Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Amberleigh's first ball of the season was a raging success; so enjoyed by all. The villagers have been keeping the night alive in their conversations, letters and diaries. Below you will find a selection of accounts of this unforgettable evening.

   19 October
   Carlyle House

Dear Mother,

Elizabeth has asked me to stay on the week at Carlyle House following the ball and I hope I may assume you can spare me for that time. After the ball we were still so animated we drank tea and talked until the early hours. It would have been quite impossible to rouse everyone this morning for my own sake to travel back to Bexford.

The ball was a great success. The new proprietors of the Rose & Crown have made the assembly rooms up to date with fresh paint and repairs so it was quite pleasant to be in the newly decorated rooms. Elizabeth and I thought to arrive early so that we might change into our dancing shoes before the room became too filled but it would seem everyone had the same notion for by 5:00 pm there was no free seat in the room. The anticipation was thick in that room alone which was a harbinger of the lightness of spirit for the evening ahead. As we entered the dance room we noticed to our delight there were six hour candles instead of the usual four hour candles which meant two extra hours of merriment.

Elizabeth introduced me to the new proprietors of the inn, Leandrea and Bryan Wallis lately of Scotland, a charming couple, as well as the Master of Ceremonies, the very dapper Mr. Launcelot, William Penn who draws a fine line between gentleman and fop, however, his magnanimous personality balances out his macaroni style. He was just the perfect man to keep order, which he did for at one point a reckless guest was escorted to the door and made to leave the assembly rooms. This was just before dinner so little notice was paid as the other guests were just finishing the last dance before we dined.

Lady Caroline Farnsworth opened the ball as the highest ranking lady in attendance. She looked splendid floating through the dances with the greatest of ease and decorum. I was duly presented to she and her husband, Viscount Comely, by Mr. Penn who introduced me with a flourish and then left us to chat. Lady Caroline has kindly invited Elizabeth and I to dine with her later in the week, which I look forward to. I am eager to view her gardens, designed by the much celebrated Capability Brown.

There were many friends to be met and chatting during the dancing was overabundant. Mrs. Marianne Sedgeway and her husband James were introduced to me and I was quite taken with them. You would approve of Marianne’s competent needlework. The gown she wore, an exquisite red robe, was much admired by all the ladies; none could conceive that she had reworked it from an existing gown. What a triumph. James Sedgeway is the editor of the local newspaper, The Huntsman and was most interesting to chat to. I also made the acquaintance of Mrs. Molly Beecroft and the Coopers, Matilda and George, all new to Amberleigh. The former is the proprietress of the variety shop and the latter own the bakery. Very charming to converse with. You will be pleased to know there is now a sweet shop in the village. It is run by Patience Pembroke whom I had the pleasure of sitting next to at dinner and across from Elizabeth and I were Maria and Owen Medcalf. I believe you may have met them earlier in the year, Mr. Medcalf is the bank manager.

Mother, I do so wish you could have attended the ball. Your dear friends Hester Hardisty and Phebe Knowles were in attendance delighting us all with their cheerful conversation and asking after your good health. The twins were resplendent in blue gowns edged in marvellously embroidered panels. Charlotte Watson and Eva Broome were also there and I know you enjoy chatting with them both.

Do you recall Susanna Thatcher and her husband Thomas? Susanna is a very accomplished weaver. They both send their kind regards to you and hope to see you at the next ball, circumstances willing. Miss Patience Blackthorn was also in attendance and I found myself chatting with her during a dance we both had no partners for.

The dress you altered for me was a great success and I had many compliments and inquiries into who my dressmaker was. All the ladies looked simply lovely with so many beautiful gowns, and you will be happy to know your preference for the turban would not be amiss here as there were several ladies in attendance wearing them. One lady wore a single peacock feather in her elaborate hairstyle. She walked proudly round the room much like a real peacock. Elizabeth and I were quite diverted watching her pass from one room to the next and forgetting about her feather which was quite battered by dinner. Oh, I should not laugh, but it is not a sight one sees every day.

Dinner was at half past 8 and we managed to get seats as far from the fire as possible after so much dancing. There were several courses to our meal beginning with the traditional white soup which was quite nice as compared to many we have sampled at balls. There was also a hare soup to tempt us. The fish course brought us crayfish in aspic and sturgeon among other things and was followed by elaborate savoury pies of partridge as well as roast fowl, beef and lamb. Dessert consisted of beautiful flummeries, fruits and sugar creations to marvel at. There was much conversation and good cheer around the dining tables making the meal one of happy discourse.

