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Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 9 (Part 2)

June 26, 2017 11:33PM
Author’s Note: Huge, mega, and a really-big shout out to Betsy and Roxey. Thanks for your help! I REALLY appreciate it! This is being posted without my beta's final approval - any issues are my own. Due to the fact that I won't be able to post again until late next week, I wanted to get this up for you! Hope you guys have enjoyed the big reveal!

Chapter 9 – Learning to Move On (Part 2)

Grosvenor Street, August 21, 1812

The day got away from Elizabeth. After leaving the Gardiner’s residence, she returned home to have Mrs. Baines and Abby waiting for her at the door. Mrs. Baines started to list off things that needed Elizabeth’s final approval and Abby had the seamstress in her sitting room for Elizabeth’s final fitting for her gown for that evening as well as four new ball gowns. It had taken two weeks, but Elizabeth was glad to see that her gown for her presentation to the Royal Family was also complete. It would give her time to practice walking in the heavy gown before her presentation the following week.

Elizabeth’s tasks took her well into the afternoon. By the time Abby informed her she needed to start getting ready for the party; Elizabeth was ready to relax in her bath. All of the thoughts and feelings she had repressed in order to complete the planning for the evening assailed her at once. Madeline simply cannot be right. A man once refused would hardly go to the trouble Mr. Darcy did. He had made it quite clear as to his feelings about my family. However, Madeline could be right. I mean, if he chose to take my words seriously and change, I hardly believe that could be true, that would explain his attitude toward Fanny and bringing Mr. Bingley back to Jane.

Her thoughts tumbled over each other until the water in her bath had grown quite cold. She was startled out of her reverie by Abby who exclaimed, “My Lady! You will be a prune for sure if we do not get you dried off right now. His Grace said your first guests will be here soon!”

“Alright, Abby! Get me out of here and into that dress.”

“Oh ma’am! It is so pretty!”

They two set to preparing Elizabeth for her first evening as Lady Elizabeth. If her mind had not been elsewhere, Elizabeth probably would have been more worried or anxious, but as it was, her mind would not relinquish Darcy from its hold. She found herself startled again when Abby declared her even more beautiful than the princess.

As Elizabeth started to put on the gold cross she normally wore, Abby forestalled her and said, “His Grace bade me to make sure you did not wear a necklace or earrings tonight. Once you were ready, you were to meet him in his study.”

I wonder what he is up to, Elizabeth thought as she made her way down to her grandfather. When she entered the study, she saw her grandfather sitting behind his desk working on business and Robert reading a book in a corner chair. Elizabeth teased, “Grandfather! Our guests will be arriving soon and you are still hard at work?”

However, James did not hear the laughter. As he stood up, tears started to well in his eyes. Before him, Elizabeth stood in a stunning deep green gown that shimmered as she approached him. It offset her light green eyes, her mother’s eyes. In her hair were small white flowers with small pearls in the center of each. The Duke came out from behind his desk and as he approached Elizabeth said, “You have so much of Faith and Evette in you. Every day I see and hear Gregory in the way you move, walk, talk, and think. It has been like having Gregory back again. However, tonight you are as beautiful as your mother and as graceful as my own Evette was.”

As Elizabeth listened to her grandfather, she too felt her own tears well up, and exclaimed, “Stop it! You will make me ruin my eyes and we cannot have that!”

The Duke turned around to his desk and grabbed a box from it, he then opened it to Elizabeth and said, “Every Talbot Lady has worn these at her debut, it might only be a small gathering, but I want everyone here tonight to know you are my family and my heir. There will be no other. Everyone will understand the implication of these jewels. Please wear them.”

Elizabeth’s eyes grew round as she looked at the long string of rectangular diamonds with diamond bows hanging down. Off each bow were the largest pearl drops she had ever seen. She had seen this necklace in the gallery, on almost every one of her female ancestors. She never considered seeing them in person let alone wearing them. Before she could say anything the Duke continued, “The last time I retrieved these from the safe deposit box, it was for your mother’s debut. She told me that she felt the security and confidence of every previous holder. She would be pleased that you will get to wear them tonight.”

At this point, Elizabeth started crying in earnest. She so wanted her mother here. In the past three weeks, her grandfather had not held back on his memories of her mother or father. The stories he told her of Faith had made her for the first time in her life feel the loss of her mother. After all, Fanny had always been there to fill the void. She never really had a chance to feel motherless. The Duke, with tears in his own eyes, stated, “Abby is going to have my head if you do not stop.”

Laughing at the picture, Elizabeth attempted to dry her eyes, and stated the need for her to go fix them. She would come back to put the necklace on. The Duke just nodded and said, “Hurry though, William is dreadfully punctual.”

Robert rose before Elizabeth had a chance to leave the room and approached his niece, “It has been too many years, My Lady, since we have had a Lady Talbot grace these halls. I am very pleased I was able to be here the evening. You are, as your grandfather stated, the very image of both your mother and father. They would be quite proud of you.

Elizabeth’s tears threatened to start flowing again. She quickly hugged her uncle and continued out of the room.

A few moments after she was gone, James and Robert made their way to the front of the house. James was not exaggerating when he said William was always punctual; it was a trait he certainly inherited from his father. Feeling in a reminiscent mood, James wished to welcome Darcy himself.

As he approached the front door, he found Darcy and Georgiana had just arrived. He greeted Georgiana with a hug and kisses and reproached Darcy, “Boy! Now you come to London? How long have you been gone? I should not have to pull rank to get you to my door for dinner!”

“Oh but James, he was helping his friend Mr. Bingley! He is about to get engaged!” Georgiana exclaimed. For as long as she remembered, James had been almost like a grandfather to her, she rushed to hug Robert as well.

“And what does your bachelor brother know of engagements?” the Duke asked with a well-trained eye on his godson.

Darcy flinched, fully aware now that his godfather knew of his failed proposal and said, “Enough to know what NOT to say.”

James ignored Robert’s snort from behind him where he had Georgiana in his grasp. The Duke regarded his godson for a moment, deliberating on whether or not he needed to speak with the gentleman before Elizabeth returned. After all, it was his granddaughter the boy was after.

His decision was forestall by a noise, alerting everyone to Elizabeth’s return. He was pleased to see Darcy’s reaction when Elizabeth entered the foyer and said, “Grandfather, you cannot keep our friends from me.” She raced to Georgiana, and the Duke noticed she did not raise her face to Darcy when she greeted both of them, “Georgiana, Mr. Darcy, you are both welcome! Now Georgiana, I thought we would start in the parlor, there is a piano there, and I would love to hear you play tonight!”

