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With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 27 and 28

July 08, 2015 07:03PM
AN: Thanks again for the comments. I am glad you are enjoying my story. This chapter is a little more mature than the rest, but still only PG.
Chapter 27

Two days later, Lydia and Sally took a basket of baked goods to the Rogers family. They had a pleasant visit before bundling up again for the walk home. For February, it was quite a nice day, sunny and not bitterly cold. As they were nearing a clearing in the woods, Lydia heard some funny noises ahead. She said to Sally, “Please wait here. I will see what that noise is.” Sally nodded her acceptance.

Lydia crept forward on the path, keeping quiet so as not to warn whoever was making the noise. What she saw shocked her thoroughly. Caroline Goulding was pushed up against a tree with her skirts raised, and Lieutenant Wickham was up against her. He was talking in a breathless, cajoling voice saying, “If we head first to London, we can lose any pursuit there. Then we can catch a post-chaise for Scotland.”

She heard Caroline breathlessly reply, “If you are sure you won’t get in trouble for being gone, when do you want to go?”

Silence for a moment, followed by, “I thought to leave tonight. I could come by Haye Park around 11. Everyone should be asleep by then. Come meet me in the road in front and we can be on our way.”

A moment later, he stepped back and Caroline straightened her clothing and said, “Am I back in order?”

“Yes, you look fine.”

“Very well. Yes, I can join you at 11. Will not Colonel Forster mind that you leave?”

“No, I have permission to be gone. You will see; all will be well.”

As it looked like they were preparing to leave the clearing, Lydia scooted back to Sally and whispered, “Follow me. Quick.” She darted back down the path they had already covered. Then, she began speaking to Sally in a much louder voice, as a warning to Caroline and Wickham. “I am glad that Mrs. Rogers and the new baby are doing so well. This walk has been pleasant today, but with the wind that is coming up now, will be less so tomorrow.” As they entered the clearing, they saw Caroline Goulding but no sign of Wickham now existed. Lydia continued, “Oh, hello Caroline. Isn’t it lovely out here today?”

Caroline replied, “Yes, it is a beautiful day for a walk. Can I join you at Longbourn for a visit, Lydia?”

“Certainly. It has been quite some time since we have been able to sit and visit. Hill said something about a new biscuit recipe for us to try today. What do you think about Harriet marrying Colonel Forster?”

Walking behind the two, Sally was looking at Caroline speculatively. She wondered what the noises had been but said nothing. However, she continued to speculate.

When the visit was over and Caroline had left, Lydia went to her father’s library and knocked at the door. Upon being allowed to enter, she closed the door behind her, which did not often occur, causing Mr. Bennet to raise an eyebrow. “I have something very private to talk with you about, and I do not want anyone to overhear.”

“Very well.” He motioned her over to a chair and moved to one next to it. “What is troubling you?”

“Sally and I took a basket of baked goods over to Mrs. Rogers and her new baby this morning. On the way home, I saw and heard something that worries me a great deal. I do not know what to do about it.”

“Let me hear it and we shall decide together.”

“As we were nearing that large clearing on the path between their home and ours, I heard funny noises up ahead and sent Sally back in case it was something dangerous. It was Caroline Goulding and Lieutenant Wickham engaging in intimacies. That would have been bad enough, but he was making an assignation to take her to London with him tonight. Supposedly they would go on to Scotland, London only allowing them to lose any pursuit. But I am afraid she would end up like those women at that clinic. I like Caroline. I do not want that to happen to her. I do not know what to do.”

Mr. Bennet patted her hand and asked, “Were the intimacies more than just kisses?”

“Much more and more like what I have seen the animals in the fields up to.” As she said this, she blushed a bright red and looked away in embarrassment.

“Ah yes.” He cleared his throat, obviously also a little embarrassed. “Well. If you can, forget what you saw and tell me when and where they are to meet.”

“11 tonight in the road in front of Haye Park. He says he will borrow a carriage and meet her then.”

“You may leave everything to me, child. You have done well to tell me.”

“Could I go to my room and lie down? I think I have a headache.”

Lydia headed to her room. Mr. Bennet had a word with Miss Bosworth asking her to keep an eye on his youngest daughter who had just grown up very much that afternoon. He headed directly to Haye Park to meet with William Goulding. He told Goulding what Lydia had witnessed and heard. Goulding hung his head in dismay and said, “Caroline has always had such a wild streak. Now what?”

