Character Guest Post I’m privileged to host on my blog Peter W. Strauss, an important character in At Her Fingertips.
My Trip to England
by Peter W. Strauss
My name is Peter Strauss. I’m not your regular writer, so I’ll briefly introduce myself. I’m a reporter for the Pennsylvania Herald and author of various poems and a few adventure novels.
I’m American, so you may be wondering, “What are you doing in this novel? It’s set in London, isn’t it?” That might be a bit confusing. Yes, I’m American, and yes, this story—‘At Her Fingertips’—is set in London.
You see, the editor of the Pennsylvania Herald—Thaddeus B. Goodington JR—got irritated with me. Why? Well, I may or may not have let slip in front of his mother that he’d been allowing anti-suffragette articles in the paper. If I had known he wanted to keep it a secret from her, I wouldn’t have said a word, but … it just slipped out!
Perhaps he deserves it a little, though. Honestly, I don’t know what Teeb has against women. I need to look into it. If he got his heart broken, perhaps I can help him through it. More likely he’s just ornery, though I hate to think that of any man.
At any rate, when Teeb—my nickname for him—learned that it was me who leaked his secret, he called me to his office and told me he was sending me to England to write a series of articles. Which is something of an old joke between us—he’s always threatening to send me somewhere. So I laughed. And he pulled out a boat ticket.
Teeb’s serious face is exactly the same as his joking face. Though if I had really taken a moment to look in his eyes, I think I might have guessed. But I didn’t think he could be serious. Who sends one of their reporters to England when they’re mad at them?
So here I am, on the ‘blessed plot’ of Shakespeare, writing a series of articles about the British upper class. Thank goodness I already had my foot in the door—I’d met an Englishman, Mr. Gibson Ashfield, when he was touring the American West a few years ago. He’s only a boy—a slightly older boy than he was when I met him last, yes, but still a boy—but he’s a rich boy. And he was glad to have me here.
Rich people collect creative types like pets.
Don’t get me wrong; England is glorious! I’ve seen the Tower of London and London Bridge and the Thames and all sorts of other things that I used to read about as a child. I plan on seeing any number of other landmarks before I leave. It’s quite exciting—the land of Shakespeare, Dickens, Scott … the list goes on! All my heroes.
So no, it’s not England. England is perfect. It’s just rather disagreeable to be sent away like this whenever your boss says so. First it was New York then Georgia then Oregon. I keep getting farther and farther away from home. Before I know it, I’ll be on the moon, and I don’t know if I can come back from there.
All joking aside, I suppose I am secretly thrilled to be here. High society is absolutely fascinating. All the social cues and rules are lost on me, I’ll freely admit, but I am slowly coming to understand them.
The Ashfields, who I’m staying with, are a confusing family—they present a unified front in public, but I sense all is not right at home. I’ve refrained from including any personal details in my articles, but they are an interesting case to study.
I’d say a great many people here are interesting cases, though. It seems as if everyone’s hiding something—or perhaps my imagination is misleading me there. But I do believe a great many people pretend their wealth and the gaiety of their lives is making them happy—when truly they are miserable.
I wish I could sit down with each and every one of them and talk about God, even for just a few minutes. But that is impossible; I can’t reach them all. But even just a few would be a blessing.
I don’t believe religion is a polite subject—at least not religion as I would like to present it. Society may be quite pious and moral on the outside, but I don’t believe it’s any more real a few levels down than it ever is in this world. I wish they could know how much joy there is to be had in God.
But I’m rambling. I was going to tell you about England some more.
London to me seems quite foggy. It takes on a greenish glow, especially by lantern light, that is ridiculously eery. I see where Dickens got his inspiration for spectres. I can almost imagine ghostly shapes in the shadows! But I know that’s all nonsense.
The city is big and loud. I’ve mostly stuck to the cleaner sections, except for a few brief forays, so I’ve seen more of the inner circle. I’ve been to Hyde Park, now—it’s winter but I can tell it will be lovely once it is all green and warm.
My favorite was a quick trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. He’s always been my favorite—I adore his plays—so this was a special treat for me. I barely talked Gibson into it—anything that drags him away from society and/or Miss Knight for more than a few hours annoys him. But he finally gave in, and it was a wonderful day. Besides, Gibson can stand to get away from London every so often, truly.
Now, that’s about all I have to say—I’ve ran rather long as it is! I tend to write lengthy prose—my apologies.
I enjoyed writing this article and hope you enjoyed reading it,
Peter W. Strauss