Friday Feature– Undone Business

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Undone Business was like a revelation for me. It started as a novella destined for a multi-author JAFF anthology that didn’t end up being produced. It was going to be named When Love Blooms, a title I later re-used. At the time, I really liked using phrases from Pride and Prejudice for my JAFF stories and so I changed it to Undone Business from this quote:

and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?”

The “what if” question in my head when I began was “What if Sir William Lucas never interrupted Darcy and Elizabeth’s dance?” Would they talk about more things? Would Darcy be as determined that Jane was indifferent to Bingley? Without Sir William’s words which made it sound like Bingley’s honor was nearly engaged, would Jane and Bingley have found their happily ever after? Would Darcy and Elizabeth avoid all the heartache and drama of the Hunsford refusal?

“Thank you for telling me,” she said softly. “I…I think I know you better now.”

“And I know you better now.”

“Oh yes, vain and simple-minded creature that I am.”

He extended his hand and nearly touched her face before dropping it limply to his side. “No, never that. Forgive me. I was angry at myself more than you. Your complaints are just. I have appeared haughty and arrogant, and I would never wish for you to accept me for anything less than love.”

Her heart actually ached as though it was pierced and in its pain it cried out to her that she should accept him now. Not today, her mind replied, everything is too new.

“Then…then do we say goodbye now?”

He visibly swallowed, but his eyes never left hers. “How am I supposed to give up trying? I know not how to go on. Loving you has become a part of who I am.”

She trembled, longing to give in to the love he still offered. “Nothing has changed, you know. My mother’s family still comes from trade. My nearest relations still behave poorly. Society may still shun me.”

“Nothing has changed,” he said with disaffected calmness. “Good day, Miss Bennet.”

He turned and walked away, leaving her alone and astonished. She had not meant to discourage him entirely, to make him think nothing had changed in her regard for him. She watched his back for a moment knowing she had lost her chance forever. Gently-bred ladies do not race after men and declare newly-born sentiments and demand they propose; nor do men of such pride and sense propose to a lady who so callously spurned their first attempt.

She looked down to the letter still in her hand and traced her name on the envelope. There was no reason to keep it now, she had heard all his confessions and believed him among the best of men. Refusing to weep she simply sat on the ground, not caring it was slightly wet from the dew still. She tore open Darcy’s letter. It simply said:

Forgive me. I love you.

She could contain the tears no longer.

For each story, I try to do something that challenges me. It wasn’t immediately clear what that would be in Undone Business. As the story progressed, however, I wondered what it would be like if I gave Jane Bennet someone else to marry. I went into the situation with quite a bit of prejudice. Did she really love Bingley? Can you truly only love one person in life? So often in literature and films, the person realizes it was never really love they felt for the other. Thus far, every non-Bingley pairing I had read was like that. Jane ultimately realized she had only loved the idea of Bingley. She recognized the flaws she had previously ignored and then the love goggles came off and she was free from regret of losing him and found someone better. Full disclosure: I’ve known a shocking number of women who fall in love with every man who passes their way. I’ve always internally scoffed that what they felt was not love. And, it might not be–but it might have been. The heart CAN love more than one person in a lifetime (although not at the same time–I do draw the line there!)

What sort of character growth does Jane have to go through to recover from genuine heartache over Mr. Bingley? Who could be her perfect match?

“Eyes the blue of forget-me-nots under a midsummer sky,” he said.

She furrowed her brow. The words seemed familiar. She must have read them in one of Elizabeth’s poetry or botany books.

“Jane Bennet, all grown up,” he remarked in something like awe.

“I do not believe we are acquainted, sir.”

He shook his head. “Yes, I would assume the passage of eight years would erase all memory of me. I am Isaiah Burton.”

Growing embarrassed as she could not recall him, she spoke hastily. “Mr. Burton, I am obliged to you. I apologise for delaying you. Good day.” She turned to leave.

“You still do not recall me, do you?” He followed after her.

Bristling that this stranger would think she should recall him, she stuck her chin out. “As you say, if we have met, you acknowledge it has been many, many years. I simply cannot recall every gentleman of questionable breeding I meet with.”

“With as many admirers you must have had, I am unsurprised. There was a time, however, when you visited your uncle in town when you did not find my breeding and manners so repulsive. Tell me, is that why you are still unwed? You did not correct me on your name, so I can only assume you are still single.” His voice sounded a mixture of offence and humour.

She turned to face him and in her seldom-felt anger felt more like Elizabeth than herself. “Because I am three and twenty I must be foolish to not have flung myself on any of the stupid ninnies I have met with? Oh yes, marriage to any of them would have been a delight over my present state. For certainly being in the care of healthy and doting parents and living with my three younger sisters, must be very pitiable. Or do you presume marriage is the only tolerable position for a young lady? As you are so interested in my own state, I assume you are also unwed yourself. Now, why has not a lucky lady ensnared you, Mr. Burton? For surely your manner recommends yourself to all.”

Having said her piece she turned to leave again. Her heart beat fast. She had never said something so unforgiving in her life. And she desired to flee before he had a moment to react. But was that…laughter? He was laughing at her!

“You have changed quite a bit, I see. The girl I knew was much too docile to have even a shred of the spunk for such a speech, even if you looked about as fearsome as a kitten. I shall have to amend my poem. You are no longer as mild as a lamb.”

Her steps ceased as she recalled his words. Isaiah Burton was the man who wrote her very bad poetry when she was but fifteen. Her aunt and mother were certain he would offer for her, but he never declared himself before leaving for a business trip and before he returned she departed again for Longbourn. When she returned to London the following year she had not seen him, but was not so affected by him to even ask her uncle what happened to his business friend.

I also usually have a research topic for each story. In Undone Business, it became the abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom. Shockingly, Bingley inserted himself in that.

She showed him he could make decisions for himself, that he ought not to shy away from a confrontation and that he should not leave matters undone, for in the course of six and twenty years it was exceedingly tempting to cast off his lofty visions and allow younger and seemingly abler men finish this all-important task.

“Speech! Speech!” the crowd cried, and the gentlemen deferred to him.

He stood, with not a wine glass in hand, but a tea cup. “I thank you all, the friends young and old who helped in this worthy endeavour. You saw beyond the shallow fickleness of our lives of luxury. You looked beyond selfishness and saw suffering. And while even I was tempted to paint everything in the best light, there comes a time when all mankind must stand for truth and righteousness. And now…” he took a sip, “I very much look forward to enjoying my first taste of sugar in over twenty years, and it harvested from entirely paid labour. My solicitor will bemoan my pocketbook and my wife will bemoan my health, but I will drink it in delight and know the dignity our friends and equals in the Indies now have in earning wages for their work.”

He sipped again, and an applause broke out. He held up his hand. “But there is more work to do yet, my friends. Let us not leave our business undone. Tonight we celebrate and tomorrow we work.”

The group murmured their agreement and smiled in return. As he sat, he wondered what next would become the business of his life.

If you have never read Undone Business, I hope you’ll try it. It is a very different sort of story but one that is as close to my heart all these years later as it was while I wrote on it. You can see shades of the writer I continued to grow into. I would go on to write more about 19th-century politics. I have played with the Jane and Bingley pairing other times. I have grappled again with the question of eternal love.

