Authors: Karalynne Mackrory
Also by KaraLynne Mackrory
FALLING FOR MR. DARCY
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
BLUEBELLS IN THE MOURNING
Copyright © 2013 by KaraLynne Mackrory
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any format whatsoever. For information: P.O. Box 34, Oysterville WA 98641
Graphic design by Ellen Pickels
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl in possession of a story must be in want of a few good friends with whom to share it. I owe a great thanks to many friends and family members who encouraged and persuaded this story from me.
A particular thanks must go to Ron and Kayla for their endless excitement for this endeavor and for me. Like Miss Bennet, I similarly have many sisters who also were steadfast in their support. In addition, I would like to acknowledge my dad, who gave me such a charming, adorably tender inspiration to draw my Mr. Bennet. (Seriously, the cutest old man in the world!)
Many thanks also for the darling ladies at Meryton Press who made this possible: Michele Reed and Ellen Pickels. Of course, a most devoted thanks to my editor, Christina Boyd. Her uncanny ability to see the potential of a moment made the book better than I had dreamed possible.
Lastly, to Jane Austen. Now, there is one diva I have on my bucket list of people to meet in the afterlife. I will probably give her at least a high-five!
Once again to my sweetheart, Andy.
Now, if we can just get you a pair of breeches.
Elizabeth stared blankly out the window of the carriage as it jostled its way toward London. The shock she had received the day before had yet to abate, and her mind ached in turmoil. Her heart still beat, almost traitorously, despite her overwhelming grief. Her unseeing eyes roamed the Kent countryside as she leaned against the windowpane, the cool glass soothing her throbbing head. Disbelief colored her thoughts, overwhelming her emotions. She was wild to see Jane and be with her family once more.
“Are you well, Miss Elizabeth?”
“As well as can be expected, Colonel, I thank you.” She smiled wanly for his evident concern. She then turned to look upon her other traveling companions. Mr. Darcy, seated directly across from her, was holding his book. When her eyes met his, she was stunned to see compassion. She quickly looked away. The tenderness she saw warred with her opinion of the man, and contemplating the variance only added to her headache. Miss Maria Lucas’s head was bowed as she silently wept. Elizabeth handed her handkerchief to her friend, who gratefully replaced a sodden one. Elizabeth had not cried since the day before — not since
came to the parsonage.
While walking with Colonel Fitzwilliam the previous morning, Elizabeth had been angered when her suspicions were confirmed that Mr. Darcy had indeed separated her sister Jane from his friend, so she complained of a sudden headache and begged to return to the parsonage. The colonel had boasted of his cousin’s loyalty to Mr. Bingley and his triumph in separating his friend from a most imprudent marriage. Fury rose inside her again at his preposterous interference, now compounded by the loss she was feeling. She wished she had not accepted his offer to escort her to London, but at the time, she was distraught and anxious to reunite with her family.
The colonel nodded his head in understanding, and Elizabeth said, “Your concern is much appreciated, sir. My heart is indeed grieved, but I am most concerned for my sister and my mother, who are no doubt suffering greatly.”
She was startled to hear Mr. Darcy’s reverberating voice. “Miss Catherine was very close to Miss Lydia if I remember correctly.”
Elizabeth’s gaze met his, and displeasure flashed in her eyes. “Yes she was, but it is my sister Jane for whom I most worry.” He looked out the window briefly to control his surprise. “She has suffered another great loss this year. I fear for her compassionate heart. Her emotions, though little displayed, are fervent and tender. She will suffer not only her own loss in this tragedy, but her kind heart will keenly feel the grief of our family.”
Elizabeth watched in satisfaction as her allusion towards Mr. Bingley’s abandonment caused Mr. Darcy to wince.
You think I do not know, Mr. Darcy, but I do.
He turned and nodded briefly towards her before picking up his book. “I am sure your company will bring her great comfort, Miss Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth turned her head towards the window again. His kind response in the face of her sharp words lessened her anger, and it frustrated her that she felt remorse. Again, her eyes glazed over as she watched out the window and thought back to the day before. Her emotions were raw and turbulent; she wondered how she would ever gain control of herself once more.
