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Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves - Epilogue

July 28, 2023 01:20PM
Epilogue


21 December, 1814 (2 years after the double wedding of Jane and Lizzy)


Mr Bennet settled into the arm chair in Sir Riley’s study. They had arrived an hour ago, in the middle of the afternoon. They had all refreshed themselves, and Mr Bennet was now ready to catch up with his old friend.

“How was the trip from Hertfordshire?” asked the Sheriff, offering Mr Bennet a glass of whiskey.

“Slow, but at least with only the four of us in a carriage these days, it isn't as crowded as it once was. The snow has certainly made it difficult – we took an extra day getting here. I'm glad we don't need to go all the way to Pemberley this year, even though I know Mr Bingley’s library is woeful. I am glad to be out of the carriage, I could not take a moment longer of my wife’s complaining.”

The Sheriff smiled. “She still hasn't forgiven the Bingley's for moving to Bakewell?”

Mr Bennet shook his head. “And no wonder they moved. I'm certain my wife spent more time at Netherfield than she did at home. I have enjoyed the peace for the last two years.”

“How is Mrs Bingley’s pregnancy going? Is she five months along?”

“No, six. The baby is due in March. As she is that far along, she isn’t keen to go to London for the Season. They will be skipping it this year.”

The Sheriff chuckled. “Three grandchildren.”

Mr Bennet grinned. “Not three, four. We received a letter from Lizzy before we left. She is expecting again – three months along.”

“How are you enjoying being a grandfather?”

Mr Bennet grinned. “Wonderful, I can read to them and then when I'm bored or they start crying, pass them back to their parents. Did I tell you that Ben took his first steps the other day? Lizzy told me in her letter.”

“That was quick. He's just a year old, isn't he? How is little Elizabeth doing?”

“Even though she's a month older, she seems quite content crawling about, though Jane told me she is starting to pull herself up onto things. I guess she's perfectly happy being carried about, and all she needs to do is pull a sad face and put her arms out and she immediately gets picked up. Why learn to walk when others will carry you around where you want to go?”

“She’ll have men tied around her little finger, you mark my words,” said the Sheriff.

“What about you? How soon will you be a grandfather?” asked Mr Bennet.

“Ava has only just returned from the honeymoon. It is far too early to start talking grandchildren,” said the Sheriff, shifting uncomfortably. The Sheriff changed the topic. “How is Mary going these days?”

“She is doing very well. She spends half the year, the winter season, in London, running her Uncle’s house. And then when she returned to Longbourn, she missed teaching her cousins so much, she started her own school for the local children. At first, just a couple of the local children, and then the word spread and she was teaching some thirty kids, a couple of lessons every week through the local parish church. She had convinced all the other young unmarried ladies to help as well. Anyhow, the neighbourhood was so impressed by it all, that the local businesses and land owners all contributed and a dedicated classroom has been built next to the church. The ‘Mary Bennet school of Meryton.’”

“You sound proud,” said the Sheriff.

Mr Bennet leaned back in his armchair. “The Bennet name may not live on at Longbourn after I'm gone, but the Bennet name will be there forever in the community. I guess I never thought it would be my daughters going to the extra effort to have it remembered. Mary has really grown these last few years. She has been forced to be more sociable and as a result is a more rounded individual. She has more self-confidence than before. And what surprises me the most - she even gets on with Lydia.”

The Sheriff feigned mock shock. “Say it isn't so!”

“It is true. Lydia also helps at the school. She has a way of connecting with the young boys that Mary just cannot control or connect with. It must be Lydia’s energy. This is the testiment to Mary’s growth. Once she would have resented Lydia for her success, now she acknowledges her own limitations, her pride is not hurt, and she is grateful that Lydia can reach these boys and help them where she cannot.” Mr Bennet suddenly looked pensive, which the Sheriff saw.

“What is the matter?”

“I received a letter from Fredrick’s local pastor, a Mr Roberts. He has asked for my permission to propose to Mary. She may very well be engaged by the time she arrives at Jane’s for Christmas, but I doubt it. This pastor is very measured and I don't believe he moves quickly on any decision, but I may be proven wrong.”

“Your wife will be delighted. Three girls married.”

“Not so much. He was impressed with Mary starting a school in Meryton. But he seems to be inclined to moving to the Colonies to ‘spread the word of the lord and to teach the children there.’ I'm uncertain if that is all his idea or whether Mary has herself encouraged this, as she has been quite taken with the notion of teaching where it is most needed. I don't think Mrs Bennet will be happy with her moving to the other side of the world.”

