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?
 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

uncle burnside 28

How very interesting,” Aunt Clara was saying to Uncle Burnside. “You do not know, but Lord Penrich here is quite the expert on the ‘exchange.”
No doubt,” said Burnside, without inflection. “Now, Clara.”
Oh, yes,” said Lord Penrich. “I have an instinct for it. My man of business is always astonished when I come to him with my selections. He says no one knows the ‘exchange as I do.”
Is that so?” said Burnside.
You should talk to Lord Penrich, Sir Burnside,” said Clara. “Do you not have some investments?”
A few shillings here and there,” said Burnside. “Nothing to excessively demand my attention.”
Oh, but you cannot leave the money to sit. You must move it about. Why, I call on my man each month to tell him which investments he must make.”
I am certain he looks forward to your visits,” Clara assured him.
Indeed he does. He tells me nothing lightens his load as much as hearing my decisions.”
Burnside covered his face and refused to meet anyone’s gaze. Adira grinned and stepped back into the shelter of the hallway.
And how do you make your selections?” inquired Penrich of Uncle Burnside and continued on without waiting for a reply. “For myself, I examine the name of the business. If it is a shipping concern I look to the names of the ships. You can a great deal about the propriety of a concern and whether a ship will survive the perils at sea from the name. For example, I shall not invest if the ship is named for a woman. Women are capricious and untrustworthy, when given responsibility…”
At this point Adira snorted and moved away from her listening post. If that was the stamp of man that Aunt Clara wanted for her youngest daughter, good luck to the both of them. If they couldn’t tell that the man’s system for choosing investments was little better than guessing, or the sort of selection process used for picking a winning horse, then more fool them. Like as not Lord Penrich’s man of business just nodded politely and went on doing whatever he judged to be good, knowing his employer wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Or, her author’s mind interrupted, the man of business was taking advantage of the Lord’s foolishness and embezzling. The many failures that would come from such a selection process would conceal the disappearing funds.
Grinning to herself, and the most recent snub vanishing from her mind, Adira ran upstairs to her mind to write down that idea before it vanished. What a wonderful way to have her heroine’s inheritance vanish!
It was in her room that the maid found her an hour later.
Miss Adira? Captain Farrah is at the back door.”
That caught Adira’s attention.
Sir Emmett? The back door? Why ever would he go there?”
He didna say but he did ask if you were interested in going to the Museum today.”
The museum?” Adira capped her ink pot immediately. “Please ask him to grant me a quarter hour to make myself presentable.”
The maid nodded and vanished back down the servant’s stairs. A short while later, dressed in her familiar green walking dress and pelisse Adira followed her down. To her surprise Sir Emmett was seated at the kitchen table with tea cup and remains of a slice of fruit cake before him.
He rose as Adira entered.
I was warned away from entering through the front hall,” said Sir Emmett. “It seems your aunt is visiting.”
Who warned you?” inquired Adira, breaking a corner off the cake which still rested in the center of the table.
The cook waved a warning wooden spoon at her, but laughed as she did so.
Henry sent a footman over,” answered Emmett. “Just in case I was considering paying a call today, to warn my of your aunt’s appearance.”
Henry,” repeated Adira, less than pleased. “Likely he was just hinting that you should take me out of the house.”
Why is that?”
Adira noticed that all the servants were pretending great interest with their tasks but no one was leaving the room. Therefore she would.
We should go,” said Adira. “What time does the museum close?”
Five thirty. We shall have enough time to see some of the Egyptian exhibits or the marbles, not both. Which do you prefer?”
Whichever room is least crowded,” said Adira and waved a general goodbye to the servants as she exited through the kitchen door.
Inform Sir Burnside I shall be taking Miss Adira to tea at Gunther's after we have explored the museum,” said Sir Emmett to the cook. “I shall be responsible for getting her home at a reasonable hour.”
As you say, Captain,” said the cook.
Adira glanced about the room before following the captain out. No one suggested she not go. No one commented on the lack of a maid or a chaperone. And here she was exiting through the kitchen door. Truly she was now part of the staff. An employee of the house.
No one suggested a servant needed a maid to go with her when she took a walk.
Then again, no one had suggested Adira needed one at any time in the last year.
Perhaps Aunt Clara had a point. She wasn’t gentry, the daughter of a gentleman, any more. She was a servant.
Adira straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. Well, if she must be a servant at least she was a well-paid and well treated one. And within the house the housekeeper was the highest ranked servant, equal to the butler - since the butler had to personally polish certain items of the silver and the housekeeper need only carry the keys and direct the other staff. She would have to consult with Henry, though, and discover if there were any tasks she was supposed to be doing that she was not. Given Burnside’s age she was unlikely to be his servant the whole of her working life and would have to be ready to seek another duty thereafter. She would see herself in hell before she’d seek Aunt Clara’s advice on how to go about getting her next employment.
Adira accepted Sir Emmett’s assistance climbing into his phaeton and settled her bonnet, tying it securely against the breeze.
Congratulations on escaping your aunt today,” said Sir Emmett. “By what deception, Miss? Are you, perhaps, fallen victim to the headache and are seeking relief in the fresh air?”
Not at all. I was dismissed from her presence being unfit to sit in the parlor by dent of being a paid servant. For some strange reason my aunt thinks it appropriate for an unpaid servant to sit with her, but not one that is paid. A most odd sort of snobbery.”
Sir Emmett muttered something uncomplimentary and likely blasphemous under his breath.
Oh, don’t take on so,” said Adira. “I am happy enough to have a good reason to avoid her disapproval and an outing to the museum pleases me.”
Very well, Miss, we shall spend a happy afternoon expanding our understanding of history and then to Gunther’s. Your uncle was quite put out you had not yet sampled their wares. What shall it be? Ices or marzipan!”
Turkish delight, if they have it,” declared Adira. “It was my mother’s favorite and Papa used to order a box for her birthday each year.”
I have not heard of it, but if it exists Gunther’s shall have it.”
Oh, it is of everything wonderful. Father sampled some when he took his grand tour and he gave some to mother when they were courting. She told me he slipped her a silk handkerchief wrapped about this tiny confection and she declared it must have contained a love potion for she fell in love with the sweet and with Papa at the same time.”
You must include that tale in one of your books, Miss Adira.”
I shall, one day. It will not suit the one I have under my pen this moment.”

