Hi everyone.  I apologize for the delay in posting.  So much going on.  But I am back with my newest story.  Will be posting on Wednesdays.

Blurb:  Thomas Bennet was married to Olivia Darcy, the mother of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet.  When she tragically dies, she leaves behind her two young daughters and a grieving husband.  He remarries, to Fanny Gardiner, and has 3 daughters with her. But Mr Bennet has never forgiven the Darcys, as he holds them responsible for his cherished wife’s death. Elizabeth is a constant reminder of his dearest Olivia, and a thorn in her stepmother’s side.  When Charles Bingley arrives in Hertfordshire, it is not long before Mr Bennet becomes aware of his friendship with Fitzwilliam Darcy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 1

Olivia Bennet was exhausted.  The week had been filled with so much anxiety, she had little time to even think.

She had received a letter from her brother, Gerald Darcy, a little more than a week previously, requesting her assistance in a vital matter.  His wife, Lady Anne Darcy, had taken to bed with a fever, and Gerald was afraid he would lose his beloved.  He pleaded with his sister to come to his home in Derbyshire, to assist in tending her.

The reason for the fever was a sad one, for it stemmed from Lady Anne having just given birth to a baby boy.  The Mistress of Pemberley had given birth to a healthy son, who was now eight years old, but had had four miscarriages since.  The baby boy lived for two days, then died from being born far earlier than he should have been.  Lady Anne had developed a fever, and it raged on for nearly a fortnight, before the grand lady began improving.

Olivia thought about her own children, safe and sound at her home in Hertfordshire.  Olivia was married to a country gentleman; Mr Thomas Bennet of Longbourn.  Their life together had been blessed with two beautiful daughters, Jane and Elizabeth.  She prayed that the child she was carried inside her would be the heir they had been hoping for.  Thomas Bennet required an heir, to break the entailment on the estate.  If there was no male heir, the estate would be inherited by a distant cousin.

Sitting back in the carriage that her brother loaned for the journey home, Olivia thought of her family.  A smile graced her lips as she thought of her daughters.  The two girls could not be any more opposite than they were, yet they were the closest of sisters.  Jane was sweet natured, never negative, with blond hair and green eyes, and a way of making everyone near her at ease.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, was fearless and outgoing, more like a son than a daughter.  She had dark brown hair and light brown eyes, which sparkled in the sunlight.  Elizabeth was not afraid to speak her mind.  Where Jane looked the best in everyone, Elizabeth was skeptical.  And if someone crossed her, Elizabeth had no difficulty in setting the person straight.

Elizabeth was only four years of age, but already had a thirst for reading that was unlike any other child of her age.  The child spent many hours each day in her father’s study, learning her letters and words.  Olivia often teased her husband that Elizabeth was the son with which he had yet to be blessed.

The journey home would take two and a half days, and Olivia could not wait for the carriage to pull up in front of her home.

The memory of the conversation with her nephew, Fitzwilliam, came to mind.

“Aunt Olivia, when will I see my cousins?  I wish to see Jane and Lizzy.”

            “I know, William, but it was not a good time for me to bring them.  Jane has had a cold and Lizzy does not do well with long carriage rides.  When Lizzy is older, we will be able to bring her to Pemberley.  I believe she will enjoy the gardens of Pemberley, as much as I did when I was a girl.”

            “Papa says that we will stop at Longbourn when we next journey to London.  Will Jane be feeling better by then?”

            Olivia chuckled lightly.  “I pray she is well, and that you can enjoy a long visit with the girls.  It is amazing how much they have grown since the last time you were together.”

            “I wish to climb trees with them, and ride horses.  Lizzy would like to ride with me, would she not?”

            “Lizzy is somewhat afraid of horses, but she might be coaxed into riding with her older cousin.  Jane, on the other hand, would not be talked into climbing a tree to save her life.  She is forever telling me when she has caught Lizzy being unladylike.”

            “But that is what makes Lizzy a good friend for me.  She is like a boy, like my cousin, Richard.” Fitzwilliam’s mother, Lady Anne, was the youngest daughter of the Earl of Matlock, Jonathon Fitzwilliam. Richard’s father was the heir to the earldom, and Richard was the second born son. 

            “Well, you must remember, Lizzy is a young lady.  She will be required to behave like a young lady, and act properly.”

