Chapter 13

“Unhand her!” Screeched Anne and her mother at the same time.

Darcy ensured himself of Elizabeth’s well-being before turning his attention on his mother’s namesake.  The glare he gave her would have made anyone shrivel, and, for the first time, Anne backed away from her cousin in fear.  Every step she took away from him, Darcy took towards her.  When she could not take another step, she tried to prepare herself for his anger.

Standing his full height, Darcy made Anne look up at him.  Though he had never struck a woman before, in that moment, he had great difficulty in keeping his hands from returning the assault Anne had perpetrated against Elizabeth.

“Do not dare to touch Elizabeth.” Darcy seethed. “I have had enough of this nonsense.  There is nothing, nothing what so ever, that can induce me to marry you Anne.  Not now, not ever.  And even if I did, I have already pledged my hand in marriage, to my cousin Elizabeth.”

All eyes were instantly drawn to Darcy, including those of Elizabeth.  No one was more shocked than she.  He looked at the cousin who was kind and caring, knowing his heart was hers, and had been, since they were young children.  Even before her mother’s death, Elizabeth had the young William devoted to her well being and her happiness.  And now, he realized he had always been happiest when with his Lizzy.

Anne was furious.  “How can you choose to marry her?  She is a nobody, the daughter of a country squire.  You honestly expect me to stand aside and allow this mockery to happen?  I will see her dead before I stand still and allow this wedding to occur.”

Now all eyes turned to Anne.  Even her mother’s jaw dropped slightly, shocked at her daughter’s declaration.  “Anne, enough.  Do not give Darcy any consideration.  We will know how to act now, will we not, Henry?”

“I…I…of course, Sister.  We must leave.  If we have no place to stay, we had best be on our way to Town.” Henry Fitzwilliam could not believe his niece’s behavior.  Before any further unseemly displays occurred, it was best to remove Anne and her mother from the neighborhood and determine the course best for their family to take.

“Do you honestly believe I will leave here and allow my betrothed to remain with this country chit?  It is not to be born.” Anne’s voice was raised in protest.  Her uncle took her by the arm and began to lead her from the room.

“Anne, please, calm yourself.  When we arrive in Town, we will speak to the solicitor.  If we cannot force Darcy to marry you, we will find a way to take Pemberley and all his holdings from him.  Have no fear, Pemberley will be yours.”

“As it should be.” Lady Catherine sniffed, her nose held high, as if there was a foul odor disturbing her.

Darcy’s voice stalled their leaving.  “My solicitor is aware of the possible threats against my properties and investments.  We have taken steps to protect my holdings and estates from you and anyone else who wishes to attempt to take them.  And I have recently sent a codicil to be added to my will, declaring my cousins, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, to be my heirs.  They are Darcys, after all.”

“You could not…it is not possible…I would have known.” Lady Catherine gasped, attempting to see if her nephew was bluffing.

“And just how would you have known of my affairs, Lady Catherine?  Do you, perhaps, have a spy at my solicitors office?  Does the name Mr Josiah Thornhill ring a bell?”

The elder lady glared at Darcy.  “So you are aware of my man.  It matters not, for I will see that your properties are mine.  And you will be locked away in an asylum.  We have connections, have no doubt of our power.”

Lord Matlock was becoming nervous. His sister was fond of making threats, though she had very little behind the threats.  Without her brother and the Fitzwilliam name, Lady Catherine de Bourgh held no real power, which rankled the woman terribly.  She wanted the Darcy name, she wanted the power the name held, and the finances that could be at her command.  But her brother began to wonder if it was wise to back her against their nephew.

“Catherine, let us leave.  We will speak with the solicitors tomorrow.  I am certain that all will be worked out as we planned.”

Before she would take her leave, Lady Matlock stood in front of her nephew.  “You should be ashamed of your behavior.  Because of you, Georgiana is now lost to our family.  Anne would be wise to rejoice in being free of the taint from the ruination.  It is my opinion that the family cuts all ties with the Darcy family.”

“Do as you see fit, Aunt.  I will not stop you.  The only member of the Fitzwilliam family I have ever been able to tolerate is Richard, so I will not suffer for your disowning me.”

Those were the final words Darcy said to his Fitzwilliam relations, as he led the Bennet sisters from the room.

~~ ** ~~

“We are married.” Georgiana was thrilled with her new status.  “Mrs Wickham.  How lovely it sounds.  Georgiana Wickham.”

