Section I, Next Section
Elizabeth May Darcy sat quietly, watching as the dancers circled with almost mesmerizing grace. Though Elizabeth was never without a partner, she chose on occasions to sit out with her husband, that gentleman was seated next to her, also watching the dancing. A scuffle in the doorway caused Elizabeth to glance up. First the footman entered, a solitary female followed him. Not that this would have normally drawn so many eyes, in a time of war, widows were common. She was dressed against the fashion, the fashion being for light colours, in a gown of navy blue. Her hair was a light brown in colour, but shot with a gleaming red-gold which took it out of the ordinary. Her eyes gleamed sapphire blue, as they danced and laughed. She appeared to combine spirit and liveliness with the grace of a professional dancer. This woman was alive, she was entrancing, she was enticing, and she was intoxicating.
"That is a woman to die for." Elizabeth turned her head sharply at her husband's soft comment.
"And what do you mean by that?" Darcy shrugged.
"How does one explain it. She is a woman to worship, but not to love or marry." Elizabeth nodded her comprehension, and satisfaction, Darcy smiled quietly. "I would not choose to marry her, I fear I must have a jealous nature, I do not wish my wife to draw all eyes and that sort of company." Elizabeth laughed as she stood up. The dashing Colonel Raymond Hargreaves had secured the lady for the next set, Elizabeth was promised to Sir Gerald Maxwell.
Later that evening Elizabeth found herself chatting with her hostess and decided to take advantage of the situation.
"Lady Chatsworth, could you please tell me who the lady in dark blue is? She looks familiar, but I cannot name her." Lady Chatsworth quickly scanned the room.
"Ah, yes. That is Lady Sophia, Marquessa de la Chatelet. She has just arrived from France." Elizabeth nodded.
"Of course. I've heard rumours of her beauty," here Elizabeth paused momentarily. "And it would appear that they understate the case, which is unusual for rumours." Lady Chatsworth laughed.
"Only you would say something like that Elizabeth."
"Mr. Darcy says that she is a woman to die for. A woman to worship, but not to love." Lady Chatsworth nodded.
"A very accurate summation of the situation. One might wish for the admiring looks, but I would prefer to be without the looks then have to keep the company." As Lady Chatsworth moved away, Elizabeth found herself once more watching Lady Sophia, she was still being attended to by Colonel Hargreaves. Colonel Hargreaves was only accepted in society because he could make himself pleasant. Elizabeth was relieved when her husband came to take her away a few minutes later, but she said nothing until they were well gone.
"And did you enjoy your evening?"
"Very much, my Elizabeth. What did you find out about the Lady in Blue. Hargreaves wouldn't let anyone near her."
"That is understandable. Lady Chatsworth says that she is Lady Sophia, Marquessa de la Chatelet." Darcy nodded.
"Ahh, yes. The most beautiful woman in Europe, to be honest I think the rumours understate her case. Elizabeth I am glad you are not that beautiful, I much prefer a wife to someone I wish to hang in a frame." Elizabeth chuckled and gave her husband a quick hug.
Colonel Raymond Hargreaves Commits Suicide.Elizabeth gasped as she read the notice over her morning cup of tea. She instantly went in search of her husband.
Society Colonel, Colonel Raymond Hargreaves committed suicide last night. The police have investigated and his papers show that he was a spy for the French. The reason for this suicide is unknown.
"Fitzwilliam." She found him working out in the fencing room.
"Have you read the paper yet?" Darcy shook his head, and Elizabeth handed the paper over and indicated the article. Darcy opened it up and read the article intently.
"It would appear that we will no longer have to worry about Colonel Hargreaves." Darcy replaced his foils in the rack and pulled his waist coat and coat on. "Let's to breakfast my dear."
"But a spy!"
"Yes, I wonder why he did it."
Chapter 2 Posted on Friday, 23 April 1999
Lydia slammed the draw shut, and sighed noisily as she leant against the wardrobe. Last night had been difficult, but today promised to be worse. Lydia pulled her pen and notebook out from their hiding place and started to write, slowly at first, but then with increasing speed. It was times like these that she regretted the choice she had made when she was 14. But fortunately these periods were few and far between, most of the time Lydia found that it enlivened the regular monotony of a camp.
"Mrs. Wickham." Lydia looked up to see her landlady peering disapprovingly through the doorway. Mrs. Trevor was a prude and a busybody, and she had no bones about showing Lydia her disapproval.
"What is it Mrs. Trevor?" Mrs. Trevor frowned.
"There is a military man to see you, he says his name is Grant." Lydia leapt up from her chair, dropping the notebook.
"Oh please show him in quickly." Lydia hurried to the small mirror and started to straighten her hair, her eyes watching Mrs. Trevor warily. If that woman did not have her sense of proprietary offended she would stay nailed to the keyhole. Mrs. Trevor humphed loudly and walked out of the room, shortly to return with the military man. He was of medium build, with a close knit frame and a nondescript face. His hair was mouse-brown, and his uniform was a poor fit. "Thomas." Lydia flew across the room and embraced Mr. Grant, before turning pettishly to her landlady. "What are you waiting for Mrs. Trevor." That lady mumbled something, but left the room hurriedly, closing the door firmly behind herself. "Now she will not disturb us. Come, take a seat." Mr. Thomas Grant smiled in amusement as he sat down.
"That is by far the warmest greeting I have received in a long time. How are things with you Miss Lydia?" Lydia sat down in a chair across the room, and laughed.
"I see from today's paper that you had success. Not too difficult?" Lydia shrugged.
"Nothing to serious, unfortunately my sister saw me, and I think she nearly recognized me." Grant frowned.
"Now that is not good, I suppose that is why you are alone then." Lydia nodded, Grant frowned. "Unfortunately you're going to have to continue for a bit. Anyway you can ward off suspicions?"
"Short of becoming a widow, I doubt it. She is my sister after all." Grant nodded.
"Perhaps if she becomes used to the sight of you. By all report you were never close." Lydia nodded slowly.
"I doubt I have much choice, but I'll risk it. Lydia was certainly no Lady Sophia."
"You can say that again. Everything straight otherwise?" Lydia nodded and Grant stood up. "Communication by the usual channels. Nothing new on George?" Lydia shook her head, then conducted her guest out the window.
Elizabeth looked thoughtfully out the window, it was about time Lydia paid another visit, even if it was only begging for money. With a sigh Elizabeth sat down and picked up her pen.