            Fitzwilliam’s face was filled with disappointment.  “Why is it improper for a girl to have fun, like boys?”

            “I have never understood the rules, but long ago, someone declared it improper for a young lady to behave as young men.  Now, will you promise me something?”

            “Of course, Aunt Olivia.  Anything.”

            “As you grow up, watch over the ladies in our family.  Make certain they are protected and cared for.  And never chastise Lizzy for climbing trees.” Olivia smiled, reaching out and tapping the tip of her nephew’s nose.

            “I promise, Aunt.  On my word of honor, I promise.”

                                                ~~ ** ~~

It was the beginning of the third day of travel when the unthinkable happened.

Olivia heard shouting, and the carriage seemed to be speeding recklessly fast. She attempted to look out the window, but the carriage’s movement prohibited any such action, as she held on for dear life.

Suddenly, Olivia was aware of two horses riding beside the carriage.  She could hear the sound of men shouting. The one glance she was able to obtain through the window showed the men were holding guns.  Fear gripped Olivia’s heart, as she realized the men were most likely highwaymen, attempting to rob the carriage.  Having the Darcy crest on the side, the carriage was clearly one belonging to a wealthy family.

The carriage began to wobble, and continued jerking about, until the world began to tumble as the carriage broke loose from the team of horses, and the carriage rolled over, several times, coming to rest on its top.

The men continued to shout, though Olivia Bennet was unable to hear them.  She was unconscious, inside the broken carriage.  It would not be long before the Mistress of Longbourn passed from the world of the living, leaving behind a loving husband and two daughters who would be devastated.

~~ ** ~~

Thomas Bennet could not believe his ears when the constable spoke to him.

“It appears that there were highwaymen, and they were attempting a robbery.  The driver was pushing the horses too fast, and the team broke free from the carriage.  The driver was dragged behind the team, until he died.  The carriage…well, it overturned.  I am terribly sorry to have to tell you, your wife…”

“No, not my Olivia.  Not my beloved.” Thomas began to fall to his knees, his legs were shaking terribly.  His hands flew to cover his face, as a deep and painful wail came from inside the gentleman.

The housekeeper, Mrs Hill, came rushing into the drawing room. “Mr Bennet, is something wrong?  Has something happened?”

The constable informed the housekeeper of the accident, and the death of her Mistress.

“The girls, the dear little ones; they have lost their mother.  Those poor dears, oh, those poor dears.” Mrs Hill began to weep.

“We have had Mrs Bennet’s body taken to the undertaker in Meryton.  He will see that she is prepared for her final resting place.”

Mr Bennet could not comprehend anything further.  He was unable to think of anything but his pain.  Mrs Hill realized her master was inconsolable, his grief was more than he could stand.

“I thank you for taking Mrs Bennet to Mr Abernathy’s.  We will make arrangements for her services.” The housekeeper said to the men, as she led them to the front door.  “If you would do me a favor, and notify Sir William and Lady Lucas of the tragedy.  Mr Bennet is unable to contact them, as his grief is too great at this time.  I will take care of the girls, but there will be a need for notice to be sent to Mrs Bennet’s brother, at Pemberley.”

“I will ask the Lucas family to come.  Miss Lucas is old enough to assist with Mr Bennet’s daughters.”

Mrs Hill gave the men a sad smile.  “She is a good girl, and will be able a comfort to Miss Jane and Miss Lizzy.  Miss Lizzy is particularly fond of Miss Lucas.”

~~ ** ~~

Within the week following the death of Mrs Olivia Bennet, Thomas Bennet was rarely seen.  He kept himself hidden in his study, refusing meals, and drinking heavily.  The one of the only times he came from his study was when Gerald Darcy and his son arrived.

Thomas heard the knock on the door of his study.  He did not call out to the person who wished to enter.  After another series of knocks, the door opened.  Gerald Darcy had sent his son upstairs, to visit Elizabeth and Jane, while he spoke with Mrs Hill.  Learning of his brother in law’s grief, Gerald decided it was time to step in and speak to the man.

“Thomas, William and I have arrived.  You have my deepest sympathies.  My sister loved you very much.”

Mr Bennet’s eyes turned towards his brother in law.  “How dare you?”

“Pardon me?” Gerald asked, not understanding Mr Bennet.

