So far I've thrown money at the SPLC.
As so many other people have been saying: if you've ever wondered what you would have done in 1936, when the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei was seizing control of the German government, or in 1965, as Dr. King was marching on Selma, now you know. It's what you're doing now.
It was the most delightful of pleasures to receive your letter and to hear that you had been safely delivered of a fine baby boy, that I daresay will be walking and talking by the time you receive this. What a very fine man Mr Lowndes sounds to be, I am most greatly sorry I never met him. It is immensely reassuring to me to think that you have the companionship of such an excellent lady with such wisdom in matters of maternity as Mrs Ferraby. I only hope that you do not go about to overdo, betwixt motherhood, your responsibilities towards your pupils, and your writing for Mr Lowndes’ paper.
But, indeed, I am not one to preach upon the matter, for I am quite constantly kept busy here: not only do I begin the Thornes’ dear children on the rudiments, but I continue to find a great desire for education among the convicts of our community, and a wish to have letters written by those that do not yet feel confident in writing them themselves, although there are now some few that have come on to be able to instruct their fellows. I also assist the Thornes with their observations.
And besides that,
Abby Mrs Thorne and I find ourselves assisting Mr Carter in matters of nursing the sick. I do not recollect whether I wrote to you before about Mr Carter? – he came to this land in the capacity of surgeon to the scientific expedition, but has fallen so in love with the country that he has determined to stay, to collaborate with the Thornes in their scientific enterprizes, and also to run a dispensary for our people. But I daresay even I had not mentioned this to you, you would have heard somewhat of the matter from Lady Bexbury, for we have applied to her for the provision of surgical instruments, drugs, &C, that are very hard to come by here. There is not a deal of injury and disease, for we practice sound measures of hygiene, but there will always be some accidents and ailments.
Mr Carter is a most excellent man, a most adept surgeon – oh, Lucy, I try to write of him in a sober fashion, but I must tell you, that we find ourselves in a most happy condition of mutual admiration, and purpose to marry very shortly. He is the dearest of fellows, and it is no wonder that he is so greatly esteemed by Mr and Mrs Thorne. Sure I have found myself, to my astonishment and sometimes embarrassment, courted by several gentlemen in this place, from government officers to free settlers, some of whom grow exceeding wealthy on the backs of sheep: but I have found none that I could like as much as Mr Carter.
He is the finest of men, has a most humane spirit – there is very bad treatment goes on of the aboriginal peoples of the land, that he has a great admiration for, saying that when he was with the scientific expedition all were most prepossessed with their abilities in tracking and hunting and finding sustenance in what appeared a barren wilderness, where the products of civilization would have wandered in circles, or sat down and waited for death. He is writing up a memorandum on the subject, and wondered if, did we send it to you when completed, Mr Lowndes might publish it?
Indeed those years with the Duggetts seem like some nightmare from which I have now awakened. I am sure you would laugh and teaze me unmercifully did I tell you how wonderful I find the Thornes; they are quite the finest companions one could have.
But I mind that there was a thing I meant to ask you, about whether there was any in your circles that might pursue the matter. There has lately come about these parts two gentlemen – I say gentlemen because although they show the effect of hardships and are burnt very brown by the sun, they are clearly well-bred educated fellows does one speak to them – Mr Perry and Mr Derringe, that have some intention to set up a school for boys, for there is a considerable desire among the settlers &C to have their sons educated as gentlemen. While they go about to raise interest for this enterprize, they undertake some private tutoring. And one day came to us Mr Perry, half-carrying Mr Derringe that had some fever or other about him, seeking Mr Carter’s aid in this extremity.
We have a few beds attached to the dispensary, and he was laid in one of them, and examined by Mr Carter, who determined that ‘twas some fever very like unto the mala aria: most fortunate he keeps some fever bark about the dispensary, so quite immediate went about preparing a tincture. Meanwhile, he desired me to sponge the fellow to cool his fever.
