Chapter 19

The following months rolled by quickly.  There was much to be done, and everyone was soon caught up in the excitement.

Longbourn was stripped down, all of the items inside the house were removed, some of the fixtures sold or used in the tenant homes.  The rest of the items were boxed or placed in trunks, stored in the barn which had been constructed.  As the work of destroying the house was being carried out, the repairs were being made to the tenant homes.  The farms were planned for the planting season, and all was beginning to move forward.

Late in March, Jacob Bennet was finally recovered enough to make the short journey to his home estate.  The boy was nervous, as the memories of what had happened there were still fresh in his mind.

Darcy was carrying the boy, as he still had not regained the use of his legs.  “The old house is nearly gone, the remaining bit will be removed from here in another fortnight.  Then the work can begin on the foundation and framing.”

“And the cellar, it will remain?” the boy asked.

“Your sister thought it should be larger.  She thought it would be nice to have a large storage area to store garden items and to hang herbs and flowers to dry.  Do you remember the plans of which she spoke for the house?  Elizabeth thought that it would be nice to have a conservatory on the side of the house, and the entrance to the cellar be near the door to the conservatory.  It would be handy to store supplies for the conservatory.”

“And the door would be between the kitchen and the dining room.” Jacob stated.  “Lizzy said that Pemberley has a conservatory.  It sounded nice.  Lizzy has always enjoyed nature, so she must think it heavenly when she cannot go outside.”

“You know your sister well, Jacob.  Are you going to like living with us at Pemberley?  We have arranged for masters to come and teach you.  Once you have fully recovered, you will be able to attend school.”

Jacob thought for a few moments.  “William, I know I am a boy, but you can be honest with me.  I know I will never be able to walk again.”

“We do not know this for certain, Jacob.  The physicians think there is a chance you might recover completely.”

“As much as I wish it to be so, I doubt that I will ever walk again.  And my arm, it is nearly useless.  I would never be able to be a true master of the estate.  I would not be able to be like you.”

“Give it time, Jacob.  If you feel like this when you are older, we can make decisions then.  But you are still young, and your injuries are still healing.  Besides, who knows what you will feel once the repairs to the estate are finished, and the new house is built.”

“Thank you, William.  Lizzy, what are you doing?” Jacob asked.  He was watching his sister carrying a bundle from the carriage.

Elizabeth looked a bit sheepish at first.  “I brought some flowers to place on the graves.”

Jacob had never been to the graves of his loved ones, and the news was surprising to him.  “You place flowers there?”

“I have been, usually once a week or so.  And I talk to them.”

This surprised Jacob.  “But they are dead.  How can you talk to them?”

Elizabeth walked over to her husband and brother.  “When I visit their graves, I feel them, as if their spirits are nearby.  It allows me to tell them things, how you and Jane are recovering, what we are doing with the estate, how my husband and son are doing.  And it brings me peace, as if they understand and are pleased.”

Giving his second eldest sister a strange look, Jacob could not quite understand if she were being serious with him.

“Might I… would you mind…if I were…were to join you?” Jacob asked.

“You are always welcome, Jacob.  Come, and you can choose which flowers to place on each of the graves.”

The trio walked to the family cemetery, and Jacob grew silent.  He knew what it meant when someone died, they were gone from the world, and their body was placed in a casket, buried in the cemetery.  But the concept of speaking to someone who was dead was difficult to understand.

They approached the graves, marked by the marble headstones with the names of those he had loved and lost.  His mother, who doted on him.  Mary, the middle sister and the most difficult for him to truly know, as she was unlike all of the other sisters.  Kitty, who was a follower, copying the behavior of their youngest sister, to find her way.  And Lydia.  Lydia, who was loud, opinionated, and self-centered, yet she had a good heart.  Even after Jacob placed toads in her bed, Lydia would always find it in her to forgive her brother for his tricks.

“Which flowers do you think would look well for Mamma?” Elizabeth asked.

“Mamma loved roses.  She said that pink roses were her favorites.” Jacob stated, remembering his mother’s words.  “She said they reminded her of when she was a girl and how she blushed when receiving flowers.”

