TUESDAY’S TALE — Revelations at Hunsford, Chapter 16

Tuesday's Tale

 

CHAPTER 16

“Where is my daughter? Why has she not returned?” bellowed Lady Catherine.

Her lady’s maid shifted from foot to foot, clasping and unclasping her fingers, as she replied, “I am afraid Miss de Bourgh is not yet back from London, my lady.”

“How long since you mailed my letter?” The lady’s imperious tone did nothing to soothe the maid’s unease.

“You sent a letter ten days ago. Do you not remember that Miss Anne replied that she was too busy with Mr. and Miss Darcy to return at this time?”

“Of course, I remember,” snapped the ill-tempered patient. “Then why have I not seen an announcement of their engagement in the paper? Are you sure that we have received the London papers each day?”

“Yes, your ladyship.”

“Send for Mr. Collins then. I demand he present himself immediately.”

Eyes wide, the servant gulped, replying, “I cannot, your ladyship. You know the doctor does not wish you to have visitors as of yet.”

“Then send for the doctor post-haste.”

“Yes, your ladyship.” The maid scurried from the room. Upon reaching the hallway, she leaned against the wall and took a deep breath before rushing below stairs to find someone to carry out Lady Catherine’s request.

Dr. Walker took his time in arriving at Rosings. It had been almost three weeks since the accident, and he did not think he would be able to keep visitors away from Lady Catherine for much longer. He hoped that Miss de Bourgh would marry very soon so that she would be beyond her mother’s reach.

At the knock, Lady Catherine’s maid crossed the room, opening the bedchamber door to admit the doctor.

“You took long enough,” complained Lady Catherine.

“I am sorry I was attending another patient when I received your message. As the note did not indicate your need was an emergency, I came as soon as possible. What seems to be the trouble, Lady Catherine?”

“I wish you to lift the ban on visitors. I am lonely and would like my parson to visit. He could make himself useful by reading to me.”

“Should he not be attending to parish duties? I would be happy to stop by the parsonage and ask Mrs. Collins to come read to you if you would like.”

“Perhaps some other time, but for now, I wish Mr. Collins to attend me.”

“The gentleman has been overwrought by your illness. I do not think it is wise for him to be around you as he may cause you to become agitated as well. You know that should you move about too much, your recovery will take longer.”

“Then, I shall order him to be still,’ she snapped, “but I need to learn of any needs in the parish so that I might offer whatever assistance is required.”

The doctor knew that she wished for the latest gossip so that she might force others to bend to her will. He attempted to repress a smile as he answered, “You are unable to assist anyone at this time.”

“I am aware of that,” barked the lady, “but my reach and influence allow me to offer assistance through my steward or Mr. Collins. I demand that you permit him to visit me.”

“Very well, Lady Catherine, but you must wait until tomorrow before seeing him. Since the day is far-gone, I do not wish his visit to distress you before you retire. Sleep is the best thing to ensure that you recover to your fullest.”

“Very well.” The pout on the older woman’s face almost made Mr. Walker laugh. Turning away to hide the smile her expression conjured, he picked up his bag to depart. Looking back, he said, I shall visit you on Monday next week as usual. Please remember to remain still so that you will recover without causing permanent damage to the joint.”

“Yes, yes,” said the lady as she shooed him out the door.

As Mr. Walker stepped up into his carriage to return to his home, he muttered, “I pray you to accomplish your goal soon, Miss Anne. I have done all I can to assist you.”

The next day a footman from Rosings appeared at the door of the parsonage with the message that Lady Catherine wished Mr. Collins to attend her forthwith. As things transpired, Mr. Collins was out on parish business, and Mrs. Collins was visiting several of the sick and elderly parishioners. Consequently, in the late afternoon, when the parson returned to his home for tea, he received Lady Catherine’s message. Without stopping to freshen his attire, he rushed to Rosings. When Jackson tried to turn him away, Mr. Collins pushed his hand against the door to keep it from closing, crying, “Lady Catherine demanded my presence.”

Jackson looked skeptical and only opened the door wider upon seeing the summons sent to the clergyman.  Even then, he reluctantly admitted the distasteful man. Mr. Collins rushed passed the butler and directly up the stairs to Lady Catherine’s chamber. He knocked on the door and tapped his foot as he waited for it to open. When the maid admitted him, the parson practically raced across the room and paid obeisance to his patroness.

