12-15 April 2018

Jane Austen Festival Australia is an annual celebration in Canberra where Austen and Napoleonic fans from all over Australia come and indulge themselves in everything Regency - including dancing, music, food, games, archery, fencing, theatre, promenades, grand balls, talks, workshops, costumes and books. This festival is now a regular part of the ACT Heritage Festival, Australian Heritage Week and is supported by the ACT Government, the Australian Costumers Guild and the Earthly Delights Historic Dance Academy. Since its inception in 2008 this little festival has blossomed into one of the most delightful four days anyone could experience each April in an old and beautiful part of Canberra, the Federal capital of Australia.

January 30, 2012

Chapter 3, Trust and Tribulation

Chapter 3 – Frank discussions and extravagant fashion

“I believe Mr Pitwater will declare himself to you soon,” Lily said. She pulled Anthea’s arm closer against her own, huddling into her sister’s side as they walked. “It is so cold today.”
They were heading into the village, both carrying linen wrapped bundles containing the gowns from their wardrobes that had been deemed suitable for refurbishment. The autumn wind was already promising the winter days to come, cutting through the thin woollen cloth of the girls’ spencers, and lifting their bonnets hard against anchoring ribbon ties. A little further back, their mother walked with Mrs Johnson, an elderly neighbour who they had met on their way to the small collection of shops and houses.
“I think you are right,” Anthea said grimly. “Mr Pitwater has that air about him, doesn’t he?”
“What will you do?” Lily asked.
Anthea steered her sister around a large puddle in the deeply rutted road. Their half-boots were already coated in mud; it was going to take an age to get them clean again.
“A smart girl would marry him,” Anthea said. “He has position, prospects and a decent livelihood.”
Lily shook her head. “You mean, a desperate girl. He is so …” She paused, obviously at a loss to describe the vicar.
“Crumbly?” Anthea provided. “Pompous, opinionated, hypocritical?”
Lily giggled. “I take it, then, that you will not accept?”
Anthea stopped. “How can I, Lily? Yet, it is a way, isn’t it? If I marry him, you and mother would only have to share the income two ways. I would have my own household. We could all be more comfortable.”
“No.” Lily started to walk again, pulling her sister back into motion. “He may fulfil the requirements of comfort and income, but you do not feel any affection for him. You do not even feel respect. To marry him would do both you and him a disservice.”
Anthea hugged her sister’s arm. “O wise one, you speak the truth.”
“I do,” Lily said. She sighed with relief as the village came into view, the wide central street already busy with shoppers, carts and horses. “Perhaps we will meet nice men at Lakeside.”
“Lord Dansworth, perhaps?”
They both laughed.
“He does sound very bad,” Lily said.
“If what Bernice says is true.”
The sisters exchanged a glance. Bernice was not always beholden to the truth.
“Perhaps all he needs is a wise wife to steady him,” Lily said. “And since we both know I am wise…”
“Good luck to you,” Anthea said. “I would not want to marry him. I want a man of sense, not a reprobate. Nor do I want to marry a soldier or a navy man.” She could not help the note of bitterness that had crept into her voice.
“Why ever not? Papa was a soldier!”
“That is exactly why,” Anthea said, although it was not the whole reason. As the time for their departure to Lakeside loomed, she was not so sure she could face Commander Hayden again. “You see how Papa’s loss makes mother suffer, even now after three years.”
“Yes,” Lily said softly.
They both stole a glance back at their mother. She still wore her mourning greys.
“Girls,” Mrs Stanwell called, noticing their attention. “Go on to Madame Celeste’s. She is expecting us even now. I will assist Mrs Johnson and see you in a few moments.”
