Index > Ongoing Stories > Mr. Dunn Meets Miss Holbrook
Mr. Dunn Meets Miss Holbrook
Miss Letitia Holbrook, newly arrived to Tyrehampton, is staring out the window of Mrs. Hatch's parlor with eager eyes. Everything here is /so/ fascinating, and she does not know where to look first! She wishes to draw it all, and moves to get her sketchpad before remembering it is upstairs with the rest of her things. She wonders if there is a maid somewhere who may show her where her room is. Even in such a small place as this, she is /dreadfully/ afraid she will get lost and enter the wrong room. Imagine how embarrassing! Especially if it were a /man's/ room! She shudders at even the thought, and looks out the window again instead. She will like to pick some of the flowers later, perhaps. She wonders if she is allowed to bring them into her room, to brighten it up a bit.
Mr. Anthony Dunn enters Mrs. Hatch's establishment with his customary purposeful stride. His cravat is tied loosely as the day is somewhat warm, the creamy white of it, and the gold detailing of his waistcoat providing an attractive contrast to his dark tan skin and darker eyes and hair. He pauses upon noticing that there is a young lady in the room and bows elegantly with a charming smile as he is introduced.
"Oh!" Letty is startled at the man's appearance--her first acquaintance here will be a /man/!--and makes her curtsy. "Good day, sir! I am pleased to meet you! Did you see the flowers outside? They are such a lovely shade, are they not? And the way the sun hits them, /just/ so! Are you just arrived here, too?"
"I live in Oakston, actually, Miss." His lips quirk slightly as he eyes her warily, strongly reminded of his sister.
"Oh, how interesting! And is it nice there? I have not been there at all yet, but Mrs. Hatch says it is a pretty place, and perhaps I shall go sometime, if the weather is fine." She smiles at him.
"I find it quite nice, yes, Miss."
"Oh, I am glad to hear it! Yes, perhaps I shall go there, then. Has Oakston nice flowers? I am very fond of flowers, and should like to press some, perhaps, if no one objects. Have you ever pressed flowers, sir? It is quite magical to see them dry up and look so different--and they often smell wonderful, too! Lilacs are lovely, and roses, and pinks...I can never choose a favorite! Have you a favorite flower?"
"I am afraid I have never had a large interest in botany. I think you should get along well with my sister Miss Holbrook."
"Oh, does she live here, too?" Then she giggles a little. "Oh--or in Oakston, with you! Or /does/ she? May I meet her? I am sure I should like her immensely!"
"With me in Oakston. Her name is Mrs. Oldershaw."
"Oh--she is married?" Letty breathes, her eyes wide. "Oh--do you think she is very much my elder, then? I am sixteen, sir. I cannot /conceive/ of being married now! Only think of it! Me, married! But perhaps she /is/ some years older.../is/ she? If so, then I can see why she is married. Not that I mean to say she could not get a husband if she were my age, of course!" she adds hastily. "I am quite sure she might get one at any age, if she chose! But how old is she?"
"She is widowed, sadly," he says calmly. "As for her age, yes, she is past 20."
"Oh." Her face saddens. "I /am/ sorry to hear it! And she is rather older, then...but still, I expect we might be friends, if she should wish to be! /Will/ you introduce us? I should like it of all things!" Her expression is hopeful now.
"I shall certainly if we ever all happen to be in the same place
"Oh, thank you!" Letty beams at him, clasping her hands excitedly. "Oh, I know I shall like to meet her! Perhaps we will pick flowers together! Has she a favorite flower? I shall have to bring her some, someday. How soon do you think we may meet?”
"Hibiscus, I believe, if you are familiar." With his amusement a bit more of his foreign accent comes through. It is still faint however and difficult to place. "And I will inform her of your desire to meet as soon as I return home."
"Oh--I think I may have heard of that one...is it the large one with the...the little..." She makes a flower out of her cupped left hand, sticking fingers of her right hand up through those of the left in an attempt to make stamens. "Like that? I have forgotten what they are called. And thank you!"
He chuckles. "Yes. That one."
"Oh, that one is very pretty! Hibiscus..." She tests the word, liking the deliciousness of it on her tongue, and then looks up at him curiosity. "Sir, are you foreign? I did not expect you /could/ be, for you are so...so...you are not at all different from other people I know! But you have an accent!"
"Yes, and my skin is dark," he points out with amusement.
She blinks at him. "Oh, yes, but there /are/ people who have dark skin who do not seem at all foreign!" Her eyes round. "Why--do you mean that they /all/ are? Why, I have known one lady who is dark any time these past two years! Do you think /she/ was foreign? I thought perhaps her mother or father might have been, but--but she sounds so /English/!"
