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.

 

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

Road in dark forest

 

First, here’s a family tree for those who asked. Mr. Bennet married the former Mrs. Morland. Mr. Bingley’s widow married General Tilney. All of the characters were several years old when the deaths occurred so everyone has at least one dead parent. Does that make sense?

sisters bewitched family tree 2

 

Chapter Two

Meryton, Hertfordshire

October 4, 1811

 

Without much more fuss, the days passed until the next Meryton assembly. It was not the ladies’ first desire to get to know their prodigal neighbors at a public ball, but their father had been adamant in not calling earlier. As it happened, General Tilney had only been at Netherfield for a day or two before leaving for London. Mrs. Long, the circulator of all local gossip, claimed he would be arriving with five gentlemen and five ladies.

The single women of the area pouted at the possibility that all the men were already attached. At last, the moment of truth came. When only four women and five gentlemen, including the General, arrived, the crowd, unanimously gave up Mrs. Long as once again wrong in her information and before so much as a word was spoken had settled it in their heads that the four young gentlemen were unattached. One lady was surely Mrs. Tilney, given her age, and the others must only be sisters.

The truth was something to the effect. One lady was indeed Mrs. Tilney. She brought a son and two daughters — one married with her husband in attendance. This left the two sons of General Tilney, but no one could claim to recognize the eldest. His age looked correct, but there was no family resemblance.

They were soon to find out, that it was not Frederick Tilney, heir of Netherfield Abbey of four thousand a year and houses in Town and Bath. Instead, it was a Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire. His reported income was ten thousand pounds; he was cried up as good as a lord. He was the particular friend of Mrs. Tilney’s son, Charles Bingley, and it would have been the prize of the night to attain his admiration if his manners had not given a disgust. Compared with the amiability of Mr. and Mrs. Tilney’s sons, Mr. Darcy was seen as intolerably proud.

Mr. Bingley was without a house, although his inheritance was large, and he declared a desire to lease an estate in the neighborhood. Mr. Henry Tilney had just taken orders and was to take over for Dr. Harrison in a nearby parish. The ladies of Meryton, both sensible and romantic, sighed at the elegant figures the two gentlemen cut and their dancing skill. Mr. Darcy was the most handsome and tallest, but no one could admire his way of staring critically at the crowd.

General Tilney was declared as much improved from when he was last seen. Town gossips determined him very much in love with his new wife who came from a good family but married into trade with her first marriage.

Elizabeth saw, with much joy, that Mr. Bingley had immediately sought an introduction with Jane at his earliest opportunity.

Jane smiled at her handsome partner. “We were so pleased to hear of your arrival in the neighborhood, Mr. Bingley,” she said. “We have all missed General Tilney’s presence, and I am sure your mother and sisters will be welcome additions as well.”

“My mother seems most fortunate in her marriage.” Mr. Bingley’s brown eyes danced in the surrounding candlelight.

“I believe I heard they married last year?” Elizabeth asked.

“Yes, and you may wonder at the delay for their taking residence at Netherfield again.”

Jane and Elizabeth nodded.

“They met in Bath and chose to stay there until all their children finished their educations. I have just completed my master’s examinations at Cambridge. Henry completed his studies just before the marriage but then served as a deacon until he came of age. Frederick’s regiment was also stationed nearby.”

Jane smiled at the mention of the eldest Tilney son. “I knew him as a boy. He has joined the military?”

“Yes, a Captain in the Militia,” Mr. Bingley said. “There was talk of him going into the regulars, but he has not yet, and as heir to Netherfield I rather doubt that he will. His father insisted in some form of employment for his son, however, to keep him occupied.” Mr. Bingley gazed out across the crowd as though to be sure his step-father had not heard the remark.

Jane furrowed her brow. “And have you had the same demands put upon you?”

Uncertainty clouded Bingley’s eyes. “I am charged with purchasing an estate as soon as may be.”

Elizabeth observed that although Jane’s expression did not change, disappointment momentarily flashed in her eyes.

“Oh, then you will not stay long at Netherfield?” Jane asked.

Bingley grinned, and his white teeth dazzled like diamonds. “I doubt I shall find anything until next Spring. The autumn and winter are hardly conducive to looking at estates.”

Jane blushed but did not reply. Elizabeth felt it necessary to say something.  “I suppose so. We are fortunate, though, with our easy distance to London.”

“Indeed. My sisters enjoy that as well.”

