Chapter 45Posted on 2015-09-23
As June ended, Elizabeth and Allen journeyed to Hertfordshire. As plans were made for the trip to Derbyshire, Jane had requested that Allen be allowed to stay at Netherfield Park during the visit to Pemberley. This would give time for Meg and Betsy to play with their cousin while Elizabeth could have a short respite from the responsibility for him. Consequently, the Raynors headed directly to Netherfield rather than stopping first at Longbourn.
Once they had Allen settled in the nursery with the girls, Jane and Elizabeth headed over to Longbourn to see their sisters and father. Mr. Bennet was nearly ready to leave for Cornwall. He gave Elizabeth a hug as she entered the parlor and said, "Lizzy, it is so good to see you. You are looking well."
"Thank you. I am so happy for you, Father. I enjoyed meeting Mrs. Williamson and look forward to celebrating your marriage. I do not think you had planned to marry again, had you?"
"Not really. My life is satisfactory as it is. However, as I became better acquainted with Mrs. Williamson, I realized how much I missed your mother, and that it would get very lonely when Lydia left. Since I found I truly enjoyed Mrs. Williamson's company, I set about securing it for the foreseeable future. I have spent so much time concentrating on raising you girls, I had little time to feel lonely. With Lydia leaving, I became aware of how much your mother had meant to me and how I would feel with no one left at home."
"Well, I am very happy for you both."
"Thank you, my Lizzy. It will certainly be a change. I fear I have become somewhat set in my ways. I hope she can help me adapt."
Talk moved on to the upcoming trips to Pemberley and Cornwall. At that point, both Lydia and Kitty returned from visiting Mrs. Phillips. After greetings, Kitty said, "Lizzy, Aunt Phillips hope you will stop by for a short visit before we all leave."
"Well, then perhaps Jane and I should pay that visit now. I expect we will leave as early tomorrow as we can."
Jane added, "And I would like to have all of you at Netherfield for supper as we previously discussed. We must take advantage of the four of us being here right now."
The two older girls paid the visit to their aunt. Elizabeth was always surprised again at how vulgar Mrs. Phillips could be. However, it was well known that she truly loved her nieces. Lizzy would not want to offend her aunt by ignoring her even though the visit to Hertfordshire was to be so short. After hearing all the gossip, they were allowed to return to Netherfield to prepare for supper.
"Jane, I do not know how you manage to be so calm in the face of such foolishness."
"I have found it is easier to ignore than when I was younger. Then, she was someone I must respect and look up to. Now, I need merely respect and be civil. I find that much less of a trial than you would expect. She is not really all that bad."
"You see such goodness in everyone. I am always amazed that you are able to do so."
"Lizzy, I find that most people are good most of the time. There are occasions when I am disappointed, but more often than not, I find they are pleasant. I am not as cynical as you and father. I wonder whether or not your expectations create the responses you expect? In any case, there is no harm in Mrs. Phillips, just very little sense."
"Well, that is certainly true."
Luckily for Lizzy, only the immediate family came to supper at Netherfield as the Phillips were already engaged with neighbors. They enjoyed a pleasant meal together, with all four girls taking some effort to tease their father on becoming a groom just as he became a grandfather again.
The next day, Mr. Bennet left for Cornwall in the Bennet carriage, while Elizabeth, Kitty and Lydia took the Raynor carriage for Derbyshire. He expected a quiet journey and planned to read most of the time. They expected some fun conversation and perhaps a little reading. All were satisfied with the results of their travel.
Lady Stanford arrived in Cornwall a few days before Mr. Bennet and was there to greet him when he arrived. Joshua Ainsley was visiting parishioners. Mary was resting in the parlor looking much larger than she had at Christmas. "Father, thank you for coming. I know you will not attend me when the time arrives, but somehow I feel stronger knowing you are here."
"As you have assured me that Joshua has a reasonable library, I am sure I can find something to keep me occupied when you go about your work of producing my new grandchild. And how is that effort proceeding?"
"From the various signals my body has been sending, we think it may be within the next few days."
"You are looking quite well."
Lady Stanford added, "She is doing quite well. We should all have a pleasant visit together."
After a short chat in the parlor about Lady Stanford's new grandson, Mr. Bennet went to visit the library. He found it inviting and well stocked and anticipated it with much enjoyment. Once Joshua returned, they had a quiet supper and evening together.
Mornings at the Ainsley's were structured around the school Joshua provided for sons of local tradesmen and merchants. He had a dozen scholars who attended each day from about 8 in the morning until about 1 in the afternoon. They all assisted their fathers the rest of the day. They ranged in age from nine to fourteen. Their fathers wanted them better educated in order to facilitate their success in business. They did not study subjects that would assist them to attend university, such as Greek or Latin, but concentrated on history, economics, basic science, reading, politics, and mathematics. This little school supplemented the Ainsleys' income and allowed Mary to contribute as the reading master. Mr. Bennet offered to replace Mary during his visit. Ainsley could do it after that until Mary felt ready to participate again.
About two days after Mr. Bennet arrived, Mary's labor finally began. Mr. Bennet and Ainsley retired to the library. Lady Stanford and the local midwife joined Mary in her room. Mary was blessed to have a relatively short labor, and late that afternoon, Thomas Ainsley made his successful arrival. Since Thomas had been the name of Joshua's late father, the Ainsleys named their new son after both of his grandfathers. With a new baby in the house, it was not a quiet visit, but Mr. Bennet found it very satisfying.
A week later, Joshua was able to christen his new son. Mr. Bennet was pleased to meet the friends who would be the godparents. The Ainsleys had made many close friends in the area. These two seemed to have a similar outlook on life and were well-matched to Mary and Joshua.
Mr. Bennet always enjoyed a moderate amount of cuddling of his new grandchildren, and with little Thomas it was no different. However, it was always with relief that he handed the boy back to the care of mother or aunt. What was different this time was the reflection that he could very well have one of his own again. That was a little terrifying and exciting at the same time. After he returned Thomas to Mary after one such occasion, he said to Lady Stanford, "It is wonderful to hold a babe, but I must confess I am grateful to return it after a few moments."
"You know that Lurinda is young enough that you may have more children in your future than just your grandchildren."
"Yes. I will admit that is the one thought this is more daunting than the rest. While the children were never a problem because they spent most of their time in the nursery, the thought of approaching fatherhood again is worrisome. And after years of rearing them, whether they be boys or girls, this whole process of helping them find mates starts all over again."
"If that is what happens, I am sure we will all manage."
Lady Stanford and Mr. Bennet were warmly welcomed by the neighborhood. Most of the local women called upon Mary to see Thomas. Mr. Bennet spent these visits in the library or in the school room, depending on the time of day. Many of these visits included the presentation of either a gift for Thomas or a treat for Mary and the family. Joshua was well respected as their minister and all wanted to show their appreciation of his ministerial care for them.
One evening, while they were enjoying a cake delivered that day, Mr. Bennet remarked, "It is nice to see how well you are settled here. Your school seems to thrive and your parishioners have taken you into their hearts."
Ainsley answered, "They are a wonderful people. I find I love Cornwall. The tradesmen that send their boys to school are really very forward-looking. I admire them greatly. The farmers and fishermen are much more conservative thinking that what has been good enough in the past will be good enough in the future. I think things are changing and that education will help all of us adjust to those changes."
Mary added, "And I agree with Joshua. Education expands your horizons. If you expect things will never change, it is hard to adapt when they do. With a proper education, you can see that things have always changed and always will. These boys will be community leaders in the future.
Helping to mold them is so satisfying. A mind, once opened, can never be closed again."
As the discussion continued, Mr. Bennet marveled at how Mary had managed to find someone who was as committed to both deity and education as she was. One or the other was not surprising, but Ainsley seemed to have similar ideals in both directions. He had not had much chance to become well acquainted, just a few days before the wedding and a couple of weeks at Christmas. As the two men spent so much time alone together, Mr. Bennet developed more respect and affection for Ainsley. Once again, Lady Stanford had helped a niece find an excellent match.
One afternoon as Mary and Thomas were resting, Mr. Bennet said to Lady Stanford, "Bess, I do not know if I have thanked you as often as I should. Not only did you help me find appropriate governesses for the girls, but you have helped each one find a worthy, respectable young man. That cannot have been easy. We have only Lydia left, and then you will have completed a truly fabulous piece of work."
"Tom, I had excellent material with which to work. While different, all of your girls are intelligent and attractive. Since Hal has been on his own so long, I have just co-opted your girls. I have enjoyed assisting them all. I want to tell you again how happy I am that you have decided to marry again and have selected Mrs. Williamson. I consider Lurinda a close friend and will enjoy having her for a sister."
"Even there, you assisted. Had you not encouraged Kitty in her friendship with Miss Gaisford, they would not have attended us in Longbourn. Both John Lucas and I thank you for that."
"And you are both welcome. I am sure there are some in the neighborhood who might have pursued you if they thought you interested in marrying again. You managed to bypass that entirely."
"It might have made things uncomfortable if I had had to decline their advances. However, it has all turned out well."
"That it has."
After three weeks, Mr. Bennet took his leave to return to finish preparations at Longbourn for a new mistress. Had a wedding not been upcoming, he might have traveled on to Derbyshire to see the library. As it was, he could not afford the delay. Mary was now back in the classroom teaching, so he was no longer needed there. While he could easily enjoy the time in Ainsley's library, it would really be best to get back to Hertfordshire and prepare for the upcoming changes.
Lady Stanford would stay another week or so before joining him to help with wedding preparations. Mary was sad that she would miss the wedding but would look forward to a Christmas visit to welcome her new mother. It was just too soon for her to travel with a new baby.?
The carriage ride heading to Derbyshire took longer and was more voluble than that to Cornwall. The sisters enjoyed a ride which was filled with reminiscences and much laughter. All three were excited to visit Pemberley together. Although she had said nothing about a possible attachment to Darcy, Elizabeth had some thoughts about exploring that possibility during the visit. Perhaps she was ready for something more in her life. She was still uncertain but realized there was no rush to make any changes.
One afternoon, Lydia asked, "Kitty, are you excited to see this area? After all, Matlock is not far away. Just think, you could live there one day."
Kitty smiled, "I do not think permanent residence is very likely, but I know I will visit on occasion. This is beautiful country, is it not?"
Listening, Elizabeth thought, "It certainly is. However, it is even farther from Longbourn than Raynor Hall. Would I want to live so far away?"
Aloud, she said, "Can you imagine what all these woods must look like during the autumn with the leaves blazing? Kitty, you will hae such a blessing in your new family."
"Yes, I will, in many ways. This beauty is just one."
Finally, they turned in at the lodge and into Pemberley Woods. All were anxious to take in the views of which they had heard so much. The park was very large, and contained a great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points and drove from some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House. It stood on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, backed by a ridge of high woody hills. In front of the house, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its bands were neither formal nor falsely adorned.
Elizabeth was delighted. "This is stunning. They have managed to mix nature and man-made in such a way that it all looks as if it were all always here."
Kitty added, "I can see why Mr. Darcy is proud of his home. It is wonderful."
Lydia said, "Yes, it is very nice, but it is Georgiana that I long to see."
They laughed as the carriage descended the hill, crossed the bridge and drove to the door. As they exited the carriage, the door opened, and Mr. Darcy, Miss Darcy, Mrs. Annesley, and a woman who must be the housekeeper came to meet them.
After formal greetings and introduction to Mrs. Reynolds, Georgiana abandoned decorum to hug both Kitty and Lydia. "Oh, I am so glad you are here finally. I know it has not been long since I saw Lydia, but it seems much longer. I will show you to your rooms so we can talk while you refresh." She claimed an arm of each and began leading them up the steps.
With a smile, Darcy offered his arm to Elizabeth. "Shall we follow? Apparently, they are very happy to see one another."
Elizabeth laughed and said, "Indeed. Mr. Darcy, I must say how very beautiful Pemberley is." They were following Mrs. Reynolds up the steps into the entry way. "I can see why you love it so."
"Thank you. Now that we are inside, I fear, I must leave you, too. I am deeply involved in an issue with my steward and must return to continue to deal with it. Mrs. Reynolds will show you to your room. As it looks like your sisters may be involved with mine for some time, if you would like, she can also provide a tour of the house."
"I think I can drag my sisters along for that. Do not concern yourself. We will manage just fine with Mrs. Reynolds' help. Go take care of your problem without fear."
Darcy bowed and left while Elizabeth followed Mrs. Reynolds up another set of stairs, while Mrs. Annesley turned aside to the parlor. As they walked down the halls, Mrs. Reynolds said, "Your room will be here next to your sisters. It sounds to me as if they are in the room assigned to Miss Lydia which is there. Miss Bennet is here next to you." She indicated the doors, behind one of which much laughter could be heard.
"I believe you are correct. If you would give me about fifteen minutes to freshen up, perhaps we could collect the others and begin that tour?"
"Very good, ma'am." Mrs. Reynolds showed Elizabeth into the room and bowed her head as to her as she left. "I will be back in fifteen minutes."
Elizabeth's maid moved to help her mistress change her dress and wash the dust of travel. They had just finished when Mrs. Reynolds returned.
Elizabeth said to her, "This is a very lovely room. I am sure I will be most comfortable here."
Together they knocked at Lydia's door which was opened by a smiling Georgiana. "Oh, Mrs. Reynolds and Lizzy."
Mrs. Reynolds said, "How about if the three of you join us in a tour of the house? Then your friends will be able to find their way to dinner later on."
They laughed and agreed. They followed behind Elizabeth and Mrs. Reynolds as the latter lead the way back to the entry hall. Mrs. Reynolds indicated what would be found in each direction, and then led them into the dining parlor. It was a large, well-proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene, the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it, with delight.
"Such beautiful views."
Georgiana replied, "All the rooms have lovely views. I am so happy when I have the opportunity to be here during the summer. I know it was important to live in London for my education, but nothing speaks to my heart as Pemberley does."
They continued into other rooms, showcasing those same prospects outside from slightly different perspectives. The rooms themselves were lofty and handsome with suitable furniture. They were not uselessly fine nor gaudy. Noting this, Kitty remarked, "Your brother's taste does not seem as busy as Lady Catherine's. Her rooms were also fine, but somehow not nearly so comfortable."
Georgiana replied, "Fitzwilliam does not like display simply for the sake of display. I admit that I prefer his taste to our aunt. I confess that I do not enjoy the décor of Rosings, but I do like it here. However, most of this is still as our mother desired. We have made very few changes."
Lydia said, "It is very nice here, but also, very elegant. I am glad I was not here when I was younger. I would fear that I would break something. However, I think I can manage now."
They all laughed at that, particularly Elizabeth and Kitty who knew how true those words were. They moved on to the next room where there was a small collection of miniatures. Georgiana did not join them as they looked at them. Lydia immediately guessed why. There was a picture of Lieutenant Wickham in the case. Mrs. Reynolds noticed her intent examination of him saying, "That is the son of our late steward. He is gone into the army, but I am afraid he has turned out very wild."
Lydia replied, "Well, he was gone into the army and been very wild. He was stationed in Meryton and got himself executed as a deserter. No one needs worry about his wildness anymore."
Mrs. Reynolds was surprised but nodded her head in acceptance. "He was given every opportunity to make something of himself. Now that is a sad business."
Lydia pointed to another and said, "Is that one Mr. Darcy?"
"Yes, it was done the same time as the other, about eight years ago. This was the late master's favorite room, and these miniatures are just as they used to be then. He was very fond of them."
Elizabeth said, "It is kind of Mr. Darcy to keep them here in his memory."
Mrs. Reynolds replied, "It is always his way to be kind. I have never known a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old."
Elizabeth said, "There are very few people of whom so much can be said. You are lucky in having such a master."
"Yes, I know I am. I say no more than the truth, and everybody will say that knows him."