Undone Business was like a line in the sand for me. I think of it as the book where I became my own writer. Personally, I nearly quit publishing after Letters from the Heart. It was before working on Undone Business that I determined I would make writing my career. I made that decision knowing I had several other stories. No Cause to Repine and A Sense of Obligation were already completed and only awaited professional editing. I had dozens of short stories. I had already started on Sufficient Encouragement, what has become the Loving Elizabeth Series, Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride, and many others that continue to wait their turn. Undone Business was the first story where I wrote it with the entire intent on publishing it and it amped up the pressure. Still, I am proud to say that I had the integrity to stay true to myself rather than worry about what would sell. As I said at the beginning of this post, Undone Business was a revelation.

Buy Links

Amazon

Desperately Mr. Darcy Anthology–includes Letters from the Heart, Undone Business, Sufficient Encouragement & The Secrets of Pemberley

 

Fantasy Friday– Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters, Chapter Six

I know I am dealing with a large cast of characters right now with the addition of the Tilneys. Do you think referring to the young people by their first names (Caroline, Henry, Charles etc.) would make it easier to keep track of everyone?

At the close of Chapter Five, Kate had a vision of the the Netherfield group dining at Longbourn.

Previous Chapters: Prologue to Chapter Four / Chapter Five

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Chapter Six

 

“What a lovely home you have,” Mrs. Tilney said to Mrs. Bennet in the drawing room after dinner at Longbourn. “Did any of your daughters assist with the meal?”

Mrs. Bennet attempted to answer civilly, but Elizabeth could see her embarrassment at what must be an obvious slight. Mrs. Tilney’s eyes scanned the room as though guessing the age and cost of each item. She had frowned at the dated appearance of the dining room and the less than perfectly polished silverware.

“No, the girls have nothing to do with the kitchen.”

Elizabeth wondered if smoke was coming out of her ears yet. She recalled her history lessons with her father. Gentry magical folk believed menial work beneath them in all forms, even magical.

“Oh, pardon me. I do hope I did not offend you with the question. Lady Lucas boasted of her daughter’s meat pie.”

Elizabeth had a hard time believing Mrs. Tilney was genuine, but Jane seemed unaffected by any feelings of pretension in the room, and surely she would have sensed the truth. It was their first meal in company since the return of their powers and also their first meal with their new neighbors.

“It is truly an honor to be here,” Eleanor Tilney said.

Caroline Bingley added, “Oh yes, we have heard much of the Bewitching Sisters.”

“Caroline, you must be careful with your words!” Mr. Henry Tilney said as the gentlemen entered. They had been ushered into the library for a discussion as soon as they arrived.

“Do you sense it is dangerous to speak of our magic now?” Kate asked and glanced about the room.

“Of course not,” he replied to only Kate as Caroline continued to talk with Jane. Sensing that their conversation was more interesting, Elizabeth focused on it.

“Caroline must mean that she has heard of you frequently. However, she misused the meaning of the word much. It implies volume and words take up no space at all, certainly not any space at all in the minds of most people.”

Kate chewed her bottom lip, confused by his wit and wordplay. However, Elizabeth smiled. “And then some people speak so little because their thoughts threaten to overflow. Such must be the case with you, Mr. Darcy,” she said as she turned to face the gentleman.

“Not at all,” he said so coldly the conversation died.

Turning her attention from the irritable man, Elizabeth took a sip of wine as she watched Jane and Mr. Bingley across the room. He had gone straight to Jane’s side and had not ceased smiling at her the entire evening.

Just like Kate’s vision, Mr. Hurst’s face was indeed reddened from his after-dinner port while Mr. Bennet and General Tilney talked in private conference. Unable to make out their words, Elizabeth’s eyes wandered to Mrs. Hurst. She said little and instead played with her elegant bracelets. Elizabeth had the feeling Mr. Hurst was of more fashion than fortune.

When Elizabeth turned her attention back to the assembled group, she found Mr. Darcy staring at her. He did not smile or talk yet had seldom looked away from her that evening. Annoyance festered in her heart and her palms prickled with sensation. She struggled to control her magical impulses under his critical gaze. Nearby, Elizabeth heard Kate speaking with Miss Tilney on the subject of books.

“Did you read the latest volume of Mr. Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?” Miss Tilney asked.

“Oh, no. You will have to ask Lizzy her thoughts on that. Papa makes me read such things, but I can never make much sense of them. Do you not find it difficult to credit stories of what happened so long ago when they are reported with as much certainty as someone may describe what happened at last week’s ball?”

Internally, Lizzy sighed. Kate was attempting to apply Jane’s empathy lessons to the broader subject of history.

“It is hardly likely a historian will admit to an inability to accurately give his information,” Mr. Tilney countered.

“Then are we the fools to believe it when everyone can find fault with Mrs. Howes’ report of the order of events of the last ball or the accuracy of the gown worn by Mrs. Ridgeway?”

You dislike invention and embellishment?” Mr. Tilney said with a raised eyebrow.

“Not at all. I enjoy novels particularly.”

“The former Mrs. Burney?”

“Mrs. Radcliffe. I’m desperate to reread The Italian, but Father has been reading The Vision of Don Roderick this week. I think The Mysteries of Udolpho is the nicest book in the world, but I suppose you have never read it.”

Mr. Tilney looked exceptionally amused. “Why do you think that?”

“Everyone knows novels are not important enough for gentlemen, they read other things.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brows. Where had Kate come up with such garbage?

“I have read hundreds and hundreds of novels. I have many years of advantage over you if we would ask one another which books we have read. Now, Udolpho had me so enthralled I could not put it down even to spare five minutes when Eleanor was called away. I would not say it is the nicest book, however.”

Kate looked by turns pleased and annoyed. “Well, why not? If you liked it so much can you possibly like something else more?”

“Perhaps I may find one I do love more later, but I assumed you meant the binding was the neatest.”

“The binding!” Catherine cried in confusion.

Miss Tilney laid a calming hand on Kate’s arm. “Henry is teasing you, as he does with me. He has very demanding standards on word usage.”

Elizabeth found the conversation interesting. She had not supposed before that Kate could hold her own in such nonconventional topics. Elizabeth also understood why Kate had enjoyed Mr. Tilney’s humor from the night of the ball. More than anything, Elizabeth was pleased with Miss Tilney for easing Kate’s nerves when she grew too flustered and anxious. She quite reminded Elizabeth of Jane.

Mr. Tilney waged on. “Nice used to apply to a person’s dress or feelings, a sense of refinement or neatness and now it is used for everything.”

“Pay him no mind, Miss Morland. Come over here with me, and we may talk more about other books.”

Elizabeth joined them. Miss Tilney and she talked about drawing, while Kate listened with ignorance. She knew nothing on the subject, and it was only after several minutes of silence from her younger sister that Elizabeth realised she ought to have steered the conversation to a topic Kate could have joined in. Feeling as though she bungled things, Elizabeth was relieved to see Jane motion them over. Along the way, Mr. Tilney sidetracked Elizabeth but allowed Kate and Eleanor to reach Jane.

“Miss Morland tells me you enjoyed Gibbons’ The Fall of Rome?”

Elizabeth agreed and allowed him to ramble on for a few minutes while she tried to overhear the conversation next to her. Jane would admonish her for eavesdropping, but it was the only way she could ever learn the truth of things. Jane filtered things too much.

“Are you well?” Kate asked Jane.

“Perfectly!” Elizabeth could hear the smile in Jane’s voice.

“You have not been speaking.”

“I am afraid that is my fault, Miss Catherine,” Mr. Bingley said.

