I’m motivated!!! This chapter is short but we need to get to Rosings. If you have not read the rest of the story, please go back and read the rest in a post from earlier today. ( I can’t figure out how to get the link and post it here. I’ll work on it. No, I’ll keep writing)
“I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle
– Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice,
Chapter XVIII, Volume I)
Never did Darcy allow himself more than one brandy before retiring for the night. On this night, he was on his third with no intentions of stopping.
The two weeks after the departure of Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth from Netherfield Park had accomplished much in the training of Bingley to take oversight over his estate. His sisters were frantically trying to arrange a ball he had dropped into their laps with little time to prepare. Unfazed by their constant complaints, the men hunted birds for the table, rode from fence line to fence line, and visited neighbors, including the Bennets.
One unpleasant note had occurred the day after the ladies left Bingley’s house. A quick ride into Meryton had found all five Bennet girls in the company of officers from the newly arrived militia. One of them, was the notorious George Wickham. His ire instantly roused, Darcy rode away from the happily gathered group.
Darcy had hoped he would not see the man again. Fortunately, he had not. Unfortunately, Miss Elizabeth had not only seen the miscreant, she had apparently listened to Wickham’s tales of woe against the Darcy’s of Pemberley.
Pulling his cravat loose, he yanked it from his neck.
How he loathed George Wickham. Darcy’s former friend had pulled his father’s attention away from his only son. He had torn the heart from his young sister’s chest when he abandoned her in Ramsgate to disappointed hopes. And he had slashed whatever good opinion Miss Elizabeth had held of Darcy.
The confrontation during their dance had been painful.
Sighing loudly, Darcy took another sip of his beverage of choice.
He had waited with eager anticipation for her to be free of her ungainly first partner so he could approach her with his invitation. With no doubt of her ready acceptance, he had stood before her, his hand extended. As she lightly touched his palm with her gloved fingers, a shiver of something he had never recalled experiencing before shot up his arm into the depths of his chest.
His heart, that frozen organ he had feared would never beat properly again, pulsed in a rapid rhythm that made it difficult to take in his next breath.
Who was this woman and what was she doing to him?
He smiled, then looked to the floor to make certain his feet were still touching the wooden surface for he felt lighter than air.
Then, she spoke. Her words ripped through him faster than the charged current had done.
Blast that Wickham!
Nonetheless, while her unfair accusations during their set robbed him of joy. It was the one in the early hours of the next morning as the ball was ending that shot fear through his soul.
“Mr. Darcy, are you to remain in Hertfordshire until the festal season?”
Her question was bold. He was surprised since their conversation during the dance had not gone well. Her ire appeared to be as stirred as his had been.
However, out of politeness, Darcy sought an answer. His plans had been to stay at Netherfield Park another month before returning to London to spend the holidays with Georgiana. Never had he been a man to reveal his schedule to anyone outside of those who would be personally impacted by his decisions. Yet, he did not hesitate to respond.
“I will be leaving in four weeks.” Twenty-eight days. Six hundred and seventy-two hours. Before he could calculate the minutes, she inquired, stopping his brain from its mathematical spin.
“Will Mr. Bingley and his family celebrate Christmas in our shire?”
“I have no knowledge of him doing anything else.”
“I see,” she hesitated. “I would imagine the hills of Derbyshire heavily laden with snowfall is a sight to behold. There would be nothing like an evergreen tree caped in white and streams weaving like dark ribbons on a white fabric to delight the senses.”
He sucked in his breath. She was hoping for an invitation to Pemberley? He was sorry to disappoint.
“I will be at Darcy House in London with my sister. She is studying with several masters and does not want to miss any lessons by traveling north.”
Miss Elizabeth nodded in understanding.
“You are kindness itself for considering her preferences.”
What did she know of Georgiana? What had Wickham told her?
Where the fast beating of his chest at the beginning of their dance together had been pleasurable, the tightness squeezing him was painful.
“You have heard of my sister?” Even he heard the wariness in his tone.
“I have,” she looked in straight in the eye. “Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst have been generous in their praise for Miss Darcy.”
Her words were inoffensive and true. He had heard Miss Bingley proclaim Georgiana’s talents numerous times. Miss Elizabeth’s tone was kindly, and her smile unaffected. Certainly, Wickham had said nothing about the failed elopement. His sister’s reputation was intact.
The relief he felt was tremendous, moving him to continue engaging the young lady he was standing alongside.
“Will you be celebrating at Longbourn?”
Miss Elizabeth’s attention had gone back to the dancers where Bingley was again standing up with Miss Bennet. As she watched the movements, her body gently swayed to the music, her smile growing with each second her eldest sister spent with his friend. She seemed startled at his question.
“Yes, sir,” she gazed back at him. “Our relatives from London will travel to Hertfordshire for the week.”
“Will you return with them to town?” Why in the world had he asked that? Did he want her in London? Of course not!
“I have no plans to do so at this time.”
“I see. Do you spend much time in London?”
Now, he had her full attention. Her voice was sharper than he had expected.
“Both Jane and I have stayed at the home of my aunt and uncle in Cheapside. While there we visit museums, shops, the theater, and whatever happens to pique our interests. Our relatives are the best of people. Nevertheless, we have no arrangements to leave Longbourn.”
Was that wistfulness? Was she hoping for an invitation, a guarantee they would further the acquaintance after he leaves? Surely, she would not be so bold.
Darcy admitted to some confusion. Where her words during their dance had been challenging, bordering on insulting, Now, they were conciliatory, almost friendly, as if their earlier conversation had not taken place.
Yet, he could not repine. When he left in December, he would miss their lively exchanges. He would miss observing her diverting responses to the insults of Miss Bingley with dignity and point. He would miss the sparkle of her eyes and the…
Oh, good heavens! She was attempting to ingratiate herself into his company. Next, she would ask to meet his sister. Then, she would be constantly underfoot, hoping for his attentions until she wore him down and he proposed.
Excusing himself quickly, he retired from the ball. The danger was real. He had created expectations in a female uniquely unqualified to be the next mistress of Pemberley. Quick action would be required to extract himself safely from her grasp.
As promised in my last post, here are the 13,000+ words written for my latest Christie Capps story. I’m writing like crazy so hope to have the rest of it up soon. I will be posting as I go.
What about J Dawn King? When do we expect the next LONG story? Oh, boy! I have a tale brewing that is far different than any I’ve ever tried. It is almost completely outlined and I’m ready to get started on it as soon as this one is complete.
Without any further ado, here is the cover for His Frozen Heart and what I have so far.
Darcy arrived in Hertfordshire with his sister’s words ringing in his ears.
“You have a heart of stone.” He had no reason to doubt Georgiana Darcy. Or so
he thought—until he met Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Each time he was
in her company, Miss Elizabeth’s impertinence chipped away at Darcy with her
wit and kindness. By the time autumn turned into winter, he was captivated. In
the springtime, Darcy felt stirrings of love. By summer, he would do whatever
it took to convince her he was a worthy gentleman with a warm heart brimming
with tender affection.
This variation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is a 20,000-word glimpse into the Regency life of a man of means who learns to value the love of a good woman more than the wealth and position he was born into as the master of Pemberley.
A journey of a thousand miles
begins with one step.
Fitzwilliam Darcy had appreciated the quote from the ancient warrior Lao Tzu,
as he was supposed to. He had heard it before. His father had used it often. So
had his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. Despite its familiarity, there was
a moral principle in the reminder worth stopping to ponder. For the journey in
Darcy’s life, the insurmountable obstacle as strong as granite and as colossal
as a mountain was the very organ that kept him alive—his heart.
a series of crushing blows, the physical muscle was as strong as ever. Nevertheless,
his emotions, those base feelings every human is born with were locked tightly
inside his inner chamber with no conceivable means of escape.
the age of twelve he faced the loss of his mother. At twenty-two his father was
gone. Darcy had the weighty responsibility of caring for a staff of hundreds, a
monumental amount of investments and properties, plus the guardianship of his
sister dropped upon his shoulders weeks after leaving the haven of university. The
fawning attention from the majority of his peers coercing, conniving, and using
means both moral and immoral to attempt ingratiating themselves into his
society disgusted him. Yet, it appeared to be his lot in life to have
bloodsucking fools try to leech his riches and the honor of his family name from
him. There were but a handful of men he trusted. There were fewer who he
considered true friends. There was nobody with whom he confided
was very much a man alone.
occasion, he felt his solitude in every pore of his being. In the eyes of the
world, even in the eyes of his beloved sister, Georgiana, he had it all. In his
own mind, other than God Almighty, his control was his only authority. Isolation
was his safe place. Thus, he would not bend to please others. He never yielded
or veered away from the course set by generations of Darcys before him. His
father raised him to be an honorable man who viewed duty as his priority. Such
had been, at the ripe age of almost eight and twenty, his life’s purpose.
this he had failed, grievously.
