Here is Chapter 9 of my WIP, that I hope to have published by the end of October. I will post 4 more chapters on Fridays in October, with the first 3 posts revealinsomething about the book. Next week I will reveal the title, the following week I will reveal the cover, the week after that,I will be revealing the blurb, and then finally, on the last Friday, I hope to have my official book launch. I hope you enjoy!
Here is the link to the first chapter, if you have just joined us!
Mrs. Bennet arrived at Netherfield later that day with Kitty and Lydia. They were shown into the drawing room where Elizabeth and the others had gathered. As the guests walked in, Elizabeth’s mother spoke effusively of the fine home, elegant furnishings, and its most esteemed occupants.
Elizabeth could readily see Mr. Bingley’s rapt interest in her mother’s ramblings, in sharp contrast to the expressions of disgust on the faces of the others. If Mr. Bingley was not earnest in how warmly he received her verbosity, he was very good at disguise. In truth, Elizabeth felt he was genuinely interested in all she said.
Miss Bingley politely invited them to have a seat, and they talked of the neighbourhood and last night’s storm. Mrs. Bennet told of the excitement in the Bennet household over the news from her eldest daughter Jane, who would be returning with her new beau in a little over a week.
“I cannot wait to meet Mr. Marshall!” Mrs. Bennet declared. “I am certain he must have been taken by her great beauty. You will see when you meet her. Everyone in the neighbourhood says she is by far the prettiest young lady around.”
Mr. Bingley smiled. “I will be delighted to meet your daughter and Mr. Marshall. I am certain you must be pleased she will be home shortly.”
By the manner in which Mrs. Bennet spoke, Elizabeth was certain that if there was not yet an understanding between the two of them when they arrived, her mother would make certain there would be one directly.
“You must give a ball when they return!” Lydia pleaded with Mr. Bingley. “We so long for a ball!”
Mr. Bingley smiled. “That is a splendid idea.” He looked at his sister. “Caroline, what do you think?”
Miss Bingley smiled sweetly, muttering an affirmative, but she gave Mr. Darcy a pained glance. Elizabeth smiled, as well, knowing the two were not pleased by this splendid idea.
After a bit more idle conversation, the party took their leave, as Mrs. Bennet profusely expressed thanks and appreciation for all they had done for Elizabeth.
As the carriage pulled away, Mrs. Bennet clasped her hands and turned to Elizabeth. “Now, you must tell me all that happened! Mr. Bingley is such an excellent man, Lizzy. I could not be more delighted by the way things have turned out for both you and your sister!”
Elizabeth turned her head to glance out the window. I fear she will not be delighted when I tell her Mr. Bingley may not be someone I consider suitable for me, but I shall wait until later to enlighten her with that news.
Darcy stood at the window watching the Bennet carriage pull away from Netherfield. His shoulders rose and then quickly lowered as he saw Bingley wave joyfully, while Miss Bingley abruptly spun around to return to the house. His chest tightened and his throat constricted as he considered the predicament in which he found himself. How could he have formed this misplaced affection for a young lady who had such questionable family connections, a lowly fortune, and who was completely unsuitable for him? But was she truly unsuitable?
He let out a groan. In his estimation, her only true unsuitability was that his friend had met her first and was well on his way to being in love with her. He inhaled deeply. And worse, she seemed inclined to return that affection and seemed to have little regard for him.
He pondered all he had discovered about her since their first meeting, and it had become very apparent to him that she was an exceptional young lady, one who shared his enjoyment of many things. This would be easy enough to overlook, however, had she not unwittingly penetrated his heart.
His gaze was solemn as the carriage made a turn and disappeared from view. He felt a pang of emptiness flare within him. His head dropped as he wondered if there was anything he could do to discourage his friend from this attachment… or to rid himself of the ardent affection he felt for the same lovely woman – a rare woman who took delight in walking in the early morning, playing chess, reading a five- hundred-page book, and watching thunderstorms.
Brief as the lightning in the collied night, that, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth, And ere a man hath power to say ‘Behold!’ The jaws of darkness to devour it up: So quick bright things comes to confusion. Darcy gave a quick shake of his head. “Confusion, indeed! Shakespeare’s words have never seemed so significant!”
Miss Bingley stepped into the room. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Darcy; did you say something?”
Darcy quickly shook his head and turned away from the window. “No.”
“I did hear you, and I can surely guess what you were saying under your breath. What are we to do about this, Mr. Darcy? Miss Elizabeth Bennet may be lively and intelligent, but certainly you can see that her family is vulgar with no fortune or connections. She speaks her mind too freely for my taste, and I am of the opinion she is not at all suitable for Charles. He can do so much better. You must talk some sense into him!”
