Archive for November, 2011

Gisel surprises

November 14, 2011

The continuation of A Regency Bagatelle follows. I started this in May (see the first post here) as an exercise in writing a somewhat Regency style to practice my 19th century sense and sensibilities. The cast includes myself and Gisel Matah, my kick-butt security officer from my Iskander series novels, the Darcys and the Bennets…and now the Bingleys…from Pride and Prejudice—and of course, their author Jane Austen. It was never intended as a work for publication, but…one has to fill up a blog with something. It has to be coming close to an end as I have other projects requiring more attention. Any suggestions are welcome.

And now….Gisel surprises everyone:

After about an hour, the returning carriage was spied in the distance where the driveway crested the distant hill. Those with the best eyesight pronounced that Mr Darcy was at the reins, as he had been when they left, and another gentleman, likely Mr Bingley, rode Agamemnon beside the carriage. No one knew whether to be reassured or dismayed to note that the party proceded at a very measured pace. Was haste no longer necessary…and why?

Again almost the whole household gathered at the front door and down the entrance steps to be there at the moment of arrival. All save Mrs Bennet, it must be noted, because she had taken to her bed where she waited in great fear for the bad news she expected.

Mr Author stood at the bottom of the steps with as much apprehension as the others. When Mr Bingley leaped from Agamamnon to go to the door of the carriage as soon as it stopped, the whole company of watchers emitted a long sigh.

Mr Darcy paused before tying the reins. “Everyone is well,” he called. “Mr and Mrs Bingley have a healthy baby daughter.”

The servants and some of the family broke into applause, and then cheers as the swaddled babe was passed from inside the carriage into Mr Bingley’s waiting arms.

Noting that Agamemnon was now loose and starting to move away, Mr Author nudged one of the stable lads to go and catch him. “Right yer be, Sir. I has’n.”

Mr Bingley stood waiting while Mrs Bingley was helped from the carriage and into the arms of her sister and Miss Matah. Then the entire group moved to the steps and slowly ascended to enter the house. Mr Darcy climbed down from the box as another stable lad came forward to catch the headstalls of the lead horses.

He went to the carriage door to help another young lady dismount. Miss Georgiana turned away from the first party to hurry forward to greet her. “Miss Bingley, I hope you are not too fatigued from all the troubles. Come with me, we must find a comfortable place beside the fire for you.”

The footmen hurried forward to carry off the luggage that had been transferred from the broken carriage as Mr Darcy stopped beside Mr Author to introduce this new arrival. “This is Miss Caroline Bingley, Mr Bingley’s younger sister. Mr Author is a house guest visiting with Miss Matah, Miss Caroline.”

Mr Author bowed slightly in answer to Miss Bingley’s slight curtsy. The ‘charmed to meet you’s were carelessly spoken. He was intrigued to meet the Bingley sister who had set her heart at Mr Darcy long before Elizabeth Bennet had ever met him and who had waged a bitter battle of rivalry with her. Now a house guest—how would the two get on under Mr Darcy’s roof?

Once inside the house, Haggerston urged the guests to gather in the front parlour where a good fire blazed, but Mr Author turned aside to follow the birthing party up the stairs so he could tell Gisel what measures he had taken to prepare sterilised containers and boiled water. He caught up to the kitchen girl who had carried out the work as she ascended at the rear of the group with two of the china jugs.

“I’ll explain to Miss Matah what you have prepared, Ruby. If it is not exactly to her wishes the fault will be mine.”

He followed to the door to the room Mrs Bingley and the babe were to have, but did not enter into this decidedly female sanctum. Mrs Darcy bent over a small crib tending the the child who sobbed softly once or twice. He did hear some of the discussion, that seemed to be about the need for the midwife, still expected to arrive, and the desirability of hiring a wet nurse.

“I don’t recommend using a wet nurse if Mrs Bingley is able to feed the baby,” he heard Gisel say. “The child is about four weeks premature, as near as we can ascertain, which means she is deficient in the nutrients essential to her final development. However, nature has taken measures to help—the mother’s milk will be especially rich in those nutrients.”

“Then we will do our best to accommodate that need. Is that acceptable, Jane?”

Jane Bingley, looking somewhat tired and dishevelled as she sat on the edge of the bed, smiled and nodded her head. “Whatever needs be done, Lizzy. I am in your hands as well as in your great debt, And Miss Matah—I do not know that I can do enough to thank you.”

Gisel looked toward the door, and seemed surprised to see Mr Author there with Ruby.

“I had Ruby, here, prepare some boiled water and sterilised containers. I thought you might be needing them.”

“Thank you, I will. Bring them in, Ruby.” She grinned at Mr Author. “I will see you downstairs when we have settled the mother and child.”

Mr Author backed away from the door, making room for Miss Georgiana and Miss Austen to enter. Miss Austen paused in the doorway to speak to him.

“I’m sure you didn’t plan your young lady to be a midwife,” she said softly. “Her knowledge is sound?”

“I did have her memory of her mother’s expertise help her at other times. That the two volunteered in a clinic for the poor is a reasonable extention of my author’s intention. Gisel must have been quite young, though.”

“The mother would have wanted her daughter to become a healer as well, I expect.”

