Chapter 1 - The Lady of the House
Mr. Bennet was in his book room reading. He paused and looked at the clock. The hands seemed to move slower at this time of day then any other. Mrs. Bennet did not let him drink until a certain point in the day and that time seemed to harder to reach with each passing day. Mrs. Bennet placed this restriction on her husband for a simple reason: once Mr. Bennet started to drink he did not stop. Almost every night he ended up on a couch or chair drunk and asleep. Evenings when they went out were harder on Mr. Bennet because he had to abstain from all drinking at home before they left for the evening. Mrs. Bennet did not care how much he drank at a neighbor's house as long as he was able to walk to the carriage unassisted.
Mr. Bennet was just about to look for his hidden bottle when a knock came at the door. It was his wife. He sighed and readied himself for a lecture on some nonsense.
"Mr. Bennet I have just come from a meeting with our steward. We have resolved the problem with the Johnson's on the south farm and simply need your signature."
Mr. Bennet grunted and signed the spot his wife pointed out to him. He had long ago forgotten the names of his tenants. Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Turner, the steward ran the estate. At the beginning of their marriage Mrs. Bennet had tried to get him involved in the routine of running the household, but she had long ago stopped bothering him.
"Thank you Mr. Bennet. There are also some social obligations you need to be aware of. Tomorrow we are expected for dinner at the Goulding's. I will tell Hill not to bring in your port. Also we have a new neighbor moving in to Netherfield Park. It has been let at last. You should call on him Tuesday next."
Mr. Bennet was about to protest when Mrs. Bennet held up her hand and said "I know you don't like making calls but there are no ladies in this newly established household. It is a mere social obligation I beg you to call. He may even invite you to shoot with him."
With these instructions Mrs. Bennet walked calmly over to the bookshelf and took three bottles out of hiding spots. She then left the room without a second glance at her slothful, rather stupid husband.
Mrs. Bennet paused as she walked into the sitting room to gaze at her daughters and smiled. Lydia was struggling through her lessons under the care of Miss DuPree, the governess. Kitty was not at Longbourn, she was staying with Aunt and Uncle Gardener in London taking advantage of a painting master. Elizabeth was reading a book, occasionally looking out the window waiting for the rain to stop. Jane was embroidering and Mary could be heard practicing the piano.
Mrs. Bennet's daughters were her life. Her heart clenched as she thought about her first born, now lying in the cemetery. He had been three when the fever that took him struck. Jane had been miraculously spared through an early removal to her Aunt Phillip's house. Now she had her five daughters. She still mourned her son, but she would never entertain the thought of trading one of her girls to have him back.
Jane and Elizabeth were closest to her. They had become accomplished and beautiful young ladies. Mary needed the most care. She was sensitive about her plain looks and driven to make her parents proud of her. Mrs. Bennet spent a lot of time guiding Mary in her accomplishments. Mary was a diligent worker but had very little natural taste. Elizabeth and her mother both helped Mary choose books to read and music to play. They guided her toward learning pieces that did not require her to sing. Her voice was weak and would not be appropriate for society. She was becoming quite good on the piano and enjoyed playing while Elizabeth sang. Mary's drive was reminiscent of Mrs. Bennet's successful brother. Unfortunately, if Mary were not guided in her pursuits, she would pour immeasurable energy into faulty thinking and second-rate music.
Kitty was a completely different person. She was not as naturally bright as Elizabeth or as gentle as Jane. She did, however, have a very distinct talent and taste for art. Kitty was visually brilliant. She had recently taken a keen interest in fashion. She knew all the latest London fads. She instinctually knew how to take the popular looks and turn them into elegant and almost timeless outfits. Kitty was necessary for all visits made by the Bennet sisters to the dressmakers. Her true brilliance lay in her ability to paint. Mrs. Bennet often thought it a pity her daughter was confined to the sphere of a country gentleman's daughter. Kitty deserved a wider audience then she was exposed to. She was now studying with a master in London and it would be hard for her to come home at Christmas.
Lydia, of all Mrs. Bennet's daughters, was most like her father. She was silly and lazy. The older Bennet sisters had, to different extents, been diligent and successful in their lessons with Miss DuPree. Lydia was just now learning lessons her sisters had mastered when they were 12 or 13. Mrs. Bennet feared Lydia would still be woefully behind in a year when Miss DuPree left them. At 16 Lydia should have been ready to move onto more specialized studies in art, music or languages. She was still struggling with simple geography and history. Mrs. Bennet sighed. When Miss DuPree left to teach her sister's children, Lydia would be left to her mother's care. Lydia hoped to be able to "come out" with Kitty during the coming summer, but Mrs. Bennet held firm in denying this wish. Lydia was much to young for company. Mrs. Bennet doubted Lydia would be ready for company when she was 18. No, come summer when Kitty came out and Miss DuPree left them, Lydia would stay home with Hill while the rest of the family went out. Mrs. Bennet shook off her thoughts and entered the room to talk to her daughters.
"Jane, Elizabeth, how are you dears." She asked quietly so not to disturb Miss DuPree's lesson.
Elizabeth sighed and answered "I am restless Mama. I have been studying German but in my heart I am longing to go outside. When will it stop raining?"
Mrs. Bennet laughed and said "Only God knows that my dear. If German is not holding your interest do you want to help me with some estate matters Mr. Turner does not have time for?" Elizabeth had a keen head for the business of the estate and she was a valuable asset to Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth happily saw to the entire matter and Mrs. Bennet was free to work on the household accounts.
When she had married Mr. Bennet, Miss Francis Gardener had seen only his handsome face and comfortable situation. She had learned the hard way the importance of respecting your spouse. A comfortable financial situation was a secondary concern. An intelligent, hard working, kind man could and would care for his wife. If he could not he would not marry her in the first place. Mr. Bennet was not an intelligent, or hard working man. He had the resources to provide for his wife's physical needs but not anything more. Mrs. Bennet had taken over the household and was quite certain that only she would care for her husband, not the reverse.
When Mrs. Bennet realized her husband was a failure as a land owner, she had taken on the burden herself. Mr. Stevens, then her husband's steward, had been misusing funds and driving the estate to ruin. Mrs. Bennet promptly fired him and asked her brother to help find a replacement she could trust. Mr. Turner was invaluable and worth his weight in gold. He had taught Mrs. Bennet everything she needed to know about the estate. Together they had improved things and increased their income by almost 500 pounds per year. Since Mrs. Bennet had, by this point, taken over the household accounts as well, she invested this money with help from her brother. The successful mistress of Longbourn had saved almost 30,000 pounds for her daughter's dowries, providing each girl 5,000 pounds upon her marriage. Since Mr. Bennet could not be trusted with this knowledge, only Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Gardener knew about the savings. Both her daughters and the general public labored under the impression that the unfortunate Bennett girls would have no dowry to speak of.
When Mrs. Bennet finished her accounts, she once again smiled at her daughters. They were good girls. They deserved marriage partners they could respect. Shaking off these thoughts she gained her daughter's attentions and began planning their relative's visit for Christmas.
Chapter 2 - The Assembly
Mrs. Bennet was talking to her friends and keeping an eye on her eldest three daughters. Mr. Bennet had been forbidden to attend the assembly and Lydia was, by Mrs. Bennet's wishes, home with Miss DuPree. Dear Kitty was still in London and would not arrive home yet for several weeks. Mary was talking to one of the Miss Longs, and Jane and Elizabeth were both dancing. As the dance concluded Jane and Elizabeth's partners escorted them back to their mother. The Bennet ladies were happily talking when a hush fell over the rest of the room. Elizabeth looked around amused. "Oh look Mama! It is our new neighbor, Mr. Bingley, and his party. I expected something much more exciting considering how quiet everyone became. Do you know who the ladies and other gentlemen are?"
"Well Lizzy," Her mother answered, "it looks like you will soon find out, Sir William seems to be leading two of the gentlemen over here!" The three eldest Bennet ladies looked quite well. With Kitty's help, all four Bennet's in attendance were elegant and pretty. Mrs. Bennet, though no longer a young lady, was still quite handsome. With her intelligent eyes and gentle face, she was considered one of the most beautiful matrons. Jane was undoubtedly the most beautiful young lady in the room. Lizzy was not classically beautiful as Jane was but nevertheless, she was a striking woman. She had her mother's fine eyes and was dressed as to benefit her figure perfectly. Mary was not pretty or even striking. She did, however look neat and fashionable even if she did look quite shy and reserved.
Sir William Lucas led Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy over to the Bennet ladies to be properly introduced. "Mrs. Bennet, may I present Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley has just leased Netherfield Park. Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, may I present Mrs. Bennet."
The gentlemen and Mrs. Bennet bowed. Bingley said, "It is a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Bennet. May I have the honor of being introduced to your daughters?"
"A pleasure Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy. This is my eldest Jane, and my second eldest Lizzy. My third, Mary, sits over there. I have two younger daughters who are not yet out so I beg you to forgive me for depriving you of the pleasure of their acquaintance. I daresay you are not crushed." Mrs. Bennet said with a smile. Mr. Bingley was barely attending her words because he was admiring Jane. Mr. Darcy was pleased to meet a seemingly intelligent woman. This mother did not appear to be sizing them up calculating their worth.
Bingley directly asked Jane to dance and Darcy traded polite comments with Mrs. Bennet while he worked up the courage to ask Miss Elizabeth to dance. He did not usually like dancing but he felt he should pay a compliment to Mrs. Bennet for her proper behavior. He would dance with the two eldest Miss Bennet's and the ladies of his party. He would then be free to hide. He was about to ask Miss Elizabeth when she excused herself with a smile to her mother. Darcy watched her in surprise as she walked over to a rather plain young lady and started to talk. A gentleman soon asked her to dance and Mr. Darcy had lost his chance.
Darcy was so shocked he almost rudely excused himself from Mrs. Bennet. He had never had a young lady walk away from him before. Granted he was not talking to her but to her mother. She had not been rude at all. She had simply not waited for him to ask her to dance. The ladies in London would have waited with bated breath for him to look at them. It was for him to walk away from them. Well if she did not value him he would not compliment her with a dance. Darcy was then in a rather bad mood. In his mind, Miss Elizabeth, turned from a fairly pretty young lady to a tolerable girl who would never tempt him. When Bingley tried to get him to ask her to dance he even said this out loud. He didn't really care if she heard. He was too angry. After Bingley went back to his dance Darcy watched while Miss Elizabeth passed with a smile. She walked straight over to her friend and they started laughing at him. His anger left him in an instant. She had heard him and was now mocking him for his vanity. Vanity was a failing he was constantly trying to curb in himself. That and his temper. He had thought he had done with vanity, but he realized he still thought himself above his surroundings. Well he would have to learn from this.
Mrs. Bennet watched the goings on with interest. She could tell that Elizabeth was angry with Mr. Darcy for something. She would have to tell Elizabeth about her unintentional slight in return. Mr. Darcy was using a practice often seen in London ballrooms. A gentlemen would first speak to a lady's mother and then ask the young lady to dance. Elizabeth had not been rude or uncivil, but she had not been aware of the custom. Here in the country if a gentlemen wanted to dance with a young lady he would ask to be introduced to the young lady's mother and then the young lady. They would then dance. A gentleman here did not feel the need to talk to the mother owing to the fact that the gentleman usually was well acquainted with her through association or reputation.
Mrs. Bennet watched Mr. Darcy carefully while remembering his last bit of small talk before he had walked off abruptly. He had mentioned he was from Derbyshire. Mrs. Bennet had a suspicion and waited for a chance to ask Mr. Darcy about it. She got her chance near the refreshment table.
"Mr. Darcy, I apologize if you find me impertinent. May I ask, is your home called Pemberley?"
