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Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 21

August 26, 2020 03:50PM
My seasonal allergies have kicked up this past week and I doubt my headache will get any better if I wait a day or two. I am still not entirely happy with this chapter, but rather than delay, here it is.

Thank you to alabastas for realizing I had previously said the Bingley parents were only children. The relationship with Aunt and Uncle Bingley is explained.

Many thanks to Alida for turning this around so quickly and letting me know what needed to have more detail. You are definitely appreciated and have made this story better.

We have to finish the assembly, meet Collins and Wickham, have the Netherfield Ball, and of course the apex of the story thrown in there. I am not sure how many chapters that will end up being, but the end is in sight.

Chapter 21

Haye Park, Hertfordshire
Saturday, October 5, 1811

Fitzwilliam Darcy leaned over the current account book for Cherry Grove and finished his calculation. Richard, Grace, Reginald, and Dobbs were in the study with him at the table they set up to discuss business as it related to their estates. With the exception of Richard, the other parties all had attained a decent understanding of what was required to run an estate, but said it lessened the monotony to work together as a group.

“See right here, Richard? The amount spent on coal for the winter is a little higher than I would have expected. It might just be a difference in suppliers or that I get a discount because of the volume I purchase for Pemberley, but it is something to look into. Everything else appears to be in order.”

“Thank you, William. Father made sure I was taught how to run an estate, but it has been many years since I have had to use the knowledge.”

“Richard,” Grace said, “I told you the training would come back in time.”

“I know, my dear, and it has already started to. It was easy to convince me to stay in Meryton because I knew my cousin and your brother would willingly help me familiarize myself with your estate,” Richard told his wife.

Our estate, Richard.”

“Not according to trust your brother and aunt set up and our marriage articles,” Richard responded determinedly. “Grace, it is your estate. I do not want anyone to think that I married you for the possessions you inherited. The estate will transfer directly from your trust to our first-born son, if we are so blessed.”

William listened as the couple continued the argument they had been having since their engagement. He shared a smile with Reginald and Dobbs. Richard was just as stubborn as his wife. Darcy, Reginald, and Dobbs, and even Lady Dobbs, Anne, Miss Owens, and Aunt Catherine had placed wagers on how long the discussion would last. Darcy believed they would finally stop bringing it up as soon as the first child was born, Dobbs thought it would be around the anniversary of their first year of marriage, and Reginald was certain it would playfully continue for the rest of their lives.

Mrs. Stanley knocked on the door and told him, “General Trevor is here to see Mr. Fitzwilliam, sir. Shall I show him in?”

“Yes, please do,” Darcy answered. “General, we were not expecting you to be visiting Meryton today.”

“Mr. Darcy, I thought Fitzwilliam would be here. You are correct, I was not supposed to be here.”

“What happened, Trevor?” Richard asked the general. “It must have been serious to send you on a last-minute journey.”

“I received my orders,” the General said simply.

“Orders?” Richard said with confusion. “I thought you were permanently stationed in London. Are they sending you to the continent?”

“Yes,” the General answered to a now silent room.

William was upset. If Richard had not resigned his commission, he would be leaving for the continent too.

“If I had to guess, I would say the sensible Miss Lucas is what caused you to pack a duffel and set your sails for Meryton,” Dobbs stated.

“She said yes,” the General told them with a grin.

“Congratulations,” Darcy said, relieved for his friend.

“Well done, old man,” Richard stated. “Does this mean you will finally be selling your commission too?”

“Old man?” the General laughed. “I am only two and forty-years-old.”

“Miss Lucas is a lucky woman,” Dobbs said.

“She is a lucky soon-to-be Countess,” Richard said with a smirk.

“General, you are an earl?” Dobbs asked.

“I am,” General Trevor said with a nod, “but I never expected to be. I am the third of four sons. My eldest brother died a year and a half ago in a carriage accident and my second eldest brother was killed in battle on the continent shortly afterwards, unaware of his change in circumstances.”

“I am sorry for your losses,” he said softly.

“Thank you, Mr. Darcy. It is a shame, really. My youngest brother is actually more suited to be an earl than an old military man like myself,” the General said deprecatingly.