Mr. Bennet replied, “I have an idea. Let us go together to Colonel Forster. I doubt that Lieutenant Wickham actually has permission to leave tonight. We can set a trap for him so that he can be tried for desertion. However, for your daughter, we must find someone willing to marry her. I think Lizzy may have a tenant who might be willing. We were discussing his problems just last month. I can think of no other solution for Miss Goulding. Lydia will not talk, but I do not know if Sally actually saw anything or not. Inevitably, people find out, even if she is not with child.”

Mr. Goulding and Mr. Bennet were able to meet with Colonel Forster within the hour. He was unhappy that an officer had taken advantage of a local young lady. At eighteen, one would hope Caroline Goulding was mature enough to know better, but she had still succumbed. He agreed that arresting the Lieutenant after he had ‘borrowed’ the carriage and escorted his prospective bride into it would be for the best. The court martial could follow within the next few days.

The men spent an hour together planning what would be done, by whom, and how to best protect Miss Goulding. Since she was not of age, her removal from the home would legally constitute kidnapping even though she was to go willingly. Finally, they were ready to act and would meet again outside Haye Park at about 10:30.

Mr. Bennet returned home to find Lydia still in her room, not interested in eating any supper or tea. He spent a half an hour with her reassuring her and providing what comfort her could. They talked of the impact to the family and how the Gouldings might be shunned if word got out about what Caroline had done. Lydia remembered a family that had moved away when she was younger due to what must have been a similar situation. They had been shunned and refused to stay after the shunning began. Mr. Bennet indicated that he thought there was a way out and he would help Mr. Goulding pursue that.

After everyone retired for the night, Mr. Bennet dressed to go out again. He rode over to Haye Park and stabled his horse in the barn. He joined Colonel Forster and some of his men in a dark corner of the garden to wait. Shortly after all the lights were out in Haye Park, William Goulding joined them in the corner. Soon, they heard carriage wheels coming down the road and saw a carriage pull to a halt. Colonel Forster’s men quietly surrounded the carriage while still remaining far enough away to be undetected. After a wait of perhaps five minutes, they heard the kitchen door of the house open and saw a muffled figure emerge.

The figure scurried down the path and through the gate into the road. The driver of the carriage jumped down and doffed his cap. He said, “You are wonderfully punctual. Let me help you in with your bag and we can be on our way.” He opened the door and threw her bag in onto the front seat, then helped her in and settled her on the other. As he shut the door and mounted the carriage again, he was stopped by the voice of Colonel Forster.

“Going somewhere, Lieutenant?”

Shock kept him silent for a moment. He struck the reins to get the horses started, but two men jumped to grab them and stop them. Mr. Goulding strode forward and pulled open the door to the carriage. Caroline squeaked as he grabbed her bag and her arm and pulled her from the carriage.

“What ever were you thinking. Come with me now and say nothing.” He dragged her up to the house None of the soldiers would be sure who had been leaving with Wickham. It could have been a maid, which was the most that they could do to protect Caroline’s reputation. They might speculate, but there was nothing to show that it was a daughter of the house rather than a servant.

Wickham finally recovered and replied, “I was just taking her to London as she asked.”

Forster said, “And you have leave to be gone, do you?”

“Well, no, but I thought I’d likely be back before you noticed I was gone.”

“Indeed. And from whom did you borrow the carriage?”

“Well, it belongs to the inn.”

“Do they know you have it?”

“Not exactly. But I would have returned it when I returned tomorrow.”

“Men, the Lieutenant is now under arrest charged with theft, kidnapping, and desertion. Please keep him close and lock him in when we get back to headquarters.” He then directed two of the men to return the carriage and verify the lack of authority to borrow it. Once they were all gone, he turned to Mr. Bennet and said, “Thank you again for bringing this to my notice. There must be some pressing reason he was leaving so quickly. My guess would be debts of honor. We may have more charges to add before the trial.”

“You are welcome. I am only sorry things came to this.” He was happy to get back home and into his bed for a troubled night’s sleep.

