A family tree was requested so I hope this helps! Essentially, Elizabeth’s mother is a 4th Fitzwilliam sibling. Lady Anne Darcy and Lady Catherine de Bourgh are Elizabeth’s aunts and Lord Fitzwilliam (Colonel Fitzwilliam’s father) is her uncle. Elizabeth’s cousins are Lord Fitzwilliam’s sons (we only meet Richard in this book) and Lady Catherine’s daughter, Anne.
Elizabeth’s father was an earl in his own right, but the title and property were entailed to a distant male heir, so Mr. Collins still inherited. However, he is a mash up of George Wickham and the Collins of Canon. Jane married her father’s heir. However, if George Collins does not have any children the title and estate will go to his cousin, Wickham Collins.
Somehow, yet to be revealed, Elizabeth is the heiress to Pemberley. George Collins wants to get his hands on it. The simplest way is through marriage. Upon marriage, a woman’s property became her husband’s. Collins cannot marry Elizabeth as she is his wife’s sister and that was against Canonical law. However, if he can control the man that does marry Elizabeth, then it’s just as well.
Additionally, during this time women had guardians in control of them and their finances, usually until they reached the age of 25 if not otherwise stipulated in their father’s will. Oftentimes, the alternative was upon marriage, in which case the woman’s husband then became executor of all her property and income. A popular trope in JAFF is Mr. Bingley punishing Caroline’s misbehavior by controlling her pin money. That is entirely accurate. This is also why it is important in Pride and Prejudice that Elizabeth understands how Mr. Darcy behaves as his sister’s guardian. It illuminates much about his character. Collins is Elizabeth’s guardian and thus in great control of her money and freedom.
Darcy sighed as he stretched out his legs before the fire in his study. He cast his eyes around the room. It was a good size. The townhouse which he recently purchased was a palace compared to the space above his bookshop.
Fitzwilliam was correct. Darcy needed a mistress for this home. If he secured Pemberley, he most definitely would require a wife and need to get on with begetting heirs and spares.
His lips curled in disgust. The lofty set made it sound like nothing more than a business transaction. What did they know of the love required to make a real home? A man needed to respect his wife. He looked to her for comfort after a long day’s toil. Except, the wealthy and titled did not work. They merely passed the time. Even the investments Fitzwilliam and Bingley made were looked at sceptically by many of the most traditional peers.
That was tolerable for them, Darcy supposed. Perhaps he should not be so harsh to judge as he hoped to join their ranks. His sons may very well wish to have a marriage built upon such reasons. However, it was not for him. No, Darcy needed a woman, not a well-bred miss who never knew hardship. He would as soon cut his heart out than to marry a vacant-headed debutante.
Unbidden, the image of Lady Elizabeth came to mind. He should not be thinking of her. Her cousin Anne might be a suitable partner in life. She was not too plain, and she shared an interest in history with Darcy, even if she were still well above him. The ton would have to accept him if he married an earl’s granddaughter. Elizabeth was out of the realm of possibilities because she was his rival’s sister-in-law.
Darcy wondered why Elizabeth sat with the wallflowers. She was a bluestocking, that much was clear, but she was beautiful, well-dowered, and connected. Those were not the usual qualifications for a lady destined to be on the shelf. She had been cold and aloof with him. At the time, Darcy had assumed it was due to his inferior rank. However, as he cast his mind back to the ball and their subsequent interactions, he realized that Elizabeth did not encourage others’ attention. She often kept her eyes downcast. There were no welcoming smiles for even the wealthiest and most titled bachelors in attendance. She seemed to loathe dancing.
On the other hand, she was not shy or even reserved. She gave her opinions freely. What could be the reason for her stand-offish behaviour?
After another moment, Darcy shook his head to dispel his thoughts. He did not need to puzzle out Lady Elizabeth’s actions. He had other matters to attend to. A few moments later, he sighed. There was no use for it. He could not court Miss de Bourgh — Anne — as she simply stirred no desires in him. However, she seemed as though she might make an exceptional friend. Perhaps she would help point him in the right direction of finding a wife and secure invitations for him to other dinners. He had not wanted to ask Fitzwilliam to favour him, but the truth was, Darcy needed some assistance.
He needed to rehabilitate his reputation. Thus far, he was known only as the former bookkeeper and viewed as an interloper to their society. He did not care for the ton’s acceptance at all, yet he needed it to secure Pemberley. He would have to forfeit his ideals somewhere. Darcy was unwilling to enter into a loveless marriage but learning to play the part of a gentleman was a sacrifice he would have to make.
