An Unsuitable Marriage
Lady Anne stretched luxuriously as she opened her eyes to the new day.
"Oh my, she thought, I don't remember how long it has been since I slept so well as I have these last three days. Nearly seven years, Anne, you foolish, foolish woman," a still small voice said in her heart.
She lay back among the pillows thinking about the evening she had arrived here at Briarwood to find, not only her husband here with Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, but her dear daughter Georgiana and David. The greatest shock of all had been her niece Anne.
She and George had gone up to her room that night that she arrived. Dear George had sensed that she was hungry and after finding out that she had not stopped to dine on her way here to Briarwood had sent to the kitchen for bread and cheese and hot tea for her.
They had talked until she fell asleep, about what she had found when she arrived.
She shook her again in disbelief that she had not even known the girl who had grown up with Fitzwilliam, hoping, as she had thought to marry him.
What a shock it had been to her when Anne told her that she never wanted to marry her son at all and had planned to run to the Sisters of Mercy if she was to be forced to do so. She had planned her escape from the time she was 14 years old, with the help of Mrs. Custien, the companion who had preceded Mrs. Jenkinson.
Anne was sure that she had gone to Mrs. Custain when she left Rosings Park. Anne of course would never disclose how and when she entered the convet for sancuary. Lady Anne could not blame the girl for not trusting her now, considering how close she had been to her mother, Lady Catherine.
She had enjoyed meeting Timothy again and was much pleased to see that he loved and cherished his wife. How wonderful it must be for Anne to have someone who adored her, after all those years of being told that as a girl she was of little consequence.
Lady Anne could naught but smile as she thought of the plump happy son of Timothy and Anne.
"Henry would be well pleased with his namesake," she thought.
When her maid finished her toillete she sent her to the kitchen to eat her breakfast while Lady Anne made her way to the nursery. I hope the baby is well fed and attended to she thought, I will enjoy a few minutes with her before I go down for breakfast.
She found Lizzie, content and smiling and taking her to the window she looked out on a scene which warmed her heart.
To her joy she saw that the snow that had started the afternoon before must have continued on through the night. Today, however was bright and sunny and the snow glittered as if sprinkled with diamond dust.
Below her she saw her son pulling two year old Jane Anne on a sled while Elizabeth and the two older children crunched through the snow beside him.
Suddenly Elizabeth stopped and leaning down whispered to the two with her. The three of them reached down to fill ther hands with snow making balls, giggling all the while. When Fitzwilliam turned to see what the laughter was about he was hit with a hail of snowballs.
Taking up the challenged he too leaned down to scoop up the snow and return the fire.
Young William ran to his fathers side to assist him in the snowy war with his mother and sister, while Jane Anne clapped her hands with joy and laughter at what was going on around her.
She saw George come around the hedge from the stable to be met by a barrage of snowballs.
He, however instead in joining the fray, beat a hasty retreat to the house, followed all the way by well placed snowballs.
Lady Anne laughed with joy, and tapped on the window. Her family below aimed smiles at her and themselves proceeded to the house.
She heard the sound of Mary Darcy's laughter as she hurried down to hall to the breakfast room.
"Did you see what went on in the lawn just now," Mary asked wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.
"Oh, Mama it looked like such fun, perhaps after breakfast we can go out and build a snow fort and have a real snowball fight, Georgiana said as she and David turned, laughing from the window in the breakfast room, where they too had been enjoying the show.
As the miscreants filed into the room, rosy cheeks aglow Lady Anne could not help but say to herself, "William is so very happy and such a wonderful father. He loves Elizabeth so very deeply and it is obvious to all that she in turn adores him. How could I have been so blind."
"I hoped that we could go into the woods to collect pine boughs this morning, she said, that is all we need to complete the Christmas decorating. You young people do as you wish though."
"What a wonderful suggestion, Elizabeth said, what better day to go to the woods than today, when the snow is so beautiful."
"Oh, yes I agree, Anne put in, don't you think so, Timothy, we shall have such fun."
Timothy could not help but laugh and shake his head in agreement as he watched his wife glow with joy at the thought of a jaunt into the woods. "She loves the snow, just like a child. She deserved to have the pleasure of tossing it about and making snowmen and snowballs, he thought. Her mother had absolutely forbidden such activity when she was growing up."
"What are you thinking Anne, my love, George Darcy said as he watched his lovely wife looking out the window with a pensive look on her face.
"I was just wondering how Catherine reacted to my letter, she said, I had thought I might have heard something from her by now."
"She would never come here, love, George answered. she will survive very well Anne, She is probably making Lady Margaret's life miserable even now. After all Margaret is all she has left."
"You forget, Mr. and Mrs. Collins, Anne replied. She will have them to fall back on."
"I would imagine she will take it all out on that poor weak shadow of a man," George said pensively.
"You had better check to see if she is well, Mrs. Alexander, the housekeeper said to Maude, Lady Catherine's maid, as they stood outside the her ladyships suite. She has been in there three days now without coming out. She has not eaten enought to keep a bird alive and has had her meals delivered to her door and sets the dishes outside it when she is finished."
"I'm, not going in there, Maude replied, she threw a vase at me the last time I put my head in the door."
Lady Catherine paced about the room as she read the letter from her sister for the hundredth time.
I shall not be coming to Rosings Park for the holidays, as a matter of fact I don't know if I shall ever go there again.
I have waited three days to write this letter, hoping to find some relief from my feeling of anger and betrayal after I was made to admit what has been going on all these years, indeed, since our childhood.
I had thought that you loved me when you took over my raising after our mother became too ill to do so. Instead I find out that you despised me, blaming me for all our mothers troubles.
It was not my fault that our father loved me. You know that he did so because of my resemblence to our dear mother.
If you had been more caring of him and shown him a little love and understanding for the pain he was suffering he would have shown you the same affection he showed me.
You however, I see now treated him with nothing but contempt.
How could I have been so blind as not to see how very much you wanted George and Pemberley. Now that I have time to think on it, it I remember that you were the only one who did not wish me happiness when I became engaged to him, I thought you were joshing when you told me that I was not woman enough for him that her would be better to marry you.
The memories flow back to me now, the way you watched him, I should have known, but I was so in love with him I could not see the forest for the trees.
I thought I was having nightmares there at Rosings when I thought that some woman was trying to lure my husband to her bed while I lay there at deaths door.
I know now that it was no dream, but my own sister, begging him to get her with child, begging him to give her his son. It was you Catherine, I know that for the truth now.
How you must have laughed up your sleeve when I told you of the wild dreams I had, of the other woman chasing my husband, saying I could not give him what he needed, she was the only one who could make him truly happy.
How could I have blamed my dear George for the rift between our families. How could I not have known that he wished to avoid you because of your actions. He truly loved Henry, Catherine and your unseemly behavior only served to make him despise you.
Poor, dear cousin, Henry. He had loved you all his life, but you destroyed his love with you arrogance and contempt.
That is why he left Rosings Park in trust to Anne, isn't it Catherine. He knew what you were about. He loved his daughter, which is more than can be said for you. You told her all her life that she was of little consequence. Can you blame her for fleeing you. I cannot.
I can see so clearly now, it was never just the marriage to Fitzwilliam that you wanted. It was your way of obtaining what you wanted more than your family or anything else in your life, Pemberley.
You destroyed Henry for wanting it. He knew, I am sure and prefered death to living with you any longer.
Poor dear loving cousin Henry, to have been handed such a fate.
I shall go to Briarwood and try to make peace with my husband and son. I pray to God that Elizabeth will find it in her heart to forgive me someday. I go to meet my four beautiful grandchildren. What a fool I have been to have missed all these years when I could have been enjoying them instead of bowing to your every will and whim.
I know that George and Mary will welcome me. They love me.