'Dear Sister, I hope all is well with you in Leeds. Mr. Darcy and I have just arrived in London for the season. The weather is magnificent, I have a new gown from Marguerite's, and it is of the prettiest shade of pink. Apparently bonnets are becoming the rage again, in particular the chip straw. Apparently, by Mr. Darcy, Napoleon is free, which means the end of quiet for you, dear sister. And in the advent of this, I was wondering whether you might care to come and reside with us in London. The theatres are running good shows at present, though society is still pretty thin. Also Lady Sophia has arrived in London, you remember I wrote about her the other day. Well I hope this reaches you in good health.Elizabeth swiftly sealed the note and rang the bell for the maid.
Your sister & etc.
"Please see that this gets into the post, Louise." The maid took the letter bobbed a curtsey and departed. Elizabeth sat down in her chair once again, she had felt guilty about not having invited Lydia to visit the previous year, when Mary and Kitty had visited, but for some reason the invitation had never been sent.
Chapter 3 Posted on Saturday, 24 April 1999
Lydia sat in a chair, sewing some lace on a bonnet. Things were starting to get uncomfortable in Leeds, she had been careless over Private Gregory Frankome. With a sigh she pulled out her notebook from its hiding place and started to thumb through it. Suddenly she paused, and started re-reading meticulously, the notebook had a catch binding, a binding that, if mistreated, dumps the contents of the book on the floor. There it was, and there again, Lydia dropped the book and glanced hurriedly around the room. Who had looked in her notebook. At least three pages were not in the right place. Lydia picked the book up again and rechecked, definitely, someone had been looking through her notes. She hurriedly shoved the book back into its hideout as she heard steps mounting the stairs. They were regular and heavy, this was a man, not her landlady. Lydia grabbed her bonnet and started sewing unconcernedly.
"Well madam wife, so pleasant to see you being industrious." Mr. George Wickham was as handsome as ever, though his expression had soured a bit.
"Oh Georgie, darling." Lydia flew to hug her husband. George roughly pushed her aside.
"Don't give me that garbage Lydia. I know you for who you are. I've known ever since Gregory Frankome committed suicide. I know, because I've read your notebook?"
"My notebook?" Lydia's face expressed all the bewilderment she did not feel. George pushed passed her, and roughly jerked the book from its hideout. The binding failed and the sheets fluttered to the floor.
"Your notebook. So unwise of you to keep one." Lydia's face expressed astonishment as she viewed the mass of paper that had spread itself over the floor. She then picked up a sheet and inspected it closely.
"Why, that does look like my handwriting. But I've never kept a book in my life."
"Shut up Lydia. I know you for what you are."
"Are you threatening me? And I'll ask a question, if that is my notebook, what in hell are you going to do about it?" George Wickham looked momentarily staggered.
"I'm going to send you to a place where you can cause no further damage to our cause." Lydia frowned momentarily, then pulled the pistol she kept hidden up her sleeve.
"Use this, it will do the job much more neatly, and you can then conceal it as suicide." George almost dropped the gun in his astonishment.
"You carry a gun?"
"But of course." Lydia's face was all innocence. And George brought the gun up to aim. "But before you fire, there is a copy of that book in the hands of the British intelligence service, I update it daily." George's face convulsed, Lydia knew she was cutting the line very thin, but she had not lived with Wickham for nothing all those years.
"You devil. You devil!" His voice rose to an insane shriek, then the gun fired. Lydia looked down at the remains of what had once been her husband's head.
"Mrs. Trevor! Oh Mrs. Trevor." She screamed as she hurried into the hallway. "Oh Mrs. Trevor, save me."
"What's up with you?" Mrs. Trevor did not like Mrs. Wickham.
"My dear George has shot himself." Mrs. Trevor hurried to the upstairs flat, leaving Lydia in almost fainting condition. Lydia heard the scream when her landlady saw Wickham, and seconds later Mrs. Trevor returned.
"Let that be judgement on you Mrs. Wickham. Had you remained true to your wedding vows, I doubt this would ever have occurred." Lydia burst into tears as the postman walked into the room.
"Good evening Mrs. Trevor. I have an express post from London for the young lady." Lydia hastily dried her eyes at this and grabbed the letter, which was pre-postage paid. Having read it, Lydia leapt to her feet and gave a shriek.
"My sister has invited me to visit her in London. I must go pack." Lydia hurried out of the room, much to the horror of Mrs. Trevor, and the bemusement of the postman.
"What was up with 'er?" Mrs. Trevor frowned.
"Her husband has just shot himself. Lieutenant George Wickham is no longer among the living." The postman looked surprised, but little else.
"Well I must be on my way. I hope the young lady recovers from such a sad occurrence." Mrs. Trevor glared him out of the house, then went upstairs to speak to her tenant.
Chapter 4 Posted on Monday, 26 April 1999
Lydia climbed cautiously out of the mail coach, her stiff muscles protesting loudly. She was dressed in a high collared black mourning gown, and her bonnet had black trimmings on it. Her hair was hastily wound into a plaited bun, and her eyes were reddish. Mrs. Trevor had frowned as Mrs. Wickham had boarded the mail in a bright pink gown with a very low cut front, but she would have been satisfied with the widow who departed at the other end in the busy London depot. Lydia carefully wiped her eyes, and glanced around, hoping to see a familiar face, but she could not see anyone familiar. With a sigh she picked up her small valise, and directed the porter to send her trunk to the Darcy's town house. Lydia hurried to catch a passing cab. The cab first stopped in the business district, for about five minutes, while Lydia hurried in to hold a discussion with a Mr. Thomas Grant, then it went to the Darcy town house. Lydia paid off the cab, and mounted the stairs wearily, for indeed she was weary, to knock on the imposing front door. She was admitted by the Darcy's imposing butler, who then went to tell Mrs. Darcy of her arrival. Lydia sat down in the small saloon, slowly pulling off her small black gloves, the habit was automatic, sat down, and removed gloves. Lydia stood up again as Elizabeth entered.
"Elizabeth." Lydia nodded stiffly, then sniffed. Having seen Elizabeth only a few days earlier, Lydia was not at all surprised by her. But the same could not be said for Elizabeth. Elizabeth just could not see her boisterous little sister in this weary, gray, and sad woman.
"Are you alright Lydia?" Lydia smiled slightly.
