Engaged to Fitzwilliam Darcy. Elizabeth Bennet could not believe it was true. She was engaged to Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. And she could not be happier than she was.
Elizabeth met Darcy only two months previously, when Darcy’s friend, Charles Bingley, took the lease of Netherfield Park. The estate was next to Elizabeth’s father’s estate of Longbourn, in Hertfordshire, near the quiet village of Meryton.
Mr Bingley had invited his friend to visit, as the young man required assistance from Darcy. Fitzwilliam Darcy had become the Master of his family’s estate at the early age of twenty two, after his parents died in a carriage accident. He was left to raise his much younger sister, Georgiana, who was twelve years his junior. Now, at the age of twenty seven, Darcy was confident in his management of Pemberley, his estate in Derbyshire. Knowing Bingley had no experience in running an estate, Darcy consented to visiting his friend.
Darcy had instantly noticed Elizabeth, the moment he spied her across the crowded room of the Assembly. She was the most beautiful lady he had ever seen, with chocolate brown hair, and her eyes combining brown and flecks of gold. Her smile was warmth itself. The young lady was bewitching in a way Darcy had never known before. He had taken the opportunity to ask her to dance, immediately after he was introduced to her. This surprised his friend, as Darcy rarely ever danced, especially with someone he was not familiar with.
After the Assembly, Darcy had taken every opportunity to spend time with Elizabeth. Bingley’s sisters were not pleased with the situation, as Bingley’s sister, Miss Caroline Bingley, had set her cap on being the next Mistress of Pemberley. To be rid of her sister, the eldest of the Bingley siblings, Louisa Hurst, supported Caroline’s plans to ensnare Darcy in marriage.
Bingley was taken with Elizabeth’s eldest sister, Miss Jane Bennet. She was a gentle soul, who never spoke ill of others. Jane was believed to be the most beautiful young lady in the neighborhood, and Charles Bingley quite agreed. Following his friend’s actions, as soon as he had been introduced to Jane, he asked for a dance. After the night of the Assembly, Bingley and Darcy became frequent callers at Longbourn. Caroline had consented to act as hostess for her brother, though she did not approve of his connection to the Bennet family, and did not wish to follow his request for Jane and Elizabeth to be invited for tea or to dine. Caroline saw the sisters as a package, if one of them was a threat to her gaining the name Darcy to her own, both should be avoided.
Darcy and Bingley learned ways to maneuver around Caroline. Darcy had been clear with his friend, he would never marry Caroline, even if she were standing before him, naked as the day she was born. If all else failed, Darcy told his friend he would prefer paying someone else to marry Caroline if she should attempt a compromise. Bingley acknowledged his friend’s decision, and had attempted many times to speak with Caroline on the matter, only to have the lady ignore her brother.
Elizabeth could not believe her good fortune. All of her life, Elizabeth had heard her mother declare that no man would ever desire her as a wife. Being inquisitive, Elizabeth was fond of reading. Her father had always allowed her access to his study and bookroom, where her hunger for knowledge was sated in vast number of leather bound volumes.
And, all of her life, Elizabeth had been told that she was plain or not nearly as pretty as her sisters. Being the second born of five daughters, Elizabeth was her mother’s least favorite.
But Darcy had declared her as beautiful. Though it was difficult to accept his words, she felt that she could not be as terrible as her mother had insisted.
On the first day after they became engaged, Mr Darcy arrived at ten in the morning to visit, accompanied by Bingley. As his friend was instantly drawn to Jane, Darcy was drawn to Elizabeth’s side. He walked to her, taking hold of her hand and bringing it to his lips to place a gentle kiss on its back, before taking a seat next to her on the sofa.
“Good morning, Elizabeth.” He said with a smile. It was thrilling to be able to use her name in such an intimate manner.
“Good morning Mr Darcy.”
“What did we discuss yesterday?”
Elizabeth blushed. “Forgive me, it is all still so new. Good morning, William.”
The smile she received as a reward for her use of his name was beguiling. She would never have thought him to have a dimple. “You should smile such, more often. It makes you looks more handsome than before.”
