A Love Most Ardent: Conclusion.

A.N.

Here is the last chapter and the Epilogue from, A Love Most Ardent.

I was going to post these next week but unforeseen circumstances will see me out of action for a few days.

So, I hope you have enjoyed reading, A Love Most Ardent, and if so, please leave me a comment.

Martine xx

 

Chapter Thirty

 

Darcy anxiously tore open the missive he had just received from Mr Bennet. It was brief and to the point.

Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy,

Netherfield Park.

Sir,

I would be obliged if you could call on me

at your earliest convenience.

Your,

Thomas Bennet

There was no clue in the few short lines to tell Darcy if it was to be good news or the very worst of news.

Nevertheless, as soon as he had finished breakfast, he called for his horse to be saddled and rode to Longbourn, both eager and dreading to learn of his fate.

“Come,” Mr Bennet shouted in reply to Darcy’s firm knock.

This time, Darcy had decided, he would not leave for a second day without speaking to Elizabeth. Regardless of her father’s opinion of him, or the decision he had made, at this moment in time he was still officially engaged to Miss Elizabeth.

It was a different picture this morning as he entered the study, for Mr Bennet was sitting at his desk and appeared to be in a more cordial mood.

“Come in, Darcy, sit with me, there is a lot to discuss,” said Mr Bennet, as he waited for the wary young man to sit in the chair opposite him.

“Now,” Mr Bennet stated as he clasped his hands together and rested them on the pile of paperwork laying on his desk. “I cannot deny that your total disregard for the proprieties, or for Elizabeth’s reputation, did not shock me to the core, because it did. However, your apology, along with your willingness to shoulder all the blame, cannot be ignored. Therefore, if you still wish to marry my daughter, I will not object.”

Mr Darcy was shocked at this unexpected declaration by Elizabeth’s father and sat wide-eyed and motionless for a minute or two. As the realisation sank in, that Mr Bennet would still permit him to marry Elizabeth, and with his blessing, he began to effuse.

“I can assure you, sir, you will never have cause to regret your decision today. I will take your concerns to heart and…”

“Mr Darcy,” interrupted Mr Bennet, “I have not yet finished. I am sure you can comprehend my trepidation at the prospect of a long engagement. Clearly, you and Elizabeth have become as close as a man, and a woman can be without the benefit of a minister. As her father, it is a great concern to me.” Mr Bennet paused to study his would-be son-in-law, then said, “Now, I understand you are in possession of a special marriage license?”

Baffled as to how Mr Bennet knew about the license, Darcy merely nodded in the affirmative.

“Good, good,” said a visibly relieved Mr Bennet. “Then I must insist that you use it as soon as the arrangements can be made.”

Mr Bennet gave a little chuckle. Not only was he relieved that there was a solution to this predicament, but also by the shocked expression on Mr Darcy’s face.

“But, sir, what changed your mind? I do not…”

“Honestly,” Mr Bennet said as he rested back in his chair, “I was fighting a losing battle. You see, Elizabeth is determined to have you and you are obviously very much in love with her. You wear your love for Lizzy like a badge, sir. And once Lizzy has set her mind to something, there is no dissuading her.” Darcy felt the heat of his blood rush to stain his cheeks.

Mr Bennet gave a knowing smile and shrugged his shoulders.

“Who am I to shatter young love’s dream? I am not so old that I cannot remember what it is like to feel the heat of passion course through a young man’s veins, sir,” he said with a rueful smile. “Now, get along with you, I am sure somewhere about the house Elizabeth is waiting for you.”

Darcy felt in need of some fresh air and walked out of the house in a daze. When he managed to clear his thoughts and stir himself, he found he was still walking in the garden. Heading towards the back parlour, he thought aloud, “It is done, as simple as that, it is done.” He was to marry Elizabeth as soon as her mother and the Reverend Muir could arrange it. No Banns, no fanfare. A small family wedding in the church adjoining Longbourn, probably followed by a small wedding breakfast.

“What is Mr Darcy doing creeping about the garden Lizzy? He is acting most peculiarly.” Kitty said as she watched her sister’s fiancé slowly walk towards the room they were sitting in. “He appeared to be talking to himself.”

Elizabeth knew he must have been to see her father and stepped through the open French doors and hurried outside to meet him.

“You have spoken to, Papa?” she asked with some urgency.

“I have,” he replied, his mind still unable to take in all that had been said.

“Then Father has told you that we may marry? Are you not happy, Fitzwilliam?”

“I am, of course, I am, but I was convinced, right up to the moment I entered Mr Bennet’s study, that he would refuse his consent. I had even contemplated us eloping!”

“Though I understand your sentiments, I could not have been the second daughter of my parents to elope, sir, not after Lydia. But that is all extraneous now, we are engaged and soon to be married!”

Finally, the reality of the moment roused Darcy from his confused state.

He was to marry Elizabeth!

“We have been fortunate indeed, Elizabeth. But I cannot fathom what changed your father’s mind. Do you know the reason behind his change of heart?”

“Indeed, I do,” Elizabeth said with a smile. “It was all Jane’s doing.”

Elizabeth linked arms with him and gently guided him further around the house.

Eventually, they came to a more substantial part of Longbourn’s gardens, where the manicured lawns were interrupted only by the odd rose or lavender bush and a few scattered trees for shade.

There, standing beside a large patch of lavender, was Jane, looking every inch the gentleman’s daughter. With her wicker trug hanging from one arm and her scissors in the other hand, Jane was cutting some of the lavender stems and placing them in her basket. Her straw bonnet, trimmed with lilac ribbon shielded her face from the morning sun, while the sprigs of purple flowers on her white muslin dress complimented her occupation perfectly.

As they approached, Jane looked up and greeted them warmly.

“Mr Darcy, I see you have found Lizzy.”

“Good Morning, Miss Bennet, I fear Miss Elizabeth found me.”

They exchanged salutes, and then Elizabeth turned to Jane.

“Jane, dearest, explain to Mr Darcy your conversation with father last evening; how you persuaded him to change his mind.”

“Oh, Lizzy, as if I have any control over father’s decision making,” Jane laughed softly.

Placing her scissors and basket on the grass, Jane joined her sister and Mr Darcy as they took a turn around the garden.

“I really would be most interested to discover what convinced Mr Bennet to look favourably upon our union, Miss Bennet?”

Jane did not want thanks or praise for what she had done. Lizzy’s happiness was reward enough. If anything, she was repaying Mr Darcy for reuniting her with her own beau, Mr Bingley.

With her usual modesty, Jane recalled the events of the night before.

She had found her father sitting in his usual chair by the fire, rubbing a hand over his brow. He looked tired.

Jane pulled up the paisley covered poufy, and sat at his side, resting her hands on the leather arm of his chair.

“May I speak with you, Papa?”

“I have worries enough child, do not add to my burden for goodness sake,” he said a little unkindly.

Jane was undeterred so spoke first on another matter.

“I thought you should know that I am of the same opinion as Mr Bingley, father, about moving north to Derbyshire when we marry. I fear Mamma did not take Charles seriously when he said we would not be living at Netherfield Park.”

Mr Bennet patted Jane’s hand.

“Very sensible, my dear. Now, if that is all, I have a lot on my mind at present.”

Jane knew her father was indicating for her to leave, but if she was able to relieve him of at least one of his burdens, then she must stay and try.

“Papa, I have just come from speaking with Lizzy.”

“Have you, now? Then you know the predicament that lies before me?”

“Yes, Papa.”

Jane paused. She must approach the situation with tact and diplomacy.

“Papa, Lizzy loves Mr Darcy, and he clearly adores her.”

“Oh, of that I have no doubt, Jane, but they almost pre-empted, their marriage vows, and that is unforgivable.”

Again, Jane paused. She knew she must not condone what happened between Lizzy and Mr Darcy, for though she was older than her sister, she was just as innocent of the physical side of marriage as any maiden should be. Though Jane did not think Lizzy would have let things go that far without the benefit of a preacher first.

“Is it, Papa?” she asked softly, “Is it really unforgivable to love someone so much that you let your heart rule your head for one, brief, moment?”

He showed no sign that he had heard her question.

Was he even listening to her?

“Forgive me if I speak plainly, father,” she said a little louder, “but if you forbid Lizzy from marrying Mr Darcy, she will only do so when she comes of age in a few months’ time.” Her voice softened again, “You could not bear to be estranged from Lizzy, father. You know it would break your heart.”

Mr Bennet looked at his eldest child. Jane, who saw only the good in everyone, and had come to plead her sister’s case. He smiled ruefully, before saying, “You are quite right, Jane, but what else can I do? I fear I must separate them for now, or at least until the banns have been read. I cannot risk another scandal in the family so soon on the heels of Lydia’s thrown together marriage.”

