Hello all! We’re very excited to announce our newest Pride and Prejudice Variation, Believing in Darcy. This ‘what-if’ takes a delightful twist when Mr. Collins, true to form, does something very foolish that changes the course of events. If you enjoy watching Elizabeth come to love Mr. Darcy, and take exception to some of Mr. Collins’ and Mrs. Bennet’s behavior, you’ll love Believing in Darcy, available now on Amazon kindle.
Elizabeth directed her attention toward Charlotte. “If that’s the case, I’m sorry to hear it. I hope you’re feeling better soon.”
“I’m sure I will be.” Charlotte’s expression brightened with her words.
Elizabeth had known Charlotte all her life. There was something about her mien that made Elizabeth feel Charlotte was privy to more than she said. It wasn’t that she was lying, but she wasn’t telling all.
“Lady Catherine was quite adamant about the harm lack of proper rest can do,” Mr. Collins said. “She graciously condescended to give me something to help Mrs. Collins sleep.”
Charlotte’s brows drew together. “When I confessed my recent difficulty sleeping, I believe I mentioned it is nothing worth troubling Lady Catherine over.”
“Which was considerate, of course, but Lady Catherine, in her kindness, finds no trouble too small to dispense her wisdom on,” Mr. Collins said. He turned back to Elizabeth. “When Mrs. Collins left the room briefly, I told Lady Catherine of her trouble. She said Mrs. Collins is undoubtedly not getting her full nights’ sleep if she’s waking. Lady Catherine said no good would come of it.”
Elizabeth was surprised at Mr. Collins. She would have thought him too dull to realize his wife’s words were a warning, but she was obviously mistaken. He wouldn’t have waited for Charlotte to leave the room before speaking of it if he hadn’t realized she would disapprove.
Still frowning, Charlotte shrugged. “I wake up, but go back to sleep quickly. It is nothing to trouble Lady Catherine over. I don’t need anything to help me sleep.”
“Yes, you do, or you wouldn’t be waking up. Lady Catherine was very adamant about what the trouble must be and how to resolve it, and we would do well to benefit from her wisdom.” He pulled a small square bottle out of his coat pocket. “This will help. Lady Catherine said you should take six spoonfuls before going to bed.”
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. “That seems like rather a lot. Are you sure that’s what she said? The bottle looks quite small for so large a dose.”
Mr. Collins turned it in his hand. It was stoppered with a cork and unlabeled. “No.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “Lady Catherine said tablespoons, not teaspoons. I don’t believe Lady Catherine, in her wisdom, meant Charlotte to avail herself of it for long. This is but a generous gift of a sample from the lady’s store.”
That eased Elizabeth’s worry somewhat, but she still didn’t care for the idea of Charlotte being drugged into a good night’s rest. Especially when a glance showed her friend’s distaste for the idea.
Mr. Collins turned to Charlotte. “You really do look tired, Mrs. Collins. It’s already evening. Perhaps you should follow Lady Catherine’s advice now. We can entertain ourselves for one evening without you while you avail yourself of extra sleep.”
Charlotte’s shoulders sagged slightly. She pressed her lips into a thin line for a moment, then nodded. Elizabeth realized her friend must be tired indeed to give in. It was still quite early for bed.
“I’ll fix you a draught,” Mr. Collins said, his eyes kind as he looked at Charlotte. He stood, set the bottle on the table, and hurried off toward the kitchen.
Elizabeth admitted to herself, albeit grudgingly, that Mr. Collins seemed to actually care about Charlotte’s wellbeing. Perhaps his defiance of her wish not to trouble Lady Catherine was born of care for Charlotte, not simply the desire to give his patroness new ways to dispense her advice.
Momentarily freed of Mr. Collins, she turned to Charlotte. “What is really the trouble?”
Charlotte shook her head, her lips clamped shut.
“Charlotte Collins, if something is truly wrong, please tell me. I shall do all in my power to assist you.”
“Nothing is wrong, Lizzy.” Charlotte’s lips turning up in a slight smile. “I’m simply unsure of something. I’ll tell you soon.”
Elizabeth found that response unilluminating. She opened her mouth to say so, but closed it again at the sound of approaching footfalls.