“I remember Mamma telling that story.  What a wonderful memory.  Mamma, Jacob has suggested you would like pink roses today.” Elizabeth placed the flowers on the grave, near the headstone reading Frances Gardiner Bennet.  “And what flowers would Mary have liked?”

Jacob thought for a few moments.  “Mary never said a preference that I remember, but I think the blue ones would be good for her, as she had blue eyes.”

“She did.  And they were beautiful blue eyes.  These flowers are called Forget Me Nots.  It is fitting that we do not forget our middle sister.  Mary never knew where she fit in.  Jane and I were the best of friends, and Kitty and Lydia were always together.  Poor Mary was lost between our pairs.”

“She loved to read Fordyce.  And I never told her, but her playing on the pianoforte was improving.  Jane was spending time with Mary, and it seemed to improve Mary’s confidence.”

Elizabeth smiled.  “I wish I had seen her again.  Aunt Phillips spoke of Mary often.  She was always fond of Mary, as our aunt was the middle child herself.”

“I had not thought of our aunt as a middle child.  But Uncle Edward was the youngest and Mamma the eldest.  That makes me see our Aunt differently.”  Jacob gave a small smile.  “The yellow daisies should be for Kitty.  She always looked nice in yellow.”

“It was her favorite color.” Elizabeth replied.  “And with her dark hair, yellow always looked good on Kitty.  Lydia never could wear yellow, with her lighter hair.  She always looked jaundice when wearing the color.  And Lydia hated not being able to wear something of Kitty’s.  I can remember one of Kitty’s favorite dresses was a pale yellow, when she was just a girl.  Lydia begged Mamma to be allowed to wear the dress, and after many days of Lydia’s tantrums, Mamma gave in and allowed Lydia to borrow the dress.  She looked dreadful, and we had a difficult time not laughing at Lydia.  After that day, Lydia would only complain about Kitty looking nicer than her, but never begged for our sister’s dresses again.”

“And Lydia loved red.  She often stated she would only marry a man who wore a red coat, as red coats were becoming on a man.” Jacob smiled.  “Lydia and Mamma would speak of the militia coming to the neighborhood, and Mamma said that when she was younger, she had also dreamt of marrying a man in a red coat.”

“Well, then it is a good thing that we had red roses for Lydia.” Elizabeth giggled.  “Now, we will place the lilacs on Papa’s grave.”

“He does not deserve flowers on his grave.” Jacob said bitterly.  “He did this, he put them in these graves.”

“Jacob, we have explained to you why Papa behaved the way he did.  Would you blame him if he had contracted a fever that caused damage to his mind?  The fall from the horse did the same thing.”

“But he did not tell any of us.  Why did he keep the accident from us?  We could have sent for the physician.”

“At the time of the accident, the damage was minor.  The damage came on so gradually, and by the time we realized what was happening, it was far too late to have been able to help him.  We may have been able to save Mamma and our sisters, had we realized sooner, and placed Papa in a sanitarium.  But it was too late.  If only William and I had arrived before Christmas, we could have saved all of you.”

“Lizzy, you are not to blame.  You were far from here, with no way of knowing what was happening.  Papa was cold, and hid in his study most of the time.  We thought he was just angry over your marriage.  Then he would demand things, acting differently from what he had in the past.  That all happened just before Christmas.  Then Christmas Eve, everything went wrong.  We heard him come from his study, shouting for Mamma.  When he learned of her taking Jane and Mary to the ball, he lost all control.  He ruined Mamma’s clothes, so she could go nowhere, and he beat her, when she returned from Netherfield.”

“By then, the damage was so severe.” Elizabeth said.  “The physicians checked Papa’s body after he died.  The injury to his head caused small pieces of the skull to break off and move into his brain.  This is what caused the damage.  And it took time, and movement, until the pieces of bone had gotten to the point they did the damage.  The physicians also said he must have had severe headaches at times, which would explain why Papa drank more than before.”