"I do no like travel, but I will be better if I could lie down." Elizabeth nodded, then led Lydia to the small bedroom she had been allotted. Lydia watched as Elizabeth left the room, before making sure the door was locked. Lydia left the key in the lock, then turned and opened her trunk and valise. First Lydia removed her 'Lydia' dresses and her mourning gowns. These she hung in the wardrobe, Lydia the place her 'Lady Sophia' dresses on the bed. She did not know where she was going to put them. She then put her brushes, combs, clips and powders onto the dressing table, and her spare underclothes into it. Lydia then pulled her notebooks out of their secret compartment in the bottom of her trunk. A footman would remove the trunk while she was at the evening meal, she had to find a place to conceal her notebooks. Lydia placed the books on the bed with the 'Lady Sophia' dresses, and started to inspect the room. She eventually hid the books behind the bed head. Lydia eyed the gowns in annoyance, it was not that she disliked them or anything, in fact she was decidedly partial to them, the problem was that there was nowhere to hide them, and hid they must be. Lydia sat down and idly ran her fingers through the lace, tulle and ruffles, as Lady Sophia, Lydia found that she could really be herself, though admittedly she did not like the company she usually ended up in. Suddenly, Lydia knew exactly where she would hide the dresses, she stood up hurriedly and grabbed them off the bed.
Elizabeth entered the library cautiously, in many ways her husband was very like her father, the most prominent of these similarities was the privacy of their libraries. Darcy was sunk in a large book, but he looked up at Elizabeth's tap, laying the book down on the table next to him.
"Elizabeth. What is it?"
"Lydia's just arrived."
"Oh." Darcy hesitated for a moment, then stood up.
"Don't worry. She is resting until teatime." Darcy nodded and sat down again. "I'm worried." Darcy looked up in concern. "Lydia has changed."
"Any change would be for the better."
"Well I wouldn't call this an improvement." Elizabeth snapped.
"Well let her settle, and see if the difference remains. You are not too friendly after a long trip. Even when they are conducted in private coaches. Lydia has just come from Leeds by the mail." Elizabeth hesitated, then said nothing. "And I was listening, I just don't think it is something to worry about yet." Elizabeth slowly nodded, then sat down.
"I think that I was just expecting Lydia, and instead a mourning Mrs. Wickham arrived." This had Darcy's head up again, a speculative glint in his eyes.
"Interesting." Elizabeth watched Darcy stare in to space for a bit, then quit the room. She found Lydia walking distractedly around in the main living room.
"Oh Lizzie." Lydia flung her arms around Elizabeth and embraced her. "Sorry about being such a bear. But Mrs. Trevor is a busybody and a prude and she has been moralizing to me for the last couple of days." Elizabeth returned the embrace, though this was the usual Lydia, once again Elizabeth felt that wall, a barrier of protectiveness. A point which no one could pass.
Elizabeth glanced at the clock, then hurriedly pulled a wrap around herself, before leaving the room. Elizabeth found Lydia frowning distastefully at the gown laid out on her bed.
"Is something the matter Lydia?"
"This ...gown." Lydia indicated it with distaste. "You wear such things in public?"
"Lydia, it is only dark blue. It would not be appropriate for you to appear in public in any lighter colour. Your husband died only a couple of days ago. You cannot wear any real colours for at least a six month."
"Then I shall not go." Lydia folded her arms resolutely.
"But I though you wanted to go out into society?"
"I do, but not in mourning. The colours suit me not at all well. I would much prefer the green I got last month. It goes very nicely with officers uniforms."
"Lydia, there will be no officers in regimentals there." Lydia looked horrified.
"No regimentals!!! Lizzie, how can you attend those things?"
"Without out much difficulty. Now are you coming Lydia?"
"Without any officers in regimentals? You are joking Lizzie, I will not attend such an insipid affair." Elizabeth raised her eyebrows.
"Very well, I will request cook to prepare a meal for you. I am sorry I cannot remain with you. But I promised Colonel Audley the first waltz." Elizabeth gathered up the dress and departed. Being honest with herself, she realised that she would have expected no other reaction from Lydia. With Lydia, the only thing of importance wore a scarlet coat.
Elizabeth curtsied to Colonel Audley at the end of the first waltz, and pressed her fingers into her left temple. Already the air was warm and stuffy, Elizabeth could feel a headache approaching.
"Mrs. Darcy. Would you like a drink?" Elizabeth smiled at him and nodded.
"Yes please. Oh, I see Lady Worth, if you'll excuse me?"
"Rather you excuse me, as I am going for the drink. Give Judith my regards." Elizabeth chuckled at this, then walked over to where the Countess of Worth sat fanning herself unconcernedly.
"Elizabeth." They embraced quickly.
"Delighted to see you again. Charles told me to give you his regards."
"He would, he is such an obnoxious creature, he never actually gives me his regards, it always comes from someone else. I sometimes wonder whether the person is not just being diplomatic. I often have wondered how Julian got such a brother."
"It seems to come with the title of colonel. My husband's cousin Richard is another such one."
"He has an elder brother?"
"Yes. Colonel's and younger son's of earls seems to be the specification." Judith laughed.
"But of course, you refer to Colonel Fitzwilliam, he arrived on the staff about the same time as Charles did. What's the latest talk of town. Julian and I only arrived last night."
"You must be utterly exhausted. Let me see. Lady Barbara Childe has returned to town, apparently the French king is a bore."
"She would think that. What's this I hear of a new beauty?"
"Oh, the Lady Sophia, Marquise de la Chatelet. I believe that she will do better than Lady Barbara. That reminds me, my sister Lydia has just arrived from Leeds."
"Yes. Her husband passed away the other day."
"How sad for her. Was it suicide?"
"Charles hears everything doesn't he. Apparently yes, unless Lydia shot him." Judith grimaced, then looked up as her husband walked over.
"Julian, see what surprise just arrived for me." Elizabeth rose quickly, and curtsied. The Earl of Worth bowed briefly.
"If you'll excuse my wife for a minute Mrs. Darcy. I have something of import to discuss with her." Elizabeth nodded, noting that Colonel Charles Audley was approaching with her drink.
"Mrs. Darcy." Elizabeth turned as she heard herself addressed by Lady Chatsworth.
"Lady Chatsworth." Elizabeth took her drink from Colonel Audley, thanking him, then turned back to the lively Marchioness.
"Lady Sophia has just arrived. I was wondering whether you might like an introduction to her. Before the gentlemen mob her." Elizabeth glanced quickly around the room and saw Lady Sophia talking animatedly with their host.
"But of course." Elizabeth handed her drink back to Colonel Audley, before following Lady Chatsworth across the room. Elizabeth thoughtfully looked at Lady Sophia, weighing her up and analyzing her external characteristics. Elizabeth found, to her surprise that Lady Sophia was doing exactly the same thing.
"Lady Sophia." Elizabeth dropped a brief curtsey.
