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Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 23

September 09, 2020 09:46PM
Sorry this is posted later in the day than it normally is. Work has ramped up and I have been physically on the premises more than I have been since March. I also was up until midnight finishing the chapter and had a two hour zoom meeting first thing this morning. It all threw off my normal Wednesday morning schedule.





For those of you in the USA, I hope you had a relaxing Labor Day weekend. In my state, going ‘up north’ is the place to be. We left early enough on Friday that, even though traffic was heavier than normal, we avoided bumper to bumper traffic. On the way back though, our trip was an hour longer. At one point, we were going from 80-0 every few miles and actually saw someone pulled off to the left side of the road and a poor little boy throwing up in the grass on the shoulder. I am so thankful my daughter and I took Dramamine before we left. When my phone said it was faster to leave the express way, we went three miles out of the way to a side road. I know we really didn’t make up any time, but it was completely worth it for the wear on my breaks and the annoyance of my husband, who was driving.





That does mean I was gone for four days and this chapter was rushed, I typed half before we left and half yesterday. Huge shout out to Alida for reviewing it for me right away.





Mr. Collins’ letter was copied and pasted from Project Gutenburg and tweaked to fit my scenario. It’s at least 75% Austen, if not closer to 90%.





I hope you all enjoy the direction I went. Feel free to offer suggestions or requests.














Chapter 23


Assembly Room, Meryton
Friday, October 11, 1811



Elizabeth Bennet stood in a group with Jane, Grace, Anne, and Charlotte while the musicians were resting. They had sent the men for refreshments and were eager for a brief conversation.


“Jane, I want to know what my brother said to you as you were approaching the Bingley’s,” Grace said quietly, as soon as they were alone.


“Of all the things that have happened tonight, that is the first thing you mention?” she asked with a raised brow.


“The Bingley’s mean nothing to me,” Grace said dismissively. “My brother is the closest family I have.”


“He told me he appreciated my accompanying him to greet the Bingley’s,” Jane said with a blush.


Grace looked skeptical. “If that was all, what made you stumble and blush, as you are doing again at the mere mention of his actions?”


“You do not have to tell us if you do not want to,” Anne said with a disapproving look at Grace.


“I am sorry, Jane. Anne is correct,” their friend admitted abashedly.


“I understand. If it was Lizzy, I would want to know right away,” Jane spoke quietly. After a pause, she continued, “I do not think he realized he said it, but he used a term of endearment when thanking me.”


“Jane, you cannot be uncertain of Reginald’s affections for you,” Grace said gently. “Can you?”


“I think my official courtship was harder on Jane than she is letting on,” Elizabeth stated. She loved her sister, but Jane tended to hide her disappointment so she did not make people feel guilty. She knew that, intellectually, Jane understood what was holding Mr. Hurst back. Nevertheless, it had to have affected Jane that her courtship with Mr. Darcy was official and had been announced to their neighbours.


“Robert told me that Mr. Hurst has a calendar in the study at Haye Park. Every morning, he eagerly crosses off the day, as if he is waiting for something to arrive,” Charlotte informed them with a mischievous smile.


“Is that true?” Jane asked with a hopeful look on her face.


“I have been sworn to secrecy,” Grace said regretfully.


“Ha! That means it is,” Anne stated definitively. “If it was not, she would have denied it outright instead of prevaricating.”


Grace just smiled.


Something unexpected caught Elizabeth’s eye. “Is that Betsy, Susie, Maggie, Tylor, Allan, and Alfie walking towards us? What are they doing here?”


“Your mother spoke with me as soon as the second set finished and requested their presence. I must say her concerns were valid,” William answered while the men were walking up with their beverages. “Your parents are hesitant to refuse to associate with the Bingley family for fear of damaging their reputations in Meryton without irrefutable proof of wrongdoing on the siblings’ part. However, they were both concerned with the actions they witnessed here tonight. We all felt extra sets of eyes would be beneficial.”


