Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chapter 5 of Cecelia

 Draft of chapter 5. It's been through a number of grammar and readability checks, but isn't quite final.

5. Riding Lessons.


The Honorable Mary Georgiana Somerset escorted Cecelia away from the horse fair to their hall. The hall was a large house at one end of Raglan, where Castle road met Monmouth road and the start of the town's high street.  She asked, “Are you sure that you would like teach me to ride well?”
“Why not? It gets me away from Captain Wood and his fiancĂ©e, Miss Arnold. I'm in their way all the time.”
“You don't mean Miss Jane Arnold, do you?”
“Why?”
“Poor fellow. Caught by that man-trap. She was called 'Lady Nero' or 'the Vampyre' by the ton. The 'on-dit' has it that this isn't the first man that she's managed to ensnare. The last one twisted free.”
“Are we talking about the same Jane Arnold? The Jane I know can be a bit snappy when she's out of sorts, but I think her heart's in the right place. We usually get on.”
“If she has a heart, from what I've heard. My Jane Arnold is shorter than you, has darker hair, and a much more developed figure. The woman who was with you looked just like her.”
“She did sweep the Captain off his feet when he arrived from Spain.”
“As I said, poor man. Though I suppose it's possible that she improves on further acquaintance.”
“I'm sure you're being unfair to her.”
“If you say so. You must know her better than I do. I'll have to send to Penyclawdd for your good clothes. Don't worry about tonight, as my father likes to see the distinction in rank preserved, but you really should wear your good clothes to dinner.”
“These are my good clothes. At least some of them, maybe not my best, best clothes.”
“Oh dear. We'll have to see what we can do for you before you go to Bath.”
“Why?”
“Mr. King won't let you into the assembly if you're dressed like such a dowdy frump.”
Somehow Cecelia found herself feeling less sympathetic to the Honorable Miss Mary Georgiana Somerset. It showed in her expression.
“I can see that you're upset at what I'm saying. Please don't be. I'm sure you're dressed the best you can. How often have you been to Bath?”
“Once when I was eight.”
“Well no wonder your clothes are out of style. Living here in the wilds of Wales, you'd never see the current mode let alone have a dress made by a modish mantua maker.”
“Miss Somerset, horses don't care about style.”
“Please call me Georgie, everyone does. Is it fine if I call you Cecelia?”
“Yes Georgie. Why Georgie?”
“My father and mother thought I was going to be a boy, and they promised to name me after our King. So I was christened 'Mary Georgiana'.”
“Could have been worse, had they named you after the Princess of Wales, Caroline.”
“Thank God they didn't. I was presented to her once, you know.  She smelt like a horse. No, I take that back, my horses smell better than she did.”
“Speaking of horses, why don't we stop in your stables? I'd love to see your mount.”
“I think the stables are this way. Usually my groom, Charles, just brings her out saddled and ready to ride.”
“That won't do. Once you know horses, you can figure out your mount quickly, but you need to know horses first.”
“What do you mean?”
“One horse is much like any other horse, though each has a few quirks and peculiarities. A good horsewoman knows what to expect the horse to do before the horse does it. You'll see once we get started.”
They found the stables, and the next problem arose. There were more than two or three horses. Cecelia asked, “Which is yours?”
“I don't know.”
One of the grooms walked over and interrupted them, “Miss Somerset, what are your looking for?”
“My horse, and one for Miss Wood.”
“If you would wait by the house, I'll bring them out.”
Cecelia put a stop to that, “No, if you'd please, I'd like Miss Somerset to meet her mount in its stable and work with her a little before we ride.”
“That's highly unusual. I'll have to ask Sir Charles for his permission.”
“I'm teaching your mistress to ride, and my first lesson is for her to be familiar with her mare. She needs to build confidence with the horse. To understand what it is thinking.”
“I'm sorry, but I can't let you do that.” He shooed them out of the stables adding as his Parthian shot “Minding them horses is my task, Miss.”
Mary pointed out to Cecelia, “Since your spare clothes haven't arrived yet, it's best if you don't get too dirty. There's nothing for you to change into.”
“True. I suppose Sir Charles objects to the smell of horses in the dinner room.”
“Father doesn't care at all, but my mother will turn up her nose at it.”
“I'll approach him about getting access to your mare.”
“Are you sure? She twitches in ways that always surprise me.”
“That's why I want you to handle her yourself. Horses often twitch, and when they don't twitch they shy. It shouldn't be a surprise when they do.”
