Sunday Snippet, a stroll.

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 start of this snippet.

A Stroll in the Country.


When George arrived back at the Hall, he found Rupert, uncharacteristically, enjoying a nuncheon with Rachel and Lucinda. Even more uncharacteristically, he was smiling.

“What did I miss, Gas?”

“Rachel has made me happy.”

George’s brow wrinkled when he glanced at her and said, “That was fast work my lady.”

She replied, “It was Rupert who asked me. He’s the fast worker.”

“I see.”

“We played a duet on the spinet.”

“And on that basis he asked you to marry him?”

“Yes. Is there a problem?”

“I’ll talk to you later.”

Rupert added, “We were wondering if a double wedding were in order, Uncle. Do you think Miss Deacon would mind?”

“I think she’d be delighted … At least I’d hope she would. Have you written Lady Bedlington yet?”

“No, which reminds me. There was another thing I wanted to discuss. When should we put the formal announcement in the Gazette? Rachel thinks not until the settlements have been negotiated. What did you do with Miss Deacon?”

After giving Rachel a hard stare, George said, “I’d keep it quiet – for the moment.”

Rupert said, “You haven’t answered my question.”

“I will post my announcement when I return to London. It was only polite to ask the head of my family first.”

After they’d finished eating, Lucy chaperoned Rupert and Rachel as he showed her the downs. George insisted on tailing along with them. As Lucy and Rupert walked ahead, he dropped back with Rachel.

“Do you know what you’re doing?”

“I like Lord Hartshorne, very much, if that’s what you mean.”

George stopped; then surveyed the field of still-green corn beside the path. Rachel watched too. The heads were starting to fill out and the wind made waves in it as it blew along the down.

Rachel continued, “I’m sure I’ll grow to love him and him to love me. We’ll suit, both practical rather than passionate.”

“That’s not what I mean. Oh damn.”

“You’re engaged too. What would Miss Deacon think?”

“I mean, you’re too good for him.”

Rachel looked away and grimaced, “I doubt that. You don’t know me very well.”

“You’re right. I don’t know you well enough.”

“Besides,” she laughed, “he’s the best available. My cousin, Lord Bromley, wasn’t enthusiastic about my chances at the marriage mart in London – even with his help. If your nephew likes me enough to make me comfortable, then who am I to argue?”

George shook his head, “Yes. I’m sorry. Viewed in a practical light you acted with sense. I wish you well. At least you won’t run off like Antonia Green. That really did hurt him. It was unforgivable.”

“I can safely promise you that won’t happen. Lord Bedlington –“

“George.”

“George, I’m conformable. I’m sure I’ll be happy with Rupert and do my best to make him happy. What more can one hope in marriage?”

“Not much more. I hope it isn’t marry in haste and repent at leisure.”

“It won’t be.”

George looked up the path, “They’re getting ahead of us.”

“So?”

Lord Hartshorne and Miss Holloway waited at the top of the hill. Rupert pointed at a smudge in the distance. “General Byng’s camp. The town of Pontefract beyond.”

Lucy squinted, too vain to wear the spectacles she required to see clearly, and said “It is?”

When they caught up with them, George drew a deep breath and said, “I forget Gas … sorry, Rupert, how much I enjoy the freshness out here. Even with the occasional whiff of cow, it’s far better than London. Clean air, nothing like it.”

“Rupert,” Rachel asked, “You were showing something to Lucy. What was it?”

“General Byng’s camp. The 15th Hussars. What with all the troubles, I’m glad they’re nearby.”

“Troubles?”

“That meeting in Nottingham several weeks ago, and the march on Butterly. A bad business.”

Rachel said, “Not that they don’t have a point. The corn laws are oppressive.”

“I know. It’s just we’ve fought to put down those nasty Frogs and now … “

“We’ve fought?” George said. “I didn’t know you had a commission.”

“I didn’t, but I did work on things. Things for the army, the navy.”

Rachel asked, “What kinds of things?”

Rupert smiled; then held up his hands, spreading them. “Explosives. Can’t say too much more. Still have ten fingers. I was luckier than most.”

A horseman rode up to them and hailed them with a voice practiced from years of running to hounds. The squire and local magistrate of the parish, Sir John Tennant called. “My Lord, I haven’t seen you out this year. Never with such fair company.”

Rupert bowed his head gently, acknowledging Sir John with what he felt to be the proper amount of condescension.  “Sir John, may I introduce my Uncle, Lord Bedlington, Lady Hayforth and her companion Miss Holloway?”

