Thursday Three Hundred–Greater than Friends

 

Rose Letter

On Monday, I posted the song Friends Don’t by Maddie and Tae. I wrote that it reminded me of Emma and Knightley. I could have written from a few other locations in the book, but chose the scene where Harriet Smith acknowledges that she loves Mr. Knightley–and believes he loves her in return. I generously use some lines straight from Miss Austen. I don’t think she would mind. 🙂

cd4fab69d19e6c58bb41e5fe62b0bcaeGreater than Friends

“Let us understand each other now, without the possibility of farther mistake. Are you speaking of—Mr. Knightley?”

“To Be sure I am.”

Harriet continued speaking, and Emma vaguely registered the girl’s words, managing somehow to talk while all her mind worked on Harriet’s strange series of utterances. Harriet Smith in love with her good friend Mr. Knightley? But no, that was not the correct word for Mr. Knightley.

Did friends mean to one another what Mr. Knightley and Emma meant to one another? How often had they made plans around the feeling of the other? How many silent conversations had they had with nothing but their eyes? If Mr. Knightley were only a friend, should she not be able to hear Mrs. Elton speak of him with familiarity without possessive irritation?

For months, years, even he had often visited Hartfield. His visits began shortly, but now they seemed to linger. He found any excuse to come and the purpose seemed just as much to visit Emma as to sit with her father. A hundred tender memories of conversations and Knightley’s nearness flashed like lightning in Emma’s mind and swelled her heart.

However, unfortunate recollections also recollected. She had pushed him aside. He probably believed—just as everyone else did, it seemed—that she loved Frank Churchill. His low opinion of her was very plain and Harriet—sweet, simple, pretty Harriet—he had confessed to think well of.

No, no, no! It would not do! “Good God!” cried Emma, “this has been a most unfortunate—most deplorable mistake!—What is to be done?”

Again, Harriet chattered on. Emma could not speak. Mr. Knightley would never linger at Hartfield again. No, he would have his dear Harriet to think about. They would visit together, and Emma would have to find a way to send them off. No more chats after supper while the stars shone. No more daily walks from Donwell Abbey.

No, no. Mr. Knightley was not merely her friend. “Have you any idea of Mr. Knightley’s returning your affection?”

“Yes,” replied Harriet modestly, but not fearfully—”I must say that I have.”

Emma sat in silence while a thunderclap sounded in her mind—nay, her heart. With the speed of an arrow, she acknowledged Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!

On and on, Harriet continued explaining and rationalizing—with merit, Emma detested to admit—that Knightley did care for her.

Feeling her heart die and her soul weep, Emma acknowledged, “I will only venture to declare, that Mr. Knightley is the last man in the world, who would intentionally give any woman the idea of his feeling for her more than he really does.”

Finally, Harriet left, and Emma sat in dejected spirits wishing she had never met the girl. This much she knew, no one would love Mr. Knightley as she did. How she wished she had the opportunity to tell him before he made a choice that would forever separate them.

 

Tea Time Tattle–Knightley loved Emma as a child??

 

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

I’ve seen many articles around the Austen-verse with writers opining that Mr. Knightley is a better romantic hero than Mr. Darcy. I won’t bother to touch on that. 🙂 However, I think the thing that makes many readers uncomfortable about Mr. Knightley is the following line:

“The good was all to myself, by making you an object of the tenderest affection to me. I could not think about you so much without doating on you, faults and all; and by dint of fancying so many errors, have been in love with you ever since you were thirteen at least.”

This must be broken down into two sections. The first, which seems most egregious to a modern reader, is his loving Emma while she was only thirteen. The second, that he shaped her into a woman to marry.

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Let’s establish a bit of history for Emma and Knightley. Emma is twenty-one and is the younger of two heiresses of a very comfortable estate. Her father lives, is quite old, and seems generally anxious about everything. We are also told she is far cleverer than her elder sister and was from an early age. In fact, she’s so clever she doesn’t really have a mental companion for her save Mr. Knightley. He’s a neighbor, and his younger brother married Emma’s sister some years ago. However, he’s 37 or 38, so there’s quite the age gap.

So, if he loved Emma at 13, then he would have been 27 or 28. I mean, that’s a huge red flag, even if we want to make allowances for things like Lydia marrying at 16 to a man who is 26. Developmentally, there would be quite a difference between 13 and 16, even in an era that treated teenagers as adults. Even though women could be treated as adults around age 16 (this seems to differ for men), very few of their class married at that age. The average age across the nation for women to marry was 26, and I’ve seen estimates at around 22 or 23 for the gentry. So, although 16-year-olds could join in Society things they were not, generally, accepting suitors and marrying. Emma is “underage” no matter how you slice it.

emma_strongbeckinsale.jpgHowever, did he really romantically love her at age 13? First, we are told that Knightley  “was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella’s husband.”

