I have always loved this chapter as it showed the real characters in my changed story line. I've never liked Bingley with Jane... there, I said it. 🙂 (I often give him more of a backbone in stories where Jane and Mr. Bingley are together).
XOXOXO Elizabeth Ann West
Chapter 5 - A Spring Sentiment, a Pride and Prejudice Variation
“Mama! Please, be reasonable! The cottage is ready,” Elizabeth Bennet pleaded with her mother for what felt like the hundredth time in a week.
“You don’t understand these things, Lizzie. You’ve yet to run your own household. Yes, a few more days, perhaps a week and the final details attended to, and Lydia will . . . “
Her mother continued to fritter on, but Elizabeth had stopped listening as frustration began throbbing in her ears. Her heart raced, and she focused on taking a few calming breaths. For three weeks Elizabeth’s mother had dragged her feet, and now that she had been invited to Matlock for the Easter holiday next month, she desperately wanted to return to London to prepare her trousseau. Her future aunt, the Countess Matlock, had made it plainly clear that this holiday would begin her transformation from a small country squire’s daughter to the illustrious Mrs. Darcy.
“. . . and Kitty will need new furnishings as the castoffs that are currently in the home are below our station—”
“What station? You are a widow with five unmarried daughters.”
“Tsk, tsk, you will soon be married to Mr. Darcy, and he wouldn’t wish his mother-in-law to live in abject poverty. No, no, we will need finer linens and must commission a new set of silver.” Mrs. Bennet continued to chatter away about the expenses she planned to incur as Mr. Darcy’s mother-in-law.
The frustration Elizabeth felt turned to boiling rage. She stood up from her seat and glared at her mother. Not trusting her mouth to say anything remotely gentle, she simply scowled and donned her spencer. She left her mother in the parlor with Jane and Lydia. Elizabeth’s feet carried her in the direction of Netherfield, away from town, without conscious thought on her part.
A carriage traveling much too fast for the roads hurtled past her, and Elizabeth stepped well out of the way. Instead of continuing along the road, she opted for a detour into the woods she now knew very well since moving to her Aunt Phillips’ home. Soon, she arrived in a peaceful glen and was cheered to see winter’s thaw had set upon the countryside. A babbling brook soothed her frayed nerves, and Elizabeth found a fallen log to serve as her bench. Turning her face up to the sunlight pouring between the still-bare tree branches just beginning to bud, she felt her anger and frustration also melt away.
Elizabeth sighed as she recognized her sister Kitty’s voice. “Over here,” she called out, reluctant to cede her peaceful moment. When she looked down and opened her eyes, she stifled a laugh at the sight of poor Kitty fighting every low-lying tree branch determined to snag her cloak. Brushing her hands of the small bits of bark stuck to her palms, Elizabeth stood and modestly cleaned the seat of her skirt. She met Kitty halfway and pulled the branches aside to allow her easier passage.
“Ugh, the woods are so disagreeable!” Kitty fumed as she pulled twigs from her person. “I don’t know how you manage.”
“I stick to the path.” Elizabeth laughed as Kitty frowned.
“You need to come back. A woman named Lady Catherine de Bourgh has just arrived. It doesn’t appear to be a cordial call.” Elizabeth immediately hastened back through the woods without a thought as to how Kitty was keeping up. She stomped through mud, caring not as the twigs and branches brushed her face and bonnet. By the time she reached the outskirts of her aunt’s yard, she was out of breath. Doubled over and panting, Elizabeth took a moment to collect herself as she could already hear raised voices inside. Before she could enter, Kitty caught up, also out of breath.
“Go to the stables and send someone to Netherfield. Tell them to fetch Mr. Darcy.” Kitty nodded and hurried off while Elizabeth did her best to fix her appearance. When she heard her mother howl, Elizabeth knew she could wait no longer and rushed to the door.
Chapter 5 (cont'd) - A Spring Sentiment, a Pride and Prejudice Variation
The scene in the parlor was as she expected. Her sisters and mother cowered in one corner with Lady Catherine standing in the doorway banging her blasted walking stick and spewing her vitriol. “I cannot accept that you are incapable of keeping even the slightest knowledge of your daughter’s whereabouts. Now tell me this instant where I can find that harlot!”
