“You should have insisted on Mr Darcy coming here.” Caroline stated, her frustration with the situation was obvious.
“Darcy is his own man. He is recently married and a new father, with his wife recovering. It would not be proper for him to come out, socializing while in such a manner.”
“It would be quite proper, as he has been your friend for quite some time, and he was to stay with us while he was in the neighborhood. It is unfortunate that he will insist on staying at that woman’s estate. She must have used her arts and allurements to trap him. Makes me wonder who the babies’ father is.”
Bingley rarely lost his temper, but he had reached his limit with his sister. “The subject is highly improper, and I will not allow it to be discussed any further. All you need to know is that the babes are directly related to Mr Darcy, as they were his cousin’s children. Colonel Fitzwilliam died in the service of His Majesty’s Army, and highly decorated at that. And the colonel was like a brother to Darcy. Mrs Darcy is to be afforded the respect she deserves, not spoken of in such a manner.”
“You have not even met the chit, yet you are jumping to her defense. Please, Charles, face reality. If Mr Darcy only married her to protect his cousin’s offspring, then he will still require someone to keep him satisfied. It might even come a time, when the children are older, that Darcy will leave her for a more appropriate lady. That is when he will turn to me, for I will wait for him.”
“No more, Caroline. Another word from you and I will send you to live with our aunt in Scarborough.”
“Nonsense. I must remain here, showing Mr Darcy my devotion to him.” Caroline stated as she turned and marched from the room.
“What am I to do with her?” Bingley rolled his eyes as he abandoned his attempts to curb his sister’s foolishness, at least for the time being.
~~ ** ~~
Carrying the twins in his arms, Darcy made his way into Elizabeth’s bedchamber. He had made a routine of bringing the children to her often, giving her the added incentive to recover her strength. Each day saw a little improvement, which brought a smile to Darcy.
Moving quietly, he took his seat in the chair next to the bed. Something about the way Elizabeth looked caught Darcy’s attention. Even in her present condition, Darcy found her remarkably handsome. She had a way of tugging at his heart whenever she looked at him. I am not in love with her. I married her to protect her and the babies. It was my respect and love for Richard that brought me to marry Elizabeth. But why is it that every time I see her, I find myself lost? Shaking his head slightly, Darcy turned his gaze to the children. It amazes me, how quickly I have changed my way of thinking. When Georgiana and I were in Ramsgate, I had no notion of being married, and certainly not of being a father anytime soon. And now look at me. And not one infant, but two. Now, I cannot imagine my life not including them.
A movement on the bed drew Darcy’s attention. Seeing Elizabeth’s eyes opening, Darcy held Richard closer to her. “This young man has been waiting for an audience with his mother. He wished to discuss the desire to learn to ride horses. I told him he is still too young, but he stated his mamma would give him permission.”
Elizabeth giggled. “And, to think, I once believed you to be quite serious, Mr Darcy. In fact, you are truly a silly man.”
“It is only recently that such an aspect has come over me.” Darcy chuckled. “Now, Miss Ari has been a perfect little princess. She has made no demands other than to be carried about everywhere.”
“She has not been walking or running everywhere on her own? Are you certain she is my daughter? No one has snuck in and switched her for another little girl? I swear that my father claimed I was walking from the first moments after birth.”
“From the stories I have heard of you, Mrs Darcy, I have no doubts of that. But, indeed, Ari is your daughter. One only needs look at her to come to that conclusion. Ari is the spitting image of her mamma.”
Elizabeth was pleased to see her children so well received by Darcy. She had been concerned after the births, afraid Darcy would regret his decision to come to their aid. Though she knew that she did not love Darcy, for she still held Richard in her heart, she was fond of Darcy. He had given up so much in his life to come to her aid. It was Elizabeth’s desire to make sure that her new husband did not come to regret his decision.
~~ ** ~~
The assembly had been quite pleasant to most who attended. Upon Elizabeth’s insistence, Darcy attended with Mr and Mrs Bennet, leaving his sister at Willows with his wife. “Elizabeth, I do not see the point in attending. I would not find it proper to dance with any of the ladies, and my thoughts would be constantly here.”
