An anthology of time travel tales involving the delightful Colonel Tavington. Some will be humorous, some will be satires, some will be serious. First, as a light entertainment, the author presents for your consideration:
Episode One: Tea with Tavington.
"Oh, my God, they're here already!" Hands patted unfamiliar caps in place, 21st century feet in 18th century shoes stumbled a little, trying to negotiate the long, full petticoats. Kathleen was passing out pins to everyone needing last minute adjustments.
"We could use a better mirror," Genevieve said, jostling for a look. Arsinoe gave an unladylike snort.
"Leave those truffles alone!" Summer stood guard by the table, glaring at Stephanie. "These refreshments are perfect, and they're going to stay perfect until our guys see them, or you're out of here!" A small and obnoxious ball of fur growled at her. Summer snarled, "And your little dog, too!"
Stephanie withdrew her questing hand, with a charming smile. She bent down to comfort the her frantic pet, "Come here, Lucius sweetie."
Eyes were rolled.
Arsinoe ducked into the small study off the parlour. "Margaret, is everything ready to go?"
Margaret, soberly attired in crisp black silk, had already switched on the Tavcams, and laid out her notebook and pen. She watched the men's approach through the lace curtains and shook her head.
"I still have serious reservations about this. I think you'll find meeting men from such a different time and culture more awkward than you realize."
Arsinoe shrugged. "Possibly you're right, but it's too late to back out now. We've all been oriented, and the participants have promised to do their best. And it's only for three hours!" Margaret raised her brows skeptically. Arsinoe, secretly very nervous herself, but doing her utmost to hide it, added. "We'll save you some cake, unless the Green Dragoons eat it all."
Margaret shook her head, but smiled; and sat down to carefully document every moment of the time travelers' interactions with the men of the 18th century.
Outside the quiet of the study, the other ladies were engaged in last minute primping. Tracy, dressed in half-mourning, befitting her persona as widow, was queenly in hunter green trimmed with black. "I still wish I could have worn my helmet."
"No uniforms," prosed Arsinoe, the irritating killjoy. "Research indicates that they'll respond better to us dressed as ladies. And we all look splendid. One last reminder," she raised her voice, "do not use the term 'okay.' They won't understand it. OK?"
Summer wriggled a little, smoothing the cherry-red figured gown down around the bodice, and shaking out her petticoat, striped with white and the same cherry-red. "I don't mind the corset for one day, but it would be torture to live like this all the time!"
"I don't know," shrugged Caitlin, "It's not much worse than an underwire bra. What I can't get used to is no panties. I feel naked—except for the corset, the false rump and all the hoops, of course." She straightened the ribbons at her sleeves, silver against the dark green of her gown. The pale green petticoat was trimmed with silver as well.
"Well," Tracy pointed out grimly, "You won't miss the panties if you need to use the 'retiring room.' You'll be glad not to have to manage underwear when you're trying to hike up everything else."
"Hence my decision to not drink any tea," Genevieve said, looking virtuous. She was learning to move very slowly, so as not to soil or damage the shining lavender gown. It was restrictive, yes; but it was also wonderful to look like a princess.
Outside, the horsemen were drawing up to the virtual plantation house. The virtual ladies inside strained to listen to the conversation. Tavington—yes, it was Tavington-was coming up to the verandah steps to do the polite, and ask if they could water their horses. Obviously, he was going to water his horse anyway, but he deserved points for good form.
Bordon and Wilkins were with him. How nice. They looked very tired and dusty, poor dears, and eager grins were exchanged, as Arsinoe opened the door to greet them. She hissed at them, "Remember now, no touching, no jostling, no pushing. Walk gracefully, and curtsey the way we've practiced!"
"I feel like an idiot," Cassandra groaned. "I can't believe this dress." It was stiff rustling silk taffeta in a dark blue, contrasting attractively with the white lace elbow ruffles and fichu at her neckline.
"Well, you look very nice," Arsinoe assured her. "Just don't fall over when you curtsey."
Stephanie was still admiring her lovely creamy gown, embroidered with bunches of pink and purple flowers. She sighed happily and took her place out on the verandah, fan fluttering.
