The cheek of him! Hours and hours she had spent slaving over the speech to lighten her audience’s hearts. It was a speech for her best friend, her companion and soul mate who was to be married, to an English gentleman who was to be gone overseas to fight in the war a month before their marriage. Elizabeth had hoped to bring some light and humour back into these dark, cursed times. And all was going well, laughs were heard at their home for the first time in weeks and it bought an illuminating smile to her face.
But then, oh but then, Henry Leroy burst into the room, late and solemn looking, bringing the latest fashion trends into the poise and serenity of their home, interrupting the one thing that had bought this family together. Looking around the cosy lit living room he nodded sharply in her direction, shrugging off his green velvet jacket, holding it there, until one of his sharp and cruel looks fell upon one of Elizabeth’s servants to take his coat from him. Elizabeth’s heart felt for her, as she knew what it felt like to quell under that gaze. It was Henry’s last visit to Lakewood, and it was then it finally dawned on her that her mere presence provoked him. But why?
After long exhausted conversations with her older sister that went far into the night, Elizabeth had concluded that her wit, ability to fend for herself, and her confident manner was what made Henry dislike her so. Women around Elizabeth were not the same, or rather; she was not the same as the other women. They depended on a rich husband, whereas she depended on herself, nor her family or wealth. Needless to say, this did not bring her respect. She was bought up by her uncle and auntie, as her mother died whilst giving birth to her, and her father of grief slightly after. Constant nags to settle herself with a husband, not as rich as her auntie had hoped, for many times had her Auntie Catherine commented on how a rich man could never love a plain, impertinent being such as Elizabeth, but with any man that would offer his hand.
As these thoughts went tumbling through Elizabeth’s mind, rage consumed her from the deepest of her heart. She wrenched open the trunk that was kept under her bed, which was full to the brim of the parchment of scrap pieces of the early drafts of the speech, and other things that she simply had to write down. It was full of photographs of her mother and father; the one’s she had been able to sneak into the house, the one’s that Auntie Catherine had not yet managed to burn. Grabbing the pieces of parchment with the speech on she began to rip them as hard as could, into the smallest pieces and chuck them into the burning fire to the side of the room. Henry’s words just kept running through her mind, piercing her heart.
‘Never will you be able to be as accomplished as a masculine author Miss Renson. Your knowledge of the world is limited, as is your imagination. And as you must realise, experience is vital.’
His words coiled around her like a snake, from the tips of her toes to her collarbone, slowly etching up to her neck, drowning her in disappointment and shame. Yes, experience is desirable, but not when you are a young woman of her class. That’s what the imagination is for. This fool, imagination is never limited. If it was, then Elizabeth would have given up hope for her life a long time ago.
And she supposed he was meant to give her experience of the world?
She desired to know, longed to know, to improve on what she loves.
For a novel must show how the world truly works, how characters really think, feel and act.
The truth that was concluded from her brief encounters with Mr Leroy was that bad characters in novels, and life, often thrive. And good characters, often come to bad ends.
He did give her experience, knowledge, and feeling of the world.
And she gave him, her heart.