The next day, it was found that Wickham indeed had a great number of debts. There were some in town, but most merchants had taken Mr. Bennet’s warning and limited Wickham’s credit. However, the debts of honor from gambling were found to be substantial. Since Wickham could not pay, he had decided to simply leave. As Colonel Forster investigated, he found that Wickham had also succeeded in seducing the daughters of a couple of the tradesmen, but that most of the gentlemen had succeeded in warning their daughters and kept them safe. One young woman was found to be with child and would be leaving to live with relatives elsewhere soon.

Mr. Bennet and Mr. Goulding had discussed a possible solution for marriage for Caroline in their meeting the previous day. To that end, Mr. Bennet left immediately after breakfast for London. He met with Elizabeth early that afternoon.

One of her tenants, John Stevens, was a widower with two sons, ages six and eight. His wife had died in childbirth three years earlier. His sister had come and tended the children until just recently when she had married and moved into her own home. Stevens wanted to keep his sons with him, but he could not pay for a housekeeper or nursemaid for the boys. They were currently living with their aunt and visited him occasionally. Elizabeth had been at a loss at how to help him and had discussed this with her father. He now proposed a solution for both problems, that Mr. Stevens marry Caroline Goulding. After Elizabeth heard his proposal, she agreed that it might be possible. Mr. Bennet would have to discuss it with Mr. Stevens.

By the time the discussion between Elizabeth and her father was over, it was too late for Mr. Bennet to go on to Raynor Hall that day, so he decided to stay with Jane that night. She had been out making calls when Mr. Bennet arrived and was happy to see him when she arrived home. She cancelled her previous plans to join a card party so that she might spend the evening with him. He did not tell her of the reason for his visit, merely that a problem had arisen that would require him to visit Raynor Hall. Jane did not question him, but happily spent an evening with him. He spent part of the day playing with his grandchildren as they were far less complicated and more easily amused at their ages.

The next day, he left early for Raynor Hall. The steward helped him locate John Stevens who was able to spend an hour with Mr. Bennet in discussion. He agreed to return with Mr. Bennet and meet Miss Goulding. If they should suit one another, he agreed to marry her in return for payment of her dowry of two hundred pounds. Mr. Bennet spent that night at Raynor Hall, sleeping better than he had for a couple of days, knowing that there might be hope for the Gouldings. He and William Goulding had always been friends, and he would not want to see his friend shunned for the foolishness of the daughter.

The men left early the next day. By evening, they were driving into Haye Park. Mr. Bennet introduced Mr. Goulding and Mr. Stevens and left them to become better acquainted. When he finally fell into his own bed that night, he slept deeply. Maybe there was hope.

While he was gone, Colonel Forster convened the court martial. Wickham had no defense as he had never expected to be caught. There was no way he could charm himself out of his situation. Although one of the officers tried to represent him, the verdict was a foregone conclusion. They would not even await the civil trial for the theft and kidnapping. Desertion during a time of war was cause for death. By the time Mr. Bennet returned with Stevens, Wickham had already been executed and buried. None of the officers knew who the woman in the case was, and Lydia said nothing, so there was only speculation. Sally wondered if Miss Goulding might have been the lady in question, considering their encounter in the woods. However, she was wise enough to keep her thoughts to herself. She did not want to jeopardize her comfortable situation at Longbourn.

It had taken the better part of a day for William and Anne Goulding to convince Caroline that she had thrown away her future when she had lifted her skirts for Lieutenant Wickham. When she finally understood that she had lost all choices in her life, she was dismayed. When Mr. Stevens arrived, he seemed like a godsend. Mr. and Mrs. Goulding liked him very well. He was a strong, mostly silent, man, almost completely illiterate. However, he was surprisingly gentle and caring. He had a long conversation with Caroline, after which he met with Mr. Goulding. Mr. Goulding offered to buy a special license, but Mr. Stevens declined.

“Let the banns be read these next three weeks. That will be time enough to tell if she be with child. If she is not, that is best. If she is, I would know. I will still wed her under your terms in either case. If there is a child, it will be mine, with no difference from my others. However, I must know. I will come back in three weeks and wed her in Meryton church in sight of all her friends. No shame to her. Let her friends think this was planned for many years.”

Mrs. Goulding said, “There will be talk. People know someone was running away with the man.”

