What is a villain?
A villain is an evil real person or a fictional character, whether based on a historical narrative or one of literary fiction. Wikipedia
How important are villains to a story line? Well, consider George Wickham in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Would the story be as interesting if he was NOT included? How bland would Darcy and Georgiana’s lives be without Wickham trying to elope with Darcy’s sister? Even the Bennets’ lives would have been less exciting if Wickham hadn’t actually eloped with Lydia Bennet. Elizabeth also might not have come to appreciate Mr. Darcy as much if he hadn’t been willing to make Wickham marry her sibling and save the reputations of all the Bennet family.
And yet, are all villains as overt in their actions as Mr. Wickham and some others of Jane Austen’s bad buys? Maybe not. In ‘Elizabeth’s Choice’ George Wickham does make an appearance and rues the day he did. But he is not the only one with bad intentions.
Enjoy the following excerpt from ‘Elizabeth’s Choice’ when Elizabeth Darcy is asked to dance with a guest at a friend of Darcy’s whose home they were staying at. Said guest turned out to not be such a nice man after all.
Darcy suppressed a gasp of pleasure at seeing the vision of loveliness his wife presented to him. Her gown of deep green silk complimented the dark brown of her hair with its red highlights. The modiste had trimmed it with a modest amount of lace accentuated with pearls and repeated on the silk ribbon that was threaded through her abundant curls. Her skirt had a sheer overlay of slightly lighter green that shifted color in the glow of the candles and made her look like a fairy princess. My princess.
He whispered, “Elizabeth.” No other words were needed as he took her face gently in his hands and kissed her with all the passion that was in his heart.
When he let her go, and Elizabeth caught her breath, she sighed. “Mr. Darcy, I fear if we do this again, we shall never make it to the ball.”
“I care not for the ball. You know how I feel about dancing. The only one I wish to dance with is you. And staying here and having the pleasure of undressing…”
“Oh, no,” she said playfully. “We have obligations this evening. Misters Byrne, Kelly, and O’Neill have already requested dances as well as Sir Jonathan. But never fear, I told them the first and the supper dances were already taken by my husband.”
“Elizabeth. I want the last dance also.”
She saw the gleam in his eye and knew when the ball was over, the aftermath would be the best part.
“Come, Mr. Darcy. I look forward to the evening and dancing with my husband, and I hope the last dance does not cause a scandal when I dance my third with you.”
She gave him a smile full of promise, and he sighed and bowed to the inevitable: an evening dancing with the other wives. Then he smirked when he contemplated the three dances with his beloved wife. Dancing with Elizabeth was different. It was like being in heaven, and he would tolerate the rest of the evening to have that time with her.
She placed her hand over his extended one, so he could escort her to the ballroom. Elizabeth would have rather placed it around his elbow and snuggled up to him, but it would wrinkle her dress, and that wouldn’t do even before the dancing began.
As they appeared at the top of the stairs, Sir Jonathan and the other three men clapped as they came down the stairs. Elizabeth could feel her face warm, and William knew the tips of his ears were pink.
Abigail approached and said, “Elizabeth, you look lovely. You will be the envy of all the ladies at the ball.”
“Oh, I sincerely hope not. I would not wish for my husband to be calling every man out for the morrow.”
Her hostess giggled then replied, “Surely Mr. Darcy can allow the men one night to admire such a beautiful lady. No?”
“They may look but not touch except for the dancing.” He had such a stern look on his face that Abigail almost thought him serious in his comments. She didn’t know him well enough to be aware he was extremely serious and very protective of Elizabeth.
“May you both have a lovely evening and enjoy the supper. The cooks have outdone themselves in preparing a most delicious meal.” Then she left to join Sir Jonathan in the receiving line.
Darcy sighed. I must remember to keep my mind on the dancing and not worry about Elizabeth. He smirked as he thought of his intelligent wife and knew if any man on the property did not comport himself as a gentleman that she was more than capable of giving him a set down and putting him in his place. Finally, he began to relax and was determined to enjoy the evening.
