“You do not approve?”
“Do you need my approval?” said Jane, fingering the satin. In any other sister it might be seen as envy, but Kitty knew Jane was above such thoughts.
“I should like my sister to like my gown!” Kitty twirled in the dress, before turning to choose her gems, running her fingers over the necklace Darcy had given her before choosing another. She couldn’t wear the same necklace twice in such a short space of time even if she had wanted to.
“I thought I was supposed to be the belle of the ball?” said Jane, smiling.
“Precisely!” said Kitty. Taking in her sister’s puzzled expression, she continued, “I cannot wear a gown that would outshine you. So you must be sure to make me wear the most matronly gown.”
“I should not mind you outshining me, Kitty,“ said Jane.
Kitty laughed. “I should suspect you say that merely because you know it’s impossible. But I cannot; you are too good.”
Jane blushed. The sisters were dressing themselves at Netherfield before attending the dinner and ball.
“I thought you wished to wear the dress with the sarsnet petticoat, the one we chose together?” said Jane.
Kitty turned from the mirror at the dresser “Madam Fancot made it up to the wrong measurements! I shall have to take it back to her when we return to town.”
“That is too bad, but the satin suits you perfectly.”
Kitty continued to place in her earrings. “I would complement you but you do not need it. I think you could wear a sack and no one would notice.”
Jane looked alarmed. “I should hope that they would! Why should they not notice?”
“I should have said they would not care. You are marrying Mr Bingley!”
“You do not think Mrs Long or Lady Lucas would not notice?”
“I think that is the most uncharitable thing I have heard you say, Jane!”
“Oh I did not mean – “
“Jane! I was teasing you.”
Jane blushed. Kitty watched her in the mirror. She seemed nervous and it could not just be Kitty’s teasing. It reminded her of when Jane had broached the subject of Darcy and their marriage and Kitty had had to take hold of the conversation before it floated away.
“Jane, is something wrong?” Kitty wondered what was taking Lizzy so long. Lydia had insisted Lizzy help her with her gown but even Lydia could not be taking this long to pick from the dresses she had bought with her. She had not even bought that many, Mr Bennet utterly refusing to sit on the box to make room for more dresses.
“No. It is nothing.” Jane was unconvincing.
“I am sure Lizzy will not be long,” said Kitty.
Jane looked somewhat mortified. “Oh no I – “
“It is all right, Jane. You have always been closer to Lizzy. If something is weighing on your mind – “
Jane stood up and came to play with the pearled comb in Kitty’s hair, “I do need to speak with you. I could speak to Mama or Aunt Philips but…!”
Kitty froze. She did not know whether to be offended that Jane only wished to speak to her because she was married or be alarmed. She could provide Jane with no advice! Their situations were so different.
“Aunt Gardiner is coming to the wedding,” said Kitty hopefully. Aunt Gardiner had a love match, as far as Kitty was concerned anyway; she would be much better suited to giving Jane any marital advice.
“But I should like to know now,” said Jane returning to sit on the bed. Kitty had not seen her serene sister so fidgety.
The idea of giving her elder sister advice was so strange to her that Kitty could hardly contemplate it. Yet Kitty had dreamed of being totally included in the kind of friendship that Lizzy and Jane enjoyed. Now it was she who had knowledge of things her sisters could not. It was a circumstance she had never thought of before. She had been so used to being the ignorant sister!
“I do not know what I could tell you?”
“Everything,” said Jane breathlessly. “It is one thing to live among sisters and one’s parents – “
“You live with people who love you and you will exchange them for people who love you.”
Jane looked slightly sceptical and, to save her sister having to be out of character more than once in a night, Kitty continued, “Well one person that loves you and one person who I think loves no one but herself. I suppose also Mr and Mrs Hurst will be there as well.”
“Kitty! This is why I must ask you. Longbourn is my home. Netherfield is not.”
“But it will become your home.”
“Will it? I love Charles so deeply but I cannot wish sometimes that it was the man who left his family, and that I could stay.”
“You will be surprised how much you feel at home, and before long you will be discussing drapes with his aunt.”
“I do not think Charles has an aunt,” said Jane with a wry smile.
“I was speaking generally,” said Kitty. “But Jane, you worry too much. It is most unlike you.”
“But I should not wish to upset anyone. I wish so much to ensure everyone’s happiness – “ Kitty shot her a look and Jane’s cheeks reddened slightly – “without compromising my own.”
“That is more like you, “ said Kitty. Then she had a thought. “Jane? Have you been distancing yourself from things, allowing Mama to take over, for fear of looking forward and controlling or for fear of offending Charles or Miss Bingley?”
Her sister did not respond. Kitty almost laughed at the sheer irony of the situation. “Jane! Charles has been trying so hard to involve – “
Kitty broke off, for Bingley had made a great deal of plans without Jane, which Kitty could not think of without regret for it had required her to somehow attempt to guide Netherfield without appearing to be doing so. Then he had come to some realisation and had encouraged Jane who’d been reticent. If they had both been acting under such cross-purposes then each had been drawing away from each other when they should have been moving together.
Jane looked mortified. “I thought that it was not my place to – I know that Caroline has long been mistress of the household, even before old Mr Bingley’s death. “
“What shall you do, submit to her wishes until she marries? What if she never marries, and considering her sharp tongue I should not like to wager on that subject!”
“Kitty, it is part of the vows – “
“You are not marrying Miss Bingley! Charles cannot and I am sure does not, want you to feel a visitor in your own home!”
Kitty could not wish to put Jane through what she had felt those first lonely months of her marriage: the feeling that merely breathing was the wrong thing to do. Kitty had assumed that being in love with one’s husband was the cure for such feelings. Apparently she was wrong. She felt strangely buoyed that her reactions had not been so unusual despite the unusual situation. She had felt so different and out of place all her life but perhaps she had not been so.
“No, I am sure you are right, Kitty, but I did not think that I should be so misled by either of the Bingley’s sisters behaviour. You did not realise, I daresay, but Caroline wrote me a note. I will not repeat the contents to you.”
Kitty had a fair idea that it would have been a similar note to the one Lady Catherine de Bourgh had sent. Except not perhaps as caustic; if there was one thing Miss Bingley managed to do it was at least attempt to be subtle. For in subtlety – pointed barbs under one’s breath, mere allusions and so forth – one could remain a lady. And a lady Miss Bingley was most desirous to remain. Lady Catherine, with her ancestors reaching back in time and consorting with the upper echelons of each generation’s society, she could be as a rude and as transparent as she liked. For a granddaughter of a tradesman that was just not possible. Although to attempt to think well of Miss Bingley: Jane was a creature who might miss rudeness all together in her rose coloured view of the world, but when she did see rudeness she picked it up in the most mild of situations. Caroline Bingley might have not been writing anything more spiteful than she would have done if no scandalous forced marriage had been on the cards.
“Added to that her behaviour when we were in London! She returned our call most rudely. If you had not – “
“You would not have felt as if you could intrude upon her, even to see Charles?”
Jane shook her head. “It would have at the very least made Aunt Gardiner uncomfortable.”
Kitty wished she had time to muse on the things that made Aunt Gardiner uncomfortable; she could list a number of them!
“I am sure that I shall wish to speak to you before the wedding; Mama has such advice – “
Kitty turned her head away to hide her expression. Mama had never given her any advice. Well there had been one moment of advice which had done nothing for her composure but apart from that Mrs Bennet had seemed only interested in the fact that her daughter would be married and what this would mean for her social status, not how it would affect Kitty and how she could improve her situation.
“Kitty?” said Jane softly. Kitty was ashamed to feel herself tearing up. It was not worth crying over. “I did not mean to upset you!” Jane impulsively hugged her tightly.
“It is nothing, Jane. I do not know why I am upset. She loves us, I know, but Mama’s advice can only be used to do the opposite! So I should be glad that she did not – “ Kitty’s voice caught for a moment, “but I can only think it means she does not love me as much as she loves you.”
Jane would of course deny this, which she did. But Kitty knew the truth. It was an unpleasant truth but her mother had her favourites and had done little to hide the fact. Even her father had his favourites. Kitty vowed she would never do the same.
“I did not mean to interrupt!” said Lizzy. Both Kitty and Jane turned to see their sister standing in the doorway.
“Oh, I am just being silly,” said Kitty, drying her cheeks hurriedly. Looking in the mirror she grimaced. Of course she would make herself cry before a ball, now she looked drawn and she had no rouge. But it always made her look ghastly. Well it had done so the two times she had used it when she had just come out. Lydia had convinced her that she looked serene and divine. Kitty had never forgiven Lydia for that.
Lizzy looked concerned, “If someone has upset you?”
Kitty laughed. “No one but myself!”
Lizzy did not look convinced by did not press the matter rather she gave a slight twirl.
“You look very nice, Lizzy.”
“Is there anyone we should not dance with?” asked Kitty teasingly.
Lizzy suddenly looked put out. “I wish you would dance with Mr Devinsham! He has requested the first two and the supper dances.”
“He is not the most persistent of your admirers, Lizzy, and surely he is better than the partner who requested your hand for Bingley’s last ball?” said Kitty.
“Well yes, I am unlikely to ever receive the attention of such as man as Mr Collins, not that he was brought up to scratch. For which I shall be eternally grateful!”
“Lizzy,” said Jane warningly.
“Yes I know, Jane, Mr Collins is a good man.”
“Kitty!” admonished Jane.
“I am sorry, Jane, but the fact of the matter is Mr Collins might not do anyone a great deal of harm but he cannot be characterised as good, or a good match.”
“He is respectable; she will have a comfortable home – “
“She will not!” argued Kitty. She had, when she and Lizzy had previously discussed Mr Collins and Charlotte, thought of the faults of Mr Collins and the faults of Darcy. But for all Darcy’s faults he was not stupid. He would not, she was convinced now, place others’ happiness above her own. Even if he did not realise that it was her happiness that he was regarding. Charlotte Lucas had married a man who would always think of others before herself. Who would take the advice and the reasoning of others before herself. Lizzy had told her that Charlotte had written of how often she and Mr Collins were apart. To only be able to bear one’s marriage through absence!
Kitty would not be hypocritical: some absence was entirely necessary, but to purposely arrange your life so that … what had Charlotte written in the letter to Lizzy?
So, it often happens that a whole day passes in which we haven't spent more than a few minutes in each other's company.
A few minutes!
Kitty caught Lizzy’s eye and realised that while they might agree over this issue, Jane would not and it would just upset her to push the issue.
It used to be the case that Kitty felt it was possible to wish things into being. She had not believed in this power for some years, particularly when Lydia had discovered her belief and terrorised her by managing to make every bad thing Kitty had thought of come true. Kitty had spent a least a week fearing she had really developed a terrible power and would be burnt at the stake like the girls in those books until she spotted Lydia cutting up Mary’s sheet music just after Kitty had confessed to Lydia she wished the music would tear itself into shreds so Mary could not play it any longer.
However she could not blame Lydia for the current state of affairs.
“Now my dear, I know we have had not time to talk, and Mr Bennet was so silly to tell me that of course you would not wish to do so immediately. I told him not to be so ridiculous! That you, my darling girl, would not want your sister with you in your time of need! Who else would you speak to in that giant house! You must tell me how much pin money – and what a pity you did not come down in your own carriage!”
“Mama, Georgiana is more than enough company for me and she shall be coming down in the car-“
“Miss Darcy better than your own dear Lydia? Nonsense. Mr Darcy would not wish you unhappy – I am sure he quite dotes on you.”
Kitty stared at her mother. How could she have forgotten pushing Kitty into her father’s library and shrieking about how the villain must be made to marry her? At times Kitty thought that Mrs Bennet’s memory would be a blessing, but at other times, it could only be a curse. But surely it was a curse of Mrs Bennet’s own wilfulness. She just chose not to remember anything that did not fit her own unique view of the world and her place in it.
“But I am not unhappy,” she merely replied.
Mrs Bennet had not expected that response. “But if Lydia does not go to town she will not meet eligible gentlemen!”
Kitty was tempted to retort that Lydia had no problems meeting men, but her mother had added the word eligible.
