Motivational Monday– Slow Progress

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A lot of writers spend November manically trying to write 50,000 words in a month for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo). It’s really not so unattainable for the average full-time writer. It averages out to 1667 words a day, which I can do in about an hour. As long as I know what I’m writing… And the hardest part is always the consistency–doing it every day. If you miss a day, then you’re playing catch up and trying to add to it. Miss more than one and it’s even harder etc.

November is a hard month for me. The first time I tried NaNo was in 2014. I had two published stories (well, one was on pre-order). I had completed several other stories before but had never tried to do an entire novel in one month. I got sooo close! If memory serves, I got to 45,000 words and had one day left. I could have made it. However, I was moving literally the next day and my kids–only 4 and 1 at the time–needed a return to normalcy. My son has Autism Spectrum Disorder the fall wreaks havoc on his routine. He shifts from waking up at 6 am to waking up at 5 am. He just turned 8 and by now, I have accepted this. In 2014, I was far less prepared to accept the reality of more 5 am (or earlier) wakeups.

I’m mentioning my history with NaNo because the other day I saw a Facebook status which upset me. It was a memory of one of my status from 2014. I was working on a story in which Darcy was to inherit Longbourn and Lady Catherine’s rector. Essentially, he was Mr. Collins. How would Elizabeth react? About 20,000 words into it, I realized this should just be an original story. I had already started writing the story before November began, so I realized that within a few days of the month. I spent the remainder of the month working on that story and changed all the names and tried to make it not like Pride and Prejudice. Then November ended and I froze. The almost completed manuscript is still on my hard drive.

I didn’t stop there though. I did turn my attention to other things but for the last four years, I have dusted off that manuscript every few months. I’ve sent it to beta readers and asked if it should really be an original. I’ve even thought that I could do both–make an original and keep the premise of Darcy in Collins’ place and write two different stories. In 2016, I came up with a series theme focusing on one real-life event from the Regency era per book. I had a few other non-JAFF stories that would work perfectly in the series. However, I had the most words on this story and it would have been the last one in the series. So I started on what was supposed to be Book One. Last year, I realized that book is really a prequel and they don’t do well until the rest of the series is out. I abandoned that story. Earlier this year, I realized that I should just round out the books and make it the full Regency. I started on the new Book One of the series and gave everything new titles. The Baronet’s Heart is now Tempting Scandal. I began posting but then got caught up with other things.

Can you see why I’m disappointed in myself? So much start and stop. So little progress. But is it really? I have learned a lot about myself, writing, my goals and so much more during each of these stops.

Oh, there’s more that I could be disappointed about. Things never go according to plan. I’m working on 2019 goals right now and know I won’t reach half of them. Sigh. However, this pic has reminded me that forward is forward and looking back at my supposed “failings” doesn’t help a thing!

When is a time you had to focus on just moving forward and not worrying about the timing? Or is there something in your life right now that this could apply to? Oh, and in case you were curious, my goal this November is to write at least 500 words every day! I did miss one, but instead of despairing I just said, “The whole point is to learn to do better and be more consistent. I will make mistakes at the beginning, but hopefully, by the end of the month I will be doing better.” That’s MAJOR progress for me, a perfectionist in recovery!

November recap- with 2 excerpts!

Do you hear what I hear?

nanowrimologoIt’s not just the very repeated line of one of the few Christmas songs I actually dislike, it’s the bells of victory. I didn’t make it to 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month but I think by about half way through the month I realized that goal wasn’t going to happen. I still kept pressing on. I usually write or edit on my husband’s days off, but in the month of November all of them were taken up with errands. I can have a pretty big fight or flight instinct. I will either completely run off from a confrontation or fight to the death end over it. The fighting instinct can come in handy when I am trying to meet a goal but too many times it is on optional things and then if I fail I’m too hard on myself and in the effort to meet the goal. In this case I decided to just do what I could do for the month. In the last week of November it became clear I could easily reach 35,000 and I made 40,000 my “super proud of myself” goal and I reached it!! My NaNo total was 42,077 words. I didn’t write at all on the final day and I could have reached 50,000. I wrote nearly 9,000 words one day but it was time to let that end for all of us. I’m surprised at how fast I’ve “detoxed” from the manic writing and thinking of writing 24/7.

