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Ignorance and Irony -- Chapter 7 Part One

June 09, 2017 02:07PM
Author’s note: Once again, thankyou Betsy and Roxey for all the help with this story. You guys rock!



Chapter 7 – Last Trip
Lambton, Derbyshire July 1812

Elizabeth was determined to be excited. She had never been to the Lake District but her removal to London so soon after her return to Hertfordshire from this trip was making it difficult for her to concentrate on enjoying the moments she had left with her family. As the merry group set off, Madeline noticed Elizabeth’s silence and remarked upon it.

“I guess I am only feeling a little melancholy or maybe it is nerves. When I return I will have so little time left –”

Madeline could not help herself and she started laughing loudly, wiping tears from her eyes, she noticed the two sets of eyes on her and tried to explain: “It is only how you said it, Elizabeth. You sounded so forlorn, as if your life was ending rather than simply moving. You will still be able to see your family and Longbourn again! The difference is that His Grace will probably travel with you.”

Elizabeth gave a small smile but remained silent. However, the more she thought about it, the more she realized Madeline was right, even Mr. Darcy had remarked upon how easy it was to travel when one had the resources and good roads. After a few moments of reflection, Elizabeth found herself starting to giggle lightly. When she made eye contact with Mrs. Gardiner, her laughter got louder. Soon the entire carriage was finding the humor in Elizabeth’s comment.

After a while, Elizabeth sobered up and said, “But Madeline, you are somewhat right, in a way I feel like Elizabeth is dying. She will be replaced by Lady Elizabeth. Instead of being greeted by friends, I will be bowed to by the same people who helped raise me. Even Grandfather has taken to calling me LadyElizabeth in his letters; I find I do not like it.”

Madeline smiled and said, “Elizabeth, you know my father was a smithy. Most people felt I was marrying up when I married Edward.” She turned to her husband and she grabbed his hand, “Indeed, my station in life is vastly different and better than what it was.” Turning back to Elizabeth she continued, “I know the changes I had to make will be nothing compared to yours, but I assure you I felt the same way when I married.”

She smiled as she looked out the window, “I remember the first time Edward and I returned to Derbyshire. It was a few years after we had wed. I had finally become comfortable in town, and was excited to see my father; he was all alone, except for friends that he refused to move away from. I had not realized how much I had changed and went to greet my friends as I had in the past, the same friends who I had attempted to write to.”

Her smile faded with her memory, “However, all my friends could see was the brand new carriage Edward had purchased to get us to Derbyshire without having to rent or ride the coach. Some were able to look past that but were not able to ignore the cut of my clothes. It was apparent; I was no longer the daughter of a smithy, but the wife of a businessman. I was crushed when we had to return home early. Edward had received word that he was needed and I was barely given enough time to inform my friends of our removal.”

Looking at Elizabeth she said, “It was tragic really. Many of the ladies I had grown up with just completely stopped writing. I was written to by other friends and was told that the general consensus was that I had become arrogant and had forgotten my birth. When Edward offered to return me a few years later, I did not wish to go. I had kept the situation secret from him and he wanted to know why I refused to go back home. I refused to tell him. It was not until a few months after that when we learned my father was ill that Edward insisted and I returned alone.”

Madeline stared out the window for a while, and then turned back to Elizabeth and said, “I will not tell you that the trip turned out to be wonderful. I was home again for four months until my father died, but they were blessed months, dear. I learned who my real friends were. I learned how to value myself and not the opinions of others. They were hard and they hurt, but I found my friends that I now love as dear as my own family.”

Elizabeth could feel her reservations calming. Madeline concluded, “My own father was a reticent man, and a shy man. He rarely spoke unless spoken to, and preferred action to words. He saw what was happening to me and stepped back to let me deal with it. I have a feeling your grandfather will not react the same way my father did; James will have something to say if anyone tries to disparage you.”

Madeline felt that they had spent enough time speaking of serious matters and attempted to change the subject, “However, for right now, let us just enjoy the trip Elizabeth. You will have plenty of time to worry and fret after it. We are supposed to be having fun you know!”

It was at this point, that Mr. Gardiner spoke up, “Ladies, when we get to Derbyshire, we will be staying at Lambton. What fun outings do we want to do? A few days will be needed to visit your friends, my dear, during which time I hope to get some fishing in!”

Mrs. Gardiner laughed and said, “Fishing indeed! There is a great stream not a few miles from town that is well stocked. It runs out from the edge of Pemberley –”

“Pemberley?” exclaimed Elizabeth, “How close will we be to Pemberley?”

“Not five miles.” Then Madeline had a thought, “Oh Elizabeth! That is a perfect idea! I have not seen Pemberley for quite a few years! We can go visit it, and later we can see Oxford, Kenilworth, or even Birmingham!”

Elizabeth latched onto the thoughts of visiting the other large estates. She felt confident that by the time they had seen all of the other places there were to see, and visited all of Madeline’s friends; there would not be enough time to visit Pemberley.

They had been in Lambton about two weeks, and Elizabeth thought that her aunt had finally forgotten about the proposed visit to Darcy’s estate. Their time had been quite full of visiting friends, family, and forming new acquaintances, that Elizabeth was pleased there had been no time to visit Pemberley.

