terça-feira, 30 de maio de 2017

Regency love alternative - part 4

And with curiosity come consequences...

Love in acts

3rd act

LOVE INSIDE AND OUT

sweet loving, humor, rated M, short, P&P alternative from Hunsford on


Chapter 3


‘Collins, you have to think what will you do with your inheritance in Hertfordshire.’ Lady Catherine raised her voice during dinner. ‘Richard, are you of the mind to buy an estate? As a second son, you will not inherit land and a gentleman needs to have a place of his own.’

Elizabeth gritted her teeth and balled her hands. Darcy averted his eyes to her, his own teeth gritted.

‘I am considering options, Aunt. Perhaps Darcy can help me as he has been helping his friend, Bingley.’ Colonel Fitzwilliam said and his cousin pressed his lips nodding.

‘Pray, why not closer to us, cousin?’ Anne’s wisp of a voice was heard by those around her.

‘Nonsense. Collins has an excellent life here; he will not have need for an estate, especially one under pitiable management as the one due to him.’

Elizabeth cleared her throat to speak but Charlotte shook her head vehemently begging silently her not to pick up a fight at her husband’s patroness’ dinner table.

Darcy watched the exchange; he too was extremely upset with the conversation. ‘Longborn is not pitiable, madam. It is quite a good property, has excellent prospects for crops and cattle, in need of new tenants and a severe steward. The house needs renovation and a more comfortable drawing room. In the right hands it can be a profitable income source.’ He gave his expert opinion. ‘It is nearsightedness to think less of it.’

‘Certainly Darcy is the man to help me decide if buying an estate is the right choice and of course, what to buy.’ Richard looked at Darcy who shook his head and his eye pointed at Elizabeth.

‘It is settled then. Collins will sell and Richard will buy.’

‘Pray, madam, Mr. Collins is yet to inherit the estate! I have just received word of a great ball in Meryton. Perhaps if my papa takes a liking to the wine, my mama can breed a brother… Mr. Collins might work on his sermons for a few decades yet.’ Elizabeth faked a smile, Charlotte gasped, Mr. Collins choked on his food.

‘Upon my word, you speak your mind very decidedly, girl!’

‘Madam, call a footman to help Mr. Collins or else he may not live to sing Easter prayers!’ Colonel Fitzwilliam joked seeing the man’s face redden and Darcy hid his chuckle in his wine glass.

---

‘Good morning, Miss Bennett.’ Darcy bowed tipping his hat.

‘Oh, no!’ She huffed and passed him by.

‘Miss?’ He called out but she didn’t turn or stop to give him attention. ‘Miss Elizabeth!’

She stopped abruptly and turned to him, hands balled at her sides. ‘What can you have to offend me with, sir, that wasn’t already said or implied yesterday?’

He shook his head. ‘Madam?’ She groaned and turned to walk away from him again. ‘Please, madam, how have I offended you?’ He walked after her.

‘Please, sir, leave me be.’

‘No, if I have offended you, I apologize; but I didn’t. Quite the contrary. Since I arrived and accidentally learned about your predicament, I have been trying to help you.’ He heard her snort as he walked behind her for the sole pleasure of watching her loveliness outlined by the thin yellow morning dress. His steps were at least three times bigger than hers, if he wanted, he could easily walk beside her, especially as they climbed the hill they had visited the previous day. ‘Madam, I deserve your attention.’

‘You think you deserve anything from me?’ She roared.

‘Yes.’

‘After you insulted me in almost every manner possible?’ He shook his head raising his shoulders and it further fueled her. ‘First you implied my virtue is lost, that I should put whatever is left of it in your gracious hands and finally you said my father is incompetent and lazy.’ She counted on her fingers.

His eyes wide, he caught her by the elbow and unceremoniously stirred her towards the top of the hill where they wouldn’t be overheard for they had open view of their surrounds and could see anyone approaching. She tried to jerk her arm away from him frowning but he kept going until they were alone.

