An Unsuitable Marriage
I have often wondered what would have happened if Darcy's parents had been alive and he married Elizabeth against his mothers wishes.
Lady Anne watched her son. He was seemed changed since returning home after those two months visiting with Charles Bingley and his two younger sisters at Netherfield in Hertfordshire. She couldn't put her finger on it but something was different about Fitzwilliam.
As Georgiana played on the pianoforte he had that strange secretive smile on his face that she noticed so frequently as of late.
She was happy to see that both he and Georgiana had recovered their good humor since he returned to Pemberley last summer bringing his young sister with him. When she inquired of him why he brougnt Georgiana from Ramsgate so soon instead of letting her stay the two months they had planned he had answered that he found that Mrs. Younge was a most unsuitable companion for a young lady and had dismissed her. He would tell her nothing more, but got that stubborn look that was so like his father whenever she pressed him.
She asked Georgie only once and was startled when the girl burst into tears and dashed from the room to hide in her suite for the rest of the day.
Giving in to her sons wishes and not wanting to cause her dearest daughter pain she complied when he asked her not to speak of it to Georgiana again.
The next three months there seemed to be a strain between her and her children but she could find no reason for it and so was most happy now that all seemed to be well with both of her children.
Georgiana threw herself into her lessons especially her music and was becoming very proficient on the pianoforte. To her mother's dismay though she seemed to become even more private and shy than before. Lady Anne had hoped so much that a summer at the seashore would bring her daughter out of her shyness, but it had not happened and she was at a loss to know what had happened.
After the holidays the Darcy's returned to London for the season where Lady Anne hoped that Georgie would somehow find it possible to be more open in society instead of hiding beside her mother. She thought that perhaps Caroline Bingley would be a help in acheiving this, but Georgiana for some reason did not seem to care for the company of Miss Bingley or Mrs. Hurst.
When she asked her daughter about this her reply was that she had never heard either of them utter a kind word about anyone and it made her wonder what they said of her when they were speaking with others. Lady Anne knew that Caroline would never say an unkind word about Georgie. She had plans that would be ruined if any word came to Fitzwilliam that her acid tongue had been at work against Georgiana
Lady Anne noticed a remarkable shift in her sons attitude toward Miss Bingley. Where for the last four years they had chatted between them selves about the people they saw at parties with her son enjoying Miss Bingleys acid remarks and her unflattering imatations of the guests. He seemed to like to make his own observations which seemed to match Caroline's.
Sometimes Lady Anne thought they went too far, but when she pressed her son about it he only replied that they were only stating what was the truth. He seemed to find most of the people in their set dead bores, not worth his time.
Though she liked Charles Bingley very much, she found that she liked his sisters less and less. Why couldn't they be as charming and amiable as their brother.
Lady Anne suspected that Caroline Bingley had set her cap for her son and before had feared that he might marry her out of sheer boredom. She feared that her sister Catherine's long planned union between Fitzwilliam and her sickly daughter Lady Anne DeBourgh was never to be. She knew that her son could abide the girl but not the mother. He most certinly felt no love for his cousin.
If only Catherine would cease to give him her unwanted advice on any and all subject including the right age for a young man to marry.
Lady Anne knew that it would be useless to ask her husband to interceed on Catherine's behalf. He would only say that Fitzewilliam would marry Anne if he loved her but he would not make him marry a woman he despised especially if her mother went along with the marriage.
Anne wished whe knew what had hapened between George and Catherin after Sir Henry's death. Before they visited back and forth between the two families for different holidays, but since Henry's death George refused to go to Rosings Park and would leave on business or for his hunting lodge in Scotland whenever Catherine visited.
Catherine became very incensed each time to find George missing and accused Anne of being jealous of her and keeping her husband from associating with her sister. This was such foolishness, but then Catherine was never one to conceed that she could be at fault.
Lady Anne heard Caroline Bingley make a remark about the girl with the fine eyes to Fitzwilliam but she could not hear his response though she could see that Caroline was not at all happy with it.
This was not the first time she had head Miss Bingley try to tease her son about the girls eyes. When she had asked about it Caroline had answered that Fitzwilliam seemed to find Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Herdfordshire to have unusually lovely eyes but had assured Lady Anne that the young woman's attitude toward him would preclude any attachment.
"You would not believe how impertinant the girl was toward your dear son, she seemed to seek to find something to argue about whenever they came into contact, she even bested him at chess and cards and took great delight in it," Caroline confided. I really don't know how Mr. Darcy kept his temper at times, she was most disrespectful."
Lady Anne could scarce believe this. every young woman she knew fauned over her son and made absolute fools of themselves, seeking to impress him. The mothers were not much better, Lady Anne thought.
"Well, she said to herself as she watched Caroline try again to catch her sons attention by making another remark about Miss Bennet's singing. We shall go to Rosings Park in a senight and he will be spared Miss Bingley's cattiness for a time at least."
She wished her husband would accompany them but knew that he would not. Fitzwilliam would find his time more enjoyable this time though, as her nephew Edward a Colonel in the Militia was to go with them this time.
Lady Anne had been elated to hear that Catherine's toady of a clergyman had married a most sensible young woman from Herdfordshire. She could not abide the man and was hard pressed to understand why Catherine seemed so enamored of him. Perhaps George was right, the fact that he was such a toady was what made him so suitable to her sister. Catherine did like to have her way and the last pastor she had, had not lasted long after critizing her treatment of her tenants and urging her to more Christian charity.
This young man would certainly never do such a thing, of that she was certain. Lady Anne laughed aloud at the very thought.
Hopefuly his marriage would keep him at the parsonage and away from the manor. The last two times she had been there he had been underfoot all the time bowing and scraping, extolling Lady Catherine's and Rosing Parks virtues until Lady Anne wanted to scream
As she thought of Mr. Collins and his new wife she recalled how her son had seemed relieved and surprised to find that the man had married this Miss Charlotte Lewis. He said he had met the young woman whilst visitiing at Netherfield.
When she asked if she was a friend of Miss Elizabeth Bennet he had smiled and replied that he believed they were best friends.
Lady Anne had met the girls father Sir William Lucas and found him an insufferable buffoon. How such a sensible woman as Lady Lucas could marry such a man was beyond her understanding.
Lady Anne sighed and shook her head as she watched her son stride across the courtyard to mount his black hunter and with a flick of the whip gallop off.
"What is it that troubles you, my dear," she heard her husband ask.
Turning from the window she walked to the chair beside her husbands and sitting down she sighed again, "I wish I knew what was wrong with Fitzwilliam, he is either pensive and inattentive or so very angry since we returned from Rosings Park. He is either with his fencing master or riding about the countryside outside of town." Miss Bingley says that when she has been returning from visiting friends in the country she has seen him several times whipping his horse into a hard run."
"What ever it is he will get over it and be his old self again in a short time, George replied. You had the same fears after he returned from Ramsgate with Georgiana as I recall. Stop worrying my dear, he is seven and twenty he is no longer your little boy."
"I cannot help myself, George she replied. Did you know that he has taken up that dreadful sport of boxing. Edward said they had to reprimand him for becoming too rough with his opponents and warn him that unless he could control himself he would no longer be allowed to participate."
"Yes, my love, his boxing master informed me of such and Fitz and I had a long discussion on the subject of self control for a gentleman of his station. Do not worry so my dear, he will be fine, give him time and do not press him."
"I must go to my chess club, dear, I am to play a new opponent today, a man named Edward Gardiner. Leedly says he is most intellegent and amiable man, and a worthy opponent.
As he rose to leave the room he kissed the top of her head gently.
"Do not worry, Lady Anne sighed, how can I not worry when my only son is so unhappy. Something happened when were were at Rosing. "
George Darcy snorted, "Spending time in the company of your sister Catherine is enough to make anyone angry and unhappy.."
Lady anne watched her husband leave thinking why does George think so lowly of Catherine, I know that she can be vexing and overbearing, but it is more than that.
Picking up her book to read her mind wandered back to their visit to Rosings Park. When they arrived the odious clergyman Mr. collins was listening to Catherine's advice on honey collecting. He had seemed surprised and happy to see that Fitzwilliam, Georgiana, and Edward had accompanied her. He immediatly informed her that he had met her distinguished son at a party at Netherfield, which she already knew.
He further informed them that Mrs. Collins' sister Maria and his cousin Miss Elizabeth Bennet were visiting and would be there until after the Easter holidays. He left at once to inform his wife of their arrival and imform her that Fitzwilliam would be calling with his sister and his cousin.
