Edited to add:The following chapter is the rough draft I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2006 and is posted in unedited form. The finished book came out in 2010 from Tor, edited by Liz Gorinsky. You may read the final, published version of the first chapter, if you’d like to compare the two.
I’ve decided that I’m going to post chapters of my novel as I go. I’ll give you the first three chapters here and the rest on password protected pages.
If you’d like to read along as I write, drop me a line and I’ll let you know the password.
Shades of Milk and Honey
Jasmine and Honeysuckle
Jasmine and Honeysuckle
The Wentworths of Long Parkmead had the regard of their neighbors in every respect. The Honorable Charles Wentworth, though a second son, through the generosity of his father, Baron Bollinger of Foxgrove, had been entrusted with an estate in the neighborhood of Dorchester. His only regret, for the estate was a fine one, was that it was entailed and, as he had only two daughters, was to pass to his elder brother’s son upon his death. Knowing that, he took pains to set aside some of the income each annum for the provision of his daughters.
The sum was not so large as he wished it might be, but he hoped it would prove enough to attract appropriate husbands for his daughters. Of his younger daughter, Melody, he had no concerns, for she had a face made for fortune. His older daughter, Jane, made up for her deficit of beauty with rare taste and talent in the womanly arts. Her skills at magic and glamour were surpassed by none in their neighborhood and lent their home a sense of wealth far beyond their means. But well he knew how fickle young men’s hearts were. His own wife, while young, had seemed all that was desirable, but as her beauty faded she had become a fretting invalid. He still cherished her from habit, but often he wished that she had somewhat more sense.
And so, Jane was his chief concern and he was determined to see her settled before his passing. Surely some young man would see past her flat hair of an unappealing mousey brown and sallow complexion. Her nose was overlong, though he fancied that in certain lights it lent an outward sign of her strength of character. Mr. Wentworth fingered his own nose, wishing that he had something more to bequeath Jane with than such an appendage.
He slashed at the grass with his walking stick and turned to his elder daughter as they walked in the maze that was in the heart of the shrubbery on the south side of the house. “Had you heard that Lady FitzCameron’s nephew and his company is to be stationed in our town?”
“No.” She adjusted the shawl about her shoulders. “They must be pleased to see him.”
“Indeed, I believe that Lady FitzCameron will extend her stay rather than returning to London has she had planned.” He tugged at his waistcoat and attempted to speak idly. “Young Livingston been made a captain, I understand.”
“So young? He must have acquitted himself ably in His Majesty’s Navy, then.” Jane knelt by a rose bush and sniffed the glory of the soft pink petals. The light reflect from the plant and brought a brief bloom to her cheeks.
“I thought perhaps to invite the family for a strawberry-picking Thursday next.”
Jane threw her head back and laughed. It was a lovely laugh, at odds with her severe countenance. “Oh, Papa. Are you match-making again?”
He stabbed the ground with his walking stick. “No. I am merely trying to be a good neighbor, but if you have so little regard for the FitzCamerons as to shun their relations, then I have misjudged your character.”
Jane’s eyes twinkled and she pecked him on the cheek. “I think a strawberry-picking party sounds delightful. I am certain that the FitzCamerons will thank you for your courtesy to them.”
The tall yew hedges hugged the path on either side of them, shielding them from view of the house. Overhead, the sky arched in a gentle eggshell of blue. He walked in companionable silence beside his daughter, plotting ways to bring her together with Captain Livingston. They turned the last corner of the maze and went up the Long Walk to the house. On the steps he paused. “You know I only want the best for you, my dear.”
Jane looked down. “Of course, Papa.”
“Good.” He squeezed her arm. “I shall check on the strawberries then, to make certain they will be suitably ripe for next week.” He left her on the steps and went to the hill on the east side of the house, making plans for the party as he walked.
Jane folded her shawl over her arm, still thinking of her father’s thinly veiled plans. He meant well, but would surely tip his hand to Captain Livingston who was, after all, ten years her junior. She had met Harold Livingston when he wintered with Lady FitzCameron while his parents where away on the continent before the war broke out. He had been an attractive boy then with large dark eyes and a thick crop of unruly black hair. Though a favorite of Lady FitzCameron, he had not been back to the estate since and it was hard to imagine him as a man grown. She shook her hand, settled the folds of her muslin frock and entered the parlor.