Emma was 12 years old when Isabella married. There’s little reason to believe that Knightley was often visiting the house when Emma was so young and his brother and new sister-in-law lived in London. It appears for some time he only visited when the John Knightleys were in the area. Even if Mr. Woodhouse invited him to dine, Emma would not have been at the table at such a young age. We are told of this:

The list she drew up when only fourteen—I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now.

This statement is before Frank Churchill has arrived, which is worth noting for once Knightley proposes, we are told the following:

On his side, there had been a long-standing jealousy, old as the arrival, or even the expectation, of Frank Churchill.—He had been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other. It was his jealousy of Frank Churchill that had taken him from the country.—The Box Hill party had decided him on going away. He would save himself from witnessing again such permitted, encouraged attentions.—He had gone to learn to be indifferent.

Perhaps he did not realize he preserved Emma’s early list out of love, but I think it far more likely that he was merely impressed with a child making such a list. She might have even done it purposefully to please him, as a child often does. She was his sister-in-law for two years by this point. There’s no reason to consider that he desired her as a wife at such an age, or even considered that she could one day become one for him when we also take into account that he did not recognize it as love until long after Frank was in the picture.

I think Knightley is acquitted of anything akin to craving Emma as a companion at such a young age. He loved her as a sister, and that is all the notice he took of her. However, what about his statement that he made her into someone that he could love?

If a man is of sound means at 37 or 38, especially in such an era, one might wonder if he will ever marry. Emma makes sound arguments:

“But Mr. Knightley does not want to marry. I am sure he has not the least idea of it. Do not put it into his head. Why should he marry?—He is as happy as possible by himself; with his farm, and his sheep, and his library, and all the parish to manage; and he is extremely fond of his brother’s children. He has no occasion to marry, either to fill up his time or his heart.”

“My dear Emma, as long as he thinks so, it is so; but if he really loves Jane Fairfax—”

Knightley has no impetus to marry for companionship or lack of an heir. He would only marry for love. The fact that he’s reached such an age and has not fallen in love makes it pretty clear that most people are not up to his requirements. Does it follow, then, that he would have to shape a person into his designs? Would he take nearly ten years to do it? Would that even be love?

An additional question arises from this notion. Does Emma yield to Knightley’s molding? There would be too many quotes to use as they consistently argue throughout the book, but Knightley complains many times that Emma listens to no one, including him. Within her thoughts, we are sure she will never capitulate to anything simply because he says so–lest we forget the dread affair about Harriet and Mr. Martin.

However, when Knightley scolds her after she makes fun of Miss Bates, Emma feels the reproach.

It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her—and before her niece, too—and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her.—This is not pleasant to you, Emma—and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,—I will tell you truths while I can; satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel, and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now.”

Emma is described as feeling thus:

He had misinterpreted the feelings which had kept her face averted, and her tongue motionless. They were combined only of anger against herself, mortification, and deep concern.

She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed—almost beyond what she could conceal. Never had she felt so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck. The truth of this representation there was no denying. She felt it at her heart. How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates! How could she have exposed herself to such ill opinion in any one she valued! And how suffer him to leave her without saying one word of gratitude, of concurrence, of common kindness!

It is not enough, however, for Emma to regret the justness of Knightley’s remarks or hate that she has disappointed him. The real turning point in Emma’s story comes when she enters self-reproach:

She had been often remiss, her conscience told her so; remiss, perhaps, more in thought than fact; scornful, ungracious. But it should be so no more. In the warmth of true contrition, she would call upon her the very next morning, and it should be the beginning, on her side, of a regular, equal, kindly intercourse.

Knightley tries, again and again, to make Emma understand her ways. He doesn’t like her matchmaking. He doesn’t like Frank Churchill. He doesn’t like Emma making fun of Jane Fairfax. He doesn’t like her friendship with Harriet Smith. He doesn’t like approve of her idleness. However, he always sees the good and the potential in Emma. Emma never backs down and agrees just to please him–or anyone else. She thinks well of Knightley and doesn’t like it when they’ve argued, and it appears he is disappointed in her, but it’s only when she feels the disappointment herself that we see her reverse her opinion. The fact that she’s not obstinate in resisting what needs to change simply because Knightley has said it should be a mark in her favor.

I would say Knightley has no more influence over Emma than most friends have over one another. This should be a familiar theme for Austen deals with friendly persuasion in each novel.

Instead of viewing Emma and Knightley’s relationship beginning at the point of romance, let us consider it from the progression of brother and sister-in-law, to friends, to lovers.

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From Volume III Chapter III, after Knightley is well acquainted with his growing feelings for Emma:

“Whom are you going to dance with?” asked Mr. Knightley.

She hesitated a moment, and then replied, “With you, if you will ask me.”

“Will you?” said he, offering his hand.

“Indeed I will. You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.”

“Brother and sister! no, indeed.”

