I’m sorry to say that we are not ready to have a giveaway this month. A Duel in Meryton (formerly Wickham’s Hertfordshire Duel) isn’t ready. It is close. It will probably be available in a month. But Summer and I don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we rush through the final edits at the expense of quality.
Yes, we’ve changed the title. A Duel in Meryton is the new title. I told you we would make changes. I didn’t expect we would change the title, but the new title better reflects what is in the book.
One reason we are delaying publishing the book is that I stopped working for a week. I went on an Alaska cruise. My laptop wasn’t working properly, so I didn’t get any work done. The cruise had photographers wandering around and I liked two pictures taken of me. One is up here at Austen Authors (CLICK HERE). The other is up on Amazon (CLICK HERE). The scene behind me in the one where I wore the light blue jacket was real. I had been out on the deck of the ship for about an hour and was watching icebergs. I briefly saw a pair of whales close to the ship.
But even though we still don’t have a new book to promote, it’s our turn to do a blog post. I wrote this very short story about a month ago. It is a variation of Sense and Sensibility, which assumes the readers know the plot.
A Different Choice
Barton Cottage seemed bare without Elinor. Marianne Dashwood rejoiced in her sister’s marriage, since she would never be so selfish as to object to two deserving people finding happiness. Yet, she missed her sister. Elinor’s presence was always a comfort and a pleasure. Although Marianne had disagreed with many of Elinor’s views, it was in retrospect that she realized when they differed, Elinor was more often right.
Marianne did not stay home and mope. Sir John and Lady Middleton invited the Dashwoods on numerous occasions and had many people for Marianne to talk to. But the people had nothing to say worth hearing. Yet, as the months passed, she learned to appreciate people who were boring, such as Lady Middleton, who valued her children and elegance but little else. Marianne learned to respect the kind heart of Mrs. Jennings despite her vulgarity. She knew Sir John Middleton was as shallow as he had been before, but she now recognized his inherent goodness and generosity. Through him, Marianne, her mother and her younger sister, Margaret, had the opportunity to meet numerous people. Marianne would not make her family unhappy because she was still mourning the loss of the man who had courted her, captured her heart, left, and married for money. For her mother and younger sister’s sakes, Marianne went to these events with every attempt to appear to enjoy them.
To her surprise, the more months passed, the more pretending to enjoy herself led her to forget Willoughby for a few hours at a time. His betrayal was still raw, but the rawness wasn’t constant. She found her thoughts flew to Colonel Brandon almost as much as they had to Willoughby. Here was a man who was both interesting and had integrity. He would not bend his views to coincide with hers but would discuss them intelligently and amicably. If neither one convinced the other of the rightness of their beliefs, they agreed to disagree.
Colonel Brandon was also a man of action, and his actions were shown in his usefulness and generosity. Previously, she had dismissed him as being old and boring. How could she ever have thought him boring? He was well read; he had traveled; he appreciated music and poetry. He also had a keen intelligence.
Willoughby had explained his behavior to Elinor, but his explanation only showed he was careless and selfish. He hadn’t deliberately set out to deceive Marianne, but he hadn’t considered how his actions would affect her, since he couldn’t afford to marry without money. He never had her welfare at heart. In his long explanation of his behavior, he told Elinor that he dreaded hearing that Marianne married. Did he want Marianne to live as an impoverished spinster? If he cared for her, he would want her to be happy.
She had loved a man who pretended to be what she wanted and hid his baser nature. She never knew the real man. These thoughts flew through her head while she and her mother and sister completed their short walk to Barton Cottage after visiting the Middletons.
When they arrived, there was an unfamiliar carriage in front of Barton Cottage. Meeting them at the door, their manservant said, “I let him in. I wasn’t sure if I should have.” Entering the small front parlor, they discovered Willoughby.
Marianne greeted him cautiously. Why was he here?
Her mother was more direct. “Mr. Willoughby, what brings you to visit? Is your wife staying with Mrs. Smith?”
“My wife died in childbirth.”
Marianne’s jaw dropped. Dead? Was that why was he here? For there could be only one reason. A rush of emotions came to her. He was free, free to make a disinterested choice.
She was only vaguely aware of a brief, formal expression of condolence from her mother. Her mother and Margaret left the room.
“When?” Marianne asked.
“Five days ago. I would have come earlier, but the baby had to be attended to. It is a girl. I named her Marianne.”
The baby was named after her, not his wife? Did his wife know before she died?
“Marianne, marry me. I never stopped regretting losing you. You know I love you. I never stopped loving you.”
“How is Marianne Willoughby doing?” The name was odd. She once thought it would be hers.
“She’s with a wet nurse with her cousin who has no children. She’s expected to do well. They want to raise her, but I haven’t decided if I will let them. They will spend some of her wealth on themselves, since she inherits twenty thousand pounds. That leaves me with thirty thousand. I’m wealthy enough to afford what I want, and what I want is you. I love you.” Willoughby got down on a knee. “Marry me. I want to make up for all the heartache I caused you.”
Willoughby had charm, good taste, and intelligence. Additionally, he wanted her. Yet, she would be better off married to a man who was as shallow as Sir John Middleton, who would annoy her daily in little ways, but never betray her in a big way.
Willoughby revealed himself when she had known him only days, but she hadn’t recognized it. He had no real opinions of his own. He was always swayed by hers, because Willoughby valued her regard more than he valued his own honesty. Did he change his persona with each woman he dealt with? Was he one person when he courted Sophia Grey for her money and another when he seduced Eliza Williams?
She now knew that intelligent, well-meaning people could disagree. She disagreed with her former self by thinking she was right in everything, only to learn she was often wrong. He was willing to fool her so she would love him. Only she didn’t love him. She loved a man who never existed.
Many fond memories flew through her mind. A carriage ride. Him cutting off a lock of her hair. A discussion of poetry. His reading to all her family, but the words meant for her. Walks. Dancing at the Middletons. And then she remembered her suffering in London because of his callous behavior. She remembered Elinor’s sadness at her distress and remembered almost dying because she hadn’t taken care of herself.
“No, Mr. Willoughby.” She hoped her use of mister with his name showed her change in attitude. She used to call him Willoughby. “Please go. Get off the floor.” He protested, asked her to give him time, and renewed his professions of love. She couldn’t trust any of it.
She resolved she wouldn’t cut him if they met but would treat him with cool politeness. However, she didn’t expect to see him again. She wondered if he would find some other woman to fool into thinking he was a man who loved anyone but himself. She resolved not to marry unless she found a man who genuinely cared for others without losing his integrity.
Someone like Colonel Brandon.
Could this be elaborated on and made into a longer story?
A more difficult question: Should this be elaborated on and made into a longer story?