Lady Anne was a bit surprised at her sons calling on the neighbor especially this one, so soon after their arrival. Lady Anne herself claimed fatigue and went to her chambers whilst the young people went down the lane.
She had been much surprised two nights later when the Collins's and their guest arrive at Rosings Park for dinner to see that Miss Elizabeth Bennet was a stunning young woman. She recalled Caroline Bingley's description of her, "Her eyes, which your son finds so fine are to me small and shifty with a calculating look, her complextion has no brilliancy, her teeth are tolerable but nothing out to the ordinary, her nose is nothing of distinction, her hair is of that natural curly type that cannot not be comed into any style befitting a lady of fashion all in all she is a typical country lass."
Lady Anne smiled to herself as she thought that she should have known that this girl would be truly lovely if Caroline described her as she had. She was not however prepared for the elegant regal young woman whose mein and demeanor bespoke of the highest of breeding. Who were this girls people, they were more than mere country bumpkins of that she was certain.
She found Miss Bennet completely charming, intelligent and witty, and undaunted by the great Lady Catherinne Deborge.
Catherine and Mr. Collins hastened to inform her that the Bennet estate was entailed away from her and her sister and that Mr. Collins on Mr. Bennets death would become master of Longbourn.
Lady Anne found it comlepetly distastful for Mr. Collins to hold sway on the subject with the young woman sitting there, but she seemed to be resigned to it and paid him little heed, as did his wife.
She liked Mrs. Charlotte Lucas, she decided, a very sensible young woman. How she could have married such a fool was hard to understand, but then her mother had married that buffoon Sir William Lucas.
The days had passed quickly and happily for the three young people who accompanied her. Lady Anne DeBourgh spent most of her time in her chambers with various ailments giveing Georgiana the freedom to become well aquainted with Miss Moria Lucas and Miss Bennet. She was elated to see her daughter laughing and talking so openly with these two young women. At first Georgiana and Maria had been shy but Miss Bennet seemed to know how to bring them out of themselves and enjoy the company. She especially enjoyed hearing Georgiana and Miss Bennet play duets on the pianoforte or Georgie play whilst Miss Bennet sang
Catherine of course was certain that if her Anne had the opportunity to learn that she would surpass all of them and if she herself had learned she would be the best of all.
Anne smiled to herself as she recalled her mother trying to make Catherine practice to learn to play, but Catherine stubbornly refused and Lady Fitzwilliam had at last given up.
As she shifted in her chair she tried to remember what it could have been that would have upset her son so much. It could not have been the Bennet girl, she showed no interest in Fitzwilliam whatsoever. She did however flirt with his cousin and seemed to enjoy his company immensley. Edward in turn made no bones about how much he enjoyed her company.
Fitzwilliam just seemed to mostly sit and stare at them, though there was some good natured bantering between him and Miss Bennet, which Fitzwillian seemed to enjoy greatly.
Her son had taken long walks almost daily which had been a surprise to Lady Anne. she had expected him to spend his time at home playing billiards or cards with his cousin but he seemed to be happier away from the house as he returned each day with a satisfied look and a smile.
One morning Lady Catherine had insisted that he take her daughter Anne for a ride in the pony cart to his seeming dismay.
After they left she confided to Anne that she was sure that she heard Fitzwillian practicing a proposal in the confines of his room. She was certain that he intended to ask for Anne's hand and wanted to give them the opportunity to be alone together.
When they returned he was preparing to go for a walk when his cousin had come into the hall and informed them that he had met Miss Bennet as he took his yearly tour of the park, but that their stroll had been cut short when the young lady complained of a headache and returned to the parsonage.
Fitzwilliam had then changed his mind and challenged his cousin to a game of billards.
Catherine had cornered her daughter asking excitedly, "Did he ask you, what did he say, tell me at once child."
"He spoke not a word, Mama, Anne replied, what was he supposed to say."
"He spoke not a word, what do you mean he spoke not a word. Did he not ask you to marry him, what are you saying girl."
"He spoke not a word," Anne whimpered as she left the room, he most certainly did not ask for my hand, Mama."
That evening the Collins' and Miss Lucas came to dine again informing them that Miss Bennet still had a headache and decided to stay at the parsonage where there would be peace and quiet."
Lady DeBourgh raged at them that it was most unseemly of the girl not to accompany them. "What do you mean she had a headache, I surely would not let such a little thing as a headache keep me from such distinquished company as she would find at Rosings Park"
Lady Anne had noticed that her son ate little but sat pushing the food around his plate.
"What is the matter with you, Darcy? Cook fixed this delicious meal and you eat nothing," Lady Catherine snapped, "Is the food at Rosing not good enough for you? You prefer the tables in town, I suppose."
Lady Anne could see that her son was getting more and more angry but before she could intercede he pushed his chair back saying that he needed some fresh air and asked her to please excuse him.
In less than an hour he was back, storming into the house. When his aunt tried to intercept him he had run up the stairs to his chambers .
"You had better do something about you son, Anne, I am not accustomed to being ignored," Catherine stormed at her.
Lady Anne had replied, "He is not a boy, Catherine, and I no longer control him. I shall, however, endeavor to find out what is wrong."
As she tapped on his door after finding it locked he had told her that he did not want to be disturbed, that he had some very important correspondence that he must take care of. Though she returned to his door again when she was ready to retire he had again refused to open the door saying again that he must finish his letter.
The next morning she went again to his room only to be told by his man that he had gone out. Anne Was becoming very vexed at her son and meant to have this out with him when he returned.
When he returned however he informed her that he had to go back to town immediatley and expected to leave before noon. Edward had voluntered to go with him which relieved her greatly. Perhaps he could find out what had precipitated this sudden urge to get away. She wanted to know if he had felt pressured by her sister.
Before they left they went next door to pay their final respects to the Collins'. Fitzwilliam was back withing 20 minutes but Edward stayed for over an hour. When he returned he informed them that he had been waiting to say goodby to Miss Bennet but she had not appeared and he knew that when his cousin was ready to go he meant now.
Part II part B
Lady Anne was pleased to hear the servant announce Mrs. Henry Darcy. She loved her mother in law and more than once had gone to her for counsel.
"Mother Darcy," she exclaimed, "how wonderful to see you. I was going to call on you this afternoon, I need your advice."
"What is it, Anne dear?" Mrs. Darcy asked, "You do look unhappy. Has anything happened to Georgiana? I thought that she was much recovered from her ill spirits."
"No, oh no, it is not Georgie, it is Fitzwilliam. He left Rosings Park in such a rush, one day he was wanting to stay another sennight and the next he announced he was returning to town immediately."
"He has been angry and unhappy since. His seems to be constantly on the offensive and will tell us nothing. When I ask him he says that it is something he has to work out for himself. I wish he would let me help him, I want my handsome loving son back. This dark angry man is a stranger to me."
Lady Anne began to weep as she spoke, causing her mother-in-law great consternation.
"That does not sound at all like my grandson," Mary Darcy said, "he has always been the most gentle and considerate of boys, but he is no longer a boy, is he?"
"Has your sister Catherine been pressuring him to marry her sickly daughter? We all know that he has no intention of doing that, all except Catherine, that is."
"No, at least I don't believe so. he spent little time in her presence but seemed more content to wander the grounds even though his cousin Edward was with us."
After Lady Anne told Mrs. Darcy about their trip to Rosings Park her mother in law sat back in her chair saying, "He sounds to me like a lover scorned."
"But that cannot be there was no one there to whom he showed the slightest inclination. The only possible one would have been Miss Elizabeth Bennet but she showed not the least interest in him or he in her."
"You say he sat and stared at her and his cousin while they laughed and talked," Mrs. Darcy said. "Did he not speak to her himself?"
"Only very little, I particularly remember one conversation. I recall that Miss Bennet was telling Edward that the first time she saw Fitzwilliam was at a dance where he danced only four dances with Mr. Bingley's sisters though there was a shortage of men and ladies who were in need of partners. My poor Will tried to explain that he found it difficult to converse with strangers. Miss Bennet replied that she did not play the pianoforte as well as she would like but that was because she did not take the time to prctice. William of course caught her meaning and replied that she was perfectly right. I do not understand his last remark though, 'Neither of us perform well to strangers'."
"I must be on my way, dear Anne, tell William that I would like very much to see him, he has not visited me since his return and I miss him," Mrs. Darcy said as she prepared to leave, she wanted to see her grandson. She suspected what was wrong with him but could not talk of it to Anne until she was sure.