They continued on, moving up the stairs to a spacious hallway and then into a very pretty sitting room. Georgiana took over the explanation here saying, "We just refitted this one as I liked it so much when I was home last summer. It was so sweet of Fitzwilliam to redo this just because I liked it. The room was much darker before." The room was fitted with greater elegance and lightness than the apartments below.
Kitty said, "I bet this is more your taste, isn't it?"
"Yes, Fitzwilliam allowed me to choose the fittings and furnishings."
Kitty asked, "Did he do those in the other rooms we have seen?"
Mrs. Reynolds answered, "Oh, no, they are as the late Mrs. Darcy chose them. Any that Miss Darcy wants to change, he changes, but otherwise, I expect he is waiting until there is a new Mrs. Darcy to design things to her taste. Whatever gives pleasure is sure to be done in a moment."
Mrs. Reynolds continued with the picture gallery, three of the principal bedrooms that were included in public tours, and then led them back to the more private areas of the breakfast parlor, where a small tea was laid on for them. "There are many more rooms of course, and I am sure Mr. and Miss Darcy will show those to you themselves. I will excuse myself and leave you to your tea. From what Miss Darcy has said, after tea, I am sure you will want to visit the grounds outside."
They partook of some tea, biscuits, and fruit and determined that the gardens would be the perfect completion of their refreshment. As the day was warm, they determined to visit the water. They found a beautiful walk, with every step bringing forward a nobler fall of ground, or a finer reach of woods. They entered the woods, and bidding adieu to the river for a while, ascended some of the higher grounds. In spots, the opening of the trees gave the eye power to wander, and there were many charming views of the valley, the opposite hills, with the long range of woods overspreading many, and occasionally, part of the stream. The shade rendered by the woods made it pleasantly cooler. Elizabeth found herself lingering behind the other three as she studied the varied beauty of Pemberley. Raynor Hall was nice, but it was not nearly as grand as Pemberley. How refreshing to spend this time in the wood around the lake.
After their walk, they returned to the house, but not to re-enter it. Instead, Georgiana led them to a gazebo in the gardens. Shortly after they seated themselves, Mrs. Reynolds and a footman joined them with a pitcher of lemonade and another assortment of biscuits. Mrs. Reynolds smiled and headed back to the house with the footman as Georgiana thanked her.
"Fitzwilliam and I find it relaxing to sit here with lemonade in the late afternoon. The gazebo has been in the shade for an hour or so and thus has cooled off from the heat of the day. His dogs like to play on the lawn as we sit here and chat. It is one of my favorite places at Pemberley in the summer."
Kitty said, "I can see why. You have beautiful views, a refreshing drink, and good companionship."
Lydia added, "We have a similar place in our garden, but since all my sisters started leaving, it is never as much fun as it was when I was younger. Father can never be pried from his library. Perhaps Mrs. Williamson will be able to convince him to take a break with her."
Elizabeth asked, "Has your family always used it like this?"
Behind her, a deep male voice answered, "Yes, they have. My parents regularly spent an hour this way when they were able. I often played on the lawn, where my dogs are now running, with my cousins as my parents and older relatives visited here in the gazebo."
Georgiana added, "And Father made the effort to come sit here at least occasionally until he grew so ill."
Darcy said, "In many ways, this represents the peace that Pemberley gives me. I think of it often when I am away and it brings a great deal of comfort."
Elizabeth smiled at him and said, "I can see why."
Darcy's stomach fluttered as he contemplated that smile from Elizabeth. If only she would smile for him that way.
Georgiana poured a lemonade for Darcy who took a drink before moving out to throw a ball for the dogs. The ladies watched them play for perhaps thirty minutes, chatting quietly and occasionally commenting on Darcy's throwing prowess. Finally, the dogs were ready for a rest, and they and Darcy returned to the gazebo. He sat next to Georgiana as the dogs surrounded his feet.
Elizabeth asked, "Are these your hunters?" indicating the three dogs at Darcy's feet.
"Yes, a mother and her two pups. We've been training the pups and expect to use them this autumn. If they are as good as her previous pups, we'll be selling them to one of our friends after the shooting party at Netherfield. At least, that is what has happened to the previous pups."
Lydia asked, "So you have determined to come back to Hertfordshire?"
Darcy smiled, "I thought the idea of starting Georgiana's season there with you a good one. Thanks to your father's invitation, Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley can stay with you and benefit from your aunt's advice while I join the shooting party."
Lydia said, "It will be so much fun to do this with someone else. None of my sisters have had that chance. I am so happy Georgie will be there too. Kitty certainly enjoyed having a couple of close friends during her Season, but I will get to start mine with one."
The group conversed for a while before returning to the house to change for dinner. As he escorted the ladies to the house, Darcy was pleased to think that now he could make some progress in his currently non-existent courtship of Mrs. Raynor. They had seemed to converse so easily together.
In honor of their first night at Pemberley, they dined in full splendor in the formal dining room. As they sat, Darcy explained that, until his aunt and uncle joined them, they would use the smaller breakfast room instead for their other meals. However, he wanted to show his appreciation for their willingness to spend a month at Pemberley.
"Georgie and I find this room a little overwhelming for intimate meals. Miss Bennet, how do you think it compares to the dining room at Rosings?"
Kitty laughed. "I must admit that Rosings is much more ornate, but Pemberley is much more comfortable, even in this enormous room."
Lydia added, "I think it is much like the rest of the house we saw on the tour. Very fine, but as if real people still lived here. You know how in some places, it looks like you would be punished for actually using the room? Pemberley is nothing like that."
That caused Darcy to chuckle. "That is actually a wonderful compliment. Thank you very much."
Elizabeth added, "She is correct about how comfortable it is, even in here. I would not like to dine in such a large room often if it were mostly empty, but I can see how it would be easy to entertain most of your neighbors in here."
Mrs. Annesley replied, "While it could be easy, it does not happen often. Perhaps after Miss Darcy's debut, it will start to happen again."
Darcy replied, "Yes, I think it must. I do not think we can avoid our social responsibilities any longer. Perhaps we should invite the neighbors for a small dinner while we already have guests. After all, once we get to Hertfordshire, Georgie will be out in society. We could begin here with neighbors she has known all her life."
Georgiana asked, "Oh, could we? I think that would be excellent."
Darcy answered, "Well then, we will get Mrs. Reynolds to help us make it happen."
In the parlor after dinner, they planned a dinner for the following week after Lord and Lady Matlock would have arrived. Mrs. Reynolds was pleased to help them, but Darcy ensured that Georgiana was intimately involved in all of the major decisions.
Posted on 2015-09-30
As Darcy arose the next morning, he espied Mrs. Raynor strolling in the gardens. He had his valet help him dress quickly and, within a few moments, exited a nearby door.
"Good morning, Mrs. Raynor. Do I interrupt or would you enjoy having a companion as you stroll this lovely morning?"
"The interruption is not unwelcome. I was missing my son. He so enjoys walking with me in the morning."
He fell in step beside her, offering his arm. "Do you walk together every day?"
"As often as I can. When Allen joins me, I do not walk as far, of course. However, he loves to look into each flower and tell me what he sees. Of course, what he says is not entirely comprehensible, but it is very pleasant to spend the time together. He seems to have a story for each flower. You have so many lovely blooms that I was just considering what he would say should he see them all."
"It must be hard to leave him behind as you did this time."
"Yes, it is. We generally have this short time in the morning and then again in the afternoon before Allen has his tea. Sometimes we spend a rainy or snowy afternoon reading together. He is a good little boy, and I enjoy his company."
"You are lucky that you and Mrs. Bingley have children of an age to play together. Georgiana had no one in our family near her in age. Richard is only two years older than I, so he became my closest family playmate. Andrew is a bit younger and often joined us when he got a little older. Their sister is another year younger. It was many years before Georgiana was born, and by then, there was no one to play with. We all considered ourselves too old to play her games. I think she is truly enjoying having your sisters to share with. Thank you for bringing them to visit."
"As they are the youngest, in some ways, I think they felt the loss of our mother the most. We older ones missed our mother in a different way. I do not think Father really knows how to communicate with us well, in spite of their being five of us. It might have been different if our brothers had lived. We have had our aunts, and lately the cousins from the Gardners; but as we were growing up, it was just the five of us. The Gardner's oldest is but eight, and so, far too young for us to play with. I think Kitty and Lydia are enjoying this as much as Miss Darcy. They have always had to compete for attention with their older sisters, and that is not the case here. I think we will all enjoy this visit. Since we know that Kitty will be visiting here in the future, it is a shame that it is so far from the rest of us that we cannot visit often."
"It really is an easy a distance from some of her family and friends."
"An easy distance, do you call it? It is nearly one hundred fifty miles."
"And what is one hundred fifty miles of good road? Little more than a couple of days journey. Yes, I call it an easy distance."
"Well, my journey from Raynor Hall is about half a day, and I do feel far from family. I do not mean to say that a woman may not be settled too near her family. The far and the near must be relative, and depend on many varying circumstances. Where there is fortune to make the expenses of travelling unimportant, distance becomes no evil. However, we seldom get together as a family because of the distance for all of us."
"I can see how that would be."
They continued on in silence for a moment, then Elizabeth asked a question about estate management and an issue at Raynor Hall. They discussed her concerns and options for quite a time. As that conversation drew to an end, Darcy asked, "Do you ride?"
"We all do. I cannot say I truly enjoy it, though. I prefer walking."
"Georgie and I ride almost daily when we are here. There are some truly beautiful sights that are rather far for a walk. I would like to take you all on a picnic to one of them this afternoon, but it requires that we all ride."
"We ride well enough for that, as long as you do not supply us with a mount that is truly feisty. Well, Lydia might like feisty. She seems to like riding more than any of the rest of us."
"We have some excellent mounts for ladies, so that should be fine."
By this point, they had turned and were almost at the side entrance to the house. "I will make the arrangements then. Would you object if I joined you again? This was a very pleasant way to start my day."
This raised a slight blush on Elizabeth's cheek. "I would be delighted." As they headed to their rooms to wash, Elizabeth considered the effort Mr. Darcy had made to join her on the walk and his request to join her again. In contrast to how reserved he had been in the past, he was quite talkative. He had seemed interested in her walks with Allen and had made her feel very at ease. As she washed and descended to the breakfast room, she determined that she might actually welcome his attention. In his own home, he was quite genial and interesting.
All enjoyed the picnic that afternoon. It was repeated again at least three times each week. Each time, they visited a different portion of Pemberley. All prospects were lovely, and Elizabeth often lamented that these were too far away for an easy walk. She found herself riding far more than she preferred in order to revisit these beautiful locations. Sometimes it was with the entire group, sometimes just the ladies.
At the end of the first week, Lord and Lady Matlock arrived. They wanted to spend time with both the Darcys and Kitty where there was not the pressure of society always looking on. While everyone was partaking of tea shortly after their arrival, Kitty sat with Lady Matlock for a quiet chat.
"My dear, it is so nice to see you again. Are you enjoying your visit to Pemberley?"
"Yes, very much. Pemberley is lovely. Mr. Darcy is a very thoughtful host. We have visited some lovely areas on horseback and enjoyed some picnics. He even has Lizzy riding, and she much prefers walking when given a choice. Perhaps he will succeed in showing her that sometimes, four legs are better than two."
"Do you enjoy riding?"
"Well enough. Lydia is the one who really has a passion for riding. There is so much to do and see here, it is easy to take long rides. Have you heard from Captain Fitzwilliam? I have written but not yet received a reply. I have had only the letter he posted just as he left port."
"No, I have not heard from him either. That is often the way when he is at sea. Do not be surprised to receive three or four letters at the same time. He will post them when he can, but arrival seems to be highly erratic."
"It is kind of you and Lord Matlock to visit where I have a chance to get to know you better. I truly appreciate it. I suspect I am not exactly of the rank you had hoped for him to choose, but believe me when I say I dearly esteem him."
"My dear, we had no expectations at all. He is his own man. It is true that your rank is somewhat lower, but you have some excellent connections, and all of your family seems to be highly respectable. I have no regrets at all at his choice."
"Thank you. Since Matlock is not far from here, is it possible we could go see it one day? I would like to have it in my mind for his various tales of his youth. Imagining him there will help me, I think."
"Yes, of course, we had planned to spirit you away one of these days to visit."
"I think my sisters might enjoy it too. Perhaps we could make a day of it?"
To the room at large, Lady Matlock said, "Excuse me, I have a question for all of you. Since Kitty will be joining the family once Andrew returns, Lord Matlock and I had thought to invite Miss Bennet to come see it. She thinks we should all go together, that it will be fun for her sisters as well. What do the rest of you say?"
Both Elizabeth and Lydia agreed it would be fun to go as a group. They determined to spend the day after the dinner party viewing Matlock. Lydia was quieter than usual as she tried to behave appropriately around an Earl and Countess. She did not want to make the family look bad, and she realized that she did not yet have the experience or poise to know how to behave. When she had a moment, she moved over to sit next to Elizabeth and quietly said, "Lizzy, I have just realized that I do not really know how to behave properly in the presence of an earl and countess. This is why Aunt Stanford helps us, isn't it? So we will have the confidence to know what to do?"
"Yes, it is. You are doing fine so far."
"I am afraid of looking like a fool."
"Well, we will try to help you out, but I do not think you need to worry too much. Lady Matlock seems very nice."
"Yes, she does. But he seems to frown a lot. I do not want to upset Lord Matlock."
"Perhaps you might ask him to tell you about Matlock? Most men like to talk of their estates."
Lydia tentatively approached Lord Matlock and said, "Since we will be coming to visit, could you tell me about Matlock? Longbourn is quite small, but I understand Matlock is much larger."
She was pleased to see a smile appear on Lord Matlock's face. "Do you really want to hear?"
"Of course. I would like to be prepared for our visit."
They spent the next half hour in discussion of his estate. Over the course of the conversation, Lord Matlock smiled many times and seemed to relax. This helped Lydia to also relax and they found themselves enjoying the conversation. Lady Matlock, Kitty, and Elizabeth all watched in approval.
After dinner, all the girls took a turn at the piano. Lydia was quite nervous as she approached the instrument until Lord Matlock said, "Miss Lydia, would you like some help with page turning? We would not want you uncomfortable performing for us."
Lydia smiled and replied, "Thank you very much. That would be most helpful." As he approached the piano, she said quietly, "I am not accustomed to playing in company yet. I have done it only a handful of times."
"I am sure you will be just fine." When she had finished, he motioned to Georgiana and said, "Please let me turn them for you as well. It reminds me of days long ago when I turned them for Lady Matlock." This helped Georgiana also relax as she played for them.
Once everyone had exhibited, they settled into quiet conversation. By the time they had retired, Kitty and Lady Matlock were fast friends, and Lydia was far more comfortable in higher ranked company. As they mounted the stairs, she said to Elizabeth, "Lizzy, I had not expected to have this sort of practice so early. They are very nice people. Kitty will be lucky in her new family."
"Yes, she will. I am very happy for her."
"Me too. But I still don't want to find someone as fast as she did. I would like to have at least two seasons in town. Think of all the balls and parties. With no one left at home, surely Aunt Stanford would help me with that."
Elizabeth laughed and replied, "She may. However, I think it more likely that Father and Lurinda will ship you off to visit each of your sisters instead. You would have to visit Jane when they are in town to get anything different from Meryton society with her and Mr. Bingley though. And I don't know what kind of society you would get in Cornwall with Mary."
"I will have to talk to Aunt Stanford and see what she says, then."
Elizabeth considered her day as she prepared for sleep. She was pleased to get to know Kitty's new family better and liked what she saw of them. She was amused at Lydia's ideas for having two seasons and not choosing quickly. Finally, she thought of Mr. Darcy. They had talked of estate matters on their walk that morning. She had raised a concern about Raynor Hall. He has listened carefully and helped her to form her own conclusion. He had not been either condescending or commanding. He had been thoughtful and quite gallant. The more time they spent together, the more she found herself admiring him. This led to her thinking about him even more often.