Sighing, he left his study and dressed for dinner, a routine he hated. Why bother dressing the part for a meal spent in solitude? He supposed a wife would cure some of his loneliness, but only if she was a specific sort of wife.
After his meal, he returned to his office and leafed through the invitations secured for him through his acquaintance with Richard Fitzwilliam — or more aptly, through Fitzwilliam’s father. All the aristocrats knew not to cross him. Traditionally, Darcy shunned the overtures. However, Fitzwilliam had been correct. Darcy needed assistance to legally prove his claim to Pemberley, and a pretty wife might help. His eyes scanned over the cards, and he chose the event from the most distinguished hosts. He had not bothered to reply, but surely, they could not be too upset if he arrived as they had issued an invitation in the first place. For that matter, what if his plans had changed? Drat. He did not know the social customs. An unexpected appearance would be nothing between friends. However, these were people whom he had only laid eyes on and. They had never spoken beyond a “my lord” and a “my lady” upon introduction.
Deciding to take the risk, after all, fortune favoured the bold, Darcy called for his carriage. Perhaps, he would meet with Anne, and she could direct him in his endeavours.
An hour later, his small coach arrived at the massive townhouse of Lord and Lady Lothianberry. Although his coffers were quite full, he could not countenance paying more for a conveyance he would seldom use. Darcy greeted his hosts and then proceeded to circulate the ballroom, pretending he did not look for anyone in particular. He attempted to appear as bored and indifferent as all the other gentry around him. Inside, his gut churned. More than one person caught sight of him standing nearby and then decidedly turned their backs on him before rushing away, as though they caught a foul stench.
Darcy had heard that, in the first circles, to be tainted by trade was a mark indeed against a man. He would not be surprised if one of those ladies fainted in disgust at the mere sight of him. His mouth twisted at the thought.
Then he caught sight of her. Lady Elizabeth wore green again. Her eyes met his, and his feet moved of their own volition.
“Mr. Darcy,” she said when he appeared in front of her but had remained standing in silence.
“Anne is dancing. You have made her quite the belle of the ball.”
“I am pleased for Miss de Bourgh, but I do not know why you believe I had anything to do with it.”
Elizabeth raised a brow. “Why, all the other gentlemen did not want to be shown up by you. How dare an interloper attempt to swipe one of our ladies? All the other wallflowers eye you and think of you as a Great Rescuer now.”
Darcy blushed at Elizabeth’s words. An interloper — that was all he would ever be to her and most of them. Unless he was granted Pemberley, that is. For the first time ever, it rankled. He had no words sufficient to describe his annoyance with being labelled and cast aside. Perhaps it was how the ladies who, he now noticed, watched him felt as they waited for the notice of unworthy and vain men. A rescuer, was he? Then, by golly, he would be one. He would dance with them all.
By the end of the evening, he had danced every set and learned the names of more than a dozen young misses. Just as Elizabeth had said, after Darcy danced with a lady, she received more attention from other gentlemen. This was hardly the sort of rehabilitation he had wanted. He had not had any time to speak with Anne, but he was proud to be of service. He was inordinately pleased to be talked about as more gentlemanly than the other men. More than all this, Darcy thought he detected an appreciative twinkle in Elizabeth’s eyes as the night wore on. He had done something worthy of her esteem. He had, at their first meeting, presumed she was a cold and aloof heiress. Now, he believed there might be more to her than the typical class-minded ways of a nobleman’s daughter.
“Well,” Charles Bingley said as he approached Darcy at the end of the ball, “you will certainly have a busy morning tomorrow with all the calls you must make.”
“Indeed,” Darcy agreed and blew out a breath.
“They will come to expect this now. Did you think of that?”
“I did,” Darcy nodded, but his eyes remained fixed on Lady Elizabeth. Was it his imagination, or did she glance his way now and then?
“I noticed there was one wallflower with whom you did not dance.”
“Was there?” He feigned indifference.
“Lady Elizabeth Bennet. Is it against your policy to dance with a relation to your rival for Pemberley?”
“Of course, it is not. I can hardly help if there are only so many sets in a ball and an odd number of women.”
“Your eyes followed her most of the evening.” Bingley paused a moment before adding, “Beware, friend. Her brother-in-law wants her for his favourite cousin.”
“And what does Lady Elizabeth think of this?”
Bingley shrugged. “Her sister married Collins. It is natural to assume she will do as her brother-in-law wishes and cares only for money and status. One must not expect a wallflower to have too much courage.”
Instinctively, Darcy knew Bingley was incorrect about Elizabeth. She had more courage in her than most men. She also had more discretion. She knew not to make a ruckus and appear docile. Perhaps that is why she never appeared as a proper wallflower to Darcy.
“At any rate, you did well testing the waters this evening. Did any of them strike your fancy? I am still hoping to be of use to you. Let me know if I can arrange anything for you.”
Darcy chuckled at his friend’s offer. Bingley enjoyed teasing Darcy with references to his harridan of a sister. “If I ever need a slow and painful death, I will let you know.”
The men parted with a shake of hands and went on their separate ways. Bingley to his sisters’ impatient looks and a comfortable home; Darcy to a lonely house full of vain pretensions.
Elizabeth hurried from the carriage and waited impatiently for the butler to answer the door to Anne’s house. It was the first time she had a free day in a week to visit her friend, and she wanted to be there for the morning callers. A few weeks ago, Elizabeth felt nothing but guilt when forced to leave Jane’s bedside, whether it was day or night, now the continual vigil began to wear on her.
Once a week, she allowed her maid and the doctor to sit with her sister, and Elizabeth visited her cousin. It was a practice she had attempted to do for months, but now she looked forward to the visits more. Far more gentlemen called on Anne in recent weeks thanks to the attention of Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth would only own to being interested in the gentleman. He was something of a novelty in their society, and the rumour mill circulated fanciful tales about him. His esteem had risen considerably in the eyes of most people. Of course, not everyone would accept him and never would, but many would now speak to him when only weeks before he was nearly a pariah.
What made Mr. Darcy most interesting to Elizabeth was that he did not appear to have any mercenary motive for the attention he gave young ladies. He was no rake or charmer and had no need for a fortune. He danced with titled and untitled ladies alike. No one could say he even paid court to a lady. He was civil, vastly civil, and entirely proper. It was almost as if he were beating them at their own game, which tickled Elizabeth to no end.
Additionally, he did not alter his behaviour despite his sudden surge of popularity. This, more than anything, recommended Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth. She had nearly given up any hope of sincerity in fellow humans aside from her dear Jane and her cousins, Anne and Richard. Elizabeth would have been most pleased to become better acquainted with Mr. Darcy. Still, he never spoke to her if he could help it and had danced with every lady in London except herself.
She had reflected over their first meetings and had come to the conclusion that she was to blame. She had been preoccupied with her sister and did not care to make a new friend. She did not care very much if she gave offense and seemed cold in the process of keeping people at arm’s length. Erecting walls around her heart was the only way to keep herself protected. She had counted on too many others and been proven a fool to begin again with anyone new. However, now that she had observed Mr. Darcy longer, she wished to befriend him. The only possible way to do so was to apologise to him for her earlier treatment. She prayed that he did not think she was so shallow as to desire his friendship only because he now met with society’s approval.
Her only opportunity to do so was at Anne’s house, and Elizabeth had been late in leaving her home. As it was, she heard the laughter of several gentlemen from the drawing room as she climbed the stairs behind the butler. She might have missed Mr. Darcy entirely and would likely have no chance to speak privately with him. As Jane’s time neared, and the unpleasantness of Elizabeth’s impending marriage drew closer, she realized she needed more friends. A man who could be a knight in shining armour to the city’s wallflowers might be an excellent place to begin. She had no romantic aspirations for him — even if she did, it would be impossible given her bargain with her brother-in-law. Still, she believed she could count on Mr. Darcy to be a true friend. She knew how rare a gift that would be.
Once seated in Anne’s drawing room, Elizabeth glanced around. Mr. Darcy was not present. Quelling her urge to sigh, she focused on her friend and her suitors.
“I apologize for my tardiness, Anne. I hope I have not missed too much of the morning’s proceedings.”
“Not very much,” Anne said with a smile. Leaning closer, she whispered. “You have missed nothing, and I am ever so glad you are present now. For you must tell me if you think Mr. Newburgh admires me.”
Elizabeth grinned. “Mr. Newburgh? Why last week, you fancied Lord Hawthorne.”
“Well, much can change in a week, after all!”
The ladies shared a smile before they directed their attention to the gentlemen.
