Chapter 17

No one, outside of a few servants, saw the newlyweds for the next two days.  A message had arrived from Lord Matlock, informing them that Lady Catherine had been transported to Kent and had been admitted to a private asylum there.  He told the Darcys of Lady Catherine’s ranting and raving of Elizabeth being an evil witch who had cast spells on everyone.  This brought a smile to Darcy’s lips, as he knew that he was extremely pleased with the “spell” his wife had cast upon his heart.

In the message, it spoke of Wickham being tended by the physician.  The constable had taken the statements of the men who had rescued the Darcys, and would wait for the newlyweds to emerge from their seclusion before taking their statements.  The constable saw no need to interrupt the couple, as it was clear that Wickham was going nowhere anytime soon.

Five days after the wedding of Darcy and Elizabeth, a message arrived at Darcy House, announcing the death of George Wickham.  The swelling to his manhood had developed gangrene, and the treatment the physician tried weas unable to stop the infection that rapidly spread through his body.

At first, Elizabeth felt the weight of Wickham’s death upon her shoulders.  Only after her husband spoke to her, reminding her the threats to her own life at the hands of Wickham, and of all the people who had endured horrible situations in their family due to Wickham’s mistreatment, did Elizabeth accept that Wickham’s death was not her fault.  The man had brought his own demise upon himself.

Lord Matlock also stated that Wickham’s body was turned over to the university, from which medical students could learn.  Finally, Wickham would be of use to others.  Darcy was pleased to know that something good would come of his father’s godson.  “It is sad that they cannot look into his mind, learn what caused him to be as he was.  I wish we knew why he turned out the way he had.”

~~ ** ~~

As life began to settle down at Darcy House, Jane was enjoying the visits of Charles Bingley.

She had moved back to the apartment above the Boutique, and the shop was constantly busy.  Mary had moved with her sister, assisting in the shop, handling customers so that Jane would have more time to make her products.  Kitty spent time with her sisters as well, learning from Jane and assisting with the preparations.  Hannah continued to provide her delicious treats, and the plans for the opening of extension to the building were well underway.

Mr Bingley visited the shop daily, claiming the desire to oversee the work being done and his desire for the baked goods that Hannah made.  He spent many hours at the shop, and he even became so knowledgeable with the products, he could answer questions the customers had.

Another regular visitor to the shop was the former Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, having resigned his commission a week after the Darcy wedding.  He paid regular visits to see Mary, and was soon taken with the young lady.  The added bonus to a relationship with the Bennet family’s middle daughter was that he did not have to explain to her of the world of magical people, and pray that she would be accepting of the situation.  No, Mary was comfortable with the world of magic, especially when she was allowed to witness Richard performing his deflection of objects.  The first time he suggested that she throw a knife at him, Mary was petrified.  But then she saw his ability to push the object in a different path, she did not fear harming him.

“How did you become injured in battle if you are so good at deflecting potential harm?” She asked one day when they went for a walk in a nearby park.

“I have to be able to see what needs to be deflected.  When anything comes from the side or behind, I cannot see it, so I cannot deflect it.  And I had been struck over the head, so I could not concentrate or even know what was going on.”

“What are your plans now? Have you decided what you wish to do with your life, now that you are no longer to place yourself in grave danger for the army?” Mary asked.  She had grown to care for the man quickly, finding him all that a young man should be.

“I have inherited a small estate.  My mother’s uncle left it to me.  Between what income it brings and the interest from the savings I have built up over the years, I believe I can support a wife and family comfortably.”

“And where is your estate?” Mary asked, praying that it was not far from Town.

“In Derbyshire, near Lambton.  It is called Waldon Park.  I plan to journey there next week to take a look at the house.  My mother said that it has not been lived in for some time, so it will need repairs.  I wish to see the work started, for I wish to begin living my life before the year’s end.”

Mary was disappointed to learn of his plans to leave Town.  Seeing Mary’s radical change in mood, Richard felt a surge of pleasure.  Could this sadness be due to her not wishing me to leave?  Could she wish to further our relationship?

“Miss Mary, I was wondering, when I return from Leicestershire, would you allow me to court you?”

Mary blushed vividly.  She had always been thought to be the plain daughter, the one who would most likely end up a spinster.  To know that this gentleman cared for her, and he wished to court her.  “Are you certain you wish to do such a thing, Mr Fitzwilliam?  I am not Lizzy or Jane, I am the daughter that is not attractive or vivacious.”

Richard took Mary’s hand in his, turning her to face him.  “Miss Mary, I have lived with all the elegance of the ton and found it lacking.  All of the frippery and splendor of wealth does nothing but disguise the ugliness underneath.  I have seen all the so-called beauties of wealth and titles, and believe me, there are none as beautiful and kind as you.  I will grant you that your beauty is different from your sister, Jane.  But I do not find her appearance to be as pleasing to me.  Your beauty is warm and comforting to me, with your tenderness, your intelligence, your loving heart, all combined, to make you the most beautiful lady of my acquaintance.  You may be more reserved than your sister Elizabeth, but you are perfect in my opinion.  Part of me wonders how my taciturn cousin is going to survive such a lively and outspoken young lady as his wife.  Please, Mary, allow me the chance to prove to you that I am sincere.”