“What profession did your youngest brother choose?” he asked.

“He studied the law, Mr. Darcy. He is very good and his services are sought after constantly,” the General answered. “What he excels at, though, are maths and investments. My brother can look at a proposal and figure out if it should be profitable. He has been in charge of my investments since he graduated university. Even without inheriting the title, I could have retired comfortably instead of going back to the continent.”

“General, does Miss Lucas know about your title?” he asked.

“Yes, I told her everything after she accepted my hand, Mr. Darcy,” the General answered him with a smile. “I wanted, nay I needed, to know she would marry just plain me, an ordinary general who would either leave her when I went to war or drag her along to who knows where, and not an earl.”

“I imagine that sent the wind up her sails,” Dobbs said good naturedly.

The General laughed and nodded.

Mrs. Stanley entered the room again. “Mr. Bingley is here to see you, sir. Shall I escort him in too?”

“I will go spend time with my godson,” Reginald announced immediately before leaving the room.

“It seems as though there is a story behind Mr. Hurst’s response. I called to inform Fitzwilliam of my good fortune before returning to London. I will leave and allow you to speak privately.”

“There is no need, General. You are marrying Miss Lucas. You will be introduced to Bingley eventually,” Darcy replied. “Escort him in, Mrs. Stanley.”

Darcy looked at Bingley closely when he walked in. There was something different about him. He looked... he could not quite put his finger on what it was. Harder, perhaps. Less like a little lost boy?

“Bingley, we expected you to arrive earlier this week. I assume you remember the former Miss Hurst?”

“Former?” Bingley asked while looking between himself and Grace.

He decided to have a little bit of fun with his friend. “Grace has married recently,” he said and shot her a quick wink when Bingley was not looking.

“Grace?” Bingley asked softly.

“As family, it is proper for William to use my first name amongst friends in the privacy of his home,” Grace said with an innocent smile. “It is nice to see you again, Mr. Bingley. I am sorry to be so blunt, but you must be informed that the contract you entered into with my brother in regards to gossip being spread about the Hurst family still applies even though I am now Mrs. Fitzwill...”

“Grace,” Dobbs interrupted his cousin with a crooked smile, “the General and I have not been introduced to Mr. Bingley.”

Darcy noticed that Richard looked torn between being amused and furious, Dobbs was clearly entertained and helping, and the General had sat back to watch the show with a smile upon his face.

He introduced the unknown parties and asked, “Did you enjoy your holiday to the continent, Bingley? Did you visit Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, or maybe you toured all of them in the three months you were gone?”

“I went to Paris,” Bingley responded.

William felt like he had been punched in the stomach. Paris? He heard Grace gasp and saw her put her hand over her mouth.

“Pardon me,” Richard said softly, “but did I hear you correctly? You went to Paris, while we are at war with France?”

What had he done? He told Bingley to go to the continent, but never in his wildest dreams did he think he would have gone to France.

“Yes,” Bingley replied. “I did not think it would be an issue because the fighting is in Spain and Portugal right now.”

“How long did it take for them to arrest you?” the General asked quietly.

He saw that Grace looked confused, but the other two military men in the room seemed to expect the General’s question.

“On my third day in Paris,” Bingley responded.

“Arrested?” Grace asked. “I know it would not be safe to travel to France, but why would they arrest you?”

William was wondering the same thing. To his knowledge, it was not illegal for an Englishman to visit France.

“Grace, Great Britain has been an ally of Portugal, and recently Spain, in the Peninsular War against France,” Harold explained.

“I know that, cousin. I do read the newspapers,” Grace responded with a roll of her eyes. “Did they actually think you were a spy, Mr. Bingley?”

William cringed at the slightly insulting tone Grace used. She did have a point though. How could anyone think that carefree and amiable Bingley was a spy?

“Yes, they would have, Grace,” Richard answered his wife. “Think about it in reverse. We were at war and a young single man from the opposing country shows up in London and, I am assuming, starts flashing money and visiting tourist attractions. How do you think we would react?”

“I should have spoken with you before I left, Colonel,” Bingley stated.