“But you are new to the area and, if we are to stay any length of time in the neighborhood, you should come to now our neighbors. I am certain there is much speculation about you. My uncle has promised to assist you as much as possible, making introductions and such. Aunt Fanny has told me several times that there are many who wish to welcome you and bid their congratulations to you.”
“I have always disliked being the center of attention, and you know that I will be at such an occasion. I cannot converse well with those I do not know.”
“Then it will be good for you to practice.” Elizabeth raised her brow as she attempted to convince him. “Remember, when we attend gatherings in Derbyshire and in Town, it will be me who will be the spectacle. All of the jealous mammas and their unwed daughters will be looking at me, wondering how I trapped you into marriage.
“Very well, but I will have you know, I will dislike society in Town and even in Derbyshire.”
Giving him a reassuring smile, Elizabeth patted his arm. “It is due to your shy nature. But have no fear. It will not be long before I am recovered and will attend functions at your side.”
“I look forward to such a time, Mrs Darcy.” He stated as he placed a kiss on the back of her hand. “Now, I will check on you later. Rest well.”
“I will. And take care not to tread on anyone’s toes if you do decide to dance.”
~~ ** ~~
By the time Caroline Bingley returned to her rooms that evening, she was furious. Not only was she forced to endure the country bumpkins at the assembly, but when she finally made her way over to speak with Mr Darcy, she overheard his abuse of her.
Charles noticed that his friend had arrived rather late to the assembly. Having only danced once, with her brother, Caroline was quite displeased with the evening. Everyone was beneath her, in charm as well as status. She was waiting patiently for Mr Darcy to arrive, as she was certain she could convince him to dance with her. Wishing to break his sister’s monotonous whining, Bingley approached his friend. “Come, now, Darcy, I must have you dance with my sister.”
“I did not come here to dance, Bingley. I am only here to meet some of the neighbors, as I am new in area. Elizabeth quite insisted I attend tonight, though I am not wishing to be here.”
“I know you do not enjoy dancing, but I my sister is in such a state. It would mean a great deal to me if you would dance a set with her.”
“Bingley, I am in no humor to give consequence to any lady who is slighted by other men. Your sister is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me. By dancing with her, it would give her undue expectations. I am a married man now, but even before, I found her to be quite revolting in her manners and her selfish disdain for the feelings of others. As I am planning to only be here a short time tonight, I must ask to be excused. Mr Bennet is planning to introduce me to some of the gentlemen of the neighborhood, before I return home.”
“How could he speak so rudely?” Caroline stated as she pulled the feathers from her coiffure. “It must be from spending so much time with these ruffians in such a vulgar neighborhood. The lady he married must be making him miserable, that is the only excuse I can imagine for his rudeness.”
Once her maid had assisted her in preparing for bed, Caroline sat at her vanity table, looking at her reflection in the peer glass. “I must pay a call at the estate Mr Darcy is staying at. I could claim paying a call on Miss Darcy. We have been friends for many years, so there is no reason I should not pay a call to her. When Mr Darcy sees me, away from the coarseness of those who were in attendance of the assembly, I am certain he would wish to correct his behavior from the evening. Perhaps he would even care to take a turn in the gardens.”
Caroline stood and walked to the closest, fingering her gowns. “I must wear my very best gown. Mr Darcy will be impressed with my taste, after witnessing the poor examples available in this neighborhood. And I will have my maid take extra care with my hair.” She chose her favorite creation, with a low cut bodice, made of the finest burnt orange silk. It was her favorite color, and that particular gown was well fit to show her attributes in the greatest manner.
Finally making her way to her bed, Caroline snuggled in, falling asleep quickly, a smile on her face as she dreamt of walking in beautiful gardens, her hand holding tightly to Darcy’s arm.
~~ ** ~~
Bingley poured himself a glass of brandy, which he then carried with him as he took his seat in the chair near the fireplace in his bedchamber. Watching the fire dance about in the grate, he thought back over the evening’s events with great delight. “She is such an angel.” He said as he took a sip from his glass. “What a fine young lady she is. I must know more of her.”
