Here is my new 5-Minute Novel. Inspiration hit me when I was doing research for my post “Writer’s Travel Guide: The Jersey Connection“. I found a most useful book about the Isle of Jersey during the Romantic Age: Balleine’s History of Jersey. While I read the passages about the French émigrés at Jersey, plot bunnies sprang up. Read here the story they carried with them.
A stroke of luck
Wiltshire, 1793: The orphaned siblings Eliza (24) and William Redruth (20) live with their elderly aunt Margret in shabby-genteel circumstances in the countryside. One day in May, they receive a letter: A distant uncle, Baronet John Redruth, died in old age on the Isle of Jersey. Being without children, John Redruth has decided to make William the heir of his manor house on the isle. These are exciting news. Williams wants to travel to the Isle of Jersey immediately to inspect the inheritance. The ladies warn him: Due to the war with France, the island located so close to France is in danger of being invaded. William is not impressed by their arguments. Two weeks later, he, Eliza and a reluctant Aunt Margret travel to the Isle of Jersey.
Troubled waters ahead
Upon arriving at Jersey, they find the isle in an unexpected bustle: Hundreds of French refugees (*1) have arrived in the past months, needing a roof over their head, food, and a chance to make their living. Though most islanders receive the refugees hospitable, the mood is tense. While the Redruthes wait for their baggage to be unloaded, William talks to locals about the situation on the island. He learns that most islanders do what is in their power to help the refugees. However, there are hostile incidents as well, as some people hate the French in general and others are afraid the situation gets out of hand: Will this year’s harvest provide enough food for islanders and refugees? Are spies among the French? Are there enough houses to lodge the newcomers?
A difficult inheritance
The manor William inherited is not what the siblings had expected. It is called Old Manor – and looks like it. William is disappointed: He will have to invest time, work and money in the house. But he decides to roll up his sleeves and bring the manor back to shape. Eliza, unmarried but happy to live with her brother and aunt, joins him. Aunt Margret sighs and accepts her fate to spend the summer months on the Isle of Jersey. She decides to find an eligible husband for Eliza among the Jersey gentlemen – it’s time the girl marries. Aged 24, Eliza is in danger of being left on the shelves.
A lady in distress
William and Eliza set out to discover the town of St. Helier and find craftsmen and tradesmen helping them to restore Old Manor. While William visits a craftsman’s workshop, Eliza waits outside to admire the harbour view. This is when she witnesses an ugly scene: A young lady and her even younger brother are bullied by a man for being French émigrés (*2). Eliza steps in to help them. The man now turns on her and insults her. William has heard the tumult and rushes out of the workshop. He drives the man away.
The young lady and her brother are very grateful. They are Mademoiselle Jeanne Duverney (18) and Philippe (10), children of the French Count Duverney. The Duverneys, a family of six, have fled from the terror in France 6 weeks ago. They live in a cottage at the outskirts of St. Helier.
A strange incident
William and Jeanne quickly fall in love with each other. Eliza watches it with amusement, and Count Duverney, a pleasant and dignified man, is content with William being a suitor of his eldest daughter. The two families get well acquainted and often visit each other. There is but one strange incident: When Eliza and William come to visit the Duverneys unexpectedly one late afternoon and approach the cottage not by the main road but via the garden wilderness, the count startles them by stopping them with a loaded pistol in his hand. He immediately recognizes his error and apologises. He had thought the siblings to be intruders. He tells them about the hostile incidents the French refugees have to cope with and that most of them never go out unarmed (*2).
While William is busy with visiting Jeanne or restoring Old Manor, Aunt Margret does her best to introduce Eliza to the eligible bachelors of Jersey. Aunt Margret has managed to get to know and befriend Lady Imhoff (*9), one of the leading society ladies of the island. The lady is happy to assist Aunt Margret in her task. Eliza is bemused: She doesn’t enjoy being dragged to dinners and tea parties, and most of the gentlemen she is introduced to are boring or blunt or too old. Much to her dismay, one of the gentlemen turns out to be the man who bullied Jeanne and Philippe at the harbour. He is Mr Pitter, a member of a well-respected family. The Redruthes have to spend an uncomfortable evening with him ranting on about the French refugees. Williams loses his temper with Mr Pitter and sharply argues with him. Mr Pitter snarls: William should better not mix with the Duverneys. The Count for sure is a spy and his daughter not good enough for an Englishman. The party splits up in discontent.