Dinner was a struggle for Cecelia. The dinning room, with its long polished table, footmen, bright chandeliers and elegant service, was a far cry from the modest fittings at home in Penyclawdd.
As they assembled  in the drawing room before entering this fine room, Sir Charles welcomed her, and pointed out that as a 'family meal' everyone was in their informal dress. Cecelia blurted out, “Your informal dress is much more elegant than my best.”
He replied, with a bit of a smile, “I do like to have the distinctions of rank preserved.” Then he quickly changed the subject, “Did you have a chance to start on the riding lessons? Georgie is so looking forward to dazzling the fair riders when she has her next season in the village.”
“The village?”
“London.”
“Not really. Your groom wouldn't let Miss Somerset and me look at her horse. I'd like her to work with it herself.”
“You can call her Georgie here.”
“It was probably for the best, because I'd smell even more strongly of horse than I do. Not having a change of dress.”
Lady Elizabeth asked, “Why does my daughter need to look at her horse? Isn't it enough that she wants to ride them.”
“In order to control your horse, you need to know how it will react. How it thinks.”
“Do horses think?”
“After their own fashion.”
Sir Charles inserted, “Dean Swift thought so, with his Yahoo's and Houyhnhmns.”
Cecelia welcomed the turn to the literary, “I've been reading Byron's latest poems from the circulating library.”
“The library in Abergavenny stocks 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'? That's not even out in London. There's already a list of subscribers for it.”
“I was thinking of 'Hours of Idleness'. I suppose it isn't his latest. But they'll have it as soon as it is available.”
“Still, it is Byron. Even his older poems are worth repeated examination.”
Lady Elizabeth intoned, “I like Mr. Landor's work. It is so monumental and learned. Not like this modern romantic claptrap.”
Ceclia replied, “I like Mr. Landor better than his poetry. He's one of my neighbors and been so helpful with Mr. Wood. If I have a problem on the farm, he's always there to help.”
“Is that implied criticism of his poetry?”
“Oh no! Not at all. I've just had a surfeit of it. He'll recite his poetry for any reason at any time. Occasionally it's rather tedious.”
Georgie spoke, “I can't believe that a surfeit of poetry is possible.”
“Oh, trust me. It is.”
Sir Charles changed the subject, “How is Captain Wood, by the way? I should write to Fitzroy soon, and I'm sure he would like to hear of him.”
“He's still a bit disturbed, poor man. Much better than when he arrived. Now he's staying sober.”
“I hope he's not one of those blasted tea-totalers. Can't abide them.”
“I didn't mean that. Just when we met he was always drunk, even in the mornings. Now he isn't.”
Dinner was stressful for Cecelia. There was usually one course at Penyclawdd, and a simple service with limited utensils. It was good, but basic. Even a simple family meal at the Somersets involved several courses and a complex etiquette for the different eating utensils and glasses. Cecelia was completely lost, but fortunately no one seemed to notice her missteps. Or at least if they did they were too kind to remark on them.
Until later. Sir Charles and his wife Elizabeth discussed the Cecelia's performance before they retired for the night. 
“At least she didn't eat with her fingers.”
“Are you sure she is a suitable companion for Georgie?”
“Oh yes, but I do think we'll have to teach her better manners.”
“And that dress, how dreadful. Like it was pieced together at random.”
“Funny thing that. Did you notice she came back from riding that horrible mare wearing Captain Wood's coat?”
“No, but what of it?”
“I think her habit was ruined. This is what she, that Arnold female and Mrs. Landor pieced together.”
“But still, Charles, she seems so untutored.”
“She is. Poor Sir Giles, he lost his wife so young and then because of his health he couldn't bring his daughter into society like he should have. She comes from good stock, but she's lived away from society for so long.”
“I suppose you're right. Did I hear correctly that she's planning a visit to Bath soon?”
“That Jane Arnold and Captain Wood will take her there, to find a husband.”
“Then perhaps it is a godsend that she is visiting us. Can we give her some polish and perhaps buff out a few of the roughest edges?”
“I hope so. I do want to see what she can do for Georgie.”
“I wish you would refer to our daughter as Mary.”
“I'll try. She likes being called Georgie.”
“If Miss Wood can teach Mary to be comfortable on horseback, I'll do what I can about her appearance and manners. It's something of a pity that the awful Arnold woman has ensnared Captain Wood into matrimony. Somehow, I can't see Miss Wood staying with them for very long after they're married.”
I wonder how Captain Wood puts up with her?”
“Who?”
“Miss Arnold.”
