Sunday, July 6, 2014

Another bit of draft text from Charlotte

This doesn't give any spoilers away. 

7. More Doings in Bath

Freddy may have entered the upper assembly rooms with his sister, but he didn't have to dance with her. They arrived early in the evening, but not too early to catch Charlotte dancing with her new friend, Mr. Christie. Freddy dryly commented to Elizabeth, “I see Miss DeVere has found a friend.”
“That's Mr. Christie, Mrs. Jones' younger brother.”
“What's the problem, Freddy?”
“I don't know. I shouldn't care who she dances with, should I?”
“It's not as if you and her are the best of friends, is it?”
“No. Well not yet.”
The set ended and Charlotte found Elizabeth. “Lizzy, I'm so glad you,” she paused, suddenly shy and unsure of what to say, “and your brother could make it.”
“I said I'd be here, so here I am.”
Freddy asked Charlotte, “Have you heard any more music that you liked?”
“Not since the concert two nights ago. I try to avoid listening to the ballad singers in the street. They're vulgar and worse they usually can't hold the tune.”
“How true, I was thinking of dance music.”
“Dance music?”
“Would you do me the honor of the next set?”
Charlotte blushed, then shyly replied, “If you would like.”
“I would, if just to show you that we can dance in perfect civility.”
“Oh please forget that time Mr. Oswith. I was not at my best, and, well,” she paused, considering how to delicately imply apology without apologizing, “I didn't know you so well then.”
“The couples are forming, please come and join the line with me.”
Elizabeth added her voice to her brothers, “Do go, while we stand here stupidly talking, I can't look for a partner myself.”
Elizabeth didn't have to look for long. Mr. Christie came up and asked if he might have the pleasure of the next set. She replied that it would be her pleasure. He continued and asked her, “How close are you and Mr. Oswith?”
“I was wondering if.”
“I hope you're not asking me to find you a position with his firm. Because if that's so, our conversation is over.”
Mr. Christie stammered, “N-n-no. I was wondering if you would care for a glass of punch while we wait for the set to finish.”
“Thank you, let's.”
Early the next morning, Freddy as he warned, left Bath to attend to business issues. Elizabeth felt a bit downhearted at seeing him go, but decided she would look for her friends. Though she wouldn't look immediately as they were usually much later at rising than she was.
While Dr. Answorth was consuming his prescribed morning dose of the hot sulfurous brew dispensed in the pump room, Miss DeVere and Mrs. Answorth were introduced to a distinguished looking woman of an uncertain age. She wore fine clothes, was heavily powdered with rouged cheeks and wore a colored wig over her close cropped gray hair. The woman began,“Why Mrs. Answorth, what brings you to Bath?”
Seeing that Mrs. Answorth did not quite recognize her, she continued, “It seems so long since we met, but it was only last year. Have you been keeping well? No don't answer for I can see that you have.”
Mrs. Answorth searched her memory and put a name to the face. “Are you Carol? Lady Chalfield?”
“The same.”
“It has been a long time since we last met. You should visit us more often, Chalfield isn't far from Staverton. What brings you to Bath?”
“The waters, and the company. London is so gauche nowadays. I don't know why I spend so much time there.”
“My husband, Dr. Answorth is here for his gout.” She pointed to Dr. Answorth as he grimaced and tried to swallow more of the water. The doctors at the Rheumatic hospital kept that part of his regime, stopped the long hot baths, discontinued the dose of rhubarb ater, and gave him a very small amount of a tincture of the autumn crocus, a novel treatment from Vienna. It seemed to be working.
“Is that so? Mine has long since departed to meet his maker. I suppose that is why I spend so much time on diversions in London.”
Mrs. Answorth remembered Lady Chalfield as a flighty young woman who lived a life dedicated to amusement and pleasure. Both her and her husband especially enjoyed the pleasure of gambling. She replied, “Diversions? Surely by now you have begun to settle down, to reflect on life.”
“I still feel the need for entertainment, it helps the time pass. Otherwise, life would be so tedious and dreary. Who is this beautiful young lass that you have attending you?”
“Miss Charlotte DeVere, Lord Staverton's daughter. She has been kindly lending us her continence.”
Lady Chalfield immediately attached herself to Miss DeVere with an inspired devotion. Her devotion was inspired by her fond remembrances of Lord Staverton. He was a sure mark for a sucker-bet, and remarkably generous when he was in funds. She hoped his daughter was a similarly inclined. One way for her to find out was to talk with Charlotte and see if she had a similar combination of soft head and warm heart.
“Miss DeVere, I knew your father and mother. Back in the '90's.”
“Really? I barely remember my mother. She died when I was not long out of leading strings. You must tell me about her.”
“She was one of my best friends. Both she and your father.”
Charlotte's naive response played right into Lady Chalfield's wishes. “What did you do together?”
“We went to parties, at homes, rode in Hyde park, all the thing's society does in London.”
“I've never been to London, I'd like to see the sights. See where they lived.”
“Miss DeVere, next week I am headed to London. Would you like accompany me? You can stay in my town house.”
“I would love to, but I should ask my companions, Dr. and Mrs. Answorth.”
Elizabeth came into the pump room in search of Charlotte. “Miss DeVere, I hoped I would find you here. Would you like to ride up Claverton Down this afternoon, maybe a bit beyond if we have the time?”
Charlotte introduced her friend to Lady Chalfield. “Lady Chalfield, this is Miss Elizabeth Oswith.”
The two women coldly examined each other. Lady Chalfield, because she knew that any of the Oswiths was a difficult nut to crack, and Elizabeth because Lady Chalfield plainly bore all the hallmarks of an adventuress. She had met more than enough of them in London for her tastes, and found it highly unpleasant to run into one in Bath. Lady Chalfield was the first to speak. “Miss Oswith, I was just telling your friend that I knew her parents, and invited her to stay in London with me next week.”
“Really, have you met mine?”
“Maybe, but I don't mix in social circles that are below my rank.”
Elizabeth gave her an ambiguous response, “Neither do I.”
Charlotte replied to Elizabeth, “I'd love to come riding with you.” Then she asked Lady Chalfield, “Did you wish for my company this afternoon?”
Lady Chalfield replied, “Go ride with your friend, my pretty one. There is plenty of time to arrange our trip later. There is so much I should discuss with my old friend Mrs. Answorth.”

