Two days went by, with the only news from Netherfield being that Miss Bingley continued to deteriorate. Her infection had worsened, and the fever was extremely high. Mr Burnside was not certain how long the woman could live in such a condition, as her condition was critical.
Finally, just before sunrise on the third day, a message was sent to Longbourn, announcing the death of Caroline Bingley. Arrangements would be made to take the body to Scarborough, to have her buried near her parents.
Bingley decided he would go for a day, then returned to Netherfield. Mr and Mrs Hurst would remain in Scarborough, visiting with their aunt and cousins.
Bingley had spoken with Jane about their wedding, only the day before Caroline died. She determined it would not be appropriate for them to marry before the proper mourning period was over, yet everyone else insisted the couple marry within a month. Though it would look strange, perhaps garnering some gossip, everyone, with the exception of Mrs Bennet, felt that it would be best to make a fresh start for Bingley and Jane. Plans were made to look at estates in the north, near Pemberley, so the Bingleys and Darcys would be close to each other.
So the wedding of Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet would be in one month, allowing for a week of mourning, before the bans were called. Louisa and Gilbert Hurst would return for the wedding, then make the journey back to Scarborough. Louisa had discovered a longing for home land of her youth. And she had come to enjoy spending time with her aunt and other distant relations living in the area. After all she had endured at the hands of her sister, being in the loving bound of family had brought great relief to the eldest Bingley sibling.
~~ ** ~~
Darcy also had a surprise for his cousin. Knowing that Bingley wished to move from Netherfield, to begin fresh in a new location, yet Longbourn would never be large enough to accommodate the entire family for gatherings in the years to come, Darcy purchased Netherfield. He finally convinced Richard to become the Master of Netherfield, and assist in several plans he had devised while he was on the Isle of Man.
Darcy had wished to breed livestock. Helping with the sheep and cows on the farm of Mr and Mrs McGinty, Darcy had come to admire some of the animals. He decided to build a stock of some of the best cattle and sheep that could be found, sending to other countries if necessary. He wanted to have the best livestock in England, to add to his stock of horses he raised at Pemberley. With the weather in Hertfordshire being milder than Derbyshire, Netherfield would be the ideal location to raise the sheep and cattle.
One of the farms of Netherfield had been tended by an elderly couple, and the year past had seen the man pass away for old age. Rather than find new tenants, the farm had been left bare, with the wife living out her days alone, having no family to live with. Mr Bennet had spoken to the former owner of Netherfield, and was given permission to allow the lady to live in the cottage, as it was very small, and would need to be rebuilt for a tenant with a family.
As all of the plans were being discussed, Richard was pleased to have his parents arrive in Hertfordshire. Richard had moved to Netherfield, as Bingley was staying there by himself, after his sister and brother in law had left for the north. With all the rooms available at Netherfield, it was foolish for Richard to remain in the dower cottage of Longbourn. So Lord and Lady Matlock were invited to stay at Netherfield.
“Father, you look well.” Richard declared as he embraced his father.
“A little worse for wear, but above the dirt, which is a blessing.” Lord Matlock joked. “For a bit, I worried I would not see England again. It is a blessing to see you again, my boy. When your mother informed me of your having been injured in battle, I was fearful of what had happened.”
“Nothing too severe, as you can see for yourself.” Richard smiled. “And you will never have to concern yourself with my going to battle again.”
“Ah, have you found a pretty young thing to marry and settle down with?” Lord Matlock asked, his brow lifted in curiosity.
“No, Father, there has not been time to even think of a wife. With all that has happened since Mother sent me the letter of my cousin’s death, life has been rather hectic.”
“Do not tell your mother that you have not had time to think of settling down. She has been speaking of you and your brother doing your duty and giving her grandchildren. I wish I had a shilling for every time she spoke of her desire to have grandchildren to spoil and indulge. So you had best be prepared to begin the search.”
“Do not place the blame on me, Husband.” Lady Matlock gently pushed her husband aside, so she could claim her son’s embrace. “Richard, it is good to see you here, and looking healthy and strong.”
“I am well recovered, Mother. And will no longer be Colonel Fitzwilliam, as I have resigned my commission as of next week.”
Lady Matlock squeezed her son. “Oh, goodness, such wonderful news. And who is the young lady who has captured your heart? Does she have a good dowry?”
“Mother, there are more important issues than if the woman has a good dowry. Fortunately, between my cousin’s generosity and what I have saved from my pay, I will not require marrying for financial support.”
