The continuation of A Regency Bagatelle follows. I started this in May (see the first post here) as an exercise in writing a somewhat Regency style to practice my 19th century sense and sensibilities. The cast includes myself and Gisel Matah, my kick-butt security officer from my Iskander series novels, the Darcys and the Bennets…and now the Bingleys…from Pride and Prejudice—and of course, their author Jane Austen. It was never intended as a work for publication, but…one has to fill up a blog with something. It has to be coming close to an end as I have other projects requiring more attention. Any suggestions are welcome.
And now….Gisel surprises everyone:
After about an hour, the returning carriage was spied in the distance where the driveway crested the distant hill. Those with the best eyesight pronounced that Mr Darcy was at the reins, as he had been when they left, and another gentleman, likely Mr Bingley, rode Agamemnon beside the carriage. No one knew whether to be reassured or dismayed to note that the party proceded at a very measured pace. Was haste no longer necessary…and why?
Again almost the whole household gathered at the front door and down the entrance steps to be there at the moment of arrival. All save Mrs Bennet, it must be noted, because she had taken to her bed where she waited in great fear for the bad news she expected.
Mr Author stood at the bottom of the steps with as much apprehension as the others. When Mr Bingley leaped from Agamamnon to go to the door of the carriage as soon as it stopped, the whole company of watchers emitted a long sigh.
Mr Darcy paused before tying the reins. “Everyone is well,” he called. “Mr and Mrs Bingley have a healthy baby daughter.”
The servants and some of the family broke into applause, and then cheers as the swaddled babe was passed from inside the carriage into Mr Bingley’s waiting arms.
Noting that Agamemnon was now loose and starting to move away, Mr Author nudged one of the stable lads to go and catch him. “Right yer be, Sir. I has’n.”
Mr Bingley stood waiting while Mrs Bingley was helped from the carriage and into the arms of her sister and Miss Matah. Then the entire group moved to the steps and slowly ascended to enter the house. Mr Darcy climbed down from the box as another stable lad came forward to catch the headstalls of the lead horses.
He went to the carriage door to help another young lady dismount. Miss Georgiana turned away from the first party to hurry forward to greet her. “Miss Bingley, I hope you are not too fatigued from all the troubles. Come with me, we must find a comfortable place beside the fire for you.”
The footmen hurried forward to carry off the luggage that had been transferred from the broken carriage as Mr Darcy stopped beside Mr Author to introduce this new arrival. “This is Miss Caroline Bingley, Mr Bingley’s younger sister. Mr Author is a house guest visiting with Miss Matah, Miss Caroline.”
Mr Author bowed slightly in answer to Miss Bingley’s slight curtsy. The ‘charmed to meet you’s were carelessly spoken. He was intrigued to meet the Bingley sister who had set her heart at Mr Darcy long before Elizabeth Bennet had ever met him and who had waged a bitter battle of rivalry with her. Now a house guest—how would the two get on under Mr Darcy’s roof?
Once inside the house, Haggerston urged the guests to gather in the front parlour where a good fire blazed, but Mr Author turned aside to follow the birthing party up the stairs so he could tell Gisel what measures he had taken to prepare sterilised containers and boiled water. He caught up to the kitchen girl who had carried out the work as she ascended at the rear of the group with two of the china jugs.
“I’ll explain to Miss Matah what you have prepared, Ruby. If it is not exactly to her wishes the fault will be mine.”
He followed to the door to the room Mrs Bingley and the babe were to have, but did not enter into this decidedly female sanctum. Mrs Darcy bent over a small crib tending the the child who sobbed softly once or twice. He did hear some of the discussion, that seemed to be about the need for the midwife, still expected to arrive, and the desirability of hiring a wet nurse.
“I don’t recommend using a wet nurse if Mrs Bingley is able to feed the baby,” he heard Gisel say. “The child is about four weeks premature, as near as we can ascertain, which means she is deficient in the nutrients essential to her final development. However, nature has taken measures to help—the mother’s milk will be especially rich in those nutrients.”
“Then we will do our best to accommodate that need. Is that acceptable, Jane?”
Jane Bingley, looking somewhat tired and dishevelled as she sat on the edge of the bed, smiled and nodded her head. “Whatever needs be done, Lizzy. I am in your hands as well as in your great debt, And Miss Matah—I do not know that I can do enough to thank you.”
Gisel looked toward the door, and seemed surprised to see Mr Author there with Ruby.
“I had Ruby, here, prepare some boiled water and sterilised containers. I thought you might be needing them.”
“Thank you, I will. Bring them in, Ruby.” She grinned at Mr Author. “I will see you downstairs when we have settled the mother and child.”
Mr Author backed away from the door, making room for Miss Georgiana and Miss Austen to enter. Miss Austen paused in the doorway to speak to him.
“I’m sure you didn’t plan your young lady to be a midwife,” she said softly. “Her knowledge is sound?”
“I did have her memory of her mother’s expertise help her at other times. That the two volunteered in a clinic for the poor is a reasonable extention of my author’s intention. Gisel must have been quite young, though.”
“The mother would have wanted her daughter to become a healer as well, I expect.”
“Yes, Gisel was expected to follow her mother’s profession at one time. I’ve decided that Gisel’s own daughter will one day take up the calling,”
That was the end of the conversation as the door was closed to allow Mrs Bingley be prepared for bed.