I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve had a story to post! First of all, I DO plan on completing Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy. I had some health and family complications earlier this year and then we moved (again) and somewhere along the way I lost my notes. However, I have recently found them and can finish the story as I intended! I plan to post again in July and we’ll do a bit of a Christmas in July posting. 🙂
Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride is a WIP with 17 chapters written and most of them through a beta. I can’t say for sure how many chapters there will be but I’m thinking 22-25 so I’m closing in on THE END. I’ve rated it MA just to be safe but so far there have been no kisses and I plan on fading to black for the wedding night. However, they’re both rather sexually aware. There is a moderate amount of couple angst.
Blurb: He’s on the hunt for a bluestocking, and she is no man’s fool.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, heir to a barony, must put aside his hatred for attention and Society and find a wife. Deemed the most eligible bachelor of the Season, he seeks high and low for a well-bred, intelligent woman to replace the one he determined unsuitable.
Elizabeth Bennet used to be certain of her judgement. In one day, everything changed. Her family might be in danger, and she needs a confidant. When she meets Darcy again and again in the groves of Rosings, her head says to tell Darcy everything, but her heart wonders if she can trust him.
As the clock works against them, can they find what they need in one another? Or will the duties of family and lingering secrets separate them?
My Dearest Niece,
Fear not, although Society may say you are ruined. Those who know you will always love you. When you return from France, it will all be forgotten. These sorts of scandals always are for girls with money and prestige. Do not think you are the first or last to face such concerns. Think of your future, my dear girl. You may be, perhaps, a little sadder but also wiser for the misadventure.
Your loving aunt,
Elizabeth Bennet snatched the letter addressed to her from the mail tray in the hall and left Longbourn and all its noise behind. Reading letters from her dearest sister, Jane, now required solitude. Jane’s heart had been broken when their new neighbour, Mr. Bingley, left the area over three months before. After a month of sorrow, Jane had gone to London to visit with their aunt and uncle but her letters did not seem to indicate she was improving.
Mr. Bingley’s sister, who had seemed a dear friend to Jane, did not help matters. Before leaving Hertfordshire, Miss Bingley had written Jane a letter hinting that her brother had plans to marry his best friend’s sister. She reiterated the point when Jane called on Miss Bingley shortly after arriving in London.
Elizabeth’s lips curled up in memories of Mr. Bingley’s friend. That Mr. Darcy was friends with Mr. Bingley — himself everything amiable — ought to be a mark in Darcy’s favour. And yet, Mr. Bingley’s hasty retreat from Hertfordshire, followed directly by Darcy and Bingley’s relations whom he had left behind, just proved Bingley was too amiable for his own good. He would never see how Darcy treated all those around him. Elizabeth had been told that Darcy dare not surround himself with anyone but those that would stroke his ego.
Jane’s letter was uncharacteristically light and Elizabeth would likely finish reading it before she reached the nearby town of Meryton. She allowed herself a few minutes of reflection before opening it. She hoped Jane would be showing signs of forgetting Mr. Bingley’s impression on her heart. It was now March and surely three months in London could erase six weeks of flirtation in Hertfordshire. Elizabeth drew consolation from the fact that tomorrow she would leave for her journey to Kent to visit a newly married friend. She travelled with Charlotte’s father and sister but they intended to break in London and then Elizabeth would see for herself how Jane fared.
Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth broke the seal as she passed the lodge of Longbourn. Its tear-stained contents shocked and repulsed her.
I write to you in the most melancholy of spirits. Yesterday, while shopping with my aunt, I espied Mr. and Miss Bingley outside a shop window. They were speaking with a lovely young lady, very elegantly dressed and I could see the evidence of her good breeding and proper manners. She stood with an older lady, who I must think is a companion or some relation. I cannot say for certain, but I wonder if this was not Miss Darcy.
I could perfectly see their expressions. Miss Bingley was very pleased to meet the lady, her brother scarcely less so. I saw in his countenance every expression of happiness and amiability he ever showed me. The young lady and her friend soon left.
Mr. and Miss Bingley came in the store with smiles still on their faces. They did not see me at first as I was mostly concealed by a display. I stepped out into the aisle to greet them. Instantly they ceased their movements and their smiles vanished. Mr. Bingley coloured but did not acknowledge me in any way although I had curtsied to them. Caroline tugged on her brother’s arm and they turned and quit the shop. It was so dreadful! My only consolation is that no one of our acquaintance saw it.
I now must say he had no true regard for me. I am quite distressed. I can only think myself a fool for believing otherwise. And to have my wishes so openly known by all my friends and family! He undoubtedly desired to leave the neighbourhood to avoid such rumours. I cannot blame him in the least for having a care about the credit of his name.
I know you will sit and think that it was all designedly done, but for what purpose? What could either the brother or the sister gain by making me believe in their affections? No, let me blame myself. I hope I was not so vain as to imagine this preference, perhaps though I only saw what I wished to see.
I hope this reaches you before you depart for London. I long to have my dearest sister with me.
Elizabeth had never felt so much rage before in her life. Miss Bingley and her brother gave Jane the cut direct in a shop! Fortunately, it seemed there had been no witnesses but the very thought! Jane would excuse it though.
In the weeks since Mr. Bingley’s departure, Elizabeth had tried hard to reconcile the Mr. Bingley, whom she knew to be kind-hearted, with his treatment of Jane and friendship with Mr. Darcy. Jane would never listen to her arguments. Every time Elizabeth attempted to say perhaps Bingley was less than reliable, she was shushed. To Jane, anyone she loved or esteemed must be without fault.
Elizabeth rather saw faults in everyone. If not of character, then of circumstance. The charming Militia officer, Mr. Wickham, and his poor prospects served as an example. Of course, that resided squarely at Mr. Darcy’s feet. As repining the impossible benefitted nothing, Elizabeth had never let Wickham into her heart. She would always wish him the best and count him as a friend. Elizabeth even championed his courtship of the newly wealthy Miss Mary King in Meryton. After all, handsome young men must have something to live on as well as the plain.
All this thought of gentlemen irked Elizabeth. “What are men to rocks and mountains?” she said as she entered the edges of Meryton.
Reaching the outskirts of town, Elizabeth kicked a rock for good measure and instantly regretted it. Pain pierced her foot. Limping to an alley where she could slip off her boot and rub her sore toes, she was surprised to hear familiar voices of several of the officers carry from around the bend. What were they doing gathering in an alley?
“She wasn’t much to look at, but she was enthusiastic enough,” Captain Carter said.
“Most bar maids turned whores are for a few quid,” Mr. Wickham said and joined in with the laughter his words caused.
Elizabeth did not quite know what they were talking about, but it sounded coarse.
“And here I thought my equipment made her randy,” Mr. Denny said and another round of laughter ensued.
Instinctively, Elizabeth did not care for it. She was turning to limp away when she heard reason to stay.
“No, I don’t partake in that sort of sport,” Wickham said. “Now, Longbourn, there’s some apples ready for the picking.”
Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed. Increasingly, she began to believe they spoke of carnal things and that connected with five gentlewomen in the same manner they spoke of a bar maid could never be a good thing.
“Too marriage-minded over there,” Denny warned.
“So much the easier then. A true seducer can turn a phrase just so a lady expects a marriage proposal but all she’s gotten is a tumble instead,” Wickham said.
“The Bennet chits are let on a loose leash. Their mother practically throws them at young men,” Carter said.
“Must be why that Bingley fellow ran off just after his ball,” Denny said. “A shame too. Chap certainly knew how to throw a good party.”
“And best of all, their father is too loose in the pockets to demand satisfaction!”
Elizabeth’s temper began to grow but she knew better than to confront such talk. There was nothing to do but listen to such humiliating talk of her family. She had to wonder at being cursed with such good hearing, however.
“It’s a shame they’re not the heiresses Mary King is,” said Wickham. “Wouldn’t mind keeping Eliza to warm my bed every night, even if she is a bit of a bluestocking.”
Tears sprang to Elizabeth’s eyes to be talked about in such a debased way in addition to the usual insult of bluestocking coming from a gentleman, nay, cad, she had thought friend.
“You’re not the only one who was tempted by her. Mr. Pompous Darcy and that parson danced with her at the ball.”
“That’s old news Carter.”
“Yes, but one of the Netherfield maids is sweet on me,” said Denny, “and she said that Miss Bingley was in fits of jealousy the entire time Miss Elizabeth was at Netherfield. Lucy said Miss Bingley often writes the housekeeper asking for information about the area and the Bennets in particular.”
“Well, there you go, Wickham,” said Captain Carter. “Darcy left because he knew you would win the challenge for Miss Elizabeth’s affections. You ought to claim your prize!” A round of raucous laughter rang out.
“Oh, I have far better idea,” Wickham said but dropped his voice. Elizabeth inched forward to hear better, hoping her boots didn’t scrape against the stone pavement. “Eliza is too intelligent for such a plot, she would know enough to want a real wedding…but Lydia. Lydia I could convince to elope.”
“What do you get out of that?” Carter asked.
