Monday, July 29, 2013

Holidays at Pemberley is DONE! Plus this is my 500th post! Lots to celebrate ...

I have so much to share. First of all, I spent the bulk of last week in a spa with my mother. sister, and daughter. I'm not sure it was really all that relaxing, but massages and saunas are to be relished, regardless of their lasting effects. Part of the problem was that I knew as soon as I got home, I would meet with my awesome designer to finalize the layout of Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters, A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Concludes. I spent a good chunk of the vacation reading the story to my family, hoping to catch any last errors (of course, I'll find more after publication). Here's the finished front and back. I'll also be creating a tab where you can read the completed first chunk of story (a rough version is already available here). All I need now is for the publisher to agree to my timeline for release. I'm really hoping to convince Outskirts to agree to a specific publication date (November 20th). That would make marketing so much easier. I have never had the luxury of being able to say a book of mine would be available at a set time, instead being forced to reload Amazon every half hour for two days or more, anxiously waiting to see if it is yet listed. This is the biggest detriment I've found to the self-publishing process.

This is my 500th post! 500 opportunities for me to stick my foot in my mouth for all the world to see. I had no idea this blog would become such an important part of my life when I began, and while it doesn't ever seem to receive the attention I should give it anymore, it remains an important place for me to organize my thoughts and interact with other Janeites. Thanks to all who have stuck it out with me through these last years. You've helped me find myself, and I am forever grateful.

Now that Holidays at Pemberley is in holding mode, I'm starting to think about my writing plans for the fall. I know it's a bit early to be thinking of Halloween, but I have a plan for a new novella I want to write for the occasion, along the lines of last year's Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid (you can read it here for free). This was a very different kind of experiment for me. Usually I write feel good stories, and Emma & Elton was intentionally the opposite. You see, while I have mostly beautiful Austen-based dreams, I also have some very disturbing notions, indeed, and Emma & Elton was an exploration of one such nightmare. I knew it would be upsetting to many of my readers, and I tried to provide adequate warning of what it was, but I never received enough feedback on it to know if I caused anyJane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling, I'm giving you one last opportunity to tell me to stop. Please see the poll in the right sidebar to provide anonymous feedback. Thank you!
lasting trauma. So before proceeding down a similar path in

Continuing to look ahead, I'm going to again participate in NaNoWriMo this year (though I still need to register). I'm really excited about the new Pride & Prejudice variation I plan to write for the occasion, and while I'm reluctant it say too much about it right now, just in case the plot takes a wildly different turn, I will reveal that it takes place in the 1830's, when Darcy and Elizabeth, having never married, meet again. As I said, I'm really excited about this, so I'm sure I won't be able to keep my thoughts contained for long. If I've sparked your curiosity, you should periodically check back here for the more information that is sure to come.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Artist / Rebel / Dandy 2: The Mirror of Fashion

I was lucky to return to Providence, Rhode Island earlier this month, this time without my daughter, and went back to the RISD Museum to view the current exhibit - Artist / Rebel / Dandy: Men of Fashion - in more detail than my previous visit allowed (check out my first post on the exhibit here). I was particularly interested in getting a closer look at Richard Dighton's panoramic Mirror of Fashion, made in 1823 and featuring several prominent society gentlemen of that time. The exhibit is opened through August 18th, so there is still time to see it yourself, but for those who cannot get there, I thought I'd take this opportunity to detail this fascinating set of caricatures, as I was very sorry not to be able to find more information on it when I returned from my first viewing.

I can't find a complete picture of this rather bizarre scroll, but at it is not the artwork but the captions I find so interesting, perhaps this matters little. I did not transcribe it in its entirely, but I did pick out a few snippets to share, either for their humor or the familiarity of the persons represented. I will present them from left to right, beginning with the first that struck my particular interest. The bold type is the identification provided by Dighton.

A Good Whip
William Phillip Molynaux, 2nd Earl of Sefton certainly was a notable whip. As one of the founders of the Four-Horse club, he might well have been the basis for many of Georgette Heyer's "Corinthians". His wife was one of the founders of Almacks. A politician, perhaps his most memorable contribution to public life was his opposition to the railroad, so we'll remember him for driving through town at a reckless place with four horses instead.

An Indian Lake, Lord Lake
This is humorous because Francis Gerard Lake's father received the title Viscount for his service in India as Commander-in-Chief of the British forces. The 2nd Viscount Lake does not seem to have similarly distinguished himself, but we may assume by his presence here that he enjoyed the profits of his father's toil.

A Favorite Poodle
The Hon. Frederick Gerald Byng (I found a few mistakes by the RISD curator, and one was misidentifying him as George Byng, 2nd Earl of Strafford, another was listing Almack's as a gentlemen's club), was named "Poodle" Byng by Beau Brummell himself, who was mocking the dog that constantly accompanied his friend. A member of the "Bow Window Set" at White's, this caption probably mocks his status as a close associate of George IV, whom he served as page. The gentlemen is credited with improving London's sanitation system.

