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Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 30

October 30, 2020 01:18AM
I realized that in chapter 22 I switched from Fanny to Fannie. I will edit the chapters to correct the ie’s.

There will be one more chapter and an epilogue, I think. If the last chapter gets too long, I may have to split it.

Chapter 30

Longbourn, Hertfordshire
Wednesday, November 27, 1811

Frances Bennet could tell her husband and everyone else had been keeping something from her. She knew that this late in her condition, they were trying to protect her from whatever unpleasantness they were dealing with, but it irked her nonetheless.

This morning, her sister-in-law Madeline, the children, and Mrs. Waldron had gone into Meryton to visit Stuart and Evelyn Phillips. Shortly after the Gardiner carriage left, Lady Dobbs and Lady Catherine had come to pay a visit, supposedly to meet and talk over the ball and to start planning the upcoming weddings. Frances may be many things, but she was no fool. They were here to distract her. She had finally decided to come directly to the point.

“Enough of this prevarication, ladies. Were you sent here to engage me in conversation as a diversion? Did Thomas actually think sending you here to discuss wedding plans would be enough of a distraction to make me forget that all of the men in my family left with my eldest daughters and niece, after they refused to let my youngest daughters and Miss de Bourgh join them? What is going on, Catherine?” she asked with narrowed eyes.

“I do not understand what you are referring to, Frances,” Lady Catherine responded innocently.

Did her friends think she was naïve? Where do they think Lizzy got her spirit from? It would have been insulting if she were not certain they had her best interest in mind. “Stubble it!1 Do you think there is nothing between my ears but air? I believe my Brother Sakville was sent to London by my sister to complete his business and was stranded because of the rain. However, the flimsy excuse they used to explain why my brother, nephew, and niece arrived at Longbourn yesterday was laughable. Nothing but a dire circumstance would have brought him to Longbourn instead of returning directly to Jane’s side. WHAT IS GOING ON?” she asked forcefully while leaning forward.

“Calm yourself, Frances,” Lady Dobbs said soothingly.

Frances turned to have a go at Phoebe when she heard a strange popping sound and felt as though she had lost control of her bladder. Her eyes opened in disbelief. It was too soon!


Longbourn, Hertfordshire
Wednesday, November 27, 1811

Lady Catherine de Bourgh heard a popping sound when her friend turned and was concerned. She stood up quickly and walked towards the woman who was extremely heavy with child. “Frances, are you well? Has your lower back been aching all day? Please tell me that sound I heard when you turned towards Phoebe was your back cracking.”

A pale Frances turned back to her and said, “I am afraid I will need you to send your daughter’s footman, Jones, for Mr. Jones and the midwife. Phoebe, please get Mr. Hill to help me to the birthing chair in my room and ask Mrs. Hill to start the preparations after she sends a maid to the Phillips’ house to fetch Evelyn and Madeline.”

As soon as Catherine realized what was happening, she hurried to find Jones. Phoebe was right behind her to search for the housekeeper and manservant.

When they walked back in a few moments later, Frances said, “I am worried. ‘Tis too soon. With Madeline and Mrs. Waldron in Meryton visiting my sister and everyone else dealing with whatever you are all hiding from me, what will we do with my girls and Anne? They cannot witness the birth, but I do not want to leave them alone.”

“Mr. Hill, after you perform your task, you will go to Lucas Lodge and explain what is happening. I am sure Lady Lucas and Miss Maria would welcome their company,” Phoebe said. “If the Lucas’s agree, you will escort the Bennet sisters and Miss de Bourgh to their house and stay there until Jones replaces you.”

“Mr. Hill, you must gently lift Mrs. Bennet and carry her upstairs,” Lady Catherine informed the manservant.

“What about Thomas? He must be informed,” Frances said before she was struck by an obviously strong pain.

After the pain ended, she asked, “Frances, do you happen to recall how long it took for your daughters to be born?”

“They got faster as they went, Catherine.”

“I remember that Miss Lydia arrived less than an hour after the first pains started. She waited just long enough for Mr. Jones to arrive before making her appearance,” Mr. Hill added as he picked up his employer.

Catherine watched in concern as Frances started having another pain. “Hurry, Mr. Hill! Phoebe, tell Mrs. Hill we will need her help right away. I do not think this babe will wait for Mr. Jones.”

She was grateful she had toured Frances’ rooms the week prior because she was able to lead the way for Mr. Hill and make his job easier. “Do not bother going to Lucas Lodge to ask for permission, Mr. Hill. My daughter and the Bennet sisters are already outside in the garden. Take them to the stables. They can watch the grooms saddle their horses and ride over to Lucas Lodge with you. If the Lucas family is not at home, take the girls on a long ride. Just keep them away from Longbourn for the time being.”

