Saving Miss Caulfield, Part 2 ~ A Regency Short Story by Kristi Ann Hunter

To celebrate our third year of sharing inspirational Regency fiction with our readers, we are giving them brand new short stories. Today we present the conclusion of Saving Miss Caulfield.

Part 1 can be read here

Saving Miss Caulfield, Part 2

Bianca stomped through the main hall, wishing she had on something more substantial than satin slippers. Their soft slapping against the marble floor was decidedly unsatisfactory.

She heard Landon exit the drawing room behind her, his boots thudding against the floor with confident solidity. One more grievance for her to lay at his feet. The urge to run up the stairs was strong, but she forced herself to take the steps at a sedate pace.

“Are you going to answer me?” Landon stood in the hall with his hands on his hips and his head dropped back to look up at her.

Arrogant man. Did he expect her to be delighted about his willingness to sacrifice himself because he couldn’t imagine foisting her off on some other poor bloke?

Bianca did her best to arrange her features into a mirror of his frustrated countenance “Are you going to ask me a question?”

She gripped the banister until her fingers turned white and her arm started to shake. Of all the times she had imagined Landon speaking of marriage between the two of them, not once had he suggested it in the guise of a martyr, with a resigned sigh punctuating the moment instead of a passionate kiss.

He shook his head. “Is that what has your dander up? Come back down then, and I’ll ask properly. Would you like me on one knee perhaps?”

A noise gurgled in the back of her throat, begging, threatening to escape. A growl? A scream? A cry? Some terrifying combination of the three? She swallowed it down and continued her trek up the stairs, pounding each step with enough force to jar her knees and echo through the house.

Quick, light taps indicated Landon was running up the stairs behind her. She would have to abandon pique to obtain speed if she wished to attain privacy before he reached her.

Her brother, Giles, stood in the hall at the top of the stairs, blocking the way to the private salon.

“Step aside, please.” She made to step around him, but he dodged, placing himself in her path once more. Bianca’s eyes narrowed. “Step. Aside. Please.”

“No.”

Had he truly just denied her retreat? His eyes left her face to look over her shoulder. No doubt Landon had reached them.

Giles cleared his throat and looked between the two of them. “May I ask what brings you visiting so early in the day?”

“I asked your sister to marry me,” Landon growled. “Then she left the room.”

Bianca’s laugh was short and rude. “You did not ask.”

He stepped forward, a ruddy splash along his cheekbones matching the angry heat in his gaze. “Will you marry me?”

“No!” Bianca shoved past the two men, fighting the tears. She didn’t want a miserable marriage with Theodore, but she didn’t want to be pitied either.

How could she possibly have a real marriage with Landon when he saw her as a little sister? Would there even be children? How could she be expected to move past her adoration and love for him if she saw his name every time she signed her own?

If her marriage was doomed to be an arrangement for survival, then she would make it one she had a hope of surviving. Marriage to Landon when he didn’t love her back would destroy her.

A strong hand wrapped around her arm and pulled her to a stop. Her momentum swung her around until she faced her captor.

Landon’s face was set, the lines around his mouth deepening as his lips flattened. “Earlier you were resigned to a fate with that cad, Theodore. Give me one good reason why you’d choose him over me.”

Bianca stared at Landon, blinking slowly. Landon sucked his breath in through his teeth, breathing unaccountably fast.

Giles waved a hand at the door next to him. “I’ll be in my study. With the door open.”

Landon didn’t even glance back as Giles departed. Bianca frowned.

“One reason, Bianca.”

What could she say? She could hardly tell him it was because he didn’t love her because she was under no illusion that Mr. Theodore loved her either. Telling Landon that she was in love with him would only make him pity her more.  She opened her mouth, praying inspiration would strike if she started speaking. “You’re… That is to say…”

He leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest with a look of confidence. Was he convinced she couldn’t come up with a reason?

“You’re too tall.” She wanted to crawl under a table. Too tall? That’s what she came up with? She deserved his pity for that lack of creativity.

He blinked. “Too tall?”

Her eyes fell to the left. His boot made a fascinating contrast with the polished wood floor.

Then he advanced and her gaze shot back to his face in apprehension. “Too tall? You’ll have to come up with something better than that, Bianca. You’re too smart to throw away your future on something so meaningless.”

Bianca felt her nails cut into her palms as she curled her fingers into fists of determination. He would not pressure her. “Why would I want to marry a man I have to break my neck to look at?”

“Better than a man you’d have to break your soul to live with.”

“My soul is stronger than you think, and it’s much easier to protect than my heart.”

He scoffed. “You think Theodore will have a care for your heart?”

It was Bianca’s turn to look superior. “Of course not. But he’ll get nowhere near it so it’s hardly in danger.”

