an excerpt from the yet-to-be published STRANGE CASE OF THE COPULATING COLONIALS
An Ambrose Horne adventure
The mercury had been boiling around 100 degrees for so long now that Amelia – or plain old Miss Am’ee to the folk she was currently vacationing with – had forgotten what it was like to feel comfortable. No matter the hour, be it first light in the morning, or deep into the darkness of night, the heat pressed down like an unwelcome lover, and her ears felt as though they would never shake off the whirring and chirruping of the local insect life.
“Another Mint Julep, Miss?” A smiling servant, one of the half dozen who seemed forever to be hovering within arm’s length of every guest, stood with one of the delicious concoctions already prepared; and Amelia nodded. No matter how bizarre it sometimes felt to be wading through a glass of crushed leaves and ice in search of the sugared bourbon that was so liberally applied, there was something so exquisite about the ensuing concoction that she could scarcely wait to get home to London, to introduce her friends to the same delicious libation.
London. It seemed so far away – well, it was far away. Nine days it had taken to even cross the Atlantic, and another three to journey down to the plantation that Amelia’s father had recently taken possession of. And all the way, the sun had grown hotter, the bugs had grown louder, and the conversation of the locals that they met grew ever more incomprehensible. “Ah do declare,” Amelia whispered mockingly to Jennifer, her traveling companion and maybe, although not even a Yankee would have ventured it to her face, something more than that. “If their speech became any lazier, ah swear they would all just tumble onto their backs and stay there.”
Jennifer smiled. “I like the way they talk. So much more glamorous than anything you hear in London.” She demonstrated one of her own impersonations now, of the cackling old crone who sold flowers on the street corner back home. “Tuppence a bundle, my sweetie? A nosegay for that gay little nose of your’n?”
Amelia giggled. “Well, maybe one of those fine Southern gentlemen will sweep you off your feet while we’re here, and you’ll end up the lady of a house as large as this one.” Jennifer, however, sniffed disdainfully. “No, I’m London born and bred, and that’s where I intend to stay. Foreign’s a lovely place to visit, but would you really want to live there?” She swatted at a cicada that was hovering close to her face. “Besides, can you imagine how much you’d have to spend on fly paper?”
They fell silent and sipped their drinks. Three weeks they’d been there, and the only word Amelia had received from home was a note from her governess, concerned that she might be shirking her lessons, and a longer missive from Ambrose Horne, asking whether she might look up an old friend of his from Cambridge, who had sailed to America to make his fortune, and was now running for Governor of the very state she was visiting.
She agreed, although a voice in the back of her mind cautioned her against becoming too involved. Any friend of Horne’s, she knew, would have something more than friendship on his mind when they met and that was not the point of this visit. Or, at least, not the primary point.
TO BE CONTINUED