Kathleen asked anxiously, "Is my cap on straight?" There had been some groans over the caps: a plentiful assortment of muslin, lace, and gauze, in many styles. Short hair needed to be covered. Bangs needed to be camouflaged. Even longer hair did not always lend itself to 18th century styles. Some, like Stephanie, Cassandra and Summer, chose little pinner caps, setting daintily atop their head; or, like Arsinoe, Caitlin, Genevieve, round ear caps to gather up hair, edged with ruffled brims. Tracy had a rather elaborate grande coiffure gauze and lace cap, trimmed with black. Kathleen had chosen a lappet cap, with long panels of lacy fabric coming down on either side. It was a nice effect with the pretty peach gown and creamy petticoat. And the cap, luckily, was straight.
The officers looked up, surprised to be confronted by seven well-dressed ladies. Tavington gave them a small, pleased smile. Wilkins and Bordon looked at each other, and Wilkins raised his brows with anticipation. Bordon turned his attention to the ladies and simply admired.
"Good day to you, ladies," Tavington greeted them, and there were some coos and moans from the silks and muslins on the veranda. Arsinoe breathed sharply through her nose, and moved forward to respond, dark yellow skirts swaying like a bell. He introduced himself. "William Tavington. Green Dragoons. And this is Captain Bordon and Captain Wilkins."
Caitlin realized that she was mouthing the Tavington and Green Dragoon bits and stopped herself, embarrassed. Looking around, she saw she hadn't been the only one.
"How do you do, gentlemen? I am Arsinoe de Blassenville. Welcome to Fandom Hall."
The officers bowed low and gracefully, and ladies curtseyed, all terribly self-conscious. It was largely successful, with only one soft ripping sound as they rose. Cassandra groaned quietly, and Summer whispered, "Don't worry, you can't see anything wrong."
Wilkins looked around at the mansion construct, impressed. "I didn't know this house was even here."
A sneer briefly flickered across Tavington's handsome face; but he plainly decided to disregard Wilkins, and asked the ladies very politely, "If it is no inconvenience to you, may we water and care for our horses here?"
"No inconvenience at all," Stephanie assured them, waving her fan airily.
Arsinoe said, with an uneasy glance at Stephanie, "By all means, gentlemen. The well is east of the house. We regret we have no grooms to assist you." Stephanie jabbed her with her fan, and Arsinoe continued, "We were about to serve tea. Would you care to join us?"
Very gratefully, Tavington said, "That is most kind, Madam. I thank you for myself and my officers."
Entranced, the ladies gazed happily at their retreating backs. "Oh my God," squeaked Cassandra. "It's them, it's really them. It's him."
Caitlin walked to the end of the veranda and peeked around. "They're washing their faces and hands too."
Everyone started crowding to the corner of the house, trying to look. Arsinoe felt things slipping out of hand. "Come on in the house. You can stare of them through the windows. It won't look as weird if they notice us."
Reluctantly they all trooped back in. Everyone was grinning nervously. Arsinoe opened the study door. "Margaret! Did you get all that!"
"Yes. I got them and I got all of you giggling like six-year olds."
"Well, it is pretty fantastic."
"I have work to do. Look, they're coming around to the front of the house again."
She came back into the parlour and found everyone speaking in abnormally high voices. "Calm down!" With an effort, the time travelers pulled themselves together. "I'm going to open the door and introduce you all. Some of you have personae of Continental sympathizers, so it won't do to gush over them right away. Just be cool and polite."
"Easier said than done," muttered Kathleen.
The officers had returned and were up the steps and to the door with the ease of lithe, athletic men. Arsinoe opened the door with a smile. Her nose twitched as she realized that they also had the distinctive odor of lithe, athletic men who had been riding horses all day. Genevieve, who thought they should have been offered baths from the get-go, raised her eyebrows with an "I told you so" expression. Arsinoe scowled back.
"Ladies, may I present Colonel Tavington, Captain Bordon, and Captain Wilkins?" Fans fluttered a little faster. "Gentlemen, this is:" (she took a deep breath) "Mrs Tracy Smith, Mme. Stephanie Du Maurier, Miss Caitlin McLeod, Miss Cassandra Deacon, Miss Genevieve Norton, Miss Kathleen Singleton, and Miss Summer Whitesell."
The gentlemen bowed again. The ladies urged said gentlemen to make themselves at home. The officers were gently herded toward the table and the waiting, lovingly prepared comestibles.
Tavington plainly liked Stephanie's gown. "You are French, madam?"
"Only my husband," smiled Stephanie, with a gesture that dismissed absent French husbands to oblivion.
