We’re taking a walk down a country road for this Music Monday song choice. It is not a particularly soft and gentle piece of music like I tend to post. It has parts that are mellow but then other parts have a harder edge to them. Why I am highlighting and dissecting the tone of the song? Because it is part of the inspiration I am taking from this piece of music as I am working on my current work in progress.
ChrisYoungVEVO. “Chris Young – Who I Am With You (Lyric Video).” YouTube. YouTube, 19 Mar. 2014. Web. 10 June 2017.
You see, just as this song is a mix of tones, the hero that I am writing is also a mixture of seemingly conflicting parts. He is charming and coming to terms with what appears to be a softer heart than he thought he had, but he’s not timid, nor is he the sort to back down from what needs to be done — he possesses strength. However, he is at that “I’ve been lost” stage of his life. He has pursued a particular lifestyle for all of his life and has found that it is not satisfying. It has brought him pain and disappointment, and he is searching for a way to be the man he wants to be.
In the portion of story that I wrote Friday night and am sharing below, our hero, Henry, has come to the conclusion that he needs help to become what he desires, and he has decided on asking Constance and her Aunt Gwladys for assistance. He will hopefully embody the lyrics from the above song “who I am with you, is who I want to be” and “a better man is who I am with you.”
AN EXCERPT FROM Henry: To Prove Himself Worthy (The excerpt is about 1,200 words, and yes, the story now has a title. 🙂 )
Henry pulled at his sleeves as he stood behind the butler at Linton’s, waiting to be announced. He was not certain why he felt a flutter of unease at calling on a lady in her home, especially when that lady was the sister of his friend. But he did. Perhaps it was due to the decisions he had made last evening after he had departed the ball.
“Mr. Crawford to see Miss Linton.”
Henry gave his sleeve one more tug as Mr. Atkins stepped to the side and allowed Henry entrance to the sitting room. Henry greeted Mrs. Kendrick and the lady seated to her right first and then took a seat near where Constance was finishing a conversation with Miss Barrett, the daughter of the lady seated next to Mrs. Kendrick and a particular friend of Constance’s. He squirmed slightly under the scrutiny of Miss Barrett’s mother as he sat, waiting.
“Evelyn we must be going,” the lady stood and her daughter followed suit. “It was a pleasure,” she said to Mrs. Kendrick. “But we will not overstay our time and keep you from your other caller.” She gave Henry a sweeping look. Her lips curled in displeasure.
The action made Henry bristle. “I am not contagious,” he muttered.
The lady’s expression changed from assessing to one of shock.
“You looked as if I might cause some ill to befall your daughter,” Henry explained settling back into his chair and crossing one foot over the other. “I assure you I will not. Miss Barrett is lovely, but not the sort of lady to tempt me away from my single life.” He smiled. “And that is what I seek ─ a wife. And, might I add, since it is likely that it will be discussed in my absence, I do not intend to the sort to take a wife lightly or my vows to her as anything less than sacred.”
“Is that so?” Mrs. Barrett asked in surprise.
“Shocking, is it not?” he replied.
“Indeed, it is,” said Mrs. Kendrick with a stern look at Henry.
Henry inclined his head in acceptance of her reproach. “I have erred quite remarkably on that account,” he explained.
“You most certainly have,” Mrs. Kendrick agreed. “But it might be best not to lead with such declarations when calling on young ladies.”
“I only wish Mrs. Barrett and her daughter to know I mean them no harm, so that when we meet again, they can feel at ease.” It was part of the plan he had formulated last night as he sat before the hearth with only a bottle of wine to keep him company. He would not shy away from acknowledging his errors. It had been uncomfortable to be direct with Mary, but had he continued to thrust and parry with her and Lady Stornaway, he would have likely found himself unable to refuse an invitation to some gathering and would, therefore, find himself in precisely the position he wished to avoid.
“I shall keep that in mind,” Mrs. Barrett replied. “You will not fault me, however, for being skeptical of words.”
Henry brushed at a wrinkle on his sleeve. “I should fault you if you did not.”
“Then we have an understanding,” said Mrs. Barrett. “And if you should require a partner for a country dance and will walk no further with Evelyn than the dance floor, I will allow you to dance with her.”
It was Henry’s turned to be startled.
“Mr. Linton and Mrs. Kendrick have, I assume, given you leave to call on Constance, and I trust their judgment more than I trust your words.” She smiled and added. “I have been a friend of Mrs. Kendrick for many years and appreciate directness. But I will keep watch at soirees and in the paper.”
Henry smiled and nodded. “If there is any indiscretion on my part — beyond what I have already committed — I shall not approach your daughter.”
Mrs. Barrett tapped her nose and then extended a hand to her daughter. “We do have other calls, dear.”
The daughter dutifully took her mother’s hand, and they took their leave.
Constance stared at Henry after her friend departed. This was not the Henry she knew. She knew a gentleman who was charming to a fault, always saying or doing whatever might be most pleasing to any lady in the room. He was also the sort of gentleman who avoided declaring any of his own actions as overly bad. They might be ill-thought-out or a small folly, but they were never an error of a remarkable size. She had always enjoyed Henry’s company, but she had never found him the least bit compelling — annoying, prevaricating, and amiable despite his faults — he had been all of those things, but never compelling until now.
“I have come to a conclusion,” Henry began.
“That you shall offend everyone you meet who looks at you with a wary eye?” Mrs. Kendrick’s eyes danced with amusement.
“No, well, perhaps,” Henry’s fingers drummed a pattern on the arm of the chair in which he sat. “I suppose it might come to that. But my intention is to not hide my folly. I dare say it is a well-known story from the looks I received last night. What point is there in denying my part in the seduction? I was led astray but not unwillingly.”
“Must you speak so directly?”
“I apologize, Miss Linton,” Henry smiled at the lovely blush on Constance’s cheeks. His former self would have considered how he could make those cheeks become so beguilingly flushed again and again; however, his present self only paused for a moment to admire her beauty before continuing on. “I did not come to discuss the particulars of what has happened in the recent past, although they are the foundation for my request.”
“Your request?” Constance repeated his words, her brows drawn together and her lips slightly pursed.
Again, Henry took a moment to admire her before replying. “Yes, I seem to be at a loss for how to proceed in society as a respectable fellow. I know well how to be a cad and libertine, but I have very little idea how to be the sort of gent that a lady of good character and strong morals would wish to take on as a husband. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate your assistance.” He held her bewildered gaze for a moment before looking to Mrs. Kendrick. “I know no other lady of exemplary character who would be allowed to help me.” He paused and drew a deliberate breath to stop the small clenching he felt in his chest. There was one lady of exemplary character who at one time would have likely helped him learn all he needed to know to be worthy of her, but he had not been willing to learn at that time as he was now. It had, unfortunately, taken the crushing of his own heart at his own hands to make him willing. Mary had always said that Fanny would be the making of him, and she would be, for it was the loss of her that saw him her, now, hoping with all that remained of his fragile heart to be given the assistance he needed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Henry and his plan for improvement. 🙂