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Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 10

July 07, 2017 07:29PM
Author’s Note: Shout out to Betsy and Roxey for helping edit this. Any leftover mistakes are mine! Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 10 – Trying Again
London, August 1812

Elizabeth set out for the park with butterflies in her stomach. She wished to arrive early in order to gather her thoughts. With Jones trailing an appropriate distance behind her, she wandered through the park for about ten minutes before she heard her name being called, “Lady Elizabeth.” She turned to see Mr. Darcy standing not five feet from her.

“I see we both had the same idea, Mr. Darcy.”

William held out his arm and said, “Will you walk with me, Lady Elizabeth?”

“Of course.” They walked for quite a while without either speaking. Finally, Elizabeth felt the irony of the situation and said, “For two people who have so much to say to each other, we do not seem to be getting to the point, Mr. Darcy.” They both stopped near the pond and she added, “As ladies normally are allowed to do things first, I feel it only right that I should start!”

William smiled slightly at her comment and bowed gallantly. This encouraged her to continue, “I first must start with quite a few apologies.”

William started at this statement, but she held her hand to continue, “It was you,” turning around to smile at Jones who had the grace to blush when she added, “and another person that saved Lydia from forever being linked to that….man. I know I shall certainly never call him a gentleman!”

Taking a deep breath Elizabeth continued, “I need to apologize and thank you on behalf on my uncle’s family. Outside of possibly Uncle Thomas, I am sure they believe it is Mr. Gardiner to whom they are indebted.”

She paused and waited for Darcy’s reaction. When she saw that he was allowing her to continue, she sheepishly added, “Finally, you may not have been right to separate Bingley from Jane, but your motives, after careful reflection were correct. She does not show her feelings to the world.” Dryly she added, “Much like a certain gentleman from Derbyshire.”

She indicated that they continue walking, and when they started to move, she concluded, “Finally, I must apologize for my pride and ignorance. If I had not allowed my assumptions of your character to cloud and color my judgment I would have seen the inappropriateness of Wickham’s willingness to malign the character of another. I also would have sought your story and not have remained in my own ignorance.”

Mr. Darcy started speaking and said, “I do not blame you, as I told you in my letter, for allowing Mr. Wickham to cloud your judgement. You are not the first; I do not believe you will be the last either.” He hesitated before he commented, “I thought I had been very careful. I had not wanted anyone in your family to be aware of my involvement in Miss Bennet’s removal from Brighton, other than Mr. Gardiner and your Uncle Thomas.”

“It was not Mr. Gardiner or even Uncle Thomas who told me, but rather Grandfather. After all, Jones was present for almost the entire event in Brighton and I believe Richard conveyed the rest to Grandfather.” She looked out the corner of her eye at Mr. Darcy and smiled.

“Sabotaged…I should have known better than to attempt to keep something from James, even though I did not know I was keeping it from him.” He shook his head in humor.

Darcy then sobered for a second and added, “I do feel the need to apologize for not informing you, while at Pemberley, of my involvement in the affair. Lydia had not returned yet to Longbourn, and it was apparent you had no idea about her elopement; I felt it was necessary to keep the situation from you until your own family informed you. I am truly sorry. I have no wish to keep any secrets from you.”

Shaking his head in disgust at himself he added, “I continually say that I despise disguise of every kind, and there I was keeping yet another thing from you.” He earnestly looked at Elizabeth and asked, “Would you please forgive me?”

Elizabeth nodded and replied, “I do understand your motives. You really have nothing to apologize for.” She then paused and then gave a rueful laugh and added, “I probably should be apologizing for Lydia’s behavior during that time. She was more than likely not pleased at having to leave her poor Wickham.”

They strolled for a few minutes as he thought; finally, when he spoke, Elizabeth was a little taken aback by his comment, “She never quite made it to London with Wickham, which was their intended goal. Jones and Sanderson found them in the process of checking into an inn for the evening. It was there that Wickham ran and left Lydia by herself. It was very fortuitous: Richard and Mrs. Annesley, Georgiana’s companion, were nearby and accompanied Miss Lydia back to Brighton. It was there that your cousin returned to her hosts until Mr. Bennet could get there. I spent the next few days with Sanderson finding Wickham. Once I found him, Richard had already returned and we sent Sanderson back to his unit.”

Darcy smiled and looked back at the bulky man trailing him and Elizabeth and added, “I actually had no idea that Jones was even involved until this morning. I have known of him for some time, but having never met him until this morning, I was quite surprised to hear that Jones was one of the main reason’s Wickham’s plans were discovered. I had thought all the credit was due to Sanderson for his information and actions regarding the situation.”

Jones only smiled and bowed. Darcy continued, “If you were not already loyal to James, I would be tempted to steal you from him.”

Elizabeth walked in silence, feeling even guiltier at the actions of her cousin, and even more thankful that Darcy had stepped in when he did. She even voiced her appreciation, only to have Darcy become visibly upset. “I cannot accept your thanks. Your gratitude is unwarranted. It was my fault. I knew what he was. I have always known. It was I who hid his perfidies from the world. When it had been reported to me what he was planning, I felt it was only right that I take care of him once and for all.”

“Mr. Darcy, you will just have to accept my thanks. There were others who were aware as well and who did nothing; I, my uncle, my cousin Jane, and even Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner had their suspicions. You were not alone in it. To be truthful, the only one to whom blame must be served is Wickham: it was his actions and his actions alone that caused all this grief.”

After a few moments, Mr. Darcy said, “If you will thank me then, let it be for yourself alone. I believe I only thought of you.” Elizabeth turned bright red at this admission and found she was unable to speak. Mr. Darcy took it as a slight encouragement, “You are too kind to trifle with me. If you still hold those opinions from last April, let me know. For myself, nothing has changed.”

Elizabeth stopped and looked sharply at Mr. Darcy, and said, “Surely, you cannot be serious? I treated you horribly, I maligned your character, and a case could be made that I blatantly lied to you concerning my actual station. You said once that you abhor deceit of any kind. Yet you still have feelings for me?” Before he was given the chance to answer, she continued, “My family is saved by you from disgrace and yet you still ask?”

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. I could no more stop loving you than to stop loving my own family,” replied Mr. Darcy. They walked a few more feet before he added quickly, “I hope that you do not believe that my feelings could be so flippant and inconstant. I tried to inform you before, in my own clumsy way, that I do not care who you are related to. I do not care if you are penniless with no connections or have better connections than myself.”

