Matchmaking Grandmothers

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My first inspiration for this story came from the first Harry Potter movie, when he was at Hogwarts. In the halls and stairwells hung portraits of souls who had passed on, but those people could talk to the students and give them advice.

It seemed a perfect scenario for a Pride and Prejudice variation, where Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s sainted grandmothers could guide them through their tumultuous relationship. I imagined their portraits in the family gallery speaking directly to our favorite couple. Of course, my better judgement eventually took hold. Realizing that this was far too much of a direct rip-off of JK Rowling’s original idea, I decided to go with an internal communication instead.

I introduced the two young girls as they were both making their presentation to the queen and the story flowed naturally from there. The Heavenly Guardianship Program became the method by which the grandmothers could influence their descendants.

Of course, nothing goes smoothly for the dear ladies and they are forced to use drastic measures to help our couple realize that they were destined to be together,

This story will be available on Amazon in September 2017.

 

 

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Darcy’s Big Wish

My most recent publication is a fantasy: What if Darcy made a life-altering wish?

Being a pragmatic, serious man, Darcy held no belief in fairy tales; those were only for children or muddle-headed maidens. But when he suddenly found himself in an impossible dilemma, Elizabeth Bennet was the only person he could trust.

Excerpt:

Chapter 4

“Miss Elizabeth, are you unwell?”

Gasping with fright, Elizabeth jumped to her feet, whirled around and observed a small boy wearing green riding attire meant for a grown man.

“Why do you weep?” he asked.

“Who are you?” she inquired, swiftly wiping the tears from her face.

He bowed in a proper greeting and she curtsied. “It is I, Mr. Darcy,” he said.

She was startled by this obvious falsehood and narrowed her eyes. “You are not Mr. Darcy! You are just a boy!”

“While it is true that I appear to be a boy, I am indeed Fitzwilliam Darcy.” He swept the hair away from his eyes and stood with perfect posture, his coat tails touching the ground.

Of course, Elizabeth knew perfectly well that this young child was not Mr. Darcy but who could he be? She was sure that she knew all the young boys in the county and he was certainly not a child of the Longbourn tenants or neighbours. “Are you visiting someone in the area?” she asked.

“I am visiting Charles Bingley, as you very well know, Miss Elizabeth.” She detected a hint of annoyance in his voice.

“How do you know my name?” she inquired in confusion. “Have we been introduced?” She gazed around her for a glimpse of anyone who might have accompanied the child.

“I have known you these past few weeks,” he said, failing to mask his displeasure. “I danced with you last evening at the ball.”

She shook her head in disagreement. “I danced with no boys last evening,” she said. When his annoyance changed to exasperation, she continued in a gentler tone, though still sceptical of his claims. “It is no secret that I danced with Mr. Darcy last night, as any number of people observed us doing so,” she said.

“Perhaps but no one overheard our conversation.”

She folded her arms in front of her. “And did we converse during this dance, Mister Darcy?” she inquired.

He nodded the affirmative. “You tried to assess my character but you enjoyed little success. You said I puzzled you exceedingly. I said that I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” he replied with the utmost determination, unlike any child she had ever encountered.

She frowned. “And do you know why Mr. Darcy puzzles me?” she asked.

“Does it have something to do with Mr. Wickham?”

She averted her eyes. “Among other things,” she said.

“Miss Elizabeth, I know you wish to know more of my history with Mr. Wickham and I promise to reveal the whole sordid truth, but first I beseech you to assist me!”

“If you are Mr. Darcy, why are you a boy?” She was still doubtful of his claims but his troubled countenance gave her pause. His haughty reserve had faded and shoulders drooped.

He shook his head and sat down on the fallen tree. “Honestly, I have no idea,” he said.

She sat next to him. “How may I help you?” She could not keep from feeling some sympathy for the poor boy, sitting there with his head in his hands. She noticed, too, that his feet were covered only with wool stockings and no small amount of debris.

He was silent for a moment, then looked up into her eyes. “I need help to determine how I came to be in my present state and how to correct it,” he said.

She shook her head. “First, we must get you some attire befitting your age. You look entirely out of place in those clothes.” How this was to be accomplished was a different matter; with five daughters, Longbourn would have no boys’ clothes stored away. She suddenly thought of her friend Charlotte Lucas, who had younger brothers. “Let us go to Lucas Lodge,” she said. “They are certain to have some clothes that will fit you.”

“Yes, that is an excellent suggestion!”

He grasped the horse’s reins and they made their way through the pines and over to the path between the two estates. “Is that Mr. Darcy’s horse?” she inquired.

“Yes, Bart is my horse,” the boy said.

He was a puzzlement indeed. “Are you really Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy?” she asked.

“I am.” He held out his hand, showing her the ring on his thumb. “I have my father’s signet ring to prove it.”

“But it is too large for you,” she said. Indeed, the boy was small; a full head shorter than she was.

“Yes, it slipped off my finger during the night and I nearly lost it,” he told her with a frown. “I would never forgive myself if I lost such a cherished heirloom.”

“No indeed, you must not lose it.” She felt still quite unsure what to make of the boy’s claims, but she dearly hoped that he had not stolen the ring from Mr. Darcy.

