This week, I have about half a chapter for you. I’ve been scrambling to get ready for a festival I’m attending this weekend and just today had time to write.
Speaking of the festival, I’ll be at the Pymatuning Lake Festival, held at the main beach at Pymatuning Lake in Andover, Ohio on Saturday, August 4th from 10 to 10 and Sunday, August 5th from 10 to 5. If you happen to be in NE Ohio or NW Pennsylvania this weekend, feel free to stop by! I’ll be in spot 210, which is near the Lake Road entrance. If you have a Facebook account, you can click here to find more information about the festival.
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Elizabeth watched through the drawing-room window as the three gentlemen mounted their horses and rode out of the paddock. Murmuring an excuse, she hastened out of the room and down the hall to her father’s library. She knocked softly, hesitating when she did not hear his voice bidding her enter. Silently, she debated with herself, but in the end, her curiosity was too great, and she let herself into the room, knowing full well that her father might be angry and throw her out. She made her way to her favorite chair, situated beside his desk, and quietly sat down.
“I do not recall granting you permission to enter, Elizabeth.” Mr. Bennet never lifted his gaze from his book, but his deep, displeased voice made her wince a little inside. Her status as his favorite daughter gave her leeway the others did not have, but she had never before invaded his privacy in such a manner.
Her father’s unhappiness gave Elizabeth pause, but she wanted to know what Mr. Darcy and his friends had said, and she was not to be denied. Straightening her spine and steeling herself for whatever his reaction might be to her impertinence, Elizabeth asked her question. “What did the gentlemen want, Papa?”
Mr. Bennet raised his brows and peered at his second daughter over the top of both his book and his spectacles. “That is a rather direct question, do you not think? When did I give you leave to stick your nose into my affairs?”
Elizabeth blushed, but would not back down. Her father had raised her to be direct, and he would not get away with being missish about it now, though she did not intend to tell him that. “You know very well that in the normal course of things, those particular gentlemen would have no reason to attend you here. Were it Mr. Bingley alone, it would not be unusual. He has visited you before, and you know as well as I how taken he was with Jane at the assembly, and how attentive he was to her at Netherfield. However, he did not come alone. Something of import must have happened to precipitate this visit.”
Mr. Bennet sighed. Elizabeth could see that he was put out; his aggravation was clear. She knew her father’s habits well, though, and counted on him wishing her gone so badly that he would give her the information she sought and send her on her way.
“The three gentlemen claim they overheard Mr. Wickham proclaiming to his fellow officers that he intended to seduce you.”
Elizabeth was taken aback by this information. “Me? We are barely acquainted, Mr. Wickham and I. What was your response to the information?”
“I told them you were too intelligent to be seduced, and that I saw nothing in Mr. Wickham’s behavior when he dined here to indicate he was a rake.”
“Papa, Mr. Wickham has never been to Longbourn. He has only been an officer since yesterday.” Elizabeth fought to roll her eyes. She could get away with much, but disrespect would get her banished from his presence.
Mr. Bennet blinked. “Oh. Well.” He waved his hand as though it would remove the issue from before him. “I am certain he is not a rake in any case. He was admitted to the militia, was he not?”
“Is seduction all Mr. Wickham threatened me with? Should I be concerned for my safety?”
“It is all Mr. Darcy and his friends accused the man of. I would not worry about it, were I you. You are a sensible girl, and you are far too poor to be an object of prey to anyone. I will all come to nothing, I am certain.” Mr. Bennet turned his face back to his book. “Now go, and leave me in peace.”
Seeing that she had been summarily dismissed, Elizabeth reluctantly rose and left the book-room. She paused in the hall, looking first toward the drawing-room, where her mother and sisters could be heard chattering, and then up the stairs. She knew she needed to be alone and quiet so she could think about what her father had told her, as well as his response. She longed for her room, but knew the only way to have any privacy was to walk, so she grabbed her bonnet and pelisse, and off she went.
Entering the stables, Elizabeth paused to consider her options. Making up her mind, she strode with sure steps out a door on the side that led to a courtyard in the back. A swing hung there, a simple slab of wood tied up with long ropes to a crossbeam. It hung in the middle of what had been in previous centuries a gate, Longbourn having been granted to a member of the Bennet family some four or five hundred years ago. The actual wooden gate was long gone, though the opening was often used by the tenants and servants. When Elizabeth and her sister Jane had been very young, their father had hung the swing up with his own hands, for their amusement. It was one of Elizabeth’s favorite places to be. She was in the bosom of her family here, but out of sight and sound of them.
Now, she sat on the swing, gently pushing herself back and forth, a sudden burst of exuberance enticing her to do as she had in her younger years and see how high she could swing. Before long, her mind turned back to the issue at hand, and she slowed her movements.
She was uneasy about her father’s response to Mr. Wickham’s threats. He was correct, of course; she was not the sort of female to allow the words of any man to turn her head and sway her to give up the best part of her without benefit of marriage. Still, for Mr. Darcy, who had refused to dance with her, declaring her not handsome enough to tempt him, to come to her father with a warning … She shook her head. She had not asked enough questions of her father to know how Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham knew each other, but it had been apparent from their interaction on the streets of Meryton yesterday that they were acquainted, and that they did not like each other.
“I have no facts,” she told herself, not worrying that someone might overhear. “All I know is that a gentleman I have just met has declared he will seduce me, and another gentleman, one who dislikes me, brought his friends to my home to warn my father about it. And, my father is unconcerned.”
That last was upsetting to Elizabeth. There had been many times in the past when she had wondered at her male parent’s reasoning. Her mother was flighty, to be sure, but Mr. Bennet was educated and intelligent. All Elizabeth could think this time is that her virtue was threatened, and it would be nice if her father were at least a little bit worried for her.
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