Sunday Snippet, The Pilgrim Returns

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.  Last week Rupert explained about his previous work in chemistry

Mr Oliver returns in this snippet.

Consequences.


George’s confidence about seeing the last of Mr Oliver was sadly misplaced. The doorknocker banged early in the morning, echoing through the house. Mr Brindle hurried to answer.

A man in a General’s uniform spoke “Took you long enough.” He stood with a small squad of men and more importantly, Mr Oliver.

“Sir?”

“Call your master.”

“As you desire. Would you care to wait in the hall?”

“No. We’ll stay here.”

“As you wish. I shall summon Lord Hartshorne.” Mr Brindle turned and entered the building. Unfortunately, it meant that he missed seeing the General motion to his soldiers. The squad double-timed as they placed guards at all of the doors and in places where they could watch the ground floor windows.

A minute later Mr Brindle shuffled into the parlour where Rachel was breakfasting, “Ma’am.”

“Yes?”

“There are some gentlemen at the front door, Ma’am.”

“What about them?”

“They desire to see Lord Hartshorne, and I thought it best if you were aware. It might … be useful to have you there.”

A bleary-eyed and hastily dressed Rupert stumbled outside fifteen minutes later followed by Rachel and George. “Good morning General Byng,” he said, “What brings you to Oulten Hall so early on such a fine day?”

“Nothing good My Lord. Information has been laid that you are in possession of a large amount of explosive material. Unauthorized and illegal possession, I might add.”

Rupert scanned the men who remained in front. Mr Oliver was grinning. Rupert said, “Stuff and nonsense.”

“We shall see. Put it to the test with a search. Can’t have the revolutionaries getting their grubby hands on explosives. Bad enough if they have pitchforks and shotguns.”

“No you won’t.”

“I’m afraid this.” General Byng produced a sheet of paper that was adorned with a seal, “this is a search warrant. Not that we need it, but best to obey the formalities. Stand aside, Sir, while we search your dwelling.”

George demanded, “Let me see it.”

General Byng nodded to a soldier and with that; the man carried the document to him. George scanned it. “It’s not legal. Sir John should-”

Legal or not, George’s pronouncement had little effect. General Byng nodded to his command and was followed by the men when he charged inside. Mr Oliver gave George a slight bow, smiled at Rachel and followed. The men made their way from room to room, leaving little intact. The stuffed animals, mostly intact, joined piles of books, papers and journals in haphazard chaos on the floor in the library. The destruction was near total. Only the skeleton in the corner stood, though he was shorn of his drapery.


 

I’ve used Gilray cartoons, including the featured image above (about William of Orange (I put the wrong image up at first – it’s now correct)) to illustrate Regency and late Georgian life.

Gilray was a much better artist than his cartoons indicate. He visited the Flemish part of Holland (what would become Belgium after the 1830-31 rebellion). and drew realistic pictures.

flemish_characters_by_james_gillray flemish_characters_by_james_gillray_2

While the style is similar to his cartoons, there aren’t the political overtones that are in the cartoons.

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

Sunday Snippet, After the Ball.

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 previous snippet.

This week Rupert explains things.

After the Ball – What George Did.


Once the ball was finally over, in the carriage home, Rachel asked, “What happened to that man?”

“Mr Oliver?” George said, “I suggested that he make an early night of it.” He smiled, “rather forcefully I might add.”

“And Rupert, my love, you said you’d known him.”

Rupert hesitated; then said, “Yes … he offered me money … to see, make a copy of what I was doing for the army. I think it was when I refused that he introduced An- that woman to Lord Biddle.”

“What were you doing, Gas … Rupert that would be worth money?”

“I guess what I did is not really secret, the secret details aren’t interesting anyway. You’ve shot with one of those scent-bottle locks George.” Rupert stretched back in his seat, ready to be expansive.

“Dashed good gun. Yes. Faster and more reliable than my Manton.”

“The Army thought so too. Started working on them in the Tower Armoury. They came within aces’ aim of levelling the place with all the fulminate they made. Guy Fawkes would have been delighted. His Majesty less so.”

Rachel and George leaned forward to hear every word. George said, “I see. So…”

“So I worked on more stable fulminating mixtures. Oxymuriate of potash, various … fillers to make it more stable. I was, ah, more than moderately successful. Had the war dragged on, it would have made a big difference. General Shrapnel’s shells with my fuses, mayhaps on rockets. Torpedoes that exploded on contact. Can’t say too much more. It would have been ‘interesting’ to say the least.”

