Bagatelle—Miss Matah troubles

After lunch, Miss Austen busied herself in conversation with the Bennets on the prospects of Mr and Mrs Bingley arriving soon with words of great praise for the property they had visited, and perhaps even an intention to purchase it. Gisel disappeared into the library with Mr Darcy to further the project of writing a letter in Greek in answer to the one he had received; and perhaps even discussing one in English that might be sent to the attention of the English Consul in Athens.

Mr Author retired to the drawing room to look at the collection of newspapers Mr Darcy took. There were many in this golden age of newspapers when everyone and his brother, literally, ventured into the business of informing and educating their readership. Most of Mr Darcy’s were local-—two from Lambton; one from Hull; another from Derby, The Derby Mercury; and another—-a prize—-a recent London newspaper, the Observer. That took Mr Author back a few years to when he always chose the Observer whenever he wanted to read a London Sunday newspaper. Good old Observer, already 24 years in publication by this date at Pemberly.

Mrs Darcy and Miss Georgiana left the drawing room to examine some blossoms in the conservatory, but he suspected some weightier considerations than flowers might occupy much of their time. When the two returned a half hour later and Miss Georgiana expressed some interest in showing him the flowers blooming in December in the conservatory. Mr Author, who had been finding a certain fascination in the tone and substance of the Observer’s reports on the serious problems of the age, thought it prudent to express a little lassitude with the world of news and agree.

“I must admit that I am no gardener, Miss Darcy,” Mr Author allowed as they left the house. “Neither do I know a delphinium from a geranium.”

Miss Darcy laughed. “I am sure that you enjoy them all, nevertheless. But I must admit the discussion of flowers and gardening were not my intention.”

She looked around at the empty terrace. “Mrs Darcy suggested that you might be able to tell me of the disadvantages of living a full and exciting life…such as the one your young friend Miss Matah experiences.” She paused as her cheeks coloured slightly. “Not that I mean to pry, you understand. I would not like her to think that I wished to trespass into her private life.”

Mr Author nodded. “I did not expect that you did, but I recall she was the one who spoke to you about the secrets it would be improper to discuss. I must admit that she has a number of secrets it is better left unexamined, so I would prefer to structure my discussion in more general terms as they affect all young women in Gisel’s society.”

At this point they reached the steps leading down to the entrance to the conservatory and Mr Author offered his arm to Miss Darcy to steady her as she negotiated the steps in a dress that extended down to the buckles of her shoes.

“I notice that you use her name very familiarly,” she said as they reached the bottom. “Is she a member of your family?”

“Extended family I like to think, but one social difference I might point out as a preliminary exploration of the world Gisel comes from is the lack of much of Regency England’s formality. The more relaxed use of another person’s given name is emblematic of the much looser social graces of that age. These can work toward maintaining an atmosphere of social warmth, but also give rise to unnecessary and sometimes unwise familiarity.”

“Who would one address in such a less formal manner, pray?”

“One would always address ones brother by his first name, for example—-“

Miss Darcy placed a hand over her mouth as her eyes widened. “I could never do that.”

“Married couples would use the spouse’s first name in public, or perhaps a variation of Mother or Father if they are used to so naming the parent to their children. In Parliament a man must speak of an opponent as ‘the Right Honourable Gentleman’, but outside would eschew the use of any honorific whatsoever.”

“Yes…I see. But I would also like to hear more of the perils my sister-in-law mentioned.”

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One Response to “Bagatelle—Miss Matah troubles”

  1. joylene Says:

    I can’t click LIKE because I’m not a word press member. If I was I would. I love these minutias.

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