"You may very well be right," he says with growing amusement. "It is difficult to tell sometimes."
"Oh." She considers this. "Well, very likely I should not know, in any case! Where are you from? How long have you been here? What is it like at your home?" Her eyes widen again. "Are there /natives/ there, then?"
"In India?" He asks with amusement.
"Oh, is that where you are from? My papa has just gone there, to trade! He says he will bring me back something pretty! But he will be gone for some time, and that is why I am here. Perhaps you may tell me about it, so that I can surprise him with my knowledge when I write to him!"
"And what would you like to know?"
"Is it true there are /elephants/?" she demands, her expression wondering.
"And tigers," he says, enjoying her innocent wonder.
"Ohhhh..." she breathes, fascinated. "How amazing! Have you ever fought one? Do they truly eat people? Are the elephants gentle, or are they fierce? What do /they/ eat? Can you truly ride them? How big are they, really?"
"Hmm. I have not fought a tiger. A man who claims to and has not a missing limb or heavy scars to show for it is very likely a liar. They will eat children. Elephants are rather like horses, they vary in temperament. They eat leaves, and they stand about twice as tall as a tall man. Oh, and yes, you can ride them." He has and story teller's rich tones, and clearly enjoys telling her.
Her face is awed. "Oh...That sounds perfectly splendid! Tigers must be /dreadfully/ fierce! And elephants--how can such large creatures survive on leaves? Do they eat a great many of them? And have /you/ ever ridden an elephant?"
"They do eat quite a large amount, and drink even more. I have not, I am afraid.”
"How /many/ leaves do you think they eat?" Letty asks curiously. "Hundreds? And that /is/ too bad. Do you think if I went to India I should be able to ride one?"
"I am not at all sure," he smiles indulgently at the young lady, finding her very amusing and endearing. "I am sure you should be able to, but it is not a very safe land for ladies. Perhaps you should ask your Papa to bring you back something carved of ivory. That is the tusks of elephants, you know."
"Oh!" Her eyes round again. "But--the poor things! Doesn't it hurt them? Or--or do they /hunt/ them?"
"Ah, you are not fond of hunting, Miss?" He asks gently.
"Oh, no! The poor animals..." She looks sadly at him. "I know we must have meat, and furs, and such...but they are so sweet...and I cannot help but feel awful for them."
"Well, perhaps no ivory then. A little painted wooden or stone elephant . . . it would make a pleasant paper weight perhaps, or ornament for a mantle." He smiles at her. Naive, she certainly is, but it's charming in it's own way.
"Oh--yes, that would be much more pleasant! It does sound like a lovely substance...but...but I should not like to hurt an elephant only so I might have a part of one!" She smiles back. "Thank you--that is a very good idea! I should like a little elephant. I wish I could see a real one," she adds, a little wistfully.
"Ah, yes . . . well, perhaps some day you shall . . . but there are diseases and such, and the usual dangers of travel, not to mention the specific dangers of India itself. I only think it should not be very safe for a lady such as yourself."
"Oh." She nods, but gives him a little, trusting smile. "Well, perhaps some day it may be safer. Do you think it might? And if I did go, I do think my papa would protect me. He can /fight/, you know," she adds with clear pride. "Perhaps he could even fight a tiger!"
He laughs and leans down a little to meet her eyes. "Better that he avoid it, Miss. Not that I doubt him at all, but you said you should not like animals being injured . . . so safer for the tiger and him, eh?" She is so sweet, he resists the urge to pet her hair as he might with one of the girls in the village where he was born. He wonders if such charming innocence shall last very long.
She turns ever so slightly pink, and smiles at him, thinking that she rather likes having him lean to speak to her like that. And she likes the way he looks at her. It makes her feel...oh, she is not certain what it is, but it is rather nice. "Very true, sir!" she agrees with a merry little giggle. "Much better for them both! Though if he /did/ fight one, at least it should be because the tiger attacked him. I do not think the elephants attack anyone, do they?" She shakes her head, making the curls gathered at the back of her head bounce. "Still, you are quite right! Much better for them both not to fight. Perhaps he might see one from a distance, however!" she adds hopefully.
"Perhaps . . . and then, if he has a good guide, no closer," he says, now truly resisting the impulse. He gives her a warm, charming smile, recognizing the look of a girl who is admiring him. His teeth flash brightly in contrast to his dark skin. "You know there is a library across the green, yes? Perhaps you may take a maid, and learn more of India there."
