Archive for July, 2011

More of Regency Bagatelle

July 27, 2011

They had barely reached a point close to the gatehouse, where they could take a direct walk back to the house, when the two following appeared just a short distance behind, and so they waited for them to catch up. After the polite bows, Miss Austen greeted them with more joviality that had been evident in her manner these past thirty minutes. “Ah, to be able to progress through the countryside on such young legs—I must admit to envy you both. Hills do seem steeper than they did when I was your age.”

“I am sure you took a more observant view of the walk than did we,” Elizabeth Darcy replied with a smile. “I fear Miss Matah and I talked most of the way and our pace increased as our conversation progressed.”

“Then it might be a good idea to exchange partners—if that would be agreeable to you,” Miss Austen suggested. “Since the way ahead of us is now mostly downhill and I feel sure Miss Matah will slow her march to accommodate my step.”

Gisel flashed Mr Author a quizzical glance. “Of course, Miss Austen, but you appear by no means fatigued from attaining to this hilltop. I would relish a stroll and an opportunity to see the this part of England under your guidance.”

Which led Mr Author to extend his arm to Elizabeth Darcy as they walked in the direction of the drive, about ten paces ahead of the others. “I too would enjoy the rest of the walk with the lady of the house as my guide,” he said. “I don’t doubt but that my young friend has already accomplished a whole day’s exertion in the past hour and a half.”

Mrs Darcy‘s eyes affirmed the mild reproof. “I confess that a year’s familiarity is nowhere near sufficient for me to pretend an expert authority on the beauty of Pemberly, but I will be sure to point out those aspects that I have already come to love. In her defence, I must own that your young friend has already been of valuable service to the family this morning—her energy is quite prodigious.”

“Did she look at Mr Darcy’s letter?”

“Indeed she did and has been most helpful in preparing an answer. It seems that an Englishman that Mr Darcy’s father had set up in overseas trade has rather come to grief in the Peloponnesus, and his wife has persuaded someone to write a letter with a request for help.”

“No doubt addressed to Mr Darcy’s father.”

“Indeed. You are correct, but Mr Darcy is inclined to offer some assistance to his father’s friend.”

“Mr Darcy is very generous with his time and resources. These people must be complete strangers to him.”

“Yes, the wife is Greek and cannot read or write; she had to secure the assistance of a fellow trader in olive oil to write the letter for her. It seems that Mr Burke, Mr Darcy Senior’s friend, had a dispute over a shipment of oil that he had already paid for, and has been thrown into prison.”

“A very bad situation in any country, especially one so far from home.”

“Yes, Miss Matah suggests writing to the English consul in Athens—we assume there should be one—to ascertain the truth of the affair, but will translate a letter my husband is preparing to send to the wife and her penman, to apprise them of his action.”

“And any assistance Mr Darcy provides will be through the consul, I assume?”

“That is what she suggests. I gather that you too have experience of other lands?”

“I have spent time in four during the course of my life and have some familiarity with four others. One needs to be counted as a person of consequence in order to dispose the local inhabitants to your favour. The English consul should be a person of some significance, even to the Turkish authorities.”

“One must hope so, although of course he too must be a man of business in the country and not a gentleman…Not that I would consider him to be any less an Englishman for that.”

Mr Author had to smile at the chauvinism, common when he was a boy, but much reduced once Britain ceased to be an owner of colonies. The designation gentleman meant a great deal more in Regency times than it did in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—the difference between someone one might trust on his word and a fellow one might consider it best to keep at arm’s length. But then everyone in the twenty-first century made sure to engage others with a waterproof contract, because the surety that one could be sealed with a handshake vanished with the rise of neoliberalism.

He smiled a little nostalgically at the memory and turned his head to regard his resplendent companions in their warm walking dresses. The word Lady, too, had not survived the times in the best of senses, but even in earlier centuries it had often meant no more than it did later. The world had always been unkind to women.

“I did query Miss Matah about her voice of experience and she intimated that she had been advised to speak as little of her career as was polite. She did tell Mr Darcy that she would be more than pleased to prepare his Greek letter, because she had performed the same duty often for her people…Iskander, they’re called? I suppose this location and these duties are best not mentioned.”

“Yes, it is better not to stray too far beyond the boundaries of Regency England. I can say that her people found themselves stranded in difficult circumstances when she was but sixteen, and when it became evident that a form of Greek was the lingua franca of the place and she, despite her youth, was the only one of them fluent in the language— she became their official interpreter.”

“Her care with her words suggested she might have had more…unladylike duties than that. Not that I intend to pry…I would deplore any attempt to gossip, but I have yet to speak to Miss Darcy, who, as you will have noticed at dinner, is inclined to a too romantic vision of the world. I hope to speak with her on the matter later today.”

Mr Author increased his pace to get farther ahead of the topic of their conversation. “I could tell you some of the less wholesome things that have happened to Gisel, but I’m not sure whether it would be better for her or one of us to tell Miss Georgina. From Gisel the words might still have the attraction of bravado—these things have happened to me and yet I am still unbowed.. Coming from someone more sober…perhaps you or her brother could relate the unattractive side of being a woman of her own making.”