Meeting the polite society of Jersey
Though some encounters aren’t happy, the Redruthes find their way into the polite society of Jersey. They are invited to a ball at Lady Imhoff’s house in two weeks. William would like to go to the ball with Jeanne, but he has to learn that émigrés are not allowed to be out between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. (*3). He is disappointed but soon plots to take Jeanne to the ball secretly.
The Redruthes also are introduced to Philippe D’Auvergne, a leading naval commander working hard to improve the fortifications of the island, to collect information of hostile movements of the enemy and to administrate the relief grants provided to the émigrées. When the Redruthes pay a morning call to D’Auvergne, they find Count Duverney being present, too. The men are busy with some maps, but quickly put them away when the visitors are announced.
A gentleman comes to the rescue
A couple of days later, Aunt Margret and Eliza take Jeanne and her siblings out for a walk. Inadvertently they pass by the place where fraudulently imported cattle are to be slaughtered (*6). This always is a big event. The cattle is already gathered behind fences. Philippe and the younger children want to stay and watch. The ladies are reluctant, but finally agree and find themselves a place to wait in the shade. While the younger children stay close to Jeanne, Philippe is off on his own. He is fond of animals and slips to the cattle. Unfortunately, he doesn’t close the fence properly. The cows escape.
Chaos in the street! The animals are frightened, and so are the humans. Country-bread William and Eliza rush to help chasing the cattle back while Aunt Margret gathers the children around her. Jeanne looks for Philippe. Suddenly, she finds two scared cows galloping towards her. The girl faints. She might have been run over had not a gentleman come to her rescue. He pulls Jeanne away from the cattle. He then hands her over to Aunt Margret and helps to capture the animals. He is impressed by Eliza, who fearlessly drives some of the cows back with her umbrella.
He compliments her on her bravery. She is delighted – and so is Aunt Margret. The man clearly is a well-bread gentleman. Handsome, brave and polite, he might be the perfect husband for Eliza. Aunt Margret invites him to come over for tea the next day. The gentleman accepts. He introduces himself as Mr Cheveley.
Eliza falls in love
Mr Cheveley (27) quickly becomes a dear friend of the Redruthes. He is an army officer who has come to Jersey to help D’Auvergne create the coastal fortifications against the French. As often as his duties allow, Mr Cheveley drops by at Old Manor for a cup of tea and some advice on restoring the house and life on the island. He also teaches Eliza some words in Jerrais (*7), the language of the island. Eliza clearly has a tendre for him. It is, however, impossible to tell what Mr Cheveley feels for Eliza. He always behaves in a most gentlemanly way. Aunt Margret does her best to further the acquaintance of Eliza and Mr Cheveley. She asks Lady Imhoff to invite Mr Cheveley to her ball as this would be good opportunity for Eliza to impress Mr Cheveley. Lady Imhoff happily supports Aunt Margret’s plan. Eliza tells her aunt off for scheming, but secretly she is looking very much forward to dancing with Mr Cheveley.
Assaults, Advice and Jealousy
Meanwhile, the Duverneys are in trouble again. By night, somebody has smashed two windows of their cottage. Count Duverney decides to move to another place. In France, he used to be rich, but he was only able to bring a small part of his former wealth – some jewels – with him. Nevertheless, he starts looking for a safer home for his family.
When the Duverneys and Mr Cheveley meet for tea at the Redruthes, the Count tells about his plans. Mr Cheveley warns him: speculative house-building (*4) has begun on the island to provide lodgings for the newcomers from France and not all houses are built well. Mr Cheveley promises to assist the Count in finding a proper home.
Eliza is very pleased with Mr Cheveley assisting the Duverneys and tells him so. Mr Cheveley looks slightly embarrassed. He mumbles it would be a pleasure and then takes his leave rather abruptly. Eliza wonders: Could it be that Mr Cheveley is in love with Jeanne and tries to please her by assisting her father? Her heart sinks.
William is not happy with Mr Cheveley’s attention to the Duverneys either. He is envious of the more experienced man and fears that Mr Cheveley might turn Jeanne’s head.