He leaned forward until his breath bounced off her face. “Why would you marry a man who at best will ignore you?”

“Why would I marry a man who pities me?” Bianca’s eyes widened and she resisted the urge to clap her hands over her mouth. She hadn’t meant to reveal that insecurity, but now that it was out she felt better. There had always been honesty between them.

“I don’t pity you.” His voice was quiet, barely above a whisper.

“Are you saying you want to marry me because you love me?”

His mouth opened, but nothing came out. The heat in his eyes seemed banked by fear, giving credence to her assumption that his proposal was prompted by something other than romantic notions. The victory felt hollow.

“You know I love you, Bianca.”

Her eyebrows shot up even as her heart plummeted. He loved her like a sister, had mentioned that often when he teased about needing to soak his feet in chilled water after helping her learn to dance. That he use such a phrase when he knew she meant something different hurt.

“Then kiss me.” It was hard to tell who was more stunned by her challenge. It felt right, though. There was no better way to call him on his manipulation.

Landon looked awkward as he reached a shaky hand toward her cheek. He gently brushed the curls back, laying his hand along the side of her neck.

Her heartbeat increased. Was he going to take her challenge? Was it possible he felt more than she realized?

Ever so slowly, he leaned forward, bending his head toward hers. Their breath mingled, his spicy scent filling Bianca’s senses until air backed up in her lungs. Her eyes drifted shut of their own volition, despite her desire to see every emotion in Landon’s eyes.

His lips connected with hers in the softest caress imaginable, like a butterfly floating by. She waited for more, for him to sweep by again with a firmer pressure, to send her heart fluttering again, but it never came.

Then his hand was gone, leaving her neck cold. By the time she forced her eyes open, there was nothing to see but Landon’s back as he fled down the stairs.

###

Landon paced his study from door to bookcase, seven long strides eating up the floor before he turned and did it again.

His staff was beginning to gather outside the door, occasionally sending someone to peek in on him and ask if he needed anything. They were beginning to look worried. Not that he blamed them. He’d been pacing since he fled here from Bianca’s house hours ago.

This morning it had seemed so simple. He had gone to Bianca’s house, determined to help her work out a plan for escaping Theodore. He’d had no intention of proposing she marry him. Had he?

As soon as he’d made the suggestion, he knew it was the right solution, the only solution. He was a viscount, outranking Theodore’s potential barony. Not to mention he was a friend of the family and more of a gentleman than Theodore ever pretended to be. If she was looking for a practical match, he was a much better choice.

So why had she turned him down?

He changed direction and strode to the window, bracing his hands on either side. His reflection wavered in the glass as evening crept in. The face was one he’d seen every day of his life, but he didn’t know the man anymore.

Since the first inklings of manhood he’d prided himself on keeping his eyes on God instead of the women that distracted so many of his friends. He’d called them fools, knowing that God would provide the right woman in time. Had he been too focused? Like a horse with blinders, so set on moving forward that he missed his destination?

Because he never expected the thought of kissing little Bianca Caulfield to shake him to his very core.

The kiss had been fleeting. He wasn’t positive his lips had even touched hers, but from the first mention of marriage to the moment he’d rested his hand on her cheek, everything he knew about his life had crumbled in on itself. He’d never felt so out of control.

So why did the thought of putting everything back the way it had been tie his stomach in knots?

Even considering what he would need to do to put their relationship back on a friendly level sent panic to his toes.

He looked past his reflection to a couple walking down the street below his window. Their heads tilted towards each other in a sign of intimacy despite the proper amount of space between their strolling bodies. They were obviously in love.

Love.

The panic flowed from him like water. He loved Bianca. And not in the family way he’d always teased her about. Somewhere along the line as she’d grown into womanhood she’d made her way into his heart while she lowered her hemlines and put up her hair.

“George!” he bellowed.

The butler was instantly at the door. How many people were lingering out there? Why did he even care?

“My horse. Now.”

Fifteen minutes later, he found himself in front of Bianca’s house again, determination of a new kind driving him to knock with more force than necessary.

The door unlatched and Landon pushed his way in even as the butler opened it. “Where is she?”

“My lord!”

“Bianca – Miss Caulfield – where is she?”

“The drawing room, my lord, but I must protest –”

Whatever else the man said was lost as Landon’s long legs ate up the floor to the drawing room he’d earlier made a fool of himself in.

There she was. Pretty as a painting with her blonde hair in a simple braid wrapped around her head, still in a plain afternoon dress.  His heart threatened to beat its way out of his chest, but a sense of rightness that filled his soul made everything right. Brought peace to his soul.

Her bright blue eyes widened as she rose to her feet. “Landon?”

