Writing Greenwood Tree – and more

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Save a Word Saturday 9

save  a word Saturday image

(Full rules here : The Feather & the Rose)
1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to this one.

2. Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. Luciferous Logolepsy is a great database of lovely old words.

3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme chosen for the week.

4. Add your post to the linky list below (it’s down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible!

5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life.

My chosen word:

accolent

adj. –  neighbouring

The theme : Roses

A low afternoon light flooded the library and picked out the cracks in the book spines, the odd cobweb in a forgotten corner, and the outline of a grand male presence in well-filled waistcoat and elegant breeches, perusing a volume while standing at the window.

‘Mr Portentous!’

Startled, he slaps the book shut; a lady in cream muslin crosses the floor, intent upon the book he holds.

‘Mr Portentous! A quote! A quote!’

Dreaded words. He bows his head however, unable to refuse and re-opens at the page he had been reading. ‘And she was fair as is the rose in May…’

‘Enough!’ she squawks by way of reply: ‘It is not May; and I am not fair. Choose another !’

He walks over to the shelves and hunts about a bit. He pulls out another volume and opens at random : ‘Gather the rose of love whilst yet is time?’

‘Another ! That one makes me feel even more ancient than I am !’

Finally, he tugs at a fairly thick tome bound in leather, with fading lettering on the side, barely legible: Sh..k..re and reading again at random: ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose – By any other word would smell as sweet.

‘Humph,’ she replies, ‘never could make much sense of that, but it will do, for now – come, before the sun is quite gone, I wish to amble amongst the flower beds and choose which blooms shall go into my bouquet.’

And so they amble out, arm in arm, a literary pair of suitors; she indicating with her parasol this one and that, he with his stick pointing out his choice of fine specimens; they then move on to the accolent beds that harbour carnations, tiger lilies, and more ….

Rose-picking in the Rose valley near the town ...

Rose-picking in the Rose valley near the town of Kazanlak in Bulgaria, 1870s, engraving by an Austro-Hungarian traveller Felix Philipp Kanitz.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Save A Word Saturday 8

save  a word Saturday image

(Full rules here : The Feather & the Rose)
1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to this one.

2. Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. Luciferous Logolepsy is a great database of lovely old words.

3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme chosen for the week.

4. Add your post to the linky list below (it’s down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible!

5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life.

My chosen words:

babag
n. – an argument

labefy: vto weaken

The theme was Exhaustion

An Evening Out : 

There was a howl, a quick staggering lurch, and next, across the glade rolled what looked like a cartwheel wrapped in a large furcoat.

Some struggling, heaving and gnashing of teeth later, the wheel split apart: two wolves, baying at each other, face to face, circling in the low evening light.  Their babag continued, but more vocally now, growl with growl, snarl with snarl, gradually turning to a whining that was almost comprehensible. Indeed, became words. Rather gravelly ones, but distinct, nevertheless.

‘Well? Have you decided?’ said the one to the other, his voice hoarse, labefied with all the arguing.

‘I have. We go to the river.’

They stood up on hind legs. Limbs straightened into human arms, thighs and feet, and the two werewolves padded off into the shadows, still snapping at each other. ‘It won’t wash off the smell, you know.’ ‘I say it will.’ ‘I told you to leave that garlic alone…’ And so on.

English: Possible representation of the Werewo...

English: Possible representation of the Werewolf Español: Representación de un Hombre lobo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The moon rose high and three bats floated across the glade.

Sniff,sniff went one of them. ‘Can you smell that?’

‘Ugh, someone’s been eating garlic. Come away dear, we’ll look elsewhere for our snack…’ Mrs Drack flapped her wings a little harder and led the way across the sky, her husband complaining as they went : ‘Must we fly much further ? Only I am beginning to feel quite worn out … I am convinced I have an attack of nervous exhaustion coming on….’

British bats

British bats (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Tweeneys, tuppences and tricky divisions …

English: "Marianne, ringing the bell, req...

English: “Marianne, ringing the bell, requested the footman who answered it to get that letter conveyed for her to the two-penny post” – Marianne sends a letter to Willoughby when the sisters travel to London. Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. London: George Allen, 1899, page 165. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just been trying to look up servants’ wages for the 1890s (something for the next Julia Warren mystery I am trying to finish); must say, it is a blessing to be able to consult books online – even if they are only excerpts, for I have little or no access to reference books at present otherwise.

The findings are intriguing – rather higher than I had expected (although now comes the tricky part – dividing the yearly salary into weekly parts… and I haven’t calculated all the different levels yet) – oh look, a handy little online calculator as well.

So that means… muzzerwuzzerwizzerwozzer (and other suitable mathematizing sounds) a butler could be receiving the princely amount of one pound something a week(his expenses would be at most clothes, for board and lodging was all included). Now let’s take a footman – an ordinary one, who opens doors and runs about after people as opposed to the six-footer who stands about looking magnificent. Our ordinary footman then, would find in his pocket, a little less than a quarter of the butler’s pound…again, board and lodging is included. There’s usually wine to be had, and by 1890s, a week’s holiday allotted per annum.

Footman (Morning)

Footman (Morning) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moving down a bit further … the Tweeney, or between maid,nearly the lowest of the lower Five, yet still above the scullery maid,  might earn between 10 to 15 pounds per annum. So if we take the minimum, that works out half again of the footman’s wage. Ten or twelve pence a month. How much was it to go to the theatre? A farthing? Tuppence? Sixpence for a half-way decent view? You’d have to save up for that… when you had the time and energy after a 5 to 10  working day; unless you went on your day off.

And these were the lucky ones ….

The 1890s saw thousands of Londoners homeless, sleeping in parks, on the Embankment or in the recesses of London Bridge (Frank Victor Dawes, Not in Front of the Servants, 1973). If disease and depression did not carry you off, then violent crime probably would. Receiving not only a roof over your head but clothes and food plus some pocket money might well have seemed like a blessing in comparison.

London Bridge, stereopticon card photo from ea...

London Bridge, stereopticon card photo from early 1890s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And on that cheery note, I continue to add up, divide and multiply the farthings, shillings and pence – still wondering what that Tweeney might have forked out for a good night out at the theatre. I hope it was worth it.

(Written in haste, this windy night, in the echoing memory of 1890…)

Speaking of entertainment available:

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/0-9/19th-century-theatre/


Save a Word Saturday 7

save  a word Saturday image

(Full rules here : The Feather & the Rose)
1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to this one.

2. Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. Luciferous Logolepsy is a great database of lovely old words.

3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme chosen for the week.

4. Add your post to the linky list below (it’s down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible!

5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life.

Drat – I left it too late again… and cannot find next week’s page yet. Never mind, I have posted even so… couldn’t resist the scorpion theme …

My chosen words:

obdormition
n. – numbness or ‘going to sleep’ of a limb, etc.

objurgationn. a rebuke

The theme was Scorpions

A couple sat by the hearth, he was reading, she was sewing. A boy in purple pyjamas was hopping from one foot to the other, peering through a long narrow window at the night sky. Every so often he let out a tiny squeak.

‘Windy tonight,’ remarked Mrs Drack.

‘Hmmm,’ replied her husband, deeply absorbed in his book.

‘Jack got into trouble today,’ said her son, peering through the narrow window.

‘What was he doing?’

‘Eating scorpions.’

His father nodded his head sagely. ‘Ruinous for digestion. Why not stick to mice and frogs?’

‘Said he wanted to try something different. Can I have a spider?’

‘Another spider? The child will burst his buttons – you had plenty at dinner,’ said his mother.

The boy rubbed his tummy. ‘Not any of the big ones. I like the big ones. If I can’t have a spider, then I shall go and eat a scorpion –‘ His mother raised her hands in protest. ‘Didn’t you hear what your father just said about digestion?’

‘But –‘

‘Silence, infant!’ bellowed his father, ‘and go and polish your fangs!’

