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Ignorance and Irony

March 22, 2017 08:45PM
Summary: Elizabeth and Darcy meet in Hertfordshire where they immediately get off to a bad start where they both allow their own ignorance to color their perception of the other. The irony of the story is not lost on either party when the truth that Elizabeth is not just the penniless and connectionless niece who was taken in and raised by Thomas Bennet.

Would love some help with this story...



Preface – A Safe Childhood

Heythrop Park, Oxford 1794

“Thomas, thank you so much for coming. We recovered her last night.”

“Good!” Sitting down in a plush red leather chair, the young man took the offered glass of claret, “Now James, what happened?”

Running a thick worn hand through rough brown hair, the older man sighed and said, “I don’t know exactly how it came about or who all was involved. What I do know is that her nanny was involved and was the one who was able to get her out of the house to the park where she conveniently lost Jonathon, the footman, assigned to their care. Mrs. Harper has been turned over to the authorities. What happened between my granddaughter’s absence in the park and her recovery is still a mystery. Mrs. Harper is not speaking. Hopefully, we will know more at a later date.”

“How did you find her then?”

“Fortunately, the kidnappers decided to house the child in Derbyshire. When the trail led in that direction, I contacted a very good friend who is extremely intimate with that area. George was actually the one who recovered her. He returned her himself last night and then returned home. His wife is pregnant and he left immediately.”

Curious, the younger man stated, “That was very fortuitous. For her to be taken to an area where you have intimate friends…”

Laughing, the older man responded, “My friendship with George has been close for quite a few years, at least since Faith came out. Neither of us bandies about our friendship as we both relish our privacy. We hardly ever see each other anymore and only seem to be able to communicate through letters. George lives in the country and visits town rarely. For myself, until recently, I have lived in London and don’t spend much time on my estate. In fact, I had not seen him since his marriage to Ann. We write often, but that is about it.”

Shaking his head as he took another drink of his brandy, he added, “I am not surprised that the kidnappers are unaware of our relationship. The more I learn about their plan, it doesn’t sound as if a master mind was behind the kidnapping. ” Sighing he concluded, “Actually, it is a wonder they even got away with as much as they did.”

The younger man asked, “What do you mean?”

His host rose from his chair and started pacing the room, “I mean it is almost as if there wasn’t a plan of any caliber. I mean, Good God! The kidnappers didn’t even hide their trail! My man, Burke was able to almost immediately follow them straight to an inn in Lambton! It is almost as if they didn’t know how to properly kidnap a child!”

Thomas Bennet stood and chuckled slightly at his host and replied, “A fact, I am sure, you are quite pleased with.”

“Yes! Yes! Of course!” The elder gentleman continued to pace the room, “It is what happened in Lambton, that has me worried.”

The younger man refilled both men’s drinks and asked as he sat back down, “There is more?”

The man stopped pacing near a window and stated, “Yes. Burke lost their trail at Lambton. Mrs. Harper apparently was seen handing the child over to a young male, and then left almost immediately for London. Burke failed to find out where the young man went. It was only after I sent an express to Burke telling him to go to George and see if he could help. Burke described the man to my friend, who apparently knew exactly whom Burke was describing.”

He started to pace again as he concluded, “It was only because George is so well know and like in Derbyshire that we found my grandchild.”

The men were silent for a few minutes. Thomas finally broke the silence and asked, “James, you seem to be bothered by something else.”

James sighed and held is hands out in defeat and replied, “I am an old man, completely ill-suited for raising a child. My wife was the one who raised Faith. Look what happens when I try to raise a child: she was kidnapped! ”

“And she is safe now.”

“Is she?” replied the older man quietly. He turned his gaze toward the entrance to the hallway, half imagining his sweet granddaughter resting peacefully asleep in the nursery. “I felt completely out of control. I had no idea what even to do. Burke was the one to volunteer to follow after Mrs. Harper. He was the one who continually sent messages back to me. I was left to sit here in this drafty place and wait for word.”

“She is safe because you employ people to take care of you.” Smiling at his friend Thomas added, “You really should not worry so much. After all, they didn’t succeed, did they?”

“No, they didn’t. But I hired Mrs. Harper, not Gregory. I pride myself on being an excellent businessman; and now have to admit, I am a very poor judge of character.” Almost to himself, the older man added, “If Gregory or even Faith had been here, this would not have happened, they would have seen Harper’s worth.” Irritation was evident on the older man’s countenance as he rose, once more to pace the room.

Thomas Bennet watched James’ pace across the ornate personal study, he reflected on the events. Six years earlier, Thomas’ younger brother Gregory had fallen madly in love. The romance had developed into a whirlwind courtship, which in turn, led to an elopement. During this time, Gregory had managed to keep his relationship quiet; he had moved to the coast and purchased a townhouse with part of his wife’s dowry. There, they had lived quietly for a year before Thomas had even been aware.

About 8 months into his marriage, Gregory wrote to his brother and invited him, and only him, to his home to visit after his child was born. Thomas knew that Gregory had no love for Fanny, Thomas’s wife, and understood the rejection of her presence. Thomas marrying Frances Gardiner had almost caused a split between the brothers. Gregory claimed that Fanny was simply too silly for his studious brother; an idea which Thomas had rejected seven years before.

Now however, he was beginning to rethink his decision. Indeed, Thomas and Fanny had already had two children: Jane and Mary. They had another on the way and Thomas prayed daily that this child would be a boy. He didn’t know if he could handle any more of Fanny’s nerves when she discussed not having an heir to his estate yet.

