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And if, in order to secure financial security for her loved ones, Elizabeth does not reject Darcy, is she married to a proud, arrogant, disdainful man who, as she feared, forces her to deny her own relatives and thus condemns her to a lifetime of misery? Or does she find herself married to a man who cares enough for her to reject the opposition of his family and chance his very standing in society in order to marry a woman he loves beyond measure?
Consequences, written by the author of A Most Civil Proposal, explores two alternate realities—both tragedy and triumph.
And now let's welcome Colin, to find out more!
The entire experience of being an author and talking about my writing is still a very new and somewhat unsettling affair. I made my living for thirty-five years as an engineer before I retired, and, while I’ve always been a consistent reader, my previous writing experience was mostly technical in nature: engineering proposals, technical documentation, and the like. Clearly, that doesn’t exactly prepare one for writing in the world of Jane Austen, and my journey to get to this point in time is probably unlike most other authors in this area, most of whom appear to have been devoted followers of the works of Austen roughly forever. In my case, I was completely unfamiliar with her books until about twelve years ago, when I dug out my late wife’s well-thumbed and quite beloved copy of Pride and Prejudice after I caught part of the 1995 BBC miniseries on television. I wanted to find out what took place before I started watching, and I figured I would just skim through this book (which I had been saving, with the intention of reading it someday because my wife liked it so much), find out what the storyline was, and that would be it.
It didn’t quite work out the way I expected it to, obviously, since I’m here today. Somehow, P&P really grabbed me: The combination of a stalwart heroine, a persistent (if somewhat awkward) hero, a time in history with which I was already familiar, because of my reading of histories and historical fiction about the Napoleonic Wars, the manners, the customs, the civility, the “happily ever after” ending, etc. Everyone has their own reasons for loving Austen’s works, and those are some of mine. Anyway, I proceeded to read most of the other major Austen novels (except Mansfield Park – that one simply didn’t catch me), then I more or less by chance did an online search for Jane Austen fan-fiction (I was actually looking for a decently written sequel to P&P). I never did find a satisfying sequel, but I did find a whole bunch of variations on Austen novels . . . and a number of them were quite good. I read and read and then, for the first time, I got an idea of my own. I worked at it by myself for a number of months and finally started posting it on the old Hyacinth Gardens website, wondering just what kind of reaction I was going to get. I was almost ready to be horse-laughed off the site by a bunch of ladies who weren’t going to let a guy enter their sanctum sanctorum (I didn’t actually think that was really going to happen, since everyone seemed so nice, but most of those writing and posting comments were female, so there was some uncertainty . . . ).
My fears, of course, were groundless, and that first effort was the fan-fiction version of A Most Civil Proposal, which later was expanded into my first novel for Meryton Press. My second novel, Consequences, has just been published, and the two novels have significant differences as well as certain similarities. Both are variations on Pride and Prejudice, of course, which means that I dreamed up a different outcome of a critical event and then developed the story along different lines. A Most Civil Proposal, examined what might have happened if Darcy had decided to make a more civil proposal at Hunsford rather than the proud and arrogant proposal as in the book. Consequences focuses on Elizabeth’s fiery and angry rejection of Darcy’s proposal as a critical decision point, and the book is made up of two parts that explore two different consequences resulting from that critical decision.
In Book 1, “The Road Not Taken,” the fortuitous meeting of Elizabeth and Darcy at Pemberley and the re-kindling of their romance does not take place. After all, that meeting really was highly coincidental in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy had not seen each other since that disastrous time in April, and both fully expected never to meet again. What were the chances that Darcy would show up and meet the Gardiner party at Pemberley on that day? Very low, of course. And even if Darcy and his party had already arrived, a party of visitors would be highly unlikely to meet the family, even if they were allowed to tour the part of the house not being used by that family. And they might not have been allowed to tour—I’m not fully up on the proprieties of visiting the houses of the rich and famous at that time. Further, if Darcy does not come out from behind that hedge right when Elizabeth is there, they probably don’t meet. Ten minutes either way and they don’t meet. And even if Elizabeth saw him at a distance and recognized him while he didn’t see her, would she have run after him and spoken to him? Highly doubtful, I would think. More likely, she would have counted herself lucky to avoid the mortification of a meeting. Thus, Darcy doesn’t learn of Lydia’s elopement and doesn’t find the couple in London and rescue the Bennet family’s reputation. Events go from bad to worse. High angst.
