Thursday Three Hundred– Hidden Hearts

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Last month, I started an on-going story for Thursday Three Hundred. I was inspired by Scott’s Grotto in Ware, Hertfordshire and noticed that Pride and Prejudice is the only story where the characters have no day trips planned. In the last post, Darcy accidentally accosted Elizabeth’s person while attempting to hide from the shrill voices of the younger Bennet daughters. Let’s see what happens next!


The loud cracking sound echoed off the walls of the cave at the same moment his face registered pain from a slap. Good Lord, he might be bruised, and she likely sprained her wrist.

“It was an accident,” he ground out.

“I am sure it was,” Elizabeth hissed in an angry whisper, “for we all know I am not tempting enough for you.”

“What?” Had she hit him harder than he thought? She made no sense just now.

“At the assembly. You said that of me to Mr. Bingley. I plainly heard it, and so did anyone else sitting nearby.”

Darcy blinked in astonishment, his brain still feeling rattled. Had she struck him only out of his…ahem, mishap, or was there some long-standing anger for the duration of their acquaintance?

“A fool I might be but blind I am not,” he said. “Had Mr. Bingley suggested I dance with you, then I would have been forced to acknowledge his good sense.”

Elizabeth huffed. “I already know what you think of Mr. Bingley’s sense. Do you delight in mocking everyone you know?”

“I never mock.” He ought to turn and leave. He had made his apology, but she always held him in thrall. “Are you well? You did not injure anything when I knocked into you?”

“My hand hurts,” she acknowledged.

Darcy’s had adjusted to the light a little and could see she tilted her chin in what he presumed was defiance. She was proud of her defense, as she should be he acknowledged. “May I see?”

She nodded, and Darcy lifted her hand, cradling it in his. “I will have to remove the glove.” He paused for assent before pulling back the soft leather. He focused his mind on ascertaining if she were hurt for the act of revealing her flesh to him was one of the more erotic encounters he had in life and awoke dormant fantasies of seeing far more of her.

“Who did you think Mr. Bingley was suggesting you dance with?”

Elizabeth’s voice was a welcome intrusion to his dangerous mindset. He had been holding his breath, his eyes eager to see more of her inch by inch. Grateful that she had not discerned his interest, he answered after having to clear his throat. “Another lady sitting beyond you.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow, and Darcy tested the movement of each digit before turning her hand back and forth and side to side. She did not seem in pain. Next, he stroked his fingers over her palm, where he knew her skin would be most sensitive to pain. Instead of a wince, he saw her shiver.

“I cannot recall who sat near me.” Her breath came in quicker pants. “When I recall that evening, all I remember is you.”

Darcy exhaled. “Elizabeth,” he murmured before pulling her closer.

His head lowered drawn to the irresistible pull of her lips. Just before he reached heaven, there was a rumbling sound and the ground shook. They drew back and looked to their rock ceiling as rocks began to tumble down. Elizabeth burrowed into his side, and Darcy enveloped his arms around her. When the dust settled, the entrance to their chamber was blocked by large boulders.

Thursday Three Hundred– Hidden Hearts

I’m going to try something new on the blog. I’m going to do a continuing story for Thursday Three Hundred. Each post will be at least 300 words. The full story, however, will be a short story of about 10,000 words. I will probably later publish them as a collection of short stories.

Scotts Grotto in Ware, Hertfordshire is a real location. You can read a bit more about it here.

Rose Letter

Darcy held back a grimace as the carriage swayed. How in the devil had he Bingley talked him into this? An excursion to nearby Ware to visit a fairy grotto. Fairies of all things!

The Bennet carriage did not have enough space to carry all of them comfortably, and so Bingley offered space in Darcys. He could either convey Mrs. Bennet or the unusual man visiting who was their cousin and the estate’s heir, Mr. Collins. Just when Darcy was beginning to conclude it was better to have the devil you know than the devil you do not know, Mr. Collins told Elizabeth he hoped to spend time alone with her in the caverns. Before Darcy was fully aware of what he was doing, he had invited the man into his carriage. Miss Bennet, of course, was also asked–since she was still recovering from her cold, Mrs. Bennet said when she all but threw her daughter into the coach. Darcy wondered at the propriety of one maiden and three gentlemen in one compartment. Undoubtedly, it was on the tip of Caroline’s tongue when she began to argue as Mrs. Bennet climbed into the Hurst carriage. However, Darcy could not bear riding with either lady in addition to Collins. He rapped the ceiling of the coach to pull forward before the others were entirely loaded up.

Arriving at the grotto, it was as awkward an experience as he had expected. He was too tall for most of the rooms and had to continually duck his head. The light was dim and the worst of the Bennet females shrilly oohed and ahhed over every shell decorated niche. The middle one pontificated that she felt a communion with God here.

