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Consequences of a call - One Shot - September short story

September 28, 2019 01:00AM
I have plans to turn this into a full length story, but I am a slow writer and the holiday season is coming up. No promises it will happen.

This is inspired by one line of The Longbourn Eight. If you have never read the story, it’s great. https://www.dwiggie.com/derby/old_2002/cindy2.htm

“Mr. Hurst, you, of course, will get Louisa, unless you would rather have a different Bingley sister to wife?”

“Good god, no!” Mr. Hurst was slumped over now, and his words were slurred. “But why can’t I be a lonely widower, sometime, and get to meet your daughters when I come with Charles to Netherfield?”




Darcy House, London
November 26, 1810


“She believed that the answer to everything was in a good cup of tea, Mr. Darcy. I am sorry, but I would rather have coffee,” Mr. Reginald Hurst responded to his hosts offer of tea.

“Of course Mr. Hurst,” Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy replied as he pulled the bell. “Such a tragedy, I wish my staff could have done more.”

“Do not blame yourself Mr. Darcy, my coachman and footmen told me what happened. Somehow Miss Bingley found out that you and Miss Darcy were in residence. Be careful there by the way, I think she has a spy in your household,” Hurst warned as there was a knock on the door.

“Enter,” Darcy called out.

“Pardon sir,” Maggie said as she entered the room, “Mrs. Smythe asked me to bring some tea and coffee.”

“Thank you, Maggie. How is my sister?” Darcy asked.

Maggie hesitated before answering, “Forgive the liberty sir...” she paused, “I had Lily pack Miss Darcy’s trunks when your note was dispatched to Lady Matlock asking her to host your sister. When the response arrived, I asked Angus to escort Miss Darcy and Lily to Matlock House. I apologize sir, I know it is my place as Miss Darcy’s maid to attend her... but Mrs. Smythe and I were doing everything we could to help the doctor and... Lily looked like she would be ill...” she stammered.

“Maggie, please calm yourself. I appreciate and approve of the actions you took. I would have done the same thing, truly,” Darcy said.

“Thank you, sir,” Maggie responded before turning to Mr. Hurst. “Mr. Hurst, I am sorry for your loss,” she said before curtsying to both gentlemen and leaving the study.

“I am sorry Mr. Hurst for asking about my sister before...”

“Stop, Mr. Darcy, please do not apologize,” Mr. Hurst interrupted then put his head in his hands. “You were naturally concerned over your sister’s well-being. Mrs. Hurst and I were fond of each other, and I will mourn her loss, but you must know my father arranged the marriage to save our estate after two poor harvest seasons and a significant investment failed.”

With a deep sigh Mr. Hurst looked up, “I do not know what I am going to do, where I will go. I am thoroughly disgusted with Miss Bingley’s actions so I cannot stay at my townhouse with the brother and sister and I cannot go to my parents home. In the six months Mrs. Hurst and I were married, Mother has not forgiven father for approaching a family whose wealth came from trade. I had hoped she would become accustomed to the idea during the long engagement while the Bingley siblings mourned their father. As much as I love my mother, she will be impossible and probably try to arrange a match with one of her friends daughters immediately.”

“Mr. Hurst, I know our acquaintance has been brief to this point, but please call me Darcy.”

“And you must call me Hurst.”

“What would you say to joining me at Pemberley? I will be there until after the spring planting when I make my annual visit to my aunts estate in Kent. Georgiana will be returning to school after the holiday season,” Darcy said.

“Are you... that is to say... I have heard what a diligent master you are and would embrace the opportunity to shadow you. Will it not be an imposition on you and to have a houseguest for five months? What about your sister, would she mind a guest during her school break?”

“Hmm, that is a valid point. I could make it clear to Georgiana that as you are in full mourning we are not expected to entertain you. Would that ease your mind?” Darcy offered.

“Partially. My other concern is Miss Bingley. If she finds out I will be at Pemberley...”