The smell of jasmine nearly overpowered her, burning her nose and making her eyes water. Her younger sister, Melody, was blending folds of glamour in the corner and evidently the source of the overwhelming aroma.
“Melody, what in heaven’s name are you doing?”
Melody jumped and dropped the folds of glamour; they dissolved back into the ether from whence she had pulled them. “Oh, Jane. When I visited Lady FitzCameron with Mama, she conjured the loveliest hint of jasmine in the air. It was so elegant and…I can not understand how she manages such a subtle touch.”
Jane shook her head, and went to open the window so the jasmine fragrance could dissipate with more speed. “My dear, Lady FitzCameron had the best tutors as a girl, including, I believe, the renowned German glamourist Herr Scholes, it is hardly surprising that she can manage such delicate folds.” She reached out with her mind and fingers to feel for the folds that Melody had been manipulating. The lingering remnants were far too bulky for the effect that Melody had been trying to attain. Jane rolled them between her fingers, thinning them to gossamer and then stretched them out in a fine web in the corner. Once she anchored the folds to the corner, the glamour settled into the weft of the room, vanishing from view. The gentle scent of honeysuckle seemed to emanate as if from a sprig of flowers. It took so little effort that she barely felt lightheaded.
Melody squinted at the corner where Jane had left the web as if trying to see the invisible web.
“Please do not squint, dear. It is unbecoming.” She ignored Melody’s scowl and turned back to the web. Not for the first time, she wondered if Melody were near sighted. She could never handle fine work, even with needle-point, and her glamour seemed limited to only the broadest strokes.
“What does it matter?” Melody threw herself on the divan. “I have no hope of catching a husband. I am so abysmally poor at all of the arts.”
Jane could not help herself. She laughed at her sister. “You have nothing to fear. Your face shall be your fortune.” Melody had been blessed with a complexion as smooth as cream and hair like honey.
“Do you truly think so?”
“Had I half your beauty I would have more beaus than the largest dowry could settle upon me.” She turned to straighten one of her watercolours on the north wall.
“Mr. Dunkirk sends his regards.”
Jane was thankful that her back was to her sister, for the sudden flush she felt would have given her away. She tried to hide the growing attachment she felt towards Mr. Dunkirk, particularly since he seemed to have a higher regard for Melody, but his gentle manner drew her to him. “I hope he is well.” She was pleased with the steadiness in her voice.
“He asked if he could call this afternoon.” Melody sighed. “That is why I wanted to freshen the drawing-room.”
The wistfulness in Melody’s voice would only be appropriate if she had reached an understanding with him. Jane turned to her sister, scrutinizing her countenance.
A gentle glow suffused her delicate features. She stared into the middle distance as if her cornflower blue eyes were blinded by a radiant image. Jane had seen the same expression in unguarded moments on her own plainer face. She could only hope that Melody had been more cautious in company. She smiled gently at her sister. “Shall I help you set the drawing-room to rights then?”
For the better part of an hour, she and Melody twisted and pulled folds of glamour out of the ether, bringing the parlor to life with colour and warmth. She felt light-headed with the effort of placing so many folds, but the effect was well worth such a trifling strain. When all was settled, Jane seated herself at the pianoforte and pulled a fold of glamour close about her. She played a simple rondo upon the piano, catching the notes in the loose fold; when she reached the point where the song repeated, she stopped playing and tied the glamour off. The music continued to play, wrapping around to the beginning of the song with only a tiny pause at the end of the fold. With care, she clipped the small silence at the end of the music tied it more firmly to the beginning, so the piece repeated seamlessly. Then she stretched the fold of glamour to gossamer thinness so that music faded until is sounded as if it replayed in the far distance.
The door to the drawing-room opened. Melody leapt to her feet with a naked expression of welcome on her face. Jane rose more slowly, trying to attain a more seemly display. She placed her hand on the pianoforte as the room spun about her with the lingering effects of working glamour.
But only their father entered the room. “Hello, my dears.” The plum brocade of his waistcoat strained across his ample middle. He looked around the drawing-room in evident pleasure. “Are we expecting company?”
Melody said, “Mr. Dunkirk said he would honor us with a visit this afternoon.”
“Did he?” Her father looked befuddled. “But I saw him not fifteen minutes ago passing though our fields with the FitzCamerons. They looked for all the world as if they were going hunting. Are you certain you did not mistake his meaning?”