Richard raised an eyebrow, probably at the use of his former title, but did not correct him. “What happened, Bingley?”

“When I arrived in Calais, I hired a driver to deliver me to Paris. I told him I was there to see the sights and asked to be taken to a busy part of the city with the most to see,” Bingley said, causing the military men to groan.

“I would wager the driver was part of an intelligence network. Did he approach you?” the General asked.

“Now that you ask, yes, he did approach me, General,” Bingley answered while nodding. “He brought me to a hotel near the large park with gardens and a museum.”

Jardin des plantes?” Dobbs asked.

“That sounds familiar,” Bingley agreed.

“Then they took you to the Sainte-Pélagie Prison when you were arrested?” the General guessed.

“Yes,” Bingley said with a look of awe on his face. “How did you know?”

“Where you were interrogated for two months,” the General added then looked at Bingley critically before saying, “maybe only one month.”

Darcy was growing even more concerned as the conversation progressed. He heard Grace gasp when the General mentioned being interrogated and felt like he would become sick.

“No,” Bingley responded, “they never interrogated me.”

Darcy and Grace both blew out sighs of relief.

“I should have been more specific. You would not have been interrogated in the common sense of the word. Were you separated from the rest of the prisoners and assigned a single guard to watch over you?”

Bingley nodded with wide eyes.

“Did he ask you all sorts of questions to get to know you?” the General asked and Bingley nodded again.

“After your interrogator, make no mistake that is who your guard was,” the General said, “felt certain you were no threat, he helped you escape?”

“How do you know all of this?” Bingley asked quietly.

“I have heard something similar before, Mr. Bingley, and more importantly you are here and not still in prison or dead. Did your guard escort you to Brussels and stay with you for the remainder of your trip?” Bingley nodded again and the General said, “Did he convince you it was finally safe to go to the port and book passage back to London after you received a large packet of letters from home? With broken seals?”

Bingley did not answer. He continued to stare at the general with wide eyes.

“I cannot stress how very fortunate you were, Mr. Bingley. I have heard stories about the man who must have been your interrogator. Rumour has it, he has a history of assisting his prisoners with their escape, only if he is convinced, beyond a doubt, that you have nothing to do with the military or government,” the General informed him. “Something in your letters must have been persuasive enough to allow him to fully release you from his custody.”

“Now it is my turn to wager a bet. How vitriolic was Miss Bingley’s letter?” Richard asked with a wicked grin.

“Letters,” Bingley answered roughly before coughing and continuing, “and very. As were the letters from my Aunt and Uncle Bingley. When I disappeared, my valet sent an express to Yorkshire with our directions. My family assumed I was sowing my wild oats and that I had turned up before the express arrived in England.”

“This may be one of those unique times where you thank your sister for being a shrewish harpy.”

“Richard!” Darcy admonished.

“No, Mr. Darcy, Fitzwilliam is correct. Letters that contained nothing but good news and hopes for Mr. Bingley’s safe return, would have been scrutinized and most likely disbelieved. If Miss Bingley’s letter confirmed what Mr. Bingley had already told the interrogator, that would probably have been the final thing to fully sway him,” the General said.

“I believe it was,” Bingley said slowly. “I remember him asking a lot of pointed questions about Caroline and our relationship, almost as though he did not believe me. When the letters arrived, as he handed me the packet, he told me he pitied me for my sister. I did not understand the comment at the time. I sailed home two days later, after being lectured about needing to take control of my life from my sister.”

The room was quiet for a few moments before Darcy asked, “Bingley, you mentioned an aunt and uncle. I thought Reginald told me your parents were both only children.”

Bingley’s eyes widened again when he referred to Mr. Hurst so informally.

“Hurst is correct, my parents were both only children. Uncle Wilbur is actually my father’s cousin, but they were about the same age and lived in the same town, similar to you and the Colonel. When you have children, will they call your cousins Uncle Joseph and Uncle Richard?”

He smiled and replied, “I am sure they will. Are you well, Bingley?”

“Yes, Darcy. You have all given me a lot to think on. I believe it is time I return to Netherfield,” Bingley answered.