“But Lizzy, he killed so many people.  How can you forgive him for killing?”

“Because that man was not our Papa.  Our Papa was the loving man who stood before me, shielding me from the blade with which Wickham had planned to kill me.  Our Papa was the man who saved my life, sacrificing his own in the process.  He did not remember killing anyone.  He did not believe Mamma and our sisters were dead.”

Jacob thought for a moment.  “Do you feel his presence?  Do you feel he is here, with us?”

Elizabeth nodded her head.  “I do.  And I feel he is at peace.”

“Might I have a few moments to speak with him?” Jacob asked, nervously.

As this was the first time Jacob had spoken of his feelings for Thomas Bennet, Elizabeth and Darcy decided to allow the boy some time at the side of the grave.  Darcy carried Jacob to the side of the grave, placing him on the ground between the graves of his mother and father, facing the headstones.

Elizabeth and Darcy then stepped away, allowing privacy.

“Mamma, I miss you.  And I do not know what to believe.  I know Papa was injured, and it made him act strangely.  But is that what caused him to murder you, my sisters, and others?  I wish to believe Lizzy.  I remember Papa when he was kind and…and.” Tears were coming quickly to the boy’s eyes.

“Papa, I remember the night you entered my bedchamber.  I can remember the feel of the knife as you cut me.  Why, Papa?  You never spoke.  Why did you behave as you did?”  Jacob’s voice was louder and filled with pain.

“I loved you, Papa.  But you were different the past year.  I did not know the man you had become.  Did your fall really cause you to change?  Or are you an evil man, as I have heard others whisper?”

A breeze flowed through the area, and suddenly, it grew stronger.  Jacob was shocked to see one of the pink roses from his mother’s grave had been moved, and was now lying near the headstone bearing his father’s name.

Jacob’s tears were now freely flowing down his cheek.  He felt his mother’s presence, her love surrounding his body, as it had done when she embraced him in life.  So filled with her love, and seeing the pink rose now marking his father’s grave, Jacob felt he had received his answer.  His mother had forgiven his father.  It was then, Jacob was certain of the truth.  He knew what his sister had told him of his father’s injury was the truth.

“Thank you, Mamma.  Thank you for loving me, as you always have.  And thank you for showing me the truth.  I will forgive Papa for what happened.  I promise, Mamma, I will forgive him.”

Jacob called for his sister and brother in law to come to him.  “Lizzy, you were correct.  Look…Mamma moved one of her roses, giving it to Papa.  Do you think that she forgives him?”

Tears were shining from Elizabeth’s cheeks as she nodded her head.  “I do, Jacob.  Mamma knows the truth of what happened, and she is telling you that she forgave him, because he did not know what he was doing.”

“I can feel Mamma with us.  It is like when she used to hold me in her arms, telling me how much she loved me.”

She could see how much change had come over her little brother.  The anger and frustration over what had happened was finally being released.  Elizabeth had realized that her brother was confused over their father’s behavior, and that he did not know what to believe.  Seeing his tears and the relief he felt, Elizabeth was certain he could move forward now.

~~ ** ~~

Jane was finally able to leave her rooms, as Charles had received the physicians’ acknowledgement that her recovery was nearly complete.  She chuckled as he guarded her, telling her over and over that she was not to overdo.

“Charles, I will use caution.  If I feel in the least fatigued, I will inform you.  I promise you, I will not overdo.”

Charles’ cheeks reddened.  “Forgive me, my dearest.  I cannot begin to think of what I would do if I were to lose you.”

“I understand, Charles.  I love you, and if I had to endure what you have the last months, I would be just as worried about you.”

“Thank you for your understanding.” Charles lifted Jane’s hand to his lips.  “I pray we have a long life together.”

“As do I.  And I believe we should begin planning for the wedding.  We will finish half mourning in June.  I believe it would be the perfect time for us to wed.”

Charles looked at his betrothed.  “I am willing to wait longer, if you need more time.  I would not wish to force you to hurry.”

