In the year of our Lord 18-- August 19th
I, Harry Sterling, being sound in body, I am in doubt of the soundness of my mind, Am in search of a wife. Not just any silly women will do, I only want a silly woman with money. As my estate is becoming more impoverished, I will need a wealthy woman or a woman with connections.
Since I have connection with the family of Bingley, I have been invited to their country estate in --shire. I have been told there are women and balls enough there to find a suitable wife. Jane Bingley is from that area and is a sight for sore eyes.
A beautiful woman is not what I want. I want one almost intolerable looking. One that must depend on me for everything including the handling of her wealth or her connections.
A loving and controlling brother, a capable and skillful master, I will be. I am sure this woman does exist, I will do anything to gain her favor, even if she has two heads I will treat her as if she were the most beautiful two headed woman in the world. We will have the most heavenly (and rich) existence in Merry Old England.
I will be at Netherfield in the morning and will try to document my search.
Arrived at Netherfield, this morning. Found the natives quite charming except the only unmarried woman on the estate.
Miss Caroline Bingley seems to think she is the most accomplished woman on the planet earth and though she is gravely misinformed, she seems to not doubt herself. How she and Charles ever came from the same father and mother I will never know.
Charles and his wife Jane are the sweetest, kindest, and most gullible couple I have ever met. I would love to play billiards with Charles for money. I am sure he is a soft touch.
I am sorely upset with the country thus far. If it weren't for the fact that my plan is fool proof and will succeed I would have stayed in London. Considering my reputation in London and all those creditors that know my name and financial distress,--shire it must be.
I still cannot believe the sweetness of Jane Bennet. She is a credit to her sex and I hope that her sisters are much like her.
I am sure that Her youngest sister is, because I have heard of her relationship with George Wickham (the lucky dog). After I heard of the money that Wickham is receiving, I chose the Bennets and --shire especially.
If the setting and characters do not change much in the next few days I will not journal them. I must conserve paper for my Grand discovery of the perfect, simple, unassuming, unintrusive, quiet, obedient, woman.
In the year of our Lord 18-- August 22nd
I am the type of man who admits his misjudgements. On the last page I accused Miss Bingley of being snobbish. I was not wrong in this observation.
However I have found that her personality is incredibly helpful.
Also, she is the best card player in the house. She beat me 3 times out of 4 last night. I should teach her a betting game, I am sure she would be a good opponent.
During our games however I have learned much of the family Bennet. It seems that Caroline finds Jane's next sister Elizabeth Darcy to be difficult and headstrong. She married Mr. Darcy Against the will of his aunt.
Although, I sense jealousy in Caroline's tone of voice and manner, I fear that Jane is the only sweet daughter in the family.
Caroline has also warned me about Mrs. Bennet, Jane's mother. It seems she is a boisterous hypochondriac. Caroline says that nothing will prepare me for the shock I will receive when I first have the pleasure of meeting her.
I shall meet Mr and Mrs Darcy in two days. They are coming to stay for a few weeks at Netherfield and shall be in attendance at the dance in the assembly room.
Caroline calls Mr Darcy proud. Darcy was the former employer of Mr. Wickham. So feel I must remain inconspicuous around the Darcys. I am sure they are not as kind or as trusting as Charles and Jane and Caroline for that matter.
I must not betray myself for I am hunting an angel (with money).
We had a pleasant surprise today.
Mrs. Bennet came to visit and help her daughter prepare for guests. Actually, she discussed her nerves and her dislike of Mr. Darcy while Jane readied the guest room.
I have a certain fondness for Mrs. Bennet already. As long as you are kind to her and flatter her, she will let you get away with murder. Although she is full of twisted vanity, I must admit she is is a delightful Matron and I rather enjoy her stubborn oblivious nature.
She only mentioned her two unmarried daughters in passing so I still know little about them. They are too young to interest Caroline, and Jane or Charles are more likely to visit the moon than give an opinion.
Still, I feel rather warm and fuzzy around the Bennets and Bingleys. I really shouldn't harbor such emotions.
A rogue should never trust anyone.
A true rogue never develops any permanent attachments.
But if I ever were to decide to be a gentleman I would hope I was a gentleman son-in-law in the family of Bennet.
By the way, I have found that The Darcys are bringing more of a party than was expected. Included in the party is Mr. Darcy's sister and his cousin. Also a soldier who is a stranger to the family.
It looks as if I may have a rival or two to deal with.
Today was the most exciting day of my trip thus far. The party arrived with cordial handshakes and excited hugs. It was a most delightful family reunion.