The evening had brought Bingley great delight, especially after meeting Miss Jane Bennet. From the moment their eyes met, Bingley lost his heart to the fair haired, blue eyed beauty. He spent as much time at her side, dancing with her twice in the course of the evening. Thinking of each touch of their hands as they danced, every look she gave him, her sweet smile and the shyness in her eyes, all made him believe he had finally found the lady he was to spend the rest of his life with. He just knew she was the one. And she was a member of the Bennet family, a cousin of the new Mrs Darcy. Thinking of his sisters, Bingley shook his head. “They could not object to the connection, with Miss Bennet being related to Mr Darcy. No, they will be pleased with the gentlewoman who had claimed my heart. I must pay a call on the Bennet family tomorrow.”
~~ ** ~~
Waking up in the Master’s chambers, Darcy was walked over to look out the window. It was still quite early, before sunrise. He had not slept well that night, and once he finally did, he had the strangest of dreams.
Darcy was riding his horse at Willows, giving Apollo a vigorous workout. Finally coming to a stop near the pond, Darcy dismounted and led the horse to drink the cool water. “That is a fine horse.” Came a voice from behind him. A voice he was well familiar with.
“It is. And it was purchased with you in mind. You were supposed to be here, breeding horses and raising your family.” Darcy said as he embraced his beloved cousin. “I am a pale replacement for you.”
“Come now, Darce, you are a good man. And you are doing what I could not. You cannot know how grateful I am to you.”
“I wish Elizabeth could have had time to mourn you, rather than being forced to marry me. I know she has only done so to protect the babes.” Darcy walked over to his horse. “She deserves so much more than she has received.”
“But you must have feelings for her, or you would never have made such a commitment. I thought, often, that if I could not have her, I would wish for someone as good as you to be her husband.” Richard declared.
“I have not even had a chance to think of Elizabeth in such a manner. I am afraid it will be some time before she is strong enough to even leave the house. And I do not wish to be compared to you, as a husband, for I am certain I will come up very short of the mark.”
“You cannot think of her having been my wife. The past is over, there is nothing to be gained for looking at what could have been. You hold the future, for the children and Elizabeth. Love her, as she should be loved. She is a passionate woman, it would be a crime for her to not live life to its fullness.”
“Certainly, she will not wish for me to take my place, in her bed.”
“I am just as certain that she will, when the time is right. Do not allow her to compare her relationship with me to what she will have with you. It would not be proper. You both deserve to be loved, and you should keep that uppermost in your mind. Put your marriage and the children above anything else. That includes my family, and myself. It is time to move past mourning. No more sadness. Remember the past as it brings you pleasure, and put all else behind you.”
Darcy looked out over the pond. “I will do the best I can, Richard. I promise you that your family will always be protected.”
“They are your family now, William. Make them your own. And one final thing. Tell Lizzy it is my wish to have you both be happy together.”
“Richard, do not leave.”
“I have to, Wills. You know I cannot remain here. But you can always bet that I will be watching over you from above.”
Darcy smiled, knowing that Richard had always teased that his years on the battlefield would not allow him to earn wings in the afterlife. Turning to look at the apparition of his beloved cousin, Darcy realized Richard was gone. “You will always be missed, Cousin. Always.”
The memory of his cousin’s words still held Darcy’s attention. He had lied when he told Richard that he had not thought of Elizabeth in such a manner. Though it would be easy enough to fall in love with Elizabeth and the children already owned a piece of his heart, it was still difficult to come to terms with the fact that the family he had taken in were, in truth, Richard’s first. But he realized that Richard’s apparition was correct. It was time to look towards the future. And Darcy’s future was tied to that of Elizabeth, Richard, and Ari.
~~ ** ~~
As Darcy prepared to exit the breakfast room, he heard the grating voice of Caroline Bingley speaking to the butler. “Oh, there is Mr Darcy. He will tell you, we have been dear friends for many years.”
Darcy had a difficult time not rolling his eyes in disgust. “Good morning, Miss Bingley. What brings you here so early in the morning?”
