Music Monday–This is Me

 

Beautiful black and white rose with note on the petals

Last week, I was at the Younique Convention in San Antonio, Texas. For those that don’t know, I also run a side business selling makeup. I arrived at the convention exhausted and broken down. 2018 has been a very rough year for me with two moves in six months. I was having to put everyone else first and keep up with publishing too. I was barely treading water and felt like I had lost a lot of who I was. The entire convention was about empowering presenters, uplifting them, validating who they are exactly where they are. I felt like it spoke to my heart in every single session and break out group. One evening, we were fortunate enough to have Keala Settle perform for us. She did many songs and talked along the way–even gave a little motivational speech. You can really tell she has so much heart and despite her success she’s just as normal as anyone. I’ve lived under a rock and still have not seen The Greatest Showman or really heard “This is Me” before. I had heard it in the background of stuff and liked what I heard. However, when you’re in a convention setting and 12,000 of you get to be her backup singers…it was powerful and amazing. This is me. Bruises and all. Truly one of the most profound moments of my life. What has been one of yours?

 

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)
I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh
This is me
and I know that I deserve your love
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) ’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of
(Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is proof
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I’m gonna send a flood
Gonna drown them out
Oh
This is me
Songwriters: Justin Paul / Benj Pasek. Performed by Keala Settle.

Reunited- Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

 

Will chuckled as he considered how to explain Mr. Bennet’s plot to Elizabeth. “He is resting in the room next to you and is quite content. I do not think you will find him in much pain,” he grinned, “and as he has requested all the best books in the house brought to his room, he declares he may never leave.”

Elizabeth laughed. “He is usually such a terrible patient. He must be feeling much better already.”

Will said nothing, only smiled at her response. Bennet had admitted he had not truly injured himself on his ride. He believed bringing Elizabeth to Netherfield would allow them time to court but believed she needed a chaperone. Recalling their past breaks in propriety, Will even entering Elizabeth’s room when she had stayed at Darcy House, he had to see the wisdom in Mr. Bennet’s plan. Of course, if Elizabeth became ill over the scheme, he would never forgive himself.

“Why are you frowning?” Elizabeth hissed in his ear.

“Nothing but my own insecurities,” he answered.

Elizabeth searched his face. “I wish you would tell me one day.”

“When you are my wife, I intend to share everything with you.”

“But not before?”

“Miss Eliza, you must be positively freezing,” Caroline said and pulled Elizabeth’s arm into her chamber.

Will watched her go with regret as Caroline closed the door nearly on his face.

“Come, man,” Charles said at his side. “She is under this roof. You will see her soon enough.”

Will nodded and followed his friend to the billiards room. He would not have sent for Elizabeth under such guise. She had wanted an open courtship, and that meant calling at Longbourn—even if Mrs. Bennet did not approve. Making love to Elizabeth before her entire family would be no easy task but surely it would not be any easier under Caroline Bingley’s watchful eye.

The afternoon passed, and Charles enjoyed many good-natured laughs at his friend’s expense for Will’s focus and attention was fixated on Elizabeth. At last, dinner was served and the relief he felt at seeing Elizabeth, dressed in a borrowed gown and looking fresh, was more than he could describe. He had never before cared for Caroline Bingley’s gowns or noticed them except for when she begged for his compliments, but the more fashionable and expensive attire suited Elizabeth very well. She no longer looked like Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn but rather his Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley.

Although not seated near one another, Will observed Elizabeth during the meal. She carried herself with more grace and confidence than she had five years before. Her cleverness and coyness had not diminished as Miss Bingley, and Mrs. Hurst hoped to find ways in which to mock her, but some of the more biting edge to her commentary had been softened. She was no longer a carefree youth, experiencing her first bit of Society.

“Mr. Phillips, the solicitor, is your uncle? And your other one a merchant in London?” Mrs. Hurst had asked with a sly look at Caroline.

“Do not you remember,” Charles answered. “Mrs. Bennet is Miss Elizabeth’s step-mother. Those would not be her direct relations.”

“They would count as connections, at the very least,” Caroline snapped. “Well, you do put on such a good face for a girl with no money and such low connections. Bravo for you!”

Charles blinked in a stupefied manner, and an angry defense was on the tip of Will’s tongue when Elizabeth answered in a cheerful tone.

“I am not ashamed of my connections and, indeed, I call them relations. The Gardiners are among my favorite people in all the world, and you will not meet a more gentlemanly man than Mrs. Bennet’s brother in London.”

“Upon my word!” Caroline cried. “The most gentlemanly man in all the world is surely Mr. Darcy.”

Elizabeth gave Will an apologetic smile. “I only speak as I find but perhaps we must make allowances for the affection of a favorite niece.”

“What sort of business does he do?” Charles asked with a panicked look between Will and Elizabeth. “We have an uncle, lately of London, who had been a clothier.”

“Charles!” Louisa exclaimed. “Uncle Bertrand has not lived in London in nearly three decades.”

“Ah, not so very different from Sir William Lucas then,” Elizabeth nodded. “Once he was knighted, he quit London and his shop, and bought Lucas Lodge and about the same time your uncle left Town. What is the name of your uncle’s estate?”

“He…he…resides in Scarborough,” Caroline admitted.

“Oh, how lovely,” Elizabeth said with a smile and then sipped her wine.

“But what of your other relations, Miss Elizabeth?” Mrs. Hurst asked. “Surely your mother had a family.”

“Of course,” Elizabeth nodded. “I believe you met Mrs. Long at the assembly. My mother was her sister. Their father’s estate was entailed, and their other sister married the heir. Unfortunately, they soon died with only two daughters surviving them. For many years, Mrs. Long—who never had any children of her own—raised her nieces in Sussex and they have only recently settled back in Meryton.”

“So your mother was the daughter of a gentleman?” Caroline asked in an accusatory tone while sawing at her meat.

The conversation carried on with Caroline and Louisa interrogating Elizabeth, finally hitting upon the topic of the inheritance of Longbourn now that the heir had died. Will frowned and glared at them when they both noticeably began to treat Elizabeth better upon hearing that it would go to the second eldest grandson of Mr. Bennet. Charles, however, seemed only to notice that they suddenly began asking after Miss Bennet.

At last, the meal ended, and the ladies left the gentlemen. When the men returned to the drawing room, they found the ladies at a discussion on poetry.

“I like many a verse,” Elizabeth declared, “but I do think the notion of writing a sonnet for your beloved quite silly indeed. What are words to do with love?”

“I believe many consider poetry to be the food of love,” Will observed as he sat near her.

Elizabeth turned her face to him and their eyes locked. “Everything nourishes what is already strong. I am convinced that a lover would do much better by proving their faithfulness with actions rather than words. It is worth, too, understanding the desires and temperament of the receiver. Surely, there are some, where even a good sonnet might drive them away when they had preferred or expected a bouquet instead.”

“I say,” said Charles, “all this talk of poetry can hardly satisfy me. I had much rather talk of a ball or a play.”

“That is because you value doing much more than thinking, dear Charles,” Caroline sniffed. “How would you expect to pass an ideal evening, Mr. Darcy?”

“If you mean what is ideal than surely being at a ball or play instead of merely talking about one would be mine,” Charles laughed.

Elizabeth smiled encouragingly at Will. She wanted to know this of him, he realised.

“An ideal evening, for me, depends much more on the company than the activity,” he answered. “Any event with the proper partner heightens the enjoyment and if one’s companion is disagreeable then what is pleasurable at any other moment becomes loathsome.”

“And what would make the most agreeable partner?” Caroline fluttered her lashes in his direction.

Meeting Elizabeth’s eyes once more, Will answered, “I enjoy surrounding myself with companions who have an open temperament and friendly nature. They do not meet others simply to puff themselves up. There is no false compliments and sneaky mockery. They have more class and grace. Neither do they become flustered when they meet with unpleasant individuals. They understand their worth and know the low opinion of such sour people could never denigrate it.”

“Hear! Hear!” Charles cried, bringing Mr. Hurst from his rest and he awoke with a loud snort. “I think you have described our friend Sam Bennet and I confess I miss him greatly.” He smiled sadly at Elizabeth. “You were blessed to have such a brother.”

“Indeed I was,” she answered. “This discussion has been most fascinating, but if you will excuse me, regardless of what I find ideal, this evening, I desire to visit with my father before retiring.”

