Having a midweek slump? Here are the next chapters of the tale to help get you through the week. I am sitting here with my Darcy (he is a handsome furball, my service dog) and he is pestering me to ignore posting and give him attention. But I am going to be dedicated and post…then give him attention. 

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Chapter 3

            Mr Edward Gardiner entered the shop that he owned near the docks of London.  He had three shops in town, one was a warehouse for his imported goods, one was a bookshop, and the third was the one near the docks, which was a well-known pawn shop.  His employees at the shop were extensively trained with the items that people brought in to sell, being able to tell the difference between paste and real gemstones, and other qualities of jewelry.

            Having received a message from one of his employees, Mr Gardiner made his way to the shop.

            “Benjamin, how are you?” Gardiner asked as he entered the shop.

            “I am well, Mr Gardiner.  Forgive me for sending for you, but after I purchased some pieces, I discovered something that made me curious.  You would be wiser on what the items are.”

            The clerk pulled out a box containing several items he had purchased from an unknown man.  There was a necklace with a single pearl, another necklace which had a garnet cross, and a brooch which had gemstones. But it was the pocket watch that had made the clerk curious.

            “The back refused to budge, and once I opened it, there was an inscription in it that made me curious.”

            Gardiner looked at the watch.

          To my beloved son Edwin, on his graduation. PF

            “You were right to notify me. I will take these items with me, as I wish to do some investigating.” Mr Gardiner said.

            “I hope I did the right thing in purchasing the items.”

            “What can you tell me of the man who brought in the items?”

            Benjamin thought for a moment.  “He was about my height, on the large side, dark greasy hair, and demanding in the way he spoke to me.  As if he was better than me.”

            “Very good. I believe we have here stolen items from someone important.  If I am not mistaken, the watch belonged to Edwin Fitzwilliam, son of the late Lord Matlock, Patrick Fitzwilliam.  I remember that a few years ago, Mr Edwin Fitzwilliam, his wife, and his eldest daughter were all killed when highwaymen attacked their carriage.  Only one person survived, the younger daughter.”

            The clerk gave a surprised look. “How did you know such information?”

            “My wife is from Derbyshire.  The attack on Mr Fitzwilliam and his family happened about ten miles from Lambton, where my Helen was born and raised.  I had been visiting the area when the robbery occurred, and I remember the entire area was looking for the men who had caused the accident. Many considered it to be a deliberate murder disguised as a robbery, and Lord Matlock hired people to investigate every lead.  I was even questioned, as I was not living in the area.”

            “Though I am surprised, I am also concerned. If these items were from a murder, will the man return with other items?”

            “If he does, try to get as much information of him as possible.  I am certain there were more items stolen, as they found someone had ransacked the trunks.  Mrs Fitzwilliam’s case with jewelry was missing, as were other items of Mr Fitzwilliam. He had a signet ring with his initials inside, and his wife’s wedding ring was missing. There is a drawing of the ring, I remember receiving a copy of the drawing from the investigators. It would be in my files in the warehouse.”

            “I will keep an eye open for the man. If he is a killer, it would be best if he meets with the law soon.”

            Mr Gardiner left the shop. He first stopped at his warehouse, where he found the drawing of the ring.  He sent one of his men to take the drawing to Benjamin, then made his way home.  His wife, Helen, had lived most of her life in Lambton, which was only five miles from Pemberley, the estate owned by the Darcy family.  Anyone from Derbyshire knew the Darcy and Fitzwilliam families, as the families made up nearly half of the county.  Helen’s father still lived in Lambton. Perhaps it was time that the Gardiners paid a visit to Helen’s father.

            As he entered his home, the smell of a roast cooking made the man’s stomach rumble.  He had been busy and forgotten to eat during the midday. Helen Gardiner was sitting in the drawing room, stitching a new sampler.

            When Helen looked up, it surprised her to see her husband.  “Edward, I did not expect you for another half an hour.  Is everything well?”