“Why did you keep me waiting so long, Mr. Collins? I sent for you early this morning.”

“Your pardon, Lady Catherine, other duties demanded my attention, and I only just arrived home. I did not even stop to change as I desired, most anxiously, to see you. Do you need my comfort and succor? How can I help you?”

“I need to know what transpired since I became ill. Do you know when Anne went to town and in whose company she traveled?”

“I tried to counsel, Miss de Bourgh, about the company she kept, but she would not heed my words.”

“Why would my daughter need your advice? Her cousins were here to assist her in any way she needed.”

“That was the problem; she did not realize she was taking a snake to her bosom by inviting Miss Bennet to stay here with she and the others. When I tried to tell her that Miss Elizabeth was attempting to steal Mr. Darcy from her, she said there was no engagement between her and her cousin and that she was pleased that Mr. Darcy found someone to love.” Mr. Collins hoped that Lady Catherine would not wonder why cousin Elizabeth need to leave his home, but the hope was short-lived.

“Why would Miss Bennet need to stay at Rosings when she was in the area to visit her friend and was staying with you?”

His face a mottled red, his voice hard, the parson replied. “The vixen manipulated Mr. Darcy into believing that I harmed her and that she was not safe in my home.”

“When the trouble arose, why did you not just send her home?”

“I tried, but Mr. Darcy intervened and said that Miss de Bourgh would welcome her at Rosings until the time of her scheduled departure.”

A suspicion growing in her mind, Lady Catherine demanded, “With whom did my daughter travel to London?”

“Miss de Bourgh departed in Mr. Darcy’s carriage,” the woman smiled at his words, then began to wonder at his hesitation to continue.

“Who else departed with her and Darcy?” Lady Catherine’s tone informed the man that he could not fail to answer.

“The two you mentioned traveled with the colonel and my cousin.”

“This is all your fault,” cried Lady Catherine. “You brought that jezebel into our sphere and my home.”

“I had no way of knowing she would behave in such a manner.”

“If you had the sense God gave a pig, you should have predicted that a woman who turned down a worthy proposal from a parson was a troublemaker. Now you shall need to make things right. I demand you go to London–to Darcy House. You will take a letter that I give you to the newspaper announcing Darcy and Anne’s engagement, and you will ensure that she returns to me promptly. You need to leave in the morning; I will expect you and Anne to be back the day after tomorrow. I believe you should insist that Darcy return as well. Then you can read the banns beginning on Sunday. We shall ensure they marry the day after the third reading of the banns.”

“But – but – Lady Catherine, how shall I make her come home. She ignored my advice before, what will make her listen now?”

“You will tell her that if she does not return, I will disinherit her.” Mr. Collins looked appalled at the words of his patroness. “You would do such a thing to your daughter.”

“If Anne refuses to return, then you are to go to the office of my solicitor and deliver to him a letter that I will also prepare.”

