Fantasy Friday– Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters, Chapter Six

I know I am dealing with a large cast of characters right now with the addition of the Tilneys. Do you think referring to the young people by their first names (Caroline, Henry, Charles etc.) would make it easier to keep track of everyone?

At the close of Chapter Five, Kate had a vision of the the Netherfield group dining at Longbourn.

Previous Chapters: Prologue to Chapter Four / Chapter Five

morgana yellow

Chapter Six

 

“What a lovely home you have,” Mrs. Tilney said to Mrs. Bennet in the drawing room after dinner at Longbourn. “Did any of your daughters assist with the meal?”

Mrs. Bennet attempted to answer civilly, but Elizabeth could see her embarrassment at what must be an obvious slight. Mrs. Tilney’s eyes scanned the room as though guessing the age and cost of each item. She had frowned at the dated appearance of the dining room and the less than perfectly polished silverware.

“No, the girls have nothing to do with the kitchen.”

Elizabeth wondered if smoke was coming out of her ears yet. She recalled her history lessons with her father. Gentry magical folk believed menial work beneath them in all forms, even magical.

“Oh, pardon me. I do hope I did not offend you with the question. Lady Lucas boasted of her daughter’s meat pie.”

Elizabeth had a hard time believing Mrs. Tilney was genuine, but Jane seemed unaffected by any feelings of pretension in the room, and surely she would have sensed the truth. It was their first meal in company since the return of their powers and also their first meal with their new neighbors.

“It is truly an honor to be here,” Eleanor Tilney said.

Caroline Bingley added, “Oh yes, we have heard much of the Bewitching Sisters.”

“Caroline, you must be careful with your words!” Mr. Henry Tilney said as the gentlemen entered. They had been ushered into the library for a discussion as soon as they arrived.

“Do you sense it is dangerous to speak of our magic now?” Kate asked and glanced about the room.

“Of course not,” he replied to only Kate as Caroline continued to talk with Jane. Sensing that their conversation was more interesting, Elizabeth focused on it.

“Caroline must mean that she has heard of you frequently. However, she misused the meaning of the word much. It implies volume and words take up no space at all, certainly not any space at all in the minds of most people.”

Kate chewed her bottom lip, confused by his wit and wordplay. However, Elizabeth smiled. “And then some people speak so little because their thoughts threaten to overflow. Such must be the case with you, Mr. Darcy,” she said as she turned to face the gentleman.

“Not at all,” he said so coldly the conversation died.

Turning her attention from the irritable man, Elizabeth took a sip of wine as she watched Jane and Mr. Bingley across the room. He had gone straight to Jane’s side and had not ceased smiling at her the entire evening.

Just like Kate’s vision, Mr. Hurst’s face was indeed reddened from his after-dinner port while Mr. Bennet and General Tilney talked in private conference. Unable to make out their words, Elizabeth’s eyes wandered to Mrs. Hurst. She said little and instead played with her elegant bracelets. Elizabeth had the feeling Mr. Hurst was of more fashion than fortune.

When Elizabeth turned her attention back to the assembled group, she found Mr. Darcy staring at her. He did not smile or talk yet had seldom looked away from her that evening. Annoyance festered in her heart and her palms prickled with sensation. She struggled to control her magical impulses under his critical gaze. Nearby, Elizabeth heard Kate speaking with Miss Tilney on the subject of books.

“Did you read the latest volume of Mr. Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?” Miss Tilney asked.

“Oh, no. You will have to ask Lizzy her thoughts on that. Papa makes me read such things, but I can never make much sense of them. Do you not find it difficult to credit stories of what happened so long ago when they are reported with as much certainty as someone may describe what happened at last week’s ball?”

Internally, Lizzy sighed. Kate was attempting to apply Jane’s empathy lessons to the broader subject of history.

“It is hardly likely a historian will admit to an inability to accurately give his information,” Mr. Tilney countered.

“Then are we the fools to believe it when everyone can find fault with Mrs. Howes’ report of the order of events of the last ball or the accuracy of the gown worn by Mrs. Ridgeway?”

You dislike invention and embellishment?” Mr. Tilney said with a raised eyebrow.

“Not at all. I enjoy novels particularly.”

“The former Mrs. Burney?”

“Mrs. Radcliffe. I’m desperate to reread The Italian, but Father has been reading The Vision of Don Roderick this week. I think The Mysteries of Udolpho is the nicest book in the world, but I suppose you have never read it.”

Mr. Tilney looked exceptionally amused. “Why do you think that?”

“Everyone knows novels are not important enough for gentlemen, they read other things.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brows. Where had Kate come up with such garbage?

“I have read hundreds and hundreds of novels. I have many years of advantage over you if we would ask one another which books we have read. Now, Udolpho had me so enthralled I could not put it down even to spare five minutes when Eleanor was called away. I would not say it is the nicest book, however.”

Kate looked by turns pleased and annoyed. “Well, why not? If you liked it so much can you possibly like something else more?”

“Perhaps I may find one I do love more later, but I assumed you meant the binding was the neatest.”

“The binding!” Catherine cried in confusion.

Miss Tilney laid a calming hand on Kate’s arm. “Henry is teasing you, as he does with me. He has very demanding standards on word usage.”

Elizabeth found the conversation interesting. She had not supposed before that Kate could hold her own in such nonconventional topics. Elizabeth also understood why Kate had enjoyed Mr. Tilney’s humor from the night of the ball. More than anything, Elizabeth was pleased with Miss Tilney for easing Kate’s nerves when she grew too flustered and anxious. She quite reminded Elizabeth of Jane.

Mr. Tilney waged on. “Nice used to apply to a person’s dress or feelings, a sense of refinement or neatness and now it is used for everything.”

“Pay him no mind, Miss Morland. Come over here with me, and we may talk more about other books.”

Elizabeth joined them. Miss Tilney and she talked about drawing, while Kate listened with ignorance. She knew nothing on the subject, and it was only after several minutes of silence from her younger sister that Elizabeth realised she ought to have steered the conversation to a topic Kate could have joined in. Feeling as though she bungled things, Elizabeth was relieved to see Jane motion them over. Along the way, Mr. Tilney sidetracked Elizabeth but allowed Kate and Eleanor to reach Jane.

“Miss Morland tells me you enjoyed Gibbons’ The Fall of Rome?”

Elizabeth agreed and allowed him to ramble on for a few minutes while she tried to overhear the conversation next to her. Jane would admonish her for eavesdropping, but it was the only way she could ever learn the truth of things. Jane filtered things too much.

“Are you well?” Kate asked Jane.

“Perfectly!” Elizabeth could hear the smile in Jane’s voice.

“You have not been speaking.”

“I am afraid that is my fault, Miss Catherine,” Mr. Bingley said.

“Mr. Bingley is a telepath and can effortlessly read my thoughts,” said Jane.

“No more than you can discern my feelings!” Bingley replied.

Elizabeth smiled to hear Jane praised so ardently, even if she knew Jane likely blushed. Encouraged by Elizabeth’s countenance, Mr. Tilney laughed a little too loudly at his own remark. It broke through the conversation next to them. For some reason, Elizabeth’s eyes were drawn across the room. Mr. Darcy scowled at her and Mr. Tilney. Then Jane and Bingley jumped in fright beside her. Were they afraid of Mr. Darcy?

