Dear Maria and Readers at My Jane Austen Book Club,
Thanks for hosting a stop on the A Will of Iron Blog Tour. The excerpts I have selected need a touch of setting up before we begin. Here are two conversations that take place at the end of Chapter 5, “A Funeral”. The funeral in question is that of Anne de Bourgh, who has died due to complications of a secret pregnancy. In this chapter, Darcy and Elizabeth interact for the first time since Darcy’s return to Rosings for his cousin’s funeral, after the Hunsford Proposal. These two later conversations, first with Darcy and his sister, and then with Charlotte and Elizabeth, give us a hint to the changes in their feelings and how they look at themselves. The conversations are followed by an entry from the journal of Anne de Bourgh; it ends the chapter. The journal entries are sprinkled throughout A Will of Iron, for it is Anne’s iron character, and her Last Will and Testament, which color every moment of the Darcy + Elizabeth romance presented here.
Darcy and Georgiana at Rosings:
Having successfully gained his attention, Georgiana huffed into the chair that was the match of the one occupied by Darcy. “Do I understand correctly, Brother, that the young lady serving coffee is the Elizabeth Bennet of whom you have written?”
Darcy stared at his sister blankly for several moments, vastly disconcerted. … He straightened himself and met her gaze. “Yes. Mrs. Collins is her particular friend, and Miss Bennet has been a guest at the vicarage for some weeks. She was due to leave Friday last, but our family’s events and her inclusion in Anne’s will have lengthened her stay.”
“But that is a lucky thing, is it not, that you will see more of her? She seems a pleasant sort of girl.”
“Lucky that our cousin Anne is dead? Perhaps ‘lucky’ is not the word you want, my dear.” Darcy gave his sister a rueful glance.
Georgiana pulled a face. “I know that look, and I do not mean to be irreverent, merely honest. In any case, I should very much like to meet her.”
Darcy smiled more to himself than to his sister. “I shall introduce you when the opportunity presents itself.”
Georgiana blew out a sigh and laughed lightly. “Oh, good. I am relieved.”
“Why should you be?”
“When I was out walking this morning, I met a very pretty, dark-haired lady running through the beech grove like a gazelle. Her exercise brought her colour up; she has a lovely complexion. My being there discomposed her at first, but she laughed in a most pleasing and friendly way, and I thought from your description that she must be Miss Bennet. You will be proud of me. I screwed my courage to the sticking place and introduced myself. We spoke only a few words, but I thought we got on frightfully well.”
Darcy’s eyes closed. Happy thought…Georgie has met Elizabeth without my leave and now quotes Lady Macbeth. He opened his eyes; Georgiana was still sitting forward in her chair, looking pleased.
“I hope you were not indiscreet,” Darcy sighed.
Georgiana appeared offended. “I most certainly was not indiscreet. At most, I might have seemed curious, but I assure you, she would never suspect that I hope at some future time, sooner rather than later if you please”—her words became pointed—“to commence calling her ‘sister.’ I should like it very well.”
Darcy rolled his eyes and groaned. Georgiana laughed at him and skipped from the room.
Charlotte cast a sidelong glance at her friend as they returned to the vicarage. They had covered more than half the distance without speaking a word. “You are quiet, Lizzy.”
“I am in a state of wonderment at Mr. Darcy.”
“I saw that he spoke to you and introduced his uncle. I hope you are flattered. He once again singles you out.”
“I would be flattered if I could comprehend him. I cannot do justice to his kindness. Nor am I sure he would be best pleased to know that I chanced upon his sister this morning in the grove, and she introduced herself. She was not at all what I expected. Even though she caught me running, she seemed forbearing and still sought to be known to me. She was not proud but was all things amiable.”
Charlotte smiled to herself. Darcy continued to admire her friend, and Elizabeth had now met the sister—another hurdle leapt successfully. The impediments to his offering for Elizabeth were gone, dead amidst a scandal of Anne’s making though few yet knew of it. Other than being in mourning, everything ought to progress nicely now. She sighed, feeling quite satisfied.
Charlotte believed her friend much better suited to Fitzwilliam Darcy than to Colonel Fitzwilliam. Why she held so fast to this opinion, she did not choose to ponder.
