Some of you might remember a blog I did in December. It was a blurb I created to begin my return to writing. At the time I had no plans to do much of anything with it, but the reception it received, along with the supportive, encouraging comments, convinced me to create a story around those paragraphs.
I spent a few months struggling to get my creative juices flowing, and I can happily say that the manuscript is finally almost complete. The story is finished, and I’m now editing which, I am certain everyone agrees, is way more fun than the actual writing. Yeah, right.
I have an excerpt from the novel, which I am calling “The Attack”. In the story, Elizabeth has suffered a broken heart because of what she considers a suitor’s betrayal. Mr. Bennet convinces her to visit relatives, whom she hasn’t seen since childhood, in Derbyshire. Without giving too much away, ODC meet and things progress swimmingly until an attack, and the fallout from unfounded accusations, threatens to destroy their promising relationship.
To set the scene, the journey has just begun and Mr. Bennet asks Elizabeth about her use of the Longbourn library to satisfy her curiosity about their destination. Elizabeth’s answer worries Kitty, who is along for the ride.
As Mr. Bennet feared, Kitty filled the start of their journey with questions and conjectures. Her queries covered everything, from the route their carriage might take and the likelihood of inclement weather along the way, to the reception they should expect from their cousins, etc.
How the girl went on! Each answer caused another question, often unrelated to the one preceding. Elizabeth was content to observe the discussion and show her amusement with Kitty’s indefatigable curiosity, which was not surprising. She seemed to get such joy out of watching her sister keep him occupied with answering a multitude of questions, instead of spending the day reading, which he preferred over conversation.
“Is Derbyshire similar to our own Hertfordshire?” asked the girl, breaking into Mr. Bennet’s reveries yet again. “Does Kingsdown compare favorably to Longbourn, or is it much more prosperous?”
“The counties are similar,” replied Mr. Bennet, “but also dissimilar, in many ways. As to comparisons between the two estates, I could not tell you; I have never raised the subject, and neither has your uncle.”
“The country in that part of England is more rugged,” said he in response to Kitty’s look of bafflement.
“Papa is trying to say that, although there are estates within Derbyshire, much like Longbourn and its neighbors, the country farther north runs more to hills and untamed forests,” said Elizabeth. “The change begins as you approach and continues all the way to Scotland, with some exceptions, of course.”
“You said you did not remember visiting your aunt and uncle Bannerman,” said he. “Yet here you are, describing the country around Kingsdown as if you lived in the area.”
“I was much too young to remember,” laughed Elizabeth, “as you well know. You do possess an assortment of maps, and an Encyclopedia Britannica collection that contains a surprising amount of information.”
“Of course you would do what you could to satisfy your curiosity. You were, I hope, careful with those books; they are among my most valuable.”
“Have no fear,” said Elizabeth somberly, although Mr. Bennet detected the hint of a playful taunt in her voice. “I placed them in perfect alignment with the corners of your desk, remaining unopened until the noon sun had passed its zenith. No dust fell upon the pages, and Hill was present to ensure I bowed twice and touched my hands to my waist three times before touching each page. When I finished, I fell prostrate upon the floor and cried aloud, asking forgiveness from the publisher’s gods of the printed page, whomever they may be.”
“But did you circle the desk three times, opposite to the direction of the prevailing wind, while chanting a Gaelic rite; in reverse order, mind you?”
“I did not, Papa. Please forgive my insensate attitude, but I substituted the Vulgate chant instead. If such an egregious error should occur again, I will throw myself from the spire of the Longbourn chapel in recompense.”
“See that you do. I will not sanction such disrespect a second time. And what about Kitty? Was she a willing participant in your desecration of my library?”
“No, she is innocent of the crimes or misdemeanors I committed while in that revered alcove.”
“Then I will spare her on this occasion,” said Mr. Bennet upon observing his daughter’s expression of concern. “Is something bothering you, Kitty?”
“Why did Lizzy need to take such precautions?” asked she, a tremor in her voice. “She only wanted information about our destination. What did she do that was so wrong?”
“Well,” said Mr. Bennet, his stern countenance and voice causing further unease in the girl, “let me see if I can explain.” At this point he paused to gain control of himself, as the urge to break out into laughter became almost overpowering.
“He is teasing you,” said Elizabeth, throwing a look of reproach toward her father. “He knows my habit of searching through his precious books when I want answers to my questions. In fact, he gave me permission to read any of them, with the understanding that I will treat each book with respect.”
Kitty gave an unsure nod and, turning to the carriage window, focused her gaze on the passing scenery. Peace reigned for twenty minutes, to Mr. Bennet’s relief.
“Have you read many of them?” asked Kitty.
“Many of the books?” asked Elizabeth. “Yes, and there are more that I want to read.”
“Why did Papa only give you permission to go into his library and pick out a book?”
“Because Lizzy is the only person, other than me,” said Mr. Bennet, “who has shown an interest in learning any more than what her governess taught her. She came to me, on her own I might add, to ask permission to explore my collection. I was more than happy to oblige her.”
“Will you give me permission, the same as Lizzy? I might like to learn too.”
Mr. Bennet looked at his daughter in a new light. Who was this girl sitting across from him in the carriage? In appearance it was Catherine Bennet, but she had until now never displayed a propensity for self improvement, preferring instead to follow Lydia from one misadventure to the next, often without a break between instances of misbehaving.
Was it possible that a separation this brief had affected the girl, and she might now be inclined to reconsider life’s priorities? She was barely eighteen years old, but that was an age when many young women were already married and bearing children, something which Lydia had until now eschewed and, of course, she echoed.
Kitty, to his annoyance, had, from the time Lydia took her first steps, been in thrall to her sister’s every whim. Where Lydia went, Kitty followed, in defiance of Mr. Bennet’s efforts to separate them.
I like to have fun with Mr. Bennet. I’ve always pictured him possessing a dry sense of humor, and I try to have him display it in every story. I got that impression initially from Pride and Prejudice, but the A&E mini series reinforced it. If you were to ask my daughters, they would probably tell you my sense of humor is the same.
I’m aiming to publish before the end of the month, a goal that should be achievable without too much fuss. I’ve also included the tentative cover picture. I shouldn’t need any edits, but if I do, they’ll be minor.
I hope you’re not disappointed I didn’t include any pictures of my dogs, but enough is enough already.
Let me know what you think of the excerpt and the cover. I appreciate any feedback.