“Do you plan to attend services in the morning?”

“No, I think we will worship quietly at home tomorrow, Darcy.”

“That is understandable,” he said gently. “Your arrival has caused a stir among the local population. I would expect the calls to start next week.”

“Thank you for the warning.”

“Bingley, in case nobody remembers to inform you, there will be an assembly next Friday. Anyone who wants to come is invited,” he informed Bingley. “I am sure Sir William will tell you how tickets may be purchased.”

“Thank you, Darcy,” Bingley said before standing up and walking to the door. “Oh, I almost forgot. Caroline has been asking me numerous times a day when you will be arriving at Netherfield.”

“You did not tell her I made other arrangements in the area?” William asked, utterly shocked.

“You said you were staying here for the summer,” Bingley defended himself. “Now that it is getting colder, the family should return and you, Miss Darcy, and Hurst will move to Netherfield.”

Darcy could not believe what he was hearing. Did Bingley realize he just essentially cut everyone else who was staying at Haye Park by not extending an invitation for them too?

“Funny you should mention that,” Richard answered when he had paused too long. “William just received a letter from the Goulding’s earlier this week.”

He shot Richard a grateful look and said, “Yes, I did. They have enjoyed being close to their family so much, they are looking to quit Haye Park. We have kept up a steady correspondence so they know how much I have enjoyed my time here. I have been offered the opportunity to purchase the estate before they look for a selling agent.”

He heard a few sniggers in the room but Bingley just stared at him. He thought Bingley looked disappointed and a slightly afraid. It was making him uncomfortable, so he added, “I am unsure if I will accept the offer, but regardless, I will not be moving to Netherfield. You must inform your sister. Also, I ask that you remind her that I would never offer for her, even if I could.”

Bingley continued to state at him, but now with panicked eyes. William had enough and pulled on the cord to summon the manservant. “Ah, Mr. Stanley, good. Mr. Bingley here is ready to leave. Please have him escorted out.”

“Please follow me, Mr. Bingley,” Mr. Stanley said, then closed the door behind them.

“That was an interesting meeting,” the General commented.

“Yes, it was,” William agreed. “And slightly alarming. I need to speak with Alfie. His duties might have to be expanded to include keeping an eye on what Miss Bingley is doing. It is a good thing we have a good relationship with the servants at Netherfield.”

“I may know a man, Mr. Darcy. He is an expert at blending into any situation and ferreting out information,” the General said. “I do plan to be back for the assembly. If you are interested, I will ask him to come back with me and perform introductions.”

“That would be very much appreciated, General,” William answered.

“I was wondering if you would have a room for me until the Monday following the assembly?” the General asked.

“Allow me to send a note to Mrs. Bennet,” Grace said. “Perhaps she will let Georgie, Clara, Anne, and Mrs. Annesley stay at Longbourn again. They will have fun getting ready for the assembly together as a group.”

“Would you like to join them instead of Mrs. Annesley?” Richard asked with an indulgent smile.

“I would,” Grace answered with a tender smile.

“Grace, write a note to Mrs. Bennet and send it with Tylor. While you do that, Darcy will write letters to Brundel and Dover,” Richard stated.

“I will?” he asked his cousin with a raised brow.

“Come now, Darcy. Those two pups were upset to leave Miss Mary and Miss Owens. If they found out that we had extra bedrooms but did not invite them to join us?” Dobbs left the question hanging.

“Clara and Mary, although they would likely not admit it, would be happy to see them, William,” Grace told him.

“I had planned to invite them when you mentioned the ladies staying at Longbourn again,” he responded with a roll of his eyes.

“William does not like to be told what he is going to do,” Richard informed his wife with a wink.

“Very few people do,” the General said with a smile. “I am very glad I stopped to pay a call on Fitzwilliam. If you will excuse me, I must get back to London and start the process of selling my commission.”

“I hope you do not encounter any trouble, General,” Richard said.

“It is unlikely. When I inherited my family’s title, I was strongly encouraged to retire. It is quite possible I might return with just my civilian title, Lord Palmrich, the Earl of Palmrich, master of Wadmer Castle,” the General finished in a sarcastic tone.

