It’s Finally Here!!
My first novel is finally here! It’s been almost 11 months since I was sitting by a campfire at a KOA in Pigeon Forge, TN and found out that someone had stollen one of my online stories to try to sell on Amazon Kindle (for that whole story look back to my very first Austen Authors Blog Post). It has bee a crazy ride and I’ve learned a LOT about writing, the Jane Austen fandom, and self-publishing a book. So it is with great pride and a little bit of prejudiced bias, that I announce my debut novel – Reputation, An Easy Thing to Lose – is available everywhere books are sold!
No really – I saw it on Walmart’s website the other day <<squeal>>.
This blog post has a bunch in it and I don’t want anyone to miss this party I’m throwing myself! So, make sure you stick around to the end to see the GIVEAWAY rules and don’t miss the EXCERPT I’m including today ?
Well, there is very little left to say except – THANK YOU! I have so many thanks for the people in my life who supported me through this crazy choice to try and publish my book. This novel has been a long time coming. I started writing the original version in the summer of 2015. Creating something from nothing was daunting at first, but I slowly became addicted to the rush of completing each new scene. It was a passion I genuinely did not know was inside of me. So, above all else, I want to say thank you to my husband, Don, for always giving me the space and support to try new, ridiculous things. It’s you and me against the world and we always seem to come out on top, together. Next, to my dear friend Katie, without your guidance and example, this would not have happened. I have watched you write your stories with confidence and excitement for nearly ten years. In every way, you gave me the roadmap to publish my own. Finally, to all my friends and family who supported me on this journey, especially my mom – Mary Ann, my sister – Allison, and my cheerleader – Bernadette. I love you all!
GIVEAWAY TO CELEBRATE!!!
Please comment “Enter Me” below along with your country of residence for an entry to the Giveaway. The Giveaway of two (2) Kindle copies and two (2) paperback copies (US shipping addresses only) of Reputation, An Easy Thing to Lose will close at 5 P.M. EST on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. The winners will be announced on Sunday, February 27, 2022. The Kindle giveaway is open to worldwide entries and the paperback giveaway is open to persons with US shipping addresses only.
Ratings and Reviews are very much appreciated and the easiest way to support independent authors!
A few months ago I previewed the first chapter of Reputation here on the blog. So, this time, I decided that you needed to hear from my villain. Enjoy!
Chapter 4: Correspondence with a Gossip
“Louisa! Hand me those opera glasses.”
Caroline Bingley was sitting upon her favourite chaise longue in the north parlour of her brother’s London townhouse with her sister. While most would prefer to sit in a south-facing room during the morning hours to take advantage of the light from the rising sun, Caroline had always preferred this spot for its perfect view of S. Carriage Drive, the road surrounding Hyde Park from the south and leading to the fashionable park drives. Though the Bingley townhouse was a few streets south of Knightsbridge, there was the perfect combination of courtyards and one-story buildings directly between the room’s middle window and the intersection of Rotten Row and S. Carriage Drive. Here was where Caroline spent hours watching the residents of London on their comings and goings.
“That awful Mrs. Goulding is out and about at this ridiculous hour, pushing her own child around in one of those new-fangled baby carriages. I would be absolutely mortified to be seen walking on Rotten Row without a nurse maid and governess.” Caroline scanned Rotten Row again, looking for anyone else she recognized.
“Well dear, I am certainly glad you turned down Mr. Goulding two seasons ago,” her sister, Louisa Hurst, said. “Think of the horror, had you been inclined to accept him! Though he is set to inherit a nice estate of more than four thousand pounds per year, having to cart around your own children in London would be unbearable.”
Caroline sniffed and turned back to the window. Though Goulding was set to inherit property, Caroline had not been interested in marrying someone not in possession of their inheritance. Playing second fiddle to her husband’s mother, or living off some allowance until her father-in-law died, was intolerable. Mrs. Henrietta Goulding, neé Heyer, had been one year behind Caroline at their elite London finishing school. The relatively poor daughter of a gentleman farmer from Kent, Henrietta had not been considered a true competitor in the marriage mart. The death of a wealthy and unmarried uncle had bestowed upon Henrietta a modest fortune last season. Now, seeing her married and pushing around the newest master Goulding, Caroline felt some twinge of jealousy over her security.
