* Chapter Three *

A/N: Finally!

Mr. Ironwood looked down at the painstakingly - almost disgustingly - intricate map of Africa that was spread on the desk before him, and sighed. A handful of lead particles that had been shed by his finely-tipped compass skittered across the thick parchment paper and hurried away to the obscurity of his dark red carpeting.

Above the doorframe that would lead, when opened, from his study to the hall beyond, hung a little metal-and-wood plaque that read, in the words of Samuel Johnson: "The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are." How things are, he mused. How things are... So many of the world's difficulties - in North America, South America, Africa - could have been avoided altogether if those in charge had taken the time to actually visit their places of conquest instead of pumping missionaries and soldiers into lands not theirs. Then, only then, could those places be seen as they are, and not as they are imagined.

"Lord Bath has never been to Africa," he sighed. "I wonder he should know where Africa is."

There is no true purpose in having a map unless it is to use such a map for travel. This is what is infuriating about the business of cartography. A mapmaker should travel to those places he draws. How can he have an understanding of their mystery, their appeal, unless he has experienced those lands for himself? And so, of course, he travels. More as a young man than as an old, certainly. But a man who wants to draw maps must have within himself a love of the other, a need to see some foreign shore that is not his own.

The infuriating part is this: the mapmaker himself knows the shores and hills and forests of those lands intimately, and draws them with the respect and care that each plain and coastline is due. Yet those maps, once sold, hang, caged in gilded frames, upon the walls of wealthier men, who do not wish to be well-traveled as much as they wish to appear well-traveled. So it is that a man who has never been, nor will ever care to go, to Singapore, may end up with a map of Singapore hanging upon his wall. The mapmaker who drew it, if he is a true craftsman, will have gone to Singapore, and have an understanding of what it is like; conversely, the man who ends up with it has likely never been there.

But Lord Bath had commissioned the work - a lovely, great piece too, with expensive gilding around the edges. Part of a collection, or so it seemed. Lord Bath had already purchased South America and, if Mr. Ironwood was not too much mistaken, he would be looking for the Northern half of that set not long after the completion of the current piece. He squinted his eyes up at the little wooden sign and then sighed, pulling his thick-lensed glasses from the bridge of his nose. These he set aside, gently placing his pencils, quill, compass and rulers all in neat rows within the desk drawer. A sheet of flat glass was drawn out from under the almost-completed map, and placed over top of it to prevent the shifting of lines, the curling of paper. He was merely finishing embellishments now - fixing some of the relief shading, putting together that horrible great border, with a couple of sea-monsters thrown in here and there for a touch of realism.

A number of brass instruments, or their parts, haunted the dusty shelves of his study, propped up between atlases and reference books, to a number of which he had been a contributor. By them and among them sat an altimeter, a pair of theodolites dulled by time, a tachymeter and a number of other whosits and whatsits and something with a broken front-endy-bit that he just couldn't get replaced. Not that he would need to be doing a little bit of hypsometry any time soon. But how he longed to see those lands again.

His vacant, slightly glazed expression was abruptly shattered by a quiet knock on the study door, accompanied by an equally tentative, "Master Ironwood?"

"The door is open, Mrs. Johnson," he replied. With one increasingly thick-fingered, sluggish hand, he pushed the wire-rimmed glasses back up his nose.

The door opened quietly to admit the altogether-too-timid housekeeper. Her girth would likelier indicate a loud, tarty, big-mouthed sort of woman, but he was still grossly surprised at her ability to go altogether unheard. Apparently, however, she was an entirely different story in the kitchen. He had never been privy to one of her famous explosions, but the maid had somehow ended with a face full of creamed vegetables and was not likely to ever forget about it. Around the master, however, Mrs. Johnson played a veritable, if somewhat strange-looking, lamb.

"Master Ironwood," she began, tentatively, politely. "I have just come to remind you of - "

He waved a hand dismissively. "Never mind about supper. I hardly eat it if I do at all. Just a spot of tea will suffice."