Kang = Kook
I can't find much information on Colonel H.F. Cooke, but I'm dying to know what this caption references. If anyone can explain Kang = Kook to me, I'd be ever so grateful.

(skip ahead a few)

New = Gent, Lord M_____
This one poses another mystery. Presumably the man pictured was recently elevated to his status as lord whatever he was (Mumford?). If anyone can enlighten me, I'm all ears.

The Golden Ball, Ball Hughes
No mystery here. Ball Hughes is one of those famous dandy's who gambled and caroused his way through an enormous fortune until he had to move to France, where one could live more cheaply. Although I saw no specific mention of his contributions to fashion in the exhibit, he is credited with inventing the black cravat, which one would think would be worth noting. Look for him in Heyer's Sylvester.

Best Blood & Bottom of Westmorland
Totally unidentified, but as I believe Westmorland was known for hunting, the gentlemen must have been quite the Corinthian (if these terms have little meaning for you, please read more Heyer).

Lord Yarmouth, A View from Yarmouth to Hertfordshire
I was super excited to see Francis Seymour-Conway, 3rd Marquess of Hertford and Earl of Yarmouth pictured, as I have a print of his mother's picture (one of the Regent's many mistresses) hanging in my living room. The inscription indicates the extent of his power and influence. He was a considerable art collector, so it makes sense that he's now part of a collection.

A Welch Castle
I don't quite get this one, for it is identified as Lord Gwydyr, and despite the hard to pronounce name I can find no indication that he was at all associated with Wales. Maybe one of you can help? What is of interest for Janeites is his full name, for Peter Drummund-Burrell was also the 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby.

(Skip a few more)

The Best Store in the Ordnance

-          The most well-know personage is none other than Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. I think no further explanation is require.

A Princely Ambassador
-         Prince Paul III Anton Esterhazy is another character familiar from Heyer, as his wife was one of Almack's most famous patronesses. He was a prince and the ambassador from Austria. Go figure.

(One last leap to the section pictured below)

A Character in the School of Reform/Catullus/A Spice of Pepper from the Stick of Arden/One of the Rakes of London/An Old Servant out of Place

A Character in the School of Reform
-          John Cam Hobhouse, 1st Baron Broughton is one for the literary buffs, as the forth Canto of Childe Harold is dedicated to him. After traveling with his buddy Byron through Europe for several years, he began a career as Radical reformer, for which he is best known.

-         George Lamb did a translation of Catullus' poems into English, but he's mostly interesting in the modern world as the little brother of William Lamb and husband of the Duke of Devonshire and Lady Elizabeth Foster's illegitimate daughter.

A Spice of Pepper from the Stick of Arden
-         William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley, as in "Alvanley, who's your fat friend?", which has to be the most famous cut of all time, having lost Beau Brummell his place in the Regent's circles. The Baron was another infamous dandy to plow through the family money, but he must have been a lot of fun to party with in his heyday, while I believe the rest of his family was of a more serious bent (his brother was a friend of William Wilberforce).

One of the Rakes of London
-          Thomas Raikes was a famous dandy and diarist. The artist's willingness to make a rather insulting pun upon the name Raike might be a liberty premised in its mercantile roots. I'm pretty sure this gentlemen makes his appearance in Heyer, too, but I can't figure out where. 

I had so much fun studying this! Any information a reader might wish to contribute to further this deciphering of an iconic image would be wonderful. I'm sorry I couldn't do the entire scroll, but there were others waiting on me. 

One last highlight of the exhibit I failed to mention in the last post: this magnificent banyan worn by the Prince Regent in his thinner days is included. If you can get there, go visit the RISD Museum before August 18th. While in providence be sure not to miss the Athenaeum Library on Bennet St. That place is magical. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Book is Done! Plus a Review of Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory

Sorry to usurp a review I should have written a month ago, when I first finished the book, but I just finished Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Concludes! My interests may have never been so much in conflict before, but it is time to celebrate, nonetheless (well, almost: I still need to process the comments of my mother, sister, and mother-in-law, who really do a marvelous job cleaning up after this extremely careless writer). This book is a journey begun less than a year ago when I spontaneously decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo on November 1st, in response to the need to do something for Charlotte Lucas. I had no notion it would turn into a Christmas story, but I'm very pleased with the results. It wraps up the fates of all my other re-imagined Pride & Prejudice characters with particular focus on the Darcys and, to a lesser extent, the Wickhams. I hope it is as satisfying to those who have been following my tale as it is to me. Now I'm ready to move on, and I have something in mind for this year's NaNoWriMo. More to come on that this fall.