“I understand perfectly Hurst,” Darcy said. “You could be truthful and yet reveal nothing, a friend invited you to their estate for most of your mourning period. You could route all of your post through your butler in London. I am assuming you will let Bingley and Miss Bingley stay at your townhouse?”

Hurst nodded, “Charles has been looking for an estate to lease, but he will be in full mourning for three months. I will strongly encourage him to find other living arrangements before his mourning ends. I will suggest he looks for a house to lease to build up to the responsibilities of an estate.”

“That is a very good idea,” Darcy said. “Enter,” Darcy answered a knock.

“Pardon me sir,” the butler Jeffries said, “Mr. Bingley is here.”

“Show him in Jeffries,” Darcy replied. “Bingley, thank you for responding to my note promptly.”

“Darcy, I didn’t know you were going to be in town. What can I do for you?” Mr. Charles Bingley asked before noticing his brother in law. “Hurst! What are you doing here? I wasn’t aware you were on friendly terms with Darcy.”

“Bingley, please take a seat so Hurst may explain to the both of us what happened,” Darcy said.

“Bingley... I don’t even know where to start,” Hurst said.

“How about at the beginning? You said the ladies were here to call on Georgiana?” Darcy prompted.

“Yes, the spy. Is it possible someone from your household is being bribed Darcy? Do you have any newer staff?” Hurst asked.

“Bribed? No, that is not possible. The last new staff member at Darcy House came from Pemberley, everyone else has been with us for years,” Darcy responded. “Jeffries has a theory about that, I had discounted it, but now I am not so sure.”

“What are you talking about? Spies?” a confused Bingley asked.

“Bingley, are you aware that Georgiana and I arrived last night just before dark and did not put the knocker up because this is expected to be a short trip.”

“No, I wasn’t aware you were going to be in town,” Bingley said.

“Somehow your sister found out,” replied Darcy.

“Are you suggesting she placed spies in your household?” Bingley asked affronted.

I suggested it Bingley, not Darcy. Although I am curious to hear your butler's theory.”

“I am not. How dare either of you suggest Caroline of such underhanded deeds,” Bingley stated.

“We are getting off topic Hurst. Bingley you must listen, this is a serious matter.”

“As I said, the ladies came to Darcy House in my carriage to call on Miss Darcy. My butler, driver, and footmen all said my wife didn’t want to go out in this unseasonably cold weather but her sister insisted they had to visit dear Miss Darcy since she was in town.” Hurst paused and caught Bingley’s eye. “Charles, this next part is going to be difficult for you to hear.”

“Hurst, whatever is the matter with you today? Continue, what do you have to accuse Caroline of now?” Bingley asked belligerently.

“I am not accusing her, I am stating fact as witnessed by my staff, Jeffries, and the footman who was manning the front door of Darcy House. Louisa was handed down first but she was walking slowly because the rain had started to freeze. When Miss Bingley exited the carriage, she swept past my wife too closely and knocked Louisa down. Bingley I am so sorry to have to tell you this,” Hurst paused. “When Louisa fell backwards, she hit her head on the carriage step.”

“I am assuming your staff called a doctor, Darcy. Do you want Caroline and I to move in to help care for Louisa,” Bingley asked a little too eagerly.

“Bingley, Caroline isn’t here,” Hurst said.

“I know that Hurst, Caroline is at your townhouse. She was angry your staff refused to take her anywhere but home. Although she was very excited when Darcy’s note arrived. Caroline was certain he was finally coming to the point and about time I might add,” Bingley added with a grin.

“Bingley, what on earth are you talking about!” Hurst yelled while absently noting Darcy’s narrow eyed glare was on Bingley. “Angry at my staff? How dare she! Bingley, Louisa had been pushed down, was bleeding, and your sister did not care. When she was told Miss Darcy wasn’t available for callers she stepped OVER Louisa to demand MY staff leave without their mistress. She abused them, threatened their jobs, and finally convinced them to bring her home. She has been gone for six hours Bingley. SIX HOURS!”