Darcy had to get away. There were air vents, but with so many people cramped in small quarters, he felt trapped. His sole relief was that Caroline hovered near the entrance, refusing to go any further than where the sunlight shone.

Following the walls, Darcy walked through the corridors until he could hear nothing. He actually liked grottoes and had visited a few near Pemberley as a child. He never would have supposed Hertfordshire had such a thing but trust Lydia Bennet to entirely insist upon the idea of Bingley visiting the landmark and the Bennets accompanying him.

Rounding a corner, he found another opening. Scott’s Grotto had one large chamber and then five smaller ones. He had not thought to bring a lamp with him during his escape further into the cave. He had assumed the hall and each chamber would have light, but the lone lamp in this area flickered dimly. Hearing a giggle echo off the walls, Darcy inched back, hoping the darkness would shelter him from unwanted intrusion.

Expecting to feel the coolness of the stone wall, he was met with the softness of a female body while a softened yelp reverberated in his ears. He could feel the person falling due to his accidental bump. Spinning around, he thrust his hands into the darkness to steady the person. He did not feel the firmness of shoulders or elbows. Instead, the soft lusciousness of breasts filled his hands.

Mortified, he pulled his hands away. Before he could offer an apology, the lady gasped in shocked outrage.

“Mr. Darcy! How dare you!”

“Miss Elizabeth?”

 

Thursday Three Hundred- Dream a Dream

Rose Letter

 

Northanger Abbey is my second favorite Jane Austen work. For this session, I decided to try my hand at an unseen scene from Mr. Tilney’s point of view. We know after Catherine and Henry danced, she dreamed (just a little) bit about him. Did he dream of her?

How proper Mr. Tilney might be as a dreamer or a lover had not yet perhaps entered Mr. Allen’s head…

Dream a Dream

 

It was her eyes that got him.

He rolled over and punched his pillow, seeking slumber once more. “Useless,” he mumbled to himself.

How could he be so restless after two dances with a young lady barely out of the schoolroom and so inexperienced in the world that everything in Bath looked charming and perfect to her? He had never much been like Frederick. He had never had a roving eye and cared to gain the attention of the most handsome girl in the room. He did not dally with hearts. Raised from the start to be a clergyman, he did not dally with the female sex at all. However, a man he must be and desire he must know.

Desiring Catherine Morland was the height of stupidity. She was hardly pretty. Everywhere he looked in the Lower Rooms that evening, he had seen a more beautiful girl, a lovelier figure. There was nothing remarkable about the lady he spent much of the evening with. She was no wit, she did not enthrall men with her airs or voice. She danced well enough.

But her eyes.

The animation in her eyes as they spoke appeared in his mind again and again. She had no artifice about her. She could not hide that she found him appealing. Henry did not know her enough to crave her good opinion or find great delight in it—but for now, it was enough. It was enough that she had liked him without knowing anything about his family fortune. She had liked him without wondering about his brother—or even as some ladies did, his father. No, she had enjoyed him.

Laughing to himself as he considered that he might be in a fairer fix if he kept a diary and could list his opinion of the evening. What would he write?

“Friday, went to the Lower Rooms. Wore my blue waistcoat which I had always thought looked very elegant before but this evening I danced with a lady who took no notice of my attire. Instead, she provided artless conversation and genuine laughter at all my nonsense. It is just the refreshment I needed before leaving Bath to return to my Father tomorrow.”

If he were entirely honest with himself, he had found her pretty. It made no sense as she was not the most handsome lady in the room. There were several ravishing ladies present. One or two had looked his way, had beckoned him forward and yet, he had spent half the evening talking with a girl fresh from the country. However, as he finally drifted off to sleep, it was Catherine Morland’s animated eyes as she hid a sly smile after a particularly ridiculous comment he had made, that had filled his mind.

Thursday Three Hundred- The Change

Rose Letter

How did Edmund Bertram ever realize he was in love with Fanny Price? Austen does not tell us much:

Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love.

I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people. I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.

Here is my imagining of the moment Edmund realizes he loves Fanny “as a hero loves a heroine” with some inspiration from Tyler Rich’s “The Difference.”

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The Change

The sun had begun to set, and Edmund watched a group of starlings rise and fall against the pink sky. Something about how they seemed to almost fall to the ground and then climb back up pulled on his heart. He surely knew what it was like to lose your bearings and nearly plummet to your death only to rise—hopefully wiser. Knowing Fanny would understand his feelings, he turned in his seat to tell her only to remember he rode alone this day. Fanny had a headache and had stayed home.