Only Caroline did not share my opinion. She did not enjoy seeing Mr and Mrs Darcy, and although I do not understand the specifics, I do believe the couple reminded her of unpleasant times. However, she found much joy in seeing Miss Georgiana Darcy again. Miss Darcy is a beautiful and sweet woman. Had she not a brother to protect her,
I did not do much today but stay out of the way and observe the new guests. Mrs. Darcy is as beautiful as her sister and she had such a wit, I am not sure where it came from,
having met her mother.
Col. Fitzwilliam is an amiable gentleman, who seems to live in this world, but not of it. I do believe he will give me no trouble if I keep him at arms length.
If I am not mistaken he and Caroline have a small flirtation going on.
Caroline has acted helpless in front of the Colonel. I know who she is, and she knows she knows who she is, but the Colonel has no clue that she is not that sweet and in need of assistance.
Caroline is a bit of a rogue herself when it comes to single men.
As for Col. Fitzwilliam's friend, he is a shy and reserved Corporal, quite handsome in a bookish sort of way. He is not at all the type who could play a decent game of cards, but when he does speak (it has been rare that he does much but smile), It betrays that he is quite eloquent for a red coat.
I hate him already.
As for my biggest fear, Mr Darcy, I find him not as much of a threat as I had come to expect. He seems to be a man who does not open up easily, but when he does he is quite astute in his observations. He is the kind of man you really want to provoke.
I really wonder what would happen if I put pepper in his tea??
I find myself in an adventure that has more action than poker with sailors of ill repute. How I love --- shire!
In the Year of Our Lord 18--, August 24th
Today was the most important day of my trip. I only have one chance to make a good impression.
I do my own laundry. And I wore a burgundy vest and jacket.I am not as tall or as regal as Darcy but I am taller than Charles.
The one thing I envy Mr.Darcy (besides his money) is that he wears his shirts so well.
I wonder if when he takes them off they retain the shape of his shoulders.
I am not a very handsome man. I will admit it. I wish I were more of a dashing young man who stands out in a crowd, but alas, I am just an average man. This is to my advantage when I am playing cards, but when it comes to women, especially women as beautiful as Mrs. Bingley or Mrs. Darcy, I am not much of a catch.
I dined with the whole Bennet, Darcy, and Bingley clan. It seemed the conversation flowed in two cliques. The Bennet sisters seemed to want to converse with each other and their parents. The Others, Miss Bingley, Miss Darcy,The Colonel, the Corporal and sometimes myself talked of travel, London, music and the militia.
I found Mr. Bennet to be the most charming man in the entire countryside. He is a man who knows how to tell a story. I learned more of the Bennet girls character more from their Father than anyone.
I must say I am disappointed in Kitty Bennet. She seems to be a very silly and emotional girl. I do not understand her at all. One minute she seems to enjoy herself the next she is vexed and starts crying. She is too young and is not as sweet as I was hoping she would be.
Mary Bennet is more like Jane in nature. She is even tempered and quiet. She seems to be reflective and well read, and of all her sisters she seems the most obedient.
I am going to watch her closely one must not make the decision of a victim-er-mate quickly.
Mary and I talked for a moment. It seems she has an interest in music and I happen to have had box seats at the opera before my funds were diminished.
This is a narrative of what was said,
Mary: "Mr. Sterling don't you find the opera entertainment rather vain-glorious?"
Myself: "Well Miss Bennet, a woman of distinct taste like yourself could find the moral message that the composer has placed in the story. The performers seem to me to be storytellers with special gifts and I should think there is no vanity in using your talent to persuade another to better themselves."
Now that I am writing it down it seems quite eloquent. When I said it however, I felt quite, well... I felt like an imbecile.
Mary and I did not get to finish the conversation, so I do not know how she felt. However, It seemed she was not pleased, at all. I watched her all night and except for one smile delivered to Corporal Gentry
(I despise him even more now),
She never seemed to speak beyond a nod the whole evening.
I hope she will like me. I am being as charming as I am able.
In the Year of our Lord 18-- August 25th
If yesterday was not enough to vex me concerning Mary, Today should have sent me back to London!
Today I spent the whole day in preparation for the assembly in the evening. I must have changed my coat and vest 4 times. I wonder if women do the same thing with their dresses? Anyway, one thing I know I cannot wear is a black coat and vest, with my stature and figure (or lack there of) I look like a fireplace poker.
I had to wait on Mr. Gentry to bathe, and for a bookish man he takes a lengthy time preparing himself. By the time I got my bath he had left a ring around the tub.
