You can read the rest of Ursa Minor here.
“Oh, much the same as other young ladies,” Ursula said in what she hoped was an airy tone. “I have my hobbies to keep me occupied.”
“Indeed,” said Mrs. Marshall. “I suppose you play the piano, or the viola? And sing, of course, and sew.”
“Er,” said Ursula, belatedly remembering that er was not a very ladylike noise. She could haltingly pick out a tune at the piano, but her voice was atrocious and her stitchery abysmal.
“Ursula is quite an artist,” Matilda said smoothly, covering the gap. “Why don’t you show Mrs. Marshall your sketchbook, dear?”
“Yes, of course,” Ursula quickly replied. “Excuse me for just a moment while I fetch it.” She gave Mrs. Marshall a bob of the head as she stood and tried not to show any signs of relief as she exited the parlor. If she remembered correctly, a book of her more ladylike sketches was in the smallest of the manor’s three drawing rooms.
She found the sketchbook quickly, resting on top of the small writing desk by the room’s only window. Ursula flipped through the first few pictures and was relieved to find only innocuous (if somewhat dull) renditions of flower arrangements and pastoral landscapes. She toyed with the idea of studying each one as a means of delaying her return to the parlor, but straightened her spine and strode back into the hallway.
You do know how to do this, she reminded herself as she slowed her steps to the gliding tread her aunt had drilled her on for months until she mastered it. The incident with the tea set and the Tesla coil had gotten her rather flustered, but she was a well-brought up young lady and granddaughter to one of Boston’s most successful and respected businessmen.
Mrs. Marshall has nothing on an Atkinson cycle engine, Ursula told herself firmly, straightening her spine as she reentered the parlor. She tried not to feel pleased when she saw her aunt’s approval at her improved posture.
“Ah, Miss Elliott, do come sit by me and show me your works!,” said Ethel Marshall. “No, Humphrey, you stay where you are, I am sure there is quite enough room for all three of us.”
Humphrey flushed and sat down again, scooting as far to one side of the settee as he could managed. Ursula managed an approximation of a gracious smile and squeezed herself in between mother and son. “There, Mrs. Marshall. You must tell me what you think of my work; I am quite the amateur, I am sure, but I hope you will find some merit in them.” Lord help her, now she was in full Society mode, complete with unnecessary verbiage and the requisite diminution of one’s own accomplishments.
“Well, Miss Elliott, I am sure you are quite skilled,” said Ethel Marshall indulgently, flipping open to the first drawing, a rather ordinary sketch of cabbage roses in a vase.
“It is quite rough,” Ursula put in quickly when she saw the Czarina hesitate in search of some polite compliment. It is a perfectly well-drawn sketch, as you well know! It isn’t my fault that Liza picked our model that day. Eliza Donahue was the daughter of a railway baron. The family lived in Boston much of the time, but had a summer home near the Elliott’s manor in the Connecticut countryside, and Ursula was invited to their home at least once a week to share in Liza’s drawing lessons when the Donahues were in the country.
Mrs. Marshall flipped past several more rough sketches, pausing finally at a watercolor of the pathway as seen from the door of the kitchens. “Such an…unusual choice of subject, dear.”
“So I am often told,” said Ursula, trying to lean her weight away from Humphrey without falling into Ethel Marshall’s lap. On second thought, I think I’d rather fall on Humphrey, she though, and settled. “But I find that the shapes and lines of a mechanical device make such an interesting contrast to the organic lines of the background.”
“I suppose,” said Mrs. Marshall, in a tone which clearly implied that she did not suppose. Well, few people–least of all the maids–had appreciated father’s improved garden pump for its practical merits; surely the person who could appreciate it for its aesthetic merits would be rarer still.
“Well, I do like your use of color, Miss Elliott,” the Czarina declared, flipping through half a dozen watercolors of several of her father’s devices in various states of disarray on the back lawn of the manor. The images shifted to indoor sketches of her father’s workshop, and Ursula’s stomach began to churn uneasily. If she remembered, this particular series included–
“My word!” exclaimed Mrs. Marshall.
Just what is on the picture that so shocked Ethel Marshall’s sensibilities? How red will Humphrey’s face turn when he, too, sees the picture? How will Ursula smooth things over? What will Aunt Matilda think? Whatever happened to that tea that was mentioned in part 4? Tune in next week to find out…
This segment fought me every step of the way. I’m not thrilled with it, nor with Ursula’s sudden transition from graceless tomboy to well-bred young lady, though she is in fact both. At least we do seem to be getting somewhere at last…I suppose it would be too much if Ursula were in the habit of drawing attractive young men with no clothing but a strategically-placed bit of machine shop detritus? Sigh, I suspect even she would blush at that.