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The Irritating Gentleman

A Timeless Painting Worth A Million Words

By Natasja RosePublished 8 months ago Updated 8 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - June 2023
"The Irritating Gentleman" by Berthold Woltze

"Come on, lass, give us a smile. Or do you think you're too good to talk to the likes of me?"

The small part of Agatha that wasn't consumed by grief felt like she should have been angry.

Frustrated or indignant, perhaps, if anger was too much for her wrung-out emotional state. Irony, that even this semi-evolved pond scum could see a woman in full mourning, in a compartment clearly booked for a family, and somehow still think that the appropriate course of action was to try and flirt with her. Anything but this resigned sort of numbness.

"I thought the journey west would be boring, but a pretty thing like you makes it much better."

A clear "no" hadn't deterred him. Nor had the other requests to leave her in peace. In other circumstances, a slap might be justified, but the train conductor had made it clear at the start of the journey that any fighting would result in all participants being removed from the train and forfeiting any refund or recompense.

Dozens of miles from the nearest town, or perhaps even the nearest farmhouse, Agatha had no desire to risk being stuck in proximity to this Irritating Gentleman any longer than she had to. Certainly not alone and far from assistance. He was entitled enough in a carriage full of people glaring at him; how much worse would he be without even that meagre protection?

"Dressed like that, I'm sure you could use a friend. No need to be so cold."

Gritting her teeth - ah, there was the rage she'd been missing - Agatha willed the train to go faster.

It had originally been planned as a holiday; Agatha and her parents travelling from New York to visit Agatha's Aunt and Uncle, who ran the General Store in one of the many new Frontier towns that were springing up along the new railway line. Father had joked that it was a longer distance than most young men travelled for their Grand Tour of Europe. Mere months before the planned journey, however, sickness had swept though the city, leaving Agatha the sole survivor of her family.

Her father's partner had bought out the half of the business that Agatha had inherited. His son, James, who Agatha had grown up with, had promised to write and shyly offered to marry her when the mourning period was over, if she hadn't found someone better or found that Frontier life didn't agree with her.

It had been a kind offer, the promise of a home and family to return to, if living with her relations didn't work out. Agatha had thanked him and promised to think about it. There were certainly worse options, but she didn't want him to be trapped by an offer made in the heat of the moment.

Agatha wanted to at least visit her Aunt and Uncle, the cousins she had never met, all the family she had left. A grasp for normalcy, before she faced life without her family. Stuck in a carriage with this man, and several other men who shot the occasional disapproving look from behind their newspaper, but stopped short of actually doing or saying anything, made her wish she'd stayed at home.

Creating a scene would be counterproductive for Agatha - no doubt the Irritating Gentleman was counting on it - but perhaps there was another way. Papa had a briefcase that unfolded into a travel-sized writing desk, and she had promised James a letter. Perhaps the Irritating Gentleman would respect another man's claim more than he respected Agatha's wishes.

'August 16, 1852

Dear James,

I write this from the train carriage, for a lack of more desirable ways to pass the time, and must begin with a protest that you have clearly spoiled me in creating high expectations of how a gentleman should behave...'

Indeed, the Irritating Gentleman had been reading over her shoulder. "Who's that you're writing to, then? The posh gentleman whose name is on that case?"

Agatha smiled, but of course he missed the sharp edge to it. He wouldn't care whether the name on the briefcase was her father or any other man with a claim to her. "My fiancé. We can't marry until I'm out of mourning, of course, but he made me promise to write regularly."

Grumbling, the Irritating Gentleman backed off.

Of course he respected another man's claim to ownership more than he respected Agatha's agency.

Perhaps someday, in the far future, that would change.

If you liked this story, leave a heart, a comment or a tip and share it around, and check out my other work on Medium and Amazon.

Short StoryYoung AdultHistorical

About the Creator

Natasja Rose

I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).

I'm an Indie Author, with 30+ books published.

I live in Sydney, Australia

Follow me on Facebook or Medium if you like my work!

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  3. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  4. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

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Comments (24)

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  • Kat Thorne7 months ago

    So sadly relatable.

  • Meagan Dion8 months ago

    You'd think... Well done! Love the piece! Wonderful choice for a prompt.

  • Leslie Writes8 months ago

    Oh gosh. I feel her pain. I have been accosted on a train by a few irritating gentlemen in my youth. That feeling is universal. Wonderful piece. *Chef's kiss*

  • Why do I feel chastened? Beautifully written with a gracefully delivered yet powerful message.

  • Olaf Thomas 8 months ago

    Great text

  • Alex H Mittelman 8 months ago

    Wow! Great writing!

  • Winnie Asare8 months ago

    You are really an inspiration. Want to read more of such things

  • Lamar Wiggins8 months ago

    This was a great interpretation of the Art. It felt authentic and appropriate for the time period. Congrats!

  • Gina C.8 months ago

    I've always been intrigued and saddened by this painting. You did an excellent job with this story -- so many emotions here! Congratulations on Top Story! ❤️

  • Jay Kantor8 months ago

    Dear Ms. Natasja ~ I'm so glad that I've just discovered your fabulous presentations - Truly a marvelous VM StoryTeller - *I've subscribed to you with pleasure. Jay Jay Kantor, Chatsworth, California 'Senior' Vocal Community~Village  Author -

  • S. A. Crawford8 months ago

    This painting always makes me so sad, and I think you've done it justice here. The mix of fear and irritation, the slightly sassy edge makes sense. Well done, this is so concise yet immersive.

  • Dana Crandell8 months ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Doc Sherwood8 months ago

    An acutely-observed period-piece, closing on a heartfelt note of hope as we look ahead to the present day. Sadly though, as many have already observed, when it comes to the Irritating Gentleman type it's been more a case of "Le plus ce change, c'est le plus ce meme chose..."

  • Babs Iverson8 months ago

    Awesome!!! Congratulations on Top Story!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Donna Renee8 months ago

    Ooh this is so good! You really executed this excellently, congrats on the TS!!

  • Ashley McGee8 months ago

    It did not in fact change. Indeed, it stayed exactly the same, and no one lived happily ever after. Great read! Congratz on the top story!

  • Naomi Gold8 months ago

    I love your story, but hate that it hasn’t changed and might never. I found this quite relatable as a woman who used to travel alone frequently for work.

  • Phil Flannery8 months ago

    That was so good. A clever resolution to an age old problem for women travelling alone. I don't think things have changed all that much.

  • Veronica Coldiron8 months ago

    This was such a good story!! I love that you picked up with the painting and took us a through to the resolution. GREAT story! 💖

  • Antoinette L Brey8 months ago

    Some imes it is hard to remain polite. I enjoyed this

  • I saw the title and assumed it must be about me. Excellent take on the picture, impressive writing

  • Dana Crandell8 months ago

    Very well imagined and written. A great take on the scene!

  • Melissa Ingoldsby8 months ago

    Well done! 👌

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