He stopped to turn to her and she saw all the emotion in his eyes when he said, “Elizabeth, I love you. You have captured me with your intelligence, humor, and impertinence. I know that your feelings are not equal to mine; as selfish as it is, I would like to know if you still hold me in the same disdain as you did last April.”

When Elizabeth finally found her words, she said quietly, “I do not hate you, nor can I even say I dislike you.” Then finding her humor again, she added, “To be honest, until last night, I could not even say that I knew you. However, the man I met last night was quite pleasing, and I wish to know him better.”

She was quite pleased when she saw a gleam enter his eyes, and was equally pleased when he asked hesitantly, “I told myself, and your grandfather, I would be content with only friendship. I find that I must ask instead: would you allow me to court you?”

“I would be delighted!” then with a humorless laugh she replied, “But I feel my grandfather will not be. I only just arrived and now here you are attempting to take me away again.”

“At this risk of being the brunt of James’ humor, I will ask: why did your grandfather have to him?” Asked an exasperated Darcy, “What I mean to say is: your grandfather could have been anyone. Why does he have to be the one man in England who intimidates me?”

Elizabeth smiled and teased, “Would it have been better if my grandfather had been Eddy?”

“Honestly? Yes,” Darcy smiled and teased back, “Your grandfather has Robert. Between the two of them, the worst scoundrel would hide behind his mother.”

Elizabeth only laughed and replied, “But Eddy has Bea!”

Darcy paled at the thought, “If I had insulted any of her children…”

Their laughter could be heard throughout the park.

Hours later, Elizabeth found herself ready to go to the theatre with her grandfather and friends. As she made her way down the stairs and she heard a loud gasp. She looked up and saw a tear in her grandfather’s eyes. When he spoke, he caused her eyes to well up as well, “You look exactly like my Faith.”

“Thank you, but we need to leave if we are not to be late.”

James walked her to the carriage door and handed her in. The ride to the theatre was a short one. However, before they got there, James got the courage to ask what he had been dreading all afternoon. When he and William parted at his club, he came immediately home and sought out his study. He spent most of the afternoon buried in work that he knew he would have to redo on the morrow.

Elizabeth had come to inform him she was leaving for the park, and he had noticed her agitation. When she returned three hours later, she had greeted him with a merry smile and whisked herself upstairs to get ready for the theatre. I know something happened during their walk. I have a feeling I have lost my little girl now that I have finally have her company.

To Elizabeth he said, “Elizabeth, I do not need to know the details of your talk with Darcy. I can see they are favorable simply from your actions upon returning. However, after my conversation with him, I would not like to be blindsided and wish to know: did you agree to anything during your walk?”

Elizabeth was a little taken aback by the conversation. She had not intended to speak with him until the morning but realized that he needed to know, not for her safety, but rather for his sanity, “William asked to court me in order to allow me to get to know him better, and I have agreed.” She hastened to add, “I know you have grand plans for you and me, and my presentation. We spoke and none of that needs to change. He only asks for a little of my time each week.”

At that moment they pulled in front of the theatre, where James saw everyone who was anyone was in attendance. He said, “We will talk about this more, if it was anyone else I would not allow it. But I have known Darcy for years, and unfortunately have no excuse to get rid of him excepting my own greediness of your time.” Shedding his frown, James smiled at Elizabeth and teased, “As for right now: we must let the crowds get a look at the future Duchess of Shrewsbury.”

He handed her out and immediately the crowd went silent. James knew what they were seeing: Elizabeth had chosen a deep blue dress and had put her dark hair up in ringlets and curls. The statement she made wearing the Heythrop Park Pearls was acute: everyone knew this was the much anticipated granddaughter of the Duke of Shrewsbury. As he directed them to where Eddy and Bea were standing with their son and daughter, he could hear the whispers.

James started feeling quite frustrated when it seemed he was unable to make it to their friends. He and Elizabeth seemed to be stopped every five feet, when yet another acquaintance come up to make the future Duchess’ acquaintance. The man in front of him spoke in such a slow cadence; but he did not want to appear rude on the first outing with Elizabeth and he had never directly cut a person in his life. Unfortunately for James, he could not remember the man’s name and was trying desperately to recollect who this person was.

Fortunately, Darcy had no such compunction and James felt relieved when he appeared next to them with Georgiana, “Sir Ira Middleson, it has been so long,” Darcy stated as he bowed to the man. Before Sir Ira could respond however, William looked darkly at the man and said, “I hate to rush, but the Duke, Lady Elizabeth, my sister and I really need to get to our seats before the curtain opens. Ah!” he cried, “There are my aunt and uncle waiting for us! You will excuse us sir!”

James smiled as the man bustled and became rather flushed; his grin widened when Darcy did not even wait for Sir Ira to respond and hustled the group over to the Earl of Matlock and his family.

James was further amused when he saw his cousin and his cousin’s son approach with an unknown gentleman. Darcy simply glared at the group and swiftly moved everyone inside to James’ and Eddy’s boxes, which happened to be next to each other. He did so in such a fashion that the trio could not get close enough to call out to James.

After James had seated Elizabeth next to Georgiana and reserved the place to her left for himself, he approached the man who had taken Georgiana’s right side. He spoke softly so as not to interrupt Elizabeth’s and Georgiana’s conversation and said, “That was well done, boy. I did not want to make a scene but everyone came out of nowhere all at once.

William simply smiled, “I could see that.” Then he frowned, “I should probably apologize to Aunt Bea. I was very abrupt in moving her away from Lady Carter, but then I could see the crowd was starting to frighten Georgiana. Oh well. It is done and the ladies will have to meet during intermission or after,” he concluded with a shrug.

“Oh, she’ll be alright. Bea I mean. Georgiana will be alright as well; Elizabeth will see to that.”

William smiled as he watched the two women he loved the most in the world converse quietly next to him and the Duke. He only replied, “Yes, I believe Lady Elizabeth will be good for her.”

James then said, “It was very advantageous for you to move us in here as quickly as you did. However, the Earl and his son will not be swayed; they will approach us during the intermission. I cannot keep them from my box unless I cut them direct.”

Darcy sighed and replied, “I understand that, I also know you have no wish to do so without cause.”

