I just can’t wait any longer. I have been slaving away, writing this book for oh–about ten years, TEN YEARS! (At least now the book is a three book series – but is that justification for how long this is taking? no!) These past few months I have been frantically trying to meet my publisher’s deadline. I still can’t admit that I will be falling short. I have almost all of Book I written – but I still have some major blanks to fill in, not to mention that never ending task — editing.
This grim state of affairs makes me a very dull person. It makes my conversation even duller. When someone asks me if I am finished writing the book yet, I have to hang my head and say “No, I am almost there. . . But then I have to edit.” I am even boring myself with the tedium of that answer.
This past weekend was a great family gathering – a fabulous wedding! I saw so many people I love that I haven’t seen in ages. I was having a blast until I had to give my answer, “No. . . I am still writing and editing. . .” Much to my chagrin – and happiness — I had to give that answer over and over — so many people had read that I am going to be published and expressed their support and enthusiasm.
I have to up my game!
So – to keep us all enthused, especially me, I am releasing, here and NOW, the Prologue of my first book, Flirtation Walk. I have edited this part several times, and I think it is ready to submit to the publisher —for reediting! (read- here is a draft that will be even better in its finished form.)
I can’t wait to hear your feedback!
West Point North Dock, West Point New York ……… March1850
Cornelia Rose bent to retrieve her glove, inadvertently setting off a series of sighs from the bench full of admirers. She turned in surprise, her parasol wobbling precariously on her shoulder, her hand bag threatening to dump its contents from the unfastened top and her handkerchief escaping from the one successfully gloved hand. A veritable platoon of men sat, sprawled, and perched on the lone bench on the busy wharf at West Point Academy. Nellie turned crimson in one quick flush, her hand jerking up to tuck a stray strand of hair into her elaborately feathered new hat. She pulled herself together enough to smile, with what she hoped was a flirtatious, but refined expression on her face.
One cadet, emboldened by that smile, catapulted off his seat, swooped low to retrieve the piece of pink silk, and turned the motion into an exaggerated bow.
“Mademoiselle, may I say your appearance is akin to an angelic visitation to lost souls suffering in hell,” said the cadet. Nellie reached to retrieve the handkerchief and the man boldly caught her hand in his own large grasp. An onlooker from the bench gave a loud guffaw.
Mother, still standing next to her, haranguing with the sailor from the steamboat, gave Nellie a warning tsk,tsk, even as she continued to lecture the man on proper baggage handling.
“Thank you, gallant knight, for your alacrity, and most chivalrous retrieval of my personal belonging,” said Nellie as she extracted her hand. Then she beamed with pride at her own very poised reply.
Encouraged in spite of losing Nellie’s hand, the cadet leaned in to ask, “May I escort you on a short promenade to Flirtation Walk?” Numerous chuckles rippled through the bench and Nellie stepped back in alarm.
“Come, come,” said the cadet, realizing his tactical error. “’Tis merely a path to Battery Cove where the Great Chain was affixed during our Revolutionary War.”
Cornelia tried to regain her equanimity. “But for the fact that your offer has come at a rather inopportune time,” she gestured to her mother, sisters and luggage cases behind her, “as you can see we have just arrived, I am sure our little group would have been delighted to accompany you.”
“Cornelia Rose, why must you always be so difficult to locate?” A petulant voice interrupted the intoxicating repartee she was establishing with the cadet.
Nellie stiffened at the sound. She had no doubt as to whom that voice belonged. T’was plumb irritating that he should choose just this one, singular time to be punctual. Without thinking she stamped her foot in anger, I thought he had guard duty and would be occupied for hours. How truly grating the sound of that whiny voice! Elmer P. Otis. I am quite certain the “P” stands for ‘peevish’. Proper upbringing changed her thinking however. Repentant and chagrinned at her own lack of manners, she forced a smile in
Elmer’s direction, even before she heard her mother’s second tsk,tsk admonition.
“Fellows, this is my drag for the weekend,” Elmer proclaimed to the bench of potential beaus, every one of his regulation twenty-four brass buttons trying to pop off his dress uniform jacket as he puffed his chest.
Not only am I to be stuck with this neer-do-well, I will be paraded about to elevate his social stature! Nellie groused to herself.
With grunts and grumbling, Elmer’s fellow West Point Cadets began to rise and disperse in different directions to await arriving river traffic at other spots on the landing. Elmer remained standing at attention in front of Nellie, poor-complexioned chin thrust out proudly beneath his grimly pursed lips. A First Cadet rose from the bench and leaned his lips close to Elmer’s ear. “You lucky cur!” Nellie heard. Cadet Otis grinned. The First Year punched Elmer in the arm and Elmer changed his position to ‘at ease’.
