Friday, November 6, 2009

The Tangled Feathered Nest

Prompt: .... A man ducks into a dress shop to escape a sudden downpour and finds himself in the middle of a heated debate between employees.

Each week I also rise to an additional challenge - that to explore a different genre or writing style. This week I visit Fantasy of Manners .

Please suggest my next challenge in the comments - for ideas on the wide range of genres - go here. ps Paul - I will get to the ballad genre...

A typical fantasy of manners tale will involve a romantic adventure that turns on some point of social punctilio and is generally set historically. Moliere is most famously known in this style. Given the nature of a short story, the usual set up of characters, their interplay and backgrounds are confined; thus my adaptations below. I hope I have captured some of the tangled web and languaging!


The usually dreary and flaccid November evening mist swirled with animated haste. A further crack of thunder reverberated within the stone alleyway, followed by a brilliant lumenation of the city streets as lightning shot across the sky. Harold frowned at the inconvenience of this unannounced storm and continued his rush toward the station. He despised tardiness and although had set toward his destination with plenty of time, ran the risk of missing his connection if waylaid for long. A sudden downpour, so ferocious, it obscured his path, forced him to take refuge inside the nearest shop; which thankfully still had its doors open

A brass bell overhead tinkled discordantly as the heavy wooden door swung open revealing a moderate sized dressmakers shop, resplendent with samples of the highest fashion and bolts of expensive material displayed on tables.

A disembodied voice struck out through the heavy velvet curtain at the back, “I told you, Charles, we’re closed. Take your custom elsewhere; this is a decent establishment. you’ll have your strumpets altered garments as soon as I’m done.”

Harold, held the door open and stared toward the voices origin, too stunned to respond. His long coat jacket, despite being exposed to the elements for scant moments was drenched; the dampness seeping though to his fine cotton shirt and chilling his chest.

Beyond the curtain the voice continued a hissed conversation. “And another thing, what sort of reputation do you think we are going to gain if it is known that we are willing participants in this disgraceful arrangement?” The acrid tone of the voice left Harold in no doubt to her thoughts on the scandalous matter she and a hidden other were discussing; oblivious to his presence.

A low murmuring forced Harolds ears to strain listening for the others reply, but he gave up quickly and turned to leave.

“To think, he could have any eligible woman in London, but he chooses a nobody, a married nobody and and ugly one at that! If it weren’t for her penniless title no-one would have married her.”

Harold was torn whether to exit the scene and reenter the deluge still occurring the street, or to continue being an unwilling evesdropper to a conversation he was certain he had no wish to be part of.

A third person joined the heated discussion. “I’ve half a mind to tell her husband and then we’ll see some fireworks!”

The haughty first speaker countered, “I’ve heard he’s killed several men on the dueling field for simply looking at his wife the wrong way.”

A cold thrill of recognition shot through his veins. He grasped the door and gently tugged it open ; the movement sending the bell shrilling his presence.

“Charles are you still there? spying on us? Take your mistresses garments it will save us from returning them forthwith!”

A sharp faced woman thrust herself through the curtaining, shortly followed by a frightened maid clutching an armful of ruffled skirts. Her fierce looks gave way to shock and then anguish. “Oh beggin your pardon sir. We didn’t hear you come in. My foolish maid thought it was one of our regular customers.”

Harold inclined his head slightly. “It is I would should beg your pardon, I’ve come in out of this rain and have only this moment stepped in. I’m sorry for bringing in so much water, but as I said, have only just arrived on your doorstep.” He stared at the maid intensely as she attempted to obscure her face with the armful of clothing.

Ignoring the dressmakers flustered looks, he scrutinised the maid. “You wouldn’t frequent the theatre district by chance would you?”

The older lady flapped her hands and shrieked with laughter. “oh Mollys as thick as two planks and couldn't speak louder than a whisper if her life depended on it.”

Mollys momentary lapse in characterization as anger flashed over her practiced dulled face confirmed to Harold her true identity. She flushed realizing she had been found and bobbed a curtsy to her mistress; turning to go. The dressmaker grasped the girls thin arm and wretched her back into the shop. “Beggin your pardon again sir. I must send this stupid girl on an errand and then I would be happy to make you a nice cup of tea till the rain stops.” She glared at the girl and pushed her toward the door.. “Take these.. things back to Mr Charles Featherington. Our invoice will follow on the morrow.”

Harold held his hand aloft. “Mr Featherington in Belmont Square? By chance, I am calling on someone closeby. I would be happy to take Miss Molly via a hansom cab. It will certainly save those expensive gowns from being damaged or stolen by ruffians.”

Mollys vast theatrical experience covered the momentary look of horror which crossed her face as Harold grinned at his lover. The dressmaker smiled thinly. “That would be most kind sir. But don’t go worrying about this idiotic lamb.”

“Oh I insist. Its not out of my way at all. I am sure Mrs Featherington will be keen to try her new garments on.” Harold eyed his wifes expensive ballgown as it dragged across the roughened wood floor. It would seem his duel challenge to Charles Featherington would be more entertaining than he had anticipated.