Monday, July 5, 2021

A Mixed-up Mashup Excerpt

As previously discussed, I have resumed work on an absolutely insane story started ten years ago. In a moment of madness, probably inspired by the tale, I volunteered to read from it for the next JAFF Reader/Writer Get Together WIP meetup on July 17th (you can sign up here: I'm not really sure what compelled me, but I have made a commitment, and I must follow through. The thing is, I am not the best at public readings, and this story is so weird that I really have no idea which part is best to read. The following excerpt is probably the most obvious to choose, because it kind of (sort of) explains a lot of the story, but it is also dialog heavy, and that is exactly where I tend to read too fast and lose my audience. I am, therefore, posting it here in an attempt to eliminate it from the contest. It can still be my fallback option. If you like what you see and want to read more, I am posting the story at A Happy Assembly. Please do come by and read along:

To get an idea of just how wild this tale is, I have drawn this rough map to keep track of the characters. I keep adding to it as the story develops, and I have a beta reader who does beautiful watercolor work and has agreed to remake it pretty for me, should I end up publishing this story. That remains uncertain. First, I need to see my way through this mess I've created. Enjoy!

He frowned. "You are not Miss Bennet."
"No, sir. Certainly not."

"Do you have a purpose here?" he pressed. "Forgive me if I intrude, but these are my aunt's grounds."

"You must be mistaken," she replied readily. "This land belongs to the parsonage. My father is the rector," she continued, by way of explanation.

Mr. Darcy, being rather sleep deprived, and feeling more depressed and excitable than was his custom, replied with horror, "Good God! It cannot be so!"

Miss Morland was affronted. "I have no reason to prevaricate, sir!"

"You are the daughter of Mr. Collins?"

"Certainly not! I am Mr. Morland's eldest daughter," she said in as superior tones as she possessed. "And who might you be? Mrs. Allen has no nephews your age."

"Mrs. Allen? I have no notion of any such person! This land belongs to Rosings," he gestured empirically towards the house, just visible through the trees, "the estate of my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh,"

"You are mistaken, sir!" she stubbornly insisted, though quite unsure from where the elaborate structure could possibly have appeared. "This land belongs to Fullerton, as it always has."

Mr. Darcy knew not what to make of such an assertion. He had never heard of Fullerton, the Morlands, or the Allens, and he was on the verge of concluding the young lady was out of her senses, when he suddenly had cause to doubt his own. There, right before him, where he was certain a path never before existed, came yet another young lady, elegantly dressed and of eager stride.

"May I be of some assistance?" Emma Woodhouse inquired pleasantly, eying the two before her with approval. She knew not what two such promising looking strangers were doing in Highbury, but she was pleased to see them. It had been a particularly dull morning, and such interesting persons, arguing in the middle of the lane, must provide diversion. When neither responded to her question, only staring at her most disconcertingly, she pressed on. "You appear as if you were lost," she explained, somewhat irritated that it should be necessary. "I know this country well and might be able to direct you."

"But," stammered Miss Morland, looking to the strange gentleman for confirmation of what she saw, "but, excuse me, there was no a lane here before, was there?"

"Certainly not," affirmed Mr. Darcy, relieved enough to have his own senses confirmed that he dispensed with any further examination of his measure. Other questions were more pressing. "How it comes here now, I cannot say. But we all agree it is here now," he paused in confusion, "are we not? That is something."

Miss Woodhouse, quite out of patience, spoke her mind. "What nonsense do you speak, sir? This path, or something very near like it, has been here more than 20 years," she asserted confidently, "and though I cannot bear witness to what proceeded that time, I think it is enough is to prove the path's existence just a few moments past."

Though he could not see where it led, Mr. Darcy thought he spotted solid foundation, which he desperately required, in her assertion. "Then tell me, Miss ... I am so sorry, ought we not introduce ourselves? I am Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Derbyshire, and this is Miss Morland, of Fullerton, I believe, and you are?"

"Miss Woodhouse!" she snapped, quite expecting to repress the man's impertinence. Her surprise when the name meant nothing to her companions was transparent. “Of Hartfield,” she continued, still no effect. 

Darcy saw her confusion and hurried to establish those facts he could. "Miss Woodhouse, I do not know from where you materialized, nor Miss Morland either, but I do know that this," he pointed again towards Rosings, "is the estate of my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. You can both see the house, can you not?"

"From where did it come?" exclaimed Miss Woodhouse in disbelief, but before the matter could be further investigated, an angry voice was heard approaching from the direction in which all three were gazing.

"I will not have it, sir! I cannot say how such a thing has come to be, but I warn you it will not be tolerated!" Mr. Darcy had only just processed who it was that spoke so empirically when his aunt, accompanied by Charles Bingley, came into view. The latter spotted his friend gratefully, but before he could express a word of greeting, Lady Catherine commanded his attention.

"Darcy! There you are! You must assist me. This man has put a house on my lawn, and I insist that it must be removed at once!"

Mr. Darcy stared at Mr. Bingley, who hurried, as best he could, to explain the situation. "I do not know how it may have happened, Darcy! A marvel it is, but I am only leasing the house, you know, so I really cannot be held responsible for a thing like this." He gestured behind him, where the ramparts of a second house, quite next to Rosings, could now be discerned.

Mr. Darcy, shaken, asked, "What can Netherfield Hall be doing in Kent?"

"This cannot be!" declared an alarmed Miss Woodhouse. "We all saw that it was not there two minutes ago. And we are not in Kent, but Surrey! What can be happening?"

"Oh, dear!" a new female voice was heard to moan, and the entire assemblage turned to confront two newcomers: a woman, very handsome put no longer young, and an older gentleman, of extremely dignified appearance. "We cannot live in Surrey! It is far too close to London."

"Indeed my dear, you are quite right!" the man replied. "Nothing but merchants and tradesmen, seeking to gain a bit of respectability by purchasing the mere acre or two of land, at an easy distance from their shops and warehouses. Surrey will not do for us."

"Pardon me," declared an incensed Miss Woodhouse, "but I have heard it said that Surrey is the garden of England."

"Your point is highly irrelevant," insisted Lady Catherine, not to be outdone in indignation, "as Rosings is in Kent. The De Bourghs have always hailed from Kent, and neither I, nor my daughter, will reside anywhere else!"

Elizabeth Elliot sniffed disdainfully. "I do not know what to make of this new company we have found ourselves in, Papa. Who might they be?"

"I don't know my dear, but this gentleman certainly appears presentable," Sir Walter Elliot gestured towards Mr. Darcy, eying his greatcoat. "My good sir, who is your tailor?"

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