Chapter 3

The rain continued for the following two days.  Elizabeth continued to tend Mr Darcy when she could, even working through the pain she was enduring from her own injury.

Matthew was at Elizabeth’s side most of the time, and when he could see fatigue growing in her, he would lift her from the bed and take her to the room across the hall.

“Matthew, I am fine.  The gentleman requires care, as his fever is increasing.  No matter what I do, his fever is struggling to get the better of him.  I wish the rain would end, and that a proper physician could be brought to care for him.  And I wish my Uncle Gardiner was here.”

“You are exhausted, Miss Lizzy.  You are suffering yourself.  If you are not careful, your leg will not heal properly.  It will do no good for you to become crippled.  Rest now.  I will see to the gent until you have rested and had a bit of food.  You have not even had a crust of bread today.  I have been watching you.  We cannot afford you taking ill, Miss Lizzy.” Matthew said as he pulled the coverlet over her and stepped over to pour her a fresh glass of water.

“You are injured as well, Matthew.”

“Ah, but Mrs Carridan says that it is not broken, just a sprain.  Your leg is broke and we should not be moving you about so much.  The bone will not heal proper.  Now, I am acting in my mother’s place.  Miss Lizzy, you will remain here and rest.  When you wake, I will see that some food is brought and you will eat everything, or you will not be allowed to return to tending the gent.”

Elizabeth lightly chuckled.  “That sound exactly like your mother.  I wish she were here as well.  Any time I was ill or injured, your mother always looked after me.  Her soft touch as she would brush my hair back from my face, her soothing voice, always made me feel better.”

“If she could be here, she would be.  I know she would be devastated by what has happened.  And she would not allow you out of the bed until a physician pronounced it safe.”

“Yes, Mother Matthew.” She teased.  “Please see that Mr Darcy is well.  It is a shame that he is all alone, no family or friends to be with him.  I have you.”

“Always, Miss Lizzy.  I will always be devoted to you and your family.”

“With Papa gone, what will become of us?  Where will we live?  Papa was telling me of his cousin, just before the accident.  He is to marry, and start a family.  He will not wish to have us living at Longbourn.”

“Take each day as it comes, Miss.  But I will always be devoted to you and your family.  Have no doubt.”

~~ ** ~~

“I am worried that Thomas and Lizzy have not arrived.” Mr Edward Gardiner stated as he looked out the window for the second time in ten minutes.   “If only the rain would let up, then I could search for them.”

“Certainly, if the roads were dangerous, Thomas would have had them stop at an inn.  They will be fine.”

“But this storm came on so suddenly and became violent.  They may not have arrived at an inn.  I am worried.  Last night, I had a dream that something had happened, and that Lizzy was injured.” Mr Gardiner stated.  Turning around, his eyes met with his wife’s.  “You know how dear Elizabeth is to me.”

“Indeed, my dear husband.  She is just as dear to me.”

“As soon as the rain relents, I will attempt to find them.”

“Perhaps it would be better for us to remain here, as this would be the location where they would send news if there was a problem.  If you go off in search, you might miss an important message or even their arrival.” Helen Gardiner attempted to calm her husband.

“Very well.  But I will not be easy until they are found.”

~~ ** ~~

Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam had been in Town when he received word from Wickham stating that he was holding Georgiana Darcy, demanding the Colonel bring twenty thousand pound to purchase her freedom.

Knowing that his cousin, Georgiana’s brother, had left for Ramsgate, Richard had no option but to deal with Wickham.  He was able to obtain the necessary funds and meet Wickham at the appointed time and location.  When Wickham had the funds, he gave Richard the address of the boarding house where he had left Georgiana.

What the battle hardened colonel found at the boarding house tore his heart.  If George Wickham had not disappeared quickly after receiving his funds, Richard would have torn the man, limb from limb.

It was clear that Georgiana had been beaten, the bruising and abrasions spoke of the violence she had endured.  The girl was curled up on the bed, her eyes staring at nothing.  When he approached the girl, who had always adored her dearest cousin and guardian, she withdrew from his touch.

Though she struggled to be away from him, Richard scooped her into his arms and carried her to the awaiting carriage.  He took her to Darcy House, putting her in her room and leaving her to the care of Mrs Whitaker, the housekeeper.  A physician had been sent for, and he arrived shortly after Mrs Whitaker and a maid have cleaned the girl and dressed her in a nightshift.

