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.
Thursday, 24th March 1921
Today we finished Pride and Prejudice. I have been reading it to Margery for the past week, though we both know it almost by heart. When I had read the last word Margery rolled over on the ottoman and sighed.
“That is my favourite love story,” she said. “Jade, what is it like to be in love?”
“What makes you think I would know?” I said.
“Why, of course you do,” Margery said. “Why else would you be having Claude?”
Margery is convinced that the baby is going to be a boy, and not only that, but that he will be a Claude. I am not persuaded on either count, but there’s no harm in letting her suppose. At any rate Claude is better than Aloysius, which was her last guess.
“Pure wantonness,” I suggested.
Margery considered this, but she shook her head.
“No, no,” she said. “You’ve been in love. I think you’re in love even now. You have the look. I’ve never been in love myself, but I know it.”
“What’s the look like?” I said.
“It’s as if you were hugging a secret to yourself,” said Margery promptly. “When you are happy in love it’s a delightful secret, but when you are sad it’s a distressing one. Cordelia had that look when she first met Reginald. It took me ages to recognise it, because Reginald is such a–but there, he’s a good husband by his lights. Anyway, you have the look–but I suppose,” here she drooped–“it is an unhappy love, and I ought not to have brought it up.”
“I don’t mind,” I said.
“What is it like? Do tell,” said Margery. “With this disordered mind of mine I don’t think I shall ever fall in love. I am such a bother to everyone when I have one of my episodes. I should feel sorry for anyone who married me.”
“I shouldn’t,” I said. “Think of all the insufferable creatures in the world who fall in love, and are loved back. And you one of the nicest people I have ever met! You have every right to fall in love, if you would like to, and anyone you married would be lucky.”
Margery pursed her lips, but she only said,
“You are trying to distract me. Won’t you tell me how it was for you? Is your beloved like Mr. Darcy?”
“Nothing like,” I said. “I wouldn’t like to marry Mr. Darcy, would you? Fancy calling your husband Fitzwilliam for all eternity. It would be so awkward in the bedroom.”
“Oh Jade,” said Margery: she is rather easily shocked. “Well, but what is he like, then?”
I felt the real story was rather implausible. Would anyone believe I’d had an affair with Hardie out of simple curiosity? Margery certainly wouldn’t: she is convinced I was cruelly deceived. And I am still feeling too tender about Ravi to tell anyone about him, so I told her a somewhat embroidered tale about Hardie and me, in which Hardie’s charm and the giddy romance of Paris swept me off my feet, and Hardie’s Bohemian ideals blinded him to the sordid realities of love outside the bounds of sanctioned matrimony.
I finished with the magnificent forgiveness of Diana and my self-denying retirement to Mrs. Crowther’s. Margery’s eyes were dewy.
“Oh Jade, how sad,” she said. “How terribly, terribly sad–but beautiful, too. You lived a whole lifetime in the space of a few months. So Hardie and Diana are two of the friends you spoke of. Oh, it is so poetic, it is like something out of a story. But it must make you terribly distressed to think of them, though they have been so noble.”
I was beginning to enjoy my role. I tried to look damp and ethereal.
“Yes,” I murmured.
“But you had three friends, you said,” said Margery. I think she must have some bulldog in her ancestry: she has the most tenacious memory. “Who is the third?”
“Ah,” I said. “That is just the editor of the Oriental Literary Review. I used to write pieces for him, and we became friends through that. Nice man.”
“I must ask Cordelia to look that journal up,” said Margery.
She’s already requested old issues of Woman’s Weekly from her sister, since I told her I’d had articles published in it. She took down the name and address of the ORL so that Cordelia could order the issues I’d been in. The address will have changed, I suppose, but I expect they’ll forward any post.
I barely felt a twinge when I talked about Ravi. Perhaps I am recovering! Soon I shall be as footloose and fancy-free as any maiden (though I suppose I do not quite count as a maiden anymore). That will be good for the worm. Poor old worm! It can’t be doing it good to have so many feelings sloshing about on top of it.
When the wormlet has come into the world I must become the sagest of matriarchs. I shall put on wisdom like a mantle, and read a chapter of the classics every day, and only eat cake once every half a year. I will avoid telling fibs to my friends, and if I can’t avoid it, I will certainly not enjoy it. Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m very far from perfection yet.