Good Afternoon everyone,
Today I’m very happing to be wrapping up the blog tour for The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament, by Don Jacobson. It is always a pleasure when Don Jacobson is my guest because he is a very interesting person with a lot of know how always brings lots of information to share with my readers 🙂 Today he isn’t bring any information resulting from his research, he brings an excerpt from the last book of the Bennet Wardrobe series and I hope you like it 🙂
Netherfield Park near Meryton, October 22, 1948
Sol’s rays, burning now for only ten-and-a-half hours as the great orb took its ever-shortening transit across the southern skies, had played obliquely on the banks and barrows that lined many of Hertfordshire’s remaining farms. Late blooming purple Gentians angled their petals toward the increasingly scarce, yet still life-giving, liquid gold that poured down upon them. Hives sent out their riders to collect these last bits of Ceres’ pollen-laden bounty before the venti of the North brought the killing whiteness. The county was lowering itself into its winter’s bed.
T’was one of those rare autumn evenings where Nature’s perfume hung in the cooling night air. The warmth of the day had activated the aromas of now-fallow fields and rain-dampened soils lining the lanes around Meryton. The scent of dried leaves carried on the night’s zephyrs was accentuated by a smoky back tone carried by the thready columns of a hundred pyres fueled by the barley and wheat straw leavings after another successful harvest.
The great drive winding from the London-Meryton Turnpike, long superseded by the great lanes of the A1, was well-marked in the traditional manner: pitch-fueled torches spaced every seventy-five feet or so. They flickered and guttered, creating giant orange splotches that left retinal after-images hearkening to night-blooming sunflowers beaming from atop six-foot stalks that might have been laid down by Oberon to lead his Titania home.
Yet, none of this was the work of wood sprites or faeries, but instead the product of the combined efforts of two Countesses, a Gräfin, and a baronet’s wife.
While any of the four ladies might have planned this by herself, the women found pleasure in the shared activity, jointly digging into bags of individual accomplishments to bring them to bear on problems not dissimilar to what Overlord’s planners faced, albeit on a smaller scale.
For example, food supplies were a great concern in rationing-era Britain. Lizzy Schiller leaned on dozens of school friends for leftover coupons. The year since Princess Elizabeth’s wedding, a national event which had employed a similar appeal for her wedding dress and cake, had seen a reappearance of partially-used ration books. Like loose pence and shillings gathered in a saucer in a dressing room, these flecks of gold dust were once again piling up in the kitchens and pantries of Austerity Britain’s upper-class homes. Unimportant and of little use when taken individually, these remaindered points collectively were destined to be turned into salmagundi salad, white soup, collar’d beef, raised pies, shining galantines, crystalline bowls filled with trifle, and, for the sweet lovers, mounds of rout cakes and marzipan.
However, her stroke of genius came when she realized that she could command a great draft of ration points held by members of the Five Families if she could discover a way to get enough of them out of Britain for at least a month, allowing a legal bequest of entirely unused coupon books. In pursuit of this idea, Lizzy contacted a Bingley cousin in Florida who readily agreed to host a month-long house party at her Palm Beach mansion. The Hollywood branch of the Gardiners opened their Bel Aire home with the additional promise of a week taken at the new Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. A Family-chartered section of the Canadian-Pacific’s Dominion run enticed the travel-minded with a trip across the northern nation, kicking off in Vancouver and broken by multi-day sojourns at the Banff Springs Hotel and Le Château Frontenac, ending in the Maritime Provinces.
The triumph of this unique strategy was realized when a courier delivered what Family money could not purchase: fifty pristine coupon books for meat, fats, and sugar.
The two Countesses conspired to manage personnel…in other words, they handled the guest list. Their combined decades at the top of British society gave them a clear perspective of the A– and B-Lists that delineated and filtered interactions in class-conscious Britain. While Labour had been in power for over three years, the long-held, if not cherished, distinctions that had defined the British Body Politic for 450 had yet to be erased. Mrs. Cecil-Darcy and Mrs. Fitzwilliam, in their guises as the Countesses of Pemberley and Matlock, navigated the perilous shoals that could have led to the foundering of the enterprise by basing their campaign upon the recognition that there were social sparrows and eagles. While eagles were certainly fearsome birds of prey and needed to be carefully massaged, a flock of agitated sparrows could be equally dangerous.
Thus, Georgiana and Anne mobilized their London townhomes and great houses at Pemberley and Selkirk for teas, dinners, soirees, musicales, and house parties. Assiduous application of notices in the agony columns of a dozen DBE British and continental newspapers along with Mr. Fleming’s intervention with his master’s print holdings, inflated bruised egos and soothed jealous outrage over sad discoveries that the morning post did not include the most coveted invitation of the season.