“I save such smiles for you, Elizabeth.” He gave the hand he still held a quick squeeze. “I received word that Georgiana will be arriving tomorrow. She cannot wait to meet you.”
“Do you think your sister will like me? Would she not prefer a sister who is of the same society as your family? Will Miss Darcy not be disappointed?”
Seeing the fear in her eyes, Darcy wished more than ever to be able to wrap her in his arms, relieving any doubt she held. “Georgiana will love you for the wonderful woman you are. Your kindness, your caring nature, your goodness, will be all that she will see. My sister is much like me, very shy and disliking of high society. Attending balls and large parties are not of our preference. If my sister had her way, she would remain at Pemberley and pretend the rest of the world did not exist.”
Though not completely believing, Elizabeth relaxed some. “How will Georgiana feel about staying at Netherfield, with Mr Bingley’s sisters?”
Her voice had been soft, so only Darcy could hear her. “She is not fond of either of the ladies, and rarely speaks in their presence. But she will be with us most of the time, so she will be able to survive the stay.”
“I look forward to knowing her. From everything you have told me, she sounds like a young version of Jane.” Elizabeth looked over at her sister. “Mr Bingley seems pleased. Is he always so amiable?”
“Ever since I have known him. I cannot remember him ever uttering a negative word. I have wondered at time, how did he come to be born to a family with sisters such as his? They are so different, I wondered if Bingley was a foundling that the Bingley family adopted.”
Elizabeth chuckled. “I have had the same question in my mind. If it were not for the same color of red hair that he and Miss Bingley share, I would agree with you.”
A rider could be heard approaching the house at a fast rate. This was not a good sign, as someone in such a hurry must be bringing bad news. Darcy stood and moved across the room, peering out the window. “Looks to be a rider with an express.”
Darcy’s attention turned towards the door, as everyone waited for the housekeeper, Mrs Hill, to answer the door. Soon Mrs Hill entered the room, a message in hand.
“Mr Darcy, it is an express for you.”
His heart nearly stopped. Had something happened to his sister? Had there been an accident? Darcy took the missive and broke the seal. Reading the first sentence, Darcy took a deep breath. “It is from my aunt. She and my uncle are in Dublin, visiting my aunt’s cousin.” He said, before reading further.
Darcy began pacing as he read the missive he held in one hand, as his other hand began to comb through his hair. “Good God. This cannot be true.”
Elizabeth hurried to his side. “What is wrong, William?” She asked as she placed her hands gently on his arm, causing him to stop.
“My uncle, Lord Matlock, has taken to bed after he suffered from an attack of his heart. He is weak, and it is unknown if he will survive.”
“How terrible.” Bingley said, as he took to his feet, followed closely by Jane. The two couples gathered in the center of the drawing room.
“My aunt begs me to come to Ireland, as their eldest son, Edgar, had an accident on their estate and is bedridden. Their other son, Richard, is a Colonel in the regulars, and currently is in France.”
Though she did not wish for Darcy to make such a long journey away from her, Elizabeth understood his obligations to his family. “Will you go? What of Georgiana?”
“I do not wish to take Georgiana with me. She suffers terribly from a row boat, the crossing would be too much for her to bear. No, I believe it would be best for her to remain here, if that is acceptable with you, Bingley?”
“Of course, your sister is welcome to stay with us as long as needed. She arrives tomorrow, does she not?”
Darcy nodded his head. “I must make preparations for her while I am gone. And, with Richard and myself being out of the country, I should give someone authority to act on her behalf while I am gone. Elizabeth, would you be willing to act as my sister’s guardian? I know we are not yet married, but, in my heart, you are my wife.”
“I would be honored to stand in your place while you are away. Your sister will be well looked after, I promise you.” Elizabeth stated, standing as proud as she could, while feeling completely insecure. “I will treat her as if she were my sister by birth.”
“I should speak with a solicitor, to make everything legal. I do not wish to leave you with any difficulties while I am away.” Darcy said, cherishing the love that Elizabeth already held for his sister.