Darcy was put on guard. He had thought Mrs. Bennet above match making but she was showing signs of scheming. He was determined not to be overtly rude. "Yes it is Madam." He said shortly
"I am sorry again if I cause you pain, but was your mother Lady Anne Fitzwilliam before her marriage?"
Darcy was shocked by this question. What could his dearly departed mother have to do with his availability as a husband for her daughters? "Indeed she was, Madam."
"Well Mr. Darcy, your mother was a dear friend of mine at school. I had recently lost my mother. Most of the other girls were quite unfriendly until Lady Anne, an Earl's daughter, befriended me. She was a saint and a wonderful friend. We wrote to each other until 12 years ago. I am almost afraid to ask, Sir, is your mother still living? Is she well?"
Darcy was rather ashamed of his distrust. "I am sorry Mrs. Bennet, but 12 years ago my mother fell ill suddenly and died. I am sorry my father and I did not write to inform you. We were both afraid we had missed someone. My mother had many friends and correspondents. We could not find them all. My father was very sad at her passing. He died five years ago. My sister Georgiana and I have missed them both dearly."
Mrs. Bennet had tears in her eyes. I am so sorry. I suspected as much when I did not hear from Anne for so long. She was a very dear friend of mine. Mr. Darcy this is not the place for such memories. Would you like to see some of her letters to me? There are several you would be interested in. I have kept them all."
Darcy was happy to learn more about his mother and they agreed he would call at Longbourn in a few days time.
Chapter 3 - Musings
On the drive home Mrs. Bennet studied her daughter Elizabeth. Most of the neighborhood considered Mr. Darcy proud and disagreeable. Fortunately Elizabeth had told only her friend Charlotte, Jane, and her mother about the rude comments she had overheard. The rest of Meryton considered Mr. Darcy above his surroundings but they did not know he had been directly uncivil to a pleasant and popular young lady.
Despite Elizabeth's prudence Mrs. Bennet could tell her daughter was hurt by Mr. Darcy's actions. She followed Elizabeth to her room before bed to talk. "You look upset Lizzy dear. Is there something you want to talk about?"
"Oh Mama, I'm not upset. I have decided not to let a rude and arrogant man like Mr. Darcy hurt me."
"My dear, I know you are not aware of this but I think you may have unintentionally hurt him first."
"But how!?" Elizabeth burst out. "I did not so much as exchange a sentence with him!"
"Well dear, I believe Mr. Darcy is not used to the casual social practices we have here in Meryton. In a London ballroom, if a gentleman wants to dance with a young lady he has no prior connection to or acquaintance with, he talks to her mother. This allows him to get to know the young lady's family while declaring his intentions are honorable. Mr. Bingley did not feel the need to do this before he asked Jane to dance because he had already met your father. Mr. Darcy was not in residence when Mr. Bingley was receiving neighborhood calls. If I am not mistaken, Mr. Darcy was about to ask you to dance when you excused yourself from our conversation I know you did not intend a slight. Your behavior was perfectly correct for a neighborhood assembly. You did, however, tell Mr. Darcy that you did not want to dance with him. How can you expect him to ask you to dance later at his friend's insistence? In his mind you had already refused him."
By the time Mrs. Bennet was done with her speech Elizabeth's expression had changed from one of angry defiance to confusion mixed with regret. "Oh Mama, why does society have to be so complicated? I am sorry if I gave offence, no matter how unintentional. I am, however, unimpressed with Mr. Darcy's reaction to my slight. His manner can not help but offend if he insists on being so proud and unforgiving."
"My dear," Mrs. Bennet answered. "You cannot know what feelings Mr. Darcy had before coming to the assembly. Did you not tell me he claimed no enjoyment from dancing? He seems to be a man who has a lot of responsibility. When we spoke after his mistaken comments, Mr. Darcy alluded to his guardianship of a much younger sister. He is also the master of a very extensive estate."
Mrs. Bennet held up her hand to cut off a comment Elizabeth was about to make. "No dear, that does not necessarily mean he is proud, arrogant, or vain. That does mean he must have a heavy load of responsibility. It is possible he has had this load from a young age. When I married your father I was very young. I was dealing with adjustments in my household and life state. I had a new husband and I quickly discovered a host of new responsibilities I did not feel ready for. You have only seen my attempts at estate management after I have learned from Mr. Turner and my brother. You did not see me during my early attempts. I admit I turned down many invitations because I was in no mood to socialize. If I could hazard a guess, Mr. Darcy was pressed into attending the assembly by his younger and much more carefree friend, Mr. Bingley. How can a guest hide himself away when his host has demanded his presence at a social event? I think we should give Mr. Darcy credit for attending in the first place."
Elizabeth was quiet for a few moments thinking about her mother's words. She had not known the extent of her mother's disappointment during her early marriage, yet Elizabeth had suspected and imagined it had been difficult. This was the first time her mother had come close to complaining about her father's slothful attitude. Elizabeth then realized that she should attempt to understand Mr. Darcy as well. "Thank you Mama. When I was considered "tolerable' my pride was injured. If I unintentionally injured Mr. Darcy, that would explain his comments. It would seem we have that in common. We both attempt punishment of those that hurt us. I think we may both have severe tempers if we are pressed. I will think about what you have said about Mr. Darcy's manners. If I ever have occasion to be in Mr. Darcy's company, I will try to start our acquaintance again."
"I am glad Lizzy. In fact you will have the opportunity to see him in the next few days. Do you remember me telling you about my dear friend Anne? I discovered today that she was Mr. Darcy's mother. You have often heard me lamenting the end of our correspondence. It would seem that my dear friend died not long after my last letter from her. I suspected that this was the case so I have done with mourning her long ago. It is sad though. I never gave up hope of hearing from her again. Mr. Darcy has been invited to come here to read some of his mother's letters. I think he must miss her and his father very much. I hope that you and Jane will make him welcome."
Mrs. Bennet's face got a far away look. "I still remember Anne's letter announcing her son's birth. It arrived two days after little Edward was born." Mrs. Bennet's eyes were understandably moist when she went to the door. She turned back to speak one last time before going to her room. "I suppose I look on Mr. Darcy as a sort of son to me. Anne and I agreed that our boys would be dear friends and that we would both serve as unofficial godmothers to the other boy. When Edward died, Anne's was one of the few letters that actually gave me real comfort. Even though my Edward is dead and, as I've now discovered, my dear friend Anne, I like to think that I can watch over Anne's son. I like to think that Anne has cared for Edward in heaven. I need to care for her Fitzwilliam here on earth."
With that Mrs. Bennet left her daughter to her thoughts. Elizabeth was deeply moved by this show of friendship. This was a relationship Elizabeth could understand. If Charlotte were to die leaving a son or daughter Elizabeth would want to care for the child as best she could. It would seem that Mr. Darcy did not need financial or physical care. He did, however, need some emotional care. Mrs. Bennet had said Mr. Darcy missed his parents terribly, Elizabeth knew her mother would be there to love Mr. Darcy as well as his mother would have loved him. Elizabeth was determined not to make her mother's task any harder. She would make friends with Mr. Darcy if he was willing. If he refused her offers of friendship she would be civil to him and give him the benefit of the doubt.
Darcy sat by the fire in his bedroom thinking about the evening. When they returned from the assembly Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst immediately began ridiculing the local inhabitants while Bingley made vain attempts to stop their attacks. Darcy didn't listen to their comments until they began discussing the Bennets. He was curious to hear what the Bingleys thought of the Bennets.
"What about the famous Miss Bennets, Mr. Darcy, what did you not think them intolerable?" Caroline answered her own question without giving Darcy a chance to comment. "We heard great things of their beauty, but I was not impressed. Miss Jane Bennet is, I grant you, quite pretty, but the younger two girls are quite the opposite."
Darcy decided to give Miss Bingley his real opinion. He was tired of her habit of assuming her opinions were the same as his on every subject. "Mrs. Bennet struck me as an intelligent and accomplished lady. Miss Jane Bennet is quite pretty. I think that Miss Elizabeth Bennet is not her sister's equal in beauty, but she seems pretty enough. Miss Mary, is, I grant you, very plain." Mr. Darcy did not mention his plan to call on Mrs. Bennet. The Bingley sisters did not comment much longer on their neighbors. They did not want to risk Mr. Darcy disagreeing with them again.
Darcy thought about his plans to visit the Bennet's. He was eager to learn more about his beloved mother. He wondered if her letters to a friend would be different then her interactions with her son. He admired Mrs. Bennet's generosity in sharing some of them with him. He doubted he would be willing to share letters from a friend with a strange gentleman, no matter how long the friend had been gone.
Thoughts of Mrs. Bennet soon brought on thoughts of Miss Elizabeth. Now that he was separated from his anger Darcy realized he had not dealt with the situation well. The Miss Bennets were undoubtedly unfamiliar with London social customs. He should have asked Miss Elizabeth to dance when Bingley pointed her out. At the very least, he could have simply stated his intentions of not dancing and thereby, avoided insulting the girl. He felt bad for insulting the daughter of a lady who proved to be a worthy acquaintance.
Darcy smiled. He did not know what it was about Mrs. Bennet that appealed to him so much. If he had taken time for introspection, he would have found the source of his admiration. Darcy did not have any sympathetic women in his life that were not servants. Mrs. Reynolds was wonderful, but she was paid to treat him well. His only living Aunt, Lady Catherine deBough, was anything but sympathetic. All other women of his acquaintance fell into three categories. The first was comprised of mothers wishing to match their daughters, they were by far the most annoying. The second group was of competitive mothers, who resented his eligibility. They wanted their sons to catch the rich and eligible ladies. No matter how close he was to the sons, the mothers were always trying to find ways to take him out of competition. The third category, and by far the most dangerous, was the brood of women who wanted him. The ladies ranged from servant girls with a crush to Duchesses looking for an affair. The most dangerous ladies in this group were those of Caroline Bingley's ilk. They wanted him as their husband and did not want to give up their quest.
Darcy further speculated that had he taken time for introspection, he would have realized that Mrs. Bennet reminded him of his mother. He didn't realize that in walking away from him without waiting or hinting for a dance, Miss Elizabeth had attracted him. While Mrs. Bennet had no similarities to the other mothers he knew, Elizabeth also had no similarities to the other young ladies he was acquainted with. Darcy, however, was in no mood for introspection. He did not analyze why he was looking forward to visiting the Bennets. Darcy just smiled in anticipation and went to bed.
Chapter 4 - Second Chances
Two days after the assembly the Bennets received a visitor. Mr. Darcy rode up to the door at the proper hour and presented himself to the master of the house. Mr. Bennet was in his usual state. When the housekeeper announced Mr. Darcy in the library Mr. Bennet woke with a grunt. His first comment was not one prone to impress his eloquent guest. "What the devil do you want!?"
Darcy was taken aback at first. Years of good breeding allowed him to answer politely. "Mr. Bennet, Sir, I had the pleasure of making your wife and eldest three daughter's acquaintance at the assembly two days ago. I would also like to make your acquaintance. My name is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy."
Mr. Bennet squinted at Darcy for a moment and then said "Oh right, Fanny mentioned you would most likely come to bother me. Well I've met you now and you can go. Fanny knows what is best and she would not have invited you to call if you meant any harm."
Darcy was taken aback by this rudeness. Mr. Bennet obviously did not deserve the wife and daughters he had. Darcy bowed and quickly left to find the ladies.
His reception in the sitting room was much more pleasant. Mrs. Bennet and the two eldest Miss Bennets greeted him with smiles unaffected by servility or an over-eager desire to please. After some polite conversation, Mrs. Bennet excused herself with, "I am sorry Mr. Darcy. Visitors yesterday prevented me from sorting through your mother's letters. If you will excuse me, I will leave you to be entertained by my daughters while I find the letters which you would find most interesting."
