Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Snippets of Story - June 2012

All of my snippets this month come from Only a Novel, which shouldn't be a surprise as it's the all-consuming project on my brain right now.  My goal is to finish it by June 20th, so I'll make this post quick and get back to work.  :D Don't forget to check out Katie's blog, Whisperings of the Pen, to link up your own snippets!


*


Lavinia startled Elizabeth out of her reverie by a gentle poke with the tip of her parasol.  “Elizabeth, dear, you are not attending to me at all, and I’m afraid that is a grave offense.  You must always attend closely when I speak.  You might learn something of great importance, you know.  Mamma, pray do not laugh at me—you might cause Lizzie to think I am not serious, and I am perfectly serious.  In fact, I am always serious, except when I am not, which is often.”


*


The garden was small, as Jenny had said, but she walked a few times around its perimeter, breathing as deeply as she could. Grandmother had always done so when she was exasperated, and Elizabeth was most definitely exasperated. She tried humming to calm herself down, but since she had a habit of humming off-key, this procedure did not prove helpful and in fact only increased her frustration.


*




Elizabeth’s head hurt.  This fact was partly a result of her having slammed her head against the wall.  It was also partly a result of the turmoil her mind was in. 
Elizabeth had, of course, taken off her hat before beating her head.   She now picked it up very carefully and placed it on the bed.  Then she sat on it.

*



“As we have no mutual friend to introduce us,” the young man continued, his brown eyes twinkling, “I’m afraid we’ll have to perform the task ourselves.  My friend here—” he held up the toad and Elizabeth hastily stepped back “—is of an unsocial and taciturn disposition, I’m afraid; unwilling to say anything unless it will amaze the whole garden and be handed down to posterity with all the ├ęclat of a proverb.  So I believe I’ll have to do the honors myself.  I’m Rodney Burke, and you must be the new governess.” 

*



“I keep the potato water to starch collars and cuffs,” [Mrs. Ingle] explained to Elizabeth.  “Something in the water keeps them stiff.  A little trick that comes in handy nearly every day.  When you have a house of your own, Elizabeth, you’ll find it helpful.”
Elizabeth wanted very much to have a house of her own one day.  However, she also very much wanted to have a maid who would starch collars and cuffs for her.  




*


Mrs. Crimp turned her attention back to the place cards.  “Miss Markette, I’m placing you between Isabelle and Mrs. Poplar.  Do not, I beg you, try to begin an intelligent conversation with Mrs. Poplar—at least, more than that which decorum requires—because we will never leave this table if you do.”

*

Mrs. Poplar was a reedy, seedy woman dressed in black—a color that did not complement her bleached complexion.  She poked fastidiously at everything set before her and religiously chewed each mouthful of food at least one hundred times.

*
{the following snippet is probably my favorite conversation in the entire book}

“Did you bring us a little lunch?” asked Rodney, peering into the bowl.
“No, you goose, this is for the horses.”  Mercy fed a lump of sugar to Virgil, then one to Opus, then another to Virgil again.
Rodney announced pompously, “Someone very wise and learned has frequently told me that it is a waste of money to feed sugar to horses.”
“I know,” said Mercy blithely, “but you got a raise in your salary last week, you know, and I have just today acquired a new client.”
“And this is the way you spend my hard-earned money, gained by the sweat of my brow and ceaseless toil on long, dark, cold nights?”
“Don’t be silly,” said Mercy.  “Besides, horses love sugar.  Someone very wise and learned has frequently told me that.”
“And you have little or no regard for your poor brother who is now deprived of sugar in his coffee,” Rodney complained.
“Coffee,” said Mercy, “is not at all indispensable; in fact it would probably do you good to go without it for a little while.”  She turned to Elizabeth.  “When he drinks too much coffee, he cannot sleep, and so he sits up reading half the night, and the light from his candle shines in under my door and then I cannot sleep.”
“You poor abused little creature,” said Rodney, sorrowfully shaking his head.

*

Elizabeth hardly knew which remark she should answer; Miss Bancroft had thrown at least six different topics into the conversation.

*

Lavinia was angry with her; furiously angry might be a better way of phrasing it. And for what? What, really, had she done to offend her friend?
What had she done besides running like a street urchin through fashionable Kensington Gardens in pursuit of an unruly child, accompanied by a stable hand, hat nearly flying off, with her skirts lifted well above her ankles?
She winced at the memory.

*

She spoke far more patiently than she felt—indeed, she felt quite ready to pull out her own hair. The day had not begun well. For one thing, she had woken up half-frozen after tossing off her blankets in her sleep during the night. For another, her dark green striped dress had a rent in the bodice and would have to be mended, and she did not know whether it was proper for a governess to mend her own clothes or ask the maid to do it. (A handbook on The Proper Etiquette Of A Nursery Governess: What To Do, What To Say And With Whom To Associate would be a useful item to own, she had often thought.) And now she was saddled with the responsibility of taking care of Maria, who did not take kindly to her and had been squealing like an injured rabbit since Elizabeth had first set foot in the nursery.

*

And besides, in order to become a lawyer, in all probability I’d have to start out as a clerk during law school, and the only interesting thing about that would be pretending I was a Dickens character. Tim Linkinwater, I think—or maybe Herbert Pocket. Uriah Heep is too ’umble even for the likes of me.”
“But once you got past being a clerk and had finished studying for the bar, you could fancy yourself someone like Mr. Kenge or Mr. Carboy.”
“Or Mr. Guppy.” Rodney made such a convincing fish face that Elizabeth let out a highly unladylike snort. Hastily she clapped her gloves over her mouth and with her eyes beseeched Rodney to pretend it hadn’t happened.
“We’ll pretend that didn’t happen,” Rodney teased.

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