All the girls spent a good part of the day assisting Mrs. Reynolds in the set up for the dinner party. Lady Matlock watched from the sidelines, very pleased at the efforts that her shy niece was expending on their behalf. Late in the morning, Kitty and Georgiana spent an hour cutting flowers in the extensive gardens. Lizzy and Lydia spent the next hour arranging the flowers in the dining room and entryway.
They all retired to dress for dinner about an hour before the guests were expected to arrive. Darcy and Georgiana met the arriving neighbors in the foyer and introduced them to their aunt and uncle and friends before a footman showed them into the parlor. Only about a dozen neighbors had been invited, but since Darcy rarely hosted any entertainment, all were pleased to attend.
Said Mr. Carruthers, "Son, I hope this means that you will be socializing with the rest of us a little bit more."
Darcy smiled, "Yes, I think it means that. My sister makes her debut in the spring, and I can no longer ignore the social obligations. We thought our friends would enjoy meeting our neighbors, and here you all are. It was hard to host with no hostess available, but now Georgiana is ready to take on that task."
Mr. Carruthers replied, "Well, we all hope to see more of both of you in the near future."
Once they were all seated at the table, it was apparent that they had planned an excellent seating arrangement as all seemed to enjoy their partners and conversations. As Georgiana scanned the table, she was pleased to see the smiles and enjoyment all took in the food and company. Lord Matlock sat to one side of her and Lydia sat to the other side. The three of them talked once again of Matlock, and Lydia discovered that he was truly an amiable gentleman.
At the other end of the table, Elizabeth sat at one side of Darcy and Lady Matlock the other. They talked of the challenges of the Season for young women. Elizabeth and Lady Matlock were in agreement about the difficulties, but Darcy thought it was almost as bad for young men. Lady Matlock was quick to disagree.
"You cannot be serious, young man. Certainly you are the target of pursuers, but at least you can choose whether or not you wish to be caught. You do not have to hide your intelligence, your opinions, or your thoughts as women do. I know you do not particularly like social activities, but you can choose to avoid them, for the most part. If she wants any kind of choice at all, a young woman cannot do these things."
Elizabeth added, "There are any number of men who find it terrible that I actually have opinions and voice them. Before my marriage, this was a way to eliminate those who would be the least compatible. All I had to do was say what I was actually thinking, and they were so affronted they never called again. I do not like that Allen became so much of a risk taker, but at least he always respected my abilities and thoughts."
Lady Matlock added, "Your own cousins used a similar device to eliminate some suitors. They simply spoke their own minds, and those frail suitors wafted away on the nearest breeze. Many men's opinions of themselves are too fragile to stand up to much opposition or scrutiny from a woman. Most of us do not want such a spouse, but others actually look for such men to dominate them."
Darcy said, "You know, I believe I have seen some of that. It is something to consider as Georgie comes out. She tends not to want to share her thoughts if she thinks I might disagree. I know it is unfashionable, but I think I would like her to be more comfortable with her own opinions and less ready to cede to someone more powerful. I will have to ponder that."
After the separation of the sexes, Elizabeth saw Darcy as the pursued as she had never seen it before. While Miss Bingley had been blatant in her fawning and attention, a Miss Atherton, daughter of a local landowner, was even more obvious in her desire for his attention and land. She had frequent comments about the beauty of Pemberley, how sad it was that Pemberley had been so long without a mistress, the need for updates in the décor, the need for assistance in Georgiana's coming out and season, and her general suitability for all such tasks. Darcy's response was the development of a stony visage and a refusal to engage her in conversation. Finally, her mother took her in hand and removed her from Darcy's vicinity.
Elizabeth drifted by and commented as she passed, "Well, that was a good object lesson after our discussion at dinner. I am sorry for your difficulty."
He smiled and quietly replied, "It is one reason we so seldom have guests from the neighborhood. She has been this way for at least five years."
Finally, the locals all drove off in their carriages, and those in residence at Pemberley enjoyed a cold collation while relaxing for the remainder of the evening. As he sipped his tea, Darcy said, "Georgie, I know our neighbors truly appreciated this. With you becoming an adult, we will have to do more entertaining. Perhaps we can revive some of the traditions from when Mother was still alive. We could host another as an al fresco picnic next week."
Georgiana replied, "I think that would be wonderful. You must have some memories of them, but I do not. Perhaps we can invite a different set of neighbors to that one."
"We'll do that. I believe there are some journals to reference as well as Mrs. Reynolds' memories to help us."
Lydia and Georgie began a quiet conversation in a corner of the parlor. Georgiana said, "Did you notice how most of the wives were the ones that kept the conversations flowing at the table? When things got quiet, or it looked like a dispute might arise, they asked a question that changed the direction."
"I did. I think that is part of what my aunt taught my sisters as they prepared for their seasons. I remember her talking to Kitty about conversations and small talk last fall. I listened occasionally, but didn't pay too much attention as I knew my turn would be coming. However, as I listened tonight, what I realized is that here is a good reason to read books other than novels. You cannot discuss novels with the men. But you can discuss other ideas. They seem to really enjoy that."
"I guess those other books would also give you something to change a subject to when a dispute is in the offing."
"Lizzy has always liked meaty tomes as has Mary. Mary will talk theology and literature to anyone who would listen. Lizzy now reads books about estate management. Did you hear her talking to Mr. Thomas about drainage?"
"It was amusing, wasn't it? But he seemed to love to have someone share his interests. He isn't much for hunting which was what most of the men wanted to talk of."
"We will have to talk of this to Aunt Stanford. Do you think this means there are more things to study now that we are out of the schoolroom?"
"I am afraid it does. However, no one will be testing us. We just have to know enough to encourage conversations. At least I already learned how to listen to determine what follow up questions to ask. It is the changing of subjects that is more challenging."
The next morning as they walked, Elizabeth said to Darcy, "I think your sister handled yesterday quite well. I heard some of her conversation with
Lydia about how to manage conversations at table. I think they will both enjoy my aunt's advice on that subject. "
"What does she suggest?"
"You can never be too well read when trying to direct conversation at the table. You should have a large reserve of topics that will interest your guests so you can be sure that all enjoy themselves. The girls saw the rest of us trying to help the various conversations and realized that they don't yet know how to do that."
"That isn't even something I ever considered. I am glad Georgiana can draw on your aunt's assistance for these little things women do that we men never even notice. You all make our world a much smoother place."
"Well, it is definitely something we try to do. There are women who are not as successful. I am not sure if it is considered an accomplishment, but these are the sorts of things that make life a little more pleasant."
"Well, it certainly was not on my list, but I think it truly is an accomplishment."
After an early morning breakfast, they mounted up to ride over to Matlock. Elizabeth was grateful that they had done so much riding that this ride did not seem either too long or uncomfortable. They stopped after an hour to stretch out a little before the final leg of the ride.
Matlock was more impressive and imposing than Pemberley. From the entryway, it was apparent that it was quite modern. The formal gardens in the front were lovely, but Elizabeth thought that she preferred the less artificial-looking gardens at Pemberley.
Lady Matlock conducted a tour for the three sisters and Georgiana. Darcy and Lord Matlock chose to read quietly in the library while the ladies looked over the house. They toured the principal rooms with a side trip to see Andrew's room. Kitty particularly appreciated seeing the nursery and hearing tales of Andrew and his siblings. Lady Matlock and Kitty selected a suite of rooms that Kitty and Andrew would use in the future. Kitty demurred making any changes to them, but Lady Matlock determined to make them over more to Kitty's taste.
After the tour inside the manor house, they had an intimate luncheon in the gazebo in the garden. Lord Matlock conducted the tour of the gardens after the luncheon. Kitty managed to coax a number of stories from both the Earl and Countess. After one such story about Andrew and Darcy and a cherry tree in the garden, Georgie exclaimed, "I never heard that before. This explains why Fitzwilliam always chuckles when Mrs. Reynolds serves a cherry pie."
Lord Matlock chuckled and said, "It does, indeed. Miss Bennet, you must be sure to serve Andrew cherry pie at least once each summer. It is quite the family joke."
Kitty smiled, "Thank you for sharing that with me. I will be sure to remember it."
Georgie added, "As will I. It might be fun to preserve cherries to serve to Fitzwilliam at others times of the year since he tends not to smile too often."
Darcy said, "Now, there is no need for that. However, I still do love cherries, so I will not complain if we have them more often."
The visit to Matlock was a success. Kitty finally convinced Lord Matlock to call her Kitty instead of Miss Bennet. Lady Matlock had succumbed after the first day of the visit to Pemberley. However, she insisted that until the wedding, she would be much more formal in addressing them. She would not presume upon the relationship until she had married into the family. Lady Matlock agreed to that if Kitty would call them Mother and Father after the wedding.
After the tour of the gardens, they all mounted up again for the return trip to Pemberley. As they rode side by side, Lydia said to Georgiana, "It is strange to think of Kitty married and possibly living in a place like that. Longbourn is so much smaller, and she was my closest playmate. At least Captain Fitzwilliam's estate is more the size of Longbourn than Matlock. It is hard to see my sisters marry and leave me behind. I can imagine Kitty visiting here. I have never visited Raynor Hall or the Nelson's estate in Surrey or Mary's home in Cornwall. I do not like that we simply scatter and cannot be together anymore."
"My cousins had already started that process before I was old enough to say their names. However, we do manage to see most of them on occasion. I think it is harder for Anne since she never leaves Rosings. Since everyone else comes to town, I have been able to catch up while I am there studying. I cannot image what it will be like when I move out on my own."
Darcy took advantage of the ride back to Pemberley to engage Elizabeth in a conversation about horseback riding. Since she had averred that she rode only reluctantly, he asked if all the riding they had done had changed her mind any.
"Well, I am easier on horseback than I was. When at home, I would ride to visit a couple of the tenants, perhaps once a week or so. Since we've been riding daily, I will admit it is now more comfortable than it was."
He said, "I have not seen any evidence that you are a poor rider."
"It was more that horses frightened me when I was younger. Father made all of us learn to ride, but it was so much trouble to get one of the horses, that it was just easier to walk everywhere. I stopped being afraid by the time I was ten, but the preference was already established by then. Of course, Longbourn is not so large as Pemberley, and it is easy to go wherever I needed on foot. Raynor Hall is larger, so I was forced to ride. However, my horse there and I just do not suit each other."
"Do you like the mare we've given you here? If not, there are others to choose from."
"Oh yes, I do. That is probably why I am becoming more comfortable. Perhaps I should consider replacing my mount at home."
"Would your current mount be a good choice for Allen when he gets a little older or is she too old?"
"Perhaps she would be for after he graduates from a pony. I will have to consider that carefully. I do not think she will be too old by then. We still have a number of years to go. Perhaps I should sell her and find one more suited for me, and when Allen is old enough, we will just get another. Until I rode your mare, I hadn't realized how much I disliked riding my own."
For the rest of the visit to Pemberley, Lady Matlock did what she could to learn what Kitty's tastes were. She also spent some time with both Lydia and Elizabeth to further learn about Kitty. The more she learned, the happier she was with her son's intended. She thought Kitty would be a good companion to Andrew. Lord Matlock came to appreciate her more as well as he came to know her better. Perhaps she would entice his son to finally return permanently to shore.
The al fresco picnic was smaller than the dinner party. Darcy included a few of his older neighbors, ones that were friends of his father and did not have eligible young women at home. They set up a large tent near the gazebo to offer some respite from the afternoon sun. Chairs were scattered across the lawn, in the gazebo, and in the tent so that people could find different places for conversation. The food was in a second tent between the gazebo and larger tent.
Once again, Georgiana functioned as hostess, helping her brother greet their neighbors. After the greetings, they introduced each visitor to Lord and Lady Matlock and their friends before turning to greet the next arrivals. Kitty, Lydia, Georgiana, and Elizabeth were the only single young women present. As a result, Darcy was much more comfortable and at ease.
As guests circulated through the large tent and lawn greeting their neighbors, Elizabeth found a quiet moment to watch the movement. It was something like the movement at a ball although there was no quiet music playing. The interplay was not as choreographed as a dance, but it had a dance-like quality. She was brought out of her thoughts as Kitty reached her side and said, "Lizzy, you know, I do not think Father has ever had an al fresco such as this where he invited the neighbors. I really like it. It is far less formal than a normal get-together."
Elizabeth smiled at her sister. "I believe you are correct. Father rarely hosts anything-he waits for one of us-and none of us ever considered an al fresco since we only started being a hostess during the autumn. Perhaps when you get back home after the wedding, you can convince him to hold one for our friends."
"I think it would be fun. Perhaps we can do it while Father and Lurinda are away. That way, he would not have to attend."
Elizabeth chuckled. "Yes, he would probably appreciate it we did so."
Both sisters moved into the swirl of colorful garments to talk with some of the local matrons. Elizabeth found that Darcy's neighbors were somewhat better-read than those in Meryton, much on a par with those near Raynor Hall. Since she enjoyed clever repartee, she was grateful to make the acquaintance of people of true wit and understanding. One of her favorites was the matriarch of a nearby family, a widow nearing seventy who lived with her son and daughter-in-law, a Mrs. Arbuthnot.
When Mrs. Arbuthnot heard that Kitty was to marry Captain Fitzwilliam, she had a great deal to say about marrying a sailor. Most of it was positive, but she also advised Kitty that if at all possible, she should travel with her husband. It might cause a bit of hardship, but it would be best for their relationship if she could manage it. Those that married for convenience would not want to do so, but those that married for affection would find it grew the more time they spent together. She spent at least a half an hour lecturing Kitty about the attributes of a good wife. When she wrapped it up, Kitty said, "I cannot thank you enough for your advice. I will be sure to follow as much of it as I can."
Mrs. Arbuthnot smiled and replied, "Well, you are certainly a diplomat. You just got a large dose of unasked-for advice from someone wholly unknown to you and you have accepted it quite gracefully. You should be a good match for Andrew. He was always one of my favorites."
This brought a true smile to Kitty's face. "Does that mean you might have stories to share with me about him as a child."
"As a matter of fact, I do." They continued to talk for another thirty minutes.
For his party, Darcy encouraged friends to share stories of similar picnics hosted by his parents so that Georgiana could hear. He remembered a few of them but also enjoyed the tales. Lord and Lady Matlock also contributed a few of their memories. Elizabeth found these stories really brought Mr. and Mrs. Darcy to life. They must have been a very happy couple. Hearing of how Mr. Darcy turned away for socializing after her death, she recognized how she could have done the same. She was grateful that obligations to her family forced her to participate in at least some social activity. Now that she was past the worst of her grief, she was grateful the obligations had forced her to come. She was more than ready to resume her life in its new situation.
As dusk was approaching, carriages arrived to return the neighbors to their homes. As the rest saw off the last of them and turned into the house, Georgiana said to Darcy, "Fitzwilliam, I am so grateful you decided to have this gathering. Besides being a beautiful day, it was so wonderful to hear the stories of past picnics here at Pemberley. How I wish I could remember some of those events."
"I enjoyed the stories too. Some of them I knew. For a few, I was present. Many of them were new to me too. I must say, I feel closer to Mother and Father than I have for a long time."
Elizabeth added, "I feel as if I knew them."
Both of her sisters agreed. Lady Matlock said, "That is probably the best outcome of all. George and Anne were wonderful people and shared that freely. Fitzwilliam, I am very glad we could be here for this party. It truly does bring back old times."
After their two weeks, the Matlocks returned home, and the three younger girls found themselves spending most of their time together. They often spent a morning sketching in the garden or practicing piano together. The shade of the woods near the house was a favorite retreat in the heat of the afternoon. Elizabeth spent much of her time reading quietly in the parlor with Mrs. Annesley. She thought Georgiana was lucky to have such a companion.
