Hello everybody! Today, I’m very excited to be part of the blog tour for the wonderful the Pearl in the Ice by Cathryn Constable, and even more excited that I get to share one of my favourite extracts with you! Onto the post!
‘Here you are talking to me, and not bothering to introduce yourself!’ Miss Smith’s face twitched in Amusement.
‘I am Miss Marina Annabel Denham.’ Marina gushed. ‘How do you do, Miss Smith.’ Marina shook the woman’s hand.
‘Very well, as you were kind enough to ask. Although a little hot. I had to rush from the office.’. Marina sighed in admiration.
‘Oh, I want a paid occupation when I grow up, but my father wants me to get married and arrange flowers and write out menus for the cook and see that the coal merchant gets paid, and a whole lot of other boring rot. I ask you!’ Marina tried out the snort of derision she had been practising on Edward all summer.
‘Urgh.’ Miss Smith shuddered. ‘In other words, he wants you to be that ghastly thing: a young lady. Which is about as appealing to a bright girl as being a plate of chopped liver. But not as useful! And no doubt your father thinks this is what will be best for you?’ Miss Smith raised one eyebrow. Marina nodded. Miss Smith flared her nostrils. Marina copied her but it made her sneeze.
‘I wonder, have you told him how you feel? Perhaps if he understood how you wish to make your own life rather than have one handed to you, he might let you choose how you spend this one miraculous existence you have been given?’
‘It’s hard to explain to him,’ Marina said, quietly. Her father did have a remarkable ability to silence her. Not by shouting; not even by not listening. He would simply nod slowly and then change the subject. Even Edward had not believed her when she said she was determined to choose her own path in the world.
‘I’m sure you’ll do whatever you want,’ he’d said. ‘But have you really thought about how difficult it will be?’
‘What do you mean?’ she’d asked.
‘Well . . . Who will look after your babies?’
‘Why is that my job?’
‘Just saying . . . Babies tend to be quite fond of their mothers. Even though Maudie is five and should be happy to be with our nanny, she won’t leave Mother’s side for a second. And mother can’t stand the crying so she lets her stay.’
‘Maybe babies should be trained to be fond of their fathers!’
Edward had looked sceptical. ‘Good luck with that, Marina.’
Marina looked at the young woman in front of her, who had so far resisted the lure of motherhood and the dreaded fate of being a ‘young lady’, and was working in the real world, not seated on a velvet-upholstered chair in a parlour waiting for her husband to come home and tell her what had happened in the world beyond the room’s four walls.
‘But what do you do? For your job?’ Marina felt as if Miss Smith might have some secret which she must discover if she were ever to choose her own life.
Miss Smith put her head on one side. ‘Let’s see. I write reports. I file memoranda. I check the communiqués coming into the Admiralty. I am very good at what I do. I have to be. There are many men there who do not believe a woman can spell, let alone compose reports! My work is not very interesting, perhaps, but it’s the life I chose. It’s mine and no one else’s. And it does have its charms. Today, for instance, I am not sitting in the office trying to fit a complicated naval problem into a cablegram of fifty words. Instead, I am travelling incognito to Portsmouth on important Admiralty business.’ She glanced at her leather portmanteau.
‘I have to give last-minute orders to one of our men, who is sailing deep into Mordavian waters. As you can imagine, such orders are too sensitive, in the current climate, to send by cable.’ She leant forward and whispered,
‘There are spies everywhere. I can’t risk these instructions being intercepted.’ She put her finger to her mouth, signalling that she had just told Marina something of great importance. ‘Please don’t give me away!’ She winked and smiled her dimply smile. ‘But as you are the daughter of Commander Denham, who is known to keep so much to himself, I feel I can trust you.’
Are you planning to pick this book up? What do you think of the characters from the extract? I’d love to hear in the comments!