A Happy Friday to Everyone!
I am fortunate to be winding up the first week here at Austen Variations.
For those of you who don’t know me, I have written eight books based on Pride and Prejudice – Assumed Engagement, Assumed Obligation, Master Under Good Regulation, Drive and Determination, Darcy’s Voyage, Only Mr. Darcy Will Do, Pemberley Celebrations, and my most recent, Pirates and Prejudice, which was published last year. I began writing in 2001 and thoroughly enjoy the writing process.
I want to give you a little excerpt today from my WIP variation. Its working title is Mr. Darcy’s Rival, but that may change. In this excerpt, which takes place at Rosings, Elizabeth has determined to get to know Anne de Bourgh better, trying to reconcile this young lady as the one Mr. Darcy is supposedly going to marry. In addition to Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, there also is a nephew on the de Bourgh side of the family, a son of Sir Lewis de Bourgh’s sister. His name is Matthew Rickland and he has taken quite an interest in Miss Bennet.
I shall have a question for you to discuss at the end. It will not be what you expect at all.
An Excerpt from my WIP ~
“Come in,” Lady Catherine’s voice echoed in the large room.”
The party took their seats about the room. Mr. and Mrs. Collins entered first, taking the seats next to Lady Catherine, which put Charlotte next to Mr. Rickland. Maria sat on the other side of him, which left either a chair next to Mr. Darcy or next to Miss de Bourgh. Elizabeth decided she would sit next to Anne and see if she could engage the frail young lady again in conversation.
Conversations commenced with a spirited air amongst the different parties, which allowed Elizabeth the opportunity to speak with Miss de Bourgh.
“Will we see you at the musical soiree this Saturday?” Elizabeth asked.
The young girl looked at her with wide eyes, almost as if she was surprised she had been addressed.
She nodded slowly. “For a little while,” she said, almost sadly.
Elizabeth smiled. “I look forward to seeing you there. Do you enjoy music?”
Again she nodded. “I do, but I neither play nor sing.”
Elizabeth smiled sweetly. “But you have talent in other areas.”
Anne’s brows pinched together. “In other areas?”
Elizabeth pursed her lips together. “I am quite certain you excel in writing. You spend a great amount of time writing in your journal.”
Anne’s smile showed a hint of resignation. “I do enjoy it.”
Elizabeth leaned in towards her. “I would truly enjoy seeing how you describe something with your words. Your secret is safe with me.”
Anne’s eyes widened. “Oh, I could not.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I promise not to laugh.”
Anne looked about her, as if to see whether anyone was listening. Once assured that no one was paying attention, she whispered very softly, “Miss Bennet, no one knows that I write… stories.”
A blush painted Anne’s very pale cheeks and she nodded. “But I beg you not to say anything to anyone. My mother has not the faintest idea that I write such things, and she would be very upset if she found out. Only Mrs. Jenkinson knows, and she encouraged me because she feels I have a gift. She sent my stories off to her son in London, who has published two of them.”
Elizabeth had never seen the young lady so animated. She could not believe what she had been told. She looked up and saw Mr. Darcy’s eyes upon them, his brow narrowed. Perhaps he was concerned that she was tainting his intended’s mind with tales of living in a lowly, country neighbourhood of little significance.
She leaned in to Miss de Bourgh. “What type of stories do you write? Are they children’s stories?”
Anne shook her head, her blush growing deeper. “No, I write love stories. But they are not published under my name. I could never…”
Elizabeth reached over and took her hand. “I have never met an author! I am delighted with your accomplishment! Would you tell me what name your books are published under? I would love to read one, and I promise not to give away your secret.”
Anne’s brows knit together. “I do not know if I should…”
“Of what are you speaking?” Lady Catherine’s voice boomed from the other side of Elizabeth, her fan slapping down into her palm.
Elizabeth turned. She did not know whether the great lady was addressing Anne or herself. After a moment of silence, Elizabeth decided to answer. “We were speaking about the musical soiree and how much Anne enjoys music.”
Lady Catherine narrowed her eyes. “She does, but unfortunately she does not play an instrument. She enjoys listening. You will play for us, Miss Bennet? I should like to hear you play again. You may play two songs for us.”
Elizabeth nodded. “I shall be happy to.” She gave a friendly nod to Anne, who returned it with a smile. She might turn out to be just the perfect wife for Mr. Darcy after all, she thought. He will enjoy many an evening in her company in silence whilst she writes. Oh, it shall be a happy union, indeed!