Elizabeth discovered by the second one that all her dances had been taken, and she was dancing with Mr. Byrne prior to the supper dance, when he made an indecent proposal to her. Elizabeth hesitated only a moment.
When the dance allowed her to speak with him again, she smiled and commented, “How unfortunate for you, Mr. Byrne, that my husband is a jealous man. Just before we were married, he called a man out that insulted me and would have killed him had I not mentioned the imprudence of him doing so. That was the fourth time he has met someone on the field of honor. Mr. Darcy is a very honorable man…and he is an extremely good shot as well as swordsman. I would hate for your wife to become a widow so soon.” All this was said quietly as if they were having a normal conversation.
Byrne blanched and debated abandoning her on the floor but thought her husband would take it as an insult and definitely call him out. So, he staunchly finished the dance with her, escorted her to Darcy, mumbled a thank you, and nearly ran from her presence. Elizabeth was delighted he never approached her again.
“My dear, you look like the cat that ate the cream. Might I inquire as to why?”
“’Tis nothing, William. Simply a ladies’ joke,” she said with a smile.
“Ah.” And he was satisfied with the explanation, much to her relief.
The rest of the evening went well, supper was wonderful, and they enjoyed the last dance knowing what awaited them when they went back to their suite.
Later, with their passion sated, they slept until William was awakened with Elizabeth crying.
“Beloved, what is wrong?”
When she could finally speak, with a hiccup she related the nightmare she had just dreamed.
“It was dreadful. I dreamed of Wickham attacking us again, but this time he killed you and forced me to go with him without caring for your body. It tore me apart to leave you.” And she broke down crying again.
William held her close and rocked her until she fell again into a troubled sleep. He lay awake the rest of the night until well after dawn holding her tightly to him. Will she be well? Should we stay or return home to Pemberley? He would quiz her later and see what she wanted. He would do anything to keep her happy.
Although the day was fair and the wind mild, William chose to stay indoors with Elizabeth. She had had no more nightmares, but she slept poorly. He watched over her all afternoon and nodded off a time or two himself. But he would always wake when she stirred.
“William, what is the hour? Did I miss tea?”
“No matter, my love. Are you hungry? The last time you ate was at the ball.”
“Yes, I am a little bit hungry. Could you have them bring some tea and sandwiches and maybe a piece or two of fruit?”
“’Twould be my pleasure. Do you wish to dress, or should I bring your robe?”
“My robe, please.”
Elizabeth disappeared into the water closet, and when she returned, she washed her face even though the water was cold. William started when she heaved a great sigh.
“Are you unwell?”
“I am better. Thankfully, I had no more nightmares. I did sleep somewhat easy. Perhaps it was something I ate.”
“I am doubtful of that. The incident the other morning will probably stay with us for a while until time erases it. Life-threatening occurrences are not very forgettable. I just wish I could have prevented it.”
“Perhaps it is just as well you did not. I fear Wickham would have been in and out of our lives for years if he were still living. I might have been afraid every day of my life otherwise. As it is, with him dead, we are free of his machinations for the rest of our lives. I cannot regret that. No, ’tis better this way. And one day, I will forget.”
Motioning to her, William took her on his lap, mindful the maid would be returning soon with their repast. Holding her close and gently kissing her hair, her forehead, and her hand, he repeated, “I love you, Elizabeth,” as she clung to him for dear life. They had about a quarter hour until there was a knock at the door.
“A moment, please.”
Elizabeth reluctantly arose and sat in a nearby chair as William answered the door and showed the maid where to set the tray down. Then thanking her, he watched as she exited and closed the door.
Taking Elizabeth’s hand, he gave thanks audibly, and in his heart, he gave thanks again they both had survived Wickham’s attack. If he had had more men to back him up, he might have been successful, and William shivered at the thought.
He shook his head. “I am well. Never fear, Elizabeth. I am always here for you.”
She smiled and handed him a cup of coffee, but she appreciated his attempt to lift her spirits. I chose well when I accepted his hand in marriage. There will never be another like him.
She laughed, just as he desired her to, when he waggled his eyebrows at her.
“Are you missing your family?”
