The working title of this story was The Bennet Brother but it’s changed to Loving Elizabeth.
Summary: Elizabeth Bennet’s elder brother is friends with Fitzwilliam Darcy.
This is a work-in-progress which I am writing. Below is a sample of chapter one. No other posts will be made, unless I post a teaser at a later date, until it is completely finished and has gone through the editing process.
Learning when to let go, and when to hold on tight.
June 20, 1806
“Sam, really, you know I would prefer to stay home this evening.” Fitzwilliam Darcy, heir of a large estate in Derbyshire and a handsome man of two and twenty whined.
“Will, are you such an old man now that an evening at the theater is too much?” Darcy’s older cousin, Captain Richard Fitzwilliam teased.
“Hardly,” Darcy said dryly. “And do not forget that you are older than me, Richard.”
“Will, all shall be well. It is one evening out before a summer in Ireland with your friends. You will be appearing with us, our sisters and fathers, not insipid debutantes and their matchmaking mamas. It is nothing compared to what the future will hold.” Richard tried to soothe his dark and broody cousin.
The young men had all met years ago at Eton and continued the friendship to their time at Cambridge. Along the way they learned their fathers had been acquaintances during their youth. Inspired by their sons, the older generation soon took up a correspondence. The men had all met a few times over the years, but this was the first time that any of the women would be present.
Darcy, Samuel Bennet, and their friend, Charles Bingley, all snorted and rolled their eyes simultaneously.
“You forget Louisa and Caroline will be there,” Charles interjected.
“And though my mother is not present, rest assured she is scheming from afar,” Sam Bennet concurred.
“And Richard, your mother gives me more pressure than anyone but Aunt Catherine!” William complained anew.
“Yes, well, let us be thankful she will not be present. And mother acts out of love. Besides, your father has made it clear to Aunt that you are not to bend to her will.”
“Enough on Will’s marital prospects. Sam, tell us about your sisters.” Charles eagerly asked with his eyebrows raised in anticipation.
Sam grinned, “Now, Charles—and you too Richard—I know you cannot resist a pretty face but need I remind you no idle flirtations with my sisters?”
“Now, come on man! Charles is too young, and I am too poor to take a wife. We would never trifle with a gentleman’s daughter- especially a friend’s sister. And Will here has never ‘trifled’ with anyone. We would simply like to find ourselves in the company of beautiful women tonight.” Richard defended himself.
Letting out an exasperated sigh, Sam continued, “Very well. Jane is quite beautiful. Blonde, blue eyed and willowy. She is very sweet and reserved in her expressions. She only sees the good in everyone, a veritable angel. Lizzy, though….she takes you by surprise. She is dark as Jane is fair, and shorter too. She is outspoken and can even best my father in debate. She might even be able to beat you, Will.”
“A regular bluestocking, then?” Richard was disappointed.
“No, not at all. It is true she is well-read, but she is quite witty and charming. She plays pianoforte very well, and when she sings, the audience is captivated. She loves walking and enjoys nature. If it were not for the theater and opera or the museums and bookshops, she would never even come to town.”
Charles replied amazed, “She does not care to shop? Does not enjoy the balls and soirees? That is all Louisa and Caroline live for!”
“I doubt she is out yet. Is not she thirteen? Why are we speaking so much about a little girl? I am not going on and on about Georgie!” Darcy complained in an attempt to hide his growing interest in the young lady. It did little to fool Richard or Sam.
Through the years of his friendship with Sam, he had yet to meet Elizabeth but was impressed with what he knew of her from letters. But he had always thought of her as Sam’s very young sister. If she was actually attractive and of courting age…
“Mary is thirteen, Lizzy is sixteen.” Darcy rolled his eyes, at sixteen she would still be a silly girl with little shape, but Sam continued. “She is out thanks to my stepmother, but now that the entail is broken I hope Mama can feel some relief. And we are speaking of her because she is a remarkable young lady and I was asked to share about her to three very eligible bachelors who I trust. Or did you not notice Richard and Charles’s interest? Did I mention she can beat my father at chess?”
“Really? Well, I daresay she is too much for me. I need a woman that is sweet, quiet and level,” Charles declared.
Winking at Charles and Richard, Sam baited Darcy. “Perhaps for you then, Richard?”
“She indeed sounds like a most extraordinary young lady. What does she look like?” He played his role well.
“Yes, since she has developed such a personality she is probably merely tolerable and not handsome enough to tempt me at all.” Darcy audaciously interjected.