Monday, October 23, 2017

uncle burnside 27

She lifted the lantern from the box and a small card fell to the table. She turned it over and stared.
To Miss Adira, from H.
Henry!
And she laughed.
How silly she’d been, expecting a gift, an expensive personal gift like this, from a relative stranger. Obviously her author’s mind was seeing intimacy and … and… she blushed to think it … attraction where it did not exist. She wasn’t certain how Burnside had been able to convince Captain Farrah to spend time with her but seeing romance in this situation was simply silly. She would have to be careful with her manners and attitude toward the captain. Offer him respect and maintain the air of indifferent acquaintances that would not damage either of their reputations.
Yes.
And she would have to inquire of Henry what role he would want in her book. Would he enjoy the villain’s role?
She carefully primed and lit her new lantern, positioning it so it shed a warm and steady light over her papers, opened her little notebook and began to write.

The next morning Adira descended, yawning and rubbing her eyes to the breakfast room to discover another brown-paper wrapped parcel beside her plate. Since Henry was responsible for last night’s surprise Adira directed a smile in his direction.
Henry, you cannot be spending all your salary on me. While I thank you for the lantern, really, this must stop.”
Henry looked from her to the package and back again.
That parcel was fetched around from Sir Emmett this morning. His footman said you were expecting it.”
Oh?” Adira now stared at the innocuous brown paper and string package with deep suspicion.
Last night, alone in her chamber, she had been delighted, flustered and flattered at the thought of receiving a gift from the captain. This morning, with the grey London filtering through the curtains and an impassive Henry looking on, a gift was not so flattering.
More of an embarrassment.
Before I am distracted,” said Adira. “Henry, I do thank you for the lantern.”
Henry bowed. “It is my pleasure, Miss Adira. I know authors might be struck by the muse at the oddest hours and I did not want you to struggle with candlelight.”
Adira frowned. “How is it you know about authors and their muses? Are you an author, Henry?”
Myself?” the butler laughed politely behind his white gloved hand. “Oh, indeed not, miss. I remember reading a report of a conversation between Lord Byron and a young lady. It seems his lordship refuses to write unless the light is steady and true.”
I assure you, I have no idea to be writing poetry or prose as fine as Lord Byron’s.”
Who is to say what you will and will not do, Miss Adira,” was the reply as Henry poured out a cup of tea. “Now miss, before I expire of curiosity, what has the captain sent you?”
Adira plucked open the knots as quickly as she could and spread out the paper to reveal a much folded, crushed, then straightened collection of newsprint.
Oh,” said Adira both relieved and disappointed. “The captain said he would send me some gossip sheets since Uncle Burnside declines to subscribe. He suggested I should find them inspirational.”
Henry studied the wrinkled sheets some of which showed soot stains suggesting the paper had been rescued from the tinder box beside a fireplace.
Indeed, I am certain you will find these useful,” Henry allowed and gathered the sheets together. “I shall iron them out and put them near your writing desk.”
That is not necessary. They will do as they are.”
Miss Adira, I assure you,” Henry’s lip curled as he lifted one crumpled and stained corner. “It is indeed needed.”
Thank you, then.”
I shall leave you to your breakfast. Sir Burnside has already dined and is taking his turn about the park.”