However, the surprise that greeted Thomas upon arriving at Whiting Place three years before was such that he was unprepared for. When he entered the drawing room and was introduced to Faith Bennet, Gregory’s wife, he was also then introduced to James. Thomas was not by nature, easily intimidated; however, James’s presence filled the room. Being a tall man, Thomas understood from whom Faith had received her tall stature. Gregory had always been the tall one in the family, and in the presence of his brother’s new family, Thomas was feeling quite…short.

Thomas smiled as he remembered his brother. Who wouldn’t fall in love with him? Gregory had always been the charismatic one; he had always had the most energy. Thomas remembered his determination to have what he wanted. He probably saw Faith and decided she was for him and set out to make it happen. James, obviously, had realized that Faith could be happy with Gregory and had allowed the courtship under his watchful gaze. Now there was a child, an heir.

Taken from his reflection, Thomas heard a loud moan from his host.

“How I wish Faith was here, she would have known what to do. She would not have hired that….Mrs. Harper. How could I have been so blind?”

“But she isn’t and neither is my brother.”

Sighing James drank his brandy in one gulp and then turned to Thomas. Then with a determined glint in his eye, he speared Thomas with a question, “I have a proposition for you. It may not be exactly what Faith wanted, but it is the only solution I have.”

Raising an eyebrow, Thomas asked, “What do you need from me? She’s has been returned, right? That is what you said.”

“Yes, she has, however, I would like to you to raise her with your own children; as one of your own children.”

“WHAT!?”

Sighing, James stopped pacing and stared out a window again, “I simply don’t know anything about raising a girl. Evette, Faith’s mother basically raised Faith. She attended to everything; even planning Faith’s coming out. It was while she planned all those events that she became ill. Throughout her sickness, Evette either wrote or dictated instructions for Faith’s coming out debut. When she died, Faith’s coming out was put off for a year, but thankfully Faith was definitely Evette’s daughter: she navigated society so well.”

“But why can you not simply hire another nanny?” Then another thought occurred to Thomas, “Who is with her now?”

“Bea.” James stated without clarification and sighed as he added, “It is apparent I am unable to hire a nanny that doesn’t put my granddaughter’s life in jeopardy. When Faith died, I looked to Gregory to help raise her. He did an admirable job.” With moist eyes, “I looked at him as if he was the son I never had. I was so excited and blessed to have a whole family again. When his horse threw him and he died, a little piece of me died just like with Faith.” The steely glint returned, “Thomas, your brother spoke of your often. He may not have liked your wife, but he looked up to you. I need your help raising his child.”

“I don’t understand, James. What exactly would you have me do? Surely, you have enough space to raise her here in London?” Mr. Bennet felt completely lost. Surely James would be more than capable of raising one girl: after all, did he not already have the two girls and another child on the way.

“It isn’t concern for my ability to provide for her material things. While she has been gone, I spent a lot of lonely hours thinking.” Concern written across James features he quickly said, “Elizabeth Evette Bennet is and always will be my heir. However for now, I only want her to know me as her grandfather. I don’t want her to grow up in an environment of guards and servants at every door, and Faith did not want her daughter to grow up worrying about societal demands. She was adamant with Gregory about Elizabeth growing up away from London. She wanted her daughter to grow up without the stigma of the social ton, as she had married ‘beneath her.’ She wanted her daughter to have the freedom to be herself in a way that she never could. She loved the stories Gregory would tell her of the escapades you and he would get into at Longbourn. She was an only child; she never wanted Elizabeth to be one. Having Elizabeth grow up with your girls, will give her the family I can’t.”

“Don’t you have cousins? Wouldn’t Joseph –”

Holding up a hand, James interrupted, “My cousin would jump at the chance to raise Elizabeth. So would both of his sons’.” With a disgusted grunt he added, “I’m not sure that Faith would appreciate her only child being raised by either of those two buffoons. Also, allowing Elizabeth to grow up with them would throw me in their presence more than I would like.”

“I just feel that they are closer to your sphere of influence –”

“Exactly!” cried James in triumph, “that is exactly why I do not want them near Elizabeth! My Talbot and Berkeley cousins are perfect examples of people I wish to keep away from Elizabeth. Evette and I were able to do it with Faith and I know Faith appreciated it. However much she hated her cousin’s and the ton’s intrigues during her come out.”

Shaking his head at the ludicrous request, Thomas asked, “I simply don’t understand how you expect this to work. The moment, my wife finds out about my connection to you and your family, the entire world will know who she is and who she will be. How can this possibly help her ‘grow up without the stigma of the social ton’ as you put it?”

James shrugged and offered, “Then we won’t tell Fanny.”

Smiling at the thought of keeping such a large secret from his wife, Thomas asked, “And just how do we accomplish this task? The moment she meets you, she’ll know something is wrong. How do I explain Elizabeth?”

James considered this problem for a moment then, with an evil smile of his own, replied, “We’ll take a page from your brother’s and my daughter’s book: we simply won’t say who Elizabeth is related to. I am sure you remember him speaking of me in his letters to you before Elizabeth was born.”

Thomas started laughing and said, “Of course! He only ever referred to Faith or you by your first names! That was a brilliant idea of Gregory’s.”

Mr. Bennet then frowned and asked, “But what do we tell Elizabeth? Surely, if she is to be your heir, she will need to know about her inheritance, as well as the expectation put upon her by birth.”

James walked over and sat back down in a chair near his friend and said, “I wish to keep nothing from her. You are right: if I visit Longbourn, Fanny will immediately suspect something. It would be best to keep my complete identity, other than my name from her. As to any expectations for Elizabeth: the only one I require is that she grow up and allowed to be happy. The longer I can keep her from the social expectations the better.”