            “All is well, my dear.  I wish to ask you to look at something, if you would.”

            “Of course, what is it?”

            Gardiner pulled the pouch from his coat pocket and opened it.  “Do you remember Mr Edwin Fitzwilliam and his family?”

            “Of course. I saw them when they came through on their way to Pemberley. They loved the sweets at the confectionary, so they always stopped in Lambton.  My mother’s biscuits were another favorite of his daughters, especially the younger daughter, Elizabeth.”

            “There were new items brought to the pawn shop this morning.  Benjamin was uneasy about them after the man left the shop, so he sent me a message.  After looking at the items, I am convinced they belonged to Mr Fitzwilliam and his family.  Would you mind seeing if you recognize any of the items?”

            “Of course, though I do not know if I can be of any help.” Helen moved closer to the table where her husband began laying out the pieces of jewelry.  Suddenly, she gasped.  Picking up the brooch, she ran her fingers lightly over the stones. “Mr Fitzwilliam purchased this from my father’s shop. It was custom made, a gift for Mrs Fitzwilliam’s birthday. He came to Papa, as my father’s hobby for making jewelry had become known.  Mr Darcy had purchased a similar piece for Lady Anne.  Papa may own a general store, but he has always tinkered with making unique jewelry when he could.  I remember this piece. Mr Fitzwilliam wanted the stones to represent their daughters and their years of marriage. There is a pearl for each year of their marriage. The emeralds were for the eldest daughter, Jane, and the sapphires were for Elizabeth, as they were the favorite colors of each girl.  And the single diamond in the center was to represent Mr Fitzwilliam’s love for his wife.  Papa was so pleased with the piece, he said it was the best he had ever made.”

            “It is a beautiful piece. Your father does excellent work.” Mr Gardiner said as he placed the two necklaces on the table beside the pocket watch.  “There is an engraving on the watch. To my son, Edwin, on his graduation. PF. That would be the late Lord Matlock, Patrick Fitzwilliam, would it not?”

            “Yes, and this necklace, the garnet cross, I can remember Miss Elizabeth Fitzwilliam wearing it all the time.  Her grandmother, Lady Elizabeth, gave it to her for her tenth birthday and the girl told me she never took it off.  Oh, Edward, these belong to the Fitzwilliam family. The man, do you believe he was one of the men who caused the wreck and robbed them? I remember Papa saying that one postilion survived long enough to tell that it was a gang of five men, though he could not tell them anything else.”

            “I believe it is time that we visit your parents.  From there, we can take a trip to Pemberley to return the items to Miss Fitzwilliam.”

            “They may not be there, as they could still be at Matlock, as Lord Matlock died recently.” Mrs Gardiner replied.

            “Either way, we will return the items to the family.”

            “It has been some time since I saw my parents. And if we take the children, they might meet our daughter.” Gardiners had three young children, the youngest was only six months old.

            “You know I would include our children. Your mother would never forgive me if we came without the children.” Mr Gardiner chuckled.

            “When should we leave?”

            “Tomorrow.  I will go to the warehouse and inform Jeffries that we will be gone. He will run the warehouse in my absence.”

            Helen Gardiner nodded her head.  “I will see to the packing.”

                                                            ~~ ** ~~

            The Gardiner family arrived in Lambton after the three-day journey north. Mr and Mrs Dimsworth, Helen’s parents, were thrilled to have their daughter’s family, especially to meet the newest grandchild.

            “Edward, it is good to see you.  Not that I am complaining, but what brings you to our village?”  Mr Dimsworth inquired.

            “I have some business with the Fitzwilliam family, though I wish to have you look at something.” Mr Gardiner reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the bag.  “Helen recognized two of the pieces, but I wish to confirm them with you before I meet with the family.”

            Placing the jewelry on the table, Mr Gardiner stepped back to allow his father-in-law a chance to look at them.

