New scene–with coffee!–from my historical novel-in-progress

Hot water cask/carafe in the Heyward-Washington House, Charleston, SC

Hot water cask/carafe in the Heyward-Washington House, Charleston, SC

Hi, folks. Here’s a sneak peak at a scene from the VERY rough, very first draft of my historical novel-in-progress. Just to whet your history whistle on a Wednesday morning.

The scene came about because of the very unusual hot water cask in it. I’d seen the cask on a research trip to Charleston, South Carolina, in the Heyward-Washington House–part of the Charleston Museum’s collection of historic homes. In the scene, my 2004 protagonist–an art restoration expert and art historian named Gamble–has landed in the laps of my 1804 protagonists–a miniature portraitist named Daniel, and his sister, Honor.


* Coffee scene, Charleston, SC, 1804 *

Daniel had been married once before. He had known women in his life—exotic women, women who spoke French and Italian, and read scandalous poetry by candlelight. But this slip of a woman standing on his mother’s Persian [?] rug, in his mother’s dress, with her bare toes peeking out from beneath the hem, was a mystery. He didn’t know her at all, and did not know how to begin.

“You said you’re a painter?” She asked, and it jolted him.

“Yes,” he said.

“What are you working on now?”

“Daniel has more commissions for miniature portraits than he can paint at the moment,” Honor said. She came into the room with a steaming teapot in hand, then used it to fill the silver hot water cask on their father’s favorite mahogany side table. “You must have him show you. They’re in the carriage house.”

“The carriage house?” Gamble asked, surprise in her voice.

“Yes, well,” Daniel said. “Horses do not talk to you when you’re trying to work.”

“I can hear you,” his sister said over her shoulder, as she exited the room with the empty kettle.

Gamble wandered over to the silver cask and bent down to admire it. “Isn’t this a fabulous contraption? It’s gorgeous. It looks just like a hot air balloon, only it’s stationary. Look, it has legs! As if it could walk away. What’s it for?”

Now he was truly shocked, and not just from her disjointed speech and odd pattern of thought. “You don’t have coffee where you come from?”

She straightened. “Oh, you better believe it! There’s practically a coffee house on every street corner.”

He smiled. “How delightful.”

Gamble reached out a hand, touching a finger lightly to the cask’s delicate silver spigot. “It really is.”

There was a lull, and he started to speak, not to say much of anything, only to fill the empty space because he did not know what else to do. Gamble interrupted.

“Can we take our coffee with us?” She said.

Daniel blinked. “With us where?”

When Gamble smiled, it lit the room just as the sun did on winter afternoons, when it came blazing in through the street side windows of his living quarters on the third floor. It near to blinded him.

“To the carriage house,” she said. “So I can see the miniatures.”

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