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Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 8 (Part 1)

June 19, 2017 03:48PM
Author’s Note: Once again, must give a shout out to Roxey and Betsy! Thanks ladies for all your help!

Chapter 8 – The Irony… (Part 1)
London, August 1812

“Finally! You have arrived! I expected you yesterday! Jones! Surely the roads were not that bad!” exclaimed James as he strode forward to meet Elizabeth. Without giving her the chance to respond, he picked Elizabeth up and whirled her around, “I am so glad you are finally here! You have never been to my…I mean our London home! I will show you all around later.” He turned and called out to the couple standing well behind him, “Mr. and Mrs. Baines! Meet my granddaughter, the Lady Elizabeth Bennet!”

Elizabeth tiredly turned to where a dignified, couple was standing off to the side of the entryway. Mr. and Mrs. Baines were perfectly dressed, and at perfect attention. Frederick Baines was not a stout man as she had imagined him. His tall thin form was bracketed by that of his wife, who was also tall. Colette Baines was not skinny, nor was she obese; her outline was plump but not overly so. Her smile threatened to take over her face, and Elizabeth felt her own smile grow in response.

As Elizabeth moved forward to greet the housekeeper and head butler, she said as cheerfully as she could, “It is wonderful to finally meet both of you. Grandfather has mentioned you multiple times in person and by letter. I hope we will be just as good friends as you are with my grandfather.”

The couple simply smiled at each other and Mrs. Baines came forward and said, “I speak for the entire household when I say that we finally welcome you home, my lady! We have been waiting to meet you for years.” With compassion the elder lady added, “We can see that you are tired. I understand you have been traveling for a few days. Let me show you to your suite and my husband will make sure your luggage is brought up.”

“A maid! Mrs. Baines! I forgot! Elizabeth will need a maid! And dresses! The modiste will be here in the morning. Elizabeth, we need to discuss your rooms, as you know, I know I was counseled not to redecorate them without you but I have chosen some more fabric! This time,” James said as he rubbed his hands together, “I think you will just love my choices! Oh! I have a party in the works for tomorrow night, blast! I have not sent out any invitations. Probably need to postpone that –”

Elizabeth could not help but laugh at the picture her grandfather was making, mumbling to himself and yelling out orders. She was so tired, and overwhelmed she allowed her exhaustion to mix with her amusement and soon the entire room was attempting not to laugh at His Grace.

When Elizabeth finally calmed down, she turned to respond to Mrs. Baines, “Mrs. Baines, I would appreciate some time to rest. I thank you for your foresight and arrangements. As for a maid, I have no need for one tonight and any upstairs maid will do for my needs for a while. You must know I am used to taking care of myself as I shared a maid with Jane for many years. If you would assign one that is appropriate, I would appreciate it. I find I have a need for a bath and would appreciate her drawing one up for me as soon as possible.”

Turning to Jones, she stated, “Thank you for you and your men coming to retrieve myself and the Gardiners. If you would please see that their carriage is cleaned before being returned? I also thank you for indulging me and helping remove their trunks and deliver them safely first.”

Jones said as he bowed, “As you wish, my lady.”

Then Elizabeth turned to her grandfather and stated, “Sir. You and I have much to speak about, the least of which is the state of my rooms. However, I am very tired and feel the need to relax first. After I have bathed and taken a short nap, I will come find you and we can discuss...” Elizabeth searched for the right words to describe everything that she and her grandfather needed to catch up on. After a few moments she gave up and threw her hands in the air and concluded, “…everything!”

The Duke took his granddaughter in his arms and held her tight for a few moments. Before he let her go, he said, “I spoke with Thomas before he left for Brighton, yesterday morning. He intends to return tonight, if not sooner.”

Elizabeth nodded and turned toward Mrs. Baines, and allowed herself to be guided away. Before they reached the stairs, she turned, and said to James, “I am pleased to be here, Grandfather, even under these circumstances. I am only sorry that our reunion is under such unfortunate conditions. I will say I have missed you and we truly do have much to discuss.”

“I know child. I am so happy that you are here. After twenty years of waiting, I found I simply want to get this next chapter started.”

Hesitantly, Elizabeth said, “We must discuss Lydia and the Bennets.”

“After you have rested” To his housekeeper, James said, “Mrs. Baines, do not let her come down until the circles under her eyes are gone!”

It was with laughter that the two ladies mounted the stairs.

Three hours later, Elizabeth had a short nap and had bathed. Feeling quite refreshed, she relaxed in her bed. She had been so tired earlier; she had not had a chance to look around at her surroundings. She found her room was just as her grandfather had stated: very outdated. The darker pink walls had started to fade, the curtains were sun bleached. The bed, although comfortable, had a horrendous comforter on it. The rug looked well enough, until she really looked at it closely and saw that it had some small holes in it.

Elizabeth remembered her grandfather had wanted her to make changes to the room. Well, I might as well start thinking about them. Maybe Madeline would help me redecorate? She then heard a very slight knock on her door. At first she thought she had imagined it and went back to her thoughts, but when she heard it again a few moments later, Elizabeth got up and went to the door to investigate.

