Sunday, October 5, 2014

Uncle Burnside's neices. - Adira. Part four

“Ahhhh.” Uncle Burnside leaned back in his chair, nodding to himself. “Now I know what he means.”
“But I cannot do that.”
Adira stared at him, horrified.
“I cannot. You cannot say so. I can’t. Not and hold my head up in public.”
“Oh, my dear, I don’t think it necessary to go all the way to that degree of … um … well, no, but that does not mean you cannot expound on the matter in your fiction, or, rather, I will.”
“You?” shock stopped her tears. “Truly?”
“Yes. My dear girl, I enjoy your stories. I have faith in your imagination. There is nothing wrong with your writing, only, as the publisher has pointed out, your books are incomplete.”
“He implied my book is more than incomplete.”
“He does not know you as I do. Or your writing. No, I think you should take the time to read Camilla again, and spend more time with the most dreadful of the dreadful novels in my library. You will find the hints of the more that the publisher wants.”
“Oh.” Adria considered this for a moment. “Do you truly think so?”
“Yes, I do. Now, come, give me the first chapter and we shall go through it and see what you have for us to build upon.”
“Well,” Adria opened the damaged packaging. “I had a small accident. The first pages are a little out of order.”
“It doesn’t matter. I am certain we can make it over better.”
“No. No, Uncle Burnside. It is pointless. A silly childish whim. I should pay attention to more important matters.” Adria stared into the fireplace as if considering throwing the thing in complete or tearing them into firetwists and prolonging the agony of destruction.
“More important than what, my dear?” demanded Uncle Burnside. “Shall you prepare a speech for the House of Lords? Go and give sermons to heathens? I know you have strong opinions and a particular turn of phrase that is admirable.”
“You know I cannot do that. I am not a lord, nor a vicar.” Adria paused and glared at the old captain. “Nor I am a man.”
“Exactly so, my dear. I know that. But, have you considered that when you write your novel you must write the words of nobles and commoners and vicars -” he smiled. “Saints and sinners. If you cannot give a speech on the rights of women before the House of Lords the next best place to give it is in a horrid novel!”
Adria gaped at him, unable to draw breath as she considered all the offenses and petty irritations facing one of her gender when making her way in the world.
“I had never thought of that,” she whispered.
“I didn’t think you had,” said Uncle Burnside with a smirk. “Makes the blood and bone a better idea, don’t it!”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Uncle Burnside's nieces - Adira. Part 3

So it appeared. Cousins and aunts and uncles listened to their names being called, their inheritance listed and gave cries of gratitude to the departed.
Emmett freed his foot for the rope hobble and remained on the floor, mostly because Renald still held his cravat.
The last name was read and the lawyer looked up, coughed and said, “now to the conditions I have already mentioned.”
Silence fell.
“All my relatives will receive the previously itemized gifts on the day when my grand son, Emmett Joyce Farrah has married a woman both plain and pious. The daughter of a honorable clergy man, or something of that nature. A woman of virtue and solid English sensibilities. Gentle mannered and dedicated to raising children with the proper respect that is demanded by God of his children and a man of his sons and grandsons. Unless and Until Emmett Joyce is wed to a woman both proper and plain none of my bequests will be distributed.”
Silence sank and spread broken finally by a roar of laughter - from Emmett.
His relatives turned and stared at him.
“There is nothing for it, Emmett, you must wed at once,” declared Great Aunt Rebecca.
“I shall no such thing, Aunt,” said Emmet, wrenching his cravat free and climbing to his feet. “Oh, how delicious the irony. Sir Joyce had you all leaping about to his piping and now you receive your reward - leaping about to mine!”
“Yes, Yes,” said cousin Renald, ignoring Emmet’s outburst. “The day you wed a proper woman. A vicar’s daughter. My cleric has a girl of suitable age and demeanor. Very plain and proper. I shall call the banns as soon as I return home and you shall be wed in three weeks.”
“You shall not,” roared Emmett. “You fools. All those years you did exactly what he said, everything he said, without a thought to your own pride or your own common sense or honor. You ignored my mother, at his command. You let her die alone, uncared for because he would not permit you to aid us. You …. You hypocrites. I am delighted that Sir Joyce put into my hands the weapon with which to punish you. Hear me! I shall never, never wed and you all will never, never never receive your inheritances! Now, you fools, you will dance to my piping! He has died and appointment me your king and god!” Emmett laughed again. Long and hard then when he finally sobered he finished. “May you all have joy of your rewards.”
And with that he turned and strode from the room.
In the silence that followed his departure Rebecca rose and glared about the room. “Well, Well, will you yield to him and let your inheritance molder, unused? What is the plan? What is to be done?”
Adria paused on the steps of her home and sighed. Her current situation probably contributed to her inability to write a good novel. She did not live in a dank, dark castle on the moor - either swamp or Shakespearean hero - with a chill wind rattling the windows and a dour, voiceless butler who hovered just behind the shoulder of those who were not paying attention, but in a neat, recently built stone and red brick, three storied house in a well-to-do part of London. There she lived with a polite, caring humorous gentleman she referred to as Uncle Burnside (since no one knew his first name), and her duties, such as they were, were light.
She climbed the stairs with a heavy heart. Before she reached the door a footman opened it and held out his hands for her outerwear. Adria put her manuscript on a side table and removed her pelisse and bonnet before taking up the manuscript again and walking further into the house, patting her hair into order.
“Adria? Adria, is that you, gel?” came a deep voice from the front parlor
“Yes, Uncle Burnside. “
“Well, come in here girl, and tell me how it went!”
Adria drew a deep breath and gathered her strength as best she could before going to face her inquisition.
Uncle Burnside was, in fact, not her uncle. He was a retired sea captain, knighted for some victorious battle by the mad King George and a cousin of some sort of her mother’s sister-in-law, Clara Devonham. After her parent’s deaths of a fever Adria was placed in his house by Aunt Clara and ordered to make herself useful, since Uncle Burnside had fallen victim of the gout and was no longer able to be as active as before.
Burnside himself was a tall person, well fleshed without being stout, with a storm beaten face that smiled more than it frowned and he was fond of the small girl who had been foisted off on him.
At this moment he was sitting in his favorite chair, his gouty foot elevated on a cushioned stool and watching the door for Adria’s entrance.
“Oh,” Uncle Burnside’s face fell. “I can see you are not happy with the results of your interview.”
“I did not have an interview, as such,” said Adria. “I… he… he wouldn’t even look at it…” and finally Adria burst into tears.
“No. No. Oh, poor dear,” Uncle Burnside reached over and patted her shoulder as she clutched the bundle to her body. “But you did know that a rejection was likely.”
“Yes. Yes. I did but I thought he’d read it at least.”
“He refused to read it, at all?”
“Wouldn’t take it out of my hand?” cried Adria. “Refused to listen to me at all. He was so cruel. So… so crude. I did not expect him to be so… Oh, I cannot say it.”
“Good heaven’s, what happened? You must tell me all!”
Adria stuttered and stammered and wept her way through the five minutes she’d endured in the publisher’s office. Uncle Burnside went by turns furious, outraged and horrified.
When Adria finally reported the words “blood and bone,” she stared into his old, wise eyes.
“But I am not certain what he means by that. He said, he suggested I should…” Adria blushed and stopped.
“Dear girl, I can hardly help if I do not know.”
Without raising her eyes from her hands Adria whispered: ”He suggested that I should become a … a…. a Ladybird and then I will be able to write a book worth reading.”

