Thursday’s 300: Lilacs & Lavender, Chapter 1

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This post is brought to you by Lilacs & Lavender. (affiliate link … clicking is free but may result in me earning a few pennies)

I have finally begun to refresh Lilacs & Lavender, which was the second book I ever wrote. So far, I have only changed a few phrases and corrected some punctuation. I do not forsee making wholesale changes. 🙂

I’ll post every week … or try to … until it is completed, at which time I will make a new cover for it and upload the new files to vendor sites. The story is 12 chapters long, so I anticipate finishing somewhere between Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Meryton, Hertfordshire

Early December

The main street of Meryton was relatively quiet on this cold December morning as Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters walked from their home, Longbourn, towards their Aunt Philips’ house in the nearby town of Meryton.

Concern for her eldest sister kept Elizabeth at Jane’s side, their arms linked as the two walked behind the other three. Kitty and Lydia, being the youngest of the five, were eagerly anticipating the soldiers they hoped to run into in town, the redcoats the topic of their discussion. Mary, the middle sister, was attempting to read, and therefore frequently walked into her sisters or stumbled over the ruts in the roadway. The eldest two were more subdued. Jane, older by two years than Elizabeth, was struggling with unrequited love. Elizabeth strolled next to her, supportively holding her arm.

Just as they reached their aunt’s door, chaos exploded across the way. All five Bennet sisters stopped and turned, staring in shock at what was happening.

There in the street was the milliner’s youngest daughter in front of the shop, screaming at the top of her lungs at the middle daughter of the butcher. Each young lady was kicking, screaming, scratching, and biting. It appeared from the Bennets’ point of view that there was hair pulling happening, as well. The sound of clothing being ripped added to the excitement.

“You baggage! What do you think you were doing with my George? He will never marry you! He is promised to me!” Miss Smith screamed as she kicked her adversary in the leg.

“Me a baggage? You are a tart! Throwing yourself at my betrothed! I know you are in the family way; I heard it at the grocer’s a few minutes ago. Do you think to trap him? He will never marry you!” Miss Miller had a tight grip on the curls of her opponent.

“Tart?! I am not the one trying to trap him! I heard just now in my father’s shop that you are with child. You are the one trying to force a marriage. He is mine!” Miss Smith’s fist once again made contact with the face of the trollop who had seduced her dear George, just before she felt herself being pulled away.

“Let me go! I am going to make sure she never trifles with another man as long as she lives! Strumpet!”

The pair struggled against the arms that held them, each trying to get to the other to deliver more blows.

“Enough,” roared Mr. Smith at the same time that Mr. Miller loudly exclaimed, “Stop!”

The two tradesmen pulled their struggling daughters back towards their respective shops, and could be heard by the gathered crowd to admonish them. “What are you thinking, airing our dirty laundry in such a way?” and “Are you daft! We could have hid your shame. Now the whole town knows!” reached across the street where the Bennet sisters stood spellbound.

Longbourn, Hertfordshire

Early March

The smell of lilacs filled the air around Elizabeth as she strolled through the gardens around her father’s estate. It had been a long winter, and she was glad to be out of the house for a while. It was still too dirty to ramble beyond the hedgerows, but she could not bear to remain inside when the sun shone as it did today.

Elizabeth was fond of flowers in general, and purple lilacs in particular. They symbolized spring and the first emotions of love, both of which were very much on her mind. They were out rather early this year, too, which led her to believe her favorite of seasons was just around the corner.

This past winter had, indeed, been a long one. Her elder sister, Jane, had spent the cold months in London with their aunt and uncle. Jane had hoped to further her friendship with the sisters of the man to whom she had given her heart, a Mr. Charles Bingley. Unfortunately, the younger of his sisters, Miss Caroline Bingley, and the older, Mrs. Hurst, made it clear that the friendship was at an end. Jane never saw Mr. Bingley. Her heart was broken.

Jane’s melancholy was known to the entire family. However, no one knew that Elizabeth was also nursing a bruised and battered heart.

When Mr. Bingley entered the neighborhood last autumn he brought not only his family, but also his best friend, Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire. Mr. Darcy was the handsomest man she had ever seen. His dignified stance set off dark features that she could not pull her eyes away from easily. There was something about him that drew her.