He stopped walking to look up at her. “Do you believe me, then? Please tell me that you do, Miss Elizabeth!” he implored her.

“Tell me something that only Mr. Darcy and I would know.”

He appeared to contemplate this for a moment. “I admire a woman who improves her mind through extensive reading.”

He mouth gaped in astonishment. “Mr. Darcy!” It was true that he had made that very same comment during their discussion at Netherfield a fortnight ago. It was impossible to believe, but somehow Mr. Darcy had turned into a boy! But how?—she wondered, although she did see the resemblance; the dark hair, the intense eyes, and the proud posture.

***

Available on Amazon: Link

Pride In Meryton

Pride in Meryton ~ Three Pride and Prejudice Novelettes

  1. Pride and Tolerance

What if Elizabeth immediately objected to Darcy’s ‘tolerable’ remark on the night of the Meryton Assembly? Would Darcy realize his blunder and make amends?

  1. Meryton Revisited

What if Darcy had a Groundhog Day experience? In this story, the day of the Meryton assembly is repeated over and over until Darcy finally gets it right!

  1. Hedgerows

What if Mrs. Bennet’s worst fears came true and she and her daughters were evicted from their home? Would they be forced to live in the hedgerows? This story follows the Bennets out into the cruel world after losing their beloved Longbourn. Will our dear couple find their way to each other?

Excerpt of Pride and Tolerance below:

Chapter 1: Meryton Assembly

Elizabeth Bennet was greatly diverted by the entrance of the Netherfield party. Ever since Sir William Lucas had invited the newcomers to attend the local assembly in Meryton, word of their arrival had been much discussed in the neighbourhood and was of special interest to the ladies. That eligible young men were to be in their midst was of the greatest interest to those ladies with marriageable daughters.

Elizabeth’s mama had spoken of little else during the past fortnight and now that the event was finally underway, she was breathless with anticipation. “Oh my dear Lady Lucas! They have finally arrived! What a wonderful thing for our daughters, to be sure!” Mrs. Bennet twittered with an air of delight. The two ladies were long-time friends; Mrs. Bennet with five marriageable daughters and Lady Lucas with two.

Elizabeth attempted to ignore any attempts made on her behalf to match her to the latest newcomers to the neighbourhood; perhaps they were unsuitable, she mused. Perhaps one was too old or was a recluse. Perhaps another had rotten teeth or warts. Perhaps he had foul breath and a leer. She giggled to herself and imagined any number of maladies from which the gentlemen might suffer as the party approached. “Or worse; what if he was a simpleton?” she wondered, imagining the greatest malady of all, in her estimation.

Netherfield Park was an estate bordering Elizabeth’s home of Longbourn in Hertfordshire. Since the current owner had fallen into failing health, Netherfield had been let to Mr. Bingley, who was widely considered to be the next owner of that excellent property. He was currently leasing the property but the prevailing opinion was that he could not fail to admire the grounds and the manor house, since it was the finest estate in the area. With an estate so perfectly situated, there could be no doubt that Mr. Bingley would be the eventual owner. Elizabeth knew that her mama dearly hoped that one of her daughters would soon be the mistress of Netherfield Park.

As the party of newcomers approached, Elizabeth was finally able to observe them; they numbered only five, not the twelve that had been widely circulated. Three gentlemen and two ladies walked slowly into the assembly hall and greeted the prominent elder in the community. Sir William had been knighted by the King some years ago and was widely regarded with great esteem for his wisdom and compassion. He warmly greeted the newcomers and introduced them to his family.

Elizabeth noted that the party appeared quite stylish, wearing the latest fashions from London. The ladies were especially fashionable, though a bit aloof, appearing quite out of place in the midst of the country assembly. Elizabeth glanced down at her simple green muslin frock, which despite being one of her favourites, in no way compared to the elegant silk gowns adorning the two new ladies. The three gentlemen all appeared to be wearing expertly tailored clothes made of the finest materials.

Mr. Bingley quickly made himself known to all the principal people in the room and requested introductions to as many others as he could. He had all the appearances of a well-bred gentleman with a pleasant countenance and easy, unaffected manners. He introduced the two ladies as his sisters and the one gentleman as his brother-in-law. The other gentleman, a Mr. Darcy, was not introduced as he preferred to loiter in the back of the room, pacing to and fro in a disgruntled manner, appearing to be above company with a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance. He refused to speak to or dance with anyone outside of his own party. Mr. Darcy’s tall frame, handsome features and noble mien did nothing to turn the tide of disgust that Elizabeth harboured for the gentleman.

In contrast to his disagreeable friend, Mr. Bingley danced every dance that evening, even taking a turn about the dance floor with Elizabeth. She found him in every way agreeable and could not help but notice his particular attentions to her older sister Jane. They seemed to quite enjoy their dance together and nothing would please Elizabeth more than to see her beloved sister happily matched. She and Jane were the closest confidants and she looked forward with great anticipation to their conversation later that evening when they would discuss every aspect of the evening, including the newcomers.