Anthea waved their understanding. The two girls quickened their pace, eager to take refuge from the wind, their bundles swinging from the string ties.
Madame Celeste’s salon – dealing in fine cloth, haberdashery, headwear and gowns for the discerning lady – was set a little apart from the centre of the main village trade. For those who visited the village, finding such an establishment in such an out-of-the-way place always elicited surprise. The salon was more suited to a big town or, if one actually saw a Madame Celeste creation, even Town itself. As it was, many ladies from the surrounding area journeyed to the village to purchase from Madame. The story of how such a talented mantua-maker ended up in their midst always brought a sigh to the listener, for it was high danger and grand love that had brought her amongst them.
Over twenty years before, Celeste Le Croi had been rescued from the Terror by a young man– the son of a local gentleman – at the end of his Grand Tour and unluckily caught up in the horror. Love had blossomed. They had married and returned to his home, setting up the salon to instant success and acceptance into local society. Not even Monsieur Bonaparte’s tyrannical ambitions had soured the good opinion of the local populace about their favourite émigré. Three years ago, Madame’s dear husband had died, around the same time that Mrs Stanwell’s husband had perished in Spain. That unfortunate circumstance had built a special bond between the two women, and the Stanwell ladies had become firm favourites of Madame Celeste. She was, of course, aware of their situation, and did everything in her power to stretch their modest wardrobe budget without causing offence. She was also aware that it did no harm to her business to have her creations worn by three such lovely women.
Anthea pushed open the red painted door of the salon and entered, the warm air of the room like soft silk on her cold cheeks. Lily followed, calling out a salute to Madame Celeste who was supervising the placement of some stock on a shelf.
“Bonjour, Madame. Comment êtes-vous?”
Madame smiled a welcome and gave a small bow to the two girls. “Très bien, Mademoiselle Lily. Et vous?”
“Cold,” Lily said, lapsing back into English. Mrs Stanwell had not had much success teaching her younger daughter the accomplishment of French. “It is like winter already out there.”
Madame Celeste’s apprentice curtsied and hurried forward, taking the bundles from the girls and collecting their bonnets.
“Is your Mama not with you?” Madame Celeste asked.
“She is on her way,” Anthea said. “She said to start without her.”
“This is very pretty.” Lily stroked some ivory sarcenet displayed near the window. “Is it new?”
“Oui, from Paris. Do come through.”
Madame Celeste ushered them into the private chamber at the back of the salon. There was no hardship in understanding how she had captured the heart of her Englishman so long ago. Madame Celeste had a vivacity and natural elegance that showed in every movement. Her fine-boned face still commanded attention, although interest was now mainly centred upon her eyes – dark, wide-set and alight with a keen intelligence that was always tempered with warm kindness.
It was not long before the two girls were seated on the brocade sofa and studying the latest La Belle Assemblée, and The Lady’s Magazine. Their mother joined them soon after, and the business of the day began.
“It is full dress that I am most concerned about,” Mrs Stanwell said, casting her eye over Anthea’s old evening gown already laid out for consideration. “These old ones will do with some changes, but both girls will need at least one more dress for evening with some possibilities for embellishing them.”
“A new gown each, mother?” Anthea said. “But –”
“You will be dining in the company of lords and ladies, Anthea. While you will not be expected to have an extensive wardrobe, some change to your appearance – however small – must be made each evening.”