So I went about this, and Mr Carter managed to convey him some of the tincture, and he seemed a little better, but then Mr Carter was called away, and said to me, dear Miss Netherne, would you greatly mind sitting by Mr Derringe and continuing to sponge him and keep him quiet, giving him a little of the tincture every few hours? Why, said I, I was about to ask was there anything I might do, so he left me with careful instructions.
I sat by Mr Derringe for some hours, and it seemed to me that he was troubled in his mind, and it did not seem entire delirium, and in due course he disclosed to me very halting and in between shivering fits, that he had on his conscience that he had allowed a young lady to whom he was affianced to suppose that he was dead of a fever in the South Seas, and it would have been a better and more honourable course to communicate to her that he had found that he was such a fellow as would not make her a good husband and thus set her at liberty with no obligation to mourn. She was, he said, a Miss Fenster, her father was the vicar of Upper Stobbing.
So to reassure him I said that the Thornes and I had numerous connexions in England that might be able to go about to find the present condition of the lady, but was it not like that she had by now married another? Very like, he said, she was a quite excellent young woman. So, dear Lucy, I write to you to ask are there any in your circles might go about with discretion to discover the present whereabouts of this lady, for it is clear that the business continues to prey upon Mr Derringe’s mind even though he has recovered from his fever, and Mr Carter fears 'twill bring about some relapse.
Oh, my dear Lucy, the only spot upon my happiness is that you may not be present at my wedding, that Mr Thorne will perform, and that I cannot see you and little Andrew and your excellent husband. Please convey my very greatest respects to Mr and Mrs Ferraby and to Lady Bexbury, that great patroness of our enterprize here: oh what a foolish misguided narrow-minded creature I was to so misjudge her fine qualities.
With every affection, your loving sister, Ellie
In ascending order by kudos
Better When Aged - I seem to have written Darla/Rupert Giles! I'd forgotten all about it. Apparently it was for bruttimabuoni, which suggests it might have been that one year I did Christmas drabbles? Anyway, it's set during the pilot and is awfully fun - I wouldn't mind seeing more of those two together.
A Wyndam-Pryce Tradition. So once upon a time an enterprising soul tried to start a Buffyverse kinkmeme. The problem was that nobody in Buffy fandom had any idea how kinkmemes worked. For example, someone prompted "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, solo" and I wrote a fic about Wes on his first vampire hunt. (I'm also not sure most of us were self-aware enough to know what kinks where, although it's possible I'm projecting a lot there.) It's... fine? This might be the only time I have ever written Wes, come to think of it.
Abandon Hope (the Mary Quite Contrary mix). This is the one and only remix I've ever written, and it was like PULLING. TEETH. Hence why I have never written another. But if you fancy a character study of Drusilla, trippy dark queen of my heart, via drabbles, this fic is here for you. I think it turned out rather well, considering how torturous it was to write. The drabble about Dawn is my favorite. I also like the soul/wineskin parallels. One of the reasons I always enjoyed writing Dru was how I could use Christian language and metaphors with her.
Two Suckers in an Icebox - the only abandoned WIP I have in namespace. It's Faith/Giles in a post-apocalyptic world that I also wrote about in Oz, After the Apocalypse, and I could never figure out where it needed to go, alas.
Lacking. This is actually my FIRST EVER Buffy fic which I wrote almost immediately after seeing 5.07 Fool for Love. Quite frankly it's the kind of plotless meandering thing people mean when they say they don't like character studies, but I was tickled to rediscover it anyway, because: first fic. :')
Bonus: a sonnet by Spike, circa S6, which doesn't technically have enough words to appear but otherwise qualifies. I am to this day, eight years later, super freaking proud of this sonnet.
Probably it will rain all day, but at least I can say I tried.
So instead of books, since I will be doing a lot of driving in the middle of nowhere, my question this week is: What songs are on your eclipse playlist? "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "The Sun Is A Miasma of Incandescent Plasma", obviously. But what else?
I have been working on the book collection, though! I went through and re-did my to-read lists, of which there are three: one on the library website, which has 300 books on it, of books the library has; the Goodreads one, which includes only books my library doesn't have and has about 250; and ~2500 owned-but-unread, so that's totally doable at my current rate as long as I never add any more to any of the three lists.
