You would think that in a time of quarantine, the available time to do things would actually increase. Umm, yeah… NOT! It somehow seems I have less time than ever. Life for me really hasn’t changed, as I work from home and have for years. The real difference is I have a lot more of my family underfoot during the day, which likely accounts for how I seem to be lacking in time lately.
We had planned to go to Japan this year to visit my wife’s family and do a bit of traveling in the country. My kids went every year when they were younger, but my two eldest are old enough now that they actually have responsibilities in the summer. The past few years it has been my wife and daughter, and we figured it would be nice to go over as a family, for maybe the last time. The pandemic put an end to that, unfortunately. Hopefully we can do it next year.
Anyway, I know this isn’t what you’ve tuned in to see. I promised you an excerpt, and here we go. It’s from my current project which is nearing completion. As usual the cover is in progress, and I don’t even have something rough I feel comfortable in sharing. More on that to come. The scene I will share with you is from Jane’s wedding to Mr. Bingley. While the characters have not changed for the most part, there is a significant difference in the constitution of the Bennet sisters, and one other major divergence, which will become evident as you read. I hope you enjoy this little slice of what is to come!
The church was, as expected, filled with well-wishers, all eager to witness the joining of the long-acknowledge jewel of the county with the most eligible man any had seen in many years. The Longbourn party, with the exception of those playing a part in the ceremony, filed into the church. Within a few moments, Elizabeth, noting that Mr. Bingley had taken his place in front of the altar and seeing the signal given for the bride to enter, shared one final embrace with her sister and made her way down the aisle to where a grinning Mr. Bingley waited, clearly at ease, as he winked as she approached.
To his side stood a tall man, dark of hair yet fair of countenance, standing a little to the side, watching the proceedings with nary a hint of his feelings visible. The long-awaited Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth presumed, she inspected him as unobtrusively as she could manage, noting the erectness of his posture and the excellence of his tailored suit. Mr. Darcy was, Elizabeth decided soon after, one of the most handsome men she had ever seen, though in the small neighborhood in which she lived and the limited opportunities to visit London, that was, perhaps, not saying much. Even so, Elizabeth could imagine few men could be more blessed than Mr. Darcy.
The ceremony progressed as most such occasions usually did, and Elizabeth endeavored to favor the parson with her attention. The vows were requested and given, the parson pronounced Jane a new bride, and soon the service ended. With beaming smiles, the newly married couple came together and made their way down the aisle and out to the entrance where the register awaited them. Following them, Elizabeth walked on the arm of a man to whom she had never been introduced.
With a hint of sentimentality making her eyes mist over, Elizabeth watched as Jane signed her maiden name, resigning it forever in favor of her husband’s. Then she proceeded forward with Mr. Darcy, signing her name in turn after the gentleman signed his. Elizabeth noted his hand was masculine, but fine, with precise letters, unlike Mr. Bingley’s illegible scribble. Then she stood with Mr. Darcy, wondering if it was entirely proper, despite their positions, standing up for bride and groom, to remain so close without an introduction. It was fortunate that Mr. Bingley came to the rescue.
“I say, Darcy, I declare you have not been introduced to your escort for the day.”
The gentleman gave his friend an understated smile. “Nor have I been introduced to your new bride, Bingley.”
Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth decided at that moment, should smile more often. Then again, such a devastating weapon should be hidden away, unleashed only when it might do the most damage. The hearts of maidens the length and breadth of England might be broken forever by the mere sight of it!
“Right you are!” exclaimed Mr. Bingley, who proceeded to correct the oversight.
It was curious, as Mr. Bingley and Jane turned away to receive the well-wishes of those who crowded around them, that Mr. Darcy seemed to shy away from them. Elizabeth, tasked with remaining with the gentleman as she was, watched him, noting his countenance betrayed little, even as he opened his mouth only when required. For a moment, she wondered if this man considered himself above his company, with his great estate and connections to the nobility.
Then she chanced to see a nervous glance at a lady who pushed past him, and Elizabeth realized that he was only uncomfortable in company. Her feelings, which had been turning negative toward this enigmatic man reversed, and it became a matter of importance for her to see to his comfort. Thus, when the company began to move forward, walking toward Longbourn, she spoke to him.
“That is Sir William Lucas,” said she, pointing to the knight who was walking just before them, congratulating Mr. Bingley in his expansive way. “Though he was not born a gentleman, Sir William takes it upon himself to be the community’s spokesman and the font of all civility. When one gets to know him, he is harmless, though his continual comments concerning St. James’s court tend to become a little tiresome.”
Mr. Darcy, who had looked to Elizabeth with surprise when she first spoke, nodded in his grave manner. “I believe I have heard him speak of it at least twice since we began to walk.”
“So you have,” replied Elizabeth, chuckling. “Everyone esteems Sir William. Even my father, who was a man able to tolerate the society of few men with equanimity held a particular fondness for Sir William.”
“Your father was a studier of character?”
“To the despair of us all, at times,” replied Elizabeth.
“My condolences, Miss Elizabeth. When did your father pass?”
“Almost two years gone, sir,” replied Elizabeth, feeling that familiar pang enter her heart. “I miss him, though the passage of time has made it easier to bear.”
“It has been five since my father passed. As such, I can confirm your words, though I will note the pain never disappears altogether.”
With a nod, Elizabeth turned her attention to another. “Walking by Sir William’s side is his eldest daughter, Charlotte. Charlotte is seven and twenty, if she is a day, and seems destined to be a spinster. But she is good-hearted and kind, intelligent and practical. If not for the difference in our ages, I suspect we might have been very good friends.”
Mr. Darcy’s eyes once again caught Elizabeth’s. “Pardon me if it is an impertinent question; I presume you are still young?”
“I am nineteen in July, Mr. Darcy,” replied Elizabeth, her smile telling the gentleman she was not offended. “I am the youngest of my sisters, the last remaining at Longbourn, though not the last remaining unmarried Bennet.”
Seeming to consider this, Mr. Darcy said: “I understand there are several of you.”
“Five altogether,” replied Elizabeth, trying not to laugh. “The only one not present is my second eldest sister, Lydia, who lives overseas with her husband, an officer.”
“It is difficult to be sundered from family, especially when that family is far overseas. My cousin is a colonel and member of the dragoons, and while he has never been stationed at such a great distance, he has seen action on the continent. I miss him very much when he is gone.”
“Yes, that is true,” said Elizabeth. “My sister has been parted from us for some years now, and while being sundered is regretful, the difference in our ages and characters rendered a close relationship between us problematic. Though my elder sisters may have a different opinion, the separation has not been as trying for me.”
Whether Mr. Darcy understood the underlying currents in Elizabeth’s words she could not say, for he contented himself with a nod in reply. As they walked, and after they reached Longbourn, Elizabeth continued to speak to Mr. Darcy, informing him of the people of the neighborhood she had known all her life. In time, she felt that Mr. Darcy’s discomfort lessened, though his reticence remained; knowing something of the people surrounding him, rather than remaining ignorant of them, made them less mysterious and more real, she thought. When others approached them, Elizabeth introduced the gentleman to their acquaintance and assumed the burden of the conversation herself. It was the least she could do, for this could not be the sort of society with which Mr. Darcy was familiar.
Has it intrigued you? I realize I’ve probably raised more questions than answered, but that’s the fun of it! If Elizabeth is the youngest and Lydia the second eldest, where do the others fit in? (Hint: Lydia and Elizabeth have not simply exchanged positions.) And what of Mr. Collins? To discover this and more, you will need to wait until release date, currently scheduled for June 18.