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Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 19

August 12, 2020 04:07PM
It’s a day early again. It was ready and I have a pretty busy couple of days planned. Better early than late.



Chapter 19


Netherfield, Hertfordshire
Thursday, June 20, 1811



Phoebe Dobbs thought back on the week since The Assembly. It had already been established in Meryton lore. There had been so many invitations and visits, she was quite certain the horses knew how to travel the roads and trails between Longbourn, Haye Park, and Netherfield without direction from the carriage coachmen or riders. It was a pleasure to see some of the young ladies blossom, and an older one too.


Miss Owens had enjoyed a childhood friendship with her niece. However, Grace was sent to school when she was ten-years-old and Miss Owens was seven. As they grew older, they saw each other infrequently during the summers when they were both on their fathers’ estates. Having grown up without sisters, Miss Owens seemed to thrive in the female-heavy environment at Longbourn. It was clear to all that she had formed a lifelong friendship with Miss Mary that began because of their shared love of music.


Miss de Bourgh’s transformation was the most noticeable. She was being taught how to ride a horse and went on daily walks. The exercise made her gain stamina and her skin glow. She was so happy, her smile fairly blinded everyone. Miss de Bourgh had been presented to the queen, but her ill health had made a coming out ball and a season impossible. She was excited for the upcoming trip to London. Participating in the season, even if it was only for a week, especially with so many friends, was another dream come true for the shy young lady.


In the six months Phoebe had known Georgie, her confidence had been slowly building, but the two weeks she had stayed at Longbourn had seen the most drastic increase. When she came out in London, Miss Darcy of Pemberley, with her £30,000 dowry, would be more than capable of handling the intricacies of navigating her first season.


Lady Catherine de Bourgh had been the biggest surprise. Phoebe had heard of her of course, few in London society had not. She had expected to meet an arrogant, loud, opinionated, domineering harridan who wanted nothing more than to see her daughter marry her nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Most of those adjectives were still true, but they had been softened with a significant amount of thoughtfulness. Lady Catherine still commanded a room, to be sure, but she was more approachable and did not attempt to control the lives of those around her as flagrantly as before anyway. She had made a decided effort to further her acquaintance with Miss Elizabeth and Dr. Withers in anticipation of welcoming them into the Fitzwilliam family one day.


Over tea a few days prior, Mrs. Sakville had informed the group of matrons that she wanted to allow her brother a quiet dinner at Longbourn with only immediate family members in attendance. With that goal in mind, she had invited her daughters, Miss Hurst, Miss Darcy, Miss Owens, Miss de Bourgh, and the residents of Haye Park to dinner and an evening of cards at Netherfield.


The ladies had moved to the parlour after eating, while the gentlemen indulged in port before joining them. Phoebe laughed at the story Lord Halburn had just told. His playful exaggerations of situations he had encountered in London were always enjoyable.


“Joseph, that story is absurd. There is no way his cloak had seven cape layers. And, by the bye, if his cravat knot was tied as many times as you claim, it would have been bigger than his head! Such outlandish nonsense. I already thought you had to have taken leave of your senses before stepping foot into Hertfordshire and that story confirms it!” Catherine said with a glare at her nephew.


“Well, maybe his cape only had six layers, but it was certainly extreme, Aunt Catherine. Why, he even had a scarf draped around his shoulders and was wearing a velvet vest,” Lord Halburn claimed with a smile on his face. He was clearly enjoying how riled his aunt was becoming.


“We are not about to fall for that nonsense. I do believe you tell these stories because you are bored and that means it is about time you set up your nursery, young man. I am always glad to assist a young person in finding a match. I have heard you say before that beauty will not play a role when you finally decide to make an offer. I was so pleased to hear that as it allows me to bring Miss Vozey to your notice. She would do our family proud. Her father’s line is honourable, respectable, and ancient, though untitled, and, to that, she adds something more by her extensive studying. Your children would surely not be simpletons.”


Phoebe ducked her head slightly to hide her smile when Lady Matlock agreed with her sister-in-law. She almost felt sorry for Lord Halburn, but he brought that on himself and the look on his face was highly entertaining. It was well known that, as an infant, Miss Vozey had contracted a severe case of smallpox from her nurse which left her with a face disfigured from scars. It was perhaps not proper to bandy her name about with no real intention of making an introduction, but Catherine had made her point. Lord Halburn would think twice about purposefully antagonizing his aunt.