“I fear my friend has had enough company this evening,” Bingley murmured before excusing himself.

Tilney followed, leaving the three sisters watching the gentlemen. Jane’s eyes followed Bingley with an expression of concern. Before much longer, the Netherfield family said their goodbyes and departed.

“I dare say that went differently than you thought, Kate,” Elizabeth said.

“Indeed.”

“We had better return to Mama,” Jane directed her younger sisters to the drawing room but then held Kate back.

Elizabeth hovered in the doorway out of sight and heard Jane whispering to Kate. “She was too angry at Mr. Darcy the entire evening to notice Mr. Tilney.”

“And Mr. Tilney?”

“Despite what Mr. Bingley said I cannot seem to discern the feelings of any of the gentlemen, or any of the Netherfield group at all, except when Mr. Darcy seemed upset by Mr. Tilney’s laughing. I suppose it is not necessary since we know they are to safeguard us.”

“I wish we knew more about what we are supposed to eventually do.”

“Do not borrow trouble, Kate. We shall likely know before too long. Already, so much has changed.”

Feeling somehow responsible for the sad and far away sound in Jane’s voice, Elizabeth stuck her head out the door. “The next time you want to wish me away just to whisper in the hall you might say it.”

Jane and Catherine shared a smile before following Elizabeth to the drawing room.

 

*****

 

Before too many days passed, Mrs. Tilney returned the civility and asked the Longbourn family to dine at Netherfield.

“I cannot think of a better way to pass the evening,” Kate said in the carriage.

Elizabeth huffed. “I am sure you and Jane cannot for not only are you both nicer people, but you have the attention of charming gentlemen. The only people who notice me are sour. Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy both stared critically at me the entire night they dined with us.”

“Perhaps they saw something worthy of admiration,” Jane said.

“If your powers worked at all on them, you would know how incorrect that is.”

“You are always so ready for a fight,” Kate observed.

“I suppose it is the fire in me!” Elizabeth said with a smirk.

“I trust you girls are not so silly as to be distracted by a couple of bucks and forget the seriousness of your powers,” Mr. Bennet cautioned from the other side of the carriage.

A pout formed on Kate’s lips. “Our days are filled with instruction and worry about what it means that our powers have returned. General Tilney’s reappearance has set all this in motion. Can we not enjoy ourselves when in their company?”

Mr. Bennet opened his mouth to speak, but Mrs. Bennet placed a hand on his arm, forestalling him. “Practicing your powers on those you know to be friendly can serve you when you must practice on your enemy,” she said.

Jane cried in horror, “Practice on them!”

“Do you think they have not used their powers on you?” Mr. Bennet asked.

They pulled up to the house, halting the conversation but Elizabeth wondered at the sense of civility and propriety in the magical world. Mr. Bingley and Mr. and Miss Tilney were kind enough, but the others Elizabeth could not like.

Mrs. Tilney had ordered a lavish meal with several courses. The furniture was upholstered in the finest silks, plush carpets draped the floors, and gold filigree was inlaid on most of the furniture. Elizabeth saw it as a pompous and vulgar display, flaunting General Tilney’s greater wealth. Little was said, at first, until Mr. Bennet cleared his throat and gave each of his daughters a pointed look, a clear reminder of his earlier words.

Mr. Darcy, sitting next to Elizabeth, commented on the meal. Unsurprised that he would enjoy the grandiose atmosphere, she gritted her teeth before replying and felt her palms itch. It occurred to her, she never wondered if he had magical powers, convinced as she was that he was aware of her own. He must be a fire wizard like her father for he always excited her powers. Amusing herself, she stared at a candle at the table, and the flame grew. Wondering if she could also snuff it out, she attempted to do so and was pleased to see the light diminish. Mr. Darcy chuckled beside her.

“I dearly love a laugh. I hope you will share your amusement,” she said.

“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips at the Shakespearian quote. “You would assign me the role of Portia?”

“Do you not fight against the darkness?”

Elizabeth wondered if he had ever fought against dark forces. Instead of indulging her curiosity, she chose to joke. “But you believe I do so through trickery, as Portia disguised herself as a man to argue in court to save her husband’s friend?”

“I would not dare to know the arts of a Bewitching Sister.”

Elizabeth frowned as the flames in the room grew. Determined to ignore him, she turned her attention to her food. Darcy said nothing more, but the temperature of the room seemed to steadily drop. Elizabeth glanced at the fire, it had gone out, and ice frosted the windows.

Looking at the other occupants of the room, most of them showed signs of feeling cold. Jane’s teeth chattered but she was too polite to say anything. Anger flared in Elizabeth. Why did Mrs. Tilney not remove them from the room? As she thought about it, the fire on the far wall suddenly surged forward. Knowing it would still take some time to rewarm the room, Elizabeth was happy to see their hostess nearly immediately on her feet.

“I think if our guests are amenable,” said Mrs. Tilney, “we ought to adjourn to the drawing room for our dessert.”

The Bennet family nodded their heads in agreement, and Mrs. Tilney stood to direct the ladies to the drawing-room and allowed the gentlemen to remain. They would have dessert and coffee when the men joined the women, which the gentlemen assured them would not take long given the temperature of the room.

“Miss Bennet,” Miss Bingley joined Jane on a sofa, “my sister and I were simply amazed to hear of your story. Such times we live in! But tell us, dear, are you reconciled to our world?”

Always reserved in the company of others, Jane dissembled. “My father is a great teacher. Our progress is very rapid. We did have our powers as children and memories of such were restored.”

“How brave you all are!” Mrs. Hurst said.

Miss Bingley turned her head toward Elizabeth and gasped. “Miss Eliza! You are so flushed! Are you sure you should be so near the fire?”

“Are you ill, Lizzy?” Jane asked.

“I feel perfectly well. You look pale, dear.”

“She likely caught a chill while we were eating. The room gets terribly cold. That is why mother suggested we remove to the drawing room,” Mrs. Hurst explained.

Elizabeth understood as she struggled to control her emotions around Mr. Darcy, that she had not felt any cold at all. “Allow me,” she said, and the flames grew.

Elizabeth sat next to Jane, and the ladies discussed the impending winter weather. After several minutes, Mrs. Hurst excused herself to speak with her mother. Miss Bingley and Jane conversed pleasantly while Elizabeth found herself watching the door and awaiting the entrance of the gentlemen. Internally laughing at her folly, she shook her head and allowed her eye to rove over the extravagant room. The pianoforte likely cost more than the furnishings in Longbourn’s entire first floor. In the corner, a maid refilled coffee and teacups through spell work. Elizabeth had the uncomfortable feeling that she no longer understood the rules of the world around her. Mr. Bennet’s suggestion to practice magic on their friends confused her. Obviously, her power would be too dangerous to do so but others might. Indeed, even Jane had already attempted to uncover the feelings of the Netherfield party. It just seemed so… intrusive. The Jobbard world would never welcome it.

Elizabeth felt her palms prickle with sensation again a minute before there was noise at the door and the gentlemen returned. Mr. Darcy entered, catching her eye immediately. She held his gaze and lifted her chin. Magical world or not, she would not be ashamed of whatever he found to criticize.

Lady Darcy’s Bluestocking Club–Chapter Three

I’ve gotten behind on this story. I’m sorry! I’ve been sick a few weeks. Additionally, I am trying to finished Treasured. I should have Chapter Four ready next week, though.