Mr. Collins returned, a glass and serving spoon in hand. Elizabeth frowned at the spoon. True, serving spoons were often referred to as tablespoons, but she wasn’t sure there were even six spoonfuls of that size contained in the small bottle. A spoon that large couldn’t be what Lady Catherine meant.
Mr. Collins went to the table. Giving Charlotte a smile, he proceeded to unstop the bottle and measure out spoonfuls. The reddish-brown liquid was thick, slowing the process and increasing Elizabeth’s unease. She had little experience with laudanum. Her father refused to allow its use in their house. Still, she was familiar with its description. She’d heard people used drops only, or thinned it with wine.
Mr. Collins wasn’t using drops, and the viscous syrup did not appear thinned. When he came to the final spoonful, not enough of the potion remained in the bottle to fill it. Muttering about Lady Catherine’s staff being stingy, he held the bottle over the glass until only a thin trickle came out.
“There,” he said, giving the bottle a final shake before setting it aside. He brought the nearly full glass to Charlotte, his expression showing affection. “Drink this. You will sleep soundly, and tomorrow you will be well, just as Lady Catherine says.”
Charlotte accepted the glass. She sniffed it, grimacing, and raised weary eyes to her husband. Elizabeth bit her lip. She didn’t like to interfere in matters between a man and wife, but the little she did know of laudanum and other remedies suggested that no matter what was in the glass, it was simply too large a dose. Mr. Collins smiled down encouragingly. Charlotte lifted the glass to her lips.
“No,” Elizabeth cried, jumping up.
Charlotte turned to her, eyes wide with surprise.
Elizabeth crossed the room and pulled the glass from her friend’s hand, eyeing the dark liquid with mistrust.
“Cousin Elizabeth,” Mr. Collins said. “I must ask you to return that to Mrs. Collins. She is not sleeping well and needs treatment. Furthermore, Lady Catherine herself said Mrs. Collins was to drink it. What will I tell her if Mrs. Collins does not?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I will not let Charlotte drink this. I don’t know what’s in this glass, but this can’t be the correct dosage. You must agree, Charlotte, nothing save tea or wine is ever prescribed in such abundance.”
Charlotte looked at the glass Elizabeth held. She let out a sigh, nodding. “Elizabeth makes an honest observation, Mr. Collins. In all my years, I’ve never heard of a medication for any ill being given so liberally, unless it is a thing usually drank.”
Mr. Collins’ moment of husbandly care fled, his usual nervousness returning. He wrung his hands. “What will I tell Lady Catherine?”
Charlotte frowned. She looked from her distraught husband to Elizabeth, to the glass.
“You must drink it,” Mr. Collins said. “Lady Catherine bid you drink it. She is our benefactor. We do not wish to seem ungrateful.”
“Mr. Collins is equally correct, Lizzy,” Charlotte said. “We do well to remain in Lady Catherine’s good graces. I’m sure no great harm will come from it.” She reached for the glass.
Elizabeth took a step back from the chair, holding the glass out at arm’s length, far from Charlotte’s reach. “It isn’t safe. I can’t let you do this, even to appease Lady Catherine.”
Mr. Collins plucked the glass from Elizabeth’s hand. Before she could attempt to reclaim it, he tipped his head back and poured the thick liquid into his mouth. Elizabeth and Charlotte both cried out in protest, but it was too late. Save for what coated the inside of the glass in ominous ripples, the bulk of the dark liquid was in Mr. Collins’ mouth.
He swallowed convulsively, grimacing. Anger apparent in the set of his mouth, he turned to Elizabeth. “I shall sleep very well tonight. Tomorrow, you will see you were wrong. You will come with me to apologize to Lady Catherine for your and Mrs. Collins’ behavior. I am sure she won’t be surprised you are the instigator of this, Cousin Elizabeth. Knowing your contrary nature, it is only because I care for Mrs. Collins that I permitted you to visit. I’m afraid I must ask you to shorten your stay. Tomorrow you will make preparations to depart. I will not harbor a disruption to my home and a threat to Lady Catherine’s patronage.”
What do you think? Should Charlotte have taken the medicine? Will Mr. Collins get a good night’s sleep?
Now, for the GIVEAWAY! To celebrate Believing in Darcy, we’re giving away two Kindle copies!
To enter, just comment below. The GIVEAWAY will end at midnight EST on Wednesday, April 19th, 2017. Winners will be announced on Saturday, the 22nd.