His mother looked at Darcy, curious as to what he had done for Richard. She knew that Darcy would do anything to have kept Richard from ever having joined the army, but her son was strong willed and refused to allow anyone to give him anything. He had always been adamant about the fact that, as a second son, he was expected to make a career for himself. He was not cut out for the clergy, nor was he of the desire to study law or medicine. So he chose the army, earning each step up the officer’s ladder by his own merits.
“And what has Fitzwilliam done to assist you?” Her eyes continued watching her nephew.
“My dear Aunt, I decided to purchase Netherfield, so we would have someplace close to the Bennets, when my wife and family decide to gather. I have also decided to pursue raising cattle and sheep, so Netherfield will be the perfect location to house the animals. So, I will require someone to act as Master of the estate, and oversee care of the livestock.” Darcy smiled, leaning over to place a gentle kiss on his aunt’s cheek. “Who could be better than Richard to see that all is taken care of properly?”
Tears began to swell up in Lady Matlock’s eyes. “William, dear boy, you have fulfilled a mother’s fondest wish.” She melted into his embrace.
Darcy whispered in his aunt’s ear. “I never wish to see Richard leave for battle, never knowing if he would return to us. This was a solution that was simple enough and the timing was perfect.”
“I will never be able to thank you enough, William. You have given us a most cherished gift.” Lady Matlock whispered in return. “Now, I insist on meeting the amazing young lady who has won your heart. Take me to her.”
~~ ** ~~
For nearly two hours, Lady Matlock visited with Elizabeth. The two had much in common, with their tastes and sense of humor. They had similar taste in music and literature, which allowed them plenty to discuss.
“Elizabeth, I am so pleased with my nephew’s decision to marry you. What a breath of fresh air you are for all the stuffy Fitzwilliam men. Between us, we will be able to keep them on their toes.”
“Just as soon as I am able to stand on my own toes, I will be happy to make others stand on theirs.” Elizabeth teased. “I cannot wait until I can be free from this wretched bed. I wish freedom.”
“I can understand. After watching over my husband, as he recovered from his illness, I know how difficult it is to keep someone cooped up inside when they wish to be living fully. But it will be soon enough that you will be able to leave your bed and take in the wonders of nature.”
Elizabeth was surprised. “How did you…”
“That you enjoy the pleasure of being outdoors?” Seeing Elizabeth nod her head, Lady Matlock chuckled. “It is one of William’s favorite things, therefore, it stands to reason that the woman he would prefer to be his wife would have the same love of nature.”
“I have enjoyed meeting you, Lady Matlock.”
“Now, what did I tell you earlier? You are to refer to me as Aunt Rebecca.”
A smile grew on Elizabeth’s lips. “Yes, Aunt Rebecca.”
“So, my sister has come here three times, in effort to remove Georgiana from the neighborhood?” Lord Matlock asked. “She would never have tried such if I had been in England.”
“But she decided to strike while everyone was distracted.” Richard declared. “The first time, Bingley protected Elizabeth, but my new cousin stood her ground with Lady Catherine. The second time, I was here, and I would not allow Lady Catherine access to Georgiana. I wish I had been here to see when she came the last time, thinking that she would be going up against Elizabeth and me, only to discover that William had returned from the dead.”
“I would have enjoyed witnessing the scene myself.” Lord Matlock chuckled. “I knew that Catherine was having financial difficulties, but I did not realize that she was in such bad shape to act in such a manner.”
“What do you mean? I have gone over Rosings’ Park’s books each year, since Father’s death. I have never noticed anything showing her being in financial difficulties.”
“Catherine keeps two sets of books. The one set is fabricated, which is the set she allows you to see. The real books would show you that Rosings Park is deep in debt.”
“And having control over Georgiana would mean control over her funds. What a foolish woman.”
“Your father thought so as well, which is why he left your sister in the protection of you and Richard.” Lord Matlock informed the young men.
“Catherine was furious to learn that Gerald had left the care of his only daughter to her brother and cousin.”
“What will happen? What of Anne’s inheritance?”
“Anne has funds set in trust for her, which is also a thorn in Catherine’s side. She has no access to the funds. Sir Lewis left me with the duty of overseeing Anne’s inheritance. Due to my sister’s foolishness with her own funds, I decided to keep the majority of the funds from Anne, until she takes over as Mistress of Rosings. It shames me that I did not oversee the change of control to Anne two years ago, when she became the age set by her father. I must see that it is handled soon. Send Catherine to the dower’s house, which will only be able to pay for two servants. Let my sister feel the sting of her own actions. Her spending as if she had unlimited funds has led her to her current situation, so she should reap the whirlwind she created.”
