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

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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.

mr-knightley-jeremy-northam1 328645_1258454380634_full1jonny-lee-miller-mr-knightley-emma1

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

 

A Love Most Ardent; Chapter 26

A.N. Here is the next exciting installment of; A Love Most Ardent.

I expect the last chapter might have given you a clue as to what might happen in this one, but are you right?

Be honest and leave a comment telling me if you predicted what would happen next.

Martine x

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Six

The sun was going down before the visiting gentlemen thought to take their leave. The good Reverend had gone to his home some time ago, and Colonel Fitzwilliam waited outside while Jane and Mr Bingley, and Elizabeth and Mr Darcy said their farewells.

Charles shyly kissed Jane on the cheek, then with the promise to return in time for breakfast, went to wait with the colonel.

Darcy sought Elizabeth’s hands and stood gently caressing them with his thumbs.

“This is, without doubt, the happiest day of my life. Thank you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth.”

“I hope we will have many more such days, sir.”

Darcy leant closed, willing to risk discovery for just one more taste of her sweet lips.

“Yes, well, get along now, Elizabeth. Your mother is looking for you. Something about a double wedding,” chimed in Mr Bennet.

Darcy straightened and had the good grace to blush. Taking liberties with ones intended was frowned upon by one’s prospective fathers-in-law, especially should you be caught.

“I am expecting my man of business to call on me in the morning, but I will come in time for luncheon,” Darcy said, then made his bow and joined the Colonel and Bingley as they made their way to the stables.

Mr Bennet had mixed feelings about losing both his sensible daughters, but he would feel the loss of Lizzy the most. They had spent many an afternoon or evening in companionable silence, either reading a book or perusing the day-old papers Mr Gardiner sent them from London. Only Elizabeth shared his keen sense of the ridiculous and was unafraid to speak her mind. Qualities he admired in a sensible woman. Yet soon she would be gone to Derbyshire.

Slipped her hand through the crook of her father’s arm, Elizabeth gave it a reassuring squeeze. She sensed that she was the reason for his melancholy mood.

“I am going to get a plate of cold meat before Mrs Hill has it cleared away. Shall I get you one too, father? We could eat it together in your study.”

“Thank you, Lizzy. And if you can slip me one of the cook’s blancmanges too, it would be much appreciated.”

Mr Bennet waited at his study door to help Lizzy in.

As soon as she passed through the portal, Mr Bennet closed the door behind her.

“Did your mother see you?” he asked.

Elizabeth shook her head.

“Good. It’s just that I have already eaten two of cook’s flummeries. I would not want Mrs Bennet to know I’d had a third.”

“Mamma has retired for the evening, Father. You are quite safe.”

Mr Bennet sat at his desk but turned to face Elizabeth, who sat by the open window, as they tucked into their illicit supper.

“So, Lizzy, I presume everything is settled between you and Mr Darcy?”

“Yes, sir. Mr Darcy and I are engaged.”

“Good, that will help your mother rest easy in her bed, knowing that she has two daughters engaged to be married.” Mr Bennet studied his plate for some moments before asking, “And did you enjoy your evening stroll with Mr Darcy?”

Elizabeth she did not mind that he was teasing her; it was the humorous banter between them that made Mrs Bennet bearable for them both. Not that they did not love her, because they did, but sometimes, just sometimes, she did make herself appear ridiculous. The day she visited Jane at Netherfield sprang to mind. She had been abominably rude to Mr Darcy.

“Would it surprise you to know that Mr Darcy proposed to me again?”

“Not in the slightest. Darcy told me of his intentions some days ago.”

“He did?” Elizabeth sounded surprised.

“Oh, yes, in this very room. Mr Darcy said that you had some notion that we were indebted to him. Though Darcy assures me you will start your married life on an even keel, Lizzy.”

Elizabeth did not think her reasoning was silly. They were indebted to him, and not only for his timely intervention with Lydia and Mr Wickham. Had it not been for Mr Darcy anticipating Wickham’s direction, they might still be searching for them in London. Then there was the money he had dowered to Lydia. Three thousand pounds was enough for a frugal person to live out their entire life.

“But Father, we are, or at least we were, in Mr Darcy’s debt, both financially and morally. Only now the debt has been repaid.”

“You are referring to Lydia, as well as the assistance we rendered Mrs Galbraith?”

Elizabeth looked puzzled.

“Yes, of course.”

Mr Bennet had assumed that when Darcy proposed to Elizabeth earlier, he would take a moment to make a clean breast of things. He could not recommend they speak their marriage vows with a lie between them.