Louisa pulled the bell for more tea to be brought up to the drawing room. “At least you know you shall not have to suffer any such insult as the wife of Mr. Darcy.”
“I certainly shall not!” Caroline set down her glasses and stood up abruptly. “The wife of one of the most important men in England will have nurses and governesses enough to ensure that I barely have to see my children, let alone take them to the park before breaking my fast.”
“Do you think he will propose soon?” Louisa followed her sister’s random meander about the well apportioned room. “I understand that Miss Darcy is set to debut in May. You have always said he was waiting to have his sister well situated before making his overtures to you. It would be easier if you were already installed as Mrs. Darcy, though, so you could chaperone the young debutant. Otherwise, he will have to hire a social companion.”
“While I cannot bring up the subject directly, for that would be a horrid breach of propriety and Mr. Darcy does not tolerate any breach of good manners, I do believe I felt some softening of his resolve to continue to wait. Perhaps if we could see him here for a quiet family dinner before he quits town for the harvest, I might be able to speak with him more intimately. A winter wedding at the Pemberley village church would be lovely.”
Louisa looked uninterested in the details of entertaining. The only object she seemed to be contemplating was the new bangle bracelet that her husband, Reginald Hurst, had given her for her birthday. “Do let me know the date and I shall make sure Mr. Hurst and I are available.”
Caroline set her mouth in a little tight line. “Unfortunately, the knocker is not yet on the door to Darcy House. I was certain that Charles said he was coming to London after leaving Pemberley early, but according to your housekeeper, Darcy House has been closed to visitors this whole time. I plan on taking a walk in that direction later this week, just to ensure Mr. Darcy is not at home, but I cannot be sure of anything. Do not refuse any invitations for now on my account.”
If only Caroline had risen earlier and started spying out of her advantageously positioned north-facing parlour window, she would have seen Darcy flying through the park on his massive horse towards Cheapside at dawn.
“I must say, I am quite annoyed by his silence and Charles’s incalcitrant refusal to go and leave his card with the butler. This should have been my moment to ascent to the top rung of the London social ladder.” Caroline sat heavy on her chaise and fiddled with the teacup on the side table. “Our sojourn at Netherfield was supposed to be for the benefit of Mr. Darcy seeing my skills as a hostess and running an estate manor, but Charles bungled that as well, by choosing such an ill-suited location and drably furnished house.”
Louisa had moved on from examining her bangle bracelet to fiddling with her wedding rings. “Oh really? I thought you were the one to suggest the Netherfield estate, given its short distance from London. If the roads are good, it is not more than four hours in a carriage. Very convenient to maintaining contact with our friends in London.”
“I admit that taking an estate lease was my original idea. You know how much grandfather Bingley wanted for Charles to ascend to land ownership. I also admit that I had originally thought very highly of the notion of Netherfield for its location and size. But that was before I had seen the state of the house. It was simply dreadful. I shall be forever glad that I waited to see the condition of the neighbourhood and the furnishings before organizing any entertainment for our friends from London. I would have been absolutely mortified had we offered such outdated accommodations to our elite friends here.”
“Well, we are home now, and sooner or later Mr. Darcy will seek out Charles, I am sure of it. Then, we can resume our constant interactions and invitations. Do not fret dear, we shall have you well settled soon.”
Caroline tapped her fingers on the arm of her chaise. “It is such an injustice in this world that women must marry men of wealth to have any status! It is not as if I am unworthy to reach the highest echelons of the ton on my own merit. I have the finest education, am poised, beautiful, and have an inheritance to rival any daughter of a peer. But, instead of enjoying the position that should have come with my money and accomplishments, I am not even considered a gentlewoman.”
Louisa laughed at the thought of becoming a gentlewoman simply with money and accomplishments. “Our father’s will did not leave you your money independent of Charles until you marry! Also, unjust as it may be, the rules of society dictate that it takes three generations to make a gentleman,” here she dropped her voice to a whisper in case any of the servants were within earshot, “and I do not need to remind you that our grandfather was merely the son of a tenant sheep farmer outside of Halifax.”
“Do not think I have forgotten! I was closest to Grandfather Bingley out of any of us.” Caroline abruptly stood from her chaise again and began to pace around the room. “Though he might have been born low, Grandfather Bingley was a great man. I am proud to carry on his legacy, gentleman or not.”
