Hi Everyone. Sorry for the delay. I finished editing the book and got it submitted to Amazon, so the completed story is there. Have been having trouble with my asthma, and for some reason, when I can’t breathe, I don’t feel up to doing much. I know, silly me. Here are the next chapters in the story. Hope you enjoy.

Chapter 13

            “Mr Darcy, it is a pleasure to see you again.” Mr Bennet rose from his seat behind his desk, offering the gentleman his hand.

            “Mr Bennet, allow me to introduce my closest friend, Mr Charles Bingley. Bingley, this is Mr Thomas Bennet.”

            “It is an honor to meet you, Sir. I met your eldest daughter at the assembly.” Bingley was nervous.

            “Ah, you must be the young man who danced twice with Jane. I have heard of you from not only my daughter, but from Mrs Phillips, Jane’s aunt.”

            Bingley’s cheeks felt as if he were on fire. “Your daughter is the most beautiful lady I have ever met.”

            “Jane is beautiful inside and out. My other daughters are beautiful as well, would you not agree, Mr Darcy?”

            It was Darcy’s turn to turn red. “Indeed, Mr Bennet. Both Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth are attractive, though they are very different. Your youngest daughter shows similarities to her elder sisters.”

            Mr Bennet chuckled. “After meeting you this morning, I can tell you are quite taken with my middle daughter. You obviously have good taste, Mr Darcy.”

            Darcy was dumbfounded. Almost every other father or brother would have attempted to force Darcy to marry their young lady if they had ridden on a horse alone. Though he would have no argument in marrying the young lady, he would not wish to force Miss Elizabeth into a situation she might not appreciate.

            “My Lizzy is extremely intelligent and caring. She is also very opinionated, especially when it comes to defending our family.” Mr Bennet looked at the gentleman.

            “Rightfully so. With all your family has endured, I cannot blame her from speaking her mind in defense of her loved ones.”

            “Mr Bingley, we have been open with our views on many subjects here at Longbourn. One subject is slavery and the treatment of those with dark skin. What is your opinion on the subject?”

            “Well…to be honest, I have never been in the same room with someone who is a slave, nor have I been near anyone who is dark skinned.” It was clear that Mr Bingley was nervous.

            “Perhaps, if you are willing, we could look at the damage to the parlor and then pay a call on your family.” Darcy suggested.

            A smile grew on Mr Bennet’s lips.  “I would be agreeable to such a suggestion.  The men have removed the furnishings and the flooring. They should be working on the walls and ceiling.”

            The trio made their way to the parlor, stepping inside to take a better look at the damage.

            “My goodness, when Darcy told me of your family’s misfortune, I did not expect so much damage.” Bingley looked about the room.

            “If it was not for your friend, things could have been far worse for our family and servants. Mr Darcy rushed inside the room, directing the men so the flames were doused quickly. Even a few minutes longer and the fire would have escaped the parlor and moved to the upstairs where my family were sleeping. Our housekeeper and cook were in the rear of the house, in the kitchen area.”

            Bingley was impressed with his friend. “From the way you spoke, the fire was minor and quickly extinguished.”

            “It is thanks to Miss Elizabeth that I was able to arrive when I did. Without her seeing the smoke while she was on top of Oakham Mount, I would have returned to Netherfield rather than come here.”

            “Well, I am grateful you and my daughter were at the right place at the right time, so that you were able to become our rescuers.” Mr Bennet stated. “The damage is not as bad as we first thought. If you look at the main beam of the ceiling, it does not appear to be badly charred fire and smoke. We will know more once the men arrive from London. Hopefully we will be able to replace the beam easily. My brother, Mr Gardiner, has my list of supplies that will be required. I am hopeful that we will find sufficient men to hire to do the work.”

            “Are there not men locally who could do the work?” Bingley asked.

            “If you are any other family in the area, yes. For my family, few. My brother Gardiner usually hires for us. It is more costly, but preferable in comparison to hiring people who disdain my family.” Mr Bennet felt some sympathy for the young man who had never had to deal with such hatred.

            “Oh, I did not realize.”

            “Mr Bingley, forgive me. I have lived with this disdain for many years now. If it were just me and my wife, it would not be difficult. But when it comes to my children, my tolerance for how people treat them is very low.”

            Bingley nodded his head. “I can understand. Please forgive my naivete.”

            “We all have moments of foolishness. It is what we learn from those moments and how we improve is what matters.”

            The men made their way to the dower house, where they were met with the rest of the Bennet family.

            Mr Bennet moved to his wife’s side. “Maggie, we have a guest. Allow me to introduce you to Mr Charles Bingley, who has taken the lease of Netherfield Park. Mr Bingley, this is my wife, Mrs Margaret Bennet, my eldest daughter, Jane, my middle daughter, Elizabeth, my sons Samuel, Phillip, and Thomas, and my youngest daughter Mary.”

            “Mr Bingley, it is a pleasure to meet you. Jane has spoken of you after meeting you at the assembly.” Mrs Bennet sensed her eldest daughter’s cheeks turning red. “Mr Darcy, it is kind of you to return after all you have done for us today.”