“But Papa, you do not have too. They can marry within the week if you will give your consent. Mr Darcy has a special license!” she said with quiet enthusiasm.

“No, no, my dear, you are getting confused with Anne De Bourgh. It was Anne who had the special license,” said Mr Bennet in a well-meant yet patronising tone.

“No, Papa,” Jane said firmly, “Mr Darcy has one for him and Lizzy too.”

“Are you sure, Jane?” asked Mr Bennet, now fully alert and staring at her intently.

“Quite sure, Papa,” Jane replied with a small amount of hesitation.

“Did Mr Darcy tell you this?”

“Well, no. But, Fletcher, Mr Darcy’s valet told Mr Hill, and Mr Hill told Mrs Hill who told Cissy. It was Cissy who told me.”

“Oh, Jane,” Mr Bennet said as he began to rub his brow again, “you cannot always believe the servant’s gossip. This man Fletcher was very likely confused with Mrs Galbraith’s license too.”

Jane did not consider herself to be gullible and hoped that she could tell the difference between gossip and fact.

“Will you at least ask Mr Hill, Papa?”

Mr Bennet turned to Jane with a warm smile.

“If it will please you, my dear. First thing tomorrow I will speak to Hill.”

Jane could ask no more of her father, so she gave him a kiss on his tired brow and returned to her room. She had done all that she could, but in her prayers, she would ask that it was enough.

Darcy smiled as Jane finished her narration. Fletcher had always maintained that he was above the other servants in Mr Darcy’s employment, purely because he did not indulge in below stairs gossip and tittle-tattle. Darcy made a mental note to remind Fletcher of this lack of discretion the next time Fletcher scolded one of his fellow servants for gossiping. Though his tease would be a good-natured one. Servants of Fletcher’s calibre were few and far between.

“I cannot thank you enough, Miss Bennet, for your intervention on our behalf,” Darcy said with heartfelt sincerity.

Jane blushed, as she usually did when paid a compliment, but the rosy hue of her cheeks merely enhanced her already beautiful face.

“I thought only to bring you as much joy, Mr Darcy, as you have Mr Bingley and me.”

“You give me too much credit, Miss Bennet. I only speeded up Charles’ return. I am quite convinced, given enough time, he would have come to the same conclusion had I not intervened.”

“Oh, goodness,” said Elizabeth in good humour, “enough of the mutual admiration you have for one another,” Moving between them, she linked arms with them both, saying, “I am getting married, and there is much to do.”

Together, they made their way back to Longbourn and immediately sought out Mrs Bennet, who was more than happy to hear there was to be another wedding after all. Only this time, it would be different. This time, it was one of her daughter’s that was getting married. Not the marriage of two stranger.

Though passable in Mrs Bennet eyes, Lizzy did not have the classic beauty of Jane, and she feared she might end up an old maid after refusing her cousin’s proposal. Yet here she was, engaged to Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley who had ten thousand pounds a year. Good fortune had indeed been kind to smile upon her family so, and Mrs Bennet had never been happier.

 

Epilogue

 

Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy, Elizabeth thought to herself as she lay curled up in the arms of her sleeping husband.

They had been married one whole day and yet so much in her life had changed already.

It had taken her mamma and the Reverend Muir just three days to organise her wedding, and though it was almost a duplicate of Miss De Bourgh and Mr Galbraith’s, she had not minded in the least.

Mrs Bennet and the staff at Longbourn had been a force to reckon with as they assembled a second wedding in a fortnight. The mistress of the house took sole charge of organising the bride’s dress, the bridesmaid’s dresses, the ladies to arrange the floral decoration for the church, the guest list, and finally, the entire wedding breakfast. There was nothing that she did not oversee or approve of personally.

Mr Darcy had put his servants at Darcy House at her disposal, calling on them to ferry supplies from the capital that the local retailers had sold out of, and the kitchens at Netherfield Park had helped prepare the cold food, for their ice house was much bigger than the one at Longbourn.

It seemed that all the invited guests, as well as some uninvited ones, wanted to be present for Elizabeth’s wedding. The opinion of the town was that Elizabeth was by far, the most likeable and friendly of the Bennet sisters.

Colonel Fitzwilliam had arrived back at Netherfield Park with Miss Darcy only the day before the marriage, with Georgiana professing to be more than happy to be a bridesmaid, along with Elizabeth’s sisters.

“It will be such a change to have sisters, Elizabeth,” Georgiana exclaimed.

“Indeed, and now you shall have five,” Elizabeth replied with a warm smile.

Lydia had, of course, made a fuss, insisting that she should be the matron of honour, but as Charlotte had arrived at Lucas Lodge two days before the nuptials, Elizabeth had overridden Lydia and her mamma objections and asked Charlotte to be her matron of honour instead.

“Perhaps, if you are very nice and do as our parents bid you, Jane will ask you to be her matron of honour at her wedding,” Elizabeth had advised her.

Mr Collins had thought it prudent to leave Hunsford as soon as possible after accepting Colonel Fitzwilliam’s kind offer. Lady Catherine had made her displeasure felt quite keenly and ordered him to vacate the parsonage as soon as he could make the necessary arrangements. Though truthfully, Charlotte was feeling homesick and a trifle delicate. She had been unwell almost every morning since discovering she was with child. And, though he was a preacher and ministering to the sick was part of his parochial duties, he had always felt decidedly uncomfortable around people that were unwell, especially when their sickness was violent and unpredictable.

Mr Bingley had been astonished that Darcy should ask him to stand up with him as best man, instead of his cousin Richard. However, he was a proud as a peacock to be at his friend’s side as he married the sister of the woman he loved. And as for Mr Bingley’s sisters and Mr Hurst, they would only know the wedding had taken place when they read the announcement in the London newspapers.

Jane had given herself the job of separating Elizabeth and her mother whenever she deemed it necessary. Every time Mrs Bennet clapped eyes on Elizabeth she went into raptures about how clever Lizzy was to catch a man of Mr Darcy’s calibre, and him with ten thousand pounds a year. She also effused at how Mr Darcy could introduce Elizabeth’s unmarried sisters to other rich gentlemen. Thankfully though, when in the presence of Jane, Mrs Bennet remembered to curb her tongue sufficiently enough for Lizzy to remain calm.

Mr Bennet, now wholly reconciled with losing Lizzy to Mr Darcy, took every opportunity to spend some time alone with Elizabeth. He knew that all too soon, another would become the most important man in her life, and though it was the way of the world, he did not relish life at Longbourn without at least one of his sensible daughters to talk to.

Colonel Fitzwilliam had been happy to take a backwards step and let Bingley stand up with Darcy. Knowing how vengeful his aunt could be when thwarted, Richard had discreetly dispatched two of his best surveillance officers to keep an eye on Lady Catherine’s movements. If she intended to try and disrupt Darcy’s wedding as she had Anne’s, he had no intention of being caught unprepared. Though having received word from his men that she appeared to remain at Rosings, Richard was taking no chances. He stationed himself at the church door, vigilantly checking all who entered.

Elizabeth looked beautiful as she walked up the aisle on her father’s arm, from her white gown embroidered with satin knots of pink, to the red rosebuds woven into her perfectly dressed hair. No-one would think the wedding had not taken months to plan. Everything was perfect.

Darcy, resplendent in his cream trousers, navy tailcoat, and silver embroidered waistcoat, could not help but turn and watch as his bride walked up the aisle. So often he had imagined this day would never come, and now that it had, he did not want to take his eyes off her for one second.

“Dearly beloved, we gathered together here in the sight of God,

and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man

and this Woman, in Holy Matrimony…”

Reverend Muir had said with trepidation as he stood in front of the congregation. Though he had conducted many marriages, he had not felt this nervous since he had been ordained. Thankfully, there were no objections, no interruptions as the couple were finally joined in holy matrimony.

From that moment, everyone in the congregation, and especially the bride and groom, breathed a sigh of relief. Before she knew it, Elizabeth was married, had partaken of a delicious wedding breakfast, and then dutifully thanked everyone for their good wishes. However, now she was in the carriage and on the way to Darcy House, her focus was on the man sitting beside; her husband.

With his arm possessively slung over Elizabeth’s hip, and his hand rested on her stomach, Darcy had slipped into a contented sleep. Only then, as he lost consciousness did his hold loosen.

Elizabeth shyly snuggled backwards, bringing their bodies closer together, but still, Fitzwilliam did not stir.

Though intimate contact was new to Elizabeth, as Darcy’s body fell slightly away from her own, she felt robbed of his touch as their bodies separated.

Raising herself up on one elbow, she plumped her pillow, trying not to wake him, but her efforts were for nought as he stirred.

“Unless you want me to ravish your delicious body again, Mrs Darcy, I suggest you cease what you are doing and come back to bed,” said his now familiar baritone voice.