During his life, Andrew Bingley had worked on the sheep farm with his father and older brothers until his parents could no longer keep him. After being sent on his way, Andrew secured work at a large wool mill in Bradford. He was a shrewd, opportunistic young man, who quickly courted the favour of the mill’s owner and rose through the ranks. The other low-born mill workers resented the favouritism showed Andrew, but what did he care? He was going to make something of himself, no matter who he had to step on to advance. After not too many years, Andrew convinced the owner to sign a marriage contract for his oldest daughter. Upon her sixteenth birthday, Andrew took her as his wife and proceeded to produce an heir with haste. Caroline’s father, Richard Bingley, was brought into this world as her young grandmother left it. A widower at only twenty-nine, Andrew never truly mourned the loss of his young wife; after all, wives and children cost money. He had what he wanted, the first-born grandson to the mill’s owner, and would only have to incur the expense of feeding one additional person on a mill foreman’s salary.
As Caroline’s father grew, Andrew encouraged a close relationship with his grandfather, the mill’s owner. The interaction between grandfather and grandson allowed for natural affection, and years of gentle nudging to fuel an eventual change in inheritance. The aging mill owner decided to overlook his other children and leave his mill, in whole, to his beloved grandson. Andrew was named trustee until Richard was able to take control.
Richard, however, was a disappointment to his father. In manner and temperament, he too greatly resembled his soft-hearted grandfather, but at least he was easily led. Another advantageous arranged marriage between Richard and the only child of a large operation cloth maker in Leeds allowed Andrew to expand his business. Integrating the wool milling and cloth making businesses doubled profits in the first five years of Richard’s marriage. Additional automation machinery developed in Scotland allowed even greater savings by reducing the number of workers while maintaining output. The Bingleys quickly amassed a fortune of nearly one hundred thousand pounds.
Richard and his wife, who cared greatly for each other despite their contracted marriage, produced Louisa and Caroline quickly. Though the doctors advised that another pregnancy was not likely to end favourably, Andrew was adamant that there must be an heir. Charles was born a short fifteen months after Caroline and, as predicted, another young woman gave her life in the pursuit of Andrew Bingley’s ambition.
Having spent nearly all his adult life kowtowing to the gentry who owned the land of Yorkshire, to buy the best wool at the lowest prices, Andrew knew that neither he nor his son would ever be accepted into their society. Both had worked for the massive Bingley fortune and were well known manufacturers, especially to the Earls of Bradford and Scarborough. Any attempt to make an appearance as a gentleman would be quickly rebuked.
But, if Andrew ensured that they never lifted a finger in his mills, his grandchildren could make the Bingley debut into the ton. So, the Bingley patriarch found a beautiful townhouse in Belgravia owned by a spendthrift Marques who required immediate funds and therefore did not care that the buyers were from trade. The house was close enough to Mayfair to stretch the truth in conversation and, most importantly, it was far from any of the Yorkshire gentry who may make the connection between the young, personable Charles Bingley and his shrewd grandfather. So, Andrew packed up his three motherless grandchildren, hired a buxom governess, and moved to London. Richard was left to manage the mills and was devastated at the loss first of his wife, and then his children, but found himself unable to oppose his father after a lifetime of obeying without comment. He continued to live and work in the Yorkshire mills until he died in a wool fire when Charles was but seven years old. Once again, everything passed to the young Bingley heir with Andrew acting as trustee until Charles came of age.
After moving the siblings to London, Andrew recognized that Caroline was the only one of his grandchildren with the personality to ensure the continued rise of the Bingley name. He began instructing her on how to keep Charles and Louisa in line the same way Andrew had managed Richard. She was educated on the full plan her grandfather had devised all those years ago when he married the mill owner’s daughter. Some of Caroline’s earliest and fondest memories were of sitting on her grandfather’s lap as he told her how to climb the English socioeconomic ladder. Upon his deathbed, Andrew handed his personal journal to Caroline, which included the details of every advantageous opportunity he had ever created for his family. The continuation of the Bingley family social rise passed to Caroline at the tender age of fourteen.