Darcy walked into his grandmother's sitting room with a smile. He loved his grandmother so much. She never pressured him and he knew that he could always confide in her. She kept his secrets well. Perhaps she could help him now, but he was not ready to talk to anyone.
"Well boy, what have you been up to, you have your poor mother worried half out of her mind," Mrs. Darcy said.
She knew that the direct approach would be the best way of dealing with her grandson.
"It sounds to me like you are a man scorned by love. I find that unbelievable though, I know that every mama with an eligible daughter has thrown them at your head for years. Caroline Bingley make no bones about wanting to be your wife. It is surely not that odious carriage makers daughter that you pine for."
Darcy stared at his grandmother, he could never hide anything from her, even when he was a child she knew everything.
He sat in a chair his hand over his mouth for a few minutes, then got up and walked about the room before sitting down again for a few minutes. Getting up and walking to the mantle he leaned on it as he said, "Please Grandmother will you be deadly honest with me."
"Will, have you ever known me not to be perfectly honest with you?"
Moving to the window he pulled the curtain aside to look down on the square as he said in a painful voice, "Am I arrogant and conceited grandmother, do I have a selfish disdain for the feelings of those not in my family, please tell me, I must know the truth?"
"The truth, you want dear, are you quite sure."
"I have never been more sure of anything in my life," he replied.
"Well, since you ask, the past few years I have seen more and more of your Aunt Catherine in you Fitzwilliam, I am sorry to say. I think you spend too much time with Caroline Bingley and have learned all too well her acid tongue. Why do you ask Will dear, I am sure no one would ever accuse you of being so, not to your face."
Darcy gave her a wry smile as he replied, "There is one who would Grandmother. When I asked her to marry me she refused me accusing me of causing her sister heartbreak and treating George Wickham in the cruelest way. I cannot believe how arrogant my proposal was I insulted her family in every way possible making it sound like she should feel grateful that I would condescend to ask for her hand."
"George Wickham, what has that scoundrel to do with this?" his grandmother exploded.
"He told her a sorry tale that my father had promised him a living at the parsonage at Kempton but my mother and I were jealous of fathers affection for him and had made him rescind the offer."
"That rake," she said, "of course he would not tell the truth, that you father caught him redhanded stealing from his cash box and sent him from Pemberley. All this after he had refused the post at Kempton and been given 3000 punds in lieu of the living. How typical of George Wickham that is. Of course he could charm the birds out of the trees, but how could she believe such a lie."
"She had good reason Grandmother, I treated her, I treated all of them abominably. I was prideful and arrogant, I know that now."
"Why would she accuse you of breaking her sister heart, dear, did her sister fall in love with you?"
"No, not with me, Grandmother," he laughed, "with Bingley. I thought that she was not good enough for him, she showed no sign of any inclination toward him so I convinced him that she was another fortune hunter and felt nothing for him. Poor Bingley, now I know how he feels, he still pines for Jane Bennet and has lost some of his amiable nature."
"Fitzwilliam Darcy, by what right did you interfer with your friends happiness? What a shameful thing you have done."
"But Grandmother, I could see not sign that she cared for him, the serenity of her countance was such that however amiable her temper her heart was not easily touched. In that I was wrong too, so it seems."
"And did anyone suspect that you were in love with her sister?" his grandmother said quietly.
"Of course not, I could not let anyone see how much I felt for her."
Mrs. Darcy looked at him over the rim of her glasses as she said, "It would seem that you and Miss Jane Bennet are alike in that, does it not, dear."
Darcy stared at her for a few minutes befor he turned red and said, "Just like me she did not show her emotions, what a fool I have been."
Take my advice, dear, do not let this girl slip away from you. She seems to be the only woman in England who did not see your station and fortune when she looked at you. She saw only the man, she is worth more than all the women in the ton put together, do not lose her dear. Explain to her about George and why you did what you did to her sister and Charles. She sounds like an intelligent young woman, I am sure she will forgive you when she learns the truth.A woman such as she will only marry for love and respect, do not lose that Will.
"I think not, she despises me, he answered in a tired voice. I gave her a letter explaing all before I left Rosings Park. I had to let her know what kind of man Wickham was, I could not chance her being hurt by him as Georgie was."
"You did not tell her what happened at Ramsgate, did you dear."
"Yes, Grandmother, I had to. Never fear, I know that she can be trusted with our secret, I trust her completly."
"Your parents still know nothing of this do they," she asked.
"No, my father has suffered enough heartbreak at that mans hands and my mother would do something we would all be sorry for, no I cannot tell them, I gave my promise to Georgiana and I will keep it."
Part II C
After the maid brought in the tea tray and left Mrs. Darcy said "Sit down Fitzwilliam, we must discuss this further, no dear not over there, here close to me.
Darcy smiled at his grandmother and moved to the chair next to her.
"I don't know what ther is to discuss Grandmother, the fact is Miss Elizabeth Bennet detests me and wants never to see me again."
"Just tell me everything that went on that night, all that was said by both of you and I will decide."
After Darcy had told her word for word about his disasterous proposal and Elizabeth's answer, she shook her head and said, "Oh dear me Will, what an abominable thing to say, of course the girl was insulted. How could say such things and expect to be accepted, no self respecting woman would say yes to such a proposal especially one as spirited and intelligent as I believe Miss Bennet to be."
"I don't know Grandmama, it just seemed to come out all wrong, I meant for her to know that though I knew that my family would object strongly to a marriage between us, but that I loved her so much that their objections would be meaningless to me. What does it matter now, all hope is gone. I shall love her till the day I die but she will never speak to me again."
"Perhaps not, love. I am sure that after reading your letter she will know that she has been too harsh on you and will soften her feelings against you. At least she knows now about Wickham's lies and will be spared from falling under his spell as so many others have."
"The best thing you can do, Will, is to take her admonitions to heart and stop standing around with Caroline Bingley making biting remarks about others."
"You can be assured that I no longer seek out the company of Miss Bingley, Grandmama, I have come to detest the site of the woman. She delights in making stinging remarks about my Elizabeth and making what she considers a joke about her beautiful dark eyes. I try only see Charles when his sisters are not about now and try to avoid them at parties as much as possible."
"I am very glad to hear that, William, but you must do more than just avoid MIss Bingley. You must try with all your heart to be more amiable and make an effort to converse with those who you would have before cut off without so much as a smile. Give little compliments to the friends of your mother and father, not too much but just enough so that they know that you are no longer the cold stern snob you have become these last few years. I would not advise you to be too complimentary to the daughters or they might put too much into it. Just try to act to others as you would have them act toward you. After a short time it will become less of an effort and you will find that you will feel better about yourself and them. You must have some aquaintances who are friends of the Bennets or at least know them. If you really try, dear, word will find Miss Elizabeth and she will see that you have changed for the better and think less harshly of you. I would advise you to start with Sir William and Lady Lucas. You say that they are neighbors and good friends. From what I have seen of Sir William, he will tell one and all about the new amiable Fitzwilliam Darcy."
"But what good will that do, Grandmother, if I never see her again?" Darcy said rising to go again to the window.
"You say she comes to town to visit her aunt and uncle in Cheapside, what do they do when they are there? Do they go to the theater or the opera."
"I know that they go to both as she said on numerous occasions how much she liked Shakespeare and loved the opera and ballet," Darcy said animatedly as he turned to face his grandmother with a smile.
"Well there you are, dear, you must make every effort to find out when she is in town and make certain that you go to all of them so that you may meet her there and converse with her and her relatives."
"But that will not be till the season starts, he said as he slumped into a chair dejectedly, by that time she could be engaged to someone else."
"I think not, Will, from what you have told me the girl is most particular. I don't think she will find anyone about Meryton in these next few months. She has lived there all her life and is still unattached. I believe I can safely say she will still be the same when the season starts."
"Now what are you going to be doing for the rest of the summer. Are you to go to Pemberley with your parents next week. I am so looking forward to this visit, it is so hot here in town and the north country air is just what I need."
Darcy smiled at his grandmother lovingley. She always made him feel so much better.
"Yes I shall be there, he replied, unfortunatly I invited Charles and his sisters some time ago and now cannot avoid their company even at Pemberley. I believe I shall be visiting many of the farms," he went on showing his dimples with a smile."
