The following day, Elizabeth repeated the journey to the fallen tree by the river. For the second day in a row, she was met there by Sadie. This time, Elizabeth came prepared. Elizabeth pulled from her pocket a cloth wrapped bundle. “Good morning, Miss Sadie. I hoped I would find you here again. I brought you a treat.” She opened the cloth to reveal some small pieces of meat alongside the rolls she brought for herself. Sadie came nearer, her tongue licked her mouth in anticipation.
Elizabeth gave the dog a piece of meat, petting her head for a few moments before giving her some more. “Mr Darcy told me that your owner died. I am grieved by your loss. From what he has told me, you are as lost as I am in this confusing world. I am pleased you have chosen to introduce yourself to me.”
She handed the dog another piece of meat, and then tore off a piece of the roll with preserves. It was difficult to say which of the treats Sadie preferred. She gladly accepted each morsel which was offered to her. It was not long before Sadie had nuzzled up next to Elizabeth’s leg, lovingly befriending the young lady.
Sadie was a perfect friend, Elizabeth determined. She was a good listener, and she appeared to be fond of Elizabeth. And it would become a morning ritual for the two of them to meet in this location, sharing a bit of food before beginning the day. Elizabeth found it easier to speak of her feelings with Sadie. All of the fears she was attempting to hide from her family were easily shared with the beautiful collie. And Sadie seemed to find Elizabeth to be the perfect replacement for her lost owner.
Several times over the following weeks, Darcy would come across Elizabeth and Sadie in their personal spot, though he decided to give them their time without interruption. It pleased him to see Elizabeth building a bond with the dog, and it appeared she was able to confide in Sadie in a way she could not with the people who cared for her.
The week following the arrival of the Bennets and Mrs Gardiner at Pemberley was spent relaxing as much as possible. Letters were written to many people, including to Elizabeth’s aunt in Scotland, and members of the royal family in Brunswick and to Princess Caroline.
Darcy had a book of the royal families of Europe and was able to assist Mr Bennet in informing Elizabeth where she fit in the ranks of royalty. Though she was considered a minor member, she was still royalty. Elizabeth’s mother, Constance, had been the great granddaughter of Ferdinand Albert and Antoinette Amalie, the parents of Charles I, Duke of Brunswick. He was the father of Charles II, who was father of Princess Caroline. Charles I had siblings, one of which was Albert. Though Albert died young and before he was married, he had been in love and had anticipated his vows with his beloved Elizabeth. She died while giving birth to a son, James Albert, named for his late father. Orphaned, James was taken in as a ward by Charles I. James later married to Sophie, and remained close to Charles II, whom had been his playmate and close friend as a child. James and Sophie had three daughters and a son, Margaret, Amalie, Constance, and Albert.
Amalie had died as a child, which was devastating to the couple. Margaret had married and moved to Scotland, while Albert was living in Italy. James and Sophie had both taken ill during an epidemic, dying a few days apart, when Constance was in her early teens. Charles II and Princess Augusta saw to the care of the children, and were especially fond of Constance.
When Constance died giving birth to Elizabeth, the family discussed the future of the newborn child. It was a difficult decision, but they felt it best for Elizabeth to have her remaining parent in her life. Margaret wrote to Mr Bennet, remembering the child of her dear sister and wishing to have some connection with the girl. But she honored Mr Bennet’s decision to keep the news from his daughter for the time being, not wishing to complicate Elizabeth’s life by telling her the truth.
~~ ** ~~
An express arrived one day, as neared the end of a fortnight since the arrival at Pemberley. The express was addressed to Elizabeth. With shaking hands, Elizabeth opened the message.
The letter was from Margaret Walters, informing Elizabeth of her plans to arrive at Pemberley within two days of the letter. Margaret was bringing her two youngest children, a son and a daughter, who were near Elizabeth’s age. Margaret and her husband, Robert, had four other children who were grown and had families of their own. They wished to plan a holiday for all of their children to meet their cousin.
The following day, a letter arrived from Elizabeth’s uncle, Albert, welcoming her to the family. He would not be able to journey to England for some time, but he looked forward to the day when he could meet her in person.
When the letter with the royal seal of Brunswick arrived, Elizabeth’s hands were shaking. Though Charles II had died several years previously, Princess Augusta sent a letter declaring her joy in knowing Constance’s daughter had finally learned of her heritage. Princess Augusta also stated that she had informed her children of the news, including Princess Caroline. Princess Caroline’s daughter, Charlotte, was living in England, though Caroline rarely had any time with her daughter.
