My first book in over two years is on the shelves! So excited! It took me forever to settle back into a writing routine after the transatlantic move to Switzerland. Life was truly surreal for a while, and now I’m expected my second child in early January, so life will once again be thrown into upheaval (maybe this is why Wonderland feels so comfortable right now?). All this chaos has been of the happy variety, but it certainly takes its toll on my writing life.
The first few reviews for Darcy in Wonderland are excellent, and I am in the middle of a two week blog tour. Lots of guest posts, excepts, interviews, and fun. I’ve included the full tour schedule at the bottom of this post. Please join me in celebration.
I gave you a preview of the book through some of the poetry in my last post (read it here), along with a few of the excellent illustrations by K. Wiedemann. Today I’d like to provide a proper excerpt. The Wonderland portion of the story sticks very closely to Carroll’s tale, but with Darcy along to act as a foil to all the madness, and a healthy dose of Austen references thrown in. This scene, which is the one depicted on the cover, is an excellent example of how I merged the two worlds. Enjoy!
The Caterpillar and Darcy looked at each other for some time in silence. Alice came to her father’s side and gazed up in awe. At last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth and addressed them in a languid, sleepy voice.
“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
“That is not a very encouraging opening for a conversation,” Alice muttered.
“Hush,” Darcy said and cleared his throat. “I am Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, and this is my youngest daughter.” The Caterpillar looked down at her questioningly but said nothing, so Darcy continued, “We are lost in these woods and need to find our way home. Do you know Pemberley?”
“No,” said the Caterpillar with a puff of smoke.
“Do you know of a nearby house where we might inquire?”
The Caterpillar gave no reply and just kept smoking as if they were not even there. Darcy gave up. “Come along,” he said. “We won’t get any help from him, Alice.”
“Alice?” the Caterpillar chimed in. “What is an Alice?”
“I am, sir,” she replied rather shyly.
“You?” the Caterpillar questioned in a manner Darcy found increasingly impertinent. “Who are you?”
“I — I hardly know, sir, just at present,” she replied honestly. “At least I know who I was when I got up this morning — Miss Alice Darcy of Pemberley, just as always —but I think I must have changed several times since then.”
“What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar sternly. “Explain yourself!”
“I can’t explain myself, I am afraid, sir,” said Alice, “because I am not myself, you see.”
“I don’t see,” said the Caterpillar.
“Nor need you,” Darcy interrupted. “Let us be on our way, Alice. We waste our time here.”
“I think he must know something that can help us, Papa: perhaps how we might return to our true sizes. A caterpillar should have some expertise in the matter.”
“Must I?” the Caterpillar, languidly listening, questioned.
“Why, yes, you must,” Alice addressed the Caterpillar, “for one day you will turn into a chrysalis, and after that into a butterfly. You will, you know.”
“So?” said the Caterpillar.
“What my daughter is trying to explain,” Darcy broke in, “is that we ourselves have undergone some rather unexpected and extreme metamorphoses in relation to our height. If you have any wisdom to impart regarding how to cope with or counter this phenomenon, we should be gratified if you would impart it. If not, we had best be going.”
“What size do you wish to be?” it asked.
“The correct one,” Darcy succinctly replied.
“I am not so very particular as to size,” Alice hastily elaborated, “only one does not like changing so often, you know.”
“I don’t know,” said the Caterpillar.
Alice looked to her father questioningly. How was one to respond to such contradiction? Miss Williams’s lessons had not prepared her for this social quandary.
“This line of inquiry achieves nothing,” Darcy said irritably. “Good day to you, sir. Come along, Alice.” He took her hand, and they turned and walked away.
“Come back!” the Caterpillar called after them. “I’ve something important to say!”
They stopped, and Alice said to her father, “That sounds promising.”
Darcy sighed. “It is sure to be more of his nonsense,” but he walked back towards the mushroom nevertheless.
“Keep your temper,” said the Caterpillar.
“Is that all?” Darcy demanded, swallowing back his anger as best he could.
“No,” said the Caterpillar and proceeded to puff away without speaking. Just when Darcy was tired of waiting for the insolent creature and more than ready to be off once more, it at last unfolded its arms, took the hookah out of its mouth again, and addressed Alice directly, “So you think you’re changed, do you?”
“I am afraid I am, sir,” said Alice. “I can’t remember things as I used to, and I don’t keep the same size for ten minutes together.”
“Can’t remember what things?” asked the Caterpillar.
“Like recitation. I tried to say ‘How doth the little busy bee,’ but it all came different,” Alice replied in a very melancholy voice.
“Repeat, ‘You are old, Lady Catherine,’” commanded the Caterpillar.