Jane spoke. “Our uncle, Mr Phillips, is a solicitor. We can send word for him to come here. I am certain Papa will allow you to use his study, all the writing supplies you require are there.”
“Thank you, Miss Bennet.” He turned his eyes towards his beloved. “I wish to speak with your father. If there are any immediate problems at Pemberley or Darcy House, I would like your father to assist you in making decisions. You will be Mistress of my homes soon enough. But your father can assist you on any difficult decisions.”
“But I am not your wife yet. It would not be proper for me to make decisions about your home, without your input.” Elizabeth became nervous. “I have never even seen your homes, what if I made the wrong decisions?”
“I have faith in you, Elizabeth. I believe you will be able to make proper decisions, and your father will be able to assist you. Bingley, you know my homes. Will you be willing to assist my betrothed if there is an emergency and she requires your aid?”
“Of course, Darcy. I am willing to do whatever I can to be of assistance. Miss Elizabeth, you can count on me if the need arises.” Bingley puffed himself up slightly, attempting to put Elizabeth at ease.
“Come, Elizabeth, let us speak with your father. Bingley, would you send word to Mr Phillips, asking him to attend us here?”
~~ ** ~~
Mr Phillips arrived at Longbourn and the men spent several hours going over all the plans Darcy wished to put in place for his absence. “I wish for my betrothed to act as if she were already Mistress of my homes, for her to be able to make decisions on my behalf, if an emergency arises. And she is to have guardianship over my sister. If my mother’s sister were to learn that Richard and I were both out of the country, she would have no qualms with coming here and dragging Georgiana away to her estate of Rosings. Georgiana is scared of my aunt, as Lady Catherine is a force with which to be reckoned.”
“Rosings?” Mr Bennet was curious. “My cousin recently wrote to me, and I believe he stated he has the living at Hunsford, which is connected to Rosings.”
“Ah, Mr Collins. I have met the man.” Darcy replied.
“From your expression, and from the way his letter is written, I believe my cousin is much like his father. The elder Mr Collins was a fool, a groveling toady, and a sycophant. He wishes to visit, stating that he wishes to repair the wounds of the past, from when his father was alive. And, according to what he wrote, he is in want of a wife. It is my belief that he plans to choose from my daughters.”
Darcy shook his head. “It is not my place to tell you what to do, Mr Bennet, but if it were my daughters that man was intending to ask for, I would refuse him. Your daughters deserve far better husbands than Mr Collins.”
“I thank you for the compliment to my daughters, and for your advice with regards to my cousin. Now, let us finish this paperwork, as I am certain you wish to spend more time with Lizzy. You will be gone for some time, and I know she will miss you terribly.” Mr Bennet stated.
“I promise to write frequently, and keep her apprised of all that is happening. And, as soon as I know the date I will be returning, I wish to have our wedding the very next day. So I ask that you have the banns called. I will send word to the parson at Kympton to also have the banns called.”
“Very good. I am certain that we can have everything prepared for when you return. Who knows, if another young buck gets around to asking, we might have a double ceremony.”
Darcy chuckled. “My friend is so much in love that he has not thought much past today. I would be honored to share a ceremony with Bingley and Miss Jane.”
~~ ** ~~
Darcy and Bingley remained at Longbourn, having been invited to dine with the Bennet and Phillips families. Darcy was loathed to be separated from his betrothed, as he would leave the following day, after he introduced Georgiana to his future wife. After dinner, when the men took their leave, Darcy asked Elizabeth to walk him out to his horse.
“My dearest Elizabeth, I will be here in the morning with my sister. I wish I did not have to leave, but my aunt is desperate for assistance.”
Elizabeth lifted one of her hands, gently caressing his cheek. “William, it is one of the things I love about you. You have a generous and caring heart, loyal and protective of those you love. That you would go to them, do what you can to assist them, speaks highly of the sort of man you are. Just remember to hurry back here as soon as you can.”
