Hello, readers!! I’m so excited to back on the blog with a story to post. I did have a release over the summer, but I was unable to have the time and energy to post it on the blog. If you missed it, you can purchase COURTSHIP AT ROSINGS, here. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WFK5FC1
Let’s see…a quick update about me. We moved in April. My MS is well-managed but I tire easily and need to nap every day for several hours. My kids have returned to public school and are adjusting well to that. My daughter is now doing dance classes three nights a week and my son is interested in resuming karate. My husband is still working a ton.
As I can’t write as much as I used to, I have turned to my make-up business as a fill-in. If you follow me on social media, then I’m sure you’ve seen posts about it! I don’t plan to ever stop writing, but I can’t make the sacrifices (like sleep) that I used to make to write as many books. It’s been a difficult transition for me. The characters and stories don’t necessarily go quiet just because my brain has hit its eloquence point for the day or my body is too tired to remain upright any longer. It’s all about managing my “spoons.” I have to conserve some for my family and my health and, unfortunately, writing time is the thing that’s had to change. And that’s okay. I wrote A LOT in the four years I was writing full-time. I gave it my all and I’m very proud of everything I’ve achieved. It’s a new phase in my life. It’s different, but it’s not bad. I hope you all will stay along with me for it!
This story, MR. DARCY’S GRIEVING WIFE, is a work in progress but it is nearly half way finished. I hope to have it completed in the next week and then will send it to the editor. It will be available on my blog until its release for sale. It will be a novella, but I obviously can’t know the final length in advance. I have no blurb yet, so let’s just start, shall we?
Elizabeth Bennet hugged her sister close to her as the carriage rolled away from Netherfield Park. “Jane, this is the first time after so short a separation from Longbourn that I am delighted to go home. I know you will not agree with me due to your general good nature and,” she raised a brow, “because you were fortunate to receive the steadfast admiration and attentions of Mr. Bingley. I believe he is in love with you already!”
“I doubt that Mr. Bingley holds me in much regard at all, let alone love. Also, you do not give Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst enough credit. They were excessively attentive to me. Surely you misunderstand them.” Jane paused for a moment before meeting Elizabeth’s eye, and gravely said, “I think Mr. Darcy is a pleasant fellow. He is friends with Mr. Bingley, after all. You should give him another chance.”
Elizabeth laughed and shook her head. “Everyone with eyes can see that Mr. Bingley admires you. He is inattentive to anyone else. As to your other opinions, you prove my point exactly so! You find everyone agreeable and point to their relationship with yet another agreeable person as proof. Am I to be called sweet-tempered just because you are?”
“Dearest Lizzy, but who would call you anything but lively and spirited? Now, despite my sadness at leaving my new friends, I am glad to return home and my familiar surroundings. There is nothing like one’s own bed when ill.”
“Will you only regret the distance of friends? Will you not mourn the absence of Mr. Bingley as well? When do you think he shall call to inquire after your health?”
Before Jane could reply, the Bingley carriage arrived at Longbourn, allowing her only time to blush. Their mother and three younger sisters came bounding out to meet them with varied reactions.
“Jane! Lizzy!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed, “What do you mean by leaving Netherfield so soon? This must be your doing, Lizzy. You never listen to me! I told you to stay and complete Jane’s week at Netherfield. Surely that would have given Mr. Bingley enough time to propose!” She glanced at her eldest daughter and helped untie her bonnet. “Jane darling, you are flushed. I think your fever has returned. I knew this ride was too early and will set back your health. How will Mr. Bingley propose if you are bedridden all autumn?”
After shooing everyone inside, Mrs. Bennet thrust the back of her hand to Jane’s forehead. She withdrew it without an additional word regarding fever, so Elizabeth assumed Jane’s pink cheeks were merely due to the teasing in the carriage.
“He will lose interest while you recover. That is if he is not already offended at the trouble of giving you conveyance!” The woman silenced for a moment and took out a handkerchief, patting at her eyes. “What will become of us if you do not marry well, Jane? Should your father die, we would be out in the hedgerows within a fortnight!”