Sir Charles wasn't the only one wondering about Captain Wood as they prepared for bed. Cecelia found herself in a spare bedroom, using a borrowed brush to brush out her hair while the maid warmed her bed with a warming pan. “I wonder what he's doing now?”
“Who Miss?”
Cecelia replied out loud, “Oh, no one,” while thinking of Captain Wood. She continued, “I wonder if he misses me?”
“If it's no one, Miss, why should he?”
Cecelia shook her head, “I'm sorry, my mind is wandering. I must be tired.”
“If you say so Miss. Your bed is warm, if you'd like.”
“Thank you.”

Lady Elizabeth received a shock when she emerged from her room in mid-morning to break her fast. Her butler caught her attention, “Ma'am, Miss Wood is missing. Did she leave word with you?”
“Missing?”
“She wasn't in her room when her maid went to bring her morning chocolate.”
“She didn't say anything to me or Sir Charles about leaving. Was the rest of her kit still there?”
“I can't say, since she borrowed most of it.”
“Maybe Mary will know something.”
At breakfast neither Mary Georgiana, nor Sir Charles nor Lady Elizabeth nor Charlotte Augusta, nor Charles Henry and finally not even Villiers knew anything about where Cecelia was. Sir Charles was about to mount a search party when Cecelia walked into the room. She was more than slightly redolent of the stables. Seeing them all staring at her, she stuttered out, “I-I-I was looking at your horses. Seeing the barns and stables. Your groom reluctantly showed me Mary's horse and one I could borrow. Is anything wrong?”
“Is that what you always do?”
“Check the animals in the morning? Of course. It's the best time of the day to do it, while they're still calm and cool.”
“But Miss Wood, isn't that what your groom does?”
“Yes, and like yours he's an excellent groom, but there are decisions about the stock that he shouldn't make by himself. Besides, this way I get to know the animals.”
“So early, have you eaten?”
“No, not yet. Is that bacon I smell?”
Young master Villiers tried to comment, sotto vocce, that he was surprised she could even smell the bacon with such a strong smell of horse coming from her clothing.
Cecelia heard him and replied, “I can always sit at the far end of the table, if you'd prefer. But I thought this afternoon would be a good one for a long excursion, say to the top of Holy mountain, and people who don't like the smell of horses can't come with Georgie and me.”
Lady Elizabeth interjected, “I presume you've washed before you came back from the stables?”
“Oh yes. I always do after leaving the animals. At home I keep one garment just for working the horses. I hope you've sent for my clothes, because I will need to change for dinner tonight.”
“We did last night, they should be here today.”
“Thank you. Even I can smell the horses on this one.”
Mary asked, “Don't you like the smell of horses?”
“I do, but there is a limit.”
“I'm glad to hear it. It won't do in Bath.”
“I know. When would you be ready to go, Georgie?”
Lady Elizabeth frowned, “I detest that slang name. Please call her Mary.”
Cecelia was more at her ease during breakfast. Lady Elizabeth noted with approval that her manners were not as rough as she had thought them. As the last drops of the tea were being consumed, she told her daughter to go and get ready. Then she reminded her sons that they had lessons to attend to. Cecelia rose and was about to take her leave so she could go to the stables, when Lady Elizabeth asked her to sit.
“I have a few questions for you Miss Wood.”
“Yes?”
“I understand that the plan is for Miss Arnold, Captain Wood and you to visit Bath in a few weeks?”
“Yes it is. I'm very excited because the last time I was in Bath was ten years ago when I was only eight.”
“And Mary will be lending you her continence during your visit?”
“I hope to see her there. It's not as if I know many people in Bath.”
“Hmmn. Can you dance?”
“A little. I haven't had a chance to visit the Abergavenny assemblies since my father died.”
“I see. So your steps will be a little, how shall I say it? Rusty?”
Cecelia laughed, “Not just rusty, but rustic as well. I doubt though that I'll be called upon to dance very often, just being a plain country girl.”
“I wouldn't call you plain, Miss Wood. If Charles Henry were Mary's age I'd be worrying about him paying too much attention to you. However, you will need better clothes, if that dress is anything like the rest of your wardrobe. It makes you look like a frumpy old fashioned woman.”
“I know.”
“I presume you have some part of Sir Giles estate?”
“Only my mother's portion of a thousand pounds in the four-percents.”
“Oh dear. That's not much is it?”
“I can live on it, but it won't run to a fashionable place.”
“Wasn't Penyclawdd profitable?”
“I'd say it was highly profitable, but my brother died a few days old and my mother shortly after. So the money from the farm belongs to Captain Wood because of the entail.”