Riding together up the Claverton Down with Elizabeth's groom discretely in tow, Charlotte turned to Elizabeth and asked her, “Lizzy, I had the impression that you were not overjoyed to meet Lady Chalfield. Why is that?”
“Nothing I can say directly, with those manners, that dress and that horrible wig she doesn't move in the first circles of London society, at least not the parts of those circles I inhabit.”
“You move in the first circles?”
Elizabeth blushed, “Well, Charlotte, I think I do, or at least as much as I want to.”
“As much as you want? Why wouldn't you want to do?”
“I don't gamble, at least not for real stakes in a gambling hell. When I'm there, Freddy and I get invited to so many balls and 'at homes', that I have to turn some down.”
“Turn down an invitation?”
“It's either that or be very rude and just show up for a few minutes, then leave.”
“I do wish I could persuade Lady Chalfield to invite you to come with me.”
“You can try, but I doubt you'll succeed.”
“Oh, but you were so helpful here in Bath, and London is ever so much bigger. I'd be lost without a friend.”
They looked out over Bath from the top of the down. Elizabeth replied, “There is nowhere near London where you get such a good view of the city this view of Bath. Should we try a ride to Farleigh Castle?”
Her groom coughed, “Ma'am it's a three hour ride from here.”
“Darn. That is too far. Is there anywhere closer? I am so enjoying this ride. It's much too soon to return to Bath.”
“Monkton Coombe is not too far Ma'am. We could return by Warminster Road.”
“That's on the canal, isn't it?”
“Yes Ma'am.”
“Charlottte are you game for it?”
“I've been so idle these last few weeks that any ride will do.”
“Then Monkton Coombe it is.”
They worked their way down the other side of the down to the small town of Monkton Coombe and the Somerset Coal Canal. Charlotte was surprised at the level of traffic.
“Good Lord Elizabeth! It is so busy.”
“It is, isn't it.”
The followed the towpath towards the junction with the Kennet and Avon. Part of the way there, Charlotte suddenly asked Elizabeth, “Lizzy, have you ever been in love?”
“Where did that question come from?”
“I don't know, it's just, well I don't know what it feels like, and since you seem to know so much, maybe you'd know.”
“Charlotte how old are you?”
“I'm only twenty. So why do you keep making me feel like an ancient crone?”
“Lizzy, you've done so much more than I have. So what's it like to be in love?”
“I don't know. I once thought I was in love with one of Freddy's friends. He visited while he was in college. Freddy in college, that is, his friend was in the army. I doubt he even looked at me. I was a gangling young girl at the time. Still, I wonder about him from time to time.”
“So you still think about him?”
“Not often and only when I'm in the dumps. Anyway he's either a casualty in Spain or happily married by now. I'm sure when I really fall in love, my fantasies about him will evaporate like the morning dew.”
“I don't know. I've met many men in the last few weeks, but somehow they just don't make an impression. Not even a bad impression like Freddy.”
“Now you're being silly, Charlotte. If you expect to meet the love of your life during a few weeks in Bath, I think you will be disappointed.”
“I don't know. It's just I keep thinking about your annoying brother. Why can't I get him out of my thoughts?”
“Don't ask me about that. I can't get away from him either.”
“But you're his sister. Why would you want to get away from him?”
“Didn't you ever want to get away from, what was it, John?”
“Yes, but he wasn't as nice to me as Freddy seems to be to you.”
“Well Freddy is special, but then I'm his little sister.”
“The thing is Lizzy, he isn't always annoying. He hasn't been lately. I don't understand it.”
“I'm glad to hear that.”
They reached the junction of the two canals, and much to their surprise there was a party of men examining the aqueduct and locks at the junction. One of them was Freddy.
Elizabeth shouted, “Freddy! What are you doing here? I thought you were headed for London.”