“Yes, and I especially miss Jane and Papa. Jane and I have not been able to write directly to each other since coming here as we knew not where we would be. So, I look forward to a pile of letters from her when we get home.”
“Of course, silly man. Pemberley is my home now. And quite lovely it is. I am just a little intimidated at becoming mistress of such great an estate. I hope Mrs. Reynolds can bring me up to snuff rapidly, so things will continue running smoothly.”
“I have no doubts you will do well. The servants are already willing to stand with my wife, and as amenable as you are and considerate of everyone, no matter their station, they will accept you without question. After all, I chose you.” With that proud comment, he puffed out his chest and nodded.
With raised eyebrows, his wife responded, “Oh, no. I chose to accept you when you offered for me.”
A passing maid startled at the laughter emanating from the Darcys’ suite. But having heard they were recently married, she could not help but smile.
Later, they dressed for dinner, and Elizabeth found herself seated next to Mr. Byrne who took great pains to ignore her and speak only with Mrs. Kelly with whom he had nothing in common. Elizabeth was hard pressed to not dissolve in laughter as she caught occasional comments from one of the two.
However, Sir Jonathan was to the right of her, and they had pleasant converse for the majority of the meal. Elizabeth had shown interest in his family history, and that opened the floodgates of information concerning Blarney castle and the former owners, one of which was Donough MacCarty, who was made 1st Earl of Clancarty.
“And when did your family acquire the castle?”
“My grandfather, Sir James St. John Jefferyes, who was the governor of Cork City at that time, purchased it in the early 1700’s. Sometime later, my family built this house where we have lived ever since.”
“And it is a very beautiful home, Sir Jonathan. There is quite a history in connection with the castle, and I am looking forward to touring it when we can.”
“If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I will make arrangements for all the guests to see our pride and joy. We even have a special stone with a history of its own that I will tell about.”
“I look forward to it, and thank you, sir.”
The evening also turned out to be the most enjoyable as most of the ladies played and sang. And Lady Jefferyes even played the harp to the pleasure of all.
At the end of the evening, Sir Jonathan made an announcement about touring the castle on the morrow, and there were ooh’s and aah’s as they all looked forward to seeing the inside of one of these bastions of defense. Then the group dispersed for the evening with Byrne hurrying ahead with his wife, so he would not encounter the Darcys. Darcy looked quizzical, and Elizabeth merely shrugged, and then it was forgotten.
The next morning saw sunny skies and cool temperatures. However, the guests were not going to let anything deter them. They dressed warmly and trooped out the entrance of Blarney House and headed toward the castle a short distance away.
As they approached the large fortress, Sir Jonathan began describing the various defenses of the castle.
“The large mounds of earth and rocks around the castle are called ramparts. Since the major reason castles were built was for defense, this is Blarney Castle’s first line of defense.”
“Are not most castles surrounded by a moat?”
“Yes, they are, Mrs. Darcy. Most castles are built near rivers for that very reason. However, Blarney castle is too far from water, so the builders’ option was for ramparts instead. Scaling them would not only take much effort, the besiegers would be getting fatigued by the time they were ready to storm the castle.”
“The ramparts were a wise choice for the defenders then.”
“Yes, they were, but they were not the only defense. Each castle has several lines of defense; some on the outside, others on the inside.”
“I look forward to seeing some of these other features.”
Sir Jonathan smiled at Elizabeth and placed her hand around his elbow before Darcy realized his intention and said, “Mrs. Darcy, I would be pleased to show you…and the other guests some of these other defenses.”
Darcy raised his hand to object and Abigail Jefferyes laughed. “Mr. Darcy, my husband is just having a little fun at your expense. His real objective is bragging about his castle to anyone but especially a beautiful lady such as your wife. I trust him implicitly, and you will find you can as well. I fear he is a bit of a show-off like a little boy displaying his favorite toy. Your wife is the first one who indicated real interest, and for that reason he has taken her under his wing. She will be his protégé for the next little while until I ask him a question, and then I will be put on his arm, and you will have your wife back. In fact, if you had asked a question first, you would have become his protégé for the day.”