The men sat quietly, each considering how best to encourage a relationship between James and Elizabeth without alerting everyone to her future situation. It was Thomas who broke the silence with a loud laugh, “I have it! Edward!”

“Edward? Who is Edward?”

Thomas smiled devilishly and said, “Edward Gardiner is my wife’s brother. A more sensible man you’ll never meet; completely different from my silly wife. He and his new wife have recently taken a house in London. We will simply state that her guardian and grandfather, wishes to see her every year, and send her to live with the Gardiners during that time! Fanny will have no problem sending Elizabeth to her dear brother, and her dear brother will harbor no issues with keeping a secret from my wife. It is perfect!”

James smiled wryly and said, “We do have a problem. My every move is watched when I am in London. That was one of the reasons Gregory and I decided to remove to my home in the country, as well as to the original reason he and Faith purchased Whiting Place. If I visit the Gardiner’s or if they visit me, everyone will not only know who my granddaughter is but also who she will be living with.”

Thomas groaned and exclaimed, “This is why I don’t like London! Everyone in everyone else’s business!”

“And the country is no different?” asked James with a raised eyebrow. He then thought for a moment and offered, “However, if she were to come here to Heythrop, we could ensure privacy. She wouldn’t have much company for the first few years, but I am sure we could make due. There is a lovely village not a few miles away.”

Thomas asked quietly, “So you’ll be here all year long?”

James replied, “No. This large dusty place isn’t home without family. I will probably visit friends and stay in London most of the year. Visit during the summer, of course. That would be the best time for her to come.”

Thomas squirmed, “I don’t like the idea of sending her here without an escort and if you send one of your carriages, Fanny will start to suspect.”

James said, “Well. For now, let’s figure out the logistics later. After all, this all hems on the concept that she won’t tell anyone who I am, also. She will need to be old enough to hold a secret.”

Thomas agreed, “Of course.”

James asked quietly, “This means we are in agreement? You will raise my granddaughter as one of your own?”

Hesitating only slightly, Thomas Bennet, replied, “Of course.”

*********************************************************************************************

Longbourn, Hertfordshire 1802

“Uncle Thomas! Did his letter arrive?”

Smiling as he opened his study and allowed Elizabeth in, Thomas smiled, “Yes, it did. However, that isn’t why I called you in here.”

“He is so very prompt.” The eleven-year-old replied and then asked, “What else do you have for me then, Uncle?”

“Have a seat.”

Elizabeth sat tentatively on the edge of a chair in front of her Uncle’s desk. She looked around for any signs of what had caused her Uncle to be very upset and forceful. He hardly ever called her into his study for anything other than to give Elizabeth her grandfather’s letters. “Uncle, no matter what Tommy told you, I was not the one who left the chickens out. I was helping his retrieve them!”

“No it not about chickens, but I would be very interested to hear that story later,” Thomas Bennet sighed and added after taking off his spectacles and rubbing his nose, “I would like to know if you are aware of the reason behind your and Jane’s maid quitting today.”

Elizabeth immediately looked down and away from her Uncle, she refused to answer.

Thomas asked, “You are aware she gave me her notice this morning.”

“No, I was not.” The girl said quietly.

“Do you have any idea as to why Marie, who has always stated she loves working here, would so suddenly request and audience with myself and Hill, only to inform us, through many tears, she can’t continue to work at Longbourn?”

Elizabeth made no movement to answer her Uncle.

Thomas could see the young girl would not say anything without force and stated emphatically, “You will tell me now.”

Elizabeth looked up with tears in her eyes and replied, “Uncle, I can’t!”

Seeing the tears in her eyes, Thomas got up and came around his desk to sit in the chair next to his niece. He decided to try a different tactic. He had an idea why the young maid was leaving but wanted to make sure. Since he couldn’t get the truth from the maid, he thought maybe Elizabeth would know. She seemed to know more about everyone that he did. “Elizabeth, Marie came in to see me crying this morning. She had a huge bruise on her right eye, and was walking with a limp. If you know what happened, you need to tell me.”

The young girl’s head lifted and horror crossed her face, she exclaimed, “No! He didn’t!” Elizabeth broke down in tears at this point and grabbed her Uncle’s waist as she started crying furiously. “It’s my fault! I shouldn’t have watched! I should have walked away!”

Thomas was clueless now as to what had happened. After a few moments, Elizabeth calmed down and he was able to ask, “What did happen?”
Lizzy started to shake her head and tell her Uncle she couldn’t say anymore. However, by this time Thomas was getting more frustrated by the minute. It was apparent something happened that shouldn’t have and the maid paid the price.

He drew Elizabeth away from him and looked her in the eye and said as sternly as he could, “Elizabeth you do not have a choice. You will tell me, right now.”

Elizabeth had never been spoken to, by her Uncle that way, and shrunk back. She realized he wouldn’t let her go without the truth, and timidly said, “Yesterday morning, I rose early. I was supposed to have an early riding lesson with Mr. Cummings.”

Thomas nodded, he recalled the man he had hired a year before to get his stables in shape. James had wanted Elizabeth to learn to ride and therefore had made a gift of a few horses to Longbourn. Fanny and the girls had been told it was Edward’s idea. Elizabeth continued, “I went out the barn, to meet with Mr. Cummings.” She hesitated as she said, “I…I found him in the back of the barn in a stall….with Marie.”

Thomas closed his eyes and wondered how he would ever be able to explain this to James. However, Elizabeth wasn’t finished, “I ran away, intent to come to you immediately. He yelled at me to stop.” She blushed as she said, “After he put his clothes back on, he came up to me and told me not to tell anyone because it would look badly on Marie.” She looked at her Uncle and said, “I told him I still had to tell you! By that time, Marie came up to me and told me with tears, that is wasn’t my secret to tell: it was hers. ” Elizabeth’s eyes starting welling with tears and said, “He started yelling at her that if she told she’d regret it. I ran away after that. Oh Uncle! I should have stayed!”