“Very well, My Lady. Best wishes, Mrs. Bennet,” he said before rushing out the door.

“Oh, Catherine, what am I going to do,” Frances wailed. “It is too soon. Mr. Jones told me I would give birth around our Lord’s birthday. I am scared.”

“Calm down, Frances, or you will make this harder on yourself. Whatever happens is God’s will and worrying will not change the outcome,” she desperately tried to comfort her friend who was having labour pains very close together. “Perhaps Mr. Jones was wrong in his calculations. I have heard of women having their courses even though they are with child. Was the last one you had different than normal?”

Frances was unable to answer as a pain wracked her body. Catherine held her hand and mopped her forehead with the handkerchief she pulled out of her pocket.

Phoebe and Mrs. Hill entered the room with their hands full of supplies.

“Mrs. Hill, do you have any experience with childbirth? Were you present when the other children were born?” she asked worriedly. Before the housekeeper could respond, another pain started.

“I feel like I have to push,” Frances screamed.

Catherine had no choice but to kneel and lift Frances’ skirts. She was shocked when she saw dark hair.

“Oh, heaven help us, I see hair. The child is coming very fast. The head is out now! Quick, I need a blanket or towel!” she screamed before she literally caught the child as it was born.

“Here, hand the babe to me,” Phoebe said while holding a towel down towards her.

“Here you go, little man. Phoebe will keep you warm,” Catherine said. “Congratulations, Frances, you have a son.”

“Oh, our prayers have been answered,” Frances said in relief before she screamed in pain again.

Catherine was shocked to see another head appear, this time with light hair. “Mrs. Hill, I am going to need another towel,” she ordered as this child, slightly smaller than his brother, came into the world screaming.

“Twins, Frances! You have two sons! Oh my stars, I never would have imagined,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Mrs. Hill handed her a towel and said, “I will take care of cleaning Mrs. Bennet. Betsy has arrived with the first batch of water.”

“How hot is that water, Betsy?” she asked after she stood up. “It should only be slightly warmer than room temperature for their first baths.”

“Twins?” the maid asked with large eyes. “How wonderful. This water is only slightly warmed. Lady Dobbs said things were going fast so I brought some right away.”

“Perfect. Do you happen to know if there was another cradle in the attic, Betsy?”

“I am sorry, My Lady, but I was not involved in the nursery preparations.”

Catherine was surprised when Mrs. Verdier walked into the room trailed by a nervous looking kitchen maid.

“I apologize for the interruption, Ladies. When I arrived, the front door went unanswered, so I walked to the kitchen entrance and found it in an upheaval. I managed to convince this maid to escort me here when I realized what was transpiring.”

“All is forgiven, Mrs. Verdier. You may go back to work. You did nothing wrong,” Catherine told the maid. “How much experience do you have with infants? I am afraid I left much of the work to my nursery staff.”

“I am the second eldest of nine children, so I have been around quite a few babes. Please, feel free to refer to me as Dorothea or Dot,” Mrs. Verdier responded.

“I also have younger siblings and will gladly help,” the maid, Betsy, said.

“Wonderful. What should we do with the children until Mr. Jones or the midwife arrives?” Catherine asked.

“Twins?” Mrs. Verdier asked with wide eyes. “What are their sexes?”

“They are both boys. Can you believe it? An heir and a spare,” Lady Dobbs said with a grin.

“Who has the first-born?” Mrs. Verdier asked.

“I do,” Phoebe said. “He has not left my arms since Catherine handed him to me after he was born. Catherine is still holding the second-born after he made his unexpected arrival.”

“Well done, ladies. We have to be very careful we do not accidently mix the boys up. Lady Dobbs, I will bathe the first-born and give him back to you,” Mrs. Verdier said before she picked up the crying infant and walked towards the water basin. “I would welcome your assistance, Betsy.”

“Frances, how do you feel?”

“I am well, Catherine. Is it true? I have two sons? Are they healthy?”

“They both appear to be. Congratulations,” she said gently. “We have been calling them the first-born and second-born. Had you and Mr. Bennet agreed upon a name for a son? It would be nice if we could start calling the first-born by his name.”

“We had decided on Gerald Edward to honour our fathers. I think splitting the name would make sense.”

“A good idea, Frances. If I might make a suggestion,” Phoebe said, “how about Gerald Thomas?”

“That is absolutely perfect, Phoebe. I am sure Thomas will feel the same. We could name his brother Edward Frederick,” Frances said with a yawn. “My brother-in-law has always been kind to us.”

They were quiet for a few moments while Mrs. Hill finished cleaning Mrs. Bennet and got her changed into a nightgown.

