July 10, 2020 02:01AM
Many thanks to my beta Alida who turned this chapter around quickly. I tweaked and added to it significantly afterwards. All errors are my own.





Chapter 14


Haye Park, Hertfordshire
Saturday, June 8, 1811



Grace Hurst was mortified. Aunt Phoebe had been correct, she reverted to what her parents encouraged her to be while she was growing up. She could readily admit she had been a harsh and coarse being in her early life. As a child, she was taught what was right by Nanny Sara, but her parents did not correct her manner of speech or how she approached people. She was given good principles, but left to follow them in her parents’ footsteps with pride and conceit.


For many years an only child, while Reginald was at school and then married, she was monetarily spoilt by her parents, who allowed, encouraged, certainly taught her to be selfish and overbearing of anyone whose quality of attire and connections did not match or exceed her own. Her parents cared for none beyond their own family circle, unless their connections would be improved. Their example was to think meanly of all the rest of the world compared with their own sense of worth.


She owed Aunt Phoebe a tremendous debt of gratitude. The number of times her parents allowed her to visit her aunt and uncle’s estate was able to counteract the worst aspects of her parents’ examples. Unfortunately, her season in town brought those early lessons once more to the fore as a means of self-preservation.


London Society was full of beautiful young ladies with excellent connections, large dowries, the newest clothing styles and accessories from the continent, and titles. While she had been presented and participated in a few seasons in town, her parents were certainly not of the first circles. Her presence in Aunt Phoebe’s household, and their friendship with the Darcy’s and Matlock’s, had caused quite a stir among the families with unmarried women. The beautiful, wealthy, titled maidens had not appreciated a relatively unknown young lady suddenly appearing who was on such intimate terms with the much sought-after Mr. Darcy and Lord Halburn. Even though he was not pursued as relentlessly as his brother and cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, as the spare to the Matlock Earldom title and fortune, was considered a respectable catch too. Society did not take kindly to the unexpected competition for gentlemen in the first circles.


She had been insulted and belittled in every possible method, not only by the debutantes but also by their families who were even more vicious than their daughters. One could only handle being referred to as the pathetic upstart who was trying to quit the sphere she was born into by using her aunt’s connections to find a rich husband from the first circles, or some variation, so many times before responding in kind.


Once the details of her dowry were leaked, courtesy of her father’s loud complaining at his club about the injustice of his mother cutting him out of her will, those same people who had previously ridiculed her were attempting to claim a friendship. The most clever of the ladies started throwing her in the path of their unmarried male relatives, especially those who were not in line to inherit an estate.


Aunt Phoebe and Lady Matlock had saved her from quite a few uncomfortable situations with the matrons of society who were relentlessly trying to direct her focus to their sons. The maidens were worse, they seemed to be absent minded and clumsy in her presence. Grace had multiple glasses of wine spilled on her, food dumped in her lap by society members and servants, stains magically seemed to appear on the back of her dresses, her hem was stepped on once and ripped in a retiring room before a scheduled dance with Mr. Darcy, and she had been tripped while dancing.


The men of the families had made their protection of Grace known. They had warned her of the people who had been bold enough to brag about their upcoming attempts to compromise her. Lord Halburn had managed to save her from the only compromise attempt they had not been warned of in advance.


Instead of breaking down and retreating to the safety of her newly inherited estate, Grace decided to start accepting even more invitations and she give as good as she got. She had unintentionally turned into that which she used to despise the most, a quintessential belle of society.


Thinking back on the first words she spoke to Mary Bennet, made her cringe in embarrassment. She was trying to be playful and ended up being rude to someone she had just met. Miss Mary was owed an abject apology.


Although, no matter how she looked at the encounter that day in Hyde Park with Miss Bingley, she could not find it within herself to regret how she handled the situation or the words she had spoken. She knew she should, that she had acted no better than that lady herself, but try as she might, Georgie’s stories of past encounters with Miss Bingley made her unable to do so. If she was being completely honest with herself, it also rankled that the daughter of a tradesman thought herself so far above the gentry just because she had more money than they did.


To hear that Mrs. Sakville was a duchess, who went out of her way to keep her anonymity in her hometown, was humbling. She could only speculate on her parents’ actions if they were the same rank. They were condescending and arrogant enough now, with titles they would be intolerable.


Grace was brought out of her self-reflection by Lady Juliet mentioning that she heard in London that Grace and her brother had spent months at Pemberley with the Darcy family. After confirming she had been at Pemberley over the spring, Lady Juliet started a conversation about the flowers in the gardens. Grace suddenly realized the party had broken into groups and tried to focus on the discussion in front of her, but her mind kept thinking about how she would apologize to everyone.