July of the year, a desire to escape the mantle of obligation for a time prompted
an unexpected visit to Ramsgate where his sister was vacationing with her recently
hired companion. His arrival found Georgiana in shockingly close company with
George Wickham, a despicable charmer with intentions of attaching himself to
the fifteen-year-old girl to gain her dowry. Wickham had grown up at their
family home as the godson of Darcy’s father. Although the two boys had the same
upbringing, Wickham chose a life of lazy dissoluteness. He was the antithesis of the moral code with
which they had been reared.
first, Georgiana despised her brother for stopping the planned elopement. She
“loved her George”, so refused to believe any reports Darcy gave her about the
rake’s habits. In the arrogance easily attributed to youthfulness, his sister did
not discern why her brother concluded Wickham valued money more than her
pained him to recall the many times Georgiana cried on his shoulder, then struck
out at him. “Your heart is as hard as stone!” she would yell.
was nothing he did not already know.
essentials, Georgiana was a good lass who gave him many reasons for pride in
her accomplishments. In this one area, her shy nature turned obstinate. Who was this female who went from pleasant
to anger to tears in a matter of moments? How was a man to deal with such a
fault was entirely his. After the death of their parents, Darcy had indulged
her. She was his princess. He delighted
to shower her with gifts to be the recipient of her smiles.
his failure to realize she was no longer a little girl had serious consequences.
Her reputation had been saved, but her trust in him and herself was destroyed.
was still angry at being singularly unable to do anything about his sister; angry
at being clueless when it came to how to control the emotions of a fragile female
no longer a child and definitely not yet an adult. Hurt that she no longer
needed nor wanted to lean upon him for support.
final confrontation with his sister had led to his accepting an invitation he
normally would never have considered.
Bingley, a man of almost three and twenty years, had leased an estate in
Hertfordshire. With a background in the textile mills from the north, he had no
experience in land management. Therefore, he sought assistance from the one man
he often proclaimed an expert, Darcy. Agreeing to spend two months at Bingley’s
estate once the harvests were well underway on his own properties, Darcy
traveled from Pemberley in Derbyshire to his friend’s new home.
a rocky beginning where Bingley’s unattached sister attempted unsuccessfully to
compromise Darcy into marrying her, thus his reason he hesitated in accepting
Bingley in the first place, he discovered exactly how to make his journey of a
started with one step, one moment in time…
he is a most disagreeable, horrid
man, not at all worth pleasing.”
– Mrs. Bennet (Pride & Prejudice, Chapter
III, Volume I)
last thing Darcy wanted to do was attend a public assembly where he knew no one
outside his party.
had arrived at Netherfield Park the day prior. During the night, Darcy was
awakened by someone trying to force the locked handle open to his bed chambers.
Miss Caroline Bingley! The next
morning, he took her brother to task for not setting and enforcing rules for
his household to follow.
Bingley was a pleasant sort who was eager to establish himself as a landed
gentleman. His father’s recent death had left him with a fortune to invest in a
property suitable for a young man with deep roots in trade. Bingley’s
inclination was to follow rather than lead. His greatest weakness in Darcy’s
mind was he often viewed himself to be in love. However, his heart was fickle.
At the last count, Bingley had wanted to marry at least six ‘angels’ in the
last two years alone. Darcy hoped his settling into a property moved Bingley to
take charge of his own affections and his younger sister.
must come to the assembly, Darcy, or you will be left alone with Caroline, who
I have no doubt would stay behind to keep you company if you did not go,”
Bingley had teased, despite the seriousness of her contemptable late-night wanderings
down the hallways of Netherfield’s guest wing.
yearned to slap his hands on the tabletop to gain Bingley’s full attention, to
stare him in the eye and demand action, to take him to task. Had he done so,
his words would have been harsh enough to damage the friendship, of that Darcy
had no doubt.
slowly inhaled and exhaled, calming his intense ire. Bingley’s heart was kind
and somewhat tender. Therefore, he would treat him as he did one of his staff
who had unintentionally erred. He would use an approach far less direct,
although he hoped no one would ever see the need to do the same for him.
being with you at a gathering where I am acquainted with no one is the lesser
of two evils, I shall indeed attend.” When Darcy had observed Miss Bingley at
breakfast that morning, he had found not one glimmer of remorse for her actions
in trying to force him to offer for her. Never,
under any circumstances would he be made to wed her!
might I inquire as to the consequences you are considering for your sister’s despicable
actions?” Darcy sipped his perfectly prepared cup of tea. Bingley had been
exceedingly fortunate to have Netherfield Park staffed with capable and
qualified personnel who, despite the new master’s seeming inability to provide
clear direction, ran the house with precision.
Yes…well…” Bingley rubbed his chin as his eyes darted around his study, the
smile gone from his face. “I was wondering if you had any ideas, my good man.”
is your future, your home, the place where you will eventually bring a wife and
add children. Miss Bingley will not always serve as your hostess.” Darcy sat
forward in his seat and figuratively stepped up to the podium for a lengthy
oration on the value of responsibility and accountability, another subject his
father had spoken of routinely before his passing. He knew the value of
starting with commendation, then finishing with firm direction. Therefore, he
began: “You are to be commended for wisely leasing this property instead of
rushing into a purchase. Thus, you will know whether this would be a good
investment by the time your lease period ends.”
nodded, his attention firmly on Darcy while a grin reached almost from ear to
ear. “I thank you.”
good first step needs followed by a second and a third.” Darcy set his cup back
on the saucer and pushed both to the center of the table. “In truth, had I not
been a man of honor, the reputation of your sister could have been ruined,
which would reflect poorly upon you. Your new neighbors might possibly shun
you, whereupon this pleasant situation would no longer be of benefit. Although
Miss Bingley attempts to promote herself as being of the first circles of
society, she is seen by my family as grasping at rungs of a ladder far outside
her reach. Whatever steps you take from here forward, Charles, will determine
not only the peace inside this building, it will also set the tone for how your
neighbors react to your management of the premier property in the shire. Your
choices will also strengthen or weaken your welcome into the ton.”
chin dropped to his chest as his hands brushed down the fabric covering his
thighs. The smile was gone. “I see. Yes, you are correct,” he muttered to
of us have a relative or two who are somewhat…difficult,” Darcy admitted. His
aunt Catherine de Bourgh came to mind. “As the master of your life, you control
how and when you spend time with them.”
Caroline is my youngest sister. She was left in my care by my beloved father. I
cannot simply abandon her. What would she do with herself?” Bingley’s plea fell
upon Darcy’s cold heart.
actions of last night in attempting to force a compromise reveals her to be on
the brink of moral bankruptcy, which means she is far from qualified to be in
good company.” Darcy stood and walked to the fireplace, leaning against the
mantel. “I will no longer tolerate her being in the same room as Georgiana. My
position as guardian is to protect my
sister from any influence that could endanger her innocence. Because of this,
although you will be welcomed at both Darcy House and Pemberley, your sister
will not be included in any invitation extended to you.”
am deeply sorry about this, Darcy.” Bingley looked up, a plea in his eyes.
“Thank you for not removing yourself from Netherfield Park. I will privately
speak with Caroline this afternoon, letting her know how displeased I am at her
actions. In the meantime, I will consider what can be done to adjust her
thinking, so she comprehends her own insignificance.” Bingley slapped his hands on the arms of the
chair as he rose to his full height. “She is already readying for the assembly
tonight. I shall study her carefully as she interacts with neighbors she
clearly views as inferior. Should I see no attempts on her part to moderate her
behavior, I will have her removed back to town. Louisa can serve as my
is not as Darcy would have done. He would not have postponed any needed
discipline. However, Netherfield Park was not his house and Caroline was not
his sister. Thank the heavens for that!
Miss Caroline Bingley and her married sister,
Louisa Hurst, were rather handsome, had been educated in one of
the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending
more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank; and were
therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves and meanly of
others. Miss Bingley had made him the target of her marital aspirations shortly
after he met Bingley. The Darcy name had the potential to elevate her in
society to the stature she desired.
despised her sort. For the only value she would bring to a marriage was her
dowry. He had no need of more funds even should Georgiana marry. He neither
wanted nor required Caroline Bingley for his future plans.
he would have to select a wife to provide an heir. Darcy planned to choose a qualified
lady once he reached the age of thirty. He required she be an appropriate
mistress of his homes, the mother of his children, and the upholder of the
Darcy dynasty. He doubted there was such a paragon in Bingley’s new neighborhood.
arrival at the event was met by silence as the music faded away and the dancers
stopped to stare at the party entering the room. As was his nature, Bingley
rushed in, wanting to meet and greet each person at the assembly. Miss Bingley
and Mrs. Hurst entered behind their brother, their noses in the air, their
opinions of their own worth even loftier than their brows. Mr. Hurst, Louisa’s
husband, departed immediately for the drinks table. Darcy brought up the rear.
than the others, his eyes scanned the room, finding nothing or no one of note.
The sights and smells were no different than any other country gathering. Mothers
collected their maiden daughters to shuffle them forward for an introduction,
rather like hens with their chicks. Father’s did their duty by presenting their
families then leaving for the card room.
saw her before Bingley. While his friend was speaking with Sir William Lucas,
the host of the evening, a lovely woman with a trim figure dressed in a demure
fashion approached with four others. Darcy looked away, then walked away. They
were not there to meet him.
a distance he recognized the exact moment Bingley spied the lady. Darcy was
surprised drool was not dripping from Bingley’s chin. No doubt, the young man
would be proclaiming his love for his newest angel before the evening was over.
already wished it was over.
against the fireplace mantel, Darcy again studied the crowd. There was a large
number of ladies sitting during the dances. Men were scarce. Some of the males
dancing looked to have barely reached puberty. Some of the females appeared to
be uncommonly young to be out in society. Others had imbibed too freely of the
punch as their conjectures about the newcomers grew louder. It made for a
poor young lady endeavored to silence a matron from her loud speculations of
the annual incomes of the Bingley party. Darcy had not noticed the female when
he entered the room, or had he?
shrugged. It mattered not.