After Mrs. Bennet went up stairs Jane opened the conversation by asking after the health of Mr. Bingley and his sisters. After Darcy had answered Elizabeth decided to give him another chance. He had, until this point, been quite pleasant and affable. In fact, Darcy himself was surprised at how easy it was to converse with these ladies. He realized how powerful the mind could be, before coming to Longbourn, he had decided to be pleasant and friendly. He was pleased with his success.
When Jane was done with pleasantries, Elizabeth spoke for the first time. "Mr. Darcy, my mother informed us you are from Derbyshire. Is it a pleasant county?"
"I am afraid I cannot give you a fair answer to your question Miss Elizabeth. I am admittedly biased in its favor, Derbyshire is my home and I think it is the most beautiful part of the world."
"I hope you are not too blind to its faults Mr. Darcy. My mother may have mentioned this to you earlier, but we are planning a trip there come July. We will be traveling as a family to Derbyshire. When we planned the trip we decided because of my Aunt Gardener's recommendations. She grew up in a little village called Lambton. Aunt Gardener has always had wonderful things to say about her old home."
"Why Lambton is not five miles from Pemberley, my estate! It is a delightful village. You have chosen a destination well, Miss Elizabeth."
They went on to talk pleasantly about traveling, staying home, music, art, and books. Elizabeth was impressed with his opinions and found they had similar tastes. The conversation on books was the most interesting to both. Mr. Darcy had read more then Elizabeth so they focused on what she had read. They were in the middle of a pleasant debate about the merits of a certain work of literature when Darcy realized how unique this young lady was. Usually when he gave his opinion on anything, the young ladies in his presence would smile and say "Oh Mr. Darcy, I agree!" This young lady was not afraid to give her opinion even, when it was different from his. The fact that she had an opinion on almost every subject they had discussed surprised him. He decided to test her so he mentioned another book that she would most likely not have read. Her response delighted him.
"Mr. Darcy I am afraid I am not familiar with the work you mentioned. If you hope to convert me to your way of thinking you have two choices, you can procure a copy of that book for me to borrow or you can quote another example that I am familiar with. Even if you do one of those two things, I doubt I will agree with you." This was all said with a delightful smile that bordered on flirtatious. That she was, in fact, not flirting with him further impressed Mr. Darcy.
"Well madam," Darcy answered. "I will simply have to lend you the volume of which I speak. When you read the seventh chapter in particular, you cannot help but agree with me." He said all this with a gallant smile that made a pleasant end to their debate. When the pair looked around the room they were surprised to see Mrs. Bennet present with a stack of letters near by. She had been listening to their conversation with interest hiding her eavesdropping with her embroidery.
Darcy was rather ashamed of his inattention and he apologized. Mrs. Bennet assured him it was no trouble and that she had not been waiting for long. She then gave Mr. Darcy the letters that would interest him. Since the letters were extensive and he had already stayed past the polite time, Mr. Darcy asked to borrow them and took his leave promising to return them as soon as possible.
Elizabeth was spared any questions by the call to dress for dinner. She was glad for this reprieve because she was not sure what she would answer. She was certain she had forgiven Mr. Darcy his unpleasant comments. She was almost certain she liked him. Whether her feelings went beyond that was defiantly too soon to tell.
Darcy was also spared questions. He arrived at Netherfield in time to dress for dinner. Miss Bingley had not seen him ride away and assumed he had been attending to business all morning. If asked, Darcy would not have been able to explain his feelings, just as Elizabeth had been unable to. That he liked Miss Elizabeth Bennet was certain. Whether his feelings went beyond that was indeed uncertain. She was undoubtedly a witty and intriguing lady. He also found her to be prettier today then when he had seen her before. He was certain that he now considered her a beautiful woman. He decided to wait and see if she inspired tender feelings.
Chapter 5 - The Letters
After dinner Darcy sequestered himself in Bingley's meager library. Mrs. Bennet had given him a substantial stack of letters. He trusted she had chosen letters that would not betray any confidences. Darcy did not want to barge into his mother's life even if she had died twelve years before. He did, however, want to gain a better understanding of who his mother was. A fourteen-year-old boy has little understanding of his parents. Darcy had learned to appreciate his father after he had started to take over his duties as master of Pemberley. A twenty-two-year-old man could understand his father much better then he could understand a mother who had been gone for many years. As Darcy took over his role as Georgiana's guardian he continued gain understanding of his father. Darcy hoped that, by reading the letters to Mrs. Bennet, his twenty-seven-year-old self would get to know who his mother was.
Darcy looked at the stack of letters and discovered they were in chronological order. He opened the first letter dated a week after his birth.
My Dear Fanny,
I can't express my joy at this moment! Fitzwilliam George Darcy was born a week ago today. My dear George has been hovering over his son in an almost worshiping manner. I admit that when no one else is in the room I cannot help but worship myself. He is so perfect! It is amazing, he is a perfect, small human! His little feet are perfectly formed.
Darcy read his mother's letter with joy. His dear mother had written almost two pages full of enthusiastic descriptions of her son. The end of the letter surprised Darcy. It revealed something about Mrs. Bennet that he had never known.
Now my dear Fanny, I will stop this effusion. You will understand my feelings. I have just received the letter announcing your son's birth. Little Edward sounds just as perfect as my Fitzwilliam. I hope that the birth of your son will encourage Mr. B to get more involved with your marriage. I am sure that with a son to inherit the estate he will take over some of the duties you and Mr. T have taken over.
Darcy was surprised and rather embarrassed by the personal information he had learned from his mother's letter to Mrs. Bennet. It looked like Mr. Bennet was not interested in his wife or his marriage. Darcy also wondered what had happen to Mrs. Bennet's son. She had obviously experienced loss like many mothers including his own.
Darcy read through letters that discussed his mother's hobbies, her joys and sorrows, her opinions on numerous subjects. Mrs. Bennet had included each letter his mother had used to announce the loss of her unborn children. One letter touched him deeply and gave him a good idea of his mother's kind and loving nature.
My Dear Fanny,Darcy allowed a few tears to fall when he read this account. Edward had been asked after in every letter from the first. Darcy could not help but feel like he had lost a friend. Who knows, if Edward had lived, maybe the boys would have been friends.
We have just received the note announcing Edward's death. From my experience I know that the last thing you want are assurances. You do not want to be told that you will heal. You do not want to hear how Edward was young and innocent so he is going to a better place.
I am writing to tell you to let yourself cry. I know you Fanny. You are afraid to cry in front of others. You need someone to tell you to cry. If I could, I would go to you now and hold you so you could let your tears go. Cry Fanny. Rage at heaven, Mr. B., the apothecary. Mourn your son. Go and hold your dear baby Jane and cry. Jane will understand your tears. Remember she and I love you no matter what happens.
Darcy continued to read letters. Mrs. Bennet had included two or three letters from each year. His mother spent a lot of time documenting the important moments of his own life. He learned more about himself while reading his mother's views.
Darcy was nearing the end of his stack of letters when his mother once again mentioned hope for another child. Since the mention of Edward's death Lady Anne had not mentioned any more of her miscarriages. She had congratulated Mrs. Bennet on each of her daughter's births. Darcy was amused that in one letter Anne had speculated on her son marrying one of Mrs. Bennet's daughters. It seemed that Mrs. Bennet understood the flippant nature of Lady Anne's speculations more then his aunt Lady Catherine did. The letter that announced Georgiana's birth was the first to mention the possibility of a child.
My Dear Fanny,Just like the letter announcing his birth, this letter included several pages of effusions. Darcy hoped that some day Mrs. Bennet would allow Georgiana to read this letter. It would give her a wonderful idea about how loved she was.
I know you will be angry with me for a moment when I tell you my news. I have a daughter! No I did not tell you about my impending motherhood. I have been disappointed too many times before. The doctor says Georgiana should be our last child. I have always wanted to give my Fitzwilliam a brother or sister. Now my big boy is a big brother.
The last letter in the stack was the last letter Mrs. Bennet received from her friend. It was written one week before Lady Anne's death.
My Dear Fanny,By the time Darcy was finished with his mother's last letter, he was in tears. He felt closer to his mother then he ever had. He knew he would not be able to thank Mrs. Bennet in person for the gift she gave him in letting him see this small piece of his mother. Darcy took out a piece of paper and wrote out his thanks.
I am going to break with my habit and tell you my news. I am once again with child. You are asking yourself, "Why is she telling me this when she usually does not hold hope until the child is born?" Well my dear Fanny I felt impelled to tell you.
Do you remember, my friend, the promise we made to each other not long before our first children where born? We promised to always be honorary godmothers to the other's children. Please remember this promise, Fanny. I don't know why, but I am feeling melancholy tonight. Fitzwilliam is home for the summer busy learning about the estate from his father. Georgiana is asleep in her crib. I have just gone to look at her sleeping. If Fitzwilliam were not such a light sleeper, I would sneak into his room and look at him sleep as well. Have you ever done this with your girls? When I watch my children sleep I am reminded of my first day as their mother. My little babies. I love them so Fanny. Please remember your promise to me and if anything happens to me, give them the love they will miss without me.
My Dear Mother Bennet,
I know I will not be able to thank you in person for these letters. I have never felt closer to my dear mother. Thank you for your friendship with her. You made her life happier.
Chapter 6 - Pleasant Meetings
The gentlemen at Netherfield were given the opportunity to meet the ladies from Longbourn many times in the next weeks. They met at a small party given by the Lucas's. Miss Bingley gave a dinner for the Bennets and Colonel Foster and his new wife after much prompting by her brother. The Bennet ladies were spared much mortification because Lydia was left at home to dine with her governess. Mr. Bennet was as he ever was, but he found a friend in Mr. Hurst. The two gentlemen had much in common and Mr. Hurst's habits prevented the Bingley ladies from scorning Mr. Bennet for his.
One day Jane was forced to turn down an invitation to dine at Netherfield because the horses were unavailable and it was pouring rain. Miss Bingley sent a note expressing her sorrow, but excusing Jane from attending. The Bingley ladies invited Jane again and feigned friendship with her. A week after the failed invitation, Mr. Bennet received a letter from his distant cousin Mr. Collins. He did not show the letter to his wife until after he had sent a reply. When Mrs. Bennet read the letter and heard about the reply she didn't know if she should be angry or relieved. Mr. Collins appeared to be a stupid man who was very vain. Mr. Bennet had asked Mr. Collins to avoid a visit at that time. The reason he gave was a rather slim excuse. Mr. Bennet claimed ill health and asked Mr. Collins to postpone his visit until a later time. Mr. Collins was not offended and seemed quite solicitous of Mr. Bennet's health. His false wishes for a speedy recovery did not fool Mrs. Bennet.
Once again Mrs. Bennet was glad for her frugality. If Mr. Bennet were to die unexpectedly, the Bennet ladies would be fairly comfortable living on the interest of 36,000 pounds. This would require some retrenchment in their spending, but Mrs. Bennet had taught her daughters to live as well as possible on a small amount of money. Mrs. Bennet was glad that she and her daughters would not have to rely on Mr. Collins' charity.
A few days after the news of Mr. Collins, Jane and Elizabeth had an opportunity to meet the gentlemen from Netherfield again. They had just finished their household duties and were contemplating a walk to Meryton when visitors came up the drive. The gentlemen spotted the ladies in the garden and went directly to pay their compliments. "Good morning ladies is it not a pleasant day?" Mr. Bingley was quite happy to see Jane looking so well. He was on the way to being quite in love with her and often looked for opportunities to visit. "We were out riding when we passed your lane and decided to stop. Would you like to take a turn with us to enjoy your beautiful garden?"
The two couples quickly fell into step. The first couple was chatting pleasantly, but the second couple was rather quiet. Elizabeth was not sure what was wrong with Mr. Darcy. Usually when they met he was eager to talk to her and looked happy to be in her company. Now he seemed agitated and worried. "Miss Bennet, I intended to call this morning to return the letters your mother lent me. I hope she can see me later because I have something to acquaint her with."
