Hello, my friends! I'm so delighted to be part of the Determination Blog Tour! I have to tell you, I love this excerpt Mr. Odom is sharing with us! I hope you enjoy it too! Be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this page!
This excerpt is from Chapter 7 of my new novel, Determination. Earlier in the day, Colonel Fitzwilliam had made a social call on Jane Bennet. Prior to their meeting, Jane’s uncle, Mr. Gardiner, had met with the colonel to discuss information he had received from Jane’s sister, Elizabeth, which essentially was that Fitzwilliam didn’t have the fortune to support a wife. Colonel Fitzwilliam explains his situation to Mr. Gardiner’s satisfaction but afterward Elizabeth goes to see her uncle (at the colonel’s suggestion) to find out what changed her uncle’s mind, and this excerpt is the conversation between the two of them.
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
— Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States
Tuesday, April 28, 1812
Gracechurch Street, London
“He said what?” Elizabeth asked in disbelief.
“He told me it was his intention—his firm intention, as he phrased it—to win Jane’s affections and to eventually make her his wife,” her uncle replied patiently.
Elizabeth sat back in her chair, stunned by her uncle’s statement, and it was some moments before she could say anything.
“I am beyond astonished,” she said slowly. “I am absolutely taken aback. Possibly I should not be, given that he came to call after being introduced to Jane only yesterday. It is far more precipitous than anything I would have expected. It is difficult to believe—incredible, in fact.”
“He seems to be quite a determined young man in my opinion.” Mr. Gardiner had not intended to discuss Jane’s situation when Lizzy first asked to speak with him. He had promised secrecy to the colonel, but he had relented when Lizzy told him of Fitzwilliam’s recommendation to her.
“It is not his resolve that disturbs me. It might even be admirable in other situations. But it is so hasty—too much so.”
“He mentioned being quite surprised himself and explained that he was not an impulsive person. But he went on to say that he has been completely smitten and simply cannot help himself.”
“I cannot bear to see Jane hurt further.”
“None of us want Jane to endure any further sorrow.”
“I know, I know. But the very suddenness of Colonel Fitzwilliam’s interest worries me. It worries me greatly.”
“I really believe you are concerned over nothing, especially after what your aunt told me of his seeming to cheer Jane. And, as he said to me, if anyone will be hurt over this sudden interest of his, it will be him and not Jane. He is the one putting his feelings at risk.”
“But Jane is not cautious enough. How can we be sure she will make a decision based on her best interests? I worry that she might agree to his addresses because she is unwilling to hurt his feelings and not because of a similar desire on her part.”
“Do you not believe that we must leave those decisions in Jane’s hands? We cannot live her life for her after all. I believe you are doing your sister a disservice, and I am not disposed to interfere in the case of an honourable young man who seems to have caught her interest and has certainly brought a smile to her face. I think you would be advised to act in a similar manner.”
“But look what happened to her with Mr. Bingley.”
“You know, I have come to the conclusion that I no longer approve of Mr. Bingley. To be perfectly honest, he all but abandoned her just when she was most justified in believing some kind of declaration would be forthcoming. Jane deserved something more than a brief note from Bingley’s sister telling her the whole party was leaving for town and would not return. But there was nothing from Bingley himself. No matter what arguments Mr. Darcy made—the ones that so incensed you—Bingley himself had a responsibility to explain his actions in not returning.”
Elizabeth said nothing to this and did not lift her eyes, so her uncle continued. “And it is a simple fact that Mr. Bingley is not here and Colonel Fitzwilliam is. Further, he has clearly and openly stated his intentions, which Bingley never did, and he also makes it clear that nothing except a rejection by Jane will deter his quest.”
“I am just so confused. I can find no basis for such a sudden fixation on Colonel Fitzwilliam’s part,” she said plaintively, returning to her original contention.
“So you disapprove of him?”
“Disapprove? On the contrary—I quite like him. He is amiable, well-mannered, and well-informed. But I had formed the distinct impression that he was not in search of a wife, especially one who could not bring any financial advantage to the marriage.”
“From what he told me, he would agree with you, at least in part. He had not anticipated looking seriously for a marriage partner until his active service was near an end, but once he met Jane, he was completely overwhelmed. And as for the financial side, it seems he must have been more circumspect with you than you were able to detect. He appears quite capable of supporting a wife and family. ‘In comfort,’ as he put it, ‘if not in luxury.’”
“That part is quite surprising, but I suppose your information is superior to mine.”
“He admitted you might have been justified in your supposition, but he pointed out that, when the two of you discussed the subject, he was agreeing with you about younger sons of the nobility in general, not about himself in particular. And, as he said, he may not be a pauper now, but he once was.”