“Perhaps Jane – “ it seemed ungracious to foist Lydia upon Jane, but Kitty could not help herself. Lydia, despite her desire to go to London, might not wish to go stay with Jane. After all if she so desperately needed to visit their capital she could have harassed their aunt and uncle for an invitation. But to visit in Cheapside where the entertainment was sure to be so respectable was not what Lydia had in mind.
Kitty could hardly argue she only went to respectable parties. She went to ton parties and there was a difference!
“Lizzy will stay with Jane and – “
“Would it not be best for Lydia to wait until Lizzy is married? We cannot have two Miss Bennets presented at once.”
“Why ever not? It should not be my fault if they outshine everyone else!”
Kitty could sense she was slowly losing a battle and quite possibly the war.
Netherfield did not have a balcony, but there was of course a withdrawing room, utilised when Mr Collins (and others of his ilk) stood on women’s trains. However even that was too crowded for Kitty. She felt tired and felt a headache coming upon her.
If this had been how Darcy and his party had seen their family at the last Netherfield ball, or if this was how her elder sisters had felt! She was not so much embarrassed or ashamed as just tired. It had been impossible for her mother not to speak loudly about both her situation and her sister’s (and to elaborate on the possibilities for her other daughters).
This was not unusual, but a ball at Netherfield had other guests apart from the small number of gentry surrounding Meryton. Bingley had, as he had for the ball in November, invited some of his friends from town, and then there were other families from Hertfordshire and its surrounds that one only saw at occasions like this where an effort was made to draw people together more.
Mrs Bennet was exposing herself to them!
And the officers! They were relocating to Brighton in a matter of days and as a result this ball was one of their last opportunities to make love to all the young ladies. Kitty had found herself briefly propositioned by a young lieutenant who wished her to go behind one of the potted plants occupying the corners of the ballroom; Kitty was part disgusted and part flattered until she had realised that he had confused her for Lydia and then she was just wholly disgusted.
Kitty escaped to one of Netherfield’s hallways. She was sure it was an indicator of a great flaw in her character that after all that had happened she could still be flattered by a young man finding her attractive. Although she could not explain it, but it was the wrong sort of flattery as he had not cared about her – well Lydia’s – reputation at all; if he was a gentlemen he would worship from afar.
Except if being a gentlemen meant worshipping from afar then no one would get married and –
Kitty’s head spun, why was she thinking such ridiculous trivial thoughts?
“Catherine?” Kitty looked up from her chosen place of concealment on the stairs to see her husband looking at her. He sat beside her. “Are you unwell? I could not but think you out of sorts.”
She’d danced with Darcy of course. He’d asked her to stand up with him for the opening dance as was proper, but also the dance that Kitty had confessed to him she could not dance at all well. He was better at moving his feet out of the way than Sir John had been. That had not surprised her, what had surprised her was the fact he could carry on a conversation just as well; though why that had surprised her she was not quite sure. She’d merely been tired when they danced, because that had been before her mother had chosen to take supper at her table.
“Is it wrong I wished to strangle my mother?”
“It is not an emotion I would admit to. I cannot counsel it,” Darcy sounded strangely serious.
“I did not mean it!” Kitty looked at him strangely thinking perhaps it was worse than absence to have a husband so devoid of feeling!
“I am very glad to hear about it. I am responsible for you,” again that strange serious tone which made Kitty’s head ache. Then he appeared to be smiling at her; it stopped when he apparently took in her confusion. “You are unwell. Otherwise I cannot conceive of you missing the opportunity of jesting of being able to put me once again in the position of facing the gallows.”
“The ball is as good as finished. Indeed it should have finished!”
“You would think that five minutes after the ball had started,” said Kitty tiredly.
“I would give it at least ten,” responded Darcy before insisting on escorting her to bed.
Posted on Thursday, 19 July 2007
Darcy picked his coat for the day before dismissing Edwards.
He intended to go downstairs for breakfast, but he would check upon Catherine first. He did not expect her to be awake, not with her feeling unwell and the ball. He himself felt quite lazy as he had not woken early and completed either some of his letter writing or an early morning walk before time came for breakfast.
Darcy was surprised to find his wife awake. Sally or some other servant had brought her breakfast and she was happily eating a cold spread from the tray piled with toast and spreads and cups of chocolate and tea. Darcy had never seen her eat meat for breakfast but then Pemberley and the townhouse served a smaller repast than the one Caroline Bingley felt necessary to demonstrate Netherfield’s superiority. Darcy had found it quite difficult to know what to choose from the large assortment laid out each morning.
Catherine could not speak and merely waved one of her plates at him.
“No, thank you, I am about to go down to breakfast. I merely came to assure myself of your health, you are much better I see.”
She finished her mouthful, “Oh yes! It was just mama. She gave me the headache! And then worrying that the ball was not going to be an embarrassment for Charles or Jane!”
“Since you seemed to organise a great deal of it,” added Darcy.
“I did not mind,” she replied. Darcy was not sure she was entirely sincere. She may not have minded in principle the idea of arranging a ball, but the petty problems that often had to be sorted out because of such a large event would be less romantic. “I did not have a chance to have a party in town. Will that be considered odd?”
“Perhaps,” said Darcy. It was true. Everyone could not have a party in town; there were not enough nights and it meant that many parties would fall flat through lack of guests. “But Georgiana is not out, and I am not known for enjoying events.”
She looked appeased. He bowed in preparation of leaving her, but she suddenly appeared to remember something.
“Did I tell you about Lydia?”
Darcy froze. It would be wrong to assume that the youngest Bennet had done anything wrong, but it was the first though that leapt into his mind, he resolved to attempt not to reveal that.
“Oh I see that I did not,” apparently he was transparent in his fear, “Mama wishes for her to stay with us in town.”
Darcy could not think of a worse thing. Lydia Bennet was wild to a fault, would not think twice about corrupting Georgiana, and to his horror had seemed to continue to find him interesting. A fact that had only occurred since he was supposed to have carried out an act that should have made him worse than a scoundrel in respectable eyes.
“That cannot be,” Darcy managed to say. He wished that he could be subtle and charming. He had no wish to upset Catherine. Miss Lydia was her sister and no doubt she loved her despite her serious flaws, he only hoped she recognised those flaws.
She nodded, “Yes, put your foot down! Do!”
Darcy was about to ask her meaning when Sally entered the room. She was carrying what appeared to be a pot of clotted cream which his wife had appeared to have requested. It was clearly Darcy’s cue to leave but he could only wonder what she intended to put it on.
He was still trying to decipher his wife’s motivations for not wishing her sister to visit when he entered the breakfast room. She must know of his feelings on the matter and that is why she acted as she did. Although he thought he might be underestimating her, she had realised the potential for embarrassment last night, perhaps she did not want to be inflicted with her sister’s exuberance.
Darcy was surprised the room had so many occupants, although of course many of Bingley’s London guests would be journeying back to London today. One of them was Lord Milton, who had been at Cambridge with both Darcy and Bingley; he’d been Bingley’s closest friend when Darcy had left the university.
He gestured for Darcy to take the seat next to him once he had filled his plate.
“Darcy! I hardly got to speak to you last night! I had not expected such a crowd for a country hop!”
Darcy smiled. Neither had he. All of Meryton and its surrounds had turned out and every one of the London guests they had invited had arrived even, if it had meant staying elsewhere. Clearly Bingley’s bride was of interest to all and sundry. That or it had become a rage to go to country hops.
“Your lovely wife is still abed, I presume?”
Darcy nodded in the affirmative.
“Talkative!” said Lord Milton.
“Me or my wife?” said Darcy.
“I did mean you, in an ironic sense. But your wife is lively and talkative. I don’t know how she puts up with you. I don’t know how Bingley put up with you. I don’t know how I put up with you!”
Darcy shook his head in some mirth. “It is too early for you!”
Lord Milton drank his tea. “Are there more Bennet girls? I had not the pleasure of meeting Miss Bennet until last night. Bingley spoke the truth there; she is an angel.”
“There are five.”
“Five! Were they all present last night?” Lord Milton sounded surprised.
“I believe so,” said Darcy.
“I thought they were cousins! So many girls all out at once! Pity.”
Darcy raised an eye at Lord Milton.
“I did not take to the others.”
Darcy wondered if that meant his friend was ‘taken with’ Catherine. More than likely since Milton enjoyed lively company particularly if they were pretty girls.
“I am glad that nonsense is over.”
“So am I,” replied Darcy. “While it would be impossible to hold a ball without dancing, it seems a waste of an evening.”
Lord Milton leant closer to him after glancing around, “I meant the on-dits flowing about town.”
Darcy stiffened. No one had mentioned the matter outright to him before.
“Relax! I am not going to drag up the matter, or question you about it. I own I like my head where it is! I am just happy that the old harpies are prevented from maligning people’s reputations. After all why should you not come to the country and fall violently in love with a pretty little thing with no fortune or prospects? I own it is slightly out of character for you, but look at Bingley: he has become serious! Love does strange things to men. I do not intend to be caught in its trap.”
“No, it is not to wonder at all,” replied Darcy. “Except I had not noticed any seriousness in Bingley! He is more collected and calm at present but I do not think Bingley will ever be serious, not in the manner that you mean.”
“He would not engage me in a bet!” replied Lord Milton. Despite Darcy’s misgivings about bets and the harm they could do, Darcy asked his friend what bet he had wanted to make. “That his sister will take very good care to marry a rich man before the year is out. I know she has been attempting to do so since she was out, but I think she has an added incentive!”
Darcy laughed. He would not bet on a certainty and if Jane Bennet had any kind of presence of mind, and Darcy had no reason to think that she did not, she would encourage Caroline Bingley’s romantic endeavours to the utmost.
Lord Milton watched Jane Bennet enter the room with her mother. All the Bennets had stayed for Mrs Bennet wished to be the last to leave and had been stymied in this goal by the presence of those who would sleep at Netherfield. The solution sleep at Netherfield herself.
“I said I do not want to be caught in love’s trap, but if all my friends are falling – “Lord Milton shot Darcy a look. “I should like to be warned.”
“I cannot tell you if you are falling in love, Milton.”
“But you can tell me if I would regret it.”
“Have you forgotten Miss Hughson so soon? You certainly said you were in love with her.”
“But I did not marry her. I was asking whether I would regret that?” Lord Milton struck a pose as he intoned quite seriously, “The Institution of Marriage, would I regret that? ”
“No, Milton. I do not think you would regret that.” Darcy was surprised at his own sincerity.
“Spoken like an old married man. Will you ride?”
Darcy should have liked nothing more than to ride, but Mrs Bennet was in the room and he must have some conversation with her.
He waited until his mother-in-law had finished her meal, and her mild berating of her eldest daughter for not putting herself forward enough.
“Anyone would think that Caroline Bingley was mistress of this household!”
“She is mistress of Netherfield,” Jane Bennet commented.
“Jane is only mistress of Netherfield like Charlotte is mistress of Longbourn,” added Miss Elizabeth who had joined them.
This turned out to be an unwise statement, as it seemed to set Mrs Bennet off in some sort of apoplexy. Assumedly that had not been her daughter’s intention but apparently this was a topic of conversation that annoyed her second daughter.
Darcy could only think of intervening before Mrs Bennet’s voice carried too far or she got so distressed that she started to complain about her nerves.
He congratulated Miss Bennet on an excellent ball. This earned him an odd look from both the sisters, who must have known how little Miss Bennet had been allowed to do, how little Caroline Bingley had done and how much Mrs Nicholls and Catherine had done.
Mrs Bennet however was pleased to begin a conversation about the virtues of her eldest.
“Mama, you know that Kitty – “ began Miss Elizabeth.
“Do not speak to me of Kitty! Ungrateful girl!” Mrs Bennet’s tone changed in all of an instant.
“I do not wish to be rude, ma’am, but I cannot have you speaking of my wife in such a fashion,” said Darcy.
Mrs Bennet looked cowed for a moment and then regaining her momentum began her apology to him which seemed to be hidden in an explanation of her daughter’s fault; ending of course with Catherine’s desire not to have Miss Lydia stay with them.
“My poor Lyddie denied a trip to Brighton and now her own sister wishes her nothing but boredom!”
“Lydia can come stay with us…” began Miss Bennet in an attempt to defuse the situation.
“But you must concentrate on finding Lizzy a husband!” said Mrs Bennet fretfully.
“I am afraid we shall be returning to Pemberley. I cannot think of any gentlemen who might appreciate Miss Lydia’s distinct charms near Pemberley.”
“Then you must stay in London! If you cannot, then Kitty and Lydia can!”
“I cannot approve of such a plan, Mrs Bennet. I am sorry but Miss Lydia will have to wait for her London visit.”
“Wait! Why should she wait?”
“She deserves a proper visit,” replied Darcy. “If we cannot provide one now, it is better to wait until such a time as it is possible. Unless you think your daughter only deserves the tail end of a season, or a little season? I find it abhorrent, the end of a season. ”
Mrs Bennet looked curious, “What, pray, would be objectionable about the end of a season?”
Darcy finished the last of his toast before replying, “Young ladies at the end of a season, or in a little season, are so often considered those who did not create an impression.”
Darcy thought it best to let Mrs Bennet think on the matter; with a little daughterly persuasion she would come to regard the idea as her own. Of course it only postponed the matter, but Darcy for once felt able to let the matter go until then.
“William!” cried Georgiana, flinging herself into Darcy’s arms. Darcy had been waiting a week for this moment. He’d told himself that the ball and all its attendant worries would be made bearable by the fact that a week after the ball his sister would be with them. Of course he’d had to suffer a week of wedding crises (and would have to suffer through two more) but it was all worth it to see his sister’s smiling face.
Darcy was usually not given to overt public displays of affection but he could not help returning her hug tightly, lifting her off the ground. He was forgiven by his sister he now had no doubt. That had been what he had been waiting for, wondering whether his relationship with her had been materially and permanently affected by his boorish behaviour. Words could not express his happiness that his world was beginning to fall back into place.
“Oh I have so much to tell you!” said Georgiana quite breathlessly. Her smiling face made him even more sure he had made the right decision to keep her in town until the militia had departed. While she would not have attended the ball or the Forster’s party she would have heard about them and Darcy was not sure that would have been a good thing.
“Come into the house and you may tell me all about it,” said Darcy, linking her arm with his as they walked up the stairs.
“So this is Netherfield. It is even more charming than Kitty described,” Georgiana paused to look up at the façade a bit more, “Although of course it is nothing to Pemberley!”
“I should hope not. But I am glad you can appreciate other homes,” said Darcy.
“Well Pemberley will not always be my home,” said Georgiana, dropping his arm as they saw Bingley in the hallway.
Darcy was struck by this comment. Georgiana was thinking of marriage?
“She is so excited she did not even see me!” Darcy turned to see Catherine entering the hall, “I called out but you did not hear.”
Darcy took in her attire; she was glowing, clearly having been for an early morning walk, but he was too distracted to attend to her, turning back to look at his sister who was cheerfully greeting Bingley.
He felt a hand slip through his arm, “I should not worry. I think she was only thinking that she will get married. At some point in the future, not say for instance tomorrow. I don’t think there is any young man that you need to question minutely.”
“I am glad for that,” said Darcy. His sister was hardly ready to be married, was she? Or was that his feelings of selfishness, he did not want to lose his sister to another man? He was also conscious of the fact that his sister’s happiness depended on the gentleman she chose to be her husband.
“It is not to be wondered at that she should think of handsome men. I’ve been thinking of handsome men for years!”
Darcy shot his wife a look.
She looked contrite, “Of course I do not think about handsome men anymore.”
Darcy tried not to laugh, “Except for myself?” Darcy grew strangely offended when she looked at him in complete wonderment. He was about to make a cutting comment when she apparently could not keep this pose any longer and burst out laughing.
“I am sure you are very handsome.”
“I am relieved you think so.”
“Except handsome is not a husbandly requirement surely for Georgiana? You will have to vet the young men who come to call next year very closely. But you will do a good job.”
“We will do a good job,” murmured Darcy. He was not sure she heard him because Georgiana had heard her laugh and flew back down the hall to embrace her. His sister led Catherine off laughing and Darcy could only hear the word ‘bonnet’.
“Darcy, your sister is so grown; I should have hardly recognised her!”
It was a sentiment echoed by Caroline Bingley in one of the sitting rooms, except Miss Bingley was more effusive in her praise of Georgiana.
“I had not realised she had arrived! Louisa and I were discussing the new curtains.” Louisa Hurst and her husband had arrived at Netherfield two days ago and Darcy could not find it an improvement. “She will need attending to!”
“Catherine is with her,” replied Darcy dismissively.
Miss Bingley deflated somewhat, but it did not stop her leaving the room with her sister, clearly intent on finding Georgiana.
“Are we to have any sport?” asked Mr Hurst from the sofa.
Bingley looked at the clock on the mantelpiece, “Jane will be here – “
Mr Hurst stopped lounging and sat up. “My dear brother, you have a fortnight before sport – at least of that nature – will be denied to you as you play the happy husband. Do not deny yourself pleasure!”
Darcy wanted to point out that Hurst was concerned about denying himself pleasure only. He would have normally not deigned to make such a remark, or if he had done so made his remark cutting, but he found himself making a light comment on the matter.
“Of course I am thinking of myself, Darcy. You and I are old married men! We know one must get one’s pleasure where one can! Bingley does not realise this but soon he will not be able to do a thing except for what it pleases his wife to do!”
Bingley looked slightly amused. “You cannot frighten me. First, my Jane is an angel. Second, you do not seem too incommoded by my sister’s desires. Third, Darcy is not at anyone’s beck and call.”
Hurst made an indelicate sound, “You do not have to return to London in a fortnight with your wife and her sister.”
Darcy, could not help but add, “I will be returning to London with my wife and my sister how does that fare?”
“No one has to return to London in a fortnight!” interjected Bingley.
“Why? Shall you not be at Netherfield?” asked Hurst.
“No, Jane and I shall be here, but our presence does not mean you have to flee!”
“And watch you make calf eyes at each other and put me off my food?” asked Hurst. “I shall take my chances with the sisters.”
Darcy saw Bingley almost roll his eyes at his brother-in-law before turning to Darcy – “You shall not go? Jane will not wish to be parted from her sister immediately.”
Darcy could not answer that; it would of course be up to Catherine.
Posted on Friday, 27 July 2007
“Oh Jane!” said Lizzy, looking at her sister in pride.
The sisters were crammed into Jane’s bedroom along with Aunt Gardiner, Maria Lucas and Georgiana. Kitty found herself wedged near the dresser. It was not that the room could not feasibly hold five sisters (even Mary had been persuaded to attend), an aunt and two guests, but when one was in the midst of packing it became a tight squeeze.
Jane was standing in front of the mirror trying on the gown she would wear for the wedding. It had been made up in London, but some of the trimming had been done by Mrs Fraser, the modiste in Meryton. Kitty admired Jane’s ability to include everyone so no one could be offended. She had not mastered it.
“Think, in four days you will be Mrs Bingley, and the happiest woman in the world,” said Lizzy hugging Jane.
“Not to be leaving you all,” said Jane with a hint of sadness in her voice.
Lydia rolled her eyes. “Three miles!” she exclaimed under her breath.
Kitty leaned over to pinch her. Trust Lydia to attempt to ruin Jane’s mood.
“Kitty!” shrieked Lydia.
“What are you girls doing?” said Mrs Gardiner.
“She pinched me!”
“I did!” said Kitty.
“You did too,” said Lydia clearly pre-empting where the conversation was going to lead.
“Yes, I said that!”
Lydia looked momentarily confused, and Kitty could not help laughing at her sister’s face.
“You will miss this?” said Lizzy.
Jane laughed, “Even this.”
Lydia did not like being the subject of much amusement and flounced out of the room.
“You do look beautiful, Jane. You always do,” said Kitty giving Jane a hug, trying to be careful of the dress.
“If I do not get a chance to say this before the wedding, thank you,” whispered Jane into her ear.
“Whatever for?” Kitty was only teasing because she knew what Jane was referring to; both Kitty’s actions at Netherfield but also the conversations they had had before now. Conversations that may have been awkward but not as awkward as those Jane had had to endure with Mrs Bennet.
Jane smiled, “I think you know. I am sorry too.”
“Thank yous and sorrys!” exclaimed Kitty. She did know what Jane was apologising for and felt that coming home was the best thing she’d done for some time. She’d felt out of place at Longbourn, and unappreciated. However, how could she be appreciated if she had done little to deserve it? If all she wished to talk about were soldiers and gossip then of course her elder sisters would not include her in their more serious discussions. They did not purposely exclude her (most of the time at least), they merely thought her uninterested.
These last six weeks had proved to Kitty that she was capable of being both – serious and not so serious. She had wondered much earlier on whether being married meant that one could only be severe but that was not her.
Just like she was pleased to realise that she was capable of running a household that was not even her own. She’d always assumed she was stupid and unable to learn. She’d realised how much she’d learnt at Pemberley or in London but it was not until she was home that she grasped the full extent of the change.
Instead of sitting gazing out the window or merely listening to the ladies of Mertyon, she’d been able to join the conversation. She even found herself the centre of attention when it came to new fashions, books and gossip.
Kitty was conscious of some lingering interest in the details of her marriage, and some lingering disapproval but on the whole Meryton was exactly as it ever was and her place in it was the same but different. It was too difficult for Kitty to quite explain; how she felt now amongst those who had known her all her life.
The fact Jane was voicing the change that had been wrought in her made her hug Jane all the more tighter.
She’d told Jane the day before that she thought moving from Netherfield at some point in the future a good plan. Jane had sought her opinion and Kitty had given it. Kitty kept some of her reasoning secret. Jane would never be herself – be properly herself – if she remained at Netherfield. She would always be Miss Bennet as was never just her new identity of Mrs Bingley. Not that Jane (or indeed any other married lady, as Kitty was learning) should suddenly become a different person after saying her vows, but that there was a subtle difference in the two and Jane deserved the chance of entering her new life most fully.
Lydia and Maria Lucas had retired to Lydia’s room. Kitty passed the door to see them whispering and giggling and wondered why she did not feel a pang of envy or jealousy that her sister had replaced Kitty in her affections so easily. Of course she hoped that she would still be important to Lydia, but she did not pin all her hopes upon it.
“Kitty!” said Lydia, clearly forgetting or forgiving Kitty laughing at her. “La! You look so smart. But you have forgotten me!” she pouted. “Now that you are the fine Mrs Darcy you have had no time to see me!”
“That’s not true,” said Kitty. “I’ve seen you at the Lucases’, the Harringtons’, the Gouldings’, Aunt Phillips’, the Kings’ and here! And at Netherfield!”
Kitty tried not to laugh when listing the engagements made her remember Darcy’s moaning that never again would he say that four-and-twenty families was a small number. She’d remembered the conversation between Mama and Darcy over the confined nature of the country. It was true, they dined with and associated with far more than four-and-twenty families in London, but in some ways the country seemed unsuited to always going here and there at night. It had certainly kept them busy.
“And the Forsters’ party!” added Maria.
Kitty could hardly forget the Forsters’ party two weeks ago, but before Georgiana’s arrival. Colonel Forster had caved to his wife and Lydia’ demands for one last gathering before the militia were forced to leave the surrounds by a very cruel War office. Although perhaps it was the Home Office since they were not proper troops? It made no difference to Lydia and the other young ladies. Someone was wresting handsome redcoats from them.
The party had been a sombre affair which had livened up immensely due to some terrible punch that Kitty suspected had almost certainly been tampered with. She’d taken a sip and then foisted her glass upon Darcy who, finding it not to his taste, had poured it into a potted plant.
She could not have imagined him two months ago feeling able to throw drinks into plants, but perhaps he realised the country was less confining. It was not that he did not care what people thought of him; he might think that but Kitty was sure that was Darcy’s problem. He cared too much what people thought of him, even those people he did not think he cared a jot for. No, it was more likely that the event allowed him to be so free.