~~ ** ~~
The staff at Pemberley had no difficulty preparing more rooms for the new arrivals which were expected. Darcy had informed Mrs Reynolds of the possibility shortly after he had returned home. Guest rooms were prepared and kept readied.
One set of guests Darcy had not expected was the Bingley family. Charles Bingley and his sisters, Caroline and Louisa, and Louisa’s husband, Gilbert Hurst, all arrived the same day as the express from Margaret. This was not only unexpected, but undesired. Caroline was determined to become the next Mrs Darcy, and Mistress of Pemberley. As soon as she arrived, she began ordering the staff about as if she was already their mistress. Georgiana was far too timid to stand up to Caroline, which only confirmed in Miss Bingley’s mind that she was doing what was expected of her.
What angered Miss Bingley the most was learning of the Bennet family and their relations, who were of trade, staying at Pemberley. Caroline Bingley had a suspicion that Mr Darcy had feelings for Elizabeth Bennet, and she would not allow the country nobody to usurp her as Mistress of Pemberley.
Charles Bingley was shocked, yet pleased, to be reunited with his dearest angel, Jane Bennet. He had been extremely disappointed when he left Netherfield, as he wished to begin courting Jane. But his sister had convinced him that Jane did not return his admiration, and that it would be disastrous to not only Bingley, but his entire family. Caroline insisted that their parents had worked hard to improve their family, and they would be disgraced by having Jane Bennet as part of the family. Reluctantly, Bingley had allowed his sisters to guide him, as they quickly removed him to Scarborough, visiting their aunt, Velda Bingley. They remained there through the holidays and now, were heading to Town for his sisters to do their shopping before the season began.
Finding Jane Bennet at Pemberley was a blessing to Bingley. He was determined to make the most of the visit at his friend’s estate, and make his feelings for Jane Bennet known to the young lady. He was certain she shared his affection. Nothing his sisters had truly convinced him of Jane being a fortune hunter. And no one had ever touched his heart as Jane had.
The only obstacle Bingley could see was Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. Having been together over the past fortnight, and no prior arrangement with any other man and Jane Bennet, Richard allowed himself to enjoy spending time with Elizabeth’s sister. He was thrilled to find someone who was naturally sweet natured and good, as Jane was. And she enjoyed spending time with him.
Jane was also reserved with her feelings towards Bingley. Though she liked him, she was distrustful of someone who would allow his sisters to convince him against his own feelings. If he was so easily swayed to go against his own beliefs, Jane was unsure if she wished to enter into marriage with him. For the first time in her life, Jane was determined to do what was best for her.
~~ ** ~~
As everyone gathered to dine the evening of the Bingley family’s arrival, Miss Bingley latched on to Darcy’s arm with a grip like an octopus holding its prey. Without checking with Georgiana as to the seating arrangements, Miss Bingley claimed the place to the right of Darcy. Elizabeth chuckled to herself as she took the seat which Georgiana had reserved for her, which was on Darcy’s left side, with Georgiana on the left side of Elizabeth.
In the time Elizabeth had been at Pemberley, Georgiana had taken to the young lady who held her brother’s heart. Elizabeth was kind to Georgiana, honestly caring for the girl rather using the girl to become close to Darcy. And Georgiana appreciated the ease which she felt when in Elizabeth’s presence. Having Elizabeth at her side, Georgiana was certain she could withstand anything Caroline Bingley had to dish out.
“Miss Elizabeth, I am surprised to find you staying here at Pemberley. Mr Darcy had not informed us of your family being invited here.” Caroline stated.
“The invitation was issued recently, while we were in Liverpool at the same time. Mr Darcy made the invitation personally to my family.” Elizabeth stated calmly.
“I am grateful to not require an invitation to visit Pemberley, as our family has such a close connection with the Darcy family. Mr Darcy has always welcomed our family to his home, have you not, Mr Darcy?” Caroline reached her hand over, touching Darcy’s arm.
“Your brother and I have been close since our days at the university.” Darcy replied sharply. “Charles is always welcome to visit my homes.”
Elizabeth picked up her napkin and dabbed at her lips to keep anyone from seeing the mirth she was feeling at Darcy’s response. It was clear to everyone, except Miss Bingley, that Darcy was not pleased, nor did he offer an open ended invitation to Bingley’s sisters.
“And, as everyone knows, Charles always has me along, for he knows how important it is to me. I cannot tolerate being away from the Darcys for very long, and it has been nearly two months since we were together. Scarborough has nothing to hold my interest, not when the likes of Pemberley and the Darcys are close at hand. Dear Georgiana is so precious to me, and I long to have a sister such as she. Louisa and I were speaking just the other day of how fine it would be to have such a sister as Georgiana. Charles is quite fond of her as well.”
