As promised, a very small extract from my new book, Mr Darcy's Secret!
They were soon off again relieved to know that their destination was not far off. Little over an hour passed before they found themselves winding through an undulating road over low promontories and spacious bays, which gradually rose over the hills. From here Elizabeth grasped Fitzwilliam’s arm in excitement as Winandermere like a majestic river swept along in gentle beauty, the shores and hills as richly wooded as a pleasure ground. Here and there the land opened up through the landscape to the sight of some distant villa, a sign that society had even found its way to this remote corner of England. The weather was showery with sudden bursts of sunshine, the tops of distant mountains concealed in vapour ascending in grey columns. Hues of blue and purple enveloped the tops of hills, whilst lower down shades of olive and brown ranged over craggy heathland and wooded slopes, which appeared to fall into the water like soft, green velvet cushions.
Bellingham Hall came into view at last glimpsed through trees on a gentle eminence of the shore with the silver lake spreading before in all its translucent splendour, crowned beyond by the fells half obscured in clouds. An Elizabethan mansion built around a medieval tower sat in state like a Tudor queen with her richly embroidered skirts displayed on either side in folds of green gardens, both formal and wild, studded with the gold of daffodils. Imposing, but on a much smaller scale than Pemberley, Elizabeth knew immediately that she would feel at home here amongst the Jacobean furniture, the smell of polished oak and the magnificence of Spanish leather adorning the walls embossed with pomegranates, flowers and exotic birds. There seemed to be an endless confusion of winding passages, unexpected rooms, and at least two courtyards to navigate, as well as a breathtakingly beautiful Chinese drawing room hand-painted with peonies and butterflies.
Mrs Reynolds and some of her staff had arrived from Pemberley a couple of days before to ensure that everything was ready for the parties arriving. The house felt warm and comfortable with fires lit in the grates and bowlfuls of flowers filling the air with the scent of spring. In their bedchamber Elizabeth exclaimed with excitement at all she could see within the house and without.
“Are you happy, Mrs Darcy?” Fitzwilliam enquired, catching hold of her as she moved about the room looking into cupboards and drawers as animated as ever and showing no signs of fatigue from her journey.
Her expression told him all he needed to know as she allowed him to sweep her into his arms. The strength of his touch was most comforting and she allowed herself to sink into his embrace.
I've missed a little out here because it will give away too much of the plot - but here is how this little scene ends!
“I was just thinking how lucky I am to have a husband who brings me to witness the quiet delights of Westmorland instead of taking me to town. I am so very grateful to you, my darling; I could not have enjoyed myself half so much with all of London society, however diverting. To be here on our own, and with those we love is heaven, indeed. And to add to all of this, we have such beauty before us in every outlook.”
The views through their windows made her catch her breath with wonder. Veils of white mist hung over the lake and on the mountains yonder where the peaks iced with snow almost disappeared into the vapour. The rain had stopped and the day was turning fine; wisps of blue sky lit up by shafts of sunlight descending through the clouds were reflected in the water like an ethereal looking glass.
“I cannot wait to explore everywhere,” said Elizabeth. “Is it not a beautiful sight, Mr Darcy?”
“Indeed, I have rarely seen such beauty,” answered her husband, gazing into her eyes and planting another kiss on her lips.
“I am talking of the view,” she protested half-heartedly with a laugh as he pulled her yet closer.
“Oh, so am I, Mrs Darcy, so am I.”
The top picture is a print of Winandermere about 1810 - now known as Windermere, it is no longer such a quiet retreat as the Darcy's would have known.
The photo is a view from a bedroom at Brantwood, John Ruskin's house, overlooking Coniston Water.