"Mrs. Darcy." Lady Sophia dropped a curtsey, before dismissing her escort of gentlemen. "You may go dance, I wish to talk to Mrs. Darcy." Elizabeth watched in surprise as the men immediately departed. "They know that I will ignore them if they do not." Elizabeth fought to control her expression, but was unsuccessful, she could not help but laugh. Lady Sophia soon joined in. "I admit that it is a most arrogant thing to do, but otherwise one gets no peace. Hargreaves was the only one who never listened. One must be glad, and sad about his departure." Lady Sophia shook her head. "My apologies for bringing up such a grim topic. I saw you at The Chatsworths ball. I am glad we have been introduced."
"So am I."
Grant frowned at the note that had arrived. He did not like it at all, in fact, it totally infuriated him. Grant grabbed his pen and a piece of paper, and started to write. He wrote slowly at first, then with gathering speed, he would not risk it.
Darcy jumped out of the carriage, then handed Elizabeth down, Elizabeth frowned up at the dark and silent house.
"Lydia must be abed, I have never known her to leave a place unlit and silent." Elizabeth glanced back in surprise from the top of the steps, Darcy was standing looking in the direction of the servants quarters. "What is it?" Elizabeth redescended to his side.
"Nothing, I expect, I just thought that I saw someone near the servants quarters."
"Oh." Elizabeth followed him quickly up the stairs and into the house. Darcy parted from her at the library.
"Go change, I've got something to attend to." Elizabeth frowned for a second, then nodded and hurried up to her dressing room. Darcy vanished into the library and closed the door firmly behind him. It had to end tonight, he would not tolerate it any further. Darcy grabbed a book of the shelf at random, then returned it. He walked quickly to the door, exited, and hurried up the stairs. He knocked briefly on the door before entering, then stopped dead.
"Lady Sophia, I beg your pardon, I had not realised you were here."
"I came to renew my acquaintance with Lydia. Do you wish me to tell her anything." Darcy shifted uncomfortably.
"Uhhh, yes, please. Could you tell her I would like to see her in the library when she is finished."
"Very good, Mr. Darcy." Lady Sophia nodded and Darcy hastily quit the room. Lydia watched him close the door behind himself then hurried over to lock it. How could she have forgotten to lock that door? And what would she have done had he entered a minute later. Lydia hastily ripped of her gown and hurried into her green gown. She then grabbed her brush and seconds later the pins were flying as she attacked her hair with fingers and her brush. If anything would blow her cover completely, this would certainly be it. Soon Lydia had her hair back in the loose knot with the curly fringe, and grabbing her shawl she hurried down the stairs. She hesitated momentarily, to catch her breath, before entering the library. Mr. Darcy was seated in his ear-winged chair, giving a remarkably good impression of reading a book.
"Mr. Darcy. Lady Sophia said you wished to speak to me."
"That is correct." Darcy laid his book down and calmly scrutinised Lydia. "What precisely are you up to?"
"Up to, Mr. Darcy? Nothing that I know of."
"Then where did you go this evening?"
"I remained here. I was most surprised when your butler showed Lady Sophia in. I met her at Glasgow last summer. We had quite a ball."
"I ask again, what are you up to?" Lydia stared blankly back at Darcy, her mind furiously turning over the avenues that were open to her. It appeared that Darcy would not be satisfied with hedging. It was going to be the truth. Lydia wondered a bit, she really did not understand what Darcy was so concerned about. Unless. Lydia turned the idea over in her mind, inspecting it from all points, but could find nothing wrong with it, but neither could she find a reason for it to be so. "I'm waiting."
"Why do you ask?"
"I saw you enter the house a minute ago. Hawkins has admitted no one tonight. How did Lady Sophia arrive?" There was a knock on the door and the butler entered.
"A note was just delivered for Mrs. Wickham, sir."
"Thank you Hawkins." Lydia took the note and quickly scanned it. "I fear Mr. Darcy, that you and I are going to have to temporarily postpone our interesting discussion." Lydia left the room at a run, and seconds later Darcy heard her leave the house. Darcy grabbed his coat and hurried after her.
Grant looked up in annoyance at the man Jack dragged in.
"What is it this time Jack?"
"This...Thing, was looking around downstairs." Grant looked at the man, who was dressed at the height of fashion and in full ball regalia.
"And what were you doing looking around the downstairs of a private residence."
"I was looking for my sister-in-law, whom I saw enter this building." Grant frowned.
"And who are you?"
"I'm Mr. Darcy. And could your man please release me?"
"Let him go Jack." Grant frowned. "Darcy....Darc, oh yes, Colonel Fitzwilliam's cousin. You sir, are a nuisance. Jack take him into the waiting room, then go look for his sister-in-law. I'll deal with him in a minute." Darcy found himself ignominiously hurried into a small room with blank walls. He found this room to be a marked contrast to the previous room, which had been covered floor to ceiling with maps, and more had been piled on available pieces of furniture. They had been marked, tagged and written on, until Darcy was unsure of what they were of. He sat down in the corner with a sigh. Perhaps he should have told Elizabeth first.
Grant frowned as Lydia came back into the room.
"And why did he follow you?"
"We were in conversation when your note arrived, and I was rather glad for that conversation to be temporarily delayed. What, may I ask, do I do if my brother-in-law gets suspicious of my credibility?" Grant's frowned deepened.
"His suspicious of you! Now that is more than a minor complication. Thomlin is in town."
"Ahh, Napoleon's right hand man. Attracting a little too much attention are we?"
"No. Since Napoleon went down he has been inactive. I believe he is just here to escape the French court."
"The French king is certainly a bore. But I think our primary worry is my brother-in-law. I think he believes us to be siding with Napoleon." Grant's eyebrows rose sharply.
"If that's what you think, then yes he is of primary importance. Hmmm." Grant thoughtfully bit his lip and stared at a map on the wall. "Can he be trusted with a secret?"
"I certainly believe so, he tends to keep his own council. Not even my sister will know about his suspicions, and she's married to him." Grant laughed slightly.
"Okay. Jack, bring him in. Lydia, take a seat." Jack shambled out of the room, and soon returned with Mr. Darcy in tow. "I believe Mr. Darcy, that we managed to find your sister-in-law." Grant indicated Lydia.
"Yes, that is my sister-in-law."
"Then take a seat. Jack, you are excused." Darcy cautiously moved a pile of maps before sitting down. He did not know what to expect, but neither did he know who he was talking to. The man was of medium build, with a nondescript face and mouse-brown hair. His eyes were intelligent, and sparkled with faint, sardonic laughter. Darcy could not say why, but the face was familiar. Lydia was staring expressionlessly at a map on the wall, and Mr. Darcy found that the man behind the desk was scrutinizing him intently.
