Last Post:

This is the present ending of Regency Bagatelle that I began with a post last May. It may not be the best ending I could find but it is getting close to time that I should be discussing the next Iskander series novel and Gisel’s adventures in “Masquerade”. Farewell, Pemberly, for the time being.

Regency Bagatelle:

As it transpired, the discussion between Mr Author and Miss Matah met several delays…first the late serving of the dinner cook had had to put aside to prepare for the babe, then the lengthy family discussion into the measures they needed to take to care of the mother and child—where Miss Matah’s advice was widely sought. As a result, the next day they walked out into a brisk December morning to a terrace adorned with an overnight coating of snow before finding the time and place for the discussion intended.

“I know you have been anxiously looking for an opportunity to whisk me away from these people,” Gisel said, “but now it seems I must stay…at least until they have some better idea about the care needed by a premature baby. From what I hear, preemies usually die, here.”

“My own understanding as well, but we must not contravene the regulation that forbids the dissemination of anachronistic information. You have already gone way over that boundary, but I would not condemn you for it.”

“For what it’s worth, I did send Mr Bingley to Lambton to fetch the physician, but the birth would still have happened before his return…if he had been sober anough to attend.”

“That was probably a fortunate accident— Haggerston intimated to me that he is an incompetent drunk. But you turned out to be a fine midwife—I never knew.”

“I had never been the midwife before, but I did help my mother attend several births when she donated her time to the charity clinic. With those poor Dalits in the Mumbai slums, every birth seemed a crisis—at least to me. I was only thirteen at the time.”

“Good grief, it’s a wonder you weren’t scared off romantic affairs for life.”

Gisel laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “I might have learned to be more cautious, at least.”

“You said that, not me.”

“Hello, can I join you?”

They turned to see Miss Austen stepping carefully across the snow, wrapped in a huge travelling cloak. “We are discussing plans for our departure,” Mr Author answered, “but perhaps we will need your advice.”

“Anything I can offer is willingly given,” she said, “but first let me remark upon that wonderful, full bodied laugh that greeted me as I stepped onto the terrace. How I wish I were free enough to give vent to such an uninhibited burst of merriment—at least to do so in public instead of in carefully modulated tones in the privacy of my or my sister Cassandra’s bedroom. It must surely tell me that women are as free as birds in the world you live in, Miss Matah. I might even suggest that the loss of a measure of decorum is a fair payment for such privilege. Would it possibly be appropriate for me to ask the cause of such a laugh…it is so welcome after the cautious bravery that the family has adopted this morning.”

“Well…” Mr Author began.

Gisel dismissed his caution with a careless wave. “It is completely scandalous, Miss Austen—even though it only hints at the romantic adventures I have had since becoming a character in Mr Author’s tales.”

“Good gracious.”

“And you don’t know half of it, from your current perspective.”

Gisel smiled. “Oh, there’s more? Do tell me if the affairs end in happier circumstances than those in my past.”

“You know I cannot do that, but I can at least tell you that you will meet someone who will become a life partner.”

“That’s good to know. I presume our partnership will not be as reckless and notorious as those in my past. Lord Ricart is an exciting lover but as unfaithful as an alley cat.”

Miss Austen placed her hands over her mouth. “Enough, Dear. You must certainly not add to my embarrassment and confusion by revealing any details. Consider the achievement of a comfortable partnership to be more than enough happiness for this earth…this is all that young women here look for.”

“Let’s get back to the topic we were discussing,” Mr Author suggested. “Who can you instruct in caring for a premature baby, that you might safely leave in charge? Did your mother instruct you in that?”

“Not to the necessary degree…good lord, she trained as an obstetrician/pediatrician for eight years. Only a fraction of that rubbed off on me. I’ve prettywell come to the end of my knowlege already. Keep the child from infection and feed her up with the nutrition she needs and everything we can do will have been done. As far as I can tell, she has no congenital defects, but it’d take a hospital’s diagnostic lab to search as thoroughly as would be done in your society…or mine.”

Miss Austen stared at them in surprise. “You speak of great knowlege and wonderful techniques, but are we so backward here in England?”

“Let me put it this way, Miss Austen. In England before the Regency there was very little sound understanding of disease and treatment and a great deal of ignorance-driven superstition, but it is the time from whence great advances in medical sciences begin. New knowlege takes generations to become established. For example, the microscope dates from 1620 and yet the pivotal discoveries of van Leeuwenhoek—blood corpuscules, capillaries, and the structure of nerves— were not made until almost a hundred years later.”

She seemed appalled. “Oh dear, you make me quite apprehensive of my health already. How does one learn about these great advances?”

“The first changes has to be in the training and licensing of doctors. While they trained in theory rather than practice at first, the practical changes gradually made better medical treatment more accessible.”

Gisel took her hand reassuringly. “Every community knows its best healers…the power of word of mouth is the soundest test. But some benchmarks exist, and the strongest is likely the doctor’s unwillingness to implement the harmful practice of blood-letting. It is in the blood that the body’s best defenses…its immune system…reside. The sick and injured cannot afford to lose any of it.”

“Dear me. Your words make me think my writing had been better aimed at studying those topics instead of the idiosyncracies of family and social mores.”

“Not at all. Miss Austen. You have provided a grounding in understanding the sources of our current manners and civility—or perhaps more properly, our lack of them.”

Gisel nodded. “And in my age, even less social gentility. I would suggest a return to your age, its manners, its careful correspondence, its acceptance, and its slower pace would do the present worlds, whatever they may be, a great incentive to live on a more human and less technological level. It may be a great wonder for us to be able to journey through time and space, but no real benefit is derived unless we might return to our own with the incentive to bring our learning back with us.”

Mr Author decided upon having the last word. “Indeed, it is only by retreating from the frenetic pace of our own worlds that we find a quiet place to stand, where we can evaluate what we, collectively, are doing.”


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One Response to “Last Post:”

  1. joylene Says:

    I’m going to miss these stories. Merry Christmas, Chris.

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