I was toying with the idea of exploring changes in transportation during the Regency and early part of the Georgian eras, but decided instead to offer an excerpt from the story I am currently working on. The idea came to me whilst in the throes of constructing the Duplicity and Deceit outline and, not one to look a given horse in the mouth (to quote an old and pertinent adage), I made sure to develop this outline at the same time. I was tempted to simply jot down a few notes and come back to it but, faced with the ongoing issue of my rapidly degrading memory, I dove right in and fleshed the chapters out.
This story, which is going to be a novella, picks up as Lady Catherine leaves Longbourn following her unsuccessful attempt to force Elizabeth to foreswear any interest in Mr. Darcy and promise to reject future advances on his part. I wanted to explore the family dynamic between Lady Catherine and her daughter, specifically what might happen if she were to unwillingly give permission for a young gentleman to call on Anne, with the possible intention of courting. Of course she is still determined to see Darcy and Anne married, but she has her reasons for allowing this to happen.
Before you get out the brushes and heat the tar, Lady Catherine is still the same domineering, overbearing mother portrayed in Jane Austen’s story, but I thought it might be fun to humanize her somewhat.
This excerpt begins shortly after she has given permission for Mr. Martin Forsythe to call on Anne. Lady Catherine is at breakfast, mulling over her stupid decision and some of her suspicions concerning this gentleman, as well as her doubts about the man in question. I completed this chapter late last night, so be warned that it is unedited and will undergo adjustments when I get to reviewing it before sending it to my editor.
I had hoped to publish before the end of this month, but I let silly things like Christmas, time with children and grandchildren, and scheduled visits to specialists now three hours away, interfere. I want to publish no later than the end of February, as this is now a major part of my income, so I have a lot to do before then. On the plus side, I am slightly more than halfway through the first draft so if fortune smiles and I quit wasting time, I just might make my self-imposed deadline. But don’t hold your breath, as I promised Duplicity months before it was finally published.
Enough of my blather, here is the teaser, if I may be so bold as to call it that. Please give me your honest criticism, especially the negative thoughts that occur to you. As I think I’ve said before, but can’t honestly remember, constructive criticism is looked for and always appreciated.
* * *
Lady Catherine waited for the maid to serve the cup of tea, too lost in thought to bother criticizing the girl’s proficiency in pouring, or the way she placed the cup in front of her on the table. Not even this morning’s undercooked eggs and cold breakfast sausages had given rise to a rebuke for the cook.
The affair concerning this Martin Forsythe was a bother, and she was spending too many of her nights worrying about what she now considered a stupid decision to let the man call. This could only waste Anne’s time, distracting her when she should be preparing for her marriage to Darcy.
Looking back on that day, she regretted giving in for no other reason than to appease Anne by letting her think she had won an argument, something she had done in past disagreements when the resolution was unimportant. Remembering this conversation, however, brought a sense of surprise that she had been willing to surrender control of the discussion rather than quickly bringing the matter to a close. If she had kept her wits about her, she could have avoided the unpleasant consequences she feared were waiting in the all too near future.
What delusion had she been laboring under that could have convinced her the better path was to let Anne have her way? She tried to entertain the delusion that her momentary lack of judgement would not come back to haunt her but knew she had foolishly let that cat out of its bag. Regaining control again was probably wishful thinking.
She cursed herself for agreeing to meet the man in the first place. That, she feared, was going to be the start of many unwanted changes. The girl was going to assume she could now demand ever greater freedom, something Lady Catherine was loath to accept.
To her Anne was still a child, lacking in worldly experience. Because of this mistake on Lady Catherine’s part Anne would next be wanting to visit London, and the possibility was worrisome, to put it mildly. She had spent her life protecting the child from danger, and one poor decision was enough to render all her hard work useless.
And what about this Mr. Forsythe, a man who claimed to be the son of a gentleman and a close acquaintance of Fitzwilliam? The claims about his father’s status rang hollow to her. If the man was that well known, why had she never heard the name mentioned by anyone in her circle of friends or acquaintances? Granted, that circle was small and shrinking every year as age and infirmity claimed many of them but nevertheless, the name of someone that important should have come up in conversation.
No, on further thought there was something about the man that rang false, and she was going to do everything in her power to protect her only child from him. Anne was too innocent, and this Mr. Forsythe did not seem as fine and upstanding as he wanted people to think.
Why had Darcy not seen through his charade? He was a man with experience in exposing charlatans and men of low morals; that was evident in how he had rescued Georgiana from Mr. Wickham’s degenerate plans last year.
If he had been able to see through that execrable piece of horse dung, how was it that Mr. Forsythe could fool him so completely? Could he not see that the man’s intention was almost certainly to worm his way into Anne’s heart so he could gain control of the de Bourgh fortune and property upon Lady Catherine’s passing?
Anne’s infatuation with the man was blinding her to his faults although, Lady Catherine had to confess to herself, he hid them well. On his visits he was always polite, almost sickeningly so, as far as she was concerned. Anne lapped it up like a cat at a dish of cream, and the sight was disgusting.
Lady Catherine saw her plans slipping away, all because of the unhealthy attentions being paid by a supposed gentleman’s son, if his stories about his father’s wealth and standing were to be believed.
And what of Anne’s suitor? Since giving her reluctant permission the man seldom called, which suited her perfectly and for some reason did not appear to bother Anne. The first week he had been underfoot almost daily, and Anne had even tried convincing him to stay for supper one evening, without so much as first asking permission! It was lucky for both he declined her offer, using previous commitments as his excuse. In any case, Anne had refused to acknowledge the clear falsehood in his stated reason, as she was by then too besotted to engage in rational thought.
After that first week the frequency of his visits had changed, until now he was showing up just on Fridays, and usually alone although Colonel Fitzwilliam had come with him once. But why Friday, not Monday or any other day of the week?
When she raised the subject, his vague answer alluded to other matters requiring his attention, and he could sacrifice no more than one day per week to call at Rosings. Her attempts to have him expand on the explanation ended with Anne jumping into the conversation to defend him, vehemently if memory served, which it always did without error.
She was not about to accept an excuse so paltry that it needed Anne’s intervention to let him escape having to justify himself. There were too many things about Mr. Forsythe that bothered her, and she was not about to rest until her doubts about the man were assuaged. Anne’s future was at stake, and she had to expose him as a fraud before her daughter fell completely under his spell.