Her looks were in no way extraordinary. From a
distance he noted the dark curls resting at the nape of her neck. Her tresses appeared
healthy—and clean. Nothing else about her was remarkable. She was slim, about
his sister’s height or possibly taller. The yellow of her dress was the same as
the inside of the water lilies at his aunt’s estate in Kent. When the young
lady’s efforts to quiet the gossiper proved in vain and she walked off. Darcy
looked away, letting her existence pass into nothingness.
the timepiece from his waistcoat, he calculated they had to remain at the
assembly for at least another one hour and forty-five minutes before they departed
without offering offence. At the rate the band was playing, that meant ten to
twelve songs with the requisite break in between each set.
he was wrong. Timing the next tune, he discovered the dance lasted just under
five minutes. Drat! One hundred and five long minutes divided by five minutes
per song was…he did a quick calculation…then growled to himself. Twenty-one
miserable tunes. Good heavens!
the next dance, he noted Bingley was standing up with the ‘angel’. Unsurprised
at having been correct, Darcy counted the couples. Twelve dancing partners,
four of which were both female. By the end of the song, Darcy had counted
exactly eighteen males in the room, excluding himself. There were at least
twice that many females.
he found himself figuring out the ratio of men to women, he admitted to
himself, he was bored out of his mind. However, checking his pocket watch, he
still had one hour and thirty-three minutes before he requested the carriage to
return to Netherfield.
Bingley joined him by the fireplace. Unwelcomed was his plea that Darcy join
the dancers for the next set. He offered the sister of his angel as a potential
partner. When Darcy looked to where she was sitting, he discovered it was the
young lady in yellow who had attempted to quell the vulgar woman with the loud
with what Darcy felt was a supreme waste of time, he let Bingley know clearly
that he would not stand up with a female who was not from the same elevated
status as he was. When Bingley persisted, the explanation spewing from Darcy’s
mouth was more direct than he should have said aloud in company.
“She is tolerable; but not handsome
enough to tempt me; and I am in no humor 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.”
“Darcy!” Bingley glanced to where she was
seated. “She may have heard.”
He could not regret the words for it stopped
Bingley from harping on the necessity of mixing within the local society.
two more dances, he needed something to dull his senses, Darcy moved through
the crowd to obtain a glass of punch. Standing close was the lady in yellow.
Her back was to him. but she caught his attention when she laughed. It was not
a restrained titter like he heard in London’s drawing rooms. Rather, it was a
full-throated laugh from someone who was overcome with joy.
Charlotte,” she spoke to her companion as she endeavored to calm herself. “I do
believe my vanity will survive with no more than a passing bruise. For stubborn and ardently clinging to one’s
opinion is the best proof of stupidity.”
friend chuckled. “Are you speaking of yourself or him?”
lady shrugged and wandered back to the gossipy woman.
was stunned. What female of his acquaintance quoted Michel de Montaigne? Good
heavens! The man influenced Shakespeare and Descartes. Never in a million years
would he have thought to find anyone in Hertfordshire familiar with a philosopher
was intrigued. Finally, something about the assembly had caught his attention. Darcy’s
curiosity was roused to the point it needed satisfied. Where had she learned de
to five so he did not appear eager, he followed her, standing close enough he
rudely eavesdropped upon her conversation. Perhaps she had no clue of what she
had been speaking. Maybe it was an anomaly, or that she had heard it from a
gentleman acquaintance and repeated it without knowing the context.
her soft tone was in contrast to the matron’s. “do you see how well Clara Long
looks this evening? The rose fabric and lace on her gown are lovely, are they
Bennet, who is Clara Long to any of you girls?” was her mother’s tart reply.
“She is nothing to either Jane or Lydia. You are wasting your time cultivating
friendships with the other ladies when there are two single men of wealth and
fortune who are certainly looking for a wife.” The woman waved the fan she was
holding dangerously close to her daughter’s face. “Pull your shoulders back and
pinch some color into your cheeks, Lizzy.”
mouth dropped open. The insult to her own child was obvious. He leaned closer
to see how the daughter responded—suspecting she would retaliate like a female
cat with its claws drawn.
have no interest in either gentlemen nor do they have interest in me.” Her
words rang true. There was no hesitation, no quavering.
young lady had perfect posture. Her skin was healthy—the pink of her cheeks
came naturally. No pinching was needed. Darcy failed to see why her mother had
made the request.
have no knowledge of their characters, Mama.”
Lizzy, you know nothing of what I suffer.” The fan fluttered faster than a
hummingbird’s wings. “What is character compared to a comfortable carriage with
fine horses, the current fashions dripping with lace, and enough jewels and pin
money to see your future settled? Leave Clara Long be. She looks to melt into
the paper covering the wall, she is so plain. You waste your time with her.”
daughter stepped back from her parent, whispering below her breath.
music had stopped. Darcy heard. Glancing behind him, he felt for the solid wood
of the wall. He was shaken, far more than he should have been. No, he was not
physically overcome. Perplexed is what he was.
repeated her words in his own mind. No
act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. His father used to
tell him the same.
at the young woman as she walked in the direction of the lady with the
rose-colored gown, Darcy realized several things. First, she was likely going
to tell the one her mother viewed as a competitor how well she looked. This
meant she was kind. Second, she quoted both de Montaigne and Aesop. Third,
although she spoke Michel de Montaigne in English, she quoted Aesop in ancient
For the rest of the evening, Darcy
watched her like a hawk. He easily justified his actions by telling himself he
was merely stifling boredom. In reality though, he gave serious consideration
to comparing her with other females of his circle. Would any of them have
sought out another, a possible competitor, to genuinely compliment them? To
encourage them by a kind comment? To raise their value in their own eyes?
aunts Lady Catherine and Lady Matlock? No. Neither of them felt the need to
come down off the pedestals they kept themselves on to elevate someone other
than themselves or their own daughters. Miss Bingley or Mrs. Hurst? Never! They
had not stopped speaking ill of the populace of Meryton since Bingley announced
his plans to attend the assembly. Their nature was to criticize and find fault
with every aspect of the people and the occasion. His sister? Until Ramsgate he
would have been confident in her kindness. Now that she was heartbroken and
disappointed in Darcy? He could not, in truth, be assured her Christian
graciousness was still intact.
lady in the rose gown, Miss Clara Long, smiled. Then she blushed as her eyes
twinkled in the candlelight. When she walked away from the lady who had
extended the complement, she appeared taller and more confident. The friend,
for she acted a friend, in the yellow gown returned to the chair close to where
Darcy and Bingley had earlier stood.
mother had called her Lizzy. Lizzy was far too inelegant a name for someone
familiar with ancient literature and languages. Elizabeth, most likely.
her friend joined her, Darcy realized he could hear bits of their conversation
from where he was standing.
If he could hear them, surely Miss Elizabeth had heard the harsh words he had
uttered to Bingley about her. In fact, Bingley had indicated she might. Where
he had passed his insult off as being appropriate to his station compared to
hers, he had to admit the limits of his kindness were far inferior to hers.
Darcy gave serious thought to what had happened. For the rest of the time at
the assembly he became a studier of character. By the time the evening ended,
he had witnessed several humanitarian acts of generosity and empathy by many in
Bingley had been wrong. Their country neighbors had not treated their new
neighbors in the manner the newcomers, including himself, had treated them.
was embarrassed. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” was a
proverb he had cut his milk teeth on. He never should have spoken harshly
against an unprotected female. Had a man done such to Georgiana, Darcy would
have called him out.
his chambers that night—with his door firmly secured against a possible
interloper—he considered the lady in the yellow gown. For a certainty, he was
not attracted to her. She was not of the haute
ton. Nevertheless, she was a lady of intelligence, an unexpected find in
back the brandy his valet had poured before retiring for the night, Darcy
decided not to think on her anymore. He had more pressing matters to spend his
waking hours upon.
only he was able to control his dreams.
“He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not
begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow afraid of him.”– Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice,
Chapter IV, Volume I)
had mixed feelings about attending a soiree in the home of Sir William Lucas. His
inclination was to stay behind to enjoy the meager offerings in Netherfield’s
library. Yet, the promise of furthering his investigation of the lady in yellow
a funny sort of female she was in an odd sort of way. Hardly noticeable.
Bingley had extracted a promise from his sister that she would behave with
dignity and decorum.
wanted to snort when he heard.
Bingley would be another female Darcy would ignore.
course, the eldest Miss Bennet would be paraded in front of the unattached
gentlemen from Netherfield Park. Mrs. Bennet would see to it her child was not
to form, Bingley had identified Miss Jane Bennet as the current bearer of the
title of angel. He swore his full devotion to a woman he had known less than a
week. They had only been in company at the assembly. Darcy longed to roll his
eyes at the ridiculousness of it all. Bingley was a good man, an amiable fellow
who had a serious weakness where beautiful females were concerned. And Miss
Bennet was beautiful, though she smiled too much. At least her teeth were straight,
and none were missing so Bingley had that in his favor.
it was not her who had caught Darcy’s eye.
easily admitted to himself that he was not attracted to the dark-haired lady with
the yellow dress in a romantic sort of way.
said the lady in yellow was Jane Bennet’s next youngest sister. Despite having
the same parentage, the two females were as unalike as day was to night.