Georgiana laughed and replied, “Aunt Matlock filled me in on who would be here this evening, I am not quite sure I wish to play for them all.” Then conspiratorially she said, “But let us find the best seats so that I can watch everyone’s reaction to you this evening!”

“You must play! It would give me a reprieve from all their gazes!” teased Elizabeth. The girls laughed as Elizabeth linked arms with Miss Darcy and led them to the sitting room.

The men followed the ladies, content to watch them interact. James let Darcy have his moment of solitude. He was an observant man and was very gratified to see his godson’s admiring gaze. Knowing the man had already proposed and that his affections predated Elizabeth’s debut calmed the elderly man a little. He would never worry about Elizabeth marrying someone after his title; and neither would Elizabeth.

Darcy pointed to the pearls around Elizabeth’s neck and replied, “I have never seen them in person.”

“Stunning are they not?” replied the Duke.

“They are very pretty and certainly enhance your granddaughter’s natural beauty.”

The Duke was taken back by this blatant admiration for Elizabeth and replied, “Yes. She is very beautiful, the image of both Faith and Gregory. I miss them.”

Shaking his head at himself, Darcy offered, “All day I have been trying to figure out how I did not see it before.” Turning toward his godfather he added, “When I found out the connection this morning, it was as if I was looking at a combination of Lady Faith’s and Gregory’s portraits.” Wryly adding, “I had always thought them to be a lovely couple.”

Robert interrupted the two men as they all three approached the large formal parlor, and said, “I still remember Faith and Anne, the first night Faith wore those. They gushed like school girls.”

The men sat and listened to the chatter for a few moments before James added, “I miss Anne and George almost as much as Faith and Gregory. I could still use George’s wise council today.”

“So could I, Your Grace, so could I” was all Darcy could say. He was completely taken aback. Not only was Elizabeth here looking more beautiful than ever, but he was speaking with the man who had authority over her.

Darcy had spent the entire rest of his day shut up in his study, carefully considering the situation he now found himself in. A good portion of the morning was spent in quite reflection, wondering how on earth he could have missed the family resemblance. It had taken most of the afternoon to determine that he needed to be completely honest with James about his relationship with Elizabeth. Knowing that the Duke probably was not pleased with his behavior, Darcy was not looking forward to the inevitable lecture.

However, Darcy knew the sooner he had the conversation with His Grace, the better. “Your Grace,” he said, “Are you free tomorrow morning? It has been a while since we have played chess together.”

James smiled at his godson, recognizing Darcy’s need to talk. In full agreement with the scheme he replied, “I was not, but I will clear my schedule. Our club?”

“Of course,” Darcy replied as he bowed to his elder.

Robert sighed and said, “I have not played chess in ages. However, something tells me I would not be welcome to join the two of you in the morning.”

Darcy blanched at the thought of explaining himself to both the Talbot brothers. Robert laughed and added, “It just so happens I have a meeting that will take up all day and even into part of the evening and could not invite myself even if I wanted to.”

Darcy relaxed. By this time, James had turned to the ladies and joined their conversation. When they all sat down, Darcy sat next to Georgiana on the couch as he listened to Elizabeth and his sister question the Duke about their relationship.

“James, I met Elizabeth, I mean Lady Elizabeth, at Pemberley this summer. We had such a fun time! Then we saw her again only this morning, when we called on the Gardiners. However, Elizabeth caught both my brother and I completely unaware this morning when she told us her connection to you!” Georgiana said. Turning to Elizabeth she said, “Elizabeth, why did you not mention knowing James at Pemberley?”

Elizabeth blushed but said, “I was unaware that you were Grandfather’s godchildren until that night with Lady Anne’s sketchbook. I assure you, I have been so used to not mentioning him, that I was taken quite off guard.” She turned to James and said, “I blame Grandfather though. I was not even aware he had godchildren until the winter before the trip.”

Holding his glass up to toast Darcy, His Grace replied, “And I blame William and his father. Both are too private for their own good!” The group laughed and as he turned to Elizabeth he added, “To be honest, Elizabeth, I thought I had. I wanted to introduce you to Georgie specially; I thought you two might be good friends,” he proclaimed, and with self-satisfaction concluded, “and I was right.” The whole group laughed.

After controlling her laughter, Elizabeth asked, “How did you become the godfather to our friends here?” She put an emphasis on ‘our’, she wanted Mr. Darcy to know she did think of him at least as a friend.

Fortunately, he caught it and answered for the Duke, “According to my father, he became friends with James when James was stalking a ballroom attempting to dissuade men from dancing with your mother, Faith. Father told me once, that the frown on James’ face was making it difficult for anyone to enjoy dancing ’ including himself.”

Laughing at the picture, the Duke added, “You are quite right. I was having an awful time. Faith had just come out, it was her second attendance at a ball, and I was still having a hard time believing my baby had quite grown up. George spoke with me on the sideline all night. We met later at my club and became friends.”

Robert grinned and said, “I was not present but the letter I got describing the scene from Eddy was quite comical. I believe I still have it, although I am sure it is at Heythrop. By the time I returned from my assignment, George and James were fast friends. I found it odd for quite a while.”

With a furrowed brow, Elizabeth asked, “Why?”

“There was about twenty year’s difference between the two. Eddy even speculated on George marrying Faith, which obviously did not happen.” Robert shrugged and added, “You will see for yourself tonight. I and James will be the oldest ones here.”

James interrupted his brother and to Elizabeth said, “When you were kidnapped, it was George who found you and brought you home.” Then turning to Georgiana, he added, “It was around the time your mother was giving birth to you. I remember the letter from your father saying Anne had blessed him with a beautiful little girl.” At the memory, James lost some of his jovial spirit. That letter had come the same night Thomas had left with Elizabeth.

Darcy, having been told the story not only by his father but by James, realized what James was thinking and endeavored to change the subject, however, he was interrupted when Mr. Baines announced that some of the other guests had arrived.

“Lord Fitzwilliam, the Earl of Matlock and his wife Lady Beatrice Fitzwilliam. Lord Alexander Fitzwilliam, Viscount of Matlock, his wife Lady Izabella Fitzwilliam, and the Right Honorable Colonel Fitzwilliam!”

