When writing Mr. Darcy's Secret, I had a lot of fun with the character of Caroline Bingley. I wondered how she might change if she really fell head over heels for someone, and whether her personality might also be temporarily affected! I decided she might fancy herself capable of all sorts of things if she were to be influenced by cupid's arrows, and when she becomes part of a new painting and poetry circle led by the enigmatic artist and writer, Lord Henry Dalton, Caroline finds she is willing to embrace a whole new world! I decided to have her completely smitten with all things literary and artistic, and far from snubbing the countryside as she has done formerly, she finds a new passion for wild and romantic landscapes, and a desire to experience a simpler, rustic way of living. The Darcys are staying in the Lake District when Caroline and her sister Louisa are bent on following Lord Dalton along with Lady Catherine de Burgh, and a host of others to sample the delights of poetry and painting against the dramatic backdrop of mountains and water! Here's an extract from Mr. Darcy's Secret. I hope you enjoy it!
At the very start of April, as the daffodils danced on the quiet shoreline of Lake Winandermere, an untidy procession of coaches, carriages, tilburies, and phaetons noisily wound their way along the roads from Kendal to their various destinations, some toward the lake itself whilst others travelled on to more remote hideaways.
Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst looked out of their carriage window in expectation as they bowled along.
“How soon do you think we shall see him, Louisa?” said Miss Bingley, who could not speak Lord Dalton’s name out loud for fear of raising her blushes higher. Caroline, who had never felt anything remotely like love for anyone in her life before, was completely smitten. Such a change had come over her that she hardly recognised herself. So softened by her notions of amour and romance had she become that even Louisa looked quite handsome today in her eyes, which was saying a lot, because apart from the sibling rivalry that prevented her from ever admitting anything in her sister’s favour, she privately thought that Mrs Hurst was very fortunate to have caught herself a husband with a countenance that she considered would make a turbot appear attractive.
“You gave him our forwarding address, did you not, Caroline? I am sure he will find us if that is his desire,” answered her sister with a look of discontent spreading over her face. In her opinion, there was little chance of Lord Dalton calling often, if at all, but she kept her thoughts to herself. She started to gesticulate through the window. “It all looks rather wild out there. Are you quite sure this is such a good idea? To turn down Lady Catherine’s kind invitation so you can cavort in a cottage is not my idea of fun. What did you mean by it, Caro? Have you gone mad?”
“I confess, I think I am a little mad, dearest Louisa… mad in love, if you please. And, I think when you hear me out, you will see that my reasons for choosing a sweet cot are very sane.”
“There’s nothing sane about wanting to stay in a tiny hovel a peasant wouldn’t thank you for with no servants to light the fires and no cook to wait on us. I do not know how you talked me into staying with you.”
“Oh, Lulu, you know I must have a chaperone, especially one that likes to take herself off for long walks when a certain gentleman comes calling. It is so romantic! I can see it all! Just picture it: a cosy sofa by the fire and Henry on his knees before me. Louisa, this is my chance, you must know that.”
Louisa knew nothing of the sort and privately thought that her sister had as much chance of winning over Lord Dalton as she had of winning the State Lottery, which she never did. The fact that he seemed similarly smitten with one of Lady Catherine’s circle, the unassuming yet beautiful Miss Theodora Winn, was a truth that Caroline refused to acknowledge or admit.
Presently, the carriage stopped, the door opened, and the steps were let down. “You’ll have to get out here,” said the driver of the post chaise. “I can’t get down that track; I’ll never get back again.”
“But how far is Robin Cot from here?” snapped Mrs Hurst who was less than impressed by the coachman’s attitude.
“I can’t say, ma’am, it depends who’s doing the walking,” he answered gruffly, observing their fine kid shoes. “Though by just looking I’d say fifteen minutes if the mud’s baked, twenty-five if not. That’s Robin Cot yonder.”
The sisters followed his pointing finger to the sight of a small dwelling, which could just be seen through a clump of trees on the brow of a hill in the distance. The narrow lane they must walk down was three inches deep in mud. Neither sister was equipped for such a jaunt nor did they relish the prospect of undertaking such a feat. They looked at one another in horror. “But you cannot leave us here,” wailed Caroline, as she watched the driver climb back onto the box.
“Company rules, ma’am,” he shouted, with a dismissive wave as he set off to leave them. “I’ll arrange for your luggage to be brought up to the cottage, but you’ll have to pay extra for a man to carry it all. Goodbye, ladies, I hope you enjoy your stay!”
Sourcebooks 2011 © Jane Odiwe