The most common reaction was one of appreciation that the Countesses and their husbands, long acknowledged as among the wealthiest after the Crown, none-the-less cared enough to show more distant connections a level of notice that others might not have. Their four-week operation cemented their place as leaders not through the application of fear, so often used by the successors of the Patronesses, but rather through the demonstration of a solicitude and social consciousness worthy of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.
Yet, if there was a first amongst equals, t’was The Founder’s wife. Into her hands the other three entrusted the critical decision of the theme for the ball. All agreed that logic called for a harvest-centered festivity. Beyond that, though, few suggestions piqued the interest of anyone…until Mrs. Bennet looked at the others and exclaimed, “It must be a costume ball!”
That outburst did little to excite until Fanny explained herself to the nonplussed group.
“Ladies, I am not suggesting dress-up as children might do to entertain themselves of a summer’s afternoon or even what the Americans do on All Hallows’ Eve. And no masks. Our guests must not be like those decadent Venetians. They must know with whom they are dancing!
“No, I am thinking of something which will have meaning to us as the Five Families. And something with which I can assist because of my discerning eye.”
Georgiana, Anne, and Lizzy all chuckled into swiftly raised teacups, so familiar they had become with their Grandmother’s idiosyncratic outbursts.
Mrs. Bennet then settled them with a quelling glare saying, “Oh, you three may laugh, but think for a moment where all of your wealth and privilege found its roots: back in my day after my Mr. Bennet created the Trust!”
Her enthusiasm took root as she warmed to her argument, “I know…I know. The Darcys were already amongst the richest landowners in the kingdom. And, yes, the Matlock earldom traced back to the War of the Roses and enjoyed great wealth, too.
“However, without the unification of Darcy—land—and Bingley—trade—money in 1812 in the Trust under my brother Edward’s guidance, t’is possible that all of the Five Families would have faded into obscurity. They would have pridefully clung to the old ways of wealth: even Bingley who, after all, was struggling to become part of the landed gentry. Little did he realize that he was not dissimilar to the last few first-class ticket purchasers on the Titanic.
“Thus,” she said with a winning smile, “as I am the oldest and the only one of this group who has had to find the ready for not one, but five gowns while fending off the predations of Lady Lucas and Mrs. Long who had their own females to parade in front of the men of the neighborhood, I get to decide the theme!
“And, the prospect of showing that upstart Caroline Bingley how to decorate Netherfield Park is a prospect which has me simply salivating.”
This last exclamation had her comrades once again finding their teacups to be of enormous interest.
“The Netherfield Harvest Ball must be a Regency gathering, as if the brightest jewels of the ton had launched it in the Little Season!”
Mrs. Bennet took a refreshing sip from her own cup and set it down on an adjacent table before continuing in a determined voice. She was all-business without any of the legendary foolishness and nerves so often described in a particularly-popular and well-read family history.
“Now that the theme is settled, you and our guests must consider me a resource. While my husband frequently has despaired of my exhortations about lace and fashion, he would, I imagine, not argue that I always have had excellent taste especially when considering women’s clothing of my time.
“Who amongst you have any knowledge of what we wore during the Prince Regent’s reign? Georgie, Annie, and even you my impertinent Lizzy: I would wager that the best you could do would be to dash into your portrait galleries. Even then you would only be able to see what your ancestors chose to wear for a sitting with Sir Thomas Lawrence and not something they would have had made up for a ball.
“Do you have any idea how I would have arrayed my daughters if we were in Town for the Season? For that matter, how would Mr. Darcy or Colonel Fitzwilliam have prepared themselves?
“I know because I saw them. I am able to provide first-hand knowledge: something which modern fashion scholars are unable to offer.”
And, thus, Mrs. Bennet spent the intervening weeks prowling the workrooms of London’s couturiers, discarding and approving offerings as if she were the editor of La Belle Assemblée. Her softly uttered “How unique,” when faced with a theatrical interpretation of her vision, sent worried designers and cutters scurrying to pull fresh bolts of sarcenet, muslin, and gauze down from groaning shelves to earn the lady’s smile and approving nod.
Today is the last stop, but you can still go back to the below blogs to read more about Don’s latest release 🙂
12/28 Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway
12/29 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, Giveaway
12/30 My Love for Jane Austen; Guest Post, Giveaway
01/03 My Vices and Weaknesses; Author Interview, Giveaway
01/04 So Little Time…; Guest Post, Giveaway
01/05 My life journey; Review, Excerpt Giveaway
01/07 More Agreeably Engaged; Character Interview, Giveaway
01/08 Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post, Giveaway
01/09 From Pemberley to Milton; Excerpt, Giveaway
Don is giving away 4 eBooks of The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament, the giveaway will end in 8 hours, so if you still want to apply comment on this post and click on this link. This will be your last chance to participate.
Good Luck everyone!