The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles by Jack Caldwell
Greetings, everyone. Jack Caldwell here. For some time, thanks to St. Valentine (and Hallmark Cards), the month of February is known for love and hearts and all that stuff. (It’s also the graveyard of televised sports, as it falls between the end of football and the start of NASCAR, but I digress…)
Anyhoo, as I’ve been working on my next two novels, I decided to post this excerpt from a possible future book. (Hey, I’ve got five or more books in my head at any given time. My muse likes to work overtime.)
Tentatively entitled THE COURTSHIP OF ELIZABETH BENNET, it runs with the idea that Darcy tells Elizabeth the truth about Wickham the morning after the Netherfield Ball, and before they realize it, they are in an accidental courtship. They try to make the best of it; however, these are the pre-Hunsford Elizabeth and Darcy. Which means an arrogant Darcy likes an oblivious Elizabeth more than she likes him.
Still, our boy can be romantic when her tries. Here’s your Valentine …
Once the visit was over, Jane and Elizabeth escorted their gentlemen from Longbourn to their awaiting conveyance. While Bingley made his tender adieus to Jane by the carriage door, Darcy and Elizabeth walked a little away to give the engaged couple privacy.
Darcy graced his lady’s hand with a soft, quick kiss. “And so, I must take my leave of Hertfordshire’s loveliest lady.”
Elizabeth, still not comfortable with her suitor’s newly-displayed ability to flirt, took refuge in her wit. “Ah, but you are speaking to the wrong lady, sir! Shall I have my sister step over? For as we all know, she is the most beautiful lady in Hertfordshire!”
To her surprise, Darcy did not laugh. Instead, his countenance grew grave. Never releasing her hand, he turned and beheld Jane and Bingley for a moment with a considering gaze. He then returned his serious attention to Elizabeth.
“I know no such thing,” his said in a low, measured way, his eyes intense. “Miss Bennet is pretty, to be sure, but not handsome enough to tempt me. You, on the other hand, are all that is lovely and beautiful.
“Beauty is far more that a pleasant countenance. Beauty is the love and devotion to walk three miles in the mud to nurse a sister. Beauty is the flushed complexion that comes from being out of doors. Beauty performs on the pianoforte not with skill but feeling. Beauty is wit and intelligence, compassion and courage. Beauty is honesty and loyalty and constancy of character. Beauty is the charity of a second chance offered to an unworthy man. Beauty is the strength of mind that overcomes pride, both in others and in one’s self. And beauty has eyes of such expression and enchantment that they pierce the soul.
“Pray do not diminish yourself in my hearing, Elizabeth. I will not stand for it. Your sister, as kind and good as she is, has the beauty of a fine painting in a gallery, there to be beheld and admired by all. Your beauty is inside and out, alive and glowing. It is for a man to possess, and in his turn, be possessed. It is intended to connect with one person for a lifetime.
“I burn for your beauty, Elizabeth. Compared to you, your sister is nothing.”
This was a statement from which Elizabeth was not soon to be recovered! She stared in open-mouthed astonishment as Darcy tenderly kissed the inside of both her wrists. Her knees threatened to buckle.
“I will count the moments until I return for the Twelfth Night assembly. I want all your dances, Miss Elizabeth, but I will beg for the first and last. Will you be so kind to grant them to me?”
“Y-you have them, Mr. Darcy,” she managed.
Darcy smiled—a tender, private smile—his dimples in clear evidence. Already a well-formed gentleman, Mr. Darcy now became the handsomest she had ever seen, handsomer than even Mr. Wickham. He tucked her hand into his arm and together they walked to the carriage in silence. It was just as well—Elizabeth could not speak for the world. They stood together while Mr. Bingley boarded, Jane wiping away a tear.
By now Elizabeth was mistress of herself. “Farewell, Mr. Darcy,” she said in her normal voice. “I wish you safe journey.”
His dark eyes never leaving her, Darcy bowed. “Until we meet again, Miss Elizabeth.” He then bowed to Jane, and with one last, serious look to Elizabeth joined Bingley in the carriage. A moment later, they were off, and Elizabeth, with a lump in her throat, stood in the drive, silently watching the carriage until it disappeared around the bend.
Now, please don’t get excited. I have no idea when, or if, COURTSHIP will get completed. Happy Mardi Gras, everybody! Until next time, this has been the Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles.
It takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story…