Oh, his smile is /nice/. She should almost like to shiver with it. "Oh, I do hope he has a good guide!" She tilts her head a little. "Oh...yes, perhaps. But books are hard to understand, sometimes, especially if one has not been to the places they speak of. Sometimes the authors talk as if one is expected to know the spot. Which I think is really very silly, for travel books," she adds, frowning slightly. "If one is to describe a place, why should they assume the reader has been there? Do you ever find that the books seem like that? Oh--only, of course, you need not read the books, as you have /been/ there," she corrects herself with a little laugh. "How silly of me!"
His smile intensifies at her reaction, and he moves a little nearer. He does not think about his flirting, really--a rather automatic impulse for him after all these years. Were his sister here she would likely remind him where he is and who he is speaking with, but she isn't, and he is enjoying the young lady's admiration for him, not to mention how pretty she is. "Indeed. I can tell you all you wish to know, I hope . . . or perhaps I shall go read the books so I can sound even more knowledgeable." He winks.
Letty decides she likes talking to this man /very/ much, and her bright eyes are fixed on his face as she replies, with a giggle, "Oh, I am sure you don't need them, sir! Not when you have been there yourself! I expect you are very knowledgeable already! But I should like it of all things if you were to tell me more about it! I am certain you must have so many good stories to tell, have you not?" She wants to listen to his voice some more, and watch his handsome face as he speaks.
He smiles broadly, never one to turn down the opportunity to tell a tall tale. "And what type of story should you like to hear?" He asks, his voice so soft as to be almost difficult to hear, meant to draw an audience in. Anthony loves telling stories.
"Oh..." She leans forward a bit in response, fascinated already. "Oh, something of adventure! India must be such a romantic place--it must be full of adventures!"
"Such as the time we rafted down a river with crocodiles nearby? Or the time a fellow caught a disease in the jungle and thought himself the king of all the nearby country?" He smiles intensely at the young lady, dark eyes sparkling. He knows his stories need not be entirely honest, so long as they are plausible and interesting.
Her eyes go wide as saucers. "Oh, truly? Yes, I should like to hear all about those! Did the crocodiles eat anyone? /Do/ crocodiles eat people? Do they really have a great number of teeth? Are they like giant lizards? And did the sick man die? Did he think you were his servants? Oh, do tell me about it all!" she begs.
He smiles as her questions make his job all that much easier. If only all his audiences could be so attentive. And so attractive. His appreciation for her shows a little as he pauses a moment for effect before nodding slowly and saying, his tone ominous and dramatic without being overdone, "Crocodiles can grow long . . . longer than any man is tall. They did not eat anyone on /that/ trip, but they watched us from the bank, and they seemed to smile knowingly all the while . . . they have so many teeth you see that they do not all fit inside their mouths, so they seem always to be grinning." He allows that to sink in. "The man was taken by a local doctor of sorts to waters that were supposed to be healing . . . he had demanded that we build him a throne and bring him gold and jewels, but we begged and tricked and sometimes dragged him until he came to the waters . . . I do not know to this day whether it was the exertion of getting there, or that the illness simply left him . . . or whether the waters truly had special properties . . . but he /was/ cured, and none the worse, except for a very good deal embarrassed when we told him how he had been carrying on."
"Ohhhhh..." It's a long, drawn-out sigh. She can barely imagine it... "Oh, /how/ exciting!" So much so that she can scarcely breathe, and is perhaps a little pale after hearing about the crocodiles. "And...and how /terrifying/...and.../oh/, I /wish/ I could see it! Only...only perhaps I do not, for I feel sure I should faint if I ever saw a crocodile grin at me! I /am/ glad the man got better, however!"
"If I were your guide, I should certainly catch you," He says, flirtatious. "With me as a guide, I should hope that you might feel safe enough you would not faint . . . but it would be very sensible to fear such powerful animals."
She smiles at him. "Oh, with you I should certainly feel safe, for I am sure you should not let the crocodiles eat me!" She is quite sincere, though again, she likes the way he looks at her, and is unknowingly looking back the same way. "And I think you could quite fight them off if they tried!" she adds, her eyes alight at the thought. "Though perhaps they would not. But I must own I should not object so much to your fighting an animal that attacked me as to other animals. Especially as it is rather more like a lizard than an animal!"
His smile intensifies. "I should never let danger come to you, Miss Holbrook," he agrees with quiet assurance. His grin is cocky and playful, his eyes sparkling with amusement and something bordering on affection. "Though I admit I do not relish the idea of wrestling a crocodile."