"Thank you so much grandmama, I feel so much better for having had this talk. I shall endeavor to take your advice. You always know how to make me feel better, don't you," he said kissing her cheek as he prepared to depart.
As the Darcy family were entering the carriage for the trip to Derbyshire they were surprised to see the Bingley baroche box enter the courtyard.
"Depend on the Bingley sisters to want to make a grand entrance, especially to Pemberley, Grandmother Darcy remarked, they will find that the box is not as comfortable on a long journey as this carriage. Why would Charles allow his sisters use that thing for such a long trip such as this."
"Lady Anne tried without success to supress a giggle at her mother in law words as she watched Caroline Bingley descend fron the ornate box and approach their carriage.
"Whatever could that woman want now, Mrs. Darcy snorted, she is arrayed as if she were to appear at court instead of a long dusty two day journey."
"Mother Darcy, please, she will hear you, Lady Anne said as she opened the carriage door. What is it Miss Bingley is there perhaps some trouble."
"Not at all Lady Anne, Caroline purred with a satisfied smile, I thought that I might ride with you to accompany Miss Georgiana. We would have such a merry journey discussing fashion and friends. Oh Mrs. Darcy I did not know that you were to make the trip. I thought that at your age it would be far too strenuous."
She realized at once that she had mad a great faux pas as Darcy's grandmother bristled, saying coldly, "I am not yet in my dotage, Miss Bingley and I can assure you that I can withstand this journey as well as you or anyone else."
"Oh dear me, I did not mean that you were incapable of travel, I merely meant to express my concern for a lady of your years becoming tired and worn from a two day journey along rough dusty roads," Caroline stammered knowing that with she was falling more and more out favor with one of Mr. Darcy favorite people with each word, but she seemed unable to stop herself.
"Really Miss Bingley, Lady Anne interupted, I can assure you that Mother Darcy is quite capable of withstanding this trip. As to riding in our carriage, as you can see we are quite full and it would be most uncomforable to try to fit another in with us."
"Perhaps Georgiana could ride in our carriage, Caroline continued, I am sure that she will find a great deal of lively conversation there."
"I think not, Mrs. Darcy replied, I see all to little of my grand daughter and am looking forward to catching up on her accomplishments on this journey."
"Georgiana, what do you say to this," Caroline persisted.
"I thank you Miss Bingley, but I think I would like to spend this time with Grandmother Darcy," Georgiana said shyly.
"As you wish, dear, Miss Bingley replied. Where is your brother, I have not seen him since we arrived. Is he perhaps to be delayed for a time. If so we will be happy to await him and you can start your journey at once."
"Fitzwilliam is already on his way, George Darcy told her. My steward wrote asking for help on a matter of some importance and William voluntered to go early to Pemberley to settle the matter. He left at first light yesterday."
Mrs. Darcy had all she could do not to laugh aloud at the look on Caroline's face as she muttered, "Oh, I see, how strange that he did not inform us, he usually keeps us abreast of his movements."
The journey was indeed a long one, especially for those in the Bingley carriage. Caroline was most vexed that Mr. Darcy should have gone ahead of the rest of the party and expressed her displesure endlessly until Mr. Hurst demanded that she speak of something else and his wife agreed. "Really Caroline, there is nothing to be done about it, so why must you go on and on," Louisa said crossly.
Charles had had enough of his sisters by the end of the first day and chose to ride the rest of the way with the Darcy party leaving Mr. Hurst to bear the two women. Mr. Hurst was unruffled however and chose to sleep most of the second day.
"I should have asked Georgiana to accompany us on this leg of the journey," Caroline cried, I must become best friends with her and what better opportunity than a ride such as this."
"Still hoping to become mistress of Pemberley, eh Caroline, Hurst smirked. Give it up woman, Mr. Darcy has not designs on you what so ever."
"God to sleep, Hurst, Caroline snapped, you know nothing of the matter. Why are we falling so far behind the Darcy carriage again, they will be at Pemberley a full hour before we arrive at this pace. Why did Charles choose to ride with them, why could he not stay with us and spur this fool of a coachman on."
"I tried to tell you that we would make faster time with the other carriage, Mr. Hurst said, but you wanted to make it a grand tour letting all who see us know how wealthy you are. Speed and opulence do not go together, Caroline"
"Enough, both of you, Louisa snapped, I am sick to death of your carping, both of you be silent for the rest of the journey."
As the Darcy carriage pulled into the courtyard they were met by Fitzwilliam greeting them with a smile such as they had not seen him wear for many months.
Lady Anne smiled at her mother in law and her husband as she said happily, "Pemberley has a way of putting things right with our son, doesn't he look happy."
"I would say something more than Pemberley has put that smile on his face," his grandmother replied.
"Well William, you look like a cat who has found the cream jar, she said as Darcy assisted her and his mother from the carriage. What has happened to put such a happy smile on your contenence, something has occured without a doubt."
"Indeed, Grandmother, he replied with a grin as he turned to George saying, "Father, one of your favorite chess opponents is at this time in Lambton. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner and there niece are visiting friends of Mrs. Gardiners in Lambton. They were here touring Pemberley when I arrived yesterday. They had been assured that the family would not be here until tomorrow and wished to come before we arrived so that they would not impose on us while we were here. Fortunately I arrived in time to catch them and spend some time in their company. I can see why you enjoy Mr. Gardiner's company so much Father, what a charming intelligent man."
"Fitzwilliam, dear, take time to breath his mother laughed, who is the niece who accompanies them, do we know her."
"You met her at Rosings Park, Mother, it is Miss Elizabeth Bennet," Darcy replied smiling at his mother.
Oh, yes, what a charming young woman, I hope they enjoyed Pemberley, but who is Mrs. Gardiner, you say she has friends in Lambton."
"She grew up there, mother, Darcy went on, her father was pastor at the church for a few years, Mr. Carter."
"I remember him, George Darcy mused, youngest son of the Earl of Brightly, I believe. I remember he had two daughter and a son, isn't that correct Anne."
I seem to remember them vaguely, Lady Anne said thoughtfully, it has been so long ago. i don't recall her right now."
"I must go to town to see Mr. Gardiner as soon as may be Mr. Darcy grinned, perhaps I can get a few chess games in after all."
"Tomorrow morning, father, Darcy said happily, before they are gone from the inn."
"Of course, son."
Oh, father may I come too, Georgiana asked, I would so like to see Miss Bennet again, I do so enjoy her company.
"If you like dear, her father smiled, at his daughters animation at the thought of Miss Elizabeth Bennet being so close, we shall all go early in the morning."
"I cannot go Lady Anne, said, someone must stay here to entertain our guests and I must see that Mrs. Reynold has everthing in order before all of our friends arrive."
"Well, I should like to meet these people also, Mrs. Darcy said, looking at her grandson's happy smile, but I think I must stay here with Anne. Perhaps you could invite them to Pemberley, George, It sounds like they would be a jolly addition to the party."
"Indeed I shall, Mother."
"I should like to go to Lambton with you, Charles Bingley added excitedly, I should very much like to speak to Miss Bennet, it has been all to long since I have seen her."
Caroline Bingley was in a foul mood as she supervised the unpacking of her trunks and spoke snappishly to her maid.
They had not only fallen far behind the Darcy coach on the second day of the trip north but they had run into rain in the late afternoon turning the road into a quagmire and Mr. Hurst had insisted that they put up for the night in a small inn in a village but 30 miles from Pemberley.
If Charles had not been so selfish as to take to the saddle and ride beside the Darcy coach instead of staying with them and pushing the coachman on they might have made it all the way, but no he had to go on ahead of them.
Though the rooms were clean and neat and the food tasty, it was not up to the standards that she and Louisa were accustomed to. Caroline had so looked forward to spending the evening in the company of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy before the rest of the guests arrived.
Now she would not have the chance to seek his company for herself as the carriages of the Earl of Matlock and the Earl of Hemsley were being driven into the stables when they arrived meaning that they were already unpacked and the families would be in the morning room when she went down.
Caroline did not care at all for Lady Matlock or Lady Sophia Hemsley These two seemed to take particular delight in vexing her and her sister, and reminding them that their father had been in trade. Though they showed great civility to Charles and were in every way amiable to him.
As the sisters swept into the room they noticed that their brother, both Mr. Darcy's and Georgiana were not to be seen.
"Where is your family Mrs. Darcy?" Louisa asked, "I would have thought to see them here to welcome your guests."
