(The Very Astute among you may guess that the last three snippets, all from my currently untitled Work In Progress, all come from the same scene. This is because that scene is one of only two that I've written so far for that story, and the said scene amuses me so immensely that I couldn't help sharing, well, a lot of it.)
“I have never been employed before,” said Elizabeth.
“No?” Mrs. Leopold’s caterpillar-like eyebrows drew together in a disapproving frown. “Dear Eloise recommended you highly. I had thought perhaps you had previously been dear Lavinia’s governess. Though I must admit your extreme youth has caused me to retract THAT opinion.”
Elizabeth did not feel that her youth was extreme, or that any measure of youth was a monstrous crime against humanity, but she prudently said nothing.
Elizabeth cast about in her mind as to whether it would be simpler to sit upon the dress to hide it or put the nearby bowl of potatoes on top of it. Neither seemed a practical solution, and besides Rodney must have noticed the dress by now. Indeed, he looked as if he were on the point of making a remark about it. She could only hope that he could be prevailed upon not to mention the dress to Mercy.
“Much obliged. What’s this on the table? Hmmm. I should have known what would happen if Mrs. Ingle left you in charge of supper, Jenny. This—” he lifted one sleeve—“will be delicious with buttered potatoes. Indubitably.”
The dress looked even lovelier when she spread it out on the bed. In Lavinia’s gorgeously decorated bedroom it had been just another conglomeration of velvet and lace, but here in the starkness of Elizabeth’s room it fairly shone in contrast. The crimson of the skirt was such a comforting color that Elizabeth thought it might almost be warm to the touch. She touched it. It wasn’t.
“When you cook with onions, it’s like using a silent E,” said Maeve. “You know it’s there, but it doesn’t assert itself. It just strengthens the sound—or the taste—and gives the word—uh, dish—a new… a new… taste.”
“Poetic,” said Ismelda.
“Piffle,” said Lavinia. “It will do you no harm to have a few nice dresses. And I beg you, Lizzie, don’t talk of such vulgar things as cost. I care not how much I pay for a dress, so long as it is good quality, and if I choose to make you a present of a dress, what business is it of yours?”
But Elizabeth won in the end, and Lavinia sighed. “I do not know what to do with you,” she said. “You are certainly the most trying friend I have ever known. If I didn’t think you were the dearest girl in the world, I would have nothing to do with you, you know, Lizzie.”
“Ah, well,” said Lavinia. “How do you think this color would look on me? If I cannot make you a present out of this dress, I am resolved not to be cheated out of the pleasure of buying it for myself, at least.”
Elizabeth looked around the stateroom. There was a bed, firmly attached to the wall. There was a table, firmly secured to the floor. There were a washbasin and pitcher, which were not attached to anything at all. Elizabeth imagined a stormy night, the wind-tossed ship, the bowl and pitcher clattering off the table and onto her head as she lay shivering in the bed—
“I have never been to a ball,” said Elizabeth. She was not sure if she would like it or not, but she could not help being excited. Grandmother had never let her go to balls.
“Hush,” scolded Lavinia. “My dear Lizzie, you must not speak so loudly of your misfortunes. People will think you are no better than a guttersnipe.”
“My dearest creature, of course I do not think you are a guttersnipe, but Lady Judith Meriwether Fagles may if you do not take care. Now, as it is nearly eight and we are requested to come at eight, we must be on our way.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Maeve demanded.
“Everything,” said Ismelda, kicking at a harmless rock.
“What do you mean, everything?”
“Well, to say that every thing is wrong is just as much a lie as to say that nothing is wrong. And you may as well be hung for an everything as a nothing.”
“I think it’s going to rain,” said Freddie, who had stopped listening five minutes ago.
“Heartless villains are so run-of-the-mill,” said Phoebe, chewing the end of her pencil the way she always told Freddie not to.
Where Lady Fagles was all harrumphing and supercilious camel-like expressions of the face, Mrs. Wakenshaw was all chirping and twittering and fluttering feathers.
“Miss Bancroft, don’t you think Miss Markette will like Lieutenant Scarborough? He is quite distinguished—soon to be promoted, we hope—and he is not married,” she hastened to add.
Lavinia gave Elizabeth another eloquent look. Apparently these ladies were not at all subtle in their attempts to marry off this Lieutenant Scarborough.
“I am sure Miss Markette will like Lieutenant Scarborough,” Mrs. Wakenshaw persisted hopefully.
“Well, then, why, please?” Emily was not to be distracted by string beans.
Mr. Rochester handed Alice the pepper. “Because I see absolutely no purpose in teenage girls going out on so-called dates with teenage boys. Especially when neither party is old enough to drive or possess a car. Which, I might add, is the case with you and Frank Whittaker. Moreover, teenage boys are, in general, idiots and I do not care to have my daughter keeping company with an idiot. Which, I might add—but shall not for fear of offending—might be an apt way to describe the young man in question—i.e., Frank Whittaker.”
“Why Daddy, you said just last week that you thought Frank was a very nice boy.”
“I do not deny it. However, idiocy and niceness are not necessarily isolated characteristics—as life will teach you all too quickly, I fear.” Mr. Rochester gave a sad, solemn shake of his head. He was enjoying himself immensely.
“Daddy, do you mean that I need to wait four years to go to the movies with Frank? I’ll be nineteen!”
“Movies will be obsolete by the time Em’s nineteen,” put in Mark, snickering. “We’ll all be going to supersonic atom-blasting theaters that project the story right into viewers’ heads.”
Emily kicked him under the table and looked to her father.
“A fine and sensible age,” said Mr. Rochester, ignoring Mark’s comment. “Yes, nineteen is a splendid age. Almost out of the danger zone, though of course not quite. Your Uncle Ned broke his right arm at the age of nineteen after riding his bicycle backward down our driveway with his eyes shut. An excellent example of my previous point regarding the mental capacity of teenage boys. Alice, these mashed potatoes are superb. Are these our own chives?”
“Then I suppose I’ll have to tell Frank I can’t go.” Emily, who was (as aforementioned) not the drippy type, was also not the type to bewail her losses. She took a pragmatic sip of milk.
“I suppose you shall,” agreed Mr. Rochester, “but if you care to pull a Bartleby the Scrivener and would prefer not to, I will be happy to perform the hated task myself. Do you think that I might look more harsh and forbidding and properly like a stern guardian if I wore my horn-rimmed spectacles during my little chat with Frank, the hopeful suitor? I believe they’re in the attic somewhere—I can easily fish them out if you think they’ll aid me in the part.”