“I came to see your dear sister. I am certain that she is suffering from the society to be found in this neighborhood, and she would most likely welcome the company of a friend such as myself.” Caroline said as she reached out in an attempt to clasp her fingers on Darcy’s arm. Fortunately for the gentleman, he was able to sidestep her with ease.
“I believe my sister is with the art master I have recently hired for her. I would not wish to disturb her lessons, as she has come to enjoy them thoroughly. And I was just on my way up to spend time with my wife and our children.”
Caroline cringed as she heard him speak of his new family. “Oh, yes, your cousin’s widow. How is she faring?”
“My wife is recovering quite well. It will not be long before she is able to take walks in the garden with me. I am pleased with her recovery, as the birth of the twins was quite difficult. And the babes grow daily. It is amazing to me how much they have grown in the short time since their births. I find spending time with them to be the highlights of my days.”
“I have never been fond of infants, all their fits and disgusting smells. No, I will leave child bearing to those who are much more rugged and durable. I am far too delicate to be a mother.” Caroline pointed her nose up in the air with some attitude.
“Then I will not ask if you wish to meet my children, as I would not wish to disturb your sensitive nature. Richard and Ari are precious, and bring me great pleasure each time I am with them. Becoming a father has been one of the greatest pleasures I could ever imagine.” Darcy said, in an obvious attempt to discourage Miss Bingley from staying any longer.
“Well, though, I am sure that any child born to the Darcy name, even if not by blood, would be well mannered and lack the typical odors of infants. Would you not be so kind as to introduce me to them?”
“Perhaps it would be better for you to meet them at another time. I would not wish for you to be subjected to any objectionable behavior.” Darcy stated as he turned towards the stairs. “And, Miss Bingley, I would appreciate you not speaking to anyone, including myself, of the matter of my children’s heritage. It is none of your business and your words are offensive to me. I will bid you good day.”
Darcy took the stairs two at a time, anxious to be rid of Caroline Bingley. Her insults towards his family were despicable and it took all Darcy had to contain his fury. It was the first time that Darcy had been tempted to raise his hand to a lady.
Remaining stock still in the foyer, Caroline was appalled at the treatment she had just received from Darcy. How could he prefer his cousin’s wife and children over his friendship with her? Did he not realize the benefits he would have in ridding himself of those burdens and choose a more suitable wife, such as herself? She was just turning to leave, when she noticed her brother coming up to the entrance door.
“Charles, I am pleased you have come. It seems I will require some assistance in being able to garner an introduction to Mrs Darcy and her children.”
“Caroline, you are aware that it is improper to force yourself on a lady who is still in her sick bed. Why would she wish you to be brought to her bedchambers to be introduced to you? And you despise children, especially infants.”
“That is not the point, Charles. The point is I must be introduced to her, as it will impress Mr Darcy.”
Bingley shook his head. “He is a married man, Caroline. It is not your place to impress him, nor has it ever been your place.”
“But I am certain that he will see the error of his marriage and will wish to have the marriage annulled. When he does, he will require a wife who can repair his reputation, and who better than me to do so?”
“I insist you return to Netherfield immediately. I will hear no more of your foolishness. No more, do you understand? If you cannot control yourself, I will have no option but to send you to Scarborough, to live with Aunt Ruth. Do you hear what I am saying? You will have no alternative.”
“You cannot send me away, Brother. You are responsible for me until I am married.” Caroline huffed.
“That does not require my living with you. I can oversee your accounts from afar.” Bingley stood tall as he spoke, the first time he had ever had the courage to stand against his sister.
With a scowl on her face, Caroline turned and marched from the house, and left quickly in her carriage.
Bingley requested to speak with Darcy, and the butler sent one of the footmen up the stairs to speak with the Master of The Willows.
Several moments passed before Darcy returned down the stairs. “Bingley, you just missed your sister.”
“Unfortunately, I did not. I was unable to avoid her when I entered the house. I have given her an ultimatum. This obsession with wishing to become your wife is over and done with, or she will go to live with our aunt. For some foolish reason, she believes you will get an annulment from your wife and will require a new wife to repair your reputation. I assured her that you would be doing no such thing.”