Insufferable twit! However, I stole some of his scent while I was shaving... his taste is not so bad for a corporal.
I must admit I was in high spirits by the time we left for the assembly room. Although I had promised to dance with Caroline at least once, I plan to dance with Mary the most. I wanted to see how she thought and what her true nature was.
The assembly room was a bit stuffy but not so bad. There was much card playing but I didn't indulge myself. I haven't played cards much since the Darcy's arrived and sometimes my fingers just itch with the urge to deal.
No one told me Mary played at the assembly room. I was sure I would never part her from that pianoforte. I am a music lover myself but when it separates me from my lov-ummm, I mean what I want... well, pianos are not as fun as cards.
I finally did dance with Mary and we did have a bit of conversation which I will try to recapture. Mary's eyes say so much more than she actually speaks, that it is a distress to journal.
Mary: "Mr Sterling, why do you try so hard to get me to dance with you?"
Myself: "Why Miss Bennet in your exhaustive studying surely you have read,"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." and " Favor is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a Woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." Not that you are not beautiful."
(She looked at me a bit perplexed for a moment and then her eyes sparkled and she smiled.)
Mary: "Why Mr. Sterling, you do not seem to be a man who had read the book of Proverbs."
Myself: Why is that Miss Bennet?
Mary:"The love of money is the root of all evil."
(ouch! I admit I left myself open for that one. She smiled triumphantly at me.)
Myself: "Surely Miss Bennet you have read Ecclesiastics 10:9? "Money answereth all things."
(I admit I said it haughtily, and enjoyed every syllable. Miss Bennet was taken aback and I hoped that I would have the last word but....)
Mary:"Well even Satan himself can quote scripture, if it serves his purpose."
(Ouch, ouch!! I couldn't return with anything witty but I knew I couldn't just stand there. And then the dance ended.)
Mr. Gentry danced with Mary next and she smiled at him again. Why can't she like me? Mr. Gentry is such a dull chap and I could take her to the opera. I am in a very ill-humor. I thought romance was easy?
I woke up in a foul mood this morning. During breakfast I announced I might have to cut my trip a bit short. Charles asked me to stay two more days, I am needed to round out a hunting trip.
Charles, Mr. Darcy, Col. Fitzwilliam, Mr. Bennet, Corp. Gentry (rot his soul) and I are going to trot out into the woods at Longbourn and shoot some sort of geese, duck, or some other vicious beasties.
Maybe fate will smile on me and I will accidentally shoot the Corporal. I don't want to mortally wound him, just graze him a bit.
I was invited to Longbourn for dinner. I think would rather lose a finger than have gone. But, I must not let Mary see me hurt by her words. In this I am sure it is like poker, even if you lose your shirt and shoes, you never let your opponent know it.
Even though Mary was rather harsh on me, I do not really blame her. She is one of those rare souls who know a rogue when they see one. Perhaps it is her extensive reading.
I was having second thoughts about my plan concerning the Bennets anyway. They are a kind family. They really deserve a little peace. Mr. Bennet is a prince among men and to have him think ill of me would feel somehow like a sin. Its strange but for a few days I felt like one of the family, like I belong.
I dressed for dinner, but not with the same gusto that I usually prepare myself. As we were walking out the door Caroline happen to comment, " Oh dear, those Bennet girls seem to have some magical power over men. Don't they Mr. Darcy?" Charles chuckled and Mr. Darcy smiled sympathetically in my direction.
I found I was seated directly across from the good Colonel and on one side of me was Kitty. The child cannot hold still for two moments together! No wonder her mother complains of her nerves.
Mary was at my right side. I tried to pretend she was invisible. It didn't work. She looked beautiful. She had a blushing radiance to her face that was beyond fetching. It was as if someone had lit her soul on fire. And then it happened, she turned and spoke to me.
Mary: "Mr. Sterling I owe you an apology."
(this caught me by surprise)
Myself: "And why would that be, Miss Bennet?"
(card players NEVER show shock.)
Mary: "For being so... (her eyes searched mine) pious."
Myself: " Well I wondered why you seemed so angry when all I did was mention your beauty."
Mary: I am not beautiful Mr. Sterling, you confuse me with my sister Jane.
(she looked at the napkin in her lap)
Myself: "No you forget that I know Jane and Charles. Why must you compare yourself with your sisters. You are your own person. I think you are remarkable."
Mary: "I am plain."
Myself:" Not tonight you are not. Nor have you been since I arrived here. How you looked before I know not, but looking at you now I see no flaws nor can I imagine any."