Elizabeth sensed something had changed. Her father suddenly seemed distant.

“I still have the accounts to do, my dear, get off to bed now.”

Elizabeth put her plate on the desk and kissed her father’s brow.

“Good night, Papa.”

“Good night child.”

 

Darcy was euphoric as he rose and dressed the next morning. Nothing, he declared, could dampen his spirits this beautiful summer day. He was engaged to the woman he loved, he had a special licence in his pocket. Soon, Elizabeth would be his wife.

Descended the stair with a spring in his step he made his way to the breakfast room to join Bingley. Moments later, a footman appeared with his mail on a silver salver.

“You have written to Miss Darcy and asked her to join us here at Netherfield?” Mr Bingley enquired of Darcy.

“I have, and she should be with us in only a day or two. I could not get married without my sister present.”

“No, of course.” Charles sounded nervous, but he did not keep Mr Darcy in suspense for long.

“Darcy, do you think I should invite Caroline and the Hurst’s to attend my wedding?”

Darcy put down the letter he was reading and thought hard for a moment.

“Your decision is a difficult one, Charles. One the one hand, you should have your sibling present for such a momentous day in your life. But, on the other hand, on more than one occasion, Miss Caroline has proved that she cannot be trusted to be civil, especially where the Bennet’s are concerned.”

“So, what do I do?”

“Invite them to the wedding breakfast, but not the service. The last thing you want is to go through the same ordeal as Mrs Galbraith!”

Charles seemed satisfied with that answer. It was the perfect solution and now he no longer needed to think about it, he turned his attention back to his plate.

Darcy, who was still sifting through his mail, was surprised to receive a hand delivered missive. It was from Mr Bennet.

It read:

Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy,

A matter of some importance has been drawn to my attention, namely

that you have not yet been honest with Elizabeth.

I desire that you resolve this matter with alacrity, and must request that

you seek Elizabeth out at your earliest convenience to rectify this

alarming oversight.

Thomas Bennet

Mr Darcy folded the note and slipped it into his waistcoat pocket.

Directly after breakfast, he and Mr Bingley rode to Longbourn, where Charles immediately sought out Jane’s company.

Darcy, meanwhile, made his way to Mr Bennet’s study.

“Come in, sit down,” Mr Bennet said, though he remained standing.

Darcy felt relaxed and happy as he seated himself in the chair opposite his host’s desk. He assumed Mr Bennet wanted to talk about the marriage contract.

Mr Bennet stood with his back to the window, and his hands clasped firmly behind his back. His countenance was sombre as he addressed Mr Darcy.

“I will come straight to the point, sir. You had already won my daughter’s heart, and she has accepted your proposal?”

Clearly, it was a question, but to what Mr Bennet was alluding, Darcy did not know. Shifting in his chair, Darcy now sat straight-backed as he realised his host was not in the best of moods.

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you have also enlightened her to the deception that brought you to this happy conclusion?”

Darcy stared at Mr Bennet, for once lost for words.

“Do I take it then sir, that you intend to enter into this marriage with a lie between you?”

“I…I do not sir, but I thought I could reveal my part in Anne’s elopement at some later date.”

“Not good enough, sir,” said an irate Mr Bennet. “You are not being fair to Elizabeth, she deserves more from you, sir. She deserves your total honesty. Elizabeth is no-one’s fool, and she is as likely to think you tricked her into marriage as not.”

Darcy hung his head. Of, course, Mr Bennet was right. All his life he had abhorred deceit of any kind, and yet he had been willing to deceive Elizabeth. He was heartily ashamed of himself.

“I will go and speak to her now sir.”

Mr Bennet believed that Darcy would indeed, seek Elizabeth out and reveal his part in Anne’s elopement, but he doubted he’d had much practice in explaining why he had lied. If it were in his power to soften the blow, for both Elizabeth and Darcy, then he must do so.

“Good. Now, might I suggest that you say that Anne came to you and asked for help?”

“But is that not just replacing one lie with another, sir?”

“I am convinced, that in time, your cousin would have sought you out, sir, and asked for your assistance. You merely expedited the process.”

There was no denying that in the past, Anne had occasionally asked for his advice or assistance. Darcy had been only too willing to offer his services to his cousin in the absence of a father or brother. He chose to believe that Mr Bennet was right; Anne would have eventually sought him out to assist in her affair of the heart. She had no-one else to turn to.

Darcy walked out of the room, his mood slightly lifted, though he was still dreading the coming conversation he must have with Elizabeth.

After looking in several rooms, it was Mrs Hill who told him where to find her.

