The Earl’s Curiosity

Some eight years after the Physician’s dismissal. This story, in its third installment, now has a page.

He catches sight of Sirena’s hair in the mirror, scarlet in the corona of candle light around her, as she opens the door to his study.

“Papa?” she says, stepping into the room. Her cotton nightgown is short on her bony shins. She persists in growing up, despite his hopes to the contrary.

“It’s late, Sprite. What is it?” he says, smiling at her in the looking glass while he arranges his cravat.

“Will you tell me at breakfast what the Countess wore?”

“If you confess the whereabouts of Miss Miller’s best hat, of course,” he replies casually, rewarded by an indignant flush on his daughter’s face.

“It’s an awful hat! She should thank me for—“

Sirena realizes her mistake, but not quickly enough. She sets her candle down on his desk.

“The hat is under Hodge’s armoire, Papa,” she offers contritely.

He cannot help but laugh, though it slices at his heart. Her serious expression smells of salt air and sun-baked canvas.

“I will ask Hodge to return it to Miss Miller in the morning, along with a sincere letter of apology from the thief.”

“Yes, Papa,” she says quietly.

He checks himself in the glass to be sure he won’t embarrass his sister at the Countess’s party.

“Now, tell me I look well enough to dine with your Aunt Felicity, and kiss me goodnight before you take yourself back to bed.”

As he leans down, Sirena stretches up to fold his cravat into place. She kisses his cheek and retrieves her candle.

“Sirena?” he calls as she goes, “Be sure to put the candle out.”

He collects his sister from her favorite sitting room. The carriage ride seems extraneous to him, given that the distance is easily walkable, but Felicity rules the household with a fashionably iron-clad fist, and arriving on foot would not be proper.

The Countess, Felicity’s oldest friend and Society’s most notorious hostess, is upon them immediately. She whisks Felicity off to a card table looking for a fourth, but not before greeting him with mischief in her eyes.

“The Earl has a curiosity in his library. After your years in the Indies, Isaac, I’ve no doubt you’ll find it very interesting.”

He dodges the crush. The heat of candles and bodies is overwhelming. In the corridor he can hear the Earl’s baritone like cannon fire from the library.

“Jennings, you’re a scoundrel!”

Standing on the Turkey carpet before the Earl’s merry fire is a filthy young man in sailor’s clothes, shackled and shorn like a traitor at the block. Though the sailor stares at the floor, there is steel in his posture.

“Issac!” the Earl booms at him. “Come in and have a look at what Jennings caught on his last run.”

He crosses the room, his soul crackling, as Jennings forces the young man to raise his face.

The pulse in his ears drowns out every sound but his own unsteady breathing. The close-cropped red hair, the pale skin. The fathoms-deep eyes, dull now and withdrawn, but still the same color as the English Channel. Not a young man at all.

Recognition kindles in those stormy eyes; her face, pink from the fire’s proximity, blanches. A fine sweat breaks out on her brow and her knees buckle.

He lunges forward to catch her. She is slight in his arms, captivity has stripped her of her toned muscles and rude health. She is all bones and sinew and fatigue now.

“What the devil, Jennings?” the Earl demands.

Jennings looks on, baffled into silence. It is he who speaks instead, laying her down on the sofa.

“She is in need of a physician.”

The most frequent advice I come across for amateur writers is, “Write what you know.”

“What you know” doesn’t necessarily always mean “your comfort zone.” For this week, take what you know out of your comfort zone. Try a new genre, a new time period, a geography you’ve only dreamed of, fantasy or historical instead of contemporary fiction, try the male POV if you usually write women. Or vice versa.

Switch it up. See where it takes you.

I am responsible for this week’s prompt. My stretch? London in the Regency. Society with a capital S.

25 responses to “The Earl’s Curiosity

  1. Like I needed yet another yarn to be snared into from you :-p

    Past lover? Long lost childhood playmate? Secret crush? Or was the Siren simply demonstrating strange scurvy symptoms?

  2. I think Nicole Kidman could play the part if you get the ball rolling! Again I’m drawn in by the atmosphere,beautifully done.

  3. Okay…so this is the Cap’n returning home…which means the lovely little girl is HER daughter. Oh will we be seeing a return of the Physician??