"Mr. Darcy, I believe my mother would be happy to see you now, would you like to go to the house?"
Darcy looked uncertain and then he seemed to have made a decision. "Miss Bennet, I think I can speak to you just as well. I do not want to make this a general discussion at the moment so it will be easier to have you pass the information on to your mother and sisters privately. While we were riding through Meryton on our way here, I saw a man that I know well. He is the son of my late father's steward. His name is Mr. Wickham. Wickham is very capable of appearing the gentleman. He is very talented at making friends but not as vigilant at keeping them. I am sorry I have to tell you this, but I don't know how long Wickham will be in the area. He was in the company of some officers and I fear he will be joining the Militia. Mr. Wickham is not to be trusted-- especially with young ladies."
Elizabeth was surprised at the turn in this conversation and asked, "Mr. Darcy, I have known you long enough to know you would not tell me this if you did not think the information important. You are not one for idol gossip. Could you tell me how Mr. Wickham is most likely to impose on a young lady? Also, should I warn our neighbors about his character?"
Darcy thought for a moment. "I see that I can only tell you the entire story. I trust that you will not relate this to anyone, except your mother and possibly your sister, Miss Jane."
Mr. Darcy went on to explain his dealings with Mr. Wickham, ending in the attempted elopement of Mr. Wickham persuaded Miss Darcy to engage in. Elizabeth was shocked and thankful for the information. "Thank you sir. I am sure you know I have a sister who is also fifteen. She is quite impressionable and I know my mother worries about her. She is, of course, not out in company but my mother will be extra careful while the Militia is in town. Now, Mr. Darcy, pray tell me to what extent should I make my neighbors acquainted with Mr. Wickham's vicious character?"
Darcy had never before considered making Mr. Wickham's character public. He was worried about his sister's reputation. He considered his options. "Miss Bennet, I would gladly make Mr. Wickham's crimes public, if they did not threaten my sister's reputation. I will think about my options and act as soon as I have made a decision. Now enough of this subject, I want to ask what you thought about the book I lent you."
Darcy and Elizabeth moved on to a lively and pleasant discussion about books. Elizabeth was pleased with Darcy's intelligence and his ability to challenge her thinking. She had always enjoyed learning and had longed for someone, besides her mother, to have intelligent conversations with. Mr. Darcy was the perfect sparing partner. He was also the perfect conversationalist. If she had not just met Mr. Darcy a little over a month before, she would have thought she was falling in love with him.
Darcy was also happy with the end of their conversation. Usually, when he spoke of Mr. Wickham, he brooded for a long time after and could not shake his foul mood for days. His attempts to entertain Miss Elizabeth had forced him to dispose of his unpleasant thoughts. It was impossible to be pessimistic when he spoke to Elizabeth. She was the most intelligent and pleasing woman of his acquaintance. The fact that she was quite physically appealing did not hurt in Darcy's estimation. If he did not have social obligations to marry very well; and if he had not just met her a month before, he would have been well on the way to falling in love with her.
Darcy looked ahead at Bingley and Miss Bennet. If Miss Bennet returned Bingley's affection, and Bingley was truly in love this time, it would be a good enough match for him. Bingley's sisters would have preferred him to marry better but Bingley needed an affectionate wife whom he loved. Bingley could not have married someone he didn't love just for social or financial reasons. Darcy did not know how big the Bennet girl's dowries were, but he suspected they were almost non-existent. Miss Bennet's value lay in her sweetness and judgment. She was a match for the easy going Bingley. Mrs. Bennet was also a valuable mother-in-law. She would have taught her daughters well in the duties of a wife and mistress of an estate. Yes, if they fell in love, Bingley and Miss Bennet would make a good match. Darcy decided not to get involved. Bingley only needed guidance with more cunning ladies. Mrs. and Miss Bennet were obviously not fortune hunters and Miss Bennet was almost as innocent as Bingley if not more so. Yes she would make him a fine wife.
When the visit was over Darcy left the letters he had borrowed with Elizabeth to deliver to her mother. He also gave her one more assurance of his action on the Wickham issue. Bingley left his best wishes and a promise of a ball in the near future.
That evening Elizabeth spared no time acquainting her mother and older sister of the horrors Mr. Darcy had related. All the ladies were shocked, but none of them doubted Mr. Darcy's words. Jane hoped that there had been a misunderstanding, but she could not favor the word of a gentleman she did not know over the word of a new, yet trust-worthy friend. Mrs. Bennet decided not to tell anyone else in the family, but determined to keep a close eye on her daughters and avoid any invitations involving the officers.
Darcy, meanwhile, had decided on a course of action. When he had dined with Colonel Foster earlier he had been struck with the solder's intelligence. The only thing that the good Colonel could be questioned for was his very young and silly wife. Darcy decided to approach the Colonel with the facts of the situation leaving out the name of the young lady involved. Colonel Foster was shown documents, as proof in the matter, to counteract the lies Wickham had told immediately upon hearing of Darcy's presence in the neighborhood. Luckily the lies had not spread beyond the officers in the regiment. Darcy left the Colonel convinced the situation would be taken care of. Colonel Foster loved his silly young wife and was very jealous of her attention. She had already shown a liking for the pleasant young officer. It was not long before Lt. Wickham was transferred to a unit in the regulars that was bound for Spain.
Chapter 7 - The Ball
One morning an elegant Miss Bingley and a pleasant Mr. Bingley visited Longbourn with an invitation to a ball to be held on the 26th of November. The ladies of the house were all happy except Lydia who was jealous she could not attend. Miss DuPree soon had her working on her French diligently enough to stop the whining.
The Miss Bennets were soon happily preparing for the ball. Kitty's advice was sought on ways to improve their ball gowns. With Kitty's advice on fashion, Jane and Lizzy were pleased with their fashionable yet elegant dresses. They both agreed that the other would fit in nicely at a London ball.
Mary was less enthusiastic about her dress. She was anxious to play for the company. When she suggested singing, Elizabeth gently guided her to consider a non-vocal piece. Mary and Elizabeth also prepared a duet to present that featured Elizabeth's voice and Mary's playing skills. Mrs. Bennet gently reminded them both, mainly for Mary's benefit, to wait until they were asked to play. Miss Bennet promised to mention their new piece to Mr. Bingley, in hopes that he would ask them to perform. Mary was soon looking forward to the ball with as much enthusiasm as the other young ladies.
Finally, the day of the Netherfield ball had arrived. Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, and the eldest three Miss Bennets were forced to listen to Lydia complain until Mrs. Bennet put a stop to the bitter comments. Mrs. Bennet took Lydia up to her room and explained a few long overdue facts. Lydia would only be allowed in company if she showed herself capable of behaving like a lady. Lydia's behavior at home did not show her mother she was ready. The more Lydia whined or spoke improperly, the more Mrs. Bennet was loath to allow Lydia to come out. Mrs. Bennet then spoke of a few parties that Lydia missed because of her own actions. The dinner at Netherfield, for example, could have included Lydia if she hadn't spent the entire morning loudly complaining about lessons on etiquette. Mrs. Bennet gently urged Lydia to apply herself to something. Lydia was not required to love her studies or excel at a certain subject. She was only required to show some maturity when she chose her pursuits. When she showed her mother she was learning this lesson, she would be allowed to talk part in the privileges she craved participation in.
With the promise of fun later, Lydia decided to take up her mother's challenge. In the years to come, before Lydia's 18th birthday, Mrs. Bennet would still be forced to keep a tight reign on her youngest daughter. Lydia was never allowed to walk into town without her older sisters or governess. She was eventually allowed to attend more dinner parties, but balls were prohibited until her 18th birthday. Even after this, Mrs. Bennet stood close to her daughter throughout the entire evening. She would carefully study all the young men her daughter danced with, and especially those Lydia showed an inclination for. Mrs. Bennet's diligence paid off in the end. Lydia eventually married at respectable attorney in London. He excelled enough in his profession to support his wife in a proper way, but was firm enough in temper to keep his silly wife in check. Mrs. Bennet was always thankful for the instinct that made her check her youngest daughter's silliness.
When the carriage came 'round, the Bennet's set out in high spirits. Mr. Bennet was willing to endure an evening in company for the promise of cards. He resented the limits his wife had placed on his betting, but was resigned. Mrs. Bennet always enjoyed a ball, especially one that promised elegant music and pleasant company. The Miss Bennets each anticipated the ball for different reasons. Miss Jane Bennet was anxious to see Mr. Bingley and Miss Elizabeth hoped to dance the first with Mr. Darcy and have further opportunity to speak with him and her other friends. Miss Mary was pleased with the duet she had practiced with Elizabeth. She also had a piano piece prepared in the event that one of her sister's hinted that it was proper for her to play twice. She also looked forward to sharing notes with her mother. When Mrs. Bennet had noticed her middle child's discomfort in social situations, she had encouraged Mary to try observing those around her. Mary had found that she noticed much more and truly enjoyed trying to determine other people's thoughts. Mary appreciated her mother's individual attentions on this as it was something she and her mother shared.
Elizabeth entered the Netherfield ballroom with great anticipation. She happily greeted her friends all the while looking for one particular gentleman. Her search was successful when Mr. Darcy walked up to her and bowed.
"Miss Bennet you look lovely this evening. Would you be so kind as to dance the first two with me?"
This all came out in a big rush of words. Mr. Darcy's usual, calm demeanor had slipped to betray a touch of nervousness. Elizabeth quickly replied in the affirmative to relieve his suffering. Darcy left Elizabeth to speak to her friend Charlotte Lucas until the music started.
Their dance was delightful for both. They started out silent simply enjoying the other's graceful dancing. They were both aware of the attention they were receiving. Elizabeth was surprised to see Miss Bingley scowling at them. Elizabeth had never admired Miss Bingley, but she had not expected the hostility she was receiving. It occurred to Elizabeth that Miss Bingley wanted to be in her place. Elizabeth was humbled and determined to enjoy herself as much as she could. "Mr. Darcy, I hope you do not find me presumptuous, but I must ask. Did you resolve the situation we spoke about at our last meeting?"
Mr. Darcy was surprised at first then remembering Elizabeth's inquisitive nature, he understood. "Yes Miss Bennet. I spoke to Colonel Foster without using as many specific facts. I did bring enough documented evidence to convince Colonel Foster to act. I believe Mr. Wickham received a "promotion" to an active regiment. It will give Mr. Wickham an increase in pay, but it will send him to Spain." Darcy decided not to share his suspicion that Colonel Foster's motives involved more concern for his wife then for the single young ladies of the neighborhood.
"Oh Mr. Darcy, I am glad that the situation has been resolved. Do you know if Mr. Wickham is aware of your interference?"
"I think he has his suspicions. He had already spread lies about me to his fellow officers. That is why Colonel Foster asked for documented evidence concerning my financial affairs with Wickham. It is possible that Wickham thinks I sent him away, but hopefully he thinks he had a stroke of luck in his promotion."
After that they spoke of pleasanter things. Their conversation was that of dear friends. There was, however, a new aspect that both enjoyed. Instead of a purely pleasant, friendly tone, they both felt the other was beginning to flirt a little. The tension between them was still small, but they both felt it. By the end of their dances, Elizabeth and Darcy both feared they were falling in love. Elizabeth feared loving a man who did not love her in return. Darcy feared loving a woman who was neither rich nor well connected. He decided to go to London to think about the situation. Marriage for him was an important step. If he wanted to disappoint his family and society's expectations, he needed to be sure it was for the best. After he made his decision, he could either withdraw his emotions, or convince Elizabeth to love him in return.
