Excerpts: Miss Darcy Falls in Love
A sampling of random snippets from the novel. Enjoy!
* ~ * ~ *
“Where did you study? With whom? Was it marvelous?” Her eager face was lifted to his, gloved hands clenched by her breast as if in supplication.
He smiled, offering his arm. “Are you thirsty, Miss Darcy? Perhaps a drink and some air while I regale you with stories of Hummel and Moscheles?”
She gasped. “Did you meet… Beethoven?”
“Most impressive, Miss Darcy. Few outside of Germany know these men, let alone that they are friends with Beethoven.”
“Were you serious? About Hummel and Moscheles that is?”
“Indeed, I was serious. However, I must be honest and confess that I was attempting humor and did not anticipate your interest. I rather expected a blank stare and beg your forgiveness for assuming your ignorance. Most young ladies gaze at me as if I have suddenly sprouted an additional head when I veer into ‘music-speak’ as my sisters call it.”
She took the offered glass of punch absently. “No, I am truly intrigued. I have played the pianoforte all my life and adore learning of new compositions, especially those of unique quality. Plus, I find that knowing the background and influence of a composer, what he has endured, or whom he has involved himself with lend an understanding to the piece that aids in performing it. Do you agree?”
“Sometimes, yes. Certainly an artist grows by association and concourse with other artists. I think the truly gifted are blessed with their own intrinsic character, their voice, if you will. Study, experiences, and relationships can inspire and affect, but one must not lose their sense of self, what makes them unique.”
“I recall vividly the compositions you played at my brother’s house in London two years ago, Mr. Butler. Very romantic and cantabile but also strong and audacious. Your work moved me. Has your style been affected by your studies and time abroad?”
“To a degree, I imagine. I like to try my hand at new techniques.” He shrugged, grinning roguishly. “Playing or composing, I am never bored.”
“When I play I try to imagine what the composer was feeling, what he is attempting to convey in the music. This may be difficult in your case, if you scurry all over the place.”
He chuckled. “Have no fear, madam. Music is birthed by the composer, true. And the orchestra will follow the notes and instructions with each conductor placing his mark upon the arrangement. Every listener will interpret and emote singularly. You must allow your personal sentiments to be fed by your life, Miss Darcy. Your playing will thrive exponentially if you seek inward rather than concentrate without.”
“Thank you for the advice, Mr. Butler, but perhaps that is partially the problem. I am twenty and barely stepping beyond the borders of Pemberley. I have no life experiences to draw from.”
“Yet.” He raised his glass in a salute.
“Yet.” She clicked his glass and took a sip of her punch. “In the meanwhile, as I scour the Continent for escapades to broaden myself, will you satisfy my curiosity as promised?”
“Gossip, Miss Darcy? Shall I tell you that Meyerbeer snores louder than any man I have ever encountered and that Guiliani smokes the most disgusting Cuban cigars?”
“Not unless it contributes to their musical thesis.” She smiled, playfully wagging her finger his direction. “Careful, Mr. Butler. Such comments will brand you discriminatory toward the opposite sex. I wish to hear of intellectual theories, your keen observances, the gleaned wisdom of the masters, all of it! The gossip can be covered afterwards,” she finished dryly.
“Again, I accept your conviction of the flaws to my character.” He bowed humbly, face seriously set although the sparkle in his eyes and bubbling amusement in his voice negated the effort. “You frighten me, madam.”
“Indeed. By now you should be running away screaming, or at least searching your numbed mind for a plausible excuse to get as far away as possible. Most people do when I dig too deeply into my craft. There are few of us in this vast world who comprehend the mechanics behind the joy of music.” His tone conveyed amusement but also respect and fascination.
* ~ * ~ *
“Did I not tell you he would love your work? With Professor Florange’s endorsement your admission is a given, not that you would not pass the exams with stellar marks, but his recommendation is—”
“You planned this?” she interrupted in an incensed whisper.
“No. That is, I hoped his opinion…” he trailed off at the fury marring her features, his confusion compounded by the unbidden vision of the vehemence suffusing her face occurring in a more intimate setting. Gods! When highly passionate, even in anger, she was surpassingly beautiful!
“Are you listening to me?”
The finger jabbed into his chest brought him back to the present. Georgiana was standing inches from him, obviously having said something quite scathing while his thoughts veered into baser realms.
“Of course I am listening,” he lied, mentally giving himself a shake and willing his blood to calm.
“Then how could you disrespect my feelings so thoughtlessly? How could you forget your promise?”
“I promised not to talk about it and I did not.”
“You are going to parse over semantics?” She was incredulous. “You knew what I meant! I did not want this and you know it!”