Friday, September 12, 2014

Uncle Burnside's neice : Adira. part 2.

Adria was escorted back down the stairs and out of the Publishing House by the same smirking young man. Once on the street she wandered aimlessly for a while - proving that it was possible for an unattended young woman to walk in London and come to no more harm than stumbling when she misplaced her footing. She walked until she came to Hyde Park and settled on a bench to consider her morning.
With a sigh that her heroine would describe as deep, soulful or heartfelt, she undid the string binding up her precious manuscript and opened the brown paper. Adria had saved up her pennies and sixpences to buy good strong paper on which to copy out her story, as if the actual paper and quality ink would persuade the publisher to accept it. She took up the first page and read the scene that was supposed to introduce the reader to the villain.
He was a good villain, well described. Indeed she had spent three full pages describing the deadly, dangerous and dour villain. He was frighting. In fact, he was a compilation of each member of Adria’s family who had ever done her a wrong, or slighted her, or … or notified her that her father was dead and she, therefore, homeless and alone.
It was all very well for the publisher to criticize her for including that piece of bad news and a disappearing inheritance but in truth that was one of the most horrible things that could happen to a young lady left alone in the world.
She shuffled through the pages, pausing from time to time at a scene of which she was particularly proud. When she came upon the scene when the heroine met the hero for the first time and begged for his aid she sighed and ran a finger down the page.
He was a very fine hero. Strong, kind - wonderful, really. A special man. The type that all young women hoped for and never met.
A clatter of horses hooves and a trill of laughter warned her that the hour was advanced. It was late. The ton were coming to the park to see and be seen and it wouldn’t do for an unescorted woman to be caught here, especially one carrying an unpublishable manuscript. Writing was a vice barely tolerated by the ton and definitely not by unmarried women. Gathering her pages together Adria hastily retied her bundle, struggling against the rising breeze. A gust caught a handful of papers, scattering them across the grass. Muttering words her Aunt Clara would shriek to hear, Adria ran, gathering as many as she could before stuffing them in her reticule. When she was home she would sort them out, put them in their proper order and then… then, she would put the whole thing in the bottom of her trunk and never look at them again.
It was time she put the dream of becoming a lady novelist away. Truly it was. She was twenty and it hardly suited a woman of her mature years to be daydreaming in a garden when there was work to be done.
Oh, but it hurt to think of putting away her pencils and the dreams that were always so exciting in her head but dull when pinned to dreary paper.
Enough! She would be strong and sensible. She would put aside childish dreams and resign herself to a purposeful adult life.
She raised her head and stepped out neatly. Her new life awaited. A new life filled with running errands, writing accounts and haggling with the butcher’s boy.
She slumped and, hoping the brim of her bonnet would protect her tears from prying eyes, walked home.
The last thing that Emmett Joyce Danial Farrah expected when he left his rented rooms that afternoon was to be seized by the neck, dragged into an alley, coshed, have a coarse potato sack tossed over his head and thereafter to be carried away into the night. Actually, in his dreams, being carried away by bodacious Valkyries to be feasted and feted for all eternity was the last thing, but people rarely achieve their dreams.
Awakening after this experience was unpleasant. His head throbbed, his eyes were crusted shut, his mouth was filled with the taste of old dirt and canvas and he didn’t have enough spit to, well, spit.
He moaned and shifted on whatever it was he was sleeping on and a hand snatched the canvas bag away. His hands came up to shield him from the sudden light. As soon as his vision cleared he covered his face again. No one wanted to wake up from this sort of experience and have the first thing they saw be Emmett’s great-aunt Rebecca Fforde. It was believed, within the family, that great-aunt Rebecca smiled once at her mother and found she did not like this experience and had not smiled since. She powdered her wrinkled skin until it was dead white and died her thin hair raven black to try and confuse death and postpone the dread specter’s visit.
Emmett groaned and tried to roll over the better to avoid his aunt’s visage.
“Enough of that,” snapped Great Aunt Rebecca. “Shut up and sit up, Emmett, and do pay attention. This is important!”
“What, exactly, is important enough to kidnap me?” Emmett swung his legs down and dragged himself into a more comfortable position on - oh - a fainting couch.
“Don’t be such a whining little boy,” said Great Aunt Rebecca as she struck him across the knees with her ebony walking stick. “Sit up straight.”
Emmett ignored her and looked around the room.
“Oh, so this is what hell looks like,” he murmured.
A quick head count revealed at ten persons occupied the chairs, couches and wingback chairs of, heaven help him, his late and unlamented great-grandfather’s study. Six of them, the males, wore the motley of the Church of England. Two more men wore the formal attire of the previous generations fashion, with no style and no comfort. The two women were dressed head to toe in black.