Elizabeth peeped over at him.

A broad grin had spread across his mouth and his eyes, though still shut, crinkled at the corners.

Elizabeth proceeded to pound at her pillow. Once…twice…

She let out a squeal of delight as his arm tightened around her waist and he rolled her onto her back.

“You are most distracting, Mrs Darcy,” he said teasingly, “How is a man to sleep when he is sharing his bed with the most beautiful woman in all of Christendom?”

Elizabeth giggled.

Darcy now closed any remaining space between them, then raised himself up onto his elbow and gazed down at her.

Her hair was tousled and spread out over the white cotton pillowcase like a fan, while her lips were ruby in colour and slightly swollen. He must have kissed her a hundred times last night. Yet he knew, even if it were a thousand times, it would not be enough to quench his thirst for her.

“You are really here? In my house…in my bed….in my arms?” he whispered.

Elizabeth stopped laughing and reached up to cup his cheek in her palm.

“I am here, Fitzwilliam, and I am yours, yours forever my love.

Darcy caught her hand in his own and turned it over, then proceeded to place a long, lingering kiss on her upturned palm.

He lowered his head and sought her lips once more – those soft, pliant, lips that she now gave to him openly, willingly, lovingly.

Elizabeth reached up and curled her fingers into his dark locks, pulling him closer to her, seeking his lips with an urgency of her own until there was no denying her.

The moon had risen and set, and now the sun was high in the sky, but still, the lovers did not emerge from their room. Only the empty plates and the occasional squeal of laughter signalled to the servants that the master and his new wife were in residence. A pattern that they came to recognise for many years to come.

THE END

 

Till next time,

Martine xx

 

 

 

Indulging in North & South, UK style

Happy Thursday everyone.

 

Today, I am sharing with you the UK’s version of North & South. Now I know there is a US mini-series called North & South, but, this is a separate series set in the British industrial revolution.

Filmed in 2004, it stars the delectable Richard Armitage (Mr Thornton), as the mill owner, and the beautiful Daniela Denby-Ashe who plays vicars daughter, Miss Hale.

A brief outline.

Set amid the industrial revolution, an elderly vicar who is questioning his faith, moves his family from their idyllic rural vicarage in the south of England, to the industrial cotton mill town of Milton, in the north. The only employment for the majority of the townsfolk, (men, women and children) is to work in one of the dozens of cotton mills in the town, one of which Mr Thornton owns.

There is a real divide between the wealthy mill owners and the poverty and squalor the workers live in. Often more than one family sharing a house of only two rooms, where, vermin, hunger and overcrowding were a way of life.

It also covers the rise of the unions and the first strike action taken by the mill workers.

Margaret’s first impression of John Thornton is one of a brutal mill owner who treats his workers with contempt, while John sees Miss Hale as a spoilt and interfering outsider. Yet their paths often cross. Mr Thornton is trying to improve his education by reading the classics with Margaret’s father. Meanwhile, Miss Hale has befriended a worker, Nicholas Higgins, (played by Downton’s Brendan Coyle)  and his motherless children. They meet when he rescues her from a purse snatcher. Mr Higgins is heavily involved in arranging and promoting the strike action. When Higgins daughter dies, Margaret becomes more involved in the plight of the workers.

The outcome of the strike is the poor are poorer and the mill is having its loan called in by the bank.

The chemistry between them, both on screen and off, is present from their very first meeting. After many meetings at her house and the mill, Mr Thornton proposed to Miss Hale. Sadly for us, Margaret refuses him, and John takes this very badly. He assumes that Margaret thinks as a self-educated northerner, he is not good enough for her. However, this is not so, it is a catalogue of misunderstandings and a family secret that keeps them apart.

After both, Margaret’s parents die, and John is on the brink of losing his mill, fate finally smiles on our lover.

Margaret, now an orphan, moves back to London to live with her aunt again. Having inherited some money from her fathers friend, (who by the way also wanted to marry her himself but realises she loves another) Margaret decides to invest her money in Johns mill and travels to Milton to discuss the proposition with him. Meanwhile, John, thinking Margaret has gone back to her old family home, visits Helstone in the hope of seeing with her. While there, he picks one of the yellow roses he has heard Margaret speak of.

While travelling back to London from Milton, the train makes a quick stop to pick up more passenger. It is then that Margaret sees Mr Thornton sitting on a train going back up to the north. They both step out onto the platform and . . . .

the look of love

 

 

I love this series, and if you have never seen it I highly recommend that you buy the DVD, or watch it on YouTube. Richard and Daniela both give believable and entrancing performances throughout each of the four episodes.

Mr Thornton has been named as the Mr Darcy of the north, and on this performance I can truly believe it.

Elizabeth Gaskell is a later version of Jane Austen, but her novels are not only set in a different time and place, (modelled on Manchester) but almost a different world. They are grittier and sometimes thought provoking, but without her, there would be no Mr Thornton to swoon over.

Happy weekend

Martine xx

A Love Most Ardent; Chapter 29

 

A.N.

Here we are with almost the final visit to A Love Most Ardent.

I have really enjoyed sharing the last several chapter with all my blog friends and hope that when we do reach the Epilogue, you will continue to join me as I share my thoughts, books, giveaways and posts.

M x

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Nine

 

When Darcy returned to Netherfield, the young stable lad lay asleep in the corner of the tack room, so, he unsaddled his horse and brushed Nelson down himself. Having bedded down his favourite steed for the night, Darcy made his way back to the house and his room.

He was not surprised to find Fletcher had waited up for him.

“Good evening, sir. I have taken the liberty of procuring a decanter of brandy for you. Even summer excursions in the moonlight can cause one to catch a chill,” Fletcher said without any hint of sarcasm.

“Thank you, Fletcher. I can tend to myself now.”

“Of course, sir,” Fletcher replied, but he remained in the room, tidying up this and moving that. From previous experience, Fletcher knew his master needed to unburden himself, and rightly or wrongly, he looked on Mr Darcy as the son he might have had.

As Fletcher anticipated, Mr Darcy soon began to relay the details of his disastrous evening.

“I’ve made a mess of things, Fletcher, and now there is a real risk that Mr Bennet will withdraw his consent and forbid me to marry his daughter.”

“Yes, sir. There is always the risk of that.” Fletcher said without emotion. “However, if the young lady returns your affections, as you now believe, I understand she will be of age in a few months’ time and will no longer require her father’s permission to marry.”

Fletcher was right, Elizabeth would be one and twenty in four months’ time. Once she had reached her majority, she would no longer need her father’s consent, but Darcy knew Elizabeth would not get married without her father’s blessing.

“Then, sir, as I see it, you have two options,” Fletcher said, and then proceeded to give his opinion whether Darcy wanted to hear it or not. “You could profess how sincerely sorry you are for your momentary lack of control, explaining that for one mad minute, you let your heart rule your head, thus throwing yourself on the father’s mercy, or,”

“Or…” Darcy waited.

“Or you and the young lady could elope. It seems to be quite the fashion. Good night, sir.” And with his parting words still ringing in Darcy’s ears, Fletcher left the room.

“Elope!” Darcy scoffed, pouring himself a long draught of brandy. He had already been involved in two elopements in the past month, and that was quite sufficient for one lifetime!

Darcy sipped the amber liquid, pausing to give Fletcher’s remark more thought. Maybe, just maybe, it was an option.

Though Darcy had wanted to speak to Elizabeth before he saw her father, he did not look for her. If Mr Bennet was to revoke his permission for them to marry, it was best he did not see Elizabeth at present. Though that did not mean he would give up. Defiantly, Darcy thought Elizabeth would be his wife.

Standing before the study door, Darcy almost jumped when Mr Bennet barked, ‘come in’ in answer to Darcy’s knock.

Opening the door, he quickly surveyed the room and spied Mr Bennet standing by the window which looked out over the front of the house. His hands were clasped behind his back, and his shoulders were squared and firm. His overall appearance screamed of his anger and disdain towards Darcy.

This must have been from where he saw them last night.

“Sit if you will,” Mr Bennet said as he turned to face his caller.

“I prefer to stand, thank you, sir,” Darcy replied, though he did rest his hands on the back of the offered chair. He could not strike his usual pose for fear of offending Mr Bennet. It had been mentioned to him only recently that his regular stance gave him the appearance of being bored or of having an air of supercilious detachment for whomever he was conversing with.

“You can be at no loss as to why I asked you here, Darcy,” said Mr Bennet, dispensing with his usual form of formal address when conversing with Mr Darcy.

“I am not, sir.”

“Then you must also know that I am not to be trifled with. I demand an explanation and do not try to fob me off with lies and concealment.”