The physician confirmed what Richard had feared.  Wickham had perpetrated the worst upon the innocent girl.

“There is evidence that her virtue was taken.  One of her arms has bruising which appears to be from fingers gripping tightly.  There are bruises, abrasions, and even some cuts all over her body. The blackguard was cruel.  Mrs Whitaker has assigned two maids to tend Miss Darcy.  I will return tomorrow to check on her.  Mrs Whitaker has all my instructions, and some powders to aid Miss Darcy in sleeping.  She might require some laudanum for pain.  Mrs Whitaker stated that she has some in her supplies, but if more is required, send word.”

“Thank you, Mr Jorgenson.  We will see you tomorrow.” Richard said as he escorted the physician to the front door.

~~ ** ~~

Richard Fitzwilliam decided that he would search for his cousin.  The length of time between when Darcy left for Ramsgate and how long it would have taken the gentleman to return from there, had come and gone two days previous.  Though he had received word of storms in the area, Richard was certain that his cousin would have arrived at Darcy House.

Leaving Georgiana’s care in the hands of Mrs Whitaker, Richard had his horse saddled and set off.  He left word with Mrs Whitaker to contact Richard’s parents, Lord and Lady Matlock, if Georgiana became worse.

Richard road as fast as the muddy roads would allow.  The journey was difficult, and he was certain that he would find his cousin hold up in an inn or at the house he had leased for Georgiana.

Finally, coming along the road, Richard saw the remains of the accident.  Seeing the overturned carriage sported the Darcy crest, Richard’s heart nearly stopped.  He dismounted and made his way to the carriage’s remains, calling out his cousin’s name.  Finding no one inside, he remounted the horse and continued down the road, with as much speed as possible.

He arrived at inn as Jonathon Carridan was preparing to mount his own horse.  “You, have you seen the people from the carriage wreck down the road?” Richard called out the younger man.

“Indeed.  There are three survivors staying here with us.  They is injured, and I be leavin to fetch the doc from Ramsgate.”

“Can you tell me where they are?  How bad are the injuries?”

“One gent has a head injury, another a sprained arm. There is a young miss who broke her leg.  The rest of the men, including the lady’s pa were killed.” Jonathon informed Richard, just before calling out to his mother.  “Ma, this gent is looking for them upstairs.  If you can tend him, I be on me way.”

Mrs Carridan nodded her head.  “I am in the midst of cooking something for the young lady, and some broth for the gent.  You can either wait a moment for me to finish in the kitchen or go on up yourself.  The young lady’s room is on the right side of the hall, the gent’s is on the left.”

“Thank you.” Richard said as he was on his way to the stairs. Taking them two at a time, he quickly arrived at the top step.  He noticed the door to the room on the left was open, so he entered the room.  Inside, he was appalled with what he found.  A young lady was sitting beside Darcy on the bed.

“Excuse me, but what are you doing in my cousin’s room?  Are you attempting to force yourself upon him, to compromise him?  Do you think he will succumb to your arts and allurements?  This is highly improper.  You are not even dressed properly.  You should be ashamed of yourself.” Richard shouted at the young lady.

Tears welled up in Elizabeth’s eyes as she sat there, dumbfounded at the behavior of the man who had just arrived.  “I…I…was tending his injury.”

“Miss Elizabeth, what is happening?” Matthew asked as he arrived breathlessly at the door frame.  “Is the gent worse?”

“Matthew, please…please…help me.”

“Yes, take this chit out of this room immediately.  She will not caught my cousin in her web of deceit.” Richard roared.  “I will be taking my cousin out of this trap as soon as possible.  And I will be speaking to my father, the Earl of Matlock, about this establishment.  When a gentleman cannot be injured and recover without being treated in an abominable way…”

Matthew reached down and gathered Elizabeth to him.  “Sir, I do not know who you are, or what you think is going on here, but Miss Elizabeth is a proper lady, a gentlewoman, and she has done nothing outside care for the gent lying there.” He huffed at the treatment which was being perpetrated against Elizabeth, then took her across the hall to her room.  After placing her on the bed, Matthew stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him, before making his way back to Darcy’s room.

