Charlotte and the Cypher
When Charlotte's husband presents her with an unexpected gift, she finds she has been presented with a neat intellectual puzzle - but what does it all mean?
This story is a submission for the Spring 2013 Historical Fiction Smackdown (Round One). For those who don't know how this little game works, we are assigned a photo (the "group" listed below), and allowed to choose from a set of pictures on which to base the story.
Pictures: 1 ("Adieu"), 4 ("Three Girls"), and 5 ("Rainy Day")
Length: 3558 words (though really, some of them are number sequences).
Two important notes:
1) Although labelled "lamp", the object in the lamp photograph isn't a lamp at all (there is no place for a wick). A reverse image search turned up that it is, in fact, a cassolette - sort of like a censor, but used to heat liquid perfumes or scents rather than burn incense. I have, therefore, referred to it as a cassolette throughout.
2) The rules of this first round of the historical fiction smackdown allowed authors to pick one of two eras - Regency or Victorian. When I saw the posted pictures, I was immediately drawn to the very first one in the Regency category. That picture was Edmund Blair Leighton's 1901 painting, "Adieu". It shows a woman in a pink dress bidding farewell to a man in a Napoleonic-era Royal Navy uniform, while a large ship waits in the harbour below. The woman has reddish hair, and appears to be the same model as in another one of the paintings, also a Leighton work. That would be the "Rainy Day" painting, showing a couple leaving a church on a stormy Sunday morning. Again, the woman wears a pink dress. I concluded that the young red-haired woman in "Three Girls", who is also wearing a pink dress, had to be the same woman. The fact that her hair looks much lighter in this painting can be attributed to the fact that a great deal of light is streaming in from the windows which are no doubt right behind the artist's left shoulder.