"I find, Mr. Darcy, that you are more than a slight nuisance. In fact, you are a royal pain." Darcy blinked, but said nothing, after all what can one say in response to such a remark. "Do you have any reason for not continuing your previous discussion with your sister-in-law?"
"I prefer to discuss such matters in private."
"And as I am nosy. I would prefer you to continue immediately." Darcy realised that they were in a deadlock. Someone would have to give, and Darcy realised, that it would have to be him.
"I merely wish to know what my sister-in-law is doing, after all she is staying in my house."
"But what your sister-in-law is doing is my business. Very much so." Darcy frowned.
"What precisely is she doing?"
"You are in no position to interrogate Mr. Darcy. I advise you not to demand." Darcy blinked again.
"What, dear brother, do you think I am up to?" Lydia suddenly came back into the conversation.
"Something that is not wholly honest. Did it have anything to do with Wickham?"
"Yes, but not in the way you are thinking." Darcy frowned, watching the two expressionless faces in front of him.
"Who are you, sir?"
"Thomas Grant. What precisely do you think she is up to?" Darcy noted with interest that Lydia's name had yet to be used.
"Is she working for the French?"
"Mr. Darcy, that is not a wise question, but you may rest assured that since you are still alive that we do not work for the French." Darcy frowned.
"Then what are yo..." Darcy ceased talking, his brows creased up in concentration. "My cousin Fitzwilliam once commented, about five years ago, about some intelligence miracle which had been found a few years previously. Apparently the theory behind it was to keep spies out of our higher society. Away from the people who had large means and considerable pull and power in the running of the country. Are you tied up on that?" Grant shrugged.
"In a way. Wickham, it may interest you to know was working for Napoleon."
"He died...." Darcy looked curiously at Lydia. "Did you terminate his existence?" Lydia stiffened imperceptibly.
"I did not."
"What she is saying is that Wickham committed suicide mid-way through his intended plan to put a period on her existence. Now this conversation is a trifle distasteful, but we need your help. She is living in your house, and she has need of quarters where she will not be interrupted. It appears that her present quarters are insufficiently barred against inopportune intruders." Darcy coloured up, and clamped his lips together. He was well aware that the worst thing he could do was try to defend himself, this Thomas Grant reminded him of Mr. Bennet.
"That was actually primarily my fault, I neglected to close the door."
"Well I doubt you'll forget again. Now as I was saying, we need Mr. Darcy's co-operation." At this point Grant was interrupted once again by Jack's eruption into the room.
"There a couple of men to see you, sir."
"Show them in." Darcy watched silently as three men silently filed into the room. Two of them he recognized, and the third he recognized but did not know.
"Grant." Grant nodded briefly. "We leave in a couple of hours. No updates?"
"Get someone into the 3rd militia. It's stationed in Meryton, we have reason to be suspicious."
"You have more than a reason to be suspicious. It was about to be attended to." The third man nodded.
"Come Audley, come Fitzwilliam, we need to leave before we're missed." The group filed hastily out of the room again, while Grant relaxed back into his seat. He then sat up and glanced at Lydia, and raised an eyebrow. Lydia turned to Darcy.
"Do you and Elizabeth think you could tolerate mother and Meryton for a period?" Darcy hesitated, then nodded.
"That's set. Leave within two days. You are excused. Mr. Darcy we need to talk. And don't forget to give your sister instructions." Lydia walked out of the room. "Mr. Darcy, you do of course realise what your questions and suspicions have got you into?" Darcy nodded.
"I've a pretty good idea, but I won't mind if you elucidate."
"Okay, this is the works. And remember, we know exactly know who to look for if any of this stuff leaks out." Darcy nodded simply. "Napoleon, as we all know, has not given up. In fact, if our reports are anything to go by, he is planning to escape. Unfortunately we have no proof. Now." Grant linked his fingers and stared directly at Darcy. "You may not know it, but your sister-in-law has been in this business for over six years, in fact, she has been involved since she was fourteen. To be blunt with you, you very nearly paralysed our plans for the defeat of Napoleon when you married her to Wickham. Fortunately, you only caused a minor delay in the operation, but you came very close to destroying Lydia's work and personality." Here Darcy interrupted
"All our people acquire a personality when they join us, depending on where they will work. You efforts caused a rewrite in our plans."
"Where does Lady Sophia, Marquise de la Chatelet enter?"
"She enters where Lydia left off. You may not be aware of it. But you and your wife have hosted Lydia no fewer than fifteen times in the past year. While I'm discussing her. Why did you become suspicious of her?"
"My wife referred to her as the 'mourning Mrs. Wickham'. I had just received an express from Leeds from her outraged landlady. Lydia left without paying her bill, and had left laughing, by this lady. It did not add up with the 'mourning Mrs. Wickham' who arrived in London."
"And yet had the nosy Mrs. Trevor not felt it her duty to inform you of her unsatisfactory behaviour, you would probably still be in the dark. But that cannot be the only reason?" Darcy shrugged.
"As you are well aware I walked in on Lady Sophia earlier this evening. I also saw Lydia enter by the servants entrance when we returned from the ball this evening." Grant nodded slowly.
"I believe your departure took her by surprise. I take it that you realise what will be required of you in Meryton?"
"Haughty indifference, and resigned boredom."
"Correct, and remember, that no one knows who she is." Darcy nodded and stood up. "And it is permissible, and advisable for your wife to also know about this, she cannot show anything other than a normal reaction to Lydia. Take note at all times of who Lydia is paying particular attention to." Darcy nodded again. "I won't see you again. If Lydia requests you to do anything, do it immediately and ask no questions. If you cannot be with Lydia, request your wife to watch whom she is with. You had now better go. Lydia will be in the waiting room." Darcy hurried out of the room, and soon he and Lydia were headed for the town house.
Elizabeth was chatting with Lady Sophia and Judith when he entered, but she stopped when she saw him. He was above average height, and slight in a wirey manner. His eyes gleamed grey-green out of his pale, tight-drawn face, with his dark hair and coat, his eyes appeared to be his only touch of colour. His expression was detached, but it reminded Elizabeth of Darcy when she had first seen him. Elizabeth turned at a slight noise and saw her husband was standing directly behind her.
"Am I forgiven for admiring Lady Sophia?" Elizabeth nodded and bit down on a giggle, but she the corner could not control it. Judith turned to look at Worth who was standing across the room, the sardonic gleam was clearly visible in his eye, but he immediately approached.
