• May 30, 2006 at 2:59 pm #2020

    OOC: Hey all… just a short little something to let you know I haven't forgotten you. Agnes will be back in London in 3-4 weeks (ironically as soon as her mun leaves the U.K. and isn't murdered by the time difference). Meanwhile, here's a glimpse at what she's up to.

    ?Who blames me? Many, no doubt; and I shall be called discontented. I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes.?

    – Jane Eyre

    It was still cold, though spring was well underway, the wind wildly ripping across the channel as if outracing the ships returning from Calais. The sun, which made tentative forays into the sky and then rushed back for the cover of the thick underbrush of clouds, did little to warm the day, and Agnes tucked her shall more securely around her. She knew that her brother-in-law disapproved of these unchaperoned walks, so she had tried to slip out of the house unobtrusively that morning without bothering about her wrap.

    The country was not truly wild; she could hear in the distance the sounds of the busy port, sailors shouting to one another as water clerks encouraged sailors to visit their fine inns and taverns and men with money riding on trade waited anxiously for their shipments. The town was large, though after London everything seemed dwarfed. Out here on the cliffs, she had a good view of the town.

    She needed to think, however, not to contemplate the bustle of Dover, and so she turned her eyes out to the water, watching the wind skim across it and raise eddies and waves in its path. Its path was as aimless as hers. She had a long mental list of things she could not do, of course. She could not go back to the Highgates. She could not continue to live off her sister?s charity in Dover, even if she wished to, which she did not. She could not obtain another post so good without the recommendation of her former employers, nor could she live in London on very much less.

    She closed her eyes as the sun peeked out again, a frown tugging her lips as she breathed the country air and tried to clear her mind. It was all because of her stubbornness, she knew?but she had been right. What good was a governess who did not enjoy reading? And her work hadn?t been suffering in the least, of that she was sure. If nothing else, the better she was educated, the better she would be able to educate. A man who could not see this fundamental truth was a man who could not be reasoned with. But if she hadn?t?

    ?Felicity!? Her sister?s sharp cry destroyed the train of thought, sending the shards of it scattering in all directions. Opening her eyes, Agnes turned her back on the water to see a young girl with chestnut curls scrambling up the hill at top speed, to her mother?s clear annoyance. The other, smaller girl was keeping up her mother?s steady pace, one tiny hand on the skirt for balance.

    ?Aunt Agnes, Mama said you?d gone wandering again! Can I wander too?? The chestnut headed girl, Felicity, had reached Agnes first, and looked up breathlessly, the cool air and the exertion flushing her cheeks a gentle rose color.

    Agnes smiled as she crouched down to the girl?s eye-level. ?Perhaps some day. But you mustn?t worry your Mama. And besides,? she added, standing to meet her sister Dora?s exasperated eyes, ?I wasn?t really wandering; we?re not a quarter of an hour's walk from the house up here. Less if you head downhill.?

    ?Agnes?? Dora started, and then glanced down at her two daughters.

    ?It?s all right.? Agnes looked at her sister steadily. ?I?m ready to begin the day?s lesson.? She looked up for a moment, watching the clouds chase each other across the sky. ?If the rain holds off, we?ll have a bit of natural history outside first, and then I?ll bring them back to the house for French.?

    Dora hesitated, then nodded a little, tucking a silver-streaked lock of hair behind one ear. Though not yet 35, Dora displayed their father?s disposition for graying early. ?Don?t tarry out here overlong, then. Julian is waiting down with the coach, so he can keep an eye on you; wave if you need assistance.? She lowered her voice a little, and said ?Agnes? please come to the parlor this evening after supper. There are matters we need to discuss.?

    ?Of course.? Agnes could only imagine; Mr. Norton would not put up with his wife?s younger sister indefinitely, and it would be beyond scandalous to hire her permanently. Though she was fond of her nieces, Agnes would not have wanted to stay even if it were possible; she missed London dreadfully, but needed to think of a secure way to return there and maintain herself. But that was a problem for this evening, and now her full concentration went to trying to teach the two little girls before her about the basic principles of the world around them.

    The children were at tea with their mother, and Mr. Norton was still at his office, leaving Agnes an hour or two to read and gather her thoughts before the evening meal. She was brushing out the long waves dark brown hair, trying to regain the ground that the windy cliffs had lost her that morning.

    The room she was staying in had been one of Dora?s own chambers, now converted into a guest room as her husband expanded their house. Now it was used to store not only visitors, but various bric-a-brac which had no other proper place. Agnes reached over idly to flip open a slightly dusty jewelry case, clearly full of pieces that had fallen out of her eldest sister?s favor. There was a small, plain string of pearls Agnes remembered Dora wearing as a young, unmarried woman, the clasp broken. Several unmatched earrings, though all fine pieces, and one slightly dented gold bracelet. As Agnes' fingers played under the discarded jewelry, they caught on a bit of the felt lining, and it lifted far more easily than she would have expected.

    Intrigued, she carefully removed the box?s contents, and then gently pried up the corner of the felt. There was a folded paper within it, tinged with yellow and obviously old, though not horribly so. Eagerly, Agnes unfolded it, prepared for a letter, or a diary entry, perhaps.

    It was a portrait, sketched in charcoal. The artist was clearly an amateur, but not without skill; Agnes? guess was a woman trained in portraiture as a hobby, rather than a man trained for it as a vocation. The young man?s face was laughing, but subdued, as if amused at a private joke which he did not expect most around him to understand. It took her a moment, but the vague familiarity suddenly clicked into place. The man bore a striking but not overpowering resemblance to Sir Hughes; either a relative or a portrait of the man himself, but the traces were hard to deny.

    The portrait was not signed in any way that Agnes could see, but given its hiding place, she suspected it had been hidden, if not drawn, by her mother. Without clearly knowing why, she refolded the sketch and slid it into her borrowed copy of The Republic. It obviously would not be missed. Putting her hair up once more, and satisfied with the neatness of her appearance, she went downstairs to join the children and prepare them for supper, all the while turning the portrait over in her mind like a pebble, made smooth by time and the sea.

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