Stevens said, “Send one of the maids with her. With the dowry, I can afford to pay one for a year or two. It will help her adjust and could very well be the one people think was going off. You can tell people you’ve known me for years and made the arrangement for after she turned eighteen two years ago after I was done mourning my wife. No one knows any different. Mr. Bennet came to collect me as you could not get away and he could.”

Mr. Goulding said, “You are a good man. Since you will be our son, can I call you John? I appreciate that you will care for our girl.”

“Yes, sir, call me John. She was just a little blinded, like, by the sweet talk. She seems a good girl over all. No need to suffer for what she done. And it helps me and my boys. I will bring them when I return so they can meet their new grandparents.”

The next day, John Stevens left again, but by post-chaise, and returned home to prepare for a new wife. Anne Goulding visited Mrs. Phillips as that would get the word out to everyone without a fuss. “Oh, Mrs. Phillips, with all the excitement, I forgot to mention that Caroline’s betrothed was finally able to visit and confirm a wedding date.”

“Caroline has a betrothed? When did that happen? I never heard.”

“Oh, these two years at least. Mr. Goulding arranged this for after her eighteenth birthday, which as you know, was a month ago. Mr. Stevens has only now been able to get away to visit and confirm things. The banns will be read Sunday. We are so pleased that all our plans are finally coming to pass. You must remember my telling you of this when we made the agreement back then. Of course, we never really talked much of it afterwards. Perhaps you have forgotten.”

Mrs. Phillips thought for a moment, shrugged her shoulders and replied, “You may be right. I must have forgotten. So, are you planning your wedding breakfast?”

“Yes. It will not be fancy. It cannot be in the midst of winter like this. But he is a farmer and cannot take time off once spring arrives, so we need to take advantage of his free time in the winter.”

The women continued to talk of dresses, breakfasts, and setting up housekeeping. By the time Mrs. Goulding left, Mrs. Phillips was sure that Caroline Goulding had been engaged for some two years. As she shared the gossip, eventually, everyone agreed that they had always known Caroline Goulding had been betrothed for two years. When Lydia heard it from her aunt, she was amazed at what her father and the Gouldings had been able to do to preserve the family’s reputation. She was relieved that her friend would not suffer shunning.

Chapter 28

Jane had workmen in painting the master’s suite in a lighter shade of blue within a week of their discussion. There were also a few other rooms, more the domain of her husband, that she also lightened up while the painters were already there. Of course, Bingley had said nothing, but understanding his taste better now, she felt he would be more comfortable with a few additional changes.

For her first wedding, Jane had chosen a highly fashionable gown. This time, she determined to use the same gown, but have it simplified to a more elegant, timeless look. Her modiste spent an entire week making the adjustments. Elizabeth would again be her attendant but did not want a new gown for this occasion. She was satisfied to refashion something she already had as well. Darcy was to stand up for Bingley.

Jane and Bingley found that they were required to visit friends to celebrate almost nightly. Most of Jane’s friends approved of Bingley when they met him. All of his definitely approved of Mrs. Nelson when they met her. His easy manner and her sweetness charmed all of them. The Hursts and Caroline were invited to some of the events by Bingley’s friends. Caroline declined them all after Jane cut her at a soiree. Caroline was surprised that Jane was not compliant and easily manipulated. There was far more substance than her serene exterior led one to expect.

Caroline and the Hursts had arrived shortly after Jane and Bingley. When they entered, Caroline spotted her brother across the room and confidently headed in his direction. He looked at her with some confusion. As she was about to arrive and greet him, Jane took his arm, whispered in his ear, looked directly and Caroline, and pulled him in a different direction, obviously turning away from her.

“Mr. Bingley, please come with me to greet an old friend,” said Jane as she turned away from Caroline.

He looked at his sister, turned away as well, and replied, “Gladly. I am sure it will be quite pleasant.”

Caroline was indignant that Jane and her brother refused to greet her. She turned instead to an acquaintance who was nearby who greeted her with a malicious smile, “So, apparently Mrs. Nelson is not as compliant as you believed. I think you said you would soon bring her around.”

Caroline returned the smile. “She is a little more stubborn than I had anticipated. I am sure we will soon be on terms again. After all, Charles is my brother. He could not possibly choose her over his own family.”

After this evening, Caroline declined invitations where she knew Jane and Bingley would be as she did not want to be publicly humiliated again. The Hurst continued to attend them, nodding from a distance to the couple. When they chanced to be near one another, Louisa apologized to both, but did not press the issued. Jane at least acknowledged the apology and was civil when she encountered the Hursts. Charles took his cues from Jane and responded similarly.