He walked over and greeted them. “I was, but first I'm inspecting one of father's special investments, from his 'canal mania' period.”
“What's wrong with canals?”
“Not much is wrong, but it's not right either. It's making a decent return for now, but I don't think it's a good long term solution to moving goods. We've put too much capital into it, so now the question is how to get some of our money out without crashing the company.”
Charlotte quietly watched as Elizabeth queried her brother. They spoke as equals, analyzing a problem and listening to each other about their ideas.
“What's the problem with it?”
“High maintenance costs, and the damp.”
“The damp?”
“Everything has to float. Just try keeping your grain dry in one of these barges.”
“I see. Also, if everything is horse drawn.”
“You're right Lizzy, it can't go any faster than a wagon, and the canal just seems to eat horseflesh. It's just too expensive to last.”
“So is there any alternative?”
“Stephenson, Trevithick. Steam engines and tramways.”
“Sounds risky.”
“It is. The trouble is doing nothing is even more risky.”
“That's true, but will they use our ironworks?”
“Of course, initially it might make a loss, but it won't be long before it becomes a very profitable endeavor. The canal itself uses steam pumps, and if we can improve those using Stephenson's engines, we'll be ahead too.”
Elizabeth remembered her manners. “Freddy, Charlotte and I were riding on the downs. We'll return to Bath presently. Would you or your party care to dine with us this evening?”
Freddy finally seemed to notice Charlotte, but unfortunately he had to reply, “I'm sorry Miss DeVerre, I'm due to take the next boat back to Reading. I'll probably be dining, if you can call it that, in a canal-side pub at Chippingham, if not Devizes or some other such damned place.”
Charlotte wondered why, despite her nominal antipathy to this bounder, it was a disappointment that he wouldn't be dinning with them. “I'm truly sorry to hear that Mr. Oswith. I'm planning to visit London in a week or so, could we dine then?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
The two women bid Freddy adieu and headed back to Bath.
As they approached the town, Charlotte asked Elizabeth, “Lizzy, is it my imagining or did your brother seem more tired, almost worn down and drawn than when we met in Staverton?”
“I think he is. The weight of responsibility is on his shoulders now and it shows.”
“Is it that bad?”
“Can be. Father used to get exhausted with it. Charlotte I've just had an idea. How about I post down to London next week? Mr. Netherfield is due back by then, so I'll be free. In any case Mr. Jones is ready to be in charge for a few days without me looking over his shoulder. You and Lady Chal-what'sit can ride with me. That way I can surprise Freddy and cheer him up. You're welcome to stay with us, if you want.”
Charlotte looked dubious, “I'm not sure Lady Chalfield will accept your offer.”
“Want to bet?”
“You don't gamble.”
“Except on sure things. She'll hem and haw about it, but in the end a free ride in a luxurious post chase is something she won't care to miss.”
“I thought you and your family always rode the mail?”
“Freddy does, but then he likes it.”
“Really, Lizzy? I've never done it, but John did. He said it was awful, full of common folk and the smells that came with them. Very leveling.”
“I expect Freddy does it to show his employees he will do anything he asks them to do. Besides, we're dreadfully common folk too.”
“I thought you said you moved in the first circles?”
Elizabeth laughed, “It's amazing what having money will do.”
“Remember I once told you that I was only accepted as a wealthy heiress?”
“Yes, but that was long ago.”
“Only seems it. One reason I've not 'fallen in love' is almost all the men I meet seem more interested in my fortune than me.”
“Lizzy, that cannot be true. You're just being cynical.”
“No, realistic. I'm sure someday I'll meet someone who doesn't care about my blunt. But then they'd be out of their right mind and I could never marry someone who is out of his right mind.”