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Fanfiction: Arabella's Visit

Title: Arabella’s Visit (Link to my own LJ.)
Genre: Drama
Rating: Mature
Warnings: Dubious consent as it is a case of “the spell made them do it”.
Word Count: 1334
Characters/Pairings: Flora Greysteel, John Childermass/Arabella Strange
Summary: Flora dabbles in spells which a respectable young lady shouldn’t dabble in.

Obscure & British Commentfest 2016



A multifandom commentfest for tiny to medium British fandoms of all kinds. All fanworks welcome. (Click on the banner for the link.) (Both TV & book are eligible.)

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Fic query

1) Picky 'research' question. How many people could fit in a chair in Mr Norrell's library, for reasons (reasons involving vigorous intercrural sex)? Can't remember if we saw the chairs in the TV one, and would like to know how usefully-sturdy/wide Regency furniture was.

PS Am sorry, not good at judging spatial questions. Better at writing slash.

2) Can anyone remember How to Feetnote on AO3?

Echoes

Title: Echoes (also on AO3)
Fandoms, Characters: Sapphire & Steel - Sapphire, Steel; Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Maria Absalom (plus certain cameos)
Word Count: About 2800
Summary: Sapphire and Steel investigate curious happenings in a certain ruinous house.
Notes: Of the two fandoms, this fic is almost certainly more accessible from the direction of Sapphire & Steel, even if only because expectations from that side are so much more likely to encompass the unclear or unexplained. A JS&MN fan would most likely appreciate an outside perspective on a familiar world and a trace character given more significant focus

Echoes

(also cross-posted to sapphire_steel)

A Young Girl's Fairy Story

Title: A Young Girl's Fairy Story (also on AO3)
Genre: General
Rating: PG
Warnings (if any): none
Wordcount: about 1700
Characters/Pairing: Childermass, Vinculus' fifth wife; one-sided Vinculus' fifth wife/Childermass
Summary: Vinculus' wives ere five in number, and each was entirely unaware of the existence of the other four. To the youngest, who was fifteen, Childermass said that though he appeared to the world to be a servant of the great Mr Norrell of Hanover-square, he was in secret a magician himself. She, much to everyone's surprize, fell in love with him.

A Young Girl's Fairy StoryCollapse )

Obscure & British Comment Fest



A Multifandom comment fest for small to medium British fandoms. All and any fanworks welcome. Come and join in! (Click on the banner for the link.)

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Fic: "A Different Magic"

I know it's somewhat quiet around here, but I thought I'd come and say 'hi' anyway and offer up a fic. I hope it pleases.

Title: "A Different Magic"
Genre: General
Rating: G
Wordcount: 3,308
Characters: Jonathan Strange, Captain Whyte, Wellington
Summary: Strange finds a different magic to his own at work in the Peninsula. Oneshot fic.
Author's Note: This stemmed from a mad little idea which occurred to me years ago when I was reading the into the Arthurian Mythology, and was delighted when I later found an opening to air it in Susanna Clarke's works.

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It could be said that Jonathan Strange discovered the truth about Lord Wellington by accident.Collapse )

Fic: Thistledown/Stephen Black slash

Title: Non Incantatio
Pairing: Thistledown/Stephen Black
Rating: M
Wordcount: 2700
Summary: Oneshot. The gentleman with the thistledown hair takes it upon himself to nurse a poorly Stephen. 
Warnings: Explicit slash.
Disclaimer: Nothing's mine, all Susanna Clarke's. 
Notes: Not posted to LJ for a while, just wanted to apologise in advance if LJ cut/formatting/anything goes wrong *crosses fingers*.

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One For Sorrow

Title: One For Sorrow
Genre: Short Story
Rating: PG
Word Count: 6867
Summary: A young woman visits her cousin the country and meets with several strange people and a sinister wardrobe. Comments/criticism very welcome!


Mrs Silverlight, a widow of mature years, never failed to take a Sunday constitutional about Henrietta park, no matter the weather. Her daughter, also named Henrietta, would often accompany her on such walks but on one particular Sunday in April she chose to spend her afternoon in the company of the works of Miss Austen. It was a dreary, cold and windy day such as is often the case in Bath in spring despite the best efforts of Mr Brummell. It began to rain, thick grey drops falling from a sky the colour of ashes and Miss Silverlight became concerned for the welfare of her mother. She left her book and peered anxiously out of the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. Presently the old lady returned, wet through on account of leaving her umbrella at home. Despite the best ministrations of her daughter she caught a chill which settled on her chest and died within a week.
 
