Beautiful Weather, Happy Muse
I don’t know about the rest of you, but the beautiful weather we’ve been having for the past few weeks (at least in my part of the country) has been giving me a burst of energy, pushing me to be productive. I’ve cleaned out both tiny, over-packed closets in my daughter’s room, rearranged the den, sifted through the contents of my kitchen cabinets, the garage, the basement, my closet and my husband’s, and purged pretty much everything that wasn’t nailed down. I’ve also been planning my daughter’s 8th birthday party (the first one she’ll have that will not be held in our home, but at a lovely beading shop in the next town—she’s very excited).
In between all the insanity, I’ve also managed to snatch some quiet moments to work on not just one, but several stories that I currently have in the works, including one that I’ve only just begun to map out. Needless to say, I’m excited, and pleased with what I’ve been able to accomplish, despite the chaos. I can only hope the pace I’ve been keeping lately will hold!
Rather than going into minute detail about my process, or the trials and tribulations of having an often-fickle muse, I’d much prefer to share another excerpt from one of my novels. It’s the one that is currently the closest to completion (and my personal favorite): A Means of Removing All Doubt. The tidbit below takes place seven months after Mr. Darcy’s failed proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. The setting is the middle of another assembly in Meryton (almost one year after the original took place), where the master of Pemberley makes a long overdue appearance, catching a disheartened Elizabeth very much off-guard. Enjoy.
When the dance ended Elizabeth was quick to excuse herself, making her way with alacrity through the back hall to one of the dressing rooms. She stepped inside and locked the door, her breathing as rapid as her heartbeat. Why, oh, why did he have to reappear now, just when she was finally able to enjoy herself for one night without her thoughts and her heart traitorously wishing for his presence or mourning his absence?
Elizabeth glimpsed her reflection in a looking glass upon the wall and expelled a shaky, rueful laugh at the image of the woman who stared back at her. She could not deny that tonight she was in excellent looks, an observation reinforced again and again by the countless compliments and admiring glances she received, as well as her full dance card. For the first time in her life, Elizabeth felt as though she had finally been given a taste of what it must be like to be Jane.
At Mrs. Bennet’s insistence, Sarah, one of two upstairs maids in Longbourn House, had gone to great lengths to transform Elizabeth into the graceful beauty she now saw reflected before her. In honour of the occasion, her mother presented her with a beautiful gold and ruby necklace that perfectly matched her new gown. It was a precious family heirloom that had been passed down through many generations of Bennets, and it completed her elegant ensemble, giving Elizabeth the appearance of a well-dowered young lady of some consequence, as well as the restoration of some of the confidence and sparkle she had seemingly lacked for so many months.
Elizabeth was not fooled, however. She knew that her mother’s sudden focus on her appearance was only a ruse, done with the hope that her least favourite amongst her five daughters might soon secure William Ellis for a husband, or perhaps some other eligible gentleman; but, to her surprise, Elizabeth found such attentions from her mother, who had really ever fussed over Jane and Lydia in such an attentive manner, oddly edifying. Though she had no interest at all in securing Mr. Ellis for anything beyond a few dances—and certainly no intention to encourage a romantic attachment—Elizabeth was determined to enjoy the advantages to be reaped from presenting such a pleasing appearance. She had succeeded in doing so—and with great amusement and satisfaction—until the moment she came face to face with Mr. Darcy.
With a deep breath Elizabeth willed her racing heart to calm. Absolutely nothing had changed. She was still exactly the same person she had always been. At the moment she was dressed up in jewells and silk, her hair arranged with more sophistication than she was used to wearing it, and her lips painted with just a touch of rouge, but she knew that none of her accoutrements by any means altered her circumstances. She would forever be sister to George Wickham, a man who deserved no such distinction or recognition from any of them, least of all Mr. Darcy. According to Mr. Ellis’ intelligence it mattered little in any case. It appeared that nearly all of their acquaintance in Kent believed the master of Pemberley would soon be married to his wealthy cousin. Though she had been reluctant to completely discredit Lady Catherine’s claims in her last letter, Charlotte had gone so far as to include a few lines in which she reported hearing nothing of Her Ladyship’s nephew returning to Rosings since he had quitted it last April.
Elizabeth gave a short, humourless laugh. Did it honestly matter who or when Mr. Darcy eventually married? With a scoundrel for a brother, a man of Darcy’s notoriety and consequence in the world could never afford to sink so low as to offer a second time for her. It was a testament to the strength of his friendship with Mr. Bingley that he had finally come back to Hertfordshire at all.
Willing herself to keep her composure, Elizabeth bit her bottom lip and removed her silk gloves so she could splash some cool water from a porcelain basin upon her flushed cheeks. She could not stay within the small enclosure for the rest of the evening, nor could she claim a headache and escape to Longbourn. Her mother would never permit it. There was nothing to do but return to the assembly and hope that Darcy’s presence in Hertfordshire would not succeed in discomposing her for long.
After ten minutes had passed she finally felt mistress of herself enough to return, but managed to advance no further than a few yards when she discerned a familiar figure moving toward her in the dimly lit hall. She froze as Darcy’s long, deliberate strides closed the distance between them, his eyes fixed upon her with a look of grim determination. Elizabeth’s hands went immediately to her skirts, nervously twisting the expensive fabric, then hurriedly smoothing any offensive creases. Surely, her mother would not be pleased to see her fidgeting with her new finery in such an appalling manner.
Finally, he came to stand directly before her, his mien serious, and Elizabeth, her courage rising in the face of such intimidation, clasped her hands behind her back and forced herself to speak to him for the first time that evening. “Mr. Darcy,” she said sedately, and with far more composure than she felt, “you are welcome back to Hertfordshire, sir.”
Many thanks for reading!