It had been many years since Darcy had been spoken to in such a manner. His name, wealth, reputation, and standing in society meant that he was usually treated with respect and admiration. Some might even treat him with a form of reverence; Mr Collins being a prime example.

Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, Darcy repeated the speech he had devised and rehearsed all last night and again this morning.

“Sir, I am entirely to blame for the shameful breach of propriety in the early hours of this morning. Miss Elizabeth is in no way responsible. I wrote her a short note but lacked the courage to give it to her in person. That was why I was journeyed to Longbourn at such a time. Unfortunately, Miss Elizabeth was still awake and observed me as I checked that the house was in darkness. I only intended to deliver the missive and then leave, but circumstances and emotions overtook us.”

“Overtook you!” exclaimed Mr Bennet. “You are not some greenhorn in short trousers, sir!” Mr Bennet said forcefully before resting his hands on his desk to reprimand Darcy further, “You, sir,” he hissed, “are a man of the world, a world that my Lizzy has no experience of. Do not suppose me ignorant of the wants and desires of a man in his prime.”

His words were harsh and deserved.

In response to Mr Bennet’s accusation Darcy’s pride resurfaced.

At no time was his intention to despoil Elizabeth.

“You accuse me unjustly, sir. I was in perfect control of my loins the entire time. It was merely a kiss, sir, nothing more.”

At Darcy’s reply, Mr Bennet walked around the desk that divided them and stood before him.

“I suspect my arrival was the reason for that, sir, not your self-control!”

Darcy was affronted to think Mr Bennet imagined him unable to control himself. As lovely as Elizabeth was, and as much as he wanted to make love to her, he had no intention of doing so until they were in their marital bed. Only Fletcher’s advice saw him tone down his reply.

“I can only offer you, and Miss Elizabeth my sincere apologies, sir and assure you, most fervently, that it will never happen again.”

Mr Bennet walked back to the window and stared out at the entrance to his property. He had scarcely been able to believe his eyes as he watched the events of last night unfold.

When Lizzy had left him the previous evening, and the house was finally silent, he stayed in his study to enjoy a quiet drink in peace; something that was often in short supply in this house of females. Sitting in his favourite armchair beside the empty hearth, he had picked up a book and began to read. A full stomach coupled with a glass or two of alcohol soon saw him fall asleep.

At first, he wasn’t sure what had roused him from his slumber, but he was soon to find out. Peering out of his study door, he detected a breeze and an unknown source of light dancing along the corridor, illuminating the floor and walls. Setting out to discover what was afoot, he made his way along the hallway, where he came upon the open front door. He realised it must have been the unbolting of the front door that woke him. Cautiously, he stepped outside to investigate. It was then that he witnessed Elizabeth and Darcy amidst a clandestine rendezvous.

“Mr Bennet, sir?” Darcy said, concerned by the older man’s silence.

“I accept your apology, Mr Darcy, but must ask that you do not speak to Elizabeth until you hear from me.” Mr Bennet’s tone was flat yet commanding.

“But, sir, my apology…” Darcy protested.

“My mind is made up. I will send word to you at Netherfield of my decision. Good day, sir.”

Mr Bennet’s words and dismissal pained Darcy more than anything he could remember, overtaking even the death of his parents. Mr Bennet clearly did not believe him, bringing into doubt his honesty, integrity, and honour. How was he to convince Elizabeth’s father when his opinion of him was so low?

Darcy straightened, turned, and then opened the door. Waiting on the other side, was Elizabeth, her face etched with grief and her eyes damp from crying.

She took a single step forward, fraught at the prospect that he would leave without speaking to her, only for her belief to be true.

Darcy kept his arms rigid by his side as he struggled with his instinct to pull her close and offer her comfort. He would give Mr Bennet no further reason to doubt or distrust him. He pursed his lips together into a thin line, turned, and strode out the front door with not even a backwards glance.

Mr Bennet watched until the angry young man had left Longbourn atop his huge black stallion. Only then did he allow his shoulders to slump. Thomas Bennet felt his age descend upon him like a lead collar. Wearily, he moved from the window and once more sat in his well-worn armchair. He had thought long and hard about the repercussions he could inflict upon Mr Darcy, but it was not in his nature to be a vindictive man. Of course, they must marry, there was no question of it. If he withdrew his consent, they would merely wait the few months until Elizabeth came of age. But he would be estranged from his Lizzy, and that was one step he was not willing to take. If only Darcy could be like Bingley. Now there was a congenial man, a man he could bear with equanimity.

Elizabeth had waited outside her father’s study for almost an hour before finally giving up and returning to her room. He had not sent her, he did not want to see her, and she had neither the stamina nor the inclination to speak to her sisters or mother on the subject, especially not her mother.

Only Jane tried to seek her out, but even she was turned away.

Elizabeth had spent her day wishing and hoping, and regretting and crying, but as evening came, nothing had changed.

The house became silent as its occupants retired for another evening, and still, no-one had seen Elizabeth all day.

Jane had never known her sister to be so downhearted that she remained in her room for an entire day. It pained her to know that Elizabeth was for some reason, so unhappy. All efforts to speak to her had been met with either silence or crying. Unable to settle herself until she had spoken with her sister, Jane crept along the hallway and tapped gently on her door.

“Lizzy, may I come in?” Jane waited some minutes for a reply, but all she heard was the creaking of the house and the occasional hoot of an owl.

Jane turned the door handle and looked in.

Elizabeth was curled up in the window seat, with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She was still in her day dress, and where some of the pins had fallen out her hair, it was a terrible mess. Her slippers and stockings had been removed and lay discarded in a heap on the floor.

Slowly, Jane approached Elizabeth, careful not to startle her, until eventually she had made it across the room and now stood at Elizabeth’s side.

“Lizzy, I have come to help you get ready for bed,” Jane said softly.

She carefully began to remove the remaining pins from Lizzy’s hair, one at a time. As she tugged the final one out, Elizabeth’s hair cascaded down, covering her shoulders and tumbling down her back.

Jane picked up the hairbrush and gently teased a few strands of hair through the bristles of the brush.

Only now, with the gentle tugging on her scalp, did Elizabeth realise she was no longer alone.

“Jane? How long have you been here?” she asked, turning away from the window. “It’s dark already. What time is it?”

“It’s after eleven, Lizzy. You have been in your room the entire day.”

“Yes,” Elizabeth replied with little emotion.

Jane squeezed herself onto the end of the window seat and spoke with candour.

“What happened last night, Lizzy? I thought I heard you speaking to father, and now you have not ventured out all day, and Father has not moved from his study since breakfast. He has had no dinner or supper, not even a cup of tea.”

Lizzy was grateful that her hair was unpinned. She had an abominable headache from fretting and crying all day. She was exhausted, her eyes were sore, and she just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up until her father had made his decision.

Elizabeth took hold of both her hands in her own, and said, “Oh, Jane, I did the most foolish thing. I’ve ruined everything.”

“Why, Lizzy? What did you do?”

Elizabeth narrated the entire tale to her sister, leaving nothing out.

At first, Jane had been shocked. Meeting a man that was not yet your husband in the dead of night was unthinkable, but to do so in your night clothes was the most shocking thing she had ever heard. Perhaps she would have been less shocked if it had been Lydia, as she considered her something of a wild child. Though Lydia no longer surprised anyone, anymore. But it wasn’t Lydia, it was Elizabeth, and her actions seemed so out of character.

As the minutes ticked by and still Jane said nothing, Elizabeth could bear the suspense no longer.

“You are disappointed in me Jane, do not deny it, it is written on your face.”

“No…well, yes, but it is not an unalterable situation, not yet.”

“I fear it is Jane. Papa has made his opinion of both Mr Darcy and me quite clear. I apologised, Mr Darcy apologised, but father was resolute. We are not to see each other until he has made his final decision.”

“But he had not withdrawn his consent?”

“No, but I am convinced it is only a matter of time…”

“Time?” Jane repeated, more to herself than to Elizabeth. “It’s all a matter of time!” Jane jumped off the bed and headed for the door

“Lizzy, would you mind if I spoke of this to Papa?”

“No, but what is it that you…” Jane had gone, and Elizabeth’s words trailed away as she now sat alone.

Elizabeth could not help thinking Jane’s effort would be in vain. Father was in no mood to listen to reason, or explanations.

Jane made her way downstairs, and though the hour was late, she was not surprised to see a shaft of light coming from under the study door. She gave it a gentle tap and then slipped inside.

“Papa, may I speak with you?”

 

p.s. Only one more chapter and the epilogue to go. But never fear, I have already started on Mr Darcy and Elizabeth’s next adventure. If you have any ideas or want a character or storyline considered, leave me a comment.

Also, please spread the word about my website. Maybe you know a friend or family member who would enjoy a little light entertainment.

Till next time,

Martine xx

 

A New Sense & Sensibility Audiobook!