When the period of mourning was over Henrietta was visited by a number of friends and acquaintances and was invited to any good deal of balls and tea parties. She thanked them all with a gentle smile but regretfully declined their kind invitations. They despaired to see a young lady, who had formerly been so cheerful, remove herself so from society. Instead she spent much of the time sat in the drawing room gazing out over the park in a melancholic fashion. Miss Silverlight’s friends prevailed upon her to seek a change of air in the hope that it might alleviate the gloom that had stolen into her soul. It was discovered that she had a distant cousin, a Reverend Makepeace who lived in the village of Steeple in the Purbeck hills, near the sea. This, they told each other, would be the ideal place for Henrietta to rediscover her joie de vivre and a letter was duly dispatched to her cousin. Reverend Makepeace responded promptly in a most agreeable fashion and so it was fixed that upon Sunday week Miss Silverlight would travel in her late mother’s brougham to her cousin’s house.
 
The village of Steeple is set picturesquely on the top of a hill and has a delightful old church which curiously enough has no steeple[1]. It is also lacking in almost every other commodity except fresh sea air of which it has a surfeit. The Vicar’s house, which was called Magpie Hall, was the only dwelling of any significance. It was a curious house, more cottage than vicarage set about with many small irregular windows. It seemed to Henrietta that there were people peering out of these windows, yet when she glanced to see who they were they simply vanished.
“It is a trick of the light and the effects of a long journey.” She told herself as the coachman knocked on the front door.
The reverend Makepeace answered and welcomed his cousin affectionately. He was unused to receiving visitors, he explained, and being a bachelor he enjoyed a quiet life amongst his small flock of parishioners. He hoped Miss Silverlight would not find her stay too dull.
“Oh I am sure I shall be quite content cousin.” She replied. “I intend to visit the sea and walk in the countryside here which I have heard described so charmingly.”
Reverend Makepeace bowed. “It would be my singular honour to accompany you on such walks as you should chuse to undertake.”
The reverend had only one servant, an ancient butler who wheezed heavily as he carried Miss Silverlight’s belongings upstairs to her room.
“Are you sure her ladyship is to stay in this room sir?” he enquired.
If the reverend was in any way surprised at being addressed so by his servant he did not shew it. In these out of the way villages a degree of informality such as we might consider insubordinate is often permitted
“Of course she is Drax. This is the best room after all.”
“It is perfectly lovely.” Said Henrietta decisively, anxious not to put her cousin to the trouble of airing another room. “Why the view is splendid. I believe I can see sea glittering away between those hills.”
Drax nodded slowly and left to fetch the rest of Miss Silverlight’s luggage.
“Do not worry about Drax.” Reverend Makepeace assured her. “He is under the apprehension that this room is somehow unsuitable. I do hope you will be happy here.”
Henrietta assured him again that she would and set to unpacking her clothes, perfumes, make-up and jewellery. All the things it is essential with which a young lady travel. The view was indeed delightful, the sky a boundless blue and the hills emerald green. The room was sparsely, but comfortably furnished with a solid wooden bed and chest of drawers. The only other item of furniture, opposite the bed, was a large wardrobe. It was of a most curious design, covered in carved wooden leaves with a large oak tree in the centre. The branches of this tree seemed to lean towards each other, as though in a breeze, and whisper terrible secrets which Henrietta fancied she might have heard had she put her ear to the door. However she had no such inclination, she did not care for the wardrobe overmuch.
“It is of no consequence.” She told herself. Yet she did not chuse to open it and instead carefully replaced her dresses in her travelling trunk.
 
After a supper of cold mutton they retired to the drawing room and entertained themselves with conversation. Or rather the reverend mainly talked and Henrietta listened attentively. The latest fashionable goings on in Bath held little interest for a man who for his whole life had lived in a village in which most of his neighbours spun their own wool for clothes and ate what they could grow in their gardens. Although the gentle life of Steeple seemed somewhat uneventful to Miss Silverlight she was mindful of her cousin’s generosity and lack of society and attended him until she began to yawn uncontrollably.
“But my dearest Henrietta.” Exclaimed reverend Makepeace, breaking off from a story of how Drax’s niece’s ewe had given birth to triplets. “I have kept you up far too long with my talk! I see you are tired and need rest.”
“Oh you must think me frightfully rude!” he waved away her protestations and she was forced to concede that she should be glad to turn in for the night after her long journey.
Henrietta climbed the stairs to her room and dressed for bed. Although there was no draught the candle stub flickered continuously and threw shadows across the wardrobe making the branches dance unnaturally.
“I declare that wardrobe makes me feel uncomfortable.” She said to herself. “It is so very alive.”
 
