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Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 27

October 08, 2020 03:43AM
Chapter 27


Phillips Residence, Meryton
Wednesday, November 20, 1811



Elizabeth Bennet looked across the de Bourgh carriage and said, “Lady Catherine and Lady Dobbs, thank you for transporting me, Jane, Mary, and Anne to Aunt Phillips’ card party and for agreeing to chaperone us. Before my aunt invited us to her party, my father had told Mrs. Annesley that she was free to have a quiet night alone to catch up on her correspondence. He would never have gone back on his word and truly appreciated that he could stay home with my mother, Kitty, Lydia, and Georgie tonight.”


“Do you have so little respect for my parenting, that you think I would let my daughter attend a card party without me, let alone ride in a carriage with only a maid?” Lady Catherine asked with a raised brow.


“Oh mama, you know I would never have been alone with a single maid for protection. Besides the Bennet sisters, there are all our maids and Allan and Jones, who, as you know, are riding alongside the carriage. There is also another Longbourn footman on the bench with the driver,” Anne told her mother. “We are well enough protected to be attending an evening party in London.”


“Have you girls seen Mr. Collins since Monday?” Lady Dobbs asked.


Elizabeth grinned at Lady Dobbs’ fairly obvious attempt to deflect the results of Lady Catherine’s poor attempt at teasing. It could have been worse, at least she did not ask what they thought about the recent weather.


“Briefly. The seven of us walked to Meryton yesterday,” Jane answered Lady Dobbs before turning to Lady Catherine. “Do not worry, we were accompanied by Mrs. Annesley, our maids, Allan and Jones, and I saw Alfie a few times when there was sparse coverage to be found on the countryside. While we were shopping, we came across Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hurst, Mr. Dobbs, Lord Palmrich, and Mr. Collins on a short riding lesson.”


“I must say, the difference in him was conspicuous even then,” Mary said. “I did not expect a noticeable change to happen so quickly.”


“I probably should not tell you this,” Lady Dobbs said, “but my nephew is close enough in height to Mr. Collins, that his valet was able to outfit your cousin in some of Reginald’s clothes that he could no longer wear.”


Elizabeth thought back on their encounter and smiled. “I think I was so amazed that his face and hair were clean, his hair was cut, his clothing was not torn, and he looked overall in better health, that I did not notice his clothes no longer fit him horribly. Now that you pointed it out, they were of better quality and not all black.”


“That was very nice of Mr. Hurst,” Jane said while blushing.


“Another young man I would be honoured, should the opportunity arise of course, to call brother,” Mary said.


Elizabeth could feel her cheeks burning and saw Jane was in the same condition. Anne, Lady Dobbs, and Lady Catherine laughed good naturedly at them. Thankfully, the carriage came to a stop in front of her aunt and uncle’s home before a response was required.


“Thank you, Allen,” she told their footman when he assisted her down. “Aunt Phillips told me you and Jones were welcome to come inside with our maids. As she said, ‘the more the merrier.’”


“Thank you, Miss.”


As they were announced, Elizabeth looked to see if the men from Haye Park had arrived. She heard Jane sigh in disappointment and had to agree.


“Look Jane, I think that man with Captain Carter, Lieutenant Denny, Lieutenant Wickham is Colonel Forster, and, even though we can only see the back of her, I assume his wife is here. Should we speak with them?” Elizabeth asked. She was surprised when her sister grabbed her arm tightly. “What is wrong, Jane?”


“Lizzy, Mr. and Miss Bingley and Mrs. Verdier are here,” Jane hissed.


Elizabeth was immediately concerned for her sister. Mr. Bingley had moderated his behaviour, significantly. He glanced at Jane often, occasionally was caught outright staring, and he still paid Jane more attention than her sister was willing to receive from the man, but overall, he did nothing that was objectionable. Jane appreciated that Mrs. Verdier seemed to be aware of the situation and would ask Mr. Bingley a question if he forgot himself and stared for a long period of time.


