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Scoundrels, Monday (1/4)

April 17, 2017 11:58AM
Hey! This is a short piece that I plan on dividing into 4 posts. Who doesn’t need a little more Northanger in their life? The idea of this story started when I was working on NorFed.

We all know that Henry Tilney doesn’t do much to protect Isabella Thorpe from Capt Tilney’s less than honorable intentions because he realizes she doesn’t want protecting. But what would he do if his brother got to Catherine Morland first?


Blurb: Henry Tilney must decide whether to save a young woman from marrying his untrustworthy brother.


“Honest” Henry Tilney was descended from a long line of scoundrels and confidence men. It was in his blood and bones and DNA. He was, for instance, very good at mathematics: he could count cards and calculate odds. He was a good mimic and had an ear for languages, in case he ever needed to assume a false accent or identity. He was thin and wiry, useful to get out of tight spots. He had good hand-eye coordination, and a memory designed to recall exactly where something had been placed. The aptitude was there, bred for generations, but the inclination was not.

The true scoundrel of his generation was his twin Ricky. In temperament, personality, and life choices, the brothers were as different as could be while still remaining twins. They even had different birthdays; Ricky, the eldest, was born at five minutes to midnight while Henry didn’t make his come-out until ten minutes later. While Ricky had followed the family tradition of swindling and cheating others for his livelihood, Henry had chosen the duller, more legal path of being an antiques dealer. It was their father who gave the boys their nicknames: Tricky Ricky and Honest Henry.

It was by mutual agreement that the two did not keep in touch with each other once they reached adulthood. It was too frustrating for either to have anything to do one with the other. So when Henry received an urgent message on his home answering machine from his brother asking to meet him for lunch on Monday, he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

In the end, he decided the best way to find out what to go. His shop was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays anyway, and if it turned out to be another scam, Henry could just get up and leave. To that end, he packed a small snack in the car before he left his home for the hour-long drive to the suburbs of Boston.

His brother was waiting for him when Henry arrived at the restaurant, dressed in a military uniform with various medals pinned across his chest. “Should I salute?” Henry snipped as he took his seat.

“At ease,” his brother joked back. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you.”

“Not that long,” Henry corrected him. Not long enough for his brother to enlist and get promoted to the rank of captain but certainly enough time for Ricky to assume a new persona for his latest con. Henry didn’t bother opening the menu. He would not be staying long.

“Long enough that there’s someone I want you to meet,” his brother said and held up his hand.

Henry turned to see what the fuss was about. A young woman bounded clumsily across the room, smiling and waving frantically, bumping into tables and chairs and waiters as she walked. She was pretty, Henry had to give his brother that, but she was physically awkward. “Gawky” was the right word. She lacked a certain grace that would get her thrown out of the Tilney family gene pool. In an instant, he understood.

“You’ve gotten engaged to an heiress,” he muttered under his breath to Ricky.

“I’ve proposed,” Ricky answered in the same undertone. “She won’t say yes until she meets the family.” He stood up and greeted his girlfriend with a kiss.

They lingered a little too long in their embrace and Henry wondered if he should come back later.

With a giggle and a blush, this heiress finally broke away. “Hello!” she greeted him, thrusting her hand out to shake and knocking over the bouquet of carnations on the table. “Oh, excuse me. I’m so clumsy. You must be Henry. Ricky told me you were twins, but I didn’t think you’d be identical.”

“We’re not.” Both brothers spoke in unison, negating the message.

She giggled again. “If you say so.” She was not convinced. “I’m Cathy Morland. That’s Cathy with a C, not a K. I think K is such a hard letter, all straight lines, no curves at all.”

“Cathy is all softness and curves,” his brother agreed and they kissed again.

If they were going to keep this up, there wasn’t any point in him being here. “I’m afraid I can’t stay long,” he said loud enough to attract their attention.

Cathy was immediately penitent. “Oh, but I so wanted to get to know you, if you’re going to be my brother.” She smiled lovingly at Ricky and took her seat.

“Well, Ricky and I don’t spend much time together anymore,” Henry said. “We’re both busy people. Me with my business, he with his… decorated military career. We don’t have time for each other.”

“What kind of business to you have, Henry?” she asked sweetly.

