Richard knocked on the door to the nursery. “May I enter?”
Elizabeth heard his voice and turned her head, startled at the unexpected visitor. “Of…of course. Your cousin stated that you stay here when you are in Town.” She turned her attention back to Edith, whom she was finishing dressing.
“Good morning, Miss Edith.” Richard said to the babe, holding his hands out to her. Even as young as she was, Edith was pleased to see her cousin. Richard picked her up from the dressing table and cuddled the babe to his chest. “Forgive me, Miss Elizabeth, I try to make it a routine to visit the nursery each morning. I am quite fond of these girls.”
Elizabeth nodded her head, keeping her eyes gazing downward. The pain she had endured a year prior, the anger in the voice of this now amiable man, struck deep in her heart.
After a few moments of being silly with his young cousin, Richard turned his attention towards her new nanny. “I owe you an apology for my actions a little over a year ago. I know now what you did for my cousin.”
“It does not matter. There is no need for apologies.” Elizabeth continued collecting the dirty clothing to place in the basket for the maids to take for laundering.
“Allow me to correct you. I made a mistake. You were assisting my cousin, at the risk of your own health. I was a fool to behave so, and am pleased to have a chance to correct my behavior.”
“Your cousin was injured and you were afraid. It is understandable. There is nothing further to discuss.”
“Well, I am pleased to know you will be taking care of my little cousins. William told me how you took to the girls. That is what they need, since they will never know their mother. They are sweet little babes, and deserve love.”
Elizabeth nodded her head. “Just as some people would assume I was compromised and ruined because I tended your cousin while he was injured, many will believe these girls to be ruined just by being born. They did nothing wrong, just as I did not. But the taint is still on them. I will never see them as anything other than beautiful little girls who are my responsibility to protect and care for.”
Richard handed Edith to Elizabeth. “I must break my fast before I leave for a meeting.” He began to leave the room, stopping at the doorframe. “I am the only one in my family who supports William’s decision to raise the girls as he is. My parents, my brother, our aunt, none of them approve of the situation. Just so you know that even family needs to be watched carefully when they are near the girls.”
“Thank you for your words of wisdom. I will keep close watch over Emmy and Edith.”
~~ ** ~~
Jane arrived home at the Bingley townhouse to find her husband was out. She was frustrated, so she went to her private sitting room, which was connected to her bedchamber.
After her father’s death, Jane was forced to accept much of the responsibility for her family. She was angry with her mother for blaming Lizzy and their uncle for the accident, to Jane, it was utter foolishness. Mr Bennet had decided on his own to make the trip. But day in and day out, Jane was forced to endure her mother’s bitterness. Bitterness over the loss of their home, bitterness over the loss of income, bitterness over everything that changed. And Mrs Bennet took her foul mood out on Jane, knowing Jane’s even temperament would keep the eldest Bennet sister from ignoring her mother.
During that time, Jane was worried about her beloved sister, Elizabeth. The pair had been the best of friends, only to have Lizzy ripped from her due to their mother’s refusal to acknowledge her second born daughter. Knowing her sister was injured and receiving treatment was painful for Jane, as she wished to be at her sister’s side. Each day that went by with no word, not even knowing if her sister was still living, was pure agony.
This went on for many weeks. When her Uncle Phillips had news from the Gardiner household, he would do what he could to share the news with Jane. But one time, Mrs Bennet overheard them and became irate. She demanded that Mr Phillips speak only with her, not Jane or any of the younger sisters. This set off another wave of Mrs Bennet’s fury, which was mostly aimed at Jane.
By the time Charles Bingley arrived at Netherfield, Jane was determined to find a husband, and preferably one who was wealthy enough to improve her family’s situation. She wished to escape from the torment she was enduring.
Not only was Mrs Bennet making her life a misery, so were her younger two sisters. Katherine, known to all as Kitty, and Lydia had been pampered by their mother. Lydia was her mother’s favorite, and all the silly girl need do is complain to Mrs Bennet to get what she wished. This often meant Jane and Mary, and sometimes even Kitty, did without for Lydia to have whatever pleased her. Mrs Bennet would constantly make excuses that Lydia was distraught at losing her father, or that since Lydia was the youngest, she had not had as much time with him, therefore Mrs Bennet had to make amends to the spoiled girl.