None of the gentlemen heard the stifled and angry gasp of the young woman who had just been about to enter when she heard the men speaking about her very self. With squared shoulders and a lifted, defiant chin she spun on her heels and went upstairs to prepare for dinner. She did not hear what followed Darcy’s response.
“Tempt you! First of all, this is my sister! I would like her to not tempt anyone. Though, I know you do not mean it in any wicked way. Secondly, what beauty holds you? You have criticized every beautiful woman of your acquaintance. Lizzy has a personality that can challenge and interest you and you will see that her beauty will speak for itself. And I for one look forward to seeing you bewitched by it,” he paused and looked at his watch. “Now, it is time to prepare for dinner, we had better get to it.”
Darcy exited the library blushing at the description of himself, but he could not be sorry for it. It is too much to ask to not be bored by the woman I spend my life with? To enjoy her company at the end of the day instead of living separate lives? And be attracted to her as well? But, he was only two and twenty and certainly had time to continue to look.
Let the horrible men find out about dinner some other way! Elizabeth thought as she returned to her bedchamber at Darcy House. Her first reaction was to show the ungentlemanly young man his place and come down for dinner in a way that would make her mother proud. But upon reflection, she realized that she was not so vain as to care to show off like that, nor did she have such a gown with her at present time. No, the gown she had planned to wear would service just nicely and what did she care if it earned his admiration.
Aside from the fact that he is the handsomest young man I have ever seen and has the most pleasing voice. But such thoughts just brought back memories of what he said with such a voice. She spent too much time in her musings and came down the stairs to overhear another conversation.
“I had sent Elizabeth to remind you all of the time, but you say that you did not see her? And she has yet to come down?” Mr. Bennet asked his son.
“Aye. I hope she is not ill,” Sam replied.
“I doubt that. You know your sister’s constitution. All the walking keeps her quite healthy.”
“Oh, yes. We must not forget what a great walker Miss Eliza is,” Caroline Bingley’s sickly sweet voice broke in. She only met me this afternoon, and she acts as though she knows every intimate detail of my life!
Not caring for more abuse of herself Elizabeth cheerfully called out from the open drawing-room door. “Oh, I am here and quite well. I am afraid I merely lost track of the time.”
Modest as she was, she did not hear the stifled gasp of two of the young men her brother was friends with, nor the chuckle of her brother. Her attention was focused on her sister, Jane, in conversation with an amiable young man.
“Lizzy, Sam was just telling me that you never met him in the library. I know you cannot have forgotten where it is located. What happened?”
“Oh! Perhaps I am such a little girl that I could not be trusted with such a task?”
Mr. Bennet just gave her a puzzled look and left the young people to their devices. She hit her mark for it was clear William understood that she had heard his insult. Before he could collect himself, Richard inched closer.
“Sam, introduce us to your lovely sister,” he prodded the Bennet brother.
“My pleasure. Lizzy, this is Captain Richard Fitzwilliam and his cousin Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Gentlemen, this is Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
Sam continued to identify the occupants of the room. “You already met Miss Bingley and Miss Caroline. The gentleman mooning over Jane there is Mr. Charles Bingley. And the gentleman talking with Father and Mr. Darcy is Charles’s father, Mr. Joseph Bingley. Richard’s father, Lord Fitzwilliam, and a few other relatives will meet us at the theater.”
Elizabeth gave them a dazzling smile that made her eyes sparkle. “Delighted to meet you,” Richard smiled widely in return.
William had been standing still as a statue, but her words seemed to remind him to bow. She turned her eyes on him, ready to tease him for his past words but before she could say anything dinner was called. Richard offered her an arm. Darcy’s was seized immediately by Caroline Bingley on one side and Louisa Bingley on the other.
At the table, Elizabeth found herself situated near William’s father and easily made conversation with the older gentleman. “Mr. Darcy, I am very much looking forward to meeting Miss Darcy. Will she be meeting us later this evening?” The Bennets had arrived during Georgiana’s lessons and due to her shyness, it was arranged for her to wait to meet the visitors.
“She will dine in the nursery, but will join us to exhibit on the pianoforte afterward.”
“Oh, dear Georgiana! How I long to see her again! She is so talented on the pianoforte for such a young age. And yes, you must be quite dismayed to dine with us instead of company better suited your age,” Caroline Bingley threw an insult at Elizabeth.
