Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Character Showcase - Mr. Frederick Hathaway

In The Bounce in the Captain's Boots, the hero's father is Frederick Hathaway, an ambitious gentleman you may remember from the first book in the series, where he was the father, on that occasion, to the heroine.

       Frederick is a restless man of many children, many worries and many desires for the future. In the words of Lady Bramley, he is "A parvenu. An ambitious grasper who thinks breeding may be bought."

            He would agree with her, no doubt. Few folk argue with Lady Bramley and he certainly would never dare.

            Mr. Hathaway brought his family from the Norfolk countryside to the busy metropolis of London some years ago, in hope of improving their social status, as well as expanding his fortune.
Although he started out as a gentleman farmer with a small printing business on the side, he now owns a large publishing business and a successful newspaper, "The Gentleman's Weekly". Where once he and his family lived in a small but cozy farmhouse with drafty rooms and smoking chimneys, where his children learned to work on the land and enjoyed running about barefoot, the Hathaways now live in a grand house on (fictional) Allerton Square - an upwardly striving part of London.

            On the surface it would seem as if everything is going to plan for Mr. Frederick Hathaway. But, unfortunately for him, his children have not quite followed the path he'd hoped. His eldest son, Guy, went into the navy as a boy of fourteen, which completely crushed his hopes for that child. His second son, Edward, became a curate and moved back to Norfolk, and his eldest, prettiest daughter, Maria - who, at one time had hoped to marry a viscount - has settled for an unprepossessing solicitor.

            To top it all off, his second daughter, Georgiana - whose story you may have read in the first book - married a naval hero who happens to be an eccentric recluse! With one son-in-law that he has no fancy to exhibit about town and another who refuses to be shown off, poor Mr. Hathaway is at the end of his tether.

            It will be a while yet before his younger sons are of an age to marry and the children by his second wife are all under the age of five. He begins to think he will never live long enough to see his grand plans to fruition. Will none of his children think of raising the family status when they marry?

            In a house crowded with children from two marriages, with a wife who can barely bring herself to get out of bed most days and harried servants forever resigning, Frederick feels his life turning out very differently to the way he'd envisaged.

            As for Guy, his eldest ingrate of a son, what is he doing home again on leave? Was he not home two years ago? He's come home now with a black eye - more scandal for the neighbors. Frederick can only hope Captain Guy Hathaway has not come home with another wife abruptly acquired during a drunken evening in a Spanish port. They were lucky to get the last one annulled before any further damage was done. But Guy seems drawn to dangerous women and precarious situations. There is no hope of him making a respectable marriage now.

* * * *

            When it came to his eldest son, Frederick Hathaway had always maintained the view that he was better off not knowing anything that went on. Consequently there remained between father and son a cautious distance. They might as well be two slight acquaintances that once met at a dinner party and, ever since, felt obliged to nod to each other when they crossed paths, even though names had been forgotten.

            "How long to you plan to stay in London?" his father muttered, returning to the brandy decanter, his tone dreary.

            Guy exhaled a sigh. "Oh, only a week or so. I must report to the ship in the new year and I'll be at sea by march. Don't worry. I shan't get in anybody's way or embarrass you. Too much."

            "Good. See that you don't. Pity you can't get yourself a half-way decent, respectable wife, but I suppose we might as well give up on that idea."

            And then, in that moment, as Guy watched his father turn away yet again, those slumped, weary shoulders bent over the decanter, he felt the sudden urge to light the fuse of a gunpowder barrel. He'd always been the mischievous son and on this day, with rain rattling the windows like battle drums and his father being so ambivalent to see him, he wanted to wake the whole house, the entire square, out of its pompous complacency. Give them all something new to talk about.

* * * *
copyright Jayne Fresina 2017
            Find out what Captain Guy Hathaway has up his sleeve on September 13th!

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 (illustration above is "Portrait of a man and his dog" by William Owen 1815)

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