They separated after their second dance and each had a pleasant time during the interval before supper. Mr. Darcy danced once with Jane, Miss Bingley, and Mrs. Hurst. He spent the rest of the evening dividing his time between talking to Mrs. Bennet and watching Elizabeth dance. He had not yet begun to feel jealous of other gentlemen's attentions, so he enjoyed watching her smile and gracefully dance. Mr. Darcy had long since recognized the light pleasing nature of Elizabeth's figure. She was a joy to watch when she moved and Mr. Darcy enjoyed observing her.
Supper found Mr. Darcy placed next to Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Long, and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Mrs. Long would be silly no matter how many times Mrs. Bennet tried to change the conversation. Between praises of Mrs. Long's nieces, Mr. Darcy was able to have pleasant conversation with Mrs. Bennet and Miss Elizabeth.
After supper was over Mr. Bingley asked for some music. After hearing hints from Jane during several of their dances, Mr. Bingley asked Miss Mary and Miss Elizabeth to grace them with a duet. Mr. Darcy had heard the two Miss Bennets perform once before and was determined to be charmed. Miss Elizabeth had a delightful voice and Miss Mary was competent enough to support her on the piano. After their enchanting performance, several other young ladies performed. Before the dancing could begin again, a footman approached Mr. Darcy. Since Darcy was standing next to Elizabeth, waiting to escort her to the next dance, she heard the entire exchange.
"Mr. Darcy sir, I am sorry to intrude but there is an express come from London."
Darcy was obviously displeased "Is it important? What could not wait until after the ball?"
"Sir, I believe the messenger said to tell you it was from your sister's companion, Mrs. Annesley."
At these words Darcy turned pale. He turned to Elizabeth and quickly excused himself. "Miss Bennet, I am sorry I must break our engagement to dance. I would engage you for later, but I may have to leave for London at first light. Please give my compliments to your mother and sisters if I am not able to take my leave."
"Mr. Darcy I completely understand. I hope your sister is well and you have safe travel if you must. Good Evening."
Darcy rushed out of the room and Elizabeth moved on with a sad smile. She did her best but could not help but notice Mr. Darcy's continued absence. She also noticed a footman giving Mr. Bingley a message that made the gentleman in question's face turn sober. The one positive part of the evening came from watching Mr. Bingley and her sister. It would seem that Jane would soon be engaged.
When Darcy left the ballroom, he immediately accosted the messenger. Upon being given the note his heart went cold.
I beg you sir please come to London immediately. Your sister is ill and has been getting worse consistently for the past four days. I would have sent for you earlier, but the doctor insisted her condition was stable. Also, Georgiana was at first adamant that you should not be disturbed. Come as soon as you can, before it is too late.
Darcy took the stairs two at a time and called impatiently for his valet. His bags were packed and he was ready to depart long before the sun was up. He left as soon as he was able, leaving a hurried note for Bingley.
Chapter 8 - Illness
The week after the Netherfield ball passed in a blur for Darcy. He had left on the fastest horse Bingley had, at first light the next morning. He did not stop to rest for long, only pausing to change horses and get a bite to eat and drink. It seemed like an eternity before he saw the outskirts of London on the horizon. It was only at the end of his journey that Darcy realized he had been numb to thought and feeling. This numbness receded completely when his horse stopped in front of his townhouse.
Darcy had never known such terror before. When he rushed into the hall the housekeeper was there to meet him. "Mr. Darcy sir, Miss Georgiana is still very ill, but she still lives. Mrs. Annesley is by her side and asked you to be sent to your sister's room as soon as you are able."
Darcy was about to rush up immediately when the housekeeper stopped him with a respectful suggestion. "Sir, I beg your pardon, I know you want to see Georgiana now, but you are in no state to enter a sick room. Please sir, she will still be with us if you take time to refresh yourself."
When Darcy had changed and eaten a quick meal, he impatiently walked to his sister's door. He stopped to compose himself before he barged in. His careful emotional preparation was almost shattered when he laid eyes on his sister. She was flushed, with wet hair and a painful expression on her sweet face. It was obvious that she was quite uncomfortable and feverish.
Darcy quietly walked to Mrs. Annesley who greeted him with a sober expression. "Sir, you have come at last! Miss Georgiana contracted what I thought was a mild cold four days ago. When she got slightly worse, I sent for the family physician. Despite his dedicated care, your sister has been getting consistently worse. Just yesterday morning, her fever increased and she became delirious. Sir, I am glad you have come. The doctor is very concerned and has done all he can. He was here an hour ago and said the crisis should come tomorrow or the next day. Until then, we can only do our best to keep her comfortable."
Darcy listened to this explanation with sinking spirits. He quietly thanked Mrs. Annesley for her care and excused her to rest. Darcy sank into the chair by his sister's bed. He took her hand and bowed his head over it. "Georgie, please, I cannot loose you. You are all I have left since mother and father died. I know you are strong enough to fight. Fight dear. I promise not to neglect you any longer."
Darcy did not leave his sister's side the rest of the day. The next morning his housekeeper dragged him out to refresh himself. When he returned, the doctor was finishing his examination. Dr. Smith looked grave as he inspected his patient. When the doctor was finished, he led Mr. Darcy to the far side of the room. "Mr. Darcy, I will not lie to you. Your sister is gravely ill. If her fever breaks in the next twenty-four hours, I think she will live. If not. . . I'm sorry sir."
With this grim pronouncement the doctor left after giving Mrs. Annesley and the housekeeper some instructions for Georgiana's care. Darcy ignored those around him as he sank into a chair by his sister's bed. He could not pour his heart out to her like he had the night before. He had admitted his admiration for Elizabeth Bennet. He told Georgiana about his mother's letters to Mrs. Bennet. He told her of his loneliness and isolation. Today, with others in the room he simply thought about his life, his sister's, and his hopes for the future.
If Georgiana lived, he promised himself he would make some changes in his life. He knew that he did not truly care about anyone outside his family. He showed charity for his tenants and the poor, but he never tried to reach out with anything more then his wealth. Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth were some of the first people he had befriended since his Cambridge days. Most of the people he socialized with, sought him out, almost forcing themselves into his presence. He was polite to those it was socially wise not to isolate and indifferent or rude to those who did not matter. Yet, the time he spent in Hertfordshire was one of the best times of his life. In Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth he had found friends that he did not want to do without. In spite of these thoughts, Darcy was still hesitant about pursuing Elizabeth. Society would frown on the match and he would most likely be giving up a lot of prestige for his future children.
It was not until the dark hours of the night that Darcy came to a realization. If Georgiana died, there was no one left he could love. Darcy had many people under his care. He did his duty faithfully and treated his tenants and servants generously. He would not be flattering himself if he said he was a popular and admired master. All the money and care he poured into the upkeep of his estate and care of his tenants could be summed up in one, rather cold, word. Duty. Duty was something that he could pat himself on the back for and congratulate himself for. In the end, however, it was just that. Duty. It was something that he had been expected to do his whole life. The only person he cared for out of something more was his little Georgie. What would his life be without her? If he were to die, his tenants and servants would mourn. His uncle and cousins would miss his company and regret his short life. In the end, however, he would leave no permanent mark on anyone. The servants would move on and serve another master. His relatives would continue to marry, have children, and love, all the while thinking only in passing about their cousin and nephew. Who really cared about him, Fitzwilliam Darcy?
By the time Georgiana's fever broke, and she fell into a deep restful sleep, Darcy had made a decision. He did not want to go on in his life, truly loving no one. His inspiration would be Mrs. Bennet. She was loved by at the very least five girls to whom she had given life. She played a vital role in their lives. If, heaven forbid, she were to die today, five people's lives would be changed forever for having loved her and lost her. Darcy wanted to strive for this kind of love. He wanted to love and be loved like this. He had turned a corner. He would allow himself to fall in love with Elizabeth Bennet. He would court her until she loved him in return.
Chapter 9 - Loss
The day after the Netherfield ball found Longbourn in low spirits. One always feels a sense of loss after an event that has been long expected. Another thing contributing to the low spirits was the absence of the gentlemen from Netherfield. Elizabeth had passed on Mr. Darcy's compliments and her concern for Miss Darcy. Mrs. Bennet was particularly worried about this, it reminded her of the loss of her dear friend Anne. Jane, always sweet spirited, expressed sorrow for Mr. Darcy and the unknown Miss Darcy. Mr. Bingley also left for London early after the ball. He had mentioned his planned business trip to Jane the night before, so it was not unexpected. Jane could not help but be low at his absence, however. She did not express her sadness, only a hope that Mr. Bingley would travel safely and complete his business successfully.
The next morning brought even more sorrow for Jane. A note was delivered from Netherfield from Miss Bingley. It was understood that the entire party was about to depart for London with little expectation of returning. Miss Bingley expressed concern for her "dearest friend", Georgiana Darcy. She also hinted that if something should happen to Miss Darcy, Mr. Bingley would suffer from a broken heart. She said Mr. Bingley left not only for business, but to rush to the side of "Dear Miss Darcy." After reading this note, Jane understood Miss Bingley's hints. Mr. Bingley obviously did not love her. Miss Darcy's illness must have opened his eyes to his affection for her. Jane was heartbroken but resigned. Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth doubted Jane's interpretation, but did not bother her with the subject. They privately hoped that Mr. Bingley would have enough strength of regard for Jane to return, despite his sister's objections.
As the days after the ball passed, the Bennets began enjoying the Christmas season. Jane did her best to forget Mr. Bingley, but could not help but admire him still. It is not always possible to stop loving someone even when you have no hope of returned affection. Jane, however, did her best and with the help of her sympathetic mother and sister was able to start healing. She doubted she would ever meet such a man again but knew she would live on without him. She did express once to Lizzy, her wish for some news of him. "You see Lizzy, I wish Miss Bingley would write to tell me about him. Is Miss Darcy better? Has Mr. Bingley expressed his affections? I know a public engagement is unlikely because of Miss Darcy's health and age but it would be easier for me to move on if I knew he was to be happy."
Lizzy kept her own council on this subject. She, too, wished for some news of Miss Darcy. Lizzy mourned the loss of her new acquaintance, Mr. Darcy, and hoped for his sister's recovery. She was not the sort to brood, however, and soon enjoyed the season to the fullest. Jane would have been completely easy on the subject had it not been for her father's comments. One night at dinner, he had come out of his cup long enough to comment on Jane's "jilting." He said, "So girl, you were jilted eh? I'm not to surprised. That Bingley chap always seemed to weak to wipe his own nose, let alone choose his own bride. What family would want their young man to marry a girl with no money or connections? What we have raised here, Fanny, is a group of old maids."
No one answered Mr. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet had too much respect for his role as her daughter's father to put him down in front of the girls. Jane was to sweet tempered and used to her father's ways to be insulted. They all had a mother who supported them and taught them their true worth. If their father did not care for them one whit, it did not matter to them. They had their mother, aunts, and uncles to love them. They had long since stopped expecting Mr. Bennet's love.
One day before Mr. and Mrs. Gardener would be arriving with their children and Kitty, the Bennet ladies found themselves at breakfast alone. Mr. Bennet would occasionally drink too much of an evening, and then sleep in the next day. Mrs. Bennet was surprised this morning, however, because Mr. Bennet had not indulged any more then usual the night before. She decided to check on her husband herself. As Mrs. Bennet entered her husband's room, she looked through the gloom at her husband's bed. Mr. Bennet's manservant had strict instructions not to bother the master until he was called, so the room was cold and dark. Mrs. Bennet walked over to the bed and before she could quietly call her husband's name, she realized that Mr. Bennet would not be waking up.