“Will you not share your opinion?” Will asked hastily as he stood to bow at her exit.

Elizabeth paused for a moment as her hand rested on the doorknob. She looked over her shoulder. “I believe evenings with old friends to be the very best sorts.” She bobbed a curtsy and left.

 

*****

 

Elizabeth spent much of the following morning in her father’s chamber. Will and Mr. Bingley were kind enough to visit. While there, the mail was delivered. Elizabeth watched as Will read his letters. The lines between his eyes deepening with each successive piece of paper.

She took the momentary silence to study him. Who had cared for him all these years? They had not had an opportunity to speak about it, but years ago, she had sensed that his father was not of like temperament or really understood his son. He seemed to request—even demand—things from the reserved young man that were intensely difficult and nigh on impossible for him to accomplish. Elizabeth knew that Lady Anne had died while Will was a boy and he met Sam soon after. She had supposed that Sam was a support to Will during those years, but since his death who did Will have? He had said Mr. Bingley and his cousin were of help but how much assistance could they be when they had their own affairs? Even if Sam had lived, he would have needed far more than the support of a friend upon inheriting Pemberley.

Emotion clogged her throat and tears welled in her eyes as Elizabeth considered for the first time how much he must have needed a wife—needed her. He had ample opportunity to find another woman to court and wed. She had told herself, as she obsessively read the Society papers looking for the day an announcement would appear and dash all her dearest wishes, he must have been too busy. However, they often reported attachments that all came to nothing. They hinted at secretive meetings with less than reputable ladies and while that injured Elizabeth, she supposed he did not marry anyone out of continued care for her.

Yes, it was not just any sort of woman he needed—he needed her. She could see how the years had weighed on him. He smiled less, he laughed infrequently. He was far more commanding than the young man she had known, but he had lost much of his joy. While Elizabeth had often felt inadequate for the role of his wife, she considered now that she was precisely what he needed. He was not unhappy by nature—he wished so very much to be lighthearted. She could sense that part of her responding to a kindred spirit within him when they talked.

“Lizzy, you have not turned your page in many minutes,” Mr. Bennet said, biting back a smile.

Elizabeth blushed and closed the book she held. “I suppose it does not captivate my attention. Pardon my woolgathering. Do you need anything?” Her eyes went to the clock in the room. “Heavens! Is that the time?”

Elizabeth stood and busied herself at a table mixing potions to give her father a dose of the tonic as the apothecary had shown her years ago. Mr. Bingley also noted the time and excused himself, but Will remained.

“Lizzy, now that Mr. Bingley has left, I must speak with you and Will.”

Elizabeth handed him the glass and looked at him expectantly as he downed the mixture.

“I suppose Will did not tell you the truth. I am uninjured—” he spoke over Elizabeth’s gasp. “I considered this scheme the best way to allow you two some time to reacquaint yourselves and far more conducive than our drawing room.”

Elizabeth frowned. “Mama feared for your health when you left without speaking to us and just before the rain came.” She took the glass from his hand and returned it to the table with the ingredients. She whirled back around to face him and place a hand on her hip. “I ought not to have given you this.”

“Be at ease. The weather has pained me—I did not lie on that count—and the jostling of riding did not help anything. I just allowed imaginations to do the rest. I did not fall from my horse or step the wrong way or anything like that. No acute injury occurred.”

“I still cannot praise you for being so thoughtless about her concerns.”

“The woman’s anxieties do not last long. She knows one does not die from sore joints.”

“No,” Elizabeth shook her head. “It is not only that. You know she did not wish for me to come. She does not approve—” she winced as she had forgotten that Will was in the room.

“It is well, Elizabeth,” Will said. “It does not offend me. She cares for you, and I have injured you.”

“And this was the scheme you two agreed upon at Lucas Lodge?” She loved her father but had seen from an early age that he could be more courteous to her step-mother’s feelings. She would not wish for Will—who already had already thoughtlessly wounded her—to copy her father’s ways.

“Do not blame him,” Mr. Bennet interjected. “I did not tell him of my plans.”

“Are you very angry?” Will came to her side and lifted a hand to his lips.

“I am not angry,” she sighed. His lips on her skin pulled her focus from the topic at hand. “I only think your plan was ill-thought out, Papa.”

“I will allow your prerogative to disagree with my methods, but I doubt you dislike the effect.”

He chuckled, and Elizabeth blushed as she realised she had been staring into Will’s eyes.

“I give you leave to talk amongst yourselves over by the window,” Mr. Bennet said and picked up his book once more.

Will led Elizabeth to a chair by the window. They were at such a distance from Mr. Bennet that they could converse in privacy but he would see it all. Heat spread up her face as she thought, she would have preferred more solitude and a greater chance for an embrace and kisses.

“Did I understand you rightly last night?” Will asked. “You asked how I wanted to spend our evenings together once we wed?”

Nodding, Elizabeth smiled. “Yes, you see we are capable of more than misunderstanding one another.”

“I could not answer as fully as I would have wished. My days and evenings are often lonely and I would be happy to do anything so long as it is in your company.”

“Even dance?” Elizabeth teased. “I recall you did not enjoy it so very much.”

“I might dislike dancing more than ever,” he said and reached for her hand, “as I have found who I want as a partner for all of my sets. The thought of talking with other ladies is intolerable now.”

“Surely they are not all like Miss Bingley,” Elizabeth shook her head. She continued to wonder about how he occupied himself during their years apart but she could not ask—not with her father in the room and perhaps never.

“No,” Will sighed, “but neither are they you.”

“So you despise dancing still but are willing to do it with me,” Elizabeth observed. “I would never wish to make you go through motions you hate for all of our life. I am afraid you must tell me some of the ways you enjoy spending your time. Or perhaps I will confess the things I loathe, and you may join me. Tell me, sir, do you hate needlework as I do? We could be miserable together, or if you enjoy it, then you may rest easy knowing I will sit by your side although I hate every stitch I make.”

Will laughed heartily, and his smile reached his eyes. Elizabeth’s breath caught. Each time she made him smile or laugh, she felt as though she had unlocked a hidden piece of him. She had dueled a mighty foe and came out triumphant. She had given him some joy when most of the world caused him only pain and worry.

“How I have missed you,” he encased Elizabeth’s hand in both of his.

“Did you not have Georgiana to keep you company?” Elizabeth said after clearing her throat. The warmth from his hand was spreading through her body. It was a tender, innocent, touch but affected her nearly as much as his most ardent kisses. More so, it made her heart swell in a way their passionate embraces had not. To be cared for by Will was something she craved even more than his amorous pursuits.

Instantly, Will’s happiness disappeared. He began to pull his hands away, but Elizabeth brought her other one atop of his to keep them in place. “Will you tell me what upsets you?”

He searched her eyes. “It is difficult to speak about.”

The grief in his eyes almost overwhelmed her. “If you cannot speak now, we might at another time. I do not wish to pain you but I am to be your help-meet. I insist you tell me all.”

Gripping her hands tightly, Will nodded. “Might we meet for a walk later?”

“Certainly,” Elizabeth glanced out the window. “I suspect the road will be dry by the morrow, however. What else did your letters contain? They seemed to concern you greatly.”

“My cousin, Richard, replied to my inquiry if he would discreetly ask the Earl if he knew anything about my letters. He found out nothing. I hope you do not mind my mentioning it to him.”

“Of course not,” she smiled. “I am pleased we have assistance in this matter. I spoke with Mama. She had discerned that I held you in high regard and mourned your absence, but knew nothing else. She is quite angry with you.”

“I deserve it,” Will said. “I have been chastised by your father and will bear your mother’s displeasure as well. I only wonder why you have not made me grovel or sent me away. You would have every right—”

Elizabeth silenced him by placing a finger on his lips. “Pray, cease. We both made mistakes.”

“No,” he shook his head. “You are blameless. What could you do?”

“I knew your itinerary from Sam’s report. I might have written to him. Or sent a letter to your house. If we were engaged then it would not be breaking propriety. I did not because—well, it all seemed too good to be true. I loved you, but I resisted letting go. I held back. Why would a man like you love Lizzy Bennet with only fifty pounds a year and no connections? Mr. Bingley’s sisters were quite right last night.”