Miss Elizabeth was a blue-stocking, a female who militantly traveled where
other ladies avoided, libraries and bookrooms. No, she was not militant. She
was kind. It was this mixture that interested him. His resolve that evening was
to observe her, to study her contact with others. To see if she deposited any
other gems of wisdom and knowledge.
that he had an interest other than idle curiosity, of course. It would help him
pass the time until they could return to Netherfield Park. And it would be good
for Georgiana for him to note the activities of an intelligent female in
country society. After all, the Darcys primary home was in Derbyshire, a wilder
more isolated northern county. Eventually, Georgiana would marry where her
responsibility would be to run a similar estate with her husband while rearing
children blessed with a keen sense of understanding. As an unattached man, Darcy
needed all the help he could get without asking someone, as if he was deficient
in knowledge. Never!
this goal in mind, he stepped into the carriage for the trip to Meryton where
the Lucas family lived. He had a purpose, a mission. Darcy only hoped the two
eldest Miss Bennets would be in attendance. If not, he would do as always,
stand aloof so no one would approach.
long after arriving at Lucas Lodge, Darcy had opportunity to discover more
about Miss Elizabeth. For Sir William bade her stop for conversation while he
was standing next to Darcy.
Elizabeth, you are looking well this evening,” the older man bowed. “Have you
been introduced to Mr. Darcy?”
looked him directly in the eye. Miss Elizabeth was a bold one.
swallowed, hoping against hope it was not a gulp. Her eyes were the color of
rich chocolate. And autumn. And the fields after they had been plowed.
wanted to scoff. No sane woman wanted to hear her eyes compared to dirt.
However, to him, the smell of freshly turned earth, the dark brown of healthy
soil was the most valuable asset belonging to Pemberley. It sustained hundreds,
fed herds and flocks, and was the true source of his wealth.
lashes were long and black, the tips on the bottom row touched her cheeks.
Orange and gold flecks dotted her iris. The whites were pure as snow. Her brows
were arched. Despite one lifting in inquiry, he could not look away.
know who he is, Sir William.” Dipping into a curtsey, Miss Elizabeth returned
her gaze to his face.
she examining him as closely as he had done her? He was not sure. Nor was he
certain how he felt about her surveying him with the same measure his cook
would use to select a cut of meat at the butcher’s shop.
she was as bold as brass. But was it based on intelligence or pure brashness?
He determined to find out.
Elizabeth, I wondered if I might ask you a question about Meryton,” was his
may.” She was politeness itself.
there a bookseller you favor?”
section do you find most interesting?” Here is where most females failed. If
they read at all they tended to favor gothic novels, fashion plates, or the
gossip section of the circulating paper.
one to the far left when you enter the door,” she had no hesitation with her
barely contained his laughter.
eyes squinted. Her head tipped to the side. “Why do you ask? Is there a section
or an author you prefer, Mr. Darcy? Perhaps the Sporting or the Gentlemen’s Magazine?”
Well done! He
bowed to her quickness.
she had done, he replied with a question of his own. “Perhaps your choice is La Belle Assemblée, or Bell’s Court & Fashionable Magazine
Addressed Particularly to the Ladies?” This time it was he who lifted his
gave an unladylike snort.
could not contain his chuckle.
my goal in reading is both for the improvement of my mind and the pure
enjoyment gained from an intense period of time spent with the written word.”
The corner of her mouth lifted slightly. “The section to the far left in the bookstore
contains shelves of books filled with history, philosophy, and science. There
is not one novel to be found in this bookcase.”
would they be housed?” He simply could not help himself, she was too witty by
sir, they would be where every lady would look, next to the mirror on the wall
by the front counter.” Miss Elizabeth’s smile was coated in glee. “I am quite
familiar with this section too. Do we have this in common?”
put her even further to the test, he said, “Thus we both should gain our prize: I to
laugh, and you grow wise.”
Swift’s ‘An Epistle to a Lady.’”
was correct, and he was flummoxed. He was ready to ask if she had opportunity
to read Gulliver’s Travels when Sir
William drew their attention to the room. Furniture was being pushed back,
carpets were being rolled, and another Bennet sister was doing finger movements
on the pianoforte to ready herself to perform. Dancing was to be the
entertainment for the evening.
groaned. Then he realized he could extend their conversation if he stood up
with her. Darcy requested to be allowed the honor of her hand; but in vain.
Elizabeth quickly replied, “While I thank you for the compliment, I have no intentions
of dancing this evening. My time will be better spent in conversation with my
William attempted to shake her purpose. He too failed. Miss Elizabeth bobbed a
curtsey and removed herself from their company.
first, Darcy felt the fool. He had never before been refused a dance. Then he
had to exercise self-control to keep from smiling. Miss Elizabeth Bennet had,
over the course of two interchanges, proved herself to be kind, intelligent, courageous,
and stubborn. Not once had she attempted to deliberately catch his attention or
seek him out. Not once had she batted her impressive eyelashes or pursed her
lips as he had seen Miss Bingley do many times, thinking it made her more
attractive. No, Miss Elizabeth, did nothing to draw his focus to her character
or her form.
he watched her walk away, Miss Bingley approached. “I
can guess the subject of your reverie.”
should imagine not.” How dare she
presume to know his thoughts!
considering how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in this manner—in
such society; and indeed, I am quite of your opinion. I was never more annoyed!
The insipidity and yet the noise; the nothingness and yet the self-importance
of all these people! Pray, might I hear your strictures on them?”
listened to her with perfect indifference while she chose to entertain herself
in this manner. While she spoke at length about the lack of quality in the
evening’s attendees, Darcy paid her little attention. As far as he was
concerned, this sealed her future. For a certainty, she would never be welcomed
at any of his houses, despite what discipline she received from her brother. Darcy
looked away from her and stepped from her side. He would consider her no more.
his mind truly was more agreeably engaged.
time the Bingley party returned to Netherfield, the day was almost completely
behind them. Darcy had no reason to repine.
the evening, he had analyzed Miss Elizabeth like an entomologist studied an
arthropod. While she was certainly different than most females of his
acquaintance, he convinced himself it was in relief of the incessant boredom that
plagued him at social occasions that explained his focus upon her actions. He
had absolutely no interest in pursuing her for any other reason. Why, he
scoffed at the idea he had any romantic inclination towards her at all.
his reasoning, the evening had passed far quicker than he had imagined when
they had left Netherfield.
chuckled to himself. Their brief conversation had been delightful. Although he
often read The Sporting Magazine, he
never picked up a copy of the Gentlemen’s
Magazine. Why would he? He had been raised from birth to be a gentleman. He
had no need or desire to follow fashions set by Lord Byron, a rake of the first
order. He did not desire the approbation of his peers.
sucked in a mouthful of air. His cold heart was coming to the fore.He was as critical of the available company
as Caroline Bingley had been, which was intolerable.
warmth of close companions interesting enough to allow him to invite them
closer would go a long way to thawing his frozen heart. Yet, to succumb to the
influence of others was both against his nature and a danger to the habits he
had long cultivated.
Was he able to change? Did he genuinely want
Elizabeth Bennet had been his first step forward the night of the Meryton
assembly, nothing more. Had he made another step at Lucas Lodge?
learned much from the group gathered at Sir William’s estate.
was vulgar and vicious toward any child except the eldest and the youngest
Bennet, whom she favored. Loudly, she had proclaimed her next youngest, Miss
Kitty, as an irritant to her poor nerves from her incessant cough. Her middle
daughter , Miss Mary, was ill-favored because of her preference for severe
styles of grooming and a chronic habit of using Fordyce’s Sermons to set
herself apart as the superior-minded sister. However, Mrs. Bennet complained
the longest and loudest about Miss Elizabeth.
shook his head as he gazed steadily into the roaring fire heating his bed
chamber. He had known the comfort of a mother’s love and devotion. His own
parents adored their children. Mrs. Bennet? Several times he had wanted to
stalk across the room and place his big palm tightly over her mouth.
“Lizzy will never marry. Who would want her?”
“I cannot imagine what Lizzy is about. She
does nothing to make herself attractive to a single man. We will have to
support her until Mr. Bennet dies and we are cast out of Longbourn. Then, I am
done with her. She is on her own.”
“Lizzy is nothing next to Jane. Or Lydia.” Mrs. Bennet had leaned closer to Lady Lucas as if she was
sharing private matters, though her voice was strident. “Mark my words, those two will be the first to marry. It is hoped they
will wed wealthy men who will not mind the responsibility of supporting the
had to have heard it all. Nevertheless, she had not reacted with anything other
than a slight increase in the pink of her cheeks.
yearned to silence the vulgar woman. Better had the mother remained silent.
stay in Hertfordshire was temporary, Darcy refused to concern himself with the
foibles of the families who had long lived in Meryton. The people were nothing
to him. Even Miss Elizabeth, who had chosen not to stand up with him for a
chortled. Darcy’s inclination was to take a notice out in the papers to let
grasping women know it could be done. He was tired. Weary of being a target.
did it bother him that it was Miss Elizabeth who had paved the way? Compared to
the young ladies of the first circle, she was an unknown. How or why would he
care about her? She was the daughter
of a man of leisure. Darcy, too, was a man of leisure. However, the difference
in wealth and connections between Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire and Mr.
