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 ball a slippery character from the past makes his first appearance. George disposes of him, for the time being, in the this snippet. Rupert explained about his previous work in chemistry and Mr Oliver returned equipped with a search party.
Rachel gets a start on clearing the mess, in the library, because she can actually read the titles. George’s fiance helps her. The evening ended with an excursion. George has just closed the door on his mother at her morning toilette. After George works on his declensions, they decide to visit the army encamped in Pontefract.
George, Lucy and Rachel rode back to the Hall in silence. Mr Harding or Oliver or Jones wasn’t in the camp, and if he had the notebook he’d cached it well. It wasn’t in his tent.
Rachel watched the country slide by as the horses pulled their carriage. She turned back and said, “Well, I hope that’s the last we see of him.”
George replied, “Pity about that notebook. Wonder if one of the soldiers took it after all.”
“I’m sure he has it. Never loses anything that’s to his advantage. Do you remember Lucy, when he turned up at the solicitors, during probate?”
Lucy nodded, “All those bills. You almost had to sell the hall to meet them.”
George’s eyebrow raised, “Indeed. That’s interesting.”
“Interesting to you, Lord Bedlington. A disaster for us.”
“No, not what I meant. I’ve seen this fellow before, or at least heard of him. … I mean from before the last few days. Dashed if I can remember where.”
“Well, for me, I still hope that’s the last we see of him.”
The carriage pulled up near the front of the Hall. A pair of footmen promptly appeared and helped them alight.
George stretched in the fading afternoon light, “Good to be back. Have to see about getting you to London. … I suppose it depends on my dear Mater’s plans. Maybe you can ride with her. It might help things if she gets to know you better.”
Rachel replied, “I’m not sure of that. She disapproves of me, on principle. Thinks I’m taking advantage of Rupert. She almost called me an adventuress to my face. Who knows what she’s said behind my back.”
“Yes … well … you know, she’s sort of, um, stuck in her ways. Pity, but that’s how it is. You’ll have to charm her. I mean she’s Gas’s grandmother.”
“Lord Hartshorne, Rupert’s step-grandmother. I’ll do my best.”
“Good girl. Gas is getting a good bargain. I must admit my suggestion has proven fortuitous.”
“Please remember that my fiancé doesn’t like that nickname.”
“But I do. There’s that, you know.”
An unpleasantly familiar voice met them as they approached the parlour. George stopped and quieted Rachel. He whispered, “Listen.”
Lady Bedlington said, “Mr Oliver, thank you. We’ve been looking all over for that book. My grandson will be ever so pleased that you found it.”
“One of the men took it. I’m simply happy to be the agent of its return.”
“And that other thing, those papers of yours, they will be most useful.”
“Glad to be of service.” The sound of chairs scraping along the floor echoed from the room. Evidently Mr Oliver rose and bowed to Lady Bedlington.
George pulled Lucy and Rachel into the library, with a whisper, “Best if we’re not seen.” They watched while Mr Oliver whistled his way to the front door, and then strode towards the stables.
“Pleased with himself, isn’t he?”
“I’d say so.” George replied, “Wonder what mischief he’s done?”
Rachel said, “Who knows.”
George shrugged, “Must see how Mother is, and then you should find Gas. I hope Charity has recovered.”
“Yes, Charity.” Rachel replied, in a curiously toneless voice.
“Once more into the breech dear friends.” George led the way to the parlour.
Inside Lady Bedlington greeted them with a smile. A knowing smile that seemed almost a leer to Rachel. “You just missed a visit from an excellent young man. A Mr Oliver.”
“We did Mother?”
“Yes. He was returning that missing notebook of Lord Hartshorne’s. One of the soldiers had taken it.”
George hurriedly asked, “May I see it?”
Lady Bedlington pointed to a bound volume on the table. “If you insist.”
Hastily picking it up, George quickly flipped through the pages. His mother continued, “I didn’t know you were interested in chemistry, George.”
“I’m not particularly, but this book interests me.”
“That would be telling. Let’s just say I’ve acquired a recent interest in natural philosophy.” He snapped the book shut and stared at the ceiling for a moment. “Interesting, dashed odd, but interesting.” Then he slipped the book into the shelves with the other laboratory notebooks.
“George,” Rachel started to say, then seeing his mother glare at her, “Lord Bedlington, what’s interesting?”
“Must find Gas. I mean Rupert. See that he’s keeping out of trouble.” George bowed to Lady Bedlington, and then to Rachel. She didn’t take his hint and followed him out of the room.
Once out of immediate earshot, Rachel asked, “George, what was in the book?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Exactly what I said. It was blank. Other than the first few pages. Something tells me Rupert wouldn’t have left it that way. I think it’s a fake or a copy.”
“Surely, Mr Oliver would know that it would eventually be opened.”
“He was gambling on that being well after he had left, or that he’d have the time to copy it out. We interrupted him.” George smiled at the thought then laughed as he said. “Shall we find the light of my life, my Charity?”
I have to apologize on being a little remiss at replying and various social obligations. It is surprising what a broken ankle will do to your energy level (Even after several weeks, it’s mending but a royal PITA).
General Byng is a minor, but real character in this story. After Waterloo he and his soldiers camped near the town of Pontefract. Camp Hill is now covered with houses, but you can still find references to it in the street names. He was deeply involved in putting down the Pontefract uprising, and marginally involved in the Peterloo massacre. (He left his command temporarily to attend to a horse race at York – no word of whether his two horses won. His second in command lost control of the situation and the cavalry charged into the otherwise peaceful protest.) In any case, his politics seemed to have changed because he was a supporter of the reform bill, which tried to deal with many of the issues that caused these uprisings. (It raised the number of eligible voters from 500,000 to 814,000. Mind you there were 14 Million people in Britain at the time. Come to think of it, that’s not much bigger than Atlanta.)
Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page. We actually are preparing books for publication and have some sort of plan – amazing as that seems.