Tears were threatening to overflow from her eyes as she looked into Richard’s eyes.  She could see the truth in his words, the love that he held for her.  It was clear that he meant every word.  Unable to find her words, Mary nodded her head.  That simple nod spoke volumes to Richard, as he lifted her hand to his lips to place a gentle kiss on it.  “Thank you, my dearest Mary.  You will not regret your decision, I promise you.  With your permission, I will speak to your father later today.”

“Y…yes, R…Richard.” She said.  Hearing his name come from her lips was like music to his heart.  He fought hard against his desire to pull her in his arms and kiss her tempting lips.

Placing her hand back on his arm, they began to walk again, only this time, there was a distinct spring in Richard’s step.

~~ ** ~~

Arriving back at the Boutique, Mary had a difficult time keeping the smile from her face.  She knew her sisters would be able to understand that something monumental had happened during her walk with Richard, and she wished to keep the truth until after he had spoken with her father.  But it was not to be.  The joy that radiated from both Mary and Richard was obvious to everyone, and they were soon peppered with questions from Jane, Kitty and Bingley.

When the truth came out, Bingley looked lost.  He had met the Bennet family first, yet now his best friend was married to Elizabeth and Richard had been granted permission from Mary to court her.  What am I waiting for?  Why have I not asked Miss Bennet for a courtship?  Is it due to my reluctance of introducing her to my sister?  Why am I allowing Caroline such control over my life?  Or is it that I am afraid of Miss Bennet’s fleeing from me after she meets Caroline?  Good God, I must make a decision.  I cannot tolerate this situation any longer.  I must make a complete break with Caroline.  That is all there is to it.

“Forgive me, Miss Bennet, but I remembered a task I must handle immediately.  Please forgive me.  I will return tomorrow, if that is agreeable with you.”

“Why, yes, Mr Bingley, that would be welcomed.  I pray that your task is not an unpleasant one, for you look as if you are unhappy.” Jane replied, concerned for the demeanor of her suitor.

“All is well, Miss Bennet.  All is well.  It is an unfortunate, though necessary task, I am required to perform.  I will see you tomorrow.” Bingley said, before he turned and left the shop.

Richard was surprised by Bingley’s sudden departure.  Looking at Jane, he could see she was upset.  “Miss Bennet, are you well?  Did Mr Bingley cause you some discomfort?”

“No, Col…Mr Fitzwilliam.  I was just wondering why Mr Bingley seemed reluctant to have me meet any of his family.  I believe he has sisters, but he always seems to change the subject when they are mentioned.”

“His reluctance would be his not wishing to expose you to his younger sister, Miss Bingley.  Mrs Louisa Hurst is a fairly tolerable lady, but Miss Caroline Bingley is opposite of her brother.  She is a social climber, wishing to marry for wealth and status.  She has long desired to marry my cousin, desired becoming Mrs Darcy and all it would bring to her.  It is my belief that Bingley does not wish for his sister’s behavior to prejudice you against him.”

“I would never base my opinion of him on his sister’s behavior. She could not be so bad, as you have described.  Surely she wishes for a comfortable home and to be cared for, as we all do.”  Jane replied.

“Miss Bennet, you are far too kind.  I have met Miss Bingley.  Please believe me when I say that she is like many of the ton.  Now, allow me to check on the progress being made by the workers.” Richard gave Mary a loving gaze before he stepped outside to speak with the foreman of the workers.

~~ ** ~~

Caroline Bingley had been furious when she learned of Fitzwilliam Darcy marrying Elizabeth Bennet.  So furious, that she had a tantrum in her rooms, throwing many objects to their shattering demise.  He was supposed to marry me.  What was my brother thinking, not promoting me to his friend as a most suitable wife?  I went to the proper schools, have the appropriate skills that a young lady should have, and would be the perfect hostess for Mr Darcy.  But, instead, he goes and marries some nobody.  Some chit from the estate which Charles has purchased.  What is the world coming to when the likes of some country nobody can become Mrs Darcy of Pemberley?  This is not to be born.

Caroline sent her maid to begin packing her belongings.  When her sister knocked on the door of her apartment, Caroline called for Louisa to enter.

“Caroline, what is going on?  Why is your maid packing?”

“I am for London, Louisa.  I will not remain here any longer.  I will go to your husband’s townhouse and deal with the interloper who has forced herself upon my future husband.”

Mrs Hurst was not certain what her sister was speaking of.  “Your future husband?  I was unaware that you had received any offer.  Of whom do you speak?”

“You very well know that I am speaking of Mr Darcy.  It was understood that he would marry me, as I am the perfect woman to be his wife.”

“But…but…Mr Darcy is married.  You can do nothing to change that.”

Caroline gave her sister a wicked grin.  “You watch me.  I will not allow some chit from the country to take my place.  Mr Darcy was tempted by the flesh, I am sure, but he will realize his mistake soon enough.  I will make him see the error of his ways and he will come crawling on his knees to beg me to take him.  Of course I will make him grovel for a short time before I accept him.  And it will cost him dearly, as I will insist on redecorating the townhouse and Pemberley’s main house.  And I will require a new wardrobe, for he will wish to see me in the finest silks that money can buy.”

