Today I bring you an excerpt of the first short story in Meryton Vignettes: Tales of Pride & Prejudice which is Elizabeth Adams’ latest release.
This book is a collection of six short stories where we can see that the people of Pride and Prejudice move on, grow up, and explore paths not taken. Time leads these beloved characters down roads of self-discovery, courage, and heartbreak. And sometimes the journey takes them to surprising places.
I’ve started reading this collection and I’m loving it so far! I’ll review it next Friday, so if you are curious to know my opinion, and to know more about each story, stop by at From Pemberley to Milton.
But I don’t want to suspend the pleasure you’ll have reading this excerpt any longer, so here it is:
Mistress of Longbourn
Charlotte ran her hand along the back of the sofa, her gloves skidding lightly along the upholstery. Her eyes scanned the room: the pair of chairs by the empty fireplace, the windows covered in lavender drapes, the aged mirror over the mantle.
Of all this, she was now mistress.
She gazed at the portrait of Mr. Bennet, painted in his prime, and remembered the man who had been her neighbor for twenty-seven long years, and who was now, by his failure to produce an heir, the means of her husband having his own estate. In a way, he could be credited with her having a husband at all. If he had not agreed to host Mr. Collins all those years ago, and supported Elizabeth’s refusal of her cousin’s proposal, Charlotte would have never met and married Mr. Collins.
And now, seventeen long years after her wedding, she was here. The mistress of Longbourn. Second only to Netherfield Park, it was one of the most respectable estates in the area, belonging to one of its oldest families.
And now, it was hers.
“Was your journey pleasant?”
Charlotte jumped and looked over her shoulder. “I didn’t hear you come in. Forgive me, Mary. How do you do?”
“As well as can be expected, Mrs. Collins,” replied Mary Bennet.
“Please, call me Charlotte. We are such old neighbors,” said Mrs. Collins kindly.
“I think not,” Mary said plainly. “Nearly everything is packed. We shall be gone tomorrow.”
Mary turned and left the room, leaving a bewildered Charlotte behind her.
Charlotte shook off the feeling of guilt that had tried to settle on her shoulders and went upstairs to see to her children. She did not particularly enjoy her husband’s company, and she found the act of begetting children quite off-putting, but the results of her endurance were more than adequate recompense.
“Mother, have you considered my request?” asked a voice to her left.
She turned and looked into the face of Charlotte Rose, her eldest daughter. She was quite a pretty thing if Charlotte could say such about her own daughter. She had the look of her Aunt Maria about her.
“I have, Lottie, and since you have been so helpful throughout this move, I have decided to grant your request.”
“Oh!” the girl squealed, jumping on her toes and clasping her hands in front of her. “May I choose my chamber now?”
Before her mother could answer, the eldest of the Collins children ran off and began opening doors and comparing views. Charlotte shook her head at her enthusiasm.
“Oh, to be fifteen again!” she mumbled to herself.
She went into the nursery to help settle in her younger daughters.
Two years after her marriage, she had been delivered of a girl, Charlotte Rose, Lottie to her family. Only eighteen months later she had born a son, William John. He was followed in two-year increments by Catherine Ann and Mildred Grace. Believing she had done her duty, and not wishing to die in childbirth as her years increased alongside her womb’s fecundity, Charlotte told her husband she wished for no more children. Having birthed four babes, he couldn’t possibly expect more of her.
Mr. Collins acquiesced as she knew he would and no more was said about it.
Unfortunately, when young William was but five years old, he succumbed to a fever and was buried in the churchyard. Charlotte was devastated.
Within a year of his death, at thirty-seven years of age, Charlotte was with child. When she delivered a boy, she thanked God she would be spared further confinements. Lying in bed exhausted and spent, so happy and relieved was she that she didn’t hear her husband clearly at first when he suggested a name for the babe. She cuddled the white bundle closer to her and asked again what he had said.
“William, after his father. It’s fitting, don’t you think?” Mr. Collins said with an ingratiating smile.
He clearly had no idea of his suggestion being denied.
“We already had a son called William. Do you not remember, Mr. Collins?” she asked, her voice calm.
She remembered perfectly. How his skin had felt so hot and yet so thin, his cheeks flushed and his forehead clammy. She remembered how he had struggled for breath as she held him, praying with every fiber of her being for God to spare her only son. How she had bargained with fate, promising to be the best mother, the best wife, if only her boy would live! And how lost she had felt when the last ragged breath had left his body limp in her arms, his eyes unmoving, his chest eerily still.
She had let out a mighty wail the likes of which Hunsford had never heard, lost to everything but the profundity of her grief. She had not been practical Charlotte in that moment. She had been nothing but a mother, deprived of her life’s greatest achievement and proudest joy.
Her husband’s idiotic rambling brought her back to the conversation and his insulting suggestion.
“Well, yes, but, as the boy is no longer with us, a man wants his name to carry on, that is, I am his father…”
He spluttered on and Charlotte settled her eyes on the window, the church just visible in the distance, and next to it, the churchyard that held her beloved boy in its peaceful clasp.
“No, Mr. Collins, we will not,” she said simply.
He looked at her stupidly for a moment, but her eyes remained fixed on the window.
“What was that, my dear?” he asked.
“We will not name him William.”
“But surely, I am his father, my name, I must—”
“No,” she said forcefully. “I have already birthed and buried a son called William. There will not be another.”
Mr. Collins stood gaping at her, his mouth opening and closing like a fish.
“I shall call him Lucas Adam, after my family and my grandfather.” She looked at the baby fondly. “He was always kind to me.”
Mr. Collins had left the room then, and she had written it in the family Bible before he could argue further.
What did you think of the excerpt? Did it foster your curiosity? I particularly liked the tone Elizabeth Adams chose to start this story, it’s contemplative and soothing. Having read the full story, I liked to see what Charlotte’s life was and how everyone reacted to her becoming Mistress of Longbourn. It’s not very common for authors to venture in this idea, after all, who likes to see Charlotte and Mr. Collins taking over Longbourn? But I did like to see their trials in doing so, and I particularly liked reading the end of the story which will demonstrate the position the Collins’s will have in the neighborhood.
But to know how they will be seen and how they will act, you’ll have to read the story 🙂
You can find Meryton Vignettes: Tales of Pride & Prejudice in:
***It’s giveaway time***
Elizabeth Adams would like to offer one copy of Meryton Vignettes: Tales of Pride & Prejudice to my readers. The giveaway is international and is open until the 2nd of December, all you have to do is comment on this post and share your thoughts on this book or the author. If you want to double your chances of winning, comment on the review I will post on the 25th of November. Entries in both posts will be considered for the giveaway.
Good Luck everyone!