“Your sister has lost her mind if she believes I would act in such a manner. I have no intentions of ever behaving so.” Darcy shook his head in disbelief.
“Caroline has always been set in her ways. Now, let us speak of something pleasant. I called at Longbourn this morning and was informed that Miss Bennet had come here to visit her cousin. Is she still here?”
Darcy laughed. “My word, Bingley, you move quickly. How long have you known Jane?”
“I only met her last night, though I told myself I wish to know her better. She is a fine lady, and everything I could dream of. I promise you, I will take my time and not rush into anything.”
“Remember, she is my relation now. I will not allow you to bring her harm, specially breaking her heart. Jane is a sweet young lady, and is quite dear to my wife.”
“I will be cautious, Darcy, I promise you. Is she upstairs, with your wife?” Bingley looked about, anxiously.
“She is, at the moment, though she stated she wished to spend some time with Georgiana after my sister finishes her lessons.”
“Do you mind if I stay, so I might speak with Miss Bennet?”
Chuckling, Darcy agreed. “Perhaps we could take tea with my sister and Jane. Come, let me introduce you to Richard and Ari.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Entering the nursery behind Darcy, Bingley lightly gasped at the sight before him. Jane Bennet was sitting in a rocking chair, holding a babe in her arms, cooing to the infant, who was holding on to her index finger. The sight was angelic, and he could not resist looking at her.
“Jane, I thought you were with Elizabeth.” Darcy stated as he entered the room.
“I was, but the nurse insisted Lizzy rest. I do not believe my cousin was pleased with the notion, as she is becoming quite bored with having to remain in bed and resting so often.” Jane smiled as her gaze lifted upwards. “Oh, forgive me. I did not know you had a guest.”
“Have no fear of me, Miss Bennet.” Bingley said as he stepped forward. “I came to visit my friend, as I visited Longbourn first, finding it was missing its most precious flower.”
Jane blushed vividly. “So you came here, after learning Willows was my destination?”
It was Bingley’s turn to redden. “Well, um, yes, it appears so.”
“It is a pleasure to see you again, so soon after the assembly.” Jane turned her eyes back to the child in her arms, her natural shyness overcoming her.
“And which of your new cousins are you holding, Miss Bennet?”
Darcy could not help himself from laughing. “As the child is wrapped in a pink coverlet, I would hope it is my daughter, Aristella.”
“Goodness, William, do not tell me that you are prejudice against boys having pink items of clothing or bedding.” Jane teased. “You are correct, though. This is Miss Ari. Master Richard is sleeping in his cradle.”
As if on cue, Richard began to fuss. Darcy walked over to the cradle, lifting the babe in his arms. “My dear boy, you are very impolite to disagree with a lady. You should have pretended to be asleep, rather than contradict her words.”
Seeing his friend playfully speaking with an infant surprised Bingley. “Darcy, I have never seen you so carefree. What has come over you?”
“Fatherhood. I highly recommend it. I am so pleased to be with the children, and of course, Elizabeth.” Darcy could not help himself but smile as his son gurgled at him, as if speaking.
“Have you already taken him on a horse ride yet?” Bingley said teasingly.
“I promised his Mamma that I would not do so for a few months. But it will not be too long before he will be able to ride with me. Only for short rides in the garden areas to begin with. And Miss Ari will have her chances as well. They have it in their blood to be champion riders.”
“Not at all prejudice, are you Cousin?” Jane laughed.
“No, Jane, not a bit. And do not tell Elizabeth that I have already begun looking for ponies for the children. She will never let me hear the end of it.”
Darcy introduced his children to his friend, detailing all of the accomplishments that they had achieved in their short lives. Bingley could not believe the difference in his friend, so far from the taciturn man he had known. As the children began to fuss, due to their bellies wishing for nourishment, Darcy turned them over to the wet nurse and escorted Jane and Bingley from the nursery. Arriving at the music room, they discovered that Georgiana had just finished with her lesson, and had ordered refreshments brought up for her and Jane. Darcy quickly sent word to add enough for the men as well, before taking his seat beside Georgiana on the sofa.
