Disclaimer: I enjoy writing fantasy Spuffy. I enjoy reading about the antebellum South. However, I am not an expert on Charleston, having only visited that fair city a few times, nor on the SC aristocracy that grew out of fortunes made in rice, indigo, cotton and trade. I chose this city as the setting because it worked best for the plot I had in mind, not because it is the part of the South I am most familiar with. I have done some research in preparation for writing this semi-historical fiction, but it’s far from through. Therefore, it is every likely there will be some big mistakes, historical inaccuracies, glaring errors about the city itself, etc. If you, dear reader, find such errors, being a resident of Charleston, history buff, or for some other reason are up on things I’ve distorted, please let me know. I welcome suggestions and criticisms.
Emmaline gently picked up the fine bone china and took a dainty sip of her tea. “Who is that young lady over there, off to her self? I don’t remember seeing her at the party last night.”
Jocelyn shook her head. “Oh, you won’t see her at many social events, dear. That’s Elizabeth Crawford, surely you’ve heard. Really quite tragic and sad.”
Emmaline shook her head and settled into the rather uncomfortable sofa for a good gossip. Jocelyn had proven to be quite a fount of information about all the families in Charleston since she’d come to visit her cousin fresh from her family’s small plantation in Georgia. She had quite a way with words and the tales never failed to fascinated. “No, do tell.”
“Well, Elizabeth was one of the Summers before she married, lived at Revello, beautiful place. Her father was Henry Summers you know. Now her mother Joyce was from up North, Henry met her while he was in Boston on business for his father and just fell head over heels. Joyce was a lovely lady, and I understand she was from a prominent family in Boston, but you know how those Northerners are. Some strange notions.”
Emmaline hadn’t had a lot of contact with Yankees, but she obligingly nodded.
“So even though she was from Massachusetts, Joyce was always a very gracious hostess; my mother thought very highly of her. She used to say to me, now Jocey, that Joyce Summers is a lady, such perfect manners. Well, I do digress. Apparently Joyce wanted Elizabeth to know her people, so she was sent to school up in Boston when she was twelve. I didn’t know her very well, you know most of us here go to Madam Talvande’s to finish up.”
Emma nodded and sipped her tea as she drank in the tale.
“Poor Henry never did get a son from Joyce, and then she caught that horrible sickness that swept through the lowlands about five years ago. She was out nursing some of the sick and it took her fast. Just about broke Henry, he was never the same man after that, or so Papa says. He brought Elizabeth back from Boston right away, since she was nearly seventeen, and started looking for her a husband. Folks said he knew he was dying, and he wanted to get her settled before she was left alone.”
Jocelyn sighed. “I remember that fall. Elizabeth had been away so long, we almost didn’t know her, but she was quite a beauty, stole all the boys’ hearts. Her daddy’s plantation bordered Crawford Place and from the beginning, Angel Crawford was the one after her. They were the couple we all envied you know. He was a handsome devil, just enough of a troublemaker to be interesting, but a true Southern gentleman. Wish I had been a few years older, not that it would have made a difference. He only had eyes for Elizabeth. It was a whirlwind courtship. They were engaged by Christmas and married the next spring, just as soon as the family was out of heavy morning for her mother.”
Emmaline interrupted, “That’s like a fairy tale!”
Jocelyn agreed. “Yes, dear, it really was. They had this beautiful wedding at St. Michael’s – she had a gorgeous dress, with lace her mama had put aside for the day special, straight from France. They went on a wedding trip to Savannah, the Crawford’s have family down there. We all wanted to be Elizabeth that day. But I suppose everyone only gets so much happiness.”
Emmaline scooted forward. “What happened? I noticed she was wearing mourning, did her father pass?”