This, at last, roused Jane to speech. “They seem like very elegant ladies!”

Elizabeth looked across the ballroom and immediately saw the women in question. Their delicate silk gowns and ornate headpieces with feathers stood out amongst the crowd of patterned muslins and fresh flowers as they lined the dark paneled walls. Mr. Bingley’s elder sister, Mrs. Hurst, toyed with a shining necklace of emeralds and sapphires. Elizabeth guessed it cost half her father’s annual income. Firm to believe in first impressions, Elizabeth perceived the ladies felt above their company and could not like them.

“Thank you. Caroline and Louisa do count themselves as such. I am afraid my newest sister, Eleanor, is more reserved.”

Elizabeth looked around the room and saw Miss Tilney, dressed not nearly as finely as her step-sisters, standing alone.

Jane smiled gently. “I know my sisters and I will enjoy getting to know her better. It simply takes some people longer to warm up to a crowd of strangers.”

Mr. Bingley cocked his head. “I think you speak from experience.”

Jane blushed. “Yes, I find new people and situations uncomfortable.”

The musicians began to strike up for a new set, and Mr. Bingley civilly requested Jane and Elizabeth as partners. As Jane was lead to the dance floor, Elizabeth overheard what she said to Bingley.

“I have never revealed so much to a new acquaintance before,” she confessed.

Fantasy Friday- Pride and Prejudice and Prophecies, Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters Chapter One, post one

I’m going to do a cover reveal when I get closer to publication so for now we just have the Fantasy Fridays graphic. Here’s the prologue in case you missed it.

Road in dark forest

Chapter One

Longbourn, Hertfordshire

September 21, 1811

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that love is the greatest magic of all and to most of the old families in Britain, just as inconceivable.

As the Bennets of Longbourn in Hertfordshire were neither an ancient family nor had they the distinction of rank or wealth, they must be forgiven for Mr. Bennet learning to dearly love his second wife. Despite this vulgarness, they had not openly spoken of the magical world in sixteen years, at least. When news arrived of returning neighbors after a long absence, the conversation between husband and wife were so discreet as to puzzle their three adult daughters. They gathered in the drawing room to enjoy the last hours of sun through the southern windows.

“Have you heard, Mr. Bennet, that General Tilney is to return to Netherfield Abbey, at last?” Martha Bennet asked her husband.

After several moments of silence, Mr. Bennet replied from behind a newspaper. “Is he? I suppose he has his reasons.”

“Indeed. He has married a Mrs. Bingley.” Mrs. Bennet pulled a lamp closer as she pulled out a pile of stockings to darn for the little children.

“And does the new Mrs. Tilney have any grown children? The General’s should all be past their majority by now.”

“Yes, all of their children and a large party of friends are coming to Netherfield.”

Mr. Bennet put down his paper and raised his eyebrows in silent question.

His wife complied. “They are to be here in time for the ball after Michaelmas.”

Mr. Bennet stroked his jaw line. “I suppose that will turn the neighborhood on its heel.”

“Will you call on him?” Mrs. Bennet gave her darning more attention than it usually warranted and did not meet her husband’s eyes.

Mr. Bennet put aside the newspaper and walked across the room to the bookshelves on a far wall. He scanned it for several minutes, muttering under his breath. “I believe I’ll read Leonora to you all tonight. You like that one, don’t you, Lizzy?”

Their second eldest daughter looked up from where she sat with her sisters. “You know I like all those sorts of novels — ”

She was interrupted by the youngest, Catherine. “Oh, no. Why not The Italian?”

“No, Kate! Not that one again!” Lizzy argued. “I am sick of melodrama.” She tossed a ribbon at her younger sister’s head, who shrieked in undignified shock. “I was aiming for the basket to your side. It’s not my fault your head is so big,” she said with a shrug and a smirk while Kate glowered.

“Elizabeth,” the eldest said in a firm but gentle voice. Her wide, clear blue eyes made it difficult to displease her.

“No need to defend me, Jane,” Kate said. “I know how to get even.”

Elizabeth’s jaw dropped open for a scathing retort, but Mrs. Bennet cleared her throat. “Girls,” she said in a sharp tone and with raised eyebrows. Her dark eyes transformed from gentle to piercing and each daughter ducked their heads and returned to their work.

“Ah, here we are. The Vision of Don Roderick by Scott shall be an agreeable compromise,” Mr. Bennet said as though he had not paid any heed to the squabbling of a moment before.