(Anybody want to be goodreads friends, by the way? if we aren't already, drop me a line. my gr is connected to my rl so I don't link it here but I will def. add people.)
Me and Mom also cleaned out the cookbooks over the weekend, which was fun! We both agreed on keeping the ones that had some kind of sentimental value to the family, of course. ( food, cooking, and diet as expressed in a collection of second-half-of-twentieth-century cookbooks. )
We got rid of about fifty cookery books. There's only about 200 left. That't TOTALLY reasonable for a family of two that cooks an actual meal at most twice a week, and usually from recipes we know by heart, right?
On some level, clouds in August - or all of summer, really - is just wrong to me. It makes me think it's late September, and turns every day of the week into Thursday.
So I did my best to stay active, and cleaned out and got rid of a bunch of stuff hanging around my apartment. Mostly papers, with a little garbage and no small amount of dust. Spreading it out onto my bed and forcing myself to look at everything was a big help in terms of making practical assessments. Most of it was done to Hawaii 5-0, which somehow makes for ideal apartment-cleaning TV.
( General likes/dislikes )
( MCU / Guardians of the Galaxy – fic, art )
( Marvel 616 - fic )
( Stranger Things – fic, art )
( Frostbite (Comic) – fic, art )
* I just found out that Kraglin, the guy from Yondu's ship, is director James Gunn's brother. This was very weird to realize. And he looks so normal on his wikipedia page! And kind of cute!
* It took me so long to find porn fic that actually served its intended purpose for me. When I finally found some, I was like, "Oh, is this why people write so much porn?!" It was such a novel experience. But the chances of me just stumbling across my kinks in the wild are next to nil, so in the meantime I still read around the edges of a lot of PWPs, hoping for feelings.
* I don't know if this is going to make any sense, but: I think Stephen King tricked me into reading literary fiction. His books are so much closer to literary fiction (as a marketing genre) than anything else I regularly read. The care he takes with characters and with the details of everyday life feels nearer in spirit to the kind of stuff I used to read in lit class than it does to the SF or fantasy or historicals or even other horror-type work that I read. It's just that most people don't notice because he puts monsters in them - monsters which he isn't actually particularly good at, in my opinion. And his worldbuilding is paper-thin. But his characters, my gosh.
* Do people still like to hear about comics? I've read a ton of Image/Dark Horse/other indy comics lately, but IDK if anyone cares anymore.
Sometime after I got back to Manhattan, I realized there was a bit of sadness to the day too: I had to retire one of my rings. One of my favorites, to be honest. The little lizard pinkie ring I bought almost thirteen years ago to the day, back in August of 2004 in the Yerba Buena Gardens during a Philippine arts and culture festival just after I moved to San Francisco for college, worn until August of 2017 when the ring finally began to wear thin enough I'm worried it'll snap in two. So I took it off, kissed it, and put it away. I'm adjusting to a different one now. It's got leaves, but no little lizard face.
I can replace it easily enough - it's a common enough design that just looking up "lizard toe ring" on Google gets me the same thing right away, like right here. But it won't be the one I used to wear, and I'm hesitant to look into repair shops because it'd be so easy to replace it might not get taken seriously.
And though I wish I still had a smiling little lizard on my hand, it's not yet broken. I can take comfort in knowing it's not broken, or lost. In threat of those, but I didn't let that happen. I took it off and now it's put someplace for safekeeping. It saw me through a lot of adventures, like the one I had today, running to catch the ferry back, riding up front and feeling a bit of spray on my face and stepping away from my life to enjoy the world for a while.
So I guess, with this new ring, I start over again tomorrow.
Geoffrey’s confusion over the owner of the library brings to Sandy’s mind that there are still several trunks of his stored somewhere about the house, containing his own books and other matters, and does he intend staying here, he might unpack them and see is there some place he might keep them more convenient.
