“The Weed on the Floss”
A thump in the front hall alerted Georgette that the morning post had arrived. She unscrewed the cap and squealed in joy as a torrent of seed and bulb catalogs sluiced out of the pneumatic tube and onto the mail table.
By virtue of being lightest, in both form and substance, Hawley and Son landed on top of the pile. Georgette devoured it in seconds, standing right at the table, the way Eugenie Beauregard devoured petit fours at a buffet. As with petit fours, the catalog was enjoyable at the time but would do her no good in the long run. She sighed happily and moved it to the bottom of the pile.
Beneath it waited Georgette’s favorite catalog, though far from the best: Nickelsworth. Its allure was that it augmented the lurid, yet repetitive, plant descriptions endemic to seed catalogs with indispensable Earth wisdom bestowed by one Lady Trilling Morninglark, who spoke as though she were the very embodiment of the cultured colonial garden.
Georgette walked slowly through Edge Cottage. She lingered over Nicklesworth’s pages, repeating Lady Morninglark’s words aloud to herself, as she had done years ago with Daniel’s letters.
She paused in both reading and walking, humbled to near-paralysis by the image of a lush Homeland garden that a woman in Silverbridge (Silverbridge! Barely a day’s journey from here!) had had shipped en toto and was now, with considerable expense in irrigation and gardeners, growing alongside her husband’s hundred acres of cane.
“With skirmishes going so badly for the government, they won’t announce any tactical advantages they’ve hidden up their sleeves.”
Georgette looked up. She had stopped, quite by accident, in front of Daniel’s study. It was his voice that she heard, and his utterance of the word “government,” in conjunction with her recent conversation with Thomas, that caught her attention. In all their years together, she was proud to say, she had never eavesdropped on Daniel’s private conversations. Then again, she’d never had a flying carriage bomb her begonias.
“But shooting at colonial citizens, Floss!” This Georgette recognized as Hilliard Montbeck, a tower of a man who had, along with his lovely wife Fiona (now deceased, poor thing), been on the train with the Flosses when they emigrated, Thomas a mere babe in arms. Georgette nodded approvingly, both at Montbeck’s sentiment and at the man himself. “In Weston! That is going too far – I don’t give a damn who we’re fighting! Why, I understand you had a near miss right here!”
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” Daniel soothed, and Georgette heard the clink of a stopper being replaced in a decanter. “Georgette’s garden took a bit of a singeing. Daffodils, I think it was.”
Georgette’s cheeks flushed, and the flush grew deeper as she heard a sound familiar to woman everywhere: husbands laughing at their wives’ frivolities. “It was begonias,” she muttered as she stormed away, clenching the seed catalogs very tightly.
As she walked, anger ebbed, and confusion arose to take its place. “War”? “Skirmishes”? But the Empire wasn’t at war. Not here, at any rate. What on Earth were the men talking about?
“Oh good! The post!” Thomas had the most disconcerting habit of appearing as if he were not a young man but a coalescence of the air.
Georgette jumped. “Nothing for you today, I’m afraid, dear. Just seed catalogs.”
“Ah.” Thomas winked. “Good old dependable seed catalogs for good old dependable Mother.”
Georgette frowned. She wasn’t at all certain how she felt about being called “good old dependable Mother.” But that was a discussion for another time. “Thomas,” she ventured.
“Hmm?” His mind was already occupied with other things – things more dangerous, new, and unpredictable.
“Are we…at war with anyone?”
“War?” His eyes widened. “Heavens no, Mother. Where would you get such an idea? No, we are not at war. We’d’ve heard about a war!” And off he wandered, whistling.
Georgette wasn’t certain of that anymore.
“The Weed on the Floss” appears in Steampunk Tales Issue #5.