Upon meeting Mr Bingley at an assembly in Meryton, Jane realized that the man was amiable and kind, and his easy going nature would be what she wished for in a marriage. So she accepted all of his attention, and eventually convinced him of her love. Their marriage was one of mutual consideration, and she allowed him to take her to bed, though she was repulsed by having to submit.
Jane had talked her husband into purchasing a house on the outskirts of Meryton for her mother and younger sisters, only to have her mother undermine her. Mrs Bennet would not stand for a small house in the village when she could have the grand house at Netherfield Park. Bingley was far too amiable to forbid Mrs Bennet’s request to live with them, so he allowed his wife’s family to move in with him and Jane. And rather than give her daughter her rightful place as Mistress of the house, Mrs Bennet took over bossing the servants about, making them answer to her rather than the new Mrs Bingley.
“Jane, you are young and have never been the Mistress of your own house, especially one this large. You need my advice or you will embarrass our family to our neighbors.”
“But Mamma, Mrs Fenton has already informed me that three of the maids are leaving to take positions elsewhere due to your demands. And the maid you insisted my husband hire just for Lydia is costing far more than you first claimed.”
“She is from France, and knows all the styles to make Lydia’s hair perfect. And her taste in gowns and fashions is superb. You wish for your sister to find a wealthy man to marry, do you not?”
~~ ** ~~
Finally, Jane was able to see and speak with her beloved sister and the Gardiners, as Bingley took Jane to Town for a holiday. She could not believe the freedom Elizabeth had living with the Gardiners, the loving and kind relationship which was obvious. This caused Jane pangs of jealousy. Why was her sister able to find comfort away from their mother and sisters, leaving Jane to have all the suffering? It was not fair in Jane’s eyes.
She had ignored the fact of all Elizabeth had suffered, between the accident, losing their father who was dear to Elizabeth, and her injury which continued to bring her pain. All Jane could see was their aunt and uncle being kind, not making demands on her next eldest sister, comforting Elizabeth when Jane longed for such kindness.
Now, to learn that Elizabeth was planning to take a position which was certain to cause their family disgrace, after all Jane had done to protect the family, Jane saw red.
~~ ** ~~
The butler knocked on Darcy’s study, knowing the person he was about to announce would only bring his master more pain. When called to enter, he opened the door and stepped inside the room. “Mr Darcy, your aunt, Lady Matlock, is requesting to see you.”
Darcy shook his head as he sighed. “Where have you put her?”
“I am here, Fitzwilliam, and am not going anywhere until you have heard me out.” Lady Matlock pushed her way pass the butler.
Mockingly, Darcy declared. “Please, Aunt Rebecca, come in and make yourself at home.”
“There is no need to be rude, young man. Where is my son? I understand he is residing here at the moment.”
“Richard is meeting with his general. He will return later, as he does whenever he is staying in Town.” Darcy answered his aunt’s question. “And you are well aware of that fact.
“I received a letter from Catherine today and she is furious.” Lady Matlock took off her gloves and laid them on the chair next to the one she was sitting on.
“When is the great Lady Catherine de Bourgh not furious?”
“Be respectful, Fitzwilliam, she was your mother’s sister. And she is to be your mother in law. As to Catherine’s anger at the moment, she informed me that you have refused to send the babies to her to find homes for them.”
“First, Aunt Rebecca, I am not marrying my cousin Anne, so her mother will never be my mother in law. And Aunt Catherine has no control over my nieces, nor does she have any love for the girls, so why would I allow her to take the girls?”
Lady Matlock glared at her nephew. “The family has all supported your marriage to Anne. I know she is not what you would wish for, but it will rebuild your standing in society. With what has happened in the last year, you require all of us to save you from ruin.”
“I do not care for society, as you well know. Nor do I care what others think of my situation. It was my decision to make, and I will not go back on it. Georgiana did not ask to be ruined, she did not wish for Wickham to defile her. Nor did she wish to become with child, out of wedlock. This was forced upon her, her freedom taken from her. And she paid dearly for what happened. My sister was never even able to hold her children, never saw them. Her mind was stolen from her, along with her virtue. What could the babies have done wrong to deserve such disdain from everyone? They are innocent. They have done nothing wrong, only being born into the wrong situation.”