When she opened the door, she found a very petite girl on the other side. With a voice almost quieter than a mouse, she said, “Lady Elizabeth, I did not want to disturb you earlier, but would you like for me to put away your things?”

Elizabeth, realizing this was the maid assigned to her for the time being, swung the door open wide and said, “Of course! What is your name?”

“Sarah.”

“Such a pretty name. Have you ever worked as a personal maid before?”

“No ma’am, but Mrs. Baines knows that I would like to be one someday, and thought this was the perfect opportunity for me to see if I would like it. If you want someone more experienced, I can – ”

“Not in the least. As I told Mrs. Baines, I am used to taking care of myself. I shared a maid with my cousin in Hertfordshire.”

“Of course. Oh! His Grace told me to tell you he would be in his study, when you had refreshed yourself.”

“Well. I believe that is him summoning me. I shall just make my way there.”

As Elizabeth reached the bottom of the stairs she saw Jones, “Ah! Jones! Thank goodness! Grandfather is in his study and I do not know where that is!”

“He stationed me here to escort you there once you were ready.”

“Lead on.”

“Of course, my lady.”

The study was actually not that far away from the front door. Elizabeth was somewhat disappointed that she was not able to see much more of the house. Far quicker than she was anticipating she was shown into a large study filled with books.

“Grandfather! This could be mistaken for a library! Not your study!”

Laughing at his granddaughter’s obvious enthrallment, he said, “Oh, my dear! You should see the library! This is just where I keep my favorites and some of the more expensive first editions.”

“I believe I could be quite comfortable in here. But you said the library was larger?”

“It is through those doors, which are normally open” he replied with a slight gesture toward a set of double wide sliding doors off to the far right of his study. When Elizabeth started to venture in that direction, James started laughing and cried, “All in good time my dear! I thought I could show you some of the house tonight after dinner then the rest tomorrow after breakfast. We could then take a walk in the gardens before your appointment with the Madame Mobley. I have been told she is the best.”

“Madam Mobley?” With an eyebrow raised, Elizabeth asked, “Just what all do you have planned? You were rambling quite well earlier. I almost could not follow it all.”

“Tomorrow, Madame. Mobley, the seamstress, will be coming to make an entirely new wardrobe for you. We will, of course, redecorate your room. We need to get you a maid. I need to acquaint you with my plans for your introduction.” As he spoke, James started raising his fingers as if to count all the things they had to do, “There are some formal gatherings we must attend: such as a dinner with our Talbot relations,” he said with disgust, “I am half tempted to refuse that one. Then of course, I will take you to the opera, and there are a few plays that I wish to see, and oh, so much more!”

Elizabeth sat down on the sofa and encouraged her grandfather to join her. When he did, she asked, “First, tell me about Lydia.”

A hard mask descended on the Duke’s face as he ground out, “Lydia’s departure was only uncovered by some fortuitous events.” Then a smile lit his eyes and he said, “I always knew hiring Jones was a smart move. However, he became invaluable these past two weeks. I understand from Jones, you did not receive word of the elopement until right before he arrived?”

Elizabeth nodded and James continued, “Jones has, as you know, been blessed with a gentleman’s education. He went to school with his Alton cousins.” With a gleam in his eye he said, “It was very advantageous for us that their cousin who was almost raised with the Baron’s sons is our dear Catherine’s Lieutenant Sanderson!”

Elizabeth laughed at the turn of events and cried, “Really? Is that how you found out so much about him, so quickly?” Then she became confused, “Wait, I thought you had told Uncle Thomas that Sanderson was the younger son of the Earl of Alton?”

James looked at his granddaughter in surprise and replied, “No, I said his father was the younger brother of the current Earl.”

“Maybe I am remembering the letter wrong.” Elizabeth hesitated only a second before she added, “However, when you see Uncle next, you might want to mention it. I am sure Uncle has been under the impression that Catherine is being courted by the younger son of an Earl.”

James nodded and replied, “I will make sure of it. As to your earlier question: yes, Jones was my initial source. In fact, Sanderson’s family was very instrumental in our dear Jones’ life. Jones had lost touch with the lieutenant before Sanderson had gone into the regulars and had no idea his friend was even in Hertfordshire. When I told him of Catherine’s suitor, he immediately wrote to the lieutenant and re-kindled their friendship.” The Dukes’ eyes darkened as he said, “We have much to thank Jones for.”

Elizabeth creased her brow in confusion and asked, “Why? What did he do?”

“He did not wish to worry me. However, with everything he had heard of her character, he was worried about Lydia going to Brighton without a family member. From his letters from the lieutenant, Jones was not so certain that this Colonel Forster would be an adequate chaperone. So, Jones told me he wished to go visit his friend in Brighton, and while he was there he would check in on Lydia. I saw no harm in it; no one would know the connection.”

Elizabeth started to realize where the story was headed, “Jones found out about the elopement?”