Bennet of Longbourn in Hertfordshire was as broad as the sea separating England
Darcy refused to argue with himself or think on Miss Elizabeth any longer. He
would consider something entirely unrelated, such as a drainage plan for the wheat
fields to the west of the main house at Netherfield. The water in the ditches
flowed sluggishly. Never would he have allowed his property to be ill kempt.
Admitting that few smaller landholdings had the army of staff he did, he could
not criticize Netherfield’s steward for a lack of initiative. The rest of the
parcels were in good order. Recalling the places he and Bingley had ridden with
the estate manager that morning, Darcy noted he needed to remind Bingley of the
necessity to repair the fence line between Netherfield and their neighbors, the
Bennets. Some of the rails were down.
growled as a vision of Miss Elizabeth popped back in his head. Forcing it from
the place the picture had lodged behind his eyes, Darcy thought of Georgiana.
However, the last conversation between the brother and sister had started well
as they discussed him finding a new master of the Italian language. It ended in
his hand over his chin, he pondered why females were so difficult while men
were easy. All a male needed was a comfortable bed, productive employment, good
food, an interesting book, and a loyal dog as a companion. Ladies? The demanded
the best goods, the majority of his time and attention, and peers with whom to
share the latest gossip.
picture of Mrs. Bennet encroached rudely in his mental vision. He wanted to
slap himself to get it out. Miss Elizabeth, in her yellow dress at the
assembly, attempting to quiet her mother was a far more enjoyable portrait to
have imprinted on his brain. Bending close to where her mother had been
sitting, her profile showed her form with all its exquisite curves…
A gentleman did not notice a lady’s
figure, the roundness of her…
his fingers into his eye sockets, he recited mone, moneo, monere, monui, monueram, monuero, monebo, monebam—Latin
conjugations of the word warn. Darcy needed to heed the warning not to think of
the past, Darcy prided himself on his ability to contain his actions and
thoughts until they were strictly regulated. In his own thinking, that ability
separated him from the rest of those in society who made decisions on a whim.
Or, people like Wickham who gave in to selfish cravings with little thought for
consequences. Darcy always considered consequences. Or, did he?
his chin, he focused on its current issue—Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Perhaps the
better act would be to test himself. For a certainty, he did not find her
attractive. Well, except for those glorious eyes. Yes, the next time they were
in company he would ignore her, proving to himself she had no hold over him.
He would rise to the challenge. Egredere subigere would be his motto. Go forth and conquer.
Netherfield Park – Day One
“There is meanness in all the
arts which ladies sometimes
condescend to employ for captivation.”
– Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice, Chapter VII,
Using poor judgement, Miss Jane Bennet had ridden a plow horse to tea with Bingley’s sisters. In a downpour. By the time Darcy and Bingley returned from dining with the newly arrived militia commander, Miss Bennet was ensconced in one of Netherfield’s guest rooms with a cold.
Darcy admitted it was a mean art, most likely at the hands of her manipulative mother. Mrs. Bennet’s eldest unmarried child had landed in the same house as two single wealthy men. Her mother had to be rubbing her hands together with glee. The lengths some parents would go to get their chicks out of their nests disgusted Darcy.
Of course, it was not his only reason for irritation. He was also disappointed how lax Bingley was being in getting rid of his younger sister. Caroline Bingley had reached her majority the same month Darcy had rescued Georgiana in Ramsgate. She could be set up with her own establishment in town should Bingley insist.
Bingley was not insisting. Instead, he spoke of Miss Bennet constantly, mostly likely forgetting he had a sister remaining in the house.
When Miss Elizabeth arrived at Netherfield Park the next morning after walking the three miles in the cool, damp weather, her face vibrated good health and vigor.
Darcy’s eyes refused to move away from her form.
“How is my sister?” She looked at no one other than Miss Bingley.
“As well as can be expected,” Caroline snipped.
Darcy longed to roll his eyes.
“Might I be directed to her room?”
Before Bingley or his sister could reply, Darcy jumped up. “Certainly!”
What in the world was he about? He was acting like he could not vacate the room quickly enough. Had his chair caught on fire? Were his shoes smoldering? Was he in that much of a hurry to be in her company? Or, had his sense of good manners been heightened by observing the utter failure of Caroline Bingley’s lack of decorum? Darcy honestly could not say, nor was he willing to admit to himself that he was acting against his own character.
At least he had captured her attention. Of course, he had caught the scrutiny of the others too.
With a small shrug at his own ridiculousness, he performed the task of Netherfield’s hostess by escorting Miss Elizabeth upstairs to see Miss Bennet.
“You walked all the way from Longbourn to Netherfield Park?” Darcy was impressed that her care for a beloved sister meant nothing would keep her from Miss Bennet’s side, not even hems covered in several inches of mud.
“Either that or I rode a very short horse,” she quipped while looking down at the bottom of her skirt.
He could no more stop his chuckle than reach up and touch the sun.
To reclaim his dignity, he commented, “there is nothing like being out of doors, is there?”
She glanced at him with a quizzical brow. “No, there is nothing like it. With that said, I will confess there is nothing like being indoors as well.”
Well, that volley had not gone well.
“You must love your sister,” was the only thing he could come up with to continue the conversation. When both her brows rose almost to her hairline, he wanted to smack himself in the forehead. Of course, she loved her sister. With the exception of Charles Bingley, who did not?
His glib tongue had failed him.
“Sir, are you well?”
It both irritated and satisfied him that she had asked.
“I am well.”
“Mr. Darcy, I understand your yearning to learn of my sister’s welfare. She is the loveliest of females with a tender heart who never sees wrong in anyone nor holds onto anger even under the most miserable circumstances.” Miss Elizabeth’s eyes warmed at her subject. “She is without peer.”
She thought he was attracted to Miss Bennet? Of course not! He held no attachment to any female other than Georgiana. No woman unrelated to him had held his interest other than briefly, including the one standing next to him—definitely not Miss Jane Bennet. If he was going to select one of the girls of Longbourn, it would be…
What? Good heavens!
He gulped. Standing close enough to her that he could smell a hint of lavender, a sudden dread filled his chest. Was his heart telling him one thing while his brain was saying something entirely different? It could not be. His heart was a frozen receptacle of unused feelings and…emotions. No, he had no emotions. He prided himself on his stalwart control and lack of response to the normal irritations appearing to plague other men.
He had only admitted to himself that he had taken one step only on his journey of a thousand miles. When had he run ahead like an out-of-control stallion?
He needed to withdraw, to reconnoiter as Richard would say.
Without acknowledging her last comment, he pointed to the door where Miss Bennet rested and excused himself, leaving her standing alone in the hallway. Walking quickly, he entered his chambers and closed the door.
Where was his anger, that heavy cloak which had encased his every thought for the past four months since Ramsgate? No, for the past five years since the loss of his father. Where was his bitterness, that overrode anything most mortal men would find to be even minimally pleasant? Where was his despair from the overwhelming guilt at having failed his beloved sister, from the fear that had set in at the almost destruction of the Darcy name? Had he shed them like Georgiana’s favorite pet corgi shed her fur, without effort or thought?
A picture of his sister in tears while a maid packed her trunks to depart Ramsgate settled in his mind. She had been devastated beyond measure. Her fifteen-year-old heart was shattered at the hands of a rogue.
As Darcy considered the time since July, the quickened pace of his heartbeat, the tightening of his fist, and the heat rising up his neck was familiar—comfortable.
Yet…he rubbed the back of his neck as his eyes closed, his shoulders bending under the weight of self-recrimination. The truth was, he was undeserving of happiness.
What did he even know of the emotion? Nothing! Yet, shards of pleasure and interest that had lightened his mood while in conversation with the young lady attending her elder sister, albeit momentarily, had been…wonderful.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Since his arrival in Hertfordshire, he had moved forward. Rather than castigating himself for his progress, he should be rejoicing, should he not?
Nevertheless, why were the positive moments associated solely with Miss Elizabeth? Was there nothing or no one else to inspire good?
Sitting alone in his chambers, he stretched his legs forward and focused on the polished toes of his Hessians. They were without flaw. Thornton, his valet, would allow for nothing less.
In the same manner, Darcy had fought and struggled to have the whole of his life to the same standard. Nonetheless, for the past four months, and even prior to that if he was honest with himself, discontent and error had crept in like tendrils of mist from the Thames.
Comments from his father, and even his mother while she had been alive, left him certain as to his course from his infancy.
“Be proud you are a Darcy,” his father had echoed.
“You are the grandson of an earl,” his mother had chanted.
“Hold yourself ahead of the crowd. You are from a long line of nobles,” his grandmother repeated daily until her death.
Sadness at the loss of his loved ones was acceptable. Sadness at his failure to uphold the Darcy name was not. Therefore, anger had been his constant companion. Anger at George Wickham for daring to bring harm to Georgiana’s reputation. Anger at his parents for dying, leaving him a hefty burden with no help from a wise counselor outside the family. Anger at society for pushing and prodding him to generously share his wealth and circumstances until he would have nothing left. Mostly, Darcy admitted, his anger was towards himself. So was his sister’s ire focused on him—deservedly so.