He didn’t know how he crossed the room. He could have walked, run, or flew for all he knew and he truly didn’t care, because whatever he’d done had brought her within reach. He leaned in even as he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into his chest, his heart, where she belonged.

There was nothing hesitant about his kiss this time. The press of his lips to hers felt like coming home. Her fingers dove into his hair and she sighed into his kiss, relaxing into his arms.

He pulled back, but only far enough to see into her eyes. He rested his forehead against hers, fighting to steady his breath enough to speak. This precious girl, no, this precious woman had always been there for him. He couldn’t imagine his life without her in it.

“I love you, Bianca.”

She bit her lip. “Why now? You didn’t this morning.”

He smoother the curls back from her face with a smile. “I think I did. I was just too thick to know it. You’ve always been part of my life, Bianca. I couldn’t imagine building a life, having children, growing old with anyone else by my side. You are my beloved, my darling. Please tell me you’ll be my bride.”

Her eyes glistened with tears as a wide smile stretched across her face. She nodded, her hair rubbing against his forehead like silk. A light laugh escaped her lips even as a tear ran down her cheek. “Yes, my love. I’ll be your bride.”

Landon picked her up and spun her around, spying Giles leaning in the doorway.

With a bit of heat in his cheeks, Landon placed Bianca back on the floor but kept her close to his side.

“Finally,” Giles said with a smile. “Welcome to the family.”

Surprise caused Landon to go a bit slack-jawed. Giles had known? How could the man know something Landon hadn’t even realized about himself? He looked down at Bianca with her bright smile and loving eyes, and decided he didn’t care.

Today in 1820 – Discovery of a Statue

Greece_location_map.svgImagine a clear day on the Aegean Sea, the sea an indigo blue, the sky azure. You are a twenty-three year old French officer aboard the naval schooner Estafette. The vessel drops anchor at Melos one of the Greek isles littering the sea.

This young ensign, Olivier Voutier, who knows a bit about antiquities, as a well-educated gentleman of the regency era would, takes a pick and shovel and hikes up a hillside with a couple of sailors toward the remains of an ancient theater, hoping to find antique statuary near the ruin. Already, Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin had brought back sculpted friezes and statues from the Parthenon, known as the “Elgin Marbles” to display at the British Museum.

220px-MilosNapoleon, another lover of antiquity, had purchased many Roman sculptures when he conquered Italy and brought them to the Louvre in Paris.

All things Greek, Roman and Egyptian were highly valued in Europe at the time of the regency.

On this 8th of April, 1820, young Voutier noticed a peasant farmer in a nearby field. He was digging around an ancient wall to use its stones in a structure he was building.  Voutier noticed he stopped and was staring at something in a niche in the wall. Voutier drew near and saw the partially buried statue of a female torso.

Despite her broken arms, chipped nose and other imperfections, Voutier was enthralled by the statue of the nude. Along with the farmer, he was the first person to gaze upon the Venus de Milo since it had graced an ancient Greek wall.

The farmer, who had no use for such statuary, was ready to shovel earth back over it, when Voutier recognized the beauty of this classical sculpture and persuaded him to dig it out.

Eventually Voutier was able to bring other French officials to see the statue. Another naval officer, Jules Dumont d’Urvilles, went to Constantinople, the head of the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Greece and the Greek Isles at that time, and persuaded the French Ambassador to purchase the statue for France.

It was brought to France in 1821 and presented to King Louis XVIII, who donated it to the Louvre220px-Paris_Louvre_Venus_de_Milo_Debay_drawing. The statue was not found in one piece and was broken in parts. The torso was carved from one block of marble, the draped legs from another, smaller blocks for each arm and the left foot. Fragments of the right arm were unearthed as well as the left hand holding an apple, but they were later discarded as not being part of the original statue because the carving was rougher.

The original plinth or pedestal it rested on was also found nearby but because the inscription carved in it with the artist’s name dated it to the Hellenistic period, rather than the earlier Greek Classical, it devalued the statue in the eyes of scholars at the time, so they discarded the plinth and continued to claim it as a statue from the Classical Greek period.

Today, millions of people visit the Louvre to view the Venus de Milo, along with the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, another Greek statue.

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Aphrodite (Venus) of Milo

 

More about Flowers

I really enjoyed Laurie Alice’s post on flowers in regency England in springtime. It dovetails well with the post I’ve been thinking about, which is on the meanings and legends of common flowers during both the regency and Victorian eras in Britain.

May Flowers in a Teacup
Forget-me-nots and white lilacs in spring

The forget-me-not, a common flower in regency gardens was called by Coleridge “blue and bright-eyed flower of the brook.” It’s official name “myosotis” actually means the not-so-romantic “mouse ear,” so named because of the shape of its leaves.