“I suppose you are right,” Elizabeth conceded unwillingly.
“Both your aunt and I were quite favourably impressed by his visit here today, Lizzy. From my opening interview, which must have been rather stressful for him, to the manner in which he conducted himself all evening, he was a perfect gentleman. His interest in Jane was clear, but he was neither obsessive nor improper in his attentions. He simply made it eminently clear that he was interested. And you saw the way his visit has raised her spirits.”
“I do, but I still think Jane is more suited to Mr. Bingley. They are so similar, and I cannot forget that their separation is due to Mr. Darcy. And it was only by accident that Jane and the colonel met when he called yesterday. Jane had mentioned taking the children to the park an hour earlier, and it was only by chance that she was in the front room when he arrived. And then she left before he began his discourse on Mr. Wickham.”
“Ah, Mr. Wickham.”
“I have to confess I made a disastrous error there,” she admitted with a blush.
“And also in laying the blame on Mr. Darcy without adequate justification.”
“Well, yes, I suppose I was in error there also,” she mumbled unwillingly.
“Your aunt wonders whether you have not been precipitous in summarily refusing to reconsider what occurred between you and Mr. Darcy in Kent.”
“You cannot mean that you blame me for refusing Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth said angrily.
Her uncle shook his head. “I would not blame you for refusing any young man so long as your decision was made after due consideration. You are the one who will have to live with that decision, and it is not my part to say yea or nay. What I am concerned with is the possibility that your conclusion was made in haste, spurred on by anger rather than real reflection, especially since you now know you erred in your assessment of Mr. Darcy’s treatment of Mr. Wickham. Remember, it was quite a compliment that Mr. Darcy admired you enough to offer marriage, despite facing the same drawbacks that pertained to Mr. Bingley and Jane.”
“Well, yes, I must admit I did enjoy a certain amount of gratification from that thought. But he was so proud and haughty to everyone. I simply could not accept such a man even if I was wrong about his harm to Mr. Wickham.”
“Lizzy, Lizzy, you are not listening to me. I am not questioning your decision. I am only saying that I am uneasy about the haste with which you reached it—and, of course, with the possibility that your emotions rather than your judgement are responsible for your decision. If you are uneasy about the speed with which Colonel Fitzwilliam became enamoured of your sister, then can you not see how I am uneasy with the similarly rapid fashion in which you rejected any possibility of a connexion with Mr. Darcy? It is a connexion, after all, that might have many advantages, not only to your family but also to you. I am also perplexed that a man highly valued by both Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Bingley could possibly be bad enough to warrant such a hasty decision.”
This argument finally penetrated the wall Elizabeth had erected, and she was quiet for a time as she considered what he had said. Finally, she said reluctantly, “I am forced to confess you may be right. On the matter of Mr. Darcy, I seem quite unable to think clearly. Certainly, I should have considered what Colonel Fitzwilliam had to say for a little longer than I did.”
“That is all I am concerned about. Naturally, your aunt and I support whatever decisions you and Jane might make. I simply want you both to take the time to think them through. If you do that, then you will justify the faith we have in both of you.”
“Very well, Uncle. Your point is well taken, at least on my part.”
“And I shall have the same discussion with Jane if the occasion arises before you both return to Longbourn. But you should consider what you said when you described the colonel as being amiable and well mannered since Jane also shares those attributes. I certainly found him quite pleasant, clear-thinking, and cheerful when we talked. So, while you say Jane and Mr. Bingley are better suited to each other, this may only be in some respects. In other ways, the colonel may be a better match than Mr. Bingley is. For certain, he is more firm and stalwart than her wealthier suitor.”
Elizabeth nodded thoughtfully. “Perhaps you are right, yet he is so different from Mr. Bingley. However, I realize I shall have to restrain myself on that topic from now on.”
“And,” suggested Mr. Gardiner with a wicked grin, “he might also be right when he noted the similarities between you and Mr. Darcy. The way you are both quick-witted, private, and—I like this one very much though I have never met Mr. Darcy—both of you are adept at verbal repartee and debate.”
To this comment Elizabeth made no response. She simply blushed and bade her uncle good night.
It took so long for the butler to respond to his knock that Richard at first thought Darcy might already be in his bedroom, despite the fact that candlelight was visible behind the curtains of his study. But the butler finally answered the door, apologising that he had been assisting the housekeeper with her bookkeeping. When Richard entered the study, he could see that Darcy was busily engaged in working through the backlog of paperwork that had built up while he was at Rosings. Papers, notes, and bills were stacked in piles all over his massive desk.