“You know how society looks on the situation. Those children were born from a sinful act, therefore their very lives are sins. It would have been a blessing if they had died with their mother. But as they have not, you will continue to be rejected by all of our station if you do not do the proper thing and send the offspring away. If you desire to visit them, send them to somewhere like Scotland or Ireland. You have estates there which you could visit, using that as your excuse to be in the neighborhood of those children.”
“I will not send them away. I have made myself clear, and will hear no more on the matter. If you cannot tolerate my insistence to keep my nieces with me, then you will have to cut ties with me. My parents are gone, Georgiana is gone. Her daughters are all that I have left of my family. They are a part of Georgiana, even look like her. How can I turn off the love I have had for my sister? How can I not give her children the love that she cannot give them?”
“They were born of sin. They will always be sinful. You know that their father was evil, and may have passed his evil ways on to them.” Lady Matlock was appalled.
“Their mother was one of the sweetest girls I have ever known. How can children who grew inside her be evil? They are just as sweet natured as Georgiana was as a baby, so I have no doubt that they will be like her.” Darcy was furious at his aunt. They had had this discussion for months, ever since it was discovered that Georgiana was increasing.
“I will speak with Richard when he returns.” Lady Matlock stated, her nose held up in the air as if she were smelling something terrible. “I will not have our family tainted by his support of your decision. He will refrain from staying here and return to Matlock House, or he will be cut from the family. He cannot afford to live as he does on his income from the army, so he had best realize what he is throwing away. And no decent lady will ever wish to marry him, or you, with those children in your lives.”
“Well, Mother, I will give you my reply right now.” Richard said as he entered the door without knocking. “Forgive me William, but I was told that my mother was in here with you. As I was certain I knew her topic of discussion, I thought I would join you.”
“Richard, go up and pack your belongings. You will be returning to Matlock House with me, and you will cut all contact with this house and the Darcy family.” Lady Matlock stood and looked at her son, expecting him to do as she demanded.
“Mother, I will tell you the same I told you last time. I will not be cutting ties with William and the twins. Edith and Emmy need the love of their family, and, it appears, that will only be William and myself. I am ashamed to hear you speak of those sweet babies in such a manner. They are the flesh and blood children of your niece. And I share their guardianship as I did over their mother. William asked me to share the responsibility and I accepted.”
“You cannot go against me.” Lady Matlock stomped her foot. “I demand you do as I say, immediately. This is not to be borne. Well, I know how to act now. You will regret your decision.”
“No, Mother, I will not. If you think I will miss the foolishness of the ton, you are sadly mistaken. And this frees me to marry anyone I deem fit to marry, not whomever you demand to make a match with for financial gain.” Richard said, giving his mother a polite smile. “This allows me to avoid the sort of marriage my brother was forced to accept. One where he lives in Town while his wife lives in Bath, each of them having their lovers, while their children are at the family estate, ignored by both of their parents. They were married because Father’s gambling and your lavish remodel of the townhouse caused a financial problem for the estate, requiring my sister in law’s dowry to keep the family from poverty.”
“How dare you speak to me in such a manner? I am your mother, you had best show me respect.”
“No, you are the lady who carried me in your womb and gave birth to me. Nothing more. You have never loved me, I was not the heir. You have never approved of me or what I do, so this is the perfect solution for you. As of this day, I am no longer your child. You only have your first born, your heir. I am my own man. And I am one of the guardians of Miss Emelia and Miss Edith Darcy. Good day, Lady Matlock.”
Richard turned his attention to his cousin. “Might I bother you for a glass of your fine port?”
“Of course, Richard. And, for the record, you will always be welcome in my homes. You have no need to fear for your finances, for that is settled as well.”
This was news to Richard, but he was not shocked. Fitzwilliam Darcy had been more like a brother to Richard than Albert Fitzwilliam, heir to the Matlock estate and title.
Darcy looked at his aunt, who was still standing before his desk. “Is there anything else you need, Aunt?”
With a furious grunt, Lady Matlock turned and stormed from the room. But she was not finished with the matter. Rather than leaving the house, she hurried up the stairs and towards the nursery.
