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The Leys Priory
in Austen Tea Party:A Jane Austen
Historical Romance Collection

The Leys Priory is my novella in Austen Tea Party, a charity Regency collection.

 

“No friend can be better worth keeping than Eleanor.”

Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen

Miss Eleanor Tilney is heartbroken at parting from Miss Morland, her dearest friend, on such cruel terms. The manner in which she’s forced to farewell Catherine reminds Eleanor of another she was ordered to give up years ago.

Mr Thomas Norley had no title, and no fortune when he first visited Northanger. Her father General Tilney forbade such a lowly match. Now Thomas is back – and this time, Eleanor Tilney will not be gainsaid. That’s if he still cares for her.

(Her wishes and feelings remain unchanged…)

The Leys Priory

Eleanor was fortunate in so many respects. “You have one ally, at least, my lord.”

    “More than one, I hope, Miss Tilney.” His lordship’s voice fell lower.

    Eleanor risked another glance at Alice, whose study remained inflexibly fixed. She rubbed her gloved hands together. “What I have to impart, concerns Henry.”

    The viscount listened as Eleanor described the girl Henry cared for – whom she regarded highly and missed terribly – and how the General had turned Henry’s Catherine away.

    “Not just away,” she hastened to explain. “Papa treated Catherine infamously, you know. Directing us to gain her acquaintance, and favour her, only to turn her out of Northanger like he did. Anything may have happened to her. A young girl, travelling alone like that… Henry is heartsick about it.” She swallowed. “He’s angry too, and he bid me give you this.” She drew Henry’s note from her sleeve.

    He took it immediately, slitting it open with the flat of one palm. Together, they leaned over its pages, the better to decipher Henry’s close-writ news.

 

12 June,

Woodston,

Gloucestershire,

Nine o’clock in the morning.

 

My Dear Tom (as you’ll not allow the address ‘Viscount Chester’),

    May this hurried scribble find you well, and Bath answer some hopes for society since the sad loss of your uncle. I beg your pardon for my inability to meet you there this Season. Nothing less than family business – turned more urgent this day – keeps me from your company.

    I understand you’re to call at The Leys and humbly make of you a request of much moment. Eleanor is for Longtown’s as well, and I ask that you watch over my sister – not as though she were your own (I know you – and Eleanor – too well, my friend), but with a livelier interest, if you’ll pardon me.

    Her nearest companion has been ordered from Northanger without cause. You can guess by whom. My sister’s distress at the loss of her dearest friend will, I’m

afraid, lay her spirits too low. You know how melancholy her situation and how she must feel it the more, from having had wholesome, loving acquaintance beside her for many weeks now. (Are spirits gained by fair society compensation enough for the plummet that succeeds it? I cannot say but confess to doubt.)

    I thank you for your information regarding Thorpe. That Frederick finds himself in scrapes again over a girl is of a piece. His sense of honour deteriorates (I’ll say no more of the lady, but when Frederick squares up to the brother, it may answer).

    I’m grateful for your discretion and your aid thus far. I’m unwilling to let my brother either be shot or arrested for a fool. The latter is the more likely, but both are equally dangerous as regards the name of Tilney. I’ll not have your name diminished, for there’s no other gentleman I trust beyond you, Tom – especially as regards my sister.

    I find myself compelled to seek out her friend and make what amends I’m able. The Tilney name requires it – and by now you may have divined my truest intent.

No concealment is possible from your friend and fellow scholar,

    Henry Tilney

NB: Viscount Chester may do a deal of good if he learns less humility. He’ll not overshadow any friends of Norley!

 

    “It is true, then.” Eleanor gasped and her thoughts leaped immediately to the imagined reaction of her father. She turned a stricken face to Viscount Chester. “Have you seen Frederick this day? Is he wed?”

    “Nay, Miss Tilney, there was no chance of it.” He described his adventures in Bath as pertaining to her eldest brother. “It’s a terrible thing, Miss Tilney, to be connected to such dishonour.”

    “The more so for a woman, sir, than for a gentleman.” Eleanor sighed. “I am not surprised, nay, nor shocked. I fear Frederick is not sound.” Her voice fell to a whisper. “He’s not been a – gentleman for some time, my lord.” His discreet silence increased Eleanor’s discomfort. “I'm more grateful than I can say.” She stared at her hands.

    “It’s to your credit that not all gentlemen are so careless of their sisters as Mr Thorpe,” the viscount observed quietly.

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