Due to the lack of dance partners, Elizabeth sat out one dance with her friend, Charlotte Lucas. The two had been lifelong friends and they amused themselves by watching the dancers. She observed Mr. Bingley approach disagreeable Mr. Darcy and entreat him to join in the dancing.

“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”

“I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Bingley, “for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.”

“You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.

“Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”

“Which do you mean?” and turning round, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” [i]

“No indeed,” thought Elizabeth, seething with disgust. “Simple-mindedness is not the greatest failure in a man; rudeness takes that honour.” She wanted to reprimand the horrid man for his bad manners but having received no introduction to the gentleman, it would have been improper for her to address him.

Turning to her friend, she decided on a less direct approach. “Charlotte, it is quite a shame, is it not, that all of Mr. Bingley’s acquaintances are not blessed with the same pleasing manners as that honourable gentleman?” she inquired, making sure that her question was well within Mr. Disagreeable’s hearing.

Charlotte said not a word but silently entreated her friend to refrain from giving further voice to her observations.

“Indeed, I would not have thought that such a well-bred gentleman such as Mr. Bingley would befriend someone who harboured such selfish disdain for the feelings of others,” she insisted, quite loudly, clearly annoyed at the snub. Throughout her entire life, Elizabeth had endured her mama’s endless comments about her lack of beauty but hearing it from the lips of the conceited gentleman had irritated her more than she cared to admit.

She had not yet finished her diatribe but suddenly found herself being forcibly removed from the area by her friend; Charlotte had grabbed her arm and escorted her to another corner of the room. “You will hardly recommend yourself to Mr. Bingley by insulting his friend, Eliza,” Charlotte scolded her in hushed tones.

~~~

Fitzwilliam Darcy had never been criticized in his life; as the son of a distinguished gentleman and noble gentlewoman, he had been blessed with fortunate circumstances and considerable wealth. Most people of his acquaintance regarded him with respect and reverence. He was a leading member of the ton and the master of Pemberley and extensive properties in Derbyshire. His astonishment at being admonished by a young woman in the wilds of Hertfordshire was beyond his imaginings.

His friend Charles Bingley had invited him to stay at his newly leased property. Darcy’s life had taken a considerable turn since last August and Charles had convinced him to come to Hertfordshire for a change of pace. He certainly could use a change of scenery, he agreed. August had been a particularly difficult month for him and his dear sister, Georgiana. The two siblings had been in constant company for the last three months; he could not bear to be parted from her and she needed his support and reassurance. She had suffered a devastating loss and had been inconsolable for weeks. She was nearly recovered now and under the tutelage of a new companion. He agreed to the Hertfordshire trip, knowing that London was a brief ride away. He left strict instructions with his staff that they should send word immediately if Georgiana needed him.

However, now that they were separated, his dear sister was never far from his mind. He worried constantly about her: Was she faring well? Did she need him? Was she able to concentrate on her studies? Would she be safe from unscrupulous suitors? Was Mrs. Annesley the best choice as Georgiana’s companion? Would she betray him as the previous companion had done?

These questions lingered in the back of his mind as he paced the floor. He had accepted the invitation to attend the local assembly but dancing was the furthest thing from Darcy’s mind at the moment. The welfare of his dear sister was the subject of his every thought; that and his failure in his role as her guardian. His parents were both deceased and the responsibility of raising and protecting Georgiana had fallen on his shoulders. He and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam had been appointed as legal guardians but with his cousin currently in service to the King in His Majesty’s Army, the bulk of the responsibility fell to him.

Darcy was well aware of the dictates of society at events such as this; he was expected to dance with the ladies in attendance. But how could one think of dancing when haunted by such lingering doubts? Certainly dear Georgiana, who was not yet out in society, was not free to enjoy such pursuits; would she approve of his disregard for her devastation, dancing while she was recovering from an unfortunate incident?

‘Selfish disdain for the feelings of others?’ Had he really been accused of such a thing? That young woman who had been sitting nearby (he had hardly noticed her when Charles pointed her out) had uttered the insult. His only intention at the time was to let Charles know, in no uncertain terms, that he had no desire to dance again this evening. He had already stood up with both of his insufferable sisters; certainly his friend could ask no more of him. The locals had already spread the story of his fortune around the room; he knew perfectly well that the match-making mamas were scheming to introduce their daughters to him. He had endured much the same in London and he hoped that his escape to the country would have afforded him some small amount of privacy but, apparently, this was not to be the case.

And now one of the locals had insulted him. “Well, what is to be done now?” he wondered. He searched for Charles and found him otherwise enthralled with his pretty partner on the dance floor; he would be of no use at the moment, Darcy concluded. Surveying the room, his gaze fell immediately to the young woman in the green muslin gown, from whence the insult had come. Instead of finding her in ill temper, he now observed her pleasantly laughing with her friends, in the highest spirits. Her eyes had an uncommon brilliancy and her smile was luminous; she certainly enjoyed the admiration of the community, judging by their easy fellowship.

He then recalled his brief conversation with his friend; Charles had referred to her as ‘uncommonly pretty’ and he had called her ‘tolerable’; ‘not handsome enough to tempt me,’ he had said. Observing the woman more closely, he had to admit that she was quite tolerable indeed. In his effort to be released from society’s obligations, he had barely given her a passing glance before passing judgment on her. Regardless of what his opinion of her appearance may have been, it had been entirely ill-mannered to give voice to it in such a public forum. He had publicly insulted her appearance, which was unforgivable, and she had publicly insulted his manners in return.

He went in search of Sir William Lucas and requested an introduction to the young woman and her friends. Having the greatest affection for the young woman, Sir William was only too glad to oblige him and performed the introductions with reserved grandeur. Her name was Miss Elizabeth Bennet and, although she claimed to be pleased to make his acquaintance, her expression clearly showed the contrary; she offered him nothing but a proper curtsy and the expected pleasantries but no luminous smile graced her countenance. Miss Lucas, seemed to intervene on her friend’s behalf and exchanged pleasantries with him while Miss Elizabeth remained attentive but silent. It seemed that there was nothing for it but to ask her to dance; then he would be able to explain himself and beg her indulgence.

[i] Pride and Prejudice, (Chapter 3)

