Book Jacket

 

rank 5071
word count 64289
date submitted 15.05.2011
date updated 20.07.2011
genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical Fictio...
classification: moderate
complete

Becoming a Lady

Margaret Fleming

It's not easy becoming a lady. Especially when starting from rock bottom, as Katy is discovering. She needs assistance, but who can she trust?

 

Aberdeenshire, Autumn 1878.

Katy dreams of leaving the inn near the harbour. The expensive lessons learning how to walk and talk are wasted, as she waits tables fending off abusive and rowdy punters.

George admires Katy from afar. If she only had money not just looks. His paltry bank balance is a source of constant irritation. Marrying well seems his only hope. But is there an easy way to get rich and win Katy? Will she go along with the plan?

Henry has all the money he needs but a demanding family who would have it all for themselves. Despising the curse of being wanted only for his financial assets, he must always pay for others to realise their ambitions. But what about his own? He dreams of exacting revenge on those who love only his money, but is that really enough?

For Katy to realise her ambition and escape the drudgery of her life, she must find an escape route. With the family-run Inn sinking lower and lower, the possibility of getting out is evermore distant. How can she break away? And if she does, what unknown complications lie ahead?

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19th century, aberdeen, adversity, atmospheric, attraction, betrayal, character driven, classes, easy read, family relationships, happy ending, head o...

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Searching the grounds could take all afternoon, or even all night. She could miss him on any one of several paths. She almost ran towards the wooded edge of the estate.

‘Henry?’ she called his name. Her voice was deadened by the thick wood and the dense undergrowth. Panic and anxiety welled up inside her, she seemed to be getting nowhere, paths that were usually short and easy underfoot seemed to go on forever, weeds and stray twigs teased her footfalls, threatening to trip her, hampering her progress.

This was silly. He might not even be in the grounds. He could have walked somewhere else, he might have taken the carriage, she hadn’t even thought to check and now she was miles from the house. Maybe he’d gone to town, it seemed likely. A wave of sickening panic paralysed her for a second. Perhaps he was on his way to Greyhope. Maybe it would be him who ended in a watery grave. She’d not only driven him to it but placed the suggestion in his mind with her own action. She started to run. She had to get to town, even if she had to run all the way.

Before she could think, she felt herself slam against the forest floor. A strangling root held her ankle fast. She was reminded painfully of the time she’d fallen in the Anchor, she lay on the ground, her whole body aching. Her ankle felt like it was being crushed by a vice. She momentarily wished that she could return to the Anchor. She’d felt trapped there, but things were simpler, she didn’t have to feel when she was there, she just existed from day to day. Now she was in pain, physically but more completely inside her soul.

She dragged herself to her feet. The fine gown she wore was covered in dust and twigs. Her white gloves were stained with mud. Running to town was now impossible. She could hardly even walk. The sound of running water filtered into her conscience, she realised she was close to the stream. The water may not be magic but she could sooth the burning pain in her ankle. She limped to the spot and found a rock to sit on, freeing her ankle from her boot and her stocking, she dipped it into the burn. She almost cried as the cool water washed over it. There was something magical about it. It seemed to lift some of the gloom that hung over her. She took off her boot and stocking from her other foot and plunged it into the water. She felt tears clinging to her cheek, she let them fall. What was the point of trying to stop them? Nothing mattered anymore. Everything was hopeless. She wished she’d tried harder to tell him, if she’d made him listen. Now he was gone and life without him was pointless.

 

The maid was sobbing hysterically in the courtyard. Henry could hardly bear to watch. The horses carrying Neil and his awful brother had just left and now this.

‘The mistress has gone,’ she cried, ‘and it’s all my fault.’

Tony the footman stepped forward and put his arms around her.

‘What do you mean?’ asked Henry, ‘the mistress has gone where?’

‘She’s gone, left. Run away. I saw her,’ cried the maid, ‘and it is my fault, I did it.’

