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Chapter 23


While Lady Suzan and General Fitzwilliam were eliciting a confession out of Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet sat in her private sitting room pondering her meeting with the same Mr. Darcy earlier that morning.  She thought of how she had shamelessly offered her virtue to him, hoping he would fulfill her request of him.

Never would she have thought of giving herself to a man in such a fashion.  But she had and willingly.  She loved him with every fiber of her being, and the thought of not having a part of him always with her was beyond abhorrent.  Knowing she would never have him, she sought to gain a small part of him by conceiving his child.  A child, his child, would ease the heartbreak of watching him wed another woman and living his life with that woman.

Looking out on the fresh blooms and blossoms in the garden below, she began to craft a cover story to explain how a maiden, such as herself, had come to beget a child.  It would be easy to find a story to tell her family as they would not know what she had been doing during her time in London.  It might be a bit harder to think up a story that would not arouse the suspicions of her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner.  Her biggest obstacle would be how she would explain a child to Lady Suzan. 

Soon thoughts of covering up her future sin of fornication were replaced with images of herself with a small child.  They were walking hand in hand through a beautiful garden, laughing at the butterflies flitting from flower to flower.  Reaching down she picked the child up and hugged it close while showering kisses on its chubby little cheeks.  Life would be joyous to have such a child in my life.  Maybe Mr. Darcy would learn of his progeny and come for a visit.  Elizabeth, you are playing with fire.  Just be happy to have what you can from him and be thankful for it.


After returning with his mother to Crandall House, General Fitzwilliam went directly to the study and penned a request to have Sergeant Major John Hawkins attend him at his earliest convenience. Calling for a footman, he requested that the message be delivered immediately.  Within the hour, Sergeant Major Hawkins was shown into the study General Fitzwilliam used while he was in residence. 

While the gentlemen were confabulating and strategizing on a most secret and discreet mission, the ladies of the house were upstairs in a favored private sitting room passing the time.  Elizabeth worked on embroidering a handkerchief while Lady Suzan attended to her correspondence.

Blushing as she discovered that she unconsciously stitched Sweet Williams surrounded by Forget-Me-Nots, Elizabeth returned to her earlier thoughts of the morning involving a certain Mr. Darcy and how they both had professed their love for each other.  Filled with both happiness and sadness at the event, she hoped he would grant her favor.  Never believing that she would ever want intimate relations with a man, her desire for him was overwhelming.  She wanted to know what her Aunt Gardiner, Lady Suzan, and Lady Emily felt with their husbands—what it would be like to be with a man who loved her and whom she loved in return.   She still believed the best thing that could happen would be to conceive a child with him so that she would always have a part of him.  Surely, a well conceived lie here or there would cover her indiscretion.  After all, she had been living with lies and secrets these past three years, what was one more.

As Elizabeth pondered her future, Lady Suzan was doing the same.  How am going to help her through this mess Darcy has made?  After finishing her last letter, she placed it on the salver that held the outgoing posts and sat back watchingElizabeth concentrate on her embroidery.        

Gathering her courage, Lady Suzan went to joinElizabeth on the settee.

Elizabeth?” Lady Suzan said to gain Elizabeth’s attention.

Looking up from her embroidery,Elizabeth smiled and replied, “Yes, Lady Suzan.”

“This morning I went to visit Darcy, and he informed me of what happened last night,” Lady Suzan stated.

Looking down at her handiwork,Elizabeth felt at bit betrayed that he would discuss something so personal with his aunt.  Then she remembered the incident with Sir Arnold Murphy, and responded, “Yes, you must be utterly ashamed of my unladylike behavior to Sir Arnold.”

Lady Suzan looked confused at first until she realized what Elizabeth was referring to, and then she smiled before pronouncing, “No, I am quite proud of you for standing up for yourself in such a situation though I will say I am surprised at my son for instructing you in such a way.”

“Do not blame him.  I believe he was trying to prepare me for every eventual circumstance that I may find myself in.”Elizabeth gave her friend at shy smile.

Taking a deep breath, Lady Suzan continued, “Darcy also informed me of what happened afterward.”

Elizabeth flushed and her hands began to tremble.  Sitting aside her stitchery, she clasped her hands in her lap and lowered her gaze to the rug before replying, “Yes, I believe he was worried about me and wanted to make sure I was fine.”

“You and I both know that it was more than that.  Why did you not tell me that Darcy proposed marriage to you in Kent?”

Startled,Elizabeth looked up at Lady Suzan.  Taking a moment to collect her thoughts, she responded, “A lady may have the privilege to accept or decline such offers, but I do not believe that she has the right to make those proposals known, especially to his relations.  No matter what the circumstances, a gentleman’s pride is at stake.”

“Darcy explained his foolish behavior at that time, and I think you were well within your rights to refuse him.”

Elizabeth looked astonished.

Lady Suzan gave a quiet chuckle and continued, “Yes!  Though I do believe there are few, more likely none, who would refuse a proposal of marriage from the much sought after Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, master of Pemberley.  And therein lays his attraction to you.  Darcy is a man not used to courting young ladies, they court him.  He had no idea of what it would take to win the hand of such an extraordinary young woman such as yourself.  His forthright and honest character did not serve him well in your singular situation.  But you know he is still in love with you, do you not?”

Elizabeth nodded her head and averted her gazed to the carpet as she whispered, “Yes.”