“I am sorry, girls,” Aunt Evelyn said quietly from behind them. “Your uncle was extending an invitation to the Colonel and his men when Mr. Bingley happened upon them. He must have thought one was forthcoming to the Netherfield party too, because Mr. Bingley accepted in front of half a dozen people. It would have ruined what little acceptance the siblings have gained if your uncle publicly informed him they were not invited.”


“I understand, aunt. There was nothing my uncle could do. It would have been seen as a cut to their family and it would be unlikely they would have received another invitation from our neighbours,” Jane said quietly.


Elizabeth also understood, but she did not like that Jane was nervous they would see the Bingley’s every time they accepted an invitation.


“Come along, Jane. Let us talk to the militia men. If that is Mrs. Forster, I will make sure you are next to her with me on your other side,” she said.


“The Colonel did bring his wife. Go quickly. The Bingley’s are walking this way. I will intercept them,” Aunt Evelyn said while gently shooing them away.


Elizabeth heard her aunt greeting the Bingley’s and Mrs. Verdier as she and Jane approached the militia group.


“Colonel Forster, it is nice to see you again. Is this your wife you have told us so much about? My elder sister, Jane, is very anxious to meet and welcome her to our community,” Elizabeth asked while manoeuvring Jane to the right of said lady.


The Colonel turned slightly to the left and stared at her for a moment in confusion, before something over her shoulder caught his attention. His face expressed understanding and he nodded slightly. “It would be my pleasure. Harriet was looking forward to meeting the young gentlewomen from the area.” After performing the introductions, he suggested, “You ladies should step closer to the wall and my men and I will make sure you are not interrupted while you get acquainted.”


“Thank you for your understanding, sir,” she said gratefully.


Jane fell into an easy conversation with Mrs. Forster and Elizabeth’s mind wandered. Lady Catherine had insisted on inspecting their hair and attire before leaving Longbourn, which caused them to arrive fifteen minutes late. She was surprised that William was not here. He was normally a very punctual person.


“If I was still a betting man, I would wager my pay this month that you were looking for Darcy,” Lieutenant Wickham said from next to her.


Elizabeth was unsure what she thought about this man. She heard such conflicting reports about him from William, Georgie, Alfie, Maggie, and the other Darcy servants. She decided to be cautious until speaking more thoroughly with William. “Yes, I expected him to be here when we arrived.”


“How long has Darcy been in Meryton?”


“Since June,” said Elizabeth. Then, unwilling to let the subject drop just yet, added, “He is a man of very large property in Derbyshire. His aunt, Lady Catherine, and cousin, Miss de Bourgh, are in attendance too.”


“Yes, I saw you enter with them,” replied Mr. Wickham. “Darcy’s estate there is a noble one, indeed. It clears ten thousand per annum, at least that is the figure bandied about London drawing rooms. You could not have met with a person more capable of giving you certain information on that head than myself, for I have been connected with his family in a particular manner from my infancy.”


Elizabeth could not help but look surprised. She had never expected him to offer such personal information during their first real conversation. She wondered if he knew of her courtship with William.


“You may well be surprised, Miss Bennet, at such an assertion, after seeing the odd manner of our meeting yesterday in Meryton. I understand you are an acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. Apparently of some duration.”


She had wondered at their responses yesterday. When they had unexpectedly met the riding party from Haye Park in Meryton the previous day, William suggested the men dismount to allow Mr. Collins to stretch his legs. Their large group walked a few circuits around the village while conversing and looking at the goods through the store windows. The gentlemen were getting ready to mount their horses again when a few militia men, including Lieutenant Wickham, chanced upon them. Elizabeth had happened to see the countenance of both as they looked at each other. She was all astonishment at the effect of the innocent meeting. Both men looked shocked. After a brief pause, Mr. Wickham touched his hat in greeting which Mr. Darcy returned. The militia men greeted the members of their party that were known to them and continued along their original path, with Mr. Wickham seeming eager to be in the lead. She did not know what to make of the occurrence.


“Not as much as I might like to be,” Elizabeth responded after a short pause.