‘I refuse to let you compromise me out of spite!’ She roared one more time.

‘Compromise you?’ He snorted.

‘Right, that is what is missing: you are about to propose I become your kept woman.’ She snapped and he widened his eyes. ‘This is probably the biggest offense of all.’

‘Miss Bennett, the sun must be getting to your head. It never crossed mine to propose such a dishonor to a gentlewoman, especially not you, madam.’

‘Oh please. Why else your valet would tell it to all of the Parsonage’s servants?’

‘Deuce take Rodgers.’ He muttered balling his hand and gritting his teeth.

‘Now, sir, you may consider me properly ruined, but I will not allow you to actually compromise me.’ She motioned to walk back down the hill.

‘Don’t go away denying me a chance to explain.’ She snorted shaking her head and started down the path. ‘Bloody vixen.’ He muttered and easily caught up with her to block her way. ‘I defended your father’s estate last evening.’

‘By saying it is poorly run?’

‘It is, madam.’ He said and she fumed. ‘I beg your forgiveness, but in my humble opinion your father has given up the hard work of running an estate because of the lack of direct heirs. What Longborn produces is enough for your comfortable country life and he is satisfied with it.’

She pressed her eyes in anger, head tilted up. ‘How dare you?’

‘It is my opinion. I was raised to be a landlord, my father has taken diligent care of teaching me the hard work and this is the impression I had from the few times I visited Longborn.’ She pursed her lips and he considered it his chance to keep explaining himself. ‘I never implied you are ruined or fit to be my lover. I can swear on my honor I never preyed on yours and can vouchsafe my stupid valet did not say what the other servants gossiped. He has been working for me for five years already, I know the man.’ She wanted to speak but he raised his palm. ‘If the stupid fool did imply anything of the like, I will offer you his heart as the Huntsman did to save Snow White.’

She held her bosom. ‘Good Lord!’

‘I heard you talk to your friend saying Caroline Bingley is ‘blackmailing you to ruin’, then you used the term ‘profit’. I offered my help and you refused.’ He took off his hat to run a hand through his hair. ‘If you had confided in me when I asked, I could have prevented this misunderstanding.’

‘I don’t have to share my, my, my…’

‘Secrets?’ He asked. ‘Problems?’ She sighed, her shoulders sagged. He took her hand and brought it his lips. ‘Please, forgive me one more time and allow me to put an end to your ailment.’

‘It is nothing, sir, really.’ She sighed and accepted when he directed her again to the top of the hill, again used his handkerchief to cover the rock so she’d seat and positioned in front of the sun. ‘It is a wonder you don’t know.’

‘Pardon?’ He squeezed her hand.

‘We had met a couple of times already when you arrived at Meryton. Of course it was the first chance you had to slight me, but we had been at the same ball last season in London. Also the theater, the day the King appeared unannounced.’

Darcy took a step towards her, his heart beating fast. ‘Really, madam?’

She nodded. ‘My aunt Gardiner is from Lambton, she talked about you.’

‘Gardiner from Lambton? I’m not familiar with this name.’

‘Taylor. Her parents had a small leather goods shop.’

‘Yes!... Best gloves I ever had.’ He nodded smiling. ‘And didn’t she approach me?’

She chuckled derisively. ‘Pray, sir, you are not very inviting in public.’

‘I apologize, madam.’ He tilted his head slightly. ‘Deeply. Am terribly sorry for having missed the opportunity to meet you sooner. Your aunt is of the Ton, how is this a problem, madam?’

‘The problem is that Miss Bingley recognized me from the few events I have been to, and well…’ Elizabeth sighed miserably.

‘Tell me, please.’

‘Oh, sir, you met my mother. Imagine if she knew I attend Season events and have connections and…’ She bit her lip. ‘Miss Bingley has witnessed a situation.’ She shook her head, eyes wide. ‘Totally proper, I assure you nothing that taints my virtue.’

‘I believe.’

