Gray Lace …part seven

Egad!

page 17 … Trevor tries to sort his feelings about his new world…a southeast Carolina swamp in a 1908 elitist hunting camp, only to find confusing possibilities.

Edgar waved Trevor over, “Sit here and let me explain. The hunt starts soon, but Mercer usually begins with a target practice. You know, just to get the kinks out and to let us pick out the weapons we want to borrow. Some brought their own, but I’ve always liked Mercer’s supply. By the way, how’d it go last night? I couldn’t help but hear your pleasure.” He gruffly laughed with his mouth open, showing off his breakfast.

“Have you left your manners in Boston?”

The silence told him all he needed to know. Edgar Cranfield could hand out the insults, but not take them. Trevor watched him turn red, slam down his table linen like a dueling signal from the past century, and storm off toward the lodge.

He should be worried, but wasn’t. He should be concerned about the possible loss of Cranfield money, but instead he felt more peaceful than he had in weeks. After a deep breath and another peach bite, he thought his estate problems might work themselves out, somehow.

Then again, maybe he’ll lose it all and be destitute. Yet, that would be stupid and selfish. He had obligations and Eloise Cranfield was pretty, a bit too silly, but not half bad. He could tolerate her in the usual British fashion with little or no contact, but no, that’s not what he wanted.

First, he needed his siblings to be secure and safe, but that’s not what his father’s will guaranteed.

Trevor pushed himself from the table and headed to the target range. He heard the firing and waited for the excitement to surface. Those feelings did not appear like in his hunting days of his youth. Maybe it was this swampy environment . It wasn’t Kent, or the moors, or even the marshes of Norfolk. This wasn’t England.

“Over here, old boy!” Cranfield called.

Well, Edgar had cheered up.

Trevor walked to the shared shooting station and accepted the shotgun and ammunition. An unusual call of a wild bird caused him to look heavenward. He watched the graceful flight of a blue-gray bird sail over the lake. As his attention headed back to earth, he landed into those swampy-green eyes he had enjoyed yesterday at the train station, now partly hidden behind a tent. They were still full of the fear he’d responded to last night, but this time she had quickly nodded her head down toward his weapon. Then she clearly shook her head, “No!”

Enough! for a short while

Egad!

Where Trevor Coffman learns his world is not the only one.

Page 15…The delightful smell of frying bacon woke Trevor to a gray mist that promised to burn off in the warm sunshine. He thanked God it wasn’t a cold drizzle promising more.

He managed surprisingly well without his valet bustling about. Doing without was a recent necessity, so leaving his valet in Boston during this expedition was his way of adjusting. He had only brought him with him to impress the Cranfield family. He wasn’t destitute, just close to it.

Once downstairs, a waiter informed him that breakfast was served as an outdoor buffet. He followed the given directions and found a large canvas tent covering two long wooden tables supporting a feast of roasted meats and fresh breads. There was fresh fruit which he supposed had been on last night’s train. His hand hesitated over a peach.

“We picked it ourselves, yesterday, from Mr. Mayweather’s farm.”

“Excuse me?” Trevor’s startled response brought an appreciated smile onto a weathered but friendly face.

“Aren’t they pretty?” She picked one out and handed it to him. “Try it, but be careful. It’s juicy.”

While holding a plate of bacon and buttered bread, he bit into the tasty treat and tried not to laugh. The juice slipped out anyway. He put down the plate, swallowed, and smiled at the sweet lady. “My gracious, that’s really very good. Thank you.”

“Oh, I like your accent! Catherine told me…” her demeanor changed abruptly. Her attitude turned to stone.

“Catherine?” Trevor found he wanted to talk the morning through with this lady, but instantly discovered why she was staring behind him in fear.

“Good morning, brother-in-law-to-be.”

“Crandfield.”

“Good God, my man, call me Edgar. We’re in the sticks! We can get away with anything. Relax.” He rudely shuffled a few serving plates around and barked, “Get some ham out here and the bread’s cold!”

Trevor stared at Edgar’s retreating back and turned back to his newest friend, ” My apologies, Madame. My associate is a bit rude this morning.”