Rachel gasped, “So he was a French agent?”

“Maybe. More likely working for the highest bidder – French, American, those damned Prussians or even the Tsar.”

“Good Lord Nephew. I never knew. Just thought you were playing around.”

Rupert laughed, “I’m not saying it wasn’t fun, but I’m glad to work on safer things.”

Lucy, who had been quiet because she was tired and had consumed more than her share of the punch, said, “I bet Lady Hayforth is too.”


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?

Anyone who considers making sodium safe is either incredibly brave or incredibly foolish. I leave that decision to the reader.

I suppose the secret is finally out. Oxymuriate of potash is potassium chlorate. An interesting and um, somewhat explosive oxidizer. Spirits of Hartshorne is Nitric acid. Nitrates, and particularly organo-metallic nitrates are … unpleasantly unstable. They tend to complain violently about shock. In 1803 a brave and in my informed opinion exceedingly foolish chemist made mercury fulminate by mixing ethanol, mercury and nitric acid. It is something of a surprise that he died a natural death.

The British army, seeing the advantages of the pill-bottle locks – namely that they almost always work, won’t set your hair on fire like a flintlock, and are generally faster and more reliable – wanted to use them on an army-wide scale. The trouble is that Dr Forsythe’s original design used mercury fulminate and at the scale an army would require is especially dangerous. The armoury at the tower was nearly destroyed before they abandoned the idea.

The percussion caps of the American civil war (or earlier – the Crimean war) were a mixture of oximurate of potassium and sulfur. It worked and was far less dangerous than mercury fulminate. The same mixture was used in strike-anywhere matches until recently. The Native Americans used matches to re-prime cartridges during their long rebellion against those nasty european immigrants (us). It used to be possible to hit matches with a hammer and get a decided bang.

 

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

Sunday Snippet, more doings at the ball.

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. Last week  while at the dance, a slippery character from the past makes his first appearance.

It won’t be his last.

An unfortunate event at a ball, ctd.


“Clearly your father didn’t tell you. It was made shortly before his unfortunate demise.”

“All I know is you helped him spend his money. Left us to rusticate on a mortgaged estate that could barely support itself.”

“I shan’t ask much for a settlement, breech of promise is such an ugly idea. Very destructive of one’s reputation, even if it is ultimately voided.”

Rupert glanced at Rachel. She was pale, barely fighting off a faint.  He turned to the man and uttered “You puppy!” from his clenched mouth. Then turning to Rachel he said, “Rachel, let me help you to a seat.”

As they walked to the far side of the room, neither of them noticed the grim smile of satisfaction that coursed over Mr Oliver’s face. After Rupert had helped her to a seat, Rachel looked up and said, “Did you say you knew him, how?”

“That cad, that puppy, he carried the letters between Antonia and Lord Biddle.”

“Oh Lud! What a mull I’ve made.” Rachel put her face in her hands. “I wish that … that … that fellow were at Jericho.”

“What do you mean ‘I’ve made’? I fail to see that you’ve done anything.”

Rachel bit her lip and looked up at Rupert, tears forming in her eyes. “I didn’t know about him … him and that awful woman.”

“How could you know?”

“I suppose you’re right, I couldn’t have. Please believe me that I have no interest in seeing Mr Harding or Oliver or whatever he calls himself now ever again. His effrontery.”

Rupert shook his head sadly, “I know.”

“He really did lead my father to perdition with the dice box, faro table, and … I don’t know what all they did. My father caught an ague from some.” She stopped, unwilling to voice ‘barque of frailty.’ “That man played him for a jobberknowl until he was skint.”

“Don’t let that dandiprat cut up your peace.” Rupert paused, “Unless there is something you’re not telling me.”

“No. Well maybe. He did have some of my father’s vowels. They should have been settled with the estate. There could be something like those. Who knows what my father may have signed before he died. It was a desperate time, and he wasn’t truly in his right mind.”

The musicians chose this auspicious moment to start tuning their instruments for the next dance. Rupert bent down and took Rachel’s hand. “This dance is ours.”

“But?”

“We’ll talk later; I’ve had my dealings with that puppy, too. Not just with that woman.” Rupert led her to the middle of the floor where they started the line for the next dance. It felt to Rachel as if everyone in the room were staring at them. Sir John certainly was. Rupert bowed to him and said, “I should like to lead this dance, with my newly affianced wife.”