“Delighted to meet you. Chasing the young ladies again, at last?”

“More than just a chase, Sir John. Lady Hayforth has agreed to be my wife.”

“Good lord, I didn’t think you had it in you … I say, I didn’t send you an invitation since I knew you’d refuse, but this changes everything. I mean if you’re entertaining company again.”

“An invitation?”

“A ball, informal of course, at the manor. Tomorrow night. There’ll be officers from the 15th, maybe even General Byng himself.”


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?

This story is set at the time of the Butterly Revolt. A combination of depression due to the immediate halt of government spending at the end of the Napoleonic wars, a crop failure, and a lack of employment due to increased automation resulted in an ill-fated march on Nottingham. One of the sparks of the rebellion was a government provocateur, one William Oliver (aka Oliver the spy). The General Byng referenced in this snippet is a cousin of Poodle Byng. The corn laws were meant to protect British farmers (e.g. the nobility and their rents) from cheap imported American wheat. Combined with a crop failure it meant real hardship for the working class.

The featured image, while from Wales, shows what the view from the open downs can be like.

Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.

Sunday Snippet, After the concert.

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.

Music Lessons and more.


“Good.” Rachel suddenly felt a little breathless. She sat too close, too alone, to a man. Not only that, she held his hand. Without gloves. The bleached streaks and white pallor of his skin accentuated the darkness of his eyes. She sat far too close to a far too handsome man for comfort.

Rupert only made it worse. “Marry me.”

“What?”

“Marry me.”

“Lord Hartshorne,” Rachel rapidly backed away and tried to stand. Only to trip on her gown and crash to the floor.

Rupert calmly slid across the piano bench and helped her up. “I’m sure George has, by now, asked you to help shift me to London.”

“How’d?”

“I know my Uncle. For that matter, I could tell something was up, from Mrs Hobbes. The way she smirked this morning. What did he offer you?”

“To help pay for my season.”

“I see. A bit mercenary of you?”

Rachel laughed, “No, a bit desperate. Lord Hartshorne,”

“Rupert.”

“Rupert, then. I hardly know you, and you hardly know me. How could we possibly wed?”

“I like the way you play your instrument, and you’re beautiful. You handled my … impoliteness with grace.”

“That’s not enough and you know it. Or you’d know it if you thought it through.”

“I thought it through with Antonia. Should have just kept looking.”

Rachel saw a flash of distress on his face.  He still is in love with her. “Are, are you sure? I, I can’t.”

“It won’t be passion, I’m done with passion, but I can offer you comfort, comfort and security … I think we should get on well enough. Learn to love each other in time. So what about it?”

“I can’t say yes. You know that.”

Rupert’s face fell.

“But I won’t say no. How would ‘maybe’ work for you? You’re not unattractive.”

“That’s damning.”

“Alright, you’re handsome, and you don’t seem vicious. I’m willing to see what happens when we know each other better. Will that do?”

“Maybe.”

“It’s better than no.”

Rupert chuckled. “You’re right. Maybe will be first rate.”

“And you’ll come to London with me?”

“I’ll bring you to London. If only to show George that he shouldn’t trifle with the head of the family.” Rupert’s smile broke into laughter.

“What’s so funny?”

“I’m just imagining the expression on my step-grandmother’s face when I turn up with a dashed good-looking armful.”

Lucy interrupted Rachel’s attempt to question Rupert about why that should matter. She stood in the door and shouted, “Miss Rachel, what are you doing? Alone with a man.”

“It’s fine Lucy. Lord Hartshorne has been a perfect gentleman. We were-”

“That is as may be. But you shouldn’t be alone with him.”

Rupert rose, bowed and said, “Miss Holloway, how was your ride?”

“It was exquisite. Now Miss Rachel, come with me. We will have a conversation, about your deportment.”

Rachel gave Rupert a wan smile, “See how I’m managed.”

“It’s for your own good, Ma’am.”

Upstairs, in Rachel’s room, as she helped Lucy out of her riding habit, she asked, “How did it go, really?”

“It was fine. The mare was a little barn-soured, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Lord Bedlington was nothing if not a gentleman.”

“Exactly what I’d expect of him.”

“It is. What, may I ask, were you and Lord Hartshorne doing?”

“Playing the spinet. I found a duet. We played it together.”

Lucy chuckled, “Since you haven’t practiced, in … I don’t know, ever so long. I’m glad I was out riding.” She noted that Rachel was unusually distracted, thoughtful. “Did something else happen?”

