'Tis Christmas Eve and I thought I would, as an early Christmas present, give you the next scene from In Essentials. This title is subject to change. The story is morphing into a whole new trajectory, and I am not sad about that one little bit.
And so, here is the next scene. As always, this is a rough draft (read that as no editor has looked at it yet) and my beta reader (bless her heart) has taken a run through it. I hope you enjoy.
If he weren’t so focused on his decision to marry Elizabeth Bennet come hell or high water, the squeals and guffaws that practically flew out of the mouths of her sisters would have had him retreating to London faster than George Wickham ran from creditors. He had to admit, he was astounded that the parents of these hoydens seemed completely oblivious to their behavior. With careful observation, he also noted their neighbor’s goodwill was stretched thin.
Although he held no tender regard for the woman he’d chosen to marry, he reasoned she would thank him when he swept her away from these environs and set her up at Pemberley. It would make the consummation of their marriage flow a little smoother if she were grateful and wanted to please him.
She returned from the card room and the dejected slope of her shoulders informed him faster than words that the father could not be bothered to take his unruly daughters in hand. Their lack of grace was to Darcy’s advantage, but he had to admit he felt some sympathy for Miss Elizabeth’s plight. She tried so hard to curb their behavior, showing a keen intelligence he was beginning to suspect she hid from others. Not that it mattered, other than the fact these traits would carry down to their children and he knew his sons would have an excellent start in life.
Elizabeth moved further into the room and rejoined her good friend, Miss Lucas. Soon, tables and chairs were pushed aside and four couples formed lines to begin dancing. The pursing of Lady Lucas’s lips was a clear indication that she was not pleased with this deviation from her planned entertainment for the evening and as she made her way toward the matriarch of the Bennet family, he wondered how Mrs. Bennet would react to open censure from her host.
Several things happened separate, yet simultaneous. As Lady Lucas bore down on Mrs. Bennet, Sir William Lucas approached Miss Mary and closed the lid to the piano. With a slight blush, the young lady rose to her feet and made her way to the far side of the room. The two impertinent misses, standing opposite officers from the ____shire Militia, realized no music was coming forth and turned in tandem to call out to their sister to play, rushing to the pianoforte when they saw their sister quit the instrument.
The youngest had the temerity to actually stomp her feet when Sir Lucas informed her there would be no dancing this evening. In a whirl of skirts, she ran to her mother’s side, reaching her the exact moment as Lady Lucas.
“Mama!” she cried out the same time Lady Lucas said, “Mrs. Bennet, I must have a word with you.”
While the drama unfolded to the unholy glee of Miss Bingley and her sister, his gaze skimmed the room to locate Miss Elizabeth and what he saw stirred some compassion. Pale beyond reason, mouth slightly agape as her family sank even further in the estimation of their neighbors, she stood with her friend Miss Lucas. Elizabeth and her sister Jane were the epitome of grace and good manners. For the life of him, he could not reason why the others were so out of touch with what was accepted and what was abhorred. For a brief minute, he wondered if the two eldest were the result of a previous marriage. There was no other explanation for the disparity between the sister’s base natures.
“Mrs. Bennet, I ask that you take Lydia and Kitty back to Longbourn and leave them there.” Lady Lucas said in a firm voice. “They are no longer welcome at Lucas Lodge. Not until they behave like proper young ladies.”
“I have never been so offended, Sarah Lucas!” Mrs. Bennet declared as she rose to her feet. “You have always been jealous of me and my good luck.”
“Fanny Bennet, I do not envy you anything. Your two youngest daughters are ill-mannered and far too young to be out in society.”
“They are high spirited, that is all.”
“Look around Mrs. Bennet. Do you see any other girls here under the age of eighteen? No one else has pushed their daughters out as early as you. They are not ready. They behave like harridans.”
“You only say that because your daughters are not handsome like my Lydia.”
By this time, Mr. Bennet had finally emerged from the card room.
“Lady Lucas, may I ask what has caused all the uproar?” he asked as he came alongside his wife.
“Catherine and Lydia decided they wished to dance and pushed aside all of my tables and chairs in order to have their entertainment.”
Mr. Bennet looked to the youngest who remained by her mother’s side, her bottom lip protruding in a determined pout.
“Lydia? Is this true?”
“Papa, it is so boring here,” she said with another small stomp of her foot. “They only want to play whist or euchre, and we want to dance!”
Mr. Bennet turned his attention back to Lady Lucas, and Sir William who had also joined them.
“My apologies, Sir William and Lady Lucas. I shall ensure they do not repeat this type of behavior again and will take them home to Longbourn immediately.” When his wife started to protest, he held up his hand and speared her in place with an angry glare. “Not one word until we are home, Mrs. Bennet. Bid your friends good evening and gather your things. We are going home.”
“Oh, but Lydia—”
“What part of not one word did you not understand?” He asked his wife before turning to the troublemaker. “We will speak of this further at home, Lydia. You and Kitty will wait for me by the front door.”
As Mrs. Bennet and her two youngest left the room and the tables and chairs were placed in their original setting, Mr. Bennet approached Elizabeth.
“I will send the carriage back for you and Jane. There is no need for you to suffer through the crying and gnashing of teeth that is sure to occur. I am positive we will receive an express from their aunt, telling us their cries of woe reached them in London before the night is over.”
“Jane and I should leave as well.”
“No, Lizzy. Your sisters need to see that good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished. You and Jane staying here will reinforce the lesson I should have taught them a long time ago.”
He patted his daughter’s hand, gave Darcy a polite nod, and made his way out of the room. Elizabeth watched him leave then searched out her sister. Jane had already started across the room, followed by Bingley.
“I could not hear everything that happened from where I was sitting.”
“I will tell you all when we get home. Papa is sending the carriage back for us.”
“We should go home with them, Lizzy. It is not right that we remain here when they have upset our hosts so decidedly.”
“I agree. Are you up for a walk after I tender our apologies to Lady Lucas?”
“I only brought house slippers. I cannot walk that far a distance in them.”
“Ladies,” Darcy interrupted them. “May I offer the use of my carriage? This way, your father can make his point with your sisters and you may still arrive home in safety.”
“If it would not be an inconvenience, Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth and I thank you for your consideration. Your kindness is appreciated.”
Darcy felt his left eyebrow rise at the number of words that flowed from Miss Bennet’s mouth. It made him realize her calm façade very likely hid a shy personality. His carefully constructed view of one-half of the Bennet family was undergoing a shift and he wasn’t sure if he was at all pleased by this. He needed them to all be vulgar and uncouth.
There you have it. He is starting to see their goodness, but is it too late for what he has planned?