Historical Fiction Romance

"Marry me."


"Marry me."

“Walter, what on Earth are you doing? Get off the ground at once, you look positively ridiculous,” the automatic response was all I could muster at the time. Even as I look back I truly believe that I could not have handled the situation better. 

Walter, had previously taken the position of being on one knee in the middle of the town square. The shining ring he held was a nice touch in the theatrical performance. He quickly obeyed my command and looked confusedly at me while several onlookers stopped to see what I would say next.

“What are you doing?” I repeated sternly.

“Asking for you to be my wife. Will you?” his blue eyes were sweet and even I could feel myself having thoughts of pity for the man.

“I will certainly not.”

“Bertha, I do not understand your rejection. We have known each other for many years.”

“It is your confusion that I, in turn, fail to understand. In our time together, I have, indeed, grown quite accustomed to your presence and enjoyed the warmth of your friendship. But, a friend you are and one I like to keep.”

I continued after a moment after he stuffed the ring box back into his jacket pocket. 

 “You should not look so disappointed, Walter. You are quite aware of my view on marriage. I believe it to be a silly ceremony in which a woman must pledge that she will obey her, so-called, partner. I am not the type of woman who would do this happily as I am sure you are aware. I had hoped to avoid this talk, especially under the eyes of so many people. But I am afraid you have deemed it necessary. I see no reason as to why this should impact our friendship,” as I finished my speech, a few onlookers gasped, gave looks of pity to Mr. Henderson, glares directed at me, then eventually dispersed. 

“Bertha, I must implore you to reconsider your choice!” his tone nearly broke my heart to hear. His eyes were desperate. It was difficult to hear one of my closest friends be in such anguish. Especially as the source of that pain was me.

His hand emerged from his pocket yet again, clutching the ring box. I placed my hand on top of his.

“Walter, you know that I love you. But I will not marry you. I am terribly sorry to be the cause of your anguish. I hope you can accept this so that we may move on,” I lingered there for a moment before breaking our eye contact. 

I swiftly left the square and, within a quarter of an hour, was inside my home. The sadness in his eyes and voice still lingered over me.

 I apologize, reader, for the lack of information given to you. Walter Henderson and I, Bertha Wright, have known each other for the better part of ten years. Walter, though extremely kind and loyal, is not the brightest man. Why is a woman as sensible such as me maintaining a friendship like this? Put simply, I do not have a plentiful supply of friends. The reasons for this have been displayed plainly to me by many a group of disgruntled people. I am not inclined to state them now. In addition, as I have already said, I have grown used to having Walter by my side. He has proved useful to me whenever I get into too heated an argument. Walter seems to make up for brains in his towering height. 

After I had retired to my room that evening, I knew I needed to do something about this. I had been quite pleased with the way I had handled the situation but the letter on my bed said otherwise. In Walters semi-neat handwriting I read:

Dearest Bertha, 

I apologize for any behavior on my part that may have made you uncomfortable. I also feel that, in my heart, I know that we belong side by side. I would make a good, kind husband and I am sure that you would make a wonderful wife for me. I have known you from the time I was 23 and you were 20. That is the entire ten years that I have been planning my proposal. I beg of you not to break my heart yet again.

Addressing the matter you proposed of this not changing our friendship, I fear that will not be possible for me. I love you, Bertha. It is because I love you that I cannot be friends with you again, no matter your response. If you say yes, we will be married. If no, we will be nothing

Your hopeful friend,

Walter Henderson


I sighed, having absolutely no idea what to do. I did not want to lose my only friend. However, as I have made quite clear, I will not be marrying anyone. I also will not stand to be bullied, guilted, or pressured into making a decision. Of course, I had already made my opinion on his proposal quite clear but it seems that it had not gotten into Walter’s head. 

My first thought was to charge to his estate and tell him just how ridiculous he was being. But this was a delicate matter, much too delicate for my usual methods. I resolved to wait until morning, hoping that a good night's rest may help the matter.

The next  morning when I awoke I found that I was not refreshed whatsoever. I climbed out of bed but was thrown onto the cold ground as my foot caught on an unknown object. I did not need to look behind me to discover what had been the cause of the accident. Less than an inch from my nose was a bouquet of red roses. Though I dreaded doing it, I peered about me. There must have been fifty identical groups of flowers scattered about the room. 

When asked, my maid informed me that she had been told to spread them about before I woke by a Mr. Henderson. The poor thing was nearly seventy and there was no reason to falt her for Walter’s behavior. This simply had to end. I marched out the door only to find that a large horse-drawn carriage awaited me on the parkway. It was quite beautiful indeed. It was made of dark oak with red velvet curtains and seats. The set of pristine, well-groomed Arabian horses the color of chocolate stood proudly. The chauffeur gracefully leaped out of the carriage decked out in a black jacket, pants, boots, and cap with gold accessories. 