Elizabeth glanced down the table to where her sister sat, in private discourse with Bingley. Oh, yes, Miss Bingley, I can see how enraptured he is with Georgiana Darcy. It is clear that he hold no interest in my sister. The thought brought a slight chuckle.
“Is something funny, Miss Elizabeth?” Caroline asked.
“No, no, I was just thinking of something unrelated. As you were saying, you and Miss Darcy are quite close?”
“Lizzy, I told you to call me Georgiana.” The girl said, her voice strong and clear. She was wishing to make a point to Caroline Bingley.
“Forgive me, Georgiana. You may reprimand me later, when we play our duet.”
Caroline did not appreciate the direction the conversation was taking. She had never been given consent to refer to Miss Darcy as Georgiana. How was it that this nobody was now treated so informally? She glared at Elizabeth, forcing a fake smile on her lips.
“Yes, well, I would think it to be inappropriate to refer to Miss Darcy so informally, when she is of a far superior to the rest of us. I cannot imagine referring to the granddaughter of an earl by her given name.”
Suddenly, Darcy began to laugh aloud. This quickly turned into a cough, causing Darcy to choke. A servant stepped closer to the table, though Darcy held up a hand, motioning the man to hold still. After several moments, Darcy was able to speak. “Please forgive me, everyone. I believe I swallowed something wrong.”
It had been decided to not speak of Elizabeth’s birthright to the Bingleys. Darcy had hoped to send them on their way before Elizabeth’s aunt arrived, though he was certain that Bingley would not leave without being asked to do so. As good a friend as Bingley was, Darcy was not prepared to hurt his friend’s feelings. And seeing Jane’s happiness in speaking with Bingley, Darcy was not prepared to separate the two. He knew that Bingley was concerned of Richard’s behavior, and Bingley would take being asked to leave as Darcy preferring his cousin for Miss Bennet.
Dinner finished and the men separated from the ladies. Miss Bingley stepped over to Georgiana, taking hold of the girl’s arm as they walked into the music room. “I cannot wait to hear you play this evening, Miss Darcy. You are far superior to anyone I have ever heard play. Your years of training with the very best masters shines through when you play.”
“Lizzy and I plan to perform the duet we have been practicing for my brother. He recently purchased the sheets for me and Lizzy has been practicing with me.”
“Well, I know you will be the far superior in the performance, as I have heard Miss Elizabeth play before.”
Georgiana gasped at the rudeness of the lady. “My brother has described Lizzy’s performances as some of the most delightful he has ever heard. She plays and sings with such feeling.”
Leaning closer to Georgiana, Caroline whispered to her. “I am sure your brother was being polite, as it is clear he did not wish to be rude to guests in his home. But you are far superior, in every way. It must be difficult in having such people staying in your home. Your brother was far kinder than necessary, after such a brief acquaintance when we stayed at Netherfield. He should not be forced to endure such terrible manners as the Bennets have, not to mention having the wife of a tradesman in your home. Obviously, he had no notion they would force their relations upon you.”
“Miss Bingley, the Bennets and Mrs Gardiner are our guests. My brother insisted they come here, and they are welcome to remain here as long as they wish. They have been very pleasant company and I have enjoyed coming to know them, especially Lizzy.”
Caroline patted Georgiana’s arm lightly. “You are young, and have had little contact with the world, so it is understandable that you do not see the sort of people the Bennets are. And the tradesman’s wife, your parents would be appalled to have such a person as a guest. It is a good thing that we arrived when we did, so I can guide you on how people of our station would deal with their station. Just follow my guidance and all will be well.”
Georgiana knew better than to argue, but she was certain she would never follow the example of someone such as Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst.
The ladies made their way into the music room and Georgiana was finally able to break free of Caroline’s grip. The girl made her way to the pianoforte, pretending to sort through the sheet music for the piece she wished to play.
As Elizabeth made her way towards the pianoforte, Caroline spoke. “Miss Elizabeth, I know you had planned to perform a duet with our dear Miss Darcy, but it has been such a long time since Louisa and I have been given such a treat as hearing the dear girl play. Why, Louisa even mentioned her desire to hear Miss Darcy as we neared the estate.”
Elizabeth turned her eyes towards Georgiana as she responded. “As Georgiana is acting as hostess for her brother, I believe it is up to her to decide. I would never be so rude as to demand my hostess act upon my wishes.”