‘Yes, indeed, dear, it is long past bedtime,’ added his mother.

Ignoring their objurgations, the boy wrinkled his nose and stared out through the window. He squeaked again. His mother sighed and looked at his father. ‘Well?’

‘Well?’ he replied.

‘I suppose a late snack won’t do too much harm… as long as we let it go down first…’

Mr Drack got up, then winced. ‘I sense a certain obdormition in my  left leg; comes of sitting too long. Very well, let us be off.’

A few minutes later three bats flew out of the turret via the long, narrow window.

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Save a Word Saturday 6

save  a word Saturday image

(Full rules here : The Feather & the Rose)
1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to this one.

2. Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. Luciferous Logolepsy is a great database of lovely old words.

3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme chosen for the week.

4. Add your post to the linky list below (it’s down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible!

5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life.

My chosen words:

ramiferous
adj. – bearing branches. ramiform, adj. branch-alike.

facinorous
adj. – extremely wicked; depraved; infamous

& this week’s theme is:

Earlobes

 

‘Whooooo….’

‘Who, indeed?’ joked Mr Gracious , a little nervously.

‘Pay no attention. There are tales of a phantom that haunts the place, but really, it is nothing more than an owl,’ said the host to his guest anxiously, as he placed a lighted candle on the table before leaving him to his bed chamber

‘Who who whohooooo…’ came the crazed voice again.

Mr Gracious tugged at his earlobe and hemmed and hawed a while.

‘Of course, nothing but a lot of old wives’ tales; still, perhaps not inadvisable to lock one’s door and windows at night – if an owl or even a bat were to make its way in, could be rather annoying.’

He peered out through the narrow window; the view that met him might have been created specifically for a Tale of Horror and Imagination or one of Le Fanu: a full moon, riding clear of some very oddly shaped clouds, framed against the bluey-black sky by the ramiferous arms of the old tree growing immediately outside.

‘Quite,’ commented Mr Gracious to himself, as if in agreement with the elements.

And so to bed.  He could not quite close the window however:  rust, or some fault in the original design caused it to stick, allowing a thin breath of cool evening air to enter. He tugged the tapestry across it and by means of his walking stick managed to pin it ingeniously in place.

A quiet read by candle light, and soon he was sleepy enough to doze off;  even the who-whooiing which continued far into the night failed to wake him, although occasionally he twitched in his sleep.

‘Whoo-whoooooo…..’

Who indeed, could be of such nefarious, such facinorous intent, as to wish harm to an itinerant traveller , a complete stranger to the semi-ruined castle?

‘Whooo-whooooo….’

Shadows flickered about the chamber,  assuming  strange and near human shapes – it is curious how a breath of air can make the flame flicker and dart in that extraordinary manner …  now a female figure, now a dancing, capering male figure , surely wearing a jester’s cap… and finally, the shadow of an owl, flying around the walls – how could that be? The window is not open, nor  is the door.

Night wears on into dawn – and as the walking stick falls away, the window swings open – and from the chamber, mysteriously, drifts out the owl.

Has the castle claimed yet another victim?

‘… framed against the bluey-black sky by the ramiferous arms of the old tree …’

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Save A Word Saturday 5

save  a word Saturday image

The rules run thusly:

1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to this one.

2. Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. It really must be an old word, not just a big one. We are trying to save lovely archaisms, not ugly giants (for example, “Dihydrogen Monoxide” is not an acceptable choice). Luciferous Logolepsy is a great database of lovely words if you’re having trouble coming up with something on your own.

3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme chosen this week. You may also add visual or musical interpretations of your word or your sentence. In fact, add anything that moves your creative spirit.

4. Add your post to the linky list below (it’s down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible!

5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life. Do leave us a note or add something to your own post to let us all know what wonderful old word you whipped out to befuddle your friends and relations.

I am late again ! But it is still Saturday …

This week’s words I have chosen are:

Dapifer – meat-bearer to table, a steward

Macarize, v. pronounce blessed; praise; congratulate.

 And the theme was : Weddings…

‘Primroses? I think not, my dear. Something  a little more genteel…try these lilies of the valley, and some  lilacs,’ Aunt Zephira clucked and fussed, while her niece fidgeted.

‘This train will be far too long, the bride’s maids will be tripping over it half the time,’ complained her niece, tugging at the heavy white satin.

‘Hush dear, you’ll upset the Count’s mother- it is tradition after all.’

‘I know, but twenty feet long? A little outré, I do think.’

‘Never mind, that’s what the page boys are for.’

‘Humph.’

‘And don’t make noises like that, please, Griselda – you don’t want to be mistaken for a camel, now, do you…’ Zephira continued to fuss, while a few hand –maids hovered respectfully at a distance. Aunt quickly dealt with them by sending them off on various tasks. At last, they were ready, and a chain of whispered announcements were passed along the long, draughty corridors of the castle.

Down the steps they went, Griselda complaining she could hardly see where she was going, owing to the thick veil over her face, her aunt tut-tutting and issuing more commands to various other servants.

A gaggle of nervous and multi-sized damsels in white silk dresses were waiting in the hall; they took their positions, and the little procession continued out across the courtyard to ancient roman temple at the far end. The Count had a leaning towards Romantic Gothicism, and had requested that the ceremony be conducted on this ancient spot, in imitation of Theseus and Hippolyta. There was even a threat of the Bard’s play being performed that evening. Griselda had no great liking for the stage and indeed wished the whole scenario over and done with so she could go and lie down in a dark corner somewhere and … chew some … straw …? Why was she thinking about straw ? ‘Humph,’ she went again. Her aunt signalled her to restrain herself, but her nose simply twitched in reply.

A fanfare sounded : the Count had arrived at the temple and made his way to the altar.

The ceremony passed without a hitch, although guests noted the bride’s tendency to snort and mumble her vows somewhat, and by the end of it, she was displaying a marked inclination to paw at the ground with one foot. As the final words were uttered, there came one more distinct ‘humph!’ from under the veil – pronounced enough to startle even the Count slightly.

They proceeded to banqueting hall, amidst much macarizing, and there a gargantuan meal was served – again, to satisfy the Count’s demands for spectacle and grandeur. Still the bride maintained a sturdy silence, munching her way through several dishes brought in by the dapifers, from behind her veil, (which proved a messy business), snorting and huffing.

There was drinking and dancing, and out everyone tripped, to enjoy a quadrille by the light of the moon, before making their various ways home.

‘But where is my bride?’ asked the Count, suddenly – and immediately a search was made. When and how she had disappeared nobody saw, but vanished she most surely had.

Lanterns, candles, rushes were lit – all the servants and those few remaining guests who had not yet left, joined in the hunt. The moon had sailed half across the sky when a screech was heard, from the direction of the stables. All rushed madly hither, to be greeted by the sight of Aunt Zephira, pointing at a camel in a veil and wrapped up in the train of Griselda’s dress, finishing off the remains of her bouquet.

‘But there is surely not – that cannot be…’gasped the Count.

‘Humph,’ went Griselda, as she munched at another lilac.

‘My dear, it is not lady-like, to eat one’s own bouquet in public like that,’ faltered Aunt Zephira.

But it was very comfortable in the straw in the stables, and finally, Griselda felt at ease.

A taunting hoot wafted across the courtyard.

‘Look ! Tis she – the fortune teller of legend come again as an owl!’ cried out some.

‘The curse, the curse, again !’cried out the others.

The Count straightened his cravat and ordered fresh straw. Soon, the sound came of duplicate munching, as he joined his spouse in her evening snack….

The Count had a leaning towards Romantic Gothicism …

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Save a Word Saturday 4

save  a word Saturday image

The rules run thusly:

1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to this one. The easiest way to do that would be to grab the code under our pretty Save-a-Word Saturday button. Just copy and paste it into the HTML part of your blog.

2. Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. It really must be an old word, not just a big one. We are trying to save lovely archaisms, not ugly giants (for example, “Dihydrogen Monoxide” is not an acceptable choice). Luciferous Logolepsy is a great database of lovely words if you’re having trouble coming up with something on your own.

3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme we have chosen this week. You may also add visual or musical interpretations of your word or your sentence. In fact, add anything that moves your creative spirit.

4. Add your post to the linky list below (it’s down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible!

5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life. Do leave us a note or add something to your own post to let us all know what wonderful old word you whipped out to befuddle your friends and relations.

At last – I am nearly ahead of myself !

This week’s chosen words:

rabiator
n. – a violent man
obambulate
v. – to walk about, wander

and the theme was

 Lace Socks ….

The guide flung open the great, heavy, wooden doors and creaked across the threshold in his well-polished leather pumps. It was the fashion in those days for gentlemen to show off their calves in stockings and britches, and Mr Momentous was well-equipped in that department. Some of the ladies in the group were quite in awe of them, so much so that they would forget to observe the magnificent surroundings, the opulent furniture, the excellent wooden panelling and carved balustrades, and stared instead at his bipedal prowess, and giggled quietly behind their fans.

The Calves of Mr Momentous

‘As you will note,’ boomed Mr Momentous, stopping in the centre of the great chamber, ‘ this is no ordinary castle. Once home to a king, it passed into the hands of a court jester, in the most unorthodox manner – the jester soon turned into a rabiator –‘

One of the ladies waved her fan in peremptory fashion and demanded to know what word that was.

Mr Momentous drew himself up to his full height of barely five feet, and proceeded to explain:

‘A rabiator,madam, one no longer in full possession of his temper; added to which , the same personage had taken to obambulating at night, putting his household, and ministers and advisers in something of a quandary …’

‘Obambulating,sir? What manner of offensive word might that be?’ asked the same lady again, her ire visibly raised by the semantical loquacity of the guide.

Mr Momentous bowed, a condescending smile playing about his lips.

‘Why, it is little more than a variation on ambulatory, or walking – ‘

‘In that case why not say so and be done with it ?’ expostulated the lady, now clearly irritated.

‘In that case why not say so and be done with it ?’ expostulated the lady, now clearly irritated.

‘Because, madam, while similar to ambulating or walking, it signifies in a vague uncertain manner, or to wander, – as befitted one who was, by all accounts, under some form of a curse, driven made by it in fact – to such a degree, that he took to wearing the most unsuitable clothes, eating bizarre and unwholesome food, and singing nonsensical songs.’

‘Unsuitable clothes?’

‘What say you to half a red jacket, slit down the sleeve, on one side, and a green waistcoat, slit across, on the other ? coupled with britches made of goat hair, and slippers made of oak leaves – what say you to purple hose, tied up with red laces ?’

‘I care not for the combination of colour – I think it most lacking in taste, and quite unfashionable!’ declared one of the ladies, amidst titters. The irascible one sniffed.

‘But let me show you, rather than attempt to describe…’ and Mr Momentous crossed over to the opposite wall to fling back a tapestry. He was suitably gratified by the gasp that ran through his little audience.

The portrait was of the poor jester king, in all his lunatic glory; a mass of indigestible colour, from his bright yellow hat, to his pink shirt, green and red slit jacket as described by Mr Momentous, down to his oak leaf slippers – and lace socks, red on purple. Quite fetching, for some perhaps. A murmur of pity instead ran through the fashion-conscious group.

‘The poor soul, mad indeed.

‘Quite lost his senses.’’And smiling away at it all.’

‘Indeed, when the likeness was taken he was already nigh the end,’ commented Mr Momentous, with a fine touch of dramatic melancholy.

‘And what was the end, then?’ asked one of the younger gentlemen of the party.

‘One night, it is said, his perambulations took him up those very steps, leading to the tower, where he threw himself – or fell – from its ramparts and so met his sorry end.’

A mild shriek or too at this from some of the ladies. The irascible female folded her arms and went merely ‘Harrumph!’

‘What say you he might not have been pushed?‘ asked one of the gentlemen of the party.

‘There, legend leaves us to mystify, – however, there was a rumour that he had been driven mad by a fortune-teller, who had the ability to change into an owl, and who persecuted him, drove him from chamber to chamber, from floor to floor, until at last, in despair of ever being free of this torment – he took the only escape left open to him, as presented to his sorry state of mind and so left this life precipitately…’ here, Mr Momentous paused, as if listening. The others fell quiet too, listening hard.

‘Whoooooooo…hooooooo….’ came the sound again.

As one, they all cried out, and rushed from the chamber, in terror of sighting the unlucky bird.

All save Mr Momentous, who stood, shaking his head sorrowfully after them.

A few minutes later, there was a movement behind one of the tapestries, and an elegant gentleman in pale blue issued forth from it.

‘Well, Mr Momentous? How were the takings today, sir?’

A quiet clinking sound, as coins exchanged hands.

‘Indeed, were it not for the profit, how very depressed would one’s spirits be at the gullibility of the human mind,’  commented Mr Momentous, straightening his waistcoat.

‘Indeed so, sir,’ replied the other.

They sauntered off downstairs at a leisurely pace, scarcely bothering to look back.

An owl swept across the chamber and flew through one of the windows.

‘…the gullibility of the human mind,…’

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Previously: Footsteps, Laughter & Castles


No Longer a Bumpy Ride! The 1762 Westminster Paving Act…

Every Woman Dreams...

MaltonCHIn doing research for my newest release, THE MYSTERIIOUS DEATH OF MR. DARCY, which is set in Dorset, I came across the Purbek marble, a fossiliferous limestone found on the Isle of Purbeck, a peninsula in southeast Dorset, England. That discovery led to one thing and then another, and finally, I came across the Westminster Paving Act of 1762, a dramatic step forward on behalf of London’s dwellers.

 

The Westminster Paving Act removed the responsibility of paving the streets from the individuals to a governmental type commission. Before the act, occupants were responsible for paving and cleaning a specified area before their residences.

From John Wood’s Description of Bath (1749), we discover:

But previous to the Duty of these Officers, every Housekeeper, inhabiting and residing within the City, Liberties, and Precincts thereof, is enjoined, Thrice in every Week at the least, that is to say, on Tuesday, Thursday, and…

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Celebrating The Green Man

Love the photos in this one – thanks for sharing, Lynn !

ljclayton

green%20mangm3gm2gm1

B. Lloyd’s mystery Greenwood Tree has sent me on a Green Man search. Here a a few from Beverley Minster in Yorkshire – only a few, the place is full of them.

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Greenwood Tree Cover Reveal

GWT book cover Here it is… there it goes… and here we are. A new cover for Greenwood Tree. It was fun developing it, from its early days as a straight mask on black background, to deciding on the font (that took the longest time!) to choosing the colour…. after much to-ing and fro-ing, and tests, and re-runs, and tweaking and applying of  curling tongs  – we did it. I particularly like the font, as it combines that sense of decay, ancient and with a nice touch of mystery. I particularly like the effect of the T – sinister, with suggestions of an axe blade. Which has a certain relevance. A lot of very kind people will be posting this cover on their blogs. I do hope you will pop by them, to say hello and see what else they get up to. The full list is here : AuthorsAnon Newsletter –  and we’ll be chatting (I hope!) on Google + and FaceBook so do add your pictures, links to anything related to Green Men, myth and mystery, 1920s, the Golden Age of Crime Fiction, 18th century manners and fashion …. there’s plenty to choose from once you start …. 🙂 I can’t feature images on this kind of template, so I have posted the banner as an image widget … it’s a bit odd… you end up scrolling to the right to view it properly. I might find another way of displaying it …. There will be all sorts of other stuff on the other blogs, so I am just putting a few favourites here, which I may  or may not be posting at the various events as well…. Starting with a bit of Julia’s London: (I have posted this before, I do think the colour quality is amazing ) and some of the sort of life-style she felt a need to escape …: (Although I think she packed at least one of those cocktail dresses..) and a little something I just came across: the George Inn at Lichfield where the infamous ball takes place in 1783 …

I may well add  more later. I’ll just  pop one of the clips that will be circulating the web on here as well…

(Er, you will remember the name, won’t you ..? 😉 )


Save a Word Saturday 3

save  a word Saturday image

The rules run thusly:

1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to this one. The easiest way to do that would be to grab the code under our pretty Save-a-Word Saturday button. Just copy and paste it into the HTML part of your blog.

2. Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. It really must be an old word, not just a big one. We are trying to save lovely archaisms, not ugly giants (for example, “Dihydrogen Monoxide” is not an acceptable choice). Luciferous Logolepsy is a great database of lovely words if you’re having trouble coming up with something on your own.

3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme we have chosen this week. You may also add visual or musical interpretations of your word or your sentence. In fact, add anything that moves your creative spirit.

4. Add your post to the linky list below (it’s down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible!

5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life. Do leave us a note or add something to your own post to let us all know what wonderful old word you whipped out to befuddle your friends and relations.

I am still behind the trail – beginning to catch up … my word this time is halfpace: n. – dais; small landing on staircase & the theme this time was: 

Footsteps….

Tip,tap, tip.

Shuffle shuffle shuffle.

Flup, flip, flup, flip…

Tip, tap, tip

Footsteps echoing through the chambers. Pacing up and down, now fast, now slow.

The new king, so recently a jester, now has no mirth, no joke to make about these sounds. He has been king barely a few weeks, and already his head rests uneasy.

Toss and turn, turn and toss. Call for the guard, for the sorry servant who sleeps at night at the foot of the  door to his majesty’s chamber, demand what can those sounds be ? Who is there, pacing up and down, up and down? Answer comes there none – neither guard nor servant have heard anything.

The jester king, once so merry, turns away, back to his grand, opulent bed all covered with velvet and cushions, yet sleep comes not.

Tip,tap, tip.

Shuffle shuffle shuffle.

Flup, flip, flup, flip…

Tip, tap, tip

Are you haunted, merry jester? Are you ? And do you know why ?

It seems he does not, for he moans and whimpers ‘Why, why, why? Why dost thou torment me thus, oh witless spirit, who or what art thou ?’

And answer comes there none.

Has he gone mad ? Has the weight of kingship already proved too much to bear ?

Tip,tap, tip.

Shuffle shuffle shuffle.

Flup, flip, flup, flip…

Tip, tap, tip

Now across the hall, next upon the stairs, now the half-pace, and now … outside his bedchamber … and now …about his very bed …

‘Mercy on us –‘ he shrieks – ‘cannot you hear that?’

They rush to his bedside, and peer in the shadows; the guard is joined by another, and another, and together they poke at the tapestries with their halberds without finding anything.

Oh monstrous vision indeed – if it could be seen.

knights tapestry crop

He creeps beneath his pillow and hides. Tapers and rushes are lit, and vigil-like, the guards sit about his bed.

‘Hark!’ says one to the other, after more than an hour has passed – ‘did you hear something ? ‘

‘Nothing – it was an owl, that’s all,’ says another.

They listen intently. A soft flip, flup, flip, flup of wings comes again, louder, closer. In sweeps a night-owl, circling the room… and flies out again with a mocking ‘hooooo-oooooo’….

‘She-devil!’ comes the awful scream from the bed – and the jester king points a trembling finger after the departing intruder.

He sleeps no more that night … nor the next…

Uneasy indeed lies the head that wears a crown.

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Previously: Laughter & Castles


Join the Pride & Prejudice 200th Anniversary Party Hop

Main blog hop list here : Pride and Prejudice Blog Hop

Stiletto Storytime

PandPPartyHop1

Can you believe it? In exactly two weeks or as Jane would say “in only a fortnight”, our beloved Pride & Prejudice is about to turn 200 years old! How can you let an event like that pass without a celebration of enormous proportions amongst all Janeites and even those who only have a passing relationship with the classic…the answer is….you can’t. That’s why when the very talented Jane Austen inspired author Alyssa Goodnight approached me about doing a 200th Anniversary Party Blog Hop, I simply couldn’t resist. 200 Austen lovers getting together to celebrate 200 years of Pride & Prejudice is our goal. That’s right 200 of you…I know that’s quite a large number but what can I say we’re optimists and this is a very big milestone indeed. How often does this type of anniversary come around after all?

So you want to be a part of…

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Save A Word Saturday ‘Laughter’

save  a word Saturday image

The rules run thusly:


1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to this one. The easiest way to do that would be to grab the code under our pretty Save-a-Word Saturday button. Just copy and paste it into the HTML part of your blog.

2. Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. It really must be an old word, not just a big one. We are trying to save lovely archaisms, not ugly giants (for example, “Dihydrogen Monoxide” is not an acceptable choice). Luciferous Logolepsy is a great database of lovely words if you’re having trouble coming up with something on your own.

3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme we have chosen this week. You may also add visual or musical interpretations of your word or your sentence. In fact, add anything that moves your creative spirit.

4. Add your post to the linky list below (it’s down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible!

5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life. Do leave us a note or add something to your own post to let us all know what wonderful old word you whipped out to befuddle your friends and relations.

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Last week, I neglected to add my link in time – I have remedied now however – meanwhile, here is my contribution:

This week’s theme is:

Laughter (Previously:Castles)

Chosen words:

Balatron: n.-a joker, a clown

Hariolation: n.-  a prophecy

 

The meal is over; the king’s jester, appetite now quite sated and thirst thoroughly quenched, darts across to a shadowy corner of the room where a tapestry hangs loosely – hooking it back, he bows to the king and reveals … a bundle of patches,beads and plaited red hair. ’Behold, your majesty – another diversion; something to make us laugh with disbelief or creep fearfully to our beds; either way, it shall be entertainment, no?’

‘A fortune-teller? I suppose so; you have done so well this day, you may choose the manner of its passing – speak, then, madam, perform your hariolations!’

The Fortune Teller

The Fortune Teller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bundle of patches, beads and red hair looks up at the king and smiles. Is it his imagination, or does the king feel a sudden chill in the chamber ? Is there a draught, or is it the manner of the fortune teller’s smile ? Whatever the cause, he shivers involuntarily and calls for an extra cloak.

‘Now, now, good woman,’ cries out his Majesty’s balatron, ‘no tricks now, speak true or not at all!’

The fortune-teller smiles again, and beckons to the king. A fortune-teller, beckoning a king? What land is this ? Why,  simply, a land where prophecy, magic and second-sight are treated with due respect. So the king draws near…

A cry rings out across the chamber, followed by incredulous laughter.

The king leaves, ashen-faced. The jester remains, rolling on the floor with mirth. And the fortune-teller? There is no sign of her now – and none saw her leave the castle.

A watchman did see a great owl fly from the narrow chamber window, however, hooting derisively.

The King is ailing now, and not expected to last out the month. Every time his advisors beg him to name an heir – he points to his jester, who begins to chuckle.

Strange times indeed. A jester for a king. Who would have thought it …

Who would have thought it … (The Court Jester, by W.Merrit Chase Keying)


Save a Word Saturday (Late)

save  a word Saturday image

Well, I was too late to join in the linky thing – but I was so taken with the theme and the words I had found, I went ahead and posted anyway …so, to start from the beginning :

The rules run thusly (as taken from the Feather&Rose blog) :

1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to this one. The easiest way to do that would be to grab the code under our pretty Save-a-Word Saturday button. Just copy and paste it into the HTML part of your blog.

2. Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. It really must be an old word, not just a big one. We are trying to save lovely archaisms, not ugly giants (for example, “Dihydrogen Monoxide” is not an acceptable choice). Luciferous Logolepsy is a great database of lovely words if you’re having trouble coming up with something on your own.

3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme we have chosen this week. You may also add visual or musical interpretations of your word or your sentence. In fact, add anything that moves your creative spirit.

