As sometimes happens when I'm writing, characters from other books can wander in and join the conversation unexpectedly and wander off again. In this case, one of them was let in for a cameo appearance that I thought might be a few lines and perhaps a cup of tea — instead she settled in and took charge of the scene and changed my heroine's entire course in life.
So here's the moment where they meet each other.
The woman she was facing looked to be about her own age, slender and of middle height, with features that could not have been called beautiful and yet held a vivacity that made them pretty—lively eyes lit with a keen intelligence beneath arched eyebrows the same dark brown colour as the curling hair that had been swept up from her face and neatly fastened underneath a plain lace pinner.
Mary cleared her throat and said, ‘I do apologize.’
‘That’s quite all right. I used to hide behind chairs often as a child. The trick is keeping back so that your shoes are out of sight.’
‘I wasn’t hiding. I was…Frisk had lost his ball, you see, and I was only trying to retrieve it when you…Well,’ she finished, knowing how ridiculous it sounded.
‘Are you French?’ the woman asked, her head tipped slightly to one side as though she were trying to place Mary’s accent. ‘Or Irish?’
‘My father was Scottish, my mother was French.’ She remembered her manners and put out her hand as she stepped round the settee and forced herself forwards. ‘I’m Mary Dundas, Mistress Jamieson.’ And having properly got through the more formal greeting she said, ‘I’ll just…go. I should go.’
‘Nonsense. You were here first. You were writing,’ observed Mistress Jamieson, looking down now at the journal and pen on the table where Mary had earlier sat.
‘It was nothing of importance,’ Mary said, aware how foolish any chronicle of her ‘adventures’ would appear to this young woman who, from all the evidence, was living one herself; for if in truth the other woman, Mrs. Farrand, had been taken and arrested as a spy, then stepping in to carry messages across the Channel in her place in such a time of danger called for courage of a kind that Mary could not hope to claim.
She could but marvel at the realization that this young woman, although near to her in age, was so beyond her in experience and confidence. And energy, she added, as she watched while Mistress Jamieson began to move about the room with Frisk an ever-bouncing bundle at the hemline of her gown.
‘Indeed,’ Mistress Jamieson said as she trailed a hand over the spines of the books on one shelf, ‘so few women write anything, that when one does it can never be deemed unimportant.’
If you write, has a character ever surprised you with how they took over a scene? And as readers, do you enjoy seeing a character cross from one book to another?