“He, he asked me to marry him.”

“I hope you accepted, much nicer to be engaged. It’ll solve no end of problems.”

“I didn’t.”

“You didn’t refuse him!”

“I didn’t. I said maybe.”

“Whatever possessed you? You know your situation, and … Good Lord Rachel. Get yourself back down there and tell him you accept his hand.”

“But?”

“But nothing young miss. He’ll make you happy. Happy enough.”

Rachel sighed, “I suppose you’re right.”

“I am. You know I am. With the war, there aren’t enough able and eligible men left, and things are so tight with so many soldiers returning from France. We saw a mob.”

“You did?”

“I’ll tell you after you’ve talked to Lord Hartshorne. Lord Bedlington and the groom went to find the local magistrate … that mob, it looked ugly.”

“Can you come with me?”

“Support you in your time of crisis? If you insist.”

Accompanied by her companion, Rachel returned to the study. Then she rang the bell for the servants. When Mr Brindle appeared, she asked him if he’d seen his master.

“I believe, Ma’am, that the Master was headed to his workshop.” Rachel couldn’t read Mr Brindle’s well-trained impassivity. “I could, if you desire, show you the way.”

“Please.” I hope I’m doing the right thing. Lucy thinks I am. But then she’s not the one getting married.

Rupert was in his laboratory, with the window open, while he worked through his notes. Rachel’s nose puckered at the remaining smell, the peculiar tang of chemistry. “Lord Hartshorne, Rupert,” She curtsied, “About what you asked me.”

“Yes?”

“I had the time to think, to gather my thoughts. I shouldn’t have said maybe.”

Rupert’s face tightened with worry, then relaxed when he saw she was smiling at him.

“I should have said yes.”


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. (No one yet has found the answer, so I’m leaving the question pending.)

Another clue, the material Rupert worked on was used to ignite gunpowder, and its synthesis was published in the proceedings of the Royal Academy in 1803. The paper is available for download, and requires a level of heroic chemistry that I wouldn’t do (the chemists tasted their product and said it didn’t taste like calomel). Your mileage might vary. It isn’t used as a primer any longer, but please do not fire into the air at midnight. You have no idea where the bullet will land.

Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.

Sunday Snippet, Music Lessons.

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.

Music Lessons.


Left to her own devices after they left, Rachel found her way to the front parlour. A spinet, dusty and disused, but surprisingly still close to in tune sat in a corner. She started playing, first from memory, and then from a fraying and browned piece of sheet music.

Lord Hartshorne startled her and she stopped playing. He said, “Lady Hayforth?”

“Yes?”

“I … should like to … apologize. Last night.”

“For what?”

“I had intended to return, to keep you … and George company. It’s just … Well, I became distracted in my notes.”

“That’s what I thought. Do you mind if I keep playing?”

“No. Please do … You play very well.”

Rachel resumed playing, but continued to talk. “I thought you would be in your laboratory today.”

“Usually, but not today. Not when I have.” He paused for more than a moment, “To be honest, I caught a few too many breaths of the fumes, and need to let my lungs clear.”

“I thought you were going to say, ‘not when I have company.’”

“That too. It’s just.” Rupert couldn’t overcome his shyness.

“It’s not Antonia, is it?”

“How do you know about her?”

“Your uncle.”

“George needs to keep his mouth shut. Yes it is. Your playing, it reminds me of her.”

“Should I stop?”

Rachel paused her playing and watched as Rupert stared out the window. The grey skies from the last few day’s rains were gone. They could hear the birds and imagine the fresh smell of the drying earth outside. He turned back and said, “No. I liked, I like music.”

Rachel waited for a few moments before resuming, nonetheless. “Do you play?”

“A little, I haven’t in years. Not since …”

“This is a duet. The bass part is simple. Would you-?” She blushed. It was putting herself forward.

“Join you?” Rupert studied the window again; then flexed his fingers. “I’ll try. It’s been a long time since I’ve played.”

Rachel scooted to the side of the bench to make room for him. When he sat next to her she thought, He’s so thin, needs to look after himself … needs someone to look after him.

Then they played together. It wasn’t exactly the best performance, and certainly no one would have thought either of them an adept, but it didn’t matter. They were lost in the music. Together.

Eventually the piece came to an end. Rupert said, “I haven’t sat this close … I mean played a duet with … not since Antonia.”

“I’m not her.”

