Sometimes when I write a novel, I don’t know what it’s about until I’ve written it. In the case of The English Lieutenant’s Lady, my subconscious nudged me into including details about the Oregon Territory itself, how beautiful it was. (And is.)
I wrote a scene when I was first playing around with this story, discovering the story, that turned about to be one of my favorite scenes in the book. At the time, I didn’t know why it needed to be in there. It wasn’t until I finished writing the novel that I saw the whole picture, as it were. Geoff gives her a little gift at the start of the story that becomes a reminder for her, throughout the story, of the beauty of nature and the need to put your trust in nature’s Creator.
Mr. Montgomery was silent. It was as if he were listening to the words Lia had not spoken aloud. Then he said, in his deep voice, “‘In my Father’s house are many mansions.’ That’s what the Bible tells me. I should imagine there’s a place waiting for you. If the Lord went to all the trouble of creating a world so beautiful, with so much attention to the smallest details, do you think he would have neglected to pay a little attention to what happens to you?”
“Sometimes it doesn’t seem like such a beautiful world.” Lia refused to turn around and see Henri discussing his future with his uncle. Deciding her fate. She would not look. Instead, she turned to look up at Mr. Montgomery, this enigmatic man who could quote scripture but who was clearly hiding something from her.
Mr. Montgomery took a few steps down to the water lapping against the shore. He crouched down and plunged his hand into the river. A quick scoop, then he was up again and striding back toward her.
He opened his hand. On his palm lay a collection of pebbles that glittered like jewels: gold-flecked rose quartz tumbled in with carnelian, topaz, and jade-colored stones, all glistening with water and sparkling in the sunlight.
“Beautiful,” she murmured. The tension inside her began to ease. She wasn’t sure why exactly—his obvious concern perhaps, or the warmth in his eyes as he stood there looking at her. There was still something about him that she couldn’t quite figure out. Even so, she felt better.
Hands as large as his should have been bumbling and awkward, but his fingers deftly plucked an arrow-shaped stone, red as a rose, out of the pebbles and handed it to her. “As a memento of our meeting.”
He gave her a bow, like a gentleman from back east. The courtly gesture was so incongruous in this wild land that her lips curved upward.
“Ah, you can smile,” he said softly. “Beautiful indeed.”