A German legend has it that a knight fell into a swift stream while picking the forget-me-not for his lady. He had only time to toss it to her and cry, “Forget-me-not!” before he was swept away. British king Henry IV chose it as one of his emblems, and it was often embroidered on the king’s robes.

It was not until the regency that it became a garden flower.

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Foxglove in a Maine garden

Ever wonder why foxgloves are called by that name? Digitalis, the official name, is not nearly as descriptive. The old English name of foxes-glofa means foxes’ gloves. The fable is that foxes were hunted for their tails, which were considered amulets against the snares of the devil. In order to hang onto their furry brushes, they appealed to the gods for help, who gave them bells to hide in the fields. The bells would sound a warning when hunters were about and become silent when the coast was clear.

All that ducking and dodging the hunters had given the foxes rough paws, so that when they went hunting in the chicken coops, the chickens would squawk when seized by them. This time the fairies gave the foxes gloves to cover their paws with, and these became known as fox gloves.

Digitalis, which the leaves yield, is a recognized heart stimulant, which was used by American Indians before it became known in Europe. It is also a poison, so it was only used externally by Europeans until the 18th century. It then began to be used in the treatment of fevers, insanity and heart disease.

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Red roses in a park in Brooklyn in June

Roses cultivated in Europe before 1800 are usually referred to as “old roses.” Not until 1792 when a rose from China was introduced into Europe did any of them bloom more than once a year. (The only occasional exception was the Damascus). Rose water was used for cooking. Vanilla supplanted it as a flavoring extract in the 17th century. Rose oil, rose water and rose petals continued in British pharmacopoeias but more and more for use in cosmetics. Attar of roses, the essential oil, took 60,000 roses to make one ounce!

One of the earlier spring flowers, the pansy, goes by many names including “Kiss-Me-Quick” and “Johnny-Jump-Up.” The word pansy is derived from the French penser, to think, which is why Ophelia said “Pansies, that’s for thoughts.” Legend had it that to pick one with the dew upon it would cause the death of a loved one. If picked on a fair day, it would rain before night. Pansy juice squeezed on the lids of a sleeper would cause her to fall in love with the first person she saw on awaking, as Titania discovered in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Axtell_final
A Heart’s Rebellion, London Encounters #2

The hero of my upcoming regency, A Heart’s Rebellion, is an amateur botanist, so he will usually refer to a flower by its official name. The system of classifying plants into genus and species was still a new science in the regency era. The heroine’s name, Jessamine, is a form of jasmine, which the hero is fond of calling by its official name, Gelsemium sempervirens.

Bibliography: Flower Fables by Geraldine E. Nicholson, Mid-America Publishing Corp., Kansas City, Missouri

 

A Heart’s Rebellion Wrap Up

A Heart's RebellionThanks to everyone for stopping by our release celebration for A Heart’s Rebellion by Ruth Axtell. We have winners! And answers! And more information about the next book we’re promoting during our Spring Release Extravaganza!

The two winners of A Heart’s Rebellion are Collette C. and Kay M! Congratulations to both of you ladies.

If you’re wondering about the answers to our questions the answer to our first week’s question is:

1. In regency times, being the firstborn male was everything in terms of inheritance. What career avenues were open for younger sons?

Answer: Church and Military

2. What is a famous botanical garden in London, which existed in regency times (which is where Lancelot takes Jessamine)?

Answer: Kew GardensNaomi Rawlings The Soldier's Secret

Thanks to everyone who stopped by so far during our Spring Release Extravaganza, and remember to stop by tomorrow, when you’ll learn about The Soldier’s Secrets by Naomi Rawlings plus have a chance to win more prizes.

Parlez-vous Français?

Pride and Prejudice (2005 - Photo: IMDB)

Do you speak French? Or Italian? Perhaps you can even grasp the basics of Latin or Greek?

I can claim to know enough French to be just a wee bit dangerous. I could probably read street signs or order from a café menu in Paris but beyond that, I wouldn’t be the best translator to select for your next trip abroad.  (That’d be enough to get us a meal and a trip to the Louvre, but that’s about it.) College helped some, but I never left class  truly adept at the conversational side of speaking the language that comes from years of dedicated study.

Had you lived in the Regency, you’d not have had the opportunity to partake in any state-run system of education. And depending upon your wealth and station, your access to educational opportunities could differ (and languages studies along with it). Those with less social standing could possibly attend a local charity or church-administered school but for those with means, a boarding school, trained governess (for young ladies), or skilled tutors (for young men) would have administered the education of Regency Era youths.