“I heard one of the footmen say that Miss Bingley had been here to see me.” Georgiana said, her discomfort visible on her face.
“She will not cause you any further discomfort, Miss Darcy, or I will have her packed and out the door in a heartbeat.” Bingley said positively.
“I know it is impolite, but she frightens me.” Georgiana declared. This was highly unusual for Georgiana to speak of, as she usually would hide from anything which brought her discomfort.
Bingley laughed easily. “Miss Darcy, I can state that I, too, can be frightened by my sister. I have already spoken to her, when I arrived here and found her attempting to force herself on you. She is well aware that she is to behave or she will be shipped off to our aunt. I will not tolerate her bringing you any further discomfort.”
As he finished speaking, the servants arrived with the refreshments. Georgiana carefully acted the part of hostess in her sister in law’s absence. Watching her grow and mature into a fine young lady was amazing to her brother, as he had never seen her behave so. The pride swelled inside him, as he prayed she would be continue to make such improvements.
~~ ** ~~
Marching into Netherfield, Caroline Bingley was furious. Her brother’s threat was cruel in her opinion, and she could not fathom the reason he would behave so. In her mind, Bingley should assist her in making a match with his dearest friend, as it would make Darcy his brother. Aggravation was building, as she determined her next attempt to show Darcy what a perfect match could be made with her. If it were not for that trollop, and her brats, Darcy would be mine by now. I cannot allow this to continue. I must find a way to ruin her, force Darcy to rid himself of the whole lot of them. He would take me to Pemberley, as he will wish to be away from this neighborhood. And I will have to make certain that Charles does not purchase this pathetic estate. He should purchase something near Pemberley. Yes, I will speak with Mr Darcy, and he will assist Charles in finding someplace in Derbyshire.
Slamming the door to her bedchambers, Caroline threw herself on her bed, as she looked up at the ceiling. I even wore one of my best gowns today. Such a beautiful shade of burnt orange. I know he likes the color, he has commented on my gowns several times in the past. He has just had his interest peaked, but he will come to realize she is nothing. Some foreigner who was in desperate need and used her wiles to capture him. No, Fitzwilliam Darcy will come to his senses. His eyes will be opened soon enough. And I will be at his side when that day comes. His appreciation will be great, and I will accept him, perhaps after I torment him a bit.
Once he and I are married, we must do whatever it takes to be rid of his sniveling sister. I will not tolerate her living with us. Perhaps she can be sent to another school, or an establishment can be set up for her. And then, I will decorate Pemberley and Darcy House to my liking. Both of the houses are so dull, so lifeless. One would almost think that Darcy was poor, as there is no glamor to the houses. And just look at that house where he is living. Good heavens, it is far worse than Darcy’s homes. Well, it just shows how desperately the man needs me. I will be able to improve his standing in Town, as society will welcome me with open arms for my tastes and style.
I must begin designing the gown I wish to wear for my wedding. There should be some ladies journals which would aid me in selecting what would be perfect. And we must marry from Town, as I wish for all of society to attend. All the ladies will be green with envy. So many have tried to capture my dear man, but he will be mine.
Forcing herself up, Caroline made her way to her dressing chambers. Taking a seat at the vanity table, she looked at the peer glass, at her reflection. When I return to Town, I must go to Madame LeMarche’s immediately. She will design my trousseau, for she is the best modiste in all of England. I could not be seen in anything less than the finest clothing. My appearance must be perfect, for it will reflect on my husband. And we will be able to afford the very best of everything. I can just imagine the jewels which he will bestow on me. It will be a perfect match for both of us. Oh, I must devise a plan to rid us of the harlot and her brats. If only she was able to leave her bedchambers, then I could find a way to be rid of her quickly.