Darcy just rolled his eyes and continued to watch Sir Jonathan. In a few minutes, Lady Jefferyes asked a question of her husband, and he immediately abandoned Elizabeth and reached for his wife’s hand. And Darcy took back his wife with relief.
After showing the guest the portcullis, a metal grillwork that slid down and blocked the doorway, all entered the castle. Every guest appreciated they had not been required to climb the ramparts as a dirt ramp had been built so they were able to walk right to the castle doorway. Inside, Sir Jonathan proceeded to show them the murder holes, the purpose of which was to allow defenders to pour boiling water or oil down on anyone who breached the castle. While he was giving them more information about how the castle could be defended, William took Elizabeth a little further in to a large stairway.
“Elizabeth, what is the first thing you notice about the staircase?”
“It’s built in a spiral. Do you know why?”
“Can you guess why?”
“Everything about the castle involves the defense of it. I gather that this is also one of those defensive measures.”
“I knew you were an intelligent woman. And you just won fifty kisses.”
Elizabeth smiled. “But why in a clockwise spiral? What would be the advantage?”
“For defending the castle. Most people favor their right hand. Defenders of the castle would need to be able to freely swing their swords against besiegers. And they found by making the staircase in this fashion, their enemies would have difficulties wielding their swords coming up the stairs as they would find their right sides against the interior curve of the wall.”
“And the defenders would not have such a problem as they would be coming down the staircase and could swing their swords without difficulty.”
“Correct you are. I love that I have a most intelligent wife, and I will enjoy surrendering those fifty kisses to you.”
“Will you now?” And the gleam of desire in his eyes sent a frisson of delight down her spine.
“Yes, I will,” he growled and snugged her close to his side.
Turning toward the other guests, they heard Sir Jonathan speaking about the Blarney Stone and listened with avid interest.
After telling about the legend of kissing the stone and receiving the ability to speak the gift of the gab or with eloquence without offense, Sir Jonathan invited his guests to walk to the top of the castle to kiss the stone.
“Sir Jonathan, the castle is nearly 82 feet high. The men might be willing to climb that far, but I and the rest of the ladies would find it too much of a climb.”
“Mrs. Darcy, how did you know how tall the castle is?”
Elizabeth blushed to find herself the object of attention…again. “Clearing her throat, she said,” I have helped my father around Longbourn, particularly with his ledgers and the various buildings on the property. I am particularly fond of working with numbers and my father always had me do calculations for him as he found no pleasure in them. And he taught me how to determine the dimensions of the new barn we had built two years ago. I have found since then I seem to know immediately the approximate height of any structure or even a hill fairly quickly.”
“Do you mean to say I married a mathematical genius?” William whispered.
“Shhh. I do not wish that bandied about.”
He raised both hands in surrender. “I’m delighted. There are times when I am fatigued, and numbers confound me for a while. I’m more than willing to put them in the capable hands of my wife.”
“William,” she hissed.
He chuckled as he could not keep a straight face when teasing her, and Elizabeth was pleased he was learning to be more relaxed when with others and to enjoy a little banter with her as well. She would be sure to make it worth his while when they returned to their suite of rooms.
In the meantime, all the guests had decided that making a huge climb to the top of the castle was not worth it just to look at a rock, and they headed back to Blarney House after finding out how the battlements on top, that could be seen from the ground, were used for defense. All in all, they were pleased with the experience and had found the castle interesting.
All except Mr. Byrne who kept as far away from the Darcys as he possibly could. Elizabeth pretended not to notice his wife kept tugging on his arm and speaking to him in a low voice as they walked away from the castle. She had to hide her smirk as she felt he had earned it.
I love Elizabeth’s response at Mr. Byrne’s attempt at seduction. He was not a nice man at all, and he would have been shocked if Darcy had found out about what he suggested to Elizabeth. Perhaps it is just as well he didn’t. 🙂
As to Mr. Wickham, you will have to read the book to find out what happened to him. It was everything he heartedly deserved.
Get a copy at only $2.99 for the next two weeks, and I hope you enjoy it.