Catherine could not believe she helped deliver two babes. Her brother and sister-in-law would never believe it when they read her letter. When Anne was born, she was in labor for eighteen hours. She was rather jealous of Frances for having given birth so quickly. If they had not become such good friends, Catherine could be in danger of hating her a little bit for how easy the ordeal had been for her. Looking down at Edward Frederick, she realized it was worth dealing with a distressing situation to have this dear boy in her arms.

“Mrs. Bennet, do you feel strong enough to hold Gerald Thomas? He is clean and looks as though he might be hungry,” Mrs. Verdier asked.

“I would love nothing more than to hold him.”

Catherine watched as Mrs. Verdier gave Gerald Thomas to his mother and showed her how to feed the babe. She handed Edward Frederick over for his bath and watched as Frances unwrapped the blanket around her first-born son slightly to look at his fingers and toes.

“Frances, did you arrange for a wet nurse?” Phoebe asked.

“I have an interview scheduled, but her current contract does not end for another fortnight. I had planned to offer the job if she fit into our family well.”

“When Mr. Jones gets here, you should speak to him. I heard some gossip after church services this past Sunday, unavoidably I assure you,” Phoebe said. “One of your tenants has a niece staying on their farm, the Page family. The niece was a maid in the London townhouse of the scoundrel who almost succeeded in compromising Grace. The young maid was not as lucky as my niece and was unable to escape her master’s unwanted advances. The poor girl was fired when the consequences became obvious.”

“The depravity of some individuals never ceases to amaze me,” she said.

“Not many households would hire a ruined servant. However, I thought that given what we know of the unscrupulous gentleman, there would be no doubt in our minds the child did not seduce her master.”

“Is that what the gossips were saying?” she asked, affronted on behalf of the maid.

“Only one lady suggested it, Catherine. I am afraid I lost my temper and gave her a lecture about spreading unfounded gossip, in a church yard no less.”

“James 1:26?” Catherine asked with a smirk.

“Is there a better verse for the situation? Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” Phoebe recited. “I then told those ladies what I myself had witnessed of that man’s behaviour towards Grace.”

“It sounds like the young girl needs a strong advocate to help her,” Mrs. Verdier said as she walked up with a clean Edward Frederick in her arms.

“More than you know, Dot. She is only fourteen and has had a rough time so far. One of the ladies made it sound like she and the babe may not survive,” Phoebe said softly.

“I have wrapped young Edward in a yellow blanket and Gerald, who is noticeably larger than his brother, is in white. Perhaps Mr. Jones will have another idea how we can make sure these adorable boys are not mixed up. It would be a disaster when ownership of an estate is in question.”

“Very true, Mrs. Verdier,” Mr. Jones said from the doorway. “It appears as though my help is no longer needed. Congratulations, Mrs. Bennet.”

“Thank you, Mr. Jones. Do you have any ideas of ways to tell my sons apart?” Frances asked.

“Let us move Mrs. Bennet to her bed and then we will unwrap both boys and look at them closely,” Mr. Jones said.

Phoebe pulled back the blankets before Mr. Jones picked his patient up and settled her on the bed. Both boys were laid on the bed and unswaddled.

“Master Gerald Thomas Bennet, who I had to catch when he made his speedy appearance, is older and bigger with dark hair. I will never be able to forget that sight,” she said with a shudder. “Master Edward Frederick Bennet, who surprised us a few moments later, is smaller and has light hair.”

“Size and hair colour can change,” Mr. Jones said as he was examining the boys. “We need to find distinguishing marks. Here, see, the elder boy has a small mole on his stomach and his younger brother has a patch of red skin on his neck, commonly called a stork bite. These two marks may change slightly as they grow older, but I have never heard of them disappearing. I will make sure Mr. Bennet notes the size and location of the marks for each babe in his family Bible.”


Longbourn, Hertfordshire
Wednesday, November 27, 1811

Thomas Bennet knew he was in for a tongue lashing by Fanny. Thankfully, she had not pressed him for an explanation for his evasiveness, yet, but as they approached the stables of Longbourn, he knew the time of reckoning had arrived and his wife would be justifiably furious.

He was surprised when they were not met by someone prepared to care for the horses. “Something is wrong,” he muttered.

His heart almost stopped when Noah Sims, who had ridden ahead, came running towards them from the house.

“Mr. Bennet, you are needed inside. Your wife has started her labour pains. I will take your horse.”

Thomas slid out of his saddle and threw the reins to his brother’s footman before hurrying to his wife’s rooms. When he arrived, he heard Mr. Jones discussing the marks that needed to be noted in his family Bible.

“Did I hear Jones say ‘each babe’? Did Fanny give birth to twins?” he asked from the doorway, unable to move his feet.

“Thomas, come and meet your sons,” his darling wife said.

“My sons?” he asked in a rough voice.

“I hope you do not mind, but we have been calling our eldest son Gerald Thomas and his younger brother Edward Frederick. Would you like to change the middle names?” Fanny asked with an apologetic look.

