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Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 29

October 22, 2020 11:39PM
I know I have been posting on Wednesday’s but it’s been a long week. My husband caught a cold and it is making its way through our household. I had to get a COVID test for work, so we know it’s just a simple cold. Thankfully, my daughter’s school is still on a hybrid schedule and only one teacher asked why she was virtual instead of in-person on her scheduled day. Apparently, they were appreciative she stayed home.


Half of this was written before I got sick and the other half was written in a mad dash on Monday and Tuesday when DayQuil could make me capable of thinking and functioning. A big THANK YOU to my beta, Alida, for turning this around so quickly. I messed around with the chapter all day yesterday. Instead of posting today at 12:30am EST, I decided to sleep and give it another read-through. I am glad I did because I found quite a few things.


Apologies if I missed any errors or didn’t explain something well enough.


This is officially the longest chapter I have posted. There should only be one or two more chapters and probably an epilogue.






Chapter 29


Netherfield, Hertfordshire
Tuesday, November 26, 1811



Reginald Hurst heard the final chords of the fourth set, thanked Charlotte Lucas for dancing with him, then escorted her towards Jane and Palmrich. He had hoped the set would last the entire evening so they could avoid the upcoming scene. He needed to feel the touch of Jane’s hand on his arm.


“Palmrich, I have returned Miss Lucas,” he told his friend as he offered Miss Bennet his arm. It calmed his nerves to have her next to him.


“You are not fooling anyone, Hurst. You wanted to retrieve Miss Bennet,” the earl said with a laugh. “Not that I mind because you brought Charlotte to me.”


“I saw Uncle and Aunt Gardiner exit the room a moment ago,” Jane said softly as Miss Elizabeth and William joined them. Speaking more loudly, Jane asked, “Mr. Hurst, would you get me some punch please?”


He did not want to leave her side, but he knew he must. “Of course. I am sure Miss Elizabeth and Miss Lucas would appreciate something to drink too. Shall we?”


As the men walked away, he heard Miss Elizabeth and Miss Lucas excuse themselves. He walked towards the refreshment table until he was sure the crowd would cover his exit to the library. Mr. Gardiner was standing near the door when they arrived.


“You are the last group we are expecting. Hurry inside,” Gardiner said.


Once they entered the room, the door of the library was closed and locked again by Mrs. Nicholls.


“My Jane will be fine, Hurst. Stop looking as though you are headed to the gallows,” Bennet said with a forced smile.


“Allan and I will make sure she is unharmed, sir,” Alfie said.


“I will also ensure she is safe,” Mr. Wickham said.


“Mr. Wickham, that is not comforting. I am not sure whether we should have trusted you,” he responded sternly. “Especially not with my Jane,” he finished with a quick glance at Bennet.


Edmund Sakville chuckled and shook his head. “Hurst, I understand this is disconcerting for you, but we do not have a lot of time to debate this again. While he may have a less than desirable past, Mr. Wickham was not required to inform Darcy about the meetings the ladies demanded with him. Need I remind you, when he showed up to his initial meeting with Darcy, he had created the plan of how we could eavesdrop on the conversations? Then, he volunteered to actively participate in the plan to thwart Miss Bingley. I am inclined to trust the man, especially since Allan and Alfie will be there to protect my cousin.”


William looked at him for a moment, then said, “You know Sakville is correct. If Elizabeth was going to be in Jane’s place, I would be just as concerned.”


“Everything will turn out well, Reginald. I trust you,” Jane said.


William smiled and then ordered, “Alfie and Allan, hurry behind the window curtains and get into position so we can make sure you are not visible. Remember, do not come out unless Miss Bennet indicates you are needed.”


“I cannot tell they are there. Can you Phoebe?” Lady Catherine asked after looking at the window from a few vantage points.


“No, not at all,” Lady Dobbs confirmed with a smile.


“It is rather convenient that Mrs. Sakville asked me to have the footmen install the winter curtains on the windows before the Bingley’s arrived. They helped keep the rooms warm when the temperature dropped and also conveniently provided an extra layer for the men to hide behind,” Mrs. Nicholls said with a grin.


“I am glad you appreciate them,” Mr. Gardiner said. “They were one of my acquisitions.”


“I insisted my husband purchase the style and brought them to Jane’s attention,” Mrs. Gardiner added. “They are a little bit more costly than the other options, but they certainly do their job well. I must look into purchasing some for our new townhouse.”


“We must hurry and get into place. I hear someone approaching,” Palmrich said quietly.


Reginald did not want to be more than an arm’s length away from Jane, but knew it was necessary for their plan to succeed. Shortly after the room was silent, he heard two people speaking quietly but it did not seem to be coming from the hallway. He looked questioningly at the earl and Darcy but received shoulder shrugs in return.


Before long, he heard Jane’s voice outside the library door. After they entered and Miss Bingley locked the door, she directed Jane to the flowers. When Jane mentioned the view from the window, he sighed in relief. It comforted him to know she immediately sought the protection of Allan and Alfie.


How dare Miss Bingley call Jane a country nobody! He felt a hand on his arm and noticed Darcy and Palmrich watching him in concern. He nodded to indicate he was under control and listened as the conversation progressed.