“Indeed, my dearest.  You are now my wife.” Wickham placed a kiss on her lips.

“Where shall we stay tonight?  After all the time spent in the carriage, I desire some rest.” The girl was not pleased with the lesser accommodations that she had been forced to suffer.  Being her wedding night, she had great hopes of a grand inn.

“We have enough to stay at the inn down the street.  It is not the finest establishment, but it is far better than the places we have seen during the journey.” The young man was questioning whether or not it was worth all the aggravation he had endured to marry Darcy’s sister.

“If only I had been allowed in my brother’s study.  Mrs Reynolds was cruel to keep the door locked.  She should have done as I requested, without question, after all, she is a servant.” Georgiana pouted.  She had very little of her pin money left when the couple had fled Hertfordshire.  Wickham had no funds at all, having paid for the poor excuse for transportation they had used until they arrived at Pemberley.   Another complaint she would register was against Mr Mobley in the carriage house.  He had insisted they take the smaller, older carriage and a team of four horses that were nearing the end of their usefulness.  How could the servants of Pemberley treat her, the sister to the current Master, daughter of the previous master, in such a manner?  Once she was with her aunt and uncle, Georgiana would complain and demand her uncle see that the staff were let go without references.  Pemberley was just as much her home as it was her brother’s, more so, if Lord and Lady Matlock, combined with Lady Catherine and Anne, were to see Fitzwilliam locked away in an asylum for his behavior.  With her brother gone, Georgiana and George would be able to run the estate the way they saw fit.

Wickham’s words suddenly broke through her woolgathering.  “We will only have tonight in Scotland, before we return to England.  Our finances are in pitiful condition, and we will need access to your dowry.  Do you think your brother would be in Pemberley upon our return?”

“I am not certain, for my uncle and both aunts will likely be having him examined by their physician.  Fitzwilliam will likely be placed in an asylum, as I told you.  Will not Mrs Reynolds and Mr Mobley be put in the places when you become the Master of Pemberley, and I, your Mistress?”

“Indeed.  We will have access to the study of Pemberley upon our return.  If your brother is not there, we can remain at the estate until he does return.  Perhaps we will have time for some celebrating our marriage.  Which suite of rooms would you prefer?”

A smile came over her lips.  “My, I will be able to redecorate the entire house.  My mother never had taste, not like her sister.  Rosings Park is splendid in showing my aunt’s wealth and status.  I will enjoy the task, beginning with the Master and Mistress suites.  Then we can move in to our rightful rooms.  Until the rooms are prepared to my liking, we can stay in one of the other suites.  In the west wing is the set of rooms Lord and Lady Matlock use when they visit.  They are well enough for a short time, until the remodel is done.”

“Your brother has always had excellent choice in refreshments.  Only the finest brandy and port to please the man.  The pleasure I will have in partaking in them will be an added bonus.  And I will require new clothes.  All I have is my militia uniforms.”

A thought caused Georgiana a moment of reflection.  “Are you certain that you are not in trouble with your superior officers?  I know you stated you had left a letter, resigning your commission, but what if they did not accept the letter?  What will come of your leaving like you did?”

“Have no fear, my love.  With the funds that will be at our disposal, I will be able to buy my way out of any trouble.” Wickham stated.  They had reached the inn and were entering the establishment.  It was far from being a fitting place to stay, as it was clear there were many working girls in the pub connected with the inn.  Well, if my bride does not please me, I will have a substitute close at hand.  If only I had more coin.  Perhaps there is a card game I can join.

                                                                        ~~ ** ~~

The funeral was held for Thomas Bennet, and his two eldest daughters were soon after taken from the county by their cousin.  Darcy had spoken with Mr Phillips on the matter of what would become of Longbourn, with Mr Collins locked away.  The solicitor vowed to investigate the situation, promising to send word to Pemberley when he knew more.

Before leaving the neighborhood, Darcy made certain that he dealt with his cousins’ stepmother.

“Mrs Bennet, you are aware of your husband’s will.  Mr Bennet could not leave you the main house here at Longbourn.  But I am told you have the dower house for the remainder of your life.”

The Mistress of Longbourn glared at the man before her.  “Why should it be your business where I live?  You are no relation to me.  Mr Collins stated his intentions of allowing myself and my daughters to remain here, after he married Elizabeth.”

