Mr. Darcy’s Bennet – Chapter 2

Mr. Darcy's Bennet Graphic
Mr. Darcy's Bennet Graphic

Mr. Darcy's Bennet - Chapter 2

Note: This idea wouldn’t let me go until I started writing it. Enjoy!

For one moment, only pride seemed to stand between Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and certain death, and then the air was filled with feathers and screaming chickens.

“Run!”

A slight, dark-haired gentleman—though he wore no cravat, and a bruise purpled his lower, swelling lip, his manners and way of speaking offered no doubt Mr. Darcy’s benefactor was a gentleman—waved Darcy and Bingley towards him.

One of the ruffians, stocky with a scar over his right eye, pulled free a large, sharp blade and ran screaming towards the gentleman. The others, all except their leader, who clutched his side wheezing orders, and the man beneath the broken crate shedding chickens, ran towards them, all sense of order forgotten.

Bingley gripped his pistol. Darcy met his gaze, and as one, they ran towards their rescuer.

The young gentleman stood stock still as the cutlass-wielding man charged.

Frozen in fear? Darcy had seen such things. Even the bravest could freeze up when faced with death. Col. Fitzwilliam, his cousin, spoke of friends who had succumbed to this fear, some dying, others surviving a time, believing themselves cowards, until the weight of their shame drove them to tragic ends.

Darcy did not wish such an end for his rescuer. Searching around frantically with his gaze for a weapon, he dove for a heavy, rotted board leaned up against a barrel beside him.

Grabbing it in both hands, Darcy ran for the rogue with the cutlass.

The young gentleman’s gaze darted from his attacker to Darcy, his eyes widening. “I told you to—blast!”

The rogue whipped his blade as Darcy, rotted board driving wet splinters into his palm, swung.

With shocking speed, the gentleman ducked and spun, his feet a rapid dance as he raised clenched fists up, guarding his chest and chin with seeming unconscious grace as he kicked at the rogue’s knee.

The rogue buckled, shouting as Darcy connected, slamming the rotting board into the side of the ruffian’s head.

“Aaargh!” the man shouted, flailing out with his blade.

“Blast!” The young gentleman stumbled, speed and pattern broken as he grabbed at his right shoulder.

Blood?

Too dim to see, caught between flickering lantern light and the visible half of the nearly full moon peeking through a break in London’s thick cloud cover above.

Darcy’s guts clenched, guilt and regret. Was the wound mortal?

The gentleman whirled around, eyes narrowed, expression a mix of pain and fury. “I said run!” He glanced behind him.

Bingley, shoving a second round into his pistol, lifted it and squeezed the trigger.

The shot echoed.

“Come!” The gentleman was still clutching his shoulder, the fabric of his sleeve darkening, a slow spreading stain of blood.

They ran, following the young gentleman in a zig-zag path, scrambling between crates and through alleyways until they reached a main thoroughfare. Only after they’d jogged another street and stood between two proper boarding houses, bright lanterns flickering above their front stairs, did the gentleman slow their pace.

Darcy’s chest burned, and his legs, back, and shoulders ached. He kept himself in well-enough shape, boxing at the local men’s clubs, riding, and shooting in the autumn. None of this prepared him for late-night sprints with a young gentleman who did not have an ounce of fat to spare.

The gentleman who whirled on Darcy, and pointed a bloody finger in accusation. “I told you and your friend to run. Why did you stay?”

“Was I supposed to watch that cur slice you to ribbons then?” Darcy snapped.

“Slice me to ribbons!” The young gentleman spat at the ground. He was pale, too pale, and now that they were standing still, Darcy noted the tremor in his hands.

“You are losing too much blood,” Darcy said, pulling at the knot of his cravat. “Bingley, give him your flask.”

The young gentleman took a step back. “I do not need your help.”

“You certainly do.” Darcy unwound the cravat from his neck. “Take off your jacket and shirt.”

“I will not!”

Bingley, blessed amiable Bingley, reached into his jacket and handed over the flask. “Brandy,” he said. “Do not mind Darcy. He hates the river and becomes domineering when worried. Charles Bingley,” he added.

“Elias Bennet,” the young man said, accepting the flask and taking a gulp. He squeezed his eyes shut and swallowed, letting out a breath. “Excellent brandy,” he said and smiled.

Something in Darcy’s gut clenched again, not fear or concern, but…

No, Darcy’s blood was up from the attack. Who were those men, and what had they wanted? Bingley’s concerns about smugglers hiding goods on his ships might have merit. But if so, how had they learned of his and Bingley’s plan this evening to keep watch on Bingley’s ship?

Darcy had told no one, and none who knew him would suspect him of going anywhere near the docks, day or night. Bribing a servant was a possibility, though Darcy had confidence in his maids and footmen as most had been with the household since Darcy was a child.

Bingley’s family, on the other hand, were new to their wealth and did not possess the same resources as the Darcys. And even without a bribe, servants gossiped with each other. Such talk could be easily overheard.

A coin, deftly slipped, could yield any amount of information. Darcy was not foolish enough to believe secrets easily kept in Town. This was another reason he was so reluctant to have his sister brought here until she was older, especially considering what had happened between Georgiana and Wickham the year before.

“At least take off your jacket and hold out your arm so I can bind your wound,” Darcy said.

Reluctantly, Elias followed Darcy’s instruction.

“Bingley, hand over that flask.” Darcy ordered. The wound looked shallow, but even the slightest cut could lead to wound sickness and death. Darcy doubted the cutlass had been kept in the cleanest condition.

“I told you,” Bingley said, giving Elias Bennet a conspiratorial smile. “Here, have another sip before I do as my master commands.”

Elias laughed, a low, throaty sound that made Darcy’s lips twitch.

Goodness, he would need the dregs of the flask after he was done. Clearly, brushes with armed gangs did not suit Darcy’s temperament.

Elias drank and handed the flask to Darcy.

Elias. Darcy had no business using the young man’s Christian name, even in his own mind. They were strangers. Strangers bound in shed blood and life debt, but strangers nonetheless. 

“Mr. Bennet,” Darcy warned, “This may sting.”

“It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Darcy,” Elia—Mr. Bennet said, hiccupping. “Blast,” he muttered and then added with a solemn nod. “I do not hold my liquor well. It is a failing.”

“You would need some spare place to hold it at all,” Darcy said. “I suggest meals. In quantity. With multiple courses.”

Elias threw his head back and laughed. “Mr. Bingley, you are correct. Your friend is a touch overbearing.”

“We should not gang up on him,” Bingley said. “Darcy means well. Always.”

Darcy ignored them. Bingley’s attempt to distract the young gentleman, while irritatingly at Darcy’s expense, kept Mr. Bennet calm, and Darcy could find no fault in that.

Darcy rested fingers on either side of the sliced sleeve of his shirt. Mr. Bennet tensed, and the sound of his breath ceased.

“Look at me,” Darcy said. Slowly, Mr. Bennet turned his head towards Darcy. His chin was narrow and smooth. Either he had shaved recently, he was still just out of boyhood, or he did not have a face that easily grew a beard.

Or some combination of the three. Darcy had no business reflecting on this, nor the fullness of Mr. Bennet’s lips, nor the slight flush that darkened his cheeks as he said, “Yes, Mr. Darcy,” in a light, slightly strained tenor. 

Now Darcy’s face warmed. Foolish. He wished he did not need the brandy for the wound. He could use a drink. Or five. “Stay still,” Darcy mumbled. “I will be quick.”

Oh heavens, that sounded like the advice a man with no experience or interest in women might offer his virgin wife.

Mr. Bennet nodded.

Darcy pulled at the ripped sleeve to see the arm beneath. It was not so chilly that Mr. Bennet would catch cold by removing his shirt. At the same time, blood loss chilled the flesh. And it was not Darcy’s place to insist. He had already been, in Bingley’s words, overbearing enough.