In contrast, in Book 2, “The Sleeper Wakes,” is more in the “happily ever after” mode of most Austen variations. In my version, Elizabeth wakes from a horrendous nightmare (which was everything that occurred in Book 1) at Hunsford prior to Darcy’s proposal, and the lingering effects of that mostly-unremembered-but-still-emotional event cause her to accept instead of reject that proposal. The surprise here is that I have a contrasting opinion to that of most readers, who consider Darcy damaged goods until he reforms himself. Well, he does need to reform himself, but those readers who expect him to treat Elizabeth harshly have not, in my opinion, thought things through. After making such a botched proposal, dwelling on the differences between their spheres and the abuse he expects to take from family and friends, would a suitor who is willing to shoulder those burdens treat the object of his desires badly? That simply does not make sense. As I say, Darcy needs to reform himself, to a degree, but, as Margaret Mead said, the job of a wife is to civilize her husband, who is initially barely fit to be allowed inside on the furniture. Thus, Elizabeth will manage to modify her man, and her fate does not turn out to be nearly the horrible mistake that she is afraid it might be.
When I originally posted the shorter version of this story at the old Hyacinth Garden website, the readership (mostly female, of course) wanted to lynch me at the end of Book 1. They (mostly, at least) forgave me after Book 2. I hope the publication of this new book doesn’t end my writing career (such as it is!).
My thanks to Joana for hosting me today and allowing me to discuss my new book, and I hope I haven’t scared off any potential readers.
Thanks for reading!
By training, I’m an engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma following a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps. The next thirty-five years was spent working on military electronics in Arizona with my first wife, Margaret, where we raised two sons before her untimely death from cancer. I have always been a voracious reader and, as so often happens in such cases, this has resulted in a serious book addiction problem. Luckily, I developed an interest (and a few skills) in woodworking, which allowed me to build the bookcases needed to house my "addiction." My favorite genres were (and are) science fiction, historical fiction, and histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife's beloved Jane Austen books after her passing. One thing led to another, and I now have two novels published: A Most Civil Proposal (2013) and Consequences (2014).
Recently retired from engineering, I currently live in Chandler, Arizona with my second wife, Jeanine, our two adopted daughters, two stubbornly untrainable dogs, and a quartet of very strange cats. I still labor under my book addiction problem, which takes up a fair bit of my time, and raising daughters is no simple matter either. I’m also a dedicated college football fan (no NFL gladiatorial arenas for this citizen!) and I also follow Formula One racing (needless to say, our home is a “No NASCAR Zone” – at least they turn both ways in F1).
Colin Odom Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/colin.odom
C. P. Odom page at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/C.-P.-Odom/e/B00BPT2BQQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1393834353&sr=1-2-ent
C. P. Odom page at Goodreads.com: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7073904.C_P_Odom?from_search=true
C. P. Odom page at Meryton Press site: http://colinodom.merytonpress.com/
“Consequences are unpitying. Our deeds carry their terrible consequences, quite apart from any fluctuations that went before—consequences that are hardly ever confined to ourselves.”
—George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), English novelist, journalist and translator
Monday, March 21, 1815
Darcy could not help glancing over at the Parsonage as his coach passed by. He was rather disappointed to see no one since he expected his aunt’s servile parson to be out by the gate, offering obeisance to his ‘betters’ with his buffoon-like bowing, but there was no one in sight and certainly not the person he most wanted to see.
When he glanced back to Colonel Fitzwilliam, he saw the concern in his eyes and felt himself flush, as he knew his cousin read his mind.
“Looking for Miss Elizabeth, I warrant,” said Fitzwilliam sympathetically, and Darcy nodded.
“I know it is hopeless, but I cannot stop myself,” agreed Darcy, attempting to calm his nerves. Fitzwilliam realized there was nothing to say, and the two cousins lapsed into silence until the coach reached the front door to Rosings.
Darcy thought his reception by Lady Catherine strange, a mixture of coolness and suppressed glee, but he put it down to having missed his annual visit the two previous years. Part of his decision not to visit was his outrage at the part his aunt played in the ruin of the Bennet family. But the major reason was his reluctance to meet Elizabeth Bennet if she were again visiting her friend. He believed it rather unlikely she would actually visit, especially during Easter, since he expected she would go to any length to avoid meeting the person who caused her such pain. Still, he could not take the chance, so he wrote his excuses to his aunt.
It was not until dinner that the explanation for his aunt’s demeanour was explained. It started with a casual comment by Colonel Fitzwilliam that he had somewhat expected Mr. and Mrs. Collins’ attendance.
“Mrs. Collins died during childbirth more than two years ago,” said Lady Catherine shortly, hardly pausing as she spooned her soup. Both Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam stopped to stare at their aunt in shock.
“Died! More than two years ago?” said Colonel Fitzwilliam in consternation.
“Why did you not mention this in any of your letters?” demanded Darcy.