“Do you think your title had anything to do with your orders?” Richard asked thoughtfully.

“That is an interesting theory,” the General said slowly. “A rather devious one, if you think about it. Yes, I am sure you are correct, Fitzwilliam. I made my desire to stay in London very clear.”

Grace started giggling which turned into full blown laughter.

“Care to inform us what you find so amusing, cousin?” Dobbs asked.

“Miss Bingley,” Grace sputtered then managed to calm herself slightly. “I can imagine her complaining to her brother about coming to the wilderness of Meryton with its limited and savage society filled with country nobodies.”

Richard started laughing with his wife. “When she arrives at the assembly, with her nose up in the air, she will immediately try to attach herself to Darcy.”

“Who is courting an amazing young lady and will be sure to have all of his dances promised in advance,” William cut in with a glare.

“Then, if we are so very lucky, she will make cutting remarks about Meryton and the people in present, not caring to lower her voice, before realizing the room holds a marquess, an earl, and a viscount,” Grace finished with tears in her eyes.

“That is not very nice, Grace,” he said while trying to hold back his own laughter.

“I noticed you said nothing about the accuracy of my projection?” Grace countered playfully. “Besides, I was not the one who started Mr. Bingley along the path to thinking that we were married.”

He felt himself blushing and was forced to admit she was right. “Well, yes, I did do that, but that was before I knew what he had been through in France.”

“There could be two earls and two viscounts attending the assembly if I write a letter to my parents. If mother has shopping to do in London, they may return to town for a week. If they come, and if JT has not left for Halburn yet, may he bunk with you, William?” Richard asked.

“Yes, and Anne would likely share a room with Georgie at Longbourn to make room for Mrs. Annesley,” he responded. “It sounds like we have a lot of letters to write while we wait for Mrs. Bennet’s response. In the meantime, the General needs to return to London.”

“I have time, Mr. Darcy. I would be honoured to bring your letters to London and arrange for their delivery. I would also recommend writing to my soon-to-be in-laws. They enjoyed meeting Lord and Lady Matlock. I can almost guarantee they would be more than willing to host them,” the General said. “While you are waiting on a response from Longbourn, I will ride to Lucas Lodge and ask.”

“I would wait, Trevor,” Richard said. “I am almost certain TJ has left Matlock. The only chance he has not left for Halburn would be if weather delayed his departure on Wednesday. Besides, it is unlikely mother and father would need to return so soon unless mother decides to order her wardrobe for next season early.”

“I would still enjoy chatting with you gentlemen a little longer before I leave. Besides, it would be good to allow the temperature cool a little bit before riding to London,” the General said.


Assembly Room, Meryton
Friday, October 11, 1811

Fitzwilliam Darcy drummed his fingers on his thigh. He was eager to arrive at the assembly room and see Elizabeth. He wished the carriage would move faster. It was too soon, he knew, however he yearned to propose. Miss Elizabeth Bennet was everything he had dreamed of finding in a woman. The only thing that held him back was the fear that he was rushing her unduly. His spontaneous comment about kissing her and proposing when he asked for a courtship had clearly unnerved her.

“Darcy, calm down and stop fidgeting man,” the former General, now known as Palmrich to his friends, ordered.

“I am sorry, Palmrich, I know I am out of sorts. On one hand, I am exceedingly impatient to arrive and dance with Miss Elizabeth and, on the other hand, I would just as soon not encounter Mr. and Miss Bingley,” William replied.

William had seen Bingley twice more since he arrived at Netherfield. He could tell Bingley was annoyed with him. Not only for refusing to accept his invitation of a room, but he also would not meet Bingley in the study at Netherfield to go over the books. Instead, he met Bingley at a bridge and they rode the property together. The first time, he familiarized his friend with the estate and told him the types of things he would need to look for. The second time, he tried to metaphorically step back and let Bingley take the lead, but, as he expected, he had to tell him what was wrong and what needed to be done to have it fixed.

“Is it really that bad?” the Marquess of Brundel asked.

