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.
Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important. We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge). Despite the sterling reputation of the English as cooks, the crew ask Rachel to cook for them. Her choice of seasonings has their desired effect. The morning after she gave thanks for her deliverance she writes to let her friends know where she is. Things, however, are afoot and the game is on.
When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.
Rachel finished her letter the next morning. She folded the letter in thirds and thirds again; then looked up from her desk. “Oh, Elizabeth, I didn’t see you. Is there a wafer?”
Elizabeth rather shyly indicated where the coloured wafers were. “What is his favourite colour?”
“I don’t know … but this will do.” She chose a pale red one and sealed the letter with it. While she addressed the other side, she asked, “Will a servant take these to the post?”
“I thought … if you might … well, maybe we could walk together.” When Rachel studied her face, Elizabeth quickly, all too quickly, added, “I’d like to show you Hook.”
I’d wager a monkey to a farthing you have another reason. “Sure, it would be my pleasure, but I will need to borrow a bonnet.”
Elizabeth gushed her agreement and pranced upstairs to retrieve a spare bonnet and pelisse from her closet.
“Are you ready?”
“I’ve just finished the address.”
“Then what are you waiting for? Let’s go.”
Rachel followed Elizabeth out of the house as she raced off. It’s only a letter, what could be so important?
“Elizabeth, please slow down. I haven’t even had time to adjust this pelisse or properly tie my bonnet.”
“Yes, yes, it’s just.”
“Let me guess, a letter from an admirer, one that Dr Fowler does not approve?”
Elizabeth slowly nodded, “You won’t tell him?”
A clandestine communication, how improper … I sound just like an aunt. “No, but please remember your decorum. If anyone saw you racing off like this, they’d know what you were about.”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought that.”
It seems to me you hadn’t thought much at all. “Tell me about him, while we walk to the posting inn.”
“He’s tall, handsome.”
Aren’t they all?
“And he’s working as a spy. To uncover those awful rebels and machine breakers.”
What? Rachel interrupted her, “His name wouldn’t be William Oliver?”
“William’s his first name, William Richards. William J Richards, my sweet William.”
Stunned, Rachel stopped where she stood. I know that name, Richards, that was the other alias.
Elizabeth asked, “What’s wrong, do you know him?”
“Maybe. Is he an older man, about 35?”
“Why yes, I’m so proud to have conquered such an accomplished man. It was when we, my mother and I, visited Leeds last month. To shop and dance at the assembly. He visited two weeks ago.”
“Does your mother approve of him?”
“It’s my father who objects. He’s just being stubborn. That’s what fathers are for, isn’t it?”
I’d say wise, a good judge of character. “I’m sure he only wants the best for you.” Damn, now I am going to have to tell your parents.
“I know what I want. My darling William.”
When they arrived at the inn, just off High Street in the centre of the village, Elizabeth found a letter waiting for her. She gladly paid her shilling, quickly gave it a kiss and went off to read it, alone.
Rachel asked, “Is there a pen I can use? I need to add a line to my letter.”
“Might have one.” The innkeeper replied, “Don’t know that it’s a good one.”
“I just need to add a small note to the back of the letter. Only a sentence.”
He led her to the back of the inn and showed her a desk. “You can try.” He was right, the pen had a poorly sharpened point and the ink had dried bits floating in it. Still Rachel managed to scratch out, “Come at once, Mr O. is here.”
Finished with the letter, Rachel stopped on her way back to the front when she heard a voice, the last one she wanted to hear, right this instant or for that matter, ever again. “Is Miss Fowler here?”
It was Mr Oliver, or Harding or Richards.
“I’ll see sir.” Rachel heard the innkeeper say. “She picked up a letter this morning. Should be in the garden.”
“Excellent.” The man said, “I’ll find my own way.”
Rachel did her best to step back into the shadows, to blend into the wall. After the man passed by, Rachel brought her letter to the innkeeper. “This is for the next post, to Leeds.”
“Ah, Wakefield,” the man said, “On the way. Be there tomorrow.”
I hope that’s in time.
“Would you tell my friend, Miss Fowler, that I’ve returned to the vicarage?”
“Of course, Miss. Anything else?”
“That man who was just here, did he give you a name?”
“A Mr Harding, he said.”
Rachel nodded, “It would be just as well, if you didn’t mention my name to him.”
The innkeeper nodded, “Good thing I don’t know it. Avoiding an old acquaintance?”
“You might say that. He’s not the most honourable of men. Do you have a maid who can chaperone Miss Fowler?”
“Ah, I see. Seemed dashed odd when she picked up that letter of hers. I’ll have my Elaine watch them. Can’t have the Vicar’s daughter get in trouble, now can we.”
“Thank you.” Now to warn Dr Fowler.
Rachel’s resolve to warn her host grew as she walked back to the vicarage. When she opened the door, the sound of two familiar voices greeted her. Dr Fowler and
“George! You’re here.”
It’s been more than 200 years since Waterloo and people tend to forget just how wrenching the Napoleonic wars were. It truly was a world war with the same dislocations and disruptions that occurred in the 20th century. To support this effort the British government re-organized in ways that would have been unbelievable in the 18th century. Clerks had to pass civil service exams – no longer could you be appointed based on who you (or your father or uncle) knew. You actually had to be literate. Supporting a world war required minimizing (although not eliminating) a great deal of graft and jobbery. Reforming “purchase” would take another 60 years or so, but the reforms made the British soldiers and sailors the best fed and supported fighting men that the world had seen. It showed when the tide turned against that dastardly Corsican.