Jane smiled.  “I know you would delay for me, though it is not what either of us wishes.  I believe my parents and sisters would approve of our wedding in June.  It will have been long enough for mourning, and time to move forward.  And we will have Lizzy and William with us.  They wish to return to Pemberley by August, for Ben’s birthday.  And we have been invited to visit Pemberley.  Would it not be wonderful to stop there on our way home from our wedding trip?”

“I like the sound of that, our wedding trip.  Where would you like to go for our trip?”

“Scotland.  Lizzy said that William has a small estate near Edinberg, and I thought it would be pleasant.  She said it is close enough for trips into the city for sightseeing and entertainment, though secluded.  And there is a pleasant inn if we decide to stay in the city.  They wish to gift the trip to us.”

Charles chuckled.  “I am not surprised.  And as we make our way home, we can stop at the Lake District, then stay for a visit at Pemberley.”

“It all sounds heavenly.”

“And what type of wedding have you always dreamt?”

Jane giggled.  “You believe young ladies sit around, dreaming of the wedding they would one day have?”

“Do they not?” Charles asked, surprised at her response.

“Well, I guess we do.  I wish for a smaller wedding, nothing grand.  And flowers, I wish to have white roses and lavender nosegays decorating the church.  Do you have any preferences?”

“I do not wish for you to wear a bonnet.  Perhaps some lace in your hair, but definitely, no bonnet.  I wish to be able to see your face.”

A blush grew on Jane’s cheeks.  “Very well, no bonnet.  I will have to have Aunt Gardiner assist in having the gown made in Town, as Lizzy is still refusing to do business with Mrs Albert, the dressmaker.”

“Darcy was stating that he and Lizzy were to go to Town next week, to do some shopping and take in the theater.  They are to attend a dinner at the Matlock townhouse at the end of the week.  Perhaps you would like to journey to Town with them, to purchase your trousseau.”

“Charles…I…do not…”

He knew where her mind had traveled.  “Jane, my dearest love, there is money enough to pay for your trousseau.  Your Aunt and Uncle Phillips, Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, and Lizzy and Darcy have all offered to pay for part or all of your needs, even though I would gladly pay for whatever you require.  So there is plenty to purchase your trousseau.”

Tears welled in her eyes.  “It is terrible to know I am at the mercy of my family for support.  We did not have much before, as we only had one thousand pounds each for a dowry, but now even that is gone.”

“Did Lizzy not tell you?” Charles looked at his intended curiously.  “Your Uncle Phillips found that there had been a bank account opened the year you were born, and the funds in it have built for all of the years, without anything being taken from the account.  It was set up with your mother’s dowry, which was to be divided between you girls.  The money has more than doubled over the years.  There is more than twelve thousand in the account.”

“But that should be shared with Lizzy and Jacob.  It should not me mine.” Jane declared.

“Jacob has Longbourn.  Lizzy stated that she does not wish for the money, and Darcy has supported her on the decision.  And before you say that Longbourn was financially in ruin, it was not.  Mr Phillips went through the books and he discovered an error your father made in them.  When Mr Phillips contacted the bank, he learned that there was more than six thousand pounds in the account.  Jacob is secure, as is Longbourn.  The repairs that have been made, and the new house are minor costs, as your sister and her husband have already paid part of them, and refuse to be reimbursed.”

“Lizzy and William must think of the future for their family.  They cannot afford to be so giving with their money.” Jane protested.

“To tell you the truth, your brother in law is one of the wealthiest men in England.  He is invested in many different areas, including with your uncle Gardiner.  And he owns four estates, besides Pemberley.  One in Scotland, two in Ireland, and one in Belgium. Each of those estates are estimated to bring in an annual income of four or five thousand, and Pemberley is said to bring in over ten thousand per annum.  Even with Georgiana’s dowry of thirty thousand, and what Darcy settled on Lizzy, there is no suffering.  And they are collecting money from those who were aided after the earthquake.  Mrs Gardiner said that the Darcys would only accept low payments per quarter, so that none of the people were put in a hardship.  Her father is paying one pound per quarter, which he feels is far too low.  Mr Thompson attempted to pay more, as his business is doing well, but Lizzy and Darcy refused to allow the higher amount.”