He had interviewed and hired Georgiana’s worthless companion. He had chosen not to warn her about unscrupulous men like Wickham. It had been him and only him who had rented the seashore cottage for his sister.
His dark thoughts were slowly but surely rooting out any good of the past week. While the happy countenance of Miss Elizabeth felt…nice, his mind convinced himself it was not healthy. Moving to the writing desk, he pulled out parchment, the bottle of ink, and a pen. He would do as he had done since inheriting Pemberley. He would write down his thoughts then read them back before destroying the list.
Within moments, his quill was flying over the paper. Down the middle he had drawn a line. On the left side he listed his sins. Those were easily done. The other column was a tally of the good he felt since his arrival at Bingley’s estate. Once done, he carefully placed the pen in its holder. Then, he took it up again.
Examining the left side carefully, he crossed out those areas where he had no control. Marks covered ‘Georgiana at Ramsgate’, ‘mother’s death’, and ‘father’s death’. While they were greatly disturbing, he could no longer do anything to change what was done. Also marked out was ‘society’s expectations.’ What control did he have over others? None. Besides other small inconveniences, there were left two glaring wrongs left on the page, ‘George Wickham’ and ‘presumed engagement to his cousin by his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.’
Richard, who happened to be Georgiana’s other guardian, had wanted to hunt Wickham down and run him through after Ramsgate. Darcy had stopped him out of fear word would get out and his sister’s future would be in tatters. As to the constant harping of his aunt to attach the Darcy name to hers, Lady Catherine rarely left her estate in Kent so her ability to carry her point to engage Darcy to his sickly cousin Anne was moot. Nevertheless, this could not excuse his not taking action against either.
Running his finger over the words, the smear made both Wickham’s and Lady Catherine’s names illegible. Darcy smiled. With little effort on his part, he could settle these issues. A letter to his aunt decrying any intention of wedding her daughter could be easily done. For Wickham? A short note to his man of business in London would have the pile of debts Darcy had bought up gathered to be presented for collection to the miscreant. Undoubtedly, Wickham would be unable to pay. Thus, his sorry hide would rot in Marshalsea where no one would believe whatever slander he chose to share.
Darcy’s eyes looked to the ride side of the page. Two words glared back at him.
Wiping his fingers on a cloth, he rested his chin in his palm. Whatever was he to do about those two words? Six syllables. Fifteen letters.
He considered wiping his finger over them to smear the writing as he had done on the left side. His hand hovered over the column. However, he could not.
Folding the paper to hide the name, he rose and tossed it into the fire. If only Elizabeth Bennet could be banished in person as easily as the ink and paper had been.
Netherfield Park – Day Two
“and now, despise me if you dare.”
– Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice,
Chapter X, Volume I)
Visiting hours brought Mrs. Bennet and the rest of her brood to Netherfield Park. By the time they reluctantly removed themselves back to Longbourn, Darcy had realized three things. First, Mrs. Bennet and Caroline Bingley were similar in attitude and approach, which would have horrified Miss Bingley to know. Both were convinced marriage was needed to at least one resident of Netherfield Park to increase their whole family’s status and security. The second was how dissimilar Mrs. Bennet and Caroline Bingley were. Where Miss Bingley was willing to overlook Darcy’s lack of interest in her society for the sake of becoming the next mistress of Pemberley, Mrs. Bennet was not. Like her daughter Miss Elizabeth, the mother did nothing during her short visit to curry Darcy’s favor or to promote any of her chicks to him. Instead, her goal was the ever-hospitable Mr. Bingley.
Darcy could not fault her. Would he want his beloved sister permanently attached to a man with a paucity of human feeling, someone cold-hearted and distant like himself? Not at all!
Although his opinion of Mrs. Bennet was ninety-nine percent to her disfavor, that one percent weighed heavily on the scales of what was right and just. She would much rather have her favored eldest daughter wed to a kind, caring man despite his income being less than half of Darcy’s.
However, it was the third item Darcy learned that disturbed him the most. Mrs. Bennet had challenged Darcy on a point she misunderstood. Miss Elizabeth jumped in with a quick explanation that not only diffused a potential insult, it did so to his benefit.
He was stunned.
Had he truly been fighting his battles alone for so long that any defense of him stood out like white against black? It felt like both a victory and a curse.
Excusing himself to the library once the women had gone from the drawing room, Darcy examined the turmoil in his brain. How could Miss Elizabeth’s comment soothe and unsettle him? Was he so deficient of character, so set on the course he had charted from birth, that he had lost his humanity?
He harrumphed into the silence of the room.
Rubbing against the fabric covering his chest, he paced from one end of the library to the other. Pausing to stare unseeingly out the window to the fog-laden autumn landscape, Darcy critically recalled each interaction with Miss Elizabeth. On the four different occasions he had been in her company, she had made him chuckle, smile, and blush.
There! He was not bereft of human feeling. He could be as happy as the next man. Surely.
He huffed, his shoulders drooping as his hands hung to his side.
Who was he trying to fool?
Perhaps he had taken a few steps on his journey to finding joy in his life. Nonetheless, he had no doubt he had a long way to go.
A journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step. A mile was…his mind quickly calculated the distance times one-thousand. The number was staggering. What were two steps against so many? Yet, he could not think that way. Two or three steps was not much, but it was a start.
Miss Elizabeth was pleased to report on the slight improvement of Miss Bennet when she arrived downstairs for dinner. Because her sister was resting, she joined them in the drawing room after. Choosing not to play whist, she instead picked up the book Darcy had left on the side table next to the sofa, opening it to where he had marked the page.
“You are not to play cards?” Mr. Hurst was appalled with their guests lack of competitiveness.
“She had much rather lose herself in a book for Miss Elizabeth loves books beyond anything else,” Miss Bingley added scornfully.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Bingley. I enjoy many things other than the pleasure of a good story,” Miss Elizabeth closed Darcy’s book and placed it back on the table. “With that said, my father began reading to me the day after I was born. He read aloud one chapter of the Bible each morning until he finished on the last day of the year 1794. After completion, he selected Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. We have been reading together since.”
As the conversation continued, Darcy’s mind did the math. The King James version printed in the 1600’s had 1,189 chapters. Counting backwards by month he concluded Miss Elizabeth was born in September of the year 1791. She had reached her twentieth year only a few weeks past.
“29 September 1771,” he murmured aloud.
Her head snapped up as her eyes met his. “My birth date? How did you…?”
“Mathematics tend to come easily to me.”
“Oh, Miss Elizabeth, did you not know of Mr. Darcy’s brilliance? He is never wrong.”
“Never?” she teased to Miss Bingley’s rash comment.
He cleared his throat. They were treading on uncomfortable ground.
“Miss Bingley is too generous in her compliments.”
“You are not always right?” Miss Elizabeth teased, the sparkle in her eyes lighting the room.
“I am not,” Darcy stated with certainty. His errors had been grievous.
“Then I wonder, sir. Which do you consider to be superior, a man who is right or one who is good?”
His heart almost pounded out of his chest. What a question to discuss? Did she have a theological bent or was this needing a scientific approach? Possibly, a mathematical equation with calculations of qualities being the weight to influence the scales of justice? Darcy wanted to rub his hands together. This was the type of conversation to stimulate thinking and reason. He had not participated in the like since his father was alive or with his Cambridge professors.
“Miss Elizabeth, I believe you are confused,” Miss Bingley’s voice and intrusion into a conversation not meant for her grated on him. “They are one and the same, are they not?”
He was on stable ground. “They are not.”
Standing from the card table, Darcy seated himself in a chair positioned across from their guest.
“A man of duty and honor strives to do what is right. When he does thus, it is good and fine in the eyes of other men,” he offered.
“Yes, this is true.”
He heard her hesitation as an almost imperceptible smile lifted the corners of her lips.
Darcy continued. “A good man would want to always do what was right.”
“As to who is superior to whom, I could not say.” As his mind considered all the angles available to his current thinking, it was the best he could do.
“Ah, a diplomatic conclusion, Mr. Darcy. You are a peacemaker?”
As Bingley laughed at the idea of his stoic friend suing for peace over proving himself the victor of a verbal battle, Darcy spied her disappointment.
Then, he noted her confidence. His answer had to be wrong.
Instead of being angry or embarrassed, he was elated.
“Pray, tell me, Miss Elizabeth, who is superior, the good man or the man in the right.”
He sat back in his chair, crossed his legs, and rested his chin in his palm. While he appeared calm on the outside, his insides were quivering with delight. This was what he lived for. This was his joy. His love of learning and intellectual conversation had been like mother’s milk to him from his infancy.
He wanted to smile.
As Caroline Bingley tsked at her guest’s temerity at having the gall to suggest Mr. Darcy to be wrong, the man gave his full attention to the response.
“A man who strives to be righteous is a good thing, of this there can be no doubt.” Miss Elizabeth chewed briefly on her bottom lip, a habit he hoped she repeated often. “Nevertheless, a good man will go beyond the letter of the law. For example, if the law requires a man not to strike a worker or a servant, a righteous man will refrain. A good man, will take this a step further by seeing why a worker was not performing to his full potential and seek to relieve the suffering causing a problem.”
