Hello, everyone! It’s excerpt time! My next release is scheduled for the 21st of this month, and will be entitled The Impulse of the Moment. As usual, I’m still working on a cover, which I hope to reveal before the end of the week. Until then, here’s a taste of my next one for your reading pleasure!
A splash of color flashed through the foliage. Elizabeth stopped, standing stock still, senses alert for any further indication her solitude was to be interrupted.
The trill of a bird called loudly overhead, and while Elizabeth might normally have looked toward it, marveling in the joyous release of happiness, the needs of the moment took precedence. Her aunt and uncle were somewhere on the other side of the line of trees and shrubbery where Elizabeth now walked, but the color she had seen did not seem to be the color of her uncle’s coat.
Carefully, unwilling to be seen, Elizabeth edged her way forward, eyes alert for any sign of what she had seen, ears open to any sounds to disturb the air. A breath of wind fluttered against her cheek, blowing a few loose hairs back to tickle her ear. Impatiently, Elizabeth pushed them away, careful to make the movement slow and unobtrusive.
There! The sound of voices caught her attention, drawing her forward, still careful to keep the hedges between her and the source of the sound. Through a hole in the greenery, the sight of a couple, her aunt and uncle, came into sight. They were speaking with a man, tall and forbidding. The man turned slightly, his profile visible to Elizabeth’s gaze.
He had come. The heir of Pemberley had returned to his home.
Situated as she was away from the main path and behind some foliage, Elizabeth determined at once that she would not call attention to herself. Elizabeth was, however, close enough that she could hear the conversation. Curious as to what she would hear, she edged closer.
“I am just returned, myself,” Mr. Darcy was saying to her aunt and uncle. “My family is staying at my uncle’s house in the south, but a problem arose and my father dispatched me to meet with our steward.”
“Then we apologize for trespassing, sir,” replied Mr. Gardiner. “We were assured the family is not in residence.”
“It is no trouble, sir. We were to remain absent all summer, and only the matter of which I spoke drew me back. Mrs. Reynolds knows when the house might be shown—she would have turned you away, had the timing been poor.”
“We are happy to hear it, sir,” said Mrs. Gardiner. “It has been many years since I toured Pemberley. It would have been sad had we been unable to visit.”
“You have seen Pemberley before?” asked Mr. Darcy, the interest evident in his tone.
“Lambton was my home for many years. My father was the rector there.”
“Then you must be the daughter of Mr. Plumber,” said Mr. Darcy.
“Indeed, I am, sir.”
“Then I welcome you back, Mrs. Gardiner,” said Mr. Darcy with a bow. “His sudden passing was a tragedy. He has been missed very much.”
They continued speaking in this vein for some moments, the conversation largely carried by Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Gardiner, centering about some common acquaintances or their shared understanding of the town. As he spoke with them, Elizabeth noted he seemed more animated than she remembered seeing him during their short acquaintance in Hertfordshire. Did he realize they were of the trade class? Elizabeth could not be certain, but she suspected not—Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were quite fashionable and easily able to pass themselves off as gentlefolk when they wished. In truth, Elizabeth was forced to conclude it might not make a difference even if Mr. Darcy knew. Mr. Bingley was his friend, and his father had been a tradesman before he purchased Netherfield, after all.
“But we are keeping you from your tasks,” said Mrs. Gardiner after they had been speaking for some minutes.
“It is no trouble. I believe the situation will be resolved without difficulty.”
“I am happy to hear it, sir. For the present, however, I believe it would be best if we found our niece and departed.”
“You are traveling with another?” asked Mr. Darcy, looking about with some interest.
For a moment, Elizabeth thought he must see her even though she thought she was well concealed. But his eyes passed her location without any hint of recognition, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
“Shall I have the gardeners look for her? The grounds are quite extensive. I would not wish for her to become lost.”
A laugh was Mrs. Gardiner’s response. “Our Lizzy is well able to retain her bearings, regardless of where she walks. She is quite renowned for being a great walker of the paths near her father’s home. I dare say she could find her way back to Lambton in the darkest night, should the situation demand it.”
A flash of recognition passed Mr. Darcy’s countenance, and for a moment Elizabeth entertained the wild thought that he knew it was her. But then reason reasserted itself—he could not know the connection, and Elizabeth was a common enough name that it could not point to her. With a short pause and a long look, he bowed to her relations.
“Should you have any difficulty in locating her, please to not hesitate to ask Mr. Stevenson for assistance. He knows these paths like the back of his hand.”
The Gardiners assented, and with a few last words, the man departed, allowing her uncle and aunt to continue walking along the avenue. Elizabeth stayed in her place of concealment, watching as his long strides took him away toward the house. Then, taking thought to her situation and unwilling to allow her aunt and uncle to know she had been watching the exchange, Elizabeth set off away from the house, taking a long way around the strand of trees, and then found her way to the path. In a few minutes, she had come upon her aunt and uncle.
I hope that has whet your appetite! Why is Elizabeth so reluctant to meet Mr. Darcy? You will find out on the 21st!