“I take no mind to his kind and the name’s Joann, Mrs. Joann Garrett,” she gave a sweet but quick curtsey. “Anything else I can get you?” she hesitated and then added, “your Lordship.”

“No, but who’s Catherine? You mentioned earlier?”

“Catherine? No, sir, I don’t remember noting about no Catherine Please excuse me. I’d best get that ham,” she nearly ran behind the canvas sidewall of the kitchens.

Curiosity and a bit of sadness followed Trevor as he grabbed an extra peach and turned to find a seat as far as possible from Crandfield.

Some plans come together and some don’t.

Enough! More next time and I’ll practice downloading a picture of my swamp. This could take a while.


Egad!

Last week we left Trevor Coffman, an English titled gentleman on the edge of meager means, convincing his rich old Oxford mate to marry his younger sister from Boston. With the engagement announced, the men escape trivial wedding preparations by traveling by train to an exclusive hunting camp in the swamps of the American southeast. There he meets an unusual, but mute, lady of entertainment. The manager encourages Trevor to proceed.

“Well, your Lordship, you English move fast. Okay, then, she’s yours.” A wave of audible disgruntlement danced around the room, but soon dissipated and the crowd refocused on other options. “Go on, girl. Wait for his lordship in his room.” He released her wrist and she flew back through the door. He laughed, “She doesn’t seem pleased with you. Let me know tomorrow how she works out. I might let her join the other girls.” He slapped Trevor on his back and sauntered off to speak with another group.

Edgar appeared on his left and handed him a whiskey. “Does take you long to make up your mind, either.”

“Shut up, Ed. That girl was terrified.” Wanting to change the subject, he asked, “When do we eat?”

The rich meal of steak, flounder, fried potatoes, and more liquor sat heavily in Trevor’s stomach. He wanted to leave the table, but he knew that would be rude and far too obvious. So, he waited for someone else to begin the retreat.

Mercer, their host, stood from the head of the table and tapped his glass with an ugly hunting knife. Its sight and sound got their attention. “Gentlemen, our first hunt begins early tomorrow so go and enjoy this evening’s desserts waiting for you in your rooms.” A few cheered and he went on, “Tomorrow we’ll discuss the different flavors. Some of you might want to rotate the treats.”

Trevor felt the familiar nervous twitch when things weren’t right, only this time it was off, different, less acidic. He walked out of the hall with the others, saying little, letting them ramble on in their drunken speech. They headed down a long hall with several doors on each side. A set of stairs at the end led to a second floor.

Edgar yelled from behind, “I’m just here, old man. I think your room is just above mine so keep the noise to a minimum. Don’t let me hear the headboard banging all night.” Edgar unlocked his door and walked in to the sounds of giggles and comments. “Hello, love, I’ve been waiting for you.”

Trevor’s anxious stomach gave him a kick up the stairs. He reached for his doorknob and hesitated before opening it. He remembered her eyes so mixed with fear and thankfulness. He debated about even going in there. How could he possible explain his nasty self to her? These were not his ways. A gentleman doesn’t treat his mistress or even one from a London brothel as rudely as these clods did tonight. He had to convince her that he wasn’t a bad sort. He pushed the door open while he debated why it mattered.

The room was empty, no one. On the bed sat his key and a single sheet of paper. “Thank you, Lord Coffman. Please keep our secret. CMR”

The penmanship was exquisite and the short note bragged of a classic education. He folded it and put it in his vest pocket. He closed the door with a bang, stomped around the room a bit, and rolled around to make the springs squeak. Finally, he closed his eyes and wished for better…everything.

Enough! for now

Egad!

In this week’s installment our hero, Trevor Coffman, is in shock. He’s in a 1908 high-end hunting lodge bracing for a female invasion.

Page 12 – At least a dozen female flirts with too much gooey-face make-up and not enough clothing dispersed among the guests. The noise level rose as the males responded with greedy approval.

