Lady Sophie Musings
After being in town for a few days Darcy went to visit his Mother's best friend who had been like an aunt to him, indeed after his Mother's death she had on occasion talked to him like a Mother, and he could always take his troubles to her and rely on her discretion, he had to talk to someone, perhaps that would lessen the pain he felt day and night.
Darcy told her all about Elizabeth, from their first meeting to the disastrous proposal, sparing himself no reproach.
"She refused you?' said Lady Sophie. "I cannot believe it. What did you say to her? Unfortunately you have never been the most eloquent of men, come tell me word for word what you said to her to make her so angry.
"My God, Darcy, you did put your proposal in such an arrogant manner, no self-respecting woman would accept such an offer, especially one like the young woman you have been telling me about. Caroline Bingley would be happy to accept and agree with all you say, but no she has no self respect when it comes to being Mistress of Pemberley.
"What is her Aunt's name the one who lives in Cheapside I have some fine friends there who work with me for charity, perhaps I can be of help to you, if I know the Aunt. There is on particularly fine woman named Mrs. Gardiner. I must see her soon before the opera to raise funds for the poor." mused Lady Sophia.
Darcy acknowledged that he did not know the Uncle's name for sure, but Gardiner sounded very familiar.
Part 2: Best Laid Plans
Lady Sophia lost no time in ascertaining that Mrs. Gardiner's husband was indeed from Hertfordshire and that their two nieces Jane and Elizabeth were, as fortune would have it visiting her at the present time, but were planning to return home in about ten days, so she knew she had to work fast.
The ladies of The Society For The Poor were preparing for their annual charity for the poor and a pair of young hands to help with the sewing of donated clothing would welcome, so she set out to Mrs. Gardiners to ask her and her nieces to her home to help her sort and repair the clothes which she had collected.
On the day they were to start, however, Mrs. Gardiner was unable to come but she sent her two nieces in her place, which fell into Lady Sophia's plans perfectly. She wanted to talk to Miss Elizabeth Bennet privately and sound her out on her dear Fitzwilliam.
She found both of the girls very satisfying, especially the younger, and knew within a few minutes why Darcy found her so enchanting. This young woman was no kow-tower, she had a mind of her own and an unusual intelligence and a delightful wit. She was just what Darcy needed, and life with her would certainly never be boring.
They had been sewing for more than an hour when she decided it was time to bring Darcy into the conversation.
"My friend Fitzwilliam Darcy spent some time in Hertfordshire this past fall, did you meet him?" She asked watching their reaction out of the corner of her eye.
Jane answered immediately in the affirmative, while Elizabeth became very quiet and her sister watched her anxiously.
"He tells me that he fell very much in love, but made a great botch of things, and only succeeded in driving the lady away." sighed Lady Sophia.
"I am sure his feelings will be short lived" said Elizabeth. "He has other feelings that will soon drive any love he may have felt for her out of his mind."
"You are very wrong, my dear," said her ladyship quietly. "He will go to his grave loving her. Darcy does not love lightly as other young men seem to. He has always been so painfully shy, as has his sister Georgiana. I blame his mother for that; she always wanted a large family and each time she lost a child she clung that much more tightly to Fitzwilliam, and at the age when he should have had the company of others his own age, she kept him at Pemberley where nothing or no one could harm him. The only time she would consent to leave was to visit her overbearing sister Lady DeBourgh and his only playmates were little Anne, his sickly cousin, and that scoundrel George Wickham."
Lady Sophia noticed that Elizabeth kept her head down all the time she was speaking and sewed with vigor.
Wanting to talk to Elizabeth alone, she asked Jane if she would take the articles they had finished down to the morning room where the ladies there would sort and size them for packaging.
"Poor Darcy, he has never been the most eloquent of men, and I fear that when he is agitated his words become a muddled up mess and never come out the way he intends, so for the most part he remains silent, but if you look into his eyes they speak buckets," said Lady Sophia watching Lizzie for some reaction.
Elizabeth however kept her eyes on her work.
"He will take the bundles to the poor families when they are ready," continued her ladyship.
Elizabeth looked up quickly, "Darcy would go to that part of London? I would think he would fear for his life, and that would be the last place in the world you would find him" she said in surprise.
"My dear I see that you do not know Darcy at all, he has no fear of going there; he has done it for years, and they welcome him with open arms, knowing that he always brings help or work for them to add to their meager incomes and put food on the table, Darcy has a tender heart and has always been known for his goodness among the poor. Have you heard nothing of his largess," said Lady Sophia sadly.