Thomas started shaking his head, “No. You should not have. You should not have even been put in that situation.” Sighing he leaned back in his chair and asked, “Elizabeth, why did you not come to me?”

“I didn’t know what he meant by his comment that she would regret it; and as she said, it wasn’t my secret to tell. I believe she would tell you herself; not just quit!”

Thomas started to shake his head again and said, “You should have absolutely no secrets from me. Secrets only cause harm; no good comes of them.”

He started to get up and go around his desk. He sighed as he attempted to get his thoughts in order. He saw the letter that was sitting on the top of his desk from James to Elizabeth, and indicated she should take it and not give another thought to the situation with Marie.

Lost in his own thoughts, it took him a moment to realize that Elizabeth had not moved from the other side of his desk. He turned to her and was astonished to see such a vehement look of disgust and anger on her face, “What is it Elizabeth? I can see that you are angry.”

Elizabeth rose from her chair and said, “I am to keep no secrets from you: even if they are not my secrets to keep? How is this fair? You can keep secrets from me!”

Thomas was shocked by her outburst, but before he could say anything she continued, “If no good comes from keeping secrets than how do you explain keeping my grandfather from me as ‘good for me’?” She stood and saw the letter on her Uncle’s desk and grabbed it and said, “You and he have a big secret: who he is. Each week, I have to be satisfied with only a letter?”

Thomas stood and said, “We agreed that is best for you.”

“So I am never to know him?”

“You know him from your letters?”

“Letters that say nothing about him? Who he is?” She tore open the letter and read aloud, “This week I visited Bea and Eddy and had a delightful time. Their estate is quite pretty this time of year and Pegasus was quite relived to have miles of grown to run across.” Holding the letter up in front of her she continued, “I am only to know he had friends name Bea an Eddy? Who are they, how does he know them? And then to be told they have an estate, possibly a large one, since I know from other letters how much Grandfather’s horse loves to run. Both of you keep many secrets from me, why am I in trouble for keeping one? ” Holding up a one finger she added, “One secret Uncle, and not even a secret of my own. How is this fair?”

Thomas looked down at his eleven year old niece and felt very old for his age and sighed, “You are growing more intelligent every day. However, there are many things in life you will simply have to accept as not being able to understand. There are many things that are not fair. You will have to get used to that fact. For now, until you are of age, you are to keep no secrets from either myself or your grandfather. In the case of Marie, if you had come to me sooner, I might have been able to avoid her getting injured. Do you understand? Do you understand that it doesn’t matter whose secret that was: I should have been informed?”

Elizabeth looked defeated, “Yes. I knew I should have told you. He frightened me. I should have trusted you, I am sorry.”
She sat back down and fiddled with her now crushed letter. Thomas sat back down and considered his niece and asked quietly, “Are there other secrets you have?”

“That you should know?”

Thomas considered her question and responded, “I thought I made it clear, I should be made aware of everything.”

Even at eleven years old, Elizabeth was not one to dwell in negativity. She continually fell back on her ever growing wit and teasing nature. So it didn’t surprise Mr. Bennet when Elizabeth giggled before she asked, “Then you want to know that Kitty told me that she hates Lydia but wishes to keep it between just us? Or that Jane found Uncle’s new clerk to be quite pleasing to the eye?”

Thomas started laughing.

Elizabeth stopped teasing for a moment and asked seriously, “Uncle, I understand that I should have told you about Marie and Mr. Cummings. I know what he was doing to her was wrong. I heard him threaten her and it frightened me. I promise I will always tell you or Grandfather of those types of secrets. But you must allow me my own. I don’t believe that all secrets are bad.”

Thomas sighed and replied, “Elizabeth, secrets are bad. When you intentionally withhold information from someone who needs it; that is wrong.

However, the secrets you spoke of regarding your cousins are not secrets, per se, but rather confidences. You can hold confidences. You must learn the difference between the two.”

“And you needed to know about Mr. Cummings and Marie but do not need to know about Jane or Kitty?”

“Right.”

Quietly she entreated, “I need to know about my grandfather; I need to know my family.”

Thomas sat back and looked at his niece. She was staring him in the face with nervousness. He asked, “Why do you need to know? Are you sure you simply don’t want to know? The knowledge will not affect your life, at least not here at Longbourn. Knowing will not change that. You will still have to deal with your Aunt over your hem and other such nonsensical things.” He said as he pointed to the hem of her skirt that was splattered with mud.

Elizabeth smiled but answered, “I guess…I want to know. I know that it won’t change things here. But…”she paused for quite a while. Mr. Bennet was almost to ask her to continue when she did on her own. “I feel like he can’t be honest or truthful with me when he holds things back. When Jane told me about the clerk, it was freeing…for both of us: she was able to talk unreservedly to me and I felt…trusted and…I don’t know. I just feel like I don’t know him and I want to. He is my only link to my mother and father, besides you.”

“Lizzy, he writes to you every week. Without fail! How can you claim you don’t know him?” Thomas exclaimed confused.

Elizabeth earnestly asked, “How can one truly get to know someone if that someone won’t even tell you anything specific? How can be completely honest with him if he is not completely honest with me? How can I trust that what he writes,” holding her letter up again, “is truth if he can’t even trust me with his name!” she cried with tears forming again. This time, however, she didn’t throw herself in Mr. Bennet’s arms; she rose and ran from the room.