Hello everyone,

I was browsing the internet for new Jane Austen posts and I came across this.

It is a brief video clip of Rosamund Pike talking about narrating a new audiobook of Sense & Sensibility.

It’s not very long but I enjoyed watching it and will be looking out to purchase the audiobook.

Martine xx

A Love Most Ardent; Chapter 28

A.N.

I hope you enjoyed chapter 27 and my post on Emma.

Here is the next instalment for you.

MJR xx

 

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

Elizabeth returned to her own room and began to prepare for bed. She washed her face, cleaned her teeth, and then brushed her hair one hundred strokes, yet still, she was not tired.

Reading was an excellent way to induce sleep, and so she sat in bed and picked up her book. However, she seemed to be reading the same sentence again and again.

In exasperation, Elizabeth tossed her book aside, threw back the blankets and slipped out of bed. As she pulled back the curtains the room was instantly flooded with pale moonlight that looked both magical and eerie. She perched herself on the padded cushions in the window seat and drew her knees up to her chin, then tugged at her nightgown until it reached her ankles.

It was not that she was cold, for the night still held a residue of warmth from the sunny day, but it somehow made her feel safe and secure.

It was her indecision that kept her awake, and Elizabeth knew this. There would be no rest for her until she had made up her mind whether to marry Mr Darcy or not. Once the decision had been made, there was then the task of telling him yay or nay.

She remembered when they first met, his arrogance and conceit had made her adamant that he was the last man on earth she could ever be prevailed upon to marry, but all that had changed; he had changed. Oh, not in the essentials, there was still the odd moment when his misplaced pride made an unwelcome appearance. But overall, he was a far better man now, than when they had first been introduced.

Elizabeth gave a huff on the glass and watched as her breath condensed forming an opaque patch on the window pane. With her index finger, she drew a heart shape and then traced out her initials, followed by Mr Darcy’s below.

The fact that Mr Darcy loved her she did not doubt, and she knew that she loved him. So, was it just her pride that had been bruised by his deception? If he had involved her in his plan to see Anne and Mr Galbraith married, would they still be in harmony? That she could never know, but what she did know was this; Lydia was a respectable widow because of Mr Darcy. Anne and Angus were even now on their wedding journey, because of Mr Darcy. And, her beloved sister, Jane, and Mr Bingley were again reunited and betrothed at the hand of Mr Darcy. Could she justify denying her own happiness purely because of the way he had brought these couples together?

Elizabeth looked deep into her heart that night, and she did not like what she found. For she discovered pride and anger and resentment residing there, and it pained her to discover this.

“How could I have been so blind, so unseeing and selfish?” She said aloud.

In that instant, Elizabeth knew what she wanted more than anything else in the world; she wanted to be his wife.

However, her protestation would have to wait until morning; it was after midnight.

She took one last look up at the night sky, sure sleep would now claim her. A carpet of twinkling lights, together with the light of the full moon stared back at her. The sun’s reflected light bathed the moon’s surface, which in turn covering the Longbourn estate in an eerie, almost translucent light, causing long shadows from the trees to be drawn on the ground and stretched across the grass until they kissed the house.

Elizabeth would be sad to leave here with all its familiar nooks, crannies, smells, and shadows, but if Mr Darcy would still have her, then Pemberley would soon be her home.

Lost in her own thoughts, Elizabeth’s attention was suddenly drawn to a sharp movement in the garden. Rubbing away her childish doodle, she screwed up her eyes and looked harder into the area of trees and shrubs that skirted Longbourn’s entrance. Shielding her eyes from the bright moonlight, she peered deeper into the shadowed area.

Someone was hiding in the bushes!

Darcy had tried to keep away, to give Elizabeth the time and space she needed to think, all the while believing she would arrive at a fair and just decision once she had considered all aspects of his actions.

He left his horse at the gates and made his way to the area opposite Elizabeth’s window. Between the moonlight and candlelight in her room, he could make out her figure sitting at her window. He watched as she raised her hand and etched out the shape of a heart, only to be further elated when she wrote his initials below her own. His own heart race at the thought of Elizabeth lining their names together romantically. He stepped forward, intending to call out to her, but the words died on his lips. What was he thinking? The hour was late, and the house was in darkness. Clearly, all were abed.

Stepping back towards the perimeter of the bushes, he hoped he had not been detected, but his actions were for nought. He watched as Elizabeth raised her arm and rubbed away the steam drawing, leaving the glass clear and her vision unobstructed.

She had been him. There was nothing for it now but for him to step out from the darkness and identify himself.

Two long strides brought him out into the clearing below her window. He removed his hat and turned his face skywards, giving the moonlight and Elizabeth ample time to reveal his identity.

Elizabeth drew in a shocked gasp. It was Mr Darcy. What was he doing coming to Longbourn this late at night?

Elizabeth unlatched her window as quietly as possible in a house as old as Longbourn, and gingerly pushed it open.

She popped her head out just far enough so that Mr Darcy could hear what she was saying without having to shout.

“What can you be thinking, sir? Go home this instant before you are discovered.”

The last thing Darcy wanted was to do was force Elizabeth into marriage by compromise. He only wanted her if she loved him for himself.

He lifted his arm and waved something in his hand.

Elizabeth closed the window and blew out her candle, hoping he would leave. Instead, he made his way to the front door.

Elizabeth could not contain her curiosity and opened her window again. This time, she leaned over the window ledge as far as she dared without falling.

He took the object in his hand and slipped it under the locked door.

Elizabeth suspected, to fit between the door and its frame, it could only be a letter.

A mixture of feeling engulfed her senses. She was excited that Mr Darcy had not been able to stay away, and she was eager to see what could be so important that he would risk all to deliver it in the dead of night. She also felt fear; what if it was a note of farewell. But the sense that overwhelmed her the most was intrigue. Just what was on that piece of paper?

Elizabeth watched and waited until Mr Darcy had made his way back to the trees where he had previously been standing. Then he began frantically jabbing in the air with one finger, pointing towards the door.

Clearly, he expected her to go downstairs and retrieve it.

Pulling on her dressing gown and slippers, Elizabeth went back to the window and raised her hand, instructing him to stay where he was. Then she relit her candle and crept out of her bedroom.

The house appeared to be in total darkness, and so as quietly as she could, Elizabeth made her way downstairs, avoiding any of the steps she knew were loose and might creak under her feet.

She drew near to the front door and instantly recognised what had been deposited under it.

Lying there, in stark contrast to the dark wooden floorboards, was a white piece of paper, neatly folded to conceal its contents.

Elizabeth carefully placed her candle on the side table, picked up the paper and unfolded it.

She held it closer to the flickering flame of the candle to illuminate the script.

The life that I have

Is all that I have

And the life that I have

Is Yours.

The love that I have

Of the life that I have

Is yours and yours and yours!

Forgive me Elizabeth

 

Her spirit soared. It was beautiful and sad and wonderful and loving and… oh, it made her want to cry and laugh at the same time.

He loves me!

Was he was still standing in the garden, waiting for her to acknowledge his note or even expecting a reply? Now was the time to be completely honest. No more doubts, no more misplaced pride.

With no thought of her state of undress, her reputation, or the wrath her father would surely rain down upon them both should they be caught, Elizabeth pulled back the top and bottom bolts on the door and quietly open it.

Darcy saw the door open and took a tentative step forward out of the shadows, unsure of the reception Elizabeth would give him. He did not want to assume she had forgiven him, or that she even wanted to speak to him. But he hoped…yes, he hoped that she had. And that she did. Too often he had made rash assumptions where Elizabeth was concerned only to have them fall short of his unrealistic expectations.

Elizabeth, her eyes now accustomed to the moonlight, immediately spotted the outlined figure of Mr Darcy as he stepped out from the darkness.

It was brash and foolish and reckless and unwise, but she was following her heart, not convention.

She did not hurry to his side. Instead, she took slow and deliberate steps, full of meaning and promise.

Standing before him, she raised her eyes and look up at him through her long dark lashes. Lifting her hand, she cupped his cheek in her palm and gently caressed his face. The newly grown stubble on his strong jaw did not register on her soft skin.

“Fitzwilliam,” she whispered softly, “can you ever forgive me…”

Darcy stifled her next words as he smothered her mouth with his lips, seeking to reassure them both that they were once more in harmony.

Then, Darcy placed his hands on either side of Elizabeth’s face and preceded to deliver soft kisses on her eyes, her nose, her cheeks, and finally, her lips again. There was not a single part of her face that did not benefit from his ministrations. His feather-light caresses caused Elizabeth’s body to quiver with delight and anticipation and Darcy obligingly pulling her closer.