Previous chapters: One / Two

Chapter Three

 

A day or two after they arrived in London, Darcy entered his club. He hadn’t been in there since he met with Bingley and before he left for Easter in Kent. He was hailed by a few acquaintances and greeted them civilly, noting he attracted more onlookers than ever before. Settling into his usual seat, he overheard a nearby discussion.

“I am surprised to see Darcy,” said one man. “I heard he was in Hertfordshire for a sister-in-law’s wedding.”

“One of many,” another said.

“Indeed,” the first man said. “It is good his wife comes from such a good breeder.”

Darcy tensed at the vulgar term but remained silent.

“Ah, but no sons,” said the first.

“Pemberley has no need of a male heir, and if they never are blessed with children, Miss Darcy will tend to the Darcy legacy. The estate—and the title.”

“How old is Miss Darcy? She should be making her come out soon.” A young man with eager eyes spoke up.

Darcy could not remember who he was. Undoubtedly, he would like a connection to a barony and a hefty dowry.

“I would rather hear about those sisters-in-law,” the first said. “I have heard they are all out and nearly all as beautiful as Lady Darcy.”

“Have you seen her? Darcy keeps her locked up!”

“Interesting that—he must be ashamed to have been taken in by a fortune hunter. Can she be so beautiful if he will not squire her about?”

“One just married a duke. You cannot claim the family is too low now.”

Darcy had heard enough. Standing, he glared at the group of men before stalking out. Had he never fully registered before how men talked about women? As though they were worth nothing more than for their pleasure, to make heirs, or to enhance their accounts? He turned to leave and did not know if he would ever return. His poor wife. He could only hope she had a better experience with the ladies who had called on her.

Enroute to his home, Darcy considered what he had heard. He had been disgusted at the time, but now he also felt pity. The men were ignorant and would never know the joys of being loved and respected by a strong woman. Perhaps it was not entirely their fault. The usual gentleman’s education did not include much in the way of thinking of women as equals. However, they had ample opportunity and means to rectify their lack of intelligence.

He had not thought as seriously about the matter of opening a school for ladies as anything more than a promise to his aunt. He had seen the worth in educating women, of course. However, he had never considered it as imperative for the entire human race. The only way to end ignorant talk like he had just heard was by showing the world what educated women could do and by proving some men were unafraid of them.

Arriving at Darcy House, he waved his butler off with news of letters in the study and cards from callers and climbed the stairs to the drawing room where he expected to find his wife. He found Georgiana and Mary seated at the pianoforte working on a duet.

“Where is Elizabeth?”

Mary and Georgiana exchanged a glance.

“Where is she?” Darcy demanded. “Is she unwell? Was someone unkind to her?”

Why had he left her alone for calls this morning? She had insisted she was ready to face the ton, but he had wanted to be at her side. He was racing through the hallway to her chamber when he heard her voice call out to him from the other end of the hall. Turning around, he saw her give him a curious look and approached.

“Were you looking for me?” she said sweetly and seemed unaffected by anything.

“Indeed. When you were not in the drawing room, I assumed something awful happened.”

Elizabeth raised her brow and tapped her foot but said nothing.

Darcy hung his head. “And I ought to know by now not to make assumptions. Forgive me, love.”

“You did not think that I could tolerate a morning of calls from the ton’s finest?”

He approached and kissed her forehead. “Can you blame me for being over-protective?”

“Do other husbands think their wives are made of glass? What do men at your club say?”

Darcy did not want to think about that just now. “I do not think you are made of glass. I simply regret the convention that says I must spend so much time away from my new bride. I also know there are many vicious and petty ladies in the world.”

“This would not be my first time meeting vicious or petty ladies. I am not Fanny Bennet’s daughter for nothing and let us not forget I have known Caroline Bingley.”

“You are quite correct. So, nothing of note happened today?” He knew Elizabeth was strong, but he also knew how much it hurt her when she learned of Mrs. Collins’ low opinion of her.

“No, it all went as I expected. How was your day?”

Darcy frowned. It going as she expected was not the same as saying it went well or she thought some of the ladies were friendly. Why had he not asked Dorset’s mother to sit with her? Or Lady Catherine could have come from Rosings. Few would dare to say anything against her.

“Shall we not join our sisters? I can ring for tea,” Elizabeth said.

“They are employed in their own pursuits,” he said with a slow-growing smile. “And I was in pursuit of you.” He captured her hand and began leading her down the hall.

“William, we cannot.” Elizabeth looked around nervously. “It is the middle of the day! Our sisters must have heard us conversing. What will they think when we do not return to them?”

“That it is far better we are affectionate with each other in private than in public and everything else they will understand when they are married.”

“Affectionate in public—”

Darcy interrupted whatever else Elizabeth intended to say with a kiss. One hand nestled at her waist, the other stroked up and down her back. After a few moments, he pulled back. “Please, Lizzy.”

“Ben,” Elizabeth whispered but nodded.

Sometime later, as they relaxed in Elizabeth’s chamber, Darcy told her about the visit to his club. “I do not know that I will go back.”

“Are all the gentlemen that way?”

“No. Of course not,” Darcy shook his head. “In truth, I have barely said more than a word or two to any of those men.”

“And you have enjoyed the place in the past?”

Darcy thought for a moment. It had meant little to him that he had not been there in weeks. However, there were times when he desired male company. At the moment, his friendship with Bingley was severed. Nor had he and Richard made amends. The only other man he had been around in weeks was the Duke—currently honeymooning—and Elizabeth’s father. In the past, the club had offered a possibility of socialization without the dreaded experience of a lady seeking a husband. True, there were always fathers and brothers looking for a wealthy match for the women in their lives. However, he was never forced into dancing with anyone there. Additionally, it was easier to leave if anyone annoyed. At a ball or soiree, there would always be the possibility of giving offense and wounding a lady’s sensibilities if he seemed bored by her prattle.

“It has had its merits,” Darcy said.

“You cannot sit at the house with me all day,” Elizabeth said gently and rubbed his back. “Not that I enjoy the confinement that much.”

Darcy winced. “I ought to have considered that you were used to company more. I know your mother entertained often.” He sighed. “Would you like to host a dinner party?”

Elizabeth chuckled. “You will not put me off this topic. However, since you have asked, I do not wish to host one yet. However, soon we must. It is what is expected of us, and if I am ever to make real friends in this Society, then I will have to play hostess. I never really enjoyed my mother’s parties. It is not as though the guests were usually fascinating people with interesting conversation. I suppose I miss my routine. My sisters and I would walk to Meryton almost every day. We would look at the shops and meet with acquaintances. Occasionally, we would make new friends. My world here seems very small by comparison.”

Elizabeth paused and gave her husband a stern look. “We were talking about you. Is avoiding the club why you wished to stay home today?”

“I did not have any expectation that I would hear such vulgar, insensitive words. I did, however, have an inkling that it would be more unpleasant than usual. The last time I was there was with Bingley. Looking back, he was fishing for information about the barony and ran home to tell his sister I was searching for a Bluestocking. I do not know if I wished to avoid the memory or just was not desirous of company. As it happens, I have no close male friends left.”

“Well,” Elizabeth said with a small smile, “it is not unusual for men to give up some acquaintances upon marriage. There will be nothing unusual about that or inviting critique. Surely you have some men that you do not know as well as others that might be worthy of elevation. Or you may meet new friends. You can be a charming conversationalist when you try. If you no longer prefer the club, what about another pursuit? As for the rest, I have been told a charming wife may be of use.” Elizabeth batted her lashes before laughing at her antics.

