Excerpt from my work in progress, by Cinnamon Worth

Excerpt from my work in progress, by Cinnamon Worth

Uh-Oh… looks like another excerpt

I just looked at the calendar and realized it was time for my monthly blog. I had something I’d meant to write about, but time got away from me. So, because of a busy month and poor planning, today I’m sharing an excerpt from my current work in progress. Since I posted chapter one last, I thought I’d give you chapter two. If you missed chapter one, you will find it here.

Chapter 2

The unmistakable crunch of carriage wheels grew louder. Elizabeth Bennet hopped off the road and tucked herself behind the trunk of a large oak tree. After the vehicle had passed, she leaned out far enough to steal a glance, hoping to confirm her suspicions. The carriage was the very one that had brought Mr. Darcy to Rosings Park. She couldn’t be certain he was also the current occupant, but it mattered not. His departure was imminent, and she could avoid him for the day, if need be.

Elizabeth straightened her back and stretched. In the stillness, she heard a series of tiny chirps. She pulled back a tree branch and found a nest that was less than half the size of her fist. Two hatchlings stared at her with wide eyes and open beaks. Though their voices were small, they appeared to be putting all of their energy into their plaintive cries.

Something is distressing them.

She looked around and discovered a featherless bird peering up at her from the ground. Elizabeth knelt down and examined him. He was indistinguishable from the two birds in the nest. With a gentle touch, she scooped him up and returned him to the nest. Her enjoyment of the family reunion was soon interrupted.

“Miss Bennet?” Colonel Fitzwilliam slipped between two bushes and climbed up the bank toward her. “Why are you standing in the shrubbery? Is all well?”

Her cheeks warmed. Does he know what had transpired yesterday?

“A… a carriage approached, and I stepped out of the way—the road is so narrow, after all.”

Richard reached out one arm and braced himself against the tree. He lowered his head and groaned.

“Does something trouble you, Colonel?”

He nodded. “I missed the carriage. Business called my cousin to London, and I’d hoped to have a word with him before he left. It seems I am too late.”

Elizabeth silently thanked Mr. Darcy. If he had mentioned his proposal and her subsequent rejection to anyone, it would have been the man before her, but the colonel appeared oblivious. For that, she was grateful. But she was even more pleased Mr. Darcy had cut his visit short, even if only by a single day. Doing so had spared them both from any further awkward interactions.

“Then his departure was sudden?” she asked, feigning surprise.

Richard nodded his response.

“Your aunt must be disappointed,” Elizabeth said.

“Very much so. It will now fall to me to entertain her, and I am a poor substitute for Darcy. Had I the courage, I’d have left with him.”
She lifted an eyebrow.

“She can be quite formidable when she wishes it. Darcy received a thorough tongue lashing when he told her of his premature departure. I could never be that brave. I have gone into battle, but the thought of defying my aunt’s wishes causes me to tremble in my boots.”

“You exaggerate, sir. Besides, are you not also leaving quite soon?”

“You are correct on both accounts. I go tomorrow, and my aunt can, on occasion, be the very definition of grace. But her mood has declined, and without my cousin to distract her from the mundane, I must enlist help from the rectory.”

Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak, but as if her companion could read her mind, he said, “Now, I do not mean Mr. Collins, although I am certain he would offer his services.”

Her gaze lingered on the path that led to the rectory. “Charlotte is a dutiful wife. I am sure you can count on her support.”

She winced. Societal forces had convinced Charlotte to marry, but Elizabeth still struggled with the injustice of it. Charlotte deserved better, yet her buffoon of a husband continued to regard his new bride as inferior in every way, simply because the total of his birthright exceeded her dowry.
She pursed her lips. In that regard, Mr. Darcy was no better than Mr. Collins.

“Yes, Mrs. Collins is most accommodating, but my aunt was promised fresh victims. The parsonage borders Rosings Park. She can accost the Collinses at will. Visitors, however, bring different perspectives and have not yet heard of my cousin Anne’s many accomplishments.” Although his tone held no hint of sarcasm, he lifted one edge of his lips.

Elizabeth did not find humor in his words.

That was the first time I witnessed such unbecoming behaviors in your younger sisters. And then—the way your mother declared Miss Bennet a superior beauty. Of course, I was mortified on your behalf, but I was also grateful for the reminder that our families are so ill-suited. Had you been less witty or less humble, reason might have protected my heart; but the more I found myself in your company, the further I fell under your spell, despite such horrible breaches of propriety shown by the members of your family.