Though the extent to which you received a Regency education would have largely depended upon your social station and your gender, there was a larger focus on classical language studies than we might see today. In fact, you’d likely have been fluent (or at least educated) in several languages. This was customary, especially with French, as it was the language of diplomacy of the day. To review letters and first-hand accounts of life in the Regency, it is quite clear that the education (and language studies in particular) exceeded many of the expectations of our current system: “Even the letters of Regency-era females who married at seventeen are full of references to the classics, poetry, and the effortless interspersion of French.” (Regency Reader, 2006)

Since we’re talking about education this month, I wondered what it would have been like to study during the Regency Era. How would my knowledge of French stack up against the young English men and women of the day? (Alas… I fear I may have already answered my own question, but we’ll continue anyhow.)

Oxford University (Photo: University Wallpapers)

Les Hommes (Men): Young men could have been taught in the home during their early years, though it was conventional for boys to pursue more formal education once they reached school age. Usually by the age of eight, young men would attend public schools such as those in Eton, Harrow, St. Paul’s or Winchester. Studies of the Classics, Latin, and Greek were standard, as were languages such as French and Italian. (Source: Author Jennifer Kloester’s Georgette Heyer’s Regency World – This book has a wealth of information on education practices for young men and women in the Regency.)

There were university opportunities for gentlemen, though it’s a misnomer that collegiate studies were only available to the wealthy or members of the aristocracy. There were scholarly opportunities for young men of intellect, especially if they could prove worthy of a scholarship. The primary universities for an English gentleman were at Cambridge and Oxford, of which men would first attend at just sixteen or seventeen years of age. And though the educational opportunities at these institutions were virtually limitless, these jaunts at the university were seen as more of a prospect to advance socially than to focus solely on academia.

If a gentleman had neither the inclination nor opportunity to attend the university, he might begin his career in the military. Here the opportunities to expand his knowledge of languages would have been likely (through travel and some ongoing study), though the danger to one’s longevity in this type of career was quite obvious.

Photo: Wiki Commons

Les Filles (Ladies):  In contrast to gentlemen, young ladies of the Regency had more limitations on their educational opportunities than their male counterparts. Though they could be sent to attend an education provided by a boarding school, there were no universities available for females. Young ladies were largely taught in the home and had education in subjects such as French, drawing, dancing, music, poetry and literature, embroidery, and basic instruction in mathematics and the geography of the globe.  As a governess may have deemed appropriate, girls could also be taught the more practical subjects of sewing, darning, the keeping of household ledgers, and in some cases, basic cookery and duties of household management.

Singing? Drawing? Dancing and the modern languages? Perhaps we’ll have to stick to ordering from that Paris café menu or hiring a professional to assist us with a tour of the Louvre? After learning a bit about the extent our Regency Era young men and women went through in their language studies, I’m not feeling so dangerous with my grasp of French any longer. But then again – we have one thing our Regency Era counterparts did not, and that would be access to a snazzy Smart Phone App that would be sure to translate just about anything we need.

What do you remember most about the language studies from your school days? (And could you help me order a pastry at a Paris café, especially if in a true emergency?)

May the light of Christ guide our days, no matter which language we speak as we walk through them.

Au revoir mes amis!

~ Kristy

A Suitable Match, Serial Story Section 5

MatchCoverTo kick off the second year of celebrating Inspirational Regency fiction, we presented a serial story, A Suitable Match. At the end of the month we’ll be giving away a fabulous prize package filled with items tied to the story. 

Missed an earlier section? Read it here: 1 2 3 4

The George and Pelican Inn, somewhere between Somerset and London
April 1818

“Gone? She can’t be gone!” Chard glanced at Twiford who uttered the same words, the  panic and disbelief in his voice mirroring Chard’s.

“I’m sorry, my lord, but I checked her room myself. It’s empty.” The servant shuffled his feet, probably in anticipation of fleeing the company of two angry peers.

Lord Twiford stomped from the room with Chard on his heels. If she had left, she couldn’t have gone far.

***

Cressida pressed her ear to the doorjamb, careful not to scrape it against the rough wood. A little ache and discomfort was one thing. Some things had to be suffered through in order to achieve the desired result, after all. A mass of splinters in the side of her face was another thing entirely, and something to be avoided if at all possible.

Her nose flattened as she pressed into the door, peering through the knothole. If she angled her head just right, she could see the counter at the bottom of the stairs where the innkeeper did business.

Moments earlier the innkeeper had informed the servant that she had vacated her rooms, implying that she had departed from the inn entirely. The man had been hesitant to give her a new room late last night so she could fool the men into thinking she was gone, but an old silver locket had been enough to purchase the new room and his cooperation.

She hated to part with any of her inherited jewels, but this trinket was by far the least valuable. Besides, it was worth it if it allowed her to escape the company of the men from her past.