"But sir," she continued. The strength of her will to simply nod, curtsey, and obey was clearly warring with her feelings of duty towards whatever it is she deemed important enough to interrupt his thoughts to make him aware of.

"Oh, very well - continue, if you must."

She swallowed. "It's just that, with the young mistresses arrived and all, I - "

"BLAST AND DAMN!" he shouted. "Mrs. Johnson, I'd completely - what time is it?" Looking briefly at his pocket-watch, he swore again. "Blast! Quarter of seven, I can't believe it!"

Mrs. Johnson, who was completely and utterly scandalized by this profane outburst, could only manage, "They've been waiting on you ten minutes and I - "

"Out of my way, woman!" he cried, rocketing out of his seat, around the desk and out of the door, leaving Mrs. Johnson blinking in his wake. His roars faded to murmurs by the time he reached the staircase, and he pounded down the steps in the desperate way that people do, rushing as fast as they possibly can, even though they know they have already missed their appointment. There is not a shred of dignity in such a thing.

They were just about to tuck in to the soup that had been sitting, for the past twelve-odd minutes, before them, when a rattled looking gentleman suddenly burst, unannounced, into the dining room. "I am a horrible, rude sort of fellow," he said, presumably by way of introduction. He was tall and thin, but wiry - perhaps five-and-fifty, with great dark parentheses around his mouth and a score of thick black lines across his forehead. Wild iron-grey hair stood up like a hayrick at the top of his tall forehead. The first thing he did, (after bowing, that is), was to smooth it back into some semblance of order.

Roseanne rose and curtseyed. The moment he had appeared so instantaneously in the dining-room, she had dropped her soup spoon into the bowl, and a few droplets of red broth adorned her neck and chin. It was she who replied to Mr. John Ironwood first, saying "Yes."

"Rose-anne!" Charlotte cried, in that particular way she had. How mortifying - to be upon the point of eating without their host present! She jumped out of her seat quickly and dropped a polite curtsey. Felicity, who was wearing the sort of vague, glazed expression that she often did when her mind was on mysterious travels of it's own, sort of imitated her, to a worse effect, and sat down again, to resume stirring her soup around idly with her butter-knife.

"I am so very sorry, Mr. Ironwood - we had thought you - " Charlotte cast about, mortified, at her sisters before realizing it was pointless. "Well, we had rather thought you weren't coming."

"Not coming!" He seated himself across the table from her, where a bowl of cold whatever-it-was awaited him. "My dear, I thought it was still afternoon. You must forgive me."

Charlotte seated herself as well. The man resembled her father very little; almost nothing in him served to remind her that they were brothers. His very build was different, and his manner - open, apologetic, almost comical, where her father's was at best haphazard and inattentive. She watched him, a thin smile ghosting over her features, as he set down his long and ungainly frame, tucking the linen napkin right into the front of his vest.

"We forgive you," Felicity replied suddenly. Startled out of whatever reverie she had been lost within, her cheeks began to glow with the same sort of red coloring as the liquid plated in front of them all.

"Good," said Uncle John, clapping his hands together with zeal. "Then let us eat!" Here, he paused to wink at Roseanne. "If we ever manage to figure out what this lot is, eh?"

Winking was not much in practise at the time, at least in the humorous manner here employed by Mr. Ironwood. Therefore, Roseanne, who had not much been privy to winking and who, in fact, had never been winked at before, did not quite understand the message of it - misconstruing it as some agitation of the ocular region, she blurted out, "What's the matter with your eye?"

Uncle John laughed - an endearing sound, the laugh of one who loves to laugh but does not much get the opportunity of exercising that love. A dusty laugh. "Nothing's the matter with it - except that it isn't quite as pretty as yours." Leaning almost imperceptibly closer to her, he said conspiratorially, "If asked my professional opinion, I would say that it's rather jealous."

This delightful, ridiculous gentleman brought out a laugh from all except Charlotte, who stifled hers beneath her linen napkin, as was becoming to a lady. This was, unfortunately for her, noted by Felicity, who tucked this bit of information away for later - alongside her plans to acquire the newest Miss Austen.