The next morning Henrietta awoke to the warm sun streaming in through the window onto her face and a delightful day in prospect. She breakfasted with her cousin who enquired what she would do that day.
“As it is so fine, I think I should like to see something of the village. Perhaps you might shew me your beautiful church?”
The Reverend was delighted to do so and agreed to conduct her there after he had dealt with a little parish business. Henrietta retired to her bedroom to fetch her shawl when something caught her eye. On the wardrobe door a tiny carved figure of a bird sat amongst the branches of the tree.
“How strange that I should not have noticed that before!” she exclaimed. “Still I fancy it is just the light catching it in that way which makes it so plain now.”
She found her shawl when a most peculiar sensation, made her turn back to the wardrobe.
“How queer! I was sure someone was in the room behind me. And see that little bird has moved! Although perhaps it has not now I think on it. I cannot be exactly sure on which branch it was perched.”
She hurried out of the room and waited uneasily for Reverend Makepeace.
 
The church was every bit as charming as the reverend had assured her it would be. But Henrietta did not attend as fully as she might as he described how such and such a parishioner had left this delightful footstool in their will. She was much taken up with thinking of the wardrobe and her melancholia, which had to a certain degree been assuaged by the sea air, returned on black wings. And then a most dreadful thing happened as they stepped outside the church. Henrietta put her hand to her chest to loosen her shawl and encountered a lack of brooch. Frantically she checked he shawl and the ground about which she stood.
“What is the matter my dear? Are you quite well?” asked Reverend Makepeace
“Oh cousin. It is my brooch! The one that mama gave to me for my last birthday, it was silver and had tiny emeralds in the shape of a flower.”
“Calm yourself! You are sure you brought it with you?”
“Of course, I remember distinctly putting it on before we left the vicarage.”
At reverend Makepeace’s insistence she took a seat on the little stone bench outside the vestibule whilst he examined every square inch they had covered on the morning’s tour.
“Have you found it?” she asked somewhat impatiently when he returned.
“It is nowhere to be seen.” He answered with a concerned frown. “But do not fret, I shall send for some of my parishioners to help in the search.”
 
With this promise he escorted her back to the vicarage where she waited anxiously to hear of any news. The blacksmith’s wife looked in on her in the afternoon and, with the informality of women meeting in a crisis, introduced herself and told her of how reverend Makepeace had begged her to take tea with them later.
“Was it a very dear brooch?” she asked Henrietta.
And Henrietta, to her embarrassment began pouring forth her long tale to this complete stranger. She listened most sympathetically and when the reverend, accompanied by the tea, arrived she voiced her opinion that they should have the whole village out to join the search.
“Oh but you must not waste your time on my account.” Henrietta insisted.
“Nonsense! It is of the highest importance that we find your brooch.”
The blacksmith’s wife would not be gainsaid on the subject, but seeing her distress she changed the conversation.
“And when were you going to introduce us to Miss Silverlight?” she demanded cordially of the reverend.
“Well I had intended to allow her to settle in and then perhaps ask you and your husband to cards one night.”
“But this will not do! This is quite the most exciting thing that has happened in Steeple in a twelvemonth. We must have a dance to celebrate!”
Reverend Makepeace knew better than to argue with her when she had determined upon something and allowed himself to be talked around to the view that a dance would be most agreeable.
 
Throughout this exchange Henrietta sat in silence gazing out of the window. Dark clouds settled on her soul; the brooch had been the present her mother had given her for her eighteenth birthday. She did not know how she would cope with its loss. She agreed with the blacksmith’s wife that a party must be had but without any spirit of feeling and she spoke little for the rest of the day, lost in sorrowful thought.
 