“Actually no; Lieutenant Sanderson came to him and told him of his suspicions. This Wickham fellow had been acting oddly for a few days and he wanted advice. Apparently, this fellow had a sob story to tell about his previous’ employer’s son. Now, Lieutenant Sanderson had met the man in question and could never feel right about what this Wickham fellow was saying. He asked Jones what he should do. Jones told Sanderson to write to the son and find out his side of the story and whether he thought Wickham should be trusted-”

Elizabeth asked hesitantly, “Do you mean Mr. Darcy?”

James’ face shot up and his eyes speared Elizabeth. Not expecting such an intense reaction, she became confused when James asked forcefully, “What has William to do with any of this?”

Elizabeth answered, completely confused, “Mr. Wickham’s father was Mr. Darcy’s father’s steward. The employer’s son: that is Mr. Darcy.”

James rose and started pacing the room, and mumbling to himself, “That would make sense. It would also make sense why Jones would not tell me who actually had taken care of Wickham. He knows that I completely trust William to take care of my affairs. However, I cannot fathom why William did not ask me for help. Or even tell me himself! He is not normally so…reserved with me. Surely he must know that I would want to know about the resolution to my own affairs –”

Swirling towards his granddaughter he cried, “He has no clue you are related to me does he? That must be why he has not told me a thing! He does not know I am connected to Lydia, does he?”

Elizabeth had the grace to blush deeply and replied, “No. I, myself, only found out about the connection not four or five nights ago.”

James simply started smiling widely and asked, “Have I never told you about them?”

“I have been hearing snippets of them for years, but no, you have never used his name!” cried Elizabeth. Her thoughts whirled around in her head. She also started to pace, while James stopped and stood his ground as he watched his granddaughter, “Have you never told him my name?”

James shook his head and said, “I have thought about it quite a few times, but no. I have honored your decision to remain in mystery until this year.” He stopped and thought for a moment and then replied, “Well, that is not exactly true. I have been speaking about you for years. My closest friends know you as Elizabeth. I am sure he knows at least that much.”

Elizabeth had so many thoughts running through her head that she finally decided it was too much for one night and refocused on what her grandfather had said about earlier, “You mentioned Jones told Sanderson to write to Mr. Darcy?”

“Now that I know it was Darcy, the rest of the tale makes complete sense; at least all that I have been told makes sense.” James said as he went to his chair and sat down. “Jones informed me that his lieutenant friend did indeed write to Mr. Darcy. A task that sent the man straight to Brighton with a cousin, who I can now guess would be Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam –”

“Colonel Fitzwilliam!” cried Elizabeth.

Raising his eyebrows at his startled granddaughter, James asked, “You know the man?”

“Yes!” She responded, “I wrote to you about meeting him in Kent.”

“Ah yes, once again,” he dryly replied, “you did not mention his name, just that he was a Colonel on leave, I thought that acquaintance was insignificant but time always sheds the best light: his acquaintance will not be a short or inconsequential one.”

Waving off his granddaughter’s surprise, James continued, “Anyway, I was told that Darcy and Richard arrived only to find the couple had already made good their escape. Apparently after a few hours of hunting, Darcy found Lydia and returned her to Colonel Forster and left his cousin to watch over her. Thomas should be arriving in London tonight. I will go speak with him then.” Then with a thoughtful tone he added, “I believe a visit to Darcy is in order as well.”

Elizabeth hesitated and said, “He is not in London. He and Miss Darcy are in Derbyshire.”

Another raised eyebrow was followed by, “And just how do you know that, my dear?”

Elizabeth started to blush and say, “The Gardiners and I, as you are aware, went to Lambton to visit Madeline’s family and friends from her childhood. Are you not aware that Pemberley is only five miles from Lambton? We visited the house and ran into the man.” She hastened to add, “Jones saw him. He was in the room with me and the Gardiners when I received Jane’s messages and Jones arrived with yours.”

James’ eyebrows shot up again and he replied, “No, he did not mention he had seen Darcy when he retrieved you. However, we have not had a chance to speak since your return.”

As James studied his granddaughter, he realized her entire countenance was on edge. A sudden realization gave him the suspicion that there was more to the history between his godson and Elizabeth than he was aware of. However, as he looked his granddaughter he also realized that she would not tell him before she was ready, and said instead, “You will tell me everything sometime, will you not? I would love to hear about your acquaintance with him. After all, he is a favorite of mine.”

Elizabeth nodded and offered, “There is very little that I have left out of my letters to you,” she then changed the subject quickly, not ready for either of them to bring up her letter regarding Darcy’s failed proposal. She instead asked, “What will you do to Wickham?”

“What do you mean?”

“He has been caught, has he not? What will you do with him?” Elizabeth asked, indicating the letter he had sent with Jones to Derbyshire, she added, “You mentioned something about your wrath?”

“I do not know,” the Duke replied, laughing as he combed his large hand through his rough hair, “I have a feeling that Darcy already has dealt with the man. William is nothing if not very thorough. I must ascertain what he has already done first, and that requires me to find William.” Then to himself, he said, “I wonder if Richard knows. If Darcy returned home, Richard probably returned to town…”

Before Elizabeth could ask anything else, Jones came in and said, “I apologize sir, but you wished to have the horses readied near your appointment time?”