Another look around showed that none of the youths from Emmett’s generation were present. That was bad news. Emmett himself should not be here.
His mouth dried again.
Why was he here and why were they all staring at him like some strange creature in a museum?
“If we are all finally assembled,” came a voice from behind Emmett, “we may begin with the reading of Sir Joyce Emmet Farrah’s will.”
A short stocky gentleman, attired head to toe in dusty black, stalked between the seating, a faded leather folio tucked under his arm. Emmett stared at the familiar figure of Josephus Kennedy the third. Great-Grandfather’s Farrah had employed the first Josephus Kennedy over fifty years ago and two conditions defined that employment. The first was that the eldest child would be named Josephus, and the second that child would also study the law and go into the family law firm. The reason was, the old man didn’t want to be put to the effort of learning a new lawyers name.
Which told you all you needed to know about great-grandfather.
Considering how much money Josephus Kennedy’s handled for the old gentleman it was no surprise that the lawyer complied with the Sir Joyce Emmet’s demand.
Emmett had no issue with that, his issue was the ancient man’s demands on everyone else of his acquaintances and family.
Well, Emmett had never danced to Sir Joyce’s tune. Slamming his hand down on the armrests Emmett surged to his feet.
“Sit down!” shrieked Great Aunt Rebecca.
“There is nothing here of interest to me,” said Emmett. “I despised that evil son of a bitch and he returned the favor.”
“Language,” cried his great- aunt.
“I have heard you use worse language, Aunt,” said Emmett. “And am convinced there is nothing in his will for me therefore….”
“Emmett, lad, you may be mistaken,” said one of the ever present clergymen - his cousin, Renald Joyce Farrah. “Why, the message we all received was that the will could not be read unless you were present. I am certain our revered relative remembered you.”
“Exactly,” said another clergyman, Mitchell Joyce Farrah. “I am all over curiosity. Do sit down, lad and listen.”
He didn’t sound curious. He sounded a dangerous combination of jealous and covetous.
“Can we begin?” demanded Renald, smiling at Emmett and patting him on his shoulder. “I am certain we are all over curious.”
“Wait,” said Emmett, raising his hand. “Do I understand correctly? If I am not here the will may not be read?”
“Exactly so,” intoned the lawyer.
“Well then, I’m off,” said Emmett giving a bow toward his great-aunt and waving at the other relatives. “I wish you joy of your curiosity… and goodnight!”
“No.” Renald leapt into his path at the same time as great-aunt Rebecca thrust her cane between Emmett’s legs, sending him stumbling. “I knew that would be your attitude. You have ever scorned your family responsibilities.”
“Was it you that arranged for the undignified manner of my invitation, aunt?”
“I know you would not come otherwise,” said the old harridan.
“You are correct, and now, I go!”
The cry came from every throat. Ignoring them all Emmett went to stride, purposefully from the chamber… and fell on his face.
“I tied your leg to the chair before you woke,” said Renald. “It seemed a sensible precaution.”
Emmet levered himself up on his elbows and glared at his cousin’s all too shiny shoes before flipping over and starting work on the knots.
“Begin, if you please, Mr. Kennedy,” said Renald. “He is here, which meets the requirements. Nothing was said of his willingness to listen.”
“Certainly.” Mr. Kennedy settled his glasses on his noses, coughed twice and began. “I, Sir Joyce Emmett Farrah, being of sound mind..”
“Ha!” shouted Emmett.
“After the predations of the Crown are completed,” continued the lawyer as if Emmett had not spoken, “and once all herein described conditions are met, I do dispose of my property thusly…”
There began a list that Emmett could have dictated in his sleep as he was already well aware of the game Sir Joyce played with his family. He tormented them all, setting one lot of cousin’s against another with the grand prize being Sir Joyce’s wealth. It was no surprise that so many of the male children were named Joyce in his honor, but the subtler injures were the demand that as many children as possible dedicate their lives to God - all while Sir Joyce was an unrestrained, unrepentant sinner. His opinions on fashion were law to his relatives, both male and female. No one summered at Brighton, or traveled to Scotland after Sir Joyce declared them to be the home of sinners and criminals. Likewise no one acknowledged Prinny as Regent since Sir Joyce would not. The education of girls were limited to household matters only, travel confined to certain sorts of carriages, the type, location and purchase price of candles were dictated by the old pirate, forcing his relatives to lie about the cost of their households.
And into this family came young Emmett Joyce - second son of a second son and the only person to tell old Sir Joyce to his face to take his money and drown in the ocean. Emmett would not be cowed. Emmett would not obey. Emmet joined the army, served as a diplomatic attache and departed England’s fair shores for India. While the rest of his family proved themselves to be unashamed boot-lickers and toad-eaters Emmett lived his own life his own way, far away and free.
And now, all those here gathered expected to receive their just rewards while Emmett was - no doubt- expected to listen and repent his intransigence in the face of their preferment.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Uncle Burnside's Niece : Adira... part one