“I never have cut someone and I have no wish to start now,” James granted. “However, I will to the first person who disrespects Elizabeth, even if it is a relation.”

Darcy nodded in approval, he then added quickly, “The reason I moved us to the boxes so hastily was actually due to the man who was with them.”

“Who was that?”

“The Earl of Dorchester,” replied Darcy.

James looked back to where Jones was standing guard in the room and said, “Jones’ old employer?”

Darcy nodded and looked at Jones himself.

The servant maintained his stance and replied to the unasked questioned, “Your Grace, I am fine, I would however, feel better if Lady Elizabeth and Miss Darcy were not far from one of the guards all evening.”

James nodded and replied, “Let it be done. I want him nowhere near either of them without your presence or Darcy’s and mine.”

“Very good sir,” Jones removed to inform the outside guards of the new orders.

James sat back in his chair and eyed William for a few moments. Finally, he startled the young man when he said, “Elizabeth told me about your walk today.”

William became extremely red and started to say, “She had not wanted me to ask for your permission until –”

“I know. I asked her.” The Duke surveyed the young man before him, and realized the next statement was much easier to say than he anticipated, “I think Elizabeth will be good for you as well.”

Darcy asked, “Is that why everyone else is in Uncle’s box and Georgiana and I are the only ones in yours?”

James did not respond for a moment, and Darcy realized he was choosing his words carefully, “Some will believe that it is because you are my godchildren and have no parents of your own. However, I fully intend on monopolizing Georgiana’s attention the second half of the play. I thought you might like to show your preference and get a head start on the rest of the suitors who will be clamoring after her.” He added wryly, “After the greeting we received, I believe I will need your strong presence often to weed out the undesirables; including my cousins.”

During intermission, James’ relaxed state from the play had become greatly reduced. It seemed his prophecy was correct: everyone wanted to meet the Lady Elizabeth Evette. While Eddy sent one of his servants and one of James’ to retrieve drinks for the group, James found himself stuck in a conversation with another member of the peerage he could hardly remember the name of.

To his dismay, James found himself separated from Elizabeth. He quickly glanced around the crush to find her. He sighed with relief when he saw her holding onto Darcy’s arm. A feeling of loss and remorse crept up until he saw his cousin, the Earl of Shrewsbury approach with his son and friend. James immediately interrupted and apologized to the man who was speaking to him and made his way over to his granddaughter.

Never once did he take his eyes from her form. He stopped a few feet short of the group when he was finally within hearing distance, only to hear Darcy and Elizabeth having a bit of fun at his cousins’ expense.

“But, My Lord, I have been to London many times. In fact, I just missed you last summer when you visited Grandfather at Heythrop!” stated Elizabeth calmly.

“What?” cried the Earl, “You were in the house when I was there, and we were not introduced? As I asked before, why hide from your relatives?”

The Earl of Dorchester drawled as if a little drunk already, “Surely, you are not ashamed of them.”

Mr. Darcy interrupted, “Hiding? How can one hide out in the open, gentlemen? I met Lady Elizabeth in Hertfordshire, where she resided with her family.”

“Ashamed of my family?” cried Elizabeth, “I would beg you not to believe that for a moment. If you wish for a reason, believe my absence to be selfishness: I wished for time with my Bennet cousins before all of our lives took different terms.”

“Yes,” added Darcy, “You cousin Miss Jane Bennet, is now engaged to my good friend Charles Bingley, and I believe you have another cousin who is currently engaged to a member of the clergy.”

“Oh! Do not forget Catherine! Her solider and she will make a great pair, if he ever gets the courage to proceed from their courtship to an engagement!” teased Elizabeth, “I also have a younger cousin who has been taken to school. I will not see her for a while either!”

The Earl’s face grew white as he heard with whom Elizabeth had been spending time. To have such a family connected to him was insupportable, and he attempted to dissuade her from seeing them. “Lady Elizabeth you have not been in society for very long, I am not sure you understand what is expected of you.”

Elizabeth grew very still, James’s smile widened as he watched his granddaughter remind him of his dear Evette from so many years before. Darcy looked cautiously down at his lady; he knew something was wrong by how she had stiffened. Both men attempted to refrain from laughing at the Earl’s affronted look when Elizabeth said, “Or maybe it is that I am completely aware of what people expect of me, and have no wish to become yet another imitation of good manners and breeding, without actually having either as so many of society believe is acceptable.”

No one near missed the undertone Elizabeth had used. It was a direct hit that hit the intended target. The Earl dragged his son away soon after that. When the Earl of Dorchester did not move away, James came up and stood between him and his granddaughter.

“Ah! Your Grace!” George Damer slightly slurred, “You have a beautiful granddaughter! Keeping the best from us are you?”

“I do not believe we have been introduced, you are –” started James.

Darcy stepped forward after allowing Jones to escort Elizabeth over to where the Earl of Matlock was standing with his wife and Georgiana. “Your Grace, allow me. Sir, this is His Lordship, George Damer, and the Earl of Dorchester. Your Lordship, please meet, His Grace, Lord James George Albert Talbot, the 3rd Duke of Shrewsbury.”

James inclined his head to the Earl as he said, “I have been hearing of you for a while now, Lord Damer.”

“Please call me George!” the man slurred, “I came tonight because old Johnny told me you would be here with your granddaughter. I would like to solicit some of your time tomorrow about a business arrangement.”

“I am not interested,” replied the Duke calmly.

The Earl sputtered, “What –wha – what do you mean, you – you are not interested?”

James repeated quietly so only the immediate people could hear, “I am not interested in doing any sort of business with you whether professional or not. I am especially not interested in arranging a marriage between my granddaughter and anyone, least of all you.” Turning to Darcy he said, “The second half will be starting, we should get my guests back to my box.”

Darcy smiled as he bowed and he and James simply walked away, leaving the slightly intoxicated and offended gentleman behind. The both sighed with relief when they were able to get back to the Duke’s box and saw Elizabeth and Georgiana were already there with Jones and another guard stationed outside of the box. The rest of the evening, the two men put aside their worry over both confrontations and enjoyed Elizabeth’s and Georgiana’s company.

True to his word, James spent the entire second half with his attention on Georgiana. Nothing was said about the Duke’s approval of Darcy’s obvious courtship of Elizabeth. However, it can be said that the scene that was playing out in the Heythrop Park Theatre box was more interesting than the play itself. It seemed as if the elusive bachelor, Fitzwilliam Darcy was taken by the newest jewel of the ton. It was delicious gossip indeed.