‘Did what? For heaven’s sake,’ said Henry, ‘will someone please explain what she is talking about.’

‘She ruined the dress,’ said Tony, ‘she didn’t mean to, she dropped the lamp on it. Only just managed to stop a blaze but she got scared that she’d be charged for spoiling it. She made up that story about the note. Figuring that the mistress and Mrs Calder would fight it out amongst themselves about who actually sent it and they’d never find out the truth.’

‘But I didn’t want her to leave,’ cried the maid, ‘I like her, I can’t stand it, I want to die.’

‘That is quite enough of this nonsense,’ said Henry, ‘take her inside and we’ll say no more about it.’

‘Thank you sir,’ she sobbed.

‘Where did the mistress go?’

‘I saw her walking towards the woods,’ sniffed the maid, ‘she looked so bad, I thought Mrs Calder must have sent her away for ruining the gown sir.’

Henry ignored her foolish and utterly erroneous conclusion, he was walking fast towards the house. he had business there first.

 

Katy’s feet were almost numb as she lifted them out of the water. She wished she had a warm linen towel to dry them with. Pulling her knees up to her chest she sat huddled on the boulder. Staring at the water, she lost track of time. She closed her eyes and listened. The burn seemed to be rustling a tune. She allowed the sound to drown out everything. Refusing to allow any thoughts into her head. Every time Henry’s face appeared in her mind she banished it, how could she have let him down so badly? Stop thinking, she must stop thinking. Listen to the water, don’t think. She’d grown to care for him, but she shouldn’t dwell on it. She’d believed in him, believed that he’d come to care for her too. She’d never been so deceived. He’d enjoyed the play. He’d succumbed like every other man to womanly charms but he didn’t really care, he couldn’t. Two people so far divided could never get that close. Not really, it was all part of the game. She deserved this pain. Acting the part was as good as lying, she should be punished and she should endure it, it was her penitence.

‘Katy! What are you doing here?’

She jumped from her trance and spun round. Henry stood behind her, his face stern.

‘Henry,’ she said, she tried to stand up, forgetting the pain in her ankle and stumbling.

‘What’s happened?’ He walked towards her and helped her to sit back down.

‘I fell, I tripped, I hurt my ankle…’

‘Then stay put for heaven’s sake.’

‘I thought you’d gone, I panicked, I was running, I…’ she was babbling. She tried to read his expression. Was this even real? This dell seemed so mysterious that perhaps he was a vision, was she still daydreaming? Seeing what she wanted to see.

He shook his head.

‘I was in the stables, arranging for Mr Darroch’s horse to be made ready, I was going to have him evicted, but you managed that by yourself.’

‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘but I thought I was doing right.’

‘You were. My mother’s just told me what you said. She thought you were quite magnificent.’

‘But…’

‘I told her, what I’m about to tell you. I just hoped for once that someone would…’

‘Believe you?’

‘Yes,’ he nodded.

‘I do believe you, I do, I know you’re not a swindler…’

‘Perhaps I am,’ said Henry, ‘I’m a businessman, a merchant, I trade with many people, do many deals, make bargains, perhaps some of my clients think me a swindler. There’s a fine line in business, muddy waters, it’s hard to keep your feet clean.’

‘So? What does it mean?’

‘Nothing. They are the hard facts. Make of them what you will. I’ve never knowingly done wrong in my business deals, but as I say, there will always be people who disagree, those who would see me fall or who haven’t benefited from some investments as I have. You can believe what you want. Maybe you think I am a conman, I bought you after all.’

She shook her head, ‘you didn’t. If anything I conned you. I believe you’re straight. I always thought you a man of integrity. You’ve always treated me well, always.’ She stared at him intently, willing him to believe her, trying to melt the blue ice chips.

‘And yet I’ve acted in a manner most callous towards you today.’