Adria Cooper clutched her brown paper and string wrapped package close to her bosom with one hand while the other held her skirt from touching … anything else in the building. The stairs, the hallway, the room in which she currently stood were all covered with a thin layer of sticky black … well, something that was both sticky and black and smelled most remarkably ill. Even the narrow hall carpet clung to her shoes as she walked and left a dark stain on her tan half-boots. She tried not to think about the loud sucking noises the carpet emitted as she walked.
Her companion and guide in this smelly, dirty wilderness - a small, dirty young man of indeterminate age between 15 and thirty, dressed in rough brown trews, with shirt sleeves rolled up to below his elbows and held tight to his thin upper arms by bands of black ribbons - grinned at her as he beckoned her onwards. Adria’s heart pounded and she wiggled her fingers in her gloves hoping that her nervousness was not as visible as she feared.
The boy, youth, whatever, flung open a half glass, half weathered wood door and shouted: “Visitor for ‘ee,” then legged it back down the corridor without waiting for a reply.
Adria hesitated in the doorway, uncertain as to whether she should enter, or follow the young man’s example.
“In or out,” shouted a voice. “Ain’t got all day.”
“In,” decided Adria and stepped over the lintel.
No sooner she entered the chamber than the voice who had called her in shouted, “Out! Out! Out!”
“I beg your pardon,” began Adria.
“Yes, I just bet you do.”
A heavy-set man heaved himself up from a broad wooden chair and tottered around the widest desk Adria had seen in her life. Every inch of the broad surface was covered in paper. Most of the stacks bore tightly printed text. A few of the remaining pages had delicately colored etchings. Mostly detailed lithographs of sailing ships, a few of a man with heavy mutton-chop sideburns and beard and the remainder - barely dressed hotten-tots. All of it was arranged in a pattern that made no sense to Adria, but then it didn’t need to. That was all she was given time to determine since her host, the afore mentioned man, was shouting.
“I told you, gel, get out!” roared the man who was as wide as he was tall, dressed in much the same degree of dishabille as the youth who’d brought her here.
A faint chuckle came from the hallway. Adria glanced out. Her escort was back, kneeling in the hall, with both dirty hands covering his mouth. The chuckle came again, from him. No doubt he had brought her here just for the purpose of his own entertainment.
“Sir,” said Adria, turning back to the round man. “You do not understand…”
“What” What don’t I understand? Let me guess. You have written a book.” At Adria’s nod he continued. “Oh, yes, you do. I get a constant parade of gels like you with their books. They’re all the same. You got a heroine, aint ya. Poor but honest. Beautiful, but shy, retiring and the epitome of all virtues.”
“I wouldn’t say all,” said Adria and was ignored.
“She’s good but oh, her life is sad and a burden. So poor. So hopeful that nawth bad’ll ‘appen.”
Adria blushed and gave a sharp nod.
“An’ despite her bauty and virtue an’ all, things just do keep happening to her. Just happening. If’n it aint a brute of a man come to carry her away or her father lost in a storm at sea leavin’ her all alone at the ‘ands of an evil uncle, well then it’s a letter hintin’ at a inheritance if’n only that she come to some castle on the moors.” Adria glanced down at the bundle in her arms and back up at the man. “Why is it always the moors, I ask you? Do you know what a moor is? Have you ever seen a moor?”
“The area of swampy land or Othello?” replied Adria.
“Ooooh, an educated lady we ‘ave here taday,” sneered the man. “Well, I don’t want your book.”
“You haven’t read it yet.”
“I told you, I already know it and I don’t want it.” The man went to the door and shouted at the apprentice. “And you, lad, don’t bring no more lady authors up here. You hear me? Or I’ll send you back to your pa!”
Adria stood, frozen, in the center of the room and cringed when the man turned his blazing gaze back on her.
“Well? Why are you still here?” he demanded.
“Might I inquire,” said Adria, summoning courage she didn’t know she’d possessed. “What sort of books do you publish? What do you want your authors to write about since you have an exception to such as mine.”
“I want books with blood and bone in them.” The man formed his hands into fists. “I want meat. I want life!”
“I am afraid that short of describing a trip to the abattoir…”
“Not that sorta meat! Not, oh lord above, why are you tormenting me?” The man seized Adria by her arm and tugged her toward the door. “You want to know what I want? I want you to leave here and become a member of the demimonde, then in a dozen years write down all the men you’ve met, all the things you’ve done, the places you’ve visited and the sins you’ve committed and I’ll publish that.”
“Oh, good heavens, you cannot be serious. I couldn't do that!”
“That is why you will never be published,” snarled the publisher and gave her a push. “There’s no blood and bone in your book. Get out and don’t come back.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ruined Forever accepted by Corvallis Press