“If there is anything I can do to assist you, Uncle, you need only ask.”
Lord Matlock shook his head. “William, you take the time you need for you and your wife to recover. You have been through more in the past few months than most endure in years. No, Catherine is my problem to handle.”
~~ ** ~~
Netherfield was filling with visitors. Lord and Lady Matlock decided to remain in the neighborhood for an indefinite length of time. Georgiana and Kitty, who had become fast friends, decided to visit Netherfield, relieving some of the overabundance of people at Longbourn. Georgiana wished to spend time with her aunt and uncle, for whom she had always adored.
Bingley enjoyed having the guests, as it gave him little time to dwell on his sister’s death. He had received word from Louisa, announcing that she was expecting her first child in six months’ time.
The banns were read, and Mrs Bennet was in the midst of enjoying the planning of her eldest daughter wedding. “If only we had had more time to plan, we could have sent to Belgium for lace. Your Aunt Gardiner was telling me of the elegant Belgium lace she saw last year. But there will not be time enough to order any and have the gown made. Are you sure you cannot wait for another month, or two would be better?”
“No, Mamma. The plans are made, and it is set. We do not wish to reschedule.” Jane stood her ground with her mother. She had grown stronger over the previous months, and did not wish to go against her own wishes, just to accommodate her mother. Mrs Bennet was surprised to see her meek and mild daughter refusing to give in to her mother.
Jane had always wished for a beautiful gown of pale blue for her wedding. She had dreamt of having flowers in her hair, and her most cherished sister, Elizabeth, at her side as she married the man with whom she fell in love.
Fortunately, Elizabeth’s leg was healing and she was given permission the week before the wedding to begin taking short walks around the room she was in. To give her different environment, Darcy would carry her downstairs, to the parlor, to the dining room to eat with the family, or to her father’s study to enjoy reading while reclining on the sofa. The day before the wedding, Elizabeth was carried outside, and sat on the bench near the roses.
“I have always enjoyed the smell of the flowers and the beautiful colors surrounding me.” She explained to her husband. “It has always brought me comfort and peace.”
“I can understand. I find the same in my mother’s gardens on the north side of the house at Pemberley. Mother nurtured the cuttings, choosing all the different colors and where to put them. And she loved all flowers. In the midst of the roses, she placed lavender, lily of the valley, sweet Williams, and more. When I am frustrated or lonely, missing Mother, wishing for her advice, I go to the garden to feel her presence. It has given me strength, during some of my most trying times.”
“I look forward to seeing the gardens of Pemberley.” Elizabeth said, leaning in to her husband’s chest. “Tell me more of your home.”
“Our home, my dearest. It has been your home since you accepted my proposal. As much as you love being outdoors, you will love Pemberley. It is a perfect blend of natural beauty and man’s creations. My aunt, Lady Catherine, has her home covered in gilt and the most uncomfortable furniture I have ever sat upon. The house is ostentatious, and, to be honest, simply ugly. Our home is comfortable, elegant, but welcoming. My father said that a chair that was so uncomfortable that no one would sit in it for more than a moment was worthless. When my mother redecorated, she used simple colors, making it easier to change furniture or wall hangings. She loved lavender, so the Mistress’ chambers is lavender and soft yellow and blue. It feels like being in a field of wild flowers.”
“It all sounds divine.” Elizabeth spoke to his chest, as she leaned her head against, listening to his heartbeat.
“If there is anything you wish to change, as you are the Mistress of Pemberley, you may do whatever you wish.”
Elizabeth lifted her head enough to glance up at her husband’s face.
“From what you have described, I cannot imagine changing anything.”
“Just know that you can, if you choose to do so.” Darcy leaned over, placing a kiss on his wife’s lips. “I love you, Elizabeth Darcy.”
“And I love you, Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
After their arrival in Hertfordshire, Lord Matlock asked his wife to send a letter to his sister, informing her of their being at Netherfield. Lord Matlock was cunning, as he was certain that his sister would see the message coming from Lady Matlock to mean Henry Fitzwilliam, Lord Matlock, was still ill or fragile. The pompous woman would wish to take advantage of the situation, and would hurry to Netherfield, in an attempt to garner whatever control she could from the family.
So it was not surprising that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter arrived on the third day after she had received the letter from her sister in law.