Love Catherine. You should try loving at least once before you die, sister. What an empty life you have had, never loving anyone but yourself.
I have always thought that though we like to think that Lizzie and Darcy's marriage was ideal and without any bad spots in the road that is not possible. Especially thinking of the times they lived in and the medical practices in that period. In this part you will find a reference to a painful episode in their loving relationship.
Lady Anne sat at her desk checking the plans for the holidays which were rapidly coming upon them.
She sat back in her chair, smiling as she thought of the excitement among the staff at the news that the entire family was spending them at Pemberley this year. It was the first time in years that they would all be here. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth and the children, Georgiana and David and their two, Anne and Timothy with their three.
Even Mary Darcy agreed to the trip in spite of how hard the journey would be on her. Lady Anne feared that this would be the last time her mother in law would make the trip to the north country. At 70 years old and suffering from rheumtism, travel was very painful for her, but she wanted to be part of the festivities this one last time she had written.
Mrs. Reynolds was quite beside herself with plans. Lady Anne had her hands full keeping her in check. The thought of a houseful of happy children had her in a spin of joy.
She smiled at her husband as he came into the room carrying a letter. Her smile faded at the look on his face.
"What is is George, dear, she asked, you look most upset."
"It is from Catherine," he said quietly.
"Catherine, it has been two years, since she last wrote demanding that I come to Rosings Park and bring her grandson," Lady Anne said with a scowl, what could she want now."
"There is but one way to fine out," George laughed, I leave you to your sister.
Lady Anne took the letter and moved to the window . She sat looking at the missive thinking of the last time she had seen her sister just before Christmas six years ago."
So much had happened in those few years. Some giving great joy such as Geofgianna's becoming a mother to two such beautiful children and Anne's great happiness in her marriage. what a wonderful mother she was, giving her children all the love that she herself had been denied in her childhood.
Ther had been great pain too at the death of their eldest grand daughter of the same blood disease that had taken both Lady Anne's father and her sister Josephine.
Not only was the shock and death of Cassandra been dreadful but Fitzwilliam had sunk into a deep valley of dispair for months, Eating little, sleeping little. Prowilng the house at night, sitting through the night beside that tiny bed where he had so many times laid his daughter to go to sleep, telling her stories of his own childhood until she drifted off into a happy dreamland.
They had spent months trying to find a way to bring him out of it but she did not know how to do so.
Elizabeth became so thin and pale, so worried about her husbands safety and sanity. In the end it had been her love and strength that had pulled him out of it.
She never knew what had happened that day in the reading room between him and Georgiana but she had heard the shouting between her daughter and son far down the hall.
Fitzwilliam had stormed from the room and out of the house to ride away furiously. he had not returned until well after dark.
The next day he had slept until the afternoon, with his wife on guard to let no none into the bedroom to disturb him. When he awakened she had taken a tray in to him and they had talked far into the night, not emerging until almost tea timre the next day.
Fitzwilliam for a time had seemed almost like a child, seeming to fear letting Elizabeth out of his sight.
Elizabeth had devoted all her time to him, leaving the care of their children to Mary until gradually he became his old self again. Taking care of the business of the estate and playing with young Will, Jane Anne and Lizzie.
For the first time Lady Anne had realized that though Elizabeth loved her children and her home, Fitzwilliam would always be first in her heart.
Shaking her head Lady Anne came back to her sisters letter and opening it read;
I again beg you to come to Rosings Park and bring my grandson. I do not demand it this time, I beg it.
I wish to meet the young man who will inherit Rosings Park and see if he is being properly raised to know his station in life.
I would also like to make my peace with you. I cannot believe that you can be so cruel and unbending. After all I did for you for all those years.
I do not wish to see Mrs. Bingham or her two daughters. Girls are of no consequence to me, I only want my grandson. He should be here learning what it means to be a DeBourgh.
I fear he will grow up not knowing how great he can be as the grandson of an earl.
If Anne wishes to lower herself to that man's level that is her business, but her son is meant for greater things than just being the son of a simple country gentleman.
Please answer with all haste,
Your sister, Lady Catherine DeBourgh.
My letter will be short and to the point as I am expecting a large company of guests for the holidays.
I shall not bring young Henry Bonhiem to Rosings Park. If you wish to become aquainted with your grandson you will have to make peace with your daughter and accept her husband and her two daughters.
Take care what you do Catherine. I can assure you that Anne and Timothy are well aware that they have the power to turn you out of Rosings out amoung the hedgerows at any time they wish.
Do not even think of taking her their son from them or their patience might be stretched to the point that they will do just that and then where will you go.
If you wish to make peace with me my terms are the same. You must accept Fitwilliam and our dear daughter Elizabeth without question or rancor.
Yes, Catherine, our daughter Elizabeth, we love her as if we had raised her ourselves and will never let you come between us again. I can do without you very well, sister, but I could not do without Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth and our grandchildren.
Please do not write to me again unless you are willing to accept our terms.
Lady Anne Darcy
Lady Anne sealed the letter and lay it on the silver tray for the servant to post.
She had just finished when she heard what sounded like several carriages enter the courtyard.
Dashing to the door she opened it to see that indeed three carriages were there.
From the first one her son stepped out to put his hand in and help Elizabeth descend with 1 year old Bennet in her arms. Next he lifted out 4 year old George bowing low to his grandmother with an impish grin on his face, followed by the governess Mrs Bailey.
From the second 12 year old Will stepped down to help his great grandmother out, after a bow of greeting to his grandmother. She smiled with delight. What beautiful manners these children have," she thought.
Following Anne Darcy, came 9 year old Jane Anne and 8 year old Lizzie.
The third contained Elizabeth's maid and Fitzwilliam's valet and a nanny.
As the staff rushed to unload the luggage, Mr. Carstairs the butler and Mrs Longstreet the housekeeper hurried to give instructions concerning where each piece should be taken.
"Elizabeth, my dear, I have been waiting for you all morning, she said as she embraced her daughter in law, Fitzwilliam, Mary, we are so happy to see all of you. This will be such a wonderful Christmas. Georgiana and David should be here soon and Anne and Timothy arrive tomorrow."
"What beautiful weather you had for traveling, It is a sign that the sun will shine on these holidays as it has not in many years.
"The children were hoping for snow and cold enough for there to be ice on the pond suitable for skating," Fitzwilliam said with a laugh.
They all followed Mary and Will, who still held his grandmothers arm to help her up the steps.
"Your father and I hope to convince your grandmother to move to Pemberley now that she is here, Lady Anne said to Fitzwilliam, as they moved toward the drawing room. She loves Pemberley so and should live out her years here. You manage Briarwood so well that there is no need for her to be there now."
"I think that she will be agreeable to that, Elizabeth said, She talks so much about her years at Pemberley these last few months."
"Grandfather, grandfather," they heard Georgie cry as George Darcy came toward them. Running past all of them he flung himself into his grandfather's waiting arms, while the rest of the party stood laughing at them and Bennet help out his arms crying, Bompa, Bompa."
"How strange it seems to come here and not see Mrs Reynolds waiting to greet us," Fitzwilliam said, sadly.
"Yes, we miss her too, but she trained her daughter well and Mrs Longstreet is as competent as her dear mother, Lady Anne answered. You must go to the Dower House and visit her as soon as may be, she is so looking forward to seeing you and Elizabeth, but especially the children. She has talked of nothing else this last fortnight."
"Anne, dear I believe Georgiana and David are here, Mary Darcy interupted, I know that voice when I hear it."
All were greeted with hugs and kisses as Georgiana and her family entered, followed by Anne and Timothy and family.
"Anne, dear you are most welcome, but we did not expect you until tomorrow, Lady Anne, said in surprise."
"We decided to travel together, mama, Georgiana said with a laugh. we were such a merry party."
