Stepping Heavenward: Katy and All the Insulting People

Stepping Heavenward: Katy and All the Insulting People November 8, 2019

Stepping Heavenward, chapter VII part 2, chapter IX, chapter X part 1

Ah, Katy.

Katy makes it home by July, and is very glad to be away from Dr. Elliot. But yes, as some readers noted, there is going to be a strong undercurrent of you only want to get away from him because you really actually like him going on here. And yes! That’s gross!

JULY 10.-Mother sees that I am restless and out of sorts. “What is it, dear?” she asked, this morning. “Has Dr. Elliott anything to do with the unsettled state you are in?”

“Why, no, mother,” I answered. “My going away has broken up all my habits; that’s all. Still if I knew Dr. Elliott did not care much, and was beginning to forget it, I dare say I should feel better.”

“If you were perfectly sure that you could never return his affection,” she said, “you were quite right in telling him so at once; But if you had any misgivings on the subject, it would have been better to wait, and to ask God to direct you.”

Yes, it would. But at the moment I had no misgivings. In my usual headlong style I settled one of the most weighty questions of my life, without reflection, without so much as one silent appeal to God, to tell me how to act. And now I have forever repelled, and thrown away a heart that truly loved me. He will go his way and I shall go mine. He never will know, what I am only just beginning to know myself, that I yearn after his love with unutterable yearning.

Oh lord. 

He knew you for a month, Katy. A month. And in all that time you never had a single private conversation, or indeed really any conversation at all. He has a crush on you. An infatuation, if you will. And yes, such things can and do sometimes turn into love, but it’s not there yet. 

But Katy. Oh, Katy. Now you wonder, do you? Now you believe you yearn after his love? This, too, is infatuation! There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t treat it as more serious than it is! There is no need for this level of angst. It wouldn’t be that hard to resolve this. Here, I’ll share some ideas I’ve had.

Aunty could go to Dr. Elliot and tell him that he’s been an ass. She could suggest that if he’s really interested in pursuing something with Katy, he should wait a little while and then write to her and ask, just ask, whether she is firmly uninterested, or if she’d like to spend some time getting to know him, in an open ended way. If she is, she could return to her Aunty’s house, and she and Dr. Elliot could walk out together—or whatever terminology they used during this period. Or they could even just agree to write for a bit.

Aunty really doesn’t have to get involved at all, though. Dr. Elliot could give it a few weeks, and then write to Katy and ask her whether she’s sure there is nothing between them, or whether she’d be willing to give it a shot. Or, Katy could write to Dr. Elliot and tell him that she’s been thinking about it, and if he’s interested, she’d like to spend some time getting to know him.

There are loads of people who could help patch this up. Dr. Cabot could talk to Katy. Or Katy’s mother could tell Katy to talk to her if she has any change of heart, and if Katy trusts her mother enough to do so, her mother could speak with Dr. Elliot, or Aunty, or even Dr. Cabot. This is a period when older relatives were expected to meddle in young people’s love lives. And yet the only meddling her older relatives can do is to judge her.

Thanks guys! That’s a lot of help! Maybe if you stopped judging her she’d actually feel comfortable opening up to you, which by the way she doesn’t!

She does write in her diary, though.

With a character still so undisciplined as mine, I seriously doubt whether I could have made him who has honored me with his unmerited affection. Sometimes I think I am as impetuous and as quick-tempered as ever; I get angry with dear mother, and with James even, if they oppose me; how unfit, then, I am to become the mistress of a household and the wife of a good a man!

How came he to love me? I cannot, cannot imagine!

Uhhh … it’s really not a great idea to jump into a relationship when you have such a low opinion of your own self worth. That does not typically bode for a healthy relationship.

Life goes on, and Katy continues swinging from one extreme to the other. She’s gained a bit more confidence in herself, but not enough to keep her from using words like “depressed.”

In October, Katy and her mother learn that her Uncle Albert has taken very ill and must give up business and go to Europe for his health. At first, Aunty says that Dr. Elliot will go with him, but then plans change, and Aunty is to go with him while Katy and her mother hold down the fort for her.

