We’re in week 3 of our ‘Jane in January’ event and hope you are enjoying our special focus on “Pride and Prejudice.” The giveaways associated with this event will be distributed through RaffleCopter, so be sure to sign into it with your email to be entered. We will announce winners by Sunday afternoon of each week.
26 January 1812.
An hour prior, Colonel Fitzwilliam had appeared in his study, insisting they had to venture out to a shop in Cheapside. Cheapside! Of course, he had refused, if for no other reason, but to avoid yet another reminder of Elizabeth Bennet. Was there nothing that would spare him the torment of her memory? Unfortunately, his cousin would not leave him to the solitude of his library.
“I must insist you finally tell me where we are going,” he demanded in a surly tone.
Fitzwilliam lifted his eyebrows. “My but you are ill-tempered this morning. What has you in such a mood these days?”
“You are aware how much I dislike the balls and dinner parties of the season? I have had to endure your mother’s Twelfth Night ball as well as a dinner party given by none other than Miss Bingley. I should think those two events alone would be enough to sour anyone’s disposition.” Darcy steered his attention to the view outside the window as he attempted to avoid any further discourse on the subject.
A hearty chuckle came from across the carriage. “The only teeth set on edge by Miss Bingley belong to you, cousin, and I daresay it is your own fault.”
His head jerked back. “My fault?”
“You are too concerned with offending Bingley, so you do not treat her in the curt manner you do most women.”
Aggravation with his cousin’s observation and the situation welled within him. “I may not enjoy speaking with the ladies as you do, but I am not curt.”
The colonel gave a small snort. “I beg to differ. I have seen many a lady who was offended by your method of keeping them at bay.”
“I have no wish to be ensnared by any of them, so I ensure I do nothing to encourage their hopes.” With a heavy exhale, Darcy grimaced. “But I am afraid my latest endeavour to be of aid to Bingley has not helped the matter with Miss Bingley.”
His cousin’s expression reflected his curiosity as he leaned forward in his seat. “So, you have saved Bingley from himself once again? What was it this time? Another bad investment opportunity?”
Darcy shook his head. “Bingley became enamoured of a local girl while in Hertfordshire.”
“That does not sound too dire,” responded the colonel. “He is always fancying himself in love; it passes soon enough.”
Again, he shook his head. “No, this time was different. Bingley showed a decided preference for the young lady from the first of their acquaintance, and by the time of the ball at Netherfield, it became apparent that he had raised the expectations of the neighbourhood. They all believed him soon to propose.”
His cousin furrowed his brows. “You felt a marriage to this lady to be imprudent?”
Darcy closed his eyes as he envisioned the deplorable behaviour of Mrs Bennet and the three youngest Bennet daughters. “It would have been a most imprudent match. She had little dowry, no connections, and the behaviour of her family was objectionable, to say the least.”
“You must consider it a triumph to have successfully separated the two.”
“You can be certain,” he stated with conviction. “My only regret is that by being in collusion with Miss Bingley, she seems more assured I will one day propose to her. She is intolerable.
Colonel Fitzwilliam regarded Darcy with a critical eye, prompting him to shift in his seat. “Come to think of it, your insufferable mood was not present until your return with Bingley.” A smirk lit his cousin’s face. “Did you make the acquaintance of a woman in Hertfordshire? Would you be pining for someone as unsuitable as Bingley’s new angel?”
He scoffed as he adjusted his cuffs. Elizabeth Bennet? Unsuitable? If not for her family and connections, she would be eminently suitable. “You are ridiculous. I would never be so imprudent.”
The colonel sighed. “No, I suppose you would not.”
“What is so special about this wine and brandy merchant?” asked Darcy, with the intention of changing the subject.
“As I told you earlier, he boasts of a particularly fine assortment of port, claret, and brandy. My father was impressed by their selection when he placed his order for the ball. I thought you might wish to meet the proprietor.”
He suppressed a smile at the success of his manoeuver. “I do not see the urgency of such a matter. I have a perfectly adequate supplier on Piccadilly Street, who I have used since my father passed.”
With an irritated huff, his cousin sat back against the squabs. “I would wager this man’s prices to be more reasonable. He will also deliver to Grosvenor Square and Belgravia, which means you should not have to return once you have set up an account.”
The two gentlemen stared at one another for a few seconds until Colonel Fitzwilliam shook his head and turned to watch the buildings pass through the window.
A row of houses along Gracechurch Street drew Darcy’s particular interest while he avoided further conversation with his cousin. Did one of them belong to the uncle of Elizabeth Bennet? He had never taken the time to study the neighbourhood in the past, and he had to admit some of these homes were actually pleasant and well tended. Of course, the appearances did not necessarily correspond to the personalities of the owners. After all, Longbourn was not objectionable from all outward appearances.
A small park ahead caught his eye. Had Miss Elizabeth ever walked in that park? With her love for the activity, she must have during one of her visits to her family. He could almost envision her strolling through the trees, her hair windswept and the hem of her dress stained with grass and dirt—much as she had appeared upon her arrival at Netherfield to care for her sister.
They drew closer, and a young lady at the front gates came into focus, revealing her to be none other than Jane Bennet. Darcy leaned back from the window, while he watched her walk into the park hand in hand with a small child, a servant trailing behind.
He would have to ensure Bingley remained away from Cheapside for the near future. They had struggled so to prevent his return to Hertfordshire and to conceal Miss Bennet’s presence in London; it would not do for him to happen upon her now.
“There is a handsome young lady,” said his cousin, interrupting his thoughts. “Who is she?”
With a shrug of his shoulders, Darcy donned a mask of feigned indifference. “How am I to know? I would imagine a tradesman’s daughter, one of good means by her dress.”
“You appeared to have recognised her, or at least, taken interest?”
“No, I am not acquainted with her, and as for her being of interest…” His last view as they passed was of Jane Bennet smiling to the child at her side. “She smiles too much.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam gave a bark of laughter. “That has to be the most preposterous notion I have ever heard you utter. What man has not been bewitched by the smile of a beautiful woman?”
Miss Elizabeth again came to mind and Darcy gave a wry grin. “Perhaps a pair of fine eyes might one day garner my notice.”
His cousin chuckled. “I pity you when they do. You are so accustomed to maintaining your distance, you will be at a loss as to how to win her favour.” He turned serious and held Darcy’s eye. “But she will be a lucky woman—a lucky woman indeed.”
Here are some of the prizes we are giving away in Jane in January:
Week Three Prizes:
From Maria Grace – 1 ‘Jane Austen said it best’ mousepad (US); 1 audio book (reader’s choice, US), 1 signed copy of “The Future Mrs. Darcy” (IUS), and 1 special gift for 2 international readers only, a short story that will not be freely available anywhere else.
From Monica Fairview – one e-book of “Mr. Darcy’s Pledge” UK, US or Canada only.
From Shannon Winslow – 1 signed paperback of “The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen” plus matching tote bag (US)
From Abigail Reynolds – 1 autographed copy of “What Would Mr. Darcy Do” and 1 “To Conquer Mr. Darcy” (US)
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