Category Archives: Original Fiction

My own fiction

Tales from the Junior Lipstick: the F. of the S. — Part III

…when an impressionable young girl saves a chap from drowning, she naturally takes a proprietorial interest in his progress.

Our story continues, narrated by Hilda Gudgeon from her comfortable chair in the smoking room of the Junior Lipstick: Eustacia Bellows is in love after a chance encounter with her childhood chum Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow (and his near encounter with a No. 37 bus). Unfortunately for Eustacia (Stacey to her friends) Cyril is currently under the spell of  Angelica Blake – a poet.

Start at the beginning or read on for the latest installment in my P.G. Wodehouse homage (everyone else is doing it…)

* * *

The Wimbledon Ladies Literary Society are a formidable gang of females who take their literature seriously. At the last meeting I attended, they were panning Thomas Hardy for being too frivolous. If Angelica Blake had got her name on the programme it was either because she wrote dashed good poetry, or the inquisitors hadn’t eaten a poet in weeks. Stacey’s money was on the latter and she wanted to be in at the kill.

She also wanted a first-hand look at this Blake exhibit. If Angelica turned out to be a hearty, sensible sort of girl, Stacey was resolved not to interfere. She’d buzz off and become an African explorer or join the Canadian Mounties, or whatever it is that robust young female half-props do when their hearts are broken.

A weaker rival might have dashed off to the Ogoouė River on first sight of Angelica Blake, for in supposing her to be a mere pippin Stacey had underestimated her rival’s charms. Angelia was long, lean and extraordinarily elegant in a doeful sort of way. The impression she gave on entering the room was that the Wimbledon Ladies Literary Society had not gained a poet, so much as a giraffe.

The effect she had on the gathered assembly was remarkable. Lorgnettes returned to their holsters, lips unpursed, steely-eyed expressions softened. Angelica’s first poem about a timid mouse, arguably the second most astonishing new work since The Tay Bridge Disaster, sent them into raptures.

When Angelica had finished her recital, the chairwoman thanked her in gushing terms and invited her to join the ladies for tea in the drawing room. Stacey waited patiently among the throng of admirers who surrounded Angelica, pawing her like a zoological exhibit and offering her lumps of sugar.

Angelica may have impressed the crowd, but as the future mate of a feeble poet incapable of crossing the street without close supervision, Stacey found her unsuitable. It would be an act of sisterly kindness, she felt, to warn her off. The only problem was how to broach the subject. Stacey had the mind of a great general, and like all great generals she lacked subtlety. She preferred to charge.

“Hello, hello,” Stacey said at last, advancing into a gap at Angelica’s left elbow, vacated by an octogenarian in mauve. “The future Mrs Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow, I presume?”

The poet winced. The prospect of answering to the name Mrs Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow was a definite blow for a girl accustomed to signing herself ‘Angelica Blake’ inside attractively bound volumes of poetry.

“Our engagement has not been announced,” said Angelica, a little stiffly.

“Never mind about that,” said Stacey, giving the poet a friendly slap on the back. “I won’t tell a soul. Pompy and I are childhood pals, you know. He tells me everything.”

“I see. Who are you?”

“Didn’t I say? I’m Eustacia Bellows. I expect Cyril’s always mentioning me.”

“Not that I recall.”

“Well that’s gratitude!” said Stacey, cheerfully. “You save a man’s life, the least you’d expect is an honorable mention.”

“You saved his life?”

“Twice. The poor chump can’t take a step without me. I expect I shall always be popping in when you are married. A delicate creature with a poetic soul like yours can’t be expected to be wading in and out of ponds all the time.”

“Cyril is not a chump,” said Angelica, rising to her full magnificence. She looked like a female giraffe, patiently demonstrating the en pointe maneuver to a remedial elephant.

“Why of course he’s a chump!” said Stacey. “What other sort of fellow would stuff himself with sweets until he was fit to burst and then jump in a pond? Or walk in front of an omnibus in Piccadilly Circus. As chumps go, he’s one of the best, but he’s a chump just the same.”