“How dare you come here?  How dare you visit my home, after you took my wife from me?  It is your fault that my wife is dead.  If you had not insisted on her coming to Pemberley, to tend your wife, Olivia would be alive.  The carriage was too tempting to highwaymen, they thought they would be robbing someone rich.  Instead, they killed a gentlewoman.  She had no riches, nothing worth stealing, but she was in your fancy carriage.”

“Thomas, do you not think my heart is breaking?  I loved my sister.  Olivia was dear to me, as are her children.  If I could turn back the hands of time, I would never have asked my sister to come to Pemberley.  Anne is devastated, she feels terrible that Olivia died after coming to tend her.”

“She should feel the pain of what has happened.  Because you insisted on Olivia coming to tend your wife, my beloved is gone forever.  Your wife should feel the guilt of leading to Olivia’s death, as should you.  I do not wish to ever see you or your family again.  Do I make myself understood? Leave my home, and never darken my lands again.”

“Jane and Elizabeth are my nieces.  I have a right to be a part of their lives.” Gerald stated.  “I can connect them with their mother, as they grow up.  They deserve to know of their Darcy lineage.”

“There is nothing good about being a Darcy.  As far as I am concerned, my daughters are not a part of the Darcy bloodlines. They will never be permitted to be in contact with you, or any members of your family.  You would be wise to heed my words, forget that Jane and Elizabeth are related to you.” Mr Bennet stood, leaning his hands on the desk in front of him, and glaring at Gerald.

“The girls will always be welcome as part of my family.  When they are older, if they wish to know their mother’s family, we will welcome them with open arms.  And they have trusts set for their futures, as the young ladies of society they are, by birth.”

“From this day forward, the name of Darcy is forbidden to be said in my home.  Now leave.  Take your son, and never return.” Mr Bennet was shouting.

“I will leave your house, but only after I see my nieces.  And I wish to visit my sister’s grave.” Gerald was standing firm.  He knew that he could best his brother in law, if they were to struggle.  It was his prayer that Thomas Bennet would not push the situation to such a point.

“Stay away from my wife’s grave.  Stay away from my daughters.  Go, leave here immediately.” Mr Bennet lunged forward, grasping at Gerald Darcy, over the desk.

Seeing that Mr Bennet was intoxicated, and barely able to stand, Gerald moved to a place that he knew the Master of Longbourn could not reach.  Mrs Hill came hurrying into the room, after hearing the commotion.  She could see her master was furious, far beyond anything she had ever imagined.  And she was well aware that, between the lack of food and the overindulgence of spirits, Mr Bennet was on the verge of collapse.

“Mr Darcy, perhaps it is best you leave.  I will see to Mr Bennet.”

“Where are the children?”

“They are in the nursery.”

Gerald nodded his head, and stepped towards the door, his brother in law shouting at him as he left.

Standing at the door of the nursery, Gerald’s heart was grasped by the similarity of his niece, Elizabeth, to her mother.  They were so much alike, and it broke his heart to know Elizabeth would not have her mother’s guidance as the girl grew.

It warmed his heart to see his son comforting the two girls.  Gerald knew his son had always been fond of Elizabeth, and he hoped that one day, the two would be able to turn to each other, as family should.

“Father.” William said, seeing his father at the door.  “Lizzy is having a difficult time with her loss.”

“I do not doubt that it is difficult for her.” Gerald walked closer to the child.  “My dear Lizzy, your father has insisted William and I leave Longbourn.  Out of respect, we will leave.  But I wish for you and Jane to know that you are a part of the Darcy family, and you will always be welcomed in our homes and in our lives.”

“Please, Uncle, do not leave.” The small girl pleaded.  “Papa is angry, and sad.  He will not see us, and is not well.  Please stay.  I want to stay with William.”

“I am afraid that it is not possible, my dear girl.  One day, I pray, your father will recover from his loss, and allow you to return to our family.  Until then, know how much you are loved, and that we will do all we can to keep in contact with you.”

Jane was sobbing, though refusing to allow William or her uncle to comfort her.  When Mrs Hill joined them, Jane ran to the housekeeper’s open arms.

“William, I wish to pay a visit to your aunt’s grave, and then we will be leaving.  Please say your farewells to the girls, and meet me downstairs.”

His son nodded his head.  William leaned forward, placing a kiss on Elizabeth’s head.  “One day, Lizzy, we will be together again.  I will think of you often, and write to you, when you are older.  Be a good girl, and do as Mrs Hill tells you.”