As everyone finished their tea and the younger children along with Mary went up to their rooms to rest Anne asked her aunt if they could speak privately.
As they sat down in Lady Anne's study Anne twisted her handkerchief nevously.
"Oh, Aunt Anne, mama is trying to take our son from us, she sobbed. She has sent her lawyer to tell us that she feels that since Henry will inherit Rosing Park he should be raised there and she should be the one to raise him to be a proper DeBourgh."
"I know, dear, she has sent me a letter instructing me to bring him to her. You have nothing to worry about Anne, she can do nothing to you. You are the best of parents. Everyone knows that. She is a bitter, spiteful woman, who cannot admit that she could be at all at fault for what her life has become."
"Have your attorney send her a letter telling her that you will be only too happy to bring Henry to Rosings, along with the rest of your family, but she must vacate the place within a fortnight. That should silence her or bring her to her senses."
"Anne laughed, Oh Aunt Anne, I never thought of that, thank you. I shall send a letter to my attorney straight away. I hope that that will bring a stop to her threats and put a little fear into her."
"Perhaps her new clergyman can be of assistance to us, Aunt, we met him at church last week. He seems very different from Mr. Collins."
"Her new clergyman, Lady Anne gasped, don't tell me she dismissed Mr. Collins, he has always been just the type of pastor she wished for."
"Oh no, Aunt, I thought you knew, three months ago Mr. Collins was stung by his bees and passed away. He had been very out of sorts since Mr. Bennet's new wife gave birth to a second son, and it would seem he became careless."
"But no one told us, Lady Anne said, what had happened to Mrs Collins. I would have thought Elizabeth would tell us about that, she and Mrs Collins are still the best of friends.
"Elizabeth did write to you, I was there when she sent it, I wonder what has happened to her letter, I shall have to tell her."
"Charlotte and the children are still in the parsonage and will stay there until the new pastor marries, he insisted upon it."
"Oh, Mother and Father are the handsomest couple in the hall," sighed Jane Anne as she and her sister Elizabeth and brother Will watched from the balcony of the ballroom as their parents and grandparents lined up to lead the first dance, signaling the start of the holiday ball at Pemberley.
The three older Darcy children were permitted to watch the proceeding from the balcony for one hour before going to bed. With them were Mrs Reynolds, and Mrs Baxter the Darcy governess, and Charles Bingley 13 and his 10 year old sister Amanda Elizabeth.
"You will have to be very quiet, and no scuffling, children, we doin't wish to be heard by the dancers, "Mrs Baxter cautioned as she saw Will and young Charles start a shoving match for the best view of the dance floor.
"Oh please do be good boys, Lizzie admonished. I do not want to be sent to bed for your rowdy ways."
Both boys turned to make faces at thier sisters causing Jane Anne to gasp, "If you two are not better behaved Mrs Baxter will have James take you to your rooms, so you had better start acting like gentlemen as our parents would wish."
Amanda snorted, "They should be sent away, they are always rough housing and causing trouble for all of us."
"Hush children, Mrs Reynolds said with a smile, you do not wish to see your fathers come up here, I am sure."
Both boys looked at her and each other with alarm at the thought and quickly sat down to watch the rest of the hour as quietly as two young boys can for such a period of time.
"My father would not let me ride for a week if he had to come up here to scold me, Will whispered, or perhaps something even worse like giving away my Christmas gifts to the poor."
"Mine too, Charles sighed, he might even send me home with Mr. Davis. What a dreadful Christmas that would make, all alone at The Willows, indeed I shall not even speak again until we are safely in our rooms."
Lady Anne took a seat beside Mary Darcy as the set ended.
"How wonderful it is to have everyone here for the holidays, I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to have us all here at Pemberley at last."
"You do not have to tell me anything, my dear, it is quite apparent in your face, Mary laughed.
"It doesn't seem possible that it has been seven years since you showed up at Briarwood that for that Christmas, where has all the time gone."
"Seven years, Lady Anne sighed. I have wanted to have this for seven long years but there always seemed to be something to prevent. First the heartbreak of losing Cassandra and Fitzwilliam's short descent into the madness of grief. When next I thought we could be here both Georgiana and Anne were with child so we had to wait for that. Elizabeth's laying in with George meant that they could not come in those years. Then Elizabeth's mother's death, between the births of George and Bennet. Such a waste, if she had only listened to reason and not gone to Paris while there was so much illness there it would never have happened."
"She was a silly foolish woman, Mary said , she thought it worth the chance just to pick up some of the finery that the gentry were selling so cheaply after the defeat of Bonaparte. Stupid, silly woman, to subject her family to so much grief for a few trinkets."
"Yes, but it has turned out for the best for the family. Of course Mr. Bennets marriage two years later during the holidays meant that Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth would have to go to Longbourn. Such a wonderful woman he married, Madaline has made his life so very happy."
"I recall Mrs Bennet speaking of her when she was married to her first husband, Mary said, it seemed that all she could ever say was what a plain woman their neighbor had married. She seemed to think her and what she brought to the marriage as naught if she were not as beautiful as she herself had been when she was young. Though I must say she was a handsome woman for her age, but she could never understand that beauty means little in a marriage if there is no companionship."
"She could not understand that Robert Fitzhugh loved his wife for her wit, her wisdom and her goodnes. I never thought her plain, especially when she smiles. She has made Thomas Bennet the best of wives."
"When her husband was killed in the carriage rollover about the same time as Mrs Bennets demise no one gave a thought that the two of them would come to an understanding."
"Poor Mr. Collins, what a blow it was to him when within the year she had given birth to a Edward and 18 months later to add insult to injury James was born to them."
"Lady Anne smiled, "I would imagine my sister had a great deal to say on that subject to the hapless clergyman who hoped so feverently to become the great country squire."
"I was surprised to hear that Charlotte Collins was widowed. I seems that Elizabeth had written to me of the event of Mr. Collins death but somehow the letter was lost."
"I understand from what Charlotte has written to Elizabeth that Catherine was hoping that Charlotte would move to Rosings Park as her companion, but the new pastor Mr. Farrow, insists that she stay at the parsonage and assist him in gettint aquainted with the parisoners and continue her good deeds among the tenants of Rosings."
"Yes, he has been most generous with her. As he is the youngest son of her neighbor the Earl of Kenworth, Catherine cannot bully and cow him as she did Mr. Collins and as he stays with his parents it is only right that he let Charlotte and the girls stay at Hunsford," Mary replied.
She gave a small chuckle as she continued, I wonder how long Mr. Farrow will be at Hunsford. Catherine will not take well to a man who tells her that she is too harsh with her tenants and does not give them enough of the profits from their work on the farms."
"Oh, my I had not heard that, Anne laughed, poor Catherine, after such a man as Mr. Collins, to have one who admonishes her. She must be fit to be tied. I am sure she will be looking for someone more willing to bend to her will in just a short time."
"Oh, she tried, Mary grinned, but the bishop tells her she will have to put up with Mr. Farrow until he decides to move him elsewhere. After the way she has bombarded him with letters of complaint about the abuse she suffers from her new parson, I am sure he will not be too quick to make a change."
"What are you too talking about that is so pleasing to you, George Darcy said to his wife and mother. Is this a secret conversation or will you share it with me."
"I will tell you later, Lady Anne said rising, right now I believe they are to play a waltz and you promised to dance all waltzes with me tonight, George Darcy."
"How beautiful Elizabeth looks tonight, the green suits her so well and her taste for the elegant instead of the gaudy stands her in good stead tonight. Even Lady Jamison commented on how lovely and regal Fitzwilliam's wife is.