The doctor was called and he confirmed Mrs. Bennet's suspicions. The master of Longbourn was no more. He had expired during the night. The doctor supposed his heart had given out. Mr. Bennet's poor habits and the absence of any known disease made it the most likely cause of death. Mrs. Bennet sent a message to her brother-in-law and attorney, Mr. Phillips, and then a messenger to warn the Gardeners. As Mr. Phillips arranged things, the ladies of the house met together to mourn. They were all shocked at their father's death. None of them had loved him for a long time. Mrs. Bennet felt sorrow at the loss of her husband. Her marriage had failed years before, but she felt sorry for the waste Mr. Bennet made of his life. Mr. Bennet's daughters went between feeling guilty for not feeling sorrow, and feeling concern for their mother.
The Phillips offered to stay the night and they all retired early. The next morning brought the sorrowful Gardeners and Kitty. Mr. Gardener met with his sister and Mr. Phillips to discuss legal matters and issues regarding the Bennet ladies' future. Mrs. Bennet decided to stay at Longbourn until Mr. Collins arrived and settled. That would give her brother and sister-in-law time to prepare for the family's visit in London. It was decided that the Gardeners would host the ladies until a more permanent home was found. There was nothing appropriate in Meryton or near Longbourn at the moment. Mrs. Bennet expressed a wish to find a nice, but inexpensive place in the country. Staying at Longbourn for a few weeks would also give the girls a chance to bid their home and friends goodbye.
Mr. Collins arrived in time for the funeral. He did not surprise Mrs. Bennet, who found him to be just as she expected. He immediately began acting the part of master giving his cousins advice concerning the proper manner for mourning. Mrs. Bennet allowed him to take over Longbourn and encouraged her daughters to listen to his advice patiently then act in a manner that would please themselves and their mother. After returning from the funeral Mr. Collins, asked to speak to his "fair cousins" and their worthy mother.
When the ladies were ready, Mr. Collins began his lecture. "My fair cousins, I have come at a time of sorrow. Now that my worthy cousin is buried, it is time to discuss the future of this estate. I will not discuss details that are to advanced for your lovely, but weak heads. The issue I wanted to speak to you about concerned my noble patroness, Lady Catherine DeBourgh. She is the most noble and condescending of ladies. When I informed her of my impending departure, and my deep sorrow at leaving her service, she was kind enough to advise me. She said that for proprieties sake, you should mourn for the proper length of time. Then, my patroness so condescendingly advised me, to marry one of my fair cousins. You all, of course agree, to this course of action. I now invite you to stay in my home until the proper amount of time has passed, and then I will marry the eldest of my fair cousins." This was said with a final leering bow at Jane. He then excused himself to his study to meet with Mr. Turner.
To say that the Bennet ladies felt shock would be an understatement. Jane turned white when she understood her cousin's meaning and Elizabeth turned red with anger. When Mr. Collins was safely gone, and she had recovered from the shock, Mrs. Bennet spoke to reassure her daughters. "Jane dear, do not look so horrified. I can tell by your reaction that you do not want to marry Mr. Collins. You do not have to. Now, I know that you are all worried about our financial situation and our future home. First of all, we will be moving from Longbourn soon. I had hoped to give you more time to say goodbye, but considering Mr. Collins's comments, I think it best that we move when my brother and his wife leave for London. Kitty dear, I am sorry that you will have been home for such a short time. I feel sorry we have to leave as I know all of you do. I do think, and I hope you agree, that it is for the best."
Kitty spoke to reassure her mother, "I understand, Mama, that we need to move soon. I do not want to be in a house owned by that man, especially when he intends to marry one of us. As for leaving Longbourn, I am sad that we must but if you are all near me I will still have a home. Besides, I was going to ask you if I could return to London after Christmas. My Aunt and Uncle Gardener had invited me before our father's death."
Lizzy was the next one to speak. "I also understand the need to move soon, Mama. I will miss Meryton, but I could not live in the same house with that man. I am worried, however, about imposing on my uncle. We cannot live there forever." Lizzy was busy thinking about their financial woes and trying to come up with solutions.
Jane's thoughts also ran in the same direction. "Mama, if it would mean a home for you and my sisters I would be willing to marry my cousin. I had hoped to marry a man I love but. . .well, that is not always possible."
Lizzy cried out against this "No Jane! I will not have any of us sacrifice ourselves to Mr. Collins. If anything, I will put myself out as a governess. Dear Miss DuPree leaves for her sister's tomorrow, but I could ask her for advice tonight."
Mrs. Bennet put a stop to all this noble sacrificing. "Girls, before you all offer yourselves up to spare your sisters, I think you should listen to what I have to say. Lizzy dear, you are right. We cannot stay with my brother forever. We will not have to. Mr. Phillips and my brother are already looking for an appropriate house for us. I am afraid that we will have to move from the neighborhood. I had hoped that Mr. Phillips could find us something near our friends, but Mr. Collins has made that unwise. I do not want him attempting to court any of my daughters. Until Mr. Collins is safely married to someone else, we will not be living in visiting distance from him."
Lydia then made a comment that everyone else was thinking but afraid to say. "Oh! That means we can NEVER move back to Meryton!"
Mrs. Bennet continued while trying to smother a smile. "Now, as to our financial situation. I am about to tell you something I have not mentioned before. We must always speak well of the dead, so I will not explain my motives for keeping this information to myself. Since the first years of my marriage to your father, I have been responsible for the running of Longbourn and the family economics. After hiring Mr. Turner, we were able to improve Longbourn, until our income from the estate had increased by 500 pounds a year. Instead of spending this extra money, I quickly asked my brother's assistance to save it. By saving this money, and being frugal in my spending before your births, I have been able to save a substantial sum for your dowries. My brother Gardener has recently told me that my investments and savings now total 30,000 pounds. You will each receive 5000 pounds when you marry and another 1000 pounds at my death. As you may know, marriage articles require Longbourn estate to pay me 6000 pounds on my husband's death for the support the of my children and myself. As a result we will be living on the interest of 36,000 pounds."
At this shocking announcement the girls all spoke at once. They had thought themselves destitute. 36,000 pounds was not a fortune for 6 people but it was a lot more then 6000 pounds for 6 people. Mrs. Bennet quieted her girls so she could continue. "Now the interest of 36,000 pounds will not support us in the same style that we have been used to. We must make adjustments. When we move to our new house we will most likely have to share rooms. Even I am willing to share with one of you. For the moment, Hill will be staying on as housekeeper for Longbourn. She has, however, expressed an interest in moving to serve in our new home whenever we settle. We will also be able to take a maid and a manservant. Hill is willing to do most of the cooking and the maid and man can do most of the heavy work. We will be required to see to the cleaning of our own rooms and we will, of course, help each other dress. I have trained you all to be adaptable where housekeeping is concerned. You have all, except Lydia, spent time learning from Hill. We will all be dealing with less spending money then we are used to. It will be a challenge, but I know that if we work together, we can get through this."
The Bennet ladies continued to talk about their future. Each daughter expressed an opinion on where they wanted to live. Kitty and Lydia at first wanted London, until their mother pointed out that any lodgings they could find in London would either be too dear or too low for their needs. When they were reminded of their Aunt and Uncle who would be pleased to host anyone for a short time, they were resigned to country living. Lizzy hoped they could find a home in a beautiful county. She also hoped for a social neighborhood that would welcome a widow and her daughters. In her mind Lizzy could not help wishing to live near Pemberley, but she did not express this wish nor did she expect it to be granted. Mary asked her mother how much of her father's library they would be able to claim and weather they would be able to have a pianoforte. Jane expressed pleasure at everyone's ideas and claimed she would be happy if everyone else was happy. She suggested hiring Mr. and Mrs. Jones as the servants to assist Mrs. Hill. Mrs. Jones was a young kitchen maid who had recently married Mr. Jones, a footman at Longbourn. Nether had any living family in the area and would be happy to move. They could also share a room allowing Mrs. Hill her own quarters.
Chapter 10 - Moving
The Bennet ladies soon made it known to their acquaintances that they would be leaving the neighborhood, possibly for good. The Lucas's were sad and Sir William at first would not hear of their moving. When Mrs. Bennet fabricated the excuse of not wanting to live somewhere that would remind them so much of the dearly departed, he stopped suggesting tenant cottages he could clear. Their Aunt and Uncle Phillips were obviously sad to loose their nieces and sister. Mrs. Phillips would miss their company, but she understood the need to move. She also offered her nieces a gift of her pianoforte. Mrs. Phillips often entertained, but had little use for the instrument since she did not play and had no daughters. Her nieces were the only ones who made good use of it. If the Bennets found a house with space for it, she said, they could take it so she could put in another couch and side table. The instrument was a valuable gift because it was a small spinet that would fit in some of the most confined spaces.
Mrs. Bennet lost no time making arrangements for their move. The ladies bid a tearful farewell to their dear governess, Miss DuPree. That worthy lady would move to her sister's home to take up the education of her nieces. Mrs. Bennet took the earliest opportunity to tell Mr. Collins of their move. When Mr. Collins began to protest, she held firm using an excuse of propriety. So many single ladies staying in the house owned by a single man no closer in relation then a cousin, was not considered proper by most. Mrs. Bennet told Mr. Collins about their plan to lease a small house. She did not tell him they were unlikely to return to the neighborhood. Mr. Collins happily helped them separate their belongings, expecting their quick return. Though Mrs. Bennet would take the best plate and linens, Mr. Collins expected her to return them when he married her eldest daughter. Another thing he soon did was sort through Mr. Bennet's library. The bulk of this fine collection was purchased by Mr. Bennet's father. Mr. Bennet had added a few volumes to it for his own enjoyment. When Mr. Collins looked through the books, he found a lot of books that were not worthy of his attention. He quickly discarded most of the histories and all of the literature. A valuable collection of Shakespeare was discarded as unworthy. When asked by his cousins Mary and Elizabeth, he advised them to dispose of all of the novels, but allowed them to take what they wanted. Thus the Bennet ladies were able to pack many of their belongings to be stored in their uncle's warehouse until a home was found for them. When the separation of belongings was complete, Mrs. Bennet was shocked at the results. She and her daughters had added elegance and beauty to Longbourn. When Mr. Collins was finished with his unpacking, the house was obviously the lesser for the Bennet's removal.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardener were finally ready to depart for London. The final trip of the Bennet carriage, under that name, was made to Mr. Gardener's house on Gracechurch Street. It would return to Longbourn as Mr. Collins' carriage. The Bennet ladies bid a fond farewell to the friends and places they loved. Lizzy took many long, though cold, walks to take a final look at her favorite places for solitude. All of the ladies promised to faithfully write their friends. The neighborhood had not found much reason to morn the passing of Mr. Bennet, but truly mourned the moving of the Bennet ladies. They would be losing an intelligent lady and her beautiful daughters.
After a long day of travel, the weary party arrived at Gracechurch Street and the ladies unpacked as best they could in a temporary home. After a few days of awkwardness, the Bennet ladies soon felt comfortable in this new environment. It took a few weeks for them to feel like they were not just visiting from home. The Gardeners, always favorites, made their family welcome. Life soon developed a new routine. The Bennet ladies were able to recover from the loss of their father and home in this loving atmosphere.
Chapter 11 - Chance
When Miss Bingley left Netherfield, she and Jane had exchanged one or two letters. On the death of her father Jane had been to shocked and busy with arrangements to write her friend to inform her of the development. Upon arrival in London Jane quickly wrote to her friend to apprise her of the situation. Jane did not receive a reply for several weeks. The note she finally received was strictly from Miss Bingley and expressed false sympathies. It did not mention Mr. Bingley or Miss Darcy's health. Jane decided that it would be best for her to call on Miss Bingley, to ask after Miss Darcy in person. She and Elizabeth set out one morning to make their call. Elizabeth did not expect much of a welcome, but Jane expressed a desire to meet Caroline again.