So we see they have left brother and sister long behind. They are friends. Knightley even says this when Mrs. Weston is pestering him about Emma’s friendship with Harriet (and I believe trying to make him own his feelings):

“I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have seldom seen a face or figure more pleasing to me than hers. But I am a partial old friend.”

By the end of the novel, however, they are no longer satisfied to simply be friends. A person may have a hundred friends, and they may come and go through life. Emma and Knightley are the best of friends, but that is such an inadequate word for their feelings.

But if you have any wish to speak openly to me as a friend, or to ask my opinion of any thing that you may have in contemplation—as a friend, indeed, you may command me.—I will hear whatever you like. I will tell you exactly what I think.”

“As a friend!”—repeated Mr. Knightley.—”Emma, that I fear is a word—No, I have no wish—Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?—

Instead of leaving it at friendship, Knightley expresses more:

“My dearest Emma,” said he, “for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour’s conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—”

Knightley and Emma have ascended from kinship to friendship to potential lovers.

“I cannot make speeches, Emma:” he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—”If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my feelings—and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice.”

Indeed, Emma returns his affections.

She spoke then, on being so entreated.—What did she say?—Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.—She said enough to shew there need not be despair—and to invite him to say more himself.


tumblr_m541hoc46w1r53l28o7_250And so we have one of the earliest examples in literature of a romance blossoming from friendship to beloved.

This one half-hour had given to each the same precious certainty of being beloved, had cleared from each the same degree of ignorance, jealousy, or distrust.

Now, the next time you see a Knightley vs. Darcy debate, you might find the fight closer than ever as, I believe, Knightley is free from any immoral insinuation. Jane Austen would not be the last to write such a concept. Romance books are rife with the trope of from friends to lovers or the adopted sibling to lovers etc. I consider my own love story closer to friends to lovers, so it has a soft spot in my heart.

 

Music Monday- Friends Don’t

Beautiful black and white rose with note on the petals

It’s Monday, so you know that means Music Monday! Each Monday, I post the lyrics and video to a song that serves as inspiration for later in the week. I will try to match my Wordless Wednesday and Thursday Three Hundred posts to the song. Maddie and Tae’s song “Friends Don’t” is just begging for a story.

Friends Don’t

They don’t cancel other plans
Have conversations with nothing but their eyes
They don’t hear each others’ names and forget to concentrate
Hits a nerve and lights you up like dynamite

Friends don’t call you in the middle of the night
Couldn’t even tell you why, they just felt like saying “hi”
Friends don’t stand around playing with their keys
Finding reasons not to leave, trying to hide the chemistry
Drive a little too slow
Take the long way home
Get a little too close
We do but, but friends don’t

They don’t almost say “I love you”
When they’re downtown somewhere, just a little drunk
They don’t talk about the future and put each other in it
And get chills with every accidental touch

Friends don’t call you in the middle of the night
Couldn’t even tell you why, they just felt like saying “hi”
Friends don’t stand around playing with their keys
Finding reasons not to leave, trying to hide the chemistry
Drive a little too slow
Take the long way home
Get a little too close
We do but, but friends don’t

I keep telling myself this might be nothing
But one look in your eyes and god, there’s something
You can lie to me and say you don’t
But I know you do
And I love you, too

Friends don’t call you in the middle of the night
Couldn’t even tell you why, they just felt like saying “hi”
Friends don’t stand around playing with their keys
Finding reasons not to leave, trying to hide the chemistry
Drive a little too slow
Take the long way home
Get a little too close
We do but, but friends don’t…
Friends don’t

Read more: Maddie & Tae – Friends Don’t Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Tempting Scandal- Chapter One, Part Two

Last time we stopped right where Sylvia–most embarrassingly–met the Duke! What shall happen next?


 

tempting scandal sOwen pushed forward and offered Sylvia help up to her feet. The gentleman—Sylvia knew he must be a duke given her brother’s words—glared at the spectators and they turned to resume their business.

“Is she injured?” the duke asked Owen.

“I can speak for myself,” Sylvia raised her chin and refused to look away when the man’s eyes met hers.

“I am certain Sylvia is unharmed,” Owen answered and placed a hand atop Sylvia’s. “Are you?”

The duke raised a brow and Owen flushed.

“Not—not that I mean to say you could not withstand my sister’s—well…I do not know what to call the display—not that you were making a display—I see your coat is torn.”

Sylvia could stand in silence no longer. She cleared her throat. “Brother, I believe we are keeping His Grace. Pray, forgive me.” She curtseyed. “I should have watched where I was going. I reacted instinctively and meant no harm. Please, send my brother the bill for the replacement. You have his name?”

“Indeed, Miss Linwood.”

Why did he sound so amused? Sylvia bobbed her head when she wanted to roll her eyes. “Again, please accept my apologies.”

“Yes!” Owen exclaimed. “Sylvia would never accost a duke under normal circumstances, I assure you.”

The duke smirked. “Keep an eye on your sister, then, Linwood. Good day to you both.” He gave the merest bow and strode away.