“You are up rather late, Richard,” Darcy said, looking up. He waved his cousin towards a comfortable chair on the other side of his desk and offered a glass of port and a cigar, both of which were gratefully accepted.
“I wanted to thank you again for the loan of Jennings,” Richard said as he puffed his cigar alight. “Tying this neck cloth was quite beyond the capability of Sergeant Bascomb. He is perfectly capable of fitting me out in full dress uniform to appear before the major general on a moment’s notice, but he simply threw up his hands at the thought of essaying one of the more fashionable knots.”
Darcy steepled his hands as he looked his cousin up and down. “You are certainly welcome, but you were in such a hurry that I never did get an answer to where you were going and why you were dressed in such unprecedented style.”
“I was visiting a young lady. I think I did mention that.”
“You did, but I have seen you call on young ladies before. You always seemed to find your uniform perfectly acceptable on those occasions. But today you could rival Brummell for sartorial elegance. So why is this young lady so special? And do not trot out the old adage that ‘this is the one.’ That line has been used to death in far too many cheap novels.”
“Then I can say nothing,” Richard said with a smile, “especially since this young lady is the one, and I am going to marry her.”
“Oh, saints preserve us,” Darcy muttered, rolling his eyes. “First me and now you. Dare I even ask the identity of this vision of female perfection who has finally caught your eye and secured your heart?”
“Actually, she is someone you already know,” Richard said seriously. “Miss Jane Bennet.”
Darcy froze in the process of lifting his cigar to his mouth and simply stared at his cousin in stunned amazement.
Finally, he shook himself and carefully replaced his cigar in the ashtray. “How can this be? You do not even know Miss Bennet.”
“Ah, but I do. I met her yesterday when I called on her sister at their uncle’s house in Cheapside.”
“Sister? Which sister are you talking about?”
“You know which sister. The sister we both know so well. Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
“What is going on here, Richard? Just why are you calling on either of the Bennet sisters? I do not care for the fact that you would go behind my back on this.”
Richard was unaffected by his cousin’s visible anger and blew out a cloud of fragrant smoke. “I was not going behind your back. From what you told me last week, all discourse between you and Miss Elizabeth was presumed to be at an end. However, there remained an unfinished question between Miss Elizabeth and me, a question concerning George Wickham. I burst into your abortive proposal, if you remember, at the moment she was taking his part, and I did not have time to explain to her just how badly she had misjudged both him and you. I resolved instantly that I would revisit the question when she returned to town, which I have now done. I simply could not leave her in any doubt as to the true worthlessness of that man.”
“And just how much did you discuss with her?” Darcy said, his eyes icy with anger.
“I did not mention Georgiana if that is what you are worried about. But I did tell her everything else. All of which, I might point out, she should have learned months ago and from you. From what you have said, you knew Wickham was spreading lies about you when you were both in Hertfordshire, and you did nothing.”
“I was determined that my actions would speak for my character without having to lower myself to Wickham’s level to debate his falsehoods.”
“No, Cousin, you would not lower yourself to confront his lies because the country gentry you met were not part of your circle and thus deserved no explanation from a Darcy.”
Darcy said nothing, just looked angrily at his cousin, but Richard returned his challenge glare for glare until Darcy finally looked away. His anger was ebbing, and he knew it was unjustified in any case. It was patently obvious that someone had needed to disabuse Elizabeth and probably the rest of the neighbourhood of their delusions about Wickham. And he was forced to agree with Richard that it should have been done by him, and much earlier.
Perhaps if I had openly discussed Wickham at that time, told her clearly what lay between us, and even offered evidence of my truthfulness, then many things might have been different. But I was determined not to admit I was attracted to her, so I resolved to keep my distance. Accordingly, I suppressed my own emotions and never bothered to assess hers, so I had not the slightest idea of the disdain in which she held me. Until that horrible evening…
Finally, he drew a deep breath. “And did Miss Elizabeth believe you?”
“She did. Her aunt sat with us because the manner in which I arrived at their door was rather unusual, but she will, I am sure, be discreet about what I told her. Not that there is a real need for secrecy, you understand, but I know how obsessive you have become about not revealing any aspect of your private affairs.”
Darcy coloured but nodded again. Then, clearing his throat, he asked, “And was Miss Bennet present for these discussions? Was that how you met her?”
“No, I was introduced to her when I arrived, but she excused herself in order to give us privacy. But I was greatly affected on first impression, and I think Bingley was a fool to let her get away. I was fortunate enough to be able to meet her afterwards at the park where she had taken the Gardiner children to play. After some conversation, I asked whether I might call on her today, and she agreed.”