Mr. Bennet’s arm, while lean and hairless, was dense with corded muscle. A fighter’s frame, one who depended more on speed and technique than power. Darcy said, “If you will not take off your shirt, then I will need to pull the rip wider to see.”

“As you will,” Mr. Bennet said. “The cut is not deep.”

Darcy did as he had promised. The linen of the man’s shirt was neither shabby nor of excellent make. Sweat stained his back and chest. From the running, for certain, but this shirt showed evidence of mending and areas of discoloration.

“I will have to retire it at last,” Mr. Bennet said with another laugh. “My uncle will be pleased. He would be more pleased if I did not come to the docks at all, not at night, but if I had refrained this night, I would not have been here to assist you.”

Mr. Elias Bennet was talkative in his drink. Normally, inane chatter made Darcy a bit murderous, but he did not mind Mr. Bennet’s observations. At least he knew Mr. Bennet was upright and conscious.

The cut was, as Mr. Bennet had said, shallow. A thin splitting of skin from just below the bone the running diagonally across the bicep. A surgeon would need to stitch it at its deepest point, but first, to clean.

Col. Fitzwilliam had walked Darcy through the importance of cleaning a wound quickly, preferably with a healthy dousing of spirits.

“This will sting,” Darcy said, and then before Mr. Bennet could protest, he poured the contents along the cut.

Mr. Bennet let out a string of curses, squeezing his eyes shut as the brandy washed over the wound. Darcy, knowing kindness was best served by quick action, tied the cravat over the cut, binding it as best he could.

Mr. Bennet let out a long breath. “Thank you, Mr. Darcy,” he said.

“I’ll call for a surgeon when we return to my town house.”

“Will you?” Mr. Bennet laughed, that same sound that tickled through Darcy’s body like a caress.

Darcy took the flask and knocked it back. Only a few drops of brandy fell on his tongue, not enough to mitigate the effect of Mr. Bennet’s mirth.

“Come.” Darcy looked around. He was not as familiar with this area of town, having no interests in shipping and no business, outside of Bingley, on the docks. “Which way can we find a hackney, Bingley?”

Bingley looked up and down the street, orientating himself.

Before he could speak, Mr. Bennet said, “Follow me.”

They walked, and Darcy found his gaze straying, his interest caught by Mr. Bennet’s stride. The movement of his hips. Not an ounce of fat on this man. If he had attended school, he would likely have been bullied fiercely. Which explained his swift, vicious style of fighting.

Darcy’s gaze drifted towards Mr. Bennet’s backside. That stirring again.

Darcy had engaged in… boyish explorations during his time at school, but he had never wished to prolong that part of his life. He was not one who found the experience more than a convenience, sinful in the vague sense that rebellion often was.

Some of the other boys had developed deeper friendships of the sort, but Darcy was not prone to such desires. He preferred women, and while he did not wish to support a mistress, he had partaken of the acceptable entertainments for a gentleman of his age.

It must have been the shock of nearly dying. And Darcy had been too long without satisfying his baser urges, an issue that surely would need rectifying if his interest was straying to strange men. However beautiful his laugh or compelling his dark eyes.

The cobbles beneath his boots were dry and caked with dirt and the occasional pile of manure. Darcy let out a long sigh.

 “Mr. Darcy?” Elias Bennet stopped, looked back. “Are you well?”

“No.” Too little brandy to excuse so much honesty.

“Did one of them get you?”

“Darcy?” Bingley put a hand on Darcy’s shoulder. “Why did you stay silent?”

“I am well! Not injured.” Darcy took a breath. “Merely tired. I am not in the habit of late nights, with or without ark ruffians and badgers waylaying me and mine.”

“Those were not lumpers stealing an opportunity,” Mr. Bennet said, slowing to walk at Darcy’s side, their shoulders near to brushing with each step. “Someone hired them.”

“So you heard the whole thing.”

Mr. Bennet shook his head. “It is not my affair. I apologize.”

Him, apologizing? “No need,” Darcy said. “You did not need to help us.”

“Nine on two is not a fair fight.”

“And nine on three?”

Mr. Bennet laughed again, dark eyes twinkling. “Fairer. Mr. Bingley here took two in hardly an eye-blink, so perhaps you did not need me after all.”

“We needed you.” Bingley grinned. “I am only a passable shot.”

Mr. Bennet stopped at a larger intersection. The rattle of wagons and the thud-click of hooves on stone sounded slowly from the street. “There’s a hackney,” he waved at a vehicle, perhaps eight horse lengths in the distance.

“It has been a pleasure.” Mr. Bennet bowed, and Darcy realized Mr. Bennet intended to leave them.

“You cannot go like this!”

“I doubt those ruffians will venture this far from the docks. And here, if you yell for a constable, two gentlemen’s word will triumph over obvious riff-raff.”

“Three gentlemen, Bennet,” Darcy said. 

“Bennet is it?” Mr. Bennet smiled, his lips rising a little more on the left than right. “Should we meet again, it will be Darcy and Bennet between us. Three gentlemen.” Mr. Bennet nodded to each of them.

“Wait!” Darcy called out as Bennet began walking away. “You need a surgeon.”

“My aunt is an even hand with a stitch,” Mr. Bennet said. “Better than most surgeons and less with the leeches.”

Another step.

“Bennet!”

Mr. Bennet turned and looked back over his shoulder, a too-long curl falling over his forehead in a ray of moonlight that made him seem more dream than man. “Yes?”

Darcy could not stand the thought of letting Mr. Elias Bennet slip away. The young gentleman intrigued him. So slight of build yet fierce in spirit with the speed and power of a dervish.

They were not of the same station. The quality of the gentleman’s clothes made that clear, but they were like enough in upbringing. Bingley’s family, and Bingley was one of Darcy’s closest friends, had the stink of trade. Shipping. Something Darcy ignored, until Bingley dragged him to gather information at the docks in the dead of night.

“My cravat,” Darcy managed.

Mr. Bennet’s brows lowered, and he reached up to his bicep, fingers fumbling over the crude knot Darcy had constructed to hold it in place.

“No!” Darcy snapped. “Later, after you have been seen to. I—where are you staying? In Town?” Surely he had to have some residence? He could not simply have walked out of the air, all fighting fury and uncomfortable laughter. 

“If you give me an address, I can call on you,” Bennet said with sudden formality, his gaze not quite meeting Darcy’s.

Before Darcy could parse the man’s sudden reticence, Bingley recited the address of Darcy’s townhouse. “We will be in town the next fortnight.”

The hackney slowed, and the driver called out, “Where to, gentlemen?”

With a grin and wave, Mr. Bennet stepped away from the haloed light and made quick pace in the opposite direction the hackney faced.

More To Come! 

You Are Reading:

Mr. Darcy's Bennet Cover

Raised as a boy, Mr. Elias Bennet’s family’s fortune rests in keeping her secret. Until a chance meeting with Mr. Darcy changes everything.

After the birth of twins Elias and Elizabeth Bennet, a sickness sweeps through the household, killing the boy and leaving Mr. Bennet near death. To protect her family from losing their home, Mrs. Bennet takes the desperate action to raise the daughter as their son.

Now, twenty years and three sisters later, Mr. Elias Bennet is content with her ruse. She may never find love, but her role offers freedom, and she is committed to seeing her sisters happy.

Until a chance meeting with Mr. Darcy makes her question everything.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is not inclined to dockside brawls or improper passions. But he finds himself making an exception for mysterious Mr. Bennet.

The young gentleman awakens hidden desires, and now Mr. Darcy is questioning everything. Someone is trying to kill Mr. Bingley. Is Mr. Bennet involved?

Or is his secret something far more dangerous?