Could anything be more frightful? To refuse would be selfish and cruel. If we consent I thrust myself under Dr. Elliott’s very nose.

And that is exactly what happens. The children fall ill with one thing or another, and Dr. Elliot must come and tend them, and they are so attached to Katy that she can’t very well avoid being in his presence while he doctors them. She wants to sink through the floor and die every time it happens.

It was very embarrassing to hold baby and have the doctor’s face so close to mine. I really wonder mother should not see how awkwardly I am situated here.

While here, Katy meets new people.

Dr. Embury called to-day, with a pretty little fresh creature, his new wife, who hangs on his arm like a work-bag. He is Dr. Elliott’s intimate friend, and spoke of him very warmly, and so did his wife, who says she has known him always, as they were born and brought up in the same village. I wonder he did not marry her himself, instead of leaving her for Dr. Embury!

She says he, Dr. Elliott, I mean, was the most devoted son she ever saw, and that he deserves his present success because he has made such sacrifices for his parents. I never met any one whom I liked so well on so short acquaintance-I mean Mrs. Embury, though you might fancy, you poor deluded journal you, that I meant somebody else.

 

Dr. Elliot becomes fast friends with Katy’s mother, and begins taking her with him on some of his rounds to doctor the poor folk. When he comes to collect Katy’s mother to go with him to the bedside of a child who has been in a terrible accident, Katy becomes angry.

“How can you ask poor mother to go and see such sights?” I cried. “You must think her nothing but a stone, if you suppose that after the way in which my father died-”

“It was indeed most thoughtless in me,” he interrupted; “but your mother is such a rare woman, so decided and self-controlled, yet so gentle, so full of tender sympathy, that I hardly know where to look for just the help I need to-day. If you could see this poor child, even you would justify me.”

Good lord. Maybe he should marry her, then.

He calls her “a rare woman, so decided and self-controlled, yet so gentle, so full of tender sympathy.” If I were in a position where it made sense to praise someone, I don’t think I’d use such effusive language. I might say a friend was an amazing listener, or great at supporting people, hugely helpful in talking through a problem, or always ready to watch my kids in a pinch, but I don’t think I’d go into this whole list of character traits.

Here, let me try … nope, I can’t. I keep coming up with “always ready to lend a hand” or “always full of new ideas” or “always has a kind word for everyone.” The closest I can get is “encouraging.” I really think the way we talk about people has genuinely changed. I’d read a paper on it. Or a book, even. I bet a historian could write a whole book on changing discussion of emotions.

But! Katy and Dr. Elliot still haven’t even started to address what happened between them, and it is awkward. They are both just pretending it didn’t happen. Badly. And Katy is out of sorts.

Katy goes to see Mrs. Embury, who still does not have a first name. Or her own last name, even. She is simply an attache to her husband, Dr. Embury. But she’s not without her own thoughts, at least.

“Would you mind my speaking to you on a certain subject?” she asked, with some embarrassment.

I felt myself flush up.

“I do not want to meddle with affairs that don’t concern me,” she went on, “but Dr. Elliott and I have been intimate friends all our lives. And his disappointment has really distressed me.” One of my moods came on, and I couldn’t speak a word.

“You are not at all the sort of a girl I supposed he would fancy,” she continued. “He always has said he was waiting to find some one just like his mother, and she is one of the gentlest, meekest, sweetest, and fairest among women.”

“You ought to rejoice then that he has escaped the snare,” I said, in a husky voice, “and is free to marry his ideal, when he finds her.”

For real. For freaking real. 

Walk away, Katie. Walk away. 

Ah, but Mrs. Embury is not done.

“But that is just what troubles me. He is not free. He does not attach himself readily, and I am afraid that it will be a long, long time before he gets over this unlucky passion for you.”

“Passion!” I cried, contemptuously. She looked at me with some surprise, and then went on.

“Most girls would jump at the chance of getting such a husband.”