Lady Catherine shrugged. “It signified little, and it never crossed my mind you would be interested. It was not as if she was a person of any significance, after all. Just a penniless girl from an obscure county. There must be thousands like her who die every week.”
“But she was your parson’s wife!” exclaimed Darcy. “And you knew we were acquainted! Why did you think we would not be interested?”
Lady Catherine did not deign to answer this question, and finally Anne de Bourgh answered it herself.
“Mr. Collins is not my mother’s parson any longer, Darcy. His cousin died the summer before last, and Mr. Collins left in order take up his inheritance. He is now, I believe, acting as a ‘country gentleman.’”
Darcy’s blood turned cold as he realized what she meant. “His cousin, you say? Mr. Bennet from Hertfordshire?”
“The very one, Darcy,” said Anne. “The father of that Miss Bennet whom you met when you visited last.”
Darcy could tell Lady Catherine was greatly displeased by her daughter imparting information she would have preferred either to keep hidden or to disclose at her own pleasure, but he was past caring what his aunt might or might not prefer.
“And you did not mention this either, Aunt,” Darcy said with cold intensity. “Yet you knew that both Richard and I knew Miss Elizabeth Bennet well. In fact, you wrote me several letters detailing the disaster that befell the Bennet family. Detailing it with considerable relish, I might add. But somehow you did not feel it significant to mention that your parson inherited their estate? Presumably to dispossess Miss Elizabeth and her sisters, I presume, though I am hard put to justify such maliciousness on your part.”
“Yes, Aunt Catherine,” said Fitzwilliam intensely. “I am waiting to hear why you would withhold such news.”
Lady Catherine only shrugged, refusing to meet the eyes of either nephew. “The legalities were clear, though that dim-witted parson did not seem to realize any of them. I had to step in and have my solicitor examine the documents so he could explain matters to that fool Collins and inform him how he should act. Even then, he refused to see common sense; he went behind my back and offered marriage to that contemptible Elizabeth Bennet! Luckily, she had as little sense as he had and refused his offer. Only then was I able to convince him to follow my solicitor’s suggestions.”
Fitzwilliam gave a bark of contemptuous laughter. “Foolish? Miss Elizabeth? Do not make me laugh, Aunt. She would no more accept an offer from that fop Collins than I would lay down with a swine!”
“Foolish I said, and foolish I meant!” Lady Catherine said forcefully, striking the table with the flat of her hand for emphasis. “She could have had her father’s estate simply by accepting his proposal, but the foolish girl did not even deign to send a reply. Then I was able to get the man to see the sense of my instructions! My solicitor composed a letter, which Mr. Collins signed, ordering them out of the house before he arrived. I told him he needed to show the neighbourhood that he was a man of the clergy and of firmness, not such a one as would tolerate the shameless behaviour displayed by all the Bennet daughters. Imagine! All of them out before the eldest was married! I said there would be trouble from it, and my prophecy came to pass. All of them were tainted!”
“Not Miss Elizabeth!” exclaimed Fitzwilliam.
“Even her!” responded his aunt. “It may have been her sister who committed the actual sin, but all the sisters could be little different. And you saw for yourself how she refused to act as befitted her station in life!”
“She refused to lick your boots, you mean!” responded Darcy in fury, unable to hold back the anger inspired by the callous attitude of his aunt.
“Darcy!” exclaimed his aunt. “I will not be talked to in such a manner! I demand your immediate apology!”
“You may demand, madam, until the sun gutters to extinction,” replied Darcy in cold wrath, “but I have put up with your haughty disregard for the feelings and opinions of others long enough. I found Miss Elizabeth Bennet and her sister Miss Jane Bennet to be young ladies of splendid respectability and propriety, no matter how their sisters might act. Their conduct might, in fact, be a model for those who are much in need of correction, despite the difference in their social standing!”
Darcy’s glare left little doubt in the mind of Lady Catherine to whom he referred, and the mere thought of his temerity to make such a charge sent a bolt of rage through her. She opened her mouth to so inform him, but he rode her down, refusing to yield. “In actual point of fact, Aunt, had it not been for my own disdainful pride and my own disdain for the feelings of others, my offer of marriage to Miss Elizabeth might not have met with refusal.”
“Darcy!” Lady Catherine almost shrieked. “You actually made that little snip an offer of marriage? I could see that she charmed you, but, disgusting as the attraction was, I never dreamed that you would so forget yourself as to actually make her an offer!”
“Which she justifiably refused, because I am not nearly worthy enough to deserve her!” said Darcy icily to a shocked Lady Catherine. “Goodbye, your ladyship,” he said, bowing to her with cold formality. “Do not bother threatening to have me ejected if I do not apologize immediately. I shall be packed and gone as soon as may be, and it cannot be too soon!”
