Sorry for the delay in starting a new story. Hope you like this new tale.
“Elizabeth Bennet, come into the house immediately.” Her mother cried out from the rear entrance door of their home. “I insist on speaking with you this very moment.”
The young lady hung her head and sighed. She knew that the tone of her mother’s voice bespoke of a coming chastisement. No matter how hard Elizabeth tried to behave as her mother insisted, the young lady was always found lacking in her mother’s eyes. “Yes, Mamma.”
Entering the house, Elizabeth followed her mother into her father’s study. Once inside they were inside the room, Mrs Bennet closed the door behind them. “Mr Bennet, your daughter is at it again.”
Mr Bennet looked up from the book he was reading. “And just what is Lizzy up to again? Walking in the morning? Reading a book? Stitching a new handkerchief? Just what has you worked into such a froth?”
“She was using her powers. How many times have we spoken to her of keeping her powers under control? If anyone discovers what she can do, there will be trouble.”
Mr Bennet looked between his wife and his second eldest daughter. “Lizzy, what did you do this time?”
Mrs Bennet refused to wait for her daughter’s response. “She has been using stones to amplify her abilities, and I saw her start a fire with nothing but her bare hand. Mrs Hill discovered the pile of stones Elizabeth thought she had hidden from all of us. We know Elizabeth uses the stones to amplify her magic, which is why we demanded she refrain from keeping stones.”
“But it is unfair, Mamma. I become so melancholy when you take all my stones from me. They are beneficial to my health, which is why I hid them in my room.”
“You know we cannot have anyone know about your magic. Your father and I have tried to keep it a secret, for your own good. Mrs Hill has known all along, as she worked for your father’s family since she was a young maid. She knew about your grandfather’s and your father’s magic abilities. Had it been one of the other maids, or anyone else, all our efforts would have been for naught.” Mrs Bennet cried. “Think of what it would do to your sisters. They would never be able to find proper husbands if they worried about having such oddities in their family. You would be treated as a freak in one of the traveling carnivals. Is that what you wish?”
“Mamma, please, allow me to retain my stones. I will find a better hiding place for them. If they are gone, it will be devastating to me.” Elizabeth pleaded. “Please, Papa, convince her to allow me this concession.”
Mr Bennet knew how difficult it was for his favorite daughter. Having grown up with magical abilities of his own, he was well aware of the need for secrecy. “Fanny, it is difficult for you to understand what Lizzy suffers when she does not have her stones. The stones not only amplify her abilities, but they allow her control over her emotions. The galena she usually carries with her brings her a calm disposition. I have felt the same when I hold galena. It banishes melancholy for ones such as us. The dolomite I gave her has restorative and encouraging effects on the emotions. It helps to stabilize emotions, which helps to keep Lizzy from inadvertently creating magic due to loss of control.”
“I am aware that I am non-magical, Thomas, but I caught her performing magic. If the stones encourage her to go against what she has been instructed, then they have to go.”
“Lizzy, you know better than use your gifts in the open, where anyone could have seen you. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Elizabeth looked down at her hands. She knew she had behaved poorly, but she had been chilled and wished for some warmth. “I was reading, Papa, and was not ready to come inside. It was wrong of me to start the fire, especially using magic, and I should have returned inside. In the future, I will remember and behave appropriately.”
“Very well, Lizzy. Fanny, please return Lizzy’s stones to her. We would not wish for our daughter to endure the difficulties which could come from her not having them. I was planning to give this to Lizzy on her birthday, but, as it is tomorrow, I will give it to her in advance.” Mr Bennet stood up and walked to a nearby cupboard. He opened the door of the cupboard, pulling out a large parcel, wrapped in brown paper. Placing the item on the desk, Mr Bennet smiled at his daughter. “This is your birthday gift, Lizzy.”
Elizabeth unwrapped the package to discover a carved wooden box. It had large roses carved in the beautiful wooden lid, and vines wrapping around the sides. On the front of the box was something which would bring comfort to everyone in the room…a lock.