"They have gone to Lambton, Mrs. Hurst," Lady Anne replied. "Fitzwilliam informed us when we arrived yesterday that one of his fathers favorite chess opponents was staying at the inn there along with his wife and their niece. I believe you know the niece Miss Bingley, it is Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Hertfordshire."
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet, surely you jest, what would Eliza Bennet be doing in Derbyshire, she has no relations here that I recall."
"Mrs. Gardiner spent a great part of her childhood in Lambton," Mrs. Darcy replied, "they are here visiting friends. I do hope they have no plans for dinner tomorrow as Mr. Darcy plans to ask them to dine with us. I have heard so much of Mr. Gardiner from my husband and his of wife from Lady Hemsley, who has worked with the lady for some years in the Society for the Poor, isn't she the very same lady that you have been telling me about Sophia?"
"Indeed it is Anne, I am so looking forward to seeing Madelaine Gardiner, what a charming generous woman as you will see for yourself."
"But Eliza Bennet, why she is a country nobody, I am sure she will feel out of place in such distinguished company as we have here," Caroline went on, "You cannot be serious Mrs. Darcy, inviting such people into your home."
Mary Darcy had heard about enough from Miss Caroline Bingley and with a cold look at her she said, "Miss Bennet's father is a gentleman, Miss Bingley, it is not as if the man is in trade, and Mr. Gardiner is cousin to Sir James Oglethorpe."
"Oglethorpe, of course, that is who he looks like, each time he has come to the chess club I have racked my brain trying to think of who it is he looks like," Sir John laughed, "why the man looks more like James than his own brother Charles."
As Sir John finished speaking the party from Lambton entered except for Darcy and Charles.
"Where are our two young men, dear?" Lady Anne, asked.
To Caroline's dismay Mr. Darcy replied that William had gone to see one of the farmers and Charles had ridden along with him.
"I can happily say that the Gardiners and Miss Bennet will be joining us tomorrw," Mr. Darcy said with a smile, "you will like all of them, my dear, such charming intelligent people."
"I already like Miss Bennet, I did so enjoy her company at Rosings Park last March and April, Georgiana had such a wonderful time with her and Maria Lucas, I was so happy that they were there to visit Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Even Catherine was pleased with the young woman."
As they started down the stairs the next afternoon to meet the Gardiners and Miss Bennet Caroline said to her sister, "So Lady Anne is pleased with the company of Miss Bennet, I wonder just how much she knows about the young lady and her circumstances. I believe we shall have some fun today after all Louisa."
"Caroline, please do not do or say anything we might come to regret,' her sister admonished.
"Of course not Louisa, I just think the guests of the Darcys should know who and what they are meeting, that is all."
Louisa sighed, she felt sure that Caroline was going to do something foolish but she knew that she was helpless to stop her where Caroline thought gaining any favor with Mr. Darcy was concerned.
As the conversation progressed Caroline saw her opportunity when Lady Anne asked Eliza if she had heard from her friend Mrs. Collins.
As Elizabeth answered in the affirmative Caroline smiled sweetly and said, "If I recall it correctly Miss Bennet, your home Longbourn is entailed to Mr. Collins. Lady DeBourgh's odious clergyman.
Turning to the rest of the company she said loudly, Such a foolish stupid man I have never before met. He is without a doubt the most toadying creature I have ever had the misfortune to encounter."
Turning back to the Gardiners and Elizabeth she went on, "If I understand this correctly, on the death of your father Mrs. Charlotte Collins, your best friend all of your life will become Mistress Of Longbourn, is that not true, Miss Eliza. I am led to understand though that at first Mr. Collins was thought to be seeking your hand in marriage. How did Miss Charlotte Lucas become the object of his affections instead of you, his cousin."
"Elizabeth smiled at Miss Bingley, "I believe that Mr. Collins realized that Charlotte was the perfect woman for him to marry. I am sure that she is much better qualified to be a parsons wife than myself and my cousin realizing this asked her to marry him."
'This was not the answer that Caroline wanted to hear, she had expected Miss Bennet to feel foolish and embarrassed by her questions and to react accordingly, instead she answered her with great civility and grace. Things were not progressing as Caroline had planned at all.
Lady Anne was aghast at Miss Bingley's rudeness and interupted before she could progress further in her attempt to make these guests feel ill at ease. "I believe my sister is in complete agreement with you Miss Bennet she said, Mrs. Collins is indeed the perfect clrergyman's wife and the parishioners are delighted with her. Such a kind dear young woman, never an unkind word about or to anyone and so generous to all."
Lady Anne had asked Mrs. Reynolds to seat Miss Bennet close to her at the table that she may observe and converse with her. Mrs. Darcy she put beside the girl and her son across the table. Before they went in to sit down she asked that Caroline Bingley be sat at the far end of the table away from them. Put her between Mr. Hurst and Lord John, she told Mrs. Reynolds, oh and put Lady Sophia across from her."
Mary Darcy was thoroughly enjoying the young lady who sat beside her. she was clever and witty and so easy to converse with, so well read and such an appreciation of the arts. She would be just the girl for Fitzwilliam, Mrs. Darcy thought as she listened to the good natured banter that went on between them. This was no fawning, cloying female such as he was accustomed to in society but an intelligent quick thinking woman who would lead him a merry chase all his life. Her grandson could do no better than Miss Elizabeth Bennet, no matter where he looked.
She feared that though her daughter enjoyed the company of Miss Bennet there would be trouble if she thought her son was inerested in her for his wife.
As they retired to the music room to await the men Lady Anne persuaded Miss Bennet and Georgiana to entertain them with a few duets on the pianoforte. What better way to keep Miss Bingley's acid tongue silent, she thought.
When the men returned Miss Bennet was persuaded to play and sing for them. Though she did not play with the skill of Georgiana or the Bingley sisters, her obvious joy and love of the music made the few small mistakes she made completly forgivable. Her voice though, seldom had they heard such a wonderful singer, a rich soprano with true pitch who made one feel the song as well as hear it.
Mary Darcy watched her grandson while MIss Bennet performed. His eyes never left her face and the smile that played on his lips and the look in his eyes bespoke of the greatness love for her.
"Oh, William, dear, dear William, she thought your face tells all. How can anyone in this room not see it."
As she looked around the room she saw though that she might be the only one who saw anything about him, except she suspected Mrs. Gardiner and from the smile that she received fron Lady Sophia she was sure that she might think so also.
When Miss Bennet finished her aria she convinced Georgiana to play for them and as she was walking to take a seat beside her aunt Miss Bingley stopped her saying smugly, "Tell me Miss Eliza, are the militia still quarted at Meryton."
"No, Miss Bingley, they are moved to Brighton," Elizabeth answered
"What a loss that must be for your family," Caroline went on with a glance at her sister who smiled cattily.
"We are bearing it well,"Elizabeth said with a small laugh.
"I would think that the loss of one young man would effect you greatly" Caroline persisted.
"I can't imagine who you mean, Elizabeth answered with a puzzled look.
"I understand that certain young ladies found the company of Mr. Wickham most pleasing," Caroline smirked.
She was startled to hear Georgiana hit a bad note and turned to look at her as Elizabeth hurried to the pianoforte saying, "You must forgive me Miss Darcy I have neglected you shamefully, how can you be expected to play when there is no one to turn the pages for you."
Darcy had started to rise to go to his sister when he heard Wickham's name mentioned but Elizabeth had spared him an embarrassing moment with her quick thinking.
Mary Darcy too had started when she heard Georgiana and was grateful for Miss Bennet's quick actions. she smiled to herself with satisfaction as she saw the look that passed between her grandson and this young woman he loved so deeply.
After the Gardiners and Elizabeth had departed Miss Bingley rose and strolled to the mantle saying,"How very ill Miss Eliza looked, I never before saw anyone so altered as she is since the winter, She has grown so brown and course. Louisa and I have agreed that we would not have known her."
Mr. Darcy replied that he had notice no great change, " She is perhaps a little tanned, he said, but that is to be expected when one travels in the summer."
Caroline was not to be gainsed however and she went on, For my part I never could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin, her complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all handsome, her teeth are tolerable but nothing out of the ordinary as is her nose, and as for her eyes, which I have heard called fine, I can see nothing extrordinary in them. They have a sharp shrewish look, and in her air there is a self-sufficency without fashion that I find intolerable."
"I remember when we first met her at Meryton, how amazed we were to find her a reported beauty; I particulary recall you saying one night after they had dined at Netherfield, "She a beauty, I would as soon call her mother a wit." But afterward she seemed to improve on you, I even think you thought her rather pretty at one time."