“My dear, you just birthed two children. I do believe that entitles you to adjust the name we had agreed upon without worrying that I would not approve. Besides, I am sure you know I would have suggested the same combinations,” he said with a wink as he walked towards his newest family members.

“Mr. Jones, please tell us about Miss Page,” Lady Catherine said. “Lady Dobbs mentioned her condition was not progressing normally.”

“I was on my way home from the Page farm when Jones found me. I am sorry to say that just after dawn, her pregnancy ended too early with a stillborn birth. Miss Page has been distraught since she was fired and she came to Meryton. She talked to me about her circumstances briefly the first time I examined her. At that time, shame and fear battled for dominance in her thoughts. For a brief moment, she looked relieved when I told her the babe did not survive but a few seconds later, she looked inconsolable and cried hysterically. I am very worried about what she might do to herself.”

Thomas was barely listening to their conversation. He was completely enthralled with his sons. Lady Catherine slapped his arm and looked at him expressively for a moment, but he had no idea what she was trying to tell him, so he went back to examining his sons. They were without a doubt perfect.

“Mr. Bennet, Frances told us the wet nurse she had hoped to hire would be unavailable for at least a fortnight. Do you have any idea what you will do until then?”

Why did Lady Catherine keep talking to him about women’s business when he was trying to memorize the features of his newest children.

“Bennet,” Jones said sharply, causing him to look up. “I believe Lady Catherine is trying to unobtrusively guide you to hire Miss Page as a wet nurse and bring her into your household. You know as well as I do that even though the young girl did nothing wrong, she will have a hard time finding a new position. She knows your family and, from what I have seen, feels comfortable with your wife and daughters. To my knowledge, she has never been frightened by you or any of the men working here. Shall we send a note asking her to temporarily fill in as a wet nurse to your sons and see how she handles the situation?”

“Please say yes, Mr. Bennet,” Lady Dobbs said with pleading eyes. “If you can help that young girl heal from the ordeal she has been through, it is your Christian duty to do so, sir. She has been through so much in such a short amount of time. She just needs a little bit of help and a chance to heal. She is probably battling an inner demon and requires a purpose. She needs to understand it was natural to feel momentary relief when the babe did not survive and that it does not make her a horrible person.”

“Lady Dobbs is absolutely correct. I am impressed. I believe that being around your sons and daughters will help Miss Page more so than staying where she is. I remember your daughters have given the Page family some of their old dresses. I am sure knowing of your generous nature, she will expect to be comfortable here. The best thing you can offer Miss Page, is a safe environment and a job she can handle in her fragile state.”

“I volunteer at a home for unwed mothers, Mr. Jones. I have spoken to quite a few young ladies who did not have successful births,” Lady Dobbs said sadly.

“We need to help, Thomas,” Fanny said.

“Mrs. Hill, please send a note to the Page farm. Explain what happened and ask if Miss Page would be willing to come here and help my wife,” he said.

“I will go myself, sir,” Mrs. Hill responded.

“Good idea, thank you,” he told his housekeeper.

“If nature follows the path I expect it will, one, or more likely both, of your eldest daughters will have need of Miss Page’s services about the time your sons are weaned,” Mr. Jones said with a grin.

Ignoring what his friend was insinuating, he said, “I need to bring my sons downstairs to meet Jane and Lizzy and the Sakville’s before they return home. Lady Catherine, would you please bring Edward?”

“Of course, Mr. Bennet. We sent Anne and your youngest daughters to Lucas Lodge with Mr. Hill. Never did I imagine Frances would deliver the babe so quickly.”

“I can believe that,” he laughed mirthlessly. “Fanny, we will be right back with the boys. Please get some rest, my dear.”

“Thank you, Thomas,” his wife said with a yawn.

Thomas carefully made his way down the stairs with Lady Catherine behind him.

“When I asked you and Lady Dobbs to keep Fanny occupied, I never expected you would be called upon to perform an unimaginable service to our family. I cannot thank you enough for everything you did to help my wife,” he said with misty eyes.

“I would say it was my pleasure, but honestly I am surprised I did not faint. I wish Phoebe had been closer so the task would have fallen to her. I am very happy for your family,” Lady Catherine responded.

“You can minimize your actions because the praise makes you uncomfortable, but I want you to know that I understand what you had to do and appreciate that you put yourself in an unpleasant position.”

He heard the door close and the voices of his sisters-in-law, Mrs. Waldron, and the Gardiner children.

“It sounds as though Madeline and Evelyn have arrived from Meryton. When I enter the parlour, wait a moment before you come in. You will understand,” he said with a smile and a raised eyebrow.

“Even in the middle of a serious conversation, on the day of your son’s births no less, you are a wily old man,” Lady Catherine responded with a shake of her head.