“Elizabeth!” Will exclaimed and raised her hands to his lips. Lowering them just so she could meet his eyes, he explained, “You are worth millions more than any of them! Not one woman of my acquaintance compares to you. I hate to hear you devalue yourself. It is my fault—”

“No,” Elizabeth blinked away tears. “No, you are not to blame for my insecurities any more than I ought to blame myself for yours. Let us think of the past only as it gives us pleasure.”

“Then I only regret that there are so few memories,” Will said and pressed his forehead to Elizabeth’s hands.

“Now, about the letters,” Elizabeth licked her lips, and Will released her hands. “If you must find the answer and you have exhausted the list of suspects, then have you considered the locations? You said you wrote daily but did you post them each day?”

“No,” Will admitted. “I would wait until we were at a large enough town or inn so Matthews might slip away to the post office. He assures me that he had nothing to do with it and that my father had never suggested he interfere.”

“Do you recall how many locations and their names?”

“I am afraid that I cannot recall them all. Why would it matter?”

“I will read Sam’s letters again. I used to have the course and most of his words memorised,” she blushed. “It seems we must entertain the idea that they were disrupted once they reached the post office. It smacks of corruption but from every location? How could that be unless one of your party was involved.”

“They are either dead or have argued their innocence. I even interrogated Charles years ago.”

“Did you ever consider Mr. Wickham?”

Reunited- Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

 

“Very well,” Elizabeth said when they returned to one another. “I can agree to a compromise. There is no reason we cannot set a wedding date while we court. That is generally the way, is it not?”

She said it with a smile, but it did not reach her eyes. In them, Will saw she continued to guard herself. He did not expect immediate clemency and would probably think less of her if she did offer it, but nervousness rolled in his belly. There was an additional layer of reserve he had not seen in Elizabeth before.

“I would remind you, however, that you had said you would come yesterday and yet you did not.”

Will furrowed his brow. “I called at the usual hour and was informed none of you were at home.”

Elizabeth’s eyes flashed, turning green, and she sought out her mother. “I thought I heard a knock but why would Mama lie?”

“Do you mean you were home yesterday?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth nodded. “My sisters had wanted me to walk into town with them, but I refused.” She glanced away and chewed her bottom lip before continuing. “I waited for you.”

Will clenched his jaw. “I will speak with your Father about this. He made it perfectly plain that he desired me to openly show our attachment. It is not the first time I had thought your mother showed a dislike for me—why would she hate me?”

“I do not know,” Elizabeth shook her head. “You never met her before—she is much altered. When Sam was young, she fretted over him constantly. She would hint at marrying Jane and me young. Once the entail was broken, she no longer worried about suitors for us. However, she truly loved Sam as her own son. She mourned his death deeply. Her period of happiness was so short—I was only home to witness it for a fortnight, but I received many letters from her while at my Aunt and Uncle Gardiners and she seemed more carefree than I had ever seen her before.”

Turning the pieces of information Elizabeth had told him over in his mind, Will escorted her to Mr. Bennet.

“I am pleased to see you tonight,” Mr. Bennet smiled as Will bowed over Elizabeth’s hand.

“Thank you, sir. It seems I was not admitted when I attempted to call yesterday.”

“Pardon me?” Mr. Bennet’s smile slipped.

A young man approached Elizabeth and requested a dance. With an indulgent smile to Will, she returned to the dance floor.

“Let us find a quiet corner,” Mr. Bennet suggested.

Nodding his agreement, Will followed the older gentleman. Assured of some privacy, he spoke in hushed tones. “I called yesterday morning and was told the entire family was out of the house. Elizabeth says otherwise.”

Mr. Bennet exhaled, his shoulder slumping as he hung his head and slowly shook it back and forth. “Fanny. She means well. She truly does.”

“Do you know why she hates me, Sir?”

“A mother’s broken heart is to blame, I fear.”

“She faults me with Sam’s death. You know how I tried to save him—”

“Yes, I know, and I have informed her of it as well,” Mr. Bennet interjected with outstretched palms. “I think you might also know things about my son which do him no credit.”

“Harcourt,” Will frowned.

“Indeed,” Mr. Bennet nodded. “And I believe there was a matter with a young lady other than Miss Lucas.”

Will gulped. He had not known Sam’s parents knew a thing about either matter.

“She does not see it plainly because she would never wish to blame the young man she loved as her own blood.”

Meeting Mr. Bennet’s eyes, Will started. “She blames me for Sam’s choices? For falling in with Harcourt and his liaison with Lucy?”

“She has a bit of prejudice about the upper classes, but I am sure she will come to a right way of thinking when you have proven yourself as a doting suitor to her daughter.”

“That is why you wished for a courtship,” Will nodded in understanding.

“In part,” Mr. Bennet agreed.

“How does she even know?”

“Sam wrote to Miss Lucas and broke off the engagement. He had planned to marry Lucy after he returned from the holiday. Charlotte told Fanny.”

“I am sorry indeed that this has been a burden either you or your wife have faced. If knowing me—if any connection to me is to blame—”

“Calm yourself,” Mr. Bennet said. “I do not blame you. I was once a young man entranced by all the glittering things London had to offer as well. I regret that I had not done enough to raise him better. My own father had been so stern that when I came of age—well, I tried the opposite way as a parent. It seems I had no better luck.”

“Does Elizabeth know?” Will looked across the room. She smiled when she noticed him watching.

“No,” Bennet shook his head. “I could never bear to disappoint her regarding her brother. She would take it even worse than Mrs. Bennet. Miss Lucas has also kept it secret all these years.”

Will nodded. “I do not like keeping things from Elizabeth, but it is not my business to tell. I do not imagine the discussion will come up, at any rate.”

“Thank you.” Mr. Bennet paused while looking over the crowd, his eyes lingering upon his wife. “If my wife will take measures to bar you from my house, then I suppose I must come to you. I will visit tomorrow to discuss how a courtship might proceed with these…difficulties.”

Will nodded, thinking it odd the gentleman could not simply control his house and order his servants to admit him, but Elizabeth approached. Giving her all of his attention for the remainder of the evening, he chose to put aside the strangeness of the Bennet household.

The following morning, Mr. Bennet arrived at Netherfield before the usual calling hours.

“I see the father is as impertinent as the daughter,” Caroline remarked before his entry as they sat at the breakfast table.

“You will behave yourself around Mr. Bennet,” Charles glared at his sister.

Will mentally applauded his friend but turned his attention to Mr. Bennet. He limped in.

“Forgive me for arriving so early and unannounced,” he said between pants as he leaned against the door frame.

“You are unwell!” Charles said and jumped from his seat.

“I am very well,” Mr. Bennet answered. “It is my old injury acting up. The weather sets it off.”

Everyone’s eyes went to the windows. Clouds were present, but Will had not thought there was an impending storm. His injuries did not throb as they usually did. However, Mr. Bennet was much older than him.

“Caroline,” Charles said as he shifted one of Bennet’s arms around his shoulders, “call for a room to be set up. Will, your assistance, please.”

Before Charles had finished uttering the words, Will had begun his approach. Although Mr. Bennet verbally resisted, the two young men assisted him up the stairs.

“I do not wish to be a burden.”

“Nonsense,” Charles said. “You are most welcome to go lame at my house any time you choose.”

Bennet tipped his head back and roared with laughter. “I was out riding, and your house was nearer mine. Truly, a carriage would suffice.”

“To the father of Miss Bennet—I mean, Sam—I would never think of it. Besides, you said yourself, it will soon rain.” Charles frowned. “I wonder if we can send a note now if the apothecary can arrive before it begins.”

Mr. Bennet waved off the suggestion. “Mr. Jones is unnecessary. I have all the required potions and wraps at home, and Lizzy knows how to apply them. Meryton is closer, but we do not know if he will be in his office. If you must send for someone, send for Lizzy.”

“Of course, sir,” Charles said.

Will watched it all with growing curiosity. Now and then, when Charles’ head was turned away, Will thought he saw a smirk playing on Mr. Bennet’s lips. He had seen that expression a thousand times whenever Elizabeth attempted to hide her amusement at a situation. Did Mr. Bennet find Charles’ care entertaining or was there more at work? The gentleman had told Will he would call today and they would discuss how he might court Elizabeth with Mrs. Bennet’s disapproval.

“I will assist Mr. Bennet if you wish to send for Miss Elizabeth,” Will said to Charles once they reached the landing. “Use my carriage,” Will offered. “I had asked for it to be readied, so I might call at Longbourn.”