"Mrs. Annesley, I certainly enjoy our time together. Miss Darcy is certainly blessed to have you as companion."
"Thank you. I truly enjoy our time together. However, I believe that she will find a partner her first season, and I will likely retire to my daughter's home to help with her children. She lives in a small estate in Scotland. I have enjoyed not imposing, but I am not sure I want to begin again with someone new. Since she now has three little ones, my daughter has said she would appreciate the help."
"That is wonderful. You must tell me all about them." They spoke of Mrs. Annesley's grandchildren for quite some time. It was apparent how much she missed being able to spend time with them.
When he was not busy about estate business, Darcy was able to spend his time with Mrs. Raynor in an unspoken courtship. They often spoke of estate matters for either Raynor Hall or Pemberley. Occasionally, they spoke of family. Frequently, they spoke of books and philosophy. Most of this conversation took place during her frequent walks through the gardens or the woods near the house. If they went further afield, it was always in a group where serious conversation was more difficult.
Finally, as the time was nearing when the Bennets would return to Longbourn for their father's marriage, he asked during their morning walk, "Mrs. Raynor, it cannot have escaped your attention how much I enjoy your company."
"I had noticed that you seem to join me nearly every day on my walks and seem to enjoy them."
"It is far more than that. Would you allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you? I have never met anyone like you. My feelings will not be repressed. I do not know if you are ready to be courted again, but I would love to make you feel appreciated and loved again. I hope you would make me the happiest man alive and consent to become Mrs. Darcy."
Elizabeth was astonished, not that she had his affection, but that he expressed it so fully. That his feeling was far greater than esteem was the astonishment.
"I am greatly honored by your asking. I will admit that I find the feeling to be mutual. Becoming better acquainted here in Pemberley, where you are so much more comfortable, has helped me to better establish your character. Although you were quite reserved, I knew as you visited us with Mr. Bingley that there was more to you than the reserved mien you show the world. Yes, I would become Mrs. Darcy."
Both broke into laughter at her response. He then asked, "I wonder if we could manage a short engagement? I find myself impatient to begin that new life together."
"What about October in Meryton? It must be after the first assembly since we need to support Lydia and Georgiana. We can begin the planning after you arrive at Netherfield."
"I would like to visit your father for his blessing before we announce it, if that is all right with you."
"I am sure Father would appreciate that."
"Then yes, October, in Meryton. I will talk to your minister after I talk to your father."
"You would not object to spending part of the year at Raynor Hall, would you?"
"Of course not. You still have that responsibility for Allen, and now I would help you with it. When he is of age, it will be ready for his stewardship, and together we can train him to it. I have other estates we will regularly visit as well. Do you object to Pemberley as our main home, though?"
"Not at all. I will love calling it home. We will have to visit Raynor Hall often enough that Allen's grandmother sees him regularly."
"That should not be an issue. We can also invite her to visit here."
"Now, that you might regret once you come to know her. She does not travel well and is often subject to nerves and vapors. She takes a fair bit of management to keep even tempered at the best of times. "
"There is no need to decide on that until later. But, as she is an important part of your family, she will be of mine as well."
"Thank you for that. She thinks the world of Allen and misses him dreadfully when we are away. My leaving with him will be very difficult for her."
For the remaining days of the visit, the two of them found it hard not to smile all the time. However, they managed just enough reserve that they did not much raise the curiosity of their sisters. Finally, the three Bennets said their farewells and headed back to Longbourn. They would see their friends again in a month, when Georgiana would join them in Longbourn and Darcy in Netherfield. He would visit Mr. Bennet for his blessing then.
Posted on 2015-10-07
Mr. Bennet arrived home just a couple of days before his daughters joined him. As they arrived, they found him sitting in the parlor going through the contents of a large trunk. After greetings, Lydia asked, "Father, what are you doing?"
"I am trying to sort some things out to make it more comfortable for Lurinda to take over here. These were some of your mother's things. I have given some to Jane and was sorting these for the three of you. You can help me by going through this one and that one there (pointing at another opened trunk) to decide what you would like."
Elizabeth said, "You have already given me some of her things when I married. Should Lydia and Kitty just be the ones to decide?"
Lydia replied, "You can look through them with us Lizzy. Perhaps there will be something else you'd like."
"Well, unless Jane is bringing Allen here, I really need to get to Netherfield and see him. Perhaps I can come tomorrow. Until then, why don't you put aside anything you think I would like and I will look it over tomorrow? Father, you must tell us about Mary's baby Thomas."
Elizabeth stayed for a half an hour to hear of his visit before she continued on to Netherfield. She spent a joyful hour with her son and felt greatly relieved to be with him again. For the next two days, she and Jane spent most of their time at Longbourn helping prepare it for their new mother.
Each sister helped sort through the final trunks of things belonging to Fanny, setting aside those things she particularly wanted. They also created a trunk for Mary of items they thought she would enjoy. After a few days, Lady Stanford arrived to help in the final preparations.
Finally, it was time for the brides to arrive. The banns had been read for the previous three weeks. Jane was hosting the Gaisford family at Netherfield as it had the most space. Mr. Gaisford had little to complain of at Netherfield. His room was comfortable and quiet. Mrs. Gaisford was voluble in her praise of the home to Jane. They would be very comfortable as they awaited the ceremonies.
Mr. Gaisford left his own home only grudgingly. He hated travel and social occasions which was why he had not accompanied his wife and daughters to town for the season. He preferred to remain in his library and read. When forced to leave his retreat, he studied his fellows with a cynical eye. However, he kept his thoughts to himself as his wife was unable to understand his comments. When in company, he generally remained mostly silent. He was pleased both daughters would end up in the same area, thus requiring less travel.
After they had recovered from their journey, Mr. Gaisford joined his family in a visit to Lucas Lodge for an early tea. He found John Lucas a callow young fellow, but perfectly harmless. He would be a good match for Rachel. Sir William offered much scope for his cynical sense of humor, but Rachel would likely enjoy her new family.
Mrs. Gaisford and Lady Lucas delighted in one another. They had already formed a friendship through correspondence as they planned the wedding, and in person, found they had much in common. Each heaped praise upon the other for the job she had done raising her children. They found they could talk to each other for hours.
Mr. Gaisford's reaction upon meeting Mr. Bennet had been quite different. He had recognized that he and Mr. Bennet were very similar, both appreciating the follies and foibles of the neighbors. He actually enjoyed visiting Longbourn. Chats with Mr. Bennet would give Mr. Gaisford something to look forward to as he visited his daughters.
The double wedding of Rachel Gaisford and John Lucas, and Lurinda Williamson and Thomas Bennet, was everything that both mothers hoped for. Rachel and Lurinda were both radiant. John was far more nervous than Mr. Bennet. The August day was warm and sunny, but not as sultry as some had been recently. The chapel was filled with flowers. Both brides had chosen dresses that were flattering but not overly fussy. Both mothers regretted that paucity of lace. However, the brides had been adamant that they did not want a fancier gown.
Mr. Gaisford escorted both daughters down the aisle with a broad smile not normally found upon his face. He was grateful Lurinda had found a new husband and that he would no longer have to provide for her. He was pleased that his daughters would live near one another and provide a single location he would have to visit in the future. He planned to visit as seldom as possible, although he realized his wife would want to come as often as she could, particularly if any grandchildren should ensue. Perhaps he should consider relocating to Meryton someday. It would simplify his life. He might enjoy Bennet as a neighbor.
Lady Lucas hosted the wedding breakfast at Lucas Lodge for the immediate family. Both couples departed as soon as they were able for short wedding trips. Lurinda and Thomas were touring the Lake District for three weeks. John and Rachel were going to London for the two weeks he felt he could get away from the business. Lady Lucas was relieved to see them all off. As she and Mrs. Gaisford and Lady Stanford waved goodbye, they congratulated one another on another successful union.
Mrs. Gaisford said, "It is such a comfort that both Lurinda and Rachel have found happiness. And they will be able to visit one another regularly.
Once Mr. Gaisford is able, we may have to relocate to Meryton to see more of our daughters." Behind her, Mr. Gaisford smiled at her repeating his thoughts. This would be something for him to investigate.
Lady Lucas said, "You would be a most welcome addition. This is a lovely community. There are four and twenty families that dine with us, and all are wonderful people. We are all happy that Mr. Bennet has a second chance at happiness with your daughter. I am sure she will be a wonderful friend."
Lady Stanford added, "I am sure both couples will be very happy. Now, if we can Lydia settled, my work will be done. It was a happy chance that Lurinda and Thomas found one another. He has been lonely without realizing it."
Mrs. Gaisford said, "So has Lurinda. She was not meant to live alone or with her parents. To have five grown daughters is such a blessing."
Lady Stanford said, "And of course, that now gives you grandchildren. You haven't met Mary yet, with her new son, but you have met Lizzy and Allen, and Jane and her girls. They will all keep Lurinda busy."
Mrs. Gaisford said, "I look forward to getting better acquainted with my new great-grandchildren. We are all so lucky. Lurinda has enjoyed her acquaintance with her new family. She spoke of them often as we prepared for her removal here this past month."
The Gardiners arrived at Longbourn just three days before the wedding. The wedding coincided with their summer holiday, so they were able to celebrate with their Bennet relatives before continuing their holiday further north in the Lake District. They were careful to share plans with Mr. Bennet so that they would not encounter one another unexpectedly.
After the wedding, Lady Stanford began the household management training process with Lydia. Of course, Lydia had already started, but she was glad to have her aunt's guidance and direction. Elizabeth coordinated with the steward when any issue arose on the estate while Lydia began in earnest to run the house. She was grateful she had already started the process during the winter so it was not as challenging as it might have been. That earlier work helped her feel more confident.
Lady Stanford followed a similar process with each girl, so Lydia learned about the household, managing the servants and meals, managing her wardrobe and budget, and what was appropriate for small talk. Following the discussion about wardrobe, Lydia and Lady Stanford spent an afternoon at the fabric shop and seamstress in town. They selected the remainder of the wardrobe she would need for the autumn in Meryton, planning to complete her new wardrobe when they went to London in January. Lydia delighted in this expanded wardrobe, all of which was flattering. Better understanding of what colors and styles worked well for her would stand her in good stead for her future choices.
By the time the new Mr. and Mrs. Bennet returned, Lydia had made great progress. She better understood how to steer a conversation at the table as she had seen the other do at Georgiana's dinner party. Lady Stanford would repeat this training for Georgiana once she joined them. She also had a better command of the daily requirements of running the household. She was pleased at her own progress, finding this not to be as much of a chore as she had supposed.
Lydia and Kitty were at the door waiting as the carriage unloaded Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Lady Stanford waited in the parlor. As greetings were exchanged, so were hugs. Lydia began the greetings, "Welcome home. I hope you have had a pleasant tour."
Lurinda replied, "Thank you, we did. The Lake District is quite beautiful. Since you know how your father feels about travel, I feel very privileged that we were able to visit it. We are glad to be home again."
He said, "And it is good to see you all. I hope all is well."
Lydia replied, "It is. We are just glad to have you back. We will have tea for you in the parlor once you have had a chance to clean up."
Lurinda asked Kitty as they entered the house, "Kitty, have you heard from Captain Fitzwilliam?"
"Yes, at last. I received three letters just yesterday. He is fine."
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet went up to their rooms to refresh as the girls returned to the parlor. Kitty penned a note to Netherfield inviting them to welcome the Bennets home. Lydia instructed Hill to bring tea for everyone. She was becoming more comfortable issuing orders to the woman who had been so instrumental in helping to raise her. It still seemed a bit strange though.
By the time Lurinda and Thomas had returned to the parlor, the Bingleys, Elizabeth, and the children had arrived. After greetings were exchanged, Thomas sat with Meg and Betsy at either side and Allen in his lap, as he tried to drink his tea. Everyone smiled at the attempts of his grandchildren to make up for not seeing him these past three weeks.
Lurinda shared tales of their tour as the others had tea and biscuits. Occasionally, Thomas would put in a comment. For the most part, he was content to listen and cuddle the grandchildren. He enjoyed the tones of Lurinda's voice; it was low and quiet, almost restful. Once the stories were told, Kitty shared news of Captain Fitzwilliam, Lydia shared neighborhood gossip, and they started planning the dinner the Bennets would host. This would allow Lurinda to repay all the kindness she had received in being welcomed, and keep Mr. Bennet's social activity to a minimum. Once this meal was complete, she would turn over household responsibilities again to Lydia until she and her aunt left for London.
The next day, Lurinda took the carriage and called upon all the ladies who should be invited to the dinner. Her first call was to Mrs. Phillips which would ensure the Mr. Bennet's former relatives would feel no slight from his new wife. Mrs. Phillips was grateful and enjoyed hearing of the Lake District. She was also quick to share any new gossip she had received. Of course she and Mr. Phillips would be pleased to attend the dinner. As Lurinda made calls the entire morning and most of the afternoon, she was able to express her gratitude for the happy reception into the community. All were pleased to come to the dinner in three days' time. Her final call was to Netherfield where she was greeted most warmly.
"Of course Charles and I would love to attend your dinner. It will make it much easier for Father to have only one engagement required of him. "
"You know your father well. He knows we must do something and this is the simplest thing."
"Will you be happy with the limited social life Father prefers?"
"I am sure I will be. There are many women here to visit, a fair amount of charity work and so forth, and of course family. I do not need dances, theater, and such to keep me entertained. Like your father, I prefer a good book."
"Do you think you can convince him to come to some of our engagements this autumn?"
"I know he plans to shoot with you at least once or twice. As for the dinners, he will likely come at least once. Are you planning to host another ball?"
"I think it likely. Charles does love to dance and Lydia would like one. It is a good way to say thank you for the welcome in the community."
"I do not know if we can get your father there, but we will try."
A few days later, the community gathered at Longbourn for a delicious meal and a few hours of cards. Most of the young ladies took turns to play quiet pieces as background music during the cards. Mrs. Bennet set a nice table, not overly lavish, and everyone quite enjoyed the meal. Lydia practiced her new conversation steering skills as she tried to talk to one of the older men who could only talk of hunting and his dogs. She realized there was still much to learn since it was so difficult to make conversation with him. However, as they left the table, her aunt congratulated her on her efforts. Everyone knew he was always difficult to sit next to and she had done well.
Now that September was approaching, the Darcys arrived. Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley came to Longbourn, while Darcy would stay at Netherfield. Mrs. Annesley would continue as companion to Georgiana through her season. She was not sure what she would do once Georgiana was married.
As Darcy helped his sister and her companion from the carriage, the Longbourn family came to greet them. Elizabeth happened to be present visiting her family. Darcy looked over at Elizabeth with a raised eyebrow. She nodded at her father with a smile, and he relaxed the stony reserve on his face. He escorted the women into the house and all went into the parlor to visit for a few moments. After a few time, Mr. Bennet muttered,
"Too much chatter," and left for his library. The women all smiled. Darcy too smiled, and excused himself to follow. All but Elizabeth thought he too was escaping the females.
Darcy knocked on the door to the library and entered when bid. Mr. Bennet was surprised to see him. "Too many women?"
"No, it isn't that although you may be correct that it is a bit overwhelming. Rather, I have come to ask for your blessing. Mrs. Raynor and I developed a great deal of affection for one another during her visit to Pemberley. She has agreed to become Mrs. Darcy, and we would like your blessing. I hope to make her the happiest of women. I know she has made me the happiest of men."
"But why have you kept quiet this entire month?"
"We would in no way detract from your own marriage. We are neither of us so self-centered that we must announce it immediately. However, we would like to marry, from Meryton, in October, if that is agreeable to you. We hope to do so about two weeks after the first assembly. "
"I must say, I saw no admiration when you were here last year."
"It was there but hidden and grew very slowly. I wanted to court her in town last winter, but I could see she was not yet ready for such attentions. I will admit it was difficult to wait. However, she seemed to welcome my interest this summer, and the affection continued to grow."