“Mr. Bennet,” Mrs. Bennet said in a milder tone than she used on her daughters but one that demanded an answer all the same.

Mr. Bennet sighed before speaking. “I think it better should I see him at the ball and allow him to settle in first.”

The answer displeased his wife, who sucked in a breath and pursed her lips in a thin line. However, she said nothing.

The three eldest daughters exchanged curious looks with each other. Ordinarily, their parents had far too much sense to care this much about a neighbor returning to his estate.

Elizabeth mused to herself that her birth mother would have had many flutterings over a wealthy gentleman with available sons coming to the area. The first Mrs. Bennet had passed five winters before in an illness that swept the area and took her three youngest daughters and their nearest neighbor, Mrs. Tilney. The current Mrs. Bennet’s first husband, the Reverend Morland, also passed as they were visiting a relation in Hertfordshire.

Mr. Bennet found himself with two grief-stricken daughters of marriageable age, and Mrs. Morland with several children and no pension, the two married for necessity when their half mourning was complete. General Tilney had quickly left the area and took his children: two sons and a daughter, with him. They had not heard a thing from him or about him in all these years.

“Jane, Lizzy,” said Kate, “do you remember General Tilney or his children?”

“It was years ago,” answered Jane, “but they were all kind.”

“But did you know them well?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Eleanor is Jane’s age but the boys, Frederick and Henry, are four and two years older than her. They were too old to join in our games.”

Kate frowned, and Elizabeth passed a newly mended handkerchief to her. Kate had the most patience for embroidery out of all the girls. Elizabeth looked out the window longingly. It was now too dark for a stroll in the garden. Her father took a break from his reading to place lamps around the room. The slightly worn but pale wallpaper and several well-placed mirrors magnified the light. Elizabeth shuddered at how much they would spend monthly in candlesticks otherwise.

Jane stretched out a gown her youngest sister had outgrown and neatly cut a rectangle. She cut a long strip from a contrasting fabric to make an apron string. “Eleanor was at school when her mother died, as was Henry. The eldest was at university. We had seldom been in their company for many years before Mrs. Tilney’s death. I know not being at home bore heavily on them all.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, as much as I wish Mother would have agreed to send us to school, I am glad we were at home for her final hours.”

Her mother had insisted she would have missed her daughters too much to send them to school, but Elizabeth believed the real reason was that her mother was a spendthrift. Of course, her step-mother’s brood of children cost nearly as much, and so the Bennets continued to spend most of their annual income of two thousand pounds a year.

Kate let out a happy sigh. “General Tilney must have loved his wife very much if he could not stand to be home or remarried until now.”

“Perhaps,” Elizabeth said while shrugging. She had been fifteen and in little company of either elder Tilneys.

At the same moment, Jane said, “Of course!”

“Such romantic sensibilities must be passed on to his sons then,” Catherine continued.

“Kate!” Elizabeth chided quietly. Her sister read too many romantic and gothic novels. “Life is not like your books. Do you suppose that your mother felt the loss of your father any less than General Tilney would have felt of his wife? And she remarried quickly.”

“My mother did love Father dearly,” she replied, evidently reconsidering.

“Life is not fair to women, Lizzy,” Jane said. “Mama may love Papa now, but you know that was not the arrangement when they married.”

Elizabeth frowned as she pulled out another handkerchief from the mending basket. At least this one was for a brother and therefore required less fancy needlework. “Mama, is it James that needs more handkerchiefs?”

“Allow me to consult the list,” Mrs. Bennet said and held a ledger toward the lamp at her side. As a mother of nine children of various ages, she managed the household through extreme organizational means. “Yes, James and John both,” she informed Elizabeth. “What they do with them, I don’t know,” she muttered to herself and stabbed a child’s stocking with her needle.

Elizabeth bent her head over her work and blew a wisp of dark hair out of her eyes. She kept her thoughts to herself about the potential personalities of their neighbors. Jane was too apt to trust and like people. No intimacy had existed between the Netherfield and Longbourn families. Jane would only know what she had seen on the civil calls and large dinners. Additionally, she had only been in company for a year before the Tilneys left the area. She had always been predisposed to view everyone in a favorable light.

Elizabeth wondered if the situation of their parents’ demise and remarriage colored the outlooks that Jane and Kate had of romance and marriage. For herself, she was not easily pleased or impressed. A man would have to love her quite ardently to marry her with only fifty pounds to her name and yet that could hardly be sensible. She could never marry a man out of his wits.