Elizabeth used the back of her hand to wipe at the tears that were streaming from her eyes.  Fitzwilliam Darcy reached into his pocket, pulling out one of his first monogramed handkerchiefs.  He handed the cloth to Elizabeth.  “You keep it, Lizzy.  Keep it, and remember that we are family, now and forever.”

Elizabeth nodded her head.  After saying his farewells to Jane, the boy made his way downstairs, following his father from the house.

It would be many years before the boy returned to the estate, many years before he would again see his cousins.

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

 

 

Chapter 2

“Netherfield Park is let at last.” Mrs Bennet said as she entered her husband’s study.  “My sister, Mrs Phillips, just informed me.  She said that it is let by a young man of five thousand per annum, and he will be taking possession at Michaelmas.”

“And what does that have to do with me, Mrs Bennet?”

“Why, you will have to visit them.  I am certain that he will wish to marry one of our girls.”

“I can think of no other reason a young man of wealth would wish to settle here.” Mr Bennet stated, wishing his wife would leave him in peace.  He wondered, for the thousandth time, what his reasoning was for marrying Fanny Gardiner.  They had little in common, and really did not like each other.

“Oh, Mr Bennet, you vex me so.  You must put forth an effort, or you will never see your daughters married.  Then what will happen, when you are dead and your heir throws us to the hedgerow?”

“Mrs Bennet, you have nothing to fear.  You are well aware that you have the use of the cottage that my mother lived in before we married.  It will be comfortable for you.”

“But not if the girls are not married.  If they are still living with me, it will be too small and there will not be enough to afford food.”  This was a common topic of discussion between the couple.

“I will not fret over the young man, when it is still more than a fortnight before he arrives. Now, leave me in peace.  I have much work to get done.”

Mrs Bennet huffed, knowing full well the man did no work.  He was reading a new book, just as he did every day.

Once his wife had left the room, Mr Bennet sat back in his chair, thinking back over the past years.  He was not pleased with what had come of his life.  After his beloved Olivia had died, Thomas Bennet had wrapped himself in a cocoon of bitterness.  He hated his brother in law, hated the name Darcy.  In his mind, they had taken his wife from him, from their daughters, and he would never forgive them.  Elizabeth and Jane had grown up without their mother, and it had been painful for them.

Two years after Olivia Bennet, nee Darcy, died, Thomas Bennet realized that his daughters required a woman in their lives.  He had not given much thought to the matter, as he felt there would never be a woman who touched his heart as had Olivia.  So he decided on the first woman he took a liking to, as Fanny Gardiner had been quite a beauty in her youth.  It mattered not to Thomas that he did not love her, as he had not wished to love her.  But Fanny had never been married before, and she was very much in love with the gentleman who made her an offer.  Though she had, as a girl, been in love with a young man in a red coat, she realized the benefit of marrying someone who owned an estate.

They had a daughter within the first year of their marriage.  Mary would be the first in a line of three daughters, with Katherine, known to her family as Kitty, and Lydia, coming two years apart.  With each new daughter, Fanny Bennet became more foolish in her demands to find husbands for her daughters.

Fanny Bennet knew that her husband had been deeply in love with his first wife.  He doted on his eldest two daughters, ignoring the other three.  Left with only their mother’s guidance, the younger three Bennet girls were just as foolish and flighty as their mother.

The attention Mr Bennet showed his first two daughters was something of a sore subject for his second wife.  Especially when it came to Elizabeth.  According to all she had been told, Elizabeth was the spitting image of her mother, which kept Olivia Bennet alive in her husband’s mind.  Over the years of their marriage, Fanny had become cruel when dealing with the second born Bennet daughter.  She never lost a chance to berate Elizabeth, openly speaking ill of her stepdaughter at every chance and to anyone who would listen.

Fanny had been the eldest of two daughters and one son of a country solicitor.  Mr Anthony Gardiner had moved his family to Meryton the year after Olivia Bennet died. His younger daughter married his apprentice, Mr Phillips, within the first year of their being in the neighborhood.  The son, Edward, decided to apprentice for his uncle, who owned an import company in London.  When the uncle died, he left the company to Edward Gardiner, who, at the time, had recently married.