As he drew near to the entrance of the walled garden, Darcy bumped into Mr Collins.

“Ah, Mr Darcy,” he said giving a low bow, “I did not have the opportunity to congratulate you on your betrothal to my dear cousin, Elizabeth.”

Darcy immediately felt irritated by the presence of the Parson. Though he had no doubt in his mind that any man who had dared to initiate a courtship with Elizabeth would have also irritated him.

“Thank you, Collins.”

They stood face to face, with Mr Collins blocking the entrance to the area where Darcy wanted to go.

Compelled to make further conversation, Darcy asked, “And Mrs Collins, she is well?”

“Oh, yes, thank you, sir. Quite well. I have sent her an express only this morning asking her to join me. I do not think it prudent to return to Hunsford at this moment, not after her ladyship…well, less said.”

Darcy’s irritation turned to pity. His aunt was a formidable opponent at the best of times. For a weak man such as Mr Collins, there had been little chance of him standing up to her.

“I feel sure you will not regret your decision, and Mrs Collins is a sensible woman and will see the advantages of your move. Now…”

Mr Collins stepped aside, bobbing lower than ever, bolstered by the reassuring words of the illustrious, Mr Darcy.

With only a couple of strides behind him, Darcy was surprised when he heard Elizabeth speak his name.

“That was kind of you, Fitzwilliam. Mr Collins does not possess a strong character, and I suspect your aunt often used his weakness to her own advantage.”

Darcy closed the last few steps between them, and he lifted her hand to his lips, placing a light kiss on her fingers.

“Elizabeth,” he said, and they exchanged salutes.

“It is going to be a warm day; shall we sit in the shade?” asked Elizabeth.

He followed her to the end of the garden, where the trees shaded her special bench.

Darcy sat beside her and kicked at the grass with his boot as he struggled to find the words to begin his confession.

“Elizabeth,” he started, “I have not been entirely honest with you.”

At first, Elizabeth thought he was jesting, but his grave countenance soon told her that he was in earnest.

She was shocked. Elizabeth distinctly remembered Mr Darcy telling her when she was at Netherfield last winter that deceit of any kind was abhorrent to him.

“A lie, Mr Darcy?” she asked.

“Do not judge me too harshly, Elizabeth. The happiness of four people rested on my actions.” He could not meet her gaze. Instead, he looked at his boots. “I…I discovered that my cousin and Mr Galbraith were in love, quite by accident really, but once in possession of this knowledge, I used it for my own personal gain. Not financially you understand, but…emotionally.”

He stole a sideways glance at Elizabeth, hoping to gauge her reaction. From her rigid stance, he knew she was disappointed.

“I could have offered Anne the use of Pemberley or even my townhouse to get married at, but I did not. I knew my aunt would have her people check out my properties first. So, I advised them to throw themselves on your father’s mercy.”

Her voice was quiet, but there was an underlying tone of anger in it.

“And what if he had turned her away? Would you have been so proud of humiliating your cousin then?”

“Oh, but Mr Bennet had already agreed to aid them. I would not have been so insensitive as to send Anne to Longbourn unannounced.”

Elizabeth was fuming. To be deceived by the man who you loved was bad enough, but to drag her father, and probably her entire family into his deception was unforgivable.

“Why are you telling me this now?”

“I could not marry you without being totally honest with you first,” Elizabeth said nothing; looking only ahead.

Decided to throw himself on her mercy, Darcy pleaded, “Elizabeth, being dishonest is not my wont, you know it is not, but you would not entertain my proposal, try as I might offer you my hand. Your notion of being indebted to me was ridiculous…”

Darcy fell silent as Elizabeth stood abruptly.

“I find I have a fierce headache, sir, and must return to the house.”

“Elizabeth,” Darcy called out, but her quick strides only grew faster as he called to her.

Reluctantly to chase after her, Darcy returned to Netherfield. How could he have misjudged her reaction so badly? If he were in her shoes, would he have been so quick to temper? If he were honest, he probably would have been. Regret was another unfamiliar emotion to him, but he felt it keenly this day, and he did not like it. Elizabeth had every right to be displeased and disappointed with him.

Tomorrow, he would call on her again and hope that her mood had softened as she gave his confession some thought. But for tonight, he decided to find solace in the bottom of a brandy bottle.

******************

So, did it pan out how you expected? Leave a comment and let me know.

Till next time,

Martine xx

p.s. Look out for my  article on Emma after the Epilogue of, A Love Most Ardent. Also, in the autumn I will be doing a giveaway for anyone who has read, Mr Darcy’s Proposal.