Madame Celeste nodded. “It is so. Mademoiselle Lily has already seen the new sarcenet, which will suit her complexion. I have a very pretty cream satin with embroidery upon it for Mademoiselle Anthea. We will make both with the longer sleeve to be buttoned in or taken out. Oui?”
Mrs Stanwell smiled. “Excellent.”
“For the possibilities...” Madame Celeste shuffled through the magazines. “Voila!” She flicked open to a page. “Silk westkits to wear over the bodice.”
Anthea leaned across to look at the coloured fashion plate. The willowy lady depicted wore a blue silk westkit – a short, feminine version of the vest – laced over the high waisted bodice of her white muslin dress. The westkit fitted over the bodice so exactly as to create the semblance of a new gown.
“How ingenious,” Lily said.
“Oui. I think perhaps a bronze silk for Mademoiselle Anthea, to bring out the gold in her eyes, and a green for Mademoiselle Lily? And if we are clever with our cut –” Madam Celeste paused, allowing a moment for the fact that she was always clever with her cut, “ – the Mademoiselles will be able to exchange and create another possibility.”
Mrs Stanwell smiled her agreement. “Now, their day dresses. The latest double lines of hem flounces are pretty. What do you think, girls?”
As Anthea listened and voiced her opinions, she was torn between the delightful prospect of new clothes – an evening gown, a muslin day dress, a pelisse and the bronze westkit – and the knowledge of what such extravagance would cost, doubled by Lily’s wardrobe. Not to mention the addition of unmentionables, gloves, and evening slippers.
“It is all around that you go to Lakeside,” Madame Celeste said to Mrs Stanwell, folding a rejected length of spotted muslin and handing it back to her apprentice. “There is much talk about it.”
“I can imagine.” Mrs Stanwell raised an eyebrow, amused. “What do they say?”
“Oh, this and that. Much of the green eye, I think,” Madame said. “But there is one who knows the family Rydges, and she said to me something of interest.”
“In confidence?” Mrs Stanwell asked tentatively.
Madame shook her head. “Non, not at all. She says they experience difficulties with the money. The gambling, you see.”
“Of the son?” Lily asked with a knowing glance at Anthea.
Madame gave a very Gallic shrug. “All of them, I think.”
“That would explain some of the other guests,” Mrs Stanwell said.
It was Madame’s turn to raise her eyebrows.
“Two heiresses,” Mrs Stanwell continued. “Lady Davinia Rambold, and Miss Cecily Tait.”
“Ahh,” Madame said. “It is time for the son to marry.”
“Then why have they invited us?” Lily asked. “We have no fortune.”
Anthea picked up a pink silk flower she had chosen for a bonnet trim, and rolled the stem between her fingers contemplatively. “Lily is right. If I were a mama intent on marrying my son to an heiress, I would not invite us. The more heiresses to choose from, the better.”
“Yes,” Mrs Stanwell said. “Perhaps their circumstances are not so urgent, after all.”
Anthea recalled the few times she had met Lady Rydges. There had been a restless dissatisfaction and ambition about the woman that had simmered beneath the surface of her gracious manners. Anthea had come away from Town with the opinion that Lady Rydges, for all her delicate appearance, was as shrewd and unyielding as a fishmongers wife.
“Or perhaps Lady Rydges thinks that we are so far from eligible that we will round out the numbers and not get in the way of her two marriage choices for her son,” she said.
“Anthea!” Mrs Stanwell exclaimed.
Madame Celeste laughed. “Mademoiselle Anthea has clear eyes.”
“And an impertinent tongue,” Mrs Stanwell said, her tone a warning. “Lady Rydges is doing us a great kindness. Keep that in mind.”
“Of course, Mama.”
Anthea lowered her eyes to the silk flower in her hand. She had a feeling that neither she nor Lily would be able to forget the kindness of Lady Rydges, at any time, while they were at Lakeside.
Next Time: Confusions and Fond Farewells

