This posting is about a third of the way done, though I finally finished writing the story and finished the editing over the weekend. Had some fun with the characters. So I will be back posting each week, instead of being a flake.

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Chapter 9

When Bingley arrived at the Meryton inn, he discovered that the post would not leave for two hours. “We will wait in tea room. Please inform me when the carriage arrives.” 

“Of course, Mr Bingley. Shall I inform the driver how many seats you will require?”

“We will require two seats, one for my sister and the other for her maid.”

“Very good, Sir.”

“I am ashamed of being your sister.” Caroline said as she held her chin high. “You are a pitiful excuse for a man. Father should have left me in charge of the family fortune. He would be ashamed of your behavior.”

“Say whatever you wish, Caroline. I know the truth and finally have come to stand up against your attempts to control my life. The journey will take four days, and I will pay for your journey, as well as give you enough money for food and rooms. The trunks which you were required to leave will be sent to our aunt’s home in Scarborough. Our solicitor will be in contact with you to set up your establishment. Have no fear, an express was sent to our Aunt Agatha, and another express to the solicitor. I have given him direct orders for your establishment and that I will not cover any overages in your spending.” Bingley pulled a pouch from his coat pocket. “You will not find enough to do more than rent a room at an inn and food for the four days of travel. Your maid has enough for her own food and lodging, as I am certain you would neglect her needs on the journey. Once you are on the carriage, I have no plans to have contact with you.”

Bingley ordered some tea and some biscuits to consume while they waited. Though he also ordered his sister’s favorite treat, Caroline refused to accept the proffered tart. Betsy sat quietly outside the inn, sitting on a bench near the trunks that would be taken with them. She was not looking forward to the long ride in the carriage with Miss Bingley. 

As Betsy watched the comings and goings of the village, she noticed a fine carriage pull to a stop in front of the inn. The driver called down, inquiring where Netherfield Park was to be found. Certain that it was Mr Darcy’s family, Betsy stepped forward. 

“The current master of Netherfield, Mr Bingley, is inside with his sister. Shall I fetch him for you?”

“Certainly. Thank you.” Gerald Darcy said as he opened the door of the carriage.

Betsy hurried inside. She prayed that this would cause a delay to their having to leave for Scarborough. “Mr Bingley, there is a gentleman outside who is looking for Netherfield. The carriage is quality, and the gentleman stepped down when I stated you was here.”

Bingley was surprised, his forehead creasing as he attempted to think of who would have come to visit him at Netherfield. If Darcy were to send for one of his relations, he was certain that his friend would have asked for approval.

Stepping outside, Bingley was curious as to why his friend’s parents were now standing before him. “Mr Darcy, Lady Anne, it is a pleasure and surprise to see you. Your son has not spoken of your coming to Netherfield.”

“Forgive me, Mr Bingley, we received a letter which concerned us, and we decided to make our way here to speak with our son.” Gerald stated.

“You are welcome to remain at Netherfield as long as you wish. Forgive me, I believe you have met my sister, Miss Caroline Bingley. Caroline, this is Mr Gerald and Lady Anne Darcy.”

Caroline curtsied, grateful to be introduced to the Darcys. Now she could use them to promote a match with their son. “It is an honor to see you again. My brother has neglected to inform me of your visit. I was on my way to visit our aunt in the north, though I could not possibly leave when he will require a hostess who can see to your needs. Another of our aunts is currently at Netherfield, though she has never attended any function of the ton.”

“Caroline, you will not be remaining here. Aunt Ethel will be more than capable of seeing to the Darcys care while they are at Netherfield. Aunt Agatha is expecting your arrival and I would not wish to disappoint her.”

“Aunt Agatha would understand. She would be more disappointed if I were to neglect my duty to our family.”

Lady Anne knew there was something going on between the siblings and decided to lend a hand to her son’s friend. “Do not worry, Miss Bingley. We will not be long at your brother’s estate, then we will be making our way to Kent, to visit my sister and niece. I am certain your aunt will be more than capable of hosting us, as we require little. It would pain me to think of your other aunt waiting for your arrival if you were to be delayed on our count.”