Now let's turn our attention to a book is certain to delight the reader: Bluebells in the Mourning by KaraLynne Mackrory. I bought this novel after reading a wonderful review of it at Austenesque Reviews, which does a far better job than I am about to do summarizing the plot (check it out here). The story has a bit of something for every Janeite (except for explicit sex scenes - thank you Ms. Mackrory!): desperate misunderstandings between Darcy and Elizabeth, beautiful development of side characters, especially Georgiana, mysteries to unravel, and a thoroughly despicable Wickham in need of defeat, which as an added bonus brings us into the depths of the 19th century London's underworld ...
He was disgusted with his surrounding - and even more so with the lack of punctuality of the person whom he was to meet - and Darcy's mood was taking a decided turn south. He dared not touch the soiled tablecloth covering the wobbly table in front of him. He had barely summoned the courage to order a glass of brandy from the grubby looking bar maid; her suggestive propositions and unwashed odors were making him ill. Where is that blasted man?
After eyeing the glass suspiciously and reminding himself why he must bear these mortifications, he tentatively took a sip of his drink. Upon his arrival at Netherfield, Darcy had sent his valet to gather information about Wickham or his whereabouts from within the exclusive, secretive world of the servant class. Some hard-earned confidences led Darcy to this fetid part of London.
... and gaming-hells:
Wickham nodded and straightened to his full height. He turned to the barkeep and said he would want a bottle sent to the table.
"What'll ya be drinkin' this time, Wick?"
He tendered a mischevious grin. "The regular for me, and a bit of your blue ruin for the chaps."
Wickham tapped the bar and walked over to the table with the officers just as Jem placed his winning cards on the stack. Wickham reached for the man's arm and lifted it up, pulling out the extra cards he knew the man kept hidden in his sleeve. 
"I suppose these cards just fell into your coat, eh, Jem?"
Love it!

As a readaptation of Pride & Prejudice, my favorite thing about Bluebells in the Mourning is the joyfulness of the story. Almost everyone finds an even happier fate that Austen provided, except for Lydia, who is dead. That's the the story's premise: What if Lydia Bennet conveniently fell off Oakham Mount while Elizabeth is at Hunsford, but before Mr. Darcy can make his first proposal? I felt kind of guilty reading about how everything could work out so well if only poor Lydia were disposed of, but it really does allow the Bennet family to become far less dysfunctional. She is rather a nuisance, I get it, but I can't help but feel a little uneasy about that part of the premise. It's my only complaint of the book, which provides a lovely reading experience. This is the kind of novel that is perfect for those readers of Austenesque who approach with caution, as it remains true to Austen's time and spirit throughout. Brava!

This is my seventh review for The Pride & Prejudice Bicentennial Celebration 2013, hosted by Austenprose. Check out my others below:

Pride and Platypus by Vera Nazarian

Mr. Darcy's Little Sister vs. And This Our Life by C. Allyn Pierson

An Unlikely Missionary by Skylar Hamilton Burris

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers

The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell

Friday, July 12, 2013

Holidays at Pemberley: Part One (C)

No spoilers of my other novels in this excerpt, and so no warnings about the grave risks you might incur reading this post (yeah!). This is the third piece of the first part of Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Concludes that I am sharing with you, and like the others THIS IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS! See a spelling mistake? Please tell me! Have an idea of what would work better? I'm all ears, but the clock is ticking. I hope to have the entire novel to the press by the end of this month, in order to get it published in time for the Christmas season for which it was written.

Here we are first introduced to the hero of the story, David Westover, who is the rector at Kympton. Enjoy!

Read the prologue: Somewhere in Hertfordshire, July 1790
Read Part One (A)
Read Part One (B)

An unmarried woman approaching the dreaded age of thirty always requires explanation. If she is most fortunate, a tidy fortune readily provides excuse, or perhaps her betrothed died tragically. Society smiles upon a pledge of maidenly widowhood, and such a lady must always be a subject of interest. The squandering of youth in caring for either a sickly parent or string of orphaned siblings is also tolerable, but be she so truly unfortunate as to simply fail to ever turn anyone’s head, or at least not far enough to result in a proposal of marriage, then she is only one amongst a multitude of homely old-maids, dependent and subject to ridicule. Such a fate must be avoided at all costs.

Of course a gentleman, though still unmarried at such an age of decrepitude as thirty-nine, requires not the slightest excuse for his state. All he need fear are the attempts of every concerned friend to thrust ladies across his path. How fortunate for David Westover that he was completely oblivious to all such attempts! Upon first entering the neighborhood of Kympton, there had been some scurry amongst its residents to pair him off with one superfluous sister or another, for not only was he in possession of the living at Kympton and that associated with his family’s seat, but perhaps his greatest attraction was a healthy second son’s portion, undiminished though entirely in his own hands since the trying age of eighteen. Such a man was surely the proper property of one or another of the ladies in the parish, but Mr. Westover proved stubbornly blind to all but the most direct assaults, to which he showed such a degree of embarrassment that few would dare venture similarly. Eventually even the most determined matchmakers gave him up as entirely hopeless, and his bachelorhood appeared safe.