With a serene smile, Elizabeth marched forward and purposely bumped into Lady Catherine to enter the room. “Begging your pardon, whatever brings you to our home, Lady Catherine?” Elizabeth turned around to face her adversary, standing firmly between her family and the woman.
“I have come to appeal to your better senses. I have heard all about the mussed up engagement of your sister and that lazy, no good Wickham. Surely you do not wish to see the Darcy name pulled down to the lowly status of the beastly Bennets.”
Elizabeth crossed her arms and stared at the old woman trying her best to command a regal posture. After a moment, Elizabeth burst out laughing. “You are the worst manipulator of wills I’ve ever seen. Even if I could be plied upon to abandon Mr. Darcy for the good of his name, I would never be convinced by such a mean spirit as you, milady.” Elizabeth added the courtesy with a mocking voice.
“This is not to be borne! Darcy will marry my daughter. You are merely a dalliance in a long line of distractions.” Lady Catherine waved her hand to emphasize the trifling nature of her nephew’s attentions.
The insinuation of Darcy’s earlier interests stung Elizabeth’s heart, but she ignored the well-placed arrow for the moment. She wasn’t about to give Lady Catherine the satisfaction. “Lady Catherine, you are not welcome in my home or any other place I may be visiting. You will leave at once,” Elizabeth commanded, standing to her full height, which was a full two inches greater than her ladyship from Kent. After giving the woman a look of disgust, Elizabeth turned her back to look at her frightened mother and sisters.
“Ho, ho, not so quickly. I will have my say. Darcy is a most ancient family, and what of Bennet?” Lady Catherine demanded as she grabbed Elizabeth’s shoulder to turn her back around.
“If you direct your carriage to the church, you’ll find eight generations of Bennets entombed there,” Elizabeth said, flatly. She shrugged the lady’s hand off her shoulder and stared coldly at her sneering face.
“But what of your pedigree? Your stature? Your family could not even manage to keep that leaky old estate in your family name. I heard your father plundered the coffers; what a lout he must have been. I’m sure your mother is quite happy to be free.” Lady Catherine made a small, satisfied smile as Elizabeth’s face turned beet red, and her mother gasped loudly.
Elizabeth inhaled deeply through her nose and marched forward to stand nose to nose with Lady Catherine. “Do not tempt me, madam, to further embarrass you by having you thrown out of this house.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Leave! We don’t wish to look at your ugly cow face any longer!” Lydia called out from the corner where she was perfectly protected by her mother.
“Why you little. . . .” Lady Catherine lurched forward trying to get past Elizabeth, but the older woman’s frailer frame wasn’t a match for Elizabeth’s physique. With her legs firmly planted on the floor, Elizabeth held her ground as Lady Catherine crashed into her and stumbled back. Shocked, the older woman began to fall backward, and Elizabeth panicked and reached out to grab her. Steadying the older woman as best she could, Elizabeth was perturbed, but not surprised when Lady Catherine slapped her hands away and gained her balance.
“Get away from me! You shall not touch my person!” she bellowed for all to hear. Kitty entered from the outside in time to see the standoff between her sister and the lady, but she lost her voice as the older woman began banging the floor with her cane once more. Elizabeth clutched her skirts in one hand to maintain her temper and held her position so that the only place for Lady Catherine to go was between the two Bennet sisters, towards the front door.
Lady Catherine began to berate Elizabeth once more at the unseemly departure. “I know how to deal with you. Just you watch. Before I’m through, you’ll be turned away from every respectable household in the country. I shall never forget this!” she hissed. With an exaggerated limp, Lady Catherine made her way to the door where Kitty took a step back to give the peeress plenty of room to make her exit. Once the old thorn was outside, Elizabeth couldn’t help but laugh, and Kitty soon joined with her.
“Elizabeth Bennet, do you have any idea what you’ve done? You’ve ruined us all, putting your hands on a peer! Oohhh, the constable will come and carry you away!” Mrs. Bennet began yelling most cruelly at her daughter, causing Elizabeth to turn around.
“No, Mama, he will not. Lady Catherine is Mr. Darcy’s aunt.”
Mrs. Bennet wailed even louder. “We’re ruined! He’ll abandon you now! He’ll never marry you now that you’ve assaulted his aunt!”
“Mama! Please, Mr. Darcy will not press charges. Nor will he give me up. This is not the first time that lady has tried to intervene.”
