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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Madness of Mr Darcy Excerpt & Giveaway!

Alexa Adams is an old friend to this blog — she's been a part of my Austen events right from the very beginning, and she always has a fun new take on P&P to share! This time 'round, as we head into the cooler weather and the fun creepytimes of Halloween, Alexa is sharing a sneak peek of her upcoming book, The Madness of Mr Darcy!
And hey, you might just get to win a copy for yourself, so... you might wanna click through. ;)


October 1831
The fire split the sky, illuminating the people running about everywhere, doing everything possible to staunch the flames. Reports confirmed that old Mr. Sellers, in whose cottage the fire began, was dead, and the lives of three more of the small community of villagers who comprised Kympton parish were feared lost as well. There were fainter murmurings, and the words “arson” and “Wickham” could be perceived.

Fitzwilliam Darcy worked alongside everyone else, coatless and sweating in the heat, in which he had been laboring relentlessly for the past three hours. He was a known recluse, and the people were surprised to see him in their midst, but as he worked tirelessly through the night, they were thankful for his presence and help, and some recalled how well they used to think of him.

Those striving to quench the blaze could perceive the effects of their labors. While still unbearably hot and threatening, the fire was much diminished from what it was. Mr. Darcy tried to calculate how much longer it might take to reach their goal, a useful manner in which to avoid far darker thoughts, which insisted on intruding upon his speculation.

Two decades had passed since he last saw George Wickham, and at least half that since anyone had even mentioned the name is his presence. Yet now he heard it whispered beneath the roar of crackling wood. He might be mistaken; it could be some other name. Back, specter! Back to the past. Do not haunt me now. His heart cried out as old wounds burst open, coursing with fresh blood.
He heard a bustle coming from behind. Like many others, he paused his labor to see what new was astir. A crowd of men hustled along and abused a middle-aged man, of tall stature but sloping in form, poorly dressed and clearly terrified. “Here’s the cause of all the trouble,” one of the men yelled above the crowd and roaring flames. “He’s your arsonist, Mr. Darcy.”
“Darcy!” George Wickham exclaimed, throwing himself on his knees in supplication. “You’ve got to believe me! I was only visiting Sellers! We were talking and drinking, and I left him with a pipe in hand. He must have fallen asleep with it – there was a newspaper on his lap! He was a friend of my fathers! I would never harm the man!”

“A likely story,” snarled another burly fellow.

“Please Darcy, my old friend! You have to believe me …”
“Enough!” the master of Pemberley bellowed, glaring down on the man who had been the cause of so much trouble to his life. He did not consider his options. He did not stop to think. True madness drove him as he lifted George Wickham up, hoisting him with strength no man his age should possess, and threw him, screaming, into the hungry flames.

The villagers rushed to the rescue, as bucket after bucket of water was directed towards the screaming mass of flames rolling on the ground, instead of the cottages that still smoldered. The men who retained Wickham now moved menacingly around Mr. Darcy, who looked on, as if frozen, as the smell of his childhood friend’s flesh filled the air. He made no motion in recognition of the circle forming about him. He made no sign of protest, and as no one was inclined to manhandle the master unnecessarily, he was allowed to solemnly watch as the man stopped writhing, the flames fully dowsed, and something unrecognizable as human moaned on the ground. 
“He lives!” someone shouted, and it was this that seemed to break Mr. Darcy from his reverie, he stepped towards where Wickham lay, but the men about him purposefully blocked his path. “Bring him to Pemberley!” he shouted. “Send Mr. Scott to the house to see to his wounds. Hurry! We might still save his life. We cannot let him die!”
The people looked at each other in question. Mr. Darcy had nearly murdered the stranger, could they trust him to see to his care?
“Hurry!” he cried, now pushing against a faltering wall of men. “There is a carriage over by the rectory. Get him to it at once! I shall lead the way on my horse.”

Unaccustomed as they were to disobeying orders from the gentry, Mr. Darcy was permitted to retrieve his mount, direct Wickham’s transfer to the carriage, and ride off at breakneck speed towards Pemberley.”
“Should we report him to the magistrate?” a man asked.
“He is the magistrate!” another responded.

“Well what do we do then?”
“Send over to Lambton for Squire Worthing. He handles such matters there.”

