Isabel Browning was surprised, just a few days later, to see her cousin Samuel escorting Clytemnestra Preston to the Pump Room. He seated Clytie and made his way to the fountain for two glasses of the foul-smelling water. She intercepted him there.
“So, you’ve managed to draw the mouse from her hole. And what an interesting pink dress she is wearing under that blue spencer.”
“Bella, she is my patient and, need I remind you, your future sister-in-law. Please keep your remarks civil.”
“Your patient, Sam? I’ve never yet seen you bring one of your unfortunate soldiers to the Pump Room for waters and nuncheon.”
“Perhaps that is something I shall rectify. If you will excuse me, I believe I have left Miss Preston too long.”
He made his way back to the table, where a pot of tea and sandwiches had already been served. He put the two glasses of water at their places and sat down. — Clytie’s Caller
Nuncheon is an interesting word. It has long since gone out of fashion and usage, replaced by luncheon in modern vocabulary. AngloNorman Dictionary tells us that “The word has a suggested etymology which traces it back to an Old English compound of ‘noon’ and ‘shench’. Its first half, ‘noon’, is derived from Classical Latin ‘nona’ (DMLBS nonus 1929a), meaning the ‘ninth hour of the day’. In Roman and consequently ecclesiastical time-keeping this would originally have corresponded with 3 o’clock in the afternoon, although in the course of the Middle Ages the word became more and more used (both in Middle English and Anglo-Norman) to refer to an earlier time of day (see AND second edition sub none1, forthcoming). It has been suggested that monastic orders, who had their lunch after the ‘ninth hour’ liturgy, were inclined to perform that service earlier and earlier, so that the term ‘noon’ eventually became associated with midday.”
You may well run across this term in books published during the Regency (e.g., those by Sir Walter Scott) … and now you know what it means, and that it’s not a typo for “luncheon.”
Want your own copy of Clytie’s Caller? Here are the cover blurb and purchase links.
Bath, 1816. Clytemnestra Preston has become so terrified of life that she refuses to leave her room. Not even her family can convince her to take her place in Society again. Doctor Samuel Whittington, late of His Majesty’s Army, may be her only chance for a cure … and romance. Can Sam convince Clytie to open the door, and her heart?
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