Reginald grinned when Mr. Wickham suggested they turn the tables on Miss Bingley and compromise her instead. That was not part of their original plan but his Jane’s response made him proud. It served Miss Bingley right to feel a bit of fear which she tried to hide behind bravado.


Mr. Wickham surprised him again when he deviated from the plan a second time and manipulated Miss Bingley into vocalizing her full plan. Reginald wondered if the man had figured out who else was listening to the encounter.


He smiled when Jane started giggling. The sound was a balm to his frazzled nerves. She seemed to be handling the situation better than he was. He was surprised to hear a door open and his brother-in-law speak before Bennet and Sir Lucas discussed the possible repercussions of Miss Bingley’s actions.


“I assume we have enough, Mr. Trevor?” Sakville asked quietly.


“Most definitely, Lord Milham,” Mr. Trevor answered. “The vowel Miss Bingley gave Mr. Wickham, along with his written statement, would have been sufficient for any reasonable person to agree with your course of action.”


“Remember to call me Mr. Sakville in Meryton,” Sakville reminded the man.


Miss Elizabeth walked around the bookcase and everyone followed.


Reginald sighed in pleasure when he saw Jane. As soon as Mr. Trevor spoke, the other occupants of the room turned towards their group and Allan and Alfie came out of their hiding places.


“Morality clause?” Miss Bingley laughed at Mr. Trevor. “Who do you think you are? I know you were not invited to our ball. How did you manage to get past the main doors? You think you can show up and defraud my brother in an attempt to take over a lease you could never hope to afford without challenge?”


“Shut your mouth Caroline,” Bingley ordered. “Mr. Trevor is the solicitor who arranged the lease on Netherfield. What were you thinking?”


Hurst could not help himself, he strode forward, took the hand of his beloved, and asked, “Jane, are you truly all right?”


“Yes, Reginald, I am unharmed. I knew Allan and Alfie were mere steps away. I actually thought the whole attempt was rather absurd.”


He raised an eyebrow at Bennet who softly chucked and nodded his agreement. With permission, Reginald announced, “Miss Bingley, even if your plan had succeeded, it would still have ultimately failed. As of this morning, Jane and I are engaged, and I would have married her anyway.”


“I must add that Elizabeth and I also became engaged this morning. Even if Reginald had temporarily lost his mind and abandoned Miss Bennet, I would have gladly married Elizabeth. I have told both of you before and am astounded that I need to say it again. I WILL NEVER MARRY MISS BINGLEY! EVER! NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES!” William said forcefully.


“You have to marry me! I would be a flawless mistress for your homes. I would be the perfect wife for you! Why can you not see that?” Miss Bingley wailed.


“Bingley, how did you and Mrs. Verdier end up at the servant’s entrance?” William asked, completely ignoring Miss Bingley.


Reginald was curious to hear the answer himself.


“I noticed Caroline was acting odd and decided to speak with Mrs. Verdier to ask if she knew why,” Bingley explained.


He shared a look with William and could tell his friend felt as he did, that once again Bingley expected someone else to step in and solve his problem. However, at least Bingley had realized that something was wrong and took action to step in. That was an improvement over his previous obliviousness.


“How did you know to come to the library, Mrs. Verdier?” he asked. Reginald was impressed and wished this woman would have come into the life of the Bingley’s years ago when his father-in-law passed away. If she had, perhaps things would have turned out differently.


“As Mr. Bingley said, Miss Bingley had been behaving in an obviously odd manner. When she became excited about the ball all of a sudden, made such a fuss about the library being locked to protect the flowers, and was so adamant about having the only key in her possession, I had a good idea she was planning something in here,” Mrs. Verdier explained. “Just before the fourth set started, I saw her purposefully knock a centerpiece over. She looked extremely pleased with herself and that told me when it would happen.”


“How did you get a key? I was to have the only one and both doors were to be locked,” Miss Bingley stated with a stomp of her foot.


“I gave her a key,” Mrs. Nicholls said.


“You are fired!” Miss Bingley shouted. “You were ordered to give me every copy of the key to the library doors.”


“You do not have the authority to fire Mrs. Nicholls,” Mr. Trevor said. “She is employed by the owners of the estate and can only be removed at their direction. Besides, your actions voided the lease. Effective immediately, you are no longer the mistress of Netherfield.”


“Bingley, the talk around Meryton is that you have become more active in the running of Netherfield. Added to that, you were paying enough attention to notice your sister was acting odd, actually took the initiative to seek out Mrs. Verdier, and did not dismiss her concerns. For those reasons, I will not completely end our acquaintance,” William said. “However, I refuse to associate with your sister and will not recognize her in public. Nor will I ever visit your townhouse when she is in residence.”


“Thank you, Darcy. It is probably more than I deserve,” Bingley said quietly.


“You may have decided to maintain your friendship, Mr. Darcy, but I refuse to remain a part of the Bingley household. I would rather use my widow’s portion to set up my own establishment and find some way to supplement my income,” Mrs. Verdier said.


“I never wanted your company anyway,” Miss Bingley said harshly. “I do not need a companion, especially in a place like Meryton.”