            “Helen would know this one, as I made it for Mrs Fitzwilliam, the wife of Mr Edwin Fitzwilliam.  The gentleman had it made for his wife, and he drew what he wished for me to make.  His drawing was very detailed. It was one of the most elegant pieces I ever made.” Mr Dimsworth stated as he picked up the brooch and looked it over carefully. “They purchased the pocket watch in Derby, though the earl had me engrave it, as he did not like the work of the man he purchased it from.  And the garnet cross, Miss Lizzy never took the necklace off. She loved it, as it was a gift from her namesake, her grandmother, the countess. I can remember Miss Lizzy’s expression when she showed my wife the necklace, the child was so proud of the piece.  The single pearl is most likely Miss Fitzwilliam’s.  She was a simple young lady, wearing nothing too decorative.  Such a beautiful girl as she was, there was no need to wear something that would overwhelm.”

            “Should I take the items to Pemberley?” Mr Gardiner asked.

            “I believe the family has been at Matlock since the death of Lord Patrick. I could send a message to Pemberley to inquire when the family will return?”

            “I would like to return the items to the family as soon as possible.  And I assume the family would like to know about the man who brought the items to my shop.”

            Mr Dimsworth nodded his head. “Allow me to send a message. We should know soon enough if they expect the family.”

                                                            ~~ ** ~~

            Word came that the Darcys and the countess would return to Pemberley the following day, so Mr Gardiner would wait for their arrival rather than make the trip to Matlock.

            The following day, in the middle of the afternoon, Edward Gardiner and his father-in-law, Mr Dimsworth, arrived at the manor house of Pemberley and taken to the study of Gerald Darcy.

            Mr Darcy stood up to greet the men.  “Dimsworth, it is a pleasure to see you.  What brings you to Pemberley?”

            “I came with my son-in-law, Edward Gardiner, who has some business with you.”

            “Mr Gardiner, it is a pleasure to meet you.  Mr Dimsworth has spoken of you.  You are quite the proprietor from what I remember.”

            “My father-in-law brags too much. I have an import warehouse, a bookshop, and a pawnshop, all in London.  It is the latter that brings us to your home.”

            Mr Darcy was curious.  “And what would a pawn shop in London have to do with our family?”

            Gardiner took the pouch from his pocket, placing it on Gerald’s desk.  The gentleman opened the pouch, amazed at what he saw. “These were Edwin’s and his family’s.  Someone pawned these items? Who was the man? We must have the investigators speak with the person who dealt with the man.”

           Pulling out a piece of paper, Gardiner placed it on the desk for the gentleman.  “My clerk is the one who dealt with him. Here is the description he gave me of the man.  When Benjamin was examining the pocket watch, the back of the watch was stuck, and when he could open it, he found the engraving.  Benjamin, my clerk, felt there was something odd, so he sent a message to me. I was in Lambton when your brother-in-law and his family were attacked. It is something I will never forget.  When I saw the name Edwin and the initials PF, I was certain.  My wife, Helen, told me that her father had made the brooch especially for Mr Fitzwilliam.”

            “I told Edwin of the piece I had had made for my Anne.  He had seen nothing like it in all the shops in London and was thrilled that you were willing to make it for him.” Darcy turned his attention to Dimsworth.

            “That my meager talent could bring joy is all I could ask.  It pleases me to know my work meant something to them while they were still living.”

            “Your niece, Miss Fitzwilliam, how is she?”

            “She cannot walk but a step or two and still suffers from pain.  But she is a brave young lady.  Her strength through all the loss has been incredible.  Lizzy is here, as is my mother-in-law.  We were planning to go to London sometime soon.”

            “If I learn more of the man who brought the items to my shop, I shall send word.  Should I send messages to Darcy House or Matlock House?”

            Gerald shook his head.  “We are planning to visit the estate of my son’s friend, Mr Charles Bingley, before we arrive in town.  Bingley has leased an estate in Hertfordshire, near the village of Meryton.”