"No, never" said Lizzie so quietly she could hardly be heard.
Jane and Elizabeth took their leave as soon as Jane returned, but Lizzie seemed extremely unsettled.
"Jane, it would seem that I have been very wrong in my estimation of Mr. Darcy, but it is all too late now" said Elizabeth sadly.
Lady Sophia thought otherwise, however, and made plans for Darcy to have a helper when he made the deliveries this time, and Miss Elizabeth would be the perfect candidate. She sent word for him to be at her house two days hence to begin delivering.
Lady Sophia was feeling very satisfied with all her plans when Friday rolled around. She had found the perfect way to reunite Darcy with the woman he loved. Yes, she was very pleased with herself.
On the morn in question, however, who should arrive but the odious Miss Bingley and her equally unwanted sister Mrs. Hurst.
"Lady Sophia," Caroline purred, "Mr. Darcy has told us that he will be assisting you in your charitable endeavors today, why did you know, you know we are always here to help."
"Strange," said her ladyship "when I asked you last Christmas you could not be bothered."
"I am sure you misunderstood," chipped in Mrs. Hurst. "What can we do now, will Darcy need help with the deliveries, I am sure Caroline would be of great assistance."
"Oh dear no," said her ladyship. "I have made plans for all the help he will need, please go to the drawing room, they will find something for you to do," as she hurried them out.
Soon after, Darcy arrived and started putting the packages in his carriage. While he was thus occupied a messenger arrive from Mrs. Gardiner, informing her that Mr. Bennet had come to town and taken his two daughters home to Hertfordshire that very morning.
Lady Sophia felt almost ill, all her plans down the drain. She would not have the chance to get Darcy and Lizzie together and she would have to send a lackey with Darcy to keep Caroline Bingley from insisting on accompanying him.
Part 3: Lady Sophia
Lady Sophia was heartsick as she watched Darcy pick at his food, he ate so little and looked so sad, if only her plan had succeeded. She had asked him for dinner tonight at a time when she thought she would be welcoming him and the Bennet sisters for a quiet evening, so that Miss Bennet could see for herself that Fitzwilliam was trying so hard to be more amiable in the company of others and no longer felt himself so far above most. She felt sure that Jane Bennet would be her ally in this, but all had gone for naught, the Bennet sisters were back in Hertfordshire and Darcy was as unhappy as ever.
He had passed the anger stage very quickly and now seemed only to mourn his lost love.
She recalled Lady Fanny's story about what had happened at the opera and was certain that the people in the box between Darcy and Lady Fanny had been the Gardiners and their nieces.
After meeting and getting to know Elizabeth she was sure that she was the one who had disposed of Braxton in such a delightful manner. This young woman was capable of handling most situations she was sure, and would be the perfect mate for Fitzwilliam, but she was at a loss to know what to do.
Lady Fanny had been so intrigued by Darcy's reaction to the young lady at the time in question. She had asked him to walk her back to her box, and after sending a reluctant Caroline Bingley back into the box, they had returned to Lady Fanny's box where they stood and talked until the sound of a young woman's laughter had made Darcy pale and become silent as he watched the four return for the last act.
He seemed so reluctant to return to his own guests that Fanny had asked him to sit with her and Lord James for the final act, an invitation he had accepted gladly, and she was sure it was because he wanted to escape Miss Bingley's further abuse of the young woman who had such a profound effect on him.
Thinking to satisfy her curiosity she had mentioned how lovely the two young ladies next door were and asked if he knew them well. His answer was a short "yes."
Still trying to find out more she had commented on how well the young lady had handled a bad situation and how quick thinking she seemed to be, but she got nothing but a small grunt.
"What a delightful laugh the dark-haired one has, she said, it makes one smile just to hear it even though one knows not what she is laughing about, don't you agree?"
"Yes she has a delightful sense of fun" Darcy said, but he spoke with such pain that Lady Fanny turned her attention to the performance not wanting to cause him further pain.
The next day she had come to see Sophia to see if she know what was about, but at the time Sophia was completely unaware of anything concerning Darcy's love.
Well, in three weeks he was going to Pemberley for a month or two, perhaps he would find some peace of mind there.
Part 4: Lady Sophia
Lady Sophia thanked the maid who brought her the post and sat down near the window to read it.