“Bleeding?” Bingley started. “Caroline didn’t mention there was blood.”

“I was told Georgiana and I pulled up seconds after the Hurst coach left and Mrs. Hurst was most certainly in distress! I cannot believe any decent human being would leave a sister in that condition. I made Georgiana stay in the carriage, had Angus carry Mrs. Hurst inside, and made sure Jeffries had sent for supplies. Mrs. Smythe and Georgie’s maid directed Angus to a suitable room and did everything possible to assist the doctor.”

Hurst stared at his brother in law sadly. “Bingley, I am afraid Louisa did not survive her injuries. The doctor told us she passed away an hour ago.”

“What? How on earth could she die from a bump on the head. No, I refuse to believe it. What are you not telling me?” Bingley asked.

“Bingley, we are telling you everything,” Darcy responded. “If you do not believe the two of us and all the servants, there were other witnesses. The nephew of my neighbor in the white house was just arriving, he and the butler both saw what happened. The nephew rushed to help, he is the doctor who tried to save her life. I swear to you on my honor, we are telling you the complete truth.”

“But... Caroline said... No, I cannot believe she would lie to me. Maybe she didn’t realize Louisa was hurt. That must be it,” Bingley tried to rationalize what he was hearing.

Hurst opened his mouth to respond but stopped at Darcy’s headshake.

“Bingley, I know this came as a shock to you. Did you ride over on your horse or in a carriage?” Darcy asked.

“I rode my horse so Caroline could join us after I agreed to your request,” he responded woodenly.

“I will ask Jeffries to ready my carriage and for one of the stable lads to ride your horse. You must inform Miss Bingley,” Darcy said gently before opening the door. “Jeffries, I see you have anticipated me. Please ready my carriage to bring Mr. Bingley home and have one of the lads ride his horse.”

“Very well sir,” Jeffries responded. “Mr. Hurst, the coroner arrived and is inspecting Mrs. Hurst.”

Hurst nodded his thanks while Bingley started.

“Coroner? Surely that wasn’t necessary,” Bingley stated nervously.

“Bingley,” Darcy said, “of course it was necessary. All accidental deaths must have a coroners inquest, you know that.”

“I think we may finally be getting through to him how serious this is Darcy,” Hurst interjected.

“But Louisa fell on a slippery walkway, there is nothing suspicious about that,” Bingley said.

“William,” Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam said as he entered the room unannounced, “I heard Miss Bingley murdered Mrs. Hurst in front of your house while you were shopping with your sister.”

“Murdered?” Bingley squeaked.

“Richard!” Darcy admonished, “Where did you hear that?”

“At White’s, everyone is talking about it. Rogers was visiting his grandmother, she lives across the street a few houses down you know. He was leaving as the Hurst carriage pulled up. He said Mrs. Hurst was being careful when Miss Bingley pushed her down and tried to enter your house. When Miss Bingley wasn’t admitted, he said she stepped over her sister who was lying on the ground bleeding profusely and left.”

“How dare he malign my sister so!” Bingley roared. “I will sue him for slander!”

“Bingley, calm down you are definitely in shock,” Darcy said.

“I would say denial,” Richard muttered.

“Bingley, does that story not match exactly what Darcy and I explained? Yet you still think we are keeping something from you? I know how close you and Miss Bingley are and that you are upset, but seriously man open your eyes.”

“No Hurst, you are both trying to avoid a lawsuit, Darcy for his staff failing to clear the sidewalk and you for my sister dying because of your carriage step,” Bingley stubbornly responded.

“Bingley, Louisa was my wife. You have no right to threaten to sue anyone because of her death.”

“Besides Bingley,” Richard said mockingly, “do you think anyone will believe your sister over Viscount Dover and Marquess Brundel?”

“What?” Bingley asked paling.