“That sounds like Lizzy and William.” Jane smiled.  “They are generous to a fault.”

“So let us return to my question.  Do you wish to make the journey to Town to acquire your trousseau?”

Jane nodded her head.  “I believe I would.”

~~ ** ~~

The Darcys and Bennets made the journey to Town the following week.  Charles decided to remain at Netherfield, as he wished to prepare a surprise for Jane’s return.  Mr Bingley had decided to remodel a wing of Netherfield for his son and soon to be daughter.  He had recently signed the papers to purchase Netherfield, and wished to make the estate comfortable for his family.

Mr Bingley had received word that his sister had tried everything possible to tame Caroline’s behavior, but had failed.  His sister suggested arranging a marriage for Caroline, and she had just such a man to whom they could marry the young lady.  One of Mr Bingley’s former partners had a son who had recently purchased a small estate in Ireland.  He was looking to marry, and Caroline’s dowry would be perfect to add padding to the young man’s bank account.

The young man was to come to Netherfield to finalize the marriage settlement, and was to bring a special license for him to marry Caroline.  The younger Bingley sister was returning to Netherfield, since the Darcys had left for Town, and she would remain there for the week before her wedding.  Caroline had yet to be informed, and, with a certain amount of pleasure, Mr Bingley was looking forward to informing his daughter that her future had been determined.

~~ ** ~~

Upon arriving at Netherfield, Caroline was greeted by her father and brother in the foyer of the house.  “Ah, Caroline, welcome.  I pray your journey was relatively pleasant.” Mr Bingley said as he placed a kiss on his daughter’s cheek.

“It was dreadful.  Why you chose to purchase this horrid place is beyond me.  I thought you were planning to look at estates further north, perhaps in Derbyshire.”

“No, we have come to love this house and neighborhood.  Charles and Jane will soon be wed, and it is just as much their home as mine.”

Caroline sneered at her brother.  “Oh, yes, you are marrying that chit from such a…unique…family.  I pray your children do not inherit their grandfather’s mental illness.”

“Caroline, I will not tolerate such talk.” Mr Bingley said, holding Charles’ arm as the younger man was ready to pummel his sister.  “Mr Bennet suffered from a head injury, which caused damage to his brain.  He was not, and I repeat, NOT mentally ill.  His condition is not hereditary, and there is nothing that can be blamed on any of the Bennet family members.  Do I make myself clear?”

“How convenient, the man had a fall and it is blamed for his break from reality.  I rather disbelieve the theory, as there is no evidence, only someone coming up with a theory.” Caroline placed her hands on her hips, showing her disdain for the Bennet family.

“Caroline, I suggest you follow me to my study.  We have several issues to discuss in private.”

“I am rather fatigued from the journey.  It would be best if I were to rest first, then we can meet, after I take a bath and have a bite to eat.” Caroline declared.

“I would have thought you would have learned that when I suggest you follow me to my study, I really meant that you WILL follow me to my study.  And that means now, not when you determine appropriate.”

Caroline was shocked at her father’s behavior.  She quickly gave in to his request, though she was surprised to find her brother following behind her.

Once they were all inside the study, Charles closed the door.  Caroline was displeased to have him in the room, as it did not mean anything good for her.  “So, where is your intended?  I am sure she will wish you to join her, rather than your being here, with us.”

“My betrothed is in Town, with the Darcys and Master Jacob Bennet.  They are shopping for Jane’s trousseau, so she has no need of me at the moment.”

“So, Father, what is so important that you needed me to forgo cleaning up from the dusty road, and resting?”

Mr Bingley sat behind his large, oak desk.  “Caroline, I have received a request for your hand in marriage.  I have granted the request, and your intended will be arriving shortly, with a special license.  Your wedding will be on Monday next, and then you will be leaving for his new estate.”