Entering the room, she saw the two nursemaids, each holding a babe. “Give me that child.” She demanded of Sally. Afraid of what to do, Sally began to hold Emmy out to the grand lady.
Elizabeth knew what Colonel Fitzwilliam had said of his family and their opinion of the babies. Seeing that the lady before her was angered, Elizabeth determined it was not safe to allow her to handle the infants. “I am afraid that it would not be proper for you to take Miss Emmy. Mr Darcy is particular as to who handles the infants. He has not informed me that you are someone who is allowed to take them from us.”
Lady Matlock’s fury grew. She pulled back her hand, bringing it down sharply across Elizabeth’s cheek. “How dare you speak to me in such a manner? Do you know who I am? I am the Countess of Matlock, Mr Darcy’s aunt. As I am a member of the highest circle of society, and you are a lowly servant of low birth, it is my right to make the decision as to my taking hold of this infant.”
“I beg to differ, Ma’am. I was hired to care for these babes, and that includes protecting them from those of the first circle who would cause them harm.” Elizabeth held tight to Edith.
Lady Matlock pulled her hand back again, striking Elizabeth yet again. Dazed, Elizabeth struggled with Lady Matlock as the lady attempted to take Edith from the young nursemaid’s hands. All the while, Edith was crying. Hearing the sound of footsteps quickly approaching, Lady Matlock made one final attempt to pull the wailing infant from Elizabeth, pushing Elizabeth backwards, forcing her to fall to the ground.
Darcy and Richard entered the room, finding Sally attempting to flee with Emmy in her arms, and Lady Matlock leaning over a prone Elizabeth, attempting to remove Edith from the iron grasp the Elizabeth held on the child.
Richard took hold of his mother’s arms from behind her, pulling her from the room. “What on earth do you think you are doing?”
“I was taking matters into my own hands, only to have that chit refuse to allow me to hold one of the babes. She even laid her hands on me. I demand the constable be called and that little nobody be arrested for her behavior. She assaulted me, and I insist she be prosecuted.”
“I will not call for a constable, Aunt, as it would be you who would be arrested if I did. You had no right to come up to the nursery. I thought it was clear that you were to leave this house and not return. Instead, you come up here, assault the nursemaids taking care of the infants, causing potential harm to my nieces. This surprises me, since you wish to avoid having any contact with my sister’s babies.” Darcy was livid, his face red with anger. Turning his attention to Elizabeth, who was attempting to sit up and comfort Edith’s tears, Darcy noticed there was blood running from a cut on the side of Elizabeth’s face, near her eyebrow.
“Mrs Duncan, please send for the physician. Miss Elizabeth has been injured. And send for the constable.” Darcy called out to his housekeeper. He assisted Elizabeth and Edith into a nearby rocking chair, then returned to stand face to face with his aunt. “As you have assaulted my employee, in an attempt to harm my niece, you have forced the situation to become public. You will face charges against you for the injury you did to Miss Elizabeth, and for attempting to abduct my niece.”
“I was not abducting the child, I was planning to take her to be cared for by someone more appropriate. And why are you referring to a nursemaid as Miss Elizabeth? She is no one of importance.” Lady Matlock stared daggers at her nephew.
“She is the daughter of a gentleman, the gentleman who died in the other carriage which was involved in the accident I was in last year. Miss Elizabeth was gently born and bred, and has already shown great devotion to my nieces, which deserves my respect.”
“Obviously she was not the daughter of a gentleman of any worth. If she had been, she would not be working for anyone.”
“You will come with me, Lady Matlock.” Richard said, pulling his mother from the room. “We will wait for the constable to arrive.”
“You will do no such thing to your own mother.” Lady Matlock gasped. “I demand you release me immediately, or I will send for your father.”
“As this is Darcy House, you have no authority over anyone here. I will be happy to send for your husband, as soon as the constable decides what is to be done with you. Most likely the magistrate will be called for, and you might even be taken into custody. What will the gossips in the neighborhood think when they see you taken out of the home of your nephew, for assaulting his infant nieces and attempting to steal the infants?”
“You would not dare.” Screamed Lady Matlock as she struggled against her son’s grasp.