            “I did very little, Mrs Bennet. Your staff did most of the work.”

            “You can tell yourself that if it makes you feel better, though I know the truth. You brought Lizzy home quickly, bringing attention to the fire and even placing yourself in danger’s path to do what you could to defeat the flames. I must insist that you dine with us this evening.”

            Elizabeth smiled. “Do not argue with my mother, as she will not accept no for an answer.”

            “Oh, but your sisters and Mr Hurst must expect you at Netherfield. If you wish, we can send a message inviting them to join us.”

            “My sisters and Hurst left earlier today. Darcy and I are the only ones at Netherfield until my aunt arrives.” Bingley said. He looked at Jane as he weighed his decision. “I have no reason to turn down the invitation. What think you Darcy?”

            “It would be my honor to dine with the Bennet family.” Darcy’s eyes made contact with Elizabeth’s.

            “Then it is settled. Lizzy, would you inform cook of our guests?”

            “Of course Mamma.” Elizabeth noted that Darcy’s eyes followed her as she left the room. The grin she wore encouraged the gentleman.

            Upon her return, Lizzy heard her family discussing Phillip’s injury. Mr Darcy was concerned, as his cousin, a colonel in the regulars, had spoken in the past of wounds seeming simple, then becoming infected from bits of cloth stuck in the wound.

            “Please, if you will allow, I will send to London to have my family physician come.”

            “We have a physician who comes from St Albans when we require.”

            “Thomas, perhaps we should have him come to see Phillip. It could not cause any harm.” Maggie pleaded with her husband.

            “Of course.” Mr Bennet gave his wife’s hand a squeeze as he made to walk to the hall and call for the Longbourn butler, Mr Hill. As he reached the door of the sitting room, Mrs Hill and a maid arrived with tea. “Mrs Hill, would you ask your husband to send one of the footmen to St Albans for the physician? It would ease my wife’s nerves to have our son’s injury inspected.”

            Mrs Hill smiled. She knew her master would do anything he could for his dear wife. Though Mrs Hill had thoroughly cleaned the wound, she was not offended by the request of a physician. The housekeeper had been with the family since Mr Bennet had been new to his position as master of the estate and she respected the gentleman’s love of each of his wives. Nodding to Mr Bennet, Mrs Hill left the room.

            “Might I offer you some tea, gentlemen?” Maggie offered. When the men accepted the offer, the mistress of Longbourn poured and had Elizabeth take each cup to the men. Then she poured cups for her daughters and elder two sons. 

            The remainder of the afternoon was spent in conversation. Later, when the two gentlemen from Netherfield Park returned to that estate, Bingley confessed his surprise at the enjoyable time he had with the Bennet family.

            “To be honest, it never occurred to me that someone of a different culture would have the same desires and goals as we would. The only difference between us is the color of their skin.”

            Darcy gave a small smile. “That is how most people think. If someone comes from a different culture, they must be creatures who are evil and should be feared. What do you think the first black man thought when he saw a white man? Certainly, they must have feared the evil pale men. It is how we learn from each other, respect one another, that makes a difference.”

            “My sisters will never see the truth. What am I to do? I find Miss Bennet enchanting and the most beautiful lady I have ever met. But how do I consider my happiness and ignore my sisters’ needs?”

            “You cannot live by what your sisters wish. They are of age, and Miss Bingley is able to take command of her life. She only demands you do as she wishes due to our friendship. You must seize the opportunity to be happy for yourself.”

            Bingley took a sip from his glass of port. “I wish I could be as strong as you. There is much to consider. We can speak more tomorrow.” As the young man stood and left the room.

            Darcy knew that Bingley had too gentle of a soul to stand against his sisters. Caroline would do anything she could to take advantage of her brother to achieve her goals of being in the first circles of society.

            Drinking the last of his port, Darcy stood and moved to leave the room. On his way back to his bedchambers, he could not help but be grateful for his own sister. Georgiana Darcy was as kind as Caroline Bingley was vindictive.  “I do not envy you, my friend.”

Chapter 14

            “Why did you return? You did not accomplish what you were supposed to do.”

            “I was thwarted from my attempts by a young man coming to assist the Bennets. He rode in on horseback with one of the daughters. One of the true blood daughters, from Mr Bennet’s proper wife.”

            “You should have stayed there. Did you speak with the solicitor in London? I specifically told you to speak with Mr Logan. If you do not follow my directions, you will never achieve your goal.”

            “Mr Logan was out of town, having gone to visit family in Scotland. You did not tell me of how to act if Mr Logan was not to be found.”

            “Fool. Do I need to lead you by the hand as if you were a child? How did you survive until now?”

            “My father directed me until his death. He expected me to do everything as he directed. If I went against his direction, his lesson in obedience were harsh and unforgettable.” He shuddered at the memories of his father’s treatment of him and the scars he wore on his body. What he did not say was that his father was abusive, even when he did exactly as he was instructed.

            “You must return to Hertfordshire immediately. Keep a watch over what the Bennets are doing. There must be some way to eliminate those mongrels who are set to steal what is rightfully yours. Do not allow your inheritance to be stolen from you.”