“You are in a predicament, aren't you?”
Cecelia refused to be disheartened and said, “I don't know. It could be much worse. At least I will have something to live on.”
“Sir Charles and I were on more than a nodding acquaintance with your father. So I'll so what I can. You'll have to work on your manners and deportment while you're here.”
“If you insist, but I thought I was here to help your daughter learn to ride well.”
“You can do that during the day. I presume you won't be riding at night.”
“Yes Ma'am. I hear and obey your commands.” Cecelia rose and gave Lady Elizabeth a deep curtsy, the sort she would give the queen were she presented.
“You'll have to watch that tendency to levity. I think I hear Mary, so you are excused.”
“Thank you, I'll do my best to not be an embarrassment to you.”
“I'm sure you won't be an embarrassment, but I'd like you to be a credit.”
Cecelia left and found Mary waiting for her in the front hall. “How did you survive that interview with my mother? She can be very severe when she wants to be.”
“She certainly was blunt, but I like straightforward talk. In any case, there's a lot for you to do, so if you'll follow me to the stables.”
Cecelia and Mary were busy. Cecelia had Mary brush her horse, then walk her around the stables on a lead. Finally, with the help of the grooms, they saddled her horse and another. Then they trotted out for a brief ride around the paddock.

While Cecelia and Mary were occupied with the horses, Captain Wood called on Lady Elizabeth and Sir Charles. He brought Miss Wood's clothing with him in the gig. Lady Elizabeth received him in the front parlor.
“Captain Wood, I'm pleased to meet you. My brother-in-law Fitzroy asked about you in his last letter from Spain. How are you doing?”
“Much improved, but I still have to be careful.”
“Is it bad?”
“Not usually, but there are times it is awful. I don't know if I'll ever be fully recovered.”
“I'm sorry to hear so.”
“That's more than enough about my troubles. How is Miss Wood doing?”
“She is teaching my daughter Mary to be a comfortable rider.”
“Cecelia, Miss Wood is an excellent horsewoman. I hope she's as good a teacher.”
“She says that you and Miss Arnold will take her to Bath.”
“Yes, Jane has promised to help her with husband-hunting.”
“I wish you good luck with that. How is Jane?”
“She was feeling slightly indisposed, and makes her apologies. A trip to Raglan today was more than she felt she could stand.”
“I see. How long have you been engaged?”
“Since March 23rd. Why?”
“Just wondering. You know I eloped with Sir Charles?”
“No, I didn't.”
“I disapprove of long engagements. If you're ready to marry, just get married.”
“I'm afraid Jane would disagree with you. She's waiting for permission from the head of her family.”
“Silly girl. I guess she enjoys the idea of being engaged more than the idea of marriage.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Being engaged can bring such a feeling of self-satisfaction to a young woman. She no longer needs to worry about finding a husband, and in the meantime she doesn't need to worry about satisfying one.”
“I'm sure you're being cynical. It isn't like that at all.”
“Still I presume you're happy with her.”
“Absolutely, I'm counting the days until we get the letter from Lord Pershore giving her permission.”
Sir Charles joined them, “I was watching your cousin at work. Mary is already more confident in her seat. They were returning the horses to the stables.”
“I'm glad she's being helpful. Penyclawdd seems a little flat and lifeless without her.”
Sir Charles nodded at Lady Elizabeth, who simply commented, “Already miss her do you?”
Sir Charles continued, “I caught their attention and told them you were here. They'll join us shortly. I know it's a tad effeminate for a dashing young captain, but will you join us for a nuncheon? I know Mary will need it. She's not used to such strenuous exertion in the morning.”
“It would be my pleasure. Miss Arnold and our cook were having a heated discussion last night, so I'm not sure what meal awaits my return. Breakfast was, how would you say it? Interesting.”
For the next few minutes conversation centered around the safe and mundane aspects of farming, only once veering into dangerous waters. Sir Charles asked, “How many sheep do you have at Penyclawdd?”
“I don't know. I'd have to ask Cecelia, Miss Wood.”
Cecelia answered from the door to the parlor, “The farm itself, only three hundred forty-seven, give or take a few lambs. About ten of those are rams. Our tenants run much more.” She had changed from her horsey clothes into clean, although still less that fashionable dress.
George started, “Cecelia! How are you?”
She blushed at his attention, “It's only been a day, Captain Wood, surely Penyclawdd is still standing without me.”
“Yes, still standing, but whether it is as comfortable as it was is an open question.”
“What happened?”