“Eliza will be going to Hunsford soon. Darcy’s aunt is her cousin’s patroness and I know he visits every Easter. Eliza is no fool and neither is that sharp eyed friend of hers. She snatched up Collins right away. Between the two of them, they can help Darcy along. Once they’re engaged, I can make off with Lydia and Darcy will pay to patch the whole thing up.”
Elizabeth’s mouth dropped open while the men sniggered.
“And once she’s tired of her dour husband, I will play on her affections as well. Mark my words, boys, I will not be wearing red for much longer.”
“You are debauched, my friend!” Carter said as the men finally walked away.
Elizabeth stood in the alley with her back pressed against the wall for a long while. She could not credit what she heard. Was this what men talked of? Was it as harmless as the gossip she heard from ladies like her Aunt Phillips?
However, Elizabeth knew even in that case there were always shades of truth. Her sisters were given too much freedom, her mother too eager to put them out, and her father too willing to laugh at their follies. They had no fortune and no brothers to demand satisfaction from a rake. If not Wickham and these officers, then surely it made them open to be preyed upon by others. Bingley’s treatment of Jane was proof enough that men cruelly use women.
In time, her heartrate returned to a normal beat and her breathing calmed. Lydia would know better than to elope and to a man without fortune. Besides, how would they ever be alone enough for such a thing to transpire? Behaving silly at a ball was not the same sort of thing as an elopement. And Lydia could never keep a secret to save her life! Elizabeth considered telling her father but decided to act as though she had never heard such ridiculous things. She could not take Wickham’s words seriously and had no proof. Certainly, her father knew more about men and had seen no reason to distrust the officers. Still, Elizabeth hoped to avoid Wickham at the dinner her mother had invited him to that evening. She never wanted to speak with him again.
“Fitzwilliam, Georgiana, sit with your old aunt,” Baroness Darcy said to her sister’s grandchildren when she saw them enter her evening soiree. They were her only family left. The “children” obeyed. “I know you leave for Kent soon, Fitzwilliam. Do you go as well, Georgiana?”
“Not this year, Aunt,” the young lady said with downcast eyes.
“Chin up. Darcys are never to feel inferior,” Lady Darcy said. “At the rate Fitzwilliam is going, you shall be the next Baroness.”
“Spare me your matchmaking, Aunt. Lady Catherine will give me ear full enough when I arrive in Kent,” Darcy let out an exasperated sigh. “Besides, mother and father were both thirty when they married and I have some two years until then. And you have never married.”
“That is because there were no young men like you, my boy,” the aging lady said with an affectionate pat on her favourite nephew’s cheek. The action, and his expression at the endearment, made Georgiana giggle.
“Much more like it, young lady. Will you play this evening?”
“Oh no! I could never perform before all these people. They are only in the habit of hearing the very best.”
Darcy could see Georgiana’s fear but her words were reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennet’s words at a dinner in Hertfordshire. He had thought she teased, but had she been afraid of his opinion? During his time in the area, Darcy had feared he had been too obvious in his admiration for her. Darcy believed that his friend’s sister, who long had designs on him, had not been the only one to notice how much he liked Elizabeth.
His aunt’s words broke his reverie. “Then play your own composition and no one can claim to have heard a better rendition of it!” Lady Darcy exclaimed.
“Aunt,” Darcy chided. “Georgiana, our aunt only intends to tease.”
“Do I? And I suppose you believe you can speak for me? I had thought you were raised better.”
“Please do not be cross with Fitzwilliam,” Georgiana said. “He would never presume to know better than a social superior.”
“Social superior! Is that the rubbish you learn at schools now? Fitzwilliam, you must give her proper companionship. Georgiana, I mean he ought to know better than to speak for a woman, not just a peeress.”
Darcy smiled at his aunt’s gentle scolding and held up a hand. “Of course, I now you are a rational creature with your own mind. I have no doubt you speak from your heart.”
Years ago, Darcy’s aunt had been part of a circle of intellectual women who hosted a salon. Instead of the usual political wrangling and gambling, they promoted the arts. Several of the hostesses became renowned artists and writers. In the Darcy family, the term bluestocking was no insult. The same could not be said for his Fitzwilliam family. However, they had always liked the Darcy purse.
“I knew there was good Darcy blood in you,” the Baroness said.
“Now, you know it is a commandment to obey your elders and so you must indulge an old lady. My one regret in not having children of my own is that there is no one to take up my torch when I’m gone.”
Georgiana screwed up her face in confusion. “I thought Fitzwilliam was your heir?”