He stepped closer and placed his hand upon her shoulder. “Miss Darcy, you would be marvelous here. Can you not see yourself learning more? Music is your future, I know it is.”
“This is your future, Mr. Butler, not mine. Do not mistake the two.”
“I only wanted you to see the possibility. It could be yours if—”
“No, it cannot.”
“Are you worried what Mr. Darcy will say? You have said that he approves of your interest in music and applauds your talent. Surely he would want you to fulfill this dream?”
“If it were my dream then perhaps he would agree, but that is not the point. This dream is more of a fantasy, Mr. Butler. Yes, I love music and I love composing. I am flattered by Professor Florange’s praise. If I were someone else, then maybe this would be a viable option. Nevertheless, this is not the life for me and it is wrong of you to presume that your beliefs are the same as the ones in my heart.”
She twirled away, graceful and fluid even when agitated, and headed down the passageway.
“Miss Darcy, wait! Please accept my apology. I meant no disrespect, truly.”
She whirled back around, Sebastian pulling up short to avoid colliding with her. He took hasty steps backward and his inhale caught painfully in his throat when he saw her face. Her mien remained one of ire but also a shimmer of wounding, the latter hitting the middle of his gut like a knife. Her next words caused the knife to twist.
“Have you so misunderstood me, Mr. Butler? Have my disclosures of homesickness, of missing my family and wanting to be in England fallen upon deaf ears? In the course of our friendship, have you forgotten that I am a woman? My desires are of hearth and home above all else.”
She paused and looked away. Sebastian struggled with how properly to respond to her accusations when the only one he seemed able to focus on was the ludicrous idea that he had ever forgotten, even for one tiny second, that she was a woman! Before anything coherent and gentlemanly formulated, she lifted her eyes, Sebastian noting the fury but also hints of something else mingled into the blue depths. Was it fear?
* ~ * ~ *
Lord Caxton strode in, his dark gaze skimming over the two of them and assessing the tableau in the seconds before Georgiana darted away from Sebastian’s side. What his conclusion was could not be easily discerned, but Sebastian did notice a faint tightening to the corners of his eyes. Then he bowed, extending the formal welcomes as appropriate and gallantly filling the awkward scene with normalcy.
“I trust I am not interrupting?” The baron swept the hand holding his hat in the general direction of where they had been standing, Georgiana having moved some four feet away. “My class ended earlier than usual, so I hastened over for our tea engagement. I do apologize for the surprise entry, Miss Darcy.”
“No need to apologize, my lord,” Georgiana said in a rush. “Mr. Butler dropped by to bring some compositions I have expressed interest in. Psalms, actually.”
“Psalms? How intriguing. I seem to recall your fascination with sacred music, Butler.”
“More of a hobby. My serious compositions are not primarily choral. Rather, they tend to run in the direction of operatic or chamber music.”
“As do most these days. Originality is sorely lacking in this generation, so it seems to me.”
“Perhaps, Baron, you are looking in the wrong direction. Certainly Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Czerny, to name but a few, offer the world unique styles.”
“I shall take your word for it, Butler. I am unfamiliar with German composers, preferring French and Italian creations. I have heard few of Beethoven’s compositions but admit to being uninterested. ‘Far too German’ is what the critics say with abrupt changes, barbaric dissonances, and excessive calculation. Not of my taste at all.”
“I suggest you speak with Professor Reicha. Were you aware that our esteemed master of fugue studied with Beethoven?”
Caxton quirked his brow in surprise. “No, I was not.”
“I daresay he might alter your opinions.”
“Perhaps. This is a fascinating topic that I would very much like to pursue, Butler. I imagine your travels have given you an insight those of us mired here in France do not have. Our prejudices cloud our evaluations and stifle our acceptance. However, I am sure we are boring Miss Darcy profoundly. See, she is flushed and glassy-eyed! Please, sit, and we stuffy musicians shall talk of pleasanter matters while we refresh ourselves with tea and cakes.”
“Thank you, but I am quite fine, truly. I do not find the discussion boring in the least.”
“No?” the baron asked with genuine surprise. “How extraordinary. Ladies typically do. Tea?”
The baron sat at Sebastian’s abandoned place and began to casually pour tea as if the activity were one he normally performed.
“Yes, thank you,” she replied absently, sitting on the edge of the recently deserted sofa. She still held the leather portfolio, her grip on the edges tight to prevent the trembling that had invaded her body from betraying her discomposure and causing her hands to shake.
What is wrong with me? Why does he agitate me so?
Which “he” are you referring to?
“What?” She jerked to the present, eyes lifting to Lord Caxton who was gazing at her questioningly.