‘My own doing, I tried to be something that I’m not. I thought I could be a lady just by dressing up and talking fancy, but I can’t. My sins have found me out. I’ve been punished for my deception.’

‘Was that your only deception?’ He didn’t look at her but fiddled with a piece of moss clinging to their boulder.

‘I think so,’ said Katy, ‘If you mean George, I swear there was never any plot between us, never. He tried but I refused, he told me he was trying to marry some rich woman and get money from her family but I didn’t know he meant you, not until today. He never named her, he never mentioned you. How could I have known?’

‘That’s not what I meant,’ said Henry, still not looking at her, ‘perhaps I was mistaken, I thought, recently, it felt…’

‘Authentic?’

He nodded and looked up, ‘was that part of the deception?’

She shook her head and her voice came out as a whisper, ‘no. I know this started as a convenient arrangement but I’ve changed, I’ve grown to care for you. In fact, I love you. You’re the one true man I’ve ever met, the only one I’ve ever been able to trust. I just wanted you to…’

A strong arm pulled her close. She felt happiness wash over her like the clear water at her feet.

‘I do,’ whispered Henry, kissing her gently on the neck. ‘You’ve changed me. You’ve made me a man, not just a gentleman. And as for you, young lady, well, it doesn’t matter what you used to be, together we can stand anything.’

‘You mean you want me to go back, to stay…’

‘Of course I do,’ said Henry, drawing back and looking at her as though she was mad, ‘my life is nothing, without you. They can throw anything at us now and it won’t matter. Everyone knows the truth but it doesn’t change anything, you’re still my wife, you’re the mistress of the house and moreover, you’re a lady. A real one. You’ve got style and spirit that none of them could ever have. I’ll take you anywhere, I’m not ashamed of you. You’re the only person in my life, who’s ever cared about me for something other than my money and for that alone I would keep you. You care about Henry Cranston the man not the cash box.’

‘But, I’m an outcast, everywhere I go, people will talk…’

‘And you’re bothered?’ he smiled at her and stroked her cheek, ‘that doesn’t sound like my Katy.’

She returned his smile and shook her head, ‘you’re right, why should it bother me?’

She suddenly felt the flame of adventure awake in her heart. They could go anywhere and she could be herself, no lying, no acting. She could live her own life in her own way. Together they were invincible. ‘I’m glad you found your way to the Anchor,’ she said, ‘and that I didn’t succeed in scaring you away.’ Putting her arms around his neck she hugged him.

‘No, you didn’t succeed in doing that, I survived the night in the worst inn in Scotland and I’d do it again, anywhere in the world as long as you’re with me.’

Katy held him even tighter, ‘let’s do it, let’s take on the world.’

‘That’s right,’ he said, wrapping her in his arms and swaying her, she laughed. ‘That’s my girl, my fearless warrior, the one that bewitched me, changed me and that I fell in love with. My one and only young lady, my wife, my friend and my love.’

 

 

 

 

Chapters

37

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Sophy wrote 782 days ago

Hi Margaret,
I've read the first 3 chapters, and like it so far. You have great introductions to the chapters - makes the reader 'there' with the character without endless descriptions of scenery. It is easy to see it through the action. If you're after constructive feedback, here's my thoughts:
Generally - some of your sentences are very long, perhaps putting in a full stop where there is a comma might help - eg 2nd last sentence of chapter 1.

chapter 2 - referring to his breakfast as the 'fair' - should spell 'fare' - occurs twice in this chapter.
'half and hour ago' ought to be 'half an hour ago.
Esther's language is not always consistent - she mixes educated speech with colloquial terms - but this might be intentional, and maybe it's just me, so don't worry too much!

chapter 3 - 'spoons drooping on the best china' - perhaps 'dropping' as it is referring to the clinking noise they make. Some sentences need tightening up again, or cutting in half.

