Since so many people enjoyed the last set of out-takes I posted, here is another set of scenes I had to cut from my new book. I hated cutting these since I really liked how they came out, so I’m glad to have the chance to share them. It also gives me an excuse to show off the cover of the new book, which I really love.
Here’s the background for the scenes: After Darcy and Elizabeth are trapped together by a snowstorm, they hope to avoid discovery of the incident, but eventually word gets out. To try to stem the gossip, Mr. Bennet sends Elizabeth to the Gardiners, where Jane is already staying.
At least Elizabeth did not have to travel in the stagecoach from Meryton. That would have been too much to bear, greeting her acquaintances with false smiles and watching them turn away. Her father at least had the kindness to send her to the next market town on the post route, only a mile or two farther from Longbourn, but in the opposite direction from Meryton. She was fortunate, too, in having to share the coach with only 3 other passengers, two snoring old gentlemen and a young man who looked at her inquisitively as she entered the coach. As they had not been introduced, she naturally could not speak to him, but gave him an apologetic smile before settling herself by the window.
She buried her hands in her muff and gazed mechanically out the window, though once they were past the river, it looked out only onto barren hedgerows. Hardly a pleasing sight, but at least she need not look at the other passengers who might wonder at her stormy expression.
This journey was a terrible mistake. The way to fight the scandal would be to pretend nothing untoward had occurred. Her departure would serve as proof of guilt. And to go to London, of all places! Mr. Darcy was known to have a townhouse there. Half the wagging tongues in Meryton would have her going to London solely to see him. But Mr. Bennet had, for once, been obdurate. She had to leave, and according to him, it only made sense to join Jane in London. Sense! There was no sense in it, except that it would free her father from the need to deal with the scandal. The price might prove too high, though. Mr. Bennet had instructed her to return in the spring, but the talk would only be worse for her absence. Elizabeth blinked back tears of frustration.
A moving fleck in the corner of her vision caught her attention, followed by another, then another. Snow. Just what she did not need – something else to remind her of Mr. Darcy. She wondered if she would ever be able to look at a snowflake again without a stab of pain in her chest and his voice whispering in her head, “Sleep well, sweet Lizzy.” Her hands tightened into fists inside the fur lining of her muff.
She willed the snow to disappear, but since the flakes continued to drift past, she closed her eyes instead. An image of their refuge took the place, this time in her mind instead of reality. If only she could be there again, with him, even if it meant the constant cold and gnawing hunger. She could almost smell the smoke from the fire.
Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst finally returned Jane’s call a few days after Elizabeth’s arrival. No sooner had they arrived than they were examining the premises with supercilious looks and commenting on how very crowded Gracechurch Street was.
“My dear Eliza,” cried Miss Bingley. “I did not expect to see you here.” The surprise was clearly not a pleasant one.
Elizabeth could hardly trouble herself to be polite after the incivility the ladies had shown in failing to return Jane’s call for so long. “My plans changed, and here I am. It must be a very busy time of year for you.”
“Oh, very much so. Parties, balls, soirees – you can hardly imagine the like.” Miss Bingley’s sniff should her view of the unlikelihood that the Bennet ladies would ever attend the sort of event she did.
Jane said, “I hope your family is well, and Mr. Hurst is recovered from his chill.”
“Oh, he has been better long since. My brother is quite well, and I must say he has become quite taken with Miss Darcy. He is calling on her today, and invited us to come, but understood when we told him where we were going.”
So either Mr. Bingley knew Jane was in town and did not care, or his sister was lying. Not that it mattered a great deal; the final outcome would be the same. Poor Jane! To distract their guests away from the pained look on Jane’s face, Elizabeth said, “Mr. Darcy must be glad to see so much of Mr. Bingley.”
“We have hardly seen Mr. Darcy these last few weeks.” Mrs. Hurst made her annoyance with him clear. “He has no time for his friends any more.”
Elizabeth’s heart jumped into her throat. “I hope nothing is the matter with him.”
Miss Bingley snapped her fan shut. “Nothing at all. His every moment is tied up with escorting Lady Frederica Fitzwilliam to one event or another.” She practically spat out the name. “If you had read the society columns in the paper, you could not have missed the news.”
A sick feeling made its way into Elizabeth’s stomach. “I do not believe I have heard Lady Frederica’s name before.”
“Of course you would not know of her. She is the daughter of the Earl of Matlock, and cousin to Mr. Darcy. She jilted Sir Anthony Danvers for Mr. Darcy’s sake.” Miss Bingley’s lips were in a thin line.
If this romance was so serious even Miss Bingley was acknowledging it, they must be on the point of announcing an engagement. And yet not a month ago Mr. Darcy had offered his hand to Elizabeth. How could he have done so when he was already involved with another woman? Had he ever meant his offer to her, or had it been extended only it the hope it would persuade her to allow him liberties? And of course it had, though no doubt not as much as he might have hoped. To think she had allowed herself to fall in love with him! The taste of ashes filled her mouth. “I hope they will be very happy. What is Lady Frederica like?”
