The Everglotts seem like a passionless couple, but even they have their moments.
Sadly, the only thing that Finis had going for him- as far as his family and the village was concerned- was his money. If Finis had had his way, he would have liked to join the army like his Uncle Fauntleroy. Uncle Faunty, as he liked to be called, was only slightly taller than Finis was himself and sported a massive handlebar mustache of thick gray bristles. He'd served in what had then been his majesty's royal army in India, a place full of strange and wonderful creatures like elephants, tigers and musk ox's. Finis had no idea what a musk ox was but he was determined to have one's head on his study wall one day. Uncle Faunty had waxed poetic many a time about his service on the Continent, meeting with the dark-skinned natives, shooting wild beasts, hacking through jungles with a machete, and forging rivers full of wild hippopotami. It was all truly fascinating and young Finis had hung on his every word. Now nearing eighteen and almost a man, Finis had dreamed of entering the service and traveling the world and hunting exotic beasts like his beloved uncle, who would have surely been dismissed as something of an odd duck if not for the many medals he proudly displayed on his chest. Finis wasn't sure if the stiff woolen uniform was any more comfortable than a waistcoat and cravat but it certainly looked more impressive. Despite the fact that he'd been retired for more than fifteen years, Uncle Faunty still dressed as if for full inspection, boots shined to a blinding finish, riding crop in hand.
"Father?" Finis had asked shortly after his eighteenth birthday- a very grim affair indeed, consisting of various far-flung relations dropping in for tea, patting him on the head and congratulating him on his passage into adulthood. If he was graduating into adult life, Finis didn't see why they had to go and pat him on the head for it.
"Harrumph?" his father had answered from behind his newspaper.
"Father, I want to join the army." A connoisseur of history as well as firearms, Finis had to admit that adding to list of family military conquests was something he'd been daydreaming about for years.
"What?!" the newspaper was lowered with the sharp decisiveness of a falling guillotine. Finis swallowed hard.
"Nonsense!" his father barked, rolling the newspaper and thwapping him over the head with it in one swift motion. "You're a gentleman. Gentlemen don't join the army."
Finis winced, more over having his hopes dashed than over the thwapping. Newspaper thwappings happened fairly regularly with him, particularly in the presence of his father. The newspaper unfolded and rose again, shutting the drawbridge of the fortress of his father's mind with an inaudible clang, and that was the end of that. Finis sighed.
"Then may we have a shooting party next weekend?" One thing about his father, he loved guns and weapons as much Finis did himself. The request earned him an approving "Mm."
"Thank you, father." If he couldn't shoot elephants, at least there were plenty of pheasants in the woods.
If it was one thing Maudelaine hated, it was romance novels. She had no real problem with books. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, ledgers, those were all very useful and served a practical purpose. What she didn't understand was why people thought it necessary to make things up, put it on paper, and expect other people to suffer through the torment of reading it. Novels were considered indecent and so it was a given that most of the other young ladies her age would be sneaking chapters behind their parents' backs. Maudelaine, in a fit of youthful rebellion and morbid curiosity, had snuck a paragraph from an acquaintance's copy of "Pamela". It had been, she thought, the worst bit of rubbish she'd ever read. Stupid, really. And utterly indecent. Imagine a man of position and power falling in love with a common chamber maid! Ridiculous. If her life was to contain any scandal- which it most certainly never would- Maudelaine decided then and there that it would not come in the form of novels.
What she did like was numbers. Numbers were simple and concrete and the black ink and white paper on which they were written. Numbers didn't change. Two and two still equaled four today just the same as it had in Pythagoras' time. Sums and ciphers had always come very easily to her and though it was unbecoming for a woman to figure arithmetic outside the family budget, it was something she was good at. Embroidery was something of a necessary evil, so too her instructions in drawing, music, and dancing. Grids made sewing and drawing less arduous but dancing could never be gotten around, no more could music. Counting was within her scope, but rhythm, it seemed, was not. The fact that she was utterly tone-deaf didn't help matters either. It didn't really matter. She hated parties and concerts anyway. If ever she had a daughter, she was not going to have to endure that sort of nonsense.
When she caught said daughter sneaking novels several years later- heaven alone knew where from- she had been scandalized to say the least. Well, Victoria was only eleven. She could hardly be expected to know better. Upon confiscating the offending volume Maudelaine had intended on throwing it in the dustbin. However, at that moment the bell had rung and Emil had announced visitors. Tossing the book onto the sideboard, she went to receive them and didn't give it a second thought until later that evening. Catching sight of it a second time, she noticed it had fallen upon its back and lay open, parted pages facing the ceiling. She hadn't intended to read it and yet it caught her attention. An orphaned girl making her way by her wits alone. Plain yet highly intelligent, Jane Eyre had escaped poverty and a brutal life at a charity school through her greatest asset: her brain. Well now. That was far-fetched but at least not as ridiculous as that atrocious bit of fluff Gertrude had shown her back in their school days. Maybe this peculiar bit of ill-gotten literature bore further investigation. Maybe, just maybe, she could convince Victoria to admit where she'd found the book. It might be a pack of ridiculous lies, but it was apparently at least worth the paper it was printed on. Not that there was anything scandalous in reading itself. Finis spent enough time with that chipped nose of his buried in dull volumes about arcane warfare, but novels, even half-decent ones, were not entirely the same thing. The chamber inside the grandfather clock of the west drawing room seemed a safe enough hiding place. She just hoped Finis wouldn't find it.