“Antiques,” he answered. “Religious antiques mostly. I've got a shop in Bristol but I actually sell a lot by mail. I specialize in the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. It has absolutely nothing to do with the present day.”

“Well, I’m sure it’s very fascinating,” said Cathy. “If you’re anything like Ricky, I’m sure you could never do anything you didn’t love.”

Something about the way she listened made him continue.

"Well, as it just so happens, I might be in love with it in a very cold-hearted and mercenary way. I've recently uncovered an illuminated manuscript that could be very important. I sent away to Trinity College in Ireland to see if they can date it. You've heard of the Book of Kells, haven't you?" He could feel the excitement seeping into his voice, but he could not hold it back.

"Blah, blah, boring, snore," his brother interrupted.

"Oh, Ricky, now be nice," Cathy scolded him gently. She turned back to Henry. "He didn't mean it. Go on."

The moment was broken and before Henry could politely exit out of it, his brother beat him to the punch.

"You forget, Cathy, that Henry always has a story like this. I've heard them all before, and they always end the same way: dull."

It rankled, his brother talking about him like that. It almost made Henry want to fight back, say something about how he had heard all of Ricky's stories before, and they all ended the same way: broke and deceived. Something held him back, however, and then the heiress intervened on his behalf.

"Now, Ricky, you should be more supportive of your brother," she said gently. "You don't know what it's like to be an only child, how lonely it is."

"You're not going to be lonely anymore, Sweetie," he assured her. "You've got me."

Cathy smiled. She looked sweet then teasing. "Ah, but do you have me, or is your brother going to tell me such horror stories about you as a kid that I run away screaming?"

Henry sighed. He had hoped to make an unobtrusive escape. Then he thought about what stories he could tell and sighed again.

Part of him had always resented Ricky. His older brother was always their father's favorite, always just a little bit stronger, a little bit faster. Henry had been more studious but Ricky had cheated or conned someone else into doing his work for him and so always got the better grades. It was the story of Henry's life that whatever he worked persistently and honestly to achieve his brother would always take by trickery in the end.

And now his brother had found a rich girl to pay his bills. Did Ricky plan to take her money and divorce her quickly, or was she worth enough to hang onto? Either way, Cathy Morland would be poorer and wiser by the time he was through... Unless Henry put a stop to it here and now.

Telling uncomplimentary stories about his brother lacked the dramatic flair of interrupting a wedding ceremony but the thought of being able to give Ricky some comeuppance was tempting and Henry was momentarily paralyzed to know where to begin.

Then he opened his mouth and the words started to tumble out. It was nothing very damning, nothing that his brother would feel obligated to stop, and yet it was never, at its core, complimentary. There were plenty of times that Ricky had to interrupt and tell it from his point of view, offer extenuating circumstances, reveal nobler ambitions, but he couldn't stop Henry from speaking. As soon as Ricky stated his case, Henry would launch into another example of Ricky's mean spiritedness, cruelty, deceit, or carelessness.

Cathy sat there and soaked it in quietly at first. Innocently, imperceptibly, she slowly shifted the conversation and got Henry to talk more about himself than his brother until finally he wasn't even mentioning Ricky at all, until the stories didn't have anything to do, even tangentially, with him.

Henry caught Cathy smiling at him, and realized he was grinning back, and had to reel himself in.

Ricky chose that moment to lean into Cathy and ask if she had heard enough. Without waiting for her to articulate an answer, he kissed her in such a way as to remind his little brother who had found her first.

Cathy had sat through Henry's stories, listened as he waved proverbial red flags, and still she let Ricky kiss her like that! Henry sighed. He had tried to save the girl but some people didn't want to be saved.

It was Henry's cue to exit. He waited until the pair paused for breath and made his goodbyes. "It was very nice meeting you, Miss Morland," he told her, shaking her hand. He didn't add any trite clauses about how much he was looking forward to the wedding invitation. Whenever it was going to be, he was pretty sure he was going to be busy that day.

Scoundrels, Monday (1/4)

NN SApril 17, 2017 11:58AM

Re: Intriguing...

KarenteaApril 19, 2017 03:15PM

Re: Scoundrels, Monday (1/4)

Shannon KApril 17, 2017 02:22PM


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