Good Afternoon everyone,
Welcome to From Pemberley to Milton for a new post on Don Jacobson’s blog tour of The Countess Visits Longbourn. This is Don’a latest release on the Bennet Wardrobe Series and I’m thrilled to be sharing with you an excerpt that reveals the first moments after The Countess has confronted the street rats assaulting two soldiers (Sergeant Wilson and Corporal Tomkins) in the mews behind Madras House. T’is here that Wickham steps into the frame and joins, for a time, the household of the Dowager Countess of Deauville.
“The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn” is the fifth book in the Bennet Wardrobe Series, and if you haven’t read them all yet, you can find information on each one of them below:
I would like to thank Janet for all he hard work in putting this blog tour together, and to Don for once more allowing me share wonderful excerpts with my readers. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
“I have been shaped by the events of over forty years. The world is a nasty place full of awful persons, Mr. Wickham, and does not get any lighter through complaining or blaming.”
The Countess: An Enigma? A Mystery? Or a young girl all-grown-up?
Kitty Bennet, the fourth daughter of the Master and Mistress of Longbourn, had spent far too long as the shadow of her youngest sister. The all-knowing Meryton chinwaggers suggested that young Miss Bennet needed education—and quickly.
How right they were…but the type of instruction Kitty Bennet received, and the where/when in which she matriculated was far beyond their ken. For they knew nothing of that remarkable piece of furniture which had been part of the lives of clan Bennet for over 120 years: The Bennet Wardrobe.
Forty-six years from when she left her Papa’s bookroom, the Dowager Countess of Matlock returned to that exact same moment in 1811 to tend to many important pieces of Family business.
In the process, Kitty Fitzwilliam helped her youngest sister find the love she craved with the hero who, as the Duke said, “saved us all.”
Who can resist the magic of time-travel? Pages of worldwide history rustle back and forth between Regency grand salons, Napoleonic battlefields and more recent conflicts as, guided by Don Jacobson’s masterful pen, the Bennet sisters grow as people and come into their own. ‘The Countess Visits Longbourn’ is a wonderful new instalment, and we cannot fail to revel in the excellent writing and the abundance of detail as the mysteries of the Wardrobe continue to unfold. This captivating series, that brings together real and much-loved fictional characters from all walks of life, is one to savour, and I will revisit it again and again.
Joana Starnes, author of Miss Darcy’s Companion
Like a tableau staged by the ladies after dinner at any of a number of country estates dotting the landscape, figures were frozen in place throughout the small square. The only sounds were the dying notes of a brassy ting-ting as something tiny and metallic bounced on the paving stones. The two soldiers were huddled by the wall of what was clearly the laundry shed. The two remaining criminals stared at their fallen leader, mouths agape at the sudden punctuation that signaled his end. The lady stood at the bottom of the back stairs, arm outstretched with smoke rising from the pistol’s muzzle, her whitish hair escaping from beneath its protective kerchief. Her eyes, too, were locked on the corpse, a darkening pool spreading from beneath the edge of its immobile torso. Finally, there was Wickham, in the act of drawing his blade, one leg forward at the very beginning of his charge.
For a moment, the only movement was made by the shadows thrown by the actors, cast as they were in the guttering orange glare of the pitch-fueled torch.
The officer was the first to break his pose. He strode into the arena directly behind the two attackers who were only just beginning to consider their three options: continue the attempt on the woman; continue the attack on the soldiers; or begin their flight.
The unmistakable sound of Wickham’s sword being hauled into the chill air clarified everything in the assailants’ minds. They spun as this new threat pressed upon them.
Wickham allowed his cloak to fall open as he waved the pewter grey length of steel from man to man, mesmerizing each like a fakir charming a snake far more deadly than either of the muggers. The buff lapels of his uniform cemented the impression that he, unlike either of his opponents, was a trained killer. They had no way of knowing that Wickham had never served outside of the country. However, in spite of this ignorance, they easily concluded that there was no way past the sword or its bearer—no escape back into the sewers from which they had risen.
