Friday, November 17, 2017

uncle burnside 35

Exactly like the girl who was brought to the museum,” interrupted Adira. “Is she your chosen bride?”
Chosen by them. Not by me. I have engaged your uncle as my attorney and he, clever lad, has found a legal means to set me free of the conditional Will. Today he is sending a letter to all of them alerting them to this fact.”
Therefore tomorrow, once they have read that letter, you imagine they shall leave you in peace?”
Exactly so!”
You have a more charitable view of human nature than I,” said Adira. “Unless, of course, that legal precedent my uncle has found will also grant them the inheritance they seek.”
It does not!”
Then, what is the motivation for them to leave you alone? Do you, in truth, expect them to kiss adieu to their rightful inheritance and walk away from something they have desired for years and consider theirs by right? More fool you, if this is so.”
Emmett went to answer then halted. “Oh.”
Yes, oh.”
Emmett huffed out a breath and leaned back in his chair. “That is very annoying. You are correct. They will not surrender until they receive that cursed money. They will hound me for the rest of their lives, whining and begging and plotting my downfall. Or seeking their revenge.”
I would assume so.”
Dammit. If that is so then it is not safe for you to travel with me.”
I am forewarned,” said Adira. “Therefore I shall take the proper precautions.”
You are still willing to accept my escort?”
Indeed. I welcome it.”
In that case since I know your dearest secret and you know my hidden scandal, shall you give permission for me to address you informally?”
If you wish.”
We share an attorney. That gives us a certain intimacy of acquaintances.”
Adira laughed outright at that. “Share a attorney, indeed.”
Yes. Sir Burnside acts for you in the matter of your inheritance, does he not?”
Oh! Do you tell me he told you my history and kept yours to himself! How unjust!”
Adira leapt to her feet and stormed from the room. Emmett froze, suddenly aware he had made a grave error in judgment. It was never wise to give a woman reason to be angry with a man even if it were another man. He rose to his feet, considering fleeing the room and leaving Burnside to his earned punishment but fellow feeling would not permit him to go. Dragging his feet and hoping for an emergency to give him reason to depart the house he followed Adira to the study.
Emmett arrived in time to see Burnside taking his niece’s hand and uttering a sincere apology.
“…I should have tendered you the same respect and privacy as I extended to Emmett,” finished Burnside.
You should, indeed,” scolded Adira.
In future I shall,” Burnside assured her. “But, for now, as you both know each other’s business I can see that you can be useful to each other.”
How so?” inquired Emmett taking a careful step into the chamber.
While you are escorting Adira about your family might think you are descending into matrimony of your own choice and leave you in peace. And for Adira. You are already serving to introduce her to a better understanding of London.”
Indeed,” said Emmett. “But not today. Today I am paying a call on my ancestor’s attorney.”
Yes, indeed. That is important,” said Burnside. “And you, my dear? A day spent with your muse?”
Actually,” said Adira, slowly. “I had thought to do a little overdue shopping.”
Take Molly with you.”
Molly? Why?
Why? Because you are a gently born young lady. You should not leave the house unattended.”
But, Uncle, I have not bothered with an escort all the months I have been here.”
Then it is time enough for you to do so.” Burnside shook his finger at Adira before she could protest. “I insist!”
Adira deflated. “As you say, Uncle. Even lady authors must adhere to the proprieties when it cannot be avoided.”