The next morning grey clouds like tall ships tacked through an opal sky. A thick mist had swum up the valley giving the impression that the house was floating on a thick eiderdown atop the world. Henrietta gazed bleakly out onto this scene as she dressed in sombre black. She glanced carelessly at the wardrobe and a second little bird caught her eye. She did not like it any more than the first and resolved to think no more of it. Reverend Makepeace sat at the breakfast table with a most unecclesiastical grin upon his face.
“My dear Henrietta. I have news for you. Your brooch has been found.”
It was as if a veil had been lifted from Henrietta’s heart. She rushed around the table and kissed her cousin affectionately.
“Oh that is simply splendid! I am overjoyed to hear it. To whom do I owe my gratitude aside from you cousin?”
“It was one of the farmhands. He found it this morning shortly after dawn on the ground near one of the barns.”
“But how in the world could it have got there?”
“It is most curious. I cannot be sure but the farmhand said he saw a bird hopping around nearby, a magpie. It is possible that it found your brooch and took it to its nest.”
“Then I must seek out both the farmhand and the bird to thank them!” Said Henrietta with a laugh.
It had begun to rain, a cold dreary mizzle that sought out holes in cloaks and shoes to soak the clothes beneath yet Henrietta insisted on setting out to bestow her gratitude immediately. The farmhand, a young lad, was quite overcome with embarrassment that a pretty young lady should thank him so profusely. He wrung his cap in his hands throughout the whole exchange. Miss Silverlight felt a lightness of spirit that she had not enjoyed for a long while. She even found the weather to be bracingly fresh and when she saw a magpie huddled for shelter in an oak she bowed to it solemnly before skipping back through the puddles in a most unladylike manner.
 
Upon returning to Magpie Hall and changing out of her sopping wet clothes she found Reverend Makepeace taking morning tea with the blacksmith’s wife, who received her most warmly and was much pleased to see the improvement of her spirits.
“You must have my seat by the fire to warm yourself.” She insisted.
It emerged that she had come to finalise details of the party, which was to be on the Sunday evening. The blacksmith’s wife had been busy inviting most of her acquaintance and it seemed that nigh on the whole village, not to speak of the surrounding farms, would be attending. The Reverend was concerned whether or not he had the room to host such a gathering, how many seed cakes he ought to send Drax to purchase from the baker and the many other little essentials which must be brought together to host a respectable party. Henrietta playfully insisted on helping organise the event and a most pleasant day was had arranging matters to everyone’s satisfaction.
 
The following day Miss Silverlight awoke to a frosted blue morning dappled with lazy cloud. The good spirit which had come upon her yesterday had remained and she hummed as she dressed. Even the wardrobe did not seem quite so malevolent to her today.
“And now I see there are three magpies!” she declared. “How curious. I am sure there were only two yesterday.”
Henrietta  expressed her wish to walk around the countryside at breakfast. Her cousin excused himself; there was a farmer he must talk to on business in nearby Tyneham and it would take him the best part of the day to conclude.
“Shall I ask Drax to accompany you?” he enquired solicitously.
“No, do not put yourself out cousin. I shall be quite content to enjoy the walk by myself.”
 
Henrietta wandered along a picturesque country lane with daffodils and blackthorn flowering in the hedgerow. She followed a pretty path down alongside a little bubbling brook and presently found herself in a green wood. It was a most refreshing place, something in the air and the quality of the light invited Henrietta to linger. She sat upon a moss covered tree stump and admired the tranquil view. Presently she supposed she must have dozed off for when she came to a small girl with large green eyes was watching her suspiciously.
“Oh Hello!” Miss Silverlight called. “And what is your name.”
The girl did not answer but treated her to a fierce look.
“And what are you doing here?” persisted Henrietta. “Is there no one in the village to play with?”
“I am waiting for the queen of the fairies.” The girl said haughtily.
“Oh. What shall you do when she arrives.”
“We will take tea together.”
She motioned to a rotten log. Bracket fungi had grown up around the sides and in a certain light could be conceived of as seats. Acorn cups of brackish water were delicately placed between little piles of silver balls.
“And are those sweet little cakes?” asked Henrietta, starting to feel somewhat uncomfortable. The girl sighed patiently.
“Of course not. They are woodlice and beetles.” She popped one into her mouth with a mischievous grin. “Just what the fairy queen likes most for her tea.”
Miss Silverlight began to feel quite unwell. The trees which had seemed so welcoming now felt oppressively close. The shade in which they sat had a chill in it which seemed to settle on her recently rejuvenated spirits like a musty towel.
“Well I must be going.” She said hurriedly. ”Good day.”
 The girl seemed as unconcerned at her departure as she had at her arrival and did not trouble herself to reply.
Miss Silverlight followed the path of the stream around the bottom of the hill and past a venerable oak.
“Oh but how have I arrived here?” she wondered aloud. “I seem to be on the other side of the hill entirely.”
She was beginning to feel a little apprehensive after the events of the morning thus far and strode up towards the village. Soon however,  the bright sunlight and fresh breeze restored her spirits and she was quite as cheerful as she had been when she set out as she returned to Magpie Hall.
“It was a most peculiar morning.” She recounted to her cousin at dinner. “It seems now more like a dream than anything.”
The reverend, whose dreams were of a more mundane variety chiefly concerned with unexpected visits from the archdeacon, nodded anyway.
“I declare though that the fresh air has done me good. I feel I should like to see the sea tomorrow. I am told it is very wide.”
 