For more information about the serial and the competition to write the final instalment (Chapter 11), please visit the 'Regency Serial' tab above.

January 25, 2012

AUSTRALIA DAY OFFER - win a reticule or cravat

For one week only we are giving all our readers the chance to win a handmade reticule or cravat [their choice]. The reticule or cravat will be delivered to its new owner before the end of March, 2012.

All you have to do is post the Jane Austen Festival Australia 2012 poster and the website link onto your facebook page, blog or twitter with an @-mention shoutout to the festival website and then add where you posted it in the comments box below. The more places you post the poster & link the more times your name goes into the hat.

Download the picture from http://www.earthlydelights.com.au/JAFA2012.jpg The website link is http://www.janeaustenfestival.com.au or you can link to our blog http://janeaustenfestival.blogspot.com

On 1 February 2012 we will make the draw and notify the winner.

LImited-Attendance Classes at the Jane Austen Festival

I've just updated the JAFA limited-attendance classes and sent out invoices. If you want to register, know which ones are full or find non-JAFA ones you can enrol in visit http://janeaustenfestival.blogspot.com/p/regency-sewing-classes.html 

January 23, 2012

Trust and Tribulation, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – An enlightening evening of entertainment
Two days after the arrival of the invitation from Lord Rydges, the Stanwell ladies attended a much-anticipated evening of cards, music and supper at the house of their neighbours, the Qantas-Link’s.
Mr and Mrs Qantas-Link had moved into the area only a short time before the Stanwell’s, and the two families’ mutual strangeness to the area had done much to forge a friendship. The Qantas-Link’s had six children in all, their eldest a daughter by the name of Bernice who was much the same age as Lily. The lack of other genteel families with adult children in the vicinity had forced a closer connection between Lily and Bernice than probably would have otherwise naturally occurred. It was obvious that their different temperaments could not make for a deep friendship. As Anthea had once wryly observed to her mother, it was more a match of convenience and borrowed bonnets.
The supper evening had not started well for Anthea. Mr Pitwater was also a guest and had manoeuvred himself to stand at Anthea’s elbow in the large drawing room, locking her uncomfortably close to the generous fire. Miss Talbot, the Qantas-Link’s elderly relative, had deftly made her escape, but Anthea and Mr Qantas-Link had been trapped by their own good manners. Mr Pitwater had then proceeded to depress them with a laborious discussion of a newspaper article that had decried the wild behaviour of the Prince Regent.
“His moral turpitude must not be allowed to continue unchecked. He is a royal personage and should understand his exalted place!” Mr Pitwater said, finally coming to a pause in his exhortations. He took a punctuating bite of his cake, crumbs falling down the front of his plain black evening jacket and limp cravat.
“I think it is exactly because he does know his exalted place that he acts as he does,” Anthea said, unable to help herself from taking a contrary position. If Mr Pitwater said the sky was blue, Anthea knew she would have to argue that it was, quite plainly, red. She was not proud of the urge, but there it was, a sad defect in her character.
Mr Pitwater lifted his small, pink-rimmed eyes from his plate and stared at her in the manner of a man who had seen a horse talk. By now, Anthea thought crossly, he should know that she was not a Milk-Miss, mouthing only yes-sir-no-sir-whatever-you-say-sir.
Obviously taking advantage of the vicar’s bemusement, Mr Qantas-Link smiled at Anthea, and said, “Miss Stanwell, I believe your dear mother requires your presence. May I escort you to her?”
Anthea turned to find her mother seated on a chaise longue across the room, deep in conversation with Mrs Qantas-Link and taking no notice of either of her daughters. Nevertheless, Anthea bobbed a quick curtsey to Mr Pitwater and, with a grateful glance at her host, took his arm. She knew she must try and cultivate more tolerance – Mr Pitwater was not a bad man, merely irritating, and she could not spend all evening trying to avoid him. Still, she had been given the chance to escape, and she was going to take it.
“Lud!” Mr Qantas-Link exclaimed under his breath as they crossed the room, nodding to the other guests as they passed. “After that marathon, I am on the side of the Prince Regent.”
He winked at Anthea. She smiled, unfazed by the familiarity. He reminded her very much of her dear Papa. Not so much in looks – Papa had been of average height with classical features, whereas Mr Qantas-Link was a tall man with a long-boned face that, at rest, looked a little cadaverous, but in motion was all good humour. His similarity to Papa was in his kind nature and gentlemanly manners.
As they approached the two ladies on the blue velvet chaise, Mrs Stanwell looked up with a look of intense gratitude. “Mr Qantas-Link, how can I thank you and your wife for the kind offer of your carriage to take Anthea and Lily to Lakeside estate? Your generosity is overwhelming.”
“It is my pleasure, Madam,” he said, bowing.
“And they must have Thomas too,” Mrs Qantas-Link said to her husband. She was a flurry of hands and vivid colour: bright cheeks and mouth and chestnut hair that, under a dainty cap of lace, still held its rich reds and browns. “We can spare him, and we cannot let two girls travel to County Canberra and an Earl’s estate without the services of a footman. What would it be like!”