The lodge owner’s head bobbed as if counting these new arrivals, “See one you like, Coffman?” Before Trevor was forced to be rude, his host interrupted. “Not enough. There’s not enough. I know I hired enough.” He roughly pulled the cigar from his mouth and raised his arm to signal a male employee. “Excuse me,” he barely nodded and continued to stare at the crowd and recount the whores. “Cranfield, Lord Coffman, I seem to be missing one or two. While I’m looking into this oversight, browse. Look around. I’ll get back to you.” He marched to the back and began yelling at some of his staff.

“Is your mind still down at the train station?” Edgar Crandfield spoke to Trevor while staring at a passing tease. She stopped and abruptly turned and put her arms through his, but looked at Trevor and smiled with mostly white teeth.

“Gentlemen, it’s the same rate for two tonight, or half for just watching.” Resting her head on Edgar’s arm she waited for the deal to close. She pouted when he laughed and glanced in Trevor’s direction for confirmation.

He kindly denied her employment request, “Perhaps some other time, young lady.”

“Don’t mind him, sweetheart. He’s engaged to my sister and he doesn’t want his future brother-in-law to disapprove of his actions. I, however, do believe I could keep you company after dinner.” Edgar patted her bottom and slipped his room key between her amply displayed breasts.

She giggled her pleasure and started off, but turned back to Trevor again, “If you change your mind, sugar, I’ll be waiting for your friend in his room.” She swung her hips around and headed just under the smoky fog hanging from the ceiling.

He watched her go and was relieved until she was stopped by Mercer, the owner, at the front door. “Hooked somebody already, Susan?” Mercer laughed as he dragged a new, but terrified girl into the room by her wrist.

“Yes, sir,” Susan softly answered and scooted around him and the taller girl, as if she felt relieved to be away from him.

“Gentlemen!” announced their host, I’ve found another, but she’s mute, so the kitchen staff tell me, but she’ll do. She has the right parts, I think.”

The room filled with raucous laughter and an alcoholic slur called out, “Are you sure, Mercer? Why don’t you check and let us all see?”

Trevor felt his feet surge forward and his hand dive into his pocket for his room key. He knew he would analyze his decision later , as he dropped his key between two delightful but discretely covered breasts. He read chapters of thankfulness, hope, and humility in her swampy green eyes. A fearful noise came from her throat, but no noise.

Enough! Yes, I blushed as I wrote this part.

Egad!

Page 11 – where our hero fights a nervous stomach and why

In the late afternoon a dozen men gathered in the handsome, but smoky, interior of the hunting lodge. The great room displayed several badges of past hunts. Trevor thought the local taxidermist must be busy as well as accomplished. The heads appeared truly alive. There were varying sizes of black bear staring back at him as if they knew he was a novice. Foxhunts, of which he had only tolerated as a host on his estate in Kent, would be on his resume, if he had ever need of one. He had unwillingly killed those tiny creatures, nothing like these monsters.

All types of weapons were stored in the numerous tall wooden glass-door cases lining the east and west walls. The knives, pistols, shotguns, and rifles stood at attention waiting for the owner to release their fury and ugliness.

Edgar Cranfield led Trevor toward one of the cases and asked, “Are you ready to let this city-boy show you how to hunt in the American swamps?” He laughed at his guest, “You’re a bit green. No worries. I won’t tell sister.” He nudged him with his elbow none too gently. “The females of Cranfield clan think we’re researching investments, not spending them.” He turned to include a bull of a man dressed as a country gentleman. “Coffman, I’d like you to meet Quinlan Mercer of Standard Oil, New Orleans. He’s the fortunate owner of this camp. Mercer, this is my soon-to-be-brother-in-law, Trevor Coffman, Earl of Warrenwood.”

At the mention of Eloise Cranfield, Trevor’s stomach muscles twisted in guilty anxiousness. Their trip south from Boston would have been smoother if Edgar had not talked about his sister, the nasty negatives of marriage, and how to avoid them, quite so often. The final marital decision had been a reoccurring theme. Calendars and financial statements flashed and his stomach would twist yet again.

Edgar pushed him with his usual sarcasm, “Coffman, why so tense? Remember, why do today, what you can avoid until tomorrow??” He swallowed the golden liquid in his glass.