Grace started when Her Grace all but ordered Miss Mary to remove the younger ladies from the parlour. She knew the set down that she was about to receive was well deserved and certainly justified. Suddenly, Miss Bennet arose and diverted the duchess’ attention. She was about to correct Miss Bennet’s misapprehension regarding Reggie growing up without a mother when Sally spoke. How much damage could be done between two families on one visit? Did Sally not realize what she just insinuated?


Miss Bennet started to sway and Grace was alarmed. She stood to steady the clearly distraught young lady.


“Miss Bennet, please sit down and breathe deeply,” Grace said gently while forcing her to sit. She saw the duchess mouth ‘thank you’ and discretely nodded her acceptance. “Miss Bennet, are you well? Shall we call for a doctor?”


“No, Miss Hurst, I do not need Mr. Jones. I apologize for worrying you. Aunt Jane, we should be on our way,” Miss Bennet suggested desperately.


“Jane, are you well?” Miss Elizabeth asked as she sat next to Miss Bennet on the settee.


While three ladies could not be truly comfortable on a settee, Grace thought it showed great sisterly affection.


“Miss Bennet, please do not leave just yet. I owe everyone in the room, nay on the estate, a heartfelt apology, but first allow me to explain Sally’s comment.”


~*~



Haye Park, Hertfordshire
Saturday, June 8, 1811



Walking down the hallway towards the parlour, Reginald Hurst watched Miss Darcy, Miss Mary, and two other young ladies leave the room.


“Georgie, where are you headed?” Darcy asked.


“Miss Mary was asked to show me the gazebo.”


“If the gentlemen are going into the parlour, there is no need to show you the gazebo right now, Miss Darcy,” Miss Mary replied with a wry grin.


Reginald was confused, and a little concerned, by Miss Mary’s response. He walked into the parlour and was stunned to see Miss Bennet looking very pale and hear his sister offer an apology and explanation. He handed Reggie to Miss Darcy before making his way to his sister and Miss Bennet.


“I hope, sister dearest, that your tongue is not the reason Miss Bennet looks ill,” he said with narrowed eyes.


“No, Reginald,” Grace replied. “Miss Bennet is upset about something she heard. Out of proper context, it was unsettling to her.”


Kneeling in front of Miss Bennet he asked, “Is there anything we can do to give you present relief, Miss Bennet? Shall I ask Sally to get you a glass of wine?” He saw Miss Bennet wince and, if possible, pale even further. “You look very ill, indeed, even more so than when I entered the room. How may I be of assistance?”


“Aunt Jane, may we leave?” Miss Bennet asked her aunt desperately, ignoring him completely.


“Your Grace, please allow us to explain before you leave,” Grace pleaded.


Hurst was so shocked he stood up and backed away. Your Grace? The Bennet’s were related to a duke? He looked at Harold, Darcy, and the Colonel to see they were as shocked as he was. However, his aunt, Miss Darcy, and Lady Matlock were not surprised.


“Janey, Miss Hurst is correct. We should allow them to explain Mr. Hurst’s relationship with the child and Sally,” Her Grace said gently.


Hurst audibly groaned. Of course! If Darcy could see the Bennet’s had arrived through the window, they could see him playing with Reggie. What could Miss Bennet have heard that would upset her so?


Hurst heard Sally gasp and looked at Miss Bennet with wide eyes.


“I am so sorry! I did not mean...” Sally could not continue through the tears that started flowing.


Grace stood, walked to Sally, put an arm around her shoulders, gave her a handkerchief, and directed her towards the seat she had just vacated.


“Please sit. You look just as ill as Miss Bennet,” his sister told Sally while directing her to the settee.


Hurst was confused when Miss Bennet shifted slightly closer to her own sister and away from Sally.


“Georgie, please introduce us to the ladies and then explain what happened,” Darcy said in his Master of Pemberley voice.


Hurst could not believe what he was hearing. The Duchess of Dorset? Her title was from one of the oldest and wealthiest dukedoms in the land. How had they not known? Darcy’s solicitor would certainly have passed the information on had he been made aware. The servants of Haye Park, the housekeeper specifically, should have told them when the family arrived in Meryton. Gossip of that magnitude never stayed secret for very long in London.


“I have no idea why Sally and Miss Bennet are so upset, brother. Her Grace dema... asked Miss Mary and her younger sisters to show me the gazebo on the grounds,” Miss Darcy responded with a blush.


“Your Grace?” Darcy asked Mrs. Sakville. “I have known you and your husband for as long as I can remember, Mrs. Sakville. How did I not know that Mr. Sakville was a duke? Did my father know? Of course he did, I apologize that was an unnecessary question. Why did nobody feel as though I should be informed?”


