I can’t say I like Bay Middleton very much now. He proposes to Charlotte, but there is urgency in his proposal. He wants to marry him as soon as possible, and he even suggests they could elope. Yet, Charlotte has more common sense, and she reasons that it makes no sense to run away like thieves in the night where there is no shame to what they want to do. She thinks that they need to be prudent and wait a while before they talk to Fred. That time could help Fred come round the idea, and she even hopes that Bay’s work with the Empress might produce some fruit. What poor Charlotte doesn’t know is that Bay has started to stray and his roving eye has turned to the Empress. I really don’t understand Bay. I understand that the Empress is beautiful, and in the photographs and paintings we have of Elizabeth, it is clear that she was a beauty. Yet, apart from her skills as a horsewoman, I can’t see why he is so attracted to her. She is so solemn, serious, and stiff, so different from Charlotte, who has a lovely fresh air about her, and so different from the image I had about Sisi in the films, played by Romi Schneider. Sisi in the films is portrayed very similar to Charlotte, but this Empress, who I believe is the right portrait, is not someone I like very much. I can’t understand how Bay can forget Charlotte like that.
When Bay starts to see the Empress as a woman and not just as a monarch is when she manages to jump over a high obstacle, and when Bay’s friend fails to copy her and his horse falls and kills him, the Empress is the one to take matters in her own hands and shoots the fallen horse. It is in that moment that there is a certain intimacy between them, and I guess that Bay thinks that the Empress understands what it is like to love horses and riding. This is something that Bay and Charlotte can’t share, as she doesn’t ride since her father forbid her from riding and hunting after her mother was killed in a horse accident.
That night Bay gets a note from the Empress, summoning to join her for dinner the following day. Bay wishes he could refuse, as he knows that he is on a dangerous road, but he can’t say no to the Empress. The following night he feels out of his depth among Elizabeth’s companions and courtiers, but he manages to get by. At the end of the dinner Bay gets another request. The Empress wants him to wait for her in the stables. So he waits for her there, and when she comes with her chamberlain and lady-in-waiting, they start about Austrian and English horses. When the chamberlain and the lady-in-waiting leave for a minute, Elizabeth and Bay are left alone, and when she is startled by a horse and almost falls in his arms, he can’t help but kiss her, and the kiss deepens and only stops when the chamberlain and the lady-in-waiting reappear. I wonder what will happen now. I imagine that the Empress is someone who is used to having what she wants, and now what she wants is Bay.
I feel sorry for Charlotte and her naivete, and the way Bay is playing with her, because she doesn’t deserve this treatment. Now Charlotte has gone to London. Her godmother Celia, who was the one to introduce her to the world of photography, sends her a telegraph, requesting her to help her prepare for an exhibition of photographs that the Queen will be attending. Charlotte’s first thought is Bay, but she thinks that if she leaves, she will send Augusta off her scent. So without talking to anybody she makes up her mind and decides to leave. The night when Bay goes to the Empress’s dinner Charlotte waits up for him, but she doesn’t see him, and the following day when she is to leave, he doesn’t appear for breakfast, and the only thing she does is to ask Chicken Hartopp, the other friend of her brother’s who is also interested in her, to give Middleton a note. It is when the carriage is leaving that Charlotte sees Middleton appear, but it is too late, and she only sees him laugh with Fred and Chicken. All the way to London Charlotte is tortured by that laugh she witnessed, and she wonders whether he got her note and what he was laughing about. She even hoped that before the train left, Middleton might surprise her by rushing to the station, but that wasn’t the case. Poor Charlotte. I liked Middleton, but now I think he doesn’t deserve the love and loyalty of someone as lovely as Charlotte is.