“A word of advice,” Mr. Wickham said with a smile, “As boys, we all grew up hearing Lady Catherine expound on the reasons why Darcy and Miss de Bourgh were intended for each other. His aunt is not likely to give up her dreams of combining the estates of Pemberley and Rosings Park.”


Elizabeth smiled brilliantly when she saw William walk in with Mr. Hurst, Mr. Dobbs, and Mr. Collins. Elizabeth caught Mr. Hurst’s eye and inconspicuously elbowed her sister. She absentmindedly noticed Mr. Wickham had left her side when the Haye Park men were announced.


When Mr. Hurst arrived, she said, “Jane, I believe you will have to do the honour of introducing your friends to Mr. Hurst. Please excuse me.”


Poor William had been intercepted by Mrs. Long who asked him to introduce his new friend to her nieces. She was able to remove him from their group after a few moments without causing offense.


“Thank you, Elizabeth. Should we have rescued Mr. Collins too?”


“He will be fine. Mrs. Long paid a call at Longbourn yesterday and knows a little bit about his circumstances. She might be laying the seeds for future matchmaking plans, but knowing of his recent struggles, it is highly unlikely that she will decide to pounce tonight,” she responded with a saucy grin causing William to let out a full belly laugh.


Elizabeth delighted in making this reserved man laugh in public. She noticed almost everyone in the room had paused and were smiling indulgently at them, except the Bingley’s. The siblings were practically ignoring her Aunt Evelyn. Mr. Bingley kept glancing frequently at Jane and Mr. Hurst with a frown on his face while Miss Bingley was staring daggers at her and William. Mrs. Verdier had been approached by Lady Lucas and the pair were making their way to the other side of the room towards most of the matrons.


“Miss Bingley is seriously displeased with me,” she commented. “Let us join Jane and Mr. Hurst. I see they are still seeking the protection of the Colonel.”


“What do you mean, the Colonel’s protection?” William asked.


She explained what happened when they arrived, and his expression darkened.


“Apparently another conversation with Bingley is necessary.”


“Uncle Stuart told us at dinner yesterday that he had an appointment with Mr. Bingley earlier that day to discuss some legal matters and he took the opportunity to have a conversation with him too. Mr. Bingley’s behaviour has improved, significantly,” she assured him. “He no longer makes Jane uncomfortable. Jane is simply hesitant to give him the slightest bit of encouragement because she worries he may take it as a sign she welcomes his attentions. She prefers to avoid him altogether.”


“I certainly understand her reasoning. I used the same approach for another Bingley,” William admitted wryly. “Perhaps I should have been forthright with her sooner. Her behaviour previously was only a nuisance. I did not feel the situation warranted embarrassing her and possibly acting ungentlemanly.”


“William, I know you. It would require the best of reasons for you to behave outside the bounds of propriety,” she assured him. “It should please you to hear that Uncle Stuart said the business that brought Mr. Bingley to his door, of course he would not tell us what exactly it was, and Lydia’s conjectures are driving me to distraction, means he is taking a more active role in managing Netherfield.”


“That is encouraging to hear. I guess it should not surprise me. When he was at university, Bingley was widely known as the last student to master difficult lessons. He was the student who would barely pass a class until the final exam. He would actually study for the finals and usually pass with an acceptable grade.”


“Perhaps he realized how close to losing your friendship he was and finally decided to apply himself? Although, he still needs to take a firmer hand with his sister. She clearly did not listen to the rebuke you told me Mr. Bingley gave her outside at the assembly. Do you think he understands what she is about?” she asked curiously.


“I cannot discern the answer without second guessing myself and that worries me,” William sighed. “Sometimes he looks at her and I am sure he suspects something, but more often he appears oblivious to her actions.”


“Why were you late tonight?” she asked.


“A messenger arrived from Pemberley. Mr. Grey and Ward encountered a problem with a tenant house and needed me to approve their proposed solution.”


“I appreciate what a diligent master you are. I am not sure I would be able to respect a man who left his entire estate in the hands of his staff,” Elizabeth admitted.