“Mr. Darcy, my husband treasured his friendship with your father. Mr. George Darcy was one of the few people who did not change how they treated Frederick when my father-in-law ascended to the dukedom. Frederick chose not to use the title of Earl while his grandfather lived. When he became a marquess while at school, he could no longer hide his future responsibilities,” Her Grace responded with a smile. “We both enjoyed our visits to Pemberley because your father did not feel the need to tell everyone in Derbyshire and society a future duke was visiting his estate, ask for a betrothal contract with one of our daughters, or attempt to ingratiate himself with our other titled relatives.”


“Very well,” Darcy responded. “I can certainly understand his point of view. I, too, have had friends try to take advantage of me and I do not even have a title.”


“Grace, please explain what happened here. Why do Miss Bennet and Sally look so ill?” he asked impatiently. He did not understand why Miss Bennet was so pale and would not look at himself or Sally.


“Brother, with confirmation from Aunt Phoebe and Lady Matlock, if you explain your association with Sally and Reggie, the misunderstanding will be cleared up.”


“I warned that your relationship with Reggie may be misconstrued,” the Colonel said with a smirk.


“Aye, from the sounds of it, Miss Bennet thinks Reggie is your son,” Harold added while grinning. “You are astern between the devil and the deep, cousin. You had best explain if you expect to recover from this wallop.”


Hurst was shocked. He looked at his aunt and Lady Matlock to see them both nodding.


“Miss Bennet, Reggie is the son of Sally, who works as an upper maid at Pemberley, and Wiggins, the Darcy’s main carriage driver and stable master. The first time I interacted with Sally, was a week after I arrived on the estate. It was the day Reggie was born,” Reginald said.


“My nephew was wandering the halls of Pemberley and came across Sally in the throes of childbirth. With no other choice, he had to assist,” Aunt Phoebe said.


“You mean...” Her Grace started and then looked at the unmarried ladies with uncertainty on her face.


“Yes, in fear for the life of Sally and her unborn child, Mr. Hurst did what was necessary to render aid,” Lady Matlock replied discreetly.


“Because Sally was with child, my housekeeper kept her out of sight of visitors. It was an awkward introduction and situation for both parties, but they persevered. Sally and Wiggins were so thankful for Hurst’s assistance, they named the babe Evan Reginald Wiggins, his nickname is Reggie because his father is also Evan. They had wanted to ask Hurst to be the godfather from the start, but were unsure if it was proper or would be welcomed so they used his name for Reggie’s middle name instead of the first.”


Hurst watched his sister kneel in front of Miss Bennet and hold her hand.


“Miss Bennet, please look at me,” Grace said gently. “My brother takes his duty as godfather very seriously and arranges visits with Reggie. He knew Sally had been asked to serve tea today and offered to take Reggie to the stables and gardens.”


“That was very admirable of him,” Miss Bennet said softly with tears glistening in her eyes.


“I am not supposed to know this,” Grace said with a quick smirk directed at him, “But I inadvertently overheard a discussion with his solicitor one afternoon in London. On the day he was born, my brother sent a letter to his solicitor asking him to set up a trust fund for Reggie’s future education and care.”


“Grace!” he admonished his sister.


~*~



Haye Park, Hertfordshire
Saturday, June 8, 1811



Grace Hurst stood and grinned cheekily at her brother. Reginald hated being the centre of attention.


“Did I say anything that was inaccurate, brother?”


“That is not the matter at hand and you know it. Why did you eavesdrop on a private conversation?” Reginald asked her.


“I did not purposefully listen in. I was about to knock on your study door for our appointment to discuss the invitations we received, when your solicitor was on the way out and you told him to add money to the trust from the quarter’s interest payment,” Grace responded and saw her brother’s ire disappear.


“No, Mr. Hurst, tis too much,” Sally said. “We didn’t ask you to be Reggie’s godfather because you have money.”


“I know you did not expect this Sally, but please respect my wishes. The young man will have every advantage.”


“But what about your future children? We cannot take away from their inheritance,” Sally said determinedly.


“Sally,” Reginald said softly, “did you hear my sister? I wrote the letter asking my accountant to set up the account before you asked me to be Reggie’s godfather, even before I knew what his middle name was going to be. My aunt and uncle performed a similar service for me and my sister. Opening the account now, and letting the interest reinvest and grow over many years, allows the account balance to increase exponentially without affecting what I am able to give my potential children.”


Grace was pleased to see Miss Bennet looking at her brother with admiration clearly showing on her face. She caught Miss Darcy’s eye and discretely mouthed ‘Reggie’ and nodded at her brother.