“Susie looks very uncomfortable,” Grace commented. “Are you sure she was the best choice?”


“I think Susie will surprise you,” William responded with a smile. “You realize, I was hesitant to agree to your request to offer her a position in your household? That question makes me second guess my decision.”


“I know how protective you are of the Reynolds family members,” Grace grinned. “I promise Susie will be treated well and looked after. And, I think romance may be brewing with Tylor.”


“I think it a marvellous idea they are here. The maids can accompany you ladies into the retiring room where the men cannot. Charlotte will need to hire a maid and I am contacting a few of my former soldiers to find her a footman,” the Earl of Palmrich said. “Maybe two. I could not bear it if something happened to her.”


Elizabeth grinned as Charlotte flushed at the proof of the former general’s admiration.


“Let us not forget, Alfie and the footmen can help protect you gentlemen from possible compromise attempts,” she said pertly.


William shuddered theatrically. “I have supped full with horrors.”1


“What do you think about Miss Bingley’s change of attitude?” the Earl of Palmrich asked with a huge grin.


Whose tongue soe’er speaks false,” Richard quoted.2


“Why do you men keep quoting Shakespeare around each other?” Grace asked.


“It is an inside joke that started before you arrived at Pemberley, sister,” Mr. Hurst responded with a grin. “Darcy started giving me books to read in the evenings and Shakespeare quickly became a favourite, just as it is for himself and your husband. We spent many evenings at Pemberley speaking in quotes.”


“I do not trust Miss Bingley’s appearance of humility. There is something about the look in her eyes when she stares at us that discomforts me,” Anne said.


Elizabeth noticed her mother joining their group, dragging a reluctant looking Mary and Lord Brundel with her.


“Heads up, dears. Now that the cavalry has arrived, the Bingley’s will be brought over for an introduction,” her mother informed them. “This arrangement simply will not do. I want Lizzy and Jane next to each other with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Hurst on their other sides. Grace needs to be next to her brother with her husband. Anne, I want you next to Mr. Darcy then Mary, Lord Brundel, Charlotte and Lord Palmrich. I will stand next to Lord Palmrich.”


Her sisters and Charlotte all followed Mama’s directions immediately while the men and Grace looked confused.


“Now, gentleman,” Mrs. Bennet hissed quietly. “I arranged this in advance with Sir William. Their approach is imminent.”


“You are devious, madam,” Lord Palmrich whispered to Mrs. Bennet after they had adjusted positions.


“Oh Lord Palmrich, how you do go on,” her mother tittered more loudly. “You promised to attend our get together after church. I have not forgot, you see. I assure you; I will be very much disappointed if it rains.”


Elizabeth could just imagine her mother with a handkerchief in her hand, flapping it all around for effect. She was prepared to watch the rest of her mother’s performance. It was bound to be better than any actress on the stage.


“Mrs. Bennet, the Bingley’s asked to be introduced to your daughters,” Sir William said with a smile after they had arrived. He had positioned himself next to Mama and the group all turned to the newcomers.


She noticed Miss Bingley was looking between her and William peculiarly. That Miss Bingley looked contrite was a certainty, but there was something in the set of her countenance that indicated it was all for show. Unless she was mistaken, Miss Bingley was thinking about ways to end her courtship with Mr. Darcy.


“To my undeniable knowledge, you are acquainted with Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hurst, and the Fitzwilliam’s. Allow me to introduce you to my three eldest daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, and Mary Bennet and this is Anne de Bourgh, Charlotte Lucas, the Earl of Palmrich, and the Marquess of Brundel.”


Elizabeth saw shock on the face of both Bingley’s. They obviously did not expect such august personages to be in attendance.


“Frances, I am so very glad to see you,” Lady Jersey said from behind her mother, interrupting the rest of the introductions.


Mama turned around quickly and started. “Sarah? What do you do here? We were not expecting you.”