The next morning the ton was abuzz with the news of the new Lady Elizabeth. The ladies who saw her and those who met her found her charming and very fashionable. The men who were able to get close enough to speak with her found her entrancing. If her first appearance in society was to be judged: Lady Elizabeth was to be the most sought after acquaintance that year.

Even though no one could find fault with her manners, her looks, or even her presence at the theatre, the gossips had enough to talk about. Upon Lady Elizabeth’s first outing, the elusive bachelor from Derbyshire had made his intentions quite clear: she may be new to high society but she was not eligible.

For most of the evening the Duke was amused with how Darcy had handled most of the eligible men. He would allow only the foolish ones near or those he was not worried about becoming a rival: all others would be directed away. At one point during intermission, Richard had even entered the fray to help ward off a would-be suitor to Lady Elizabeth.

Throughout the evening, James realized that before the confrontation with the Earls of both Shrewsbury and Dorchester, Darcy had also made a point of allowing some private moments between Elizabeth and the Duke. He appreciated the gesture; it proved to him that maybe, just maybe, he would not be losing a granddaughter, but gaining a grandson.

Elizabeth had woken quite early the next morning and was getting ready for a walk in the park when the Duke caught her in the hallway.

“Elizabeth, up so early? We had such a late night.”

Elizabeth blushed and said, “William wanted to speak with me this morning about what plans you had for you and me. He wanted to make arrangements for him and Georgiana.” When she saw James become thoughtful she added, “He was planning on escorting me back then speaking with you, as he was unable to do because of your…questioning last night.”

James laughed at her wording and responded, “Of course. Let him know that you and I will be heading to Mary’s wedding and staying for an extended period of time. If he could perhaps get an invitation for us to stay with Bingley, it would be appreciated.”

Elizabeth laughed outright and said, “That is a backwards way of getting an invitation. Surely, Uncle Thomas would be willing to accommodate you.”

James eyed his granddaughter and gave her one last parting comment before she left. “Do you really wish to be around Fanny Bennet when she realizes she has been raising a future Duchess?”

As Elizabeth made her way down the street with Jones behind. She did not really mind the extra footman that Jones and James had insisted upon. As she walked to the spot where Darcy had told he would meet her, Elizabeth thought about what her grandfather had commented on. She and her grandfather had discussed before when to tell Fanny of Elizabeth’s inheritance but never how. It was something to think about. Both Mary and Catherine now knew, as well as Jane. Should she write a letter to Charlotte before Lady Catherine learned? What about Louisa? She had received a letter from her last week and was looking forward to the renewing the acquaintance.

She was in deep thought when a hand touched her shoulder and startled her, “Mr. Darcy! You are making a habit of scaring the daylights out of me!”

William looked at her with concern and said, “I am more concerned with what deep revelations are going through your head, that such an observant person did not heed my presence. I did not approach you quietly.”

Elizabeth indicated the seat on the bench next to her, and said, “I was thinking about how to introduce Grandfather to certain people.” She turned to him as he sat and said, “Does one simply write a letter and say, ‘by the way: my grandfather has always been a Duke and you now have to call me Lady Elizabeth’? Surely, there must be some better way.”

William was taken aback by her straightforward comment and threw his head back and laughed, and when he finally was able to speak, he surmised, “Somehow I do not believe Mrs. Bennet would appreciate such a gesture.”

Elizabeth eyed William, pleased that he knew exactly whom she was concerned about, and said, “I do not either, but I also simply cannot have her hearing about it from someone else.”

William thought for a minute and asked, “And why will your uncle not inform her?”

Elizabeth looked surprised by the very suggestion, “I never really considered that he would.” After considering the comment for a few moments, Elizabeth concluded, “I do not believe that he would though. He would probably believe that he could gain some amusement from her finding out from Lady Lucas, or even Mrs. Philips.”

“I have some news for His Grace that might help.” When William was sure he had Elizabeth’s attention he said, “I received word from Bingley this morning, as I was leaving my house.” He reached into his pocket and grabbed a hastily written note, and handed it to Elizabeth, “I was expecting to find you had a similar one from Miss Jane, hoping she could fill me in on some of the areas that are illegible in Bingley’s missive.”

Dewert House, London
August 29, 1812


You will congratulate me, sir! Jane *blot, blot, blot* my wife! *blot, blot, blot* married in *blot, blot* months. Come as *blot, blot, blot* as you *blot*! *blot, blot, blot* Miss Darcy, as well!

Jane told me who Miss Elizabeth’s grand*blot* is; I *blot, blot, blot, blot, blot, blot*! Bring him! Bring her! Bring everyone!

My *blot* is going to *blot, blot, blot* me!

Charles Bingley

As Elizabeth finished the letter, she could not contain her mirth. Chuckling slightly, she said, “That is good news. You are probably right; I will more than likely have a letter from Jane waiting for me when I get home.” Handing the letter back to William, she concluded, “We will certainly find out more from her.”

“What do you think about his plan? Would His Grace be much put out with removing to Hertfordshire so soon after your announcement?” asked William. “I would be more than happy to change Georgiana’s and my plans to accommodate his schedule.”

Elizabeth queried, “You would go to Hertfordshire for an unknown period of time? What of your business here? At Pemberley?”

“In Hertfordshire the only person I would have to compete with for your attention is your grandfather and your friends. I believe it will be much easier for me in courting you, if it was done out of the ton’s eye.” Grinning he claimed, “Just think of how upset his Lordship, the Earl of Shrewsbury will be to finally meet you and then you run off to the country before he can convince you to marry his son!”

Elizabeth blushed, as she rose she said, “You must first find approval from His Grace, for me to run back to the country.”

“Then let us be off,” he responded as he offered her his arm. They walked back the long way to the Duke’s house. By the time they reached the door, it was tea time.

The Duke invited William to stay when he was informed of Jane’s engagement. “Of course we will go! You write an express to that young man! We cannot leave until after the Carlisle Ball next week; Maggie would have my head on a platter and send Henry to retrieve it if I did! Your presentation is three days away, but after that, there are no engagements which I cannot cancel.”

