More of Regency Bagatelle

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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3 Responses to “More of Regency Bagatelle”

  1. joylene Says:

    Nice. Wonderful idea for a series, famous people meeting up with famous characters. Steve Allen tried something similar, but it didn’t last. Wonder why.

  2. Carole Anne Carr Says:

    Joylene directed me to your site. Must read more, sounds a fascinating idea.

  3. kester2 Says:

    Thanks to you both for your comments.

    I don’t know if you read the starting post, Carol, It was dated May 31st. As an intro to some of the posts I write where the idea came from and what I am using this exercise for.

    I must say I like writing in this style, but as you can see from this one, our modern age keeps creeping in.

    Chris.

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