Beside her, Owen let out a great exhale. “That was bloody awful.”

“You do not need to tell me that,” Sylvia huffed, wishing she could rub the ache out of her backside. “I have never seen you so befuddled!”

Owen winced. “We are late. I may have missed my opportunity to speak with her.” He wrapped Sylvia’s hand around his arm and drug her forward with his long-legged and quick pace.

“Speak with who and who was that? You seemed to know him and vice versa.” Sylvia used her free hand to slam down her bonnet that threatened to fly away as they nearly ran down the street.

“That was Nathaniel Gordon, the Duke of Russell, and I had hoped to spend a moment in his sister’s company today.”

“Owen!” Sylvia planted her feet firmly on the ground and nearly fell on her face when her brother did not stop with her and kept tugging her arm.

“What is the matter?”

“Did you accept Clara’s invitation to meet at the museum to court a girl? We were supposed to return to the estate today. You know how much—”

“Court her?” Owen laughed. “I could never dare to hope for a courtship with Lady Laura Gordon.” He pulled her forward. “I only wished to hear her speak, to look upon her face…”

Sylvia’s eyes widened. Her brother was mooning over a girl, the sister of a duke and an arrogant one at that. Oh, this could mean terrible things. He had never seemed in love before and would have little to offer such a lady. At least it seemed he understood he had no future with the lady.

They gave their tickets to the clerk at the entrance and then rushed through the first few rooms until they met with their group. Clara, now the Duchess of Clifford, had been Sylvia’s most hated teacher until she met and fell in love and married. At the time, the transformation had impressed upon Sylvia and her school friends to vow to marry only for love. All these years later, Sylvia scoffed at the idea of love matches. Not one in a million couples had the love the Cliffords shared, and she knew she could never be so lucky. Who would have her anyway? She had little fortune and only passable looks. Gentlemen desired a wife skilled in embroidery rather than collecting rents.

“Ah, there you are,” Clara, the duchess said before reaching for Sylvia’s hands and pecking her cheek. “I was ready to give you up,” she laughed. “I know Sylvia wanted to return home, and Owen forgets appointments as often as he remembers them, but Laura insisted we linger.”

Sylvia watched as Owen smiled adoringly upon the young lady next to Clara. The girl blushed flame red.

“I do not believe you have met Sylvia, dear,” Clara squeezed Lady Laura’s hand. “Allow me to introduce you.”

The necessary introductions performed, Clara continued to guide them through rooms. “I sent the others ahead, but we should reach them in a moment. Clifford chose not to join us. Gordon needed to visit a shop, and Clifford says he comes too often to the Museum. He is extraordinarily fond of it.”

Sylvia smiled at the way her friend and mentor spoke of her husband. Turning her attention to Lady Laura, she asked, “Do you come to the Museum often?”

“Not as much as I would like,” she answered. “His Grace is often too busy to accompany me. I am very grateful for the Duchess of Clifford’s attention.”

“Nonsense,” Clara called over her shoulder. “And I believe I asked you to call me Clara. Now, here are the others.”

They rounded a corner and met a handful of other friends of the Cliffords. Seeing a friend, Sylvia excused herself. From the corner of her eye, she saw Owen replace her next to Lady Laura.

 

 

Reunited- Chapter Three

reunited 2

Chapter Three

 A shiver ran up Elizabeth arm as well bent over her gloved hand and raised it to his lips. A moment later, anger wracked her body and she snatched her hand away. Did he think he could show up five years after not a word and just resume where they had last met? She would not be his plaything again. However, it would not do to draw the notice of the whole assembly. Composing self, Elizabeth allowed will to place her hand on his arm as he escorted her back father.

“How wonderful you two look together,” Mr. Bennet observed with a sly glance with.

“Thank you, sir,” Will said.

Elizabeth clenched her teeth before she could say anything rude. She had seen Will and her father talking together earlier. Then she carefully watched as Will barely uttered more than a monosyllable to anybody else. His eyes peered across the room, and he frowned at everyone. Five years as the master of Pemberley had certainly inflated his ego. Why did he come at all? If the Bennets and Meryton society were no longer good enough for Fitzwilliam Will, then why would he come?

“Lizzy!” Mrs. Bennet called from across the room.

In any other scenario, Elizabeth would be mortified at her mother’s behavior. Now, she could never thank her enough for saving her from such an awkward situation.

“Come here my child,” Mrs. Bennet said at a more moderate tone and motioned at Elizabeth.

“Pardon me,” Elizabeth dropped a curtsy. She could feel Will’s eyes follow her.

“Mr. Graham has asked your hand for a set,” Mrs. Bennet said as Elizabeth approached. “Have you not, Mr. Graham?”

Mrs. Bennet’s eyes bounced between Elizabeth, and Mr. Graham with a smile fixed on her face. “Well, go.” She pushed the two on the dance floor.

Belatedly, Mr. Graham reached for Elizabeth’s hand and clumsily led her through the motions of the dance. The conversation was as dull as it had ever been. He was a few years older than Sam, so they had never been close, but Elizabeth had known him all of her life. Tonight’s conversation, just like all of her life, the man had bored her to tears. One of Meryton’s so-called finest gentlemen was not enough for Elizabeth’s mother. For three more dances, Mrs. Bennet continued to thrust gentlemen that Elizabeth had long refused to consider as suitors upon her.

The real insult of the evening, however, happened when her last partner stomped on her foot. After the dance ended, Elizabeth excused herself and went out to the balcony. Sliding off her dancing slipper, she massaged her poor toes as she leaned on the railing.

Elizabeth’s sighed as weariness slammed into her. She had thought she put all of her feelings for Will behind her. For five years, she had mourned this day as the death of her brother. Through the years, it had come to symbolize the end of her youth and naïveté as well. She could not say precisely when, but somewhere in the hopeless weeks and months after Sam’s death as she waited for Will to arrive at Longbourn or write to console her, her heart froze over.

The time has long passed, however, to be sad over her heartbreak. Instead, she embraced her anger at Will’s dismissal of her and his actions of the night. His imitation that he had written letters she had never answered was just another way he tried to manipulate her. Furthermore, her father knew who would be arriving nothing to warn her. While Will had not approached Mr. Bennet about Elizabeth’s hand before the fire, she found it hard to believe her father who had always been a shrewd observer did not notice their growing attachment. Nor could it have escaped him, due to Mrs. Bennet’s constant nagging on the subject, that Elizabeth never encouraged a suitor. Several gentlemen had made no secret of their desire to wed her. Whenever Elizabeth heard such a rumor, she found a way to signal to the man that she was not to be had. In the course of such, she had come close to entirely ruining her reputation in Meryton.

Elizabeth did feel sorry for her sisters though. Jane also was still unwed. Elizabeth’s next sister, Mary, had just turned seventeen. Mrs. Bennet desired to have Mary out in Society, but she would rather stay home and read. Tonight was one of the few occasions she could be forced out of the house. It was just as well in Elizabeth’s mind for her younger sisters were too young to want to marry. Would that she had not had it on her mind at the same age.

She heard the door to her side open and close and turned to look at whoever interactive her solitude. She held back a gasp at the presence of Will towering over her.

“I thought I could find you out here. You always would steal away for a few quiet moments.”

Elizabeth gulped at his nearness. So had he. Well, he had always wanted more than only a few moments of solitude. Still, it had been one of the things that united them. Elizabeth shook her head to dispel thoughts of the past and hated her traitorous heart for recalling it. Elizabeth turned back to face the visage of Meryton. Will came up beside her.

“I was surprised to hear you had not married since we last met.”

He spoke quietly, but Elizabeth nervously glanced around.

“Fear not, we are alone.”

Oh, she should fear that very, very much.

“As we often were,” he added as a whisper.

Enough of this foolishness, Elizabeth thought to herself. “From what I understand, you have no shortage of ladies you encounter unchaperoned.”

Will said nothing for a moment and then turned to face her. He leaned one arm on the balcony railing.

“Jealous?”

“Of what?” Elizabeth asked in an accusatory tone, giving away, she feared far too much emotion.

“Well, you have been without suitors since our…interlude. I suppose that would make any handsome young lady jealous.”

How dare he call her handsome? How dare he presume she had no suitors or that she was jealous of his lovers. The Elizabeth he had known five years ago would have slapped him for that, just as she had tried on the dance floor. Now, that she had gotten over the shock of seeing him, she could control her emotions better. She had learned to entirely conceal them after Sam’s death and Will’s abandonment, and she would not appear weak to him now.

Elizabeth turned to face him with raised brows. “I had forgotten you understood a lady’s mind so well.” She pointedly rolled her eyes to wordlessly illustrate her sarcasm. “However, I will tell you a few secrets you may not have gleaned. A woman does not need to be handsome to be jealous of the good fortune of another. In fact, most are only jealous of other women. So, you see I would have no cause for jealousy. For not only do I know I am pleasing to look at, but you are a man, and I cannot hate you for having a superior ribbon.”

Will stared at her. It was too dark for her to see the nuances of his expression. His eyes had always told her everything.

Abandoning his leaning position, he stood up straight. “Ah, then it must be the supposed other ladies I know that make you jealous.”

Elizabeth let out a hollow, mocking laugh. “I think not. What would I have to be jealous of? That they have tried to entrap the great Master of Pemberley? That they were used and discarded?”

Will took a step closer, and Elizabeth fought to keep her breath calm. His nearness had always wrecked havoc on her before. He still smelled of soap and sandalwood. His shoulders were broader, and he appeared more muscular than when she had last seen him. True, he was of age when they had met, but now he was a fully grown man. Every inch of him exuded confidence he had lacked at two and twenty. A part of Elizabeth that would never die screamed she belonged in his arms.