“There is no law against punishing a servant,” Miss Bingley inserted.
“Then let me clarify.” Miss Elizabeth turned from Darcy and spoke to their hostess. “A man or woman can be termed “righteous’ if he fulfills his proper obligations, is just, impartial, and honest. He is known for his integrity of conduct and uprightness.”
“Your very comment defines Mr. Darcy,” Miss Bingley insisted.
In his heart, Darcy agreed.
Apparently, Miss Elizabeth did not, for she added, “To be good, the individual would need to be righteous to the same extent as the first man. Other qualities would distinguish him such as benevolence, beneficence, and a wholesome consideration for and a desire to help others. Therefore, while the man noted for being right may win the respect, even the admiration of his peers, he may not appeal to their heart so strongly as to impel anyone to do good to him. The good man who is warm, helpful, considerate, merciful, and actively beneficial would win affection. His goodness may appeal to the heart sufficiently that, for such a one, others would be willing and possibly desirous of coming to his aid or doing good to him.”
Darcy had to close his mouth from where his chin dropped almost to his chest. She was absolutely correct. That she had gained her point with precision without being unkind was an art.
He looked between the two women. One had her feathers ruffled on his behalf. Was it done out of goodness or out of the fear he would be offended and withdraw from her company where she could no longer pursue him? Goodness was not a quality he thought of when considering either of Bingley’s sisters. The other, Miss Elizabeth, was not rejoicing at her success. Instead, she picked up the book from the table and reopened it to the marker.
Sitting back in the chair, Darcy pondered what Miss Elizabeth had said. The discussion had cleverly distinguished between Bingley’s personality and his, for Bingley was both righteous and good. Because of this, he made friends easily and kept those friends for lengths of time.
Another step forward was this new resolve settling in his heart to be not just a man in the right. He, too, needed to be good. He could almost feel a thin tendril of warmth touch the corner of his heart.
He looked at the young lady with her head bent to her task. She was a marvel. He was learning lessons from her that would benefit him for the rest of his lifetime. At the same time, he was discovering the power of a smile, of a kind action or word. Would it be enough to thaw the organ so resistant to heat? Time would tell.
Netherfield Park – Day Three
“My good opinion once lost is lost forever.”
– Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice, Chapter XI,
The night was spent in silent reflection mixed with short periods of deep sleep. By morning, Darcy knew what he needed to do. Kindness, no rather goodness, required he temper his reactions to Miss Elizabeth. Surely, he was raising expectations by showing a measure of interest in her. What was concentrated focus on his part might be assumed to be romantic involvement by her. This was not the case. Clearly.
After the discussion about a man’s character, both Louisa and Caroline had displayed their talents on the pianoforte. Bingley had the carpets rolled back for an impromptu dance. With little provocation, Darcy had offered to stand up with Miss Elizabeth for a reel. She had declined with an explanation that she needed to return to her sister’s care.
His ire was piqued—a stab from a needle would have been more welcomed at the time. Yet, in retrospect, he was grateful she had not acquiesced.
On this day her third day at Netherfield Park, he would avoid her. Thus, immediately after breakfast and a ride around the property, he hid himself away commandeered Bingley’s study to catch up on somewhat pressing matters of business.
He was interrupted by Bingley.
“Say, Darcy,” the younger man bounced on his heels. “I forgot to tell you the local bookseller had a shipment of books delivered that he had purchased from the estate of a gentlemen in Oxford. I know you are a Cambridge man, but I cannot imagine you would hold it against the boxes he just delivered to my library. I purchased the complete lot of them.”
To say Darcy was pleased would have been an understatement. He was joyous. Even should they be discarded university textbooks, they would be a welcome addition to the six books taking up a pittance of the shelving available in the room. Deciding to oversee the discovery of the contents, both men stepped inside the room…only to find Miss Elizabeth already there.
She was seated away from the boxes in a discussion with the bookseller. A book that appeared too new to come from a collection was already in her hands. The man stood and approached the crate at the very top of the heap in the center of the room. Pulling one of the wooden slats from the top, he sorted through to find a worn leather volume quite small in size. Dusting off the cover, the man’s hands appreciatively caressed the book.
“Here it is, Miss Elizabeth.”
Her delight filled the room as she bounced up from the chair. In hushed tones, she whispered, her eyes glued to the cover, “it is here.”
Darcy’s curiosity burned through the restraints of propriety. Decorum indicated he ignore their exchange. However, he felt the same awe when a rare piece of literature rested in his own palms.
He just had to know what she held reverently. It appeared she would not be easily separated from either tome.
“Pardon me, would that be part of Bingley’s purchase?”
Well, that had not come out correctly. He had not meant to implicate her as a potential thief, taking something that did not belong to her.
In response, Miss Elizabeth pressed the books to her chest. The bookseller shook his head back and forth.
“No, sir. This was not part of the transaction. Nor was the other one.” Waving his hand to indicate the books in question, the man firmly and clearly stated, “the proper owner is the lady.”
Darcy began again. “Pray, forgive me. I merely intended to inquire as to the title of the piece removed from the box.”
Why had he even bothered to open his mouth? He knew his propensity to blurt offensiveness when it came to her. Not handsome enough. Slighted by other men.
Raising a quizzical brow, she replied with a slight lift of her pert nose. “Volume twelve of Fables by Jean de La Fontaine and Sense and Sensibility, A Novel by A Lady,” she enunciated the French title and author clearly before turning from the men to sit in the far corner of the room so they could peruse the cartons undisturbed.
She disturbed him. In fact, not two hours later after each book had been placed on the library shelves, Darcy re-entered with the intention of discovering something of interest to pass the time. He had selected an appropriate topic to enjoy and comfortably seated himself before the fire when Miss Elizabeth stepped into the library, one of her books resting in her hand.
He deliberately turned a page, irritated at being disturbed.
When she barely acknowledged him, he buried his nose in the book, pretending he was unaffected. When she sat in a chair opposite his, he was appalled at her gall.
Did she not realize he did not want to be bothered with company? He was reading, for heavens sake! A quiet activity best undertaken in solitude.
He glanced at her quickly to determine her intentions, fully expecting her eyes to be upon him.
They were not.
Instead, she leaned against the arm of the chair, one hand holding her book open while the fingers of her other hand twirled a loose curl around and around. His eyes followed the movement, captured by the hypnotic path the rich tress wove with each twist.
When a smile appeared at the corner of her lips, Darcy was ready to jump up and defend his right to privacy. How dare she invade his peace!However was a man to concentrate on the agricultural practices of ancient Rome when she was twirling and twisting and… being beguiling! Surely, she should inherently know he did not want to be disturbed.
Quietly huffing into the silence of the room, the realization she was successfully and completely ignoring him was like a stab to his abdomen. How could she?
He looked closer at her, marveling at her temerity. The woman frustrated him. And irritated him. And, it hurt his gut that she could sit there in silence without one time glancing in his direction.
Deciding to retire from the room and leave her without his company, he began to close his book and set it aside when he was reminded of the last time he had been as petulant. Possibly he had been five or six years old and had been told ‘no’ by his nanny.
Argh! He was mad Miss Elizabeth interrupted him. Then he was mad she did not interrupt him. What a fool he was!
“Excuse me,” he stated to no one in particular as he vacated the room for another fast gallop over the fields.
Fitzwilliam Darcy now considered himself not only hard-hearted, he was the most ridiculous man on Earth.
And, she was wonderful.
He avoided her the rest of the day. Not that it was his intention to avoid her, of course. She was merely a simple country miss with no portion, connections, or fashion. He was Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, grandson of an earl, wealthy, educated, and responsible.
When Miss Jane Bennet appeared later that evening in company, Bingley fussed over her until everyone in the room was uncomfortable. Even Miss Elizabeth’s face had a rosy hue at the excesses of their host’s attentions towards her sister. Jane Bennet looked to be embarrassed. Or, perhaps she was seated too close to the fire.
Miss Bingley apparently suffered for the considerations paid the Bennet sisters. Into the silence, she mused, “How pleasant it is to spend and evening in this way.” She lifted the book she was holding from her lap.
Darcy agreed. He was tired of cards and longed for some of the witty repartee exhibited by Miss Elizabeth. He almost held his breath to see if she would respond. She did not, instead giving her attention to Miss Bennet.
Not to be gainsaid, Miss Bingley continued, “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading. I mean, how much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
Her brother took offense. “Caroline, are you not grateful we have made a start with the books that arrived today? Instead of having a portion of one shelf covered, there are six shelves completely filled.”
She yawned and tossed her book aside without making a reply.
Darcy watched her from the corner of his eye to see her next move. It was like looking at a beginning chess player against a master.
Miss Bingley got up and walked about the room. Her figure was elegant, and she walked well. He could give her credit for a fine posture. When she turned to Miss Elizabeth and invited her to join her, Miss Bingley’s final words moved the other young lady from her position next to her sister. “Let me persuade you to follow my example and take a turn about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.”
Darcy wanted to chuckle for the only one who had been seated since his arrival in the drawing room was Miss Caroline Bingley.
