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Beyond Longbourn - Chapter 3

June 01, 2017 12:38AM
I will take this opportunity to acknowledge two errors. The first is purely a question of the design of this story. If I ever rework this little bit of fluff, the first two chapters will essentially be a Prologue. The story really begins with Chapter 3.

The second error is quite a bit more embarrassing. As several readers have noted there is an important question i failed to consider in Chapter I. To wit: What the Hades was Mrs Powell doing alone in a park near Cheapside? I will, of course, have to address the matter at some point and think up a logical, rational explanation. So far, the best I can do is that she was, in fact, accompanied by a man-servant who was drawn away by the action of an accomplish to the two youngsters that attacked Mrs. Powell. I am open to better suggestions. Chapter 1 will be rewritten when i get the time.

On to the story!


Chapter Three

Longbourn House
Thursday, November 28, 1811

The day began much as the last had ended. Mrs. Bennet’s anger, when she learned that her second eldest daughter, Elizabeth, had spurned Mr. Collins’ proposal of marriage, had not abated to any noticeable extent, and Mr. Collins remained in an angry state of injured pride. If Elizabeth had hopes that his hostility might cause him to shorten his visit, they were to be unfulfilled. To Saturday he had planned to stay, and to Saturday he would stay.

After breakfast, she and her sisters walked to Meryton. As they entered town, they were joined by an officer, Mr. Wickham, of the _____ Militia which had been quartered in Meryton for the winter. Lydia’s and Kitty’s expressions of disappointment that he had missed the Netherfield ball were expressed so warmly as to leave the gentleman in no doubt as to the regard with which he was held by them. However, it was to Elizabeth that he acknowledged that his absence had been voluntary, although why he should single her out she found perplexing. He had, a week past, regaled her with a story of his misfortunes at the hands of Mr. Darcy, a gentleman of the Netherfield party who she found excessively disagreeable. She had listened with interest but had chosen to suspend her belief, for there were about Mr. Wickham such similarities to Mr. Townsend as to make her wary. She knew nothing about Mr. Wickham and only slightly more about Mr. Darcy. The latter, who was visiting Mr. Bingley, had proven himself to be a proud, haughty gentleman who treated all that he had met in Hertfordshire with disdain and poorly concealed contempt. She herself had been spoken of most disparagingly by the gentleman, although she suspected that he was unaware that he had been overheard. Nonetheless, despite her dislike, she was not prepared to afford unquestioned creditability to Mr. Wickham. She had no doubt that there was some truth in what he had related to her, but how much and what she was not able to determine. Perhaps her very willingness to listen to his tale had convinced him of her belief, for he spoke to her as one sharing a confidence. Why he would spin such a tale if it were false was beyond her comprehension, for she could not see that he gained any advantage in the telling. It was that very disinterest that lent some credence to his words. That it spoke poorly of Mr. Darcy, for whom she enjoyed a great dislike, only afforded additional pleasure. Mr. Wickham apparently found it necessary to expand on the explanation for his absence.

"I found" said he, "that it would be best to not bring myself into Mr. Darcy's company, for I could not be certain as to how well I could bear it and scenes might arise that would be unpleasant to everyone.”

She regarded him quizzically, well remembering his boast that he would not avoid Mr. Darcy. She chose not to allow his latest statement to remain unchallenged.

“I commend your forbearance, Mr. Wickham; however, I suspect it was misguided. I cannot claim to know Mr. Darcy at all well, but I seriously doubt that he would have acted improperly, especially during his friend’s ball. Besides, what had you to fear? You were the offended party, were you not?”

There was a touch of uncertainty in Mr. Wickham’s countenance and Elizabeth’s scepticism must have been more obvious than she thought, for, after a brief pause, he deigned only to nod acknowledgement, murmur that he perhaps had been too cautious and moved quickly to walk between Lydia and Kitty. Upon being joined by another officer, the two youngest Bennet sisters were happy to return to Longbourn in their company, gaily conversing as they walked.