Georgiana’s eyes grew wide with humor as she listened to her friend put Caroline Bingley in her place. Georgiana had been shocked at Caroline’s rudeness at speaking to a guest of Darcy’s in such a manner. “I wish to play the duet, as my brother has been waiting all week to hear the entire piece. He has heard bits of the song, and has been eager to hear it in its entirety. As I informed my brother earlier of our intent to play it for him, I believe he would be considerably disappointed if we did not.”
Letting out a huff in frustration, Caroline took a seat beside her sister on the sofa. “Of course, I would not wish to delay any enjoyment Mr Darcy would receive from the performance. I do pray you will indulge me and Louisa while we are here, Miss Darcy. You know how fond we are of you.”
“Of course, Miss Bingley.” Georgiana said softly, not believing the words coming from Caroline’s mouth.
Georgiana and Elizabeth sat down together on the bench before the pianoforte, practicing a little before the men returned. Mrs Gardiner and Jane took seats near the pianoforte, chatting about the day and the letter Mr Gardiner written, which had arrived that day.
“The children are excited to make the journey here, and they are looking forward learning to ride horses. When Edward told them of Mr Darcy’s offer to teach them, Rebecca was thrilled. Your uncle has even had a riding costumes made for the children.”
“Andrew must be excited as well. I remember him saying how he has always wished to be in the army, and he would need to learn to ride if he were to become an officer.” Jane said with a smile.
“Wait until he meets Colonel Fitzwilliam. I am afraid that the good colonel will never have a moment’s peace once Andrew meets him.” Mrs Gardiner chuckled.
Caroline could not believe what she was hearing. “Mr Darcy has invited your husband, a tradesman, and your children to join you here? I would have thought you would prefer to return to Town. You live in Cheapside, do you not?”
Mrs Gardiner was no fool, nor would she be humiliated by the likes of Caroline Bingley. “Oh, we had planned to journey to Lambton anyway, and, when Mr Darcy learned of our plans, he insisted we stay here. He is looking forward to meeting our children, and he plans on taking my husband fishing. We do live in Cheapside, as it is near my husband’s warehouses. If I remember correctly, your father was in trade. Was he not the owner of cotton mills?”
The Bingley sisters nearly choked on Mrs Gardiner’s words. Caroline and Louisa had gone to great lengths to forget of the taint of trade which was so close to their lives. Their uncle still ran the mills, and they still received profits from the mills.
“Forgive me, Mrs … Gardiner, is it? Our family is one of wealth, and our brother is planning to purchase an estate. We will be part of the landed gentry, and are already welcomed in society, as you will never be.” Louisa declared. “Not to mention, my husband is heir to his family’s estate. So, you can see, there is a vast difference between our families.”
Caroline held her head high, her nose pointed upwards, with an expression of someone smelling a disgusting odor.
Mrs Gardiner laughed to herself. “And Mr Bennet is a landed gentleman, who comes from over six generations of landed gentlemen. According to society, my nieces are gentlewomen, which puts them at a higher standing than the daughters of a tradesman, no matter how wealthy they are.”
Elizabeth wrapped an arm about Georgiana’s shoulders, in an attempt to comfort the girl who was their hostess. “Aunt Helen, perhaps it would be best to find a more appropriate subject. I would not wish to dishonor our hostess.”
“Of course. Miss Darcy, please forgive my rude behavior. I meant no disrespect to you or your brother.” Mrs Gardiner said as she crossed the room to Georgiana, taking hold of her hand and giving it a squeeze.
“It is not you, Mrs Gardiner, who should be requesting forgiveness of my sister.” Darcy stated as he entered the room. “I overheard the conversation, and I believe Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst have been out of place in how they spoke to guests in my home.”
Hurst had been behind Darcy as they entered the room, and he was quite embarrassed by his wife and sister in law, having heard their words. “Louisa, Caroline, I believe we must turn in early. All the travel has made us very fatigued and unable to be in civilized company.”
“I believe I will wait to speak with Charles.” Caroline declared defiantly.
“Charles is busy at the moment, and I insist you come with me immediately.” Hurst’s voice brooked no disobedience from Caroline.
“Where is Charles?” Louisa asked, concerned with the fact that Mr Bennet was also missing from the men.
“Never you mind, Louisa. Come with me, now.”
Realizing that the normally reserved and quiet Hurst was deeply angered, Louisa stood and encouraged her sister to join her, pulling on Caroline’s arm. Finally, reluctantly, Caroline stood and followed her sister from the room.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
“Mr Bennet, I was wondering if Miss Jane has made an understanding, with any gentleman.” Bingley inquired.
“At the moment, she has not. Might I inquire as to why you ask? After you left Netherfield last autumn, with no word or return, I would have thought you had given up any interest with anyone in my family.”