Henrietta dressed hurriedly the next morning for it was another beautiful day and she was eager to walk to the shore. Glancing at the wardrobe she did have time to note that yet another magpie had joined the gathering; there were now four perched in the branches of the unpleasant tree. The reverend Makepeace again excused himself from the day’s activities. He must visit a farmer whose prize bull had gout to console this poor unfortunate and dissuade him from the overconsumption of ale with which he had been pleased to drown his sorrow and his beast’s. Miss Silverlight left the house wearing a bonnet and carrying her parasol, which she had heard was the thing for the seaside. She found herself unexpectedly excited. This would be her first visit to the beach and though she had glimpsed the sea before she had never, as it were, been formally introduced. The path down to the beach was narrow and twisted between damp rocks trailing pennants of moss and shawls of ferns. Thus it was only as she came out onto the beach that she first saw the English channel.
“It is quite wonderful!” She breathed. “No wonder it has kept us safe from Buonaparte all these years.”
Shelves of rock formed natural stairs down to the wide blue sea, yet finding a route to the tideline was not easy, an odd trick of perspective made it difficult to judge when a rock was far away or almost ready to trip one up. Hidden amongst them were fronds of seaweed and tiny rockpools, little worlds within the stone which Henrietta delighted to come across. At last she had reached the shore and, removing her shoes, paddled in the waves that lapped gently around her ankles. The water was very cold and the hem of her dress became saturated with brine but she was thrilled by the experience and resolved to tell her friends all about it upon her return home. As she slipped her wet feet back into her shoes she was startled to discover a boy standing behind her. He had hair of the same hue as the rocks around them and slate grey eyes, the colour of a storm cloud from which he observed her with a mixture of curiosity and disdain.
“Hello,” said Miss Silverlight. “My name is Henrietta. What is yours?”
The boy seemed to think the question not worth answering and bent down to examine the contents of a rockpool at his feet. Henrietta picked her way over to him to see what was in the water. It appeared to be full of nothing more than red and green seaweed and a few sea urchins.
“What do you see?” she asked.
The boy evinced the same put-upon air as the girl she had met the previous day as he answered her.
“The king of the fairies prepares for battle. Do you not see his standard? His noble knights bearing flags of his victories? He rides a golden seahorse as his charger and his entourage sit upon silver minnows. The crab salutes him as he passes in his glass armour of shrimp shell and the anemones bow in homage.”
Miss Silverlight could see no such thing, but there was such unchildlike disdain in the boy’s voice, she felt quite uncomfortable.
“Well, that is lovely. But oh the morning is almost over and I must be going now.”
“Will you not stay for the glorious victory as the king of the fairies heaps the corpses of his fallen enemies before him.”
Miss Silverlight declined and hurried back to the cliffs. Almost at once the strange boy was out of sight.
“My but there are some very queer children hereabouts.” She said to herself. “But then if their parents allow them to roam as freely as this perhaps it is no wonder that they develop strange fancies.”
In retracing her path Henrietta lost herself amongst the rocks, which all began to resemble ones she had encountered before, like unpleasant guests at a party. The tide had turned and she began to be frightened that she would be caught, and perhaps drowned, by the onrushing sea. Just as Henrietta was beginning to despair she found an old overgrown goat track which led up the cliffs. Though it tore at her petticoat she forced her way through, with the aid of her parasol, and presently arrived, out of breath and dishevelled, at the cliff top.
“Oh but I must look a state!” she exclaimed. “I must hurry back and mend my dress or my cousin will not permit me to leave the house again!”
She found her way back to the vicarage at last and stole in through the door. But she need not have worried; the reverend was much taken up with the problem of his parishioner’s overindulgence and would scarcely have noticed if she had been wearing trousers.
 