Not like some, she said as she watched Lady Hampton, nee Caroline Bingley pass by bejeweled and bedecked to the nth degree. Does she not know the word restraint. Odious woman, I would never have invited her or her sister if she was not married to James. Since he is a Fitzwilliam and a cousin there was naught I could do but ask them. She reminds me of a carriage horse with all her feathers bobbing about. How James could have marrried her I know not. Unfortunately her daughter it seems is to be just like her mother, Lady Guinivere already at nine years seems to think herself far above most of their aquaintance."
"Arthur is a good boy, though, much like his Uncle Charles and his father, George said. Arthur and Quinevere, only Caroline Bingley would give her son and daughter such lofty names. I wonder if she thinks that makes them closer to royalty.
She already has her mind set that Guinivere marry young Will. I suppose like Catherine, if she could not get Pemberley herself she wishes her daughter to become it's mistress."
"My love, you are by far the handsomest woman here tonight, Fitzwilliam Darcy said as he took his wife's hand to lead her to the floor. I am sure that every man here is jealous of me and my beautiful bride."
Elizabeth laughed as she looked at her husband with loving eyes, "There is only one man in the hall I care to be admired by, my love, and I am in his arms at this moment, I love you so very dearly, Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Darcy and Elizabeth set out for a morning walk after breakfast. It was a beautiful day, warm for January 3rd and they enjoyed the stroll up to the lake. The lake that he had taken a swim in that day when fate put her and the Gardiners in his path.
The Christmas ball had been a huge success, and the Boxing day festivities equally so. The guests who had not stayed after the ball had returned for the New Years gala and some were even now preparing to take their leave.
As they sat down on a log to enjoy the view he gave her a long look before saying. "It hardly seems possible that we have been married 14 years. Have you been happy Elizabeth?"
"Of course I have been happy, dearest Fitzwilliam, what is it my love, what has put you in such a melancholy mood"
"It is the conversation at breakfast. All the happenings that prevented all of us from being here for so many years."
"Yes, so much has happened in the last 14 years, Fitzwilliam, but I am glad we are here now, it has been a wonderful holiday. I don't understand though, why would you think that I have been unhappy."
"I have not always been the best of husbands, he replied. When Cassandra, he paused closing his eyes for a moment before saying again, When Cassandra, again he stopped to take a deep breath. When Cassandra----died I fell into a dark pit and could not find my way out. I became again the selfish self centered Fitzwilliam Darcy, with a selfish disdain for the feelings of those around me."
"Oh, William, you were beside yourself with grief, we understood that, you loved her so very much."
"I gave no thought to your pain, or that of anyone around me. I thought only of myself."
"I was so angry, all my life I had been denied nothing. Except the hand of a certain young woman who found me arrogant and unfeeling, and rightfully so."
"I was angry at myself because I had no power over that dreadful disease, I could do nothing to help her. I had always been there to pick her up and soothe het hurts, but this time I could do nothing. I was not even there when she went, I had business to attend to. I was not there when she needed me most."
Elizabeth sat quietly listening, saying nothing. Fitzwilliam had never spoken of his pain before and she wanted him to let it all out. She was afraid if she spoke he would stop.
"I was angry at the God who had taken this child from me. I saw nothing but a red wall of hate and anger at myself."
Tears filled his eyes as he turned to her saying, I am so sorry my dearest wife. I was so thoughtless and self centered. How you could have put up with me for those months without coming to despise me is a wonder to me, I had thought you would hate me for the way I treated you and my family."
"William, William, I love you. A love such as ours is not destroyed by adversity but it becomes stronger and deeper. I could not hate you for grieving for your daughter. I could only love you more for caring so much."
"I love you Elizabeth Darcy, he said as he gathered her into his arms. I will always love you."
They sat they holding each other for some time until she felt a shiver from him.
"My love you grow cold, she said, it is time for us to return to the house."
As they strolled across the lawn toward to door she said, "Louisa , Caroline and James are to leave this morning we should be there to bid them farewell."
"Caroline, he snorted, she gets more unbearable each time I see her. How James could have married her I cannot understand. I am glad she left the children at home though. Guinivere is a source of trouble each time our children are with them. Her superior ways and condescending attitude make her a target for our tribes wrath and I fear they can be quite cruel to her. William delights in dirtying her a bit and telling her she is ugly."
Even though I punish them, I understand their feelings."
"Arthur is a delightful child, though, Elizabeth said with a chuckle, he has his Uncle Charles's outlook on life to his mother's dismay."
"I only hope she doesn't succeed in turning into an insuferable snob like his sister," Darcy sighed.
"I don't think we need fear that, James is quite happy with his son and will not permit it."
"I think she feels a certain disgust with us for our rather large brood, it goes against her for some reason, I don't understand why."
"I think her feeling are more about they way they come about than anything else, Darcy laughed, I fear James has married an ice queen."
Elizabeth gave her husband a cheeky grin saying, "Would you car to try for another, my love."
Darcy threw back his head and laughed before kissing her soundly and replying, "Your wish is my command, Mrs Darcy."
James Fitzwilliam, Earl of Hampton walked to a window to see what his wife was watching so intently.
"Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth. They act like newly weds even yet."
"I think it is disgusting, Caroline snorted, in broad daylight there where anyone can see, even the servants, even as she thought, that could be me down there if it were not for Miss Elizabeth Bennet he would have married me, I know it."
"Caroline, are you not ready yet, she heard her sister say , we must be on our way if we are to reach the Red Rooster Inn before dark. Come you two, we must be on our way."
James lingered watching his cousins, Darcy has always had everthing, even a loving wife and a fine family."
Caroline was listening to her sister and missed most of what he said hearing only Darcy, and loving wife.
"Turning she said sharply,"What did you say James, I did not hear."
"Nothing of great importance, Caroline James sighed as he walked from the room.
James, James, wait, I want to know what it was you said. Louisa get out of the way. It is too late now he is gone to his room to send his things down. We are ready, Louisa, we have only to say our goodbyes."
Caroline stood for a few minutes thinking. Since Louisa had become widowed she had spent a great deal of time with her sister. Could James be feeling neglected. What did he mean, Darcy had a loving wife and fine family. Was he envying his cousin.
As she descended the stairs she thought James spent a great deal of his time at his clubs anymore. She saw less and less of him all the time.
A cold hand gripped her chest. Was she losing her power over him. From the beginning of their courtship she had been in command and he did as she wanted with a smile. Lately though, when she thought about it he seemed to ignore her and go his own way.
She scoffed at the idea that she could lose him but the picture of other women who enjoyed his company flashed through her mind.
"No, she said to herself, James would not take a mistress, he was too much in love with her," but a small spark of doubt was kindled in her mind.
She turned her most gracious side to the Darcy's as they said their good byes and thanked them for a delightful holiday.
As she stepped into the carriage she thought. James envied Fitzwilliam his wife, could he be in love with Elizabeth too. "Impossible, Caroline, put such ridiculas thought out of you mind " Part XIV-B
Elizabeth had purposly asked Charlotte and Mr. Farrow to come earlier than their other guests so that she and Darcy could get aquainted with the gentleman before the others arrived.
She was delighted at the first sight of Charlotte's new husband. He was a tall man, though not as tall or as big as her own Fitzwilliam. His countence showed a man of a strong yet gentle nature, she thought.
His love for Charlotte was apparant to anyone who saw the looks that passed between them, and Charlotte, Elizabeth smiled Charlotte was so very much in love.
As she took Charlotte's arm to lead her to the drawing room, she gave Fitzwilliam a loving smile of her own thinking how glad she was to see her dear friend as happy as she was in her choice of husband.
She knew, from her mothers letters that Sir William and Lady Lucas were beside themselves with joy. She could well imagine Lady Lucas telling one and all with great pride that her plain Charlotte, who they at one time had given up hope of ever winning a husband, had now married the son of a Duke. How Sir William would be prancing about declaring the marriage to be '"Capital, Capital, she could picture clearly in her mind.