James rose and said to Elizabeth, “I will see you late this evening, my dear. I hope you do not mind, but I need to go see Thomas. I only hope to arrive before Thomas and Lydia do. I expect I will be home late. Do not feel compelled to wait up for me, however. I know it was a long ride from Derbyshire.”

“You will at least keep me abreast of what is happening?” asked Elizabeth.

“Of course.”



Grosvenor Street, London August 1812

Elizabeth was unable to sleep at all that night. She was keenly aware of how late her grandfather returned home. However, when she made her way downstairs she was informed the dDuke had opted to retire. The next morning, after allowing Sarah to dress her and do her hair, she Elizabeth made her way downstairs only to find Jones, once again at the bottom.

“Are you here to escort me to breakfast?” she teased.

Jones only responded by bowing to his mistress.

In the morning light, if she had not been so distracted by thoughts of her grandfather’s visit the night before, Elizabeth might have noticed the light blue furnishings with equally light walls. She might have commented how beautiful the light blue walls were against the deep sapphire velvet curtains. She might even have made a quip about Dukes always having gold or deep red curtains. However, she was distracted and did not notice anything other than the direction she was heading.

“Grandfather!” she said as she gained the breakfast table. Elizabeth stopped short when she saw another man sitting next to her grandfather at the table. She smiled immediately recognizing him from her grandfather’s letters.

“Uncle Robert!” she cried, and dashed toward where he sat.

The gentleman rose quickly to meet Elizabeth half way. When he got near enough, he pulled Elizabeth into a tight hug. After a few moments, he pushed her slightly away from him, and said, “Good God! How is it that you got your mother’s eyes? Perfect as they were, yours are much prettier!” he cried and swiveled toward his brother, “You are completely horrible for never letting me meet this gorgeous lady until now! Shame on you for keeping her from family!”

James chortled with delight and replied, “She does have Faith’s eyes! I have always said it!” Pointing toward Elizabeth, he added, “And blame the beauty for not meeting you five years ago when she first came out! She chose to stay in Hertfordshire.”

Turning to Elizabeth, Colonel Robert Miles Talbot, smiled and said, “Never. Never blame the lady, James!” To Elizabeth he said, “I have loved your letters these past few years; they were never enough though. I am glad to finally make your acquaintance, Lady Elizabeth.”

He led her to the breakfast buffet and continued, “I apologize for not being the Colonel in charge in Meryton. It was my regiment until they moved it to Hertfordshire. When I found out our destination, I had already started the retirement process.”

Elizabeth shook her head, and said, “No, none of us are responsible for Lydia’s behavior. Nor are any of us responsible for Wickham’s behavior.”

“Keep telling yourself that until you believe it,” replied her uncle.

Elizabeth then teased, “Well, why do you not tell me about Mrs. Rembrandt, instead?”

Elizabeth started to laugh loudly as she saw the slight blush grace her uncle’s face. He merely responded, “She is a lovely woman, who I hope to introduce to you soon.”

From where he still sat at the table, James exclaimed, “Robert showed up this morning and informed me that he will be leaving at the end of the week to return to Heythrop.”

Elizabeth smiled and said, “Well, I am glad I was able to see you while you are here, but why do you leave so quickly?”

As they sat down to eat, Robert said, “I needed to fill out some paperwork to finally be done with the army. They offered to pay me out instead of giving me leave. I have no wish to be far from Isabella, and I know I will have plenty of time with you when you come back at Heythrop.” Turning back to his brother he added, “And someone has to oversee the roof repair!”

The trio laughed at the Colonel’s affronted look. He completely diverted Elizabeth’s attention when he cried, “Well, James, she is here now; tell me what happened last night,” to Elizabeth he said, “The man did not wish to repeat the story twice and flat out refused my request earlier.”

Elizabeth entreated, “Yes, Grandfather, do not leave us in suspense, what did you find out last night?”

James smiled and said thoughtfully, “Lydia arrived in London yesterday with Thomas. As they were planning on leaving as soon as they could, I would not expect a call from him.”

“And Lydia?”

“Lydia is being readied to return to Hertfordshire, and then she will be taken to a school when the fall term starts in two months.”

“Poor Lydia.”

Robert simply snorted as he attempted to drink his tea. “Poor Lydia?”

James exclaimed, “I expected to meet a young lady and I did not. I had arrived only a few minutes after Thomas and she arrived. She was wailing in the hallway for her dear ‘Wicky-poo’!” Setting down his own teacup a little harshly, he said, “I honestly thought, all these years, that you were exaggerating her immaturity, but you were not. I was equally appalled by Thomas’ lack of authority. They were both yelling at each other!”