Tavington found himself literally face-to-face with Tracy. He looked a little uncertain, obviously unused to a woman looking him straight in the eye. "Mrs Smith." Tracy's smile looked alarmingly predatory.
Arsinoe heard Wilkins whisper to Bordon. "They certainly are well-grown ladies. Mrs. Smith isn't much shorter than me!"
Bordon whispered back, "I'm more impressed by their teeth! Aren't they magnificent!" Wilkins nodded, looking friendly but a little dazed.
"Do let me get you some tea," Summer cooed to Tavington. "How do you take it?" She efficiently served the three men tea to their individual tastes, and then urged them to sample the refreshments.
Bordon beamed at Kathleen, "Miss Singleton, how delightful to find loyalty to the King in such a pleasant place."
Kathleen looked a little embarrassed. She didn't want to be a Tory, or even pretend to be one, and said, "It's really not so much loyalty as hospitality, Captain." Bordon, sensitive to her unspoken reservations, bowed gallantly. Kathleen was rather touched: it was nice to be treated like this.
Wilkins had been chatting with Caitlin, and observed, "Miss-McLeod, you don't sound like you are from the Carolinas."
"No, sir, I was born in England, but grew up near Boston."
"A long way from home. I hear it's a real stronghold of rebellion."
Caitlin was not going to let that go unchallenged. "There are a lot of very nice people in Boston—like John and Abigail Adams." Wilkins raised his brows, but Caitlin changed the subject. "Try these brownies, Captain. I brought them."
Wilkins had a brownie, and then another brownie. "These are mighty fine, ladies. Do they have chocolate in them?"
Tavington heard this confirmed and came over to sample the brownies himself. "Delicious. Is this what they're having in Boston?"
"It was the last time I was there," Caitlin declared.
Bordon had overheard them and asked excitedly, "Where is chocolate?"
The brownies didn't last long. Summer showed them the handmade chocolate truffles and explained what they were. They were consumed with great respect and many fervent compliments. Arsinoe had wondered if they were overdoing the food, but seeing the officers eat, she was reminded of her daughter's teenaged boyfriends. Lithe, athletic men can chow down like nobody's business.
Summer leaned over, revealing cleavage and offering a tray of sandwiches, "Chicken, Colonel?"
"No, he's not!" Genevieve contradicted impulsively. "I mean—" Tavington gave her a polite, interested look, not understanding the slang. "I mean—" she tried again. "Oh, I don't know what I mean. Have another sandwich."
Cassandra whispered confidentially in Tavington's ear, "Be careful what you say around her. I've heard she's a spy!"
"Dear me!" exclaimed Tavington, pulling his face straight with an effort. He smiled winning at Cassandra, and she felt herself melting. "Perhaps your friend will tell the rebels I have a weakness for chocolate. And—" he smiled graciously, "charmingly hospitable Colonial ladies."
Caitlin and Kathleen stood enraptured. Kathleen realized that her cheeks were starting to hurt. Too much smiling. She tried to assume a serious expression. Tavington smiled at her again, and her lips curled in irresistible delight. Ow.
Bordon saw Arsinoe disappear into the study for a moment, and beyond her, glimpsed a lady in black. "There is another lady who has not joined us."
"Cousin Margaret," explained Genevieve. "She's in mourning and indisposed to receive gentlemen."
Wilkins and Tavington overheard, and expressed their concern. "If our presence is an intrusion—" Tavington said reluctantly.
Tracy broke in reassuringly, "No intrusion at all. She'd be reading and writing in her journal anyway. Pay no attention to the lady in the study." She had a little inward laugh at the reference to The Wizard of Oz.
Arsinoe came back into the parlor and told the officers, "I was just seeing to Cousin Margaret, gentlemen." All in all, she was encouraged. The men were eating heartily but nicely, and mixing well. None of the ladies had as yet lost her head and grabbed. Tavington was the center of attention, and was enjoying the conversation.
"You're so different from the rumors," Cassandra told him frankly.
Tavington raised a brow. "Rumors?"
"Rumors," Cassandra repeated, with a dark look.
"Awful rumors," Kathleen supplemented.
"Dreadful rumors, Colonel," confided Genevieve, with a delicate shudder. She caught sight of herself in the mirror, and shuddered again, enjoying the play of light on the lavender silk.
Arsinoe cut in, giving her companions a glare, "I think, despite our differences, we can all agree to be civil over tea."
