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 here. 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 to prepare for dinner The carriage wright makes a cameo appearance in a previous snippet.
Last week saw the arrival of Rupert’s Uncle George and a hint at the complicated family history – a history that was not completely … harmonious.
This snippet continues their story. George and Rupert have wandered to the lab.
An Unexpected Visitor and a Proposition.
Meanwhile, George accompanied his nephew to the laboratory.
“You’ll have to leave once I start the process,” Rupert said, “but you can wait while the salt comes up to heat.” He stirred a coal fire into life below a crucible, then bent over and blew into it. “It will take a few minutes, and I presume your visit isn’t simply a social call.”
“It is, and it isn’t. You can be the first to give me felicitations … What is that smell?”
“Or as head of the family I could forbid it. Melody, I presume?”
“Charity, Melody was last year and I’m sorry to say we didn’t click. Lord Broughton’s new wife, now. I suppose I should have said ‘glad to say we didn’t click.’ Charity’s much nicer than Lady Broughton.”
“I suppose I can approve. You’re not expecting me to attend the wedding?”
“Ah, well … it would be generous. Indeed, somewhat expected of you. Show good form and what not. Also Mother sends her greetings. Wishes you all the luck at continuing your experiments. Asked me to tell you not to hurry to the village.”
“You know, when she visited here last year, she spent her time measuring for curtains and counting the spoons.”
“It’s your own fault, Gas. If you’d make a push and break the entailment, it would be a big weight off my shoulders. As much as I love her, my dear Mater can be trying at times.”
Rupert didn’t reply so George continued, “You’re not still pinning for what’s her name?”
“Antonia? … No, not really. However, I swore not to let myself be hurt like that again. I’m done with females.”
“I see, and this pleasant young chit, you have staying here?”
“Her carriage broke down last night. I couldn’t turn her away, could I?”
“I suppose not, but you seemed to enjoy her company this morning. What was that stuff you put in the saucer?”
“Sodium … Don’t read more into it than you have. I’ve offered the carriage-wright a hundred pounds to finish repairs today. She’ll soon be off to London or whatever. Good riddance.”
“What are you hinting at? That I ought to marry her just to cut you out of the inheritance. She’s a pretty enough chit, I’ll warrant you, but ignorant and untutored. Not only that but …” Rupert couldn’t finish his sentence.
“But what? Besides, if it’s just ignorance, you can fix it. She’s not dull, is she?”
“I wouldn’t know … she did enjoy my demonstration. The salt’s almost molten again. You really must leave now. These gases, they’re not good for you.”
“I know. More to the point, I can see the effects on you. That blonde streak is dashed attractive, but your face and that hoarse cough.”
Rupert ignored the persiflage and after donning his goggles and then his coat, opened a window. George shivered in the cold breeze. Rupert said, “I’m going to connect the voltaic pile. Best if you’re not here George.”
“As you say Gas.” George turned to leave.
“And I wish you wouldn’t use that name. My name is Rupert, in case you’ve forgot.”
“I don’t know.” George sniffed the fumes that were beginning to emanate from Rupert’s apparatus. “Gas seems so fitting. Don’t kill yourself, nephew.”
After he left the room, George quickly found Mr Brindle. “Edward, can you send a page to the carriage-wright?”
“Sir?” Mr Brindle’s austere tone of voice reflected his disapproval of George’s over-familiarity. If he noticed it, George ignored it.
“Rupert said he’d paid the man to finish as soon as is possible. I’d like to delay that if I may.”
Edward gave him one of his rare smiles, “I see, Sir. It will be my pleasure. Mrs Hobbes and I were speculating last night. Are you certain you don’t wish to inherit this house?”
“Good Lord no. I have enough to manage as it is, and … to be honest, there are better ways to restore harmony in the family than waiting for Rupert to die. I mean, dash it all, he looked after me when we were at school together. Can’t let him keep making a hash of things.”
Edward bowed, his countenance restored to its usual impassivity. “I’ll see that the carriage repairs are delayed, My Lord. You’ll advance the needful?”
“Of course. Thank you and I suppose it is unnecessary for me to suggest that you converse with Mrs Hobbes? See if there is some way for her to encourage this gift of providence. Even if they don’t click, which granted is highly unlikely, I hope we can get him thinking about marriage again. At least out and about – meeting members of the fair company.”
“I shall attend to it, Sir. Now if you’ll excuse me.” Edward bowed, and then made his way to the servant’s quarters in a rapid, but surprisingly dignified pace.
George watched him depart, and then went to the library in search of writing material. Charity would be waiting to hear from him. He felt the gift or maybe the curse of poetry coming upon him. He found a writing desk, pulled out the chair and sat on it. As he looked up at one of the stuffed birds for inspiration he said, “Pity there aren’t many words that rhyme with Charity. Where she named Jane, Susan or even Mary, I could really spread myself. Still, I think she’ll be pleased to hear that good old Gas agrees to our wedding. Even if it will take blasting powder to get him there.”
He started writing, then paused and added, “Not that it would have mattered if he’d objected.”
Entailments were (and I suppose still are) a way of ensuring that property stays in the family. The entailment Rachel is labouring under is somewhat unusual – to an almost fictitious degree. However, the entailment of the estate for Rupert was a common form. Without male heirs, the estate would become the property of some (often distant) male relative.