Ladies & Gents,
My 2014 novella Prospects & Presumptions is now available as an ebook. You can buy it through Amazon here.
As a special treat I’ve decided to publish an excerpt on this blog. Enjoy!
Part I: Northing Cottage
It is generally considered rude to wake people with bad news. However, like most unpleasant things, bad news usually has unpleasant timing. That is why Mr Porter came to Northing Cottage that night. He dismounted, wiped the rain from his brow and knocked on the door. Northing was a small house that could, with a great deal of cramming and good manners, lodge five people at most, and so it often did. This particular evening, however, it housed only three.
Mrs Kingston, a woman cursed with a troubled mind most plagued in the small hours of stormy winter nights, was at the door of the cottage in seconds. As Mr Porter handed her a letter scarcely a word was spoken. Only when she’d taken in the full content of the message did Mrs Kingston scream. It was a scream that pierced straight through the creaky, draughty walls of Northing and it roused Lily, the eldest Miss Kingston, within moments. Alarmed, Lily abandoned her bed in favour of the drawing room.
It was such an action that best illustrates our heroine’s character. Although she was neither rash nor thoughtless, Lilianne Kingston never hesitated to investigate the reason for any night-time disturbance, and she was just inquisitive enough to do so in nothing but her evening gown. She was a sturdy seventeen year old girl, blessed with none of her sister’s delicate features but all the more pleasing in spirits. Her hair was too red to be described as fair but too fair to be described as red, and at the present moment unruly wisps of it tickled her in the neck.
Skipping over the fifth step because it was known to creak, Lily made her way downstairs and came to the entrance hall. Her mother sat on the small stool placed there, paler than her customary restlessness warranted, unmoving but for soft sobs that shook her shoulders gently. In the door stood Mr Porter, dark curly hair dangling down his forehead, a pained expression on his face. The entrance hall was tiny, and awkwardly full with three people there as well as a small table with a vase on it.
Surprised and humiliated to be seen in her nightgown, Lily quickly crossed her arms over her chest and looked resolutely at the floor as she said, “Good evening, Mr Porter.”
He did not acknowledge her words with any of his own and only nodded. It was a brief nod, and it made rain drip further down his face. She found it to be quite an annoying sort of gesture. She wished she had not worn quite so flimsy a nightgown. It was, after all, a cold night. Why had she chosen this particular night to not wear warmer pyjamas?
For some time, the only sound in the room was made by the rain on the windowpanes. At long last, Mrs Kingston excused herself in order to wake Mr Kingston. She walked, trembling, towards the doorway.
Faced with the prospect of being left alone with Mr Porter, Lily did not dare break the oppressive silence. He, sensitive to her confusion and embarrassment, was equally quiet. Then Mrs Kingston turned around in the doorway, in an embarrassed tone voiced the impropriety of what she had almost done and asked Lily to go fetch Mr Kingston instead.
Within moments Lily returned, accompanied by her father. Mr Kingston, an older man with white hair in small tufts on his head, was as flushed with colour as his wife was pale. He was a benevolent man, never one to scold his daughters for anything improper because he was secure in the knowledge that his wife would do so when necessary. Lily had never seen him quite as anxious before. He took Mr Porter’s letter from his wife’s hands and looked it over quickly.
“My dear,” he said at last, addressing his eldest daughter, “it is my grave displeasure to inform you that your sister has married Mr Bright not three hours ago.”