“It is getting late,” Dietrich murmured as they strolled down the park promenade in the twilight. “I should take you home. Despite what your father thinks, my intentions are honorable.”
“I’m an adult,” Caprice said staunchly. “You said so yourself.”
“Even so…” Dietrich sighed, putting some distance between them. “You owe it to them to let them know you’re safe.”
“You’re trying to get rid of me,” Caprice said, narrowing her eyes.
“Never,” Dietrich said with a smile. “But let me walk you home.”
“Oh, no, you musn’t go near,” she protested. “Who knows what my father would do?”
“I’m not going to skulk around in the shadows,” Dietrich said indignantly. “We’ve done nothing wrong.”
“My father is on the warpath,” Caprice noted morosely.
They were lost in quiet contemplation for a moment. “What future do you see for us, Caprice?” Dietrich asked softly.
“I don’t know how we could get my parents’ blessing, let alone yours,” Caprice said with a searching, beseeching glance.
“Let me worry about that,” Dietrich insisted. “I can take you away from this small-mindedness. You can go to school, be a doctor, whatever you want.”
“What are you saying, Dietrich?” she asked shyly.
“I’m saying…” Pausing in the walk, he dropped down to one knee in front of her. “…start your life over with me. Marry me, Caprice.”
Caprice’s eyes were shining with tears. “You would take me on as your responsibility?”
“We would be each other’s responsibility.”
“Yes. Yes, I will marry you!”
* * *
Hoof-in-hoof, the couple approached the palatial Monk home. The yard was flooded with light.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Caprice fretted as they stood in front of the door.
“I would do anything for you,” Dietrich assured her, squeezing her hoof.
Caprice took a key out of her reticule and they slipped inside the house. Cecil and Cecelia were in the living room off the foyer, and had jumped to their hooves and come running to the door.
“Mother! Father!” Caprice exclaimed.
“Where were you thinking? We’ve been worried sick!” Cecilia cried, wringing her hooves.
“And why have you brought HIM into my house?” Cecil growled, eyeing Dietrich menacingly.
“I’d like you to meet Dietrich Fairfax,” Caprice stated, leaning into him possessively
“Yes, yes, we know who he is, and I want him out!” Cecil shouted.
“I would ask that you hear me out,” Dietrich said, stepping forward. “Though my acquaintance with your daughter is of short duration, we’re convinced of our feelings for each other and I would ask your permission to pay court to Caprice.”
“Absolutely not, you insolent young pup!” Cecil yelled, turning red with rage. “What kind of a joke is this! Unhoof my daughter and get off my property immediately!”
“No, I’m serious!” Dietrich did not move from his place at Caprice’s side.
“It’s true, Papa!” Caprice clung to her partner. “We love each other!”
“Caprice, you’re too young to be in love,” Cecilia protested, “and besides–”
“No, this conversation is preposterous,” Cecil seethed. “Caprice, step away from him.”
“No!” she declared.
“You think you can just swoop in and abduct my daughter, turn her against us?” Cecil glared at the interloper.
“I’m here asking your permission, aren’t I?” Dietrich said through clenched teeth.
“And you know the answer! Now go!” Cecil pointed to the door.
“You don’t own me!” Caprice insisted.
“What has gotten into you, Caprice?” fretted Cecilia, going to her daughter and trying to coax her away. “You’ve always been such a biddable child.”
“You, sir, have filled her head with nonsense!” Cecil said in an accusatory tone.
“If that’s what you call freedom to follow her dreams–then yes!” Dietrich said, impassioned. “Did you even know she wanted to go to medical school?”
“My daughter? Medical school?” Cecil was taken aback. “No, ridiculous! No child of mine need ply a trade. She’ll be well-provided for.”
“Papa, please!” Caprice begged.
“She can make her own decisions!” Dietrich declared.
“For that matter… even setting aside the matter of your family…” Cecil frowned. “You’re old enough to be her father!”
“I’m not that old!” Dietrich said in exasperation. “I’m only twenty-eight.”
“You and Mother are eight years apart yourself,” Caprice pointed out, keeping a level head. “That can’t be a serious objection.”
“How long has this been going on?” Cecil demanded fiercely. “How long have you been meeting?”
“He helped me once with Thomas when he got away from me at Tanzy’s house,” Caprice supplied.
“And you’ve kept up correspondence with a child?” Cecelia asked reproachfully.
“No, we haven’t spoken since,” Dietrich said quietly, “not until tonight at the assembly.”