“Mr. Hurst, Reggie appears to be getting sleepy. May I return him to you now?” Georgie asked.


“I apologize, Miss Darcy. I offered to watch him this afternoon and have abdicated the responsibility to you,” Reginald said as he walked towards her and picked the fussing babe up. “Alright young man, lay your head on my shoulder.”


Grace watched as Miss Bennet’s face softened even further as Reginald started swaying and cooing to the babe. A quick look around the room saw the other women looking at him in a similar fashion.


“My brother will make a wonderful father when the time comes,” Grace said boldly. She noticed Her Grace was looking between Miss Bennet and Reginald with a thoughtful expression on her face. Interesting.


“From what I have seen so far, I agree with that assessment, Miss Hurst,” Her Grace said.


Grace shared a conspiratorial look with Her Grace and grinned.


“Now that the explanation of Sally and Reggie is out of the way, I owe everyone an apology,” she said solemnly. “Miss Mary, I specifically apologize to you for how I addressed you when we met yesterday. I had no right to make such an impertinent observation, until we get to know each other better, anyway.”


“I accept your apology, Miss Hurst. As I said, I have lived with Lizzy long enough to realize you were attempting to tease. You did not offend me, truly,” Miss Mary informed her with a smile.


“I appreciate your graciousness, thank you, Miss Mary,” Grace said.


“Now it is my turn to be impertinent. Please call me Mary.”


“And I am Grace,” she replied.


“You may call me Georgie,” Miss Darcy added.


“I do not really understand it, Miss Hurst, but I feel an odd sort of bond with you. I know we have not known each other very long, but please call me Elizabeth or Lizzy,” Miss Elizabeth said.


“I understand, Elizabeth. Perhaps we are kindred spirits? I would like all of the Bennet and Sakville ladies to call me Grace,” she offered.


“And you should all call me Georgie. I was hoping to meet new friends in Meryton. Knowing what I do of your connections, I can safely assume if you offer me friendship, you would not have an ulterior motive.”


“It would be our pleasure, Georgie,” Lady Juliet said. “We often have the same concerns surrounding new acquaintances. My sister and I would like to extend the same informality to you and Grace.”


“Mr. Darcy, I apologize for my pert statement to you when we met at Pemberley. It was wrong of me, but you looked so intimidating, I was trying to break the tension,” Grace explained.


“All is forgiven, Miss Hurst. And truthfully, you were accurate in your assessment of my behavior during the season,” Mr. Darcy told her. “And, it did allow me to relax.”


“Aunt Phoebe and Reginald, I owe you both a heartfelt apology. You have put up with so much attitude from me since we arrived in London. I am sorry to say, I lost my way temporarily. Aunt Phoebe, you specifically have my gratitude. Not only did you comfort me when the town went on attack, but if not for you and uncle giving me so much of your time and correcting my behaviour when I was younger, I would not be the woman I am today.”


“I think you have made excellent progress today, Miss Hurst. I fully intended to give you a thorough tongue lashing when I told Mary to leave the room. Now, however, I am rethinking that decision,” Her Grace said. “Not only did you help Janey and alleviate her distress as soon as possible, but you extended the same service to a servant. You have impressed me, Miss Hurst, which is not an easy task.”


“Thank you, Your Grace.”


“When we are in private, you will all call me Jane,” Her Grace stated. “Lady Dobbs, when we are in Meryton, my sister and I take turns hosting a light meal on Sunday after services. Would the residents of Haye Park like to join the Bennet’s and Sakville’s at Netherfield Park tomorrow?”


“It would be an honour, Your Grace,” Aunt Phoebe responded.


“Mr. Hurst, if Sally allows, please bring young Reggie. If it is not too hot tomorrow, we will eat in the gardens and play lawn games. The ladies in my family enjoy bestowing love on babes and I suspect he will enjoy being passed around. I know Anna absolutely adores younger children,” Her grace stated.


“You may bring him, Mr. Hurst,” Sally said.


“Thank you, Sally,” Reginald responded.


“Thank you, Sally. I must also ask you not to reveal what you learned today,” Her Grace said.


Grace stifled a giggle at seeing Sally so awestruck at being spoken to by a duchess, asking for a favor no less, that she could only nod in response.


“We must return to Longbourn. When we leave this room, please remember that I am Mrs. Sakville and my daughters are Miss Sakville and Miss Celia,” Her Grace said.