Only Cordelia Hendley, his sister, persisted in pushing David towards matrimony. For many years it was she more than any other who had defended his right to remain single, but ever since her surprise accession to the title of wife, and at such an unlikely age as thirty-seven, one of her chief concerns became securing him the female companionship (and caretaking) that he required. When her marriage, surprising in itself, further astonished the world by proving fruitful, she realized how selfish it had been to convince him, as over the years she had, how very unsuitable he would be as a husband. How often she chided, “Count your blessings, David, that it is a sister you must contend with, rather than a wife, for the latter could never abide such nonsense!” when he forgot his dinner, taken away from time and space by the studies that consumed his life. There was always some “puzzle needing attention,” as he often phrased it, and just when one was solved, a new one inevitably arose. Though he never neglected parish duties, almost everything else was likely to be forgotten once he set his mind to a pursuit. Now that she was married, there was no one but the housekeeper to take care for him, and though Mrs. Herbert had been under Cordelia’s own immediate direction for so many years, each time she visited the parsonage some unaccountable failure of habit and training was always detectable. She counted her blessings that her own perfectly operated curacy was not half a mile distant, or her brother’s entire establishment would surely be subject to rack and ruin.

Which is why, upon first learning of David’s intention to remove from Glendale to Kympton, she voiced her opinion most loudly in opposition to any such scheme.

 “David!” she exclaimed, cornering him in the astronomical observatory which the master of Glendale had built for his younger brother’s use many years ago. “What is this Tom tells me of your leaving Glendale? Have you gone mad? You must do nothing of the sort!”

“Darcy has need of a Rector,” he replied with an indulgent smile, “you have need of a bigger house, and I would like to get a closer look at the minerals being mind in Derbyshire. I think it a most eligible situation.”

“I beg to disagree! Mr. Darcy can find another rector. Surely there are enough in need of a living. I am already secure a bigger house, and you need not relocate just to study rocks. Your fancy is sure to turn in some other directions soon enough.”

“You know you cannot live in the big house with Alicia for however many years the improvements Tom plans take to be fully enacted, not with two children of your own. Such extensive work cannot be accomplished quickly, and the longer it is delayed, the more difficult the task becomes.”

“It would not be such an ordeal if you would only give up this notion of tearing down the entire house and simply add on a few new rooms, as I originally suggested!” she replied in an indignant tone.

“I cannot change the realities of the situation, my dear, and the foundation must be relayed. Had I allowed you to advance with your plans unhindered, you would not thank me for it, I assure you.”

“But surely this plethora of pipes need not be installed! I saw your diagrams, and I do not see at all how the structure will be more secure by leaving a maze of holes underneath it.”

“My dear Cordelia! Not only will the new curacy be the sturdiest house for miles around, but it will also be the envy of everyone you know. Plumbing is sure to change the way we live, and you will be amongst the first to fully indulge in this tremendous luxury. No one shall ever want to inhabit the rectory again, once they witness the marvel that is the curacy.”

“Then why not simply switch abodes? Robert and I will move into the rectory, and you may live at the big house until this miracle of modern engineering is accomplished.”

“Though no miracle, the mechanism really is rather miraculous, Cordelia, and you will think yourself the luckiest lady in the land to have it, believe me.” He looked at her skeptically, “Beside, you believe Robert would ever consent to inhabit the rectory? He is much to concerned with the preservation of rank to agree to such a notion.”

She sighed, “No. He never would, but there must be some other solution! You cannot go off and live alone at Kympton. Who will take care of you?”

“The parsonage has been run by the same good lady these may years. I told Darcy we would suit each other just fine, but that you were sure to want to meet her first. I just hope Mrs. Smith’s nerves aren’t too shaken by your inspection.“

“If you would only marry, I‘d need not concern myself in such matters!”

“Marriage is not necessary, only a willingness in you to believe I can take care of myself!”

She smirked, “Had you ever shown the least capacity in that area, I’d be very pleased to see it.”

For the first time since the conversation began, he frowned. “I have never been allowed to attempt it. Far be it for me to be anything but thankful for the remarkable attention my siblings have showered upon me all my life, but as long as I have the security of Glendale – if I am never to be tried solely on my own merits – how will I ever know that I can survive on my own? This is important to me, Delia.”

Whenever David invoked his childhood name for her, Mrs. Hendley always become sentimental, but typically tears did not uncontrollably well in her eyes, as they did while she confessed, “I will miss you intolerably. Have you considered how I am to make do without you?”