Elizabeth walked over to the pianoforte and began looking through the selection of music. Mr. Rickland was soon by her side, assisting her in her choice. Colonel Fitzwilliam then came and stood on the other side of her.
“Since I am to play two pieces,” Elizabeth said, “you each may pick one out. But I do have the option of refusing your selection if I deem it too difficult.”
Elizabeth suddenly felt someone come and stand behind her. She knew from the look on Mr. Rickland’s face that it was Mr. Darcy.
She turned her head slightly towards him, noticing his arms were folded across his chest. “Did you come all this way to select a piece of music for me to play, Mr. Darcy? I fear your aunt has allowed me only two pieces and I had already asked Mr. Rickland and Colonel Fitzwilliam to select them.” She sent him a remorseful look.
“I trust that whatever pieces of music they select, you will play them quite well, Miss Bennet.”
Elizabeth turned to Mr. Rickland with a smile. “Mr. Darcy would have you believe I am more proficient at playing than I truly am and can play anything handed to me.”
“Here is a favourite of mine,” Mr. Rickland announced, handing her Pleyel’s Sonatina in D Major.
“And may we hear you play this?” asked Colonel Fitzwilliam. It was Haydn’s Sonata in G Major.
“I doubt that I shall be able to do these justice,” Elizabeth said apologetically. “But perhaps I can manage if I play them a little slower than written.” She moved to the pianoforte and sat down, flanked on either side by the two men. Darcy stood on the other side of the piano, looking across at her. She looked up at him. “Please do not flinch in any way when you hear my errors, Mr. Darcy. I know there shall be some, and fortunately I will not see the two men on either side of me when they grimace or shudder.”
“I shall do no such thing!” Rickland exclaimed. “I shall enjoy each note!”
“As will I, Miss Bennet,” Mr. Darcy assured her softly.
Elizabeth took in a deep breath and began. She played the first two pages rather slowly, but she soon felt confident in her fingering and sped up the tempo a little. She made several minor errors, but no one seemed to care, even Lady Catherine.
When she finished, she was rewarded with a soft applause and words of praise from those in the room.
Everyone was then rewarded with a delectable assortment of desserts to choose from and enjoy.
After they had finished, Lady Catherine casually looked towards the window and exclaimed, “It is nearing dusk. Mr. Collins, you ought to leave immediately in order to get everyone safely home before it is full dark. I am very attentive to these things.”
Mr. Collins shot up out of his chair and clasped his hands. “Yes! Yes! Of course, your ladyship. Come, Charlotte, we shall not keep Lady Catherine any longer.” With a bow, he gestured for everyone in his party to stand, and he began walking out of the room.
As Elizabeth walked passed Anne, she whispered, “It was good talking with you, Anne.”
Anne smiled and reached out her hand. Elizabeth took it and realized she had been passed a small piece of paper. She looked down at Anne with a question on her lips, but Anne shook her head.
Elizabeth nodded knowingly. Immediately realizing that Anne did not want her to look at it in front of everyone, she slipped it into her pocket.
When Elizabeth finally repaired to her room after their return to Hunsford, she pulled out the slip of paper. On it was written a name, Andy Berg.
This story is fairly well established in my mind as to the direction it’s going to go. But… in it, Elizabeth gets her hands on a novel that Anne de Bourgh has written under the name Andy Berg. She discovers that it is the story of her and Darcy growing up with the understanding that they are promised to each other in marriage. It is not a major plot in my novel, but it is certainly a part of it.
I am going to include small tidbits of Anne’s novel in my novel, but thought I would write out the novel here for you. And here is where you come in.
The first chapter will be when Anne and Darcy are very young. Of course they don’t understand the full meaning of their being promised to each other, but how do you think each of them would act towards the other? What was Anne like as a young girl? Had she been ill yet, or was she healthy and strong and lively? Was Darcy a typical rambunctious little boy, or was he well-mannered because of his strict upbringing? At this point, I don’t want your thoughts about them as they get older, but just as young children.
And what would be a good title for Anne’s story. I had thought either Intended to Love or The Intended Cousin, but what do you think?
Oh, and one more thing: Anne’s novel is fiction and has a very surprising ending, which will come to play in my novel as Elizabeth reads it.
Let me know your thoughts!