“Are you well? Do you require rest? Perhaps we have strained your delicacy?”
Sebastian laughed, drawing both sets of eyes to where he yet stood next to the sofa’s armrest. “Miss Darcy is far from fragile. She has outplayed me on the pianoforte numerous times, walked my feet to a state of blistered toes in the quest to see all in a museum, and I would not suggest daring her to a horse race.”
Georgiana blushed but met his teasing gaze boldly. “I have never outplayed you, do not believe for a second you suffered blisters to your toes, but will boast that I beat you soundly every time we race. Forgive me, my lord”—she turned to the older man—“I was momentarily lost to daydreams of comparative analysis between German and French composers. What did you ask?”
“Only how you take your tea.”
“One spoon of sugar and a fair dose of cream.”
Again both sets of eyes lifted to Sebastian, who shrugged. “Sometimes two spoons if the tea is strong.”
“I see,” Caxton muttered. “Thank you, Butler. You have provided another answer to the mysteries surrounding Miss Darcy.” He handed the cup to her but did not relinquish his hold on the saucer immediately, instead capturing her gaze and speaking with warmth, “Mysteries that I intend to devote myself to discovering, if this pleases you, madam?”
Georgiana’s answer was a deep blush and duck of her head.
* ~ * ~ *
“Why are you smiling as an imbecile while sitting alone in a pub? Most unusual.”
Sebastian looked up at Gaston, continued to smile, and waved at the bench across from him. Not that Gaston was waiting for an invitation, with his hat already tossed onto the seat and his bottom halfway there. He plopped a large envelope onto the table while simultaneously gesturing the barman for ale.
“I was passing by Mollet’s so stopped in to check. There is your package. So now we can head home without you crying all the way.”
“Thank you,” Sebastian said simply, slipping the tied bundle under the pouch without opening it and resuming his task without further comment.
Gaston waited until his tankard was brought and drained a third of the way before interrupting the silence. “So, do you have a strategy or prepared speech? Something insipidly mawkish and riddled with purple prose?”
“What are you talking about?”
Gaston’s initial response was a derogatory phrase that turned the heads of several near neighbors. Sebastian received the full impact of Gaston’s condescending expression, flinching involuntarily at the combination.
“Spare me,” Gaston said scathingly. “I have been married for ten years and happen to still love my wife—most of the time. She must be mentally deficient to put up with me, but damned if I can see it. I do, however, frequently need to pull out the romantic nonsense in order to keep her from leaving me for someone handsomer or richer.” He shrugged, sitting back and draining the ale. “It seems to work, though, so that would be my suggestion.”
“As fascinating as your marriage advice is, Gaston, I still have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Balderdash! I prefer a stronger expletive but do not want to upset the delicate ears of yonder fellows.” He pointedly glared at the group sitting closest, the three men ducking their heads for being caught eavesdropping. “The last thing in the world I want to do, Butler, is play matchmaker or give courtship advice. Curls my hair to even think on it.”
“You sure you are French?”
“It’s worse. My mother was Italian. I should be the most sentimental sop in the country instead of the irascible bloke I am.”
“I have been associating with bloody Englishmen for too long. The colloquialisms are rubbing off. And do not try to change the subject. I am here to beat some sense into you and give advice, since God knows you need it, even coming from me. First answer my question—do you have a plan for wooing Mademoiselle Darcy?”
“How do you… ? That is, what gave you that idea?”
“You honestly look surprised.” Gaston laughed aloud, again drawing the attention of the neighboring drinkers, but he ignored them and instead gestured for another ale from the barmaid, who had also turned to stare at his enthusiastic bray. “Ah, you amuse me, Butler, you truly do.” He wiped a tear from his eye, continued to chuckle, and reverted to his typical French slang-laced syntax. “Merde, was I ever that innocent? But then I am French and Italian, so no. You, my sad, repressed English friend, are in dire need of a swift kick in the ass. Or several tumbles amid the sheets, but since that is unlikely considering your affection for Mademoiselle Darcy, I will settle for the kick. We can keep it figurative for now, unless you remain denser than a post or in denial.”
Sebastian glanced around but the eavesdropping men had left and the other patrons were paying them no mind. Still, he leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Very well. No need to threaten me. I just thought I was better at shielding my emotions.” Gaston interrupted with a rude sound and then raised his hand in apology, Sebastian continuing, “Apparently, I am transparent or enough so for you to decipher my thoughts.” He sighed. “It is not as easy as simply wooing her, Gaston. It is… complicated.”
“Amour is always complicated. My first point of advice is to forget imagining it ever will not be complicated. Accept that and move forward. You want her, so go and get her.”
“What if she does not want me?”