At the moment I’m working on the last two books in the ‘Darcy Versus Series.’ I’m not sure which will be published first but hope to have both published by the middle of March 2020. Here’s a second taste of ‘Darcy Vs Elizabeth.’
The next morning, in response to a note from Netherfield, Elizabeth headed over the fields between Longbourn and Bingley’s leased estate. The downpour the night before had made the roads too slick for the carriage. So, she kept to the grass as much as possible but still was unable to keep her skirts free of the mud.
Arriving at Netherfield, she removed her heavy boots and replaced them with the slippers she had carried for that purpose.
“Good morning, Lawson.”
“Good morning, Miss Elizabeth. I hope your family is well.”
“They are with the exception of my sister. I just had to come. And your family?”
“They are well also. My niece Jenny is here too and is attending to Miss Bennet. She seems a little better this morning.”
“We worried a bit last night when the flood came. The note this morning gave us some relief but brought additional worry now that she is ill. Has Mr. Jones been contacted?”
“I believe word has been sent, but he hasn’t arrived as yet.”
“Hopefully soon. Jane must get well.”
“I’m sure she will.”
Elizabeth gave him a wan smile at his assurance.
“Miss Eliza. We didn’t expect to see you this morning.”
“Good morning, Miss Bingley. I came to see my sister.”
“Of course, you did. Whyever did she come last night?”
“She had looked forward to having dinner with you and your sister and hated to disappoint. And you know the weather is unsure. It may look like rain and do nothing for two days. Or just the opposite which is what occurred last night. The carriage horses were not available, and that is why she rode Nelly. It was an unfortunate choice.”
“Yes, it was…no matter. We are breaking our fast if you wish to join us.”
“No, thank you. I really wish to make sure my sister is beginning to improve.”
Pointing at the footman, Miss Bingley ordered, “You, take Miss Eliza to her sister’s bedchamber.”
“It is Miss Elizabeth.”
“My name is Elizabeth, not Eliza, Miss Bingley.”
“Eliza, Elizabeth. There’s not much difference.”
But Elizabeth replied with a tight smile, “It is a big difference to me, Miss Lina.”
Miss Bingley turned a bright red, squinted her eyes, and said, “Lina is the name of my maid.”
“Oh, but what’s in a name? Caroline, Carolina, or lina. There’s not much difference,” Elizabeth responded with a look of surprise.
Caroline paused, a retort on her tongue and hatred in her heart, then just turned and stomped back to the small dining room.
“This way, Miss Elizabeth.” The footman couldn’t prevent the small smile that appeared on his face.
“Thank you, Robert. I appreciate you showing me to her bedchamber. Is your mother well?”
“She is better since me father died. It has been hard with him gone, but me aunt has come to live with us, and her company has helped.”
“I’m glad. Your family is the third generation that has lived here?”
With a broad smile, the footman responded, “Yes, ‘tis true. We have served six households down through the years.”
“And I know they have appreciated your family’s hard work.”
Elizabeth smiled as Robert’s cheeks grew warm, and the young man ducked his head in embarrassment. She had known the footman as a lad who had played with a crowd of young boys who lived in and around Meryton. She and Jane had even read stories of pirates and other adventures to the youngsters from time to time. Elizabeth was pleased he was growing into a fine adult who was now learning a skill. His uncle, who was Lawson the butler, was aiding him in that endeavor.
Thanking him for being her guide, she knocked softly on the door until Jenny opened it.
“Miss Elizabeth, I’s so glad ye be here. Yer sister been asking for ye.”
“I’m here. I wouldn’t be anywhere else except at your side.”
Her sister smiled then began coughing. Jenny quickly brought a bowl as Jane coughed up mucus that was clogging her throat.
Elizabeth was alarmed but refused to upset her sister and calmly said, “I understand Mr. Jones should be here soon. The roads are quite muddy and very slick in places. So, it might be a while.”
“Did you walk here, Lizzy?”
“Yes, and my hem is six inches in mud, unfortunately. But I removed my boots at the door and donned my slippers, so I would not track mud throughout Netherfield. I doubt Miss Bingley would have approved.”
Jane smiled but winced when she tried to laugh and agree with her sister’s comment.
“Shhh, Jane. I shall keep my teasing under wraps as I do not wish for you to begin coughing again. Mr. Jones should have something to help.”
Jane’s eyelids were starting to close, and Elizabeth felt her sister needed to rest rather than talk. Gently covering her with the blankets and the counterpane, she was pleased that Jane slept.
Darcy nearly rolled his eyes as he endeavored to finish his breakfast and tolerate Miss Bingley’s lamentations concerning Miss Bennet and her sister Eliza who had mud on the bottom of her hem.
“Are you concerned she got mud on the floors and the carpets, Miss Bingley?”
“Well, no. She had brought some slippers she wore after leaving her boots at the front door.”