She blushed the rest of the night. And she smiled, not at the Corporal but at yours truly. I have realized something strange, I think I love Mary... and It feels really wonderful.
I decided I would get a little exercise.
I now know why God invented horses.
I am a city born man and four miles is more of a walk than I expected. I stopped within the first half a mile and sat on a rock. I thought I might walk back and get my horse from Netherfield, but I knew Caroline would never stop teasing me about it.
(card players are used to being teased, but I didn't want it to get back to Mary)
As I was considering my options, I noticed a figure in the distance. He seemed to be a mad man. He was standing to the front of his cart and yelling strange phrases . I admit I was a bit afraid of him, but if he really was In a life and death situation and I helped him, it would be a good story to tell Mary. She might even think I am brave and worry about me.
As I walked a bit closer I noticed that his clothes were torn and although they were dirty they looked to have been expensive at one point time. His cart was full of discarded items and the wheel was hung in a very large pot hole. He was unloading it as I walked to him.
Myself: "do you need some assistance my friend??"
The Madman:"My friend (he said in a mocking tone) I am no one's friend, I was a terrible scoundrel and look where it got me."
(ever notice that fate has a strange sense of humor?)
Myself:"Well my offer to help still stands, "let he who is guiltless cast the first stone" and all that."
The Madman: Listen MY FRIEND, No one has EVER given me anything and I do not ask!
(I must admit I was a little angry at this point)
Myself: Maybe if you opened yourself up to a little kindness you would find that even scoundrels can find a little happiness! Now grab that other end of the cart and lift with me, so we can get out of the middle of the road!
With one mighty lift and push the cart was free and the madman and I began picking up the things he threw out of the cart. I helped him pull his cart for a mile or so until we got to a fork in the road. We talked a bit and I told him of myself and Mary.I found myself telling him this because it seemed to make the trip shorter.
He told me that he wished he had found someone like Mary when he was young.
As we parted ways I asked him if anyone had ever given him something worthwhile, and he said not that he knew of. I pulled out my money bag and gave it to him. It only had about five pounds in it anyway and he needed it much more than I did. He asked my name and where I was staying and I told him.
I never knew kindness felt so good.
By the time I got to Longbourn I had decided not to tell Mary about My roadside friend, She would think I was lying. Even I would think I was lying. I suppose the love of Mary is the root of character changes.
When I called on the Bennets I could hear Mrs. Bennet's muffled voice excitedly barking orders to her daughters. By the time I reached the parlor I found Mary and Kitty sitting calmly. Kitty was embroidering and Mary reading a book.
I stayed for dinner and Mary and I talked a bit .
Mary: "So Mr Sterling, How do you know so much about the Bible?"
Myself: " I had a precious Auntie who would pay me by the verse to memorize scripture. I was rather good at it too. The begat passages were especially lucrative."
Mary: " The be-what passages?"
Myself: The begat passages.. you know, the records of lineage, like in the Gospel of St. Matthew. "Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob: and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren..."
Mary: (interrupts me) That is very nice Mr Sterling, do you have a favorite passage?"
Myself: 1st Corinthians Chapter 13, I have loved it since childhood.
Mary: (smiled and began quoting) "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal."
Myself: (quoting back to her) "Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, it is not puffed up."
(at this point we began quoting together...)
"Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things."
Kitty began laughing at this point and Mary stopped. She seemed embarrassed and I asked her if she would like to take a turn in the garden. I really must have wanted to get away from Kitty, I had walked 4 miles already.
We ended up sitting in the garden.I walked over and picked a flower from a obliging bush and handed it to Mary. She smiled at me.
Myself:"Which is your favorite passage Miss Bennet?"
Mary: "you mustn't laugh if I tell you."
Myself: " I promise I will not laugh."
Mary:"Proverbs 31, the one you quoted to me at the Dance."
Myself: (I really did want to laugh)" How remarkable!"
Mary: "I thought you were making fun of me. That is why I was so horrible."
Myself: "I will try to never make fun of you Miss Bennet."
She looked at the flower in her hand and she was beautiful. Does life ever get better?
Then I realized I had no idea how I would get back to Netherfield.
Just when I considered asking to borrow a horse, Corporal Gentry came in a carriage to get me.
Sometimes I am the luckiest man in England. Even if the Corporal did comment on my rumpled looks.