He mentions this to Clorinda. O, indeed, she cries, I daresay one might put up more shelves in the library, mayhap a few about your chamber – I wonder might we come about to make a study for you –
No, no, I am quite contented to be about philosophizing in the library –
Do I not disturb you am I in and out?
Not in the least, dearest Clorinda. And, my dear, do I continue to be part of this household, you have been treating me entirely as a guest in Liberty Hall, but I should wish to pay my way -
Clorinda looks as if she might object, and then says, with a lopsided smile, that sure he would not wish to be a kept man and 'twould be somewhat to reassure the dear children that he does not take advantage of a poor lonesome creature –
Exactly. I do not wish to acquire the reputation of a parasite.
O, poo. But let us go summon Hector about this matter of shelves: I doubt not he will say that do we have carpenters in there are other matters that would require their attention.
This is indeed so. Hector also shows some disposition towards bringing down the trunks from the attic in which they are stored for Sandy’s examination, but is finally prevailed upon to concede that this may take place in the attic, and only such matters as turn out to be required need be brought down.
So the next morn, he ascends to the attic and looks at the boxes that hold his past life, and tells himself that he must be philosophical about the business, for it is entirely foolish to leave all these things stowed away.
And is almost undone at the outset, flinging open a lid and finding, resting on top of everything, his worn volume of Burns’ poems. That had been with him so long and to so many places, and from which he had read at so many gatherings.
He picks it up as if it might bite. Closes his eyes and lets it fall open (entire superstition) and then opens his eyes to read
Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met or never parted,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.
Tears spring to his eyes, as he is overwhelmed by the memories of how indeed he and Gervase had loved so kindly, had enjoyed happiness for so many years in a world so very hostile to men like them. And he would not have given that up in spite of the grief he feels now. Gervase at his fencing practice. Gervase frowning thoughtfully at his mirrored reflection and adjusting his cravat. Gervase teaching him to dance. Gervase clinging to him in the aftermath of nightmare. Gervase’s face when he returned from Naples. Gervase laughing at some sally of Clorinda’s. Gervase practising a speech so that he might give it in the Lords without stammering. Gervase in that masquerade costume as a Jacobite out of Scott.
He lets the memories flood over him.
Some hours later, though he has not quite finished the task, for each box opened releases further clouds of memories, the antithesis of the evils that emerged from Pandora’s box, he goes downstairs to the parlour, clutching the volume of Burns in his hand.
Clorinda looks up. You have cobwebs in your hair, o bello scozzese. She stands up and comes over and reaches up to brush them away.
Listen! he says, and begins to read the lines to her, realising as he does so that his voice is softening out of the English intonation it has acquired over the years –
- and Clorinda bursts into heaving sobs quite unlike the affecting tearfulness she will sometimes manifest, and leaning on his chest, gasps out, O, Sandy, I miss them so much.
He puts his arms around her, reminded of the time she disclosed in similar fashion that she was with child. Dear Clorinda, he says.
At length her sobs diminish and she leans away from him, fumbling for her handkerchief, blowing her nose, and making apologies, saying, La, you are not obliged to endeavour go soothe a lady that succumbs to a fit of hysterics.
He hugs her to him again and says, Perchance it might ease your mind to talk sometimes of happy times with one that knows somewhat of the inwardness?
She gives a shaky laugh and says, Fie, Mr MacDonald, I confide you would be mightily shocked did I so.
Must be of considerable philosophical and scientific interest, he says.
They both fall into a fit of somewhat hysterical giggling.
Clorinda sits down and dabs at her eyes and says, does she look calm enough that the household will not get into a fret does any observe her? For she confides that they could both do with some good strong coffee.
When she has tidied herself a little she rings the bell to request coffee.
As they sit drinking it, he looks across at his friend and says, Dearest Clorinda, I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is not that strange? Sure I do not know how I would have contrived without you. You have always been so kind to one that I fear can be a very tiresome fellow.
La, my dear, you have ever shown more than civil to a silly creature of no education, spoke to me as if I was a rational being, been the kindest of friends. Sure we have been through a deal of difficulties together: though none, she adds thoughtfully, as trying as this present one.
