Archive for the ‘Lydia Bennet’s Story’ Category

Happily Ever After is Susannah Fullerton’s new book which celebrates Pride and Prejudice. It is a beautiful book and one I am enjoying enormously. I am very pleased and proud because one of my illustrations features in it on page 126 in a section about Mr Wickham!

Lydia, Wickham and Kitty

This is the illustration – as you can see, Lydia, Wickham and Kitty are stepping out in Meryton. No doubt they are shopping and will be perusing all the latest ribbons and muslins to be had along the way.
I was very surprised to see mentions of my two Pride and Prejudice sequels, Mr Darcy’s Secret and Lydia Bennet’s Story also included in Susannah’s book – you can imagine, I was thrilled!

Here’s a little blurb about the book:

In 2013 Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice turns 200. Again and again in polls conducted around the world, it is regularly chosen as the favourite novel of all time. Read and studied from Cheltenham to China, there are Jane Austen Societies from Boston to Buenos Aires, dedicated to sharing the delights of Jane Austen’s masterpiece.
Here is the tale of how Pride and Prejudice came to be written, its first reception in a world that didn’t take much notice of it and then its growing popularity. As well as discussing the famous characters – sex-symbol Mr Darcy, charming heroine Elizabeth Bennet, and the superb range of comic characters who make readers laugh again and again – Susannah Fullerton looks at the style of the novel – its wicked irony, its brilliant structuring, its revolutionary use of the technique known as ‘free indirect speech’.
Readers through the years have both loved the book and hated it – the reactions of writers, politicians, artists and explorers can tell us as much about the reader as they do about the book itself. Pride and Prejudice has morphed into many strange and interesting forms – screen adaptations, sequels, prequels and updates. Happily Ever After explores these, and the wilder shores of zombies, porn, dating manuals, T-shirts, tourism and therapy.

Congratulations, Susannah! 

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I have two gifts today to giveaway!
Here’s the first for those lucky enough to own a Kindle:
Free on Kindle – December 16th – Jane Austen’s Birthday!
This offer is only open for one day so to claim your free copy make sure you download it on the 16th

My second gift is a choice of any one of my books!
i.e Choose one copy of either Searching for Captain Wentworth, Mr Darcy’s Secret, Willoughby’s Return, Lydia Bennet’s Story or Effusions of Fancy!

Let me know your preference in the comment box with a contact email. As before, the winners will be announced on Monday 17th December. Thank you for joining me this week with all your lovely comments!

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I am thrilled to announce that the Jane Austen Centre in Bath are now stocking my books in their online giftshop, and they have some signed copies of Lydia Bennet’s Story, Willoughby’s Return and Mr. Darcy’s Secret for sale.

Here’s an extract from Willoughby’s Return. Marianne Dashwood, now Mrs. Brandon, is giving a ball at Delaford Park in the hope of finding a suitable beau for her sister Margaret. Colonel Brandon’s sister Lady Lawrence and her husband Sir Edgar Lawrence have recently returned from France. Marianne thinks that their son, Colonel William Brandon’s nephew, Henry Lawrence, seems likely to make a good suitor for Margaret. However, in a strange twist of fate Mr. Willoughby who has returned to the neighbourhood also appears to be on friendly terms with this nephew, and before long Marianne is drawn into circumstances she can do nothing about. 

Marianne and Elinor

On the following Tuesday afternoon, Elinor and Marianne were sitting in the latter’s favourite room at Delaford, a small parlour with windows that looked toward the orchard and the mellow brick garden walls that enclosed it. The apple trees, heavy with fruit, gleamed crimson in the October sunshine, and the twisted mulberry tree, in one corner, associated forever in Marianne’s mind with those star-crossed lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, was abundant with swelling purple berries.
The ladies were sat over tea and the conversation had taken a turn to the subject of Mr Willoughby, and all that had recently passed at Barton and Whitwell. Elinor was shocked to hear that he and his wife were in Exeter, but when Mrs Brandon confided that he was on terms of intimacy with Henry Lawrence also and that she had unwittingly invited him to the Delaford Ball, her sister was, for a moment, quite incapable of speech.
“I was coerced into inviting the Willoughbys to help Henry. I believe Mr Willoughby means to sell Allenham Court from what Sir Edgar hinted,” Marianne explained, “though Mrs Jennings’s intelligence is that Mrs Willoughby is ready to move in as soon as the alterations are done. Mama has written to me this morning, saying that poor Mrs Smith has only been buried these three days, but that there are already workmen inside the house, reports of furniture piled high outside and bonfire smoke over the village, like a funeral pyre!”
“My goodness me,” Elinor replied, her eyes round with astonishment, “they have not wasted any time. But surely Mr Willoughby has no need to sell Allenham? His wife is very rich, is she not?”
“Who can say? Sir Edgar did not specify Allenham, now I come to think on it,” Marianne continued. “Perhaps he wishes to sell Combe Magna.” She had not thought of it before, but she realised she could not bear the thought of John Willoughby living so closely to Barton. Was he really so insensitive? Had he been able to forget all that had happened between them, so much so that he did not care whether or not he lived on her mother’s doorstep?
“Surely he will not come to live so close to Barton,” said Elinor, as her thoughts mirrored Marianne’s own. “Whatever has dear William had to say on the matter?”
“It was so difficult to converse at first that we did not discuss what had gone on at Whitwell until yesterday,” Marianne sighed, shaking her head in remembrance. “William’s demeanour, so grave and aloof, frightened me, Elinor. I have never seen him in such an ill humour. Finally, it could be avoided no longer. I asked him if his sister knew anything of Mr Willoughby’s history, but of course he replied that Hannah and Edgar had been in France on their way to Italy when the first knowledge of Miss Williams’s predicament had arisen. Of course Brandon does not refer to myself in connection with Mr Willoughby, it is never discussed nor mentioned. It is as though the whole affair never happened.”
“Well, that is understandable,” Elinor said softly. “What does he intend to do now? Will he warn the Lawrences of Mr Willoughby’s character?”
“He says he cannot. William insists that this whole matter must be hushed up. He reasons that five years have passed since the unfortunate affair and that, as nothing further has been heard against the character of Mr Willoughby, that he is not in any position to besmirch it. William is too much the gentleman to behave in any other way, and besides, if he can be of use to Henry, he will do all he can.”
They were both lost in their own thoughts for a moment and then Marianne spoke again. “I believe Hannah to have been at school at the time when William and his first love attempted an elopement. Lady Lawrence is ignorant of that lady’s complete history after her abandonment, even if she does know of the existence of William’s ward. But William did not see that there was anything to be gained by his sister having any knowledge of Eliza Williams’s seduction by Mr Willoughby or the subsequent birth of the child. Of course Hannah and her husband were on the continent for many years at that time.”
“But surely William must think of his nephew Henry, and what if you are thrown together in circumstances not of your own making? What then?”
“William believes that when Willoughby realises the connection, which is probably done already, he is certain he will not show his face. His dealings with my nephew and his father are of a business nature, we will not have to meet socially.”
“I do not share your confidence, Marianne,” Elinor went on, “I think he will brazen out any meeting; he has already shown he is capable of such. And is William sure that Henry Lawrence can trust Willoughby in his business matters? I do not think he is to be relied upon.”
“We can hardly be his judge,” snapped Marianne, “we have had no dealings with him for the past four years. He is older and possibly wiser. Mr Willoughby is a man of consequence and respectably married. No one’s character is fixed for life, Elinor, perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Elinor did not know what to say. She was disturbed by the fact that Marianne was prepared to defend him in such a voluble manner. “Have you given some thought as to whether he is likely to accept your invitation?”
“Mr Willoughby will never show his face at Delaford Park, of that circumstance I am as certain as of the sun rising in the morning,” pronounced Marianne with feeling.
Elinor remained unconvinced. She had an awful feeling of foreboding, which no amount of reasoning could do away.