“I don’t know that I particularly care to be classed with ‘most girls,'” I replied, loftily.

“But if you only knew him as well as I do. He is so noble, so disinterested, and is so beloved by his patients. I could tell you scores of anecdotes about him that would show just what he is.”

“Thank you,” I said, “I think we have discussed Dr. Elliott quite enough already. I cannot say that he has elevated himself in my opinion by making you take up the cudgels in his defence.” “You do him injustice, when you say that,” she cried. “His sister, the only person to whom he confided the state of things, begged me to find out, if I could, whether you had any other attachment, and if her brother’s case was quite hopeless. But I am sorry I undertook the task as it has annoyed you so much.”

 

The sad thing is that Katy has given us some reason to think that she might be interested in actually giving it a try. Remember when she wrote that she was just realizing that she wanted his love, and now she would never have it? It’s possible she’s changed her mind since, but I think we’re to see her being out of sorts as suggesting otherwise.

All Katy has to do is tell Mrs. Embury that she hasn’t closed the door on it. But she can’t say that, and I don’t really blame her.

I mean, here is my summary of how their conversation went:

Mrs. Embury: I never thought Dr. Elliot would pick someone like you. I thought he’d pick someone like his mother, the “gentlest, meekest, sweetest, and fairest among women.”

Katy: Then you should be glad he escaped.

Mrs. Embury: But he hasn’t. It will take him a long time to get over “this unlucky passion for you.”

Katy: What the hell?

Mrs. Embury: “Most girls would jump at the chance of getting such a husband.”

Katy: Can you even see how insulting you’re being?

Mrs. Embury: Dr. Elliot is practically a GOD! 

Is it really any wonder Katy couldn’t bring herself to tell Mrs. Embury that she was willing to give Dr. Elliot another chance?!

Dum de dum. Things happen. Katy’s mother tries to praise her for her devotion to Aunty’s children, and Katy responds that she likes children, so why wouldn’t she spend so much time with them? (Aunty has lots of servants, so Katy isn’t needed cooking or cleaning or doing laundry.)

And then we get this weird thing where suddenly, stuck in the middle of Katy’s diary, are two letters, one from Dr. Elliot to Aunty, and the other from Aunty to Dr. Elliot, with zero explanation.

Dr. Elliott to Mrs. Crofton:

And now, my dear friend, having issued my usual bulletin of health, you may feel quite at ease about your dear children, and I come to a point in your letter which I would gladly pass over in silence. But this would be but a poor return for the interest you express in my affairs.

Both ladies are devoted to your little flock, and Miss Mortimer seems not to have a thought but for them. The high opinion I formed of her at the outset is more than justified by all I see of her daily, household life. I know what her faults are, for she seems to take delight in revealing them. But I also know her rare virtues, and what a wealth of affection she has to bestow on the man who is so happy as to win her heart. But I shall never be that man. Her growing aversion to me makes me dread a summons to your house, and I have hardly manliness enough to conceal the pain this gives me. I entreat you, therefore, never again to press this subject upon me. After all, I would not, if I could, dispense with the ministry of disappointment and unrest.

Mrs. Crofton, in reply:

. . . . So she hates you, does she? I am charmed to hear it. Indifference would be an alarming symptom, but good, cordial hatred, or what looks like it, is a most hopeful sign. The next chance you get to see her alone, assure her that you never shall repeat your first offence. If nothing comes of it I am not a woman, and never was one; nor is she.

Well that’s lovely. Several readers noted this trope last week—this whole she’s only avoiding him because she’s into him thing, or, she only says she hates him because she actually loves him. Everything is just fine.

Katy goes to a prayer meeting. Dr. Elliot speaks and he is most impressive. Katy is impressed. So are other people, and Katy notices that. Katy goes to the same prayer meeting the next week. Dr. Elliot has someone with him this time, whom Katy writes is “the sweetest looking little creature I ever saw.” Dr. Elliot shares his hymnal with her, which we all know “can mean but one thing.”

Katy is pissed.