            “I know Meryton and the surrounding area well.” Gardiner said with a smile.  “I was born and raised in Meryton.  My father was a solicitor, and his office was in the village.  When Father passed, his clerk took over the practice, as he married to my youngest sister.  Mrs Phillips is my sister.  Our older sister married to Mr Thomas Bennet of Longbourn.  The estate is located three miles from Meryton.  Which estate is Mr Bingley leasing?”

            “Netherfield Park.” Darcy replied.

            “The estate borders Longbourn. It is a beautiful area, and there are some excellent fishing spots.  My brother-in-law, Bennet, could show you some of the best fishing and hunting areas.”

            Darcy reached into his desk drawer, pulling out a bag of coins.  “Here, I know you purchased the jewelry.  Allow me to compensate you.”

            “There is no need, Mr Darcy.  The good Lord put me in the right place, so I could bring them back to your family.  What little they cost me is nothing when I look at all your family has suffered.  God bless you, Mr Darcy.  If I learn more, will send word to Netherfield.”

            “Many blessings upon you, Mr Gardiner. Your generosity speaks highly of you. Perhaps, the next time we are in town, we can have you and your family as our guests to the theater or to dine with us.”

            “It would be a great honor, Mr Darcy.”

                                                            ~~ ** ~~

             When the men left, Gerald sat behind his desk, holding the pocket watch, staring at the engraving.  He remembered the day Lord Patrick had presented the watch to his younger son. His lordship was proud of his children, but he was especially close to Edwin and Anne. Gerald often wondered if, after knowing he had his heir, Lord Patrick could relax and enjoy his family. 

            Gerald could remember the day they learned of the robbery which took Edwin, Ethel, and Jane from them. It devastated Lord Patrick and Lady Elizabeth.  The only thing that kept them going was Lizzy.  The couple put all their energy into seeing their granddaughter had everything she required.  They gave their love of Edwin to the only remaining part of him that had survived.

            Scooping the jewelry up and placing it in the pouch in which Mr Gardiner had brought them in, Gerald left his study and went in search of his family.  Finding them in the music room, the gentleman stood silently in the doorway, listening to his niece as she played the pianoforte. Lizzy had a gift for music. Her voice was sweet and lovely.  Everyone in the family enjoyed listening to her.  Well, almost everyone. Two of the guests staying at Pemberley had gone directly to their rooms, not wishing to listen to Lizzy perform.  Lady Catherine and her daughter were not pleased that the family had returned to Pemberley, as it was where Lizzy felt at home with the Darcys.  Knowing that Lizzy’s rooms were in the family wing when the de Bourghs were in guest rooms, as far from the family wing as possible, was another thorn in Lady Catherine’s and Anne de Bourgh’s sides.

            At the end of her song, Gerald made his presence known.  “Well done, Lizzy.  I see you have learned a new song.  It is beautiful.”

            “Thank you, Uncle Gerald.” She gave her uncle a curious look. “Is something wrong?”

            “Do not fear, Lizzy, all is well.  But I have some questions to ask you.  I just had some visitors, and I am certain that you would be interested in what I have to tell you.”

            Lady Anne frowned, not knowing what was happening.  “Gerald, what is going on?”

            He did not answer his wife but walked over to the chair near the pianoforte.  “Lizzy, what can you tell me about the men who robbed your family the day of the accident?  If I remember correctly, you said one man entered the carriage and began taking things from your parents.  Do you remember what he looked like?”

            “What is the reason for these questions, Gerald?” Lady Elizabeth asked. “All that Lizzy endured that day, we all agreed that it was best to not make her relive the event.”

            Gerald held out the pouch, giving it to his wife.  Lady Anne opened it and gasped.  “Where did these come from?”

            “A man in London took them to a pawnshop.  Fortunately, the shop belonged to Mr Gardiner, the husband of the former Helen Dimsworth. Mrs Gardiner recognized the pieces, especially the brooch.”

            “Mamma’s brooch?” Lizzy asked as she attempted to stand and walk to her aunt.  “Please, I must see it.”

