Archive for September, 2011

The Family’s Concern

September 29, 2011

Another continuation of the adventures of the 23rd century ‘wildcat’ from my Iskander series novels, Gisel Matah, during a visit to Pemberly in Regency times… courtesy of Miss Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The posts of these episodes can be found in the sidebar, starting with the post on May 31st.

Mr Author and the Darcys met the rest of the house party on the terrace as they returned from the stable yard. He was able to follow Miss Darcy’s gaze to see the distant figures of two horses and riders galloping across a far hillside. He profoundly hoped that the speed and direction of Gisel’s ride didn’t result in any injury to the poor groom.

It seemed that the escapade had been most disconcerting to Mrs Bennet who needed the support of both Miss Austen and Mr Bennet as she looked out across the balustrade. “Whatever is the world coming to? I do declare, the reckless behaviour of young ladies in these days is beyond all comprehension; to ride out in such a fashion, as if her femininity should be assuaged by wearing rough clothing procured from some military clothier. Where could she have obtained such garments—are there not Military regulations against all and sundry dressing as soldiers? And what dangers are the foolish girl exposing herself to—a woman’s constitution is made for more seemly activities—I dread to imagine what troubles she is laying in store for herself in the future. A girl who hopes and expects to engage herself in housewifely duties …no I can say no more. It is too indelicate… but I feel certain she will surely rue this wildness when she is older.

“Make no mistake, Miss Darcy. The holding of certain opinions may seem very fine in the drawing room, and make for excellent conversation among other young people but those of us who have…lived…taken on the true life and duties of a wife and mother can have nothing but approbation for such unnatural adventures. The very thought of what might happen on such a wild and reckless ride besets me with such palpitations … Oh. I do feel most beside myself with apprehensions … Mr Bennet, if you please, I would like to return to the drawing room; please give me your arm. And Miss Austen, too, I am so obliged to you for your kind attentions…such a great comfort. I can watch no more and must await further news in the deepest degree of distress … Oh, I pray the foolish girl will return with no more than superficial injuries from such a display of unbecoming recklessness.”

Miss Darcy seemed quite abashed at Mrs Bennet’s outburst—surely the most constructive commentary she’d offered the family in many years. Even Mr and Mrs Darcy exchanged a confidential comment in a succession of glances.

“I do hope that Miss Matah was not persuaded to undertake this adventure by anything I may have said or intimated,” Miss Darcy murmured as she stared at the distant hillside.

“I do not think you may blame yourself in any way,” Mr Author assured her. “I should have been more careful to note that her naturally high spirits would necessitate some wild initiative on her behalf…not that she isn’t perfectly capable of handling such a ride. I must admit to being somewhat concerned about the safety of the poor groom assigned to accompany her, Mr Darcy. Can you assure me that he is possessed of significant expertise?”

“Bonsall has been employed here since my Father’s time,” Mr Darcy replied. “I’m sure he has never ridden in a cavalry formation, but his skill is remarkable among the equestrian employees hereabouts.”

Miss Austen had returned from seeing Mrs Bennet to the house by this time and she addressed Mr Author at once. “While I must admit to obtaining some degree of amusement from your young friend’s exploits I really am concerned that I have brought such distress and consternation upon Mr and Mrs Darcy’s household. I think we may both have learned some new aspect of writing for a different audience but I am sure I shall never be tempted to make use of any of this experience in my own work. You may do as you will.”

Mrs Darcy immediately came to her side. “Do not trouble yourself unduly, dear Miss Austen. We are not so frail and timid at Pemberly as to be incapable of experiencing some new and novel excitements. I must admit that I thought we would be exposing Miss Matah to more genteel and social pursuits during the visit—and indeed, the Christmas Ball at Lambton is only two days away, and the first Church Worship of the season will be the day after. I presume she will find both to her liking?”

Mr Author stepped closer. “Those are the pursuits I had intended, Mrs Darcy, but I think we may have been a trouble to the household too much already. If you agree, Mr Darcy, we might hire a carriage tomorrow to return us from whence we came.”

“No, no. I will not hear of it. As my wife says, we are not so provincial here as to require protection from dramatic outside influences. Miss Matah has offered much constructive assistance with the matter of the letter that I feel fully resolved to entertain her to the pleasures of our region as had been intended. I feel reassured by your recounting the details of her riding experience and have no apprehension but that the two riders will return in due course much the better from their exercise and experience. I beseech you to reconsider your intention to leave.”