“Perhaps you are jealous of all the stories that claim I am in love with another.”

Elizabeth’s breath caught, and panic welled in her. Heart hammering, she fought to remain in control. She turned away from him once more. She could not be jealous of what he could not give. Elizabeth had no doubt that he loved any of those ladies any more than he had ever loved him. If the women were foolish enough to believe that after every rumour and year after year of his behaviour then she also had no pity for their broken hearts.

“I still have not heard anything that would give me a reason for jealousy. However, allow me to correct you on a few false presumptions. I have had many suitors.”

“You have not loved any of them?”

Did he sound closer to her? She refused to turn and look once more. She would not give him the satisfaction of knowing how he still affected her.

“Love is not necessary for matrimony. None of them have appealed to me on the most basic level. I must respect and esteem my partner. I must trust him and have faith in his good character. Men doing nothing more than waving their income in front of me and expecting me to swoon into their arms will be quite disappointed.”

“Oh, I know what it is to be disappointed by Elizabeth Bennet. I pity the foolish swains.”

“I have been out here long enough and feel quite refreshed now. Good evening, Mr. Darcy.”

Elizabeth turned to walk away. Will caught her wrist.

“Do not believe everything you read in the papers, Elizabeth. They did not know when I loved you.”

Before Elizabeth could do something stupid such as throw herself at him, he let her go and walked off. Elizabeth stood frozen in place, gaping after him. Did he mean to throw her whole world in tumult once more? Was this more of the game he played with country misses? Or was there truth and he really had loved her?

One thing she knew for sure, however. Whatever feelings he had for her five years ago were gone. He had said so himself and used the past tense regarding his alleged affection for her. Elizabeth could only hate herself that her love for him had not waned one iota in the nearly two thousand days since she had last seen him.

 

*****

Will awoke after a night of fitful sleep. After leaving Elizabeth, seemingly stunned at his words, on the balcony, he danced every remaining set. Even as he distracted himself with other ladies, he was acutely aware of Elizabeth’s return to the ballroom. Despite the exhaustion of dancing too much, he found little rest that night. Once more, Elizabeth Bennet stole his peace and slipped into his dreams.

Sighing, Will sat up in the bed and swung his legs over the edge. His feet touched the plush carpet and memories washed over him. Years ago, he had heard about Netherfield. He had suggested that he might rent a house when he proposed to Elizabeth, although she invited him to stay at Longbourn. In the weeks of their time apart during his summer holiday, Netherfield came to Will’s notice. Even if he could stay at Longbourn while he was courting Elizabeth, they would need their own house once they married. She had a far larger family than he did and Meryton was convenient to London so Will might still visit with his sister and his father. He had envisioned residing in Netherfield as the master with Elizabeth as his wife.

Disturbed by the direction of his thoughts, Will rang for his valet and readied for a morning ride. Sam had told Will all about the Hertfordshire countryside, and he was eager to see it. Pushing aside disappointed hopes and frustrating encounters, Will let the calm of being in nature and breezing over the ground envelop him.

After galloping over meadows and meandering along trails, Will chose to climb the only hill in the area. Sam had always marvelled at the mountainous peaks of Derbyshire when he visited. All Meryton could claim was Oakham Mount, and as a man raised in the peak district, it was nothing special. Still, Will could understand for the locals, it would be a pleasing enough vista.

His horse tired and needing more exertion, Will tied Apollo off and went up on foot. As he crested the hill, he discovered another already there. From behind, most would not readily identify her. Still petite, Elizabeth’s frame could be mistaken for many ladies. A part of Will wondered if he had taken to seeing her everywhere but mere miles from her house, it only made too much sense. Just as he had discovered five years ago, there was not another lady like her. She alone would be the Meryton miss who chose to watch the sunrise from a hill, heedless of the way the wet grass stained her petticoats.

She had not changed…and yet she had. She was such a vulnerable mix of confidence and regret last night. Will turned their conversations in his head over and over as he attempted to sleep. She appeared shocked when he mentioned having sent letters. Had she never received them? Instead of jealous other ladies had tried to court him, she seemed hurt that he would bring it up.

Had he been wrong all those years ago? Had Elizabeth not rejected him? He could stand the uncertainty no longer. He had vowed to himself he would make her love him during this visit. With confidence that only the Master of Pemberley could hold, he strode to her side.

“Good morning, Elizabeth.”

She started, and he chuckled.

“Good day, Mr. Darcy,” she said after recovering, then turned her head forward once more.

“You look lovely. I always liked you in green. I am pleased to see you have not given up your love of nature.”

Elizabeth whirled to face him, red-faced. “Stop this! I insist you cease all familiarities. You have no right to call me by my Christian name. Nor do you need to incessantly bring up the foolishness of my youth.”

Mesmerized by the fire in Elizabeth’s eyes, Will remained mute. He had experience dealing with an angry Elizabeth. Additionally, her ire gave him hope. It could be her behavior indicated a false assumption. Did she believe he had abandoned her?