Jane and Elizabeth walked more circumspectly behind them. Elizabeth’s thoughts were directed to Mr. Wickham. She was surprised at his reaction, for she had only meant to tease him slight at being too scrupulous in his concerns. Yet, his behaviour almost suggested that he misunderstood her teasing and believed her to be questioning his actions. She reviewed her words to him. There was surely nothing in what she said that would suggest such disbelief unless. . .No! That was impossible! He could surely not have missed the ball because he feared Mr. Darcy’s reaction? Yet, he had stated so very convincingly that he would not avoid Mr. Darcy.

Her sister noticed her abstraction and said, “Something concerns you, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth glanced at Jane. She had shared with Jane her previous conversation with Mr. Wickham and her reservations about what he had disclosed. His most recent admission only added to her uncertainties about the gentleman.

“You heard what Mr. Wickham said, I trust?” Jane nodded. “Well, his reasons for avoiding the ball ring false and that makes me question how much credit I should attach to anything he has said. If he had not been as specific as to the details; if his knowledge of Mr. Darcy had not been so extensive; I might disregard the matter altogether. Yet, it is hard to do so, for I can see no purpose to his lying in such a matter. What could he hope to achieve by it?”

“He has not lied, has he, Lizzy? There have been no falsehoods?”

“I cannot know for certain. I have not discerned any, to be sure, and Mr. Darcy refused to address the matter when I pressed him on it.”

“As I said at the ball, Mr. Bingley could only say that Mr. Wickham had used his friend very poorly but he did not know the particulars of the matter.”

Elizabeth smiled. If Mr. Bingley thought his friend had been wronged, her sister would not be inclined to dispute the interpretation. Her thoughts were soon to be put aside, for they had reached Longbourn. The officers, who had arrived before them, remained only a short time before being required to return to their duties. Shortly thereafter, the post was delivered and one letter given to Jane and the rest taken to Mr. Bennet’s book room. Jane quickly opened and read her correspondence and then as quickly put the letter away and attempted to resume her conversation with as much of her usual manner as possible. Only Elizabeth noted a change in her demeanour but, as Jane obviously did not want to make the letter’s contents public, resolved to speak later with her in her room.

A few minutes later, Elizabeth was summoned to her father’s book room and directed by him to the seat in front of his desk. A letter was open in front of him and another, still sealed, lay beside it. He was regarding her most peculiarly.

“I thought,” said Mr. Bennet, “that I had exhausted my portion of surprises for this week. It seems I was in error. That Mr. Collins should be so insensible as to expect you to accept his offer of marriage has, however, proven to be insignificant in light of the matter disclosed in this letter.” He peered at Elizabeth, “Does the name Frost, Coombs and Tucker mean anything to you, child?”

Elizabeth confessed it did not.

“I had not thought it would but wished to be sure. They are a firm of solicitors in London. The letter was given to me, although addressed to you. I can only suppose that Hill saw it was officious looking and believed it to be mine without checking further. I opened it before I realized it was not addressed to me.”

Elizabeth was puzzled, “What have they to do with me?”

Mr. Bennet did not answer immediately. Elizabeth could see he was uncertain as to how best to raise the matter. Finally, he responded, “I have distressing news, my child. Your friend, Mrs. Powell, has passed away.” He shook his head at her query, “I cannot provide the details, for this letter is from her solicitor.”

Elizabeth sat in stunned silence. She did not wish to cry in front of her father, for she knew he was made extremely uncomfortable by such displays of emotion. But she wished for the solitude to allow herself to grieve and made as if to rise, “I believe I shall remove to my room.”

Mr. Bennet nodded. He was not insensible to her reaction, but there was another matter he believed could not be deferred.

“Before you do so, I believe it best to apprise you that it appears that you are to inherit a substantial sum of money from Mrs. Powell. But perhaps you should read the letter yourself.”

