Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2140393-Maude
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · History · #2140393
A brief look at a moment in time for a young socialite in 1875.
Scorpio Traits: Ambitious, Intuitive, Secretive

"Zodiac Contest/CONTEST CLOSED second place. December 2017

Maude inhaled deeply clutching the bedpost close.

“That’s as tight as I can get them, Miss Maude.”

“I don’t understand why we women choose to imprison our bodies in these corsets just so some man will ignore us. It’s 1875 for goodness sake. We should all have our heads examined for allowing this torture to continue year after year.”

“I don’t know about that, Miss. I don’t wear one. Hurts too much.”

“You are fortunate in that respect, Cora. What do you think of the yellow Worth for the opera?”

“Don’t much matter to me, Miss. I ‘spect you will look beautiful in anything.”

“Thank you, Cora.” Maude wanted to look her best for Michael Cooke. His family was in the railroad business and he was the most sought after bachelor.

“What opera will you be attending tonight?”

“He said Carmen. It’s supposed to be quite shocking.”

“Yes, Miss.”

“Maybe I should cancel. I don’t have a good feeling about tonight. I really like Mr. Cooke, I just don’t know ….”

Cora tugged the last of the line of pearl buttons into place. “Do you want me to call Mrs. Moseleigh? Your mother should be the one you have this conversation with, Miss.”

Maude sighed. “No. I already know what she will say. He is the best prospect in town. A girl your age should not be so picky. I should be lucky to have him interested in me.” Cora twirled one more time in front of the mirror checking to see if her bustled held up to movement and that her ringlets were secured in her upswept hair. “No, he has just arrived and Mother is already fawning over him. That’s the footman to tell me Mr. Cooke has arrived.”

Cora answered the soft knock. “Thank you, James.” Cora picked up the card on the silver Salvo plate. “You’re right again, Miss. Mr. Cooke is in the parlor waiting your attendance.”

“My mother is hoping he will make an offer of marriage tonight. He probably will. I just have this awful feeling of impending doom. Have you ever experienced anything like that?”

“Ma’am, you should be having this conversation with your mother.”

“My mother sees dollar signs and that’s all. I see something else. You, on the other hand, have the same level of knowing as I do.”

“Ma’am, if your mother finds out that you and I confide in each other, I will lose my position. You know that.”

“How can she find out?”

“She will.”

“Well, just say yes or no. Go or don’t go.”

“No, Miss.”

Maude skewered Cora with her glance as she swept out of the room. Her mind ran with many uncertainties and trivialities as she navigated the long hallway. What did ‘No, Miss’ mean? No, don’t go, or no, I am not going to answer. Cora’s hesitancies were infuriating. This corset was uncomfortable. Maude made a mental note not to eat or drink anything this night. It would be a long and uncomfortable night if she assuaged the dryness that made her tongue stick to the roof of her mouth. Why did Cora douse her with this lavender scent? She really needed to try the new electrolysis procedure.

The rustle of her heavy skirts announced her descent down the elaborate staircase. Maude reined in her racing thoughts to get instruction from Reeves on the highlights awaiting her in the parlor.


Several weeks had passed since Maude bid Michael farewell for his extended trip to Canada. This morning was turning out to be a routine of waking in alarm, popping out of bed and into the water closet without putting on her slippers or wrapper. Maude was only aware that significant time passed when a soft knock on her bedroom door was followed by “Miss? Miss? Are you being all right, Miss?”

“Cora, I’m in the wash room. I’ll be out shortly.”

“Miss? They are waiting breakfast for you. What should I tell them?”

“I don’t care!”

“Are you being all right, Miss?”

“No! Cora, I am quite sick.”

“Will you be needing a doctor?”

“No! Just leave me be. I’ll be down shortly. They don’t have to wait for me.”

“Mr. Vincent and Miss Beatrice are here. Do you want me to pay your respects?”

“Please tell my sister in law that I would like to visit one day this week, just us girls. Any day will be fine, but it has to be this week when Vince won’t be around.”

“Yes, Miss.”

Maude heard the door close and went back to retching up her stomach contents that she had barely managed to hold off while she was talking to Cora.


Maude hung her head to quietly tell Beatrice what had transpired in the last three months. “Do you want the long version or the short version?”

Beatrice heaved a sigh, “Short.”

“You know I have been courted by Michael Cooke?”

The hesitancy clearly coming out in Beatrice’s “Yes….”

“I’m carrying his child.”

Beatrice pinched the bridge of her nose trying to maintain her countenance. “I take it he is not interested in marriage.”

“Papa took care of that.”


“His company went bankrupt and papa did not allow the courtship to continue. So he paid off his debts and told him to go away and he did.”

“Would you do me a favor?”

“If I can.”

Beatrice was now slamming firm footsteps one after the other as she traversed the parlor. Her anger evident in every word, “Don’t call it a courtship. That implies a chaperone and no touching, and it’s clear you did not have a chaperone and engaged in quite a bit of touching. How did you get that by your mother?”

“He lied to her.”

Beatrice stopped her pacing briefly, “Lord have mercy! You can’t possibly be that naive. You are 20 years old for goodness sake.”

“Well, the first time he told her there was a chaperone and we were going to the opera. And then instead he took me to his house and one thing lead to another and everything happened so fast I didn’t know what to do, then after that I didn’t correct mother’s misperception.”

Beatrice bit out, “Why?”

Maude knew what she was asking, but chose, “I thought we were just doing the bear, but it went farther than that really fast, and I didn’t know what to do and --

“I meant why are you sitting in that chair telling me of your frolicking and cavorting.”

“I need your help. I can’t tell mother and --”

“You will shame your entire family -- and my family because I’m married in. How could you do this? Surely at your age you should know better than this implies.”

“Do you want to hear my plan to get out of this?”

“It will be a disaster. Anything to do with that gal sneaker will be a disaster.”

“No, not if we stick together. And he is not a cheat. Papa paid him to leave and he left.”

“Does he know about your condition?”

“No. And he never will.”

“Hogwash. You will soon be the prize of the gossip page in all the papers from here to New York.”

“Not if we go overseas and if I pretend to be you until we get back.”

“You want to use my name?”

“Yes, so that the baby can be born to a father and mother. We should go overseas for a year where no one knows us. That’s my idea.”

“Oh, Lord have Mercy, this will be a disaster. I’m going to hell for giving consideration to such a thing.”

“Oh, do stop. It’s not a fifteen puzzle. It may sound confusing, but it all makes perfect sense. Talk to Vince about it –“

“I think not. You and I alone. I think if I offer to take you to Paris or England to find a husband, your mother and father will agree. Lots of women travel without their husbands. We can give Vince hints as time goes on.”

“Won’t he want to come as soon as he finds out? It will be his first child, he will want to be there.”

“I’ll jump off that bridge when I get there. You put me in the middle of your nightmare, I must have a say in what happens next. This is my solution. Start thinking of a problem big enough that keeps Vince here for a year.”

“My brother will want to come as soon as he learns about the baby.”

“Not if we play our cards correctly. You need me. You can’t just run away and pretend it never happened. You will play this out the way I direct. Do you understand?”

Maude nodded her head, letting all the tension leave her body. It would be all right now. Beatrice would see to that. Beatrice would take care of everything. Beatrice would make everything all right.

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