~~~

Available on Amazon: Link

To Make You Love Me

To Make You Love Me

We all know how Elizabeth Bennet reacted to the Hunsford proposal and how her life progressed in the months following. How did Darcy feel after Elizabeth rejected him and how did he transform into the leading man we all love? (Darcy’s point of view)

Jane Austen Quote: “My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 60)

Below is an excerpt:

Chapter 4: Second Thoughts

After his trip to Rosings, Darcy returned to London to collect Georgiana and his servants and they made the journey to Pemberley. Georgiana immediately noticed his sullen mood and uncharacteristic silence. Try as she might, she was quite unsuccessful in all attempts to gain any information from her brother about his trip. She was quite baffled by his behavior since he had mentioned no difficulties or unpleasantness in his letters. During their journey, she frequently expressed her concern about his sullen demeanor and his hesitation to discuss the details of his visit. However, her inquiries were answered with the shortest of responses, revealing only that their aunt and two cousins were much the same as they ever were.

A week after arriving at Pemberley, still having no information about the Rosings visit, she was determined to discover the cause of her brother’s changed demeanor. “Was anyone else in company with you at Rosings?” she inquired.

“Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Collins dined frequently with us – and his cousin,” Darcy replied.

This is the first Georgiana had heard of Mr. Collins’ cousin. “Was the cousin agreeable?” she asked, hoping for additional details.

“Yes, quite agreeable,” he replied, revealing very little information.

She recognized this as her brother’s tactic to end the line of questioning. “What is his name?” she asked, determined to know more.

“The cousin is Miss Elizabeth Bennet,” he replied, hesitating for a moment. “I mentioned her in my letters,” he added.

He had mentioned Miss Elizabeth sparingly in his letters and Georgiana was pleased beyond all imaginings to hear him mention her name. “How is Miss Elizabeth? I hope she is enjoying good health,” she pressed on. She recalled his mention of Miss Elizabeth in his letters from Hertfordshire last year and was well pleased that William had continued the connection.

“Yes, she is,” he replied. She waited patiently, offering an expectant expression and he continued. “We were in company on a number of occasions. We walked in the park on most mornings and she played the pianoforte after dinner on a number of evenings.”

She brightened upon hearing this. “That is wonderful news! Why did you not tell me sooner?” she asked feeling relieved.

“Miss Elizabeth is cross with me. She accused me of harming George Wickham,” he explained.

She became instantly alarmed. “Harming him? That is impossible! Does she not know of his history?” How it was even possible that anyone could accuse her brother of harming George Wickham was beyond her comprehension.

He shook his head. “No, indeed, at first she knew only of what Wickham had told her. She believed that I am to blame for his current state of near poverty.”

She was horrified at this reply and it pained her to hear that George had deceived another woman. She was comforted when he told her that he had informed Miss Elizabeth of his past offences against the Darcys. “I am glad that you told Miss Elizabeth. It means that you have formed an attachment to her. I must confess that I had hoped for such an attachment. Everything you told me about her caused me to believe that she would be a most excellent sister!” she told him.

“I must confess that I hoped for the same but it is of no consequence,” he replied, becoming sullen once again.

“Oh, but you must not disregard your attachment, William! Did Mama not tell you that you would know when you met the woman of your dreams?” she reminded him.

“Yes Georgiana, but I am not the man of her dreams,” he explained.

“What do you mean?” she asked. He shook his head. “What has happened, William?” she asked, determined to know the reason for William’s misery.

“I offered my hand and she refused me,” he replied.

She gasped upon hearing this and grasped his hand. The reason for his melancholy was now fully revealed. “Oh dear, I am terribly sorry, William! Did she give a reason for her refusal?” she asked.

“I suppose she was displeased with my address,” he quietly replied.

She was startled by this response. “What do you mean? What method did you employ?” she asked. He looked away and was silent. “Did you offer to her on bended knee?” she asked. He shook his head. “Did you declare yourself?” she asked.

“Yes, of course! I told her that I loved her despite the expectations of my family,” he replied.