“It is large enough to store your stones, the papers I gave you with instructions, the pieces of wood and the herbs you keep. Make certain you keep all of those items in this box, and the box locked when you are not using the items. And I would prefer that you keep to your bedchambers, with the door locked, when the box is open.” Mr Bennet stated clearly. “Do you understand?”
Tears were welling up in Elizabeth’s eyes. “Oh, yes, Papa. Thank you, thank you so very much. This is a wonderful gift. It is perfect. And I promise to keep my door locked when I open the box.”
“Very well.” Mrs Bennet said as she reached into her pocket, pulling out a cloth bag containing the stones she had taken from her daughter. “Put them in the box, and take them to your bedchambers immediately.”
Elizabeth gave a kiss on the cheek of each of her parents and ran from the room, her treasured stones locked inside the beautiful box she had just been given. Once the sound of her footsteps alerted her parents that she was in her bedchamber, Fanny Bennet took a seat in the chair in front of her husband’s desk.
“Are you still planning to give her the necklace?” Fanny asked.
“Indeed. I believe it is more important now than ever. She is curious and has always had a thirst for knowledge. If not controlled properly, it could lead to danger. As you know, garnets are wonderful for fortifying willpower and aids in the power of resistance. It will keep her from using her powers frivolously. My mother insisted on my keeping my pocket watch which had garnets in the case, when I was Lizzy’s age. I can tell you that it assisted me in making correct decisions, not act on impulsive behavior. Lizzy is stronger than I ever was, and she requires some way to keep from acting on impulse, as she did today.”
“Very good, Thomas. I know you find me a nervous nelly, but I do not wish Lizzy to be harmed. If anyone was to discover the truth, we could all have problems.”
~~ ** ~~
Thomas Bennet came from a long line of magical people. His father’s lineage had more than eight generations of magical beings, mainly the men in the family. Unfortunately, Thomas had no sons. Five daughters were the blessings of the marriage of Thomas and Fanny Bennet. Five daughters, and only one who had ever demonstrated any magical abilities. And Elizabeth’s powers were strong. Thomas knew his own capabilities, and his daughter had been able to reach that level when she was only ten years old. Now, at sixteen, Elizabeth was stronger than Thomas’ father had been.
The Bennet family had been close friends with two other magical families over the years. The first was the Gardiner family, and the other was the Whitaker family. Fanny Bennet had been born Fanny Gardiner, and she had known of magic all of her life. Her brother, Edwin Gardiner, was also able to perform magic, and he was slightly stronger in his abilities than her husband.
Thomas Bennet had met Fanny when they were young, and he had always loved her. Knowing he could be open with her of his secret was a blessing. And Fanny could understand him, due to her own family experiences. Edwin Gardiner knew his niece found comfort from stones, and he spent hours of research in discovering the properties of each type of stone. Collecting what he could, he gave Lizzy many of the stones which made up her secret stash. Mr Bennet was aware of his brother in law’s gifts to Elizabeth, and had kept quiet, as to keep peace between Fanny and her brother.
Of the Bennet daughters, only the eldest, Jane, knew of her sister’s capabilities. Jane and Elizabeth were close, best friends as well as sisters. After Elizabeth, the Bennets had Mary, Katherine (or Kitty, as her family called her), and Lydia. The hope for a son was not fulfilled, but Thomas Bennet decided to enjoy the blessings he was given with his daughters.
The Whitaker family lived in Derbyshire, near the market village of Lambton. They owned the small estate of Thorn Park. It was while Edwin Gardiner was visiting with his friends at Thorn Park, that he met his future wife, Helen Moreland. Helen’s family owned the general store in Lambton, and Edwin fell in love the moment he first saw her. They had been married for nearly ten years, and had three children of their own. Living in London, Mr Gardiner owned an import business, specializing in the best of fabrics, coffees, teas, and spirits. They were preparing to open a bookshop within the next year.
