Writings, Ramblings & Assorted Essays
Not All Wealth
is Bought With Gold

Part I ~ Chapter IV

Emily C. A. Snyder


Sir William Lucas, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Maria Lucas

The following in an excerpt from the first draft of my Regency novel, in the style of Jane Austen. The main character is Maria Lucas, a rather minor character from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and I'll allow the chapter to tell the rest!

Chapter IV. In the manner of a Pleasant Diversion.

With nary to do for another se'ennight but listen to Mr Collins' prattle, Maria - a normally unadventuresome young girl - took it upon herself to examine the surrounding environs. What she found was most pleasing, even to her inexperienced eye, and one especial view caught her fancy almost immediately.

Atop a lonely ridge, dotted here and there with violets and Queen Anne's lace, stood one particularly immense tree whose branches dipped low enough that even the slight Maria - encumbered, as she was, by skirt and petticoat, bonnet and reticule - could clamber into its branches and sit some hours together quiet and alone. The nearest inhabitant was at least two miles away, and completely indiscernible from her leafy vantage; although the spreading valleys, opening to the bright sky overhead, were unobstructed and seemed to the citified Maria like the verdant footsteps of some long-past giant, or the most pleasant crystal-drop dream glimpsed just before one awakes.

Unfortunately, having grown up with so many siblings constantly around her, Maria was unable to bear the absolute silence for long and had, upon no more than a quarter-hour of hushed wonder, begun humming to herself. Her voice was quite pleasant, if untrained, and provided the necessary distraction sometimes necessary to we mortals who cannot long bear glory. However, her humming not only eased the silence, but also kept her from noticing the gentleman who rode up to her very hiding place.

He - a tall fellow even without the aid of horse or hat - pulled short when he heard the sylphic voice coming from he knew not where, and listened for some long minutes while Maria continued oblivious. Thereafter, had a passer-by been in attendance - which, of course, no passer-by was - he would have seen that same gentleman return every day. Perhaps, though, our interloper would not have seen the expression on the gentleman's face, since it was often hidden by the shadow of the hat and the dark curls pressed beneath it - but if he had, he would have marked the strong features accustomed to reserve and judgement (not unlike this gentleman's cousin's own countenance had once been observed) softened barely perceptively in his shoulder's stance and cheekbones. But perhaps, had our non-existent passer-by dared to examine so imposing a figure more closely, he might also have seen the proprietary gleam within that gentleman's dark eye.

Maria, of course, was unaware that any but the flora heard her, and so took no precaution humming and clambering and occasionally conversing with no one in particular. She happily filled the hours she stole from the Parsonage anticipating Sunday - and entertaining the hope that the nephew Lady Catherine spoke of might be Colonel Fitzwilliam himself. So had she passed one late morning, the day before they were to return to Rosings, dallying in her tree, when it began to rain and very soon after began to pour - and so a drenched Maria cried out, stumbling and entangled in the foliage.

The gentleman's mouth quirked, but he offered no help to the young lady as she extracted herself and toppled to the ground, slipping a little in the dirt and pushing her damp hair out of her eyes. Her face was completely hidden by her bedraggled bonnet, and her dress clung awkwardly around her figure. She wore only one glove, having snagged the other on a branch in her haste to descend and consequently giving it up for lost. Distressed, she threw down her arms in agitation, and began the long tromp homewards.

Only after thoroughly enjoying the picture did the gentleman approach her, riding his chestnut horse around from behind and barring her passage. Maria looked up, squinting against the rain, and pushing back her bonnet - which immediately fell and was filled up with water. The man's eyes glimmered and he murmured something Maria didn't quite hear over a convenient roll of thunder. But the motion of his hand to help her mount was unmistakable.

Miss Lucas had been known in Hertfordshire as a silly girl, but had gleaned some sense within the past two years, and so - although taken aback that there should be any gentleman in the vicinity whatsoever - she ignored the man and walked around the horse. Once more the man circled her and barred her path - once more Maria refused him.

"Will you deny me again, oh fair nymph?" the man said.

Maria hesitated.

"Or do you prefer the rain?"

"No, sir," she replied. "I am on my way to the Parsonage."

"You live at the Parsonage, then? That tree is not your bower?"

"I am visiting my sister," Maria attempted, only to be drowned out by a sheet of rain that plastered her ringlets to her cheek and blew away her reticule.


"I am visiting my sister!" Maria cried, as she dashed after her windblown possession.

The man watched surprised for a moment, before digging his heels into the chestnut's flanks, and pulling up beside her. "Then let me bring you home."

"N-no! I thank you."

"Truly - I insist. You shall catch a cold and ruin your voice."

"No...I sha...a...n'tch!" sneezed our heroine.

"Have you no idea who offers you his aid?"

"Yes - a peep-eye and a scoundrel!"

The man's features, already darkened by his hat and by the rain, now glowered like Hades bereft of fair Persephone. "A peep-eye! Scoun.... You mistake yourself, nymph!"

"Then I am sorry. Let me pass."

"You are determined to walk some three miles in this...condition?"

"La! Is it three miles?"

Once more the man extended his hand. But Maria, seeing (as our passer-by - who seems to have completely lost his way, and so never made any of the observations he might have, had he invested in a map - did not) the awful gleam in this stranger's eye as he bent towards her, pulled back.

Then with a shrug and a parting glance, the man laughed and rode away, leaving Maria to make her treacherous path down the ridge, through the meadow, across the park and to the Parsonage - where she was greeted by Charlotte who at once tended to her sister with warm blankets and rebukes, remarking, in passing, that had not Maria been more attentive to her respects due to Mr Collins she might have been at home some fifteen minutes previous to greet Gregory Fitzwilliam, Earl Wendell, the nephew to Lady Catherine - who, Charlotte added, had been rather sodden himself.


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Updated 13 June, 2000
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