Darcy shook his head.  “Mrs Bennet, you are beginning to sound like Mr Collins.  If you are unable to accept the truth, you may end up locked away with the man.”

“Where is Mr Collins?  What has happened to him?  I was told he was taken away, but no one has told me where he is to be found.” Mrs Bennet fumed.

“Mr Collins was taken to an asylum, where he will remain for an unknown length of time.  Perhaps for the remainder of his life.  Would you prefer to live the rest of your life in an asylum?”

“Where I live the rest of my life is of no concern to you, Mr High and Mighty Darcy.  So take my stepdaughters and leave this estate.  I want nothing more to do with them.  And I refuse to allow them to live here.”

“My cousins are leaving with me, though you will not be remaining in the main house of Longbourn.  As your brother in law informed you, the dower house is where you will reside.”

Mr Phillips stepped forward.  “Fanny, we will assist you to move to the dower house. Your sister and I will see that you are comfortably settled in the dower house, with Mary, Kitty, and Lydia.”

“If Mr Collins is not to be living here, why must I move?  He is the one who inherits the estate, what right do you have to tell me where I will live?”

“You are a female, Fanny.  You know you cannot take charge of the estate, your husband had to leave it to the next male heir.  And even if Mr Collins is stripped of the inheritance and the entailment is broken, the eldest child by birth of Mr Bennet’s would be the next to inherit.” Mr Phillips attempted to once again explain to his sister in law.

“But…they inherit from my husband’s relations.  It is not fair for them to receive more, and my girls receive nothing.  What will become of my daughters?” Fanny Bennet was used to getting her own way whenever she whined.

“Your daughters will receive their fair share of your dowry, as was written in your marriage settlement.” Mr Phillips replied.  “And they live in the dower house for the remainder of their lives, which was stated in Thomas’ will.  So, they will have a roof over their heads, and food on the table.  Along with the dower house, you will receive the interest from your dowry of five thousand pounds.  That will give you one hundred per annum to pay for your needs.”

“A mere one hundred pounds per annum?  How are we to live on such a meager amount?  What of our servants?  The estate will pay for our servants, will it not?”

Mr Phillips shook his head.  “No, Sister, you will need to pay your servants from your annual income.  And you will need to economize in your spending.  There will be no need to purchase so many gowns and such, especially for the next year.  The family is in deep mourning for several more months, so there will be no need for entertaining guests.  All you will need is the necessities.”

“It is not to be born, forcing us to move, economize, pay for our own servants, and have no one over to aid us in moving past our loss.  And you will refuse us a carriage, I am sure.  If you are so cruel as to force us into all of these stipulations, you will ensure we are unable to visit our friends without a carriage to transport us.”

“For these coming months, you will be in full mourning.  You will remain away from society, until you have shown the proper respect for your husband and the father of your daughters.”

“And a miserable excuse for a father he was.” Mrs Bennet was pouting.  “The only children he cared for were his daughters with his beloved first wife.  Everything from his first marriage were precious and dear to him, while our marriage was doomed from the start.  Why, he would not even allow me to reside in the Mistress’ chamber, as he felt disrespectful to his dear Olivia to allow me to sleep in her bed.  How we ended with three children, I will never understand, for he was rarely aroused.”

“Madame, that is enough.” Darcy lost his temper.  “My uncle is dead, any arguments you had with him died  with him.  Attempting to discredit the man or besmirch his good name will only come back to blacken your name.  Especially when you were the one who attempted to force your stepdaughter to marry Mr Collins.”

“No one was ever good enough for his Lizzy.  She was always his precious child, no one could measure up to her.  All because she looks like her dead mother.”

Darcy stepped forward, until he was mere inches from Mrs Bennet, looming over her.  “My cousin does look like her beloved mother, and her father cherished my aunt, but that does not give you the right to torture Elizabeth.  It was not her fault that her mother died tragically.  It was not her fault for the way her father acted after my aunt’s death.  Thomas Bennet kept his eldest daughters from our family.  My father had to see his nieces from afar, and hear of them from someone completely unrelated.  Never tell me that Lizzy deserved to marry a man such as Mr Collins.  Do I make myself understood?”

Mrs Bennet began to shake from fear.  Darcy was intimidating enough from across the room, but his tall, muscular person, along with his deep voice, caused even Mrs Bennet insecurity.  “Y…yes.  But why do my daughters and I have to move from the manor immediately?  If Mr Collins is not to return, can we not remain here for the time being?”

