Greetings again, Maria Grazia, and thank you infinitely for hosting the My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley blog tour—it’s first stop, too, you brave lady! It is a pleasure to be back at My Jane Austen Book Club. Hard to believe we met here four years ago, for the debut of The Red Chrysanthemum! You have requested I share an unpublished vignette from my new novel with your readers, and since you and I both adore Colonel Fitzwilliam, I offer this little scene. (I’ll just mention I gave the dear colonel the Christian name Alexander in my third novel, A Will of Iron and my best friend loves it so, I’m likely to stick with it, rather than the ubiquitous “Richard”.)
To set the scene, we have the Colonel heading to bed in the room saved for him at Darcy House. He and Darcy suffered a less than enjoyable evening at the London theatre in a box adjoining that used by the Gardiners and their guests, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet. It is about ten days since the contretemps between Darcy and Elizabeth at Hunsford. The colonel has been scolding Darcy, but has now retired from that particular field of battle.
Colonel Fitzwilliam Remembers His Youth By Linda Beutler
Colonel Fitzwilliam closed the door to his bedchamber at Darcy House and leaned his back against it. His cousin Darcy was in grievous pain with nothing to be done to save him. The colonel huffed resignedly. Elizabeth Bennet…
He had rarely known a lady with such pleasing manners. He smiled. It was a near thing that he had not formed his own attachment, but between his cousin’s self-serving warning—for the colonel had read the motives of his cousin correctly when he spoke of Elizabeth Bennet’s lack of fortune—and his own preference for blue eyes, a disaster was diverted.
He pushed himself from the door and settled in the chair by the fire. A decanter of something dark and probably delicious lurked on the little table at his right hand, but he resisted. With age and experience came a modicum of wisdom. He stretched his legs toward the fire and mused further about his poor, love-inflicted cousin, and what it might be to love so completely.
It was a fixed feature of his boyhood that he would be a soldier. As a second son he was for the clergy or the army, and for whatever reasons, his parents had seen him as fitted for one eventuality and not the other. Perhaps it was the peripatetic habits of childhood, always careening about whether inside or out, that sealed his fate. Rectors ought not ramble. Soldiers could.
It followed that as the colonel’s thoughts wandered, he would arrive at the green of Lambton and his last summer at Pemberley. He was sixteen years old and had received his commission only long enough prior to have two uniforms in his possession. His mother had been adamant he receive a proper education before entering military life, and his ear for languages and love of history thus honed would come to serve him well—bless her. Of course his dear mother had also been the first to haul him away, once she had learned of his…
…What was it? A dalliance? Hardly, we were so innocent. A mere acquaintance? No, there was something more… A childhood infatuation? Yes. A passing affection, paling with the years and distance.
There she is! He had seen her before on the village green, herding small siblings with ease and grace. He sat on a bench to watch this time. Her mouth widened to laughter. A little brother hid behind a tree to remove his shoes and stockings before reemerging to squish the mud in a drying puddle between his toes. The child could not suppress a telltale squeal of delighted sensation. His glee was the source of his sister’s laugh. She had later admitted she could never be angry with him, the youngest.
A little sister, not much older than the muddied brother, pulled the young lady down for a whispered word. The young lady stood and looked him full in the face (she later admitted this littlest sister warned her a soldier watched). After studying him a moment, she blushed brightly and turned away. He felt himself blushing too, to have those lovely sky-bright eyes on him. Was she his age? She was tall. Her pale honey-hair was plaited, and the plaits bundled onto the back of her neck, topped by a straw bonnet. She was light and lovely—a young pussy willow with golden stems and plush shiny fuzz at the top. Or so had run his youthful metaphor.
The colonel’s thoughts ran ahead, heated by the fire. He had been ungodly sick on his first crossing to the continent. For reasons passing understanding, elder officers decided seeing to the relief of his virginity might be of some remedy to him when they reached Calais. He squinted into the flames to recall that first woman, but there had been several after—French, Italian, paid for, freely given, and the rare English widow—all of no consequence, truth to tell. Perhaps my heart is not easily touched.
But I do remember her, vividly. The next morning he had ridden to Lambton early in the day with Darcy, four years his junior and still a reed-like sprout. They tied their horses at the edge of the village and Darcy hied off to the smithy on the far side of the green. Fitzwilliam had wandered into the woods and come upon her, walking alone. Plucking up his soldierly courage, he introduced himself. Pardon me, I am Alexander Fitzwilliam, er, Captain Alexander Fitzwilliam.