It was arranged that Marianne would drive over to Barton on Wednesday, two days prior to the ball, in order to collect her mother and sister. Margaret, who was in high spirits, had expressed her excitement about their invitation in a letter that had arrived on the very morning Marianne was to head into Devonshire. This news did not come as a surprise, but the remaining content of the letter disconcerted Marianne to a greater extent.

Barton Cottage,
October 7th
Dearest Marianne,
I can hardly believe that the day of the ball is almost upon us. I look forward to seeing my friends at Delaford. The prospect is too exciting! My gown arrived yesterday morning. Marianne, you will not believe how beautiful it looks, it has surpassed all my expectations. It fits me quite perfectly and Mrs Jennings has sent some silver ribbon and silk flowers for my hair that she bought in London and has been saving for such an occasion as this. Wasn’t that kind?
You will never guess whom I bumped into in Barton village yesterday when I went to collect the post. John Willoughby himself! He was very gentleman-like and kind, not in the least brusque as he was when we saw him in Exeter. He asked me how I did and enquired after Mother. He said he was sorry he had not been able to converse more when he saw us in Exeter but that the surprise of seeing us had taken away his power of speech. He especially asked to be remembered to you. I did not know that Mr Willoughby was acquainted with Henry Lawrence, and it was a great surprise when he said that he was very pleased to have been invited to the Delaford Ball. Can this be true? Has Colonel Brandon forgiven Mr Willoughby? I must admit that I was very surprised to hear about his invitation, but it did seem as if he was very keen to attend. I have not mentioned this to my mother or to Mrs Jennings as it seemed so very strange to me that you have not written of this in any communication regarding the ball. I thought I should mention it, however, but in any case I shall see you before you have time to pen a reply.
Believe me to be,
Your loving sister,
Margaret Dashwood

Marianne folded the letter carefully. “I will not think about its contents now,” she thought, placing it inside her reticule, “I must concentrate on getting ready to make the trip to Barton. William must not know about this, it will not make any difference whether he knows of Margaret’s meeting with Willoughby or not. Neither will it be a good idea to have him worried about the matter before I set off and, with this news, he might even prevent me from going. No, some things are better left unsaid.”
She pulled on her bonnet and fastened her cloak about her shoulders, busying herself with the final preparations and instructions to the coachman. But despite all this activity, she could not eradicate certain parts of Margaret’s letter from her mind. “So Willoughby was sorry he had not been able to converse more when we saw one another in Exeter and he had asked especially to be remembered to me. I cannot help but smile at the thought that his manner was not quite as it had appeared.” She took her seat in the carriage and gave the signal to move off. The journey to Barton seemed to take an age. The settled weather of the last week had given way to rain and wind, the roads were muddy and the lanes become as dirt tracks. The coachman and his boy had to step down twice to push the carriage out of the mire and had made a wrong turning before they reached Honiton. Marianne felt unsettled by Margaret’s letter and though she could not believe that Willoughby had any intention of coming to Delaford to attend the ball, a part of her imagined that he might, after all, brazen it out. “But will he really wish to embarrass his wife? Surely Mrs Willoughby will refuse to attend when she understands the connection. It is not worth worrying about. I cannot think of such an unlikely event as the Willoughbys attending a ball at Delaford Park.”
Mood Board for Willoughby’s Return

They had just passed the turning for Stoke Canon and were within a half-mile of Allenham when
 Marianne first saw the pall of dark mist, rising in undulating columns. Even in the rain, the plumes of 
black smoke could be seen rising up above the grey clouds where torrents of water poured from the 
heavens. Seized by a sense of longing, Marianne experienced a feeling of great curiosity that was
impossible to override: consumed by questions that would not go away. She must and would take a look
 at the house. Urging the coachman to take the turn, the carriage set off down the lane, flanked on either
side by tall, dripping hedgerows, whose overhanging branches clawed and scratched the glass windows.
 She felt no alarm; after all, she had been down this bridleway a hundred times before. Trees, contorted
into the grotesque by the gales, twisted and entangled their boughs to form a dim tunnel over their 
heads. They made slow progress through the mud, which splashed the carriage up to the windows and
the horses to the tops of their tails. At last the track widened to reveal a pair of ornate gates opened to the
road like inviting arms, to swallow the coach as it rumbled to a standstill several yards from the house,
the ancient manor which even now had the power to arrest Marianne’s heart. There, to one side by the
outbuildings, were a series of huge bonfires, as had been reported, piled high with all manner of items.
Several trees worth of wooden planking, panelling, painted doors, and redundant furniture, blistering in
 the heat, were being consumed by the fire, licked to the bare bones by the rapacious flames. Beyond the
haze and smoke the house itself looked shut up, the shuttered windows like unseeing eyes, closed and
drawn. Only the main doors were ajar but there was no sign of life. Marianne felt it was the saddest
 scene she had ever contemplated: the violation of a home with her precious memories buried at its heart.
She did not think she could stay longer to witness such destruction. Banging on the roof to alert the
coachman, the wheels turned her carriage towards the gates once more before she looked back, as if in
final salute. A shutter moved. Someone looked down from an upstairs window. The unmistakable
silhouette of a gentleman threw back the remaining screen. Their eyes met and connected with lingering
recognition. Then he was gone. Marianne started; kneeling up on her seat to look out through the
window behind her, straining to see what she imagined might only have been in her head. She heard the
 coachman’s cry; he cracked his whip in frustration as they slowly rounded the last bend. The house
grew small. And then he appeared, running hard, his greatcoat flapping behind him, as though he
wished to catch her up. Should she stop the coach? She did not know what to do and was on the point

 of calling out when she saw that he had stopped to close the gates. John Willoughby stood, motionless, 
like a ghost. Marianne watched until he was out of sight, a lone figure staring after her.