Instead of sending his man of business, Emmett elected to accompany that gentleman. Mr. Robbins had managed Emmett’s business affairs from the time Emmett received his share of his first prize and over the years had demonstrated skill and trustworthiness and had advanced Emmett’s wealth immeasurably.
Since he had done so in Emmett’s absence he was regarded as trustworthy.
Josephus Kennedy the Third, Esquire, not so much.
When they arrived at the address in Kensington Emmett had alighted first and stared about, significantly unimpressed. The road here was not paved. There were wooden planks set beside the buildings that, being sunk in the mud and decaying, did little to protect feet and boots from the sludge. The stench from the street was bad enough, but mingling in an unappetizing manner was the smell of cooking oil and stale fish emerging from the nearest door.
Emmett consulted his notebook again and shook his head.
This is supposed to be Mr. Kennedy’s office,” said Emmett to Mr. Robbins.
Mr. Robbins emerged, long nose first, well brushed beaver hat next, his immaculate kid gloves grasping the door while he examined the walkway for a safe place to put his shiny boots. The smell was coming from a cheap slop house that served the local workers and tradesmen. Several were loitering near the door, no doubt waiting for their meal to be cooked. Emmett turned slowly, examining the street and wondering why the attorney had given him the wrong address.
Perhaps, Sir Emmett, those stairs lead the way to our destination?”
Emmett took a few more tentative steps toward the alley separating the slop house from a dry goods store. A staircase was, indeed, clinging desperately to the slop house and there was a small placard beside the door at its top. Emmett considered delegating the climb to his coachman or Tiger then reluctantly took the task himself.
He was the one who’d climbed rigging and masts, and slid down more than one line, both in sunshine and raging seas, therefore he was the one with the most experience with uncertain footing. He clung to the balustrade, for the illusion of stability and placed his feet carefully. In a few places he could see where the pegs and nails set into the wall were sliding free of rotted wood. The thin wood steps creaked and sang. His relief at achieving the top of his climb was lessened by the realization he would, eventually, have to go down again.
The noise of his climb had alerted those within and the door was flung open before he could read the notice.
Flung outward, unfortunately.
If it had not been for Mr. Robbins, climbing behind him, Emmett would have found himself thrown to the noisome mud below.
Have a care!” cried Mr. Robbins, giving Emmett a hearty shove in the middle of his back and sending him stumbling into the chamber.
I am so sorry, sir,” stuttered the bone-thin wretch within. “I was expecting Mr. Kennedy back, with our luncheon.”
The master fetches the servant’s luncheon?” cried Mr. Robbins, deeply shocked.
I’ve a crooked leg,” said the man, waving toward a foot both smaller than its pair and twisted to one side. “Dropped the lunch once when lost my footing and Mr. Kennedy said once was enough.”
Mr. Robbins stared, at the man, the dirty, poorly lit rooms, the sagging ancient chairs, the crowded desk and bitten down quills and his eyes bulged.
Sir Emmett,” said Mr. Robbins. “I know you have a conflict with this attorney. It seems to me crossing his palm with sovereigns would quickly settle the matter.”
No, indeed not,” said Emmett as the familiar creaking outside warned him that Mr. Kennedy was returning. “All of this, you see, is an example of my great-grandfather’s false economies.”
When Mr. Kennedy entered he nodded to Emmett and set about unpacking a steaming pottery dish of fried fish, a loaf of bread and two coffees, purchased from a street vendor. When questioned by Mr. Robbins he quickly confirmed Emmett’s supposition.
The late Sir Royce demanded I provide him with my rent book, quarterly,” said Mr. Kennedy. “And my expense book. He wouldn’t believe that rents had gone up so it was necessary for me to go down, so to speak, to find accommodations that matched his decisions.”
Unpleasant fellow,” said Mr. Robbins.
A madman,” said Emmett, perching himself delicately on a uneven bench.
Mr. Kennedy said nothing.
I have no wish to keep you over-long from your luncheon,” continued Emmett. “Mr. Robbins and I are here for a copy of my great-grandfather’s Will.”
I am sorry not to be able to oblige you, Sir Emmett, but the late Sir Royce was quite clear on the matter. You are not to receive a copy.”
Mr. Kennedy,” said Emmett, leaning forward with a sigh and resting his hands on his knees. “I have taken legal advice from a gentleman, a navy man, who was knighted for his legal services in the matter of the creation of the East India company and other matters close to the heart of the Crown. Sir Burnside.”
Oh?” said Mr. Kennedy, going pale.
Indeed. And he informed me that it is illegal to withhold the Will from a person named within it.” Emmett met the attorney’s gaze with one both steady and cold. “Are you about to suggest he is incorrect?”
Ah…”
And, if you require he explain the matter to you, Sir Burnside will make the journey to this location, climb that excuse for a staircase and do so. But, mind me, he shall make you regret it. He has the gout and being put to unwanted exercise will decrease his good humor.”

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

uncle burnside 34

Emmett arrived early the next morning and was escorted in to Uncle Burnside’s study without Adira being alerted to his presence.
Here you are, Emmett,” said Burnside, handing over a sheaf of papers. “A letter for each of the more significant members of your family. I changed the wording a touch for your aunt, but I think the message is clear. They shall not receive their inheritance if you are forced or compelled or captured or compromised, or a whole list of other manipulations, into marriage. I also flavored it with a description of the legal construct of writ of assumpsit.”
A what? An armpit?”
Clever lad. Don’t be making puns. I found it in one of my older texts buried under a lot of nonsense about contracts and property. What I explained to them is while your grandfather might have written a Will intending you to perform an act that would result in them gaining property because you were not a signatory to the contract you are in no way legally compelled to pay. That is, you are not required to do anything to satisfy the terms of the Will and complete the contract. And,” here Burnside gave an attorney’s predatory grin, “if they attempt to so compel you, you will sue them.”
Sue? Take them to court? For money?” Emmett grinned. “I would have that right?”
Oh, yes indeed, my boy, and you could demand as your recompense the whole value of their collective inheritance!”
That is legal?”
It is indeed,” murmured Burnside, grinning.
Emmett roared with laughter. When he calmed he regarded the paper in his hands suspiciously.
Would another attorney see it in the same way?”
My dear boy, of course not. Attorneys are taught to be contrary in the interest of maximizing their own profit. That being said, your relatives must decide if they wish to see their inheritances spent in attorney’s fees. Altogether I pity them.”
Pity them?” Emmett came to his feet. “You are my attorney.”
I know that. Have I not proven I hold your best interests to be paramount? But ask yourself, don’t you feel some pity for them? Have they not suffered just as you have under your grandfather’s hand? Do they not deserve something for their years of service?”
Emmett carefully put the pages aside lest he crush them and rose to face his old friend.
Sir Burnside, let me ask you a question. If a woman were to approach you and ask for her legally directed inheritance without which she and her son would starve to death, would you be moved to hand over the money? Do not trouble yourself about the sum, answer only on general principals.”
If the legality is not in question?” queried Burnside.
Never doubt it. It was her dowry, and the marriage settlements and her husband’s Will both directed it be given into her personal control without let or limit should he predecease her.”
If that is the case, I would do so, instantly.”
Ah, but my grandfather directed the money be withheld. My family, all those bastards together, obeyed. As a consequence my mother starved to death! Were it not that my attendance at school was already paid for I would have starved as well. Not that what they provide at Eton could properly be called food, but it kept me alive.”
Burnside went quite pale. “Do you swear this?”
I do.” Emmett frowned at the distant memory. “Their desire for what my grandfather held before them was greater than their consideration of their own souls. They would have sold each other, betrayed and killed each other at his command. And they did, each of them, commit some atrocity that will see them damned.”
Then I shall save my pity for a family more worthy.”
Thank you.”