"Well, of course you have my blessing. It is probably good that you have had to wait and go slowly. She was very hurt by Raynor's risk taking and death. I know you are far steadier and will make her a good husband."
"I certainly plan to try."
He then took his leave and returned to the parlor with a smile. He interrupted the ongoing chatter by clearing his throat and said, "I have an announcement to make." That got everyone's attention. "Mrs. Raynor has consented to become Mrs. Darcy next month, and Mr. Bennet has just given us his blessing."
This announcement was met with squeals, laughter, and congratulations all around. He added, "I will stop and see the pastor on my way to Netherfield to set a date. We hope it can be next month about two weeks after the assembly. So I must bid you adieu right now. You can quiz Mrs. Raynor all you like."
Elizabeth and Georgiana saw him out and into the Darcy carriage. As it pulled away, Elizabeth said to Georgiana, "So, how shall you like acquiring all these sisters and a nephew?"
"You cannot imagine how happy I am. When I saw you two so frequently together at Pemberley, I had some hope. However, he has been so slow to find someone that I never truly thought he would say anything. I am very happy for you both."
As they returned to the parlor and discussed wedding plans, Lydia squeezed Georgiana's hand and said quietly, "Now you will truly be my sister. This is even more reason to support one another in our upcoming season."
After Darcy met with the pastor, they selected a date. When Elizabeth returned to Netherfield later that afternoon, they could complete their plans. He told the Bingleys of the engagement. After tendering congratulations, Jane went immediately to Longbourn to share in Elizabeth's joy with her other sisters. At Netherfield, Darcy and Bingley celebrated with a glass of brandy. He penned notes to his family and an announcement for the papers.
As Jane and Elizabeth rode back to Netherfield, Jane asked, "So you are finally ready to move on?"
"Yes. I have done my mourning and a great deal of pondering on what I want from the next chapter of my life. I did not expect this quick result, but it is the direction I want to go. He is such a good man, and I esteem him greatly."
"He seems to be a very good man. I know he is a good friend to Charles. He is so dependable and responsible."
"Those are traits I greatly admire. Best of all, I can actually talk to him about almost anything. We had regular conversations as I took my morning strolls just about every day. We talked of everything under the sun, it seems to me. It was so easy and natural-even those things about which we disagree. I think Allen and I can be very happy in his household."
"What are his feelings about Allen?"
"He will help him learn to manage his estate and treat him as his own son. I believe I am very fortunate to find such a man."
The next day, Elizabeth and Allen removed to Longbourn. Darcy and Elizabeth had discussed it and felt it would lessen any temptation that might occur were they to continue to reside under the same roof. It was better to be prudent although they would regret the loss of the daily walks together. Darcy had enjoyed those as Allen had indeed told stories of the secret life of flowers and bugs. He had developed a strong affection for the child.
Over the course of the next days, all in the neighborhood heard of the good fortune of Elizabeth in capturing the hand of the most eligible Mr. Darcy. They all happily anticipated another wonderful wedding breakfast celebration. Darcy and Elizabeth paid calls and received well wishes throughout the community. He found it was much easier to chat with these relative strangers when in Elizabeth's presence. She always seemed to know what to say to put him at ease and help him make small talk. He appreciated her excellent conversational skills and determined that he would continue to improve his own.
Georgiana continued to join Lydia in the instruction and training that Lady Stanford provided. Both learned to remake a dress although Georgiana had never worn a made-over dress before. Georgiana already had an extensive wardrobe, but Lydia had required new dresses that befit her status as a debutant. As with her sisters before her, most of the new wardrobe in Hertfordshire was made-over hand-me-downs, with just a couple of new ones.
About one week after Darcy had sent his notes to the family, an unknown carriage pulled up outside of Longbourn. With surprise, Kitty noted from the window that Lady Catherine de Bourgh descended and headed for the front door of Longbourn. A moment later, she was shown into the parlor.
She entered the room with an air more than usually ungracious and made no other reply to Kitty's salutation than a slight inclination of the head.
She sat down without saying a word. Kitty had mentioned her name to Lady Stanford on her ladyship's entrance, though no request of introduction had been made.
Lady Stanford and Mrs. Bennet received her with utmost politeness. After sitting for a moment in silence, Lady Catherine said to Kitty, "I hope you are well. Would you please introduce me?"
Kitty introduced her to Jane, Elizabeth, Lurinda, and Lady Stanford. Georgiana and Lydia were then with Mrs. Hill discussing menus.
"You have a very small park here," said Lady Catherine.
"It is nothing in comparison of Rosings, I day say. However, it is quite comfortable," answered Kitty.
"This must be a most inconvenient sitting room for the evening, in summer; the windows are full west."
Lurinda answered, "We rarely sit here after dinner."
Kitty asked, "May I take the liberty of asking your ladyship whether you left Mr. and Mrs. Collins well?"
"Yes, very well. I saw them the night before last."
All sat up in expectation of a letter from Maria. When none was forthcoming, Lurinda offered refreshment. Lady Catherine declined, then arose, and turning to Elizabeth, said, "Mrs. Raynor, there seemed to be a prettyish kind of little wilderness on one side of your lawn. I should be glad to take a turn in it, if you will favor me with your company."
"Of course," agreed Elizabeth, still confused at the request. She hurried to obey. As they passed through the hall, Lady Catherine opened the doors into the dining-parlor and drawing-room, and pronounced them, after a short survey, to be decent looking rooms. She then walked on.
Her carriage remained at the door, and Elizabeth saw that her waiting-woman was in it. They proceeded in silence along the gravel walk that led to the copse. Elizabeth was very confused at this woman who was so insolent and disagreeable.
As soon as they entered the copse, Lady Catherin began, "You can be at no loss to understand the reason of my journey hither. Your own heart, your own conscience, must tell you why I come."
Elizabeth looked with unaffected astonishment. "Indeed, you are mistaken, madam. I have not been at all able to account for the honor of meeting you."
"Mrs. Raynor, you ought to know that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it. I cannot believe the letter I received from my own nephew, Mr. Darcy, that he has asked for your hand in marriage and you agreed to give it. I instantly resolved on setting off for this place that I might make my sentiments known to you."
"I am afraid I do not understand."
"Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have the presumption to aspire, can never take place. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter. Now what have you to say?"
"Only this; that if he were, how could you have reason to suppose that he would offer to me? Since he has done so, and his uncle has acknowledged the relationship, that indicates to me that there was no prior engagement with your daughter."
"The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the favorite wish of his mother, as well of hers. While in their cradles, we planned the union. Now, at the moment when the wishes of both sisters would be accomplished in their marriage, to be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family! Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit engagement with Miss de Bourgh? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy?"
At this moment, behind them a voice responded, "Madam, what are you doing here? I have told you repeatedly that I would not marry Anne, and that we were in complete agreement. Have you lost all decorum that you would come importune my betrothed with the vain imaginations of your heart?"
Darcy's expression was one of severe annoyance. "If you cannot be civil to Mrs. Raynor, allow me to escort you to your carriage. You have insulted me, my mother, and Mrs. Raynor as much as I can take."
Lady Catherine exclaimed, "I am ashamed of you. I will not be dissuaded from my purpose. I have not been used to submit to any person's whims. I am not in the habit of brooking disappointment."
Darcy replied, "That will make your situation more pitiable, but it will have no effect on us. You are not responsible for my decisions. I have been my own man for many years. I have also received the blessing from my uncle Matlock. I did not need it, but I do appreciate it."
"How can you think to quit your sphere by marrying this nobody."
"Mrs. Raynor is a gentleman's daughter. In this, we are equals. She is the widow of another gentleman. She is my equal in all that is important to me."
"You must promise me you will not marry her."
"I will do no such thing. I will do only that which I calculate is most likely to bring me happiness. I have found that with Elizabeth Raynor."
"I am seriously displeased. You will have no polite attentions from me in the future."
"Then, I will so inform uncle and he will have someone else assist you with Rosings in the future. If you cannot be civil to my wife, we will have no further relations with you. I will, however, continue correspondence with Anne and perhaps invite her to visit us. Your brother's family has already indicated that they will be present here at the wedding. I am sorry to find you so unreasonable." So saying, he escorted the Lady to her carriage and assisted her to enter. He slammed the door after her, turning immediately toward Elizabeth.
"My dear, I am sorry you had to deal with that. I had no idea she would turn up and try to come between us."
"Do not worry. She could not succeed. However, she is quite determined, isn't she?"
"For years, I have told her that I would not marry Anne and that we were in agreement. For years, she has ignored my stated position. Please forgive me for subjecting you to that."
"There is nothing to forgive. I am sorry for her situation."
"Anne has not been well, and my aunt worries about her. However, I would never consider marrying my cousin. Anne is in complete agreement. Only her mother has this fantasy of joining the two estates."
They continued to talk as they walked back to the parlor. All were surprised to see Darcy in place of Lady Catherine. Lady Stanford asked, "Are you well?"
Elizabeth answered, "Yes, just a little misunderstanding. Nothing to worry about. Lady Catherine had to leave immediately, but we are blessed with Mr. Darcy instead, so we cannot repine."
Kitty looked sharply at Elizabeth. She knew there was a story and hoped that Lizzy would share it later. Unfortunately, her curiosity was not satisfied. Elizabeth kept her counsel on what Lady Catherine had to say.
Two weeks after the Darcys arrived at Netherfield, the other members of the shooting party began to arrive. Bingley had invited a few friends from school, his club, and some distant family members. After much discussion with Jane, he had also invited Louisa and Sebastian Hurst. Louisa had been formally polite and very repentant ever since the engagement. She and Jane had developed a regular correspondence and were now on relatively cordial terms. This would be a sort of trial to see whether or not Louisa would remain a part of his family. Caroline had refused and was now situated in Somerset at her estate and no longer part of the family. The Hursts had spent the time quietly in Sussex and were happy to be invited.
The Hursts were the next of the first to arrive. Louisa went directly to Jane, gave her a kiss on the cheek and said, "Thank you for forgiving me. I truly am happy for you. We are excited to be here."
Hurst added, "Sussex is nice, but the shooting here was excellent last year. I look forward to another good season."
Jane answered, "We are happy to see you both. I enjoyed our correspondence and feel I know you so much better than before."
Bingley said, "It is wonderful to have you here. We will have a much larger group this year."
Hurst said, "That will just add to the enjoyment. The competition will be more intense."
Louisa and Jane went to Longbourn to renew acquaintances. Louisa offered her congratulations to Elizabeth and to Lurinda, whom she had not met before. They had a pleasant visit. Everyone found Louisa much more congenial than the prior year.
A few days later, two more of the guests arrived. William Chester was a distant cousin of Bingley's and son of a Baronet. His mother and Bingley's had been distant cousins and very close friends. He had completed his studies at Cambridge the previous spring and was now a gentleman of leisure. With him was Winthrop Gordon, a barrister, who had been a classmate of Bingley's. Chester had been the scout for Gordon during his first year at Cambridge and they had remained friends. They had traveled up from London together in Chester's carriage. Both had been present at the wedding but had met Jane only briefly prior to the marriage. Chester had not been in town, and Gordon had not attended very many events as he did not want to enter the marriage market fray just yet. He was building a firm financial foundation before he chose to seek a mate.
Two days later, John Campbell and Philip Gerard arrived. Both were members of Bingley's club and avid shooters. Their wives, Joanne and Helen, joined them. Both were gentlemen of leisure who spent very little time on their own estates. They visited them in summer to escape the heat of London and in autumn for shooting if they were hosting a party. Otherwise, they were not particularly interested except in the income produced.
Once the Campbells and Gerards had arrived, the men would spend their mornings shooting. Mr. Bennet joined them the day after Campbell and Gerard arrived. This allowed him to meet all the men at once with little need for small talk. While the men engaged their first day in the field, the women all received visits from the neighbors, with the Longbourn group being the first.
Lady Stanford and Mrs. Annesley preceded the younger women from the carriage. It then appeared as if there were two hens shepherding their chicks into the house as they helped the young ladies into the house. After greetings and introductions, they sat in the Netherfield parlor and talked of the country and the neighboring community. Joanne and Helen were close friends and often invited to the same engagements. They were careful not to criticize the country while making it clear that they generally preferred the society in town. Louisa was quick to say, "I can sympathize with you. There are clearly more entertainments available in town. However, the society here in Hertfordshire is quite smart. I think you will find many people with much to offer. You should have a wonderful time here."
Elizabeth smiled. This was quite a change in attitude from the previous year. "If you enjoy walking, or riding, there are some beautiful prospects.
Any of us would be glad to show them to you."
Joanne replied, "I think we prefer riding to walking. I can safely say that we would enjoy seeing the beauty you have to show us."
They made plans for a long ride for Monday. Lydia would act as tour guide, since she was the one who did the most riding in the area, and would include some refreshments so they could ride at their leisure. Most of the principal families of the neighborhood paid calls to welcome the Bingleys' guests. Many invitations for dinner or an evening of cards were also delivered. The shooting party would find themselves at engagements almost daily.
One of the first engagements was a dinner party. The guests included the shooting party and all those in residence at Longbourn. As there was an excess of women, two local widowers were invited to partner Lady Stanford and Mrs. Annelsey. Georgiana ended up seated by William Chester and across from Lydia and Winthrop Gordon. The four found themselves pleasantly surprised by the enjoyable conversation. Both girls were practicing their small talk skills in learning about the gentlemen.
Lydia started, "So, Mr. Gordon, I understand you are a friend of Mr. Bingley's from school."
"Yes, we graduated together, and I became a barrister. I practice in London. I see Bingley when he is in town, which is less often now. Before his marriage, he was in London more than away. Of course, Mrs. Bingley is a good reason to hide himself away. He seems to be very happy."
"Yes, they do seem to be. What kind of law do you practice?" She managed to keep the conversation going through most of the meal.
At the other side of the table, Georgiana began, "So where do you generally live, Mr. Chester?"
"Since I left school, I have been visiting my father on our estate in Derbyshire. I live not far from Darcy. I am expected to go to London for the season. I will likely return home again once the season is complete."
They spent much of the meal talking of his estate and his father, who was also William, but was Sir William Chester, Baronet.
During the separation of the sexes, Georgiana and Lydia compared notes on what they had learned. When the gentlemen rejoined them, they talked as a group and moved to the subject of music. It turned out that Mr. Chester enjoyed music but was no musician, but Mr. Gordon loved to play both piano and violin. He and Georgiana began a discussion of favorite pieces while Mr. Chester and Lydia talked of the tedium of exhibitions during the engagements of the season.
"I think it sad that so many women feel they must exhibit when they know they are not particularly skilled."
"Apparently, it is to help you gentlemen determine who among us is accomplished and thus worthy of marriage. I am not sure how it is actually pertinent to marriage, but it is what society expects."
"Well, my idea of accomplishment is not these little polishing touches. It is knowing how to manage the household and my tenants, when necessary, and how to make me comfortable. It is enjoying some of the same pursuits as I and not being afraid to say so. It is helping to smooth over social occasions so as to create a minimum of fuss. That is true accomplishment."
"You know that is not a fashionable assessment though."
"True, it is not. But, tell me honestly, do you enjoy exhibiting?"
"Not really. I am an adequate pianist and a worse singer. I enjoy listening but not performing. Now, Miss Darcy is a wonderful performer although she does not enjoy the performing. But she plays and sings wonderfully. All of my sisters play better than I, but I think only Mary truly enjoys it like Miss Darcy does."
"What do you like to do?"
"As I said, I like listening to good music. I love dancing and riding. I have been very involved in charitable works this past year and find real satisfaction in helping. I also love to read a good novel."
"What kind of charity?"
"Some is for the tenants; some is for other good causes. My other aunt does a great deal of that, and I helped her a little. It opened my eyes to how much need is really out there. I do what little I can here in my own corner."
"Do you read other than novels?"