Upon waking on Friday Henrietta immediately confronted the wardrobe.
“And now there are five.” She declared. “Of that I am certain. But I had better make sure that there are no more in hiding.”
She meticulously combed every inch of the door, though it made her uncomfortable to get so close to the wardrobe. Presently she was satisfied that she could not possibly have overlooked another bird and went down to breakfast. Reverend Makepeace was sorely troubled that he had not been entertaining Miss Silverlight as he should. He insisted that he must make up for it, yet he had a prior engagement to visit an elderly widower. He begged leave to suppose that she would be most delighted to receive a visit from his cousin. Henrietta agreed gladly and they strolled arm in arm to visit the widow, the weather being clement enough for them to eschew the reverend’s carriage.
The widow lived in a tumbledown cottage a little way out of the village. Miss Silverlight considered it a most picturesque dwelling yet entirely unsuitable for one such as an elderly woman who lived alone. She put this to her cousin.
“I have asked wither she might be made more comfortable elsewhere.” Replied reverend Makepeace. “But she and her family have lived here for time out of mind and she was most insistent she stay.”
The house was well swept but cramped. Henrietta guessed that her cousin must arrange for one of the women from the village to see to the cleaning. A spray of fresh flowers sat in a pewter jug but the rest of the little parlour was heavily oppressive with the memories of times past. The widow sat in an armchair that had been battered and bruised over the long years of its service. It was matched by a mournful companion that slumped near a rickety wooden table shrouded with a cloth. A faded picture of tall ships on a desolate sea completed this funereal procession of objects. The Reverend introduced her to the widow who peered at her through rheumy eyes and held her hand with icy fingers.
“My dear, what a pleasure it is to meet you.” She exclaimed in a hoarse whisper.
“And I you.” Replied Miss Silverlight with enthusiasm.
Reverend Makepeace began adding more logs to the fire which burned in the narrow hearth, as the two women talked. Henrietta listened attentively as the widow told her of her life in the village, her husband and sons now grown and left, the comings and goings that she had witnessed over the years. As she became more animated she seemed to Henrietta to grow younger and more like the girl of which the widow spoke. Observing how much good it was doing, the Reverend wisely sat in silence, contemplating the parable of the good Samaritan and which desserts to serve at the party.
 
The morning slipped into afternoon and with a cheerful blaze in the grate the room lost some of its melancholia. Eventually the widow signalled to Henrietta to fetch a little box down from the mantelpiece. Inside was a beautiful silver necklace which the widow held in her gnarled hands.
“How delightful!” exclaimed Miss Silverlight.
“Indeed it is.” The widow agreed. “I can still make out it’s sparkle. It reminds me of my first dance. I wore it then. And I would very much like you to have it.”
Henrietta started. “Oh but I could not accept such a treasure.” She cried.
“You must, my dear. It would please my heart to think of a beautiful creature such as you wearing my necklace. I almost feel as if it were made for you. Silverlight. It would match you perfectly. Besides I have no daughters to give it to and I could not bear to think of someone I had never met owning it, not knowing the necklace’s history.”
The widow was not to be dissuaded so Henrietta reluctantly agreed to take it, amid many protestations of thanks and promises to treasure the necklace.
“Well you certainly made an impression.” Said the Reverend after they had taken their leave.
“Indeed. She is a sweet creature. But I wonder what in the world persuaded her to part with such a jewel!”
 
 
The Saturday morning Henrietta immediately counted the magpies on the wardrobe door.
“Six!” she exclaimed. “This is most vexing. How can another have appeared overnight?”
She checked the room, the door and windows were still bolted and she peered suspiciously under the bed and through a hole in the wainscot. Yet she could find no miniature carpenters hiding there and began to worry that she might be going a little mad.
“Perhaps I should stay indoors today,” she thought.
However, in the afternoon Reverend Makepeace interrupted her embroidery as he searched the parlour.
“What is it cousin?”
“Oh I cannot find where I left a jar of preserved plums yesterday. I was instructing Drax to prepare his excellent plum duff for tomorrow evening when he complained of being unable to find any. We have searched over the whole house!  And we must have plum duff, it would not be a party without it.”
Henrietta restrained her cousin from looking in the coal scuttle.
“I shall set about the village and see if anyone has a jar we may borrow.” She said, helping him into a chair.
“Oh I should be most grateful.” The Reverend mopped his brow.
“Of course. If it is as good as you say then I am quite sure the whole village would help in order to enjoy Mr Drax’s plum duff!”
Henrietta quit the house and took a short cut through the graveyard of the church to reach the village. Sitting on a wall next to one of the gravestones was a man. He wore a faded brown smock and an insubstantial spotted neckerchief. She thought he must be the sexton, yet oddly he had no tools and his clothes, though dusty, were spotlessly clean.
“Good day sir.” She called cheerfully. “Have you and plums? My cousin insists that his party will not be half so good without them.”
The man gazed at her mournfully.
“Plums Miss? I have not tasted plums in many a long year. Tell me, do you know a Thomas Wainwright?”
“I am afraid I am a visitor to this village and know few people here.”
“No matter. But if you see him would you be able to give him something from me?”
Henrietta did not want to take a parcel she would almost certainly be unable to deliver but the man seemed to take her silence for consent and pressed something small and round into her hand. His touch was cold, like the passing of a cloud over the sun, and Henrietta withdrew her hand sharply.
“And who shall I say it is from?” she asked.
“Benjamin Wainwright.” He replied, gazing at her gratefully with stormy grey eyes.
Miss Silverlight curtsied and resumed her walk. After a few paces she thought to look what the man had given her. It was an ancient gold ring, cold and distorted, but undoubtedly worth a great deal of money. She turned back to the sexton to insist she could not be responsible for anything so valuable but he was gone.
“He has vanished into thin air.” Henrietta told herself, worrying that perhaps she was indeed going mad.
She found the smithy and a cup of tea and the good sense of the blacksmith’s wife’s talk soon dispelled such fears. Henrietta was sent back to the vicarage with the plums and a message to her cousin to stop worrying like an old woman and that everything would be absolutely fine.
The fruit and a more courteous rephrasing of the message delivered, she asked her cousin about Thomas Wainwright.
“Old Thomas!” he exclaimed. “Why I am afraid he died a few winters back. It conducted the funeral myself. He was well liked in the village but had no family hereabouts.”
“Then who is Ben Wainwright?” asked Henrietta.
“Ah, the name does ring a bell. But no that was his brother, who died many years ago, before I was even born I think. Perhaps it was some distant relation.”
The reverend seemed content with this solution but Henrietta was still unsure why anyone would go to the trouble of coming to Steeple to seek out an elderly relative only to give the ring to the first person they meet and then disappear. And all without ascertaining whether or not Thomas was still alive.
“What should I do with it?” she asked.
Her cousin advised her to look after it whilst he made enquiries to find who Benjamin might be and how he might return the ring to him.
“I am sure someone will know of him.” He told her complacently. “And after all it is a most unusual ring. Someone will know about it.”
 