“Mr. Bingley is a telepath and can effortlessly read my thoughts,” said Jane.

“No more than you can discern my feelings!” Bingley replied.

Elizabeth smiled to hear Jane praised so ardently, even if she knew Jane likely blushed. Encouraged by Elizabeth’s countenance, Mr. Tilney laughed a little too loudly at his own remark. It broke through the conversation next to them. For some reason, Elizabeth’s eyes were drawn across the room. Mr. Darcy scowled at her and Mr. Tilney. Then Jane and Bingley jumped in fright beside her. Were they afraid of Mr. Darcy?

“I fear my friend has had enough company this evening,” Bingley murmured before excusing himself.

Tilney followed, leaving the three sisters watching the gentlemen. Jane’s eyes followed Bingley with an expression of concern. Before much longer, the Netherfield family said their goodbyes and departed.

“I dare say that went differently than you thought, Kate,” Elizabeth said.

“Indeed.”

“We had better return to Mama,” Jane directed her younger sisters to the drawing room but then held Kate back.

Elizabeth hovered in the doorway out of sight and heard Jane whispering to Kate. “She was too angry at Mr. Darcy the entire evening to notice Mr. Tilney.”

“And Mr. Tilney?”

“Despite what Mr. Bingley said I cannot seem to discern the feelings of any of the gentlemen, or any of the Netherfield group at all, except when Mr. Darcy seemed upset by Mr. Tilney’s laughing. I suppose it is not necessary since we know they are to safeguard us.”

“I wish we knew more about what we are supposed to eventually do.”

“Do not borrow trouble, Kate. We shall likely know before too long. Already, so much has changed.”

Feeling somehow responsible for the sad and far away sound in Jane’s voice, Elizabeth stuck her head out the door. “The next time you want to wish me away just to whisper in the hall you might say it.”

Jane and Catherine shared a smile before following Elizabeth to the drawing room.

 

*****

 

Before too many days passed, Mrs. Tilney returned the civility and asked the Longbourn family to dine at Netherfield.

“I cannot think of a better way to pass the evening,” Kate said in the carriage.

Elizabeth huffed. “I am sure you and Jane cannot for not only are you both nicer people, but you have the attention of charming gentlemen. The only people who notice me are sour. Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy both stared critically at me the entire night they dined with us.”

“Perhaps they saw something worthy of admiration,” Jane said.

“If your powers worked at all on them, you would know how incorrect that is.”

“You are always so ready for a fight,” Kate observed.

“I suppose it is the fire in me!” Elizabeth said with a smirk.

“I trust you girls are not so silly as to be distracted by a couple of bucks and forget the seriousness of your powers,” Mr. Bennet cautioned from the other side of the carriage.

A pout formed on Kate’s lips. “Our days are filled with instruction and worry about what it means that our powers have returned. General Tilney’s reappearance has set all this in motion. Can we not enjoy ourselves when in their company?”

Mr. Bennet opened his mouth to speak, but Mrs. Bennet placed a hand on his arm, forestalling him. “Practicing your powers on those you know to be friendly can serve you when you must practice on your enemy,” she said.

Jane cried in horror, “Practice on them!”

“Do you think they have not used their powers on you?” Mr. Bennet asked.

They pulled up to the house, halting the conversation but Elizabeth wondered at the sense of civility and propriety in the magical world. Mr. Bingley and Mr. and Miss Tilney were kind enough, but the others Elizabeth could not like.

Mrs. Tilney had ordered a lavish meal with several courses. The furniture was upholstered in the finest silks, plush carpets draped the floors, and gold filigree was inlaid on most of the furniture. Elizabeth saw it as a pompous and vulgar display, flaunting General Tilney’s greater wealth. Little was said, at first, until Mr. Bennet cleared his throat and gave each of his daughters a pointed look, a clear reminder of his earlier words.

Mr. Darcy, sitting next to Elizabeth, commented on the meal. Unsurprised that he would enjoy the grandiose atmosphere, she gritted her teeth before replying and felt her palms itch. It occurred to her, she never wondered if he had magical powers, convinced as she was that he was aware of her own. He must be a fire wizard like her father for he always excited her powers. Amusing herself, she stared at a candle at the table, and the flame grew. Wondering if she could also snuff it out, she attempted to do so and was pleased to see the light diminish. Mr. Darcy chuckled beside her.

“I dearly love a laugh. I hope you will share your amusement,” she said.

“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips at the Shakespearian quote. “You would assign me the role of Portia?”

“Do you not fight against the darkness?”

Elizabeth wondered if he had ever fought against dark forces. Instead of indulging her curiosity, she chose to joke. “But you believe I do so through trickery, as Portia disguised herself as a man to argue in court to save her husband’s friend?”

“I would not dare to know the arts of a Bewitching Sister.”

Elizabeth frowned as the flames in the room grew. Determined to ignore him, she turned her attention to her food. Darcy said nothing more, but the temperature of the room seemed to steadily drop. Elizabeth glanced at the fire, it had gone out, and ice frosted the windows.

Looking at the other occupants of the room, most of them showed signs of feeling cold. Jane’s teeth chattered but she was too polite to say anything. Anger flared in Elizabeth. Why did Mrs. Tilney not remove them from the room? As she thought about it, the fire on the far wall suddenly surged forward. Knowing it would still take some time to rewarm the room, Elizabeth was happy to see their hostess nearly immediately on her feet.

“I think if our guests are amenable,” said Mrs. Tilney, “we ought to adjourn to the drawing room for our dessert.”

The Bennet family nodded their heads in agreement, and Mrs. Tilney stood to direct the ladies to the drawing-room and allowed the gentlemen to remain. They would have dessert and coffee when the men joined the women, which the gentlemen assured them would not take long given the temperature of the room.

“Miss Bennet,” Miss Bingley joined Jane on a sofa, “my sister and I were simply amazed to hear of your story. Such times we live in! But tell us, dear, are you reconciled to our world?”

Always reserved in the company of others, Jane dissembled. “My father is a great teacher. Our progress is very rapid. We did have our powers as children and memories of such were restored.”

“How brave you all are!” Mrs. Hurst said.

Miss Bingley turned her head toward Elizabeth and gasped. “Miss Eliza! You are so flushed! Are you sure you should be so near the fire?”

“Are you ill, Lizzy?” Jane asked.

“I feel perfectly well. You look pale, dear.”

“She likely caught a chill while we were eating. The room gets terribly cold. That is why mother suggested we remove to the drawing room,” Mrs. Hurst explained.

Elizabeth understood as she struggled to control her emotions around Mr. Darcy, that she had not felt any cold at all. “Allow me,” she said, and the flames grew.

Elizabeth sat next to Jane, and the ladies discussed the impending winter weather. After several minutes, Mrs. Hurst excused herself to speak with her mother. Miss Bingley and Jane conversed pleasantly while Elizabeth found herself watching the door and awaiting the entrance of the gentlemen. Internally laughing at her folly, she shook her head and allowed her eye to rove over the extravagant room. The pianoforte likely cost more than the furnishings in Longbourn’s entire first floor. In the corner, a maid refilled coffee and teacups through spell work. Elizabeth had the uncomfortable feeling that she no longer understood the rules of the world around her. Mr. Bennet’s suggestion to practice magic on their friends confused her. Obviously, her power would be too dangerous to do so but others might. Indeed, even Jane had already attempted to uncover the feelings of the Netherfield party. It just seemed so… intrusive. The Jobbard world would never welcome it.

