Some of us authors enjoy writing in open spaces. Miss MacLean likes to compose her odes al fresco on the terrace, as valets with well-sculpted legs bring her refreshments. Miss Neville prefers the library, where it is possible to be interrupted at any given time by those seeking a novel, or a perhaps a secluded darkened corner for some canoodling (er, I’m assuming that two people are involved in that last one.)
Me? I happen to prefer my room. As Virginia Woolf said, a woman must have a room of her own if she is to write. (Also, money. But since Lady B is Regency-wealthy, I can live off of her without qualm.) My room at Lady B’s faces over the street, and on to the park square. There’s a lovely tree, and I can people watch to my –
“MISS NOBLE!” the screech comes from the doorway.
“L…Lady B!” I jump to my feet, knocking over an inkpot all over my current manuscript as I do so. (I would have brought my laptop to the 19th century, but Lady B doesn’t have any outlets, so it wouldn’t have lasted long.) “No one is supposed to come up here! I left word with the maids!”
“Yes, and they have some words to say to you about the state of your linens. But I am hosting a ball tonight –”
“You host a ball every night.”
“ – and I need all my authoresses there. Thus I came up here…”
“So I see…”
“But none of this is relevant to the question at hand.”
“Which is…” I ask hesitantly. But I know what it is, of course. There’s literally no way around it.
“Which is… WHY IS THERE A TRENCH DUG IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR ROOM?”
Oh. That. Yes, there happened to be a long, sinuous body of water dug into the lovely hardwood planks of my second floor room, it’s contents gently lapping at the Aubusson carpet How, I don’t know. I find it best to not question these things.
“Well, first of all, it’s not a trench, it’s a canal.”
“Thank you for the clarification,” Lady B drawls. “However, its existence is, as usual with you, alarming.”
“I wouldn’t worry – it’s simply a leftover.”
“Yes – well, you see, Let It Be Me is set in Venice, Italy. And it’s a city with many canals.”
Lady B shoots me a disparaging look usually served up by Albert.
“And… as I was writing Let It Be Me, this canal sort of… popped up.” I say.
“Ah. I see.” Lady B says. “But why on earth would you set a story in Venice? It’s horribly dirty, and Italian…”
“And wistful, and beautiful, and seductive.” I counter. “Only look at what my heroine, Bridget Forrester, gets up to on her first day there!”
“All right, miss, it’s that one,” Molly said, pointing to a crumbling redbrick structure as she rejoined Bridget on the path that ran alongside the buildings on the north side of the Rio di San Salvador. They could not walk on the rio itself, as the buildings abutted right up against the water, but there were footpaths and alleyways on the back side of the houses.
“Are you certain, Molly?” Bridget asked nervously. The house looked very plain from this side. Very nondescript.
“Well, frankly, no, miss, I’m not. But I went over to that chap and said, ‘Signor Merrick?’ and he said a string of Italian I didn’t understand and then he pointed to this house. And then he tried to pinch my bum,” Molly finished darkly. “I still canna believe your mother let you to go off on your own like this and find the letter-writing gent.”
“She was busy with the hotel proprietor and said I should take a walk,” Bridget lied smoothly.
It had not taken long to get here. With the help of Amanda’s guidebook, she and Molly had made their way from the hotel to the Rio di San Salvador. They could have taken a gondola, but neither Bridget nor Molly had much money, and none of the local currency at any rate. So they walked. Molly had expected to get lost, but Bridget had always been able to read a map. Music, maths, and maps were all things at which she excelled, and all were connected in her mind somehow. After all, finding where you were going in music was akin to finding where you were going on the streets, wasn’t it?
However, one minor flaw in the plan was that she hadn’t known which particular house was Mr. Merrick’s, and thus they had spent a considerable length of time walking the footpaths on the other side of the canal, crossing back and forth when there was a bridge, asking people in the crudest of Italian if they spoke English and consequently if they knew which home was Signor Merrick’s, and getting Molly’s bum pinched.
But, Bridget thought, she was finally here. A thrill of anticipation went through her. It was better that she came here herself, not sending a note and waiting days to hear a reply. And it was better that she came alone. Her mother, Amanda, they did not understand. None of her family really understood how she felt about music.
She must play again—because without the music, what was she? The melodies in her head would dry up and the silence would be intolerable.
And she must play better, too—because she knew she could. Knew it in her bones that she had it in her.
And Carpenini had seen it. Five years ago, before her nerves overcame her, before the tortures of the London season, he had heard her play one song and seen that she had it in her.
And with that surety giving her strength, she squared her shoulders and went to knock on the little door on the side of the brick house.
“But who are all these other people? Signor Merrick? Vincenzo Carpenini? Isn’t he a composer of some kind? And why is Miss Bridget so intent on playing music? I am afraid that girl needs to spend more time out of doors.” Lady B sniffs.
“Oh, you’ll meet them all later – I’ll be bringing them by the Ballroom when the book comes out on April 2nd.”
“And will the trench –er, canal be spreading to the Ballroom by then as well?” Lady B asks, eyeing the linear moat separating me from the door – and consequently from Lady B’s wrath.
“I’m sure the waters will recede. Eventually. But for now –” I say, skipping over the small bridge that spanned the implausible canal, “let’s go down to the ball, shall we?”
You can bet I hurried Lady B out of there before she could object further, but really, who could object to Venice? It’s a completely romantic city. What’s the most romantic place you’ve ever been?