Elizabeth did not think it was possible, but both Bingley’s looked even more surprised to see Lady Jersey. To hear them using first names, made Miss Bingley look like she had just sucked on a lemon.


“Olivia and Isabel invited me to stay at Miss Thomlin’s house with them,” Lady Jersey said, stepping in-between their group and the Bingley’s. “I could hardly resist such an invitation. Sir William, I have not seen you at St. James’s in a while.”


Sir William bowed at her and replied, “I am sure you will see me in London next season, Lady Jersey. Charlotte is engaged to Lord Palmrich.”


“Congratulations, Miss Lucas. Cousin Mary dear, please tell me I get to sponsor you next season,” Lady Jersey pled with her hands together as though she was praying. “I was ever so disappointed that you declined this year, as I am sure Lord Brundel was too.”


“I certainly was,” that man replied with a grin at Mary.


“Silence3, are you making trouble already?” Papa said from behind her.


“Thomas! I have not seen you in two years. How is one of my favourite cousins?” Lady Jersey asked after she turned.


“Peddle your wares elsewhere, My Lady. You forget, I know you too well. You are transparently eager to spend my money on my daughters’ attire for the season and to escort them around town,” Papa rolled his eyes and sighed dramatically. “I assume Lady Matlock, Lady Dobbs, or, more likely, Lady Sheldon wrote you a letter and you could not resist butting your nose in?”


She noticed Miss Bingley had looked upset when Lady Jersey first appeared, but now both siblings were clearly confounded by Papa’s response.


“Pish tosh, flattery will get you nowhere,” Lady Jersey said with a recognizable gleam in her eye.


Elizabeth certainly remembered that look. Cousin Sarah thoroughly enjoyed sparring with Papa. Their debates were legendary in the family.


“Our great-grandmothers were sisters. I have less than ten blood relatives if I do not count your family,” Lady Jersey continued. “Besides, you only came to town last season long enough to attend Lizzy and Juliet’s coming out ball. Next season, Jane and Fannie will both be busy with your upcoming additions. Someone needs to sponsor Cousin Mary.”


Elizabeth smiled and laughed on the inside, having heard this argument before. For a completely unknown, too young to be presented, country lady to take the Duke of Dorset off the marriage market was not looked upon kindly. Lady Jersey’s mother, the then Countess of Westmorland, had taken an immediate liking to Jane Sakville during her first season in London. When the Countess realized the new Duchess shared an ancestor with her, even if it was too many generations past to be relevant, she made the connection known amongst the town and helped ease her way into society.


“I second that statement,” Lord Brundel said with a grin.


“I would be honoured, Cousin Sarah,” Mary told her.


“Cousin Sarah?” Papa asked, dragging their argument on.


“Unquestionably,” Lady Jersey said dismissively, moving to stand next to Mr. Bennet. “How many times have I told you that I count you all as family?”


“Too many to count, My Lady,” Papa said sardonically.


“Truly, Thomas, if I did not know better, I would worry about your mental acuity in your dotage,” Lady Jersey said as she swatted Papa’s arm.


Thankfully, the musicians started warming up, signalling the next set would begin soon, and interrupting the discussion. She saw Viscount Dover and Clara walking towards their group and greeted them.


“Clara, I have not had a chance to speak with you since we arrived,” she said.


“We have come to claim our partners for the next set, Miss Elizabeth,” Viscount Dover said before turning to Jane. “Miss Bennet, shall we?”


“Of course, Lord Dover,” Jane responded as she finally let go of Mr. Hurst’s arm.


Miss Bingley noticeably sucked in a breath, presumably at the knowledge that yet another titled person was in Meryton and known to the Bennet family.


The group broke up, leaving the Bingley’s standing alone, apart from her father and Lady Jersey. When she walked away with Lord Brundel, she heard Lady Jersey say, “Thomas, did I tell you about the appalling trip I took to the haberdashery this past season with Lady Matlock and Lady Sheldon?”