He made sure he was laughing as he entered the room and was surprised to see Dobbs and Mr. Collins among the occupants.

“Papa,” Jane asked with wonderment on her face, “did my mother give birth?”

“Yes, Jane. Allow me to introduce you all to Gerald Thomas Bennet,” he said proudly. Jane, Elizabeth, Juliet, and Miss Darcy rushed towards him and started exclaiming over his precious bundle. Madeline and Evelyn held back and smiled at the younger ladies.

“Congratulations, Bennet,” Sakville said. “I thought you had decided on Gerald Edward after the grandfathers?”

“That was the plan originally, but Fanny had to go and mess it up,” he said with feigned annoyance. He heard footsteps enter the room and assumed it was Lady Catherine. “We decided to split the original name and pair them with Thomas and Frederick as middle names.”

There was silence in the room as Lady Catherine stood next to him.

“Allow me to also introduce you to my younger son, Edward Frederick Bennet,” he said with an enormous smile.

“Oh Thomas,” Madeline chided gently.

“Twins? I must see how my sister is faring,” Evelyn said before exiting the room with Madeline trailing slowly behind her.

“My mother was a twin. Did anyone ever tell you that?” Gardiner asked with a grin. “Andrew and Philip are going to be very excited to finally have boy cousins who live close to London.”

“Jane is going to be jealous. Was Mrs. Bennet labouring before we left?” Sakville asked Lady Catherine.

“No, I assure you everything happened very quickly. I was standing closest to Frances and ended up delivering both boys,” Lady Catherine admitted. “It was definitely an experience I do not wish ever to duplicate.”

“Would you girls like to hold your brothers?” he asked his daughters. “Sit down on the settee and we will hand them to you.”

“Congratulations, sir,” Mr. Collins said after the boys had been transferred into the arms of their sisters.

Thomas was surprised at how genuine the man seemed. “Thank you, Mr. Collins. I feel I owe you an apology.”

“Whatever for, sir?” that man asked, looking confused.

“While I told you the absolute truth, I did purposefully deceive you when you arrived,” he admitted. “You see, my nephew Edmund is my sister’s step-son. He was two months old when they met.”

“I know.”

“You do? How?”

“I told him, Uncle Thomas,” Edmund said. “I spent most of the day with Mr. Collins yesterday. He is already much improved from what he was when he arrived. I felt he was owed the whole truth.”

“I understand why you made me believe I was not the heir presumptive. Just thinking back on my conduct makes me ashamed,” Mr. Collins said with his head hung down.

“Mr. Collins, you have been here nine days and have made so much progress. Do not get lost in the past,” Lady Catherine said.

“I am trying, My Lady.”

“Mr. Collins, I have spent most of the time since you arrived on the road,” Edmund Sakville explained. “I left for home the morning after we met.”

“I remember, sir.”

“I spent two days on horseback to deliver the candies I purchased for my mother, only to turn around and leave for London on horseback the next morning, again at my mother’s wishes. If father, Juliet, and I would have been approaching London from Meryton, it is unlikely we would have made it before the rain made the roads impassable. The carriage with our personal servants and trunks barely made it to our townhouse, our driver was afraid they would get stuck or break a wheel. We spent a few days held hostage by the weather in London, while exchanging letters with Longbourn, before coming here yesterday. To me, nothing of importance has happened since I left, other than a little shopping and a whole lot of travelling. Then I saw you, Mr. Collins. I, quite frankly, am amazed at the significant progress you have made in less than a fortnight, sir.”

“Thank you, Mr. Sakville. If I may ask, you said the rain kept you in London. How did you exchange letters with Longbourn?”

“It helps to have footmen who are very skilled with horses and extremely familiar with their mounts and the terrain. Noah, who works for us, was also eager to see his brother Allan, who works for the Bennet’s,” Edmund said with a grin.

“I think it shows a lot about your families, and how they treat their servants, that the siblings work for both households,” Mr. Collins said.

“Do not look so shocked, Mr. Bennet. As you can see, we managed to spend our rainy days stuck inside very productively. The poor man was never taught how to think for himself,” Lady Catherine explained.

“Speaking of travelling,” Sakville said. “Edmund and Juliet, if we plan to use the carriage and only want to spend two nights on the road, we need to leave shortly.”

“I would like to hold the boys first, father,” Juliet stated.

“Here, Juliet, let me give you Gerald,” Elizabeth said.

“Edmund, would you like to hold Edward?” Jane asked her cousin.

“I would be honoured,” Edmund said with a smile.

“Jane and Lizzy, I want you to know your cousins, Aunt Jane, and I are sorry we will not be here for your weddings. I apologize, but your aunt cannot travel, regardless of what she thinks,” Sakville said.

“We understand, Uncle Frederick,” Jane said, and Lizzy nodded her agreement.