That evening, over dinner, Elizabeth refused to even look at Mr. Bennet. After dinner, he knew he needed to write to James about this unexpected turn of events.

Longbourn, Hertfordshire
August 15, 1803

James,

I hope this letter finds you well, my friend. Your chastisement in your last letter was thorough. You must forgive me but you know that I am not an active correspondent. I will try to do better. I would love to say that I am baffled as to what Elizabeth would leave out of her letters though, that would necessitate a letter from me. Unfortunately, I may understand now why she is not forthcoming with you anymore in your correspondence.

Yesterday there was an altercation between the new stable manager and Elizabeth’s maid. I will speak of that again, later in this letter as I have a request for you. Anyway, this altercation was the cause of an argument between Elizabeth and me. Like I said, I will speak more of that later. However, in this argument, Elizabeth expressed feelings of exclusion and distrust on our parts regarding you.

She believes that we do not trust her with your identity. Elizabeth has begun to question as to whether you even are telling her the truth in your missives. I believe her words were “How can I trust that what he writes is truth if he can’t even trust me with his name?”

I feel so sorry for the need to write this dear friend. I believe we may have waited too long to tell her of her inheritance. I believe that she will be perfectly capable of keeping the secret, if you wish to continue. However, if you do, I would caution you: at least tell her so that she can trust you. I know we’ve discussed in the past how to divulge this information to her. I believe that a letter, your next letter, should outline everything: every part of the history. I have a feeling she won’t speak with anyone except maybe Jane or myself, about the letter. She may write to her Aunt Gardiner for advice, but as we have discussed before, they are the epitome of discretion.

As to the altercation that led to the information: the maid you sent with me for Lizzy and Jane, Marie, came and attempted to quit this morning. In the process of determining why a maid who was happy with her employ two days ago would suddenly quit, I found out that Elizabeth had been witness to something that had happened between Marie and my new stable manager, Mr. Cummings. She failed to inform me of this, and we got into an argument about secrets versus confidences.

As to Marie, after further investigation, I was able to ascertain from her, that Mr. Cummings had forced himself upon her. When she realized that Elizabeth would inform me, Marie told Elizabeth that she would tell me. Elizabeth ran away at this point in the conversation and missed Mr. Cummings beating Marie into submission. Marie felt her life was in danger if she stayed, but was worried that Mr. Cummings would take it out on Elizabeth if Marie had told me the complete truth.

I will now say, I’ve dealt, harshly with Mr. Cummings. He has been turned over to the authorities. However, Marie still does not feel comfortable staying at Longbourn. Here is where my request comes in: would you be willing to take Marie into your home? She has no family here for her to turn to; her family all resides near Heythrop. I believe her father is one of your under gardeners. She should feel safe in Oxford.

As to the rest of your letter: as you know, Mary is now 9 and always taking books from my library even though she cannot read them very well. She is learning and will soon outstrip the rest of my girls, probably even Lizzy as well. Kitty and Lydia are forever playing outdoors. It seems with every year their…energy grows. I do not look forward to winter this year when all the girls are trapped in doors.

Yes, Fanny is doing well, even though her nerves still plague her, especially when she sees three or four of our girls return from outdoors with the hems of their dresses ruined by mud. No, a doctor from London is not necessary – I am sure her nerves will calm down when the girls, including Lizzy are married.

I know my brother told you her nerves were foolishness and she has never really been ill. I myself have come to conclusion that since she only developed them after we failed to have any sons to inherit my estate, she is truly worried about the future of her children. I did however; receive a letter from her brother Edward Gardiner this past week. They will have the second child in February. I have convinced Fanny that it is not necessary for her to go to her brother’s second child; the first was enough. I will go myself. I hope to see you while I am there and maybe play a game of chess or two.

Outside of that, there is nothing new in Hertfordshire. I will write when there is more interesting news. I expect Lizzy’s letters are more interesting than mine.

Your Friend,
Thomas Bennet

Thomas sighed as he completed the letter. On more than one occasion he found himself missing his brother. Raising his brother’s child as his own was difficult. She is so much like him: the vivacity, the humor. He sighed as he realized, all he could was wait on James. He should have known if would not take long to hear back from him.

********************************************************************************************

Elizabeth couldn’t believe her luck. After her disastrous meeting with her Uncle early in the week, she had decided to avoid him as much as possible, but English weather had something else planned: rain. It wasn’t enough to keep people from traveling in an out of Meryton and Hertfordshire, but it was just enough that her aunt refused to let her or her cousins out. After all, in all the mud, she wouldn’t be fit to be seen. After a day spent reading in the room that she and Jane shared, Elizabeth had gone stir crazy.

The boredom had driven her to a closet to remake hats with Jane one day. She absolutely loathed practicing stitching on her sampler; and after her aunt made her sit and do that another day, she vowed she wouldn’t stich another stich unless she had to. It was now the fifth day of slight rain and Elizabeth decided it was time to practice the piano. She wasn’t very good because she didn’t have the patience to practice. However, Elizabeth found, this morning it was better than nothing.

She had only been on the piano for a few minutes when she felt someone watching her. She turned and saw her cousin Mary enter the room.
“Mary, why do you not come over here and help me?” She asked.

“I don’t know how,” responded the pragmatic nine-year old. Elizabeth was not very close to Mary but since Jane’s presences was needed by her Aunt, Elizabeth felt Mary could be enough company for this dreary afternoon. “It will not be hard, all you have to do is turn the pages when I tell you to,” offered Elizabeth.

“Okay.” The small child came as close as she could and reached to turn the pages as Elizabeth attempted to practice.