“An excellent thought,” Charles agreed and released the gentleman as Will braced for the increased weight.

Lumbering along, they, at last, arrived the chamber which had been hastily prepared. Dismissing the maid, who had just finished building a fire, Will settled Mr. Bennet into the bed.

“A handsome valet you make,” Mr. Bennet laughed as Will tugged on his boots.

“Forgive my stupidity in the profession,” Will chuckled. “Do you have a confession for me, sir?”

“What do you suspect me of doing?”

“My father once told me of the crafty young man he knew at school named Thomas Bennet. Is this part of a scheme or are you truly injured?”

 

*****

 

“Where is Papa?” Elizabeth asked her mother and sisters in the drawing room.

“He is in his book room, of course,” Mrs. Bennet answered.

“I have just been in it was empty.” Elizabeth eyed her stepmother with suspicion. After discovering from Will last night that Mrs. Bennet had been keeping him from calling on her, Elizabeth had intended to speak with her father. The two gentlemen had talked last night, and she supposed they had come up with a solution. Nervousness gnawed at the pit of her stomach. She wanted Will to court her. She only wished for him to prove his worthiness. Despite her mother’s actions, Elizabeth did not think her mother had been the means that separated them years ago. For that matter, could she really separate them now? Her father ought to be the one to rule the house.

“Hill,” Mrs. Bennet cried the housekeeper entered. “Have you seen Mr. Bennet today?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Mrs. Hill nodded. “He left very early this morning and had called for his horse.”

“His horse!” Mrs. Bennet leaped from her chair and stared out the window, clutching at her throat. “Oh! That man! He will be caught in the rain and catch his death of a cold. And then what will become of us?”

“Mama,” Jane came to Mrs. Bennet’s side and embraced her. Leading her back to her chair, Jane spoke in soothing tones. “There is nothing to fear. Papa is healthy, and a bit of rain will do him no harm.”

“Oh, Hill!” Mrs. Bennet withdrew a handkerchief and sobbed into. “My salts! I need my salts!”

Elizabeth sighed as she watched her stepmother’s nerves and anxieties overtake her once more. The entail on the estate was long broken, and she may no longer need fear the hedgerows. However, Elizabeth supposed it only did a wife justice to fear the death of her husband. If anything happened Will…

Elizabeth shook her head to keep from pondering further calamity. Whatever was said between Will and her father would keep until they could discuss the matter. They had waited five years. What was a few more days? The next several hours were spent in soothing Mrs. Bennet and reassuring her that Longbourn would be in good hands if anything happened to Mr. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet did not understand everything in the will or what would happen to an estate with no heir.

Just before nuncheon and a servant from Netherfield arrived with a missive addressed Elizabeth. She did not recognize the writing. Indeed, it had blots and was nothing like Will’s neat script.

“Oh! Father has hurt himself, but it is nothing serious,” Elizabeth said while placing a hand on her stepmother’s arm. “They worry there is not enough time to send for Mr. Jones before it begins to rain. In any case, Papa refuses to allow for him to be sent for anyway. He has asked for me, and Mr. Bingley has sent a carriage.”

Immediately, Mrs. Bennet tensed and ceased her moaning. She sat up in her bed. “No, Miss Lizzy. I will not let you go to that—that place! Why your father would go there for help, I do not know.”

“Do you mean you have a problem with Netherfield or its residents?” Elizabeth asked.

She met Jane’s eyes and wordlessly asked her elder sister to shoo the other girls from the room. Fifteen-year-old Kitty and thirteen-year-old Lydia did not want to leave, but Elizabeth would not have them gossiping about Mr. Bingley or Will. Once they were alone, she pressed her step-mother again.

“Mr. Bingley seems nice enough. I never heard any harm from him. That Mr. Darcy though…”

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth’s eyes flashed in anger. Fanny Bennet had never met Will and had only heard of him through Sam, who could never say anything against his friend.

“He thinks he is so high and mighty. My sister Gardiner told me about the Darcys of Pemberley. She grew up near the estate and was so pleased to hear that Sam had befriended the young heir.” She shook her head. “You do not understand their world and the trappings of high society. All you could ever mean to him was a tryst.”

Elizabeth gasped.

“You did not think I knew?” Mrs. Bennet peered at Elizabeth. “A mother knows when her daughter is heartbroken. Did he promise he would come for you? Did he promise to write to you?”

Elizabeth’s mouth went dry. She had thought she suffered alone and invisibly all these years.

“I will not allow him to hurt you again.” Mrs. Bennet raised a hand and lovingly cupped Elizabeth’s cheek. “I made a promise when I married your father that his children would be my own. I know I am not the sort of mother you wanted. I am not clever enough for you—I fret too much, but a mother does what she must.”

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked as tears streamed from her eyes. “What have you done?” Had she been the one to take Will’s letters?

“Only what I must. I will not permit him to even cast a shadow in my drawing room. I have told Hill to stop him at the door.”

Elizabeth exhaled a long breath and relief swept through her. “Is that all?”

Mrs. Bennet nodded. “It is all I can do. I cannot keep you in the house—I know I cannot even keep you from your father, but I beg you to not go. Do not trust him again.”

After several false starts, Elizabeth managed to speak in halting tones. “Mr. Darcy has apologised—that is you are correct, I did care—we are—he is not what you suppose.”

Ceasing and inhaling deeply, she forced herself to collect her thoughts. Briefly, she explained that she had admired Will when they first met and she had expected him to call after his holiday. Additionally, she explained there had been a misunderstanding, that Will, naturally, had many requirements of him after inheriting at such a young age. Elizabeth attempted to stress—and found she really felt it herself—that she forgave him and understood his reasons for not visiting. When she had finished, Mrs. Bennet patted her hand.

“My dear, I understand that you want, very much, to believe in this man but how can you? Must you be like Charlotte Lucas? I had thought you cleverer than that.”

“Charlotte?” Elizabeth raised her brows. “How would my attachment to Mr. Darcy be like Charlotte mourning Sam?”

Mrs. Bennet sighed and looked out the window once more. “Nothing I say will keep you here, will it?”

Elizabeth shook her head.

“Then be off with you before it rains. Tend to your father and your heart.”

Elizabeth pressed a kiss to her mother’s forehead before leaving her chamber. Conferring with Mrs. Hill, and saying goodbye to Jane, Elizabeth was in a carriage bound for Netherfield within a quarter of an hour.

She arrived an hour later, sopping wet from head to foot and oozing mud from her half-boots and petticoat. Caroline and Louisa gasped at her appearance while Mr. Bingley immediately called for a blanket.

“Good God!” cried Will. “What has happened?”

“The rain began, but we were so close to Netherfield that we pushed on. The carriage slipped in the mud.”

“Surely our coachman would have offered to ride ahead for assistance, and you could have stayed in the coach,” Caroline said before pulling her lips back in disgust.

“Come, this way,” Mr. Bingley said and motioned to the stairs. “We have your father settled, and you may have the room next to his. I do not think there is any chance you may return to Longbourn today.”

Will stepped forward and offered his arm.

Caroline gasped. “Surely you do not want her to touch you when she is so…so filthy!”

Elizabeth shivered, and Will placed her hand on his arm. “Step aside, Miss Bingley. Can you not see your guest is in need of a warm room and dry clothes?”

Leaving the woman and her gaping mouth behind, Will led through the halls. Dropping his voice, he asked her, “Are you well, Elizabeth?”

“I will be. Do not fear for me. How is my father?”

Tea Time Tattle–Edward’s love for Elinor

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

I have previously defended why Elinor is best suited to marry Edward, and not Colonel Brandon. In this post, I want to explore the nature of Edward’s feelings for Elinor as they began while he was engaged to another woman.

At the end of the book, we are finally given an accounting for how he accidentally strung Elinor along and made all of their acquaintance believe he was in love with her and if not capable of marrying her, at least in danger of it.

Elinor scolded him, harshly as ladies always scold the imprudence which compliments themselves, for having spent so much time with them at Norland, when he must have felt his own inconstancy.

“Your behaviour was certainly very wrong,” said she, “because, to say nothing of my own conviction, our relations were all led away by it to fancy and expect what, as you were then situated, could never be.”

He could only plead an ignorance of his own heart, and a mistaken confidence in the force of his engagement.