They both sigh and gaze mournfully into their cups. And then look up again and smile at one another.
The door opens and Josh comes in, dishevelled and weary-eyed. I have, he says, been attending upon the accouchement of Lady Raxdell’s wanton doggie. Do we know any that would like a puppy of extreme dubious ancestry?
Why, says, Clorinda, let us go think over those of our acquaintance that have children that would greatly desire a puppy, and would not go be nice over matters of breeding -
The two men look at her fondly and smile.
- I suppose one cannot yet tell are they like to be fine ratters, sure Sam will always be glad of ratters for the stables – but I could not offer take one myself, Motley and Fribble would object most vehement –
Through the half-open door Prue can be heard singing hymns about her work - I woke: the dungeon flamed with light.
And Sandy thinks that his own dungeon of loss does not flame yet with light: but there is the small steady candle of Clorinda’s love and concern driving away the worst of the shadows.
Somehow, he is not sure how, he cannot feel that he has made some definite decision in the matter, it seems easier to do than not to, Sandy finds himself dining somewhat more frequently than once a week with Geoffrey Merrett. Occasionally he thinks that there is somewhat ironic about this arrangement: for is that not what he at first supposed there was with Gervase? A matter of convenience for two fellows of like desires to gratify them most discreet. It is only now that he apprehends what a difference there was.
He is sitting having a peaceful quiet evening with Clorinda, both of them reading, and he looks up and says, somewhat to his own surprize, that he cannot fathom how that trick of substituting one person for another in bed could work –
Well, my dear, I think we may suppose that Angelo had not had carnal knowledge of Mariana, nor Bertram of Helena, and that both encounters took place in the dark. And perchance there was a matter of sprinkling with some perfume – she gives a small private smile – that was that of one lady rather than another. But sure one would suppose that Count Almaviva would know his own wife! Indeed, 'tis like the convention that does one put on a domino, even one’s intimates will be deceived.
I am not persuaded, she goes on, that 'tis entire true that all cats are grey at night - for there are other distinctions in the matter, the size, the length of the hair, do they have an ear missing, the sound of the purring – by which one might distinguish one cat from another even in the dark. Should never confuse Motley with Fribble.
He smiles at her.
It begins to dawn upon him that Geoffrey is not taking the matter in the same prudential spirit as himself. Will mention gentlemen that have set up a joint household for the convenience and economy of the thing – says that he dares suppose they may see a deal of one another over the summer even is Society out of Town, for he hears that Sandy is invited to Dambert Chase? And he is sure that he can prevail upon his brother to extend an invitation to Monks Garrowby – sure there are opportunities they may make –
He does not know why this should cast him into such gloom, but it does so. Had been thinking of the invitation to Hampshire, where he might talk classics with Lady Jane, and the latest discoveries in science with Jacob Samuels, and whatever came into Martha Samuels' head. And watch Raoul de Clérault painting, and would all be soothing to his spirits. At Dambert Chase it was the prospect of good talk with Tony Offgrange, walks to the Rectory and fine conversation with the Lucases. Not spaniel devotion –
My dear, says Clorinda one morn as they are at the breakfast table, I should not be perturbed did I see the dour Calvinistical glare, but latterly you look most extreme miserable – not, she goes on, that I should expect you to look lightsome and cheerful, but you do appear out of the common distressed about somewhat. Was you not a freethinker I should suppose you had come to some consideration that you were eternally damned.
Dear sibyl, he says at length, I am in an entire muddle, but you have disentangled mayhap worse muddles of mine in former days. And proceeds to lay the matter before her.
