Physical pain and emotional pain. If handled right, these keep readers turning pages. Of the two, I consider emotional pain to be the most hurtful. Broken relationships do not heal the way injuries do.
But if your lead characters are to grow and change, pain must be part of their journey. If you can juxtapose pain with humor, it’s even more poignant.
In Chapter 9 of Darcy By Any Other Name, Darcy-as-Collins is coming to grips with his new reality. Readers smile and then grimace at Miss Bingley’s whispered rudeness. And poor Darcy discovers that not only does his aunt have contempt for Mr. Collins–hardly a surprise–but so do his friends.
Darcy crossed to the mantelpiece and, as was his habit, stood frowning into the flames. His negligent stance was not easily accomplished, for Collins was not only wider but less dexterous.
It was bad enough to be fat, but to be clumsy and fat?
And stupid? Ah, but was Collins as unintelligent as he appeared? Darcy thought over what he had observed at Bingley’s ball. Yes, he decided. Most unfortunately, Collins was thoroughly stupid.
The library had two doors; the one on the far side now came open. “Charles, you didn’t,” he heard. It was Caroline Bingley, and if she meant to keep her voice low, she failed. This was no surprise to Darcy. Neither Miss Bingley nor her sister knew how to whisper.
Bingley murmured something in reply; whatever it was did not please her. “As if we have not had enough of provincial society—”she began.
“Not provincial,” her brother protested.
“And now,” Caroline continued, as if he had not spoken, “you must thrust this—this person on me. Honestly, Charles, what will you do next?”
“Should I let the fellow starve? He has been very good to Darcy, calling every day.”
Miss Bingley gave an unhappy huff. “I daresay I shall yawn myself to death.”
“Would you rather hear Lady Catherine gabble on? I thought Mr. Collins would be an improvement.”
“It is most unfair, Charles! You needn’t sit at the table looking at him.”
“Caro, do understand.”
Darcy could hear the pout in her voice. “It isn’t as if he’s anyone important. How I am to converse with him I do not know.”
“Fine,” Darcy heard Bingley say. “We’ll go up to the billiard room until luncheon is ready.”
Miss Bingley gave an audible sigh. “I suppose I must now greet the creature.”
Darcy heard her footfalls trip across the parquet floor until she reached the carpet. He did not turn to look at her.
“My brother tells me that you are to join us for luncheon, Mr. Collins,” she said. “What a pleasant surprise.”
From beneath his brows Darcy gave her a quelling look.
He heard her gasp; her hand crept to her throat. “Why, my gracious,” she said in an altered tone. “Oh, my gracious. For a moment, Mr. Collins, standing as you are, I could have sworn that you were—”
Darcy raised an eyebrow, but did not smile.
“But no, that is silly,” she went on unsteadily. “How could you be anyone but Mr. Collins?”
“How could I indeed,” he said drily.
“I fear it will be some time until luncheon is served.” She gave a brittle laugh. “We do not keep country hours among ourselves, Mr. Collins. And why should we? As soon as Mr. Darcy is able to travel, we shall return to London.”
Thus Miss Bingley made her recovery. Bumbling Collins, her disdainful gaze said. What care I for you?
Darcy had seen this expression in Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes. But then he remembered Collins’ behavior at ball; perhaps Elizabeth had reason. But what had Collins ever done to Miss Bingley?
No, her contempt was solely because Collins was beneath her. She could claw higher on the social dung hill by putting someone like Collins beneath her feet.
Conversation lagged. Darcy was of no mind to break the silence.
Tomorrow: Q is for Questions…which you, the author, won’t answer. Thanks so much for reading.
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