His smile returned, a bit crookedly, as it always lilted on the left whenever he was tenderly touched. “You have your own children to mother now, and I shall be no further than a morning’s drive away. You will all do so well without me, that I am sure to regret ever having left. I’ll have to return home with great frequency in order to guard my place in your affections, lest you forget all about me. Robert’s inability to fulfill my duties will serve ample excuse.”

“Indeed!” she scolded him and continued to try and dissuade him, but not long after the easy distance between Leicestershire and Derbyshire was confirmed (a single days visit might be made, though it was a long way to journey for nothing but tea – the only activity for which there would be time), David was begrudgingly suffered to go. The Hendley’s moved into the Parsonage, which had room for their existing children and any additional miracles Cordelia might still have in her, and over the next three years (all motivation for a swift completion being fairly negated), a very proper gentleman’s abode was erected upon the grounds where the old cottage, having housed the curates of Glendale for who knows how many generations, once stood. The house was not grand beyond its station, though rather more commodious than is customary in such domiciles, but it was exceedingly well situated and equipped with modern conveniences the likes of which were barely known to the most illustrious in the land. At Mr. David’s instruction, running water was accessible at two different spouts inside the house: one in the kitchen, and another in a fabulous water closet, equipped with a startling device in which one might bathe standing up, as if in a rain storm. David would not take credit for this miraculous contraption, insisting the idea was not his own. He had only improved on it.

The kitchen was fully modern, as were all the fireplaces and chimneys. Though she was suspicious of some of David’s notions at first, it was not long after finally taking up residence in the new parsonage that Cordelia become their biggest advocates. ”How we ever lived before, I know not,” she confessed to her friends, each of whom considered sourly that they still were forced to endure poor ventilation, drafts, damp, and smoking chimneys, while Mrs. Hendley could only complain of failures in her refrigeration cabinet!     

Despite such distractions, Mrs. Hendley found ample opportunity to hound her youngest brother to return to his native parsonage, though several years passed without David making any indication he might do so. It was the greatest irony that when he finally did turn his thoughts in such a direction, it would be Cordelia who persuaded him otherwise.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Jane Austen, Independence Day, and Holidays at Pemberley: Part One (B)

Happy 4th of July, my fellow Americans! My family is getting ready to be off to the inevitable BBQ, but I just wanted to share some thoughts and more story on this most relaxing of holidays.

Jane Austen was not a year old when the Declaration of Independence was signed 237 years ago today, and while she could have little opinion of it at the time, she grew up in a world coping with the upheaval then begun. Her books provide escape from a world in chaos. Politics and revolutions do not soil their blissful pages. In my own writing, I struggle to find a place of retreat from the concerns of the modern world, and that's why I'm usually loath to introduce sadness and suffering into it. We all get enough of that already. Though I am willing to plunge on occasion into misery, as I did in the spirit of the Halloween season with Emma & Elton (and I have another story of the same sort in mind for this October), usually I like to avoid the pain.

In First Impressions I removed all of Elizabeth and Darcy's initial pride and prejudice, but I did not in any way fix those character flaws. In Second Glances and now Holidays at Pemberley, I have tried to imagine how everyone would evolve without the benefit of the cures Austen so effectively applies to her characters, necessarily rendering these continuations a bit more negative than their predecessor. My hope for these books is that they are as uplifting as possible despite the intrusion of inconvenient relations, sycophants, and even loss.

This is the third excerpt from a DRAFT copy of Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Concludes that I am sharing with you, Part One (A) and a Prologue having preceded it. As this is still a work in progress, please share any thoughts you have on it. Being self-edited, I can always use the help of an extra set of eyes.

Happy 4th of July!

Spoiler Alert - The following assumes a knowledge of the concluding event of First Impressions. If you have not read that book, this will probably both confuse you and reveal the plot, so you may wish to proceed no further.

Read the prologue: Somewhere in Hertfordshire, July 1790
Read Part One (A)

“Oh, Mr. Bennet! Do look up! I believe I have spotted a chimney!”

“For the last time, my dear, I am attempting to read,” he replied, his eyes stubbornly affixed upon the pages of an impressive tomb.

“How can you be so uncaring about the estate which will be our dearest Lizzy’s home?”

“You do me an injustice! I care a great deal for Lizzy’s comfort, and as Mr. Darcy assures me Pemberley is equipped with at least four walls and a roof that does not leak, I feel quite easy on the subject.”

“Now I see smoke. It most certainly is a chimney! How grand the house must be!”

“My dear, do use your head,” he succumbed to the temptation to witness his wife bouncing in her seat with all the excitement of a schoolgirl and lifted his gaze. “We have not even entered the gate, and the park is ten miles round, a fact you cannot have forgotten, having mentioned it to everyone within hearing distance these many weeks. You cannot possible see the house yet.”