He’d gone to the event most unwillingly, not wishing to hear of Wickham, but in the end only the barest mention had been made of him. The officers were toasting his good fortune in having a better commission. Of course they were toasting to his increased ability to meet young ladies. Darcy had under his breath made some comment about the lack of young ladies in the middle of nowhere in the mud, but apart from that he had behaved civilly and the party had passed off well enough. Despite the punch which had led to some behaviour that had been the talk of Meryton for the next week, that and the arrival of Miss Darcy
Kitty had been glad to find Georgiana completely unconcerned about the attention given to her as Kitty had shown her all the shops of her girlhood. While Kitty thought Georgiana was entirely ready to be out, she was relieved she was not at the present time so she would not have to endure the scrutiny.
“Now we have no red coats,” sighed Lydia bringing Kitty back to the present. “Although I cannot believe Chamberlayne tried to put on Harriet’s gown!”
“In the middle of the party!” giggled Maria, putting her hand over her mouth in shock that was still real after two weeks.
Kitty had only thanked heavens that Darcy had not witnessed that! It would have probably confirmed all the bad opinions he had had which he was only slowly re-evaluating. Not that it was the worst thing Kitty had seen. Her eyes had been opened more than once at various ton parties. Kitty did not think money should allow one the licence to do such things. Although to give her husband his due, she was sure he disapproved of such activities across the board.
The other occupants of the room were still alternatively giggling over the exploits of the officers at that party and at other times, and lamenting their loss.
“Mama said that Darcy’s, “ Kitty smiled at her sister’s free use of his name, Lydia was never one to be in awe of anyone, unlike Mrs Bennet and Mrs Phillips who were sometimes subdued by her husband’s presence, “cousin will be coming to the wedding and that he is a solider. Is that true, Kitty?”
“Yes, Colonel Fitzwilliam will be attending and he is a solider.”
“In the militia?” said Maria, eyes lighting up.
“Better!” said Lydia. “The Regulars, is he not?”
“Indeed.” Kitty did think the regulars much better than the militia and she would not confess it to anyone else but she still thought a red coat made a man handsome; but she was quite content with mere appreciating glances.
“He is handsome and unwed?” asked Maria, as if she did not need confirmation of both before she could deem Colonel Fitzwilliam a prospect.
Colonel Fitzwilliam was not traditionally handsome though as far as Kitty was concerned he was far more attractive physically than his brother. However Colonel Fitzwilliam’s attractiveness came from his whole countenance and character.
“He is a well looking man, and very engaging,” answered Kitty, and then seeing the prompting face of her sister, “and yes, he is single.”
Maria sighed, “How delightful.” She then was prepared to fawn over the Colonel.
Lydia however needed more questions answered. “How old is he?”
Kitty laughed, “Very old. Over thirty!”
Lydia sighed and then perked up. “But it does not mean that I cannot flirt with him!”
Kitty did not regret confessing Fitzwilliam’s charms to her sister; he was a battle hardened solider, and he should be able to cope with a flirtatious young lady.
Lydia flipped idly through The Lady’s Magazine; Maria seemed happier to examine Kitty’s dress. “Oh I wish I could go to London and visit Bond Street.”
Kitty stiffened slightly, wondering if this comment would draw Lydia out on the subject of London. Their mother had decided that Lydia should not go to London straight away, but rather be presented when everyone could appreciate her daughter properly. Mr Bennet had almost spoiled the plan by commenting that surely Lydia just wanted to expose herself in some public place and that timing could be immaterial. Mrs Bennet had shushed him with her nerves.
Lydia was not stupid however, she had to have realised that visiting London under Kitty’s aegis meant Darcy, who was unlikely to be an easy chaperone. That and Lydia had met Georgiana. If Lydia had detested Mary King for her ₤10 000 she was hardly likely to find Georgiana’s poise and beauty, missing in Mary King, to be more palatable.
“I wish Charlotte had married a gentleman,” said Maria.
“Mr Collins is a gentlemen,” replied Kitty, “although only if one used a loose definition of the word.”
Maria shrugged, “She writes about her chickens and the pig getting into the garden and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Her letters were so very dull and visiting her worse. Lady Catherine quite terrified me! Your letters are always so amusing! Lydia let me read them once she realised what Charlotte was writing to me.”
Kitty turned to her sister, “You read my letters?”
Lydia gave a non-committal gesture though Kitty knew what it meant; Lydia was never uncommitted to her responses. Kitty rushed to give her younger sister a hug and kiss.
“You’ve crushed my gown,” was her only reward, but Kitty did not care. Lydia cared about her, in her own way which was never going to be like others, but it was enough for Kitty to know she was not uncaring.
If only her mother would show her some particular love, Kitty felt her heart would be close to bursting.
Kitty tried to pay attention to the service, but Darcy was shifting in his seat. She wondered if he was remembering the last wedding he had attended in this church, six months ago. It was difficult to think it had been six months! It was less of a reminder for Kitty for she’d seen several weddings in this church, and it had been the church she’d attended all her life. One event in it could hardly upset all the others.
“Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.” intoned the Reverend and Kitty forced herself not to turn around to see if Caroline Bingley or her sister were about to stand.
No one spoke and thus her sister was bound in marriage to Mr Bingley. Mrs Bennet who was next to her and shed more tears than her handkerchief could sustain; Kitty had to hand over hers. Jane shed a tear and if Kitty looked closely she thought Bingley might have done so as well.
“Oh Mrs Bennet how proud you must be: two daughters married!” Kitty overheard Mrs Long prattle as Darcy and her made their way out of the churchyard. She’d asked to walk back to Longbourn so that she could avoid her mother’s effusions over Jane for even a short while.
“And another well on the way!” smiled Mrs Bennet.
Darcy closed the church gate behind them. Kitty could only imagine her mother was talking about Lizzy and Mr Devinsham, except that everyone except Mrs Bennet could see that Mr Devinsham was more ‘in love’ with Lizzy than she was with him. She’d said it was her sister’s fate to be pursued by men!
Darcy didn’t comment even though it was clear Kitty was leading them down a path that would take longer to reach Longbourn than was typical. It was clear he would also like a respite from Mrs Bennet. They did not speak for a while, instead merely enjoyed the warmer weather.
Darcy examined the bottom of his cane, after flicking it into a hedge on the laneway before speaking. “How long until we may make our escape?”
“From the breakfast or from Netherfield?”
“From the breakfast. Bingley seemed adamant that we stay out the week.”
“He will change his mind.”
“Perhaps,” Darcy did not sound so certain. Kitty assumed this was because while Bingley had been so changeable in the past, his engagement had wrought changes in his behaviour. He was no longer afraid of his own opinion for instance.
“I am sure of it. At the moment he is thinking like a good host. Not a good husband.”
“This is true. But Miss Bingley and the Hursts do not leave until the week is out. He can be a good host and a good husband by requiring your presence until they leave.”
“The solution should be a wedding trip. But they could not decide; which must be a lie. “ Kitty could only think that both Jane and Bingley had decided to save their wedding trip for when Mrs Bennet became unbearable. Although neither would have phrased their decision quite like that. “You are very sensible” she added.
This threw Darcy. “I am sorry?”
“For having an estate so far away; it was very thoughtful.”
Darcy laughed. “I try to be.”
The wedding breakfast was like all wedding breakfasts: noisy and celebratory. Although of course it might depend on the wedding who precisely was celebratory. In this case it was everyone.
Jane’s belongings were ceremonially put in Bingley’s carriage. It was actually, Kitty mused, entirely ceremonial as all Jane’s trousseau was already in residence at Netherfield; Kitty had seen to it herself. Everyone hugged and kissed the bride, although Lizzy clung on for longer than was necessary which might have less to do with the three miles they would now be separated by and more the fact that Mr Devinsham had been hovering around her.
Kitty took pity on Lizzy and engaged that gentleman in conversation once the carriage had been waved off.
“You must be glad to see your sister so well situated,” said Mr Devinsham.
Kitty nodded, “But I am happier to see her happy.”
“Indeed. You would wish all your sisters happy, I hope?” the gentleman smiled.
“What sister would not?”
The conversation seemed at an end there, unless Mr Devinsham decided to speak about his business and Lizzy had complained he was a gentleman who did not think that young ladies could understand business.
Kitty thought that Lizzy was a fool if she thought that a bad thing. The reasoning was unsound of course and insulting, but did one really wish to spend an evening listening to fluctuating prices? It would be worse than listening to Mr Collins reading from Fordyce every night before you went to bed.
“Oh there you are my dear; you must come and show Mrs Goulding your gown. She is quite envious, of course. As she should be!” Kitty was dragged away, not entirely unwillingly to talk of London Fashion to the ladies.
Once she’d escaped the ladies, her feet felt unaccountably sore and the only seat available in an area where she was unlikely to be interrupted was with a group of gentlemen including her husband and Mr Devinsham.
“Of course they would they do not care how overtaxed – “ Mr Devinsham broke off his speech to stand and bow to her. Most gentlemanly but then he did not finish his sentence. The other gentlemen seemed perplexed as he began to talk of innocuous matters like the weather.
Darcy coughed, “My cousin would be a better source of information, and I do not wish to be seen as an authority, but we defeated the French at Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz and Salamanca - of course that may not hold. I believe the stalemate to be over.”
Kitty almost rolled her eyes, had they been speaking of military matters when she approached and that is why Mr Devinsham ceased speaking? The fact the gentlemen enthusiastically took up Darcy’s point suggested they had been. Kitty had no real grasp on the matter but she was not devoid of interest!
“Do they not think Napoleon wishes to invade Russia? Colonel Fitzwilliam said it was inconceivable as it was a poor plan,” added Kitty triumphantly to the conversation.
“Oh come in out of the rain, Kitty!” said Jane, opening the side door as Kitty ran in. She’d been to the kitchen gardens for Jane and the weather that had been threatening in the two days since the wedding broke. It was a good thing that Jane and Bingley had insisted they stay and not set back for London; if they had Kitty was sure the weather would have descended upon them the minute they stepped into the carriage.
“I am only a little bit wet,” said Kitty, pulling off her spencer and bonnet. “There almost dry!” she waved her sister’s hands away from her and declined her entreaty to change. “I’ll change my stockings in a moment.”
She only wanted to sit down. Now that Jane was in residence, Kitty had thought she would no longer be tired as she would not have to rush hither and thither seeing to things that Miss Bingley thought unimportant. However Mrs Bennet had thought Jane devoid of knowledge regarding an estate and ignored the proprieties that would indicate that a bridal couple should, if one could help it, be left to themselves for at least three days. Kitty had found herself distracting her mother with town gossip, fashion and pure nonsense. Luckily Mrs Bennet did not necessarily require new information, and Meryton provided its own distractions.
“Jane,” Bingley was walking towards them, “Your family is to stay to dinner, in light of the weather I thought – “ Kitty did not hear the rest of Bingley’s explanation. He sounded rather faint to Kitty’s ears until she shook her head. That and Kitty knew what he was going to say. Jane and Bingley were too good. They should put their foot down and insist upon privacy.
Darcy had agreed with her, and they had been strenuously arguing against any extension of residence for anyone but Jane and Bingley at Netherfield. However Mother Nature might be against them.
Lizzy seemed attendant of the awkwardness at dinner, having told Kitty she’d only come with their mother to curb her behaviour. Lizzy had also prompted her father to visit since he was unlikely to overstay his welcome.
Her plan however had not ended in the best outcome; instead it looked as though Netherfield would have three guests not one. Jane, of course, appreciated all her guests equally but Lizzy was perhaps more equal than most. However, the benefits brought by the presence of a most beloved sister could not outweigh the fact Mrs Bennet was delighting in the fact that Caroline Bingley had now no say in the future of Netherfield. Mrs Bennet showed this pleasure by criticising the previous arrangement of the room and congratulating Jane’s taste.
“I never understand how women can so transform a room – “ interjected the Colonel in an attempt to make the conversation more palatable. Miss Bingley for one looked as if she had eaten something unpleasant.