“You know I will. With you waiting for me, and our future ahead of us, I will not remain in Ireland a moment longer than necessary.” He leaned forward, placing a kiss on her forehead.
“I have something for you.” Elizabeth reached into her pocket and removed a handkerchief, unfolding it to show a thin braid of her hair.
Darcy lifted the braid from the handkerchief. “It is a treasure that will be with me every moment. I will be able to look upon it and remember the sunlight dancing off your glorious locks when we take our walks. Might I keep the handkerchief as well? To keep the braid safe.”
“Of course.” Elizabeth handed it to him, and he wrapped the braid in the cloth once again.
“I will see you in the morning. Should we meet for our early walk, before everyone else wakes?”
Elizabeth nodded her head. “I will meet you at the garden gate at sunrise.”
Darcy leaned further down, placing a chaste kiss on her lips. “I love you, Elizabeth Bennet.”
“And I love you, Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
~~ ** ~~
The couple met in the morning, walking to their favorite location, Oakham Mount. From there, they sat on a fallen log, holding each other. “I do not wish to leave you, my love.” Darcy said, holding her tightly to his side. “I wish my cousins were able to attend their parents, so I may stay here with you. We have been engaged for only two days, and now I have to leave for Ireland.”
“I wish you could stay, but it is your family. Your aunt needs you, as her sons are unable to be there for her. I am certain she will be pleased to have you at her side. With your uncle’s illness, she must be worried.” Elizabeth wrapped her arm around his chest, leaning her head so she could hear the beating of his heart.
“My aunt is usually a strong and independent lady, so, for her to ask for assistance, it must be devastating.” Darcy took his fingers to her chin, lifting it slightly, so he could look into her eyes. “I have a gift for you, my love.”
“I do not require gifts, William, I only need you.”
“It is a part of me.” Darcy said, pulling a box from his coat pocket.
Elizabeth opened the box, gasping. Inside was a ring, bearing the Darcy family crest. Beside it was a pocket watch. “Fitzwilliam Darcy, these are yours.”
“I want you to hold them for me. The watch was my grandfather’s. Here, in the back, I have put something of myself for you.” Darcy opened the back panel, showing a lock of hair that Darcy had cut of his own. Closing it, he placed it back in Elizabeth’s hands. “The ring, I have wrapped so that it would fit you better, though I know it is still large for your delicate fingers. If you prefer, you could wear it on a chain. With this ring, no one will ever doubt you have authority to act in my stead, as this is the ring I use to seal important documents. You will soon be a Darcy, and, at Pemberley, there is another seal, for the Mistress to use. When I take you there, I will give you the seal.”
“William, I will keep these safe for you, until you return.” Elizabeth allowed him to slide his ring on her finger. He was correct, the size was gigantic on her delicate and fine fingers. But she would keep it on her at all times, reminding her of her betrothed, and the day he would place another ring on her finger.
Darcy could no longer control his desire to kiss her lips. His lips touched hers lightly, as he wished to keep his longing in check. But it was not to be, as the touch stole his self-control, leaving him hungry for her love. Her lips met his with equal passion, and soon, they were insatiable. Only lack of air caused them to break their connection.
Pulling her on to his lap, Darcy held her tight to him. “I wish you were my wife. I wish I could make you mine, completely, so that I would have the memory of being inside you to keep sustain me in the coming weeks.”
“It is my wish to be your wife, in every way possible. Having a part of you inside me, your love growing inside me, would be the nearest to having you at my side.”
“Do not tempt me, my love. If we were to anticipate our vows, I would never be able to leave you today. We would have to marry immediately and set out together for Ireland.” Darcy rested his head against hers, breathing heavily.
“William, I am not afraid. Take me with you. We can be married by common license and leave for Ireland.”
“But Georgiana will need you. As I said, she could not make the journey, she would be deathly ill from the ship. With Richard in France, I cannot leave her alone.”
Tears were welling in each of their eyes. Elizabeth knew he was correct, her place was in England, caring for his sister. But the feelings he provoked inside her were overwhelming, and she wanted more. “Is it wanton of me to want you?”