Clorinda begins to laugh quite immoderate, and then forces herself into sobriety. My dear, I do not laugh at you and your predicament, but I daresay I should disclose that some years ago Mr Merrett asked for my hand in marriage –
La, I had shown kind to him, and perchance – 'twas a time when Society was but slowly returning to Town, you and Milord had gone that jaunt to the Highlands, there was some matter to do with the ironworks detained my darlings from their return – I paid him a little more attention than I might otherwise have done. And listened most sympathetic to the account of his very particular difficulties, &C. And it came to him that marrying a lady that knew what's what and had seen life might answer, for these young women on the marriage market are very ignorant and one could not raise the matter before the wedding –
Indeed, Sandy finds himself surprized into laughter. Did he so? he gasps at length.
Clorinda puts on a demure expression. He did so. So, I said that I apprehended that he would claim a certain liberty within those bonds, and sure, was I ever minded to remarry, should desire a similar liberty, would tie up my fortune, and moreover the profession have give it out that I am unlike to see increase but that might be of no moment to him –
To be just, she adds, I do not think he had any particular thought to my pleasing competence; but he then looked at me and I think went consider what 'twould mean to marry a woman with a mind and will of her own that has seen the things I have seen, and that we had had a most agreeable and amusing interlude but that marriage was a very different proposition.
You were not obliged to go about as you did with that fellow Croce in Naples?
Clorinda giggles and says, most fortunately, no. But, she goes on, putting on a serious expression, I think I must go speak to Mr Merrett, about taking advantage of a fellow that still grieves – for indeed, 'tis like unto widows, that may show pliant to suitors not because they are so used to having a man, as idle tongues will have it, but because they are in a daze.
What, I am a readily beguiled widow?
Dearest Sandy, you were together with Milord nigh upon thirty years. 'Twould reflect poorly upon the both of you did you not mourn. But 'tis the worse for you that you may not show it, dress in weeds, eschew society, &C –
You must know somewhat of that.
'Tis true, she says a little tearfully, but I had my good people about me, took care of me. But I will go write Mr Merrett a note desiring him to call upon me. Can be nothing exceptionable in summoning him: I daresay he will suppose I wish put some deserving case in his way. I might also go suggest to him that although his family quite accepts the pretty devotion of the Ladies of Attervale, might be somewhat of a different matter when 'tis gentlemen –
Do you go tell me that Lady Emily and Miss Fenster are of the Sapphic disposition?
La, my dear, had you not guessed?
Indeed I am a fool, dear sibyl, but - sure women are entire a mystery to me.
O, poo, Mr MacDonald, sure you have not been immured in some monastery, you have several good female friends, women cannot be so entire a mystery to you –
Oh, I see what 'tis – I do not think women of them, I think Hannah or Lady Jane or Susannah Wallace.
She smiles at him. Did you not, o, many years ago, write to me of those among your peripatetic philosophical set that talked of women as if they had never met one and as if they were some rare creature of which they had heard report? There are indeed certain aspects of women you have not encountered, but as a sex they are not strangers to you.
I will also concede, he says, that I have at times been out in my judgements of my own sex.
They smile at one another.
Sandy is greatly tempted to be out of the house when Geoffrey Merrett calls, but merely goes seclude himself in the library. Where he finds himself in a considerable curiosity as to what Clorinda is telling him, indeed is unable to settle to anything.
At length, Hector comes in to ask whether he is at home to Mr Merrett?
It would be cowardly, unmanly and a little cruel to shirk this interview.
Comes in Geoffrey most chastened and quite abject apologetic for the very poor ton he has manifested. Alas, the admiration he had so long borne towards Mr MacDonald led him into this unmannerly imposition.
This is so pretty and touching a sight that Sandy pulls Geoffrey into his arms, kisses him fondly and apologises that he himself, alas, is yet unable to love again.
Indeed, cries Geoffrey, how could it be otherwise?
(Sandy wonders, not for the first time, whether Gervase had succumbed to that melting adoration during that time the two of them were so horribly at outs and he had fled to Naples to beg Clorinda to return to her wonted haunts. Fencing lessons – instruction in driving – considerable opportunities. )
But, he continues, perchance, someday - ?
Sandy makes some non-committal reply. Adoration and admiration are all very well, but he cannot envision Geoffrey teazing him out of his gloomy moods, or having Gervase’s way of dealing with a dour Calvinistical glare.