“Elizabeth…my love,” he whispered, as he buried his face in her long soft curls. “How I have dreamt of this day, longed for this day, that I might hold you in my arms and tell you how very much I love you…”

Elizabeth wound her arms around his neck and leaned into his embrace, tilting her face upwards, offering her lips to him. An invitation he was only too happy to accept.

They clung to one another for several seconds before he broke away.

“My darling, my own sweet love, it is I who must beg your forgiveness.”

Elizabeth brought her hand to his mouth and placed a single finger on his lips, silencing the words he was about to say.

“We must both promise to never deceive one another again, Fitzwilliam. And from this moment on, we will never speak of this again. Of my pride and your…” she hesitated, reluctant to use the word that sprang to mind.

“Deceit,” he said it for her.

Elizabeth smiled, “It will be a thing of the past.”

“I will never do anything to endanger our love again,” Darcy promised as he placed a soft kiss on her fingertip.

Gazing into her eyes, made all the brighter for the reflected moonlight, Darcy knew his heart was lost forever, destined to love Elizabeth for all eternity, like Anthony and Cleopatra, or Romeo and Juliet, but God willing, theirs would be a long and happy union.

“Elizabeth, I want to…”

Suddenly, Darcy stiffened, and his arms dropped to his sides.

Instinct told Elizabeth they had been discovered.

“Elizabeth, get inside at once.”

Elizabeth waited until she had walked past her father before glancing over her shoulder at Mr Darcy. Then she disappeared from his view as she entered the house.

Taking a step towards the understandably very irate Mr Bennet, Darcy thought to explain their actions and take all the blame upon himself.

“Sir, I know how this must look but…”

“Do not think to make light of this incident, sir. You will be in my study at ten in the morning. Now get off my property!” With that, Mr Bennet turned on his heels and went inside. It took all his restraint not to slam the door shut, thus making his displeasure known to both Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, but with the rest of his family already abed and likely asleep, he closed it quietly and pulled the bolts back into place.

Elizabeth stood shamefaced in the hall as she waited for her father to return. Yes, she had been reckless, but in her eyes, there were extenuating circumstances.

After he entered the house, Mr Bennet walked straight past Elizabeth. He never even gave her a second look before entering his study. He correctly assumed she would follow him in, and then he closed the door behind them.

He walked over to the fireplace and immediately began to pace back and forth.

Elizabeth shivered. Her summer night clothes afforded her little warmth, and with no fire in the grate, it was decidedly chilly.

Mr Bennet’s initial reaction had been one of rage. On each turn as, he paced to and fro, he tossed Elizabeth a look of disapproval. He felt engulfed by shock and disappointment.

Elizabeth was his favourite child, the brightest, the wittiest, and the most sensible of the bunch. She was the only one of his children he could spend any length of time with in equanimity. The younger girls looked up to her, and he had always been confident in her setting a good example for them to emulate. Lydia, he thought, had at least had the good sense to elope before flinging herself into the arms of her lover.

Elizabeth was in the wrong, and she knew it. Her rash behaviour might have ruined everything. Her reputation, her father’s good opinion of her, and even her betrothal. She was not yet one and twenty, and her father could still withdraw his consent to her union with Mr Darcy. Even she viewed her actions as foolish and ill-advised. But worse, she had let everyone down. Let her father down, let Lydia down, and let herself down. She had put her dear papa in an awkward position, and he did not deserve it. He had always shown her great tolerance and leniency, especially where her cousin was concerned. If it had not been for her father interference, she might now be Mrs William Collins!

Emma Woodhouse, Mr Knightley & Harriot

       80c390ae67b38e00da9c744685cd34ac11374073241-9-kate-beckinsale-in-emma-1996-rex__large1

Gwyneth Paltrow-1996, Kate Beckinsale-1996, and Romola Garai-2009.

This is the first line of Jane Austen’s Emma.

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

It gives us, the reader, only a very brief description of the title lead in this novel. Jane uses just 40 words to describe Emma. As JA does not go into specific’s about Emma’s physical appearance, (she does not say, Emma is blonde haired, blue-eyed, slender, or of average height), we are given free rein to imagine Emma in any way we choose. This lack of detail has given the TV companies and film producers creative licence to cast whomever they please in the title role.

Above, are three of my favourite Emma Woodhouse actresses. (Though my very favourite version is Gwyneth and Jeremy).

JA also wastes little time or effort on describing Mr Knightley, saying only;

“Mr Knightley, a sensible man of about seven or eight-and-thirty, of a cheerful manner. A man who has nothing of ceremony about him.” 

However, we can also determine from remarks made in the first chapter that he is an honest man, a rich man and a good walker .

So, other than being of a suitable age, producers again had no restriction on who they picked to play the part of Mr Knightley.

These are the Mr Knightley’s for the three Emma’s above.

How do you think they did?

Jeremy Northam-1996, Mark Strong -1996, and Jonny Lee Miller-2009.

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Next, we come to Emma’s young protégé, Miss Harriot Smith.

“Miss Smith was a girl of seventeen, whom Emma knew very well by sight, and had long felt an interest in, on account of her beauty. Miss Smith was a very pretty girl, She was short, plump, and fair, with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness, Emma was as much pleased with her manners though, Emma was not struck by any thing remarkably clever in Miss Smith’s conversation.”

Here, Jane Austen gives us a fairly detailed description of Miss Smith. Short, plump, light hair, blue eyes, sweet-natured, not very clever, but very pretty.

If you look at the corresponding Harriot Smiths below, I can’t quite see why they cast Toni Collette, who had red hair at the time, as the ‘light haired’ Miss Smith, although she does fit several of the other required criteria’s.

With Jane’s description of both Emma and Miss Smith, do you think it possible that she meant for Harriot to be prettier than Emma? Also, do you think it was possible Jane was drawing on her own friends or relations as a basis for the characters? I think it highly likely that she was; Jane had several nieces and nephews.

Miss Smith might have been based on her niece, Fanny Knight, and I definitely think Frank Churchill was based on her own brother, Edward. For Edward Austen was also adopted by a rich cousin who had no children; Thomas & Catherine Knight. Edward took their name, went on the Grand Tour and inherited the vast Knight estate on their death. This estate included a house and cottage in Chawton. Today, we know the big house as Chawton House Library, and the cottage as The Jane Austen House Museum.

Toni Collette-1996, Samantha Morton-1996, Louise Dylan-2009.

toni-collette-emma-41emmapart01_620195ee488085909e71bd02df3a9b88f54c1

 

I have watched each of these productions many times over. After Pride & Prejudice, Emma is my next favourite Jane Austen novel.

I like how Jane Austen has captured the essence of life in the regency era, along with all the things she found silly and whimsical.

Each version, whether it be a TV series or film, transports the viewer back in time to an era when society could boast of gentle manners and shy courtship. This style of courtship was later described as the dance of love. (I love it). It comes over as sweet and innocent and was often conducted over a long period of time. Sometime, as described in Pride & Prejudice, a couple would be betrothed when they were in their infancy. (My, how times have changed.)

Nevertheless,, Jane does not shy away from the darker aspects of regency life. She describes events that are still pertinent in our own society.

“How the trampers might have behaved, had the young ladies been more courageous, must be doubtful; but such an invitation for attack could not be resisted; and Harriet was soon assailed by half a dozen children, headed by a stout woman and a great boy, all clamorous, and impertinent in look, though not absolutely in word.—More and more frightened, she immediately promised them money, and taking out her purse, gave them a shilling, and begged them not to want more, or to use her ill.—She was then able to walk, though but slowly, and was moving away—but her terror and her purse were too tempting, and she was followed, or rather surrounded, by the whole gang, demanding more.”

First, she describes the physical attack on Harriet, proving it was not always safe for single young ladies to venture out alone, even if very close to one’s home.

Then, though more subtly, Jane regales us with details of the snobbish and prideful encounter’s Emma, Frank Churchill, and Mr Elton have with their less fortunate neighbours. As she describes their actions, she leaves us, the reader, to pour scorn on her characters.

Example;

Emma gleefully gossips with Frank Churchill about Jane Fairfax, mocking her lowly status as a governess, while implying that she might have left her last position due to a liaison with her employer, Mr Dixon. This action on Frank’s part are made all the more intolerable when we later discover that he was actually engaged to Jane at the time, and knew full well where the piano came from. It was sent to Jane by Frank, as a token of his love for her. Later in the plot, when we discover his duplicity, Emma is incensed, and rightly so.

“I do not mean to reflect upon the good intentions of either Mr. Dixon or Miss Fairfax, but I cannot help suspecting either that, after making his proposals to her friend, he had the misfortune to fall in love with her, or that he became conscious of a little attachment on her side. One might guess twenty things without guessing exactly the right; but I am sure there must be a particular cause for her choosing to come to Highbury instead of going with the Campbells to Ireland.”