“Tell Aunt Jane we will ask Kitty and Georgie to sketch pictures of our brothers,” Elizabeth said.

“She will appreciate that, Lizzy, thank you.”

“I would be more than happy to sketch them,” Miss Darcy said. “I am sure Kitty will be agreeable too.”

“Young ladies want to spend time in the nursery sketching babes?” Lady Catherine said with a grin. “Who knew.”

A short while later, Thomas, Sakville, Edward, and Juliet returned his sons to his wife upstairs. The Sakville’s congratulated them both and went to take their leave of the rest of their family.

The Bennet parents were overjoyed with the current state of their life. They were also prepared to settle into a hectic three weeks with two newborns, the Lucas and Palmrich wedding, and two weddings to help plan.


Longbourn, Hertfordshire
Wednesday, November 27, 1811

Charles Bingley sighed as the carriage pulled up to Longbourn. The housekeeper at Haye Park told him Darcy and Hurst were here, but he really did not want to have this encounter. As the leading family in Meryton, it would be considered extremely rude to not take his leave of the Bennets and his sister owed them an apology. Although, he doubted there was anything he could do to improve Meryton’s opinion of the Bingleys.

“You will behave yourself and give a believable apology for your actions last night, Caroline,” he warned.

“And if I do not? What could you possibly do to me, Charles, to make my life any worse?” his sister sneered at him.

“We will soon be on a ship for anywhere from two to three months, depending on whether or not we encounter any storms and if the winds are favourable. Would you like to spend the entire time in your cabin with your new companion?” he threatened.

“It is not fair! Why do we have to leave for the beastly colonies?”

“Caroline, if you have yet to realize what you did wrong, me explaining it again will not help,” he sighed. “I am very serious. You will apologize and do your best to appear as though you mean it. You will also act within the bounds of propriety the entire time we are at Longbourn or I will not let you have a say in who I hire to be your companion.”

“I think you mean to be my guard.”

“As you prefer,” he said disgustedly. “I am finally realizing that although I thought I had understood what Darcy and Hurst were telling me previously, I did not. I certainly comprehended last night just how far out of control you have become. That you would pay someone to ruin the reputation of an entire family on the slightest hope that a man, who could not stand to be in the same room as you, would propose to you, is insane. You are very lucky I did not take you to Bedlam and have you committed.”

“Mr. Darcy enjoys my company, Charles. You know that. Everyone expected him to offer for me before we had to go into mourning.”

“It is like talking to a statue. Nothing I say makes any difference to you,” he stated sadly. “Caroline, you were the only person to ever think Darcy was interested in you. It was incredibly obvious, and still is, that he avoided you as much as possible. You have heard it from the man’s own mouth, twice now, that he will never marry you. Ever. No matter the circumstances. The fact that you still seem to think he possibly would, especially after last night’s scene, concerns me even more than any of your previous actions. I do not know if taking you to another country is the correct solution. Perhaps we should have you evaluated at Bedlam before I let you board a ship.”

“I will act properly, Charles,” his sister growled at him.

“You must also apologize and that attitude is not reassuring,” he said as the carriage came to a stop. “I will not waiver on this, Caroline. If you do anything other than what you were instructed, not only will I pick the worst harridan to be your companion, but you will be confined to your quarters for the entire trip to America.”

Charles was surprised when the door was answered by a footman he had never seen before who made no attempt to mask his distaste upon hearing their names before escorting them to the parlour.

“Sir, a Mr. and Miss Bingley are here to take their leave of the Darcys, Bennets, and Mr. Hurst.”

“Show them in Noah.”

Charles heard the voice of an older man he did not recall meeting.

“Darcy, your housekeeper told us you were here. My sister and I are leaving for London and we came to take our leave of you, Miss Darcy, Hurst, and the Bennets.”

“Bingley,” his friend nodded at him. “There are a few people you have not been introduced to. Mr. Collins is a cousin to Mr. Bennet and Mr. Sakville is married to the first Jane Bennet and father to Edmund, whom you met last night, and Juliet.”

“I would like to apologize again for what happened last night,” Bingley said, ashamed of himself for not taking his sister in hand sooner. He had been given numerous warnings and let his affection for his sister override his common sense.

“What exactly are you apologizing for, Mr. Bingley? That you forfeited the money you paid me and were ordered to vacate one of my smaller estates? That your sister attempted to destroy the reputation of my niece, Jane? That, if she had succeeded, she would have ruined the entire Bennet family? That if the Bennet family was ruined, society would have expected my family to disown our relations? That you failed to act after what happened to your eldest sister in London last November? That you also failed to do anything after the scene Miss Bingley caused in Hyde Park in June? And again, that you failed to do anything after she approached three titled ladies, that she had not been introduced to, in a haberdashery? Do not look so surprised, I know it all,” Mr. Sakville stated harshly. “Why are you apologizing to us, Mr. Bingley? Your sister is the one who paid to have an honourable gentlewoman compromised because Miss Bingley wanted to quit the sphere into which she was born. Your sister is the one who almost caused my entire family irreparable damage and should be the one apologizing. I see that she is conspicuously silent and does not look happy to be here.”