Adira made a quick efficient breakfast before rising and, aware she was now being very well paid, descended to the kitchen to spend some time going the house accounts and planning the next week’s purchases. She was rather surprised to find herself humming as she went about her daily tasks. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been doing these same tasks since her mother died but somehow being paid for it added to the satisfaction. She’d always done the best job she could but now, to know that she was being paid - twenty pounds a quarter - she could barely keep herself from dancing!
Her spring dresses deserved spring bonnets and she could afford to buy one. And her best walking boots were getting down at heel. Now the only question was, repair or replace, or both.
And, of course, something put aside for the future.
She grinned as she ran up the stairs. A grin that faded when the door-knocker sounded and a familiar voice was heard in the front hall.
Is Sir Burnside at home?” inquired Aunt Clara.
I shall inquire,” came Henry’s familiar suppressive tones.
Oh, I am certain he is,” said another female voice. “With his poor foot he never goes out!”
Bethena, Clara’s younger daughter.
Adira cringed. She had no good memories of sharing a house with that cat. Oh, well. For Uncle Burnside she would put a smile on her face and serve tea with all the graciousness her father had taught her.
It is rather early to be paying calls,” came a masculine voice Adira did not recognize.
Perhaps this was the suitor Aunt Clara had such hopes for. No matter, they were here and Uncle Burnside would meet with them.
Adira hurried downstairs to request an expanded tea tray. Bethena was known to be fond of sweets and who knew what the gentleman would prefer and since they didn’t have to worry about keeping Aunt Clara in good humor they might serve what they preferred with the tea.
That task tended to Adira straightened her gown and ran back upstairs to the study. Since the door was standing open she entered after a perfunctory knock.
Good morning, Aunt. Cousin.”
Aunt Clara turned to stare and frown.
Indeed,” she said, then turned back to Uncle Burnside freshly returned from his stroll. “Your staff would benefit from experienced direction. I am parched for tea and after all this time no one has yet appeared with a tray.”
The tray is on its way, Aunt Clara,” said Adira. “I have asked cook to prepare both India and China tea since it is this gentleman’s first visit to the house and I do not know his preferences.”
It is not your place to comment on who does and does not visit,” snapped Aunt Clara and leaned forward to smile at Uncle Burnside. “Are you much improved in health this morning, dear Burnside? I am assured the recipe I brought yesterday works almost instantly. Has your servant provided it, mixed exactly as the receipt directs?”
I am well enough,” said Burnside.
Before he could elaborate a rattle of dishes alerted the arrival of the tea tray. Today’s adjusted tea required two servants to bear it in. Adira directed it be laid out on a small table then settled herself near the twin tea pots. Before she could speak Aunt Clara gave an outraged gasp and slapped her across the wrist.
Servants,” cried Aunt Clara, “do not sit in the parlor with their employers.”
Adira jumped to her feet, shocked by the blow and the sudden pain. Before she could decide if she should sit again or go Clara had shifted to sit beside the teapot, pushing at Adira until she yielded her place entirely.
Now, Clara,” began Burnside.
You take yours black with lemon, Burnside,” said Clara, pouring out from the China pot. “And there is far too much sugar on this tray. Your servant’s extravagance must be controlled. Take it away and mind you put it back in the pantry and don’t waste it in the servant’s tea.”
Clara lifted the whole sugar dish and dropped it in Adira’s hands.
Oh, certainly.” With a sharp curtsy Adira left the room, taking care to walk with a measured, slow step.
Clara, I will not have you insulting Adira…”
By the time Adira returned Clara and her party had made themselves very comfortable in Burnside’s study and the tea tray was empty.

