I’m really pleased to be taking part in the Blog Tour for ‘The Bad Miss Bennet Abroad’ by Jean Burnett. It’s my first book blog tour, and I’m joining in with fantastic bloggers like Cosmochicklitan and Reviewed the Book.
‘The Bad Miss Bennet Abroad’ follows the adventures of Lydia Bennet, the youngest and most wilful of the Bennet sisters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In this extract, Lydia is approaching the shores of Brazil after a long and arduous journey across the seas. She is accompanied by her servant Adelaide, and is to take up a role as handmaiden for Dona Leopolda in the exiled Portuguese court.
Today I am writing in my new journal again, for you cannot imagine, dear reader, the excitement I felt as the ship slowly entered the enormous and magnificent Bay of Guanabara, with its strangely shaped mountain known as the Sugar Loaf. It was November 5th or 6th – dates have become difficult to remember, but the fireworks and cannon shots exploding above us seemed appropriate for the date, an exotic version of a Guy Fawkes celebration on a very large scale. Flags were waving and hundreds of small boats rowed by handsome dark youths, almost naked, came out to greet us. The ladies were agog as these young gods handed up unfamiliar fruit, pitangas, Jack fruit and pupunhas, which are like peaches.
Noise and colour and heat – thus began my time in Brazil. The delight and the horror, the beauty and the misery could not be a greater contrast from my well-ordered little homeland. I know that my stay here will be a great adventure. Longbourn is a distant memory. I have travelled across the world – and what will become of me?
Only two ladies-in-waiting were allowed to accompany Dona Leopoldina onto the golden barge which carried the royal family. The rest of us watched from the deck as the newlywed couple eyed each other furtively under lowered eyelids. The dark looks of the heir to the throne, Dom Pedro, contrasted sharply with her blonde, blue-eyed appearance. The marriage had been celebrated by proxy in Vienna.
I thought I would die of pleasure when I felt terra firma beneath my feet again. We disembarked on the following day when we joined a procession of ninety carriages through the streets of Rio, which were decorated as if for a Roman carnival. My senses were overwhelmed by the shouting, screaming, cannon fire and fireworks combined with military bands and oven heat. The vastness of my surroundings and the huge crowds disoriented my senses and I became faint, grabbing the carriage window for support.
‘This place is smelly,’ pronounced Adelaide when we surveyed our rooms in the São Cristovão palace. ‘That dung heap should go.’ She pointed to the pile of manure just observable from the window over which thousands of insects hovered. ‘Just our luck to be quartered so close to the thing… and the floors are dirty, and the tapestries are filthy…’
‘I know, I know,’ I agreed, ‘but there is little we can do.’ Standards of cleanliness are not high at court. Indeed, after the pomp and ceremony of our arrival the palace is a disappointment, an undistinguished building lacking in style or order. Pemberley is far more impressive. Adelaide is fully occupied in trying to get fresh water for bathing and washing my clothes. Her requests are met by a languid wave of the hand and instruction to ‘tell the slaves to fetch it.’
In contrast to the almost dingy palace, there is a staff of thousands – mostly black slaves who vastly outnumber the Portuguese. They are treated very badly and are constantly whipped. I know that some people in England keep black servants but the British government is now trying to abolish slavery everywhere.
The court officials have assigned a slave to me. I insisted that I did not need one as I had my own servant but they did not appear to understand. The girl’s name is Eufrasia; her skin is as black as coal and as smooth as marble. She stares at me with veiled, impenetrable eyes and she speaks no English. Adelaide is up in arms thinking that I would have no further use for her but I reassured her on that score.
‘You know I could not manage without your help,’ I told her. ‘Let Eufrasia do the heavier work as she is accustomed to the heat.’ I was also given a whip which I threw out in disgust. The girl watched me do this, her face impassive. We will manage by sign language and some basic Portuguese words.