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. Last week while at the dance, a slippery character from the past makes his first appearance.
It won’t be his last.
An unfortunate event at a ball, ctd.
“Clearly your father didn’t tell you. It was made shortly before his unfortunate demise.”
“All I know is you helped him spend his money. Left us to rusticate on a mortgaged estate that could barely support itself.”
“I shan’t ask much for a settlement, breech of promise is such an ugly idea. Very destructive of one’s reputation, even if it is ultimately voided.”
Rupert glanced at Rachel. She was pale, barely fighting off a faint. He turned to the man and uttered “You puppy!” from his clenched mouth. Then turning to Rachel he said, “Rachel, let me help you to a seat.”
As they walked to the far side of the room, neither of them noticed the grim smile of satisfaction that coursed over Mr Oliver’s face. After Rupert had helped her to a seat, Rachel looked up and said, “Did you say you knew him, how?”
“That cad, that puppy, he carried the letters between Antonia and Lord Biddle.”
“Oh Lud! What a mull I’ve made.” Rachel put her face in her hands. “I wish that … that … that fellow were at Jericho.”
“What do you mean ‘I’ve made’? I fail to see that you’ve done anything.”
Rachel bit her lip and looked up at Rupert, tears forming in her eyes. “I didn’t know about him … him and that awful woman.”
“How could you know?”
“I suppose you’re right, I couldn’t have. Please believe me that I have no interest in seeing Mr Harding or Oliver or whatever he calls himself now ever again. His effrontery.”
Rupert shook his head sadly, “I know.”
“He really did lead my father to perdition with the dice box, faro table, and … I don’t know what all they did. My father caught an ague from some.” She stopped, unwilling to voice ‘barque of frailty.’ “That man played him for a jobberknowl until he was skint.”
“Don’t let that dandiprat cut up your peace.” Rupert paused, “Unless there is something you’re not telling me.”
“No. Well maybe. He did have some of my father’s vowels. They should have been settled with the estate. There could be something like those. Who knows what my father may have signed before he died. It was a desperate time, and he wasn’t truly in his right mind.”
The musicians chose this auspicious moment to start tuning their instruments for the next dance. Rupert bent down and took Rachel’s hand. “This dance is ours.”
“We’ll talk later; I’ve had my dealings with that puppy, too. Not just with that woman.” Rupert led her to the middle of the floor where they started the line for the next dance. It felt to Rachel as if everyone in the room were staring at them. Sir John certainly was. Rupert bowed to him and said, “I should like to lead this dance, with my newly affianced wife.”
“Oh,” He laughed, “I guess you meant what you said.” Then he tapped on a glass and shouted to get attention. “Dear guests, before we begin, a toast – to our neighbour Lord Hartshorne and his intended. Newly engaged. May their marriage be long, and happy.”
Rachel thought, If it isn’t happy, it will certainly be long, then she shook her head and studied Rupert. It will be happy. I will make certain of that.
Mr Oliver started to object, when he felt a firm hand on his shoulder. It was George. “You, sir, are coming with me. This is the last time you will bother Lady Hayforth. Do I make myself clear?”
The dance started with both Rachel and Rupert lost in each other, both too overcome with emotions to say much.
Part way through the dance, George re-entered the room, dusting his hands. He strode to his host, Sir John and said, “That’s done. What in the world ever possessed you to invite such a rotter?”
“He’s the man of the moment. Helped break those revolutionaries in Pentridge, at great personal risk.”
“Knowing him, I doubt it.”
“I must remind you I’m the host, and General Byng will be most displeased when he hears of how you’ve treated his best agent. A real British hero.”
George indicated his lack of concern when he said, “If you say so. I don’t know the general well, but I’m good friends with his cousin Poodle. I think I can weather the storm.”
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?
Rupert is being truly the gentleman in this snippet. In a way I’m sorry that fate is waiting just around the corner for him with a stocking stuffed with sand – sand and a little fulminating salt. However, it will all work out in the end.
If you hadn’t cottoned on yet, there are hidden depths in George. Not everyone was good friends with a respected and moderately senior member of the foreign office (even if Poodle was officially a ‘clerk’).
By the way, “Pope Joan” is the card game they’re playing in the featured image and the nine of diamonds is the “Pope.” Though I do suspect there is a hidden meaning beyond that in the caption.
Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.