I met the daughter of your friend Mrs. Belmont, Mrs Eleanore Westcott, whom I took the liberty of wishing her well on her recent nuptials on your behalf. I also asked her to remember you to her dear mother when next she saw her. Mrs. Westcott was visiting friends in Pelham and came with their party to the ball. She tells me her mother is in town still but will be returning in a few days time.

I do believe most of the population of the local villages were at the ball. It was most anticipated as it has been two seasons since the assembly rooms have been open. Twice it was necessary to step out into the cool air of the evening to escape the closeness inside. It seemed there was a bit of ball outside as we heard music and laughter no doubt from the coachman and at one point someone burst into song. It was a happy night for all it would seem.

I must close here so this may be delivered to you in good time today. I pray you do not worry when I do not show up at the appointed hour, but will be content to know I am among dear friends.

I remain, as always, your dutiful and affectionate daughter,

                                                                                               Jane Meryvale

Greetings my dear Hester - 

    Can you believe we’re already a week into the month of December? It seems like the ball was just the prior evening, it is still so fresh in my mind. You looked simply stunning my dear, I don’t remember if I ever found the chance to tell you that at the Ball. I would love for you to teach me how you were able to plait your hair in such a marvelous fashion. It was, like you, simply stunning. 
    I was so busy that night, fluttering about, that I hardly had chance to take a breath much less chat with all my dearest friends. I was looking back on my journal just now and was reminded of an occurrence that I had so wanted to tell you about, but never had the chance and then it seems to have completely left my mind. So I will take this opportunity as I have now. Pour yourself another cup of tea and let’s get to it...
    The night of the Ball was so fabulous with everyone in their finery dancing to the lovely music. I do so enjoy playing hostess and dashing about but it wears me down so. I was able to get in a few dances with Bryan in between refilling the appetizer platters. That’s where this tale begins - earlier in the day I was preparing the appetizer platters in the kitchen...
   I was briefly startled by a handsome Frenchman I had not previously met. He had arrived the evening before quite late and was seen to by Bryan. He introduced himself as Jean-Marc Fouquet of Rouen, France. He was eyeing my appetizers with a lusty look in his eye and I asked if he had broken his fast yet. He denied having the chance to do so and stated he was, in fact, extremely famished. I sat him down with a hearty bowl of venison stew and a few sweet treats as I continued on with my work. I did indeed invite him to stay and attend the ball that evening, but he claimed to be on a most important mission and would need to leave within the hour. Oh, the intrigue!  He had my complete attention now, of course, and all Ball preparations came to a halt as I poured us both a cup of tea.
    So as he ate he tells me a tale of two young lovers who had just been wed the weekend previous. The wedding took place in France and the poor girl’s family was unable to attend as they lived in northern England and had no means to travel. They were in favor of the marriage though and the young couple would set off to visit them for a fortnight before continuing their journey to Edinburgh where they would settle. They didn’t have much in the way of possessions which was good since they had so far to travel. Everything was put into a very large and very sturdy trunk - the likes of which this gentleman said he has never before seen. A veritable fortress. 
A few days had gone by since their departure when Jean-Marc was in the stable of his family winery and saw a piece of metal lying amongst the hay. It was a key. A large metal key that looked as if it could lock the doors to a dungeon. He knew of no locks at the winery that would take such a key but set out trying each one to be sure. It fit into not a one. It suddenly dawned on him, he found that key right where the couple’s carriage stood as they loaded up the trunk and their traveling case. He had a terrible feeling and knew that this was, in fact, the key to the single trunk which held all that the young couple had in this world. 
The young groom it turns out is Jean-Marc’s twin brother Jean-Luke. He is on a mission to try and catch the young couple before they have a chance to realize that the key is missing. He knows not which route they took only the city where the young girl’s family is from (Sunderland, England). Jean-Marc indeed looked weary as he told me his tale. He has been stopping only long enough to sleep and eat when needed. How romantic!
Since Jean-Marc couldn’t stay for the Ball and was determined to be back on the road soon I was sure to pack him enough food for several days of travel, not knowing where his adventure would take him next. He thanked me so kindly and left quickly and quietly. It was several days after the Ball before I was able to change out his room and there on the dresser was a lovely bottle of French champagne from the Fouquet Winery in France. I do believe I will save it for Bryan and my anniversary next month, surly the 27th anniversary deserves a glass of champagne to celebrate. 
So that was the story I wished to relay to you, I hope you found it as romantic as I. I will always wonder if he was able to catch up with the couple before they discovered the missing key... and if that was actually the key to the trunk at all. I pray he stops back through here on his return trip to France so I may find out the answers to all my questions and relay them to you as well.
Be well my friend, I hope to see you soon.
~ Leandrea

