I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.
Tuesday, 22nd February 1921
Well, here we are. We arrived at eight in the morning, me and the poor benighted worm who sleeps, chewing on its tail, inside me. The woman who runs the establishment is a Mrs. Crowther, a mouse-coloured lady with sharp eyes and a wobbly voice shot through with vibrato, which makes her sound as if she is always on the verge of tears.
She took my bag and led me to my room and brought me breakfast here, and now I am writing at my desk by the window, looking out at rolling green meadows.
Mrs. Crowther is a widow, but her assistants are Misses mostly. They are all very nice: they knit and are tremendously tactful. The food is British and hearty, and the furnishings are soothing, if plain. Perhaps they thought patterns might distress our minds further. Anyway there are plenty of shelves in my room, and a lending library in the village, so I’ll have enough to keep myself busy with.
I will be all right here. Diana and Hardie wanted to send me to his old nurse, who lives on a farm in Kent. I had nightmarish visions of an apple-cheeked old lady, who would feed me milk fresh from the cow and indulge me for her old charge’s sake, and call me “that poor young creature”. Horrors!
I knew I should have to come up with a plausible alternative if I were to avoid being drawn into the spider’s web. Thank goodness for Cousin Rose’s friend’s nerves, and what a blessing that those nerves belong to an aristocrat. It was through Aunt Iris’s revelling in the girl’s lineage that I heard about Mrs. Crowther’s private nursing home.
Mrs. Crowther takes in women with all sorts of problems–wayward girls like me with inconvenient tadpoles, ladies with unexplained persistent headaches, gentlewomen who see dreadful creatures in the walls. She does it quietly, for lots of rather well-known people, which made it easier for Diana and Hardie to reconcile themselves to it. And she does it for money, which makes me more comfortable.
After all perhaps I prefer business transactions to things done for love. At least with the former, one knows where one stands.
And now I shall read books and write only a little and take long walks over the green grass and have gentle unstimulating conversation with the knitting Misses. I shall sleep for years every night and I shall eat all Mrs. Crowther’s bowls of porridge, and the worm will uncurl and grow fat and pop out arms and legs and a nose and two eyes. And I shall not cry myself to sleep, or write bad poetry about anyone anymore.
Poor worm! You have not got anybody else, so I must try to be better company for you. I didn’t have any foolish passions when I was a girl, that is the problem. In fact I was a remarkably cold fish and could not see why my friends were forever swooning over some boy or other.
I am making up for lost time now, but never mind–it will soon wear itself out. I must be sure to arrange an unwise infatuation for the worm in its youth. It is absurd to be in the mid-twenties and behaving like the Lady of Shalott.
I can’t recall if Tennyson ever said how old the Lady of Shalott was. I should be surprised if she was a day over sixteen.