Here is an excerpt from The Forgotten Sister: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice
My family and I are visiting Brighton today. My sisters’ husbands have stayed behind. Everyone thinks that the fresh sea air will be good for our constitutions. I must admit that it’s nice to get out of Longbourn for a change. It’s so provincial. I am hoping to see what “the real world” is like.
Whilst there, my sisters got it into their heads that they wanted to rent a bathing machine. I had never seen one of these contraptions and was eager to learn all about them. They are basically large covered wagons attached to a horse who tows people out into several feet of water. Once there, the the swimmer undresses inside the machines, puts on her bathing costume, and is lowered into the water by a female attendant. Once in the water, one may swim or hang on to a rope attached to the “machine” while the waves wash over you.
I had never swam in the ocean. I have dipped my feet into the waves a few times, but this was a first. Once inside the wagon, I found it was small, badly lit, and poorly ventilated. The only light that came in was from small openings placed high up to deter voyeurs. We changed into our bathing costumes and an old hag of a bathing attendant who seemed to have imbibed in the sherry a bit too much assisted us as we boldly dropped into the sea.
Mama demanded to go first. Once in the water, she screamed, “It’s too cold! I’m going to die of hypothermia! Quick! Somebody get me out of here!”
Lydia said, “For heaven’s sake, Mama!”
The attendant helped Mama back up into the covered wagon and wrapped her with a blanket.
To show everyone that she wasn’t afraid, Lydia jumped into the water with the confidence of Aphrodite riding ashore on an oyster shell. “Come on,” she told us sisters. “The water is fine!”
The rest of us followed suit. I must admit, I did not care for it. Mama was right: it was too cold! I didn’t stay in the water for very long and asked the attendant to help me up. The old woman thought she’d regale us with her stories. She said that women and men swam miles apart in Brighton. She went on to say that men swam nude.
Once Lydia heard that, her ears perked up. She asked the hag to lift her out and inquired, “Where exactly do the men swim nude?”
My sister Jane chastised her saying, “We mustn’t go there. What would people say?!”
Elizabeth, my other sister, said, “Papa would be appalled.”
My sister Kitty started coughing and frantically asked to be pulled out of the sea. I’ve been worrying about her. She’s had this cough for a long time. I hope she doesn’t have consumption! I shall demand that Papa have a doctor give the poor girl a thorough checkup the minute we arrive home.
Would you like to read what happens next?
Please check out The Forgotten Sister: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice
by Louise Hathaway.