At Pemberley the entire staff was dedicated to the emergency care Mr. Wickham received. Soon rumors began to spread of how the man got to be in the state he was in. These were confirmed some three hours later, in the early morning light, when a few men arrived in the accompaniment of Squire Worthing, once a frequent guest at Pemberley in the days before its master withdrew from society. The house was all chaos: the staff both providing relief to villagers in need and attending Mr. Wickham, by whose side Mr. Darcy had remained throughout, the still-burning fire in Kympton totally beyond his thoughts. 
“Hello Reynolds!” the squire greeted the butler. “I see you are already in some uproar, but I will need to speak with Mr. Darcy, if you please.”
“The master has not left the patient’s bedside since he came here, sir,” Reynolds anxiously replied, asking in an undertone, breath bated, “Is it true – how their saying the man got that way?”
“I don’t know what you heard,” the squire grimly replied, “but this is bad business. So the man still lives?”
“Yes. Mr. Scott says he thinks he will survive, if we can avoid infection.”

“Well, that will help some, if he lives and doesn’t press charges. If he dies, I don’t think I have any choice other than to take Mr. Darcy into custody.” The butler blanched, and the squire tried to explain himself better. “If the man were really the arsonist, maybe we could overlook it a bit, but reports are he was in Lambton at the time the fire started, though he was seen leaving Mr. Sellers’ cottage earlier. Probably, there was no mischief in the case at all, but Mr. Sellers merely fell asleep with his pipe, as I am told he was wont to do.”

Though these words were intended to sooth Reynolds, they merely increased his alarm. The squire left a representative at Pemberley, orders to alert him of any change in the patient’s condition, and departed, while the butler hurried to impart to the other servants the urgency with which they must attend the patient upstairs. He then went to his office, sat at his desk, and composed a letter to Lord Matlock, informing him of his cousin’s circumstances. He sent if off by rider, and though the boy chosen for the task was reluctant to leave the excitement of a fire, attempted murder, and arrest of a swell, he found motivation in a large tip from Mr. Reynolds’ own purse. 
Lord and Lady Matlock’s estate was only thirty miles distant, and the Earl and Countess were on the scene by the very next day. They rode through the night with four horses and an entourage of outliers. When called to act, his lordship moved with military efficiency.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh had been dead for many years, and it was well before her reluctant parting with this world that she gave up on the notion of Darcy ever marrying her daughter, Anne. His increasing eccentricity and isolation lowered his eligibility for Miss de Bourgh’s hand, and when the eldest Fitzwilliam boy was foolish enough to break his neck in a carriage accident, Lady Catherine recalled how the late Countess always wished for a marriage between Richard and Anne. The Colonel, always more attentive to his aunt than either his brother or Darcy, suddenly presented a very pretty prospect. The two being compliant by nature and not adverse to each other were soon convinced of their affection. The union proved a useful partnership, if not a marriage of true minds. Anne, freed from her mother’s dominance, became a political force in society, taking a great deal more interest in both the pressing and petty issues of the day than her husband, who came into his title not long after their marriage. Lady Catherine lived long enough to see her daughter bear her grandmother’s title and holding an heir to one of the noblest fortunes in the country in her arms. Though she died against her will, which was rather intolerable, she was nonetheless pleased with herself and sorry for the world’s loss in her passing. However would the tenants at Rosings mix their whitewash correctly without her inestimable advice? Fortunate for them the great lady had a daughter cast much in the same mold.
Darcy’s noble connections were not to learn the identity of the injured man until they arrived at Pemberley and his lordship questioned his stunned cousin. In stolid tones, he pointed at the mutilated body and named it George Wickham before beginning to weep: a dry and heaving noise. Richard was uncertain how to respond to this unprecedented spectacle. He had been deeply concerned for Darcy for many years, but never more so than when he left the sickroom that day. 
He found his wife in the hall, busy telling the servants that they were going about their tasks the wrong way. She stopped her admonitions when she saw him, and a mutually exchanged tilt of the heads was all they required to retire to a nearby parlor for quiet conference.
“Well?” she asked when the door was shut behind them.
He sighed in response and sank into a nearby chair. “This is very bad, Anne.”
“I already know that!” she snapped. “I have questioned Reynolds at length. It is imperative that man not die, Richard, and I find nothing but incompetence in this house! It is badly in need of female management.”

“The man is George Wickham, Anne.”