In the Year of our Lord 18-- August 28th
Charles came in and woke me in wee hours of the morning to prepare for the hunt. I love Charles, I really do, but the man is in a good mood at frightful o'clock in the morning, and that is just disgraceful. Anyone who can whistle before the sun is up should be hanged.
Mr. Darcy was up and he seemed to feel the same about Bingley's cheery manner. He woke the good Colonel who talked like he was sending us to battle. (I was having second thoughts at this point)
However no one woke Corp. Gentry, I was given the pleasure... ha ha ha!
I had to drink three cups of black coffee just to get the blur out of my eyes.
We are hunting grouse which happen to be feather dusters that fly. This is my second time hunting ever... It should be a trip.
We all rode horseback to Longbourn and Mr. Bennet was waiting on us. He seemed in good spirits. I wondered if Mary was awake. I didn't ask.
The first few hours were quite dull. The creatures were not up and about, like most of civilized creation. Mr. Bennet started telling stories to break the monotony and before you knew it we were having fun.
By eventide Mr. Darcy had shot 2 grouse and I almost shot his dog. Mr. Bennet is a good shot! He brought home five feathery creatures. The military men killed 3 between themselves.
I wounded a few trees.
We came home exhausted, but not tired of each others company. I suggested we all prepare for dinner and after we dine, we should play cards. I never suspected that this game would change my life.
You can tell the nature a man by the way he plays cards. A sucker thinks he is a better player than he is,and a rogue knows how to take advantage of this. A gentleman knows it too, but he chooses to be merciful.
I discovered something terrible.
I caught Corporal Gentry cheating. Not only was he cheating me, but he was cheating Mr. Bennet, Mr. Darcy and Charles. He was dealing from the bottom of the deck and from the way he was doing it he has had a lot of practice.
The cad! Now I know I despise him. He won a sizable amount of money from the gentlemen. I bowed out at the beginning of the game because I had no money.
I waited until everyone in the room cleared out, and then I started a casual conversation with him.
Myself:"I have never seen anyone who can manipulate cards as well as yourself."
The Corporal: "Yes, I did have a bit of luck.
Myself: "the way those cards came up from the bottom of the deck I would say it was more skill than luck."
The Corporal:" I figured a man of your talent would see that I was adjusting the odds to my favor. You see Mr. Sterling, I have known about you for a few days. And I know something else,the pigeon you treed has no money."
Myself: "What do you mean Mary has no money? What about Mr. Wickham? He has a tolerable living because of the Bennets."
The Corporal: "For a man of your talents you did not do your research well. Mr. Darcy pays the Bennets debts. You should have courted Georgiana or Caroline. They are the golden geese."
Myself:"It is not so late for me to tell the Bennets, Mr. Darcy or Charles of your character."
The Corporal: "That is what makes this situation so delightful. You cannot tell the family without Mary discovering your shady past."
I feel deeply for you Mr. Sterling, that is why I will make you an offer. If you go back to London I will give you one fourth of my bounty. Even if you stay and wed Mary, you will never have any money to speak of. I will let you sleep on it. You must admit Mr. Sterling, I do have the upper hand."
And he does have the upper hand. I do not know what I will do.
I was awake all night. I searched feverishly for a flaw or mistake in Gentry's plan. I couldn't find one. If I tell the Bennets, I will be obliged to tell them who I am. I am better off to go back to London. What can I bring the Bennets but trouble.
I am not sorry I came however, --shire is the only paradise I have ever known. And for a few days the Bennets, Darcys, and Bingleys were my family. Mary was almost mine.
I went to breakfast with a heavy heart. Gentry cornered me in the hall and asked me what I had decided. I would not give him the pleasure of an answer. I turned and walked to Charles and told him I would be leaving in 2 days. Mr. Gentry smiled...
How I hate him.
I knew I must go to Longbourn and tell Mary that I am going home. (As if anything but where she is constitutes home.)
I was not worried of her reaction. She has not given me her heart, so therefore I can't have broken it. What will I tell her?
I am sorry Miss Bennet my mother is ill,or my Father is in peril, or I am being blackmailed by the diabolical Corp. Gentry.
As I entered Longbourn I felt terrible. I am not a man who feels fear,but the thought of facing Mary made my heart jump up into my throat.
She was in the parlor waiting for me. she was standing by the window and the sun made her hair shine like a moonbeam.
Mary: "Mr. Sterling are you well?"
Myself: "Not really Miss Bennet, I find myself the bearer of bad news. I must--"
Mary: "Mr. Sterling I hate to interrupt but I must tell you something. If I don't I feel I will be unwell."
Myself: (not really sure what to expect) "Please Miss Bennet have your say."