"Something I can do for you?"
"I feel I have the thirst."
"I mistrust you when you are polite m'dear. What do you really wish to be done?" Judith pouted at him, then smiled brilliantly.
"Please find out who the man is."
"Well that's Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy." Worth pointed to Darcy.
"And Lord Hesketh is in the corner."
"You are disobliging, sir."
"Well I fear my services are unnecessary. So fortunate that neither of you three detract from the beauty of the other." Worth bowed, and departed with Darcy for the card rooms. Judith glanced up and saw that indeed they were being approached by their hostess and the 'man'. Judith turned and grimaced at Elizabeth before reforming her charming smile. Elizabeth compressed her lips to contain her laughter, then followed Judith's lead.
"Ladies." As always Lady Beltine was all cordiality. "Allow me to introduce Lord Thomlin, Viscount Dearling."
"Ladies." His bow was to perfection.
"Lord Thomlin, allow me to introduce Lady Sophia, Marquise de la Chatelet. Lady Judith, Countess of Worth. And Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy." The three ladies curtsied.
"Such lovely ladies. Please, may I join your conversation?" As Judith accepted Elizabeth noticed an unusual, and unreadable expression on Lydia's face, Darcy had told her many things, all of interest, but none explained this expression. Then Lydia snapped out of her mood and it was back to normal. They talked for most of ten minutes before Lord Thomlin invited Lady Sophia to join him in the dance that was just setting up. Elizabeth watched them leave, then returned to Judith and their previous conversation. But the conversation soon changed.
"They look magnificent, and they dance very well. Now where have I heard of Lord Thomlin from?" Judith creased her brows up, but could not remember. "What a bother. Are you really leaving town tomorrow?"
"Yes, we need to pay a visit to my parents. We decided to go before the season really got moving. Also my sister Lydia needs to be placed somewhere else. She refuses to go out, it is most annoying."
"I could believe you."
Lord Thomlin struggled as he was dancing with Lady Sophia. It was not with the steps that he struggled, but his conscience. He had been six months in England before he allowed his presence become known. He honestly did not know why he was doing this, but he honestly hoped to god that something or someone would interfere and prevent this plan from going through to fruition. Lord Thomlin, was actually born Lord Thomlin, Viscount Dearling, his father had died a few months before his birth and he had been brought up in his mother's family in France. He had escaped beheading in the revolution literally by a hair, he had been about to be laid down when the government official had pushed through the crowd and flourished a warrant for his release. But Lord Thomlin had still seen his family beheaded, a sight he would never forget. Then had come his training under the Committee of Public Safety, this training had only ceased with the end of the revolution. Then had come Napoleon, a man who had commanded the stubborn adolescent's unwilling respect, and eventually his implicit obedience. But with his obedience had come power, more power than Thomlin ever cared to consider. He had been Napoleon's right hand, he had lived for the French Empire, he had nearly died for the French Empire, and he had watched that empire die. And now, he had orders to dispose of a young woman, a woman whom in six months he had found remarkably little out about. In fact he had found out so little that he was almost as much in the dark as before he had started. His main problem was that he did not know who Lady Sophia was, when she was not Lady Sophia. That lady appeared to just vanish into thin air when she left a ball. Thomlin shook his head in frustration, then remembered that he really must say something.
Lydia was surprised when he started to discuss Paris, but at the same time she realised that it was the logical subject for him to discuss. The conversation was cool and impersonal, and so the dance continued and finished. Thomlin returned her to Elizabeth and Judith when the dance was over, then vanished into the crowd. The rest of the ball passed uneventfully, and Lydia was glad when it was over. She watched as Elizabeth and Darcy departed, then fifteen minutes later she departed. She caught a cab to south London, before changing at a small and heavily visited public house. She entered as Lady Sophia, but it was the flighty and foolish Lydia Bennet Wickham who departed with another crowd. Lydia knew that such precautions were necessary, even if they were annoying, especially now that Thomlin was in town.
Elizabeth sat quietly watching silently, Darcy was reading behind her, but it was another fifteen minutes until Lydia could be expected, but Elizabeth could not help but worry.
"You waste your energy my Elizabeth. If she didn't have remarkable sense of self-preservation I doubt she would be here today. From what Grant let fall, I'd say that she very nearly never received your letter." Elizabeth jabbed him with her elbow.
"That does not help at all."
"Plato is beside you, he might help. Such a philosophical character." Elizabeth frowned at her husband.
"It is unnecessary for you to do that. I would not dream of depriving you of his philosophical company." Darcy chuckled, then ducked as Elizabeth's elbow went back into action.
"But seriously, I doubt that Lydia would appreciate it if we were to worry about her." Elizabeth shrugged half-heartedly, and Darcy grabbed her long braid. "Listen, you don't fiddle with someone like Lydia without a lot of careful consideration and planning. Now, this is what Plato has to say on the subject." Darcy settled his features into suitable sobriety and started to rifle through the pages, but Elizabeth soon confiscated the book from him, replacing it with the latest novel.
"Read from that, it will be much better for you." Darcy eyed the title, then groaned.
"You would have to have this one. Charles declares that it is frightfully embarrassing."
"Hush baby. Perhaps you'd prefer this one." Elizabeth deprived him of one book, and handed him the other. "Lady Worth suggested that I read it. She declares that it is hilarious."
"Jane Austen!?! I have not heard of her before."
"Big surprise, I have yet to see you read much other than Plato and the newspaper. Start reading." Elizabeth settled back on her pillows as Darcy groaned again, before clearing his throat, and proceeding with the first chapter. Elizabeth jolted upright as someone knocked on the door, and seconds later she had her wrap on and was opening it. The butler handed her a small parcel addressed to her in a foreign hand. Elizabeth, shut the door, and almost dropped the pile of papers. It seemed to comprise of two parts. The first was a small paper wrapped box, the second was a heavily sealed letter. Elizabeth eyed the seal intently, but she could not identify the seal.
"So this is how you behave when my back is turned. A secret admirer, I must polish my sword it appears." Elizabeth frowned again.
"This behaviour does not improve you." Elizabeth broke the seal and quickly spread out the letter. The letter was a single sheet and wrapped around a second heavily sealed sheet. Elizabeth glanced at the directions on the second letter, before returning her attention to the letter:
Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy,
Be not alarmed on receiving this, but I must beg you to deliver the parcel and letter to Lady Sophia, Marquise de la Chatelet. With the utmost expedition. It is of great importance to her well being.
James Thomlin, Viscount Dearling.
Elizabeth had just finished reading when Lydia knocked and cautiously entered when bidden.