“You have already disowned me, so what loyalty do I have to you? I agree with William, the girls are innocent and deserve to be loved and treated kindly. Just because they did not begin in the acceptable manner, they are pure and innocent.”
“You were raised with the expectations of society. And you know full well that society will not accept those children of sin. I was simply going to send them to Catherine, so she can protect her daughter’s future with Darcy.”
Richard gave up hope in convincing his mother the truth. He placed her in a chair in a nearby sitting room, then waited for the constable to come.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
“Miss Elizabeth, the physician has arrived to examine your wounds.” Mrs Duncan said as she returned to the nursery. She led an elderly gentleman into the room. Mr Foster had been the Darcy family physician for many years. He had been called to treat Georgiana during her final months, and he delivered the twins.
“Miss Elizabeth, I was informed that you were assaulted by the Countess of Matlock. To be honest, I must thank you for protecting the girls from that woman. She is so concerned with appearances and what society will say, not one worry for her nephew or the babies. She was that way when Miss Darcy was brought here, in the sad condition she was in. Lady Matlock could not express sadness for what her niece endured, only how it would reflect on her or the family.”
“It is a shame, for she is missing the sweet little girls the twins are.” Elizabeth stated. “And fortunately, Colonel Fitzwilliam had already warned me of his parents and his aunt. He was correct in stating not to trust anyone in his family.”
Sally was standing nearby. “I was so afraid of what she would do if I refused to do as she said. She could have done all sorts of things, as she is an important person.”
Mr Foster shook his head. “Have no fear, Miss. Mr Darcy would protect you from any harm his relations might threaten you with. He is powerful and will not take kindly to anyone under his protection being harmed.” He took the cloth away from the cut at Elizabeth’s brow. Blood continued to trickle from it, though it had slowed considerably. “Well, I believe you may need a stitch or two, so the wound closes properly. And it will need to be kept clean and bandaged for a few days. It would be best if you were to remain in bed for a week.”
“You know I cannot remain in bed, I have duties to perform. I am one of the nursemaids for the twins.” Elizabeth replied.
Darcy entered the room, hearing the conversation between the physician and Elizabeth. “If Mr Foster says you should remain in bed, you will do as he says. I care about the wellbeing of all who live here and at Pemberley. You are important to me, and I will see that you are provided with the care you need.”
Scooping up Edith from her cradle, Darcy held her close to his chest as he stepped to Mr Foster’s side. “How is she?” Darcy asked, the look of concern in his eyes.
“The cut should heal nicely, and the swelling on her lip should go down in a day or two. There will be some bruising, but she will survive. Quite a scrapper, this one.”
Darcy chuckled. “Fortunately she has strength to battle my aunt. I pray we do not have to discover how she would fair against Aunt Catherine.”
Mr Foster laughed openly. “Good heavens, I cannot imagine how Lady Catherine de Bourgh would fair against this young lady, though I would wager Miss Elizabeth would be able to stand toe to toe with her. Now, hand me Miss Edith so I may ensure she is well.”
After handing the infant to the physician, Darcy concentrated on the young lady before him. She was intelligent, which was one of the reason Darcy had hired her. Elizabeth was also stronger than she looked. The fact that she stood her ground was proof of that.
When he first witnessed the injuries to her, Darcy’s heart fluttered an unfamiliar rate. He could feel drawn towards her, but he could not understand why. Was it due to the loss he had suffered during the same time of his own losses? Was it due to the accident, where she had cared for him, though she was in pain herself? He was not sure, but he knew that he would protect her with all he could.
~~ ** ~~
Lord Matlock stormed into the drawing room of Darcy House. “Where is my wife?”
“And it is a pleasure to see you as well, Uncle Henry.” Darcy replied. “Your wife is in sitting room, speaking with the constable. He has my statement and Richard’s, not to mention seeing first-hand the injury sustained by my servant. Once he finishes with Aunt Rebecca, he will make his decision on what course to take.”
“This is utter nonsense. My wife will not be charged for striking a servant. She is the Countess of Matlock. Your servant was obviously out of line.”