After a few minutes and at least one run through of arpeggios, Mary asked, “Did you have a teacher, Lizzy?”

“For what?”

“For the piano?”

Elizabeth continued practicing as she said, “Yes, you don’t remember? It was a few years ago, I was about your age; Mr. Thompson came to teach myself and Jane for an entire summer. I’ve learned all the notes; all I have to do is practice to get better.” She slumped bored with playing and added, “I hate practicing though, I find it very boring.”

Mary quietly said, “I would love to learn…”

Elizabeth smiled at her younger cousin and said, “Well, come on up then, I can probably show you a little on how to read music. I’m no master though.”

They were at the piano for another hour, before Mr. Bennet found them; he walked into the room and held up a letter. To Elizabeth he said, “Dear girls, please put us all out of our misery. Elizabeth, please take your letter somewhere far away from the pianoforte.”

Elizabeth, still angry at her Uncle, came forward and snatched the letter from his hand, to Mary she said, “Keep practicing Mary, one day you’ll be fantastic,” and then she stomped off to her room. Upon closing the door, she immediately, she saw that the letter was from her grandfather. Part of her wanted to tear the letter up and be completely done with him. However, her curiosity got the better of her and she opened the letter to read it.

Heythrop Park, Oxford
August 20, 1803

My Dear Elizabeth,

You silence wounds me, but now I understand it. Do not be upset with your Uncle for informing me of your distrust of my own silence. It is of my own making, I hope this letter will rectify it. Two things I need you to know before I continue. First, you must be informed that I love you very much and everything I have done has been with you in mind. I can understand your hesitation in believing this and cannot fault you for that. You must know I never meant to hurt you. I never realized that my lack of specific details in my life would possibly hurt you; I absolutely never thought that you would feel that I distrusted you. Nothing could be further from the truth. I must add here, that I and your Uncle did what we thought was best for you and have continued to do so. The only regret I have in our actions is that we waited too long to trust your own judgement.

Secondly, I hope you realize that the information contained is very sensitive. It leaking out to the wrong people, or actually any people, will drastically affect your life. Your Uncle is of the mind that it will not: you will go about living at Longbourn until you are of age, as we decided, but I know better. Our plans may not change but how people perceive you will. I know I am being cryptic, you must allow me this last vague paragraph as it brings me to next detail I need you to understand: you must not tell a soul, for now, at least what I am about to write to you: at all. There will come a time, when this information may be made public, but you must promise me you will keep this confidence.

It is for your safety and sanity that I wish to protect you from the people who would use this information against you. I say this because it has already happened once. When you were a child, you were kidnapped for ransom. Thankfully, you were recovered without any danger befalling you. It is only because of the ineptitude of one of your kidnappers, and the cleverness of a friend in the area where you were recovered that allowed you to be recovered at all. It was partly of this incident that both your Uncle and I agreed to allow you to be raised with your cousins until you are of age.

It is not only because you were kidnapped that we kept this information from you. We also chose to honor the wishes of your deceased parents and chose this venue to honor them by. I can see I am still being vague. Let me start at the beginning of your story with your mother: I went to visit her and your father at Whiting Place on the coast, shortly before your first birthday. Unfortunately, your mother became sick prior to this with a terrible cold and never really recovered. I wish I could say that my visit was simply for the enjoyment of your birthday, but it wasn’t. I was bringing a doctor, a specialist to see your mother because the cold that she thought was gone was back, and with a vengeance. I was not there for more than a month, before your good mother, my daughter, passed away.

I sat for hours that first week with your mother. She was still well enough to speak, but quickly loosing energy. During one of these times, your mother was very candid with me, as she normally was in life, and told me of her wish to keep you from London or the ton for as long as I possibly could. Her and your father had discussed it at great length and was in perfect agreement. That is why they purchased that house by the sea. She did not want you to grow up under the eyes of the ton; she wanted to give you the freedom she never had while growing up. After your mother’s death, your father and I withdrew to Heythrop Park, my estate here in Oxford to satisfy her wishes. He couldn’t bear to live in the house he and your mother had made so many memories in; his grief simply would not allow it.

During the next two years, your father became the son I never had. We spoke often of his marrying again, a thought that was always so foreign to him. I reminded him, often, that Faith wanted you to grow up with other siblings, to have a confidant like I and her mother were never able to gift her with. Gregory agreed, and we had discussed many times, introducing you to your Bennet cousins when you were older.

I large part of died with your mother Faith, and another large part of me died when your father, Gregory, died. It was shortly after his death that you were kidnapped. Having not had any real experience raising a child (your grandmother was a force of nature that it was simply best to let her have her way), and Faith’s wish for you to grow up away from London with other siblings; sending you to your Uncle seemed the best option at the time.

Elizabeth, you must understand. We did these things to protect you. As my only granddaughter, you are my heir. I wish a full life for you. Something I, with all my money and status, cannot offer like your Uncle can. It was not something that we wished to keep from you forever. You must not blame your Uncle. If any blame is to be had: it rests with me. I am the one who has made the decisions. I, once again, am so sorry if I have caused you pain these past years.

I realize I am still being vague. Let me take a moment and introduce myself: I am James George Albert Talbot, Third Duke of Shrewsbury, and it is wonderful to finally meet you. I have many other titles but will not bore you with them now.

Do you realize the importance of this information? Do you realize what your future holds? I am sure your dear Aunt Fanny would be more than willing to tell you. I believe she would start with all the balls and parties you will be attending. She will probably, if she hasn’t already, start telling you of the importance of your marrying well. Then again, she may faint from the knowledge; she has been raising a future Duchess these past eight years.