The driver stood toe to toe with Colonel Fitzwilliam.  “The reason Miss Elizabeth was sitting on the bed was to allow her to tend him.  She has a broken leg, and should not even be out of bed, but she insisted on assisting so Mrs Carridan could see to the cooking and such.  That young lady has put her own pain aside to take care of that gent, and you accuse her of taking advantage of him?  She is also grieving, as her own father, whom she loved dearly, was killed in the accident.  But she put her loss aside to tend to the gent.  You will keep your distance from Miss Elizabeth, or you will answer to me.”  With that, Matthew turned and marched from the room, slamming the door to Darcy’s room soundly behind him.

Richard was dumbfounded.  Had he just been admonished by a servant?  He was sure that the young lady had been behaving improperly.  The servant was incorrect, Richard was certain of it.

Mr Carridan had just entered the inn when he heard the raised voices from above.  He hurried up the stairs to see what was happening.  Finding the colonel there, Mr Carridan questioned him.

“Forgive me, Sir, but this is my cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy.  I entered the room to find a young lady on his bed.  Is this some sort of trap to snare wealthy men?  Do you always have young ladies attempt to compromise gentlemen who come to your establishment?”

Anger flared inside Mr Carridan.  “Sir, I do not know you, but I am here to tell you that Miss Elizabeth has been tending Mr Darcy’s needs.  He has had a fever attempting to take hold.  My wife and Miss Elizabeth have been working around the clock to keep the fever from growing.  As Miss Elizabeth’s leg prevents her from sitting in a chair, she sits on the bed to allow her to care for Mr Darcy.  There has been nothing untoward between them.  During the storm, we had no way of sending for a physician or anyone to assist.  My son has just left to fetch a physician and notify Miss Elizabeth’s relations in Ramsgate of her situation.”

Richard did not know whether to believe the innkeeper, so he stepped to the side of the bed and reached out his hand, feeling the warmth coming from Darcy’s face.  He realized Mr Carridan had been honest in his assessment of Darcy’s condition.  “Forgive me.  I have been worried for my cousin, and found the door open and an unknown lady sitting on the bed.”

“Miss Elizabeth is quite a fine lady.  She has a broken leg and her father was killed in the accident, but she did not hesitate to come to the aid of your cousin.  My wife has been doing the cooking.  My son and I have had to take care of the animals and the fires, and Miss Elizabeth’s driver is injured, so he could not do as much.  We brought the bodies of the other men to the stable, brought the trunks here so they could be dried out.  So you can see, there has been no time for shenanigans going on.”

“I will apologize to Miss Elizabeth for my behavior.” Richard said, feeling ashamed of his behavior.

“It would be appreciated, as the young lady has become special in our hearts.  I would not wish to have to throw you from my establishment for treating her ill.” Mr Carridan stood straight, puffing out his chest the best he could.  He knew he was no match for the young man before him.

~~ ** ~~

Mr Gardiner was at the door before the maid could open it.  A young man had just arrived on horseback, and Mr Gardiner knew it had to be news of his tardy relations.

“Pardon me Sir, but I be lookin for the Gardiners.”

“I am Edward Gardiner.” He said, motioning for the young man to enter.

Jonathon stepped inside the sitting room.  “I have come to tell you there has been a carriage accident, near my family’s inn.  Your niece, Miss Elizabeth, asked me to tell you what has happened.”

“Is my niece well?  And her father, is he injured?”

“Miss Elizabeth has a broken leg.  I am afraid that her father was killed in the accident.  Their driver has an injured arm.  There was another carriage in the accident, and only one gent survived.  He be knocked out since the accident.”

“Good God.” Mr Gardiner was shocked at the news.  Mrs Gardiner stepped closer to her husband, placing a hand gently on his arm.

“I have sent the doc on his way to the inn, while I came for you.  If you wish, I can wait until you are ready and show you the way.” Jonathon said.

“Yes, yes.  Helen, we should have our trunks packed and made ready to return to London.  We will need to take Lizzy to our house to recover, while I take Thomas to Longbourn.  Fanny will be devastated.”

Mrs Gardiner nodded her head.  “I will have the nanny bring the children in the second carriage, after the trunks are packed.  You and I will go ahead to Lizzy.  Mrs Blaine will see to all of the packing.”