“Y-y-y-yes, your ladyship. I will do as you say.” The parson again bowed deeply and backed towards the door. When be bumped into the wall, he nearly pitched forward onto his face. Struggling to regain his balance, he wobbled through the door held open by the maid.

~~~~~~~

It was the night before the wedding, the three Bennets, Gardiners, Darcys, and Charles Bingley all gathered at Matlock House for a celebratory dinner. Tomorrow would see the ladies taking up residence in their future homes. Two days after the wedding, the Fitzwilliam family, including its newest member, would return to Rosings to deal with Lady Catherine. Elizabeth expressed the desire to be of assistance to her friend and new cousin. Darcy, fearing the harsh words his aunt would hurl at Elizabeth, tried to convince her that the others could deal with Lady Catherine and that Elizabeth’s presence might only provoke the older woman, making the situation worse. Insisting she could be helpful without Lady Catherine’s knowledge of her being at Rosings, she pleaded they go as well. Elizabeth hoped to foster a relationship between Charlotte and Anne, knowing they would enjoy each other’s company and probably become good friends as well.

The earl and Andrew would deal with the legalities. Elizabeth would oversee the servants making the dower house ready for its new tenant, and the countess would help Anne with staffing and redecorating.

The group had an early dinner and said their goodnights sooner then the men would have liked. For ease in preparing everyone for the upcoming nuptials, Georgina, Elizabeth, and Jane would be spending the night at Matlock House with Anne. Andrew and Nicholas would be moving to Darcy House for the night.

While Mrs. Gardiner and Lady Matlock spoke to Elizabeth and Jane and Anne respectively about what to expect on their wedding nights, the gentlemen retired to Darcy House for a game or two of billiards. As Andrew was also to marry in the morning, they did not overindulge in liquor, a trick he would have surely played on his staid cousin had circumstances been different. However, the lack of imbibing did not mean the two soon-to-be-grooms enjoyed a peaceful evening. They received a monumental amount of teasing about giving up their freedom. However, Darcy was quick to remind Bingley that his day was fast approaching, and he should expect payback.

After two games, Darcy wished to retire. He stopped by the library to check on Mr. Bennet before making his way to his chamber. Once ready to retire, Darcy dismissed Clarke and sat beside the fire a brandy in his hand.

Darcy could not believe that all of his dreams would come true in less than twelve hours. A restless excitement filled him, so he stood and moved to the door that adjoined the mistress’ chamber. Opening the door, Darcy looked about. When initially shown the room, Elizabeth found it pleasant and said she did not see the need to make changes as everything appeared to be in good condition. However, Darcy wanted only the best for his beautiful Elizabeth, so he decided to make some changes to refresh the room as a surprise. The furniture in the room was of rich deep cherry wood and in the delicate late baroque or Queen Anne style as it was coming to be known. Knowing the colors Elizabeth favored, Darcy had the walls done in pale yellow silk. Filling the picture frame trim on the walls around the room was a fabric with a white trellis pattern on a pale blue background, climbing the trellis were small clusters of yellow and blue flowers. The same material covered the settee before the fire that was flanked by a pair of light blue and white striped chairs. There was a writing desk near one window and a deep yellow brocaded chaise lounge near the other. Imagining her look of pleasure, Darcy closed the door and retired to bed, dreaming of his dearest, loveliest Elizabeth.

~~~~~~~

The sun was just breaking the horizon when one of Lady Catherine’s carriages arrived at the parsonage. Mr. Collins stumbled from the house, a small travel bag in his hands. As he reached the door, the footman handed him two letters addressed in Lady Catherine’s bold, angular hand. He tucked them into his coat pocket before stepping into the carriage. Collins fell onto the bench as the driver slapped the reins, and the horses sprang forward. He dreaded the trip and wondered what the consequences would be should he fail. The parson was pleased that he would deliver the letter announcing Mr. Darcy and Miss de Bourgh’s engagement as it would cause pain and embarrassment to his cousin.

Having a four-hour journey ahead of him, Mr. Collins settled into the corner of the carriage and was soon snoring louder than the rattle of the vehicle. At the half-way point, the carriage stopped to change horses, and Mr. Collins took the opportunity to break his fast before continuing his journey.

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TUESDAY’S TALE — Revelations at Hunsford, Chapter 16

Tuesday's Tale

 

CHAPTER 16

“Where is my daughter? Why did she not return?” bellowed Lady Catherine.  

Her lady’s maid shifted from foot to foot, clasping and unclasping her fingers, as she replied, “I am afraid Miss de Bourgh remains in London, my lady.”

“How many days since you mailed my letter?” The lady’s imperious tone did nothing to soothe the maid’s unease.

“You sent a letter ten days ago. Do you not remember that Miss Anne replied that plans with Mr. and Miss Darcy would not permit her to return at this time?”

“Of course, I remember,” snapped the ill-tempered patient. “Then why did I not see an announcement of their engagement in the paper? Are you sure that we have received the London papers each day?”

“Yes, your ladyship.”

“Send for Mr. Collins. I demand he attend me immediately.”

Eyes wide, the servant gulped, replying, “I cannot, your ladyship. You know the doctor does not wish you to receive visitors as of yet.”

“Then send for the doctor post-haste.”

“Yes, your ladyship.” The maid scurried from the room. Upon reaching the hallway, she leaned against the wall and took a deep breath before rushing belowstairs to find someone to carryout Lady Catherine’s request.