“What’s he avoiding? Marriage?” Mercer’s cigar smoke made Trevor’s eyes water. “Can’t say I blame him, unless he’s after your Bostonian money.” He belched out a mean laugh that shook his frame. “Although, I think we have a temporary remedy,” He nodded at someone standing outside their conversation.

The double doors opened and several giggling females turned all the make heads. “Ah, your Lordship, enter our other type of hunting. We Americans can provide a variety of prey.” His wicked laughter stopped when he stuffed his mouth with his cigar and surveyed the dispersal of imported prostitutes.

Enough! (but more later)

Isn’t technology fun !?! I have no idea where that bird flew in, but at least the swamp fits the story.

Enough !!!

Egad!

Last week I introduced Lord Coffman, who hunts for an heiress bride to save his neglected estate in England. Trevor travels by train from Boston to the swamps of the Carolinas with his future brother-in-law to an elitist hunting camp.

To Continue…

Trevor glanced back at the vision offering him a needed cup of warmth. He took the small tin and savored the liquid gliding down his throat. He smiled at her over the lip of the cup and would have missed her surprise, if he’d been his usual self-absorbed gentleman. Returning the cup, he thanked her and hesitated. He wanted to hear her voice again.

Instead loud and irritating American manners ran ragged fingernails down his spine. “Let’s go and impress some of these swamp people with your title.” Edgar Cranfield jauntily walked ahead, ordering the staff out of his way, using his walking stick and his worst arrogant style.

“Please excuse him,” he begged of the vision. “He slept through our Oxford manners class.”

She gave him a short-crisped bow of acknowledgement that could have meant absolutely nothing, but Trevor found he wanted it to mean something. He slightly shrugged his shoulders to shake off his suffocating loneliness and started to follow his traveling companion into the fog and steam.

He surprised himself by stopping and turning. “Miss, I’ve changed my mind. May I have the muffin too?” He offered a friendly smile when she handed it to him. The muffin reminded him of those he would steal from Cook when he was a small lad. “This is delicious. Did you bake it?” He wanted to hear her voice again and to talk to her about anything. This was indeed a morning of surprises. He had never liked idle chatter.

“Yes, I did. Thank you for the compliment, sir.”

Her speech was clear, but not loud, not gaudy, but educated. Was this beautiful woman truly a servant? Through the fog in his mind and spirit, his loneliness and confusion, he heard, “Come on now, Coffman, don’t worry about the likes of her. Mercer provides plenty of enticing entertainment .” Edgar had returned with an irritating laugh.

He wanted to apologize to her. Why? She’s a servant. Was she also entertainment? He nearly blushed at the thought. Good God. That will not do.

“Thank you again,” he nodded and reluctantly walked away.

Enough! for now.

Gray Lace

Egad!

Please allow me to introduce a friend, an antique, Gray Lace, an historic fiction.

I wrote her. I can call her whatever I please.

She was published in 2015 and , yes, she is copyrighted, copyrighten?, copywrote? I have the Right!

Speaking of copying, I’m revising her, but decided to at least partially, if not in full, but not today, self-publish now. The term self-publish makes me anxious, not nervous. That is another story. Is it self-publishing if Word Press has to come to my rescue? Possibly. I really do need the security of the agent/editor/publisher package. Someday. Again.

Gray Lace is an important non-human character in my story. Most folks call this plant Spanish Moss. My friends, the characters, travel among her lacey fingers. Today, Trevor Coffman, feeling none too courageous, will be the first to appear in this Word Press production of Gray Lace.

Enjoy my 1908 adventure set in an expensive hunting camp found in the swamps of southeastern Carolinas.

Trevor caught the forceful smack square on his forehead. The thirty-ton engine spit out moisture, a heat that smelled of mold, settling itself above the natural fog, thicker that any he had endured in London. The train, from semi-civilized Boston, had dumped him into a foreign land of strange sounds and smells.

