The House of Elyot

1888 Part 11

Posted on: March 16, 2011

Florence falls foul of Lord Hunter-Fox

“Heavens, Molly, you are excessively dull today!”

The maidservant startled, pricking her finger, and whipped her head around to where her querulous mistress sat, dangling a poetry book between thumb and finger.

“I’m sorry, Miss, I was miles away.  Did you need something?”

“A little society, Molly.  Something to take my mind off….its preoccupations.  Really, everything here is so tedious I think I shall scream.”

Florence’s coral lips were twisted in an ugly pout.  Molly knew this mood and resigned herself to indulging it, until luncheon at least.

“Perhaps we could make a plan, Miss.  About meeting Miss Jessie again?”

Florence’s lips uncurled, indicating amenability to this suggestion, but then she held up a hand for silence as the jangle of the doorbell interrupted them.

“Is it the third post, do you suppose?” she whispered, straining to hear the unctuous tones of the butler, Brandon.

She was incorrect in her surmise, but her heart began to thump with cruel alacrity when the door swung open and the butler opened his mouth to announce a visitor.  Even crueller, though, was the flattening blow to her spirits when his words were not those she had hoped for.

“Lord Hunter-Fox, Madam.”

“Oh, send him away, Brandon,” she said petulantly.  “If he is here to see Papa, he should know that he is at the office.  Is the man a complete blockhead?”

Brandon retired discreetly as the visitor himself strode into the room, fixing Florence with a steely glare.

“Oh!” she flustered, realising that he must have heard her unmannerly words and feeling her usual irritating impulse of fear in his presence.  “It is rather impolite to just barge in like that, you know.   Brandon should have told you – Papa is not here at present.”

“I am perfectly well aware of that, young lady.  My call was of a social nature, to invite you and your parents to spend a weekend at Fawkelands next month.”  The stiffness of Lord Hunter-Fox’s tone disguised his underlying fury only poorly.

“I see,” was the only response Florence could muster.  A weekend at Lord Hunter-Fox’s country estate would be purgatorial but she could hardly turn the invitation down.  “Thank you.”

“Perhaps a long weekend in the country might go some way to improving your manners, Florence,” rebuked the peer, stalking over to her and plucking the book from her fingers.  Florence threw herself sulkily back in her chair, noting the leap of his eyebrows and steeling herself for yet more of his imperious disapproval.

“Swinburne?  Quite unsuitable for a young lady.”  He flipped through the pages, settling at one almost halfway through and intoning a verse in his distinctive rich baritone:

“Would I not hurt thee perfectly? not touch

Thy pores of sense with torture, and make bright

Thine eyes with bloodlike tears and grievous light?

Strike pang from pang as note is struck from note,

Catch the sob’s middle music in thy throat,

Take thy limbs living, and new-mould with these

A lyre of many faultless agonies.”

Florence looked away, flushed at being caught out in this way.  It was true that she had found some of the poems provocative, and sometimes a little disturbing.  They did seem rather concerned with, well, physical love and pain, often both together.  She had never considered that there could be a meeting of the two concepts and found it strange.  She had been wondering if she would have the courage to discuss the less…decent…stanzas with Alex, but in her heart of hearts she hoped that the subject would not arise in conversation.  Unseemly as it was, there was something perversely exciting about it, and she would die of mortification if anybody found her out.

Lord Hunter-Fox paused for a beat or two, swallowing, before finally asking her in his lowest of low tones, “Do you consider this appropriate reading material?”

“What I choose to read is not your business,” she muttered defiantly, not quite able to match the spirit of her words with eye contact.

“I shall be showing this to your father, since presumably it is his!” threatened the Lord, drawing himself up to his full height.  “It is not my place to instruct him how to deal with it, but if you were mine, Miss….”

“Well I’m not yours!” exclaimed Florence, jumping to her feet, finally stung to action.  “And thank Heaven for that!”

She stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

Molly quickly lowered her eyes, covertly watching the stunned Lord Hunter-Fox.  His eyes narrow, his jaw sternly set, she thought she discerned two words, no more than whispers, escape his lips.

“Not yet.”

2 Responses to "1888 Part 11"

Oh my goodness!!

Dramatic Music!*

The opening scene reminded me of last week’s Oglaf 🙂

Bwahahaha! I love a dramatic-music-y ending!

Oglaf is pure class, I feel flattered :D.

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