To Kathy Pryor and her daughter, Christina Comiskey, who first introduced me to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and thus began for me this new journey of writing.


Elizabeth stood patiently with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner at the post station where they awaited the carriage that would take her from London to her home in Hertfordshire. Her journey would take about a full day, including having to transfer to another carriage that would convey her to Meryton, where Elizabeth’s family’s coach would be waiting.

It was the end of summer, an exceptionally warm day, and she had just finished spending a month with her aunt. Her uncle’s trade had taken him to Bath for an extended time, so Elizabeth joined her aunt to help her care for their four young children. It had been a little more difficult than anticipated, as she had the misfortune to sprain her ankle just before leaving for London and was still favouring it.

As the time for the departure drew near, Elizabeth kissed her aunt and uncle goodbye and slowly limped to the carriage. She took care to step on her sprained foot gingerly.

It appeared that there was only one other person leaving London at this particular time. Elizabeth had earlier deemed this gentleman, whom she had noticed while tarrying at the station, to be fine and tall with dark, handsome features. By his dress, she concluded that he was a man of wealth, so his taking this carriage for hire seemed curious, indeed.

As she turned back to wave one last time to her dearest relatives, she felt a bump and was almost knocked to the ground by the gentleman who had likewise been waiting. He had charged abruptly for the carriage and seemingly did not see her, colliding with her and sending her off balance.

Elizabeth let out a cry and made a mental note to add to her quick judgment of him: preoccupied and interested only in himself.

He quickly reached out and retrieved her, pulling her back up and steadying her. But her foot was now painfully sore, and she most assuredly let him know with a frowning glance up at him.

She reached down for her foot, and her aunt and uncle came running over.

“Dearest Elizabeth, are you all right?” Her aunt took her arm and looked into her face, noting her wince.

“I shall be fine, Aunt.” She looked directly at the gentleman and stated, “I shall just have to be more careful to watch where I am going!”

The gentleman narrowed his eyes at her and shrugged off a quick and seemingly insincere, “I am sorry, miss.” He took a deep breath and briskly ran his fingers through his hair. With what seemed to come from a source of guilt rather than civility, he offered, “Allow me to lend you a hand, please.”

Elizabeth, keeping her eyes directed on him, replied curtly, “My uncle will assist me, thank you.”

The gentleman turned abruptly and extended his arm toward the carriage to allow her to enter before him. Mr. Gardiner took her arm, as she now limped to an even greater degree, and he helped her in.

“Are you sure that your foot is all right, Lizzy? You are limping a vast deal.”

“I am well, Uncle. But thank you for your concern.”

The driver loaded her luggage and the gentleman’s in the back as Elizabeth pulled herself in, and she slid over as far as she could to the other side of the carriage. The gentleman followed her in. Immediately he turned his face away and stared out the window on his side. She was quite convinced that he was most unhappy with his travelling arrangements, as well as his companion. Upon making a sly glance back at him, she resolved further that he had uninviting manners, most likely due, she was sure, to his inclination to associate only with those of his own superior society.

Her overactive imagination, stimulated by his fashionable dress and stiff manner, credited him with intolerance toward anything and anyone not his equal in consequence. He most likely was one who felt that his wealth and status in society secured him anything he wanted and he would definitely not give the time of day to someone he deemed beneath him or of little advantage to him.

There! She had him figured out. An easy subject, he was. As she finished her scrutiny of him, he turned back and met her startled glance with a discerning perusal of his own. She was not expecting this and felt a sense of uneasiness as she realized he had caught her staring. She quickly turned to look out her window.

The carriage finally began to pull away from the post station, and Elizabeth gave one last wave to her aunt and uncle. When she could no longer see them, she turned back and saw that the gentleman continued to gaze upon her. He seemed to be about to say something, so Elizabeth waited. When no words came forth, she turned her attention to the book she had brought along.

