1810: The Basingstoke Assembly


Lady Jennings burst into the library in the highest spirits. “My dearest Sir Francis, have you heard that Woodvale Park is let at last?”

“That is nice,” Sir Francis Jennings said, not even looking up from his book.

“Do you not want to know who has let it?” Lady Jennings insisted. Sir Francis hardly nodded before Lady Jennings added: “A young gentleman named Phillips from the north. He intends to move in within the month.”

“Is he married or single?”

“Single, of course, why else would I be telling you? You have to call on him at once. Maybe he will finally take one of James’s daughters off our hands.”

Sir Francis complied as soon as Mr. Phillips arrived at Woodvale. Mr. Phillips returned the visit a few days later. The four Miss Farnsworths watched the young gentleman arrive at Avondale Park.

“He looks like a kind man,” Cassandra said.

“He looks like a rich man, so I am sure Aunt Jennings will be satisfied,” Eleanor said. “What do you think, Jane?”

“That is a very handsome blue coat he is wearing,” Jane said, going back to her writing desk. He wouldn’t notice her anymore than any other gentleman had, she was sure.

“If his coat is not red, he is of no concern to me,” Isabella said.

“Can you not think of anything other than officers?” Eleanor said.

“What else is there?” Isabella sighed. She and Jane laughed.

“Mrs. Parker said he intends to be at the next assembly with a small party,” Cassandra said.


Edward felt a sense of excitement for something he was not even sure of as he entered the assembly room with Susan and Augusta, his sisters, and Susan’s husband, Mr. Benton.

Augusta surveyed the room and let out a disgusted sigh. “We will be at Almack’s before we know it, dearest,” Susan said.

All the women of Basingstoke eagerly hovered over Edward, hoping to introduce their daughters and nieces to them. Edward looked across the room to the kindly face of Mrs. Parker and made his way over to her.

“Mr. Phillips, how wonderful to see you tonight,” Mrs. Parker said.

“The pleasure is all mine,” Edward said. Cassandra could not stop staring into his handsome, amiable eyes. “May I present Miss Farnsworth, Miss Eleanor Farnsworth, Miss Jane Farnsworth, and Miss Isabella Farnsworth, the daughters of our late vicar.” Cassandra and her sisters curtsied to Mr. Phillips.

“Has anyone had the privilege of engaging you for the first dance, Miss Farnsworth?” Mr. Phillips asked.

“No!” Cassandra said lightly. She fretted if she had given the impression of too much forwardness. “I mean, I would be delighted to dance with you.”

Eleanor felt Cassandra’s pleasure watching Cassandra dance with Mr. Phillips for two sets. Isabella was flirting with the officers, as usual, with Jane following her younger sister’s lead, as always. Eleanor looked around the room wishing someone would engage her, at the very least in some intelligent conversation.


On the other side of the room, Colin watched Eleanor sit by herself due to the scarcity of gentleman. He looked in the mirror at the indigo waistcoat his Chameleon Cloth appeared as that night. He was tempted for a moment to ask her to dance, or even better, grab her wearing with his Fourth Doctor hat and scarf to take her away from her impending marriage to Frank. Only the knowledge that he would never know Fly and James this way kept him from doing it.