"Lydia. This just arrived for you." Lydia took the letter and parcel, then glanced thoughtfully at Elizabeth.
"Do not worry for me Lizzie. Nothing serious will ever happen to me until my work is done." Lydia calmly opened the letter, and read the contents, the frown on her brow steadily increasing. She then laid the letter aside and opened the parcel, it was a small buff box with no markings on it. It contained a silver ring, inspection showed that it had once been a man's signet ring. The signet was engraved on the inner face. The outer face had a small star-like flower of emeralds set in it, with a small diamond at the centre and a thin gold outline around it and forming into a stem and leaves.
"Heavens!" Elizabeth gasped as Lydia slowly rotated the ring through the light, allowing the light to play on the emeralds and diamond. Darcy frowned at it for a moment, then left the room, shortly to return with two almost identical rings. The first had the flower in rubies, the second had it in sapphires, and other than the seals the three rings were identical. "What are they Fitzwilliam?"
"Ask Lydia, my knowledge of them is fairly sketchy, but the sender may elucidate further on the subject." Lydia nodded slowly.
"The sender does indeed. Lizzie, what do we know about father?"
"Not very much prior to his marrying mama. He apparently inherited the estate from an uncle, but he never talked about his life." Lydia nodded slowly.
"Well it would appear that Lord Thomlin could clear up a lot about father." Lydia handed her the emerald ring. "Take a look at the seal, and see if you recognise anything about it." Elizabeth frowned intently at it.
"It looks like part of father's seal. Fitzwilliam, where is that letter I received from him last week." Darcy handed it over, and Elizabeth compared the seals. "Yes, they both have that funny curly thing in common." Lydia nodded again, then took the ring back.
"It would appear that I have a story to relate quickly then. You may not be aware of it Lizzie, but we are descendants of the de la Chatelet's, that is one reason why I use that particular name. However I did not realise how closely related we were, it would appear Lizzie, that papa was very closely involved with the French revolution, in fact it appears that he was very nearly guillotined." Lydia hesitated, then glanced at the letter once more before continuing. "What does Mr. Darcy have to say about the rings?"
"The sapphire ring belongs to my father. He was involved with the league of the Scarlet Pimpernel, not very actively, as he could not speak French. But he provided invaluable cover when they needed somewhere to be staying while they were in France. The ruby one belongs to the Pimpernel himself. They were fashioned by a French craftsman, and given to five of the members. There was the Pimpernel, his second in command who was Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, Mr. George Darcy, Marquis de la Chatelet, and an unnamed member of the league. The Pimpernel later had to rescue de la Chatelet from being guillotined, but de la Chatelet's ring had apparently vanished. Sir Andrew still wears his, he has an amethyst flower, though he does not come into town very often. And my father died without telling me of the identity of the Pimpernel. The man was remarkably good at covering his tracks. Anyway, of the original five rings two vanished, one of which has just reappeared. I hold two and Ffoulkes has the fifth." Lydia nodded slowly, her mind working hard to straighten it all out.
"What happened to the unnamed owner of the fifth ring?"
"He apparently was caught and guillotined soon after he received it." Lydia nodded again.
"It would appear Lizzie, that our father is the ci-devant Marquis de la Chatelet." Elizabeth blinked. "And on top of that, I'm afraid we must depart immediately for Meryton. Darcy can you arrange for an express to have arrived." Darcy nodded pulling on his waistcoat, coat and boots as she spoke. He then left the room, with his two rings in his hand. Elizabeth took of her wrap and started to dress as well.
"What are you going to do with the ring Lydia?"
"Offer it back to father. But we really must go Elizabeth, trust me." Lydia left the room, leaving Elizabeth to dress in a bewildered hurry. Lydia was packing when she heard the clatter of approaching hooves and the sound of someone pounding on the front door. Then she heard Darcy running up the stairs.
"Elizabeth! We must depart for Meryton immediately, there is an emergency there." Lydia heard an assent from Elizabeth, then a sharp knock on her door. "Lydia, wake up. We must leave for Meryton." Lydia growled some remark back and heard Darcy depart, but she was soon seated in the large carriage as it hurried through London and out onto the great road. Darcy was easily riding alongside.
Thomlin frowned grimly when he heard the reports on the raid of the Darcy house. The raid had been to try and find the address of the Lady Sophia, Marquise de la Chatelet. Nothing had been found, the house was devoid of residents, apparently the family had departed for Hertfordshire on a matter of great and family import. With a sigh Thomlin dismissed the man who had attempted the job and raked restless fingers through his hair. The plan had worked, and at the same time failed, Thomlin scratched a thoughtful ear. How was he to identify Lady Sophia when she was not at a ball, no one knew where she lived that he knew, and Thomlin had a pretty good idea that Lady Sophia lived nowhere. He scratched his ear again, then set his chair firmly on its four legs when he heard a knock at the door.
"Come in." The man who entered was a hale and hearty gentleman who appeared to be near seventy in age. He was the owner of a thick mop of silver hair, though Thomlin knew it to be a wig.
"How are you doing James, my boy."
"Domenic!" James extended his hand, which was promptly engulfed in a massive shake.
"What are you doing back in these parts. I thought you'd settled on the continent with that blood-thirsty emperor of yours."
"Well my emperor is no longer on the continent and I needed to go somewhere."
"My advise for you, is very similar to the advise my mother gave me. Fall in love with a nice girl, and get married." Thomlin grimaced.
"Well Mary married me."
"And everyone has pitied her since. Take a seat Dominic. What brings you to my lonely hovel?"
"Conversation. What else?"
"It sounded earlier like you wanted to know why I was in London. But I'm perfectly willing to talk to you. Where's the Duchess of Avon."
"Gone to visit that loose-screw of a grandson."
"What's George done this time?"
"Not George, it's that lily-livered nincompoop Vidal."
"I heard he'd married. I congratulate you."
"Well I'd prefer your commiserations."
"Well I can't oblige there. Augusta has been chasing me since she last saw me in England."
"Lucky dog. Now what are you doing in London?" Dominic looked at him curiously. "What ever it is isn't working, your hair is standing on end." Thomlin flattened his hair with a hasty hand.
"I'm enjoying society."
"Your as bad as your damn father, and nearly as bad as mine."
"There is someone worse than my father?" Dominic nodded.
"My father was not called Satanus for nothing. You enter a room and if he looked at you at all it was so." Dominic demonstrated.
"That does put my father to shame. Do you know anything about the de la Chatelet's?"
"Well there is one just new arrived in town. Quite nice I've been informed."