Mrs. Nicholls entered the room and approached Mrs. Sakville. “An express was delivered to Haye Park for Lady Dobbs, madam, and that young Alfie brought it over right away.”


“Thank you, Mrs. Nicholls,” Mrs. Sakville said, before accepting the letter and handing it to her.


“It is from Isabel, Miss Owens’ mother,” she told the room as she opened the envelope. “Clara, your parents appreciate that I took you under my protection and ask if you may stay longer than originally planned. There is a letter enclosed for you that explains the problem they encountered at the estate.”


“Thank you, Lady Dobbs,” Miss Owens told her as she started to read the letter from her parents.


“Mr. Darcy, do you mind if Clara stays with us for a while longer?” she asked.


“Not at all, Lady Dobbs. Since Mrs. Annesley returned, I feel comfortable having Miss Owens staying with us at Haye Park,” Mr. Darcy answered. “If you do not mind my asking, what issue did they run into?”


“Their best guess is that sometime during the last winter, a few of the roof tiles broke off,” she explained and heard Mr. Darcy groan. “Of course, this spring, as the snow melted, the roof leaked into the attics. A few days before they received the packet of letters Lady Sheldon sent, the ceiling plaster in the parlour gave way and collapsed.”


“That certainly is a mess,” Mr. Darcy said sympathetically. “A few tiles not being replaced immediately, caused the roof to start leaking into the attic, which in turn created any number of interior problems of which they may yet have found the full extent. If I may be so bold, I would suggest they look into replacing their steward. At the absolute minimum, they need to address their responsibility list for post-winter. The first thing Grey does as soon as the snow melts, is to inspect the estate and outbuildings for obvious damage. Roof tiles are one of the things that are repaired immediately.”


“I will be sure to let them know of your recommendation,” she told Mr. Darcy. “Clara, what is your preference? Do you want to stay with us until your parents return? If not, I will arrange for your travel to Scotland in my own carriage with protection.”


“I would like to stay here, Lady Dobbs. I do miss my parents and brother, but Scotland is rather boring and I would just be in the way. I have enjoyed my time here so very much,” Miss Owens said with pleading eyes. “Miss Mary and I are working on a particularly difficult piece of music by Beethoven.”


“Oh, I am so happy,” Miss de Bourgh said. “Lady Dobbs, if, at any point, you are unable to host Clara, my mother and I will take her under our protection.”


Phoebe saw Catherine look at her daughter incredulously before agreeing with her suggestion.


“That offer goes for us too, Phoebe,” Mrs. Sakville told her. “I do hope this means Miss Owens will be going to London.”


“Will you be going to London? I did not mean to eavesdrop, but I unavoidably heard the beginning of the discussion with your husband,” Catherine admitted quietly. “I was surprised you were allowed to stay at Netherfield.”


“Frederick has not outright forbid me going to London, yet,” Jane told her new friends quietly. “Whether or not I go with all of you will depend on if he can get away from the estate to escort me.”


~*~



On the road to London
Monday, July 8, 1811



Jane Sakville looked out the window of the carriage and sighed. Mercifully, she had won, barely. The quickening had been felt before Frederick left for their estate, and informed him of the glorious news. He almost made her cut their trip to Netherfield short and return to Dorset immediately.


Frederick had allowed her to accompany the girls to London. It had taken a considerable amount of time to convince him it was the correct thing to do. Without the aid of Catherine and Phoebe, she was unsure she would have been successful.


Jane Sakville leaned into her husband and whispered, “Thank you, Frederick.”


“I am not exactly thrilled we are going to London instead of Dorset, but I understand your need to order a new wardrobe and purchase items for the babe,” Frederick said. “All I ask is that you do not over exert yourself.”


“I know you are unhappy, but it is a necessary trip and the longer we wait, the more uncomfortable travel will become. I promise I will be cautious and you know Matilda will hold me to that,” Jane said.


“I certainly shall,” Matilda confirmed with a martial gleam in her eye. “You will be spending the majority of your time in Dorset House and I will escort the girls to their entertainment choices.”


“Hoisted on your own petard,” Frederick told her while chuckling. “You might have thought I did not realize you were manipulating me into allowing the trip, but I assure you I knew. The only reason I agreed, is because I knew Mrs. Tucker would be more effective at restraining you than I would ever be.”