Edward Gardiner’s wife, Helen, was from Derbyshire.  The village where she grew up was only five miles from Pemberley, though this was one topic of discussion that was never discussed with the Bennet family.  Fanny learned quickly not to discuss the fact that Jane and Elizabeth were part of one of the wealthiest families in England, and the girls had sizeable dowries sitting in a bank in London.  Mr Bennet would not speak of the dowries, stating it was no better than blood money, for the loss of their beloved mother.

The Gardiner family loved Jane and Elizabeth, welcoming the girls as if they were blood relations.  When Helen learned of the girls being the nieces of Gerald Darcy, and the refusal of Mr Bennet to allow contact, unbeknownst to anyone else, she made it possible for Mr Darcy to see his nieces when they were in Town, visiting the Gardiners.  Though it was from a distance, as they could not jeopardize the connection, Mr Darcy was able to see how the girls had grown, and his heart leapt to see how much Elizabeth had come to be like his dear sister.  Helen kept correspondence through her father, who owned the millinery in Lambton, to update Mr Darcy often.

As Helen and Edward began their family, often either Jane or Elizabeth would stay in Town to assist their aunt.  Elizabeth, in particular, had a way with children, and she would spend hours singing to the Gardiner offspring, or tell them stories she had concocted.  Just listening to his cousin’s voice brought peace to the first born of the Gardiner children, and he never liked having his cousin return home.

~~ ** ~~

Knowing her husband would do nothing to promote their family to the young man who was coming to Netherfield, Mrs Bennet decided to take matters into her own hands.  Learning from her sister that Mr Bingley, the young man who would be taking the lease on Netherfield, was to meet at Mr Phillips’ office to sign papers, Fanny Bennet decided to find a way for her brother in law to make the introductions.  On the date and time that Mr Bingley was to be at the office of the solicitor, Mrs Bennet used all of her cunning.

Keeping knowledge of what her brother did, and who he was doing work for, Fanny knew he was to visit the home of Mr and Mrs Long to take some papers to be signed.  So she decided to visit Mr Phillips, on the pretense of asking him to deliver an invitation to the Longs to dine at Longbourn.  Being that Mr Bingley was in the office, it was only polite to invite Mr Bingley to join the dinner party, and for him to bring his family.

By inviting them, Mrs Bennet was able to learn that Bingley was single, never married, and was the only brother of two sisters.  His younger sister, Miss Caroline Bingley, would be acting as hostess for Mr Bingley, and that his elder sister, Mrs Louisa Hurst, and her husband, Gilbert Hurst, would also be staying at Netherfield.

She was also told that a friend of Mr Bingley’s was to join them, but not until later in the month.  Mrs Bennet was pleased with her resourcefulness, and she left the office to run straight to her sister, to fill her in on what she had learned.

~~ ** ~~

Charles Bingley escorted his sister, Caroline, as they were led into the parlor of Longbourn. Mr and Mrs Hurst followed behind them.

“Mr Bingley, what a pleasure to welcome you.” Mrs Bennet said, as she made her way across the room, greeting her guests.  “Please, come in and meet everyone.”

She first introduced her guests to her husband, followed by the Bennet daughters, from eldest to youngest.  When his eyes lit upon Jane Bennet, Bingley hardly knew anyone else was in the room.  Seeing the way Bingley was staring at her beloved sister, Elizabeth had a difficult time keeping from giggling.  Jane was known as one of the most beautiful young ladies in the neighborhood.

After introducing Bingley to the family, Mrs Bennet led him briefly to meet the other guests, which included the Longs, Mr and Mrs Phillips, and Sir William Lucas’ family.  Bingley introduced his sisters and brother in law to everyone.

Mr Bennet spoke briefly, as he did not enjoy spending time with large groups of people.  He preferred leaving everyone with his wife and daughters, while he escaped to his study.  But he was forced to remain in company, making him miserable.  He was impressed with the young man’s attention paid to Jane.

“So, Mr Bingley, you do not own an estate?” Mr Bennet inquired.

“No, my father had planned to purchase an estate, but he passed away two years previous, leaving the task to me.  My brother in law is heir to his family’s estate in Norfolk.”

“And from where did your wealth come?” Mr Bennet pried.

Though the brother had no difficulty speaking of his origins, his unmarried sister turned up her nose at his discussing the truth.  “My father and grandfather owned mills in the north, near Scarborough.  They made the mills extremely profitable, and my father sold them the year before he died.  It was his dream to see his children part of the landed gentry.”