~*~



Haye Park, Hertfordshire
Saturday, June 8, 1811



Colonel The Honorable Richard Fitzwilliam was enjoying port and a cigar with his cousin and Dobbs after dinner. He could not believe what had transpired earlier in the day. It was inconceivable that Their Graces had managed to keep the truth about their rank from the citizens of Meryton and the servants of Pemberley. It was actually impressive and spoke well of the family. Their servants were obviously loyal and did not gossip.


“Darcy, what do you think about the Sakville family?” Richard asked.


“I have always liked Mr. Sakville, or I should say His Grace. I never had a clue who he truly was,” Darcy said. “Father never mentioned anything and we saw the Sakville’s at least once a year, usually in town. Her Grace is approachable and their daughters are pleasant. I wanted to introduce them to Georgie, but other than coming across His Grace once in Hyde Park, I have not seen them since my father died.”


“The Bennet’s are related to a duke,” Hurst said, almost to himself. “How can I even think about trying to form a relationship with Miss Bennet?”


“Hurst, the Bennet’s we have met do not seem like the type of people to let rank direct their lives. If you and Miss Bennet grow to truly care for each other, I cannot see Her Grace chasing you away,” Darcy said.


“Hurst, Darcy is right. Her Grace is possibly the most down-to-earth person I have ever met,” Richard said. “What do you think about the rest of the ladies?”


“With the exception of listening to Miss Mary’s conversation with Miss Hurst, I did not interact with the other ladies,” Darcy answered. “Georgie told me she enjoyed meeting them, she said they were all very friendly and never once talked about fashion.”


“High praise from the sprout, indeed. I need to send my brother an express,” Richard stated and Darcy handed him paper and a pen.


JT,

As I am sure father informed you, I escorted mother to Meryton for a visit with Darcy, Georgiana, and Lady Dobbs. I must to report to duty on Monday and father cannot leave London immediately. I am writing to demand you change your schedule and take over mother’s protection while she is here.

Your stylish, talented, smarter, more handsome brother,

Richard

PS

I spy, with my little eye, beauty and brains as far as the eye can see. I am not hoaxing, there are so many unattached gentlewomen here, it is like going to Gunter’s and trying to pick just one dessert.

PPS

There is an assembly in Meryton next Friday. Make sure you bring appropriate attire to attend AND come prepared to dance.



Richard handed Darcy the note with flourish.


“You did not warn him about the Duchess?” his cousin said with a wicked grin.


“Of course not, Darcy. What would be the fun in that? If we are really lucky, or I should say you, he will make a cake of himself upon their introduction. If I am correct, I expect a letter detailing the encounter,” he said while giving his cousin the stink eye.


“I will also send you a letter and ask Grace and Miss Darcy to include their perspectives,” Hurst offered.


“Count me in, Colonel,” Dobbs offered.


“Do not forget to ask your mother for her version,” Richard agreed and shot Dobbs a grin. “I am not sure whose letter will be the most amusing, Miss Hurst’s or Lady Dobbs’.”


“Richard, I know your father, brother, and I have all offered before, but I am hoping you are in a different state of mind. If you have given thought to selling your commission and getting out of the military, I have an estate I would like you to manage. I would be willing to split the profits with you as payment for services.”


“I have been giving your previous offers some thought these past months. I will be speaking with the general when I report for duty on Monday,” Richard said.


~*~



Matlock House, London
Saturday, June 8, 1811



“Father, I have returned,” Joseph (JT) Fitzwilliam told Lord Matlock.


“Did you have a successful journey?” Michael asked.


“Yes, I purchased three new horses.”


“I am happy for you. Your brother escorted your mother to Meryton yesterday. Richard sent you an express,” his father said and handed him an envelope.


JT read his brother’s note and started laughing.


“Richard seems to have sent good news.”


“You tell me, father,” JT said as he gave his father the note back.


“You two still bicker like children,” Michael said while shaking his head.


“Did mother send you a note with Richard’s?”


“Yes, she did.”


“What did she tell you? Were there more details regarding the throng of ladies Richard is demanding I meet?” JT asked.


“What your mother wrote is between her and me.”


“Translation, she forbad you from telling me,” JT said while rolling his eyes. “She is as bad as Richard with the matchmaking ploys.”


“Your mother and brother love and know you very well. If they are encouraging you to meet these ladies, they must be suitable in station and have complimentary temperaments.”


“That is true, I am sure,” JT said begrudgingly.


“The real question, my son, is whether you leave right now or Monday morning? Alfie delivered the express and I asked him to visit his aunt and wait for you to get back. If you go on horseback with a few changes of clothes, and share a valet with William, I will send the carriage with your staff and luggage on Monday at first light.”
SubjectAuthorPosted

Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 14

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Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 14

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Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 14

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Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 14

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