Darcy rubbed his chin. “I would agree Miss Elizabeth Bennet is unsuited for Charles, but perhaps not for the reasons you think.” He shook his head. “All we can do is to wait to see what happens. You know your brother. Once a prettier face comes along, he will suddenly shift his affections to her.” He could only hope!
Miss Bingley smiled. “I am delighted you concur with me on her unsuitability, no matter the reason. It is true my brother might be swayed by a prettier face. I wish I knew of someone suitable that I could bring to Netherfield. I would do it in an instant.” She turned to Darcy. “Certainly, you must think of something we can do to bring this nonsense to a stop.”
“I will give it some thought.” On that, he could definitely agree to Miss Bingley’s request.
“Why could he not have formed an attachment to someone who is of consequence in society? Perhaps the daughter of an earl or baronet.” Miss Bingley collapsed into a nearby chair.
“Bingley could care less about those things.”
“He might not care about them, but I certainly do!” Miss Bingley drew in a few breaths to calm herself, bringing her fingers up to massage her temple. “Oh, I can barely tolerate this.” She shook her head slowly. “Mr. Darcy, you must know that my brother considers you an invaluable friend. You only need to say a few words to him to steer him in a more proper direction!”
Darcy turned away. How could he persuade his friend of Miss Bennet’s inferior standing in society when he could not even convince himself of it? And even if he did talk Bingley out of this infatuation, could he follow that by stepping in and declaring his own intentions regarding her?
“Heavens! I know I will miss having Miss Bennet around!” Mr. Bingley announced jovially as he walked in. “Is she not delightful?”
Darcy did not answer directly, but unwittingly looked at Miss Bingley, who met his gaze with a glare. He was suddenly aware that he was clenching both his fists and his jaw. He forced himself to relax and swallowed to moisten his dry throat. “Indeed, Bingley. That she is.”
Elizabeth looked forward to seeing Jane and the Gardiners, as well as the addition of Mr. Marshall and a family member no one had ever met. Her father informed the family of the forthcoming arrival of Mr. Collins, a cousin, who was to inherit Longbourn when Mr. Bennet died.
Mrs. Bennet lamented that this cousin was only coming to survey what would one day belong to him. Mr. Bennet, on the other hand, assured his wife that he had no plans to die any time soon, and he informed her that Mr. Collins only wished to mend the breach that had occurred years ago between him and his father.
The cousin was a clergyman from Kent, and the day before he was to arrive, everyone conjectured about what he might be like. Kitty insisted he would be handsome, since he was a cousin of theirs. Lydia, however, protested that he would never be as handsome as the soldiers in red coats. Mary scolded the girls for talking so, but seemed excited to meet him. Elizabeth listened with good humour, for the only thing she looked forward to was the arrival of Jane, for then, she would finally meet Mr. Marshall.
About four hours before Mr. Collins had said he would reach Longbourn, the sound of a carriage alerted the household that someone had arrived.
Kitty rushed to the window. “It is Aunt and Uncle Gardiner’s carriage! Jane has returned!”
“Oh! They are here! They are here! Mr. Bennet, come quickly! Jane is here with Mr. Marshall!”
They rushed outdoors to greet the travellers, who stepped out of the carriage to squeals of delight.
Mrs. Bennet rushed towards Jane with outstretched arms. “Oh, Jane! You have returned!” She gave her a hug and then pulled back. “And my, you are glowing with beauty!” She leaned in with a sly smile. “Could there be a particular reason for this?”
Jane blushed and shook her head. “It is mainly due to the joy I feel at finally being home.”
Once everyone had welcomed Jane and the Gardiners with hugs and kisses, Jane introduced Mr. Marshall to her family. He had been standing back to allow the family time to greet each other.
“We are so delighted to make your acquaintance, sir!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed. “We welcome you to our home!”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Marshall.” Mr. Bennet extended his hand. “It will be nice to have another gentleman in the home.”
Mr. Marshall grasped the offered hand. “Thank you, sir. I have heard so much about each of you.”
“Hurry along! Let us get inside. We have refreshments for you.” Mrs. Bennet led the way.
As they returned to the house, Elizabeth took Mrs. Gardiner’s arm. “I am so pleased Mr. Marshall was able to accompany you on your return trip.”
“Yes. I think it will be good for him to get to know the family.” Mrs. Gardiner squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “Hopefully you will not be too upset at us, but your uncle and I plan to freshen up and then we need to leave for London directly.”
“Must you? You cannot stay at least until the morrow?”