“Hello, madame-” he began in a respectful yet sweet tone.

“Who is your employer, sir?” I asked promptly, though I knew it was rather pointless to ask.

“Mr. Walter Henderson. He directed me to ask you to dress for a meal at his estate. I will wait here while you change.”

 “I will do no such thing. I assure you there will be no need for this. Now, take me to Walters so that I can end this entire charade.”

Without waiting for a response, I climbed into the carriage and shut the door behind me. As to emphasize my point, I had stared directly forward upon taking my seat to dispose of any opportunity the man could have had to protest. After a moment, the chauffeur seemed to have made up his mind and began the journey to his employers. I half expected the carriage to be filled to the brim with roses as well but, to my relief, when I finally looked around, I found none. Perhaps this performance of his was budgeted. 

I stepped out of the vehicle sometime later to find where Walter had used the bulk of his wealth. A rainbow of roses lay at my path leading up to the estate door. Vines of brilliant red flowers climbed up the walls of the home. I followed it up, preparing myself for what I am sure was to be an atrocious site ahead. Inside, the home was surprisingly dark. However, it seemed to be lit by hundreds of glowing candles. The petals lead to another room of the home, presumably the dining room. I could hear an orchestra playing softly. 

To this day, I have never said this fact out loud and never intend to. But, I was rather flattered by the whole thing. No one had ever gone to such lengths to prove their love of me. And, at that moment, I doubted that anyone ever would again. It was that terrifying thought that caused my confidence and determination to falter. I simply stood in the entryway, thinking. Walter was a good, kind-hearted man. What if none other like him existed? What if no one would ever love me like him? 

“No, I mustn’t think like that,” I whispered to myself.

I marched into the dining room to find a brilliant spread of food and china on the table. Walter stood beside it, glancing at the ring box which lay in the center. 

“Bertha, I am so happy you decided to join me!” he exclaimed, rushing towards me.

I held up a hand, “Do not say anymore, Walter. I can not take it if you continue.”

“Then I won’t. All you have to do is say yes.”

“I will not marry you, Walter.”

I was about to continue but somehow could not. It was a strange feeling, speechlessness. A tear had run down his cheek. He did not try to brush it away. He let it fall down, down until it hit the floor. I was unexpectedly moved by such a common feeling. 

“What have I done wrong, Bertha?” he asked softly, taking my hand in his.

“Nothing,” I said gently.

“There must be something.”

I could only stare at him, knowing that nothing I could say would ever comfort him. 

“I… I can not do this, Bertha,” he started, slipping his hand away.

“What do you mean?” 

“Know you. Be friends with you. You think me weak, I know you do. Every time I hear your voice I want to join it. Every time I see your face, I want to kiss you. So, you see, I can not be near you any longer.”

I could not bear it any longer. Visions of my life without Walter flashed through my mind and it terrified me.

“I would marry you except-,” I paused, struggling to find something, anything, to say. He looked up at me hopefully. I am not sure which of his expressions broke my heart more: the hope or the sadness.

“Except that I am leaving,” I said, saying the first thing that had come to my mind.


“Yes… Yes, I depart next week,” I continued hastily when the response was silent. “You see, that is why I can not marry you.”

“Then stay,” he said.

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It’s… I have a business opportunity on an island that I simply can not give up.”

“I can go with you. It will only take me a few days to figure a few things out but-” he said quickly with a small smile and began to look about him as if planning things out.

I put my hand on his cheek. As anticipated, this made him cease talking.

“You need to stay here. Your life is here.”

You are my life, Bertha.”

“No, here is. I promise I will write you every day until I return.”

“I will miss you.”

“So will I,” I said will a surprising amount of sincerity. 

My heart felt heavy and I was was astonished to find that I was holding back tears. Walter looked into my eyes for a moment before leaning towards me. I let him kiss me. This was goodbye after all.


“It does not matter which island I go to, father. As long as I am on a boat to one within the next fortnight,” I exclaimed, exasperated.

In the days after that climactic night, I had scrambled to make travel arrangements for any island that would permit me to vacation on it. I was not particularly fond of islands with their messy sand, wind, humidity, etc. But I saw no other option. It took my father a while to finally agree to my plan. I must confess, I let him believe that if he did this I would consider Walter’s offer. This, of course, would never happen. But, If that was the only way to get me out of my town, then so be it. Eventually, I found passage on a ship that took me to a beautiful island where I stayed with family friends in their estate. 

I will confess to you one other thing I will never say out loud. I was running. I was scared. I did not believe that I could make a good wife. Being a good friend I can handle. But that I can not. Walter is a good man, too good. I worried I would ruin him. I’ve regretted that decision my whole. That feeling of regret I now have to live with. That is my nightmare. Because the truth is, he ruined me.

March 06, 2021 02:45

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