Mr Gardiner stepped out of the room, calling for the housekeeper.  After giving her instructions for packing, he had her call for the carriages to be readied and the nanny to come to the sitting room.

Within an hour, Mr and Mrs Gardiner were in their carriage and on their way to the inn, following Jonathon.  And the entire way there, all either of them could think of was their beloved niece and all she must be suffering.

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

Chapter 4

A year had passed since the fateful carriage accident.  So many changes had come to the Bennet and Gardiner family, and Mr Gardiner was amazed that they had survived as well as they had.

When they had arrived at the inn where Elizabeth was to be found, she insisted they leave immediately.  The physician stated it was not wise to move her in a carriage, as she should remain in bed to allow the leg to heal properly.  He was frustrated with her already for having been moved about frequently, and he was unsure how safe it would be for the bones to be jostled about.

Elizabeth was frantic, insisting on leaving, and refusing to care what the physician had to say.  Finally, the Gardiners acquiesced to their niece’s pleading and they bundled her into their carriage.  Matthew had explained the situation with the man who had been abominably rude to Elizabeth, and the accusations he had leveled at her.  Mr Gardiner was furious, but with the urging of his niece and wife, no confrontation was had with the man.  Mrs Gardiner had insisted seeing to Lizzy’s needs, and removing Thomas Bennet’s body to be taken home, were more important.

The journey to Town was a painful one for Elizabeth.  While she was busy tending the gentleman, she was able to push the pain she felt to the back of her mind.  Once on the road, with nothing to do but stare out the window, the pain was difficult to suppress.  Each bump in the road brought her leg injury pain, and every mile she journeyed closer to her home, the pain in her heart could not be quashed.

“What will happen, now that Papa is gone?” She asked, still looking out the window of the carriage.

“I will need to speak with your Uncle Phillips.  If I remember correctly, your mother will have the small cottage that was your grandmother’s.  It will not be large enough for all of you though.  If I remember correctly, there are only three small bedrooms.  And we will have to make sure that the paperwork was handled properly, for if it has not been, the heir can have you all removed from the property.  I do not remember who the heir is, so much is flooding my mind at the moment.”

“Mr Collins.  He is a parson.  Papa recently received a letter from him.”

“Mr Phillips should have all the information to reach this Mr Collins.  Did your father say if he was married, or if he has a family?  If he does not, it might be to your family’s advantage.”

“Papa said that he is betrothed.  I do not know more.”

“Lizzy, your uncle and I will have you remain in Town with us until your leg is healed.  We have better access to physicians and will be able to care for you at our home.  The cottage has not been used for so many years, it will take some time to make it ready for your mother and sisters to move there.” Mrs Gardiner stated.

“But I will need to pack my belongings, and there are some of my books in Papa’s library.  And I must be of aid to my family.”

“Dear girl, you will be of no use to them if you cripple yourself.  I will see that Jane packs your belongings.  And if you make a list of the books in your father’s library, I will see that they are packed as well.  The cleaning and moving furniture and belongings will not be tasks you will be able to perform.” Mr Gardiner said softly, but with a stern quality which brooked no opposition.

Finally, Elizabeth agreed.  Once they arrived at the Gardiner townhouse, located on Gracechurch Street in Cheapside, Elizabeth was taken to one of the bedrooms on the second level of the house.  Matthew decided to return to Longbourn, to assist his family in the changes which were to come, though he promised he would return to assist the Gardiner family with Elizabeth’s care.

Edward Gardiner had no notion at the time of what would await him when he arrived at his sister’s family home.  Mrs Fanny Bennet was Mr Gardiner’s eldest sister, and she was known to be a ridiculous and silly woman.  When her brother arrived unexpectedly, she knew something terrible had happened.  Then she received the words she had feared to hear, her husband was dead.  With his death, she knew that she would lose her home and the comfortable life she had led.

“It is all your fault, Edward.  If you had not insisted on Thomas making the journey, none of this would have happened.  And Lizzy, it is her fault as well.  The two of you have robbed me home.  I will never forgive either of you.” Fanny began wailing of her lot in life, how her brother and least favorite daughter had purposely ruined any comfort she would have in her future, as she would be forced into poverty.

