I thought I'd give everyone a little taste of what all the fuss is about. Please enjoy Chapter One from my first Pride and Prejudice Variation novel, Elizabeth, Darcy, and Me.
“How does my lady tonight?” Mr. Charles Bingley asked me, stroking the muzzle of his jet black mare, Camilla. He had come to the stables after an evening out among society. I’ve noticed he sometimes does this as a way of seeking solace, and though I am only his groom, he occasionally speaks to me in confidence.
“She is very well, sir. She only wants you and a little exercise to make her happy.”
“If only the human sort of females were so easy to understand.”
I studied his face. His reddish-blond hair was lit almost like a halo in the glow of the lamp hanging from a rafter above his head, yet it cast a somber shadow over his lowered eyelids. His normally smiling mouth was ever so slightly downturned. “What do you mean, sir?”
He sighed deeply. “Oh, nothing. It is just that…though I do not find it difficult to converse with women, I find that I am not often able to say anything…weighty enough to impress them. My friendships with ladies are unsatisfying to me, and mine to them too, I get the impression. I wish I could find someone who would be contented with a simple fellow such as I.”
“I would hardly call you a simple fellow,” I replied, handing him a carrot from a nearby bucket so that he could feed it to his mare. “You are educated at the highest level.”
He looked at me, and for a moment his expression brightened, then dimmed again. “That does not signify. I do not consider myself the cleverest of fellows, Christopher. There are many men far more intelligent, and able to speak on matters of importance and interest, much more so than I. Such as my friend Darcy, for example.”
“If I may be so bold to say it, sir. Mr. Darcy may be more able to speak on such matters, but he does not seem to be particularly willing. I have been in his acquaintance a long time, and rarely do I see him speak to anyone but you, or his sister, at much length.”
He let forth a slight laugh and his blue eyes twinkled briefly. “You may be right about that, Christopher. As a result, look where Darcy and I are. Both nearly a quarter century old with no wife to show for it.”
“You are both still very young to be much concerned about that.”
“Well, Darcy may be happy with his state of bachelorhood, but I long to find that girl, that perfect girl who would bring me joy for the rest of my life.”
“There is still plenty of time for that.” I took up a brush and began running it across Camilla’s ebony shoulders.
“You speak as a sage, old soul, Christopher, and yet you are getting to be of the age to be considering the same sort of thing.”
Little did he know how I often entertain those very sorts of thoughts. “No sir,” I replied. “Not I. I’m not quite ready to began on that journey.”
“I suppose not.” He sighed again. “Everyone in their own time.”
I put myself forward once more as I continued to groom the mare. “If you cannot find the lady of your dreams outside your immediate circle, perhaps you should look inward. Mr. Darcy’s sister is a most delightful young lady. I have readied a steed for her to ride more than once when she’s come with her brother to visit you here in London.”
“No, Georgiana is nothing more than a little sister to me. I could never see her as anything else.”
“And what about your unmarried sister for Mr. Darcy?”
He stroked the animal’s mane, the blackness of it a contrast with his own fair hair. “I think she would like that very much, Christopher, but between you and I, I would not wish Caroline on him.”
I laughed aloud, and saw his smile return in earnest. “Then perhaps what you need is a change of scenery altogether. Maybe you should leave London for a while, and find a place endowed with clever young ladies with whom you are not yet acquainted. Fish in a different pond, as the saying goes.”
He looked at me for a while as if deep in thought. “You are a smart lad, Christopher,” he finally said. “I am glad that you have remained in my employ for so long. My father was wise to hire your father, and for him to apprentice you as my groom.”
“That is very kind of you to say, sir.”
“And, you, my dearest fellow, have given me an idea.” With a final pat to Camilla, he wished me goodnight and left the stable with a renewed bounce in his step.
Father has been trying Mother’s nerves greatly. She has been imploring him to go to Netherfield and meet the gentleman who has recently taken up residence there, a one Mr. Bingley, who is rumored to have a substantial fortune. It is obvious that she has designs on him for either Elizabeth or Jane, both of whom are still unmarried at the considerable ages of twenty and twenty-two respectively. I, knowing Father’s penchant for teasing Mother horribly, had been suspecting that he had actually made the visit after all. The conversation went ‘round and ‘round, on this particular day, Lizzy trying to reason with Mother that we would meet Mr. Bingley soon enough, for our neighbor Mrs. Long could introduce us at the assemblies, but this only made Mother abuse Mrs. Long for being selfish and hypocritical, suspecting her of keeping Mr. Bingley for her own nieces. She irrationally complained of poor Kitty’s coughing, and became further agitated when Lizzy pointed out that the Longs would be out of town during the next assembly, and therefore, could not introduce us. Father then observed that he would introduce Mr. Bingley to Mrs. Long instead, and the whole conversation became a twisting turning mêlée of miscommunication, a thing Father delights in, until he surprised me by applying to me for my opinion on forms of introduction and whether the stress society lays on them is nonsense or not.
“What say you, Mary,” he said to me, “for you are a young lady of deep reflection, I know, and read great books, and make extracts.”
I had been sitting in the corner with one of these very same great books, and did not know that anyone was aware I was listening. Therefore, I was not prepared to reply, and became flustered, trying to decide if Father were being sarcastic or if he really does consider me a young lady of deep reflection. As I was trying to form a coherent reply, he hurried on.