Seeing no option, Caroline was seething at the betrayal she felt at Lady Anne Darcy not requesting her to remain at Netherfield. “It would not be a hardship for me to remain. An express could be sent to Scarborough to our aunt. I am certain she would be understanding.”

“It is not necessary, Miss Bingley. As I said, we will not be here long enough to demand a delay in your trip.”

The post carriage was preparing to load its passengers. Bingley took his sister by her elbow and began pulling her towards the driver. “My sister and her maid are traveling with you. Here is payment for them. They are on their way to Scarborough.”

The driver took the payment and had his assistant load the trunks that Betsy had been watching over. “Fraid there be room inside fer one. The other will ride atop.”

Betsy was relieved with the news, as it meant she had some distance from her mistress, at least for this first leg of the journey. She knew Miss Bingley would be displeased to be in such confines with unknown people, people she thought were less than she.

Bingley sent the Darcys on to Netherfield, after giving their driver the directions. Then he waited until his sister was in the post carriage and the carriage was on its way north. Once the carriage was out of sight, Bingley entered his own carriage and returned to Netherfield. 

As he entered the foyer of Netherfield, he overheard his friend speaking to his parents.

“I thought you were planning to remain at Pemberley until after the festive season.” William stated with some confusion.”

“We received a letter which concerned us. We decided to come here, then go to Darcy House and spend the festive season in town this year.” Lady Anne explained.

“What letter did you receive? Who is it from?” William was confused.

“Perhaps we should go somewhere private to speak.” Gerald Darcy suggested. Looking up to see Bingley entering the house, he further spoke. “Mr Bingley, perhaps it would be best for you to join us as well.”

“Of course, shall we use the drawing room or my study?”

“Either would be fine. Your aunt who is your hostess, she might wish to be included in the conversation.  I have a feeling that the two of you will recognize the writing in the letter.” Lady Anne had already formed her opinion of what happened.

Bingley heard footsteps on the stairs coming down and saw his aunt. “Aunt Ethel, if you would come with us, the Darcys have arrived and request a discussion with us.”

Ethel was nervous, certain that her niece had done something inappropriate. “Of course. Allow me to send for Mrs Nichols to prepare refreshments, as I have a notion that we will require something to fortify us.”

When the tea and pastries were brought to the drawing room, and the servant left, closing the door, Gerald Darcy brought out the letter and handed it to his son.

Reading through the letter, William’s anger increased with each line. “This letter is filled with lies and deception. There is nothing wrong with the Bennet family. Miss Bingley must have sent this letter to you.”

Bingley took the letter. “She has attempted to alter her writing, but there are some flares my sister does that are obvious. I am grateful that she is no longer here, as I would be tempted to strangle her.”

“I thought something was amiss when she insisted on remaining here and you were adamant that she leave.” Lady Anne remarked.

“You have no notion of how grateful I was for your assistance. Caroline has always bullied her way through life, trampling over anyone who goes against her.” Charles let out a sigh. “My only regret is that of my Aunt Agatha having to contend with Caroline now.”

Ethel leaned over to her nephew. “You did everything you could to contain Caroline’s outrageous behavior. Her mind is not accepting the truth, as this letter shows us. What I know of Agatha Bingley, she will not tolerate your sister’s foolishness. If any of us can get through to Caroline, it will be Agatha.”

“Mr Darcy, Lady Anne, please forgive me for not stopping my sister from contacting you. It pains me that you made such a long journey due to her refusal to accept the truth. Please know that you are welcome to remain here as long as you wish.” Bingley attempted to keep his head held high, when all he wished to do was hide.

“Bingley, we should notify the Bennet family we will be unable to join them this evening.” William suggested.

Aunt Ethel decided to assist her nephew. “If you wish, we could host the Bennet family here, tomorrow night. After speaking with the cook, I am certain she will be capable of handling the task.”

Both the young men went from sad expression from being unable to attend the Bennet family to sheer pleasure at the thought of bringing the Bennets to Netherfield. 

Lady Anne looked at her husband with a smile. Clearly, their son was losing his heart to a young lady for the first time in his life. They looked forward to meeting the Bennet daughter who had brought forth such emotions in their son.

Chapter 10

While the elder Darcys remained at Netherfield so they could rest and refresh themselves, their son and Mr Bingley made their way to Longbourn.