Miss Bingley curled her lip. “She is pretty enough, I suppose, if you like blond hair and blue eyes, and well dowered. I have heard she has bluestocking tendencies, but apparently Mr. Darcy is willing to overlook that.”
“Or perhaps he is just being kind to his cousin,” said Jane hesitantly.
“He would not pay her such obvious attentions if he were not serious. She is a Fitzwilliam, and he is very close to her family, almost a member of it. He would not toy with her.”
Was this one of the cousins he had lived with as a child? He had spoken of their family with such warmth. Perhaps that was why he wished to formalize the bonds. If only it did not hurt so much!
On hearing that Bingley’s sisters had called on Georgiana, Darcy tried to slip out of the house before he was required to waste some of his little free time in entertaining them. His efforts came to naught, though, when he heard Miss Bingley’s voice call out to him as he passed the sitting room.
With an inaudible hiss of annoyance, he entered the room. Perhaps he could manage a quick escape. He had agreed to escort Frederica to a soiree that evening, and he had little enough quiet time these days. Not that it was an altogether bad thing; remaining busy kept his mind from drifting to Elizabeth Bennet, at least not as much as it might have otherwise. Nothing could keep her from inhabiting his dreams with the memory of her soft body sleeping in his arms.
He said as little as possible in civility, and was preparing to make his excuses when Miss Bingley said, “Oh, Mr. Darcy, did I mention that I called on Miss Bennet in Cheapside last week?” She managed to put a little sneer into the mention of Cheapside, but that was nothing new.
“Did you?” he said coolly, as if the very name of Bennet had not caused his heart to race. “I hope you found her in good health.”
Miss Bingley giggled. “Oh, in very good health; those country girls always are, you know. I told her I doubted we would return to Netherfield. She seemed sorry to hear it, but unsurprised.”
If Caroline had only just returned the call, no doubt Miss Bennet understood quite well in which direction the wind blew. A little stab of guilt pricked him. Elizabeth would be unhappy if she knew the part he had played in this. “Miss Bennet is a pleasant girl.” As if saying that could make up for anything.
Miss Bingley shared an amused glance with Mrs. Hurst. “She is very sweet, though I cannot say as much for her sister Eliza, who was also there. She is grown so coarse, I hardly would have known her! And her manners – well, there has been no improvement in those.”
“Miss Elizabeth is in London as well?” He struggled to control his erratic breath. She had said nothing to him of a planned trip, but then again, why would she have told him? And now she was just across town. If he chose, he could see her within the hour. A surge of desire rushed through him.
“And as impertinent as ever. Fortunately, we did not stay long.”
No doubt Miss Bingley had taken great pleasure in showing her disdain to the Bennet sisters. A few months ago, Darcy might have been amused by the situation. Now he wished he could throw her out of his house. How dare she insult his Elizabeth? “I imagine she remains in essentials much as she ever was. If you will excuse me, ladies.” He bowed, uncaring that his manners were lacking. He needed to be alone to think.
He held out for two days, two interminable days and even longer nights, before he finally managed to convince himself it was his responsibility to check on Elizabeth, not merely his burning desire to be in her presence. He could not deny the ache that filled him whenever he thought of her, but he could call on her without any danger of losing control – especially in the presence of such relations of hers as lived in Cheapside! They no doubt would prove a good reminder to him of why he should keep his distance. But Elizabeth had most likely saved his life, and he owed her this courtesy.
The journey across town had never seemed longer. It was as if every soul in London was determined to slow his carriage. But finally he reached the narrow streets of Cheapside. At least Elizabeth’s uncle’s house appeared well-kept. It could be much worse.
He strode up the steps and rapped smartly on the door, then gave his card to the manservant who opened it. At the last second, he remembered to say, “Mr. Darcy to see Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet.” He should not claim any particular acquaintance with Elizabeth more than her sister. That could look suspicious. But Elizabeth would know whom he came to visit. His lips curved in an involuntary smile. She would be happy to see him.
The manservant was slow in returning, allowing Darcy time to examine the hall where he waited. It was furnished in an elegant modern style, and demonstrated taste better than he had expected. Perhaps someone in Elizabeth’s family would prove to be tolerable after all.
On the manservant’s return, he did not look at Darcy. “The Misses Bennet are not at home.”
“Not at home?” That was ridiculous. Elizabeth would never use that hackneyed excuse, especially when it was evident she was at home. Why else would the man have taken his card? Then it struck him. This was not one of his exquisitely trained servants. With an effort at patience, he said, “Did you tell them who was calling?”
The man glanced back over his shoulder. “They are not at home, and are not expected, neither.”