Richard stood up and faced his father. “No, your wife was the one who was out of line. She had just been told that my infant cousins would not be sent to Lady Catherine, and that William has no intentions of ridding himself of the twins. And she was informed that I have no desire to abandon them, so your wife informed me that I was disowned. After that, your wife decided to sneak upstairs to take the infants from their home. She admitted to that, she planned to ship them to Lady Catherine to find homes for the girls. When the nursemaid decided to stand her ground with Lady Matlock, the young lady received a beating from your wife.”
“See, the servant deserved the beating, refusing to do as she was told by her better.” Lord Matlock declared. “I want charges brought against the chit.”
“There will be no charges against my servant for doing as she was told to do.” Darcy stepped closer to his uncle. “I will not allow you or anyone else treat my servants in such a deplorable manner. It matters not to me who you are in society, good manners and behaving like someone who should be respected is far more important in my book.”
“Your staff is just as foolish as you. My sister has offered you a way to deal with the unfortunate situation you are in, an offer that will free you from the burden and restore your birthright in society. Then you and Anne can marry with nothing weighing heavily on your shoulders.”
“When will the family finally get it through your heads that I am not going to marry Anne? My mother told me there was no arrangements made, as Lady Catherine spouts. And I have no desire to marry Anne. She is weak and sickly, has never been trained to be the Mistress of her own house, let alone another. She also has her mother’s attitude, making her a know it all who thinks her opinion is the only opinion. Not only could I not tolerate being in drawing room with her, there is no possibility I could ever tolerate bedding her, therefore there would be no heir. I will marry for love, not for convenience.”
“Who would put up with you, hoisting your sister’s bastard children on everyone as if they were royalty?” Lord Matlock spat the words without thinking.
The ever darkening redness of Darcy’s face should have been a warning to his uncle, though the pompous man was too arrogant to realize the danger before him. “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!” Darcy demanded. “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME IN MY HOME!”
“Enough of your posturing, I am the head of the family.” Lord Matlock declared, puffing out his chest.
“You are the head of the Fitzwilliam family. I happen to be a Darcy, which means I am the head of my family. Now GET OUT!”
Sputtering, Lord Matlock suddenly realized his mistake. “I…I…must stay…my wife…”
“She will be well without you, now LEAVE!”
The constable heard the shouting as he was heading towards the door of the drawing room. “Let us have some peace, gentlemen.” He said as he made to step between the two men. “There has been enough hostility in this house today, and it is time to calm down.”
“Where is my wife?” Lord Matlock asked. “I demand to see her, so I may take her home.”
“I was coming to tell Mr Darcy that Lady Matlock may return home, though she must remain in Town for the time being. The magistrate will wish to speak with her, as I am referring the matter to him. There is sufficient grounds to prosecute Lady Matlock for attempted kidnapping and assault.” The constable announced. “I will also warn you and your wife that your presence is not welcome in Mr Darcy’s home, as he just said to you. Therefore, if you are found on this property, you will be arrested along with your wife. Do you understand me?”
Lord Matlock glared at the young man. “Just what is your name? Are you reporting to Lord Glenmire?”
“No, Sir, Lord Glenmire has referred the matter to the Duke of Pennington. Lord Glenmire stated that he could not rule on the matter, being friends of yours. The Duke will be handling the matter.”
“I will be speaking to Lord Glenmire. This entire matter is being handled inappropriately and I will have it dismissed as soon as I have a discussion with Glenmire.”
“Lord Glenmire also stated he was leaving Town with his family, as they had planned a holiday in Italy. The ship is to sail tomorrow. As his family is busy with the final arrangements for their trip, he will have no time to speak with you.”
“We will see about that. Where is my wife?”
The constable had a difficult time keeping from saying what he really wished to tell Lord Matlock. In his opinion, Darcy was within his rights to rid himself of Lord and Lady Matlock. “Lady Matlock is near the front door, with two of Mr Darcy’s footmen making certain that she does not move from the location until I return.”
“Then come with me, so I may take my wife home.” Lord Matlock began walking from the room before he finished speaking. Just before he reached the door of the drawing room, he turned his attention on his son and his nephew. “I take no leave of you and give you no further notice. I have only one son and no nephew from this day forward.”
~~ ** ~~
Entering his home, Charles Bingley had no notion as to storm which was about to explode. As soon as he returned home, he went in search of his wife.
