Sunday, October 19, 2014

A little more from Cynthia

My latest is rapidly approaching completion. 56000 words or very close to.
Here's the draft chapter where Cynthia discovers what a typical English summer is like.  


There's Cold, There's Darn Cold, and Then There's the English Summer.

The early warm summer days reverted to the English norm of cool, cloudy and damp. Lord Wroxham and Freddy barely noticed the change. Alice found she needed to put on her stockings. Cynthia did as well but she still froze. The AR had never been like this. She had always been warm enough when she was playing in it.
When Cynthia woke in the morning, Hannah came in to her room and set out her water and dress as usual. Cynthia asked, “Hannah?”
Yes, miss?”
How do you keep warm in this weather?”
Miss? It is summer.”
I'm freezing.”
Shall I have a fire kindled in your room?”
Can't you just turn on the heat?”
Turn on the heat? Whatever do you mean by that?”
Doesn't the room have a heating unit?”
There's only a fire Miss Morris.”
If that's what it's called, can you start it up? It's cold.”
I'll have the housemaid start a fire for you. Would you like your chocolate here, Miss?”
As long as I don't have to get out of bed, yes please, Hannah.”
Hannah left to call the housemaid. Cynthia gave a longing glance at the chamber pot. It was so darned cold that she dare not use it. At least not until she was truly desperate. She touched her earring, “Chris?”
Ma'am?”
It's cold. I'm freezing. Is this normal?”
It is normal to freeze when you're cold, Ma'am.”
You know what I mean. What the h-, what am I to do?”
Enjoy the experience.”
Hannah said something about kindling a fire. What did she mean?”
Fire is an exothermic reaction between wood or coal and oxygen.”
In other words, heat?”
Yes. With flames and smoke as well. Just don't stand too close. Your dress could catch alight.”
Thanks for the warning.”
It's also not good manners to pull your dress up in front of the fire. It captures the heat better, but is unbecoming.”
I know that.”
Good.”
The housemaid knocked at the door, “Miss Morris?”
Come in.”
A young woman in an old cotton dress came in. She curtsied to Cynthia then went to the small fire place in the room. She knelt by it and started a fire. Then she rose and turned to leave, but Cynthia stopped her. “Miss?”
Yes Miss Morris?”
Is this unusual weather?”
What do you mean Miss Morris?”
I'm so cold.”
Nay Miss, it's a lovely summer morning. Might rain this afternoon, but still it should be a nice day.” She curtsied in preparation to leave the room.
Cynthia paused for a moment. “Can you send Hannah to me?” She hopped out of bed and started to use the now-tepid water that Hannah had left.
Breakfast was an interesting meal. Lord Wroxham, having heard from his valet via the servant's grapevine about Cynthia's dislike of the cold, started to tease her.
So Miss Morris, warm enough for you?”
Lord Wroxham, I notice that the fire is burning here. I didn't ask for it.”
Your reputation preceded you.”
Freddy came in and warmed his hands over the fire before sitting down, “I say James, this is a little unseasonable. I thought summer had finally come.” It rather took the sting out of that line of commentary.
Lord Wroxham switched tacks, “How are your wounds, Miss Morris?”
If you are referring to my little tumble yesterday, that won't happen again. I know what to expect.”
Still sore?”
Not in the least,” Cynthia lied about her bruises. “I kept up with you for most of our race. I was even in front of you on one of the straights.”
Only because I took it easy on you.”
I'd have beaten you if my horse hadn't balked at the ford.”
In your dreams, Miss Morris, only in your dreams.”
Cynthia threw down her napkin and said, “All right, Lord Wroxham. I get your point, you think you're faster than I am. When would you like you to race again?”
Race?”
Your horse, against mine. Is this morning soon enough or are you scared I might beat you?”
Alice was aghast, “Cynthia, you nearly killed yourself when you raced last time.”
No I didn't. I just fell off the horse. Which is not the same thing, at all. I'll race your brother, any time, any place.”
Lord Wroxham interjected, “What did you call it then? Going for a swim?”
If anyone is going swimming today, it is you Lord Wroxham.” Cynthia turned on her heels and strode out of the room. Alice followed her and tried to dissuade her from this recklessness.
Freddy turned to his friend and said, “James, old boy, she may be a headstrong young chit, but this is outside of enough.”
Obtuse as always, Freddy. What do you mean by that?”
She isn't ready to race you and you know it. It was bad form to twit her into another race.”
She seems game.”
I'm sure she is. She impresses me as a headstrong lass. Still, she's not ready to race you, and it will be on your head when she is hurt.”
Cynthia knew she wasn't ready. She shook off Alice at her room, by telling her, “Don't worry Alice. I won't do anything dangerous. I know I'm not a good enough rider to race your brother. Still, I can't be a coward, can I?”