Upon arriving at Netherfield, Lady Catherine was escorted into the drawing room. Lady Matlock was sitting with Georgiana and Kitty, discussing the wedding breakfast preparations for Jane and Bingley’s wedding.
“Catherine, I am surprised to see you make the journey. What brings you and Anne here?” Lady Matlock asked.
“It has come to my attention that my brother’s health is declining, and I have come here to protect the family’s interests. You will not be familiar with the legal and business matters, so I will take care of them for you.”
“That is not necessary, Catherine. All is handled and there is no need for assistance.” Lady Matlock stated. “You really should not have made such a long journey, especially with Anne’s health being so delicate.”
“It is necessary for me to ensure the Fitzwilliam family is protected. My brother cannot take care of matters, and your sons and nephew are in no position to understand all the important legalities, so it is up to me to manage. Who else will protect the family?”
“I will be more than capable of taking care of my family, Catherine.” Lord Matlock’s voice came from behind her. A shiver coursed through Lady Catherine’s body.
“Henry…I am pleased to see you looking so well.” She said as she turned to look at him. “You appear to be thinner than usual. It is clear to see that you are still suffering from your illness. I have come to assist you with all the business matters, so you can rest. You truly do not look well, Brother.”
“My physician has declared me to be fit as a fiddle. So, there is no need for your concern. Besides, my sons and Darcy are well versed in all that concerns the running of the estate and our business holdings. As a matter of fact, we were discussing the issue, just last night. Richard and William are planning to do business together, and we discussed what will need to be done. I can assure you, my sons and nephew are extremely competent in all matters of business and estate running. And William has married a young lady who is well versed in estate matters, having assisted her father for many years at running his estate.”
“Do not speak to me of our nephew. He is a disgrace to the family. I cannot tolerate the thought of his having married that chit, neglecting what he owes the family and my Anne. If you are placing your confidence in his abilities, you are a fool, and it proves your inability to care for your interests. It is best that I take charge of the situation.”
“No, Lady Catherine, you will be doing no such thing.” Darcy said as he entered the room. “My cousins and I are more than capable of seeing Lord Matlock protected and everything cared for, if something happens. Now, it would be best if you took a seat and closed your mouth, as there is an issue we need to discuss with you.”
“Darcy, what are you doing here? This is none of your business. I am speaking with my brother.” The loathing was ebbing from Lady Catherine, as her eyes shot daggers at him. “You should return to your…wife.”
“My wife is resting, and she is well aware of the reason I am here.” Lady Catherine glared at each person in the room. “I am fatigued, and require a rest. Show me to my rooms.”
“I did not know you had rooms here at Netherfield.” Lord Matlock declared. “It seems to me that you were denied access to rooms when you came here the first three times.”
If it had been possible, flames would have shot from her eyes, her fury was great. “I was not denied three times. I was refused the first time, and did not request staying the other times. As a matter of fact, I did not step foot on Netherfield soil, I went directly to the estate that is entailed upon my clergyman. That is where I found our nephew had thrown away his life, marrying that country nobody.”
“Do not disparage my wife’s good name, or you will come to regret your behavior.” Darcy hissed.
“Catherine, I am well aware of your financial difficulties. I am also aware of your refusal to hand over control of Rosings to Anne.” Lord Matlock noticed his niece look up quickly, her eyes darting back and forth between the siblings. “Anne, your mother has neglected to inform you that, when you became five and twenty, you inherited your father’s estate and business interests. There is also a trust in your name, of which I have been executor. Your father did not wish for your mother to have control over your trust, as he knew her…lack of ability with money. She cannot be trusted with financial matters.”
For the first time, since entering the room, Anne spoke. “I have been concerned for the estate, as I am aware of my mother’s propensity for overspending. It has been a concern of mine, as I was not certain if there would be anything left for me to inherit, when she died.”
“As of this moment, Anne, you are the Mistress of Rosings. You can send your mother packing, moving her to the dower house, or insisting she move off your property permanently. It is your decision to make, and I will support you, no matter what you choose. Your mother has treated you terribly, using you and abusing you. It is time you take control of your life.”
Anne began to cry. “Truly? Can this truly be happening?”
“Indeed, Anne.” Richard replied. “You deserve some happiness in your life. We all stand behind you.”
“YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY HOME FROM ME!” Cried out Lady Catherine. “It is mine, not Anne’s. She did not have to tolerate that man. After all I endured, being the wife of such a fool, I have earned Rosings. And it is the fault of others that I did not succeed in my business ventures. You influenced others to not take me seriously, and I needed to prove my abilities, so I over compensated. It is all your fault, Henry. You forced me to be better than everyone else. So it is only fair that you allow me to keep Rosings.”
Lord Matlock stood in front of his sister, so close, he was nearly touching noses with her. “So you can have the estate in ruins before the year is out? So that the estate will have to be sold? This is not fair for Anne, as it is her inheritance. You have already stolen a considerable amount of her inheritance. As it is, we may be required to assist Anne financially, if the damage you have done is worse than I have been told.”
“I will not give up my home. It is mine. Do not force me to be mean, Henry, for you are well aware of how I behave when I am forced into a corner.”
“There is no corner, Catherine, as you have backed yourself to the top of a cliff, and there is nothing stopping you from stepping off, into nothingness. You will fall, Sister, so you had best come to terms with that fact. As it is getting late, and you would never be able to reach Town before sundown, you will be allowed to remain here. We have rooms prepared for you and Anne.”
Bitterly, Lady Catherine did not wish to allow her brother the final word. “It is not your home, so you have no authority over who remains here and who does not.”
Darcy moved forward. “I own this estate, and Richard will be the Master, so we hold the authority. And if anything comes up missing, or damaged, you will be made to compensate us for the loss.”
Lady Catherine turned on her heels and marched from the room, closely following her brother.
Anne did not leave the room with her mother. “Richard, William, I cannot thank you enough. I had begun to worry over the estate, as I knew Mother was over spending from the accounts.”
“There is nothing for which thank us, Anne.” Richard declared, taking his cousin into his embrace. “I feel terrible that it has taken us this long to step up and protect you. We will not desert you again.”
“William, I wish to meet your wife, before I return home. Would it be possible?” Anne asked, tears flowing freely down her cheeks.
“Elizabeth would welcome meeting you.”
~~~~~~~ ** ~~~~~~~
The bride beamed as she was led up the aisle, towards her groom and her future. Jane was beautiful, looking just as she had planned when she was a young girl.
Bingley could not concentrate on anything but the beautiful lady her father had entrusted into Charles’ hands. As the clergyman read the vows, it was left to Darcy to nudge his friend, reminding Bingley to respond appropriately. This brought laughter throughout the church.
The wedding breakfast could not end soon enough, at least in the eyes of Bingley. Darcy had offered the newlyweds the use of Darcy House for a fortnight, allowing them privacy for a honeymoon. Due to the desire to be with his bride, Bingley looked for any excuseto make their departure. The thought of being alone, with his beautiful wife, was causing more excitement than was deemed proper.
Once the newlyweds were on their way to London, Darcy asked his wife if she would enjoy taking a walk with him. Using the excuse of wishing to learn more of the native plants at Longbourn, Darcy led her from the main house, down one of the familiar paths.
“William, we have walked some distance. It has been some time since I have walked so far.”
He lifted her hand to his lips, kissing the back of it. “I have a surprise, my dearest. We are not far from the location, but if you would like, I can carry you.”
Elizabeth blushed. “You have had to carry me enough of late, and I cannot describe the feelings that you evoke in me.”
Darcy was pleased to hear his wife’s words. A few more moments, and the couple arrived at the dower cottage. “Why are we here?” She inquired.
“Come inside. I wish to show you something.”
The pair entered the front door of the cottage, then he led her to the parlor. There was a fire burning in the fireplace, the smell of food cooking. It had been many years since she had been in the cottage. Elizabeth could remember her grandmother living in the cottage, as a very young Elizabeth Bennet would spend most of her time each day with Grandma Bennet.
“What are we doing here? Is Richard staying here again?” She asked.
“No, my love. I felt it was about time that we had some privacy. We have not had time alone, as we had planned, after we were married. Now that you have recovered, it is time for us to be alone and able to enjoy being husband and wife.”
Elizabeth’s face became redder by the moment. Never would she have thought of such events being held inside her grandmother’s home. Ir made her color from head to toe.
For the next week, the only contact Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy had with the world outside the cottage was with servants, and very few of them were allowed access inside the private world the Darcys created.
~~ ** ~~
Lord and Lady Matlock traveled to Rosings with Anne in their carriage, as they refused to allow Lady Catherine a chance to berate or harm her daughter. The morning after Lady Catherine’s arrival at Netherfield, she was discovered in Anne’s bedchamber, screaming and ranting at Anne, threatening bodily violence to the girl. The grand dame of Rosings had to be restrained and led from the room.