“Now wait just a minute!” Darcy interrupted. “This is no time for lessons! There is not even such a poem, and how do you know of my aunt, sir?” But his many protests and questions fell away when, to his great astonishment, his daughter clasped her hands before her, turned out her toes, and began:
“You are old, Lady Catherine,” the young girl said,
“And your hair has become very white;
Yet you improved Rosings alone, you swellhead!
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”
“In my youth,” Lady Catherine said to the girl,
“I’d command someone else to do it;
But since the first time that I gave it a whirl
I know no one more equal to it.”
“You are old,” said the girl, “as I mentioned before,
And your bones have become quite brittle,
Yet you goad your relations, prompting uproar —
Don’t you fear it will end in committal?”
“In my youth,” said her ladyship, a frown on her face,
“I’d lambaste you for speaking so shrill;
But now that death and I shall so soon embrace
I’ll simply write you out of the will.”
“You are old,” said the girl, “and your jaws are too weak
For little else other than pudding
Yet you told off the Rector, the Cook, and a Sheik —
Why so disagreeable, woman?”
“In my youth,” said the Dame, “I knew it my call,
And argued with all and sundry.
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw
Allows me to keep speaking bluntly.”
“Enough!” cried Darcy. “Alice, how dare you speak so of your great-aunt?”
Alice looked at him miserably. “It was not said quite right, was it, Papa?”
“It is wrong from beginning to end,” said the Caterpillar decidedly.
“No, it cannot be, for there is no such poem!” Darcy insisted.
The Caterpillar looked at him. “Are you content with your size?”
“No! How could I be?” Darcy cried out in exasperation. “Three inches is a wretched height!”
“It is a very good height indeed!” said the Caterpillar angrily, rearing itself upright as it spoke (it was exactly three inches high).
“Was it not you who spoke of keeping one’s temper?” Darcy asked wryly.
“We are not used to it,” pleaded Alice on her father’s behalf.
“You’ll get used to it in time,” said the Caterpillar, and seeming to forget his prior chagrin, he put the hookah in his mouth and resumed smoking.
“We have no wish to get used to it!” Darcy insisted, waiting impatiently to see if the Caterpillar had anything constructive to add. Finally, it took the hookah out of its mouth, yawned once or twice, and shook itself. Then it got down off the mushroom, and while Darcy and Alice stood by, crawled away into the grass, merely remarking as it went, “One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.” Before either could question, “One side of what? The other side of what?” the Caterpillar added, “Of the mushroom,” just as if their queries had been asked aloud, and in another moment, it was out of sight.
“I knew it!” Alice cried. She and Darcy stared at the mushroom, and Alice said thoughtfully, “But as it is perfectly round, which are the two sides?”
Darcy walked up to the mushroom and examined it a moment before reaching an arm to each end and breaking a piece off each edge. “But which is which?” he wondered. “There is only one certain way to find out,” and he lifted his right hand to his mouth. “Never do this on your own, Alice. It is very dangerous to forage if you are not trained in what not to eat,” he felt required to say before nibbling the smallest bit just to try the effect. The next moment he felt a violent blow underneath his chin. It had struck his foot!
He was a good deal frightened by this sudden change and keenly aware of Alice’s scream of horror as he rapidly shrank. With no time to be lost, he set to work at once eating some of the other bit of mushroom. His chin was pressed so closely against his foot that there was hardly any room to open his mouth, but he did it at last and managed to swallow a morsel out of his left hand.
Darcy exclaimed, “My head is free at last!” in a tone of delight, which changed into alarm in another moment when he found that his shoulders were nowhere to be seen. All he could see when he looked down was an immense length of neck, which seemed to rise like a stalk out of the sea of green leaves that lay far below him.
“Alice!” he cried in alarm.
“Oh! Are you up there, Papa?” cried a feeble voice. “Your feet and legs are still here, but I have lost the rest of you!”
He tried moving his hands, of which he had no sight, but all that resulted was a little shaking amongst the distant tree tops. He dared not try the experiment with his feet in fear he might unknowingly step on his daughter. “And of all the impossible things that have occurred today,” he thought with a grimace, “explaining to Elizabeth how I managed to unwittingly crush our daughter beneath my foot would be the most difficult of all.”
As there seemed no chance of getting his hands to his head, he tried to get his head down to them and was somewhat repulsed to discover that his neck would bend about easily in any direction. “I am coming, Alice!” he called. “Stay right where you are!” for it made him feel very nervous indeed not to be able to keep an eye on his wandering daughter. He had just succeeded in curving his head down into a nearly graceful zigzag, of which he felt oddly proud, and was going to dive in amongst the leaves when a sharp hiss made him draw back in a hurry. A large pigeon had flown into his face and was beating him violently with its wings.
“Serpent!” screamed the Pigeon.
“Appearances to the contrary, I am not a serpent!” said Darcy indignantly. “Kindly let off all that flapping!”