So what did I spend that 42,077 words on? The official rules of NaNo says it has to be just one story but when I decided to participate I had planned on just counting the words from all the stories I was working on. Fortunately Strife and Reconciliation really captured my attention and I already had over 20,000 words on it. The muse carried me through on that one to a total of 52,237 words. Around chapter 8 or 9 I realized this was an original work, not a Fan Fic story so that slowed me down some and will require a good deal of editing. I was hoping to keep slugging at it and then something surprising happened. In the shower I got a scene inspiration for a different story, Undone Business, I had started in October and only had about 2,000 words on. I stayed up until after 3 am to type it all out and hammered out nearly 9,000 words 24 hours. That story total is now 14,523 words and will likely post before Strife and Reconciliation.

Blurb for Strife and Reconciliation: David Fairfax is a country parson, denied a valuable living by his elder brother. When his aunt’s husband makes him his heir, David discovers he is also heir to an estate he can claim no kinship to. Desiring to fulfil a vow to his uncle, and out of Christian charity, David seeks out the Cole family to make amends and marry one of three eligible daughters. Rachel Cole accepts marriage to this stranger and heir to her family’s home in an attempt to heal a several generation dispute and secure her family’s fate. Marrying with only friendship this couple endeavors to find happiness and to reconcile their families in an era filled with class and economic prejudices, a devastating war and dividing politics.

Church_of_St_Mary_the_Virgin3paintExcerpt from Chapter 6 (or proof of life): I still need to take out some Austenesque things in here. And I just threw in the name of John Thorpe because he’s the epitome of annoying in my mind, so that was going to change anyway.

Rachel’s breathing had just returned to normal when she heard a familiar snore. She sighed. They had been married for a week and she could only have one small complaint about her life. She was simply exhausted.

As the time lapsed on she was more uncertain how to broach the topic. It was less a matter of their conjugal acts than how quickly her husband fell asleep afterwards. She blushed to admit she enjoyed the actions which caused him to sleep so deeply. Her mother’s instructions bordered on telling Rachel to become an actress but the truth was, Rachel had quite a bit of natural wantonness. Her husband was obviously well pleased so Rachel never bothered to reproach herself. She was far from a maiden now, but she could not determine how to tell her husband she was dissatisfied with their sleeping arrangements.

This week had begun what she believed would be their usual habit. They arose early and separated. David to attend his duties and make notes for his sermons, Rachel to write letters or meet with the housekeeper. They broke their fast at the usual time and frequently enjoyed a walk together. In the afternoon David occasionally met with his aunt or they called on those in the neighbourhood. Next week they had planned to call on some of the notable families in the larger area. Rachel had met all the parishoners and there were a few ladies who it would be no chore to befriend. They ate dinner together then read in the drawing room or Rachel would play and sing for a bit. After a light supper they would retire for the night. Tonight they dined with Lady Clara, she had invited a few of the local landowners to meet the new Mrs. Fairfax.

None of this helped her determine how to approach David. Before they married they had established a genuine friendship and had several disagreements. She had felt confident in knowing how to speak with him, but there had always been a feeling of equality between them.

They were far from equals on this. Not only in their desires- for she thought it obvious he did not desire to leave her bed- but in their abilities. She had been curious but he had been self-assured. She could not sleep with a man in her bed and he had no difficulty with her presence at all.

It did pain her to think it of him, but she rationalized he was a man and he confessed to not having held the Bible in high esteem as youth. Who knew how far his liberal thoughts truly took him? Additionally, in essence she had no right to demand sole claim on his affections. Surely they were in the past and he married her to fulfill a duty. Jealousy implied far too much emotion on either side and would do her no good. She considered writing her Aunt Neville on the matter but her pride revolted at the idea of exposing a weakness in her marriage, nor did she desire to give a bad impression of David. He rolled over, pulling her to him and Rachel suppressed the urge to scream as she knew she would get little sleep with how his breath tickled on the back of her neck.