Great news - for me. Corvallis Press has accepted Ruined Forever.. yaH!!!!!!!
So, it will be coming out later in 2014 as both e-book and in print. I will announce when it is available. But, as a condition of acceptance, no more posts on this blog. Sorry.

I will continue to post randomly from my other works in progress.
Watch this space.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ruined Forever part nine

“No!” shouted Bingley coming to his feet. “I will not have it. You will not speak of our neighbors in this manner!”
“But Charles,” said Caroline, with patiently false empathy. “I am just now telling you. The news is all over Meryton. I have it from the housekeeper who is cousin to Mr. Honeywell’s wife. He examined the body, himself. Mr. Collins is dead and the person responsible is none other than Eliza Bennet. Apparently they quarreled. I do not know if it was after they became engaged or because the man came to his senses and declined to take Miss Eliza to wife, but the truth is quite clear.”
“Enough,” roared Bingley, slamming his hand on the table, shocking everyone in the room who had never seen Bingley so much as raise his voice before, let alone his hand. “I will not have these lies repeated in this house. Darcy and I are just now returned from Longbourne. I was one of the jury for the inquest and Mr. Darcy, having read law, was advocate and adviser to Miss Elizabeth. The determination of the Mr. Jeffers’s inquest was, death by misadventure. An accident. Mr Collins slipped and fell because he was wearing loose, ill fitting shoes. That, sister, is the truth!”
“Oh, I see,” said Caroline in an arch tone and cut a glance toward her sister. “An accident.”
And she smirked and giggled. Mrs. Hurst sniffed and sneered.
“Caroline Bingley, if I hear you are passing along vicious gossip I shall…” Bingley paused as he considered an adequate threat. “I shall send you to spend a year with Aunt Greta.”
“Let me be clear. I will not endure you displaying such lack of manners as you are by attacking a friend when her family is in need. Oh, Darcy, help me. You know that the Bennet family needs their friends to stay near, to support them.”
All eyes turned to Darcy who finally put down his spoon.
“Yes, that is true, Bingley. The Bennet family would benefit from the trust and public support of their friends.”
“There,” cried Bingley to his sister. “You see.”
“However,” continued Darcy. “Those who would only go to stare and judge and deliver themselves of clever phrases, snubs and subtle disdain, should stay at home.”
There were matching shocked indrawn breaths from the other side of the table. Mr. Hurst gave a grunt that could have been agreement or could be a signal for more wine. The ladies of the company were deeply outraged once they worked out the degree of the insult.
“Of course we wish dear Jane well,” said Caroline. “She cannot be held responsible for her outrageous family. The younger sisters, of course, are impossible. And while some have thought so well of Miss Eliza to admire her eyes, I have never seen anything to qualify her to others. Only consider her wildness. Walking out without chaperone or companion. Her manners are not at all genteel. Even her mother complains of her way of going on. Her free speech and ungoverned manner. So flirtatious with the officers. I would not be surprised if that the accident was caused by her flirtations with her fiancee going too forward. I cannot think, under the circumstances, that she shall ever recover her good name.”
“I might say her younger sisters are a flirts,” said Darcy, retrieving his spoon. “But Miss Elizabeth is as well mannered as to be expected as a country raised gentlewoman.”
“But country manners are so uncivilized,” declared Caroline. “But we shall think on her no longer. She is quite cast out of good society and her family with her. Now we should think of our own family name and our responsibilities to it, and that means we must cut the acquaintance, immediately!”
“You cannot say so,” said Bingley, deeply shocked.
Caroline’s manner was that of a patient teacher.
“Brother, you are too kind. Surely even you must realize Miss Eliza’s reputation is in shreds. Alone with a man, her dress torn, her body exposed. Shocking! She is ruined. Quite, quite ruined.”
“You cannot deny,” chimed in Louisa, “with the marks of his hands on her body prove she granted him liberties. Do not forget that! Quite. Quite ruined. I agree.”
“Ladies, before you gloat too much over the fall of a gentlewoman,” Darcy’s chill voice silenced the room. “I should remind you, your brother and I were present during the inquest. We know the truth of the matter. Now, we have explained the results of the inquest. The facts will be presented and hereafter you shall speak of the Longbourne family with consideration and respect because, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is quite innocent in these events. There was no impropriety. She acted at all times as the gentlewoman that she is.”
“But the scandal,” protested Caroline.
“And as landed gentry the family outranks you!” added Darcy. “Scandal or no scandal! You display your lack of breeding by taking joy at their pain!”
“Exactly,” said Bingley. “I do not want to hear of you speaking ill of the Bennet ladies. You know what I shall do if you persist!”
Both Caroline and Louisa stared across at their brother, who had not spoken so firmly on any subject in their experience.
Bingley stared back at them then stood and threw down his implements.
“I have no appetite.” And so saying departed the room.
Darcy, however, made a good meal but did not respond to any conversational gambits from the ladies and eventually the meal was completed in silence - sullen on one side and preoccupied on the other.
When the ladies repaired alone to the drawing room for coffee Caroline could barely restrain her ire.
“We must cut the acquaintance, at once! We have no choice. It is not to be borne that Charles requires us to give notice to such a family.”
“I agree,” said Louisa. “But there is a danger attendant to protesting too much. We might force him to make a decision to our disadvantage.”
That thought set Caroline back on her heels.
“You would think that Darcy would support us,” Caroline protested. “I do not understand his preoccupation with the family. To actually stand as that woman’s advocate! Unbelievable.”
“Actually, Caroline, I do understand it. Mr. Darcy has ever been aware of the importance of justice. The reason he took up Charles acquaintance in university was because he thought the treatment Charles was receiving was unjust.”
“That is different,” Caroline dismissed Darcy’s astonishing support of Bingley, the son of an unknown tradesman, an action that had confused no end of noble sons and resulted in Darcy’s own dismissal from one London club. “No. We must think. Plan. It would be best for us to return to London as soon as possible. Christmas and the Little Season will be upon us soon. If we encourage our correspondents to issue invitations we might suggest to Charles that we spend the Bennet families month of mourning in London and, if we manage to find another flirt for him, Charles will not want to return.”