“Lucky that I have a very charming wife.” He leaned in for a kiss.

Elizabeth melted against him for a minute before pulling back and placing a hand on his chest. “We really should join our sisters now. We will scandalize them!”

She began to move away from the bed, but Darcy tugged on her hand to still her movements.

“Do you have something more to say?” Elizabeth asked, looking over her shoulder at him.

“I do not mean to pressure you about the ladies’ club. I know you wanted to do it out of reverence for my aunt, but I can see now how needed it is. Not only do ladies deserve a club of their own and their education should be supported for their own sake, I see now some men must learn an intelligent woman is nothing to fear. The school my aunt suggested is a most excellent idea.”

Darcy saw a flicker of terror enter Elizabeth’s eyes before she smiled. “Of course, both are marvelous notions, and I am committed to both. I would prefer to gain my footing in this world first. I must let them see who I am before I can ask for their support. If I cannot hold my own in our home, how should I ever manage such a fete?”

“There is nothing you cannot do, my love,” Darcy said and raised her hand to his lips. “I will trust you to know when the time is right. I only wanted to let you know that my feelings on the subject have changed from one of obligation to keen interest.”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth nodded. “Now, how shall we explain our absence to our sisters?”

Darcy stood and walked around the bed. “We say nothing unless they ask. Then you can say you were busy with whatever it was you were doing before I returned.” Darcy paused as he focused on stepping into his trousers. “What was it you were doing? You never answered me.”

“I was with the housekeeper, darling.” Elizabeth’s voice was muffled as she held hairpins in her mouth. “Can you lace me up?”

Darcy smiled at the request. He did not know what other husbands and wives did. Did they call their maid and valet back upstairs to assist in redressing after a mid-day interlude? Whatever the others did, he did not care. He enjoyed these intimate moments with Elizabeth. He was growing quite adept at ladies garments. He smiled at the roguish thought.

Elizabeth turned when he had finished and looked at him. “What is that smirk for?”

“No reason,” he said as he sat on the edge of the bed so she could tie his cravat. “I wonder if Andrews fears for his position. You would make a fine valet.”

“You should be careful teasing the one who wraps linen around your neck,” Elizabeth said and tugged on the fabric for emphasis.

“I am all atremble,” Darcy laughed. “Why did you meet with Mrs. Lewis?”

“No, I simply wished to go over some menu plans. What shall we say you were doing?”

They now stood by the door, hand in hand. “The butler informed me of your whereabouts, and so I returned to my study.”

“And if they see us exit the room?”

“Then I suppose they will quickly learn to not be so observant,” Darcy said and squeezed Elizabeth’s waist earning a light thwack on his arm.

“You are incorrigible.”

“And you love it.”

Elizabeth laughed and shook her head. “I love you, silly. I merely put up with everything else.”

Darcy’s heart always beat faster when she said those words. He would never tire of hearing them. When she said that she loved him, he felt like the most powerful and worthy man in the world, like knights of old going off to slay a dragon. “I love you, Elizabeth,” he pressed a kiss to her temple before hearing her happy sigh and opening the door. If they must face the world, they would do so together.

Thursday Three Hundred– Hidden Hearts

I’m going to try something new on the blog. I’m going to do a continuing story for Thursday Three Hundred. Each post will be at least 300 words. The full story, however, will be a short story of about 10,000 words. I will probably later publish them as a collection of short stories.

Scotts Grotto in Ware, Hertfordshire is a real location. You can read a bit more about it here.

Rose Letter

Darcy held back a grimace as the carriage swayed. How in the devil had he Bingley talked him into this? An excursion to nearby Ware to visit a fairy grotto. Fairies of all things!

The Bennet carriage did not have enough space to carry all of them comfortably, and so Bingley offered space in Darcys. He could either convey Mrs. Bennet or the unusual man visiting who was their cousin and the estate’s heir, Mr. Collins. Just when Darcy was beginning to conclude it was better to have the devil you know than the devil you do not know, Mr. Collins told Elizabeth he hoped to spend time alone with her in the caverns. Before Darcy was fully aware of what he was doing, he had invited the man into his carriage. Miss Bennet, of course, was also asked–since she was still recovering from her cold, Mrs. Bennet said when she all but threw her daughter into the coach. Darcy wondered at the propriety of one maiden and three gentlemen in one compartment. Undoubtedly, it was on the tip of Caroline’s tongue when she began to argue as Mrs. Bennet climbed into the Hurst carriage. However, Darcy could not bear riding with either lady in addition to Collins. He rapped the ceiling of the coach to pull forward before the others were entirely loaded up.

Arriving at the grotto, it was as awkward an experience as he had expected. He was too tall for most of the rooms and had to continually duck his head. The light was dim and the worst of the Bennet females shrilly oohed and ahhed over every shell decorated niche. The middle one pontificated that she felt a communion with God here.

Darcy had to get away. There were air vents, but with so many people cramped in small quarters, he felt trapped. His sole relief was that Caroline hovered near the entrance, refusing to go any further than where the sunlight shone.

Following the walls, Darcy walked through the corridors until he could hear nothing. He actually liked grottoes and had visited a few near Pemberley as a child. He never would have supposed Hertfordshire had such a thing but trust Lydia Bennet to entirely insist upon the idea of Bingley visiting the landmark and the Bennets accompanying him.

Rounding a corner, he found another opening. Scott’s Grotto had one large chamber and then five smaller ones. He had not thought to bring a lamp with him during his escape further into the cave. He had assumed the hall and each chamber would have light, but the lone lamp in this area flickered dimly. Hearing a giggle echo off the walls, Darcy inched back, hoping the darkness would shelter him from unwanted intrusion.

Expecting to feel the coolness of the stone wall, he was met with the softness of a female body while a softened yelp reverberated in his ears. He could feel the person falling due to his accidental bump. Spinning around, he thrust his hands into the darkness to steady the person. He did not feel the firmness of shoulders or elbows. Instead, the soft lusciousness of breasts filled his hands.

Mortified, he pulled his hands away. Before he could offer an apology, the lady gasped in shocked outrage.

“Mr. Darcy! How dare you!”

“Miss Elizabeth?

 

Mr. Darcy’s Compassion– Chapter Five

Spring Blooming - White Blossoms And Sunlight In The Sky

I know people are anxious for them to leave the inn and begin traveling but this might end up being a pretty long novel and the author made them both injured so they could get to know one another a little better. But it can’t all be sunshine can it?

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four

Chapter Five

On Cuthbert’s recommendation, Darcy obtained a maid named Molly, who Elizabeth knew well, to assist her a few times during the day. She could not devote all of her time to it—for there was no future position he could offer her in the household. A tavern maid did not have the skills to be a lady’s maid or an upstairs maid. If she had a known history of occasional prostitution, he did not wish to offer her a place in the kitchen. That was the cook’s domain, and she had firm opinions about her help. Not only could she potentially earn more at the tavern, but it also would not do for Mrs. Darcy to be friendly with a scullery maid.

Returning with Molly in tow, he saw to his own ablutions in his valet’s room. “I apologise for intruding on your privacy, Stevens,” he said to the man.

