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Another Month Complete 6

July 10, 2020 08:11PM
Chapter 6

Elizabeth had received her letter from Jane on her return from Rosings. She was fearful as to what it might contain. Jane had sounded so dejected in her last few letters that Elizabeth found them difficult to read. How she wished she could be there to be of comfort to her sister. She took a deep breath to prepare herself and began to read.

“Good G-d, could it be true? Elizabeth could not devour the words quickly enough. Her eyes scanned the letter to get to the words she needed to see. And there they were in black and white! “I have accepted him and we are now engaged! Oh, Lizzy, I do love him so! He has left for Longbourne this morning to speak to Papa. I cannot wait for you to come to London. Dare we shop for wedding clothes without Mama?” At this point Elizabeth lay the letter on her lap, covered her eyes with her hands and wept. She would later go back to the letter again and again, each time, savoring every word.

*****

Georgiana Darcy watched her brother struggle and was utterly confused by his behavior. One moment he was edging his way towards Miss Bennet with a penetrating look – as if searching her face for an answer to some query, and in the next he was heading toward the Port decanter or the open French doors. He repeated this strange dance several times until finally, looking defeated, he seated himself as far away from the assembled party as possible.

Georgiana came to sit beside him and whispered, “Fitzwilliam, what on earth are you doing?”

“Come out on the balcony with me for a moment, Georgie.” he said, taking her hand and leading her outside. They stood together looking out at the magnificent vista.

Georgiana waited, her eyes wide. “Well … ?”

“There is much, concerning Hertfordshire, that I have not yet told you, Sweetling,” he said quickly, in a hushed voice. “But the long and the short of it is that Charles Bingley fell in love with Miss Bennet's sister Jane and has recently secured her hand. The letter came this afternoon. I imagine Miss Bennet received a similar letter, but I cannot be sure of it. If she has received the news, I would like to congratulate her, but if not ...”

“I do not see the problem, Fitzwilliam,” laughed Georgiana. “Wait a day or two and see if she brings it up herself.”

How could he tell his sister that he selfishly needed to know if Elizabeth suspected his involvement. He deserved no credit for the happy resolution, but wished her to know he was trying to set things right. Could she, in time, find it in her heart to strike this painful affair off his list of offenses?

He did not have long to wait.

“Darcy, come here. Come inside!” shouted Lady Catherine's in a shrill and demanding voice. “Have you heard this scandalous news?

“Good heavens, Aunt. What is wrong?” asked Darcy. “What news do you speak of.”

“Mr. Collins has just informed me that your friend, Mr. Charles Bingley, has engaged himself to a young lady of questionable birth and undesirable connections.” She looked directly at Elizabeth and resumed her tirade. “It is a most unsuitable match, given all the effort you have made to bring him into better society. His actions will certainly reflect on you. You shall have to give up the connection immediately before he taints the Darcy name, Fitzwilliam. It is most shocking. I have never understood your acceptance of the man in any case. His wealth comes from trade, does it not? What could you possibly have in common?”

“As it happens, we have a great in deal in common, your Ladyship, including the profound respect and admiration for the young lady involved. I shall never give up such a significant and long standing friendship.”

Georgiana cast an anxious glance at Elizabeth whose countenance was one of painfully restrained rage, her lips trembling, her fists clenched at her side.

“Lady Catherine, surely you must find it degrading to have me at your table. I shall cause you no further embarrassment.” She turned to go, but stopped suddenly and asked, “How is it that you came by this information, Mr. Collins?” She glared at him with utter revulsion.

“I … I overheard you telling Mrs. Collins …”

Darcy angrily stepped forward to accost Mr. Collins. “And you felt it was your place to share the happy news with all the world, I suppose! Perhaps Miss Bennet wanted to announce it at dinner herself and offer a toast to the happy couple.” He was seething.

“Indeed,” said Collins, straightening in an attempt to maintain his dignity. “I thought it was my duty to inform Lady Catherine so that she may use her influence to … “

“To do what? To meanly insert herself into the affairs of two young people wholly unknown to her?”

He quickly looked to Elizabeth and fell silent. He was now enraged with others for something he had done himself. How must it look to her? She could now add hypocrite to his long list of faults.

“May I walk you back to the Parsonage, Miss Bennet? It is getting dark.”

“Thank you, but no, Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Collins and I shall walk back together. Charlotte?”

Charlotte did not dare look at her husband and knew she would be hearing about this betrayal for years to come. Nevertheless, she followed Elizabeth out the door.

Darcy made his way to where Georgiana and Anne stood holding each other with tears in their eyes. The angry scene had frightened them terribly.

“You will forgive me if I retire, Georgie. You must both be very disappointed, but obviously this concert was not meant to be. Good night.”

*****

“Agnes, would you be so kind as to deliver these to the big house after I am gone?” said Elizabeth, handing the letters to the maid before returning to her packing. She could not bear to stay in this house another moment! She felt rather badly for leaving Charlotte to sort out this dreadful situation with Lady Catherine. Her well intentioned visit had not been a benefit to her friend at all, but she reminded herself that she had had the good sense to refuse Mr. Collins and poor, naive Charlotte had not. There was nothing she could now do.

Charlotte had come upstairs to help Elizabeth down with her things. She hesitated at the open door, knowing that this would be a very difficult good-bye. Elizabeth would certainly never enter her house again. And her own visits to Hertfordshire would be few and of short duration.

“Lizzy, don't go so early. The Post only leaves at noon and you will sit there on your own for such a long time. Come down and have some breakfast. It will do you good.”

“No Charlotte, forgive me, but I must away. The longer I stay, the harder it will be to say good-bye. Come let me embrace you. I didn't mean to cause you so much grief, Charlotte, truly.”

“None of this is your fault, Lizzy. You know that! It is I who am sorry your visit was spoiled by … all the goings on.” She did not know how else to say it. “We may not see each other for some time, I fear. Will you still write to me, dear friend? I will instruct the postman to deliver mail from Hertfordshire into my hands alone and I will burn them after I read them. I promise you that Mr. Collins will not set eyes on them.”

Elizabeth let out a small, sarcastic chuckle. “I do not know how much control you will have over the matter, but I will write to you, Charlotte. Now please, let me go before anyone else becomes aware of my plans.”

“Agnes's brother is already waiting for you behind the garden shed. His small cart will not be comfortable, but the ride should not take long. I will send him up the back stairs for your trunk. Now give me one last hug before my emotions get the better of me!”

*****

Agnes had carefully stored Elizabeth's letters in the large pocket of her apron and continued to busy herself with getting the breakfast things on the table. When she heard the back door of the kitchen open she ran to see who was there. It was unusual to have anyone come at this early hour. It was only Ned, the young son of Rosing's cook.

“Mama wants to know if you have any allspice to lend. She's out.”

“Your Mama is in luck. I just brought some home from the market in Huntsford yesterday,” said Agnes She wrapped up a few teaspoons of the precious spice and noticed the boy eyeing the sweet rolls on the serving platter. “One good turn deserves another, does it not, Ned?” she said, chuckling. “I'll trade you a roll for an important delivery to Mr. Everett at the big house. Agreed?” The lad nodded enthusiastically. He then took the letters that Agnes handed him, along with the spice and his sweet roll, and dashed out the door.

Mr. Everett, Rosings' butler, took the letters and quickly distributed them. One went to Miss Anne, one to Miss Darcy and one to Mr. Darcy. All three were busy washing up or dressing for the day, so he left the missives with their servants.

*****

Anne was patiently sitting at her dressing table as her maid finished arranging her hair. Her countenance reflected her mournful mood. Could things get any worse? She dreaded what the day might bring! After last night's ordeal, she wondered if she would ever be allowed to see Fitzwilliam and Georgiana again. Miss Elizabeth's precious friendship was certainly over. When the letter arrived, she opened it with much trepidation.

My Dear Anne,
By the time you read this note I will be on my way to London to join my sister. Sadly, I should have left Rosings weeks ago, had I only found the courage. Perhaps, it would have been better for all concerned. Last night's unpleasantness convinced me that I now have no choice. I know you were frightened and very distressed, but I assure you that the ugly things that were said last night will soon be forgotten. What will remain is the fact my dear sister will be married to a man she loves very much and who returns her love ten fold. Can any news be better than that?
Naturally, the loss of you friendship makes me heart sick. My stay at Huntsford was made so much more enjoyable by your sweetness and good humour. I beg you to remember
that your Mama, as difficult as she is, does love you, and needs you as much as you need her.
You are an adult with common sense and a very good heart. Stand up for yourself and let her know that you require her respect, as well as her affection. Why not start by insisting on piano lessons? You will do very well, I am sure. Remember you need not be a Mozart!
I will gladly write to you if you think my letters will get through. Write and let me know. I don't wish to make trouble for you.
With much affection,
Elizabeth

*****

Georgiana Darcy was still washing up when her maid told her of the letter. “Please leave it on my dressing table, Martha. I shall read it as soon as I'm able. Do you know who it is from?”