“Jane, I just had a pleasant visit with your uncle. He informed me that the meeting he had with my friend, Darcy, went extremely well. The increase in business should net us all a fairly large return in the coming years.”
“Is that all he told you about your dear friend’s meeting with him? Did my uncle neglect to tell you of your dear friend ruining our family?”
Bingley frowned. “I do not understand your meaning. How is Darcy ruining our family?”
“I see my uncle has left it to me to inform everyone in our family of the tragic news. It seems your dear friend has offered my sister Lizzy a position in his staff. And if that were not bad enough, the position is to care for his nieces. His bastard nieces. We will be ruined, with Lizzy caring nothing for the reputations of our family. I cannot believe she would agree to such a position, let alone that our uncle, who is supposed be such a wise man, allowing her. I need to go to my sister and explain to her that she cannot remain there, for it will ruin her and our sisters. They will never be able to marry well if we are connected with such people. And it is time you cut ties with Mr Darcy. He is a social outcast due to his sister’s shame and her bastards. We cannot afford to have them ruin us.”
“But Jane, they are babies. They are the only family Darcy has left. And his sister was raped. The trauma was extensive, which caused her to withdraw inside herself. It was a horrific event, and Darcy was devastated that he had not been able to protect his sister from what she endured.”
“She allowed herself to be ruined, completely and utterly compromised. No proper family would have allowed her to remain living at home, she should have been sent away immediately. Instead, your friend kept her at his home, and kept the result of her ruin after she gave birth. At least she had the good sense to die, rather than be a burden on her brother.”
Bingley was shocked and appalled by his wife’s words. “Jane, that is unkind. You would condemn two helpless babies for what was forced upon their mother? You would condemn a young lady, actually a child herself at fifteen, for what was forced upon her by a full grown man who was twice her size? What if it had been your sister, Lydia? She is the same age that Miss Darcy was, would you cast her off and denounce her for being raped?”
“To save our family, I would. I have had to deal with my mother and responsibility to do so. If one of my sisters were to behave in a way that would bring shame on our family, I would cast her off quickly.”
“You are not the woman I thought I married. Jane Bennet was sweet and kind. Jane Bingley is turning into a heartless and bitter woman. Please Jane, do not allow this situation to tear apart our lives. No one will know that Lizzy is tending the children if we do not tell anyone. Your mother and sisters need not find out. And I will see Darcy when you are not with me. He will understand.”
“You will do as I say and cut ties with him. If you do not, I will lock the door to my bedchamber and refuse to permit you inside.” Jane glared at her husband.
This was shocking, as Jane had never spoken to him in such a manner. What had happened to her to lead her to such behavior? “Dearest, I believe your family living with us has placed too great a burden on you. Perhaps it would be best if we were to find somewhere else for them to live.”
“That will never do, not now that Mamma has taken charge of Netherfield. You should have followed my advice from the start and found them a house of their own. But you wished to be kind to them, and allowed them to move in with us. Now we will never be rid of Mamma, Mary, Kitty or Lydia. They will always be our burden to bear.”
“I will tell your mother that we are planning to take a journey to the continent, and are giving up the lease on Netherfield. Then we can find a house near Meryton for your mother and sisters.”
“Mamma would either demand to come with us to the continent or to stay in this townhouse. No, once you give in to Mamma, there is no going backwards. She will always demand more, not less.” Jane said as she turned and walked to the window. “It is not fair. Lizzy never had to endure Mamma and our younger sisters after Papa died. She was safe and loved in our aunt and uncle’s home, far away from the wailing and ranting. Lizzy never went hungry to make sure the rest of our family was full, she never had to clean the house and cook for everyone else. And Lizzy never had to contend with our mother declaring she would be forced to the hedgerows if one of us girls did not marry well.”
Shocked, Bingley realized the truth in his wife’s words. She had only married him for financial gains. “Forgive me, Jane, for making your life so terrible. It is obvious that you had no desire to marry me, except for what I could do for you and your family. I have work to do in my study. I will see you at dinner.” Bingley turned and walked from the room, never showing the pain he was feeling until he was in his study, with the door locked behind him.
~~ ** ~~
“Helen, what should we do with Jane?” Mr Gardiner asked his wife that night. “I must say that I was shocked with her behavior when she learned of Lizzy taking care of Mr Darcy’s nieces.”