Mrs Dashwood and Margaret were ready to travel immediately. They had enough boxes and trunks piled up in the hall as if they were going for half a year instead of a few weeks. Marianne felt weary after her journey and was pleased to rest in front of a cheerful fire in the sitting room and glad, despite the eagerness of the other women, that they would not be travelling until the morrow. She was also grateful that on this occasion there was no mention of going up to the Park to see the Middletons and Mrs Jennings. She would be seeing them quite soon enough, she felt, for they were to come for a visit to Delaford, arriving on the eve of the ball and stopping a fortnight. Still, it could not be helped, and she hoped that it would all be to Margaret’s benefit.
Marianne had not expected to relate anything of the goings-on at Allenham Court or for the subject to be raised at all, so she was greatly surprised when Mrs Dashwood brought up the topic; not only of the poor deceased Mrs Smith but of Mr Willoughby himself.
“I wrote to you about Mrs Smith, did I not, Marianne?” Mrs Dashwood fussed about with the cushions on a chair, patting and plumping them and setting them straight.
Marianne noted that her mother did not look at her directly as she spoke. She waited to hear more.
“We had a visitor early this morning,” Mrs Dashwood said, pausing to take up her needlework to stitch furiously along a seam. Marianne could not help notice her mother’s agitation, or the colouring about her throat.
“Mr Willoughby came here,” said Margaret.
Still Marianne remained silent.
“I was determined to snub him for your sake, Marianne,” Mrs Dashwood continued, “but I think when I tell you all, you will see that it was quite impossible for me to be so unkind.”
“He was very charming,” Margaret added with enthusiasm. “Please don’t be cross, Marianne. He came to make amends.”
“What did he say?”
“Well, we were sitting after breakfast as we always do,” interrupted Mrs Dashwood, “and Tom came in to say Mr Willoughby had called. He said he was most anxious to see me. I could not refuse to see him but I was prepared to give him a piece of my mind. Well, he came in, looking quite as handsome as ever, in a dark brown coat to mirror those dark eyes to perfection and I was a lost cause from the moment he entered the room. Oh, Marianne, forgive me, but the years melted away and though I can never forgive him for his conduct toward you, please let me say this. He has suffered, truly suffered for his crimes. I believe he has regretted you since the day he severed the connection.”
“Did he say as much?” Marianne asked, rather astonished that such an intimacy had been established on so soon a reacquaintance.
“Not in so many words,” admitted her mother. “At least that was the impression he gave most earnestly. What did he say, Margaret?”
Marianne sighed. Her mother was always easily charmed and no doubt Mr Willoughby had eased his way back into her good books with little effort. Smiles and compliments had been his most likely method, thought she.
“He said that now he was coming back to the neighbourhood, he was sure that we would meet from time to time and he was most concerned that his past behaviour to our family might rightly prejudice us against him. He wanted to ask our forgiveness and apologise most profusely for what had happened. He said he knew there was probably little hope that we would ever accept him back as the friend he had once been, but that his dearest wish was to be able to meet with cordiality. However, he would be content if he could at least greet us in the street as we passed by. I think that was about the drift of it, wasn’t it, Mama?”
Mrs Dashwood nodded and her eyes appealed to Marianne for Willoughby’s forgiveness.
“He asked after you and wanted to know if you were happy,” Margaret added.
“I told him you were very happy, Marianne,” said Mrs Dashwood. “Indeed, because you are so settled and everything has turned out so much better for you, I did not think you would mind if he called on us occasionally. I did not have the heart to be cruel to the man. He seemed so genuinely to regret losing our friendship. I suggested he might call again and perhaps bring Mrs Willoughby.”
“Mother! How could you do such a thing,” Marianne shouted. “I cannot believe you could be so thoughtless. Have you forgotten William in all of this and the other business of Brandon’s ward?” Marianne could not bring herself to say Eliza’s name out loud. “You know how William detests Willoughby. He would have killed him when they met to duel if he had been able. Have you forgotten Eliza Williams and her child?”
“Mr Willoughby is keen to make amends to his natural child. He told me as much.”
“And William will never allow it,” Marianne cried, standing up and pacing to the window. “It is as well that we are going to Delaford in the morning.” She stared out at the landscape, the rolling hills and green valleys undulating before them. “Oh, goodness,” she started, “whatever will I do if he presents himself at the ball?”

I hope you enjoyed it!

Laurel Ann of Austenprose recently reviewed Willoughby’s Return as did Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine , Vic from Jane Austen Today and here’s a few more!

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Jane Odiwe, Monica Fairview and the officers at the RNA day

In Lydia’s imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness. She saw, with the creative eye of fancy, the streets of that gay bathing place covered with officers. She saw herself the object of attention to tens and to scores of them at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp — its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and, to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.
Pride and Prejudice

A fun day was had by all at the Romantic Novelist’s Association Regency Day held at the Royal Overseas club in Mayfair. As you can see, Monica Fairview and I experienced a ‘Lydia Bennet’ moment when we met a group of redcoats who were there to add a touch of authenticity to the proceedings. Thank you, Monica, for the lovely photo!
We also met fellow author Juliet Archer who was there to talk brilliantly on a panel about Sense and Sensibility, which included quite a bit of discussion about Mr. Willoughby and Colonel Brandon (would you believe?) 
I got to dance with Georgette Heyer biographer, Jennifer Kloester, who gave a fascinating talk on Georgette, and I managed to get my book signed! The Regency dancing was brilliant though I must admit Mr. Collins would probably look like an expert next to my efforts. Still, we laughed a lot, and had a good time. There are excellent reports on the day on the RNA blog and by Juliet Archer on Austen Authors.