“I believe I have every right,” he said and stepped forward. “Do you forget the promises we made to each other?”

“Did I forget them?” Elizabeth nearly screeched.

Will welcomed her vehemence, but she took a deep breath and swallowed her emotions. In the blink of an eye, she was the proper miss again and had her mask fixed in place.

“I waited to hear from you. I had expected letters or perhaps some clue via Sam. Then, after he…” she trailed off. “You never came. You never wrote, not even to my father.”

“I gave my condolences in person.”

“And was that all we should have expected from Sam’s best friend?”

“Is that all you wanted from me? Acknowledgment of my friend?”

“No,” Elizabeth shook her head. “You must know what I wanted. What I longed for.” A tear escaped one eye, and she brushed it away. “Are you so cruel, after all these years, to make me say it?”

A part of Will needed to hear her profess that she had loved him and had desired his comfort. “I imagine realizing you lost a wealthy suitor so soon after the death of your brother must have been a hard blow.”

Elizabeth paled, and for a moment, Will thought she might be sick. He opened his mouth to apologise and offer assistance. She held up a hand, silencing him.

Hurt flashed in her eyes. “I never sought your attention. I set no trap. No matter what poison your relatives and friends may have told you, I was guileless.”

Will could bear the facade no longer. He did not wish to wound her. “I should have believed that.”

“Yes, you should have.” She raised her chin in defiance. Then, she shook her head, and her shoulders slumped. “It is no matter. We were reckless youths who had not even known one another a week. I will not hold you to what we pledged then.”

Elizabeth turned to look at the vista once more. “We were so young and naive. We did not know how our whole world could change in an instant. We did not understand the expectations we faced.”

This was the Elizabeth he had fallen in love with. The one who shocked him with empathy and wisdom, even if as she said, their romance had been reckless. “I was not so young or naive as you,” he said. “I knew my promises, and I meant every word.”

Beside him, Elizabeth’s breath hitched. Will turned to look at her, although her bonnet hid most of her profile. A gentle breeze played at the locks of curls which framed her face. Stretching forward a hand, he caught one shiny lock between his fingers. As he stroked the silky fibers between his gloved digits, he inched closer to her, drawn by a magnetic force he had never fully understood. “I did write to you, Elizabeth. I wrote every day for weeks. I received no replies. I could hardly ask Sam directly as he still did not approve of our attachment. I knew from his reports you were well.”

Letting go of her hair, Will sighed and looked to his feet. “By the time of the fire, I confess, I had thought you did not care for me at all.”

Elizabeth gasped, drawing his head up. She wrenched her neck in his direction. Tears shimmered in her eyes. “How could you think that of me? Did you have so little faith in my constancy?”

Shaking his head, Will withdrew a handkerchief and offered it to Elizabeth. “No. I had begun to believe you never loved me at all.”

“You supposed I set out to entrap you!” Elizabeth burst into tears.

“Pray, forgive me,” Will said and attempted to soothe her.

Elizabeth violently shook her head and wiped her eyes. Turning his handkerchief over in her hand, a look of disgust and derision crossed her face before she threw it at him. “You had so little respect for me that you believed I would act like all those other debutantes. Nay! You believed me worse. Did you think I acted as a strumpet for you?”

Guilt spread through him, causing nausea to rise in his belly. He had thought that. He had supposed she had found someone better as well. “Whatever disservice I gave you in my thoughts were nothing to how I abused myself.”

“What do you mean?”

“If I were a better man, you would not have forsaken me. You would have really loved me and not ran off to find richer pastures.”

“Will you are as stupid as ever!” Elizabeth cried, and her chest heaved. “Find a richer man? How? When did I ever care for such things?”

She stepped forward wagging a finger at him with her other hand propped on her hip. “I did love you!” She poked him in the chest. Dropping her chin, she whispered, “I still do.”

The breeze quit blowing, and birds stopped singing. The whole world stood still, Will was sure of it. “What did you say?” The distance between them now was thinner than paper. He had heard her words but needed her to consciously speak them.

Elizabeth remained silent. Will tilted her chin up, hoping to read her gaze. A blush had spread over Elizabeth’s cheeks, and she squeezed her eyes shut.

“I thought your courage always rose,” he said to bait her.

Her eyes flew open, meeting his. “I never stopped loving you.”

Will thought he heard a cracking sound deep in the forest, but it must have only been the walls around his heart collapsing before he pulled Elizabeth into his arms and covered her mouth with his.

Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters, Chapter Three Part One

Road in dark forest

Chapter Three

 

Instead of dreaming of gentlemen as might be supposed after a ball, each lady dreamed of their deceased parent. Mr. Morland came to Kate bathed in a white glow and bade her go to the woods behind the east garden. The deceased Mrs. Bennet ordered her daughters there as well. Jane obeyed readily enough, although she trembled at the strangeness of her mother’s ghost appearing before her. Elizabeth, however, was too sensible even in her dreams. At length, as she felt as though her limbs were on fire, she determined the cool autumn air would bring relief.