"Yes, but that improving reading isn't as much fun. However, Lady Stanford wants us to know what is going on around us and to be able to talk about it with some intelligence. Much of what I learn of the wider world makes me sad. And we are learning about household management and our community at the same time. Aunt Stanford is an interesting teacher. Miss Darcy and I are learning these together and plan to have our debuts together in the spring."
"So neither of you is out yet?"
"Well, in my family, we come out here in the autumn and practice for the more rigorous season in London. It has been effective for all my sisters, so I am excited to now be out. The dinner my new mother hosted after their return from their wedding trip was my first as an adult. So we are out but expect to be presented at court in the spring."
"Your new mother?"
"Yes, Mrs. Bennet married my father only last month. Our mother has been dead since I was a small child. We are very happy that Father found Lurinda. She is the sister of a friend of Kitty's who has married a neighbor of ours."
"So, you just had one wedding and have another in a few weeks for your sister and Darcy."
"We have been very blessed."
The four drifted into further conversation and then joined in at a card table. Lady Stanford and Mrs. Annesley found their partners had limited conversation about the larger world but had interesting perspectives on all the neighborhood families. As they all returned to Longbourn, all found they had enjoyed the evening.
After the shooting the next day, Chester and Gordon called upon the ladies at Longbourn. During the shooting that day, they had heard of the assembly next week. They each wanted to insure that they had at least one set with both Miss Lydia and Miss Darcy. They also gallantly asked for a set with Mrs. Raynor and Miss Bennet as well although it was apparent that this was just to be polite. Once the men took their leave, Lady Stanford and the girls discussed the girls' impressions of both men. Mrs. Annesley sat nearby knitting, occasionally adding her own impressions or comments.
Kitty and Elizabeth thought it was amusing that Lydia and Georgiana already had admirers so quickly. Kitty said to Elizabeth, "With the Bingleys in residence and Charles bringing in his friends, there are more options for our sisters than there were for us. They both seem like nice men. How fun for our sisters that they have admirers even before the assembly."
Elizabeth agreed. "It would certainly lessen the pressure on them for their season if they already have some success before they even reach London. They seem like nice men."
"I am sure that as they are friends of Charles, they are."
When Darcy came to visit later that day, Georgiana excitedly told of the men's visit and engagement for the first sets. He asked Mrs. Annesley for her impressions of the men.
"They both seem very nice, respectful. They also asked Mrs. Raynor and Miss Bennet to dance, but we all think that was just to be polite. That they would do that speaks well to their character and intentions."
He also spoke of the men with Elizabeth. "I will admit that I am not truly ready for Georgiana to be Miss Darcy and have admirers. It will be difficult not to glower as she dances with these men."
"You have been shooting with them and are living with them right now. What do you think of them?"
"They do seem to be good fellows. I am not sure that I think either is good enough for Georgie, but they are longtime friends of Bingley so can't be at all bad."
"You just want to think of your sister as a girl when she is now a young woman. If you can, try to be objective about it. Better here under your eye than later in London when we will be busy creating our own life together."
He shook his head ruefully. "There is truth in that too. It is just hard to see her as an adult. I will do my best."
She smiled at him and placed a hand on his arm. "We will face it together. Never fear."
He returned her smile and patted the hand on his arm. "That we will. May I also engage you for a set? I understand you have already been asked."
"Indeed I have. Yes, you may."
By the time they returned to the parlor he was in a better frame of mind. He realized that he would need to exercise great restraint over his natural impulses to shield his sister as she moved into the social world of Meryton. It appeared that this upcoming season would be very trying for him. Thank goodness he would have Elizabeth to help him through it.
Posted on 2015-10-14
Preparations for the assembly had the household at Longbourn in an uproar most of the day. Mr. Bennet chose to avoid the chaos by joining the shooters at Netherfield once again. It was a fine day and much quieter even allowing for the regular pops from the guns. He returned home in time to partake of dinner and escort his family to the assembly.
Both Georgiana and Lydia were nervous about the assembly. They could not decide on hairstyles. They could not decide which accessories to wear. They could not eat. Finally, Lady Stanford said, "Enough! You two go to the dining parlor and have tea and toast. Now! After you have something in your stomachs, we will select hairstyles and accessories together. I will check on your dresses. Mrs. Annesley will keep you company."
Mrs. Annesley added, "There is no need for all this upset. Calm yourselves. Lady Stanford will ensure that you look your very best."
Lydia wailed, "But what if I look a fool? Why must this be so hard?"
Georgiana added, "I do not think I can eat. My stomach is all in knots."
Lady Stanford said firmly, "That is why you are having tea and toast. They will help to settle this attack of nerves. Do not worry. I will not let either of you look anything but wonderful. Now, go eat. Come up to your rooms in thirty minutes." She sailed from the parlor with a stern look at the offending young ladies. They giggled nervously and headed to the dining room.
Elizabeth and Kitty found their indecision quite humorous. They were far more complacent as they made their toilettes than the two debutantes. After the tea was underway, both Elizabeth and Kitty retired to their own rooms to change. They wanted to be able to assist the other two when they were ready to change.
After the aforesaid thirty minutes, two much calmer girls appeared sheepishly at the top of the stairs. Mrs. Annesley led Georgiana to her room while Lady Stanford shepherded Lydia. Once they were dressed but still unaccessorized, they joined Lydia in her room, followed by Elizabeth and Kitty. For the next quarter hour, they assessed accessories in light of the hairstyles, finally selecting appropriate combs, necklaces, and ear bobs.
Once all was satisfactory, Lady Stanford declared, "Well, I think you both look wonderful. All four of you look well, but you two young ones will steal the limelight."
Lydia and Georgiana both blushed as Mrs. Annesley agreed. "Yes. I imagine neither of you will sit very often tonight. I hope you are ready for a very active evening."
As they all broke into laughter, they heard the Darcy carriage arrive from Netherfield to collect Elizabeth, Mrs. Annesley, and Georgiana. As they descended the stairs to find Darcy waiting in the foyer, Georgiana said, "I will see you there Lydia. Do not tarry too long. After all, we must support one another."
Lady Stanford replied, "My carriage is being pulled around right now. We will be right behind you."
Mr. Bennet appeared from his library and added, "Lurinda and I will be along shortly. I must say it has been instructive to see Bess marshal the troops. I will have to remember that for future family outings.
Lurinda followed from the library and said, "I will be ready in a moment and your father is nearly done. You all look quite beautiful. Tom, you should be very proud of them. So should you, Mr. Darcy."
Darcy replied, "I am indeed. I am actually speechless at the beauty that I will escort."
Mr. Bennet laughed and replied, "Well said, Darcy. You would do well to remember such niceties. Off you go now. Bess, there is your carriage too. We will be there soon."
They all laughed as they exited the house and entered the two carriages. The lighthearted teasing had helped both Georgiana and Lydia to relax. The conversation the remaining few minutes to the assembly remained in that same vein, and two much more composed young debutantes exited the carriages than had entered them.
Mr. Bennet planned to stay only a short time. He wanted to see Lydia's first efforts, but would then turn over chaperone duties to his sister. He would dance once with his new wife, watch a set or two, and then return home.
The Gerards and Campbells arrived together. Chester and Gordon followed in a separate carriage. The Hursts accompanied the Bingleys in their carriage. All arrived shortly after assembly started. As most had met many of the community prior to the dance, there was not as much gossip as there had been the previous year when Darcy and Bingley had arrived as single men. However, there was still much speculation about the two single men, Chester and Gordon. Both were quick to find Lydia and Georgiana to claim their sets.
Once Mr. and Mrs. Bennet had danced together, they visited with Sir William and Lady Lucas who were content to watch the dance as they did not have an unmarried child to manage that year. He was so sociable he would attend assemblies even without the need to find a spouse for a child, just the opposite of Mr. Bennet.
Lady Lucas said, "Maria's letters are so entertaining. She says she has managed to convince your cousin not to be quite so verbose. She found a number of references to brevity being important, in places other than Shakespeare, that Mr. Collins has taken it to heart. Impending fatherhood seems to have helped him with his priorities as well, so that he is slightly less obsequious to Lady Catherine. I go to see her in November when her confinement is expected. I will leave to join Charlotte at her confinement in just a few days."
Mr. Bennet answered, "Congratulations. You must be pleased to have two new grandchildren joining the family."
Sir William said, "We will have all of them come visit us next Easter. It is truly wonderful."
Lurinda said, "It is very happy news."
Mr. Bennet added, "And Mrs. Collins must be pleased if she has managed to help him become more sensible."
Lady Lucas said, "Well, she did say she would like to be able to help him. He is not vicious, merely foolish. I think she is making progress. I believe Kitty found that to be true when she visited."
Lady Stanford had joined them during the conversation and said, "It is wonderful that both can be happy in the situation."
Lady Lucas replied, "Yes. Of course, he does not realize that she is trying to help him become more respectable. It really has been a good opportunity for her."
The Bennets left shortly after this, while Mrs. Annesley and Lady Stanford visited with the other chaperones sitting about the assembly room. Darcy watched closely every time Georgiana was asked to dance. Mrs. Raynor helped him watch with some degree of equanimity, but all could see that he would like to keep his sister protected. Bingley's friends were not the only ones with whom she danced. She was an excellent dancer, and both Lydia and Georgiana danced almost every dance all night. Darcy and Mrs. Raynor danced two sets together before sitting out further dances. They spent most of the evening talking, although she convinced him to dance a few sets with some of their friends. He was less uncomfortable than he had been the previous fall.
While Mr. Hurst had again danced one set with his wife and then headed for the punch bowl and card room, Louisa had cheerfully visited with many of the women present. She too was unlike she had been the previous year. She had been warm and pleasant and not at all condescending. As a result, she had enjoyed her time and been the recipient of a number of compliments on her dress. While many had admired it the previous year, no one had said so. Like Darcy, she had learned that being warm and open was far better than appearing proud and condescending.
The Bennets stayed until the end. During the final number, the carriages were called for and were waiting in a line as the attendee streamed from the room. Georgiana and Elizabeth discussed the dance and her partners while her brother looked on trying to maintain a stoic presence. He was upset that his little sister was this radiant young woman. It would take quite an attitude adjustment to maintain his equanimity. Had he not begun altering his perceptions of her that previous spring, this would have been impossible. He made much for which to thank the Bennet family, apart from his upcoming happiness with Elizabaeth.
Once back at Longbourn, Lydia and Georgiana needed to compare notes on partners after preparing for bed. More discussion would occur the next morning, because they were too tired to determine anything but that they had enjoyed themselves and most of the men had been good dance partners.
Mrs. Annesley and Lady Stanford were pleased at how popular their charges had been. The girls had done an excellent job engaging the young men who sought them as partners. They had spoken just the right amount and had comported themselves admirably. Mrs. Annesley thought it highly likely that she might have to join her daughter the next spring. She felt she might want to get herself accustomed to the idea so as to be prepared when the event arose. Lady Stanford mused that both charges looked like they already had potential admirers. This would be an interesting season.
Kitty had enjoyed herself in both the dancing and visiting. Since she was already betrothed, there was no pressure to attract someone which allowed her to dance with some of less popular gentlemen with some sympathy and no regret. As a result, she had danced frequently with those who were not popular partners and had been deemed a real treasure for her forbearance.
After dancing with Darcy, Elizabeth had danced very few other sets. She had preferred to visit with Darcy or other local friends. It was not as much fun, but it was actually quite satisfying. She really preferred dancing with Darcy to anyone else. She wondered what more she could do to help Darcy adjust to an adult sister.
At Netherfield, all agreed that the assembly had been fun. Hurst had won at cards and drunk far less than the past year. There was no longer a need to escape in drink. He and Louisa were far happier. All four of the couples pronounced it a success. Jane was pleased that Lydia had had a successful debut.
The two single men discussed whether or not any of the women had been worth cultivating. Chester had come to the conclusion that Miss Lydia was a lot of fun. Gordon had determined that he would like to know Miss Darcy better. However, he would never say so in front of Darcy, as he was not ready to face the formidable older brother. Chester might court openly, but Gordon would not. He was not foolish enough to do anything until he knew the state of Miss Darcy's own heart.
Darcy was chagrined. He thought he had prepared himself for his sister's debut but found he was wrong. He might never be ready for her to find a mate and leave him behind. He could not think that way. It was time for her to begin that process, and he would not be like his aunt trying to protect Anne from the entire world. He would stifle his protective impulses and allow her to flourish not matter how he really felt. Thank goodness Elizabeth could help.
Lady Lucas left for Charlotte's confinement immediately after the assembly rather than waiting a few days. She was impatient to see her daughter. For everyone else, the next two weeks' focus was on wedding planning. Darcy spent a great deal of time with Allen, helping the boy become accustomed to his presence. It helped that Allen had a cheerful disposition and was very friendly. He had also become very talkative, and Darcy was pleased he could actually understand much of what Allen said.
After each day's shooting, various members of the shooting party would visit Longbourn. Usually, the group of single men would arrive together, visit for a short time, and leave without Darcy. Sometimes they would accompany Darcy, and the entire group might walk together. After a few such visits, Darcy began to consider that Gordon was interested in Georgiana, but he also recognized that the man respected his sister enough to move very slowly. He discussed his observations with Elizabeth and decided to simply watch, for now. They all watched the progress William Chester made in forming an attachment to Lydia with some bemusement. She continued to state that she was so excited to have her season or maybe two in London while at the same time obviously preferring his company. They wondered how she would reconcile this conflict.
One day, they took a walk into Meryton together. Since Darcy was there, Mrs. Annesley remained in the parlor with Lady Stanford and Lurinda, while the rest decided to visit a bookseller and then call upon Mrs. Phillips. Mr. Chester offered Lydia his arm, while Mr. Gordon offered his to Georgiana. Darcy offered an arm to both Kitty and Lizzy. Kitty smiled and said, "Really, it is not necessary. I can manage."
He replied, "Of course you can. However, I would be happy to provide an escort while we walk."
The three of them followed closely behind the other two couples. Lizzy remarked, "Lydia seems quite interested in Mr. Chester."
Kitty said, "I find it funny that she is the one who wanted two seasons in town, and here she is attaching someone before having even one."
Lizzy said, "A strange twist indeed."
Darcy added, "They do seem to enjoy one another's company."
Kitty said, "That is always important. I found Captain Fitzwilliam so very easy to talk to, and that is what it looks like up ahead."
Darcy said, "It does with both couples. I wonder if shooting parties are often the scene of such courting."
Elizabeth asked, "Do they often bring unmarried parties together? I do not recall another large shooting party in the neighborhood for many years. Generally, it has only been neighbors getting together. Until Mr. Bingley brought you and the Hursts last year, I don't think there had been any outsiders for at least a half dozen years."
Kitty added, "That's true. It is one reason we've gone to London for the season. Very few of our friends have been able to marry other gentlemen because they have been so scarce around here. That was why the militia men were so popular-lots of mostly eligible young men. Only they were not really eligible, were they?"
Elizabeth said, "No, they were not. They were merely single, which is entirely different."
Their conversation continued along these lines, deflecting Darcy from further consideration of his sister's possible suitor.
In the bookseller's shop, there were a few new items for them to explore. The men became interested in a new book covering the peninsular war while the ladies found a new novel more interesting. After more perusal, Darcy purchased both books, presenting one to his sister with a request that she share it with her friends. He offered to share his own with the other gentlemen so that all could enjoy it. Netherfield's library was still quite lacking, but the Bingleys were making some progress in improving it.
They then moved on to visit Mrs. Phillips. As they were ushered into her home, Elizabeth did her best not to wince at the greetings they received from their aunt. Her aunt bustled around seeing that all were seated comfortably and situated with tea and biscuits. Mrs. Phillips had many questions about the wedding and about Elizabeth's new home at Pemberley. Darcy graciously answered the questions about his home but deferred to Elizabeth on all about the wedding. The rest watched the interrogation with amusement until Kitty said, "I am sorry aunt, but we must be getting back home. Lurinda and Aunt Bess need Lizzy for more planning.
