The sitting room was alive with Catherine’s dulcet tones.  She sang a lovely soprano tune, accompanied by the Captain on the pianoforte. The assembled guests had been variously invited, bribed and cajoled to attend the event on that fine autumn evening by her father, Philip Rumblage.  It was, after all, the only way he could find an acceptable suitor for his daughter.  Everyone in Berkshire parish knew he had squandered his own ample if not abundant wealth on land speculation in the Colonies years before, leaving them without any dowry to speak of.  He loved his daughter even more because she never spoke of it, but he knew how his carelessness had severely curtailed her prospects.   If he had been doubtful before, seeing the assembled guests watch her with such rapt attention and obvious appreciation told him they might yet succeed in this quixotic endeavor.  All the eligible bachelors in the parish were there.  Alasdair Bainbridge, Cornelius O’Boyle, Oliver Horn, Loudon Windsor, even Stratton Brownsmith had arrived by carriage just after the party began.  Catherine’s voice was in rare form as she began the final refrain, but as the Captain reached the penultimate phrase, the minor chord he played reflected the deepest feelings in his heart, for he was both the one man in the room who loved her most dearly, and the one man with whom she could never be.

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