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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Character Showcase - Sarah Wetherby

The heroine of Slowly Fell -- although she would never call herself that -- is Sarah Wetherby, who is employed by the Dowager Lady Bramley as a "Coping Girl", which means she is sent to look after families during their time of crisis. When an extra pair of efficient, no-nonsense hands are needed, Sarah is there to help.

She is twenty six-years old and has the sole care of her aunt, who despite being left a penniless widow feels that she must live in Bath (for the health benefit of the spa waters), and her half-brother who is at university completing an education sponsored by the  generous Lady Bramley. Sarah has no plans for her own life and simply goes wherever she is needed. She owes Lady Bramley a great debt of gratitude for all her help, but she is also glad to have work that keeps her from the danger of dwelling on her own sorrows.

In her own words -

"I am an inconspicuous stranger who fades into the background very well. I clean, cook, manage the laundry, occupy the children, mix medicine and tend to the sick. I cope when it is too much for others to manage alone and, just as importantly,I leave when no longer required. I am never too attached. I do not outstay my welcome or cause additional clutter and trouble. I am an uncomplicated pair of hands."

Sarah seems to have acquired her coping skills soon after birth. At the age of seven she survived the deadly fire that killed her father, Admiral Wetherby. She also carried her baby half-brother to safety, despite severe burns to her own arms. And, oddly enough, she's always had the distinct impression that this was not the first time she cheated death. It may not be the last.

So Sarah is a cautious young lady and sleeps with one eye open, always on the alert.

Since the fire when she was seven, she hasn't had a permanent residence anywhere, but when she arrives in Slowly Fell, the place seems strangely familiar. It feels like  home. But perhaps its merely her growing fondness for the village blacksmith that makes it feel that way.

The following excerpt from Slowly Fell is from her first meeting with Adam Wyatt and told from his point of view.

* * * *

            The pink ribbons that had earlier caught his eye secured her bonnet in a bow under her chin where they appeared to be frozen solid. Two stiff tentacles of silk clawed at the air on one side, caught and stuck mid-flight. Despite that determined lift of her chin, he saw her shiver and took note of frost on her eyelashes. That scarf tied around her carpet bag must have been requisitioned from around her own throat which was now— apart from the inadequate services of a flimsy coat collar— bared to the elements.

            Who would send a woman out alone in this weather, and not suitably attired? Didn't seem right to him at all. Like leaving a pup outside to fend for itself on a cold night.

            With a cross sigh, he leapt down into the slush and reached for her carpet bag.

            "Wait," she exclaimed. "How do I know who you are, sir?"

            He paused, frowning, both arms still reaching for her luggage.

            "You might be a villain looking to accost untended women on the road," she added.

            For the first time in a long while, Adam was tempted to laugh. It took him by such surprise that a little snort escaped before he could rein it in. "I might be a lot o' things."

            She scowled.

            "But I've got trouble enough without seeking a greater measure of it. Especially when it's trussed up in pink ribbons."

            Her lips formed a tight line and her gaze darted briefly sideways— with considerable exasperation— to that girlish decoration, before returning to meet his eye. Either she was still reluctant to entrust her carpet bag into his hands, or her grip was frozen around it, for she made no relinquishing movement.

            "Have it your way then," he mumbled into his scarf. "You can walk behind the cart, if you prefer. Since you like a brisk stroll so much. It's only another... two or three miles. Uphill. And up to you."

            Finally, her shoulders sagging, she conceded, "I suppose I must trust you." But after he had deposited the carpet bag into his cart and turned the horse with one gentle hand on its bridle, she warned him, "I know all the places to wound a man."

            "Why am I not surprised at that?" he murmured to his horse, giving its neck a reassuring pat.

            "Pardon me?"

            Adam turned back to her and sniffed, wiping the back of his hand across his nose. "I daresay that comes in handy."           

            She replied proudly, "It does."

            "Well, you ought to be safe with me then, eh?" He put out his hand to help her up. "Even if the same can't be said for me. With you."
            After another wary perusal of his face— or the parts of it she could see— the woman took his hand, muttered a soft, "Right then," and stepped up onto the cart.

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Slowly Fell is out today! Get your copy!
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(image used here is from the painting "Girl with a Cape" by William Adolphe Bouguereau)

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