“Indeed, my dear,” Mr Qantas-Link said. “It is all settled then.”
“We are very grateful, sir,” Anthea said. “I know it will be a great comfort to Mama to know that we have your man with us.”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Mr Pitwater heading their way.
“The roads are dangerous places these days, what with the highway men, and those dispossessed from their land,” Mr Qantas-Link said. He smiled reassuringly at Mrs Stanwell. “The driver will be armed, madam, so you need have no fear.”
“Anthea, do come here,” Lily called. She was sitting at a pretty little pianoforte in the far corner with Bernice. “Do come and see this music.”
Lily was in excellent looks, Anthea thought, watching her sister for a moment in the soft light cast by the extravagant profusion of wax candles. Lily wore her white satin evening dress – the high waist tied with a simple length of blue silk – and had caught up her dark hair in the new asymmetrical style, described in a recent issue of La Belle Assemblée. The style dictated a cascade of soft curls to one side with only a few delicate tendrils on the other. Anthea had tried it herself, but it had not suited her stronger features. She had stayed with her customary braided high knot, the natural wave in her hair creating a becoming frame to her face.
Bernice, seated beside Lily, had inherited her mother’s vivid complexion, but the brightness had already turned somewhat florid, and she had not been granted with that lady’s luxurious hair. Instead, she had received her father’s flat brown locks that she’d bravely twisted into fashionable tight curls around her red face and dressed with a profusion of faux roses. She wore a pale green crepe gown, swagged with red silk at the hem, and draped with a Norwich shawl of rich russets and gold. Yet, even with such opulent fashion and attention to coiffure, she was still outshone by her more simply dressed friend.
“They make a pretty picture, do they not?” Mrs Qantas-Link said.
“Indeed, Madam,” Anthea said diplomatically.
With a curtsey to her elders, she joined the two girls, taking a somewhat circuitous route behind the well-stocked supper table, out of Mr Pitwater’s path.
“Listen, Anthea. Isn’t this lovely,” Lily said, embarking on a melody. “It is by that Viennese man, Beethoven, and called For Elise.”
Although Lily must have only just sighted it, she played the lilting notes with barely any hesitation and with great feeling. Anthea smiled with pride at her sister’s accomplishment.
“Fur Elise,” Bernice corrected pompously. “And he is Austrian.”
“I wonder who Elise is?” Lily said, ignoring the remark. “He must love her to create such beauty in her name.”
Anthea nodded her agreement, deciding it was probably fruitless to point out Mr Beethoven’s true nationality. “It is a beautiful piece. Perhaps you could make a copy and play it one evening for Lord and Lady Rydges.”
Lily looked at Bernice. “May I make a copy?”
Bernice gave a small shrug. “I don’t see why not.” With a sigh, she added, “You two are so lucky to be going to the Rydges' estate.”
“And a ball,” Lily said. Her tone had just a hint of smugness within it.
Bernice focused on Anthea. “You will probably dance with Lord Dansworth, the Earl’s son. He is heir, you know.”
“Yes, I believe he is to be one of the party,” Anthea said.
Although she had, of course, met Lord and Lady Rydges during her season, she had not met their son, or even their daughter. The former had been at University and the latter had not yet left the schoolroom.
Bernice leaned in and lowered her voice. “Lord Dansworth will have at least 40,000 pounds a year, and he is still unmarried! What do you say to that?” Not waiting for a response, she added, “My cousin, Rosamund, lives in Town. She keeps up with all the happenings, especially of the Upper Ten Thousand. She has told me that Lord Dansworth has such a reputation. She has seen him from across the street and she says he is very handsome. He is a rake, you know, and a dandy. Just fancy, you will meet a rake!”
“What has he done to deserve such an epithet?” Anthea asked, guiltily aware that she was being drawn into gossip.
“He is one of the Prince Regent’s set,” Bernice said. “They are all profligates.”
“Yes, but what has he done?” Anthea repeated.
Bernice’s little mouth pursed into delighted disapproval. “Rosamund said that he gambles enormous amounts, and drinks and fights. He was sent down from Oxford and no one knows why!”
“He sounds rather exciting,” Lily said, finishing the music with a small flourish. “I will certainly dance with him, if he asks me.”
“Will you set your cap at him?’ Bernice asked. “It would be wonderful if you were to become Lady Lily. Then you could invite me to Town.”
“He will hardly take any notice of us,” Anthea said repressively. “He will marry according to his rank.” She winced, recognising a black clad shape sidling along the wall towards them. “Mr Pitwater,” she said, forcing a cheerful note into her voice. “Are you an admirer of Mr Beethoven?”
“I believe not,” Mr Pitwater said, coming to hover once more at her elbow. He had added small flakes of pastry to the cake crumbs already caught in his cravat. “He is too foreign for my liking. I cannot believe anyone of taste could prefer him to our own majestic composers.”
“Really?” Anthea said. She could have left it at that, but once again, the devil was on her shoulder. “I must disagree with you,” she continued. “There is a stolidity to our music that the continentals consistently rise above. Do you not agree?”
She smiled at Mr Pitwater. It seemed cultivating the virtue of tolerance was still beyond her reach.