“I do not believe I ever informed you of this fact, but when Bingley first mentioned he was looking to lease an estate, he told me and Reginald that he thought we would take care of everything for him. He actually thought he could sit back and enjoy the sports and activities offered in the country and abdicate all responsibility for estate matters to the two of us,” he told her.


She had suspected Mr. Bingley was weak-willed, especially where his sister was concerned, but to hear that he planned to expect his best friend and brother-in-law to run his estate was too much.


“Please William,” Mr. Hurst said as he and Jane joined them, “I do not want to speak of them any longer tonight. I accepted this invitation to spend the evening with the beautiful Bennet sisters.”


“Does you mean that you do not consider Kitty and Lydia to be beautiful?” Mary asked as she also joined them.


“Did you ladies enjoy the beautiful weather we were blessed with today? We managed to inspect the tenant houses of Haye Park while furthering Mr. Collins’ riding lessons,” Mr. Hurst said innocently.


“Well done, sir,” Mary said with a laugh before continuing quietly. “The Bingley’s are walking this way. Prepare yourselves.”


“Darcy, what have you been up to this week? I have not seen you since church this past Sunday,” Mr. Bingley said with a glance at Jane.


“Bingley,” William acknowledged with a nod while patting her hand resting on his arm. “I have been busy these past few days. The Earl of Palmrich is my guest this week while he visits his betrothed. Also, since Georgie and Anne are occupying guest rooms at Longbourn and Mrs. Bennet’s brother’s family is visiting, Mr. Bennet and I thought it best that his cousin stay at Haye Park.”


Elizabeth was watching Miss Bingley’s reactions closely. It was amusing to see whether or not she guessed correctly. When William did not acknowledge Miss Bingley’s presence, her eyes narrowed. She mentally counted one point. When he patted her hand, Miss Bingley’s lips pursed and her eyes were squinted so closely together, for a moment Elizabeth thought Miss Bingley had closed her eyes. That made two points.


“Yes, Mr. Phillips mentioned your guests,” Mr. Bingley said.


Then why did he ask what William had been doing? By the way his eyebrow rose, Elizabeth could tell William was thinking the same thing. As predicted, Miss Bingley rolled her eyes slightly. Three points.


“Miss Bennet, how are you doing this evening?” Mr. Bingley asked Jane.


“Well, sir,” Jane replied succinctly.


Elizabeth almost rolled her eyes at Mr. Bingley’s obviousness. When Mr. Hurst patted Jane’s hand comfortingly, she guessed correctly that Miss Bingley’s eyes would narrow again. Four points.


“Mr. Hurst, I was surprised to see you attending a card party while in half-mourning,” Miss Bigley said judgmentally.


“As I am sure you remember, my mourning ends in six days,” Mr. Hurst responded. “Perhaps you are unaware, but, especially in the country, it is completely acceptable for me to join society.”


Miss Bingley blanched and then blushed at the reminders of what happened a year ago and her inexperience with matters pertaining to a country estate. She was getting better at this. Two in a row. That made six points.


“You are absolutely correct, Mr. Hurst. Your behaviour would be deemed appropriate even if you were in London,” Anne said as she joined their group. “It is not as though you started wearing half-mourning colours a month early and took a very public shopping trip to Bond Street while trying to invite people you barely knew to a ball you were throwing the next week.”


She added two more points when Miss Bingley gasped and then paled so deeply, she was afraid the woman might faint. She was up to eight.


“Jane, mother asked me to fetch you and Mr. Hurst. She was telling Mrs. Long about our trip to the theatre as guests in the Dorset box. I need both of you to help me clarify a few points about both ducal couples,” Anne said with a huge grin.


Miss Bingley turned so green with envy, Elizabeth thought the woman would toss her accounts. Nine.


“Of course,” Jane said before turning to follow Anne.


“Miss Bennet,” Mr. Bingley said desperately, “before you walk away, I wanted to let you know that Mrs. Nicholls suggested we host a ball at Netherfield. If the weather holds, we will be delivering invitations tomorrow. I wanted to take this opportunity to ask you for the...”