“What is the meaning of this nonsense?” Lord Twiford’s voice shot up the stairs followed by the reverberation of his pounding on the innkeeper’s counter.

It was too bad that such a contrary disposition wore such a pleasing appearance.

Lord Chard joined the party, adding his own demands that the innkeeper tell him how she had left the premises. Cressida’s heartbeat rushed a little louder through her abused ear. Recollections of stolen kisses and quiet talks flooded her mind. The years had not done enough to dampen the memories of her engagement. How could she possibly find another man to wed in London where frolicking dances and intimate rides in the park would forever make her think of him?

“This is just like her,” Twiford ranted. “Thoughtless. Frivolous.”

It appeared his opinion of her had not improved over the years. Spoiled, careless, and vain were going to be his next insults if memory served correctly.

“Cease, Twiford. She doesn’t deserve your disdain now any more than she did then.” Chard beat his hat against his leg, looking past the innkeeper into the common room beyond. Was he hoping she would be sitting amongst the locals enjoying a cup of tea?

“I will never understand why you jump to her defense so quickly. Are you saying you approve of this reckless behavior?”

A smile crept across Cressida’s lips. Chard had defended her back then? She’d always wondered.

“Of course I don’t approve. It shows she’s never outgrown that blasted impulsiveness that had her breaking our engagement. She may be a bit self-absorbed but that’s no reason to malign her.”

Cressida’s smile fell into a frown. Breaking their engagement had not been a fit of selfish impulsiveness. How dare he discount her sacrifice on his behalf?

“I always thought her desertion of you was rather noble, myself.” Twiford strode out of her line of vision. “You needed money, she didn’t have any. She probably thought she was doing you a favor.”

She pressed a hand to her forehead and abandoned her knot hole to rest her head on the solidity of the wall, feeling dizzy despite her prone position stretched along the floor of her new room, just two doors down from her old one. Men! If they could just decide on whether or not they disliked her, they could go on to London and leave her to figure out her own transportation. The locket she’d given the innkeeper might be enough to rent her a post chaise to continue the journey.

“Pardon me, gentlemen, but could you direct me to Miss Cressida Blackstone?”

Cressida’s eyes flew open. She jammed her face against the door and felt a prick as a prong of wood stabbed her in the ear. Ross Ainsworth had recovered sufficiently from his head wound and decided to join the drama at the innkeeper’s desk.

“Who are you?” Chard demanded.

“Her driver,” Twiford mumbled at the same time that Ross declared, “Her cousin.”

“How distant?” The menace in Twiford’s voice crawled up the stairs and wrapped around her throat. She could feel his displeasure, it was so thick.

Ross’s eyebrows lowered. “Distant enough. Who are you?”

Chard jerked his gaze from one man to the other. “What is going on here?”

Twiford jutted his chin toward Ross. “He nearly killed Miss Blackstone with his reckless driving.”

“I was merely trying to get her to London as soon as possible.”

“You landed her in a river instead. I brought her here to recover.”

Ross took a slow step forward, his scraped hands balling into fists at his sides. “So help me, my lord, if you have dishonored her-“

“Me? I wasn’t the one traveling to London without a proper chaperone.”

Chard stepped between the two men before they could exchange blows. “Gentlemen, calm yourselves. We all know that Cressy – Miss Blackstone would never do anything untoward, despite how the situation might appear.”

An odd warmth filled Cressida’s midsection. It took a moment to recognize it as pleased surprise that he would defend her honor. But which “he” had caused the pleasure?

Twiford grunted. “We may not know Miss Cressida Blackstone as well as we thought. The woman has run off alone in the middle of the night after all.”

The three men leaned over the counter, addressing the nervous innkeeper. “How did she leave?” Chard asked.

“Er, well, I’m not certain, my lord. She mentioned taking a post chaise to London.”

“Then she hasn’t left,” Ross declared.

“Why not?” Twiford asked.

“I spent the night in the stable, as you so comfortably situated me. No conveyances have left the inn in the last several hours.”

“She might have walked.” Chard rubbed the back of his neck, shifting his weight back and forth as if he wanted to do something, anything, other than stand around discussing the situation.

“We could set out in different directions on horseback. It wouldn’t take long to catch up with her.” Ross grimaced, probably thinking of the agony putting his battered body on a galloping horse would cause.

“It certainly speaks ill of a man that he would allow a gentlewoman to stride into the night unescorted,” Twiford added

The men exchanged glances and then glared at the innkeeper. The man coughed and ran a finger between his neck and cravat.

A young servant girl slipped around them, carrying a loaded tray of tea, toast, and Cressida’s favorite orange marmalade.

Twiford held out a hand, stopping her progress. “If I may be so bold as to inquire, where are you taking that?”

