The weekend is over, the workday beckons, but before that, why not take a little fictional break with me? Good morning, O readers, and welcome to another Made-Up Monday! Also Make-Up Monday, if you will, since I missed a couple of Fiction Fridays and am therefore making up for that (get it, get it?) with dual posts for two weeks.
It was quite a wild weekend here, with a lot of emotional highs and lows, although I'm still waiting for the results on one particular question involving writing. I know I've been very mysterious about this, and thank you for being patient with me. All will be revealed, and probably quite shortly now!
In any case, here is part three of "Where Your Treasure Is" (links to parts one and two provided for your convenience). While not telling you very much you didn't already know, I think this story does fill in one important bit of plot that I've always intended, but that I think some readers didn't quite understand from reading A Widow in Waiting or "Qui Sola Ambulat" from Cat Tales. It will be made entirely clear in part four, this coming Friday, but let me know if you think you understand it before then!
In the meantime, please enjoy, and have as good a week as possible. Cheers!
"What do your parents mean," Anthea asked, turning back, "when they say they would cut you off with a shilling? Surely not literally that."
"No, not literally. Though if my mother believed she could, she would." Edwin smiled lopsidedly, as though at a memory which brought him equal parts pain and pleasure. "She had expected, you see, that I would spend my time at university on the fields of sport, making well-born friends. It was a terrible disappointment to her when I devoted myself to such mundane matters as studying philosophy and practicing my music. My father, though, is more realistic, and knows that even such limited acceptance as they currently find in society would end, should they be so unnatural as to disown me for anything short of bloody murder. Still, he has his own usual threat when I begin to wear on his patience with my 'foolish idealism'."
"And what might that be?" Anthea found a truer smile creeping onto her face this time, and allowed it. "A reversal of the parable of the Prodigal Son, perhaps? Instead of you requesting your share of your inheritance from your father early, to take it into a far country and waste it on riotous living, he threatens to give you that inheritance immediately, perhaps even in that far country, and cut off all other support henceforth?"
"Why, Miss Franklin." Edwin chuckled under his breath. "One would think you had been listening at the keyhole of his study."
"Sir!" Anthea pressed a hand to her chest, as if shocked. "Would you claim a lady could do such a thing?"
"Most ladies I have known take pride in their ability to add to the tangled web of gossip," Edwin returned readily. "But I digress. Yes, that is precisely his usual threat. To deed over to me a small estate, one with meager returns in rent, just enough to keep me fed and housed. He has his usual set of places, one in England, when he is only mildly displeased with my latest transgression, another in Wales, when I have upset him more seriously, and a third in Ireland, when he is truly cross with me. Having thus provided for my needs, he may wash his hands of me forever."
"Provided for your needs?" Anthea sniffed. "Perhaps if you were an animal, some fantastic beast he had imported from a distant land and now tired of caring for! Your father may be clever in the buying and selling of land, but clearly he knows nothing of the basic necessities of human life. Who, pray tell, will make and mend your clothes in this exile he plans for you, or wash them and hang them out to dry? Who will keep your house clean and tidy, your linens in good order, your pantry and larder stocked? If your rents are to be so meager as all that, you can hardly afford servants—"
"Enough, enough!" Edwin held up his hands in surrender, laughing. "You've hit upon the very reason I have been circumspect in my doings up to now, and never given my father cause to fulfill his favorite threat. It would truly be a punishment as frightful as any torture, for with all my learning, I understand nothing of domestic economy." His face turned thoughtful. "Though I do have some small income of my own, from my pamphlets, and the collection of folk songs I had published last year. It is hardly a living in and of itself, but it could pay for a few luxuries if such a living were assured to me. And then there are my savings, for which I must thank my brother."
"Because he lives more lavishly than you do, and your parents believe the allowance which will satisfy him should also be paid to you?" Anthea hazarded. "And may I also guess that while you set aside all monies which you do not truly need for your living expenses, he constantly overspends even that generous allowance, and must importune your father, your mother, and his every friend for loans until quarter-day, or until his next success at the tables or on the track?" She sighed a weary laugh at Edwin's nod. "And they say women have no head for business."
"'They' may say so indeed, Miss Franklin." Edwin's eyes were steady on hers once more. "I do not, and have never, for to generalize about women would be as foolish as to do so about men. And many women understand a certain business very well indeed, as you made clear you do yourself only a few moments ago. The business of holding household." He looked closely at her. "Is that why life in town seems to have less interest for you than for many of your age and sex I have known? Because there is so little for you to do, and you are used to keeping busy?"
"That's one way to put it." Anthea twisted a bit of her shawl's fringe between her fingers. "Another would be that life in town strikes me as utterly dull and monotonous. Parties are well enough, and I do enjoy dancing, but when you've drunk one cup of weak champagne punch, you've drunk them all. And if I never have to try to make conversation with another earnest, stammering child without enough wit to know Homer from Euripides, or Chaucer from Shakespeare—more than that, who does not wish to know, who may even become upset or offended at the mere mention of a thing outside his ken, or hers—" She shook her head. "Nothing is inherently evil about fripperies and frivolity, but to treasure them above all else, make them the be-all and end-all of one's existence, strikes me as terribly sad."
"What would you recommend for such frippery folk, if you were their doctor?" Edwin asked lightly. "To travel abroad and drink the waters, or go sea-bathing in November, or a diet of only soda-crackers and champagne?"