            As she fell, William took hold of her, lifting her in his arms and carrying her towards where his mother sat. After he placed her gently on the sofa, William sat beside her, cradling her hand in his own.  Lady Anne held out the pieces for her niece.

            “My garnet cross.  It broke my heart to know they took it that day.  It was my favorite piece of jewelry, as you gave it to me, Grandmamma.” Elizabeth looked at the other pieces.  “Jane’s pearl.  She disliked most jewelry, as she felt they were too much.  Jane always preferred to wear simple things.  Mamma and Father gave the pearl to her for her birthday. Mamma’s brooch, Father’s watch.  All these items were on us that day.  It is one thing to know they rummaged through our trunks, but to remember that they came in the carriage and took these items from our bodies.  Off my body…they took this necklace off me, then left me to die with my family.”

            Tears had been welling in Lizzy’s eyes and were now flowing freely down her cheeks. The heartlessness of the men to murder her family, to take their lives, all for some trinkets to sell.  And they took her necklace from her, thinking she was dead, or soon would be. They had cared nothing for the lives of those they had robbed, only what money they could have from them.

            Lizzy asked for help to go to her rooms. She desired to be alone, to think of that day.  In the years since that fateful day, she had tried to forget what had happened. The look of fear on her father’s face, her mother’s cry when the carriage and the horses separated. Jane cowering on the floor, each wrapped in the other’s arms.  The feeling of being tossed about as the carriage turned over and over.

            William quickly assisted Lizzy into her chair and pushed it from the room.  He would take her to her bedchamber, and he would comfort her, and William decided it was time to tell Lizzy how much he loved her. She needed to know how dear she was to him, how he could love no one as he did her.  And Lizzy needed to know that he would protect her from any evil that lurked about, wishing to cause her harm.

            They entered Lizzy’s room, dismissing Lucy when the girl came from the dressing chamber.  Lizzy asked to be aided to her bed, as she wished to rest.

            “Lizzy, could we speak first?”

            “William, I cannot think at the moment. Could we speak later?”

            “I would prefer now.”

            Lizzy looked up into her cousin’s eyes, seeing the love and devotion there. She knew she could not deny him what he wished. “Very well. But please, could you close the door? I would not like Aunt Catherine or our cousin to enter the room.  They are the last people I wish to encounter at the moment.”

            William nodded his head and locked the door after he closed it.  Unbeknownst to him, Anne de Bourgh had left her rooms and was making her way towards the music room when she spied the young couple entering Lizzy’s bedchambers. As Anne moved closer, she saw William close and lock the door, leaving himself and Lizzy all alone in her bedchamber. 

            Furious, Anne marched to the music room.  “Someone needs to put a stop to Fitzwilliam’s behavior.  He is in Elizabeth’s bedchamber, with the door closed and locked.  This will bring shame on our family.  It must stop immediately.”

            “I believe that it is not your problem, Anne.” Gerald Darcy replied.  “My son is not the sort to take advantage of a young lady.  Lizzy has had a frightful day, and William is comforting her.  It is none of your concern.”

            “It is my concern.  What if people were to discover that my betrothed was seen entering another lady’s bedchamber? It would ruin us.”

            Lady Elizabeth spoke up. “That is enough, Anne.  You have been told many times you are not engaged to William.  There has never been an arrangement between you, and there never will.  Your grandfather told you, and his word still stands.”

            “How can you say such a thing?  Do you not wish for me to be settled appropriately?  Mother has told me all my life that I would marry my cousin.  Why would you deny me my future?”

            “Your mother was wrong.  There has never been an understanding between you and William.” Lady Anne declared. “This had best be the last time we discuss the matter.  You will not be marrying my son, and I do not wish to speak of it again. Do you understand me?  You will never be married to my son.  Look elsewhere for a husband.”

