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.
After a peek into Rupert’s history, George makes a somewhat unusual proposition to Rachel which was continued. The rain finally scuds off to the North Sea leaving a fine day – for riding and other things. Rachel, unsure of her own feelings, arranged for her companion to use the only sidesaddle. Meanwhile Rupert and Rachel discover a shared interest in music, which leads to a proposal. George has just returned from finding a magistrate to deal with a mob at the start of this snippet.
A Stroll in the Country.
When George arrived back at the Hall, he found Rupert, uncharacteristically, enjoying a nuncheon with Rachel and Lucinda. Even more uncharacteristically, he was smiling.
“What did I miss, Gas?”
“Rachel has made me happy.”
George’s brow wrinkled when he glanced at her and said, “That was fast work my lady.”
She replied, “It was Rupert who asked me. He’s the fast worker.”
“We played a duet on the spinet.”
“And on that basis he asked you to marry him?”
“Yes. Is there a problem?”
“I’ll talk to you later.”
Rupert added, “We were wondering if a double wedding were in order, Uncle. Do you think Miss Deacon would mind?”
“I think she’d be delighted … At least I’d hope she would. Have you written Lady Bedlington yet?”
“No, which reminds me. There was another thing I wanted to discuss. When should we put the formal announcement in the Gazette? Rachel thinks not until the settlements have been negotiated. What did you do with Miss Deacon?”
After giving Rachel a hard stare, George said, “I’d keep it quiet – for the moment.”
Rupert said, “You haven’t answered my question.”
“I will post my announcement when I return to London. It was only polite to ask the head of my family first.”
After they’d finished eating, Lucy chaperoned Rupert and Rachel as he showed her the downs. George insisted on tailing along with them. As Lucy and Rupert walked ahead, he dropped back with Rachel.
“Do you know what you’re doing?”
“I like Lord Hartshorne, very much, if that’s what you mean.”
George stopped; then surveyed the field of still-green corn beside the path. Rachel watched too. The heads were starting to fill out and the wind made waves in it as it blew along the down.
Rachel continued, “I’m sure I’ll grow to love him and him to love me. We’ll suit, both practical rather than passionate.”
“That’s not what I mean. Oh damn.”
“You’re engaged too. What would Miss Deacon think?”
“I mean, you’re too good for him.”
Rachel looked away and grimaced, “I doubt that. You don’t know me very well.”
“You’re right. I don’t know you well enough.”
“Besides,” she laughed, “he’s the best available. My cousin, Lord Bromley, wasn’t enthusiastic about my chances at the marriage mart in London – even with his help. If your nephew likes me enough to make me comfortable, then who am I to argue?”
George shook his head, “Yes. I’m sorry. Viewed in a practical light you acted with sense. I wish you well. At least you won’t run off like Antonia Green. That really did hurt him. It was unforgivable.”
“I can safely promise you that won’t happen. Lord Bedlington –“
“George, I’m conformable. I’m sure I’ll be happy with Rupert and do my best to make him happy. What more can one hope in marriage?”
“Not much more. I hope it isn’t marry in haste and repent at leisure.”
“It won’t be.”
George looked up the path, “They’re getting ahead of us.”
Lord Hartshorne and Miss Holloway waited at the top of the hill. Rupert pointed at a smudge in the distance. “General Byng’s camp. The town of Pontefract beyond.”
Lucy squinted, too vain to wear the spectacles she required to see clearly, and said “It is?”
When they caught up with them, George drew a deep breath and said, “I forget Gas … sorry, Rupert, how much I enjoy the freshness out here. Even with the occasional whiff of cow, it’s far better than London. Clean air, nothing like it.”
“Rupert,” Rachel asked, “You were showing something to Lucy. What was it?”
“General Byng’s camp. The 15th Hussars. What with all the troubles, I’m glad they’re nearby.”
“That meeting in Nottingham several weeks ago, and the march on Butterly. A bad business.”
Rachel said, “Not that they don’t have a point. The corn laws are oppressive.”
“I know. It’s just we’ve fought to put down those nasty Frogs and now … “
“We’ve fought?” George said. “I didn’t know you had a commission.”
“I didn’t, but I did work on things. Things for the army, the navy.”
Rachel asked, “What kinds of things?”
Rupert smiled; then held up his hands, spreading them. “Explosives. Can’t say too much more. Still have ten fingers. I was luckier than most.”
A horseman rode up to them and hailed them with a voice practiced from years of running to hounds. The squire and local magistrate of the parish, Sir John Tennant called. “My Lord, I haven’t seen you out this year. Never with such fair company.”
Rupert bowed his head gently, acknowledging Sir John with what he felt to be the proper amount of condescension. “Sir John, may I introduce my Uncle, Lord Bedlington, Lady Hayforth and her companion Miss Holloway?”
“Delighted to meet you. Chasing the young ladies again, at last?”
“More than just a chase, Sir John. Lady Hayforth has agreed to be my wife.”
“Good lord, I didn’t think you had it in you … I say, I didn’t send you an invitation since I knew you’d refuse, but this changes everything. I mean if you’re entertaining company again.”
“A ball, informal of course, at the manor. Tomorrow night. There’ll be officers from the 15th, maybe even General Byng himself.”
It’s probably obvious that the title, “A Formulaic Romance” refers obliquely to chemistry. There’s another arcane reference in the text. Anyone caught it yet? It’s sort of, maybe, perhaps, important, given what Rupert worked on in the past. What are Spirits of Hartshorne?
This story is set at the time of the Butterly Revolt. A combination of depression due to the immediate halt of government spending at the end of the Napoleonic wars, a crop failure, and a lack of employment due to increased automation resulted in an ill-fated march on Nottingham. One of the sparks of the rebellion was a government provocateur, one William Oliver (aka Oliver the spy). The General Byng referenced in this snippet is a cousin of Poodle Byng. The corn laws were meant to protect British farmers (e.g. the nobility and their rents) from cheap imported American wheat. Combined with a crop failure it meant real hardship for the working class.
The featured image, while from Wales, shows what the view from the open downs can be like.
Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.