Lady Matlock had remained in Anne’s room, soothing the girl, giving her motherly reassurances. For this, Anne was eternally grateful, for she had never experienced what it was like to be loved by a mother. Lady Matlock had a nurturing nature about her, and had always regretted not having had a daughter. She knew she would keep close contact with her niece, from that day forward.
While his wife was administering her loving touch to their niece, Lord Matlock was delivering a completely different touch to his sister. “Catherine Louise Fitzwilliam de Bourgh, how dare you treat your daughter in such a manner? Anne is not responsible for the situation you are facing. If it were not for Anne, you would have lost Rosings when Lewis died. You should be grateful for your daughter, not hateful.”
“She has no right to toss me from my home and force me to the dower house. It is not fair. Lewis was an evil man, heartless and cruel. How can you not see how I suffered?”
“Your suffering was of your own doing. I know you were not pleased when Father arranged your marriage, but you made your husband miserable. You made him aware that you cared little for him, and after having given birth to Anne, you felt no need for any other children, insisting that the estate was not entailed, therefore Anne could inherit just as easily as a son. Sir Lewis would have treated you better, but you were bitter and cruel. What man would wish to care for such a lady?”
“I wished to be loved, as I have always been the cream of society. My fashion taste, my accomplishments, my natural good sense make me the perfect lady of high society.” Lady Catherine puffed herself in appearance of standing taller than her true stature.
“Your accomplishments? Natural good sense and taste? Catherine, the gown you are wearing is ancient. It is of the fashion when you were a girl. As you are old enough to be a grandmother, you should not be dressing as you did when you were a debutante. Is it good sense to keep your only child, your daughter, from ever participating in society? Has she ever learned from a master? I know Anne learned to read and write from one of her nannies. You never allowed her to learn, keeping her under your control all of her life.”
“Anne has always been of a delicate nature. Her health prohibited her from exerting herself in activities.” Lady Catherine huffed. “If she had learned, she would have been truly proficient. And there is no one with better taste of understanding of music than me.”
“Anne has had health issues, but you have neglected her. You know nothing about the young lady she has become. Perhaps it is time you faced the truth. Anne is old enough to take over her inheritance. She has the legal right to do so, as her father left the estate and holdings for her. So you will be removed from the main house. If you are fortunate, Anne will only have you installed in the dower’s house. But, after the behavior you have shown this morning, you will be lucky if Anne does not force you off Rosings permanently.”
“She would not dare.” Growled Lady Catherine.
Lord Matlock shook his head. “She just might, and I have promised to aid her in whatever her decision. Do not force us to be cruel to you, sister.”
“You and your wife have everything perfect. Neither of you have ever known a difficult day in your lives. You cannot know what I have endured, only to have it ripped from me.”
“Enough, Catherine. We will be leaving for Rosings tomorrow morning. You may journey with us, with your carriage following ours, or you may go wherever you wish. We will assist Anne with whatever she needs.”
“I will follow you, for I do not trust you that my belongings would be given to me if I was not there to ensure their safety. I will not allow you to steal anything else from me.” Lady Catherine glared at her brother.
“Then be prepared to leave in the morning. And I insist you remain in your rooms until we leave. I will have your meals sent on trays.”
As Lord Matlock turned to leave, he witnessed his sister pick up a glass vase and throw it across the room, smashing the glass against the far wall.
~~ ** ~~
Darcy and Elizabeth returned to the world, finding Lord and Lady Matlock had departed, taking Anne and Lady Catherine with them. Bingley and Jane had yet to return to Netherfield, having sent a message announcing the couple were remaining at Darcy House for another fortnight.
“I believe it is time to take my wife home to our estate.” Darcy announced over dinner. “I wish for my family to go home.”
Mr Bennet was saddened, though not surprised. He was going to miss his beloved daughter. “When do you plan on leaving?”
The couple looked at each other before Elizabeth responded. “I believe we will be ready one week from today. That will allow us time to make our farewells to the neighborhood, and William can finish the arrangements with Richard. They have several items of business to work out, so the livestock can be transported to Netherfield.”
“And, Mr Bennet, you have an open invitation to visit Pemberley whenever you wish. You will lose yourself in the library there, as it is the work of several generations, and is one of the largest private libraries in England.” Darcy stated. “Of course, you will have to share the library with your daughter, as I believe it will be one of her favorite rooms in the house.”