“It is no intrusion, sir. Few men in my position would have their own room in any case.”

“True, but I feel as though you count on that time and space to yourself.”

“Truthfully, sir, I spend much of my free time below stairs.”

“Do you, indeed?”

“I do. I do not crave solitude the way in which you do.”

“Would you prefer to room with strangers?”

“Room with them, no,” Stevens made a face. “However, speaking with them, observing them, that is an enjoyable way to pass the time.”

“I believe you have that in common with the future Mrs. Darcy.”

“Indeed! My congratulations, sir.”

“You do not look surprised,” Darcy observed as the man continued to shave his face.

“You have never invited another woman to your room.”

“True but you could hardly expect me to propose to a tavern maid, I hope. I would rely on you to bring me back to my senses.”

Stevens laughed. “I could hardly imagine that ever being the case. As it happens, I recall Miss Elizabeth Bennet from our time in Hertfordshire. I had thought then you might have a tendre for her.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, you alternately wore a grin or a deep frown after interactions with her when she visited her ill sister.”

“I did not know I was so transparent.”

“Perhaps only to the man who has made a study of your every expression lest I give you a scar for distinction.” He smirked.

Darcy laughed in response as Stevens’ hands hovered above his face. Returning to a neutral expression, Darcy said, “You said nothing.”

“You said you relied on me to talk you into your senses. You did not seem on the verge of any rash decision. At the time, I would have thought she inappropriate to be your bride, but that was before this winter.” His hands paused again, anticipating Darcy’s next expression.

A frown came forward without thought, and his brows contracted, bringing deep lines between them. “It was a rough winter, sir. I had thought you were heartsick when we left Hertfordshire—but then things seemed even worse until a few weeks ago until we arrived here. Now, I would not think to counsel you against marrying a lady who can restore your smile no matter what her current circumstances are or why she is a maid here instead of at the estate to which she was born.”

For the last few days, Darcy had managed to mostly put out of his mind the deep sorrow and rage he felt at Georgiana’s latest confession. Deciding it best to return the conversation to the subject he had intended to introduce, he said, “Very wise. I trust you will not explain our reunion to the others at Pemberley or Darcy House.”

“Never, sir.”

“I must discuss matters with Elizabeth, but we will be altering our plans. We must still go to London—but will not stop at the house or spend the night, if we can help it. Then, our route must alter toward Scotland.”

“I will arrange it,” Stevens nodded.

“Perhaps some inns we do not stay at—smaller towns.”

He hoped to not meet with any acquaintances. If he were unknown at the inn, they could feign a marriage already existed between them. If he did meet with anyone he knew, he could claim she was a distant relation. The trick would be to conceal Elizabeth so she would not be recognizable later as his wife. Additionally, he would need to be sure the staff at the inn did not call him by the wrong name if a friend was in earshot and, of course, people kept their own hours and might show up at any time.

They could not avoid news of their elopement spreading. Oh, he could use his money and clout and fabricate a wedding. He could pay some clergyman to lie and say he performed a marriage and they married by special license. However, Darcy had better scruples than that and would not ask a rector to lie. The more significant problem was concealing Elizabeth working as a tavern maid. He did not care if they thought the marriage inappropriate and presumed he married too low, whether it be the daughter of a country squire or a lady in reduced circumstances. The problem was that many would assume her working in a tavern meant she also prostituted herself.

Satisfied with his looks, Darcy left and approached the room he shared with Elizabeth. Before knocking, he could hear the friendly tones of Elizabeth and Molly chatting. Yes, the faster they were separated, the better.

“Lud! Look at yourself. Fit as a princess!” Molly laughed.

“It is not like that,” Elizabeth insisted. “Mr. Darcy wants to marry me.”

“Oh, that is what they all say, dearest.”

Darcy frowned at the maid’s insinuation.

“He is an honourable gentleman. I know he means it.”

Elizabeth always could stand up for herself. What a pleasure it was to hear her stand up for him.

“How can you know that? The minute he saw ya, he bought ya.”

“No,” Elizabeth said firmly. “We knew each other before–”

“Before what?”

“Before I came here.”

“So you were a fancy work then? Came on hard times?”

“How many times do I have to tell you that I was never in that line of work?”

“Perhaps if you would tell me more about what you did do before I wouldn’t have to fill in the blanks myself.”

Darcy did not like the direction of the conversation. The maid was too impertinent by half. Elizabeth might not recognise it, but there were all the signs that the maid was more interested in information she could use to blackmail them than she was in friendship. Darcy knocked on the door, interrupting their conversation.

Elizabeth called for him to enter. A sense of relief washed over him. He had not realised it before, but he had been anxious while separated from her. She was still here, in his room, safe and well.

“Thank you for your help, Molly,” Elizabeth said with a friendly wave.

“Thank you for your services,” Darcy said and dropped a coin into her waiting hand. “We will consider you again in the future.”

“But I thought–”

“That will be all.” Darcy opened the door, and after a glance at displeased looking Elizabeth, the maid left.

“What did you do that for?” Elizabeth twisted in her seat to glare at him.

“Be careful what you say to her and others.”

“I am careful.” Elizabeth harrumphed and folded her arms across her chest. “She does not know my real name. I have never told anyone about my past.”

“She seemed most curious about it.”

“She was just being friendly.”

“It seemed like more than that to me,” Darcy said as he settled into the chair next to the settee where Elizabeth rested with her leg propped up. “I do not know her as you do so it is natural for me to be more cautious.”

Elizabeth raised her brows. “But you have the right to overrule me and be rude whenever you choose? Some marriage this will be.”

“I am looking out for your interests,” Darcy insisted.

“What harm could come from her knowing about my past? If she blackmails us, refuse her. The most she can do is whisper rumours to whoever passes through this place–which, you may have noticed, does not typically include anyone from the Ton. What about all your talk about not caring about what Society had to say about me?”

“Forgive me,” Darcy dropped his head. “You are correct. I have said that and I mean it. I have learned to be on edge and worry about blackmail more than the usual person, and it has prejudiced me against others.”

“And?” Elizabeth raised her brows.

“And…and I will hope to do better in the future. Nor do I mean to overrule you. There are times, however, when we must discuss matters, and I might disagree with you.”

“There’s a shock,” Elizabeth said with a grin.

“That we might disagree?”

“Oh, that is a given.” She laughed. “No, that you apologised and spoke to the heart of the matter.”

“I am incapable of doing anything else,” Darcy said while relaxing in the chair. “I cannot make small talk or talk around things. I prefer a direct approach.”

“And what of your ability to apologise?”

His lips twitched. “Of that, the ladies in my life are seeing to my education.”

“Ladies?” Elizabeth’s brow furrowed. “Oh, your sister. Well, I have never had a brother, but I know there are many things which might annoy any sister and would expect a brother to be not very different from another sister about that.”

It went far more than a mere annoyance, but he did not wish to shatter Elizabeth’s quaint image of the Darcy siblings just yet. “What would you like to do today?”

“Well, with your sore arm and my twisted ankle, I think we ought to attempt flying to the moon. Once there, I will hike all over it.”

Darcy could not contain his laughter. Elizabeth joined in for a moment and then sobered.

“Will you tell me why you think so meanly of London Society now?”

Pain seared Darcy’s heart. He knew he must speak with her about it, but not yet. “Would you mind if we wait until this evening? Perhaps I may read aloud until then.”