“I realize how it must have appeared to you and your family, Mr Bennet, and I must apologize for my behavior. My sisters and I journeyed to spend time with our relations in Scarborough, and I had hoped to return to Netherfield in the near future.”
“And why could you not have written to your … friends in the neighborhood and inform us your intention? Do you believe my daughter to be sitting around, waiting for your return, hoping you would keep your word? To be honest with you, my Jane was devastated when you left, especially after the letter she received from your sister declaring your intention of declaring yourself to Miss Darcy.”
Bingley grew red with anger. “My sister did WHAT? Declare myself to Miss Darcy? Miss Georgiana Darcy is like a young sister to me. I cannot imagine marrying someone who is a child in the first place. Which of my sisters made wrote this letter?”
“I believe it was Miss Bingley. Jane informed Elizabeth the entirety of the letter, and Elizabeth informed me of the crux of the information. But why are you now wishing to know more of my Jane? What has changed for you to make you wish to speak to me of my daughter?”
“Seeing her, makes me realize how dearly my heart wishes to court Miss Jane. It would be my greatest joy to have her become my wife.” Bingley stated sadly. “But now, after what you have told me, I realize that your daughter must truly despise me. She must have believed my sister’s words.”
“It is not for me to speak for Jane. If she desires a courtship, I will agree with allowing it. But if she decides she does not wish to allow you to court her, I will ask you to refraining from bringing any further distress to my daughter. As you are most likely aware, you are not the only young man who finds Jane to be perfect.” Mr Bennet watched Bingley closely.
Bingley nodded his head. “I will do as Miss Jane wishes. If she chooses against me, I will leave as soon as possible, of that, I will promise you.”
~~ ** ~~
Mr Bennet and Bingley arrived in the music room to find Bingley’s relations missing. Seeing the puzzled look on his friend’s face, Darcy gave his friend a smile. “Hurst insisted your sisters retire early, Bingley. Come on in enjoy the music. We have been waiting for you both to arrive, so our song birds can perform the duet they have been practicing for me.”
“Wonderful.” Mr Bennet announced. “I have been waiting to hear this performance all week. It is the reason I have been delayed spending time in your delightful library.”
Elizabeth laughed. “That is saying a great deal, Papa, for we all know how much you enjoy Mr Darcy’s library. I am surprised you have not begun taking your meals in there.”
Jane joined the teasing. “I do believe I spotted a pillow and coverlet hidden away underneath the sofa near the north window. It is Papa’s favorite location in the library.”
“Yes, my dear girls, tease me all you wish. I admit that I have left a pillow and coverlet in the library, for some nights I am in there very late and wish some comfort. Mrs Reynolds is well aware of the items, and she has instructed the maids to leave the items there. And, to be honest, I have taken tea in the library.”
Everyone laughed. Darcy offered his sister an arm and his other arm was offered to Elizabeth. With the two holding on to him, he guided them to the pianoforte. “Now that we are all here, I insist on being tortured no longer. I wish to hear my song.”
Georgiana and Elizabeth sat down on the bench, side by side. They began to play the song, with Elizabeth adding her beautiful soprano voice. Darcy was hypnotized by the sight and sound. The two most important ladies in his life, side by side, delighted to be in each other’s company, and performing amazingly. Elizabeth’s voice was soothing and reached the depths of his soul. He knew he could be a very happy man having such pleasure for the rest of his life.
When the song ended, Elizabeth bid her family and friends good night and made her way to her bedchambers. She claimed she was fatigued, but her family and close friends knew she was nervous for the following day.
~~ ** ~~
Awakened after only a few hours of sleep, Elizabeth prepared for the day. It had been a long and restless night, tossing and turning in the bed, and she knew she would not be able to sleep any longer. Her stomach felt as if it were tied in knots. This would be the day she met her true mother’s family. This would be the day she would meet people who had loved her without even knowing her.
Elizabeth collected her usual treats to take on her morning walk. Like clockwork, Sadie joined Elizabeth as she neared their log. “Good morning, Miss Sadie. I hope you were able to sleep more than I did last night. My aunt is coming to meet me for the first time and I will look horrible from lack of sleep.”
Taking her seat, she pulled her treats from her pocket. She shared a muffin with Sadie, and some of the ham which the cook had prepared early, knowing of Elizabeth’s companion in the early mornings. Sadie smelled the meat and her tongue was dripping with saliva.
The pair enjoyed their repast before Elizabeth began speaking. It was of great pleasure to Elizabeth to be able to talk freely to the dog, and the loving attention Sadie gave her in return was of great comfort to the confused young lady.