Then, as she sat out a set of dances at the local assembly, she overheard him declare to his friend that she was “tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me.” The words pierced deeply into her heart. In her usual manner, she tried to turn it into a joke with those closest to her, but the barb wounded her.

That injury had made her susceptible to the charms of Mr. Wickham, the very same militia officer who, she later learned, was the cause of the scuffle in the streets of Meryton that had been talked about in the sitting rooms of the area for many weeks. Mr. Wickham was charming and filled her head with stories of Mr. Darcy and denied legacies, including a living in the church.

The day the soldier was exposed for the profligate he was shocked Elizabeth to her core. She had always thought herself to be a good judge of character, but now she knew this to, instead, be quite the flaw. Wickham made promises of marriage to several local girls, and the fight she and her sisters had witnessed brought his schemes to light.

The scandal was the biggest to hit Meryton in years. Not only was Mr. Wickham’s name bandied about, but several other officers soon found themselves accused of shameful behavior, as well. Their reputation ruined, the militia members found their welcome cut short, causing the colonel of the regiment to plead with his superiors for the authorization to make a hasty and early withdrawal of his men to their summer quarters in Brighton.

In addition, several families in the area found themselves with a daughter sent away. Thankfully, the Bennets were not counted among them. Rumor had it that Mr. Wickham received a lashing and was transferred to another unit. The entire town and not a few members of the militia breathed a sigh of relief the day the regiment marched out of Meryton.

For Elizabeth, Wickham’s disgrace opened her eyes to the fact that a charming man was not necessarily a good one, and that pleasing manners did not a gentleman make. She began to look back on her interactions with Mr. Darcy with new eyes. No, he was not pleasant in company. He appeared haughty, holding himself above the neighborhood. But in close company, such as at his friend’s house, he was capable of being very kind. She had, since the Assembly when his verbal barb wounded her, thought he looked at her to find fault. However, she now realized that she was the only one outside his party that he danced with at Mr. Bingley’s ball. He had asked her to dance twice previous to that, as well, and she had turned him down flat both times. She began to see that perhaps in his quiet, reserved way, Mr. Darcy had been expressing admiration for her.

And so, Elizabeth’s original feelings of esteem for the young man came roaring back. She knew, though, of his original opinion of her. She also knew that with Mr. Bingley gone from the neighborhood, likely at the behest of his sisters, the chances of Mr. Darcy ever returning were slim. Even if he had admired her, he could not return to Netherfield without his friend.

And really, what did she have to offer him but a thousand pounds upon her mother’s death and incredibly silly relatives? No, Mr. Darcy would find and fall in love with someone who brought him far more than Elizabeth could provide. Hence, her silently bruised and battered heart.

Still, down deep inside she wished they could meet again. She would behave differently if given the opportunity; she would let him know, as much as she could within the bounds of propriety, that she had come to admire him. If only it could happen! Perhaps in London, where I will break my trip to Kent, I might see him, she thought.

Then she remembered that Miss Bingley had cut Jane; there would be no visits there, which meant no opportunity to see Mr. Darcy again. There is no real hope, is there? She sighed.

Elizabeth was not formed for melancholy, and so she did her best to put it behind her and behave as cheerfully as possible. It helped that she was soon to embark on a trip to Kent to visit her friend Charlotte, for it gave her something else upon which to focus; something to look forward to.

A few months ago, Charlotte had married William Collins, who, due to the entail put upon the property, would stand to inherit Longbourn upon Mr. Bennet’s death. Mr. Collins was the rector of the parish of Hunsford, and, while visiting his cousins, had made his offer of matrimony to Elizabeth first. She, feeling he was ridiculous and nonsensical, refused his offer.

Three days after her refusal, he proposed to Charlotte, who accepted with alacrity. While Elizabeth had not initially approved of her very good friend marrying such a ridiculous man, time and distance increased her feelings of loss for Charlotte’s company and decreased her feelings of repulsion towards her cousin Collins. Therefore, she was looking forward to visiting with her friend once again.

Eventually, the chill in the air lifted and Elizabeth made her way back into the house. Entering the dining room, she sat down to break her fast with her father, currently the only other member of the house downstairs.