There was a time when he would have worried about Fanny because no one at Mansfield seemed to care about her concerns save him. Now, his parents saw her value, and her sister lived with them. His aunt Norris and sisters were far away. He should have no fears that she would not be attended to, and yet he did.

The events of the past months—since the Crawfords had come into the area—had changed them all. Fanny, who once had been so reticent and relied on him so much, had resisted pressure from everyone about marrying Henry. She proved more righteous than them all when he eloped with Edmund’s already married sister, causing a scandal and bringing about her divorce. Nor could Edmund forget his own folly. He had thought he was in love with Crawford’s sister. She was everything a lady should be, everything he had been raised to desire: accomplished, beautiful, witty, and wealthy. However, nearly too late, he discerned she lacked what he most esteemed: integrity and moral fortitude.

Fanny, though, bore it all. She was quiet, but she was not blind as he was. Before the truth came out about the real nature of the Crawford siblings, Fanny had been sent to Portsmouth. Edmund believed it a harsh measure, and surely his father did not want Fanny to marry against her inclination. That could hardly make for a happy marriage. Still, Sir Thomas expected Fanny to write to them and plead to come back. She did not. She held her own.

She no longer needed him.

The thought kept Edmund awake at night. It made him toss and turn in his bed. There was a time when he would keep her waiting before their joined activities. Seeing Fanny, while something which always brought pleasure, held no urgency. Now, he could not see her enough.

Edmund had asked himself why that was. When he had last craved seeing a lady, it was because he was in love. He knew he loved Fanny. She was his cousin; his oldest and dearest friend. Only, when he thought about how his heart skipped a beat when she smiled at him and how it pounded when he wanted to please her—the way it yearned for her to be at his side even now… Well, that did not feel like the same love for his cousin he had always had.

Turning the thoughts over in his head, Edmund handed his reins to the stable boy and directed his feet to the house. Fanny kept her old room, and he was always welcome there. Soon, he would see her.

As he knocked on the door to her chamber, the realization hit him as though someone beat him over the head with the dinner gong. There was a difference between loving Fanny and being in love with her.

 

Thursday Three Hundred- Jealous Desire

 

Rose Letter

This week’s blog theme is Caroline Bingley’s jealous of Elizabeth Bennet. Be sure to check out the earlier posts this week! Girl Crush as served as the song inspiration for this story. Additionally, I have finally reached my goal of limiting the story to only three hundred words!

Jealous Desire

 I watch her smile and your eyes fixate on her ruby lips. When she walks by, you lean in to catch her lavender fragrance. Elizabeth pushes a long curl away from her face as she searches through the music books. I could play all those tunes with my eyes closed and she skips the difficult parts. Still, you applaud her loudly. Your eyes caress her as she sings.

Does she know the taste of your lips? Has she felt the touch of your hand? Have you cupped her cheek and whispered words of love in her ear?

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Angry at your obvious admiration for her, I point out all her flaws. Her teeth are not as dazzling white as mine. Her figure is flawed. Countless times I have seen her spurn your attention and offer for assistance. She cares only for herself—or she did. Now, she meets your gaze and a light blush crosses her cheeks. Now, she checks her speech in your company. When your eyes are focused elsewhere, hers linger on your face. A yearning sigh escaped her lips when her aunt announced their need to leave.

Rather than make you see how wrong Elizabeth is, I have enraged you. When you declared her one of the handsomest ladies of your acquaintance, it cut like a knife to my heart. I can’t sleep because of her. Dark circles have formed under my eyes as I question when you will make your offer.

I can never be her. Oh, I wish I could. If I drowned in her perfume, would you notice me then? If I wore my hair just like hers, would it be me you desire? If only her bewitching magic transfer to me for a minute. I hate Elizabeth Bennet with a jealous desire.

 

Thursday Three Hundred–Greater than Friends

 

Rose Letter

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

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

“To Be sure I am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday Three Hundred- The Balm of Kellynch Hall

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My song for Music Monday this week was Mercy by Brett Young. For the first time, I considered how cruel a woman could be during a break-up. Naturally, it made me consider how kind Anne Elliot had been–or tried to be. What follows is about one thousand words of torturing Captain Wentworth.

The Balm of Kellynch Hall

He had been invited to dine at Kellynch for the evening. Along with his brother, the curate at Monkford, neighbors from Uppercross, and the esteemed guest Lady Russell, it was a sizable dinner party. Still, the air in the room changed when she walked in. Despite having his back turned, Frederick Wentworth felt the presence of his beloved Anne.