Being my granddaughter will open many doors for you and your cousins, whom I know you love unconditionally. I must caution you: some of those doors will have people behind them who wish to take advantage of you in many different ways. Other doors will have people who truly care for you behind them. However, with all my wealth and position in society, I wish you to know you are the most important person in the world to me. You are my granddaughter, full of life, energy, joy, and intelligence. I pray that one day you will forgive me and allow me the chance to let you get to know me fully.

Your Grandfather,
James Talbot

PS. Ask me anything you want: any impertinent, silly, or serious question. I’ll do my best to answer them. I now have absolutely no secrets from you. Except of course gifts, I do reserve the right to surprise you.

Elizabeth sat back after reading this missive, and was truly shocked. Her grandfather was a duke? So many questions rans through her head as she attempted to read the missive again. How could they keep something like this from her?

“Lizzy!” called out Mrs. Bennet; before she threw open the door, “What are you doing in here child? Well, I guess it is better than you wandering around outside and mudding up all of your dresses! Oh my! How you do try my nerves! Your dancing instructor is here and you haven’t practiced hardly at all this week!” Mrs. Bennet started fluttering around the room, “Come on then, come on downstairs. Your teacher waits.”

Elizabeth sighed and folded the letter up again, this drew Mrs. Bennet’s attention to it, she cried out, “Another letter from your wayward Grandfather? I don’t understand why, if he is your legal guardian, he doesn’t have you live with him. But then, your prospects are better with us. After all, everyone knows you have no dowry or inheritance. No, I guess, Mr. Bennet was right to take you in.”

“What do you mean Aunt?” Asked Elizabeth and she looked between her letter and Mrs. Bennet, surely she knew about her grandfather. Confused, she couldn’t help thinking, I’m to be a penniless duchess?

“Oh dear Lizzy! It breaks my heart to tell you, but surely you are old enough to know: you have nothing to recommend yourself to any men when you are older. How am I to find you a husband then if you have no skills or talents? At least my own girls at what I brought to this marriage. It isn’t’ much, but it is more than you.” Mrs. Bennet then leaned down and hugged Elizabeth and said, “But that is no matter, we will make sure you are accomplished. We will make sure you are taken care of. Come on! You must learn to dance!”

Elizabeth allowed herself to be dragged downstairs after putting her letter away.

The rest of the evening was a blur for Elizabeth. She spent the entire evening watching her cousins and her aunt and uncle and kept wondering why they were not made aware of her grandfather’s title. Surely, it wouldn’t affect them that much. In fact, Elizabeth had come to conclusion that it might even help to calm Mrs. Bennet’s nerves if she knew she and all her daughters were safe.

By the time she went to bed, Elizabeth was very confused. She had no idea who to talk to about what she had been told. She didn’t know if she
could trust her Uncle or Grandfather to answer her questions. For the next few days she became more and more confused. She read and re-read her grandfather’s letter, and still had no answers.

Mr. Bennet watched his niece during that time and wished she would confide in him. When he could stand her melancholy no longer, he called her into his study.

“Uncle Bennet, you wished to see me?” she asked timidly.

Thomas said, “I know you have no reason to trust me, or your grandfather, however, you’ve shown that I have every reason to trust you.” He pulled out two boxes and said, “You’ve seen this one before,” he said as he indicated a dark old faded, well used wood box with a lock on the front.

Elizabeth nodded and said, “Yes. You told me, you keep your personally things in there to keep them safe from Aunt.” She giggled lightly as she said this. Everyone knew her aunt was very nosy. It was one of the reasons Elizabeth carried her last letter from James around with her.
Thomas smiled and replied, “Right. This box is for you.” He said, as he offered her a shiny new red mahogany box with a lock on it as well. He then pulled out a cross necklace. “If you fold out the end here,” he said as he swung a key out from behind the larger end of the cross, “You’ll find it fits the lock.”

After Elizabeth took both the box and the key from her Uncle, she was able to open the box. When she did, there were letters inside; some old some new. She looked up at her Uncle with a question in her eyes.

Thomas didn’t keep her in suspense, and replied, “The box is for you to hold anything in it that you don’t want prying eyes to see. You will have the only key.” Pulling out one of the letters, he stated, “I’ve chosen some of the correspondence I’ve had not only with my brother but James these last years. All I ask is that you return them when you are done. Start with this one, if you will. It is the last letter I received from James. ”
As Elizabeth rose, he added, “Elizabeth, I will not force a confidence. However, I hope by reading these, they’ll help you understand what happened. If you find yourself still without some answers you seek and do not feel comfortable asking either myself of James, don’t hesitate to right to your Aunt Gardiner. They have known since you came to Longbourn.”

Elizabeth nodded with relief, I can write Aunt Madeline! She left quickly from the study. When she arrived at her room, Elizabeth found Jane nowhere to be found. Sighing she opened the box back up and started reading the first letter indicated by Mr. Bennet.

Heythrop Park, Oxford
August 23, 1802

Thomas,

First, dear friend, thank you. Thank you for alerting me to her distrust. She may not thank you for writing to me, but I needed to hear the awful truth. I immediately sat down and wrote the entire truth to her. I pray she has shared it with you. If she has, we both know you’ve been forgiven. I await, daily, any type of message from her showing that she has forgiven me.

If she has not shown you the letter, know that I offered to have her ask me anything. I will hold no secrets from her. As we’ve discussed before, we knew this day would come. I would however, like to know if you would give her this box. I had one fashioned for her in the same way I had the one fashioned for Gregory that you now hold. Now that she knows about my title and her inheritance, she will need to keep our correspondence from Fanny’s prying eyes.