~*~



Churchyard, Meryton
Sunday, October 13, 1811



Fitzwilliam Darcy exited the Meryton church proudly with Georgiana on one arm and Elizabeth on the other. Reginald and Miss Bennet were following just behind them. Once they were outside, Georgiana excused herself to speak with the younger Bennet sisters and Maria Lucas and Darcy walked towards an English oak tree. He stopped underneath the leaves that had started to change colours.


“Fall is my favourite time of the year,” Miss Elizabeth announced with a sigh.


“You like that the weather is mild,” Miss Bennet told her sister.


“Undeniably I do,” Elizabeth replied glibly. “The spring has similar temperatures, but it can be too wet. In autumn, the leaves change to form brilliant displays.”


“It also does not hurt that apple and pumpkin are among your favourite flavours,” Miss Bennet said with a grin.


“Especially when they add nutmeg and cloves,” Elizabeth responded with a sigh, closed eyes, and an expression on her face that nearly did him in. “I love the spices used by cook over the next few months.”


“My favourite is gingerbread,” Grace said as she joined their group with Richard.


“Like Miss Elizabeth, I am partial to dishes made with apples,” Richard told them.


“What is your favourite, William?” Elizabeth asked him.


He heard a gasp and looked up to ascertain the Bingley’s were approaching. He felt Elizabeth pat his arm comfortingly and realized he had tensed and donned the mask of indifference he displayed in the society of London. He was sure his face had lost all expression and he had adopted an air of aloofness.


“Bingley,” he acknowledged his friend with a nod.


“No!!!!!” Darcy heard before Anna ran into their group and positioned herself in front of them, facing the Bingley’s, with her feet and arms spread wide.


“Anna, what is wrong?” Elizabeth asked, sounding worried.


“I heard William and Mr. Hurs talking and I member bout Miss Bingley. She is a mean lady! She made her own sister die!” Anna practically screamed. “I will protect Miss Jane and Miss Lizzy from her. William too, so he will not have to marry the mean old lady if she tries to mise him.”


William was shocked and could see that everyone else was as well. He glanced at Hurst and they shared a look, Anna had indeed been the one listening to them after church the prior week. He noticed that Bingley looked oddly guilt-ridden, maybe even haunted, while Miss Bingley’s expression was dark, more irritated than distraught.


“Anna, calm down,” he told the little girl.


“NO, William! She can’t mise you! You hafta marry Miss Lizzy and Mr. Hurs must marry Miss Jane. I don’t want her to hurt my favouritist friends.”


Anna was so upset she was visibly trembling. He walked around Anna, dropped to one knee, and hugged the distraught girl.


“Do not worry sweetheart,” he assured Anna as he stood up with her in his arms. She wrapped her arms and legs around him and held on tight. He put a hand on her back and patted her comfortingly.


“But she will try to mise you and hurt Jane and Lizzy,” Anna argued.


“No, she will not,” he glared at Miss Bingley, and gave a pointed look to Bingley before he continued. “I will not marry Miss Bingley, regardless of any situation she engenders. Bingley, I have told you this before, and I truly am sorry if this finally means an official end to our friendship, but if your sister does attempt something, I will not yield, no matter the harm to her reputation, and I will be forced to give you both the cut direct.”


He saw Miss Bingley blanch and a look of uncertainty crossed her face for the briefest of moments.


Anna per her hands on his cheeks and leaned back to look at him in his face.


“But she will try to hurt Miss Jane cause Mr. Hurs wants to marry her and then Miss Lizzy because you want to marry her.”


Elizabeth walked up, put her hand on the little girl’s shoulder, and said into her ear, just loud enough for him to hear, “Anna, William is absolutely correct. No harm will come to me and Jane and Miss Bingley will not be able to compromise him. Look behind William. Do you see Alfie and Allan?”


“Yes,” Anna said softly.


“They will not let anything happen to us,” Elizabeth explained.


“Are you sure?” Anna asked with narrowed eyes.