Bingley had mentioned Elizabeth’s plan to return home after the wedding while visiting Darcy and Georgiana one afternoon. Darcy felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. These various celebrations were allowing him to spend many evenings with Elizabeth, but they allowed little time for conversation. The visits during the day were decreased as the women spent time planning the changes to the household, the Nelson’s ball, and the wedding. He was so frustrated. He had finally found someone he wanted to know better, and there was little opportunity to do so. Georgiana continued to visit as she could participate in the planning discussions, but he could not.

After Bingley left that day, while he and Georgiana were enjoying a cup of tea in the parlor before he had to dress for that night’s dinner party, Darcy heaved a sigh of frustration.

“Brother, what is wrong. It seems to me all is well. Should I be worried about something?”

“No. Well. It is just…This is a little difficult to put into words. As you know, since I left university just before Father died, I have been pursued by those who would become the next mistress of Pemberley. Most did not even know me as a man, just as the master of the estate. I have found little pleasure in the social scene. That started to change when I met Mrs. Raynor in Hertfordshire, but then she left and returned to her own estate. I have accompanied Bingley, and sometimes you, on visits to Mrs. Nelson and have been able to get to know her a little better. We also occasionally meet at evening events. However, something always arises, and we are unable to finish conversations. Now Bingley tells us she is leaving again. How am I to know her better and decide if I might like to court her?”

“I thought I had detected a bit of interest on your part. However, unless I am completely mistaken, I see none on hers.”

“That too I have noticed. I know not whether that is that she is not ready or truly uninterested. I had hoped that time would allow me to assess this. I have very little understanding of women, except for the usual ones one meets at most balls, and find myself at a loss, since she is so unlike most of our acquaintance.”

“Since Charles is marrying her sister, you should eventually manage to find these things out.”

“Perhaps, but how long will it take? I know you cannot answer, and normally I would say nothing to you as you are full well young still, but it also concerns you. You are to come out next year. I would like to have a wife to help with all the social trials that will entail. You would then have a sister. If it were Mrs. Raynor, you would have multiple new sisters.”

“Brother, do not let that worry you. I like Mrs. Raynor well. If we become sisters, I will enjoy that and her sisters too. If they all remain only as friends, I will not pine, although it looks like you might. You must trust that if it is to be, all will be well. And take advantage of the time before she leaves to make some progress.”

“Thank you Georgie. I will try.”

At this point, it was time for him to dress for the evening. While always fastidious, he dressed with extra care as he considered how he might make progress with Mrs. Raynor. When his valet gave his cravat one last twist, he pronounced himself pleased and headed off to the dinner.

Once again, the gathering was large enough that Darcy had trouble finding a way to unobtrusively seek out Mrs. Raynor. Finally, though, he was at her side and remarked, “I always find it amazing how very many friends Bingley has. His easy manner helps him meet people and warm to them so quickly. I find it much harder to catch their tone of conversation unless I am particularly well acquainted. I feel ill-qualified to recommend myself to strangers.”

“Come, come, Mr. Darcy. That is like my saying that my fingers do not play the piano in the masterly manner in which I see so many women’s do. But that is true because I will not take the trouble of practicing as I ought.”

At this point, a response came from a gentleman who had walked up behind Darcy. “That is true. He will not give himself the trouble of learning how to converse easily with strangers. Darcy, please introduce me, won’t you?”

Darcy smiled and said, “Richard, this is Mrs. Elizabeth Raynor, sister of Mrs. Nelson, Bingley’s intended. Mrs. Raynor, this is my cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam.”

Fitzwilliam smiled and said, “Pleased to meet you. From overhearing the end of your conversation, I see that you have a great understanding of my cousin.”

“I would not say that. I merely note that he is a man of the world who dislikes socializing with the world.”

Fitzwilliam said, “Quite true.”

Darcy replied, “I do find it difficult to perform to strangers. However, perhaps I should think of it as practicing a skill, such as you have suggested. Maybe it will get easier.”