Mrs Darcy’s frown grew. “What things, prey?”

“She was not quite seventeen when she and a male friend twice her age planned an elopement. The only action that stopped it was an urgent message to her father, who, when heard of it whisked her away to Sweden.”

Mrs Darcy’s face became very grave. “We must have no mention of that.”

“I agree, but it would be very awkward to forbid their private conversations. Gisel can be very responsible when an appeal is made to her reason. I would speak to her about the socially valuable experiences I hoped she would derive from your hospitality, but Miss Austen pointed out to me this morning that Gisel is more inclined to challenge my cautions. Your conversation this morning has, I feel quite sure, already been most beneficial. I suspect Miss Austen is even now reinforcing your words.”

“I expect so, I derived all my understanding of the prime value of safeguarding the integrity of our social values from her. The history of great events is universally interpreted as the framework of our lives, but it is in the smaller happenings of families and social congress that the warp and woof of human existence is fabricated.”

“Quite so. I believe I have never heard the sentiment expressed better. I hope you conveyed this to Miss Matah this morning.”

“Perhaps I did in some degree. If you think the sentiment of value I will do my best to raise it in a future conversation.”

As they descended the hill they met the curve of the driveway and then followed it across the bridge to the house, and so entered to sit with the rest of the family in the south drawing room until lunch.

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What am I doing with Regency Bagatelle?

July 19, 2011

Since I started posting excerpts of Regency Bagatelle on May 31st I have used the exercise as a simulator and stimulator for a more serious work—which may possibly emerge as a Regency novel or a suite of novellas. If you want to see the whole set so far, you might look for the May 31st post and follow from there. (I don’t know how bad it sounds if read backwards.)

Having not long finished a Virtual Blog Tour for my fantasy novel “Rast’s” release and done character interviews, author interviews, guest blogs, and whatever else might come to mind, I thought I might try a glorified character blog for my own general interest. Bagatelle’s cast consists of myself, Mr Author; Jane Austen; Mr and Mrs Darcy; Georgiana Darcy; Mr and Mrs Bennet; and the glaringly un-Regency protagonist of my Iskander series novels, Gisel Matah.

After writing a few pages, I found I needed something other than more novel material to share with one of my local writers’ groups—so I took the first few pages of the Bagatelle. They seemed to elicit some interest. Shortly after, wondering with what to keep this blog alive, I decided to post the material here. Since then I have started on the aforementioned Regency work, which has anachronistic elements (greater progress with steam development and a Napoleon who successfully extricated his army from Moscow, won the Battle of Leipzig, and now threatens England with another invasion); a very Regency-paced romance; and spies, warships, and (perish the thought) people who make their fortunes by industry and commerce.

Anyway. Time for another post of Regency in an Austen-ish style.

After breakfast next day the sun consented to shine and offer enough encouragement for the house guests to venture outside. Mr Author and Miss Austen took a walk about the grounds, crossing the lawn to the path beside the river. “Your Miss Matah is certainly an outspoken and provocative young woman,” Miss Austen averred. “I suppose your description of her to me was considered accurate in your eyes, but I should have been wiser to have enlarged upon all your words of qualification.”

“I beg your pardon, Miss Austen, I dwelt too much perhaps upon those times when she had ingratiated herself with people of modest fame and too little upon those when her appearance and bearing had challenged important people with the earnestness of her business.”

“And her fierceness,” Miss Austen said with a smile. “I can quite picture such concern among her interlocutors—you have crafted her as a most energetic and provocative person—all qualities a young woman of the English gentry in this day and age is not permitted to display.”

They had now entered a beautiful walk by the side of the water, and every step bringing forward a nobler fall of ground, or a finer reach of the woods to which they were approaching; Mr Author felt a resurgence of optimism in such surroundings. “I hope the Darcy’s are not regretting issuing the invitation. I fear some of their opprobrium could attach to yourself.”

“I rather fancy not. Mr Darcy’s true nature was concealed by my circumlocution for three fourths of the novel, but his even and liberal nature can come to the fore on ground of his own choosing—in this case, Pemberly. Mrs Darcy has always been quite open minded for her background, and most generous in her regard for others—for all save Mr Darcy when they first met. I’m sure you understand that as a technique of fiction craft.”

“Yes, your technique has become a standard, but critical readers have become suspicious when they find strong animosity at such early acquaintance.”

“Ah, I must own that you surprise me. My writing is known?” They paused at a higher vantage point and looked back toward the house where two ladies could be perceived starting across the lawn.

“Known and admired, Miss Austen.”

She smiled, perhaps a little absently. “Can you tell the identities of the two ladies beginning their walk, Mr Author? I do hope your Miss Matah is not walking with Miss Georgiana before Mrs Darcy has spent some time in conversation with them both.”