Friday, August 1, 2014

Ruined Forever part eight

Arriving late in the dining room Darcy was not surprised to find everyone else seated and the only available chair was the one beside Caroline Bingley. Mr. Bingley gave a sympathetic shrug but as his elder sister was in the habit of overriding Bingley’s opinions it was not surprising when he made no attempt to rescue Darcy.
It had been Darcy’s private opinion that if petite, pale Caroline had added a pleasant manner to her education and other accomplishments then she would be a person worth knowing. But ambition had narrowed her outlook and petulance added lines to the sides of her mouth. The worst part of her outlook was that Darcy was her idea partner in life. The fulfillment of her father’s ambition for his daughters.
Sadly, Darcy did not share her opinion.
Caroline would be horrified to know that she shared important characteristics with Mrs. Bennet - both set a good table and Mr. Darcy found their company insufferable.
There were addressing the superior soup when Caroline looked around the table, smiling broadly. 
“Have you heard? No, you cannot for you have been gone from home today. Mr. Hurst returned from the hunt with the most fascinating news.”
Both Bingley and Darcy turned to stare at the silent Mr. Hurst, who shrugged.
“What have you heard?” inquired Louisa Hurst.
Darcy took another mouthful of soup. It was as well that Louisa did not have to make her living as an actress. The woman had no Thespian skills.
Since no one else expressed interest it was necessary for Caroline to address herself to her sister.
“He informed me that the magistrate and the coroner were summoned to Longbourn today.”
“Indeed,” said Darcy, without inflection.
“Of course, since our own safety in this savage county might be at risk I immediately spoke to the housekeeper, who is local, to inquire as to the reason.”
Bingley sighed.
When neither of them spoke Carline continued. “You must admit, you did drag us from London to this heathen spot with no friends, no society. I hold you entirely responsible, Charles.”
“You have friends here. Miss Jane Bennet is your friend,” said Bingley. “Miss Elizabeth.”
“Oh, but it is the Bennet family who have managed to embroil themselves in the very worst of scandals, brother. You must take us back to London at once. Give up this lease and hope that no one remembers we were coming here.”
“This is not necessary, surely.” Bingley looked, not toward his sister, but to Darcy. “There is no need to depart?”
“But you do not know,” cried Caroline. “Miss Eliza Bennet has murdered her suitor, that dreadful vicar, Mr. Collins.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ruined Forever part seven