Mother turned away from the steamboat’s captain whom she had involved in her dispute with the luggage-handling sailor and Elmer came to attention again.
“Missus Entwhistle,” Elmer P. Otis bowed. “I am most grateful you granted permission to your illustrious daughter to attend this weekend’s festivities.”
Mother smiled with her well-bred grace and extended her hand. Cornelia and her sisters curtsied.
“Ladies,” Elmer had the grace to nod and bow again towards Cornelia as he looked at the assembled ladies. “I’ll say! That’s a fair amount of cases for just an overnight stay! Are you Ladies planning to enroll as cadets?”
Mother coughed and looked chagrined. Nellie’s sister Agnes frowned with distain and Anastasia and Augusta giggled.
See what I mean Mother? Nellie thought. Elmer cannot summon sufficent social grace to court a farm hand.
Her mother caught Nellie’s eye, was that sympathy in her gaze? but did not issue the bristling retort Nellie thought Elmer’s oafish remark mandated. “Please assist us with these cases and advise the means available to transport us to the West Point Hotel, so we may settle in before this afternoon’s parade.”
“Conveyances!” Elmer scratched his head.
Nellie did not wait for Elmer to formulate a plan. She and her friend Augusta located a dockhand and scurried over to obtain his, and his handcart’s, services. There were only five cases after all.
“Perhaps I could shoulder one case,” Elmer was offering upon their return, “and I could round up a group to . . .”
Mother’s reply was drowned in a most indecorous shriek from Augusta.
“Nathaniel!” Augusta almost shouted. “My sweet!” A tall good-looking cadet jumped the last foot from the direct path from West Point’s campus onto the quay and swept Augusta into his arms.
Mother was apoplectic with disapproval. She frowned at Cornelia as if to say ‘I had better never witness this type of wildly inappropriate behavior from you’.
Why cast disapproving eyes upon me? Nellie wondered. My comport has consisted of naught contrary to your counseling worse than taking my gloves off on the sloop!
With Augusta secured safely in his arms, Nathaniel Foster from Sparta, New York remembered his upbringing. “Mistress Cornelia, how have you fared?”
Nellie smiled and pointed with her head towards her mother.
“Missus Entwhistle, forgive me!” Nathaniel bowed low before Nellie’s mother. “In my haste to greet my fiancée, I do believe I have forgotten my manners.” Nellie’s mother frowned, but extended her hand. Nellie’s sisters bobbed another curtsey.
“Cornelia Rose,” Nathaniel gave short shrift to the formalities and turned to her with a hint of urgency in his voice, “Have you returned the correspondence of Obadiah Wright? He has advised that you have been incommunicado for some time and it worries him terribly.”
Cornelia stole a glance at Elmer, and hesitated in formulating a reply. She did find Obadiah far more charming than this oaf Elmer. But so, she reasoned, would one of those trained monkeys that ride on the organ grinder’s shoulders in New York City. It was just hard to remember to write to Mr. Wright when she was so busy with her social life.
“You know how those Yale men can be,” Nathaniel laughed. “Lonely for a word from his beautiful lady.”
“We must continue this conversation later,” interjected Mother, taking mercy on Nellie. “The ladies have had too much exposure to the sun. We must repair to our lodging and change our attire for the parade.”
In the scramble to supervise the luggage handling and assemble the group for the walk up the hill to the West Point Hotel, Nellie was spared further conversation with Cadet Elmer P. Otis.
As they headed toward the path, Nellie felt a tug on her elbow.
“Miss, did you drop this?” A broad shouldered be speckled cadet leaned down close to her face. Intimidated by his large size and his close proximity Nellie said ‘no’ and did not even look at the proffered item.
“Beg pardon, Miss,” the cadet continued, “I know I am nearsighted, but I was fairly certain this glove dropped from your hand.”
Tarnation! That dratted glove! Nellie blushed and took the glove. “Why thank you for your kindness,” she stammered.
The large young man grinned and leaned in close again. He whispered in her ear, “Save a space on your dance card for me! I want to dance with the belle of the ball too.”
Surprised, Nellie looked up into his smiling face. He winked!
Goodness, I hope Mother isn’t . . . Nellie did not even finish the thought; Mother had turned around and witnessed the whole exchange.
My only sin is removing my gloves on the sloop, Nellie repeated to herself, picked up her skirts and scurried past her mother.
© Jane F. Collen October 19, 2018 IndexCardCure.com and FLIRTATION WALK keep plugging away