“Eddy! So sorry to not have been at the door to greet you!” the Duke jumped up and approached his friend and shook his hand. After greeting the rest of the party, he turned and saw Elizabeth had gotten up and approached, and said, “Eddy, Bea, allow me to finally introduce my granddaughter, Lady Elizabeth Talbot.”

Lord Edward Fitzwilliam approached and bowed to Elizabeth, “Lady Elizabeth, it is good to finally meet you. I have been hearing of your escapades for years. It is good to finally put a face to the name.”

Elizabeth gave a curtsey to the Earl and his entire family, and stated, “You have me at a loss, my Lord. My grandfather has barely spoken of you, and even your own son has told me no stories of your own escapades. I have heard a few about an Eddy and Bea, though. I will not scandalize you with their behavior as it is certainly not fit for a Lord of the Realm’s ears.” As she teased, the entire group laughed loudly at this announcement. Elizabeth then turned to the Colonel and said, “Colonel Fitzwilliam, you are looking well.”

Bowing to Elizabeth, Richard stated, “I am well, thank you. It is wonderful to see you again, Lady Elizabeth”

“Richie! You did not tell me you knew James’ granddaughter!” exclaimed a very put out Lady Beatrice. “I am heartedly ashamed of you! Keeping secrets from your own mother!”

“It was not my fault, Mother! Darcy introduced me to her but he introduced her as Miss Bennet from Hertfordshire, not Lady Elizabeth from Oxford,” the Colonel explained.

Bea exploded, “Darcy! You were even introduced before I was?” She whirled toward the Duke and exclaimed, “James! I am seriously displeased!”

The entire group laughed as James held his hands up in defeat and attempted to hide behind Elizabeth. It was Elizabeth who brought Bea back to reason. With a smile that threatened to split her face, she said, “Lady Matlock, I assure you, Mr. Darcy had no way of knowing who I was. Later this evening, I might be persuaded to tell you about my first meeting with him.”

Here Darcy interrupted and said, “Aunt Bea, please come in and sit down!” he whispered loudly to the Colonel, “Keep her away from Lady Elizabeth tonight, please.”

The entire group laughed at this statement, James indicated that everyone should make themselves feel comfortable. Beatrice noticed that Elizabeth went back to her seat next to Georgiana, she was determined to find out more about James’s relations and went over and shooed James away.

“James, go talk with the men! I wish to speak with Elizabeth for a bit, and you are in the chair that I want.”


“Do not Bea me! Now go!”

Lord Alexander spoke from where he was standing behind his wife’s chair and said, “James, you probably should listen to her. The last time someone did not, she boxed Father’s ears with a pillow!”

Lady Izabella laughed and said to Elizabeth, “Excuse our family, Lady Elizabeth, but he is quite right. Bea did throw a pillow at him; however, she meant to hit Alex and instead it hit the Earl. It was quite a scene: Bea yelling at Alex for ducking, Edward yelling at Bea for throwing a pillow at him, and Richard silently removing all the pillows from the room!”

The scene that was described was quite comical to Elizabeth that it put the remainder of her nerves to rest. This was a family who apparently loved each other and was close to her own. She would feel quite comfortable with them. She responded to Lady Izabella and called out, “Lady Izabella, you must join our conversation over here. After all, once Grandfather goes over to the men, not much will be said of interest!”

The men yelled in outrage against that statement. James simply got up and offered his chair to Bea and moved out of Izabella’s way. The ladies engaged in a lively conversation, but since Darcy was out of hearing by now, he was unsure as to what was being said. He was sure about one thing though: Elizabeth was looking at him a great deal and he was not sure if he wanted to know.

As he was lost in his thoughts, he was approached by Richard, who spoke low, “Glad you could come, Darcy.”

Darcy pulled his cousin aside and hissed, “You knew! You did not think that I might have needed to know?”

Richard only smiled, “But it would not have been nearly as amusing had I told you earlier!”

James, who had been talking with Darcy, was mildly amused by the two cousins’ quiet argument. He made a mental note to include Richard’s latest antics in his letter to Thomas. However, cognizant of his role as the host, James broke away to greet his latest guests, “Madeline, Edward! Please come meet my friends!” Slowly as the evening progressed, more guests arrived one by one.

Elizabeth was pleased that the Gardiners were welcomed with warmth throughout the evening. She was a little worried when the Earl of Huntington and his wife were introduced to them. Godwin was a rotund man, with a very open air, his wife, however, was stork-like and seemed to look down her nose at Madeline. Elizabeth had decided to go over to her guestswhen she saw Bea approach. A couple of minutes later all three ladies were comfortable with each other.

Elizabeth sat back and watched the mood around her. The Duke of Carlisle and his wife had already arrived and their party was complete. She made a motion to Mrs. Baines to start dinner and announced, “I believe we should all make our way to the dining room. Mrs. Baines will never forgive me if we let her soup grow cold.”

“Ah! You have already learned who the real lord and lady of the manor are!” cried Robert.

The entire group laughed, Elizabeth looked at where Mr. Baines was standing with Mrs. Baines and saw their blush and added, “Yes. They are certainly invaluable to us.”

By this time, her grandfather had made his way to her side and offered his arm to her, “To eat!”

Dinner was an equally uproarious affair. Elizabeth realized the Dukes and Earls had been friends for years. They told story after story at the other end of the table. Richard and Darcy even found themselves discussing current politics with Colonel Talbot.

Elizabeth was pleased that Lady Huntington and Lady Carlisle had taken a liking to Mrs. Gardiner. The two were currently making plans to visit Mr. Gardiner’s shops that next week for fabrics for a dress Lady Carlisle was planning on having made. To her right she saw the Duke of Carlisle laughing heartily with Mr. Gardiner at something the Earl of Matlock had said. She looked at the shy girl sitting next to her at the table and looked at Lady Victoria who was at the same end. Georgiana was attempting to listen to all the conversations at once and was becoming a little overwhelmed at it.

“Georgiana, after I saw you earlier today, what did you do?” Elizabeth asked.

“I went home to study.” Georgiana said distractedly. She turned to Elizabeth and asked, “My aunt is making plans to go see some fabric shop. Do you know what she is talking about?”

Elizabeth laughed, “Mr. Gardiner runs an import and export business, among other things. He owns a large warehouse that houses many of his goods. He purchases much for merchants in the area, but then he also stocks some in his warehouse. Madeline is probably planning a trip to the fabric shop there.”

Lady Victoria perked up, “Fabric? What kinds does he purchase?”

“As long as they are at a good price, he purchases all varieties. He has silks, satins, muslins, wools, and so much more. Jane and I keep getting lost in his warehouse. He even has a room for collectibles,” replied Elizabeth.

Georgiana turned to her brother, “Oh William! Would you be able to take me? It sounds wonderful!”

Darcy laughed and indicated to Elizabeth, “I can, but something tells me the Lady Elizabeth would be a better guide.”

Elizabeth simply bowed her head as she laughed at Georgiana’s eager attitude, “I would be more than happy to take you Georgiana. You are also welcome Lady Victoria. Why do we not plan something for next week?”

“Absolutely!” cried Georgiana.

“I thank you for my invitation, it is appreciated!” stated Lady Victoria. “I would love to see it. I have been listening to Mrs. Gardiner’s description and found it intriguing.”

Before Elizabeth could make a comment, James boomed down the table, “Darcy! Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are attending the theatre with us tomorrow. Eddy had already planned on taking Bea and Victoria. I understand Richard is staying with you? Come with Georgiana and drag Richard if you can! We will make a merry party of it. Afterwards, Bea has offered us all dinner.”

“I have not!” cried Bea.

Darcy ignored his aunt and replied with a smile, “We would be delighted,” was his response.

“See! We will be a merry party Bea! Do you not want to feed us so we will not starve?” asked the Duke.

Before she could answer, the Lady Carlisle spoke up from where she was seated and offered, innocently, “We will be attending as well. If it is too much for you, dear Bea, we would be more than happy to host dinner.”

“Too much?” cried Bea, “It is most certainly not too much! My staff is excellent and would relish an opportunity to feed the starving Lords of England.” She turned to where Elizabeth was watching the scene unfold from the end of the table, “If your Grandfather gets out of hand, you are more than welcome in our box, Elizabeth.”

“Darcy, we had better meet at the theatre. I know Georgie is not out yet and is just a slip of a thing, but I also know women,” he said as he made a pointed look at Bea, “get upset if there is not enough room for their dresses.”

Bea laughed and waved him off, “That was only one time! James, it was not just being crushed: you were sitting on it!”

The Earl of Huntington spoke up, “Blast! It sounds like a fun time! We’d love to come but Clarice here has had some dinner party planned for our daughter’s new in-laws. Cannot get out of it.”

“Next time, Godwin, next time,” soothed Lady Clarice.

“Do not be too put out!” said Robert from where he sat a few chairs away from the Earl, “I will be leaving that morning, and will not be able to attend either.”

Darcy asked, “Where are you going, Colonel?”

“Back to Heythop, someone has to keep the place humming,” Robert replied dryly.

“My steward does a perfectly acceptable job for me, Robert. We all know you cannot wait to get back to your lady’s side!” retorted James from his place at the end of the table.

Laughter could be heard ringing throughout the dining room as the occupants spent the rest of the evening becoming friends and renewing friendships. There was no small amount of teasing when Elizabeth announced it was time for the separation of the sexes.

“You just want to gossip about me with the wives of my friends!” exclaimed James.

Elizabeth replied cheekily, “Of course! How else will I find out about you as a young man?”

“I have more than a few stories, my dear, you come sit by me!” cried Bea as she grabbed Elizabeth’s arm. She looked at Georgiana and also grabbed her arm as she said, “You as well. You could benefit from the story of James’s mother’s piano.”

The Duke cried in outrage as Eddy tried to maneuver him out of the room, “Bea! Do not you dare! You will give her ideas!”

Elizabeth was laughing as she was shepherded into the sitting room.

Mr. Darcy had spent most of the evening simply watching his sister interact with Elizabeth. He himself only spoke when a question or comment was directed at him. Off and on throughout the evening, he would venture a look toward the other end of the table where James was sitting and more often than not James was able to make eye contact with Darcy. A weaker man would have been intimidated by James, or even a stronger man who was not as close to the man as Darcy was. However, this was the man who had helped him these past five years.

As he accepted a glass of port from Richard, William could not help but remark, “So, you are staying at Dewert House are you?”

Richard smiled and replied, “A certain cousin has always said I was welcome.”

Nodding, Darcy smiled in return, and replied, “I cannot say I would have done the same, but if it had not been me your amusement was focused on, I probably would have found the entire situation laughable as well.”

Richard only smiled in response.

Darcy continued, “However, I now feel the need to ask: there is not anything else about her family that I need to know?” When Richard shook his head no, Darcy only responded, “Your day will come Richard. One day, you will fall in love and I will be able to stand back and watch it with amusement!”

Richard walked away smiling at Darcy’s comment and said, “What are cousins for then to find amusement in each other’s lives?”

William just waved him on. As Darcy, now alone, stood off to the side of the room, he could hear the few conversations going on around him. He knew he needed to join, but was very comfortable just blending into the background of this colorful group of me. He half listened to the Eddy and Godwin talk about some horse they were both excited about.

As Darcy’s gaze roamed the room, he was pleased to see, Mr. Gardiner seemed to fit right in and had been sidelined by the Duke of Carlisle speaking of their recent fishing trips. It suddenly occurred to him, as he watched Robert speak quietly with James, that all the men in the room, save a few, had been there for him since his father had died.

So when James called out to Darcy, William felt comfortable enough to respond in kind.

“Darcy! I have decided I am upset with you. For years, I have been planning on surprising everyone with a grand reveal of Elizabeth’s identity, and not only you but Richard and Georgiana are already acquainted with her prior the event!”

Darcy could hear the challenge in James’ statement and was thankful he was vague upon the time when he found about the prior relationship. Darcy felt bold and responded, “If your intention was to surprise everyone, I daresay you failed miserably. I understand that most of your guests were aware she would be here. Somehow my aunt even knew not only Lady Elizabeth’s name but who all your other guests were.”

Slapping his knee, James exclaimed, “Damn women! Cannot keep anything a secret. She probably found out from you Eddy, you never could keep anything from Bea!”

Lord Matlock simply smiled and held his drink up as if to toast his wife and turned to William and asked, “So? How did you meet Elizabeth?”

Darcy hesitated, then answered his uncle, and said, “At an assembly where I was being my normal boorish self.”

