In November 2020, I discussed two work-in-progress stories I had underway: Something to Think Of (STTO) and Crossed a Little in Love (CLIL). I mentioned both stories will introduce competition for Mr. Darcy, and I shared an excerpt from the former which introduces competition for both Darcy and Bingley. Among the scores of diversions that I encountered in the ensuing months was the completion and release of Christmas, Love and Mr. Darcy. I’m thrilled to have that story done because I can get back to the STTO and CLIL. Until I decide which story will be my next release, I plan to split my writing time between both. So far, STTO will be a novella (fewer than 30,000 words) and CLIL will be a novel (more than 50,000 words).
Here’s another excerpt from Something to Think Of that I hope you’ll enjoy:
Chapter 3 – Something to Think Of
Until that moment, Elizabeth had not realized how much she was depending on the gentleman caller being Mr. Bingley. More than that, how much she was hoping the other gentleman would be Mr. Darcy. Her heart sank. Then her eyes fell on Jane, whose own eyes were full of joy.
Elizabeth did not hear the Gardiners’ housekeeper present the visitors. At least she did not hear the older woman clearly. Her busy mind was frantically engaged in conjecture and speculation of how she could have been so wrong. Before she knew what she was about, the housekeeper had retreated from the drawing-room, and she and Jane sat opposite two very agreeable strangers.
When the gentlemen were gone, Elizabeth said, “Jane, you are very sly. Not once did you mention your having met Mr. Hemmingsworth in your letters to me while I was in Kent?”
“Dearest Lizzy,” Jane began, her voice filled with more joyfulness than contrition, “pray you will forgive me. Not that I did not want to tell you. I just did not know how to tell you.”
“Whatever does that mean, Jane?” Elizabeth asked. “You know you can tell me anything.”
Jane nodded. “I know, but I was afraid if I spoke of my new acquaintance, you might think of me as being capricious.”
“Do you mean regarding your affection for Mr. Bingley?”
“You always thought his feelings for me were greater than I did. I did not wish to disappoint you.”
“I am sorry I caused you to feel you could not share your budding feelings for Mr. Hemmingsworth with me. I should have liked to have known.”
Elizabeth spoke nothing but the truth in saying that. Part of her ill feelings towards Mr. Darcy had to do with his part in separating Jane and his friend Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth recalled having argued to him that Jane’s attachment to Mr. Bingley was strong, even though Mr. Darcy had stated that he had detected no such sentiments on Jane’s part.
Is it possible that I may have been mistaken? Jane, herself, had suggested an attachment between Mr. Bingley and her evidently was not meant to be despite my observations to the contrary.
Was I wrong to attribute my sister’s sentiments as her way of protecting her broken heart? I, better than anyone, understand Jane’s penchant to hide her true feelings from everyone. Only those who know her best have an inkling of what she is feeling.
On the other hand, I cannot deny the events that had just unfolded.
Based on all Elizabeth observed, Jane was very fond of Mr. Hemmingsworth. Not only did her elder sister smile a lot, but she also laughed. Elizabeth told her sister as much. She asked when and how the two of them met.
“Oh, you will never believe the odd confluence of events that led to my meeting him. Ironically, there is a connection to Mr. Bingley himself.”
“Mr. Bingley?” Elizabeth asked, her voice a mixture of intrigue and concern. “What does your meeting Mr. Hemmingsworth have to do with Mr. Bingley?”
“Well, just over a fortnight ago, while I was attending the theater with our aunt and uncle, I espied Mr. Bingley.”
“You did? Why did you not mention this in your letters? Did the two of you have a chance to speak?”
Jane shook her head. “We did not. I was sitting in the lower level, and I noticed him high above in one of the private boxes. Of course, he could not have seen me. It appears the young lady seated next to him was all that caught his eye. The prospect of it all was a bit too much for me to bear.
“I excused myself from my party and hastened into the hallway. Not paying attention to where I was going, I collided with Mr. Hemmingsworth.” Jane covered her mouth with her hand to hide her smile. “Oh! Lizzy, I have never been more embarrassed in all my life, so much so I burst into tears.”
Elizabeth’s own smile widened. “And then what happened?”
“I am afraid things only got worse, for he was holding a drink in his hand–a burgundy wine, no less. I caused him to spill his drink on his crisp white cravat. Aghast, I somehow retrieved a handkerchief from my purse, and I started dabbing spilled wine from his cravat, which undoubtedly made it worse. Fortunately, there was no one around to observe my impetuous behavior.”
Jane’s composure grew uncharacteristically animated. She continued, “I knew not what I was about until he took my hand in his and leaned closer.”
Elizabeth’s eyes opened wide. Albeit amused, she stayed silent.
“He then took the handkerchief from me. He said. ‘if you continue to go on in this way, someone is bound to think you are my wife.’”
Elizabeth wanted to know more about Jane’s budding relationship with this new acquaintance. The last time she saw Jane, Elizabeth was sure her sister was head over heels in love with Mr. Charles Bingley and was suffering a broken heart because of his defection.
