So I’ve been working to figure out the Mrs. Hawking timeline to nail down when each story needs to happen. The main things to work around are that the first story takes place in 1880, to happen in proper proximity to the Indian Rebellion and the Battle of Kandahar, and I want the sixth story to have Mrs. Hawking taking on Jack the Ripper, which would happen in 1888. Six pieces need to be spread across that span, with an amount of time between them that is believable. I’ve decided that it makes more sense to place Base Instruments in 1883 rather than 1882, which is what I had originally been using for all other pieces of it written for this 31P31D, so that the second trilogy can be in 1885, 1886, and 1888, making no gap longer than two years.
If it’s happening in 1883, then, it occurred to me that means that Mrs. Hawking will be almost out of mourning for her late husband the Colonel. Mourning for widows was very regimented in Victorian England, so even if it didn’t match her own feelings or preferences, she would have to observe the etiquette so as not to attract unwanted attention and criticism. I don’t know if this is an especially useful scene to include in Base Instruments, but it’s an interesting thing to address.
by Phoebe Roberts
VICTORIA HAWKING, lady’s society avenger
MARY STONE, her housemaid and assistant
London, England, 1883
(MRS. HAWKING dresses to go out in public. She regards herself in the mirror. MARY neatens the vanity table.)
MRS. HAWKING: Two months now.
MARY: Two months of what?
MRS. HAWKING: Two months until I’m out of mourning.
MARY: Oh, my. I’d quite forgotten.
(She goes to the wardrobe and begins looking through the dresses.)
MARY: I haven’t looked at your old things since I came. I think it should all still fit.
MRS. HAWKING: I don’t much care.
MARY: Well, I should think it would be easier than having to shop.
MRS. HAWKING: I’ve no wish to return to colors. It isn’t as if I can dress how I like anyhow.
MARY: Well. If you kept to blacks, no one would think anything of it.
MRS. HAWKING: Mm.
(She holds up her right hand to look at her wedding ring.)
MRS. HAWKING: I wouldn’t mind dispensing with this, though.
MARY: Oh. I’m… not sure that’s done.
MRS. HAWKING: No. It is not. If you’re shackled to a man, you’re at least rid of him when he dies. But you remain in the cuff until you replace it with some living fellow’s.
MRS. HAWKING: I had thought to bury the Colonel with his. But Nathaniel saved it, and gave it to me. He thought at the time I might like to have it.
MARY: Did you keep it?
MRS. HAWKING: It’s in a snuffbox in his dressing room. What else could I do? Like this, certain parties would object to anything less.
MARY: It’s a small thing, at least.
MRS. HAWKING: It keeps me beneath notice.
(MARY comes close to look at MRS. HAWKING’s ring.)
MARY: It’s beautiful.
MRS. HAWKING: India ruby. He was so proud.