When I plan new novels, I do my best to come up with new scenarios, storylines which I have not seen before (or directions not taken.) While there have been many variations written, I like to think I’m pretty good at putting a new spin on characters we all love so much. In a post a few months ago, I threatened to write a book about what would happen if Mr. Bennet used the legal mechanisms of the time to end the entail so he could leave Longbourn to his daughters. For today’s post, I have an excerpt from that story, The Challenge of Entail, which is scheduled for release on June 20.
I was also intending to do a cover reveal for the book, but an unavoidable delay means all I have to show you today is this mockup. It should be pretty close to what the final version will look like, though you’ll notice some watermarks on the photos which have been used and there may be some slight changes in colors, positioning, the image will be sharper, etc. The main points are the manor in the background, and Miss Elizabeth Bennet who, as always, plays a central role in the story!
The blurb will follow as a post on the FB group within the next week or so. So sit back and relax and enjoy what I hope is an intriguing excerpt!
Elizabeth felt the familiar longing to be out of doors walking in the groves near their home, and while she did not voice her desire, it must have been evident. Jane, dear sister that she was, offered to be her companion that morning.
“You will be out of sorts all day if you do not have at least a short walk, Lizzy,” said Jane. “As I am feeling a little restless myself, I would be happy to accompany you, as long as you do not walk halfway to London as you usually do.”
“I do not walk halfway to London,” said Elizabeth, glaring at her sister. “Rarely do I walk more than a quarter of the way.”
The two sisters laughed together and decided that was exactly what they would do. Mary’s opinion was canvassed, and she elected to go with them. Therefore, fifteen minutes later the three sisters had informed their father of their plans and departed. Mr. Bennet was working with his books and waved them from the room when they informed him they would all go together.
It was not Elizabeth’s intention to walk far at all that morning, so after a consultation with her sisters, she led them down Longbourn’s drive and down the little path which led away from Longbourn to the west, skirting Longbourn Village, but keeping the town close within their view. This was a good compromise, in Elizabeth’s opinion—the path was not a long one, and it would keep them close to civilization, while giving her the illusion of the bounty of nature she craved.
That was when trouble arrived at their doorstep. Out of the calmness of the still woods surrounding the path, and as Longbourn fell below the line of the trees, a man stepped out onto the path and confronted them, his scarlet coat immediately marking his identity. Surprised, the three sisters halted and stared at him in astonishment, and for a moment no one spoke.
“I might wonder why,” said Mr. Wickham, his voice grinding with anger, “my heartfelt overtures are rejected and tossed underfoot. Did I not show you the highest favor?”
There was room to retreat from the man, as they could return back the way they had come. The spire of the church was visible to the right, and if she strained, Elizabeth could hear the sounds of the small village, a dog barking, and someone calling to an acquaintance. Given Mr. Wickham’s position and from whence he had come, Elizabeth thought he had lain wait for them. He had likely marked their departure from Longbourn, seen the path they meant to take, and hurried on ahead to take himself to a position where he could waylay them.
All these thoughts passed through Elizabeth’s mind in an instant, and she wondered at so quickly considering the possible extrication from the situation. Then again, she had long suspected that Mr. Wickham was much more the brute than he revealed in public. Such actions as accosting young women on deserted paths was not the mark of a gentleman.
“Honeyed words seasoned with threats?” asked Jane, surprising Elizabeth with her daring. “You would have us believe that you meant only to make love to me?” Jane laughed, a bitter, harsh sound. “There is no need to speak such platitudes, Mr. Wickham, for I am well aware you care far more for my future inheritance than my person.”
“Had you taken the opportunity to discover my feelings, you would not have been disappointment.”
“So, a spurned lover warns a woman’s sister what will happen if she does not stay away?” said Mary. “That is an odd way to go about wooing, Mr. Wickham.”
“Ah, the awkward, wallflower sister speaks,” sneered Mr. Wickham. “As I doubt you have ever been the object of a man for longer than it took you to bore him to tears, I suggest you remain quiet.”
“Do not speak to my sister so!” exclaimed Jane. “You are not worthy to so much as say her name!”
Mr. Wickham’s scorn never abated as his gaze turned to Elizabeth. “What has infected your sisters? I might have expected you to take the lead in castigating me, and yet you stand there, witless while they cry their ineffectual insults.”
“Oh, I am quite capable of speaking, Mr. Wickham.” Elizabeth smiled thinly. “At present, I am merely enjoying their dressing down of a worthless excuse for a man.”
“I might have known some of your impertinence would infect them.” Mr. Wickham took a step toward them, a motion which caused all three sisters to stiffen. “It seems you must be taught a lesson in what happens to those who interfere with my designs, my dear Miss Elizabeth. It would have been better had you kept silent, for I am not a man who allows interference easily.”
“Then you mean to assault us?” demanded Elizabeth, moving in front of her two sisters to confront the cad. “How heroic of you, sir, to brave the likes of defenseless women. Shall you draw your sword to protect you against the fiery contempt from this coterie of enraged females, or shall you slink away in fear and shame?”
“You are about to discover what I shall do,” spat Mr. Wickham.
As he stepped forward, to do only he knew what, Elizabeth poised herself to defend her sisters by whatever means she possessed. She turned her head to tell her sisters to flee back to Longbourn to summon their father, when a shout rang from down the path beyond Mr. Wickham.
A glance beyond the libertine, who had stopped and turned to look at who had interrupted them, revealed the approach of a rider on a horse. The man was tall, dressed in the clothing of a gentleman, his steed a powerful stallion. As he reined in before them, Elizabeth heard a gasp from their tormentor as he stiffened in seeming recognition. The rider drew his mount to a halt before them and vaulted down from the saddle, reaching them in a few short strides. From his mouth issued a single word, though its meaning was amplified by the utter scorn and derision it contained.