Keen to read more - let me know if you would prefer not to have feedback like this, it is all little stuff. I do like your story and the setting is great.

good luck with it,
regards, Sophy

Bucephalus wrote 835 days ago

Hi Margaret
I liked the construct of this story, and the sheer energy of your writing style. As a personal observation I would suggest tightening the final paragraph a little.
best regards
Steve

Carol Ritten Smith wrote 1004 days ago

Hi Margaret. I'm enjoying your book and I've decided to rate it high and pop it on to my bookshelf. I'm curious as to how you got to number eight hundred-something when you have so few backings. What number did you start with? I'm still trying to figure out Authonomy's ranking system. Best wishes with "Becoming a Lady." Carol

auntie_hen wrote 1027 days ago

I love historical fiction. I like this as it is set in a different location. too many are set in London, this is interesting. I like the characters and find them enagaging and interesting. I will read more soon.

Carol Ritten Smith wrote 1041 days ago

Hi Margaret. Becoming a Lady is definitely my kind of story. I love historical novels of this era. You described the atmosphere of the inn so well, I was right there. You certainly utilized the senses: noisy banter... tankards clanged... thick air... pinching fingers. Your dialogue is strong and the rude remarks made by the boors in the inn really add to the atmosphere. I often critique as I read each chapter, so here goes Chapter one. In Canada we spell lightening, lightning. My old dictionary, printed in Great Britain, spells it that way, too, so maybe you'd better spell check that word. Also, I'm a stickler for grammar. The second paragraph has run on sentences. My published friend told me that his editor wanted more short and to-the-point sentences for ease of reading and comprehension. When I write, my sentences are never longer than what I could read aloud in one breath. I felt light-headed reading your forty-nine word sentence/paragraph. This is how I might rewrite it. 'Kate cursed as her hands slammed the tabletop and the tray of drinks slipped from her fingers. Its contents flowed freely across the table and dripped over the edge. The man leapt to his feet, snarling . . .' I've separated your one-sentence paragraph into three sentences, but you could make it into two if you kept the comma between 'fingers' and 'its'. But you definitely need to break it into two. Please realize I am only offering suggestions and you can disregard any or all of what I say. My intentions are to bring out the best in fellow writers. Believe me, I've had plenty of advice and hard critiques over the many years I've written. I wish you the best and will continue reading about Kate and the mysterious gentleman. Carol

sweet honey wrote 1044 days ago

Vivid description of an inn in the first chapter. We meet Katy, a girl who wants better for herself, and is neither timid nor shy. Me thinks she'll do well for herself. Might the wet stranger seeking board in her father's inn be the one to make her dreams come true? Perhaps not. We can only find out one way.

AnneEvans wrote 1052 days ago

only read the first chapter so far, but you do a good job of getting the reader interested up front. I'm interested in reading the rest.

Jacoba wrote 1061 days ago

Hi,
I read all your chapters and this is really good. Well written with a nice easy flow making the reader immersed in your story. I liked all the characters they are all complex in their own way and I like the way you have tied them together. I feel a clever plot unfolding already at this early stage. I have a feeling Katy's casual feisty attitude is going to turn a few heads and attract attention. Possibly from both bachelor patrons??? I think I'm gunning for the poor rich lord who has to contend with a house full of women. I'd like to see his demeanour change and perhaps be happy.
If you post anymore let me know, I'd like to read on.
Well done,
Star rated and watchlisted for now,
Cheers Jacoba

Su Dan wrote 1065 days ago

a well written piece; great flow, easy to read, and enjoyable...l shall back...
read SEASONS...

senyah nala wrote 1066 days ago

Margaret (BECOMING A LADY)

This is not my normal sort of read, but browsing the site your pitch for the book sounded interesting and I read three chapters.
It is a pleasant story and well written. Your writing is very descriptive and you make it easy for the reader to imagine being there. I also like the way you have of getting right into the feelings of your characters.
I trust Katy will eventually achieve what she wants.
I'm sure your book will appeal to many. It's going on my shelf. All the best.

Al

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