“I was simple enough to think, that because my faith was plighted to another, there could be no danger in my being with you; and that the consciousness of my engagement was to keep my heart as safe and sacred as my honour. I felt that I admired you, but I told myself it was only friendship; and till I began to make comparisons between yourself and Lucy, I did not know how far I was got. After that, I suppose, I was wrong in remaining so much in Sussex; and the arguments with which I reconciled myself to the expediency of it were no better than these:—The danger is my own; I am doing no injury to anybody but myself.”

How could Edward possibly think spending time with a young lady would not engage her heart? Well, in his defense, Elinor is hardly the young, romantic thing that Marianne is. Additionally, Willoughby represents a foil to Edward. For Willoughby did intend to make Marianne attached with no intention of returning the feelings.

I must confess, my vanity only was elevated by it. Careless of her happiness, thinking only of my own amusement, giving way to feelings which I had always been too much in the habit of indulging, I endeavoured, by every means in my power, to make myself pleasing to her, without any design of returning her affection.”

We see from Edward’s quote that he did not set out to manipulate Elinor’s feelings and provide amusement for himself—although he had long been miserable with his engagement to Lucy.

He did attach Elinor but had no idea of his really doing so. How could that be? Alas, Miss Austen’s Edward Ferrars is not the hunky hero we see in Dan Stevens or Hugh Grant.

Edward Ferrars was not recommended to their good opinion by any peculiar graces of person or address. He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behaviour gave every indication of an open, affectionate heart. His understanding was good, and his education had given it solid improvement. But he was neither fitted by abilities nor disposition to answer the wishes of his mother and sister, who longed to see him distinguished—as—they hardly knew what. They wanted him to make a fine figure in the world in some manner or other.

Here, we see further reasoning for his thinking little of himself. He knows his deficiencies and his family prefers his younger brother. He knows it about himself as well:

“Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way or other. If I could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easy and graceful, I should not be shy.”

Indeed, he is hardly what young men were expected to be in the era:

Edward is very amiable, and I love him tenderly. But yet—he is not the kind of young man—there is a something wanting—his figure is not striking; it has none of that grace which I should expect in the man who could seriously attach my sister. His eyes want all that spirit, that fire, which at once announce virtue and intelligence. And besides all this, I am afraid, mamma, he has no real taste.

When Marianne further abuses Edward to Elinor, she defends him thusly:

He distrusts his own judgment in such matters so much, that he is always unwilling to give his opinion on any picture;

Elinor has spent enough time to know that Edward’s reticence is due to his humility and even knowledge of his awkwardness. The subtext of this is that he must prefer other things but find people disagree with him and mock his preferences. If Edward were to tell Marianne he preferred a sermon to a sonnet, she would never forgive him. However, if he could rationalize it as a way that did justice to her own views, she might tolerate it. If he could say that he prefers to be out of doors to witness all of its grandeurs rather than read about it, she would likely praise him. However, Edward is simply too awkward to get that far.

Elinor continues to praise him, however.

“Of his sense and his goodness,” continued Elinor, “no one can, I think, be in doubt, who has seen him often enough to engage him in unreserved conversation. The excellence of his understanding and his principles can be concealed only by that shyness which too often keeps him silent. You know enough of him to do justice to his solid worth. But of his minuter propensities, as you call them, you have, from peculiar circumstances, been kept more ignorant than myself. He and I have been at times thrown a good deal together, while you have been wholly engrossed on the most affectionate principle by my mother. I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure. His abilities in every respect improve as much upon acquaintance as his manners and person. At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his person can hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, which are uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, is perceived. At present, I know him so well, that I think him really handsome; or, at least, almost so.

We see little of Elinor and Edward’s interactions at Norland. Instead, the chapters are full of complications from both Mrs. Dashwoods seeing an interest between the two. It’s written so vaguely that half way through the book, Elinor is able to question if Edward had ever really loved her. The reader is left in the dark just as much as she is for we never saw it either. The above quote, however, proves Elinor has “love goggles” on. Not only is he more attractive to her now but she has turned all his flaws into strengths.

Elinor is not so blind as to admire what is not there. Everyone can see the potential in Edward. Praise from Elinor means something. It is not the blind flattery of Lucy Steele. Perhaps this is one of the things on which Edward compared the two.

Elinor continues to be the more sensible between the two ladies. She does not see enough from Edward to be entirely certain of his loving her and is cognizant of the fact that even if he does, it may come to nothing.

I am by no means assured of his regard for me. There are moments when the extent of it seems doubtful; and till his sentiments are fully known, you cannot wonder at my wishing to avoid any encouragement of my own partiality, by believing or calling it more than it is. In my heart I feel little—scarcely any doubt of his preference. But there are other points to be considered besides his inclination. He is very far from being independent. What his mother really is we cannot know; but, from Fanny’s occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have never been disposed to think her amiable; and I am very much mistaken if Edward is not himself aware that there would be many difficulties in his way, if he were to wish to marry a woman who had not either a great fortune or high rank.”

While Elinor reproaches Edward for his behavior at Norland, she had always felt there was something missing in his treatment of her:

There was, at times, a want of spirits about him which, if it did not denote indifference, spoke a something almost as unpromising. A doubt of her regard, supposing him to feel it, need not give him more than inquietude. It would not be likely to produce that dejection of mind which frequently attended him. A more reasonable cause might be found in the dependent situation which forbad the indulgence of his affection. She knew that his mother neither behaved to him so as to make his home comfortable at present, nor to give him any assurance that he might form a home for himself, without strictly attending to her views for his aggrandisement. With such a knowledge as this, it was impossible for Elinor to feel easy on the subject. She was far from depending on that result of his preference of her, which her mother and sister still considered as certain. Nay, the longer they were together the more doubtful seemed the nature of his regard; and sometimes, for a few painful minutes, she believed it to be no more than friendship.

When he visits the Dashwoods at Barton, there is also no sign of him intending to attach Elinor.

He was not in spirits, however; he praised their house, admired its prospect, was attentive and kind; but still he was not in spirits. The whole family perceived it;

Edward made no answer. His gravity and thoughtfulness returned on him in their fullest extent—and he sat for some time silent and dull.

Elinor saw, with great uneasiness, the low spirits of her friend. His visit afforded her but a very partial satisfaction, while his own enjoyment in it appeared so imperfect. It was evident that he was unhappy; she wished it were equally evident that he still distinguished her by the same affection which once she had felt no doubt of inspiring; but hitherto the continuance of his preference seemed very uncertain; and the reservedness of his manner towards her contradicted one moment what a more animated look had intimated the preceding one.

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After Marianne comments on his ring, which we later learn is made of Lucy’s hair, he is describe as this:

Edward’s embarrassment lasted some time, and it ended in an absence of mind still more settled. He was particularly grave the whole morning.

Indeed, he even successfully relies on his honor when at Barton:

Edward remained a week at the cottage; he was earnestly pressed by Mrs. Dashwood to stay longer; but, as if he were bent only on self-mortification, he seemed resolved to be gone when his enjoyment among his friends was at the height. His spirits, during the last two or three days, though still very unequal, were greatly improved—he grew more and more partial to the house and environs—never spoke of going away without a sigh—declared his time to be wholly disengaged—even doubted to what place he should go when he left them—but still, go he must.

Were Elinor’s expectations raised from this visit? She could see how something afflicted him and he did not treat her as he had at Norland.

Disappointed, however, and vexed as she was, and sometimes displeased with his uncertain behaviour to herself, she was very well disposed on the whole to regard his actions with all the candid allowances and generous qualifications, which had been rather more painfully extorted from her, for Willoughby’s service, by her mother. His want of spirits, of openness, and of consistency, were most usually attributed to his want of independence, and his better knowledge of Mrs. Ferrars’s disposition and designs. The shortness of his visit, the steadiness of his purpose in leaving them, originated in the same fettered inclination, the same inevitable necessity of temporising with his mother. The old, well-established grievance of duty against will, parent against child, was the cause of all.

But from such vain wishes she was forced to turn for comfort to the renewal of her confidence in Edward’s affection, to the remembrance of every mark of regard in look or word which fell from him while at Barton, and above all, to that flattering proof of it which he constantly wore round his finger.

Ah, so Elinor’s reasons to believe Edward continued to love her were mostly based on looks and rare words and the blasted ring. Of course, once we meet Lucy and the truth comes out, things are clearer. Or are they?