Dr. Walker took his time in arriving at Rosings. The accident took place almost three weeks ago, and he did not think he would be able to keep visitors away from Lady Catherine much longer. He hoped that Miss de Bourgh’s wedding would be very soon so that she would be beyond her mother’s reach.

At the knock, Lady Catherine’s maid crossed the room, opening the bedchamber door to admit the doctor.

“You took your time in arriving,” complained Lady Catherine.

“I am sorry. I was attending another patient when I received your message. As the note did not indicate your need to be an emergency, I came as soon as I was available. What seems to be the trouble, Lady Catherine?”

“I wish you to lift the ban on visitors. I am lonely and would like to visit with my parson. He could make himself useful by reading to me.”

“Should he not be attending to parish duties? I would be happy to stop by the parsonage and ask Mrs. Collins to come read to you if you would like.”

“Perhaps some other time, but for now, I wish Mr. Collins to attend me.”

“The gentleman has been overwrought by your illness. I do not think it is wise for him to be around you as he may cause you to become agitated as well. You know that should you move about too much, you will delay your recovery.”

“Then, I shall order him to be still, but I need to learn of any needs in the parish so that I might offer whatever assistance is needed.”

The doctor knew that she wished for the latest gossip so that she might force others to her will. He attempted to repress a smile as he answered, “You are unable to assist anyone at this time.” 

“I am aware of that,” barked the lady, “but it is still within my power to offer assistance through my steward or Mr. Collins. I demand that you allow him to visit me.”

“Very well, Lady Catherine, but you must wait until tomorrow before seeing him. The day is far gone, and I do not wish his visit to distress you before you retire. Sleep is the best thing to ensure that you recover to your fullest.”

“Very well.” The pout on the older woman’s face almost made Mr. Walker laugh. He turned away to pick up his bag for departure so that she would not observe the smile he could not hide. Turning back, he said, I shall visit you on Monday next week as usual. Please remember to remain still so that you will recover quickly.”

“Yes, yes,” said the lady as she shooed him out the door.

As Mr. Walker stepped up into his carriage to return home, he muttered, “I pray you accomplish your goal soon, Miss Anne. I have done all I can to assist you.”

The next day a footman from Rosings appeared at the door of the parsonage with the message that Lady Catherine demanded Mr. Collins present himself forthwith. As things transpired, Mr. Collins was out on parish business, while Mrs. Collins visited several of the sick and elderly parishioners. Consequently, tea time quickly approached when the parson returned to his home and received Lady Catherine’s message. Without stopping to freshen his attire, he rushed to Rosings. When Jackson tried to turn him away, Mr. Collins pushed his hand against the door to keep it from closing, crying, “Lady Catherine demanded my presence.”

Jackson looked skeptical, and reluctantly opened the door wider. Mr. Collins rushed passed the butler and directly up the stairs to Lady Catherine’s chamber. He knocked on the door and tapped his foot as he waited for someone to admit him. When the maid granted him entrance, the parson practically raced across the room and bowed deeply to his patroness.  

“Why did you keep me waiting so long, Mr. Collins? I sent for you early this morning.”

“Your pardon, Lady Catherine, I was out attending to duties and only just arrived home. I did not even stop to change as I have been so anxious to speak to you. Do you need my comfort and succor? How can I help you?”

“I need to know what has been going on since my incapacitation. Do you know when Anne went to town and in whose company she traveled?”

“I tried to counsel, Miss de Bourgh, about the company she was keeping, but she would not heed my words.”

“Why would my daughter need your advice? Her cousins were here to assist her in any way she needed.”

“That was the problem; she did not realize she was taking a snake to her bosom by inviting Miss Bennet to stay here with her. When I tried to tell her that Miss Elizabeth was attempting to steal Mr. Darcy from her, she said there was no engagement between her and her cousin and that she was pleased that Mr. Darcy found someone to love.” Mr. Collins hoped that Lady Catherine would not wonder why cousin Elizabeth need to leave his home, but the hope was short-lived.”

“Why would Miss Bennet need to stay at Rosings during her visit with you and your wife?”

“The vixen manipulated Mr. Darcy into believing that I harmed her and that she was not safe in my home.”

“Why did you not just send her home if she was causing trouble?”

“I tried, but Mr. Darcy intervened and said that Miss de Bourgh would welcome her at Rosings until time for her to depart.”