4. Add your post to the linky list below (it’s down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible! (Drat – I was too late to join this time around – but I am joining in anyway !)

5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life. Do leave us a note or add something to your own post to let us all know what wonderful old word you whipped out to befuddle your friends and relations.

This week’s theme is:

Castles

And my chosen words are :

Edacious:  jocular, gluttonous, pertaining to eating

 Ebrious:  drunk

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High up, atop a craggy mount, lies the castle – and at its heart, beyond those stern, thick walls, stands a banqueting hall – decked out in white cloth, hung with tapestries, and made magnificent with music from the gallery –and with food …

Peaches and apricots, grapes and strawberries, bursting at the seams, overweight with their own succulence, spilling over the rims of fruit baskets and painted porcelain plates, a cacophony of colour, dribbling, drooling, dazzling in the occasional patches of sunlight pouring through long narrow windows.

It is a feast fit for a king – so where is he ? Seated at the head of the table, surely, indulging in thick red, thick, red, warming wine, with ebrious delight ?

Seated – no. Standing, yes. A fine white linen cloth over one arm. Here’s a novelty. Whom does he wait upon ?  A man in brightly coloured clothes, with cheerful jibe and uncurbed tongue – he is the king’s jester by day, and honoured guest this night, as he tucks into his meal edaciously…. And why this reward ? Why?

Quite simply – today, he bestowed upon the king that most precious of commodities; the gift of laughter – made his Majesty fairly weep with it, he did. And a costly battle was averted.

A wise king knows how to treat his therapist.

The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestry


News From Westerby

In 1833, a Frenchman named Eugène François Vidocq founded an organisation that was, in effect, the world’s first freelance detective agency. Presumably acting on the principle of “set a thief to catch a thief,” Vidocq’s “Bureau of Universal Information” (Le Bureau des Renseignements Universels pour le Commerce et l’Industrie) was staffed almost entirely by ex-convicts. The Bureau had excellent results, especially in apprehending fraudsters and con-men, but its success did not impress the police force — not least because the Bureau had a habit of not always following the letter of the law itself. The police were determined to put an end to Vidocq’s Bureau.

After ten years of successful operation, they finally believed that they had succeeded when Vidocq himself was arrested and charged with taking money on false pretenses and unlawful imprisonment. Although he was initially sentenced to five years in prison, Vidocq appealed and won…

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It is a shame Benoist didn’t turn up sooner … but still, we get to compare with the oil paintings – all in all, they do tend to compare well. The Fascination of the Macabre – gets me every time… 🙂

Making History Tart & Titillating

If you want accurate likenesses of eighteenth century aristocrats, don’t rely on painted portraits.  If you must insist on versimiltude, I have two things to say:  “Goodnight and good luck” and “Wax Portraits!!”

Before yesterday, I had never heard of such a thing.  Wax figures like Madame Tussaud’s?  Of course.  But small, uncomely representations of monarchs, mistresses, noble folk?  I am fascinated.

Somehow in the two times I visited Versailles I missed Louis XIV’s 1706 wax portrait.  Too distracted by the gilt, no doubt.  What’s peculiar about this buste is what’s most obvious.  Apart from the fact he looks dusted with flour–an ill omen caused by bad reproduction–he’s got pockmarks, a five o’clock shadow, and age spots.  If you can’t see them in the first picture,  my lack of HD quality has dashed the clarity (Super clear and creepy whole bust here).

Louis-XIV by Antoine Benoist 1715

Benoist Louis XIV eye and nose

To be fair, Antoine Benoist molded…

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Unexpected Pleasures & Towers of Words

My publishers’ website has been updated. As a result of which, Greenwood Tree is now available to pre-order. All very swish, with a drop-down menu.

It’s rather taken me by surprise. A pleasant surprise, I hasten to add; something of  confirmation that, after all the hectic scribbling and manic editing, the doodling and digressing (on my part), the planning and preparation, we are on the way to publication. Still, unexpected, and slightly unreal (and all those other oft-quoted sentiments that authors are supposed to express).

It certainly took a damnably long time to write. I have made up for it since. A sequel is in progress,in that I have a beginning, a middle and an end and have only to fill in all the bits in between, I have a third half-planned, and ideas for a fourth jotted down somewhere …This on top of all the ideas, images, plot lines, notes and ‘excerpts’ lying in files and folders,  or in notebooks and on scraps of paper, as yet untyped. Some of those may yet disintegrate, fade away or otherwise be consigned to oblivion. Others I hope will grow into something, well, at least entertaining,  if nothing else.

… Silver buckles on cracked black shoes twinkling along 18th century cobbles; a hedgehog in slippers reading the Times, clockwork automata in hot-air balloons, (these are only a few of my favourite things….) Into my head it pops, onto the page it goes. It might become a short story, an incident, a scene, a three-part saga; I squirrel them away for future use – throwing nothing away. Yet. I accumulate. Something of a hazard when it is physical; and even  slightly disconcerting in digital form. Rather like a despairing partner or parent when their loved one insists on throwing nothing away: ‘But are you ever going to use it?’ asks my common sense, ‘You never know,’ replies my imagination,  ‘you just never know when you might need it’ and ‘waste not, want not,’ and so it goes on. Towers of words, piling one on top of the other, regardless of whether or not there is space and time and energy to do something with them, sitting in silence, watching, waiting for their cue…which does not come. Because there is always more spilling out, being tucked away in nooks and crannies until space itself will eventually run amok, shouting out ‘No More Room! No More Room! Implode! Implode! Melt-down!’

So when both my mental attic and my digital one are filled fit to burst, and bookshelves are swelling and heaving with notebooks stuffed with words, and I am reduced to a jelly or puddle on the floor, perhaps then all those words, sentences, ideas will find a way to float out into the ether and paint pictures in other people’s minds.

(Turns to gaze woefully at groaning pile of notebooks; then turns back to keyboard to type. Tap, tap, tap. Taptaptaptaptaptaptap….)

All of which was intended to lead neatly onto a link to said swish drop-down pre-order  menu … (I can’t think what happened along the way):  Grey Cells Press  (where you will also find excellent works by fellow authors, and likewise here :  Holland House Books ).

Happy browsing. 🙂

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The Green Man Cometh

The Green Man Cometh.

via The Green Man Cometh.

I am a guest this week – what a novel experience that was!  Many thanks to Dean Lombardo for inviting me  – here is the opening :

“The next time you visit a cathedral, crane your head up to look at the ceiling, where the building’s arches lurk in shadow. What else do you see? You might need binoculars—but the older the cathedral, the more likely you are to find, nestling atop corbels and capitals, a singular face with leaves and branches climbing out of its mouth. Sometimes fierce, sometimes cheerful, mostly a trifle wild … this often-sculpted entity has been with us far longer than the cathedrals, and long before the Normans who built them, with a name that has regained resonance only recently: the Green Man…”

Post continues  here …


The Old Inn (Love-to-Spook Blog Hop 1)

There is a small town up in the Tyrol, in that mountainous ridge that straddles the Southern reaches of Germany and Upper lands of North Italy, called Vipiteno (in Italian) and Sterzing (in German). It sits right on the frontier between the two countries and is divided by more than language. Some treated you better if you spoke in Italian, others , if you spoke in German. You couldn’t tell till you’d tried one of each. Things may have changed since I was there with my parents.

We stopped off there for a few nights, and, on the recommendation of a friend originally from the town, we stayed at the oldest inn in the place; I think it was called something like Das Krone – but whatever its name, it had been standing  there, as a wayside inn, up in the mountains, for five hundred years – and in the same family for all that time. This seemed an impressive fact to a child who had spent no more than three or four years at a time in any one country, and, combined with a family love of history, made me curious to know more; over dinner in the timbered restaurant on the ground floor, I looked up at the portraits on the wall over the fireplace at the far end. A man and a woman, early to mid-nineteenth century – possibly even earlier …surely they were ancestors of the present inn-keepers.  What might have been their history? What their names ?