“Expectations?” she asked in confusion.

“Yes, I am expected to marry a woman with exceptional circumstances and connections, similar to my own,” he explained. “But I disregarded my family obligations in favor of a woman of inferior circumstances.”

She became alarmed. “You did not mention her inferior circumstances, did you?” she asked with trepidation.

“I saw no reason to avoid the issue,” he replied.

“But William, she must have been so….. insulted,” she whispered hesitantly, disappointment slowly creeping into her heart.

He shook his head in disagreement: “Certainly not, I was merely stating the facts,” he replied.

She could no longer hide her displeasure. “Oh William! Why must you be so severe? You can be so exasperating at times! I shall never have a sister if you persist with such behavior!” she cried and ran out of the room.

~~~

“Perhaps I could have handled it better,” Darcy thought as he paced fretfully over the carpet in his study. “When I pointed out Miss Elizabeth’s shortcomings, it was perhaps unfortunate that I had employed that particular tactic with her; in hindsight, perhaps I should have taken another tactic.”

He recalled her angry words once more.  I have bestowed my good opinion most unwillingly: Why did I withhold my good opinion? She has never done anything to deserve such an omission.

I ruined the happiness of a most beloved sister.  When someone stole the happiness of my own sister, I lashed out at the offender, just as Miss Elizabeth has lashed out at me. Am I no better than Wickham?

My arrogance, conceit, selfish disdain for the feelings of others. Am I really as arrogant as she perceives? Does she think me selfish because of the Kympton living? Because of my interference with Charles? Or is it my reserved demeanor? Did I leave an equally bad impression with everyone in Hertfordshire?

I am the last man in the world she could be prevailed upon to marry.  The last man in the world! The man who loves her and would do anything for her is the last man in the world that she would marry. How is this even possible?

Had I behaved in a more gentlemanly manner. I finally found a woman I could love, yet when I made my offer to her, I felt it necessary to point out our differences; her lack of fortune, her lack of connections, her family’s lack of propriety. A true gentleman would never have considered such degradation.

I could not have made the offer of my hand in any possible way that would have tempted her to accept me. Why did I not give my address more thought beforehand? If I had made a suitable offer, I would be looking forward to our wedding instead of steeping in misery.

~~~

Available on Amazon: Link

Steady to His Purpose

Steady to His Purpose

This was my first entry into JAFF. Remember that half hour Darcy and Elizabeth spent in the Netherfield library, just before the Bennet sisters returned home? What if unfounded gossip compromised Elizabeth’s reputation and they were forced to marry? Would they still have their happily-ever-after?

Below is an excerpt.

Chapter 2: Idle Chatter

Ladies maid to the butcher’s wife: “Poor Eliza Bennet was taken advantage of by that scurrilous Mr. Darcy! The poor dear!”

Butcher’s wife to the baker’s wife: “Poor Miss Lizzy had her virtue stolen by that dandy, Mr. Darcy!”

Baker’s wife to a customer, Mrs. Grace Philips: “What is to become of your dear niece?”

Baker’s wife to milliner’s wife: “Who knew that Lizzy Bennet was so fast and loose?”

Milliner’s wife to the milliner: “I always knew Miss Lizzy’s impulsive nature would get her into trouble!”

Milliner to a customer, Mrs. Long: “Mrs. Bennet never controlled those girls properly!”

Mrs. Long to the Butcher: “I shall not mourn the loss of that connection!”

Butcher to the farrier: “Mr. Darcy had his way with Lizzy Bennet right there in the library!”

~~~

After taking their leave of Mr. Wickham, the Bennet sisters walked a short distance to their Aunt’s house. Mrs. Grace Philips, the sister of Mrs. Frances Bennet, was married to Mr. Stuart Philips, an attorney by trade, who had inherited the practice from his father-in-law, the elder Mr. Gardiner. Grace Gardiner had been a lively, stunning girl with pale blue eyes and an outspoken manner. Now at the age of forty years, all efforts to hold her tongue had long since been forgotten and she considered herself a plain-spoken woman. Upon the entrance of her nieces, she rushed to embrace Elizabeth. “Oh my poor Lizzy-girl! Ruined by that rapscallion!” she cried, crushing Elizabeth into her embrace.

Elizabeth was startled by such a greeting. “What are you speaking of, Aunt?” she asked.

Aunt Grace pulled her to the side and whispered into her ear. “Well, it is all over town, my girl! That Mr. Darcy forced himself on you!” she told her niece.

Elizabeth laughed. “He did no such thing!” she advised her aunt.

“Oh, Lizzy, even if you enjoyed it, how noble of you to defend him. He is quite undeserving. No Lizzy, he must marry you!” she insisted.

Elizabeth was perplexed by her aunt’s assertions. “Marry me? What are you talking about?”

Aunt Grace pulled her down to a sofa in the corner of the room. “Were you not alone with him in the Netherfield library?” she asked.

Elizabeth thought back to that last evening that she had spent at Netherfield; Saturday he had ignored her the entire day. But yes, there was a brief period of time when it was just the two of them in the library. “Yes Aunt,” she replied.

“Then was there no chaperone?” Aunt Grace further inquired.

“No, but…,” Elizabeth began.

“There, it is true then! Now fret not, my Lizzy-girl, he may be a rapscallion but he is a rich rapscallion and you shall have many fine gowns and jewels,” her Aunt advised.

“No, Aunt! I shall have nothing of the sort! I was not compromised and I shall certainly never marry Mr. Darcy! More to the point, Mr. Darcy would never marry me!” she insisted.

Aunt Grace was unconvinced. “We shall see if your father agrees with you,” she replied.

“There has been a misunderstanding that will be set to rights. I will explain everything and make Papa understand,” Elizabeth assured her.