After too few hours of sleep, David woke her for breakfast. She groaned in miserable acceptance.

“Are you well?”

“Yes.” He smiled at her and for some reason she found it intolerable. Of course he could smile! He was not the one wasting away from lack of sleep! “No.” She declared with too much vehemence.

“What is it? Do you require Mrs. Ryan or the apothecary? A doctor? You need only tell me, Rachel.”

“I require my own bed!”

“What?” He looked at her in shock and confusion.

She deflated. She had not wanted to make him feel unwanted. “I…I enjoy your visits but no matter how accustomed you are to another in your bed, I do not think I shall ever adjust.”

David turned white then red before Rachel realize what she had said.

“You believe that I am a rake! What have I ever done to make you think so?”

Rachel blushed deeply. She never meant to tell him her suspicions but she certainly could not voice that he seemed too adept at drawing a response from her.

When she did not reply, he spoke with cold indifference. “You might have told me, madam, you wished me to leave you alone you alone without accusing me so harshly. I perfectly understand your feelings and now am ashamed of my own.”

He left for his room and she burst into tears. An hour later she had finally succumbed to sleep, alone in her bed. As she felt the waves of exhaustion wash over her she acknowledged how cold and empty the bed now felt.

She next awoke to Mrs. Ryan knocking on her chamber door. She brought tea and some biscuits. “Mr. Fairfax wanted to know if you felt well enough to dine with Lady Clara or if he should send regrets.”

Rising slightly, Rachel replied, “No, I am well enough. What is the time?”

“It is four o’clock, ma’am.”

“Thank you for the tea. You may go for the day.”

“Do you require assistance in dressing?”

“No, I shall be entirely well soon.”

“Good evening, then, ma’am.” Rachel gave the lady a small smile as she left the room and soon she heard her and the other servants leave for the evening. The Parsonage had no room to board them and they hired locals who dwelt with their families.

Half an hour later as she struggled with her gown, and Rachel wished she had accepted the lady’s assistance. Knowing she would have no lady’s maid, Rachel had thought she bought her wardrobe accordingly. All the sleeping on one side left her shoulder feeling quite sore and she could not reach one hook in the middle of her gown. After several more minutes she heard a knock on her door.

“Rachel?”

“Come in, please.”

David opened the door slowly and seemed just as embarrassed as she after their argument.

“Are you certain you wish to attend tonight?”

“She invited them to meet me, I can hardly be absent.”

“As you wish. We should wait in the drawing room then.”

“I…I require your assistance, I am afraid.”

He looked at her quizzically and she recalled a memory from their wedding night and how they laughed over her caught dressing gown. Why could they not be so easy with each other again?

“I cannot reach the hook in the middle of my gown. Might you help?”

He had an odd expression in his eyes but agreed to try. Several minutes passed with him fumbling at her back before finishing.

Trying to lighten the mood, she attempted to tease. “I am aware you have large hands, but I never thought it would be so difficult for you to match one hook and eye.”

“I think it is because I would rather undo them,” he murmured huskily and Rachel felt a tremor pass through her. He still stood behind her and bent to kiss her neck before turning her to face him. “Do you have any idea how terrifying this is for me? How easily I would lay aside everything I am to be with you each night? I cannot fathom it, Rachel, it must be something awful in me to turn my virtuous wife into my harlot. I, who never touched a woman before, become nothing more than as Samson: forgetting his God-called duty to slake his lust on Delilah. I know now my passions have troubled you but please believe me, I have never been with another and have never been so tempted before meeting you.”

He stood before her, anguish and despair in his eyes and breathing heavily. How could she think it of him? “Perhaps…perhaps I am not a Delilah to you. Perhaps I am your Rachel- your reward for serving the Lord. Or as Rebecca- your kinswoman and selected for you by another.”