The Gardiners enjoyed having Jane and Elizabeth visit them in Town, and Mr Gardiner was especially kind with Elizabeth, allowing her to speak openly with him of magic. Though Elizabeth and her father were close, she knew that there were areas of magic her father did not understand. Though he was not as strong as Elizabeth was becoming, Mr Gardiner’s abilities were greater than Mr Bennet’s.
Elizabeth was grateful that her aunt had adjusted to being married into a magical family. Mrs Bennet loved all of her daughters, but she did not understand Elizabeth. How could she? She was not magical, so how could she understand what her daughter was struggling with? All the magical people she had ever met were men, so Elizabeth was an oddity. So Mrs Bennet found it difficult to understand her daughter’s needs. But Helen Gardiner found it easier to be flexible. Having learned to accept magic in her husband, and never knowing any other magical beings, it was easier for her to accept the oddity of a magical girl. This gave young Elizabeth Bennet another person to speak openly with.
Elizabeth’s strength in her magic was centered on using the elements. Making a fire from nothing more than some twigs piled together, her hand held over the top of the pile, was only a small wonder she had been able to achieve.
It was well known by the housekeeper, Mrs Hill, that Elizabeth hated waiting for her hair to dry after it had been washed. The girl often said that it was heavy, being that her hair was thick, curly and long. So it did not surprise Mrs Hill when Elizabeth’s hair was always dry moments after it was washed. Elizabeth was able to dry her clothes when she fell into the stream she crossed on one of her daily walks in nature.
The most amazing talent Elizabeth had was her ability to heal. The girl had rarely ever been ill or injured, and when she was, it did not last long. One day, Elizabeth had fallen out of a tree, knocking herself unconscious and breaking her leg. Jane had been with her and ran for help. Mr Bennet brought the girl home and to her bed, crying out for someone to fetch the physician. Elizabeth woke moments after being placed in her bed, and she begged her father for her stones. Mr Bennet brought her the sack of stones from her chest of drawers, and then did as she asked of him in setting the broken bone. After the bone was in place, she took hold of the amethyst and smoky quartz, holding them tightly to her chest, concentrating on severe pain she was suffering. Before the physician arrived, Elizabeth had been able to heal the bone and remove the pain, including the headache from striking her head in the fall.
There had been other times, such as when Jane was ill with a severe fever. Though the physician said there was no hope for the girl, and he highly recommended none of the other Bennet sisters be exposed to Jane’s illness, Elizabeth snuck in her sister’s room. By the following morning, Jane was the picture of health, no fever and no signs that she had even been ill. Mr Bennet had discovered his favorite daughter in her beloved sister’s room, her sack of stones and some herbs in her hand, as Elizabeth laid beside her sister on the bed, both girls asleep.
As Elizabeth aged, the stronger her abilities grew. If she continued to improve, she would be the strongest magical person known to the three families. This had given Thomas Bennet as many hours of concern as it had his wife. It had been difficult to keep such a secret, especially in his own home. His younger sisters were unaware of Elizabeth’s magic. They did not socialize much in the neighborhood, which had caused much discussion of the unsociable Bennet family. Elizabeth had very few friends who lived nearby, only Charlotte Lucas, who lived nearby at her father’s estate of Lucas Lodge. Charlotte was considered odd. She was much older than the Bennet sisters, very plain, and had never been courted. Many people spoke of Charlotte being an old maid, and that the young lady would never find a husband, and they treated her poorly.
Elizabeth felt outraged by the treatment her friend suffered, and she defended Charlotte when some of the young boys in Meryton, the village near the Bennet estate of Longbourn, began to torment Miss Lucas. When they threw stones and sticks at Charlotte, the items appeared to strike the young lady, but bounced back, striking the offensive youths. And miraculously, Charlotte suffered no injuries. After that day, none of the other children wished to have anything to do with either Elizabeth Bennet or Charlotte Lucas.