“No, Mrs Bennet.  If you were to remain in this house, you will do as you wish, with no concern of how anyone else will be affected.  Once the future of Longbourn is determined, you would need to move anyway, so it is best to be done immediately.  You should become accustomed to your new situation, and accept the truth.  With your husband’s death, you are dependent on the good will of others.  Even though you are in possession of a dead husband, you care more for the ability to socialize than in paying respects to properly mourning your late husband.”

“My daughters are beautiful and lively.  I must secure husbands for them, before their bloom fades.” Mrs Bennet attempted to make Darcy see reason.  “If we wait too long, we might miss all opportunities to make matches for them.  My duty, as their mother, is to see they find husbands.”

“Mourn your loss, then concentrate on the marriage prospects of your daughters.  And, as I am lightening your burden, you will only need to concern yourself with your three daughters, not all of the Bennet daughters.” Darcy stepped back, preparing to leave.  “When we learn of the disposition of Longbourn, we will speak again.  Until then, I suggest you do as instructed and move to the dower cottage.  If you do so, I pledge to assist you with some extra funds.  Do you understand what I am telling you, Mrs Bennet?”

“Y…y…yes.  I will follow your instructions.”  The Mistress of Longbourn was not the most intelligent of people, yet she was able to realize when it was time to give in and follow the dictates of others.  One day, I pray to see my daughters be well settled.  Until then, we must do our best.

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

 

 

Chapter 14

            Darcy watched his cousins closely as they arrived the family home of their mother.  Though they had been at Pemberley prior to this day, the Bennet sisters were extremely young the last time they had been at the grand estate.

Elizabeth’s eyes were wide, as she took in the view from the road which had come to the top of a hill.  Pemberley.  Her mother’s birthplace.  The beautiful estate she had memories of from her childhood.  The gardens, the woods, the lake.  Elizabeth had always been fond of nature, and Pemberley was the perfect example of nature blending with man made.  Pemberley’s manor house looked as if it had sprouted from the ground, perfectly matching the natural splendor.

“Is it anything like you remember?” Darcy inquired.

“Grander.  I remember the gardens to the east of the house.  Your mother loved the roses there, did she not?”

Darcy nodded his head.  “She did.  Mother was fond of roses, and all the different colors.  The head grounds keeper was fond of cultivating new varieties for Mother.  Since her death, he has continued to add new colors to the gardens.”

Jane smiled.  “I can remember Aunt Anne, though barely.  She was very pretty, much like Georgiana in looks.”

“Yes, though unfortunately, she is nothing like Mother in personality.  Father spoiled her, as did our aunts and uncle.  Though we all lost our mothers young, only Georgiana allowed the loss to shape her life negatively.”

A nod came from Elizabeth’s head.  “Unfortunately, we are all four orphaned.  From what I can remember, I believe Aunt Anne would be disappointed with her daughter.”

Glancing out the window, Darcy looked over his beloved home. “Mother would be extremely disappointed in Georgiana’s behavior, even before my sister eloped with Wickham.”

“What will you do if they are at Pemberley?” Elizabeth asked.

“I will show them one of the copies of Father’s will.  You should be aware, I suspect there will be a good deal of screaming and shouting.”

Lifting her cousin’s hand to her cheek, Elizabeth drew Darcy’s attention to herself.  “William, have no fear for us.  Jane and I are your family, and we will support you through this troubling time.  After living with our stepmother and our sisters, I doubt we will be shocked by your sister and her husband.”

His eyes locked with hers.  “Thank you, Lizzy, Jane.  I do not know how I would have been able to cope, if not for you.  What a blessing, having you back in my life.”

“We are grateful for you returning to our lives as well, William.” Jane stated.

As the carriage came to a stop in front of the large manor house, Darcy could see Mrs Reynolds on the front steps, waiting for her master.

Before giving his housekeeper his full attention, Darcy decided to hand down his cousins and bring them to Mrs Reynolds for an introduction.  It was clear that the elder lady was displeased with something, nervous even.

“Is my sister here?” Darcy looked at the woman who had aided in raising him, after the death of his mother.

He received a nod of the head from kindly housekeeper.  “She is, and she has brought that…that…man.”

“Wickham?”