Tears prickled in the corners of her eyes. She blinked them away.

Lady Catherine is no worse than Mama.

She shook her head to clear her thoughts. Mr. Darcy was a cruel, vindictive man. She would not permit his words to cause her to doubt her own family.

“As the daughter of a country squire, I rarely have opportunities to meet eligible gentlemen, but given my limited experience, I imagine that offered the choices open to men, most women would remain unmarried. Unfortunately, women in our society have few options. Mothers are more keenly aware of this than anyone. Can we fault them for trying to ensure their daughters’ virtues are acknowledged, especially if one has a daughter who is shy?”

Richard nodded. “I see your point. At least my cousin does not tout her own accomplishments. When a mother does, although not ideal, it is, perhaps, justified. But Aunt Catherine also has a tendency to promote herself, and that is wholly unacceptable.”

The image of her sister Mary playing piano and singing during the Netherfield ball fluttered through Elizabeth’s consciousness. Heat filled her cheeks. She bit her lip and hummed, “Um-hmm.”

With a furrowed brow, Richard said, “I have been too critical in my assessment of my aunt and have upset you. I’m ashamed. It was ungentlemanly of me. She means well, and given her age and health of her daughter, she has little opportunity to meet new people. Remaining isolated can damage one’s social skills. I, however, have no such excuse. I owe her my respect and kindness; instead, I have used her shortcomings for selfish purposes. You see, I enjoy your company and thought an appeal to your sense of charity might encourage you to spend the day with me at Rosings Park.”

“No. Please do not misunderstand. You have not upset me. I… I slept poorly, but if it is my company you seek, you shall have it.” She smiled to prove she had no hard feelings. “After all, you have made spending time with Lady Catherine sound most appealing. I cannot fathom how anyone could refuse.”

He offered his arm, and the two stepped onto the road. Bushes lined their path, and the bright red berries stood out against the foliage. The air smelled sweet, as if the rain had washed away the unpleasant scents, and the wind carried forth the fragrance of fresh blooms. How had she failed to notice such details earlier? Had the prior day’s events weighed so heavily on her mind?

A gale passed them, blowing Elizabeth’s bonnet off her head.

Richard step away from her and caught the errant item before it touched the ground. As he handed it back, he said, “Winds that strong suggest a storm is coming. We should quicken our pace.”

Elizabeth pulled on her hat.

Richard pointed to it. “I know little of women’s clothing, but my sister sometimes adds ribbons. She ties the ends below her chin. I once asked her why and was told it makes it infinitely harder for the wind to unsettle her bonnets.”

Elizabeth’s jaw tightened. Lydia.

“Normally, I also employ that method, but it seems the ribbon I had threaded through this bonnet went missing just before I left home. Maybe someone thought it needed to be washed. I hope to stop by town to secure another before returning home.”

She had fibbed to avoid acknowledging her youngest sister’s habit of taking things. When Mr. Darcy had enumerated her family’s many flaws, it was Lydia’s name that was most frequently mentioned. In her anger, Elizabeth had rallied to her sister’s defense. She is still young, and the rules of decorum are more relaxed in the country. But as her anger subsided, she could admit Mr. Darcy’s assessment was not fully inaccurate. Lydia was an embarrassment, and if nothing was done about it, the whole family could suffer.

“Colonel, earlier you attributed Lady Catherine’s… um… unique style of interacting to her isolation. Do you think isolation is always detrimental? You see, I know someone,” she paused. She was not about to admit it was her own sister, “A… a girl in my village who busies herself befriending everyone she meets. Some greatly admired her enthusiasm and friendliness, but an acquaintance of mine pointed out her behavior was inappropriate. Do you think such a person would benefit from solitude and self-reflection?”

“That depends. Can you give me an example?”

“Most recently, several members of the militia have been staying in our village. As a soldier who travels often, I am sure you recognize how lonely these men must be. My friend has gained acquaintance with these men and has tried to ensure we include them in both her family and village functions. While I applaud her kindness and recognize it as an act of charity, women are expected to be demure. She has done nothing scandalous, but some might view her interactions as… unseemly.”

“How do you feel about the matter?”