Next time: Frank discussions and fashion
Visit Alison’s website at www.alisongoodman.com.au
© Alison Goodman 2012.
Alison Goodman holds the Intellectual Property Right to the Trust and Tribulation serial, but acknowledges the right of 2012 JAFA season ticket holders to make use of the characters and situations in the serial to fulfil the conditions of the competition.
Please also note that the use of brand names in the serial has been used in the spirit of fun and is not meant, in any way, as product placement. The author has, alas, not been offered any terrific freebies to use these names.

Competition - Write the final instalment of Trust and Tribulation!
Competition Conditions of Entry
The competition is only open to season ticket holders of the 2012 Jane Austen Festival of Australia (full and concession).
All entries to be:
· a maximum of 2,500 words.
· due by 5pm Thursday 5th April, 2012. Unfortunately no late entries will be accepted.
· typed, double-spaced and in either Word or RTF format. Also, I will be judging the entries without names attached in the interest of impartiality, so please include a cover sheet with the title of your “chapter”, your name and your contact number on it. Please also label each page of your actual entry with only your chapter title so that I can, at the end of judging, finally match up cover sheet to story. Remember to include page numbers too!
For more information about the serial and the competition, please visit the 'Regency Serial' tab above.

January 22, 2012

Second Hand Regency Clothing Stall

We will be organising a secondhand clothing stall of Regency reproduction clothing at Jane Austen Festival Australia on Friday 14th April 2012.
If you have a garment you would like to sell please contact the festival by email for more information.

January 19, 2012

Alan Moyse, Official Town Crier, ACT

Alan Moyse, the Official Town Crier for the ACT, will be at the Jane Austen Festival in April. He will be giving a talk about the history of town criers - so keep watch for when we publish a revised program next week.

January 16, 2012

Original Regency Serial and Competition

Hi, I’m Alison Goodman, author of four novels and first time JAFA participant. Welcome to the Regency serial, Trust and Tribulation, which I am writing for the Jane Austen Festival blog. The serial will be posted every Monday for ten weeks and will follow the adventures of Anthea Stanwell as she and her sister prepare for a visit to “County Canberra” and the Garden-Gardiners ball!

The story will culminate in a competition to write the final instalment of the serial. The competition will only be open to season ticket holders of JAFA – full and concession – and will be judged by me (decision will be final). The last instalment of the serial that I will write will be on March 19, so that will give contestants over two weeks to complete their entries. I will be looking for an entertaining, inventive, well-written, (and reasonably logical) finale to the serial. You can find the conditions of entry at the end of this first instalment.

The prize will be a signed hardcover set of my award winning fantasy novels, EON and EONA, a DVD set of the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice (Restored edition), both donated by me, plus a 2013 JAFA season ticket (festival only; travel and accommodation not included), donated by JAFA.

The winning entry will be announced at the JAFA Friday Regency Variety Night and, if the winner is agreeable, will also be read out by me to the audience. The winning entry will be posted on the JAFA blog. Please note that by entering the competition, you have agreed to have your writing posted on the JAFA blog, should you win.