I still feel uncomfortable not telling your wife. You speak often of her nerves affecting her and how they are getting worse by the day. I know you were joking when you said you were worried for Jane. Having her come out in a few years will be a trial I know. If only you would tell her about my offer. I am in earnest when I tell you: I wish for no one in your family, who I consider my family, to be worried about their fate in life. Damn the entail! If you wish it, I would even offer to buy Longbourn from your blasted cousin! I am starting to think that if we were to tell Fanny, her nerves might calm down and she would once again be that young lady you married.

I know that it seemed as if Gregory had no love for Fanny. He once told me that the only reason he left in a huff to London, after you married, was because he couldn’t stand her prattle. He thought she was a fine lady who cared for you. Unfortunately, we both have seen what Fanny unchecked has come to. However, since she is your wife, I will defer to your request: Fanny is not to know about my wealth or title. I understand she will only try to use it to get all her girls married to rich eligible young men, who may or may not care for your daughters and my granddaughter at all.

Now that Elizabeth knows who I am, I was thinking about having her visit Heythrop, discreetly, next summer. I know that by that time even Jane’s patience will be waning with your wife’s attentions and her actions regarding Jane’s married stated. Personally, I still think that fifteen is much too young to be out and that is still two years away. I believe we should wait until at least sixteen but I would prefer seventeen for Elizabeth. Since she is only eleven at the moment, the time will give me at least four or five years to get used to the idea. What say you? Will you be willing to part with Jane and Lizzy next summer? If you are in agreement, I don’t think we mention this until after she starts speaking with us again. I wouldn’t want her to think I am trying to buy her favor.

In the meantime, I want to caution you: do not force her to speak up. If there was anything that both Faith and Gregory had in common, was their obstinacy and strength of will. If they didn’t want something to happen: it didn’t. If they wanted something to happen: it did.

I recognized it the moment Faith introduced me to Gregory. He stared at me as if to wear down my own will. I knew then and there, he would marry my Faith and take her away. There was nothing to do but to accept and hope that he was a good man. My trust in my daughter payed off; Gregory is one of the best men I ever knew. I was privileged to call him friend and honored to call him son.

As for the young maid, Marie: send her to Heythrop. You are, of course, correct. I have more than enough room for her and her family does miss her greatly. It will also give Elizabeth a friendly face when or if she is to join me next summer.

I await your response.

Sincerely,
James

Elizabeth found herself crying over the care and friendship she was reading. She may not understand why they chose to keep this from her, but she did believe the honestly thought they were doing what was right. She carefully closed the lid of the box after putting her Uncle’s letter back in it and locked it firmly.

She then went down to the study where she found her Uncle laboring over his books. “Uncle?” she waited for him to look up, and said, “Do you mind if I keep the letters for a few days?”

Thomas leaned back in his chair and said, “You may keep them for as long as you like.”

Elizabeth nodded and before she left the room, said, “Uncle?” after he lifted his head again, she said softly before she left, “I would be pleased to visit Grandfather next summer, if it is alright with you. If you wish, I will include it in my next letter to him…”

“Of course, Lizzy.”

“Uncle, will you allow Jane to come?”

Thomas leaned back in his chair and said, “Would she not be in the way?”

Elizabeth started to shake her head, “I don’t believe she will, and I would so much like her company. After all, I’ve never really traveled anywhere before, and she has at least twice to London.”

“That is settled then: Jane and you will be for Oxford in the summer.”

To say the next few weeks were rough on Elizabeth were an understatement. Each letter brought stories, and people who did not impress the duke and others who did.Elizabeth had taken her time with the letters her Uncle had given her and even had let Jane read a few. By the end of the fall, Elizabeth felt even closer to her cousin than she had before. It was inconceivable for her leave her dear cousin behind when she went to visit Heythrop Park. The summer after that, it was equally inconceivable to leave Jane behind when she met her grandfather at Whiting Place by the sea. It became tradition, that whenever Elizabeth went to visit her grandfather, Jane would go as well.

Slowly, Elizabeth learned, as she grew and was presented to the limited society in Meryton, what her father and grandfather had done to protect her and her quite life. By the time her youngest cousin, Lydia, was allowed into society, Elizabeth found humor in the irony that presented itself. Many thought her to be the penniless cousin of the Bennets, whose fortunes, it was widely known was almost non-existent itself. She found humor when gentlemen would look at her with regret. She was often found laughing at nothing in particular, only to find out that yet another matriarch of Meryton society, expressed regret regarding her “unfortunate situation”.

Indeed, she found the entire situation so intriguing early on, she had made her grandfather promise not to “formally announce her as his heir” to society until she was “of age” and almost surely on the shelf. Thus it was planned: her formal coming out into the first circles would happen the summer after she turned twenty-one.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Ignorance and Irony

MarciMarch 22, 2017 08:45PM

I was worried that she would ask something to Mrs. Bennet.

GracielaMarch 27, 2017 09:44PM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

LynetteMarch 27, 2017 12:26PM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

EvelynJeanMarch 25, 2017 03:39AM

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mpinneyMarch 24, 2017 02:59PM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

MarciMarch 24, 2017 03:36PM

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Lucy J.March 24, 2017 05:12AM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

LizzySMarch 23, 2017 07:35PM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

Linnea EileenMarch 23, 2017 05:47AM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

MarciMarch 23, 2017 03:57PM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

Linnea EileenApril 02, 2017 06:21AM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

RoxDawnMarch 23, 2017 04:59AM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

MarciMarch 23, 2017 04:19PM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

LucieMarch 22, 2017 11:49PM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

KateBMarch 23, 2017 01:24AM

Re: Ignorance and Irony

DorisMarch 23, 2017 12:13AM



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