He began to look hopeful, but still guarded. “If you do not feel your favours paid for with the settlement of your family, then why expel me from your bed?”

Rachel began to cry. “No! You misunderstand me! I…I do not wish you gone but you sleep so soundly I cannot! You hold me and pin me down with your heavy arm and I am used to moving around in the night. I slept too long on one side and injured my shoulder and so I needed your help getting dressed.”

“Oh, Rachel.” His voice sounded full of contrition. “Why did you not say something?”

“What could I say? What can be done? You fall asleep rather instantly. You get too hot and kick off the counterpane and I freeze. You snore loudly.”

“I do not snore!”

“You do. Loudly. But only when I push you so hard you roll on to your back.”

“You push me to make me move and I do not awake?”

“No, you sleep very soundly but then I cannot nudge you enough to get you to roll to your other side. Although you frequently roll and grab me in the night.”

David blushed. “I had no idea I was such a poor bedmate.” He was silent for a moment and began to laugh. “Of all the other things I worried about when taking a wife I never considered that I might deprive her of sleep because I snored and desired to touch her all night.” He paused and smiled wickedly. “I had rather thought I would deprive her of sleep another way.”

Rachel returned the smile. “You will notice I did not complain about that method, sir.”

“Duly noted.”

He still was not easy and Rachel let out a sigh. “David, can you forgive me for thinking that of you? You seem so confident with me and so used to sleeping with another.”

David laughed. “Confident? I am only guessing what may please you. Do you not recall our wedding night? I exerted myself too far and finished too early.”

“I do not recall…”

He scoffed in disbelief. “I had turned away from you.”

“Oh! Oh, I had thought you wanted me to reciprocate your touches. My mother told me you would.”

David swallowed and came closer to her. “Did she offer any other advice?”

“She suggested I enjoy myself.”

“And do you?”

“Yes,” she whispered and David pulled her in his arms but then they heard the carriage Lady Clara sent for them arriving below and reluctantly parted.

Before exiting the room, David turned to Rachel. “I have no solutions for our problems other than to sleep in my own bed but you tell me I would likely not make it there. I suppose I can only say you are welcome to use my room instead but in the meantime I very much regret having to go to this dinner.”

“Why is that? I thought you were acquainted with all of the guests.”

“Yes, but now the image of taking this dress off you is burned in my mind.”

Rachel blushed deeply, for other than removing her robe the first night she had always been in her night gown when he came to her. The idea of him removing her clothing was strangely thrilling.

Blurb for Undone Business: When Sir William Lucas does not interrupt Darcy and Elizabeth’s dance during the Netherfield Ball, Darcy remains focused on his own concerns rather than his friend’s. Bingley leaves for London the next day as planned but is detained. Elizabeth repeatedly attempts to garner Jane a second chance with Mr. Bingley before the rest of the Netherfield party leaves the area while Darcy attempts to address some business of his own in the area. When Darcy and Elizabeth meet again several months later in Kent, it may be their chance to conclude the undone business from months before.

cover2Excerpt:

November 26, 1811

The couples around them were laughing and conversing but Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were silent as they went down the dance. At long last Mr. Darcy asked his partner: “Do you and your sisters often walk to Meryton?”

“Yes, nearly daily.” She paused and raised her eyebrows. “When you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance.”

Immediately Darcy felt his body tense as he fought to keep his face from turning red in anger. He glared at Elizabeth. “Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends—whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less certain.”

“He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship,” replied Elizabeth with emphasis, “and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life.”

Fury filled Darcy as he considered George Wickham had spoken with his Elizabeth. He must have sat beside her and smiled charmingly while putting her at ease. He would have told his lies of woe and played on Elizabeth’s tender heart. She would certainly not allow any liberties but Darcy knew Wickham’s ways. To think that he looked upon Elizabeth and had thoughts of dishonour enraged Darcy.

And just as quickly it dissipated. There was nothing he could say or do without possibly exposing his sister. He tried to change the subject.

“What think you of books?”

