Greetings from Ashland, Oregon where Mélanie saw her first Oregon Shakespeare Festival play last night, a very fun production of The Wiz that she loved. Here we are afterwards, bathed in the green lights of the Emerald City.
Some friends and I also saw a fabulous matinee of Richard II yesterday. I was really struck by all the lines about exile in light of Malcolm and Suzanne’s current situation. It seems a good time to post this snippet from the next full novel, which is inspired by John of Gaunt’s “This England” speech.
Also, I just got my first look at a draft cover for the novella.
“Darling.” Mélanie turned to look at her husband. The brace of candles cast flickering light over his face. The flexible mouth, the deepset eyes, dark now with concern and yet steady with confidence. “Has it occurred to you that when if they learn the truth, they may well see me as the woman who betrayed their country and their father.”
“I doubt it.” Malcolm’s tone was even and matter-of-fact. “Not given the way they both already question things. Besides, by the time they’re old enough for us to tell them, they may well not see Britain as their country anymore.”
She turned her head away. “Damn it, Malcolm—“
“There’s no particular reason they should,” he said. “Neither of them was born there. It’s not their mother’s country. Jessica won’t even remember it.”
Mélanie could keenly recall a moment on their first to Britain four years ago, after Napoleon’s first abdication. Colin had wanted one of the Royalist Bourbon flags vendors were selling in Hyde Park, and Lady Frances had bought one for him. The sight of it clutched in his small hand had cut her in two. So why did the thought of the children growing up alienated from Britain now tear at her with a physical wrench? “It’s still their father’s country.”
“Well, yes. And I suppose I want them to know that. Though at the moment I’m more aware that it’s the country I had to flee.”
“Because of your wife.”
“Because of my spymaster. Who claims to be working in its interests. I walked away once before.”
“Because of your family.”
“Mostly. I’d probably never have gone back if it wasn’t for you. So in a sense I’m where I might have been a year and a half ago anyway.”
“I almost didn’t go back when I left the diplomatic corps, you know. We talked about where else we might go, and I came closer to considering it than I even admitted to you. A fresh start had an appeal. I wasn’t sure it was fair to inflict what I’d have to face in Britain on you. I was afraid of what it might do to us. Of the person I might become. The person I did become to a degree. At the same time, I had this absurd sense I had to face the past. And as much as I didn’t want to put you through that, I could never have done it without you.”
He tightened his grip on her hand and carried it to his lips. “That’s the thing, sweetheart. For all we’ve been through, I’m not sorry we went back. If I never see Britain again, I won’t have to live with the questions I lived with before we returned. I’ll always be grateful to you for getting me through that.”
Tears stung her eyes. “I didn’t get you through anything you couldn’t have managed much better without me.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, beloved. And why I can be happy now. I wonder how Thurston and the contessa’s children feel,” he added after a moment. “There’ve never seen Britain and likely never will.”
“And yet their father’s still an Englishman,” Suzanne said.
“More than I will be in fifteen years, I suspect. Being an agent comes in handy when one has to blend into a new country.”
“Being an agent has to do with the surface.”
“And changing the surface can change what’s underneath. You should know that better than anyone.”
“In a way. But it hasn’t changed who I was born, as you just pointed out.”
“No. But you always believed in your cause more than I did in mine. If it can even be called that.”
“Oh, Malcolm. You’ve always believed in it.”
“What? If you mean the Crown—”
“The scept’rd isle, the little eden, the demi-paradise—“
“It’s the same island, darling.”
“We’d have to ask Shakespeare what he meant.”
She shook her head. She knew on some level that being away from his country would always tear at him. And she knew with the same certainty that he’d never admit it.
“The children won’t have the same view,” he said. “They may not be particularly attached to any country, which isn’t a bad thing.”