“To be sure,” continued Lucy, after a few minutes’ silence on both sides, “his mother must provide for him sometime or other; but poor Edward is so cast down about it! Did you not think him dreadful low-spirited when he was at Barton? He was so miserable when he left us at Longstaple, to go to you, that I was afraid you would think him quite ill.”

“Did not you think him sadly out of spirits?” repeated Lucy.

“We did, indeed, particularly so when he first arrived.”

Elinor had thought Edward unusually out of spirits but blamed his mother, and possibly continued affection toward Elinor. Lucy takes the blame for herself. We learn from Edward, finally, it was because he had realized how much he loved Elinor and could never have her.

When Elinor learns about the engagement from Lucy, what are her feelings?

Her resentment of such behaviour, her indignation at having been its dupe, for a short time made her feel only for herself; but other ideas, other considerations soon arose. Had Edward been intentionally deceiving her? Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement to Lucy an engagement of the heart? No; whatever it might once have been, she could not believe it such at present. His affection was all her own. She could not be deceived in that. Her mother, sisters, Fanny, all had been conscious of his regard for her at Norland; it was not an illusion of her own vanity. He certainly loved her. What a softener of the heart was this persuasion! How much could it not tempt her to forgive! He had been blameable, highly blameable, in remaining at Norland after he first felt her influence over him to be more than it ought to be. In that, he could not be defended; but if he had injured her, how much more had he injured himself; if her case were pitiable, his was hopeless. His imprudence had made her miserable for a while; but it seemed to have deprived himself of all chance of ever being otherwise. She might in time regain tranquillity; but he, what had he to look forward to? Could he ever be tolerably happy with Lucy Steele; could he, were his affection for herself out of the question, with his integrity, his delicacy, and well-informed mind, be satisfied with a wife like her—illiterate, artful, and selfish?

As these considerations occurred to her in painful succession, she wept for him more than for herself. Supported by the conviction of having done nothing to merit her present unhappiness, and consoled by the belief that Edward had done nothing to forfeit her esteem, she thought she could even now, under the first smart of the heavy blow, command herself enough to guard every suspicion of the truth from her mother and sisters.

It is not that Elinor does not feel the pain of knowing she now has no hope of ever marrying Edward, even if it seemed nearly hopeless before, it is that she does not let herself wallow. She is greater command of her emotions and has enough sense to see that she has not been an intentional victim.

-Edward-Ferrars-mr-edward-ferrars-31758927-450-299

What amazes me the most about Elinor’s philosophy, and it is reinforced with her feelings about Marianne and Willoughby’s attachment, is that she fully understands that the heart can’t be controlled. It wants what it wants. For Edward, it wanted Elinor even though he was bound to Lucy. He always tried to act honorably but sank deeper and deeper into true melancholy. Can you imagine the way such feelings would weigh on him? Without any sort of employment or any friends, he must have felt entirely consumed with his problems. Instead of a quick burn from the fire of passion, he was slowly being choked as a ring of fire circled around him.

Regarding his reasons for not breaking the engagement, he was misled about Lucy’s real nature.

he had always believed her to be a well-disposed, good-hearted girl, and thoroughly attached to himself. Nothing but such a persuasion could have prevented his putting an end to an engagement, which, long before the discovery of it laid him open to his mother’s anger, had been a continual source of disquiet and regret to him.

“I thought it my duty,” said he, “independent of my feelings, to give her the option of continuing the engagement or not, when I was renounced by my mother, and stood to all appearance without a friend in the world to assist me.”

When at last he is free of Lucy, he goes straight to Barton. He can barely contain his desire to ask for Elinor’s hand, even as he wondered if she would accept him. He was so eager to end the misery he had been living in for months. Like a man who takes a deep breath of air after being rescued from a fire, Edward needed to lay is heart at Elinor’s feet.

In the end, Austen rewards Edward’s loyal heart and unbroken honor. Why should we not allow his happiness?

 

His situation indeed was more than commonly joyful. He had more than the ordinary triumph of accepted love to swell his heart, and raise his spirits. He was released, without any reproach to himself, from an entanglement which had long formed his misery, from a woman whom he had long ceased to love, and elevated at once to that security with another, which he must have thought of almost with despair, as soon as he had learned to consider it with desire. He was brought, not from doubt or suspense, but from misery to happiness; and the change was openly spoken in such a genuine, flowing, grateful cheerfulness, as his friends had never witnessed in him before.

“I am grown neither humble nor penitent by what has passed. I am grown very happy…”

 

 

Music Monday- Ring of Fire

Beautiful black and white rose with note on the petals

The Ring of Fire is a well-loved classic. My final line from Thursday’s Jealous Desire short story made me think of the song. I’ve included a video of Johnny Cash’s original rendition as well as one done by an acapella group, Home Free. My husband is one of their biggest fans so I couldn’t miss giving them a shout out. They performed their arrangement on The Sing Off in 2013. Winning the show served as their breakout moment. During the competition, their version was called “acapella country reggae” by renowned artist, Jewel. Home Free mostly does cover songs. In that way, I think they remind me of a JAFF writer.

It’s easy to see that the song is about love. Allegedly, Cash’s second wife, June Carter Cash, wrote the song after they had first met but while she was still married to another. Knowing that, consider the lyrics in a different light. Being engulfed in this uncontrollable love is not pleasant. It is not exhilarating. It is dangerous–it is deadly–it should be feared–but it can’t be helped. Now, how do you think I will connect that to Jane Austen?

 

 

Love is a burning thing
And it makes a fiery ring.
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire.I fell into a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.

I fell into a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.

The taste of love is sweet
When hearts like ours meet.
I fell for you like a child,
Oh, but the fire went wild.

I fell into a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.

And it burns, burns, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.

Written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore. Performed by Johnny Cash and Home Free.

 

 

Reunited- Chapter Six

reunited 2Reunited is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks,  Kobo, and paperback!

 

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four / Five

Chapter Six

 

Elizabeth’s heart pounded as she read Will’s letter. He had written with such tenderness and feeling. She had waited five years to see such words. She read and reread, lingering over every line until tears welled in her eyes. Reverently, she touched her fingers over the page noticing where it appeared his pen stopped as he paused over his words.

Will understood Elizabeth’s concerns. When she had tried to express them before he talked with her father, she had thought Will angry at her request. She did not wish to break their engagement, but so much had changed. They had changed. Who was the Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley now? When she had fallen in love with him, he was only the heir and very young at that. Now, he was master.

Five years ago, Elizabeth had believed herself inadequate to become the eventual Mrs. Darcy and Mistress of Pemberley. She can hardly fathom Will’s notice of her. Upon meeting him again and his declarations, she had determined that he must have felt honour bound to her. It was obvious she had not accepted any other suitor in the years they were apart. That he still had passion for her was obvious, but that did not mean he loved or respected her still. It did not mean he had not given his heart to others.

Elizabeth reread the words one more time. Just like when the man spoke, she had to understand the hidden meaning of his words. Will was reassuring her. He validated her concerns. He had also perceived her unsaid questions regarding his fidelity and loyalty. Well, they did not answer everything she wondered about. However, the most important part regarding his fidelity was answered. Now that they had found each other again, he intended to stay true.

Many moons had passed since Elizabeth was the naïve girl at sixteen confused about her brother’s attentions to the young woman at the theatre. Elizabeth had grown in the ways of the world and had overheard enough conversations to understand the matter better now. Whatever Sam’s business with that woman had been, it had not been marriage on his mind when he gazed at her. He had even tried to confess such a thing to Elizabeth when she had encountered him drunk later that evening. Of course, such a thing he would hardly want to tell his sister if sober. Still, Elizabeth understood that, for men, hearts were sometimes at odds with their carnal desires. Perhaps Sam had always loved Charlotte, and would have married her if he had lived, but enjoyed his time with the courtesan just as much. Elizabeth would be foolish if she thought that Will had not had similar liaisons while they were separated. She refused to ever be that foolish girl again. However, it now seemed he vowed to have only her in his affection. It was a bittersweet consolation, but she would take it. She would rather be Will’s last lover then never have him at all.