Richard snorted when he heard that statement and added, “Stalking about the corners of the room, refusing to dance with anyone outside of your party. James!” He cried, “I met Elizabeth in Aunt Catherine’s sitting room. She was quite delightful. She accused Darcy of purposefully trying to intimidate her! They then got into an argument that, of course, Elizabeth won about his conduct at that assembly.” In a high voice meant to imitate Elizabeth, Richard cried, “‘He only danced four dances and barely spoke at all to anyone’ were her words!”

The men in the room lightly laughed as most of them had seen this behavior from William. However, Colonel Fitzwilliam was not done, “He tried to defend himself by saying he did not have the natural ability to make small talk with people he does not know. Lady Elizabeth then stated that it was because he never took the time to practice!” Richard was laughing at his memory by this time, and concluded, “James, it was wonderful to see him put in his place.”

James laughed at the image portrayed, and said, “Good! George was the same way though! I think it is in the Darcy genes.”

William spoke up at this comment, “I thought Father loved to dance.”

The room quieted at this comment. James replied somberly, “Only with Anne. That is probably what you are remembering. George never did like dancing. After your mother died, Bea and Maggie did not want him to sit on the sidelines and wallow in his sorrow. When George re-entered society, they made sure he attended as many events as they could get him to. They also required that he stand up with them. He did so out of loyalty to us, however, after Anne died, he never had the same appreciation for it.”

Eddy spoke up, “Aye. George lost part of himself when Ann died; another trait of the Darcy men. I saw it happen with your grandfather, William. Old John was not the same after Edith died, thankfully for him, she died late in life and they had enjoyed many years together.”

At this point, Robert felt that William needed a break from being the focus of the room, and started a conversation with Mr. Gardiner that in the end had all the men speaking: “Mr. Gardiner, I understand from Lady Elizabeth you run an import and export business. I hope Old Boney and the other privateers are not wreaking too much havoc on your business.”

While Darcy had been the focus of the men’s conversation, Elizabeth had been the focus of the women’s, or more particularly Bea’s conversation. It became apparent not long after the men separated from the ladies that Bea and Maggie had spoken and planned out Bea’s almost private discussion with Elizabeth. Elizabeth almost starting laughing when she saw Mrs. Gardiner attempt yet again to join Elizabeth and Bea’s conversation only to be intercepted by the Duchess of Carlisle.

Elizabeth was truly enjoying her conversation with Bea, even though she was aware Bea was interrogating her. “So my dear, you grew up in Hertfordshire? In what area?”

“My uncle’s family resides near Meryton in their country estate, Longbourn. It is not three miles from Netherfield, the estate Mr. Darcy visited this past summer with his friend Mr. Charles Bingley. Do you know the man?” For the first time in her life, Elizabeth found she was able to give as much information as she wished, and chose not to hold anything back.

“Mr. Bingley? Oh yes! He is a delightful fellow. I understand that when he is in town he either stays with Darcy or one of his sisters, although I cannot quite remember her name...”

“It is more than likely Mrs. Louisa Hurst. He has another sister, Miss Caroline Bingley, but she is unmarried and has no London home of her own.”

“Ah yes.” Bea said dryly, “I remember Caroline Bingley. I understand that Bingley is courting a young lady down near his estate, do you know the young lady?”

Elizabeth laughed outright, “Yes, Lady Matlock, I do. He is interested in my cousin and dearest friend, Jane Bennet.”

“Please call me Bea! I am planning on calling you Elizabeth, so we would not want you to feel uncomfortable now, would we?” After seeing Elizabeth nod her head in acceptance, Bea continued, “Tell me all about your Bennet cousins, we already know enough of your Talbot ones,” she added dryly.

“That would take far longer than we have. I will tell you that Jane is the sweetest woman I know. The next eldest is Mary, she is very scholarly and loves to garden. She is engaged to a Reverend in Meryton, the town closest to their estate. Catherine is the third eldest and is developing her skill with the pen and brush. She creates lovely paintings and sketches. Finally, there is Lydia,” Elizabeth hesitated, she did not want to point out that Lydia’s only hobby was chasing officers, and opted instead to conclude by saying, “who is the most cheerful and exuberant of the bunch.”

Bea, smiled and said, “That was diplomatic. Would you believe that was how my mother described me, growing up? When I was let into society, I was mad about men. I was ever so much fun. Eddy had a hard time convincing me that I should marry him!”

Elizabeth laughed and felt comfortable saying, “I never would have believed it of you.”

Bea teased, “Liar.” She then saw that Maggie had allowed Georgiana to approach them, and realized that her presence could be useful in finding out what hold Elizabeth had on Darcy. It was apparent to the group that Darcy was at the very least intrigued by her. “Georgie! We were just talking about how Eddy had to convince me to marry him!”

Georgie laughed and asked, “But Uncle Edward told me you had to convince him!”

Elizabeth was delighted, “I must hear this story!”

Georgiana said, “Well, Uncle Eddy said that the year Aunt Bea came out, she set her cap for him and set out to convince him she should be his choice. He told me she would place herself as near to him as possible at each ball so that he felt he had to ask her to dance. At first he felt pity for his friend’s lonely sister, and then she finally convinced him he was in love with her!” Bea and Elizabeth had started to chuckle at the picture created, and Georgiana continued, “I always thought something was off about his description; I cannot image you Aunt, as ever being lonely.”

“You are right!” exclaimed Bea, “The first year I was out, I met your uncle. He was standing with the same group of men here tonight, with a few exceptions, of course: Henry was there, James was there, and my own brother Alexander was there and of course your father George was there. Georgiana, it was a sight. Five men all dressed elegantly, but who looked like they were at a funeral. I was very upset that my brother was a part of them. I had just met the most delightful young lady: Anne Fitzwilliam and wanted to introduce her to my brother.”

Smiling at Georgiana she said, “Your mother was so shy. I saw her standing by herself and made a huge social blunder and introduced myself. Thankfully the matrons knew Anne’s disposition and looked the other way. We spoke for most of the evening. When I found out toward the end of the evening that Anne had not danced much, I marched her right over to Alexander and introduced him to my new friend.”

Bea, sat back and sighed at the memory, “Alexander knew what I was doing and danced with her. They looked heavenly together; for a brief moment, I thought they would make a cute couple. Later I would find out that Anne looked heavenly dancing with anyone, not just my brother. While Ann was dancing with Alexander, I stayed with the men, who we had been introduced to by this time. I believe I sighed or made some sound, because your uncle spoke up and asked if I was quite alright.”