“Sister, please see the truth.  Mr Darcy has never desired a connection with you.  He only tolerated you due to his friendship with our brother.  Mr Darcy has married for love, and there will be no changing that fact.  You had best look elsewhere for your future husband.”

“You are just jealous of me and the sphere I will be joining.  You set your goals too low, settling for Mr Hurst.  I know he is a gentleman, and will inherit his father’s estate, but the estate is of no great importance.  It only brings in three thousand per annum.  You have been living off your dowry and Hurst’s allowance, not to mention what our brother pays for the pair of you.  There will be no free loading when I am Mistress of Pemberley.  You will only be allowed to visit for a fortnight at a time, not months on end.”

“Well, Caroline, how do you plan to journey to Town?” Louisa tried to find some way to discourage her sister’s departure.

“How else, you foolish hen, the carriage of course.” Caroline busied herself making preparations to leave.

“You will not be able to use my husband’s carriage for at least a fortnight.  We have need of it in the coming days, as we have commitments to keep.  If you cannot wait that long, you should either send a message to Charles to send his carriage for you or you should travel by post.”

“BY POST?” Caroline cried out.  “I would never lower myself to travel by post.  You and your husband will just have to cancel your plans so I may use your carriage.”

“No, we will not be able to cancel our plans.  I would recommend you send word to Charles, as he will be the only one able to loan you his carriage.” Louisa knew her brother was in Town, but she had not informed her sister of his location.  Louisa’s thoughts were of the delay that it would cause, with Caroline sending her message to Longbourn, while Louisa sent word to her brother in Town, warning him of their sister’s demands.

~~ ** ~~

The Darcys had finally returned to the world outside their home.  Georgiana returned to Darcy House after giving her brother and his wife a fortnight without her, allowing them to have time together.

With their emergence from their seclusion, the couple were inundated with requests for them to attend dinners, balls, and any number of social events.  Fortunately, society was accustomed to the taciturn Darcy who despised parties, and though the couple were sought after to attend, no one was shocked to receive word that the newlyweds declined the invitation.

There was one event which they could not decline, and that was the ball that Lady Matlock held in honor of their marriage.    With a pout on his lips, Darcy agreed that his wife would require a new gown made for the ball.  He did not wish to be separated from her for as long as it would take to order said gown.

“Then you should come with me.” Elizabeth’s eyes sparkled as she teased her husband.  “I would love to have your input on how my gown should look.”

“It had best not have small buttons, or it will be ripped to rags if it is difficult to remove.  And I do not wish for other men to know how ravishing you truly are.  So it should have a high collar.  Truly, Lizzy, one of your old gowns is good enough.  I do not want the other men to have thoughts of your tempting figure.”

“William, let the others know what a fortunate man you are.  They may get to see the pretty packaging, you are the only one who is allowed to unwrap the package and enjoy the prize inside.”

Such words were only to intensify his desire to take his wife back to their chambers, where it was more than two hours before she was able to take her leave of the house.  And as she departed the house, her husband was by her side.

~~ ** ~~

Setting the letter he had just received from his eldest sister, Bingley groaned.  He was frustrated with Caroline’s behavior, her insistence that she would be Mrs Darcy, and her refusal to accept Darcy’s decision to marry Elizabeth.

“Perhaps I should speak to Darcy, hear his view on what I should do.  I need advice, and he knows my sister well enough to be able to give judgment.  I must work quickly, before Caroline finds a way to arrive here.”  Bingley stepped to the sideboard to pour himself a glass of port.  After draining the glass, he called for his coat and hat, so that he might make his way to Darcy House.  He decided to walk the two blocks rather than order the carriage, feeling the walk would do him some good.

Bingley arrived just as the Darcys had returned home from the modiste. “Bingley, what a delight to have you visit.  How have you been?” Darcy asked.  It was clear that he had enjoyed his time spent with his wife.

“I hate to come to you for aid, but it seems that I am in desperate need at the moment.”

Darcy looked down at his wife, then glanced back up to his friend.  “Should I guess or do we both know what this is about?”

“Unfortunately, I am certain that you know what it is about.  I received a letter from Louisa.”

Elizabeth looked between the two men.  “That is your elder sister, is it not?”

Bingley nodded his head.   Elizabeth continued.  “Would you like a lady’s view on the situation?  I am more than willing to assist if I can.”

Darcy’s brow arched at the suggestion.  “It might be worth the time to tell my wife about your younger sister and her misguided beliefs.  Lizzy is a wise lady, and she may be able to figure out something of which we would never have thought.”

The trio made their way into Darcy’s study.  Bingley informed Elizabeth of his sister’s determination to be Mrs Darcy, her social climbing efforts and her decision to come to Town to bring trouble for them.

“My goodness, I knew that my husband was quite the catch, but I did not realize how many wished to snare him.” Elizabeth said with a light chuckle.  “Mr Bingley, are you in charge of Miss Bingley’s funds until she is wed?”

“Yes, I oversee her dowry and the use of the interest.  It has been difficult, as she has always tried to spend more than her allowance.”