“I will certainly be of assistance. My Sister Matlock and I will insist on helping perform escort duties so Jane may rest,” Catherine declared. “I was just thinking. A duke’s townhouse being reopened at the end of a season, is bound to be noticed. Are you sure you should not stay at Darcy House? If a few of the sisters share a room, there are enough chambers and I would be willing to act as hostess for everyone.”


“Thank you, Lady Catherine. I believe you are right. The gossips will enjoy speculating why we returned. I can only imagine the frenzy that will erupt when all of you start shopping for infant items,” Frederick stated.


“We could head some of the gossip off,” Catherine offered with a wicked grin. “Your family is expecting two babes after all. What would be more natural than a wealthy aunt-to-be shopping for her brother’s new addition?”


“Thank you for reminding Jane of that, Lady Catherine. My pocketbook appreciates the thought,” Fredrick stated dryly. “Getting back on topic, I would rather stay at Dorset House. I already have adequate security measures in place and have ordered extra footmen from Cloverdale to temporarily relocate to the townhouse. This also gives us the added benefit of having them to escort us back to Dorset,” Frederick said. “Larger parties are less likely to be bothered.”


“When we are in town, there is also Alfie and Angus from William’s staff, Miss Hurst’s new footman, Tylor, and Richard will be introducing us to Anne’s new footman, Jones. As much as I dislike his chosen occupation, having a nephew in the military service is helpful. The girls should be well protected no matter where we go,” Catherine said.


“We will make sure they are,” Matilda added confidently. “I do love my two honorary daughters and the Bennet sisters tremendously, but it has been nice to have an even larger number of personable young ladies to look after and care for. They have already become dear to me.”


“Having grown up with only one brother, it was certainly a pleasant experience to see the amicability my daughters and Bennet nieces had while growing up. The addition of four new people concerned me at first, but they seamlessly integrated into their group. It will be highly entertaining to read the speculations in the society columns over the next week,” Jane said with a laugh.


“We should peruse them while breaking our fast every morning,” Catherine stated. “Knowledge is power.”


“Well said, Lady Catherine,” Frederick said. “We have been in the practice of doing what you suggested ever since we married. It has served us well. We are on the outskirts of London. We should arrive shortly.”


“Perfect,” Jane said. “That will allow us time to rest before our appointment with Mademoiselle Brodeur.”


“Mademoiselle Brodeur?” Catherine asked in awe. “How did you manage to get an appointment last minute during the season?”


“She is a friend,” Jane said simply. She met Mademoiselle Emilie Brodeur more than twenty years prior when she was in Paris on her belated honeymoon. Emilie was an orphan whose fiancé died when his fishing ship went down with all hands aboard. Jane fell in love with Emilie’s designs and intricate embroidery. It was easy to convince the young seamstress to allow the Sakville’s to relocate her to England and to loan her the funds to set up a shop on Bond Street, with an extremely generous repayment plan.


Mademoiselle Brodeur’s shop became an instant success. The first time the Duchess of Dorset wore one of her new dresses in London, Emilie had so many people request appointments, she had to turn most away until she hired more shop girls and finished setting up her shop. Being granted an appointment, let alone being seen in one of Brodeur’s creations, instantly gave ladies consequence in society.


Emilie had kept up a correspondence with a couple of the shop girls she worked with in Paris, both of whom now also owned their own shops. She exchanged semi-annual letters with them, which kept her knowledgeable regarding the styles on the continent and gave her the knowledge needed to directly access the French manufactures of accoutrements instead of using an import agent. She had been dressing the Sakville and Bennet ladies since she opened her doors. The Bennet sisters were careful not to wear her designs while in Meryton, unless it was a special occasion.


“I have been trying to get an appointment with her for ages,” Catherine said. “Am I included, or do I ask too much?”


“Yes, you are, my friend,” Jane said with a smile. “Thankfully, I asked Mademoiselle to send a shop girl to Longbourn after twelfth night to take measurements for Elizabeth and to confirm the information on file for Jane was accurate before she started on their dresses for this season. While there, I requested they update the measurements for my younger nieces too and had one new dress made for each of them before the season started just in case they convinced my brother to take a trip to London. Mademoiselle remembers everyone’s preferred style of dress and colours. My daughters and nieces have long trusted her to make all the necessary decisions when they are unable to choose. I delivered the dresses for the three youngest nieces when Elizabeth and Jane were returned to Longbourn after we left London the first time. I made sure to tell them to pack a few of her older creations, if they had not grown out of them, and the newest.”


~*~



Hyde Park, London
Sunday, July 14, 1811



Grace Hurst and the group from Meryton had left at daybreak on Monday. When they arrived in London, they rested for a short while before making their way to the modiste the Sakville ladies patronized. The first night, they enjoyed a quiet dinner at home.


Tuesday midday, the young ladies visited Vauxhall Gardens with Lady Catherine, Lady Dobbs, Lady Matlock, and Mrs. Tucker. Tuesday evening, the entire Meryton party was invited to dine with the duke’s sister, The Duchess of Westrose, and her family.


Wednesday midday, the girls visited The British Museum with Lady Dobbs, Mrs. Annesley, and Mrs. Tucker. There were so many exhibits to see, they only made it part of the way through. They had hopes of returning before leaving, but acknowledged it was unlikely they would find the time. Wednesday evening, the ladies who were not yet out, stayed home with Mrs. Annesley while everyone else attended Almack’s with the Westrose family.


Thursday midday, the girls visited the Royal Menagerie with Lady Catherine, Mrs. Annesley, and Mrs. Tucker. Thursday evening, everyone attended a performance at Astley’s Amphitheatre.


Friday midday, all of the women visited Bond Street to browse the shops and attend their appointment for their final fitting. On Monday, Mademoiselle had accepted a commission, that Grace assumed to be huge, to get dresses ready by Saturday for Clara, Anne, Georgie, Aunt Phoebe, Lady Catherine, and herself. Friday evening, the duchess reciprocated and invited the Westrose family to dine at Dorset House.


The ladies all stayed home Saturday reading, playing music, and resting in anticipation of a late evening at the theatre. That evening, the entire Meryton party, including the Duke and Duchess of Westrose and their sons, attended a play at Covent Garden using the Sakville and Darcy boxes. Grace had never felt more beautiful than she did when she put on her completed Brodeur dress for the first time with her hair styled and jewellery the duchess loaned her that matched perfectly.


They were approaching the end of their time in London and everyone had enjoyed themselves immensely. Anne, in particular, had thrown herself into their activities with a joie de vivre Grace had never before seen.


Sunday midday, Grace and her friends, with their ever-present entourage of footmen and chaperones, including the duke, were taking pleasure in an afternoon stroll through Hyde Park. There were so many people in their party, that they had separated into groups. She was walking with Lady Catherine, Juliet, Elizabeth, and Clara and they were discussing the play they had attended the previous evening. Lady Catherine seemed to have formed a fondness for herself and Elizabeth, most likely because they were both intelligent, witty, and could keep up with the quickness of her mind.


“It was very nice of Their Graces and Mr. Darcy to allow us to use their boxes,” Clara said. “I never before thought I would sit in a duke’s box at the theatre.”


“Now that I know how much you enjoy attending, Clara, I will be sure to invite you to a production next season,” Juliet offered.


“It was very smart of your mother to demand all of the younger ladies, who are not out yet, sit in their box,” Lady Catherine told Juliet. “I was available as a proper chaperone in my nephew’s box, but I defy anyone to start gossip about any of them when they were in a box with two dukes and their wives. William would have preferred to have Georgie in the Darcy box, but I convinced him it would be better to allow society to see her in the presence of two dukes and their families. I made sure to speak with a few of my acquaintances and spread the fact that she had been in company with your family for a month complete.”


“I know that sounded worse than you intended, Lady Catherine, or at least I hope it did,” Juliet said with a sardonic grin. “You are entirely correct though. Mother told me she has often heard the matrons with unmarried sons discussing the girls who would be presented in the next few seasons. Georgie’s name is apparently bandied about frequently, and not just by those who need an influx of cash. Her dowry and lineage are quite impressive and it is a well-established fact that the Darcy’s are a highly respectable family. It will certainly benefit her to show people she has a close connection to the Dorset Dukedom. The relationship, even though it is built on genuine friendship, will certainly help keep some of the scoundrels in society away for fear of my father.”


“I have so enjoyed this quick jaunt to London,” Elizabeth wistfully. “Not that I did not enjoy being presented, but it was stressful and it felt like a never-ending parade of balls and dinners. Getting to choose our own outings based solely on our preferences, without a care for invitations, was glorious.”


“I agree,” Juliet said. “Mother had already declined all of our invitations because we had left.”


Grace froze when she saw her parents approaching their group with determined looks on their faces.


“What is wrong, Grace?” Elizabeth asked. “Who are those people?”


“My parents,” Grace responded. Reginald had insisted everyone be made aware of the possible threat his parents and Cousin Alfred posed. Grace was unsure how she felt about seeing her parents. In the short time she had been at Haye Park and Longbourn, Meryton felt more like home than Whitemeadow ever did.


“All will be well,” Lady Catherine told her quietly. “We will not let them abuse you. Besides, you must remember Tylor is following us inconspicuously, probably with at least one of those strapping Sims brothers to help blend in with the other people out to enjoy a beautiful day in the park.”


“Grace Madeline Hurst!” her mother admonished. “How nice of you to finally show your face. How could you ignore your mother?”


“Grace,” her father said sternly, “you will accompany us back to our townhouse for a discussion.”


Grace took a step forward and answered her parents confidently, “I have reached my majority and you have no legal right to order me to do anything. I have asked Reginald and Aunt Phoebe to screen all my letters from you and burn the ones they feel unworthy of my notice.”


“I signed a betrothal contract with Earl Camfield,” father stated forcefully. “You will marry him.”


“That makes your situation more pitiable, but it means nothing to me. Even if I had not reached my majority, there is nothing you could have done to force me to marry him. I never would have said ‘I do.’”


“Do you think your fancy titled new friends will save you?” mother asked. “Do not think us strangers to the particulars. Oh, yes, your father and I have been forced to read about your exploits this past week in the society columns. In the newspaper, mind you! Do you have any idea how mortifying it was to have someone ask me why I was not with you at Vauxhall Gardens? I tried to change the direction of the conversation away from you, but it soon became clear to everyone in the parlour that I did not know my own children were in London! Could you not have invited us to join you either the previous time you were in London or this most recent visit?”


“What hubris,” Grace laughed. “You think I could extend an invitation to someone else’s home? Besides that small matter, why would I invite people into my life who only care for their own comfort? You tried to force me to marry a man who, instead of caring for me, would have been a danger to my life.”


“You WILL marry him! I am pleased he has been understanding thus far.”


“No, father, I will not. This conversation has ended,” Grace said determinedly.


“Not so fast, little miss high and mighty. You are still our daughter and as such you will return to our townhouse and come back under our protection. We will all join the remainder of your outings with the duke’s family,” her mother stated, then reached her right arm out to grab Grace’s left arm.


Before Lady Catherine could finish yelling, “Unhand her!” Grace acted on pure instinct. As taught, she turned her hand palm down, pulled out of her mother’s grip, through her fingers, whilst she rotated her hand in a counter-clockwise motion to grab the hand that had previously held hers. When she had a firm grip on her mother’s hand, using her palm, she pushed down on the knuckles and twisted slightly until she heard her mother gasp.


“I am applying very little pressure, Venetia, I warn you not to struggle. Never, in all the time I spent learning how to defend myself, did I think I would be required to use the knowledge on my own mother,” Grace said before releasing her grip as Tylor stepped in-between them. She noticed one of the Sims twins was next to him.


“How dare you assault your mother and then call her by her given name,” her father exclaimed.


“Miss Hurst, are you well,” the duke asked as he walked up quickly with Aunt Phoebe, Cousin Harold, and Celia.


“I am unharmed, Your Grace.”


“I am thankful,” the duke replied with a comforting smile before turning towards her parents. “Now I have seen it all. To think you would be reckless enough to attack someone under the protection of a duke? I wonder if this act could be used as justification to have you declared mentally incompetent and allow Mr. Reginald Hurst to inherit your estate before your ineptitude brings it to ruin.”


“You will never succeed in your ultimate desire,” Aunt Phoebe hissed at her elder brother. “Even if you somehow, no doubt through underhanded means, managed to force Grace to marry the obnoxious earl, none of you would ever gain control of so little as one farthing of her fortune. Reginald and I have made sure it is protected from whomever her future husband ends up being, without a care to the manner of the wedding. Grace, we should visit your grandmother’s cousin, Judge Fielding, to inform him of this altercation.”


“I will also have a conversation with my cousin, the Lord Chamberlain,” the duke threatened.


She knew it was spiteful, but Grace was not upset to see the looks of fear that crossed her parents’ faces.


~*~



Bingley Residence, Yorkshire
Friday, July 19, 1811



Caroline Bingley was going insane. How could her brother do this to her? To drop her off at their uncle’s house like she was a sack of potatoes?


She paced the small bedroom that was assigned to her and fumed. Five paces across! Five! It was barely big enough for a bed and desk and did not have sitting or dressing rooms, just one small closet that fit very few of her dresses. Charles knew her uncle’s house was tiny. Uncle Wilbur could surely afford a much bigger residence, but he was stingy. His favourite saying was spending is quick, earning is slow.


Charles had taken all of her funds when they arrived in Yorkshire and told their Uncle Wilbur that she had overspent her allowance through the next quarter. With Charles demanding she repay the overages, she was without funds until September. Uncle Wilbur refused to give her an allowance or pay for her to attend the assemblies he infrequently attended.


The only chance she had to escape the house was a short walk in the garden. Her Aunt Lucile declared she could not spare their single manservant to escort Caroline around the town and her Uncle Wilbur refused to allow her to go with only her maid. What was Charles thinking? She would never survive two more months of this.


Charles had been gone for a month and had yet to write. They expected him to express a note to Yorkshire letting them know that he arrived safely. Uncle Wilbur had tried to talk Charles out of visiting France by reminding him that there were many other countries on the continent. He told Charles it would be better to visit Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, or the Netherlands, but Charles had his mind made up.


She had written to her friends in London but her uncle had refused to pay the cost of their replies. Uncle Wilbur also refused to pay for the newspapers from London to be delivered. She was living in isolation from society and it was intolerable.


Why, she was even unable to get information from the bootblack boy she paid to set up his stand on the street near Darcy House. Charles had made them leave London in such a hurry, she was unable to inform him she was leaving and give him her new directions. Although, it was doubtful the little urchin would know how to read and write anything other than ‘Darcy home’, let alone send a letter through the post. She had also lost her informant in the Hurst townhouse when her brother-in-law and that aunt of his let the maid she was paying for information go without a reference.


How was she to survive with no information regarding what was happening in London! She missed the beginning of the season because she was still in half-mourning, but to spend the remainder in Yorkshire was insupportable! How was she going to make Mr. Darcy see that she was the only acceptable choice to be his wife?


She went down for dinner because her aunt and uncle demanded her presence. She hated living here. The food was bland, what few choices that were offered, and the service was atrocious. Why did her aunt refuse to hire more help? She had attempted to make Caroline help in the kitchen, until she accidentally broke a few dishes.


She sat without assistance in her assigned chair, why pay to have extra footmen to do something you are capable of doing yourself after all, and prepared herself for a tedious dinner listening to her uncle chatter on about menial issues related to running his business, while her aunt prattled on about the unvaried society in Yorkshire. She was never more annoyed! The insipidity, nothingness, and self-importance of all of these people. It was insupportable to pass her evenings in this manner.


“Caroline,” her uncle addressed her, “you received a package from London today. Lucky for you, whomever sent it paid the cost in advance.”


“Well, where is it?” she rudely asked.


“Unless you hold your tongue, I will return it even though it was already paid,” her uncle threatened.


“I apologize, Uncle Wilbur,” Caroline said while gritting her teeth. “May I please have my package?”


“I will give it to you after the evening ends,” he responded. “I do expect your behaviour to improve, Caroline. You will not be allowed to carry on in the wild manner that your brother lets you do in London. This is my house, my town, my friends, and my business. Not that you leave the house very often, but when you do, your superior attitude has harmed my local business and relationships.”


“I now know why you are not married,” Aunt Lucile started on her favourite topic. “How could any reasonable man be expected to deal with your attitude, I know not. You do realize, I hope, that you are a tradesman’s daughter, not the product of an earl? One would never know it based on the airs you put on.”


After a horrible dinner filled with little beyond criticisms of her, Caroline retired to her room and tore open the package only to be disappointed that it was from Miss Sylvia Peaton, whom she had met at seminary. Both were daughters of wealthy merchants with large dowries, the only difference was, Miss Peaton’s mother was a gentleman’s daughter. They had a spectacular rivalry over the years, even ending up in the headmistress’s office for getting into a row in the dinning hall over who would sit at the head of a table.


Caroline could not imagine why she would send her a package, let alone one paid for in advance. She contemplated disposing of it, but she could not resist opening the box. Inside, she found a letter and a collection of newspapers from London. Oh, to be able to read the society pages would be wonderful. She wanted to start by putting the issues in order and reading them chronologically, but her time was limited. Miserly Aunt Lucile would notice the missing candles and would demand an explanation. She opened the letter to find out why Miss Peaton felt it necessary to write. It was sure to be unpleasant and spiteful.


Tuesday, July 16, 1811

Dear Caroline,

I am sure you are curious how I knew to pay for this package in advance. I am pleased to tell you that everyone in our circle of society knows your brother left you with relatives, who cannot afford to pay for post charges, and departed the country. Really, did you think the gossip would not spread?

Shall I guess what you did to deserve your fate? Oh wait, I do not have to guess, your behaviour towards Ladies Matlock, Sheldon, and Jersey is still being spoken of by absolutely everyone.



“My behaviour? What could she mean by that?” Caroline wondered. How was it wrong of her to greet her future aunt? Mr. Darcy should have done his duty and introduced her to Lady Matlock immediately. Her current situation was entirely his fault.


I feel it my duty to inform you of two occurrences, different in nature, but still entirely connected. The first is that, regardless of your feelings that he should be in half-mourning, Mr. Hurst has returned to town to take part in more of the season, and the other, that Mr. Darcy, whom you repeatedly claimed was on the verge of offering for you, has also returned to town and has been seen in the company of many beautiful, EXTREMELY eligible, and rich single ladies.


“What!” Caroline screeched. How could Mr. Darcy do this to her? They were meant to be. She was tempted to read the society pages Prissy Peaton sent, but was more interested to read the rest of the letter.


The town was shocked when word started circulating that Darcy House was to be open a second time in preparation of Mr. Darcy’s return the following week. Mr. Hurst and Mr. Darcy, for I am sure you realize they have become the closest of friends, arrived at Darcy House as expected. Along with them, came Lady Catherine de Bourgh, to act as hostess, Lady Phoebe Dobbs, Mr. Harold Dobbs, and a gentleman I have not been fortunate enough to be introduced to for he is certainly very handsome, fit, and expensively dressed.


Lady Catherine arrived with Mr. Darcy? What about Miss de Bourgh? It was just like Prissy Peaton to neglect the most important piece of information. She worried that Lady Catherine had carried her point and insisted Mr. Darcy married his cousin. Why was the horrid Prissy Peaton tormenting her by not getting right to the point?


The tradesmen gossip mill is churning with news that the Hurst townhouse is being fully renovated in the latest convenience. With the Dobbs townhouse being leased for the entire season, it was only natural for Mr. Darcy to offer to host the family of his most intimate friend.


“His most intimate friend, indeed!” Caroline scoffed. Everyone knows that Charles is Mr. Darcy’s best friend. What about Miss de Bourgh?


I do not recall if it was spread before you were so spectacularly exiled or not, but did you know that Miss Hurst’s dowry is larger than yours by more than two-fold? Added to that, she has inherited an estate. The compromise attempts were numerous before the information was known, but now, your brother-in-law had to hire a footman to accompany his sister everywhere. Mr. Hurst and Lady Dobbs had to make it known to everyone, in every circle, that Miss Hurst’s inheritance is fully protected and her future husband would have no rights to any of it, not even a single farthing.


“It is not possible!” Caroline whined. Mr. Hurst is an absolute drunkard and his father’s estate is miniscule. She was sure Miss Hurst must be exaggerating the situation to trap some poor gentleman of the first circles into marriage.


It is all true, I assure you. My cousin is a manager at Mr. Hurst’s bank and handled all of the transfer paperwork himself. Not only is Miss Hurst fabulously dowered, but Mr. Hurst’s income is larger than your brother’s and should increase significantly when he inherits his family estate.


“WHAT! No, that is impossible!” Caroline yelled. Prissy Peaton must be mistaken. Louisa surely would have told her if that husband of hers was that wealthy. It did not make sense. It was a well-established fact that Mr. Hurst Senior approached her father about a marriage between their children because he needed Louisa’s dowry to save their estate.