Along the way, I will also be posting some writing tips on this blog to help you hone your story writing skills.

So, welcome to the adventures of Anthea Stanwell. Prepare to have fun and maybe find some inspiration to release your own inner Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer!

Chapter 1 – Wherein the Stanwell ladies receive a letter

Anthea Stanwell sipped her weak morning tea, the leaves of which had already done service the day before, and watched her mother across the small breakfast table. Mrs Stanwell was frowning over a letter that had arrived by horseman only an hour ago. The heavy packet had been sealed by red wax that now hung from the opened pages at the end of a silk cord. Anthea could just make out the crest of Lord Rydges pressed into the broken seal.

“Well, what is it, Mama?” Lily, her sister, asked.

Mrs Stanwell ignored her younger daughter and read on, giving a soft double click of her tongue. Anthea knew that sound. It meant her mother was facing a dilemma.

“Mama, please tell us,” Lily said. “We are dying to know.”

“Let mother read it, first,” Anthea said. “Have some more bread.”

Lily sat back in her chair, her fair skin flushed. “How can you eat when something exciting might finally happen?”

“Like this.” Anthea took a deliberate bite of her buttered bread and chewed theatrically.

“You have no sense of destiny,” Lily said.

“Girls!” Mrs Stanwell looked up from the letter.

Many of the Stanwell’s acquaintances had remarked upon the startling similarity between the lady of the house and her two daughters. It was generally agreed that they all had fine dark eyes, very good noses and excellent chins. Both Anthea and Lily had also inherited their mother’s dark hair and pale complexion, but Anthea, to her chagrin was tall and built more along their father’s angular lines, whereas Lily had also inherited their mother’s soft roundness. All in all, the Stanwell sisters were considered to be handsome girls, with Lily, perhaps, edging out her elder as the beauty in the family.

“As you may have guessed, the letter is from Lord Rydges,” Mrs Stanwell said.

Lily straightened, all her attention on her mother. Anthea wiped her mouth with her napkin, feigning indifference, but privately she had to admit to some anticipation. Their dear father – may his soul rest in peace – had been aide-de-camp to Lord Rydges and had perished three years ago on the Spain campaign against Bonaparte. On occasion the Earl took a kindly interest in his aide’s widow and two daughters. The last interest had resulted in the house they now lived in, at a very minimal rent. Perhaps, Anthea hoped, this new interest may bring a much needed horse and gig.

“Lord Rydges has written to invite us to his estate, Lakeside –” Mrs Stanwell was stopped by Lily’s sharp squeal of delight. With an admonishing glance, she continued, “–where he says there will be a small party of guests and some diverting entertainments including concerts, a fair, picnics and promenades. There will also be a ball hosted by their friends, the Garden-Gardiners.”

“A ball?” Lily’s delight could, apparently, not be contained, for she stood up from the table and, holding up the plain hem of her white muslin day dress, waltzed around the room. Stifling her own excitement, Anthea looked across at her mother, intuiting the dilemma.

“But can we afford it mother?” she asked softly.

Mrs Stanwell turned her attention from her younger daughter’s joyous dance. “Yes, I know. It will mean more gowns and outerwear, travelling expenses, not to mention the servants’ vails.”

Anthea calculated they could possibly afford to refurbish their gowns and even manage the travel with the goodwill of some friends, but the tips required for the servants of a great house would, she absolutely knew, be beyond their means.

Her mother looked down at the letter again. “I do not want you and Lily to miss this opportunity.”

Anthea leaned across the table and briefly clasped her mother’s hand. She did not want the miss the opportunity, either, but she could see no way to manage it. “We will be all right, mother. We have the village society, and it is not so bad.”

“Yes, but as we know there are no eligible young men in this vicinity.”

“What about Mr Pitwater?’ Anthea said, trying not to smile. Mr Pitwater, the local vicar, was a constant and somewhat adhesive visitor to their house, his interest ponderously pointed in Anthea’s direction. Although eligible in terms of income and rank, there was a heaviness and lack of empathy in his nature that rendered the Stanwell ladies morose after every call. Lily called him the Pit of Despair.