“I know.” Rupert sat quietly. Rachel could see the confusion in his face.

“Tell me about her, if it would help.”

“Not much to say. A beauty. I thought. No, I was in love with her. I thought she was in love with me. We were …”

“Engaged?”

Rupert nodded, “Then she eloped with Lord Biddle. Didn’t even leave me a note.”

Almost unconsciously, Rachel reached for his hand and squeezed it. “It must have hurt.”

“It did.” Rupert turned to face her. After studying her face for what seemed a very long minute, he said, “But that’s over.”

“Good.” Rachel suddenly felt a little breathless. She sat too close, too alone, to a man. Not only that, she held his hand. Without gloves. The bleached streaks and white pallor of his skin accentuated the darkness of his eyes. She sat far too close to a far too handsome man for comfort.


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. (No one yet has found the answer, so I’m leaving the question pending.)

Another clue, the material Rupert worked on was used to ignite gunpowder, and its synthesis was published in the proceedings of the Royal Academy in 1803. The paper is available for download, and requires a level of heroic chemistry that I wouldn’t do (the chemists tasted their product and said it didn’t taste like calomel). Your mileage might vary. It isn’t used as a primer any longer, but please do not fire into the air at midnight. You have no idea where the bullet will land.

Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.

Sunday Snippet, Clearing Weather.

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 last week.

This week, the rain finally scuds off to the North Sea leaving a fine day – for riding and other things.

The Weather Breaks.


Next morning, the rain, having finally, finally broken, George, with the time hanging heavy on his hands, found Rachel and Lucinda at breakfast and said, “I feel like a ride. Do you ride Miss?”

“I used to.” Rachel grimaced, “Sold my hunter to pay for this trip so in a sense I’m wearing her … Maybe she’s riding me.”

“That’s too bad. Rupert used to keep a good stable. He’s let it go in the last years, but I’m sure there’s something worth throwing a leg over. Would you be willing to accompany me on the downs?”

Lucinda gushed, “Yes. I like to ride as well.”

George bowed to the inevitable chaperone, and realizing that Lucinda was better company than most chaperones, rose and said. “I’ll inquire about the horses and see if there are side-saddles.”

After he left, Lucinda turned to Rachel and said, “What an elegant man.”

“Yes, A pity he’s engaged … to a Miss Deacon, his ‘Charity.’ The good ones are all taken. I think we’d best hurry to London before the rest are gone.”

“Don’t be so cynical. There’s always, what was it Lord Bedlington called him? Gas.”

“He’s handsome enough, I’ll grant you, but so dashed odd. Buried in that workshop of his.”

“You can change that, can’t you? Or at least take an interest in his work.”

“I suppose.” Rachel studied the room, found it lacking inspiration, and finally said, “I suppose I could change my name to Sodium, Natria or something elemental. Then he’d like me.”

George overheard that as he entered the room, “I wouldn’t, Ma’am. Rachel is a pleasant, if unusual name.”

“My father found it in the Old Testament. Could have been worse, Delilah or Jael. What did you find about the horses?”

“I found Brindle and he sent a footman. Unfortunately, he remembers only one serviceable side-saddle. If that.”

Lucinda’s face fell. “So a groom will accompany you.”

“Unfortunately, yes.” George bowed gently again, “I should much rather have both your company.” As he straightened, he smiled at Rachel, “Lady Hayforth, I await your pleasure.”


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. (No one answered last week, so I’m leaving the question pending.)

The featured image, “Stretchit” shows a bete noire of mine. Women did not ride astride their horses.  There were several reasons, and not just “modesty” as such. Still nearly every modern “period” film has the actresses riding astride. Not that I blame them, astride is much easier to ride than sidesaddle. Still neither Rachel nor Lucinda would dare to ride in any other manner.

 

Sunday Snippet, A Modest Proposition, ctd.

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. This week continues their dialog

 

An Unexpected Visitor and a Proposition.


“I see. You aren’t expecting me to do anything … improper, compromising. I still desire marriage, although not with Lord Hartshorne.”

Lucinda had sat silent through this exchange, “Miss Rachel, please. This isn’t becoming and I’m afraid you’ll live to regret it.”

“I know Lucy, but to be honest, Lord Bromley warned me that I was cutting it too fine when I first wrote to him.” Rachel stared at the ceiling for a moment, and then at Lord Bedlington. “On the understanding that I shall simply be a friend, or at least do my best to be a friend, I’ll accept your offer.”

