It’s that time of year when my muse seems to switch into hyper mode with an outpouring of fifty thousand words in thirty days or less. In other words, it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). By the end of day twelve, I had reached the half-way point of twenty-five thousand words, which put me ahead of my progress to date at the same time last year. Incidentally, just as I did last year, I started the month of November thoroughly convinced that I would not be able to complete NaNoWriMo.
And just like last year, I asked myself again this year what the worst thing that would happen if I started and did not finish is? I ultimately decided it would be far better for me to get started and see what happens than to do nothing and later regret it.
So, I started writing. A recent peek at my NaNoWriMo lifetime stats persuaded me that I did the right thing.
The working title of this year’s NaNoWriMo project is Hastening Together in Perfect Felicity: The Ladies and Gentlemen of Pride and Prejudice. I know, it’s a mouthful, but I did mention it is a working title – one I came up with on the first day of the month. The story is roughly based on the idea of the ladies and gentlemen of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in pursuit of felicity in friendship, in life and in most cases, marriage. With such endless possibilities, is there any wonder I reached the half-way point in twelve days?
I challenged myself to explore Miss Charlotte Lucas’ path to marital felicity first. Specifically, her chance meeting with Mr. Collins soon after his proposal to her friend. By the end of the initial writing session, I decided the scenes would be perfect for my current work-in-progress: Irrevocably Gone. Here is a very rough, unedited snippet.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman of seven and twenty, who is perceived by society in general as well as herself to be rather plain looking, will seize upon any, and every opportunity to secure a husband; even one whom others may perceive as utterly ridiculous if it means escaping a fate of spinsterhood, forever beholden to family and friends.
Miss Charlotte Lucas, having received what she elected to consider as tacit permission from her closest friend to pursue Mr. William Collins, set off on the path to Longbourn, the neighboring village.
Truth be told, Miss Elizabeth Bennet had not exactly recommended her cousin to her friend, but rather she had made it perfectly clear that she had no interest in the ridiculous man. Indeed, Elizabeth had stated in no uncertain terms that she would not wish for an alliance with such a man upon her worst enemy. It would suit her just fine if the man would simply go away from Hertfordshire and never be heard from again.
“Dearest Eliza,” Charlotte had cried in response to Elizabeth’s harsh stance, “the gentleman is the heir-apparent of Longbourn—your family’s home. Surely that must count for something.”
“It counts to my mother, but as for myself I truly do not care,” her friend had declared.
Elizabeth’s words were Charlotte’s steady companions on her way to Longbourn. Servants talk, and word had gotten out that Elizabeth had spurned Mr. Collins’s offer of marriage earlier that morning and in so doing had caused quite an uproar in the Longbourn household.
Stepping up her pace, Charlotte’s intentions were two-fold. First, she wanted to offer comfort to her intimate friend who would surely need it should she persist in her refusal, for Mrs. Bennet most likely would not have it any other way with the future of Longbourn and by consequence her own lasting domestic tranquility at stake.
Second of all, there were three other single Bennet daughters that Mrs. Bennet might put forth by way of a compromise to the jilted heir. Four if one were to count the eldest, and why would one not? While it was Mrs. Bennet’s favorite wish that her new neighbor, Mr. Charles Bingley, would offer his hand to her eldest daughter, Jane, he had not done so theretofore. What with his return to London on business that very day, who was to say with any degree of certainty that Mrs. Bennet might sit and wait patiently for his return?
No. Charlotte knew that if she were to stand a chance of garnering the vicar’s notice, she must throw herself directly in his path. But first, she needed to see her friend to make certain that Elizabeth would stay steadfast in her determination to refuse a perfectly decent man’s offer of marriage.
Charlotte did not make it as far as the manor house. As fate would have it, she espied a rather distraught Mr. Collins just up ahead in the lane. His head was held low. Indeed, Charlotte could honestly say she had never seen the proud man appear so forsaken.
“Good afternoon, sir,” said Charlotte, curtseying when they were face to face.
“Oh, Miss Lucas. It is a pleasure to see you,” said he in return.
“Sir, if you do not mind my saying so, you do not look quite like yourself. Is there anything wrong?” Charlotte asked feigning complete ignorance of what had occurred some hours earlier.
“How observant of you to notice that I am not quite myself. Indeed, you are very perceptive. I fear there is a matter of grave concern weighing heavily on my mind, but I do not think it is something that I ought to be discussing with anyone. You will forgive me?”
“Indeed, I do understand your reluctance to talk about what is troubling you. I understand perfectly well. You and I hardly know each other. However, I assure you that I am a willing listener upon whose confidence you may rely. I dare say it might help.”
Shaking his head, the vicar persisted in his desire to keep his own counsel which only encouraged Charlotte more. At length, her own determination won out, and Mr. Collins began his speech. He spoke, and he spoke, and Charlotte grew to suspect he would not cease speaking anytime soon. Not that it bothered her one bit for she was nothing if not a patient woman.
When at last she sensed a lull in the anguished parson’s discourse, Charlotte seized upon her chance to say something. “I do not envy you your plight one bit, sir. Would that I could do anything to lessen your burden.”