“You are correct, sir. I had many opportunities to rectify my sister’s actions and I did not. I have no one to blame by myself,” he admitted sadly.

“My actions will never need remedying, Charles. I have always comported myself as anyone of the first circles of society would,” his sister said arrogantly.

“Caroline,” he hissed. “Mind yourself.”

“Mr. Bingley, your sister has already demonstrated her lack of understanding about this matter. I will not attempt to refute that asinine statement,” Mr. Sakville said.

“Papa! What do you think mother would say if she heard you speaking like that?” Miss Sakville said.

“She would probably say it was justified, Juliet,” Miss Elizabeth said.

“Why would I care what any of you think? You are all country nobodies who are trying to make yourselves feel more important by removing my family from the first circles. You are all pathetic.”

“Caroline! You were warned to behave. You have no right to insult anyone!” he sternly told his sister.

“Do not worry, Mr. Bingley. For your sister to insult any of us, we would need to value her opinion,” Miss Elizabeth said.

This was a disaster. Why had he been hopeful Caroline would not continue to act like she had been? He could not believe he thought she might actually apologize.

“You are all worthless and not fit to breathe the same air as me and my brother. Perhaps you make it a point to discuss your betters, but I will never think of you again,” Caroline said. “To hear my brother speak, I am supposed to care what you think about me. I do not know how I will sleep at night knowing you all think ill of me.”

“Miss Bingley, you really should leave the sarcasm to people with brains, integrity, and class. We would not want you to get burned,” Hurst said.

“Charles, how can you stand by and let this person insult me like that?”

“You thought I was trying to insult you? No, I was simply stating fact. Although, if you were offended, I count that as an added benefit,” Hurst responded with an exaggerated smile.

“Do not look at me, Caroline. You started this. I warned you to be polite when we took our leave,” he told his sister without any sympathy. “You are going to have an extremely long and boring ride across the ocean.”

“Your Grace, we must leave soon if you desire to make it to the first inn before nightfall,” the footman who escorted them into the parlour said with a mischievous smile.

“Very well, Noah. Thank you. Have our carriage brought around,” Mr. Sakville said.

Charles was stunned. Your Grace?

“Lord Milham and Lady Juliet, should I ask one of the kitchen maids to pack a light meal for you?”

“Yes, thank you, Noah,” Miss Sakville... er Lady Juliet responded with an amused smile on her face.

He looked at his sister and guffawed. “Oh, Caroline, if you could see your expression. You just insulted a duke and his children to their faces, you tried to affect the compromise of a duke’s niece last night, and you have been telling them all you are of the first circles and they are nothing,” he laughed again. “Oh, the irony. Now I understand why you were all so certain we would not be welcomed back into the society of London. This is priceless. You were trying to make them feel inferior and they were too polite to laugh in your face.”

Charles was sure he looked like a fool to everyone else, but it felt good to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. He saw Darcy shake his head before speaking.

“Sakville, I am very thankful you took the time to travel to Longbourn to assist us. Having the additional guards and necessary documentation this morning, certainly eased my mind and sped up the entire process.”

“How could we not come? I love my nieces deeply and have known you and your sister since you were both babes in your mother’s arms. George Darcy was my best friend and I know he would have wanted me to be here for both of you.”

“Uncle Frederick, thank you for all of your help. Please send us an express when our new cousin is born,” Miss Elizabeth said while hugging her uncle.

“I will, Lizzy. You make sure Kitty and Miss Darcy send the drawings of your brothers. Jane will not appreciate that I got to hold our new nephews before she did.”

“Mother will get over it, father,” Lady Juliet said. “Jane and Lizzy, it will seem like a long time until we next meet in London. Do not worry, I am certain mother will convince father to participate in part of the season. At the very least, she will want to be at Mary’s coming out ball.”

“Juliet is right. Mother will be in London this coming season. Father finds it very hard to say no to mother,” Lord Milham said with a grin. “Especially when he has held her nephews and she has not.”

The duke groaned and his family laughed.

“He has you there, Sakville,” Hurst said.

“Aye, I would lay down a significant bet that we will see Dorset House occupied this coming season,” Dobbs said with a grin.

“Dorset House?” Caroline sputtered.

Charles was thoroughly enjoying this. His sister was certainly receiving a lot of shocking information.

“Mr. Collins, are you well, sir?” Miss Elizabeth asked her cousin.