“Our children have been left with their nanny far too long. While they are in good hands, we are eager to get home to them. A short visit, quick bite to eat, and something to drink, and we will be on our way.”
Elizabeth stopped and tugged her aunt’s arm. “Tell me, what are your thoughts on Jane and Mr. Marshall?”
Mrs. Gardiner looked at the couple. “One could not ask for a finer gentleman. He is kind, polite, and very attentive to her.”
“And?” Elizabeth asked.
Mrs. Gardiner chuckled. “Neither of them are particularly expressive in the display of their feelings. It may be good that they are both reserved in that way, but I hope in time they will exhibit more enthusiasm in their interactions.”
Elizabeth glanced over to the couple. Mr. Marshall was speaking earnestly with her father. “I do hope I shall like him. I would not wish for Jane to marry anyone but a man who is the very best for her.”
Patting Elizabeth’s hand, her aunt said, “He is everything that is good and honourable. He is very practical and considerate. Indeed, I find nothing objectionable in his character.”
“And he is handsome, as well,” Elizabeth laughed. “Perhaps not in a striking way, but rather in a very… how should I say this… acceptable way.”
“Now that, Lizzy, is an interesting observation.” Mrs. Gardiner laughed, and her niece joined in.
After the weary travellers freshened up, they gathered in the drawing room for much needed refreshments. The Bennets were in rapt attention as they listened not only to the Gardiners and Jane give an account of their trip, but also to Mr. Marshall as he discussed living in the Lake District.
“Oh, the beauty of the place! Every time I visit, I am in awe of it,” Mr. Gardiner declared.
“The scenery is forever changing,” Jane said. “Under a dark, cloudy sky, all the blues and greens of the water and trees were subdued. Then suddenly, there would be a break in the clouds, and a ray of sunlight would dance atop the shrubberies and treetops, lighting them up in a brilliant display of colours as the cloud sauntered across the sky.”
“And how the lakes glistened like silver when touched by the sun,” Mrs. Gardiner said.
“We could have watched it for hours,” Jane said.
Elizabeth turned to Mr. Marshall. “It must be wonderful to live in such a place.”
He nodded. “Indeed, it is. The lakes provide a perfect environment for fishing, which I greatly enjoy. If I could, I would weather storms, wind, and even snow just to fish.”
Elizabeth narrowed her brows as she looked at Jane, knowing her sister was not particularly fond of fish. She hoped she could learn to like it.
“But the scenery…” she continued. “Certainly, you must never tire of looking about.”
“Perhaps I have grown accustomed to its beauty, although I am certainly not insensible of it. It was delightful seeing it afresh through the eyes of Miss Bennet and the Gardiners.” He chuckled. “I am no William Wordsworth; no one can describe the lakes better than he does in his poems.” He turned to gaze upon Jane and then looked at the Gardiners. “Yet, I was surprisingly moved by their words of admiration as we walked about.”
Elizabeth sat back and pondered the possibility of living in a place of natural beauty like that, knowing she would forever be in awe of it. For now, she was content to walk up Oakham Mount and enjoy the prospect from the summit whenever she had the opportunity.
The Gardiners departed after a short visit, and the Bennets continued to enjoy Mr. Marshall’s company. Elizabeth carefully observed Jane, and while it was true she did not overtly display her admiration and affections, she had a ready smile whenever he addressed her.
“Now that we have heard all about the lakes, you must tell us about your family, Mr. Marshall.” Mrs. Bennet smiled at the young man.
“We understand that your family was acquainted with the Gardiners in London,” Elizabeth said.
“Yes. My father was a barrister in town and did quite well there. We had a distant uncle who owned a small manor and some land in the Lake District, and we visited often over the years. When he died, my father inherited it, as this uncle had no children of his own.”
“Is your father still practicing as a barrister?” Mr. Bennet asked.
Mr. Marshall shook his head. “He received a commission to be the magistrate in the county.”
“And do you aspire to follow in his shoes?” Elizabeth asked.
“Hardly,” he said with a laugh. “When I was younger, of course, I wanted to be just like him. My interests are now in managing our small manor and the tenants and farmers we have on our land.” He drew in a long breath. “I do enjoy doing that.” He turned back to Mrs. Bennet. “But as I said earlier, I enjoy taking the boat out to do some fishing. The lake is teeming with perch and trout.”
Mrs. Bennet clasped her hands tightly together. “Ah, a small manor and a boat to take out on the water. That does sound lovely!” She waggled her brows as she looked at Jane.
Mr. Marshall smiled. “It is not as grand as some of the manors in the country, but it does serve its purpose.”
The Bennets were so captivated by Mr. Marshall and learning more about him, they had completely forgotten about their other guest who was to arrive.
