My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 5 of 20)

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, 19th October 1920

I shouldn’t have gone. Why did I go? Curse this restless thirst for excitement! You would think living on one’s own miles from home in the most thrilling city in the world ought to be enough, but no. I’ve got to rush off to see married authors in clandestine circumstances.

Sebastian Hardie is married! I suppose I ought to have known that, but he isn’t quite posh enough to be in Debrett’s, and he certainly didn’t mention it in his letter. What a lot of nonsense he spouted about it in person–but I am getting ahead of myself.

It was a whole week before he wrote. I’d almost persuaded myself that he wouldn’t when I received the letter. It was rather warm in its sentiments, considering we’d only met the once. But I must confess something shocking: I wasn’t shocked.

The problem is that I have never had the chance to be naughty. When I was little I was too busy reading books for it to occur to me. When I was older there was never any opportunity–everybody I knew was so well-behaved, and it’s no fun being bad on your own. Now I am living on my own in London and ignoring pleas to return home, which I suppose is badness enough.

But I want a chance to be properly bad. So far all I have done as an unaccompanied maiden in London is read and write and cook. This is hardly tasting the delights of debauchery in the immoral West.

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 6 of 20)

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.

 

Friday, 22nd October 1920

Succour from an unexpected source. I am to go to France with Aunt Iris. The beautiful Rose and the exquisite Clarissa are staying with friends; Uncle Gerald is tied down with business; and Aunt Iris must go to Paris to see a tailor about a dress. What strange exigencies drive the rich. But Aunt Iris cannot go anywhere alone, and so she has commandeered me.

I could not in any case have refused without awkwardness, but I will be glad to go. I must be out of London, even if it means days of uninterrupted Aunt Iris. And she has promised to pay my expenses, so that will mean at least a week’s outgoings I needn’t worry about.

I had a dreadful thought yesterday. Wouldn’t it be terribly good for my career to have an affair with Sebastian Hardie? This literary high life is in a fair way to turning me into a monster of depravity.

 

East Asian girl holding a mirror

Photograph by Panorama Media/PanoramaStock/Getty Images

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 7 of 20)

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.

 

Wednesday, 3rd November 1920

I am in Paris, the city of romance! It is a most peculiar place. You walk along gazing at the wonderful pretty buildings and their graceful wire railings to the tune of your intolerable aunt going on at you for not dressing better and not being married and not having a respectable profession etc. etc. etc. Then suddenly the scene is interrupted by the pungent stink of manure and urine, which rises out of nowhere and envelopes you. It is difficult to have the correct sentiments about the sight of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night when the smell is that of a poorly kept public toilet.

But we have had wonderful food, despite Aunt Iris’s faces at the bills. I know I say a great deal that is unConfucian and unkind about Aunt Iris, but she has never forgotten herself so far as not to appreciate good food. Today we had a sultan’s spread of a brunch: gigantic cups of milky coffee, little flaky croissants and sugared crepes, perfectly spherical roast potatoes like tiny yellow suns, crispy bacon and fat sausages and a bowl of scrambled eggs like liquid gold. (I suppose not quite a sultan’s spread, then, given the bacon and sausages.) And for dessert, yoghurt with an elegant comma of raspberry coulis in it, and skinless pink segments of grapefruit that burst juice all over your fingers when you picked them up.

The grapefruit was a novelty. It is like pomelo, only smaller, bitterer and more pink. I must see if I can bring one for Ma to try the next time I go home–whenever that is.

I have written a letter to Ravi. I saw him last Tuesday and he said he would like to hear what I thought of Paris, so he shall. I have written the letter twice and have copied it out fair once. I expect he won’t answer it, though.

 

East Asian girl holding a mirror

Photograph by Panorama Media/PanoramaStock/Getty Images

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 8 of 20)

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.

 

Monday, 8th November 1920

Disaster: Hardie is here. I opened the newspaper this morning, thinking of looking for a cartoon and seeing if I could make out its meaning, and there in the letters section was his face staring up at me.

Blast the man! What is he doing, turning up in every corner of the world one thinks of visiting? You would think following Aunt Iris to Paris to carry her bags and watch her try on an endless series of hideous dresses would be enough to propitiate the gods. And yet here Hardie is, to give some talk or other at a loathsome Institute. The next thing I know, when I think of doing so much as sitting down on a comfortable sofa, it will turn out to be Hardie on his hands and knees, with a figured cloth and some cushions laid on him.

It is ridiculous! Continue reading

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 9 of 20)

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.

Content warning: today’s installment contains adult content.

 

Tuesday, 9th November 1920

Hardie came to see me.

I don’t know how he found me out. Perhaps he is some sort of clairvoyant–a Theosophist–a qigong master. Perhaps he asked a medium.

I am in a daze. I will try to set things out in order.