Here’s an extract from Lydia Bennet’s Story:

Lydia Bennet, Mr. Wickham, and Kitty

Chapter 1

The true misfortune, which besets any young lady who believes herself destined for fortune and favour, is to find that she has been born into an unsuitable family. Lydia Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire, not only believed that her mama and papa had most likely stolen her from noble parents, but also considered it a small miracle that they could have produced between them her own fair self and four comely girls—Jane, Lizzy, Mary and Kitty—though to tell the truth, she felt herself most blessed in looks. Lydia’s greatest desire in life was to be married before any of her sisters, but a lack of marriageable beau in the county and her papa’s reluctance to accompany her to as many Assembly Balls as she wished had thwarted her efforts thus far.
The youngest Longbourn ladies, Lydia and Kitty, were employed in preparations for a trip out into the nearby town of Meryton. Their bedchamber was strewn with cambrics, muslins, and ribbons, all cast aside for want of something better. Slippers and shoes, sashes and shawls spilled over the bed and onto the floor. Feathers, fans, and frills flowed from open drawers like a fountain cascade. Amongst the spoils, Kitty reclined against propped, plump cushions to regard her sibling, one arm resting behind her head whilst the other held back the heavy bed drapes, so as not to obscure her view. Lydia sat before the glass on her dressing table, scrutinising her reflection as she put the last touches to her toilette. She dusted a little powder over her full, rosy cheeks and twisted the dark curls on her forehead with a finger, patting them into place until she was satisfied with her appearance.
“Is it not a face designed for love?” she asked Kitty with a chuckle, practising several expressions she thought might stand her in good stead with the officers, or at the very least amuse her sister for five minutes. She was perfecting what she could only describe as a “passion promoter” to great comic effect, pouting her generous mouth and flashing her wide, black eyes with slow sweeps of her lashes, which had Kitty reeling on the bed with laughter. “No doubt, I shall capture Mr Denny’s heart once and for all!”
“I do not think making faces at Denny will make one jot of difference to his regard for you,” Kitty declared, spying a bauble amongst the strewn bedclothes and sitting up to clasp the necklace about her throat. “But, in any case, is it wise to spend so much time on a young man who has such a glad eye? I should have thought you would have learned your lesson by now!” Kitty was the sister with whom Lydia shared all her fears and secrets, cares and woes, secure in the knowledge that she was acquainted with as many of Kitty’s confidences, as her sister was of her own. Lydia would never divulge what followed when Charles Palmer detained Kitty in the conservatory and proposed to show her the illuminations, nor disclose intelligence of the letters that passed between them afterwards. Their confidence was absolute.
“I do hope Denny will like my new hairstyle,” Lydia went on, tying a length of coral silk around her tresses and ignoring her sister’s comments. “I daresay he will; he is always very attentive to every little thing. Why, I only changed the ribbons on my straw bonnet from white to coquelicot last Sunday and he had noticed before the first hymn was sung in church. Oh, Denny, he is so very sweet, though perhaps he is not quite so gallant as Mr Wickham, whose compliments are without doubt the most accomplished. I wonder what he will have to say. Do you think Mr Wickham will notice my hair?”
Kitty did not think Lydia really expected an answer to her question but ventured to comment on the fact that Mr Wickham, one of the best looking officers of their acquaintance, might have his attentions engaged elsewhere. “I do not think Mr Wickham’s notice extends much beyond that of his present interest in Miss Mary King. I hate to disappoint you, Lydia, but quite frankly, you could have Jane’s best bonnet on your head and he would not notice you! Pen Harrington believes he is quite in love.”
“Well, I am not convinced he is in love with Mary King,” said Lydia, liberally sprinkling Steele’s lavender water on her wrists, “but with her ten thousand pounds! Money will certainly give a girl all the charm she needs to attract any suitor. If you and I had half so much, do you think we should still be single?”
“Well, be that as it may, whatever Mr Wickham’s true feelings are on the matter, I declare that I shall never forgive him for his conduct to our sister. I think he used our Lizzy very ill,” Kitty cried, as she drew a white chip bonnet from its pink and white striped box and pulled it on over her ebony locks. “No wonder Lizzy went off to Hunsford to visit Charlotte Collins. I think Mr Wickham quite broke her heart.”
“Mr Wickham is a very amiable, but wicked, man and if he were not so charming or so handsome, I swear I would snub him forever,” Lydia replied. She stood up to smooth her muslin gown over her hips, pulling it down as hard as she could and sighing at its length in despair. Jane, the eldest of the Bennet daughters was a little shorter than herself, Lydia reflected, tugging at her cast off gown. Indeed, none of her sisters were as tall. And whilst she enjoyed her superior height, she knew that nobody else had to suffer the indignity of wearing clothes that were too small. If only she could persuade her papa that she really needed a new dress for herself alone, she knew she would be the happiest girl alive. But that was impossible. There was never enough money and, if there was any left over for the occasional luxury, as the youngest of five daughters, Lydia knew she would be the last to feel its effects. Tacking on another length of fabric from the workbox was the only answer but there just wasn’t time for that now. If they were not careful, they would be late and miss all the fun.
“If I know Lizzy, she will not be downhearted for long and her letters from Hunsford parsonage are cheerful enough,” Lydia added, pinching her cheeks between thumbs and forefingers for added bloom. “She expresses no feelings of regret and certainly there is no mention of moping for Mr Wickham, though how she can possibly be having fun with our dreary cousin Collins is quite beyond me. Poor Charlotte! I know you and I used to joke about the “Lovebirds of Longbourn” but, now she is married, I cannot help but feel sorry for her. Can you imagine having to live with William Collins for the rest of your life? Well, at least Lizzy managed to avoid that, although I am not sure our mother will ever completely forgive her for refusing to marry him.”
“Even sister Mary was not keen on the idea of becoming a parson’s wife, despite her penchant for bible study and religious tracts,” added Kitty, tying blue ribbons under her chin. “Although as I recall, if pressed, she might have consented to the match.”
“But Mr Collins never asked her!” Lydia giggled. She adjusted her bonnet, setting it at a jaunty angle before winking at her sister. “To be married with a house of my own is my ambition, I admit, but I declare I could never love a clergyman, not in a million years. Come, Kitty,” Lydia urged, picking up her reticule with one hand and taking her sister’s arm with the other. “Let us make haste. If we delay much longer, the morning will be gone and we will miss all the gossip!