“Absolutely,” he quietly responded confidently. “Alfie has instructions to protect me and Georgie just like Allan protects the Bennet’s. Mr. Bennet is going to hire a few more footmen to guard his daughters and their maids, Betsy and Missy, will make sure they are safe when just the ladies are present. I will avoid going to Netherfield as long as possible and will make sure Alfie is with me when I have to. Nothing bad will happen. Do you trust me?”


“Yes, William,” Anna admitted quietly.


“Good,” he said in a normal voice. “May I put you down now?”


“Do you hafta? I like being up high,” the little imp teased, displaying an amazing resiliency that was unique to children.


“I suppose I could hold you for a little longer,” he told her with a grin.


“Good. You know, if you were to marry Miss Lizzy right away, nothing bad would happen for sure. Member, I get to throw the flowers,” she giggled.


“Anna,” Elizabeth admonished her with a sigh.


“Oh, Cousin Elizabeth, do not rebuke this precocious little girl. You must introduce me to this glorious child,” Lady Jersey said while joining their group. “From your own experience, you know how much I appreciate bold girls.”


“Ductions? I like to do the ductions. I wish I could duce you to me,” Anna said.


“Why, that sounds like a wonderful idea. You have my permission to do so,” Lady Jersey offered.


He put her down and Anna performed flawless introductions, once she was told her new friend’s name.


“Come with me, Anna. You must tell my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, all about this wedding you have planned. What kind of flowers do you want to throw?”


“That is a match made in heaven,” he heard Elizabeth grumble to herself as the new acquaintances walked away.


“Bingley, did you have a purpose in approaching us? If not, it is time we leave for Longbourn,” he told his friend.


“No, Darcy, we just wanted to greet you.”


“Very well, consider your task accomplished,” he said before taking a few steps closer to the siblings and lowering his voice. “I am sorry some of your personal history came out in such a public setting. Hurst and I had no idea Anna was listening in on our conversation. However, I meant what I said. I will never marry your sister,” he hissed. “As you have seen, the Bennet’s have numerous powerful friends and relatives in the first circles, maybe even more than I do. If Miss Bingley attempts to force my hand, in any way, I cannot be held responsible for what will happen to her reputation in London.”


He stared Bingley down until he dropped his head in embarrassment. He made note that, with a tilt of her nose upward, Miss Bingley seemed to dismiss his warning.


“I advised you in London that you needed to take your sister in hand. At least you no longer seem to expect me to offer for her. I hope you were not fooled by Miss Bingley’s easy acquiescence at the assembly because, I assure you, none of us were. I watched her very closely during both encounters, then and now, and she, as much as she tried to hide her anger both times, failed miserably.”


He looked at Bingley closely and was not sure if his point had been made. Miss Bingley merely looked even more offended and haughty.


“Bingley, what do you see when you look at your sister right now?” he asked and noticed said lady became even more tense. When his friend did not respond, he commented, “Can you see the fury that is vibrating through her? The way her eyes are pinched with the corners crinkled, nostrils flaring, lips pursed, and hands balled into fists? Does any of that mean anything to you?”


Bingley stared at him with wide eyes and mouth opened. Miss Bingley, if possible, seemed to become even more angry. “I doubt this will penetrate, Bingley, but I feel honour bound to reiterate that I will end our friendship if I have to. It would pain me to give up the years I have invested in our relationship, but I will not allow anyone to force me into anything I do not desire.”


He searched Bingley’s face for a moment before turning to Elizabeth, offering her his arm, and walking away.


~*~



Longbourn, Hertfordshire
Thursday, October 18, 1811



Elizabeth Bennet sat in the smaller parlour at Longbourn to read a letter from her Cousin Juliet which caused her to smile. Lord Halburn, with the help of Lords Dover and Brundel, had managed to form a friendship with her Cousin Edmund who, it seemed, approved of a match between his sister and the Matlock heir. Juliet was severely annoyed with her brother for continuing to bring up the person who had publicly snubbed her.


