Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sweeter Than Birdsong by Rosslyn Elliot

Here are the first few pages of this book-


Westerville, Ohio 1855 ­­­

Her customary walk across the college quadrangle had become an executioner’s march.

Kate’s heeled shoes clunked over the flagstones. Her full skirt and horsehair crinoline

dragged from her waist, too warm even for this mild May morning.

She climbed the stone steps of the whitewashed college building and laid hold of the

black iron door handle with a clammy palm. The dim foyer led to the lecture hall. Her breath

came faster and her corset squeezed her lungs. It had not felt so tight when the maid laced it an

hour ago. Up ahead loomed the dark rectangle of the hall’s oaken door, which stood ajar.

At the threshold, she paused. Inside the hall, a baritone voice lifted in clear, well-

balanced phrases. The speaker’s persuasive power carried even here. Ben Hanby. He was the

best orator in the class. She laid a hand to her midsection to quell the pulsing nausea there. If she

did not go in now, she would not go at all.

At her push, the door swung open to reveal rows of masculine shoulders in dark coats, all

heads turned toward the speaker. Each gentleman’s neat coattails fell open over his knees, black

against the polished wood floor. Each white collar rose to the sweep of hair worn according to

the current vogue, longer than a Roman’s but never past the collar.

On the raised platform beyond them, Ben Hanby stood, as natural and poised as if he

were alone in the room, his dark hair thick over his brow. His eyes were intent, his face alive

with interest in his subject, but his words floated past Kate in a wash of sounds her jumping

nerves could not interpret. Of course speaking came easily for him—his father was a minister.

He finished with a question to the audience, and even her disrupted attention caught the

subtle humor in the lift of his eyebrow as he delivered his line straight-faced. A chuckle rose

from the young men, echoed in the lighter laughter of the small party of young lady scholars

seated with their chaperone on the end of the front row.

Ben Hanby descended the stairs, the barest smile appearing as he exchanged glances with

“Miss Winter.” Professor Hayworth’s bass rumbled across the hall.

She froze on the threshold. Heads turned toward her. Her skin tingled in waves of heat,

her heart kicked in an uneven cadence. Could it stop from such fright?—the thought made it

worsen, like a stutter in her chest that could not move on to the next beat.

“I am glad you choose to join us today.” Professor Hayworth spoke to her from the dais,

beside the podium, full bearded in his formal black robe. “You have arrived just in time to give

the first of our ladies’ speeches.”

No comments:

Post a Comment