Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chapter 6 draft for Cecelia


 Draft of chapter 6 for the book. It's best if I remind people occasionally that these are (c) 2014 Amelia Grace Treader. None the less read and enjoy. The book itself is at 47000 words and well on its way.
I've been looking at draft covers, though it's a little early for much of that.

 

6. Lessons for Cecelia.

“Mary Georgiana Somerset,” Lady Elizabeth rarely spelled out her daughter's names to her. It was something she only did when her daughter was being recalcitrant or naughty, “you will do as I say.” She and her daughter were in Mary's room before dinner. Ostensibly Lady Elizabeth was discussing how the day's riding lessons went. In fact, she was discussing how best to teach Miss Wood a bare modicum of the feminine skills and manners that life in Penyclawdd had not.
“Mo-o-ther, why? I like Miss Wood, but there is no reason she should try on my dresses.”
“I am going to tell you this once and I expect you to listen, then cheerfully obey me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, mo-o-other.”
“Nicely please.”
She smiled, “Yes mother.”
“You wouldn't be here if Sir Giles Wood, then just the Honorable Giles Wood, hadn't helped your father and me elope. Not if he hadn't hired the carriage, kept the horses quiet and driven off when your father escorted me to it, nor if he hadn't stood firm when my father demanded to know our direction. In fact, it was his fanciful story that sent my father in the wrong direction. It meant that Sir Charles and I could get most of the way to Scotland before he even started out after us from London.”
“So what?”
“I could never directly repay Sir Giles for his kindness. An offer of money would have been an insult, and he had all the social position he ever wanted. His wife's parents were pleased with his proposal and he didn't need to elope. After her death, neither your father nor I could coax him back into society. The only way left that I can ever repay him for his kindness is to help his daughter to find her station in life, and that I will do. You will help me. Do you comprehend me?”
“Yes.” She paused to roll her eyes, “Mother.”
“Besides you like Miss Wood, don't you?”
“I do.”
“And you don't want her to be dependent on that dreadful Arnold woman, do you?”
“Lord, no. I don't know how Cecelia can stand her.”
“It shows no little goodness of character in your friend. Miss Wood will need some fashionable gowns. Obviously she can't wear yours, she's too tall if nothing else. If we can take one of your old ones and get Miss Wood's measurements on it, then Miss Antoinette can make her a few gowns that are suitable for a young woman on her first trip to Bath.”
“All right, if you put it that way, I suppose she could try one.”
“I want to find the one that comes closest to fitting her. That way there will be the fewest adjustments. If Miss Wood gets to be known in Bath with her current clothes, then there will be no helping her.”
“Yes, mother. If you insist.”
“I do. I wouldn't ask you if it weren't needed.”
“Anything else you want me to do, while you're asking favors?”
“One more thing, Mary. Tonight at dinner I will place Miss Wood between you and me. We will gently guide her to use the proper utensils.”
“Won't that be too near the head of the table for her precedence? It's above her rank for her to sit there.”
“There are times when it is best to ignore precedence, and a quiet family dinner is one of them.”
Relaxed because she was more familiar with her companions, Cecelia paid more attention to the order of courses. With only a few hints from either Mary or Lady Elizabeth she managed to avoid any committing any serious faux pas. Being dressed in a complete, albeit old-fashioned and out of style, dress that didn't stink of horses helped her fit into her company and boosted her confidence. In addition, Mary's progress with equitation was something that Mary and her could converse about with the rest of the family.
Cecelia pointed out at one stage in the conversation, “We talked about riding to Holy mountain this morning, but other things interfered with it. How about tomorrow morning?”
“Holy Mountain?”
“That's the English name for it. The locals call it Ysgyryd Fawr or the shattered mountain. It's supposed to be a special place.”
The idea of riding to it was enthusiastically received. It was resolved that a party including grooms and at least one little brother and sister would ride the five miles to the top of the mountain, and then return.
That evening, as they prepared for bed, Sir Charles commented to Lady Elizabeth. “My love, I think your protégé is progressing nicely. Don't you?”
“Her manners certainly have improved. She's not quite ready for Bath society, but at least she's not an embarrassment.”
“And I've been impressed with how much Mary's seat has improved. What do you think of the expedition they've planned.”
“You know me, I never interfere with my children's pleasures.” Sir Charles thought this was something of an understatement, but accepted her approval.
“Then I won't find a distraction to divert them. I do have a concern about Miss Wood.”
“She and that Captain Wood?”
“Precisely. They seem attracted to each other. I mean, they do what they can to avoid it, but there is something between them. Did you notice?”
“I did. Why do you think I stopped the dancing practice this afternoon?”
“Do you think that Arnold woman notices?”
“She'd be blind not to. I'm rather pleased that Miss Wood is visiting us. It will keep her out of trouble.”
“I hope it works, and that Captain Wood soon forgets Miss Wood.”
“And she him. I do so hope she meets some other eligible man in Bath.”
The next morning, both Mary and Cecelia were up early, brushing and working with their horses. The head groom watched their efforts with a disapproving expression on his face. His disapproval was more due to his feelings about social rank than anything they were doing incorrectly. Cecelia noted this and told him, “Miss Somerset needs to understand her horse in order to be comfortable on her. This is really the only way for the two of them to build trust in each other. I'm showing her how it is done.”