For several minutes, the little party sat well at ease amongst themselves. Roseanne was the only one who appeared to eat with any gusto - the soup was cold, predictably enough, having inhabited the table rather a quarter hour longer than it had wanted to. It was a bit thin, but only the slightest bit - to mention it would have been impolite. Felicity merely stirred hers about, trying to reveal as much of the white china as was possible before what was, ostensibly, tomato soup rushed back like the literal Red Sea closing behind the Moses of her dining utensil. A butter-knife with a long white beard and mustache. Oh! And a shepherd's crook!

"Felicity," Charlotte whispered sternly. "Why are you giggling?"

The girl in question held up her knife before her face, allowing a few drops of the ostensible tomato soup to drop back into the bowl. Moses caught the tail of his robe in the Red Sea - Tzipporah would be on him later about taking better care of the clothes that she had just finished washing. "No particular reason," she laughed.

Charlotte rolled her eyes. She had always imagined her sister to be slightly to the side of sanity. Both sisters, in fact.

"Uncle John," said Roseanne, rather suddenly. The endearment rolled off of her tongue naturally - and, in truth, it felt that way. The gentleman had an air of ease about him. "I was... curious," she continued deviously, "About a particular person that I met today."

Charlotte felt herself die, just slightly, as she realized where this conversation was headed. Why did it always seem to be Captain Bignose with these two?

"Charley invited him to tea," Roseanne smirked. "And I wondered whether he was a good enough acquaintance for that? It was rather forward of her, don't you think?" She looked at her sister sidewise as she said that, eyes gleaming deviously.

"Wouldn't know anything about that, my dear," Uncle John replied, slurping the cold - and now congealing - red liquid rather noisily, as if to fully illustrate his relish. "But Faulkner - he's a good enough acquaintance that he isn't really an acquaintance at all. In fact, he's rather a dear friend." Here, he paused to wink bewilderingly at Charlotte. She was quietly becoming the same colour as her soup. "Think of him as the son I never had. Nor was interested in having, really. I get all of the perks of his company and none of the responsibility!"

Roseanne's face stretched into a grin that was positively vulpine, and as she spoke, the last few words emerged ever-so-slightly slower and more accentuated than the rest. "Why don't you tell us everything you know about him?"

It wasn't the first time that Charlotte had pondered homicide, but it was the first time she had ever pondered it by soup-in-the-face. Luckily, Mrs. Johnson and the maid, Fanny, came in at that exact moment and, as Mr. Ironwood was busily chatting away, removed the soup - which had begun to crust over - and replace it with a selection of greens and a small cut of what may have been lamb. None of these items, even the conspicuously named asparagus spear, would serve as an effective enough manner of silencing Roseanne forever.

"The link between us is by no means tenuous, I assure you," he said agreeably, as though he was about to begin telling a story. And it is well that he said it in that way, for he was about to begin telling a story. "I was a dear friend of his father's, you see. The pair of us met in Greece - I was surveying some islands as part of a research conjunction, and he was there on some sort of military effort. I don't know much about it - my interest in the military is minimal. But we had both traveled extensively for our respective careers and hit it off quite well, as you can imagine. He was quite a bit older than me, but had just been married. It did not much agree with him, I'm afraid. Probably why he ended up in Greece. Regardless of that," he continued, swinging a bit of greenery around on his fork in such a way that it was dangerously close to flying off and smacking Felicity in the face (although, in all likelihood, she wouldn't have noticed if it had), "We continued our acquaintance in London once we learned of our mutual lodgings here. I stood as godfather to the boy, you know. Must have been what? How old are you?" He said this to Charlotte as if expecting an answer, but he did not wait for one. "About twenty-five, thirty years ago.