“You must be daft and crazy, Miss Bingley,” Bennet said with a chuckle. “Do you think that by choosing to ignore what Mr. Trevor stated, you could remain at Netherfield? You have to vacate the premises in thirty-six hours, by dawn on Thursday. Due to your actions, your brother will be hard pressed to find anyone willing to rent or lease him a residence in the surrounding area. Besides, by forfeiting the cost of the entire twelve-month lease, which had to be paid in advance, your brother has lost a significant amount of money. If he does not want to use the principal your father left him, perhaps he cannot afford another lease payment until the next quarterly distributions are made.”


“We will be returning to London,” Bingley said. “I still have a month on the lease of the townhouse.”


“Where will you go, Mrs. Verdier?” Bennet asked.


“I am not sure where I will end up permanently, sir. For now, I will send my sister an express asking if I may visit temporarily.”


“Are you open to alternatives?” Bennet asked.


“I could be,” Mrs. Verdier answered slowly. “My answer would have to depend on what options were suggested.”


“As you know, my wife is heavy with child. With the new babe, Mary coming out next season, Lydia and Kitty attending more outings in Meryton, and Jane and Lizzy getting married, I am afraid Fannie and Mrs. Waldron will be overwhelmed. My wife and Ladies Jersey, Matlock, Dobbs, and Catherine all suggested I ask if you would be willing to join our household as a friend of the family. It would be extremely helpful for us to have another chaperone available when needed and we greatly enjoy your companionship.”


“Are you certain?” Mrs. Verdier asked, looking shocked.


“Of course I am. My cousin, Lady Jersey, told me she delighted in meeting you,” Bennet replied.


“That is high praise from Cousin Sarah,” Jane said with a smile.


“That it is,” Miss Elizabeth agreed with a laugh. “It would also ease my mind to know my sisters were so well looked after. If you do not want to stay in southern England, you are welcome to join us at Pemberley.”


“This is not fair! I deserve to be Mistress of Pemberley and inviting people to live there,” Miss Bingley said.


Reginald did not even attempt to hide it when he rolled his eyes. Everyone ignored Miss Bingley and continued the conversation as if she was not in the room.


“Miss Elizabeth, I appreciate the offer but I must decline. Mr. Bennet, I relished my time spent with your family at Longbourn and accept your generous offer. I have become fond of Meryton and it would allow me to save my funds for use later in my life. I could also maintain my status as a gentlewoman, even better than when I was residing as part of the Bingley household. As an added benefit, I would not have to worry that one of your daughters would create a scandal,” Mrs. Verdier finished with a hard look at Miss Bingley.


“What do you plan to do, Bingley?” William asked his friend. “You mentioned your townhouse in London. Do you intend to renew the lease?”


“I suggest he does not,” Sakville spoke for the first time since the confrontation started.


“I second that suggestion,” Lady Catherine said.


“I add my agreement,” his Aunt Phoebe said.


“I also concur it would not be a good idea,” Palmrich said.


“Why not?” Bingley asked.


“Why not?” Miss Lucas scoffed. “Mr. Bingley, you categorically are an exasperating man. Do you know how many titled people are in this room? Do you actually think they will stand aside and let your sister spew her viciousness in London? If you do not think she will try to ruin the reputations of the Darcy and Bennet families, you are a bigger fool than I thought.”


“You know she would, Mr. Bingley. I know you do,” Mrs. Verdier added. “I brought the same concern to your attention when we had our discussion yesterday.”


“Any rumours your sister spreads in London about my sister’s family could negatively affect my business, Mr. Bingley. My wife and I maintain close ties with the first circle of society, with those of the lower gentry, and the tradesmen. I would certainly make sure all of my business partners knew the truth of what happened here rather than risk my business being harmed,” Mr. Gardiner stated.


“I am very active in the charitable circles of all rungs of society in London,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “My nieces are very dear to me. I am willing to do anything in my power to protect their reputations. Although, Jane and Lizzy have helped me for the past few years and my friends know them well enough by now, many people would most likely dismiss Miss Bingley’s claims as the rantings of a spurned woman. My nieces are also so well-known, well-liked, and well-connected in the first circles, people would be cautious to believe anything negative about them. If I have heard about Miss Bingley’s incessant, and unwelcomed, pursuit of Mr. Darcy, it is safe to assume the leaders of society have too.”


“Besides, if you attempt to return to London, my Aunt Matlock and Lady Sheldon will not hesitate to spread the truth of what happened here tonight to pre-emptively protect the honourable people involved in this fiasco,” Miss de Bourgh said. “I do not understand you, Mr. Bingley. I truly thought you were beginning to take control of your life and finally see what your sister has become. You have disappointed me, sir. Your sister is a harpy who will stop at nothing to get what she thinks is owed to her. She will ruin what precious little is left of your reputation as you sit by indolently and watch!”


“You are all correct,” Bingley said while looking down, shoulders slumped.


Reginald almost felt sorry for the man, but he brought this upon himself. The whole family had let Miss Bingley’s actions go unchallenged for far too long. He watched as Bingley presumably came to a decision and visibly straightened his spine and shoulders.


“What were you thinking, Caroline?” Bingley asked. “Mr. Wickham made sure I overheard your plans, but I do not understand the reasoning behind them. Darcy and I both told you that he would never marry you. What did you hope to gain by this farce you concocted?”


“The life I was born to have! I am meant to be a part of the first circles. Ever since I met Mr. Darcy, I knew we were destined for each other. I waited for five years, FIVE YEARS!” Miss Bingley shouted at her brother. “And what does he do? He betrays me and proposes to a worthless chit who knows nothing about the society we are a part of.”