The young men were shown into parlor, where Mrs Gardiner was sitting with her two eldest granddaughters. Elizabeth was sitting on a sofa, with her stitchwork on her lap. Jane was sitting on a chair, near her grandmother, assisting as Mrs Gardiner wound a skein of yarn into a ball.

As the ladies began to stand, Bingley shook his head. “Please, there is no need for standing. You must keep your seats as you are hard at work.”

The ladies looked at each other, deciding to accept his words. “Welcome, Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy. It is a pleasure to see you.”

“We decided it would be best to come in person to explain that we will not be able to join you this evening.” Darcy spoke first. “My parents arrived unexpectedly and will be at Netherfield for a few days.”

“Oh, what a pleasant surprise for you. Our cook always fixes enough food, just in case someone extra is welcomed to dine with us. She is a wonder in the kitchen.” Mrs Gardiner replied. “There would be no difficulty with your parents joining our supper.”

“We could not impose upon you, Mrs Gardiner.” Darcy smiled.

“Nonsense. We were including Mr Bingley’s aunt, there is no difficulty with adding two more people.”

Bingley stepped forward. “We would like to invite your family to join us at Netherfield tomorrow night to dine with us.”

“Perhaps we could host your party tonight, and you could host us tomorrow. That way, we will be allowed more time to know each other.” Mrs Gardiner suggested, knowing that the men would enjoy having an extra evening to spend with her granddaughters.

The gentlemen broke into smiles which the elderly lady understood was joy for them to be able to spend two evenings with the young ladies. 

Bingley’s smile was nearly ear to ear. “On behalf of our party, I will accept your offer and am pleased you have accepted our invitation.”

He then sat in the chair nearest Jane, while William went to sit next to Elizabeth on the sofa. 

William had noticed a difference in Elizabeth’s behavior. Something was not quite right; her smile did not reach her eyes. There was no sparkle of life in her appearance, something William had found so charming about her. 

“Miss Elizabeth, are you well?”

“Yes, Mr Darcy. Thank you for inquiring. Are you well? Did you ride today? You have spoken of the joy you have in doing so in the morning.”

She had remembered what he said. William’s chest swelled with pride that Elizabeth Bennet had remembered what he had said and seemed to care. Having a lady care about him was unusual, and it drew the young man’s heart further towards the dark haired beauty.

“Miss Elizabeth, I wondered if you would care to take a turn around the garden. It is pleasant outside, and I know you enjoy your rambles.”

Elizabeth looked towards her grandmother. Darcy noticed that there was something unspoken being said between the two. Mrs Gardiner gave a nearly imperceptible nod of her head. “I would be delighted. Jane, would you and Mr Bingley care to take a stroll in the garden?”

Jane nodded her head after receiving Bingley’s agreement. The ladies left the room to gather their pelisses and bonnets. Once ready, the two pairs of ladies and gentlemen made their way outside. 

William noticed that one of the footmen was standing just to the side of garden, as if he was standing guard over something precious. It was not uncommon for a maid or footman to accompany when a young lady was alone with a gentleman, but there was something highly unusual about this man’s behavior. His eyes were fixed on Elizabeth, never once looking towards Jane and Bingley, as the two couples walked separate paths when they stepped into the garden. 

“Miss Elizabeth, might I inquire if all is well? The footman appears to be guarding you alone. Has something happened to threaten you?”

Elizabeth’s eyes turned downwards. How was she to speak of what she had learned about her family and who she really was? Certainly Mr Darcy would flee the area if he were to learn the truth, that she was being sought to be killed due to the father she had never known having offended a man before Elizabeth’s birth.

“We had a letter that concerned my…Papa.” Elizabeth was having a difficult time deciding the title of the gentleman who had raised her. She could not refer to him as her uncle, as they were trying to hide her identity. But learning that he had lied to her all her life had taken the respect she had held for the man and shredded it into tiny pieces.

As he noticed everything about Elizabeth, the stutter over her father’s name caught William’s attention. “Might we sit on the bench over there, near the garden wall?”