“Mr Darcy has purchased a new estate?” Caroline’s eyes grew round.  “He must have wished to have a fresh start, after having lived at Pemberley with that harlot.  I am pleased to see he has been granted the divorce, and has accomplished it in such a short time.”

“Stop this delusion, immediately.  You are not marrying Mr Darcy.  Not now, not ever.  He is happily married to Elizabeth.  You are marrying Mr Frank Whimple.”

“Whimple?  Your former partner?  He is old enough to be your grandfather.” Caroline said, her fury growing by the second.

“My former partner’s son, Frank, who is in his early thirties.  He has purchased an estate in Ireland, where you will live with him.  The arrangements have been made, the settlement is being drawn up as we speak.”

“No, I will not marry someone like him.  I am certain he is as ugly as his father.  I will not marry him, I mean…he is in trade.  What would society think of me?  We would be shunned.”  Thinking for a few moments, Caroline came upon a thought.  “This is all your fault, Charles.  All because you are marrying that country nobody, who has no fortune or connections. You have ruined our family and now I must suffer for your marrying beneath us.”

Mr Bingley was shocked at his daughter’s accusation.  “Caroline, our money comes from trade.  I worked hard, as did your grandfather and great grandfather.  We built our wealth from trade.  Jane Bennet is a gentlewoman, born of a gentleman.  Marrying Jane Bennet will actually improve your brother’s standing in society.  And Miss Bennet is the sister in law of Fitzwilliam Darcy, so that is substantial in the line of connections.  You had best get used to the fact that you will not be marrying Mr Darcy, or anyone else of the first circle of society.  You are marrying Mr Whimple, and will be Mistress of his estate in Ireland.  Do I make myself clear?  Do you understand what I am telling you?”

“I would prefer returning to Scarborough to live with my aunt.” Caroline stated, acting as if she had options.

“You have two options, Caroline.  You can either marry Mr Whimple, have your own home, live comfortably with your inheritance and his income from the estate, or, you can be cut off completely.  No more allowance, no more living at my expense, no more balls or society.  You would have to find employment to support yourself, or find someone who is foolish enough to take pity on you.  Which of these two choices do you pick?”

Caroline’s cheeks were nearly scarlet red.  “You would not dare cut me off and force me to find employment.  Mother would never have approved.”

“And your mother is dead.  Make your decision.”

After several moments of staring daggers at her father, Caroline huffed.  “I have no choice.  I will marry your tradesman.”

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


Chapter 20

It had been ten years since Charles Bingley took Jane Bennet as his wife.  Many changes had happened in the years.

Jane and Charles had been blessed with four children, a daughter came first, followed by a set of twin boys and a younger daughter.  They were sweet natured children, amiable and kind, just like their parents.  Their grandfather was thrilled with each of his grandchildren, yet it was the youngest who had completely won his heart, as she reminded him of all the sweetness he remembered from his mother, for whom the girl was named.  Mr Bingley enjoyed his house being filled with the sounds of children.

Louisa and Gilbert Hurst had two children, though they lived at the Hurst estate most of the time.  The Hurst family visited Netherfield twice a year, once in the summer, and again at Christmas.

Caroline and Frank Whimple had one child, a boy.  Caroline had declared she would not have another child, since she had given her husband the required heir for his estate.  She had kept the door to her bedchamber closed and locked since the child was born, and she did not argue when her husband found comfort in the arms of another woman.  The Whimples had only visited Netherfield once since their marriage, and it was far from pleasant.  Elizabeth and Darcy had been visiting at the same time, and Caroline nearly draped herself all over Darcy during the entire visit.  Though Elizabeth found the situation humorous, watching the disgusted expression of her husband, as he made every attempt to remove the very clingy Caroline Whimple.  Elizabeth laughed when Darcy informed her it must have been like hugging an octopus.

In the months after Lady Catherine’s death, Anne de Bourgh took to Town and was quite comfortable with society.  At first, she was invited to dinners, teas, and balls due to Lord and Lady Matlock, but it did not take long until Anne was being invited for the pleasant young lady she was.