Mary: (she sighs and starts pacing. she is looking at the floor) "Ever since I was a little girl I have pictured who I will love. He would be a man of the cloth, spotless and guileless, my spiritual leader. I found such a man once but he chose my sister Lizzie instead of myself. She turned him down and he married My next door neighbor."
(at this point I knew where this was going and felt the trip to London will be much easier.)
"I find myself in a dilemma Mr. Sterling... I find I love you. At first I thought it temporal, but I found myself not sleeping at all last night because couldn't stop thinking about you, and about us."
Forget anything I ever said about card players and shock. My jaw dropped, and I knew not what to say. Mary loves me! She really loves me. And I must leave for London the day after tomorrow. I cant go, but I cant stay. I would not wish this on a dog!!
Mary: Mr. Sterling are you shocked at my boldness? Do you find it vulgar? "
(she was about to cry. I cannot bear the thought of her shedding tears over a rogue like myself.)
Myself: Oh Miss Bennet! If you only knew what an evil man I have been. I am a gambler and a cheat. I told her my whole story from childhood to Mr. Gentry.
Mary: "So the corporal is a scoundrel."
Myself: "and so was I 'til I met you and your wonderful family."
Mary: "The corporal wants to marry for money."
Mary: "And what about yourself?"
Myself: "I love you more than money."
Mary: "Then why are you going to London?"
Myself: "To send your father a letter I have written, exposing Mr. Gentry, and Myself."
I handed her the letter. She opened and read it. Mary: "Let me give Papa the letter. I must talk to him. Come back tomorrow and see him. I will discreetly warn Darcy and Charles."
I think Mary has a plan. I hope for her sake it works.
Part 12 August 30th, When I went to Netherfield, I did not know what to expect. I wished that all were dealt with and Mr Bennet would embrace me as a son. I knew this might never happen but I tried to keep a positive attitude.
Charity "hopeth all things."
I entered the library and found Charles, Mr.Darcy and Mr. Bennet waiting on me.I smiled at them but the smile was not returned. Mr Bennet was sitting at his desk holding my letter.
Mr. Bennet: "Mr. Sterling did you write this... correspondence?"
Myself: "Yes sir.I did not mean to have you read it until I was gone."
Mr. Bennet: "Why is that Mr. Sterling?"
Myself: "Because I find your family wonderful and I couldn't bear seeing you all hate me."
(Mr. Bennet didn't expect that answer. Darcy switched positions in his chair and Bingley's eyes softened.)
Mr. Bennet: "So why did you come here with cruel intentions?"
Myself: "I know this will sound so foolish but I can't remember. Desperation is a cruel master. I felt I needed money and had heard..."
Mr Bennet: "That Wickham has made his fortune from causing us distress."
(ouch! What am I to say to that? I am guilty of such a conspiracy.)
Myself:" I admit that I am guilty of such a plan."
Mr. Bennet: " So why should I believe that you have changed plans? Perhaps Mr. Gentry is just In your way,and you are in need of his absence.
Myself: "If I were to prove Mr Gentry's character, would it amend my own in your eyes?"
(again Mr. Bennet was caught by surprise)
Mr. Bennet: "Yes and No. Yes, it will prove you are not lying and exposed yourself to shame to protect My family. No, It will not show that you can leave a dissipated lifestyle for my Mary."
Myself: "What must I do to win Mary? I will do anything."
Mr Bennet:" You must live a tolerable lifestyle and become a responsible provider. You must grow up Mr. Sterling."
Myself: "I will do anything in my power to attain these goals."
Mr.Bennet: "Good, this is my hope for yourself and Mary.
Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley share in this goal."
Myself: "But first I must prove that Gentry is a rogue, am I correct?"
Myself: "Will you Gentlemen help me?"
(there was a pause, and the three men shared a puzzled glance)
Mr. Darcy: "I will assist you Mr. Gentry."
Charles:" Good show Darcy! so will I."
Mr Bennet: "I suppose I must say yes also."
Myself: "Capital!! I have a plan to implement tonight. Since everyone is dining at Netherfield tonight...." ~~~~~ I was nervous as a cat while preparing for dinner. The only thing I had asked of the gentlemen is to act as normal as possible until I discovered Gentry's modus opperendi.
One thing I was sure of is that he would not be dealing from the bottom of the deck. I was worried that Charles would accidentally betray my plan, I found however he had no problem in acting as his cheery self.