The letter was surprisingly brief considering its substance. To the shock of learning that her dear friend, Mrs. Powell, had died suddenly and unexpectedly, was added the information that, after the bequests for Mrs. Powell’s companion, servants and several other individuals had been taken care of (none of whom were named – but Elizabeth assumed that had she been present when the will was read, she would have learned who they were.) that she, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, was Mrs. Powell’s heir.

“Over ten thousand pounds!” she exclaimed, “And Mrs. Powell’s townhouse!”

“A very substantial inheritance, Lizzy. Very substantial. And” Mr. Bennet smiled teasingly, “I am sure that your mother will find excellent uses for both the monies and the house, should you allow her to do so.”

Elizabeth looked at him askance. “Do you think I should, Papa?”

Mr. Bennet shook his head. “She shall have to be informed, of course, and you must travel to London as soon as possible to speak with the solicitor. But no, I do not believe you obligated in any way to share this gift.” He paused, “I shall write your Uncle Gardiner to assist you in the matter. You might travel there Monday next.”

“Mrs. Powell has died!” It was suddenly borne upon Elizabeth that this unexpected good fortune had come through the passing of her dear friend. The shock of learning what had been gifted her had briefly driven the cause of it from her mind. She felt tears pricking her eyes. Mrs. Powell had been more than a friend. Elizabeth had never known her maternal grandmother and old Mrs. Bennet, as she was called fondly, had died when Elizabeth was young. She had not really known her well. Mrs. Powell had, without either of them realizing it, come to fill the role of grandmother; now she was no more. Elizabeth, due to her mother’s insistence on her remaining at Longbourn, had not been with her friend as was planned and thus unable to help her. Perhaps, if she had been present to nurse her, Mrs. Powell would be still alive. She forced back the tears. She would grieve the loss in private. She picked up the letter addressed to her in her friend’s own hand. She opened it but the words blurred before her. A handkerchief was pressed into her hand and she mumbled her thanks for her father’s thoughtfulness. It took a few seconds but finally she was composed enough to read.

__________ Street, London
September 12, 1811

Dearest Elizabeth,

If you are reading this, you will have learned of my passing. I have every hope that unhappy event shall not occur for some years yet, but I have seen too many of my former acquaintances pass from this earth unexpectedly and without having made proper provision for those left behind, to want to make the same mistake.

I have no close relatives left, and my nearest relation, Anne de Bourgh, is a distant cousin only through my husband. I believe I have spoken of her to you in the past. Anne is to inherit Rosings Park and has also a sizeable dowry. My small fortune will not materially enhance her position, nor will it, in my opinion, be particularly valued. I have left Anne all my jewelry, excepting one piece, as most of it came to me through my husband’s family and it is appropriate, I believe, that it be returned to someone connected to them.

I have left to you the pearl necklace that you have always admired (and which looked so well on you), for only you truly appreciated how important it was to me. I have, as well, left you the balance of my estate. There are several bequests to those who have served me faithfully for many years which will allow them to retire and Miss Campbell, my companion since my husband’s passing, is also more than ready to retire and live with her sister in Malmesbury. The amount set aside for her pension should allow her to do so comfortably.

I have not left you a munificent amount, Elizabeth. It is, however, sufficient to secure your independence. My house and the monies remaining – which my solicitor assures me should amount to about ten thousand pounds – will allow you to live comfortably should you choose not to marry, or provide an acceptable dowry if some discerning gentleman should gain your heart. We have spoken on these matters on many occasions and I wish for you to have the freedom to choose, a freedom which your current circumstances do not allow.

There is one condition attached to this inheritance, Elizabeth, and one that may cause you some difficulty, but I believe you strong and determined enough to deal with the problems it will create. I do not want you to accept the inheritance unless you are prepared to honour this condition. However, I know your sense of justice and integrity and I trust you to comply with my wishes. It is quite simple, my dear. I wish only that this inheritance be used for yourself and yourself alone. From my limited knowledge of your mother, I am sure she will attempt to have the funds and the house used to promote all her daughters – and particularly her two favourites – and, in short order, will have totally exhausted the funds in useless extravagances. Your common sense, I trust. I have no doubt but that you will assist your sisters but will do so in a responsible manner. I would expect no less of you.

You have become, in the few years that we have known each other, my closest friend and very much the daughter I lost long ago or the granddaughter I was not destined to have. God keep you.

Susan Powell

Mr. Bennet watched the play of emotions across his daughter's countenance. He saw sorrow, a smile he thought more wistful than otherwise, and a resolution forming.

“What does she write, Lizzy?” His tone was gentle. He would not demand that she share Mrs. Powell’s confidences.

She passed him the letter, waving off his disclaimers. “Aunt Susan would not mind my sharing this with you.

He read it slowly, marvelling at Elizabeth’s good fortune to have been befriended by such a woman. “She is. . .was an exceptional woman, Lizzy. You were fortunate indeed and I do not refer to this bequest.”

He passed the letter back to her. “She was perhaps the grandmother you never had. A sensible, kind and intelligent woman. You were blessed indeed, and it is only to be regretted that she is no longer with us.”

“So much! I had no thoughts she would be so kind.”

“It will ensure, Lizzy, your independence from the Mr. Collinses of this world. You need never marry, if that is your choice, but it shall also afford you the opportunity to select a husband whom you can respect. You will, however,” and he gave a rueful chuckle, “have to deal with your mother on the matter. This will most assuredly raise her expectations. I doubt she will be satisfied with less than a season in town for you all.”

“I shall honour Mrs. Powell’s request, Papa! I have no objection to assisting my sisters but it shall not be at my mother’s direction.”

“I had no doubt but that you would, my dear. Your mother will be greatly displeased but I believe we shall survive the experience. I dare say you will not regret travelling to London and thus avoiding your share of her lamentations for a few days.” He sighed, “I shall announce this at luncheon – after we finish eating, for I have no desire to disturb the tranquility of the meal more than necessary.”

Elizabeth retired to her room; there to peruse the two letters several more times before securing them in her small strongbox which contained her most valuable possessions. She was about to return it to its place in her closet when a knock sounded on her door, and Jane requested permission to enter. Placing the box on the small table beside her bed, she then opened the door for her sister.

“What did Papa wish to see you about, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth retrieved the two letters and passed them with a simple explanation, “Aunt Susan died almost a week ago. One letter is from her solicitors, the other she wrote herself some months past.”

“Oh, Lizzy! I am so sorry. I know you shall miss her greatly.”

Jane’s visits to Mrs. Powell had been an enjoyable for them both and, if the relationship between them was not as close or as warm as that they shared separately with Elizabeth, they never had cause to repine being in company together. She read the two missives and shook her head in amazement. “So much! And yet I know you too well, Elizabeth, to not understand that you would rather have Mrs. Powell alive and well. What shall you do with the money? And the house?”

“I am to go to London on Monday. I shall take the advice of our Uncle Gardiner but I expect he will suggest that I lease out the house – I have no use for it, after all. I do not wish to sell it and perhaps we might need it in the future.”

“Mama will declare she must live there when Mr. Collins becomes master of Longbourn.”

“We shall see.” said Elizabeth noncommittally. Her mother’s designs and wishes were never hard to comprehend; but, in this instance, she had no intention of abiding by them. If she had her father’s support, she could resist her mother’s demands. She had done so in regards to Mr. Collins and his insulting proposal, she would do likewise in regards to Mrs. Powell’s bequest. If her father was not there to support her, she would do the best she could, but Mrs. Powell’s condition would be honoured. She returned the letters to her strongbox and regarded her sister. Her thoughts had been so wrapped in her own letters that she had almost forgotten that Jane had received one of her own. She rather suspected that it was from Caroline Bingley.

“You received a letter also?” she said.

Jane acknowledged that to be so, that it was from Miss Bingley and read the first sentence aloud, which comprised the information that Miss Bingley and her sister and husband were resolved to follow their brother to town directly, and of their meaning to dine that day in Grosvenor Street, where Mr. Hurst had a house. This was followed, in high flown expressions, by regrets at the loss of Jane’s company and the hope of their meeting again in the future. Elizabeth, who had never held Miss Bingley in high regard, expressed her belief that the departure of his sister need not prevent Mr. Bingley from returning.

Jane simply shook her head. “Caroline decidedly says that none of the party will return into Hertfordshire this winter. That Mr. Bingley’s business will likely take much longer than he expected and that once in town he would likely wish to remain for the rest of the winter.”

To Elizabeth’s protests she then added, “Caroline suspects her brother to harbour an interest in Miss Darcy and that she hopes that he will further this interest. How can I interpret her words in any fashion other than that Caroline neither expects nor wishes me to be her sister; that she is perfectly convinced of her brother’s indifference, and that if she suspects the nature of my feelings for him, she means to put me on my guard? Can there be any other opinion on the subject?”

“Yes, there can; for mine is totally different. Will you hear it?”

“Most willingly.”

“You shall have it in few words. Miss Bingley sees that her brother is in love with you, but wants him to marry Miss Darcy. She follows him to town in the hope of keeping him there, and tries to persuade you that he does not care about you.”

Jane shook her head.

“Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me. No one who has ever seen you together can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot. She is not such a simpleton. If Mr. Darcy held her in half as much regard, she would be ordering her wedding clothes. We have seen Miss Bingley’s ilk in London during the season, have we not? To them, fortune and connections – consequence, if you will – is all that matters, and in that we are, unfortunately, lacking. For that reason, she wishes to sever any attachment between you and Mr. Bingley. Miss Darcy has both fortune and connections and, if Miss Bingley can foster affections between her brother and Miss Darcy, she may well hope to encourage Mr. Darcy’s attentions to herself. Ingenious, if successful. I dare say it would succeed, if Mr. Darcy were not apparently promised to Miss de Bourgh. My dearest Jane, Mr. Bingley may well admire Miss Darcy; however, that in no way diminishes his attachment to you.”

Elizabeth was struck by the oddity of Miss de Bourgh being related to Mrs. Powell and to Mr. Darcy; however, her sister’s concerns would not allow her to contemplate that connection further.

“If we thought alike of Miss Bingley,” replied Jane, “your view might make me quite easy. But I know the foundation is unjust. I cannot believe Caroline capable of wilfully deceiving anyone; and all that I can hope in this case is that she is deceived herself.”

Elizabeth sighed. Her sister’s unwillingness - or inability - to see the machinations of others had often bothered her, but rarely more so than now. Although she suspected her efforts would prove fruitless, she tried once more to persuade her sister to her view of the matter. Mr. Bingley’s affections had been too marked, in her opinion, for there to be any doubt of his desire to return. Moreover, he had told Jane that he would not be gone for very long, a circumstance that Miss Bingley had confirmed. The suggestion that he would be delayed for a significant period of time was a creation of Miss Bingley alone. The question then was whether Miss Bingley’s persuasion, her power over her brother, was sufficient to sway him from his intention of returning. Of this, she could not be sure and she was reluctant to bolster her sister’s spirits with hopes that could be dashed. Of Mr. Bingley’s affections she was certain, of their constancy or his resolution, she was not.

She wished she could treat the idea of Mr. Bingley returning no more with the utmost contempt, but she could not. She chose, therefore, to present the situation in what she believed its true light.

“Jane,” said she, “We can suppose that Mr. Bingley will return or he will not. Is that not the case?”

Jane nodded reluctantly, having already convinced herself he would not.

“Now, Jane,” continued Elizabeth, “grant me one thing, and one thing only.”

Elizabeth waited for her sister’s agreement which was, she realized, given with reservations.

“Very well, I shall accept that you do so unwillingly. It is not such a great obligation, I assure you. Mr. Bingley did make his interest in you unmistakable, did he not? You cannot deny that, Jane! It was obvious to everyone. If he returns, I have no doubt that he will seek you out with but one purpose in mind. I shall speak no more on that. If he does not return, however, the question will be why. I can suppose two causes. One is that Miss Bingley is correct, that he has, or will, form an attachment to Miss Darcy, or another young lady. If such is the case, a gentleman with such an inconstant character is not the husband I would wish for my dearest sister. The second, and in my opinion, a distinct possibility, is that he is persuaded by his sisters and his friend that you lack the fortune and connections they wish for him. If such is the case, would you wish to marry a man who can be so readily convinced against his inclinations?”

Elizabeth could almost hear Mrs. Powell’s voice as she spoke to Jane. Her sister was silent for several minutes before saying with a melancholy air, “Your advice is painful, but I cannot gainsay it. If he does not return, I shall require myself to forget him.”

Elizabeth wished that her sister’s manner was as resolute as her words, but that was too much to expect yet. They agreed that Mrs. Bennet should only hear of the departure of the family, without alarming her as to the question of whether he would return at all; but even this partial communication gave their mother a great deal of concern, and she bewailed it as exceedingly unlucky that the ladies should happen to go away, just as they were all getting so intimate together.

After lamenting it, however, at some length, she had the consolation of thinking that Mr. Bingley would be soon down again, and be dining at Longbourn, and the conclusion of it all was the comfortable declaration that, though he had been invited only to a family dinner, she would take care to have two full courses.

Mrs. Bennet’s concerns about Mr. Bingley were swiftly driven from her mind by the news, imparted by Mr. Bennet after the midday meal, of Elizabeth’s inheritance from Mrs. Powell. Mrs. Bennet’s reaction was everything that Elizabeth had anticipated.

“Dear Mrs. Powell!” cried Mrs. Bennet, “How very kind of her. I always knew that she held you in regard, Lizzy. It was very artful of you to have paid such attention to her. A house in London! We must go there for the season, Mr. Bennet. With ten thousand pounds! We shall be able to dress our daughters very well indeed. I can see Jane and Lydia now. It will. . .”

“Mrs. Bennet!” snapped her husband, so sharply that she ceased speaking in amazement. “Allow me to correct your understanding of the matter. This money was left to Elizabeth and to Elizabeth alone. It is not to be used to buy dresses for your other daughters, nor is it to be wasted on frivolous undertakings in London. Elizabeth has inherited this money and one of Mrs. Powell’s conditions was that it NOT be used to gratify your wishes and desires. Have I made myself clearly understood, Mrs. Bennet?”

His wife looked at him in consternation and immediately began to protest, “Mr. Bennet, you cannot be serious. Ten thousand pounds will increase each of our daughters’ dowries to three thousand. You would allow Elizabeth to keep it all? That should not be! To set one daughter above her sisters is not right.”

“And yet Mrs. Powell, who had the right to dispose of her fortune as she pleased, chose to do so. Are we to question her motives? I shall not. But your suggestion is not at all relevant in this Instance. It is the conditions that Mrs. Powell attached to the inheritance that must be complied with and it is her direction that the money and house be Lizzy’s and Lizzy’s only.” He paused briefly, “I am sending Lizzy to London on Monday to meet with the solicitors with our Brother Gardiner. Jane may accompany her, should she wish to do so.”

“Jane cannot go! Mr. Bingley might return at any time and then where we would we be? No! Jane can certainly not go with Lizzy!” Mrs. Bennet’s expostulations were accompanied by a frantic waving of a handkerchief. She fixed a glare at her second oldest and most disobedient daughter. “Lizzy must go alone. She will have no assistance from us since she has refused to do her duty to her family.”

“I believe, Mrs. Bennet,” replied her husband with a stern look at his wife, “that as head of this household, the decision is mine. Jane shall, should she wish to do so, accompany Lizzy to the Gardiners. Am I rightly understood, Mrs. Bennet?”

His wife, though used to having her own way in matters of her daughters, was also quite aware that when her husband was resolved on a matter, it was best not to gainsay him immediately. The trip to London would not happen for several days and she would work on Jane in the meantime. She gave her assent reluctantly and Mr. Bennet could believe the matter had only been resolved temporarily.

Mr. Collins, who had been listening to the discussion with uncharacteristic silence, could restrain himself no longer.

“I must suppose, Cousin, that it was the prospect of such an inheritance that prompted you to refuse my most generous offer of marriage. It was very poorly done, Cousin, very poorly done. And then to refuse to abide by your mother’s direction – once more I might add – it displays a want of propriety and. . .”

Mr. Collins, that is quite enough!” declared Mr. Bennet firmly. He had risen from the table, planted his hands on it and leaned towards Mr. Collins. “My daughter, sir, received the news only this morning and I am certain that you remember having proposed a day earlier. Surely, not even you would suggest that Elizabeth could have known the contents of the letter before it arrived. I will ask you to desist in this remonstrance.”

Mr. Collins subsided, glowering at Elizabeth. Mrs. Bennet, who had nodded enthusiastically at his words, slumped back in her chair. It had been disappointment enough that Elizabeth had been allowed to reject Mr. Collins. Now she was to keep for herself a fortune that would enhance the marriage prospects of her sisters. Mrs. Bennet’s displeasure was extreme and she vowed to resume her exhortations to Elizabeth. The girl must be brought to see reason. She began to do so at once.

Mr. Bennet, who normally would not stir himself to intervene in his wife’s treatment of any of his daughters, could see that Elizabeth was not of a mind to tolerate his wife’s attentions. He had no doubt of his daughter’s ability to withstand such pressure as might be brought to bear but, in this instance, where she had yet to have the chance to grieve a lost friend, he could not allow his wife to bother her.

“Mrs. Bennet,” said he, “You shall leave Elizabeth in peace. You shall not importune her further on this matter or any other. Do I make myself understood?”

Mrs. Bennet knew better than to disobey a direct order from her husband and nodded reluctantly, although her glares at Elizabeth abated not at all. Mercifully, she remained silent until Elizabeth, tired by the morning’s events and wishing for time to mourn the passing of her friend and to consider the implications of her inheritance, took the opportunity to remove herself to her room. The prospect of future independence was little consolation for the loss of Mrs. Powell. To bear with her mother’s harangues, the foolish whispers and giggles of her two youngest sisters as they attempted to imagine how they would spend her fortune, and Mr. Collins’ indignant wrath, was more than she could undertake. Her room provided some sense of solitude and, if she was to have that intruded upon, it most likely would be Jane whose quiet comfort always soothed.

Residence of Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Rosings Park, Kent
Wednesday, November 27, 1811

Lady Catherine de Bourgh was most seriously displeased. Only a se’nnight past she had learned from Lady Metcalf, who had it from a friend living in London, that Mrs. Powell, with whom both ladies were acquainted, had passed away unexpectedly. Mrs. Powell’s husband had been a cousin of Lady Catherine’s husband, Sir Lewis de Bourgh. Mr. Powell had, in Lady Catherine’s opinion, married below his station. His wife had brought a respectable dowry to the marriage but she was the daughter of a country squire with no connections of significance. It had apparently been a love match and Lady Catherine’s opinion of those had ever been poor. She had married to preserve her rank in society and the de Bourgh family, if untitled and lacking the prestige of her own, had been wealthy, much respected and had added several valuable connections to the Fitzwilliam family. Moreover, Lady Catherine had always felt that Mrs. Powell had viewed her with amusement, though she had been careful to conceal it. She had not hesitated to voice opinions that contradicted those of Lady Catherine and her deference had never extended to accepting an opinion with which she disagreed. Lady Catherine had been mildly offended when, at Mr. Powell’s passing, his estate had been left solely to his widow. Mr. Powell’s de Bourgh relations had, in her opinion, all been slighted; however, she had found solace in the thought that it would return to the de Bourgh family after Mrs. Powell’s passing, for she knew of no relations of the lady herself.

Now his widow had repeated the injury. As soon as Lady Catherine had learned of Mrs. Powell's death, she had written her solicitor to determine the contents of Mrs. Powell’s will. She could hardly fault her solicitor’s diligence, although had he been present, she might have directed a few harsh words at him from frustration. She glared at the document he had included with his letter to her. It was a probate record of the will in question, and nothing about it was pleasing.

Will of Susan Judith Powell, widow of William Henry Powell, (1734-1800) Barrister and Gentleman, October 3, 1811

Will: My house, located at _______ Street, and all other real property I own at the time of my death, to Elizabeth Grace Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire, in fee simple. Bequests: To Elizabeth Grace Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire, my pearl necklace; To Anne de Bourgh, the only child of the late Sir Lewis de Bourgh, my late husband's cousin, all of my remaining jewelry; To my companion, Miss Eleanor Campbell £1000; To my servant Mary Smith £100; To my servant Hannah Pouncy £5 and a suit of mourning; To John Simpson of Winterbourne Saint Martin who formerly lived in my service £5; To my servant Charles Stone £50 if still living with me at my decease; six dozen blankets & 6 dozen pairs of sheets for the poor of St Peters; all my Household goods, of every sort & kind, & the rest & residue of my money and personal property, except my jewelry, to Elizabeth Grace Bennet, solely for her use and advantage and under her sole control, notwithstanding her covertures if she marries, and without being in any wise subject to the debts or control of her then or after-taken husband.

“This cannot be!” She declared.

Her daughter, Anne, looked at her quizzically. She had been vaguely aware of her mother’s disturbance of mind but, as that was not an unusual event, had ignored it as she generally found it most convenient to do. Her mother waved the document at her.

“You cousin, Mrs. Powell, has left you only her jewelry – and not even all of it, for that pearl necklace I have always admired was given to this. . .this Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who, I have no doubt is a scheming sort of girl out for herself. Her house and the rest of her estate have been given, not to you who was her closest relation, but to this Miss Bennet who cannot be related to her in any fashion. Your cousin has forgotten what is owed to her family. It is unconscionable! It cannot be endured!”

Miss de Bourgh murmured something unintelligible. Lady Catherine continued as if her daughter had not spoken.

“Your cousin has lost the use of her reason. This Miss Bennet,” she spat the name, “has made her forget what she owes to her family. She has made her blind to claims of duty and honour. She has drawn your cousin in. I have no doubt of it.”

“But mother, if it was Mrs. Powell’s wish, what is there for us to do?”

Anne had no firm recollection of Mrs. Powell. She remembered meeting her once or twice and, as she already had more jewelry than she could wear, the prospect of gaining more, did not interest her greatly. Her mother, however, had a much different view of the matter.

“I shall deal with this Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I am not about to be trifled with in this matter.”

Beyond Longbourn - Chapter 3

PeterJune 01, 2017 12:38AM

Surprised :-)

Sabine C.June 06, 2017 09:44AM

Re: Beyond Longbourn - Chapter 3

SoniaJune 01, 2017 08:55PM

Re: Beyond Longbourn - Chapter 3

JubelleJune 01, 2017 04:02PM

Re: Beyond Longbourn - Chapter 3

EvelynJeanJune 01, 2017 09:09AM

Re: Beyond Longbourn - Chapter 3

LisaZJune 01, 2017 05:02AM

Re: Beyond Longbourn - Chapter 3

elleJune 01, 2017 02:32AM


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