Thursday, September 19, 2013

Meeting Cordelia Hendley

I'm going to be out of town next week, probably right when Holidays at Pemberley is released, so forgive the oncoming cluster of posts in its promotion, but the pressure is on! I want to introduce you to some of my new characters: the Westovers of Glendale. Their story begins in the prologue to the book, which you can read here. David Westover, the rector at Kympton (yes, Mr. Wickham has something to say on that point), is the hero of the story, but it is his sister Mrs. Hendley, who has won my heart. I think she is my favorite female character I have yet created (Sir James Stratton, the hero of Second Glances, takes the top prize). I love this scene, in which she first meets Charlotte Lucas, whose story provides the premise for the book's plot:

One day, after having entertained a particularly full drawing room all morning, Elizabeth professed herself exhausted and returned to her quarters for some much needed rest. The Bingleys took the opportunity thus afforded, as well as the advantage of a particularly fine day, to take a private walk through the grounds, and Mr. Darcy likewise occupied himself, though in the far less felicitous company of his steward. Charlotte was, therefore, alone in the drawing room when a last card was sent in.

“I would see whoever it is myself, Mrs. Reynolds,” said Charlotte glibly, “but I fear I would be a great disappointment. Only the mother and child are of any interest to these visitors, you know.”

Mrs. Reynolds smiled in a motherly way. “If that was their errand, ma’am, I would not have bothered to bring up the card, but the lady is here to see you.”

Charlotte looked surprised, and surveyed the name before her with more than the passing glance she had previously bestowed upon it. “Mrs. Hendley of Glendale!” she exclaimed paly. “It must be Mr. Westover’s sister!”

“Shall you receive her, Miss Lucas?” Mrs. Reynolds asked, suppressing a smile.

“Yes indeed! How could I not?” Charlotte consented nervously, smoothing her hair and gown unconsciously as she waited for the visitor to appear.

She did not know what such a meeting might portent, but she could be certain that this was no casual call. Too soon yet ages later, the door opened upon a tall woman, of strong resemblance to her brother, but betraying none of the years Charlotte knew she must possess over him. The vigorous presence of Mrs. Hendley, eyeing her knowingly from the threshold, made Charlotte’s heart soar. She had such a look upon her face, as if to declare, “Now I am here, and all your problems will soon be at an end.” Charlotte knew such a notion was ridiculous, but she would feel it, all the same.

“Mrs. Hendley,” she tried to sound calm and welcoming, but feared a tremor she felt threatening to interrupt the common words. “I am Miss Lucas. I understand you wish to see me. Won’t you sit down?”

“Indeed I do, Miss Lucas, and so I shall.” She laughed. “Never had I thought to be on such an errand as I now find myself. I had thought my days of taking care of David were behind me, for I have two boys of my own, you know, and can’t often spare the time, but after receiving such a letter from him as he sent me this week, I knew there was nothing to it but speak to you myself. I borrowed my brother’s coach instantly and set off, that we might finally get to the bottom of your predicament.”

Charlotte was totally taken aback by such confidence and knew not what to say. Struggling for words, she mumbled something about being pleased to make the acquaintance, and acknowledged not having formerly known of the children. This seemed enough for Mrs. Handley, who proceeded to enumerate the charms belonging to of each her sons, before recalling that they had very important business to address and couldn’t waste time on such folderol, “for I mean to sleep in my own house this evening, Miss Lucas. You must know that I have no intention of letting David know I was here, if you will be so obliging as to not tell him.”

Charlotte was now thoroughly befuddled. “Mr. Westover knows not of your visit to the neighborhood? But surely he will wish to see you!”

“You have not been attending, Miss Lucas,” said Mrs. Hendley. “Did I not tell you that I left on the instant I received my brother’s letter? If I am for Leicestershire today, I certainly have no time for a visit, nor do I think he would thank me for meddling in his affairs in the way that I intend to.”

I will let you know as soon as the book is released. In the meantime, Goodreads members, why not add it to your to-read list:

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