Angelica was too stately to recoil in horror. She merely widened her eyes and blinked.

“Cyril walked in front of an omnibus?”

“This very AM. If I hadn’t been there, they’d be sweeping up the remains now.”

The giraffe wilted slightly, looked thoughtful for a moment, and then reached for Stacey’s hand.

“My dear Miss Bellows, I am so grateful to you. There must be some way for Cyril and I to thank you properly. Cyril will be joining us this weekend at Grateley Towers. The honeysuckle is so beautiful at this time of year, and…”

“Cyril’s allergic to bees, you know.”

“Won’t you join us? I would love to show you the gardens, and the lake.”

“Lake, you say?” Stacey grinned. It was the sort of grin Napoleon might have grinned before a big day out in Austerlitz. “How splendid!”

The whole thing couldn’t have been chummier, Stacey tells me, and she was feeling rather rotten about having to deprive this gentle soul of her mate. But still, the thing had to be done.

To be continued…

HP

The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse

Tales from the Junior Lipstick: the F. of the S. — Part II

Back by popular demand, if a broad definition of the word popular is applied, Part II of my homage to P.G. Wodehouse, a Junior Lipstick Club story

The F. of the S.

Here’s Part I if you missed it.  

* * *

Eustacia Bellows and Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow (said Hilda Gudgeon) had been pals since childhood. When Stacey was nine she saved Cyril from drowning in the village pond, and when an impressionable young girl saves a chap from drowning, she naturally takes a proprietorial interest in his progress. When Cyril was lying-in with mumps, she read him Pickwick. In the holidays she took him for bracing walks and corrected his square cut.

They met again by chance in London last spring. Cyril had just stepped in front of an omnibus, and Stacey, who happened to be on hand, dashed into the road and pushed him aside.

When Cyril had finished gulping like a stranded goldfish, she deposited him in a neighbouring tea and bun shop and got to work on rekindling the friendship. For love had hit her, as surely as the number 37 omnibus hadn’t hit Cyril. Stacey could see the poor lamb was lost without her. It had been almost two years since they’d last met — how Cyril had managed to survive all that time in London without her was a mystery.

“Fancy running into you again, Pompy old pet,” said Stacey, opening proceedings with her trademark cheerfulness.

Cyril blinked like a bewildered rabbit. I don’t know what kind of shove she gave him, but Stacey was our school’s half-prop — Rosie Benger’s shoulder still gives her trouble after being on the receiving end of one of Stacey’s tackles. Given the choice between colliding with an omnibus or Stacey Bellows, I’m not sure I wouldn’t take my chances with the bus. I dare say Cyril, who was always on the delicate side, was feeling it.

“How’s the metrop treating you?”

“Fine, fine,” Cyril gurgled.

“You’re looking well,” said Stacey, proving the adage that love is blind, for Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow was not one of nature’s greatest hits. His closest friends might, after a good meal and some financial inducement, be persuaded to call him Byronic, but a consumptive Byron at best, with some sort of wasting sickness thrown in.

Cyril sniffed his tea.

“So, no secret troubles then?”

“Eh?”

“One merely wonders. Chaps don’t usually go about flinging themselves at omnibuses, you know. I suppose the odds are lower for poets. Some worm criticises your latest effort, and just as you’re pondering whether life is worth living, along comes the number 37. I expect it’s an occupational hazard.”

Cyril bristled –- or tried to. Weakened by his ordeal, Cyril’s bristling was on par with that of an existential hedgehog who has given up on life.

“The critics were very complimentary about my last volume.”

“Were they? That’s terrific! I’m dashed sorry I haven’t read it. The only thing of yours I’ve read is that collection you sent at Christmas. Something about butterflies, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s it. Where Doth the Moth?: Prose studies of the anthropomorphic condition.”

“And they liked it, you say?”

“One critic,” said Cyril proudly, “called it the most astonishing new work since The Tay Bridge Disaster.”