When they heard the sound of another carriage, Mrs. Bennet looked with surprise at the others. “Now who can that be?”
Mr. Bennet walked to the window. “I believe it must be Mr. Collins!” He turned back to the others. “Excuse me while I go see to him.”
“Who is Mr. Collins?” Jane asked.
Mrs. Bennet waved a handkerchief through the air. “He is your father’s cousin, the one who is to inherit Longbourn when your father dies.” She turned to Mr. Marshall, suddenly mindful of his presence. “Oh, but you have no need to worry, for Mr. Bennet has informed me he is in the best of health and has no plans to die any time soon!”
“Why is he coming here?” Jane asked.
Elizabeth could see that her mother regretted having blurted out about the entail and most likely did not want to risk saying anything else, so she answered. “According to Papa, he wants to mend the breach that was between him and his father.”
“I see,” Jane said. “Have we met Mr. Collins before?”
“No, we have not.” Mrs. Bennet leaned towards Mr. Marshall. “He is a clergyman in Kent. Apparently, he has a very prestigious patroness.”
Mr. Marshall merely nodded, and then all heads turned to the door as voices were heard approaching.
“Longbourn is delightful, Mr. Bennet. I am certain I will find your family as charming as the home.”
“Well, Mr. Collins, you shall now meet them. They are in here.”
The two men entered. Mr. Collins wore a stiff smile on his face and gave a deep bow.
Mr. Bennet extended his hand towards the others. “May I present my cousin, Mr. Collins?”
Kitty and Lydia whispered something to each other and giggled, prompting Mary to send them a chastising look.
Mr. Bennet made the introductions, and polite conversation ensued. Elizabeth readily observed that the young clergyman’s gaze rarely moved from Jane. As he spoke of Rosings Park, the home of his patroness, he often glanced in her direction with a smile. Jane was considered at least five times prettier than any of her sisters, but Elizabeth determined this would certainly not do. Especially as Mr. Marshall seemed to have noticed it, as well.
Elizabeth looked directly at their cousin. “Mr. Collins, you must tell us more about Rosings Park. You have mentioned it several times. I am certain my mother would love to hear about it.”
“Oh, certainly!” gushed Mr. Collins. “It would be difficult to find a more magnificent home. Inside and out, it is superior to any home I have seen.”
Elizabeth was glad he had turned to her mother as he spoke, although he still stole quick glances at Jane. He continued to speak effusively not only about the home, but about Lady Catherine de Bourgh, his patroness, and her daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh.
“And how old is Miss de Bourgh?” Mrs. Bennet asked.
“She is not yet seven and twenty, and although somewhat frail, a finer lady one will never meet.”
“She is out, I suppose?” Mrs. Bennet asked.
Mr. Collins gave a slight wave of his hand as he shook his head. “No, but she truly has no need.” A triumphant smile emerged. “She is engaged to her cousin, the illustrious Mr. Darcy.”
Elizabeth gave a start. “Mr. Darcy? Do you mean Mr. Darcy of Pemberley?”
Mr. Collins smiled. “The very one! Are you acquainted with him?”
“Yes, we are, but only recently. He is the good friend of our new neighbour, Mr. Bingley.” She pinched her brows as she asked, “You said he is engaged to his cousin?”
Mr. Collins nodded enthusiastically. “Indeed! It is an engagement that was the wish of his aunt and his mother, made in their infancy.”
Kitty and Lydia giggled at the absurdity of such an announcement, and while Elizabeth wished she could laugh at it, as well, she remained silent. Her mind, however, pondered this surprising revelation.
Mr. Collins sat up erect, and his eyes widened. “Is Mr. Darcy perchance in the neighbourhood now?”
Mrs. Bennet clasped her hands. “Indeed, he is!”
“I have never met the man, but I have heard much about him.” He gave a simpering smile and clasped his hands. “Lady Catherine will be delighted when she hears about this good fortune.”
Elizabeth leaned back in her chair as their cousin continued to describe Rosings and the parsonage, which Lady Catherine had much improved before his arrival. Elizabeth found it difficult to attend to his conversation, however, as she pondered the unexpected news about Mr. Darcy. It surprised her, due to Miss Bingley’s apparent interest in the gentleman. She assumed Mr. Bingley would know of his friend’s engagement and would have informed his sister of it. Perhaps Miss Bingley considered it only a minor obstacle that she could readily overcome. Elizabeth silently chuckled. The woman would likely be willing to do anything to secure his affections, and most likely felt completely able to do so.