~~~

Later that evening when she and Jane were alone in her chamber, she was finally able to discuss the latest development in private. “What was Aunt Grace speaking of Lizzy?” Jane asked her. When Elizabeth explained their conversation, Jane reacted with astonishment: “Certainly no one believes that Mr. Darcy compromised you,” she insisted.

“The very idea is absurd,” Lizzy replied.

“Aunt Grace does love to chat with her neighbors. Perhaps one of them heard something about you and simply exaggerated the story,” Jane suggested.

“Of course it is an invented story; there is not a morsel of truth in it!” Elizabeth agreed.

“Well then, we shall not worry; all will be well,” Jane assured her sister.

Elizabeth was determined to put the whole ridiculous story behind her; the less time she spent thinking about the disagreeable man with the haunting eyes, the better she liked it. “Mr. Bingley looked quite well today, did he not?” she teased her sister. Jane agreed wholeheartedly and they diverted their attentions to a much more agreeable topic: the handsome and amiable Mr. Charles Bingley. Jane’s budding affection for the gentleman was a far better topic of conversation.

~~~

Dinner at Netherfield that evening had been a somber affair. Darcy and Bingley were morose despite Caroline and Louisa’s attempts to draw them into the conversation. The sisters had to content themselves with conversation between the two of them. After dinner, instead of joining the ladies in the drawing room, Darcy and Bingley retired to the study for the evening.

“Should we warn the Bennet sisters about Wickham?” Bingley suggested.

Darcy shook his head. “I am at a loss as to how that is to be accomplished without endangering Georgiana,” he replied with a worried brow.

Bingley nodded. “Yes, her reputation must be preserved at all costs. If there was a way to expose Wickham without implicating Georgiana, that would be the best strategy,” he suggested.

“Yes, I suppose you are correct. I should discuss it with Mr. Bennet,” Darcy gravely replied.

“Indeed, I wish no harm to come to the Bennet sisters,” Bingley said thoughtfully.

This brought a particular Bennet sister to Darcy’s mind. “That reminds me, Charles, someone in your staff is spreading gossip about Miss Elizabeth. It seems that she and I were observed in the library last week without a chaperone and the prevailing talk is that Miss Elizabeth was compromised,” he told his friend.

Bingley was startled. “Compromised? But that is absurd!” he insisted.

“As you and I are well aware, however Miss Elizabeth has been branded as ‘wanton’,” Darcy told him.

Wanton! Who told you of this?” Bingley asked with no small amount of alarm in his voice.

He recalled his promise to the young groom. “I am not at liberty to say but I suggest you interview your staff and get to the bottom of it. Miss Elizabeth may be in danger of losing her reputation,” Darcy warned.

Bingley nodded gravely. “I shall see to it directly,” he replied confidently. Darcy retired for the evening. Bingley wasted no time and immediately began to summon his servants to his study. He began by speaking to his housekeeper. “Mrs. Nicholls, has there been any talk among the staff about Miss Elizabeth Bennet?” he asked. Mrs. Nicholls was very ill at ease with this question and hesitated with great discomfort. “Please Mrs. Nicholls, I fear that Miss Elizabeth may be in grave danger and I must discover the truth,” he pleaded with her.

“Yes Sir, Mr. Bingley I have heard such talk, but only indirectly,” she replied cautiously.

“What have you heard?” he further inquired.

She wrung her hands nervously. “There may have been a brief period of time when Miss Elizabeth was unchaperoned in the library,” she replied.

He dismissed Mrs. Nicholls and called for his valet.  “Waverly, have you heard any talk among the staff regarding Miss Elizabeth Bennet?” he asked.

Waverly grimaced, clearly uncomfortable with the topic. “Yes Sir, the maid told me that Miss Elizabeth sought to force Mr. Darcy’s hand by contriving to be alone with him in the library, on Saturday last. But I told the girl I had no time for her nonsense. I take no part in gossip,” he insisted with an air of distaste.

“What maid?” Bingley inquired.

“Barbara Cyrus, the mistress’ ladies maid,” the valet replied.

He thanked the valet and dismissed him. Caroline had brought her maid with her from London; as far as Bingley could recall, the maid had been in his employ for about six months. Caroline had been through so many maids in recent years that he had thought better of this one, who had managed to stay in Caroline’s good favor. Bingley called next for a footman. “Quentin, have you heard any talk amongst the staff regarding Miss Elizabeth Bennet,” he inquired. When the footman hesitated, Bingley encouraged him to speak freely.