“Then it is simple.  There are many of the ton who are in need of the funds that your sister’s dowry would provide.  Some of the men even have titles, which my husband does not hold.  In that way, your sister would be even higher in society than she would as Mrs Darcy.”

“But how do I arrange such in so short a time.  My elder sister is hoping to keep Caroline waylaid for a fortnight.  We can expect that Caroline will make haste to come here as quickly as possible.”

“William, do you know anyone who would be interested in such a situation?” Elizabeth asked her husband.

Darcy sat in his chair for a few moments, then began to search through the pile of correspondence which he had been sorting through just the day before.  Finally finding the letter he was searching for, a grin came over his face, showing the dimples that very few knew he had.

“I have the perfect solution to our problem.”

~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~

Chapter 18

Lord Timmons arrived at Darcy House the following day, having received a message from his university friend.  He was quickly shown to Darcy’s study.

“Darce, it is good to hear from you.  I was surprised, as I would have thought you to be on your wedding journey rather than remaining in Town.”

“My wife and I decided to wait before we make our way to Pemberley.  Georgiana will stay in Town with my aunt and uncle for a month, as she is studying with two masters for the time being.”

“Well, what is the reason for your cryptic message this morning?  You stated that you have something to discuss of great import.”

Just then, there was a knock on the door of the study, and Bingley was announced.   “Bingley, it is good to see you again.  Darce did not tell me you would be here.”

“I am the reason our friend asked you to come.” Bingley said, as he shook hands with Timmons.

“Now I am really intrigued.  What is going on?”

“Timmons, I am aware that your estate is in serious financial troubles, due to your elder brother’s behavior before his death.  I have also heard through my aunt that you are looking to marry someone for an infusion of cash to allow you to rebuild the estate.”

“Yes, I am.  Do you have someone in mind for me to marry?  As you know my…preferences, you know that I will not have a love match, such as yourself.”

Darcy was aware that his friend held no interest in the ladies, and only looked for a wife for financial purposes, though he kept Timmons’ secret.  As far as Bingley was concerned, Timmons’ preferences were of the demimonde.  “Yes, I am aware that you have had a mistress for some time now.” Darcy replied, keeping up the pretense.

“My sister, Caroline, has a dowry of twenty five thousand pounds.  I am planning to add another five thousand to it, if you are willing to take her as your wife.”

“Ah, Miss Caroline Bingley.  She is the sister I met when we visited Pemberley the year before we graduated from the university.  Hum… What is wrong with her that you are trying to sell her off?”

“My sister is determined to become a member of the first circles of society.  In her quest, she has fixated on our friend here.  My sister is determined to come to Town to break up Darcy’s marriage.  We were speaking with Mrs Darcy last night, and she suggested that having a title might be more appealing to Caroline, as it would place her higher in status.  She is only wishing for a marriage of convenience, and I am certain that, other than providing you an heir, she will be approving of the standard marriage of society.  She would have no problem with your mistresses, so long as she could parade herself as Lady Timmons, with you at her side for dinners and dances.”

“Quite an interesting notion.” Timmons said, accepting the glass of port which Darcy had poured for him.  “When would you like to meet with your sister to discuss this proposal?”

“We could make the journey to Scarborough immediately.  I can have my carriage readied for tomorrow for us to leave Town.  Or, perhaps you would wish to speak to your solicitors with regards to the settlement.”

“The settlement can be drawn up quickly enough.  Perhaps we could obtain a special license, so we can do away with the reading of the banns and marry as soon as we wish, wherever we wish.” Timmons replied.  “Yes, I believe that if we wait until the day after tomorrow to leave, I would be able to have everything in order.  You are correct, I believe this would be a perfect solution to my situation.”

Bingley was thrilled, as was Darcy.  Both of them prayed that Caroline would be convinced to accept the hand of Lord Timmons, relieving them of having to contend with her further.  “I will speak with my solicitor immediately.  And I will present my sister with the choice of either marrying you, or remaining in Scarborough to live with our aunt for the foreseeable future.  The interest from her dowry would be sufficient enough for her to purchase a moderate home there, as it would be far too small to purchase a decent home in Town.”

Standing, Bingley shook hands with both of the men before taking his leave of them.

“I must thank you, Darce.  Not many would have kept my secret as you have, let alone assist me in a way to cover my true nature.” Timmons said.

“As I told you years ago, though I do not approve of such a choice for myself, it is not in my control to make decisions for you.  I still consider you a friend.”

“It has been difficult to keep such a secret, as my choice of lovers could have me hanged.  Now, with a wife, it will not only aid me financially, but publically it will look normal.  As was said, produce an heir, and then have my affairs, as my father and brother did.  Of course, my life will not allow for the destruction of the estate, as theirs did.”

“I wish you a happy life, Timmons.  I pray that all will work out for you and Miss Bingley.”

~~ ** ~~

Bingley and Timmons left Town two days after their meeting with Darcy.  Bingley was overjoyed at the prospects of finally being rid of the burden his sister had been.  The journey was long, taking three long days to accomplish, but both men were prepared to make the most of their time.  They spoke of Bingley’s purchase of Longbourn and lands of Netherfield, the plans that Bingley had for the estate and the recent livestock purchases.