Mrs. Phillips immediately exclaimed, "Oh, of course. I am so sorry to take up your time. It is just so exciting."
Darcy replied, "It has been our pleasure. Of course you are excited about your niece's wedding."
As they started home, Elizabeth said to him, "Thank you for your forbearance. I know she can be difficult."
"She means well and is now family. One makes allowances for family. After all, you accepted me even after you met my aunt." She had to smile at that allusion.
Later that afternoon, as Darcy and Elizabeth walked in the garden, he said in a hesitating voice, "I thought we might talk of Mr. Gordon and Georgiana."
"What do you think of him?"
"I know nothing against him. I have known him a number of years. He seems a serious young man."
"He seems taken with your sister. Her thoughts seem less clear. She seems to hide them well like Jane and you."
He smiled. "She probably learned that from me. I think she would discourage him if she were not at least somewhat interested. I thought perhaps you could speak to her?"
"I can try. You know, if they become attached, we might miss the season except for her presentation."
"True. That is a possible benefit."
"Do you doubt he is good enough for her?"
"Of course. But realistically, I know he is a good man. It is just hard to realize that she may be gone soon. I had expected to have more time to become accustomed to the idea."
"At least if they are already attached, you know she will not be at the mercy of some fortune hunter stealing her heart."
"That is true. While he does not have an estate, he is comfortable in town. He inherited a small sum from his grandmother when she passed and, as far as I know, is not in need of extra income. I feel I can trust her with him."
"I will do what I can to find out how she feels."
Later that afternoon, Elizabeth asked Georgiana if she'd like to go for a walk. Everyone else was busy at some project, so Georgiana agreed. As they started into the woods behind Longbourn, Elizabeth said, "It seems that Mr. Gordon is interested in you. Do you mind my asking what your opinion of him is?"
"I had thought he might be interested. I am not sure how I feel but enjoy talking to him."
"That is always a good start. There is no hurry to make any decisions."
"I know that, but I also realize that it is hard to trust my own opinion. I made a terrible mistake before."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"If William hasn't told you, then not really. I know I was merely naïve when I thought I had an attachment. Now it is hard to trust."
"You know your brother would interfere if he thought Mr. Gordon not good enough. Has he tried to convince you not to see him?"
"No, he has not. In fact, he just seems to be watching."
"And trusting that you know what you are doing?"
"Yes, and trusting that I know...how strange. Of course he would stop me if there was something wrong. I should have realized that before."
"Then, does that mean you now know how you feel?"
"I think I welcome his attentions. We talk so easily together. He makes me feel, somehow, competent to handle anything."
"That should be reassuring."
"I hadn't thought about it. I will now, though."
"If you ever want to talk, I am here."
"Thank you Lizzy. I am glad to have all these new sisters. It is so nice."
"We are all glad to have you too."
"But, if I do attach Mr. Gordon, you and I will have no time together."
"We will have the rest of our lives. We just would not live together often."
They enjoyed a pleasant hour walking through autumn leaves and growing closer to one another. Elizabeth's approbation actually meant a lot to Georgiana's self-confidence. Since she had never had close friends before, she had tended to doubt herself in social situations. Her friendships with Kitty, Lydia, and Elizabeth had helped her realize that she was well worth knowing, and not just because of her brother, which she had suspected was the reason some of her other friends were friends with her.
The next day, when her brother called, she asked him to take a walk. They discussed her situation with a fair degree of openness. By then, she had determined that, if Mr. Gordon were truly interested, she would encourage him. Darcy agreed that he would not discourage Mr. Gordon, so they were generally in agreement.
Posted on 2015-10-21
Lydia had helped Elizabeth plan the wedding breakfast with a strong assist from Lady Stanford, Kitty and Georgiana. Mrs. Annesley merely observed. It was not often that the autumn training for the Bennet girls would include something as special as a wedding breakfast, and all of the girls wanted to participate. The other weddings had taken place after the season when they were far more experienced as hostesses.
Georgiana provided a list of some of her brother's favorite foods. They sat in the parlor one morning discussing what was currently available in the markets, which of the favorites might be in season, other excellent options for a celebratory meal, and what they all liked. Finally, they put together a likely menu. At this point, Mrs. Hill joined the group to review the menu. She had a few suggestions for modifications before everyone finally agreed.
For a few days before the ceremony, the kitchen was busy with preparations for the feast. A few items that could be prepared in advance were readied and stored away. Two days before, Longbourn received a large delivery of additional items that were not produced on the Longbourn farms. Lydia oversaw the maids polishing silver and ensured that all the plate and crystal shined. Kitty opted to oversee the extra cleaning done so that Longbourn would be as much of a showcase as it possibly could. They had decided that for this wedding, Netherfield was not suitable. Elizabeth wanted to celebrate in her childhood home.
The Gardiners arrived with their family to extend the celebration. The children remained in the nursery while Mrs. Gardiner helped the rest of the women. Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Bennet joined the shooting party. It was much easier for the men to stay away from the wedding details and its attendant stresses.
While all this activity occurred in Longbourn, Darcy's relatives arrived at Netherfield to support him in his wedding. Lord and Lady Matlock were pleased to accept the Bingleys' invitation to stay with Darcy at Netherfield. Lady Frances and Adam Gorham were also able to join them. Neither of the military cousins could get leave, and the Viscount and his wife had a previous commitment with her family and sent their best wishes. The shooting party participants were happy to welcome Lord Matlock and Adam Gorham to their morning pursuits. Jane hosted a dinner to welcome the additions. However, she only invited those staying at Longbourn to supplement those at Netherfield.
Lady Matlock was pleased to see Kitty. After greetings were exchanged, she moved directly to her future daughter to ask how things had been going since July. They had exchanged letters, but she wanted more details than Kitty had included in the letters. They discussed the earlier wedding and all the planning for Darcy's wedding to Elizabeth.
Mr. Bennet was pleased to meet Lord Matlock. The two stood at the side watching all the happy conversations that preceded dinner. Lurinda sat with some of the other ladies listening quietly to their chatter. Lord Matlock said, "Your new wife seems to enjoy her new family although she seems a little quieter than the rest."
"It is one of the reasons she is my new wife. I do not truly enjoy many social activities and prefer quiet time with my books. Mrs. Bennet is of a similar mind. She was already friends with some of my daughters which has made this transition somewhat easier for her. And her younger sister married one of our neighbors when we were wed in August, so she also has family locally now. I appreciate that it will be quite a bit quieter at home as my last daughters leave. I understand one of them may come spend a great deal of time with you in the future."
"I have hopes that your daughter might entice my son from his life at sea. So far, the sea has been a mistress that constantly calls to him. However, the letter we recently received gives me some hope that he finds Miss Bennet more enticing. He wrote about her at great length."
"I am sure Kitty would enjoy having him around on a more regular basis, but she seems resigned to being the wife of a navy captain. She has been reading about the navy so as to have more understanding of his life. One of Darcy's friends gave her all sorts of advice about traveling with her husband, so she is trying to prepare herself for that possibility."
Dinner was a meal full of pleasant conversations and laughter. Just before the ladies prepared to remove, Bingley stood up and cleared his throat. "Since the whole family is here, with a few close friends, I have an announcement to make. I am happy to say that Mrs. Bingley will add to our family sometime in February."
At this announcement, all offered their congratulations to a blushing Jane. As the ladies retired to the parlor, the men offered toasts to Bingley of the brandy he now shared around. In the parlor, Jane was the center of happy attention.
When Jane and Elizabeth had a quiet moment together, Lizzy said, "Jane, I am so happy for you. I am glad you told us before we left for our wedding trip. Will you still go to town next winter?"
"I think it not likely. I expect to be confined here, and then remain through the spring after the babe arrives. Charles does not mind missing the season. I am sorry I cannot help Aunt Bess with Lydia and Georgiana."
Lizzy smiled. "It looks like you may have done that when you invited Mr. Gordon and Mr. Chester."
Jane laughed, "It is true that they may have already found someone. However, it is nice to have help before the presentation, and I cannot help with that. I expect Mrs. Darcy will have to be there, though."
"Mrs. Darcy. How well that sounds."
Lady Stanford joined them at this and added, "Well Jane, that is one way to get out of helping me with Lydia. I am very happy for you both."
Helen and Joanne offered their congratulations, but as they visited together, Helen said, "This makes three for her. Apparently, she does not know how to keep his attentions from her. Perhaps she needs to encourage him to look elsewhere."
Joanne replied, "I think this was a love match, Helen. I do not think she wants to discourage him in any way. Perhaps they see a child as a blessing. I know I would."
"Oh, I did not realize that you actually wanted one. I certainly would not want to sacrifice my figure for a child. I expect Mr. Gerard will want one eventually. For now, it is easier to simply avoid any attentions which would lead to one."
Mrs. Hurst was standing near them as they talked and added, "I think Mrs. Campbell is correct. Jane chose Charles out of affection, and the child is a proof of that for her. She had no need to marry again. I know they feel this is a blessing." Privately, she thought that perhaps she should encourage Mr. Hurst's attentions herself. They had grown somewhat closer since eliminating Caroline from the relationship. She considered whether or not she would welcome the addition of a child and decided that she would.
When the men joined the ladies, the mood changed, and the ladies each took turns providing music. Finally, the carriages arrived to take the Longbourn inhabitants home and farewells were exchanged. Georgiana promised to come spend the next morning with her aunt while the Bennets spent the time with final wedding preparations.
The day before the wedding, Sir William dropped by Longbourn to notify everyone that Charlotte had safely delivered a son whom they had named Michael after his father. Mother and child were both doing well. Lady Lucas would remain for a few weeks, and then travel on to Kent to attend Maria. Everyone offered hearty congratulations to Sir William. Elizabeth penned a congratulatory note to her friend. How happy that Charlotte now had her own son!
Shortly after Sir William departed, the Raynor carriage returned from Surrey carrying Mrs. Raynor, senior. Elizabeth had sent her carriage to collect her mother-in-law in order to reaffirm her commitment to Allen's family as well as her new one. Mrs. Raynor was grateful to be included. She disliked travel and had delayed her arrival as much as she could. She did not like sleeping in a strange bed.
As Mrs. Raynor descended from the carriage, she exclaimed, "Oh, Lizzy. I am so excited for you. How happy you must be. And Allen, come to grandmamma, I have missed you so." She gave Elizabeth a quick kiss on the cheek as she scooped up her grandson. She refused to relinquish him as they moved to the parlor. Still holding the child, she was introduced to those previously unknown to her. Upon learning that Georgiana was Darcy's sister, she carried Allen over and sat down next to Georgiana saying, "Oh, how fortunate that you are also here. You can tell me all about your brother. I have so many questions."
"I would be happy to answer all that I can," replied Georgiana with a smile. For the next quarter of an hour, she provided answers until Mrs. Raynor started calming down.
At this point, Elizabeth said, "Mother Raynor, would you like to go to your room to refresh? You will have all afternoon to ask any number of questions, and Mr. Darcy will be here later too."
Mrs. Raynor smiled sheepishly and said, "I am just so happy for you and Allen. Of course, I realize you will live far less with me at Raynor Hall, but every young boy needs a father."
As the ascended to her room, Elizabeth reassured her, "You are always welcome to join us, whether at Pemberley or another of our homes. We will of course be frequently at Raynor Hall, but we would be happy to have you with us whenever you desire. You are simply gaining an additional son."
When Darcy arrived, he affirmed that sentiment. "Indeed, Mrs. Raynor, Mrs. Elizabeth Raynor comes with a complete family package-her Bennet relations and her Raynor relations. You all become my family for which I am grateful. For so many years, it has been just Georgiana and me. Now to have an abundance of sisters as well as new mothers and father is a true blessing for us." He graciously sat with her to reassure her and answer the questions that Georgiana had not. By the time supper arrived, she was happy in her new son.
Elizabeth woke early on her wedding day. She could hear no one else stirring, so it was likely quite early. She could see that dawn was not yet arrived as she wrapped in a blanket and moved to sit in the window seat in her room. She watched the sky begin to turn pink as she contemplated this next chapter of her life.
She thought back to her excitement of her first wedding day. She had thought herself so much in love with Allen. The wedding had been simple but well attended. The breakfast had been held at Stanford House in London with none of her friends from Meryton in attendance. They had taken a trip to Cornwall for the first weeks of their marriage getting to know one another intimately. They had then settled into life at Raynor Hall. Young Allen had come along, then the ill-fated race with Robert Nelson. She thought further of meeting Darcy last autumn and the slow course of their relationship. With a smile, she realized that she had needed someone like him, with his steadiness and sense of duty, to help counteract her disappointment with Allen's foolhardy risk-taking. She had no concerns about this new chapter she was starting with him.
Finally, it was time to start dressing. Her maid helped her into her dress and did her hair for her. While this was going on, Elizabeth heard the noise of other inhabitants of the house dressing and having a light repast. As she was donning her jewelry, Aunt Bess knocked at her door.
"Please, come in."
"You look quite lovely, my dear. Is there anything we can do for you this morning?"
"No, I think everything is covered. Thank you for letting Jane watch Allen while we are on our wedding trip. I am sure you will be busy enough with my sisters not to also need to watch my son."
"I would have been happy to watch Allen, but I know that Jane is looking forward to having him there with the girls again. So, are you ready?"
"Yes. I have been pondering the road that led here, and I can say I am very ready. No nerves this time at all, unlike the first time. We have all been very lucky to have you in our lives. Without you, everything might have been very different. I do not think we have said thank you enough."
"You all have thanked me many times and in many different ways. Hal has had little need of me, and it helped me to be of assistance to Thomas and you girls. I have truly enjoyed it. I think it has helped keep me young too."
"Perhaps this time, you might find someone for yourself?"
"I am not looking, but neither was your father, so I will just say it is not likely. I like my life as it is." She gave Elizabeth a kiss and added, "The rest of us are leaving now. You and your father can follow when you are ready."
"Thank you again." They embraced, and Lady Stanford departed. Within minutes, Elizabeth heard carriages departing and quiet in the house. A moment later, there was another knock at her door.
"I am coming, Father," she called as she moved to the door. She opened it and looked into his eyes. "Are we ready to go?"
"We are. He is a good man. I could not see you go to someone less deserving. It is good to see you happy again."
They left the house, and Mr. Bennet helped her into the carriage. They talked about inconsequentials as they rode the short distance to the church. They moved to the waiting room, still not saying much, where Kitty, Lydia, and Georgiana waited as attendants. They helped her smooth her dress while her father watched with unshed tears in his eyes.
Out in the sanctuary, Lady Matlock was seated in the pew where the mother of the groom would normally sit. Lord Matlock sat next to her with Lady Frances and Adam to his right. Behind the Fitzwilliams were the other members of the shooting party as well as a few of the other neighbors. On the bride's side, it was full of family members and friends. Lizzy had always been popular, and they were happy to celebrate this occasion with her. Mrs. Raynor sat next to Lurinda in the seat normally reserved for the bride's mother. They were pleased to share that relationship for this wedding. Kitty and Lydia sat next to Mrs. Raynor. Jane sat behind Lady Stanford and her sisters with all three of the children and their nurses.
Darcy stood at the front of the church trying not to appear nervous. Normally, his cousins would have been attendants, but since they could not be here, the men from the shooting party filled in. Kitty would be partnered by Bingley, Lydia by Chester, and Georgiana by Gordon. He nervously wondered if those latter two would eventually become partners in life. His attention was then captured by a change in the music as the bride's attendants began the procession. As they completed their walk, the music changed again, all stood and turned to watch Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet walk down the aisle together.
Elizabeth had a demure smile on her face as she proceeded down the aisle on the arm of her father. This was similar to the first wedding in some ways but so different in others. She was not as naïve as she was the first time, and if possible, she was even more in love. She felt secure in her relationship with Darcy and knew she could always rely on him.
