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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)

TITLE: Elizabeth's First Reading of a Genteel Lady's Guide
By Betty Castleberry


Elizabeth took the book from her mother’s gloved hand.

The older woman nodded. “Read this, love. Although your father and I have raised you to be a proper young lady, this book will explain the finer points of etiquette. Please ask me if you have questions.”

She reached up and released her daughter’s long braid. “You’ll need to stop wearing your hair like this. No suitor would find it attractive. A nice upsweep would be far more proper.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“ I’ll leave you alone while you read.”

Elizabeth sat in the wing back chair near her bedroom window and opened the book. At fourteen, she knew it was time to behave like a lady, but it wasn’t really what she wanted.

She watched through the window as her older brother William, and his friend Lee, tossed a ball back and forth. She longed to join them, but her mother would frown on such behavior at her age. Instead, she did as her mother requested and began reading.

A lady’s skirt should be long enough to hide her feet. Anything shorter, and especially anything exposing the ankle, is considered vulgar.

Elizabeth sighed. Long skirts were terribly hot and uncomfortable, but she supposed she would have to endure them. More than once, when her mother was not aware, she had snuck out to play ball with William and Lee. She had hiked her skirt up past her ankles so she could run. If she was to be a dutiful daughter and a respectable lady, that would have to stop.

Despite how well a young lady may personally know a gentleman, it is never proper to address him by his first name in public.

She giggled and watched as Lee chased the ball past the magnolia tree in the front yard. She had known him since he was seven and she was four. Perhaps she would call him Mr. Hooper only if there were others around to hear.

Speak in a clear, pleasing tone. A harsh voice and loud laughter is the mark of those who are socially inept.

Her mind wandered to the summer before when she had sat in the tree house with William and Lee. They told her stories that made her guffaw. Her mother would not have approved.

A lady’s gait should be smooth and gliding, with small steps. Long strides are considered manly and uncomely.

Elizabeth frowned. That would mean the end of chasing William and Lee up and down the stairs.

After reading a few more pages, Elizabeth decided being a genteel lady didn’t sound like much fun. Putting on such a show would be a chore, but her mother expected her to behave like a well-bred young lady.

Studying her reflection in the mirror, she combed out her braid and practiced sweeping her auburn hair up high on her head. She thought it looked silly, but she was not prepared to disobey her mother. When she had it just right, she fastened it with the tortoise shell comb her mother had given her.

The beaded parasol, also a gift from her mother, added to the grown-up picture she wanted to present. She stepped outside where William and Lee were still playing pitch and catch. She cleared her throat, getting Lee’s attention. He stopped his pitch in mid-throw and stared at her as if seeing her for the first time.

“Hello.” He touched his hand to the brim of his hat.


He tossed the ball on the ground and approached her. “Would you care to go for a stroll?”

The child in Elizabeth took over momentarily and she almost said no. It would be much more fun to play ball with him and William. It was at that moment her mother decided to bring her tea out to the porch. Not wanting to disappoint her, Elizabeth kept up the pretense and answered, “I’d be delighted, Mr. Hooper.”

He deferred to her mother. “Is it all right then, Mrs. Long?”

Her mother smiled. “A short walk will be fine.”

Lee entertained Elizabeth with amusing stories as they walked. She was very careful to modulate her laughter, although a horse laugh threatened to erupt at any moment. She was unconvinced she was going to like being a proper young lady, but the sacrifice would have to be made. After all, a good daughter did not disappoint her mother.

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This article has been read 835 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Betsy Markman08/21/08
Very enjoyable and believable. I could see it all in my mind very clearly. Well done.
(The title was great...it jumped out and made this the first article I read.)
Lynda Schultz 08/21/08
Considering Lee's reaction to the new Elizabeth, giving up playing ball might not be such a bad thing. Very good story.
Charla Diehl 08/21/08
The title drew me in and I was not disappointed. I could easily picture this young girl and your story made me think of gentler times. Very enjoyable read.
LaNaye Perkins08/21/08
I really liked this story about a little girl stepping into the world of young woman-hood. You did a fine job on this one my friend.
Kristen Hester08/21/08
Very well written. I love to read stories from this era and this did not disappoint. It flowed beautifully and was great!
Joanne Sher 08/22/08
Wonderful characterization of your MC especially. I love how much of a struggle it was for her, and how devoted she was to doing it for her mother's sake.
Beckie Stewart08/25/08
I liked your story and take on the subject. Very well-written.
Yvonne Blake 08/25/08
**smile** Something tells me that Lee doesn't think of her as a little girl anymore. What we girls go through to impress the boys!
Cheri Hardaway 08/25/08
This was delightful. You've captured the era well. Those were the days... Blessings, Cheri
Sharlyn Guthrie08/25/08
I enjoyed reading all the "rules". I'm rather glad I'm not quite so genteel. :0 We all project an image of some kind, though, don't we? Nice job.

Catrina Bradley 08/25/08
Hmm. Seems like Elizabeth is the only one who doesn't like her charade. Extremely well written, this reads just beautifully - fitting for the era being described.
Joanney Uthe08/26/08
Delightful story. I love the era it is set in, but the charade still goes on.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/26/08
I truly enjoyed stepping back to a gentler, genteel time in your story. I felt like I knew your mc...and liked her.
Beth LaBuff 08/26/08
While reading this I had to check the length of my dress, then I realized I was wearing slacks. *horrors* What would the Genteel Ladies think? I enjoyed this very much!
Joy Faire Stewart08/27/08
The smooth writing style and descriptions draws your reader into the mind of Elizabeth. Loved it!
Patricia Turner08/27/08
I like your story of a young lady "coming of age" as it used to be called. I can see the long skirts and dainty mincing steps. A nicely brushstroked image of a more genteel time.
LauraLee Shaw08/27/08
So I'm strolling along, engrossed in this well-written, witty tale, and then you burst me into a snort and a wheeze with this line: She was very careful to modulate her laughter, although a horse laugh threatened to erupt at any moment.

Oh my goooooodness, that was funny. This was an Extremely clever approach to the topic...a keeper for sure. ;)
Helen Dowd08/27/08
This was precious. For a minute I thought I was reading one of Catherine Cookson's stories. The Genteel Lady thing was well spelled out in this good tale. You have a great talent. How about taking over where Catherine Cookson left off? I have read most of her books. Now she IS no more. I love tales like this...Helen