Timmons had been a horse lover since he was a small boy, so discussing horses with Bingley was a great pleasure.  Timmons described two of his favorite horses, one of which he still owned.  He was interested in learning more of raising sheep, and considered purchasing some for his estate as well.

When the carriage arrived at the home of Bingley’s aunt, Caroline was thrilled to see it. That is, she was thrilled until she spied her brother and his friend, who was not Mr Darcy, exit the carriage.

“Charles, you did not need to come.  I have my maid to travel with me.” Caroline said coldly.

“Sister, it is a pleasure to see you looking so well.  I do not know if you remember him or not, but this is my friend, Lord Matthew Timmons.  Lord Timmons, this is my sister, Miss Caroline Bingley.”

Caroline gracefully curtsied to his lordship.  “It is a pleasure to meet you again, Lord Timmons.  Do you have family in the area?”

“No, my mother and sister live in Sussex.” Lord Timmons said with a smile.  “I am here on…business.”

Bingley decided he should take control of the situation from the start.  “Caroline, would you join me in the library.  I wish to discuss something with you and Louisa.” He could see his elder sister was at the front door of the house, waiting to see what was to come.

“Very well, Charles.  But have the carriage ready to leave as soon as my belongings can be packed and loaded.”

“It is too late to begin today.  The sun will be setting within the next hour and you would be forced to stay in an inn.  It is much better to wait.” Charles replied.

Caroline huffed as she made her way back inside the house, stomping as she headed towards the library.  Once the three siblings were inside, Bingley shut the door and placed himself so that he could block her way if Caroline attempted to leave the room.

“Caroline, it is high time you were married.  I had hoped you would find someone on your own, but that has not come to be.  You can no longer continue to expect Louisa and me to allow you to live with us.  To that, I have made arrangements that should have a pleasing end for all of us.”

“What have you done, Charles?  Have you talked Mr Darcy into seeing reason?  Is he to divorce his poor excuse for a wife?”

Bingley shook his head.  “Are you truly so foolish as to believe Darcy would ever offer for you?  You would have to be the last lady in the entire world, and I still do not think that Darcy would consider you to be his wife.”

“Then there is nothing more to discuss.  I am for London as soon as the carriage can be prepared.  It is up to me to secure my future.”

Louisa was frustrated with her sister.  “Caroline, shut your mouth and sit down.  Our brother has something to discuss and you will sit quietly, allowing him to speak.  Do you understand me?”

Her sister’s words and tone were shocking to not only Caroline, but to their brother as well.  Caroline opened her mouth several times, but no words escaped her lips.

Trying hard to keep from chuckling at the situation, Bingley began to explain his plan.  “You see, Caroline, you would be a Countess.  Lady Timmons.  That means you would be part of the peerage, something that you would not have if you were married to someone like Darcy.  Timmons is a good man, and he does not wish to have a love match.  He has his mistress, and you would only be required to endure him for the required heir.  He is rather handsome, so it would not be terrible to be escorted about to all the fashionable gatherings on his arm.  What do you say?  He is prepared to marry you as soon as you wish, as he purchased a special license.”

“So sure that I would agree to your plan, were you.  What if I do not agree to your plan?”  Caroline asked, a cold glint of steel radiating from her eyes.

“Well, then, it is time you made your own life.  If you choose not to marry Lord Timmons, then you will remain here, with our aunt.  You will have only your income to use, which I have frequently added to, but will do no longer.  You will not be allowed to live with myself or with Louisa, as I am sure that she wishes to have more time alone with her own husband.  So, what say you now?”

Caroline stood and began pacing in front of her siblings.  After what seemed to Charles and Louisa to be hours, but was only five minutes, Caroline made her decision.

“Then I am to be Lady Timmons.  And I will flaunt my position in the face of that country nobody, Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Very well, Sister.  Now, when do you wish to wed?  I suggest that the marriage be done here, from our aunt’s home.  It will be simpler, though I know you would prefer to have an elaborate event.  We can have a grand dinner in Town at a later date.”  Bingley said, desperate to have his sister agree.

“I will accept your terms, on one condition.” Caroline stated.

“Yes.”

“You send word to Town to have the wedding announced in the papers immediately.  I wish to have it written for the world to see, Lady Caroline.”

“It will be done.” Bingley stated as he let out a sigh of relief.

~~ ** ~~

Once the wedding was accomplished, Bingley was able to return to his own estate.  He needed to check the progress of the work he had ordered before he left before the Darcy wedding, and make certain that all was being handled to his liking.  He wished to return to Town as soon as possible, and he did not wish to have to return to Longbourn for some time.  He had plans to court Miss Jane Bennet, and he did not wish to be interrupted in his pursuit.

His housekeeper greeted him warmly.  “It is a pleasure to have you returned, Sir.  I hope all is well.”

“Very well, though my stay here will be of short duration.  I plan to return to London soon.”

“We will make sure your stay is pleasant.  Mrs Jones has baked some of her delicious pies just this morning.”

~~ ** ~~

Bingley met with his steward for an update of the progress which was being made.  The news was good, as everything was going as planned.  The sheep were settled in after their being transported to the estate.  The recently purchased horses had arrived, and were being trained by the new stable hand who had been hired specifically to work with the new horses.