“I fear her behavior could hurt her chances for a respectable courtship and might reflect badly on those she is close to. Her friendly overtures border on flirtation.” Elizabeth winced. “And in her exuberance,m she can appear boisterous, which is not a trait encouraged in women.”

Richard nodded and took several steps in silence. “Your description reminds me of a young woman I once met. She was a servant girl who worked for a family that is very dear to me. The Mistress of the estate found her liveliness enchanting.”

His words calmed Elizabeth’s fears, for given the Colonel’s connections, this response suggested she had judged Lydia too harshly.

The colonel lowered his voice and gazed at the ground. “My parents have always treated their servants with kindness, but they have also been careful to establish boundaries. This family had a tendency to overindulge their servants, which resulted in loyalty from members of their staff. Sometimes, however, it had disastrous consequences for both the family and the servant.”

Elizabeth’s pulse quickened. I knew Papa’s overindulgence could ruin her.

“In this woman’s case, she fell pregnant and had to be dismissed.”

Elizabeth gasped, then noticing her companion’s expression said, “I apologize. I did not imagine coquettishness and harmless flattery could cause such dire consequences.”

“I do not mean to suggest Rosie’s behavior alone led to such an outcome. Unbeknownst to those living there, the estate was also home to a snake. The steward was a noble man, who had a son graced with such happy manners that he had charmed and was beloved by the family. Below the surface, however, he lacked all honor. She accused him of forcing himself upon her, but he convinced them she was lying, pointing out her earlier behaviors similar to those you’ve described. Hence, the family believed him.”

“How do you know the truth of things?”

“Several years later, after the estate passed to a new generation, the true nature of the young man became obvious. I cannot say what he did, but the family was further injured by his actions.”

Elizabeth frowned. “How awful.”

“Yes,” Richard said with a nod. “It is a tragic story, and it pains me to share it. As a cautionary tale, I do so. If you can, encourage your friend to refrain from such friendly public displays. Women are subject to scrutiny, and people have long memories. But there are dangers for your friend beyond not being believed. I’ve often suspected, in the case I’ve described, Rosie was not entirely truthful. I suspect the steward’s son seduced her. This does not absolve him of blame. She was young and naïve. He could have manipulated her and should have taken responsibility. But it leads me to a second point. Men who lack honor often target the naïve. If your friend is not aware of how her behavior appears, she too might appear easy prey to such men.”

The parson’s house came into view, and Charlotte stood in the garden waving.

Elizabeth thanked the Colonel for accompanying her home.

“I do not need your gratitude. I need you to visit my aunt.”

With a smile, Elizabeth assured him. “You will receive re-enforcements soon. Come calling hours, all of those at the parsonage will descend upon Rosings Park.”

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Caryl Kane
Caryl Kane
March 27, 2022 9:13 PM

I’m all astonishment!

March 27, 2022 4:41 PM

Great excerpt!

Robin G.
Robin G.
March 23, 2022 1:06 PM

This looks to be a wonderful story, thank you for sharing these excerpts with us!

March 23, 2022 12:16 PM

Now if only the Colonel had mentioned Wickham by name! Come on Elizabeth, put two and two together, you know the Colonel is Darcy’s cousin and is familiar with his estate etc, you also know that Wickham was the steward’s son and is apparently charming! Use your common sense! You definitely need to put an end to Lydia’s flirting somehow!

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
March 23, 2022 8:37 AM

As always, I look forward to reading your work! This one, especially, as I like a story where the letter was not so pivotal in how Elizabeth starts to feel about Mr.Darcy. can’t wait to read more.

Kirstin Odegaard
March 22, 2022 1:07 PM

Oooh, Mr. Darcy is no better than Mr. Collins. Good one, Elizabeth.

Great excerpt!

March 22, 2022 10:43 AM

Wow! What revelations about her family Elizabeth is feeling! Will there more? Will be waiting patiently for the release …

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
March 22, 2022 10:33 AM

Oh-My-Goodness! Will Elizabeth put two and two together and come up with the SBRB [scum-bag-rat-bastard] as the culprit? Were there enough clues to help her decide? I am looking forward to reading more of this. Blessings.

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
March 22, 2022 7:57 AM

Awesome excerpt, very sweet!

Regina Jeffers
March 22, 2022 6:36 AM

What a lovely excerpt, Cinnamon.

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