“With whom did my daughter travel to London?”

“Miss de Bourgh departed in Mr. Darcy’s carriage along with the colonel and my cousin.”

“This is all your fault,” cried Lady Catherine. “You brought that jezebel into our sphere and my home.”

“I had no way of knowing she would behave in such a manner.”

“You should have known that a woman who turned down a worthy proposal to a parson would cause others trouble as well. Now you shall make things right. I demand you go to London. You will take a letter that I give you to the newspaper announcing Darcy and Anne’s engagement, and you will ensure that she returns to me promptly. You need to leave in the morning; I will expect you and Anne to be back the day after tomorrow. In fact, I believe you should insist that Darcy return as well. Then you can read the banns beginning on Sunday. We shall have them wed in three weeks’.”

“But – but–Lady Catherine, how shall I make her come home. She ignored my advice before, what will make her listen now?”

“You will tell her that if she does not return, I will disinherit her.” Mr. Collins looked appalled at the words of his patroness. “You would do such a thing to your daughter.”

“If Anne refuses to return, then you are to go to the office of my solicitor and deliver to him a letter that I will prepare.”

“Y-y-y-yes, your ladyship. I will do as you say.” The parson again bowed low and backed towards the door. When be bumped into the wall, he nearly pitched forward on his face. Struggling to regain his balance, he wobbled through the door held open by the maid.

~~~~~~~

The night before the wedding found the Bennets, Gardiners, Darcys, and Charles Bingley gathered at Matlock House for a celebratory dinner. Two days after the wedding, those related to Lady Catherine would return to Rosings to deal with her lies. The earl and Andrew would deal with the legalities. Elizabeth would oversee the servants making the dower house ready for its new tenant, and the countess would help Anne with staffing and redecorating. Fearing the harsh words his aunt would hurl at Elizabeth, Darcy had tried to convince her that the others could deal with Lady Catherine, but she insisted on assisting her new friend. She knew that Charlotte would also be willing to help Anne and would be a good friend for her.

The group had an early dinner and said their goodnights sooner then the men would have liked. For ease of preparing everyone, Georgina, Elizabeth, and Jane would be spending the night at Matlock House with Anne. Andrew and Nicholas would be spending the night at Darcy House.

While Mrs. Gardiner and Lady Matlock spoke to Elizabeth and Jane and Anne respectively about what to expect on their wedding nights, the gentlemen retired to Darcy House for a game or two of billiards. As Andrew also married in the morning, they did not overindulge in liquor, a trick he would have attempted to play on his staid cousin had circumstances been different.

After two games, Darcy wished to retire. He stopped by the library to check on Mr. Bennet before making his way to his chamber. Once ready to retire, Darcy dismissed Clark, he sat beside the fire a brandy in his hand.

Darcy could not believe that all of his dreams would come true in less twelve hours. A restless excitement filled him, so he stood and moved to the door that adjoined the mistress’ chamber. Opening the door, Darcy looked about. Upon first inspecting the room, Elizabeth found everything perfectly acceptable. She could not envision wasting money to update the space. However, he wanted only the best for his beautiful Elizabeth, and Darcy decided to make some changes to refresh the room. Knowing the colors she favored, he had the walls done in pale yellow silk. Lovely fabric with a white trellis pattern on a pale blue background, showed a vine climbing the trellis and small clusters of yellow and blue flowers filled the picture framing on the walls around the room. The same fabric covered the settee before the fire. Flanking the sofa sat a pair of light blue and white striped chairs. A writing desk sat near one window and a deep yellow brocaded chaise lounge near the other. Dominating the room, a canopy bed sat between the two windows, a three-drawer nightstand on each side. Imagining her look of pleasure, Darcy closed the door and retired to bed, dreaming of his dearest, loveliest Elizabeth.

~~~~~~~

With the sun just breaking the horizon, one of Lady Catherine’s carriages arrived at the parsonage. Mr. Collins stumbled from the house, a small travel bag in his hands. As he reached the door, the footman handed him two letters addressed in Lady Catherine’s forceful, angular hand. He tucked them into his coat pocket before stepping into the carriage. Collins fell onto the bench as the driver slapped the reins and the horses jumped forward. He dreaded the trip and wondered what the consequences would be if he failed. The parson experienced great pleasure that he would deliver the letter announcing Mr. Darcy and Miss de Bourgh’s engagement as it would cause pain and embarrassment to his cousin.