Elizabeth felt her palms prickle with sensation again a minute before there was noise at the door and the gentlemen returned. Mr. Darcy entered, catching her eye immediately. She held his gaze and lifted her chin. Magical world or not, she would not be ashamed of whatever he found to criticize.

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

Road in dark forest

The following morning, after the food had been cleared from the breakfast table and Mrs. Bennet ordered the school things brought out for the little ones, Jane, Elizabeth, and Kate made their way to Mr. Bennet’s library. He had been asked by the steward to pay a call on a tenant, and so the girls occupied themselves in his absence.

“Did any of you suspect we were witches or that they even existed?” Jane asked.

Elizabeth vehemently shook her head. “No, never! I am not known for a sweet temper, but I had never guessed that I was secretly a pyrotechnic!”

Kate chewed her lip. “I had forgotten entirely about the dreams I used to have until yesterday. In fact, I haven’t dreamt at all in years until last night. I suppose that is why it seemed so unusual to me.”

Elizabeth surveyed her sisters. Like her, Jane seemed to feel no apprehension about their new powers, but Kate appeared less content. Elizabeth wondered if Jane could use her empath powers on Kate. Jane had always been very conscientious of the feelings of others. Perhaps she had retained a bit of her powers all these years. Elizabeth gasped at a sudden memory. “Jane, do you remember that time when Lydia took my ribbon and would not give it back? I singed her hair when I ripped it out of her braid and Mother scolded me like never before.”

Jane laughed. “Now that you mention it, I do. What about when my favorite barn cat disappeared for days, and I was inconsolable? I cried so much I made myself sick!”

Elizabeth smiled. “Then the dratted thing turned up a few days later with six kittens?”

“I named them “happy” in different languages.”

Kate’s eyes grew wide. “How old were you?”

“Seven or eight?” Jane glanced at Elizabeth, who nodded, for confirmation. “Tell us a story, Kate.”

Elizabeth smiled at Jane’s thoughtfulness and hoped it might make Kate feel more at ease. Elizabeth and Jane had immediately accepted Kate, and all the others, into their family but in the last few months, their relationship with Kate had changed. She always wished to tag after them, but being nearly four years younger than Elizabeth, was not in company until only a few weeks ago. Now, it was difficult for Elizabeth to see Kate as a young woman and not as a child. No matter the differences in their ages, it seemed like now there were constant reminders that Kate was a step-sister and not blood. She was now formally “Miss Morland” rather than “Miss Catherine” when in public.

Kate screwed up her face as though she was trying very hard to remember something…anything. “Besides the dreams I told you about last night, I always knew when my brother James would prank us on April Fool Day.”

Elizabeth exchanged glances with Jane. For as long as she had known James he could never keep a secret. He would drop hints about his plans, and in the end, only a true fool would be left unaware.

“Lizzy!” Jane scolded although Elizabeth had said nothing.

Elizabeth tried to look apologetic as she realized Jane must have sensed her thoughts. However, she would not apologize for the truth. Besides, she felt proud of her sister’s abilities and could not hide an expression of pride.

“What?” Kate looked between the two.

“Nothing,” Elizabeth said too quickly, and Kate raised her eyebrows expectantly. “I had a sarcastic thought — but did not say it — and Jane must have sensed it. Well done, Jane!” Lizzy beamed.

“I hardly see why you need to be so excited over being sarcastic at my expense,” Kate frowned.

“Don’t be silly!” Elizabeth said. “I’m happy to see how quickly Jane is learning to use her powers. At least you two can practice and learn without potentially harming someone. I hope Father returns soon so he might begin teaching me.”

Jane nodded. “Let us forget about magic for a few minutes. What did you think of the ball?”

Inwardly, Elizabeth smiled as Jane was once again the peacemaker. Kate immediately filled with nervous fluttering like a butterfly. The blush on her cheeks confirmed what Elizabeth guessed. Catherine was infatuated with her dance partner from the night before. Elizabeth wished the blush she felt rise in her was from such pleasant thoughts.  As thunderous thoughts filled her mind, her skin grew hot.

“Lizzy!” Jane quickly grabbed wine from her father’s cabinet and thrust a glass into her sister’s hand. “Lizzy, calm yourself.”

Steam rose from the glass as Elizabeth brought the drink to her lips.

“That’s it,” Jane encouraged another sip. “Now take a deep breath.”

Elizabeth complied.

“There. Better?”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth said, her voice shaking. “I did not expect… I didn’t know how to stop it,” she said quietly.

“Kate,” Jane said in a voice that was higher than normal. “Tell us about Mr. Henry Tilney. I did not speak with him last night, but I saw you two dancing.”

“I do not quite know what to think of him.”

“He’s very handsome,” Elizabeth said still more subdued than usual.

“He is,” Kate beamed.

“And I thought I saw you laughing?” Jane asked.

Kate giggled and then pressed her hand to her lips in an attempt to muffle the unladylike reaction. “We were having a genuine conversation, and he interrupted it for silly nonsense about if I like music and the theater. Things like that.”

Skepticism flared in Elizabeth, and hot tingles returned. “Does he think that such things are nonsense—”

“It was the way he said things,” Kate spoke over her sister. “The tone and expression… He was making a joke of things.”

“Oh!” Elizabeth calmed and smiled.

“I believe I am indebted to him for bringing up more usual topics of conversation for new acquaintances,” Kate said with a frown. “I quite forgot them and am afraid I was nearly impertinent.”

On the subject of impertinence, Elizabeth had to tell her younger sister what Mr. Darcy had said. Surprisingly, Jane’s expression turned dazed, and soon she closed her eyes as though concentrating. It reminded Elizabeth of attempting to make out a noise in the distance.

“Jane?” Lizzy called sharply.

Jane opened her eyes as Kate waved a hand in front of her face. “Are you ill? Did you hear us?”

“I’m perfectly well,” she smiled at them. “I was only lost in thought. What did you say?”

Elizabeth’s dark feelings returned, but not as unchecked as before. “I told Kate what I heard Mr. Darcy say.”

“Do attempt to forget it,” Jane said. She took Elizabeth’s’s hand in hers. “Do not judge him by one evening.”

Elizabeth’s nostrils flared. “Is not one evening more than fair when he judged me with a mere glance?”

“It was very wrong of him to say such things, and if you were merely finding his looks at fault, I would not reproach you. But you attack his character when you do not truly know it.”

“He attacked mine too. It is not only beauty that attracts dance partners. He supposed I did not make good conversation or was not a good dancer — ”

“You are leaping to conclusions!” Jane interrupted.

“Besides,” said Kate, “how does poor dancing mean bad character?”

“Perhaps — perhaps it would mean I was unintelligent or too arrogant to pay attention during my lessons or lazy or —” Elizabeth broke out in laughter and defeat as she recognized the ridiculousness of her claims.

“What has my girls in such a good mood?” Mr. Bennet said as he came into the room.

The sisters said nothing but grinned at him, and he sat behind his desk.

“I suppose you have many questions,” the ladies nodded their heads in unison. “I have worked up a schedule for each of you. You will have time to learn magical theory as well as practical application. I must warn you,” he gave them each a stern look, “most of Meryton does not know about our magical heritage or of the wizarding world at all. It is imperative they do not learn of it. As of now, everyone in our community is cleared with the High Council and the Quorum as trustworthy, but jobbards are not screened. You must guard your secret.”