Bea looked at Elizabeth and said, “That was when your grandfather yelled out, ‘of course she is alright, she managed to get Alex to dance, did not she?’ I was a little taken aback, James had already become the Duke and he was the first one I had been introduced to. That was when I looked over at Eddy, who was trying hard not to laugh at my indignation.”

Georgiana interrupted and said, “Surely, Uncle did not actually laugh at you? I can hardly imagine him being so unkind.”

Bea patted her hand, and said, “He was able to hold it in, until I turned to James and made some comment about how he would not be making such a comment if he had seen who Faith was dancing with at that moment. You see, everyone knew James was overprotective of his daughter. At that moment, she was not actually dancing and was being led off the floor by a young man none of us knew.” Turning back to Elizabeth she said, “I wish I could tell you that man was your father, but I did not actually see his face. You might have to ask James if he remembers the incident.”

All at once, Bea started to laugh, “The rest of the season, I was so upset with Eddy! It was when I made the comment about Faith to James that he started laughing. Eddy claims he was laughing at James, but I still do not believe it. He asked me to dance the last dance and I refused. He spent the rest of the season trying to get me to dance with him. Somehow I managed to do avoid doing so.”

Georgiana exclaimed, “Aunt Bea!”

Elizabeth laughed and asked, “How did he finally manage to get you to say yes?”

Bea smiled as she remembered, “Well, before Christmas, he came to visit Alexander. He got thrown from his horse into a huge snowbank. By the time we found him, he was chilled through and became very sick. He was so sick that Anne came from Matlock to help nurse him. One evening, I went to visit him and told him that if he never got well, how could I refuse to dance with him anymore?” Bea stopped for a moment to compose herself, “That man made me agree to every first dance and every dinner dance if he promised to get better.”

Elizabeth laughed as she exclaimed, “Well! That sounds more like James than Lord Matlock!”

Bea grinned and replied, “I believe James had written him something of the sort when he found out Eddy was ill.” As the ladies laughed and Bea asked, “Elizabeth, how did you come to meet Darcy? I know it was in Hertfordshire.”

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “At a dance where he refused to dance with me.”

Bea laughed while Georgiana exclaimed, “Certainly not William!”

“Of course William!” cried Bea, “Georgie, you have never seen him in a ballroom. He stalks along the side, and dances with no one unless forced to. He hardly speaks to anyone outside of his party of family members who dare approach him. I can well believe it!”

“Oh, Elizabeth, I am so sorry!”

“Why?” asked Elizabeth, “You did not refuse to dance with me and insult me at the same time.”

Intrigued, Bea asked, “What did he say?”

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “Mr. Bingley had approached and was reproaching him for standing around in a stupid manner and attempted to make him dance. Mr. Darcy gave a compliment to Jane and her beauty, which was quite accurate. Mr. Darcy stated that Bingley had been dancing with the only beautiful woman attending. When Mr. Bingley responded that I was very pretty as well, and offered to introduce us, Mr. Darcy responded,” Elizabeth straightened up here and attempted to do her best Darcy impersonation, and said in a fake deep voice, “‘She is tolerable I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me. I am in no humor to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men’.”

Elizabeth looked at Georgiana who had a look of shock and horror on her face. When she turned toward Bea, she saw the look of amusement on her face then realized neither lady was actually looking at her. She turned around to see Darcy frozen on the spot behind the sofa where the three ladies had been sitting. She rose and started teasing him to ease the tension in the room, “Mr. Darcy, you should not eavesdrop. I assure you from personal experience, one hardly ever hears anything complimentary.”

All Darcy could say was, “You heard me?”

Laughing outright, Elizabeth stated, “You were standing not five feet from Mary and me. How could we not?”

“I can assure you, I did not mean what I said, and was only trying to get Bingley away from me!”

Deciding he needed to be teased for a little longer, Elizabeth said, “And that is a reason for being so rude?”

“Why no, but –”

“So you do find me tolerable?’

“Of course, but –”

Elizabeth noticed that the rest of the men had not only entered the sitting room but had moved away from herself and Darcy; everyone except James that is. Knowing that Darcy was extremely uncomfortable, she attempted to set his mind at ease and said quietly, hoping the others could not hear, “Come, Mr. Darcy. Let us be friends again. You have made it quite clear since that comment that you find me more than tolerable. Honestly, it has been many months since I ever remembered the comment. If we are being honest, I have been far more vocal in my opinion of your tolerability and have much more to apologize for.”

Darcy stood there staring at Elizabeth, hoping that she was referring to his letter. However, before he could say anything, Georgiana, who still did not believe Darcy could make such a comment about Elizabeth, exclaimed, “Brother! Tell me you did not insult Elizabeth!”

Darcy looked at the laughter in Elizabeth’s eyes and realized he had actually been forgiven for such a comment, and chose to take her lead and tease himself. He hung his head in mock shame and confessed, “Indeed, I did, Georgiana.”

Bea said quite loudly, “Oh Georgie! Everyone says things they do not mean at one time or another. It is intolerable that Darcy said it about Elizabeth, but he did and we must forgive him his insufferable shyness!”

Maggie chimed in, “Indeed! I find that I can tolerate Henry’s comments only half of the time; politics and business are simply insufferable!”

Lady Victoria, who was closest to Georgiana, said in a stage whisper, “I believe, Georgiana, the humor of the situation is that Darcy now believes Elizabeth is exceedingly tolerable!”

It was Robert who decided to stop everyone from teasing Darcy, who was blushing very badly by this time, and said “I believe I could tolerate some entertainment. Georgie could I tempt you into playing one of your sillier pieces? I believe a slight bit of nonsense would improve our humors even more!”

At seeing Georgiana’s hesitation, Elizabeth cried, “Oh Georgie! Please do! You were quite spectacular when I was in Derbyshire; I have missed your skills immensely. Indeed, I shall even turn the pages for you!”

It was with much laughter that the evening concluded. As Elizabeth saw each guest out, she greeted the Darcys, who were the last to leave, with warmth. “Oh Georgie! I shall write to you to set up a time to go to my Mr. Gardiner’s Emporium.”

“Alright! Do you have plans in the morning?”

“No.” Elizabeth responded curiously.

“Well,” Georgiana asked, “would you mind spending the morning with me? I was having a dress completed. The dress would be perfect for the theatre tomorrow night; I was hoping you would come with me to the modiste.”