Having a four-hour journey ahead of him, Mr. Collins settled into the corner of the carriage and soon emitted snores louder than the rattle of the vehicle. At the half-way point, the carriage stopped to change horses, and Mr. Collins took the opportunity to break his fast before continuing.

YOUR OPINION WANTED

I am making a few changes to some aspects of my writing.  I find the consistency of certain things comforting.  One of the changes I will be making is to Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Christian name.  I have previously used Richard, but it is not a name I am particularly fond of–it relates to childhood memories.  🙂  Consequently, I would like your opinion on a new first name.  Each of those chosen has special meaning to me.

THURSDAY’S THOUGHTS — 12/27/18

Thursday's Thoughts

Since it is after Christmas and New Year’s Eve is on the horizon, I am sharing another holiday song.  This one is performed by my teenage crush (so now everyone will be able to guess my age).  I hope you enjoy What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? by Donny Osmond.

Wishing everyone a new year filled with happiness and dreams come true!

Linda

THURSDAY’S THOUGHTS — 12/20/18

Thursday's Thoughts

Today I am sharing a sketch of the Pemberley ballroom at Christmas time.  This scene was described in The Laughter of Love.  A dear friend made the sketch based on the following words:

The deep green silk wall covering was set into the elegant gilt molding.  Green velvet drapes adorned the windows.  Tonight these colors were enhanced with red and silver. Garlands of pine and holly tied in red ribbon trimmed all the doors and windows. The non-mirrored sections of the walls held large wreaths made from laurel leaves and accented in ribbons of silver and gold. Bouquets of red roses from the hothouses stood about on various tables, adding their color and fragrance to the décor.

 

Pemberley's Ballroom for the Christmas BallWishing you the happiest of holiday seasons–no matter what holiday you observe!

 

THURSDAY’S THOUGHTS –12/13/18

Thursday's Thoughts

Today I am sharing one of my favorite performances of a favorite Christmas carol.  I looked for one with the lovely ladies singing the song, but I was very blurry and the quality was not good.  I recommend you close your eyes and just listen to the beautiful harmonies of the Forester Sisters.

THURSDAY’S THOUGHTS — 12/6/18

Thursday's Thoughts

Today I thought I would share my talented friend’s sketches of the ballroom at Matlock House during the Twelfth Night Ball as described in Laughter Through Trials.

Lady Matlock's Ballroom for the 12th Night Ball

Here is the description from the book from which the above drawing was made:

The floor, windows, and many mirrors glistened in the candlelight. The walls of the ballroom were adorned with a cream paper with narrow crimson stripes spaced widely apart. Around the room were sofas in fabric matching the walls and clusters of gilt chairs covered in either crimson or cream. The windows were covered with crimson velvet drapes layered over sheer cream panels. Everywhere were evergreen trees decorated with crimson roses and baby’s breath, and bowls of crimson and cream roses covered every surface. The room was lit by two large chandeliers, and the light of a thousand candles cast a warm golden glow all around. At the far end of the room sat an orchestra on a raised dais. 

TUESDAY’S TALE — The Assembly, Part 27

Tuesday's Tale

The next morning Elizabeth escaped the noise of her home with Mary. Elizabeth needed to purchase a ribbon for her hair to match a new dress. The one that was purchased to replace the one Miss Bingley ruined at the assembly where she met Mr. Darcy had been in her closet since it arrived. She was waiting for the perfect opportunity to wear it, and the Netherfield ball seemed like the ideal opportunity.

As she stood looking over the ribbons, a voice behind her called, “Good morning, Lizzy. What are you doing here this morning?”

Turning to the voice, Elizabeth saw Georgiana entering in a riding habit followed by Darcy and the colonel.

“Good morning, Georgiana, Mr. Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam.”

“Good morning, Miss Elizabeth.”

Darcy advanced to Elizabeth. Talking her hand, he held it in his hand as he said, “Good morning, Elizabeth. I hope you are well.” Then he bowed over the hand he held placing a kiss on the back of it. “What a delightful surprise to see you this morning. It is an unexpected pleasure. Are you looking for something in particular?”