The men from the hunt who had gone home rather than to Longbourne, carried the first part of the gossip. Something - eyebrows were raised and eyes flickered from side to side - something had happened at Longbourne necessitating the summoning home of the master of the house, as well as Squire Pennington, Mr. Jeffers and Mr. Honeywell.
What, the neighborhood inquired of each other what could possibly require that combination of local authority?
Eagerly they awaited the next part of the story and they were not disappointed.
Not a single member of the jury was required to pay for his own drinks in the pub that night. The state of Miss Elizabeth’s dress was described and exclaimed over in kitchens and dining rooms across the county.
And in Netherfield, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy returned in silence, avoided Bingley’s sisters and brother in law in order to retreat to the study for a moment of private discussion.
Bingley poured out two healthy portions of brandy.
“Dear heaven, what a dreadful day!”
“You are entirely correct!” Darcy accepted the glass then walked away to stare blankly out of the window. By some coincidence it was the one facing toward Longbourne. At this distance nothing could be seen, but it could be felt. Oh, yes, it could be felt.
“I must say, Darcy, I am astonished at you.”
Darcy raised an eyebrow. “How so?”
“I have never in the course of my life heard so many words from you.”
“Strange, is it not,” said Darcy. “Indeed. Only think what my tutors would have said at such eloquence. Instead of being hesitant and uncertain of my words they seemed to flow from me.” But, he added in the privacy of his own thoughts, perhaps, I have not until this time had adequate inspiration and need.
“It is a shame you are not heir to your uncle, the earl. I can see you rising to give your speeches before the House of Lords.”
“I shall be forever grateful for my two cousins. That thought is quite beyond my ambition. I cannot imagine anything worse…” And then Darcy’s countenance grew shadowed. “Except what has befallen the Bennet family.”
“Yes. Poor Miss Elizabeth.”
“Mr. Collins was a fool indeed to think he deserved her.”
“That Collins was an idiot,” observed Bingley, “but what an embarrassing way to die!”
“No family is without their embarrassing relatives,” said Darcy, softly.
“True,” said Bingley with a quirk of his lip. “There is a reason you have not been introduced to my aunts, old fellow. I want to remain your friend.”
“I have an aunt of my own whose manners and conversation does not bear close examination,” said Darcy to the window.
“I met the redoubtable Lady Catherine a few years ago in London and you have my sympathy, Darcy, but I would put meeting both our aunts into the scale against what our poor Miss Elizabeth has suffered and give all my pity to Miss Elizabeth. That Collins, what an idiot!” Bingley shuddered. “When can we pay our condolence visit? Of course, condolences seem to lack something when one is aware that none will truly grieve for his passing. What can one say to eulogize a fat embarrassing fool who was avoided when alive, and so much trouble with the manner of his dying?”
At this point Bingley realized that he was conducting the majority of the conversation.
“Darcy? Are you listening?”
His friend turned. “Yes.”
“Shall you come with me to pay a call tomorrow?”
“On whom?”
“On the Bennets, of course.”
“We are not family,” said Darcy. “Condolence under these circumstances, as you have pointed out, is insufferable. The family will not welcome our presence to remind them of our part in today’s events.”
“Despite everything, the man was their cousin,” said Bingley. “Some notice must be made. And we have been guests in their house many times and owe them condolence.”
“We shall attend the funeral. No doubt it shall be in a day or so.”
“But the ladies, they shall not be there.”
“Of course not. At least, not at the graveside.”
“Then what is to be done? If I wait until the wake to speak to her there will be other visitors demanding her attention. And then the family go into mourning. My Jane shall look very well in blacks but am I to be prevented from seeking her company under the circumstances? When shall I be permitted to seek her out?”
“Collins might not be sincerely mourned but the conventions must be observed. Since Collins is a mere cousin they will not be required to put on blacks for more than a month. In that time there shall be no socializing, in the common way.”
“I do not want to think that it shall be a month before I might see Miss Jane again and we have not yet reached an understanding whereby I might explain my absence in a letter.”
“I sympathize Bingley, but Miss Bennet will be much occupied with her sister at this time. Miss Elizabeth will need her.”
“Yes, poor Miss Elizabeth. I have never seen her so shocked and pale. One is accustomed to seeing a smile on her face. To see her cast down is heartbreaking.”
Darcy could agree with that. At least he had the comfort of seeing her rally, of giving her what little advice would aid her. She was admirable and now, fallen completely out of his reach. The horror of the day’s events clenched his breath in his throat.
“One month,” Bingley considered. “He hardly seems worthy.”
“Society has its rules and cares not for what sort of person you are.”
“I do not want Miss Bennet to think I have abandoned her.”
“But, sadly my friend, I suspect you shall have to.”
Darcy pressed a hand against his chest. Sad did not adequately express the pain he felt. With his place in society to consider, with his sister’s own fragile position, he could not see Elizabeth again. It was impossible.
It was, of everything, horrible.
And his duty was not yet done. It was necessary to explain to his otherwise oblivious friend why he must cast off his current flirt!
Fortunately Bingley was prone to falling in and out of love. He would recover. Darcy was not so certain of his own fate. He had never been in love. Never desired a woman the way he desired Elizabeth Bennet. When he had described his ideal woman each word had been chosen to describe some aspect of her heart, her spirit, her form. She was a constant delight to him and he had let his opportunities to know her better slip away. Now she, herself, had slipped. When the news became common knowledge… he closed his eyes against the pain.
“What? What do you mean?” pressed Bingley.
“Bingley, my friend, consider what has happened today. How it will be perceived. Your own position in society is but recently won. Your father was in trade. You are the first of your family to graduate from university and begin the climb to gentry. You have achieved much, and yet, not enough. It is, you tell me, your father’s ambition that you should take a place in society. To do so you must hold yourself separate from scandal and marry well.”
“I would have thought that by taking the daughter of a gentleman I would have achieved that aim. Mr. Bennet is an established gentleman. The family has held Longbourne for two hundred years.”
“Granted, although their own connections are not the best, the Bennet’s are gentry and not too far above you that you could not aspire … until now.” Darcy’s voice faded away.
The dining bell echoed through the house. Bingley startled.
“Luncheon and we are still standing about in all our dirt,” said Bingley. “We must prepare to dine. If you would go me a favor, Darcy, please do not discuss today’s events with my sisters.”
Darcy said nothing.
“And I shall have an explanation out of you,” continued Bingley. “You shall not put that eloquence of yours away until you have satisfied my curiosity!”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ruined Forever part 6