It would certainly be interesting to see what happened in London next season. Between Lord Halburn seemingly deciding to pursue Juliet and Lord Brundel’s obvious attempts at wooing Mary, it would be a memorable few months.


Thinking about next season brought to mind her mother and Aunt Jane’s conditions. She hoped, for both of her parent’s sake, that her mother or aunt carried the new heir to Longbourn. Their family was fortunate that the five sisters and their matriarch would all be well cared for should anything befall her father. However, she knew the thought of Longbourn being passed to a distant branch of the family weighed heavily on her father.


Then she thought about the current situation in Meryton. The Bingley’s reception into the local society was tepid, at best. Anna’s outburst had been heard by many people and rumours had begun to spread like wildfire. She was sure the only reason the siblings were not being ostracized, was because the Longbourn, Haye Park, and Lucas Lodge residents would still recognize them.


There had been a party at Lucas Lodge earlier this week. It had been uncomfortable after the Bingley’s arrived, until they were greeted by Mr. Darcy and papa. Whether or not they would be fully accepted, would be determined by their continued behaviour.


Miss Bingley, even with her limited exposure to Meryton, had already managed to offend a few residents without even speaking. Her attitude, especially to the servants of Netherfield, was not acceptable in polite company, at all, but she seemed to find nothing wanting in her comportment.


“Ah, there you are Lizzy,” her father said, startling her out of her contemplations. “I ask that you join the rest of the family in the main parlour. I have something I need to discuss with everyone.”


“Of course, Papa,” she replied, before putting her letter in her pocket and following her father.


When everyone was gathered, Papa said, “I received a rather singular letter today.”


“Who is it from, my dear?” Mama asked.


“It is from a gentleman and a stranger,” he replied. “A person whom I never saw in the whole course of my life.”


“If you have never seen them, and they are a stranger, it was improper of them to write you a letter,” Lydia stated, causing their father to smile at her.


“Very good, Lydia. I can see you are taking your studies with Mrs. Waldron more seriously,” papa complimented her youngest sister. “This time it may be forgiven because, as much as I wish it was not so, the writer is related to us.”


“Oh,” Mama all but wailed, “you must mean Mr. Collins. Pray do not talk of that odious man. I do think it is the hardest thing in the world, that your estate should be entailed away from your own children. Thomas, how I wish this child is a boy, nevertheless I vow to love it no matter the sex.”


“My sentiments exactly, Fannie. Perhaps, if we have an heir, it will clear Mr. Collins from the guilt of inheriting Longbourn. Listen to his letter. I am sure you will find it as diverting as I did,” Papa said with a wicked gleam in his eye.


“Kates Boardinghouse, London, 15th October.

“Dear Sir,—

“The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my late honoured father always gave me much uneasiness, and since I have had the misfortune to lose him, I have frequently wished to heal the breach; but for some time I was kept back by my own doubts, fearing lest it might seem disrespectful to his memory for me to be on good terms with anyone with whom it had always pleased him to be at variance. My mind, however, is now made up on the subject, for having received ordination at Easter, I have not been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of a valuable rectory in the Church of England. My lodgings are paid through the next month, but I am then depleted of funds. There is no one else for me to turn to as you are my closest family. With me being the heir to Longbourn, I am sure you would welcome me with open arms. As a clergyman, moreover, I feel it my duty to promote and establish the blessing of peace in all families within the reach of my influence; and on these grounds I flatter myself that my present overtures are highly commendable, and that the circumstance of my being next in the entail of Longbourn estate will be kindly overlooked on your side, and not lead you to reject the offered olive-branch. I cannot be otherwise than concerned at being the means of injuring your amiable daughters, and beg leave to apologise for it, as well as to assure you of my readiness to make them every possible amends—but of this more hereafter. If you should have no objection to receive me into your house, I propose myself the satisfaction of waiting on you and your family, Monday, November 18th, by four o’clock, and shall probably trespass on your hospitality until I inherit when you go to your eternal reward.—I remain, dear sir, with respectful compliments to your lady and daughters, your well-wisher and friend,

“WILLIAM COLLINS”



Elizabeth was shocked, and from the looks of it, the other women in her family were too.