“Indeed, I recently received a new dress, and I need some ribbons for my hair that will match it.”

“That is what I am looking for as well.”

“What color do you need, Georgiana?”

“Something to go with a pale rose color.”

“What about you, Elizabeth?”

“I was looking for pale yellow and white.” Taking note of her choices, an idea occurred to Darcy.

Darcy turned to Mary. “Are you searching for something as well, Miss Mary?”

“Not really. Dr. Fordyce does not think it appropriate for young women to take too much interest in their attire.”

“I do not believe Mr. Fordyce would find it inappropriate for you to care for your appearance at a special event. He is only cautioning young women against thinking only of their outward appearance and not the more important internal beauty. I do not know what color your gown is, but I believe that the splendid light green ribbon would enhance your eyes and show off their natural beauty.”  Darcy pointed to the ribbon he meant.

Mary blushed at Mr. Darcy’s words, and said, “I never thought about it like that before. I thank you for your insight into the passage, Mr. Darcy. Perhaps, I will make a purchase after all.”

With much giggling, the girls helped each other to make their selections as the gentleman observed them with fond expressions on their faces. When the exited the shop, the two groups took their leave of each other. Darcy could not pass up a chance and took Elizabeth’s hand for another kiss.

“I shall be counting the moments until your arrival. I look forward to opening the ball with you, my lovely Elizabeth.”