“No, my love.” Darcy smiled, placing a kiss on the top of her head. “For I know how you feel. And knowing you want me, just for being me, is what will give me strength in the days to come.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
Elizabeth stood beside her future sister, waving goodbye, as they watched Darcy ride away. His valet would remain in England, so Darcy rode his horse rather than using his carriage. Georgiana attempted to keep her tears under control, but they were beginning to trickle down her cheeks. When she heard Elizabeth speak to her, the girl turned towards her future sister in law, and was shocked. Elizabeth had tears streaming down her cheeks, and was holding a damp handkerchief.
“Miss Darcy, what would you prefer to do today?”
The young lady was very timid. “Please, I wish for you to call me Georgiana. We…are to be sisters.”
“Very well, but only if you refer to me as Elizabeth, or Lizzy, as my family calls me.” Elizabeth held out her arm to Georgiana, who smiled slightly.
“Perhaps we could take some time to talk, alone. I have so many questions, and would prefer to keep in your company, rather than return to Netherfield.” Suddenly, Georgiana’s eyes grew round. “Forgive me for being ungrateful towards Mr Bingley’s sisters. I…I am…it is difficult for me.”
Elizabeth chuckled. “I can understand your view, for it is difficult for me to tolerate those ladies, and I do not have to reside in the same house. And my family is very loud, so we could go to my aunt’s home in Meryton. My aunt and uncle are away, visiting our relations in Town, and Aunt Phillips allows me to use her home as a quiet retreat from my mother and sisters.”
“That would be delightful. Thank you Elizabeth.”
~~ ** ~~
The pair spent two hours chatting, when Mr Bingley and Jane Bennet arrived at the Phillip house, located on the edge of Meryton. With Mr Bingley and Jane came Mrs Younge, Georgiana’s paid companion. She had not liked being left at Longbourn, while Georgiana was off with some unknown young lady who had become engaged to Mr Darcy. Mrs Younge had plans to never have to work again, and Mr Darcy’s betrothed would be in the way.
“How kind of your aunt and uncle to allow you to use their home while they are away.” Bingley stated. “It is a pleasant home, and a calmer location than your own home.”
“Why Mr Bingley, I believe that was the harshest comment I have heard you utter.” Elizabeth chuckled.
Bingley’s cheeks were redder than his hair. “Forgive me, Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth, I meant nothing cruel towards your family. I…I meant, well, with your younger sisters being so active. And Miss Mary practicing the pianoforte.”
“Mr Bingley, do not fret. Our home is far from being calm and quiet, I do agree with you. Our youngest two sisters are very vocal and speak their minds. And let us not forget our mother, for she is not quiet by any means. So, to answer your question, it is very pleasant to have time in a quiet home, and be able to speak openly with my future sister.” Elizabeth draped her arm about Georgiana’s shoulders.
“I have enjoyed our time together, Lizzy.” Georgiana declared. “I look forward to having you as my sister.”
“Miss Darcy, I believe it is time for you to return to Netherfield.” Her companion said, clearly wishing to declare herself as knowing what was best for the girl. “We would not wish for you to become ill.”
“Of course…forgive me.” Georgiana looked down at her feet, ashamed of her behavior. “I lost track of time. You are correct, Mrs Younge. We should return, so I might rest.”
Bingley did not desire to leave Jane, but his duty, as host, meant he would need to escort his friend’s sister to his home. “Come, Miss Darcy, we will return to visit with the Bennet ladies tomorrow. And tomorrow night, we will have Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth dine with us at Netherfield. You will have plenty of time to spend with your future sister.”
“I know. It is just difficult, with William leaving so suddenly, and not knowing when he will be returning. And I am concerned for my aunt and uncle. It is rare that my aunt is unable to handle situations, so, for her to ask for assistance, it concerns me of my uncle’s health. He must be extremely ill. And word should be sent to my cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. He would wish to know of his father’s health, and his brother’s accident. Richard might even be able to get leave from the military, so he could return and aid his family.”