“I have so many questions I wish to ask my aunt, so much I wish to know of my mother. All I know is what my father has told me. My mother was the love of his life. He was devastated when he was forced to give her up, and, he told me, he nearly died when he learned of her death. Papa said that the only thing that kept him going was having myself and Jane to love. He may not care for Fanny, but Jane has always been a blessing. As Papa has claimed, Jane was the best part of Fanny.” Elizabeth reached her hand over and scratched Sadie behind the ears, one of the dog’s favorite rewards. Sadie turned her face and licked Elizabeth’s hand in return.
“It is too bad you do not come to the house with me. I am certain Mr Darcy would allow you to come inside. Having you at my side would be a comfort to soothe my nerves.” Elizabeth continued to pet the dog, leaning over from time to time to place a kiss on her companion’s head.
The two remained at the log for another half hour, enjoying the peacefulness and each other. Finally, Elizabeth knew she should return to the house. Sadie usually walked to the outer area of the gardens, then returning to wherever it was she spent the rest of her time. No one was certain where the dog lived, or how the dog fed itself, as no one, other than Elizabeth, fed Sadie. It was a complete mystery to everyone at Pemberley.
When they reached the usual location where they would part ways, Elizabeth knelt down and embraced her beloved friend and placed a kiss on her face. “Thank you Sadie. Wish me luck.”
Elizabeth stood and began to walk towards the house. She had taken quite a few steps when she realized that Sadie was still at her side. “What are you doing, Sadie? You have never come this close to the house.”
Expecting the dog to turn and leave anytime, Elizabeth continued to walk to the house. Every once and a while, she would look down and find Sadie was still with her. It was highly unusual. But it was confusing when Elizabeth reached the house and found Sadie appeared not ready to leave. Opening the door, Elizabeth stepped to the side to see if the dog would enter the house. Without a moment’s hesitation, Sadie marched inside as if she had always lived there. The sight brought laughter from Elizabeth.
Darcy was just coming from his study as Elizabeth entered the house, with Sadie at her side. Hearing the laughter from Elizabeth made Darcy smile. “So, what have we here? Sadie has deemed the house a safe place to be?”
“I was telling her how much I wished she was willing to remain with me today, as I am quite nervous at meeting my aunt. You can imagine my astonishment when Sadie took my words to heart and came to be with me. Do you mind? I can take her outside, if you do not approve.”
“Miss Elizabeth, I am pleased to have Sadie join us. She is a member of the Pemberley family, and a very dear friend of yours, so she will always be welcome in my home.”
Elizabeth smiled. “I am grateful, Mr Darcy. I promise, she will behave herself and not be a bother.”
“I will inform Mrs Reynolds of our newest guest. And we will make certain that some of the bones and scrapes, which are fed to the hunting dogs, are saved for Miss Sadie.”
“You are extremely generous, Mr Darcy. I know Sadie is grateful for your kindness as well. Are you not, Sadie?”
Sadie walked over to Darcy, sniffing him, before she rubbed up against his leg. Darcy was pleased to see the acceptance Sadie had given him. “Shall we see you at breakfast, Miss Elizabeth?”
“Yes, and I will inform Sadie that she should refrain from joining us in the dining areas. She will learn where she is allowed and where she is not to enter.”
“It is not a problem, Miss Elizabeth. If you will excuse me, I will find Mrs Reynolds. I will see you in the breakfast room.”
~~ ** ~~
By late afternoon, Elizabeth’s nerves were nearly frayed. Her aunt and cousins were to arrive anytime, and she both longed for their arrival and feared it. What if they do not like me? What if they are disappointed in me? Will they regret coming here? So many questions continued to run through her mind.
The Bingleys were still in the house, much to everyone’s disappointment. Hurst was adamant that they leave immediately, but, as he was demanding Caroline move so her maid could pack her belongings, Hurst tripped and fell over one of Caroline’s traveling bags. He required a physician to tend him and was diagnosed with a broken leg. The poor man was furious with his wife’s sister, and would have strangled her if she had come near him.
Though Hurst insisted on Bingley taking his sisters to Town and leaving the ladies there at Hurst’s townhouse, Bingley was reluctant to leave Pemberley, and Miss Jane Bennet.
None of the Bingleys’ party were aware of the identities of Darcy’s soon to arrive guests. Darcy had insisted that Bingley keep his sisters away from the drawing room on the first floor, as he did not wish for Elizabeth to have to contend with Caroline Bingley’s sharp tongue. Nor did he wish to subject members of the royal family of Brunswick to the likes of Miss Bingley. Bingley promised to keep his sisters with him and away from the rest of the party.