"Yes," Darcy replied, "but that was only when I first knew her, it has been many months now that I have considered her one of the handsomest women of my aquaintance."
Begging them all to excuse him. Darcy then left the room.
"Really Miss Bingley, you have gone too far," Mrs. Darcy said sharply.
Asking the party to excuse her also she followed her grandson.
The rest of those in the room followed in rapid order leaving Caroline and her sister with the snorung Mr. Hurst.
"Caroline, I warned you, but as always you will not listen, Louisa snapped, now you have incured the wrath of not only Mr. Darcy but everyone in the house."
"What did I say that was not true, why are you picking on me Louisa, now when I need you the most to comfort me," Caroline cried, knowing that her brother was as angry at her as the rest of the guests.
Part III C
Lady Anne walked into the breakfast room to find only her husband there, reading a newspaper.
"I thought that Fitzwilliam was here dear, she said with a kiss for Mr. Darcy, I was certain that I heard his voice as I passed by on my way to speak to Mrs. Reynolds about todays events and check the menus."
"You did, love, but he has riden out already, you missed him by no more than five minutes."
"He left very early did he not. I would have thought that he would wait until Charles came down. I wish he did not have so much to attend to when we have so many guests to entertain.
Where did he go this morning."
"I know not, Anne, he did not tell me, he merely said he was going to town and hoped to be back by noon."
Lady Anne smiled at her mother in law as she entered the room to take a plate and help herself to her breakfast.
"William has gone to town so early, Mary smiled, no doubt to see Miss Bennet"
"Oh, Mother Darcy I think not. Why would he wish to see her this morning when they are to come tonight again. I would imagine he had some business with one of the merchants," Lady Anne answered.
Mary Darcy smiled at her daughter in law as she said, "You are most likely correct Anne dear."
"She suspects nothing, Mary thought, I wonder what would happen if she had the slightest idea that her son is deeply in love with Miss Elizabeth and wished to marry her. Would she accept his decision or would she forbid him ever to see the girl again. How much does her sisters wishes for a marriage between her daughter and William influence her thinking. I am certain that George does not look at all with favor on a union that would surely bring Catherine DeBourgh to Pemberley."
She wakened from her reverie to hear Lady Anne say, " I am most vexed at Caroline Bingley. She did everything she possibly could to embarrass and humiliate Miss Bennet, I will stand for no more of it. If she continues I shall ask her to leave this house and take her sister and her drunken husband with her. What is the matter with the woman, I know that she can be vulgar and crass but last night she went much to far, even for her."
George laughed, "Surely my dear you know that she is jealous of the attention received by Miss Bennet. You must know that she has designs on Will and means to be the next mistress of Pemberley."
"I knew that she did at one time, but she has assured me that she knows that Fitzwilliam is expected to marry his cousin."
"Not if I have anything to say about the matter, George said sharply as he rose to leave."
"But George dear, Catherine has planned for this union since Anne was born."
"Catherine may be planning it, but I am not, George said with a steely voice, I will not have your sister moving into my home and you know that if Anne and Will marry, that is exactly what she has in mind."
"Why does George so dislike my sister, Mother Darcy. I do not understand we were such friends before Henry died; now he will not set foot in Rosings and leaves anytime my sister comes."
"That is something you will have to settle with my son, Anne, I can tell you nothing."
"What are we to do about Miss Bingley and the Hursts, Anne dear, she is determined to make Miss Bennet and the Gardiner feel as uncomfortable as she can, but you cnnot ask them to leave, that would be most uncivil and beneath you, dear."
"I think Anne, dear that we will just have to try to keep her away from them. We can put her at the card tables in the far end of the room as far away as possible."
"I must say though that Miss Bennet handled her slurs and inuendo with great grace and charm, never for a minute giving in to spite or recrimination. She is very well bred and it showed in her dealing with such abuse as Miss Bingley heaped on her head last night."
"Poor Caroline she meant to humilate Miss Bennet and only succeeded in making herself look like the fool she is."
As Lady Anne started to answer she heard her son's step in the hall and called out to him, "Fitzwilliam come here, dear, I missed you this morning. Come and have a cup of tea or coffee with us.
Darcy stepped into the room to say, "Not at this time Mother, I have a most important letter I must write, I must get it off by express as soon as possible, and I must return to London this afternoon. I will be home for the weekend, but now I must go as soon as may be," and started to leave them.
"Fitzwilliam, what is it, what is wrong, you look dreadful, what has happened," Lady Anne cried as he reached the door, tell me dear what is it."
Darcy turned saying, "Not now Mother, there is no time to lose."
"What could possibly have happened, Lady Anne turned to Mary, something dreadful, I can tell. Why will he never tell me anything. He has been so merry since he arrived at Pemberley, now he is in the same mood he was when he left London."
"Do not distress yourself, Anne dear, I am sure it will be taken care of shortly, Just let him attend to it."
Mrs. Darcy rose to follow her grandson, something had happened, and she was determined to find out what.
When his grandmother tapped on his door a few minutes later Darcy called out, "Not now Mother, I beg you, I must get this message off."
Mrs. Darcy sat down on a chair and waited for her grandson to come out of his room to send his letter off, which was a very short time.
Calling to the footman Darcy said, Marks, get Splinter for me at once, make haste."
When the young man Splinter ran to answer the young masters call Darcy gave him and envelope and gave him careful instructions.
"Take this letter and the fastest horse in the stables and head for London. If I am correct you will meet my cousin Col Fitzwilliam either at the Blue Boar this evening or along the road to town. Give him the letter. I know that you are our best horseman and will make the best time." Handing him some coins, he wished him godspeed and turned back to his room.
As he entered he was confronted by his grandmother, "Now Will Darcy, tell me what this is about, something has happened to Miss Bennet, has it not."
Darcy stared at her, "Not here grandmother, he sighed the walls have ears."
"Then we shall go down and walk about the grounds, she said, we can find plenty of privacy there, I will not be gainsed, Will so come along."
"As they left the room they were confronted by Caroline Bingley, "Mr. Darcy, we have had no time to speak to one another since I arrived, if your grandmother would excuse us now perhaps we could go for a stroll about the gardens, I have noticed that the roses are beginning to bloom, I should so like to walk among them, nowhere are there finer flowers than here at Pemberley."
Mrs. Darcy heard her grandson whisper, "Oh dear God no, not now, where did she come from."
"Oh dear, I feel faint, Mrs. Darcy gasped, Miss Bingley please, run and get me a glass of water as quickly as possible."
Caroline seeing a chance to impress the man she craved rushed down the hall.
"Caroline, where are you running to," she heard her sister say.
"Not now, Louisa, I must hurry to get Mr. Darcy's grandmother a glass of water; you know how devoted he is to her and if I can show him that I am truly concerned for the old harridan it will help my chances greatly."
"Come Fitzwilliam, make haste, we must hurry out the back way before she finds some water and returns, or better yet follow me, Mrs. Darcy gasped.
Rushing to a room at the far end of the hall that was used for storing linens and household items she pushed open the door and as quicly as he entered shut it again. Walking across the room she moved some shelves and feeling around the rop of the panels behind it she soom found what she was looking for and slid one of the panels aside.
"Take a candle and follow me," she smiled at her grandson as he entered and she pushed the panel shut.
After going up a short flight of stairs they enter a small room with a table, two chairs and a small bed.
"Here we can find all the privacy we need," she said as she took one of the chairs and motioned for Darcy to take the other.
"Darcy laughed aloud, "Grandmother I knew about the secret room off the library but I certainly knew nothing of this one"
"Oh, they are scattered all about this great house, she grinned at him. Someday I will show you, but for now tell me what has happened to your Elizabeth."
Darcy sat for a moment, then arose to pace the room as he spoke.
"I rode to town in the hope of spending the morning with Miss Bennet and the Gardiners. When I arrived however, Elizabeth was alone in the room at the inn. She looked dreadfuly ill and I made her sit down while I sent a servant for her Aunt and Uncle who had gone to visit the church where Mrs. Gardiners father had been pastor."
"She looked so ill that I wanted to call her a doctor or at least get her a glass of wine, but she assured me that she was quite well. She was merely distressed by a letter she had from her sister."
"It is too dreadful grandmother, and it is all my doing."
"What is it, Will dear, what has happened."
"She burst into tears and cried for some minutes before she could speak. I was most distressed, but knew not what to do."