* * *
After the colonel had left her at her cousin’s parsonage, she had ascended to her room where she spent no little time reviewing all Jane’s letters from London. Although Jane never expressly declared her anguish over the loss of Mr. Bingley, her general tone lacked its usual grace and lightness.
If only Jane would write again!
I have not heard from her in over a week.
She worried anew for her sister and wondered at her lack of correspondence.
When it came time to ready herself for dinner, Charlotte knocked softly on her door. She breathed deeply and checked her countenance in the mirror before opening it to her friend.
“Mr. Collins asked me to remind you that we are to dine at Rosings tonight, Lizzy.”
A groan escaped Elizabeth’s mouth before she could check herself, and her friend’s concern was immediate. “Lizzy, are you unwell?”
Elizabeth was silent. She was desperate to avoid the Great House and its occupants that day. Perturbed with her own lack of imagination, she sighed, “’Tis only a slight headache, Charlotte; I shall be fine.”
Mr. Collins, on his way to change for dinner, interrupted when he heard of his cousin’s indisposition. “Cousin Elizabeth, surely you are not considering staying home from Rosings because of your headache. Lady Catherine would be most displeased!”
“Well . . . ”
“You cannot, Cousin! Her condescension in extending the invitation forbids it. You will dress immediately and rest until it is time to go. I insist!”
He spun on his heels and left the ladies standing open-mouthed. Elizabeth looked to her friend for help, and Charlotte reached for her hand as she said, “I will see what I can do, Lizzy. In the meantime, rest and see if you do not feel better by the time we must leave.”
The door to Mr. Collins’s bedchamber opened abruptly as he said, “Make haste, Charlotte, make haste! We cannot be late; you know how her ladyship detests delays.”
“I am coming, dear.” Charlotte rolled her eyes and squeezed Elizabeth’s hand.
Elizabeth closed the door to her room and fell upon her bed. After a groan into her pillow and the subsequent flight of said pillow through the air towards her bedchamber door, Elizabeth sat up and dressed for dinner with the overbearing Lady Catherine and her officious, meddling, arrogant and presumptuous nephew.
When she reached the parlor, her cousin was pacing with impatience. Her appearance caused him to exhale with great relief as he hurriedly put on his gloves. Just then, the maid entered and handed two letters to Elizabeth. “The mail’s come, ma’am.”
Elizabeth smiled down at the letters in her hand. “They are from Jane!” she exclaimed with happiness and relief. Her brow frowned briefly as she studied the envelopes. “Well that is why I have not heard from her: the address on this one was written very ill and was misdirected at first.” She sighed again and looked to her friend with entreaty.
Charlotte understood her wishes to remain at home and read her letters. Her husband was again anxious to leave. She walked towards Elizabeth, eyeing her friend. “Lizzy, dear, you are flushed.” She placed a hand on her friend’s brow and said, “You are a bit feverish too! I hope you have not caught a cold!”
Elizabeth looked at her friend in puzzlement before understanding. “Yes, I feel a bit warm.”
Mr. Collins hastened to her side. “Charlotte, it would not do to expose Miss de Bourgh’s fragile constitution to a cold.” He pulled his wife’s arm, imploring she keep her distance less she catch the malady and take it to Rosings as well.
“Cousin Elizabeth, I insist you stay here tonight. I will give your regrets to Lady Catherine.”
Elizabeth stifled a smile as she curtsied to her cousin, “Thank you, Mr. Collins; I will stay here as I would not want to expose myself to her ladyship or Miss de Bourgh.”
“Yes, yes, well we should be going,” Mr. Collins said as he pulled out his watch from his pocket. “My dear Charlotte! We must make haste. Now!” He pulled his wife towards the door. Charlotte gave her friend a wink before she turned to leave with her husband and sister Maria.
Elizabeth sank gratefully into the chair as she looked over the two letters and determined to read the misdirected letter first.
The beginning contained an account of the various engagements and parties Jane had attended with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London, but the latter half, which was evidently written a day later and with obvious distress, contained more important intelligence. It read: