To accompany the page I’ve written today, which is a plot summary of Nine Coaches Waiting, I thought I’d note down in this blog post some information on early versions of the novel. Some of this dates back to July 1955 – the novel was published in 1958.

If you haven’t read Nine Coaches WaitingI would suggest you read the plot summary but not this blog post – you might get horribly confused between versions if you go on to read the novel and, at least indirectly, this post contains spoilers.

First of all, this is the first of her novels where I’ve seen no suggestion that Mary Stewart wanted to write under any other name; there is no Mary Rainbow or Elizabeth Hayward here. Title is another matter, however: in different notes there are several titles scored through. Who likes the sound of The House of the Weeping Willows (me!), Midnight for Cinderella or Lady by the Lake?

In the end, of course, the book was called Nine Coaches Waiting, from Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy, and in the published novel Linda thinks about the quoted verse as ‘some tempter’s list of pleasures, it had been, designed to lure a lonely young female to a luxurious doom’. Linda certainly qualifies as the lonely young female, so guess who was the tempter to doom, the ‘devil’ at the end of the quote? Well, in an early sketch of the novel, Raoul is the villain! He is infatuated with Linda but will use her as a tool:

‘The plot is that a rumour should get around that Linda plans to marry Raoul, and murders the child in order to get him. Raoul’s attentions are flattering and exciting. At first you (and she) respond to them.’

‘When Raoul catches her up in the Chateau Mireille he forces her to take him to Philippe. He will kill Philippe there and then and then say she has done it, viz the rumours he and Madame have spread about her. She finally takes him upstairs. Philippe is there. He tries to kill him. Then William and Hippolyte come in. A hell of a fight between William & Raoul, and R shoots himself accidentally.’

We also have:

‘Raoul’s plan is to abduct Philippe and conceal him… This merely until he forfeits a certain amount of his fortune’; and

‘Could there be two  games going on – (1) Madame’s (2) Raoul’s?’ In this version, Madame is Raoul’s mother, not stepmother, and she ‘plans to kill the child and get the castle and estate for Raoul… They admire and loathe each other.’

In summary, Mary Stewart advises herself: ‘Don’t make R by any means nice, but thoroughly dangerous to know, and an adventurer.’

Phew! This is all exciting, chilling stuff but I’m happy with the published version.

There are other changes too – the orphanage and characters go through various name changes. The change I find most interesting here is that Linda/Belinda has at different points the surname Haworth, to echo the Brontës and Jane Eyre references, and Marvell (I have a copy of a university essay Mary Stewart wrote on the poet Andrew Marvell). The writer has different thoughts on Linda’s character too. Linda describes herself as a poet manquée, ‘very, very manquée’ with’all the dreams and miseries and jumpings after the stars without the slightest talent to express them’. One sketch describes her as ‘small, mousy, and shy’ and ‘far too dependent’: only when she must protect Philippe does she ‘become so to speak adult’. A later synopsis states: ‘Linda Martin. Not an innocent. Lively, humorous, frank.’

A major plot strand that does not make it to the published novel is the involvement of Suzy. Suzy Bonheur/Verlaine is mentioned in the handwritten plot sketches but also makes it to a manuscript version of the book. She was Linda’s family’s neighbour in Paris and Linda meets her when she goes to the Rue du Printemps to visit her old home (and in this version, Mme Leclerc the concierge is alive still).

Suzy models for Carlo Florimond; unconventionally, she has lived with a man (we’re talking c1940s here); she is a widow; she is either having an affair with Raoul or wants to carry on an affair with Raoul;  in conversation with Mme Leclerc, Linda says her memory of Suzy is that ‘she sort of sizzled, didn’t she?’ Suzy is small, blonde, with a heart-shaped face, black brows and long black lashes and her hair ‘was now uncompromisingly guinea-gold’. It is Suzy who tells Linda details of Léon’s polo accident and so on. At the Easter Ball, Raoul plays off Linda against Suzy. Suzy, a  sophisticated and unscrupulous beauty, is a foil for Linda. But in the course of writing  Nine Coaches Waiting, Mary Stewart dropped the character of Suzy. She did not fit in to the final version of the plot, in which Raoul was no longer a would-be killer or kidnapper. Just as orphanage scenes were cut, so too was Suzy, resulting in a tighter, leaner book.

So, whatever did happen to Suzy? I have a sneaking suspicion that she didn’t go quietly. I think she evolved into Danielle and marched right into Mary Stewart’s next novel, My Brother Michael.

What do you think of Mary Stewart’s ideas for Nine Coaches Waiting? Do you wish she’d kept any of the ideas she dropped?