Reginald tried to contain his laughter, but it erupted, and he was not the only one. His Aunt Phoebe and Lady Catherine giggled like school girls.


“That was precious,” Aunt Phoebe said while wiping her eyes.


“Miss Elizabeth would not want to get close enough to look at the society Miss Bingley actually belongs to with the spyglass Mr. Dobbs showed us last night,” Lady Catherine said with crossed arms.


He laughed again at the look of outrage on the face of Miss Bingley.


“We will go to the colonies,” Bingley announced with a surprising amount of confidence in his voice. “I read an article about the Commissioner’s Plan for the island of Manhattan and another about the forts and cities being built on the land brought into that country by the Louisiana Purchase.”


“Charles, you cannot! I will not go with you,” Miss Bingley stated forcibly.


“That is your prerogative, Caroline. But remember, you are still repaying me for the purchases that were charged to my accounts when your allowance ran out and I do not have to release any funds from your inheritance for another six months. I do not think I want to know where you got the £100 you paid Mr. Wickham, but unless you lied to him, you have very little money. How will you live without any income until your birthday? You should also take into consideration how long it will take for the paperwork to be completed and the funds transferred when we are on separate continents,” Bingley said.


“You are correct, Mr. Bingley,” Palmrich said. “When I was on the continent, it could take almost three weeks to receive the post and it only had to cross a small channel, not an entire ocean. I would not be surprised if it took another six months to complete all the legal documents to fully release your sister’s dowry.”


“Thank you, Lord Palmrich,” Bingley said with a nod. “Regardless, my sister will not be returning to the ball.”


“Why am I the only one being punished?” Miss Bingley asked petulantly. “What about Mr. Wickham? He was part of the scheme too.”


“Who?” Sakville asked with a smirk. “I do not see anyone else in the room.”


“Mr. Wickham is right over there...” Miss Bingley raised her arm and turned to point when she noticed nobody was standing next to the wall. “He must have gone to inform everyone what we decided upon in the hope that I would still pay him the balance we agreed upon.”


“With what money, Caroline? Did you forget that not even two minutes ago, I stated that you were broke and I would not be giving you a farthing?” Bingley asked.


“I am sure Colonel Forster would explain to anyone who asked that Lieutenant Wickham was with him, drafting a response to a note that arrived informing him of an issue that arose at the militia camp during the musicians entire break,” Bennet said with twinkling eyes.


“Caroline, you will not be allowed to spread any unfounded rumours about the Bennet ladies before we leave Netherfield and England,” Bingley stated.


“Well done, Mr. Bingley,” Lady Catherine said. “I was wondering if you would realize you needed to intercede without having to be told. If she does manage to spread malicious gossip and our investigators can trace it back to her, we will not hesitate to file a slander suit.”


“Probably multiple suits,” Miss de Bourgh corrected. “Miss Bingley does not seem like the type to practice moderation. She is bound to go too far and give us enough evidence to be awarded the rest of her dowry and quite possibly more.”


“What do you plan to do with your sister?” Aunt Phoebe asked. “If it has not already, our absence is bound to be commented on soon. We need to return to the ballroom as soon as possible.”


“Mrs. Nicholls, please take my sister to her room,” Bingley said.


“You will have Molly and Sara sit in the room with Miss Bingley and post two footmen in the hallway outside her door and two more at the servant’s entrance, Mrs. Nicholls. I do not want to take any chances that she will ruin this night for my cousins. I also do not want to risk her being able to start gossip to damage my cousins’ reputations,” Sakville said. “Any post she attempts to send while here, is to be given to her brother.”


“Very good, sir,” Mrs. Nicholls said with an approving nod. “Allan and Alfie, help me escort Miss Bingley upstairs. Molly should be waiting in the hallway and she will find Sara before meeting us in Miss Bingley’s suite.”


“A well thought out plan. I would also suggest our guards are separated and stationed at each of the doors with a Netherfield footman. It would not surprise me if Miss Bingley tried to bribe someone into letting her out,” Bennet said with a grin.


“How dare you give orders to our servants,” Miss Bingley said with narrowed eyes.


“For heaven’s sake, girl, hold your tongue! I was standing here when you were told you are no longer the mistress of Netherfield,” Lady Catherine admonished. “As the son and brother of the owner, Mr. Sakville and Mr. Bennet are acting within the bounds of propriety.”


“Why do you two appear so shocked to find out Mr. Bennet’s sister is the wife of the owner of Netherfield? Have you learned nothing from your neighbours in the time you have been here?” Lady Dobbs asked. “I know the Sakville’s have given Mr. Trevor permission to act on their behalf, but everyone in Meryton knows who owns Netherfield. It is certainly not a secret and should have come up in any number of conversations.”


“I do not know about my sister, but I was never told,” Bingley said with a sad look. “I guess that is further proof we were never accepted by the residents of Meryton.”


“Mrs. Nicholls, you may ask Betsy to help watch Miss Bingley if you need to. She is in the ballroom with Maggie and Missy looking after my sisters and Georgie,” Miss Elizabeth said. “Lady Dobbs was right, we must start returning to the ballroom.”


