Good Afternoon everyone,
I am very pleased to be opening today the blog tour for The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion, Don Jacobson’s last book on the Bennet Wardrobe series. I know this series is highly regarded by everyone in the community and I am finally starting to read the entire collection this month, so you may expect some reviews on these books shortly. Until then, I would like to welcome Don Jacobson to From Pemberley to Milton, and share with you an excerpt of Lydia’s story.
I hope you like it and that you share your toughts on this series with all of us. If you’ve read any of the previous books, pelase don’t be shy and share your impressions with us 🙂
“My life has been very much like an unfinished painting. The artist comes to the portrait day-after-day to splash daubs of color onto bare canvas, filling in the blanks of my story. Thus grows the likeness, imperfect as it may be, which you see today.”
Lydia Fitzwilliam, Countess of Matlock, letter to her sister
Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, March 14, 1831.
Does it matter how a man fills out his regimentals? Miss Austen never considered that query. Yet, this question marks the beginning of an education…and the longest life…in the Bennet Wardrobe saga.
Lydia Bennet, Longbourn’s most wayward daughter, embarks on her quest in The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion. This biography reveals how the Wardrobe helps young Mrs. Wickham learn that honor and bravery grow not from the color of the uniform—or the gender of its wearer—but rather from the contents of the heart.
In the process, she realizes that she must be broken and repaired, as if by a kintsugi master potter, to become the most useful player in the Bennet Wardrobe’s great drama.
“Multifaceted and nuanced, The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion, speaks to the verities of life. Once again, Don Jacobson has combined the essence of Pride and Prejudice with an esoteric story line and the universal themes of redemption and forgiveness in this well-crafted narrative.”
Mirta Ines Trupp, author of The Meyersons of Meryton.
You can find The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion at:
Chapter III, IV Excerpts
July 29, 1813 Longbourn
The three wives of the 2nd Battalion of the 33rd Foot (Wellington’s Own) have been desperately awaiting news of their husbands in the wake of the great battle at Vitoria. No such information was forthcoming. Thus, nerves have become increasingly raw. A carriage has pulled into the carriage way in front of the manor house. Mr. Bennet has greeted its occupants, Sergeant Henry Wilson, Corporal Charlie Tomkins, and Lieutenant George Wickham.
The Sergeant bowed and answered succinctly, “We fought at Vitoria. T’was one of those queer things, fortunes of war, sir. Never saw it before.
“A frog cannon—one of those gallopers, smaller caliber—opened up from our flank as we advanced. T’was a lousy shot, but, they’re French, so what can you expect? In any event, the ball came across at a diagonal, missing everyone at the Lieutenant’s end of the file.
“It smacked into a 32-pound ball that had dug into the ground when le brutal let loose as we came down the road. The moment that smaller iron ball hit the other, it exploded into a thousand pieces. Ripped two men to bloody rags. Hurt three or four more.
“One of those shards caught Mr. Wickham in his short ribs. Because it came in from the side, it skidded across his back atop the bone. Laid him open a good eight inches, Mr. Bennet. The surgeons did not have to dig around to find it. It fell out of his work-a-day tunic onto the stretcher.[i] He has been fighting infection ever since, although he is now weaker from travel than suffering the effects of fever.”
Wilson extended a closed fist toward Bennet and then opened his hand. In the half-light that poured out of the front door…the torches having only just been lit by Hill and James…Bennet saw a twisted, blackened chunk of metal.
Bennet lowered his voice and leaned in toward Wilson, “Please, I entreat you, do not show this to any of the women. I have been living in a house full of females afflicted with nerves for over a month. Seeing this would cause a vapor attack that would rival any of Vesuvius’ eruptions!
“But tell me, before we are besieged by fluttering females, why did not you or Colonel Fitzwilliam advise the ladies that you were alive? We knew of the battle, but casualty lists have been spotty.”
Wilson nodded, “I do apologize if our lack of communication was trying. However, Colonel Fitzwilliam was also wounded in the battle. Tomkins and I were fortunate enough to see him swept from his horse by a voltigeur’s ball. We collected him from the aid station and loaded him onto the same wagon with the Lieutenant.
“Then the bone cutters spent the next few days fiddling with both. The good news was that since they were body wounds, they could not amputate anything.
“T’wasn’t until they had dumped them at our feet outside of the hospital, and we got our hands on some of Sergeant Harper’s maggots as well as some good Spanish honey that we were able to get them on the mend.
“In truth, Mr. Bennet, Charlie and I decided that t’would be better for us to get the Colonel home to Rosings and Mr. Wickham back here to Longbourn than to try to explain ourselves in letters that would probably not arrive until after we did.
“So, I went to Captain Sharpe who went to Lord Wellington’s camp. Whatever he did or said, I cannot say. All I know is that he came back with passes for Tomkins and me to carry dispatches and escort the two officers home.
“Took us several weeks, but we made it to Lisbon, and Nosey’s paperwork got us aboard a schooner heading up to Dover. Got there three days ago. We delivered the Colonel to Mrs. Fitzwilliam and Miss Bennet yesterday.