Nodding her head, the pair moved towards the bench. They sat down and William took hold of her hand in his. “Miss Elizabeth, forgive me if I am too forward, but I have come to know you better in our short acquaintance than I know some people after being near them for many years. There is something about you that speaks directly to my heart. If there is something that has caused you pain, if I can be of some service to you, all you need do is speak to me.”

Tears began to flow down her cheeks. Seeing the streams tore at William’s heart. “Please, Miss Elizabeth, I can see that something is wrong. You are suffering. What can I do to be of service to you?”

“If only I could tell you, Mr Darcy. But if I were to tell you, you would shun me and take your family as far from me as possible.”

William lifted Elizabeth’s hand to his lips, placing a gentle kiss on the back of elegant and perfect skin. “There is nothing you could tell me that would make me shun you. Nothing. I cannot imagine anything you could tell me that would drive me away from your side.”

“I cannot speak of the matter. Only a few of my family members know. If you were to remain, you would also be in danger. Please, Mr Darcy, I beg you to leave. Go to London or your family’s estate. If you were harmed because of me, I would never forgive myself.”

Those words evoked the opposite reaction than Elizabeth had hoped. His defensive nature was brought to the surface and he would not leave until he knew what was threatening Elizabeth.

“My dear Miss Elizabeth, if someone or something is threatening you, they will be dealt with by me. Please, tell me what has happened.”

“I…I…learned that I am not the daughter of Thomas and Fanny Bennet. I am the daughter of Fanny Bennet’s sister, Amelia. Her husband…my father… was from a family who did not approve of my mother, so their marriage was in secret. Everything is so confusing, and then they told me that my father had been murdered, and the person is attempting to discover if I am alive. When my mother died at my birth, my grandparents and my aunt and uncle decided to allow people to believe I had died with my mother. My mamma…I mean Fanny, had miscarried the babe she was carrying about the time she came to my parents’ home, so when she returned home with a babe, no one questioned if I was their child.” Tears were flowing and Elizabeth spoke in sobs. 

Unable to prevent himself, William wrapped a protective arm around her shoulder, while he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. The footman glared at Darcy, making certain that the gentleman knew to use caution.

“I do not know what to say. How I wish I could take away your pain. No wonder you did not seem to be yourself. I am grateful you chose to place your trust in me, as I will do whatever I can for you. Do you know who your father’s family is? Would they possibly offer you protection, as your father was murdered?”

“You do not understand. His family is important, there is no possibility of them accepting me as his child. It would not be wise to bring them into the circle of those who know.” Elizabeth raised her head, her eyes pleading with him. “My father’s family can never know that he married my mother, nor can they know about me.”

“Miss Elizabeth, please, allow me to do whatever I can to be of assistance to you. Perhaps my parents would know of a way to protect you.”

The look of horror upon Elizabeth’s face spoke of her fear. “No, you can never tell them. They would never approve of me when I was the daughter of a country squire. If they were to learn the truth, they would load you into their carriage and take you away immediately. Though I cannot have a future with you, I cannot bring myself to lose your friendship.”

William’s heart soared further higher. “My dear lady, you have no notion of how much your words mean to me. I have found myself falling in love with you. To know you wish to be with me brings me joy.” 

“But you cannot love me. I would bring you pain and suffering, especially if the truth of my family were to be known. Perhaps it would be best if your family did take you away from here. The longer you remain, the more difficult it will be in the end.” Elizabeth stood quickly, before William could react, pulling her hand from his and rushing back inside the house.

Jane and Bingley moved to where Darcy was standing, gaping at the door of the house, which had just slammed shut behind Elizabeth.

“Mr Darcy, is my sister well? Did something happen to her?”

“Forgive me, Miss Bennet, but I am not certain what happened. We were speaking and I foolishly told her that I was falling in love with her.  Miss Elizabeth stated it would be best if my parents were to take me from the area and ran away.”

Jane frowned. “My sister has been in a curious mood of late. Since she met with my father, grandmother, and uncle, Lizzy has behaved unlike her normal self. I cannot understand what has come over her. I had best speak with Grandmamma.”

The gentlemen accompanied Jane inside and they were soon on their way to Netherfield. Darcy’s concern for the young lady who held his heart in the palm of her hand was palpable. Fitzwilliam Darcy determined to learn more and went straight to Mr Bennet’s study.