Both men spread their arms away from their sides and dropped their weapons—one a makeshift dagger, the other an iron-studded truncheon—to clatter upon the slick cobbles paving the rear area.
Flashing a sardonic smile at the unfortunate pair, Wickham spoke softly, using every ounce of his inner Darcy, recalling that Fitz’s threat increased the more the tone of his voice decreased. George had heard that awesome tone of Darcy’s voice only twice in his entire life in spite of all the years the two had aggravated each other—first in Ramsgate and then, later, upstairs at Mrs. Younge’s boarding house. That he had been on the receiving end of both addresses…and that both had been because of injury he had inflicted upon women dear to his god-brother…helped him direct the present fury that inexplicably boiled up inside of him.
These pustules on society’s arse forced her hand.
I would gladly skewer one and fillet the other but for the fact that this lady has undergone enough.
She has yet to move. Likely she is trying to comprehend what she has done. Women do not kill. They made her do so. And, it is clear that this woman is no mere maid of all work. She is quality of the rarest kind!
“Pick him up. Go ahead. Pick him up. He cannot stay here.”
They bent and grabbed the body by the armpits. When they had managed their burden, Wickham spoke in the same awful and quiet manner.
“Lest you think to improve your lot by extorting an advantage from the lady, know now that this house is under my protection. While I imagine she can amply fend for herself, I would not have a gentlewoman of her standing sully herself with the likes of you.
“I can assure you that all you ever will receive is the full attention of my little friend here.
“Now, take your trash and disappear.”
He stepped to one side to make way for the procession. Once they had clearly vanished into the alleyway, he turned back toward the woman.
Her arm had dropped to her side, but George Wickham was no fool. He knew that she could very well perceive him as a threat. Whatever she held in her hand was powerful and lethal. He could not bank that it was some sort of single-shot lady’s pocket pistol. Sheathing his sword, he offered soothing sounds as he began to approach her.
“My Lady? My Lady? My name is George Wickham.” At his name, her gun hand jerked upward, but swiftly sagged down again as if she were grasping a twelve-pound cannon ball rather than a compact firearm.
He had halted his gradual movement when she reacted, but now began again, slowly coming within five feet, then three.
“I am a lieutenant in His Majesty’s Army. The attackers have fled. You defended your house and these unfortunate soldiers. For that I must thank you.
“Perhaps, though, you should allow me to relieve you of your burden.”
He made to reach for the pistol. Concerned, her eyes flashed up at his, something crossing beneath her brows that confused Wickham. T’was as if she recognized him in some manner. Then the look vanished as all of her features smoothed. She firmly moved the weapon back behind the skirts of her housecoat.
In a well-modulated voice betraying the slightest accent, she said, “Ah, Lieutenant…Wickham…is it? Thank you for your concern. I assure you that I am trained in the use of my pistol. I will not involuntarily puncture that fine uniform jacket of yours. However, I do believe that I would feel more comfortable retaining control of it right now.
“You, though, might be better served in seeing to your men,” she suggested in a tone which left no room for dispute.
Wickham began a snappy retort, “They are not…” but broke off when her china blue eyes flashed in anger. Officers in the British Army care for all men in the ranks once the battle is finished; quarters for them before officers, likewise food.
He sheathed his sword and moved over to where the sergeant was trying to tend to his comrade.
“Sit back, Sergeant. Allow me to use the light to assess your companion,” Wickham ordered.