Friday, October 20, 2017

uncle burnside 26

Burnside took one look at Henry’s nonplussed expression and started to laugh.
Of course. She is an author, after all.”
Aspiring author,” corrected Adira. “The whole story is becoming very complicated.”
Henry sniffed and resumed supervising the staff. Burnside and Adira exchanged a glance and both hid behind napkins and soup spoons to conceal their smiles.
Oh, Uncle, I forgot to say…”
Yes, my dear.”
Adira gave a rueful grimace. “Our clever plan that I should hide behind the curtain was all for nothing. Sir Emmett knew within a few minutes that I was there.”
You tell me so?” cried Burnside, flushing slightly. “Good heavens, what was the clue?”
My shoes, apparently.”
Bother.” Burnside shook his head, huffing out a breathe. “And I thought I was so clever whisking him out of the room when you sneezed.”
I did not sneeze,” snapped Adira, then admitted, “I laughed.”
Whatever the sound, obviously he was on to the ruse before then. Oh, well.”
But Uncle, he was not offended. He said that if we, I, wanted to know how gentlemen conversed then I should stay in the room when you played. Work on my book, or my sewing, or even played the pianoforte.”
Did he now? Well, that was gentlemanly of him.” Burnside paused then glanced across at Henry. “Do we have a pianoforte?”
I shall inquire,” said Henry, placidly.
Yes, indeed,” said Adira, thoughtfully. “Considering that he does not know if I play well or not it is a strange request.”
Is that a problem?” said Burnside, who was paying more attention to the winks and sideways shakes of the head that were currently afflicting Henry.
Well, I had considered making him the villain. You know, making the true villain look deceptively fair and then I shall have the hero be rather rough and craggy in his features.”
You mean like me,” suggested Henry, turning his rather unassuming profile to the table and smirking.
This time neither Burnside nor Adira tried to hold in the laughter. Henry scowled for a moment then joined in.
You have a point, Adira,” said Burnside. “Far too often the villain has a certain air to him, of decrepitude, of intensity and – what was the name of that novel with the dark visaged hunchback? Oh, well, it shall come to me later – and a tendency not to bathe regularly. His evil is all too obvious. If that truly was the case life, would be much easier for those Bobbie fellows.”
Adira giggled as a slice of mutton was arranged on her plate.
Sir Emmett has a naval, rather than a military air to him which could go either way, hero or villain,” said Henry.
I like that very much,” said Burnside. “The poor heroine will not know who to trust and neither shall your readers, if you make both hero and villain handsome and charming. Now, what shall you do tomorrow? Did you discuss your next outing with the Captain?”
I must admit that I was so overset by seeing Aunt Clara that I made no plans,” said Adira. “Besides, I cannot take all the man’s time. It would not be considerate.”
Well, we shall give it a day or so,” said Burnside. “You might progress with your writing a little and then have a better idea of where you need to go next.”
He did say that he would get me an etching of the inside of Almacks.”
Almacks,” repeated Burnside, with a sad glance toward Henry. “Oh, dear.”
Please Uncle, do not be overset,” cried Adira. “I assured Captain Farrah, Sir Emmett, that is, and now I assure you, I have no wish to pander to the so-called patronesses for their favor. I have no need to attend a ball. I only wish to know what the Almacks’ Assembly hall looks like in case I ever need to describe the place. Please believe me, I am happy knowing I shall not be required to appear there.”
Burnside blew out a grateful breath while Henry tugged at his chin and hummed.
And tomorrow I shall write out my impressions of the people I saw at Hyde Park,” continued Adira. “I saw a courtesan. Quite an odd experience. She was not pretty at all. There must be something to her character that gentlemen seek her out.”
Burnside and Henry were struck silent by that observation and Adira continued.
I shall drop a note to Sir Emmett inquiring when he will be available for a trip to the British Museum, but I shall not insist on an early visit. I have so much to write now. A day or so to work on my book and I shall be ready for the museum.”
Then we are agreed,” said Burnside. “I shall not keep you after dinner if your muse is calling you.”
Thank you, sir.”