Lydia and Kitty Bennet admiring the soldiers
Such a pretty scene met Lydia’s eyes on their arrival in town that she didn’t know which way to look: at the ravishing bonnets in straw and silk in the milliner’s bow-fronted windows or at the figured muslins, crêpes, and linens ruched and draped across the width and length of the tall windows of the mercer’s warehouse. Vying for her attention was a highway teeming with those captivating visions in scarlet; officers were everywhere, strutting the pavements and swaggering in step. A whole regiment of soldiers had arrived in Meryton several months ago, along with the changeable autumn winds, blowing every maiden’s saucy kisses like copper leaves down upon their handsome heads. Lydia and Kitty had been far from disappointed when line upon line of handsome soldiers and debonair officers had come parading along the High Street, a blaze of scarlet and gleaming gold buttons, laden with muskets and swords, clanking in rhythm as they marched. It had not been very long before both girls had made firm friends with all the officers, helped along by the introductions from their Aunt and Uncle Phillips who lived in the town.

Harriet Forster, the Colonel’s wife, was fast becoming Lydia’s most particular friend, and it was to her elegant lodgings that the Bennet sisters now hastened on this spring morning. As was expected, they found her in good company. Penelope Harrington and Harriet’s sister, Isabella Fitzalan, were regaling Harriet with the latest news. The three ladies were most elegantly dressed to Lydia’s mind: Harriet in a white muslin, Penelope in blue with lace let into the sleeves, and Isabella in lilac, to match the blossoms on the trees outside. Lydia thought Miss Fitzalan was elegance personified, with her golden curls dressed just like the portrait of Madame Recamier she had seen in her mother’s monthly periodical.
“I am so glad you have arrived at last, Lydia and Kitty,” Harriet exclaimed, as she rang the bell for tea, “for I have some news which cannot wait to be told. You will never guess what has happened!” 

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Free E-books from Sourcebooks on December 16 – One Day Only

From Leah Hultenschmidt of Sourcebooks:

December 16 is Jane Austen’s birthday and as the world’s leading Jane Austen publisher, Sourcebooks, is throwing a huge one-day-only birthday book bash. We will be offering special ebook pricing on ten of the best Austen-inspired novels – and what better pricing could there be than free?

On December 16 only, the following bestselling ebooks will be available free through our retail partners (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc):

Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan 
Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken
The Darcy’s & the Bingley’s by Marsha Altman
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Collins
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds 

But the party doesn’t stop there, because also for one day only, we are offering free illustrated ebook editions of all six of Austen’s novels. These special editions include the full novels plus the legendary color illustrations of the Brock brothers originally created to accompany the books in 1898.

Even if you don’t have a kindle you can download them onto your computer. I’m thrilled that my naughty Lydia is included in this set of wonderful books!
Here’s the link to claim your books from Sourcebooks

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The lovely weather we’ve been having here in England always makes me think of Lydia Bennet’s adventures in Brighton! Here’s a little taster of the fun and scrapes she experiences with her friend Harriet Forster.

Lydia and Harriet were dressed and downstairs by seven o’clock next morning to go bathing. They left the Colonel snoring away, as he was not due to inspect his troops till one o’clock, and hastened down to the beach to be dipped by Martha Gunn and her ladies. The girls decided to share a bathing machine for changing, but as there was hardly any room to manoeuvre, they kept falling over, partly because of the necessity of standing on one leg to undress and partly because they were laughing so much. Once they had on their flannel gowns and caps, it was time to face Martha Gunn, chief dipper and a woman not to be opposed. She stood in the water whilst her servant and helper led them hand in hand down the steps, but as soon as they hesitated with a first toe in the freezing water, she stepped up and very firmly took charge. She was a strong woman, and before they realised what was happening, they were submerged. Lydia would never forget that first occasion. She declared the horror of it would stay with her forever. Such was her surprise at being forcibly plunged into the icy brine, she forgot to hold her nose as instructed and as she emerged, coughing, feeling half drowned, she was convinced she had drunk several day’s dosage of the recommended amount.
“I cannot imagine any circumstance where I would be induced to try this heinous activity again, unless I was desirous of drowning myself and anxious to have done with my life,” she spluttered.
“I cannot agree, Lydia,” Harriet declared, splashing her friend till she shrieked for mercy. “I find it most refreshing and invigorating, and I profess that the water is exactly the temperature I prefer.”
“You are clearly most insensible, my friend. I always knew that, of the two of us, I was the most sound of mind and feeling,” shouted Lydia, as she escaped another assault and ascended the steps, dripping and cold.
Getting dried, dressed, and changed into one’s clothes, not to mention trying to dress one’s hair so as not to appear a complete fright, was a skill which they had not yet mastered after sea bathing. They almost ran back to the inn, which fortunately was opposite the steps they had descended, but as they reached the summit and were stepping out to cross the thoroughfare, they were intercepted by a curricle which swerved, making the horse rear, forcing Harriet to fall backwards, sending Lydia reeling to the ground. As she recovered herself, she saw that the driver had at least had the courtesy to stop, but she could have died as she slowly recognised the buff and blue livery of his servant, the buff and blue paint of his carriage, and, finally, the blue cloth of his coat, his buff breeches, and cockaded hat, a picture of perfection and in great contrast to the one which the girls presented.
Lydia scrambled to her feet, aware not only of her unkempt hair poking under her bonnet but of her general appearance of dishevelment, now that her white muslin was covered in grime and dust. She bit her lower lip, tasting the salt encrusted there, and cast her eyes down to the floor in the vain hope that he would not recognise them.
“Dear ladies,” Captain Trayton-Camfield declared, leaping to the floor and bowing before them, “forgive me, I did not see you. I hope you are well. Please tell me that you are not injured at all, for I shall never forgive myself if you are harmed in any way.”
“Please, sir, do not be alarmed, and thank you for your concern,” said Harriet, “but we are just returned from a little sea bathing, and I am afraid that in our haste to return to our inn, we did not see you.”
“Would you allow me to insist that you rest awhile in my chariot or may I escort you to a safe haven? Are you staying near? Please let me take you to your home,” the Captain entreated.
“Sir,” replied Harriet, “we are entirely at fault. It is we who should be apologising to you, sir. Pray, do be easy; we are not harmed in any way, though a touch shaken, to be sure, but nothing that a little rest in our rooms over the way will not cure.” Harriet brushed at Lydia’s gown and thrust her forward.
Captain Trayton-Camfield looked across to the Ship Inn. “I should have known that two such genteel ladies would be accommodated in refined surroundings. Please, may I beg your permission to introduce myself. I insist that it is quite the thing in Brighton to dispense with the formality of waiting for Mr Wade to perform the introductions! Indeed, I feel I know you already as I never forget a pretty face; haven’t we already met on the Brighton Road?”
Lydia was inclined to giggle at his forthrightness. I must admit, I like his open manner, she thought. But Harriet had suddenly become more than a little reticent in her replies. She clearly thought the Captain was overstepping the bounds of propriety and was keen to make her escape. She dismissed him as politely as she could; he took his leave, jumped onto his seat, and with a wave of his hat, cantered off in the direction of the Marine Parade.