“Georgiana, perhaps you should write a letter to him, tonight, and we can post it tomorrow. I can come to Netherfield to meet you, and we can walk to Meryton to post the letter.”
“Oh, yes, Lizzy. I will write to Richard, as soon as I can tonight.” Georgiana smiled.
“Miss Darcy, tomorrow you are to return to your studies. Remember, your brother would be disappointed if you did not keep to the schedule that was set for you months ago.” Mrs Younge said, with an attitude which caused Elizabeth to become agitated.
“Mrs Younge, I am not certain if you understood Mr Darcy, before he left, but he left me in charge of his sister, and I believe it would not hurt Georgiana to take a few days from her studies. From what my betrothed has informed me, his sister is far surpassed other young ladies of her age. Therefore, if Georgiana wishes to come to Meryton with me and post a letter to her cousin, she may do so, with my blessing.”
“Forgive me, Miss, I was only following the orders I was given before your engagement. Mr Darcy wishes the best education for his sister, and I am following the directions the gentleman specified.”
Elizabeth stood as tall as she could. It was obvious that she would have to stand up to the companion. “Mrs Younge, have no fear of what my future husband will say, as he desired Georgiana and I spending time together, to know each other better. As a matter of fact, it is my decision that Georgiana does not require your services while she is here, so you can take a holiday. Perhaps you would enjoy visiting your family. I can see that you are transported to your relations.”
“My only relations is my sister, and she is in Scotland at the moment, working. I cannot bother her with my visiting. So I will remain here, in case Miss Darcy requires my services.” Mrs Younge was seething inside. How she wished to teach the young lady a lesson.
“Very well. But it will not be necessary for you to see to her needs. I will make decisions for Georgiana, and will be with her most of the time. So she will be well looked after.”
~~ ** ~~
Caroline Bingley was furious. Completely furious. First Mr Darcy announces that he was engaged to Miss Eliza Bennet, then he had to leave for Ireland, leaving his sister in the care of the country nobody. She felt she should have been left in charge of Georgiana Darcy. How was she to show herself as capable, if Mr Darcy puts someone else in charge of his simpleton sister?
First thing she would have to do was to promote herself with the girl’s companion. Perhaps Mrs Younge would assist her in spending time with Georgiana. And, if she were lucky, Mrs Younge could assist in keeping Eliza Bennet away from Georgiana.
~~ ** ~~
The coming days brought Elizabeth more frustration, as she dealt with Mrs Younge’s efforts to keep Georgiana from the future Mrs Darcy. It was obvious that the companion did not like the young lady who was betrothed to the master, and it was not surprising that the woman was making comments to her charge, declaring Elizabeth as unfit.
The third day that Georgiana was at Netherfield, she reluctantly informed her future sister of a conversation she had the evening before with Mrs Younge.
“She stated that you had likely used your womanly charms to ensnare my brother, and that I should not behave in such an inappropriate manner, or I would find myself attracting the wrong sort of men.” Georgiana said, as her head hung low and she was looking at her hands, folded in her lap. “I do not believe her, as I know my brother loves you. He told me so, in his letters. It is all so confusing.”
“Do not fret, Georgiana. I am certain that she has some reason to speak against me, perhaps she wishes to attract your brother to herself. It must difficult, being a widow and left with nothing to support herself. I will write to your brother, and inform him of the situation. His letter yesterday stated that he would be in Liverpool for three days, waiting for the ship to take him to Ireland. If I send it express, my letter will reach him in time.”
“I do not wish to bother him, Lizzy. He must have so many things on his mind, with Uncle being ill.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “Your brother would wish to know everything that is happening with you. I am certain he would want to know that Mrs Younge is acting inappropriately, telling you things that are false.”
“Miss Bingley stated that she finds Mrs Younge to be a most intelligent and wise lady.”
This brought laughter from Elizabeth. “Now we know there is something wrong with the situation, for I would no further trust Miss Bingley’s judgement than I would trust a bull not to chase me across Mr Jackson’s field. That bull is notorious for chasing everyone who enters the field, and Miss Bingley is known by many to see herself as your brother’s wife.”