Oh, how fast her heart is beating! It is a very pleasant sensation. "Well, I think you /could/, in any event," she replies stoutly, and then adds with a smile, "But there! I shan't ask you to unless I ever am truly in danger. Oh, but think how romantic it would be, to be nearly eaten by a crocodile! It might be quite worth the fear! Especially since I should know you would rescue me."
He chuckles softly and chucks her lightly under the chin (fortunate that Mrs. Hatch is dozing), his fingers lingering slightly, tilting her chin up so their eyes meet directly. "Lucky for me we are not in India," he teases softly as he draws his hand away. "I feel quite bound now with your trusting me to be your protector."
The touch makes her breath come even faster, as does looking into his eyes like that. They are lovely eyes, too, dark and warm. She is rather disappointed when he pulls back, and pouts playfully, though she can't keep her eyes from sparkling. "Oh, don't you / wish/ to protect me?"
"I think you have perhaps a little too much faith in me, my dear Miss Holbrook," He says, smiling warmly at her response. Were she not clearly upper class and so obviously young and silly he would already have suggested they find somewhere more private. As it is, he finds himself feeling protective of her. What might happen if a gentleman less principled than him (and he isn't very) came across her? The dozing mistress isn't doing much good.
"Oh, but why should you say that?" she objects, still eager and trusting. A thought occurs, and she adds hesitantly, "Unless...you truly /don't/wish to." She hopes that isn't so. She likes him a great deal, and rather wishes she could stay with him more often. He would be such nice company! And perhaps...perhaps they would even fall in love one day! She thinks he is exactly the kind of man she should like to marry. And then they might go on great adventures together!
He smiles warmly at her, and shakes his head, wishing again he could stroke her hair to reassure her. "I only meant it never does to be over confident of one's own abilities, my dear. If you are ever in danger from a crocodile, regardless of whether there are gentlemen in the vicinity, the safest thing you can do is to climb a tree. And you must be wary, for often the biggest threats in the wild come not from such large animals but from tiny snakes which you will not see in the grass or the branches until they bite you with poison fangs . . . such creatures may not be wrestled . . . they must be avoided by caution." He meets her eyes, wondering if she understands the metaphor about serpents. It is rather subtle and he doubts she will, but he is trying.
"Oh." Letty shudders. "I do not at all like snakes." She /does/ like it when he calls her his dear, however. She considers what he said for a moment, and then asks curiously, "Only, what must I do if I cannot climb a tree? I have not done so in--oh, a great many years--not since I was quite small--and I should think it would be dreadfully difficult in skirts! They /are/ such a nuisance sometimes. She pulls a little face. "And how may one avoid the snakes if one cannot see them? Are they the same color as the grass or branches? How can they climb onto branches in any case? They have no hands or feet to do so!"
"You must get up high, away from it. Crocodiles may run deceptively quickly," (or so he has heard) "but they cannot climb. As I say, one must remember that snakes may appear anywhere, and be cautious. Check one's bed before you lie down, your shoes before you put them on, the grass, before you step . . . it is part of why I say India is not a place for ladies. They may be any color depending on the snake. Their scales have traction against the bark which allows them to slither into trees."
"Oh, how horrid!" She shudders again, and is seized by the sudden desire to take shelter from the idea in his arms. Surprised, she blushes slightly, but says nothing of it, for surely it would be improper. "But...yes, perhaps you are right, and I should not like to go to India after all. Not if there are a great many snakes." She sighs a little, disappointed, but he clearly knows what he's talking about, after all. "Is there somewhere else I might go instead? Perhaps even somewhere with elephants? Or do they live only there?"
"They also live in Africa, but I am afraid there are also snakes there," he says gently, almost sorry to disappoint her. He wants to tell her more about his /real/ home, but knows it would be unwise. "I will tell you stories whenever you wish," he offers impulsively.
She brightens. "Oh, thank you! I shall like to hear them very often indeed!"
He smiles affectionately at her. "Well, I live in Oakston, as I say, but I shall endeavor to think of excuses to visit Mrs. Hatch's frequently."
"Thank you very much, sir!" She almost wishes to embrace him, as she would her papa if he gave her something she liked, but she supposes she must not do that, and settles for beaming at him.
His smile grows at the brightness of hers. She is a charming creature truly. "Might you call for some tea, Miss?" He doesn't really like the beverage, but he would have an excuse to stay longer.