19 Oct.

Holly Croft Cottage
A Journal Entry: The Rose & Crown Ball
What a delightful evening I spent at the Rose & Crown’s Ball, all the village were there along with a few out of town guest. I was so pleased to meet Admiral and Mrs. Endicott They we’re a delight to talk with and learning of their interest in our small village. The whole of the village was at the Ball, I saw many of my friends and met a few new visitors from other villages.
Lady Caroline Farnsworth opened the ball, wearing the most beautiful of gowns. And was so honored to meet her and her husband Viscount Comely.
I found that all the ladies were in the most tasteful of gowns, so graceful and stylish, I could not decide which was the prettiest.
I believe that Leandrea and Bryan has brought back our beloved Rose and Crown, it was so very exciting to see the changes they have made, the detail and attention was masterful. I can’t believe all the delicious food and magical music that was provide. This will be a Ball to remember for years to come.
The dancing was none stop, and the young ones so enjoyed the different dances, I even enjoyed a few steps myself.
It was a sad evening when Septimus Bequette was asked to leave because of drinking to much punch. I saw that he was upsetting a few ladies, he even asked me to dance, but my young cousin, Caleb Hardisty foiled his attempts.
My sister Phebe and I have been invited to Lady Elizabeth’s house for some Holiday cheer, a week from Sunday. I am looking so forward to our visit.
I shall close so this may be delivered to you in good time.
I remain, as always, your dear friend,
Hester Hardisty

October 19 

Oh my, Oh my, What an evening to remember!

The Mr & Mrs Wallis held a wonderful assembly for the start of our season! Diary, before I go on about the guests I have to congratulate the Wallis' and their kitchen staff, she did choose well at Harvest festival! Food of course the most important underline of the evening for on old bird like myself!
Leandrea I applaud your culinary skills, the pig on the spit, oh and I confess my downfall - rabbit stew and such exemplary dumplings! and I must remember to mention that of Matilda & Mr George Cooper with such buttery stylish bread configurations and delicious melt in the mouth cakes! OH my oh my, I shall remember dinner as being one of our finest in a long while! Mr Wallis' venison & whiskey pie was so moreish I forgot myself, and I am sure Joseph had a triple helping to Leandrea's trifle! I shall not mention the fact that I did the same with the raspberry fool!
Ah yes diary, the guests need mentioning, where to start, it was so overwhelming, the opulence!
Well my dear Joseph, let me start with my own, he always looks so resplendent in his white wig and black bows, he wore his blue silk brocade from France, the vest being embroidered in gold by our own Rebecca Gildermann! Yes I know, the remarkable woman has reverted back to her original foreign name, wishing to be quite separated from her brother in anglicising his name. I think it suits her more, I like this arrangement. They came along in our carriage, demure in dark tones them both, though thrilled to be invited.
As we entered through the old stable hall, our very own newly appointed Master of Ceremonies made our selves so welcomed & announced so vibrantly, he really is a saucy gent.
We were followed in by Lord Charles Marlowe & my dear friend and ally Lady Elizabeth, and I was delighted to see their children Sophia and William attend and her dear friend Jane, up from Bexford. My, Elizabeth looked so elegant in her finery. Such delicate gauze so becoming. I do think the pair of them were in need of each others company, so I am pleased Elizabeth had a close friend to share the confidences of the evening.
The first long conversation I had was with Hester Hardisty and her sister Phebe Knowles, both in blue shades. I recall they embroidered their own garments in such fine stitchings I think they give the jew a run for her money! I shall be inviting all the above to my evening soiree, next eve after Christmas. I think that to be a merry little party.