Richard looked Darcy directly in the eye as he continued. “Make no mistake about the lengths to which I was willing to go to clear up this problem with Wickham. I did not have to tell Miss Elizabeth about Georgiana in order to convince her of Wickham’s perfidy, but I would have done so had it been necessary. Fortunately, my account was convincing and her trust in me sufficient to assure her of the truth of my story, especially when I told her I could provide witnesses to the truth. She came to realize that Wickham had built his structure of lies on just enough truth to make them plausible. But I was determined that this matter would be resolved so it could no longer cloud the air.”
“Without asking my permission?” Darcy said, his anger flaring anew.
“Yes, without asking your permission. I share the responsibility for Georgiana, you know, so the decision would not have been yours alone.”
“But she is my sister. And you have been gone these five years.”
“During which time you have changed, and not for the better. I have spoken of it before, but that is neither here nor there. Of paramount importance is that Georgiana’s near elopement could happen to other young ladies, and all because you would not trouble yourself to counter the lies Wickham told about you.”
Darcy began to make a rejoinder, but he realized he would only be repeating what he had said earlier about depending on his actions as testimony of his character. After seeing that Darcy did not intend to comment, Richard continued.
“It also appears that, when you first met Miss Elizabeth, you did not conduct yourself in a manner that would have made her or anyone else reject Wickham’s lies. Instead, you made them believable, and I am tired of your behaviour of excluding everyone outside your intimate circle. You have so circumscribed yourself that you could not even change when you met a woman with whom you wanted to share the rest of your life. Look at what it has cost you.”
Both cousins glared at each other, but Darcy’s glare was pro forma and quickly dissipated, especially as he felt a stab of grief from what his cousin had said about his loss.
“Perhaps you are right,” he said at last. “I am certain no one could have handled matters any more disastrously than I have done.”
Richard nodded in agreement, staring at the smoke rising off his cigar. “I went further,” he said quietly. “I have been thinking much on this, and I have come to the conclusion that your selection of Miss Elizabeth Bennet was an admirable one. I think your characters complement each other, and I think you could have a satisfying life together. So I explained my coming to live at Pemberley, your mother arranging for my commission, and your being saddled with the responsibility for all the family affairs after your mother died. In short, I tried to rehabilitate your character with Miss Elizabeth. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in getting her to reconsider her answer to your proposal.”
Darcy was no happier to hear this information than he had been to hear the earlier information, but he received it in a dark moodiness that matched that of his cousin, and his only response was a nod of acceptance.
“I believe my information was not simply rejected, but Miss Elizabeth’s opinion was so fixed that she was not inclined to change her mind.”
Silence reigned in the study for several long minutes as both cousins continued to smoke their cigars and ponder the unsolvable problem that confronted them.
Eventually, Darcy asked, “What shall you do now about Miss Bennet? I cannot help but wonder what Miss Elizabeth thinks of your intentions towards her sister given the ferocity with which she confronted me about Bingley.”
“Miss Bennet appeared to welcome my attentions today, but I cannot return until Thursday. As for her sister, I do not think she is entirely pleased with me. I suppose she considers Bingley a better match for her sister. He certainly has a more substantial fortune, and you have told me of his amiability.”
Darcy began to rummage through one of the stacks of papers on his desk until he retrieved a stack of cards with a grunt of satisfaction. He untied the ribbon around them and searched until he found one of the cards. Taking his pen, he wrote a short message on the back and blotted it.
“Here,” he said, holding it out. “Use this and take your Miss Bennet to the theatre on Friday. I shall not be attending anytime soon, so someone should have use of the box.”
Richard took the card and found it was a voucher from the Covent Garden Theatre where he knew Darcy rented a private box. On the back of the card, Darcy had written: “Col. R. Fitzwilliam & party will use my box for opening perf. of ‘J. Caesar,’ 1 May. F. Darcy.”
“I thank you, Darce, but are you sure about this? I know you were looking forward to this performance.”
Darcy waved off Richard’s protests. “I am not in the mood for it any longer. No—go yourself and take whoever might want to attend.”
“Perhaps I might convince Miss Elizabeth to attend, then you could meet us at your box—“
“No!” Darcy exclaimed. “Definitely not. I could not…would not…no. Thank you for your efforts, but it would only offend her. In fact, do not even mention my name. Just go and have a pleasant evening. And now, I still have a number of business matters with which to contend, so I beg you to excuse me so I can continue to do battle with them.”
Richard nodded and silently left the study. As he looked back from the door, Darcy was seemingly immersed in examining the contents of one of the documents on his desk.
But I would wager his eyes are not focused on it, Richard thought. Though I am not a betting man, I would definitely place that wager.
Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics.