Caroline Bingley watched the countrside pass by the window of the carriage, her mind wandering. Her brother had let an estate in Herfordshire for a year. She and Louisa had been encouraging him to buy a country house but they had hoped he would find one in the north closer to Pemberley, Mr. Darcy's estate.
Mr. Darcy was the owner of the most beautiful country manor in England in Caroline's estimation and in the minds of most of the people of her acquaintance.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, so rich, so handsome, he was all that any woman could want and Caroline wanted him more than anything. At first she had protested going to the wilds of Herfordshire with Charles but had been only too happy to oblige him when informed that her had persuaded Darcy to visit them a month or two if Charles could convince him to stay.
Caroline smiled to herself, looking like a cat at the cream jar. For a month or more she would have Darcy to herself as much as she could arrange. She worried not about the country bumpkins of Herfordshire, she was certain that there were none among them who could take his attention from herself and she would not have the competion of the predatory females who always tried to court his good opinion there in town.
She had heard that the women in this particular part of the Shire were quite beautiful, but she was sure that none could compare with herself in dress and deportment.
As she decended from the carriage she saw to her pleasure that this was indeed a fine estate, but she must encourage Charles not to become too attached and to look north before buying.
On the first morning after their arrival Charles informed that they were to go to a ball at the local assembly on Saturday night and he was looking forward to it with great enthusiasum. It seemed that a Mr. Bennet had been to call and Charles had been informed by other neighbors, also calling to make them welcome, that the Bennets had five beautiful daughters. Charles of course was most anxious to make their acquaintance. Mr. Darcy however seemed only to be bored at the prospect of a country dance.
As they entered the hall Caroline was aware of a silence descending on the dancers and onlookers, she tried to look her hautiest letting them know that it was a great privalage to them that the Binlgeys and their guest would attend such a function.
Lord Lucas rushed to greet them and in a short time Charles had made the acquaintance of the Bennets she could see. He was soon dancing with a beautiful golden haired girl who his lordship informed her was Miss Jane Bennet.
When the set was over Charles brought the young woman over to meet them and the sisters found her sweet and charming.
After meeting the rest of the Bennets she was sure that she had never met such disagrrable women in her life. The mother had a voice that gave one a large headache and the three younger sister were the silliest she had ever see, flirting outrageously and cavorting wiledly about the place. The second daughter she had taken an instant dislike to. Miss Eliza Bennet wa raven haired with dark eyes while Jane's eyes were a blue as sky, complimenting her golden hair. She saw in Eliza's eyes a look of amusement that was disconcering to her, it was as if Miss Elizabeth Bennet were laughing a the entire party from Netherfield.
While she was dancing with one of the locals she had seen Charles talking to Mr. Darcy and pointing Miss Eliza out to him, but he only looked at her with disdain and turned away. Miss Bennet had risen from her chair and passed in front of Darcy with an impertinant smile on her face and walking over to her friend Miss Lucas and it seemed in Miss Bingley's estimation to be making sport of Mr. Darcy.
Mr. Darcy she observed had looked at Miss Bennet with a startled expression on his face and watched her as she crossed the room. She was certain that he felt as she did that the two young women were laughing at him and he walked stiffly away and circled the hall.
Stupid, stupid girl, she thought, do you not know who this man is.
Darcy danced first with Louisa and then with Caroline and no one else in the hall.
Caroline knew that she was a first class dancer and made a great show of being chosen by Mr. Darcy for a partner, though her pride recieved a small blow when she observed that he seemed to be paying more attention to Miss Eliza and her partner than to herself. He certainly could not be interested in this young woman who completely ignored him the entire evening except to have made sport of him with her friends.
How happy she was to be back at Netherfield and to have such an evening over with. Never had she met such boring people.
Charles, however, was elated and went on and on about Miss Jane Bennet and when he challenged Mr. Darcy to agree that she was an angel, Mr. Darcy had replied that she smiled too much and declared that he found nothing of worth in the entire assembly
Caroline feeling in a playful mood had declared that she and Louisa would dare to like Miss Bennet in spite of his declaration, and would take the chance of incuring his wrath for doing so, but that they were not afraid of him. To which he gallantly replied that he would not have them so.
"Yes, Miss Jane, is a dear," she said to Charles, "but her Mother," to which Louisa concured.
Turning she said "I have heard Miss Eliza Bennet discribed as a local beauty, what do you say Mr. Darcy?"
"I would as soon call her mother a wit," he replied.
"Oh, Mr. Darcy, you are too cruel," she and Louisa laughed.
Caroline thanked her maid and dismissed her and went to stand looking out the window of her bedchamber at the garden below. This will be for the best, she told herself, by the end of the month I shall be on my way to becoming Mrs. Fitzwillian Darcy, Mistress of Pemberley and all the Darcy estate. How foolish you were to think that he was at all interested in Miss Eliza Bennet, she told herself, he made it very evident that he found her not at all pleasing.
Caroline went to bed the happiest she had ever been sure of her power over the only man she had ever wanted.
Caroline was becoming extremely exasperated. What she had hoped to be a quiet time in the country with intimate family dinners with Louisa and Mr. Hurst, Charles, Mr. Darcy and herself, followed by card games or music and discussions about theater, opera, walks in the park, all the things they enjoyed most in town. She had pictured so clearly in her mind becomiong closer and closer to Darcy as the days passed until he realized that she was the perfect woman to be his wife.
Instead there had been an endless round of dinners and parties with the dull insipid country clods.
Charles of course was in his element and spent most of his time with Miss Bennet. Caroline was becoming worried about his attachment to the girl. Jane was a dear sweet child, but she had no money and certainly no connections that Caroline knew of.
Mr. Darcy had at first been bored to tears and stalked coldy about speaking very little to anyone. Lately though she had noticed that he watched Eliza Bennet a great deal and seemed to find a way to be close to her and listen to her conversations even occasionaly making a comment. At a dinner at the Lucas's Caroline had been shocked at the impertinant wasy Eliza spoke to Lord Hunt. When she broached the subject to Darcy he had given a little laugh and said that at least she had stopped his pontificating.
The last party had been at Lord Lucas's and things had not gone well at all. Lord Henry Lucas, a pompus, silly man new to the gentry who had the nerve to offer to introduce her and Louisa around at the Court of St James, as if they needed any help from such as he.
Darcy had been watching Eliza again and when her friend Charlotte Lucas had persuaded her to play and sing, he had stood watching and listening with a small smile on his face that was indeed disturbing to Caroline. At first she had thought it was because though Miss Bennet has a passable voice it was not capital. Caroline had moved to stand by him hoping to make a remark about the lack of talent in this place but before she could open her mouth Darcy had remarked that now he knew who the singer was who he had been enjoying listening to in church.
As the evening passed Mary Bennet took over at the pianoforte and in the middle of a concerto her sister Lydia had demanded that she play something lively so that they could dance. Mary's appeal to her mother had only brought a demand from the lady that she indeed should play something lively. Mary had proceeded to play a Scottish air and the dancing started.
She saw Sir Henry speaking to Darcy and could tell from the look on his face that all Darcy wanted was for him to go away. Elizabeth Bennet had passed by them and his Lordship had taken her arm and seemed to present her to Mr. Darcy. She had thought that he was asking Eliza to dance, but after a short conversation the lady had moved away to talk to one of the young officers while Darcy watched her go. Surely he had not asked her for no one would refuse to dance with Mr. Darcy, not even Eliza Bennet and Caroline chastised herself for even thinking of such a possibility.
Caroline had moved to Darcy's shoulder declaring that she knew what he was thinking, how boring it was to be stuck in such company, but he had replied that his mind was more more agreeably engaged. He had been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman could bestow.
Caroline, who had been told that she had fine eyes by her mother, had enquired about whose fine eyes he spoke. She had been shocked indeed when he replied,"Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
What a blow, she felt her head reeling as she sneered that Mrs. Bennet would she assumed would soon be his mother-in-law.
He had given her a cold look and replied that this was the way a woman's mind worked, one word and she had the marriage arranged.
She and Louisa had invited Jane Bennet to tea on a day when they knew the men would be in town. They wished to pump her about her family. Jane was a dear but she was also innocent and would of course suspect nothing.
Their plans had gone awry when Jane had arrived in a pouring rain riding horseback and had become very ill.
Elizabeth had come to nurse her sister upsetting Caroline and Louisa a great deal but Charles had insisted that she stay. It had turned out well though for she and Mr. Darcy had argued most of the time. Caroline could not believe how impertinant and disrespectful she was to him even to the point of calling him vain and arrogant to his face. At first he seemed to enjoy their little bouts of words but that night Eliza had gone too far and to Caroline's delight the next two days they had said barely ten words to each other and Darcy avoided all contact with her that he could.
Caroline thought that at last he had had enough of this disrespectful country nobody and her heart sang for surely he would compare the two of them and find that she, Caroline was better suited to him.
She could not believe it therefore when on the night of the ball a Netherfield he had asked Miss Eliza to dance. It however turned out to Caroline's satisfaction for it seemed that they again argued through the entire dance and Mr. Darcy had come away with an angry look on his face.
The younger Bennet sister had been wild and unruly getting more so as the evening wore on. She watched as Darcy looked at them in a shocked way.
The Mother was no better but when she had declared in her loud screeching voice that the silly, pompous clergyman who was visiting them had been interested in Jane she had told him that Mr. Bingley had got there first. He had then turned his attention to Elizabeth. "What a great match this will be she declared and this will put the girls in the path of other rich men."
Darcy with a look of consternation had joined her and Louisa saying that he had to speak to her before she went to bed that night on a matter of great importance.
When she joined him after the guests had all departed he told her that Charles was going to London the next day on business planning to be back in a week.
They must he declared, not let him return. She must be packed and ready to return to town in two days and they must figure out a way to keep Charles in town and convince him that he must not marry Miss Jane Bennet. He said that he was sure that he knew how to do it but they must get to town before Charles had a chance to finish his business and return.
She had never moved so fast in her life but their efforts had worked and they were back in London, and they had saved her brother from a most disadvantageous marriage.
She elated to think it was all over and Mr. Darcy was spending more time with them trying to bring Charles out of his doldrums. This was her opportunity and she did not mean to let it slip away like it had In Herfordshire. At least here there was no Elizabeth Bennet and she was sure that Mr. Darcy had forgotten all about her and her fine eyes.
Caroline paced the floor muttering to herself. "Bennet, how I detest the name. If only Charles had not taken it into his head to let that place in Hertfordshire they would never have known any Bennets.
They had returned to London in time to prevent Charles from returning to Netherfield and Mis Jane Bennet.
Mr. Darcy in a stroke of genius had come up with a plan to convince her brother that Miss Bennet had no true feelings for him. It had taken many hours of talking on part of all of them to convince him, but at last they had succeeded, and he agree not to return to Hertfordshire.
He had, however, been most unhappy and nothing that any of them could do or could say seem to return him to his usual happy disposition.
He had been in and out of love so many times before and in a week or two after breaking up with the girl in question had been himself again, ready to attend parties, theater, and his club. This time was different, he seemed to spend most of his time in the library reading. Reading, Charles had never been a great reader like Mr. Darcy, but now he seldom felt like going anywhere else. She suspected that he was not reading at all but sitting in there nursing his wounded heart.
They had tried to put Georgianna Darcy in his path at every opportunity, but Charles seemed to think of Georgianna as a younger sister and not as a marriage prospect. It was very vexing. She had so hoped that he would ask for Georgianna's hand and therefore put the idea into Mr. Darcy's mind that she Caroline would be a most suitable wife.
She had written to Jane telling her that Charles and Georgianna were seeing much of each other and that she was certain that she would be calling Miss Darcy sister.
She had thought that this letter would put an end to all contact with the Bennets. Instead she had a letter from Jane informing her that she was coming to London to visit her aunt and uncle in Cheapside. She had not answered the letter thinking that this would be the end of it, instead a few days late a note came from Miss Bennet to tell them that she was in town and would very much like to see them.
Caroline had not answered that note either thinking that Jane would surely know that this meant that all friendship between them was ended. Instead to the shock and dismay of her and Louisa one dreary afternoon the footman announced that Miss Jane Bennet was there calling on them.
She was on the verge of panic, for Charles had gone to see his attorney and would be home at any minute. If he found Jane there all their efforts would have been in vain and he would find out about their treachery. Fortunatly Mr. Darcy was there and as he escaped through a back door to the room he instructed them to tell her that they had an appointment and had only a few minutes to talk to her.
Jane was her sweet self and for a passing moment she almost regretted what they had done. She reminded herself that it was for the best and promised Miss Bennet that at the first opportunity she would call on her in Cheapside.
She had made up her mind not to go until Lousia pointed out that if she did not Jane might show up at their door again. so she went and made a very short visit, telling Jane that she did not think that they would be seeing her again as they had so many engagements, they had little time for anyone but their closest and oldest friends.
She felt a stab of guilt at the look of pain on Jane's face but it was neccessary.
She did not like Mrs. Gardiner at all. She had the strange feeling that the woman could read her mind and she could see a look of distaste on the woman's face throughout the short visit.
She had been so happy since their return from Netherfield. Mr. Darcy spent so much time with them, trying to cheer Charles up, and she could feel the closeness between herself and this wonderful, wealthy man growing. What a coup, she, Caroline Bingley, Mistress of Pemberley.
She knew that there were sides of marriage that were distasteful but after she had borne an heir she could put an end to all that. She was certain that having one experience at child bearing would be enough and she would surely have a son as soon as may be after marriage. She remembered vividly her mother's screams when Charles was being born and she intended to go through that but one time.
A few weeks after her dismisal of Miss Bennet, Mr. Darcy had gone along with his cousin, who she despised, to visit his aunt Lady Catherine DeBourgh at Rosings Park.
She didn't know what had happened there but he had returned to town seemingly angry and upset, and had been in a foul mood for weeks.
One night they went to the theater and at the first intermission she, Louisa and Mr. Darcy had started out to the lobby when who should come out of box of Sir James Oglethorpe but Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner along with Jane and Elizabeth Bennet. Louisa had hurried back into the Darcy box and she started to follow, but Darcy stood there transfixed staring while Miss Eliza went back into the box for a moment. While they were standing there behind a potted plant Lady Sophia Bryan Smyth joined them commenting on the beauty of the two young women she had just seen in Sir James' box.
Darcy had been silent, pale as a ghost, and she was sure that her ladyship was becoming suspicious so she returned to the box after watching Eliza Bennet spill a waiters tray of red wine over the beautiful evening clothes of Lord Braxton.
Granted he should not have approached a woman to whom he had not been introduced, and he should not have tried to stop her from walking away from him and ignoring him. He was a peer of the realm however, a Marquise, and too insult him in such a way was the heigth of impertinence.
When she had voiced her indignation to Darcy and Lady Sophia, her ladyship had laughed gleefully saying, "Well done, my dear, whoever you are, I have not enjoyed anything so much in years."
Darcy had given her a cold look and agreed with Lady Sophia.
Caroline had stalked back into the box but had heard her ladyship ask Darcy if he knew the young woman. He had remained silent at her question, but agreed with Sophia that she was lovely.
The last thing she heard was her ladyship remarking about what beautiful eyes the girl had.
Beautiful eyes indeed, Caroline thought, I am sick of her fine eyes. I would like to scratch them out and pull out those fine lashes that he has spoken of one by one.
Darcy had spent the rest of the play in the box of the Bryan Smyth's and two days later had retreated to Pemberley.
Mr. Darcy had been absent from London for nearly a month when his cousins Col FitzWilliam and Sir James FitzWilliam went to Pemberley went to Pemberley, worried because no one had heard from Darcy since he departed the first week in May. It was now the second week in June and all of the Bingley's, like his cousins were hard pressed to understand his not writing to any of them, especially Georgiana who was beside herself with worry over him. He had always been a very conscientious correspondant and his sister was certain that something dreadful was wrong and begged her cousin Col. FitzWilliam to go to Pemberley to find out what.
Caroline thought to use this time to her advantage by spending a great deal of time with Georgiana, trying to console her. Telling her stories about different people of their aquaintance and enumerating their follies. She had thought the girl would enjoy her company but all she got from her was silence or short quiet replies. It was very vexing, Miss Bingley had thoutht to endear herself with Mr. Darcy and his sister in this situation but she seemed to be becoming more withdrawn instead of closer.
What am I to do with this silly girl, Caroline thought. I have tried to get her together with Charles these last weeks but they both seem to fight my every effort. She seems to want only to sit at home awaiting news from her brother and Charles seems to prefer sitting in his library pining for Miss Jane Bennet.
The very next week Mr. Darcy returned with his cousins, apologizing profusely to his sister for his thoughtlesness.
All were happy beyond words to have him back, but Caroline noticed a great change in the man. He was thin and she suspected that the staff at Pemberley had been lax in his care while he was there. She would have to take the matter up with Mrs. Reynolds the next time she was there.
His demeanor had changed too. Gone was the anger and moroseness. In it's place was a quieter more approachable Darcy. She noticed that he made an effort to speak to people that before he would not even look at. Gone was the proud haughty Darcy she had always known and in his place a stranger.
Caroline did not like the new man, his pride and hauter had always been what she liked most about him, especially at get togethers when others tried to approach him only to be cut dead. Caroline had always felt a great sense of pride when he talked mostly to them and danced, if at all only with her and Louisa.
Now he danced with more young women and tried , though it seemed painful for him to be amiable to all.
"What has happened to the man I love, Caroline thought, why can he not be as he was. What happened at Pemberley to create this great change."
She knew that neither the Col. or Sir James would tell her for she had snubbed both of them too many times. Georgiana too was surprised and nonplused by the change in her brother but she could tell Caroline nothing.
At the end of July Mr. Darcy invited them and several others to be his guests at Pemberley for the last two weeks in August to escape the heat of the city.
The Bingley's and Georgiana were to go with Mr. Darcy the day before the others and the night before he told Caroline that he wished to speak to her about a matter of great importance when they got there.
Caroline was walking on air. "Oh Lousia, she said to her sister, I am sure he means to ask for my hand." ,I am sure that his bad mood after his return from Rosings Park was because he had a fight with his aunt after he told her he was not going to marry her sickley daughter, that he had found a woman who was healthy and wealthy and would be able to bear his son."
"Of course, dear sister, why else would he wish to have you there at Pemberley before the crowd arrives but to ask Charles for permission to marry you and make the announcement to the others when they all arrive. What a sensation this will cause, I can hardly wait to see the expression on Lady Matlock's face, she who always finds some way to remind us that our father was in trade, it will be a precious moment indeed, Caroline.
Mr. Darcy, though, had a letter from his steward and was forced to go to Pemberley the day before them but Caroline was elated saying to her sister that she was sure that the real reason he went ahead was to prepare his staff for a new mistress.
Caroline's excitement increased with every mile and Lousia several times had to tell her to stop fidgeting. Mr. Hurst only slept. Caroline wanted so much to tell Louisa about all the changes she would be making at Pemberley but she could not do so with Georgiana in the carriage. All the way north she dreamed of the honor she would be shown as the wife of FitzWilliam Darcy, all those who had looked down their noses at her all this time would have to change their attitude about her and she meant to make them pay for every snub.
When they arrived, Mr. Darcy greeted them with smiles such as she hadn't seen on his face ever to her recollection.
"He is as happy as I am at the prospect of our marriage," Caroline thought and made every effort to please him. Louisa even congratulated her on her success that evening as they were going up to bed.
The next morning when they came down for breakfast Charles, Georgiana and Mr. Darcy were not there.Caroline thought this very strange and demanded of Mrs. Reynolds that she tell them where they were. "It is not like Mr. Darcy to leave his guests," she said to the housekeeper. When Mrs. Reynolds informed her that they had gone into the village, Caroline was much perplexed but was sure that he had gone to buy her a surprise and taken the other two to help him pick it out. She left the breakfast room singing softly under her breath and smiling to herself.
When they returned she got the shock of her life when Charles informed them that they had gone to town to see Elizabeth Bennet and her aunt and uncle. Miss Darcy wished to meet Miss Bennet and her brother had obliged her by taking her as soon as he thought reasonable, to see that they met and got to know one another. To make matters they had invited them to dinner at Pemberley this very evening.
Caroline's world had crashed down around her. "How could this happen, she thought. What are Miss Bennet and her relations doing here. She wants him, I know she does and if she is here to try to get him, well she will not succeed, I can tell you that."
Caroline went into the dining room to check the seating arrangements before the others came into the room and as she expected Mrs. Reynolds had placed Miss Bennet near Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Gardiner on his right. "Well she thought, we shall see about this." Taking Miss Bennets card she took it to the other end of the table seating her next to Miss Darcy and moved her own card to the place where she had taken Eliza's. There Miss Eliza Bennet we shall see how you fare with the shy silent Miss Darcy."
She noticed with satisfaction the look on Mr. Darcy's face as she took her seat and the look he gave Mrs. Reynolds who also looked aghast and shrugged her shoulders. Caroline smiled at her host her sweetest smile as she said, "I noticed that Mrs. Reynolds had made a mistake in the seating arrangements and had given the place I always have to another so I made the adjustment."
Glancing at Mrs. Gardiner she was disconcerted by the knowing smile on the womans's face and the look that she exchanged with her husband who raised his eyebrows and returned the smile to his wife.
To Caroline's amazement Miss Bennet seem to be able to bring Georgiana out of the shell of shyness she always drew around her and they were soon talking and laughing with Charles, who seemed to be enjoying Miss Bennet's company as much as Miss Bingley was.
Drat, she thought, I should have moved Charles's card too and put Mr. Hurst in his place. Why didn't I think of that? How stupid of me.
To make matters even worse Mr. Darcy seemed to be most pleased at his sisters enjoyment of the company and kept sending glances down to the other end of the table.
Why does he look at her like that? Caroline thought with dismay, he has never looked at me like that in the entire time I have known him. I must find time to be alone with him to remind him that he wished to speak privately with me. I must have his proposal befor she gains power over him and me.
By the time the guests left Caroline had had her fill. Miss Bennet was the one who had been asked to entertain them with her singing and playing instead of either her or Louisa. They had always been the ones asked before. To make matters worse she had even convinced Georgiana to play, something that she herself had tried many times before only to be rebuffed.
She knew she had made a grave error abusing Miss Bennet after their departure, but she was so angry she could not contain herself. When she remined him that when they had first arrived at Netherfield that he had said he would as soon call her mother a wit as admit that Miss Eliza Bennet was a beauty, Mr. Darcy told her that he thought Miss Bennet was one of the handsomest women of his aquaintance, she was speechless and watched him leave the room in silence.
They all sat around in silence for a few minutes until Charles decided to go up to bed after telling her how disappointed he was at her actions the entire evening. Louisa and Mr. Hurst followed Charles saying that they too were still tired from the long journey north.
Caroline sat in the room by herself wondering what was to happen, she knew that she had made Mr. Darcy and his sister angry, why had she not controled her temper.
As she was getting ready to leave, Mr. Darcy entered the room to snuff the candles and she thought that she had better try to make amends and apologize to him for her actions. He accepted her apology and started to snuff the candles when she said. "Mr. Darcy, you said you wished to speak to me on a matter of great importance, since we are alone now this is the time to ask me."
"What?" he answered, "Oh yes, I did tell you that didn't I?"
Taking the chair opposite her he said, "We have done your brother a geat injustice," Miss Bingley.
"Charles, an injustice, whatever do you mean, sir, what injustice?" she asked.
"We had no right to separate him from Miss Jane Bennet, it was arrogant of us to think we knew better than those two what was right for them. They love each other, I know that now. No one has the right to decide anothers future," he said softly.
"They love each other? She loves his fortune, you mean," Caroline said rising and starting to pace the room. "Where did you get the information that she loves him, from Miss Eliza, from the Gardiners, of course they will vow that she loves him, what else would you expect? You cannot be serious, we agreed that it would be a disaterous marriage for Charles."
"Disasterous for Charles, or for you and your sister," he said, "it is only her lack of fortune and connections that made us think this way. But what of their happiness? Did either of us think or care about that? She is the perfect wife for him and we had no right to interfere."
"I will not listen to this," Caroline cried, "I did what was right and I am not sorry at all, Charles will get over this. Good night, Mr. Darcy," and she stormed from the room.
You fool, she thought, I thought you were going to ask for my hand and all you wanted was to tell me that I have made a great mistake in separting Charles and Jane Bennet. I loathe the Bennets and all their relations. What are you doing Mr. Darcy, becoming friends with a man in trade and ejoying conversing with him, letting him fish in your pond? I want the old Darcy back. I will have a word with Lady Matlock tomorrow, she will know how to handle this upstart country girl.
Caroline pulled the covers up over her head. I could not be morning so soon she thought. She had cried herself to sleep last night and this morning she had a headache.
Her sleep had been fitful as the scene last night in the drawing room kept recurring to her in her dreams. The startled look on Mr. Darcy's face when she reminded him that he had a matter of great importance to speak to her about. He sat down in the chair opposite her and began to toy with his ring, something that she had noticed he did when he was nervous. She had thought that it was because he was about to ask her to marry him and when he leaned toward her she gave him her brightest smile in anticipation.
When she heard his words she felt the smile and her entire being freeze for a moment. "Miss Bingley, we have done your brother a great disservice", were his words. "Not I love you Caroline or will you do me the honor of becoming my wife, but we have done your brother a great disservice."
For a brief time she thought she would swoon, she could not breathe as she choked on the words she had intended to say, telling him of her great love and that she would be honored to be Mrs. Darcy.
At first she felt humiliated, but as he went on telling her that they had no right to separate, Jane Bennet and Charles, that they had no right to decide in what manner her brother was to be happy she became angry and had ended the evening by shouting her good night at him. She fled the room as a shocked looked crossed his face at her outburst.
I feel dreadful, Caroline thought, I shall stay in my room today. I cannot go down and face Mr. Darcy.
In a few minutes she flung back the covers and leapt from rhe bed. She could not stay here in her room. She must stop Mr. Darcy from telling Charles what they had done and informing him of Jane's true feelings.
Shouting for her maid she scrambled to make her preparation for dressing.
Martine, was surprised at the haste in which her mistess dressed this morning. Usually Miss Bingley took a great deal of time with her toilette but today she seemed to rush through everything and was ready in a surprisingly short time and hurried out the door.
As she swept into the breakfast room Caroline was taken aback to see that the only one in the room was Lady Matlock.
"Why, your ladyship, when did you arrive? I thought that you would not be here until this afternoon," she said.
"We stayed at Sir Malcolm Reynolds last night after a most pleasant afternoon with him, he is Darcy's godfather. It was but a short drive to Pemberley. We arrived about an hour ago, just in time to meet Fitzwilliam riding out," her ladyship replied.
"Mr. Darcy is not here," Caroline said in consernation, "I wished to speak to him on a matter of great importance, where did he go, when will he return?"
"I did not ask him, it is none of my concern," Lady Matlock replied shortly, "Darcy's business is his own and I would not think to question him."
Caroline could not stay in the room with Lady Matlock in the mood that she was in. She knew the woman disliked her and thought her beneath her notice and only tolerated her and Louisa because of her love for her nephew.
Caroline took her tea into the drawing room where she paced back and forth wondering what she should do next. She had seen Charles and Mr. Hurst leaving with their fishing rods as she came down and as Charles was in a pleasant mood she was sure that Mr. Darcy had not spoken to him.
After about an hour she decided to look for her sister to discuss the events of the night before. She had to talk to someone or she would go mad and Louisa was the only person in the house she would trust. As she started to leave the room she glanced out the window and saw Mr. Darcy ride into the courtyard and throw the reigns to a stableboy as he strode quickly toward the house.
She hurried out into the corridor to catch him before anyone else took his attention, but he was already half way up the stairs shouting for his valet. She called to him but he did not hear her and quickly disappeared up the stairs.
She returned to the drawing room to await him only to find Lady Matlock there. She was determined not to be intimidated by this woman and took a chair picking up a book to pretend to read until she would hear his step.
She rose as Darcy hurried into the room to kiss his aunt and apologize for leaving them earlier.
"I must return to London at once, Aunt, on urgent business, would you please be so kind as to look out for Georgianna and help her with the duties as hostess," he said with a forced smile.
"Of course, William dear, but what is the great emergency?" her ladyship smiled at her favorite nephew.
"I cannot tell you now Aunt," he replied looking at Caroline, "perhaps when I get back. Now I must find Georgianna."
Georgiana entered the room saying, "Why do you need me. William, is something wrong?"
"Nothing for you to worry about," he replied, "I just have to go back to town for a few days."
"Oh, what a shame, you will miss having dinner with Miss Bennet and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner," Georgiana said in her soft voice.
"Miss Bennet and the Gardiners will be unable to attend dinner today, they had a letter fom home asking them to return with all haste. There is an emergency in the family. I shall not leave until first light tomorrow though so we shall have a pleasant evening together with our friends and relations, perhaps you will favor us by playing your new pianoforte for Aunt Rebecca after dinner."
Caroline's head snapped around at the news about the Garciners and Miss Bennet.
They are gone, she thought, they are gone, thank heaven. What is the emergency though? Could Mr. Darcy's trip to town have anything to do with this letter Eliza had received. She knew he would tell her nothing, but he might discuss it with his sister. As she watched them leave the room together she was certain that he wanted to get Georgiana alone to discuss his reasons for departing so precipitously. He had said that he would be home for the weekend though, perhaps then they would find out more. It really didn't matter though, all that mattered was that Eliza Bennet was gone.
As they walked fron the dining room to the music room that evening she linked her arm with Georgiana's sayin softly, "What a shame that Miss Bennet could not be here this evening, you and she seemed to have become fast friends. Do you know what has happened? I became friends with the Bennets last fall you know and if there is anything that I can do to help I will do so gladly."
Caroline was disconcerted by the look Georgiana gave her as she informed her that her brother had told her nothing.
Georgiana sat at the pianofortte playing for them while her brother sat staring into space his hand over his mouth. She watched him under her lashes wondering if his sudden quick trip had anything to do with Miss Bennet. Her eyes roamed to Miss Bingley. Does she take me for a fool, she thought, the last thing she would wish to do is to help Miss Bennet, she only wants to know so that she can find something to heap more abuse on Elizabeth.
Lady Matlock watched her nephew. He had been very quiet and ate little at dinner pushing his food around on his plate mostly. I hope they all go to bed soon, she thought. Darcy had asked her to wait up so that he could talk to her before they both retired. What is wrong with the boy, she thought, not boy, he is very much a man, she reminded herself.
Why the urgency to go to town, it was not like Fitzwilliam to desert a houseful of guests so it must be of great importance.
Who are Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners, she wondered. From the look on Williams face when he spoke of her she must be of great importance to him. If she didn't know better she might think her nephew in love.
"Drat, she thought, the evening is dragging on most slowly, but then didn't time always creep by when one wanted it to fly.
When Georgiana finished her piece, all applauded and Lady Matlock thought that her neice was getting to be a most proficient pianist, if only she wasn't so shy.
Caroline walked to table beside Darcy's chair to help herself to a cup of tea and a biscuit. She stood ther a moment looking at him as he stared into space before saying, "You are very quiet this evening Mr. Darcy, I hope you are not pining for the loss of Miss Eliza Bennet."
To the surprise fo everyone in the room Darcy snapped "What," at her then excused himself and stalked from the room. Everyone stared open mouthed for a few seconds befor Lady Matlock said, "You go too far, Miss Bingley," and she herself left the room calling, "William I will speak to you."
Mr. Darcy returned on Friday in time for the weekend as he had promised and Caroline was determined to make the most of it.
Looking out the window she saw him walking in the garden and hurried out to walk with him. "I am so happy to have you back with us, Mr. Darcy," she cooed as she slipped her arm through his. "It is such a lovely day for a walk in the garden, I believe I could spend my entire life here at Pemberley."
"I thought you hated the country," he replied, "you certainly did not appreciate it while living at Netherfield."
"Oh, but Pemberley is different, there is something about the north country that makes me love it," she answered with a smile.
"I fear that you like the social life in town too much to live long in the country, even the north country. You would miss the theater, opera, and the balls. You said often enough when we were at Netherfield that you longed for a night at the theater, or a ball with your peers," Darcy reminded her.
Caroline could tell that this conversation was not going to go as she had planned so she asked Darcy to show her the rose that was named after his mother, "I am sure it must be the most beautiful one in the garden," she purred, "it must be if it is named after your lovely mother."
"Baker, Miss Bingley wishes to see the Lady Anne Rose," Darcy called to the gardener who had appeared from the potting shed. "I have business with Mrs. Reynolds that is most pressing, I fear I forgot to tell her something when I spoke to her this morning, so if you would be so kind as to show Miss Bingley around the rose garden I am sure she would appreciate it, thank you Baker."
Darcy then slipped his arm from hers and turned to walk back to the house leaving a steaming Caroline with nothing but to follow the gardener.