“It has no postmark, Miss. I believe it came from the Parsonage.”

Georgiana made no attempt to rinse off the remaining lather and stepped out of the tub as quickly as she could. Fetching her robe, she thrust her arms through the sleeves and wrapped it around herself. Martha was dumbfounded to see her standing by her dressing table in her bare feet, dripping on the carpet.

“Why did you not call me, Miss Darcy? I would have come to help you.”

“Thank you, Martha. But please leave me for now. I wish to read my letter in private.”

Grabbing two pillow and placing them against the headboard, she got back into bed and pulled back the wax seal.

Dear Miss Darcy - Georgiana – if I may,
It saddens me to have to leave you without a proper good-bye, but I am sure you understand that it must be so. I have truly enjoyed getting to know you and am most grateful for the time we spent together. You are a very fortunate young woman ... not because of your wealth and social standing, but because, at this very young age, you are well on your way to becoming an accomplished young lady. Your brother once recited a list of virtues and talents that defined his idea of an “accomplished woman” and I believe he was thinking of you. I know his devoted love and support has helped to shape you. You are indeed blessed.
Happily, this is not a final good-bye and I look forward to seeing you at the wedding of my sister and Mr. Bingley. Perhaps there will be an occasion for us to play our duets again. I wish you all the best until we meet again in Hertfordshire.
Yours,
Elizabeth


*****


Fitzwilliam Darcy had been up for hours. He was dressed for the road and his bags were packed. Sitting at his desk, he sipped his coffee while finalizing instructions for Rosings' land agent and steward. They would have to take responsibility for the issues left unresolved and the work left undone. He had also arranged for Colonel Fitzwilliam to stay another day or two to help Anne deal with the aftermath of his leaving so abruptly. He knew it would be a dreadfully painful and difficult time for Anne and felt guilty for abandoning her, but he was not staying under his aunt's roof another night.

He would have woken Georgiana earlier, but she had been so distraught for most of the night that he decided to give her another hour or so of rest. Two house maids had already been instructed to pack once she awoke. The groomsmen were preparing the carriage and saddling his horse. The kitchen was preparing a basket of food for the road, and would have it packed as soon as the carriage pulled up to the kitchen door. His long letter to Anne was safely tucked away in Mr. Everett's vest pocket.

Darcy sat back and closed his eyes. Was there anything he'd forgotten?

At that very moment his manservant knocked on the door. “Good heavens, what now?” he murmured to himself. “Come in.”

Dear Mr. Darcy,
After all that has passed between us, I did not wish to leave Huntsford without acknowledging your frequent defense and support of me at Rosings these past few weeks. I can only imagine what it must have cost you.
I am also not insensitive to the role you must have played in bringing Mr. Bingley and my sister back together again. It was a courageous thing to do and I thank you.
As we are sure to meet again very soon, it is my hope that neither of us will feel uneasy in each other's company.
Sincerely,
Elizabeth Bennet


*****

No sooner had Darcy finished the last line, when Georgiana and Anne came bursting through the door.

“Fitzwilliam, you must go after her! You must find her before she catches the Post. She cannot ride to London on her own!”

“Georgie, please slow down. Tell me how you know Miss Bennet is going to travel by Post unaccompanied. Even Mr. Collins would not allow her to do that.”

Anne thrust her letter into Darcy's hand and said, “I don't think she waited for her cousin to come down to breakfast. She must have left before anyone was up.”

“But who would take her there? She would need help getting to the station.” He read the first few lines of Anne's letter and realized that one or more of the servants must have been involved. No matter. It made no difference now. Time was of the essence.

“Georgie, go and fetch the few things you need for the road and meet me at the entrance of the kitchen door. Do it quickly.”

He turned, and placing his hands squarely on Anne's shoulders pulled her toward him. He firmly kissed her brow. “Anne, what can I say except that I am very sorry for what has happened. You know that you are always welcome at Pemberley.”

He gave his manservant his final instructions and flew out the door, taking the servants' corridor to the kitchen stairs. In less than five minutes the coach was off and he was riding before it towards the Post station.
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Another Month Complete 6

Gaby A.July 10, 2020 08:11PM

Hurry! Please.

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