“To the young lady upstairs, my lord. Her maid, Knighting, said to bring it up this morning, as her mistress would be indisposed and unable to come down.” The maid bit her lip as she looked from the three men to the innkeeper.

Cressida’s heart stopped. Her breath turned to stone in her lungs. This couldn’t be happening. She’d been so close.

“Where is this ‘indisposed’ young lady?” Chard asked.

Lie! she screamed in her head, willing the servant girl to tell them she was staying in a room at the back, or that she’d been wrong and it was actually an old woman, or, better yet, a child. Anything to buy her just a little more time, though Cressida had no idea what she would do with those precious seconds.

“In the room at the top of the stairs, my lord.”

So much for that wish.

The three men turned and looked up the stairs, right at her little knothole.

* Section 5 was written by Kristi Ann Hunter, blog.KristiAnnHunter.com *

Did you find the hidden item? Note it in the comments below for a chance to win. 

Don’t forget that the readers will ultimately choose who truly loves Cressida, and whom she loves in return. Already have a favorite? Go vote for him! Want everyone else to vote for him too? Grab a voting badge from the Suitable Match Extras page

What do you think the gentlemen are going to do next? Read the next installment!

Originally posted in 2013.

It’s like the 4th of July Fourth around here! Nope, It’s Columbus Day.

Just taking some time to remember sacrifices and discovery on Columbus Day.

As much as we love writing about early 19th century England and are fascinated by the society and history of that country, we are truly blessed to live where we do.

Take some time today to pray for the men and women fighting to maintain freedom and for the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Happy Columbus Day!

Signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Trumball
Signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Trumball, via Wiki Commons

Original Post by Kristi Ann Hunter

What on Earth is Calf’s Foot Jelly? by Susan Karsten

Calf's foot jelly

If you’ve done a significant amount of reading of regency fiction, you’ve come across a female character taking calf’s foot jelly to an invalid, usually someone poor. It was thought to be exceeding nutritious, but that is not necessarily true, according to my research. It was a thrifty, economizing concoction, made from a leftover part of a beef.

Calf’s foot jelly has two forms: sweet, common in 19th-century Britain and America, and savoury–called petcha, a standard of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking. Both dishes start with a long braise of split cow’s feet. The latter (for a sickroom concoction) adds garlic, onion, salt and pepper, and usually retains the meat that falls from the feet; the former (for a dessert) adds sugar, Madeira wine, brandy, cinnamon and citrus, and discards the meat. In both cases the stock is chilled until it sets, and the fat that rises to the top is skimmed.

The key component of both is collagen–a protein found mainly in connective tissue, in which feet abound. Collagen makes meat tough, but it also makes the same cut, after stewing, silky and rich. Smart cooks have long begged chicken feet from the butcher: they give chicken soup extra body. Hot, collagen imparts richness; chilled, it turns to gelatin.

To boil it down/summarize: Stock made by boiling a calf’s foot in water; which sets to a stiff jelly on cooling. It consists largely of water and gelatin, so is of little nutritional value.

Note: The New Female Instructor strongly advises against the addition of wine when the jelly is to be used for an ill person. Lemonade was often given to an ill-person along with barley water and tea.

To the readers, have you come across this, and wondered? To the fellow-Regency writers, have you ever included a character delivering this to a poor sick person?

104_2304Susan Karsten, regency blogger, author

A Pressing Engagement: Part1

Hampshire, England March 1810

It must be easier to face Napoleon’s cannons than witness the anguish in Sara’s dark eyes. Jeremiah Wilton’s heart clenched at her tears. A woman’s cries always gnawed at him, and these were his fault.

“Good day, Mr. Wilton.” She swiped at her chin and pivoted to her easel. The thick meadow grass lapped her pale skirts. “Must I count the seconds ’til you depart?”

“Miss Hargrove.” He searched in vain for a handkerchief. His regimental held no pockets like his comfortable tailcoat. “Will you allow me to explain?”

“Two. Three.” She fussed with her paint jars. “I understand that certain gentlemen make a sport of pursuing ladies. You should’ve saved this game for Miss Helena Smithers. She’d be a very willing mark.”

“She’s Smithers’s little sister with a child’s infatuation. My intentions to you were honourable.”

“Yes, Mr. Wilton. Your letters describing a future, a home, …arm loads of children are full of honour. You pursued me, made me hope for a future that will not be. Oh, leave.”

Unable pivot and ride away, he stood there like a dunderhead staring at her rare display of emotion. Had she been this partial to him all along? No. It was only his heart breaking.

A slight breeze rustled the leaves of the bordering apple trees. He’d met her in these orchards and lost his reason shortly after.

“Nine, ten. Mr. Wilton, can’t you let this parting be done.”