However, Madeline had not forgotten and the first week in August, she brought up the idea of visiting Pemberley again. When Elizabeth once again tried to convince her they need not go, Madeline said, “Of all the places we could visit, I would think that you would want to visit the one place you have heard so much about. Indeed, quite a few of your own acquaintances are attached to the estate in some way. Wickham spent all of his youth there; I would think that enough inducement.”

Elizabeth was at a loss. She felt she had no business being at Pemberley and found no other recourse than to feign disinterest. “Madeline, I assure you, I have no need to find myself at Mr. Darcy’s home. I have seen enough fine carpets and curtains.”

Madeline laughed and said, “If it were only a fine home, I myself would not wish to see it, but the grounds, Elizabeth! The grounds are simply lovely. Pemberley boasts of the finest woods in the country. Nonsense!” She exclaimed and dismissed Elizabeth’s worry, “Mr. Gardiner, go gather the carriage. I will be ready in half an hour. Is that enough time for you, Elizabeth?”

“Yes.” Elizabeth replied.

As the group gathered to leave for the grand estate, the housemaid came up and Elizabeth hurriedly asked, “Do you know if the family is at Pemberley?”

The maid, caught off guard by the question stated, “I do not believe so, whenever the Darcy’s are at home, the town is abuzz with excitement.”

As Elizabeth walked to the carriage her fears were somewhat calmed. As the group drove deeper into the beautiful estate, however, Elizabeth started to become more anxious at seeing his home. I have no right to be here. I am only glad he will not be there or my mortification will be complete. I feel like I am invading his privacy.

Soon Elizabeth was lost in the beauty of the grounds. They entered it at one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent. Elizabeth was unable to converse with her companions because she was so taken with admiring every rock and tree that came in her view.

After about a half a mile, they found themselves at the top of a small hill where the grove gave way to a huge expanse; in the middle of the open area was Pemberley house. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high, woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned.

Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. Of all this I might have been mistress! She thought, Such natural beauty. I love Heythrop Park, but it is very ornamental compared to the natural beauty found here.

As the carriage approached the front of the house, a small, respectable, elderly woman greeted them. She was extremely civil and upon finding out that the party wished to view the house and grounds, she invited them inside.

“I am Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper and you are most welcome. Please, come inside, we can start in the parlor.”

With each room, Elizabeth became more and more wary. The house was not at all like the others she had seen. It was very welcoming, and had the feel of a lived in home. In the parlor, there was a stack of books lying next to a very plush chair. When Elizabeth imagined Mr. Darcy sitting there and reading in the evenings, she blushed deeply. Quickly looking around, she breathed a sigh of relief when she realized no one had seen her discomfort. Still very uncomfortable being in the home of a man she had refused, uninvited, Elizabeth asked, “Mrs. Reynolds, I understand the family is from home.”

“At the moment, yes, they are. However, we expect the Master and a small party tomorrow.” When Elizabeth heard this, she inwardly rejoiced and felt herself completely relax.

They spent the next hour being shown through the house and with each room; Elizabeth found she fell more and more in love with the utter simplicity of most things. In some of the rooms she imagined Miss Bingley being mistress and changing the rooms to her tastes, and for some reason this did not sit well with Elizabeth.

It was in the gallery that Madeline called her from her thoughts and pointed out a small miniature on the mantelpiece, “Elizabeth! This is someone we know!”

When Elizabeth drew near, Mrs. Reynolds addressed her somewhat coldly, “Really, you know Mr. Wickham?”

“Only a little.” Elizabeth responded.

“My lady, I should not say this, but I caution you. Mr. Wickham was a good boy for his young life, and his dear father was a man to be trusted and respected. Unfortunately, his son turned out very wild; very wild indeed.”

Elizabeth turned to where her aunt stood shocked by the housekeeper’s announcement. She also saw the quick look of inquiry directed toward her when Madeline realized that Elizabeth was not as shocked as she by the opinion. However, she was not given a chance to respond as Mrs. Reynolds directed them to a newer painting of Mr. Darcy, “This is my master, and very like him.”

“I have heard much of Mr. Darcy,” said Mrs. Gardiner, looking at the picture, “It is a handsome face. Elizabeth, does it look like him?”

Mrs. Reynolds exclaimed, “Does the young lady know the master?”

“A little,” she responded, “It is a very good likeness.”

“And so handsome,” added Mrs. Reynolds, “I know no one as handsome as him. Come with me and let me show you our little lady, Miss Georgiana Darcy.”

When they reached the other end of the gallery, Mrs. Reynolds, directed their attention to a drawing of a young, eight-year-old girl. “This is the last picture painted of her. Mr. Darcy is planning on having her repainted this year or next. She is such a delight; she plays and sings all day long. In the next room is a new instrument just come down for her, a present from my master; she comes here tomorrow with him.”

Madeline stated, “A very good elder brother then.”

“I say no more than the truth, and everybody will say the same that really knows him," replied Mrs. Reynolds. "I have never known a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old."