Next, her mind turned to focus on the words he wrote about his torment and imagining her with another man. It seemed they equally tortured themselves as the years passed. Each time a new gossip article turned up in the papers of Will’s attachment with other women, the hole in Elizabeth’s heart grew. However, he claimed to have written letters, even after he’d given her up. Did he still have them still? Would he let her read them? Perhaps she had no right to know his thoughts. Although unconsciously done, she had severely wounded him. Perhaps if she read the letters, she could help heal his wounds.

Finally, she opened the package and pulled out a small miniature of Will. It looked to be painted when he was about two and twenty. In fact, Elizabeth realised, it was probably done on his holiday after they had met. Elizabeth lovingly ran her fingers over the face of the young man she once knew. She could still see pieces of the young man in the visage of who he now was. Now, Will bore great burdens. It had aged him with fine lines forming around his eyes. When he smiled, they crinkled, and Elizabeth had found them more attractive and endearing than all his youthful grins.

Turning the miniature over, she read the inscription on the back. It read, “To Elizabeth with all my love.” As she had expected, the date included his holiday to Scotland. What astonished her was seeing a second inscription. “Yours, past, present and future, Will.” The date was from last week.

Lost in her thoughts, Elizabeth and did not hear Jane approach.

“Lizzy,” Jane’s gentle voice called out. “Mama asking about you.” Jane came closer, and her eyes widened when they fell upon the items in Elizabeth’s lap and the tears on her sister’s cheeks. “Whatever is the matter?”

Elizabeth let out a heavy sigh. “Will wrote me a letter.”

“After all this time, he finally wrote? My dear Lizzy, I had wondered how you felt after seeing him last night, but we’ve not had a moment to discuss it.

Elizabeth let out a laugh. “It feels as if my life turned upside down again. It was this way five years ago when we met. If I were wiser, perhaps I would be afraid.”

“Afraid? Why should you be afraid?”

“Any sane person would go running in the opposite direction of a man who turned everything on its head every time she saw him. Last night, I was so angry with him. This morning – –”

“This morning!” Jane took Elizabeth’s hands. “Did you see him before he called on Papa?”

“I had walked to Oakham Mount, and he came on horseback. Oh!” Elizabeth touched her head. “Speaking of his horse, while we were…” Elizabeth hesitated for she did not wish to share about Will’s embraces and kisses. “While we were attempting to discuss our separation and the matter of our betrothal, his horse nearly killed us.”

“Goodness,” Jane threw a hand to her heart after Elizabeth told her tale. “But do not put me off. I am sure whatever happened with the horse must have been distressing. However, both of you appeared to be in one piece at Longhorn. Tell me what you spoke of. What did he have to say for himself?”

A small smile played out Elizabeth’s lips. Jane so rarely expressed disapproval and anybody. Through the years she had often had a more charitable opinion of Will than Elizabeth had. However, Elizabeth had to admit it was amusing to see Jane so protective. “He says he considers us engaged.”

“Engaged! If he had honored the betrothal years ago, then he would have come and called on you. There would have been a courtship. Our Father’s permission would have been applied to. Instead, he left you alone!”

Elizabeth threw her hand her arms around Jane. “Please, my dear sister. I am well his, and his return does not distress me. He had much to say about his about our separation. I will tell you all only calm yourself.”

Jane gave Elizabeth a tight squeeze before pulling back and wiping her eyes. Finally, she said, “I will listen to what you have to say. I will reserve my judgment until I hear his defense.”

Jane listened in silence as Elizabeth explained her encounters with Will and their belief that someone intercepted his letters. Then, she read the one Elizabeth had just received. When Jane had finished, she folded it up and handed it back to Elizabeth. “He does seem to love you very much,” she said gently. “And I daresay he appropriately grieves the pain he has inflicted. Do you really believe someone would go to such lengths to have stopped his letters to you?”

“It is an astonishing thought, but I find that more likely than Will never having written and lying entirely. You know how I rationalized it. I tried to say that he must have found me unworthy or that he is simply toying with me.”

“Yes,” Jane said. “You would repeat that argument over and over again as though trying to convince yourself.”

“That is it entirely!” Elizabeth vigorously nodded. “We were so in love. He withstood the arguments from his father and from Sam. I may have been very young in the ways of the world, but I could not be confused about something as natural and intuitive as love. I do not mean the passion we shared. It would not be unusual for a young man to give in to such ardent displays. No. I reference the conversations we had which bared our souls. When I felt as though he and I were alone in the whole world and he was the only one who truly understood me.”

Jane straightened and looked offended.

“Jane!” Elizabeth hastened to say. “I do not mean that you did not understand me, but you do not have the same feelings yourself. Will and I differ on many things, but there are others that we are of very similar mind. You are so apt to see the good in everyone. I appreciate your friendship and your wise soul, but I do not know you can perceive how it feels to me. It is impossible for me to see the world from your sunny outlook.” Elizabeth shrugged. “I could be myself and was accepted for what I was with Will. I did not always have to try and be better than I am.”

“I do not mean to make you feel inadequate,” Jane said. After a pause, she added, “I believe the best loves are ones which make both partners stronger. Is that what you felt with Will?”

“Yes! Somehow, even as I would call it a flaw myself, Will turned every attribute into a strength.”

Jane stood, then gathered Elizabeth’s hands in hers. “We should return to the house. Mama sent me out here ages ago.”

“What has put her in a tizzy now?” Elizabeth laughed as she stood. “Or is she still angry at Will’s visit. It is as though she blames him for Sam’s death. Nothing could be more senseless. Not only were they the greatest of friends, but he lost his father that fire.”

“I cannot say how mama feels about your Will. However, Papa has received a letter from Mr. Collins. He asked to visit.”

“Our cousin? The one Papa has not talked to in years?”

“No,” Jane shook her head. “No, he has died. It is his son who wrote. Apparently, he is now the rector of a substantial living and Kent.”

“Why does he wish to visit? What could his intention be?” Elizabeth wondered.

“I am uncertain. Perhaps if you read the letter, you will be able to deduce it. Papa found it most amusing.”

Elizabeth did find Mr. Collins’ letter amusing. Unlike her father, however, she also thought it unusual. The older man broke ties with Mr. Bennet soon after Sam’s birth. With the birth of a Bennet heir, his residual claim disappeared. After Sam’s death, the old Mr. Collins wrote to Bennet offering his son as the new heir. Sam had lived long enough to sign the papers which broke the entail. Mr. Bennet could now we leave Longbourn to whoever he wished. To that effect, he chose to leave it to his eldest grandson who would not otherwise inherit an estate.

As the eldest daughters, Elizabeth and Jane had become the target of many suitors in the area. However, despite Mrs. Bennet’s matchmaking tendencies, she counseled her daughters to only accept gentlemen of means. There was no urgency or fear for the girls to marry. Although she put Jane and Elizabeth out into society at the age of 16, that was while the entail remained unbroken. The moment the ink dried on the papers, many of Mrs. Bennet’s anxieties gave away. The next youngest sister, Mary, now age seventeen, still waited for her turn to enter Society. As she seemed in no hurry, it created no distress between the sisters.

Elizabeth had half-vowed to never marry after losing Will. She had always assumed it would be Jane’s second son who would inherit Longbourn. Elizabeth chewed her bottom lip as she continued to think about the ramifications of their cousin’s visit. Eventually, if Will could prove himself faithful—or even if he could not as news of their engagement and their passionate embraces would certainly ruin her reputation and require marriage—Elizabeth would marry Will. However, Jane’s head had not been turned by any suitors. Years ago, Elizabeth believed Jane had a tender regard for Mr. Bingley. Now that he was in the area again, Elizabeth hoped the two could resume where they left off. Would Jane feel the pull to marry a relation? Whatever living Mr. Collins had contracted it could be nothing compared to Mr. Bingley’s fortune. However, that did not allow for other concerns which might influence a daughter as obedient and docile as Jane.

 

*****

 

It was two days before Will saw Elizabeth. Then it was at Lucas large. While there, Darcy had the pleasure of seeing Charles dance with the elder Miss Bennet. While they had never discussed the unselect Bennet girls after the fire, Will was not surprised to see signs that Charles had continued to admire Jane Bennet just as he had continue to admire Elizabeth. One of Elizabeth’s younger sisters was there as well. She was invited to the pianoforte by Miss Lucas. Mrs. Bennet bustled over to Mary’s side.

“Pray, Mary,” she said.” “You must play the new sonata you have been practicing.”