Having said all he ever intended to say to his aunt, Darcy wasted no more time. He spun on his heel and departed the room, never looking back.
“Well!” exclaimed Lady Catherine furiously after Darcy was gone. “I have never been so badly treated in all my life! Shameful, utterly shameful! Not only is it shocking that the son of my sister would dare speak to me in such a way, it is even more shocking he ever would have considered a connection with that disreputable Bennet family. Would you not agree he has lost his mind, Fitzwilliam?”
“No, madam,” replied her other nephew, rising to his feet. “I join in his opinion of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and I only wish his suit had been successful, for it would have been the saving of him.” Lady Catherine could only stare at him in astonishment nearly as profound as before as he carefully folded and replaced his napkin on the table and turned to his cousin Anne.
“I am very sorry to have to bid you goodbye prematurely, Cousin. I am sure both Darcy and I shall try to maintain some measure of contact with you in the future.” So saying, he stepped over to her and bowed over her hand before turning to his aunt and giving her a punctiliously correct bow.
“I bid you goodbye, Aunt,” replied Fitzwilliam, “for I shall accompany Darcy when he leaves. And though he did not say it and though you are sister to my father and sister to Darcy’s mother, do not doubt me when I say that neither of us shall ever return.”
Author's Q&A and/or Book Club Questions
5. Question: I have always wondered why the military didn’t take a more active role in locating Wickham in Austen’s original? Wouldn’t he have been guilty of desertion?
Answer: We know from Pride and Prejudice that the only real part the militia regiment played in searching for Wickham was in the efforts by Colonel Forster to search along the road and then journey to Longbourn and return to London with Mr. Bennet. It’s unclear whether Colonel Forster’s efforts were of an official nature as an officer of the regiment or whether they were inspired by personal embarrassment since Lydia had been staying with his family. In any event, the regiment seemed to have no other part in the affair afterwards.
It’s clear that Wickham would indeed have been guilty of desertion, and the penalty for that crime in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars was draconian. A soldier accused of desertion would have been tried by military Court Martial and, upon being convicted, would have been executed either by firing squad or by hanging. That said, however, I could not help but notice, when researching this point, all instances of desertion being punished by execution were of ordinary soldiers, as the British called their enlisted men. None of the examples were officers. Whether this was because officers didn’t desert (most were volunteers, after all, having purchased their commissions, except for a few officers who were promoted from the ranks for exemplary acts of heroism or leadership) or the punishment of an officer would be handled differently is a question for which I couldn’t find a definitive answer.
Adding to the confusion is the fact the regular army and the militia were very different indeed. The discipline of the regulars, most of whom were impressed (forcibly drafted), was very strict. Great Britain didn’t maintain a standing militia in peacetime. The militia was formed in wartime or in times of national emergency to guard against invasion or rebellion and to take over various policing duties normally performed by the regular army, such as suppressing riots or breaking up seditious gatherings.
Unfortunately, the militia was a rather dubious force to perform any of these duties. In the case of suppressing riots, the militia often sympathized with the rioters, with the result that militia units were stationed outside their own counties. Militia members were supposed to have weapons and to be skilled in their use, but their lack of training made them look like amateurs compared to the regulars. Militia officers were supposed to come from the gentry, and their commissions were not purchased as they were in the regulars. Instead, an officer’s rank was related to the amount and value of property the officer or his family held. In addition, officers were expected to have income from their properties and were not paid anything beyond expense money, which was completely insufficient to live on. It makes one wonder how Wickham could obtain a commission and what he would have lived on without an income of his own. Since Austen’s brother Henry was a Captain in the Oxfordshire Militia, it is puzzling that this was not explained in Pride and Prejudice, but perhaps Henry did not inform his sister of some of the less favorable aspects of his service.
All this is very interesting (at least to me!) but does not directly answer the question. My own supposition, given what I’ve just related, is that Colonel Forster had an interest in pursuing Wickham because of the personal insult he suffered from Wickham’s eloping with his wife’s friend, but the militia regiment, as an organization, would rather ignore the whole situation. After all, it would not look good to the local gentry in Brighton to be putting up posters and sending out parties to search for the deserter. And they certainly couldn’t enlist the aid of anything like Scotland Yard since law enforcement in Great Britain was a purely local affair until the middle of the 1800s.
By the same Author: 'A Most Civil Proposal' - a story that examines what might have happened if Darcy had decided to make a more civil proposal at Hunsford, rather than the proud and arrogant proposal Jane Austen had imagined.
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