Throwing his napkin on the table he continued, “There is only so much screeching I can take, young lady, and your cousin met the majority of it the moment I entered the room.in. I will admit I may have let my own temper get the best of me...” He sheepishly said, “I may or may not have yelled at the both of them both to stop acting like children. I ordered that…infant to her room.” He rolled his eyes as he concluded, “She almost did not listen to me. I simply turned to Jones and said, ‘escort her upstairs – bodily if you must’.”

Elizabeth giggled and said, “She either was too shocked to say anything or took one look at Jones and accepted the offer.”

James smiled in remembrance and said, “Oh no, Jones was in rare intimidating form last night. She went straight upstairs and made not a peep the rest of the night, at least while I was there.”

James sat back and thoughtfully looked at his granddaughter. “Elizabeth, I think before I go any further, I need to know the history between you and Darcy.”

Robert rose with his teacup in hand and said, “And that is where I depart,”

Elizabeth blushed and fidgeted in her seat and offered, “Uncle, you do not need to leave. I have no secrets from either of you.”

James held a hand out to his brother and added, “Please Robert, I may need your help, depending on what Elizabeth tells us.”

Robert sighed and sat. “What on earth do you think Darcy has done?”

James turned to Elizabeth and speared her with his eyes. Without saying a word he clearly demanded an answer from his granddaughter. Elizabeth resumed her fidgeting and disassembled, “There is not much to tell: I met him in Hertfordshire where he visited his friend Mr. Bingley, and then I saw him in Hunsford where he was visiting his aunt, and then lately saw him at Pemberley. I wrote to you of all of this.”

James decided it was best if he was more clear and said, “Elizabeth Evette, I wish to know why Darcy, the most reserved and private man I know, would feel compelled to throw his considerable influence around and protect the family of an acquaintance.”

Elizabeth tried to still her nervous hands as she sat under her grandfather’s gaze, “He has an extreme sense of duty. I have no idea what his motives were, you would do well to ask him yourself.”

James nodded and replied, “I fully intend to. Your father and Lydia will be returning to Longbourn today with the perfect excuse: she was kidnapped due to your connection with me. We will immediately announce you have come to London, Wickham found out about our plans prior to this and sought to fill his own pockets for it.” Turning to his brother, he said, “We can visit my club this morning and spread this rumor.” With his focus back on Elizabeth he stated, “As for Darcy, I have sent him a rather scathing and mysterious note that will bring him back to London.”

Elizabeth sat there quietly, not knowing what to say. James asked, “Is there anything I need to know before he returns?”

“That I had no idea he was your godson until my time at Pemberley,” Elizabeth replied, “I found out the night before, you can ask the Gardiners for verification if you wish.” Elizabeth was becoming increasingly exasperated by her grandfather’s lack of comment on the failed proposal. She felt that this was the reason behind his interrogation, but wished he would be the first to bring it up.

“I believe you,” he replied. “Is there anything else?”

She was quiet for a bit, very reluctant to bring up the subject if James apparently did not wish to acknowledge the proposal. James softened his tone and said, “I really do not wish to be blindsided by anything else, my dear; especially when it concerns Darcy. When it comes to his privacy, he is worse than his father, whom I knew so well. Richard arrived with Thomas and Lydia, and stated that he also had in his possession a letter written by you that would shed light on the matter for me.”

Elizabeth gasped, finally realizing the truth, and clasped a hand over her mouth, “That is why –” she said as he voice faded away.

“Why what?” questioned Robert, now intrigued.

“Before the regiment left for Brighton, I had a feeling Wickham knew about you or at least suspected our connection. I also suspected that he had somehow been made aware of Darcy’s proposal –”

Robert started choking on his tea, and coughed out, “Darcy proposed?”

Equally shocked, the Duke cried out, “When did he propose? Why did you not tell me about it?”

Elizabeth nodded, and stated dryly, “I wrote you a letter about it. I had been waiting for some type of reply, but you never brought it up in any of yours. It would seem that you never received it.”

James sat back in his chair, fully amazed at the turn of events, with a little astonishment in his voice, he looked at Robert and said, “He proposed? To Elizabeth?”

Robert, by this time, was over his own amazement and started to see the humor in the situation, “He did not know about the connection between his beloved and you, did he?”

James only shook his head; Robert started to chortle with glee, and said, “The next few weeks are going to be interesting.” He turned to Elizabeth and said with more than a little amusement, “You apparently did not agree to his proposal.”

“It is clear, you still have not read my letter,” teased Elizabeth, “It was written to you, Grandfather, I have no problem with you reading your own correspondence.” She then became a little nervous, knowing what she had written, and added, “Indeed, it will probably clear up any misconceptions or lack of information you may still have.”

James looked up at his granddaughter and after a moment rose to his study and called out to the duo as he walked away, “I believe I probably should.”

The air in the room felt tense to Elizabeth, or maybe it was her own anxiety that was causing the tense feeling. Her grandfather was not gone long and walked back into the room, reading the letter she had written to him so many weeks ago.

He sat with a heavy sigh and said, “Oh Elizabeth.”

Robert attempted to bring some levity back to the room and asked, “I have no need to read the letter. Tell me, dear girl, why did you refuse him? After all, I have seen how women respond to his looks, you reason could not possibly have an issue with that. I know you have no concern for money or position, so why?’