            “You are jealous.  All of you are jealous of me.  Mother has told me for years I am better than all of you and you wish to do whatever you can to destroy my happiness.  I will be married to Fitzwilliam. Mother promised me I would be. Nothing you do will stop me from achieving my destiny.” With that, Anne ran from the room.  She made for her rooms, slamming the door behind her. Throwing herself on her bed, the heiress began pounding her fists on the mattress.  “I will make them all pay for their treatment of me.”

Chapter 4

            William sat beside Lizzy on the side of her bed.  “Lizzy, I know you have suffered a shock today.  I wish I could take away all the pain you have endured.”

            “It was such a surprise, to see those items that were once so common in my life.  Jane always wore the pearl.  I remember when Mamma presented it to Jane for her twelfth birthday. For a bit, I admit, I was jealous.  I wished to have such a treasure, too.  Then Grandmamma gave me my cross on my next birthday. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and being from her made the cross even more precious.”

            “I can remember the look on your face when you opened the box.  Your eyes danced with delight.” William smiled at the memory.

            “Papa always had his pocket watch with him.  I remember him opening the back to show it to me, show me the words that Grandpapa had inscribed there.  He told me how proud he was that he could please his father, an honor he felt was a treasure.  It was shortly after Papa’s graduation from university that he was given our home of Wilton Hall.  Grandpapa’s brother had no heir and left it to my father.  A second son’s gift to a second son.  Papa spoke of the watch, reminding him of the time he became a man.”    

            “I was just a boy when your parents first wed.  They had a love match, just as my parents.  It was a pleasure to watch the two of them, especially after seeing Aunt Catherine’s marriage being so terrible.  They bickered constantly, and there was no love between them. Uncle Henry and Aunt Rebecca had an arranged marriage, but they were friends, and continue to be friends.  I believe they even fell in love with each other.”

            “Seeing how much my parents were in love with each other made me desire a love match.”

            “Have you found someone who you could love enough to marry?” William asked as he turned Lizzy’s hand over in his, lightly stroking the palm.

            “I know where my heart belongs, though I am uncertain if the man could love me in the same manner.” Lizzy looked into his eyes.

            William’s hand came up to caress Lizzy’s cheek.  “My dearest girl, if you think my heart could be given to anyone other than you, I will think you the silliest girl I have ever met.  I have always loved you, Lizzy.  You have always held my heart in your hand. The day of the robbery, when I thought you would die with your family, it devastated me.  Mother could not convince me to leave your bedside for days. You are the only lady I could ever love, the only who could ever make me happy.  Elizabeth Anne Fitzwilliam, would you do me the honor of agreeing to be my wife?”

            Tears were welling in Lizzy’s eyes. She could see the truth in his face, his eyes were like peering into his very soul.  Lizzy knew her answer, she had known all her life.  And now she knew his love for her matched hers for him.  “Yes, William, oh yes.  I love you more than I could ever say.”

            Fitzwilliam Darcy leaned forward, capturing the lips of the lady he loved.  Having kissed no one before, he found the experience to be exhilarating.  How he wished he never had to stop.  But he knew he would have to, as he could not allow his baser desires to take hold.  They would face that future learning with each other, loving one another, giving themselves to the other as they had never shared with another.

            As they parted from their first kiss, both were breathless.  William rested his forehead against hers.  “Perhaps it is time we spoke with my parents.”

            Lizzy laughed lightly.  “Do you believe they are unaware of our feelings?  I believe your parents and Grandmamma have been waiting for us to finally come to realize the truth of our feelings?”

            A chuckle came from William.  “They have most likely been wondering when we would declare our feelings.  My father and our uncle likely have a wager on when we would realize our love.”

            William lifted Lizzy once again, placing her gently on her wheeled chair, kissing her gently once more, before returning with her to the music room.  Lady Anne and Lady Elizabeth had a hard time keeping the knowing looks at bay.  Both mother and daughter were certain that the time had come, that William and Lizzy had finally spoken of their love of each other.

            “Lizzy and I have an announcement.” William said with one of his dimpled smiles that made everyone know how happy he was.  “Lizzy has made me the happiest of men and agreed to be my wife.”