“So it’s been a matter of hours, and you’re so sure of your compatibility?” Cecil said, glowering.
“Yes!” they said in unison.
“Preposterous! Enough of this! Out with him!” blustered Cecil.
“If he goes, so do I!” Caprice raised her voice shrilly.
“You stay with him, you will never be welcome here again,” Cecil warned. “Choose your next actions carefully.”
“If you won’t accept Dietrich, then I have no choice but to go with him!” Caprice stubbornly maintained.
“You’re both fools,” Cecil said bitterly. “Go, then! Get out of my sight! Both of you!”
“Cecil,” his wife said pleadingly, clutching at his hoof. “Caprice, darling–no–”
“I’m sorry, Mother… Father. I have to do this,” Caprice said sadly. She turned to the door, Dietrich at her side.
He turned back while Caprice turned the door knob. “It’s a shame you didn’t give her a chance to blossom. She’s a treasure, and you would have locked her up to waste away in obscurity.”
Silently, the couple walked away down the sidewalk, slowly coming down from the adrenaline rush.
“I’m sorry,” Dietrich said quietly after they had walked a block or so.
“What for?” Caprice asked with a tremulous smile.
“I didn’t intend for you to leave on bad terms with your family,” Dietrich said softly.
“Father will come around,” Caprice stated. “He’s just not used to having his will questioned.”
“I hope you’re right.” Dietrich sighed.
“What… what are we going to do now?” Caprice asked hesitantly.
“We’ll have to trust that my parents will see reason,” Dietrich said grimly.
* * *
“Shelter the Monk girl!” Reginald thundered from behind his study desk once the story had been laid at his hooves. “This is the outside of enough!”
“We love each other!” Dietrich insisted, holding Caprice close.
“Yes, well, we don’t always get the luxury of marrying for love!” said Helga, standing next to her husband.
“Only because you were forced into an arranged marriage–” Dietrich rounded on his mother.
“Don’t presume to understand my motivations!” Helga cut him off, turning white.
“Do you feel any love for your son at all?” Caprice cried out in an unusual fit of temper.
“Stay out of this, missy!” snapped Helga.
“If you pursue this path, there will be no home for you here,” Reginald said with deadly calm, leaning back in his chair.
“It hasn’t been that in many years,” his son spat. “You never supported me in my career; and it’s no surprise you won’t support my wife, either.”
“It’s all very nice to dream,” Reginald said coolly, “but what do you have waiting for you in New Pony? Your wife–if you succeed in that endeavor–will no longer have her life of luxury. Can you support her in the style she’s accustomed to, on a reporter’s salary?”
“I could do it,” Dietrich said stubbornly.
“I suspect the Monks are no happier about this than us,” Reginald observed. “Don’t expect any monetary assistance from that quarter.”
“That’s none of your business!” Caprice cried, not wanting to give up on her parents so soon.
“But you want to make it my business, don’t you,” Reginald said grimly, “by this unholy union!”
“Don’t talk to her like that!” Dietrich fumed. “We’re leaving, if that’s how it’s going to be.” He ushered Caprice to the door.
“You’re both fools!” Reginald shouted after them.
“In that, you and the Monks are in agreement!” Dietrich said before slamming the door behind them.
Outside, he turned to Caprice.
“He was right, you know,” Dietrich stated. “I don’t live on the same means you’re accustomed to. There will be a budget to adhere to for groceries, household goods, maintenance–things that you’ve probably never thought of.”
“But we’ll be together,” Caprice said stalwartly.
“ ‘Thus we never see the true state of our condition till it is illustrated to us by its contraries,’ “ Dietrich quoted.
“What?” She looked at him curiously.
“Never mind,” Dietrich said, smiling thoughtfully. “I’m just happy we’re together.”
“What happens next?” she asked with a piquant look.
“Do you have any friends, anyone you would trust to shelter you?” Dietrich looked at her seriously.
“But I have you,” she said with a brilliant smile.
“All in good time, little one. We’re not married yet, and you will need somewhere to stay in the interim.”
“Tanzy is the only friend I would trust,” she considered, “but she’s on a cruise with her parents. All the other girls… well, their parents work for my father, and I would be found out.” She paused. “What about Agatha?”
“Agatha? Do you know her?” Dietrich looked surprised.
“A little,” she admitted.
“You know she’s the one my parents want me to marry, don’t you?” he asked cautiously.
“Yes, and that’s why I think she’ll understand.”