It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gossip in possession of misheard tales and desirous of both a good wife and an eager audience need only descend upon the sitting rooms of a small country town in order to find satisfaction. And with a push from Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins sets alight a series of misunderstandings, rumours, and lies that create obstacles to a romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.
This slightly unhinged romantic comedy follows Darcy as he sets off to find himself a wife and instead finds himself pulled into the mire of his aunt’s machinations and his own fascination with Elizabeth, whom he believes betrothed to another. As Meryton judges him the grieving groom of Anne de Bourgh and a caddish dallier with the hearts of others, Darcy must ferret out the truth behind his cousin’s disappearance, protect his sister from the fretful fate of all Fitzwilliam females, and, most importantly, win Elizabeth’s heart.
Mendacity & Mourning Vignette - "Games" - Part One
Thanks so much to you, Ceri, for hosting me and Mendacity & Mourning here at Babblings of a Bookworm. I’ve written a vignette, a two-parter, of scenes that didn’t appear in the book but are alluded to. Part Two will appear at More Agreeably Engaged on June 23.
In this scene, an outtake from chapter six, the men of Netherfield Hall pay a visit to Longbourn. The ladies have mixed views on what ensues.
It was a fine day for chess, sleepy murmurings, hot tea, and warm biscuits. Or, as Elizabeth Bennet sighed, another day of rain.
Mr. Bingley, his brother Mr. Hurst, and his friend Mr. Darcy had arrived at Longbourn shortly before the skies opened up to a steady rain. It was a dreary day made less dreary by the presence of intelligent and varied conversation, moony-eyed lovers, and a well-executed chess match.
In the parlor, Mr. Bingley attended with alacrity to Jane’s observations on the weather, the fearsome puddles, and her pleasure in her new boots. Mr. Hurst busied himself with Mr. Collins and plates of Cook’s magnificent tarts and cakes. Mrs. Bennet sat minding Mr. Collins’s crumbs and Mr. Hurst’s effusive mumblings of praise. Lydia and Kitty alternated between boredom and fascination. Mary sighed. Finally, dulled by conversation on the latest in sauces, Kitty’s inquiries as to Miss Bingley’s latest musings, and the most solemn of psalms, Lydia rose and walked into her father’s library to seek amusement.
The arrangement was no more promising for a young girl who loved a laugh. She fell into the window seat and gazed about the room. Her father and Mr. Darcy sat before a chessboard; Lizzy perched at her father’s desk, peering over Mr. Darcy’s shoulder and frowning, her neck craned to gain the vantage point of the younger man.
“I am not afraid of you,” Darcy said over his shoulder.
“Ah, you should be, Mr. Darcy. My Lizzy has bested every player in town younger than I.”
Darcy fought not to raise his eyebrows in disbelief.
“And,” his opponent continued, “as I believe you fall below the age of thirty years, you could find yourself and your king quickly thwarted and outmatched.”
“Papa!” Elizabeth cried.
“I have heard Miss Elizabeth’s quick mastery of metaphor and knowledge of Cicero. I have seen her subdue the wriggling of small boys during church.” His eyes drifted to the mirror behind Mr. Bennet, where he could see the young lady’s reflection. Her eyes flashed with amusement at his riposte.
“Both portend a strong sense of strategy and patience.”
Mr. Bennet cleared his throat. “Quite observant of you, Mr. Darcy.”
Elizabeth clapped her hands. “Papa, all this talk of my virtues is reducing Mr. Darcy’s opportunity for playmaking and the actual execution of a strategy.”
The bishop in Darcy’s hands stuttered across the chessboard. He drew it back and stared at the playing field.
Lydia jumped up from her seat and stomped her foot. “I am made dull by large men in the parlor and little men in this game,” she cried. “Is there no fun, no dancing and laughter to be gotten in this house?”
“Quiet down, my girl. Your sister is teaching Mr. Darcy the intricacies of the fabled Hertfordshire maneuver.”
Lydia snorted. “That is a dance step, Papa.”
Elizabeth laughed quietly but her attention remained on Mr. Darcy’s hand. Finally, he pushed his bishop across three spaces and sat back in his chair, his fingers steepled. “Checkmate.”
“Hmmm.” Mr. Bennet leaned closer.
“Chess is duller than Mr. Collin’s prattle about parsnip pies.” Lydia looked in the mirror and pinched her cheeks. “I should rather dance at a ball.”
Darcy glanced up at Lydia. “You too could learn this game, Miss Lydia. Your father taught your sister to play. I taught my sister.”
Elizabeth sat back in her seat. “And who was your teacher, Mr. Darcy?”
“My father,” he replied. “Chess is a skill passed father to son.”
“Or father to daughter, or brother to sister.”
“True.” He smiled at her. “And my skills have been sharpened through games with my cousins and friends.”
“Er, no,” he said.
“Mr. Bingley prefers cards and charades and kissing games,” Lydia asserted.
“Tis true! Miss Bingley complained of it to Kitty. ‘He has the curls on his head but not the brains inside it.’”
Mr. Bennet began to cough. “How is a man to win a match when so much talking is going on?”
He rose from the table. “Come. I believe we must save tomorrow’s supper from today’s visitors and rescue Mr. Bingley and his curls from Kitty and her ribbons.”
To be continued on Friday 23 June at 'More Agreeably Engaged'....
Jan Ashton didn’t meet Jane Austen until she was in her late teens, but in a happy coincidence, she shares a similarity of name with the author and celebrates her birthday on the same day Pride & Prejudice was first published. Sadly, she’s yet to find any Darcy and Elizabeth candles on her cake, but she does own the action figures.
Like so many Austen fans, Jan was an early and avid reader with a vivid imagination and a well-used library card. Her family’s frequent moves around the U.S and abroad encouraged her to think of books and their authors as reliable friends. It took a history degree and another decade or two for her to start imagining variations on Pride & Prejudice, and another decade—filled with career, marriage, kids, and a menagerie of pets—to start writing them. Today, in between writing Austen variations, Jan lives in the Chicago area, eats out far too often with her own Mr. Darcy, and enjoys membership in the local and national chapters of the Jane Austen Society of North America.
Mendacity & Mourning is her second book with Meryton Press. She published A Searing Acquaintance in 2016.
Connect with J L Ashton on Facebook, Pinterest , Twitter @JanCat10, Blog
Mendacity & Mourning - US / UK
A Searing Acquaintance - US / UK
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Blog Tour Schedule:
19 June Babblings of a Bookworm Vignette, GA
20 June My Jane Austen Book Club Author/Character Interview, GA
21 June Half Agony, Half Hope Review, Excerpt
22 June From Pemberley to Milton Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
23 June More Agreeably Engaged Vignette, GA
24 June Just Jane 1813 Review, GA
25 June Margie’s Must Reads Guest Post, GA
26 June Of Pens and Pages Review, Excerpt, GA
27 June Tomorrow is Another Day Review, GA
28 June Austenesque Reviews Vignette, GA
29 June My Vices and Weaknesses Character Interview, GA
30 June A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life Guest Post
01 July Darcyholic Diversions Author Interview, GA
02 July Laughing With Lizzie Vignette, Excerpt, GA03 July Diary of an Eccentric Review
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