“Good morning, Papa.” She greeted him with a smile.

“Good morning, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet to his favorite daughter. “How was your walk this morning?”

Elizabeth laughed lightly. “Very short, as you well know. I had to stay in the garden; it was much too dirty in the lanes even for me.”

Her father chuckled. “It was kind of you to save your mother’s nerves this morning. Mine appreciate it.”

“You are very welcome.” She grinned before turning her attention to her meal.

Her father lowered the cup of tea from which he had just taken a sip. “Lizzy, before the rest of the family invades our peace, I have a question to ask you. It involves someone no longer in the neighborhood.”

“Well, since there are several people no longer in the neighborhood, I am all curiosity. Please, tell me who it is you are asking about, and what your inquiry is.” Elizabeth smiled as her father smirked.

“I was wondering about one of Netherfield’s former residents. In light of what we have recently learned about Mr. Wickham, how do you now feel about Mr. Darcy? Does he still seem the black-hearted villain Wickham made him out to be, or do you, perhaps, feel differently at this time?” Mr. Bennet knew his second daughter well, and recognized her sadness no matter how hard she tried to hide it. He had been contemplating the cause for weeks, and the only thing he could imagine was if Elizabeth had expressed herself strongly about something – or someone – and suddenly found herself proved wrong with no way to make amends. With further thought, he determined that the single possibility was the gentleman from Derbyshire. There was no other person or event that had caused such a strong reaction from his usually observant daughter. Of course, she did have a temper. It was one of the characteristics she inherited from her mother. Still, she was not one to vehemently express dislike about someone in quite the insistent manner that she had about Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth blushed. “Indeed, I feel very differently about Mr. Darcy now. Once I came to realize Mr. Wickham’s penchant for embellishment, I began to think that there might be more to his story. While I cannot know exactly what happened between the two, Mr. Darcy certainly had reason to not trust such a man.

“Hmph, he certainly showed how rude he can be at the Assembly by talking so of my daughter – and in her hearing, as well,” he said, reaching out to pat Elizabeth’s hand in consolation.

“He should never have spoken such a thing in public about anyone.” She paused, looking off unseeingly towards the wall. “He was not at all sociable at the dinners and card parties in the neighborhood, and at the time I felt he was looking down on us because he did not share much of himself with us. I thought him to be like Mr. Bingley’s sisters, not speaking because he thought himself above everyone else. But then he made more of an effort to converse with me when I was at Netherfield than they did, and he did ask me to dance at the ball. I now realize he is a bit like Jane, who you know rarely shares her feelings but is always proper.”

He nodded and took another sip of his tea.

She looked at her father again. “How can I accept Jane’s reticence, especially amongst strangers, and reject Mr. Darcy’s? I cannot and still be a reasonable person.”

She went on to explain how she had learned her lesson about trusting those who only appeared good rather than those who, over time, proved that they were good.

“So, you approve of Mr. Darcy now?”

Elizabeth hesitated for a moment. Her father liked to tease, but she always felt she could share everything with him. She hesitated to reveal her secret thoughts, but knew they would not leave this room. She decided to trust him. “I do, very much. I should like an opportunity to make his acquaintance again, though I doubt I will.”

“Hmm,” he replied thoughtfully. Appearing to come to a decision, he rose to leave the dining room and said, “I believe, Daughter, that he liked you, as well. I would not be averse to such a man asking for your hand at some point in the future, were you to meet with him again, and if the two of you formed an attachment. It would be a comfort knowing you cared about your husband and were respected in turn.”

With that, he left his greatly astonished second daughter anticipating the chaos of breakfast with her sisters and vanished into his bookroom.

To be continued …



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5 thoughts on “Thursday’s 300: Lilacs & Lavender, Chapter 1

  1. I have always enjoyed reading your books, all of them. What I enjoy reading most is your in Lilacs and Lavender, is your witty and spirited denunciation of Mr. Wickham. He deserved everything he got. Also, by having Mr. Wickham punished by the army for the debts he owes, right at the beginning of the book and his other sins, means that Lydia, and the whole Bennet family, would be spared the shame of association and everything else polite society would place upon their shoulders.

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