Although that might not be far from the truth, Kitty did not know if it was the meal Mrs Nicholls had overseen or the tension at the table but everything tasted horrendous and Kitty could not eat more than a bite or two.
After dinner the ladies, Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst seemed happy to fiddle with their bracelets. This left Georgiana and the sisters to attempt to converse.
“Have you read the new Tales of a Fashionable Life?” asked Kitty, trying to help stimulate better conversation. Even though Georgiana should be used to the atmosphere at Netherfield by now, she was still overwhelmed by the attitude of the Bingley sisters and fearful of causing dislike in others. She had not learnt not to care that people would dislike her merely because of who she was, not that the Bennet sisters would be among that number, except perhaps Lydia who was not present.
“I doubt it will have made it to Mertyon,” said Mrs Hurst with a sniff.
Kitty sighed. She must be unwell, she should have realised her attempt to bring everyone into the conversation would allow either of the sisters to make a pointed comment.
Georgiana would not put herself forward and play the piano, so Kitty crossed the floor with the intention of playing herself until Georgiana felt compelled to rescue her, or tempt her to the piano with some of the sheet music. She’d almost reached the piano when the gentlemen joined them, and Kitty was never so glad to see them. She turned to greet them and suddenly felt violently unwell.
The world spun and then went black.
Posted on Wednesday, 1 August 2007
Darcy ran his hands through his hair. He was above pacing the floor but only by a little.
They had stayed, as was the custom, to talk in the dining room after dinner, and the evening was enlivened by Mr Bennet’s caustic presence. They’d spoken of military matters, led enthusiastically by Colonel Fitzwilliam. It had hardly been a serious conversation since it was only he who could be said to regularly seriously converse. Darcy had thought his father-in-law surprised that he could speak lightly upon subjects. But they were all friends at the table. He might not respect Hurst, but Hurst was an old acquaintance. Darcy had been completely himself in front of Hurst, although that was usually because he’d forgotten the other man’s presence.
Bingley had been impatient to return to the ladies and finally they had indulged him; Darcy had not taken one step into the room before he’d seen Catherine obviously crossing the room. She’d turned to greet them, looked pale and collapsed before their eyes. None of the gentleman had reached her before she’d reached the floor.
She’d been swiftly taken upstairs, still lifeless, and Mr Jones called. The house was in uproar. Darcy was glad for the presence of mind of both Mrs Bingley and Miss Bennet who’d taken it upon themselves to comfort Georgiana, who’d been most distressed, as well as care for their sister.
He, as well as the other gentleman, would only get in the way, so they’d retired to Bingley’s study. Not before of course he’d heard Mrs Bingley comment that she’d told Catherine to remove her wet stockings. Darcy had felt unaccountably angry; what had she been doing to endanger her health and make him worry so?
If he had thought six months ago, on that day in the church, that he’d come to worry about her fate so deeply he would have laughed at himself. Of course he would always care for the health of any woman of his acquaintance. He’d been sincere in his wish for Mrs Bingley’s recovery when she’d caught a cold at Netherfield, and not simply for reasons of removing two obstacles, as he saw them, for his and Bingley’s future happiness. He had not however been worried for her.
“Women’s nerves,” mused Mr Bennet, sitting in an armchair beside him.
“With all due respect, sir, I do not think that is the case here,” said Darcy sharper than he meant to.
Mr Bennet nodded, “Of course. I meant that my daughter’s unfortunate health is likely to cause nerves in my wife. She will take to her bed in an attempt to be more interesting. Of Kitty’s health, I am sure she will be well.”
Darcy could only but wonder at his father-in-law’s callous opinion of Mrs Bennet. He did not say that it was untrue, but what if his wife did truly become ill? Darcy was not sure Mr Bennet would behave any differently than he was now.
“Darcy, come mark for us,” said the Colonel.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Hurst and I are to play billiards...”
Darcy was going to make some comment about the inappropriateness of the request when he realised his cousin was attempting to mount a distraction. After all, a house of illness was likely to make all jittery.
Fitzwilliam won the game, and Darcy was convinced by Hurst to play his cousin. He felt heartless indulging in such an activity but it was better than watching Hurst play so woefully.
Bingley entered the billiard room and Darcy thought he saw some reproach in his friend’s eyes. “Jane has managed to calm Mrs Bennet. Mr Jones has arrived and was forced to give her some laudanum before seeing Kitty. But Jane and Elizabeth remain with their mother.”
Darcy wanted at that point to say something cutting about Mrs Bennet that would certainly be deserved but his next thought pushed that one from his mind, “Then who is with Catherine?”
Darcy was surprised. Georgiana’s reaction during the period of matrimonial upset had not convinced him that she would cope with the crises. It was part of the reason he was so loathe to be convinced that his sister was ready to be presented to the world and ready to become a wife. If she took to her bed upset because he and Catherine had an argument then how would she react when it was her and her husband? Georgiana disliked seeing anyone ill, and their father’s illness had affected her deeply, but apparently she was capable of not losing her head. It made Darcy more proud of her than he had been before.
“And the apothecary is seeing her now?”
“Yes,” said Bingley, looking worried. “Jane is so worried that it was Kitty’s going to the kitchen garden for her. She should not be so obliging.”
“I would not think that a bad trait,” said Darcy. He was sincere even though if she had been more selfish then she might not have fainted.
“Women faint all the time,” said the Colonel sensibly. “I cannot wonder at it given the garments they are expected to wear. Why I – “
Darcy held up a hand. He was sure Mr Bennet, who had wandered in to read a book while they played, did not wish to hear about the Colonel’s exploits with stays. Particularly if it was the incident that Darcy himself had witnessed when he himself was a greenhorn upon the town.
“As I said, “said Mr Bennet patiently, “nerves. I do not think it will be anything more serious.”
Between them they had almost convinced Darcy that this would be the case. No more than the time she had caught cold at Pemberley. But Darcy could not help but think of her being unwell at the Ball, and looking heated and fatigued many a time over the last six weeks. He should have intervened and prevented her from exerting herself so much. There had been no need to do so; it was not her responsibility. Perhaps it had been his fault? He had been so hard upon her that she felt it necessary to prove her worth?
Darcy had thrown a great deal of his opinion at her when he’d been so angry that he’d been unable to temper his tongue. While he had meant a great deal of them, he had not thought seriously of them for some time. Some of them not even when he had been speaking them! If she had thought herself unworthy and had behaved accordingly than it was no doubt his fault that she’d become exhausted to the point of collapse.
When she recovered, and she would recover, Darcy promised himself that they would return to Pemberley as soon as they might and they would not have the Bingleys or any other guests that would try her patience. Georgiana he could trust to be on her best behaviour.
Darcy took the stairs two by two as he went to see what was taking Mr Jones so long. He didn’t have to wait long for his answer as he saw Mr Jones leaving the bedchamber reserved for Mrs Bennet.
“Ah Mr Darcy, I was coming to find you,” said the short bespectacled man.
“As I was you,” said Darcy. He attempted to keep concealed both his concern for his wife and his annoyance at the apothecary’s seeming preferential attention to Mrs Bennet.
“Mrs Bennet will keep to her room for some time I am sure, since she had suffered an extreme shock. I have prescribed her some draughts – “
Darcy stared at the man. What did he care for Mrs Bennet’s health? Mrs Bennet had received a shock? He’d received a shock! The person who had received the most shock was his wife and Mr Jones did not seem to care for her! It was with great restraint that Darcy did not say anything and let Mr Jones ramble on.
“Mrs Darcy of course should rest. She is asleep now. But is nothing to worry about; these things are quite natural – “ Darcy wanted to ask what ladies or indeed people, Mr Jones was treating if a healthy young woman fainting was natural. “I did not of course examine her with Miss Darcy present – “
So he’d examined her when she was alone and helpless? His mother had been sickly ever since he could remember and she had fainted more times than he could remember towards the end of her life. She’d always been uncomprehending and confused when she had recovered from the swoon. His father had always insisted someone she knew and trusted be with her when she awoke. The fact that this had not happened here was another blow to Darcy’s conscience. Mr Jones appeared not to wish to say anything more and Darcy curtly dismissed him.
Of course the good man would go downstairs and make free with Bingley’s wine. It made Darcy even more convinced that he would send an express to London for someone far more trustworthy to attend Catherine if he found her health unchanged.
Darcy closed the bedchambers door behind him quietly. Georgiana was the only other person in the room beside his wife, who was pale and asleep.
“William,” whispered Georgiana in an angry tone, “that man is detestable!”
Darcy crossed the room and to the other side of the four poster bed. It allowed him to sit on the edge of the bed and observe Catherine. He noted, she did not appear to have a fever, as he checked her forehead.
“William, are you not listening!? He was detestable – “ Georgiana’s voice grew higher.
“I did hear you, Georgie, but I would ask you to keep your voice down.”
Georgiana looked slightly chastened. “I hope you would not merely listen to Mr Jones’ advice.”
“Did she wake?”
“Yes. Protesting she was quite well and not to fuss. But you will not listen to her – “
Darcy cut his sister off. He would not be able to tell until she was awake and he could see for himself, whether he needed to send for a London doctor. Her protesting her health was promising, but not a reliable sign as he thought it was part of her character to insist she was well. If she was the more delicate of the sisters she probably either had to become dependant on cosseting or annoyed by it. It seemed to be the latter in his wife’s case.
The door opened and Mrs Bingley and Miss Bennet entered.
When it seemed Georgiana would not do so, Darcy had to politely ask after their mother’s health.
“She is asleep,” said Mrs Bingley, after thanking him for his solitude. “And Kitty?” Apparently although Mr Jones had seen Mrs Bennet in their presence he’d been too focused on that patient’s health to discuss the others.
Darcy replied dryly that the doctor had informed him it was quite natural. Miss Bennet appeared to find that statement as ludicrous as he had done. Mrs Bingley assured him that they would stay with Catherine, and Darcy found that that was his cue to leave. He was curious reticent about doing so, but it was not his place, at least it was assumed to be not.
After discovering that Mr Jones had imparted the same knowledge to the gentlemen, Darcy retired to his bed but did not sleep soundly.
Darcy ran his hand over his eyes before sitting up slightly disorientated.
“Would sir like to wash?” Edwards, as omnipresent as ever, was standing by the bed with a jug of water.
Darcy nodded before climbing out of the bed and performing his morning ablutions.
He dressed himself quickly, but he paused before the door connecting his chamber to the next one. It seemed ridiculous to walk into the hallway and through the other door, but it seemed improper to merely walk through this door, considering Catherine was unlikely to be alone, and unlikely to be awake.
He compromised and knocked before entering.
Mrs Bingley was sitting by the bed, she looked up as he entered and smiled at him. Darcy wondered if she had been sitting there all night.
“I sent Miss Darcy and Lizzy to bed,” said Mrs Bingley and seeming to understand what his next unspoken question would be, “I think Kitty is much recovered.”
Mrs Bingley put down the embroidery she had been working upon and excused herself.
Catherine was still asleep. He told himself he could have sat on the chair vacated by Mrs Bingley but he chose to sit at the side of the bed. It seemed natural; as much as it was to move the strands of hair that had fallen across her face. She appeared much better, looking far less pale. Perhaps it was merely a natural response to several weeks of activity.
“Oh,” she’d opened her eyes and looked shocked at his presence.
“You are feeling better?” he asked quietly.
“Yes,” she said looking self-conscious and attempting to sit up.
“You should rest.”
“Oh no, I’ve rested enough,” she appeared flustered, which confused Darcy. She had no reason to be.
“You have been unwell, and no matter what Mr Jones says I do not think it natural to swoon.”
Her hands knotted into the bed linen, now that she was sitting up properly. If she insisted upon sitting up Darcy could not but try to arrange the pillows better behind her. If anything this seemed to disconcert her more.
“It may be natural – “ she suddenly said.
Darcy did not wish to offend her or cast aspersions on her intelligence but it was not and he must say so.
She shook her head, “I mean – “ she stopped and blushed.
“What is it?” Darcy became slightly alarmed. She had not had difficulty speaking her mind to him in some months, why had she begun so now?