Everyone froze as Mr. Bennet stepped forward and roared: ”Lydia Bennet, be silent!”
“Oh, but papa, do you not agree?” Lydia let out a shrill high laugh. “He was a toad and much better company dead.”
“Lydia Bennet, to your room, girl and do not set a toe out until I give you leave!” Mr. Bennet charged through the jury and caught Lydia by the arm, dragging her away.
“But Papa, you didn’t like him either. You said so.”
There was a loud slam then Mr. Bennet returned at a run.
“My youngest daughter is a silly creature,” he said to the jury and Mr. Jeffers. “You all know she says nothing that is not complete nonsense.”
“Of course,” said Sir Lucas. “I have noticed that many times. I tell my Maria she may speak to Lydia but she is not to imitate her unguarded behavior.”
Mr. Bennet flushed, biting his lip then gave a sharp nod.
“She is a little young to be out,” added Darcy.
“You are correct,” said Mr. Bennet. “But Elizabeth is sensible and well behaved.”
“Indeed,” said Mr. Darcy. “And if she is holding onto the banister with her right hand, and the bruising is on her left arm. See the bruising. This is not the grip of a fight. See the hand size bruise on her upper arm. There a man has held her in a grip. Here, where the bruise stretches. That is where a hand has clutched and clutched again, to prevent a fall. See, it goes from her shoulder down to the elbow and the elbow already swells. With Mr. Collins several steps below I declare that Mr. Collins fell to his death, as an accident caused by his own foolish haste, and attempted to save his life at the risk of Miss Elizabeth’s.”
Mr. Jeffers considered his words. Mr. Bennet came to Lizzy’s side and lifted the blanket back over her shoulder and hugged her gently. It was at that point that Lizzy remembered that her cap sleeve was torn and her blush was bright and left her light headed. She swayed, then leaned on her father when he caught her to hold her up.
“Dearest girl, I could have lost you.”
“Be strong a moment longer, Miss Elizabeth,” urged Darcy, taking her other hand briefly and giving it a squeeze before releasing it.
“The jury will examine Mr. Collins,” declared Mr. Jeffers. “Gentlemen, your task is to confirm that the injuries gained are consistent with all Miss Elizabeth Bennet has declared in her statement.”
Mr. Honeywell was the first to the body. He held the head gently in one hand the neck in the other and moved the head from side to side to the accompaniment of faint crunches. Many men present winced.
“The neck is broken. I have seen this many times with falls from horses, trees and yes, sadly once many years ago with a fall down stairs.” Mr. Honeywell ran his hands rapidly down the rest of Mr. Collins’s body then rose and stood beside the Mr. Jeffers. Eventually all had examined the body. Not all found it necessary to touch Mr, Collins but stood staring down at the off-center head and disordered limbs.
“Gentlemen what is your determination?”
“I agree with Mr. Honeywell,” said Sir Lucas. “A fall leading to a broken neck. No doubt he should have invested in better fitting shoes and walked with better care.”
There were general nods. Mr. Jeffers dipped his pen into the inkwell and began inscribing the final form of his Attestation.
“Is there anything else to be noted?” he inquired of the jury. “Are you all in agreement with the determination?”
“Yes, sir,” was the chorus.
“And is there any action you would recommend to prevent similar accidents?”
“I do not see that Mrs. Bennet can be faulted for her housekeeping,” said one gentleman. “In my house a few years ago, there was a similar accident when the carpet rod came loose of its moorings. It looked much the same as the one here. I agree that a foot put wrong at the wrong time will result in a fall. An accident. An act of providence that cannot be predicted.”
“Very well. Unless there is an alternative theory?? Anyone? No? So, the verdict of this inquest is death by misadventure. An accidental fall downstairs with no further action required. My thanks to the jury. Miss Bennet? If I might have that deposition for my files? Thank you, my dear, very clear script. I do appreciate a well written deposition. My apologizes for the imposition, Mr. Bennet. We shall all take our leave now and you and your family might begin grieving for your departed cousin.”
Mr Bennet nodded while Mrs. Hill escorted the loiters out. The vicar stepped out of the flow of people, as he now had business with the family. Bingley walked slowly toward the door, looking toward the upper flooring the hope of seeing his angel. Jane did not emerge.
Finally the hall was almost clear. Darcy bowed to Elizabeth.
“Miss Elizabeth, I must state my admiration for the courage you have displayed. I must leave now, but I hope you will accept my prayers for your health and happiness.”
“Thank you for your assistance.” Elizabeth gave a small curtsey, hampered only by her father’s arm about her shoulders.
Darcy inclined his head to her and to Mr. Bennet before taking his friend in hand and departing.
Elizabeth sank into the hall bench, hugging herself. She could not understand her sadness at the sudden conviction that she would never see Darcy again.