“Go to your eternal reward, indeed. Wretched, wretched man,” Mama spat out.


“An olive branch?” Mary asked quietly, after a moment.


“I think he means to offer for one of you girls,” Papa said.


“Allow me to respond for myself and my sisters,” Elizabeth said. “None of us will ever marry him. Jane and I are likely to be engaged very soon, as much as she tries to deny it, Mary is attached to Lord Brundel, and Kitty and Lydia are years from being old enough to wed.”


“I should never have parted with any of you to someone as unworthy,” Papa assured them all. “I wanted to discuss how I would respond.”


“You seem to have an idea, my dear Mr. Bennet. Please share it with us.”


“Fannie, what do you think about writing to my sister Jane and seeing if my nephew, nieces, and Mrs. Tucker were willing to visit again?”


“Brilliant,” Kitty said. “If there are no rooms available, you could honestly tell him we are unable to host him. Hopefully, by the time he writes again, he would have found other accommodations or a living.”


“I do feel for the position he finds himself in,” Jane stated sadly.


“Is it our Christian duty to take him in?” Mary asked.


“No, Mary,” their father responded kindly. “While he is related to us, we cannot be expected to open our home to someone we have never met.”


“Not to possibly cast aspersions on someone I know nothing about, but I completely agree with your father,” mama said. “We are a household that contains five maidens, all of whom are truly of marriageable age if publicly compromised. Even with both of us and Mrs. Waldron to act as proper chaperones, I would be wary of inviting an unmarried man into our midst without knowing him better.”


“That was my major concern too,” papa said while nodding.


This new avenue of thought caused Elizabeth concern and she could see her sisters were also worried to varying degrees.


“I am sure Allan would appreciate a chance to visit with his parents,” Jane said, breaking the silence.


“That is a perfect idea, Jane. Send Allan with the express, Papa. It would allow him to spend the night with his family and he can return the next day. A few days delay in your response to Mr. Collins would not appear odd, would it?” Lydia asked.


“Also, if he leaves tomorrow morning, he would have to spend all day Sunday at home with his parents, would he not, Papa?” Kitty asked.


“Very well done, girls. Yes, it takes two days to reach Cloverdale on horseback. Nobody could ever accuse you of being the silliest girls in all of England,” Papa replied. “That is exactly what we will do. My other concern was whether or not I should tell him of your mother’s and aunt’s conditions.”


“I think not,” Jane said, surprising everyone. “If both babes are born female, you would cause him undue concern for nothing. If either is a boy, the result would still be the same without the two months of worrying.”


“I am continually amazed by your kindness, sister. Papa, if our cousins are unable to travel, we could invite the Gardiners. Even if Uncle Edward could not escape for a visit, Aunt Maddie could join us and bring the children along with their nanny and governess. We do not have to put them in the nursery,” Elizabeth responded with a devilish grin.


“A well-planned defence to being invaded, and possibly held captive, by an idiot, to be sure,” Papa chuckled. “His style of writing is very pompous. What could he mean by apologising for being the next in line in the entail? It is utterly ridiculous. Then, he invites himself to live in our house for the rest of my life? I almost hope we have a boy just to spite him and ruin his expectations.”


“Do not forget, Papa, even though Clara would have returned to her parent’s house by then, we could invite Georgie, Anne, Grace and Mr. Fitzwilliam, and Mrs. Annesley to visit,” Kitty mentioned.


Elizabeth winked at her sister. She was sure Kitty was trying to distract their father from his rant.


“My beautiful girls, how you do your father proud.”


1 Macbeth


2 King John


3 According to the Wikipedia page for Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey in 1811, her nickname was Silence because she was famous for talking almost nonstop.
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Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 23

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