As I’ve been working through the Madeline books, I realized that Madeline’s best friend is now her “best friend’s” brother. And vice versa! This of course, made me wonder if Russell knows it yet. So, I decided to ask him about it… and a few other things.
Let’s get right at it.
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Me: Russell, thank you for visiting with me today.
Russell: I wish Madeline was here. She’d enjoy watching your flat typewriter go. Where are the strikers?
Me: Um… well, under the keys.
Me: Now you’ve known Madeline for a long time—almost ten years, haven’t you? How has she changed over those years?
Russell: Aside from becoming even more interesting and full of adventure, not much. Well…
Russell: Upon further reflection, it does occur to me that she is more thoughtful of her aunt’s sensibilities.
Me: I’ve noticed that as well. It seems that the more unreasonable Louisa Farnsworth becomes, the more reasonable Madeline is about it.
Russell: Yes, yes, that describes it well.
Me: I’m curious. What did you think when Amy asked you to “look after Madeline” while she was away?
Russell: It wouldn’t do to be completely candid. I will only say that my affection for my sister is the only thing that induced me to accept. She asks for so little that one does not refuse Amy anything.
Me: What did you expect keeping your promise to entail?
Russell: The young ladies of Rockland have determined to keep their set embroiled in a whirlwind of social engagements. I thought I would be called as an escort to lectures, the theater, benefits, concerts, and of course, dances.
I noticed a small smile form as he worked to hide… something.
Me: I wonder… what surprised you most? That she wasn’t eager to participate in all the social melee or where her interests turned?
Russell: I should not have been surprised about most of what has taken place since Amy’s departure, but I think what did surprise me is that I also became her confidant in matters of the heart. When Delbert Jackson made his unfortunate proposal, it shook both of us, I think. I had been in the habit of thinking of her as “little Maddie,” not a young lady with an appeal to suitors.
Me: Tell me about that. How were you involved? It always sounds like you were there at the proposal.
Russell: No, I visited her that evening to bring a letter from Amy that I wanted to share and found her understandably distressed. She may have gotten past his boorish behavior, and it is like her to appreciate forthrightness, but as fine a fellow as Jackson is, what he did was inexcusable.
Me: It could have been worse. He could have done the reverse and told her how inferior she was a la Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
Russell: That’s an interesting perspective. I considered his assertions of superiority to be equivalent to emphasizing her inferiority, although I know him to be above doing that consciously.
Me: What do her friends really think of her “meddling?”
Russell: Most people in Rockland admire her; although, it is disconcerting to realize she often sees through what most try to hide.
Me: And what does she see in you that you would like to hide?
Once more, Russell fought to repress a telltale smile.
Russell: You ask impertinent questions, Mrs. Havig. I will answer you, though. I do not try to hide anything from her, and as a result, she does not yet see what I might wish to.
Me: And is that a good or bad thing, do you think?
Russell: That, I believe, is something best left for time to show.
Me: Fair enough. I’m curious. What is the best thing that has come from keeping your promise to Amy?
Russell: I have found a much dearer friend in Madeline than I had known she could be. I look forward to seeing how our childhood dynamic adjusts to the change in all of our circumstances.
Me: And seeing how your relationship continues to grow, I imagine.
But Russell refused to answer that one. He only smiled. Again.
A message from Jimmy arrived right about then—informing him that Madeline required his assistance, and we all know Russell would never refuse. Amy might be disappointed. That must be the reason, of course.
I don’t know about you, but I think Russell was deliberately vague at times, and I find that… would it be too dramatic to say… suspicious?
That’s not the only interview we have with Madeline’s friends!
There’s this interview with Essie!
It is my hypothesis that social conventions are created to test our fortitude.
Rockland circa 1900-
As the mayor’s daughter, Madeline Brown enjoys a rich social life that many might envy. But a sharp mind and a growing talent for observation leaves Madeline torn between avoiding social censure and exploring the world around her.
With an aunt who considers higher education and employment equally unsuitable for the mayor’s daughter, there is little to amuse her save endless committee meetings, evening socials, and her favorite pastime: curling up with an exciting detective novel.
So, when a young man shows interest in her friend, Madeline’s interest piques–until his actions hint that he might not be the upstanding gentleman everyone presumes him to be. Unable to ignore her concerns, Madeline finds herself in the middle of an investigation into his character and discovers a side of Rockland she’s never encountered.
Will her new hobby reduce the tedium of her life, or will her “meddling” create tension for herself and her father? Will she be forced to squelch this budding skill of hers or has Madeline finally found her calling in life.