The inn had expanded, there was a modern building across the road, only three years old, built mainly  to accommodate coach parties. We were staying in the old building, my parents in one room nearest to the stairs, I in another a little further on.

The upper floor had a narrow winding corridor, with the rooms leading off from it – lit with warm, glowing lights, comfortable and welcoming.

Full and glowing after a (probably over-rich) hearty dinner, I drifted off happily; we had spent a fascinating time in Venice, had chatted and giggled at dinner and were anticipating a couple of days exploration of Vipiteno. All was light and cheery. I slipped into sleep in a haze of comfort.

I awoke a few hours later,suddenly, in the dark, and petrified.  That over-used expression ‘paralysed with fear’ comes to mind; yet how else to describe the sheer impossibility of movement owing to the cold terror that has taken hold of your whole body ?

Indigestion, I hear you suggest. Over-excitement, says another. Pooh, over-active imagination,  from the gentleman at the back there.

It may well be so – yet those three are no strangers to me, and I think would have resulted in similar effects often enough for me to have already drawn such a conclusion, if such indeed were the case. I had not before, nor have I since, experienced such a sensation, such a terrifying  feeling ; –  of someone sitting on the end of the bed.

 

My feet were tilting – in the unmistakable way that feet do when the mattress is sat on; and this I believe was what had awoken me.

It can only have lasted a few seconds – yet it seemed an eternity before I could stretch my hand out to switch on the light. Finally, I managed to do that – and kept my eyes tightly shut. That welcome glow, through my eyelids ,  was not enough in itself to reassure me.  I had no intention of opening them – I felt most strongly that to do so would be a serious mistake, that my very sanity would be at risk if I dared to open them.

Gradually – oh, relief! – gradually, the weight lifted and dissipated. My feet returned to a normal position as the mattress lightened. But dear heavens,  it was slow in going – and still I kept my eyelids tightly shut. I did not want to see, I could not bear the thought of what I might see, at the end of the bed – until finally, all sensation of weight had gone completely.  How long did that take ? Again, probably no more than a matter of seconds – yet how interminable even seconds can feel, dragging on as a plough through thick mud ….

Now I could open my eyes – only because I was finally convinced that the room was empty. Not before. Now. You see, there was that sensation, powerful enough to convince me that there was a presence, a presence I did not wish to see, and that I would be unable to move until that same presence had withdrawn.

I looked at the clock. Close on three. There was no prospect of going back to sleep that night.  I got up and crept down the corridor as far as my parents’ room, then peered about, loath to wake them. There were comforting small night lights on. The corridor remained lit all night, which was a blessing. But I did not see how I could wander up and down the corridor all night. Nor had I any wish to remain in the bedroom.

I got dressed and went downstairs. By that time it must have been nearly four in the morning. I sat on one of the old wooden chests in the hall; I felt unafraid downstairs. I looked about me, at the furnishings, the great dark shiny floor, the stairs. I waited until the light changed, when dawn, so very welcome, finally broke, and the cleaning ladies came into the hall and started vacuuming, dusting, chatting …

I do not know if they commented on my being in the hall at such an early hour – I don’t know if they even saw me. That same day however, we were moved to the new building across the road. Perhaps that had been part of the original arrangement; it was certainly a surprise to me. I was in a sense sorry not to be in such a wonderfully old building – but I was also relieved.  I slept well that night, as far as I can remember. I certainly was not troubled by the feeling of someone – or something – sitting on the end of the bed (mind you, I think I left the bedside light on!)

As I have already mentioned, I have never had such an experience anywhere else before or since.

The inn (or hotel, I suppose it should be called) was later converted; I believe there are shops now on the ground floor; the upper floor all shut up.

I have since wondered, when researching  Elizabethan travel , as to how many might have passed through those inn doors – and how many passed out again. Did one or two of them disappear overnight? In those times , highway men, robbers and thieves roamed the area, and attacks on travellers in lonely inns were not infrequent.  How many secrets might such a building as that mountain inn hold ?

And then I look at a painting by Fuseli, and wonder again ….

Phantom Highwayman....

Phantom Highwayman….

… and Fuseli’s Night Terrors…

 

 

 


TIM FLANAGAN

Donestre - British LibraryWhilst researching mythical creatures for the second Moon Stealer book, I came across a small piece of information about a creature called a Donestre, as well as a couple of pictures. I was looking for a fearsome creature that would make a formidable warrior for the Faerie Queen.

In ancient times, they were thought to have been found by the Greek, Alexander the Great and appeared in various medieval manuscripts (Bestiary’s) including the Wonders of the East. They were reported to be monsters that greeted unsuspecting travellers in their local tongue. They then killed and ate them, leaving just the head which they sat and wept over.Donestre

My Donestre are bounty hunters employed by the Faerie Queen. They are skilled Polyglots (able to speak in different languages, including dead languages). They have excellent senses and are athletic runners, on all fours as well as two legs. They are commonly between…

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Gin, glorious gin …

I do like the cover on this – the sort of notebook I would end up scribbling anything in other than gin notes- more likely plots for Julia Warren novels….

The London Gin Club

So, you’re at the London Gin Club trying some gin, with tonic perhaps or a cocktail or maybe the tasting menu and you notice all the wonderful flavours each gin has…dry, floral sweet, citrussy…but, come tomorrow will you remember which was which…or which was your favourite?

Never fear we have come to the rescue with the ‘Gin Notes’ booklet where you can record all the characteristics of each gin you try.

There are 28 pages to fill out and a section at the back to list your top ten ‘Hit list’

Fresh from the printers yesterday they available either on-line (from Monday 21st Jan) or at the bar from tonight! Yours for £1.50 and a great way to keep a record or your gin research.

example page

 

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The London Gin Club

Happy 2013 everyone…we’re really looking forward to a New Year of gin and I have a feeling it will be an interesting one.

Already new on our list is Gilt gin…a single malt gin from Scotland which we have been ‘experimenting’ with. Expect some delicious cocktails with this one!We’ve tried it as an Old Fashioned and it works amazingly well!

We have two new tasting menus for january which are:

BROKERS: Sicilian olive

SIX O’CLOCK : orange peel

LITTLE BIRD : grapefruit

ZUIDAM: Lime

and

7 DIALS : Sicilian olive

G’VINE NOUAISON: juniper& cinnamon

BOTANIST: Thyme & lemon

ROYAL DOCK NAVY STRENGTH: Lime peel

Come by and give them a try!

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The Bell

Eight sentence snippet(http://www.wewriwa.com/):

“Julia sat a while, admiring the tree with all its mixture of old and new. Mrs Leveton took great pride in her festive decoration, and rightly so.

A dog wandered in through the door and lay down in front of the fire, in a very relaxed, familiar way, and looked at Julia enquiringly. A magnificent animal, long-haired, a black mix between labrador and retriever, with a little bell attached to its collar which chimed gently with every movement.

‘Hello – you must have come with new guests – I’m sure I haven’t seen you before,’ Julia murmured at the dog. The animal continued to gaze at her, then suddenly placed his chin on his front paws, keeping a watchful eye open. The bell chimed again; it sounded familiar and Julia couldn’t help a tiny shiver trickling down her back. How strange to dream of a black dog with a bell before actually seeing it.”

(Complete story below)

 

A short winter’s tale with Julia Warren, to bring in the new year. It was  inspired by … a pet dog’s bell hanging on a Christmas Tree.

Happy New Year  and Happy Haunting !

The Bell

1800, December

Letter to Edith Summers from her cousin Jane Leveton.

“… and such a tree it was, the children said, a great yew in a pot, standing taller than any man in the room, right in the middle of the floor and spreading its branches out as so many arms, each bearing something bright, something pleasing, something to delight – and delighted the children were, too, each coming home afterwards with his or her toy and sweetmeat tightly clasped to breast, cheeks all pink with excitement…little Robert declared it to be the best Christmas party ever… and Emma ate all her sweetmeat at once and was quite unwell most of the night…too much sugar and excitement, I have declared all rich food be kept out of sight for the rest of the week , or at least until their spirits are a little more settled….

