Sunday, 3 March 2013

A Regency Tragedy

In much of my childhood writing, my characters' parents die.  It may have been my interpretation of the whole "write what you know" thing.  In any case, it was my go-to plot point.  One memorable book series I planned involved a 13-year-old girl named Jordan (I was 13 when I wrote it, big surprise), losing her parents in a plane crash, so she goes to live with her aunt and uncle and three cousins and future best friend Julie on a dude ranch in Colorado.

Apparently, I'm still writing about orphans.  Here is my latest, a selection from the first chapter of my first attempt at a Regency romance that I started last fall to get a bit of a break from the political research required for my medieval work-in-progress. (Someone suggested I may have ADD...I think my track record in writing speaks for itself in that particular matter).  Enjoy!

[By the way, my melodramatic, moralistic, and clichéd chapter titles are done on purpose.  The book still has no title.  Oh, and I did not intentionally give my housekeeper the same name as Mr. Darcy's housekeeper.]

In Which a Young Lady of Quality is Cast Destitute upon the Mercies of the World

“Miss Beatrix, you must sit still or you will never be ready in time!”  The maid scolded her mistress as she gently and skillfully pulled an ivory comb through the bouncing golden curls.
“I am simply excited, Wallis!” Beatrix gave another bounce on the stool before her dressing table. “Edmund--Mr. Livingston, that is--has asked me to save him the first and last dances on my card this evening.  Can you imagine?  Humble Beatrix Collins dancing with the Earl’s nephew?  A future baronet?” She smoothed the organza skirt of her dress. “Mama is so pleased with him.”
Wallis laid down the comb and started with the hairpins. “There’s nothing so amazing in all that, miss.” She spoke softly as she skillfully pinned Beatrix’s hair into a Grecian style. “You may only be a vicar’s daughter, but your dear mama is descended from very good blood.”
“I know, Wallis.  But Mama’s relations don’t quite compare to a baronet, especially since they disowned her for marrying Papa.  A baronet in hand is better than a viscount or two in the bush.” Beatrix winked at Wallis in the mirror as she butchered the idiom.  “So it is exciting.”
“Yes it is, I’m sure. You’ve had a wonderful first season since we’ve been in London, and I hope you enjoy this last week before we leave again for home.”  Wallis added one last pearl-tipped hairpin and stood back to check her work. “I believe you are ready.”
Beatrix bounced up off her stool and shook imagined creases out of her dress. “I do hope Mama and Papa arrive home soon.  I don’t want to be late and miss my first dance with Edmund!
“Mr. Livingston, you mean.”
“Oops, yes, sorry Wallis!  I’ll be a proper lady tonight.”  Beatrix leaned close to the mirror inspecting her face.  “I do believe all my freckles are gone.”
The clatter of carriage wheels on cobblestone sounded distantly from the street outside, stopping abruptly.  Beatrix turned and caught up the pelisse that lay waiting on the bed. “That will be Mama and Papa.  I must go.” She dashed from the room, pulling on the coat as she hurried down the stairs.   She slowed at the landing, trying to descend in a more ladylike fashion.  The footman who answered the door was deep in murmured conversation with a stranger.  Where were her parents, Beatrix wondered.  The men turned toward her as she reached the last step.
“Miss Collins—” The footman cleared his throat. “Miss Collins, this is Mr. Watkins, your father’s solicitor.  He would like a word with you.”
“But this is highly unusual…” Beatrix studied each man’s face, looking for some explanation.  “Where is my father?”
Mr. Watkins bowed regally. “I regret that we must meet under such unconventional circumstances, Miss Collins.  Your housekeeper, Mrs. Randall, has graciously agreed to chaperone.  Will you speak with me?”
Beatrix’s worry only increased as her question was ignored, but she squared her shoulders and took a breath. “Very well, sir.  The parlour will be satisfactory for our meeting, I trust.”  She swept by him with a  rustle of her skirts.  Mrs. Randall followed her into the parlour and took up an unobtrusive station by the door as Mr. Watkins entered. Beatrix wordlessly gestured to a settee, herself perching on the edge of a hard chair, feeling as if she would take flight. 
“What can I help you with, Mr. Watkins?  I am expecting Papa any moment if you would prefer to wait for him.”
“Dear girl,” The man settled into his seat with  a sigh and a grunt. “It is about your poor Papa and Mama that I have come to speak with you.”
“Where is Papa?” Beatrix heard a note of panic in her voice as she repeated her question. “And Mama?”
“Your parents have met with an accident this afternoon on their way to the Seminary.”  Mr. Watkins’ grave expression irritated Beatrix.
“What has happened? Are they hurt?”  She stood and paced back and forth as she asked.
“Mr. and Mrs. Collins have both died of their injuries.” Mr. Watkins pulled out his handkerchief and mopped his brow. “I am so sorry, miss.”
Beatrix heard the words but could not realize their truth.  She expected to cry or scream or faint, but simply felt cold inside.  She rubbed her arms, looking over to Mrs. Randall.  The older woman had silent tears wetting her cheeks and dripping on her neat black dress and clasped hands.  When Beatrix next spoke her voice was quiet and still. “Please tell me everything, sir.”
“They were on the road to the Seminary as I mentioned, miss.  To hear that lecturer.  A group of young bucks—nobles, really—raced by, spooking your father’s carriage horses.”
“Impossible!”  Beatrix furrowed her brow, confused. “Papa’s carriage horses were the steadiest in London!  He trained them himself.”
“Even so, miss.  ‘Tis true.  The young men rode most imprudently, nearly crashing their own mounts.”
“Have they been arrested?”
“They have, thanks to some excellent witnesses.  A Mr. Robert White, and that young Livingston fellow…what was his name?”  Mr. Watkins shifted in his seat, stuffing his handkerchief back into his pocket.  “Edmund.  Yes, Mr. Edmund Livingston.”
Not Edmund!  “When may I see my parents?” Beatrix’s voice quivered, betraying a small crack in her calm demeanor.  That Edmund could be responsible for her parents’ deaths—it was inconceivable!
“You may accompany me to the morgue at once, miss, if you wish.” Mr. Watkins pushed himself to the edge of the plush settee and lumbered to his feet.
“Yes. Yes, I will go.  Thank you, Mr. Watkins. Beatrix stood and the pair walked to the door, now held open by the housekeeper.  Outside the door, Wallis waited, her shawl around her shoulders and bonnet tied securely under her chin.  She handed Beatrix her own bonnet and gently wrapped a shawl around her mistress’s trembling shoulders.
“I will go with you, Miss Beatrix.  You should not have to face this alone.”   Her eyes conveyed all the sorrow she felt, and that her mistress could not yet feel.  Beatrix simply nodded and the two women, one young and one not so young, followed Mr. Watkins out to his waiting carriage.

To read the rest of this chapter, CLICK HERE.

Written by Joanna Clark Dawyd.  Please do not copy or repost without permission from the author.
Linked at: lizmarieblog


  1. Makes me think of the opening part of A Tale of Two Cities... except the young lady's parents had come back to life!

    1. You're right, there are similarities. Right down to the girls' age and hair colour.

  2. oh my word!!! Poor Beatrix!! I am crushed for her. I can't wait to read more, this is delightful!

    1. Oh, this is only the beginning for poor Beatrix. It gets worse.


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