“I had not thought you were out in society,” replied Elizabeth cautiously, “Am I hearing that is to change?”

Georgiana blushed as she commented, “Brother has said that we could introduce me slowly to grand events, just so that I can get my bearings. We are not…we have not…”

Silencing her friend with a smile, Elizabeth interrupted, “That is alright, I am available in the morning. In fact, I have a few things I wish to pick up for Catherine. Why do not I come for you around 10 o’clock?”

“That would be wonderful!” cried an exuberant Georgiana.

Elizabeth turned to Mr. Darcy and her grandfather. Darcy said, “Thank you, Lady Elizabeth. Not only for your forgiveness for my rudeness last fall, but also for your friendship with Georgiana and me. Since she met you at Pemberley, she has been opening up more and more. I believe I have you to thank for that.”

“She is a dear girl.”

“Indeed, I have always found her amusing. I believe I shall see her out!” stated James very unceremoniously and walked away.

Darcy could not believe his luck, a moment alone with Elizabeth could not be wasted, “Lady Elizabeth, I have an appointment with your grandfather tomorrow, however, I am assuming that you still take your daily walk? Would you be willing to accompany me to the park tomorrow after lunch? I do not wish to importune you, but would like to speak with you.”

Hesitantly, Elizabeth responded, “I do not believe it would be proper. However, I will ask Grandfather if he would be comfortable with Jones accompanying us, discreetly of course. I am sure he will let you know tomorrow.”

Darcy bowed and smiled and said, “You give me something to look forward to then in the afternoon.”

Laughing, Elizabeth replied, “You know as well as I, he is not an ogre.”

All Darcy’s response was, “Until tomorrow.” He gathered Georgiana from James and they left.

James had never really ever been jealous before. For the first time in his life, he found himself fighting thoughts and feelings of possession as he watched Elizabeth and Darcy converse out of the corner of his eye. Georgiana either did not notice his preoccupation or chose to ignore it. For that James was thankful. He watched as Darcy asked Elizabeth something and she became hesitant. Wishing him and Georgiana had been closer; James’s interest was piqued when he overheard Elizabeth tell Darcy she would send word through her grandfather in the morning.

As he watched the Darcy carriage leave, James sighed. I need to speak with Elizabeth before Darcy, he thought as he headed back into the house. He made his way to Faith’s corner where he had a feeling Elizabeth would be. He was not wrong; when he entered he saw her standing next to the desk, simply staring at it. Robert saw the look on his brother’s face and wordlessly left the room.

Feeling that she needed time to compose her thoughts, he sat down. Elizabeth sighed and replied, “You are to meet with him in the morning, I believe?”

“Yes. He wishes to speak with me about something. Do you know about what?”

Elizabeth shook her head but offered, “This morning Madeline told me she also thinks he is still in love with me.”

“How do you feel about that?” He could see the indecision on her face and repeated, “Elizabeth do you want him to renew his addresses? If not, please let me know, and I will put a stop to it in the morning. It was apparent to me, and everyone else this evening: he is still very interested in you.”

“No!” cried Elizabeth. She was shocked with how much she did not like the idea of Darcy not continuing his attentions. In a quieter voice she said, “No. Please do not.”

“Then you wish him to continue?”

Elizabeth sighed and said, “The only thing I am very sure of at the moment is that I have misjudged him, and have done so in a rather stupendous manner. I wish to get to know him more. There have been too many assumptions and interpretations of actions that have been so horribly wrong. I wish to know for certain, from the man himself, what he is thinking and feeling. For myself, I hardly know and plan on being very honest with him on that score.” She paused for a moment before she added more quietly, “He asked to speak with me in the afternoon during my walk. I told him I would ask you, I am willing to take Jones with me,” She yawned as she said this.

“You are tired. I believe it is extremely late. I find I wish to be well rested when I meet with William in the morning and of course you can meet with him, pending there is not anything inappropriate that comes out in my meeting with him. Of all the people in the world, I would have no problem entrusting you to Darcy’s care. Nothing will befall you with him.” He felt more than he was saying.

Not wishing to read too much into her grandfather’s words, Elizabeth nodded and rose. Just as she was about to pass over the threshold into the hallway, she turned and said, “Grandfather, please do not be too hard on him. After much thought on both of our behaviors, his was above reproach. He acted based on the information he was given and fell in love with me anyway. In truth, it is admirable that he would be willing to throw off family to marry a girl with no fortune or connections. The irony is that he never would have had to.”

James felt he had to ask, “I know, dear. My question is how would he have acted had he not been ignorant about your station in life? Would he have behaved more ‘gentlemanly’?”

Elizabeth shrugged and said, “I do not know. What I do know is that he has made attempts to amend his behavior and that is all we can ask for. Just as I have. I was also ignorant to the facts concerning Wickham. Had I known, I would like to think I would have reacted differently, but we will never know.”

“No, indeed.”

Elizabeth hesitated but asked, “Grandfather, I feel the need to apologize for my own actions. I treated him so horribly. Since he is your godson, I feel it best to start anew, as friends.”

James approached and hugged Elizabeth and kissed her head goodnight and said, “My meeting with him will be brief and I will tell him to pick you up around 11 instead of in the afternoon. If you wish, you may bring him back for lunch.”

As he watched Elizabeth mount the stairs to go to her room, he had the feeling that he would not have as much time alone with his granddaughter as he first thought.

Darcy approached his own club with trepidation. He had stayed awake all night outlining everything he needed and wanted to say, without reserve, to the Duke. Darcy was torn between wanting to speak candidly with his godfather as he had in the past and the need to impress the guardian of the woman he loved. He had a feeling Elizabeth had told her grandfather everything, but he wanted James to hear it from him as well. The conflict he felt in being torn in such a way had made it almost impossible to sleep. He had to force breakfast down and was quite thankful that Georgiana had taken breakfast in her room and that Richard had not come down for his repast until Darcy was preparing to leave.

Richard saw the agitation on Darcy’s face and wanted to tease him out of his black mood. However, before he said anything, he realized the odd predicament Darcy found himself in; the one man he spoke with unreservedly was James, and James was the one man who could refuse Darcy’s suit and thus ruin the rest of this life. Richard was certain that Darcy would never love another woman and it was important to have the Duke’s approval. It was not many times that Richard saw Darcy intimidated, but this was one of them.