Mr. Darcy’s Bennet is Part 1 of A Bennet by Any Other Name, an adventurous sweet and spicy Pride and Prejudice serial where gender lines are blurred as passions rise.

Warning: This is a serial. Each part ends on a cliffhanger. I will be collecting the parts into one volume whenever the serial is finished, so if you’d rather wait, I understand.

Available Via:

Violet's Books Are Available Via:

Read More:

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Mr. Darcy’s Bennet – Chapter 1

Mr. Darcy's Bennet Graphic
Mr. Darcy's Bennet Graphic

Mr. Darcy's Bennet - Chapter 1

Note: This idea (Mr. Darcy’s Bennet) wouldn’t let me go until I started writing it. Enjoy!

“Eli! Eli!” The crowd stamped and chanted as Mr. Elias Bennet ducked under a wildly thrown fist from a much larger, much slower, and very much stupider opponent.

The air stank of fish, blood, and brine. If one of those massive fists hit, Elias would be flattened and spitting teeth.

Speed and brains made no difference when you were spitting teeth, Elias thought as Dirk, the lout’s name was Dirk, clipped Elias’s shoulder with a second, crippling blow.

With the lightness of a lady on the Assembly floor, Elias twisted, dancing back.

“Stay put,” Dirk shouted. “I’ll wipe them pearly whites from your molly mouth!”

Elias Bennet was slight, with wide, dark eyes set beneath thick lashes under a mop of curly, near-black hair a touch too long for fashion. With those looks, Elias was used to insults to ‘his’ manhood. Found them funnier than they had a right to be, considering the situation. Not that Elias considered it often.

Elias grinned, teeth flashing pearly white. “Your Molly’s mouth tasted sweet last night, you slow bugger.”

Dirk roared, breath laced with gin, face flushed, eyes narrowed to slits as he barreled towards Elias.

Good.

Elias focused, waited until the lout’s fetid breath wafted hot and damp over the skin, then shifted, swinging boot against knee. As Dirk buckled, Elias slammed small, heavy fists into his side, beneath his ribs. Gasping, Dirk twisted towards Elias, who struck again, jaw, chin, nose.

Pain spiked through Elias’ fists with each punch.

“Eli! Eli!”

Dirk toppled.

“Ten. Nine. Eight…” 

Elias waited for the crowd to finish counting, and the judge, barrel chest thatched with thick, red hair, walked over and took Elias’ hand.

“You’re a crazy little gent,” the judge muttered as he held Elias’s hand up.

Elias laughed. If only they knew.

***

The ruse of Elias Bennet had been born in the death of Elizabeth Bennet’s twin.

“But surely, I will give my husband another son!” Mrs. Bennet had insisted, hugging the cold infant to her breast.

“If Mr. Bennet lives. He has been in his sickbed for days, likely the same illness that took this babe. If your husband dies, what then? You and Jane and any daughters you bear, including that one,” Mrs. Gardiner waved at the pink-faced daughter who shared her brother’s dark hair and eyes, “will have nothing.”

“But—surely someone will guess.”

“A babe is a babe. See to ‘his’ care and feeding. No wet nurse. They will humor you, considering the death of the girl.”

“How can you be so cruel?”

“It was cruel of your husband not to reveal the entailment until after he wed you. Any cruelty done in turn is justice. Or as close as we get in this world.”

“Oh, Amelia!” Mrs. Bennet sobbed.

“Quickly, change their clothes.”

And so Elizabeth Bennet died.

After Elias came Mary, Kitty, and then Lydia.

“All girls,” Mrs. Bennet lamented, years later, after her husband had learned their secret. “Without our Elias, that horrid cousin of yours would seize Longbourn, and he would cast us out!”

“My dear Mrs. Bennet, it is no use lamenting things that will not come to pass.”

“But how is our Elias to marry? A young man in possession of a fortune must eventually want for a wife. God weeps for us! For our deception!”

Your deception, Mrs. Bennet.”

“It is our deception now,” Mrs. Bennet said.

Mr. Bennet turned his gaze back to the book in his lap. For once, he did not correct her.

***

Mostly, deception sat easily on Elias’ shoulders. She preferred life as a boy. She was light and fast on her feet, and her Uncle Gardiner’s boxing lessons, instruction he would never have offered to Elizabeth, meant she could use speed and technique to overcome any deficiencies in strength, which did grew more noticeable as the other village boys reached their growth. While Elias was not fond of riding, no awkward skirts meant she could sit astride, making the entire thing far more bearable. And Elias, unlike many of the young village men, adored dancing and never lacked for a partner.

As Elias approached her fifteenth year, the ease of life as a boy took on a bittersweet air as she noticed the other young men in the village and wondering what it would be like to be kissed. Sometimes, when she and Jane were alone in Jane’s room, the door locked, Elizabeth would try on one of her sister’s gowns. Elias’ toned body and lack of much by way of feminine endowments made the gown hang awkwardly, even when Jane attempted to tie the stays to elevate Elias’ slight décolletage.

Likely for the best.

Even if Elias wished to become Elizabeth again, such a revelation would ruin the family. Upon her father’s death, the entailment would pass their home to her father’s cousin, and her sisters would have no chance at a proper marriage.

The Bennets depended on the face and sex Elias presented to the world.

Elias turned her thoughts away from these worries with the ease of practice. The judge handed her a purse for her winnings, and Elias split it into three parts, wrapped and hid them inside the secret pocket sewn in her drawers.

The Bennets, while not poor, were by no means rich, and these small purses helped support more whimsical (or illicit) purchases, like a book of saucy poems Jane coveted and Elias had promised to buy her.

In case the worst happened and Mr. Elias Bennet was unmasked, she saved most of her winnings for her sisters’ dowries.

Elias had a small mug of ale to wash the taste of blood from her mouth, and, leaving it half empty (she did not hold liquor well, a trait shared by her father), made her way back towards the Gardiners’ home in Cheapside.

Halfway between the docks and proper streets, a series of shouts: “Unhand me!” and “Blasted cur!” 

At first, Elias ignored them. Fights were always breaking out in this area, and the shrewd saw best not to interfere.

But the sound of running boots grew closer, and Elias spotted two gentlemen, surrounded by a group of nine.

Poor odds.

Lanterns, hung and refilled every few hours to provide a dim glow to the street, flickered dimly over the narrow street. The taller gentleman, dark-haired with angular features, lean jaw, firm chin, and a shocking menace in his focused gaze, turned, putting his back to a packing crate, and addressed the thugs. “Leave, or you will regret it.”

“Us, regret!” A scrawny, washed-out man with the air of a predatory rat stepped ahead of the others. He grinned with yellow teeth, the front left cracked, the center bottom missing.

The second gentleman, fair-haired with the even features that some women found attractive, pulled a pistol from his coat and held it out towards the rat-faced man, who laughed.

“A single shot, is it? And your hand shaking so.” He spat on the ground.

“What is it you want? Money?” The fair-haired man asked, his voice steadier than the sweat beading his brow suggested.

“Money we will have, from you and our employer.”

Someone had targeted these two gentlemen specifically, it seemed.

Elias knew better than to stand here like a lump. It was not her business that two gentlemen had taken a late-night stroll by the docks and found themselves the worse for it. But these were not fair odds, nine on two, and these were not simple nappers but hired rogues who seemed intent to leave their message, whatever it was, in bodies put to bed to bloat in the Thames.

To leave them would be tantamount to abetting murder.

No, Elias would not leave two gentlemen, no matter how foolish, to this fate.

The rogues were intent on their prey. Elias, at the least hoping to give the two men distraction enough to run, crept to the closest crate. Inside, stacked fowl churred and cheeped, feathers rustling against the wooden slats.