Thursday Three Hundred- 14th of October, Regency

Last week, I posted a story inspired by Thomas Rhett’s Unforgettable. It had a modern setting. Today, I have a story inspired by the same song but set in the Regency Era. Let me know which you liked better!

14th of October, Regency

 

Charles Bingley greeted the master of ceremonies of the country assembly he attended. He had recently let a large house in the neighbourhood. Many of the area gentlemen had called and introduced themselves as a necessary etiquette before they could introduce their wives and daughters. Sir William Lucas, the man he was speaking to, introduced his eldest two daughters, Charlotte and Maria. Both seemed kind young ladies although Maria appeared very young and uncertain of herself. Bingley assumed she had only recently entered Society. Miss Lucas looked a few years his senior, and her mother desperately suggested they partner for the first dance. Never one to want to give offense and an enthusiast of the sport in general, Bingley complied.

As he led Miss Lucas to the dance floor, his eyes fell upon an angel. Her white gown had a blue overlay and exposed nearly all of her shoulders. The seductive glimpses of skin were balanced by covering her ample décolletage.

“Mr. Bingley,” Miss Lucas’ voice interrupted his musings.

“Pardon me, I was admiring the splendour of the room.”

Miss Lucas grinned. “I could see that. She is lovely, is she not?”

Bingley blushed. “Forgive me. I did not wish to offend.”

“Oh, I am not offended. I am quite used to young men falling in love with Jane. She is too sweet for me to be upset about it.”

Was he in love already? His friend, Darcy, would laugh at him for he had a habit of falling for a lady at first sight. Usually, Darcy would have to talk sense into him later and expose the lady’s cruel designs. Joining high society had been Bingley’s father’s greatest wish, but he was far more ready for the cutthroat attitudes of the ton than his son was. Bingley would rather live in the country than in London. His greatest wish was to surround himself with true friends who loved him and not his five thousand a year.

Seeing that Miss Lucas was not upset at his indifference, he asked, “Would you introduce me to her after our set?”

“Certainly.”

Bingley’s heart hammered loudly in his chest as Miss Lucas performed the introduction. He bowed over Miss Bennet’s hand and promptly asked her to dance. When she smiled at his request and agreed, he swore his heart skipped a beat.

Minutes passed while the musicians shuffled their music and couples filtered to the dance floor. Bingley grabbed a cup of punch to steady his nerves. Throughout the dance, Bingley’s tongue could not keep up with his brain which went blank every time Miss Bennet glanced at him. They spent most of their dance in silence, conversation limited to general topics and entirely perused by Miss Bennet.

After their dance, Miss Bennet’s mother came to her side shrieking and complimenting her daughter on her conquest. Many other young ladies, some with striking facial similarities to Miss Bennet, gathered around her. He needed to dance with her again, to feel the pressure of her gloved hand in his. However, etiquette dictated that he could not yet ask her to dance again. Instead, he sought an introduction to the lady closest to him, a Miss King. Then he danced with the younger Miss Lucas. Between sets, he sought out the punch bowl to loosen his tongue so he might dazzle Miss Bennet with his charm and wit during their next dance.

At last, the moment came. Bingley confidently walked to Miss Bennet’s side, but before he could say a word, an aging man with a growing gut appeared.

“If you are free, my dear Miss Bennet, I would be honoured to dance with you.”

Charles scowled at the man and his poorly worded request. He ought to humbly beg this angel sent to earth to deign to glance at him! Feeling his face heat in indignation, Miss Bennet’s sweet voice rang out.

“Forgive me, Mr. Long, but I am already promised to Mr. Bingley for this set.”

She reached her hand forward, and Bingley immediately grabbed it. Without another look, he led her to the dance floor.

“Pray forgive me. I did not mean to trap you, but Mr. Long has been so persistent and will not take my hints at displeasure with his suit.”

“How intolerable. I will gladly be your partner at any ball.” Bingley paused for a moment as the dance separated them. “In fact, dinner engagements may not be safe either. We could arrange to find one another at each meeting and then you would be safe from his attentions.”

A soft smile set on Miss Bennet’s face. “I do not know that we need to go to such lengths. Surely, he will be discouraged soon enough.”

“If it were me, I would not give up so easily.”

Miss Bennet laughed. “Upon my word, that is very forward of you for such a new acquaintance. Sir, are you foxed?”