For a moment, Mrs. Bennet blinked her eyes and processed the information her second eldest daughter imparted. Then she shook her head and began to wail again.
“Shhh, Mama. It will all be fine. Lydia? Help me take her upstairs?” Jane pleaded with her younger sister, who scoffed in response. Carefully the two girls guided their mother, who was crying and carrying on, up the stairs. Elizabeth found the pressure in her head had quickly returned.
Once more she exited the house, only to see a horse in the far distance. Without caring, Elizabeth took off in a run toward the horse.
Mr. Darcy slowed his pace as he could make out Elizabeth running towards him. He jumped off Poseidon and was ready when the young woman simply collapsed into his arms. Clasping her tightly, he whispered to her. “Shhh, you’re safe now. I’m truly sorry for whatever pain my aunt has caused.”
Elizabeth leaned back and wiped her eyes, sniffling in an attempt to regain her senses. “She tried to attack Lydia and ran into me and nearly fell to the ground, but I held onto her. I fear she is most displeased.”
Darcy shook his head and ignored Poseidon’s signs of aggravation at standing still. “She struck you?”
“No, no,” Elizabeth made a final wipe at her eyes. “She was pure evil. She spoke against my father. Lydia called her a cow, and when she lunged forward, I blocked her way, nearly knocking her down. I’m so sorry, William.”
“I’m sure nothing but her pride was injured.”
Elizabeth tucked her head back into his chest and sighed. “How did you arrive so quickly? Kitty just sent the messenger.”
Darcy grimaced. “I had already been on my way for our daily visit. If I had but left a little earlier, I might have saved you from my aunt’s wrath.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “No, my dear, if you had been present, I believe she would have behaved ten times worse.” For a moment, Elizabeth simply enjoyed the comfort of his arms before she leaned back to address a new subject. “William, can we leave for London, tomorrow?”
“Absolutely, my darling. We’ll leave at first light.”
* * *
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A Winter Wrong, the first novella in the Seasons of Serendipity series that imagines what if Mr. Bennet died at the very beginning of Pride and Prejudice?
By Consequence of Marriage, the first novel in the Moralities of Marriage series that wonders what if Mr. Darcy never saved his sister Georgiana from Wickham’s clutches?
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Chapter 5(cont'd) - A Spring Sentiment, a Pride and Prejudice Variation
The Darcy carriage creaked and groaned on a surprisingly warm March morning with Darcy, Elizabeth, Kitty and the maid Becky inside on their way to London. Jane remained behind since Bingley would stay at Netherfield Park until the full season began. With Lydia becoming more and more irritable each day, Elizabeth happily invited Kitty to come with her to London with promises to take her to many social events in the interest of character inspiration for her writing pursuits.
Jane Bennet looked out the window not one hour after her sisters had left to see Mr. Bingley driving up in a curricle. Smiling, she hurried to the peering glass in the hallway to check her appearance, then found a seat in the parlor to await Mr. Bingley’s arrival. It was lucky indeed that her mother and Lydia had just left for Meryton for yet another trip to find provisions for the cottage. As Mr. Bingley entered the parlor, he bowed, and Jane rose to curtsy.
“Miss Bennet, I wondered, that is, would you care to take a ride this morning?” Jane blushed and nodded affirmatively. She donned a spencer and her bonnet, and butterflies began to flutter in her stomach. Although her courtship with Mr. Bingley hadn’t been so quick as Elizabeth’s with Mr. Darcy, Jane had hopes that perhaps today he planned to make their understanding permanent.
The curricle was a much smoother ride than Jane had anticipated as Charles Bingley expertly guided the two ponies around the road through Meryton. Jane waved to friends and her mother and Lydia as they happened to be outside the butcher shop. Mrs. Bennet squealed and waved her handkerchief in response, causing Jane to blush even more, but wear a broad smile. As soon as they steered out of town, Bingley urged the ponies faster and faster, and the speed began to make Jane’s stomach lurch. As they careened around a corner and Jane could feel the wheel on her side lift off the ground; she let out a scream. “Please, Charles, slow down! This is much too fast.”
“It’s supposed to go this fast!” he laughed and spurred the ponies faster. Jane grasped one hand onto her bonnet to keep it in place and squeezed her eyes shut. She couldn’t watch and just knew the curricle was going to crash. As they came to another turn, Mr. Bingley’s hip slid into hers as his side of the curricle came up.