I was in our hotel room, reading. Aunt Iris had gone out to meet one of her friends.

(Aunt Iris is an odd fish: even though she makes at least three trips to France in a year, the only French person she ever goes to see is her tailor, and all her friends in Paris are English people. I suppose it is because she can only say “too expensive” and “the silk, please” in French. Perhaps I shouldn’t blame her, but I have already learnt to say “chocolate cake” and “pigeon” and “where is the station?” in French, and I have only been here a week.)

But I digress. I was reading Charlotte Bronte, and Jane was being serenaded by Mr. Rochester. (I see the source of all my problems: a Bronte was completely the wrong thing to be reading, unless it were an Anne. I should have been reading George Eliot.) Continue reading

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 10 of 20)

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, 18th November 1920

Our last day in Paris. Hardie took me out to lunch, then we went for a walk in the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was very very cold, but startlingly pretty despite the weather: orderly European gardens with wide gravel paths, statues, flowerbeds. It would be lovely in the summer. (How European it makes me feel to write that!)

“It is nice to meet outside a hotel room for once,” I remarked.

“I am fittingly reproached,” said Hardie. “I have not been very gallant, have I?”

“No. But you have been very instructive,” I said to comfort him, but Hardie was not listening.

“My dearest, if you would come to me in London, preferably auntless, there would be no need for these sordid assignations in hotels. Diana and I would welcome you into our own home–”

“Oh no no no,” I said, alarmed. “Of course I shan’t see you in London. I have been perfectly happy with the sordid assignations. I simply meant that it is nice to see these gardens, and not be cooped up in a hotel all day. I’ve not had many chances to see the city. Aunt Iris doesn’t much like to go out for anything besides shopping.”

Hardie looked away, so I knew I had hurt his feelings. For a celebrity he has an awful excess of sensibility, and is very anxious about one’s opinion of him. Perhaps it comes of being an artist. Continue reading

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 11 of 20)

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, 1st February 1921

I bumped into Ravi on Charing Cross Road today. I went there to purchase the sequel to The Duke’s Folly. It’s called The Duke’s Delight. The Duke has procreated since the previous book, and his charming harum-scarum daughter has interrupted her primary occupation of getting into scrapes to become attracted to an ineligible young officer, thus repeating the mistakes of the previous generation. (My mother would say it was karma, dishing up to the Duke a fitting revenge for his unfilial actions in the first book.)

I came up the road with my brown paper parcel and there was Ravi standing next to a bin of discounted books, a Sanskrit grammar in one hand and a monograph on Ceylonese natural history in the other.

“Do you know Sanskrit, Ravi?” I said.

He started, came back down to Earth, and smiled at me.

“I’ve been making a study of it,” he said. “I learnt a little when I was a boy, but that was a very long time ago. I’m trying to pick it up again. Are you busy? Would you like to have tea with me?”

“Is it tea time already?” I said. “Oh!” I caught his wrist and covered his watch with my hand. “Now tell me what time it is.”

“It’s half past three,” said Ravi. “No–twenty-five to. And we’ve had a good month at the ORL. I am in a mood to spend my riches. Let me just acquire these books and then we will go to Fortnum & Mason.”

When he’d paid he swiped my parcel and put it under his arm with his usual unfussy courtesy. We went off down the street, happy as ducks in a bakery.

“It is precisely twenty-five to,” I said. “And you didn’t even look! Was there any indication that you would be a genius when you were born? Did your mother observe that the back of your head jutted out particularly, or did you perhaps have six toes on one foot?” Continue reading

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My Stories, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Fiction: The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (Part 12 of 20)

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, 3rd February 1921

I told Hardie and Diana today. I did it almost as soon as I had sat down, for fear that I should lose my nerve if I waited. Diana was pouring us tea when I turned to Hardie and said:

“Hardie, you have said to me before that you tell Mrs. Hardie everything, don’t you?”

“My dear,” said Diana. “Call me Diana, please.”

Hardie smiled at her. “Indeed there are no secrets between us.”

Diana put down her teapot and passed me my cup of tea.

“Is this why you don’t come to see us half as often as you should?” she said. “My dear, I know everything–everything. And I can’t say how happy it makes me that Hardie should have found a gem like you.”

“Oh, it’s not that,” I said hastily. “I’ve just been rather busy. It is kind of you to keep inviting me. But I did tell Hardie that I had no intention of disrupting your family routine.”

“She’s had her fill of me and would throw me away like an old toy,” Hardie confided in Diana.

“And it delights me that you are such an obdurate gem,” said Diana to me. “You can’t think how good it is for him. The course of life is altogether too smooth for Sebastian and a good snubbing is tremendously bracing for his constitution. He wakes up in the morning snorting like a bull and dashes to his study and writes three articles before lunchtime.”

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