Moorcock) when they married .
The marriage only lasted a few years before Mrs Peters (Miss Moorcock) decided to divorce him as she had claimed that he was very abusive.
Not many women dare to divorce their husbands, in fact she was the only woman I’d heard of who had divorced her husband. It was a disgrace. To both your family and your husband’s. So most women stayed in a marriage even if they were unhappy.
He had killed her , of this I was convinced , because Mrs Peters died a few hours before her lawyer’s visit for her to sign a new will, one where her ex-husband would not receive a penny. But unfortunately for her , and fortunately for Sir Peters , she died with him as the only beneficiary of a small fortune from the diamond mines down in South Africa.
I was very disappointed in my mother and frankly had no interest in a picnic with Sir Peters, the rich murderer. “Do I not have a say in this? ” I asked as politely as possible.
He turned to me , with a hurt and shocked look on his face , my mother gasped , rather loudly and unladylike, piercing me with an equally unattractive glare. Sir Peters cleared his throat AGAIN and quickly added “If its alright with you Miss Jenny , of course… ”
I didn’t reply but didn’t need to as my mother turned into my mouth , “Of course its alright with her , I’m sure she’d love to.”
No I wouldn’t ‘love to’ , I didn’t want to go to a picnic with any man, especially not Peters, but I knew my mother wouldn’t hear any of that , so when he shouted “excellent!” , receiving a wide smile from my mother and her chirppy mood back , I stood up and asked to be excused.
He stood up with me of course , being the gentleman he was , but I had no time to take note of his good manners as I neglected my own and ran to my father’s old bedroom , slamming the door behind me .
Mother didn’t step into the room anymore , never mind sleep in it , as it reminded her of him , which was something she didn’t want to do. So it was only natural for the room to be dusty.
I came in here whenever I missed my father or when I was upset , but I had not come in for years.
The dust stung my eyes as I sat on the cushioned arm chair against the wall , opposite the bed and next to the mirror.
The tea room was the room opposite the wall I was leaning on so I wasn’t surprised to hear Mother and Peters clearly.
“Oh, Sir Peters, you must not be upset with her. She is but a foolish little girl. ” she said softly , as if to calm him , ” Only overwhelmed. She’ll be on her senses by the time you come ’round to take her to that picnic . When were you planing on taking her , tomorrow perhaps?”
“Oh?” Mother sounded disappointed, hurt even.
” No , I have promised my old friend George to pay him a visit tomorrow.” he spoke uickly as so not to offend her and bring her spirit back up , ” But I will be here the day after tomorrow , at noon perhaps .” He continued , at a slower , more polite, pace this time . “I hope you are right Mrs O’Connor.” He added as if it were an after thought.
“About Miss Jenny I mean ,” he answered ” I hope she’s just overwhelmed , because I would really enjoy a picnic with her.”
Oh but I would not enjoy one with you Sir Peter , not as long as the sun doesn’t fall on Great Britain’s colonies.