“Oh,” He laughed, “I guess you meant what you said.” Then he tapped on a glass and shouted to get attention. “Dear guests, before we begin, a toast – to our neighbour Lord Hartshorne and his intended. Newly engaged. May their marriage be long, and happy.”

Rachel thought, If it isn’t happy, it will certainly be long, then she shook her head and studied Rupert. It will be happy. I will make certain of that.

Mr Oliver started to object, when he felt a firm hand on his shoulder. It was George. “You, sir, are coming with me. This is the last time you will bother Lady Hayforth. Do I make myself clear?”

The dance started with both Rachel and Rupert lost in each other, both too overcome with emotions to say much.

Part way through the dance, George re-entered the room, dusting his hands. He strode to his host, Sir John and said, “That’s done. What in the world ever possessed you to invite such a rotter?”

“He’s the man of the moment. Helped break those revolutionaries in Pentridge, at great personal risk.”

“Knowing him, I doubt it.”

“I must remind you I’m the host, and General Byng will be most displeased when he hears of how you’ve treated his best agent. A real British hero.”

George indicated his lack of concern when he said, “If you say so. I don’t know the general well, but I’m good friends with his cousin Poodle. I think I can weather the storm.”


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?

Rupert is being truly the gentleman in this snippet. In a way I’m sorry that fate is waiting just around the corner for him with a stocking stuffed with sand – sand and a little fulminating salt. However, it will all work out in the end.

If you hadn’t cottoned on yet, there are hidden depths in George. Not everyone was good friends with a respected and moderately senior member of the foreign office (even if Poodle was officially a ‘clerk’).

By the way, “Pope Joan” is the card game they’re playing in the featured image and the nine of diamonds is the “Pope.” Though I do suspect there is a hidden meaning beyond that in the caption.

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

Sunday Snippet, at the ball.

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. This week they’re at the country dance mentioned in the last snippet.

An unfortunate event at a ball.


The orchestra, a pair of violinists, a bass and clarinet, struck up the first dance. Fortuitously it was a familiar country-dance in slow time because both Rupert and Rachel were out of practice. It also gave them time to converse, though most of the time Rupert smiled at his partner. Rachel thought It’s as if he can’t believe his good luck. When they finished, he said as he bowed, “Thank you. You must think I’m a poor conversationalist, but I was counting the figures. Wouldn’t do to disgrace you with an awkward partner.”

Rachel talked more during the next dance with George. He started, “I must admit you have made a difference in the poor lad. Good thing I suggested it.”

“You didn’t, you know. Just that I try to befriend him. Anyway he had guessed.”

“Observant little tyke, my nephew. Still.” The figures moved them apart. He continued when they came together again, “Still I am surprised that he proposed.”

“Or that I accepted?”

“That too.”

“To be honest, I refused at first. Hardly knowing him, but Miss Holloway pointed out the certain evils or my choice.”

“That you might not get another offer? He’s an odd one, Ma’am. Full of surprises. I didn’t know.” The figures intervened again, “I didn’t know about his work for the army. Old Gas making bangs.”

“Why should you have known about it?”

“Ah … I have my sources.”

Rachel studied George’s self-satisfied smile. What’s he mean by that? His sources.

Eventually the chords drew to a close and it was time for supper. Rupert claimed Rachel’s company from his uncle. Disaster struck. A strange man interrupted Rachel and Rupert as they walked together to the table where the refreshments were served. He was dressed in plain and simple clothes, but was clearly important. On the other hand, perhaps, it was clear that he thought he was important.

“Miss Heppleworth.” He bowed to her.

“Do I know you?”

“Surely you’ve not forgotten me so soon.”

Rachel studied him, “Mr Harding, out of fleet prison already; who paid your debts?”

“It’s Mr Oliver, Mr William Oliver. May I be introduced to your partner?”

Rupert’s face stiffened. “I believe we’ve met as well. How to you know my fiancée?”

Mr Harding or Oliver or indeed one of several other names chosen for convenience and anonymity bowed to him and said, “I knew her father, quite well. She was promised to me.”

“I wasn’t. Never.”


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 Pentrich Rising. 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). Mr Oliver or Harding (another alias he used) spent the three weeks prior to the march covering on horseback or carriage or foot an itinerary that would be difficult today. Leeds, London, Sheffield, Nottingham, and Derby within a few days, and with a stop off at General Byng’s camp to coordinate. Before trains or cars or any of those new-fangled means of transport.

I suppose Amelia’s and my inner lefty is showing because he’s one of the villains of the piece.

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

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.