Adira was emerging from the breakfast room just as Emmett left Burnside’s study.
And a gracious good morning to you, my dear,” said Emmett bestowing an excessive bow on Adira, who snorted, blushed and curtsied.
Thank you, Sir Emmett. You are in a good mood this morning. May I offer you some breakfast?”
No need. I ate at home and yes, I am in an excellent mood.”
In that case, if you should have some time, I find myself more than a little curious about the cause of being left alone at the museum yesterday.”
Emmett’s smile vanished in an instant.
Ah,” was all he said.
Yes, indeed. Ah. If I am to have your escort about town, as my uncle has suggested I would like to know the reason I am likely to be abandoned. My uncle has declined to enlighten me as he is your attorney in this matter and has left all the story to your telling.”
Emmett cast a worried look over his shoulder then caught Adira by the elbow and hustled her toward the morning room.
Softer. Softer, if you please,” said Emmett. “Your uncle did not murder me as I expected last night because you were so calm when yesterday’s events were reported. As you have no wish to see me dead…?”
An assumption on your part, sir, I assure you. Your life, or death, do not trouble me overmuch.”
Emmett winced and Adira hid a smile.
Very well. I am grateful to you for your serenity of manner and understanding.”
And I should like to understand more.” Adira settled on the only comfortable chair in the parlor and waved a hand toward the least comfortable one for Emmett. “You and my uncle are involved in something. Confess all, or I shall ask him to arrange for another to be my guide in town.”
She pause and considered. That was not much of a threat given that Sir Emmett had been compelled to attend her.
I am glad he has respected my confidences. It is a very personal matter.”
Adira bestowed a narrow-eyed glare upon him. “And being left alone on a London street, abandoned by my escort and exposed to the disdain and insults of the museum doorman was rather personal to me!”
Emmett winced and sketched a bow.
I do apologize, Miss Adira. Quite sincerely. I promise you, after today it should no longer be a problem.”
After today? That sounds portentous. I congratulate you on a well-constructed sentence.” Adira paused but Emmett seemed disinclined toward further comment. “Would it make any difference if I were to swear not to include your sad story in any of my books?”
I…”
I will promise not to include any part. You can trust me.”
It is not a matter of trust…”
Is it not? I trusted you. My uncle trusted you. You, apparently, trust my uncle. Am I to be excluded from the circle?”
Emmett rubbed his forehead.
I knew there was a reason I refrained from conversations with young women.”
Poor Captain. I am so excessively sorry for you.”
Now, now. Sarcasm is not necessary.”
Adira folded her hands neatly and waited. The technique had worked very well for her father, although usually his hands were folded on the bible and, after a not too long silence, it worked on the Captain as well.
Miss Adira, I am relying on your good sense. Not that it will damage my reputation much, but I would rather the greater world was not privy to my private concerns.”
If you say so, Sir Emmett. I will swear, if required.”
No blood oaths are needed, I am certain. It is just the usual amount of family difficulties that arise when a Will is read.”
Will? Whose Will?”
My degenerate and unlamented grandfather.”
Adira gave a little come-along gesture.
He had the expected number of ambitious, dependent relatives and the whole crew were expecting to profit from his death. He was wealthy and, as it is the usual run in horrid novels, degenerate and unfeeling. The perfect villain. I commend him to you. I, of course, in the heroic manner, ignored his plans for me. Escaped to live my life as I chose and gained enough funds to live independent of his control.
He, as can be expected, resented my independence and planned how he could win, after death. He put a malicious condition in the Will that made it impossible for my other relatives to gain access to the funds until I comply with his commands. They are therefore prevented from receiving what they regarded as their legal due.”
Oh?” Adira could barely hold in her laughter at his dramatic presentation.
I shall spare you the details of their distress when they discovered the conditions,” continued Emmett. “I am certain your imagination could summon all their distress and anger without my feeble efforts.”
You underestimate yourself. I am quite diverted by your tale.”
Indeed.”
What was the condition?”
That I should marry a woman plain and pure and pious, so that she might torment me and ruin all my hope of happiness. After the nuptials the funds would be released.”

uncle burnside 33

Adira,” interrupted Burnside. “You have no friends? How comes this? You have been in London a year complete. Surely you have made the acquaintance of some other young women.”
Where, Uncle? At the haberdashers? The butcher boy’s elder sister is too busy for gossip but the baker’s wife might have something intelligent to say on the subject of the corn laws.”
Oh, my dear girl! I am so sorry. I did not realize your acquaintance was so narrow.”
Not to worry, Sir Burnside,” said Emmett. “I have been considering taking Miss Adira to a literary soiree. She will meet many people with similar literary interests and, perhaps, learn something of her chosen profession.”
I am not writing poetry or anything of literary merit,” protested Adira but Emmett waved that away.
You would be surprised at the number of lady authors there are.”
And you are acquainted with them all,” said Adira in tones of deep suspicion.
But, I swear, I have never before assisted one with research.”
Hmmm,” was Adira’s comment but she did not clarify.
Now, Burnside,” said Emmett. “I believe a legal letter must be sent to my cousin, and also my Great Aunt for she serves as matriarch, explaining why today’s exercise should not be repeated.”
I shall have a draft of the note ready for your review in the morning, lad.”
Excellent.” Emmett rose and bowed to Adira. “Thank you for the tea. Miss Adira, the literary soiree is held on Friday at two. You will find many like-minded persons there. Shall you accompany me?”
I should be delighted.”
With your permission, of course,” said Emmett to Burnside, who nodded.
Once the door closed behind Emmett Adira hitched her chair closer to her uncle, and the fire.
What is this about a note?”
attorneys must have their principal’s permission to discuss private matters.”
Oh, bother that.”
Manners, miss. This is important. If he wishes you to know he will tell you himself.”
But if the matter means I might be left alone in the museum again? What then?”
Then I shall beat the lad with my walking stick.”
And I shall take the precaution of putting the price of a hackney ride in my shoe,” declared Adira and departed the room to check preparations for supper.
As soon as her footsteps faded Burnside hopped out of his chair and strode easily across the room to his writing desk.
Not so athletic, Sir,” warned Henry. “She might return.”
Burnside snorted. “I need the exercise. It gets boring sitting in that damn chair and remembering to wince every now and then.”
Henry laughed.
What shall we do about those horrors who torment young Emmett?” continued Henry.
His family must be brought to heel, indeed. A strongly worded letter might set them straight, or might set their ears back and make them more determined. What worries me most is that girl they’ve chosen for him seems to be willing to go to any length to drag the lad to the altar. You’d think the daughter of a curate would have more pride and less inclination toward scandal.”
Well, you know what they say about the vicar’s daughters.”
Sadly so.” Uncle Burnside heaved a great sigh. “This calls for a letter of great delicacy of language and considerable weight of law. I’ll need those books down, Henry. The ones over in the corner are the ones I need. If my memory has not failed me, buried in one of those is the description of an illegal marriage.”
Illegal marriage? Is there such a thing?”
Yes, and very useful did a few of our monarch’s find it for gaining a divorce. Hurry along, Henry. Adira will be calling me to table soon enough and I want to get this letter written before the Farrah family seize hold of the lad again.”

Satisfied that cook had all in hand Adira ran upstairs to put in an hour transcribing her notes from the museum. She settled herself at her desk and reached for the pencil then stopped. In the middle of the desk was a neat envelope, her name inscribed in very familiar script.
A letter from her aunt.
Adira sat and stared at it for several moments before taking up her paper-knife and slitting it open.
Dora,” it began, the words written with the sharp downstrokes of a very angry woman. “By this time I hope you have regained your good sense and awareness of what you owe to your family and myself and are prepared to conduct yourself in the manner dictated by your circumstances. You are, as you have appeared to have forgotten so I shall remind you, the daughter of a respectable, genteel family. It is entirely inappropriate for you to go into paid service. What can you be thinking, bringing shame by association upon your connections! At least you have had the sense not to advertise your fall from good society – ”
At that point Adira groaned and threw the page into the fire. Aunt Clara, she decided, was a hypocrite. How dare she rant about Adira going into paid service when Clara wanted Adira to do the same work but with no pay! As for Mrs. Clara Devonham being of the genteel gentry, Adira knew for a fact that Aunt Clara had come from a family in trade and married up as well as she could.
There was no reason for her to concentrate on being a good and well-mannered maiden if people were going to take advantage of the fact to abuse, belittle, and enslave her.
Burnside was a bit of a mystery in this regard. How odd of him to support her, to demand that she be different, when the general run of his generation demanded conformity and compliance of young women. Adira proposed to, in her very rare spare time, write novels?
Horror!
And seek to publish them!
Revolting.
For money!
How trade!
How shameful and extraordinary.
How unfeminine.
How hypocritical.
What a piece of work is man,” murmured Adira.
Yes, indeed. One day she would discover why her uncle was different. But, because he was wise in this matter and it traveled along with her own ambitions, she would comply with his advice. She would not repine or repent of her decision to take money for her work. From this moment on she would refer to her aunt as Mrs. Devonham and shame the devil. Yes. She would look Mrs. Devonham in the eye and remember that this was Sir Burnside’s house and within these four walls his rules, er, ruled.
Adira frowned at herself. If she put that line in a book she would have to rework it a bit.
With that thought in mind she took up her old manuscript and began writing between the lines of the second chapter, underlining words here and cutting entire paragraphs there, scribbling in the margins and writing very, very small reminders to herself of where she wanted to put in changes.
Changes that brought out the blood and bone of her heroine.
And if the hero and the villain did not like it … well, they would just have to learn to endure.

Friday, November 3, 2017

uncle burnside 32

I apologize. I had the time and Miss Adira…” Emmett shot a look toward the girl. “Well, It is my fault, Sir and I take full responsibility.”
Yes, you do. Go on!”
Uncle!”
I did not realize at the time but my cousin had set a watch on my house. There can be no other explanation for the whole dreadful shower of them appearing at the museum only moments after Miss Adira and I began our exploration of the Egyptian room. While Miss Adira was working on a sketch of a broach bearing the likeness of the Goddess Bast …”
Oh, you know her name?” said Adira, considerably surprised.
Indeed, Miss Adira. It was not my first visit to the display. As I was saying, when my family appeared I advised Miss Adira I would have to speak to them and when I had sent them on their way I would return for her.”
He did return, Uncle, as he promised.”
Burnside waited. Emmett realized, as he looked into those old, dark eyes, there was a reason that Sir Burnside had his formidable reputation as a naval attorney. The compulsion to confess all bubbled up in his chest and even Emmett’s finely honed skill for self-preservation would not keep the words unspoken.
They had a girl with them,” continued Emmett. “The daughter of my cousin’s curate. The one they hope … you know, I spoke to you about her.”
Good heavens!” cried Adira, grinning, damn the girl. “Is your family trying to arrange a marriage against your will? Oh, my. I thought that only happened to helpless young women!”
No, indeed,” said Emmett, surprised into a laugh. “Wealthy young men suffer that fate as well. Fortunately they have nothing I want so I cannot be compelled, although,” Emmett turned again to face Burnside. “They can attempt a compromise situation. They insisted I should walk them out to their carriages to give them directions. While I was standing on the curb pointing out the direction for their coachman, two footmen seized me and threw me into the carriage with their chosen spinster. The driver whipped up the horses and was off at a dangerous pace given the crowding on the street. The girl was very calm about the whole thing. She unbuttoned her pelisse as she had no doubt had been instructed. Underneath the bodice of her gown was already damaged.”
Oh, goodness,” said Adira, pressing her fingers against her mouth to hold in her giggles. “To think that such things occur outside of dreadful novels.”
Mind your manners, Miss,” warned Emmett. “If mock me I shall not take you to Gunther’s!”
Adira turned her gaze toward the carpet so he could no longer see the laughter dancing in her eyes.
I do apologize,” she said with complete insincerity.
Stop playing, children,” chided Burnside. “Now, if you do not mind, Emmett, what happened next? Are we to hear of the Banns being called?”
Indeed not. As you well know, London’s streets are not conducive to carriage races. Certainly not when using a heavy barouche. Since it was intended that I should be discovered having compromised the young lady while we were alone in the carriage there was no one else within to compel me to stay in my place. Therefore, when the driver slowed to take a corner I jumped out through the window.”
I was going to ask if the doors were locked,” said Adira, drawing her notebook out of her pocket.
Are my trials and tribulations to become fodder for your book?” demanded Emmett, half in jest and half in frustration.
Perhaps,” said Adira. “If I deem them to be sufficiently entertaining. Mayhap you are about to tell us that you landed safely but unhappily in a pile of street sweepings?”
Ungenerous of you, Miss, but as it happens, no. I landed quite hard on the recently swept pavement. Then, realizing I had left you alone in a public place and knowing I was responsible for you I ran, ran mind you, despite all my injuries, all the way back to the museum. Do you wish to express your gratitude?”
It is good to hear you ran, lad, otherwise I might judge you did not take your responsibilities seriously,” said Burnside, then started to laugh.
Adira joined in almost immediately. Fortunately for the friendship between the gentlemen, Emmett knew the whole story was ridiculous and he joined in the laugh at himself.
When they calmed and Adira finally was handing around tea cups she frowned.
I have a feeling I missed part of this story. Uncle, you were not surprised that Sir Emmett was kidnapped. You were only troubled about the timing.”
Indeed, it was quite rude of them to whisk him away when he was providing your escort. But, I doubt me that they would have changed their plans if they had been aware of you.”
I assure you,” said Emmett, “they did not realize we were together at any point.”
Good,” said Burnside and sipped his tea, his manner contemplative.
Adira cleared her throat. “Am I to remain in the dark regarding the balance of this matter? I am certain that there is something significant you are not saying.”
What was that?” asked Burnside.
Why was Sir Emmett kidnapped on behalf of a girl in a damaged dress?”
My dear girl, how can you speak so?” scolded Burnside, gently. “Surely you are aware that if you were to speak of this outside my walls then Sir Emmett would be married off against his will!”
That still seems odd to me, but yes, I do understand. I will not speak of it.”
Forgive me, Miss Adira,” said Emmett, “But young ladies are known for telling secrets with their friends.”
I do not have friends with which to break my promise of secrecy, and if it will calm your mind, I promise not to use this interlude in one of my books. Tempting though it may be. Trust me or not, that is my promise.”
Emmett stared into Adira’s calm eyes. For the first time he took note of her intelligent brown eyes. The unwrinkled brow. The tiny upturn of the corner of her mouth when she was thinking about smiling but keeping the amusement within.
I believe, Miss,” said Emmett,“I should like to read your book when it is finished.”
Do you not trust me?” said Adira, hurt ringing in her voice.
Of course I do. Only I begin to think I might enjoy your novel.”
Adira smiled fully now, and blushed.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

uncle burnside 31

I am willing, Uncle,” declared Adira, drawing herself up as tall as she could.
Ah, but my dear, when your dreadful aunt arrived today and scolded you for sitting down, what did you do but jump up immediately and flee the room? Next, heaven help us all, you departed the house through the kitchen door without a note to assure those who remained that you were well. No, Miss, this will not do!”
I jumped because she slapped me with her fan and startled me. And it hurt. See, I have a bruise.”
Oh, did she now?” Burnside’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t see that. Well, there is nothing for it. You shall practice in your mind your response if she should try that again.”
I shall give the matter serious thought,” Adira assured him.
Thought?” roared Burnside. “What thought is required? Ask your heroine what she would do?”
Well, Sir, if you consider the matter practically, it shall be heavily influenced by what my heroine is doing at the time. Is she recently hired to do a job of work and she is desperate for money? Is she hiding in plain sight and trying to avoid drawing attention to herself while she awaits an opportunity to go into her employer’s study? What is the rank of her attacker? Does she plan later revenge, having lulled the attacker into a sense of calm? Or is she there with a need to explore the house?” Adira paused and grinned at her stunned audience. “You see, Sir, she might have a reason to pretend to be meek and mild and accepting of an unjust punishment. It all depends on the circumstances.”
Henry and Burnside exchange wry glances.
I wonder why I worried about her,” murmured Burnside, covering his face with his hand.
She has a clever mind,” returned Henry. “It is why you like her.”
You see, Uncle,” continued Adira. “Proper or not proper, it was perhaps wise to let Aunt Clara think she won the day. Instead of quarreling with her I had an entertaining afternoon at the museum and learned something important about doormen.”
Doormen?” repeated her uncle.
Yes. When you are a woman alone - if you are inside their building - they nod their heads respectfully, but once you are outside they do not respect you and suspect all sorts of improper things about you.”
That is a story I should like to hear, perhaps over dinner. You are starting to look chilled. Take yourself upstairs, Miss, and get dry – ”
A sharp knock at the door had all heads turning.
That cannot be Clara,” said Burnside. “Not twice in one day. That would not be fair!”
Sir Emmett,” said Henry, peeking out the window. “Shall I fetch him in?”
Wait until I am gone,” said Adira and took her damp, crumpled self away.
In the half an hour since he’d dropped her at the kitchen door no doubt he’d repaired his costume. It wouldn’t do for her to be seen in her damp and dirt. It might be fashionable amongst a certain set to have your skirt clinging to your limbs but Adira did not want to be counted amongst their number.

Emmett, lad,” cried Burnside, sternly. “Come in at once! Tell me all about the trip to the museum.”
Emmett stomped across the room and threw himself into the chair nearest the fire.
It was an unmitigated disaster, Burnside. What a day? I barely escaped with my dignity!”
Burnside’s eyes bulged and he came forward in his chair, clutching the armrests.
“Dear God, I heard none of this. What did she do?”
What didn’t she do? I swear to you, Burnside, never in my life have I met a woman with so little address. So poor manners. And her breath? Good Christian values abstemious of luxury should not extend to abstaining from the use of tooth powder!”
What in the world are you talking about?” A deep angry flush filled Burnside’s cheeks. “I cannot be having you insulting my niece. I have never considered her toilet to be lacking! That is beyond enough!”
Your niece? Adira? What has she to do with anything?”
Burnside seized hold of his sideburns, grinding his teeth, then when the pain focused his mind, faced his visitor.
Emmett, lad,” said Burnside, with forced calm. “Be so kind as to tell me what the raving hell you are talking about?”
It was all directed toward an attempt to compromise me, would you believe it?” Emmett regarded the old captain quizzically. “You do recall my problem with the Will, don’t you?”
Burnside sighed and sank back into the embrace of his chair. “I am getting old.”
Undoubtedly, but – ”
Good evening, Uncle,” came a merry voice from the doorway. Adira was short of breath but now attired in a dry, but dull grey morning gown. “And you, Sir Emmett? Are you quite recovered from the weather? Not quite a soaking but you navy men, I am told, are accustomed to be splashed about!”
Burnside half rose from his chair before settling back. Emmett rose to bow.
You seem to have survived the day well, Miss Adira,” said Emmett, smiling down at her. “I do hope you will not take a chill!”
Thank you. I have sent for a tea tray assuming that you would require some warming. As for the day, aside for missing Gunther’s, I was quite content.”
Another day then,” said Emmett, with a small bow. “I look forward to it.”
Adira nodded, then realized Uncle Burnside was not the most composed.
Is there aught the matter, Uncle?”
No. No.” Burnside settled in his chair. “A minor misunderstanding. I take it you are in good humor with the captain.”
Certainly.”
Yes, thank goodness,” said Emmett.
Then you are not cross with him?” pressed Burnside.
No. Should I be?”
I was about to come to the conclusion your uncle had lost his mind,” said Emmett.
A momentary confusion, my dear Adira. Now, come in and sit down. I would like to hear all about today.” He gave Emmett a narrow look. “All about it.”
Emmett glanced toward Adira who smiled at him as she made herself comfortable. The familiar rattle of the tea tray was heard in the hall outside.
Oh, Uncle, Sir Emmett has been so kind as to say I may sit with you gentlemen when you have your visits so I might learn how it is gentlemen converse.”
Yes, so you said. Very kind.” Burnside directed a glare toward Emmett. “In that case, please do tell, how did you spend your afternoon?”
First of all, Sir,” began Emmett, folding his hands to conceal their sudden tremors. “I must assure you, I did not intend to leave your niece alone for more than an instant.”
Alone,” roared Burnside. “You abandoned her? In a public place?”
Not for long,” said Adira, calmly pouring tea. “I was not troubled. He explained he would have to step out of the room for a few moments to deal with his family.”
Step out? How did this come about? Why did you expose Adira to your family?”
It was not a decision I made,” cried Emmett. Not since he’d stood before his captain trying to explain why he had not checked the stored meat before they’d left port to be certain it was not rotten had he felt this degree of bowel loosening terror. But he should have realized the degree to which Burnside loved and protected his niece. And how much information Emmett had given him which justified a distrust of Emmett’s family. “I took Miss Adira to the museum, as we had previously discussed.”
But the day had not been agreed upon,” snapped Burnside.