“That’s the spirit. You won’t regret it, and my Charity will be pleased to see her new nephew at Almack’s. Get her mother to show you the town.”

“Why not yours?”

“Ah, well, she prefers that Rupert not get married. Afraid he might break the entail. However, what we’d do with his estates is beyond me. It’s one thing if he doesn’t produce an heir. Entirely another if he doesn’t try.”

“I see. There is a complication, Lord Bromley expects me this week.”

“Not a problem, I’ll frank your letter. Um … I have one of my own to send to the city, so if you write yours quickly, I’ll see that it gets sent today.”

“To Charity?”

“Why would you write … I’m sorry, mine’s to her.”

“As it should be. Where did you find paper?” Rachel rose, followed immediately by Lord Bedlington.

“The library, in a desk below a stuffed eagle.”

“All those creatures, I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable writing while they watch.” None the less, Rachel found her way to the library and ignored the animals’ unblinking stare while she wrote a short letter to her sponsor, to let him know that she would be later than expected, but would arrive, in style, escorted by a member of the ton.


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.

The unusual firearm shown in the featured image is another clue.

Sunday Snippet, A Modest Proposition.

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, this week George makes a somewhat improper proposition to Rachel.

 

An Unexpected Visitor and a Proposition.


At mid-day, Rupert was still electrolysing his salt, but Lord Bedlington sought a repast. He found his poetic meanderings dashed exhausting. Still, he thought, Charity would approve of his doggerel, as long as it was addressed to her. At least he hoped she would, and not criticise his construction, spelling and how the verses scanned.

Rachel and Lucinda joined him. Never one for subtlety he asked, “Lady Hayforth, may I inquire about your station in life?”

“Do you mean my estate? My father left it heavily mortgaged, and under an unusual entail.”

“Indeed?”

“Yes, I have only a short time to live there, unless I’m married. Then it goes to my second cousin. He’ll get it anyway if I die without issue.”

“I see. It is unusual to leave it to a female. I suppose there were reasons. So I presume there is some impetus for you to marry.”

“You might say that. I hope you aren’t …”

He backed away, “No, no, my dear lady, I’m happily engaged. Just getting the head of the family’s approval … and checking up on him. That said.”

“No. I know what you’re hinting. I barely know him and he seems such a strange, shy man.”

“Dreadfully sorry, I think you misunderstand me. What do you know of Rupert’s history?”

“Nothing. Until yesterday, I was completely unaware of Lord Hartshorne’s existence, and I’m certain he had never heard of me. Why?”

“Ah. There is a side to him of which you are unaware. He cut quite a dash about town … until, um, he met Antonia Green. She swept him off his feet and left him in the gutter. Found someone even richer. Pity rather, but he’s well out of it.”

“So? What is my concern in this?”

“He hasn’t looked at a young woman since. Retired to the country and pursues his chemical experiments. Alone in splendid isolation.”

“Surely you’re not proposing that I do something improper?”

“Not at all. It’s just if you could befriend him … This is dashed awkward, but I understand you’re not exactly flush with the ready.”

“No. I have five hundred pounds and expect little more.”

“And you hope to find a husband on that? It is a long shot, my dear. The odds … not to my liking.”

“I know. There simply isn’t much of an alternative. Five hundred pounds is not enough to live on and it won’t make my life as a governess or companion any easier. So for better or ill, a hunt for a husband it is.”

George nodded his head. This chit had her priorities straight. “Well, then, I have a very simple proposition for you. Befriend my nephew, and get him to London. Help me to turn his head to thoughts of ladies and marriage. In return I shall, ah, grease the skids as it were.”


The featured image is a “toad crossing” sign from the peak district – near Hayfield and the Kinder Scout. Nothing to do with the plot, except it’s not far from the scene of the action.

Sunday Snippet, Secrets Revealed.

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.

This snippet continues their story. George and Rupert have wandered to the lab.

An Unexpected Visitor and a Proposition.


Meanwhile, George accompanied his nephew to the laboratory.

“You’ll have to leave once I start the process,” Rupert said, “but you can wait while the salt comes up to heat.” He stirred a coal fire into life below a crucible, then bent over and blew into it. “It will take a few minutes, and I presume your visit isn’t simply a social call.”

“It is, and it isn’t. You can be the first to give me felicitations … What is that smell?”

“Or as head of the family I could forbid it. Melody, I presume?”

“Charity, Melody was last year and I’m sorry to say we didn’t click. Lord Broughton’s new wife, now. I suppose I should have said ‘glad to say we didn’t click.’ Charity’s much nicer than Lady Broughton.”