“Yes Sir, it was the city maid that told me that Miss Lizzy contrived to compromise Mr. Darcy. But I told her that she did no such thing! No Sir, the staff knows better than to believe the likes of that…what I mean to say Sir is that we don’t take well to idle chatter about our own local ladies who we know to be above reproach,” Quentin told his master.

Bingley next summoned a scullery maid, Marjorie who told him: “Oh that Barbara came to me spoutin’ off about our dear Miss Lizzy but I paid no heed to her, that vile creature!”

Bingley sensed a disturbing pattern. “What did she say?” he calmly inquired.

Marjorie was indignant. “Oh she made up some foolish story that Miss Lizzy forced Mr. Darcy’s hand by sendin’ her chaperone away! She even said Miss Lizzy is the most connivin’ girl she ever met but I known Miss Lizzy for years and there ain’t no finer lady than her! No Sir!” the young girl told her master.

Next Bingley summoned a groom from the stable. “It was that city maid what told me, Sir. She said that Mr. Darcy compromised Miss Lizzy in the library, Saturday last. I didn’t want t’ believe her but she said she saw ‘em with her own eyes. That he done the deed and left her without a second thought. I didn’t believe her but I heard the same story in town from the farrier,” the young groom told him, casting his eyes down to the floor.

“How would the farrier know what happened in the Netherfield library?” Bingley asked incredulously.

The boy looked up at Bingley with sad eyes. “I’m sure I don’t know, Sir, but I truly hope the scoundrel will marry Miss Lizzy; she’s a gentle born lady and she don’t deserve…”

Bingley interrupted: “No, no – no such thing has happened, I assure you but it seems that the talk cannot be quelled,” he concluded.

Finally, Bingley summoned Caroline’s maid to his study. “Barbara, as you may know, the discretion of my staff is of utmost importance to me and my sisters,” he suggested.

Barbara nodded her head enthusiastically. “Oh yes Sir, when Miss Bingley hired me she told me that I must never discuss her personal business, and I never have, Sir,” she said with a curtsy,

“Of course Caroline took measures to protect her own privacy,” Bingley thought. “Indeed,” he replied. “As you know, the Miss Bennets were recently guests in this house. I wonder what you know of them,” he inquired.

“Oh Miss Bennet is a darling girl but Miss Bingley told me about the other one,” Barbara suggested.

“Miss Elizabeth?” he prompted.

She nodded. “Miss Bingley told me how vulgar she is and how she was always making paltry attempts to win the attentions of Mr. Darcy. She told me that it should be most unfortunate for him if she were to succeed. ‘Tis shameful, if you ask me, Sir. No lady should behave in such a manner,” she insisted in a haughty tone that reminded Bingley of his sister.

Bingley dismissed the maid; he finally had the information that he had sought: the maid had repeated what she had heard from Caroline and further enhanced the story with speculation. Her vile discourse had spread throughout the town and now threatened to ruin the sister of the woman he admired. Miss Jane Bennet, with her angelic countenance and pleasing manners, had captured his attentions and he had hopes of pursuing her. He had only known her for a short time but he was certain that he had never met anyone as well matched to him in his life. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld; she was modest and shy with a pleasing demeanor. Her angelic sweetness and optimism appealed to him greatly; having lived his entire life with his critical and outspoken sisters, he longed for a match with a woman closer to his own temperament and he could not imagine a more perfect woman than Miss Jane Bennet.  He had been planning and organizing a ball to be held at Netherfield for the sole purpose of dancing with his ‘angel’. For the last week he had thought of little else but holding her hand and gazing into her eyes as they danced.

But now, by his own sister’s design, Miss Elizabeth was in jeopardy, which placed Miss Bennet and her other sisters in jeopardy. He paced the floor of his study overcome with worry: “What is to be done?” he wondered.

~~~

While he was dressing for bed that evening, Darcy asked Hobbs, his valet, what he knew of Miss Elizabeth. “My impression from the local staff is that Miss Elizabeth is highly regarded in the community and is considered one of the jewels of the county,” Hobbs told his master.