"Lady Lucas, is excessively proud of Charlotte's good fortune, her Aunt Phillips wrote, one would think he was to inherit the title instead of being only the 4th son."
"Oh dear me Aunt Philylis, Elizabeth had sighed as she read her aunts letter, your jealousy is showing."
"I dont's believe you remember me, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Farrow said, but I remember you quite well, you were the best horseman by far that I have ever seen. I have yet to see anyone who could sit a horse like you. I fear that I was not of much use on the hunts at Marshfield Manor. My father was quite ashamed of me, I believe."
"I remember you very well, now that I see you, Lucas, Darcy laughed. You always hung back not wanting to be in on the kill."
"To my fathers dismay, Lucas smiled, I fear he thought me less of a man because I would not kill any of Gods creatures."
"My own father admired your courage in sticking to your principles in the face of the derision that you endured, Darcy said, he could not unfortunately make your father see that is was out of strength, not weakness that you were not a huntsman."
The conversation flowed easily between the four of them until the other guests arrived.
When Elizabeth inquired into the health of Lady Debourg and asked how he had accomplished such a miracle in changing her so very drasticaly he had replied.
" There is nothing so powerful as fear, especially the fear of death and the thought of dying alone with no one to mourn you is the most terrifying of all. You will find her ladyship much changed and far happier than she has ever been.The Lord works in mysterious ways."
Elizabeth was delighted to introduce Charlotte and Lucas to their other guests and she could almost read the minds of each of them as they acknowledged the introductions.
Jane and Charles greeted them with uninhibited pleasure. Georgiana with her usual shyness. Lord and lady Matlock with their usual joviality. Col Fitzwilliam was overjoyed to see his old friend so happily situated , and greeted Charlotte too as an old and dear friend.
Mrs Hurst was cool but friendly.
Only Lady Caroline Hampton, seemed to be cold and distant, though James was his usual friendly self.
Caroline had been indignant when James had informed her that Chalotte Collins, nee Lucas had the great good fortune to marry again and to the son of a Duke, no less. Though there was little chance of the title going to Lucas, Caroline thought the marriage most unsuitable and wondered that Lady Catherine Debourg would permit it."
James had as usual only laughed at her and told her not to be so pretentious.
Only Louisa seemed to agree with her, Caroline thought.
"Why did you invite Caroline tonight, Darcy whispered to Elizabeth, she has that arrogant sour look on her face that usualy means that she is going to be unpleasant."
"You said that Lucas and James were old friends and that James was delighted that he had finally married, Elizabeth said quietly, I could hardly leave them out, Caroline really asked herself when Jane informed her that we were welcoming them tonight. I should have waited to talk to Jane until she had gone but I had to get home and I did not know how long she meant to stay. Unforunately I did not think before I talked, I should not have said a word in her presence, but it may turn our well, let us hope she is in a better mood than her countenece indicates."
"I wish we could think of some way to ask James without his wife, though," Darcy hissed behind her ear.
"Mrs Collins, I beg your pardon, Mrs Farrow, how fortunate you are in your choice of a second husband, Caroline purred. Not only is it a wonderful marriage for you, but it will put your daughters into the paths of rich men, will it not."
Mr. Farrow and Charlotte laughed, but Elizabeth could see the steel in his eyes as he said, "I don't think the girls will be put in the paths of anyone, I am but a country clergyman, Lady Hampton."
"Please do call me Caroline, Mr. Farrow, my aquaintence with your dear mother would dictate that you do so, and your niece Emily is such a close friend of our own Quinivere. Surely you will be visiting your family and attend parties and balls at Marshfield Manor, Caroline persisted, I am sure that Mrs Collins had that in mind when she accepted you."
"We have little time for balls or assembles, Lady Hampton, Lucas said coldly and my daughter are too busy helping the poor and helping to attend the tenants at Rosings Park to engage in frivolity. I do not think they will need any assistance in finding good marriages. They like their mother have high principles. It is a great deal too early to be worrying about marriages as yet."
Caroline turned scarlet at his reprimand and glancing at the Darcy's and her husband she knew that she had again gone too far. If she were to accomplish her goal of marrying her daughter to young Fitzwilliam Darcy she must do more to keep herself in their good graces, and Caroline was determined that her daughter should achieve what she had not. Quinivere would be the next mistress of Pemberley, that she would not be denied.
As Elizabeth picked up her needlepoint she looked at her husband with his paper and Grandmother Darcy with her knitting.
"I shall miss you so very much Grandmother Darcy, she said with a sigh, I know how much you wish to return to Pemberley but we shall be lost without you. With William spending so much time at his studies and Jane Anne and Eliza visiting their cousins for the summer the house will feel quite empty. Even though Georgie and Bennet provide their share of noise and diversion, it is still a bit quiet here now.
"I know my dear, but I do so wish to spend my last days at Pemberley, where I found such happiness for so many years. Where I bore my children and entertained friends and family.
When Henry died I had to get away, it seemed that the walls of sorrow were closing in on me, first my two daughter died of influenza then not two years later, my dear Henry was stricken down so suddenly. I could not bear to stay there and George was old enough and experienced enough to run the estate by himself. How glad I was to have this place. My grandmother knew what she was doing when she willed it to me as her mother had willed it to her.I think somehow she knew that I would need a refuge in the future and took pains to see that I had this place to turn to."
"I shall miss all of you. It will seem strange to be in a place where there are no childrens voices ringing in the halls."
"Not for long Grandmother, Darcy put in, my father begs me to return to Pemberley to help him manage it and he is right of course, William is of the age when he should be learning all about the place which he will be master of some day."
"Mr. Fairchild has expressed an interest in renting Briarwood when his son marries in July next year. He says that he and his wife loved living here in the first years of their life together and Richard would very much like to start his married life here also."
"Fitzwilliam Darcy why have you not mentioned this to us," Elizabeth gasped.
"I did not want to raise your hopes until I was sure that the Fairchilds would take it. I did not wish to let Briarwood to someone I did not know. Richard is even now making plans with his bride to be to come to visit so that she can give her approval."
"Fitzwilliam, you sly dog, Mary laughed, how like your father and grandfather you are, to make these plans and tell us nothing until they are all accomplished."
"Mrs Timothy Bonhiem," Mr. Hendly announced.
"Anne dear, what brings you out so early, Mary said as Anne entered, we were so busy talking we did not hear you drive in."
"I have had a letter from my mother, Anne said, I want you to read it please and tell me if you think she is serious or if she is ready for Bedlam. Please read aloud Fitzwilliam."
Darcy took the letter and read.
I know you will be much surprised, nay shocked to have this letter from me.
I beg you daughter to come to me at Rosings and bring your family, all of your family, please Anne.
My new clergyman has made me see that my unhappiness and loneliness is of my own doing. I have been blaming everyone else because I was too arrogant to admit my own weakness.
Yes, Anne, my weakness. He has made me see that the greatest sin is the sin of pride. He has made me see however that mine was not pride but arrogance.
He has made me see that all these years I have been most unfair to my tenants, making them live from hand to mouth while I took the fruits of their labors and lived a lavish lifestyle.
Since I have given them more for their hard work the houses are remarkedly looking much better and in no disrepair and the people are happier and smile so much that I am humbled.
I have noticed a warmer feeling between myself and those who live around me and do my work, even my house servants seem to find Rosings a happier place to work.
I am most sincere Anne, I want more than anything to become aquainted with my grandchildren and my son in law. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me for all my past sins against you and give me the pleasure of having a family round me.
I must write To my dear sister Anne also and make my humble apologies for what I have put her through these past years.
I hope too to make peace with Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth. I know she has been a good wife to him and that their marriage has been blessed with a wonderful family.
I have made my peace with Edward and Rachel and they tell me what beautiful children the young Darcy's are. I only hope it is not too late for me to make amends to them. I was very wrong to try to force George to disinherit his son because he would not bend to my will. George knew what he was about and ignored my admonitions, for which my sister will be eternally grateful, as I understand she has a close relationship to young Mrs Darcy even now.
I hope that they can find it in their hearts to invite me to visit Pemberley someday, but if it is not to be it is of my own doing.
Your loving mother
Lady Catherine DeBourgh
The four people assembled there in the morning stared at each other in amazement as William reread the letter.
"I knew that she and her new pastor had not gotten on well , but it never occured to me that he could have been the instrument of such a drastic change in your mother, Mary said in astonishment,the last I heard she was trying to have him replaced so that she could have another like Mr. Collins."
As he is the youngest son of the Duke of Wessex though she dared not go too far. I wonder how he managed this miracle, if what we read is true.
I really am in a quandry, I don't know what to do Anne, cried, The last time we heard from her she was trying to take our son from us, now this. What can it mean."
"There is only one way for you to find out Anne, you must go to Rosings Park and see if your mother is sincere. If not you will just leave, and leave her to her own devices, Darcy said thoughtfuly as he scanned the letter. I must say though that she does sound truly contrite."
"Do not go without Timothy though, Elizabeth said, you will be able to tell if she means what she writes here by the way she treats him."
"Charlotte, oh Charlotte I cannot tell you how happy I am to see you," Elizabeth cried as she rushed to greet her old and dear friend.
"Is not your new husband with you, we have been so looking forward to meeting him. Mr. Darcy says he is a miracle worker to have been responsible for such a transformation in his Aunt Catherine."
Charlotte smiled, "No dear Lizzie, Lucas is not with me today, but he is very much looking forward to meeting you and Mr. Darcy at dinner tomorrow night. We thank you for your kind invitation."
"You thank us, Elizabeth laughed, we are so happy to have you here in town to visit us, it has been far too long. We have so much to talk about. Letters are fine but one canmnot really express all that is in ones mind and heart on paper, I always think of so much that I should have said after I have posted my letters."
She pulled Charlotte's arm through hers and together they walked to the morning room where Mr. Darcy was reading the paper.
"Mrs Collins, I beg your pardon, Mrs Farrow, welcome, Elizabeth has been pacing the floor and looking out the windows in her excitement at seeing you after all this time, he said after rising to take Charlotte's hand in welcome. Is Mr. Farrow with you this morning."
Lucas has business with the bishop this morning, Charlotte answered. He is looking forward to meeting you with great anticipation."
He says he wishes to become friends with the man who defied Lady Catherine DeBourgh to marry the woman he loved."
"We have had a letter from her ladyship, begging us all to come to Rosings Park for Easter, Elizabeth said. But you must tell us Charlotte how did Mr. Farrow manage such a transformation in her ladyship."
Charlotte accepted a cup of tea from Elizabeth before she said quietly, "Lucas's road has not been a smooth one at Rosings. Her ladyship, of course hoped for another man who like Mr. Collins would do everthing she told him to without question."
"Lucas is not cut from Mr. Collins mode an iota, and being the youngest son of a neighbor, he of course knew her and her reputation. He came there determined to make a change, to help the tennants and the townsfolk, not to cater to the whims of Lady Catherine."
"How they did battle, her ladyship sent numerous letters of protest to the bishop, demanding that he send her a more amiable clergyman. The bishop of course would not do anything to raise the ire of Lucas's father, the Duke. So he ignored her letters for the most part and only raised her ire when he did answer sugesting that she follow Lucas's commands and try a little more fairness with those around her who were responsible for running her estate."
"Her ladyship wished me to become her companion after the death of Mr. Collins, but Lucas would not hear of it. He informed her that the girls and I would stay on at the parsonage where I would help him with his work and tend the tenants as I had done for Mr. Collins."
"Lady Catherine, of course was livid to think that he would defy her and rob her of the companion she had been planning on for so many years, to my surprise. It seems that Mr. Collins had promised her, after your father's marriage and the birth's of the boys, that should anything happen to him I would immediately become a companion to her, since she has had so much trouble keeping anyone after the departure of Mrs Jenkenson."
"She of cours threatened and cajoled me, but I was not about to become her pawn. I saw how she treated those who came after Mrs Jenkenson, poor frightened woman. She was so happy to go home to care for her sister that she nearly cried in relief in getting out from under Lady Catherin's overpowereing influence."
"Last winter her ladyship became very ill with the same malady that was the death of so many in the village. She begged Lucas and myself to write letters demanding that her relatives come to nurse her. We of course refused, and she became frightened at the thought that she might die alone with no one to morn her or even care.""
"Lucas finally made her see that her being left alone was her own doing. That is was her own false pride and arrogance that had put her in the situation in which she now found herself."
"I thought that he was being needlessly cruel to her but he said it was the only way to make her see herself as others saw her."
"Her recovery was long and slow and she became more frightened with each passing day, afraid that she would never see her grandchildren, her sister or her brother, or the nephews and nieces who had in their youth come to Rosings Park."
"As soon as she regained enough strength she vowed to make amends and so your letters. You will find a very different Catherine DeBourgh, should you decide to accept her invitation. Though she is frail, she still has great strength of mind and speaks endlessly of the wonderful times when her family were there at Easter and the house was filled with the laughter and noises of children."
"I hope you will accept her olive branch. She is very much in need of her family."
"Anne and Timothy were to come the day after we left and she was beside herself with excitement and begged me to leave my children there with her that Anne's children would find some companionship whilst they are there."
"I was going to ask you if any of the girls were with you, Elizabeth said, I had hoped to see them."
"You look so well, Charlotte, you have a glow about you that I have never seen before, I would say it is the glow of love."
"Yes, dearest, Lizzie, I love my Lucas so very deeply, he is a wonderful man as you will see."
"I believe you are aquainted with hin, Mr. Darcy, he tells me he remembers riding to the hounds with you when you visited Rosings Park as a boy."
"I am sure I will know him when I see him, Mr. Darcy smiled as he replied, it has been so many years though that I cannot recall him at this time, the Duke had four sons and I don't recall which was Lucas."
"We would like to know what happened to my cousin, if it is not too painful for you, Elizabeth said, we have wondered all this time."
Charlotte smiled sadly, Mr. Collins was so very angry when your father's new wife bore him a son and when the second was born he seemed to lash out at everone and everything. I do not know why he took it out on the bees that day, but he lashed the hives to pieces and of course the bees attacked him. We could not reach him for several hours for the swarming bees and when thy at lest went away it was too late he was already dead."
"Poor william, he did not have a happy life a miserley father, who seemed, as he told me to get his greatest pleasure in beating his only child. Many night he went to bed hungry because his father would not allow him to eat until he was finished and many times there were only crusts and crumbs left."
"Then to have a patroness like Lady DeBourgh, who demanded much and gave little. Her belittling him put him back into his unahppy childhood I fear."
"If only I could have loved him a little, but alas I could only try to give him a well run home such as he had not had before in his life."
"How he did want a son, and all I gave him were girls, to his great dismay."
"Charlotte you must not chastise yourself, Elizabeth cried, you did your very best, you gave him a happy home and a family, you are not to blame yourself for not bearing him a son. The Bennets are not given to begating sons in this generation it would seem."
Charlotte and Darcy laughed at her declaration, as Darcy said, "You seem to be the exception, my love, after all we have three sons, do we not."
It is now ten years later
"Mother who is the young woman talking to Lizzie, Will asked.
Elizabeth laughed, "William do you not recognize Lady Mary Thomas , surely you rememmber the little girl who followed you and her brother Robert about like a small shadow."
"But that was five or six years ago, where has she been, surely the school they sent her to to make a lady of her has not taken this long."
"Of course not will, she has been home, just not when you were. When you were home from school she was most of the time at her grandmothers. Lady Bulton was always happy to have her and her mother's nerves were not up to having a lively young girl about so she gladly let her stay with her ladyship."
Elizabeth smiled to herself as she remembered her own mother's nerves and thought that she too would like to have had somewhere to send her children. Except for Lydia of course.
"Miss Thomas is quite grown up since you saw her last as a rather rowdy 12 year old. Is she not, Will."
Elizabeth smiled and raised her eyebrows at her husband as their eldest son moved to join the group around Lizzie and Mary.
"Miss Thomas, how well you look, it has been such a long ime, I nearly failed to recognize you, Will said, is your father here, or Robert, I have not seen either of them."
His head spun as he looked into the most beautiful violet eyes he had ever beheld, and thought "What a great pleasure a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow."
Mary smiled as she looked at Will saying, "I came with Robert, he is speaking to your father in the library. He has business to discuss with Mr. Darcy since our father was unable to attend tonight, our mother's nerves would now allow it."
"May I have the pleasure of the first two dances, Miss Thomas," Will asked as the music started, I hope you have not promised them to another."
"Indeed I have not, I would be delighted to dance with you Mr. Darcy."
As Will and Mary danced, obviously enjoying each others company Caroline Fitzwilliam watched them through slitted eyes.
"Where is Guinevere, she thought, the Thomas girl is making a great play for Will Darcy's attention. I will not have it, Gwen is going to be the next mistress of Pemberley, I am determined. I will not have a country girl ruin my plans this time as Miss Eliza Bennet did these twenty five years ago. I will not be gainsed this time."
Guinevere Fitzwilliam was her mothers daughter and though she knew her mothers plans for her she was determined that she would marry no one without a title. "No one less than an Earl, she said to herself, and if I can manage it I will become a duchess. I will not settle for a mere country gentleman. There are too many impoverished title holders for me to settle for less. Forty thousand pounds should buy at least the title of countess for me."
Caroline's thirty thousand pounds, which she brought to her marriage were still in tact and she had made it known that they were to be Guinevere's upon her marriage, added to that ws the ten thousand that her father promised, giving her a dowry to catch the eye of many.
As Will left the floor he was accosted by Lady Hampton, purring Will Darcy, how handsome you look tonight, I am sure you are most anxious to dance with our dear Guinevere, she will be devasted if you do not," as she took his arm to steer him away from Lady Mary Thomas.
"How happy your dear parents must be to be holding this ball to announce the engagement of you lovely sister, Jane Anne, such a dear sweet girl, and such a fine catch, the young Earl of Longstreet. Your father must be especially pleased to see his daughter married into the gentry as his father before him."
"Here is our Guinevere, Gwennie dear, I am sure you will be most happy to dance with your cousin Will, he is most anxious to claim you for the next set."
Bowing to Miss Fitzwilliam, Will took her to the floor as the music began.
Caroline walked to stand beside Jane and Elizabeth cooing "Don't our children make a lovely couple, so well suited, such close friends, they seem to be enjoying each others company greatly tonight, do they not."
Elizabeth looked at her sister with raised eyebrows, it was plain to everyone but Caroline it seemed that neither Will or Guinevere was enjoying the dance in the least. Elizabeth knew that Caroline had plans for her son, but Will, like his father before him would not be coerced into a marriage without love she was certain and her could barely stand to be in the same room with Guinevere let alone marry her.
Arthur, James and Caroline's son was another matter, a happy hearted amiable young man, much like his uncle Charles was a favorite of the Darcy's and spent a great deal of time at Pemberley.
"If Arthur and one of their girls should fall in love neither Mr. Darcy or I would have the least objection, Lizzie thought. Lizzie however is too old for her cousin and I believe Rachel far too young."
She grinned at her husband as he looked at her and then at the couple dancing so stiffly on the ballroom floor. Raising his eyebrows in question he shook his head, making her laugh aloud.
As the music stopped Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth escorted their daughter to the middle of the floor as he said, "Ladies and gentlemen I wish to announce the betrothal of our daughter Jane Anne Darcy to Sir Robert Caldwell."
The gathering applauded long and loud s the lovely Jane Anne Darcy and Sir Robert took the floor to lead their their guest to the dining room where a feast was awaiting them.
Following behind the happy couple and the Countess of Longstreet and her brother the Duke of Avon. Darcy took Elizabeth's hand and raised it to his lips saying, "How I wish Grandmother Darcy could be here at this moment," as George and Anne Darcy joined them in the parade.
"Will seem to spend a great deal of time at the Thomas', Lady Anne said to Elizabeth as they moved into the day room, I know they were friends at school but it seemed that they saw little of each other theses past three or four years, even though they are neighbors in Derbyshire."
Elizabeth laughed, "I think the company he seeks is not so much James as his sister Mary. The two of them have spent most of their time with their grandmother since James finished school. Lady Bulton found that having two grown children around was too much for her nerves."
They had not heard George follow them and were startled when he snorted, "More too much for her vanity than her nerves. Having two grown children does not set well with Lady Bulton. she prides herself on how young she looks and James and Mary are reminders of her true age so she sends them away to their grandmother."
"The two of them are very happy to be spending their time with Lady Sarah, Elizabeth answered, she loves them dearly and they relish her kindness and welcome. How sad to send your own children away to satisfy a false sense of youth. Lady Bulton is a great friend of Lady Hampton."
"Lady Anne laughed, "Two who are well matched."
"How does your friend Charlotte? bearing a child at her age must be hard on her, I would imagine she finds it all worth the pain and suffering since she has borne a son."
"Indeed she does, and Lucas has hired a nanny to help so that she can get all the rest she needs, Elizabeth answered. He is so happy and so proud."
"Catherine and her husband are there to help also. How fortunate for Charlotte that her eldest daughter should marry a country gentleman so near to Rosings Park."
"I wish there were some way to avoid going to Lady Hampton's party tonight, Darcy said as he came into the room, are you sure you are feeling well, my love."
Elizabeth and the rest laughed as she said, "It is too late to come down with an illness now dearest, it is but a few hours until we are to go."
"I was surprised that she asked Mary and James, Lady Anne remarked. I know that she sees Mary as a deterent to her plans for Guinevere and Will so I really thought that the Thomas' would be the last two she would ask to her grand affair."
Darcy shook his head in disgust as he said, "From what James tells me she has set her sights on Lady Mary as a wife for Aurthur. It seems that she has both her childrens lives planned for them. To have Arthur marry the daughter of an earl would suit her very well."
"I fear that she is to be disappointed with all her well laid plans, Elizabeth said as she rose to go to dress, Arthur shows not the slightest interest in Mary and she cannot stand Caroline. to have her for a mother in law would be unthinkable in Mary's estimation."
"Gwennie is the last girl in the world Will wishes to marry., and her ladyship Quinevere has her eyes on the Duke of Marlow now, she will settle for no less than a title, poor Caroline."
The evening was half over when Will came to his parents side saying, "Mary is pending far to much time with Brian Fitzhugh, he is most unsuitable for her, she deserves better than that. I have only managed two dances with her. I spend most of my time avoiding Lady Hampton, though she has managed to coerce me into three dances with Guinevere."
"Will dear, if you wish to dance with Mary you have to let her know it, you must ask her and not let Mr. Fitzhugh deter you. She cannot read your mind Will, how is she to know that you wish to dance if you do not ask her."
As their son moved to join the group around Mary Darcy put his arm out to his wife saying, "Speaking of dancing my love, would your honor me with this waltz."
As they spun around the floor enjoying the music and the dance, but mostly each other they were completely unaware of the looks that followed them.
"What a handsome couple they make Lady Marsdon said, and so much in love even after all these years."
"She looks lovely in red Lady Hertford agreed, few women can wear that color so well as Elizabeth Darcy, and a usual she wears only the most tasteful jewelry. the rubies go perfectly with the dress."
"A great contrast to our hostess, Lady MacNeil added. Lady Hampton is a usual in her favorite orange and so overdressed with jewels, she must be wearing almost every diamond she owns, and all those feathers, she puts me in mind of a carriage horse."
"How lovely Eliza Darcy looks tonight too, the liliac dress suits her well and the small amethyst necklace suits the gown so well. Both of the Darcy girls look beautiful tonight. Jane Anne's husband seems to be so proud of his bride, and rightly so, she is a jewel of the first water, and Will so handsome, so like his father."
"Things were not going well at all, Caroline thought, Will is dancing with Mary Thomas for the fourth time and Arthur has not danced with her at all since the first dance when I put them together. If I had know that this was going to happen I would not have invited the Thomas' at all."
"Why does not Guinevere put more effort into finding favor with Will Darcy, why does she spend so much time with Marlow, even though he is a Duke he is impoverished and about to lose his family estate. He is a gambler and a womanizer, cannot Gwennie see that he is only after her money and will lose whatever is left after his debts are paid. Her father will not agree to such a marriage, she must know that."
"Eliza Darcy seems to have found favor with Sir Thomas Denby, she said to her sister Louisa. Do you think we will soon have another announcement from the Darcy's, another title, how fortunate for them."
"How old is Eliza Darcy asked Mrs Hurst, I don't think her father would allow her to marry young."
"I believe she is eighteen, Caroline said, I am sure that they would not find her too young for such a marriage. I am certain Mrs Darcy would jump at the chance to marry another of her daughters to a gentleman with a title."
I should warn you that this is a dark chapter in this story but it was nothing for entire families to be wiped out by disease at that time in history and they did burn the dead when so many perished so quickly in a plague, especiall bubonic plague.
Elizabeth walked into the room wher her best friend Charlotte lay propped up on pillows. Beside her on a stool sat a solemn faced 8 year old boy reading to his mother.
"Lucas, how well you read, but I have brought Rachel to visit you while I chat with your mother. She is waiting for you in the parlor," Elizabeth said as she smiled at Chalotte's son. Miss DeLancy will take you for a walk in the park and perhaps you will find some of your other friends there to play with. It is such a fine day a healthy young man such as you should spend some time in the fresh air and sunshine."
"Go along Luke," Charlotte said, as her son looked at her with questioning eyes, "Mrs. Darcy and I have much to talk about and I would prefer that you get out for a time. You like to play with Rachel, she is one of your favorites. Go along, son, and have a good time. I will be just fine here with Mrs. Darcy. You would soon be bored with our gossip, you know."
"Such a handsome child," Elizabeth smiled as Luke ran to find Rachel.
"Are you feeling any better dear Charlotte, how I hate to see you here like this. You should have done as Lucas wanted and brought in a nurse as soon as Lucas was born, you should not have tried to do everything yourself. I know how much longer it took me to recover from Rachel's birth at the age I was. Caroline still wonders what I was thinking of have a child at the age of 36 and you were 42 when Luke was born."
"Oh, Lizzie I know," Charlotte sighed, but he was so small and so sickly, I had to nurture him, I had to keep our son alive. Then there was Lady Catherine and Anne. Anne needed someone to console her. Lucas of course needed me to hostess his friends and superiors when they came. I am so proud of my husband, Lizzie, a bishop at his age. It is almost too good to be true."
"But you taxed yourself beyond endurance, Charlotte. Lucas was right, you should have accepted help, you should not have tried to do it all, I know that my cousin would have expected it of you Lucas however worried about you and wanted to help, but you would not let anyone else do anything. Now you are paying the price and he is so distressed about you."
"I know Lizzie, but it is always easy to see what one should have done after it is over."
"Enough of this, I wish to talk of something more cheerful. did you go to the Fitzwilliam party. How is dear Lady Hampton," she giggled. I would imagine all of the creme de la creme of the ton were there."
"Does she still have her sights set on Pemberley for her daughter?"
"Of course, all of the best people were there," Elizabeth laughed, "I don't think we have to worry about Will though, he has his eyes set elsewhere."
As Elizabeth described the events of the ball to Charlotte she observed her dearest friend closely. She could see that Charlotte was failing quickly. Was it any wonder that Lucas implored her to keep an eye on his wife while he was at the conference in Bath. She wished there was some way she could make Charlotte to go home with her, but she knew that it would be fruitless to try to convince her.
"Perhaps it would work to try to convince her that Lucas would enjoy a few days at Darcy house," she thought, "it was well worth a try."
Charlotte, however refused, saying that Anne, her second daughter was coming with her family for a visit and Lucas should be there to entertain his cousins no matter how much he would rather be with Rachel.
Three of Charlotte and Mr. Collins daughter were now married, but the third, Rose, was another matter. An arrogant, sharp tongued young woman who thought that because her father had insisted that she be named after such a grand establishment as Rosings Park, that this meant she was above the rest of her family and she would have nothing to do with any of the young men who came to court her.
"I am meant for better things than my sisters Mama, she was wont to say. I am meant to be a lady, not the wife of some country pastor or any gentleman farmer. I was Lady Catherine's favorite and I must fulfil her expectations."
"Poor Rose, Charlotte sighed, I fear she will never marry, those she aspires to would not consider her and those who would wed her she will not consider."
"How does Anne Bingley do, Elizabeth asked, we have not seen her for some four months. she has become such a recluse. We plan to go to Rosings some time this month, before we go to Pemberley, which can't be soon enough for me. I tire of entertaining and attending balls and assemblies. I long for the peace of the north country. The more I see of society the less I think of it."
"Poor Anne, so much happiness and so much sorrow, Charlotte sighed, to lose your husband and all of your children in the space of a fortnight, I don't think I could bear it."
"She of course blames herself for being at Rosings Park nursing her mother through her bout of influenza while leaving her family in town. How could she know that the black death would again sweep through London taking all those she loved most in the world with it. By the time they would let her into the city it was far too late and she could not even recover them, the people in the city burned all the bodies, there were just too many to bury."
"To make it a complete disaster Lady Debourg succumbed after an attack of the heart at the news that the grandchildren she so adored were all three gone forever."
"Is it any wonder that Anne does not wish to go about in society, how could one stand the looks and condolences everyone would be giving, it would be too much."
"Perhaps we can convince her to come to Pemberley with us, Elizabeth mused, she has always loved visiting there, it might be just what she needs."
"Do now be surprised if she refuses, Lizzie, Charlotte said, Pemberely holds so many memories of the wonderful times when she had a husband and family."
"I shall do my best, Charlotte, we worry about her so much and the children would very much like to have her with us I am sure. I know Fitzwilliam and Mother and Father Darcy would welcome her with open arms."
"There are the children, it sounds like they had a good time, Charlotte, smiled, It is wonderful to hear Luke laugh, he has become such a solemn child."
"I do hope you have time to have tea with us before you leave, we would enjoy it so much."
"How was Charlotte today, my love?" Darcy said as he came into the room where Elizabeth was finishing a letter to Jane.
"Oh William, she fails so quickly, I can see it each time I visit, I fear the end is near, what will I do without her," Elizabeth sobbed.
"She knows the end is near, she asked me not to pine for her, she has had a good life, she says and has no regrets. What will Lucas do, he loves her so very much."
Darcy took his wife in his arms saying, "He will endure, my love, we will all endure, it is the best thing we can do to keep her memory alive. We must continue on for her family. Young Lucas will need his best friend and Rachel would do well to learn what it is to be of help to another. It is a lesson she will remember for a lifetime."
Continued in Part 4
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