After the steward left the study, Bingley stood and moved towards the window.  He smiled as he looked out over the land.  This had been her home, where she was born and raised.  Jane knew this land better than he did, and she spoke with passion whenever the subject of Longbourn had come up.

But would she be pleased to live at the estate as its Mistress?  Would she accept his hand in marriage?  Or would she prefer to remain in Town, and find a husband from amongst the ton?

Only time would tell, and he prayed that she would accept him.  He walked over to the desk and unlocked one of the drawers.  Pulling it open, he reached inside to withdraw a small box.  Inside the box was his grandmother’s rings.  He would take them with him to Town, and hoped that they would soon be on the finger of the next Mrs Bingley.

~~ ** ~~

Bingley’s arrival back in Town was in time for him to attend the ball at Matlock House.  He was granted permission to escort Jane and Mary, along with Richard.  He had also asked for and was pleased to receive Jane’s agreement for the first set of dances.

Arriving at the Boutique, Bingley was intoxicated with the vision of Miss Jane Bennet as soon as she entered the room.

“Miss Bennet, I am pleased to have secured your first set, for I am certain that your dance card will be filled moments after we arrive.  Might I be bold enough to ask for a second set?”

Jane blushed.  She had hoped Bingley would be ready to move their relationship forward, now that his sister had married and was no longer his problem.  His request for a second set at the ball spoke volumes to her.

“Of course, Mr Bingley.  Which set would you prefer?  Mr Fitzwilliam requested the fourth, and my father the third.  And I am sure my uncle will wish for a set, as will my new brother.”

“I would like the supper set, if you approve.” Bingley asked.

“That would be wonderful.  I will reserve the set for you.”

Bingley then turned to Mary.  “And you, Miss Mary, do you have a set that I could secure?”

“I am not sure if I will allow you a set, Bingley.” Richard answered.  “What if I plan to secure all of Miss Mary’s dances?”

“Mr Fitzwilliam, you know very well you cannot claim all of my dances.  Your mother would tan your hide if you were to behave in such a manner.” Mary said as she swatted his arm.

“Very well, Bingley, you may have one set.  I believe Miss Mary is free for the second set.”

Mary laughed at Richard’s possessiveness.  “Indeed, Mr Bingley, I am free for the second.  Would that suit you?”

“Thank you, Miss Mary, it would.”

~~ ** ~~

Matlock House sparkled for the event.  The servants had seen to it that every inch of the townhouse was perfection, reflecting well upon the Master and Mistress of the House. In the receiving line, Lord and Lady Matlock stood at the head, followed by their children, then Darcy and Elizabeth. After the newlyweds, Mr and Mrs Bennet took their place.  Many of the female guests were familiar with Elizabeth and Jane, having visited the Boutique.  Though it was not fashionable to accept someone who was in trade into the higher circles of the ton, with the acceptance of Lord and Lady Matlock, most others silently accepted Elizabeth and her family.  Mr Bennet recognized two of the guests, having known them from his days at the university, which confirmed the fact that he had been of the landed gentry, before selling his estate.

The ball was a success, though there was one incident with a bitter widow who had set her sights on Darcy many years prior.  She made her disappointment well known, slighting Elizabeth when they had been introduced.  In return, Darcy refused to answer her questions and turned his attention to the next people in line.  If she were to ignore his wife and treat her rudely, he would give the widow a dose of her own medicine.

Fortunately, the widow was the only one to behave inappropriately, and Elizabeth had found humor in the situation.  It pleased her to witness the flustered lady who was shocked with Darcy’s ignoring her.  Though she was a beautiful lady, dressed in a gown which was designed to show her figure to its finest, she could not turn Darcy’s attention away from his loving bride.  Darcy proudly introduced Elizabeth to the next couple in line, proclaiming his wife as one of the rarest gems to be found anywhere.

The Bennet sisters were rarely without a dance partner, much to the disapproval of the young men who loved them.  Darcy was jealous, though he remembered that it was he who had won Elizabeth’s heart and hand.  She would be going home with him.  Richard and Bingley had not the same situation.  Though Richard and Mary were in a formal courtship, he was extremely territorial when it came to Miss Mary.  After his glares had frightened off two young men who had approached with desire to ask her to dance, Mary pulled Richard to the side.

“Richard Fitzwilliam, you will stop this behavior immediately.”

“What behavior?” Richard asked, his frown speaking of his confusion.

“The glares you are giving all the young men at this ball.  You are causing fear to run rampant.  You are in no danger of one of them sweeping me off my feet.  I am in a courtship with you, no other.  Now, calm yourself and behave, before I have to speak with your mother.”

Richard chuckled.  “No, never that.  My mother would have no qualms with turning me over her knee, if only I was not bigger than she.  She has a switch she keeps in her private sitting room, kept there to keep me and Anthony in line.”

“Well, I am pleased to know there is a way to keep you under control.  Now, shall we return to the ballroom or would you prefer a walk in your parents’ garden before we return?”

“I would prefer the walk, as the gardens are quite beautiful.  Not to mention they are not crowded with other men.” Richard chuckled as Mary glared at him.  “Ah, I see that you have learned the Fitzwilliam glare.  Very effective, as I am certain you are well aware.”