    Loving this story line. There is something magical about the sea.

    OT, your prompt is KILLING me…I’m trying to stretch myself but it’s damn difficult

    • Yes, the “young man” is the Captain, and yes, Sirena is her daughter. But Isaac is the Physician.

      Apparently, this one needs some work.

  4. ok…got it.

    The language puts me in this cool, old fashioned mindset. It lierally takes me like a minute or two to get back to normal. That’s a compliment.

    great flow of syntax and emotion

  5. Way to go – no way would I tackle that era of London!

    You asked about my era – it was supposed to be present (because I normally do around the Great Depression or the 50s), but it seems my present still has a vintage feel. Probably because I live under a rock and don’t have a tv.

  6. PpppptttTTttthhhhHhtTtt!
    So. HOW many books do you have published now? Because I’m obviously in the shadow of someone who knows what they’re doing.
    Can I just say, “AWESOME”, and not come off sounding like the literary equivalent of Bill and Ted?

  7. I like this storyline too and admire the fact that you chose this era. I chose to reach out of my comfort zone with the future cause I could make it up. You really stepped out because you have to kind of know a bit about the era to write about it huh? Great stretch!

  8. I absolutely love the language! I don’t read historical type novels, but this really kept me reading. I could feel the time, see the place & see the fashion without you telling more about it. That comes from the language.

    I love the surprise at the end. Who wouldn’t freak if, suddenly, an old lover appeared – as the opposite sex (for a moment)! I also love the banter between Sirena & Isaac (I reread to be sure). Great piece! I really enjoyed reading it.

  9. You left me wanting to read more. Great job!

  10. I was so excited that he kept and raised the daughter. Yay!

    I thought the domestic scene, the set up, the study, Sirena, their conversation, his pride and heartbreak, the sisters iron clad household and the arrival at the party were really well done, and flowed very naturally. If writing about this type of society was a stretch, you stretched into perfect position!

    His actual arrival in the study jarred me a bit. I do imagine that it was common place for the wealthy to have such displays at parties, but I think without context I wondered why the Earl would be interested in having such a thing/display in his study.

    Then of course there was the added issue for me, that I didn’t want Captain/Mom to show up yet because I was liking reading about the love the Physican, Isaac (interesting implication that he is Jewish?) and Sirena share. It feels rare to read about parents loving their children in this time period.

    I love where this is going!

  11. Love the flow, the language, the time, the place.

    Words like contrary, cravat, contritely are so perfectly and purposefully placed.

    I’m loving having another tale and set of characters to follow from you!

  12. C-Your writing makes me feel like a happy little puppy who has found something delicious to roll in! I just love, love, love the “language” of your work!

  13. I didn’t catch that Isaac was the physician until you mentioned it in a comment, but I did wonder if the Countess was the same as the Cap’n or perhaps a different sister. It is well written, and you can’t tell that you aren’t an authority on the whole era. I could have sworn you were. I can’t wait to see where this is going.

  14. So she’s come to find her daughter…the plot thickens!

  15. I found this so compelling and for me, I wasn’t LOST at all, I did go back and re-read that part about “not a young man at all” but once I got that, I was smitten. This is so good CDG, there was nothing about it that confused or befuddled me.

    I just loved it. I am not sure she came to find her daughter or if Fate once again had a hand in placing her in the right place at the right time. WOW.

  16. Very fun! I grew up reading my mom’s regency romance novels (Barbara Cartland, anyone?). There are so many details to have fun with!

  17. I love this era and you did it so well. I’ll be honest, this prompt scared me and I didn’t really stretch myself. I stuck to what I knew. But you, well you stretched…

  18. I read the other two pieces first and then this one and I’m blown away. I felt like I was watching it instead of reading it.

  19. Beautifully written. I love the exchange with the daughter in the beginning. And the proper language you use throughout the piece flows easily and really brings home the time period.

  20. Brilliant! I really enjoyed the banter between father and daughter regarding the hat…very believable. The characters are rich and I can hear them talking…

    Very well done. More please. Thank you.

  21. I am really enjoying this story! The twists and turns that keep coming are great…. this would make an interesting movie!

  22. More, more, more. Please.

  23. Pingback: The Physician’s Escape | Move Over Mary Poppins!

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