Until last year, Caroline had been extremely successful. Louisa’s marriage to Hurst had been easy to arrange. The Hurst estate was a long-standing property on the edge of Kent near Tonbridge and included a seaside house in Brighton as well as a comfortable house in town. The Hursts were one of the oldest families of the ton, and Reginald’s maternal great-aunt was Lady Sefton, the most prominent and oldest patroness of the ultra-important dancing salon, Almack’s Assembly Rooms. Where the Bingley money needed ratification through a longstanding connection to land, the Hurst’s land needed money. Louisa’s dowry of twenty-thousand paid off the family’s debts and allowed improvements to the tenant farms, which brought the estate’s income back to a respectable four-thousand per annum. As the second son, and already in possession of more than one nephew, Hurst would likely not inherit, but as part of the consideration for Louisa’s marriage, the Hursts gave him title to the house in London and enough of an annual allowance to keep up with the ton.
Louisa and Hurst’s marriage provided the Bingley siblings a firm footing into London society. Married at eighteen, Louisa was granted access to the events of the ton before Caroline was even officially out. Hurst gave Caroline and Charles legitimacy. With Hurst’s sponsorship, Charles was allowed to attend Eton, then Cambridge, as the brother of a gentlemen. He was allowed to reside in the gentlemen’s dorms instead of being relegated to the smaller accommodations reserved for tradesmen. Caroline made her introduction in Louisa’s drawing room and in the company of the elder Mrs. Hurst.
However, despite her careful planning, Caroline was no closer to catching a husband of wealth and title by the end of her third season than she had been at her debut, nearly five years ago now. It had become clear that catching a man with more than a modest estate who needed her dowry to pay his debts, like Mr. Goulding, would be difficult. Caroline would have joyously welcomed an impoverished lord in need of her dowry if there wasn’t already an heir for the title. But, for all the influence of the Hurst name, Bingley was still a newcomer to London, and Caroline was having trouble orchestrating an entrance into the highest echelons.
Then, Caroline had been introduced to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy at the beginning of her fourth season by none other than her dim-witted puppy dog of a brother. Charles catching Darcy was an unimaginable boon to Caroline. The friendship had grown naturally, and totally without Caroline’s manipulation. But, no matter, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Darcy first sailed into the Bingley townhouse the summer after Charles started at Cambridge. Caroline had, of course, heard of the wealth of Pemberley, but since the elder Mr. Darcy was still alive and in no need of an heir, Caroline had initially disregarded both Darcy men as marital prospects. That first summer, Caroline was content to allow the ‘boys’ to hide in the game room, and saved her best dresses for calling on the wealthy widows with sons to marry off.
But Caroline was not blind. She never failed to notice the superior quality of his clothing, or the pleasing picture he presented wearing them. She also admired his cool and aloof demeanour, which spoke of breeding at the highest level. Upon her first invitation to dinner at the Darcy townhouse, which is decidedly fully ensconced in the Mayfair neighbourhood without any need for embellishment, she also noted the apparent wealth of the Darcy family. Most of the gossips of London’s high society mumbled behind their fans that the Darcy estate garnered ten-thousand per annum, but Caroline was sure it was closer to twice that amount. Perhaps the current Mr. Darcy’s great-grandfather had earned ten-thousand per annum and society never bothered to update their gossip. Few of even the titled peers surpassed the Darcys in wealth or land holdings.
When the elder Mr. Darcy fell ill and died suddenly the next winter, it was as if Caroline had been given a sign. She felt as though her grandfather was once again holding her on his knee and guiding her down the path to social supremacy. For the last five years since Darcy had taken possession of all the Pemberley property and accounts, Caroline had bided her time. She knew that coming into his inheritance at only twenty-two would be a struggle, but suddenly having to raise his eleven-year-old sister made the job nearly impossible. Caroline guided Charles into making sure the Bingleys were issued regular invitations to Pemberley, and always provided support for the grieving Darcy siblings.
As a young, handsome, and massively rich bachelor, Darcy was pursued incessantly by the match-making mommas of the ton. He was so often imposed upon by mercenary ladies, that Darcy never appeared in society without either his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, or Charles, for protection. And where Charles went, so went Caroline. Frequently arriving at a high society event on the arm of the most eligible bachelor in London catapulted Caroline to the top. She was not naive enough to believe that any of her recently acquired lady friends had any interest in her as a person. Each such lady looked on, strictly in jealousy, and with the hope that Caroline would falter at some point. They would be waiting until the end of time. Caroline Bingley does not make mistakes. At the end of this last season, there had been tittering about Caroline deluding herself with visions of becoming Mrs. Darcy. Why would he need five years to make his offer if one was forthcoming? Many of the younger ladies believed that they could supplant the twenty-five-year-old. She would show them exactly how deluded she had become.