“You do not have to entertain me,” Elizabeth smiled. “Surely you have other things to do. I recall a lady once observing that you must have a great many letters of business to write.”

Darcy’s lips lifted in a slight smile. “I had thought you were paying more attention to that conversation than to your book.”

“I suppose that must mean Mr. Bingley’s library needs improvement. Your library at Pemberley, according to Miss Bingley, is vastly superior. But then you tell me she is often incorrect.”

“Our library at Pemberley is astounding.” The hint of a smile turned into a full grin. “I cannot wait to show it to you. Yes, Miss Bingley often exaggerates or invents matters, but I do not think it is possible to overstate how many books it contains, lest you compare it to some academic place like the Bodleian.”

“I should like to see that someday as well!”

“Your wish is my command. I will take you there and anywhere else your heart desires–except the moon. I fear I do not have the capacity to take you there unless it is in your dreams.” How he wished she would dream of him the way he imagined of her. Waking to her in his arms had been exquisite torture.

Elizabeth blushed and fell silent until a smirk came to her lips. “I must correct you, sir. The evening of your letter writing at Netherfield I did not read a book. I was sewing and ignoring that for any conversation, I will own to proudly.”

“Ah, but you were with a book one night.”

“I believe that was the evening Miss Bingley chose to list what skills an accomplished lady needed to acquire. Fortunately for me, it did not include too much about needlework.” A strange look passed Elizabeth’s face. “I did not think then that any of this would be possible. I was as certain of Bingley’s regard for my sister as I was of my feelings of superiority of mind to his two sisters and even to you. I had thought you the most arrogant man in the world with your long list of ridiculous requirements for a lady. Now, I am to be your wife.”

Darcy reached for Elizabeth’s hand and raised it to his lips. “If you examine those memories again, you will see that I only said a lady must be an extensive reader and that was because you were holding a book.”

Elizabeth thought for a moment before shaking her head and laughing. “You said that for me?”

“How could I not? I did not want to embarrass Miss Bingley or offend her brother by announcing that I would prefer you ten thousand times over her.”

“I had thought you were mocking me. I had closed the book!” Mischievousness lit her eyes. “Ah, but you also once sat with a book.”

“I did,” Darcy agreed. “My sole intention was to ignore you. My eyes were often drawn to you, and I knew you had noticed. I did not want you to think you had power over me.”

“Indeed, I did not.”

“I understand that now but at the time my arrogance and prejudice only allowed me to see the danger I was in.”

“And did you succeed?”

“You know I did not!” Darcy laughed. “You must recall how I closed the book the moment Miss Bingley began conversing with you and bringing you to my notice. I could not resist.”

“I do remember,” Elizabeth said. “I remember so much from my time at Netherfield,” she whispered in a voice of astonishment.

Darcy’s heart rate accelerated. If she could remember so well then maybe she was not unaffected by it. “I hope you think of it with as much pleasure as I do.” He squeezed the hand he still held.

Elizabeth shook her head and sighed sadly. “I do not think that I do. I was confused… Your behaviour, even then, seemed inconsistent. One moment you were speaking with everyone, then focused on me. The longer we conversed, the more it seemed you only criticised or argued–yet why should you exasperate yourself so much? My mind was exhausted from forming half explanations. A request to dance was not a sign of admiration–it was a desire to mock me. Your singling me out for conversation annoyed but then so did your ignoring me on our final day.”

“I wish I would have behaved differently,” Darcy acknowledged. “I was confused myself. I was drawn to you more than I had ever experienced before. It frightened me which is not something I think I had felt since a small lad. I told myself at the time that I did not wish to raise your expectations. In truth, I was a coward. Pray, forgive me.”

“Two apologies in one day! I do feel like quite the special lady!” Elizabeth grinned. “It has long been my policy to think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure. I had not thought upon those days very often for it brought little pleasure–especially since the changes in my life. However, now that I know they were your attempts at concealing admiration–and how very like you I might add–I may consider them happily. No, I will not forgive you. I rather like my memories.”

Darcy’s throat tightened with emotion. The acceptance of all his quirks and facets was something he had longed for all his life. Leaving his char, he knelt at her side. He raised both her hands to his lips and then caressed her cheek. “I wish I could explain to you how much I love you.”

Elizabeth’s lashes fluttered, but she spoke, “Can you not?”

“Words would fail me. Even if I were blessed with oratory skills, they would not be enough. The greatest poets of all time cannot describe the feelings that beat in my breast or dictate my every thought.” He had long been attracted to Elizabeth, but this was far more than infatuation or mental distraction. His soul felt a communion with hers.

“Then show me, Fitzwilliam,” Elizabeth gave a breathy command.

As his lips met hers over and over again, he did just that.

Wisdom Wednesday– Opinions

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I’ve recently started therapy again and mentioned this very thing to my therapist last week. I told her about something very trying in my life and the opinions of others that have gone with it. I said that I had thought I was a confident person until this happened and I realized how much I cared about the opinions of others. It’s cost me a lot in the way of friendships and support, but I knew myself to be in the right.

I won’t lie. For what felt like an extremely long time I was not okay with this. I hated knowing so many people disliked me or thought the worst of me. I went over and over again in my head what I could do differently to alter their opinion. If I told them my side of the story, they would see reason. If I was just more open with them–let them see more of me and my struggles they would see that I must be in the right. If they knew the facts then they would have different opinions of me.

In the end, I said nothing. I learned to get very comfortable with being uncomfortable. I dreaded going out and meeting people who thought they knew everything going on. I spent less time on social media lest they continue to harass me there. It took months, but I grew accustomed to my own skin. I grew confident in myself and who I was without the approval of anyone else.

I had always been the smart one, or sweet, or caring, dutiful, responsible etc. All these other blanket adjectives from people who never took the time to really know me and any complexities I had. And for some reason, I hated the idea of letting them down or their opinion of me diminishing. These were people who barely talked to me or I to them and yet I allowed them so much power over my life!

Who am I now without their approval? Exactly who I have always been. Their approval or disapproval didn’t change me. I wasn’t less because they no longer liked me. Facts: I am enough. I love myself. I have others that love me. Everything else is an opinion and isn’t necessarily based in reality.

I share this to encourage others. I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with this. I suggest saying some healthy affirmations daily to replace the insecurity and negative self-talk in your head. Eventually, you will believe it. One day, you’ll find yourself believing in yourself without any words from outsiders. When that day comes, it’s a marvelous sense of peace and freedom. You are worthy of that. No matter what anyone else says. Make choices that you can look back on without regrets and that’s what matter in life–not the opinions of others.

Treasured– Chapter Five

treasured finalIs Wickham really in Meryton? What is Will going to do about that?

Previous Chapters: One / Two / Three / Four

Chapter Five

Will tugged on his gloves in Netherfield’s front hall. Charles ought to have arrived by now. After Richard decided to go for a ride through Meryton in hopes of finding Georgiana, Will determined his cousin and sister should not be the only one seeing Elizabeth on this day. Speaking with Charles, they decided to ride to Longbourn. Finally, his friend arrived in the hall.

“You are looking more well-groomed than usual,” Will said as he looked Charles over.

“It is an important day,” Charles said and fiddled with his cufflinks.

“Is it?”

“You will pull it out of me, will you?”

Will playfully bumped into his friend’s shoulder. “If it is important for the reason I think it is then I should say if you find it so difficult to utter the words for me then you will never survive your lady.”