Extract from Lydia Bennet’s Story published by Sourcebooks Copyright Jane Odiwe

From the My Brighton and Hove website
As the popularity of sea-bathing grew so a new profession developed, with some of the town’s fishermen and their families turning to bathing visitors for a living. Ladies were bathed by so-called ‘dippers’ and gentlemen by ‘bathers’; in both cases the subject was plunged vigorously into and out of the water by the bather or dipper.

By 1790 there were about twenty dippers and bathers at Brighton and they continued in business until about the 1850s. The ‘queen’ of the Brighton dippers was the famous Martha Gunn. Born in 1726, she was a large, rotund woman and dipped from around 1750 until she was forced to retire through ill health in about 1814.

She was a great favourite of the Prince of Wales who granted her free access to his kitchens; an amusing story relates how she was given some butter on one of her visits, but was cornered by the Prince who continued talking to her while edging her nearer the fire until the butter was running out of the poor lady’s clothes.

Martha died on 2 May 1815 and is buried by the south-eastern corner of St Nicholas Church.

The portrait above was donated by one of her descendants to the Brighton and Hove Museum.

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I’d like to wish you all a Happy Easter – I’m having a bit of a break from blogging to spend time with my family – I hope you all have a lovely holiday. This is quite a long post but one thing seemed to lead to another! I’m very busy writing another book at the moment and drawing on lots of research which is always lots of fun. A lot of the action takes place in Bath so I’m hoping to spend some time there over the holiday period.
This week, one of the lovely things that happened was ‘meeting’ Jennifer Duke and discovering her blog. She was born in England and even attended the the Abbey school as Jane Austen did. Her time there sparked an interest in all things Regency and a love of Jane Austen. Jennifer lives in Australia now and told me that although she loves Sydney, she still gets homesick for England. She wrote to ask me if I would do a question and answer for her blog, which I was thrilled to do. Here’s the link: The Bennet Sisters Thank you very much Jennifer, I really enjoyed your interview.

This time last year I had Easter with Mr Darcy – click on the Derbyshire, Chatsworth and Haddon Hall links on the left of my blog if you’d like to see what a lovely time I had. When we were there most of Chatsworth House was covered in scaffolding as it is undergoing major restoration – Chatsworth Masterplan. My sister phoned me yesterday to tell me how she’d seen a little about how the work is progressing on a programme we have here called Countryfile. You can watch it here on the BBC iplayer Countryfile. Apart from gorgeous walks around Dovedale, there is some footage from Chatsworth showing how the house is being restored and the stone cleaned. It looks very beautiful. I particularly loved the gilded window frames which are original to the house. I’ve been there when the sun is at a certain height and the effect upon the house is stunning. I would love to see it again when the work is finished. I should imagine it is spectacular.

This next little piece of writing was inspired by the walk I took along the River Derwent when I was writing Mr Darcy’s Secret.

Elizabeth was more worried about the impending visit from Mr Darcy’s aunt than she was prepared to let on, but was determined not to dwell on any misgivings she might have. There was quite enough to deal with simply in organizing such details as food and menus, and which bedchamber Lady Catherine was to occupy, without being anxious about any conversation they might share. At least Miss de Burgh, Lady Catherine’s daughter would not be accompanying her. Apparently, Anne was staying behind with her companion Mrs Jenkinson in the hope that the change of air and spa water would do her some good. Sickly, pale and cross, the spoiled cousin of Mr Darcy had never enjoyed good health, and Elizabeth knew that no expense would be spared in the efforts to revive the spirits of this despondent creature, though she considered it unlikely that any amount of money or treatments would make a jot of difference. Privately, Elizabeth felt quite sorry for the girl who had never been allowed to live a normal life. In her opinion Anne had not only been spoiled, but had also been fussed over and mollycoddled to the point of suffocation. No wonder the girl was awkward in company and socially inept – she was never allowed to speak and would not dare oppose her mother’s beliefs or statements on any topic. Besides all this, Lady Catherine’s hopes for an alliance between her daughter and Mr Darcy had been thwarted, and as such, Lizzy was sure that Anne would avoid coming to Pemberley altogether if she possibly could. At least Lady Catherine was not due for another week; Lizzy would have time to fully prepare.

Elizabeth’s own spirits were subdued. The Christmas celebrations and Georgiana’s engagement, not to mention the awkwardness that subsisted between Lizzy and Darcy as a result, had all taken its toll. Mrs Darcy was feeling tired, and lacking in energy, which was so extraordinary that she felt some concern. Determined to find a solution she decided she was in need of some fresh air and exercise; being cooped up inside because of the bad weather was never good. She formed a plan to walk to Lambton in the afternoon, but made a decision not to inform anyone else. Eliza had a feeling that Mr Darcy might not approve of his wife going about the Pemberley estates unaccompanied and without a carriage, whatever he might once have thought about her eyes being brightened by the exercise of walking. He need never know; his time was taken up with estate matters on Wednesdays.