On Sunday, the day of the party, Henrietta was not over surprised to discover that there were now seven magpies perched in the tree on her wardrobe.
“Soon there shall not be a branch bare of them.” She commented to herself.
After breakfast she dressed in her Sunday best and was escorted by Reverend Makepeace to the church.
There was much whispering as she entered, which she affected not to notice, as they made their way to the foremost pew. The congregation fidgeted and did not attend properly to the reverend’s long and somewhat dull sermon on how the devil could take many forms to tempt mankind. They sat impatiently through the mass and raced through the hymns so that the poor organist could barely keep up. After the service all were most anxious to make the acquaintance of Miss Silverlight and assure her how delighted they would be to meet her at the party that evening. The Reverend tried to encourage his flock out of the church with a meaningful lift of his eyebrows but was ignored by everyone. Henrietta graciously received the complements that were bestowed upon her and talked most prettily with the villagers who were much delighted with her. They agreed that Miss Silverlight was indeed a charming young lady and the party would be a wonderful occasion. The Reverend hurried home to check that sufficient cider had been set to cool and fretted so that Henrietta was obliged to restrain him from  hurrying out to order an extra cask after lunch.
 
Miss Silverlight and Reverend Makepeace greeted their first guests promptly at seven. He wore his best waistcoat and a pocket watch that had belonged to his grandfather. She a red dress, her mother’s brooch and the silver necklace given her by the widow. Henrietta, like a good hostess moved amongst the inquisitive throng making pleasant conversation to all the guests, who were quite charmed with her. She felt that her friends had been entirely correct in assuring her that the change of scene would make her feel herself again. The pain of her mother’s passing had curled itself up into a ball and lay quiescent at the back of her mind. Later there was dancing and the farmhand who had found her brooch approached her very nervously for her hand. He seemed quite overwhelmed when she accepted and could manage no more than a shuffle whilst she danced with alacrity, with a wild freedom which made her want to continue all night. There were no shortage of partners but after a time Henrietta noticed a strange woman stood in a shadowy corner. She was quite sure she had not met her before and scolded herself for her rudeness in not introducing herself earlier.
“Good evening.” She curtsied. “I am Henrietta. I am dreadfully sorry but I have not had the pleasure of making your acquaintance yet.”  The woman looked at her with sharp, brown, almost feline eyes. She seemed vaguely amused by the introduction and nodded her head by way of replu. She wore a green gown the colour of holly in October and a belt curiously wrought  of what looked like red and gold leaves. In her long copper-coloured hair was a large magpie feather. Henrietta could not help staring at it.
“I see you like my hair.” The strange woman replied.
“Oh pardon my impoliteness! It’s just, well it is a little silly, but I have been thinking of magpies a great deal. I suppose it is the influence of Magpie Hall.” She laughed but her usual tinkling chuckle sounded oddly hollow.
“Indeed. Could it be that you have encountered a certain wardrobe here?” the woman in green raised one arched eyebrow.
Henrietta felt a mixture of surprise and fear which must have shown in her face. The woman took her arm.
“Oh it is a story quite well known to me and my family. You have met my children.”
It sounded more of a statement than a question but Henrietta replied anyway.
“I confess that I do not recall meeting any youngsters here.” She admitted.
“Come now,” said the woman. “You spoke to my daughter as she entertained the queen of the faeries and my son as he watched the king ride in battle.”
“Oh of course. I had quite forgotten!”
Henrietta suddenly felt uneasy. No wonder the boy and girl had seemed so odd with such a strange creature as a mother. She instantly felt guilty for such an uncharitable thought but the woman had continued regardlessly.
“I could show you the secret you know.” She whispered to her.
Henrietta, reluctantly agreed, hoping she could take leave of this person before too long. But all the other guests seemed caught up in their own amusements and scarcely noticed her as she followed the woman out of the room and up the stairs to her chamber. She began to feel frightened.
“Perhaps we should return to the party.” She said.
The woman kept a strong grip on her arm but said nothing and practically pulled Henrietta into the room.
“Now my dear.” She said. “The secret of this wardrobe and of the magpies lies inside. Let me show you.”
 Henrietta tried to look away, terrified of what she would see, but the wardrobe held her gaze like a magnet as the door swung open.
 