“Bingley,” Darcy said, “the Rogers Richard was referring to was Matthew Rogers Viscount Dover, eldest son of the Earl of Warfolk and I am assuming his cousin the Marquess was also visiting their grandmother.”

“Oh no. Nobody will believe Caroline,” Bingley said.

Richard looked at his cousin who shook his head and mouthed later.

“All of the staff members and the doctor, who were closer mind you, will be honest at the inquest. To say Miss Bingley murdered her sister is a gross exaggeration.”

“I tend to agree, Darcy,” said an older gentleman standing in the doorway.

“Barnes, thank you for arriving so quickly,” Darcy said.

“I was summoned by my mother who lives in the brown house next door if you recall. She was playing her piano and looked up to find new sheet music when the Bingley carriage arrived. She witnessed Miss Bingley brushing past her sister causing her fall. I still have to hold an official inquest, but given the number of eye witnesses I will most likely be proceeding with a result of accidental death,” Barnes explained.

“Thank the lord,” Bingley prayed.

“Mr. Hurst, Mrs. Smythe asked me to let you know they are preparing the body. Would you like my assistant to transport Mrs. Hurst to your townhouse?” Barnes offered.

“What? Who is preparing the body,” Mr. Bingley asked.

“I asked Mrs. Smythe and Maggie to prepare Louisa,” Hurst answered.

“Caroline should be preparing the body. That is her right as a sister!”

“Mr. Barnes, yes please proceed and thank you,” Hurst answered the coroner who bowed and left. “Bingley, I beg to differ. My wife was in distress on the ground and her sister stepped over her to leave. It was Mrs. Smythe and Maggie who worked to save her life. No, you are wrong.”

“Caroline will be devastated Hurst. How am I to tell her that not only is Louisa gone but her body has already been prepared? It will be impossible to live with her until she calms down.” Bingley stated petulantly.

“That does bring up another point I wanted to discuss Bingley,” said Hurst.

“Hurst, maybe it would be better to bring this up later,” Darcy interrupted.

“I would wager this is about the living arrangements of the remaining Bingley family,” the Colonel added with a wicked gleam in his eye, clearly enjoying the scene playing out in front of him.

“Our living arrangements? Why could that be a discussion?” Bingley asked.

“Do you really expect me to allow Miss Bingley to live in my house after her actions today Bingley?” Hurst asked incredulously.

“I don’t see why that should affect anything. Louisa is the eldest, it is her responsibility to care for us,” Bingley defended.

“Her responsibility?” Hurst gasped. “Correct me if I am wrong Bingley, but are you not the head of your family?” Hurst asked.

“Not according to the actions I have witnessed since arriving,” the Colonel offered helpfully.

“Of course I am the head of my family. You know my father’s will was very clear Hurst.”

“Then why do you feel it was my wife’s responsibility to care for you?” Hurst asked genuinely interested in the answer.

“Because she is the eldest,” Bingley answered automatically.

“She was the eldest Bingley. I refuse to allow you to transfer the responsibility onto me. I will be accepting a friends offer to visit his estate for the next five months,” Hurst informed his brother in law.

Darcy caught his cousins inquiring look and nodded.

“I hate to do this Charles, but you need to start looking for a home of your own. It is a good idea to lease a house in town before an estate to figure out if you enjoy the many duties involved. You will inform Miss Bingley she will not be mistress of my families townhouse in my absence. My housekeeper and butler will have strict instructions that the knocker will not be up until I am in residence. I encourage you to move before your deep mourning ends but demand you do so before I return in April,” Hurst stated emphatically.

Bingley looked at Hurst wide eyed

To help cover Richard’s snicker, Darcy jumped in, “That is a very sensible suggestion Hurst. Bingley has never been the master of a house. He went from his parents leased house to your townhouse. Learning on a much smaller scale should help him acclimate to being the master of an estate easier.”