After a few minutes of silence, he finally spoke. “I am truly sorry, Miss, for my inattention back there.” The words did not seem to flow out easily. “I was not watching where I was going as I was only intent on getting on this carriage. I needed to depart London early today and my own carriage was unfortunately in need of repair. It has been most inconvenient for me to have to take a post carriage. It is not something I normally have to do.”

So that explained why he was travelling in this carriage. She simply smiled and arched one eyebrow as she considered his overwhelming plight. “I imagine not. It must be most disagreeably inconvenient for you.”

Most disagreeably inconvenient! He shifted in his seat, as he realized how she had taken this. He turned to the window again, tapping the fingers of his left hand against the window well. He turned to her again, making an attempt at civility, and asked, “What happened to your foot? How did you hurt it?”

“I sprained it. It only hurts when I step on it wrong… or take a spill.” The look she gave him emphatically reminded him he was the cause of the pain she was again experiencing. The smile that then appeared on her face revealed to him she did not harbour resentment toward him.

With a long ride ahead of them, he continued attempts to be civil. “How did you sprain it?”

The question caused Elizabeth to sigh heavily, and she averted her eyes from him. She wondered whether she should own the truth to him. He would laugh; of that she was certain. Or he would scoff at her for her impertinence and unladylike behaviour. But she never allowed anyone to intimidate her before and would not this time. She boldly looked at him and declared, “I was climbing a tree, sir, and I fell!”

Elizabeth had a difficult time keeping the smile off her face as she saw his reaction. He arched one eyebrow and shook his head in the most infinitesimal manner; all the while he pursed his lips in a vain attempt to hide a smirk. Elizabeth, however, noticed the disapproving furrowing of his brow. It took him a moment to respond, and Elizabeth thought perhaps he had been rendered speechless.

He finally said with a sly smile, “Certainly if you fell from the tree as a young girl, I doubt that you sprained your foot if you are still limping on it. You must have unknowingly broken it.” He stared at her, waiting for her to respond.

Elizabeth took in a deep breath. His statement indicated an assumption on his part that a lady would not have climbed a tree, certainly not someone her age; therefore she must have done it years ago. He was mocking her, but she refused to give him the upper hand. “I beg your pardon, sir, but I did not do it when I was a young girl. I did it just a little over a month ago.”

This time he openly smirked and nodded his head, as if confirming to himself that indeed, this lady had engaged in a very unladylike manner.

“Delightful diversion for a young lady such as yourself.”

She felt indignation rise up within her as she felt his mocking censure. Elizabeth suddenly blushed and ignored his comment. Delightful diversion! She echoed his words to herself as she turned back to look out the window on her side. She had prodded herself to try to astonish him with the truth; now why did she suddenly regret that she had?

The gentleman made a concerted effort to reconcile this image with that of the young lady sharing the carriage with him. He estimated that she was close to twenty and apparently was an accomplished tree climber. She seemed refined enough, well mannered, and nicely, but moderately, dressed. She was commonly attractive, her figure light and pleasing but not altogether striking. Her hair was attractively styled, but not overstated.

He continued. “Do you often climb trees, then?”

Elizabeth blushed and dropped her eyes to her lap, but resolved not to back down. She cast her eyes toward him. “Only when they afford me a better view or…” She paused and then added, “Or they give me a better chance to hide than the ground does!”

“And what, pray tell, was the occasion this time? Was it a better view or a better hiding place that prompted you to climb this tree?”

Elizabeth seriously wished that she could bring this conversation to an end, but she finally decided to tell all, knowing it would most likely shock him further. She reasoned that it really did not matter, as she would never see him again.

“This particular time, I climbed the tree to hide from someone who was coming up the road.” She said this without taking her eyes off him, with a forced sort of audacity. She would not look away. She would not let him think she was discomfited.

“Pray tell then, from whom were you hiding?” Elizabeth noted his apparent amusement.

Elizabeth took a deep breath and continued. “From an unsolicited suitor, sir, whose attentions I was in no mood to receive! I could not endure one more meeting with him, so when I saw him coming—and I knew he was looking for me—I scurried up the tree!”