“Killing me off in your imagination again, my dear?” Mr. Bennet had emerged from his library and, in typical fashion, had not intervened until his wife was in a frenzy. He stepped forward, at last. “Jane, Elizabeth, I am glad you have come home.”
The fourth Bennet daughter pushed past her parents. “You will never believe the news we have had of the officers since you have been away! We dined with them—”
“Shush Kitty! You’ll not tell it right, let me,” interjected Lydia, the youngest, before extolling with unsuitable loudness and exuberance about the latest dinner parties in which the officers of the encamped militia had attended
Elizabeth sought out her other sister, Mary, to still the silent chiding in her head, “And you, Mary? What have you been up to while we have been away?”
“I have spent considerable time at the pianoforte. My sisters tell me that Mr. Bingley is to host a ball, and I wish to be prepared.”
The family entered the drawing room, and as the familiar comforts sank upon Elizabeth smiled even amidst the increasing loudness and silliness surrounding her. While her mother and sisters might be silly and improper, they were her family nonetheless, and she loved them. Longbourn might not be the most fashionable house, but this was her home, the only one she had ever known.
Meeting her father’s eyes, Elizabeth silently communicated with him that she would shortly join him in the library. She knew Mr. Bennet would be most anxious to hear Elizabeth’s opinions on her observations about the Netherfield party. He was her favourite companion, and she was his most beloved daughter. The loss they felt even upon short separations was acute.
Once her mother and all of her sisters were settled, Elizabeth crept into her father’s study. When she was a girl, she had delighted in attempting to sneak up on him. However, he always knew when she approached. It was a game they still played. Mr. Bennet sat in a chair near the fireplace, with the window open to allow greater light. Elizabeth tiptoed to his chair and placed her hand over her eyes. Concealing her voice, she said, “Guess who it is.”
“It could not be my little Lizzy,” he said. “For she has gone off on another adventure, leaving me quite behind. I believe she intended to slay a dragon this time.”
Elizabeth laughed and removed her hands. She popped her head around the chair and kissed her father on his cheek. “You are such a tease, Papa!” Walking around, she sat on a stool at his feet. “I am too old to be your little Lizzy any longer.”
“So you have said since you were fourteen, but you will always be Little Lizzy to me.”
Elizabeth sighed. “It really is not fair that everyone is taller than me. Lydia delights in telling everyone!”
“You have always made up for a deficiency in stature with a giant’s amount of bravery. You have never been afraid of anything.”
“You shall not regale me with old stories of my childhood,” Elizabeth laughed and shook her head. “I lived them, you know! And your retellings get more fanciful each time. Now, about your remark earlier—” she paused and wagged her finger when Mr. Bennet raised a brow—“you did not think I would forget about it, did you? You know I did not go to Netherfield to ‘slay any dragons.’ Nor should you say such things about Mr. Bingley’s guests.” Elizabeth smoothed her skit.
“Ah, you have grown up at last. Come, I know you find them ridiculous.”
“I do,” she agreed. “However, they are far more harmless than any dragons would be. They will live their lives in their house, and we shall live ours. We can be perfectly cordial when we see each other in company.”
“I fear they may destroy your mother’s plans for Mr. Bingley.”
Elizabeth scoffed. “Mama’s plans! Despite her beliefs, a man cannot be commanded to fall in love with a woman. I would not wish Mr. Bingley for Jane if she was not partial for him herself. I think she is a fair way to being in love with him—the fact that his sisters and friend do not deter her is proof enough of her feelings. His feelings are evident in every interaction they have.”
“You do not worry that his friends may discourage his attachment?”
“What man with independent means and is really in love would be dissuaded from the wife of his choice merely because of the arguments of his friend and sister? Mr. Bingley has a sound mind. He is his own man and has no one to answer to. There is far more reason to fear my sisters running after officers than there is be concerned over Bingley taking a sudden dislike to Jane.”