“You have done so much already, Miss Lucas, merely by hearing what I have said. I dare not impose upon your kindness more than I have already.”
“It is no imposition at all, Mr. Collins. If there is any other way that I can be of assistance to you in this unpleasant business, pray do not hesitate to let me know. I am at your service.”
He seemed on the verge of saying something. Charlotte leaned forward encouragingly. “I hope you know by now that you have my complete confidence,” she uttered.
“There is the matter of my noble patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s disappointed hopes. She sent me to Longbourn with the express purpose of choosing a wife from among my fair cousins. Having failed to persuade Cousin Elizabeth to accept my hand, do I dare give up hope, or do I offer my hand in marriage to one of the others?”
Charlotte paused a moment or two to show him just how much she was contemplating the import of his particular dilemma as well as her response.
“Pray do not keep me in suspense, Miss Lucas. You have been so generous to me thus far. Surely you have an opinion on what I ought to do.”
“Sir,” Charlotte subsequently began, “I dare say there are few people in all of England – nay the entire world – who know and understand Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s temperament so well as you. Pray how do you suppose she would react if you were to choose from among your younger cousins?
“You know Mrs. Bennet too well to suppose she would not put forth her youngest daughter, Miss Lydia, as a prospective bride. Miss Lydia is her favorite after all.”
Just the mention of that young girl’s name evoked an unsettling turn in Mr. Collins’s countenance giving Charlotte to know the gentleman was not nearly so obtuse as her friend Elizabeth had suggested. Charlotte went on to say, “Having spent so much time as you have as a guest in your future home, you cannot have missed how close Miss Lydia and her sister Miss Kitty are to each other. Why, they are as close as two peas in a pod. If you should marry either, you shall no doubt find yourself providing for the other under your roof. No doubt you have had occasion to hear their excellent father, Mr. Bennet, refer to them as two of the silliest girls in England.
“How do you suppose your noble patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, would abide their presence? If she is half as discerning as I suspect, and what grand dame would not be, I fear she would grow weary of them in no time at all, banishing the two of them and by extension you from her sight. Have I not heard you speak of what great pleasure you derive from being such a regular guest at Rosings? Indeed, I believe I have heard you speak about that very subject with alacrity.”
By now, Charlotte had silently coaxed the gentleman to take his place by her side and commence walking with her along the path to Lucas Lodge.
“You have made an excellent point, Miss Lucas.”
“I only mean to help, sir. Which brings me to Miss Mary, who is next in age to your true choice, Miss Eliza.”
Mr. Collins nodded knowingly. “Yes, I have detected that my fair cousin Miss Mary is a particularly sensible young woman.”
Charlotte shrugged a little. “True, she is rather more sensible than the younger two siblings. Some may even refer to her as rather pious, everything a parson’s wife ought to be. But then again, you are not just any parson are you, sir? You can rightfully boast of being one of the most fortunate clergymen in all of England having been bestowed one of the most highly desired livings in the land. Were it not for a single point of contention, I would recommend Miss Mary without reservations.”
Her walking companion arched his brow. “Pray what is that, Miss Lucas, if you do not mind me asking?”
“Well, sir, I do not like to speak out of turn, but you did witness Miss Mary’s exhibition at the Netherfield Ball, did you not? Did you not observe the particularly cruel manner of her reception? I am not saying that I share in the opinions of most of those in attendance – even her own father. But how do you suppose Lady Catherine de Bourgh might react? Is she not accustomed to being regaled by the finest performances in all of England? Would she not insist on hearing your wife exhibit whenever the two of you visit Rosings? Again, you would not wish to give her ladyship cause to reconsider your standing as a most sought-after guest for dinner or tea.”
“Again, you have made an excellent point, Miss Lucas. I suppose that only leaves Cousin Jane although Lady Catherine did specifically mention that the eldest daughter was not the ideal choice for me.”
“Why ever not?” Charlotte asked in the wake of this new information.
“Owing to the possibility of an alliance with Mr. Charles Bingley; although if the gentleman truly intended to make my cousin an offer of marriage what has prevented him from doing so thus far? There does appear to be a fair measure of affection between the two of them.”
“I agree, which is even more of a reason that Jane should not be a potential candidate unless the possibility of a second refusal from a Bennet daughter is something you are willing to risk.”
In the next breath, Charlotte exclaimed, “Oh, look! Lucas Lodge is just up ahead. I would be terribly remiss were I to fail to invite you to join us for a family dinner. My father and my mother, Sir William and Lady Lucas, would never forgive me for such a lapse in proper decorum and civility. Oh, do say you accept my invitation. I assure you that you will be received with all the deference a man of your standing in Society and the world in general demands.”
I hope you enjoyed that little snippet which may or may not be included in my current work in progress. For now, what say you about Charlotte’s advice to Mr. Collins? Comment below for a chance to win a P. O. Dixon eBook of your choice. One winner will be chosen. The giveaway contest ends on Tuesday, November 21, 2017.