“Serpent, I say again!” repeated the Pigeon, but in a more subdued tone, and added, with a kind of sob, “I’ve tried every way, but nothing seems to suit them! My poor nerves!”
Darcy started at this last phrase, resulting in an odd waving sensation that flowed throughout his unending neck, but he said firmly, “I have not the least idea what you are talking about.”
“I’ve tried the roots of trees, and I’ve tried banks, and I’ve tried hedges,” the Pigeon lamented without attending to Darcy, “but those serpents! There’s no pleasing them! As if it weren’t trouble enough hatching the eggs, but I must be on the lookout for serpents, night and day! How are they ever to grow up and make fine matches if I cannot get any sleep for guarding them from serpents!”
“I am very sorry you are annoyed, madam,” he began formally, but the Pigeon continued, unheeding, as its voice rose to a shriek.
“And I’ve just taken the highest tree in the wood, and just as I was thinking I should be free of them at last, and having gone through all the trouble to get Lady Gouldian to quit it, they must needs come wriggling down from the sky! Ugh, serpent!”
“As I already assured you, I am not a serpent. I am Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley!”
“A Darcy, are you?” cried the Pigeon. “And what in heaven’s name is a Darcy, I ask? You just invented it.”
“I am a gentleman, madam,” he assured her, attempting to check his irritation and live up to the title.
“A likely story indeed!” said the Pigeon in a tone of the deepest contempt. “I’ve seen a good many gentlemen in my time, but never one with such a neck as that! Can you imagine the size of the cravat you’d require? No, no! You’re a serpent, and there is no use denying it. I suppose you’ll be telling me next that you never tasted an egg!”
“I certainly have, but not a pigeon egg, that I can assure you!”
“As if my eggs weren’t good enough for him!” the Pigeon muttered to itself. “I’ll have you know a great many serpents are interested in my eggs. They are admired throughout the neighborhood!”
“So I understood,” he sighed wearily.
“You see! You are looking for eggs. I know that well enough. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a serpent when hungry must be in want of an egg! Be off with you, I say! We don’t need any more serpents in our neighborhood,” the Pigeon ended in a sulky tone and settled down in its nest, looking very much put out. Darcy, happy to end the conversation, crouched down amongst the trees as well as he could, for his neck kept getting entangled amongst the branches, and every now and then he had to stop and untwist it. At last he found his missing hands, attached to gangly limbs as endless as his neck, and proceeded to nibble first at one bit of mushroom and then at the other, growing sometimes taller and sometimes shorter, until he had succeeded in bringing himself down to something like his usual height.
“There you are, Papa!” said a still tiny Alice at last. “Now it is my turn!” She reached out eagerly with both hands.
He pulled back, and taking the tiniest crumb off the left bit, handed it to her. “Try that,” he commanded.
Alice looked disappointed to be denied the more experimental experience her father had just undergone but, for once, unquestioningly did as commanded. Another small crumb from the left and then an even teensier one from the right, and she, too, soon resembled something like herself.
“How puzzling all these changes are!” Alice remarked. “It has been so long since I was anything near my right size that it feels quite strange, but I am sure I shall soon get used to it.”
“Puzzling is an understatement,” Darcy replied dryly, putting the remaining bits of mushroom in his jacket pockets, one on each side.
I have a one copy of Darcy in Wonderland, paperback or Kindle edition (winner’s choice) for a lucky winner who comments below. Residents of all lands may enter (I’m equal opportunity). This giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Wednesday, August 16th.
Twinkle, twinkle, amber cross!
For a chain, it’s at a loss.
Heavy links or simple loop,
Do not dunk it in your soup.
The worlds of beloved authors collide as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Austen’s immortal hero, finds himself thrust into the topsy-turvy world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.
Many years have passed since Elizabeth Bennet became mistress of Pemberley, and the Darcys’ six children stand testament to their enduring love. As the eldest prepare to enter the world, Alice, the youngest and most intrepid of the brood, ensures that life at Pemberley never grows dull. Her curious mind and penchant for mischief often prove trying, but never more so than when her father follows her down a mysterious rabbit hole, disrupting his orderly world in ways never before imagined. A treat for the young and the old, Darcy in Wonderland is both an adventure and homage to two of literature’s greatest minds.
Blog Tour Schedule:
August 5th – Laughing with Lizzie
August 7th – Austenesque Reviews
August 8th – Just Jane 1813
August 9th – From Pemberley to Milton (Guest Post & Giveaway)
August 10th – From Pemberley to Milton (Review)
August 11th – Austen Authors
August 12th – Sophia Rose’s Blog (Goodreads)
August 13th – Musings from the Yellow Kitchen
August 14th – Diary of an Eccentric
August 15th – More Agreeably Engaged
August 16th – My Jane Austen Book Club
August 17th – Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
August 18th – Babblings of a Bookworm
August 19th – Savvy Verse & Wit