Under the tutelage of Lady Matlock, Anne blossomed and was well received.  And there were many young men who found the lady favorable.  Though she no longer owned Rosings, which she sold within six months, Anne owned her own townhouse and had a healthy bank account, both of which increased her eligibility.

It was during a ball at Matlock House, a year after Lady Catherine’s death, that Anne finally decided to give her heart to a man she had watched for years.

Richard Fitzwilliam had kept to Longbourn for over a year, seeing to the improvements and the new house being built.  He did not visit Town, as he preferred the country, where he could ride his horses and enjoy the fresh air.  But he came to Town for his mother’s birthday celebration, which was to include a ball.

The former military man had not seen his cousin, Anne, since she had visited Netherfield.  The change in her was so remarkable that he did not recognize her at first.

Lady Matlock took pleasure on introducing her son to his cousin.  “Richard, you must secure a dance with Anne, before her card fills.  And it is usually full quickly, so you should ask her quickly.”

“I will, Mother.  Where is she?” Richard glanced about the room.  He had been paying attention to a very pretty young lady standing next to his elder brother and sister in law, and was hoping they would introduce him to the lady, but he would wait until after he had secured a dance with Anne.

“Why, Anne is over there, with your brother.  I think the forest green gown is lovely on her.  It brings out her eyes.”

“That is Cousin Anne?” Richard was shocked.  “That cannot be Anne.  She does not look anything like the young lady I know.”

“See what happens when she was finally free of Catherine’s cruel treatment?  Anne literally bloomed before us. And she has become quite the favorite amongst the young men of the ton.”  Lady Matlock watched her son’s expression change, moving from an obligatory set of dances with a cousin to the desire of knowing the beautiful young lady before him.  A grin grew on Lady Matlock’s lips.

As Richard made his way across the room to speak with his brother’s trio, Lord Matlock walked up behind his wife, placing a hand on the small of her back.  “So, Richard has finally seen Anne.  Shall we place a bet on how long it takes him to propose to her?”

“No, I would rather bet on how soon it will be before they marry.  Did you notice his expression?  He is smitten already.”

“And Anne has always been in love with Richard.”

Lady Matlock turned her eyes towards her husband.  “How did you know?”

“Do you believe yourself the only one able to judge the feelings of our younger generation?  I have learned to watch them, as do you.  And I am certain that our niece, Elizabeth, will be informing her husband that she is increasing again.  She has that sparkle about her, as she did with Ben.”

“Very good, Henry.  You are very perceptive.  Elizabeth informed me this morning.  She is planning to tell her husband for his birthday, so do not ruin her surprise.”

Lord Matlock lifted his wife’s hand to his lips.  “I would never do such a thing, my love.”

Lady Matlock won the bet, as she was certain that Anne would become her daughter in law within a fortnight, while Lord Matlock stated the couple would take a month.

~~ ** ~~

Jacob had decided to sell Longbourn, having never felt comfortable with the thought of living there again.  So he offered to sell the estate to Richard and Anne, who quickly made the purchase.  The estate continued to flourish, and, when an offer for some land near Longbourn was for sale, they purchased it to add to the size of the estate.

Their home was comfortable, three stories high, with plenty of rooms to add to their family.  Following Elizabeth’s suggestion, a conservatory had been added to the house, which was one of Anne’s favorite places during the winter months.  She spent many hours cultivating her flowers, from which cuttings were given to her relations for their own estates.

Richard and Anne had a son, and were expecting another child, bringing Lady Matlock’s grandchildren to five, as her eldest son had three daughters.

Mr and Mrs Phillips became close friends with the Bingley and Fitzwilliam families, with Mr Phillips handling their legal matters.  Mrs Phillips was thrilled to be a grandmother figure for the Bingley children, and soon was thought of as the same for the Fitzwilliam son.  Though Anne was close to Lady Matlock, Mrs Phillips was near, and Anne had become close to the lady, finding her motherly advice to be invaluable.  Jane and Anne had become close friends, spending much time with each other.