“Mr. Bingley,” Jane said gently, “I think it would be best if you announce to everyone Miss Bingley came down with a bad headache or that she twisted her ankle, anything that requires her to stay in her room. It would be natural for Mrs. Verdier to graciously assume the role of hostess for the duration of the ball.”


“A very sensible suggestion, Miss Bennet,” Lady Catherine said.


“Come along girls,” Aunt Phoebe announced. “Catherine, Mrs. Gardiner, and I will escort all of you to the ballroom so nobody will think you hid away with your gentlemen. The men will return with Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner through the garden entrance.”


~*~



Netherfield, Hertfordshire
Tuesday, November 26, 1811



Fitzwilliam Darcy walked into the ballroom of Netherfield and immediately searched for Elizabeth. Their eyes met and they shared a smile. He was relieved the evening’s drama had been concluded. He was impatient for the next three sets to conclude so he could dance with Elizabeth again before their engagement would be announced at supper.


He had danced the first with Elizabeth, second with Georgie, third with Miss Bennet, and fourth with Anne. His next partners would be his future wife’s younger sisters and then Elizabeth again. He spent the time during the first three dances getting to know his soon-to-be sisters and learning a lot about their family and hearing stories about Elizabeth as she grew up.


William heard the whispers of approvals and saw the pleased smiles when he took Elizabeth’s hand and led her to the floor for the second time that night. They danced perfectly in sync and words were not necessary. They spoke volumes to each other with glances and touches of their hands. After the set, they found Georgie and he proudly walked into the dining room with the two women he loved most in the world on his arms.


Palmrich and Hurst had preceded them into the room and secured a table. They had a pleasant meal with thought-provoking conversation. After dinner, Mrs. Verdier announced the instrument would be opened after a few words from two of the guests.


“Thank you, Mrs. Verdier, for assuming the role of hostess after Miss Bingley’s unfortunate fall and for allowing me and Lady Catherine to make two announcements, although I doubt they will surprise our friends,” Mr. Bennet stated with a smile. “Just this morning, Mr. Hurst asked my eldest daughter Jane to be his wife and she accepted.”


His aunt and Bennet waited patiently for the applause and cheers to end.


“On behalf of my family, I am pleased to inform you that my nephew, Mr. Darcy, finally made an offer of marriage to Miss Elizabeth. She also accepted,” Lady Catherine said with a grin.


“The wedding dates will be announced shortly,” Mr. Bennet added once it was quiet again.


“It seems Mr. Bennet is not as knowledgeable as we all thought him to be,” Lady Catherine said offhandedly with a grin. “As the de facto mothers of the grooms, and knowing Mrs. Bennet was preoccupied with her happy condition, Lady Dobbs and I decided a fortnight ago that there would be a double wedding which would be held on Tuesday, December seventeenth. The rector has agreed to have the church available and perform the service.”


William laughed with everyone else in the room and mouthed ‘thank you’ to his aunt.


“Does that meet with your approval, Elizabeth?” he asked nervously.


“Yes, William. Could...” Elizabeth answered before stopping suddenly.


Guessing what she was going to ask, he said, “You want to stay in Meryton until your sibling is born?”


“I would, however, I understand we may have to return to Pemberley. You have been away from your home for many months.”


“Haye Park is one of my homes now too. I did purchase it from the Gouldings, after all,” he said with a smile. “I have an extremely competent steward, who I trust completely, at Pemberley. I anticipated your desire to stay near your mother and understand. In your place, I would certainly have made the same request.”


“Mother and I will return to Rosings after the weddings,” Anne told them. “We have greatly enjoyed our time in Meryton but it is time. We would like you and Elizabeth to visit in April as you have done in the past.”


“We will have to let you know, Anne. Elizabeth and I need to discuss our future life first,” he told his cousin.


Shortly after the instrument was opened, he proudly listened to Georgie and the younger Bennet sisters perform the songs they had practiced so diligently. Afterwards, they took their leave and returned to Longbourn with Mrs. Waldron.


The rest of the evening passed pleasantly. He and Elizabeth were congratulated by everyone they came across. Miss Bingley was not seen again. Bingley did his best to act normal, but William knew his friend well enough that he could tell he was hurting. He would be sad to see Bingley leave England, but knew it was for the best. With Miss Bingley an ocean away, he would not always have to fear for Elizabeth’s safety.


Finally, the last set arrived. It had not taken much for him to convince the musicians to play a waltz instead of the dance Miss Bingley had requested. He was very eager to hold Elizabeth in his arms as they waltzed.


The dance floor was uncrowded during the waltz, which allowed them to spread out and perform the dance as it was intended. In addition to the three engaged couples, they were joined by the Gardiners, Lucas’, Lady Dobbs and Dobbs, and three other married couples. Having Elizabeth in his arms, and looking up at him with pure love and adoration shining in her eyes, was a dream come true. He would remember this dance for the rest of his life. As the final cords drifted away, the guests applauded.


“That was so beautiful,” Mrs. Bennet gushed from her chair on the side of the dance floor. “Jane and Lizzy looked like they were gliding across the dance floor on a cloud.”


“You made me envious that I have yet to learn the steps,” his Aunt Catherine said. “Anne and I will have to have a dance master teach us at Rosings in the spring before the season starts.”


The Longbourn and Haye Park groups were the first of all the guests to depart, and, by a manoeuvre of Mrs. Bennet, did not have to wait for their carriages even a quarter of an hour after the final set had ended.