Waiting for so long had started to take a toll on Caroline, but she was always comforted in knowing that Darcy had never showed the least bit of interest in any female acquaintance, either in London or around his home in Derbyshire. Additionally, she was not keen to provide Darcy with the required heir too soon, having lost both her mother and grandmother to childbirth. Waiting a few extra years before taking on her marital duty was of no significance. Caroline was confident in her position as Darcy’s best friend’s sister, and felt as if her influence over Georgiana was coming along quite nicely. When the day came, Caroline was sure that becoming mistress of Pemberley and Darcy House London would be worth the wait.
If only she had not insisted her brother take on that dreadful estate in Hertfordshire. Netherfield was a plague. Jane and Elizabeth Bennet had nearly destroyed all of Caroline’s hard work. Her brother was meant for the daughter of a peer, and Caroline was going to be mistress of Pemberley. That chit, with her fine eyes and unkempt curls, would never take Caroline’s prize.
The only saving grace from their stay at Netherfield was the discovery of a chatty housekeeper. Grandfather Bingley had always emphasized the use of servants in getting information and doing the dirty work. Oftentimes, those below stairs knew more about the lives of the gentry than they knew of themselves. In each of the London houses, as well as the house in Brighton, Caroline had gained a valuable informant through the high-level staff.
The chatty housekeeper at Netherfield, Mrs. Smythe, had proven to be very valuable with the information she procured regarding the Bennets. It was through Mrs. Smythe that Caroline first learned Lydia Bennet had travelled to Brighton alone, in the care of only Colonel Forster and his young, irresponsible wife. It was too easy. Then, Caroline had received news of Lydia’s inappropriate flirtations and attention to none other than Lt. George Wickham. This letter had been received back in July. No other information had yet caught up with Caroline, but her intuition was high. She would bet all her future fortune that whatever family crisis had pulled Elizabeth suddenly from Pemberley in August was the result of Lydia’s misbehaviour in Brighton.
Caroline had planned to bring up the topic at dinner on the night Elizabeth and her Cheapside relatives were invited to dine at Pemberley. Fortunately, they had all scurried back to Longbourn and sent Georgiana their regrets before the travesty of a meal could take place. Then, as if sharing Darcy’s attention with Elizabeth during her triumphant visit to Pemberley had not been bad enough, Darcy received an urgent missive recalling him immediately to London and cutting their visit to a mere three days. And Caroline still had no idea what was so urgent that Darcy had abandoned his dearest friends.
Finally, the door to the servant’s hall opened and Caroline’s maid came in with a full tea tray.
Caroline roughly set her opera glasses on the side table. “It is about time, Anna! We were nearly starved up here without any fresh tea. Please take away the old tray when you leave, but first I must know if the post has yet arrived. I am most anxious for any missives that followed us from our summer travels. I do not believe we have had anything since we left Pemberley.”
“Not yet, miss. But the carrier usually comes about this time, so Mrs. Kelly is likely to have it soon and always sorts it right away. I will come back with anything as soon as it is ready.”
“See that you do. You are dismissed.”
Louisa handed Caroline a cup of tea. “I do wonder what has taken the post so long to find us. Mrs. Reynolds must have sent on post from our unexpected early departure to Yorkshire, and then the staff there must have held it for some time before sending it here to London. I believe I have not had a letter from our aunt in nearly six weeks.”
“Yes, we’ve had nothing at all since we left Pemberley.” Caroline took a sip of her fresh tea. “I must say, I am not very impressed with Mrs. Reynolds.”
“Really! How can you say that, Caroline? She has been Mr. Darcy’s housekeeper since he was a child. I am sure he regards her with the utmost respect and affection.”
“That all may be true, but what do men really know about the servants? I have made every effort to ingratiate myself with the woman, but she continues to give me the cold shoulder. At first, I tried to be kind and agreeable. I have lately tried to be more authoritative, like what would be expected between servant and mistress, but nothing has worked. This past visit, I spoke outright to Mrs. Reynolds about my… tentative… understanding with Mr. Darcy. Though of course, I did not let her know that there was anything in the formalities still wanting.”