“No, certainly not.” Missing a step to the dance, he almost fell and most certainly would have sprained his ankle.

Miss Bennet’s eyebrows rose. “I see.”

Taking a deep breath to puff out his chest, Bingley focused on saying something that would convince her of his sobriety. “Would a drunk man say that…” Miss Bennet began to smile, and his mind went blank.

“I am waiting, sir.”

“I am going to marry you.”

“Pardon?” Miss Bennet stumbled, and Bingley caught her by the hand.

“I said I am going to tarry here.”

“No,” Miss Bennet shook her head. “I do not think you did.”

Flushing, Bingley attempted to think fast. “Forgive me, I was attempting to tease, but I think perhaps it was too far.”

Miss Bennet’s eyes went wide and then searched his. Slowly, she began to smile.

“Oh, I can tease as well. My sister, Elizabeth, is a great teaser.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, that is her in the green.” Miss Bennet nodded to her left. “You ought to ask her to dance next. I think you will enjoy her wit.”

“An excellent suggestion, thank you.”

“You see if I thought you were serious about wanting to marry me I would hardly suggest you dance with my sister.” Miss Bennet’s eyes shined with mirth. “And I might point out how utterly nonsensical it would be to marry a lady when you do not so much as know her Christian name. My sister and I are agreed to never marry a man out of his wits.”

The dance separated them, and Bingley considered how to respond to her tease.

“If that be the only obstacle to our union, then I am assured of our happiness, Diana.”

“I wish you every happiness with the mysterious Diana but am sad to say it is not I.”

As they waited for the others to go down the set, they continued with their game. Thirty minutes later, the set ended and Bingley had not correctly guessed Miss Bennet’s name. She turned to introduce him to her sister.

“This is my next youngest sister, Elizabeth. Lizzy, this is Mr. Bingley.”

Miss Elizabeth curtsied and greeted him with civility and good humour.

“I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Elizabeth. Your sister tells me that you have a very charming wit and love to tease.”

Miss Elizabeth laughed. “Did she indeed?” She turned to Miss Bennet. “Jane! You surprise me!”

Bingley’s rejoiced at Miss Elizabeth’s use of her sister’s name. His eyes immediately met Jane’s. “You remind me a bit of my own sister, Miss Elizabeth. Already, I believe I have a very brotherly regard for you. Your sister, Jane, has made me look forward to this set.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow but merely glanced between Jane and Bingley. Jane blushed but did not look away from Bingley.

“Indeed?” Elizabeth said. “How else would you describe your dance with Jane?”

“Unforgettable,” he replied.

One year later, Bingley entered the Meryton Assembly hall with Jane by his side as Mrs. Bingley. “There,” he pointed to the centre of the room. “Right there was where I fell in love with you.”

“And I with you,” Jane smiled and squeezed his hand as they walked to the dance floor.

Thursday Three Hundred- 14th of October

Rose LetterFor a year or two now (or longer??) I’ve been enjoying Leenie Brown’s blog posts on Thursdays (well, all the posts). Each week, she shares at least 300 words of a story and it is connected to her Music Monday and Wordless Wednesday posts as well. I’ll be doing it a bit different than Leenie. My aim is to have a completed “micro fiction” each week. For the next few weeks they’ll be heavily influenced by copyrighted songs I like so they’ll never be published. However, it will keep me writing, just a bit, during an otherwise tumultuous time in my life (moving again and end of school year craziness!).

This week, I was inspired by Thomas Rhett’s “Unforgettable.” You can listen to it here. Did you know experts think the Meryton Assembly occurred around October 14th? The song references several modern things but, in my heart, I’m a Regency girl so I thought I’ll try Regency next week. Tell me which you like better!

14th of October

Chuck scanned the block party for a place to sit. He had just moved to the neighbourhood, and they were already holding a block party. Of course, each person he met handed him a beer. Southern hospitality. The night had just begun, and he already had more than a buzz. His friend Will had been pacing around the periphery on his cell phone the entire time they had been here. Chuck’s sister Carly twerked in Will’s general direction to the clear astonishment of anyone else around her.

Shaking his head, Chuck pushed through a cluster of middle-aged men attempting to rock their dad bods. He thought tables were on the other side of the suburban linebackers. Then he saw what they had been none too subtly staring at.