"Oh--yes, of course! How silly of me; I'm sorry!" She eyes Mrs. Hatch, and then pops her head out of the room to look for a maid. Finding one passing, she asks for tea and then withdraws. "There. I think she will be back in a few minutes," she informs him cheerfully.
He smiles at her. "Indeed." He checks for letters and sighs upon finding none. "Does your father write you often, Miss Holbrook?"
"Sometimes. And then sometimes he forgets for a long time." She looks a little wistful. "Sometimes I wish he didn't forget me so, but he is rather busy, I know. Still, he always tells me he loves me, and brings me presents, and embraces me...and he is a good, dear papa."
He smiles sympathetically. "Letters may be lost over long distances, Miss. And it is good that you love eachother."
Letty considers that, and smiles after a moment. "That is true. Though sometimes he forgets me when we are at home, too. But not for so very long, usually," she adds, and nods decisively. "Yes, I think perhaps you're right. Thank you!"
He smiles as the tea is brought in and settles on the blue chaise lounge. "So . . . you are quite new in town, yes, Miss Holbrook?"
She moves to pour for him. "Yes, I only arrived today! You are my very first friend here! How do you like your tea?"
"As it is, thank you."
"All right." She brings him a cup with a smile, and blushes lightly as their fingers brush.
He sips it slowly looking thoughtful and concealing his distaste. "Thank you, Miss Holbrook."
"Of course!" She smiles at him and moves back to get some tea for herself. "What are you thinking of? You look as if it were something dreadfully important."
He chuckles. "Not at all, Miss Holbrook. I was actually just hoping that the nice weather would last. I am not a very good rider, you see, and I hope to improve my skill with horses while I am here."
"Oh--really? I made sure you would be a good rider! But perhaps I can help teach you, if you should like. In exchange for the stories?"
He chuckles again, finding her faith and friendliness endearing. "If you wish. Do you have a chaperone and a mount?"
"Oh." Her face falls a little. "I had to leave my horse at home, because there was no place to board her. But Mrs. Gregory would come with us, I think. Perhaps there is somewhere I might borrow a horse?"
"I am sure there is," he nods. "Lord FillintheBlank is very generous with the use of his stables I understand."
"Oh, good." She smiles. "I should like to help you learn to ride better! Horses are often such very sweet creatures. I like them /excessively/."
"I like them well enough. I simply do not practice," he smiles with good natured self-reproach.
Letty giggles and nods. "Well, you must do that, I expect! Else you shall never learn!"
"I expect you are right, dear lady," he says warmly.
She smiles at him. "What do you enjoy doing?"
"Sailing . . . I love the ocean a good deal," he says honestly. He smiles wickedly, waggling his brows at her. "I'm also quite talented at the tables, if you'll pardon my bringing it up with a lady such as yourself."
"Oh!" She blushes a little and giggles again. "Do you play /deep/, sir?" she asks curiously.
"Indeed I do, Miss Holbrook," he says smugly.
"Oh." She considers that for a moment. "I do not think I could, for I am dreadfully bad at such things. I simply cannot understand them well." She shrugs, not much perturbed by this fact, only more curious about him.
Anthony smiles. "Well, you are not expected to. You ought to--and I am sure you do--play lady's games for your amusement."
"Well, yes, very true. Though I am not very skilled at them, either."
"Must one be skilled at something one does solely for pleasure?"
Letty thinks on that. "Oh, yes, that is true," she agrees after a second, smiling. "I had not thought of that! Thank you."
Anthony can't help but chuckle softly. He sets aside his still mostly full tea and smiles at the girl. "I really ought to be off. Thank you for a lovely conversation Miss Holbrook."
"Oh..." Her expression transforms to slight disappointment. "/Must/ you go? We were having such a lovely talk!" She sighs. "But however, I suppose if you must, you must. At least that is what Mrs. Gregory often says. And I think she would tell me I must not keep you..." She smiles at him and stands to curtsy. "Goodbye, then. Do come back soon, if you please, and tell me more of India! And we may perhaps ride together then, too!"
He smiles cheerfully at her. "I will do my best. Perhaps my sister will accompany me." Margaret would likely find the girl /very/ silly, and subjecting her to Miss Holbrook's chatter is an appealing idea.
"Oh, yes, please! If she will, that is. I should like that /immensely/!" she replies with a bright smile.
He smiles and bows before exiting the room briskly, grinning to himself.
Letty smiles as well, going back to the window to watch him leave, and to wave if he sees her. Perhaps soon she will have /two/ friends here! How thrilling!
He glances back and returns the wave cheerfully.
|Posted 2 weeks ago|