Jane came to her mother’s side, guiding her up the stairs to her bedchamber.  Her middle sister, Mary, followed them, staying at her mother’s side while Jane returned to speak with her uncle.

“Where is Lizzy?  Is she well?” Jane pleaded for news.“She has a broken leg and she is extremely heartbroken over the loss of your father.  You know how dear he was to her.”

“Poor Lizzy, all alone for so long, no one to comfort her during her time of need.” Jane reached into her pocket and withdrew a handkerchief to wipe her eyes with.  “And now, Mamma behaving so poorly, what will we do?”

“I asked Matthew Hill to fetch your Uncle Phillips.  He knows more of what your father’s will says.” Mr Gardiner replied.  “The dower house is your mother’s for the remainder of her life, I am sure, though I am not certain of the condition or what will be needed to restore it.”

“Papa stated last month that much work would be required to make it inhabitable again.” Jane said sadly.  “And it will not be large enough for all of us to live there comfortably.”

“We will cross each bridge as we come to it, Jane.  Do not fret, all will be well.”

~~ ** ~~

Mr Gardiner was shocked to hear the news of what awaited his sister and her daughters.

Mr Phillips ushered his brother in law into Mr Bennet’s study.  “We have a grave situation before us Edward.  A very grave situation indeed.”

“They will have the dower house, and surely there is funds for their keep.”

“The dower house is beyond minor repairs.  It has been unused for so long, the ceiling is caving in, some of the walls are crumbling.  There are windows broken, which has allowed water to enter, causing more damage to some of the rooms.  There is the gamekeeper cottage that Fanny and the girls could move into, but there are only two bedchambers.  And their finances will be very limited.  They will not be able to keep a servant, not even a cook or maid.  All of this is limited on if the heir will be willing to allow them to live in that cottage, and if he does not charge them rent.”

“Do you know how to reach the heir?” Edward asked, his mind swirling with the news he had just received.

“Just before leaving for Ramsgate, Thomas received a letter from the young man.  His name is William Collins, and he is the parson at Hunsford.  I believe Thomas said the man was betrothed.  So if he is to start a family, the last thing he will wish is to have other relations living in his home.  Especially bringing a new bride who will be the Mistress of the estate.  Fanny will not allow another lady to hold the position over her, you know that as well as I do.”

“After two and twenty years of marriage, it would be difficult for her to step down to any lady, even one of her daughters.” Edward said.  “If only she would accept the change in a polite manner, and be kind to the new Mistress, it would be so much the better for her and the girls.  But she will treat the Collins family as interlopers.  And Fanny will not be civil, as she has already ranted at me, blaming Lizzy and me for Thomas’ death.”

“How are you and Lizzy responsible for a carriage accident?” Mr Phillips asked, shocked at Fanny Bennet’s foolishness.

“Because we convinced Thomas to make the journey.  If we had not, she feels Thomas would have remained home and would still be alive.”

“How is Lizzy?  Matthew stated that she had a broken leg.”

Mr Gardiner nodded his head.  “I did not remain in Town long enough to hear the physician’s diagnoses.  I fear the travel may have caused her more harm, as she was in pain the entire journey.  But she would not remain at the inn where we found her.  There had been a situation with the relations of the gentleman who occupied the other carriage.  From what I was informed, the man was unconscious and Lizzy was assisting in tending his injuries.  The relation accused Lizzy of attempting to cause a compromise.  If I had known of the man’s ill treatment of my niece before we left, I would have had words with him.  But it was only after we left the inn that I learned the truth.  Lizzy was nearly out of her mind with her insistence to leave.”

“And she must be devastated with the loss of her beloved father.  They were always so close.”

“Thomas always doted on Lizzy.  She was dear to him, as Lydia is to Fanny.”

Mr Phillips sighed.  “Well, for now, the situation will have to wait for Mr Collins to inform us of his intentions.  If he is kind, and Fanny can hold her tongue, all may turn out well.”

“We can also pray for a snow storm in the desert.” Mr Gardiner said, knowing his sister well.

~~ ** ~~

The memories from the previous year continued to flood Mr Gardiner’s mind.  Mr Collins arrived at Longbourn a week after Thomas Bennet was laid to rest in the family plot, near the graves of his parents.