Mrs Bennet had been protective of her family, and she had always known to keep the secret of her magical family members. Her sister, Mrs Augusta Phillips, was married to the local solicitor in Meryton, who had taken over the practice Fanny’s father had built in his lifetime. This allowed Mrs Bennet a friend whom to speak with, and Mrs Phillips knew everything which was happening in the village. Though Mrs Phillips was one of the best known gossips, when it came to her family members, Mrs Phillips kept her mouth shut.
The younger Bennet daughters were too young to socialize in the neighborhood, and it made life simpler for Mrs Bennet. Had Elizabeth been one of the younger girls, it would have been difficult to hide the family secrets. So Fanny Bennet was grateful for the small miracle of Elizabeth being her second born. But Mrs Bennet realized that as the younger girls grew up, there would be questions. Questions as to why they were not invited to parties and welcomed in the society of the neighborhood.
Most people would not understand why Fanny would choose to marry someone of magical abilities. To choose such a life, of secrets and isolation, constant worry that someone would discover the truth, was foolish. But Fanny loved her husband, and he loved her. It was not a factor in her decision. She had lived her life in a magical family, and thought nothing of marrying a magical man.
Thomas Bennet’s powers were very basic in comparison to his daughter’s. He could start a fire by holding his hand over a pile of coals or wood, light candles, and other minor tasks. But he had known all his life that he was the runt of the litter when it came to magical abilities. He was not jealous, as he had watched his father having to hide his powers and the cost it took on his life. Thomas’ mother had not been from a magical family, and she did not adjust to the truth. To keep his wife happy, Aaron Bennet denied his powers rather than embraced them, which caused him pain. Thomas was certain that the refusal to accept and embrace his powers had led to his father’s death at a young age. When Thomas was twenty two, his father, at age forty five, was suffered a severe attack of apoplexy. Within two days, Aaron had three more attacks, and finally died after much suffering.
After witnessing his father’s struggle, Thomas Bennet determined to warmly accept his magical abilities and never be ashamed of them. He was grateful of Fanny’s acceptance.
“Fanny, I will spend more time with Lizzy. We will spend time in my study, practicing magic, allowing our daughter to learn and hone her skills. But she will also learn how to protect our secret and how to control her powers, rather than allowing them to control her.”
“Very good, Thomas. I do not wish to cause her harm, I only worry that our secret could be discovered. I would not wish to have to leave here, and wish our girls to have a happy life.” Mrs Bennet replied.
“I understand. Lizzy is still quite young, and it is past time I begin to train her properly. As intelligent as she is, I have no doubt she will be quite impressive, once trained.” Mr Bennet smiled at the thought of his daughter.
Mrs Bennet laughed. “Even if she were unable to perform the simplest piece of magic, your love for Lizzy would always make her impressive in your eyes.”
“True, Fanny. Just as you are partial to Lydia. How is our youngest? Is she improving from her trifling cold?”
“Nearly recovered. I believe another day in bed will be all that is needed. She is already rebelling over being forced to remain in bed. In many ways, she is like Lizzy. Both are headstrong and independent.”
This made Mr Bennet chuckle. “Of all our girls, those two are the most alike. Yet, they use those talents in personality in such different ways. Perhaps, while I work with Lizzy, you can take Lydia under your wing and begin instructing her. Her love for designing bonnets is impressive. She might do well with stitch work.”
“I had that same thought. I was also planning to speak with you of hiring masters to work with Mary on her music and Kitty with her art. Did I show you the sketch Kitty did of her kitten? It was precious.”
Mr Bennet shook his head. “I would love to see the sketch. As you can see, I display the flower portrait she did on the wall.” He motioned towards a framed sketch which his daughter had made for him. “I believe it would be appropriate for us to hire masters for the girls. And Jane, how is her talents coming with the herbs. Though she is not magical, her talent with herbs is remarkable. Between making remedies and personal products for bathing, the girl is extremely talented.”
“She was wondering if Edwin had any new herbs arrive from India and China. He promised her that he would send some new herbs with which she had never worked. I was planning to write to my brother to inquire.”