Donning her sturdiest boots and a beloved cloak from her Longbourn days, which was warm and comfortable if not considered as smart as others in her new wardrobe, she set off. Out of doors, Elizabeth instantly felt better in the fresh air with a light rain misting her features, the smell of Derbyshire limestone and the scent of moss sprinkled like green jewels upon stone walls assailing her senses. Following the river on the shortcut to Lambton bridge, she took pleasure in observing the riverbank twisting and curving with the rushing water moving swiftly in between, glinting like steel knives when the afternoon sun decided to make a brief appearance. Ancient trees dipped their gnarled fingers into the rushing torrent as their branches arched over her head dripping raindrops onto her hood. Walking was sublime exercise when the outlook was so beautiful and Lizzy made rapid progress becoming almost disappointed as the sight of a few scattered cottages and the medieval bridge with its five arches and triangular cutwaters came into view. Crossing the bridge she paused to watch the waterbirds for a moment. There were few people about and of those who walked none seemed to take much notice of her for which she was grateful. She knew if she had arrived in a carriage or dressed in her best pelisse it might have been a different matter. It was lovely to be anonymous for a change and the sense of freedom that she felt such as she had enjoyed in the old days almost overwhelmed her. Chiding herself for being silly and sentimental she continued over the bridge and turned into the lane leading to the High Street. It had been her intention to turn round and walk straight back to Pemberley, but now she was here she was struck by the idea of calling on Mrs Butler. That she could send news to her Aunt Gardiner about her friend seemed a wonderful idea.

The bridge I had in my head was the one at Bakewell which dates from the thirteenth century. Here’s a link to some lovely photographs of Bakewell and its famous bridge. My own photos of Bakewell can be found by clicking on the sidebar.

Finally – what was Lydia Bennet up to in April? Here’s an extract from Lydia Bennet’s Story – I hope you enjoy it!

Harriet paused, her chestnut curls trembling with animation and her eyes sparkling with amusement. “Just as we thought a certain couple on the point of announcing their betrothal, Mary King has left to stay with her uncle in Liverpool! It is reported that she had so many bandboxes, it looked as if she was going for good!

“George Wickham is said to be suffering her absence greatly,” added Isabella, “as he has been seen going around the town with an air of despondency the like of which has never been seen in him before. I daresay you may have seen it for yourself if you chanced to pass him in the High Street this morning.”

“We have not had that misfortune thankfully, though I have a mind to say that I would not expect him to be mourning the loss of Miss King’s affection,” Lydia immediately answered, unbuttoning her pelisse. “It is far more likely that he is feeling the deprivation to his pocketbook. No wonder you say he looks as though he’s lost a shilling and found a groat!”

“So, Lizzy may get him after all,” said Kitty, voicing her thoughts out loud.

“They will be able to marry in Longbourn church before the summer is out; how delightful!” Harriet exclaimed, pouring tea into china bowls. “I do love a happy ending.”

Lydia could not think why the idea of her sister marrying Mr Wickham did not fill her mind with the same enrapt effusions, but she admitted to herself that it did not. Perhaps it was the idea that her sister might be the first to marry and, therefore, enjoy all the attention that would bring. Try as she might, Lydia felt most jealous of the notice and affection that was bestowed upon Elizabeth, particularly by her father. Except to tell her how silly she was, Lydia could not recall a single comment that her papa had ever made, let alone one in her favour. Despite the appearance Lydia gave of caring little for his remarks, she longed for him to say a kind word. By every unlucky turn of fate, her attempts to please him always ended in disaster, which had the effect of vexing him all the more. And on top of Mr Bennet’s adoration of Lydia’s eldest sisters, every young man in Hertfordshire seemed smitten with Jane and Lizzy. Not only were her sisters considered to be great beauties, but they also enjoyed countless opportunities to exhibit their loveliness to its greatest potential. If a new gown or a new bonnet were to be had, Jane and Elizabeth were treated first. It was very hard sometimes, Lydia thought, not to be envious when the best compliment she ever received was that she was tall and “handsome” and her best dress was a hand-me-down that even Mary, who had no interest in fashion, had turned down.

Well, apart from her own feelings, she felt she knew her sister Lizzy well enough, and Lydia was not convinced that the latter still held a torch for Mr Wickham. “I would not be surprised if Elizabeth has fallen in love with someone in Hunsford,” she said out loud.

“Has Mr Collins a brother?” asked Harriet, who had them all falling about with laughter at the very idea.

“Lord, no!” Lydia cried. “Thank goodness that there is only one such odious gentleman as Mr Collins in this world, though I daresay if he had a brother, he would have proposed to my sister Lizzy also. No, there is another gentleman, I believe, who is courting my sister. She has been in the company of Mr Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, very much of late, and I am inclined to think that the Colonel may be the man. After all, it could not very well be Mr Darcy!”

They all laughed again at the idea of Mr Darcy being Elizabeth’s suitor. The gentleman had lately been staying in Hertfordshire with his friend, Mr Bingley, and though the neighbourhood (and Lydia’s sister Jane in particular) had warmed to the latter, Mr Darcy had been found to be very proud and disagreeable, fancying himself above all the company.

“Well, now I have a tale to cheer us all up,” Penelope started. “I will tell you all about my friend Caroline and her brother Edward, twins and alike as two peas in a pod. They were invited to a fancy costume ball and, having no particular apparel, decided to dress as one another. Edward was squeezed into his sister’s gown!”

“And what did Caroline wear?” begged Lydia. “Did she don her brother’s breeches?”

“Yes she did! Can you think of anything more shocking?” cried Penelope. “And not only did she completely look the part of a man, but Edward fooled the entire party.”

“Did they really think he was his sister?” asked Kitty.

“Well, I’m told none doubted him for a moment,” Penelope replied. “He was applied to for ever so many dances!”

Penelope’s description of Edward’s dress and toilette diverted them so excessively, that when one of the officers, Mr Chamberlayne, called half an hour later, he was not only kidnapped for the rest of the day but forced into allowing them to dress him likewise. Kitty ran to her Aunt Phillips’ house just around the corner to procure a gown and a wig, whilst the rest of them prepared to get him ready.

Lydia and Harriet trapped young Chamberlayne in Harriet’s dressing room as soon as he could be persuaded to accompany them upstairs.

“We promise we won’t come in until you are ready to have your corset laced,” Lydia called through the door, to the amusement of the other girls who hovered outside, “but do not take too long. We would not wish to take you by surprise. In any case, there is no need to be so shy, Mr Chamberlayne. Harriet has seen it all before. Just say the word if you need any help; we’re awfully good at undoing buttons, you know!”