‘Miss Bingley, you know her too, she can be very attentive to people’s social instances…’ He nodded pressing his lips, painful expression in his face. ‘My uncle is friends with a few gentlemen with prestigious connections and once I danced two sets with a certain gentleman. If my mother knew, she would go berserk and start making wedding breakfast plans and my life would be a living hell. It is already so very hard to live after I refused Mr. Collins.’

Darcy let go of her hand stupefied. ‘You refused my Aunt’s parson?’

‘How could I not, pray, tell me?’

He chuckled. ‘Miss Bingley tried to blackmail you how?’

‘She wanted me to introduce her in better circles or else she would let out the gossip, mmm, saying a titled gentleman was partial to me.’

‘Is it all she had?’ He asked and she nodded. Darcy wanted to laugh and hug her for she was adorable and handsome, lively and feisty and he was irrevocably enraptured. ‘Never fret about this anymore, madam, I shall-’

He stopped and they both looked towards the path. ‘I heard someone call me.’ She said, he nodded and they heard again. Two men calling out her name, once more and suddenly Mr. Collins and a tall pudgy gentleman who seemed familiar to Darcy appeared. Elizabeth stood in awe. ‘Clarence!’  She cried and Darcy frowned at her, his chest immediately tightening.

‘Ah, Mr. Darcy, I was not aware you were fond of walking and-’ Mr. Collins stopped short. ‘Miss Elizabeth, I was just looking for you as your maid said you usually walk up this lane.’ He smiled. ‘You have a most prestigious caller who cannot be left waiting.’

‘Miss Bennett! It is a pleasure to meet you again!’ Vaughn Clarence, The Third Earl of Brakenbury asked for her gloved hand and placed a lingering kiss on her knuckles, a box under his other arm. ‘Surprise of all surprises, with my old friend Darcy!’

‘Clarence.’ Darcy bowed. ‘My lord.’

Elizabeth curtsied low. ‘My lord, what a surprise! You didn’t say you might come by in your le- last time we met.’

Darcy choked on his own saliva. She received letters from Clarence, crest of arms on the seal, danced several sets with him in balls.

‘This is for you, Miss Elizabeth.’ The Earl bowed extending the box and Elizabeth’s eyes twinkled.

‘Good Lord!’ Collins gasped. ‘A mask? Why would dear Miss Elizabeth need a mask, sir?’

‘You see, good parson, I discovered in the handsome Miss Bennett an enthusiast for travelling. She was delighted with my recounting of the Carnival I witnessed in Venice and my mother thought it might please the lady to commission a mask for her. I am but a humble delivery boy.’

Darcy snorted, Elizabeth’s eyes and smile never left the contents of the box.

‘A gift from Lady Brakenbury, I say!’ Collins gushed already thinking what his patroness would have to say about it.

‘There are drawings here, sir…’ Elizabeth’s eyes shone studying the watercolor representation of a handsome lady in a magnificent gold and green gown with fan collar and deep red décolletage.  The sleeves were slender but the skirt was so wide one could hide a small child under it. The large golden collar would certainly bring attention to the woman’s bosom in deep red and to the face… ‘This mask is exquisite, I thank her ladyship but pray, sir, in this drawing it shows a fantastic mane of feathers-‘

‘Miss Bennett!’ Collins gasped. ‘One might think you are complaining your gift is incomplete!’ he snorted rolling his eyes to Darcy who felt his insides burn.

‘Fret not, Mr. Collins, I do understand Miss Bennett. I know she appreciates the offer.’ Lord Brakenbury’s eyes met Elizabeth’s. ‘And she might recall the invitation she was made. If, no, when. When she accepts it, her mask shall find completion.’

She blushed and returned her eyes to the mask.


Bloody Clarence, deuce take him, was courting the lady who had bewitched Darcy.


What now, Mr. D?
A rival?
Oh, dear!

Don't forget this story (as well as the other 2 in this LOVE set) are available on kindle and google play