Onto the dancing couples!
Admiral Endicott and his fine lady Harriet cut a dashing pair of figures, as they danced the Quadrille. OH, and I recall seeing Mr Lofthouse with his scissors working madly by the pillar, our Master of Ceremonies butler, cutting their silhouette as quick as any showman. I shall remember to invite that fellow to my boxing day review!
Mrs Marianne Sedgeway so graceful in red on the arm of her beau Mr James, that hue certainly becomes her.
Owen and Maria Metcalf so in love, they could not take their eyes off one another! As was the case with the glowing eyes and cheeks of Mary Thomas to her Reverend Shapleigh. Mmmm something warm is afoot. I wonder if Elizabeth knows anything? I must ask Sunday after church.
I must mention along the back wall, a foursome dancing together in shrieks of laughter, so glorious to observe!
Old Mary, Elizabeth's Jenny Wren, young Innes and Susanna Thatcher! Oh to be younger!
Oh and the very young ones were heartily enjoying prancing around the pianoforte, like pretty maids in a row, Sophia & Lily, Mary and Salley, I recall a few blushes from the young lads Raife and William too! As it should be.
I recall seeing my own dear Joseph, his gouty foot as an pretence not to dance, but the tables do call a man...and I saw that glass of port in his hand filled quite often! taking to the tables with Mr Thatcher, gaming cards and the like i am sure.

Charlotte Walton and Patience Blackthorne were having an in-depth tĂȘte a tĂȘte by the archway, as were the other village meeting of the great casks by the looks on Owen Metcalf, James Sedgeway, Brian Wallis and Good Tom Merrick in deep discussions of great import. Something for the monthly newspaper maybe? After a lengthy conversation on the subject of the right to wear high feathers at balls with a fascinating group of young things, I do recall observing Alice Powell making her sophisticated rounds stopping behind pillars occasionally. She is very good at listening, I find.
We did very well to appoint Mr Launcelot Penn as our Master of Ceremonies, he did an outstanding performance -
I say this diary, as the man is no fool, yet portrays himself as the most elegant of fops. There is more to this gent than meets the eye, that is for sure! His most eloquent welcomes and precise introductions of who is who to whom it may concern, his quickness of wit and wicked satirical comebacks and yet such a gentleman, with his manly sorting out naysayers and trouble makers. There was a tussle or two, involving some feud from two of the hamlets attending the ball. He snuffed it out in a wink of an eye. Astounding.

And by 3am my cup was sated, I was done in and had to attend my carriage away to bed. Joseph preferring to carry on to 5am, bless him. That man has stamina for all his gouty leg! I shall so look to the next ball assembly.

Caroline F

October 19th

Last night was our most anticipated ball at the Rose and Crown. I was a bit worried that Charles would be delayed in London but he made it home in time to escort me to the ball. For weeks I’ve chatted to the other ladies in town about their choice of gowns and to see everyone resplendent in their most becoming robes was grand. Thankfully Madame Tournier finished my gown in time and had it sent to Amberleigh. Her work is something to marvel at, every stitch perfection. I felt like a princess in my green velvet robe, if I may say so at my age.

The Rose and Crown was decorated masterfully to convey a celebration of Autumn. The candles emphasized the brilliance of the colours and it was like walking into a dream upon entering. Leandrea and Bryan have put the soul back into our dear assembly rooms with their care and attention to every detail and I know I count myself among many when I say I am grateful.

There were many friends to be met, some travelled from as far as Ead. It was wonderful to make their acquaintance again. Admiral and Mrs. Endicott who have taken over the Earl of Clevedon’s house in Constance were in attendance and were quite in demand. The admiral is a jolly soul and his laughter could be heard many times. He made us all merry with his quick wit.

The music was played by a fuller orchestra than we are used to at our balls; the sound was just beautiful. There were times when I simply listened and enjoyed. Not too many times, however for there were many dances called and I did not sit out very often. Charles chatted with the men and played cards for a time but I enjoyed the music and dance. The men were very accommodating and made sure we ladies had partners for the dances. Our Master of Ceremony, Mr. Launcelot William Penn was as charming as ever, ensuring all went smoothly. That rascal Septimus Bequette from Dewthorpe was asked to leave the ball, and rightly so as he’d helped himself to a bit too much punch and was drawing attention to himself. Mr. Penn wasted no time in escorting him to the door and telling him to come back only when he was sober. I was much relieved about that as he’d asked me to dance and he is not so light on his feet as he would like us to believe. My sore toes are testament to that! Carolyn and I try to aid each other in fending him off but not all attempts are successful and so I was grateful to see him exit the ball. He can be quite unpleasant when he has had too much drink and I would not have the ball spoiled by him.

It was a well attended ball and at times it felt quite a crush. I had to step outside for a bit of cool air on two occasions. Still, the evening was a great success and most enjoyed by all. I am sure I went to sleep smiling.

Lady Elizabeth Marlowe

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