“If you say so Miss, but I'd rather the family stick to its place in life and we servants stick to ours likewise.”
“Do you think I'm a servant?”
“You're certainly acting like one.”
Cecelia straightened up and stared him in the eyes. She was a tall woman, and he, an ex-jockey, was on the short side. It made her intimidating when she told him, “I will have you know that I am Sir Giles Wood's daughter, and one of the best riders in Monmouth county. Until recently I ran Penyclawdd farm. You'll not forget that, will you?”
“No, Miss.”
“Good. When we're done here, Miss Charlotte and Master Charles will need their mounts too. We're headed to the top of Holy Mountain this morning.”
“Yes, Miss. I presume you'll need an escort?”
“As you see fit, but I'd expect at least one groom to accompany us.”
Breakfast was more rushed than usual, and as a result the party was assembled by mid-morning. They were soon riding on the first five mile leg of the trip to the mountain. Two grooms accompanied them. One carried a packed basketwork pannier with essential foodstuffs for a mid-day al fresco snack at the peak on his horse.
Cecelia and Georgie led the party up the steep hill to the long rock known locally as the 'devil's table'. Miss Charlotte and Master Charles needed a break, so Cecelia suggested that they stop here. Mary was disappointed, “I'd like a chance for a gallop if we could. All we've done this morning is walk at a sedate pace with my little brother and sister.”
Master Charles tossed a clod of dirt at her.
Cecelia felt similarly about the pace on their ride, but was too polite to say so. Instead, she said, “There are the ruins of an old chapel at the other end of the mountain. Race you there.”
“You're on!”
“Mr. Somerset, would you count for us to start?”
“Ready, steady, go!” The two woman pushed their mounts to run and soon reached the other end of the mountain. Georgie asked, “Did you let me win?”
“No. Not really.”
“You mean yes, don't you?”
“It's a long walk back to Hill house in Raglan if my horse goes lame. So I didn't push her all-out.”
“Oh.”
“Anyway, would you please hold my reins? There is something I need to do here.”
“What? You're visible for miles around if it's what I think you mean.”
“Not that. You'll see.” Mary took the reins while Cecelia dismounted. She pulled a couple small cloth bags from her pocket. “Aren't those two of mothers silk potpouri bags?”
“I don't know. I found them in a drawer, and they had a bunch of musty old dried leaves in them. They smelt funny. Is that potpouri?”
“Yes. What are you going to do?”
“The soil from the top Holy mountain is special, magical. A pinch in the garden helps your plants grow, and it's always good luck to have some in the house.”
“Really?”
“That's what the local farmers believe. It's probably a superstition, but it's a nice one.” She scooped a portion of the soil into the first bag and sealed it. As she was filling the second, both she and Miss Somerset heard riders working their way towards them up the steep hillside. As she looked up from sealing the second bag, she saw Captain Wood and Miss Arnold. She stood up and waved. Then she called, “Miss Arnold, and G- Captain Wood, did you know we would be here?”
The Captain walked his horse over, “No Miss Wood, we did not. Why ever are you dismounted?”
“I was filling these bags with soil from the Holy Mountain.” She handed one to him and blushed, “It's something of a housewarming present for Miss Arnold and you. It's good luck if you keep a bag of the soil in your house, or, well.”
“Well what?”
“Bedroom. On your wedding night.”
He laughed, and pocketed the bag, “Thank you, I will. Is the other one for you?”
“No,” she turned to her friend, “Miss Somerset, this is for you.”
“Thank you, but no, Miss Wood. I don't hold with superstitions. Keep it for yourself.” Mentally she added, “You'll need all the luck you can get.”
“I'll keep it then. Maybe it will help me catch a good husband in Bath.”
Jane coughed in the background, and Cecelia continued, “Oh, I'm sorry. Miss Mary Somerset, this is Miss Jane Arnold.”
“Delighted to meet you again. You didn't ride here all by yourselves from Raglan, did you?”
“No, one each of Miss Somerset's sisters and brothers are having a restorative nuncheon by the devil's table with the grooms.”
“I'm famished,” Jane added, “do you think there's enough to share?”
Mary thought for a moment, balancing the social niceties of the situation, and replied, “Most likely. Miss Arnold would you care to see?”
“George?”
“I will wait while Miss Wood remounts and then join you. Enjoy your snack.” After the two women trotted off he turned his attention to Cecelia. “Are you enjoying your stay with the Somersets?”
“Very much so. I do miss Penyclawdd terribly, but I've been learning how behave at a proper dinner. I've even been measured for dresses so that their Mantua maker can fit me out when we arrive.”
“Hmnn.”
“Well I have to make a dashing appearance, and attract male attention. I can't stay here forever, once you and Jane ma,” she paused for air, “marry.”
“I suppose not, though for me you'll always be welcome. Life at Penyclawdd still seems a bit flat in your absence.”
“I've only been gone a couple of days. You'll soon get over it.” George found he wasn't sure he wanted to.
“Do you need help to mount?”
“Me? No!”
“When you're ready I'll race you to the others.”
“You're on.”
Mary and Jane had just dismounted and handed their reins to the groom for safekeeping when they heard the thundering noise of two horses galloping towards them. Captain Wood and Miss Wood where racing seriously. The two where closely matched and only stopped when they passed the edge of the rock. Master Charles shouted in joy, “Yoicks! Now that's how I want to ride. Can we do that on the way home?”
George asked the love of his life, “Who won?”
“I didn't see.”
Master Charles spoke up, “Miss Wood, by a nose.”