“Do be serious, Anthea.” Mrs Stanwell eyed her older daughter and nodded as if making a decision. “You are almost one and twenty, my dear, well able to travel by yourself and look after your sister for a time. I want you to both take advantage of this invitation and I will stay here. I know Lady Rydges will ably chaperone you. We should be able to manage it with that saving.”

“Go without you? But mother –“

“Hush now. This is my decision.” She patted Anthea’s hand. “We will start preparations immediately.” She beckoned to Lily. “Darling, go upstairs and make a thorough inventory of all your and your sister’s gowns. You have the best eye among us and we must plan how to make best use of them.” Lily blew a kiss to her mother and ran from the room. As the door closed behind her, Mrs Stanwell said quietly, “Anthea, there is something else we must discuss. Something that pertains to you.”

Anthea, always sensitive to the tones of those she loved, heard the anxiety in her mother’s voice. “To me?”

“Lord Rydges has written about who else will be in the house party and I saw a name that we all know: Lieutenant Hayden.”

Anthea stilled.

“Although,” her mother continued, “the Earl writes that he is no longer Lieutenant. He is Commander.”

“I see,” Anthea said, but her mind was living a moment three years ago. The last time she had seen Lieutenant Hayden.

It had been at the end of her one and only season in Town, at a ball, given by Lord and Lady Rydges. During the weeks before, Lieutenant Hayden had become particular in his attention to Anthea, calling almost every morning to take her riding in the park or for walks. It was generally agreed, by those who watched the couple, that an announcement would soon be made. Anthea recalled the dance where he had said goodbye. One of the scandalous new waltzes. His arm about her, his hand encasing hers, eyes sorrowful. No reason, just a regret for any false hopes his behaviour may have caused. And at the end of the dance, he had left.

“I know how he treated you,” her mother said. “If you do not feel you can see him again, I will understand.”

Although Anthea was not yet sure how she felt – lost somewhere between pain and resignation – she said, “It is all right, mother. He made no declaration. No professions of love or references to a future. I cannot hold anything against him except my own foolish imaginings.”

“But, my dear –” her mother protested.

“No, it is fine. I have no anxiety about meeting Commander Hayden.” She smiled and retreated to the doorway. “No doubt he has long been married and has a parcel of children. I will go up and help Lily sort through our gowns.” She opened the door and was over its threshold before her mother could see the truth breaking across her face.

Next week: An enlightening evening of entertainment.

Visit Alison’s website at www.alisongoodman.com.au

© Alison Goodman 2012.

Alison Goodman holds the Intellectual Property rights to the Trust and Tribulation serial, but acknowledges the right of 2012 JAFA season ticket holders to make use of the characters and situations in the serial to fulfil the conditions of the competition. Please also note that the use of brand names in the serial has been used in the spirit of fun and is not meant, in any way, as product placement. The author has, alas, not been offered any terrific freebies to use these names.

Competition Conditions of Entry

The competition is only open to season tickets holders of 2012 JAFA (full and concession).

All entries to be:

· a maximum of 2,500 words.

· due by 5pm Thursday 5th April, 2012. Unfortunately no late entries will be accepted.

· typed, double-spaced and in either Word or RTF format. Also, I will be judging the entries without names attached in the interest of impartiality, so please include a cover sheet with the title of your “chapter”, your name and your contact number on it. Please also label each page of your actual entry with only your chapter title so that I can, at the end of judging,finally match up cover sheet to story. Remember to include page numbers too!

· emailed to info@alisongoodman.com.au

A bit more About Alison:

Alison Goodman is the author of EON and EONA, a New York Times Bestselling fantasy duology which has sold into 17 countries and been translated into ten languages. EON was shortlisted for Victorian, NSW, and WA Premier’s Literary awards, and won the 2008 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel. Alison’s other novels are the award-winning Singing the Dogstar Blues, and her crime novel Killing the Rabbit which was shortlisted for the 2007 Davitt Award. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and their Machiavellian Jack Russell Terrier, and is currently working on a new series.