“Compared to what our friendship was before?” Darcy asked. “No, unfortunately it is the same. I guess my problem is that I have gotten used to having... more equal, adult conversations if you will, with Hurst and Dobbs. Does that make sense? Bingley wants me to tell him what needs to be done and then fix it for him as if he was still in leading strings.”

“Have you explained to him that you are not his steward?” Viscount Dover asked.

“Not that bluntly,” he sighed, “but I may need to.”

“Cheer up, we have arrived,” Palmrich told him with a grin.

William exited the Palmrich carriage with a sense of purpose. With so many ladies staying at Longbourn and Haye Park, he had only had to request a set from Miss Lucas to ensure he was committed all evening. He was almost certain Miss Bingley would make sure they arrived after the first set had started. He would have to greet the Bingley’s before the second set started and then if he spent the time between sets with his former and next partners, he would hopefully escape a lengthy conversation with both siblings.

He walked to the de Bourgh carriage behind them and handed down his Aunt Catherine while Hurst handed down his own aunt.

“Everything will be well, William,” Aunt Catherine told him. “Phoebe, Fanny, and I will run interference as much as possible. You have made many friends here and are courting a wonderful young lady who is a favourite amongst her neighbours.”

“I never would have thought to hear such nice words from you about a young lady I was courting, Aunt Catherine.”

“I never thought I would say them, William. When Anne took over as mistress of Rosings, she made it abundantly clear that she would never marry you. It also helps that Elizabeth is perfect for you,” his aunt said with a smile. “I see the Bennet, Darcy, and Fitzwilliam carriages approaching. Go help Mr. Bennet and Richard with all of those beautiful women.”

He gave his aunt a quick kiss on her cheek before he hurried to the Bennet carriage, thanking Richard with a quick nod for indicating which carriage to approach. Elizabeth always took his breath away in her finery, but tonight, the way the light from the lantern mounted on the building nearby hit her hair, made her look incandescent. He was, in a word, undone.

“Mr. Darcy, do you intend to hand me down?” the dryad asked with a lopsided grin, raised eyebrow, and eyes twinkling in the candlelight.

“My apologies, Miss Bennet. I was momentarily struck dumb at your loveliness,” he responded.

“How like you to come up with such an impeccable excuse, sir,” she stated while holding her hand out.

He managed to pull himself together enough to hand Miss Elizabeth down and then his sister out of the Darcy carriage and escort them into the building. It felt wonderful to enter with the two most important ladies in his life on his arms. He noticed more than a few indulgent smiles sent his way and matrons whispering behind their fans. The news that he was courting Miss Elizabeth had barely caused a ripple in the society of Meryton. Most people thought they had an understanding that was unannounced.

“Aunt Olivia!” he heard his sister exclaim.

He followed Georgiana’s line of sight and saw his aunt and uncle. As he approached he said, “I did not know you would be here. I must send Mrs. Stanley a note to prepare your room.”

“That is appreciated but unnecessary, William,” Aunt Olivia responded. “We are staying at Miss Thomlin’s house with Lord and Lady Sheldon.”

“Oh, that is too bad,” Georgie pouted. “I will be sad to see Clara leave. She has become like another sister to me.”

“Her parents will not be back for a fortnight and the Sheldon’s must return to their own estate soon. Miss Owens will be here for a little while longer,” his aunt said gently.

William noticed Viscount Dover approaching Lord Sheldon with a determined look on his face and smiled.

“Clara will be very happy,” Miss Elizabeth whispered, her eyes on the two gentlemen across the room.


Assembly Room, Meryton
Friday, October 11, 1811

After assisting Miss Bennet from the carriage, Reginald Hurst watched William walk up the stairs to the assembly and silently chucked at the proud look on his friend’s face. He noticed Miss Bennet observing them too.

“They will certainly make an entrance,” he told her quietly and his breath caught when she smiled up at him.

“Lizzy is very happy,” Miss Bennet told him quietly.

“So is William,” he whispered back before escorting her up the stairs. “Are all of your sets taken, Miss Bennet?”

“Almost,” she answered him with a questioning look. “Why do you ask?”