“I – “
He could not think how to encourage her to speak, when she seemed to decide leaning forward and whispering in his ear was the best solution.
Darcy took in her words, and found himself releasing a breath of air he had not thought he was holding. His first impulse after that was to embrace her.
She drew back looking surprised, “You are not upset?”
Darcy looked confused, “Upset? Why should I be upset?”
“Because – “ she looked incapable of finishing her sentence.
Darcy was not sure of the source of her apprehension but it was entirely unwarranted. Had she thought that he might suspect her? A kiss was a kiss and nothing more than that. No, he had never really thought her capable or desirous of such villainy. Foolish actions but not malicious ones.
She appeared to want to attempt to continue her explanation and Darcy found he did not wish to hear it so he silenced her.
“You are happy?” she asked when he released her.
“Are you not?” was his response.
“Yes,” she replied a little breathlessly, “at least I think I am.”
There seemed no reason to think on Darcy’s part. It was a matter of course that one day he would have children. He had not expected it ever to be, or to feel, quite like this. He was part relieved that Mr Jones had spoke the truth, that it was quite natural (particularly after an exhausting series of weeks), and that there was not something more seriously wrong. He was also pleased. The relationship he had with his parents, his father specifically, had been so rewarding. It had had its flaws and as an adult Darcy could easily identify them, and he was excited to think that he could avoid those flaws.
Not that he thought he would be able to avoid all mistakes. That would be impossible and only an arrogant individual would think that he was perfection. But it would be an opportunity to try.
His silence had allowed his wife an opportunity to think. “I know that I cannot be the sort of –“
Darcy shook his head and took her face in his hands; “Do not speak nonsense. You care more deeply for people than I. Far more capable than I of love and showing that affection.”
“And you may teach her – or him – sense,” said Kitty with a small smile.
“That is not what I meant to imply. It would not be the truth either.”
“I thought that you did think I lacked sense,” it was said lightly but Darcy could tell it was borne from a very real feeling.
“I may have done. But I have thought, done and said many things of which I have been ashamed of later,” She did not respond so Darcy added, “and that is one of them.”
Catherine blushed. “Now I must get dressed.”
Darcy started slightly, “Why?”
She looked at him as if she was suddenly convinced of the fact she could not be considered the silly one, “Because I cannot walk around in my nightgown.”
“You should stay in bed.”
“But I am perfectly well. I cannot stay in bed for the next seven months – “ she sensed his sudden desire to contradict her – “I would be bored. Boredom cannot be healthy.”
He was sure that she was correct. He would have to bow to her, and others’ (who he would be sure to ask), superior knowledge. But that did not mean he was obliged to like it; particularly when she had only recently over-exerted herself and required the attention of a doctor.
His concern must have shown because she grasped his hands, “You are not lying are you?”
Darcy shook his head, “No, I am not.” He was not one who found it easy to show his emotions. He so often offended when he did not mean to and misread situations so easily that caused him to say the wrong thing. Her questioning made him smile because it was certainly one way of ensuring that they communicated. That and she needed his support more now than ever.
“I lied,” she said, and Darcy looked at her quizzically. He could not think of what she meant by that comment. It could not be anything. If it was it might spoil this moment and he did not wish for that. He pre-empted her next sentence with a teasing response.
“I know you did, but I am not quite sure what about.”
He’d confused her, and her forehead wrinkled.
“Either you are not sure that I am handsome, or you were lying about my being born to hang. I know which I would prefer to be the lie.”
“That was better than what I was going to say.”
Darcy suddenly felt some remorse. If she was going to be honest and truthful with him – why was it that he felt bound to prevent that? Did he feel he might be hurt by her? It was a foreign concept to him, and he was surprised by how close it felt to being reality.
“What were you going to say?”
“It was nothing.”
“No it was not,” he made her look at him.
“I was just being silly. I wanted to say that I was sure that I was happy. I did not think I would be, after – “
Darcy cupped her cheek and kissed her again.
“Yes. I am happy. More particularly I am happy we shall be going to London in a matter of days,” said Catherine.
Darcy was unsure about this. He would be against the plan completely except it would mean staying at Netherfield in close proximity to Mrs Bennet for an extended period of time. But he could bear that if it was the right thing to do. Except clearly Catherine did not wish for such an event, and Darcy was rapidly coming to the conclusion he might be unable to deny his wife anything she desired.
Posted on Date: Thursday, 9 August 2007
The water was relaxing. Kitty had been so relieved to step out of her carriage she’d almost bounded out of it. She only got sick in carriages if the blinds were drawn, but that did not mean she liked being cooped up on a long journey and this one certainly did not agree with her.
The last time she’d peered out of a carriage up Pemberley’s drive she’d been apprehensive; if she was frank with herself it had moved beyond apprehension to fear. Yet now Pemberley’s edifice inspired no shortness of breath. There were no servants’ averted eyes and suppressed sniggers. Indeed, only Mrs Reynolds and two footmen had waited on the steps to greet them; so ordinary now must be their arrival to Pemberley.
Mrs Reynolds had uttered pleasantries as Kitty walked up the stairs. Georgiana lagged behind them, far more fatigued than Kitty had been by the journey. Darcy of course directed the removal of their baggage. It seemed familiar and comfortable. There was no awkwardness and Kitty was keenly aware of the difference between her previous visit and this one.
Mrs Reynolds proved herself, as much as her counterpart in London, an excellent housekeeper and had ordered baths drawn up for both Kitty and Georgiana the minute she’d seen the carriage.
Kitty had wanted to call Mrs Reynolds a prince amongst men, but that was hardly suitable. Now she was relaxing she could ponder why no one ever commented that someone was a princess amongst women. Perhaps it was because all women of her class were supposed to be treated with the respect that one assumed a princess should be given? Indeed, sometimes more if the current Royal family were to be regarded.
“Kitty?” Georgiana was wrapped up warmly, but her newly washed hair was dripping slightly.
“Georgie, you’ll become ill!”
The younger girl shook her head, “It’s not at all cold and I wanted to make sure you were all right.”
Kitty sighed. “By making me worry about you? Besides is there a reason you should be particularly concerned about my welfare?”
Georgiana gave her a pointed look and Kitty averted her gaze. She felt perfectly fine and she was not an invalid. She was not yet accustomed to being considered something to protect; yet it was for no virtue of her own.
The message had been relayed to her while she was barely dressed. The night before they’d taken an early supper and she’d retired to bed but now it was morning and apparently Mrs Calens had come to call. At first to Kitty it seemed uncharacteristically impolite of Mrs Calens to call so early, although Kitty could not think of a previous visit Mrs Calens, or any of the other ladies from Lambton had made to Pemberley. Perhaps it was the village way? But once Kitty had consulted the clock sitting on her mantelpiece she realised it was she who was impolite. She'd spent the morning asleep! Sally was unrepentant in letting her mistress sleep and Kitty added it to the long list of grievances she was beginning to feel.
Kitty needn't have worried. Mrs Calens was not left sitting alone in the receiving room as she'd feared. Not only was Georgiana conversing with her on some piano piece which apparently Mr Huston had in store in Lambton which Georgiana had been unable to find in Mertyon, but Darcy was also present.
Kitty was slightly surprised and then checked herself. She should not be surprised. He'd put himself forward in Meryton, why should he not do so now in his own home?
It pleased Kitty to realise he was not merely observing Georgiana playing hostess. He'd been inquiring about Mrs Calens and her concerns as well as Lambton’s apparently. It reminded Kitty of her thoughts about gentlemen, like Mr Lewis, needing to learn how to be gentlemen. Watching Darcy for those first few moments before the room realised her presence made her wonder about those traits of character that were innate and could not be learned, though they could be suppressed and ignored. His current manner was not learnt, it was not the way he had been brought to believe was the correct manner in dealing with those of a different order- this natural ease and friendliness was in many respects alien to his teaching or his manner for the most part she’d known him. She was glad to see that circumstances had conspired to allow him to be himself, although perhaps it was merely Pemberley. She'd not noticed such a change before, but that was then and this was now.
"My dear Mrs Calens," said Kitty, finally walking across the room to extend her hand to her friend.
She'd not noticed at first but Mrs Calens was dressed so very minutely for a simple visit to a friend. Kitty momentarily felt a pang that anyone should be afraid to come to Pemberley because they feared their appearance might be commented upon, but Mrs Calens’ next words soothed her.
"I did not write to you about this, my dear, because I knew it would hardly reach you in time. After all which inn would I send it to? But today we are having a little open day for our school. Those who have supported us in word rather than deed are coming to see what their support has achieved. I thought I might come to see if there was a possibility that you might wish to - "
"Of course." Kitty could not contain her glee. She had not seen the school in its full working condition and she wanted to see the changes wrought in the children.
Georgiana had declined Mrs Calens' invitation. Kitty privately thought she would have to discuss such a refusal with Georgiana. Kitty understood why Georgiana could not go; she would be unsure that it was right considering she was not out, added to that was Georgiana's shyness. She had not yet overcome her natural aversion to people she did not know. Kitty had thought she was growing beyond that but evidence suggested otherwise. However, Georgiana must be made to realise her actions could be interpreted as pride and contempt by those who did not know her well.
Darcy appeared to be thinking the same as her, for Kitty noticed him speaking quietly to Mrs Calens as Kitty descended the stairs after fetching a bonnet and reticule. Although Kitty might have been mistaken for the reasoning for the subdued conversation; it appeared Darcy was coming with them.
"You wish to see the school?"
"Why should I not?" asked Darcy.
"There is no reason," replied Kitty. She merely hoped that Darcy genuinely wished to visit the school, not just keep an eye on her. She understood his concern, and in no way thought it was a reflection on her own behaviour, but nevertheless she could only chaff under such scrutiny. It was not as if she was ill. She'd avoided thinking of the circumstances prompting Darcy's solicitude. It was a subject that brought up so many feelings that were impossible to separate and rationally reflect on.
"Indeed, Mr Darcy could only positively influence Reverend Towers. He has been pacified but he still feels that we are being too generous," added Mrs Calens who clearly sensed Kitty's wavering feelings, but attributed them to the wrong quarter.
"Indeed. I am quite prepared to be used in such a manner."
Darcy was not lying. He was quite prepared to step into the breach and listen to Reverend Towers’ edifying sermon on the reason for the class system.
Kitty had a feeling Darcy was thoroughly agreeing with Reverend Towers, when he spoke of his lament that the class system was not more entrenched. This agreement had nothing to do with feelings of pride or superiority; merely it was a reflection of the fact the living at Lambton was not in his purview. Kitty felt sure neither Darcy nor his father would have employed such a man as Reverend Towers.
The school room was impeccable and Kitty wondered if the children within it, forced to come and sit at the tables, appreciated learning more than she had and realised that running wild was not as attractive as it might sound. Apparently, they did if the letters some of them had been learning to write were anything to go by.
“I know you have not been in Derbyshire long, Mrs Darcy,” said Mrs Wylde. Kitty only really knew Mrs Wylde by sight. She had become involved in the school after they’d left for London. The only other details Kitty knew of her were what Miss Almesbury had written; she had two daughters, one of which she was determined would become Mrs Towers. Kitty determined not to gossip but it was plain to see that Miss Almesbury had been correct and that organising the villages charitable activities according to Mr Towers’ wishes was apparently the first stage of her siege of him. Kitty pitied her daughters.
“I have not Mrs Wylde, that is true,” replied Kitty politely.
“Of course and you have charitable concerns far wider than our little village, but you must realise that often our poor are visited more than once because of a lack of communication,” Mrs Wylde let her implication hang unsaid. It was clear however from her tone and her look that she meant visiting more than once would of course make them lazy. Kitty chose to misunderstand her.
“That is indeed appalling, because of course if that happens it must also be true that some miss out completely. I think your suggestion is an excellent one. Miss Almesbury,” Kitty called over her Aunt’s friend, “do you not think Mrs Wylde’s plan commendable?”
Miss Almesbury denied knowledge of any plan, leaving Mrs Wylde stuttering until Kitty rescued her. “Our next plan of improvement should be a far less informal system of visits.”