Harriet, Penelope, and Isabella did all they could to smother their giggles. Lydia was in her element. “I’ll lace his corset so long as you all help to pull,” she commanded as the door opened to admit them. Penelope and Isabella stood on the threshold with their mouths gaping wide open, unsure whether they should join in. “Don’t just stand there, Pen, give me a hand,” Lydia cried, as the young officer was set on before he knew what was happening. “Isabella, help me pull harder. Quick, before he changes his mind! It will all be over in a minute, Mr Chamberlayne; stand still, I beg you.”

By the time they had done with him, they were all feeling rather jealous of his pretty looks and even he admitted he was a beauty. He was laced and frocked in a muslin gown with a scarlet cloak and a bonnet topped with feathers and flowers. He had eyelashes that any young miss would be proud to possess and they all agreed (even he) that a little rouge and powder went a very long way to improve the complexion! Colonel Forster came in just ten minutes later, after being disturbed by all the noise, and was almost fooled until Lydia could not resist telling him the truth.

A while later some of the other officers arrived, all looking quite as splendid in their regimentals as ever. Lydia thought Mr Wickham looked particularly dashing this morning, his brown curls waving over his head to fall on his stiff, braided collar. His eyes met hers as he entered the room. So brazen was his expression that she caught her breath and felt obliged to turn immediately to Kitty as if she had remembered something of great importance.

“Have you heard any interesting or diverting snippets of gossip lately, Mr Wickham?” quipped Mr Denny as he walked through the door.

“Why, now you come to mention it, dear fellow,” Wickham replied, taking up his stance for all to see him, “I did hear two handsome young ladies in earnest conversation on my way here.”

“How splendid! Pray, Wickham, were these delightful creatures known to you?”

“Why yes, two of the fairest girls in Meryton struck up a most enchanting discourse.” Mr Wickham laughed at his own comic efforts and pitching his voice several octaves higher, with his lips pursed, he played his joke, impersonating Kitty and Lydia by turns.

“Kitty, that fellow over there is vexing me greatly,” he smirked and simpered, looking straight into Lydia’s eyes, with a pat of his curls, before he leapt around on the other side to take up Kitty’s corner. “How can that be, Lydia, when he is not even looking at you?” he trilled next, with one hand on his hip. He paused, as they all started to shout, before delivering his final assault. “That, my dear Kitty, is precisely what’s vexing me!”

The entire company could not, or would not, scold him they were laughing so much. Lydia thought him shameless and had soon told him so, as she did her best to disguise her embarrassment. She felt him watching her, but when she dared to look again, she was disappointed to see that she no longer held his attention. Suddenly, every eye was turned upon the young lady whom the officers had not seen before. Lydia was highly amused to see every soldier smooth his hair and adjust his cuffs, before vying for a position where they could admire her more closely.

Colonel Forster performed the introductions so seriously that it was near impossible for Lydia and the others to keep their countenances. “I am particularly pleased to be able to present our own dear Chamberlayne’s sister, Miss Lucy, who has come to enjoy Meryton’s society for a few days.”

“Lucy” bobbed a curtsey and fluttered her eyelashes, paying particular attention to Denny, and said, “I have heard so much about you all and much of you, Mr Denny, sir, but indeed no one prepared me for such handsome soldiers nor for such gallantry. I declare I love a redcoat more than I ever knew.”

“She is rather shy,” whispered the Colonel in Denny’s ear, “but I am sure you will put Chamberlayne’s little sister at her ease. Unfortunately, the man himself has had to pop out to see the saddler on business in the town, leaving her to our tender charge. I do not think he will be long, but she has been fretting for him ever since he left.”

Of course “Lucy” was not upset or in the least bit reserved and immediately took to flirting and teasing and making such a play for Mr Denny that his complexion took on the same hue as his scarlet coat. They were all excessively amused to observe how he became increasingly attentive as the morning wore on. How they did not immediately laugh out loud Lydia was unable to account.

“Do tell me all about yourself, Mr Denny,” begged “Lucy,” seating herself next to him in very close proximity on the sofa. “I have heard there is not another soldier so brave as you.”

“I am sure we are all as courageous as one another here, Miss Lucy,” Denny answered, twisting his hat nervously. “May I say what a pleasure it is to be introduced? It is always felicitous to meet with such handsome relations of one’s fellow officers, and indeed, the word handsome does you no credit. I had no idea Chamberlayne had such a beautiful sister. Where has he been hiding you?”

“It is too true, kind sir,” answered “Miss Lucy,” “I have, until recently, been much hidden away at home, but now I have come to Meryton I hope I shall be able to enjoy every society…and your company would be truly beneficial to me I believe, Mr Denny.”
“Do you care to dance?” Denny simpered. “It would be my pleasure to partner you at our party this evening if you would be so kind as to consider a humble soldier’s wishes.”

“Mr Denny!” “Lucy” cried, jumping up excitedly. “I could not wish for anything better; you may engage me for all of my dances,” she declared, forcing all observers to snigger behind hands and into handkerchiefs. They were in stitches Mr Chamberlayne was so convincing, such a talented mimic whose voice was pitched just like a young girl’s.

Mr Wickham, who had not been enjoying the fact that his efforts to attract “Miss Lucy” had been impeded, took over Denny’s part, and it was only when he remarked on the likeness between “Lucy” and her brother that Harriet and Lydia could bear it no longer. They laughed till they thought they should each suffer a seizure, which of course, made the men very suspicious.
“Lucy” broke down and declared that he could not endure such a falsetto modulation any longer but begged he might be allowed to keep the dress on for dancing later, to which there was a vast deal of laughter and jeers of derision. Mr Chamberlayne was made to part with his gown and wash his face before the evening party began. Lydia danced with all the officers, three times with Mr Denny and four with Mr Wickham. Considering the absence of his sweetheart, Mary, Mr Wickham appeared to be in reasonable good humour. Lydia wondered if he had heard that her sister Lizzy was leaving for London at the end of the week and would be back in Longbourn by the middle of next month. Perhaps it was this very fact that had raised his spirits.

Admitting to herself how much she had enjoyed having all of Mr Wickham’s attention to herself for a while, Lydia was forced to confess that the prospect of sharing his company once more with her elder sister was not entirely welcome. Elizabeth had been his favourite once before and could become so again, she was sure.

Although she did not look forward to this unwelcome likelihood, Lydia felt there could not be a happier or more contented creature. Life was good and with friends such as hers, she was certain of constant amusement!

Happy Easter!

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