Mary laughed.  “Let us take a stroll in the gardens, Mr Fitzwilliam.”

They had walked about the garden for several moments when they came upon the water fountain and a bench nearby.  Escorting Mary to the bench, Richard asked her to sit.  Her eyes began to swim in unshed tears when she witnessed him kneel before her.

“Miss Mary Bennet, I wish to tell you how ardently I love and admire you.  You are a breath of fresh air to this hardened soldier, reviving me, body and soul.  Would you do me the very great honor of accepting my hand in marriage?”

“R…Richard, I will…I will marry you.”

Richard reached forward, pulling Mary into his arms, as he stood.  He embraced her to his chest, overwhelmed with the sense of contentment he found with her.  “I am the happiest of men.  My dear Mary, I have never been so very happy.”

He leaned down, placing a gentle kiss on her lips.  “Shall we return inside?  If we remain here, I am afraid I will not be able to contain my desire for you.”

Mary nodded her head.  “As I find I would be unable to deny you anything, it would be wisest for us to return inside.  Thank you, Richard.”

“For what, my love?”

“For loving me.”

~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~

Chapter 19

Five years later…

“Papa, may I ride on the pony?  You said you would allow me if you were with me.” Young Thomas Gerald Darcy asked his father.

Darcy smiled at his son.  “Are you able to behave yourself?”

The boy looked down at the ground.  “Yes, Papa.  I promise not to make the apples fly to me, or the carrots.  But I was only wishing to please Hermes.  He was hungry, and had been so gentle, I only wished to give him a treat.”

“But we have discussed the use of magic in front of others.  That is something you must never do.”

“Yes, Papa.” The boy said dejectedly.  “What of Janie?  She did some magic just yesterday, and Mrs Reynolds was in the room.”

“Your baby sister is too young to understand.  We must teach her to follow the rule, as she grows up.  You can be a good role model for her.”

“It is not fair that she can be allowed when I cannot.  But I will be the best big brother and show her how to behave properly.”

“Just remember, when you were Janie’s age, you did magic as your sister does now.  You had to be taught how to behave with your powers.” Darcy stated.

“Why is it that you cannot do magic?” Thomas asked.

“Because it is your mother who is magical.  Most people are unable to, but your mother is special, as are you and your sister.  It is a special gift, and one which should be used for the benefit of others, not to cause them harm. Do you understand?”

Thomas nodded his head.

“Very well, let us leave this stuffy old study and go to the stables.  I am sure that Hermes is ready for a ride.”

~~ ** ~~

Walking beside his son’s pony, as the boy enjoyed riding on the saddled Hermes, Darcy thought of how his life had been blessed over the five years that he had been happily married to Elizabeth.

There were many blessings in their lives, and in the lives of those they loved.

Lord and Lady Matlock were pleased to have their sons and daughter well married, the sons married to sisters.  While Richard and Mary planned their wedding, they spent many hours at Matlock House, where Anthony was in company with them.  It was during that time that he found his heart being lost to Kitty Bennet, who had become close to her sister while working with Mary and Jane at the Boutique.  Only a month after meeting Kitty, Anthony asked the girl for a courtship.

Now, Lord and Lady Matlock had two grandchildren, and another on the way.  Kitty and Anthony had given Matlock the next generation of an heir, while Mary and Richard had a daughter.  Their sister and her husband were expecting their first by the end of the year.

Bingley had his wish fulfilled, as Jane had accepted his proposal.  The Darcy family enjoyed visiting Longbourn when they journeyed to and from Town.  And Thomas was pleased to play with his cousin, Charles Thomas Bingley.  To Thomas’ way of thinking, his cousin was named for him.  Darcy had attempted to explain that both of the boys carried the name of their grandfather, but Thomas shook his head.

“Papa, my name is like Grandpapa.  Charlie has Thomas as his second name, so it is for me, as I am the second Thomas.” The boy declared.

Darcy gave up on his attempts to dissuade his son’s notion.  So, Thomas had taken it upon himself to teach his three year old cousin how to behave.

The magical abilities had only been noticed in the two Darcy children, though Mr Bennet was often quoted that the abilities could sometimes stay dormant until the child was older.

Lydia Bennet had taken over the Boutique, having learned from her elder sisters how to make the products.  It had turned out that Lydia developed a lesser magic than her sister, more on the level of Lady Matlock’s ability.  Lydia was able to determine the strength and uses of the herbs, flowers, and stones, making her ability to create healing products invaluable.  She had a good head for business, and was well liked in society.  Between Lydia, Hannah, and Hannah’s cousin, who was hired to assist in the tea shop, the business flourished.

Mr and Mrs Gardiner were also thriving, as his business grew and so had Mrs Gardiner.  Their newest family member was due within a few weeks.  The older Gardiner children were pleased with the upcoming birth, assisting their parents in making a list of names from which to choose for the babe.

Mr and Mrs Bennet were saddened to have all their daughters living away from home.  They missed the completeness in the house they had enjoyed since the birth of Jane, and the liveliness which was brought to the family with the birth of Elizabeth.  Even though they visited often, it was not the same as when they all lived under the same roof.