Color suffused her face, but Elizabeth did not look away. “I look forward to being in your arms again. Until then, my sweet William.” Darcy’s grin grew at her obvious affection. He could not wait for the time he could kiss her without stopping and to no longer having to separate at the end of the day.

~~~~~~~

As the Bennet carriage turned into the drive at Netherfield, the younger girls gaped at the sight of torches lighting and lining the drive. Every window of the house glowed with light, and torches lit the drive currently lined with carriages waiting to unload their passengers. Jane, Elizabeth, and Mary rode on the rear-facing seat, so each turned to the window to see what caused the reaction from their younger sisters.

It took almost ten minutes before their carriage reached the main entrance. Footman rushed forward, hands extended, to help the sister exit. Lydia practically jumped over her sisters trying to be the first to exit, but her father put out his arm to halt her progress.

“You, young lady, will follow your sisters as is appropriate. Nothing will change in the few seconds you are behind them. You and Kitty have both improved somewhat in manners, and I hope it will continue tonight.”

“Yes, Papa,” said Lydia and Kitty at almost the same time.

Mr. Bennet stepped down then helped his wife descend. Then the patiently waiting footman assisted Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia to exit. After a few more minutes, the party stood before their hosts in the main hall of Netherfield.

“Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. I am glad you could join us this evening.”

“We are delighted to be here,” gushed Mrs. Bennet. “We are all excited for the ball.”

The couple moved on, and Bingley greeted Jane and Elizabeth. “Ladies you both look lovely this evening,” he commented gallantly. Mr. Bingley looked at Jane as he made his comment, but Elizabeth did not notice as she was looking for William. Finally free from his distraction with the beauty before him, Bingley noticed her sister’s actions. “I believe you will find Darcy waiting for you at the ballroom door.” Elizabeth blushed but thanked Mr. Bingley for the information. They moved on to his sisters. Mr. and Mrs. Hurst spoke pleasantly to both girls as did Miss Bingley whose greeting was a cause for wonderment? She spoke politely to both ladies, grudgingly complimented Elizabeth gown, and hoped they would have a memorable evening. An almost knowing smirk graced her face with the last words.

Elizabeth and Jane moved towards the ballroom with Mary herding the younger girls behind them. At the door to the ballroom, Darcy greeted the sisters.

“How nice you look this evening. I hope each of you will save me a dance.”

The younger girls giggled and nodded, while a red-faced Mary said, “If you wish, Mr. Darcy.” Most of Darcy’s dance card was filled by Elizabeth and her sisters, as well as his own. A dance with Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley and the final set with Elizabeth would fill his dance card. It would be the most he had ever danced at any ball.

When everyone but Elizabeth moved into the ballroom, Darcy offered his arm to his betrothed. “You look beautiful this evening, my dear.”

“I thank you for my lovely gift.” A short time before the Bennet’s departed from Longbourn a servant in the Darcy livery delivered a box for Elizabeth. When she opened it there was a dozen small white rosebuds. The enclosed note said,

Elizabeth

“I thought these would look lovely in your beautiful dark hair.”

Affectionately,

William

“You are most welcome. I must admit to being a little jealous. Those little buds get to caress you rich tresses, something I have longed to do.” A shy smile appeared on her face though Elizabeth blushed at his words. “How do you like your replacement dress?” Darcy’s sly smile made Elizabeth wonder if there was more to his question.

“I love it. I do not know who gave Mrs. ________ the instructions for the gown. I expected that Papa would send me into the shop to order the new dress, but I never heard mention of it.” As his smile grew, Elizabeth tilted her head to the side and studied Darcy. “William, did you have anything to do with my dress?”

“What do you mean?” His tone was innocent.

“Did you pick out this dress?”

“I may have had some say in the choices?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, thanks to your father’s distraction with his book, he allowed me to write the note to the seamstress. I thought this color would be extremely suited to you, and I suspected that you preferred elegant simplicity to a lot of frills. I am delighted I was correct for I look forward to showering you with gifts for the remainder of our lives.”

“William, I do not need gifts. All I need to make me happy is you.”

“That may be true, but you will have to learn to accept them. You can ask Georgiana; I enjoy surprising those I love with special gifts.”

“Where is Georgiana?”

“She is seated just over there. Shall we join her?”

At Elizabeth’s nod, they made their way to Georgiana and Mrs. Annesly.

“Good evening, Georgiana. You look beautiful.”

“Thank you, Lizzy. You look beautiful; your dress is exquisite.”

“Thank you.” Elizabeth and Darcy exchanged a smile filled with meaning Georgiana did not understand. When the music began, Darcy bowed and escorted Elizabeth to the dance floor. They did not speak as they moved through the first dance, but their eyes and their touches said more than words ever could. Laughter and conversation continued through the second dance of the set. Their behavior caused a great deal of gossip behind the fans of the matrons that evening.

Darcy danced next with Georgiana, then the set promised to Miss Bingley, and then Jane. Between sets, he and Elizabeth were always together often with Georgiana or one of Elizabeth’s sisters. As the supper set began, Darcy had Elizabeth back in his arms. As they danced, they spoke of their future discussing their hopes and dreams. When the set ended, they retrieved Georgiana from her seat and moved into the dining room. They were seated at the main table near Jane and Bingley. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet was at the other end of the same table near the Hursts and Miss Bingley.

Once everyone was seated, Bingley stood and addressed his guests. “I would like to welcome you all to Netherfield Park and express my gratitude for the warm welcome we received to your neighborhood. I hope you will enjoy yourselves this evening. Before we serve the dinner, Mr. Bennet has an announcement he would like to make.”

As Bingley sat down a murmur spread through the crowd speculating at the forthcoming announcement, Mr. Bennet stood and said, “It gives me the greatest pleasure to announce the engagement of my daughter Elizabeth to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire.” They are to marry in early January.” Loud applause followed the announcements as well as calls of congratulations.

Bingley stood again, saying, “Please raise your glass and join me in a toast to Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth.” He paused as the company raised their glasses. “May you have a long and happy life together.” Darcy and Elizabeth smiled at each other as they clinked their glasses and drank in acknowledgment of the toast in their honor. When Mr. Bingley sat down an arm of footman began to serve the white soup, and the dinner started.

The room buzzed with pleasant conversation as the residents of Meryton enjoyed the superb supper prepared by the Bingley’s chef. After dinner, several of the local ladies entertained. Elizabeth sang to a duet by Mary and Georgiana.

Throughout the dinner and entertainment, Miss Bingley kept up her pleasant façade. When everyone returned to the ballroom, she lingered until she and the servants were the only ones remaining in the room. Crossing the hallway, Caroline glanced about then turned away from the ballroom and down a corridor towards the back of the house. She opened a door onto the terrace, and a tall man dressed all in black slipped inside.

Caroline put her fingers to her lips to indicate the need for silence. She led the man back the way she had come and paused before a closed door. The gentleman slipped inside the darkened room lit only by the fire burning in the grate.

“Remain here and stay quiet. I will be back as soon as I can.” At his nod, she exited, closing the door behind her. The slipped off his coat and took a seat in the chair behind the door to wait.