“Yes, Gisel was expected to follow her mother’s profession at one time. I’ve decided that Gisel’s own daughter will one day take up the calling,”

That was the end of the conversation as the door was closed to allow Mrs Bingley be prepared for bed.


writer crawls from the woodwork

November 7, 2011

Whoops—three weeks have got away from me and I had this post of Regency Bagatelle ready to go. I have sold nine POD copies of my fantasy Rast and nine copies of the Iskander PODs, three of each title—all as locally as one might imagine, our own little hamlet at the edge of the mountains. For that I must thank the lady who writes our senior’s column for the local paper, who read the copy of Rast at the local library and wrote a nice plug in her column. See, it does work in home territory, if only the book gets the right word of mouth. I’ll be selling again the first weekend in December.

Now, back to Bagatelle… this post follows directly from the preceeding one below.

When the coach party left, and Miss Austen, Miss Georgiana, and Mr Bennet took care of the hysterical Mrs Bennet upstairs Mr Author was left alone while Haggerston went to prepare the house for the arrivals.

He had to marvel that Gisel had more talents than even he had written for her—surely a huge example of a character going far beyond the author’s intention. His plot intention was to give her one of the most valuable of intellectual abilities, the gift of almost perfect recall. Whatever she learned, indeed whatever she saw, heard, or participated in was stored where she might call upon it at need. He hoped her store of knowledge included the care of premature babies … how many weeks premature was the Bingley babe?

No doubt the expertise of Regency England was poorly equipped to save such a child from an early death, but perhaps that offered him a small opportunity to help. He found his way to the servants’ stairs and went down to the kitchens.

A very stout lady with grey hair looked up from a mixing bowl as he entered. “Can I help thee, Sir? This be kitchen.”

“Yes, I see. I was looking for Mr Haggerston and the girls he has gathered to help with the arrivals … particularly the babe.”

“Ah, thou needst not bother yoursel’ with that, Sir. The servants will do all that be needed.”

“Perhaps, but if Miss Matah is taking a major part in the matter I have a very good idea what measures and treatments she will insist upon. It seems to me that I can assist by preparing Mr Haggerston for some of the demands she might make.”

“I don’t know, I’m sure … we has not had a birth at Pemberly since Miss Georgiana was —“ She cut off as Haggerston came bustling in with one of the upstairs maids. “Why, here he be, now.”

“Can I help you, Sir?”

“Well, actually I have come down here to offer you my assistance. I was just telling Cook that Miss Matah will have some definite instructions that none of you may be familiar with … if Mr Darcy and the Bingleys ask her to continue helping.”

“Really, Sir?”

“I’m sure you know that a premature baby is in a medical emergency. I suspect Miss Matah may be able to offer valuable help, but she will need to use her medical knowledge rather than rely upon English custom. Not that I wish to impugn good English custom. I hope you understand what I mean.”

Haggerston nodded to the maid to continue what he had instructed and then turned to Mr Author. “I understand, Sir, that you and Miss Matah are very concerned to help, but I will be bound to follow Mr and Mrs Darcy’s instructions”

“Of course.”

“We, that is the servants and myself, have noticed that the young lady has a very confidant manner, unusual in one so young, but likely merited by her unusually wide experience of the world. It is unheard of that a woman should be reckoned a physician, but if Miss Matah’s mother has indeed passed on such knowledge to her daughter it would be a boon to the family… I hesitate to speak out of turn, but the district has not possessed a good physician since old Dr Farnon died. It is to be hoped that Mr Bingley is unable to rouse Lambton’s Dr Hodgekin from his cups.”

“I see. And is there a good midwife in the district?”

“Mr Darcy has sent Bonsall to fetch old Mrs Brown in the shay. She’s a reliable old soul, but likely to be troubled in the manner of this birthing. It seems usual for such an event to result …” he paused and exchanged a troubled glance with Cook … “in much sadness for the family — not that we does not pray that this should be different.”

“Indeed. It is in my concern to see a better outcome that I offer my suggestions for preparations before the rescuers return. I know that Miss Matah will insist on her methods of preventing sickness if such should threaten.”

“An’ what be those, Sir,” said Cook, taking her hands from the mixing bowl.

“Perhaps nothing that you are not acquainted with. It is a matter of sterilization, the strict methods of cleaning everything that should be brought in contact with the mother and child.”

“An’ how be that done, Sir?”

“By immersing everything in boiling water to kill anything likely to convey sickness to the patients. It is recognized that many harmful disease organisms are too small to see with the unaided eye and that boiling water can kill them.”

“As you says, Sir,” said Cook with a rising colour. “A cook is not unfamiliar with cleanliness—particularly in her kitchen.”

“Then I am sure you can put a reliable girl to work with preparing boiling water, with sterilizing some containers that may be used to store boiled water, and holding herself ready to supply such items as Miss Matah may request.”

Haggerston looked at Cook. “Is that acceptable, Cook? We must not presume to trespass into your kitchen, but I must suggest that the possible plight of mother and babe do call for our most urgent exertions. If dinner must be delayed until we have dealt with the emergency, then delayed it must be.”

“Very well, Mr Haggerston. I will call my girls and set them to work.”