At All Costs: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novel
As the Saturday sun climbed over the horizon, Bingley once again found himself slumped in a chair at Pemberley instead of in his bed. At least this time, he had made it to his room before succumbing to inebriated sleep. He squinted at the sun and cursed his throbbing head. Frustrated or not, feeling like this in the morning was not worth the short period of memory loss that alcohol provided.
“Never again,” he declared to the room before flopping face first onto his bed and enjoying another hour and a half of sleep before his man came to begin the process of making him presentable.
Bingley gathered a piece of dry toast and a cup of tea without milk and took a seat near Darcy and across from Richard.
“How can you eat so much?” Bingley’s face pinched into a look of revulsion at the eggs, ham, and rolls that were mounded up on Richard’s plate.
“I did not drink as much as you did.” Richard nodded at Bingley’s sparse breakfast. “Only took eating two of those breakfasts to teach me when I should stop.” He stabbed a piece of meat with his fork and lifted it to his mouth.
Bingley turned his eyes away. He could not even witness the eating of so much food without his stomach roiling.
“This is twice in a week,” commented Darcy with raised brows.
“Yes, I can count,” snapped Bingley before apologizing for his short temper. “My head is beyond sore,” he explained.
“I find a good bit of fresh air, and a nap is conducive to speeding recovery,” said Richard. “And water — you should drink plenty of water.”
Bingley raised his cup. “Will this do?”
“Aye,” said Richard, “but water is better. Take a flask with you when you go out for a walk.”
Bingley did as Richard suggested. He took a flask of water with him when he went for a long ramble — through the gardens and out into the fields and woods. The breeze of the morning felt good, and he drew great deep breaths to try to clear his mind. Coming to a stream, he removed his boots and outer clothing and slipped into the cool water. Then, finding a pleasant spot in the sun, he laid down to dry out ─ first his front and then his back. The sun warmed him and attempted to lull him into sleep, but having sustained more than one sunburn in his youth, he knew better than to allow himself to surrender to the desire to sleep until he had redressed and taken a seat under a tree. Then, he cocked his hat over his eyes and was soon buzzing liking a large angry bee. It was just what he had needed to clear his head of most of the effects of last night indulgence. It had also given him time to ponder his situation, and on his return to Pemberley, he came to the conclusion that games were not what was needed. He would, at his first opportunity, call on Miss Bennet and declare his love and beg her acceptance. At least, then, he would know one way or the other where he stood. This shifting between hope and despair might be tolerable for some men, but not for Bingley. He liked things decided. It was why he listened to advice from those he trusted and often followed their leading.
“It looks like your walk has improved your countenance.” Richard sat near the entrance to the garden. He motioned for Bingley to sit. “I think we should end our campaign.”
Bingley smiled. “I would agree. I find that I do not like being a dress.”
Richard laughed heartily at the comment. “I find I do not like you being a dress either.”
“So you have come to realize that I was right about your feelings for Miss Dobney?” Bingley could not help his smirk.
“I have come to the conclusion that it is not entirely impossible that I was feeling jealous. I will admit to nothing further.”
Bingley shrugged. He understood the reticence to speak of feelings. It was not an entirely comfortable thing to do, even for someone like him who was not as squeamish about such things as other gentlemen, such as Richard, were. “I am going to speak to Miss Bennet as soon as I find an opportunity to do so.”
Richard cocked his head to the side. “Forming your line and marching into battle rather than scouting about the edges?”
Bingley nodded. “Something of that nature.”
“Probably best.” Richard rose from his seat. “Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth are expected in about an hour according to Darcy.”
“Harris is to leave with you?” Bingley cut a sidelong glance at Richard as they walked. “It is not possible to send him back early?”
Richard laughed. “I have no reason to do so.”
Bingley sighed. “That is unfortunate.” And it was unfortunate, for that very gentleman happened to be the one who brought Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth to Pemberley.
“It is a lovely day, is it not?” Harris said later as they sat in the shadow cast by Pemberley across the side garden at this time of day.
It was the consensus that it was indeed an excellent day — for the weather was pleasant. However, for two of the party, the day was not as enjoyable as it could have been. Jane had confessed to Elizabeth, on their return to Willow Hall yesterday, that she could no longer bear the guilt of playing one gentleman against the other. The techniques that Lydia had mentioned were seeming to work as Mr. Bingley did look put out, but she feared Captain Harris was beginning to think there was a greater attachment on her part than there was. And so, she sat wishing to dissuade that particular gentleman while wishing to know if she had any hope with Mr. Bingley. It was enough to cause her smile to fade and keep her rather silent.