Elias smiled and kicked the crate towards the ruffians. It slid, and bird screams pierced the air as the crate smashed into the closest rogue. The cursing man flailed out to stop the box, and his fist went through the slats, breaking open a hole through which angry chickens rolled and scurried outwards, pecking viciously.

A pistol sounded, and the rat-faced man staggered.

“Run!” Elias shouted, waving the two gentlemen towards her.

Another of the rogues pulled a cutlass from his back and, screaming, charged.

More To Come! 

You Are Reading:

Mr. Darcy's Bennet Cover

Raised as a boy, Mr. Elias Bennet’s family’s fortune rests in keeping her secret. Until a chance meeting with Mr. Darcy changes everything.

After the birth of twins Elias and Elizabeth Bennet, a sickness sweeps through the household, killing the boy and leaving Mr. Bennet near death. To protect her family from losing their home, Mrs. Bennet takes the desperate action to raise the daughter as their son.

Now, twenty years and three sisters later, Mr. Elias Bennet is content with her ruse. She may never find love, but her role offers freedom, and she is committed to seeing her sisters happy.

Until a chance meeting with Mr. Darcy makes her question everything.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is not inclined to dockside brawls or improper passions. But he finds himself making an exception for mysterious Mr. Bennet.

The young gentleman awakens hidden desires, and now Mr. Darcy is questioning everything. Someone is trying to kill Mr. Bingley. Is Mr. Bennet involved?

Or is his secret something far more dangerous?

Mr. Darcy’s Bennet is Part 1 of A Bennet by Any Other Name, an adventurous sweet and spicy Pride and Prejudice serial where gender lines are blurred as passions rise.

Warning: This is a serial. Each part ends on a cliffhanger. I will be collecting the parts into one volume whenever the serial is finished, so if you’d rather wait, I understand.

Available Via:

Violet's Books Are Available Via:

Read More:

Enjoying this book? You might also like....

An Unsuitable Governess Cover

Sparks fly when Miss Elizabeth Bennet takes work as a governess at Pemberley.

Will deceptions, highwaymen, and a rambunctious eleven-year-old girl bring Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy together or tear them apart?

After rejecting Mr. Collins proposal, Miss Elizabeth Bennet assumes the persona of a widow and goes to Lambton to find work. But when she befriends Mr. Darcy’s half-sister Rose and becomes her governess, she must contend with Mr. Darcy, a man she wishes to despise, and Col. Richard Fitzwilliam, a man she wants to love but cannot. With Rose’s help, will Elizabeth find the strength to follow her heart?

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy would sooner face bandits than return to Pemberley and deal with his stepmother — alas, he must do both. And when he discovers Miss Elizabeth Bennet in his home, serving as governess to his half-sister Rose, things go from bad to worse. Col. Fitzwilliam is falling for her. Mr. Darcy is too — or would be, if Miss Elizabeth were at all suitable. Will Mr. Darcy stop denying his heart before his cousin steals Elizabeth’s?

Find out in An Unsuitable Governess, a standalone Pride and Prejudice novel of 64,000 words

Warning! This book contains: one not at all wicked stepmother, one 100% wicked band of highwaymen, one rambunctious eleven-year-old, one deceptive governess with a heart of gold, one love-stricken colonel, one handsome gentleman in denial of his true feelings, one found treasure, and two happily ever afters to set your heart aflutter.

If undeterred, grab a copy of An Unsuitable Governess today!

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapter 1

Beneath a gray and weeping sky, a Royal Mail stagecoach trundled north towards Derbyshire. Miss Elizabeth Bennet wished to pretend it was all a grand adventure, but three days being jounced about until her muscles and teeth ached and three nights in tiny coaching inn rooms with the thin, ill-tempered maid Mrs. Gardiner had insisted Elizabeth bring as a chaperone, had robbed Elizabeth of her sense of wonder. Her eyelids were stiff, her hair itched, and she stank.

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapters 2-3

After settling herself and Adelaide at the Rose and Crown Inn, Elizabeth ordered them both the luxury of a hip bath and changed into a fresh frock. The Gardiners’ had given her coin for her troubles, but Elizabeth wished to find work as quickly as possible. She would not impose herself further upon their charity by writing to ask for assistance.

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An Unsuitable Governess – Chapters 4-5

“Highwaymen you say?”

Mr. Darcy did not like the glint in his cousin’s eye. Col. Richard Fitzwilliam had been given leave from the front at the behest of his father the Earl. Richard had explained neither the reason, nor how long he would be on English soil. He attended to his duties, but Darcy could tell his cousin itched to return to battle, and anything that promised excitement was enough to send him charging forward.

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Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 2-3

Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher
Mr. Darcy's Cipher Cover

A secret letter brings them together. Will an assassin tear them apart?

For Miss Elizabeth Bennet, love is the cipher she cannot crack.

Outside the Longbourn house, Elizabeth Bennet is an ordinary country miss. But in secret, she and her father crack codes to foil Napoleon’s schemes against England. More than anything, Elizabeth wants to be loved for herself, but how can she when she lives a double life?

For Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, a coded letter hides the key to his heart.

After Fitzwilliam Darcy’s brother is killed in France, a coded letter carries his final words and a dangerous secret. Mr. Darcy brings the letter to the Bennets for answers. But soon the code is the least of Mr. Darcy’s conundrums as he finds himself falling for Elizabeth Bennet. Caught between an assassin and an old enemy, can Mr. Darcy accept his feelings and win Miss Elizabeth’s heart before it is too late?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Cipher, Book 1 of the Spies and Prejudice series. Mr. Darcy’s Cipher is a Pride and Prejudice variation with heaps of romance, humor, suspense, code-cracking, and two sometimes bullheaded but lovable leads who struggle to save a nation while falling in love. 

If you love Pride and Prejudice variations with a twist of espionage, start reading Mr. Darcy’s Cipher now!

Available Via Kindle and Kindle Unlimited!

Chapter 2

Mrs. Bennet, a middle-aged blonde woman, her hair threaded silver, features touched with a remembered handsomeness and clothes clinging to youthful frivolity, guided Mr. Darcy into a small, well-cared for if not extravagant parlor area. “And Mrs. Darcy, how is she enjoying our fair town?”

For a moment, Darcy considered telling a falsehood, but even if he had been inclined towards lying, which he decidedly was not, an imaginary wife would be quickly disproven as he intended to stay an extended time in Hertfordshire. Still, it irked him to see the pointed curiosity and catlike hunger in Mrs. Bennet’s gaze as she fished to find out if he was wed. “I am not as yet married,” Mr. Darcy said after a pause.

“Oh! A regretful state for a man such as yourself!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed with ill-hidden delight. “A wife brings tranquility and joy to a home. I trust you will be allowed leave enough to enjoy the hospitality of our town. There are many young ladies about who might capture your interest…”

Like her daughter, or however many daughters occupied this house, which now through acquaintanceship with their father he might be obligated to offer his attention. “If I might speak with Mr. Bennet,” Darcy interjected. “I wrote to arrange this visit. It is business of the utmost urgency.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Bennet said. “I will let him know you have arrived.” And with that, she swept out.

It was odd and not at all pleasant to be abandoned in the parlor of a stranger. Though compared to Mrs. Bennet’s inquiries, Darcy’s own dark thoughts were an improvement. His brother Reginald’s final correspondence, much of it pages and pages of nonsense Latin, some blurred by water, weighed on his heart.

Reginald Darcy had died in France five months ago. The letter, water-stained and crushed at the corners where the envelope had been battered about for some time, was a voice whispering from the grave. Not that Darcy had seen his brother’s actual resting place. Water and time had too ravaged his body for transport, especially considering the relations between England and France.

Reggie, lighthearted and at points irreverent Reggie, had lost his life not by an enemy bullet or sword, but instead to a knife in the dark. Murdered by a cutpurse, stripped of his valuables, and left putrefying in the sewer until only his watch remained to identify him.

Why the thief hadn’t stolen that and his purse was another mystery Darcy found himself ill-equipped to solve.

Darcy took the watch from his pocket and flipped it open. Half three. What was taking Mrs. Bennet so long?

Darcy wondered again if accompanying Bingley to guest at his new estate was a good decision. Mr. Erasmus Bennet was reputed to be one of the finest codebreakers in England, though if that were the case, it made little sense for him to hole himself up so far from London.

It hardly mattered. The code would have been something Georgiana could decipher. It shouldn’t have required a master codebreaker, and it quite annoyed Darcy that he hadn’t worked it out on his own.

Of all the times for Reggie to be obscure in his presentation.

Reggie, like Wickham, possessed an easy charm, though unlike Wickham, Reggie’s interests lay beyond gambling and tupping unsuspecting young women. Reggie had been intelligent, kind, and daring to a fault.

He had also, apparently by the multiple pages of Latin in the letter, been eager to convince Georgiana he found solace in religion on the Continent. Or converted to Catholicism, heaven forbid! Knowing his younger brother, Darcy doubted a sudden turn towards the devout. Reggie had always been more inclined to the flesh than spirit, mischievous with an easy grin, even as a babe in swaddling clothes.

It was difficult to accept he would never see his brother smile, or frown, or throw himself with reckless abandon into the boxing ring again.

Reggie’s letter was addressed to Georgiana, but Darcy could not bear to give it to her without understanding it. First their father’s death, then Wickham’s betrayal, and now Reggie’s senseless murder. Darcy was not a man inclined towards light humor, and the crushing weight of tragedy and crisis had weighted his already serious nature.

Georgiana was fragile, though she hid it behind her manners and a brave smile. Georgiana had loved Reggie, and her mourning of his passing set her mood as black as her clothing these past five months. Reggie and Georgie, as they called each other, were close in temperament, while Darcy, aware of his responsibilities from a young age, had always felt an obligation to watch out for them and ensure they understood and followed the rules.

Darcy’s own protectiveness had led him to read his brother’s letter to Georgiana. Protectiveness and some hidden vein of jealousy he refused to acknowledge even to himself. Georgiana looked towards Darcy for protection, but there had always been a barrier between them. This was the same barrier that kept Darcy apart from the world.

The lady of the house, Mrs. Bennet, finally returned. “This way, Mr. Darcy,” she said. “How long will you be with us in Meryton? Not too short a visit, I hope?”

“A month at the least,” Mr. Darcy admitted. “I was invited to stay as a guest of Mr. Bingley.”

“Of Netherfield Park! How wonderful!”

They had arrived just yesterday evening, but the local rumor mill had likely been churning about Bingley since the news of his having leased the place reached the ears of the local solicitor’s wife. A young, single man of good fortune was always prized. Darcy was lucky in that as a late addition to Bingley’s party, the locals did not yet know of his ten thousand pounds.

Mrs. Bennet led Mr. Darcy into a small, chilly study. The windows were wide, letting in a fair amount of sunlight, and one was open, letting in a cold, unpleasant breeze. On a chaise diagonally set from the window, behind a low wooden table scattered with various papers, sat a stocky, older man. His thick, gray hair receded at the temples, and a pair of thick spectacles balanced on his nose. Presumably, this was Mr. Bennet, and beside him, the young, unmarried daughter of the house who Mrs. Bennet had likely insisted dress and rush into the study to sit as though she often spent time there.

Mr. Darcy was having none of it.

The young woman was admittedly handsome with black, lustrous curls tied up in a knot at the nape of her neck and dark eyes that were her best feature, hinting at least some intelligence as her gaze met his. Her hands, partially encased in dull-brown fingerless mitts, bunched in the skirts of her dress in her lap. It was an odd, nervous habit that Darcy did not admire.

“Mr. Bennet, our guest, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, is arrived. Mr. Darcy, may I introduce you to my husband, Mr. Bennet, and our daughter, Elizabeth.”

Mr. Bennet and his daughter stood and Mr. Darcy bowed to both. As Miss Elizabeth grasped her skirts to curtsy, Mr. Darcy looked more closely at her hands and noted a speckled discoloration on the fabric above the knuckle of her index finger.

Perhaps her presence here wasn’t a pure fabrication. Likely she performed clerical tasks for her father, though why he could not hire a secretary of his own Mr. Darcy could not determine. Was the Bennet family in such dire straits that Mr. Bennet could not afford one? Or perhaps, or likely, Mr. Bennet was cautious, considering the sensitive materials he was rumored to handle on behalf of the prime minister.

It hardly mattered. Mr. Bennet could not intend for his daughter to remain here for the entirety of their meeting.

“A pleasure, Miss Bennet,” Mr. Darcy said. “I wouldn’t expect you to bore yourself this fine afternoon entangling yourself in the complications of your father’s deciphering.”

“While I enjoy a brisk walk on an afternoon such as this one, it would be better if I remain at my father’s side, Mr. Darcy.”

Well, wasn’t Miss Bennet forward? Though she didn’t act in the slightest bit coquettish. More annoyed. Mr. Darcy was taken aback. “Surely the intricacies of codes and ciphers are not the domain of a properly raised young lady,” he protested.

“Lizzie,” Mrs. Bennet interrupted, stepping over to her daughter’s side and grabbing her by the arm. “Perhaps we should leave Mr. Bennet and Mr. Darcy to their conversation.”

Mrs. Bennet gave her daughter’s arm a none too subtle tug, but the younger Bennet stood firm. “If I could look over the code you have brought, we might determine the capabilities of a woman of my upbringing.”

Mr. Darcy was overcome by the sudden realization he had erred. Severely.

Miss Bennet’s dark eyes shone with indignation. “If I may,” Miss Bennet held out her hand, palm up. Having a clear view of the appendage, Mr. Darcy realized the mitts contained not merely a single discoloration, but an accumulation of ink speckles and stains that had seeped into the fabric over a long period of time.

“Are you studied in liturgical Latin?” Mr. Darcy asked with an attempt at greater politeness. Judging by the lady’s expression, the attempt was unsuccessful.

Miss Bennet’s lips tightened to a pale line that only highlighted the high color in her cheeks and flush over her forehead. She said, “I am studied enough.”

“If we might take a look,” Mr. Bennet added, the corners of his lips twitching with something like amusement. It was a more welcoming expression than his daughter’s, who was still furious. Ultimately, whatever jest the elder Bennet was enjoying, Mr. Darcy was clearly the butt of it.

“Mr. Bennet?” Mrs. Bennet tried to meet her husband’s gaze, but Mr. Bennet kept his attention fixed on Mr. Darcy.

Having no other polite option, Mr. Darcy handed the letter over.

A soft knock sounded at the door. “That must be Mrs. Hill about refreshments,” Mrs. Bennet said, referring to the housekeeper with exaggerated cheer. “I’ll just step outside to speak with her. How do you take your tea, Mr. Darcy?”

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Chapter 3

Mr. Darcy might be possessed of handsome features and fine manners, but little else recommended him. Elizabeth Bennet could not and did not wish to contain her fury as she took Mr. Darcy’s letter and opened it.

The letter began: My dearest Georgiana…

“This letter is not addressed to you,” Elizabeth remarked.

“My late brother. Reginald Darcy, sent this to our younger sister.”

Elizabeth knew she ought to feel some charitable sentiment for a man who had recently lost a brother, but considering how dismissive Mr. Darcy had been of her and her capabilities—just the slightest hair of being outright rude—Elizabeth could not muster the emotion. “My condolences,” she said stiffly.

“Thank you,” Mr. Darcy said, his voice as flat as her own.