His boots were rooted in place. Why did she have this power to make him question everything, even when he was in the right? The ambitions Providence called him to do, couldn’t be achieved love-struck.

Another gust of wind mussed the curls peeking from her mobcap. His best friend, Gerald Smithers, called the lock’s colour, cinnamon, more apt to describe the silk than brown. The night of the harvest dance, she’d lost a pearl comb, and her chignon spilled into Jeremiah’s fingers. A luscious accident, a memory to fortify him on the battlefield.

“Twelve, thirteen.” She tapped her paintbrush against her easel. “Go to Hargrove Manor and say farewell to my parents.” With a flip of her dainty wrist, she swirled some blue and grey, and another grey, probably green onto the center of her palette.

Should he comment on her art to regain her attention, maybe win one last smile? Tightness gripped his stomach. He must tread carefully and not expose his difficulty distinguishing colours, or she’d think him forward and a fool. Maybe if he were vague…. He coughed. “Your painting is beautiful.”

Her strokes made a mirror image of the sky, every fluffy cloud, even the streaks of light beaming down. The texture of the bark matched the roughness of the boughs as if she’d inked the trunk and pressed the canvas against it. How could such a dainty woman, barely up to his armpit, possess such great talent?

“Papa’s favorite Pippin. It will bud in the spring with shimmering cream blossoms, pretty enough for wedding flowers.” Her tone soured. “Leave.”

She waved at him to go, shooing as one would do to scatter chickens.

No more horrid indecision. He marched the short distance to Sara. A hint of her lilac fragrance touched his nose, and he gulped a deeper portion of the scented air. “If there was another way—”

“You’ve made it clear that these decisions, yours and your grandfather’s, are made.”

He reached for her but dropped his hand to his side. “I should never have imposed upon you.”

“Well, Mr. Wilton, you did.” She stroked her jaw with her cuff. Droplets stained the lace trimming. “If you’re not going to see my parents, please run and catch your regiment.”

“Don’t dismiss me.”

With her chin jutted, she spun around, her eyes wide with fire. “This is not my fault. I’m not the one who sought this meeting. I’m not the one breaking a promise.”

“Technically, I never made a promise.” He shouldn’t have said that. Now was not the time for precision.

Her lips pursed. She gripped her paintbrush as if she sought to throw it at him. “No, you haven’t made an offer.”

Would an oil paint stain sponge from his uniform? “I have family obligations. With my brother’s early death, someone must fight in his stead.”

She lowered her weapon to a rag and cleaned its bristles, and he caught her balled fingers. “There are many things that weighed on my mind. Miss Hargrove, I must know you forgive me.”

“Why care now what I think?” She bit her lip, then caught his gaze.

“I planned to propose, but, I must distinguish myself in military service. Perhaps regain some of the respectability my father wasted.”

She shook her head. “His scandals never mattered to me. You excelled at the law. There is honour in that.”

“You paid attention to my prospects?”

Her expression softened as her tender lips released a sigh. “There is nothing about you which escapes me. Why else would I avoid wearing rose trims or anything emerald?”

Red and green, baneful hues. He rocked back on his heels. She knew of his difficulties? How ironic for a man with vision challenges to love a vibrant artist. “You never said anything.”

“You don’t seem to be comfortable with colour, and it pleased me to know you worked hard to admire my art even sending a friend to spy”

“Smithers’s my constant ally, but he’s not terribly discreet.” Jeremiah tugged off his gloves and dropped them away, then tucked a loose tendril behind her ear. “He’s to look after you while I’m gone, that is until you marry.”

Catch Part 2 on Thursday

 

Concluding our Spring Release Extravaganza

We have winners! We enjoyed hearing from everyone who stopped by during our promotion for A Lady’s Honor by our very own Laurie Alice Eakes. Thank you to those who participated in answering a variety of fun questions, encompassing everything from whether you’d rather read a story set in London opposed to the countryside, to what novel setting you’d like to visit in real life.

The winner of the Celtic knot necklace and $15.00 gift card is Janet Estridge.

Celtic Knot Necklace

 

The winner of the hand blown glass ring dish and $15.00 gift card is KayM.

Ring Holder

Today officially concludes our Spring Release Extravaganza, and our blog will be back to normal and posting about Regency history on Thursday. We wanted to take a quick moment and thank everyone who stopped by over the past month in a half. We enjoyed sharing our enthusiasm about new books by three authors here on Regency Reflections.

A Heart’s Rebellion by Ruth Axtell

A Heart's Rebellion

 

The Soldier’s Secrets by Naomi Rawlings

Naomi Rawlings The Soldier's Secret

 

A Lady’s Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes

LadysHonor_FINAL