"But the boy also turned out the military type. Got himself shot. He's had a lot of trouble with guns," he added, in a cryptic sort of tone that invited speculation. "Since he grew up so well, I consider him my friend. He's got liberal sorts of ideas." Here, he paused to frown, and said this in such a manner as if to indicate it's undesirability. Then, abruptly, he brightened. "Likes to travel, very good about his mother and his sister. Nice chap. Not that I'm trying to sway you to him my dear," he said, a little too obviously, as he looked directly at Charlotte.

She laughed politely, as she was wont to in such situations, and filled her mouth with garlic and spinach. "You would have difficulty swaying me towards anyone, Uncle John," she replied.

"And why is that, my dear?" He leaned slightly over the table, forearms braced before him, with a mischievous gleam in his pale blue eye.

"Because I think little of men in general, and nothing about this particular one has yet served to recommend me to him." This she meant, but said so lightly it seemed perhaps the coquettish stance of someone meaning to imply more than they say. Truthfully, Charlotte was still smarting from the comment which, however innocently it was said, had implied that her age approximated twenty-five, thirty. At least she was returning to her normal, pale complexion.

He leaned back, and took a small sip of wine, saying, "And what have 'men in general' done to cast themselves in such an unforgiving light?"

"They are men," she replied simply. "They generally speak and behave as men speak and behave."

"And that is enough to put you off of them forever?" Her uncle said this with true concern, the first whisper of parental inclination she had heard from him yet. He was indeed the study of an amiable, reconciled bachelor. But there was something about his concern that touched her even as it irked her.

She smiled as kindly as she could at the man across the table. "Uncle, I appreciate your concern, but do not need it."

"Very well," he laughed. "How little I know of girls and women! Less than I thought."

And so they ate their spinach in relative silence punctuated by the exchange of such pleasantries as "How was the trip, then, my dear?" and "Oh, it was lovely, Uncle John." Felicity and Uncle John spoke extensively of train-travel, and Roseanne left, before coming back to the table to reclaim her half-eaten roll. Charlotte stabbed angrily at her spinach and knew - knew! - she had made a dreadful error in inviting that man to tea at all. She hadn't imagined it would be so extensively covered in every one of their conversations. "Very nice chap" - posh. Pish posh. We'll see about that.

It is generally acknowledged that to push somebody in one direction will likely end in them moving the entirely opposite way. Anyone who has ever known a cat will know this. One can call and call and call a cat; one can make supplications; one can use all the pet-names one can think of; one can stretch out one's hand as though to grab the animal in question; one can beg, plead, and beg again; one can use clever tactics; one can offer fish and cold meats. But all of this is useless if the cat does not wish to come. If the cat does not wish to come, it will not come. And it is most likely that the cat does not wish to come. They rarely do.

If they do, they are content to also eat all of the proffered fish and cold meats, and then rub their little ears with their front paws and cry for more. It is in this way that a cat feeds itself.

It is needless, then, to say that Charlotte awaited her guest in the tea-room with a disposition more inclined towards disliking. She was intent, completely, on finding fault with him. If she could find legitimate cracks in his personality, history, or even his state of dress, she would have a supply of ammunition with which to gun down the people who were trying so desperately to form an attachment between her and this complete and total stranger. Felicity pined for romance, vicariously living her ridiculous fantasies through her elder sister. Roseanne was agitatingly suggestive. The very idea that Uncle John would start in on her with that "he's a nice gentleman" tomfoolery was unthinkable - and yet he had done just that.

Liberal ideas. Likes to travel. Good about his mother and sister.

No. No no no. He was a stranger; and what was more, he was a strange gentleman; and what was more, he could really be anybody. She was completely and thoroughly resolved not to like him. Not a whit.

The thought then struck her that, in light of her most likely unseemly invitation to wait on her that day, the additional unseemliness of receiving him completely and utterly alone could - considering, especially, her newfound status as orphaned, and without any scrap of prospects altogether - and probably would, knowing her sisters, be construed as forward. This was something that Charlotte most decidedly was not. She was many things, and conceded to a good deal of them, but she was not some prowling huntress to be throwing herself in the way of the first eligible gentleman to cross her path.


