I cannot believe four weeks have passed since my last post here on Austen Authors. I must confess, I have been writing up a storm and have about two more chapters left on Compromise and Consequence. Originally, this story was to end at around seventy thousand words, but today… I reached ninety-five thousand. I have no idea where the ideas are coming from, but I would rather have that than writer’s block.
I believe part of the fun has been torturing Caroline Bingley. I have three scenes where she is foiled in her quest to impress Mr. Darcy. I shared her comeuppance in the tea shop with Lady Matlock and – given that we do love to see her nose rubbed in it – I will share one more excerpt before my baby sees the light of day in the big, bad world of publishing.
Author’s Note: Elizabeth is the owner of Netherfield Park and very few people are aware. The Bingley’s are invited for a night of cards and games at Darcy House for Twelfth Night. Jane and Colonel Fitzwilliam are also there. This scene is also seriously pared down from the original text. I did not want to keep you here ALL day reading. ?
“My dear Miss Bennet, I am so worried for you,” Miss Bingley exclaimed. Jane said nothing but gave Miss Bingley her undivided attention. “I worry that you have reached a certain age with no hint of a marriage prospect.”
“Miss Bingley, how thoughtful to concern yourself with something you are so very familiar with,” Elizabeth interjected herself into the conversation with a smile as fake as Caroline’s. “How do your prospects fare?”
“My prospects are none of your concern, Miss Eliza,” Miss Bingley said, her nostrils flaring in anger. “Pray, excuse my interference. It was kindly meant.”
“I am sure it was. Whilst I am sure Jane appreciates your interest, you may safely set your concerns aside. She has received an offer of marriage.”
“She has?” The officious orange shrouded prig dared raise a hand to her throat as though such a notion was beyond belief.
“Indeed, however, she turned the gentleman down. That was when both of us swore we would only marry for the greatest of love.”
“How… quaint.” Caroline cast a coy glance at Mr. Darcy. “Did you keep your self-made promise and marry for love, Miss Eliza?”
She had the audacity to snigger and covered her mouth with her fingers and turned her attention back to Jane. She critiqued the cut and color of her gown to the way she styled her hair. Nothing escaped her notice. Through it all, Jane remained frightfully quiet, and still. Oh, so very still. Finally, Elizabeth had enough.
“Colonel, would you help me with something?”
“What might that be, Mrs. Darcy? A more handsome husband? A larger home?”
“I have no need of another husband, nor of a larger house. In penning a note to your mother, I was stymied over a word selection.”
“You, stymied?” Mr. Bingley exclaimed. “You are the most well-read lady I have ever come across.”
“I needed a word for caustic language or unwarranted criticism. It was on the tip of my tongue, swirling about, but I cannot, for the life of me, remember that word.”
“Vitriol, dearest,” Jane said from her chair and almost everyone swiveled to look at her. These were the first words she’d spoken voluntarily all evening. “The word you are looking for is vitriol.”
“Of course! How could I forget, given the company we are in this evening?”
She turned her hard gaze to Caroline who had become as still as a garden statue. “I am sure you have heard that word before Miss Bingley, in your travels about town and visits to obscure little tea shops.”
From the corner of her eye, she noticed her husband’s raised brow at the warning shot she lobbed across the bow of Miss Bingley’s boat and cared not. He allowed this viper in their home and more the fool was he if he did not think she’d protect her family from its deadly venom of hatred and contempt.
“I am not sure I have, Mrs. Darcy.” Miss Bingley replied, her chin jutting out in defiance.
Good, the little snake knew exactly what she inferred.
“Fear not, Miss Bingley. I will not belabor the matter. Instead, I need not send the note as I will see her ladyship tomorrow evening at the theater. She is such a delightful person, very caring and protective of her family.” She turned her attention to the colonel who watched with ill-concealed glee. “Is that not so, Colonel?”
“Very protective, Mrs. Darcy. In that regard, you have much in common.” Upon that declaration, he approached Jane. “Would you care to take a turn about the room with me, Miss Bennet?”
