I love using pictures and prints for inspiration. When I was writing Lydia Bennet's Story, I drew on many that I was able to find in museums and books. These prints of contemporary scenes in Brighton by the seaside helped me to write a scene where Lydia and her friend, Harriet Forster, are interrupted by the attentions of a certain gentleman.
The following afternoon found Harriet and Lydia taking a turn along the seafront. They were standing watching some ladies riding on donkeys when Lydia was startled by a voice in her ear which seemed to come from nowhere. “Mr Wickham,” she cried as she turned to face him, “whatever do you mean by pouncing on young women in such a manner?! You quite frightened the life out of me.”
“Forgive me, Mrs Forster, Miss Bennet, but you were so engrossed, I could not resist making you jump. I declare, Miss Bennet, that I never saw you in such studied contemplation since I saw you outside the milliner’s in Meryton!”
Lydia could not help herself; she struck him on the arm for his insolence. “As it happens, we are whiling away a pleasant afternoon by watching the fashionables on horseback. It is vastly entertaining. Look over there; that poor creature can hardly stand for the two comely dames he has on his back.”
“Ah, yes, that is most amusing, though for myself, there is nothing so delightful as a horseback ride for two in my opinion, especially if you can share a saddle. Now wouldn’t that be a prospect, Miss Bennet? I am sure you would enjoy a ride with me above all else!” Mr Wickham twirled his cane with a flick of his wrist. “However,” he went on, “press me not, I am unable to oblige today. I have important matters to attend, and in any case, I have promised Miss Westlake a turn in a donkey cart first.”
Lydia regarded Mr Wickham’s countenance, so smug and self-satisfied. He presumed too much if he thought that she would instantly say yes to his suggestion. She was most vexed to be considered only as an afterthought to Miss Westlake. He was full of his own importance, she decided, and determined right there and then that, if he ever should suggest they go out on horseback or in a donkey cart for two, she would refuse immediately. She was on the point of answering with a cutting retort when he started again, leaving her to gape with her mouth wide open.
“No, I must go,” he announced, clicking his heels. “I can spend no longer standing here in idle chatter; our Colonel awaits me! I look forward to tomorrow evening, and Miss Bennet, if you stop scowling and smile pleasantly at me, I shall engage you for the first two dances. Good day, Mrs Forster.” With a short bow he set off at a march along the promenade before Lydia had a chance to answer him. She left her friend in no doubt of what she thought of his behaviour.
“Well, of all the conceited, arrogant…good Lord! That man is the end! He thinks he has only to say the word and I shall jump. Well, I will not! I shall endeavour to dance all night with Denny and Chamberlayne or indeed anyone who might wish to partner me but Mr Wickham!”