A Formulaic Romance
This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.
It starts with the trope, Lady Rachel on her way to London, is stranded in the country by an unfortunate accident. They’ve made their way to the house in the distance, but not without slipping in the muddy lane.
The Master was introduced in the last installment. He was somewhat annoyed at the disturbance, but willing to see that his guests were properly entertained. The housekeeper, Mrs Hobbes, leads Rachel and Lucy to their rooms at the start of this snippet.
An Interruption, continued.
She led them upstairs, “Lady Hayforth, this is your room. I’ll tell the servants to send warm water up for you.”
Not many minutes later, with her face, arms, and hands, cleaned and her gown drying by the fire, Rachel smiled at her companion from a warm bundle of blankets. “I think we’ve landed on our feet.” She stretched her legs toward the fire, “At least the mud has washed off.”
“I don’t know Miss Rachel. This ‘Master’ seems to command almost oriental obedience from his servants.”
“And I don’t?”
Lucinda gave her mistress a playful tap on her shoulder. “You know what I mean.”
“I do, and believe me, I believe you’d walk into the flames for me. Still, Lucy, I can’t imagine inspiring such awe in you or any of my servants.”
“I just wish, Miss Rachel that we hadn’t broken down on the road. If it costs you your chance at a London season, that old carriage was a poor bargain.”
“What else could we have done, Lucy? There wasn’t enough of the needful in that legacy to be worth investing in any other way and we couldn’t waste it until we get to the City. It will work. I’ll find a stupid rich young man who is tolerable and break the entail. Or failing that support us in the manner to which we are accustomed, if not better.”
“If you say so Miss.”
“Lucinda, that I’ve never had much choice in the matter. Had my parents lived, they’d have sold me to the highest bidder. This way I get something of a say in who I marry. I intend to pick someone who is conformable to my wishes.”
“Yes, Miss. I still think this adventure is ill-fated.”
“Five hundred pounds in the four-percent’s would give me twenty pounds a year to live on. That’s barely enough to keep body and soul together, not enough to support a genteel life, let alone make me attractive to any sensible man. My, our, only hope is to find someone who thinks the manor is worth the cost of marrying me before the entail takes effect and we lose it. Failing that, at least some man I can tolerate, who isn’t too stupid, lazy or poor. And who, when he strays, is at least discreet about it.”
A loud knock on the door delayed Lucinda’s response. When she answered it, Mrs Hobbes entered, bearing a gown.
“Lady Hayforth. The cart that we sent for your baggage is stuck in the lane. Supper will be served within the hour.”
“Oh. My gown … not dry and we’ve only managed to scrape some of the mud from it. I can’t be seen in my stays.”
“I thought as much. This gown, if you would, it was my Mistress’s, and I’m sure she would lend it to you were she still with us.”
“The Master’s late mother. She was about your size, and if Miss Holloway would assist, we could fit you before your trunk arrives.”
“And in time for supper?”
“That too, My Lady.”
Between them, Mrs Hobbes and Lucinda had Rachel dressed in record time. The gown, while old-fashioned, was made of a fine blue silk. The colour complimented Rachel’s eyes, but when she looked at herself in the mirror, she said, “I wish I had the raven black or dashing auburn hair, this gown requires. Not this mousey brown.”
Mrs Hobbes stood back from her creation and said, “My Lady, I’d say it becomes you. My Mistress herself, before her illness, wore this gown to great effect.”
“Swain’s falling at her feet?”
Lucinda said, “Do be serious Miss Rachel.”
Mrs Hobbes attracted their attention, saying, “The Master does not like his supper delayed.” Then she pointed to the door, and added, “Shall we?”
The Master stood in the room, impatiently tapping his foot, and waiting for them when they arrived. Having removed his goggles and the thick coat he wore in his laboratory, he was elegantly dressed.
He looked at Lady Hayforth in surprise, and said, “Mother?” before catching himself. There were no such things as ghosts, and in any case, his mother would never stoop to haunt her son’s home. It would have been so unbecoming and simply beneath her dignity. His late father, on the other hand would have enjoyed it, but then he would never have appeared as a female.