It seemed that Jane had moved on and rather quickly at that, which posed a conundrum for Elizabeth. Part of her reason for refusing Mr. Darcy’s hand in marriage was because of Jane’s disappointed hopes and his role in causing it.
Elizabeth loved her sister very much, and she wanted her to be happy. She decided to support her sister and find out more about this promising relationship with someone new.
“What did you say?” Elizabeth cried.
“I offered a heartfelt apology, and I begged his forgiveness. At which point, he said he would forgive me on but one condition–that I must tell him my name.”
“How scandalous!” Elizabeth exclaimed half-jokingly, half-seriously. “And then what happened?”
“What else could I do but curtsey and hurry away? I returned to my seat as fast as I could only to find, a little later, that he had followed me, or at least that is what I thought at the time, when all along he was seated directly behind me–he and his brother. For a moment, I thought I was seeing doubles.” Jane laughed a little. “Oh, Lizzy, do you not agree that Mr. Hemmingsworth and his brother are two of the most handsome men you have ever seen?”
Elizabeth could not argue her sister’s point. The two gentlemen were very good-looking indeed–tall, dark, and handsome with dark curls and arresting eyes. Everything about their appearance gave much to admire. What was more, the gentlemen were most congenial.
Were I to guess, I would say they are age four and twenty, perhaps a little older–but certainly not as old as Mr. Darcy, she further considered in silence.
Still, there was a seriousness about the gentlemen that belied their youth. It amazed Elizabeth the ease with which she and the younger brother fell into conversation while Jane spoke with the older.
This characterization of the older versus the younger caused Elizabeth to chuckle inside. The gentlemen had jokingly referred to themselves in those terms, what with their being twins born mere minutes apart. The brotherly affection they shared was evident. Why, they even completed each other’s sentences. The older of the two bore the name Stanford and the younger, Mitchell.
“Jane, that is an interesting initial meeting to be sure. As much as I want to know more, I cannot be satisfied entirely until you tell me what became of Mr. Bingley. Did the two of you ever come face to face that night?”
“No,” Jane said, her voice bearing a slight hint of regret. “I cannot say with certainty what became of Mr. Bingley after that. I am afraid my mind was more agreeably engaged with thoughts of Mr. Hemmingsworth for the rest of the evening.”
For Elizabeth’s part, a hint of disappointment could not be repressed. She had been absolutely persuaded of her sister’s love for Mr. Bingley for so long, perhaps to her own detriment.
Sensing this, Jane cried, “Now, Lizzy, surely you cannot be too disappointed in my saying that. It has been months since Mr. Bingley left Hertfordshire with the promise of returning. Months. You cannot expect me to pine away for him forever.”
“Jane, are you saying you no longer have any feelings at all for Mr. Bingley?”
“No—I am not saying that. What I am saying is that when and if he and I ever do come face to face again, I am sure we shall meet as little more than indifferent acquaintances.”
Elizabeth exhaled a deep sigh in resignation. “If you say so, I have no other choice but to believe you.”
“I say so.”
The younger woman half-smiled. “And here you are weeks later, receiving a morning call from the gentleman and his brother. Tell me, has he called often since making your acquaintance?”
“Yes, he has,” Jane confessed. “He has even dined here at my uncle’s behest. They have several mutual acquaintances in business. However, today was the first time his brother joined him. I believe I owe that particular courtesy to you.”
“Me?” Elizabeth exclaimed with energy.
“Indeed, for I might have mentioned to Mr. Hemmingsworth that you were due to arrive from Kent,” Jane said smilingly.
“Pray, do not tell me you have taken on the role of playing matchmaker, dearest Jane.”
“Well,” Jane began, “he is a single man in possession of a good fortune. I can only suppose he must be in want of a wife.”
Elizabeth said, “That makes two single men with good fortunes in want of wives, does it not?”
Jane smiled. Placing her finger on her chin, she said, “I suppose I never really thought about that.”
“Heavens forbid. No one who knows you best would ever think of you as being mercenary.”
Jane scoffed. “No one other than Miss Caroline Bingley, that is.”
“Oh, let us not spoil this happy moment with thoughts of that miserable woman,” Elizabeth said. “I am much more interested in continuing our discussion of the Hemmingsworth brothers.”
She leaned closer to her sister. “You mentioned the gentlemen’s having good fortunes. Pray, tell me, how wealthy are the Hemmingsworths?”
“Lizzy!” Jane exclaimed.
“What? Let us not pretend that is not the first question our mother will ask once she hears about them. I simply want to know what I ought to say.”
Here’s something to think of: Twin beaus! Surely Mrs. Bennet will go distracted. What say you?
Something to Think Of is being posted on my Patreon page. I invite you to follow along as the story unfolds. Plus, check out all the benefits in store for Patreon supporters for as little as $1 per month.
It looks like springtime is also a time for new book covers. Here are three updates so far.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed paperback edition of either of these three books–winner’s choice. A US mailing address is required to receive the signed paperback, else I will award an ebook edition (eBook offer excludes To Refuse Such a Man while it is enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program).
One book will be awarded. One winner will be chosen. The giveaway contest ends on Tuesday, April 6th. Hurry!