Gisel frightens the Darcys

“I’m not sure what she mentioned, but I must begin at the point of most significance in Regency society. A young woman in our society who attains to a position of value, such as Miss Matah’s invaluable skill at languages, places herself in direct competition with the interests of gentlemen she may meet. A young gentleman of means and of amiable and kind disposition who might be inclined to admire her could be brought up against the very disturbing possibility that she might be called away by her political masters when a matter requiring urgent attention, within her skills, may suddenly arise. All intentions he may have toward making a fuller acquaintance may be cast aside when he addresses the inconveniences, and possibly more serious disruptions it might cause them were they to consider marriage.”

Miss Darcy stopped at the door to the conservatory while Mr Author opened it, but it seemed her eyes were elsewhere. “Hmm. I see what you mean.”

“I actually know of situations where the differing expertise of a married couple result in their spending considerable time in different cities—even different countries. Of course, this happens here as well. One could cite the situation of naval officers and their wives and families.”

“I have met ladies in that situation who have not seen their husbands for several years,” Miss Darcy mused. “What a terrible situation, I always think. With the delay in sending and receiving mail the husband could have been lost in a shipwreck for months before the family hears the news.”

Mr Author thought perhaps the message had been delivered, but, alas, it was not so.

Stopping before the first of the flowering plants, Miss Darcy sighed. “I must confess that I find the prospect of travel to distant places a very fascinating one. Fancy being born in a distant country and having been partly raised by one’s grandparents in Greece. The marvels of Athens, the mysteries of Delphi, the harsh and barren hills of Sparta—surely it would be like living in a poem of Homer’s. I can imagine sailing on the wine-dark sea to the islands on the horizon … but Miss Matah has actually done it—no wonder she can speak with a traveller’s authority on so many subjects.”

“But I perceive that you have travelled the same lands in your mind from reading the classics, Miss Darcy. In many ways that experience is more likely to stir the intellect and the imagination than the hardships, the heat and pestilential flies of the actual journey. I would suggest that the hills of Sparta are not exactly barren but I recall they were very dusty with sandy soil and not as verdant as parts farther north.”

“You have been to Sparta? Do tell.”

Oops. Mr Author realised he should not have shared that information. “I must admit to having been there once…it was a long time ago.”

“How did you come to be travelling in Greece? What was it like?” She turned to face him, her arms akimbo. “Did you visit Miss Matah and her grandparents? I must hear what you have to say. I will not move another step until you tell me more.”

“There really isn’t much to tell. I thought the place a disappointment—certainly after Athens. There was very little trace of the ancient city; no hoplites training in the olive groves—just a rather small, drab country town. I am sure you have heard more interesting tales in fashionable drawing rooms in London when people who have take the Grand Tour relate their experiences.”

“No one has ever spoken of visiting Greece to my knowledge. The Turks are Mohammedans …perhaps even Saracens—it would hardly be safe for a Christian to venture there. How was it possible for you to visit?”
“Well, I—”

At that point the door to the conservatory burst open and Haggerston rushed in, his face scarlet and his breath rasping. “I say…Mr Author! Mr Darcy asks if you … could come at once to the… stable yard…”

Miss Georgiana gasped. “Why, whatever has happened? Is someone hurt?”

“Why, no Miss…but someone very well could.” He turned from Miss Georgiana to beseech Mr Author. “Please come, Sir. It’s your Miss Matah— she is determined to ride Agamemnon!”


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