“It has its downfalls as well, Mr Bingley. Do not place all your eggs in one basket.”

“I am well aware of such advice, as my closest friend is the owner of a grand estate, yet has invested wisely in many different ventures.” Bingley smiled.  “I have invested some in a few deals he has suggested.”

“A good friend, those are hard to come by, especially when it comes to finances.”

“There are none better than Fitzwilliam Darcy.  He has been my closest friend since we were at university together.”

A redness came over Mr Bennet’s face, and he stood.  “I will ask you to leave my house.  If you are friends with the likes of a Darcy, you are not welcome in my home.”

“Excuse me, Mr Bennet, what have I done to offend you?” Mr Bingley was shocked at the behavior of his host.

“As I said, any friend of a Darcy is not welcome in my home.  If it were not for that family, my girls would have had their mother.  It is due to their wealth and carelessness that my beloved Olivia died. I will not sit down to a meal with someone who considers a member of that family to be a close friend.”

“Mr Bennet, please, calm yourself.” Mr Phillips said, as he walked closer to his brother in law.

“No, I will not tolerate this person in my home.  He declares to be close friends with a Darcy.  They took my wife from me, and Jane and Lizzy lost their mother.  I want them out of my home, immediately.”

Mrs Bennet moved to calm her husband.  “Thomas, please, calm yourself.  Perhaps you should withdraw to your study.  I will have Hill bring you a tray.”

“I will not be forced to take my meal in my study to appease someone who considers the likes of a Darcy to be a close friend.” Mr Bennet’s fury grew with each word.  His face was extremely red, and it began to worry his family.

“Papa, do not make yourself uneasy.  You must calm down.  It will do you no good to become ill from being so angry.” Jane said, as she took hold of her father’s hand.  “Mamma would not wish for you to be so angry.”

“The problem is your mother is not here, because of the Darcy family.  Now, remove these people from my home immediate…” Mr Bennet’s hand went to his forehead, as his words died inside him. He crumbled to the floor, gasping for air.

Elizabeth was kneeling on the floor beside her father, pulling at his cravat to loosen his collar.  “Send for Mr Jones.” She cried out, asking for someone to be sent for the apothecary.  “Hill, bring your bag.”

Mrs Hill had been the housekeeper for the Bennets since before Mr Bennet had married Olivia Darcy.  She was handy with simple medical needs, having a satchel she kept on hand, containing draughts, salves, powders, and bandaging.  Her husband was the Longbourn butler, as well as Mr Bennet’s valet.

Mr Hill assisted Mr Phillips in carrying Mr Bennet upstairs, taking the gentleman to his bed.  As soon as he was laid down, Elizabeth and Mr Hill went to work on divesting Mr Bennet of his coat, short coat, cravat, shirt sleeves, and boots.  Once he was dressing in a night shirt, Elizabeth sat on the side of the bed, holding her father’s hand.

“Papa, please come back to us.  Do not leave us.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “Please, Papa, we need you.  We have asked Mr Bingley to leave, and I am certain he has gone.  Please, Papa, there is no need for you to be upset.”

An hour passed by before Mr Jones arrived.  “Ah, my old friend, what have you gone and done to yourself?”

Mr Bennet was conscious, but unable to speak.  Elizabeth spoke for him. “Papa became extremely agitated, and suddenly grasped his head, and collapsed to the floor.  His face was red; he had become so angry.”

Mr Jones pulled his pocket watch from his medical satchel.  Lifting Mr Bennet’s hand, the apothecary felt at the wrist for a pulse.  He then leaned over and laid his head on Mr Bennet’s chest, listening to his heart.  “The heartbeat is faint, very weak. And his breathing is shallow.”

Standing up, Mr Jones placed his pocket watch in his satchel.  “Is there any pain?  Any weakness?”

“His head seems to pain him, and his left arm is weakened.  He could not hold a glass of water without it shaking so bad, the water splashed everywhere.” Elizabeth replied.  “He has only spoken a few words, as if it is difficult for him, and his words were difficult to understand.”

“Just as I thought.  It appears that your father has had an episode of apoplexy.  We will need to keep a close eye on him.”

“What can we do for him?” Elizabeth asked.  Her grandfather, Joshua Bennet, had died from an episode of apoplexy, leaving her concerned for her father.

