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Written by R A Williams
"I call my baby my baby."
Charlotte is revealing a great and terrible secret: she has given birth out of wedlock, and although she abandoned her daughter shortly after birth, she has been discreetly helping to raise her ever since. These facts, if they became known, would destroy Charlotte's reputation and render her ineligible to marriage. Since Charlotte comes from an upper-class family that has lost its wealth and since she lacks the wherewithal to earn her own living, if her secret becomes known she risks being outcast from "polite" society. By sharing her secret with Delia, Charlotte is trusting her cousin with her life.
"Oh, but don't pity me! She's mine."
In a dexterous bit of social engineering, Delia sabotages Charlotte's upcoming marriage with her brother-in-law who would have forbidden Charlotte to see or care for Tina. But she also arranges for the "sickly" Charlotte to live in one of the unused Ralston houses and to keep Tina. And after the death of her husband Delia brings Charlotte and Tina to live with her. As long as she has her daughter, Charlotte is happy.
The talk once over, Delia was annoyed with herself for having yielded to Charlotte’s wish. Why must it always be she who gave in, she who, after all, was the mistress of the house, and to whom both Charlotte and Tina might almost be said to owe their very existence, or at least all that made it worth having? Yet whenever any question arose about the girl it was invariably Charlotte who gained her point, Delia who yielded: it seemed as if Charlotte, in her mute obstinate way, were determined to take every advantage of the dependence that made it impossible for a woman of Delia’s nature to oppose her.
Although the younger widow Delia is nominally the alpha sister, having been married and having inherited wealth from her husband, and although Charlotte is financially dependent on Delia, on matters related to Tina Charlotte has the upper hand. Charlotte suspects Tina of falling in love with a young, irresponsible beau. She is concerned that Tina will make the same mistake she herself made, by allowing a young man to court her and spend time with her with no intention of marrying her. In Charlotte's case, a dalliance with Clement Spender (the same Clement Spender rejected by Delia for his improvidence) left her pregnant with Tina.
“Lanning is not hesitating any longer: he has decided NOT to marry Tina. But he has also decided not to give up seeing her.”
Lanning Halsey, Tina's beau, is unwilling to marry her. He has not yet decided on a profession and has no income of his own, so he depends on family money which is controlled by his father. His father restricts him to a relatively small allowance (by the standards of the ultra-wealthy upper class) and will withhold it completely if Lanning marries a woman of whom the Halsey family disapproves. Tina, who was raised as a foundling after having been born out of wedlock, is not someone the Halsey family considers reputable.
“No one asks you to. You’re not reasonable. You’re cruel. All I want is to be allowed to help Tina, and you speak as if I were interfering with your rights.”
Delia wishes to formally adopt Tina and to make her the heir to the small fortune she inherited from her mother. This will allow Tina to marry the young man she likes, because Tina will no longer be "illegitimate". Yet it comes at the cost of Charlotte's happiness, since Tina will no longer be hers. Charlotte believes that she can save Tina from imminent disgrace only by hiding her away in some obscure place; Delia thinks she can arrange a happy life for Tina only by doing something that devastates Charlotte by taking away her place in Tina's life.
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