Elizabeth found herself laughing at her uncle’s query and cried out, “He was completely rude during his application. He claimed that despite my lack of fortune or connections he was able to overlook them. Mr. Darcy was then kind enough to state that he was even able to accept my Bennet relations’ vulgar behavior. I can assure you: if he had known I was the granddaughter to his Godfather, he would not have acted so.”

“Well, that explains his interest in keeping Lydia’s reputation safe.” James sat still, taken aback by the turn of events. He found Elizabeth’s tale to completely represent his godson in every way. He was further taken aback by Elizabeth’s next comment.

“He has other reasons besides his misplaced affection for me that would give him cause to act so,” she said, “I doubt his affection for me lasted through my rejection, however…”

James looked between his granddaughter and the letter he still held in his hand and replied, “I believe, my dear, there is much we have to discuss and Darcy has a lot of explaining to do.” He let the silence build for a while until he finally added, “As much as you want,” holding up the letter he quoted, “this to be the end of the matter, it will not be. I know Darcy, and very well: once he has made a decision he rarely thinks twice about it.

“And he was rejected!” Colonel Talbot cried out as he started to laugh loudly, “The man who has been afraid of the ton and their matchmaking mamas for over ten years, was rejected by the one woman he wanted! Oh, this is too good!” His attitude was quite infectious and slowly the smile on the Duke’s face started to rise a little higher, until he too was laughing with his brother.

Elizabeth sat there, embarrassed by the entire circumstance. However, as she watched her uncle laugh uncontrollably, she could not help chuckle a little herself. Her laughter was short lived as she recalled Mr. Darcy’s face when he handed her the letter. It was almost wistful—the hurt was evident in his eyes. All of a sudden, her rejection of his suit stung. Of course she had made the right decision, had she not?

As she became lost in her own thoughts, both James and Robert rose from the breakfast table. She barely heard her uncle call out that he had business to attend to and would be back that evening.

James, as he started to leave, stopped next to his granddaughter and kissed her cheek, jolting her from her thoughts, and said, “I have some correspondence that must be attended to. I will see you for afternoon tea.” As he left the room, he called over his shoulder, “Oh! I have re-arranged the modiste for later this week. Please rest today. When I return I will take you on a tour of the house, and we shall attempt to move past this ordeal.” He kissed her head as he left the room.



After breakfast, Elizabeth found herself alone in the library for the briefest of moments. She started perusing the books and found a small alcove in a far corner. It had great big windows that faced what looked like a delightful garden. The couch was a little worn, but there was a small feminine desk set off to the side. She found a very plain stationary set without any initials, only a small bunch of lilac flowers at the top. In an instant she felt guilty. So much had happened these past three days and all her family knew was that she was to be going to London. Elizabeth immediately sat down to write a few very short letters.

The first was to Madeline, whom she entreated to come over at the end of the week or as soon as she could to help her with her wardrobe appointment.

To her cousins, Mary and Catherine, she informed them that she had arrived in London and was very safe. She would write again soon, when she had a little more time. She begged them to forgive her for not seeing them first before going to London and asked that they write to her. Jane’s was a little longer than the rest, but not by much.

Grosvenor Street, London
August 12, 1812

Dear Jane,

By now, you have probably been informed by the Gardiners that we have arrived in London. I am safely at my grandfather’s home here. Please direct all of your future letters to this address.

I am exceedingly sorry that the circumstances surrounding Lydia’s near disgrace have caused a decrease in the amount of time we have left together. However, I am quite certain, now, that my grandfather will support me fully when I offer an invitation for you to join me in London at your convenience, which for my selfish sake hopefully will be soon. I have a feeling I will be much engaged in the following weeks and would wish to share this experience with you.

Please write to me about our family, for I will always see my Bennet relations as such. How is everyone coping with Lydia’s return? I assure you, as I know you will worry, Grandfather has taken care of Wickham. He will never harm anyone in our family again.

I must end this now; Grandfather will be returning soon to take me on a tour of this lovely home. I will write again as soon as I can!

Lady Elizabeth Bennet

After completing her own correspondence, Elizabeth felt weary from her lack of sleep over the past few nights. She found it calming to sit in that chair and found it was too easy to fall asleep. She did not wake until her grandfather sought her company late that evening before dinner.

“Elizabeth! Here you are. I was wondering where you had wandered off to. All Mrs. Baines told me earlier was that you were resting, not that you had fallen asleep here. So you found Faith’s place, did you?”

“Faith’s place?” asked a groggy Elizabeth.

“Yes. Your mother loved this spot. Indeed, I almost had forgotten it was back here. She would come and write to her friends for hours here. When she was not writing to someone, she was reading on that sofa. God! It looks awful. I shall tell Mrs. Baines to replace it at once.”

“No!” cried Elizabeth. The moment she understood that this was her mother’s place and her mother’s sofa; she wanted to leave it as was. “I would very much like to keep it, if you do not mind.”