“Here are some powders, he will need to take in water three times per day.  And you will need to make certain he takes broth and water.  We do not wish to have him become dehydrated.  Keep him warm, and exercise his hands and arms, to keep the muscles from losing strength.  He will most likely have problems with walking, as there will likely be loss of strength in one of his legs.  Encourage him to speak, even if it is difficult for you to understand.”

Elizabeth nodded her head.

“And do not allow your stepmother in the room.  With her nerves, she is likely to give him another attack.”

“Of course.  I believe she is in her room, lying down.  Mary is with her, from what I was told.”

“Good, good.  It is the best place for her.  I will return in the morning, unless you send word you need me sooner.  Your father is a strong man; I am certain he will be able to recover.”

With that, Mr Jones made his exit.  Unfortunately, for him, Mary heard him in the hallway and begged him to check on her mother.  An hour later, Mr Jones was able to escape from Fanny Bennet’s room, after slipping some laudanum in the lady’s tea.

Elizabeth continued to keep vigil at her father’s bedside.  Jane joined her for a few hours, but the eldest Bennet daughter found it difficult to remain in the sick room for hours at a time.  Mrs Hill brought broth and tea to Mr Bennet’s room, and, using an invalid feeder, was able to assist the Master of Longbourn to take nourishment.

When awake, Mr Bennet was agitated, and made his frustration clear to his favorite daughter.

“Papa, you must calm yourself.  It will do you no good to make yourself frustrated.  Mr Jones stated you could suffer a relapse.  Please, Papa, rest.  Remember how Grandfather was when he suffered an episode.  The second episode was worse than the first.”

The words coming from Mr Bennet’s lips were unrecognizable, but he was making a waving motion with his right hand, as if to sweep something from the room.  Then Elizabeth was able to understand the name Darcy.

“The Darcys are not here, Papa.  Rest.  We have no reason to believe any of the Darcys will come here, so please, do not fret.”

Mr Bennet’s face drooped on one side, and his agitation was wearing him, making the father Elizabeth loved appear to be much older than his two and forty years.

“Do not fret, Papa.  The Darcys have long ago stopped thinking of us.  Now sleep.” Elizabeth pulled out the bottle of laudanum and poured a bit into his tea, holding the cup to her father’s lips.  “This will assist you to rest, Papa.”

Once Mr Bennet had drifted off to sleep, Elizabeth reached into her pocket, withdrawing a handkerchief to dry her eyes.

~~ ** ~~

“What an odd situation.” Caroline Bingley declared, as she sat on the sofa in the drawing room of Netherfield.  “I cannot understand why someone would react in such a manner.  To think, the man was furious with Mr Darcy’s family.”

Mrs Hurst nodded her head.  “The Darcys are such a wealthy family, they could never have acted in such a manner as to garner such anger.  The man was beside himself with fury, leading to his health becoming poor.”

Bingley had stopped momentarily to speak with his housekeeper, who had been at Netherfield for nearly twenty years.  Mrs Nichols knew the Bennet family for all those years.   “It seems that the first Mrs Bennet, who was the mother of Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth, was a Darcy relation.  When she was returning from the north, highwaymen spotted the Darcy emblem on the carriage in which she was riding, and attempted to rob the carriage.  The driver did his utmost best to outrun them, but the carriage overturned, and Mrs Bennet was killed.  I do not know the relationship to my friend, but it would be wise for me to inform him of a potential difficulty for him.”

“It would be a shame, as Mr Bennet is ill, and most likely would not have any contact with our friends, if they were to come.” Caroline stated.  “I wish you would just allow Mr Darcy to come, and the situation can be explained in person.”

“That would be quite rude, Caroline.  What if Miss Bennet or Miss Elizabeth would prefer to have no contact with any member of the Darcy family?  No, I shall write to him, and inform him of the situation.”

“Well, if the Bennet family is foolish enough to avoid the Darcy family, I do not feel it wise for us to have contact with them.” Caroline huffed.  “So you should remember this conversation the next time you look dreamily upon Miss Bennet.”

“Miss Bennet has done nothing wrong.  From what I understand, she and her sister were quite young when they lost their mother. It is likely that neither of them remember any of the Darcy family.  And I am sure that they must be distant relations, for Darcy would have recognized the location if he was familiar with them.”

Bingley left and made his way down the hall to his study.  The thought of Miss Bennet was still fresh in his mind, as he sat at his desk and pulled out his letter writing supplies.

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

 

 

 

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