“My Bennet lady is far sweeter than yours,” Charles said.

Will laughed as he recalled his several proposals to Elizabeth. She had been a bit demanding when he could barely string a coherent thought. Jane surely would not put Charles through all that. “And her father?”

Charles ceased his movements. “He would not refuse would he?”

Will did not think Mr. Bennet would, but he would probably enjoy teasing his potential son-in-law. “I expect he will give no leniency if you beat around the matter. You are asking for his daughter’s hand. He needs to see that you can be the man of the house.”

Charles nodded and finally began walking toward the stables again. “I can be the man of the house. I am the man of the house!”

“Are you?” Will asked.

“As it happens,” Charles said after mounting his horse, “Caroline and the Hursts will be returning to London shortly.”

“This was your idea?”

“Yes,” Charles nodded. “Not that I have explained it to them but if Wickham has intentions for you, they are safer in Town. Secondly, I will not put up with Caroline and Louisa’s mocking of Elizabeth or Jane. I have made my mind up and do not care for childish tantrums. If they do not like it here, they can go to London.”

“And?”

Charles thought for a moment. “And I will inform Caroline she cannot go over the allotted budget of what she might have spent while here. Allowing her extra time in Town is not to be a reward for bad behavior.”

“Excellent,” Will said. Charles ought to have taken Caroline in hand years ago. However, as Will was discovering with Georgiana, it was not easy to restrain one’s sister. He could only guess that their closeness in age created even more problems.

Will slapped the reins against his mount and raced off. “Catch up!” He grinned over his shoulder. “Or you will never beat me!”

“I did not know we were racing!” Charles called after him as he directed his horse to a gallop.

Arriving at Longbourn, Will immediately sensed something was wrong. The servant who answered the door looked at them warily and brought them to the drawing room where a pale Elizabeth sat drinking wine as Jane rubbed her back.

“Perhaps you were mistaken,” Jane said.

“No. I know it was him,” Elizabeth replied.

Will cleared his throat, garnering Elizabeth’s notice. Before he had made more than two steps into the room, Elizabeth had raced to his arms and squeezed him tightly. “What is this? Are you well?”

“I am; are you?” Elizabeth pulled back and glanced over him.

Not understanding her behaviour, Will searched the room for Georgiana and Richard. They were not present. “Come, let us sit. You feel as cold as ice.”

Will led Elizabeth to a settee and rubbed her hands between his. “Miss Bennet, could you articulate for me what has scared Elizabeth nearly out of her wits?”

Jane looked at Mary before replying. “Elizabeth thinks she saw Mr. Wickham in Meryton.”

Instantly, Will’s body tensed. How could he be here? Did not Richard have Runners watching the scoundrel’s movements? Where was Richard?

“Will!” Elizabeth cried.

Looking down, Will realised he was vigorously rubbing Elizabeth’s hands. He released them. “Forgive me.”

Taking a deep breath, he blew it out. She was safe, that much was clear. Additionally, Richard, wherever he was, had surely ensured Georgiana was safe. He had no reason for urgent action. Bingley had been correct earlier. The safer route was to form a plan.

Fortunately, before Will had to ask about their whereabouts, Richard and Georgiana entered the drawing room. Richard’s face was set in a stern and grim expression, while Georgiana visibly stiffened. Upon seeing Will. “I have been apprised of the situation. Did either of you see him? Georgiana, did he speak with you?”

“Of course, I did not speak with him,” Georgiana said with flashing eyes that indicated annoyance. “I was never alone.”

“Georgiana did separate from Miss Elizabeth and Miss Bennet,” Richard supplied.

“I was getting better acquainted with Miss Mary,” Georgiana interjected. She gave the lady a soft smile. “She did not leave my side, and I believe we shall become very good friends.”

“Miss Mary, is this true?” Richard asked.

Will hated that he had to doubt his sister. He loathed that it was displayed for the Bennet ladies to see and that his cousin had to take on the role as Will had already failed to protect Georgiana once.

“Yes,” Mary nodded enthusiastically. “Mrs. Darcy and I went to the bookshop together. Jane and Lizzy had gone to the milliner.”

“I did give them leave to go to look at books without me,” Elizabeth said. “I hope you are not angry with me.”

Will shook his head and affectionately touched Elizabeth’s hand. “I am not angry, my dear.” He knew Georgiana well enough to suppose she had insisted on going. He would deal with that later. Now, the greater concern was Wickham. “Are you certain that it was he? You have not seen him and several years.”

“I could not forget what he looks like. If I had greater sketching ability, I would draw his picture for you.”

“Lizzy, might you be overwrought?” Jane asked. “You have been greatly concerned lately, and Mr. Wickham has featured prominently in those worries.”

“I know what I saw!” Elizabeth turned to Will. “Do you believe me?”

“Yes, love. Richard and I shall discuss how we will discover why he is in this place and what his potential motives are.”

“Are we in danger?” Jane asked.

“Certainly not,” Charles said.

Will nearly jumped at the voice. He had forgotten his friend was here as Charles had been uncharacteristically silent. “Charles is correct. We will do the best in our ability to protect you all, and he has nothing to gain from harming any of you. There is nothing to worry about.”

As Will said it, he forced himself to not cringe at the lie. The other girls probably had no reason to be concerned. Elizabeth, however, could be a target. Wickham would know that harming her would crush Will.

“Elizabeth, do you remember anything about where he was or what he wore? Were there any distinguishing features?” Will asked.”

Elizabeth thought in silence for a moment or two. “Now that I think about it, his jacket looked like a militia uniform. I could not see most of his body only his face.”

“And the location?”

“It was where our carriage was. Near the water pump.”

“There is a tavern nearby, and I suspect that is where we could find many other the militiamen if not the Colonel of the Regiment himself,” Richard said.

“We will journey there ourselves as soon as we bring Georgiana back to Netherfield.”

“Must I go?” Georgiana turned to her brother and gave him a pleading look.

It had worked when she was a small child and wished for some trifling thing from him. Years ago, it had ceased to work, and she had used the tactic with less frequency. He distrusted her motives for attempting it now.

“You have visited long enough for one day.”

“I thought I was invited to spend time with your betrothed?”

“And yet you did not,” Will raised his brows. He would not publicly expose that she had arrived before the “invitation” was ever issued. However, he was not in a mood to indulge any of her requests. She had disobeyed him again.

“Allow me to rectify that now. Miss Elizabeth also enjoys music. We could play together.” Georgiana sent Mary an apologetic look.

“That is a fine idea for your next meeting. It is useless to argue, though.”

“Oh, I would not dream of arguing with you dear brother.”

Georgiana stood and curtsied to her new friends, but it was done with an attitude Will did not like. If Elizabeth had less strength of character, he would wonder about bringing his sister around her lest the poor behaviour rub off.

“Goodbye for now,” Georgiana said to the room while wearing a false smile. “I trust we shall meet again soon.”

Richard escorted her to the carriage while Will and Charles said farewell to their ladies. When Will grasped Elizabeth’s hand to bring to his lips, he felt her tremble.

“Fear not, my love. We shall apprehend Wickham. You are in no danger. I will inform your father on my way out. This will soon be but yet another unpleasant memory.”