Having decided to marry his fiancé before taking his inheritance, Mr Collins brought with him his bride, her widowed mother, and two younger sisters.  This news caused Fanny Bennet even more frustrations.  She could not speak of the Collins family with civility, which caused Mr Collins to become frustrated and unwilling to be kind to the Bennets. He allowed them to live in the gamekeeper’s cottage, though he insisted on rent being paid.  This cut the already strained budget for Mrs Bennet and her daughter, leaving them nearly penniless.  With no servants, the Bennet sisters had to learn to do the cooking and cleaning.

Mrs Bennet refused to have any further contact with her brother and her second born daughter.  This did not keep her from venting her anger towards them, as she told everyone who would listen of her hardship.  Mrs Phillips, Fanny’s younger sister, grew tired of hearing the complaints, as Mrs Bennet was a frequent visitor at the Phillips home in Meryton.  And, as the Bennets no longer had a carriage of their own, and Mr Collins was not inclined to be generous to them, Mrs Bennet would plead with her sister for the use of the Phillips’ carriage to take her home, usually after taking dinner at their home.

“You have no notion of how horrible it is to have to endure all the suffering I now bear.  To have been the Mistress of the estate and now reduced to paying rent for a rundown shack and have no servants, it tears at my heart to be forced to live in such a way.” Fanny fluttered her handkerchief as she spoke.  “It is because Edward and Lizzy were so insistent on Thomas make the journey, they have ruined my life and the lives of my daughters for their foolishness.  Thomas did not wish to make the journey, he always spoke of how he disliked making long trips in the carriage.  But Lizzy had to have her holiday, and Edward accommodated her whims.  The two of them should be made to pay for their misdeed, but there is no possible way for me to punish them.”

“Fanny, you had best make your piece with our brother.  He would be willing to assist you, if you would allow him to do so.”

“Blood money. Any assistance from Edward would be blood money. I will not allow him to have such control over my life.  But my poor girls, they are suffering terribly.  Poor Jane, if this continues, her bloom will fade before she is able to capture a husband.  She was born so beautiful so that she would be able to catch a wealthy husband.  And then she would be able to put her sisters in the path of other wealthy gentlemen.   But I fear it will not happen soon enough.”

“Jane could go to Town to live with our brother.” Mrs Phillips declared.  She knew that their brother would gladly welcome their eldest niece into his home.”

“And allow him to take my dear Jane from me?  He has taken my husband and home from me, I will not stand by and watch him take anything else from me.”

Mrs Phillips decided to change the subject.  “Did you hear that Netherfield Park was let at last?  By a young man of five thousand per annum.”

Mrs Bennet’s ears perked with the intelligence.  “Please Sister, tell me more.”

After hearing all her sister had heard of the young man, Mrs Bennet smiled, reminding her sister of a cat ready to pounce on a mouse.  “This is wonderful news, and the perfect solution for my girls.”

“How so?” Mrs Phillips frowned.

“A young man of fortune must be in want of a wife.  And my daughters are the most beautiful in the neighborhood.  I will rely upon your good husband to make the introductions for us.” Mrs Bennet’s mind was distracted with determining the best way to put her daughters in the path of Mr Charles Bingley.  “And as we have no proper way of entertaining him at our cottage, we will need to invite him to dine at your home, Sister.”

Mrs Phillips groaned silently.  “Sir William Lucas informed my husband that Mr Bingley will be attending our assembly tomorrow night.”

“Of course we must attend, though we will have to walk, having no carriage to transport us.  And then my dear Jane will not be at her best.  Oh, my, it is important to have Mr Bingley meet Jane when she is at her best.”

“Fanny, you are in mourning for your husband.  It would not be proper to attend the assembly only two months after Thomas’ death.”

“There are more important matters than our mourning for Thomas.  Having husbands for my daughters is my priority now, and that is all there is to be said.  Now, I will just have to find a way to make the long walk to the assembly, so that we meet Mr Bingley.”

Rolling her eyes at the blatant begging of the use of their carriage, Mrs Phillips finally agreed to send her carriage to transport the Bennets to the assembly.  To her way of thinking, if Jane or one of the other sisters were to marry well, Fanny’s situation would improve, and she would no longer be such a burden on the Phillips.