“I could if it were situated on very high ground and was many miles long itself!” she defended.

 “We do not typically measure homes in miles.”

“Oh no? What do we use then?”

“Whatever would most suit you, my dear,” he replied with humor. “In lieu of miles, what think you of acres?”

“Acres then! It matters little, for I know a chimney when I see one, and all your reckoning of the distance serves to prove is how truly impressive it must be.  Lady Catherine spent 500 pounds on a fireplace alone; just think of what such a chimney as this might cost!”

Charlotte Lucas stifled a threatening giggle, focusing more intently than ever on her work. She did not believe Mrs. Bennet to have spotted Pemberley anymore than Mr. Bennet, and despite having spent the last three days in a closed carriage and being just as keen for liberation as her chaperone, she could not dispel reason for fantasy. Endeavoring to dull her eagerness with the lady’s chatter, Charlotte considered what a welcome addition such a steady supply of hot air as that provided proved to the comfort of the journey.

“It is a chimney!” Mrs. Bennet squealed with delight.  “Oh do look, Mr. Bennet! Miss Lucas! I insist you look out the window!”

She was right. It was a chimney, but that belonging to the lodge. Mr. Bennet teased her quite mercilessly regarding the epic grandeur of the accommodation, while Mrs. Bennet insisted it was a very fine dwelling indeed, worthy of a magnificent estate. She almost determined to demand a tour of the premises, in proof of her point, but a gentle reminder of what lay ahead cured her desire for such delay and freed the gatekeepers wife, who watched the scene from the window with no small sense of alarm, from the burden of her inquiries.

 The entrance to the park was in one of its lowest points, and as they drove through a beautiful wood, gradually ascending for a half mile, both Charlotte and Mr. Bennet were just as attentive to the scenery as Mrs. Bennet could desire. Perhaps a most extraordinary soul might be unimpressed by Pemberley’s lower grounds, but upon reaching the eminence where the woods ceased and the house came into view, few breathing humans could be so insensible as to not pause in admiration.

“Oh my! Have you ever seen anything so grand? I knew Lizzy was to be terribly rich, but never did I imagine this! Netherfield is nothing to it! Nothing! Oh my! But it is so very big!”

Indeed it was. The three travelers climbed out of the carriage, ignoring frigid climes for the glory of the outlook. The house was situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road, with some abruptness, wound. It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills. In front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. They were all of them warm in their admiration, but Charlotte was possibly the most delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. Of all this Lizzy would be mistress! She had often congratulated her friend on her good fortune, and before her lay the evidence of precisely how good that fortune was. To be Mrs. Darcy was certainly something extraordinary.

Returning to the carriage, the trio continued towards the house, necessarily alive to all Mrs. Bennet’s enthusiasm the entire way. Mr. Darcy, Miss Darcy, Mr. Bingley, Jane and Elizabeth were all gathered on the portico, waiting to greet them. It was as delightful a reunion as mutual affection can assure. Mr. Darcy was at his best in his own domain. Behind the formal wording of his welcome, his future relations easily perceived warmth, yet his manners remained grand enough to stifle Mrs. Bennet’s most blatantly silly impulses, rendering the entire scene perfect to both himself and his future wife. Georgiana enjoyed a different satisfaction in the family atmosphere created by the arrival of the Bennets and Miss Lucas. She had relished the time spent in Hertfordshire at Longbourn. To her, Mrs. Bennet quickly became something of a surrogate mother, a feat assisted by being spared, along with her brother, from that lady’s most voluble behavior. All that could improve upon the moment would be if the youngest Bennet sisters, Kitty and Lydia, were also in attendance. Unfortunately, and in spite of Lydia’s rather violent protests, they were not permitted to delay their entrance into Mrs. Rivers’ establishment in Bath, to which they were referred by Mr. Darcy, for the acquirement of greater composure before being introduced to society. Georgiana was charged with sending a detailed account of all the festivities to Kitty, whom she rather preferred to Lydia.

Mrs. Bennet declaring herself fatigued, Georgiana escorted her to her quarters and saw her made comfortable, while Mr. Bennet determined that the famous Pemberley library could be neglected not a moment longer; he must see it immediately. Mr. Darcy happily led the way, finding no little amusement in the child-like joy displayed by the usually wry gentleman upon entering the sanctuary. Mr. Bingley joined them on this excursion, but quickly finding himself unable to participate in the other men’s bibliophilism, he excused himself, and drawing Jane away from the other ladies on the flimsiest excuse, Charlotte and Elizabeth found themselves alone.   

Caressing her hand along the silk material of the elegant chair upon which she sat, Charlotte exclaimed, “It is a lovely room! I knew Pemberley would be grand, but I had no notion such grandeur could be so warm and inviting. You are a most fortunately woman, Eliza.”