Melody’s face soured. “His meaning was clear. But perhaps he preferred to spend the afternoon in the company of a lord than a farmer’s daughter.”
Jane winced as Melody flung herself out of the room.
“Good heavens. What has gotten into the child?” Mr. Wentworth turned to Jane with his eyebrows high. “Does she think that the whole neighborhood must dance attendance to her whims?”
“She is young and…” Jane hesitated to commit her sister’s potential indiscretion to words. But as her sister had not taken her into confidence, and as Jane feared for her sister’s state of mind, so continued on. “I fear she may be developing an attachment to Mr. Dunkirk.”
“Does he return it?”
“I do not know.” Jane plucked at the waist of her frock. “Certainly his behavior has been above reproach in every instance of which I am aware.”
Mr. Wentworth nodded, evidently satisfied with that reassurance. “Then we must hope that Melody will not embarrass herself while we wait for this fancy to pass.”
The front door slammed.
Jane hurried to the window and peered out. Melody strode across their lawn, heading for the fields between their home and Banbree Manor. Jane caught her breath. “I fear that is what she has set out to do.”
Her father looked over her shoulder. “I will go fetch her, before she can damage our neighbor’s good opinion of her.”
Jane nodded, though she wanted to tell her father to let Melody do as she would. Let the headstrong girl make a fool of herself. The rational part of Jane knew that Melody was not her obstacle to Mr. Dunkirk’s affection. Jane was too plain and too quiet to engender any interest in him or any other gentleman.
Jane turned from the window and sat at the pianoforte. She loosened the fold around it, silencing the music in the distance. Quietly, she began to play, losing herself in the music.
She let her fingers play across the keys and stroke thin folds of glamour on the ebony and ivory surfaces. Colours swirled around her in answer to the sound. She welcomed the lightheadness, which came with too much glamour, as a distraction from her cares.
When the front door opened, Jane kept her attention on the pianoforte; she did not want to speak with Melody and have to comfort her. But that was unjust. Melody could not know how her actions affected Jane.
Bringing the song to a close, she looked up as the colours around her faded.
Mr. Dunkirk stood in the door to the drawing-room. His face was alight with wonder. “Forgive me, Miss Wentworth. I had told your sister I would call, and am later than I intended.”
Jane’s heart pounded with more than the effort of glamour and she felt a flush of warmth flood her face. “Mr. Dunkirk. You have just missed her; she has gone for a walk with my father.” Jane rose slowly, pretending that gray blobs did not swarm in her sight. She would not swoon in front of him. “But please be welcome. May I offer you tea or a brandy?”
“Thank you.” He accepted the brandy she offered and raised the glass to her. “I had no idea you were such an accomplished musician.”
Jane looked away. “It is an idle amusement, sir.”
“Nonsense. Music and the other womanly arts are what brings comfort to a home.” He looked around the drawing-room. “I hope to have a home such as this one day.”
Jane put her hand on the piano to steady herself, keenly aware that she was alone with him. “Indeed,” she murmured. “I am certain that your home will be most gracious.”
“But only if I have a wife with the gift of glamour.” He looked around the room and inhaled the scent of honeysuckle. “Other men might seek a lovely face, but I should think that they would consider exquisite taste the higher treasure. Beauty will fade, but not a gift such as this.”
The front door opened again and Melody flung the door to the drawing-room wide. Her face was red and stained with tears. When she saw Mr. Dunkirk, she uttered a cry of dismay and fled the room.
Jane closed her eyes. Poor Melody. What must she think?
When she opened her eyes, Mr. Dunkirk had set his glass down to greet Mr. Wentworth.
Jane excused herself, saying, “I feel that I must check on Melody.”
“I hope she has not suffered an accident.” Mr. Dunkirk said.
Jane’s father harrumphed and mumbled that Melody had twisted her ankle while walking to which Mr. Dunkirk replied, “I will leave you to tend to her.” He took his leave, only pausing at the door to say, “May I call again?”
“Of course!” Mr. Wentworth beamed. “Come whenever you like.”
“Then I will see you soon.” Mr. Dunkirk bowed. “Your daughter is a credit to you, sir.”
When the front door closed, Mr. Wentworth said, “Well. Melody needn’t have worried after all. ‘A credit’.”
Jane smiled. “Indeed.”