If this were a young man in mourning, he took care to hide such emotions from those around him. More likely, he did not possess much familial regard at all.

No. That was unfair. She hardly knew the man. Still, however Mr. Darcy mourned, or did not, stealing away his own sister’s correspondence did not incline Elizabeth to think well of him.

“If your late brother sent your sister a message in some form of code, would it not make sense to assume she had the tools to decipher it?” Elizabeth asked.

Mr. Darcy’s expression froze for the briefest moment. “It is because my sister might decipher it that I have brought it to your father’s attention first. My sister Georgiana and my brother Reginald were close. It has been five months since his passing, and she is only beginning to step out of her deep mourning. For the first month, she did not smile, and she hardly ate. As her guardian, I must see to her well-being of the body, mind, and spirit.”

Elizabeth weighed Mr. Darcy’s explanation. Devotion to family, to especially a beloved sister, was something Elizabeth understood all too well. Though her own sister was the elder, Elizabeth had always been protective of Jane’s happiness. Jane had a sweetness of temperament that brought joy to every room, but there was also a fragility to it. Like the bloom of a prize rose, subtle alterations to the soil and air could harm its petals or keep it held tight in bud until it withered and fell.

“And if this letter’s contents are something innocuous?” Elizabeth asked.

“Then I will seal it and pass along it with your father’s translations to Georgiana immediately. I do not intend to hide our brother’s last words from her, but to ensure that they do not add to her grief.”

And yet, while Elizabeth understood the urge to protect, she did not, in her heart, agree that Mr. Darcy had the right of it. Did not Georgiana have a right to her own grief?

A difficult tangle and one Elizabeth was not charged to decipher.

Thankfully, Mr. Bennet interrupted her musings with a practical question. “Is the entire letter in code?”

“No,” Mr. Darcy said. “The first page is ordinary pleasantries, and Reggie shares—” Mr. Darcy swallowed. It was the only concession in his manner to what Elizabeth was beginning to suspect was a far deeper grief than his general demeanor suggested. “He shared small ordinary details of his life in the French capital. Nothing, as far as I can ascertain, relating to the Emperor’s designs or movements. And the latter pages were wet. Some words are almost indecipherable even if they made sense before.”

Elizabeth skimmed over those pages, trying hard not to feel like a voyeur picking over the silhouette of another man’s remains. Nothing immediately caught her eye as a code key. No letters were oddly capitalized or written in a different style. Nor were other simple tricks used. The first letter of each paragraph spelled nothing; neither did the last.

Still, for Mr. Darcy’s brother to be in the French capital at all suggested something deeper at play. Through assisting her father, Elizabeth well knew that both Bonaparte and the prime minister employed at points less than honorable means of getting information about their opponents. War was far messier than what the officers in their sharp regimentals shared when flirting with young ladies. But if Reginald Darcy was doing special, secret work for the crown, it would do no good for Elizabeth to suggest such a thing to his grieving and overly constrained older brother. Not without more than a suspicion. The letter continued.

Admittedly, my dearest sister, there is more to life here than the acquisition of pastry. I have found points only the comfort of the Almighty can offer a degree of solace. Sometimes it is only the hand of the Lord who can comfort and protect us in times of trouble.

After that, it was as Mr. Darcy described. Two pages of neatly scribed Latin, formatted as though it was a prayer.

It began:

 

Piissimus dominus

Illustrator iudex

Auctor magnus

Incompraehensibilis pacificus

Optimus iudex

Omnipotens redemptor

Gloriosus immortalis

Imperator fabricator

Opifex conditor

Misericors sempiternus

Rex iudex…

 

The words were nonsense. At first, Elizabeth thought it might be a Latin Gibberish cipher, but nothing was spelled backwards with false Latin suffixes. Maybe it was an Ave Maria cipher with each letter a faux Latin word, Elizabeth surmised. But lacking the key, deciphering it would take work, not even considering the later water-damaged sections.

Elizabeth handed the letter to her father and outlined for the pair of them what she had seen, suggesting only at the end she believed it was likely there was a cipher at work, but not one easily unraveled in an afternoon.

A knock sounded at the study door. “Mr. Bennet?” Before any of the room’s occupants could respond, the door opened, and Mrs. Bennet stepped inside. “A light dinner is ready if Mr. Darcy would like to join us when you have finished your business.”

Elizabeth glanced at the clock. It was a quarter to four. They took dinner at four thirty and tea after. Mrs. Hill must have been working like a dervish to have a dinner together so early for the Bennet household.

“I could not impose,” Mr. Darcy said stiffly. They took dinner at six thirty in the city. Was Mr. Darcy looking down his nose at the Bennets for having such country hours?

Mr. Bennet nodded. “You may leave the letter in our care, Mr. Darcy, and I shall write to you when the translation is complete. I will fit it in between my other work as Bonaparte and his disciples do not wait for our convenience to make their moves.”

“Yes. I have heard your skills are in great demand from many sources. And my brother is long passed. This is for my peace, and my sister’s peace, entirely.”

“Shall I direct my missive to the address from which you wrote before?”

“For the duration of the holidays, I will stay as a guest with Mr. Charles Bingley, who has recently leased the nearby estate at Netherfield Park.” Mr. Darcy looked resigned. “It should be a simple thing to send any necessary correspondence there.”

“But that is such a short distance!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed. “You must return here to discuss the contents of your brother’s correspondence when my husband has finished his work.”

Another knock, and Lydia, her voice pitched higher in an attempt at flirtation, said through the door, “Mother! Are you there?”

“Yes, my dear,” Mrs. Bennet went to the door and opened it. “Lydia,” she admonished with no especial fervor in her tone. “You know better than to interrupt your father while he is working.”

Lydia had dressed speedily but with obvious attention to flirting with a young gentleman. Her hair was arranged in perfect ringlets peeking from beneath her bonnet, and her dress was a pale yellow that highlighted her light blue eyes. Unlike Elizabeth, whose mitts were dark beige speckled with ink, Lydia’s were the same white silk she wore when attending a local assembly. She smiled at Mr. Darcy and looked up at him through her lashes. “Papa, I apologize for disturbing you. And your guest.”

“We had just asked Mr. Darcy to enjoy his luncheon with us,” Mrs. Bennet said brightly. “Mr. Darcy, how do you take your tea?”

Mr. Darcy did not acknowledge Mrs. Bennet’s invitation the second time. Instead, he inclined his head towards each of them and said, “I must take my leave. Thank you, again.”

“Lydia!” Mrs. Bennet called to her daughter. “Will you show Mr. Darcy to the door?”

“Yes, Mother!” Lydia said with delight. She managed to get ahead of the taciturn gentleman. “This way. Are you fond of dancing, Mr. Darcy?”

Mrs. Bennet rubbed the thumb of her right hand along the ridge of the other as she left to follow the pair at enough of a distance as to maintain the illusion of propriety.

After they had gone, Elizabeth muttered. “I wish Lydia the best with him.”

Mr. Bennet smiled. “So you, like my wife, would wish Mr. Darcy to become a member of our family?”

“I’d rather marry his horse!” Elizabeth stated with vehemence. “And you know how I despise riding.”

“A horse can be led by the reins. A man…” Mr. Bennet laughed, and after a moment, Elizabeth joined him.

Still, Elizabeth’s mirth felt hollow. It disturbed her to have been so affected by the man. Granted, her primary emotion concerning Mr. Darcy had been dislike. She tried to tell herself it spurred from his disdain for her abilities. But others had disbelieved her skills in cracking ciphers. None had spurred such instant fury.

As the laughter died, Elizabeth took a second piece of paper and a pen for notes, but her mind was occupied with the first mystery of why Mr. Darcy had affected her so.

“Will you read that out for me?” Mr. Bennet asked.