“Elizabeth, it is awful! The fabric has faded from the sun on both the sofa and the curtains!”

“Then may I replace the curtains and recover the couch? I would very much like to keep these things.”

“Why?”

Elizabeth rose and went over to the sofa, sat, and softly said, “I have never had anything of my mother’s. Truly, you do not speak of her as often as I would like. Now that I know it was hers, I feel a little closer to her.”

He replied as he settled himself into the sofa next to her, “This is quite comfortable. I can understand why you fell asleep here.” He then considered his granddaughter for a moment and said, “I met Robert for lunch; he had tracked down Richard and dragged him to my club. I apologize for not being here.”

Elizabeth laughed and replied, “I slept through lunch; you have nothing to apologize for.”

“Then let us go into dinner,” the Duke suggested and rose from the couch, “Robert will be returning shortly, it will not bother him if we start early.”

Elizabeth only smiled and followed her grandfather into dinner. They spoke of trivial things until dessert came around. As they were enjoying their strawberries and cream, Elizabeth asked, “You spoke with the Colonel?” She stopped and laughed at herself and added, “Well, actually the Colonels, what did Colonel Fitzwilliam know?”

James sighed and said, “He would not tell me much. Finally, Robert cried out your connection to Lydia. I have never been so grateful for a private room than today. Honestly, for a man in the military, my brother cannot keep a secret!”

Elizabeth nervously asked, “And what did he have to say?”

Smiling at the memory, James replied, “He started laughing very hard and kept saying, ‘of course he would!’. I can only assume he was speaking of Darcy.”

When he saw his granddaughter blush, he added, “Richard has been more like a brother to Fitzwilliam than he has to his own brother. I would not be surprised if Darcy told him of his failed proposal.”

At that moment, Robert came into the dining room and cried, “Here now! I thought I had at least made it for dessert!”

Elizabeth smiled as she saw him lean over to kiss Mrs. Baines’ cheek as she brought in an extra dessert setting, “Uncle Robert, are you hungry? I am sure Mrs. Baines could come up with something more than dessert.”

“No, no. That is alright!” he said as he sat down in front of his dessert, “I just came from General Hobart’s home.” Turning to James he said, “You were completely right. Darcy got him out on the first ship to Australia, within four days of his capture. Damn quick, that man! He would have done well in the Army! Apparently, the General owed Darcy some sort of favor and made it happen as quick as he could.”

Elizabeth looked at her grandfather and uncle with confusion, and asked, “I am assuming you are speaking of Wickham?”

James sighed and replied, “If I did not like Darcy so much, his actions would be damned infuriating: he did not even allow me the chance to punish the man!”

Robert turned to Elizabeth and said, “We found out from Richard, at lunch today, that Darcy has been buying all the man’s debts for the past two years.” Both men looked at each other before Robert continued.

Elizabeth interrupted, “Since Wickham tried to elope with his sister, more than likely.”

Robert and James stared aghast at Elizabeth. Robert asked, “How do you know about that?”

Elizabeth blushed again, thinking of his letter in her locked box in Hertfordshire. “After we…argued regarding his proposal, Mr. Darcy wrote me a letter to explain… no, really it was to defend himself. He told me of his entire history with Wickham, including what Wickham tried to do with his sister.” She held her hands out in both defeat and frustration, “I tried to warn Uncle Thomas before Lydia left, that there were soldiers like Wickham in the regiment. He would not listen; Uncle Thomas firmly believed Lydia was too poor to be a temptation to any of them.”

Robert only nodded at Elizabeth’s information and continued his story, “Richard, it seems, had been charged with getting Wickham to London where he went before the General. General Hobart offered him two choices: be exiled to Australia with only a little money to start--I can only imagine Darcy paid for that--or Wickham could face a court marshal and debtor’s prison.”

Elizabeth rose after this piece of news and declared they should return to the library where it would be much more comfortable for them. Before she was able to sit back on her mother’s couch, Robert said, “Richard told meme to inform you that William is headed back to Hertfordshire with his friend in tow. What does that mean? Why should he return there?”

Instead of sitting, as she had intended to, Elizabeth started pacing the length of the piece of furniture. She spoke aloud, almost to herself, “He sent Bingley back to Jane.” After a few more paces, she said, “he acquitted himself of the charge of Wickham. I was so wrong there. He has saved Lydia from disgrace and thus my family. Now he returns Jane’s love to her after viciously separating them? Well…maybe not viciously; however he did separate them. Surely he could not…”

“Could not what?” inquired James from his own plush chair by a small fireplace near the sofa, “Still love you?”

Elizabeth stopped pacing and fingered the stationary on the desk. Finally she spoke and said, “I assure you Grandfather, whatever he may have felt for me at one point is gone. After Lydia’s disgrace, he is probably congratulating himself on his escape.”

“Balderdash!” cried Robert from his own chair on the other side of James. “Darcy has never made a decision that he has gone back on. Once on a course, that man is as direct as a bullet.”