The Miss Bennets pulled up to an elegant house in newer, but fashionable part of London. Jane could not help but think that if Mr. Bingley had loved her as much as she had loved him, this would have been her home. The ladies were soon shown into the drawing room where Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst welcomed them coldly. That they did not appreciate the call was obvious to Elizabeth. Even Jane realized they were not entirely welcome. After exchanging civilities Elizabeth asked the question that was one of the main purposes of the call. "Miss Bingley, when Mr. Darcy left after the ball, he was concerned for his sisters health. How is Miss Darcy? Is Mr. Darcy in good health?"
Miss Bingley was torn between anger that Eliza Bennet was asking after her Mr. Darcy, and pleasure at the opportunity to flaunt their intimacy with the Darcys of Pemberley. "It is so kind of you to ask Miss Eliza. Miss Darcy is recovering nicely. Mr. Darcy and Charles were so worried about her for a while. It seems, however, that she will be in perfect health, given enough time to recover."
This comment was followed by the sound of someone at the door. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst looked alarmed and tried to dismiss the Bennet sisters as quickly as they could. They were not successful in their real goal however, because before the Miss Bennets could leave the room, the door opened admitting Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. The look on Miss Bingley's face was quite diverting for Elizabeth. Caroline looked like her favorite dress had been ruined along with all her dearest wishes. The looks on the gentlemen's faces were, on the other hand, quite pleasing for the Bennet ladies. Both looked shocked but quite happy to see them. Mr. Bingley was the first to speak. "Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth, what a pleasant surprise! Are you visiting your relations in London? How is your family? Are you parents and sisters well?"
When Mr. Bingley asked after their parents, Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other, and then at Miss Bingley. Caroline had the grace to look embarrassed. Her mouth moved but did not make a sound. Jane answered Mr. Bingley without making any accusations against his sister. "I am sorry, Sir, if you had not heard. As you can tell we are in mourning. Our father passed away not three weeks ago."
Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley now both understood why the Bennet sisters had looked at Miss Bingley. Bingley did not answer but looked at Miss Bingley in anger. He was sure she had hidden this information from him and he suspected she would have tried to keep this visit a secret. Mr. Darcy was not as angry with Miss Bingley, so he was able to make the appropriate comments. He then asked after their mother showing his concern for her state as a widow.
Elizabeth assured Mr. Darcy of her mother's well being and then asked him about his sister's health. Mr. Darcy's relieved expression reassured Elizabeth of his sister's physical health and his emotional health. She knew that Mr. Darcy would be crushed if he lost his sister. The thought of him so sad made Elizabeth sad and she was happy he was in good spirits. Mr. Bingley's comment to this exchange also assured Jane of a few things. She and Mr. Bingley had been quietly exchanging civilities when he overheard Elizabeth's question. He then made a comment to Mr. Darcy that lifted Jane's spirits greatly. "Oh I say Darcy! I am dreadfully sorry I have not asked after your sister for almost a fortnight now! I suppose I assumed that your availability at the club meant she was well. Am I wrong in these assertions, Darcy?"
If Miss Bingley was disappointed before, this last question was the final indignity. She had seen Mr. Darcy very happily greet Miss Eliza Bennet and she had heard her brother refute all her careful lies concerning his affection for Miss Darcy. Jane was still willing to forgive Caroline for the lies, and she hoped that Miss Bingley had been mistaken. Mr. Bingley spoke to her with all his former warmth and affection. As for Mr. Bingley, once he caught his sisters in a deception, he decided to no longer believe their declarations of Miss Bennet's indifference. He had believed Caroline's claim of direct knowledge on the subject and tried to resign himself to losing his angel. When he had entered the room and saw Jane blushing charmingly, he had decided to pursue her and risk the consequences. The only thing that now held him back was her father's death. Mr. Bingley was all of a sudden quite sad about Mr. Bennet's demise.
Darcy was equally thrilled to see Elizabeth. During his time in London caring for his sister, he had come to understand his true feelings on the subject. He was in love with Elizabeth. With his sister's life at risk, he realized what a lonely place his world would be without love. He had always been assured of his sister's love. When he thought about marriage, he always supposed he would marry a wealthy and well-connected woman. If he was not in love with her at first, he could always learn to love her. As he sat by his sister's bedside, he had realized how much he had planned and depended on having his sisters love in his life. If he married a woman he did not love, and had to live without his sister's love, his life would be close to unbearable. Mr. Darcy had decided to court Elizabeth and prove that if she could love him, he would readily return the emotion. When he walked into Bingley's drawing room and saw her, he realized that he only had to see if she could love him. He already loved her and he was open to acknowledging and basking in the warmth of this ideal.
Chapter 12 - Arrangements
When Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley arrived at their destination, they were faced with a pleasant, well kept, if not fashionable, house. Darcy could tell Bingley was excited because of his anxious fidgeting. Darcy wanted to fidget himself, but would only allow himself to twist his pinky ring. When Mrs. Bennet rose to greet them, Darcy was glad she, like her daughters, did not appear to be overly affected by her husband's death.
"Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, it is a pleasure to see you again. My daughters mentioned meeting you yesterday. They are attending to their cousins at the moment. Jane will join us in a few minutes."
Darcy was slightly disappointed at Elizabeth's absence, but he was also relieved. His purpose would be easier if she was not there. After a few expressions of sorrow for Mr. Bennet's passing, Miss Bennet entered the room and quickly monopolized Bingley's conversation. Darcy began his inquiries. "Mrs. Bennet I have more purpose in visiting today then to simply ask after your health. I understand that your husband's cousin, Mr. Collins, has inherited Longbourn and is now in residence?" After receiving an affirmative answer Darcy continued, "I hope I am not impertinent in my question, Mrs. Bennet, are you looking for a house for you and your daughters to lease?" When he was once again answered yes, Darcy knew he had to tread carefully. He wanted to be generous with this family. If he brought up the dower house on his property, she would immediately ask for the terms. He wanted them to lease the house. Not only was it close to Pemberley, it was a perfect size for their needs. "Mrs. Bennet, as you know, Pemberley is quite large. I have several houses available, and I also know of a few in that neighborhood. Would you be willing to share your requirements for rent? I could make inquiries for you, if you are willing to live in Derbyshire."
"I would be grateful for your assistance, Mr. Darcy. My brother has been making inquiries for me and has yet to find something appropriate. We have decided against Hertfordshire, but we are open to homes in any other county." Mrs. Bennet then named the amount of rent they could afford.
Darcy was happy with the number, as it indicated a better financial situation then he had feared. He knew he could lease them the dower house without a significant drop in the rent. His steward would not question his decision and then Mrs. Bennet would not feel like she was accepting charity. "Mrs. Bennet, I know of one house, right now, that is in your price range. It is on the boarders of Pemberley's park. In past generations, it has been used as a dower house, but it has not been needed for that since my grandmother died. My last tenants recently vacated. I have a few improvements to make, but after those are completed, I think it would be ideal. It is small for a family of your size, but I believe it would serve your needs."
Mrs. Bennet was thrilled at this option. She had always wanted to see her friend Anne's married home and she could now live next to it. Since Mr. Darcy was on hand to describe the property, and he was to be trusted, Mrs. Bennet declined the need to view it. Mr. Darcy promised to speak to Mr. Gardener to arrange for business terms. He told her that the house would be ready for the ladies to move into the very next month.
When the gentlemen had left, Mrs. Bennet was impatient for dinner. When the family was finally sitting down to dine, she could barely wait for the servants to withdraw before sharing her news. "Girls, I have found a house." She went on to explain Mr. Darcy's offer and repeat his description of the house. It had enough rooms for them all if four of the girls would share. The family rooms were large for a dower house. There were rooms enough for a drawing room, dining room, and sitting room. The drawing room could easily hold their piano and the sitting room had room for bookshelves, which Mr. Darcy generously offered to install. The furniture that came with the house was of an older style, but in excellent condition. The previous tenants had not needed it so it had been in storage for many years. Mr. Darcy promised to have his housekeeper inspect it and Mrs. Bennet suspected he would replace anything that could not be repaired. "So, girls do you think I should agree to this house?"
Elizabeth looked at her sisters and answered for them all "Mama, it sounds quite perfect for us. We have already agreed on living in the country and we also know we cannot live in Hertfordshire. Our Aunt speaks highly of the neighborhood and we are acquainted with our nearest neighbor and landlord." Elizabeth smiled and finished with "Besides, our father's death has necessitated canceling our vacation to that very neighborhood. We could travel around Derbyshire with very little expense if we lived there."
The house was quickly agreed upon. Everyone made comments. Mrs. Gardener was excited to see her girlhood home. Mr. Gardener was pleased with the generous terms. It was agreed on that Jane and Elizabeth and Kitty and Lydia would share the larger two rooms. Kitty and Lydia had shared a room at Longbourn and knew they could do so as well in their new home. Jane and Elizabeth often spent more time together in one or the other's bedroom then alone in their own. It would not be difficult sharing. Mary was happy to have her own room. Mrs. Bennet asked Jane to write to Mrs. Hill to arrange the move of the servants. Mr. Gardener promised to make arrangements to move their belongings, generously offering to pay for the whole. The entire family was happy to be starting a new life. As much as they liked the Gardeners and the excitement of being in London, they would be happy to settle in a home of their own.
Chapter 13 - A New Home
The six weeks before the move to Derbyshire were busy for the Bennet ladies. Mr. Darcy gave them a list of things the house was furnished with. After making an inventory of their belongings, the ladies used the London shops to purchase the items they needed. Mrs. Hill was required at Longbourn for another month, so she sent Mr. and Mrs. Jones to help stock the kitchen and garden shed.
Mr. Darcy visited several times to finalize arrangements, then he left to escort his sister to Pemberley. He knew he would have time to court Elizabeth after she moved into her new home so he decided to use this time to oversee the renovations of the house. If the steward at Pemberley was surprised by Mr. Darcy's personal attention on this project, he did not say anything. He was a wise man and knew it was not appropriate for him to comment when Mr. Darcy spent his own money to add comforts to a home he was about to lease to a family not related to him.
Mr. Bingley was slightly disappointed by the move. He knew that Darcy could not invite him to Pemberley until after Easter and dreaded being parted from Miss Bennet once again. He used the weeks he had to visit as often as possible. He purchased several gifts to make the Bennet's new home more comfortable. When he began visiting daily, everyone understood his intentions. While sitting talking quietly to his angel, Bingley was often tempted to propose immediately. He decided to be patient however. Darcy intended to invite him to Pemberley immediately upon his return from Rosings. Bingley knew that he could wait if he had the end in sight. The longer he could wait until he proposed the shorter his engagement would be, if she said yes.
Finally moving day had arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Hill had moved a week before to prepare for the family. The trunks were packed and loaded into the cart and the good byes were said. Mr. Bingley had come by the night before to say his good byes. He was bold enough to kiss Jane's hand and was rewarded by an attractive blush. He promised to see them all as soon as possible.
The trip to Derbyshire was long but comfortable, thanks to the arrangements made by Mr. Gardener. When they crossed the boarder into Derbyshire, every eye was fixed on the scenery. None of them had ever visited this part of the country and they were all curious about their new home. Elizabeth was particularly delighted with the almost wild beauty. She decided that she would be quite happy spending her life in Derbyshire.
When they approached Lambton, interest was doubled. This would be the village nearest their home. It would be a rather long walk but they could easily ride their horse, Nelly, to visit the shops. The village proved to be delightful with several shops that looked promising. Kitty expressed a desire to sketch some of the views and Mary was excited when she spied a bookshop.
Finally, they began the approach to their new home. The carriage driver, upon asking directions, was told to take the picturesque route. All the ladies were impressed with the large and beautiful park they were driving through. Just before they reached the turn off that led to their new home, they were struck with a view of Pemberley House itself. Everyone was impressed with its grand beauty. Elizabeth had never seen a place where nature had done more or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by awkward taste.
