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.
The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon. This week picks up after George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.
When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.
Rachel awoke the next morning. George must be away by now. She rose and looked out her window at the farmyard beyond. It was curiously grey for such a sunny morning. “Still,” she said to herself after she rang for her morning water, “Best to about and doing. No point in lying here.” Lying here moping away the morning.
Lady Bedlington had much the same idea. She greeted Rachel with a glare from the far side of the parlour where they both broke their fasts.
“Madam,” Lady Bedlington said, “When you are finished, I have … ah … something to ask you.”
The food turned to ashes in Rachel’s mouth. “I’ll eat later.” If I’m still hungry.
“Excellent. You may be aware that Mr Oliver visited me yesterday.”
Rachel gulped, “Yes.”
The grim smile Lady Bedlington gave her made her heart sink farther. “Excellent. If you’d follow me.” She rose and led the way to the library. At the door to the room, she stopped, “I thought it best to show you these while my son is away. Lord Hartshorne is easy enough to manage, but George can be surprisingly stubborn.” She took a sheaf of papers from a locked drawer and handed them to Rachel. “I believe the mail stops in Wakefield … you won’t need to go all the way to Leeds.”
Rachel rapidly scanned the papers, “They’re forgeries and not very good ones at that. This is not my father’s handwriting nor his signature.” She studied Lady Bedlington and saw her complete lack of reaction. “Which you already knew. In any case I would know if my father pledged me to that man … and he didn’t use the name Oliver at the time, it was William J Harding.”
Lady Bedlington only grinned at her. “That doesn’t matter. Rupert will believe me. I’m family and you’re not.” She rang the bell and when Mr Brindle appeared added, “Brindle, see that this woman’s things are packed. Then have her and her ‘companion’ taken to Wakefield. The posting house … The Stafford Arms?”
“The Hart, Ma’am.” Brindle bowed, stiffly. Rachel could see his reluctance and read the disapproval in his sour expression.
“Which ever. Brindle. See that this person is deposited there. She is no longer welcome in this house.”
Still stunned at her change in fortune, Rachel sat in a back parlour of the Hart. Lucy was little better. “Rachel,” She said, “do you think Lord Bromley will take us in?”
“I hope so … I have enough of the ready to get back home if he doesn’t. But.”
“I know. It doesn’t bear thinking.”
Rachel’s ears pricked. The Hart had been so quiet. Yet there was a disturbance outside. A man rode into the courtyard and shouted. “Has it come?”
A groom answered him. “Has what come, sir?”
“The mail. Tell me man, is she here?” It was Rupert.
“I don’t know about her, whoever you mean. The mail came and went this morning. Won’t be another until tomorrow. They can book you a room inside.”
Rachel struggled with the catch on her window. It wouldn’t open. Normally a good thing, as no one wanted the cold night breeze with its attending ill humours, at this moment it was a disaster. She knocked on the pane. Look up! Please look up here and see me! She rapped on the window then waved.
Lucy had more presence of mind and dashed downstairs. Then she ran into the courtyard. “Lord Hartshorne!”
Rupert turned, relieved, “You’re here, and your mistress?”
“She too. We missed the mail this morning.”
“Thank God.” Rupert leaped from his horse and threw the reins to the groom. “See that my horse is returned to Oulten Hall. I need to book a ticket on the mail.” Then he heard the noise from a window above. He turned and waved at Rachel. She waved back, feebly at first and then not at all. She slid to the floor.
Lucy, followed closely by Rupert, ran for the parlour. Rachel lay by the window, gazing upward with a confused expression.
Lucy pushed him aside and examined her charge. “Miss Rachel, sniff this.” She held a small vinaigrette under Rachel’s nose. Rachel started from the smell. “What’s in that?”
“Just a vinaigrette.”
Rupert took it from Lucy and sniffed. “Pleasant, but I fail to see that it could have much effect.” He bent over and offered a hand. “Let’s get you up. Have you eaten?”
“No. I was so worried.”
“Then I’d say a meal is in order, some tea?”
“Please. Did Lady Bedlington show you the papers?”
“Later. After you’ve eaten.” He turned and started to shout, only to find the ever-attentive innkeeper standing there. “Tea, and have you something suitable for Lady Hayforth?”
Rachel started to say she wasn’t hungry, when she saw the concern in Rupert’s face. “Please.”
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 – It’s better in that I can put weight on it, but four more weeks with the boot. Here’s hoping. I’m getting antsy to ride my bike – the one with a decent sized motor).
Establishing identity is one of those things we take for granted today. Fingerprints, blood-types, and DNA make it straightforward. Those things existed in the regency, but no one knew about them. Identity was by facial recognition and people vouching for you. Everyone had a “settlement” – a home parish where you were known. It was typically where you were born or married. The relatively well-off characters in this story wouldn’t have been a problem for any parish, but if you were poor … well that was another matter. Your settlement was responsible for your upkeep. So they had a vested interest in not recognizing you if you were in need of charity. Especially as the parish clerk got to keep the money he didn’t use for the poor. Bribery, subterfuge, and paying someone to marry debauched single women was the usual practice, when they didn’t just send you to a workhouse (usually only for a short while and not because you were released). This state of affairs could not be allowed to continue and eventually people of conscience but together charitable corporations like the foundling’s hospitals to deal with the worst abuses.
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.