“But I thought that between you and Hurst, the estate I leased would be well looked after,” Bingley responded. Upon noting the incredulous expressions on the three mens faces, he continued. “Darcy you told me you would teach me and Hurst dislikes visiting his parents house.”

“I said I would help Bingley, as in temporarily,” Darcy said slowly. “If you have leased an estate next year, I will visit after the fall harvest at Pemberley but I could not stay more than two months, three at the most. I have a sister to raise and an estate to run. Not to mention I could never leave Georgiana alone on the anniversary of christs birth.”

“Pardon me sir, your carriage is out front,” Jeffries said from the doorway.

“I will see Bingley out and be right back,” Darcy informed his cousin and Hurst.

“Mr. Hurst I am sorry for your loss,” Richard offered.

“Thank you, Colonel Fitzwilliam,” Hurst responded before staring into the fire.

“Darcy,” Richard said as his cousin returned, “that little boy has no idea the storm that is headed his way.”

“I agree,” Hurst added. “He seems to find nothing lacking in Miss Bingley’s actions.”

“Yes, I do not understand that. How can he be so completely under her influence?” Richard asked.

“My wife was five years old when Miss Bingley was born. I was told there were some disappointments in-between the births so the entire family was thrilled. When Charles was born healthy, not eleven months later, the parents were in ecstasy. The younger siblings spent their childhood together and were doted on by their family. My wife grew up hearing repeatedly that it was her responsibility to make sure nothing happened to either of them.”

“Good lord,” Darcy exclaimed, “she was only five years their senior. That is a heavy responsibility to give a young girl.”

“Yes,” Hurst agreed, “and unfortunately it created habits that were unbreakable.”

“And added more than a few inches to your waist line,” Richard chimed in while grinning.

“Richard!” Darcy hissed, “that is highly improper. Hurst just lost his wife!”

“That’s okay,” Hurst chucked deprecatingly, “he is right. My wife let Miss Bingley do whatever she wanted which in turn made me hide in my study when possible and drink myself into a stupor when I couldn’t.”

“Don’t worry, Darcy and I are both very active so you are bound to lose a few stones while staying with us at Pemberley. And please call me Colonel or Richard. My cousins first name is my surname so it’s confusing to use Fitzwilliam when we are together,” Richard explained.

“Us?” Darcy queried. “I was unaware you were invited to Pemberley and with the manners you are displaying today you will not be.”

“Really Darcy, do you honestly think I can’t wheedle an invitation? All I would have to do is let slip to Georgiana that my general is taking a month off to visit with family and gave his staff leave too.”

Darcy rolled his eyes while Hurst chuckled. “Hiding behind a girl still in the school room, eh Colonel?”

“I am a brilliant military strategist Hurst. I use whatever means I have to accomplish my goal. I will be spending a week with my family at Matlock, but there is something about Pemberley that soothes the weary soul,” the Colonel said seriously.

“Now you have done it, how can I argue with that?” Darcy said. “He is right though Hurst, if your valet has not disposed of your smaller clothes, I would suggest he packs a variety of sizes.”

“I will teach you some of the tricks the army uses to keep our men in shape,” the Colonel offered.

“Now to discuss our travel plans,” Darcy tactfully changed the subject.

~*~


Pemberley, Derbyshire
February 19, 1811


“I received a letter from Bingley today,” Darcy informed Hurst and Georgiana at dinner.

“Do we want to know what it contained,” Hurst asked with a smirk. “Is he still annoyed with me for making them move out?”

“He doesn’t say, but it’s doubtful. When he signed the lease for his townhouse, the broker told him about an estate in Hertfordshire that would be available at Michaelmas. After a month in the townhouse he signed a year long lease on the estate, Netherfield Park, sight unseen,” Darcy said.

“Sight unseen, are you sure?” Hurst asked.

“Yes. He has invited me and Georgiana to visit and goes on to say he plans to invite you. I believe your invitation will arrive with the next packet of letters from your townhouse,” Darcy told Hurst.

