The Season is over. Most everyone has retired to the country for the summer. What did one do for a date in the English or Scottish countryside during the Regency era?
Why, a picnic of course!
A picnic provided the enamored couple with the proper chaperonage but also permitted them a stolen moment or two. As long as the pair was in full view of the other picnickers, the love interests might take a stroll on the pretense of discussing nature, studying the fauna, or admiring the picturesque view. It was a perfect opportunity to whisper sweet nothings to each other too.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. A picnic was no small endeavor. A suitable location some distance from the manor house must be decided upon; perhaps a lovely moor or meadow, or a glistening lakeside. Suitability included trees for shade, a pleasant view, and a surface favorable for walking.
Ladies were attired in light-colored muslin gowns with a shawl or spencer jacket—just in case it became breezy—comfortable shoes, and the required bonnet. Oh, don’t forget gloves, a parasol, a fan, and reticle with a handkerchief and perhaps even smelling salts. Gentlemen wore hunting jackets, pantaloons, knee-high boots generally, and they too must have their hat, gloves, and frequently, a cane. It goes without saying they also wore a neckcloth and waistcoat, likely with a watch fob.
Ladies rode in a barouche or perhaps landau (both had a folding or collapsible hood) and gentlemen either accompanied the women in the equipages or chose to ride on horseback. It wasn’t uncommon for the family’s pet dog to join the picnickers. Wagons transported servants, outdoor furniture, food, dishes, and other supplies that might be needed. Once at the picnic location, the servants took care of all preparations as well as the cleanup and repacking the wagons afterward.
Naturally, the menu was simple, but satisfying. Food was packed into wicker baskets and consisted of such basics as cold roast, eggs boiled or deviled, fruit sandwiches, crusty bread with butter and jam, seasonal fruits and nuts, cheeses, and boiled tongue. For dessert, seedcake, route cakes, shortbread, and a trifle were favored. As it was impractical to keep tea hot, other beverages such as lemonade, a sweet madeira wine, or a white wine claret were often served.
After dining, the amorous couple might skip stones, gather wildflowers, or even pick wild strawberries, if they grew in the area. Other entertainment included archery, a rousing game of Blind Man’s Bluff, or for the more sedate, a game of whist or loo. Quite moment spent sitting on large pieces of linen beneath towering shade trees were perfect for napping or reading aloud. Poems by Lord Byron or John Keats, or a novel by Jane Austen, even the La Belle Assemblée’s latest theater review, might be shared.
So there you have it; picnicking, a most proper Regency group date.
Enjoy an Excerpt from Wagers Gone Awry
Conundrums of the Misses Culpeppers Book I
Coming March 2015
Lord Ravensdale, his greatcoat hanging from one hand, scrutinized the stark entry once more. Rectangular shadows lined the faded walls where paintings once hung. He ran his gaze over her, lingering at the noticeable discolored arc at her neckline where a lace collar used to adorned the gown. She hid her reddened hands behind her lest he notice the missing lace cuffs as well. They’d been sold last year for a pittance.
“Blaire, please take his lordship’s dust coat to the kitchen, and fetch one of Papa’s jackets for him. You and the others join us in the study as soon as the tea is ready.”
Papa’s coats had been too old to sell, and Brooke refused to make them into rags. It seemed disrespectful, almost disloyal to treat his possessions with such little regard. She’d allowed Duffen and Mabry their pick, so the remaining coats were quite shabby. Still, a dry, moth-eaten jacket must be preferable to a saturated garment.
Her cousin seized the soaked wool, and after a swift, backward glance, marched to the rear of the house.
Brooke wanted the quartet present for the discussion. After all, the sale of the lands affected their lives too. Besides, the earl made her edgy. Perhaps because so much was at stake, and there’d been no time to prepare an argument to persuade him to let them continue as they had been.
She hadn’t been self-conscious of her attire or the blatant sparseness of her home before, but somehow, he made their lack of prosperity glaring. Rather like a purebred Arabian thrust into the midst of donkeys. Pretty donkeys, yes, but compared to a beautiful steppers, wholly lacking.
Her sister’s and cousins’ obvious fascination with the man could be blamed on their lack of social interaction with sinfully attractive males. Brooke considered escaping to the kitchen to remind them Lord Ravensdale held their futures in his long-fingered hands, and logic and common sense must direct their conversations and motives, not girlish fawning. Even if he did happen to be the most spectacular male specimen to grace their home in memory.
Freddy crept forward and dared to sniff around his lordship’s feet.
To Brooke’s horror, the dog proceeded to heist his leg on one glossy boot. Yellow pooled around the toe as she and Blythe gaped.
“Freddy, bad boy. Shame on you!” Blythe scolded, bending to scoop the cowering dog into her arms. Her cheeks glowed cherry red. “I’ll put him in the kitchen, Brooke.”
Whispering chastisements, she scurried away, the dog happily wagging his tail as if forgiven.
Mortification burning her face, Brooke raised her gaze to meet Lord Ravensdale’s humor-filled eyes.
“Perhaps I might trouble you for two towels?” He raised his dripping foot and grinned.
Brooke tried to stifle the giggle that rushed to her throat.
She really did.
A loud peal surged forth, partially brought on by relief he wasn’t angry, and partially to release her nervous tension. Because if she didn’t laugh, she would burst into tears.
He chuckled again while pulling at his cuffs. A bit of dirt fell to the scarred floor. “So what’s this nonsense about Gainsborough selling me Esherton? Your cousin lost the place to me in a card game and said you were months behind in rents.”
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