The smiles slipped from the girls’ faces, and Elizabeth did not need empathic or telepathic abilities to know the thoughts and feelings of her sisters. Someone had killed their parents. They understood the high cost.

Elizabeth was the first to break the silence. “Only say we will not need to go shopping for funny hats and brooms.”

Mr. Bennet shook his head and chuckled. “You have much to learn,” he said and handed out their schedules.

Later that day, Lady Lucas and Charlotte visited. Elizabeth was surprised to learn that her best friend’s family were magical. They did not have demonstrative powers. Instead, they were proficient in medicines and cookery. Elizabeth smiled at the pride Lady Lucas had as she talked about Charlotte’s abilities with tonics.

Charlotte grinned and then turned to Elizabeth. “Perhaps I should not mention Mr. Darcy, knowing your power is the gift of fire, Eliza. However, now that you know the truth would you like me to give him a “tonic”? I could momentarily turn him into a goat!”

Elizabeth laughed. “That was your thought all along last night when you suggested one for his eyesight! I confess many things in the past now make sense. Mrs. Long was once an oracle was she not?”

“Yes, but now you know her predictions are usually wrong.”

“Why would that be?”

“The Council told us by hiding the existence of the Bewitching Sisters,” Mrs. Bennet explained, “it might affect the strength of magic for the entire area.”

“Like a cloaking,” Elizabeth suggested, and the elder ladies agreed. “Now there ought to be an increase of magical abilities for everyone,” she concluded.

“In that case, I shall turn Mr. Darcy into a hawk. His eyesight does need improving,” Charlotte said.

Elizabeth laughed again. “Unless there is a spell to cure his pride, I am afraid there is nothing to be done.”

The conversation was soon interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Allen. It was revealed that although she was not magical at all, her mother had been. She had the opportunity to learn spells and potions but chose not to. Elizabeth sighed in relief that they did not need to hide their abilities from so many of their close friends.

Mrs. Allen had called to ask if the girls would like to walk with her into town. Kate quickly agreed. Elizabeth had no desire to stay in the house lest Mr. Bingley and his friend call on them.

“I should like to stay home, Mama,” Jane said.

“You do not wish to stay home as well, Kate?” Elizabeth asked with a teasing smile.

“I feel urged to go,” was her reply.

“Have you had a premonition?” her mother asked.

“I do not think so. Not like before, that is. I did not see a scene unfold. Perhaps before I regain the ability to see I have the talent to sense?”

The other ladies looked at each other, hoping one may have the answer. Lady Lucas, at last, suggested, “It may be impossible to know since powers come to most as children, and they likely could not express it so well if it began in such a way.”

“I know before the ceremony last night I awoke to a burning feeling in my limbs, but I have yet to create fire,” Elizabeth said then sipped her tea. “Not that I have tried or would know how if I wished it.”

Mr. Bennet spoke from the doorway. “Go on with Mrs. Allen, Kate. When you return, if we do not have visitors, we will begin your lessons. You are all bright enough girls and had your powers for many years before the binding, so I have no doubts you shall catch on fast. Elizabeth, I request that you stay here.”

The ladies all agreed, and Kate set out with Mrs. Allen while Elizabeth and Jane continued their visit with Lady Lucas and her daughter. Elizabeth wondered why her father had asked her to remain at home, but her father did not stay in the room. Determined to enjoy herself while she could, she returned her attention to their guests.

Reunited- Chapter Nine

reunited 2Chapter Nine

 

Rage coursed through Will’s body as the name fell from Elizabeth’s lips. He had been so careful to not mention him to her.

“Will?”

Elizabeth’s words drew him back to the present. Concern clouded her features. “Might we walk now?”

“Is there something you do not wish for my father to know?”

Will shook his head. “No, I will speak with him later. I know myself only too well on this subject. I can relay the facts coldly which I believe would wound you, or I might become overly-emotional. I do not know if it makes any sense to you.”

Elizabeth looked at him for a moment before nodding her head. “Sam and I once found a pup who had lost his mother. When we found him he was hurt but when we attempted to help him he gnashed his teeth. Sam bundled him up in his coat and carried him home. We thought to keep him in a pen so he would be safe but he only became more belligerent, attempting to bite anyone who came near him, even with food in hand. Finally, we believed he might do better on his own—his wound had healed. We opened the pen but he never left sight of us. That night, we left the door open and he willingly slept in there. The next morning, we visited again and instead of growls and angry barks, we were met with a wagging tail. He would follow Sam everywhere after that. We were both heartbroken when he went away to school.”

“I recall Sam talking of his pet. He does not still live does he?”

“No,” Elizabeth sighed sadly. “Jasper passed the autumn after Sam did.”

“I am sorry,” Will touched her hand. “It sounds as though he was a great comfort to you in the absence of your brother and then…”

“All is well,” Elizabeth answered. “I told the story to explain that I understand your feelings. Jasper was not a bad-natured animal. He only needed his freedom and space. Feeling caged heightened his anxieties.”

“That is it exactly,” he closed his eyes in relief at her perception and understanding. How had he ever been so fortunate as to meet her? “Shall we?”

Standing, Will asked for Mr. Bennet’s permission for the walk. Having received it, they set off.

“I have always regretted that you ever met Mr. Wickham,” Will began once they were some distance from the house. “He should never have been in a house full of ladies.”

“I know,” Elizabeth nodded and squeezed his arm.

“You know!” he repeated in amazement. “But how? Did he importune you? I ought to have killed him!”

“No, not me—” Elizabeth hastened to say and tugged on his arm to cease his movement. “Miss Graves told me she had explained it to you. I thought you knew.”

“She did indeed,” Will nodded, “but I did not know she had informed you as well.”

“It was…” Elizabeth sighed. “She found me distraught on the stairs and had assumed the worse.”

“Why were you upset?” Will cast his mind back to the week he had known Elizabeth. His memory was clouded by distance and through layers of regret, pain, and anger. He could barely recall any particulars but only knew that his heart could not deceive him. He had really loved Elizabeth.

“It was after we hid in the cupboard,” Elizabeth answered as she blushed.

Instantly, Will remembered the moment. She had sent him away after he kissed her senseless. He had believed at the time that she had believed he was ungentlemanly. She spent some time avoiding him, but when he came to her to apologise, she had nothing but sweet words and tempting looks for him. “Is she why you had calmed by the time I spoke with you next? What did she say?”

Elizabeth began walking again, nervous energy filling her. “I had built all sorts of ideas in my head. I had thought you only meant to use me—you said nothing about love or courtship, and at the theatre, you had said nothing could exist between us. She allowed me to see the differences between you and a vile abuser like Wickham.”

“I have always liked Miss Graves,” Will grinned for a moment. “She is Mrs. Annesley now—widowed to a footman we had at Darcy House. She has returned to her post as Georgiana’s governess.”

“Governess?” Elizabeth wondered. “Is she not getting quite old for that?”

“It was necessary,” Will bit out. “Come, let us sit here,” he motioned to a bench under a currently bare tree.

“Unbeknownst to me until only a few days ago, Wickham would often visit with Georgiana as a child. Even after my father died—no, I must explain matters first.”

Elizabeth listened patiently as Will paced before her and explained the situation of his father’s will. He had left a valuable living for Wickham but the young man refused all claim to it. He requested instead funds to study law—claiming that Will had given him the idea from one of their arguments—and Will had supposed that would be the end of his acquaintance with the man. Instead, like a bad cold, he came back again and again, abusing Will’s name far and wide whenever he denied him money.