Well, love may be blind, but even love could not overlook the fact that Where Doth the Moth? contained some of the worst bilge ever flung at the poetry-loving public. To give you just one example:

Love, love, and thirst.

Fools endure like true honey.

Wishes flap!

Rotting hide.

Digestion is a torpid bride.

Hero holds the highest grape.

Bounder laps the rotting pool.

The flounder is a fool.

 

It goes on like that for another thirty-seven stanzas.

“I’m just putting the finishing touches on my next volume,” said Cyril. “I’ll send you a copy.”

“Please do.”

“And you’ll be invited to the wedding.”

“Is someone getting married?”

“I am,” said Cyril, brightening a little. “Angelica Blake has just agreed to marry me. I was on my way to speak to her father when you… err… ran into me. My mind was dwelling on Angelica’s tender face.”

“Your mind, such as it is, was very nearly dwelling all over Piccadilly Circus. I don’t like the sound of it. Are you sure this female is a good influence?”

“Angelica is my ideal,” said Cyril, filling himself with air. “She walks in beauty like the night…”

“So she’s a pippin,” said Stacey. “But is she fit to handle the business of being Mrs Pomfrey-Waddelow? The woman who marries you will need nerves of steel and the biceps of an all-in wrestler. Can she do the Australian crawl with one arm, and lug a kicking boy in the other — that’s what I want to know.”

Cyril shuddered. “I haven’t fallen in a pond in years.”

“No, you’ve moved on to omnibuses. What would this Blake female have done if she’d been the woman on the spot today?”

“Oh, Angelica,” said Cyril with feeling. “To see her beloved, as I hope I may now call myself, stricken before her eyes would haunt her delicate soul forever.”

“Sensitive girl, is she?”

“Naturally. She’s a poet too, you know. This afternoon, she’s reading her Sonnets of Sincerity to the Wimbledon Ladies Literary Society.”

Stacy was renown at school for her quick thinking, and her wits did not desert her at the crucial moment.

“I’d like to see that. A pal of mine is on the committee. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I buzzed down to Wimbledon and joined the festivities.”

“I wish I could join you,” said Cyril. “I have to catch Angelica’s father before he leaves for the country.” Cyril’s brow, by the despairing light of the tea-shop, wore an unearthly aspect. “She says she can’t marry me unless he gives his consent.”

“What? In these enlightened times?” asked Stacey, brightening.

“Her father is Sir Igneous Blake, the gravel magnate. He’s about eight feet tall and looks like Grendel on one of his bad days. He bullies poor Angelica terribly.”

“Well, don’t let him bully you, old thing. Make a good impression, and if he gives you any trouble, be firm.”

“I’m wearing my best suit,” said Cyril.

Stacey inspected Cyril’s costume. His morning coat was covered in dust and there was a hole in one trouser leg. His hat was intact, but it was a filthier, more misshapen hat than strictly fashionable. Cyril looked less like something the cat had dragged in, than something a discerning cat would give a wide berth to. It occurred to Stacey that a prospective father-in-law might feel the same way.

“On second thoughts,” said Cyril, “perhaps it can wait until I go down there on Friday.”

“Why put it off?” Said Stacey. “I’d do it now if I were you.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I do. Show old Pop Blake that an omnibus can’t keep a good Pomfrey-Waddelow down. Besides, you don’t want to keep a dear girl like Angelica waiting for an answer.”

“No. I suppose you’re right.”

“That’s settled then,” said Stacey. “Sit tight and finish your tea while I pop out and get you a taxicab.”

* * *

Continue to Part III

HP

Tales from the Junior Lipstick: the F. of the S.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–girls are rummy. Old Pop Kipling never said a truer word than when he made that crack about the f. of the s. being more d. than the m.

P.G. Wodehouse ~ Right Ho, Jeeves

With Ben Schott‘s recent homage to Wodehouse, Jeeves and the King of Clubs, so well received by the critics, the time seems right to tell you about a little homage of my own invention, which I’ve been threatening to share for some time. Unlike most Wodehouse fan-fiction, it does not feature Jeeves or Bertie Wooster. I’ve chosen to set my homage within the inner sanctum of one of Wodehouse’s lesser known fictional clubs — The Junior Lipstick.