Mrs Wylde recovered herself and smiled, “Indeed, and of course we should include the sick. I am sure Mrs Darcy would herself like to supervise that.”
Kitty paused. She had little experience of doing so, but did not think herself above it in any way; however she had more than herself to think of. She could not harm the child!
Mrs Wylde smiled at her discomfort, clearly relishing winning at least one trick. No doubt she thought the new Mrs Darcy too proud to really come down from her station.
Miss Almesbury looked shrewdly at Kitty and flicked her eyes down Kitty’s form before injecting herself in the conversation. “Of course such a plan would be eminently suitable. I will tell Mrs Calens at our next meeting, that is if you once again find yourself unable to attend, Mrs Wylde, that you have agreered to chair a sub-committee.”
Mrs Wylde’s inability to speak allowed Kitty to flee to the other side of the schoolroom.
“What, pray tell, was that about?” Darcy appeared behind her.
Kitty studiously studied the children’s artwork. “Village politics.”
“A dangerous game – “
“I am sure it is more dangerous at Westminister.”
“Members of Parliament do not usually sit down for cake with other members of Parliament; there is less chance of accidental poisoning for instance.”
“I am surprised that once again your thoughts tend to the murderous bent.”
Darcy laughed, then sobered. “Do not involve yourself if it is likely to upset you.”
Kitty shook her head, trying to appear amused. She wished to speak to him but this was hardly the time or place. She was glad for the distraction of more visitors that she must greet.
Kitty frowned as the candle fluttered, sending shadows across the page. She was just at the point where the heroine found herself in the impenetrable fortress!
She’d even been responsible and read her letters from home first; of course the light would become distracting when she’d picked up her novel! It had been a decision which to read first: Lizzy’s, Jane’s or Mrs Bennet. It was strange they had all written to her, since surely there could not be enough individual events in Longbourn, Netherfield and Meryton to fill three letters; her sisters and mother were close enough to discuss most events. In the end she’d opened Mrs Bennet’s letter first, discovering it was full of personal grievances. Apparently the gloss of having two well married daughters was beginning to pall and the visiting and news was regaining its hold in the activities of her life. Lizzy was being distinctly undutiful in relation to Mr Devinsham, Mr Bennet ungrateful in not letting her have the carriage more to visit Jane and Lydia annoying her with her regrets over the militia. This, of course, led to Lizzy’s letter which roundly condemned Mr Devinsham but Kitty thought she could sense a softening towards the man. She’s apparently had a spirited discussion with Mr Devinsham over dinner about his opinions on the education of women. (That had caused the greatest part of anguish in her mother’s letter). Lizzy always did like triumphing in an argument. Jane’s letter was merely the raptures of a new bride, although Kitty could sense neither Jane nor Charles had any idea of permanently settling in Hertfordshire. Kitty had closed her eyes, attempting not to think of the chairs. Then she wondered if she was going to become the sister that everyone communicated everything to because of her distance. She could hardly accidentally tell Lizzy how Mrs Bennet plotted to bring her and Mr Devinsham together; nor could she confess to Jane that Lizzy had misplaced a present Jane had once given her – and so forth: the perfect confidante.
It was liable to become tiresome, but for the moment Kitty was pleased to be needed, although worried; it was again for a circumstance out of her control.
The fluttering light seemed to disturb Georgiana who cursed – well as much as that girl could ever be known to utter a coarse word.
Darcy was also attempting to read and he looked up curiously at his sister who blushed under the scrutiny.
“Do you need more light?”
“Oh no. I just dropped a stitch, but I regained it and now it is done!” Georgiana sounded victorious which was not out of place to Kitty who’d once tried knitting and found it like embroidery – in her proficiency at it – except one was less likely to draw blood with knitting needles.
“What are you knitting?” Kitty was curious because her sister had been secretive about what she was knitting. Kitty thought if it was finished she should know what it was but Kitty was unable to distinguish it.
Georgiana held it up proudly, giving Kitty a better view. “See, it is something for the baby.”
“You alarm me,” said Kitty.
Georgiana’s face fell; “Oh but no everything shall be all right. I should have thought – “
“I think Catherine perhaps was alarmed by your commentary on our son’s – “ Darcy coughed after a look from Kitty – “or daughter’s possible condition.” At Georgiana’s confused look he continued, “The surplus of holes in your knitting.”
Georgiana looked down at her creation. There were certainly two arm holes, but between them were two holes. “Oh!”
Kitty giggled. “But it is very prettily done otherwise. Consider it practice.”
“But I should be a true proficient!” said Georgiana looking distressed.
Kitty at first thought Darcy was coughing or choking, but he was clearly trying not to laugh. Kitty did not understand the joke and neither apparently did Georgiana who had to be soothed and reassured that her brother of course did not find her poor knitting an amusing matter.
Kitty brushed out her own hair, ready for plaiting in preparation for bed. A knock sounded and Kitty called for whomever it was to enter. It was Darcy.
“I wish to speak to you,” said Darcy sounding ominously formal.
Kitty did not feel in the mood to speak formally so attempted to lighten the atmosphere; “what was so amusing in Georgiana saying she wished to be a true proficient? Granted it was a superior thing for her to say, but she is unlikely to become a young lady concerned only with her appearance and talents. Although I know you feel differently about her acquaintance from school.”
Darcy was distracted by this, “It is not that I disapprove of them.” He paused. “I have never been good with groups of giggling young ladies.”
“I am sure this is the point where I am to advise you that it is now no longer possible to become expert in that field,” Kitty finished her plait and tied it off with ribbon.
“You will not offer me that comfort?” said Darcy.
“To most husbands one would think that would be a punishment but of course for you…!”
Darcy sat down in one of the chairs by the fire. “Yet I do not wish to become a brother who does not involve himself when Georgiana comes out.”
“You know where that ends,” said Kitty lightly. Darcy did not acknowledge the statement verbally but she could tell he was thinking about it.
“I cannot expect Georgiana to confide all in me, about her season, after all much of it is going to be womanly concerns; naturally you shall be a better confidante.”
Kitty turned back to the mirror to fuss with the ribbon.
“I did not mean that as a slight,” said Darcy noticing her action. “Georgiana could need no better confidante.”
Kitty just nodded. How could she explain her feelings?
“Catherine. I came to speak to you and you’ve neatly sidetracked me, but I cannot leave without saying what I wished to say. I sense you wish to say something to me but cannot bring yourself to do so. I thought we could have no secrets between us any longer – “
“It is not a secret,” said Kitty, “at least not in the way you mean. It can cause no harm to anyone.”
“It can cause harm to our relationship,” said Darcy.
Kitty looked up, “Perhaps.”
“I will worry what I have done to upset you. I do worry.”
Kitty gave a small smile. Of course when he had done nothing he would worry about what he had done, and when he had done something he would be oblivious. No indeed Darcy had been all solitude and care since she’d told him that he was to be a father. She’d worried he would not feel as he ought because she was not the woman he would have chosen, but she needn’t have worried. Nor did she worry about her own feelings towards the child. Kitty felt herself capable of being a good mother; she would have to learn but so would he. At least they would be at the same point. She also surprised herself at the feelings she had, of protection and love towards something that was not even quite real yet. She did not know; was it only a baby once it had been born?
No, her worry was stupid and it was why she had not voiced it. Not only was it foolish but she knew that the answer to the question could not be what she wanted.
“Catherine?” Darcy had stood up and come to stand next to her and maybe sensing that in this position he could look intimidating, standing over her in such a manner, he crouched down, hand on the back of her chair.
“No, of course you have been all that is good and kindness, if slightly overprotective! You and Georgiana seem to think I cannot walk to breakfast without assistance! But I can have no real complaint.”
“Yet you do?” said Darcy astutely.
“It is not a complaint. I just wonder if…”
“Well, it is not directed at me is it? It would be the same if it was any other – “
Darcy looked confused; “Any other…what? Woman?” Kitty nodded. “I have little answer. I cannot speak on behaviour that cannot be known. I do not know what I would be like with another woman who was carrying my child. No one else has – “ Darcy suddenly paused as if struck and then shook his head, amusing Kitty greatly. Though she doubted he had sired any children he did not know about! “but why should that worry you?”
“It should not. You are right.”
Darcy looked at her. “But you are concerned, why?”
“I just feel – a little not very much – as if no one would treat me this way if I were not – it is not me. I do not deserve such treatment, only…” Kitty broke off delicately placing a hand over her stomach, “deserves such treatment.”
Darcy placed his hand over hers, “I cannot separate the two. How can I solely care for someone who would not exist if it were not for you? It has been difficult. I have acted badly – “
“We have both acted badly,” said Kitty truthfully and loyally.
“We have both acted badly but I cannot say I am unhappy and I cannot say I have any regrets. Indeed I must say I am content and free from qualms, except for some very understandable concerns – but I should not smother you, I know. ”
Kitty smiled; Darcy cupped her face and as he made to stand up kissed her on the forehead. “Now will you indulge me and my unnecessary concern for your welfare and sleep?”
Kitty nodded and stood, but gave into impulse and stood up on her toes to kiss her husband.
He returned her gesture with an embrace and whispered words which she happily returned.
Miss Georgiana Darcy tripped down the steps from the Darcy townhouse, bonnet in one hand and reticule swinging in the other. The carriage had pulled up in front of the house and she accepted the hand of the footman who jumped down to hand her into the carriage.
She closed the door behind her and toyed with the notion of pulling all the shades down to hide. Instead she slid the pane of the window on the road side and stuck her head out the window. There was precious little to see. It was a genteel square with no lumbering carts or other street activity. The only thing was the square of lawn on which children were playing with attendant nurses.
She smirked; she knew those young ladies who were now hampered with nurses and having to help with their younger brothers and sisters. As they turned she smiled and waved to them.
“Anna!” said one, running to the railings. “Where are you going?”
“Where? I am off to the library, and then to do some shopping;” she replied in her most adult of voices. It was slightly undermined by the fact she had to almost shout and repeat herself so that Miss Celia could actually hear her.
However the speech had the desired effect: Miss Celia looked positively jealous. Of course Mrs Levant would never allow Celia the use of the carriage; she didn’t think her old enough even though Celia was two months older than Anna.
“Sir Walter Scott, he has a new novel does he not?” shouted Miss Celia, now joined by her younger sister, Miss Penelope. Anna saw that Miss Penelope was enviously looking at her gloves; Anna sent a silent thanks to her Aunt Lydia, in Paris with her husband, the former Captain Chamberlayne as he was styled by the war’s end. They’d remained after the Army of Occupation left because Aunt Lydia found the society too enjoyable. They had opened of all things a fabric shop but this suited Anna as she got all the French fashions earlier than most girls.
“A romance!” said Miss Penelope who was addicted to romances, despite being only thirteen.
“Georgiana Darcy, cease yelling across the square!”
Anna turned to see the carriage door being opened by her mother. “Yes, Mama,” she replied dutifully and shut the pane. “Thank you for taking me,” she added.
“I merely gave in,” her mother replied and Anna tried to look innocent.
“I didn’t nag you too much.”
“Unlike the sash.”
“Unlike the sash,” agreed Anna. But that had been Papa. He was always far easier to work on. Anna had but to tear up and he would race to discover how to purchase what it was she wanted. She was exaggerating of course; Papa was not such a weak willed man. But he was far easier to extract presents from. She suspected this was because he and Aunt Georgiana were so far apart in age and thus he had never really been able to view the wiles of females as a boy. Mama had four sisters and only eight years separated Aunt Jane from Aunt Lydia; she knew all the girlish tricks.
While Mama browsed and chatted, Anna searched the shelves looking for exciting novels to read. She adored reading and was the bane of her drawing master. Anna found no interest in sketching a scene; she’d rather see one sketched out before her very eyes in words. Luckily, the drawing master had more of a pupil in Lucy.
Anna looked around to ensure her mother was not watching her draw a particular novel from the shelf; her mother was on the other side of the shelf and Anna could easily keep her in her sights.
“Mrs Darcy.” Anna ducked her head slightly to see the gentleman doffing his hat to her mother.