Adira accepted her after dinner dismissal calmly. Of course she could do very little writing after dark. Struggling to write by flickering candlelight gave her a headache. Still she could dream. She could think. She would work out the twists and turns of the story in her mind.
She stepped into her room and stared at the brown paper wrapped boxes arranged on her tiny writing table. Setting her candle down she untangled the string and opened the box to reveal a small oil lantern and supply of oil. She sat with a thump and smiled at the gift. It was not necessary to ask from whom the gift came. Burnside was endlessly generous.
Or, her author’s imagination insisted, it could be from Sir Emmett. Heat filled her face as she blushed. Odd that he was so supportive of her writing. Shouldn’t he be offended, insulted, affronted that a young woman would engage in that activity? That he should be imposed upon to take her about. And her not being a relative or any sort of person to whom he owed an obligation.
At least that was the reaction she’d been given to expect.
And yet as soon as he’d been informed that he’d been chosen to squire her about town he’d been more than willing.
He was everything kind. A gift, inappropriate between mere friends, appearing in her chamber was oddly intimate even though the gift itself was practical.
How kind. How understanding. How exactly what she needed. What a wonderful hero he would make. Again she shifted the descriptions of the hero and villain about. Henry for the villain. A nice innocent, innocuous man with pale eyes and unassuming manner hiding a terrible secret. Oh yes.
And Captain Farrah, Sir Emmett, a heroic navy man, as the hero

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

uncle burnisde 25

Burnside!” shrieked Aunt Clara, flinging open the door without even pretending to knock and seek polite entry. “Have you lost your mind to be paying this girl a salary? You have ruined her, completely ruined her for good work in honest households!”
Adira, following along behind, was quite affronted. Ruined, indeed!
Uncle Burnside shared Adira’s opinion.
Not ruined, surely,” said the old man, mildly, arranging the blanket over his leg. “Miss Adira is a good girl and a very good housekeeper. Her reputation remains above reproach. Of course I would chose to keep her when you threatened to take her away, and thank you very much for bringing her to my attention. But, as you have no doubt heard, she no longer requires you to find her employment.”
Burnside leaned back and folded his hands across his chest and smiled.
I did not bring her to your attention so you could hire her away from me,” cried Aunt Clara. “I brought her here to be useful while you had the gout. Now I need her for Arabelle, but she will not come because you have drawn her in with outrageous salaries. Do you not know that money makes girls like her proud and insolent? She will start thinking herself above her station.”
Adira could not resist. Truth to tell she did not try very hard.
If you sincerely wish me to look after Arabelle, Aunt, why did you not say so.” She waited until Clara turned to face her before placing a vacuous smile on her face. “However, since I have met your daughter the salary to attend her needs would be set at thirty pounds per quarter. If you feel you cannot pay my salary then I am sorry, I feel I cannot accept the job, but if you look in the newssheets you will find a number of advertisements from persons seeking employment who might assist you.”
On the other side of the room Henry clapped his white gloved hands together silently and winked at Adira.
Trust a man to ruin things,” burst out Aunt Clara, glaring at Burnside while pointing at Adira. “She was content with room and board, man. That was all she cost. How could you not realize this? As long as no one gave her a penny she would work for free forever! You selfish old fish. Did you give a moment’s thought to all the families who might need a strong girl to help out at no cost? No, you did not! And now she’d gone all prideful! Well, girl, you will regret this day’s work. I shall see to it!”
So saying Aunt Clara strode off toward the door. Before reaching that barrier she halted, turned back and seized Adira by the arm, dragging her out into the hall and slamming the study door behind them.
I shall give you until this evening to set things right, Dora,” said Clara, waving a finger under Adira’s nose. “If you have a Christian bone in your body you will not ignore the call of honor, of duty and obligation. Of responsibility to your family. Of awareness of your proper place. Besides, you cannot stay here and maintain your reputation. A young girl in a man’s household? No. Never! They’ll be saying that you are no better than you ought to be and all doors will be shut against you. If you value your reputation you’ll be at my door tonight before supper with your trunks packed and a sincere apology prepared!”
Adira drew breath to answer and found she had none. The fire that had sustained her until now seemed to have fled and she felt wearied by the argument and her aunt’s persistence. Perhaps that was how Aunt Clara triumphed over her family, she just kept pushing and pushing until all others fell beside the road too tired of the arguments to continue.
Lacking the necessary dialog Adira turned and walked away, through the servants door. She did not retreat to the kitchen or back to the study. Instead she crept up the back stairs to her own room and dropped down onto her bed to stare into the gathering darkness.
There she stayed until a knock at the door had her leaping to her feet, fearing that Aunt Clara was at the door.
Miss,” called Maggie, the upstairs maid. “Tis dinner time and the gong has gone this quarter hour.”
Oh, I’m sorry!”
Adira slid of the bed to discover she was still wearing her outdoor boots. It was the work of a few moments to change into her slippers, straighten her clothing and hair and hurry downstairs.
Henry was waiting in the hall outside the dining room. Uncle Burnside was already within regarding the soup tureen with interest. When Adira appeared, out of breath and blushing, he half rose waving her to her usual seat.
Well, girl,” inquired Burnside as she settled herself and a footman poured a glass of wine. “Did you take a nap, do some writing or start to pack?”
I gave serious consideration to all three,” was the answer and Adira leaned back while soup was spooned out for her.
Oh, say not so,” cried Henry. “Miss Adira, you are more sensible than that.”
Oh, don’t give up on me yet, Henry,” said Adira. “At first I was seriously worried about Aunt Clara’s threats, but then when I started to think what might become of me, well, it started to match the plot of my novel. Alone, cast out, suffering. Dying curled up against the cold in some filthy alleyway, or some such rot. Then I got so caught up with the possibilities, all coming from the decisions my poor heroine might make, well, time flew by and I did nothing at all.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