“I suppose I can approve. You’re not expecting me to attend the wedding?”

“Ah, well … it would be generous. Indeed, somewhat expected of you. Show good form and what not. Also Mother sends her greetings. Wishes you all the luck at continuing your experiments. Asked me to tell you not to hurry to the village.”

“You know, when she visited here last year, she spent her time measuring for curtains and counting the spoons.”

“It’s your own fault, Gas. If you’d make a push and break the entailment, it would be a big weight off my shoulders. As much as I love her, my dear Mater can be trying at times.”

Rupert didn’t reply so George continued, “You’re not still pinning for what’s her name?”

“Antonia? … No, not really. However, I swore not to let myself be hurt like that again. I’m done with females.”

“I see, and this pleasant young chit, you have staying here?”

“Her carriage broke down last night. I couldn’t turn her away, could I?”

“I suppose not, but you seemed to enjoy her company this morning. What was that stuff you put in the saucer?”

“Sodium … Don’t read more into it than you have. I’ve offered the carriage-wright a hundred pounds to finish repairs today. She’ll soon be off to London or whatever. Good riddance.”

“I see.”

“What are you hinting at? That I ought to marry her just to cut you out of the inheritance. She’s a pretty enough chit, I’ll warrant you, but ignorant and untutored. Not only that but …” Rupert couldn’t finish his sentence.

“But what? Besides, if it’s just ignorance, you can fix it. She’s not dull, is she?”

“I wouldn’t know … she did enjoy my demonstration. The salt’s almost molten again. You really must leave now. These gases, they’re not good for you.”

“I know. More to the point, I can see the effects on you. That blonde streak is dashed attractive, but your face and that hoarse cough.”

Rupert ignored the persiflage and after donning his goggles and then his coat, opened a window. George shivered in the cold breeze. Rupert said, “I’m going to connect the voltaic pile. Best if you’re not here George.”

“As you say Gas.” George turned to leave.

“And I wish you wouldn’t use that name. My name is Rupert, in case you’ve forgot.”

“I don’t know.” George sniffed the fumes that were beginning to emanate from Rupert’s apparatus.  “Gas seems so fitting. Don’t kill yourself, nephew.”

“I won’t.”

After he left the room, George quickly found Mr Brindle. “Edward, can you send a page to the carriage-wright?”

“Sir?” Mr Brindle’s austere tone of voice reflected his disapproval of George’s over-familiarity. If he noticed it, George ignored it.

“Rupert said he’d paid the man to finish as soon as is possible. I’d like to delay that if I may.”

Edward gave him one of his rare smiles, “I see, Sir. It will be my pleasure. Mrs Hobbes and I were speculating last night. Are you certain you don’t wish to inherit this house?”

“Good Lord no. I have enough to manage as it is, and … to be honest, there are better ways to restore harmony in the family than waiting for Rupert to die. I mean, dash it all, he looked after me when we were at school together. Can’t let him keep making a hash of things.”

Edward bowed, his countenance restored to its usual impassivity. “I’ll see that the carriage repairs are delayed, My Lord. You’ll advance the needful?”

“Of course. Thank you and I suppose it is unnecessary for me to suggest that you converse with Mrs Hobbes? See if there is some way for her to encourage this gift of providence. Even if they don’t click, which granted is highly unlikely, I hope we can get him thinking about marriage again. At least out and about – meeting members of the fair company.”

“I shall attend to it, Sir. Now if you’ll excuse me.” Edward bowed, and then made his way to the servant’s quarters in a rapid, but surprisingly dignified pace.

George watched him depart, and then went to the library in search of writing material. Charity would be waiting to hear from him. He felt the gift or maybe the curse of poetry coming upon him. He found a writing desk, pulled out the chair and sat on it. As he looked up at one of the stuffed birds for inspiration he said, “Pity there aren’t many words that rhyme with Charity. Where she named Jane, Susan or even Mary, I could really spread myself. Still, I think she’ll be pleased to hear that good old Gas agrees to our wedding. Even if it will take blasting powder to get him there.”

He started writing, then paused and added, “Not that it would have mattered if he’d objected.”


Entailments were (and I suppose still are) a way of ensuring that property stays in the family. The entailment Rachel is labouring under is somewhat unusual – to an almost fictitious degree. However, the entailment of the estate for Rupert was a common form. Without male heirs, the estate would become the property of some (often distant) male relative.