Elizabeth smiled and said, “You must not do so because I recommend it. You would only find it tiresome. It must be because you believe it something you truly desire. However, this skill is one of the things our aunt teaches us as we prepare to come out. It is a skill we can use the rest of our lives.” To Fitzwilliam, she said, “So, Colonel, have you served on the continent in our present difficulties, or are you stationed here in England?”

“Before Richard answers, perhaps you could give me some guidance on how to know what to ask? I fear that is my biggest challenge.”

“We usually start with questions about occupation, estate, or the event we are attending and base our questions on the answers received. If you are truly interested in learning this skill, perhaps my sister would share the advice my aunt has given her. It is fresher in her mind than mine as I received it some years ago and it has become second nature.”

Darcy nodded his head and appeared to think about her response while Richard answered her question about his service. Conversation continued on his service in the army until it was time to move to the dining room for dinner. Darcy was quick to offer Elizabeth his arm before Fitzwilliam could. With easy grace, Fitzwilliam offered it to a woman of his acquaintance who was standing nearby. Elizabeth entirely missed Darcy’s maneuver, but Fitzwilliam cocked an eyebrow at his cousin’s quick action. He knew he would need to quiz him about Mrs. Raynor later.

Darcy was pleased to see that he was seated next to Elizabeth. Fitzwilliam was seated at her other side. He feared that, since Richard had noticed his efforts to escort Mrs. Raynor, she would be the recipient of tales of Darcy’s childhood. Richard was a notorious tease within the family circle.

During the soup, he began, “Bingley told Georgiana and me of your plans to return to Raynor Hall after the wedding.”

“That is so. I find I am not truly ready to enter into the demands of society again.” Looking to Fitzwilliam, she added for his benefit, “I left off mourning in August for my husband’s death, and although I am done grieving, I find that I am not truly ready to face the demands of the Season again. Since it is just getting underway again, I can renew some acquaintances and then leave before the height of the Season and settle quietly at home again. I believe my aunt can manage my sister’s Season without my assistance. Jane will be here, at least once she returns from her wedding trip, and she can provide any help my aunt might need.”

“You have a sister coming out this year?”

“Yes. Her name is Catherine. Our aunt, Lady Elizabeth Stanford, sponsors each of us with a Season and helps us navigate successfully through the Ton. It is Kitty’s turn this year, and perhaps my youngest sister Lydia, next year. Maybe I will come back and help next year. Miss Darcy comes out next year, does she not?”

Darcy answered, “Yes, she is planning to. I had hoped that her growing friendship with you and your sisters would aid her in becoming more confident, and it seems to be doing that. Richard, you must come for a visit and see the progress Georgie is making. She and Miss Bennet, Mrs. Raynor’s sister, have become quite close.”

Fitzwilliam added, “I will call upon her tomorrow. You see, Darcy and I share custody of Miss Darcy. As I have been on the peninsula these past months, I have not seen her since last summer.”

“She is a lovely young lady, if a little shy. I have enjoyed becoming friends, and I know Kitty truly treasures the new friendship. Perhaps she and Lydia can support one another next year. Perhaps Miss Darcy would enjoy the advice my aunt has given Kitty as well. I know she finds meeting new people quite trying.”

Over the different courses, Darcy exerted himself to find topics of conversation with both Mrs. Raynor and the woman on his other side. It was hard to turn away and talk with his other companion, but he was taking the mild rebuke before dinner to heart and trying to practice his conversational skills. He found it got a little easier as the meal progressed.

During the separation of the sexes, Fitzwilliam cornered him near the fireplace and said, “Do I detect an attraction to Mrs. Raynor?”

“Perhaps. When I met her in Hertfordshire, I desired to know her better, at which point she returned to her home in Surrey. I have met her a number of times this past month, and was just feeling a little progress was possible, when I heard that she returns home after the wedding. It is frustrating that I am so poor at this type of conversation that I do not even know if I want to court her. I think I do. I find myself thinking of her often. But I do not know her well enough yet to be sure. And you can see, she says she is not yet ready in any case.”

Fitzwilliam patted him on the shoulder. “At least you have access to future acquaintance through Bingley and your own sister. If it is meant to be, you will find a way to win her.”

“So, when did you return?”

“Just two days ago and heard of Bingley’s engagement. Mother had my invitation to this dinner, so I thought I would come and meet the bride before the big day. She seems a good match for him.”

