Today is the last day of Hanukkah (last night was the final candle) , and now my mind is fully engrossed in Christmas. I'm terribly behind on preparations (same tune, new lyrics), but I ought to catch up. Samichlaus visits my children in school today, bringing sacks of tasty treats. The Christmas markets are mostly open and accessible. It's lovely visiting them once more.
It is uncertain how much writing I will continue to accomplish amidst all the upcoming hubbub, but I will try to stick to my mostly regular blogging. I also want to dig back into the Mixed-up Mashup conundrum. It would be wonderful to finish it this year, but I won't hold my breath.
Here is a very short, very rough excerpt from the beginning of the now nearly finished rough copy of Tales of Pride and Prejudice. I'd love to hear your thoughts:
Pemberley, January 1791
It was a cold-hearted visitor for whom Pemberley, at any time, was an unimpressive sight to behold, but only those so fortunate as to be included in the estate’s annual Twelfth Night celebrations knew the house in all its glory. One wondered how the surrounding woods could remain so lush, when surely a hefty percentage of the foliage had been harvested and moved indoors, there to festoon every window pane, stairwell, and mantelpiece. With all the multitudes of candles alight and the torches lining the drive blazing forth towards the sky, every invitee who traversed that fiery avenue knew that their evening would be one they should not soon forget.
However, that time had not yet come. The day was still young, and though all the greenery was already in place, casting its festive atmosphere, the only sound of merriment currently ringing through those hallowed halls were those emanating from young Mr. Wickham, son of the estate’s steward, who ran through the gallery, laughing all the while, and down the servant’s stair, concealed behind a tapestry. The young master of the house, normally a proper enough gentleman, was in hot pursuit of the imp, who had moments before pilfered his favorite toy soldier. His progress was impeded by a most effective obstacle: the great form of his aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, her dear friend, Augusta Westingham, both of whom were currently guests of the house, and, most formidably, his mother, Lady Anne Darcy, who frowned down at him disapprovingly. “What is this, Fitzwilliam? I expect an explanation for such unruly behavior.”
Young Fitzwilliam Darcy reddened with shame under the glare of his mother’s reproach. He knew he had behaved wrongly, and past experience had already taught him that no explanation he attempted would pacify his mother’s pique, but he was only eight, and he felt all the indignation of being the wronged party, unfaiurly held to account while the true perpetrator got away, and struggle though he might, he could not contain his indignation.
“George was in my room again, Mother. It is all his fault … ”
“Yes,” she interrupted. “I saw him come careening through before you, but in what way can his uncouth behavior in anyway account your lack of conduct? I expect more from my son.”
“You ought not allow Mr. Darcy to so indulge that young rascal,” Lady Catherine inserted, never one to be left out of a conversation. “T’will come to now good, as I have warned him time and again.”
Lady Anne ignored her sister, an art in which she was well practiced. “Do you think the conduct becoming Mr. Wickham’s son is on par with what is expected from the heir of Pemberley? Is this how the sprig of a noble tree presents himself to the world?”
The boy hung his head. “No, ma’am.”
“Never forget who you are, Fitzwilliam. Now, it is past time you were dressed for the children’s party. It will not do for your guests to begin without you.”
“Yes, Mother,” and without further objection, the young master obeyed, retreating, if not with noble hauteur, than at least at a far more sedate pace than that at which he had charged forth, mere minutes before.
“Try not to be too hard on him, Anne,” commented Augusta, once the young gentleman was gone. “He is just a boy. It is a short lived phase that they grow out of it all too soon.”
“Youth is a dangerous excuse for not knowing one’s place,” retorted Lady Anne. “I will speak to George about young Wickham. He becomes more unruly by the day.”
“You should witness the antics in which my nephew James engages. The young rascal will be the death of my poor brother. He won’t heed a word he says.”
“I have broached this subject with Sir James,” Lady Catherine confided. “I warned him it is far easier to break a colt while he is young, but your brother will spoil the boy so! He shall grow quite impossible as he ages,” she predicted.
“Nonsense!” laughed Augusta, well used to her friend’s interference and not at all intimidated by it. “Never have I known a more charming young scamp.” She sighed longingly. “I begin to fear I shall never have one of my own.”
“You are yet young woman Augusta,” reassured Lady Catherine. “Have you tried that tea I suggested?”
“I assure you that I have tried everything that has been suggested by either the doctor or you, Catherine. I have been pushed and prodded far beyond the bounds of decency. So far, it has all been to little avail.”
“Yes, we have all been inspected and examined. It is most unpleasant.”
Mrs. Westingham sighed. “But at least you both have something to show for such invasions.”
“You assume too much, Augusta,” Lady Anne said. “Fitzwilliam sprang into existence with little enough fuss. I have been expecting five times since his birth. Nothing has come of it,” she concluded sadly.
Mrs. Westingham eyed her suspiciously. “Not nothing, I should say. That emerald set Mr. Darcy bestowed upon you deserves some attention.”
“The emeralds are inadequate consolation,” she responded seriously, but understanding her friend’s desire to lighten the suddenly sour mood, continued, “but do not take that to imply that I am anything but exceedingly pleased with my Christmas present from George.”
“It was the least he could do after your sufferings!” Lady Catherine continued, not knowing when to let sleeping dogs lay. “I, too, have endured my share of medical intrusions, and I begin to doubt the doctors have the slightest notion as to what they are doing. I, for one, am done with being experimented upon. For all we know, it is the gentlemen whose health is to blame. Why not badger their poor persons for a while, instead of ours? Besides, the future is already secure. Anne shall marry Fitzwilliam, and they will united the two estates.”
“I see you have it all organized, Catherine,” Lady Anne said, inspecting her older sister quizzically. “Shall they have nothing to say about it? What shall you do if he cannot like her, and she elopes with your rector?”
Mrs. Westingham laughed, the argument about the futures of Anne de Bourgh and Fitzwilliam Darcy already being an old source of disagreement between the sisters. “Shall you wear the emeralds this evening, Anne?”
That lady happily assented and began regaling the others with tales of her gown, future speculations and old sorrows forgotten for a moment, as they all set their minds upon the imminent delights before them.