He handed Elizabeth into the Bennet carriage and whispered, “I love you.”


~*~



Longbourn, Hertfordshire
Tuesday, November 26, 1811



Thomas Bennet paced in front of the fireplace in his study after returning from the Netherfield ball. He was not sure he wanted to let his daughters participate in the morning’s events. It was insane, no matter how well they were protected, to purposefully put them in the path of danger.


“Calm down, Bennet, they will be safe,” Sakville told him.


Sakville, Edmund, and Juliet had been in London at the behest of his sister. Sakville had unexpected estate business that needed to be personally completed with his solicitors and Jane insisted Edmund and Juliet joined him to make sure everything on her shopping list was purchased. His sister wanted to make sure her family did not have to leave Cloverdale after she entered her confinement.


Lucky for Thomas, his sister’s family was still in London when Mr. Wickham approached Darcy to inform him of the upcoming meetings and he was able to send Sakville an express and keep him apprised of the situation. He appreciated his brother-in-law’s counsel and support during this difficult time.


“I am very glad to have you at Longbourn, Sakville. You have no idea how it eases my mind that you are here with me.”


“Oh, I think I do, Bennet. Did you forget, my daughter will be with the riding party tomorrow?”


“Are you sure you want her there?”


“No, but Juliet made a convincing argument on the way here. I was able to get a royal arrest warrant based on the affidavits of Mr. Wickham, Alfie, and Allan. Royal guards will be leaving London tomorrow at daybreak and, with Colonel Forster’s assistance, will be in position well before our girls leave Longbourn,” Sakville said.


“That does ease my mind, slightly,” he said.


“Go to bed, Bennet.”


“I doubt I will be able to sleep.”


“We could have a drink or two and play a few games of chess,” Sakville offered. “That may help you relax.”


“Good idea, my friend,” he said as he headed for the brandy decanter.


~*~



Oakham Mount, Hertfordshire
Wednesday, November 27, 1811



Elizabeth Bennet looked around the top of Oakham Mount as circumspectly as possible. She was on the expected horseback ride with Jane, Georgie, Juliet, Charlotte, and a maid. Her younger sisters and Anne wanted to come along but were forbidden.


The riders were trying to appear as normal as possible. They were chatting and laughing while the horses walked up the trail. When they reached the top, the ladies secured their horses to the right of the grove of trees and laid the blanket down on the left, as they had agreed in advance.


Just before they sat down to enjoy their snack, they heard a carriage nearby and someone speak.


“Look what we have here, Mr. Wickham. Five little birdies that three families will pay handsomely to see returned, unharmed.”


“Who might you be?” Elizabeth asked the woman. She spoke with a forced calm that belied her pounding heart and shaking hands she tried to hide in her skirts. She could see the top of a carriage and could tell the driver had turned the equipage around. She noticed Mr. Wickham standing on one side of the mount and another man standing on the other side. Both of their escape routes were effectively cut off.


“I am the woman who is going to kidnap you and ransom you to your aunt and uncle and parents,” the woman replied with a sneer.


“Why would you expect my Uncle Gardiner to pay a ransom for us before our parents?” she asked curiously.


“Your mother’s brother could not pay a fraction of the amount the Duke of Dorset has access to.”


“How do you know what my uncle’s title is?” Jane asked, looking shocked.


“I know a lot about your family.”


“Miss... Sorry, you have yet to tell us your name. Why would you expend so much energy uncovering details about us that do not affect you?” she asked.


“My name is Mrs. Younge, however, my maiden name was Attwood.”


Mrs. Younge looked at them as though had just given information that should have astounded them all. Elizabeth looked at her companions and they also appeared to be unaware of the significance of her maiden name.


“I am sorry, Mrs. Younge, but I do not understand why hearing the name Attwood should make things clear to us,” she said.


“How could you not know!” Mrs. Younge screamed. “Your aunt ruined our lives!”


“Aunt Jane? She could never do harm to anyone,” her sister Jane said.


“She certainly destroyed my family!”


“How? What did she do to you?” she asked. Elizabeth was very confused. Her Aunt Jane was a gentle person who went out of her way to help people in need.


“She refused to marry my father! Six months after my mother died, father went to Mr. Bennet to ask for Miss Bennet’s hand. Father said Miss Bennet had been flirting with him and was expecting his offer, but she refused him because the new heir to Netherfield showed up with his fancy carriage and numerous servants. Their new neighbour could obviously offer her more material comforts than my father!” Mrs. Younge explained forcefully.


“Aunt Jane loves Uncle Frederick,” Elizabeth said. “She would never marry anyone for anything less.”


“Do not be naïve. Of course she did. As soon as a rich man arrived in Meryton, she told Mr. Bennet to refuse my father’s proposal and then immediately seduced the rich young man using his son and her favours. She probably found out he was a duke from one of his servants,” Mrs. Younge claimed. “What else could her reason have been?”


Elizabeth was shocked this woman would say something like that about her aunt. Her Aunt Jane was one of the most honourable women she knew.


“What about Mr. Wickham? What is he doing here?” Charlotte asked. “What does he get out of helping you?”