"When she regained her self control she told me the Wickham had eloped with her youngest sister. A silly stupid girl of but fifteen years. They left Brighton a week ago and have not been seen since. They did not go to Gretna Geen, of that they are certain. I am sure that he has no intentions of marrying her at all.
But Will, why else would he take the girl and why is he on the run. I would think she would be a hindrence."
"I know not, grandmother, but I would suspect that the creditors are hard on his tail and he fled to escape his debts, it is the usual reason for his quick departure ."
"But why take the girl, I do not understand his reasoning there."
I would imagine she knew too much and he had to take her or perhaps she found out he was going to run and imposed herself on him. I do not know, I only know that if I had told her father of Wickhams character this would not have happened. I thought I was protecting my family from hurt after his attempted elopement with Georgie; instead I have harmed the family of the woman I love."
"Will, you must not blame yourself for this, you could not have know this would happen; you had to protect your sister. You gave her your promise, you could not break it."
"It is of little matter now, Grandmother, the damage has been done."
I believe I know where he is and with help from cousin Richard I will find him and make him marry her, it is the only thing to be done."
"That will cost a great deal of money, if I know George Wickham, she said. If you need it I shall be glad to help in anyway I can."
"Darcy kissed his grandmothers cheek at he said softly, "I thank you dearest grandmama, but I have enough, My allowance is so generous that I do not spend it all and I have made some very good investments. I worry not about that, I only worry that we will not find him in time and he will already abandoned her and fled."
I know for certain when this is over I shall make every effort to right the wrong I have done to Charles and Miss Jane Bennet. I know that he still loves her and Elizabeth has said that her sister is still in love with him. We shall go to Netherfield as quickly as I can arrange it.
Caroline was furious. When she returned to Darcy's room there was no one about and his man knew nothing of him or his grandmother.
"The old lady had been acting, there was nothing wrong with her at all," she thought.
In her fury she flung the glass of water against the wall, shattering it to bits. After screaming for the servant to clean it up she stalked to the breakfast room.
Part III D
"Please Fitzwilliam, delay your trip to town untill morning, Lady Anne begged her son. You will not get far today before you have to put up for the night. If you wait until first light you will have a much more enjoyable journey. The roads will have another day to dry and your progress will be hastened."
"I cannot believe that you wish to leave when the Gardiners and Miss Bennet are to join us again this evening. You seemed to enjoy their company so much. Surely this business can wait for a few more hours, it cannot be that urgent."
"The Gardiners and Miss Bennet will not be joining us tonight, MOther, he replied, they are at this moment on their way back to Longbourn in all haste."
"Back to Longbourn, but they sent no message to inform us that they would not be here, are you certain of this, my son."
"I am quite certain, Mother, a family emergency has called them back in all haste. They asked me to convey their regrets and wish that you will forgive them for not attending dinner today."
"Of course, dear, what was the emergencey."
"Mr. Gardiner did not divulge that to me, Darcy said as he turned to leave the room. He knew that if his mother could see his face she would know that he knew more than he was telling but he had given his beloved his promise and he would not break it. "I have not lied to her, he thought, Mr. Gardiner did not divulge anything to me."
Caroline rushed into her sisters room smiling as if she had received a proposal from Darcy.
"What is it Caroline, I can tell that you have something to tell me and from the smile on your face I can see that it is good news. Miss Eliza Bennet has not fallen ill or her aunt or uncle , making it impossible for them to be here today."
"Better than that Louisa dear, Caroline answered as she twirled around the room, they have gone back to Longbourn. What better news could we have than this. I shall have Mr. Darcy to myself for the rest of our stay. I shall make myself so attractive to him that the thought of Eliza Bennet will never enter his mind.
"I shall be the next mistress of all this, sister, she spread her arms wide. I am determined to have a proposal of marriage from that man before we leave here."
As she glided into the dining room Caroline smiled he best smile at Darcy and crossed the room to stand beside him, "Would you be so kind as to escort me to my seat, Mr. Darcy?" she purred.
With a stern look Darcy complied, but to her consternation he left her immediatly and went to take his grandmothers arm seating her next to Georgiana.
Caroline was not going to let anything deter her as she changed her seat taking the seat opposite Darcy to give him full view of her finery.
"I hope you do not mind Lady Sophia, she smiled sweetly, I do so want to talk to Mr. Darcy and dear Georgiana and this seat is best suited for conversing with them. I know you will forgive me."
"How pleasant it is to be here with our own set, she went on, to be here without the imposition fo outsiders seeking favor here at Pemberley. Do you not agree Mr. Darcy."
"I know of no outsiders, he said with a cold stare, of whom are you speaking."
"Why the Gardiners and and their country lass niece, of course, she giggled. Surely you do not believe that story that they told about visiting friends in Lambton and just happening to be here when you arrived, you are far too intelligent to believe such a tall tale as that."
"Pray tell us, Miss Bingley, How were they to know that Fitzwilliam was to arrive a day early, or that any of us were coming for that matter," Mrs. Darcy asked with a snort.
"Why the servants of course, they talked round town spreading the word of our arrival and they Gardiners took advantage of the information to impose themselves on you."
Darcy gave a sharp bark of laughter, "And how were they to catch this bit of gossip when they have been traveling for the past month and arrived at Lambton but one day before I."
"Mrs. Gardiner has many friends in Lambton, I understand. They of course would keep her abreast of what is happening at Pemberley. They merely planned accordingly."
"Miss Bingley, no one, not even my steward knew that Fitzwilliam was coming ahead. If they had thought it possible that anyone would they would have been looking for me, not my son," George explained to her.
Caroline was determined that everyone would be suspicous of the reason for the Gardiner to be visiting Pemberley when Darcy rode in.
"You can be sure that people of their class have their ways of finding out these things, I can assure you," Caroline continued, determined to have her reasoning accepted.
"But Miss Bingley, if my brother says that they were very much surprised and embarrassed by his appearance, it must be so, he does not lie, he always tell the absolute truth," Georgiana said shyly.
Sensing that her favorite grand daughter was becoming distressed at Caroline's abuse of Miss Bennet, who Georgiana liked so very much; Mary Darcy reached over and squeezed her hand. "Pay no attention to her, love, she whispered, she is jealous of Miss Bennet, you know.
"Georgiana, dear, you are too young to understand the devious way the minds of people of that class work," Caroline said with a condescending smile.
"By that class, you mean people in trade, do you not Miss Bingley," Lady Sophia said sweetly, you of course would be well aware of how such people's minds work, is this not true."
Caroline glared at Lady Sophia, and started to continue with her abuse of the Gardiners and the Bennet but before she could speak Lady Anne spoke quietly.
"Miss Bennet's father is a gentleman, he is not in trade, Is that not so Fitzwilliam."
"Yes, mother, he is a well educated, very well read man with a great appreciation of the arts which he has passed on to his two eldest daughters."
Determined to have no more of Caroline's spiteful remarks the rest of the guest kept up a steady line of chatter throughout the rest of the dinner effectively silencing her.
Charles glared at her darkly, but she did not care, she was going to make Fitzwilliam Darcy see that she was the one woman in England for him.
AS they sat in the music room listening to Georgiana play while the servants set up the card tables Mrs. Darcy watched her grandson.
He sat with his hand cupped over his lips with such a far away look on his face that she knew that he heard not a note of his sisters concerto.
She knew that he was thinking of his beloved Elizabeth, planning what he would do when he found that scoundral Wickham.
When Georgiana finished the company clapped vigorously. She was becoming such an accomplished musician, her grandmother thought giving her a smile of appreciation.
Caroline Bingley slid over to the table where the tea and biscuits were laid out.
With a self satisfied smile she said to Darcy, "You are very quiet tonight, Mr. Darcy, I hope you are not pining for the loss of Miss Eliza Bennet."
Darcy gave her such a look of loathing and snapped, "WOT, Excuse me," so sharply that she recoiled and stared openmouthed as he stalked from the room.
She blushed as she saw the smile on grandmother Darcy's face.
"Well done Caroline," she grinned.
"If you will all excuse me, I really do not feel like playing cards tonight, I am, like my grandson rather tired so I too shall go up to my room."
"What time is William to start for London in the morning, George, she asked, I should like to speak to him before he leaves."
"He plans, to leave at first light, Mother, it will be very early."
"I am an early riser, as you know, I shall have breakfast with him, Now goodnight to all of you.
