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A Philosophical Understanding

Heiress Caroline Ingram does not care for the London season or the eligible bachelors presented to her by her parents: she'd rather be making botanical sketches with the aid of the
Camera Lucida. But then she meets the Honorable Tobias Wharton, who is not just eligible, good natured and good looking, but is also a man of science! Caroline hopes she may finally have found a way to please her mother and fulfill her own dreams, but first she must find out what is causing the mysterious hallucinations that have been afflicting the neighborhood ever since his arrival.

A Philosophical Understanding takes the Austen approach seriously, satirizing it gently, but also working within it and taking it on its own terms.

Here's an extract...

At the sound of her voice, Mr. Dabney seemed to come out of his stupor. He started, gathered himself, began to speak—the words burst out of him like water gushing from a pump—but he was addressing, not his sister, but Caroline!

“Miss Ingram! I can remain silent no longer. You must hear me. Since your youth I have been your most passionate, your most devoted admirer. Oh God! Give me reason to hope, I beg you. I do not know how to live without you!”

He was advancing towards her as he spoke the words: Caroline stepped backwards, appalled. Honor had blanched white, Mr. Wharton seemed paralyzed with horror. What was she to do? Mr. Dabney was all but upon her, she was disconcerted, almost frightened!

But even as he was about to take hold of her arm, he stopped short, his attention seemingly seized by something behind her. “My God!” he cried. “You!”

Caroline could not help but turn too, but she could see nothing, no-one that she could imagine to have provoked the reaction. Others were turning now, and staring, hearing Mr. Dabney’s raised voice. The musicians faltered and became silent.

Mr. Dabney himself was still standing quite still, staring at the same fixed point. Honor was approaching him, her face a picture of distress. “What is it William?” she asked. “What ails you?”

He pointed to a spot in front of him, his hand shaking. “There!”

“What, William? I see nothing!”

Mr. Dabney grasped Honor’s arm. “Can you not see?” He shook her arm, and looked at her. “Tell me you can see it!”

Honor looked positively frightened, now. “I see nothing, William.”

“The tribesman! His spear: look, he threatens us! Wharton, look out!” and cringing he took hold of Mr. Wharton’s arm and pulled him down as if away from the path of some oncoming projectile.

The act seemed to spur Mr. Wharton into action. He took hold of his friend’s shoulders, restraining the slighter man. “Calm down man! There is nothing there. You are safe, you are with friends.”

His words seemed to take effect. Mr. Dabney’s shoulders sagged, and he appeared to become aware of his surroundings again. His hand went to his eyes, and he groaned.

The company was staring and shocked as she was, Caroline knew that something had to be done. “James!” she cried. “Have the horses harnessed and the carriage brought around at once. Mr. Dabney is unwell.”

A seat was found for the afflicted gentleman and a glass of spirits was supplied, which he drank with gratitude. Some of the color returned to his face. The assembled company, now there was no longer an excuse to stare, went back to their talking and dancing: to attribute the disturbance, no doubt, to an excess of wine.