“There is the energy that I am used to!” Mr. Bennet chuckled. “You were too mild earlier. I think you must be overtired between caring for your sister and keeping your guard up around the dragons in the tower. Best get on to sleep then.”
Elizabeth meant to refuse, but an untimely yawn proved her father’s point. She could use a nap. Standing, she chuckled. “How do the dragons fit in the tower?”
“You would have to ask the architect his secrets to know the answer to that. Alas, I do not know who builds such things.”
Elizabeth bent to kiss her father on the cheek again before leaving the room. As she climbed the stairs to her familiar chamber, she considered Mr. Bennet’s words. Indeed, who made the rules of Society where young ladies of status and money must become dragons, eager to swallow their fellow women? And yet, they were still locked in a tower, unable to do much but destroy their own means of security. Indeed, even a man such as Mr. Darcy was subject to the confines of the castle. Alas, if the life they had at Netherfield were a castle, then Elizabeth would be sure to run in the opposite direction. She would rather live in a gutter than the empty life she had seen there.
At breakfast the next morning, Mr. Bennet revealed that their distant cousin who would inherit Longbourn would arrive that afternoon. According to Mr. Collins’ letter, the purpose of his visit was to make amends between the two families as his recently deceased father was on bad terms with Mr. Bennet. Elizabeth believed the gentleman was everything ridiculous after hearing his letter. Upon his arrival, he did not disappoint.
Mr. Collins arrived exactly at his stated time. Mrs. Bennet greeted him with cold disdain until he flattered her with many compliments. Kitty and Lydia instantly dismissed him as he was only a rector and not handsome at all. Jane and Mary showed a real interest in behaving civilly toward him, and Elizabeth endeavoured to do so as well. However, she could not avoid the temptation to share sly looks with her father whenever Mr. Collins said something amusing. Dinner provided many opportunities for their secret conversation.
After he pontificated on the delights of his patroness and her daughter’s destiny to become a duchess, Mr. Collins added, “These small compliments please her ladyship, and as her rector, I feel bound to pay them.” He dropped his voice, although still loud enough for all to hear, and leaned his head toward Jane. “She has other livings to bestow and my intention is to show myself indispensable to her. I believe I shall be handsomely rewarded for my efforts.”
Elizabeth’s eyes shot to her father. They shared a smile and simultaneously reached for their glasses, lest they outright laugh. Mr. Collins certainly chose the wrong profession if he had such ambitions. Of course, he did not have the talent to do well in any other position. Grovelling to a titled lady would be the most he could hope to achieve with his natural abilities and personality.
The remainder of the evening displayed only more of his ridiculousness. He would not read a novel and chided Lydia for her disinterest in a book of sermons. He finally settled to play backgammon with Mr. Bennet, but he could not resist continued mentions of his house and garden. By the end of the evening, Elizabeth could see her father’s exhaustion with putting up with the young intruder. As she bid her father good night, she whispered to him it was less than a fortnight until all would return to normal.
After breakfast on Tuesday, Mr. Collins followed Mr. Bennet to the library. It did not surprise Elizabeth that by eleven, Mr. Bennet suggested the gentleman attend four of his daughters on their walk to Meryton as Mary wished to remain home. Elizabeth perceived her father was anxious to be rid of his company. Usually, she would find amusement in Mr. Collins and her father’s low tolerance for the annoying gentleman. Today, she was frustrated that he could not bother himself to entertain their guest. She had had her fill with aggravating young men at Netherfield and desired to enjoy her return to Longbourn. Instead, she was nearly immediately besieged by her pompous cousin, who seemed to follow her around the house. How she coveted a moment of silence to herself!
Just as Elizabeth and the others reached the edge of Meryton, a servant from Longbourn came running after them.
“Oh, misses! Come quick! The master has fallen ill, and my mistress is sick with worry.”