From Anne’s Journals:
30 March 1812
Like bees to honey, Darcy and Alex cannot resist EB. It would seem that Alex defers to Darcy though she seems more at ease and laughs comfortably with Alex. It takes no skill at observation to see Alex likes her very much, yet he holds back in a way so as to make me think there is some conspiracy betwixt my cousins. The men have made their pact, but I do not see that EB might approve of their decision. When Alex talks to her, he is self-conscious; he knows Darcy watches.
Yes, Darcy is the more intriguing study. I watched him as best I could when the Hunsford party visited but without much success. He certainly looked at her a great deal, but the expression of that look was disputable. It was an earnest steadfast gaze, but I could not detect much admiration in it, and sometimes it appeared to be nothing but absence of mind. But who would not be rendered insensate by my mother’s ceaseless prattle dominating all more refreshing opinions?
It is all too interesting. I wish I felt better. It is my condition, certainly, that preoccupies my thoughts and renders me less astute than is my wont. When next we are all together, which I believe will be Thursday evening, I must make a better effort to concentrate. Which cousin is assuming a right to her, and is it the one she prefers? I think one of the men will have to show more regard than he might truly feel in order to secure her. She must be left in no doubt if she is to be won. Please, Darcy…if you have warned Alex off, stop standing around staring and say something flattering. —A de B
About the Book
The untimely death of Anne de Bourgh, only days after his disastrous proposal at the Hunsford parsonage, draws Fitzwilliam Darcy and his cousin Colonel Alexander Fitzwilliam back to Rosings Park before Elizabeth Bennet has left the neighborhood. In death, Anne is revealed as having lived a rich life of the mind, plotting rather constantly to escape her loathsome mother, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Anne’s journal, spirited into the hands of Charlotte Collins and Elizabeth, holds Anne’s candid observations on life and her family. It also explains her final quirky means of outwitting her mother. Anne’s Last Will and Testament, with its peculiar bequests, upheaves every relationship amongst the Bennets, Darcys, Fitzwilliams, Collinses, and even the Bingleys! Was Anne de Bourgh a shrewder judge of character than Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy combined?
About the author
Linda Beutler is an Oregon native who began writing professionally in 1996 (meaning that is when they started paying her...), in the field of garden writing. First published in magazines, Linda graduated to book authorship in 2004 with the publication of Gardening With Clematis (2004, Timber Press). In 2007 Timber Press presented her second title, Garden to Vase, a partnership with garden photographer Allan Mandell. Now in 2013 Linda is working with a new publisher, and writing in a completely different direction. Funny how life works out, but more on that in a minute.
Linda lives the gardening life: she is a part-time instructor in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College, writes and lectures about gardening topics throughout the USA, and is traveling the world through her active participation in the International Clematis Society, of which she is the current president. Then there's that dream job--which she is sure everyone else must covet but which she alone has--Linda Beutler is the curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, which is located at Luscher Farm, a farm/park maintained by the city of Lake Oswego. They say to keep resumes brief, but Linda considers Garden With Clematis her 72,000 word resume. She signed on as curator to North America's most comprehensive and publicly accessible collection of the genus clematis in July 2007, and they will no doubt not get shut of her until she can be carried out in a pine box.
And now for something completely different: in September 2011, Linda checked out a book of Jane Austen fan fiction from her local library, and was, to put it in the modern British vernacular, gobsmacked. After devouring every title she could get her hands on, she quite arrogantly decided that, in some cases, she could do better, and began writing her own expansions and variations of Pride and Prejudice. The will to publish became too tempting, and after viewing the welcoming Meryton Press website, she printed out the first three chapters of her book, and out it went, a child before the firing squad. Luckily, the discerning editors at Meryton Press saved the child from slaughter, and Linda's first work of Jane Austenesque fiction, The Red Chrysanthemum, published in September 2013. Her second work of fiction, From Longbourn to London was published in August of 2014.
Linda shares a small garden in Southeast Portland with her husband, and pets that function as surrogate children. Her personal collection of clematis numbers something around 230 taxa. These are also surrogate children, and just as badly behaved.