Opening Excerpt | copyright ©2015 Barry Huggins All Rights Reserved
Letter from Sir Edgar Bryce to Lady Constance Fawley
Chanderston House, London, 27th January 1869
My Dearest Constance,
I find myself irrepressibly and fervently drawn to the defence of Lady Hansbury (though she is eminently capable of constructing her own defence, should one be required!). You perceive her as a trinket on my arm, but such a notion was never my intention. In my humble opinion, I suspect she chose to employ me as something of a social crutch to support her singular, unfashionable, sun baked appearance - and as a gentleman, how could I refuse her?
Were I not to know you as a creature of benevolence and kind hearted consideration, I would have to regard your estimation of the evening as a calculated assault upon the innocent intention of an honourable lady. But of course, dear Constance, I know that is not your way. However, for the record, it should be remembered that Lady Hansbury's extended sojourn you refer to was not for the purpose of personal indulgence. Her presence under that most merciless Indian sun was for no other reason than to tend the recuperation of her dear husband and companion, so tragically cut down on the treacherous slopes of the Khyber Pass. She was merely performing her duty, in the same way as her husband, Sir Wilfred, was performing his, when a musket ball of malevolent intent hailed from a rocky place of concealment and entered his right shoulder with little regard for the muscle, bone, and sinew, it displaced.
But let us not dwell on the anatomical consequences of the affair, gruesome as they are, but congratulate and celebrate the lady for her unbridled devotion to her fallen and selflessly heroic husband. I am in no doubt it would have been easier and far more conducive to the nurturing of her complexion to offer moral support to her husband from the more benign climes of their comfortable London dwelling in Caversham Place, but it is to her credit that she chose to maintain her place by his side, in the hot, parched land in which he fell.
But enough of Lady Hansbury and on to tomorrow evening's affair at Lord and Lady Wesley's. Would they really be inconsolable at my absence? Well, I am flattered, but modesty compels me to suspect that you perhaps overstate their regard for me. However, knowing that you will be present, you may, of course, count on my enthusiastic attendance, and rest assured, my charitable donation will be without fanfare - and in the utmost secrecy. Also, having never engaged in the practice of strutting, you may be confident of not witnessing such a performance from me.
I will be without a trinket on my arm on this occasion (tarnished or otherwise) and fear this may give rise to a certain feeling of being somewhat underdressed. My only hope is that you will take pity on this sad state of affairs and lend me your company, so I may be properly attired.
Your servant and confidant,
P.S. In response to your suggestion that I might have developed a penchant for ladies of a more dusky countenance, all I can say is that I have been fortunate enough to travel widely and see the grace and beauty in the full spectrum of tones that tint and adorn a lady's skin, but never let it be thought that I am so shallow as to allow the hue and shade of a lady's complexion to influence my regard to whatever other qualities may endow her - or indeed, desert her.
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