“I demand that you stop this at once, Charles Bingley!” Jane shouted. The uncharacteristic demanding tone shocked Charles into calming the ponies, but it was a good quarter mile before the curricle slowed to a stop. As soon as the wheels came to a halt, Jane Bennet shoved herself away from Mr. Bingley and helped herself down.
“Jane! Please, Miss Bennet!” Jane began to walk back towards town, feeling so very cross with herself for imagining that the sweet man she met at the assembly all those months ago had returned. Instead, there was the Mr. Bingley she became acquainted with in London, a man with a quick smile, congenial attitude, and complete disregard for the serious things in life. She continued to walk, but already the rocks on the road were making her slippered feet ache.
“Please, Miss Bennet. You must stop. I will drive you back.”
“Not in that, you won’t. You nearly killed us both!” she shouted back.
Charles struggled to keep control of the curricle and keep the ponies as slow as the pace of Miss Bennet’s walking. Finally, he stopped the curricle altogether and jumped down. He rushed around to the front of the ponies to head Miss Bennet off on the right side. At first, she tried to sidestep him, but he held out his arms, and she finally stopped and crossed her arms.
“I never meant to hurt you, Jane. I drive this fast all the time on these roads; it’s a complete rush, I tell you.” Still, she frowned at him, and Bingley took off his hat in contrition. “I had hoped to give you a small thrill, a little excitement since we’ve both been cooped up in parlors and drawing rooms.” He looked at the ground in shame.
Jane couldn’t stay angry with him. “Do you promise to slow down? It would be charming to ride and have some conversation.” She gave him a small smile as he looked up at her. He reached for her hand and kissed the top.
“I solemnly promise. I’ll even give you the reins and let you drive.” Jane’s eyes lit up when he offered to let her drive. Carefully, he helped her back into the curricle, and they began the trip back to town, this time at a quarter of the speed they had left town. Jane relished controlling the ponies and felt herself sitting taller and more elevated in the leather bench seat of the equipage. “Can you imagine spending our Saturday afternoons riding in London just so?” Bingley began a conversation about their potential future lives. Jane twisted her mouth into a line of disapproval.
“Perhaps we would spend our afternoons riding just so here in Hertfordshire? You do plan to purchase Netherfield Park, do you not?”
“To be honest, my plans are not yet set. That is, purchasing an estate was my father’s dream, and while I leased the property to learn more about owning an estate, I cannot say that it’s a dream of mine. I find London suits my needs much more closely.”
A small bump in the road jostled Jane, and Charles reached over to steady her hands. The touch was novel, but Jane didn’t find it made her heart flutter as it had before. Her disappointment in losing what she counted as her future—raising her family amongst families she had known her whole life—had darkened her mood. Loving Bingley and becoming his wife looked to be the surest way to find herself lost in the London crowd. Faced suddenly with a new prospect, Jane didn’t know what she thought about such a dramatically different future from what she had seen for herself.
As the curricle came back into sight of Meryton, Jane offered the reins back to Charles and answered his other queries with pleasant conversation. They arrived at her aunt’s home just as her mother and Lydia were returning, and Jane gave a meek farewell to Mr. Bingley before allowing her mother to shower him with her effusive compliments.
You've been reading A Spring Sentiment
A Spring Sentiment, Book 2 of the Seasons of Serendipity
a Pride and Prejudice novella variation series
Release Date: September 24, 2014
33,000 words, ~162 pages in print.
After losing her father in autumn and falling in love with Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet quickly feels the frustrations of settling her newly widowed mother and making her debut in London society. Tackling adventures in three counties, the Bennet sisters find new paths opening up before them. A mistake by one sister places the whole family at risk and it takes the full Bennet family strength and friends they can rely on to help Darcy and Elizabeth march down that wedding aisle!
A Spring Sentiment is the second book in a series planned to chronicle 4 years of the Darcy-Bennet-Fitzwilliam families. Death, marriage, changing fortunes, and politics test Jane Austen's wonderful characters in an alternate universe where the girls have not the protection of their father.
"Elizabeth Ann West keeps writing winners. She has a gift, She can transport you to another time" - Debbie Oelke, Amazon.com 5-star review on A Spring Sentiment
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