“Yes. I understand your concern. One is definitely Gisel and the other does not look tall enough to be Miss Darcy.”

“I hope your eyes do not deceive. I fear Miss Georgiana will be too influenced by your young lady’s novelties and strong opinions. Such freedom of speech is frowned upon in our society, and would do her reputation no good service.”

“I will be sure to speak to Gisel about it.”

Miss Austen smiled. “I hope those are the sentiments Mrs Darcy will be able to convey during their walk this morning. I do believe I perceive a strong readiness in Miss Matah to challenge your authority—perhaps enough that she will attempt to see how provocative a manner she can display.”

“I intended her to be a strong character who would not back down to anyone.”

Miss Austen laughed. “I would suggest, if I might venture to criticise, that you have rather exceeded your intention.”

“In her dangerous career she needs to come across as a person one would be well advised to avoid tangling with.”

“Your idiom is strange to me—it must be of your world and age, is it not? I do comprehend the tenor of your response, but perhaps the most scandalous secret of her life we must keep unspoken is her employment in some enterprise. A young lady in Regency England does not work for a living, nor does she enter into any gainful activity.”

Mr Author smiled. “Such as writing fiction, perhaps?”

Miss Austen laughed. “That was always my secret. Very few members of my family circle ever knew of my predilection.”

They spoke little more as they entered the woods, and bidding adieu to the river for a while, ascended some of the higher grounds. Mr Author would have liked to converse further but his anxiety over Gisel’s outspokenness filled his mind. His pace slowed enough that Miss Austen commented that the two ladies might soon overtake them; whence, in spots where the opening of the trees gave the eye power to wander, they looked for them coming nearer as well as enjoyed many charming views of the valley, the opposite hills with the long range of woods overspreading many, and occasionally part of the stream.    Cont…

Back to Regency Bagatelle:

July 11, 2011

I have my own computer up and running again. It has a different hard drive but luckily all of the files on the old one were still accessible—it just couldn’t boot up. So, here is the continuation from the June 22nd post:–

Mr Author managed to edge Gisel out of the answer. “In our experience it’s held that everyone in the nation has some legitimate interest in the government of the land they live in. That makes it desirable to hear their voices; although the democracy of universal franchise has been described by a great statesman as the worst possible system of government—save all of the others.”

“One of the alternatives is an absolute despot,” Gisel cut in. “A Napoleon.”

Mr Darcy’s face darkened. “In some countries, perhaps, but never in England.”

“An enlightened electoral interest, like England’s of today, can serve all people well,” Mr Author soothed. “But a progression to a wider franchise can also benefit good government—if carried out slowly and with care.”

Georgina Darcy glanced at her brother’s face, losing its expression of good humour. “Oh, do not upset yourself, please, Brother. I’m sure our guests are not advocating a revolution.”

“Of course. Please excuse my consternation, but we have had enough of political troubles ever since the sans culottes of France began murdering their betters. Even today, although a Bourbon King is restored in Paris, we scarce can see our way out of these continuous wars.”

“The war with the Americans?” Gisel nodded. “My sources say it is almost over—the negotiations at Ghent are proceeding to a successful conclusion.”

“Indeed. That would be welcome news, if it is indeed the case.” Mr Darcy eyed her narrowly. “You must be well connected with the ‘administration’ of your people, as you refer to them.”

“My father is highly placed, and my brother has access to much of the communication. I have been able to assist with some activities, as well.”

“How exciting,” Georgiana Darcy exclaimed. “Yours sounds like a very political family, Miss Matah.”

“We are described as one, Miss Darcy. But our activities are always aimed at overcoming the difficulties we Iskanders experience with larger states.”

This looked as if the wars Gisel had taken part in were about to be mentioned.  “If I may be excused for butting in,” Mr Author ventured. “I believe we are in danger of transgressing into forbidden topics, Miss Matah. Perhaps we should change the topic…if all are in agreement.”

“Oh, Mr Author,” Georgiana Darcy pouted. “Just when the conversation was becoming exciting. I do love stories of intrigue and mystery.”

“But as my dutiful sister, I must insist you accept our judgement,” Mr Darcy told her. “Such interests are not considered wholesome for single ladies who hope to be introduced into notable families.”

“Yes,” Gisel said to her with a smile. “They may all have secrets to hide.”

All those present looked at her askance, but no further discussion was entered into that topic.

************

Slight detour

July 8, 2011

I’m having to delay the next installment of Regency Bagatelle because of a computer crash. I had saved most things to thumb drives, but not the continuation of RB. I’m waiting to find out if it’s recoverable or whether I get to rewrite the next two or three posts I had ready.
On a brighter note, the edit in progress for my next Iskander novel, Masquerade, was saved because I had transferred it to a thumb drive so my wife could start proofreading on the old Linux laptop. Shirl does all my proofreading and final read—she used to work for the legislative counsel’s department of our Alberta legislature…doing proofreading.
I’ll try to post something new here soon, but hopefully will have my own setup back online by then.