Geoffrey steps back and looks about their surroundings. I see you have your library around you already.
'Tis Lady Bexbury's, he says.
Oh – an inheritance from her late husband?
(It pleases Sandy more than it should to apprehend that Mr Merrett may have shared Clorinda’s bed – in a far more conventional sense than he himself ever has – but has no notion that she is a lady keeps a fine library for use rather than ornament.)
The F winner was Truckers, which is good, since I went from thinking about urban fantasy tropes to reading old Marcone/Dresden fic to reading all the Vimes/Vetinari(/Sybil) fic to reading all the Watch books to working on that prompt about the First Sedoretu of Ankh-Morpork.
(Finally reading Snuff was what convinced that that okay, Vimes could manage to be married to Margolotta, they have many things in common and also he can see in the dark now and she and Sybil as pen pals is canon, so.)
...which also explains why I still don't have any more reviews for you, oops.
But! We have made it to FMK #20! Which means another non-SF option! This week: Holmesiania.
How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.
I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.
Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)
( Poll: Chabon, Douglas, Estleman, Gardner, Gilbert, Hall, King, Kurland, LeBlanc, Meyer, Peacock, Smith, Springer, Stout, Thomas, anthologies )
Sandy has already made the deduction that although Josh lacks those feelings of aversion towards carnal embraces with his own sex that are so dreadfully common, his inclinations are predominantly towards the fairer one. It is therefore with somewhat of a bitter amusement that he discovers himself feeling some resentment, not on his own behalf but on that of Hannah, when Josh begins to spend a deal of time in the company of the Dowager Duchess of Humpleforth, and he cannot suppose that their discourse is entirely concerned with the fauna of India and the habits of the mongoose.
He mentions the matter to Clorinda. Who smiles and says, sure freedom in the heart’s affections may be claimed by men as a license to be amorous butterflies and commit seductions – one may recall that dreadful fellow Herr Paffenrath, that indeed, one still hears occasional intelligence of and thus can never be presumed dead so his poor wife might be released (Gretchen Paffenrath, he collects, was left very comfortably situated upon the demise of the late Mr Knowles) – but my dear, women may also follow that creed, sure I am no entire unique creature.
And, she goes on, Julia is a childless widow of considerable fortune that was married to a doating but somewhat tedious elderly husband, I do not suppose that mongeese take up all her heart. Can do her no harm to be seen as a patroness of a famed explorer and zoologist.
Do you think so, dearest Clorinda, I will defer to your fabled understanding of the human heart –
- O, poo, Mr MacDonald, you take advantage that I have no fan in hand to smite flatterers –
- provided that you are assured that Hannah will not be upset in the matter. (How easy it is, he realizes, to slip back into their old teazing converse.)
I confide not. 'Tis very pretty in you to be concerned for her.
She is an excellent young woman, he says.
You do not need convince me of her merits! and, by way of an association by pun, is’t not tonight you go dine with that beacon of the Bar, Mr Geoffrey Merrett?
Indeed it is: and, why, dear silly creature, should that make you smile thus?
I cannot imagine what you mean: how is’t that I smile? And why should I not smile do you go dine with a fellow that has ever had the greatest admiration for you?
But, somehow, the quite antient joke about the Honble Geoffrey’s very great, positively worshipful, admiration for him no longer seems as amusing as it used to be.
It is, perhaps, a little to wonder at that so eligible a bachelor as Mr Merrett has not yet married: brother of the Earl of Nuttenford, a most highly-spoke of barrister, exceeding well-looking, a good deal of address…
And not indifferent to the charms of womanhood, does gossip not lie –
But indeed, 'tis a topic Mr Merrett has no hesitation in raising himself when making entire unnecessary apologies for his bachelor establishment: indeed, marriage may be an excellent fine thing, but he takes the thought that one marries, and there are a deal of social obligations, and then one has to keep up a certain style of living, and the next thing one knows is that one is taking on cases because they will be well-remunerated, and not because of the justice of the thing –
(For indeed, Mr Merrett already has a reputation for taking on cases that will not be remunerative, but will defend the defenceless; it is entirely admirable in him.)