The relief and appreciation in Jane’s eyes touched Elizabeth’s heart. She was so thankful she had asked Mr. Darcy to invite his cousin. With great pleasure, she noted the way he tucked Jane’s arm against his body and covered her delicate hand with his large one.
“What play are you attending, Darcy?” Mr. Bingley asked, his gaze following Jane and the colonel. “Mayhap we could join you.”
“My box is at capacity as both Georgiana and Richard have consented to join us for the evening along with Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle.”
“We shall be such a merry party,” Elizabeth enthused.
“Is that your family from Cheapside, Eliza?”
“As a matter of fact, Caro, they are my cousin Jane’s family.”
“I do not understand. Are you not Miss Bennet’s sister?”
“Mr. Bennet is my late father’s elder brother. The connection to Aunt and Uncle Gardiner is through Mrs. Bennet, although I think of them as my own flesh and blood.” Elizabeth slid her glance to Jane to see how she fared, relieved to see the return of her familiar serenity. “Regardless of how we are acquainted, I love them dearly.”
“My goodness. So many cousins trotting about,” Miss Bingley tittered, apparently feeling the danger to her social standing and the wrath of Lady Matlock had passed. “What next, a disclosure that you are somehow related to Mr. Wickham?”
Elizabeth knew it was her overactive imagination, but she almost heard her husband snap to attention at the mention of Mr. Wickham. What a ninny-hammer Miss Bingley was, trying to cause more trouble by mentioning the name of that man in her husband’s presence.
“Mrs. Darcy,” the colonel interjected smoothly from the far side of the room, showing that even though he walked with Jane he had not tuned out their conversation. “Have you any information with regard to your estate? Have you found new tenants to lease the property?”
“What! You own property!” Miss Bingley’s mouth started to hang open in surprise, but she caught herself and clamped it shut.
“I inherited an estate from my father when he died.”
“How clever to rent it out. I am sure there are plenty of people who, in a feeble attempt to drag themselves out of the gutter of trade and mediocrity, seek small estates to lend themselves an air of credibility.”
“My current lease holder’s fortune came from trade.” Elizabeth struggled to contain her mirth. “And made it very obvious their intention was to increase their social worth, by any and all means. At least, that is my perception of them.”
“And where is your little estate?”
“In Hertfordshire, and it is not a small estate. You might say it is on par with Netherfield Park.”
“How convenient. Is this estate close to your family’s home in Merybell and Longbird?”
“Would you, perchance, be referring to Meryton and Longbourn?”
“Yes,” Caroline said with a sniff and wave of her hand. “The name of that provincial little town always escapes me.”
“My estate is quite close, Miss Bingle. We are practically neighbors.”
“My name is Miss Bingley.”
“I am aware, Miss Biggley.”
“Did we meet your tenants whilst there?” Mr. Bingley asked, his worried gaze flicking between his sister and the newly minted wife of his best friend.
“Mrs. Darcy,” her husband said, his patience clearly coming to an end. “You will refer to my wife as Mrs. Darcy.”
Miss Bingley opened her mouth as if to speak again when Jane and the colonel finished their circuit and he said, “Come sit by me, Miss Bennet and I will tell you all about my forays into the wilds of Spain.”
“I have heard Spain is quite beautiful.” Jane allowed the colonel to seat her on the empty settee before lowering his large frame next to hers.
“Would anyone care for another cup of tea?” Elizabeth offered in a bright voice. “I have a delicious Oolong I purchased a few weeks ago. Miss Bingle? Tea?”
“I do not care for a cup of Oolong tea,” Miss Bingley forced out between thin lips.
“I would love another, Mrs. Darcy,” Mr. Bingley almost sighed and looked at Jane with what could only be described as sad puppy eyes.
Look for Compromise & Consequence to come out before the end of the month. I will make sure to post on the Austen Author’s Facebook Page when it is available.