Mr. Darcy was quite calm and made sure that the good Col. and Mr. Gentry were not aware of any conspiracy. The dinner was pleasant but I really wasn't enjoying myself. I was too afraid that I would betray myself. Gentry did not notice, he must have thought I was distressed about leaving in the morning.
After dinner Mr. Bennet called all the gentlemen together and and pulled out an unopened pack of cards.
Mr. Bennet: "I thought we might enjoy one last game of cards before Harry has to leave"
And we all sat down to play. ~~~~ The game went smoothly at first, Bingley and Mr. Bennet made jokes and Darcy laughed. I found the pressure was off me to entertain and I could watch Gentry.
He seemed to be playing well without any adjustments at first but then... He began losing to the good Colonel. His mood changed I saw him become more serious and all of a sudden he won and it was his deal.
Before he began dealing his cards, he looked to the window. a slow look of bewilderment washed across his face.
Mr. Gentry: "Mr. Darcy are your hunting dogs loose? I think I saw a creature in the bushes."
We all turned to look at the bushes for a moment.
Mr.Gentry: "Oh, I was mistaken, it was the wind."
And the game went on. Mr. Gentry began winning much more and the stakes became higher and higher and I thought I knew how he was doing it. But Gentry is clever and I must be sure.
We had all folded at this point, except Mr. Gentry and Mr. Darcy. If Gentry won I knew my assumptions were right. Darcy laid his cards down on the table and had a good hand.
Gentry had a perfect one.
Myself: "Gentlemen I know how the Corporal has been cheating! He is playing with a marked deck!"
The Corporal: "How can I play with a marked deck? I am using Mr. Bennet's new cards."
Myself: You are playing with your own cards. Mr. Bennets cards are in your coat pocket. You traded cards when we all looked out the window.
The Colonel: "Now see here Sterling, you have gone a bit too..."
(at this point Gentry grasped for his pocket and tried to bolt for the door. But Mr. Darcy grabbed his shoulder.)
Mr Darcy: " May I please view what is in your coat pocket, corporal?"
I must admit the look on Gentry's face made the whole thing worth while. I do not think he will cross me again. I had to say it...
Myself: " Mr. Gentry I do not think I will be going back to London, but you might find yourself there on the 'morrow. Give it my regards." ~~~~ After the whole episode was over Mr. Darcy requested that I teach him to cheat at cards. He did not explain the reason but I suspect he will challenge Mr. Wickham to a game and win back his money.
That is what I would do in his situation.
In the year of our Lord 18-- August 31st
I was so delirious with the joy of proving Mr. Gentry a cad that I had forgotten that I must win Mr. Bennet's favor. Must give up the life of a Rogue and find a honest way to make money.
Perhaps I should join the navy and work my way up to the rank of Admiral. It may take ten years or so.
Mary will be about 27,or 28, or 29. I will be...
Maybe I should seek my fortune in the Colonies. It is called the land of opportunity. I am sure there is some for card players. I wonder if being a cad on another continent will count in Mr. Bennets eyes? But, I have not the funds to board a boat.
I do not like boats anyway.
Perhaps someone will take me on as an apprentice. Learn a trade and become a partner in a lucrative business. Yes! that is the answer. I suppose I must go to London to find an apprentice job.
I must find one that does not require much skill and will not ask for any credentials. But I am sure that I will find one.
Fate has been on my side thus far. ~~~~ I had to tell Mary my plan.
I rode to Netherfield and found her in the Garden gathering flowers. She was wearing her hair a bit different and the effect was stunning. She looked up and met my eyes with startled smile.
Mary: "Mr. Sterling, I was hoping you would come to call. My father has not stopped talking of the game the gentlemen played last night. He told me of the cunning way you unveiled the Corporals villainy. I think you must be the bravest man in the countryside."
(Mary thinks I am brave! Oh such bliss cannot be described by a mere mortal!)
Myself:" 'Twas nothing Miss Bennet."
Mary: "You are modest Mr. Sterling, I suppose if you tell me about it would seem ungentlemanly."
Myself: "I have never been much of a Gentleman, Miss Bennet. It would give me great pleasure to tell you all about it."
Mary: "It would give me great pleasure to hear you tell me about it."
(I knew I loved her!!)
So I told her all about Her father and how I must prove myself worthy. And how I caught Gentry. And how her brother-in-laws were helpful, but I could have done it alone if necessary.
Myself: "For you see Mary, I love you. I am a better man because of you. You really are a virtuous woman. and I must go seek my fortune so I can have permission to marry you.I will come back a successful man, but I must ask you to wait until then. Will you wait for me Mary?"