"Civil?" smirked Tavington.
"Civil as an orange, Colonel," Arsinoe quoted severely. He was rather younger than she, after all.
Summer remarked to no one in particular, "I hate orange."
Bordon noticed the pianoforte. "May I ask if any of you ladies could favor us with music?" Tavington and Wilkins looked up, hopeful and interested.
Tracy gave Arsinoe an expressive stare. With a pretense of reluctance, Arsinoe modestly murmured, "Well, I suppose-" instantly going to the instrument and sitting down cautiously to her carefully prearranged music. The false cork rump was really distracting.
Seizing her chance, Tracy settled her voluminous skirts around her on the sofa, and asked, "Why don't you sit down, Colonel?"
Tavington, seeing the crowd already seated there, mildly protested, "I'm not sure—"
Tracy was not to be put off. "I'm sure," she said, with the look of a wolf about to order lambchops, "that we can squeeze you in." She gave Cassandra a shove, and a Tavington-sized space was hastily arranged. Tracy patted it invitingly. A little warily, Tavington sat. The space was perhaps somewhat small: so small that he found his thighs compressed on either side by a smiling lady. Tracy and Cassandra were smug: the less fortunate ladies were a little disgruntled.
Arsinoe was at last finished fidgeting at the pianoforte, and sang "Art Thou Troubled?" and "What Can We Poor Females do?" The officers praised and applauded, and Caitlin growled to Genevieve, "They shouldn't encourage her."
Arsinoe naturally surrendered to the desires of her (male) audience, and encored with "Where the Bee Sucks, There Suck I." The ladies had finally found a proper use for fans: demurely hiding crazed grins. It was a very pretty song, and the officers were innocently unaware of any hidden meaning. Lucius, the wretched little dog, displayed an interest in Tavington's booted leg, and began rubbing against it in a lamentably wanton way. The Butcher of the Carolinas displayed his good breeding by not kicking the dog into the hereafter; and merely gathered the creature up and presented it to its owner with unruffled tranquility. Summer went to refill the teapot and have a giggle in the kitchen.
What she saw through the kitchen window filled her with dismay. She came back and whispered to Arsinoe (now finished with her song), "Here comes trouble. Those fangirls followed us, and they're coming to the back door."
Arsinoe's lips thinned severely. The fangirls had not been invited, and she was not about to allow gatecrashers at their immensely expensive, delightfully exclusive tea party. She excused herself, and went to the back door to assess the situation.
Dressed in a bizarre combination of pirate gear, Continental uniforms, Native American garb, and wizarding robes, a motley crew of screaming fangirls crowded at the back door, trying to batter their way in. Stephanie's little Lucius raced to the door, yapping wildly.
"Squee!" " Squee!" "We know you're in there!" "We want Tavvie!"
The officers looked at each other in alarm.
"What is that horrid noise?" asked Bordon, concerned.
"Fangirls," Kathleen blurted out. Summer elbowed her. "I mean—rebels."
"Very bad, dangerous rebels," Genevieve elaborated.
"They're really revolting," Stephanie agreed.
"And some of them are spies," declared Cassandra.
"Mad, bad, evil revolutionaries who are the enemies of peace and sanity," Arsinoe told them firmly, coming back into the parlor. "We live under constant threat."
Caitlin lamented, "They're going to ruin our party! What a shame!"
Arsinoe silently agreed. It's a shame the things that happen when you haven't got a gun.
Wilkins rose to his not inconsiderable height. "Don't you worry, ladies. We know how to deal with rebels."
Tavington purred, "Indeed we do." He summoned his officers with a commanding gesture. Striding to the back of the house, the red-clad soldiers drew their swords with a manly metallic hiss. The ladies exchanged glances, feeling rather swoony.
Stephanie observed, "They're going to defend us. That is so sweet." No one could deny it, and there were unanimous, thoughtful nods.
"And they were already so tired," Caitlin said sadly.
Summer looked over the remains of the refreshments. "They'll be hungry when they're done."
Kathleen nodded. "Maybe they should stay for supper?"
Cassandra agreed. "They might be hurt and need nursing."
"Or a nice, hot bath," suggested Genevieve.
"With a massage," added Tracy with a glint in her eye.
Arsinoe sighed. Two hours to go. Maybe Margaret had been right, after all. I'll just take it one problem at a time.