- and furthermore, he has been brought to an apprehension of the very inequitable nature of marriage, he cannot suppose that MacDonald has not read the very fine writings of the youngest Miss Ferraby and Miss Roberts upon the subject, gives men a deal of quite tyrannical power; but does one consider a free union, may have quite the most adverse effects for the woman and any offspring unless one goes live among Owenites or such –
The port – it is really most excellent port – has been back and forth several times. There are also excellent cigars.
- and then – the eloquence falters for a little while – there are also matters of the exclusiveness that goes with that institution, that may trouble one.
Oh? says Sandy, raising his eyebrows.
Not that I incline to the vulgar way that my father went on –
Why, responds Sandy, he was at least discreet in his pleasures, could have been a deal worse.
’Tis true, but one cannot like the way he went about the business. And surely 'tis possible to have affection for more than one –
(Sandy cannot see how this follows, but he listens on.)
And perchance there might be one that, in the present state of society, one may not offer those open manifestations of feeling approved by convention –
Because, suggests Sandy, those feelings are looked on with great severity by the law?
I see you apprehend me, says the Honble Geoffrey, pouring himself more port and pushing the decanter across the table. And yet one sees that although there are very degraded manifestations of such feelings – alas, have I not seen evidence of that in the courtroom? – they may also rise to quite the highest form of human affection.
My dear Merrett, says Sandy in his driest tones, you do not need to convince me. You are of sufficient acuity to have deduced how matters stood 'twixt myself and Lord Raxdell.
Indeed, 'twas an entirely admirable thing. Sure he is a great loss.
Sandy pours himself another glass of port to have somewhat to do, and then takes and lights a cigar. Immense, he says at length.
There must have been some other words between them? How is it – how many times did the port go to and fro? – that the Honble Geoffrey Merrett is kneeling before him and giving considerable proof that this is by no means the first time he has done the like. And Sandy finds parts of him entire relishing the procedure, he cannot claim any reluctant shrinking. 'Twould be the poorest of ton to call a halt to the matter –
And sure 'twould be in the poorest of ton not to provide some reciprocation –
And 'tis morning when he leaves, having – somehow – promised to dine again within the week, and yet feeling a cloud of gloomy despondency settling over him as he walks – 'tis light, the streets these days are a deal safer, he feels that he needs the exercise –
The cloud will not be outrun.
It is with relief that he comes at last to Clorinda’s door.
Hector looks not in the least discomposed by his arrival, and says that Her Ladyship is breakfasting in the parlour, does he care to join her.
He can hear that Clorinda is not alone, but supposes that her companion must be Josh.
But going in, sees that across the table from her, eating a mutton-chop, is Matt Johnson.
Clorinda looks around. Do sit down, Sandy, I confide Hector has gone bustle Euphemia into bringing more food and fresh coffee.
Matt Johnson grins and says, Hector is an even braver fellow than he supposed does he dare bustle Euphemia. A fine formidable woman.
Sandy sits down and says, is there some trouble?
La, says Clorinda, must it ever be some matter of trouble brings Mr Johnson to our door? Was simply passing by and called see how we did.
Matt looks somewhat relieved at this account, and then Euphemia comes in with devilled kidneys and more eggs and a pot of fresh coffee.
As he eats and drinks coffee he finds himself looking from one to the other of them and wondering. Could it really be - ? Clorinda in her wrapper, Matt very much at his ease, and indeed, there has been a certain sympathy betwixt the two of them ever since their first meeting.
In due course Matt takes his leave.
Just passing by? asks Sandy.
Clorinda sighs. I hope, o bello scozzese, you are not going to turn upon me a frown quite worthy of John Knox and chide me for my wanton behaviour –
Sure I should be quite the greatest hypocrite did I so, but –
La, is not rank but the guinea’s stamp, and are not my own origins humble indeed? But, my dear, is’t so?
He sighs. Indeed it is.