There was, as predicted, no response.


And again. The little scrap of embroidery she had been pretending to work on hit the tea-table with a fearsome force.


"May I assist you in any way, Miss Ironwood?"

Charlotte jumped right out of her chair and then flushed. "Oh - " How had he gotten in here so fast? "No, no, Davis, I shall be fine."

The rail-thin gentleman was standing, as silently and unobtrusively as an umbrella-stand, beside the door, having ghosted there from God-knows-where. Uncle John's only manservant and butler, Davis had great, baleful eyes, and a long, thin nose like the blade on a butter-knife. "Are you certain, Miss Ironwood?"

"Yes, I am certain - ROSEANNE!" This was followed by a sigh. "In fact, Davis, would you mind telling me where Roseanne has gotten herself to?"

"I haven't the faintest idea. I believe she disappeared some time after breakfast, Miss Ironwood."

"And Felicity?"

"She left, to find a book-shop, I believe. Not more than twenty minutes ago, Miss Ironwood."

"And what of Miss Cook?"

"Accompanying Miss Felicity, I presume, Miss Ironwood."

"And Uncle John?"

"Locked away in his study, as is his habit on weekdays, Miss Ironwood."

"And," she said, with a certain degree of desperation, "Mrs. Johnson?"

"Out to do the shopping, as is her habit on Fridays, Miss Ironwood."

Charlotte's heart constricted in her chest. "Fanny?" she squeaked.

"Preparing the tea, naturally, Miss Ironwood."

"But," she squeaked again. "But - but can we not entreat my uncle to join me?"

Davis looked at her in a dour manner. "It is not advisable, Miss Ironwood."

And then, as if summoned by some abrupt signal, Davis uttered "Excuse me, Miss Ironwood," turned on one dusty heel, and was gone.

Her fingers stumbled blindly over to the embroidery, where she had flung it onto the side table; but there was no way that she was going to be able to focus on something as trite as a cornucopia-patterned handkerchief at such a time. Even though she had specifically requested that Roseanne not run away - again - she was be trapped, looking like a desperate, foolish, pathetic little thing.

She drew in a deep breath, reminding herself that there was really nothing for it.

"Miss Ironwood," Davis said, appearing - again! - from literally nowhere. "May I present Captain Faulkner?"

She placed the embroidery on the side-table, more gently this time, and stood, nodding.

The said gentleman entered on the tail of Davis' introduction, and she curtseyed deeply to hide the tomato flush that was quickly spreading across her cheeks.

Traitor cheeks.

Unfortunately, when she finally did look up, there wasn't even an error in his attire that she could grasp onto; everything was in impeccable military order. From the shining tops of his fine black boots to the starched collar and cravat, not a thing was out of place. Charlotte finally recognized that she had been grasping at straws. Truthfully, though - what girl in a black crepe monstrosity wouldn't begin to feel shoddy when faced with such a multitude of cheerfully gleaming buttons?

"Good afternoon, Miss Ironwood," he said, bowing, with a wide, slightly ridiculous sort of grin. It wasn't an idiot's grin - just the grin of someone with a lot of large, white teeth. Something about the combination of his features made him appear slightly - what was it? It couldn't be bashful.

As she curtseyed in reply, Charlotte realized then and there that it would be impossible to genuinely hate this man.

A/N: Yay! The first new chapter in what feels like ever! Let me know what you think, reviews would be much much muchly appreciated :) Mapmaking is actually really confusing (I'm actually totally confuzzled by it) so just to clarify I added this:

* Cartography Glossary *

Altimeter - An instrument used to measure altitudes in relation to a set level of reference, usually mean sea level.

Theodolite - An precision instrument used to measure horizontal and vertical angles.

Tachymeter - An instrument used to quickly determine the distance, direction, and difference of elevation in one observation, usually using a short base.

Relief Shading - A method of shading used to create the effect that reliefs on a map are three-dimensional.

Hypsometry - Any method of determining terrain relief.