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A Cruickshank satire on courting

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To His Mistress

by Ann Tracy Marr

Reading a blurb for To His Mistress, you are going to wonder what is wrong with Katherine - why can't she figure out what the Earl of Shelton means when he talks about divorce?

Well, it is really rather simple. Divorce was not an everyday event in the Regency and Katherine has never heard the word. Besides, magic is getting in the way.

Still don't get it? Here, let me show you.

 

 

Later, Shelton left the house and Katherine made a beeline for the library and Samuel Johnson's tremendous book, Dictionary of the English Language. The volumes sat on a table in lonely splendor; their bulk discouraged one from moving them. Grabbing the lower corner of the first book, she heaved the eighteen inch tall leather cover open and riffled pages. She felt no qualms about looking for words beginning with the letter 'D'. The Lady knew why she waited so long before doing it.

 

'Abracadabra' caught her eye. 'A cabalistical word used as a charm against fevers.' Humph. If one needed the dictionary to understand the descriptions, she might be here all day. She flipped more pages.

 

'Bass viol. An instrument used for the base sound.' Very useful. Tells one nothing. What does the instrument look like? Does one blow into it or is it stringed? She grabbed a large number of pages and tugged them over.

 

'Haut-gout.' Oh, she went too far.

 

Katherine shuffled until she found the correct page. She ran her finger down the entries looking for 'devorce.' 'Devoration, the act of devouring' was followed by 'devotary, one devoted to a particular worship.' It wasn't there. Hmm. Devourze. No. Perhaps it wasn't spelled 'de.'

 

She looked at the ceiling, searching for inspiration. From the corner of her eye, she saw a brief flash, as of a mirror catching the sunlight. She blinked, disconcerted by a momentary sense of the world turning sideways. Thankfully, the spots cleared from her sight and she bent back to the dictionary. "Try 'di,' Katherine," she scolded herself.

 

'Divisor' was followed by 'divorcement.' Yes! This was what she wanted. She bent close to read the entries.

 

'Divisor, the number given, by which the dividend is divided.' More nonsense, but not the word.

 

'Divorcement, divorce.' Katherine cocked her head. This was the information she sought. Divorcement meant divorce. The next word was 'Divorcer, the person or cause which produces divorce.'

 

'Divorcive, having power to divorce.'

 

Where was divorce, the word that explained what it was?

 

There was nothing more. Like 'Bass viol,' the word was there, but not explained in a manner that gave one understanding. She thumped the book as she wished to thump Dr. Johnson's muttonhead. She was no closer to knowing the meaning of divorce than when Lord Shelton spoke the word.

 

An irritated heave closed the book with a slam, raising a light cloud of dust. Sukie and Joan had been negligent recently. When Mrs. Briggs realized it, they would do double duty.

 

After puzzling over the word divorce, the entire conversation, and Shelton's licentious behavior in the library, Katherine preferred to avoid the earl, going so far as to take her meals on a tray in her chamber. It could not be proper for them to be together. Not until their marriage became more as marriage should be. Her response to his advances told Katherine she yearned too much for him to touch her again. She wanted so much to be a proper wife, but did not know how to begin.

 

At all events, Shelton had asked her to be circumspect until the divorce came. He could hardly wait; thinking of it improved his mood immeasurably. What was divorce? She would have to work up her courage and ask him what it meant.

 

© 2008 Ann Tracy Marr