Emma embarrasses and hurts Miss Bates with an unguarded remark during the picnic at Box Hill. It is not until Mr Knightly berates her for her unkindness that she really feel the error of her ways. Emma has forgotten that Miss Bates was once her equal, but her circumstances have changes and she will only get poorer the longer she lives. With no husband or children to talk to, and only her mother for company, she had developed the habbit of talking incecently. I can tell you that I have beenin situations where I longed for a Miss Bates to break a pregnant pause in conversation! What about you?

FRANK; Ladies and gentlemen—I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse to say, that she waives her right of knowing exactly what you may all be thinking of, and only requires something very entertaining from each of you, in a general way. Here are seven of you, besides myself, (who, she is pleased to say, am very entertaining already,) and she only demands from each of you either one thing very clever, be it prose or verse, original or repeated—or two things moderately clever—or three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily at them all.

MISS BATES; “Oh! very well,” exclaimed Miss Bates, “then I need not be uneasy. ‘Three things very dull indeed.’ That will just do for me, you know. I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I? (looking round with the most good-humoured dependence on every body’s assent)—Do not you all think I shall?”

Emma could not resist.

EMMA; “Ah! ma’am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me—but you will be limited as to number—only three at once.”

Miss Bates, deceived by the mock ceremony of her manner, did not immediately catch her meaning; but, when it burst on her, it could not anger, though a slight blush shewed that it could pain her.

“Ah!—well—to be sure. Yes, I see what she means, (turning to Mr. Knightley,) and I will try to hold my tongue. I must make myself very disagreeable, or she would not have said such a thing to an old friend.”

Emma’s attempt at matchmaking between Mr Elton and Harriot Smith sees him declare himself far above Miss Smith’s station in life, and he brushes aside Emma’s attempt with scorn and derision.

“Good Heaven!” cried Mr. Elton, “what can be the meaning of this?—Miss Smith!—I never thought of Miss Smith in the whole course of my existence—never paid her any attentions, but as your friend: never cared whether she were dead or alive, but as your friend. If she has fancied otherwise, her own wishes have misled her, and I am very sorry—extremely sorry—But, Miss Smith, indeed”

Next, we find Emma using her influence over Harriot, as her social superior, to encourage her to refuse Mr Martin’s proposal, when Harriot really wants to accept.

Harriot to Emma;

“What sort of looking man is Mr. Martin?” “Oh! not handsome—not at all handsome. I thought him very plain at first, but I do not think him so plain now. One does not, you know, after a time. But did you never see him? He is in Highbury every now and then, and he is sure to ride through every week in his way to Kingston. He has passed you very often.”

Emma’s reply;

“That may be, and I may have seen him fifty times, but without having any idea of his name. A young farmer, whether on horseback or on foot, is the very last sort of person to raise my curiosity. The yeomanry are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing to do. A degree or two lower, and a creditable appearance might interest me; I might hope to be useful to their families in some way or other. But a farmer can need none of my help, and is, therefore, in one sense, as much above my notice as in every other he is below it.”

We live in a society where for the main part, we are able to court and marry whom we wish, but in the era Emma is set, it is clear that matrimony is not just as simple as falling in love, far from it. Social standing, connections, wealth, as well as appearance and accomplishments all counted.

Although I often think I was born 220 years too late, I am thankful that some rules in the modern world have changed for the better.

All in all, I think Emma is a happy story, one that never fails to lift my mood, whether I am reading it, watching it or listening to it on my iPod.

Till next time,

Martine xx

 

A Love Most Ardent; Chapter 27

A.N.

Something for the weekend? Another chapter maybe?

Well, as it’s looking like a wet weekend here in the UK, I thought I would try to entertain you for a little while at least.

So, here is your second installment for this week. Only 4 more to go so stay tuned to see how things turn out.

 

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Elizabeth flung the door of her father’s study wide open and stood there, her breathing heavy from the exertion of leaving Darcy.

“Is it true? You knew of Mr Darcy’s deception and kept it from me?”

Mr Bennet had expected this. He had kept the truth from her, and it did not sit well with him. However, beloved daughter or not, this was no way for a daughter to behave towards her father.

He removed his spectacles and placed them on his desk before leaning back in his chair.

“Come in, Elizabeth.” His tone was firm and slightly sardonic.

Elizabeth closed the door and stood before her father’s desk. Her arms folded across her chest in a defensive stance.

“Sit down.”

“Thank you, sir, but I prefer to stand.”

“You have spoken to Darcy and now come to remonstrate with me. You are angry at having been deceived. I understand that, but I am your father and the head of this family. I make the decisions in this house, for the good of the house and its occupants.” His tone softened noticeably. “I could see from the moment you returned from Derbyshire, that you had changed. It became even more evident when Mr Darcy came to call. You looked on him with tender eyes, Lizzy. So, when he came to me and told me of his plight, I took pity on the lad. He loves you, Lizzy, and you wore your love for him like a badge on your bonnet. And yet you denied it.”

Elizabeth did not want to be patronised, she was angry and wanted to vent that anger on the people that had lied to her.

“I could not accept him before, Father. You know I could not!”

“And what stood between you that was so insurmountable? His wealth? His generosity? Or maybe it was your pride, Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth opened her mouth to refute his accusation, but Mr Bennet gave her no opportunity to reply.

“Now, Lizzy, I made my decision on the facts set before me and I stand by it. Mr Darcy has revealed his duplicity in the matter, and you should find it in your heart to forgive him. His motives were honourable.”

“Father!” she exclaimed in vexation.

“Enough now, Lizzy, the matter is closed. Unless you desire to break your engagement and your poor mother’s heart, I suggest you go to your room and ponder your prospects before you do anything rash.”

Elizabeth ran upstairs and slammed the bedroom door behind her. Pacing to and fro, she muttered about how easily men lied and how women were expected to forgive them the moment they confessed. Deceit should carry a consequence, not be rewarded!

A few minutes passed with Elizabeth pacing in this manner until her thoughts were interrupted by someone gently tapping on her door.

“Lizzy, it’s Jane? May I come in?”

If anyone could understand her anger and frustration, it was Jane.

“Yes, Jane, come in.”

Jane entered and then waited for Elizabeth to be still.

“Did you hear what Papa said to me, Jane?” Elizabeth asked indignantly.

Jane crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed.

“Yes. Mamma was going to come and speak to you, but Father sent me instead.”

“Well, she would not have changed my mind, and neither will you, Jane.”

The calming softness of Jane’s voice eased some of Elizabeth’s tension, and she moved to sit on the bed with her.

“You have made your decision then?”

“I cannot marry a liar, Jane. I would never have a minute’s peace of mind. Never knowing if he spoke the truth or not. I cannot be expected to live like that. Mr Darcy is a hypocrite. He told me he abhorred deceit of any kind. Yet it is perfectly acceptable for him to involve me in a lie!”

Jane knew what she must do. The memories of those months she believed she had been abandoned by Mr Bingley were the most painful of her life. The utter desolation she felt when she thought him lost to her had been almost crippling, both physically and mentally.

“Lizzy, when Mr Bingley left Netherfield last winter, I thought my heart should break. I could not imagine my life without him in it, and yet I had too. I went to London in the hope that I might run into him, believing that if he just saw me again, he would realise he loved me still. But it was not to be. I had to resign myself to never knowing absolute happiness again.”

Elizabeth squeezed Jane’s hand.

“But Mr Bingley did love you, Jane. He did come back to you.”

“Yes, but it was Mr Darcy who gave him the courage to return and seek me out.”

Jane watched as Elizabeth’s mouth turned downwards into something akin to a petulant sulk, but still, she continued.

“When Anne De Bourgh needed someone to help her, she turned to her cousin, Mr Darcy. He did not turn her away, knowing he would incur the wrath of Lady Catherine. Instead, he brought her to a place her mother would not find her and helped her marry the man she loved.”

“Yes, yes, Jane. I know of all Mr Darcy’s wonderful qualities, but he lied to me, don’t you see? How could I ever trust him again?”

“Oh, Lizzy, it is not possible to go through life telling nothing but the absolute truth. Even we have told the occasional lie, Lizzy. Did we not tell mamma that we went straight to the haberdashers last week, knowing full well that we stopped for refreshments at Aunt Philips? And when Lydia asked to borrow your amber necklace, you told her it was misplaced because you were concerned she would lose it. Yet we both know you hid it in my jewellery box for safe keeping. Dearest Lizzy look at the happiness Mr Darcy’s deeds have brought. Lydia and Wickham married, Miss De Bourgh and Mr Galbraith on their wedding trip, and Mr Bingley and I are betrothed. He has done nothing malicious, Lizzy.” Jane smiled, and leant closer to say, “If anything, I would say he is something of a matchmaker.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips in a rueful smile. Mr Darcy, the matchmaker. She conjured up a ridiculous image in her mind of Mr Darcy introducing prospective couples to each other while their mothers stood in the background waving hands full of money.