Elizabeth refused to consider the topic and instead returned to Wickham. “You are careful in the creation of your implacable resentment, are you not?”

“I am,” he said in a firm voice. How could she believe Wickham?

“And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?”

“I hope not.”

“It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first.”

“May I ask to what these questions tend?”

“Merely to the illustration of your character. I am trying to make it out.”

“And what is your success?”

She shook her head. “I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly.”

“I can readily believe,” answered he gravely, “that reports may vary greatly with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either.”

“But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another opportunity.”

“I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” he coldly replied.

She said no more, and they went down the other dance and parted in silence. He wished to be angry at Elizabeth but found all of it centered on Wickham. How had he targeted her? She was the one person who could tempt him to explain his history with Wickham. He resolved he must find a way to warn her without exposing Georgiana. Whether it was to protect her or to improve her opinion of him, he was uncertain.

 

Strife and Reconciliation teaser

NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow is the start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. To “win” a writer must meet the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month- or a lesser volume if they choose. My goal is 50,000 words towards Strife and Reconciliation and as I plan on being rather absent from the blog in the next month due to writing my little fingers off I thought I’d post a teaser. If I succeed in 50,000 words then I will have 72,000 words towards a first draft. I do foresee it being a full length novel, so it will likely have another 20,000 words or so to go from there but I might be able to slug that away in December.

 

So here’s my teaser. It is the first half of Chapter 3. Chapter 2 closes with Darcy and Elizabeth deciding to attempt a loveless courtship while Darcy will be at Longbourn. The idea being that they get to know one another’s character and disposition and then they will decide if they should marry. The courtship is obviously very abbreviated so it makes sense to just avoid things like feelings and attraction, right? Well, so they think.

 

Ch. 3

Darcy sought out Mr. Bennet to explain the developments and Elizabeth expected an announcement at dinner but it seemed her father decided to keep Mrs. Bennet in the dark. After dinner that evening Mrs. Bennet asked for music. Elizabeth rolled her eyes. Her mother was still attempting to cast Darcy with her second or third daughter as the others did not play or sing.

Curiously Mary, who was usually eager to perform for company and gain praise, declined performing. Elizabeth found herself at the instrument. Darcy suggested his services to turn the pages and Mrs. Bennet grinned triumphantly. Elizabeth laughed to herself, if only her mother knew how little her help was required!

“Do you mean to frighten me by coming all this way to hear me, sir?”

He looked confused and glancing at the room noticed no one paying them attention. “Was this not to be the arrangement?”

“I am only teasing! I shall have no mercy on you though.” She shrugged her shoulders, “It is as I told you earlier. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened by the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

“What do you find intimidating about my hearing you play?”

“I believed we established I was teasing you, sir.”

“So you enjoy professing opinions which are not your own?”

Elizabeth laughed at such an image. “Sometimes. Sometimes it is better to astonish with a false opinion than provoke ridicule with a true one.”

“Did we not agree on there being no artifice between us? I promise I will not ridicule your true opinion of being asked to perform.”

Elizabeth held his eyes for a moment. “Very well. My mother suggested it as a way to show off mine and Mary’s accomplishments. I dislike the standard that a lady must be accomplished to gain a husband, that we women must all naturally be in competition with one another. Emphasizing accomplishments also detracts from the enjoyment one may experience otherwise from the pursuit. It turns leisure and interest into a task. Nor is one encouraged to be too accomplished in one skill as that nearly always leads to the detriment of others.”

“You play very well.”

She shook her head. “My performance is not capital but I have always known it is my own fault. I do not play in a masterly manner but it is because I do not take the trouble of practicing, not because I believe myself incapable.”

Darcy smiled at her words and Elizabeth was all confusion. “You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. I also do not perform to strangers.”

She scoffed. “You speak to an assembled crowd for a living.”

“This is true but I hope I do not perform soley to please and to their premeditated likes and dislikes. However, I meant that there are many things about society’s expectations I also find trying and to be nothing more than requiring me to be an actor on stage. But as for my sermons, I consider that but a small portion of my tasks.”