            “Of course. I will leave for Hertfordshire immediately. If you need to reach me, I will be in the same village as before, using the name of Franklin Dubbins.” The man had been staying at the village of Meryton off and on for several weeks as he learned more about his future home.

            “Very good. Now, off with you. I will make excuses to Mr Hickens. He will be wondering why you have been away from your duties to the rectory. Be assured, I will inform him that you are on a personal errand for me.”

            “You are far too generous. Your generosity is superior to all. Why, had you spent more time in London, surely others would wish to emulate your perfection.”

            “That is enough. Hurry now. I wish for it all to be done swiftly. You cannot be away much longer or Mr Hickens will become suspicious.”

            “Many blessings on you. You are gracious and kind to such a lowly servant.”

            The man began stepping backwards, tripping over his own feet, and knocking into a table. Only the footman standing nearby controlled the situation so it did not become a disaster. Once he was gone, the butler entered the sitting room.

            “A letter arrived, express.” He held out the salver with the letter on it.

            Once the butler had left the room, the seal was broken on the letter.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh,

       I am Miss Caroline Bingley. My brother, Charles, is close friends with your nephew, Mr Darcy of Pemberley.

       My brother leased an estate in Hertfordshire recently. Netherfield Park, near the village of Meryton. Your nephew joined us there, as he planned to assist my brother in learning to manage an estate.

       Shortly after arriving at Netherfield, my brother and Mr Darcy became acquainted with a family of the neighborhood who are unfit savages. The stories I have been told about their barbaric ways, it makes me shudder to remember them. Needless to say, the mistress of the estate is from the Caribbean, a dark woman who should be a slave. Somehow her father, who was at one time a proper English gentleman, was seduced into marrying her slave mother. Obviously she used her arts and allurements to marry a gentleman in England rather than stay with her own kind. Probably thinks she will have better chance at wealth here.

       The difficult part is that my brother and Mr Darcy seem to be ensnared in the viper’s web, falling for the two eldest daughters. Fortunately, their mother was the first Mrs Bennet, who was a very proper English gentleman’s wife. The thought of the younger children, the children of a voodoo priestess most likely, having any control over my dear brother and your cherished nephew is just too painful to endure.

       My brother was already falling under their spells, as he forced our elder sister, her husband, and myself to vacate Netherfield, refusing to listen to anything we said.

       Lady Catherine, you are renowned for your sense and wisdom. That is why I decided to write to you, to share my concerns for your nephew. My sister and I will be returning to Netherfield in a week, as we are to travel north to visit family. It is our hope that we can convince Charles to make the journey with us, which would give us the time to convince him of his foolishness.

       If there is anything we can do to aid in freeing Mr Darcy from the clutches of this evil family, we are more than willing to be of service to you. Our address in London, listed above, is my sister’s and her husband’s townhouse. Please know that we have the deepest concern for Mr Darcy, as he is a dear friend.

       Sincerely,

Miss Caroline Bingley

            Lady Catherine de Bourgh was furious. Darcy was the son of Lady Catherine’s sister, Lady Anne Darcy. It had always been Lady Catherine’s hopes that one day, Darcy would marry her daughter, Anne. This would move Anne de Bourgh to live with Darcy at Pemberley, and allow Lady Catherine to continue controlling Rosings Park. When Sir Louis de Bourgh died, Anne was just a small child. She had always been a sickly child, and Lady Catherine was unable to conceive another child. Lady Catherine was to keep management of the estate until Anne reached her majority, which had been two years previous. No one in the family knew about the inheritance, all in the family believed Catherine had inherited until her death, then it would be passed to Anne.

            But now, now someone was attempting to steal her potential son in law. Not just someone, the heathens who were also stealing Mr Collins’, curate at Hunsford Parish, inheritance. Would there be no end as to what that wicked family would do to harm others?

            What could she do? Her brother, Henry Fitzwilliam, would be in London, as the House of Lords was in session. She would go to her brother. He would protect the Fitzwilliam family from the witchcraft that was obviously being used to hold influence over Darcy. It was time to announce the betrothal between Darcy and Anne, no matter what Darcy thought. It was best everything be done quickly and quietly. As Anne de Bourgh had never had a season in town, the wedding could be done in London and then the couple could remain in town to do some shopping and attend the theater. Things Anne had always wished she could do, but her mother forbade as she claimed it would be too difficult for Anne’s health.

            The truth was that Lady Catherine de Bourgh would never turn over the control of Rosings Park to anyone else. If Anne married a man who did not have his own estate, they would want to live at Rosings. They could find out that Anne was the mistress of Rosings, which would regulate her ladyship to the dower house. No, she would never allow that to happen.

            Picking up the bell which was on the top of a small table beside her throne like chair, Lady Catherine summoned her housekeeper.

            “See to preparations for my daughter and I to leave for London immediately. Pack my daughter’s best gowns, as she will require them for her wedding. New gowns can be made later, after the wedding.”

            The shocked housekeeper nodded her head as she left the room. After working at Rosings for nearly twenty years, the housekeeper knew when her mistress was up to no good.  For the grand lady to leave Rosings Park for more than a day’s journey, something drastic was afoot.