This change in Jane’s usually cheerful countenance did not go unnoticed by Mr. Bingley. What could be the cause of her silence and sad expression he did not know, but he knew that it saddened his heart and made him long for a great wind to sweep away all the others so that he might speak to her in private.
“The summers here are rather pleasant,” Harris was saying, “but there is nothing like a sea breeze on a warm day. My father would often take us to the sea for the summer when I was young Ramsgate was his favoured spot. You have been there, have you not, Darcy?”
“Yes, we had a small cottage there, but it is gone now.”
“Gone?” Harris said in surprise. “I should not like to give up such a piece of paradise.” He added with a grin. “Mother continually asks Father to purchase a place there, but Father sees it as an unnecessary expense since it is easy enough to rent a place. However, to my way of thinking, having a place there to be used at your convenience and leased when you are not in residence seems the best of all things. Father does not agree. He is content to be contained within Derbyshire except for the occasional foray into town or to indulge mother with a time beside the sea.” He turned to Jane. “What of you, Miss Bennet? Do you enjoy the sea?”
“I do not know,” said Jane. “I have never been there.”
“But your sister has been to Brighton.”
“Yes, Captain Harris, and Lydia is the only one of us who has. Had it not been for her particular friend inviting her to visit, she would not have seen the sea either. We are not great travellers. Our father prefers to stay at home.”
“This is what assumption does,” said Harris. “We tend to see the world and everyone in it as our experiences teach us, but we must not assume that all have had the same experiences.”
“No,” said Jane, “we should not.”
“Your father was in trade,” said Harris, turning to Bingley. “He had ships, did he not?”
“So you have been to the sea?”
“And what was your opinion of it?” Harris leaned forward in his chair as if eager to hear what tales Bingley would have to share.
“It is vast and full of water.”
Harris blinked. “Is that all? Were you not captivated by its beauty? Did you not like to listen to the calls of the gulls?”
“The gulls will try to steal your lunch, and the beauty of the sea can turn in an instant to a fearsome monster that snatches life. I do have some fond memories of the sea, Captain Harris, but the most enduring it far from fond. My father perished in a storm in the Irish Sea.”
“Oh,” Jane’s hand rested on her heart. “That is very sad indeed.”
Bingley gave her a grateful smile. “The sea has carried great wealth to our family, for which I am thankful, but it has also claimed that which was dear. So, I cannot see the sea with the same tranquility that another might. If you will excuse me.” He rose and walked away from the group. His father had been gone for three years, and yet the pain of his sudden departure had not dulled enough for Bingley to speak of it with great equanimity.
Jane watched him go and wished she could follow after him. Richard was sharing some tale of having been aboard a ship when the wind had come up, and waves tipped the vessel this way and that, but Jane was not listening. She was watching Bingley being called to by a footman and hurrying away.
“Are you well?” Elizabeth whispered to Jane. “You are so somber.”
“My head is beginning to hurt,” Jane replied. It was not a lie, her head was hurting just a bit, but it was her heart that hurt more.
Elizabeth whispered something to Darcy and soon, when Richard had completed his tale, and before Captain Harris could begin another topic of conversation, Darcy asked if Georgiana would like to show Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth her new piece of music. “Perhaps after a while, you might even play it for us all?” He smiled at her and winked.
Her eyes darted from him to Jane and then back again. “I am uncertain how long it might take for me to be ready to perform.”
“Take whatever time you need,” he said with a meaningful look. “Gentlemen, if you will excuse me, I would like to escort my sister into the house and speak with my housekeeper about some refreshments for when Georgiana plays for us.” With that, he stood, and offering his hand to his sister, escorted her into the house, followed by Elizabeth and Jane.
More in the Willow Hall Romance Series
A Pride and Prejudice Prequel ~ Willow Hall Romance, Book 1
Events from the past combined with threats in the present threaten to tear Lucy and Philip apart unless Darcy can help his friends save their blossoming love and rid Lucy of her uncle once and for all.Click cover image to find that book in your favorite store.
Click cover image to find this book in your favorite store.
A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novella ~ Willow Hall Romance, Book 2
When Fitzwilliam Darcy bought Willow Hall, he thought he was helping a friend escape an untenable situation. Little did he know he was purchasing a second chance for his own happiness.
Click cover image to find this book in your favorite store.
A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novella, Willow Hall Romance Book 3
Lydia Bennet only meant to surprise her sisters and enjoy some fun. She thought she had planned well enough to avoid any disagreeable consequence, but she did not. However, when plans go awry, the results, much like the lady who made the plan, can be very unexpected.
Publication: February 2017