“While Mary is adjusting her ideas,” he said, effectively dismissing my contribution to the conversation, “let us return to Mr. Bingley.”
“I am sick of Mr. Bingley,” Mother cried, at which point Father finally confessed to having paid the oh-so-important visit, and established the coveted acquaintance. Mother was practically in tears in her exasperation with him.
Thank goodness, I thought to myself, now, perhaps I can have some peace and quiet and return to my book, a particularly dense history of England, which I was enjoying immensely. However, such was not the case because Mother, Kitty, and Lydia all fell into such raptures of delight that it was impossible to get anything done for the rest of the afternoon.
Jane and Elizabeth, in their sensible manners, smiled indulgently at the scene, but I could tell they were pleased. I know Elizabeth would wish the match, if there were one to be made, to go to Jane. I stopped a moment and considered their physical merits, and who might be more likely to attract a man of such consequence as this Mr. Bingley is purported to be. Jane is fair and delicate of feature, while Lizzy has thick, brown hair the color of china tea and darker eyes which so often spark with intensity. Their faces are both well formed, if one observes them objectively, but Jane’s mouth forms a sweet bow, while Lizzy’s is wider, with fuller lips that easily break into a smile. Lizzy’s eyes are a bit deeper set then Jane’s, but her eyelashes are thicker and form a kind of fan across the almond shape of her lid. Yes, Jane is more beautiful but Lizzy’s face holds more character. She may well laugh at the frivolity of the conversation about Mr. Bingley, but she has never had a suitor. I think she doubts there’s a man in this silly society in which we live who could equal her wit and intelligence, and I’m inclined to think she’s right. At any rate, I don’t care about men, or dances, or any of those trivialities. Study and accomplishment are the things that are important in life, and I intend to make the most of myself in that regard.
Still, as the afternoon waned, I found myself returning to the sting of Father’s words. For all my persistence, I fear he does not consider me a serious scholar. Maybe because I am a girl. Dejected, I decided to go for a walk. I marched across the field to a stand of trees hidden from view of the house. One of the trees has a low, bent branch that offers itself to me as a seat. This is my spot. The place I come to contemplate life and to gather ideas for my writing. For what I want to be in life is a writer, a nearly impossible occupation for a woman, but still, there it is. If I do marry someday, my husband will have to understand that this is my priority. That I must be allowed to write or my spirit will wither.
The sun was low in the sky and knew I did not have long to tarry there without Mother sending Kitty or Lydia to look for me. As long as it is daylight, no one cares much where I am, but Mother has at least the sense to gather in her daughters come nightfall. I had been sitting there I knew not how long, contemplating nature in all her glory as the sun was descending toward the horizon, setting the sky ablaze with rose and coral, when I heard the expected footsteps whooshing through the dry, autumn grass.
“Honestly!” I shouted with annoyance, “I’m on my way!”
Imagine my shock when a male voice replied, “Where are you going?”
I jumped up from my seat, ready to run off towards home.
“Oh, pardon me miss,” the interloper offered. “I did not mean to startle you.”
He entered the stand of trees and stood there expectantly as I looked him up and down, too surprised to further contemplate my flight. He seemed to be about my age, but taller than I. His clothes were rough yet not shabby. His brown hair was mussed, and hung almost over his eyes of the same color. His boots were muddy and from him emanated a slight, but not unpleasant, fragrance of manure and hay.
“Who, may I ask, are you?” I finally had the wherewithal to utter.
“Christopher. Well, that gives me very little information.”
“I might ask the same of you.”
“I asked first, and you did not answer me satisfactorily.”
“Oh, well, forgive me for that,” he said with some sarcasm. “I am Christopher Jones.”
“Jones. I do not know of a Jones family in the neighborhood. Are you a farmer’s boy?”
“I’m not anybody’s boy, miss, if you must know. I work as a groom in Mr. Bingley’s stable.”
“At Netherfield?” I asked, my interest piqued.
“Yes, at Netherfield.”
“Then you must have very recently arrived. Were you in Mr. Bingley’s employ in London?”
“Well then, it is very nice to meet you.” I turned to go.
“Wait a minute, you haven’t told me your name.”
“I do not believe convention requires me to, you obviously being beneath my station.” I instantly regretted my words as I saw his color rise. “I mean, forgive me,” I hastened to add. Rudeness is acceptable in no circumstance. “I am Mary Bennet. I live at Longbourn, just over the rise there.”
I felt ashamed of my behavior. “Yes, he is,” I replied. “I am sorry; I did not behave as a lady.”
His face softened. “I forgive you.” He smiled and his face lit from within. “Miss Mary Bennet,” he held his hand out to me, “will you shake?”
This was a true impertinence but I dared not refuse. I placed my hand in his for just a moment.
“’Tis a pleasure,” he declared.
I retrieved my hand. “Delighted,” I replied, unable to think of anything else to say. “And now, I must wish you good evening.”
“Good bye,” he said. “I hope we meet again.”
I did not know what to say to that and so I simply nodded my head and turned to go. Christopher Jones. What an odd fellow. But something about him made me smile.