A Convenient Marriage unplugged . . .
Do tell, my dears! Has any one of you ever listened to a novel read by a darkly dangerous voice whilst driving? I do not mean, my loves, in a chaise, or phaeton or similar elegant equipage. I mean in a four wheel drive. That is not to say, you understand, a four in hand. A four in hand would be matched blacks, or greys, or even bays. No. Quite simply I mean an auto-mobile. Terrifyingly and quite simply so.
I am of the opinion that if the story had been read to me whilst I was in an equipage with postillions and a coachman, even an abigail as a companion, that I could have coped. As it was I did not.
I am given to a vivid imagination, as you, my friends, would know. How hard it is to pay attention to the vehicle in front and the vehicle behind, nay even the vehicles on one’s sides, if one is not exactly in this world. So to speak. For I must say with the utmost candour, that I am Horatia and Lord Rule speaks to me directly.
I perfect my stttutter and I smile winsomely, so that drivers alongside me fear I am a trifle disordered, nay deranged even.
I tell you, when it came about that Horatia was abducted by Lord Lethbridge and she had the courage to hit the heinous fiend on the head with a poker, why it was all I could do to keep my hands on the wheel with which I guide my transport! And when Lord Rule, as the Scarlet Domino, kissed her, I became quite weak and felt for my reticule. But wait . . . I am in the wrong era, the wrong place and instead my fingers found a peppermint which was as good as smelling salts.
In short, and with deepest regret, I found in the interests of others’ safety, as well as my own, that I needed to still that Voice and concentrate on my journey.
But I shall tell you this sweet friends . . . we have another assignation, the Voice and I, as I must find out how the story ends.
I shall listen in the quiet of my . . . morning room and I shall lose myself in Horatia’s life again and I shall hope that I manage myself with more decorum than I did on this most recent occasion.
For your interest my friends, this is that with which I had to deal:
She tried to dodge away from him, but he caught her, and pulled her roughly into his arms. There was a wild struggle; she got one hand free and dealt him a ringing slap; then he had both her arms clamped to her sides, and kissed her suffocatingly. She managed to jerk away, and brought one sharp heel down on his instep. She felt him flinch, and twisted herself free, hearing the lace at her corsage rip in his clutching fingers. The next moment the table was between them, and Lethbridge was nursing his bruised foot and laughing. “Gad, you little spitfire!” he said. “I never dreamed you would show such spirit! Damme, I believe I shan’t let you go back to that dull husband of yours after all. Oh, don’t scowl so, sweetheart, I’m not going to chase you round the room. Sit down.”
She was by now really frightened, for it seemed to her as though he must be out of his senses. She kept a wary eye on his movements, and decided that the only thing to do was to pretend to humour him. Trying to speak quite steadily, she said: “If you sit down, so will I.”
“Behold me!” Lethbridge replied, flinging himself into a chair.
Horatia nodded, and followed his example. “P-please try and be sensible, my l-lord,” she requested. “It isn’t the least use telling me that you are fallen in l-love with me, because I d-don’t believe it. Why did you bring me here?”
“To steal your virtue,” he answered flippantly. “You see, I am quite frank with you.”
“W-well, I can be frank too,” retorted Horatia, her eyes gleaming. “And if you think you are g-going to ravish m-me, you quite mistake the m-matter! I’m much nearer the door than you are.”
“True, but it is locked, and the key” – he patted his pocket – “is here!”
“Oh!” said Horatia. “So you don’t even play f-fair!”