Elizabeth questioned, “Did you not accept a dinner with our Talbot relations for a few nights after the ball? Would cancelling that be seen as a slight?”

James smiled and replied, “With two weddings on the horizon: no one in the ton will think of it as such. Maybe our cousin will but I could care less of his opinion and he seeks my approval too often in society to have a public problem with it.”

James then pointed a finger at Darcy and added, “We can travel together, if that is alright with you. You had better bring Georgie! I have not spent enough time with that one. I also have a feeling that Catherine might enjoy her company.”

As Elizabeth refilled their tea, James continued, “I have been speaking with Thomas, since Mary is now get married in October, which is only a few weeks away, I have a feeling that either she will share that day with Jane and Bingley or Jane might marry close to that. I was planning on two more months in town before heading to Heythrop Park after Mary’s wedding, but that is not a possibility anymore. We will probably stay in Hertfordshire until the end of October or even early November before going straight to Heythrop for the holiday season.”

Elizabeth looked excited at the prospect, however, when she turned to William to share her joy; she realized she would more than likely be separated from him for the fall and the winter. That thought pained her more than she cared to admit. As for William, he was missing Elizabeth already.

Fortunately for the two, James stated, “Darcy, I know you cannot be away from your estate forever. But really, what do you do during the winter than plan for the next year? Would you and Georgiana be willing to come to Heythrop Park for a few months? I cannot promise the same amount of snow you receive in the wilds of the north, but it gets quite pretty at Heythrop.”

Darcy smiled and said, “Yes, you are right, naturally. I will accept, of course, pending Georgiana’s approval.”

“Good. I am certain she will say yes,” replied the Duke wryly.

Elizabeth offered, “If she and Catherine become friends, we could invite them both.”

James smiled and replied, “I was actually thinking of inviting the entire remaining Bennet family and the Gardiners for a few weeks around Christmas. But all this can be decided after we arrive at Netherfield.”

William only stayed about thirty minutes more. He stated that Georgiana was waiting for him at home, and he had much to do to make them ready for the travel in two weeks. As he left Elizabeth, his heart felt light, he was making plans with the woman he loved and her family as if he was already accepted. However, as soon as he had that thought, he banished it from his mind, You will not take her or her acceptance for granted again. You have barely started to make amends. Get with it man!

As Elizabeth watched William walk toward his own home, her heart was filled with contentment. James came over to her and watched the young man leave. He looked at Elizabeth and said, “I hope you approve of my plans for us for the winter.”

“I do” smiled Elizabeth, after a moment she frowned and said, “But I was under the impression that you had more obligations than the Carlisle Ball, that you were planning on having us attend. You had all those plans.”

James sighed as he spoke, “I did. However, the theatre trip last night got me thinking: I wanted to go to all those events, and hold our own events to make sure that people accepted you as my heir. I wanted to parade you around because I am so proud of the woman you have become. But Elizabeth, whether you are ready to admit it or not, you are in love with William.”

Elizabeth blushed and started to deny it, but James cut her off, “I heartily approve. I do not believe you could have chosen a better man. I hate to say it, since I have a high regard for his father, but William is a much better man than his father ever was. George was not a…stingy master by any means, but the generosity William shows to everyone around him makes George seem like a tyrant. William is an excellent businessman, and a wonderful brother. I have always looked at him and Georgie like they were my own.”

As James continued, tears started to cloud Elizabeth’s eyes as she listened to her grandfather talk about the man with whom she was rapidly falling in love. “Do you remember last year when you stated you understood about arranged marriages in our circle?”

When he saw Elizabeth nod, he continued, “I would never arranged a marriage for you. However, it did get me to thinking about who I would choose for you if I had to. In truth, William would have been the only one I would have selected for you. I believe I even mentioned it a few times. At first, I was upset that just when I was finally able to openly have time with you and not keep you a secret, you go and get yourself a beau. However, last night it was clear to me, William will never try to take you from me; and I do not know why I thought otherwise. He may a distance away, but that will never keep us apart. I have a feeling I will be at Pemberley as much as you and he will be at Heythrop Park. To be honest: time with you is all I ever really want.”

Shaking off his serious tone, James exclaimed, “If that means we spend a few months in your old stomping grounds, and then have a large family gathering at Heythrop Park, then so be it! I decided not five minutes before you two burst through the front door, that I do not care what people think: they can accept you or not! You have already met the people who mean the most to me, and not one of them will have a problem with my retiring to the country!” Throwing his hands up, as he added, “Most of them will want to join us!”

Elizabeth threw her arms around her grandfather and cried, “I love you! Thank you so much!”

“You mean the world to me: do not ever forget it.”

The two weeks were a whirl of excitement for the Darcy’s, and Elizabeth’s family. Elizabeth was kept quite busy. She had daily errands as she prepared the London house to be shut up for an extended period of time. She met four times with Mrs. Gardiner for shopping for wedding presents for her cousin, and clothing for different events.

Since it had been decided that Georgiana would have her debut in society soon, Darcy approved of Georgiana participating in the rural societies of Hertfordshire, Derbyshire, and Oxford. Elizabeth had stated that getting Georgiana comfortable in smaller settings would help greatly when it came time for the large balls that she would have to attend in town. With this in mind, William asked Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner if they would help her choose a new wardrobe suitable for whatever events his sister would need to attend.

To state that Georgiana was excited by this news would be an understatement Elizabeth had decided she would get her wardrobe for the winter started and commissioned the seamstress to come to Heythrop Park during the time when Georgiana would be visiting to get her wardrobe planned for her spring debut.

When Elizabeth went to be presented to the Queen, Georgie was allowed to attend to watch. Lady Matlock could be heard for years complaining about how easy Elizabeth’s presentation looked. Since Georgiana had seen Elizabeth breeze through her presentation, she was not nearly as nervous during her own the very next year. Anyone who listened to Elizabeth would smile at her irritation that such a big display was made for a fifteen minute meeting.

James spent most of his time taking care of a multitude of business meetings and taking leave of certain friends. There were a few cancelled engagements that he felt he needed to apologize for in person. Most of their evenings were actually spent elsewhere. Twice they dined at the Darcy’s, twice they dined with the Gardiners, once with the Earl of Matlock and his family, and once with the Carlisle’s before their ball. James knew they would probably not be returning to town until the spring, and so opted to take Elizabeth to as many events as he could while they were still in London. He took her to two operas, one more play, and at least three art and history exhibits.