‘I had not yet told you about the toys – Robert has marched the little wooden soldier he was given till I am certain I heard the poor thing squeak in protest; such limitless energy the little ones have! – whereas Emma has a doll with a bell attached to it; a shepherdess, I think it is, a charming little thing– the bell is on a stick, with a blue ribbon attached; every time it is shook, it gives off a singularly gentle chime. The child has been carrying it around the house, and now the dog  follows her everywhere: I am certain he does so in order to hear the sound of the little bell again…’

1800, July

Letter to Edith Summers from her cousin Jane Leveton.

‘My dear Edith,

Such a panic there has been since you were last here, I can even now barely set it down without my hand causing my pen to tremble and scratch, and the ink to run and drip most terribly – and this even with the happy outcome. No doubt in years to come we shall look back all together in fond memory of the day Emma went missing – but not at present; I am quite unable to imagine what I might have done or where I might be had things turned out otherwise …

‘You will remember it is Emma’s habit to wander about the garden on sunny days, (still with her doll and its little bell to which she is most attached),and so it happened she slipped away the other day without telling anyone – which she has been told not to do previously, on many occasions, but because we know her usual movements, we have always been able to find her. This time, however we could not find any trace of the naughty thing, and were quite desperate, and called all the servants out to help search the grounds for her. It was now growing near to six of the clock, and she had last been seen a little after lunch.  We had just sent the footman over to Hartley House to enquire if she had stumbled across their land, and I was standing at the gate, watching after him as he went, when up came our dog, straight to where I was, holding in his mouth Emma’s little doll – still with its bell, which gave out that tiny chime…I had no breath left in me, with calling her name and traipsing the garden, and the sight of this  poor little toy in the animal’s mouth made me close to fainting;  Bess and Jacob were nearby, fortunately, or I should have quite fallen. Toby began whining and pawing at my gown, all this time holding the blessed toy in his mouth, and turning his head constantly. Jacob it was who suggested we follow the dog – indeed I needed no persuasion, and we fairly ran after the animal, who led us across the field, through the copse at the bottom, and onto the hill behind – and there, under the old oak , on a slope, we finally discovered  Emma, asleep, her bonnet half off, and her book beside her. Jacob blessed the day with such warmth as if she were his own, picked her up and carried her back. Toby has been rewarded by having the bell tied to his collar on special occasions – and I shall keep the bell in memory of this day…’

*

1926

A discreet tinkling, a sigh, a murmur and everyone paused briefly.

‘Oh well,’ said Mrs Leveton, ’I can get some more from Woolworths – it is a shame though, such a pretty colour…’ She gazed down at the mosaic of ruby and gold glass, then bent to pick another small globe from the large cardboard box beside her.

The Levetons had started decorating for Christmas earlier than usual – and a few of their hapless friends had been inveigled into helping out, including Julia. She had volunteered – or rather, Aunty Iz had volunteered first, only to find she was unable to go at the last minute – so Julia offered to help out, and found herself invited to join the house-party.

‘She is a dear, but she does tend to lose things rather easily; I think you would be good at finding them for her – and do take this over for her ….’Aunt Iz  gave Julia a parcel tied up with a deep green ribbon. ‘I am sure you will have a lovely time – and you know Geraldine and Tommy already, so you can catch up on old times.’

Julia trundled across to the Levetons in the careful custody of Brenton and the family car in time for lunch, and spent much of the afternoon unpacking decorations, arranging mistletoe and  holly, and finding lost objects: silver spoons down the backs of chairs, cousin Maud’s necklace, the morning newspaper … There was a merciful lull towards four o’clock:  various errands and invitations were recalled and Julia was left briefly with a brimming teapot and cup in the large drawing room with the now resplendent tree and a roaring fire.

It was warm, she was tired and drifted off comfortably for a few minutes. Her dreams were brief and muddled, involving a large black dog, a sleeping child and a small bell, chiming gently in the background. She awoke suddenly, convinced that the bell was real – indeed, so vivid was the dream, it left a fading impression of the bell still sounding its singularly light, gentle chime. There was even a lingering certainty of the black dog, padding gently away through the door. Julia blinked and looked again – surely there had been a shadow moving just out of sight, across the open door?

Mrs Leveton chose that moment to hurry in, anxious and flustered: ‘Oh dear, oh dear, now I know I had them in here not a moment ago…’

‘What would that be, Mrs L?’

‘My glasses, dear.’

‘They  aren’t the ones on your head, by any chance, are they ? ‘

Mrs Leveton felt about and breathed a sigh of relief. ‘You are quite right – I am getting too forgetful in my old age.  I must go and find Lucy…’ And off she went again.

Lucy was Mrs Leveton’s youngest niece, home from a brief, unsuccessful visit to Geneva and waiting to be presented next season. Pale, fair, dreamy, fond of animals and books and not inclined to talk, she put Julia a little in mind of cousin Bunty; without perhaps the aplomb.

Julia sat a while, admiring the tree with all its mixture of old and new. Mrs Leveton took great pride in her festive decoration, and rightly so.

A dog wandered in through the door and lay down in front of the fire, in a very relaxed, familiar way, and looked at Julia enquiringly. A magnificent animal, long-haired, a black mix between labrador and retriever, with a little bell attached to its collar which chimed gently with every movement.

‘Hello – you must have come with new guests – I’m sure I haven’t seen you before,’ Julia murmured at the dog. The animal continued to gaze at her, then suddenly placed his chin on his front paws, keeping a watchful eye open. The bell chimed again; it sounded familiar and Julia couldn’t help a tiny shiver trickling down her back. How strange to dream of a black dog with a bell before actually seeing it. Or perhaps he had already wandered in while she had been dozing and somehow entered her sub-consciousness.

Geraldine and Tommy, the Levetons’ daughter and son, were now out in the hall, arguing about holly and garlands. Julia went out to see what else she could do.

After another round of hunting for misplaced mistletoe and ribbons, it was time for drinks, followed by dinner; most of the other guests were to arrive later over the coming weekend, and Julia welcomed the comparative peace and quiet of a small gathering, in spite of Tommy insisting on winding up the gramophone and demonstrating his own version of the Charleston.

All went on pretty well the next day until just after lunch when there was a mild attack of panic – Mrs Leveton, on looking over the Christmas Tree suddenly emitted a genteel squawk. ‘The bell!’ she gasped, quite shocked. ‘Now, how could I have forgotten the bell …’ She started rummaging about in the semi-discarded decoration box, increasingly frantic, until she gave up and sat down.  Geraldine and Tommy sat on either side of her, looking anxious. Julia peered inside the box. ‘Is it very small?’ she asked.

‘It was from a child’s toy, and we always hang it on the tree every year; only now it’s not there…oh dear oh dear, what will Freddy say…’

‘Oh, come along now, mother, you know the old man doesn’t fuss about such things,’ offered Tom cheerfully. ‘If that’s all you’re worried about…’ Julia noted however, that he looked about the room with a faint hint of.. uncertainty? Even nervousness?

The fire was still billowing valiantly away, and yet the light and atmosphere in the room had somehow changed. Mrs Leveton’s anxiety was contagious. Julia got up and started hunting around the room. Tommy followed suit, leaving Geraldine to encourage their mother with suggestions. ‘…some more boxes in the attic, perhaps, or slipped down between the cushions..’

Julia’s curiosity grew with this concern over what might otherwise be considered a mere trifle, and, wary of further upsetting Mrs Leveton, waited until the suggestion was made to look further afield – as they tramped upstairs towards the box-room, she put a few questions to Tommy who was most forthcoming, if a little scathing.

