Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Emma 1

Have you ever read "Too Great a Lady?" Don't. It's about Emma Hamilton, but it follows the same roadmap as other modern fictional historical biographies that are determined to turn every 17th, 18th and 19th woman into some kind of bodice-ripping tragic heroine. I try to avoid the genre, but I read "TGL" because, well, I'm a Nelsonphile, and sometime you just have to take one for the team. As I was reading it, I was thinking "wow, this is really disappointing. I could do such a better job than this." And then I got sucked into the vortex of Patrick O'Brian, and thought "man, if only someone would dramatize Nelson's life, that would rock." So now I'm consumed with idea of writing twin books, "Emma" and "Nelson" which would be bodice-rippers for the POB crowd. I don't know if there would be any market for it, but...they would be fun to research and write. So that's the background if excerpts and ideas pop up from time to time--now you know where they're coming from.

The sitting room at number twelve Hanover Square was not a large room, and it was made all the smaller by the abundance of curtains, imposted on heavily-printed wallpaper. The air was still, unmoving, even the clock had wound down, and the small grey cat in the basket by Mrs. Fortier's feet was asleep. Mrs. Fortier was not an old woman, but she was prematurely aged with propriety and respectability. Emy Lyons, in an effort not to stare at her potential employer and thus to crush any chance--she was petrified to betray any of her liveliness in this lifeless room--stood with her hands behind her back, studying Mrs. Fortier's shoes. Brocaded house slippers with embroidered flowers. Emy liked them immensely.

"You say she is a good worker and able to take directions?" MRs. Fortier was questioing Emy's mother who had already been clad in servant's black this decade and more.

"Oh, aye, ma'am," she replied eagerly, her deference coming naturally. "Why, she has been a' living with my dear old mam, and every time I gets a letter all I hear is how handy dear Emy is with the children and how clever she is with the mending And as for taking directions! why, dutiful an' obedient is her watchwords."

Mary Lyons worked for a friend of Mrs. Fortier's who lied down the row of neat white houses in Hanover Square. Emy had never been to town before today. When her mother had met her at London Bridge and led her through the city, huffing with impatience, anxious they should not be late for this interview.

"Mrs. Fortier keeps a very fashionable house, but she's very proper, very tidy. But yo work hard and mind your duties and she'll take care of you. SAme as Mrs. Smythe looks after me."

Emy had looked at her red-faced mother then, so hopeful and thought of the tiny cottage in Wales with it's dirt floor and it's infusion of cousins.

"Can you cook?"

"Emy, Mrs. Fortier is speaking to you!" Anxious, horrifed that her daughter's mind should have forgotten itself and wandered.

"Yes, ma'am." Curtsey. "That is to say, I can bake bread and tend a stew, nourishing food certainly, but nothing to compare to the kitchens of London."

Mrs. Fortier nodded. "It is as I expected. I have a cook trained in the French manner."

"He must be a great credit to your table, ma'am."


She remained still in the still room as Mrs. Fortier and her mother talked terms. A room at the top of the stairs--a shared room, but one with a small fireplace--four pounds a year, to be paid to Emy's mother, and a new dress. "As soon as she has been here for two weeks, we must see to a new dress." Mrs Fortier said.

"Very thoughtful of you, ma'am, very handsome." Mary Lyons was nodding again. Emy echoed a thank you, for once without being prompted.

Mrs. Fortier ghosted a smile across her face. "It is strange, Emy, but you hardly sound like your mother at all."

The cat awoke, stretched, and promptly made an impenetrable scramble of the embroidery yarns that had formed his mattress.

"Tybalt, you naughty puss," his mistress cooed, and Emy was startled to see a flash of affection cross that cool, still face. Mrs. Fortier picked the cat up and stroked it. "Very well, if that is all. Mrs. Lyons, please introduce Emy to Underhill, and tell her she is to be put to work in the kitchen immediately."

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