This scene, set sometime in the future of the Mrs. Hawking continuity, is between Nathaniel and his elder brother Justin, who’s a world traveler and a bit of a rake. I wanted to write a conversation between the two of them, and I settled on a theoretical moment where Justin is in London and has been starting to hit on Mary, which Nathaniel, knowing his brother, doesn’t approve of.
I wanted to show the brothers’ relationship as well as possible raise large plot-relevant issues, which I think I succeeded with. The one thing I struggled to accomplish was I want it to subtly reveal some of the classism in Nathaniel that he hasn’t confronted yet– that he may think of himself as high-minded, but that he considers attraction to a lower-class person to be vulgar for a gentleman –and I’m not sure I executed with sufficient clarity and understatement. It was too easy to gloss over “I’m not attracted to people beneath my class” with “I don’t sexually harass people at work” and “I’m married and so not paying much attention to any outside people romantically.”
But I think I did a good job characterizing Justin. He tweaks Nathaniel, who’s way more of a goody-goody, which is fun. And I love writing the relationship between them as brothers. “Frasier” is one of my all-time favorite shows, and the way they depict the brothers and their relationship really is the best part.
NATHANIEL: Just what do you think you’re doing?
JUSTIN: Why, making friends.
JUSTIN: Such language!
NATHANIEL: Don’t play the innocent with me. I see how you’re prowling around Mary.
JUSTIN: You said she’s a lovely girl, I wanted to make her acquaintance for myself.
NATHANIEL: I know what you want with lovely girls.
JUSTIN: Well, can you blame me?
NATHANIEL: Stay away from her.
JUSTIN: Why ever should I?
NATHANIEL: She’s a sweet and decent girl. She doesn’t deserve to be led on by the likes of you.
JUSTIN: Led on!
NATHANIEL: I’ll not have you telling her pretty lies just so you can…
JUSTIN: So I can what, brother?
NATHANIEL: Get your own way. Whatever that is.
JUSTIN: Ha! Who’s playing the innocent now?
NATHANIEL: Don’t be vulgar.
JUSTIN: Ha! I should think you’d know me by now, old boy.
NATHANIEL: And you call yourself a gentleman. I mean, really, Auntie’s maid?
JUSTIN: What’s the harm? It’s not like she has some grand society reputation to protect. Unless you think Aunt Victoria would be cross?
NATHANIEL: No! Well, perhaps, but–
JUSTIN: Well, I’m quite used to weathering Auntie’s wrath. What, do you think she’d dismiss the girl over it?
NATHANIEL: I don’t think so– but that’s not the point.
JUSTIN: Aunt Victoria doesn’t have to know.
NATHANIEL: It’s nothing to do with Aunt Victoria, for heaven’s sake!
JUSTIN: Then what’s it to you? Unless you fancy her.
JUSTIN: Shame on you, you’re a married man.
NATHANIEL: It isn’t that! How dare you?
JUSTIN: It’s just as well. Wouldn’t have thought you had it in you.
NATHANIEL: Of course not.
JUSTIN: She is lovely girl, though, isn’t she?
NATHANIEL: She is.
JUSTIN: And you were the one that brought her here. Are you telling me you’ve never noticed her?
NATHANIEL: I don’t prowl after the help.
JUSTIN: I’d forgotten, you’re far too lofty to spare a glance to a creature of lower classes. I confess, though, I’d rather begun to wonder.
NATHANIEL: About what!?
JUSTIN: About why you spend so much time around Auntie’s maid. The fine old boy hasn’t descended to the level of the rest of us, has he? Started to envy all the fun I have while you’re bound up in the monotony of married life?
NATHANIEL: Yes, that’s it exactly, Justin, I’ve installed my working class mistress in my aunt’s own house because I wanted to be just like my dear big brother. Mary and I, we’ve… rather made friends, is all.
NATHANIEL: Yes! Is that so unheard of?
JUSTIN: I’d say so.
NATHANIEL: There’s no harm in it.
JUSTIN: Still, it’s very odd. Just out of curiosity, what does Clara think?
NATHANIEL: Of what?
JUSTIN: Of your most harmless friendship.
NATHANIEL: Well… I don’t suppose she knows much of it.
JUSTIN: You mean you’ve kept it from her? I thought she led you so around by the nose you had no secrets!
NATHANIEL: I don’t! Not really! It’s only that I haven’t… brought it up as yet.
JUSTIN: Hmmm. And why is that, do you think?
NATHANIEL: Oh, wipe that look off your face!
JUSTIN: You must know what that sounds like.
NATHANIEL: It’s nothing untoward!
JUSTIN: Then why, my virtuous brother, must you hide it?
NATHANIEL: I don’t mean to. I only… I only don’t know how to do it. Tell her, I mean.
JUSTIN: Afraid she’ll cast the same aspersion upon your character as I have just now?
NATHANIEL: I’m afraid she might… misunderstand.
JUSTIN: Oh, why worry for it? You need never tell her if it will only make trouble.
NATHANIEL: I hate keeping things from her.
JUSTIN: Why prod the bear if you don’t have to?
NATHANIEL: She’s my wife, Justin, not some terrible monster from the woods.
JUSTIN: Wives, terrors, it’s all the same to me. But it isn’t even as if you’re deceiving her. If you’ve done nothing, then you’ve nothing to tell her.
NATHANIEL: It isn’t only that.
JUSTIN: What, then? Do you she think she wouldn’t believe you?
NATHANIEL: Not so much that…
JUSTIN: Or wouldn’t approve?
NATHANIEL: Perhaps. Of my reasons for spending time with Miss Stone.
JUSTIN: And what might they be? Beyond her more obvious charms.
NATHANIEL: Oh, you wouldn’t understand.
JUSTIN: My. Must be byzantine indeed if it’s beyond both Clara and myself. Well, brother, I hope you can find a way to make things clear one way or another.
NATHANIEL: I thought you advocated avoiding the issue entirely.
JUSTIN: So I do. But I know you well enough to see it won’t sit well with you. And if you’re keeping it from your wife, it must be something remarkable indeed.