“Yes, Father.” Elizabeth started to read, but her mind wasn’t on the code.

Mr. Darcy’s handsome features had tricked Elizabeth into expecting more from him, she concluded. That was her mistake, not his. At least his rational desire to flee had spared them all an awkward meal.

That night, in their shared bedroom, Jane sat down on the edge of Elizabeth’s bed. “So is Mr. Darcy as terrible as Lydia says?” she asked in a hushed tone.

Elizabeth initial thought was to give a quick yes, but in only the company of her favorite sister, she could not state the man had been wholly terrible. “He was cold, and at points short-tempered, and he dismissed my abilities, but…”

“Usually you are not so restrained in your opinions, Elizabeth. Did you find him handsome?” Jane added, “Lydia found him very handsome. And rude. And generally awful.”

“He was handsome.” Not that it mattered, considering the nature of their meeting and his temperament. “Like a marble statue and with about as much warmth. I doubt his lips have experienced a smile in all of his years of life. His face would likely shatter into a dozen pieces if he tried.”

“You are incorrigible,” Jane said with a laugh.

Elizabeth joined her sister in laughing. But even in her shared levity, Elizabeth could not help wondering why she couldn’t erase the intensity of Mr. Darcy’s gaze from her mind and how it might soften his features if he smiled.

 

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Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 2-3

Mrs. Bennet, a middle-aged blonde woman, her hair threaded silver, features touched with a remembered handsomeness and clothes clinging to youthful frivolity, guided Mr. Darcy into a small, well-cared for if not extravagant parlor area. “And Mrs. Darcy, how is she enjoying our fair town?”

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Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher
Mr. Darcy's Cipher Cover

A secret letter brings them together. Will an assassin tear them apart?

For Miss Elizabeth Bennet, love is the cipher she cannot crack.

Outside the Longbourn house, Elizabeth Bennet is an ordinary country miss. But in secret, she and her father crack codes to foil Napoleon’s schemes against England. More than anything, Elizabeth wants to be loved for herself, but how can she when she lives a double life?

For Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, a coded letter hides the key to his heart.

After Fitzwilliam Darcy’s brother is killed in France, a coded letter carries his final words and a dangerous secret. Mr. Darcy brings the letter to the Bennets for answers. But soon the code is the least of Mr. Darcy’s conundrums as he finds himself falling for Elizabeth Bennet. Caught between an assassin and an old enemy, can Mr. Darcy accept his feelings and win Miss Elizabeth’s heart before it is too late?

Find out in Mr. Darcy’s Cipher, Book 1 of the Spies and Prejudice series. Mr. Darcy’s Cipher is a Pride and Prejudice variation with heaps of romance, humor, suspense, code-cracking, and two sometimes bullheaded but lovable leads who struggle to save a nation while falling in love. 

If you love Pride and Prejudice variations with a twist of espionage, start reading Mr. Darcy’s Cipher now!

Available Via Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Chapter 1

It was a truth universally acknowledged within the Longbourn House that of Mr. Bennet’s five daughters, Lizzie was the only one who had inherited her father’s love of puzzles.

At first, humoring Elizabeth was a matter of pride. One autumn afternoon when Elizabeth was nine years of age, she slipped beside him on the chaise and pointed at a large stack of papers from a missive he had received that morning from London.

“What an odd script!” Elizabeth exclaimed at the seemingly nonsensical symbols. “Is it Greek?”

“It is a cipher.” Mr. Bennet leaned closer to his daughter, and the ghost of a smile teased his lips. “A secret.”

“What kind of secret?”

“To discover that, one must unwind the code.”

Lizzie nodded, her dark eyes shining. “Show me!”

Mr. Bennet put in front of her a sheet of paper and explained to her how to go about decoding a simple Caesar cipher. He expected Lizzie to grow weary of the exercise, as her older sister Jane had done a year before, but Elizabeth was tenacious. Before half an hour had passed, she handed back the code, deciphered in small, precise script.

And so father and daughter began a lifelong pattern of instruction. And as Mr. Bennet’s eyesight failed him, it was Lizzie who read the missives sent from the prime minister’s office to foil Bonaparte’s designs on conquering England.

Had Elizabeth been born a man, Mr. Bennet might have informed others of her skills, but codebreaking wasn’t an appropriate vocation for a young lady. Worse, he had grown dependent on her abilities as his eyesight rendered the world around him a cipher that became increasingly difficult to navigate. So he kept Lizzie’s abilities, and his own deficiencies, from being discovered outside the walls of his own home.

The relationship between father and daughter at points quite irritated Mrs. Bennet, who had no interest in puzzles nor the faculties for solving them. But she humored her husband while at the same time entreating her daughter to stay silent with potential suitors about her oddities. And Lizzie, being a good-natured, lighthearted, and dutiful young woman of twenty years, yielded to her mother in this, not wanting her own eccentricities to stand in the way of her finding a loving match.

Father and daughter sat, head bowed over what appeared to be a Caesar cipher when Mrs. Bennet noisily entered her husband’s study.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said the lady to him. She bustled across the room to the window and flung it open. “How long have the pair of you been cooped up in this room without even the slightest hint of a breeze to liven the air?” The papers on Mr. Bennet’s desk fluttered beneath twin paperweights as a damp autumn breeze blew over the room.

Mr. Bennet leaned back in his chair. The clock said half three, too early for luncheon or tea. His wife rarely ventured into his domain at this point of the day. “It is half three,” returned Mr. Bennet. “What is the matter?”

Mrs. Bennet glanced over at Elizabeth, who despite her best efforts had speckles of black ink on her fingers and speckling the dull walnut colored fabric of her linen mitts, as, lips moving, she tapped at a paper scrawled all over in code with the back of her pen.

“Lizzie! Your hands! My heavens, you must wash these immediately and change into something more suitable!”

Elizabeth looked up. “Mother?”

“Suitable for what?” Mr. Bennet asked. “She hasn’t any balls or visits planned at this time of the day, has she?”

“No! It is even better.” Mrs. Bennet brought her hands up to her chest with a delighted intake of breath. “Your guest, a young, handsome and unmarried gentleman by the name of Mr. Darcy is here in our parlor! Why did you not inform me he was calling? He is in every manner proper, from his waistcoat to his Hessians. I would have had the cook prepare a special lunch so he might feel more welcome and have a more pleasant opportunity to meet and converse with our daughters.”

“Mr. Darcy…” Mr. Bennet mused. “Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Yes. I had quite forgotten the date. Mr. Darcy is not here for lunch. His deceased brother sent a letter, presumably in code, and he wished it deciphered. As the younger Mr. Darcy was stationed in France, I felt it imperative to assess the cipher myself to make certain it had nothing to do with our affairs abroad. Now, why have you abandoned the elder Mr. Darcy in our parlor?”

“For Lizzie’s sake!” Mrs. Bennet responded. “Elizabeth, my nerves cannot bear the thought of your bluestocking tendencies being revealed to such esteemed company. You may never marry! I fear I might faint. Mr. Bennet, how is it you allowed your daughter to come to such a state? Have you no eyes?”

“I fear I still am in possession of both, however poorly they serve me.”

“Well, my dear,” Mrs. Bennet said, skimming over the distasteful fact of her husband’s failing eyesight as it, to some extent, negated his periodic compliments of her remaining beauty. “It would behoove you both for Lizzie to scrub her hands at the very least. We may not have time to change her into a more flattering dress, but—”

“Lizzie, stay put,” Mr. Bennet said. “My dear,” he continued. “This gentleman is here to converse with me?”

“His manners are exquisite, and with such a serious air, and elder Mr. Darcy you say? Perhaps eldest,” Mrs. Bennet added hopefully. “He is certainly of fine breeding. I had thought he might be but a second or third son commissioned with the militia or army though he gave no rank and he does not wear regimentals—”

“Elder? Eldest? It does not answer the question of why he remains idling in our parlor.”