When Miss Elizabeth joined her, Darcy’s eyes followed each movement—the bend of her hip with each step, the extension of her foot, the slight swing of the arm not entangled with Miss Bingley’s, the movement of her gown. The candlelight from the wall sconces flicked flames in the twist of her hair as she walked away from him and highlighted the shadows and curves of her cheekbones and jaw as she drew near.
The desire to leap up and welcome her into his arms flooded him until his mouth dropped open and his fingers curled over the arm of the chair. Uncrossing his legs, he planted his feet firmly on the carpet. What was he about?
“Mr. Darcy, would you join us?” Miss Bingley inquired with a confidence of his ready agreement.
When her companion slightly tilted her head to the side, her eyes meeting his, he saw no welcome.
He had wanted to say ‘yes’. Instead, he replied, “I shall not for I can enjoy your activity much better from where I am seated.”
“Shocking!” Caroline Bingley would do anything to draw his attention. Again, he wondered at Bingley. When would he take his sister under control?
“Miss Bingley, I do not understand your amazement,” Miss Elizabeth patted her walking companion’s arm. “When has Mr. Darcy done anything other than his own desire? I cannot begin to imagine he would choose us over his book. After all, I believe he agrees there is no enjoyment greater than reading.”
Darcy snapped closed the book he had just selected from the small pile on the table next to his chair. Placing it back on the stack next to him, he said, “I find enjoyment in many things.”
“Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy mentally retreated, choosing a defensive maneuver over the offensive. “Tell me, other than reading what is your pleasure?”
“I dearly love a laugh,” was her immediate reply.
The ladies had stopped in front of him, Miss Bingley stepped towards him while the other took a small step back.
“I cannot consider that a weakness. However, it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule.”
“Such as vanity and pride?”
“Pride, where there is a real superiority of mind will always be under good regulation.”
When she turned away to hide a smile, he reconsidered his words. Had he misspoke? No, he had not.
“You consider yourself without defect?”
“No, I do not,” said Darcy. “I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper can be too little yielding. My ability to hold onto resentment for the follies and vices of others is strong. My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.”
“That is a failing indeed!” cried Miss Elizabeth. “Nonetheless, I really cannot laugh at it. You are safe from me.” She returned to her chair. “Your defect is a propensity to hate everybody. I cannot compete with such a fault.”
“And yours…,” he replied with a smile, hearing the tease in her words. “…is willfully to misunderstand them.”
Tired of not being the center of attention, Miss Bingley called to her sister to open the pianoforte for the evening’s entertainment.
Darcy, after a few moments’ recollection, was not sorry for it. Miss Elizabeth Bennet had knocked him from his pedestal, and he was both perched precariously and teetering for a fall. He needed away from her.
If he was not careful, the danger of paying Miss Elizabeth too much attention would give her expectations he had no desire to fulfill. Like Miss Bingley would never be his bride, he would not willingly select the second Bennet daughter to be the next mistress of Pemberley. Where he found the exchange of lively conversation to be stimulating mentally, his heart was untouched. However, he could no longer vouch for hers.
Today is a very special day. Five years ago I published my first book, A Father’s Sins. I still remember how nervous/scared/anxious I was. Would anyone bother reading it? Would they like it?
At the time, I couldn’t imagine writing anything other than the planned sequel, Finding Their Way. However, reality and an overactive imagination took over and I’ve written so much more. Whatever happened to Finding Their Way? I’ve written and finished it twice. I didn’t like either. Now, I am chipping away at it again out of shear determination. Let’s see how that works!
In celebration of today, I have discounted the eBook for A Father’s Sins for five days. It’s FREE in all Amazon markets. Yay!
Do I have anything else up my sleeve? Oh, yes! I’ll be posting my Work In Progress here – today. It’s a Christie Capps novella that is 3/4 finished so you won’t have long to wait until the end, which I will also post as soon as I finish.
Also, today is special for Jennifer. She published her first book four years ago today. Check out Jennifer Joy on Amazon for the deals and a new release that’s live as of this morning. It’s SO GOOD!!!
I am so pleased to let you know I finally typed “The End” on my latest Christie Capps story. I hope you are as happy as I am. Here’s the blurb:
He likes her. She hates him. The puppy loves them both.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet get off to a rocky start. Can three-month-old Scottish sheepdog, Henry, herd two stubborn individuals together long enough to realize they are the perfect partners for a lifetime?
Join in the frustration and fun when Mr. Darcy is forced to retrieve his errant puppy daily as Henry scampers from Netherfield Park to Elizabeth’s home of Longbourn. Told from her point of view, when she repeatedly spies haughty Mr. Darcy humbly showing affection to the puppy, Elizabeth is forced to acknowledge first impressions might not always be accurate. Danger lurks, causing them to work together until Henry is safe.
Is Mr. Darcy’s bark worse than his bite? Will Elizabeth remain as stubborn as a dog with a bone?
This 20,000-word novella is a blend of cranky personalities, blooming affection, and wagging puppy tails.
Enjoy this Regency variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice where it truly is a dog’s life.
The editing process as been taking place as I’ve written the story so only the last two chapters need proofread. I’ll do another once over of the whole story to make sure all is in place then it goes to formatting. Since the cover is already finished, I’m looking at early next week for eBook publication. It will take longer for the print copy to be available as I do not have that finished yet.
Oh, I’m just so, so excited. And I am 100% in love with this puppy. Who knew Border Collies were so intelligent and were masters of escape. They are incredible animals. If only I was not allergic.
I’ll let you know once it’s available. Enjoy the rest of 2018.
Congratulations to the five who were randomly selected. However, all of you who commented also win (please see below).
The winners of an Amazon gift card (so they can purchase the audiobook of their choice) are:
Audible sent me 15 free codes to two of my audiobooks. To all the others who commented, I have sent you an email with the details to claim your audio copy of either “Friends and Enemies” or “Mr. Darcy’s Mail-Order Bride”. Please chose only one so there are enough to go around.
Thank you to all who took the time to comment. I deeply appreciate each and every one of you.
I have been tracking my audiobook sales hoping to catch that magical moment when they reached 5,000. I missed. This screenshot was the closest I could get.
The production of an audiobook takes a lot of time and money so having listeners choose them from the multitude of titles available is wonderful. To show my gratitude, I will select names from any who comment on this post to win an audiobook (it does NOT need to be one of mine) of their choice. Please share in your comment why and/or when you listen to a book.
Thank you so much. This is AMAZING!!! By the way, I will be drawing five winners on Saturday, October 13th. Winners will be notified by email.
About 30 seconds ago I received notification that The Letter of the Law is available in ALL the Amazon stores. However, when I did a search I could not find it. Goodness! How frustrating is that? I am tickled pink that after so many starts and stops, it’s done. I had to make a quick FaceTime call to my son-in-law for some assistance in formatting the print book. He’s a sweetheart. I ordered the print cover so it should be out in a week or so.
While on the phone I found out my granddaughter baked a cake. She was adding sprinkles to the frosting (lots of sprinkles). We celebrate each new book release with a cake in our house. Apparently, they are celebrating my release too in Ecuador. I didn’t bake. I bought a Boston Creme Pie, which is actually not a pie but a cake. Yummy!!!
Time has passed quickly since my last post. I hope you have enjoyed your summer and been able to stay out of the smoke and/or floods. The fires have been nasty. (We have now covered the weather. Should we discuss the roads?)
My Mom has kept both John and me hopping. We had a lovely visit from our daughter Jennifer and her family. While they were here, Mom decided she wanted the whole house refreshed with new paint and flooring. I have to tell you that the rooms look really, really good. I’m so proud of her. She’s lost a ton of weight and she looks good. Although her body is weak, she has a will of iron. I want to be like her when I grow up! We were able to have four-generation photographs taken. They are a treasure.
I am happy to share that I’m finishing the final chapter in my major rewrite of “Letter of the Law”. Oh my, but I do like this so, so, so much better. Apparently, I’m in the mood for adventure because the last chapters are filled with smugglers, ships, dueling pistols, and kidnapping.
What? Whatever are you up to, Joy King? Have you lost your marbles? Not entirely. In all honesty, life’s circumstances had robbed me of a bit of my joy. Now that things have leveled off in our personal life, I was able to recall why I like writing so much. Thus, why not make it fun? I simply could not resist. Darcy is quite the hero. Elizabeth Bennet is a hoot. Wickham had to resort to drugs to keep wily Lizzy B. from escaping. (Maybe he should have taken the laudanum instead of giving it to her. Hmmm! That’s an idea!)
So, here’s the plan. John just left to get dinner so I can stay at my computer to finish this chapter. I’ll do a quick reread then it’s off for editing. I’m going to crack the whip to get this back as quickly as possible. My son-in-law installed an amazing program on my computer where I can format my own books to look professionally done. If I can’t figure it out I’ll send it off to Marie Force’s formatting fairies (yes, that’s what they call themselves). The cover is finished so I’m hoping to have this available on Amazon shortly. Then I will format the print book. The audiobook will be later in the year.
Whew! I’m worn out just typing this. Not really. It’s just my lungs trying to filter out the ashes so I can get some oxygen particles to my brain. Anyway, I’m off to type. Have a joyful rest of your week.
We received another blow today concerning my Mom’s health. Therefore, please excuse my absence from social media. I will still pull this story from this site on Sunday or Monday and will try to get it out. I just don’t have the heart for it right now. Thank you for your understanding.