It was from Pemberley. Darcy could not have been there more than two or three days at the most. What could have happened that he should be writing her so soon.
She hoped that there had not been an accident on the trip North or that something untoward had not happened to Georgiana. Perhaps he had knocked Caroline Bingley in the head in disgust at her fawning, but the best way to find out was to read it before her imagination ran away with her.
Dear Lady Sophia,
I am so elated I cannot sleep, so I take pen in hand to tell you such wonderful news.
As you know I was to leave for Pemberley Thursday, but an urgent message came from my steward and I decided to leave at first light on Tuesday morn. After a nights rest at The Red Boar Inn, I started out early Wednesday in the chill of the morning, dressing warmly, but by the time I reached home, I was hot and dusty, so I decided to take a swim in the lake to cool off and rid myself of the top layer of dirt from my travels.
Upon exiting the pond, wearing very wet breeches and shirt, I sent my horse to the stable with a stable boy and started to walk to the house, when who should I meet exiting the rose garden and starting across the back lawn, but Miss Elizabeth Bennet. My appearance was to say the least a shock to both of us.
I remember not what happened next, I mumbled something about her family at least twice and ascertained that she was staying in Lambton at the Inn, before excusing myself to hurry inside for a change of clothing before she could get away. She was so charmingly embarrassed by my appearance.
I fear I disturbed Mrs. Reynolds greatly running into the house screaming for dry clothes and leaving a trail of wet ones in my path but haste was important.
Leaving the house with my clothes in some disarray, I caught her just as she was about to enter the carriage to leave.
When I asked if she approved of Pemberley, she smiled that beautiful smile of hers and assured me that she approved of it very much indeed.
When I asked for an introduction to the very fashionable couple accompanying her, she informed me that they were her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner and performed the introduction.
Mrs. Gardiner told me that she had grown up in Lambton, and that they were there to visit old friends. We exchanged pleasantries about the town before I invited Mr. Gardiner to use my fishing spots whenever he wished while they were in town. He seemed happy with the invitation, as it seems he is an avid fisherman. I asked them to walk with me to the lake so that I could show him the best spots.
While walking down there, Mrs. Gardiner took her husband's arm, allowing me the pleasure of walking with Miss Bennet. I informed her that the Bingleys would arrive the next day and asked permission to introduce her to Georgiana. She said that she would be very happy to meet my sister, which raised my spirits greatly. Not wanting to let conversation stop or drag, I inquired about her travels with the Gardiners, and we kept up a steady flow of conversation about the places they had visited.
When we returned to the house, I asked them to come in for tea, hoping to show Miss Bennet more of the house and gauge her thoughts about it, but they declined, saying that they had to get back to town, so that Mrs. Gardiner could get a little rest before dining with friends.
As they were driving away, she turned to looked back at me with a beautiful smile. I felt so encouraged that maybe, just maybe her feeling about me are not so harsh anymore.
When Georgiana arrived the next morning, I told her immediately of Miss Bennet's visit, and she wanted to go at once into town to meet her. Mr. Bingley insisted on accompanying us, so that he could see Miss Elizabeth too, and I suspect find out anything about her sister.
We stayed only a short time, but Georgiana asked them to dine with us tonight, and she graciously accepted, promising to play and sing for us.
I have never enjoyed dinner so much in my entire life, such wonderful company, Mr. Gardiner is an intelligent and witty man and a wonderful conversationalist. We were kept amused all through the meal by the talk between him, Bingley and Miss Bennet.
After dinner Miss Bennet played and sang for us. I have rarely heard anything so enchanting.
After she finished her song she insisted that Georgiana play for us, she seems to be able to charm my sister out of her shyness with just a quiet word and a smile.
As she was walking across the room to sit and enjoy the music, Miss Bingley attempted to embarrass her with questions about the Militia and Mr. Wickham. The only one she upset was my poor sister, when she missed a note. Miss Bennet, however, hurried across to the pianoforte saying, "I am so sorry I am neglecting you how can you play without someone to turn the pages."
No one in the room but the three of us suspected anything amiss, but after calming Georgiana, she looked at me with such a look of understanding, that I scarce could breathe. Could there be a little love in the look too? or is my imagination running away with me, trying to see what I want most in this world?
When she finished her piece Georgiana begged to retire, and the Gardiners wished to go too, as they have plans for tomorrow.