As a women’s club, Wodehouse could never comfortably enter this world (in life, or in fiction), but he provides a fleeting glimpse in ‘Came the Dawn’ (Meet Mr Mulliner) when Angela Biddlecombe is fetched ‘from the billiard-room, where she was refereeing the finals of the Debutantes’ Shove-Ha-penny Tournament…. She was smoking a cigarette in a long holder, and as she approached she inserted a monocle inquiringly in her right eye.’  

I thought it might be fun to take a closer look into this world in a series of short stories, while also having a pop at the Wodehouse style (the tricky bit). I won’t thrust the whole bally lot upon my poor blameless readers here, just my introduction to the first story. It’s not perfect, but it was terrific fun to write.

THE F. OF THE S.

Into the atmospheric pea-souper of the Junior Lipstick Club smoking room, Daphne Dinmont made an appearance.

“What beasts men are,” she said, attacking a blameless armchair. “They toy with our hearts, and flit and sip like butterflies on a toot.”

“Does this mean all bets are off on an early union between yourself and Jerry Noble?” asked Trixie Steggles, who liked to keep abreast of the form.

“You bet it does!” said Daphne.

“For three weeks, he gave me the rush of a lifetime. Dinner at the Carlton, dancing at Mario’s, boating on the Serpentine. Then last Tuesday, he cancelled our lunch to visit a dying aunt in Aberdeen and I haven’t heard from him since, but Mavis Stubbs saw him at the Scarlet Centipede, dancing like a gigolo on shore leave. And now I’ve just seen him lunching at the Berkeley with Felicia Koops and that idiotic Pekingese of hers — staring lovingly into her eyes.”

“The peke’s?”

“No, the Koops’.”

“Look on the bright side,” said Lettice Albright, who, unlike the poet Blake, could happily see another’s woe and not be in sorrow too. “Perhaps the Peke will bite him.”

“Do you suppose it’s possible to bribe a Peke?” asked Daphne.

“Too unreliable,” said Trixie. “I remember at school, Veronica Turbington persuaded Miss Whemper’s Basset Hound to eat her Thucydides paper. It gorged itself on the best bits, refused to touch the worst passages, and regurgitated the remains on Miss Whemper’s mauve slippers.”

“Quite right,” said Jane Hubbard, puffing on a congenial pipe. “Nothing beats a snake. Slip one into his bedroom after dinner, let the snake do the rest.”

“Don’t be an ass,” said Trixie. “How does she get the snake into his bedroom?”

“That depends on what floor he sleeps on,” said Jane. “I met a man at Aswan who shimmied up the Old Cataract Hotel with a live cobra stuffed down his trousers.”

“That’s just the sort of low trick I’d expect from a man,” said Daphne. “Men can do whatever they like. They flit and sip, and scale walls with their trousers full of snakes. And what can we women do about it? Nothing!”

The shapely eyebrows of the smoking room rose in unison.

Jane Hubbard snorted. Hilda Gudgeon looked up from the letter she’d been writing to the MCC on proposed changes to the Leg-Before-Wicket rule. Ordinarily content to let girls be girls, she knew when a firm hand was needed.

“What rot!” said Hilda. “That sort of talk will get you struck from the club register.” The girls in the smoking room nodded in approval, eyebrows restored to normal service.

“But, what can I do about Jerry?” said Daphne, looking slightly ashamed.

“Plenty,” said Hilda. “I’d have created a scene at the Berkeley if I were you. If you can break windows, break ’em! You could try and get him back if you really want to, but he sounds like a bit of a worm to me.”

“I… I suppose he is a worm, but I thought he was my worm.”

Daphne’s lower lip trembled like an infant violinist, and Hilda gave her a commiserating wink. As one of the Junior Lipstick’s less junior members, she’d seen this sort of thing before.