“George Wickham,” she searched her memory. “Ah yes. That steward’s son for whom Uncle Darcy had such a fondness. I do not see why that should matter. In fact, it might work in our favor. As long as he lives, we should be able to hush this up, but if Darcy is charged with murder it will be everywhere!”
“It matters, Anne, because of the history they share,” he sighed, knowing there was no dredging up old scandals from the past, for she would not listen to them. “If it were anyone else, Darcy would not have behaved as he did.”

A gleam lit her eyes. “What are you suggesting, Richard? That he went mad?”

“Would a man not have to be, to commit such an act?”

“It seems to me men do terrible things to each other every day without anyone much questioning it. Perhaps we should consult a doctor. If there is a trial, an insanity plea might save us from the humiliation of seeing him hanged.”
“Anne! What of Darcy? You speak as if you care for nothing but the scandal and how it will affect you.”
“That’s not true. I care a great deal for my cousin and have only his best interests in mind, but we must address the practical realities of the case. What is good for him is what is good for all the family.”

Richard shook his head. “This incidence of violence might be isolated, but you cannot continue to deny that there is something very wrong with our cousin! He is not in his right mind, and he has not been for years!”

“I will not have a lunatic in the family, Richard,” Lady Matlock affirmed shrilly, appending in softer tones, “unless it’s absolutely necessary!”

“I don’t think this is the kind of thing in which we have any choice, my dear,” he sighed wearily. “I shall write to Sir Frederick Wilson about him.”

“As long as Wickham lives, that should not be necessary! We must send for the best doctors we can find at once!”

A physician from Derby was called in, a more prestigious one from London sent for, and Mr. Wickham’s needs were attended to with the utmost care and consideration modern medicine could produce. That not being very much, it was somewhat miraculous that his wounds escaped serious infection. It was clear he would never walk again, his feet being horribly mutilated, but the medical experts soon came to the consensus that he would live. As soon as the patient was deemed fit for conversation, Squire Worthing reappeared to question him. The injured party refused to press any charges, much to the good man’s relief. Soon the matter seemed largely resolved, but for the gossip and conjecture of the villagers nearby.

Towards quelling that issue, Lady Matlock spoke privately with the Squire, asking him to use what influence he might to confine talk of the incident to the immediate environs. In return for his hushing the matter up, she promised to assist his granddaughter, embarking on her first season the next year, when she made her presentation to society. In a few months, the only other people to express any lingering concern over the matter was Mr. Wickham himself, Lord Matlock, and Mr. Darcy, who struggled to understand what he had done, guilt working upon already weary emotions to turn eccentricity into something more. He began to drink heavily, eat less, and suffered from incessant insomnia.

****GIVEAWAY****
In preparation of the release of The Madness of Mr Darcy, Alexa has offered up 2 copies to 2 lucky Austen in August readers! 1 US winner will receive a paperback copy, and 1 international reader will win an ebook! Fill out the rafflecopter to enter; ends September 6th at midnight, EST. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Click the button or HERE to return to the Austen in August main page!

12 comments:

  1. What an intense chapter, Alexa. I wonder why Darcy appeared to be on the brink of madness. Where is his soul mate, Elizabeth Bennet?

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    1. Sorry, forgot to say I'm international.

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  3. Oh my! The more excerpts I read, the more I am intrigued, baffled and completely mesmerized! I can not wait to read this book! Thank you Alexia and Misty for the giveaway! :)

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  4. I have been enjoying the excerpts that Alexa has posted and I am hoping that the paperback copy will be available in Canada

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  5. My mouth just hung open as I read that excerpt. I am totally intrigued. Thanks for sharing the excerpt and giveaway, Alexa.

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  6. Aah, Darcy with no Elizabeth (due to a past interference from Wickham?)... the poor man!!! I'm hooked to read more after reading the excerpt. Congrats on another upcoming release.

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  7. I need this like now! I am completely intrigued.

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  8. Ooh, I remember reading about this book during last year's Austen in August - or it may have been Jane in June?- and being completely intrigued! I'm happy it's almost here.

    Thanks for an excerpt and the chance to win! Poor Mr Darcy! I had to laugh at the part about his being the magistrate, though.

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  9. This sounds so exciting! I hope I win. Thanks for the giveaway, Alexa.

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  10. The exceprt made me curious to know more!!!
    Congratulation on your new release and thank you for the giveaway!
    I am international.

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  11. I have to know more. Intriguing!!

    INT

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