After walking them to the carriage, I returned to the music room where Miss Bingley proceeded to abuse Miss Bennet vehemently, until I informed her that I found Elizabeth Bennet one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance and took my leave.
I am here now in my bedchamber, but am unable to sleep, her face and her smile are before me wherever I turn, but after tonight I am much encouraged.
Lady Sophia was overjoyed, but what could it be that had upset Georgiana so. It was very vexing of Fitzwilliam not to explain, but all in all she was very happy for him and wished him well, perhaps there would be a wedding to attend soon. She sincerely hoped so.
Lady Sophia stepped into her carriage to make a few calls. She intended to stop by and see how Darcy was faring. Lady Matlock had informed her that he was back in town after a fortnight in Hertfordshire with Bingley, it seemed that Charles was now engaged to marry Miss Jane Bennet.
She recalled Darcy's last visit. He had been so downhearted he felt that all was lost with Elizabeth.
He explained all to her after telling her that he was in town to force George Wickham to marry Miss Lydia Bennet.
It seemed that Wickham had absconded from Brighton to escape payment of debts run up and gambling debts unpaid, taking Miss Bennet with him.
Darcy had found his love looking very ill, and after telling him all that had been in her letter from her sister she had burst into tears of despair at the ruin of her family. He had wanted more than anything to take her in his arms and kiss away her tears but he feared that if he touched her she would think him as bad as Wickham. Instead he had taken leave of her vowing to come to town immediately to find them before Wickham found the means to flee the country, he knew in his heart that Wickham had no intention of marrying Miss Bennet but had convinced her that they should marry as soon as possible thereby insuring him a willing companion as he hid away.
Lady Sophia had been most perplexed when Darcy bemoaned the fact that this was all his fault, that his pride had again been a source of pain for the woman he loved so very deeply.
When she had told him that he had nothing to do with the elopement he had told her all about Wickham and Georgiana and the falsehoods that Wickham had been spreading about him. "If I had made his evil ways known he would not have had the chance to cause so much pain to the Bennets or anyone else" Darcy explained sadly. Though he had told all this to Elizabeth she had kept his secret which only caused pain to her own family.
He told her about his search and finding them in the worst part of town and how he had forced Wickham to marry her by paying most of his bills and buying him a commission in the regulars. Thank heaven he had been sent to one of the northern most posts so he was far enough away that they should not be trouble to any of those Darcy loved, but knowing George Wickham she was certainly not sure that he would not cause further trouble for her dear Fitzwilliam. Though Darcy was afraid that Elizabeth must blame him for her families misfortune, she was sure that the Elizabeth Bennet she had met would be too fair minded to do that.
He had told her about taking Bingley back to Netherfield to renew his acquaintance with Miss Jane Bennet, he had found Elizabeth very quiet and feared the worst, so he had returned to town to let Bingley find his happiness with the woman he had loved for so long.
As she alit from her carriage she was met by a very vexed Catherine De Bourgh.
"Why Catherine, what has brought you from Rosings?" she asked in surprise.
"I have come to warn my nephew of a designing woman's intentions and to try to talk some sense into him, but he tells me that he has no intention of marrying my Anne, even though it was his own Mother's dearest wish.
"Catherine , Anne had no such wish. You are the only one who ever hoped for that. Anne wanted only that he should find the kind of love and happiness that she had in her own marriage."
"Bah, what has love to do with marriage, a good match among equals is all that is important, if he wants love let him find it in a mistress as others do and have always done," said Lady De Bourgh angrily as she stalked to her carriage and departed in a rush.
That is the coldest hearted woman I have ever seen, thought Lady Sophia, I wonder if she has ever loved anyone in her entire life, I don't think it possible.
As she entered the house she found Darcy shouting orders to get things packed and ready to leave for Netherfield at first light.
"What now," she exclaimed. "I thought you had quitted Netherfield for the last time until the wedding. I met your Aunt outside, she was in a very angry state and said she could talk no sense into you, does all this have to do with her visit."
"Indeed it does," said Darcy happily. "She has been to Hertfordshire to accuse Elizabeth of laying a trap for me and to try to obtain a promise from her that she would never accept any offer from me, but she met her match in my Elizabeth, who is not at all afraid of her, who indeed told her that to be my wife would be such a source of joy that her disapproval and anyone else's would be of no consequence. I hope that you will soon be one of those to wish me joy, as I leave at first light to go to Hertfordshire to again ask Elizabeth to be my wife."
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