Anne de Bourgh never married, though she was able finally find a freedom she had not known in her entire life.  Her mother’s rule over every aspect of her life came to an end, leaving Anne in a quandary as to how to live.  Lord Matlock was willing to make the journey to Rosings Park, and he assisted Anne in learning how to run the estate.  Though the property was technically Darcy’s, it was understood that he would only take possession of the estate when Anne had died.

Anne went to the asylum once to visit her mother, but the lady that Catherine had turned into was frightening, ranting of witches and curses, while her wild eyes darting around the room.  Anne decided that it was best to go on with her life, leaving Lady Catherine to the care of the physicians.  Lady Catherine continued to deteriorate, finally passing away in her sleep after being institutionalized for four years.

“Papa, when will you allow me to ride faster?” Thomas asked.  “I wish to ride like you do.”

“When you are older, my boy.  You are a good rider, but you are not strong enough to handle the animal while it is running.  Can you trust me to decide when it is safe for you to try more difficult things?”

“Yes, Papa.” The boy said, disappointed that his father had refused his request.  “Mamma says it is not easy to grow up, and that it takes time.  I only wish I could be more like you.”

“That is kind of you, Thomas.  But I wish for you to stay safe.  Perhaps in a few weeks we will be able to trot a bit faster, but you will not be ready for galloping until you are older.”

“It is silly that Mamma does not like horses.  She does not even like Hermes, and he is so gentle and small.”

Darcy laughed.  “Your mother has always preferred to walk than to ride.  But you are afraid of the rooster, where your mother has no difficulty in entering the coop to gather eggs.”

Thomas shuddered.  “Hades is evil.  I cannot understand his thoughts.”

It had been determined early that Thomas Darcy had a strong connection with animals.  His magic allowed him to understand them and feel what they were feeling.  He could also move objects as his mother could.

“But as you cannot trust Hades, your mother feels the same when it comes to horses, and even your pony.  There is nothing wrong with your disliking Hades, nor is there anything wrong with your mother’s dislike of the horses.”

After a few moments of thought, Thomas turned his gaze to his father.  “Is there any animals you dislike?”

“Snakes.  I have never liked snakes.”

Thomas laughed, as he had handled a snake when they had last visited Longbourn.  He remembered his father’s expression when he saw the snake.  Now it made sense to him.

When the riding was finished, Thomas was returned to the house and into the capable hands of his nanny.  The boy was taken to the nursery to be cleaned up and his clothes changed, before he took his nap.

Elizabeth was found in the dining room, arranging flowers in several vases.  Darcy came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.

“Please, sir, my husband might return at any moment.  He is quite possessive.”

“Ah, I do not fear that man.  He is of no consequence.  I am the one you love.”  He placed a kiss behind her right ear, then pulled the lobe of her ear between his teeth gently.

Elizabeth chuckled.  “So, how was your riding lesson with Thomas?  Did he pester you to ride faster?”

“Yes, he did. You knew he would?”

“He told me this morning how bored he was at only being allowed to walk Hermes in the paddock.  I figured he would get around to declaring his feelings to you sooner or later.”

“Though disappointed, I believe he accepted my reasons for not allowing him to ride faster.  How is Janie today?”

“She is toddling about in the nursery.  I swear she is growing faster than Thomas did at that age.” Elizabeth sighed.  “How I wish we could keep them babes for a while longer.  They are growing far too quickly for my taste.”

“Mine as well.  When our son debates with me at the age of four, I can only imagine what is to come by the time he is fourteen.”

A sudden movement from Elizabeth’s midsection reminded him of the next addition to their family, as the babe wiggled inside her.  “And how is my son today?  He seems to be extremely active.”

Elizabeth let out a slight moan as her hand went to her lower back.  “Your daughter is extremely active, and has been very unladylike in kicking her mamma constantly.  I believe she is ready to be born, not wait for another two months.”

“My poor girl, you should go up to our room and rest.  Mrs Reynolds can see to the flowers.”

“No, I wish to be active.  If I were to be constantly resting, I am certain that I would become fat and sassy, and spoiled terribly.” She chuckled.  “I will be fine, my devoted husband.  It is no worse than what I went through the final months of my confinements with both of our other children.  Oh, there is a letter from Georgiana on your desk.  It came while you were out with Thomas.”

“I assume you have already read the letter.” Darcy teased.

“Of course.  I cannot allow you and your sister to hatch some sort of plot to have me carted about in one of those chairs as she saw on her wedding trip.  Your ears perked up when you heard about the chair and how the servants carried it about.”

Georgiana Darcy had married a second son of an earl, who had studied law, and was a partner in the office of Darcy’s solicitor.  The young man was hard working and extremely devoted to Georgiana.  They had been traveling for the past four months, and were due to return to England soon.

Elizabeth turned to look into her husband’s eyes.  “Of what are you thinking, my love?”

Darcy smiled as he leaned forward and placed a kiss on the tip of her nose.  “I am thinking of how fortunate I am that I listened to my aunt and threw away my prejudice against you.  I am so proud to have you as my wife, my mystical, magical Lizzy.”

THE END

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