He walked Darcy to the door and only wished him luck.

As Darcy was announced to the private sitting room James had commandeered for their conversation, intimidated was exactly what he was feeling. He was grateful that James agreed to meet at their club rather than at James’ home where he might encounter Elizabeth. He knew he was in no condition to see her at the moment. Darcy needed to clear the air with James first.

After being seated, James offered Darcy a cup of tea, “For I know you rarely drink before dinner and believe we should have clear heads.”

Darcy simply nodded and accepted the cup from the servant. After the door had been closed, James took a sip of his tea and said, “I will not beat around the bush: Elizabeth told me of your proposal and she is also aware of your actions regarding Lydia when she first arrived in London: we keep no secrets between the two of us.”

Darcy gasped and in doing so inhaled hot tea. As he sputtered and spurted, James simply watched. Darcy finally set the cup down and once he had calmed himself said, “That was very blunt, even for you.”

“I felt it best to get the dirty subjects out of the way.” Putting his own cup down, James leveled his eyes with Darcy’s and concluded, “All that remains of that situation is for you to tell me how much it cost you to get rid of the devil, so that I can have my solicitor pay you back.”

“No.” James was not completely shocked by the steel in Darcy’s tone. He had heard it many times over the years, and it was slightly amusing to hear it being directed at him. However, Darcy was not done, “He was my problem that I let become too much. He was my fault and so must the remedy be.”

“Of course, Lydia Bennet, being the youngest cousin to Elizabeth, was not a motive either,” returned James sarcastically, “Do not mistake me for a simpleton William: you would never have responded as quickly as you did or in the same manner had it not been Elizabeth’s silliest relation that was so near to the scoundrel unprotected.” When Darcy made no answer, James continued, “Indeed. I have reason to believe that Elizabeth was your sole motive for rescuing the foolish child.” He waved off protests from Darcy and added, “Do not worry though; it opened not only my eyes to the child’s behavior but also Thomas’s, for that alone, I would have found it worth every penny.”

Sighing, James said, “I have never told you about Thomas, have I?” when Darcy shook his head negatively, James continued, “You probably wondered at one point how an intelligent man like Thomas could marry such a foolish person as Fanny. She was not as silly or as…desperate as she is now. She was never an intelligent person. That was the reason Gregory hated to see her: he knew his brother needed…more from his spouse and realized Thomas would never get it. Fanny was not always so…nervous. It is that blasted entail always looming over her head that has caused her to abandon her sense. If you are curious, you may ask Lizzy about that story, or better yet, ask Thomas when you next see him.

“I guarantee you will be surprised by Fanny’s behavior once she finds out that she has no fear of the hedgerows. For years, Thomas, Elizabeth and myself have debated what her reaction would be. However, since Mary has gotten engaged, and Catherine started being courted, her nerves are calming drastically. I expect she will be so elated when Jane becomes Mrs. Bingley that she will completely forget about them. Having for years thought she would act completely differently, I feel the guilt considerably of not telling her sooner. Thomas does not believe the knowledge of our connection will calm Fanny, but Elizabeth and I believe differently now.”

When the Duke fell silent, Darcy hesitantly asked, “Will I have the opportunity to see Mr. Bennet again?”

James turned his attention back to Darcy and said, “Possibly. I believe though, that will be a question for Elizabeth not me.” James straightened up and said, “Darcy, all night I could not decide whether to let you fidget because how you treated Elizabeth and my family or if I should put you out of your misery first so we could talk an unreservedly as we normally do.” The Duke softened as he stated, “I was still worried this morning before I left to meet you about how I should feel regarding the entire thing. It was Robert who reminded me: you are my family as well. Please, talk to me; what happened, William? You know Elizabeth has been unreserved with me, I wish the same for you.”

Darcy shrugged and said simply, “I was an arrogant fool who risked the happiness of the woman I loved with my conceited pride. I was rude to her friends and family, believing myself to be above them. I spoke with conceit and vanity, I acted uncharitably, and…oh hell! I acted like Lady Catherine.”

James laughed at the comparison, “Surely not as bad as that!”

Darcy would not let himself off the hook. “James, you know how I proposed to Lady Elizabeth, surely you have read the letter! I did so in such a rude manner. I insulted her, her family, unintentionally you, and hurt a cousin who she was as close to as a sister. I can hardly think upon my behavior without abhorrence.”

When he could see that James did not believe him, he added, “I proposed to Elizabeth not only believing that she would say yes like one of those simpering debutantes, I thought I was lowering myself in order to do so. Nothing could be further from the truth. If Lady Elizabeth accepts my suit, I will be raising myself. I am not talking about rising stations: Elizabeth makes me a better man.”

James asked, “If Elizabeth accepts your suit? Are you planning on proposing again, possibly on your walk?”

“No.” Darcy replied.

James was taken aback by how quickly Darcy responded and without hesitation, “Then what are your plans, exactly?”

Taking a deep breath, Darcy replied, “I wish to start over as her friend. If I felt that I had any hope of being anything more than that, I would act accordingly.”

“Let us pretend for a moment that you have succeeded, that you gain her friendship, what will you do?”

Darcy took a deep breath and speared James with his gaze and stated clearly, “Convince her to allow me to court her with the intent of marriage.”

“Why court her? You have already proposed once, surely you do not need more time to get to know her?”

“No. The courtship is for her.” Sighing in frustration, Darcy leaned back and ran his hands over his face and said, “I did such a bad job at communicating my interest to her that she honestly believed I looked at her only to censure her. She deserves to know she is loved.”

James smiled. He felt comfortable with this young man and his suit for Elizabeth. He knew Darcy almost as well as he knew Darcy’s father. Both good men. Elizabeth could not have chosen better. To Darcy he said, “Start at the beginning, tell me everything you have kept to yourself.” Seeing the look of relief on his godson’s face he teased, “If you do not, I am sure I can get it from Richard.”

The rest of the morning was spent in reflection on Darcy’s time in Hertfordshire, Hunsford, and finally in Derbyshire. Before the men left each other’s company, James knew what Darcy did not from Darcy’s own stories. Elizabeth is in love with Darcy. She would never have been so upset or reacted as she did in any of those situations if she was not expecting more from him. Darcy, do not marry her too fast, I want more of her time with me first.

Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 9 (Part 2)

MarciJune 26, 2017 11:33PM

Is it late next week yet?

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