As promised, here’s an excerpt from the new Pemberley Variation. If you check this blog frequently, you might have read this excerpt a couple of months ago. I had posted it to my blog, then had second thoughts because I wasn’t sure I’d finish it, so I took the post down a few minutes later. Now that the first draft is actually finished, here it is again for those of you loyal enough to stick around!
Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and meditations which had at length closed her eyes. She could not yet recover from the surprise of what had happened; it was impossible to think of any thing else, and, totally indisposed for employment, she resolved soon after breakfast to indulge herself in air and exercise. She was proceeding directly to her favourite walk, when the recollection of Mr. Darcy’s sometimes coming there stopped her, and instead of entering the park, she turned up the lane which led her farther from the turnpike road. The park paling was still the boundary on one side, and she soon passed one of the gates into the ground.
After walking two or three times along that part of the lane, she was tempted, by the pleasantness of the morning, to stop at the gates and look into the park. The five weeks which she had now passed in Kent had made a great difference in the country, and every day was adding to the verdure of the early trees. She was on the point of continuing her walk, when she caught a glimpse of a gentleman within the sort of grove which edged the park; he was moving that way; and fearful of its being Mr. Darcy, she was directly retreating. But the person who advanced was now near enough to see her, and stepping forward with eagerness, pronounced her name. She had turned away, but on hearing herself called, though in a voice which proved it to be Mr. Darcy, she moved again towards the gate. He had by that time reached it also, and holding out a letter, said with a look of haughty composure, “I have been walking in the grove some time in the hope of meeting you. Will you do me the honour of reading that letter?”
Elizabeth instinctively reached out to take it, but just as her fingers were about to touch the paper, a lifetime of training in proper behaviour asserted itself and she snatched her hand away as if the letter were a hot poker. “I cannot accept that, Mr. Darcy, and you know it as well as I do.”
He flushed. “This is not the time or place for foolish protocol. I must insist that you take it.” He held it out once more, frowning.
At his commanding tone, Elizabeth’s resentment of the previous evening returned in full force. She could not understand his insistence. What, after all, remained to be said after last night? Did he not understand the risk she would be taking by accepting his letter? For a young lady, receiving a letter from a gentleman was tantamount to acknowledging an engagement. They could be trapped by propriety into an unwanted marriage.
Unwanted, at least by her. Her eyes widened as she understood his strategy. If she took his letter and it came to light, she would have to marry him, whether she willed it or not. She had refused him; now he was preparing to take matters into his own hands and disregard her wishes, just as he had disregarded the wishes of Jane and Bingley in favour of his own. What a detestable man! Hurriedly she folded her hands behind her and stepped backward away from him. “You presume far too much, Mr. Darcy,” she said icily. “I wish you good day.”
He reached out his free hand to grasp her arm, but she was too quick for him. With no more pretense of civility, she turned her back and hurried away. She heard him call her name, once, twice, and yet again. Frightened now, she gathered her skirts in her hand and broke into a run. She did not stop until she had reached the public road, where she leaned back against a painted fencepost, out of breath.
She would be safe here. Even Mr. Darcy would not risk assaulting on a well-travelled road. That could damage his reputation as well as hers. She glanced back over her shoulder, half-fearing to see him following her, but there was no one there. She rested her hand over her racing heart and shivered. Suppose she had taken that letter – for all she knew, he could have had someone watching them already to catch her in the act! Or, even worse, maybe he had not wanted to trap her into marriage, but instead planned to ruin her reputation as revenge for her refusal. Even she had not thought so ill of Mr. Darcy. It had been a narrow escape.
She thought quickly. She would need to avoid seeing him at all cost. He was supposed to leave for London later that day, so if she stayed away from anywhere he might be for a few hours, she would be safe. The village was probably her best bet. She could call on old Mrs. Dunning and inquire after her health. A few days previously she had accompanied Charlotte on a charity visit to the elderly widow. Mrs. Dunning would think Charlotte had sent her, and the proud Mr. Darcy would never think to look for her in a ramshackle cottage in Hunsford. She doubted if he would deign to enter such an abode for any reason. Certainly he had never had a charitable impulse in his life!
After avoiding the parsonage for over two hours and re-considering events and determining probabilities, fatigue, and a recollection of her long absence made her at length return home; and she entered the house with the wish of appearing cheerful as usual, and the resolution of repressing such reflections as must make her unfit for conversation.
She was immediately told, that the two gentlemen from Rosings had each called during her absence; Mr. Darcy, only for a few minutes to take leave, but that Colonel Fitzwilliam had been sitting with them at least an hour, hoping for her return, and almost resolving to walk after her till she could be found. Elizabeth could but just affect concern in missing him; she really rejoiced at it. Colonel Fitzwilliam was no longer an object, but only the cousin of the most proud and selfish man of her acquaintance.
Some great scenes coming up, too, but that gives you a flavor. With my instinctive flair for great titles, this is called Pemberley Variation #7 or What Happens When You Cut Four Words and a Comma from Pride & Prejudice. Extra points for identifying the four crucial words.:)