Immediately, Elizabeth felt her knees grow weak. It was unlike Sally to exaggerate, and she was not new to Mrs. Bennet’s antics. This must be serious, indeed.
“Do not worry, my dear cousins,” Mr. Collins rushed to say before anyone else could speak. “I shall escort you home, and I will pray for your father’s recovery. If, however, the Lord sees fit not to answer that prayer, you will find I will not be an unkind master.”
He bowed to Elizabeth, and a terrible suspicion filled her. Had Mr. Collins meant for her to be the olive branch between the families? How dare he suggest it so callously! Paying him no heed, she turned to her sisters. Jane’s lip trembled while Kitty and Lydia clutched their eldest sister’s arms.
“Come, let us hurry,” Elizabeth put her arm around one sister, hoping the rest would follow. “Has the surgeon been sent for?” she asked the maid.
“Aye, Miss Lizzy.”
Once home, Elizabeth spoke with Jane on how to direct the members of the family. Jane and Mary would sit with Mrs. Bennet while Kitty and Lydia were told to keep quiet. Elizabeth waited with her father, who laid reclining in his library. Unfortunately, Mr. Collins chose to do so, as well.
Elizabeth trembled as she saw how pale her father was. His breaths were laboured, and it was sometimes difficult to understand his speech. He could not raise his left hand and complained of a terrible headache.
The surgeon came and examined Mr. Bennet while Elizabeth awaited outside the door. She questioned him as soon as the man exited, Mr. Collins hovering just over her shoulder.
“I fear it is the very worst, Miss Bennet. He has had an apoplexy and shall not recover. You must prepare yourselves.”
Elizabeth’s knees buckled, and she clutched the wall for support. “Wh-when?”
“It may be days, certainly not weeks.”
“Is there nothing you can do for him?”
“It is beyond my assistance now. I have left laudanum for the pain, and if you need more, Mr. Jones has a healthy supply. There is no need to measure the dose. He will not live long enough to become addicted.”
With a trembling lip, Elizabeth nodded at the doctor, who chose to see himself out. Someone would have to tell her mother. Calling for a servant, she had Jane brought down. Elizabeth delivered the news to her eldest sister and asked if she would inform Mrs. Bennet.
“I shall have Hill draw up her salts and all the other things that soothe her. We ought to write to my uncle Gardiner and tell my aunt Phillips.”
Elizabeth agreed. “Send Kitty and Lydia to Aunt Phillips. Mary may write the Gardiners. That leaves you to sit with Mama, and I shall watch over Papa.”
Once Jane had left to see to her duties, Elizabeth turned to Mr. Collins, who had attached himself at her side like a leech. “Perhaps you can walk to Meryton with my sisters?”
“I do not think it would be appropriate for me to do so. My position is here with you.”
With a clammy hand, he reached for hers. Instantly, Elizabeth’s stomach revolted, and she attempted to draw it back.
“Cousin Elizabeth, I had not planned to speak so early, but you must see there is little time to waste. Lady Catherine does not support unwed rectors, and I entirely agree with her. I am conscious, too, of the hurt my now imminent inheritance will do to you and your sisters. I came to Longbourn to find a wife. I will admit you were not the first object of my interest, but I am very pleased with your conduct and attractiveness. I will not hold it against you in the least that you come to me with little money. I know you will honour me all the more for my condescension.”
Elizabeth could scarcely breathe. She could never ever marry Mr. Collins—or any man she did not love.
Until the unthinkable happened, and her father was mortally ill, that is. Without allowing the man to finish, she raced out of the room. In a matter of minutes, she found herself knocking on the door to Lucas Lodge, requesting her friend Charlotte to join her for a walk. Elizabeth needed sensible advice, and she knew Charlotte would be the one to give it.
What did you think of this chapter? I first wrote pieces (very, very bad pieces) of it about six years ago! It’s been fun to return to my old abandoned works and make them sooooo much better. What do you think Lizzy will say to Mr. Collins?