An eventful afternoon
A lottery is held in town to raise money for building a Guard House and an arsenal (*5), parts of the new fortification of the island. Mr Cheveley invites Eliza, Jeanne and William to go to the event with him. Eliza feels a pang of jealousy that Jeanne is invited, and also William is suspicious of Mr Cheveley’s motives. Eliza decides to watch Mr Cheveley’s behaviour towards Jeanne carefully to find out what his feelings towards the French girl are.
The small party sets out for the lottery. They all draw a ticket, and it is Jeanne who wins: 300 livres tournois (*8), a respectable sum. This would help the Duverneys to buy a proper and safe house.
Mr Cheveley suggests picking up the lottery prize a little later and enjoying some tea and cake first to celebrate. William – jealous of Mr. Cheveley’s idea to entertain the ladies – is reluctant, but Eliza persuades him to agree.
To have at least a small share in the comfort offered to the ladies, William invites Jeanne and Eliza to have a try at one of the entertaining games that have been set up to raise money for the Guard House. One of the games is a small archery contest for ladies. Jeanne and Eliza join in. William offers Jeanne to hold her belongings and to keep her lottery ticket in his breast pocket for her. She agrees. Both ladies do well at the contest, Eliza shooting even better than Jeanne. Mr Cheveley shows himself impressed.
The tea time following the contest nevertheless is strained. As a host Mr Cheveley has to be attentive to both Eliza and Jeanne. Though Eliza thinks his behaviour towards the French girl is nothing more but polite and proper, in William’s eyes Mr Cheveley flirts outrageously with Jeanne.
When the party finally set out to redeem the lottery ticket, they find that it has disappeared from William’s pocket. Has it been stolen or lost? The mood is low.
William suspects Mr Cheveley to have taken the lottery ticket to embarrass William in front of Jeanne. After having returned to Old Manor, William confronts Mr Cheveley with his suspicion when they are both in the stable yard. Mr Cheveley is irritated and amused at the same time. He chooses to laugh at the insult, making the lovesick William even angrier. William tries to plant a punch on Mr Cheveley but isn’t fast enough. Mr Cheveley sidesteps the blow and William stumbles in a dung heap.
Eliza has heard the noise. She is horrified to find that her brother has insulted Mr Cheveley. She apologises, but hot-headed William repeats his accusation. The damage is done: Mr Cheveley bows coldly and takes his leave.
Eliza is unhappy. Aunt Margret scolds William for having destroyed his sister’s chances for marring Mr Cheveley. William is surprised: His sister Eliza and Mr Cheveley? So the guy is not interested in Jeanne at all? William feels rather stupid.
Mr Cheveley is not visiting the Redruthes the next days. He might be too busy with his duties, but Eliza learns from the Count that Mr Cheveley had time enough to assist him in finding a new home. The Duverneys can move to a nice mansion in St. Helier next month. Though Eliza is happy for the Duverneys, she can’t help thinking she has lost Mr Cheveley forever.
Secrets at the ball
The ball is coming up. William, still in Eliza’s and Aunt Margret’s black book for his behaviour toward Mr Cheveley, hasn’t told the ladies that he has persuaded Jeanne to go with him to the ball. Being a French émigré, Jeanne is not allowed out after 9 o’clock at night. Therefore, she is to climb out of the window and meet William’s who is waiting in a coach.
William and Jeanne safely arrive at the ball. Eliza and Aunt Margret are unnerved when they find out what Williams has done, but they promise to be quiet about it. After all, Jeanne – wearing a ball gown and an elaborate hairstyle – looks different enough form her everyday self, so the chances are well that nobody will recognise her.
Eliza looks out for Mr Cheveley. She finally sees him dancing with a local beauty. She sighs, believing she has lost his friendship and affection.
Much to Eliza’s surprise, Mr Cheveley comes to her after the next dance. He apologizes for his behaviour in the stable yard. They dance. Mr Cheveley asks if he may see Eliza the next day. Eliza reads the nature of his visit in his eyes and is very happy.
Jeanne recognises Mr Pitter among the guests at the ball. She is afraid he might recognise her and reveal her identity as a French émigré being out at night.
Indeed Mr Pitter believes to have seen Jeanne before and soon remembers where – and who she is. He is about to confront William and Jeanne, but they see him approaching them and flee from the dance floor. Mr Cheveley has watched the scene and quickly creates a commotion so that Mr Pitter can’t follow the couple. William and Jeanne successfully escape into the warm summer night. Outside, William proposes to Jeanne. She accepts.
