Well, I planned to share chapter two of my work in progress today, but as the story progressed, I came to see it could benefit from a prologue. I thought it was better to share this excerpt before chapter two. Prologues were frequently used by the ancient Greeks. In Greek plays, they were rather important. They often took the place of the first act by setting up the action. A character, often a deity, would address the audience directly, filling them in on the events that had occurred leading up to the first scene. Mine doesn’t go that far. Instead it is meant to give you a glimpse into the start of an event that will later play an important role in this tale and the mental state of those involved.
Hertfordshire, England 1790
With a low whistle the wind blew through the crack under the front door. Timbers, the family cat, had been sitting just inside the threshold. She mewed indignantly as the cool air ruffled her fur, then stood and stretched before leisurely moving to the opposite corner of the foyer. When she passed over the loose floorboard, the wood released a shrill squeak.
Mr. Bennet listened from his seat on the steps. He appreciated these small sounds. Anything was better than the deafening silence that had befallen the household after the death of his son.
How was it possible to grow so attached to a baby after only three weeks? He shook his head. To claim it had taken three weeks was an affront to the memory of the boy. It had taken mere seconds to bond with Thomas. The moment the child had been placed in his hands, his heart had expanded and filled with love. The first time he’d peered into his son’s inky blue eyes, he saw their future together—teaching the boy his letters, showing him how to ride a horse, preparing him for his future as the Master of Longbourn. It was as if a magical door had opened and revealed a glimpse into their bright and happy future. Only, it was a future that would never be.
He ran his fingers through his hair. Wearily, he looked over his shoulder at the room at the top of the stairs. His wife lay just inside. Since he couldn’t hear her muffled sobs, she must have fallen asleep. These days, sleeping only came to her courtesy of a strong dose of laudanum. A new wave of sadness crashed around him. The doctor had prepared him for the grief of losing Thomas, but no one had told him that the baby’s death would also rob him of his wife.
When they began their courtship, Bennet had received ample warnings and came to understand his relatives’ concerns. Sarah Gardiner could be silly, foolish, and even brash, but she was also full of life. She was the light of every party, the first in the town to greet a new neighbor, and she refused to allow propriety to prevent her from enjoying God’s precious gift. That zest, that excitement bubbled out of her continuously. She never stopped talking and was in constant motion.
At times, Bennet, a quiet, reserved gentleman, had found living surrounded by such joyous energy was a challenge. More than once he’d complained about it. But deep down, that very spark was what had attracted him to her. He never imagined such a bright flame could be distinguished—at least not until the day she gave birth to a boy and discovered he was never meant to stay with them on Earth.
The floorboard creaked once more, drawing Bennet’s attention. Mrs. Hill stood before him. Her features were somber.
“I don’t mean to overstep my place, Mr. Bennet, but I’m concerned about the misses.”
He stared at her, unsure of the appropriate response. He struggled to navigate emotions under the best of circumstances.
She cleared her throat. “You… you still have Miss Jane to think about. It isn’t right for her to see her parents this way. She is a sensitive child who is dealing with her own pain.”
Exhausted, he was at the end of his rope. Mrs. Hill was right. This situation could not continue, but he didn’t have a solution.
“What do I do?” he asked. He sounded like a child struggling in the ocean, reaching for a life raft.
“If you don’t mind me saying so, you have always gotten your strength from your books and this place.” She spread her arms out wide. “But sitting in this big house isn’t doing Mrs. Bennet any good. She needs to be near people. She needs to get out. You need to send her to stay with her sister in Brighton.”
“But what about Jane?” Even as he asked the question, he knew he must heed Mrs. Hill’s advice. His family stood at a crucial fork in the road. If they continued on this path, his would be a bleak marriage, and Jane would grow up as a lonely, only child. But if this worked, if he could get his Sarah back, maybe things could return to the way they were.
“I will help watch the child,” Mrs. Hill assured him.
“In that case, I will write to Mr. Phillips,” he replied. He stood and went to his study.