“You do not think it important?”

“I do not claim that. Surely telling the people of God’s love and care for them is important but it is not enough to simply tell them. The Church is meant to be Christ’s body on the Earth and we all have a duty to show Christ’s love through our care of one another.”

Elizabeth was uncertain she had ever heard such thoughts before. “You do not suggest people find piety through reading and prayer?”

“Certainly I encourage reading and prayer but the common person has little interest in this. There need not be a division between our tactile understanding of the temporal world and the Heavenly one. If we are motivated by our love of family and friends then how better to display Christ’s love, for he promised to restore the faithful their lost brethren? God certainly understands our need for familial love.”

“I think, sir, you are an evangelical!”

“Compared to some, perhaps, but I am more interested in my parish than politics. I have interests in many non-religious things, one of which is music.”

Elizabeth looked at him in surprise.

“You may well be surprised. My sister is quite proficient at the pianoforte.”

“Oh! Then I truly am frightened by you hearing me,” she teased but wondered if he understood.

“No, I will not believe it this time. You cannot really believe me designing to alarm you. I only explained my interest for two reasons.”

“I think I would rather not ask you anything about it. A man in your position must have some disappointment now and again.”

Darcy laughed. “You will insist in plaguing me! In teasing and laughing at me!”

“I do dearly love a laugh.”

“How fortunate that I am not without some follies, I hope they are not of understanding.”

“I do not believe they are for I cannot laugh at those.”

He smiled, it was a bit charming. “And yet you laugh at me easily enough!”

“I have decided to take mercy on you after all. What was your purpose of telling me you are in the habit of hearing the very best performers?”

He smiled wider and shook his head. “Georgiana would be afraid to hear herself described as such and while I like the opera, I cannot claim I get to go frequently at all. But I do know good skill and expression and I desired you to know I do not make this compliment lightly. I am enchanted by your performance.”

Elizabeth blushed. “And the other reason?”

“I am following your advice. For I have not given specifics on which compositions I prefer, but rather that I do enjoy music.”

She smiled. Many would have thought her silly but he took her opinion seriously.

He glanced around the room. “You must have noticed your father did not make our courtship known. He has agreed to allow certain liberties, for if it were known we would necessarily be chaperoned and we have agreed we have much to learn of each other.”

Elizabeth raised her eyebrow at this. She sincerely doubted her mother would object to leaving a suitor alone with her daughter, but Darcy continued.

“Your father has stated he would not be displeased to learn we had stumbled upon each other on another walk.” He raised his eyebrows at her.

“I see. I often walk after breakfast but as you seem to prefer dining with my father it would be doubtful for us to enjoy an excursion together with my sisters. I enjoy solitary rambles but welcome pleasant company should it find me, however, it seldom does as I walk to the south and it seems most others are interested in going northward.”

The party broke up soon afterwards and in their room Jane spoke to Elizabeth.

“Lizzy, how comfortable you looked with Mr. Darcy!”

“Do not tease me. He is pleasant to talk with. Certainly you see someone must.”

“Surely we should be hospitable but why must we allow one to give favor over the others?”

It was as Elizabeth thought, the notion of marriage to the heir never even occurred to Jane. “The entail, dear.”

“Oh.” Jane’s face took on a look of fear.

“You need not be so alarmed. Mamma has quite settled you with Mr. Bingley and if I am not mistaken he has as well.”

“No, you cannot deter me by teasing.”

“Mary seems uninterested. I confess it surprises me as I had thought she would desire a clergyman.”

“So you have taken it upon yourself?”

“It is the mere process of elimination. Mr. Darcy has acknowledged it himself. I am only relieved he is amiable.”

“I think it might be more than merely elimination on his behalf. He seemed to genuinely admire you this evening.”

“We are simply trying to make the most use of every half hour we have together. Is that not what Charlotte Lucas always tells us?”