Mr Author felt that perhaps everyone’s polite reassurances needed more time and events to test them. “Thank you, both, for your magnanimity. It is far greater that we both deserve. However, I must consider the whole exploit before I can feel assured enough to pass judgement upon it…and she has barely begun what I expect might be a lengthy ride.”

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Gisel’s Ride.

September 12, 2011

This exercise is coming to a close, so it may be a good time to mention that I started posting from “A Regency Bagatelle “ on May 31st. If you’d like to read the posts in order I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with the upside-down nature of blogs and track the posts in reverse. I’m thinking that I may post the whole Bagatelle as a download on my website http://christopherhoare.ca but that won’t be for awhile yet. I thought to put it in the Creative Commons, that would allow others to a limited degree of use and derivation, but really as a chance to see how the system works.

Ah well, all in good time. Meanwhile let’s see what trouble Gisel can get into on a thoroughbred in rural Regency Derbyshire.

Mr Author and Miss Georgiana hurried to the stable yard to join Mr Darcy and an anxious Mrs Darcy as Gisel appeared from the stable leading a large black horse by his halter. She was wearing her Iskander Security black combat fatigues with the silver unit and rank badges—Mr Author was unaware she had brought such attire with her. Two of the stable lads followed behind them carrying a light English saddle and various items of horse tack.

“Tha should take care o’ he, Miss. He do bite if ‘e gets ‘is chance,” the senior of the lads was saying.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I appreciate everyone’s concern, but I have spent most of this last summer in the company of cavalrymen, and such a mix of mounts as to acquaint me with the foibles of most of the equestrian species.” She turned her head to meet Mr Author’s eye as she said this, as if to say, ‘notice how I’m learning to speak like these people’.

“Cavalry?” echoed Miss Darcy, her eyes full of the sight of a young woman in military uniform.

Mr Darcy turned to look at his sister. “I would prefer you to return to the house, Georgiana.”

Gisel stopped in the middle of the yard and took the bridle from the stable lad with the tack. “I’ll hand you the halter when I’ve fitted the bridle.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Miss Georgiana looked beseechingly at her brother, but his frown sent her walking slowly to the doorway to the kitchen garden and the terrace. Mr Author had no doubt but that she would stop to listen to the proceedings as soon as she was out of her brother’s sight.

Mr Darcy stepped closer to Mr Author to speak quietly. “What on earth is this nonsense about cavalry, Sir? I hesitate to doubt the young lady, but she seems rather given to exaggeration.”

Mr Author watched a moment as Gisel slid the halter onto her right arm. Agamemnon attempted to refuse the bit, but she slipped her thumb between the bars to set the bit into his mouth before he could back away. Her right hand raised the bridle to pull it over his ears. “I’m afraid it was no exaggeration, Sir. She was appointed to assist their cavalry general this summer campaign season, and was attached to his staff. I feel sure that among the fifty squadrons in the field there were many young officers who were tempted to test her with pranks and jokes.”

Gisel must have heard him. “I’ve learned not to challenge a wall with a ditch hidden behind it,” she said loudly, “I know enough to check a mount and trappings from nose to tail—and all the shoes twice, before accepting an invitation to ride; and I assure you I know enough not to take any wager that is less than one that would frighten any young lieutenant with certain penury.” With that she took the saddle from the other lad to set on Agamemnon’s back. He turned his head quickly as if to bite, but she put out an elbow into his cheek that dissuaded him.

“Good heavens,” Mr Darcy said. “It seems she is a horsewoman after all.”

Mrs Darcy joined them. “You cannot stop her? She will be safe?”

Mr Author smiled reassuringly. “I venture to say that Miss Matah is far safer on the back of any horse than I would ever be . . . and safer than many young bloods who fancy themselves expert enough to join a steeplechase. The cavalry general took a personal interest in ensuring she was capable of keeping up with his staff and tackling any challenge the squadrons would be required to take.” He didn’t divulge that General Lord Ricart of Amberden was also having an affair with her at the time.

Gisel straightened from tightening the girth and took the reins to walk Agamemnon a couple of circles around the yard. When she stopped before them again she bent to reach the girth and tightened it another notch. She stood and patted Agamemnon on the neck. “I know that trick, Old Chap.”

The groom arrived from the stable, leading a blaze chestnut by the reins. “Are ye ready to ride, Lady?”

Gisel put a foot in the stirrup and settled into the saddle. She checked her seat as the groom mounted his horse, and urged Agamemnon forward when he tried to back. “Yes, I’m ready. We’ll start at a canter until the mounts are warmed up.”

With that, she touched a hand to her forehead in salute and rode out the stable gate.