And for this you should be pardoned?
Her eyes twinkled. He was smitten before offering any resistance, and the spread of her smile as he demanded her name in return deepened his youthful admiration. She only confessed to her first name, never hinting at more.
You seem young for a captain, but I admit to knowing little of such matters.
She challenged him endlessly, and never gave an inch in their battles of wit. He was enchanted and began picking wildflowers, pressing them into her hands. He promised to return the next day at the same time, if she would promise to be there. Fey, unknowable creature, he mused. Even now he remembered this first flutter with more detail than for any he had known as a man knows a woman.
They had met several more times, thinking themselves unseen. She revealed little of herself, but drew from him boyish admissions of daring-do and family connections; anything he could say to impress her must be said. Now, so many years later, he knew she had laughed at him, but she did keep to their meetings with flattering precision. Her actions proved she wanted to spend time with him.
What a sanctimonious prattling youthhead I was. As they walked he held her hand, but would not kiss her lest he raise her hopes. She must be of the village; his honourable treatment of ladies had been drilled into him since before he could remember. Do not kiss where it would lead to ruination—yours or hers—he had been taught. It was all so much hogwash now.
It was such a long, long time ago. Yet here in Darcy’s comfortable house, in the room vouchsafed him by brotherly affection, Alexander Fitzwilliam the man—not esteemed officer or paltry Don Juan—could remember no other women save the girl he had not kissed. They had been seen. His mother, with calm and patience, explained the error of his ways (as if he did not know), and he was at Matlock before he could blink. Two years later, when his family thought time and a promotion had rendered him safe, she was gone away from Lambton. She was known by his description of her, but he had no time to inquire further. Orders were orders, and he had just received his next. Upon reflection, this was damning evidence of a heart immune to love, a heart for whom it was easy to walk away from enamoured interest.
The colonel shrugged against the soft upholstery. He was such a man, and was settled to his fate.
But in My Mr. Darcy and Your Mr. Bingley, the colonel does meet his fate. More, I cannot say! Thanks again, Maria Grazia, and all of your readers at My Jane Austen Book Club, for allowing me to share Colonel Alexander Fitzwilliam’s back-story. I sincerely hope you will approve of his future.
About the Book
One simple, uncharacteristic subterfuge leaves Fitzwilliam Darcy needing to apologize to nearly everyone he knows! When Charles Bingley reaps the sad repercussions of Mr. Darcy’s sin of omission, Elizabeth Bennet’s clear-eyed view of the facts gives her the upper hand in a long-distance battle of wills with Mr. Bingley’s former friend. By the time Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth meet (repeatedly) in the groves of Rosings Park, neither knows the whole truth except that somehow, someway, their future is inextricably linked to the courtship of Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet.
In this Pride and Prejudice “what-if”, the additional dash of backbone and “far-sighted” action to the character of Mr. Bingley begs the question: how is Mr. Darcy to impress Elizabeth Bennet if Bingley does his own matchmaking? And how is Elizabeth Bennet to trust Mr. Darcy when even faith in a most beloved sister falters? ( Includes mature content )
About the Author
Linda Beutler’s professional life is spent in a garden, an organic garden housing America’s foremost public collection of clematis vines and a host of fabulous companion plants. Her home life reveals a more personal garden, still full of clematis, but also antique roses and vintage perennials planted around and over a 1907 cottage. But one can never have enough of gardening, so in 2011 she began cultivating a weedy patch of Jane Austen Fan Fiction ideas. The first of these to ripen was The Red Chrysanthemum (Meryton Press, 2013), which won a silver IPPY for romance writing in 2014. You might put this down as beginner’s luck—Linda certainly does. The next harvest brought Longbourn to London (Meryton Press, 2014), known widely as “the [too] sexy one”. In 2015 Meryton Press published the bestseller A Will of Iron, a macabre rom-com based on the surprising journals of Anne de Bourgh.
Now, after a year-long break in JAFF writing to produce Plant Lovers Guide to Clematis (Timber Press, 2016)—the third in a bouquet of books on gardening—we have My Mr. Darcy and Your Mr. Bingley bursting into bloom.
The eBook is available on Amazon. The Paperback should follow in two to three weeks.