“How did I not know your uncle was a duke?” that man responded with a look of astonishment on his face. After a moment, he answered his own question. “Because, unlike some people, His Grace does not feel the need to use his rank to make everyone else feel as though they are inferior.”

“Very good, Mr. Collins,” Lord Milham said before pulling a card out of his pocket and handing it to the man. “You are a cousin of my mother and sisters, even if the connection is distant. If you ever have questions, please send me a letter.”

“My son is right, Mr. Collins. I understand you may take over as curate for the Earl of Palmrich,” the duke said. “If that does not work out, we have the gift of many livings. We might be able to find something that fits your strengths.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Mr. Collins said with wide eyes.

“I see our carriage out front. Mr. Bingley, we were taking our leave when you arrived. I think it is time you and your sister start your drive to London,” the duke said.

Everyone walked out of the parlour to see the carriages off.

Charles knew this was probably going to be the last time he would ever see his friend. He was grateful to Darcy for taking a few steps away and allowing them to speak alone for a few minutes.

“Darcy, I will miss the close friendship we once shared. I cannot apologize enough for not taking a firmer hand with Caroline. I should have listened to you a year ago.”

“Why did you not?”

“She is my sister,” he tried to justify his actions. “The last living member of my immediate family. It is my job to protect her. What would you have done if it was Miss Darcy?”

“My parents and I raised my sister to know right from wrong. If Georgiana ever acted the way your sister did, I would have addressed it immediately and, as a last resort, sent her to a school for undisciplined and unmanageable girls. Did you not think it odd that Georgiana, as an actual member of the first circles, has never put on airs like your sister and seems uncomfortable in her presence? You have met my Aunt Matlock many times. She also does not act like your sister.”

“I never really thought about it before,” he said with a sigh. “But I should have. I am sincerely sorry, Darcy. I hope we will maintain a healthy correspondence.”

“I am looking forward to it, Bingley. Have you decided where you will go?”

“Yes. I am resolved against Manhattan because I feel Caroline would fall into her old habits right away,” he explained. “I have been scouring the papers for articles about the Louisiana Purchase and came across the St. Charles district that actually has a town called St. Charles. I felt it was providence.”

“Bingley, the Louisiana Purchase consisted of over 800,000 acres of land. Roughly, where is St. Charles?”

“I remember how good you were at geography. It is on the far side of the Mississippi River straight across from Maryland. I chose St. Charles because of its name and the article said it contained a postal office.”

“It sounds as though you put some thought into this,” Darcy observed.

“I did,” he nodded. “I needed to make sure the location was remote enough that there would not be a local high society for Caroline to attempt to ingratiate herself with. I also wanted to have a modicum of civilization. It will be a hard life, but I hear America is the land of opportunity. There is so much land and it is terribly inexpensive, that basically it is the opposite of England. Building a house will be the most costly aspect.”

“I wish you well in your endeavours, Bingley. God bless you,” Darcy said.

Charles was stunned when his friend pulled him into a hug.

He saw his former brother-in-law approaching.

“Goodbye, Bingley. I am sorry for the way things ended. Good luck with your sister,” Hurst told him.

“Thank you, Hurst. Would you mind if I wrote to you, too?”

“That would be nice. I look forward to hearing about your voyage crossing the Atlantic Ocean.”

“I will write letters during the trip and send them when we land. I will be sure to include updates about Caroline. She will be kept to her quarters as much as possible in punishment for her actions yesterday and today.”

“When do you leave London?” Hurst asked with a grin.

“We will be there for a week.”

“Be sure your sister does not spread rumours,” Darcy glared at him.

“I will, Darcy. I promise. Caroline’s maid was not loyal to either of us and was let go. The new maid will come from my aunt and uncle’s household. Aunt Lucile said the maid was eager to take the job for the opportunity to pay my sister back for her behaviour when I was in Paris and for the free passage to the Americas. I am also hiring a companion, of my choice, who will make sure no letters are sent. My housekeeper and butler also know that all post to or from Caroline is to be given to me.”

“You had better make sure,” Darcy warned. “His Grace would not hesitate to make you feel his wrath. I hope you realize he could ruin you without having to leave England.”

He nodded and was determined that Caroline would not harm this family any further.

“Have a good life, Bingley,” Hurst said.

“Take care of yourself,” Darcy stated.

Charles boarded his carriage and watched his friends until the road turned. They would make a week-long stop in London and then their true journey would begin.

1 Stubble it - hold your tongue. The expression is from page 901 of The Universal Etymological English Dictionary by Nathan Bailey written 1737. The book can be downloaded for free on Google Books.

Some births are very fast. My grandmother had a few of her children at home because her labor progressed too fast.

My sister-in-law gave birth to my niece less than an hour of arriving at the hospital. There were numerous upset ladies on the maternity ward.

Even More Consequences From A Call - Chapter 30

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