“Mr. Bingley, there you are,” Uncle Stuart said loudly. “I have Mr. Collins with me. Yesterday in my office, you asked me to introduce him to you and your sister at the first opportunity.”


She stopped keeping track when Miss Bingley gasped and seemed horrified when Uncle Stuart prevented her brother from talking.


Mr. Bingley looked upset as Mr. Hurst took the opportunity to escort Jane away by saying, “We will let you speak with Mr. Phillips.”


William followed Mr. Hurst’s example and excused them. She giggled at the grateful look he gave her uncle.


“William, I know you and Mr. Bingley have been friends for years, and it is probably a case of opposite personalities attracting each other, but how do you account for the friendship beginning in the first place? Did he not remind you of a puppy begging for scraps?” she asked. William started laughing deeply again and she was surprised, which in turn made him laugh even harder. She patiently watched him as he brought himself under better regulation.


“I apologize, Elizabeth, truly. I am sure you are unaware, but you are the third person to tell me something like that. Georgie and Reginald both referred to Bingley’s actions as puppy-like,” he admitted.


“That is amusing,” she agreed with a smile. “We should circulate through the room and talk to the other guests. Now is truly not the time for us to have that conversation.”


The next hour passed pleasantly. They managed to avoid the Bingley’s without being terribly obvious, she hoped, and had some coffee and a muffin. When the card-tables were placed, they sat down with Jane and Mr. Hurst to play a few games of whist before switching to lottery tickets.


While playing, she noticed Mr. Wickham was approached by Miss Bingley. He looked confused for a moment and then she appeared to introduce herself. Curious. She needed to have that conversation with William about Mr. Wickham. She would demand straight answers from him. So far, she had been content with his assurances that everything was well and there was nothing to worry about.


When their lottery game broke up, she and William sat at another table with her Aunt Evelyn and Mr. Collins to play a game of whist. Mr. Collins was not very good, he lost every point, but he assured them he did enjoy playing and was learning more strategies than ever before. The two pairs played again till supper put an end to cards.


As they were waiting to be seated, she was surprised to see another woman approaching Mr. Wickham. Whatever the second woman said also appeared to confuse him for a moment until a look of recognition overcame his features.


“What are you looking at, Elizabeth,” William asked her quietly.


“Do you know who that woman talking to Mr. Wickham is? He seemed confused when she walked up to him, but whatever she said seemed to cause him to remember her. I do not believe I have been introduced to her, which is odd. The Meryton area is small and anytime someone new arrives it causes a stir,” she responded.


“I do not know who she is, but there is something familiar about her. I feel as though I should know her name. Perhaps she is from Derbyshire, Cambridge, or London? That would explain why he did not recognize her right away,” William offered.


“That is possible,” Elizabeth said, not convinced. She noticed how often William’s eyes were drawn to the woman, as though he was trying to call forth the lost memory.


Before William handed her into the de Bourgh carriage, Elizabeth was able to arrange to accidentally come across him on her morning walk.


~*~



Phillips Residence, Meryton
Wednesday, November 20, 1811



George Wickham wondered if he was dreaming. The man across the room could not be the Fitzwilliam Darcy he grew up with. The only time George had ever seen William look this relaxed was at Pemberley. Here he was talking with the relatively insignificant people of this little town and appeared to be enjoying himself? It was unbelievable.


His thoughts were interrupted by the approach of an elegant looking woman wearing a dress in a hideous shade of dark orange. He did not consider himself to be particularly fashionable, a dandy he was not, but even he would never be seen with a woman on his arm wearing that color, especially while in his red uniform jacket.


“Mr. Wickham, I understand you grew up at Pemberley.”


“We have never been introduced,” he stated confidently. “I am curious how you know my name and county of birth.”


“I am Miss Caroline Bingley. My brother Charles is good friends with Fitzwilliam Darcy. He told Charles all about you,” the woman said with a smirk.