“Oh, Caroline, you did not! I would not like to have any report of inappropriateness given to Mr. Darcy.”
“It was not so scandalous, Louisa.” Caroline looked away from her sister and picked up the opera glasses to spy out the window once more. “And anyway, I am certain he is only waiting for the right time to speak and for Georgie to be settled. It is inevitable that I will be mistress of Pemberley soon. But I tell you, Mrs. Reynolds did not take my warning, as kindly as it was given. Like a royal duchess confident of her position in the world, the old woman stood firm. She informed me that until she heard otherwise from Mr. Darcy directly, Georgie was the mistress of Pemberley. I have tried for the past few years to find some upstairs maid to help me with my… requests for information, but they are all fiercely loyal to Mrs. Reynolds. Well, the old woman will be singing a decidedly different tune once I take my rightful place as Mrs. Darcy. Perhaps I can send the old bat to Netherfield and bring the compliant Mrs. Smythe to Pemberley.”
Louisa laughed and stirred another lump of sugar into her cup. “Oh, I almost forgot. I took tea with my sister-in-law yesterday, and one of the young ladies, I think Lady Derby’s daughter, said she saw Miss Darcy on Bond Street a few days ago. While of course we cannot visit until the knocker is on the door, perhaps we might send over an invitation to dinner this week after all. If Miss Darcy is here, Mr. Darcy must also be here, for why would his sister come all this way without him?”
“Louisa! How could you forget to tell me this? I swear sometimes you vex me quite beyond measure. I will make the note immediately.” Moving with haste to her desk, Caroline catalogued what dinners she had planned already for the week. “Will Thursday work for you? I do not want to wait too long but must give Mr. Darcy at least two days’ notice. Really, if you had told me yesterday, as you should have, we could have entertained him tomorrow.”
“It simply slipped my mind, dear, and I did not know you were so keen to have him to dinner. But no matter, Thursday will be just fine for myself and Mr. Hurst.”
When Caroline finished the invitation for Darcy and his sister to dine with the Bingley family on Thursday, she looked back out of the window. A few strollers were still out at this unfashionable hour, on their way to numerous errands and calls. Caroline promised herself that this would be the year. She would no longer wait for Darcy to speak.
She would promote her match with Charles, Hurst, Georgiana, and anyone else who would listen. With luck, the expectation created by gossip would finally prompt Darcy to act. He would not want his reputation as a gentleman to falter by jilting his best friend’s sister. And if social persuasion was not enough, Caroline would have to orchestrate another solution next summer at Pemberley.
The season always ends officially on the last Friday of June. Most of the best families take their leave of town by mid-June and spend the last few weeks of socializing at the country homes of their friends, before tucking into their own estates for the fall and winter. While Almack’s and Vauxhall Gardens provided a pretty background for flirtations, most serious proposals were conducted in the more private setting of the end-of-season house parties or private balls. Any debuting lady would be the envy of the entire season if she could manage to procure prestigious acceptances to an end-of-the-season house party given by a member of le bon ton. Caroline would introduce the idea of hosting a small end-of-season house party at Pemberley, in honour of Georgiana’s debut.
Oh yes, Caroline would be Mrs. Darcy by the end of this next season.
Her first act as mistress would be to rid the south garden of the wild and unruly rosebushes she saw being pruned on her last trip to Pemberley. Roses were far too common to be grown in such abundance and in so prominent a location. She would have them all removed before the house party. Perhaps, once she finally got an audience with Georgiana, she would mention the matter.
Just as Caroline was pressing the seal into the wax on her dinner invitation to the Darcys, Anna came back into the parlour with the post. Looking over the stack, Caroline saw several letters from the Hurst’s Brighton housekeeper and nearly a dozen from Netherfield. Finally, she would learn whatever had happened to the Bennet family. Reaching for her small, engraved letter knife, Caroline went to work.
Excerpt from: REPUTATION, AN EASY THING TO LOSE
A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novel
BY: E.M. STORM-SMITH
PUBLISHED BY: Storm Haus Publishing, LLC
Copyright © 2021
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The moral right of the author has been asserted.