“We will all take a trip to Gretna Green in the carriage I rented. Mr. Wickham will marry Miss Darcy and pay me a third of her dowry, keep the rest for himself, and abandon her,” Mrs. Younge explained.


“You were so nice to me, Mrs. Younge. Why involve me in your scheme?” Georgie asked bravely.


“For your money, obviously. In addition, your brother’s relationship with the Bennet’s made it too convenient to pass up. I could earn the money I need while harming the family I despise at the same time.”


“Why do you need money?” Juliet asked.


“My father is very old and his health is declining. Thankfully, when your great-grandfather made him the vicar of Longbourn, he was promised, in writing, a pensioner’s cottage when he was incapable of carrying out his duties.”


“I do not remember a Mr. Attwood ever being our vicar,” Elizabeth said.


“He was forced to stop preaching when you were a young child,” Mrs. Younge explained. “The doctor was never certain if it was a disease of his heart or if he had a minor apoplexy, but my father’s left side is partially paralysed and his speech is slurred. For years he has been surviving on his small pension and the kindness of his neighbours. I send him money from my wages when I can.”


“Every time I pray, I will include one for your father, Mrs. Younge,” Georgie said with tears in her eyes. “I will also ask my brother to do whatever we can to help him. I wish you would have said something sooner. All of your students would have been pleased to make your father articles of clothing and use our lessons to supply practical help in any way we could.”


“I sympathize with the position your father found himself in, but why hold a grudge against the Bennet family? I now realize I have heard my parents talk about your father and was able to put that information together with what you have just told us. Your father was older than my friend’s grandfather, was he not? Why would your father have asked for the hand of a girl, not even out of the schoolroom, who was less than half his age?” Charlotte asked.


“Because I liked her!” Mrs. Younge screamed. “I was five years old and I missed my mother. Father tells me that I decided Miss Bennet would be my new mother and became upset whenever she was not near me. I became unruly when she married and moved away and my father could not care for me alone. Without a new wife, and unable to find one near Meryton because of the rumours surrounding his attempt to marry Miss Bennet, he had to send me to live with my aunt and uncle. Their home was nice enough to live in at first, but after they started having my cousins, I was turned into a convenient nanny and maid rolled into one. I was fortunate enough to gain an education and get married as soon as possible. In my haste to leave my indentured situation, I married an abusive man who only wanted me to be available for his baser needs. My one saving grace was that he passed away less than a year after we married. If Jane Bennet had just agreed to marry my father, I could have stayed in Meryton, I would have had brothers and sisters, and I would never have put myself under the control of a worthless man! But of course, my father was not good enough for the princess of Longbourn. Everything that befell me and my family is all her fault! She deserves to pay! I only wish she was standing in front of me instead of her nieces and their friends.”


“What would you do?” Elizabeth asked, following the plan by trying to get more information.


Mrs. Younge took a pistol out of her pocket, leveled it at her, cocked the hammer, and answered, “I would shoot her dead but, in her absence, you will have to be good enough, Miss Elizabeth. I do know what you are doing. You are distracting me with all of this talk so you will be missed, and a search party will be sent. It will not work. Get in the carriage.”


“Do as she says. I believe she will not hesitate to hurt us,” Elizabeth said. She was shaken to see a gun, but was glad it was pointed at her rather than anyone else.


They silently walked the short distance to the carriage and Mr. Wickham handed them in.


As the maid passed Mrs. Younge, Mr. Wickham asked, “What should we do with the maid? Take her with us?”


Elizabeth watched from the open door as Alfie used Mrs. Younge’s momentary distraction to take the gun from her. He pulled off his bonnet and yelled, “All clear!”


“Well done,” the driver called out.


“Perfect timing, lad,” the other man that arrived with Mrs. Younge said.


Mr. Wickham handed the ladies out of the carriage as William and a sea of people converged upon them.


~*~



Oakham Mount, Hertfordshire
Wednesday, November 27, 1811



Reginald Hurst wished he had been able to get closer to Jane and the other ladies on Oakham Mount. It was unadulterated agony to be forced to listen to Mrs. Younge’s fanatical rant and not be close enough to save Jane if needed.


He trusted Alfie implicitly. For goodness sake, the young man was the one to suggest he wear a maid’s dress and a big bonnet to cover his face so he could be close enough to protect their ladies. He was even becoming more confident in Mr. Wickham’s reformation after last evening.


It was rather brilliant of Mr. Bennet to hire two more footmen, this time former soldiers who were recommended by Richard and Palmrich and set them up in Meryton as a pair of shady brothers. It was pure luck Mrs. Younge ended up hiring Parker and Harrison to be the carriage driver and extra muscle. It made him feel better to know that if, somehow, things went wrong, they still had two men on the inside.


Mrs. Younge mentioned shooting Elizabeth, and he froze in panic. He noticed Colonel Forster grabbing William’s arm to keep him from intervening. The minute that passed before Alfie sounded the all clear, seemed like an eternity.


William was the first person to rush out of their hiding place and Reginald was right behind his friend. He took Jane in his arms the second he was close enough. “Oh, my love, if anything had happened to you, I would never have forgiven myself.”


“I am unharmed, Reginald.”


“Excuse me, Mr. Hurst and Mr. Darcy. Would you gentlemen mind removing your arms from around my nieces?” the Duke of Dorset asked.