Though, I may have an idea which might just work. I will have to be clever, so as not to be suspected. I would not wish to make my brother suspect anything. He would have no difficulty in ruining my chances. Wretched man, does he not know that my becoming Mrs Darcy would better his chances at a good match to some heiress? Our family would be one of the first circle of society once I marry Darcy. Well, I will just have to determine the best way to implement my idea.
Soon, my dearest Fitzwilliam, we will be together soon.
~~ ** ~~
Bingley was pleased with how his day was progressing. He had enjoyed his visit at Willows, and remained there for some time. He thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Jane Bennet, and was thrilled with her responses to him. She was everything good and beautiful to him. The more time he was in her presence, the more he wished to remain with her. After enjoying luncheon with Jane, Georgiana and Darcy, Bingley realized it was time for him to take his leave. Unfortunately for him, he knew it would be improper for him to escort Miss Bennet to her home, as he would have liked to do.
But he would make sure that he was able to spend more time with her, and soon. Jane had informed him that she would be at Longbourn the next few mornings, as she had no plans to go anywhere. Bingley decided he would visit Longbourn each and every morning, perhaps even take a walk in the gardens with her. Hearing her voice and seeing her sweet smile made Bingley quite thrilled with life.
That was, until he returned to Netherfield Park. His sister was waiting for him, and she was very displeased.
“Charles Bingley, you should be ashamed of yourself. Our parents did everything they could to make life better for us, to give us opportunities they never had, only for you to throw it all away. Your behavior last night at the assembly was appalling. I assume that the little country chit was the reason for your visiting Mr Darcy this morning. Was she visiting her cousin? I cannot, for the life of me, understand why Mr Darcy would subject himself and his poor sister to such vulgarities as he must endure, living amongst such society. His devotion to his cousin, to protect a foreign lady of questionable birth, and her children, is commendable. But the marriage will be scorned in all of society.”
Bingley’s good mood was dashed to pieces. “I have given you warnings, Caroline, and I thought I made myself quite clear. I will not tolerate your behavior. Mrs Darcy’s father was from this very neighborhood. Her mother was Belgium. The mother’s father was extremely wealthy, and it was passed on to Mrs Darcy. Her wealth is far greater than our family could ever imagine. Though her relations are not of the highest circle of society, the Bennets have been landed gentry for the past eight generations. Mrs Darcy was brought up as a gentlewoman, just as her father was brought up as a gentleman. Her grandfather was the Master of Longbourn, so there is nothing questionable about her.”
“Oh, Charles, you are a fool. Of course Mr Darcy would have everyone believe his tale, as he would not wish for anyone to learn the truth of the matter. He would be ashamed to have everyone learn the truth. The only reason he married that chit was to protect her, as a matter of honor. The harlot was married to his cousin. It does him credit that he is willing to protect his cousin’s whore, but he will regret the decision later on. Especially having the children bear his name. No, this entire situation is ridiculous, and it will end soon enough.”
“How would you know it will end? What are you plotting, Caroline?”
“I am not plotting anything, Charles. How dare you accuse me of such behavior? I was just commenting that it will not be long before Mr Darcy realizes the truth of the situation and rids himself of the burden.”
“Nothing had better happen to Mrs Darcy, Caroline. I am telling you that I will not tolerate any of your foolishness. Do you understand me? If you do anything to cause her harm, I will see to it that you are punished.”
Caroline knew she had to tread carefully. “Charles, you can be so silly. Of course I would never do anything to harm Mrs Darcy. Mr Darcy will come to the truth soon enough on his own.” She then turned and walked away, leaving a nervous Charles Bingley standing alone.
~~ ** ~~
“Mr Bennet, we have received a letter today from our son.” Mrs Bennet announced. “He will be home in time for the harvest celebration.”
“Jacob has been missed.” Mary stated. “He promised to save a dance for me.”
“Yes, your brother is always attentive to you girls.” Mrs Bennet smiled. “Such a good brother.”
“He will meet Darcy and the babes.” Mr Bennet said. “I am certain that Jacob and Darcy will have quite a bit in common. They have similar dispositions.”
“It will be pleasant for Jacob to have another friend. Most of his mates from the university live so far from here.”
