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Cool intelligent grey eyes stared at the camera. Charlotte appeared confident but there was a slight tremulousness about her mouth that betrayed her true feelings. The studio portrait had been commissioned by her father. It was to be sent to her fiancé who had left England for India some months previously to manage his family’s tea plantation. Charlotte was to join him soon.
Though she and Edward were engaged, they barely knew each other. They had been introduced by their families who had declared them a perfect couple and delightedly arranged the marriage. Edward had accepted the decision with poor grace but acknowledged that his prospects lay with the family business. Charlotte had demurred but was ignored. As the only daughter of a rich family she was expected to marry well – and that meant marrying money. ‘Keep it in the family’ was the unspoken rule.
She contemplated her fate with dismay. India held no allure for her, Edward even less. There was no spark of attraction between them; they had no interests in common. If he didn’t make her skin crawl, neither did he make her tingle.
When the telegram arrived informing of Edward’s untimely demise – he had fallen prey to cholera – Charlotte felt an enormous sense of relief that she disguised with an air of solemnity and which the families interpreted as grief. The portrait was returned with Edward’s possessions and thenceforth Charlotte was treated with deference. Her subsequent marriage was to a man of her own choosing. Her wedding portrait showed a smiling, poised young woman, all hint of timorousness vanished.