The sisters stood around a neglected fountain currently covered in overgrown ivy. They looked at each other in confusion.

“How strange that we are all here,” Jane said.

“Yes,” Kate agreed. “I do not recall leaving my bed. I have never roamed about when asleep before.”

“Nor I,” said Elizabeth. “However, now that I am here, I feel like I ought to remain. That is ridiculousness, is it not? Leaving feels somehow wrong.”

Jane looked around the area with dawning comprehension. “Lizzy, do you remember how we used to play here? I think I was about eleven when we stopped coming.”

Elizabeth slowly nodded. They had not visited this fountain in many years, long before her mother and sisters died. Playing here was one of her first memories. “Yes, we would dance around it with Mary. I don’t think Kitty was born yet. I used to pretend the most fantastical things happened. The trees and flowers would dance with us and sing a special song.”

“Why did you stop coming?” Kate questioned.

Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders. “Mary had a nightmare, and then we were not allowed to come here anymore.”

“They frightened her so much,” Jane murmured. She had always been very sensitive to the feelings of others.

“I used to have bad dreams,” Kate said. “Sometimes it seemed like they came true.”

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked while Jane gasped in alarm. Why had Kate never mentioned that before? Is that what had happened with Mary? Elizabeth could not remember.

“It started with small things. I dreamed my cat had kittens and the next day she did.”

“That is rather explainable,” said Elizabeth dubiously. “Someone probably told you she would soon have them.”

Kate nodded. “I dreamed of a man in a carriage during a terrible storm one night. There was a large rut in the ground, and it broke the carriage wheel. The man came to no harm, but one of the horses went lame.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “Did that come to be as well?”

“Yes, my uncle came to visit us the next day, and the exact scenario had happened to him.”

“What else?” Elizabeth asked as her curiosity grew. Jane trembled beside her.

“The last dream I had was of my grandmother dying. She sang some strange song to me as she held my hand.”

Words lodged in Elizabeth’s throat. She felt as though she were on the cusp of something, like looking over the edge of a cliff and deciding to jump. “Did…did…that come true?”

“Yes. I was so upset and terrified. I wept at her side, and I remember thinking that I had caused her death because of my dream.”

“Surely that was not so!” Jane cried, tears shimmered in her eyes as though she could now feel the despair Kate must have experienced.

“It was my last dream,” Kate whispered.

“How old were you?” Elizabeth asked.

“Eleven. We soon came to Hertfordshire and…”

Kate trailed off as each girl knew what happened afterward. An illness swept the county and claimed their parents.

“Sometimes, I still feel as though I have seen something in a dream. The ball this evening, for example, seemed eerily familiar.”

Recalling her strange dream of her dead mother earlier this night, Elizabeth looked at Kate intently and asked, “Did you dream tonight?”

Kate slowly nodded. “Yes. My father told me to come here.”

Jane spoke up. “I have never had such strange dreams before, but tonight my mother appeared clothed in white and asked me to come to the fountain.”

Elizabeth laughed. “How strange that I should dream the same thing. I am sure you obediently went, even while still asleep, whereas I argued with her!”

“What made you leave your bed then?” asked Jane.

“I suddenly felt so hot. It was as if I held my hand over a fire too closely.” A breeze rustled in the nearby trees, and Elizabeth shuddered. “Now I feel cold.”

“Come, share my wrap,” Jane said.

Their youngest sister suddenly looked in need of comforting. She held out her other arm to Kate.

“You too, Kate.”

The three sisters huddled together before the fountain when a great rush of wind parted the sky. The moon shone so brightly they had to cover their eyes.

“Look up, children.”

Elizabeth and Jane gasped in unison when they saw their deceased mother bathed in white and floating like an angel.

“Kate, all is well.”

A ghostly gentleman said next to Elizabeth’s mother, and she presumed it was Mr. Morland.

“This cannot be!” cried Elizabeth.

“It is real,” Mr. Bennet said from behind them.

The sisters spun on their heel to see their living parents standing hand in hand and with no expressions of shock.

“Have no fear,”

“Are we dead?” Kate asked in confusion.

“No, dearest,” Mrs. Bennet explained. “The time is now right for your powers to be returned. You are descendants from great lines of witches.”

Still in each other’s arms, Elizabeth could feel Kate and Jane tremble at such news.

“No,” Jane whispered and vehemently shook her head. “I would never want to harm a soul.”

Elizabeth squeezed her older sister’s hand. “Of course not, Janie. You are the sweetest person in the world!”

“We must be fevered or going mad!” Kate exclaimed.

“I see your fear,” Mr. Bennet said and raised his hands to silence them. “You do not recall for we bound your powers and erased the memories. However, you were born with gifts and for many years knew of the magical world. Contrary to the contemporary representation, we come from good witches.”