“I had planned to play a few jigs,” Mary said.

“Nonsense!”

Mary rifled through the music books and selected one. With chagrin, Will noted it was indeed a Mozart sonata rather than something the young people could dance to. Elizabeth approached Charles and Miss Bennet. Will perceived his opportunity to speak with her. Just before reaching her side, Sir William appeared.

“Mr. Darcy,” he said. “You honor us with your presence. Mrs. Bennet told me, just now, how long you had been friends with their family.”

“Samuel Bennet was one of my dearest friends.”

“Indeed? But I should not be so surprised. I have often heard of the liberality of the Darcy family and know from my experiences at St. James’s how kind people of great rank can be.”

“I assure you, sir, the kindness was all on Sam’s end. Many mistake my disposition and I am certain I if not for Sam, I might have offended the whole of Eton and Cambridge.”

“Ah, you do your friend great justice, but I will not allow it to be so far I have seen your good nature. You danced at our assembly.”

“It is a civility one can hardly avoid.”

“I saw a great deal more than civility, Mr. Darcy. Did you not dance with Miss Eliza? And her sister, Miss Mary, as well?”

“As an old friend of the family, it was the least I could do.”

“Yes, we miss Sam acutely. My Charlotte, well she learned to get on well enough. Do you know that when we got news of Sam’s passing, she did not shed a tear? She bore it all with such strength that if my own dear wife could be as brave as she in the face of my demise, I would not be unhappy.”

Will glanced at Charlotte as he thought over her father’s words while he babbled on about his visits to St. James. Will had never supposed that what Sam and Charlotte shared was anything like his passionate feelings for Elizabeth. In that regard, he could understand Sam’s dilemma in choosing between Lucy and Charlotte. He could not excuse his friend’s decision to entangle himself. However, Will could comprehend the difficulty of his choice. Charlotte, on the other hand, he previously believed, truly loved his friend. How could she have borne the news of Sam’s passing with such sanguine? True, Will’s impression of Charlotte was that she was not of a sensational nature. Surely some tears at the death of her betrothed would be human nature. Will himself cried much over the death of his friend and his father. The belief that he lost Elizabeth forever wounded him more than he would ever care to admit. And he had dampened more handkerchiefs at the thought of never seeing her again than any man could countenance. Now, Will observed Miss Lucas and started at the hardness he saw emanating from her eyes. Why, she despised Will and Charles! Jane smiled at something Charles said, and Charlotte stepped forward. Mary’s sonata ended and, thinking quickly, Will return Sir William to the discussion of dancing.

“I am surprised a man as jolly as you has not arranged for dancing this evening.”

“Quite right. You are quite right Mr. Darcy.” Sir William Lucas ran off to invite his daughter to entertain his guests.

Now, Will made his way without interference. Elizabeth saw him approach and blushed.

“I hope, you came all this way with that smile on your face to dance with me?”

“I believe I made my sentiments on that quite known to you, Elizabeth,” Will bowed over Elizabeth’s hand and brought it to his lips.

She blushed again and glanced around nervously. “Sir,” she scolded

“I am courting you, as you deserve. Your neighbors and friends should acknowledge my interest, and I shall make it quite worth remarking upon, I assure you.” He smirked. At two-and-twenty, he gave little thought about how to court a woman. After five years of blaming himself for her supposed abandonment, Will had imagined all the ways to court Elizabeth in and out of drawing rooms. Will nodded to the dance floor where several of the young Lucases had rolled up the carpet. “May I have the honor of a dance, Miss Elizabeth?”

“I believe the honor is mine,” she said.

Will have been used to thinking that he would rather have his head on display in the Tower of London then engage in inane pleasantries. However, he would suffer all that and more to spend even one second in Elizabeth’s company. He beamed with pride when she placed her hand on his arm. Not to be outdone, Charles requested Jane’s hand for a set. Soon other couples also joined the dance as well.

“I believe we must have some conversation,” Elizabeth acknowledged.

“I will speak on anything you desire, my love.” The endearments fell from Will’s mouth without second thought. “Might I suggest a date for our marriage to begin?”

Elizabeth frowned. “I thought you understood,” she said. “I need more time.”

The dance separated them for a moment. When they returned, Will took a deep breath before speaking. “I understand your request, my dearest. Do you understand mine? After all the years of separation and pain, I believe we have been engaged long enough. Yes, there is much we need to learn about each other, but I have no intention to give you up. Nothing I could learn would shake my determination to marry you.” He dropped his voice. “Please, I cannot bear to lose you again. Have we not learned how quickly everything we think we have imagined for our lives may change?”

Elizabeth met his eyes, and they glittered with tears. The dance separated them for several minutes, and Will watched Elizabeth as closely as he could. He did not mean to pressure her into anything she was uncomfortable with, but the courtship was a mere formality, was it not?

Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy & the Bewitched Sisters Chapter Four Part Two

Road in dark forest

Previous sections: Prologue / 1.1 / 1.2 / 2.1 / 2.2 / 3.1 / 3.2 / 4.1

“Just the usual nerves and village disputes. Nothing malevolent.”

“Charles?” Darcy watched as his friend, a telepath, flushed a little. The others had not remarked on it, but Darcy had noticed how little Charles actually spoke during his dances with Miss Bennet, who rumor had it was an empath. Darcy would have bet Charles conversed through thoughts with her.

“Sir William Lucas has done his job well,” Charles said, at last. “The Bennet ladies seemed sufficiently ignorant of their powers, and all the jobbards had no suspicion of magic being the cause for our return.”

“Eleanor?” The General looked hard at his daughter who had not said a thing all evening.

“I agree they did not seem to know of their powers, but I sensed great potential,” she answered in a gentle voice. “They are strong, confident and unaffected young ladies. They will rise to the task if allowed.”

Before more could be said on the subject of “allowing” the ladies to become true witches, Mr. Hurst let out a loud snore. Judging by the look on the General’s face, it was best to not allow the conversation to continue anyway.

Mrs. Tilney must have noticed as well.

“Louisa,” she said, “I’m afraid Hurst is long overdue his rest. You must wake him.” Mrs. Tilney stood and called for the servant who began using spells to clean the room. “I will bid you all adieu.” She looked at her husband meaningfully.

“Allow me to escort you,” he said and stood. He gave the room a sloppy bow before placing his wife’s hand on his arm and leading her up the stairs.

Before Caroline’s eyes could brighten with the opportunity of more secluded conversation with him, Darcy announced his intention to retire as well. He extended his arm to Eleanor, who sat near the door, as Caroline nearly fell off the sofa trying to stand. Mr. Hurst’s feet rested on her train.

In his chamber, Darcy dismissed his valet and sighed. It continued to feel too stiff and formal. He hated being a guest in other places. He had grown up just outside the one all-wizard town in Britain. The rest of the county, of course, was inhabited by many non-magical people. It was only in Pember Wigan that wizards and witches did not have to worry about blending in with jobbards. He supposed other people that grew up in that environment were more adept at it than he. His parents sent him to jobbard school so he might learn to fit in better, but by that age, it was rather sealed. Unfortunately, he was awkward among wizarding-kind as well.

The necessity of living double lives to avoid detection had caused an interesting revolution in the practice of magic in the last century or so. While the learning of potions and spells continued to be taught, they were increasingly less useful. Even more so, the rich shunned using them at all and instead hired magical servants. Now, a simple spell to carry away tea things was seen as low work. The lack of practical application of magic had an adverse effect on the wizards. Fewer and fewer families had children with any manifesting powers at all. Three sisters with inherited powers was a potentially devastating weapon. Darcy and the other members of the Quorum were tasked with finding the sisters before Napoleon did. Recalling his recent letter from his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam, who was non-magical but served in the King’s Army added fuel to Darcy’s already steadfast determination.

Darcy punched his pillow without success before climbing out of bed. “Solatium,” he said, and the room was transformed to a mirror image of his bedchamber at Pemberley. He sank into the comfortable mattress that lacked the frilly lace with which Mrs. Tilney decorated. The room was now covered in muted colors and thick carpets, the furniture a dark and sturdy wood. Just before he closed his eyes, the fire went out, and he heard the crackle of ice frost over his windows. He smiled as he felt the tension of the evening ease away. It was his duty to lead the Quorum in this journey to find the Bewitched Sisters, but the truth was, he much preferred solitude.