“How is Lydia going?”

“Brace yourself,” said Mr Bennet, “I would go so far as to call her sensible.”

“No, it can't be! And you were convinced that she was completely lost to all sensible thought.”

Mr Bennet shrugged. “She has calmed down, so much so that we allowed her out in company at the start of the year. She is surprisingly good at picking up languages. She started learning French, mastered it, then she has gone on to Italian and Spanish, and had no issues navigating between the nuances in the languages. Even my brother, Fredrick, has asked her to translate some newspapers for him.”

“An interesting request?”

Mr Bennet shrugged. “He is looking to expand his business and is looking for suppliers or traders on the continent, but is looking for the right opportunity and whether the time is right for it. Not only is Lydia translating, but she is showing understanding of what she is reading and is venturing her own opinions on the risks and opportunities in the markets.”

“Remarkable.”

“She has also taken control of her spending. With Mary living half the year with her Uncle and Kitty spending so much time with her sisters, Lydia is now doing the household accounts at Longbourn. She now has an understanding of how much things cost, so she is now conscious of her own spending. And a minor miracle has happened- she is the one person who can discourage my wife from spending money on things we don't need.”

“And do you know if she is interested in anyone or is likely to marry anyone anytime soon?”

“She still enjoys the company of men, however I can not see that she has any particular interest in anyone, or in leaving home anytime soon. She seems happy now that her days are not as idle as they once were.”

“How is Kitty going?”

Mr Bennet paused to think. “She spent the summer and autumn months with her uncle helping run his household whilst Mary spent time at home, only returning to Longbourne in October. She seems...different. Restless, listless. It probably is that she had responsibilities and entertainment whilst in London, and now she returns and all is quiet and the same at home. She’s more thoughtful than she once was. She also spends less, but I guess she has learnt the value of money from managing the Gardiner household accounts.” Mr Bennet changed the topic. “What about your son? Is he thinking of settling down any time soon? Didn't you say he has a better paying job now? I think Kitty said he visited Mr Gardiner for dinner every now and then?”

The Sheriff grunted. “Yes, he got sick of working for the Countess’s unappreciative brother. Plus, the Earl is not doing so well any more, troubled with gout which isn't surprising considering the amount he drinks. Andrew got a job in the treasury and is getting paid nearly twice as much as when he was working for Lord _____. I must admit, I think he is considering settling down. He came and asked me questions as to how much servants cost, and the cost of setting up his own household, and if he could afford to marry.”

“Who is the lucky lady?” asked Mr Bennet in jest.

“I think it will be your daughter,” replied the Sheriff, causing Mr Bennet’s mouth to drop. It was at that very moment, the two people in question could be seen wandering the grounds outside.

Julia Riley pulled her coat tight around herself. “I think I've refreshed myself enough. It's cold – I'm going inside. Kitty, are you joining me?”

Kitty shook her head. “I've spent the last two days stuck in a carriage. I still need to stretch my legs properly.”

“Don't worry, Julia, I'll keep her company out here. Don't feel like you need to stay if you are freezing,” offered Andrew Riley.

“I will then bid you adieu.” And with that, Miss Riley turned around and walked as fast as possible through the snow to return to the house.

Kitty threw a quick glance at Andrew, who was busy looking at his shoes. She felt so silly – she had been waiting months to talk with him and now she did not know what to say. In London, she had invited Mr Riley to have dinner with her and Mr Gardiner, which had then turned into a fortnightly invitation to dine, and then weekly. She realised that when she left and Mary had taken her place, Mr Riley had only dined there twice. And then she realised that she was the one who was continuously issuing the invite for him to dine. He must find her very forward for all the invites! And during the last Season, she had felt so grumpy whenever she saw him paying attention to any other lady, whereas the previous years she had been too busy enjoying herself to notice.

In returning to Longbourne, she found she missed him. She kept thinking of what she wanted to say to him as soon as she saw him and she leapt upon every letter from Miss Riley, devouring the letter for any information about him. She had realised she was in love with Mr Riley, who had been such a good friend and companion over the years.

“How have you been at Longbourne? I must admit that London is much duller without you in it,” asked Mr Riley, looking at her intently, then looking away and back at his feet. He kicked the snow at his feet.

“It is good to be home..I mean it isn't, “ stammered Kitty. “It’s dull compared to London. It's nice to be in cleaner air, but I miss the hustle and bustle of London. And I was doing so much helping out my Uncle with the children, but I don't have any of that at home at all.”

“I was hoping that you might have missed my company, “ said Mr Riley. He tried to put on a joking smile, but his eyes were pensive.

“Of course I missed your company,“ burst out Kitty. “I enjoy it greatly.” Kitty blushed, especially as he was staring intently at her. She changed the subject to try and cover her blush. “When do you start your new job?”

“I start in the New Year. I have now finished my employ with the Countess’s brother, thank goodness. It is hard working for someone who resents you and whom you innately cannot respect. I was lucky if I could wake him and he was sober enough to go to vote when he needed to. I've no idea if he knew what he was voting for or if he even voted, or if he feel asleep in the House of Lords. But you've heard me complain enough about him.”

“Yes, I’m glad you are free of Lord ____. I don't know how you put up working for him for so long. I think I would have given him my opinion far too freely. I don't think I could have held my tongue.“

Mr Riley smiled. “Yes, you would not have lasted long. I can picture the exchange in my mind. But I put up with it too earn some money. I may inherit my father's estate, but he doesn't provide me with any large allowance, and I can't support a wife or children on it, so I need to work, at least until I inherit or until the estate work gets to be too much for my father. But at least I am paid nearly twice as much in this new job that I am starting. I'll be able to establish my own household, though I will be far from being rich.”

Kitty was quiet as they walked along. She wondered whether this was specifically aimed at her.

“Do you know where you will stay when you return to London?” she asked.

“With my Uncle. He's a magistrate in London. He's offered to put me up until I'm in a position to set up a townhouse.”

There was a pause in the conversation, and Kitty noticed that Mr Riley had stopped walking. Kitty stopped too and turned back to face him, an eyebrow raised in question.

“I know I'm a little young to be setting up a home, and I'm not as established or as well off as you deserve, but, Katherine,” and her he took her gloves hands in his, whilst looking deeply into her eyes. “I love you, and I miss your company when you are not with me. You were the only thing that kept me going for the last year in London. I can't and don't want to imagine life without you, and I can't stand the idea that you might marry someone else. I know, this might not be fair on you, as I'm sure you could do better, and we might need a long engagement before I'm set up and before I could afford to look after children...”

“Yes, I'll marry you,“ cried Kitty, throwing her arms around his neck. “I'll wait forever if I have to.”

Needless to say, when they returned to the house, both families were ecstatic about the news, even if there would be a long engagement. Then, when Mary arrived at the Bingley’s and announced her engagement, Mrs Bennet was so happy she completely forgot about how put out she was about Jane’s move from Netherfield.

It was on a beautiful, crisp spring day in the second week of April when Mary became Mrs Roberts and Kitty gained the title of ‘Miss Bennet’, though she gave up the title sooner than expected.

Over the summer after Mary’s wedding, when Mr Gardiner was without any nieces running his household, he found he had no visitors and the house was far too quiet. He was a man who was sociable and enjoyed company. So he offered that the newly married Mr and Mrs Riley should live with him indefinitely after their marriage, having a mistress for the household who could entertain guests.

So, less than a year after their engagement, on a grey October day, Kitty passed the title of ‘Miss Bennet’ to Lydia. Lydia, at the age of 18, happily held it for six years. As Lydia herself said, she was far too busy being aunt to all her nieces and nephews, teaching at the local school (even though the school hired a full-time teacher), and assisting her Uncle in translating business letters from France and Spain. Eventually, she succumbed to the attractions of a wealthy, older and attractive French merchant and moved to France.

Richard was made the Sheriff of Sheffield around the same time as Andrew and Kitty married, and soon found himself engaged to a wealthy and attractive widow. This made all his family, particularly the Countess exceptionally happy. Lizzy was happy as she had introduced the two together and Darcy was happy as Richard now lived closer.

Kitty and Andrew stayed four years with Mr Gardiner. They decided to move when Kitty became pregnant with their third child, and Mr Gardiner had become friends with the widowed mother of his daughter’s friend. Mr Gardiner remarried seven years after Madeleine’s death, which did work out well for the Riley’s as they decided to rent the new Mrs Gardiner’s previous townhouse. And Mr Gardiner found his own happiness again.
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Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves - Epilogue

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