“Women are just as capable as men,” said Hilda. “Remember what Kipling says about the female of the species?”

“That’s just poetry.”

“Not just poetry. I can think of at least a dozen real examples without trying.” Hilda paused thoughtfully for a while before continuing.

“Did you ever meet Eustacia Bellows? Stacey to her friends and admirers. She was always popping into the club at one time, before her troubles with Cyril Pomfrey-Waddelow.”

“Is that a person?”

“Certainly. The Shropshire Pomfrey-Waddelows are an old family. Cyril is currently making a name for himself as a poet.”

“Good for him.”

“And if you stop interrupting me, I will tell you about them.”

“Oh, go on then,” said Daphne.  

***

Fancy more f. of the s.?

Read Part II of the story here

***

I’d love to know what you think of it.

HP

 

 

 

50 shades of Wodehouse homage

Faulks ReviewFor some time I’ve been threatening to write a fictional homage to P.G. Wodehouse – a statement that will induce some of you to sadly shake your heads, for there is a school of thought among Wodehouse lovers that such homages ought not be attempted. Stern words have been written on the subject. Alexandra Petri leaps to mind. She makes a sound case for the prosecution in her review of  Sebastian Faulks’ homage, ‘Jeeves and the Wedding Bells is worse than bad fanfiction’ (Washington Post), in which she helpfully outlines the world of fanfiction (yes, it’s one word apparently).

I would submit that three kinds of fanfiction [exist]: the sanctioned published kind (spin-off Bonds, Star Wars sequels, many of these aimed at men), the kind you forget is fanfiction (Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Milton’s Paradise Lost) and the kind the word evokes, written on the Internet largely for and by women between 14 and the designated demographic of “50 Shades of Grey.”

However much I might fancy that my own homage might be classed with Paradise Lost, there’s no escaping the fact that I fit smack-bang in the middle of the latter derided demographic. And if that’s not enough to make the self-respecting female writer of homages think twice (or at least get herself a decent set of false whiskers), here’s what La Petri has to say about the motivation and content of fanfiction:

Fanfiction is motivated by the sense that there is something missing. Generally, what is missing is that not enough of the characters are having explicit sex, or that two of the characters that you wish were having sex with one another are not doing so, although in Wodehouse fanfiction this is not always the case. It’s a tribute, but it’s also about filling in the gaps.

The mind boggles! This was certainly not the sort of homage I had mind.

So, not only is fanfiction frowned on by some Wodehouse fans, it seems the last thing the internet needs is another sad old frump churning out homages. What was I thinking? Presumably I ought to be doing something more age and gender appropriate  — whatever that might be. Shoe shopping? Planning a diet and skin care regime to address the signs of aging? Reading the aforementioned 50 Shades of Grey? Well, sneer if you will, but writing Wodehouse homages sounds like a much better way to spend my time.

IMG_2318And I am in good company, with at least two dedicated Wodehouse communities at fanfiction.net: a World of Wodehouse’. group and one dedicated to Jeeves stories. Enjoyable tributes to Wodehouse spring up here at WordPress too: try Wooster and Jeeves, ‘Purloined Snuff Box Retrievers’ by Shashi Kadapa, or Tom Travers’ Travails at Totleigh Towers (an homage to P.G.Wodehouse) from the Chronicles of an Orange-Haired Woman! In published form, I highly recommend The Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood  by Wodehouse expert N.T.P Murphy, which combines Murphy’s enjoyable prose style with his research into the period of Gally’s days as a young man about town. And I can’t write this piece without mentioning the latest novel by Wodehouse lover, writer and cricket historian Arunabha Sengupta: Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of the Ashes. It’s not a Wodehouse pastiche, but a great example of the possibilities of quality homage.

Respectful imitation (the sincerest form of flattery), and homage have long been part of literary tradition, just as they are in other art-forms. Many gifted painters have learned their craft by copying old masters; musicians and composers practice their art by replicating music conceived by others. Many pop stars make a substantial living by imitation alone. Unlike these art-forms, it is not possible for writers to earn a living in this way, but there is much that a developing writer can learn from imitating a beloved author. It is also possible for gifted writers with a strong, original idea to successfully and legitimately appropriate another writer’s characters. My favourite example of this is George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series.