“Good, good. Perhaps I can take Jane and Lizzy to Town soon, to visit Edwin. It has been some time since we have been there. And while in Town, I would be able to hire masters to come for Mary and Kitty.”
~~ ** ~~
The Bennets arrived at Gracechurch Street, located in Cheapside, of London. Edwin had insisted in living near his warehouse, so he would be able to go home to take his midday meal with his wife. He could afford to move his family to a more affluent neighborhood, but he was comfortable where they were.
“Thomas, it is a pleasure to have you and the girls come for a visit. I was just telling Helen that it had been too long since we last saw you.”
“Well, the girls were hoping to raid your warehouse for treasures, and I need to hire some masters for Mary and Kitty. Your sister is taking Lydia in hand and instructing her on more stitching. Mary’s music and Kitty’s art are not areas that Fanny and I can instruct in.”
“I have the perfect art master for Kitty. He is a cousin of Helen’s, and has just recently arrived in Town. I am certain he will be pleased to work with Kitty. Helen, do you have any suggestions for a music master?”
Helen Gardiner had been embracing her nieces and finally turned her attention to her husband. “I can ask Mrs Hansen tomorrow. If anyone will know who to hire, it is Mrs Hansen.”
“Well, Jane, Lizzy, would you like to come with me to the warehouse? I just received a shipment from India which I have yet to go through. We can see what prizes we have.” Mr Gardiner’s eyes sparkled as he spoke.
Both of the girls nodded their heads enthusiastically. “Then, let us be off. Thomas, would you care to join us?”
Mr Bennet agreed, and the group made their way to the warehouse. With the love and support that the Bennet family received from his family and friends, he knew his girls would have a wonderful future. He was pleased to with the lives he could imagine for his daughters.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Five years later.
Elizabeth was pleased to be visiting her aunt and uncle in Town. They had invited her to visit, as Mrs Gardiner had recently been ill, and required assistance with her children. It also meant Elizabeth would be able to visit her uncle’s warehouse, and look through all the treasures he had there.
The door of the Gardiner townhouse opened, and Mrs Gardiner stepped out to welcome her nieces. “I was beginning to worry. I thought you would arrive by noon, as the express stated.”
“Our carriage had some difficulties, and we had to wait for one of the horses to be replaced. It was not a pleasant journey.” Elizabeth said.
“The only positive aspect I can relate on our journey is that the carriage did not overturn. The wheel was damaged, and the horse threw a shoe. We could have been killed, but we are now safe and with our loved ones.” Jane added. Jane always tried to find the best in any circumstance.
“I am grateful for you being unharmed and safe in our home. Come in. I have refreshments waiting for you.” Mrs Gardiner escorted her nieces inside the house.
As the young ladies enjoyed their tea, Mrs Gardiner relayed the latest news to them. “Your uncle has met the Earl of Matlock, Lord Henry Fitzwilliam. He came into the warehouse, looking for something unique to give his wife for her birthday. Lord Matlock learned of your uncle’s warehouse from an acquaintance. Your uncle is becoming well known for his unusual items from all around the world. Well, Lord Matlock found several items he purchased for his wife, and was impressed with fair prices for them. He has brought some of his friends to the warehouse, and has now approached your uncle with a business proposition.”
“My goodness, how wonderful.” Elizabeth declared. “Is Uncle planning on going into business with Lord Matlock?”
“They are discussing it. It would make items from the Orient and India more available, not to mention, from other countries as well. They were even contemplating ships coming Africa, and not with slaves bound to the Americas. We are talking of goods coming from Africa. Can you imagine it?”
“I can imagine the herbs and stones that we have never seen before.” Elizabeth’s eyes glazed over slightly. “Jane, you could expand your list of products.”
Jane smiled. “I would require assistance to make more items. As it is, I am overwhelmed with the demand we have had for bath waters and lotions.”
Mrs Gardiner smiled. “I thought Mary was training to assist you, Jane.”
“She is, but it is taking a lot longer than I thought. She is willing, but does not have the natural talent that Jane does.” Elizabeth stated.
