Posted on 2014-01-26
The hall is extremely crowded. Yet, a constant flow of people still continues to flood in through the marble door way.
In the corner a merry band of musicians play away, enticing everyone to get on their feet. Most girls have partners, but myself and a few other young women are left to stand to the side, jealously watching pinks, blues and yellows all blur together while turning around the room and the courteous gallantry shared between the gentlemen and the ladies.
A young man shyly bows before me, then meekly asks me for my hand for the next dance, if "not my card was full"(I don't have a clue what that means but I think it is a compliment).
What do I do? I can accept the offer, but I might disgrace Cassandra with my dancing skills OR I can say no and definitely disgrace Cassandra, and not get to dance at all!?!
"Yes, thank you sir. But you must know, my dancing skills are definitely not up to the standard of yours," I mutter.
"Well, we shall disgrace our masters together for I am sure I am the worse dancer between ourselves," he replies humorously.
He takes another swift bow.
"Robert Philips, I am very glad make your acquaintance... Miss..."
" Miss Austen," trying to swallow all my girly giggles and butterflies back down my throat at the same time.
"Miss Austen," he replies with a deep yet gentle smile.
He takes my hand and leads me towards the line of dancers, parading the large room.
Come on Cass - you've seen BBC's Pride and Prejudice. Follow the others.
The music kicks in and everyone starts skipping forwards, then a pas de basque, now a sort of waltz. Now back again.
And I thought Gangnam Style was fun!!!
You are probably wondering why I'm here. It all started two hundred years in the future....
Honestly, she wants me to take a train to this silly shop just in case it may have a lamp to suit the seven she's already got. That's my Great-Grand-Aunt for you!
The train rattles to a stop, as if trying to nudge me out the doors. The sweet station, with it's pots of big pink and orange flowers and iron decorations, is just as you'd expect for a small village in the middle of nowhere. Like a warm cup of hot chocolate, the scene calms me down instantly. Can't I just stay here all day?!? I don't look back as I leave the tranquil station, just in case I get used to its serenity.
The quiet lane turns into a wider road where shops soon start to spring up and invite me to their doors with welcoming gestures from the customer-less shop keepers.
Finally, I start to reach the end of the street where my destination - in theory - is placed.
The tailor's shop, the Butcher's shop - here we are - the antiques shop.
As soon as I reach the front door I stare at its simplistic beauty. Rose stained windows and interior beams warm your soul, and the vines strangling the brick walls wisper words of encouragement in your ears.
Taking my attention away from its exterior beauty I notice a beady eyed women, with birds nest hair, an unpleasantly welcoming snarl, and skin as old as time, watching me closely through the shutters.
She turns away and instead turns to a cluttered desk. As the contents of the third drawer fly wildly in the air, she continues rapidly to search it. After some time she pulls out a small open sign. She hurries to the door and sticks the old sign to its dusty glass.
With a blank look on her face, she turns around, back to her chair behind the shutters, in which she was first sitting, to once again stare me down.
Bundling all my existing courage, I open the door. Inside I find a small cluttered room full of exquisite vases and furniture, clocks and old jewellery, children's toys and old bonnets. My hand reaches out to touch a piece of pale pink and gold lined crockery, but I am stopped in my tracks by a raspy voice in my ear.
"You young people. A nuisance everywhere. Don't touch."
I feel rather like a small child. It just wasn't worth arguing, so I reply with a very quiet, "Sorry Mam" and hurriedly walked out of the small aisle into a much larger room around the corner.
Posted on 2015-01-12
"Wow!" I exclaim.
Pink muslin, cotton pelisses, embroidered handkerchiefs and bonnets lined with feathers are piled high above the floor. Never in my life have I seen such beautiful things! Every corner of the room is stuffed full of regency gowns and dresses, laid out on dressing tables and hung from curtain rails, seeping out of plastic boxes and piled up high against the walls.
I can't contain myself! I run to the nearest bonnet and instantly try it on. I marvel at the image of myself in a nearby mirror. Imagine wearing a bonnet as exquisite as this one each and every day, I think to myself! How very Austen!
Suddenly I hear the creak of an old wooden door from behind a pile decorative gowns.
"Hello?" someone calls from behind the gowns.
This voice seems different to the raspy voice of the old women, it sounds younger. In fact, it sounds very familiar, almost as if it is a recording of my own voice.
Startled, I turn around, and fall on a trimmed ribbon lying on the floor.
A dainty hand, smelling of lavender and the dust found in old books, lifts me to my feet. My eyes meet the young women instantly. She seems familiar. Extremely familiar. I look her up and down and realise why...
The deep brown eyes, rosy cheeks, golden brown hair, the delicate shape of her face...
She is me! Or I am her? We are the spitting image of each other, and as I study her familiar face it is like staring into a mirror.
She gives a short and startled curtsy and looks with confusion and distress around the room.
"Hello, I am Cassandra Austen. I believe I do not know where I am. I was just awaiting my sister Jane ... And now I'm... Here?" She mutters through deep breaths of worry.
I stand in the centre of the room with a look of disbelief smeared over my face. Jane Austen's own sister, Cassandra Austen, is standing in front of me!
From the first time I opened the front covers of 'Pride and Prejudice' I was hooked. One rainy Tuesday afternoon turned into years of reading and rereading, studying and discussing. By the time I was thirteen, I was christened a Janeite. I suppose that...
"Have we met?" Cassandra enquires, breaking my train of thought.
"I believe not. My name is Cass... I mean Miss Austen," I paused, not quite sure what to say. "May I ask what year is it now?" I inquire.
"It is the year of 1799," She states.
Hhmmm, what happened in 1799? Jane had just finished writing Northanger Abbey, or Susan. In two years the family will leave for Bath. Jane must be about twenty-four, and Cassandra twenty-six. Wait a minute - I'm twenty-six!
"What is that peculiar vehicle outside?" the Regency Cassandra exclaims, pointing at a car outside the arched window.
"That's a ........ Well.......... What thing?" Avoiding answering I try to move on to another subject.
Then it hits me, that wave of embarrassment. Like a bucket of cold water has just been thrown across my face. I am so gullible! This is ridiculous! There is no way that the 'Regency-JaneAusten-Artist' Cassandra Austen could possibly exist in the 21st Century alongside 'Nerdy-Janeite-DoctorWhoFan' Cassandra Austen!
"What sort of joke is this? Just because I may be a little obsessed with Regency authors, and I share the same name as Jane Austen's sister, doesn't mean whoever put you up to this has to make fun of me," I declare furiously, my feet stamping like an angry child. "I bet it was Donna. Come on Donna, this isn't funny. Why would..."
"I am not a joke Miss Austen, if that is, of course, your real name!" declares Cassandra defensively, looking rather pale. "I believe you must be the joke. You have such a similar appearance to myself, and you claim to share the same name. I must admit, your dishonesty leaves me quite bewildered. I believe I must... sit down. I fear this distress has resulted in a very... painful headache."
Cassandra reaches for the dusty plastic chair next to the mysterious door. After scrutinising the chair with a raised brow she sinks into the chair and massages her head with a look of pain.
"Ok, so if are real, how did you get here... Miss Austen?" I ask, still in disbelief.
"I was in my room, waiting for Jane, my sister, as she often comes in from her morning walk at this time of day. Then I heard a loud sound. Like that of a bee. It continued for a few seconds and then I found myself here, in this doorway," She scanned the room for any familiar objects. A look of horror spread across her face.
"How will I get home?" She begins to panic.
That's a fair question. Think Cass, think!
"Well, if you got here somehow, you should be able to go back the same way," I suggest. "Maybe if you just go through this door..."To Be Continued . . .