“Do I have to join you brother?” Georgiana asked. “Miss Bingley makes me uncomfortable and is not subtle in her desire to become your wife. Please tell me that will never happen,” she pleaded nervously.

“She makes everyone uncomfortable,” Hurst mumbled.

Darcy chuckled before responding to his sister, “That will NEVER happen, do you hear me? I do not care what circumstances she engenders, I will not marry her. I promise you.”

“Thank you, brother,” she responded. “You really are the best of brothers. I am so grateful you did not make me return to school after the holiday break. I was so lonely there.”

“It was no hardship, I assure you Little Star, I miss you when you are away. As to your other question, you do not have to accept but I am also not comfortable staying at Netherfield without a proper chaperone. I will ask my solicitor if there is another estate to lease temporarily or a house to rent in the area. I know you were hoping to visit Ramsgate this summer Little Star, but since you are not returning to school what say you to joining me in Hertfordshire and arriving in the area before the Bingley’s do? You could befriend the daughters of the local gentry and I would be close enough to advise Bingley without having to worry about being compromised. Although, we would have to return to Pemberley for a few weeks during the harvest.”

“That does sound like an interesting idea. With me not returning to school I will need a companion,” Georgiana mentioned.

“Yes, you are too old for a governess,” Darcy thought out loud. “We really need a companion now.”

“Could we ask Nanny Alice to fill the role temporarily until we leave?” Georgiana asked. “I would enjoy seeing her and we could look for a companion at our leisure.”

“That is a good idea Georgiana. When I write my solicitor about properties in Hertfordshire I will mention we are looking for a companion. He will be able to perform a discreet search and thoroughly research references,” Darcy answered. “Unfortunately, the Darcy and Fitzwilliam families are rather small and I know of nobody in the area who fits the criteria. Hurst, do you have any cousins that might be interested?”

“Not that I know of, however I may also have a temporary solution. My father’s sister lost her husband shortly after I lost Mrs. Hurst. Aunt Phoebe has always been a quiet lady and my cousins wife has a, how shall I say this, vibrant personality,” Hurst chuckled. “The Dowager Viscountess would be offended if you offered payment, but she might be persuaded to spend some time with me in quiet solitude at Pemberley. She gave birth to two sons and always wanted a daughter. If you get along well, she could be a valuable asset when interviewing a companion and it wouldn't be a bad idea to start preparing Miss Darcy for her eventual come out.”

“Hurst! My Little Star is only fourteen,” Darcy said.

“I know you are more of a father than brother Darcy, but it’s going to come sooner than you expect or want,” Hurst warned. “Her dowry will attract a lot of attention.”

“I am sure you are right, unfortunately,” Darcy responded before turning to his sister. “Do you approve of inviting the Dowager Vicountess?” At her nod he continued, “I will write an invitation for you to enclose with a letter Hurst. Between your aunt and Nanny Alice, Georgiana will be well looked after.”

“Yes, and Aunt Phoebe may know of a suitable candidate to be the new governess. She has a vast network of friends and acquaintances.”

“Hurst, would you, and possibly your aunt, like to join me and Georgiana at the lodgings I find in Hertfordshire? From the little you have told us of her, I do not believe she would get along well with Miss Bingley.”

“I am grateful for the offer Darcy. I would rather refuse Bingley’s invitation than stay with Miss Bingley. With the three of us watching out, four if Aunt Phoebe joins us, we can protect you from the dreaded Miss Bingley,” Hurst finished with a wicked grin.

The elder Darcy rolled his eyes while the younger giggled.

“Seriously though Darcy, Charles’ behaviour at Darcy House has me concerned,” Hurst said thoughtfully.

“Me too Hurst,” Darcy agreed. “But we are forewarned.”

“I will be watchful brother,” Georgiana said.

“Sounds like we are going to Hertfordshire this summer,” Darcy announced.
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Consequences of a call - One Shot - September short story

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