~~ ** ~~

Fortunately, Jane fell in love with and was loved by Charles Bingley.  Though she did not come with a dowry of any consequence, as she and her sisters would have fifty pounds each as their portion after their mother’s death, Bingley did not care.  His wealth came from trade, so marrying a gentleman’s daughter, even an impoverished gentleman’s daughter, was a step up for him in society.

The couple became engaged, though they both insisted on waiting for their full mourning at six months to be over, out of respect for Mr Bennet.  This frustrated Mrs Bennet further, for she could not tolerate her living conditions and felt that the marriage should happen sooner so that their family could move with Jane to Netherfield.

The news that Mrs Bennet and the youngest three daughters planned to move to Netherfield was not a pleasant prospect for Mr Bingley.  Though he was a kind and caring man, with much the same temperament of his betrothed, Mrs Bennet could grate on his nerves.  And her parenting skills with regards to her youngest daughters left much to be desired.  Kitty and Lydia Bennet were amongst the silliest young ladies in all of England, and were left to run wild most of the time, forcing their sisters Mary and Jane to do all the work at the cottage.  Having them living at Netherfield was not what Bingley would prefer, though he would not allow his betrothed’s family to suffer in poverty.

Charles Bingley also had two sisters of his own.  His eldest sister, Louisa, was married to Mr Gilbert Hurst.  Hurst was usually intoxicated, due to his dislike of the younger sister, Miss Caroline Bingley.  Caroline Bingley was a fortune hunter, preferring to leave their family history in trade far behind and rise in society to the upper circles.  Her behavior was difficult to tolerate and had alienated the Bingleys from many of their family’s friends.

So combining the two families at Netherfield was enough to cause even the amiable Bingley and Jane to fret.

~~ ** ~~

After the carriage accident, Mrs Bennet had demanded her daughters to cut all contact with Elizabeth and the Gardiner family.  This was difficult for Jane, as she dearly loved her sister.  Fortunately, it was discovered that Bingley and Mr Gardiner had had business dealings together.  Through Bingley, Jane was able to contact her sister and their relations in Town.

When it came time for the wedding, Mrs Bennet refused to allow Jane to invite the Gardiners to attend, and was adamant that Lizzy would not be allowed to stand up with Jane.  This had always been a dream of the two eldest sisters, that they would bear witness for each other at their weddings.  Jane was deeply grieved by her mother’s decision, but decided to obey her mother out of respect.

Fortunately, Jane and Bingley stayed in Town at the townhouse of his dearest friend, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Darcy was at his estate in Derbyshire and had offered the use of Darcy House to the newlyweds to have a bit of a honeymoon.  While in Town, Jane was finally able to see her beloved sister and the Gardiners frequently.

The changes Jane found in her sister were tremendous.

Elizabeth had gone through a change due to the accident.  Her leg did not heal properly, which left her with a limp and she suffered pain every day.  She had always been an avid walker, taking long walks in nature surrounding her father’s estate.  It had been an ongoing tease when Elizabeth could not be found in the house.  But now, she was unable to take pleasure in nature.

The pain of losing her father had weighed heavily on Elizabeth as well.  Added on top of the pain was the way her mother had behaved, blaming Elizabeth for Mr Bennet’s death and refusing to allow any contact between Elizabeth and her sisters.  Not having her dearest friend and sister to comfort her, Elizabeth suffered from melancholy for many months.

The melancholy took away the joy of life which had nearly radiated from Elizabeth.  Before the accident, Elizabeth’s eyes sparkled with mischief and happiness.  Now they were nearly lifeless orbs.

Being able to spend time with Jane, Elizabeth’s melancholy lifted slightly, but returned to its former level after the newlyweds returned to Netherfield.  With their mother and younger sisters living at Netherfield, it would be difficult for Jane to write or receive letters between her and Lizzy.  It would often be week between correspondences, leaving Elizabeth feeling isolated and alone.

Finally, Mr Gardiner decided that something had to be done to improve Elizabeth’s state of mind.  Knowing how well educated she was, and that she was proficient in several languages, Mr Gardiner asked her to join him at his warehouse to interpret any letters he received and assist with his paperwork.  Elizabeth had wished for a way to make herself useful, so she gladly accepted his offer of work.  It was fortunate that the Gardiner home was only half a block from the warehouse, allowing Elizabeth to be able to walk there.