"What, why, of what are you speaking, Caroline gasped, surely Mr. Darcy is not returning to town so soon. He would surely not leave his guests. This must be a misunderstanding."
"There is no misunderstanding, Miss Bingley, Fitzwilliam would have goen this afternoon, but I pursuaded him to wait until morning, Lady Anne answered I will feel much better with him going then and not traveling at night. One never know when there might be highway men about."
Caroline stormed into Louisa's room.
"He is returning to town on the morrow, she raged, what is it that can be soomportant that he would leave his guest, it is not like him to be so uncivil."
"He is going to meet her, Louisa, I know it, she has not gone back to Longbourn, they have arranged for a tryst somewhere. I shall gainsay them though. I shall be going back to London with him. I shall go to my room now and have Marie pack my things so that I will be ready when he departs. I shall show Miss Eliza Bennet."
"You, be ready to travel at dawn, Caroline, I do not believe it. You are never about until after 10:00 o'clock. Forget this wild scheme, Caroline, he will not take you."
"Oh yes he will, Louisa, I am determined, I shall go to Charles now and inform him of my change of plans."
Darcy was surprised to see his friend Bingley walk into the breakfast room and help himself to a hearty share of the items on the side board before sitting down across the table from him.
"What are you doing up so early, Charles, Darcy asked with a smile, I would have thought you would have laid abed for at least two more hours."
Mary Darcy walked into the breakfast room with a cheery, "Good morning, how pleasant to find my two favorite young men here to dine with me. I agree with my grandson though, Charles, I would have expected you to come down much later this morning."
"I believe I have prevented a most embarrassing situation for you, Darcy. My sister came to my room last night to inform me that she intended to accompany you on your journey to town this morning.
I of course forbad it, however I was afraid that she would pay little heed to my warning and try to impose herself upon you. I should have known though that Caroline would never rise at this early hour, let alone be ready to leave, it takes her two hours just to prepare herself to come down in the morning, I believe you are quite safe today, Darcy."
The words were no more than out of his mouth when Caroline sailed into the room dressed as if she were going to court.
"Oh, Mr. Darcy, she cooed, I was afraid that I might have missed you. I shall be accompanying you to town today. What a pleasant ride it will be, we have had all to little time to converse with one another, there has been so many here."
Darcy looked at his grandmother in alarm. "Miss Bingley, he gasped, I cannot believe that you would think of taking a two day ride with just the two of us in the carriage, think of what it would do to your reputation if it became known that we spent a night at the same inn without the benefit of another lady to accompany us."
"Oh, pish tosh, Caroline smiled coyly, who would dare to say anything about a simple trip to town with two such good friends as we. Everyone know that Fitzwilliam Darcy is the consumate gentleman, who would dare to darken your name."
"I cannot allow you to do this Mss Bingley, Darcy replied, I cannot allow you to be put into such a situation. I cannot be the instrument for the destruction of the good name of Bingley."
"What nonsense, Miss Bingley his grandmother put in, how can you even think of such a foolhardy thing. I am most surprised that a woman of you sensibility would even consider such a thing."
"Caroline, I forbid this, I told you last night that I would not allow you to undertake such a foolish quest."
"You cannot tell me what I can and cannot do, Charles, I am going to town and that is the last of the matter," Caroline said her voice rising with each word.
"I can tell you what to do, Caroline, I am the head of the household now, and wou will do as I say."
Darcy looked with alarm at his grandmother for aid, and when she gave a short jerk of her head toward the door, he quietly and quickly slipped hurridly out of the room.
The argument between the Bingley's went on for another half hour before a young footman entered to see if anything was needed on the sideboard.
"You, boy, Caroline, snapped, send someone up to my rooms for my trunks, young Mr. Darcy and I must be on our way."
The lad stared at her in confusion as he said, "Excuse me miss but the young Master has been gone this past half hour."
"Gone, she screamed, what do you mean gone, I am to go with him you stupid child, of course he is not gone."
Mary Darcy sent the boy on his way and turned to face Caroline, "The boy speaks the truth, Miss Bingley, William is long gone while you and your brother were arguing."
Mrs. Reynolds stepped into the room to find out what had upset young Mark. She had heard Miss Bingley far down the hall and knew that she had something to do with the boy running down the hall with a look of alarm on his face.
As she started to ask what was amiss, Caroline confronted her snapping, "Mrs. Reynolds I am in need of a saddled horse, send to the stables at once and tell them I wish one sent to the door immediatly."
When the housekeeper hesitated and looked to Mrs. Darcy, Caroline shouted at her, "Did you not hear me, are you deaf as well as stupid, woman, do as I say at once."
"Caroline, That is enough, Charles shouted at his sister, pay her no heed Mrs. Reynolds, there will be no horse to be ridden this morning unless I give my permission."
"I shall go and saddle one myself, if you do not allow the stablehands to do so Charles, I will have time to catch Mr. Darcy's carriage if I hurry."
"Dressed as you are, Caroline, I think not, and do not try to tell me that you will be dressed in riding clothes if the horse should be brought around. I know you, sister, by the time you find them among the myrid dresses you packed in all those trunks it will be tea time. Go back to your room Caroline until you can act like a proper lady."
As she turned on her brother Caroline nodded her head toward Mrs. Darcy and snapped, "You and this old woman have conspired against me, Charles, I shall never forgive you. Don't you know that Mr. Darcy is not going to town but has a rendevous with Miss Bennet somewhere between here and Meryton. Why else would he be so keen to be away so quickly."
Mary Darcy, stared at Caroline in disbelief, "What utter nonsense, she said shaking her head, this is unbelieveable even for you, Miss Bingley."
As Caroline opend her mouth to utter a sharp retort she heard the voice of George Darcy behind her. "Are you calling my son a liar, Miss Bingley, I can assure you that if he says he has urgent business in town, he has urgent business in town.
Caroline gasped, she had not heard anyone enter the room, "Oh dear me no, Mr. Darcy, I know that your son can be depended on to tell the truth, but Miss Eliza Bennet may have turned his head and lured him into her web."
"Caroline, you have said quite enough, go to your room until you can act sensibly," Mrs. Darcy told her.
Caroline ran from the room in tears. All her plans to force Mr. Darcy into a compremising situation were dashed, he was too far ahead now for her to ever catch him. She was sure that he was spurring his coachman to run the horses as fast as they could go in order to reach his destination with all speed.
Mary Darcy looked at her gandson over the top of her paper. He had been very quiet since returning from Netherfield.
He had found Wickham and the young Bennet girl and made the neccessary arrangements for their marriage and now they were in the north country. How much it had cost him she knew not, but she knew it was a great deal, there were bills to be paid and a commission bought in the regulars.
After all that was accomplished he and Charles had returned to Netherfield where Charles resumed his pursuit ot Miss Jane Bennent and was now betrothed to her.
What had happened between him and Miss Elizabeth she knew not, but she did not press him, she knew that in time he would tell her all.
Their quiet was disturbed by the voice of Lady Cathrine DeBourgh shouting, "Out of my way fool, I know my way, I do not intend to wait to be announced."
Darcy leapt to his feet, "Aunt, what are you doing here?" he said in amazement.
"I am just come from Hertfordshire," she snapped, "I have paid a call on MIss Elizabeth Bennet. A report of alarming proportions reached my ears and I sped to Longbourn to confront the young woman."
"What report, what young woman are you speaking of?"
"The report that you were to become betrothed to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, she snapped. I went immediatly to her home to inform her that such a marriage was out of the question, that you are engaged to my daughter."
"Do you know what she had the audacity to say to me, she said that she had seen or heard nothing of such an engagement. When I told her that a marriage between the two of you would be censured, you would both be slighted and despised by everyone connected with you. Such an alliance would be a disgrace, your name would never be mentioned by any of us."
She replied that these would be heavy misfortunes indeed, but your wife would have such an extraordinary sources of happines attached to her situation, that she would, on the whole have no cause to repine.
When I insisted upon knowing if she was engaged to you she replied that she was not. However when I asked her to promise that she would never accept an offer of your hand, she refused saying that she would make no promise of the kind.
"I have come to warn you Fitzwilliam, the girl is determined to have you, I would advise you to go at once to Pemberley, as far from her as you can."
Finishing her tirade she turned and left them sitting there staring at each other, mouths agape in astonishment.
With a grin Darcy at last rose and started out of the room.
His grandmother laughed aloud, "How soon do you think you will arrive in Hertfordshire," she asked.
Continued in Part 2
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