The carriages arrived, bringing Margaret Walker and her children, Rosemary and Robert Jr, who was known to his family as Robbie. The guests were met at the front steps by Darcy, and he personally escorted them into the drawing room.
Elizabeth was standing beside her father, who had his arm wrapped around her waist. Mr Bennet had met Margaret twice before, and it was simple enough to recognize her, as she had not changed much in appearance. For Margaret, the moment her eyes took in the vision of her niece, she gasped. “You are the image of your mother. Oh, my dear sister’s very likeness.”
Mr Bennet smiled. He had thought the same as he watched Elizabeth grow. Seeing Constance in Elizabeth’s features had kept her alive for him, and kept his love for her alive. “I have had the same thoughts over the years.” He reached out his other hand to Margaret. “You have not aged at all. Have you found the fountain of youth in Scotland?”
Margaret smiled. “Thomas, it is a pleasure to finally meet with you again. Thank you for sending the invitation for us to come here.”
“The invitation was actually from our host. Mr Darcy has been gracious enough to welcome all of us to be guests here. With all that has happened, we felt it was better for Lizzy to have some time here, away from Longbourn.”
“We can discuss all of that later. First, I wish for my children to finally meet their cousin. Rose, Robbie, this is my dearest sister’s only child. Miss Elizabeth, these are my two youngest children, Rosemary and Robert Jr. My older children are living in other areas of the world, including one daughter who is living in the Americas. She has yet to receive the letter I sent to her, but I know she will be excited.”
“If it is acceptable to you, I would prefer if you called me Elizabeth or Lizzy. I do not wish to be formal with you.” Elizabeth stated softly, hoping she did not offend her relations. She was uncertain if it was acceptable to refer to her aunt in such a manner.
“And you must refer to me as Aunt Maggie. Oh, how I have longed to hear you call me Aunt Maggie. Your mother teased me when we were young. Our brother was not as close to us, and I always told him that his children would have to call me Aunt Margaret, but Constance’s children were to call me by the informal term.”
Rosemary chuckled. “Fortunately, our Uncle Albert has never had children, so we need not fear for any hurt feelings. It is a pleasure to finally meet you. May I call you Lizzy?”
“Yes you may. And what would you prefer to be called?” Elizabeth asked.
“My family call me Rose. Lizzy, I must say, you are as beautiful as your mother’s portrait. I have seen the image of your mother all of my life.”
“Rose, I was planning to surprise Lizzy.” Margaret stated as she swatted her daughter’s arm. “My parents had portraits made of all my siblings and myself every five years. When they died, our cousin, Charles, saw that the portraits were continued. After Constance died, I kept her portraits with me, in the hopes of one day delivering them to you. I had duplicates painted of them, so I would have them in my study in my home.”
Elizabeth’s eyes swam with unshed tears. She would be able to see likenesses of her mother, from her childhood until she was a young adult. “I look forward to seeing them.”
Margaret smiled. “I have other items which were your mother’s as well. I see that you wear her cross. It was her favorite since Charles gave it to her. Our grandfather had it made for our grandmother, but he died before Father’s birth, and she died during the birth. There were several pieces of jewelry that Grandfather had ordered made for Grandmother. Besides the cross, there was a pearl necklace with matching ear bobs, and a sapphire necklace with a matching bracelet. I have the pearl set, and Albert has the sapphire. There is a pair of garnet ear bobs to go with your cross, I brought them with me.”
Just then, the door to the drawing room opened and Caroline Bingley walked into the room as if she was the Mistress of the house. “I was unaware of more guests arriving, Mr Darcy. You should have informed me.”
“Miss Bingley, as you are also a guest, I felt no reason to inform you of private matters in my household.”
“How private could the matter be if the Bennets and their … relation are here? Shall I ask Mrs Reynolds to send refreshments?” Caroline asked as she stepped towards the pull cord.
Darcy walked quickly across the room and stopped between Caroline and the cord. “Miss Bingley, I must ask you to leave the room immediately. This is a private matter, and has nothing to do with you. My sister is acting as hostess and has already spoken to Mrs Reynolds.”
An out of breath Bingley quickly entered the room. Darcy’s eyes rolled up, as the situation was becoming worse by the moment. Bingley approached his sister and took her by the arm. “Caroline, I told you not to leave my side. We were to keep Hurst’s company this afternoon, as he needs a distraction from his pain. As it was your bag which caused his accident, it would be fair for you to aid in cheering him.”
“Charles, there is no need for me to be there. Louisa and you are more than capable of tending to his needs and comfort. I was just about to take refreshments with Mr Darcy and his guests.” Caroline motioned towards the newcomers in the room.