So it seems he has forgotten me, and consoled himself with this pretty little thing. No doubt she is like his mother, that “gentlest, meekest, sweetest and fairest among women!”

Now if anybody should be sick, and he should come here, I thought, what would become of me? I certainly could not help showing that a love that can so soon take up with a new object could not have been a sentiment of much depth.

It is not pleasant to lose even a portion of one’s respect and esteem for another.

What the hell, Katy. What the hell.

Katy draws a comparison to how quickly Charley forgot her for Amelia. That isn’t fair at all. Katy and Charley had a year-long courtship and were engaged, and in a matter of weeks after she broke up with him he was engaged to Amelia. Katy never actually courted Dr. Elliot, and it has been well over six months since he told her that he had feelings to her, and she rejected him.

But I think I know what’s actually going on. Katy has regretted her impulsive rejection since her talk with Aunty, and has been sitting on that reality the whole time, wondering what if. She’s upset to see Dr. Elliot move on, and is perhaps processing it the only way she can—by blaming him.

Next is an odd story I’m only going to summarize. It takes up way too many pages. The gist is that the baby’s nurse was out—oh yes, that’s right, the baby has a nurse—and Mrs. Embury came to call, so Katy left the baby in Lucy’s care. While Katy is downstairs and all the children are upstairs, little Emma catches fire. Lucy quickly puts it out by throwing a blanket around her. Dr. Elliot came and dressed Emma’s burns.

After the danger is quite over, Katy grows lightheaded. Dr. Elliot turns to her:

“I beg you will now leave the room, and lie down. And do not feel obliged to see me when I visit the child. That annoyance, at least, you should spare yourself.”

Ouch. How is this at all called for? Katy didn’t do anything.

I do find this bit of interest. After Katy tells Dr. Elliot that it was not she but Lucy who put the flames out, Dr. Elliot turns to Lucy:

“I congratulate you, Lucy! How your mother will rejoice at this!”

I tried to think of nothing but poor little Emma, and of the reward Aunty had had for her kindness to Lucy.

Lucy, remember, was adopted, and here we are again with the idea that Aunty did Lucy some sort of huge favor by taking her in, and deserves repayment. Fun.

Dr. Elliot, of course, has to visit frequently now.

One day mother was so unwell that I had to help him dress Emma’s burns, and I could not help saying:

“Even a mother’s gentlest touch, full of love as it is, is almost rough compared with that of one trained to such careful handling as you are.”

He looked gratified, but said:

“I am glad you begin to find that even stones feel, sometimes.”

Lord.

Blah blah blah, Katy lets slip that she thinks Dr. Elliot has taken a new lover, Mrs. Embury is taken aback, and—oh hey, guess what, that woman he was with was his sister.

I am clearly not summarizing quickly enough.

It is now April. Katy and her mother have been living at Aunty’s for six months. It is nearly a year since Dr. Elliot confessed his love to her. One day, Katy accidentally comes into a room with Dr. Elliot and only Dr. Elliot in it, and tries to back out.

“Come in, I beg of you,” he said, his voice growing hoarser and hoarser. “Let us put a stop to this.”

“To what?” I asked, going nearer and nearer, and looking up into his face, which was quite pale.

“To your evident terror of being alone with me, of hearing me speak. Let me assure you, once for all, that nothing would tempt me to annoy you by urging myself upon you, as you seem to fear I may be tempted to do. I cannot force you to love me, nor would I if I could. If you ever want a friend you will find one in me. But do not think of me as your lover, or treat me as if I were always lying in wait for a chance to remind you of it. That I shall never do, never.”

“Oh, no, of course not!” I broke forth, my face all in a glow, and tears of mortification raining down my cheeks. “I knew you did not care for me! I knew you had got over it!”

I don’t know which of us began it, I don’t think he did, and I am sure I did not, but the next moment I was folded all up in his great long arms, and a new life had begun!

Mother opened the door not long after, and seeing what was going on, trotted away on her dear feet as fast as she could.

 

And there you have it. That’s how they stopped tip toeing around each other and became and item! So awesome!

 

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