Georgiana smiled. “She is quite obvious of her desire to take your place.”
“Do you trust Miss Bingley?”
The girl shook her head. “I never have. She makes over me as if we are the best of friends, though she frightens me. And her taste in clothing… my Aunt Rebecca, Lady Matlock, has commented about the styles and colors are completely inappropriate for Miss Bingley. Burnt orange, with her red hair, is not a good look.”
“And plumes coming from her hair? The lady is tall and thin as it is, the plumes make her appear taller and awkward. She would make a wonderful scarecrow, as she would frighten most every living thing from sight.”
The pair began laughing out loud. Georgiana finally spoke again. “Very well, Lizzy. You are correct. Brother would wish to know of Mrs Younge’s words, and Miss Bingley’s.”
“Then let us go inside and write the letter together.”
~~ ** ~~
Two days later, a response arrived by express. Mrs Hill found Elizabeth and Georgiana in the garden, enjoying the pleasant weather.
My Dearest Elizabeth,
I am so grateful that you are with my sister, keeping watch over her. I was wise in choosing you to be her guardian while Richard and I are away.
As to Mrs Younge, I am most displeased with her behavior. She was completely inappropriate to speak with Georgiana in such a manner and I will not forgive her for such actions. I wish for you to give her the enclosed letter, releasing her from employment. I will not have her filling Georgiana’s head with such nonsense. You have the authority to terminate her employment, you did not need to ask my permission. But I thank you for keeping me involved.
With Mrs Younge’s termination, I have written to Bingley and asked him to allow you to stay at Netherfield, to be with Georgiana. I have written to your father as well, since he still has authority over you, at least for a little while longer. I cannot wait to return to you, my love. It has been lonely without you, and I cannot imagine how it will be in the days to come. Your gift to me is the only thing that keeps me from jumping back on my horse and riding straight back to your embrace. I love you, Elizabeth. I wish to shout it from the mountain tops, telling everyone that you are my betrothed, and that I love you more than anything else in the world.
I have a letter for Georgiana enclosed, for she needs to know that you did nothing to ensnare me. You opened my heart and allowed me to know what it is like to love someone, completely and without reservations.
Tomorrow I will be boarding a ship for Ireland. I had planned on taking on the following day, but the ship tomorrow is owned by a friend of mine, and he has offered to take me. Normally he does not take passengers, as his ship is for cargo, but he is making an exception for me. I will write to you as soon as I can, from Ireland.
All of my love, my dearest, loveliest Elizabeth.
A tear escaped from the corner of Elizabeth’s eye. She removed the letter from the others in the packet, handing the letter addressed to Georgiana to the girl. “This letter is for my father, and this one is for Mrs Younge.”
Georgiana’s eyes grew round. “Did Brother fire Mrs Younge?”
Elizabeth nodded her head. “He did not approve of her behavior, and decided it was best for Mrs Younge to find employment elsewhere. And I agree with him. It is for the best.”
“But…but she will be angry…at me.”
“No, Georgiana, she will be angry with me and your brother. You did nothing wrong. It is best that you remain here, at Longbourn, until Mrs Younge is dealt with and sent on her way.”
Georgiana read the letter from her brother, nodding as she read her brother’s words. “Brother says the same as you, that Mrs Younge has no reason to be angry with me. I still fear her.”
Elizabeth gathered the girl in her arms and embraced her. “Have no fear, Georgiana. I will make sure you are safe.”
The pair entered the house, and Elizabeth asked Mrs Hill where Mrs Younge could be found.
“Miss Lizzy, I believe that woman is in the drawing room with your mother. She is being inappropriate, if you ask me. What right does she have to speak ill of those she works for or their friends?”
“What have you heard, Hill?”
