Excerpt from Farthing by Jo Walton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Jo Walton

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  • First Published:
    Aug 2006, 320 pages
    Aug 2007, 320 pages

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Chapter 1

"Then are you sure you didn’t marry me for the opposite reason?" David asked, ignoring the diversion. "Especially so you could use me to enjoy snubbing people like Lady Thirkie?"

"That’s absurd," I said, and turned back to the mirror, and this time I caught up my hair and the pearls all in one swirl and managed to get it just right where all my careful trying before had failed. I smiled at my reflection, and at David where he was standing behind me.

There was a certain grain of truth in what he said, but a very distant grain that wouldn’t be good for either of us or for our marriage if we spent time dwelling on it. Daddy had made me face all that on the night he’d agreed to the marriage going ahead. David had imagined that Daddy would make endless difficulties, but in fact he just gave me that one really hard talk and then buckled down and accepted David as one of the family. It was Mummy who made the difficulties, as I’d known it would be.

Daddy had called me into his office in London and told all the secretaries and everyone not to let anybody in. I’d felt simultaneously rather important, and as if I were ten years old and on the carpet for not doing my homework. I had to keep reminding myself I was the thoroughly grown-up and almost-on-the-shelf young lady I really was. I sat in the leather chair he keeps for visitors, clutching my purse on my knee, and he sat down behind his big eighteenth-century desk and just looked at me for a moment. He didn’t beat about the bush at all, no nonsense with drinks and cigarettes and getting comfortable. "I’m sure you know what I want to talk to you about, Luce," he started.

I nodded. "David," I said. "I love him, Daddy, and I want to marry him."

"David Kahn," Daddy had said, as if the words left a bad taste in his mouth.

I started to say something feeble in David’s defense, but Daddy held up a hand. "I already know what you’re going to say, so save your breath. He was born in England, he’s a war hero, his family are very wealthy. I could counter with the fact that he was educated on the Continent, he’s a Jew, and not one of us."

"I was just going to say we love each other," I said, with as much dignity as I could manage. Unlike Mummy, who could only make a nuisance of herself, Daddy really could have scuppered the whole thing at that point. Although I was twenty-three and, since Hugh died, heir to pretty much everything except Farthing and the title, I didn’t have any money of my own beyond what Daddy let me have, and neither did David. His family were wealthy enough, but he himself hardly had a bean, certainly not enough for the two of us to live on. His family, which surprised me at first though it made sense afterwards, didn’t approve of me one whit more than mine approved of him. So it could have been a real Romeo and Juliet affair if not for Daddy seeing sense and coming over to my side.

"Having seen you together and talked to young David, I don’t doubt that, funnily enough," Daddy said. "But what I want to know is whether that’s enough. Love’s a wonderful thing, but it can be a fragile flower when the winds blow cold against it, and I can see a lot of cold winds poised to howl down on the pair of you."

"Just so long as you’re not one of those winds, Daddy," I said, pressing my knees together and sitting up straight, to look as mature and sensible as I could.

Daddy laughed. "I’ve seen you sitting like that when you want to impress me since you were five years old," he said. Then he suddenly leaned forward and turned really serious. "Have you thought what it’s going to mean being Mrs. Kahn? We share a name that we didn’t do anything personally to earn but which we inherited from our Eversley ancestors, who did. It is a name that opens doors for us. You’re talking about giving that up to become Mrs. Kahn---"

Copyright © 2006 by Jo Walton

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