“Caroline, open the door this instant,” she heard her uncle say.


“Yes, Uncle Wilbur?” Caroline said after opening the door.


“Why are you yelling? Your aunt and I are trying to sleep.”


“I apologize, uncle. I received a distressing letter from my former school mate,” Caroline responded.


“If you cannot hold your tongue, I will be forced to take the package and return it with a note telling them not to ever write again,” her uncle threatened.


“I promise I will be quiet,” Caroline assured her uncle. She would have promised anything to be able to read the society papers tomorrow in the light of day.


“You had best finish your letter. You have almost burned your candle out and you will not be given a second one today,” her uncle said sternly before returning to his chambers.


Now, to the topic I am sure you are most eager for, Mr. Darcy. He returned to town with his sister, but she has been residing at Dorset House with Miss Hurst and Miss Owens, who is a neighbour of the Hurst estate and niece of Lady Sheldon.


Caroline felt herself paling. How was it possible? She was unaware of Mr. Darcy being acquainted with the Duke of Dorset. Unless she was mistaken, one of the duke’s daughters came out into society this season. Oh, this was very bad.


The entire party was only in London for a week complete, but the occupants of Darcy House and Dorset House made a splash about town attending events every evening and either spent their afternoon at attractions or walking the park.

Immediately upon arriving, the female residents of Dorset House arrived at Mademoiselle Brodeur’s shop for a private appointment. I heard, from someone who was browsing the hat and gloves department, that Mademoiselle greeted the duchess, her daughters, and her nieces as long-time friends. At the theatre, all of the ladies staying at Dorset House, including Misses Hurst, Darcy, Owens, and de Bourgh, arrived in her creations. Never had so many Brodeur dresses been seen together at one time. I thought I was looking at a page of La Belle Assemblée! Did I mention Miss Darcy, Miss Hurst, Miss de Bourgh, and numerous other young ladies sat in the Duke of Dorset’s box with his sister and brother-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Westrose? Their families obviously have a very close relationship.



Caroline could barely continue reading, her hands were shaking so badly. Miss de Bourgh was in town and staying at a duke’s townhouse? Oh, if only she knew whether or not Mr. Darcy was engaged to her.


Caroline had never been admitted into Mademoiselle Brodeur’s shop and had only seen one of her dresses from a distance. How did Miss Darcy, who was not even out, manage to have one made? Noticing how far down the candle was, Caroline rushed to finish.


Miss Darcy, and all of the ladies, have been seen in the presence of many eligible and notable gentlemen, including Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hurst, The Marquess Milham, The Marquess Westrose and his brothers, Lord Halburn, Viscount Dover, and The Marquess Brundel. Mr. Darcy has been spotted escorting all eleven Dorset House ladies at one time or another. Mother anticipates many happy announcements being published in the near future.

It really is such a shame you could not be here to see all of this in person. Anybody who is anyone has been talking about their trip back to town and speculating whom Mr. Darcy favours. I took the liberty of sending you copies of the newspapers for the past week. One thing that is not in any of the articles, did you know Mr. Darcy has dimples? I thought I might faint when I saw him smile and laugh at a stunning brunette who was on his arm at the theatre.

I do hope I am blessed enough to be the one to break this information to you and hope my letter makes you as miserable as you made me all throughout seminary.

Do enjoy the rest of your time with relatives. Everyone else in society certainly appreciates your absence,

Sincerely,

Sylvia Peaton



Caroline managed to finish just as the candle burnt out. Oh, what was she to do? This travesty could not be allowed to continue. Mr. Darcy was hers and Charles was to marry Miss Darcy.


She silently railed and cried herself to sleep. When she woke up, she re-read Prissy Peaton’s letter before reading all of the articles in the society columns. When she was done, she started planning. When Mr. Darcy visited them at Netherfield, she would have unfettered access to his person.


She would become Mrs. Darcy.








I am unsure how some of you will react to Grace’s move in the park. I do not condone violence against your parents but I am a big advocate of women knowing how to protect themselves. I can tell you from first-hand experience that once you have practiced a move in enough repetitions, it truly does become pure instinct, you simply react.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 19

LizzySAugust 12, 2020 04:07PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 19

BrigidAugust 13, 2020 01:07AM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 19

JubelleAugust 13, 2020 12:20AM



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