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. 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 started to say she wasn’t hungry, when she saw the concern in Rupert’s face. “Please.”
Their repast finished, Rupert told Rachel what his step-grandmother had said and done. “That virago. Claimed you were a low adventuress, bent on stealing my fortune.”
“I know that. And those documents … Mr Oliver’s work I presume?”
Rupert shook his head, “Obvious forgeries. I could see that and I don’t know your father’s handwriting. They were all written in the same hand, and didn’t you say he used a different name at that time.”
“Yes, William Harding. I forget his other names. What are you going to do?”
“I, I am going to escort my affianced wife on the mail to her cousins. Then I’ll stay somewhere, Claridge’s.”
“Won’t that be below your rank, uncomfortable? Not Claridge’s obviously.”
“Uncomfortable, a touch crowded, but I rode the mail to school many times. You’ll need someone to look after you.”
“I can’t imagine anyone better.” Rachel reached for his hand and squeezed it. “Thank you.”
Rupert looked as if he had another idea of how Rachel could thank him. Then he saw Miss Holloway’s quelling stare and thought better of it. Rachel, too, had wondered about a kiss and felt the weight of her companion’s presence. I’ll find some other time, when Lucy’s distracted.
“Let me suggest something. If you feel up to it, we could explore the town. Take in the sights. There was a teashop my mother liked.”
“As long as you’ll lend me your arm. To steady my way.”
“It would be my pleasure.”
Mr Brindle met them as they were leaving the Hart. He carried a small valise and, more importantly, advice. “Sir?”
“Brindle, I am glad to see you. The bag is for me?”
“Yes My Lord. I thought you might need some essentials for your journey, a spare shirt, neck-cloths, and your brushes.”
Mr Brindle then coughed to clear his throat, “If I may take a liberty, My Lord.”
Rachel thought, Here it comes.
Rupert calmly inhaled, old and familiar servants could be difficult.
However, he wasn’t. “I think it would be best if you, all of you, returned to the Hall. Lady Bedlington can be … difficult … indeed very trying at times. Best not to call craven with her. You should not let her dictates force your behaviour.”
“I see,” Rupert thought for a moment; then asked Rachel, “Are you willing to beard this lioness in her den?”
“If I’m to be mistress of your establishment, My Lord,” Rachel said to Rupert with a deep curtsey and a broad smile, “then I’d best act the part. We can always ride together on the mail some other time.”
Rupert laughed at that, “Yes I suppose we could. If we wanted to. Travelling post, as befits our station in life, is far more comfortable. Brindle, would you see that our luggage returns home. I will accompany Lady Hayforth around Wakefield. Show her the sights, such as they are.”
Mr Brindle managed to keep his face expressionless as he bowed to them, “It will be my pleasure, and I’ll see that the carriage is here later this afternoon.” Rachel sighed with relief as Rupert escorted her and Lucy down the High Street. She turned and saw Brindle go into the Hart, calling for the keeper.
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 three more weeks with the boot. Here’s hoping. I’m getting antsy to ride my bike – the one with a decent sized motor).
Medicine in 1816 or so was at the height of the “heroic” age. You’d have to be a hero to take it. It will shortly become important for this story, but in addition to “balancing the humours” by bleeding, purging was a standard treatment. A deep colonic with a difference.
Two approaches were used to “purify the body” and to put it bluntly, you would be completely insane to try them today.
The first common treatment was calomel – mercury chloride. It’s not quite as toxic as it sounds, but that’s not saying much. Your body is smart enough to recognize it’s not good for you and rapidly excretes it along with whatever else there is in your digestive system. Very rapidly. (In Horsefeathers, Chico Marx replies to a question from Groucho about a headache “Sometimes I take an aspirin, sometimes a calomel.” So it was used almost into living memory.) The “red gum” in Jane Austen is quite possibly a symptom of giving babies calomel to help with teething.
The other common treatment was the “miraculous cup” (don’t look for that on Google – look for antimony cup (you have been warned).) Wine, left in a cup made of antimony or with an antimony-containing glaze would leach small amounts of the metal into solution. Since arsenic is almost as poisonous as antimony, it’s good that there was only a small amount of metal leaching. The active ingredient,”tartar emetic” a complex of tartaric acid (those crystals in the bottom of the wine glass) and antimony lives up to its name (and is, I suppose, fully “organic”).
Needless to say – which has never stopped me in the past – if you ingested too much of either compound your medical problems were over. To be honest, there is a small differential toxicity between us, worms, and bacteria and therefore a therapeutic threshold, so in the absence of anything better they may have worked. Perhaps. If you were very lucky.
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.