The carriage took the turn off and they proceeded down a recently repaired path. The road turned and entered a small valley filled with beautiful trees and a small stream. After taking one more turn, they saw their new home. It was a small house but, by no means a lowly cottage. The approach impressed them all and they could tell the house and grounds were in excellent repair. The garden already showed signs of work by Mr. Jones and the house was open and ready for their arrival.
Anyone who has had the joy of moving to a new home will understand the ladies' delight. All the rooms had to be immediately explored. The improvements were pointed out and exclaimed over. The placement of furniture was either approved of or condemned. When they had explored from the kitchen to the attics and settled into their rooms, the Bennets met in the sitting room.
"Well girls, what do you think of our new home? Will it serve do you think?" Mrs. Bennet asked this with a smile. If her daughter's reactions were any indication, they were thrilled. After a long evening of talking about their good fortune, the family went to bed.
The next few days were spent settling in. Furniture was moved, then moved again. The piano was tried in three different spots before it was settled into the original place. Elizabeth and Lydia went to the garden to help Mr. Jones bring it to order. Mrs. Bennet was surprised at Lydia's interest. She did not have to be cajoled into gardening. She proved to have a green thumb and a passion for making the grounds beautiful. After they had been settled for three days, Mr. Darcy stopped by to visit.
He was delighted to see Elizabeth bright eyed and joyful. He could tell she was thriving in this country environment. She had gained back the color she had lacked in London. He brushed off as well as he could, any compliments and thanks for the house, and asked after their comfort. When he heard no complaints, even after threatening an examination of the house himself, he shared his sad news.
"I had hoped that I could stay home for a while to make sure you are settled. Unfortunately my Aunt, Lady Catherine, has requested my presence for the Easter holidays. My sister's health is no longer bad enough to serve as an excuse, as she is well improved. I am afraid that I must leave the day after tomorrow. I came today, not only to take leave, but to ask a favor of you. Georgiana is now much better then she was in London. She is, however, encouraged by her doctor to stay close to home and avoid visiting. I was wondering if you would call on her tomorrow, so I could introduce you all. She regrets not being able to call on you first and hopes you will forgive her."
The Bennet ladies were all happy to visit and were ready to forgive Georgiana. The visit was made early the next day and friendships were made. Elizabeth was particularly delighted with the young girl. Despite their difference in age, she hoped they would become good friends. They left after bidding Mr. Darcy a safe journey.
The weeks in their new home passed quickly and happily. They visited Georgiana often and soon became well known around Pemberley. They were free to explore the grounds to their hearts content and Elizabeth especially could often be seen in a remote spot, enjoying nature. The neighborhood was not large, but there were enough families willing to meet them. All the girls and Mrs. Bennet made friends. Elizabeth's closest friend, however, was still Georgiana. The two were soon on a first name basis and the best of friends.
When Mr. Darcy returned, he quickly invited Mr. Bingley to visit. Very few days would pass without a visit from one or both of the gentlemen. The families met often for dinner at Pemberley or the dower house. As summer passed, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley persistently courted the elder two Miss Bennets.
Chapter 14 - Engagement and Marriage
Finally, when August arrived, the event that everyone had expected, finally occurred. Mr. Bingley proposed to Miss Jane Bennet and was accepted. Mrs. Bennet's permission was asked and given gladly. The couple was sad they had to wait, but agreed to delay the wedding until a year after Mr. Bennet's death.
Mr. Darcy was happy for his friend, but angry with himself. The time spent in Elizabeth's company was wonderful. They were often paired with the other on walks or at dinner. They had few chances to be alone, however, because Georgiana or one of Elizabeth's sisters would linger around. Darcy was tempted to ask Bingley how he had managed to get Miss Jane alone. Darcy decided to ask his sister for her help.
The next day Georgiana sent a note to Elizabeth asking her to tea. When she arrived, Elizabeth was shown into Georgiana's sitting room. The two girls had a delightful time chatting and laughing, until the housekeeper entered and asked to speak to Georgiana. After promising not to leave Elizabeth alone long, she left the room. This all went according to plan.
Elizabeth was not alone for long. However, she was not joined by Georgiana as she expected to be. When Elizabeth looked up to see Mr. Darcy enter the room, she blushed profusely. If Elizabeth were to say she had just friendly feelings for Mr. Darcy, she would be lying. In the weeks of their continued acquaintance, Elizabeth had come to love him. She looked forward to seeing him and delighted in his company. If he was in a room, her eyes searched for his constantly. When she tried to imagine her life without him, she could not. If she forced those thoughts, she would often depress herself to the point of tears. Mr. Darcy had quickly become necessary for her happiness.
Elizabeth was annoyed to be alone with him. She had been avoiding a situation like this ever since she discovered her feelings. She dreaded having him find her out and not return her feelings. Darcy was delighted at how well his plan was going. Georgiana was ready to stay away and keep all interruptions out. As he walked slowly over to the seat closest to Elizabeth he knew this was his chance.
Darcy sat down on the couch next to Elizabeth much closer then propriety usually allowed. "Miss Bennet, I have arranged to see you alone today. I am sorry if I have made you uncomfortable, but my feelings can no longer be repressed. I must tell you how much I admire and love you. Please allow me to explain Miss Elizabeth, my feelings began the second time I met you, and have been getting stronger ever since. While I was nursing my sister through her illness, I realized that I could never marry a woman I didn't love dearly. I resolved to seek you out as soon as my sister's health allowed. I had already recognized my attraction to you and wanted to see if it could grow into love. When we met at Bingley's house in London I knew that you were the only woman I could ever marry. Please Miss Bennet, Elizabeth, relieve my suffering and consent to be my wife."
Elizabeth was to shy to look up while she gave her answer. Mr. Darcy did not, however, need to see her fine eyes when she answered, "Mr. Darcy, it has been many weeks now since I realized that you are the best man I know. I respect your intelligence and admire your charity. When we moved to our new home and you visited us for the first time, only to leave again so soon, I knew that I loved you. Mr. Darcy, I would love to be your wife."
If Elizabeth could have looked up she would have seen how well an expression of heartfelt delight became him. The couple sat happily on the couch talking over their entire prior acquaintance. They had to determine, as near as possible, the exact time the other knew of their love. They had a light-hearted argument about who was happier and who loved the other more. Through this whole conversation Darcy had been sitting next to Elizabeth on a small couch. He had taken her hand at the beginning of his speech and had been busy stroking it softly with his thumb. When they fell silent, finally Elizabeth had the courage to look up. The look of love on her face prompted Darcy to seal their engagement, with a gentle kiss.
When Darcy applied to Mrs. Bennet, she expressed her delight at having him for her son. The couple spoke to Jane and Mr. Bingley and decided on a double wedding the week of Christmas.
Time passed slowly for the engaged couples. Bingley took up his time looking for estates closer to Pemberley. He had not renewed his year lease of Netherfield and wanted to settle near his future wife's family.
Darcy and Elizabeth spent their time trying to find time alone. Darcy took on the task of teaching Elizabeth to ride, giving them time with no chaperones. Elizabeth quickly recovered from any awkwardness that kissing her fiancÚ originally brought. They would often ride to remote spots during Elizabeth's lessons, and take a break. After several such breaks, Darcy realized the necessity for chaperones and they avoided being alone for long periods of time.
December finally came, and the wedding day arrived. The preparations had been pleasant for the ladies and unpleasant for the gentlemen. Darcy and Bingley could not understand why their beloved fiancÚs wanted to talk about lace, flowers, and ribbons. Now, with a week to go, Darcy was ready to wed. Business had been attended to, and Pemberley prepared. The house in town was waiting for the honeymooners and even the carriage was cleaned, ready to carry them there. Bingley had found and purchased an estate in the neighboring county not thirty miles from Pemberley. Mrs. Bennet and Jane had viewed the house and given their consent to the purchase. The house was ready and the newly wed couple would spend their honeymoon there.
Finally the day had arrived. Mrs. Bennet was feeling sentimental, as all mothers-of-the-brides are prone to be on a wedding day. She went to her daughters' room, where they were getting their hair styled. She excuse d the maid and sat down to have a farewell talk. "My dears, I know we have talked a lot about marriage and what will be expected of you. Now I have one last thing to advise. You both are marrying men you love and respect. I did not marry a man I respected. Worse, I married a man who did not care to improve our marriage. You may think that the work of getting married is all over after the wedding. Girls, a true marriage is a life long job. Make your marriage your first priority. An estate cannot be maintained without work and care. A marriage is the same way. Now, I know you are both close by and I will be able to see you soon, but let me kiss you both one last time before we go to the church. You are now leaving my care dears. I will always be your mother, but your first loyalty is to your husbands now. I love you."
There were tears on all their cheeks at the end of their talk. They soon shook off their seriousness with a joke from Lizzy and completed their preparations. It was a beautiful day and Lambton church had never seen two more beautiful brides. Mrs. Bennet had shed her tears in private and was ready to beam her approval of the matches. The wedding breakfast was excellent and well attended. Some dear friends traveled far to attend. The Lucas family came with Mr. Collins. Elizabeth was disappointed when she heard of Charlotte's engagement to him. Mr. Collins had been shocked when his fair cousin Jane's engagement was announced. He tried to flaunt his superiority, but no one paid him any mind. Mary, Kitty, and Lydia were all happy for their sisters and they behaved excellently. The couples left for their honeymoons, and four Bennet ladies returned to their home.
Mrs. Bennet walked around her cozy house after everyone else had gone to bed. She contemplated a mother's work. There is no job more vital, she decided. She could not help but feel some triumph at this time. Her two older daughters were married to two delightful young men, who loved them dearly. Mrs. Bennet didn't think she could claim any credit for the matches, but she was pleased with her daughters. They had grown to be wonderful young ladies. Her three youngest still needed all her care, and she knew her work was far from over. Even if all her girls were married well, her work would not be done. Mrs. Bennet knew that her two oldest were in the competent hands of their husbands, but she took time to say a prayer for their safety. She knew that she would worry about them every day of her life. She suspected that she would look down from heaven, after she passed on, and try to care for them still. A mother's work was hard but wonderful. Two daughters were grown and gone, but still in need of her love. Mrs. Bennet would be there for her girls, until she was called to her final home.
Chapter 15 - Afterwards
The Darcys and Bingleys were both the happiest of couples. They had four and three children respectively. All seven loved their grandmother dearly and enjoyed visiting her home.
Kitty soon returned to London to continue her art studies. She eventually married a wealthy gentleman who adored her work. He was always willing to be neglected if Kitty was painting. Lydia fell in love with her attorney husband after they met at her Aunt and Uncle Gardener's house. She enjoyed living in London and always loved entertaining and going out into society.
Mary never found a man to wed. She lived with her mother and grew very useful helping the poor outside of Pemberley. After her older sisters had been married ten years, she fell ill with scarlet fever and tragically died. Mrs. Bennet mourned her middle daughter more then she had ever mourned her husband. The two ladies had become very close during the four years they lived alone. Mary had finally accepted herself, and realized her mother's love was unconditional. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy invited Mrs. Bennet to live with them but she turned them down. Mrs. Bennet saw her four remaining daughters as often as she could and loved to spoil her grandchildren.
One year while visiting her brother in London she met and fell in love with an old Earl. When Darcy found out about his mother-in-law's engagement, he was thrilled and shocked to discover her fiancÚ was his uncle. The Earl of ____ had been without his wife for almost twelve years. Darcy and his cousins had assumed he would never remarry. Mrs. Bennet happily lived with her new husband, spoiling her grandchildren and step-grandchildren for many years. When she finally fell ill for the last time she gathered her four daughters around her to say goodbye. Her last thoughts were of her dear children.
The day when Mrs. Bennet was laid to rest was sad for four people in particular. On her grave they inscribed two words that best described the love the four remaining felt for their mother, it read,