Monday, October 30, 2017

uncle burnside 30

Adira?” came a familiar shout. “Miss Adira! Oh, thank God I found you.”
Adira let out the breath she was holding so fast that relief left her dizzy. Refusing to do anything so silly as to faint, or clutch at his arm in her relief Adira forced herself to face Sir Emmett and smile.
Oh, Sir Emmett,” said Adira with affected calm. “How long you took.”
I was so worried for you,” said Sir Emmett, his shoulder’s slumping. Then he snapped his fingers and the phaeton and Tiger who had been invisible until this moment appeared at the curb beside them. “I am so very, very sorry to have abandoned you for so long. My family was insistent. Nothing would do that I escort my cousin to an important meeting since he did not know the direction and then I had a dreadful time disentangling myself. I ran all the way back knowing that it was closing time. Now we must hurry or we won’t be home before it rains.”
He boosted her onto the seat then shook out the reins and sent them off down the crowded streets at a good clip. Adira refused to look back just in case that dreadful guard was leering after them.
It did start to rain just as they reached her home. It was more practical, and faster, for her to go with Sir Emmett into the mews and enter Uncle Burnside’s house through the kitchen door than require him to stop at the door and risk an unnecessary soaking. The Tiger took custody of the carriage as Sir Emmett escorted Adira to the door before running off into the rain to his own back door.
Where have you been, Miss?” demanded Henry, coming to his feet as she entered. “Your uncle has been beside himself!”
Sir Emmett came to take me to the museum,” said Adira, suddenly uncertain. “Hadn’t he approved it with Uncle Burnside? I am certain I left a message.”
The cook returned her attention to punching the next morning’s bread dough while around her tonight’s supper was being sliced and diced. Adira frowned. Why had the cook not passed the message on?
Henry sent a glare around the room then held out his hands for Adira’s saturated bonnet and pelisse, then he nodded his head toward the staircase leading upstairs.
Your uncle was in a taking over the way Mrs. Devonham treated you. By the time he could get a word in and insist you be fetched back you were gone. Since you didn’t go out by the front door, and hear me little girl, you will do so in future, I couldn’t tell him where you’ve gone and what you were doing. I didn’t know myself until an hour after that shower of gossips departed.”
So the cook had given Henry the message, eventually!
I’m sorry, Henry. I hope you didn’t get in trouble.”
Me? You’re worried about me? We were worried about you for hours, and that Clara Devonham didn’t make matters any better insisting you were gone out to make a hole in the river! Or come to some other sort of bad end what happen to girls who don’t listen to their elder’s advice.”
Your antecedents are showing, Henry,” said Adira.
Henry coughed and settled himself before knocking on the study door.
Sir Burnside,” called Henry. “Miss Adira has returned.”
Get in here, girl,” roared Uncle Burnside, raising his voice for the first time in their relationship.
Adira entered in a rush and came to a halt at his footstool. Burnside scanned her up and down and did not relax until he was convinced she was indeed present and unharmed.
Alive and undrowned! Where have you been?” he demanded. “And why, in god’s name, did you leave? Don’t you know better than to back down from a bully?”
I beg your pardon for disappearing, Uncle,” said Adira, folding her hands humbly and dropping her chin. “When Sir Emmett appeared with his invitation to the museum I thought you approved.”
I do. I did, only not today! I didn’t know you were going today! I thought we had agreed to go later in the week!”
I am very sorry, Uncle. I shall make sure to get your permission before any other outings.”
Oh, heaven, sit down Adira, please.”
When she did so, despite the squelch from her damp skirt, he sighed. “You are the most amazing mix of obedient and subservient and an adventurous Miss. What am I to do with you? One moment you wilt away under the slightest criticism, the next you are writing stories about girls crawling over rooftops to burgle houses. Don’t blush, girl. I sent Molly up to see if you were in your room and she found your manuscript. It is coming along nicely!” He waved to where the pile of pages sat near at hand. “If it means anything to you, Adira, I like the adventurous one more.”
Well.” Adira twisted her hands together. “It is good to know you approve, Uncle. It is a problem only because in general, and I use my aunt as an example, most people would not approve of my interests.”
Burnside sighed again and Henry, who had followed her in, cursed mildly.
Now, listen to me, young lady,” continued Burnside. “While you are living in my house my rules apply. You know that? I am the head of the house and you should obey.”
That is an odd thing to say when you have said on other occasions that you want me to do things not generally acceptable to society.”
Be careful when you say that, Missy,” warned her uncle. “It might be misconstrued.”
Adira nodded, seriously confused.“Are you scolding me for doing what you have instructed, Sir?”
Burnside groaned.
Dear heaven, no. The fact is, Adira, you are interesting because you are different. There are boring men and boring women who spend their lives politely doing things they’d rather not. Heaven knows, I was one of them once upon a time. I joined the navy because my father, damn the man, insisted. He did not want me to follow him into the law. His ambition as a child was for the navy but his father imposed the law upon him. Proof, I suppose, that parents should not make decisions for the young. However, I was young, barely weaned, when I went aboard ship for the first time and had not the strongest back nor the strongest stomach in the world. A man less designed for naval life and war I could not hope to find.”
I am sorry.”
What for? You are not the one who sent me out and, bless you, I hope you never suffer as I did. But, and here is the part I want you to understand, I came under the hand of a sailor who saw my suffering and realized of all God’s creations, I was formed to be a attorney. I had a quick mind that learned written words faster than the whole crew together. And argue, I could argue the sun down and up again. I could convince a man with two good eyes that the sky above him was green and the ocean pink.”
No doubt a very valuable skill for a attorney,” murmured Adira, and Henry laughed.
This sailor, who had joined the navy as a preference to staying in debtor’s prison until he died, was a law clerk. He taught me all he could remember, and I sent home to my mother for books. As I worked my way up the ranks I studied all I could until Admiralty saw the wisdom of setting me ashore for a year to sit my exams and be presented to the bar.”
Congratulations.”
Thank you. But the lesson here, you see, is that I did not settle for being an inferior sailor and I did not throw myself into the ocean as was suggested by an officer when I made the mistake of casting my accounts over his shoes. I was different and I made myself more so. I did not seek to be ordinary.”
And you don’t want me to be ordinary, either.”
Exactly so. Since you have the talent to write as well as the ambition, I am quite willing to support you.”
That is kind.”
No, my dear. Not kind. Never accuse me of being kind. If I were kind, I would scold and discourage and preach until you cast your dreams away. Then you would marry and have a skirtful of children and never set a foot wrong your entire life. And your foolish relatives would nod and congratulate themselves on your invisibility. What I am suggesting for you is difficult, and there will be times when you will wish that I had not encouraged you but, my Dear, there are far too few talented dreamers and a world full of ordinary clods. Therefore I would ask you to take the more difficult path, to dare and try to be different!”