“Yes, Master William.  And they began tearing the house apart, claiming you would never return, and they were the new Master and Mistress of Pemberley.  Of course I did not believe them, but they have stripped your mother’s rooms and Miss Darcy…I mean Mrs Wickham, as ordered new furniture, wall papers, paint and such.  Warren and Wainwright recovered what furniture they could, but much was destroyed.  Your sister and her husband have also been able to access your study, though they were unable to gain access to the ledgers, personal items, and any funds kept in the house.  Those are secured in a location only few know.”

“You are wise, Mrs Reynolds.  And always looking out for me. Where are the newlyweds?”

“In the sitting room connected to the Master and Mistress suites.”  Mrs Reynolds stated.  Turning her attention to Elizabeth and Jane, Mrs Reynolds gasped.  “My goodness, you are the image of Miss Olivia.  You must be Miss Elizabeth.”

“I am. And this is my sister Jane.”

“For years, all we knew of the two of you came from letters from Mrs Gardiner.  To see you, all grown up and looking so beautiful, it is as if the years have stood still, bringing your dear mother back to her home.”

As tears began pooling in the eyes of the sisters, Mrs Reynolds stepped closer and wrapped them in her embrace.  Darcy knew then, the lady would do as she had for him, be a mother for his cousins.

“Mrs Reynolds, would you be so kind as to show my cousins to their rooms.  I must speak with my sister.”

Darcy walked away from the trio, entering the house and walking to the grand staircase.  At the first floor, he turned right, entering the family wing.  Coming to a stop in front of the sitting room door.  Without knocking, Darcy opened the door and entered.

“What are you doing here?  And why did you not knock before barging in our sitting room?” Georgiana Wickham was full of herself believing she was the one in charge.

“Why would I knock on the door to my private sitting room?  And I am here, as it is my home.”

Georgiana ignored his statements.  “My husband and I will be running Pemberley now.  As soon as our aunts and uncle come for you, they will see that you are locked away.  So we will be in control of the estate and all the holdings.”

“No, you will not.  I have already had the pleasure of speaking with Lord and Lady Matlock, Lady Catherine, and our cousin Anne.  They will be unable to force me to do anything.  And the two of you have no authority, even if I were taken to an asylum.”

“Of what are you speaking?” Wickham was becoming nervous.  Darcy was good at keeping his emotions unreadable, but Wickham could feel a sort of happiness in his childhood friend.

Pouring himself a glass of port from the nearly empty bottle on the sideboard, Darcy savored the drink before he turned his attentions back to his sister and her husband.

“Wickham, not that you deserve my acknowledgment, I will tell you that your marriage will not be as perfect as you believe.  I have a copy of my father’s will in my safe, as well as copies three other places.  So getting your greedy hands on this copy will do you no good.”

“And why would I wish to have my godfather’s will in my hand?” Wickham had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“For the simple reason that you will receive nothing.  No access to my sister’s dowry, no living at any of the properties owned by the Darcy family, with the exception of one small estate located in northern Scotland.”

Georgiana was furious.  “How dare you lie?  How dare you?  Our uncle will see to it that you are stripped of everything.  You are the one who will have no access to any of the Darcy holdings.  Father would be spinning his grave if he knew what you were doing.”

Darcy stepped to his desk and pulled out a key.  Unlocking a drawer, he reached in the drawer and removed a strongbox.  Another key was used to unlock the strongbox.  The Master of Pemberley sorted through the documents inside the box, until he found what he was looking for.

“Here is a copy, Sister.  I can give you a moment to read it through.” Darcy stated as he handed the papers.

Georgiana took the papers from her brother, though, before she could begin reading about her future, Wickham took the pages from her hands and began to read.  His face turned pale, as he realized what had happened.

“”I’ve been tricked, duped by your sister.  How could this be?”

Snatching the papers from her husband, Georgiana began reading.  “This cannot be.  Father would never have made such stipulations.  You have altered this, I am certain.”

“That is Father’s handwriting, no alterations have been made to the document.” Darcy was fighting to keep from smiling.  “And the information can be confirmed by the solicitor in Lambton, as well as the solicitor in Town.  Though, if you choose to visit Town, it will be at your own expense.  As you can see, the income you are allotted is not enough to make journeys frequently.  And you will not have a carriage and team of your own.”

“You little chit, you trapped me in this sham of a marriage.  You knew, and said nothing.  I wish for an annulment.” Wickham was ranting.

“How dare you blame me?” Georgiana shouted.  “I have been abused as badly as you.  My brother has destroyed our future, and now you wish to dissolve our marriage?  What if I am already with child?”