“It seems while I was away from Pemberley, he would visit Georgiana. After Mrs. Annesley married, I decided to send her to a school in London. She has perceived this as me tearing her from her only friend—as she told me in today’s letter. Last summer, my cousin and I removed her from school and allowed her to travel to Ramsgate with a companion. It turns out this woman had a connection to Wickham, who arrived at Mrs. Younge’s invitation. There, he convinced Georgiana to an elopement, and it is only my unexpected arrival that put an end to the scheme.”

“An elopement!” Elizabeth cried. “And to such a man! Thank goodness you arrived in time to prevent it.”

“I saw the packed bags and confronted both her and Mrs. Younge, but the confession was most unwilling. I wrote to Wickham—he renounced all interest and intention in Georgiana, and so she blames me now for separating her from her lover.”

“How could she be so deceived in his character? How could she not believe you given your history?”

“I am afraid it is my fault,” Will said as anguish seized his heart. “I concealed the truth from her as I did not wish to wound her impression of our father. He was much to blame in permitting Wickham’s behavior. By now, you must suppose Mrs. Annesley was not the only Darcy servant to be importuned by him.” At Elizabeth’s nod, he continued, “I failed her.”

Shame gripped him. It ought to have been him to die in the fire. How many lives had he destroyed? Elizabeth’s, Georgiana’s, if he had been in his room, he might have saved Sam or his father. Mr. Bennet never would have been hurt. Instead, he selfishly drank himself near to oblivion at the tavern below.

“You did not.”

Elizabeth placed her hands on his cheeks, wiping away tears he did not realise had spilled from his eyes.

An anguished sob tore from his throat as he buried his face in her hair. “She was but fifteen—what did she know of the world? I was her only family—”

“I was only sixteen when we met and I never would have consented to an elopement. Do you remember? We discussed it.”

“I remember,” he gripped her tightly.

“And you never would have suggested it. Georgiana must face some responsibility for her choice, but most of it resides in the schemes of one man. How long have you blamed yourself for his every evil deed?”

Elizabeth’s words struck him. He had never realised before that was exactly what he had always done. “What would I do without you?”

“What did you do without me? You wrote in your letter—the one I was fortunate enough to receive—that you continued to write to me even after Sam died and all hope died. If you have kept them, I would like to read them.”

“It would do me no good in your view, I fear. I poured my anger out on the page.”

“Might I help heal those wounds? If I can understand the pain, I may better nurse them.”

“I burnt them all before coming to Hertfordshire. I had wanted to let go of the past. I never expected that you still loved me—I had convinced myself you never did. I wished only to prove that I no longer would be your fool.”

“I do not fully understand why you would believe that of me. If you recall, we did not talk very much a few days ago.”

“Oh, I remember,” he chuckled. “I would tell you of the sweetness of your lips,” he whispered in her ear, “but I do believe you said you would rather be shown love than told of it.”

Elizabeth whimpered and arched her neck as his lips inched down the column of her throat. “Yes, but I spoke of fidelity too.”

Will met her lips for one delicious moment, then pulled back. “And I will show you that as well.” He placed her hand on his arm, laughing as she returned from her daze. “I am capable of some restraint, although I do not think you can blame a man after desiring a woman for so many years and so sure he would never have her again to act as I did.”

Elizabeth agreed, and they meandered through the Netherfield gardens.

“I was a fool,” Will admitted. “Sam hinted a bit too strongly one evening about my being in love with you and Wickham heard. He taunted me for the entire trip. How would I know how to court a lady? I was too stupid to please one. She must only desire my money. I could only interest one as young and poor as you.” He shook his head. “I have little doubt that I appeared the epitome of an arrogant heir to you, but the truth was that I felt intensely insecure in my own value. I had often experienced friends who desired only to use me. Wickham is the primary example. He knew more than any other how a person could appear interested in me only to desire the Darcy name and wealth. He always knew how to make me feel most vulnerable. I do not know why I persisted in listening to him and believing him—I suppose I could not believe myself so worthy of deserving you. Can you ever forgive me for that?”

Elizabeth leaned her head against Will’s arm, and they walked in silence for a few moments. He dared not look at her face. The fact that she had not pushed him away was more than he had dared to hope for.

“I do not like that you were so easily deceived, but I do forgive you, and I can understand it. I had only my inner voice saying the same sorts of things about you.”

“Have you put those feelings to rest?” he asked as they arrived near the stable.

“I hope so,” Elizabeth answered honestly and sighed. “I suppose I will be going home soon.”

Just then, the coachman emerged. Wearing a stern face, he stomped in anger toward the house. Will called out to him.

“What is the matter?”

“Yesterday, we had supposed the carriage was stuck in the mud. I apologise, miss,” he glanced at Elizabeth, “for the dirty walk you faced in the rain.”

“As you see, I am no worse for the excursion.”

“You sound as though the problem was not the mud?” Will asked.

“The axle is broken. A nearly clean break.”

Dread knotted in Will’s stomach. “Do you suspect someone tampered with it?”

“One of our saws is missing,” he said. “I believe it must have been cut down so it might appear intact but very weak once in motion. If we had not been going so slow due to the rain, it would have been dangerous—perhaps deadly—when it broke.”

Will turned to Elizabeth, her face appearing as snow and her hands feeling like ice even through the thickness of his coat and her gloves.

“Who would do such a thing?” she asked in a trembling voice.

 

*****

 

A terrified shudder wracked Elizabeth’s body while Will and his coachman stared at one another. An unspoken conversation occurred, and although Elizabeth could not say she shared in it, in the pit of her stomach, she knew the logical culprit.

“Come, dearest,” Will led her to a stool in the stable and withdrew a flask, pressing it into her hands.

Elizabeth murmured her thanks and took a few small sips until she felt warmth and vitality rush through her. No one could have known ahead of time that it would be Elizabeth who rode in Will’s carriage next. No, he was the target. She had little difficulty believing Wickham hated Will and was capable of evil—but to attempt murder? Even worse—did this mean he was here? Near Netherfield? Near Meryton? Her eyes scanned the trees as though she would see his menacing visage. How had she ever found him handsome? In her memory, now, he was akin to a monster.

“Let us walk back, we have much to discuss with your father,” Will said and assisted her in standing.

“What will you do?” Elizabeth asked Will as they approached the house.

“I will speak with your father and also Charles. I do not believe he or any of his family is a target, but they should be careful at any rate.” He pressed a kiss to her temple. “Fear not. You will be returned home safely.”

“It is not me that I worry for!” Elizabeth cried, bringing them to a stop. She threw herself into Will’s arms, clutching him tightly. “Why when we have just found one another again must this happen?”

Will whispered soothing words of love in her ear and rubbed her back until the spell of emotion passed. “We do not know that anything intentional happened. I know your intelligent mind. I know you can perceive what Davis and I did not say—but if he is to blame, then you can be sure he will not be showing his face again any time soon. He thrives on lulling me into a sense of security and is too clever to push his luck and be caught. I would hazard a guess even if we found proof that he had been here he is now far away.”

Elizabeth wiped her tears with the handkerchief Will offered and nodded. London was a very convenient distance, and he easily could hide there.

“I will write to my cousin and inquire about Wickham’s whereabouts, but if I know Wickham, he would much rather have me alive than dead. You cannot blackmail a dead man.”

