“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.”
“Do anything rather than marry without affection.”
I love both of these quotes from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. So much so, that I cited both in the opening pages of my new release, Together in Perfect Felicity. Last month, I shared an excerpt from the first chapter of the story. Today, in celebration of the story’s recent release, I’m delighted to share another chapter. Happy reading!
Her Next Recollection
The lady of the manor house threw open the door of her older daughters’ room and poked her head inside. “You girls must hurry, or we shall arrive at the assembly after all the best gentlemen in the Netherfield party are taken. I can assure you my sister Phillips and her daughter will not be late. Even though Phoebe is not so pretty as you, Jane, and she is not so lively as Lydia, she is pretty enough, and she is certainly lively enough, and I cannot bear the thought of her outshining either of my girls.”
A woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper, when Mrs. Bennet was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married. How unfair it was to her to have been saddled with five girls when her sister had been burdened with only one. Her sole consolation was her belief that being the prettier of the two Gardiner girls had garnered her such a fate. Marrying off one daughter was nothing at all in comparison with her own onerous job. Mrs. Bennet would not sit idly by and watch her niece secure a husband before one of her own girls reached the altar.
“We shall come down directly, Mama,” Elizabeth called out to her mother, who was by then on her way to her younger daughters’ room to hurry them along as well. Elizabeth paused for a moment and admired her sister Jane’s reflection in the mirror. “How lovely you are, dearest Jane. I dare say neither Phoebe or Charlotte, nor I, stand a chance of garnering the attention of a single gentleman in attendance at the Meryton assembly this evening.”
Jane smiled. “Pray, Lizzy, you are not giving any serious thought to taking part in our cousin’s challenge.”
“Perhaps not at first, but having caught a glimpse of our new neighbor, I can think of far less diverting ways to pass this evening.”
At Mrs. Bennet’s adamant insistence, Mr. Bennet had been among the first in their neighborhood to call on Mr. Bingley to welcome the young man to his new home. Bingley, subsequently, had returned Mr. Bennet’s kindness by calling on him at Longbourn. His visit met with Mrs. Bennet’s utter delight, for she contended the young man had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of her daughters, whose beauty was so renowned in that part of the country, he surely had heard as much. Alas, he saw only the father. The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining from an upper window that he was a handsome young man who wore a blue coat and rode a black horse.
“You sound just like Phoebe,” Jane said.
“Now, Jane, surely you cannot deny that the prospect of meeting Mr. Bingley does not intrigue you.”
“I am certain he is very agreeable, and I certainly welcome the chance to meet new people.”
“As it is all but confirmed that upon his most recent return from town, he brought twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him, you shall have plenty of opportunities.”
Jane tilted her head ever so slightly. “The last I heard, his party consisted of only six people from London—his five sisters and a cousin.”
“Then let us pray his cousin is also a single young man in want of a wife,” said Elizabeth as she went to the bed and retrieved a lovely shawl. “And lest I forget—a handsome one at that. Handsome and exceedingly wealthy.”
“Oh, Lizzy, you are incorrigible.”
* * *
The women of Longbourn arrived at the assembly room just in time to command an advantageous view for the entrance of the Netherfield party. What a stunning entry indeed. So much so that any disappointment over the actual size of the party, which consisted of Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man, was of little consequence.
Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features and noble mien.
What a fine figure of a man.
“I declare he is much more handsome than Mr. Bingley,” cried Phoebe, who was standing next to her cousins and their friend Charlotte.
Speaking in a more hushed voice, the latter said, “He is also said to have ten thousand a year.”
“Ten thousand pounds a year!” Phoebe exclaimed with energy.
Charlotte nodded. “And very likely more. He hails from Derbyshire and is said to own half the county.”
“How do you know all of this, dearest Charlotte?” Elizabeth inquired.
“Why, my father called on Mr. Bingley this morning.”
“Ten thousand a year and half the county,” Phoebe repeated with excitement. “Ladies, I think I have found my future husband.”
Elizabeth laughed a little at her cousin’s conjecture. “Did you hear that, Jane? Our cousin has set her cap on Mr. Bingley’s friend, which means Mr. Bingley is quite safe for you.”
“And what about you, Cousin Lizzy? Have you no interest in claiming Mr. Bingley for yourself?” After a moment, she gasped. “Surely you do not mean to pursue my Mr. Darcy!”
Before Elizabeth could fashion a fitting reply, Mrs. Bennet grabbed both her daughters by the hand and proceeded to coax them to the part of the room where the members of the Netherfield party were standing. Charlotte and Phoebe followed suit.
The introductions were made by Charlotte’s father, Sir William Lucas, a friendly, accommodating man whose elevated rank obliged him to attend to such tasks. As a consequence of having to wait for her turn, Elizabeth was able to judge the newcomers with some degree of impunity.
Mr. Bingley was even more handsome from this vantage point. His sisters were fine-looking women, as well. Elizabeth could tell right away that the two ladies thought rather highly of themselves. Their manners were not nearly so easy and unaffected as were Mr. Bingley’s.
His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, was well-dressed but somewhat disinterested.
My cousin is correct. Mr. Darcy is so much more handsome than Mr. Bingley.
His voice was so deep, so melodic and even sensuous that Elizabeth almost did not notice his haughty air. Almost. Her cousin, in her eagerness to meet the gentleman, stole Elizabeth’s place in line at the last moment and offered her hand to the gentleman.
His dark, brooding eyes grew even more foreboding as he reluctantly accepted it and bowed almost imperceptibly.
True, her cousin’s display could almost be described as vulgar, but surely the gentleman was no stranger to such a reception from an eager young girl.
Not that young Phoebe was put off by Mr. Darcy’s cold reception. She merely drifted away as though she had touched the hand of Adonis himself.
It was then Elizabeth’s turn to meet everyone. The bright smile she bestowed upon his friend Bingley and even the polite smile she bestowed upon Bingley’s sisters, she promptly dropped when she stood before Mr. Darcy.
She dared not look into his eyes and risk seeing that same haughty stare he bestowed upon her cousin. But then he reached out his hand to her.
“Miss Elizabeth,” he said.
Against her will, she looked up. Her eyes met his. He stole her breath away.
Her hand reached out to his, and for a time, Elizabeth forgot what she was about. Her next recollection was of her standing alone on the outside balcony—the same hand against her chest, reminding herself to breathe.
Comment below for a chance to win a $5 Gift Card. One prize is up for grabs.
Because the gift card will be sent directly from Amazon.com, the winner must be able to redeem the gift card on Amazon.com.
Alternatively, the winner may claim an ebook edition of an eligible P.O. Dixon story. Hurry! The giveaway contest ends on Tuesday, February 12th. Best of luck!
Another Giveaway is Underway!
How about another exciting chance to win! I’m giving away gift cards and audiobooks. Up to three winners will be chosen.
Hurry! The contest ends soon. Click here now!