Like poor Cecelia, “The Curious Profession of Dr Craven” is back from the dead. It’s been edited, to catch some annoying and very minor errors, though not to remove either occurrence of “get over it” which according to Google n-gram viewer was used in the Regency in much the same way as it is today. (I take comments seriously. I rechecked because it is important to me to be correct, and I checked the usage in the books it summarized.) Literally, “literally” is another phrase that was used in the modern somewhat ironic sense – even in the 18th century. Pope waxed wroth about it, though to quote Marx, why does Roth need waxed?
“Nice” is one word that you have to watch. It can mean nice in the sense of pleasant or good, but it can also mean somewhat common or nasty. (e.g. “That’s a nice kettle of fish you’ve got us into” from Laurel and Hardy.)
On the other hand I did remove “washout” which is a relatively modern term. Personally, the most annoying little error was the shift from “Dr.” to “Dr” in the latest British usage. I also caught a few excess uses of the passive voice. Editing truly is never finished. As a self-pub’ed author I can make changes to fix these little uglies.
Here’s the start of chapter 2. Up until it gets about as hot as Amelia and I usually write. Chapter 1 can be found here.
The sun shining through the window woke Cecelia. She sat up in her bed with a start and examined the room. The bed curtains had been pulled back so she could see the tattered wallpaper and small fireplace across the room. The low cooing of a wood pigeon could be heard through the glass of the window. Her head swam for a moment. Then she searched the place. It wasn’t her bedroom. A maid was drowsing in a chair by the fire.
“Miss, where am I?”
“You’re in Dr Richard Craven’s house, Miss.” The maid rose, curtsied, and rang the bell. Then she continued, “Is there anything you need?”
“Who are you?”
“My name’s Mary, Miss. Would it be too much to ask yours?”
Panic gripped Cecelia. “I am,” she paused, “I don’t know!”
“There, there, Miss. The doctor will know what to do for you.”
“The doctor? How did I get here?”
“’Tis best he tells you, Miss.”
“Am I alive?”
“Yes, Miss you are. We’re in my master’s house at Streatham, England. It looks to be a lovely summer day.”
“It’s just, I remember, I remember dimly. It’s so strange.”
“Wait for Dr Craven, Miss. He’ll answer that.”
A few moments later, Dr Craven dashed into the room. He was a tall, well-formed man with dark hair. Despite his youth, a widower. Close behind him came two young children, his exuberant four-year-old twins. While he stood in the door, they rushed past him and jumped into the bed with her. Their governess, Miss Grimstock, a severe, somewhat older-looking woman was beginning the long slow decline into spinsterhood. She puffed from her exertion as she caught up with them.
“Thomas, Mariah, please come here. Let your father do his work.”
They replied in unison, “No.”
“Please let them stay. They’re so lovely. I’m sure I’m in Heaven with cherubs.”
“Further acquaintance with them will convince you otherwise. Children, please do as Miss Grimstock requests.”
He frowned at them and then added, “I must check on our guest. If she’s well enough, I’m sure you can return.”
The children dejectedly left the bed and returned to their governess.
Dr Craven strode to Cecelia, “How are we feeling?”
“Completely lost, sir. Where am I?”
“My house in Streatham. I am Dr Richard Craven. The question is, who are you?”
“I wish I knew. What happened to me?”
Dr Craven paused, considering whether telling the young woman the truth would do more harm than good. Finally, he made up his mind. “What do you remember?”
“Almost nothing. You. I distinctly remember you. I woke up on a table last night. It was after a long nightmare, and you were there.”
“Do you remember anything else?”
“No. It’s all gone.” She paused, “There’s a bit more. I was in this dark place where no one could hear me. I tried to kick or pound with my fists. Nothing happened. I could barely move.” She shook her head in disbelief and continued, “What happened to me?”
“I’m not sure. I was going to study you, but now I suppose I’ll try to cure you.”
“Study me? What do you mean by that?”
“I’m not just a country doctor, Miss. I study how the body is put together.”
“You’re an anatomist?”
He paused, “Yes.”
“You were going to anatomize me!”
He nodded. She backed away from him gathering herself into farthest corner of her bed.
“We, I…It wouldn’t have mattered were you dead. I’m working to prevent death, and sometimes that means anatomizing bodies.”
“Had you been dead, yes. But you weren’t, and I’m glad of it. Though it does mean, I’m going to have to find another body.”
She glared at him, “You bought my body, didn’t you?”
“Yes. If I hadn’t, you would have died, for real. Instead, here you are, alive.”
Cecelia felt faint, then in her anger, recovered. “You’re an evil man.”
“No. I’m a natural philosopher, and a doctor. I do my best, my tiny mite, to cure people.”
Panic gripped Cecelia again, “What are you going to do with me?”
Trying to reassure her of his intentions, Dr Craven smiled. “I’m going to examine you. If you’ll let me. Then we’ll decide what to do with you.”
“You must have been gravely ill for your family to have buried you. I should like to see if you have recovered, before we,” He paused, “proceed.”
Mary was about to leave. Dr Craven requested that she remain. Then he walked over and shut the door. After that, he washed his hands in the basin, thoroughly with soap.
Cecelia looked at him, disgusted, “Why are you doing that? Washing your hands of your guilt, like Pontius Pilate?”
“No. It’s an experiment. To see if there isn’t something on our skin that can carry illness.”
“They looked clean to me.”
“And to me, Miss. The thing that carries illness, whatever it is, it is too small for us to see.”
“I shall need to listen to your heart and your lungs.”
“That’s why I’ve asked Mary to stay. I’m afraid it means I need to put my ear on your chest.”
“My chest? You mean…”
“I mean without anything in the way. Mary will ensure that I obey all the norms of propriety.”