“It is not myself who I worry for you. I have told you this,” Elizabeth whispered and glanced around anxiously. “Take care,” she squeezed his hands tightly, “for you carry my heart with you and it could not survive another blow.”

Will had never ached to hold her more, but he could not gather her into his arms before her sisters. They had already broken propriety once while she was in the throes of distress. Soon, they would not have to separate, and she could always be with him. He placed a stray tendril behind her ear. “Everything shall be well,” he promised.

While he had not felt the words when he said them earlier, he meant them now. Whatever it took to make Elizabeth happy again, to ease her worries and erase the concerned look in her eye and lines between her brow, he would do. A quick kiss to her hands, a short conversation with Mr. Bennet, and Will was climbing in the carriage within minutes.

Looking at his sister, he vowed, “It will not work.”

“What will not work?” Georgiana asked and glanced nervously at Charles.

“I do not mind if he hears this,” Will said. “I will explain all to him later. I reference your dear Wickham’s scheme to have you ingratiate yourself with the Bennets.”

“That is not what I was attempting to do!” Georgiana folded her arms over her chest.

“I could care less if you liked them or they liked you. Elizabeth will be your sister, and you will have plenty of time to get to know her better once our marriage begins. I will not be bringing you with me on any subsequent calls at Longbourn until you earn my trust.”

Georgiana said nothing. She glared angrily at Will for a moment before defiantly turning her head and staring out the window. Will nodded his head at her actions. She knew it was useless to argue. He would not budge on this.

They arrived at Netherfield after a silent and tense ride. Charles had wisely chosen not to speak. Miss Bingley met them in the drawing room.

“I would ask where you all wandered off to but with those scowls, I believe I can guess,” she teased at the serious looks the men wore. “Mrs. Bennet’s effusions always makes me feel the same way. Colonel Fitzwilliam, do you not think it is absolutely intolerable that Mr. Darcy has aligned himself with such a woman?”

“We did not speak with Mrs. Bennet,” Charles said before Richard could answer.

“You did not?” Caroline’s brow furrowed. “Well, surely you did not speak to Mr. Bennet! I have never heard the man utter a word!”

“I did go to Longbourn with the intent of speaking to Mr. Bennet about a courtship with his eldest daughter, who you call a friend,” Charles hissed between grit teeth. “I have had enough of this, Caroline. Tell your maid to ready your trunks for tomorrow. I will inform Mr. Hurst as well.”

“Surely you are not banishing me to London because of a ill-timed tease!”

“I am sending you to London so I may court the woman I love in peace. She deserves no less from me.” He motioned to the door. “Now, go on your way. When I return, we will have a very candid conversation about your spending habits in town.”

Caroline scurried off calling out a mixture of disbelief at her treatment and vows to behave better if only he did not cut her allowance. Charles murmured that he would speak with Hurst and then return.

Georgiana sulked to the door. “I suppose you will do the same to me,” she said as she neared her brother.

“No. Go to your chamber, and we will speak to you when we return.”

Georgiana nodded but hesitated for a moment. She looked back at Will with tears shimmering in her eyes. “I know it to be impossible for Wickham to behave as you have described. He would never hurt anyone and could never have hurt Father.”

“Go now,” Will said and shook his head. It was useless to try and convince her of anything just then.

While Richard and Will waited for Charles to return they came up with a general plan on how to approach Colonel Forester. When their friend returned, they apprised him of it before setting off for Meryton.

They returned two hours later with even more haggard expressions than they wore at their outset. George Wickham was a member of the Militia and thus far an exemplary soldier. Will could hardly fathom the young man he knew happily doing such menial tasks. Other than a lifetime of taunting, spending his inheritance too quickly, and his attempted seduction of Will’s sister there was nothing to lay against the man. In the end, they had no examples of Wickham’s perfidy aside from his spending too freely. Colonel Forester sent them on their way with a promise to keep an eye on the man but would not have others picking on one of his officers either.

As the evening wore on, Will wrote a message to Mr. Bennet informing him of the meeting and ordered a tray to his room. He could not abide the theatrics of Charles’ sisters or his own. One good thing came from Wickham’s presence in the area, Caroline Bingley and her sister would be gone, and Will would have one less headache. As it was, he would need most of his concentration to affect confidence and security when calling at Longbourn when in reality he felt nothing but sheer terror at the thought of Wickham hurting Elizabeth.

Tilney Tuesday–Marriage lessons

tilney tuesday

I often say Mr. Tilney is my book boyfriend but Mr. Darcy is my book husband. Henry just seems like so much fun! However, maybe I should amend that statement. For, Mr. Tilney has some definite opinions about marriage and we do not know anything about what Darcy expects.

Henry and Catherine first meet in the Lower Rooms and danced twice. Then, he leaves Bath for about ten days. They meet again at the Octagon Room but cannot dance as Catherine is already promised to Mr. Thorpe. It takes a few more days before they meet again and are able to converse. During this dance, Thorpe interrupts them before they take to the floor. Thorpe tries to pressure Catherine into dancing with him although he had never asked.

This is what Mr. Tilney says:

“That gentleman would have put me out of patience, had he stayed with you half a minute longer. He has no business to withdraw the attention of my partner from me. We have entered into a contract of mutual agreeableness for the space of an evening, and all our agreeableness belongs solely to each other for that time. Nobody can fasten themselves on the notice of one, without injuring the rights of the other. I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.”

Catherine, of course, can’t believe that Mr. Tilney would compare a simple dance to a marriage. He offers a sound rebuttal.

“…I think I could place them in such a view. You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal; that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with anyone else. You will allow all this?”

Catherine continues to say that dancing is not like marriage and Henry cannot resist teasing that she is not agreeing with her partner enough to make him assured she not allow anyone else to cut in. It’s fun to read as we can see Henry is taking enough concern in Catherine that he wants to have her attention. Thorpe talks about wanting to be her partner but is then distracted by trying to sell Tilney a horse and then a gaggle of ladies walking by.

Despite Catherine disagreeing with Henry, she does try to offer him security.

“Mr. Thorpe is such a very particular friend of my brother’s, that if he talks to me, I must talk to him again; but there are hardly three young men in the room besides him that I have any acquaintance with.”

This is insufficient for Henry but Catherine soon adds:

if I do not know anybody, it is impossible for me to talk to them;

For Henry, what consolation could this give? Should a husband lock his wife up? She should never be trusted with knowing another man? Consider that in light of his father and you can guess it may not have been far from what he grew up knowing. Knowing and, hopefully, hating.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of Catherine’s statement.

“…and, besides, I do not want to talk to anybody.”

Mr-Henry-Tilney-image-mr-henry-tilney-36670835-500-297

I can just imagine Henry’s teasing smirk as he replies,

“Now you have given me a security worth having; and I shall proceed with courage.”

I wonder if it’s this moment that shifts Henry’s feelings from general amusement with Catherine to the gratitude of her attachment which is the foundation of his eventual love.

though Henry was now sincerely attached to her, though he felt and delighted in all the excellencies of her character and truly loved her society, I must confess that his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought.

One must remember that Catherine’s frankness and openness would have been unusual for the Society ladies Henry often met with. He would have been more accustomed to the sort of sly trickery Isabella Thorpe employs. While Catherine often thinks of her country naivete as a liability, it’s exactly what Henry needs in life. Catherine offers the honesty that he’s looking for in a partner for life. Mr. Tilney may just be the best Austen husband material after all.