“I know my brother-in-law. Let us greet some of your neighbours,” he said, determined to have her dance card full before Bingley arrived.

He circulated around the assembly room, greeting people, and enjoying the feeling of Miss Bennet on his arm. They met up with William and Miss Elizabeth and chatted until the musicians were ready for the first set.

Reginald took his place across from Miss Bennet and sighed in contentment.


Assembly Room, Meryton
Friday, October 11, 1811

Dorothea Verdier looked at the exasperating young lady sitting next to her and shook her head in disgust. She had been making Miss Bingley read every day but the discourteous girl had yet to alter her behaviour. She claimed that as a member of the first circles, she could act however she wanted. She had yet to realize, society would not tolerate such actions from the daughter of a tradesman.

She looked at the young gentleman sitting across from her and was just as frustrated. She had high hopes when she met the siblings in London. Mr. Bingley seemed to realize his sister needed to improve, but other than purchasing whatever books she demanded, he did nothing to assist her.

Her sister, Lucille, had been completely honest with her. She knew exactly what she had agreed to when she accepted the role of chaperone in their household. If she had to hear about Mr. and Miss Darcy once more, she would scream. How could anyone be so deluded to believe a gentleman, who had known her for years, would suddenly propose? She could not seem to make Miss Bingley realize her dream was just that and it would never happen.

Their carriage pulled in front of the assembly room and they could hear the music playing inside.

“How typical. Thank you for making us late, Caroline,” Mr. Bingley said peevishly. “I told Sir William we would be here! Our neighbours are going to believe we snubbed them.”

“Nonsense, Charles,” that man’s sister replied. “Being late is fashionable in London. These country nobodies are fortunate we have attended their silly little assembly.”

Dorothea closed her eyes and silently groaned. It would be a miracle if the siblings made it through the night without making a cake of themselves. She was not looking forward to entering the room.

“Caroline, I have told you before and I am reminding you again, LEAVE DARCY ALONE! He will never marry you. Set your sights lower. I could introduce you to any number of friends in town.”

“I will not, Charles. I am to marry Mr. Darcy. We are perfect for each other,” the self-important woman answered.

“I waited to tell you this until now, but I believe Darcy is unavailable.”

“What do you mean?” that man’s sister all but screeched.

“I am warning you that, from things Darcy has said this past week, he has formed an attachment with a young lady. You will do nothing to hinder their relationship. I used to be his closest friend and it is humiliating that I am unaware of what is going on in his life. I have not found the proper opening to ask if he is engaged or married, but either way, there is absolutely nothing you can do. Move along, Caroline. Let the poor man be,” Mr. Bingley hissed at his sister.

Mr. Bingley helped them down and escorted them to the closed doors of the building. One of the footmen opened the door, they put their outerwear in the cloakroom, and walked into the hall. She was trying to pay attention to what Miss Bingley was muttering, but could not resist the temptation to watch what happened when they entered.

The musicians caught sight of them first. The violinist leaned over to see better and his bow started playing on the cello, causing the entire band to stop playing and stare which, in turn, caused the dancers to stop to see what the disruption was.

Dorothea heard a collective gasp and did not blame them. Miss Bingley looked utterly ridiculous. The stupid girl would not listen to her and had insisted on dressing as though she was going to a formal ball in town. Her beautiful gown was made grotesque by the shade of orange and was cut low enough to cause Dorothea to blush. If the color was not jarring enough, it was matched with a green turban and feathers dyed to match, making the thin Miss Bingley look like a giant walking carrot.

She and Mr. Bingley had tried to convince the girl to change or stay home. She heard Mr. Bingley mutter ‘I wish Louisa was here’, and realized this must have been a recurring issue in their household. Miss Bingley was adamant she needed to be at the assembly in case the Darcy’s went directly there and that her clothing was the height of fashion. She was right, the modiste had assembled a flawless dress but the unfortunate color combination was the only thing people would notice.

A gentleman approached them and greeted Mr. Bingley.

“Mr. Bingley, how good of you to show up at last.”

“Sir William, it is nice to see you. I apologize for our tardiness. A household issue caused my sister to run late. Allow me to introduce you to the rest of my party,” Mr. Bingley said before performing the service.