“They are both very amiable and obliging people. However, she does have a strong will. She cut Miss Bingley after Miss Bingley severed the relationship and will not acknowledge her new sister-to-be. As a result, Miss Bingley is almost never at any of the events I attend, and I find them much more pleasant than in these past two years she has been pursuing me. She has also been banned from visiting Georgie, which Georgie greatly appreciates.”

Fitzwilliam laughed and said, “That is a wonderful development. What about Mrs. Hurst?”

“She was not publicly cut but is barely acknowledged. Apparently, she was not as obvious in her disapprobation as was Miss Bingley and has apologized for her ill-treatment. I would never have expected Mrs. Nelson to be so firm; it is not obvious in her serene demeanor. She will definitely keep Bingley on an even course. I think she will be the making of him.”

“That is what you have always wanted for him, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. He is becoming more secure in his decisions and comfortable in voicing them. It is like watching a younger brother mature.”

When they rejoined the ladies, both men gravitated to Elizabeth and spent most of the remainder of the evening in her company. Elizabeth still did not realize that Darcy was becoming interested in her because she was not ready to notice. Now that Darcy realized this, he knew he would have to move very slowly and hoped to eventually determine when he might move forward. For now, he would have to be satisfied with a distant friendship. It was not enough, but it was all he had. He could enjoy her company until she left town.

The next day, Lady Stanford and Kitty called upon Georgiana. Both had finally arrived at a point in the friendship where Kitty felt comfortable asking Miss Darcy to call her Kitty. Miss Darcy responded shyly asking Kitty to call her Georgie. Both were pleased at the growing closeness. They excused themselves to retire to the music room to attempt some duets together.

Lady Stanford excused herself from Mrs. Annesley and asked to speak to Mr. Darcy. She quietly informed him of the demise of his one-time friend. She gave an abbreviated history of the theft of the carriage, attempted abduction and desertion of his post. She based this on the letter from her brother, so she had very little information to share, just the highlights. Given his reaction at the Netherfield ball, she knew he would want to know of the end of Wickham. She finally reassured him that there was nothing he could have done to assist the man whose own actions had determined the outcome.

Darcy shared this news with Fitzwilliam when he arrived to visit Georgiana later that day. Both were saddened at the loss and relieved that Wickham could no longer hurt the family or others.

All Meryton could talk of for some days was the punishment of Lieutenant Wickham. It quite overshadowed the news of Caroline Goulding’s upcoming wedding. There were those who could not quite believe the news because he had been so charming. Others claimed they had never really trusted him.

Lydia continued her efforts to assist the Longbourn tenants in need and found great satisfaction in doing so. It was far more interesting than the gossip about Wickham. When she and Miss Bosworth visited Lady Lucas, they heard of how well things were going for Maria. Lydia was pleased to hear Lady Lucas mention the sewing circle. “Lady Lucas, while I was in town with my aunt, I participated in her sewing circle. Although my sewing is not the best, it is not too bad either. Could I become part of the sewing circle here? I know there are many needs around here and would like to help meet them.”

Miss Bosworth smiled to see Lydia’s growth. Lady Lucas replied, “None of the other younger girls come, you know. It is just us older ones.”

“I would still like to help. Perhaps I can even be an example and some of the other girls will want to start coming too. When and where do you meet?”

“It will be here this time on Tuesday next.”

“Can I bring anything other than my sewing basket, like biscuits or something?” Miss Bosworth’s smile grew even wider.
“Oh, my dear, what a kind offer. No, the hostess provides a small tea for when we are finished with our day’s work. Perhaps you and Miss Bosworth, can hostess a future meeting.”

“We will be sure to take our turn. We want to contribute to the effort, not add to the burden.”

As they returned to Longbourn, Miss Bosworth said to Lydia, “That was a fine thought for more charitable acts on your part. I think your father will be pleased too.”

“Well, I think it will meet a need and improve my sewing at the same time. I also get more of a glimpse into the lives of our neighbors than just through Aunt Phillips gossip. That should prove, mmm, enlightening, I think.”

Miss Bosworth laughed. “That sounds more like the Lydia I know, I must admit. You are probably correct that it will provide insight into our neighbors.”

With Just a Little Guidance Chapters 27 and 28

ShannaGJuly 08, 2015 07:03PM

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Lucy J.July 08, 2015 09:46PM

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