I have made a few additions to my Music to Write By Playlist over the last few weeks. One of those songs is the one below. Not only is it a new song on my playlist and beautifully performed, but the idea of the song’s lyrics kind of goes with the story I have been working on this week.
ThePianoGuys. “Can’t Help Falling in Love (Elvis) – The Piano Guys.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 July 2017.
But first, one writing news note — Tomorrow, June 4, 2017, is my day to post at Austen Authors. I will be talking about a favourite movie I watched last week and sharing a bit of history about Canada while I explain what I admire about the antagonist of the film. I hope you get a chance to stop by.
Now, back to why I chose the video above.
If you have been following along with the Monday posts, you know I have been focusing on Mansfield Park related stories and that the subject my current work in progress is Henry Crawford. I am attempting to help him find happiness. His disastrous affair with Maria Bertram and the subsequent loss of any hope of ever gaining Fanny Price’s love left him somewhat miserable according to Jane Austen.
…we may fairly consider a man of sense, like Henry Crawford, to be providing for himself no small portion of vexation and regret: vexation that must rise sometimes to self-reproach, self-reproach, and regret to wretchedness, in having so requited hospitality, so injured family peace, so forfeited his best, most estimable, and endeared acquaintance, and so lost the woman whom he had rationally as well as passionately loved.
Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park (p. 334). . Kindle Edition.
Now, in Mansfied Park, Henry was not supposed to fall in love with Fanny. He was supposed to make her fall in love with him — I’m not sure what he planned to do after she fell in love with him. Break her heart, perhaps? It seemed rather important for Henry to be loved by women and looked at with fondness. I mean, it is the coldness of his reception from Mrs. Rushworth that makes him wish to make her Miss Bertram, the girl who loved him, once more.
My story is based on the premise that Henry’s wretchedness was his turning point, and after some soul-searching, he has begun his transformation into a respectable fellow before page one of my story. From there, he must prove that he is worthy of a respectable lady. He has enlisted the help of a friend’s sister to help him learn the sort of gentlemen a respectable lady prefers.
He and she are both warned that such arrangements can be dangerous. Hearts can become engaged where you least expect them to. Henry should know this from his time with Fanny, but…sigh…Henry seems a bit of a slow learner on that count. He finds himself once again falling in love with a lady he never intended to love.
EXCERPT from Henry: To Prove Himself Worthy:
Henry dashed down the steps of the Linton townhouse and barely had the patience to wait for the door to his carriage to be opened for him. What had he been thinking? Admiring her? Touching her? Almost kissing her? He shook his head and then allowed it to be propped up by his hands as he leaned on his knees. Foolish, foolish, foolish!
He could feel the water dripping from the brim of his hat and tossed the offending item to the bench across from him. How had he thought he could change enough to treat a lady worthy of honor in a fashion in which she deserved to be treated?
He pulled the list of ladies she had made for him from his pocket. None of these ladies deserved to be tied to a man such as he. One moment of temptation — the presence of a beguiling and beautiful woman with the smile and heart of an angel — and he was undone. Hopeless. He was utterly hopeless. The remainder of the drive to his home was spent in remonstrating himself and pointing out his weaknesses. So effective was his self-deprecation that by the time he had entered his own library, he wished only for a large bottle of fiery liquid — the fierier the better — to burn from his memory the image of lips parted slightly, wide blue eyes watching him as he spoke, and breasts rising and falling as her breathing slowed and deepened. She was not a lonely wife or a bored widow. She as an innocent ─ a respectable, virtuous lady. He crumpled the list she had given him and tossed it into the fire. It would be better for one and all if he once again locked up his heart and went back to pleasing himself as his uncle taught him.
He filled a glass with something from his cabinet, took a large swallow, poured enough in to replace that swallow, and then went to the writing table. His sister no doubt had some friends who needed a charming fellow to tickle their ears with flattery and would handsomely reward him for his efforts. He paused for a moment before dipping his pen in the ink and applying it to paper. He drained half of what was in his glass in an attempt to rid himself of the imagined disappointment he saw on a fair face. He closed his eyes and shook his head. At least it was no longer Fanny reproving him for doing what he knew he ought not. His hand shook ever so slightly as he dipped his pen and began to write a letter to his sister speaking of his boredom and inquiring if there was any function she knew of that might help remedy such a tiresome state. His foray into propriety had been no more than a lark, and not even a very enjoyable one. He drained the last of his glass and signed his name with a flourish. He would send it tomorrow.
Rising, he went to refill his drink and retired with it and the bottle to the chairs before the fire. He removed his boots and stripped down to his shirt and breeches. Then he flopped into his favourite chair and proceeded to drink far more than he knew he should, but he did not care. If he could but rid his mind of her face, her smell, her…just her, then he might be able to send that admission of failure to his sister tomorrow.
Tomorrow came in all its painful brilliance as the sun drove the rain away. Henry moaned and scrubbed his face. His stomach roiled, joining his head in rebuking him for his actions. He rose and stretched his stiff limbs and back. His eyes fell on that letter he had written. He should send it. He should just admit his defeat. But he could not. Not yet. If he sent it now, Mary would be on his doorstep in an hour if not sooner, and he did not wish to see anyone at present. What he wished for now was something to help settle his stomach, a bath, and his bed. There was no need to consign himself to his unhappy fate while feeling as if a coach and six had driven over him. He rubbed his forehead between his eyes and slowly made his way from the library to find someone to get whatever it was that he needed.
The sun had set and the moon had taken its place when Henry finally stirred a second time. He rose from his bed and padded to the fire to give it a stir. He tugged his robe more closely about him and lifted the clock off the mantle so that he could squint at it through scratchy eyes to see what time it was. Midnight? He blinked and squinted at the clock once again. Yes, it did say midnight. He held it to his ear. It was ticking as it should be. He gave the mechanism a winding and replaced the clock on the mantle.
His stomach rumbled. It was too late to rouse someone to bring him a plate of food, so he lit his candle and went in search of some cold meat or cheese and bread. And tea, he told himself. Tea was all he was going to drink tonight, even if that persistent vision of a fair face continued to occupy every corner of his mind. Half an hour later, having searched the kitchen as quietly has he was able and only waking servant, he was on his way back to his room, a tray of food in hand. He was about to climb the stairs when that letter seemed to call to him from the library. Deciding he should retrieve it, he turned, placed his tray on a hall table and went in search of the distasteful piece of paper. Then, having retrieved it, he returned to his room to eat and contemplate his future.
As he ate, Henry read and reread his letter to Mary. Each time he got to the end, he shook his head and sighed. This ─ this empty existence of seeking pleasure was not for what he wished. What he wanted was a wife and a family ─ not as he had experienced ─ a real family with a father who taught his son properly and a wife he loved and loved him in return. How his sister would laugh to hear such talk from him! It was rather maudlin after all. He drank the last of his tea and tossed his letter into the fire.
He had been at this point before ─ faced with temptation and a choice to chose ease over responsibility. He had not chosen wisely that time and what had its reward been? A well-deserved broken heart. That would not happen this time. This time he would choose the correct path.
He picked up his candle and made his way down the stairs once again. This time to see what invitations might be lying on his desk. There must be at least one which might provide him with the opportunity to meet one of the ladies Constance had placed on that list. He had no intention, however, of falling in love with any of them, but he could not return to Constance before he had done as he said he would. He would be seen with several other ladies. He would make the attempt to be the perfect gentleman, and perhaps in so doing, he would prove himself worthy of the one lady he heard in his thoughts, saw in his dreams, and doubted he could eradicate from his heart.