uncle burnside 24

Jimmy grinned as he trailed along behind them, keeping a fair amount of the crowd between she and he. It was no surprise to Jimmy when the girl took fright at the arrival of a sour-faced matron and she and her paramour took to their heels. They left at greater speed than Jimmy could manage without attracting attention and climbed into a fashionable phaeton.
Frowning, Jimmy paced back and forth before returning to his work. She’d come to the park twice now. He would have to hope that she’d come again and when she did Jimmy would follow her until he knew her address.
Mr. Wheeler would pay more than two shillings for that information.

Emmett bowed to Adira as his phaeton was driven back to the mews and turned to walk the few steps to his own front door. Pausing, Emmett glanced back in time to see Adira let herself in using her own key. Adira did not watch him depart, nor seek to see if he watched her enter her own home. Perhaps she regarded felt such behavior was suitable for her fiction but not to be considered in real life. It was disheartening to a young man, nonetheless. To be so easily dismissed after an afternoons outing? Yes, disheartening.
Once safe inside Adira considered her afternoon. She should not have dismissed Sir Emmett so politely. She should have glanced after him, just for an instant. Their eyes should have met. She should have blushed and dropped her gaze, turning away in confusion.
Her heroine would not make those mistakes. Yes, her heroine would not miss an opportunity.
He had been a charming companion, hadn’t he, despite being an unwilling, forcible recruit in the service of her ambition to write? Well, her heroine would treat her hero with greater courtesy. She will send a smile at him, over her shoulder. And when her heroine turned she would see him watching her, waiting to warmly return that smile.
Dismissing all thoughts of her novel she fumbled as she pulled off her gloves. Henry waited patiently and as soon as she was free of her pelisse handed her a heavy wool shawl.
Sir Burnside is waiting in the study with a good tea, Miss. Wanting to know how it went.”
Adira nodded mutely and hurried toward the study, Henry on her heels.
Come in, girl,” called Burnside, half lifting from his chair as she entered. “Come by the fire and warm up. Tell us, did you enjoy your outing? Who did you see?”
Aunt Clara,” cried Adira and stunned her listeners into terrified silence.