The bride and groom were attentive to all that Reverend Clark said as he moved through the wedding ceremony. Reverend Clark was pleased that he had married Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in August, Mary the previous August, and Elizabeth this time, since she had married in London the first time. He had watched them all mature and was happy that they had found excellent husbands. The tragedy that had widowed the two eldest was now abated with happy new marriages. He wondered if Kitty would marry from Meryton when her sailor returned. He also speculated that Lydia would soon be following her sister into matrimony as he watched the glances between her and Mr. Chester. These thoughts went through his mind as he watched the couple and his congregation during the ceremony. Finally, he pronounced them man and wife and introduced Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy to the congregation.
After the recessional, the couple and their witnesses signed the register, and the marriage was official. Well-wishers thronged the couple to offer congratulations before those closest joined them at Longbourn for the wedding breakfast. Toasts were plentiful matching the variety of food and drink. Everyone had a wonderful time. After perhaps an hour and a half, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy bid everyone farewell for a tour of Wales.
After the bride and groom left, small groups broke off and returned home or wandered about the grounds. Lydia found herself in the garden with Mr. Chester looking at the mums in bloom. After some moments, he said, "Miss Lydia, I know you have said multiple times that you hope to have at least two seasons in London to really enjoy yourself. I must tell you how uneasy that thought makes me. What would you say to having the season, but not as a debutant, but as either my betrothed, or better yet, my wife? I have been doing the rounds for a number of years and have never seen anyone as wonderful as you. I fear if you go up to town, I might never convince you to take my suit seriously as you will be inundated with beaux. I fear to wait any longer."
Lydia stopped in amazement. She finally said, "Mr. Chester, you take me by surprise. It is true that I enjoy your company, but I had never really thought to a future together. I admit that I have been distracted by the wedding and the training my aunt is giving me. Could you give me a little time before I give you an answer? I truly had no awareness that you felt like this."
"Of course, you can take all the time you need. Like I said, I know my own mind and would like to ensure my future while I can. If you do accept me, I can promise you those seasons in town and many more as well. Now, can you explain to me why this is the only bed in the garden where there are mums of many different colors? The other beds with mums seem to have but a single color."
Lydia took a moment to compose herself, and answered with only a slightly shaky voice, "This was my mother's design. You can see that there are five beds of single colors, one for each of her girls. This one combining them is our family all together. Autumn was her favorite season. Since the mums bloom then, she could see each of her girls and the whole family in flowers as she worked in the garden. We had two brothers who died shortly after Mother. Those plum trees represent our brothers. Father and Aunt Stanford would tell us stories about Mother and the garden when I was young. Gradually, the stories stopped, but Father would not have the garden changed. Happily, he told Lurinda, and she has agreed to maintain this portion for Mother's memory."
"That is a sweet memorial to your mother."
"I think it has been hard for our father raising us with just a little help from his sister. I am happy he has found a companion now that the rest of us are leaving him alone. As to your question from before, I will give you an answer tomorrow if you would come by at the end of the morning."
"I will see you then." Mr. Chester then took his leave and rode back to Netherfield. The shooting party would be breaking up in another week, and he wanted to have a decision of some sort before he left.
Lydia returned to the house and retired to her room to ponder what she felt for Mr. Chester. She was quieter than usual at dinner, but given the emotion of the day, no comment was made. Everyone retired early, but Lydia found herself unable to sleep. How ironic that she, who had wanted time for fun before finding a husband, had found one while still in Meryton before even going to London. The more she considered, the more she discovered that she could picture a future with Mr. Chester. She had heard much of the advice to Kitty the previous autumn, and she weighed all that advice against what she was feeling.
Finally sleep overcame her, but as she drifted off, she realized that she would like to accept Mr. Chester's offer. She would talk to both her aunt and her father in the morning to make a final decision.
Georgiana had had an interesting conversation that afternoon as well. She and Mr. Gordon were strolling along the lawn in the garden talking of the wedding. He blushed and said, "Miss Darcy, may I ask you a question?"
"I would like to formally court you unless you agree to a betrothal now based on our current acquaintance. I realize you do not have the experience of a London season and have no real standard of comparison to know if I would be suitable or not, but I have attended a number of seasons and have never met anyone to compare with you. You are so easy to talk to. I find I really enjoy the time we spend together. If you give me permission, I will discuss your choice with your brother when he returns. We can proceed from there until you have decided if I am acceptable."
"Mr. Gordon, I realize what an honor you do me. I have met a number of my brother's and cousins' friends, so I have more comparisons to make than you might think. I too find you easy to be with. Lady Stanford has explained that as we meet possible suitors, we try to imagine what life would be like with them in ten or twenty years. Would we have conversation or lead separate lives? I agree that we have much in common and could build a good life together. I give you leave to talk to Fitzwilliam when they return about betrothal. I would like to have a true courtship, though, as I feel I have so much to learn from Lady Stanford before I am truly ready to be a wife. Do you mind?"
"That sounds find to me. I am sure you would do fine without more training, but I can see that she can help you grow in confidence as an adult. Thank you."
Georgiana went to bed that night with less turmoil in her mind than Lydia. Because she had talked previously with both Elizabeth and Darcy, she was more comfortable in her decision to allow a courtship. Perhaps they might have an engagement before or at the beginning of her season. There was no need to decide before the Darcys returned from their trip.
Posted on 2015-10-28
The next morning, Lydia was still unsure of what answer to give Mr. Chester. After a brief breakfast, she knocked at the door to her father's library.
"Enter," he called. Upon seeing her, he continued, "Lydia, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"
"Father, I am in a quandary and need some advice."
"I am ready to listen."
"It seems that Mr. Chester has developed an admiration for me. He would like to marry me and still give me my season or two in London. I enjoy his company but had not really thought about it as more than that. I really do not know what to say to him."
"So, you enjoy his company. That is a good start."
"Yes. I find him very easy to talk to. We seem to enjoy many of the same topics of conversation. He enjoys riding, as do I. We even have similar opinions about such things as the need to exhibit our accomplishments."
"Can you imagine what it might be like if you were both twenty years older with children under foot?"
"Maybe. I have just been so focused on learning the household management and small talk and such things that I never really thought to attract someone so early. Honestly, I like him well enough, but I am not sure I am ready to manage my own home. There is still so much to learn."
"You could agree to betrothal while your aunt continues your training so that you could be ready in the spring. You need not have an engagement as long as Kitty's, but not as brief as mine or Lizzy's either. Perhaps a few months would give you the foundation you need?"
"I think you may be right. I have been uneasy about moving on just yet. He will be calling later this morning. If I accept a betrothal, you will give him your blessing?"
"Yes, I will. But I will ask him to delay setting a date until you feel ready to take over managing your own establishment. You can still go to town already engaged, have some fun with the season and your presentation, and then marry him in the spring. I daresay other debutants will be friendlier knowing that you are not competing with them for the eligible men."
"Thank you, Father. I will go talk to aunt about it. I would guess Lurinda will appreciate it when we go off to London and she can start managing here. She has been very good to let us take over for her. I am glad you chose her."
"Thank you, my dear."
Lydia had that discussion with her aunt who agreed with Mr. Bennet's advice. When Mr. Chester appeared, the same conversation ensued with Chester cheerfully agreeing to a long engagement and a season in London. He stayed to dinner where Mr. Bennet announced the engagement to the rest of the family.
"I have some wonderful news to share. Lydia and Mr. Chester have agreed to become betrothed with a plan to marry at the end of the London season. I have given them my blessing and wish them all the best."
All offered their congratulations. Georgiana realized that she and Lydia had similar plans, although her own betrothal would not be official until Darcy returned. After dinner, she went to Lydia and explained what her own plans were. The two went to Lady Stanford and Mrs. Annesley to update her on their similar ideas. Lady Stanford agreed to continue to help them through their engagements. Mrs. Annesley decided she would move to Scotland and her daughter after the wedding.
As the two young women talked of their plans, they realized that it would be fun to have a double wedding. Lydia had enjoyed the double wedding of Lurinda and Rachel and thought it would be fun for her and Georgiana. Both agreed to discuss it with their intendeds the next day. The result of these discussions was an agreement to do so in London sometime in the spring pending Darcy's approval.
Mr. Gordon had a conversation with Bingley informing him of the proposed engagement with Miss Darcy. He wondered if he could prolong the shooting party invitation so that he could talk with Darcy as soon as they returned from their wedding trip. Bingley was agreeable, although the Gerards and Campbells would leave as originally planned. Mr. Chester wanted to stay, if he was still welcome, so as to continue to visit Lydia.
Lydia's engagement was all the talk of the sewing circle when they met the next time. Kitty and Jane marveled at how well Lydia handled the questioning of the neighborhood women. She had developed a great deal more poise and restraint than she had had the previous autumn when Mr. Collins had visited. Georgiana was secretly glad she could watch this before it was her own turn, which she knew was coming.
Finally, Darcy and Elizabeth returned from Wales. The scenery had been beautiful, and they had found a great deal of satisfaction in the growing intimacy of their relationship. They moved into rooms together at Netherfield with only a minimal amount of blushing on Elizabeth's part. The Longbourn inhabitants had joined those at Netherfield for dinner that evening. The Darcys learned of Lydia's engagement and offered their congratulations to the couple. While the men were sharing a brandy after dinner, Mr. Gordon had a chance to visit quietly with Darcy. He shared his proposal and Georgiana's tentative acceptance pending Darcy's return. He also shared the plan for her to have her season and the double wedding at the end.
"I will say that I am not surprised. I had surmised your attachment and more or less resigned myself to it. I am pleased that you are willing to go slowly and allow her to grow into her new role."
"I greatly esteem your sister and want whatever will facilitate her happiness. While I don't enjoy the London social scene greatly, I know it is important to participate in it in order to give validity and importance to the relationship. Your family will also want some time to get to know me. My family is just my mother who lives with me in London. I know she will love your sister."
"Well, you both have my blessing. Shall we announce your decisions tonight too?"
"I believe it would please us both."
There were a few knowing looks as congratulations were offered to this new couple. The young women then shared their expectation that they would hold a double wedding next spring in London. The dinner was quite pleasant.
The next day, Sir William called at Longbourn to share the news that Maria had safely delivered a daughter, named Amelia after Lady Lucas.
After congratulations, Mr. Bennet commented, "How ironic that the heir due to the entail begins with a daughter. I wish them all the best."
Lurinda smiled and offered her congratulations too. As Sir William took his leave, she followed Mr. Bennet into the library and said, "Thomas, I hope the pattern of daughters might soon be broken. I expect we will find out in late spring. I hope it will not interfere with our participation in the weddings."
"We are to have a child?"
"So it seems. I hope you are pleased."
"I am. I had never thought to marry again until I met you. Now to have an additional chance at children is wondrous."
"I would like to wait until after I feel the child quicken before we tell anyone else."
"Very well. I fear some might suspect as I predict I will be smiling a lot more than usual."
"We can convince them it is because your youngest daughter is already attached and will be well settled."
"You are correct. That is also a reason to celebrate. Thanks to Bess's guidance, my girls have all managed to find satisfactory marriages. Given the limited social circle here in Meryton, I do not know how we would have succeeded without her help."
"Let us hope it will be easier for any children we raise together. Of course, we can have the additional assistance from our daughters' families. Yes, you have much reason to smile."
And so it proved to be. Lydia and Georgiana had successful seasons and made many friends since they were no competition in the marriage mart, being already engaged. Both became somewhat more comfortable with exhibiting, but in the future, both played only for the family.
Before the spring wedding, Andrew Fitzwilliam returned home again. He had been wounded taking a prize ship and had suddenly realized that Kitty was more important to him than the sea. The prize ship was the last piece in giving him a comfortable fortune for their future together. With his return, the double wedding switched to a triple wedding as he resigned from the navy.
Although there was some confusion with three couples at the altar, the triple wedding was a highlight of the season for many. The Fitzwilliams and Darcys were well respected members of the Ton. The Bennet girls had all been popular during their seasons and their friends in town were happy to see Lydia marry well. Both Georgiana and Lydia each produced three sons very near each other in age. They continued to remain close friends visiting one another often.
Lady Matlock was well pleased that Andrew would no longer risk himself at sea. Andrew and Kitty settled in a seaside estate, Andrew stating that he still must have his view of the ocean. They continued to lease his original estate and enjoy its rents. Eventually, they purchased the seaside estate. They were blessed with two sons who chose not to follow their father's example by joining the navy. Each would receive an estate upon the passing of Andrew.
Jane delivered a son in February who was named Charles after his father. Given how fair both parents were, it was no surprise that he was fair haired and blue-eyed with a sweet disposition. Meg and Betsy doted on him. He proved a champion to both his younger sisters and brothers and a protector of the older as well. Eventually the Bingleys relocated to an estate in Derbyshire to be nearer to Elizabeth.
Lurinda was large with child at the time of the triple wedding, but luckily the babe agreed to wait until two weeks after the ceremony, giving the Bennets time to go to London and return to Longbourn for the birth. Tom Bennet made his appearance as the first of four boys Lurinda bore Thomas. These boys were all close friends with their half-nieces and nephews including the three boys Mary had.
Maria bore three more girls to Mr. Collins who was no longer the Longbourn heir. While he had some resentment at the loss of an estate, Maria continued to help him become his better self. Eventually, he assumed command of more than Hunsford living and had a comfortable life with Maria and their girls.
Charlotte Wilson added two more boys to the family. The Wilsons continued to live near Raynor Hall and spent much time consoling Mrs. Raynor over the loss of Elizabeth's companionship as she chose not to live with the Darcys.
Rachel and John Lucas were very happy together. They had one son who would eventually take over management of the family business. She loved living in Meryton near her sister.
Darcy and Elizabeth split their time primarily between Pemberley and Raynor Hall. Allen was the older brother to three younger brothers and two sisters. Eventually Allen moved to Raynor Hall and had a full and happy life. His grandmother continued to live there and enjoyed the first few years of married life with him and his bride. She had been able to see him regularly through the years even though she refused to move to Pemberley and remained very close to him. He was happy to help care for her in her final years.
With such examples of felicity before them, the Hursts learned how to esteem one another better. This produced three sons and a great deal more energy in his estate management on the part of Sebastian. They were surprisingly happy together.
During the season for Lydia and Georgiana, Lady Stanford made an unanticipated conquest and, by the end of the summer, had married again. Sir Henry no longer had his mother at home for part of the year to help support him in rearing a growing family. She moved to Scotland with her new husband and helped love his grandchildren who all lived with his children nearby. She continued to visit regularly with her friend, Mrs. Annesley, and occasionally visited her son and family.
Although the Darcys did not visit Rosings for some years after their marriage, Maria functioned as a conduit for Darcy with Anne's manuscripts.
Anne continued to write prolifically, although anonymously, until the death of Lady Catherine some five years later. Once her mother had passed, she began placing her name on her novels which continued to grow in popularity. She chose never to marry. Once she could openly welcome Darcy and her family, she became very attached to his youngest son. As the estate that would be available to him was quite small, Anne made him her heir. She enjoyed being a favorite aunt of all the Darcy children even though that was not strictly the actual relationship.
And what of Caroline Bingley? She found she was required to become financial manager as her husband was incapable of denying himself anything which looked like it would lead to debt and possibly bankruptcy in the future. Her step-daughter/friend Elizabeth did not marry until she was thirty two, so they had ten years together. Her other step-daughters were quicker to leave the parental nest. She managed to produce a single child, luckily a son, to inherit the title and estate. It was upon learning she was with child that she took over management of the purse. This enabled her to actually build up, rather than encumber, the estate. She seldom remembered her brother and sister. Her new life was all that she had ever hoped for even though she did not spend much time in London. It was enough that she was the most important socialite in her neighborhood.The End