The evening before the Carlisle ball, Elizabeth cried, fatigued, “Grandfather! Please tell me you have nothing planned this evening.”

James had just arrived home from visiting some people he was telling in person of his inability to go to their ball or event. He had gone to his study to make sure he wrote another note to his friends. While out he had found out the ball was going to be an engagement ball, and although he and Elizabeth would be missed, his friends had understood their absence. James decided to seek out Elizabeth first to mention that they still should make sure to send something. He was startled to find Elizabeth sitting behind his desk, reading a book, apparently waiting for him.

He took a long look at his granddaughter and as he leaned against his own door jam, he said with a smile, “Henry invited us over for some entertainment tonight. He wanted to divert Maggie’s attention from their ball for a few hours. If we need to decline, it will not be a problem. It is clear you have something else in mind.”

Elizabeth looked up from her book and with a self-satisfied grin she nodded and replied, “Chess.”

Caught off guard by Elizabeth, he repeated, “Chess?”

“Yes. Chess. Uncle Thomas never really had the patience to teach me, I confess, he tried, but I found it boring then. I was informed that not only does William love the game, but he excels at it.” She then pointed to an intricately carved travel box she had set on his desk, “Would you mind?”

“Did you buy a chess set? I must have three versions here and a very fine version at Heythrop Park.” As he drew closer, he said, “You need not have troubled yourself.”

Elizabeth laughed and said, “I thought as much, but I do wish to learn!”

James smiled fondly at his granddaughter and moved two chairs to face each other. Once they had the board set up; he spent the next fifteen minutes teaching Elizabeth how to play the game. After a few practice games, when it was apparent she understood the rules, they played a real game.

Thirty minutes later, the housekeeper poked her head in an asked if they were staying in for dinner that evening. James exclaimed, “It is late! Mrs. Baines, please apologize to Mrs. Locke for us!”

Elizabeth just smiled and put her hand on her grandfather’s arm and said, “It is alright. I was hoping to stay in this evening and told her to simply have the staff prepare a cold buffet for us.”

After she gave the housekeeper instructions to have the staff bring in the food, James considered Elizabeth. After the food was laid out and Elizabeth rose to retrieve some cold cuts for herself, he realized she was not wearing evening attire. In fact, she was wearing one of her old dresses.

As he filled his own plate, he asked, “Elizabeth, did you really want to learn chess or did you simply want to stay in tonight?”

He turned just in time to see Elizabeth’s blush before she lowered her head. “Have we been doing too much?”

Elizabeth sighed, and set her plate aside and took the offered tea cup. “To be honest, yes. Not you specifically, but I have been planning and doing much more than I had anticipated. It occurred to me while I was at William’s house, after our walk. Georgiana had wanted me to see a gown that she had remade, instead of ordering a new one. She wanted to take it with her when we leave in three days’ time. Since I was not planning on seeing her until we picked her and William up to go, I felt I should visit her today.”

“That sounds reasonable.”

“Yes, except I forgot that I had told Bea that I would accompany Georgiana to visit her for lunch. I ended up out of the house for quite a few hours. When I made my escape from Lady Matlock’s, I had to visit Madeline: I told her I would take a present of some fabric for Jane and Mary. It is part of her gift for their marriages: she was giving them quite a bit of fabric from which to make their new wardrobes. Then I had to visit the seamstress, whom I have commissioned to go to Hertfordshire to make their wardrobes as part of our gift to them.” She sighed and leaned back, “By the time I arrived home, it was about forty minutes before you did.”

“The chess set?”

Smiling she said, “I confess, you already had this one in my room. I believe you forgot about it.”

“You could have simply told me you needed to stay home tonight.”

Blushing she said, “I did not want you to insist I stay in my room tonight. I did not need alone time, I only needed to relax.”

“And so, you thought of chess.”

“Yes!” She leaned forward and studied the board and said, “I am quite enjoying it too! My wish to learn so I can play William is very real. William has claimed he plays himself often or Richard if he is there. He told me that it is very calming. I thought I would try it.”

Smiling, James replied, “You will have to be a lot better than you are, if you wish to beat Darcy! I have been playing him for years and have won only one game in the past fifteen years. That game, I believe I won only because his grief at his father’s death clouded his judgment. I hardly consider that a victory”

Elizabeth smiled at her grandfather’s admission. For the rest of the evening, James and Elizabeth enjoyed each other’s company. James was starting to become worried by Elizabeth’s plans when she told him of her schedule for the next three days. He relaxed a little when he realized she would be relaxing when they reached Hertfordshire.

Elizabeth and James rode to the Darcy’s to retrieve both William and Richard for the ball because Georgiana had wanted to see her dress. The young girl had not been able to go to the last dress fitting that morning with Elizabeth and was upset by it.

“Lady Elizabeth, what have you done to my cousin? Before she could have cared less about frills and finery; now, she become positively irate because she would not get to see your gown!?” cried Richard as Elizabeth entered the sitting room.

It was a good thing that Richard diverted Elizabeth’s attention from William because he was having a hard time speaking. Once again, she had chosen a gown that perfectly suited her: it was a deep red that draped and hung in such a way as to accentuate every curve without being immodest.

Georgiana squealed as she approached Elizabeth, “Oh Lizzy! That is perfectly divine! You are so bold to wear red!”

James stood back and watched the proceedings. As Elizabeth and Georgiana spoke, he approached William and said, “She surprised me this evening.”

William looked at his godfather curiously, and James explained, “She came down stairs in that red dress. She told me she was wearing deep red, and so I retrieved some rubies from the vault. I showed them to her and she told me they were lovely, but tonight she wanted to wear her cross.”

William watched as the Duke’s eyes misted, “I gave her that cross when she came to visit Heythrop Park the first time when she was twelve. It was the summer after I finally told her about my title. She said it was the first thing I had ever given her that gave her tangible link to my side of her family. She stated she would wear it tonight.”

William surveyed the necklace Elizabeth was wearing and realized it was the same one she had worn in Hertfordshire every day, and said as much to the Duke. This caused the Duke to become more emotional. “Even then, she never lost touch of her family. I will tell you William, there were times that I was jealous of Thomas: he got my girl every single day. But to have her wear that these past years…it makes me feel a little better about our separation.”