She was even worse than he had been led to believe by the gossips of Meryton. She was definitely a snake hiding in the grass waiting to strike.


“Since you appear to have so much information about me, it is a wonder you bothered to speak to me at all,” he said.


“I think we have a similar problem sir,” she told him in a sickeningly sweet voice. “It seemed to me that you were quite taken with Miss Eliza Bennet and Mr. Darcy was to marry me before that country chit turned his eyes.”


“Why are you telling me this?” he asked.


“Perhaps we can help each other. Our meddling housekeeper suggested we hold a ball next week to socialize more with the community. I will make sure the militia men all receive an invitation. We will need to meet in Meryton to agree on our plans for the night of the ball. That little strumpet will rue the day she tried to take Mr. Darcy from me,” Miss Bingley said with a sneer.


What plans? George was astonished by the vehemence displayed by this woman. “I know Darcy is friends with your brother, but surely Mr. Bingley called him out for toying with your affections and jumping from one courtship directly into another.”


“Our relationship was of a peculiar sort. We were meant for each other. What is more natural than a man marrying his best friend’s sister? We had an unspoken, but certainly known to us, understanding.”


“I comprehend your reasons for approaching me,” he replied. She was nuttier than the fruitcake the cook at Pemberley was famous for baking. There was no doubt about it, this was a dangerous woman.


“We will have to be careful. I will try to slip you a note to let you know which day I will be in Meryton. I must go before we are noticed.”


He watched her walk away with an uneasy feeling. She would not give up. He managed to avoid Miss Bingley and Darcy after the card games started.


Just before dinner, he was approached by yet another unknown woman.


“Mr. Wickham, fancy meeting you here, in the same town as Mr. Darcy. I am sure there is a nefarious reason. We should meet again when we are free to speak at length without the risk of being overheard.”


“I must admit, you look vaguely familiar, but I have no idea who you are,” he said. What was it with strange women coming up to him tonight? He knew his hair was styled particularly well, but he was seriously regretting leaving his sword on his bed. He did not think he would need it to protect himself at a card party and the Colonel said since it was not a formal affair, and the house was likely to be crowded, it was a good idea to leave their swords off.


“I am Mrs. Younge. We met playing cards in London last December. We both expressed our frustration with a certain man from Derbyshire,” she said with a meaningful smile. “You said it would be nice to see him taken down a peg or two and that you felt you were owed more money for the living you gave up. Well, I have an idea.”


He noticed Darcy and Miss Elizabeth looking at him and suddenly remembered Darcy’s odd questions about his trips to London and where he played cards. Had Darcy paid someone to follow him or Mrs. Younge?


~*~



Longbourn, Hertfordshire
Thursday, November 21, 1811



Fitzwilliam Darcy enjoyed the atmosphere of Longbourn, very much. He hoped Elizabeth would bring some of this liveliness with her to Pemberley. He had already spoken with Mr. Bennet and received his blessing and permission to ask Elizabeth to marry him. He hoped to propose the morning of the ball, have Mr. Bennet announce their engagement at supper, and marry as soon as the banns could be read three weeks later.


He wanted to spend their first Christmas as a family together at Pemberley. Given Mrs. Bennet’s condition, he was not sure if Elizabeth would think travelling to Pemberley a viable option. He could see her wanting to stay near Longbourn in case her mother needed her. Being married and staying at Haye Park for the holidays was also acceptable, as long as he was with Elizabeth and Georgiana.


He was at Longbourn with Reginald and Aunt Catherine. Lady Dobbs and her son had stayed at Haye Park with Mr. Collins to work on etiquette lessons and protocols.


“Miss Bennet, you look terribly nervous. We could walk in the gardens while waiting for the Bingley’s to arrive,” he suggested.


“Yes, that sounds like an excellent idea. Mr. Hurst and I will join you and Lizzy,” Miss Bennet said while standing up.


The couples walked around the garden chatting about everything and nothing. Elizabeth had asked him many questions about Mr. Wickham on their morning walk. He could see she was unsatisfied with his answers, but he had told her everything he knew. He was certain it was obvious he was as unhappy with the situation as she was. Neither of them liked to not have full control of situations, in that they were well matched.