“Oh, Jane, it’s not just that. It’s the fact that everyone seemed to know about it except me. He had made a fool of me.”

Jane got up and walked to the door, but before she left, she turned to Elizabeth with one last observation.

“Do you love Mr Darcy any less for his kindness, Lizzy, or is your pride more important than being happy?”

Elizabeth stared at the closed door. Jane had also accused her of being prideful. Could it really be that simple? Was it only her bruised pride that made her rally against Mr Darcy? Indeed, when he bruised her pride at the Meryton Assembly, has she not grasped at Mr Wickham’s tale of woe with alacrity? Was she only in this situation now, because she had been stubborn and disinclined to forgive?

Her anger and frustration had turned to confusion and self-reproach, making her head hurt and draining her body of its energy. Unable to think straight anymore, Elizabeth knew there was only one way to relieve the tension headache that was now afflicting her.

Pulling her pillow towards her, Elizabeth rested her head on it and curled her legs up on the bed.

When Jane returned with a cup of tea for her sister, that was how she found her, curled up in the middle of the bed, asleep. Jane quietly closed the door behind her and returned downstairs.

Elizabeth roused when she heard Lydia and Kitty arguing. They were squabbling over who should take her place at the dinner table if she remained in her room. Giving her eyes a rub, Elizabeth slipped off the bed and straightened her dress before opening the bedroom door.

“There is no need for you two to argue. I will be down for dinner as soon as I have splashed some water on my face.”

“I just thought as I am a married woman, I should take your seat Lizzy,” snipped Lydia.

“But as I am a full two years older, it should be me!” replied Kitty.

Elizabeth closed the door and rested back on it. She would really have preferred to eat in her room tonight, but Mr Darcy was expected. Yet how could she face him? She had still not determined whether to break their engagement or not.

After washing her face and changing her dress, she smoothed her hair back into place and went downstairs.

As usual, they gathered in the drawing room until the butler announced dinner was ready. Tonight, seemed no different. However, when Elizabeth entered, she saw only Mr Bingley. Darcy and the Colonel were conspicuous by their absence.

Elizabeth joined Jane and Mr Bingley on the divan by the window. The warm summer breeze flowed in through the open French door, a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun.

“Miss Elizabeth, I have been commissioned to pass on a message to you from Mr Darcy. He regrets that he is unable to attend this evening’s festivities and begs your forgiveness,” Mr Bingley’s statement sounded slightly rehearsed, but he was relieved to have executed its delivery.

Elizabeth was more than slightly surprised to hear that her intended had cried off from seeing her that evening. She thought he had more mettle than that.

“And the colonel, does he keep Mr Darcy company this evening?”

“Unfortunately, not, Miss Elizabeth. Colonel Fitzwilliam left for London this morning. He is to escort Miss Darcy back to Hertfordshire.”

“Miss Darcy?”

“Yes, she is coming to stay at Netherfield for few days, maybe even a week or two, if she can be persuaded.”

Elizabeth turned her gaze to Jane. What could he mean by bringing his sister to Netherfield? Did he wish to add Miss Darcy’s argument to his own in persuading her to forgive him?

Jane answered Elizabeth’s unspoken question with a discrete shrug of her shoulders.

Elizabeth turned back to Mr Bingley.

“I hope Mr Darcy is not unwell, sir?”

Mr Bingley felt most uncomfortable. His friend had confided in him all that had transpired between himself and Miss Elizabeth, and now he could not help but feel responsible. After all, it was at his suggestion that Darcy concocted this ruse.

“I am sure…well, fairly sure, that he will be sufficiently recovered to return on the morrow, Miss Elizabeth.”

At that point, the butler entered and announced dinner was ready to be served.

Elizabeth could feel her parent’s displeasure. Though they said nought, the looks she received from her mother conveyed how angry she was, while her father chose to ignore her presence altogether. It was left to Lydia to raise the matter.

“I saw Lizzy with Mr Darcy in the garden today, and she was being beastly to him.”

“Lydia!” Elizabeth said reproachfully.

Silence ensued. All eyes looked to Elizabeth; all except for Mr Bennet.

“If you have had your fill of the food, Lydia, I suggest you go to your room,” said Mr Bennet.

But Lydia would not be silenced.

“Has he thrown you over, Lizzy? Is that why he is not here tonight?”

Jane now exclaimed, “Lydia!”

“Go to your room this instant, young lady!” Mr Bennet ordered.

“But I am a married woman. You cannot treat me as if I were a child;”

Mr Bennet pushed back his chair and stood up. He threw down his napkin and addressed Lydia directly.

“Married and widowed you may be, Lydia Bennet, but inside you are still a troublesome and disobedient child. Marriage has not taught you to hold your tongue nor the meaning of discretion. Now go to your room and while you are there think about what I have said!”

Lydia looked around the room. Usually, she relished being the centre of attention, but she was mortified at being chastised in front of Mr Bingley.

Trying to fight back the tear, she stood up and walked towards the door. But not before she had the final word.

“My name is Lydia Wickham.” And with those parting words, she closed the door behind her.

Mr Bennet sat down and tucked his napkin back into his collar. He had no intention of wasting good food, nor of going hungry.

“The beef is particularly tender tonight my dear. Remind me to compliment the cook in the morning,” he said as if nothing had happened.

Lydia’s outburst was apparently to be ignored. But Elizabeth thought, for once, that she had been treated harshly. Lydia had only voiced what everyone else was thinking.

Whether this softening towards Lydia’s outspoken behaviour was due to Elizabeth’s disapprobation with her father, no-one knew, but Elizabeth resolved to go and speak to her sister as soon as it was politely possible to excuse herself.

Elizabeth tapped on Lydia’s door, but when no reply was forthcoming, she pushed it open and begged for permission to come in.

“What do you want Lizzy?” Lydia asked sulkily.

“I brought you this.” Elizabeth held out a buttered roll that had a thick slice of ham between its folds.

Lydia’s hunger overtook her bad mood, and she gratefully took the food from Elizabeth’s hand.

With her mouth full of ham and bread, Lydia motioned for her sister to sit with her.

“What are you doing up here?” she managed to ask as she masticated an unusually large bite.

“Well, I came to say sorry. I think Father dealt with you harshly tonight because he is displeased with me. Although, you must learn to think before you speak, Lydia. The dinner table was not the place to ask such a personal question, nor in the presence of company.”

“But Mr Bingley is going to be family, Lizzy.”

“Yes, but he is not yet family. You must learn to hold your tongue and have better manners. You are no longer a child, Lydia.”

“I do try, Lizzy, honestly I do, but it is so hard trying to be…well you!”

For the first time, Elizabeth realised that Lydia looked up to her as a role model. This revelation came as something of a shock.

Suddenly, she saw Lydia in a different light. No longer the annoying little sister, but a young girl learning to be a woman.

Rather than chastise her efforts, Elizabeth realised she must aid her sister’s transition.

“If you would like, I can help you, Lydia?”

Lydia turned to Elizabeth with wide eyes and struggled to swallow the food in her mouth, before saying, “But not like a teacher, with punishments if I get it wrong.”

“No, there will be no punishments, Lydia, but I may have to ask Jane to help too?”

“But why must Jane know? Why must anyone else know?”

“Lydia, soon I will be married and gone from this country. If…”

“So, you are going to marry Mr Darcy, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth could not lie, not after all the fuss she had made about Mr Darcy deceiving her.

“I…I am not sure, Lydia. I think we must talk before I make the final decision. But until then, I am here to help you. Now, the first thing you must do is apologise to Papa. Wait until Mr Bingley returns to Netherfield and then go down and make your peace with our Father.”

Lydia looked down at the floor and began studying the pattern on the carpet as if her life depended on it.

“Do you want my help Lydia, or not?”

Lydia glanced at her sister from under her lashes and nodded.

“Good, that’s settled then. Good night, Lydia.”

“Good night, Lizzy, and…thank you.”

p.s.

My dear friends, as you know, both here and on FanFiction, I have posted all my books entirely free of charge, hoping fellow enthusiasts would enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. This is something I firmly believe in doing. You are always appreciative and honest, helping where I might not see something that needs correcting or spotting something that does not flow quite as smoothly as it could. This two way street is much appreciated by us indie authors. However, I was wondering if any of you would be open to posting a review on my books on Amazon? There is a lot of competition in my genre and the more reviews you get the more your work gets out there. No purchase is necessary to leave a review, so, I humbly ask that if you have enjoyed any of my books, that you leave me positive review. Of course, if you would rather not, please don’t feel pressured to do so, but every little helps.

Thanking you so much,

Till next time,

Martine xx