Air left Chuck’s lungs as his eyes scanned a woman’s toned body and shiny blonde hair. Dark blue jeans clung to her curves with red peep-toe high heels hinted at a flirty personality. She wore a black graphic tee sloping off one shoulder exposing sun-kissed skin. She seemed to radiate. She swayed in her chair to the music and now and then she chewed her bottom lip. Why wasn’t she dancing? A woman as beautiful as she must have countless men wanting to talk to her.

Emboldened by his liquid courage, Chuck approached. “Mind if I join you?”

The goddess gave him a skeptical look. “Are you drunk?”

“Absolutely sober, babe.” Chuck stuck his hand out to introduce himself and knocked over her solo cup.

“Yeah, right,” she laughed before covering her mouth.

Time stood still, and it had nothing to do with inebriation. The woman was stunning several feet away. Up close and with a smile on her face, she was the most beautiful woman Chuck had ever seen. If looking foolish made her smile at him, he would do it again for the rest of his life.

“Chuck Bingley,” he pushed his hand forward as if nothing was wrong.

“Jane Bennet.” The smile returned as they shook hands.

Plain Jane? He would never think of the name the same.

“I just moved here. Have you lived here long?”

“My whole life,” Jane shrugged. “Usually, the block parties are over when school starts, but I think Lucas, the HOA manager, wanted to impress you.”

“They did all this for me?” Chuck looked around. An unusual amount of eyes were focused on him.

“That McMansion up on the hill has sat empty for years. Construction slowed after the housing bubble burst about ten years ago. They’re all hoping that with you moving in the other lots will sell.”

“I can’t see why they haven’t. It’s a lovely area.”

“Hey, Janie,” a young man wearing a polo shirt with a popped collar and with bleached tips to his spiked hair sat down.

Jane grabbed Chuck’s hand, and his heart started pounding.

“Hi, Aaron. Have you met Chuck?”

“I haven’t,” Aaron didn’t even look in Chuck’s direction. “You ready to cut out of here?”

“I wouldn’t be a very good girlfriend if I left Chuck hanging like that,” Jane narrowed her eyes at the intruder.

“Girlfriend?” Aaron choked on his swig of cheap beer.

Chuck almost did the same.

“You move fast, man,” Aaron said and stood so fast he knocked the table. “You dig him for his money?”

“Nah,” Chuck said. “Jane just likes grown men instead of frat bros.”

Jane smirked, and Aaron sneered at them before leaving. She dropped Chuck’s hand as soon as the jerk left.

“Sorry about that,” she blushed.

“I’ll be your boyfriend any time.”

Jane laughed. “I’m just impressed you didn’t slur your words.”

“I already told you, I’m not drunk.”

“Sure,” she drew out the word.

“If I were drunk I wouldn’t have the intellect it takes to guess your middle name.”

Jane shook her head and burst out laughing. “That’s a display of genius according to you?”

“Yeah, sure. I bet you can guess mine.”

“Ok, I’ll play your game. Let me think a minute… Albert.”

“Wow, first try.” Chuck’s middle name was Roger, but he’d say it was Banana Hammock to keep Jane talking to him. “Stunning and smart.”

Jane blushed. “It’s not even Albert, is it?”

“Not even close. My turn.”

“Noelle.”

“Nope.”

“Howard.”

“Diana?”

Jane shook her head. For the next half hour, they laughed as they continued to guess each other’s middle names. Jane went through three more mangoritas, and Chuck counted six beer cans in front of him. He’d have a devil of a hangover tomorrow.

“Let’s dance,” Chuck said and pulled Jane out of her chair.

“I love this song!” Jane was grooving around. “Show me your moves, Chuck!”

Full of false confidence and poor decisions, Chuck broke into the Running Man even though it didn’t match the rhythm of the Coldplay song at all. Jane almost fell over in laughter but joined him. The most hysterical moment was when others followed their suit. As the song came to an end, Jane pushed back her hair from her eyes. She fisted Chuck’s shirt and pulled him in for a kiss.

“I’m going to remember this forever,” Chuck said as he placed his hands on her face and caressed her lips with his.

“You won’t remember a thing tomorrow,” Jane laughed.

“Wait and see. I’m going to marry you. Maybe then I’ll finally know your full name.”

Chuck kissed her again, feeling her shake with laughter.

A year later, they were in the same location, and again Jane laughed during his kiss.

“I present to you Charles Roger and Jane Danielle Bingley!” the DJ announced over the mic before they stepped onto the dance floor.

“Today has been unforgettable!” Jane cried over the music.

“Every day with you has been unforgettable, since the very first moment I met you!”