Allan was sent to summon them from the gardens not half an hour later when the Bingley’s and Mrs. Verdier arrived.


“Oh, Miss Bennet, there you are. I was hoping we would be able to speak at the card party last night, but you seemed to be in high demand. Please, come sit with me,” Miss Bingley said the moment they walked in. “I was distraught when you were forced to decline my invitation to dinner last week.”


Miss Bingley paid the rest of the Bennets little attention and asked Miss Bennet repeatedly what she had done since they last met. William had no idea what was going on, but Miss Bingley surely was up to something.


When Bingley was able to get a word in, he invited them all to the Netherfield ball that was fixed for the following Tuesday.


“Miss Bennet, might I have the honour of the first set?” Bingley asked.


Miss Bennet blushed before responding, “I am sorry sir, but it is unavailable. Mr. Hurst asked me last night.”


“The supper set then,” Bingley tried again.


“Mr. Hurst requested that one also.”


“The final?”


“Mr. Darcy asked me for the final set. In fact, all my dances have been promised. My uncle will be back, my cousins will be in town, and the gentlemen from Haye Park asked for the rest of my free sets. I am sure you understand that when you have grown up in a village, certain things are taken for granted. Lizzy and I have long standing arrangements with many of our childhood friends.”


What Miss Bennet did not know was that he and Reginald agreed to exchange the final sets. Once the couples were publicly engaged, dancing three sets was acceptable. He was very impatient for next Tuesday to arrive. Maybe he could offer the musicians an incentive to play a waltz for the final set.


“I was not a very sociable person growing up, I am sure that comes as a shock to all of you, but I also had arrangements in place. Although, I doubt Miss Bennet holds a dance for her housekeeper and a neighbour in her seventh decade,” he said with a smile.


“It could be worse, William,” Hurst said with a grin. “I grew up with Mrs. and Miss Owens and Lady Sheldon next door. Between my mother and the Owens family, a good portion of my sets were spoken for the instant a dance of any sort was announced.”


“I grew up in a small market town near a production mill,” Mrs. Verdier explained. “I can assure you that even in the tradesmen class, such arrangements are not uncommon. The men severely outnumbered the women in my hometown. I made sure to leave a few sets open and I varied my partners so I did not hurt anyone’s feelings.”


“Will we be allowed to attend, papa?” Miss Lydia asked.


“What about me, brother? May I join you?” Georgie asked him.


He looked to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet for direction. If it were left solely to him, he would not permit Georgie to step one foot inside Netherfield. However, if the Bennet’s were to allow their younger daughters to attend, it would not be fair to prohibit Georgie.


“Mrs. Bennet, I am sure your condition is fatiguing. I would be willing to help chaperone your younger daughters. Miss Bingley is the hostess so I will be unencumbered,” Mrs. Verdier offered.


“Thank you, I appreciate your offer. We will discuss the situation with Mr. Darcy and let you know,” Mrs. Bennet responded.


“Mary for sure may attend as she will be presented next year. The Netherfield ball will not be as elegant or fashionable as the ones she will attend in London, but it will be good practice,” Mr. Bennet said dryly. “Between Almack’s and private balls, my self-appointed Cousin Silence will run you girls ragged.”


“That is not fair, papa, and you know it,” Miss Mary said. “You should be grateful that Cousin Sarah is doing us a favour. With mama and Aunt Jane unable to come to town next season, someone has to sponsor me.”


“I received a letter from Silence today. She sent fashion plates from Mademoiselle Brodeur for the three of you to start choosing your wardrobes for next season. My cousin is clearly attempting to bankrupt me.”


“I cannot wait to see the plates,” Miss Kitty said excitedly. “Mademoiselle’s designs are always so intricate and beautiful.”


“Mademoiselle Brodeur sent fashion plates? For us?” Miss Bennet asked quizzically. “That is odd. Usually, she asks for our updated measurements and then informs us when to arrive for our final fittings.”


