Ursa Minor (4)

14 Jul

You can find the rest of Ursa Minor here.


Ursula made it down to the parlor with seconds to spare. No sooner had she thrown herself somewhat haphazardly onto the end of the divan but the footman announced, “Mrs. Marshall and Mr. Humphrey Marshall.”

Under her aunt’s displeased eye, Ursula attempted to untwist her skirts and arrange them in something resembling the effortless drape of Matilda’s. She was soon forced to forgo her fidgeting and hope for the best as their guests entered the parlor.

Ethel Marshall swept in with as much dignity as the Czarina of all the Russias–an effect which was only underscored by the boxy hat and headscarf draped over her iron-gray hair. “Mrs. Elliott,” she said in a most decidedly un-Russian Bostonian accent.

“Welcome, Ethel, Humphrey.” Matilda rose to greet their guests, Ursula half a second behind her. “My, Humphery, you are quite changed since we saw you last! Harvard has made quite the man of you.”

Humphery dipped his head briefly in acknowledgement and mumbled something in the way of thanks.

“Humphery graduated first in his class,” Ethel said proudly, with a small frown at her son which indicated she was less than pleased with his persistent shyness.

“Indeed? Congratulations are in order, Mr. Marshall,” Matilda said graciously. Ursula fought the urge to roll her eyes and had a suspicion that her aunt was doing the same. “What did you take your degree in?”

“Ah–astronomy, Mrs. Elliott,” Humphery replied.

He hasn’t changed so very much then, thought Ursula. He may have finally lost most of that baby fat, but he’s still the same old bespectacled Humphrey, with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds.

“His professors wanted him to continue on for his doctoral degree, but of course he wouldn’t consider it,” added Mrs. Marshall, somehow managing to express both pride in her son’s achievement and scorn at the thought of a Marshall pursuing a career in academia.

Humphery looked at the floor. Ursula suspected he would much rather be back at Harvard poring over star charts and calculating–whatever was it that astronomers needed calculating? Though, come to think of it, they didn’t do much of it themselves, turning it over to the computers. I suppose if I do marry Humphery, I can be a computer and support him while he gets his doctorate. Assuming I could convince him to stand up to his mother and do what he wants for a change. Not that I particularly want to be a computer… “It has been too long,” she added hastily as the focus shifted from Humphery and she was finally greeted by the Czarina.

“Please, do sit. I’ve rung for tea,” said Matilda, gesturing to the settee opposite. The Elliott women took their seats a beat after Mrs. Marshall had settled herself, and Ursula congratulated herself on not making a wreck of her skirts this time.

“So, tell me, Miss Elliott, as a young unmarried woman, what do you find to fill your days?” Ethel Marshall asked.

Ursula tried not to wince. Somehow she didn’t think the truth would make a satisfying answer.


UMi update, despite another evening of teens and telescopes. Humphery was supposed to be completely disgusting, but somehow he’s turned into someone rather sympathetic…maybe he and Ursula will plan their rebellions together. Who knows? Tune in next week, when the Marshall’s visit goes from bad to worse…

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Posted by on 14.7.2011 in Writing


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