Alice was about to reply, “It isn't cowardice to turn down an invitation to a foolish deed,” when Cynthia shut the door in her face. Realizing she had been rude, Cynthia quickly opened the door again and told Alice, “I'm sorry for that, it was so rude of me. Trust me, I'm not about do to anything foolish. If I can't keep up with your brother, I'll let him go on. It's just.”
Alice replied, “It's just you can't bear to be thought unwilling or scared.”
Exactly. I have my pride. Now, I do have to get ready, so if you'll excuse me.”
Alone at last, Cynthia touched her earring again, “All right Chris, I need something to slow down Lord Wroxham's horse.”
Chris was scandalized, “You'll cheat at a race?”
It wouldn't be a race if I don't. You know that. I just want to equalize our handicaps.”
Yes, Ma'am. Still, I wish to lodge an objection to this conduct.”
Your objection is noted, but ignored. You know me. I play to win.”
Ma'am, it would be best to play the demure young woman. That is how you attract most men.”
Chris,” Cynthia paused, “Have I ever been a demure young woman?”
No, you haven't. I suppose a small dose of a tranquilizer won't do his horse any harm. I'll instruct your med-kit to make one. It will look like a lump of sugar. Give it to the horse before you start.”
Thank you.”
Cynthia rang for Hannah. It was time to put on her borrowed riding habit.
Lord Wroxham was surprised to see Cynthia standing with the horses when he arrived at the stables. He noted her presence by saying, “Miss Morris, I see that unlike most of your gender, you are punctual. Are you prepared to race, or should we postpone our contest for another day?”
Cynthia smiled at him, looked him directly in the eyes and said, “I'm as ready as I'll ever be. What do you propose?”
To the village church in Carling, and back. It's a good six mile run.”
On the roads, no jumping?”
As you say, no jumping.”
Then I agree.”
Alice and Freddy arrived in time to see the end of the race. Lord Wroxham was ahead, but just barely. Cynthia was riding with a confidence and verve that he had not anticipated. They joined the small knot of grooms who were watching the last few yards and cheering on the competitors.
The two horses thundered into the yard, then pulled up. Lord Wroxham walked his horse over to Cynthia's. He extended his hand to her, “That was well run Miss Morris. I'm not used to anyone staying on my heels that long. I did not expect it to be so close.”
She returned his handshake. “I must say, that was fun. Maybe I'll win next time?”
A pair of grooms came forward and took the horses' reins while they dismounted. Lord Wroxham continued, “We can't race for at least a week, my horse will need to recover. I wouldn't expect to ride him for a few days.”
His head groom walked over and concurred. “Lord Wroxham, sir, these horses will need care if they aren't to be lamed.”
Cynthia agreed and said, “I must add that I'm tired. I shall need a short nap to recover myself.”
Lord Wroxham closely observed her. It was clear to him that she was barely, if at all, winded. So as she was leaving he asked, “Do you need to talk to your imaginary friend?”
She stopped short and replied, “What imaginary friend?”
The one who lives in the book.”
Cynthia turned and asked him point blank, “If he's imaginary, then how can I talk to him?”
Maybe he isn't imaginary?”
Cynthia had nothing about that to say to him, or any other native. Even if he was handsome and had a nice smile.
As soon as she shut the door to her room behind her, Cynthia called up Chris. “Alright Chris, what the f- f-, what have you been up to?”
Me? Ma'am?”
Don't play the innocent with me. What happened? That Lord Wroxham just directly asked me about you. Have you been talking with him since I told you not to?”
No Ma'am. Not at all.”
Good. Do not talk to him, understand?”
Except about your health?”
Only if I'm seriously ill, and only then to stop them from quacking me with some awful medicine.”
Yes, Ma'am.”
There was a question I needed to ask you, before I was distracted.”
Ma'am?”
Cynthia, muttered to herself, “What was it? I seem to be losing my focus lately, growing soft.”
Then she said to Chris, “That tranquilizer you made for me. It was just a lump of sugar, wasn't it? Wroxham shouldn't have been faster than me.”
Yes, Ma'am. It was just sugar.”
Cynthia considered his response, “Chris, it is so unlike you to give me false information or prevaricate like this. I wonder if that last Cataxi shot did more damage than you reported.”
Ma'am?”
Did you run a self-check on your processors?”
Yes Ma'am. They're fine, as are my memory units. The repairs on the ship are well underway, although I cannot fly at this moment. Why are you concerned?”
Why? You directly disobeyed my order. If you don't have an excellent reason, I will have to reset you.”
Chris paused, then chose his answer carefully, “I knew you would ride with increased confidence if you thought Lord Wroxham's horse was nobbled. That was the best thing I could do to ensure your safety.”
I see. You might be correct. Continue.”
If you beat him badly there was a 95% likelihood that he would be upset with you. There was a 25% likelihood that he would be angry enough to send you away, and in any case it was certain he would continue to be unpleasant. Whereas if you were a game loser the likelihood was nearly unity that he and the others would take it well.”