The Count in danger
When Williams brings Jeanne to her home, they find that her mother is awake. The Countess is very upset. Neither her daughter, nor the Count are in there bedrooms. Some of his clothes are missing. He seems to be out. The countess is too relieved to have at least her daughter back safely to scold Jeanne. She begs William to go and search for her husband. She believes him to be at the harbour, involved in some secret affairs of Commander D’Auvergne (10). She can’t tell more about it.
William immediately drives to the harbour. He finds the place in commotion: A ship that had been out to smuggle arms and money to the rebel forces in France, has been destroyed by the French navy not far away from the coast. The crew could get in the life boats but due to the winds is now struggling to reach the shore. Small boats are about to leave, trying to rescue the men. Williams joins them. In a hard struggle with the wind and the sea, they manage to save all men, the Count among them.
The next day: The scandal in the ballroom would have been the talk of the town, but thanks to Mr Cheveley’s special powers of persuasion, Mr Pitter keeps his silence about the illegal activities of Jeanne.
Around noon, Mr Cheveley visits Eliza at the Old Manor and is about to propose when William burst in: Look what he has just found – the lottery ticket! It had slipped through a split in the pocket between lining and cloth and had been between the cloths all the time. Here it is, just in time to redeem it. He apologizes to Mr. Cheveley for having suspected him of theft.
Eliza and Mr Cheveley congratulate William to his good luck and also to his share in saving the Jersey boatmen and the Count. Williams tries to play his achievements down, but clearly is proud. He announces that he will ride over to the Duverneys today and officially ask for Jeanne’s hand in marriage. Eliza and Mr Cheveley wish him good luck. William leaves the room. Mr Cheveley, finally alone again with Eliza, takes the chance and proposes. She happily accepts.
10 historical facts being instrumental in creating “Love & Prejudice (A 5-Minute Novel)”
In the 5-Minute-Novel, you find 10 references. Here is what they are about:
(1) During the terror in France, about 1500 aristocrats, 1800 catholic priests many people of other classes had fled from France to Jersey.
(2) The refugees were received mainly hospitably, but there were ugly hostile incidents as well: Stones were thrown through the windows of the lodgings of émigrés and they were insulted. As a result, many refugees only went out fully armed. Additionally, to mark the friends from the enemies French laity émigrés wore a white cockade in their hats and the French clergy wore a white ribbon through the button holes.
(3) Émigrés were not permitted to leave the house from 9 o’clock at night to 5 o’clock in the morning.
(4) Aristocratic émigrés often brought jewels and other valuables with them. They were regarded as prospective customers for lodgings and houses, and speculative house-building began. The town of St. Helier grew considerably.
(5) The French had tried several times to invade Jersey. When the war with France began in 1793, Jersey was once again in a dangerous position. Money was needed to build a Guard House and an arsenal. Instead of taxing the parishes to raise the money, lotteries were set up, and they proved to be popular during the first year.
(6) It was forbidden to import cows from France to England via Jersey, because it had caused the prizes for cattle to drop in England. Fraudulently imported cattle was slaughtered and distributed to the poor of Jersey.
(7) The traditional language of Jersey was Jerrais, but French was the official language.
(8) The currency of Jersey was the livres tournois (until 1834). It was exchangeable for the pound at a rate of 26 livres = 1 pound.
(9) Charlotte, Lady Imhoff, was one of leading figures in Jersey’s society.
(10) Philippe D’Auvergne ran a network of spies from Jersey for 18 years. The network “La Correspondance” was a section of the British secret service. He also provided a group of French Royalists fighting Napoleon with arms, ammunition and money. Regularly, these were landed on the French coast at night and then smuggled through the patrols. For more information on this exciting part of the Isle of Jersey’s history, read my post “Writer’s Travel Guide: The Jersey Connection”.
Related topics: “The Castle of Atraños (A 5-Minute Novel)”
* Balleine, George Reginald (Author) / Syvret, M. (Editor) / Stevens, J. (Editor): Balleine’s History of Jersey; Phillimore & Co Ltd. 1981.
Ashelford, Jane: In the English Service. The Life of Philippe D’Auvergne”, Jersey Heritage Trust, 2008.