            “NO!” came a voice from the door of the room.  “I will not stand for this.”

            Everyone turned to see Lady Catherine standing there, angry at what she had heard.  Lady Anne stood, marching over to her sister.  “If you cannot wish my son well, then I will insist you leave the room.  There will be no nonsense over your desire for Anne to marry William.  You and Anne have been told many times that there will never be a union between your daughter and my son.”

            “It is not right.  My daughter is beautiful and an heiress.  She is the perfect match for Fitzwilliam.  Between Pemberley and Rosings, we will be the most powerful family in England.  Since Anne’s birth, I knew that they were formed for one another.  You once agreed with me.”

            “No, Catherine, I have never agreed with you.  Never once have I agreed with you on this matter.  It is time you forget this nonsense and allow William and Lizzy to enjoy their lives together.”

            “I will not stand for this, I promise you.  If Fitzwilliam will not marry my Anne, he will not marry Eliza.  You have my word on that, as I will see Eliza pays for breaking my daughter’s heart.”

            “Anne has never loved William.  She has been told by you she would marry him, and that is what she has believed.  But it will not break her heart. Just as your heart was untouched when you could not marry Viscount Mayberry.  You believed he would marry you, that he would find you to be a superior match than Lady Sybil, but he loved her.  You did not love him, you only believed he was the perfect match for you.  He was to inherit a large estate, and you believed your being the daughter of an earl would make him ask for your hand. So, you decided on the perfect arrangement for Anne.”

            “Mayberry was a fool.  He came to regret marrying Sybil, as she did nothing to improve his standing.  Her dowry was nothing compared to mine.  When he inherited his estate, his father had nearly left them penniless. If he had married me, my dowry would have allowed him to keep his estate and his townhouse.  Instead, he died an untimely death, after having to sell his estate.” Lady Catherine puffed herself up.  “Anne is the heiress to Rosings.  It brings in nearly six thousand pounds per annum.  Match that with Pemberley’s income, and our family will be quite wealthy. Then add in our brother’s title, and we will be strong.”

            “Lizzy has an estate.  She inherited Wilton Hall.  Last I heard, Wilton does nearly the same as Rosings.  I believe her dowry was fifty thousand, and all the income from Wilton is hers, not to mention Jane’s dowry and other investments Edwin had.  Gerald and our brother have been overseeing the estate and business affairs that Edwin left behind. If wealth and property were all that was important, Lizzy is far superior to Anne.”

            The sisters appeared to be ready to strike each other when Gerald stepped to his wife’s side.  “My dearest, there is no reason for this argument. William has decided, and it is for love.  I will allow no one to take that from our son.”

            “And I will have a word with you, Catherine.” Lady Elizabeth commanded. “You will follow me to my rooms.”

            “Mother, I will…”

            “Now Catherine.”

            The mother and daughter made their way down the hall to the sitting room connected to the bedchamber occupied by Lady Elizabeth.  Lady Catherine sat on one chair, while her mother paced. 

            “I have had enough of your foolishness.  Catherine, your father told you that there was no arrangement between your daughter and William. I have told you. Your brother, who is the head of the Fitzwilliam family, has given you his opinion. And your sister and her husband have made it abundantly clear that they do not wish to have an arrangement between Anne and their son. There will be no more discussion on the subject.  If you cannot accept the truth, you and Anne are welcome to make your way home to Rosings.  Have I made myself clear?”

            “You have always been partial to Eliza, being named for you.  Of course, you would side with her, as everyone else does.  My poor daughter will be heartbroken at her dreams being destroyed.  What will happen now?  She has always believed she would marry Fitzwilliam, only to have it all ripped from her and given to her younger cousin.  My daughter will suffer while her cousin will have all Anne thought was to be hers.”