Jacob never was able to walk again, though he did not allow that to stop him.  After selling Longbourn to Richard and Anne, Jacob had the funds invested in several ventures, making a small fortune.  He studied law, and eventually decided to join his uncle, purchasing a comfortable house in Meryton, near the Phillips’ home.  He was clerking for his uncle, while still studying.  And Jacob had lost his heart to Maria Lucas, the youngest child of Sir William and Lady Lucas.  They were engaged, though Jacob wished to wait until he was a solicitor.

The Darcy family had many changes in the ten years.  Georgiana had grown into a fine young lady, and two years previously, she had married a gentleman from Sussex.  The couple were very happy together, living at his family estate, of which he was the heir.

Bennet Darcy had become a big brother, as Elizabeth gave birth to four more children over the years.  The second born was a son, or as Mrs Bennet would have referred to as the spare, named Edward Henry Thomas.  Then came the first of three daughters, each born a year apart.  In order were Jane Frances, Rebecca Anne, and Helen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was walking in her rose garden when she overheard her daughters, Jane and Rebecca, talking with Ben.

“Mamma says they met the day there was a quakie.” Five year old Rebecca said.  “What is a quakie?”

Ben laughed.  “It is an earthquake.  The ground shakes and moves about.”

Jane’s eyes grew big.  “Like when we jump on the bed and it wiggles about?”

Her eldest brother nodded his head.  “The ground moves about, and it shakes buildings, trees, everything.  All of the buildings in Lambton were destroyed.”

“But Lambton has nice buildings.  Especially the tea shop.” Rebecca stated.  “How could the ground shake the buildings and break them?”

“I do not know, but it does.  Sort of like the story Papa told about the giants that threw the huge boulders, and when they landed, the ground shook.” Ben said.

“There are giants?” Rebecca became frightened, her eyes darting about.

Elizabeth stepped forward.  “No, my dear, there are no such things as giants.  But sometimes the ground does move about, like it is doing a dance.  The day I met your father, the ground danced so hard, Mr Thompson’s store fell apart, and we landed in the basement.”

“You and Papa?” Jane asked.

“Your Papa, his father, and me.  It took several hours for them to dig until they could get us out of the basement, as the building was destroyed.”

“That must have been scary.” Jane decided.

“It was, though Papa and his father were very kind to me.”

Rebecca giggled.  “Papa is always kind.  Did he kiss you?  Like the prince in the book?”

Elizabeth chuckled.  Her middle daughter was always wanting a story read to her.  “No, he did not kiss me, as we had only just met.  But we talked, and he gave me his coat to wear, as my gown was a frightful mess.”

Ben was surprised.  “Papa is so much bigger than you, his coat must have been like a blanket.”

“It was.  But it was also very warm, and smelled like him.”  Elizabeth remembered the feel from that day.

“Like lemons and coffee?” Rebecca asked.

“Yes, like lemons and coffee.  I think he smells so good.”

Rebecca nodded her head.  “I think so too.”

“Will the ground shake and dance again?” Jane asked.

“We do not know for certain.” Elizabeth said.  “We cannot predict when it happens, but it has happened in other places as well.  All we can do is pray for the best, and if one happens, take care of those who need our assistance.”

Ben puffed up his chest.  “Papa told me that I must always ensure that, not only our estate, but our neighborhood has the care it needs.  He said that you assisted him in seeing to the repairs at Lambton as well as here, at Pemberley.”

“I did what was expected of the Mistress of Pemberley.” Elizabeth smiled.

Darcy had been listening as he came outside from his study.  “Your mother did more than just her duty.  She was the one who brought the neighborhood together, helping those who were injured or had lost everything.  The hospital was dedicated to your Mamma in recognition of all her hard work and care to the area.”

“I have seen the plaque on the wall, near Mr Grant’s office.” Ben stated.

“So, why are we discussing this subject?” Darcy asked.

“Ben said that the ground quakied, and Mamma told us about when you met.”

Seeing her husband’s eyebrow lift, Elizabeth smiled.  “She means they were discussing the day that found Pemberley quaking.”