Once again, O readers, I'm back! Life does not like me lately, but I suppose everyone has stretches of tough times, even if this feels a bit tougher than usual. I'm alive and well, as is the other human and the animals. The house is sound, the lights are on, and there's food in the fridge and pantry. So I'll get through the rest of it somehow.
Since part of the toughness of the times is that my inner critic is being nastier than usual about new words on the page, I'll be dipping into the archives. What I've got for you over the next few Made-Up Mondays and Fiction Fridays is a Glenscar story which I wrote shortly after I released Cat Tales, a continuation of the story of Anthea Franklin and Edwin Marlowe. I had intended it to be a part of a collection entitled Here Be Dragons, and perhaps it may be, but for now it will help flesh out this year's fictional blog posts.
In the chronology of the Glenscar universe, this story falls after "Qui Sola Ambulat" from Cat Tales, but before the blog post from last year entitled "So shall you reap" which featured Anthea's cousin Henrietta. If I stick with my current plan, it will take about four story-postings to get it all told to you, and by then, who knows? I might have broken through my current block and be able to provide you with more fresh fiction, both fan and original. Here's hoping.
For now, please enjoy this first installment of "Where Your Treasure Is", and stay tuned both here and at the Facebook page for more news of my crazy life!
"My dear niece. Anthea." William Franklin settled his pince-nez more firmly upon the bridge of his nose and peered over the top of their frame at the fair-haired young lady who sat across from him. "Surely you must be able to imagine why we're speaking today."
Anthea laid her hands in her lap, tracing a bit of her skirt's elaborate embroidery with a fingertip before folding her fingers together. "I haven't the faintest idea, Uncle," she said levelly. "Have I done something of which you disapprove?"
"Disapprove—no, no, good heavens, no. That is...not yet." William brushed a bit of lint fussily from the edge of his wig, raising a small cloud of powder, visible in the beam of sunlight coming through the dusty window of his London townhouse's study. "Is it, or is it not, true that through the first portion of this spring, and the autumn of 1756, that is, last year, you have been showing rather particular attentions to a young, er, gentleman of our acquaintance? Slight acquaintance," he added quickly. "Very slight."
"I suppose you must mean Mr. Edwin Marlowe." Anthea allowed herself a small smile. "Though I fail to see what about him might cause you to hesitate before naming him a gentleman. Surely his manners and address are everything that could be wished."
"Yes, well. You see." William heaved a sigh. "My dear niece," he said again. "Since the unfortunate death of your parents—your father, my brother, and his dear wife, your mother—it has been my duty, and that of your aunt, to stand in loco parentis. In the place, you understand, of your parents, as guardians of that precious treasure which is yourself."
"Of course," Anthea murmured. She had been able to read the Aeneid and the Metamorphoses in their original Latin for six and a half years, since she'd been twelve, but somehow this seemed the wrong moment to remind her uncle of that fact.
"As such, I find it my painful duty to inform you that while young Marlowe may seem unexceptionable to your inexperienced eyes, in the more jaded view of society—especially of those ladies who watch over what is and is not acceptable, whose lightest statement can make or break one such as yourself—a connection to him would be, in a single word, most undesirable." William nodded firmly. "Most undesirable."
Anthea bit her lip to keep from pointing out that the single word had magically become a pair, or a quartet if one counted the repetition. "May I ask why, Uncle?" she said once she had herself under better control. "For my own education, you understand. So that I may avoid making the same mistake again."
"Ah. Yes. Well then." William beamed at her, much as he might at a slightly slow schoolchild who had just solved a simple sum in arithmetic. "I shall have to tell your aunt Jane she was mistaken in you. She'd thought you would cause trouble over this, even become defiant—a reprise of last summer, with that nasty little episode while you were out riding, when we actually thought we might have to report to the constables that you'd been kidnapped by gypsies—well, well, no sense in going back over bygones, is there?" He frowned. "Dear me, where was I?"
"You were about to tell me why the dragons of society, if I may call them so, would frown on my showing partiality for Mr. Edwin Marlowe," Anthea reminded him. "Surely I need not cavil at one who is accepted by such social lights as the Earl of Farnton?"
"Farnton is a law unto himself, my dear Anthea, and his family is shielded by his reputation. You, and we, have no such shield." William shifted uneasily in his chair. "And young Marlowe, though he amuses certain members of the ton with his philosophies and prognostications, comes from a background which...well. He himself may have the manners of a gentleman, the education and the polish, but his elder brother is..." His face began to burn a dull red. "His habits, let us say, are not all that could be desired. And as for their parents...I believe I need only tell you that his father made his fortune by the buying and selling of land for you to understand, dear child." Another nod, this one accompanied by a sanctimonious expression. "They may hoard up as much money as they like, Anthea, but it will never make them our sort of people."
"And we must be careful of our true riches, those of our persons and our attention," Anthea mused aloud. "Keep them carefully guarded, so that social disaster does not come upon us unawares. Like a thief in the night."
"Precisely." William looked decidedly relieved. "You understand, my dear, we only wish to see you well-situated in life. Not outcast and solitary, a laughingstock to the people who matter. Edwin Marlowe is received among them, at the moment, for the sake of his manners—which, as you have said yourself, are excellent—and because his wild theories about educating and uplifting the lower classes provide matter for conversation. As soon as the dragons of society—to use your own phrase, my dear Anthea, though it is scarcely politic—but as soon as those good ladies cease to be amused by him, he will find himself alone with the theories he so treasures."
"I see." Anthea smoothed a layer of trim on her skirt. "So it is your considered opinion, and my aunt's, of course, that any connection between myself and Mr. Edwin Marlowe could result only in a mesalliance. That I should deny him entrance if he comes to call upon me again, and greet him as the barest of acquaintances should we meet on the street or at a gathering." She looked up, keeping her face serene. "It would hardly be civil to give him the cut direct, when all London knows we have been friendly to this point."