“What a crush this is,” Mr. Davenport observed. “It is the same in nearly every house I go to. Whoever Mr. Darcy pays the honour of dancing with is full of gentlemen the next day.”
“You make it sound as if he is some kind of matchmaker,” Mr. Newburgh said.
“Do you accuse him of manipulating you gentlemen into paying attention to a lady?” Elizabeth asked. “What would his motive be for such a thing?”
“Who can say? Perhaps he intends to draw the gentlemen to one group of ladies and then take up with the neglected set.”
“Now, it is not Mr. Darcy’s fault if you gentlemen neglect a group of ladies,” Elizabeth chided. “Surely, there is enough of you go to around. If you truly fancied a lady, you would not give her up just because Mr. Darcy tempted you by being gentlemanly to another lady. I, for one, applaud him for paying attention to the ladies who have been ignored for too long. If I were a gentleman, I would be ashamed to see that I had to be reminded of my duty from a newcomer.”
Anne nodded. “I quite agree with you, my dear.”
“And what of a lady’s duty?” Lord Orkney asked. “We men are learning more and more that the ladies who have hugged the walls have only been playing coy. They ought to encourage a gentleman more.”
“You mean, you now see they have something to offer. Their heads are full of interesting thoughts and witticisms. They think and feel like real humans rather than discarded rubbish, picked over for women with prettier faces, heavy dowries, or titles to offer.”
Elizabeth felt the heat rush to her cheeks during her speech. When she had finished, she looked at the astonished faces of Anne’s guests. Indeed, they must all wonder at her anger. For she was considered pretty, had a sizeable dowry, and was the daughter of an earl. Yet, she was a wallflower through her own making. Everyone knew it, but thankfully no one was so unkind as to challenge her.
“My dear,” Anne said, turning to her and squeezing her hand. “I fear it is too warm in here for you. Would you care for a walk in the garden?”
“Thank you, yes, I think that would suit me. You will not miss me?”
“I am positive I will be well. Hannah is here for chaperonage. Only, I do hope you stay to take some tea with me when my calling hours are over.”
Elizabeth walked amongst the narrow paths of Anne’s garden until she tired of guessing the names of each plant. She had never been a good student of herbology since she favoured history so much. Finally, she sat on a bench on the side of the house where she could hear the front door. After playing with a curious kitten for some time, Elizabeth finally heard the gentlemen exit. With a reluctant sigh, she gave the cat a final pat and returned to the house. Approaching the parlour from the rear, she was surprised to hear Anne still conversing with a male.
“Are you quite sure she is well out there? Shall I go and fetch her for you?”
When had Mr. Darcy arrived? Elizabeth supposed he must have come before she retired to the bench, but why did he not leave with the other gentlemen? She had no time for continued ponderings as Anne began to speak.
“Poor, Elizabeth. She is such a devoted sister.”
Elizabeth scowled. Why did Mr. Darcy sound so surprised?
“That must be to her credit,” he said coldly. “There are many ladies who would not be so loyal to a brother-in-law.”
She almost stormed through the opened door, but Anne’s words made her wait.
“I am afraid you extremely misunderstand her. Her brother-in-law is a horrible man, and Elizabeth has far too much sense to revere him. No, her love is solely for her sister, who is dying.”
“I am sorry to hear that. Has it been a long illness?”
“It has been five years, at least. Elizabeth never goes into much detail, but I know the physician has told her it will be very soon now. You must forgive her if she ever speaks out of turn or appears out of sorts. Collins forces her to go to the balls and soirees. He insists she find a match. She hates leaving Jane for such insipid events. They hold no amusement or relief for her at all. It has taken months of insistent pressure from the physician and me for her to agree to a weekly respite of any kind.”
Tears pricked Elizabeth’s eyes, and she dashed them away. Just as soon as she could trust herself to not blubber before Mr. Darcy, she would enter the room lest Anne tell the man all her thoughts and feelings.
“I apologise if I have offended. I did not mean to think poorly of your cousin.”
“If you would give her a chance, I think she could be your friend,” Anne said. “She would be a very great ally in your quest.”
Darcy chuckled. “I very much doubt that. She has a quick enough mind to discern that I only desire to enlarge my acquaintance so I might claim Pemberley for myself. She would hardly wish to assist me as her brother-in-law is my adversary.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened, and she entered the room before Anne could reply.
“You would be quite wrong, Mr. Darcy. My brother-in-law’s foe is my greatest friend. The estate of which you speak is not Collins’s to claim or give away. It is mine.”