At that moment, Elizabeth approached with Richard and said, “Grandfather, William, we should be leaving. We have already said goodnight to Georgie, make your goodbyes please: it would not do to have Maggie angry with us.”

As the group entered the carriage, Elizabeth was pleased that this would be their last engagement. She was determined to be pleased with the evening before it even started. William had reserved the second dance and the dinner dance, Richard had reserved the fourth dance and the dance right after dinner, and her grandfather promised he would open the evening and close the evening dancing with her. Whatever happened in between, she could endure.

Much to her delight, the ball was very lively. Elizabeth found she was never without a partner, but she felt that her grandfather, Darcy, and James’ friends ensured she had appropriate dancing partners. At one point, Sir Ira had solicited a dance and she was about to agree when Richard’s brother Alexander swooped in and claimed the set. She had thought it was odd since she could not remember him requesting any, but when Alex swooped in again later in the evening to claim another dance, her suspicions were confirmed: he was saving his dances with her in order to save her from either boredom or dancing with a rake.

Elizabeth became mildly amused when two other friends of William did the same thing at least three other times that night, all at very convenient times so that she was never off the floor and her dance card was completely full. Even the Earl of Talbot had been unable to get a dance. Towards the end of the ball, she was standing with William and James when it was announced that the last dance of the evening would be a waltz.

Elizabeth had only just learnt the dance steps and was a little worried about displaying them for everyone to see. She said as much and William responded, “If I was able to have another dance with you, I would offer to stand up with you. When I learned it with Georgiana a few weeks ago, it struck me as a very…intimate dance. Who are you dancing it with?” He questioned hesitantly.

James was very amused by the conversation and said, “With me! Maggie warned me she was planning this, I knew how Elizabeth felt about the dance, and I opted to make sure her nerves were of no consequence.”

William became visibly relieved. All he replied was, and “That was well planned.”

James asked, “And who will you be dancing with, Darcy?” He got great amusement when Elizabeth’s focus immediately turned to her suitor. The idea of him holding another so intimately did not sit well with her.

William only smiled and said, “You will be dancing with the only woman I would consider.”

Elizabeth smiled as he met her eyes. James laughed and prompted Elizabeth to allow him to escort her to the floor.

The dance started up, and as the two made their way to the middle of the floor, Elizabeth realized there were not a lot of couples on the floor and mentioned as much. James replied, “It seems you are not the only one who finds the new dance daunting.”

As they danced for a few more minutes, the Duke felt her calming down, and had an idea. He knew exactly what he was doing when he swirled Elizabeth to the edge of the dance floor. The room quieted as they watched what he did. There was an audible gasp when he took Elizabeth’s hand and offered it to William.

Both William and Elizabeth were also shocked. Elizabeth was slightly confused: she had already danced two dances with Darcy; to dance any more would be stating that there was an attachment. Darcy did not hesitate; he bowed to both the Duke and Elizabeth and took the Duke’s place on the dance floor with his love.

As he twirled her back to the middle of the floor, Elizabeth realized what her grandfather had done: he had not only made it clear that William and she were attached, but that he whole heartily approved. Tears swam in her eyes as she attempted to control her emotions. She found peace and comfort in Darcy’s arms more than she found in her grandfather’s. By the end of the dance, she knew that when Darcy proposed again, this time she would say yes.

The ball was a success. Everyone claimed it to be so, but then, they reasoned, Lady Margaret, would not allow it to be any other way. For Elizabeth, it was a success in other ways. She was pleased that the move her grandfather made was apparently accepted by the ton. When she was having breakfast the next day, her grandfather offered her the society column. In it, it read:

Yet another rousing success as the Carlisle Ball hosted many of London’s most eligible people. The master and mistress of the house were excessively pleased with the attendees. The newest member of the upper society, made an appearance at the ball last evening.

However, many men cried in outrage when they went home, and many women cried themselves to sleep as the beautiful heiress publicly claimed the heart of one of the most eligible bachelors in England. There third dance was not only approved of by His Grace, but offered to the bachelor by His Grace himself.

When will they announce the happy occasion I wonder?

“Oh dear!” Elizabeth said, “William hates making the society pages.”

James laughed as he replied, “Something tells me he will not mind this one.” The Duke threw down the rest of the newspaper as he questioned, “Now, I assume Abigail will finish your packing? We are to leave quite early tomorrow morning.”

“Yes. I invited Georgiana and William to stay with us tonight so we can leave as early as possible,” stated Elizabeth. “In fact, Georgiana was going to come over early this morning and spend the day with me. William stated last night, as we dropped him and Richard off, that he had some things to do today and would not be able to be here sooner than dinner.” Realizing she had never spoken with James about these plans, she cried, “Oh! I hope you do not mind. I do not remember telling you about their stay!”

James laughed, “You did not, but it is alright. William spoke of them to me last night while you were off dancing. I am actually going to meet him for lunch at his club before an appointment”

Elizabeth calmed down. After breakfast, she saw her grandfather off and retreated to the sitting room. She pulled out a book she had not had time to finish these past few weeks. This was how Georgiana found her when she was shown in.

The rest of the morning was spent in quiet conversation, while being interrupted by many of the people who Elizabeth had met the evening before. William had agreed to allow Georgiana to spend the day after the ball with Elizabeth, partly because he knew it would give both ladies pleasure, but also because he knew it would send a message to anyone who called on Elizabeth. He wanted everyone to know that he was courting the lady and what better way than to leave his sister in her society for an entire day? After the Duke pulled allowing Elizabeth to dance such an intimate dance with his godson the evening before, Georgiana’s presence only confirmed what everyone was thinking: William and Elizabeth were as good as engaged.

As the last visitor left, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Now that we have our time to ourselves, no visitors, no engagements, no plans, I suggest we retire to the music room. I bought some sheet music a few weeks ago that I was going to give to Mary. I thought you might enjoy them as well.” And they did just that: after having a small lunch, they returned to the piano.

What neither of the ladies realized was that the appointment James had was with both William and their mutual solicitor. William had not wanted to draw up marriage contracts without Elizabeth approving them, but James wanted to get them started.

When he had suggested the appointment to William, James had been amused to see the young man caught off guard, “You do realize these documents will be more detailed than normal marriage contracts? Elizabeth is my sole heir and a future Duchess. If she marries you, what will your children inherit? What will be settled upon each? What will you do with Pemberley? These are all discussions that need to be addressed. I feel that if we start these conversations, you will have a better base from which to ask Elizabeth when you do propose.”