Cynthia considered his answer. Finally, she replied, “Chris. I do not like it that you keep secrets from me. I am the best judge of what I should do.”
Ma'am, may I be forthright with you?”
Yes, always Chris. Even if I don't like what you have to say.”
You are beginning to show the symptoms of withdrawal from the juice. Your judgment is already affected.”
It is not!”
I'm sorry Ma'am, but it is. You would never have allowed yourself to be teased into a dangerous race, would you?”
Cynthia was about to reply, “Of course I would,” when she realized that Chris was correct. She said, “Chris, I think you're right about that. I suppose I shall have to just trust you, won't I?”
Ma'am, I have faithfully served you for thirty years, haven't I?”
Yes Chris.”
I should hope that you would trust me by now.”
I do.”
Good, Ma'am.”
And you're right. James would have been hopping mad had I won. He would have known if his horse were nobbled, wouldn't he?”
Yes, Ma'am. He would have known, and you would be out on your ear in no time.”
The tiredness that Cynthia used as an excuse to withdraw to her room, came over her in reality. “Chris?” she said, “I'm feeling tired. Is that a symptom of the withdrawal?”
It could be. I would rest if I were you.”
Uncharacteristically, Cynthia stretched out on her bed and soon was fast asleep.
A couple of hours later, Alice knocked on Cynthia's door. “Cynthia?”
What?”
Did you want to read?”
What time is it?”
Mid-afternoon.”
There was a bustling noise and Cynthia appeared at the door. She looked sleepy, and was still wearing her riding habit. She said “I must have been tired.”
Alice laughed, “It looks like it. Did you need me to ring for Hannah?”
I'll ring for her, but why don't you come in? We can start reading while she comes.”
Hannah entered the room and found the two young women alternating their way through one of Mrs. Radcliffe's romances. She coughed and said, “Miss Morris, did you need me?”
Yes Hannah, could you help me dress for the rest of the afternoon. This riding habit is hardly appropriate, is it?”
No it isn't. Miss, I think you have read enough Gothic romances.”
What do you mean by that?”
Nothing Miss.”
Hannah, I know I have an active imagination. It doesn't do any harm, does it?”
No Miss.” She paused, went over to the wardrobe to pull out a suitable gown, then said, “Miss, this may be a liberty, but.”
Cynthia looked over at her, “It is a liberty, but say what you need to say. I know you disapprove of my flights of fancy.”
Yes, Miss. I do think you are altogether too fanciful. Maybe it would help you be more serious minded if you read more serious literature. Not all the time, but Fordyce's sermons are proper.”
Alice interjected, “Hannah, even you couldn't stand them.”
Miss Wroxham, I'm not flighty like Miss Morris.”
Hannah, I'll try reading them, but not while I'm reading with Alice. We're reading together and it would never do to choose a book she loathed, would it?”
Yes, Miss.”
Hannah helped her remove the habit and don her muslins with her green Spencer. Then she looked at the habit and huffed, “This will need washing again, Miss.”
Thank you, could you see to it?'
Yes, Miss.” Then she left.
Cynthia turned to Alice, who had been silently reading ahead, “Hannah doesn't like me, does she?”
I have seen her acting less frosty. Should I have a talk with her?”
Please don't. You talking to her about whatever it is that she dislikes about me, would only make it worse.”
Downstairs, Hannah threw the habit at one of the laundry maids and let loose with her frustrations, “That scheming hussy. She's worked Miss Alice around her finger, and it's only a matter of time before she does the same to the master.”
The maid was shocked. An upper servant like Miss James, never addressed a lower servant like her in such a familiar manner. She spoke, “Miss James? Are you well?”
Hannah remembered her position and gave a quelling reply to the laundry maid. “I'm fine, now mind your manners, lest you be turned off without a character. Miss Morris needs this habit clean by tomorrow.”
Yes Ma'am.”
The master was having issues of his own. Freddy had let him know in no uncertain terms that it was not sporting to challenge a beginner like Cynthia to a race or for that matter to accept her challenge.
His objections, which were along the lines of “Freddy, she's damn good. The next time she might win,” were to no avail. It was hard for him to be convincing when he knew Freddy was right, and he should not have challenged a beginning rider to a race.
It wasn't until Cynthia and Alice came downstairs together that he had a respite. Cynthia immediately walked over to him, curtsied and said, “Lord Wroxham, I'm sorry that I let you tease me into accepting a race with you. Would you forgive my temper?”
Miss Morris, I should not have teased you into a race. Can I add that you rode remarkably well?”
Cynthia smiled at him, “I did, James, didn't I? You need to thank your sister who is an excellent teacher.”
Alice blushed at the compliment. Lord Wroxham replied, “Cynthia, next time let's have a friendly ride. It will be easier on the horses.”
I would enjoy that. Do you think there might be time for conversation while we're riding as well?”