Jane grabbed Elizabeth’s hands and entreated her earnestly. “Do not become so practical in your views of marriage that you will give up hopes for affection. At the very least if you cannot esteem him and do not genuinely like him do not marry him! You would suffer such agonies if you could not respect yourself in marriage.”

Elizabeth agreed. As she tried to sleep she could not help but wonder if she actually liked Darcy or simply tried to find the best in the situation.

*****

There were to be no walks, solitary or otherwise, the following day as Jane had intelligence Mr. Bingley and the entire Netherfield party intended to arrive with a formal invitation to the ball to be held the following Tuesday. Darcy found himself saying a silent prayer to forebear whatever his brother decided to test him with. Instead the Netherfield Party arrived bearing news that Mr. George Darcy had already left for London. Caroline Bingley looked at Darcy in disgust, as though he was the sole reason for his brother’s departure and therefore had  escaped her clutches once again. Darcy rather imagined George simply missed London or needed to pay a creditor.

Louisa and Stewart Hurst seemed pleasant enough. Louisa was rather vacant-headed and her husband even more so. Their brother was clearly very amiable and Darcy wondered at Bingley’s friendship with George, but then George could please where he wanted.

Their visit was not long, the sisters would not allow Bingley a lengthy call but he had sat near Jane and talked to her with eagerness. Jane, Darcy observed, met Bingley’s words with shy smiles and furitive glances. It was all much more attention than he had ever received from Jane and he could only suppose she was genuinely attached to the gentleman. In his opinion, brief as the acquaintance had been, they would be well-suited to one another. He hid his wry smile at the idea of already thinking of Jane as a sister and how much he liked the idea of one of his sisters matched with a gentleman of such ease and manners but also adequate fortune to care for them.

After the call the ladies all dispersed, he presumed to discuss it in minute detail and begin more preparations of the ball. Mrs. Bennet was loudly all aflutter. Elizabeth shot him a look as Jane tugged on her hand and he surmised she was sorry to leave him alone. He found himself in the library with Mr. Bennet.

“Well, young man, how do you find us a few days later?”

“Everything is adequate to my comfort, you have been very hospitable to me.”

“Come, sir! You must give me something to laugh at.” Lydia ran by the room shrieking something about shoe roses and the gentlemen winced. “You see what else I have to hear? Do I not deserve some relief?”

“Your daughter is very like you, I think.”

Mr. Bennet smiled, “Yes, Lizzy is more like me than her mother.”

Darcy had an odd suspicion his potential father-in-law was to tell him some terrible flaw in his prospective bride. Perhaps it would be better to know less of each other’s faults. The thought surprised him, was it so important he married a Bennet daughter, specifically Elizabeth Bennet, over one with sense and a good nature? Yet, how could he forget his promise to his uncle?

Mr. Bennet seemed to take compassion on Darcy. “I can hardly think any man worthy of her. She has a quick and clever mind. Unlike either my wife or I she is prone to happiness and finds amusement in most things for the sheer sake off enjoyment, whereas I find amusement to ridicule. ‘Tis the necessity of a man who married foolishly. I must remind myself there are those who have made worse decisions.”

“Forgive me, but I wonder if that is wise.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Likely not, but I am too old to change now but it is Lizzy I wished to speak on. I hardly think any man is worthy of her and yet you seem determined.”

“I mean to fulfil my promise and duty. She is the most…eligible of all your daughters.”

“Yes, yes. You are sensible, intelligent and clever enough. You have a good income now and will inherit this estate, I cannot refuse you. But, that is my Lizzy you are expecting to take for your wife. She deserves more than just duty. I am of a mind to discourage her from accepting your suit.”

Darcy was growing alarmed at the lack of sense Mr. Bennet was displaying. Should he call for the family and the apothecary? Was his mind suddenly addled?

“Come, Darcy. Say you at least like her a little.”

“Oh!” What a loggerhead he was to not understand Mr. Bennet’s anxieites! “Well, certainly. I have seen nothing to repulse or offend me. She is amiable and appears sweet-tempered. She certainly is sensible and clever.”

“You see no defects in her?”