Mr. Collins continued to speak in a wearisome and droning manner, and it was apparent he was completely unaware of the stupor that had overcome his audience. Kitty and Lydia whispered between themselves, giggling occasionally, her mother had grown quiet, and her father tapped his fingers on his legs restlessly. Even Jane, who was always so generous towards others, was politely trying to stifle a yawn. Mr. Marshall stared straight ahead with little evident emotion on his face. The only one who seemed enraptured was Mary, which Elizabeth did not find surprising.
At length, Mr. Collins excused himself, saying he wished to go to his room to freshen up. This delighted Elizabeth, as she wanted some time alone with Jane and Mr. Marshall. She wished to get to know him better and see if she could witness the effusive admiration for Mr. Marshall that Jane had spoken about in her letter.
Elizabeth stood up. “Jane, Mr. Marshall, as it is such a pleasant afternoon, I wondered if you would care to take a turn in the garden. I would imagine after several days of sitting in a carriage you would enjoy some exercise. Would you care to accompany me?”
Mr. Marshall looked enquiringly at Jane, and she nodded. “Yes, Lizzy. I would like that very much.” She turned to Mr. Marshall. “Would you care to join us in the garden?”
“I would, indeed!” He rose and offered his arm to Jane as she stood.
When they stepped outside, Elizabeth turned to them both with a frustrated look. “I did not think Mr. Collins would ever stop talking about Rosings. I wanted so much to spend some time with both of you.” She addressed Mr. Marshall. “I do not know if Jane told you, but she and I are extremely close.” She leaned in to give Jane a hug. “I missed you so much and am delighted you are returned.”
“I am, as well, Lizzy.”
“What did you think of Mr. Collins?” Elizabeth asked with a laugh.
“Mr. Collins is…” Jane paused and shrugged. “I suppose you might call him an interesting character.”
“As to that, there can be no doubt!” Mr. Marshall said with a laugh. “I would think he would have had the sense to see that none of us were interested in the windows and fireplaces at Rosings.”
Elizabeth laughed. “He did go on and on about the home and his patroness.”
“Do you think perhaps that he may have been nervous?” Jane asked. “He was likely uncertain how we would receive him.”
Mr. Marshall shook his head. “I did perceive that he was nervous when he first arrived. After receiving such a warm and gracious welcome, however, he seemed intent on making a good impression of his situation to your family.”
“Well, whatever his reason,” Elizabeth said, “I thought his descriptions of Rosings, Lady Catherine, and her daughter would never cease!” She shook her head. “To think she is Mr. Darcy’s aunt!”
“Who is this Mr. Darcy?” Jane asked. “You wrote about Mr. Bingley in your letter, but not about Mr. Darcy.”
“There was nothing to write about him,” she answered. “He is supposedly a good friend of Mr. Bingley’s, but…” she paused as she considered what she ought to say. “I find him a little too officious, for my liking.”
“From the way Mr. Collins spoke of his aunt, it sounds like they are very similar.” Mr. Marshall pressed his lips together and nodded. “I find there are certain familial traits that extend even beyond the immediate family.”
“Tell me more about Mr. Bingley, Lizzy.” Jane turned to Mr. Marshall to explain. “He is a new neighbour of ours.”
Elizabeth decided she would talk about him as though he were merely an acquaintance, as is seemed Jane had not told Mr. Marshall about him. “He is very kind and generous, lively, and almost always has a smile on his face. I have never heard one word of complaint out of his mouth. He seems to enjoy everything and everyone.” She shook her head. “One could not ask for a finer neighbour.”
“He does sound agreeable,” Jane said.
Mr. Marshall rubbed his jaw, and with a teasing smile said, “He sounds a great deal like someone with whom I just recently made an acquaintance.”
Jane looked up at him. “Truly? Who is that?”
Mr. Marshall let out a hearty laugh. “It is you, Miss Bennet.” He turned to Elizabeth. “I have never heard a critical word from her since first making her acquaintance.”
“Although you have not known her very long, Mr. Marshall, I have known her my whole life and have yet to hear her speak an unkind word to anyone or about anyone.”
The trio laughed, and they continued to walk in the small garden until it was time to return to the house to ready themselves for dinner. As Elizabeth went to her room, she pondered Mr. Marshall. He was a nice-looking gentleman and very kind, but as her aunt claimed, he was also very practical, seeing things as black or white. Jane, on the other hand, tended to be more lenient in her appraisal of people and situations. Elizabeth sat down at her dressing table and looked in the mirror.
She toyed with a wayward strand of hair as she considered the two prominent men in her and her sister’s lives. She was fairly certain she knew how things would turn out between her and Mr. Bingley, but she could not help but wonder about Jane and Mr. Marshall. She hoped things would turn out well for both of them.