"As usual your sources are correct, she is magnificent. No I was more interested in the older family."
"And you are certainly a judge. I don't know much about the old family. The present Marquis vanished just before his projected execution, the Pimpernel did it. He joined the league a bit before he was captured, and after his release he continued for a couple of months with the league, and then vanished into thin air. No trace of 'im has been found since. Don't tell me you are hunting for him?"
"In a way. How's everything at Avon?"
"Fine, and stop changing the subject. I won't have you making yourself obnoxious if I can prevent it. I heard that you retired?"
"I did. Unfortunately, I had to come out of retirement."
"So Napoleon is setting about an escape is he. Who are you after?" Thomlin shrugged.
"I honestly don't know. She appears in public as Lady Sophia, Marquise de la Chatelet."
"Damn good thing you managed to retain your principles. No public shootings or murders. I won't have it."
"Your fairly unlikely to even get the option of having it."
"You always do it quietly. Don't bump her of."
"Oh be quiet. I don't need you preaching right now."
"Oh-ho, so that's it. Okay lad, I'll terminate my preachings"
"You know that if Grant knew you were here he'd have you imprisoned as fast as he could."
"I doubt it. I will admit that I did not come totally by choice."
"Now it's my turn to say oh-ho. Do be a good chap Domenic, don't produce your pistols."
"I never go for the noisy way."
"Unless it is a duel. How's Barbara?"
"Arriving back in town tomorrow. the French king is apparently a bore."
"Not surprising. I could have told her that. Are you going to desert me now you have grilled me?"
"Not at all. You underrate your charming company." Thomlin grinned suddenly.
"You are appalling you know. Here, have a drink."
"Man after my own heart. Grant says he is quite willing for you to defect."
"He would be. You wouldn't happen to know who Lady Sophia is?"
"No I honestly don't. Clayton has a card party tomorrow. You coming?"
"Anyone else going to be there other than your so charming self?"
"He has good wine. Worth will be there, also Petersham and, that fogey...What's his name, Blakeney."
"Calling him an old fogey are you. He's nearly thirty years younger than you."
"Well I can still beat him in the saddle any day."
"You can beat me too. Why am I not an old fogey?"
"Because your life has been interesting. And now I've finished this wine of yours. And let me tell you that it is the worst Chambertin I have tasted in a longtime. I had better depart and rescue Mary from Vidal."
"She probably needs it. If my eyesight betrays me she is just about to enter here."
"Damn! Cheerio James. I'll come see you another day. And don't be nasty to anybody."
"Of course I will. Good-bye Dominic. Hallo Mary. He is just departing."
"And what's his opinion of your Chambertin?"
"Rotten. Tell him I'll accept anything he deigns as suitable for my cellar."
"I send you some Nantes Brandy. Magnificent stuff, but don't cork it."
"Very good your grace. My apologies Duchess, it appears you will have to forcibly remove him."
"You are getting cheeky James. Come Domenic, we have to prepare for this evening."
"What have you got this evening?"
"A dinner party, all frightful bores, you don't want to come." Domenic left on this note followed by his wife.
"See you another day James."
"Good afternoon." James closed the door behind them and went back to his desk, fiddling with his signet ring. It was a heavy silver ring, the outer face had a small star-shaped flower of turquoise with a diamond centre and a thin gold tracing around the edges which joined up to form the stem and leaves.
Elizabeth watched with puzzlement as Lydia's discomfort increased with the approach of Longbourn. Lydia kept looking out the window, apparently trying to see a familiar landmark.
"How far are we from Longbourn Lizzie?" Elizabeth glanced out the window.
"About five minutes."
"Would you like to open the window and poke you head out to talk with Mr. Darcy for a moment?" Elizabeth hesitated for a moment, then complied. Lydia was already rifling through the contents of her handbag. When Elizabeth returned her attention to the inside of the carriage, Elizabeth was amazed by the transformation Lydia had undergone. No longer was there the quiet but cheerful Lydia, who had accompanied Elizabeth from London. This was a tear soaked woman who looked like she had been crying all her life. The neat gown was crumpled, her hair was ruffled and her bonnet slightly askew. She was once again the mourning Mrs. Wickham. Lydia gave a watery smile and sneezed before rubbing her eyes, further enflaming them.
"The onion is a magnificent vegetable. Do deal with this one Lizzie. I've had quite enough of it for one day." Elizabeth eyed the vegetable warily, but finally took it and put it back in Lydia's handbag.
"Was that necessary?" Lydia nodded.
"I only" Lydia sniffed, then sneezed. "Lost my Darling Wickham." Another sniff and sneeze. "A week ago." Lydia burst into tears again. Elizabeth rolled her eyes, and glanced out the window at the familiar view. Another two minutes and they would be at Longbourn. Elizabeth sighed with relief when the carriage finally stopped. Lydia had become the Lydia of old to the last detail, but annoying though she was, Elizabeth could not help but admire her acting as she descended from the carriage. She had tripped and fallen fro the last step. But this had not done anything but add to her lamentations.
"Oh mama. It was so awful. And now I have ruined this gown, he shot himself, mama. It made such a mess of his regimentals. How could he leave me like that. And all because he had seen me kiss Gregory Frankome. Oh mama." Lydia sobbed bitterly into Mrs. Bennet's front.
"Oh my poor Lydia. It must have been so horrible for you. But come, I have a pattern for the prettiest gown, I am sure it would become you magnificently. Did you know we had the 3rd Militia just arrive, we have a ball in two weeks time."
"A ball. Oh mama. Lizzie would not let me attend in anything but a horrid high-cut gown of a dusty black. So I could not attend. And Mr. Darcy supported her. But mama where is this dress pattern. I would so like to see it." Elizabeth exchanged a feeling look with her father, before following him and Mr. Darcy into the library.
"That's right Lizzie, just ignore your mother. Oh my poor nerves. My daughter is totally ignoring me." Elizabeth hurried back to embrace her mother.
"I'm sorry mama, I thought you too occupied with Lydia."
"As if would forget about my Lizzie." Elizabeth could see Lydia primping herself in front of the mirror.
"Mama. Why do you not come. I'm so excited about this dress." Mrs. Bennet hastily departed, and Elizabeth immediately retreated for the peace of the library.
"Where's my Lizzie."
"Here papa." Elizabeth embraced him.
"Fitzwilliam said you had something to show me?"
"Oh yes. It is a ring. You used to be interested in silver, so I brought it. I though you might find it interesting." Elizabeth dug the ring out of her handbag and handed it over. Mr. Bennet took it and turned it over in his hands.