A blush bloomed on Jane’s cheeks. “But Mary is trying her best.”
Elizabeth chuckled. “We brought more soaps, bath waters and lotions for Uncle’s warehouse. His letter to Papa stated everything is selling quickly.”
“It was a blessing for your family that you were able to come to your father’s aid. When drought struck your community, so many were ruined. It was wise of your parents to allow you to aid in this manner.” Mrs Gardiner said.
Elizabeth nodded. “Jane’s products are well liked. And I have been helping her with the distilling and infusion of the herbs. We have some new salve and tinctures for Uncle to sell. One is for cuts and minor burns, one is for rheumatism, and one is for burns. Our apothecary, Mr Jones, approved of the combinations we used in each, and was impressed with the research we did in making them. We are working on one to ease breathing, and one to ease fevers.”
“My goodness, you girls have been quite busy.”
“Thankfully, Uncle has been kind with keeping us supplied with herbs and bottles. Papa is not pleased with having to rely on our business to keep Longbourn afloat, but he has decided not to complain too loudly.”
Two years previous, drought had ruined the crops in surrounding Longbourn. And there had also been damage done to several of the neighboring estates from fires, due to everything being dry and brittle. Longbourn had never been a high yielding estate, but to lose the income for an entire year was devastating to the Bennet family.
Everyone who had tried any of Jane’s products had encouraged the eldest Bennet daughter to go into business. At first, Mr Bennet had argued that it was not fitting for gentlewomen to do business, lowering themselves in the eyes of society to the ranks of tradesmen. Finally, Mr Bennet could see no other way to keep their home and food on the table.
~~ ** ~~
Jane and Elizabeth made their way to their uncle’s warehouse. “There are my girls. I am so pleased to have you here.” Mr Gardiner rose from his desk and walked to his nieces, embracing each of them.
“Uncle Edwin, I am glad we are here. Aunt Helen said you wished for us to visit you.” Elizabeth smiled as she spoke.
“I did, indeed. I know you will be excited to see the new shipments which have arrived. Oh, did you bring any new products with you? Lord Matlock was planning to bring his wife to visit the warehouse when we had new lotions in stock. Evidently, she has been planning to find a new location to purchase her bath scents and lotions.”
“We brought three crates of bottles and jars, Uncle Edwin.” Jane said, showing some pride in her accomplishment. “And Lizzy brought some of her medicinal items. You will be pleased with what we were able to make from the herbs and flowers you sent us.”
“Wonderful. I will send word to Lord Matlock. If someone such as Lady Matlock, who is one of the leading ladies in society, is using your products, we will have all the important people shopping with us. I was thinking of opening a small shop on Bond Street, where we would sell your bath scents and lotions, and perhaps some other items. Lizzy’s medicinal salve and ointments will be wonderful there as well. And in the back of the shop, we could have your preparation room.”
“Papa would never approve of us staying in London, especially to be in trade. It is difficult enough for him to allow us to do what we have.” Elizabeth said.
Mr Gardiner looked sheepish. “Well, I have already spoken with him on the matter. After many long conversations, and the fact that the crops are not yielding as well as would be necessary to bring Longbourn back to where it was, your father has given in to the idea. Your aunt and I have already been looking at some properties, so that we can establish you quickly. We have found three locations we think would suit your needs. Two of them even have housing above the shop, so you could have your own home of sorts.”
Elizabeth and Jane were shocked with their uncle’s words. They never would have believed their father giving in to such an idea, unless the situation at Longbourn was far worse than Mr Bennet had led his daughters to believe. “Is there danger of losing Longbourn?” Elizabeth asked.
“There is, Lizzy. Your father would not have given this venture a second thought if everything was secure at Longbourn. The entire neighborhood is suffering, from what he has said.” Mr Gardiner said, the sadness apparent in his voice.
“Then we will do everything in our power to make certain the family is protected.” Jane said, standing as tall and proud as she could.