“I believe it will not be long before our son is looking towards his future rather than university mates.” Mr Bennet chuckled. “Perhaps it is time to freshen up the dowager cottage, see to any repairs which might be needed.”
Mrs Bennet smiled. “I am certain Charlotte Lucas will be pleased to learn of Jacob’s plans to be here. It would not surprise me if an engagement will be announced by Christmas.”
~~ ** ~~
Finally. Wickham thought to himself. I did not think I would ever have a chance to be away from the other men. Tonight I will be able to search Mr Phillips’ offices. With luck, I will be able to leave here tomorrow, before Darcy knows I am in the neighborhood.
When he learned the news that Darcy and Georgiana had taken up residence at one of the nearby estates, Wickham was surprised. He knew of Darcy’s marriage, but thought the man would take his wife to Pemberley. The neighborhood surrounding Meryton was far beneath Wickham’s expectations. If he had been blessed to be acknowledged by his true father, he would have been able to live in much better more fitting. It is all due to Fitzwilliam Darcy that I am not living the life of a gentleman. My father should have been able to claim me as his son, treat me as his son. But Darcy has all the claim to the fortune, and, from what I have heard, his new wife has an extensive fortune herself. Why should they live so well off, while I am forced to live so? It is not right. Hopefully, it will not be for much longer. Then I will have what I have wanted for so long.
Tonight, after dark, I will make my move. Thankfully I have the night off from guard duty, and I know the habits of the officers who will be on duty tonight. It will be simple enough to sneak past them. And I am sure that the locks these simple country folk have will be of no problem for me to force open. Mr Phillips would not normally have need of protecting his papers, not in this backwards location. I am certain the hardest problem I will have is finding the correct drawer of his cabinets. When I looked inside the windows, I saw how many cabinets the man has.
Ah, yes, after tonight, I should be well on my way to my proper place in society.
~~ ** ~~
“Mother, I cannot sit by and wait for word from Uncle. I must journey to this estate and bring Fitzwilliam here for the banns to be read. It is ridiculous to believe his marriage is authentic, and, even if it is, it can easily be annulled. But it is high time that Fitzwilliam takes his rightful place, here, at Rosings.”
“Anne, my dear girl, please calm yourself. Your uncle and aunt are doing all they can to look into the matter. Their solicitor is not sure what he can do, but we are attempting to find the papers, so they can be used to dissolve this union. As the harlot has been ill, since she gave birth, I am certain the union has not been consummated, which will be in our favor in having the marriage annulled.”
“He is making me a laughingstock. I will not tolerate it. I deserve to be treated far better by my betrothed.” Anne de Bourgh declared to her mother. “I will make certain that Fitzwilliam is well aware of how he will treat me in the future. He will regret ever making such a mistake, mark my words.”
Lady Catherine had been furious over her nephew’s behavior, but she worried for her daughter’s health with the strain she was under. “I will write to him immediately, insisting he make haste in coming here. He must be made to see reason. It is the only way we will be able to protect the family from his folly with such an unworthy young lady. And your aunt insists that her grandchildren be brought to Matlock, to be raised properly.”
“She can have those urchins, though why she would wish to have them acknowledged as her relations, I have no notion. I, for one, refuse to claim them as relations. How do we know for certain they are even Richard’s children? More likely, they are the seed of some nobody, someone she slept with while she was in Belgium.”
“But your aunt is adamant that the children are her grandchildren, so we will allow her to satisfy her need to believe them to be Richard’s offspring. She has had a difficult time accepting Richard’s death, and if it is her desire to accept them as his, if it brings her comfort, then so be it. We do not have to have contact with the children, especially after you and Darcy are wed.”
“And what will become of the harlot? What has my uncle planned for her?” Anne said matter of factly.
“I am not certain, though I believe he plans to have her locked away. I believe he is thinking Bedlam, or, perhaps even have her imprisoned. My brother has considered having her charged with some sort of crime.”
Anne smiled sadistically. “Indeed, that would be appropriate. As she has claimed property which is not hers to have. She has stolen Pemberley from me, and she needs to be taught a lesson.”