If we want Wodehouse’s legacy to extend beyond his own work, as an influence on future writers, we must not close our minds to imitation, adaptation and appropriation — as a starting point. This is particularly important given the lack of an emerging ‘Wodehouse tradition’ in current fiction. As the shortlist for the last Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize demonstrates, between Wodehouse and modern comic writing there is a wide and substantial difference. This isn’t censure — I usually enjoy the books shortlisted. But there is little on offer for Wodehouse fans looking for something new and original in the Wodehouse vein. It’s worth remembering that many modern readers have discovered  Wodehouse through later authors like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett,  both sadly no longer with us. A continuing ‘Wodehouse tradition’ in comic fiction would provide ‘an entry’ to Wodehouse for future readers.

This brings us back to the matter of Sebastian Faulks and his homage. It hasn’t been a universal hit with Wodehouse fans (although we’re not all as scathing as Alexandra Petri). I don’t know that it has brought many new readers to Wodehouse either — certainly no one has cropped up in our Facebook group or any other forum that I follow, claiming to have found Wodehouse through Faulks. But as homages go, it’s a sound effort and I have no objection to Faulks attempting it (you’ll find my review of Jeeves and the Wedding Bells here.), particularly if it makes homages more acceptable — or at least gets the conversation going.

My own homage-in-progress has been an exercise in developing my skills as comic writer by imitating the style of a master. I’ve adopted a similar approach to N.T.P Murphy and G.M Fraser, writing an original piece that avoids Wodehouse’s central characters and settings (there are no Jeeves or Woosters, Psmiths or Emsworths). I think this is where Faulks made his bloomer. We are simply too close to these characters. As imitation Wodehouse, my story has many faults, but as a stepping stone from imitation to original fiction, I have high hopes for it.

cover holmesI look forward to sharing it with you here in due course, once I’ve finished reading Sherlock Holmes and the Birth of the Ashes.

HP

 

Imitating style: Jane Austen

Imitating authors seems quite the fashion at present. Unlike Sebastian Faulks, I haven’t the nerve to attempt Wodehouse, but I once attempted a piece in the style of the great satirist Jane Austen. As discussed previously, Austen is an author beloved by many Wodehouse fans so I’d like to share my little effort with you. It’s not Wodehouse, I know, but we’re not sticklers at Plumtopia. This is Liberty Hall!

***

Every Michaelmas, for some fifteen years past, Mrs Harper and her daughters were invited to visit her uncle, the Rev. James Archer, at Sandford Parsonage in Devonshire. James Archer was, like many elderly widowers, fond of children, and each year he entreated them to extend their visit for as long as Mr Harper could spare them. Mr Harper, having no similar inclination toward the company of his children, readily obliged – to the satisfaction of all, and the great relief of his wife.

Mrs Harper had not been married a twelvemonth before she discovered that the man, with whom she once fancied herself in love, was singularly fixed upon prosperity and disinclined to regard her after securing her twelve thousand pounds. Had they settled among her acquaintance in Devonshire, Louisa Harper might have borne her situation tolerably, but her husband’s partiality for Shropshire – and the society of his own relations – only increased her discontent, and for many years, her children afforded her only happiness.

But the severity of that wretchedness which so afflicted a delicate wife of nineteen, was, in time, reduced to nothing more pitiable than common dissatisfaction. George Harper was prudent with his wife’s money and, on the advice of a trusted friend, made so fortunate an investment as to double their income within six years. This improvement in situation saw the Harpers most admirably regarded by all their acquaintance; they had a fine house, kept the appropriate number of servants, and though Mr Harper did not care for a barouche, they dined in the first circles; thus, for his shortcomings as a husband, he agreeably consoled his wife.