“Of the title and the money, of course. I mean of my passion!” Lady Darcy paused and nodded at another titled lady who walked past them and toward the card tables.
“Music?” Georgiana asked.
“Music, writing, art. Female artists funded by females.”
Darcy tugged on his cravat. These days, talk of women pursuing such things for intellectual stimulation, income, or world renown was akin to espousing favour for France’s Revolution. The ones who could most support such a project happened to fear for their necks.
“Fitzwilliam, I’m putting you to work. Bring me the brightest young women you can find of good stock and decent income and I will fashion them into patronesses.”
“If I could find such a young woman, I would marry her,” Darcy said even as a pair of fine, dancing eyes came to mind. However, Elizabeth Bennet did not come from good family or decent income.
“What’s the matter with him, Georgie?”
Darcy blinked to find his aunt studying him closely.
Georgiana rolled her eyes. “That’s the look on his face whenever he thinks of her.”
“Her? Are you courting a lady and did not tell me?”
“Of course not, Aunt. You know you would be the first to know anything I do.” He tried to remain serious but his subtle smirk gave away his sarcastic words and immediately Georgiana and his aunt were grinning.
“La! You make me sound a pest! I will not be like your other aunt then and meddle in your business. You do not have to tell me who, but if Georgie’s female intuition tells her you are sweet on a girl, you cannot hide it for long.”
Darcy tugged on his cravat again. With any luck, he would not remain sweet on her for much longer. Surely there was someone who met his qualifications for a wife. The problem was, now that his aunt had stated who she looked for in intellectual companions, Darcy could not help but notice they were the same as what he always said he wanted in a wife. And while he would always desire an intelligent wife, a spouse was something far different than a philosophical colleague. No lady had peaked his interest in eight and twenty years the way Elizabeth Bennet had. Perhaps choosing a wife involved some undefinable quality, an attraction as well as intellectual compatability.
“I think we have him thinking on her again, Georgie,” his aunt teased and Darcy scowled.
“Tell me more about this project of yours, Aunt. We are to go to the theatre tomorrow, perhaps we might find a lady who suits your demands.”
“That’s the problem with you,” she said after an exasperated sigh.
Georgiana laughed at him. “Everyone knows most who frequent the theatre care little about the plays. They go just to be seen.”
“And where would you expect a true appreciator of theatre to go?”
“They might go,” Lady Darcy said, “but they would not be so bold as to confess the reason.”
“How preposterous! Do you think so meanly of your sex?”
The Baroness laughed at him. “I have years more experience than you do, my boy. I know such a lady is a diamond of the first water. There is a disadvantage to this generation. In my day, ladies fought hard to receive any education. The ones who persevered beyond basic letters and math were often taught by their fathers or their brothers’ tutors. Now, ladies’ heads are filled with false accomplishments and vain pursuits. I fear it is impossible to find a learned lady who is not muddled with such mush.”
“Could not the same be said of gentlemen? Now, everyone attends school and University but few come out with any true greater understanding and mastery of the subjects.”
“The essential point, Fitzwilliam, is that when they are taught it is to be of use to their estate, profession or the country. Ladies so called “refined” education is to be of use in only this,” she waved her hand around at the drawing room.
Various clusters of people congregated together. One group played Commerce, another Whist. A third group sat near the fire and discussed politics. One lord’s wife winked at a member of parliament of the opposite party and then leaned in close. The scene suggested exchanging favours for votes.
One day, Darcy would inherit the barony first created for John Darcy in 1317, and God help him if Pemberley or any home he resided in took on such a scene. His aunt was very much correct. Ladies were not encouraged to think beyond empty, or sometimes immoral — whether seducing an opponent or a man to the altar — pursuits.
Aware he had been silent too long, Darcy addressed his aunt with his purpose in coming this evening. “I have been wondering, Aunt, do you have any suggestions for a companion for Georgiana? As you know, I resisted finding a replacement for Mrs. Younge, but you have convinced me that her education might be lacking.”
“Of course. I will have a list with references drawn up when you return from Kent.” Do not worry,” she said when Georgiana furrowed her brow, “you shall help decide. Now, I have ignored my guests for long enough. Do try to enjoy yourselves before you leave,” she said as she stood.
With all the grace and poise an eighty-year-old baroness could muster, she walked through the room. When the group at the fire seemed to grow too contentious, she redirected the more outspoken ones to the supper room. Those prone to gambling too high were arranged near the fire, away from the card tables. Indeed, no school could teach such instincts. Magdalena Darcy, tenth Baroness Darcy de jure, might be the last of her kind and her heir apparent could only hope the next Baroness Darcy might be just as capable.
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