Dickens was the master of using the secondary character to provide a bit of light relief, and this week I’m looking for excerpts about those people. The bratty little sister. The nervous secretary. The bossy maid. The matchmaking mama. The wild and silly brother.
Mine is from Lord Calne’s Christmas Ruby, which is in final editing. My heroine’s man of business has ventured into the country, and he is not happy.
The following morning, Philip escorted his uncle and the man of business on the two-mile walk to Aunt Hannah’s. Uncle Henry, country born and still a fit active man in his early sixties, thoroughly enjoyed the trek. The rain had cleared, and the mud had dried between the ruts so that, by stepping carefully, one could avoid the worst of the puddles.
Mr Wiggens regarded the hedgerows with suspicion, the sheep with distaste, and the cows with alarm.
“You are not accustomed to the country, Mr Wiggens,” Philip observed.
“I am a London man, sir. This place… the noises, the smells, the animals… How do people stand it?”
“Country people say the same when they come to London,” Uncle Henry said. “But you were here once before, Wiggens?”
“Yes, my lord, when I came down to—as I thought—put in place measures for Mrs Thorpe’s welfare. I blame myself, my lord. I blame myself very much. Had I not been so anxious to return to London… But a gentleman of the cloth, my lord, and so concerned for her, seemingly!”
“Yes, well, what’s done is done, Wiggens. Is this the place, Philip? But I have been here before! Visiting your great grandmother with your father, Philip. It is surely the estate’s dower house.”
In the thin winter sunshine, it looked better than it had on Philip’s first visit. The windows sparkled, cleaned inside and out, Kareema had holystoned the front door slab and Philip had painted the front door a fresh green.
Philip had sent the pot boy ahead of them to warn the ladies of the visit, and morning tea was laid out in the parlour, where Aunt Hannah waited to preside over the tea pot, still in her faded black, but with a clean white fischu Kareema had brought for her and a white lace cap decorated with pretty pink ribbons that Philip had watched Kareema making one afternoon while Mrs Thorpe slept.
“Lord Henry, this is such an honour. I do not know if you remember me, my lord, but I had the privilege of meeting you when you came here with the earl’s father. Back when you were at school, that would have been.”
“Indeed I remember,” Uncle Henry agreed, bowing over her hand. “You gave us a great slab of gingerbread each. I still remember how delicious it was.”
Aunt Hannah beamed. “Won’t you take a seat, my lord? And, Mr Wiggens, how very kind of you to come all this way. Please sit down, sir. How very delightful this is, to be sure. Why, I do not remember when I last had such visitors.”
Philip waited for her to get over her first fluster and to pour tea for Kareema to carry to each of the guests. Once everyone was settled, he turned to Mr Wiggens. “Mr Wiggens, will you explain to Mrs Thorpe why we are here today?”
“Oh dear,” Mr Wiggens said. He put down his cup, pulled some papers out of his omnipresent briefcase, and pushed his glasses back up his nose. “Mrs Thorpe, may I first say how very, very sorry I am.”
Aunt Hannah was bewildered. “Why, whatever can you mean, Mr Wiggens?”