“Miss Arnold and your cook had a disagreement last night.”
“She is a mite temperamental.”
“Miss Arnold?”
“No, I meant Mrs. Jones, our cook. Would it help if I wrote her a note?”
“It might.”
Nuncheon went well. Mary, unused to the level of physical activity that Cecelia set for her was famished. Captain Wood, after a breakfast of cold, congealed porridge and something that more resembled dishwater than tea, was happy to eat whatever was available. At the end of the meal Lady Elizabeth announced, “Mary, Miss Wood, if you would please defer your afternoon's exertions, I would like to see how well Miss Wood dances.”
“Can't we do that this evening?”
“We could, but then you would have to stand with each other. Who would play?”
“Surely I could dance with Sir Charles?”
Sir Charles, catching the look his lady gave him and understanding its meaning, quickly interjected, “Not with my gout, Miss Wood.”
“If you say so. But I promised Geor- Mary that we could go for a long ride this afternoon, and Charles Henry as well if he wishes.”
“We'll only be a few minutes. We can always delay dinner.”
The party trooped to the drawing room were a small, somewhat dated, pianoforte sat in the corner. Lady Elizabeth asked her daughter, “Mary, would you play a country dance, say 'the Miller'. Captain Wood, please take Miss Wood as your partner.”
“If you insist.”
Somewhat awkwardly and shyly, both the Captain and Cecelia took their places as Mary started in on one of the new dances of 1810. George and Cecelia bowed and then started the dance. It didn't take long before they collided.
“I'm sorry,” Cecelia apologized, blushing, “I just don't know how this dance goes.”
George said, “The fault is as much mine.”
Lady Elizabeth intervened, “Mary, if you would dance and show Miss Wood how. Miss Wood, could you play?”
“I can try, but I don't play nearly so well as Miss Somerset.”
“As long as you keep to the tempo, don't worry about the rest.”
It was soon clear that for all her knowledge about horses and farming, Cecelia's education was lacking the refinements required of a young lady of culture. She could play the tune, or she could play in time. Playing the tune in time was beyond her skill.
Lady Elizabeth clicked her tongue in dismay. “I see we'll have to hire a caper-merchant for you. I think Mary, that I shall be coming to Bath with you after all.”
“Oh Mother, do you have to?”
“I'm sorry Mary, but yes. If we're to help launch your friend onto the seas of society, you'll need my help.”
“Lady Elizabeth, I'm not expecting to dance. Just give me a book and I'll sit with the chaperons.”
“Not dance! Miss Wood, how in the world to you expect to meet a suitable young man?”
“I don't know.” Cecelia was near tears. The rules of society were so beyond her comprehension.
“There, there, my dear.” Lady Elizabeth unbent her formality. “You will do fine, perhaps you'll run into one while riding on Claverton Down. I'm sure a few hours with a good caper-merchant will work wonders, you'll see.”
George watched this exchange and worried about Cecelia's feelings. He said “Cecelia, I know we collided and almost tripped over each other, but it was much more interesting to dance with you than with Miss Somerset.”
Cecelia looked at him, and her tears seemed to dry. “If you say so, Captain Wood. Thank you.”
“I'll see if Jane will play for us when you return to Penyclawdd. We can get some practice then.” Somehow, Cecelia doubted that would work.  Instead of expressing her doubts, she said, “Captain Wood, I'd be happy to practice my playing if you and Miss Arnold would dance.”
Lady Elizabeth noted the time on the mantelpiece clock and pronounced it was time for Captain Wood to return home. She added, “Miss Wood and Mary. There is still time for you to have a ride. We will set dinner back until you return.”
When Cecelia and Mary reached the stables, they were surprised to find Captain Wood and Sir Charles were already there.
Cecelia inquired, “I thought you had returned to Penyclawdd?”
“I will, shortly, but first I needed to ask Sir Charles about a horse for Miss Arnold. That is, unless you want Mrs. Landor to return Awyr?”
Cecelia shivered at the thought, Awyr was her special horse, and Mrs. Landor was doing an excellent job of looking after her. “No, I think Miss Arnold needs her own mount.”
One of the grooms brought the two horses that Mary and Cecelia were using over. Captain Wood helped Mary to mount and then offered to help Cecelia up. While perfectly capable of mounting her horse herself, she accepted his aid. He took her hand while steadying her. Their eyes met and locked on each other. It felt as though a slight shock ran through her, and once mounted they were both reluctant to let go. Then he did and returned to discussing horses with Sir Charles while Cecelia and Mary rode out.