“I apologize, Your Grace. I could not help myself,” he explained as he stepped away from Jane but kept her hand in his.


“I cannot apologize, Your Grace, nor can I let go of Elizabeth. Mrs. Younge had a firearm pointed at her. I am so sorry I let you do this, Elizabeth. I will never forgive myself,” William said with his cheek on Miss Elizabeth’s hair and his eyes misty.


“I do understand, truly, but others are present. At the very least, take your cheek off her head,” the duke said as he released his own daughter from his arms.


“My brother is right, Darcy. It is unlikely anyone here will gossip, but it is safer to take a step back. Everything turned out well,” Bennet said. “Do not get lost in a sea of what-ifs.”


Reginald saw William take a deep breath in Miss Elizabeth’s hair, before he raised his head and stepped back slightly.


“Guards, take Mrs. Younge into custody and bring her directly to the Tower of London. I have all of the necessary paperwork for her arrest and expect her to be executed before the week is out,” the duke said.


“I am guaranteed a trial,” Mrs. Younge hissed.


“True, but you were caught in the act, while attempting to kidnap five gentlewomen, one of whom is the daughter of a duke. When I was alerted to your plans, I spoke to my cousin, the Lord Chamberlain, and he made sure I left London with an arrest warrant in your name and that a contingent of royal guards arrived at the militia camp this early morning. You would probably have been hung just for conspiring to kidnap these fine ladies, but Lord Ellenborough’s Act1 will ensure that you are swiftly hung for pointing a firearm at one of his Majesty’s subjects, regardless of their rank,” the duke explained.


“The daughter of a duke? I thought she was one of the Bennet sisters. I did not intend to... That means you are the man who was taken in by the former Miss Bennet’s charms. Did you know she had set her sights on my father before you came to Meryton? You were second best, chosen for your money,” Mrs. Younge spat.


“On the contrary, my wife had refused your father’s offer before I arrived in Meryton. In fact, my mother-in-law had written a letter to her cousin, asking him to take Jane into his household to protect her from your father’s unwanted advances.”


“Lies! Rubbish! Filth! Hogwash! You are a scoundrel, liar, and a coward, sir!” Mrs. Younge screamed.


“Take her away, commander,” the duke ordered.


Reginald watched in silence with everyone else as the royal guards loaded Mrs. Younge into the same carriage she had planned to use in her kidnapping scheme and start for the road to London.


“Make sure I do not forget to send your mother an express letting her know what happened and that you are unharmed, Juliet,” the duke said.


“Your Grace, if I might ask...” William started before he was cut off.


“You will be my nephews soon. Please, call me Sakville.”


“Only if you will call us Darcy and Hurst,” William responded. When Sakville nodded his acceptance, his friend continued, “Why did you let Miss Sakville join the riding party this morning?”


“Juliet insisted and my son agreed,” Sakville said simply. “With the sworn affidavits of Allan, Alfie, and Lieutenant Wickham, I was able to get the arrest warrant issued in mere minutes. With my influence, attempting to kidnap my nieces, Miss Darcy, and Miss Lucas would surely have seen Mrs. Young hung by a noose after a trial. My daughter being a victim of Mrs. Younge’s scheme, will merely accelerate the speed in which the case makes its way through Old Bailey and the trial is held. Make no mistake, I take the protection of my family very seriously. Mrs. Younge has been in Meryton stalking my family members for months. She was not as clandestine as she would have liked, because Allan warned me of her actions shortly after she arrived.”


“While I hate to see anyone’s life end, I understand and appreciate the actions you took,” Miss Darcy said.


Miss Darcy was such a kind and gentle young lady, Reginald was shocked. He could tell everyone else was too.


“Georgie, I am surprised to hear you say that. Do not misunderstand me, that was not a complaint or admonishment. I must admit, I am rather impressed at the astuteness of your statement,” William said.


“You did not see the look on her face, William. I would not have slept well knowing she was in prison and could possibly escape,” Miss Darcy explained with a shudder.


“I agree wholeheartedly,” Jane said, and the rest of the ladies voiced their agreement. “Until I know she is no longer a threat, I will be worried.”


“We would have made sure you were safe, Miss Darcy,” Edmund Sakville said. “No harm will ever come to you if it could be prevented.”


Reginald caught William rolling his eyes and smirked. The young pup was completely smitten with Miss Darcy and it was amusing to watch. He was surprised when Sakville looked directly at him, nodded at William, and quietly snickered along with Bennet.


“Mr. Wickham, I thank you for your assistance,” Sakville said, presumably to change the subject. “I have heard a lot about you. It is commendable how you managed to turn your life around.”


“Thank you, Your Grace. When you find out a fundamental thing you believed about yourself was not true, it has a significant effect on your outlook. Besides, I have known Miss Darcy her entire life and could not stand to see her harmed. I decided to stand by my childhood friend. After all, he has more to give,” Wickham said with a devilish grin.


“Thank you for mentioning my wealth,” William said with a laugh. “It reminded me that congratulations are in order, Captain Wickham. Colonel Forster told me your promotion came through after my generous donation.”


“I cannot tell you how much I appreciated being given the chance to redeem myself, Darcy,” Mr. Wickham said.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 29

LizzySOctober 22, 2020 11:39PM

Re: Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 29

EvelynJeanOctober 23, 2020 05:40AM



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