Caroline returned to the house still steaming. She had hoped to catch Darcy off guard and find out what he was doing in town but he had escaped her. He had said nothing to either Charles or Georgiana. At least she was certain that he had not talked to Charles, for she had expressed her dismay at what was happening to her brother and he had assured her that he knew nothing. Georgiana, she was unsure of, even though the girl told her that her brother had not given her any explaination for his actions.
Though she tried in every way to draw him out the rest of the weekend Darcy was still not cooperating with her. He was the perfect host and did all he could to make their time enjoyable, but she could not get him alone to question him.
On Monday he returned to town but was back for the next weekend. Caroline and Louisa did all they could to get him to ask them to extend their stay since he had been gone most of the time but he did not take any of their hints and it was all too soon time for them to go to Bath to visit friends who had extended an invitation to them to spend a month there.
When they arrived in London Charles however decided that he was not going to Bath and asked them to forgive him but he had made plans with Mr. Darcy for the next few weeks.Caroline vowed to him that if it were for any reason but to spend time with Mr. Darcy she would be most displeased. Perhaps he would confide in her brother what the mystery was about and she knew she could pry it out of Charles.
Caroline was shocked indeed when she received a post from Charles informing them that he was at Netherfield. How could this be, where was Mr. Darcy. Surly he would not approve of her brother returning to Hertfordshire. She immediatley sat down and sent a post of Mr. Darcy in London asking for his assistance in bringing her brother back to town.
She had sent her post but a day when she received another letter from Charles telling them of his engagement to Miss Jane Bennet. Caroline was in a panic, rushing to Louisa's room she cried, "Our brother had mad an offer to Jane Bennet and she has accepted. We must return to town immediatly and make Mr. Darcy aware of what our silly brother has done. He will listen to Mr. Darcy, we must make all haste to town and enlist his help in breaking this up before it is too late. I will not have the Bennets for family, I could not bear it.
As soon as she could after returning to town she went to visit Mr. Darcy, only to find that he knew all about Charles's plans. Indeed he had confessed all to her brother, so he knew all about their duplicity. Mr. Darcy himself had gone to Longbourn with Charles and had seen, so he said, that Miss Bennet did indeed have tender feelings for their brother and had given his blessing to the match.
As she was leaving Darcy's she noticed the carriage of Lady Debourg careening down the street and stopping in front of Darcy House. As she watched the lady herself got out of the carriage and staomped into the house. What was going on she wondered, Lady Debourg rarely came to town, and she seemed to be in a very agitated state but Caroline could hardly return without seeming to be prying into Mr. Darcy's affairs, and she knew how he hated that.
The next day they received an invitation from her brother to return to Netherfield for the wedding. She sat down and wrote a letter to Jane expressing her joy in learning that they were to soon be sisters.
She had hoped to see much of Mr. Darcy before they went to Netherfield, but the next day when she went to call on him he had again disappeared.
The Hursts and Caroline made a reluctant trip to Hertfordshire, but it couldn't be helped and perhaps they would find Mr. Darcy there Caroline thought.
When they arrived they had indeed found him there asking them to wish him joy on his engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Caroline almost choked on her words but she did wish him well.
To her great surprise Lord and Lady Matlock arrived for the wedding with Col Fitzwilliam. His cousin Lord Hampton arrived soon after to her further surprize and consternation. Caroline was dismayed, she had hoped to seek Lady Matlock's assistance in persuading Darcy that this was a most improper match and he must break it off. Instead, they all seemed delighted and made a great fuss over Eliza.
Caroline stood at the window watching the Fitzwilliams make their good-byes to the new Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, who were going to town for their honeymoon.
What did I do wrong? she thought. I did everything my mother told me, I flattered him, I humiliated myself for him, I made stupid mistakes at games to make certain he would win, I catered to his every fancy, whether it was the theater, books, or even the people I associated myself with, I agreed with everything he said even when I thought he was wrong.
Why he did not want me, why did he love Eliza Bennet? She was impertinant to him, even disrespectful. She enjoyed besting him at cards, chess, even in the debates they had, yet she was the one who he married.
She treated him much the same way I have always treated his cousin, James Fitzwilliam, Lord Hampton, she thought. Like his cousin Lord Hampton seemed to enjoy their disagreements and seemed to seek her out whenever they were in a company together.
Had her mother been so very wrong in her advice. Could it be that all men did not like submissive women for wives but wished for a little liveliness in their choice of mate.
As she watched Sir James escort his aunt into the house she thought, Lady Hampton, you could do much worse Caroline. Hmmm, Lady Hampton, it does sound well. How I would enjoy it to have some of the snobs in society who have been disdainful of us because our father was in trade, even though we have ten time the wealth that they have, call me Lady Hampton. That would indeed be pleasureful.
Do not make the same mistakes that you did with his cousin she told herself as she went down the stairs to join the company.
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