Mary:"Will you write me Mr. Sterling? I will wait if you will let me know you are fine, in good health and safe...(she looked down) and you still love me."
Myself:(my heart melted at this point) "I will do all that you ask and more, Mary. Never doubt my love for you. It is stronger than anything I have ever felt, or will ever feel."
Mary:(she looked deeply into my eyes.) "I trust you Mr. Sterling, even if you are the rogue that stole my heart."
(She smiled at me. I will miss everything about her, but I will miss her smile most.)
We had my last dinner at Netherfield. I tried to not think about leaving. I was going to have a good time. Even if it was contrary to everything I felt. I really wanted to stay. It felt so good here. I finally want to be a better man. I am afraid that if I leave the spell will be broken, I will become the man I was before.
I packed with a heavy heart. I knew I would come back. Every fiber in my being was bent toward that purpose. I wish I had something to take with me, an article capture the moment of time that I was here. I have my journal, but I wish I could take something to remind me of Mary.
I found myself packed and sitting on the bed. Why is it so hard to leave? I was staring at the ceiling hoping for some sort of rain, snow, or some other reason to get stranded at Netherfield.
Georgiana came to my door and knocked saying that a lawyer had come to speak with me. In her hand was My money bag, the one which I had given the man on the street.
Myself: "Miss Darcy where did you get that?"
Georgiana:"The lawyer, Mr Sims, told me to give it to you along with this letter."
She left me opening the letter, I knew something was about to change, I just didn't know if it was good or bad.
The letter read:
"Be not alarmed in receiving such a letter Mr. Sterling. After reluctantly receiving help from you on the road, I found myself re-evaluating my beliefs. It was the perfect time for reflection, and in not but an hour I was in a near fatal accident. A runaway carriage met with my head. I do not think I shall live much longer. I was touched by the way you spoke of Mary and your love for her. I felt you were right, even a scoundrel does deserve a little happiness. Spend the money on Mary not on yourself. My estate is small but the land is good, and you will find it is not but 3 miles from Longbourn and 7 miles from Netherfield. Thank you for your kindness, It made me search my soul for more than you will ever know.
P.S. I did not know your middle name so I had to make one up out of thin air. Just claim it as your own. No one will be the wiser."
Hugh Howard Allworthy the 2nd.
I ran downstairs. I had a hard time believing that the letter was true. Perhaps it is a cruel joke? How would anyone know I had given the man my bag? It must be authentic. But it seems to good to be true.
The lawyer was very thorough and I had to sign the papers with my new middle name. I will never to this day understand...
Why the dickens did he choose the name Pip? Seems rather girlish to me.
I got on my horse and rode to Netherfield. I had no time to waste. I had a plan. I had to tell Mr. Bennet that I have the means to support Mary! All I have to do is sell my estate in London and live 3 miles from Longbourn. It is so perfect! I knew fate was with me!
I walked in the library and found Mr. Bennet talking to Mr. Darcy. I was so excited I interrupted whatever matter it was they were talking about.
Myself: "Sir! I have a way to pay my debts and live comfortably. I can even support Mary and a family. May I have her hand?"
Mr. Bennet: "And how did this miracle occur Mr. Sterling, I am not aware of any manna from heaven falling in this vicinity."
Myself: "But it did falll... in a manner of speaking. You see I have inherited an estate not 3 miles from here, just beyond the fork in the road. I plan to sell my estate in London, and move to the Allworthy Estates."
Mr. Darcy:(laughs) "look on the bright side Sir, He does have more character than Wickham. And he should be good protection for Kitty. If she should be targeted by a scoundrel, he will be around to dispose of him."
Mr. Bennet: "I am glad to see you find humor in this situation Mr. Darcy. Mr. Sterling, there has been no peace since Mary discovered you were leaving. I never knew that young woman had so many tears in her. I must give you my permission, or I fear she will grieve herself to a young death."
Within the hour I was in the parlor waiting for Mary to enter. I did not know that marriage proposals were so nerve wracking. What was I to say? The possibilities were endless but none of them seemed sincere.
When I saw Mary I was not prepared for how I would feel. I had,in just one day, forgotten how frail and small she was. Her eyes were red from crying. I wanted to take her in my arms and wipe away the tears. but that would have to wait.
Myself: "Miss Bennet, I was wondering what will you be doing for the rest of your life?"
The wedding will be in a month. I, Harry Sterling, being sound in body and mind, am becoming a gentleman son-in-law in the house of Bennet. And it beats playing cards. Isn't life wonderful?