“One thing I will say against you girls going into business is this. You were born to the gentry. By taking this step, you will lower yourselves to trade. In society, this will be vast step backwards. It will also lower your chances of a good match. Men in society will look down upon you for working, especially in trade. Are you prepared for such circumstances?”
Elizabeth nodded her head. “I have never believed I would marry well, if I married at all. If it means protecting our parents and sisters, I will gladly take this step. But Jane, you should not. You have more potential to make an excellent match, and I would not wish for you to throw such a chance away.”
“But Lizzy, you could not do this alone. I need to do my share to protect the family. If my working spares our younger sisters, and our parents are secure in our home, then it is worth whatever society thinks of us.” Jane said.
The sisters stared into the others’ eyes. Finally, the decision was clear. Elizabeth smiled as she turned to her uncle. “Let us see the shops you thought would be perfect for our adventure.”
~~ ** ~~
The sisters decided on the third vacant shop they visited. The rent was lower than the others, due to the need to make repairs and it had been empty for nearly a year. This was not a problem for Elizabeth, though she had to be discrete. Using her magic, Elizabeth could move dust and dirt easily into a rubbish bin, remove cobwebs and more. It was only when the windows were uncovered that Elizabeth had to refrain from using her magic. Jane stood to the side of the room, watching her sister work with ease, making the task accomplished within moments rather than hours.
Mr Bennet had boxed up the supplies and equipment at Longbourn, sending the crates, along with his daughters’ trunks, to London. As the girls would have to fix their own meals and take care of their home above the shop, Mr Bennet wished to lighten their load. Mrs Hill’s daughter, Hannah, had been looking for work when her employer in Meryton had to let her go. The entire neighborhood had been suffering, and Hannah was in need for employment and a place to live.
The second floor of the shop was incredibly large. There were four bedchambers, a kitchen and dining area, and a small parlor. There was also a room which Elizabeth decided to make her office. She had always been good with math and keeping records, so it became her job to maintain the accounts for the shop. Elizabeth would also be in charge of ordering many of the basic supplies they required, including the bottles and jars they would be filling. Jane would be responsible for choosing the herbs and flowers they would need, as she was particular on making certain they were the quality she required.
Hannah would take care of the cleaning, laundry and preparing meals. The girls were grateful for her help, and they were grateful for her knowledge of the Bennets and their abilities. She had kept the family secret, the same as her parents. This make living at the shop more comfortable, allowing Elizabeth to be a little more relaxed in the second floor of the building.
It took a fortnight for the shop to be ready to open. Between settling in the living quarters, preparing the display area, and setting up the preparation area in the back of the main floor, it was a busy time for the Bennet sisters, even with Elizabeth’s magical talents. Mrs Gardiner came to assist her nieces, bringing fabrics to make drapes for the windows, and make the display area inviting and pleasant.
~~ ** ~~
The opening day was at hand and Mr and Mrs Bennet traveled to Town to celebrate the event with their daughters. They were to stay in the extra bedchamber above the shop, turning down the offer from the Gardiners to stay at their home. Mr Bennet was adamant that he see how his daughters were to live, as they were doing so much to protect his family. He needed to know that they were not suffering in their living environment, and that they were content.
Mr and Mrs Gardiner had informed everyone they knew of the opening of the Bennet Sisters Boutique. Invitations were sent to some of the wealthier clients of Mr Gardiner’s warehouse, including Lord and Lady Matlock. To celebrate their opening day, Elizabeth and Jane had arranged refreshments for their patrons, including tea, lemonade, biscuits and tartlets.
To assist their nieces further, Mr and Mrs Gardiner were on hand when the door of the shop opened. They welcomed the clients and introduced Jane and Elizabeth to those who were familiar to the Gardiners.
When Lord and Lady Matlock arrived, they were treated like royalty. Lady Rebecca Fitzwilliam had used some of the products her husband had brought her from the Gardiner warehouse, fast becoming a fan of the quality of the items. With her, Lady Matlock brought her daughter and niece, wishing to introduce them to the Bennet sisters and their products.
Georgiana Darcy was pleased to be shopping with her aunt, uncle and cousin. She had been staying with Lord and Lady Matlock while her brother was at their family estate of Pemberley. She loved spending time with her relations, but she was much younger than anyone else staying at Matlock House, which caused her to become frustrated at times. Georgiana longed for friends her own age, to the point that she had nearly been convinced into an elopement with a family acquaintance just six months previously. It was only due to her brother, who was also one of her guardians, that she was protected from her own foolishness.
Since the near elopement, there had been a difficulty in speaking openly with her brother or her relations. Georgiana felt the sting of her behavior, and her natural shyness led her to retreat from those who loved her, even when she desperately wished to have someone to speak with. She was only fifteen, but felt like a small child when in the company of her elders.
One of Georgiana’s favorite things was to shop. She loved being able to look at all the wonderful items each store had, not only purchasing items. And her most favorite thing was to purchase gifts for others. Georgiana loved giving presents to the housekeepers at Darcy House, her brother’s townhouse, and at Pemberley. She loved giving gifts to her maid, the butlers, the cooks, and her companion. But most of all, she loved giving gifts to her relations, especially her brother.
When she walked into the Bennet Sisters Boutique, Georgiana’s eyes grew round with delight. She was thrilled with the choice of products available, including items for men. Georgiana knew this was going to be one of her favorite shops to visit.
Then she was introduced to Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. That was the moment when she knew she was going to frequent the shop often. Georgiana instantly took a liking to Elizabeth, who had a kind and friendly nature. There was no falseness to either of the sisters, their kindness was true and warmed the young girl.
To keep close to Elizabeth, Georgiana would ask a multitude of questions on each product. “This is a wonderful shop, Miss Bennet.”
“Please, Miss Darcy, I am not Miss Bennet, as that honor goes to my sister. I am Miss Elizabeth. I am pleased that you like our shop. It is a labor of love, as Jane and I enjoy making the items we sell. The scented soaps, bath waters, and lotions bring such wonderful aromas to our home. And the salves, ointments, and tinctures are to assist people to feel better, which brings joy to us.”
“I cannot wait to give your products as gifts, and enjoy using them myself. You are so knowledgeable about the ingredients. How did you learn how to use them?”
Elizabeth smiled. “My father and I have always had a connection to nature which is unique. I love the way I feel when using nature’s cupboard to bring others pleasure. So my father has always encouraged my reading and learning more. My uncle’s import business has brought me information from all around the world, making it possible to expand my abilities.”
“That is wonderful, Miss Elizabeth. Now, can you tell me more of these products for men? Which would you recommend for my brother?”
This caused Elizabeth to laugh. “Having never met your brother, I would have no way of making such a decision. Can you tell me about him?”
Georgiana described her brother in great detail, including his appearance, his likes, and his activities. Elizabeth made several suggestions, which Georgiana sampled the fragrances. Finally, the young girl made her decisions. An account was set up for the Darcys, and a bill would be sent to Darcy House for the large purchase Georgiana Darcy made. Lady Matlock watched her niece carefully, noting the kindness of Elizabeth Bennet. The interaction between Elizabeth and Georgiana was unique, and warmed Lady Matlock’s heart.
~~ ** ~~
By the end of the first day, the shop was well on its way to becoming a popular business with those of upper society. Having won Lord and Lady Matlock’s endorsement, Mr Gardiner was certain that members of the ton would be frequenting the shop soon.
The shelves had been well stocked for the opening, and by the end of the day, there were many vacant spots to be found. Fortunately, the sisters had made many batches of the most popular items and had crates of product ready to place on the shelves.
The door of the shop was locked at six that evening, and everyone was exhausted from the constant stream of customers who had come that day. Fortunately, Hannah had fixed a fine dinner for everyone to enjoy. After dinner, the Gardiners returned to their home, satisfied their nieces had been successful. The Bennets all retired to their beds early that evening, knowing the following morning would come soon enough.