“I do not believe so…”

“Then it is hopeless. I believed Elizabeth’s suggestion to dispense with courtship formalities in an attempt for you to understand each other’s dispositions was very wise and might save you hardship should you marry. But if you believe her perfect and flawless then there is little hope.”

“I did not say I believe her perfect and flawless. I have known her but three days! How am I to know her disposition when angry, anxious or bored? Reasons for such sentiments have not arisen.”

“Then you must provoke them in her. You are far too accommodating.”

“Sir! You are actually telling me to attempt to anger your daughter?”

“Yes!”

It sounded like madness to Darcy and he was still considering calling for the apothecary.

“Surely you have seen something to criticize. You were not smitten by her from the start.”

“I have already claimed to know little of her true character. It would be premature to criticize.”

“But you have looked at her often enough. How did you find her at first sight?”

“She was perfectly tolerable. Jane is the handsomer of the two, there is no doubt. Her beauty did not tempt me.”

He heard an angry gasp from behind him and wrenched his head around to see Elizabeth turn red and flee from the room. Looking back at Mr. Bennet, his companion was exceedingly amused.

“I dare say you have succeeded in your task,” the older gentleman said.

Darcy let out a frustrated and disgusted groan and followed after her. Exiting the room he saw Jane in the hallway with wide eyes. She simply pointed to the door leading outside and scurried away. He imagined it did not bode well for him if Elizabeth’s closest sister did not wish to be around when she was angry.

Darcy found her sitting on an old swing under a great tree.

“Miss Elizabeth,” he hailed her calmly, deciding to ascertain her feelings before knowing how to approach. She did not respond and he stood watching her for several minutes. Giving in he rubbed the back of his neck uneasily.

“How much did you hear?”

“Do you mean to ask me if I heard my father attempt to educate you into angering me and goad you into that statement so I might halve my anger between the two of you and you can claim innocence?”

Darcy had seldom been in true arguments and aside from angering his mother as a child had not dealt with an angry woman. He was aware, at least, this particular one was possibly too clever for him. “No, the fault would be mine entirely if for no other reason than for not calling the apothecary when I believed your father was losing his mind before my eyes.”

She finally looked up him then. He was surprised there was no evidence of tears. Even if she did not care for him he could only expect her to be upset as he had seen Georgiana at times. There was a sadness about her eyes though.

“Papa likes to tease but it really was almost too cruel of him if you believed he was having a fit of madness.” She smiled a little and Darcy eased.

“Yes, your father does not fight fair in a game of wits. I was too preoccupied with my concern for him to consider what I was saying.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You truly believed him addled?”

He laughed ruefully at himself. “I do not have the talent which some people possess of conversing easily. I must know a person for quite awhile before I can catch their tone of conversation. I find it difficult to appear interested in their concerns.”

Elizabeth smiled again. “I suppose if every man you met was as troublesome as my father I could understand that. It must have been difficult to appear interested in naming a flaw in me while believing my father insane.”

Darcy laughed and let out a deep sigh. He was uncertain if her anger was entirely past but it did not seem too unbearable. It certainly was justified and seemed proportional. “Please forgive me.”

“You are entitled to your opinions and it is no secret Jane is five times as pretty as every other woman of my acquaintance.”

“I should really never have said it but disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. I should have used a great policy and concealed my struggle.”

“Why have you settled on me, then? Is it for my impertinence?”

“For the liveliness of your mind.”

“That will not do, sir! You, who hates disguise, must be honest and call it the impertinence that it is.”

“No, I must not say. Your father asked me to enumerate faults and I could not find any but he did not ask me to praise you. I see much good in your behaviour.”

“Oh, I think you found a flaw readily enough.”

She stood from the swing and was smiling up at him, no doubt silently mocking him again and he could not understand the inspiration that struck him as he reached for one of her hands, other than the relief he felt to see her eyes shine with laughter again.

“That was only when I first saw you.”

To his own amazement he kissed her hand and tucked it on his arm while leading her back inside.