~~ ** ~~
The Darcys made the arrangements to make their way home. Elizabeth was thrilled, having never seen her new home, and looking forward to seeing it, after all she had heard of its splendor.
Georgiana requested to remain at Netherfield, as she had become fast friends with Kitty. Darcy and Elizabeth decided to allow the girls more time together, which would allow the couple time to be alone at the estate. Then Kitty would accompany Georgiana in the journey to Pemberley, allowing the girls more time together. Elizabeth was pleased to see the change in Kitty since she had become close to Georgiana. All of her life, Kitty had followed the example of her younger sister, Lydia. Lydia had always been carefree and did whatever she pleased, which had been a bone of discontent for her sisters. Seeing Kitty improve in essentials was pleasing to Elizabeth.
Richard had agreed to transport the girls with him, as he planned to make the trip to Pemberley to choose some horses for Netherfield. He had come to enjoy having the young ladies staying at Netherfield, becoming fond of Kitty.
Word arrived that Lady Catherine had been settled in the dower’s house, though she was not pleased. She complained about everything, from the furniture being antiquated, the house was drafty, and she required more staff to care for her. Anne stayed strong, refusing to give her mother another shilling, as she felt Lady Catherine deserved to feel the tightening financial belt strap. Lord Matlock had gone over the books and spoken with all the servants of Rosings, discovering what would need to be improved to bring Rosings back to proper functionality. Fortunately, the steward had known Lady Catherine’s failure when it came to running the estate properly, and the man had made a habit of declaring costs higher for things the lady requested, taking the extra funds to make repairs to tenant homes and the stables. He had been fond of Anne, and wished to ensure her estate’s future.
One of the first changes made at Rosings, after removing Lady Catherine, was to remove Mr Collins from the parsonage. It was discovered that the man had been cheating his congregation, taking the funds meant to tend the needs of the neighborhood of Hunsford, and using them for himself. The food he ate was the best, new furnishings in his home, and even expensive dishes had been purchased. All the while, his flock was doing without food and clothing, their homes falling apart for the lack of funds to make needed repairs.
The final step which sealed Collins’ fate was the fact that he had been keeping a mistress in a cottage, two miles from the parsonage. And his mistress was kept in luxury, including having servants to care for her needs.
Mr Collins had left Hunsford, filled with anger and hatred for the Fitzwilliam family. When he arrived to complain to the bishop, he found that the bishop was well aware of Mr Collins’ behavior.
“Sir, you are a disgrace to your calling. How dare you neglect the needs of your parishioners, allowing them to suffer and do without, so you can live a life of luxury and keep a mistress? A mistress? You do not deserve to be a parson, and I have filed charges with the Arch Bishop, to have you striped of your position of clergy.”
“That is unfair, as I made a simple mistake. Please, allow me to make amends for my behavior. What can I do to make up for my foolishness?”
The bishop was certain that Collins would beg, as he had nothing left but the church. Though the man was heir to a small estate, it could be years before Collins could take possession of Longbourn, as Mr Bennet was in good health.
“Perhaps you could take one of the missionary positions. We are sending a ship of clergymen to minister to the wretched souls who have been transported to Australia. If you were willing to take the position, we would see that you are provided for through the church’s coffers.”
“A…Australia? But that is…a penal colony.”
“Who requires more help to find God? Surely lost souls such as those require care and guidance. It is one of the noblest sacrifices a clergyman can make. Just think of the benevolence you will receive from our heavenly Father for such noble service.”
“I…I..am not sure…I have never thought of missionary work. I do not think I am the appropriate person for such work.”
“If you wish to remain a clergyman, then you will have limited options available to you. As I said, you can be stripped of your position, if you do not take such a position.”
“Very well. I will accept the position. When my cousin passes, I will need to return to England, to take over my estate.”
The bishop nodded his head, trying desperately to keep from smiling. The missions in Australia were hard and difficult, knowing depravation and hardship. But he felt it was fitting for the man before him. “You will need to prepare, as the ship sails in five days.”
~~ ** ~~
Five years had passed, and many changes had been seen in the lives of Mr and Mrs Darcy, and their extended families.
Elizabeth had given birth to two daughters, and was with child once again. Their first born, Sarah Rose Darcy, was born shortly after the couple’s first anniversary. She was the image of her mother, with the same brown curls and sparkle of mischief in her eyes. Darcy was thrilled with his daughters, even though his mother in law claimed that Elizabeth had failed him, not producing an heir and a spare for him.