“Just like your brother, no true knowledge of the ways to take pleasure, yet leave no seed inside.  You could no sooner be carrying a child of mine than your brother could be.”

Aghast, Georgiana lunged at her husband, her fingers prepared to gouge his eyes. “How dare you?  You were willing to marry me, now you wish to be rid of me.  This is not to be born.”

The couple continued to wrestle about, Wickham attempting to subdue his wife, while Georgiana let loose her fury.  Darcy remained behind his desk, enjoying the newlyweds battle.

Finally, Wickham was able to subdue his wife, forcing her hand behind her back.  With some force, he pushed Georgiana forward, causing her to knock into Darcy’s desk.

“Enough, both of you.” Darcy declared, standing up from his chair.  “I will have a carriage prepared to leave within the hour, to take you to Scotland.  Since you have most likely used whatever funds you had to elope, I will be generous to give you twenty pounds.  Spend it wisely, for there will be no further funds from me.  I will have Mrs Reynolds see to packing your belongings, Georgiana.  Wickham, I assume you have no change of clothes, seeing that you are wearing mine.  You may keep what you are wearing, though the watch will remain with me.  With the twenty pounds, perhaps you will be able to purchase some new clothes, more fitting to your new station.”

“I will not be making the journey to Scotland.” Growled Wickham.  “Keep your sister, all I wished for was her dowry.”

Again, Georgiana flew into a rage.  “Fitzwilliam, what am I to do?  This scoundrel is my husband, yet now he plans to abandon me.  You must allow me to remain here.  Or perhaps I could move to Darcy House, so as to see our relations.”

“My dear sister, you chose your life, now it is time for you to accept the consequences of your actions.  Your elopement is done, there is no turning back.  Now you must live with your actions.”

“But, how am I to live?  You are responsible for me, to ensure I have a proper home.”

“And you, Georgiana, took that responsibility from me, and given it to your beloved husband.  There is nothing I can do for you, and frankly, I would not lift a finger to aid you, after how you have behaved.  My time will be better served in assisting our cousins.”

“You brought those nobodies here?  Why would you pollute the shades of Pemberley with their presence? Anne will not be pleased, as she will soon be the Mistress of Pemberley and Darcy House.”

Darcy could see that nothing was penetrating his sister’s mind.  “This is the final time I will tell you.  I am not engaged to Anne.  I will never marry Anne.  And you will be leaving here, today, and never, I repeat, never, return here or to Darcy House.”

Georgiana had never witnessed such anger in her brother.  Stepping away from the men in the room, the young girl opened the study door and fled the room.  Tears were streaming down her cheeks.  What should she do?  She had never had to make such decisions before.  The decision to elope had come so quickly, and she was certain that it was the best course of action.  But now she knew the truth, George Wickham had used her for her dowry.

“I will go to Town, to Matlock House.  My aunt and uncle will see that Brother takes me back, or at least turns over my dowry to me.  If I have my dowry, I can set up my own establishment, and not rely on my brother or my husband.  Oh, what am I to do about my marriage?  How can I rid myself of that despicable man?”

Hearing someone walking towards her, Georgiana turned her head and saw Elizabeth Bennet making her way towards the entrance door.

“Miss Darcy, how are you?  Is something wrong?” Elizabeth inquired, knowing full well that her young cousin would not have enjoyed the meeting with her brother.

“You are of no consequence to me, and have no right to speak to me, let alone ask me personal questions.” The younger Darcy sibling responded.  “And it is Mrs Wickham, not Miss Darcy.”  Her chin rose as she spoke.

“Forgive me, Mrs Wickham.  Is your brother still in his study?”

“He is, as far as I know.  I am not my brother’s keeper, so it is not my duty to keep track of his whereabouts.  Perhaps you should inquire of one of his servants.”

Elizabeth nodded her head and turned to walk outside. Before she reached the door, Georgiana called her attention.  “And just how long do you plan to remain in my family’s home?”

“As it is your brother’s home, and he has not commented on the length of our stay, I am not certain.  There is much for my sister and I to discuss with William.”

“How dare you refer to my brother in such an improper manner?  You have no right to speak his name such.”

“Forgive me for causing your distress, though I have been given permission by William to refer to him so since I was a small child.  And upon our recent meeting, he again insisted we call him William, just as I am Lizzy to him.”  Elizabeth then walked out the door, which the footman held open to her, and she made her exit to enjoy the gardens, ignoring Georgiana’s tirade aimed at her.