Elizabeth was not at all proud of the fact that for a fleeting moment, amidst the gut-wrenching pain of imagining Will dead, she considered that his heir must be his sister. Would Georgiana want him dead so she might marry Wickham? Or would he put a plan into action without her knowledge to remove her guardian? Biting her tongue, Elizabeth chose not to voice her concerns. Will knew both far better than she did and if he did not entertain the possibility of them then more than likely she would only pain him with such wild possibilities.

Had she learned nothing in recent days? She should put her most fevered ideas behind her and not give into her imagination. There were no clues to lead to her recent thoughts. Good heavens! Was she turning into her step-mother?

Upon reaching the house, Mr. Bennet greeted them. “I am feeling much recovered, and your mother has sent a missive begging our return on the morrow. My cousin arrives the following day and she says the master of the house is required to be in residence.”

“Your cousin?” Will asked.

“He is the son of the man who was heir before Sam was born. We have never met Mr. Collins before, but he seems quite ridiculous.”

“Indeed,” her father laughed. “His letter contained more compliments to his patroness—a Lady Catherine de Bourgh, he mentioned as though I should know her name—than it did to my wife or daughters—of which there were many although he has never seen them.”

Will started at Mr. Bennet’s words. “Pardon me, did you say Lady Catherine de Bourgh?” Upon confirmation, Will looked between father and daughter, and said in an amazed one, “She is my mother’s sister. How came he to know her?”

“He did not say,” Mr. Bennet answered. “I had thought you might return with certain news you wished to share?” He glanced between Will and Elizabeth. “Will told me you would soon be selecting a wedding date?”

“Oh,” Elizabeth answered and looked at her feet. Yes, she had told Will she would compromise and settle a date but must she decide just now? Her stepmother must have opinions about such things and still as far as the rest of the world knew they had never spent much time together. They could not announce it right away.

“Unfortunately, we did not have a moment to discuss the date,” Will hastily intervened. “On that subject, I do request an audience with you but not on the topic of the wedding.”

“Certainly,” Mr. Bennet agreed and followed Will to the library.

Sighing, Elizabeth determined to join the others in the drawing room. Her mind could not focus on any of the conversations at hand. Caroline must have delighted in seeing what looked like evidence of her stupidity. Elizabeth’s mind worked again and again. Why would Wickham wish to kill Will? Was Wickham as harmless as Will believed?

Elizabeth and Will had no more opportunity to talk and the afternoon and evening were filled with Caroline’s insistence upon music and cards, gently scolding Will for writing letters when he had requested the music. Elizabeth stole glances at him during her time at the pianoforte. He rarely looked up from his page, but often his pen did not move as though he were lost in the music. A few times their eyes locked and Elizabeth almost believed then that love was a tangible thing. She could feel his caress with his eyes. His arms were around her once more and the safe, secure feeling she always felt in his presence filled her.

The following morning, Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth returned to Longbourn. After describing the house to her sisters and her mother, Elizabeth retreated to her room for solitude. A half hour later, she was not surprised when there was a knock at her door, and Jane entered.

“Are you very jealous of me for getting to spend time at Netherfield?” Elizabeth teased.

“I am very thankful that Papa recovered so quickly and you were there to help. Was it an agreeable visit?”

Very agreeable,” Elizabeth beamed. “Will and I managed to have many conversations, and I think we understand one another much more now.”

“Do you trust him now? Do you have peace about the past?”

“I think I do,” Elizabeth nodded. “Now, I will tell you that Mr. Bingley asked about you several times a day and always seemed to work you into the conversation.”

“He did not,” Jane blushed. “Do not tease me so.”

“I am telling the utter truth!” Elizabeth grinned and hugged her sister. “Perhaps when I next visit the house you will be its mistress.” She could not contain a set of giggles as she used her best Fanny Bennet impression.

“Lizzy!” Jane pretended to scold but smiled at Elizabeth’s words.

Suddenly, Elizabeth sobered and squeezed her sister again. “Thank you for always being so selfless. I am sure you listened to me cry over Will far more than you ever wished.”

“I would say so! I would never wish for your heart to be broken.”

“I did not mean it in that way. I am certain if the positions were reversed, I would have lost patience with you in a matter of weeks.”

“No,” Jane shook her head. “You are my dearest friend and can be excessively protective. If the situations were reversed, you would have girded your loins and marched to London to demand explanation and retribution. I am weak compared to you.”

“Never say such a thing!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “Your strength is, perhaps, different than mine. It is quieter, but I see it and so must all who call you friend.”

Jane smiled, and the sisters sat in companionable solitude for a few moments until there was shouting from the hallway. “Lizzy! Jane!” Lydia yelled. “Mama says to come downstairs!”

Sharing a smile, they left their chamber and rejoined the family below.

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

Road in dark forest

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

Chapter Four

 

The occupants of Netherfield also did not rest well the evening after the ball in Meryton but for different reasons entirely.

“I want to know,” Mrs. Tilney said when everyone was seated with coffee and refreshments, “what you all thought of that…that…I believe I heard the residents refer to it as a ball but with the number of country dances it surely would never qualify!” She shuddered.

“We are not here to worry about friendships or fashion, Agatha,” General Tilney said. “We have been assigned to determine if these are the Bewitched Sisters.”

Mrs. Tilney smiled at the scold. “We might be magical but we are still ladies, and as we frequent London more than Pember Wigan, you must allow that we care about good Society and gowns.”

The General grunted and reached for a newspaper.

“Still, I am curious what the gentlemen of our party thought,” she continued, “because I am sure I can guess the ladies’ opinions. Mr. Darcy, what did you think of Meryton?”

“I saw little beauty and no fashion,” he said disinterestedly.

“You did not think the Bennet ladies worthy of your notice? I thought they seemed quite interested in you,” Miss Caroline Bingley, the General’s younger step-daughter, said.

Darcy, used to Caroline’s prying manners from his long friendship with her brother, knew how to answer her. “I saw no attention or pleasure shown to me.”

Caroline gasped in shock. “You mean to say they ignored you? How could they not know who you are?”

Darcy approached Mrs. Tilney to refill his coffee to keep from rolling his eyes, although it was difficult as she simpered while pouring from the ornate coffee service. He returned to his seat and wondered when he might go to bed, hoping the chamber was more comfortable than the drawing room. Every cushion was stiffly stuffed and upholstered in garish colors the Bingley ladies favored so much. At last, he replied as Caroline did not take her eyes off him. “It is no consequence when they were of equally no interest to me.”

“Of no interest?” the General threw the paper down. “You know, of course, that in this back-country village is a family that claims to harbor the most powerful witches of the era!”

He was beginning to turn red and when worked up could be in a rage for quite some time. Usually, Darcy avoided doing so but collaborating with the General meant Darcy finally had a chance to observe him carefully. Alas, Bingley could never stand for there to be unhappiness or strife.

“Now, I must disagree with something you had said earlier, Darcy,” Bingley shook his head. “The Bennet ladies were exceedingly lovely. The eldest was an angel! Nor did I dislike the manners at the dance. I am not one for formality and stiffness.”

“I believe we generally call it elegance, Charles,” Caroline said with a sly smile. She looked at Darcy for confirmation.

“The eldest Miss Bennet was pretty, I will grant you, but she smiled too much for my taste.” Charles only grinned at Darcy’s words, and he had to hide his own smile. The lady indeed smiled far too much to interest him, but it was all he could say against her as of now. It was a code they used for Darcy to give in approval of Charles’ dance partners. From experience, they both knew far too many ladies would prefer to catch Darcy and only used Charles as a means to an end. Darcy did not pretend to read emotion or minds, but he could at least allow Charles to know that he had no interest in a lady.