“Then there should be no problem. No mess for the servants to clean up, and she is here to help with her sister.”
“Charles, you should have seen her clothes. She looked like a hoyden who had been playing in the mud. I never would have allowed myself to have been seen in such a condition.”
“Caroline, she loves her sister, and she came over hill and dale to take care of Miss Bennet. I, personally, think she should be praised for her efforts, not criticized.”
“Mr. Darcy, would you have allowed Georgiana to be seen in such a state?”
“Absolutely not. She is very fastidious with her appearance, always dressing appropriately as a young lady should.”
“You see, Charles. Mr. Darcy agrees with me.”
“Darce, do you mean to tell me if you were ill, and Miss Darcy had walked through mud to care for you that you would have been upset?”
“Well…no. I would appreciate her efforts, but I would expect her to present herself in a ladylike manner.” Darcy’s ears pinked just a bit as his conscience smote him slightly for speaking like a hypocrite.
Bingley’s raised eyebrows, the twist to his mouth, and his lack of comment let Darcy know what he really thought of what he said. He was chastising his friend by refraining from saying anything, and Darcy knew it.
“But, Charles, you don’t know what she said to me.”
“What did she say to you?” Bingley looked at his sister with a resigned expression.
“Well, I called her Miss Eliza, and she proved to be more than a little touchy. Said her name was Elizabeth not Eliza, and I said there was not much difference between Eliza and Elizabeth. She said it was different to her and had the effrontery to call me Miss Lina. Have you ever…”
“Caroline, why did you call her Miss Eliza?”
“I don’t know. I just did.”
“Well, I do know. Your former maid was Eliza, and you were being rude to a guest in my house. This is not your house; it is mine and you will be polite to anyone I allow here. Do you hear me?”
“No, Charles, Caroline. You will do as I say, or you will go back to London with the Hursts or to our aunt in Scarborough.”
For the rest of the meal, the man from Pemberley was silent until he excused himself to care for correspondence. Although he had almost smiled at Elizabeth’s nickname for Caroline, he had suffered the slings and arrows from the two Bingley sisters that were aimed at Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth for too long and felt a mite uneasy about his own condemnation of a hem six inches in mud.
Although the plot to this point is similar to the beginning of Austen’s P&P, it will diverge considerably and very quickly.
Would you like a second taste of ‘Darcy Vs Wickham as well?’ This is a scene that I might use to start this particular WIP. Enjoy!
Darcy had awakened when the young maid entered from the servant’s corridor. A little perturbed that she had disturbed his and Elizabeth’s sleep, he watched her through a barely lifted eyelid. Did Mrs. Reynolds not warn her about coming in our suite before we had arisen? Or did the new hire forget? Suppressing a sigh, Will stayed very still.
Elizabeth stirred about that time, and the maid was startled and turned to the side of the room where the bed resided. Darcy nearly snickered when the girl gasped on turning and seeing them asleep but very in dishabille as they were completely unclothed though covered with a sheet and counterpane.
Nearly dropping the coal scuttle, the girl hurried in finishing the fire.
Darcy couldn’t resist. In a low voice, he whispered, “Elizabeth, my love.”
And the maid promptly squawked, grab the scuttle, and ran out the servant’s door while Darcy kissed his wife as she shook with silent laughter against his chest.
When they could finally laugh aloud without embarrassing the maid further, both did so until they had tears in their eyes.
“You are aware, are you not, that was not a very good welcome for the new maid.”
Darcy mirrored the grin on his wife’s face as they burst into laughter again. But when their spate of glee began to dissipate, they found pleasure in being alone again.
With a wave of his hand, Darcy dismissed the footman who had been serving them.
“Shall I speak with Mrs. Reynolds, or would you prefer to?”
“About what, my dear?”
“You know about what, Elizabeth.”
“Oh, you mean about earlier?” responded his wife with a twinkle in her eye.
Darcy smiled knowing his lovely spouse was just teasing him. However, he had a day filled with estate business, and he wished to have things set straight about when a maid should enter the master and mistress’s suite before all three might be thoroughly embarrassed in the future. He would not tolerate events like that occurring.
“I will speak with Mrs. Reynolds, Will. I’m sure she covered the rules for the maids, however, Mary, the usual one had to attend family. That’s why Alice was here this morning.”
“Still, no excuse for…”
Elizabeth laid her hand on her husband’s and gently squeezed. “It could have been much worse…”
And with that drawn out expression, Elizabeth got the giggles, and Darcy guffawed.
“Thank God, it wasn’t.”
Finally, they became more serious as they finished breaking their fast and decided on a walk before luncheon. It would give both a needed break from their responsibilities. After all, they had only been married for five months, and they were still in the afterglow of their honeymoon.
I am also thinking about making these pre-orders at a discount and include giveaways as well. Will keep you posted.