The band had started playing again as soon as Sir William had greeted them. As the gentlemen conversed, she heard Miss Bingley was still muttering to herself.

“Who is Mr. Darcy dancing with? He should have waited for my arrival. There is that ghastly Colonel Fitzwilliam dancing with that tart Miss Hurst. What is Miss Darcy doing dancing? She is not yet out! I must make sure she dances with Charles tonight. Of course, my brother’s eyes are drawn to the most beautiful woman in the room, but who is that man she is dancing with? From the looks of his clothes, he must be wealthy. That must be the man Prissy Peaton said was staying at Darcy House. She was right, he is handsome and incredibly fit. The way his jacket hugs his shoulders and tapers at his trim waist is tantalizing.”

When the dance ended, a few couples headed their way. From Miss Bingley’s ramblings, Dorothea knew the gentlemen were Mr. Darcy, the Colonel, and Mr. Darcy’s friend, who reached them first.

“Oh, Prissy Peaton was right. He gets even more attractive the closer he gets and his clothing looks even more expensive than I thought,” Miss Bingley muttered. “Perhaps I should use him to make Mr. Darcy jealous.”

She was ready to walk out of the hall and take the post home as soon as possible. This was going to be scandalous. Hopefully the gossip would not make its way to London.

“Bingley, how good of you and your sister to join us. Will you introduce me to your other guest?”

Dorothea held her breath and waited for the explosion. She was not disappointed.

“Do you know who we are?” Miss Bingley said, causing everyone at the assembly to stop talking and turn towards them. “I do not know how things work in this fashionless backwater hole my brother forced me and my dear Mr. Darcy to attend, but in the first circles, people do not approach their betters without an introduction. Charles, I insist we return to London at first light. Mr. Darcy, I apologize for my brother. He had no right to demand we come to the wilderness of Meryton, to an assembly filled with nobodies. We will retire to Netherfield immediately and you and dear Georgiana will only have to spend one evening in this horrible town,” the red-haired harridan finished.

“Caroline, hold your tongue. Neither I or Mrs. Verdier will take you back to Netherfield. You will have to reap what you have sown with our new neighbours,” Mr. Bingley hissed at his sister but his eyes never left the gorgeous blond in front of them.

Dorothea was not sure what was happening. Instead of looking angry, the crowd looked highly entertained. The lady on the Colonel’s arm looked up at him and, if she was not mistaken, mouthed to him that she was right. She saw three older ladies, who were all impeccably attired, approach and heard Miss Bingley gasp.

“Your sister-in-law is right, Mr. Hurst. People from the first circles would certainly never approach three titled ladies in the haberdashery if they were not previously introduced.”

“As the wife of an earl, you would certainly know, Olivia. As the daughter of an earl, and widow of a baronet, I find it unconscionable when people try to quit the sphere in which they have been brought up. Gently bred ladies would certainly never bandy about misinformation in an attempt to force a gentleman’s hand.”

“She is just as inappropriate as she was in the haberdashery. Come, let us forget her unfortunate statement and enjoy the rest of our evening. Olivia, what do you think about asking Miss Thomlin to serve carrots for dinner tomorrow?” the third lady asked with an enormous grin.

The reference to carrots made Dorothea snicker. She must have been heard, because all three older ladies shared a smile with her.

She knew the name Hurst. Louisa’s former husband must be standing in front of her. He certainly did not look like a drunken slob any longer.

“Hurst?” Mr. Bingley sputtered.

“No, it is impossible,” a very pale Miss Bingley whispered.

This was certain to be an entertaining evening.

Mrs. Verdier has not been introduced to them yet, but just in case you were unsure, the three ladies at the end, in order of speech, are Lady Matlock, Lady Catherine, and Lady Sheldon.

Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 21

LizzySAugust 26, 2020 03:50PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 21

BrigidAugust 26, 2020 08:30PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 21

BrigidAugust 26, 2020 05:52PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 21

Mari MAugust 27, 2020 03:23PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 21

LizzySAugust 26, 2020 06:47PM


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