Later, while reading in his chamber, Darcy found that he could not concentrate on the printed page; his thoughts lingered on Miss Elizabeth. She was indeed a precious jewel. Her lively mind, her sharp wit, her charming laugh, her pleasing smile, her sparkling eyes, her supple form; he was enchanted by her. He recalled the brief time they had spent together with fondness; without the interference of her family, her bright personality had been fully revealed. How could such a woman come from such a family?-he wondered. Where they are crass, she is tactful; where they are boisterous, she is poised; where they are silly, she is witty; where they are outlandish, she is charming. But how could he entertain thoughts of a woman with such an inadequate family? Certainly such an alliance would be disastrous!  He abandoned his book and snuffed out the candle. He resolved to think no more of the Bennets tonight; things are always more clear in the morning.

~~~

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Endeavor at Civility

Endeavor at Civility

Jane Austen Quote: “I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavor at civility, I am thus rejected.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 34)

What if Darcy and Elizabeth both maintained civil tempers during the Hunsford Proposal?

Here is a brief excerpt.

Chapter 5: Piece of Civility

The morning after the two gentlemen’s arrival, Mr. Collins hurried to Rosings to pay his respects and when he returned, he was accompanied by both gentlemen.

As mistress of the house, Charlotte gracefully received the gentlemen and they both paid their civilities to her. The introduction of Colonel Fitzwilliam was made to the ladies and Elizabeth was well pleased to make the acquaintance of the amiable gentleman. Mr. Darcy maintained his usual reserved demeanor; however his cousin was friendly and well at-ease, engaging the ladies and Mr. Collins in pleasant conversation. How the two gentlemen could be in any way related to each other was a mystery to Elizabeth. One was pleasant and lively; the other was silent and grave, staring at her with his usual disapproval.

At one point during the visit, Mr. Darcy broke his silence, inquiring after the health of Elizabeth’s family and after she informed him that they were enjoying the best of health, he had nothing further to say. Suspecting that the gentleman had played a role in the separation of Jane and Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth ignored the inner voice commanding her to hold her tongue and boldly offered an observation. “My eldest sister has been in London these past three months. Have you never happened to see her there?” she asked. She knew perfectly well that Darcy had not seen Jane but hoped that he would betray himself and reveal some knowledge of the separation scheme.

His response offered no such satisfaction. “I regret that I was not fortunate enough to have seen Miss Bennet in Town,” he replied with perfect civility.

Elizabeth was quite dissatisfied with this response but wisely listened to her inner voice and chose to remain silent.

~~~

Sitting in the parsonage drawing room that morning, Darcy could barely tear his eyes away from Miss Elizabeth. The long months of separation were finally over and he was exceedingly grateful to be once again in her company. She appeared just as beautiful as he remembered. She was mostly silent while the senseless parson rambled on at length about the generosity of the two gentleman who had condescended to pay a visit to his humble cottage and his unworthiness of such attentions. “Does the man have no control over the urge to spout forth such inanities?” he wondered. He gazed at Miss Elizabeth during this lengthy discourse and she seemed unaffected by his absurdities.

Richard, on the other hand, seemed vastly amused by the parson and encouraged him at every turn, inquiring about his expertise in the gardens, his opinions about the architecture of the cottage and his calling to the church.

“You confound me, Richard!” Darcy thought in exasperation while the parson recounted at length the inadequacies of his expertise and his appreciation of the notice of such a noble servant of the King. How it was that Richard could be so at ease in company with people immediately after making their acquaintance and could fall so easily into conversation with them, was a mystery to Darcy. “All these months I have hoped and waited to be in company with Miss Elizabeth again and not once did I ever consider what I might say to her,” he thought while Richard engaged the ladies in conversation, discussing their impressions of Kent, the parsonage and Rosings. “If I was more like Richard, I might inquire how she had occupied her time since our last meeting or if her family was in good health. Thus inspired he broke his silence. “Miss Elizabeth, I trust your family is in good health,” he told her, attempting to delve into the pleasant conversation.

She smiled in her inimitable fashion and answered so pleasantly that Darcy was distracted by her charms and was caught unaware by her mention of her elder sister. “Why would she divert the conversation to her sister?” he wondered. He had no desire to discuss the woman who had caused Bingley to abandon all rational thought. The visit came to an end shortly thereafter and he was forced to take his leave of her.

On their way back to Rosings, Richard suggested that they take a tour of the gardens. “So you met the charming Miss Bennet in Hertfordshire?” he asked. Darcy merely nodded his head, unwilling to divulge any further information. “She is a delight!” Richard observed. Darcy nodded evasively. “Her eyes have an uncommon vibrancy,” he suggested. Darcy nodded, keeping his eyes averted. They walked on in silence until Richard circled a small grouping of daffodils, quietly admiring them. “How long have you been in love with her?” he asked.

Darcy retained his well-practiced, reserved demeanor and offered no response.

“Come now, Darcy. I know you far too well to believe that you hold no regard for the delightful creature,” Richard insisted.

Darcy sighed in agreement; he knew it was of no use to withhold any information from Richard. He was far too accomplished at obtaining any information he wanted and would be relentless until he had the information he desired. “It is true; she is the most remarkable woman of my acquaintance,” he replied, meeting his cousin’s eyes directly.

Richard nodded thoughtfully. “However, judging from her style of dress, her circumstances are somewhat less than desirable and this has prevented you thus far from pursuing her,” he observed.

“How do you do that?” Darcy asked him.

Richard laughed with amusement. “I have always been able to read you, Darcy; however, my years in service to the King have enhanced my natural powers of observation.”

“And what else do you observe?” Darcy inquired.

“Hmmm” Richard sighed as he studied his cousin thoughtfully. “Despite your hesitation, you are determined to have her,” he observed.

Darcy nodded. “Indeed; furthermore, I cannot imagine my future happiness without Miss Elizabeth as my wife,” he admitted.

Richard nodded skeptically. “And does Miss Elizabeth share these sentiments?” he asked.

Darcy frowned. “I intend to make the best use of my time during our visit to discover the answer to that very question,” he replied.

~~~

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