James grinned widely and said, “Elizabeth, I have known Darcy his entire life. Robert is completely right: once he has decided something, his focus never wavers.” When Elizabeth looked up at her grandfather with wide eyes, both men started laughing, “Oh yes, my dear, if William told you that he loves you, he does. You will not get away from him that easily! My godson will take every reproof to heart and endeavor to change; of that I am sure.”

“What is that to mean?” she asked hesitantly.

“I mean, that I have no idea what is going on through his head right now. However, if he is truly in love with you, no amount of disgraceful relations will stop him.” Coming close to the desk he asked, “My concern is not him, at the moment. My concern is for you: do you wish for him to continue his attentions?”

Elizabeth raised her hands in defeat and said, “I do not know, Grandfather. All I know is that I do not really know the man and would like the opportunity to know him better.”

“I have a feeling he has also returned to Hertfordshire to see you. If that is true, he will find out that you have returned to London, I am sure he will follow.”

Robert added, “If you wish to avoid his company, or if he makes you uncomfortable, you inform either of us: we both know how to deal with Darcy.”

“He spoke of his Godfather at Pemberley,” Elizabeth said as she looked at her grandfather.

“He did?” James asked surprised.

Elizabeth nodded and said, “He said he was one of the few people he implicitly trusted and respected.” Then with a slight smile she said, “He even said that he was slightly terrified of the man at times.”

James threw his head back in laughter and cried, “Good! With him interested in you, I am glad!”

The trio sat in silence for only a few seconds before Robert started laughing quietly to himself. He humor soon caught the attention of the rest of the inhabitants and James found himself asking, “Robert, do not be rude, share whatever it is you find humorous.”

“Wickham,” replied the amused gentleman.

Elizabeth eyes grew round with curiosity as she asked, “Why is he so amusing?”

Robert smiled devilishly and said, “As we have already determined, you were quite cryptic in your correspondence to James, dear lady.” Elizabeth, now confused, waited for her uncle to continue.

James, however, interrupted and replied, “Robert! Get on with it man! What are you talking about?”

“The missing letter,” Robert replied, “I do not know if I mentioned how Wickham came to choose Lydia for his elopement. It was due completely to your letter Elizabeth.”

James’ eyes raised in question and Robert continued, “Apparently, he got the letter from your young servant, Matthew who was supposed to have taken it to town. This Wickham fellow ingratiated himself to quite a few servants and offered to relieve them of some of their duties, like the mail, often.”

“That’s how he got my letter!” cried Elizabeth. She then asked, “But why Lydia? If he had my letter to Grandfather, why did he not come for me? I sent that letter weeks before Lydia left.” Her eyes widened with shock, “He did offer to take my correspondence to London, before I left for Derbyshire!”

Smiling Robert agreed, “Which would make complete sense. My dear, have you had a chance to look at your letter again?” When she shook her head no, he said, “I noticed, when James brought it out earlier, that the destination was legible but you forgot to write James’ name on it. I can only image you called him ‘Grandfather’ in the letter.”

Realizing where his brother was going James started to smile widely and added, “He did not know who I was!” Turning to Elizabeth he said, “He was probably trying to find out!”

Robert nodded and said, “Correct. However, when he could not get the information from you, he turned to Lydia. There would still be profit to be made: after all, he had proof that Darcy had already proposed to you. Having been in the area when you first met William as well as aware that you were in his company in Kent, it was probably not hard to put together.”

James started laughing quietly as Robert concluded, “The irony is that Wickham had a much bigger fish that he realized. Is it not amusing, dear one? He goes after Lydia when he could have attempted with you?’

Elizabeth did not find it amusing, however. Having been part of one of Wickham’s plans to get revenge on Darcy made her feel even worse for how she treated him. Mr. Darcy had taken care of Wickham, and then the reckless, selfish actions of her family brought that wretch back into Darcy’s life. Starting to feel guilt for how her family’s irresponsibility had affected Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth found the need to change the topic. She started to finger the stationary she had used earlier and asked, “Was that Mother’s personal stationary?”

“With the purple flowers? Yes.”

Smiling, Elizabeth was pleased that she would be sending letters on her mother’s stationary.

James could see she wished to change the subject and said, “Would you like to see more of your mother’s things?”

Elizabeth’s eyes grew wide as she looked at her grandfather, “Yes, of course!” She turned to Robert and asked if he would like to join them.

The younger brother simply waved off the two and grabbed the newspaper from the morning and settled in for a relaxing evening.

Offering his arm to Elizabeth, James said as they walked out of the room, “We lived for part of the time in London after your mother died. Gregory had nearly everything from your home on the shore sent to Heythrop Park, however, we did bring a few things here. Gregory and I ended up removing to Heythrop Park about a year after her death. Business and such had come up. We had not moved from there until you were about three years old. It was at Heythrop Park your father died. Much of his things are still there. When we go home for the winter, I will show you those things.”

The rest of the evening, Elizabeth could be found listening to her grandfather tell her story after story of her parents. When they did go to bed it was quite late.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 8 (Part 1)

MarciJune 19, 2017 03:48PM



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