Being ignored was not something to which Georgiana Darcy had ever been subjected, and she was appalled.  To have her cousin, who, in the girl’s mind, was far beneath her in status, treat her with such disrespect was beyond the pale.   She heard footsteps once again, and discovered her brother and husband walking towards her.

“What was all the ruckus about?” Darcy asked, his brows nearly touching in the crease running up his forehead.

“Your so called cousin was rude to me. You cannot keep her here, in our family home.  Aunt Catherine will be furious.”

“This is the childhood home of Lizzy and Jane’s mother.  They have every right to stay here while their futures are determined.  Their father died, and they are now under my protection.  You are the one who has no right to remain here.  Now, remain here while the carriage is prepared.”

“The carriage is going to London, for I will not reside in some obscure estate in Scotland.” Wickham stated.  “And the carriage can drop your sister with your relations.”

“My staff at Darcy House has already been alerted not to allow either of you in my home.  They have the authority to have you arrested if you make any attempt to enter the house.” Darcy was proud of himself for making the preparations before the journey to Pemberley.

“Uncle Henry and Aunt Catherine will change your position.  I will return to my family home, and be the next Mistress, as soon as our family has you stripped of everything.” Georgiana turned her back to her brother, crossing her arms across her chest, and refused to acknowledge either of the men.

The wait was not long, and the carriage, the same one which had taken the newlyweds to Scotland, pulled to a stop in front of the steps of the manor house.  Ignoring the men, Georgiana marched to the carriage, accepting the hand of the footman to enter.  Once she was settled, Wickham joined her in the smallest, oldest carriage that the Darcy family owned.  He was determined to find a way to pay his childhood friend back for the betrayal Wickham felt had been dealt him.  One day, I will be the Master of Pemberley, and Darcy will be nothing.

~~ ** ~~

Elizabeth was seated on one of the benches in Lady Anne’s beloved rose garden, enjoying the warm of the sun and breeze which made her curls dance around her face.  She noticed that a carriage had been brought to the front of the house.  A small, devious smile crept on her lips as she watched the carriage being loaded, including several trunks, which Elizabeth was certain contained the belongings of Mrs Georgiana Wickham.  Not long after, the couple made their way into the carriage and were off to their future.

Less than a quarter of an hour passed before Darcy found his cousin in the rose garden.  He stood and stared at her, as she held her face towards the sun, her eyes closed.  She was beautiful, and intelligent.  The sort of lady that Darcy had dreamed of one day marrying.

After declaring his being betrothed before his Fitzwilliam relations, little had been discussed between the cousins.  Elizabeth had treated his declaration as a way of ridding himself of Anne and their relations, while Darcy was afraid of what he had done.  Would his statement ruin any chances he had with the most important lady in his life?

Was she the ideal lady to be his wife?  Would she fulfill all his requirements for the Mistress of Pemberley?  As he watched Elizabeth, memories played through his mind.  Memories of what the ideal marriage would be for him.  Memories of the lady he had described to his mother and father in years past.

His ideal wife would be beautiful, with dark brown curls, chocolate brown eyes that sparkled, filled with kindness and caring for those around her.  And the lady would need to be intelligent, well read, knowledgeable of current events in the world.  They would work together to keep Pemberley the grand estate it was, and to care for the tenants and staff.  And she would love him.  That was the most important, she would love him and want the best for him.

Darcy looked at his cousin and realized that his every description matched Elizabeth.  She was all he had ever wished for as a wife, all he had ever desired.  But did she love him, as he wished to be loved?  Would she accept him, be at his side, through better and worse?  He would have to approach the subject carefully, for he did not wish to frighten her.

Elizabeth opened her eyes and was pleased to see Darcy walking towards her.  “I see that your sister and her husband have left.”

“Not by their choice, and I doubt it will be the last I hear from them.  Georgiana believes that our Fitzwilliam relations will come to her aid.”

This thought brought a chuckle from Elizabeth.  “Obviously you did not tell her of your discussion with your relations in Hertfordshire.”

A devilish grin was her reward.  “I thought it would be ignored if I told her of our aunts and uncle being furious with her.  So she will learn for herself how far our relations will assist in her quest to ruin me.”

Offering his arm to Elizabeth, Darcy led her inside, as they prepared for dinner.

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