Friday, October 27, 2017

Uncle Burnside 29

Tell me of it, if doing so will not disturb your creativity.”
Adira colored delicately.
Not yet. Soon, perhaps but not yet.”
Not until she’d adjusted the description of the hero, who was possibly her villain, to something not quite an accurate description of the gentleman beside her.
On arrival at the museum they left the phaeton in the custody of the Tiger. Sir Emmett purchased their tickets. A passing custodian assured them that the Egypt rooms were currently least crowded so they strolled past the twin statues of ancient gods into those echoing rooms.
Egypt not being a particular obsession of Adira’s she was initially repulsed by the burial goods and the display of ancient dead but soon enough her attention was caught by odd gods and strange jewelry locked away in glass cases. She strolled along, mostly ignoring her companion until she heard him gasp and curse.
Miss Adira,” said Sir Emmett. “You must excuse me for a moment. Some people I know have just arrived and I fear for what they might say to you when they find you with me, unaccompanied. I shall not introduce you. They are unworthy of your acquaintance. Trust me, I shall return to your side as soon as I am rid of them.”
I am well occupied, thank you,” said Adira, pulling out her note book. “I wish to write down my impressions of the room.”
Go to it, Miss Adira. I shall return anon!”
Adira nodded and concentrated on doing a quick sketch of a cat-headed woman broach, then copying the official description. The echoing nature of the room brought Sir Emmett’s conversation to her despite her intention to ignore it.
Cousin Emmett, what a delightful surprise to see you today?” declared a man in clerical black.
Adira shifted around the glass case and turned her attention to her guidebook to give the captain the privacy he was seeking.
Cousin Renald,” was Sir Emmett’s stiff reply. “I would not have thought the hall of ancient Gods would hold any interest for you.”
Oh, these?” The Reverend waved a negligent hand toward the shattered remains. “They are long forgotten.”
Apparently not, since they are here in the British Museum,” replied Sir Emmett, waving a hand toward a mostly naked female figure with the head of a cow. “What do you imagine she represented?”
Motherhood, obviously,” said cousin Renald. “But hardly suitable for public viewing. The museum should not have it on display when any might see it.”
Adira consulted her list and winced. The Egyptian Queen of the Heavens, dismissed as a mere mother. And what did that say of the cleric’s view on motherhood?
But now that we have bumped into each other, cousin Emmett,” continued the cleric. “May I make you known to Miss Jane Plumbe.”
The daughter of your curate,” said Sir Emmett. “What an astonishing coincidence for you to have her with you when you should happen to meet me!”
She has come to London to attend a series of lectures from returning missionaries,” said Renald.
And to participate in fund raising and encouraging gentlewomen to make clothing for the poor unfortunate natives,” added Miss Jane in a rather firm voice for a woman both small and very thin.
Adira ran an author’s eye over the girl and decided she was the perfect representation of her introduction - the daughter of a curate, rather than a vicar. Curates were notoriously impoverished, having no income of their own and being dependent on the generosity of the actual vicar for their income. Her bonnet was decorated by a single thin ribban, her hair must have been scraped back into a tight chignon for nothing, not even the hint of a curl, could be seen on forehead or beside her ears. Her walking dress was of dark, hard-wearing fabric that Adira knew well from her time in mourning. And her reticule, plain but lumpy, as if carrying useful tracts and pamphlets ready to be handed out.
But the most telling attribute, and the one that Adira noted in her book, was the hard, thin mouth and set of the woman’s chin. This woman was no representative of a loving God. This girl’s philosophy was likely as rigid as her spine, as harsh and unyielding as the ring of her leather boot heels striking the polished floor.
Adira did not like her and was glad that Sir Emmett arranged matters so that she would not have to go through the forms of an introduction.
But Miss Jane Plumbe might make an appearance in her book. At one point her heroine might seek assistance from a vicar’s virtuous sister. Yes. Miss Jane would be perfect for the part and Adira could just see that judgmental countenance frowning as she cast a helpless girl out into the cold night.
No. A stormy night. No. Better yet, a mild and gentle summer night! Yes. A summer night would do better for contrasting with the harsh words of the unkind woman.
Adira nodded to herself and wrote out a paragraph to remind herself of that scene.
Her attention was so caught that one paragraph became several and she was startled when the sound of a bell ringing brought her back to herself.
When she raised her head she realized that while the room was still well populated she did not know any of those standing about.
Sir Emmett and his family were gone. 
This far inside the museum there were no windows to look out of so Adira approached the guard with the bell to inquire of the time.
Near to ten minutes before we start calling the closing, miss,” was her answer. “Time to start making your way toward the door.”
Adira thanked him and returned to the center of the chamber. With only ten minutes to go surely Sir Emmett would be returning soon. She could not, would not, leave this room until the last moment. Then she would go to the main stairs and wait. Or, if she could, look for his carriage and go to stand with his Tiger. Soon, eventually, the captain would have to return to his carriage.
Yes, that was the plan and having a plan chased away any troubled thoughts of abandonment.
That was, until those ten minutes ticked past without Sir Emmett returning.
Adira obediently followed the other attendees back out to the main foyer where she loitered another quarter hour until the final closing of the doors were announced and the steely-eyed guards gave her very pointed looks as they stood near the grand doors.
Once outside she climbed down the stairs and scanned up and down the street seeking Sir Emmett’s phaeton.
Nothing. She could not recognize a single one of the Tigers walking their patient horses.
She shivered since the weak sun had already descended beneath rooftops and the wind picked up, tasting of dirty rain to come.
Adira found a safe corner near the bottom of the museum stair in which to empty her purse and count the coins. She had come out without enough money for a hackney, bother it all. She could take a hackney home and then ask the driver to get his money from Henry. That would serve, only now she looked about there were no hackneys on the street. Those few that had been about only moments before had been taken by those other Londoners who could sense the coming rain.
With a worried glance toward the sky Adira ascended the stairs to stand under the sheltering overhang of the museum.
You can’t stand here,” said a guard, scowling down her. “No loitering.”
I am waiting for a hackney,” said Adira.
Wait somewhere else,” snapped the old man. “This is a respectable building. Not somewhere for such as you to wait for customers.”
What?” demanded Adira.
Realization came quickly enough and she blushed as she walked down the stairs. How dared that horrible guard think she was a … a … a fallen woman? Dreadful man. But that added to her current problem. Would a hackney stop for her? Did fallen women take hackneys or did they all have their own carriages like that one in Hyde Park? And if she were to ask someone for directions from here to her home she would have to ask a woman, or risk a man misunderstanding her approach? And would a lady answer or turn away? Would a gentleman try to take advantage? Would she be safe?