Used to—and therefore quite comfortable with—an officer leading the way, the Sergeant rolled away to sit with his back against the wall of the wash shed, his breathing became ever more regular as the battle fever was washed from his bloodstream. His long legs were bent at the knee, and his feet were flat on the ground. Beneath a scarlet tunic, faded to near pink from months in the Iberian sun, stained pantaloons stretched like drumheads across his massive thighs. His lower legs were encased in fine French dragoon boots—spoils of successful combat—rising from his soles to above his knees. Near white, but still blonde, hair covered the crown of his head, exposed now that his shako had been knocked clear as he sought to defend his file-mate. Everything about him shouted soldier, and a successful one at that…except for the grimy bandages covering his eyes.
Wickham gently rolled the supine soldier over onto his back. A large knot graced the left side of his head, a tiny trickle of blood losing itself into his short brown hair. A moan escaped his lips as his eyelids fluttered in a sign of returning consciousness. Shortly his eyes blinked open, and he tried to rise.
“Easy man. You took quite a knock to your noggin. Move too fast and you are liable to puke up your last meal if you could get upright, let alone to your feet.
“But, I need your report, soldier. So just lie there and answer my questions. Who are you two, and what is your mission?”
The lieutenant turned and looked in appeal to the lady.
“Ma’am…while I talk with these men, might it be possible for you to find two trusted men to assist us. We need to move them inside. I fear that this one may be concussed. The other is rather obvious,” Wickham asked.
Kitty nodded and turned on her heel, mounting the stairs and disappearing through the kitchen door.
The Sergeant waited until the lady’s footfalls had vanished. The he spoke up.
“Excuse me, Lieutenant, sor, but I am the senior subaltern present. Tomkins is but a corporal.
“Mr. Wickham, I am Henry Wilson, Sergeant, and my companion is Charlie Tomkins, a Chosen Man. We serve in the First Battalion, South Essex Regiment under Mr. Sharpe. The Cap’n detached Tomkins and me after I was injured in a skirmish with the Frogs about a month back. Some idiot of an artilleryman dropped his slow match into the powder limber when he was retreating.
“Blew him to Hell and back, it did, sor. I got caught by the edge of the blast and my eyes were hurt sore bad. Tomkins has been trying to lead me back to his former establishment here in Town—Cecil House. He was a second footman there. His brother is in service to the Cecils as well. We were hoping to find a night of bed and board, but got caught out by the distance.
“Been walking and hitching rides for four days from Portsmouth, sor.”
Wickham looked with pity at the big man. His future as a blinded veteran was bleak. Better if he had died in the explosion.
As if reading Wickham’s mind, the Sergeant said, “Worry is not part of the way I am made, sor. I know that the good Lord will know what to do with Henry Wilson. I just want Charlie to be all right and be able to drop me at the depot in Colchester. Then the regiment can muster me out and get me my back pay.
“But, I want to tell you, I think the Almighty may be deciding if he wants me back in Portugal. I’ve been seeing flashes of light behind my bandages for past three or four days.”
The return of the lady and two men, one older accompanied by a larger younger man, cut short any further thoughts the Sergeant may have offered.
Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years. His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. He has previously published five books, all non-fiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series—The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series. Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”
Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations. As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.
He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound. Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).
He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear. Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.
His other passion is cycling. Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills). He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days). Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).
Feb. 14 Austenesque Reviews; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
Feb. 15 My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, GA
Feb. 17 My Love for Jane Austen; Character Interview, GA
Feb. 19 So little time… Excerpt, GA
Feb. 20 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, GA
Feb. 21 Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, GA
Feb. 23 More Agreeably Engaged; Review, Excerpt, GA
Feb. 25 Darcyholic Diversions; Character Interview, GA
Feb. 26 From Pemberley to Milton; Excerpt
Feb. 23 More Agreeably Engaged; Character Interview, GA
Feb. 28 Just Jane 1813; Review, GA
Mar. 2 Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
Mar. 3 My Vices and Weaknesses; Author Interview, GA
Mar. 5 Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post, GA
Don Jacobson is offering 12 books, 10 eBooks and 2 Paperbacks, to readers following his blog tour. The giveaway is international and to enter this it you can click on this link.
Good Luck everyone!