Prosperity had so cheerful an effect on George Harper’s constitution as to remove any objections he might have made to the expense of his wife and daughters visiting Devonshire. Indeed he had long been sensible of the economy to be gained by their lengthy removal, and was now excessively glad to accommodate them. Mrs Harper therefore applied to her uncle:-

‘My dear James,

I was delighted with your account of Sophia Hall’s wedding, and I hope we shall soon have the pleasure of wishing them joy in person – for I write to tell you George has conceded to my wish of visiting Sandford once more. It should not surprise you that I am anxious to see Devonshire again and I am sure you must understand my preference for your company over the society in which I find myself. I know Margaret and Emily long to see you, for you are a great favourite with them as you know. Emily has grown so tall since we last stopped at Sandford that you will hardly know her. We can easily make our visit at Michaelmas, but it would give us so much pleasure if you might agree to have us sooner.

Yours, affectionately

Lousia’

The letter, so artfully composed, brought upon its reader such fond sentiments as had been its design, but it was a note enclosed from Miss Harper that produced the tenderest regard.

‘Uncle,

You did not tell us in your letter of Mrs Hall’s hat or whether the dresses were silk or muslin. If you did not notice, please ask Miss Gregson to give you the particulars for I would be monstrous glad to know. But do not trouble yourself too much as Mamma says we shall see you soon.

Emily’

The arrival of Mrs Harper and her daughters before September would cause some little inconvenience to her uncle, who was also expecting a visit from his son, Edward; the parsonage could not accommodate so many, and James Archer spent a week deciding which party to put off. Edward seldom visited his father above twice a year, and James Archer had at that particular time, a most anxious desire to discuss with him a matter of some delicacy. But his good conscience could not permit his unhappy niece and her daughters turned away, and thus, he bid Mrs Harper to visit the parsonage when she chose.

With all the true affection of an uncle, James Archer looked forward to their visit, although by nature, he was disposed to prefer solitude. Even in youth, he had not entered much into society and, as a consequence, had remained unmarried until late in life. His eventual marriage, at the age of forty-two, to Miss Isabelle Thurston of Sussex, greatly astonished his acquaintance. Miss Thurston was remarkable neither by appearance nor accomplishment; her manners were regarded dull. But she had a legacy of fifteen thousand pounds to recommend her, and on this score alone, Mr Archer, whose living was less than tw0 hundred a year, could hardly be regarded her equal.

Miss Thurston’s own relations, most particularly her brother, Sir John Thurston, were not so displeased with the match as might be imagined; for her sickly appearance and nervous disposition had given them such apprehension of her, at nine-and-twenty, ever forming an attachment. Any anxiety, on Sir John’s account, was quickly allayed on his being assured of Mr Archer’s good character and connections. Had either side enquired as to the particulars of their mutual regard, they would have been well satisfied, but as neither did, they did not discover it.

Unlike his poor niece, James Archer enjoyed the felicity of a marriage of similar minds and temperament; the Archer’s were suited in every respect, and shared a tender regard so advantageous to matrimonial contentment. But after the arrival of a son, not two years later, Isabelle Archer took ill and died. Her husband, who had scarcely the spirit to endure his own grief, was unequal to the care of a child, so Edward was removed to the custody of his maternal Uncle, Sir John Thurston, and raised at Marshwood Hall with every advantage that a family of the Thurstons’ wealth and connections could provide him.

The Rev. James Archer lived so modestly within his income that, when young Edward was not ten years old, he could settle a sum of twenty thousand on the child. Though it was not his design, the gesture affected Sir John and Lady Thurston profoundly, securing him forever in their good-opinion, and Lady Thurston herself dispatched an invitation to the parsonage. Any unease on James Archer’s part, of accepting the offer, was overcome only by an earnest desire to see his son, and he made his first visit to Marshwood within a fortnight. Sir John and Lady Thurston were so well satisfied with the father, that they entreated him to visit Marshwood often; thus, James Archer was afforded that attachment, so natural between father and son, he had thought given up forever.

HP