            “The only reason for Anne’s disappointment is you.  All the lies you filled her head with, all the foolishness.  You are the only one to blame for any pain Anne suffers.  I suggest you and Anne leave today.  It is early enough for you to make a fair distance from Pemberley before stopping for the night.  Have your trunks packed immediately.  It should not take long to have everything packed, as we have only just arrived today.”

            Lady Catherine was furious, but she knew she could not go against her mother.  Lady Elizabeth Fitzwilliam was not a woman to go against, as she was powerful in ways the daughter could only dream of being.  “Very well, Mother.  Anne and I will leave as soon as the servants pack the trunks.”

            “And you will not spread gossip regarding William or Lizzy.  Do I make myself clear?”

            “Of course, Mother.  I will do as you command.” Lady Catherine stood and made her way to the door of the sitting room.  With her hand on the doorknob, she turned back towards her mother.  “I wish that you cared even a little about my Anne, but you seem to only care for Eliza.  One day, you might regret treating my daughter as you do.”

            “I love all of my grandchildren.  It is just difficult to like your daughter when she thinks herself to be better than everyone else.  Perhaps you could teach her that being the best is not always good.”

            Lady Catherine and her daughter were ready to leave within the hour. Neither bid farewell to their relations, including Lady Elizabeth.

            It disappointed their family in the division widening between the de Bourgh ladies and the rest of the Fitzwilliam family, though they did not allow the women to diminish the joy the newly engaged couple experienced.

            “Lizzy, should we change our plans and travel directly to London? We do not have to visit Mr Bingley’s estate.” Lady Anne stated.  “There is much to do, including ordering your trousseau.”

            William laughed.  “Mother, do you truly know Lizzy?  Are you asking her to give up enjoying nature for shopping for gowns?”

            Laughter broke out in the room.  “Forgive me, Lizzy, I should have known better.” Lady Anne said as she chuckled.

            “You need not apologize, Aunt Anne.  Oh my, you will no longer be Aunt Anne to me. You will be my husband’s mother.” Lizzy had mixed emotions over this revelation. Since the death of her own mother, the young lady had held her aunt as the next closest to being a mother to her.  But would that be disrespectful to the mother who had given her life and loved her dearly?  And her father, her beloved father, would not be there to give her away.  Lizzy could remember speaking with her sister of their futures, their weddings, and the men they would marry.  Each had planned to have the other stand beside them as witnesses.  The wreck changed all those plans, something Lizzy had not thought of until that moment.

            “Lizzy, you do not have to call me anything different, if you do not wish.  I am not your mother, but I will be your mother-in-law. You know that I have always wished for a daughter of my own and was never blessed with one. I could not love you more if you had been mine by birth, but I loved your mother and respect your feelings for her.”

            “My dear Lizzy, I believe it would thrill your mother and father with your marriage.” Lady Elizabeth said as she sat in a chair next to her granddaughter.  Leaning over, her ladyship took hold of Lizzy’s hand.  “It is my belief that my son would want his brother to give you away, as Edwin respected Henry.  As for you referring to Gerald and Anne as your mother and father, perhaps it would be easier for you to refer to them by different terms. You referred to your father as Papa and your mother as Mamma. What if you were to call Anne by the term Mother and Gerald by Father?”

            “Would my parents approve?” Lizzy looked to her grandmother.

            “Anne and Ethel were extremely close, as were Gerald and Edwin. I am certain your parents are pleased to have people they loved taking care of you. You deserve to be loved and cherished.  Edwin and Ethel knew how precious you are.  They would not wish for you to have less.”

            Lizzy turned to Lady Anne.  “Would you approve of me calling you Mother?”

            “Of course, my dear girl.  It would honor me.”

            Gerald smiled at the ladies he loved the most in the world.  “And I would be proud to have you call me Father.” He moved towards her, placing his hand on the side of Lizzy’s face, gently brushing some tears from her eyes.  “You make my son whole, as Anne has done for me.  For that, I will be forever grateful.”

            Dinner that night was informal, as the family had had the meal brought to the drawing room.  There was much planning to be done, and the family would leave for Netherfield Park in two days.