“Sir John, and where is your charming wife?”
“Picking a selection of what I am sure will be entertaining reading material, in French.” Anna was sure that meant something but she had no clue what. She recognised the gentleman as Sir John Macdonald. She had seen him at the Lavents, and maybe at a ball at their townhouse but she could not be certain. “You are looking radiant.”
“Thank you,” replied Mama. Anna wished someone else was being flattered, it was entirely wasted on one’s mother. “Entirely comforted too.” There was a smile.
“I did not even think to ask, it was so obvious.”
Her mother laughed. Out of all her friends Anna was certainly blessed with the happiest mother, even when she scolded she never looked cross. It was a point of envy amongst her friends. Anna had missed part of the conversation; “…like water under the bridge.”
“I am glad,” was Sir John’s reply. “I was such a rake.”
“Was?” was Mama’s incredulous reply.
“Come, I am married and a father. I do not have time!”
“One would expect you to make time.”
“Why should one do so merely for appearances’ sake? No, I am much happier being old and staid.”
“I do not believe you.”
“Wise woman. Give my regards to your husband. Although I suspect he should not want them.”
“Why?” Her mother’s tone was somewhat sharp now.
“Only that I tempted him into a game of billiards, at Whites, and sadly won.”
That earned him a laughing, “Good day, Sir John.”
Mama came round the shelves then and Anna quickly hid her book behind her back.
“Were you eavesdropping, Anna?”
“No…Yes. He is fearfully handsome.”
“Is he? I suppose he is. I would thought him too old for your eyes. Young Mr Levant is your age, you should think him handsome”
“Oh no. He’s spotty.”
“Well, Anna, the handsome ones are trouble.”
“Papa was handsome. He was not trouble.”
Mama laughed, “You think so? You are sadly deceived. Now what book do you have behind your back?”
Anna sighed and showed it to her mother.
“I will make you a bargain. I will take this book, but I shall read it first to make sure it’s suitable.”
Anna knew what that meant. Her mother had been looking for the book for herself.
Thomas quickly hid the wine goblet behind his back.
“Young man, I know you have a glass behind your back. Sophy was distraught when she was counting the glassware and she thought one was missing. Your father was never this ill behaved.”
Thomas groaned. Statements like that always made him wonder why Mrs Wilson was not retired to a small cottage on their estate. She and Mrs Reynolds would surely be more comfortable gossiping away over tea and baked goods. They would be more prone to giving away those cakes to the children of their beloved master if they were squirreled away from the main houses.
Thomas held out the glass to Mrs Wilson, who noticed the spider crawling at the bottom and shrieked. This of course led to him being shepherded to his father’s study. Thomas doubted Papa would believe he was being high minded and helping rid the house of vermin.
Papa peered at the spider. “You were going to frighten your sisters, no doubt? Or your mother.”
“No, my cousins,” replied Thomas truthfully. “Mama isn’t afraid of spiders.”
“Any particular reason?”
“That Mama is not afraid of spiders?” Thomas sobered at the glare send his way, “No reason, sir.”
“Yes.” Thomas had not wanted to go to school; of course, he’d lied when the other boys taunted him with suggestions that he’d cried when parted from his mother. But he found now on holidays that his younger brothers and sisters were quite tedious. If he was honest, they were tedious because he couldn’t order them about and that is what he lacked at school. He was unable to order anyone about at school. They’d found new games to play, and Miss Winston the governess and Mrs Addison the nanny were focusing on their main charges. If they did notice Thomas it was to infantilise him. They didn’t understand he was a man now, who could use such words.
“I gathered, considering the cricket ball through Fitzwilliam’s window.”
“Uncle Fitzwilliam did not mind; well not much. Richard and I didn’t mean it.” Thomas was just glad that his cousin – for while the retired Brigadier-General was certainly a brother-in-arms to his father, hence the term Uncle, he was only a cousin, perhaps even twice over since he had married his father’s other cousin Anne de Bourgh – had not mentioned that the glass had shattered all over Aunt Georgiana and her husband, Sir James.
Papa smiled, “Fitzwilliam did not mind because he remembers what it is like to be a boy.”
“You don’t remember?”
“I cannot remember yesterday,” muttered his father. Thomas was fairly sure his father was being humorous, since his father had a lamentably long memory; he had proof of that.
Thomas drew himself up “Well, if I promise to behave and uphold the family name may I leave?” Papa frowned and handed Thomas a stack of paper. Thomas stared at it. “Sir?”
“You will not know the meaning of boredom until you understand estate management.”
“I already – “protested Thomas; ever since he could remember his father had taken him – and his brothers and sisters – riding around the estate, on his tenant visits and so forth.
“I have sheltered you from the paperwork.”
Thomas adjusted his crown. Thomas thought it must look ridiculous but Lucy had been insistent that the Prince of the West Indies would wear a crown. Thomas had tried to explain to her that the West Indies were in fact a name for several separate colonies and that being colonies they wouldn’t have a prince, they’d have a king. The same George the Fourth that England had! But Lucy didn’t care, The West Indies was the mythical place the bad Lord Snitterton had been sent – they’d never quite worked out what he’d done, except he was hardly spoken of despite being the heir to the earldom of Matlock. In novels that meant he was the black sheep. Or perhaps that was the man whose miniature was in Grandfather Darcy’s cabinet; Mrs Reynolds sniffed, in that unimpressed way she had, over him even though he’d died at Waterloo. Men who died in battle were supposed to be heroes thought Thomas, not sniffed over by housekeepers. So Thomas could only conclude that George Wickham had done something wrong and sacrificed himself to a bullet to atone. At least that’s what Thomas liked to think; it was probably nobler than the truth.
In any case, Thomas could only thank God Almighty that they were doing Lucy’s play and not Anna’s. Anna would write a romance and Thomas was not being romantic to his sister or anyone else. Except he might be wrong since Lucy was complaining she didn’t have a princess.
“Cannot Anna be the princess?” complained Henry who ever since he’d ignored the girls’ script had been related to playing trees and such like. He was currently being the castle.
“I’m the heroine; a peasant who is really a virtuous noble lady,” replied Anna. Thomas rolled his eyes.
“Mama!” cried Lucy as their mother walked into the school room still dressed in her visiting dress. “You can be the princess.”
“Why cannot you be the princess, Miss Lucy?” his mother replied, kissing Lucy after Lucy had flung herself at her.
“I am the witch.” Lucy pulled back, “I’m a good witch though. I’m to stop an evil count abducting Anna, who’s a noble lady who thinks she is a peasant.”
Henry groaned – “Where’s the count? The babies cannot be the Count.”
Lucy’s face fell and Thomas took off his crown. It seemed as if the play would come to naught and he could go outside. After all if it took more than a moment to find the count, Miss Winston would come back from the library and start lessons again.
“Catherine, I cannot – “
“Oh the evil count!” shrieked their mother, startling Papa.
“I – What?”
“Lucy – I mean cankanerous crone – save us from the wicked count!” cried Mama, laughing.
“Papa! You’ll be our count! We don’t have a script. So you will just have to repeat after me.”
“How wicked am I?” asked Papa cautiously.
“Famously. Pistols at the ready. Certain to be hanged,” said Mama with relish. Thomas thought perhaps with too much relish.
“Ah, that sort of wicked count,” replied their father, as Lucy cried, “No, Mama. That’s wrong.”
Their parents looked contrite and submitted to listening to Lucy’s demands.
The portraits were leaning against the wall with the cloth that protected them on the journey still wrapped around them. They should be hanging at Longbourn, which was Grandfather Bennet’s estate, but Grandmother Bennet wished for the frames to be clean and apparently she would not trust them to anyone but a London specialist.
Lucy had heard her mother speaking to Aunt Mary who was in London with her husband giving a speech about women’s education. Lucy wished Aunt Mary would not; if Aunt Mary succeeded then surely even more of Lucy’s day would be spent learning the rivers of Europe. Lucy intended to sail the rivers of Europe – perhaps as a pirate – just because if she was forced to learn this knowledge it must be put to good use at some point.
But, on the matter of the portraits, Aunt Mary and Mama had said that Grandmother Bennet had merely wished to demonstrate to the new tenants of Netherfield that she had connections – whatever that meant.
All Lucy knew was that it meant she had the portraits to look at. Miss Winston thought she had great talent in drawing and painting, like Aunt Georgiana had been talented as a girl. Perhaps she was still talented. Mama and Papa thought so too, but Lucy was entirely sure as parents it was their job to pretend their children could excel at anything. That could be the only reason Mama found Henry funny. Henry wasn’t funny.
Lucy tugged off the covers. Aunt Jane and Uncle Bingley with their family; Aunt Lizzy and Uncle Devinsham and their children – Aunt Lizzy lived in Newcastle and her husband was in glass, or ships or printing, Lucy thought it was one of those. Whatever it was it always involved pretty presents.
The last cover came off and, like most young ladies when confronted with her own image, she recoiled; she could not imagine herself such a chubby baby. She was consoled with the thought that if she had been a chubby infant she could hardly find a word for Henry.
“Miss Lucy, I thought you had been put to bed hours ago?” Lucy turned at her mother’s voice and hurriedly put the covers back on the paintings. She scrambled to her feet.
“We should have another portrait taken.”
“Will you all sit still long enough?” Lucy noticed now that her mother was dressed for an evening’s entertainment. Her hair was all pearls and roses. She was the prettiest mother.
“Of course we will sit still! Are you going to a ball?”
“A musical soiree,” said her mother, shepherding Lucy back to the room she shared with Anna.
“Anyone I know?”
“A friend of mine, Miss Sharp as was; her daughter Louisa, well step-daughter, has just come out.”
“Will you play?” Mama played silly childish songs with them, but Lucy did not know if she could play seriously like Anna.
“Gracious, I don’t wish to spoil the evening; now, Miss Lucy go to bed.”
“If there is a harp will you play?” Lucy turned to see her father who had clearly come to investigate why Mama was taking so long.
“And rob you of the pleasure?”
“You play the harp?” said Lucy astounded. She’s always thought her father could do anything, but anything had never included the harp.
“No, Miss Lucy, I don’t play the harp. But I may be forced to do something equally as rash if you do not go to bed; otherwise we will be later than can properly be termed fashionable.”
Lucy kissed both her parents, and they departed, presumably for the soiree.
Something woke her. The intermittent rain on the roof perhaps, but it could not have been a nightmare! She’s not had a nightmare for some time, not since Henry had told her a monster lived under the bed and only came out at night, and that had been years, or maybe months.
Lucy crept out of bed and pulled the knitted coverlet from her bed – it had been a present from Aunt Georgiana. She wrapped it around her tightly and crept from her bedroom. It was darker than when she’d escaped from bed before, but not as dark as the house could have been because if her parents were out for the evening there must be still light for them to see.
The stairs creaked under her weight, Lucy made for the light from the crack of the study door. Lucy pushed it open further and found that her parents had returned. Something amusing had obviously been said because Mama, who had been removing her gloves by the fire (they’d been dampened by the rain coming in from the carriage), had looked over her shoulder towards the desk and was looking satisfied with herself.
“You did not get too wet?”
“No, it is only a shower. White just shows water so profoundly. At least they had a card room.”
“Selflessly though I managed to sit through Miss Kenworthy’s rather uninspired performance instead of escaping.”
“I do not call it selfless, the faces you were making! I barely kept my countenance.”
Lucy peeked her head in a little further so she could see her father at his desk sipping from his glass. He’d merely shrugged in response to Mama, but he was laughing at her. Lucy didn’t see what was amusing in her mother’s stance or in her conversation. But adults were strange.
Lucy ducked back to avoid being seen by her mother and scolded for still being awake, as she turned to move towards the desk to lean and give Papa a kiss on the cheek.
Lucy stored up the look for her next play, and his movement in stroking her mother’s cheek. “What would I do without you?”
“I am not sure that I would want to know,” teased Mama.
“Ah, heartless creature.”
“Of course, I hope someone has it safe.”
“You do not trust me?”
It was all far too sentimental for Lucy who could not help betraying her presence with a noise. Then she fled from the scene.