Turning, he took in her expression. His heart stopped at her gentle beauty. The soft colors of pink and lavender suited her complexion and coloring. Anne’s smile did not reach her face. She nervously glanced around, looking everywhere but at him. On their walk yesterday, she had brought up arguments about their engagement. He had asked for her hand in marriage not a week ago, but when it came time for him to approach her father, she hesitated. She had shared her news with her confidante, her mother’s old friend, Lady Russell. Instead of felicitations, Lady Russell had counseled Anne against keeping the engagement. 

Wentworth could not bear the memory of the unshed tears in Anne’s eyes. She had been so distressed. It had not occurred to either of them, before, that Sir Walter would be displeased with the match. Still, Wentworth believed Anne loved him enough to marry without her father’s blessing and with her friend’s disapproval. Her loved ones would come around in time.

Finally, Anne meandered to him. “Father will see you now but should we not wait?”

“No,” Wentworth shook his head. “I have asked for your hand, Anne. I will not subject you to secrecy. I am not ashamed of who I am.” His eyes narrowed. “Are you?”

“No,” she licked her lips. “No…”

“Mr. Wentworth,” Sir Walter interrupted from the doorway to his study. 

Wentworth nodded at the father and gave Anne a smile. This was a mere formality. He did not expect Sir Walter to be very pleased with the idea, but it would be borne with so no one could claim they had been slighted. 

Once in the room, Sir Walter’s face turned stony. He did not withhold his consent but said he would add nothing to Anne’s fortune to supplement Wentworth’s own state. Confident that he could earn his way in the world, luck had always been on his side, Wentworth shook off the arguments. The matter settled and each gentleman understanding where the other stood, he left to find his beloved.

Anne stood with Lady Russell, the other lady speaking fervently and sorrow emanating from Anne. He approached.

“Lady Russell, would you allow me to intrude and speak with Miss Anne?”

The lady sniffed and then glanced at her conversation partner. A knowing smile lit her face. “Indeed, I think Anne has much to say to you.”

“The task is completed, my dearest,” he whispered to Anne. “He did not refuse. You may name your day.”

“Oh, Frederick,” Anne whispered and shook her head. “It cannot be–it should not be.”

“What do you mean?” Not ten minutes ago, Wentworth felt assured of his victory. Not a woman in this world compared to Anne Elliot and he had been so fortunate as to find her and she loved him in return. Her father consented and what should separate them now? What foe must he now vanquish?

Dinner was called before Anne could reply. During the meal, Wentworth watched her from afar. Lady Russell and Sir Walter both glared at him. He did not give a fig about their disapproval. Anne held all of his attention. She avoided his eyes. When no one spoke to her, she looked miserable and as though she would rather die than stay a moment longer at the table. 

As the night wore on, he knew it would happen. Anne intended to break his heart. All he desired now was to get it over with. If she would end it, then end it. None of this talk of prolonging the engagement. If she did not want him now and without the favor of her friends, then there was no recourse. If she had ever loved him, she would make it fast.

Finally, Wentworth saw his opportunity. He came to Anne’s side as she looked through music books. “We must speak,” he whispered.

“We cannot talk openly–not here.”

“Then tomorrow, meet me for a walk.”

“That would be improper,” Anne blushed. “I cannot.”

“It is not improper to walk with your betrothed nor has it stopped you any other time.”

“Sir,” Anne said, and her throat rippled with effort. “I will not meet you without a chaperone again.”

“Do you mean what you imply?” Wentworth asked with urgency and stepped closer. “But what has changed–why?” He gripped the edge of the pianoforte.

“Lady Russell helped me see how imprudent our match is. Your position in life–a wife is such a burden. I should not be so selfish.”

“Selfish!” Anne was the least selfish being he had ever met.

“Nor could I forgive myself for displeasing my father or Lady Russell so. I owe them everything. I had thought–but I thought wrongly. What kind of life would we have with you away so much and me without family or support?”

“We would have love!” He had never pried into Anne’s feelings for her family, but he had seen enough to know that they did not appreciate her. She certainly had not had the loving parents and siblings he had been fortunate enough to have.

“Pray, moderate your voice,” Anne cast a nervous look around. “I can say no more,” a soft sob tore from her throat. “Please excuse me, sir. I have selected my song.”

“Anne–please.” Tears pricked his eyes. How could she do this? How could she end the happiness of both of them? 

“Good evening, Mr. Wentworth.” She bobbed a curtsy and rushed to the seat, daintily stomping on his heart on her way. 

Anne touched the keys with such force it made Wentworth jump. Casting one last look at her, he left the instrument to find his brother and make his excuses to leave early. He had much to do before the morrow. He could not stay in Somersetshire another day. There must be a ship somewhere he could have. He would take anything to have activity just now.

As he left the room and Kellynch–indeed his heart–behind, he heard Anne’s beautiful playing and acknowledged she, at least, had mercy.