“I try to count my blessings, but mathematics never being my forte, such exponential growth is beyond my abilities to track. All I can do is pray this is a dream from which I will never wake, for it all certainly must be too good to be true.”

“I had not realized the estate would be so massive. No matter how often I heard the size calculated most exactly, it did little to prepare me for the reality.”

“You mean my mother has been talking your ears off these past days recounting every minute detail she knew about Pemberley. Poor Charlotte! At least you are now sure of respite, for until his name is mine she will not dare do anything to frighten Mr. Darcy away. How we shall manage once that restraint is released, I know not.”

Charlotte smiled, “Perhaps she too will fear to end the dream, and so refrain from any sudden oscillations?”

“One can but hope. Let us not engage in such fruitless conjecture. I had much rather discuss the fineness of this house over which I am to preside. Now we understand why Mrs. Wickham was so determined to tie herself to Pemberley!”

“Yes, indeed. Poor woman! I’ve heard she was most put out to learn that nothing scandalous marked her husband’s relationship to Mr. Darcy. Can you imagine wishing for illegitimacy?”

“She has my utmost pity, I assure you, and can only deserve more in time, as she comes to learn what kind of a husband she has caught. Unfortunately, marriage is an ailment for which there is no cure.”

“It almost is enough to make one wish to be an old maid. As I dwindle into perpetual maidenhood, Eliza, be sure to remind me of what a great blessing it is not to be married to Mr. Wickham.”

“Oh, let us not rely on him alone. The man is not worthy such undo consideration. Think on my new brother, Mr. Collins, should you ever need a reminder of Artemis’ blessings.”

“But how shall I fare when all the gentlemen before me are not Mr. Wickhams or Collinses, but Mr. Darcys and Bingleys? If your fiancĂ©e weren’t so impressive, my lot might be made easier.”

“You are still a young woman, Charlotte. Your fate is not yet sealed.”

“Perhaps in spirit, but reality renders me dangerously near thirty.”

“There will be a number of eligible gentlemen here over the next few days, as well as variety that should be worth meeting once the rest of the guests have departed. I shall make it my first priority as a married woman to see you properly settled with an agreeable gentleman of easy fortune, whose home lies in close proximity to my own.”

“You sound as if you already have someone in mind, Eliza,” Charlotte laughed. “If so, you shall hear no complaint from me, as the situation you describe sounds very agreeable, and I cannot be so simple as to not have formed hopes for the new acquaintances I shall make while in Derbyshire.”

Elizabeth smiled secretively, as she had indeed already selected a potential suitor for her friend: Mr. Westover, the rector at Kympton, but she had no intention of manipulating the situation in any way to bring about such a happy ending. The two would have ample opportunity to meet, and if her instincts proved correct, they would establish a ready rapport. She thought his steady temper and scientific mind were precisely what would appeal to her practical Charlotte, while a shared interest in the arts would encourage those more creative aspects of her friend’s personality, so wont be eclipsed by her stubborn pragmatism. Of course, Elizabeth had only dined with him once thus far, and so while she saw no harm in privately amusing herself with visions of the future, she would not yet dare to speculate aloud and so turned the subject back to the wonders of Pemberley.
“I truly think that should Mr. Darcy’s house have proven a hovel, we would still be just as happy together.”

“Though certainly not nearly so comfortable! Be reasonable Eliza. If Mr. Darcy had been penniless, you never could have allowed yourself to accept him, no matter how in love you profess to be. It would have been madness to do so.”

“But I do not imagine him penniless, only living in a hovel. Would not a miser be just the same as an impecunious husband?”

“Not at all. Do not bait me so! Be as romantic as you wish, but you cannot convince me that you would ever have married against your interest. It is very well to boast such munificence when you have never been forced to weigh such considerations, but the reality, had you been in such a sorry predicament, would be very different from what you describe. Only fools marry against their own interest.”

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow questioningly. “What of Mr. Darcy? No one can say he has chosen to align himself profitably, in manners of both influence and finance. I’m sure I am far more likely to be seen a detriment to his well-being than an asset.”

“Then he will surely pay the price for his folly!” Charlotte declared rather forcefully before checking herself and continuing, in a more gentle tone of voice, “My dear Eliza, who could begrudge you your luck? I know no one so deserving of it, and if it truly is all a magical dream, as you say, you cannot reasonably concern yourself with the normal rules of everyday life. I give you leave to be the happiest couple in the world, without qualification.” She rose to survey the view from the window. “I cannot wait to explore your park!”