What? Was this fool telling him he was unwelcome there? Darcy tapped his stick against his hand, his temper rising. Why was Elizabeth doing this? It made no sense. She had seen Miss Bingley; why not him?
With the force of a blow, he knew. She wanted no reminders of those days they spent together. He had treasured the memories, and she sought to forget them completely.
If she did not want to see him, he certainly was not about to impose himself upon her. With a sharp nod to the servant, he turned on his heel and strode out.
He did not wait for the coachman to jump down and open the door, instead wrenching it open himself to reach the seclusion of the interior. He rapped hard on the wall of the carriage, and it lurched into motion. If only he could erase the memory of the last few minutes as easily as he could flee. On impulse, he looked back through the window at the house, and saw a familiar shape in one of the windows, holding back the curtain to see out.
Why? Did she want to see his pain? He had never thought she could cause him such pain. Was she proud to have brought the Master of Pemberley so low? He ripped his eyes away from the sight of her and leaned back in the bench seat. Somehow he would have to forget Elizabeth Bennet. It would be almost as simple as forgetting how to breathe.
“Why?” Elizabeth wheeled on her aunt. “It was not as though he was trying to set up an assignation with me! He was behaving perfectly properly. Why did you send him away?”
Mrs. Gardiner rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Lizzy, he may have meant no harm, but think of how it would look. If anyone discovered he had called on you in London, it would be the last nail in the coffin of your reputation.”
“I do not see why! He could hardly compromise me in front of you and Jane, and how would anyone discover it?”
Her aunt gave a soft sigh. “It is unlikely, I grant you, but I cannot guarantee the silence of every servant, much less our children. What if one of them says something about your wealthy friend when we visit Longbourn next? It would ruin every hope you have. Is a simple morning call worth that?”
Elizabeth’s fists curled until her fingernails dug into her palms. Her aunt could never understand what that simple call would have meant to her, the knowledge it would have given her that she could still have contact, however distant, with him. The mere sight of his back as he strode from the house left her longing to run after him, but she could never do it now. He had been sent away like an out of favor schoolboy, when he had condescended to visit a neighborhood beneath his notice. His pride would never permit another attempt, and she would never see him again. She had accepted the loss of him a fortnight ago, but that moment of hope when she heard of his presence had done away with all her acceptance of her empty future. Her lips tight, she stared blindly out the window, as if she could somehow still make him out, but he was long since gone.
A gentle hand descended on her arm. Mrs. Gardiner had come up behind her.
“Lizzy, my dear, is there something you are not telling me?”
Her aunt’s kindness tempted her to say too much, so she took refuge in anger. “I have told you already he did nothing to harm me during those days. He is an honorable man.”
“I am not questioning whether your account is true, but whether it is complete. From all I have heard, he is a careful man, and I know you to be reasonable, so I cannot imagine either of you allowing passion to overtake your good sense. But even if nothing irregular happened, it does not necessarily follow you emerged from those days heart-whole.”
“I learned to see him as a friend! Perhaps a better friend than all those in Meryton who have condemned me with no true knowledge.”
At Elizabeth’s angry tone, Mrs. Gardiner sank into a chair. “Are you certain, Lizzy, that he would refuse to marry you if he knew your situation?”
Elizabeth closed her eyes for a moment, then turned to her aunt. It was the question no one had dared to pose directly until now. She had two choices: to portray Mr. Darcy as lacking in honor or to attempt to justify her own decision. “No,” she said evenly. “He might well have agreed, at least if the question had arisen before his apparent understanding with Lady Frederica Fitzwilliam.” She was growing to detest that name.
“You did not discuss the question in all the time you had together?”
“We did, and both agreed we would prefer not to marry, and my sentiments in that regard have only strengthened since then. I will not enter into an unequal marriage, especially with a man who wishes to wed another, and I shall not be moved on that.”
Jane, whose presence the other two had quite forgotten, said in a tone of discovery, “You do care for him. Oh, my poor sweet Lizzy!”
Elizabeth straightened her shoulders. “It makes no difference whether I do or not. Pray excuse me.” Her skirts swished as she hurried out of the room. If only she could go on a long walk through the countryside, perhaps she could regain her equanimity; but she was in London, where she could not walk unaccompanied, and there was no escaping from crowds of people. All she could do was to flee to the room she shared with Jane.
Closing the door behind her, she sank down on the bed. What was she to do now? She did not wish to languish in London, watching the pity in the eyes of her aunt and uncle, and alternately hoping and fearing that Mr. Darcy might put in an appearance. But she could not return to Meryton. Surely there must be somewhere she could go!
All of her acquaintance, though, would know of the gossip in Meryton, and the only one who might be willing to overlook it was Charlotte. It was worth a try. Elizabeth opened her writing desk and prepared a clean sheet of paper.
Hope you enjoyed these scenes as much as I liked writing them!