“Lizzie must be made suitable. It is wonderful news. First Mr. Bingley taking possession of Netherfield house, and now—”

“Mr. Bingley? What has any of this to do with Mr. Bingley?”

“You do not listen at all.” Mrs. Bennet let out a weary sigh. “How painful is your disregard! We discussed Mr. Bingley a week ago. He is likely arrived at this point. Oh! What if this Mr. Darcy is a guest of Mr. Bingley?”

“Suppose—”

“And Mr. Bingley has taken possession of Netherfield Park. Such a fine thing for our girls, or it would be if you called upon him before some other man’s daughter snaps the young gentleman up! If you were to tear your attention for one moment from the war to tend to your duties at home—”

“It will do no good to our daughters to be settled if Bonaparte storms over the breadth of England and seizes from them anything which they might have gained through marriage.”

“Again with Bonaparte!” Mrs. Bennet stomped her foot. “We are all doing as we ought to support our men on the front. Have not myself and the other ladies sewn blankets and knitted warm items to send to our fighting men?

“But one must also accept that the concerns of our lives amount to more than opposing that vile man of the Continent who declares himself an emperor. I could not wish to believe you, my dear Mr. Bennet, spared no care for your daughters beyond how our Lizzie’s keen eyes assist you in your deciphering.

“This Mr. Darcy, a handsome, young gentleman who is currently lacking a wife. I have no sense yet of his assets—”

“A difficult thing to determine in a few moments of conversation, though I do not doubt you gave a valiant effort,” Mr. Bennet said with no small amount of sarcasm in his tone.

Mrs. Bennet ignored it. “This Mr. Darcy might provide an excellent match for one of our daughters. You understand this is of greater import than mere scribblings, as amusing as you both may find them. Now Lizzie, scrub your hands. Your father will be able to engage in idle conversation until you return—”

It was the wrong thing to say. Mr. Bennet’s face flushed, and his voice was low and furious as he stated, “Bonaparte may invade at any moment, and you natter on about our daughter’s hands? This gentleman, whether or not he is wed, will leave post-haste as soon as his brother’s correspondence is deciphered; and in either case, if he cannot see past a pair of ink-dappled hands, he is of no use to us.”

“No use!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed. “In case you have forgotten, all five of your daughters are as yet unwed. And at the moment of your death, our house and all we own is entailed to your cousin.”

“I am well aware of our difficulties, more so because you see fit to remind me of them daily.”

“Already you refuse to call upon Mr. Bingley, stating now you do not remember the conversation we had on just this subject in this room a mere week ago. Oh, my nerves! It is as though a thousand spiders are skittering over my skin, and I cannot breathe for the fear. Oh Mr. Bennet!”

Mr. Bennet was unmoved.

“I can wash them,” Elizabeth said to mollify her mother. She hated it when her parents fought, especially when she was the cause. No matter the state of her hands though, Elizabeth doubted a talent for deciphering code would offer her entry into a young gentleman’s heart. It hardly mattered. If this Mr. Darcy was here about a code, he would depart quickly enough with his questions answered.

“No, Lizzie. We have kept Mr. Darcy waiting long enough. Send him in, Mrs. Bennet,” Mr. Bennet ordered. “The quicker we handle it, the quicker he can be on his way.”

“The point of this discussion is not to send an available young gentleman on his way––”

“Either send him in, or you will force me to go myself to receive him.”

“No! Do not stir yourself on my behalf. I will have him brought here. Elizabeth, if you don’t wash that ink away, at least take care to hide your fingers.” Mrs. Bennet turned abruptly to the door, her skirts flaring out with the force of her spin as she strode with well-choreographed indignation from the room.

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Pride and Prejudice Variations from Violet King's Pemberley Playground - Mr. Darcy's Cipher

Mr. Darcy’s Cipher Chapters 2-3

Mrs. Bennet, a middle-aged blonde woman, her hair threaded silver, features touched with a remembered handsomeness and clothes clinging to youthful frivolity, guided Mr. Darcy into a small, well-cared for if not extravagant parlor area. “And Mrs. Darcy, how is she enjoying our fair town?”

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Pride and Prejudice Microfiction Challenge 1-5

Pride and Prejudice Microfiction Challenge Graphic
Pride and Prejudice Microfiction Challenge Graphic

I am so excited to share with you a new, just for fun project I’m did for September 2019. If you were following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you may have seen some of these very short stories I’ve been sharing.  These are called microfictions or sudden fiction, stories of 280 characters or less. In short, stories that fit in a tweet. 

Microfiction existed before Twitter and has often been defined as a story of less than 100 words. The go-to example of a microfiction is attributed to Hemmingway. 

The story reads: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

It is only six words, but tells an entire story. 

For September, I have challenged myself to write one daily microfiction. And when I have five, I’ll post them here! If you want to see them as they come out, check out my social media (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.)

So far, writing these fics has been a wonderful excercise for getting my creative juices moving in the morning, and I can even see some longer works growing from each of these little projects! 

I made a video for the first one, which you can watch below. And you can read all five stories, with the graphics I made for each too. 

If you have an idea for a future P&P microfiction story you’d like to see me write, drop it in the comments. Also, if any of these little ficlets makes you want to see a longer work, let me know! I might do it (or I might not. I go where the muse leads me, lol).

UPDATE: Every one of these stories are now on mugs!  You can check them out here. 

September Pride and Prejudice Microfiction Challenge, Stories 1-5

Enjoy This Video and Microfictions:

#1 - Year

One year.

Bingley suggested the necklace. Filigree gold & sapphires weaving a rose.

Darcy considered the book. The scent of leather. Passion. Love. Elizabeth’s dark eyes would shine.

Darcy brushed his fingers over the binding. Rose at her bosom, they would read together.

#2 - Kiss

Inspired by a plot bunny from Stephanie Moats.

“Hmmm…,” Elizabeth sighed over her morning chocolate. 

Darcy chuckled. 

Her eyes shot open. “What is it?”

You have something on your cheek. She rubbed it. “Now?”

Darcy stood, walked three steps, leaned in, licked.

“Fitzwilliam!”

“I may have something on my lips.”

#3 - Beathe

Elizabeth will be fine.”

“Bingley, it’s been hours. What if I lose her?” Darcy swallowed fear.

“I felt the same, with our first. Jane is with her. She would not be elsewhere.”

A scream. The baby or—

Darcy leaped up.  

The door opened. “Mr. Darcy, congratulations…” 

#4 - Dance

Inspired by a plot bunny from Elizabeth Ann West.

Aunt Catherine was, as usual, overly solicitous. “I found Georgiana lovely sheet music…”

Darcy’s gaze flitted to Elizabeth. Richard was flirting, blast him!

Perhaps Aunt Catherine could be persuaded to host a ball?

Darcy wished, very much, to dance with Elizabeth again.

#5 - Lavender

In the painting, a girl of five smiles & boy of two scowls. “Your father?” Elizabeth laughed. “You get that look.” 

Darcy touched the girl’s face. “Meg.” He swallowed. “She passed. Fever.”

Elizabeth embraced her husband. 

Darcy breathed his wife’s hair, “Meg loved lavender.”

Thank You for Reading! I’ll have these in a book soon, but in the meantime, every story is currently on a mug! You can learn more below. 

A Mugfull of Austen Inspired Fiction

30 Original Fiction Stories of 280 characters or less. A lovely gift for the Jane Austen fan in all of us. 

I gave myself a challenge to write a story, 280 characters or less, every day for a month. Here is what happened.

Let me know what you think about these in the comments! Also, if you have something you’d like to see in a future microfic, leave a comment and let me know! I’ll shout you out on social media and in the next blog post! 

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