“That may be true, but I still found her very agreeable,” Mrs. Louisa Hurst, Charles’ elder sister, interjected.

“Yes, if we are to be trapped here, she is one I would not dislike getting to know better,” Caroline said.

Darcy glanced at Bingley’s step-siblings, Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who had remained silent. “What did you think, Henry? I believe I saw you dancing with one of them.”

The General, who still seemed put out by not venting his spleen earlier, looked at his son with more interest than usual.

“I danced with the youngest one,” Henry said. “I was the only one to dance with her. I don’t know why I go to balls with you two! Charles always heads right for the prettiest girl and plays court to her all night, and Darcy refuses to stand up with anyone he doesn’t already know.”

Caroline grinned at the mention that she had been the only single lady Darcy danced with all evening.

“I danced with the middle daughter!” Charles said. “I tried to get Darcy to dance with her too!”

“I daresay you cannot blame Charles for not dancing with Miss Catherine Morland,” Louisa said in her brother’s defense. “She stood at the back and was hardly noticeable at all.”

“And when you did notice her!” Caroline made an unpleasant face. “Those teeth!”

“Nevermind her looks,” Darcy said through a clenched jaw. “Did you sense anything from her or the others?” Henry was a Kleros, his magical gift was to sense evil.

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

Road in dark forest

Chapter Three

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why did you stop coming?” Kate questioned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was my last dream,” Kate whispered.

“How old were you?” Elizabeth asked.

“Eleven. We soon came to Hertfordshire and…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come, share my wrap,” Jane said.

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

“You too, Kate.”

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

“Look up, children.”

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

“Kate, all is well.”

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

“This cannot be!” cried Elizabeth.

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

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

“Have no fear,”

“Are we dead?” Kate asked in confusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters- Chapter Two part two

Road in dark forest

What does Elizabeth think of the Assembly and Darcy? Can they get along better in this magical world?


While Jane and Bingley danced, Elizabeth sat out due to the absence of partners. She had not minded and was busy watching the new neighbors. Mr. Darcy had caught her eye early in the evening, and she now amused herself imagining his inner thoughts as he circled about the room with an expression of disdain. His strong jaw was firmly set. Now and then someone bumped into him and his face contorted. She was busy wondering if the spasm was an expression of revulsion or pain when Mr. Bingley left his second dance with Jane to approach his friend.

“Darcy! I must have you dance!” Mr. Bingley’s face was flushed from the heat of the ballroom and the exertion of dancing.

Mr. Darcy looked amongst the crowd. The baker and his wife promenaded past, and Elizabeth thought she saw his lip curl.

“I loathe dancing with strangers. Save your sisters I do not know a soul here.”

Elizabeth found that strange wording but was too taken with the rest of their conversation to pay much heed to it.

“I have not seen prettier girls in my life!” said Mr. Bingley and he turned his whole body to look at Jane.

Darcy loosened his cravat and then stared at his gloved hand while responding. “You are dancing with the only beautiful one.”

Bingley grinned but shook his head. “No, there is her sister just behind you. She is very lovely and quite amiable too. Let me call Miss Bennet to introduce you.”

Elizabeth’s breath caught. The last thing she desired was to be inspected by Mr. Darcy. She reminded herself she had no reason to want his good opinion, all the same, she wished she had worn a different gown or spent more time on her hair.

“Which do you mean?”

Darcy looked over his shoulder and his eyes locked with Elizabeth. Perhaps it was just from the peculiar inspection, but she had the strangest feeling settle in her at that moment. First, she felt heat, then a chill. He quickly tore his gaze away.

“She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me. Return to your partner and enjoy her smiles for you are wasting your time with me.”

Although she felt like a puddle after the riot of feelings meeting his eyes gave, Elizabeth’s courage always rose to every occasion of intimidation. The minute Darcy walked on to find fault with another dancer, she promptly left her seat and retold the scene to her closest friend, Charlotte Lucas.

Charlotte laughed at Elizabeth’s description of the haughty interchange. Once calmed, she whispered into Elizabeth’s ear, “His eyesight must be weak for him to make such a remark! My mother and I have just the tonic which would help him…”

Elizabeth sincerely doubted such a specimen of a man could have any fault so mundane as weak eyesight but laughed at the image provoked. She imagined Darcy with a quizzing glass which magnified objects tenfold and yet he still needed to bring items close. Perhaps he might mistake a dirty stocking for a posy and sniff it.

“Oh, Charlotte! He is too proud to want any of your homemade tonics or even to admit to such a deficiency at all. I daresay he is entitled to his opinion, and I could much easier forgive his pride if he had not wounded mine.”

Charlotte’s sharp eyes met her friend’s. “Was it your pride or your vanity, Lizzy? Did he affect how you think of yourself, or only what you want everyone else to think?”

Elizabeth scoffed. “As if I care what the neighborhood thinks of me!”

“Little more than you do what a stranger thinks of you? I am your dearest friend, and I know the truth. You desire to project the image of a quick-witted and lively, pretty girl. You dislike close examination.”

Elizabeth shook her head. Her dark curls dancing at the movement. “You would not understand, Charlotte. I’ve always felt so…different than the other girls.”

Miss Lucas was saved the trouble of replying by the arrival of Jane. She was astonished at Elizabeth’s report of Mr. Darcy.

“I cannot believe he meant it in that way!” Jane’s blue eyes went wide in shock and disbelief. “Mr. Bingley is the friendliest man I have ever met, surely his friend must be as kind. No, you shall not laugh me out of my opinion no matter how much you roll your eyes at me, Lizzy. You must have misunderstood Mr. Darcy.” Jane could be firm where she believed herself right.

Mr. Bingley approached, ending the conversation. He asked Elizabeth for a dance but spent every other possible moment talking with Jane, ensuring he was in the same set as her. Elizabeth was too happy for her sister to feel slighted. As the evening wore on, however, it seemed Mr. Darcy was always watching her. Finding more fault with her, she assumed. She did not care about his close inspection.

At one point, Mr. Bingley’s younger sister was led to the dance floor by Darcy. Her orange silk gown floated around her in an almost magical quality. At first, Elizabeth admired the dress but believed it did not flatter Miss Bingley’s complexion. Additionally, her nose quite literally stuck in the air lest she suffer from the aroma of her fellow dancers. Elizabeth watched Miss Bingley cringe before touching every other partner. If Mr. Darcy’s eyes wandered, Miss Bingley would say some joke, judging by the way she laughed at her words, and Mr. Darcy’s lips tilted up in a small smile. Elizabeth suspected snide comments being made and hoped someone in Miss Bingley’s set would trample on her train. Elizabeth grinned at the possibility then immediately felt guilty about what Jane’s reaction would be.

Rolling her eyes at herself, she turned her attention to her sisters. Kate danced with Henry Tilney, and Elizabeth smiled to herself as the gentleman made her younger sister laugh. Kate had just come out a few weeks earlier, and Elizabeth applauded her parents for allowing their other daughters of close age out even while the eldest remained unmarried. Elizabeth happily saw her sister’s first ball must be everything a lady needed. For once, Elizabeth did not even regret Kate’s fanciful imagination. Growing too warm, she stationed herself near an open window until Mr. Bingley collected her for their set.