Mrs Hill looked around, and, finding no one else nearby, continued. “I heard her telling your mother that Mr Darcy was engaged to his cousin, but that he called off the engagement, which was of long standing and as expected by all in his family, because of you. She said that Mr Darcy has been known to have a mistress in Town, and dalliances all over England. And she said that Mr Bingley is known to be at the brothels when he visits Town. According to her, she expects Mr Darcy to use Ireland as an excuse to abandon you.”
Elizabeth’s fury grew with each new word. “Would you ask Mrs Younge to come to the kitchen immediately? I wish to speak to her. And take Miss Darcy up to Mary’s room. Tell Mary to keep Georgiana up there until I come to fetch her. And have my father join me and Mrs Younge.
Mrs Hill could see her favorite of the Bennet family was preparing to stand her ground with an inappropriate servant. She was proud of Elizabeth, and pleased with her choice of Mr Darcy. The long time Longbourn housekeeper had liked the man, and knew that he would be the perfect husband for Elizabeth.
Mrs Younge entered the room, her eyes darting about to locate Georgiana. “Where is Miss Darcy? She was supposed to be under your care.”
“She is under my care, and I have placed her with one of my sisters for the moment, while I speak with you. I have a letter from Mr Darcy that I am to give to you.” Elizabeth said, holding the letter out to the companion.
Taking the letter, Mrs Younge opened it and began to read. Each word made her cheeks redden a little more, and her fury grew by the moment. “You wrote to Mr Darcy, disturbing him at this time of crisis, because of your jealousy? You have convinced my employer to sack me, due to my speaking the truth?”
“The truth? Forgive me, Mrs Younge, but you have spouted nonsense to everyone, including my mother. Mr Darcy and I are engaged, and I did not use my womanly ways to capture him. Also, he has never been engaged to his cousin, Miss de Bourgh. But, to answer your questions, I did contact him and inform him of some of the lies you have been spouting. Mr Darcy and I have no secrets from each other.”
“Everyone has secrets, and I will uncover yours. Someone like you does not become engaged to someone like Mr Darcy, you have nothing but your body to entice such a man. I will see that you are ruined, as you are attempting to do to me. Mark my word, you will pay for doing me wrong.”
“Mrs Younge, here is a bank draft for what you are owed to date. You will remove yourself from Netherfield, immediately, and are to refrain from contacting Miss Darcy from this moment forward. Do I make myself clear? No contact with my future sister. If I learn that you have attempted to contact her, or have someone contact her for you, I will see that you pay a dear price.”
Mrs Younge was furious. The country chit had ruined all her plans for the future, and was now making threats. “I will leave, Miss High and Mighty, but you have not heard the last of me. Mark my words, it is not the last you have heard from me. I will see you ruined.”
With that, Mrs Younge turned and marched from Longbourn’s main house, to the waiting carriage that would take her back to Netherfield. She may have been forced from Netherfield, but she would not go far. The inn would be her first stop.
~~ ** ~~
“How could you be so foolish as to be sacked?” Caroline stamped her foot as she inquired. “You are supposed to be assisting me in ruining that country nobody. How can you help me if you have been released from your duties, and by Mr Darcy himself?”
“I did not think the hussy would dare to contact Mr Darcy on the matter. She is truly selfish, to disturb him while he is struggling with his family. But she has told him some sort of lies to convince him that I am unfit to be Miss Darcy’s companion. It is not fair.”
“Of course it is not. Perhaps I can speak with my brother. He has been Mr Darcy’s friend for many years, he will be able to assist us in keeping you here, at least until Mr Darcy returns and can be made to see who is really causing trouble.”
“I appreciate your kindness, Miss Bingley, but it is best that I remove from here. At least for the time being. I would not wish to provoke Miss Bennet any further for the moment. I will pay for a room at the inn for now.”
Caroline was livid. “Who will watch over the girl? I cannot be held responsible for her well-being.”
“It is not my problem. I suggest you determine what your next move will be and put it in motion. We need someone who will be able to assist us in separating Miss Darcy from that interloper. And it needs to be done soon before it is too late.”
Oh, I can see all sorts of evil brewing here. But it was a pleasant start to have an engagement in place…for a different beginning. Thanks for this chapter.