“He is the best landlord, and the best master,” continued Mrs. Reynolds, “that ever lived; not like the wild young men nowadays, who think of nothing but themselves. If I were to go through the world, I could not meet with a better. But I have always observed, that they who are good-natured when children, are good-natured when they grow up; and he was always the sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted boy in the world. There is not one of his tenants or servants but will give him a good name. Some people call him proud; but I am sure I never saw anything of it. To my fancy, it is only because he does not rattle away like other young men.”

Elizabeth was not as surprised by the statement as the Gardiners obviously were. As Mrs. Reynolds directed them to the side of the house, where the gardener had agreed to take them on parts of the grounds allowed for visitors, Madeline cautiously said, “That is a fine account, but not consistent with his behavior to our friend.”

Elizabeth became uneasy and only said, “Perhaps we might have been misled.”

Mrs. Gardiner noticed Elizabeth’s anxiousness, and simply said, “Perhaps.”

The group walked in silence around the building toward the rose garden that Mr. Phipps, the gardener, was eager to show them. Elizabeth stopped before turning the corner and looked out toward the river that ran into a small lake behind the house. She sighed to herself, simply enjoying the view. She had been standing there for some moments, when all of sudden she was nearly knocked over.

“I am indeed sorry, Miss. I did not see you there –” the deep voice became quiet when Elizabeth looked up into the eyes of the Master of Pemberley.

“Mr. Darcy!” she exclaimed.

He was as decomposed as she was but quickly recovered, and stated, “Miss Bennet! I had not, I did not…you are part of the party I just met?”

Elizabeth smiled at his discomposure and noted that she was also affected by his presence. “I am. That is my Aunt Bennet’s brother and sister-in-law from Cheapside.”

“The couple your cousin Jane stayed with?”

“Yes.”

“Ah!” There was an awkward silence, but finally Darcy spoke, “Is your family well? Oh! Where are my manners, allow me to accompany you to your party.”

Elizabeth took his arm and, as they started walking, said, “Indeed. They are all quite well.” Another lengthy silence ensued, when finally Elizabeth said abruptly, “I am sorry for the intrusion, but the housekeeper assured us you or your party would not be here until tomorrow.”

Mr. Darcy looked at one moment relieved then the next moment anxious as he responded, “They will be arriving tomorrow. I found I had business…elsewhere…and separated from the group. I completed it early and found it much simpler to ride ahead than to retrace my steps and join them.”

Curious, Elizabeth asked, “Elsewhere?”

Before Mr. Darcy could respond they had reached the Gardiners, “Mr. Darcy!” exclaimed Madeline, “We apologize again for intruding.”

Mr. Darcy smiled at the couple before him and waved off the remark, “Not at all. You are not the first visitors to Pemberley, and I daresay not the last. I do believe that if I refused entrance when I and my sister are away, my staff would go insane from boredom.” As the group laughed, he turned to Elizabeth he added, “I do believe Mrs. Reynolds would be quite put out if there was no one but servants for her to flaunt Pemberley to. I do believe she takes more pride in it than I do.”

The group snickered at the statement, and Mr. Darcy proceeded to dismiss the gardener and walk the group around the grounds himself. If Elizabeth was more silent than her companions, no one mentioned it. While they walked, Elizabeth was overpowered with shame, vexation, and not a little bit of confusion. Her thoughts cascaded in her mind to the point where she felt thoroughly confused by her entire encounter with Mr. Darcy.

My coming here has to be the most ill-timed excursion! How strange I must appear to him; that I am purposefully throwing myself in his path. Oh! Why did I come! Why did he have to come a day before he was scheduled? He is so altered, what could he mean by it? Not only does he speak with me, but he asked after my family, he did not even flinch when I informed him he had been speaking with my relations in trade. He is so…informal, relaxed, and certainly bears no resemblance to the dignified man from the spring. What a contrast to Rosings Park.

She was brought out of her musings when she overhead Mr. Darcy inviting Mr. Gardiner to fish with him. “Mr. Gardiner! Do you care to fish?”

“Indeed, I do sir!”

“If you are available, you must come and fish with me the day after tomorrow. My friends will be arriving tomorrow and fishing is one of the first things Bingley and Hurst will wish to do once they have arrived. I keep the lake quite stocked with trout. No doubt, Mrs. Gardiner has told you of the ones that manage to escape out the stream toward the town. Please come and be my guests that evening for dinner.”

Madeline and Edward laughed recalling Madeline’s words that morning and agreed to the meal. Elizabeth was shocked to hear who was in the party, “Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Hurst will be here tomorrow?”

Darcy turned to Elizabeth and stated, “Yes, indeed. The Bingley sisters will also be here. Colonel Fitzwilliam was also to join, but he is in…he is delayed at the moment. He will arrive as soon as his duties are discharged.” Mr. Darcy then brightened and stated, “There is another in the party who more particularly wishes to know you. Would you be so kind…may I introduce my sister to you?”

The surprise of the request was great. Elizabeth wanted nothing more than to meet the young lady she had heard of so many times before. However, she was so astonished that the man she had once rejected so vehemently still wished her to have the acquaintance of his sister that it took her a few moments to respond. “Of course Mr. Darcy. We would all be delighted to meet Miss Darcy.”

The group resumed the walk. The trail Mr. Darcy had chosen then took them around the entirety of the house. At the end of the trail, he asked if they would like to stay for tea. When Mrs. Gardiner proclaimed her reluctance and weariness, he called for their carriage. The look that Mr. Darcy gave the carriage as it pulled away could only be described as longing.

It was a silent ride as the Gardiner group left the Pemberley grounds. “There is something a little stately in him, to be sure,” stated Mrs. Gardiner, “but it is not unbecoming. I can now say with the housekeeper, that though some people may call him proud,” she said with a pointed look at Elizabeth, “I have seen nothing of it.”

Elizabeth agreed, “I was completely surprised by his behavior. It was more than civil; and quite attentive. I can see no reason for such attention.”

Madeline felt the need to push a little further, “He is not as handsome as Wickham but he is still quite handsome in his own right. Did you not yourself tell me he was disagreeable?”

“I cannot account for his change in nature. In looks he is as he ever was.” Elizabeth stated. Madeline fell silent waiting for Elizabeth to continue. When it became awkward, Elizabeth stated, “After getting to know him in Kent, I relieved him of the charges Wickham laid at his door. You were right, dear Madeline, there are most definitely two sides to every story. I find I do not know the man and do not know what to expect of him anymore.”

Madeline realized that more happened in Kent than she was led to believe, however, realizing Elizabeth was not going to speak of it, instead said, “Well, he has given you an opportunity in two nights’ time when we have dinner with them.”

It was a quiet ride as the group returned to their lodgings. Each was lost in his or her own thoughts. Mr. Gardiner was excited about the prospect of fishing at such a scenic location. Mrs. Gardiner knew there was something Elizabeth was not telling her and spent the rest of the ride fretting over whether she should tell the Duke. Elizabeth was lost in her reflection of the day. She could not make Mr. Darcy’s behavior out. She resolved to think no more of him until dinner two nights hence.

Elizabeth had found it difficult to sleep that night. Even though she had sworn not to think about the inhabitants at Pemberley until the evening of the dinner engagement, she found her thoughts drifting over and over again to the Master of Pemberley. This caused her to lose no little amount of sleep. When Madeline informed her of a visit to a friend’s house, Elizabeth felt comfortable enough to beg off, stating she was looking forward to a morning to herself.

“Madeline, I have been woefully neglectful of my correspondence of late. I am sure Grandfather thinks I have fallen off the face of the earth.” Elizabeth held up multiple letters to which she needed to respond. “Mary and Kitty both probably believe I forgot about them.”

Laughing, Madeline agreed, “That is alright, dear one. It would be a quite boring visit for you anyway.”

“What is Edward planning on doing?”

“Edward,” Mr. Gardiner called out, “is planning on accompanying his poor wife on her visit and has promised to keep the ladies’ husbands occupied while the ladies gossip and reminisce.”

Laughing at the picture, Elizabeth wished them both a good morning and retreated to a desk overlooking the street. If Elizabeth had been counting on a quiet morning, about thirty minutes after her relations left, she was shocked when a maid knocked, entered, and said, “Mr. Darcy, Miss Darcy, and Mr. Bingley Ma’am.”

She stood in astonishment as she watched the party enter, bow, and courtesy. Her manners at the forefront, she returned their greetings automatically. It was Mr. Bingley who stepped forward, and stated, “It has been a long time, almost too long, Miss Bennet! It has been eight months at least; we have not met since the twenty-sixth of November, when we were all dancing together at Netherfield.”

“I believe you are correct,” She smiled at his memory of the last time

“How is your family? Are they all at Longbourn?” He asked hesitantly.

Elizabeth could have laughed out loud at his obvious attempt to find out more about her cousin, feeling impish, she replied, “They are fine. They are all at Longbourn except one.” Here she paused and waited until she started to see his smile fade, then added, “My cousin Lydia was invited to Brighton for the summer.”

As she said this last bit, a cough and clearing of a throat could be heard from behind Bingley. His face immediately went red as he realized his error. He stepped aside and said, “I am sorry, Darcy!”

Darcy simply smiled at his good friend and said, “Bad form, Bingley! Georgiana, may I introduce Miss Elizabeth Bennet to you?” he asked as he brought a tall blonde forward. When she came close enough, Elizabeth could see the fear in her bright blue eyes. “Miss Bennet, this is my sister; Miss Georgiana Darcy.”

The girls curtseyed to each other and Elizabeth sought to reassure Miss Darcy, “Please, Miss Darcy do not mind Mr. Bingley’s manners. It has been a long time since I have seen him and been able to remember him to my family.”

“Oh! Not at all!” the blonde said, before backing up a step to get closer to her brother.

Elizabeth tried again, “I understand you play the pianoforte and very well indeed.”

“Not really. I mean, I play, but not really well,” the quiet answer came.

“Come now, Georgie! You play exceedingly well!” encouraged Mr. Darcy.

Even Mr. Bingley attempted to compliment her, “You play quite well my dear! So accomplished –”

Elizabeth started laughing and interrupted, “No accomplishments Mr. Bingley! We have had enough of that discussion!” The group laughed, and Elizabeth called for tea. The group stayed for the next half hour, during which time Elizabeth attempted to draw Georgiana out of her shell. She felt she had failed miserably until, as the group was saying goodbye, she saw Miss Darcy whispered to her brother.

Elizabeth was curious as to what Miss Darcy was saying, until she realized Mr. Darcy had encouraged his sister to speak directly to Elizabeth, “Miss Bennet, I understand Mr. Gardiner is to go fishing in the morning with my brother and his friends. If you are available, I was wondering…um…would care to come for tea then?”

“I believe we are engaged to see some of Mrs. Gardiner’s friend’s tomorrow morning. However, I will ask and see if we would be able to.” Seeing Miss Darcy’s crestfallen expression, she added, “Madeline and I were planning on visiting some of the Lambton shops afterward, if you wish to accompany us, you would be more than welcome.”

Miss Darcy looked to her brother who felt compelled to ask Georgiana, “And what of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley?”

Charles spoke up at this point and stated, “My sisters will more than likely take tea in one of their rooms before they take an afternoon nap, as they always do.”

Elizabeth almost visibly cringed as she added, “If they feel up to it, they are welcome as well.” Madeline will surely forgive me for that invitation but I can see no help for it: they are guests of the Darcy’s. I cannot ask them to ignore their own guests for our benefit...as much as I would wish it. Madeline will understand even though she will not appreciate that specific company.

Miss Darcy looked up at her brother and seeing his nod, responded animatedly, “I would indeed! Why do not I meet you at the bookshop around the corner, say around 3 o’clock? We could return to Pemberley for dinner afterwards if you are agreeable.”

Smiling, Elizabeth stated, “I do believe that would be acceptable. If we are unable to do so for some reason, I will send a note this evening.” As the groups curtseyed and parted, Elizabeth felt quite pleased with the arrangements that were made.

The next day was everything that everyone expected, except for Miss Bingley, of course. When she went to find Georgiana to ask if she knew where the men were fishing, she found out that her hostess was not available or at home. Caroline was quite put out. She immediately sought her sister, who had been getting ready for her nap, to complain.

Louisa had been feeling poorly that morning and not up to her normal self, and stated rather impatiently, “Georgiana told you she would be going to Lambton to shop today. You called it a provincial town and informed her of your intention to sleep this afternoon. What did you expect? For her to cancel her plans?”

“Yes! We are her guests!”

“Guests that were not going to be available,” Louisa pointed out. After thinking a moment, she said, “She probably was going to visit a friend in the village and wanted to introduce the friend. Indeed, if you wanted to ingratiate yourself to her, you should have made yourself available to her…like a good guest.”

“Louisa! What is wrong with you! How could you insinuate that I am not a good guest?”

Sighing, Louisa stated, “Caroline, I am tired, I wish to take a nap. There is nothing you can do if she is not here. I suggest you take a nap as well so you are in better humor this evening. I understand she has invited her friends and Mr. Darcy’s friends to dinner tonight.”

“Oh! That is right! He went out to greet someone before lunch. Why did not they eat lunch with us? I could have met the man.” Caroline cried, “It is abominable to be so cruelly treated.”

“The men spent the morning fishing by the lake, Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Darcy stayed by the river to continue to fish because Charles had been scaring the fish off. Harold was to go back out to continue to fish with them after lunch. Caroline, did you hear any of the conversations at breakfast or lunch?” asked a frustrated Louisa.

At that moment, Harold Hurst came into his room and saw that his wife was not in bed yet, “I thought you were to nap, my dear.”

Louisa indicated her sister and stated, “I am trying to, dear.”

“Well!” huffed Caroline and stomped off, “If I am not wanted, I will go to my own room.”

Harold watched his sister-in-law leave and turned to his wife, and said, “I did not want to tell Caroline during lunch, but I know you were disappointed last year not to be able to get to know Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet better. I wanted you to know: the gentleman we fished with today is Miss Jane Bennet’s uncle and they have brought Miss Elizabeth with them on their visit to Derbyshire.”

Mr. Hurst watched many emotions cross his wife’s face and waited for her to speak, “Is she the friend Georgiana went to visit in town?”

“Yes.”

After a few moments Louisa stated, “Harold, this evening is going to be very interesting.”

“To say the least, my dear.”

The afternoon spent with Miss Darcy and Madeline was one filled with laughter. Elizabeth was quite pleased when Miss Darcy showed up without her guests. As the outing progressed, Georgiana opened up more and more. By the time the ladies were on their way back to Pemberley, Elizabeth was quite pleased to continue the friendship that was blooming between Georgiana and herself.

Elizabeth was disappointed when she realized their morning was drawing to a close. When they finally reached Pemberley Miss Darcy stated, “Madeline, Elizabeth, I have had the servants prepare a few rooms for you to freshen yourselves before dinner. It is not for a few hours and you could take a short nap if you wish to, beforehand.”

“Thank you for your kindness, Georgiana.”

Georgiana just smiled and replied, “I will send a servant for you when it is time for dinner.” With that, she left the room.

Madeline laughed as Elizabeth collapsed in a chair in the side of the room, “Madeline, I am tired, but not enough for a nap.”

“Good. Maybe we should have a chat. We were unable to yesterday.” Madeline commented as she took a chair next to Elizabeth, “I, as you could probably surmise, was greatly surprised to return from my friends’ to find Mr. Darcy had brought his sister so early to visit you.”

Elizabeth sighed, and said, “I suppose you want to know about my relationship with the Darcy’s.”

“I thought to start there.” Madeline stated with an eyebrow raised, “One as slight as you suggest, would not have us on such…intimate terms with the family as we are now.”

Elizabeth stared out the window for a few moments and finally said, “Mr. Darcy proposed to me and I refused him.” Madeline had not been prepared for what she was hearing and sat in shock. Elizabeth continued, “I wrote Grandfather the entire story, After all, Mr. Darcy is a very eligible bachelor in the first circles. Madeline, I cannot tell you all, but I accused Mr. Darcy so unjustly; all of the accusations have since been proven…false.” She sat and felt embarrassed, once again by her behavior, and added quietly, “I felt I had offended him. Mr. Darcy’s actions do not seem like those of someone who is offended, but then I have been so wrong about him before.”

Madeline attempted to speak but Elizabeth forestalled her, “I know I should have told you before, however, we have had…communications with each other that have cleared up much between us. I do not feel comfortable with speaking of his proposal…yet. I find him willingly offering an olive branch and am unsure as to how to proceed.”

“You mean this friendship with him and his family?”

“Yes.”

Madeline sat for a moment, and then remembered something Elizabeth said, “What do you mean, is there still more to clear up before you two can truly communicate?”

Elizabeth became irritated, “Madeline, I was ignorant of facts regarding a mutual friend,” holding up her hand, she silenced the question, “It is not a topic I am comfortable speaking of as it is not my story to tell. However, it was my ignorance of this story that caused some of the irony in the circumstance. If I had not been ignorant I would have seen that the words I hurled at Mr. Darcy for the ludicrous accusations they were. However, Mr. Darcy is still operating under some ignorance, and I feel more and more uncomfortable with this situation.”

“What is he ignorant of except His Grace?”

Looking at Madeline, she responded, “Exactly! Part of his reservation in offering for me was ironically not my apparent lack of fortune but rather issues with my Bennet family; and yes, he was very detailed when he described them to me. These…feelings he had toward my cousins, aunt, and uncle, were a large part of why I refused him.”

Madeline, curious, asked her niece, “You would have preferred he offered knowing you are to be a Duchess?”

“No,” Elizabeth replied, “However, I would prefer it if he could at least stand those I call my closest relations.” She paused and ruefully asked, “Can you not see the irony of the situation: he claims it is problems with my connections and family that caused him to pause but he does not even know my entire family. If Mr. Darcy does not know about my inheritance and Grandfather, how can he understand the importance of what Uncle Thomas and Aunt Fanny have done for me? How could he see the selflessness in Jane and Mary for never mentioning my inheritance and keeping my secret?”

Madeline asked, “I thought you wanted to know that the man you married wanted to marry you and not your money or status? I am confused: you wish him to know about James before you are engaged?”

“We are not engaged or getting married, Madeline!” Elizabeth blushed as she quickly asserted, “And we are not likely to be.”

Madeline smiled and responded, “Knowing that he has proposed and been rejected by someone who is so decidedly beneath him, Mr. Darcy opened his home up to you and your friends, and has encouraged a relationship between his sister and you. Elizabeth, you may not be ready to admit it, but the man is still very much in love with you.” She sat back and off handedly added, “He reminds me of your grandfather: unused to not getting what he wants. From his actions: he still wants you.”

Elizabeth sighed and with pink cheeks admitted, “I cannot say whether that is true or not. For myself, I do not know if I could ever love him but I do know I wish to get to know him better.” Then impishly, she added, “After all, if I do fall in love with him and we marry, I will most certainly make my home here in Derbyshire, if only to be the mistress of all those wonderful woods!”

Madeline teased, “And what of Heythrop? Your house in town? Whiting Place, or any of your grandfather’s other estates?”

Elizabeth quietly admitted with a little wonder seeping into her voice, “For some reason I have felt more at home here than at Heythrop Park, or even Longbourn.”

Madeline was a little taken aback by the serious undertone in Elizabeth’s voice. Instead of remarking on it, Madeline said, “You will need to speak with His Grace about this.”

“I know,” replied Elizabeth, “However, I wish to write to Georgiana once we leave and I feel it would be easier if neither party were blindsided by my title in a few months. I feel I should tell them before I leave Derbyshire.”

“Do you think that wise?”

“If you are meaning if Mr. Darcy can be trusted, I believe he can.” Once again, Elizabeth attempted to lighten the mood, “After all, he proposed to me and Aunt Fanny still has not found out!” The remainder of their time before they were summoned for dinner was spent in quiet conversation sprinkled with more than a little humor.

That evening, however, Elizabeth’s good humor was slowly being eaten away. It had been apparent since the beginning of dinner that Miss Bingley was upset that she and her relations had been invited to dine with the Darcy’s and their party. As Miss Bingley claimed a prior acquaintance with Elizabeth, she sent most of her barbs in Elizabeth’s direction. Toward the end of the evening, when the men had returned from the separation of the sexes, Elizabeth found herself once again the focus of Miss Bingley’s comments.

“Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the militia removed from Meryton? They must be a great loss to your family.”

Elizabeth knew exactly what she meant but was not about to stoop to Miss Bingley’s level. She dared not mention Mr. Wickham personally, as she had no idea how certain inhabitants would react. When she did speak, she barely glanced at Mr. Darcy and saw him coloring while he looked at his own sister. “I do not know what you mean.”

“Why, the loss of Mr. Wickham. I understood him to be a favorite of yours.”

Elizabeth heard an audible gasp. Her anger growing, she looked from Caroline to Louisa and realized that Louisa had no idea as to what Caroline was going to say. Instead of giving way to her anger, Elizabeth said as she rose to go to Georgiana, “I assure you he is not a favorite of mine. Georgiana let me help you by turning the pages.”

For the next few minutes, Georgiana attempted to control her emotions while Elizabeth turned the pages. When Elizabeth felt it was safe to do so, she looked up at the party. She was surprised by some of the looks she saw. Mr. Gardiner, Mr. Hurst, Mr. Bingley, and Mrs. Gardiner barely looked up from the game they were playing; Louisa was staring angrily at Caroline while Caroline was looking confused at Louisa’s reaction. When Elizabeth’s eyes met Mr. Darcy’s and she saw gratitude shining from them, she felt her cheeks redden; instinctively she turned her attention back to Georgiana.

Elizabeth was so focused on Georgiana and the lovely music the young lady was making come from the piano, she was unaware of Louisa’s approach. Startled, Elizabeth looked up from the piano as Louisa said, “Elizabeth, I have not had a chance to speak with you since you arrived. I have missed your company and Jane’s company since Longbourn.”

Elizabeth’s ire from Miss Bingley’s intentional barb was immediately redirected toward Mrs. Hurst and she said in a stilted manner, “Indeed? I confess I am confused by such a statement. Jane was in London from January through the end of May. She wrote to me of her visit to your home when she was told you were unavailable. When Miss Bingley returned the call, you were indisposed then as well.”

Louisa was shocked and now it was Elizabeth’s turn to be confused, “Elizabeth, I assure you, I had no idea that Jane was in town! I wrote to her on several occasions and included –” Louisa stopped and Elizabeth saw anger growing in Louisa’s eyes, and she waited for Louisa to speak.
Finally, when she had her feelings in control, Louisa did, “I assure you, Elizabeth, I was completely unaware of her presence in London. I had thought she was still at Longbourn with her family. Indeed, I wrote on quite a few occasions and asked my sister to post my letters with hers. I can only assume by your comments that Jane did not receive any of them.”

Elizabeth’s eyebrow went up and she stated, “No she did not. She was quite hurt by your and your sister’s lack of recognition.”

“Is she at home now?”

“Indeed.”

Louisa asked, “Does she have any plans of removing from Hertfordshire anytime soon?” as she looked at her brother. “She probably believes that I wish to severe the relationship: I do not. Would you, perhaps, found out for me if she would welcome my correspondence?” Glaring to where her younger sister was sitting, Louisa added, “I assure you, my letters will reach her this time.”

“I will certainly write to her, and ask. You are right, she was disappointed by the lack of…response from you and your sister. She has no plans to leave Hertfordshire that I am aware of at least.” Elizabeth continued to ask with more than a little curiosity, “Are you and your family planning on returning to Hertfordshire?”

Louisa eyed her sister who could not hear their conversation, and stated, “Yes. I will be blunt: my brother was quite heartbroken when he found out we had come to London. For myself and my husband: I apologize,” she said as a small tear rolled down her face, “I was not feeling well earlier this year and was indisposed for a few weeks.”

Elizabeth felt she could not pry but Georgiana was unaware of Elizabeth’s lack of information and cried, “That is right Louisa! I am so sorry! You should be sitting down! We do not want you to lose this one!”

Louisa smiled at her young friend and laughed at Elizabeth’s confusion, “I was with child early in the year, and lost it right before we arrived at Netherfield. I was still recovering while there. Unfortunately, I never really regained my strength; after Christmas I caught a cold and lay in bed for quite a few weeks. This excursion to Pemberley is my first outing since earlier this year. Only a few days ago we found out I am a few months pregnant again.”

Elizabeth exclaimed, “Then by all means, please sit down Louisa! You must be careful! So, soon? I am quite glad for you! But should you really be traveling in your condition?”

Georgiana laughed and said, “I have offered to let her stay with me, here at Pemberley until after the baby is born but she insists on returning to her own home.”

Elizabeth smiled at the young girl and asked Louisa, “What of your house in Oxford? I believe you mentioned the Hurst’s having a home there.”

“Blackridge is in Oxford; however, that is a little far north for me during the brunt of this pregnancy.” A little louder she directed her comment toward her brother, “Even Pemberley will be too cold during the winter. Maybe Charles will open up Netherfield for the winter this year? That is close enough to London, should any need arise!”

Caroline gasped at her sister’s suggestion, and Charles cried, throwing his cards down, “Absolutely, my dear! I will make the arrangements straight way. As soon as Darcy is done with us, we shall go to Hertfordshire.”

Darcy looked a little guilty toward his friend, and added, “That is a problem then, for I do not believe I would ever tire of your company.”

The group laughed at such an outlandish comment. Georgiana, growing more and more comfortable in Elizabeth’s and even Mrs. Gardiner’s presence offered, “My parents, right after their marriage, visited my godfather in Oxford. My mother loved to sketch.” She turned to Louisa and said, “I do not know if your husband’s home is in it but I have the sketchbook she had when she made that visit. She has many homes from that area drawn. Would you like to see if Blackridge is in it?”

“Of course, Georgiana!” cried Louisa.

It only took a few minutes for a servant to retrieve the sketchbook. The ladies crowded around the book as it lay open on Georgiana’s lap. Having seen it many times, Mr. Darcy kept the gentlemen occupied in a conversation regarding their recent fishing expedition.

As the other ladies complimented page after page, Elizabeth did not know how to respond. She knew most of these houses. A sinking feeling started in the pit of her stomach. Her shock was made complete when Georgiana turned a page and exclaimed, “And this is James’ home!”

Louisa, curious, asked, “Who is James?”

“James Talbot.” She replied, “He is the Duke of Shrewsbury and my godfather. He and my father were very close.” Calling out to her brother, she held up the drawing and asked, “This is Heythrop Park, correct, William?”

Elizabeth felt her face drain of blood when she heard her grandfather’s name in conjunction with the same nickname he had called his godson. Only Mrs. Gardiner saw Elizabeth’s distress.

“Indeed!” Mr. Darcy answered, “I forgot to inform you Georgie, I received a letter from him this morning, inviting us to come to London to visit him this little season.”

“Really?” she asked.

Before Mr. Darcy could respond it was Caroline who spoke, “Why should this be a surprise to you, Georgiana. Surely you see your dear godfather often!”

Georgiana was taken a little aback by Caroline’s remark, however she stated, “Actually, I normally do, but this year has been different. He has been traveling quite a bit for various reasons. James has been at my Aunt and Uncle Matlock’s estate for a while, but then he returned to Heythrop Park. He only barely returned to London a little bit ago. I have been so busy with my studies; I have not been able to visit him. Also, he is planning on bringing his granddaughter out into society and has been preparing for her return to London.”

Georgiana turned to Elizabeth and said conspiratorially, “He tried to get some fabric to remake her room, but she apparently did not like the pink swatches he chose. He showed them to me, I found them lovely, but apparently, she doesn’t like pink!”

Louisa looked up sharply as Georgiana spoke, “his granddaughter? Is she finally coming out?”

At this point, both Mrs. Gardiner and Mr. Gardiner navigated their way to where Elizabeth sat. They both bracketed her as if to protect her if her secret was to come out.

It was Mr. Darcy who answered, “Yes she will be this season. From his letter he is quite excited he will finally be able to introduce her to society this year.”

Caroline asked, “Have either of you ever met her?”

Mr. Darcy shook his head and replied, “No. Not even his best friend, my Uncle the Earl has.”

Georgiana laughed as she added, “Aunt Bea has been beside herself with questions that James simply refused to answer. He keeps saying, ‘You can ask your impertinent questions to her when you meet her. I assure you, you will enjoy her answers more than mine!”

Elizabeth was silent as she listened to the conversation swirl around her. Somewhere along the lines, the sketchbook had ended up in her lap and she attempted to move the conversation away from this particularly distressing subject, “Louisa, is this Blackridge?” she asked weakly as she found a house she was not familiar with.

Louise leaned over and replied, “No. Please pass the sketchbook here and I will see if I can find it.”

If one was to ask Elizabeth what the remainder of the evening consisted of, she would not have been able to tell. The rest of the evening, her thoughts were full of recent letters from her grandfather, each taking on a new meaning as she realized of whom he had been speaking. She was relieved when Mr. Gardiner eventually started to take leave of their hosts. She barely even registered that Miss Darcy and Mr. Darcy walked them to their carriage.

As soon as the driver started back to the inn, Mrs. Gardiner leaned over and put an arm around Elizabeth and said, “You will need to tell them.”

“Yes,” was all Elizabeth replied; Just how am I to do that? She wondered.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Ignorance and Irony -- Chapter 7 Part One

MarciJune 09, 2017 02:07PM

Re: Ignorance and Irony -- Chapter 7 Part One

elleJune 09, 2017 09:31PM

Considering how secretive Elizabeth's grandfather has been

GracielaJune 09, 2017 10:20PM

Re: Considering how secretive Elizabeth's grandfather has been

elleJune 09, 2017 11:02PM

Meant to reply to part two. Don't read this comment until you've read part 2!

elleJune 09, 2017 09:33PM



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