Suddenly a flurry of skirts and raised voices broke the night’s quiet.
Laura launched herself past Mr. Bennet and wrapped her arms around her husband’s neck.
Lydia and Annie looked fearfully over their friend’s head at the Sergeant.
In a voice more jovial than necessary, Wilson called out, “Are the three of us ever glad to see you! Mr. Wickham is a bit worse for wear, no little bit of it due, I am sure, to Tomkins’ incessant chattering.
“Did you know, Mrs. Tomkins, that your husband is an indifferent traveler? We had to stop about four times between Town and here so Tomkins could stretch his legs, although I am hard-pressed to understand how those short sticks needed any limbering.”
By this point, Tomkins had poked his head out the door.
“ ‘ere now, ya big oaf. While you’ve bin chin-wagging…beggin’ yore pardon, Mr. Bennet…my Mr. Wickham could ‘ave been upstairs getting sponged off by sumthin’ pr’ttier than the likes of you.”
As Wilson feigned outrage, Lydia pushed past and made for the carriage. Her father delayed her progress.
“Your husband was wounded in the fight, but you knew that, did you not, my girl? He is on the mend but remains weak.
“You must be strong, now, for Mr. Wickham.”
Lydia looked up at her sire and firmly replied, “Papa, at this moment, I am your daughter and not my mother’s. Imagine me as Lizzy, if you must, although I would rather you see me as a soldier’s wife ready to shoulder the portion that title brings.”
The subalterns gently hoisted Wickham from the carriage. They made to carry him, but the Lieutenant stopped their effort with a gentle shake of his head. Instead, as they set him on his feet, Lydia ran forward and inserted herself beneath his right arm, forcing a wince from the man as she wrapped her arm around his waist.
He said nothing, but tenderly kissed the crown of her head where it rested by his chin.
Clearing his throat, he addressed Mr. Bennet in a voice a few shades above a whisper, humility showing in every word.
“I had despaired of ever again seeing this beautiful edifice…and I speak first of my wife,” at this, he kissed Lydia’s forehead as she gazed up at him, “and second, this house. Thank you, Mr. Bennet, for caring for my wife and her friends whilst we have been off in Spain.
“I would hope that you could extend your hospitality further to allow me time to recover my strength…”
A troubled look crossed Mr. Bennet’s face, and he closed the few feet between himself and Wickham, halting the Lieutenant’s address with a hand gripping his left shoulder. He studied the younger man’s face, bronzed both by the sun and the entry’s torch baskets which had begun to gain traction against the deepening twilight. There was not a single jot of self-pity, once Wickham’s stock-in-trade, but rather a distinct weariness.
Bennet was firm but, he hoped, friendly.
“Now, I will have none of that, sir!
“Even if you were not my daughter’s husband and, thus, my son, I would never begrudge one—or three—of His Majesty’s soldiers bed and board.
“However, Mr. Wickham, I fear that you must be under some misapprehension concerning my thoughts about you.
“Unlike another of my boys, who bruits about that ‘His good opinion, once lost, is lost forever,’ I endeavor to be less rigid. I find Mr. Blake’s words apt:
The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water,
and breeds reptiles of the mind.
“Do not think that I criticize Darcy. In truth, his old unforgiving nature has softened somewhat since he wed my Lizzy. He does remain quite protective of his family, so I would not expect an invitation to Pemberley anytime soon.
“I, on the other hand, have watched your progress in the years since we were introduced. Reports have reached me from those of our mutual acquaintance including Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Hunters. You, sir, have reshaped yourself, not only becoming a respected officer in the Regulars, but also a better, more decent man.”
Wickham furiously blinked away the moisture bejeweling his lashes. Lowering his eyes toward the ground, “My emotions conspire to make a fool of me. Ever since I took that fragment…
“You seem to have absolved me of my sins against your daughter and family, Mr. Bennet. While I was not expecting it, t’was the one great regret that worried me when I thought I would perish before I had the opportunity to make amends and to ask your forgiveness.”
He sagged against Lydia. Wilson and Tomkins firmly gripped him. Mr. Bennet leaped forward and clasped his son’s hands quickly concluding their conference saying, “Rest easy, young man. You are family, and family forgives, especially in the face of indisputable evidence.
“You, Wickham, have long been lost, but now you are found.
“Welcome home, son.”
[i] This is drawn from the bullet found on the gurney used to carry Governor John Connelly into Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963.
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 began publishing The Bennet Wardrobe Series—
Jacobson is also part of the collective effort behind the publication of the upcoming North and South anthology, Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North and South due out in the Fall of 2019.
Other Austenesque Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” (2016) and “The Maid and The Footman.” (2016) Lessers and Betters offers readers the paired novellas in one volume to allow a better appreciation of the “Upstairs-Downstairs” mentality that drives the stories.
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. Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).
He lives in the Las Vegas, Nevada 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).
Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog)
The blog tour is just starting, so please don’t forget to check the following blogs for more excerpts, author interviews, reviews and much more 🙂
9/26 So Little Time…
Good Luck Everyone!