Bingley leaned his head towards his sister, speaking to her in a harsh whisper. “Caroline, you will accompany me upstairs this moment. I will not tolerate any further refusal.”
Ignoring her brother, Caroline walked over to a chair near the sofa where Margaret was sitting. Elizabeth watched with a chuckle, finding the situation to be quite humorous. Seeing a perfect opportunity to put Caroline Bingley in her place, Elizabeth stood. “Miss Bingley, I wish introduce you to Mrs Margaret Walker and her children, Rosemary and Robert Jr. Margaret, Rose, Robbie, this is Miss Caroline Bingley, sister of Mr Darcy’s dearest friend, Mr Charles Bingley.”
Caroline was surprised at Elizabeth making the introductions, but she tried to hide her contempt. “It is a pleasure to meet you. Are you friends of Mr Darcy’s?”
“Actually, no.” Margaret stated flatly. “We are here to see my niece, Elizabeth. She is the daughter of my late sister, Lady Constance of Brunswick. I rarely use my title these days, but it is Lady Margaret. Our grandfather was brother to Charles I, the late Duke of Brunswick, making our great grandfather, Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick.”
Caroline nearly fainted. “But it is not possible for Miss Elizabeth to be your niece. Her mother is Mrs Bennet. You are not telling me that such a foolish woman as she is royalty.”
“No, indeed she is not my sister. And Fanny Bennet is not Elizabeth’s natural mother. Mr Bennet and my sister were waiting for my brother to come to England, so Mr Bennet could properly ask for my sister’s hand in marriage. Before my brother arrived, Fanny Bennet purposely compromised Mr Bennet, forcing him into marriage. As my sister’s engagement was of such a nature that only a few knew of it, Mr Bennet was not in a position to announce it without approval of my brother or my cousin, Charles II, the current Duke of Brunswick. My niece should be referred to as Lady Elizabeth, as she has the blood line of Ferdinand and Antoinette.”
“And Miss Elizabeth is the natural child of Mr Bennet, with your sister?” Caroline asked, and everyone in the room could see the look in her eyes. Caroline looked as if she were a cat, licking cream from her fur. “I will be sure to keep your confidence, as I am certain you will not wish for anyone to know of this matter. It would be embarrassing to everyone, especially to the royal family, to have such a birth known.”
Margaret had dealt with plenty of people, the likes of Caroline Bingley. “Oh, that is not necessary. As a matter of fact, my cousin, Princess Augusta, has written a formal announcement which will be published in the papers next week. We welcome Lady Elizabeth into the family with open arms and are pleased to have her with us.”
Elizabeth reached out her hand and took hold of her aunt’s hand. “Thank you, Aunt Maggie. I am grateful for the acceptance you have given me.”
“But…but…it would be deemed disgraceful to acknowledge such a relation.” Caroline was flustered.
“For the likes of you, perhaps. But there are many of our station of life who accept such children as a fact of life. I would hazard to guess that you are from new money. Am I correct?”
Caroline blushed vividly. “My brother is in the process of purchasing an estate. Mr Darcy has been assisting him in finding the perfect place. And my brother is practically engaged to Miss Darcy.”
“Caroline, I am not planning to marry Miss Darcy.” Bingley declared. “You must keep such statements to yourself, as they are not true. Miss Darcy is like a much younger sister to me.”
“But it would be a brilliant match for you, Charles. And the connections we would have from such a marriage would be just what our parents had hoped for us.”
Bingley took hold of his sister’s arm and roughly pulled her from the chair. “Forgive us, ladies and gentlemen. I believe my sister is required upstairs.” He marched to the door of the drawing room, dragging a protesting Caroline behind him.
“My, my, she is quite interesting.” Margaret stated with a chuckle. “Is such entertainment readily available here at Pemberley?”
“The Bingley party only arrived yesterday, unannounced. They were supposed to leave this morning, but one of their party fell and broke his leg.” Darcy explained. “I beg your forgiveness for Miss Bingley’s rude behavior. She has high expectations of being a part of the highest circle of society.”
Margaret burst into peals of laughter. “I have to applaud her goal, though she does not stand a chance. She has no notion as to what the ladies of the first circle can be like. They would eat her for lunch without a second thought.”
Elizabeth smiled. “She has always thought herself above our family. Only last night, Miss Bingley was appalled at my aunt, Mrs Gardiner, being here when she is the wife of a tradesman.”
“I may be married to a tradesman, but I have far better manners than the likes of Miss Bingley.” Mrs Gardiner stated with a smile. “I wonder what she would say if she knew my father had been a tradesman in Lambton, which is the village near here. My father knew both Mr Darcy and his father.”