Elizabeth began to expound on what she had so far learned of her new home and grounds, and soon Georgiana rejoined them. The dinner hour drawing near, Charlotte excused herself to see her room settled and herself refreshed. Before departing, she said in an aside to Elizabeth: “Thank you, Eliza, for including me in your wedding, and for giving me the opportunity to escape Hertfordshire for a while. You must know how miserable it will be at home without you nearby!”

“Do not think of such things now, for we know not what the next few months may bring,” Elizabeth replied, negating the need for any more to be said on the subject. She had her own dress to see to, as well as an appointment to keep with Mr. Darcy in the Conservatory. She could not be happier than she was, and if anything appeared off in some of Charlotte’s sentiments, it was certainly the effect of many days of travel – in wearying company, no less – and was quickly forgotten.

But when left by the maid to the quiet of her own reflections, Charlotte struggled with regrets she could not quell. She had betrayed some of her less generous sensations regarding the impending marriage to Elizabeth, and she could not excuse such carelessness in herself. Though sincerely happy for her friend, something like envy could not be repressed. She had meant to be grateful and supportive, condoling with Elizabeth on the great responsibilities she was about to undertake, and helping her to transition from her old life to her new, but her revere that morning while standing on the overlook had left her unsettled.

That impressive spectacle – the confirmation of all she had heard of Mr. Darcy’s wealth, and more – brought forward nagging doubts she had fought against ever since the inevitability of Elizabeth’s fate became clear. Charlotte, ever practical, was quick to celebrate the match. Being well acquainted with her friend’s opinions on marriage without attachment, she rejoiced to see Elizabeth find someone who not only suited her ideals, but who also had the means to marry for affection. She was honored when Elizabeth chose to include her in this most important of life’s great rituals, and would have happily born Mrs. Bennet’s exclusive company for four days more, had the distance required it, in order to stand with her closest friend as she took her vows. Nevertheless, Charlotte could quietly acknowledge that her joy was not unalloyed. There were nagging sensations tempering her delight. She would miss Elizabeth’s presence in the neighborhood, certainly, but though the vacuous void left in Charlotte’s life, as she trod ever further down that seemingly inevitable path towards spinsterhood, was sure to be rather horrendous, this was not what most bothered her. Missing a friend was a torment, but the feelings thus invoked where at least honorable. Charlotte was bothered by other emotions, of a nature to cause her shame. The vista as she gazed down upon Pemberley’s grandeur that day had forced the most pressing of these to the forefront of her consciousness.

From the first, Charlotte struggled with an irrepressible desire to find something in Mr. Darcy that she could despise, his perfections being far too much for a lady like herself to bear. Too long had she schooled herself against unreasonable expectations, debating with Elizabeth the wisdom of seeking affection in marriage at all, and to see such a fairytale unfold before her very eyes undermined some of her most cherished beliefs. Were Mr. Darcy ill-looking, bad tempered, or overly proud, Charlotte could be more equanimous, but to be confronted by a real-life Prince Charming was intolerable. Such beings did not exist, or at least not for a lady of little fortune, average face, and on the wrong side of five and twenty. Something, anything, must be discovered wanting in Mr. Darcy.

The task was not an easy one, but slowly her doubts began to center upon the disparity between Eliza and Mr. Darcy’s circumstances.  Their very different backgrounds would certainly compound the inevitable challenges of such a marriage. Why a seemingly sensible man would connect himself without more advantage she could not fully comprehend, nor could she understand the good fortune that led his relations to bless the engagement, for they could not be blinded by Elizabeth’s ready wit and pretty countenance to the absurdities of the connection. Charlotte found such blatant disregard for his own interest suspect, a conclusion that set her mind at ease without any great diminution to her friend’s triumph. A little stupidity in a husband was not such a bad thing, after all. It might even be considered an asset. Yet to see his capability on such obvious display everywhere one looked at Pemberley, where everything stood proof of Mr. Darcy’s excellent stewardship! Charlotte was left to contend with the possibility that dreams really do come true, at least for others.

No knight in shinning armor could be expected to lose his caliber over Miss Lucas, but she was not yet completely hopeless of finding someone acceptable. If she might yet attract a husband both respectable and of adequate fortune, she would then think herself nearly as lucky as Elizabeth. As the alternative was playing attendant aunt at Lucas Lodge all her days, Charlotte knew she was willing to endure a great deal for the independence gained through such a marriage. She wondered she could be so discriminating on Elizabeth’s behalf, finding even so excellent a man as Mr. Darcy to come up short, but confronted her own dismal prospects with relative calm. Looking at her circumstances objectively, Charlotte knew she had no better hope of meeting a potential husband in her near future than on this trip to Pemberley. Though Lady Lucas never discussed it with her daughter, the variety of new gowns she had made up for the trip implicitly revealed that she too perceived the invitation to Pemberley as a vital opportunity. Charlotte was determined to do everything in her power not to let it go to waste.

Read Part One (C)