“As was I.” Mrs Gardiner said. “I never would have believed it possible of Jane, at least not before Thomas died.”
“Obviously there was more going on in Hertfordshire than we knew of. Our brother Phillips must not have told us all that Fanny put Jane through.”
“But what do we do now? The truth is that Lizzy working as a nursemaid for the infants will not cause harm to the Bennet family, as they are not her children. She is a servant, and will be looked on as such. But it will affect Mr Bingley’s friendship with his best friend, which could cause problems in his marriage to Jane. If she was so adamant of Lizzy leaving Darcy House, how will she feel of her husband socializing with Mr Darcy?”
Mr Gardiner nodded. “It will cause much pain if she forces her husband to denounce his friend. Jane is making her marriage more and more like her mother’s, insisting on things being her way or the household will be miserable. My heart goes out to our nephew, he will need all the strength he can muster to survive this situation.”
~~ ** ~~
“Miss Elizabeth, what are you doing out of bed?” Darcy asked as he entered the nursery.
“Sally is sick and Emmy was fussing. I came to bring the twins to my room, so I could tend them while I am in my room.” Elizabeth stated in a matter of fact manner.
“Mrs Duncan can find someone to assist with the twins, you are supposed to be in bed, resting. That was the order of the physician.”
“Mr Darcy, there is no need for me to stay in bed. I am fine. The bruising is already beginning to fade, and the stitches come out in two days. There is no need for me to keep to my bed. Emmy and Edith need me and I need to be with them.”
Darcy was confused. “What do you mean, you need to be with them?”
“Mr Darcy, the past year has taken so much away from me. For the first time in months I feel needed and as if I can be productive. My aunt and uncle have been kind, but they have never put demands upon me. I need to feel whole, and being able to care for your nieces has made me forget what has happened since the accident and that I am vital. Please do not take that from me.”
“Miss Elizabeth, you have become a vital member of this household. I must admit that I am pleased to see how quickly you have adapted to the house and the staff, and especially to the girls. It is clear to see that they love you. Edith smiles at you and Emmy becomes excited when she hears your voice. I am grateful to have you here with them.”
~~ ** ~~
There was a sea of red at the dinner party Mrs Bennet held at Netherfield. The militia had arrived and she was wasting no time in introducing them to her youngest two daughters. Lydia was exceedingly pleased with the many men whose attention she captured.
“Mr Denny, you are quite dashing in your uniform. Are you planning to remain in Meryton for long? We are in great need of protection from such handsome men as yourself.” Lydia stated, leaning far too close to the officer for propriety’s sake.
Looking down at the obvious display of the young lady’s assets, Denny smiled. “I can think of nothing better in life than protecting such lovely young ladies as yourself and your sisters. We are at your command, my dear.”
Lydia giggled and led the officer towards the table to retrieve refreshments.
Another officer approached the pair. “Ah, there you are Wickham. I wondered where you had gotten off to.” Denny slapped his friend on the shoulder. “Miss Lydia Bennet, may I introduce you to my good friend, George Wickham. George, this is Miss Lydia, one of the…finest…young ladies to be found in the neighborhood.”
Wickham’s eyebrow arched. “Well then, Miss Lydia, it is my pleasure to meet you. I look forward to …knowing you better.”
Mrs Bennet was pleased to see her favorite daughter being treated as a favorite amongst the men. If we are lucky, Lydia will find a husband soon. Then she will be able to aid Kitty. After that, I will only have Mary left to marry off. Perhaps I should see if my sister could assist with Mary, as my brother Phillips has a new law clerk who is nearly as dull as Mary.
The matriarch was delighted that all was improving for her family. She had feared what would happen to her after her husband’s death, but fortunately she could now live the life that she desired, thanks to her eldest daughter. Thank goodness that Jane was able to capture Mr Bingley. I know Lady Lucas was hoping to catch him for her Charlotte, but that girl is a spinster in the making. My Jane is the prettiest in the county, and so amiable. Everyone who ever meets her loves her. Now she must keep Mr Bingley’s attention until she gives him an heir. If she does not, she could lose his interest and he will seek out a mistress.
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~