Darcy had not been comfortable with the thought of meeting with a solicitor before he was accepted, and said as much to James. As they were being seated in their solicitor’s office, Darcy once again brought up his disapproval of the meeting, “I feel as if it is taking Elizabeth’s acceptance for granted.”

“I can understand that, given your history. However, I would prefer these conversations happen before we are snowed in. Nothing will be decided today. We are far from that.” Then James stated, “When it comes time to inform Elizabeth, allow me. After all, I am practically forcing you to do this.”

The meeting did not go as far as James had wanted; William was so very hesitant about everything that the solicitor finally stated, “Mr. Darcy, I understand you wish to speak with your bride, if and when she becomes your bride. Why do I not start some type of list for you? We could speak more after she has accepted, if she chooses to. Then we could even include her in these conversations, if you so wish.”

To James, Mr. Cummings offered, “Your Grace, I understand you want us to get started as soon as possible, and without much correspondence. However, I propose a solution. If necessary, I will travel to wherever you and Mr. Darcy are located when these papers are needed. Technically, you have given me enough for the time being.”

James nodded, and agreed as he teased his godson, “I had not realized Darcy would be the demanding one.”

“James!” William cried. He then started to laugh at the situation, “I agree though. I had always dreaded these negotiations because of what the father would demand of me…I never realized I would have to be dealing with you!”

The two had planned to do some shopping for Georgiana and Elizabeth, after the meeting, and rose to ready themselves to leave. Both were very aware of what being seen in town would mean, and both silently enjoyed it. However, before the gentlemen could leave, the solicitor called out to stop them.

“Your Grace! Mr. Darcy! One moment!” the elder businessman became very hesitant when he saw both gentlemen stop for him. Finally he said, “There is a matter that I feel should be mentioned before both of you leave. Mr. Darcy, forgive me for being candid, but I find there is no other way to ask what I need to. Do you wish to change your name? If you do, there is quite a bit of paperwork I must do.”

Surprised at the question, Darcy stared at the man with confusion, “Change my last name? What on earth do you mean?”

James however, was not surprised by the question and with quite resignation, interrupted his godson and said, “Yes, you are right Mr. Cummings, I had completely forgotten about that. Faith and Gregory had already made their decision before we even spoke of settlements and such.”

Darcy whirled to his godfather and asked, “Change my name? Why would I have to change my name? What is wrong with the Darcy name?” he demanded.

James indicated the door, and said to their solicitor, “Mr. Cummings, either he or I will let you know before you start drawing up the contracts. Of course, you would need to know before you do anything. In the meantime, would you come up with some very general settlements, that we could amend later when the decision has been made?”

“Of course, Your Grace.”

James grabbed Darcy’s arm and said, “Let’s go to our club for lunch first, and I will explain it to you.”

It was only thirty minutes later that the gentlemen found themselves sitting down and eating their lunch. After a few minutes with their food in front of them, barely touched, Darcy asked, “James, what is this about my name?”

James sighed and replied dryly, “It is apparent you have given no thought to how Elizabeth will become the Duchess of Shrewsbury, especially in a country where it is extremely rare that women are even allowed to inherit titles.”

Darcy sat back, stunned. It was definitely something that was rare; however, having grown up as an intimate friend of James and his family, he never really gave it much thought.

James continued, “The patent that made my grandfather the first duke has a condition in it: only a Talbot from the original duke’s direct descendants can inherit the title. None of my estates or other holdings are connected to the title and Elizabeth will inherit those independently; however, for her children to inherit the title they must be Talbots as well. That requires her husband to change his surname to Talbot.”

Darcy sat stunned and could only remark, “I do not care about the title…”

“But your children might, and Elizabeth might,” James interrupted with a resigned sigh and added, “I will not deny that I wish to see my line and name continue, but I know it is not my decision: it is yours and Elizabeth’s.”

James sat and finished his meal, and Darcy simply stared at his food attempting to process what he had just heard. It seemed unfathomable to William that James would ask such a thing from him. Darcy exclaimed, “James, do you realize what you are asking me to do? For a title which is something I have no wish to have? If I change my name, the Darcy name will go extinct!”

James nodded and threw his napkin down and said, “Yes, but if you do not, Elizabeth’s family name will go extinct.”

“No, it will not! You have a host of Talbot cousins!” Darcy hissed a little too loudly. He quieted a little when he saw multiple heads swivel his way. “Why do you not simply let them have the title? It is all they really want anyway. I do not care about it, I only want Elizabeth!”

James held out his hands and replied earnestly trying to make William see the problem, “It can only be inherited by direct descendants of the first Duke. My mother had no siblings, and my brother at the moment has no children. It will pass to Elizabeth. If she has no Talbot children, and if Robert marries his sweetheart and has an heir, it can pass to that child, but only if he has a child. If Robert does not have a child and Elizabeth’s children are not Talbots, the dukedom will go extinct. My cousins cannot inherit.”

James then dryly added, “Now do you understand why the Earl of Shrewsbury has been trying so hard to get me to arrange a marriage between his son and Elizabeth?” He snorted and said, “Even that idiotic Earl of Dorchester would probably change his last name to be elevated in society. His current title has no such stipulations on it, and his children would be able to retain both titles, if he were to marry my granddaughter.”

Darcy sat back stunned, barely registering the whispers at the table closest to him. James realized that his godson had a lot to think about and finally said, “Let us put it aside for now. I have no doubt that you will marry Elizabeth no matter what. The matter of whose name you both take will be a decision you will need to make together. For now, let us do some shopping for the ladies in our lives and then return to my home for dinner. Tomorrow comes quickly.”

Darcy nodded and followed the duke out of the club. Slowly, as the day progressed, James was able to get Darcy’s mind off of the impending discussion he needed to have with Elizabeth. When it seemed as if Darcy had finally been able to put it out of his mind, James suggested they return to his home and both men sought the ladies out immediately.

It was the laughter that drew the men to them as they returned from their errands. The rest of the evening was much the same: laughter and good humor. As James sent everyone off to bed early, he thought, this is what life will be like. This is my family. Darcy, please hurry and make this a reality. He fell asleep that night contented.

Ignorance and Irony - Chapter 10

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