The good tea was quickly consumed and orders given for another tray, suitable for Aunt Clara, be prepared and held ready.
They were not surprised, therefore, when Aunt Clara arrived precisely half an hour later.
I will speak to Dora, alone if you please,” declared Aunt Clara to Henry as soon as she entered the hall. “There is no reason to disturb Sir Burnside yet, although I shall have words with him before we depart.”
We?” inquired Henry.
I shall be taking Dora with me when I leave today. Have someone pack her bags, quickly now. I am expected at home shortly and have no wish to be delayed.”
Aunt Clara’s voice rang through the house, as she no doubt intended. Inside the study Adira cringed, then shrank back still further when she saw Burnside’s disappointed glance.
Oh, come girl. Where is your spine?” demanded Burnside. “I take it she doesn’t know you’re staying here. That you are declining her kind offer to make you Arabelle’s slavey.”
I … I couldn’t bring myself to write and tell her.”
Burnside winced.
Tell her now. And Adira? Tell her as the character in your book. Remember, you are the heroine of your own tale! Defy that villain! That’s a good girl.”
Gathering her courage Adira patted her hair and shook the creases from her still-green skirt. Standing straight she caught Burnside’s sad shake of the head at her fussing.
I will try,” Adira assured him. “You might say I am the heroine, but in this case, the author has given me a sorry sort of story and a bossy relative to be a trial and a bother to me. What should I do? What is the proper thing to say?”
I have faith in your ability to write stinging dialog,” said Burnside. “Now, off you go and give Aunt Clara her conge.”
Well aware that in the year she’d know him Burnside was yet to offer Aunt Clara anything other than the peak of politeness, Adira went out as commanded to be discourteous, insolent, and disrespectful – providing her courage did not fail her.
Left in the hallway, Aunt Clara was in quite a state by this time. She’d had the remainder of the hour of fashionable promenade to keep her frustration silent and hidden from the prospective suitor, who persisted in not offering for her younger daughter no matter how many opportunities he was given.
After their airing in the park Clara had taken the still un-betrothed daughter home and gone out again, while her feet were pained and cramping from the chill and the tight lacing and fashionable heel of her shoes, to face her impossible niece.
A fine temper sent color to pale cheeks and a martial light to Clara’s pale blue eyes as she paced the hallway. She speared Adira with a killing glare when she finally appeared.
Dora Cooper, what can you be thinking? Was I unclear? Young women in your situation do not go out walking out with gentlemen! It is unseemly. And to parade your paramour before all the Ton? Who did you think you were to be in Hyde Park in that hour? Impossible, headstrong girl! Shaming yourself was not enough, you attempt to shame me? I tell you, I will not tolerate that disrespect. Fortunately for you, my girl, no one knows we are acquainted, but hear me and hear me well, if you do it again I shall wash my hands of you and then what shall become of you?”
Adira considered the speech, memorizing it carefully. It really was quite impressive. When she reproduced it for her book she would have these lines delivered by a housekeeper - with one eye brown and one eye green - garbed in heavy bombazine …. Dusty bombazine and unwashed dirty fingernails. And a heavy one of those watches pinned to the bodice of her apron. Yes. And –
Are you listening to me?” cried Aunt Clara. “I shall not be ignored.”
I was not ignoring you,” said Adira, with complete honesty. “I was memorizing every word.”
And suddenly the humor of the situation struck her. By casting her terrifying aunt as an excessively villainous housekeeper Adira had, somehow, pulled the woman’s teeth. The words that had previously reduced her to quivering silence now were dialog to be manipulated, re-written, and crafted. Her aunt, not knowing the path of Adira’s thoughts, and that was possibly a very good thing, was not amused.
Dora? What are you smirking at? Have you lost what wits you possessed?”
My name,” was the slow and distinct reply, “is Miss Adira Marie Cooper. I am a gentleman’s daughter, therefore when you address me, given that we are but distantly connected, it should be as Miss Adira Cooper.”
Aunt Clara stared at her open mouthed, as if she’d never seen the girl before.
How dare you take that tone with me, Missy? You should be on your knees thanking God I took you in and found you work.”
To do the running about that your daughters demand and spare you the effort of listening to them?” said Adira. “Since you don’t like them either when they’re demanding and petulant and you’d rather they looked after you than the other way around, you snatch me away from my home with no warning, no consideration, and no chance to take my leave of my friends.”
How dare you?”
I dare easily enough, aunt,” Adira smiled. “A surprise to me as well as to yourself. I had thought it would be more difficult but it seems easier. After giving the matter some consideration, I have decided I do not want your good opinion and you do give it reluctantly. Likewise I do not want the unpaid employment you offer and so decline to accompany you today or any other day.”
Unfeeling, ungrateful girl! Have you forgotten all I have done for you? Where would you have been if not for my intervention?”
Not at all, Aunt. While it might have been kind of you to take me in when I was bereaved, your kindness is no longer required. Uncle Burnside has decided that his household cannot do without me, therefore he has offered me the permanent position of housekeeper with a salary of twenty pounds a quarter.”
What? What?” Aunt Clara’s mouth opened and closed and she goggled at Adira - the only word that fit – and then burst into motion. Not, thank the stars, running at Adira but charging through the house toward Uncle Burnside’s study.