Caroline had just come out at the age of seventeen. Elizabeth was unsure if Caroline’s dislike came from the fact that she was out although a year younger or if Caroline had set her cap at Fitzwilliam Darcy and believed Elizabeth’s mere existence a threat. She would find his opinion of me quite pleasing, I am sure.
With good breeding, Elizabeth calmly let Caroline’s comments pass by. “I look forward to hearing her play later.”
“And do you play as well, Miss Elizabeth?” Mr. Darcy asked.
“A very little and very ill indeed.”
“Such a shame that we cannot all have access to the masters then! But I suppose the priorities of the country are quite different than Town,” Caroline attempted to make herself seem superior.
Even Mr. Darcy was annoyed by her tactics at this point, “I cannot speak for all of the country, but it is quite accurate in Derbyshire. But please, Miss Elizabeth, I am sure you are too modest. If it does not make you too uncomfortable, I ask you to play for us this evening.”
Overhearing Mr. Darcy’s remarks and surmising that Elizabeth had declared herself a poor performer Sam interjected, “Lizzy plays quite well, actually. I insist that you play for my friends.”
“You are a very strange creature by way of a brother! I would really rather not play in front of those that must be used to hearing the very best. But my courage always rises in the face of every attempt of intimidation.”
“A theory as relevant for the drawing rooms of London as for his majesty’s troops!” Proclaimed Richard and thus he turned Elizabeth’s attention to himself for the remainder of the dinner.
For his part, William’s was in agony- much to Sam’s obvious pleasure. He was seated too far away to speak with Elizabeth and trapped between the Miss Bingleys.
Elizabeth was just the type of lady to appeal to him. She was shorter than average, and although William was quite tall, he always had a soft spot for petite women. It brought out his protective instincts, and he could see that she could nestle under his chin nicely when embraced. During his mother’s life, he had often seen his parents in just such a pose, and the image invoked all things comforting to him.
There was something about Elizabeth’s spirit, though, she could not be described as small. Although young, Elizabeth was quite well formed, with more curves than he would expect for her age. She had dark curly hair and eyes that quickly flashed between light hazel brown to a bright green.
He was brought out of his reverie when his father decided to forego the usual separation of the sexes and invited the company to the drawing room. On their way Sam drew closer to William, and seeing his friend’s eyes follow Elizabeth, he whispered, “Bewitched yet?”
Mr. Darcy welcomed the ladies to sing and play. The Miss Bingleys eagerly displayed their skills. Caroline was an excellent pianist, but Louisa was the better singer. Elizabeth seemed to need some persuasion to play, but William was nearly entranced with her performance. Though not technically more superior to Caroline and Louisa, Elizabeth played and sang with more emotion and obvious enjoyment.
Jane Bennet did not play or sing but it hardly seemed to matter to Charles. She seldom seemed to speak either. William internally laughed at Charles’s habit of falling for the prettiest girl in the room whether she had any sense in her head or not. At least she was not behaving poorly or shrill. Some men had little requirements for what attracted them to the fairer sex, William was not one of them.
Caroline was playing as her father sang in a rich baritone while Louisa turned pages when Georgiana was brought down at last. At the moment, Mr. Bennet, Sam, and Elizabeth were speaking amongst each other, and William’s father and Richard were laughing over something. William sat alone. Georgiana was accompanied by her governess, but she gulped when she saw the amount of people in the room.
“Papa…” The girl of twelve began.
“Come along Poppet. Play us a new jig.”
She looked around the room in distress. William hated it when his father did this. Both Darcy siblings were shy and more like their mother, but their father simply could not understand.
William walked to his sister. “Georgie, if you play, then I will dance, and you will be too busy laughing at your poor brother to feel nervous.” She bit her bottom lip, and he continued, “Everyone present is certain to be pleased by your performance. I assure you, you will hear no unkind remarks.” At last, she nodded her head in acquiescence.
“Follow me,” he whispered and she placed her hand in his.
“Mr. Bennet, Sam, Miss Elizabeth may I introduce my sister Miss Georgiana Darcy?” The other party had stood when Georgiana entered the room, and everyone made the necessary bows and curtsies. Mr. Darcy and Richard soon called Mr. Bennet and Sam over to them.
Georgiana smoothed her hands over her skirts until Elizabeth began speaking. “I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Darcy. I have heard you are very accomplished on the pianoforte.”
Georgiana blushed. “Thank you Miss Elizabeth, but I am too young to be very accomplished at anything. I am certain you must play better than I.”
“Miss Darcy, never assume age is a disadvantage…or an advantage. Most things in life are learned traits and not inherent abilities. I am told you practice very diligently whereas I forsake my practice for other pursuits.”