Jocelyn patted her hand, glad to have such an attentive listener. “Yes, but it gets worse. Not two months after the wedding, soon long after Angel and Elizabeth had returned from Savannah and made their home with the Crawfords, Henry had a massive heart attack. Course he had taken care of Elizabeth, everything had been transferred to Angel for him to look after her. Another year passed, and we didn’t see much of her. We all thought she might be in the family way, she spent so much time in the country, even in the spring and summer when everyone comes to town. Angel was here often, since he handled his father’s business here. I suppose those two most have hated being separated so much.”
Jocelyn took a dramatic pause and eyed her young cousin, letting the moment build. “And then one stormy night he was returning back to Crawford Place, racing home to his young bride, when his horse stumbled and threw him. Broke his neck and killed him instantly. Quite a tragedy.”
Emmaline gasped as her hand fluttered to her bosom. “Oh my! That poor girl lost her mother, her father and her husband in just a few years?”
Jocelyn nodded as she took another small sip of her tea, pleased with the reaction she’d gotten. It was such a juicy tale. “Yes. That’s why she still wears black, you see. She’s had so much loss and her heart was broken when her Angel died.”
Emmaline nearly swooned. How utterly romantic. “Is she in town with the Crawford family?”
“No, she live here in town now. I think there must have been too many memories out there where she’d lived with Angel and his family. She actually has a tiny house that had been left to her by her mother’s people and some money of her own. Apparently her grandfather in Boston had some peculiar ideas about women and their independence, and wanted her to have something in her own name. I’m sure the Crawfords would have been happy for her to stay. But she’s chosen to live on her own, with not a man in the house, not even a house servant. Isn’t that peculiar? I wouldn’t know what to do if Papa didn’t take of me.”
Emmaline had to agree. “So she comes out occasionally?”
Jocelyn nodded about to continue the saga, them paused and grabbed Emma’s arm, “Oh wait, there’s her cousin, Willow Rosen.” She pointed discreetly at the redhead who had just entered the room.
Emmaline wrinkled her nose. “What an odd name.”
Jocelyn rolled her eyes. “Isn’t it strange? She’s one of Elizabeth’s cousins from Boston on her grandmother’s side, I do believe. They went to school together. Willow’s had her own share of tragedy as well. She was engaged to a young sea captain, who was lost in a storm a few years ago. She came down here with her companion Tara and they live with Elizabeth now.”
Jocelyn pursed her lips. “Now I don’t like to talk about folks, but she’s a bit odd. I’m not sure she understands the way we do things in Charleston.” She gave Emmaline a significant look and Emma nodded, not really sure what she was getting at as her cousin carried on. “But she always very polite. And it’s good that poor Elizabeth doesn’t have to be alone. Would you like me to introduce you?”
Emma nodded eagerly, ready to meet these tragic figures. This was better than a Scott novel. “Please.”
The two ladies crossed the room, skirts swaying, and introductions were made before the women began to disperse into the afternoon heat and head for their respective homes.
“So that’s him?” George peered across the crowded lobby of the Planter’s Hotel.
“Yes, that’s the Mr. Montgomery we’ve all been hearing so much about. I suspect he’s going back to talk with Wilkins about the harbor permit again,” Edward replied.
“Do you think they’ll grant it?”
“I hope so. I know he’s English and all, but it would be a great advantage to have another shipping operation headquartered here, rather than over in London. Add jobs to the harbor as well and attract more planters to send their crops to us.”
“Suppose it would be an advantage. It’d be better if he’d partnered here with someone local.”
Edward squinted through the cigar smoke. “He’s already got one, another Englishman named Alexander Harris.”
“Oh. He nobility too?”
“Don’t think so. Course, Montgomery’s from the wrong side of the blanket you know, he didn’t get the title from Lord Darlington, just a good chunk of his fortune.”
“Ahh, I didn’t realize that. All the ladies have been twittering about the handsome English lord.”
Edward chuckled. “That’s the truth, he’s made quite a stir, Wealthy as sin, single and connected to royalty; my youngest sister hasn’t stopped talking about him. He’s going to be heavily pursued by the marriage mad mothers this year until one of them snags him.”