In Chapter 12, Mr. Dunkirk is talking about his sister Beth.
Mr. Dunkirk paused for a moment of reflection. Sighing a bit, he continued. “I was away at school, as was my brother, Richard. I like to think that I might have noticed if I had been home. She was always a dreamy child, given to romantic fantasies. Once, she sent me a story she had written in which a clockmaker created an automaton of a monkey as a means of winning the love of his fair lady. Such fancy!
Mr. Dunkirk engaged to call by four o’clock on the morrow.
When Jane left them, to rejoin her mother and sister, she could scarce believe the turn the afternoon had taken. Mrs. Ellsworth and Melody were no less disbelieving when Jane told them of what had caused her delay in Madame Beaulieu’s Haberdashery.
“I must say that Mr. Dunkirk took exceeding advantage of your good nature in keeping you in the store as if you were a common shopclerk,” Mrs. Ellsworth said. “I had thought better of him.”
“No Mama, I assure you, he was most apologetic. I think, with only the one sister, and so much difference in their age, that Mr. Dunkirk is so far removed from an understanding of a modiste’s role that he took great comfort in having the assistance of a neighbor.”
“Did you not tell him that Madame Beaulieu was more than equal to the task?” Melody said, frowning.
“Of course, but still Miss Dunkirk is such a charming young woman, that I did not mind in the least.” Jane continued, “I have invited them to visit tomorrow.”
Mrs. Ellsworth and Melody exclaimed at this and spent the remainder of the afternoon planning for Mr. Dunkirk and Miss Dunkirk’s visit.
The reason I cut the scene was that it placed too much emphasis on the Dunkirk’s visit. Since I needed the ball to be Chapter Three, one would have gone into the scene wondering about the Dunkirk’s visit so I removed the immediacy of the engagement to visit.
I started writing Shades of Milk and Honey for NaNoWriMo, in which one tries to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. When I hit the finish line, I stopped to re-read what I’d written and decided to toss the last six chapters and rewrite, changing the plot in the process.
This is the last chapter I wrote in the original plot. The events leading up to it are somewhat different. While I was able to reuse much of the text that I cut when I reworked the novel, this scene got cut completely.
It’s a shame because I had to solve a thorny theological problem to write this. It’s set in a church, which raised the question: What would miracles look like in a world with magic?
Oh, you’ll also get to see notes to myself from when I wrote it since this scene never got past the first draft stage.
Jane was in the maze again, and around her she heard the sounds of the wolves and in the distance, Melody’s voice crying for help. Trapped in the branches between hedges, Jane struggled to reach her sister, but the branches dug deeper into her flesh, weaving through her flesh like folds of glamour.
“Jane!” Melody’s voice became her mother’s. “Jane, you lazy girl. Wake up.”
Cracking her eyes, Jane left the maze and woke, still sitting in the wingback chair by the fire. Her neck pinched when she lifted her head. A sharp pain went from the bottom of her skull down her arm when she tried to turn her head to face her mother. “I’m sorry, Mama. Did you need me?”
“Yes. Yes, indeed I do.” Her mother gestured with outraged finger at Jane’s disheveled hair. “Here we are, about to set out for church and you are far from ready. How could you, Jane?” [Gentle readers, pretend that I have mentioned church-going earlier, because I will in the rewrite.]
Jane started and pried herself from the chair. With all of the intrigue of the night before, she had quite forgotten the date. “Of course. Give me the space of half an hour, and I will go with you.”
This satisfied her mother long enough to vacate the room, giving Jane time to pull her thoughts together. By the time she had dressed and joined her family in the foyer, her mind was tolerably composed. Though her face betrayed the sleeplessness of the night before, her demeanor did not admit to her troubled spirits, or at any rate, not so much that one who did not know her would find occasion to remark.
Her father raised his eyebrows, but Jane shook her head. This was not the time to speak of all that she had learned. Melody seemed oblivious to the turmoil swirling within Jane, but there was a jitter to her movements which suggested more unease than her smooth brow offered.
During the brief carriage ride–of course, Mrs. Wentworth’s health would not allow her to walk to church– her mother had much to say about the weather and its effect on her health, which did much to mask the tense silence of the carriage’s other occupants. Despite the relative speed of the carriage ride, Jane thought it took rather longer than walking by herself might have done.
But, at last, they rounded the last bend in the road and the church lay before them on its shaded knoll. Small knots of other congregants stood outside the ivy-shrouded stone walls.
They had barely alighted from the carriage when Beth flew across the lawn and grabbed Jane by the hands, with a face so rosy, so merry that Jane half-expected another family member to have arrived.
“Oh Jane! Jane! You were so right. Bath was not so very far away and he came back! Oh. I am in raptures and have no time to tell you all, but oh, oh, it is not possible to wait until after the service.” Then Beth pulled back and held out her hand. “Perhaps this will tell you all you need to know.”
Her hand displayed a ring, a handsome ring which Jane could not take for any other than an engagement ring but looking up for Mr. Dunkirk, who was tending to their horses, and seeing the expression of happiness on his face, she could not imagine that Mr. Vincent had proposed. “Are you–?”
“Yes! Oh, yes! Captain Livingston came last night to dinner and he and Papa settled it all.”
“Captain Livingston!” A jolt like lightening burned down Jane’s spine and she could not contain her astonishment.
Beth laughed and spun away to Mr. Dunkirk, missing the horror that welled up to fill Jane’s features. “She thought as you did, I see. Poor Edmund, so suspicious of Mr. Vincent.”
Mr. Dunkirk’s eyes were quicker than his sister’s and he straightened, a small frown tightening his mouth with concentration. He took a step forward, a question forming itself on his lips and then Melody appeared by Jane’s side.
“Do you mean to say that you are engaged to Captain Livingston?”
Oh, heavens, no. Jane swiftly grasped her sister’s hand and squeezed, willing her to stop before she voiced any hint of her hopes. “Yes. You can see that we are beyond astonished.”
“Captain Livingston and I have been engaged for these past two months, but–” Her next words were drowned by the peeling bells calling the worshipers indoors for the morning service. “Oh! I shall come– May I come, do say that I may, after the service and tell you all? Oh, say I may.”
“Of course! I shall think of nothing else until we see you next.” Truer words, Jane had never spoken.
Jane felt the trembling in Melody’s hands, but her sister betrayed no other sign of what must surely be a great shock. As soon as Beth had rejoined her family, Jane turned to Melody. “Are you all right?”
Placidly, as if nothing untoward had happened, Melody removed her hands from Jane’s grasp and settled her shawl about her shoulders. “Of course. Why do you ask?”
“Because–” Jane bit her lip in consternation. Why indeed? Because she had been spying on her sister the night before. “Captain Livingston had been so much to the house that I…”
“You thought that we had an understanding?” Melody laughed. “
She entered the church and sat in her family pew. Across the aisle, Captain Livingston sat in the FitzCameron pew, representing his family. He smiled and nodded his head to them as free from self-consciousness as if his conversation with Melody had not happened.
And what if it had not? Jane turned the evening over in her head. How much more likely it was that she had dreamt the entire encounter than that Captain Livingston had engaged himself to two women. Jane darted glances at Melody over her psalm book as the choir painted the glories of the Saviour in the air above the congregation. The heightened color in Melody’s cheeks was not a shade of Jane’s imagination. Her sister had not looked once at Captain Livingston.
Jane followed through the service as if she were a loop of glamour, repeating a set series of movements with no thought of her own. The hour was an agony.
(Tor Books – July 14 2020) Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon. The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and […]