“Yes, Miss Graves tells me I play too much and will never be a truly accomplished young lady if I do not also put effort into other tasks.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Miss Graves is undoubtedly correct, but I did not mean that I am engaged in ladylike accomplishments.” She gave Darcy a conspiratorial look before leaning in closer to Georgiana as though speaking in confidence. “I read everything I can get my hands on, and I go on very long walks all over the countryside. I play chess with my father and delight in arguments, or as my mother would say ‘vexing her.’
“I take no enjoyment in sewing or embroidery, drawing, painting tables or netting purses. With four sisters our house will be overflowing with tables and fireplace screens in a year or so. If playing pleases you so much, why should you not be able to enjoy it?”
She then looked toward William as though asking him the question. Before he could answer Caroline Bingley approached. The Bingleys had just finished their performance.
“Oh, Miss Darcy! How nice to see you again! How well you look! And my! You must have grown. Mr. Darcy, do you think she will be as tall as me?” Caroline stood as close to William as was decent. He supposed she was trying to display her height, believing he would desire a woman of her attributes. She did not allow him to comment.
“Well, do come Miss Darcy. I long to hear you play again! Now, I will turn your pages.” She began to lead Georgiana to the instrument when the latter looked toward William.
“Georgie will you play _______? I know we gentlemen would love to dance with so many fair partners.”
Instantly Caroline took a step closer to William. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Elizabeth turn her head to hide a smile.
He was surprised to hear her say, “Miss Caroline, I am not inclined to dance this evening. May I be of service to Miss Darcy so you might be available?”
Caroline readily agreed, and although William knew it meant he would have to dance with Caroline instead of Elizabeth, he was pleased with the way his sister was rescued.
Soon the rug was rolled up, and Georgiana was playing lively Scotch tunes with Elizabeth turning pages while the other young people danced. Caroline looked incredibly smug at first until William began to make some faces and dance poorly, earning giggles from his sister. Before too long another gentleman entered the room.
“George! How are you, my boy?” Mr. Darcy exclaimed. He quickly introduced George Wickham, his godson and steward’s son to the room.
“George, I must see you dancing with the other young people.”
“I would be delighted to, Mr. Darcy but it seems all the young ladies have partners.”
“Nonsense, Miss Graves can dance with you.”
“Oh, you have not been introduced yet!” Mr. Darcy directed Wickham to the twenty something lady sitting in a chair near the pianoforte and watching her charge. “George Wickham, meet Miss Laura Graves. She is Georgiana’s new governess.”
William could easily tell Wickham found Miss Graves attractive. She was not a great beauty but was pretty enough, and Wickham preyed on servant women who either easily succumbed to his charms or were too embarrassed to confess anything to their masters. This was the only reason William could believe it a good thing Wickham was to leave with the other gentlemen in a few days.
“Miss Graves, would you care to dance?”
She replied nervously and William wondered if the housekeeper had forewarned her of Wickham. “Oh, I had not thought to dance this evening.”
William saw his father displeased look with her response and intervened. Georgiana and Elizabeth were busy selecting the next piece, and so there was a cessation in music and dancing. “Miss Graves, might you allow Miss Elizabeth a respite from her duties? Or perhaps you might play, and Georgiana could rest?”
Mr. Darcy firmly broke in. “It is good for Georgie to practice and she does not need help to turn the pages for one last jig. Now, I insist all the young people dance.”
Miss Graves paled a little and William wondered if she might beg off and claim to be ill but he chose to try again. “Then I insist your first dance of the night be with me, Miss Graves.” William ignored the raised eyebrows of many people in the room as he led her to the dance floor.
Caroline let out an audible huff. William made quick eye contact with his friends, and a wordless scheme was put in place.
Caroline was paired with Richard, Charles stayed with Jane, Sam partnered with Elizabeth, which left Wickham with Louisa Bingley. The gentleman had earlier pieced together the likelihood of Wickham appearing and how they would safeguard the ladies. The Bingley sisters were seen as the least likely to be susceptible to his charms, as they valued wealth and connections over ideas of romance.
The thoughts of the four friends were on protection and not fairness or sensibilities. That William made Miss Graves break propriety by dancing with him after refusing Wickham or that Elizabeth would resent being matched with her brother instead of the handsome and agreeable young man who recently entered the room had not been accounted for. Also unaccounted for were the thoughts of malice George Wickham had for Fitzwilliam Darcy.