“I wonder if she knows who they were for?” Elizabeth said. “If I know Emilie as well as I think I do, she has our dresses ready to be assembled as soon as our updated measurements are sent in February.”


“She told me as much when we were in London,” his Aunt Catherine informed the sisters. “We were making arrangements for Anne’s dresses when she started asking me what are plans were for next season.”


“I will write letters to Aunt Sarah and Emilie. They need to know what is happening,” Elizabeth said.


“Now Lizzy, you cannot be certain she is doing double the necessary work,” Mr. Bennet said.


“Ignore your father, Miss Elizabeth. I know Mademoiselle thinks of you and your sisters as family. She definitely needs to know,” Aunt Catherine said. “However, I do want to see those plates. If any of them appeal to me or Anne, we will have them made for us.”


“I am not sure that my pocketbook can withstand the combined efforts of you and Silence,” Mr. Bennet said bleakly. “Perhaps I need to keep my beautiful daughter’s home and away from the dangers of London.”


“Shame on you, Mr. Bennet. If you attempt to ruin this for Lady Jersey, you will come to regret it, sir. I thought you knew her better than that,” Aunt Catherine stated with a smirk. “I feel obligated to mention this conversation to her in my next letter.”


Aunt Catherine normally called Lady Jersey by her nickname of Silence or her first name of Sarah. He knew she used the title to make Miss Bingley flinch at the reminder of how well the Bennet’s were connected. He caught Reginald’s eyes and they shared a grin at the look of discontent on Miss Bingley’s face.


“Have compassion, My Lady,” Mr. Bennet laughed. “I have no intention of telling Silence no. She is bad enough in her letters now. If I denied her this experience, she would berate me over enough sheets of paper that I could use them as kindling and then she would show up herself to harangue me some more until I finally gave in.”


“I see you do actually know her well. It is smart of you to cut out all of the unnecessary steps,” his aunt said with a huge grin. “I would also be willing to sponsor you, Miss Mary, should the need arise.”


“Thank you, Lady Catherine,” Miss Mary said gratefully.


“Will you stay at Dorset House or with Lady Jersey?”


William tried not to find further enjoyment in Miss Bingley’s discomfort at the casual mention of a visiting a duke’s townhouse. Unfortunately, he caught Mr. Bennet’s eyes this time and had to turn his head to hide his amusement when he almost burst out laughing.


“Neither, Lady Catherine,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “The girls have been invited to stay with me and their uncle at our townhouse on Grosvenor Street.”


Miss Bingley gasped loudly. “Miss Bennet, after church services this past Sunday, when we were speaking of the upcoming visit of your relatives, you told me the Gardiner family lived in Cheapside.”


As much as Miss Bingley attempted to hide the contempt in her voice at the location, it was heard by everyone.


“You asked where my sister and I spend the majority of our time when we are in London. Our aunt and uncle did live on Gracechurch Street, which is near Cheapside. We normally spend almost a month as their guests. They moved this past April and we have not had the pleasure of seeing their new townhouse because we have had visitors and, regrettably, they were visiting my aunt’s family when we spent a week in London,” Elizabeth clarified. “I am excited to see the final product of Aunt Madeline’s redecorating after reading what was described to me in her letters and the fabric samples she sent.”


“I am not sure my neighbours will be able to stand having you as my guests,” Mrs. Gardiner said with a smirk at him. “I may have to leave out a tray of sweets.”


“Nonsense, although I can think of something I would like even more,” he said with a wicked grin at his childhood friend.


The former Miss Thompson laughed and said, “I am sure you can, Master Darcy.”


The conversation carried on for a short while until Miss Bingley stood quickly, surprising her brother, and announced they had other invitations to deliver.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 27

LizzySOctober 08, 2020 03:43AM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 27

NimAOctober 10, 2020 05:04PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 27

BrigidOctober 08, 2020 04:04PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 27

LizzySOctober 08, 2020 04:19PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 27

EvelynJeanOctober 08, 2020 04:41AM



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