A vendor’s tender song caught his attention before he could find her. “May I serve you a cup of morning coffee and a warm muffin, sir?” She didn’t sound foreign. She sounded smooth and soothing. Almost anyone would after that night on the train from Richmond then Wilmington.

He stopped his progress down the wooden train station platform, allowing the mist to swirl around him. Slowly the fog opened a lovely American gift. Her light brown curls had frizzed into a halo worthy of her warm smile and her green eyes. This green was different. He hadn’t seen a green that wouldn’t let him go. The worn clothing covered the curves he enjoyed imagining. She was unusually tall, nearly his six-three. Her captivating eyes stared bravely in polite deviance, in spite of the subservient body language.

A friendly slap on his back jolted his vision. “Trevor, the camp provides refreshments,” his soon-to-be brother-in-law nodded to the lady and rudely analyzed her appearance. “There’s more entertainment to be had besides this one. Come on now. Our elaborate hunting camp awaits.” He flourished his arm and bowed as his own servant back home in Boston might have done after far too many whiskeys. “Let’s impress everyone with your British title.”

Enough! for now.

Idols

Definition: a person greatly admired, loved, revered, or appreciated

Egad!

My pandemic idols listed today are all younger than me. That’s fine. There are several more, but these happen to be authors.

I read, really I do read.

All titles were published this year. All helped to save my limited sanity.

Tasha Alexander: The Dark Heart of Florence

C.S. Harris: What the Devil Knows

Deanna Reaborn: The Unexpected Peril

M.J. Ross: The Last Tiara

I have read other titles since 2021 made an appearance, but I’m quite fond of historical mysteries, so I’m highlighting these. They offered escapism, knowledge, and lessons to equate to our problems today…persistence, perseverance, and self-control. Their characters taught, the settings awed, and the plots entertained. One individual compliment goes to C.S. Harris. Her details of smells, sounds, sights of early nineteenth century London make me appreciate the now. I find myself counting my many blessings far more often.

Enough!

Assumptions

Egad!

“Staying healthy” assumes one is already healthy. “Staying healthy” during a pandemic assumes one is planning to escape This Mess! “Staying healthy” is the subject of many authors’ blogs, podcasts, and newsletters. So, I’ll assume you can read one more since I assume that’s why you’re here. You’re ready to escape from This Mess.

Body, soul, and mind are the assumed categories of staying healthy. Yes, I walk daily with The Hubs around an assumed track. I pray daily for my soul, which I assume is where my spirit is hiding from the craziness of This Mess.

Now, on to my assumed mind. On my phone, my pocket computer, there are three mind fitness apps. No, not Face Book nor Twitter. No, not CNN nor NPR. No, not Instagram nor Linked In. For numbers, I like Sudoku. For shapes and logic, I like Ubongo.

For vocabulary strengthening, I enjoy (believe it or not) Words with Friends. I have two. Friends. During This Mess.

We play four or five games silmultaneously. I am always embarrassed. I never win. Yet… I assume that I will win before the end of This Mess.

Enough!

My Coming Out

Egad!

Please understand Mr. Covid and I have been avoiding each other like the plague. Sorry.

To emphasize by the way of a review of my 2020. Isolation. Mr. Amazon feed us. We were Fortunate enough (yet another pun) to afford him. Mr. USPS allowed us to rent a huge box and I drove into his backyard once a week, popped the trunk and a lovely postal employee (no names, here, I love them all) came out and placed our mail in the back. No doctor appointments, no hair cuts, no nails jobs, no visits, no entertaining.

Ahhhh. No hugs.

In other words, what most of us did or didn’t.

Now, slowly I am emerging.

I got my shots! I went to my first doctor’s appointment. The mask thing is difficult, not impossible. Picked up an order from the grocery store and one from my favorite chef. Plans have been made for the grand daughter hugs in the near future. There are questions: may we hug maskless? Will we need to stay outside? May I pay their tuition to Harvard? They are ages five and three and nearly ready.

Although, Mr. Amazon has most of my money.

My writing productivity has increased for a few different reasons. One I’ll mention here. I’ve reduced my media time allowance. Less Stress. Trying to stay safe and smile a bit.

Enough!