Their second daughter was Madeline Jane, Maddie to her family. She had the personality of her aunt, for whom she had been named. Again, Mrs Bennet complained that she knew Darcy would divorce her daughter for failing him, and the family would be ruined. And, yet again, Darcy told the woman that he had no intentions to ever leave his beloved wife.
Jane and Bingley had two sons, a set of twins, who were amiable and kind, like their parents. The Bingley family had taken an estate in Nottinghamshire, close enough to Pemberley to allow the families to spend time together often.
Anne de Bourgh had fallen in love with the man who had worked hard to keep Rosings from destruction under her mother’s reign. The steward, Mr Farthington, continued to take care of the estate, turning it around to a thriving enterprise. Anne had even been blessed in giving her husband a son. Rosings would have a future, and one built on love and caring.
Lady Catherine lived out her life alone, refusing to allow her relations to visit her. The animosity took its toll, and she died in her bed three years after being moved to the dower’s house. The funeral for the former Mistress of Rosings was small, as few came to offer condolences.
Lady Catherine’s toady of a parson did not survive his time in Australia. He died in a fight in a house of ill repute. The official version was that he had gone there to minister to the sinful people, in hopes they would give up their wicked ways. But those who knew Collins were well aware of his reason for being at such a business.
Mr and Mrs Bennet were pleased as their daughters each found men who made them happy. Mary had met the new apprentice for Mr Phillips’ law firm, and the two were married the year after her elder sisters.
Kitty decided to return to Longbourn when Richard returned to Netherfield with the horses he had chosen. The two began a courtship, which came to an end when Richard proposed to Miss Katherine Bennet, who accepted his offer. She informed all of her family that Kitty was a child’s name, and that she felt it was proper to be referred to by her proper name. They were expecting their first child soon.
The only daughter left at home was Lydia, which surprised everyone. She had always spoken of her desire to be the first wed, and that she would marry a man in a red coat. As she watched her elder sisters marry men they loved, Lydia realized what she truly wished for in her life. Though she enjoyed all the parties and dances she attended, Lydia decided she was not ready to settle down and be a wife. She spent her time at the home of her parents, discussing gossip with her mother and Mrs Phillips.
Mr Bennet visited Pemberley often. He claimed it was to visit Darcy’s library, but the truth was, he found spending time with his grandchildren to be his greatest joy. The pleasure he found in reading to the next generation, and the walks on which he took them, brought meaning to Mr Bennet’s life.
With no more fear for her future, Mrs Bennet reverted back to the loving and caring woman she had been when Mr Bennet first married her. Their relationship improved over time, including Mr Bennet taking his wife on rides in the phaeton he had purchased. Everyone was surprised when they learned that Mrs Bennet was also increasing. Just after the birth of Maddie Darcy, Mrs Bennet’s greatest prayer was answered, when Thomas William Bennet was born. A more cherished babe could not be found.
~~ ** ~~
It was late at night, and Darcy laid on his side, his arms surrounding his wife as they were snuggled under their blankets. Their child was due to be born any day, and Elizabeth was becoming uncomfortable in her condition. Darcy was gently massaging her girth, attempting to soothe some of her aches.
“Georgiana and I were discussing her engagement yesterday.” Darcy stated. “She wishes to wait three months, until the weather is better. She has never liked winters in Derbyshire.”
“Poor girl. When is she planning to make the journey to Hertfordshire? She plans on being at Netherfield to assist Katherine in decorating the nursery.”
Darcy smiled. “She will leave next week. I was told that the first express I send, when the babe is born, had best be to her.”
“Aunt Georgie, she loves the children so much. It will be delightful to watch her when she has her own children.” Elizabeth sighed at the pleasant thought.
“What would you have done, if I had died in the shipwreck? Would you have married another?” Darcy asked for the hundredth time.
“William, you know perfectly well what I would have done. I have told you many times.”
“But I wish to know again. I wish to hear from your lips.” He teased.
“ I would never have married. I would have become the favorite aunt of my sister’s children, teaching them to read and to play the pianoforte very ill.”
“Why would you not have married another?” Darcy said, as he felt his child moving inside his wife’s body. “You were born to be a wife and mother. How could you have denied yourself of the joys life could have given you?”
“Because there could never be love if you had not returned to me. You were my life, my heart. How can one survive without their heart? I love you dearly, William, and could not think of anyone else. You were my beloved betrothed, there could never be anyone else but you.”
~~ THE END ~~