Around midnight, Reverend Makepeace, wondering at his cousin’s whereabouts, found the door to her bedroom ajar. Miss Silverlight lay on the bed, still in her red dress but rigid and cold. The doctor, who had been engaged companionably with a bottle of vintage port for the last hour, was summoned and immediately pronounced her dead. His assistant, following close behind and considerably more sober, reassured the reverend that she was indeed alive, but advised him to wrap her in many blankets and mop her brow with a damp cloth. Word filtered downstairs and Henrietta’s door had to be closed to keep away the well-meaning but unhelpful villagers who tried to come up to see her. The blacksmith’s wife was inconsolable.
“Oh, that such a pretty young thing should be taken from us! And so soon after her mother too!” she exclaimed to anyone she met.
 
Naturally the party fell somewhat flat. There was no more music and dancing; all the guests spoke in hushed tones and some of the less inebriated amongst them encouraged the rest to leave to let the reverend tend his cousin in peace.
 
Reverend Makepeace sat anxiously with his cousin all night and prayed to God more fervently than on any previous occasion that Henrietta might awake. At dawn he was overwhelmingly relieved to see her eyelids flutter and hear her take a shallow breath. He took her hand in his.
“What is the matter dearest Henrietta? What happened to you?”
But Henrietta would not be induced to talk and from that day never said a single word again in her life. She managed to convey to her cousin that she had been escorted to her room by a woman in  green with a feather in her long hair. But none of the guests could remember any such person at the party and no one not recall ever meeting her in their lives.


[1] The tale of how the church came to have no steeple is a peculiar one. Many years ago the church roof began to cave in and the priest of the time asked the archdeacon for the money to repair it. But no money was found to help such a little, out of the way place as Steeple. The priest, naturally, fell to praying and it seemed as though his prayers had been answered when a strange woman in green appeared and promised to see to the repairs for the roof. She asked only in return for the first gift that would next be offered to the church. The priest, thinking this a small price to pay to keep his congregation dry, readily accepted and the very next day the roof was whole again. The priest was beside himself with joy and entered the church happily only to discover a young woman kneeling at the altar. She wept when he approached and told how she had heard of the miracle that had occured. As soon as she had seen it for herself she had vowed to enter a convent and give her life to God. Upon hearing these words the priest recoiled in alarm, this gift had not been part of the bargain. The woman in green stepped out of the shadows to claim her prize but the priest seized a crucifix and defied her to take the poor girl. The woman raged and called down curses upon their heads yet nothing could induce the priest to relent. Eventually the woman disappeared, taking the Steeple from the church with her. Whilst this was most vexing it did at least prompt the archdeacon into action and the roof was replaced, although the steeple was never rebuilt.

FIC: "Upon the Moors, Beneath the Stars"

Title: "Upon the Moors, Beneath the Stars" (1/1)
Author: cinzia
Rating: PG
Fandom: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Pairing: Book/Reader
Summary: On Names and Kings and Other Fairy Things.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Feedback: Always appreciated.


"Upon the Moors, Beneath the Stars"