‘Yes, it came off a doll one of the old man’s ancestors had; family tradition maintains it should be hung on the Christmas tree every year… something to do with a child getting lost and found. There’s a myth about not losing the bell, or things will happen, some such rot. Can’t say I believe in all that sort of thing, myself – nor does the old man, either. Oh well – if it will put the mater’s mind at rest – and here we are…’ He turned the handle to the box-room.

They had searched for the better part of an hour when the question was raised as to where Lucy was; she had not been seen, it transpired, since breakfast. Nobody had observed her leave the house, nor was she in her room or downstairs. Before another two hours had passed, Mrs Leveton was in a state of nervous collapse.

‘It’s the bell,’ she kept whispering, ‘I know this is because I’ve lost the bell …’ and she pressed a handkerchief to her mouth.

Geraldine took charge and persuaded her mother to lie down. ‘It’s exhaustion, mother, we’ll find Lucy, I’ll get Mrs Heron to make you some chamomile and you have a rest…’she escorted her upstairs, leaving Julia and Tommy to continue the hunt.

‘Cousin Lucy, you may have noted, is inclined to dream,’ commented Tommy, ‘I am wondering whether it is worth trying the Gallery as well.’

The Gallery was a lesser used part of the house, occasionally opened up in the summer for larger parties. From its original purpose in displaying the family portraits, to acting as an extended lumber room for the detritus of the intervening Victorian period, it now sat in semi-gloom, draped in spectral dust-sheets and to all intents and purposes in a state of hibernation.  Tommy and Julia decided it would be more efficient to split up and so it came about that Julia found herself in a rather remote corridor at the far end of the house, gazing somewhat hesitantly into its depths.

There was still light enough to see to the end of the corridor; that bluish light which comes when the sun decides he has had enough for one day and changes for drinks. There were shadows growing on the walls; half-tables, small chairs, the occasional standing plant pot – and the dog. He was standing at the far end of the corridor – and when he moved, she could just hear the distant delicate chime of the bell around its neck. He padded soundlessly round a corner, pausing briefly to look back at Julia, as if checking that she was coming too. She followed without a word, the sound of the bell leading her down another, narrower corridor, a couple of steps down and … Julia stopped and peered. There was a crack of light under the door on the right. She approached slowly, suddenly aware of her heart thudding. What if… what if… and a dozen or more doubts and queries flooded her mind. She knocked gently. Was there a rustle of cloth, of movement? She turned the door handle as quietly and gently as possible and looked inside.

It was a bedroom – the furniture belonged to another age – yet had been kept in good condition. Dust had not been allowed to make its home here, nor cobwebs their corners. Queen Anne and the Georges still held sway in the dressing table, chairs and small book case while the bed … was occupied. A girl with pale skin, pale hair, in her apricot dress and deep blue jacket lay on it, lost in reverie. Julia stepped forward and gently shook the sleeping Lucy. A book slipped from the bed and landed with a plunk on the floor; she noted briefly it was a collection of fairy tales. Lucy’s eyes flickered open and she let out a soft, startled ‘oh!’. She sat up slowly, and raised a hand, which she looked at briefly in puzzlement. She was holding a piece of cloth, half wrapped around something small that gleamed. Slowly she opened her hand and they both looked down at the small bell nestling in the cloth.

‘Aunty gave it to me to clean – she said it needed a polish,’ murmured Lucy, remembering.

It was not until they were half way downstairs that Julia thought of the dog.

‘Of course, now I remember – straight after breakfast, only it went completely out of my head,’ said Mrs Leveton, recovered after her rest. Everyone was back in the drawing room, the fire still burning healthily away, atmosphere once more restored to conviviality. The little bell, now well and truly polished, hung from a low branch, catching the odd flicker of light from the fire.

‘How did you come to be in that bedroom, though? It’s hardly ever used.’

‘I’m not sure,’ replied Lucy, a little vaguely, ‘I went to my room to fetch a fresh hanky and then I think I must have gone down the wrong corridor by mistake. I got rather lost, I’m afraid – and then, oh – there was the dog. He was sitting just outside one of the doors. Almost as if waiting to be left in. So I opened the door – and found the room… it was so pretty, and the books were so old…’ She looked as if she would fit better in a Gainsborough than in real life, considered Julia.

Mrs Leveton looked perfectly mystified. ‘But there are no dogs here today, although I think Gregory will be bringing his little pug with him on Monday. I wonder how it got in. We had better send someone around the house to check.’

‘I saw him too,’ said Julia, ‘and he sort of led me to where Lucy was. But he was here yesterday as well.That’s why I thought he had come with an early guest.’

A draught or gust from the chimney must have swept through the room, for suddenly the little bell chimed, and Julia jumped. ‘That was it,’ she exclaimed –‘that was the bell the dog was wearing – I heard it most distinctly.’

‘What did he look like?’

‘Quite big – a hairy,black thing, rather quiet – apart from the bell.’

‘Yes,’ added Lucy, more wide awake than she had yet seemed. ‘I remember the bell, too. It jingled a bit.’

There was a definite pause as Geraldine and Tommy looked at their mother. Tommy gave a low whistle. Mrs Leveton continued to look quite puzzled for a minute – then she said: ’Oh  – do you think it might have been ….’

‘He hasn’t been seen here for a very long time,’ said Geraldine to Julia, by way of explanation. ‘I for one have never seen him – but it sounds like Emma’s dog. Apparently when people, particularly children go missing – he comes and looks for them. I suppose we were not in the habit of getting lost, as children. He was the favourite pet of Emma Leveton – the one the bell belonged to. There’s letters about it somewhere. She was given a doll with a bell on it, and got lost, and the dog found her, by bringing the doll to her mother and then leading everyone back to the little girl.’

‘And it’s always been a tradition to have the bell hanging from the tree – in memory of the dog,’ added Mrs Leveton. ‘ Your grandfather told me to always hang the bell on one of the lower branches, so Toby can brush against it. “But,” he said, “if you ever do forget, no doubt he’ll find a way to remind you.” ‘

There was another pause; they might almost have been waiting for something to happen. Then, with a clarity that made them all jump, the bell gave off its chime. A tiny, delicate sound. They all looked at it, swaying gently from its branch, as if indeed someone had just brushed past it.

Later, Geraldine took Julia to the breakfast room. The portrait over the mantelpiece showed a young girl in white empire dress and large dark hat with a blue feather; the artist had used loose, bold strokes, yet treated the face with a rare delicacy. At her side stood a dog, a magnificent animal, long-haired, a black mix between labrador and retriever, with a little bell attached to its collar.

‘What was his name again ?’ asked Julia.

‘It is written on the frame – look: Miss Emma Leveton, with her favourite companion and rescuer, Toby.’

 

Mrs Leveton has never yet seen Toby herself – but very occasionally, she fancies she can hear the bell chime delicately in the distance and comforts herself with the idea that Toby is checking the house to make sure all is as it should be.


‘La Rose Mal Défendue’: Debucourt’s Reply to Garnier

How deliciously naughty…

Making History Tart & Titillating

I owe this post in its entirety to the kindly gentleman @Dezilvereneeuw who sent Philibert-Louis Debucourt’s reproduction work of  ‘The Poorly Defended Rose’ my way.  This version, ‘La Rose Mal Défendue’, dates from 1791, the year Michel Garnier painted ‘The Letter’, his follow-up work to ‘The Poorly Defended Rose’.

The fantastic thing about Debucourt’s ‘Rose’ is the spin he’s put on the vignette.  What’s different?  First off, the lovers have been transported to the bedroom.  The seduction appears to have been a fevered pursuit–our (anti) gentleman is practically yanking off the lady’s shawl.  But–and this is so lovely–the lady is in possession of the rose.  Is she going to give it away freely?  Or will the gentleman overcome her?  I do wonder; she has a coy expression.  Methinks this lady doth not protest enough!

Debucourt’s foreground also mirrors Garnier’s.  Almost every prop is in disarray, from the tipped chair and…

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