Updated: Aug 7
As many of you know, I have been writing a novel on and off for a few years now. Like many of you writers, some days (or years) I write more than others. In 2019, I wrote the most words yet, and I think it's shaping up to look like a real, honest to goodness novel. Maybe in 2020, I will get even closer to that goal.
This past spring, while working on my non-Austenesque novel, I had an idea for a little Austenesque story about aging, and the wisdom we gain, and how older people are often willing to bestow such experiences with youth. The short story is set in 1855, and an aged Elizabeth Darcy, with side commentary from her beloved Fitzwilliam, counsels her granddaughter about an impending betrothal while sharing how she came to marry her grandfather. What a challenging exercise to hone an idea and create a solid opening, develop the arc and an emotive ending--all within very strict parameters.
Here's a nibble of my story, soon to be ready for public consumption.
Excerpt from "A Mate for Life" by Christina Boyd...
I stop at the edge of the lake, observing the pair of swans glide toward the reeds and remembering how my beloved told me once that swans mate for life. “After all, he was rich and handsome. But you must understand me, my child, your grandfather really had the most ungentlemanlike manner…then.”
“My behavior was unpardonable. I cannot think on it without abhorrence.”
My granddaughter’s eyes are wide with wonder. “I do not see how you could fall in love with someone you had such prejudice against if all you did was argue.”
Looking at the hat still at her side, Adelaide seems reluctant to wear it and makes a little face. With a sigh, she lifts the straw thing to her head as if it weighs a stone and ties the ribbons at her chin. So like me, this grandchild of mine, and yet she seems to carry the world on her shoulders like Atlas.
“Just because you are asked to marry does not mean you are obliged to say yes.”
“But that’s the thing, Grandmother. I must love Talbot. He is the most handsome man I have ever beheld. His eyes are blue as a robin’s egg, and his voice is so deep and clear. And he speaks to me about things. As if he wants to know my mind. And his keen wit makes me laugh. And he’s so very sweet…at least to me.” I swear the child blushes to her roots! It warms my old heart to think of such happy tidings, of my granddaughter in love. “I hate to imagine he would marry some other girl. That his house would not be my house. That some other woman would bear his children….”
“And has he asked you? Because if he has not, you may well be putting the cart before the goat.”
“Not yet. But last night after dinner, he asked to speak with me today. He said he has something very particular to discuss.” I raise my eyebrows at this and start to wonder if maybe this is coming about too quickly after all. “I think that when he left us two weeks ago for his family seat, he left to speak with his father about me. And I ought to know what I should like to say before he asks, don’t you think?”
“I’ll not sport with your sensibilities then and ask what if he comes only for your opinion on the removal of newspaper stamp duty.” She shoots me a look that tells me she needs my guidance, not my cleverness, and so I pat her arm, encouraging her to go on.
“But what will happen to me after I leave my family and am no longer Miss Adelaide Darcy? Will I cease to be…me? The church says I will go unto my husband’s house and become his property.”
“Oh, my sweet. You will always be you. Do you respect him? Does he respect you? Do you trust him? With your heart? Your whole being?”
She does not reply but worries her bottom lip with her teeth.
I continue. “Do you not think he is rather prideful?”
“At first, I did. A little. But on further acquaintance, you know, I believe that is how he likes to appear to strangers. Or even those he considers…inconsequential.” After a breath, she says, “Well maybe he can be rather prideful.”
“Inconsequential indeed”―that rich timbre of laughter echoes in the warm breeze, and I press my lips firmly together to keep from laughing out loud, too.
“Well, since your grandfather was very much like him when we first met, I suppose I should not hold pride against your young lord.”
“When there is a real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.” I cannot help but roll my eyes at that.
Dreamily, she twirls my large chintz parasol to the side, no longer shading us, and I accept that my daughter-in-law will not be pleased when she sees how Adelaide and I will have caught the sun. And yet, as there are no Caroline Bingleys present, we are safe―and I wave the thought away.
“Before your grandfather proposed, someone else asked me to marry him. And I refused him too.”
“Did Grandfather know? Did you love him?”
I hear the echoed chuckle of my beloved, and I cannot help but smirk at the thought of how much I did not love Mr. Collins.
So, what did you think of this little exchange? Do you ever wonder about an older Elizabeth and Darcy--how they might behave later in their marriage, to their children, grandchildren? Would we still recognize her as the same "obstinate headstrong girl" after years of marriage, motherhood, and even a privileged life? How do you think she would have met aging and all that that entails?
#OHG as in obstinate, headstrong girl.