“And I believe your feelings for him are quite the opposite of what they were at that time.  Am I correct in that as well?”

A slight nod fromElizabeth confirmed her suspicions.

Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves,Elizabeth explained, “Lady Suzan, I would never allow him to do anything to dishonor his duty or his name.”

“Of course, you would not,” Lady Suzan said as she moved to sit closer toElizabeth.  Wrapping her arms around her young friend, she consoled, “Elizabeth, I am very sorry that this had to happen.  I should never have let him spend so much time with you.  I wondered why he was so willing to give up his time to help, but I never suspected it would come to this.”

Tears pooled inElizabeth’s eyes as she could no longer hold back her emotions. 

Lady Suzan pulled her into her embrace and placedElizabeth’s head on her shoulder. When the tears began to flow freely fromElizabeth’s eyes, Lady Suzan reached into the pocket of her gown and retrieved a handkerchief to wipe away the tears.

Once her tears were spent, Elizabeth sat up and wiped her eyes before stating, “Perhaps it is best if I return to Hertfordshire in the next day or two.”

TakingElizabeth’s hands in her own, Lady Suzan requested, “Before you make such a decision, please hear me out.  If you still decide to go, I will not stop you nor will I withhold your inheritance from Emily.  First of all, I have asked Darcy to keep his distance from you, and he has agreed.  He did request to have a private conversation with you, and I told him that if you were agreeable he could come by in the morning.”

Elizabeth looked at her friend and replied, “Yes, if we are to no longer have any communications, I would like to wish him farewell.”  She was also thinking about what this would mean to his decision of granting her favor.

“Very well!  Next, I wish to speak as the selfish being that I am.  I do not wish for you to leave me.  Your friendship and companionship has done more good for me than you can ever know.  My life after Jamie’s passing was stark and bleak and colorless.  You have brought back a life full of vibrancy to me and given me a sense of worth in this world.  I do not wish to lose that.  In fact, I was going to ask you if you would stay with me on a more permanent basis.”

“You mean as a companion, as I did for Lady Emily?”Elizabeth asked.

“More as a friend or surrogate daughter for that is how much I have come to value you,” Lady Suzan stated as her eyes misted at verbally putting into words what her heart dearly felt.

“Do you think that wise considering…” Elizabeth looked astonished at Lady Suzan for her heartfelt sentiment.

“Considering my relation to Mr. Darcy?”

Elizabeth just nodded.

“Things can be arranged.  I am sure there will be times when you would wish to visit your family.  Or when I am obliged to family duties where he will be in attendance, you could remain here or at Heathgate.”

“Heathgate?”Elizabeth queried.

“Yes, it was my family’s estate where I passed my younger years.  I have deeded it to Richard, but as he does not have need for it right now, he has offered its use to me when I do not wish to be in London or at Dovecote,” Lady Suzan explained.

“Lady Suzan, I am honored that you would think of me in such a way.  Are you sure you wish to have me become so much a part of your life?”  Elizabeth asked.

“Yes, very much.  You are already so much a part of my life.  I know you have thoughts about your future and what you will do.  However, I do not believe you have made a decision.  Please allow this to be included in your consideration.” 

“Yes, I will definitely give it due diligence in my contemplation,”Elizabeth said.

“There has been something I have always wanted to do and that is to visitWales.  My grandmother was from there, and I am curious to see the places she described to me.  After the Season ends, you will return to your family.  What say you return here in late July and we will set out on a tour of Wales?  Maybe we can cross the Irish Sea and spend some time in Dublin; we would be back in time for your sister’s laying in,” Lady Suzan proposed.  She did not want to mention that she would need to be back at that time for Darcy’s wedding to Mrs. Wagstaff, if it came to be.  “Besides it will give us a chance to see how we get on together without the beehive ofLondon in Season.”

Elizabeth face brightened at the prospect of traveling.  She felt it would be nice to get away; to have a diversion from the heartbreak of losing William to another woman.  Smiling, she responded, “Yes, that would be delightful.  To be able to see new places, meet new people.”  Just what I will need to move on with my life, though I best not get too excited.  If William gives me a child, then I will not be able to accept. I wonder what Lady Suzan will think about that.  Would she still feel that same way about me? She seems very liberal minded, but that may be a bit more than she can tolerate to have me and my illegitimate child in her life.

“Excellent, I will begin making plans tomorrow.  Now, are you ready for tea?”

“Yes,”Elizabeth exclaimed.  Her mind was awhirl dancing between this new scheme and having William’s child and the consequences thereof.  Each situation took her mind off the heart ache she would soon have to deal with. 

After Lady Suzan rang for tea, they were joined by Richard.

“Ah!  I have found my favorite ladies in one place,” Richard Fitzwilliam cried.

“Richard, you are just in time for tea,” Lady Suzan replied.

“Unfortunately, I will not be able to take tea with you this afternoon as I have been bidden by special invitation from Miss Georgiana Darcy to have tea with her,” Richard announced.

“Georgiana, whatever would she want with the likes of you?” Lady Suzan asked as she turned to Elizabeth with a wink to show her teasing manner with her son.

“I will have you know that I am her guardian and she does not need to have a reason to request my attendance on her.” Richard smiled.

“Though I am sure she has some grand scheme to discuss with you,” his mother stated.

“Yes, so I am off.  I will be back in time to escort you lovely ladies to…um…where is it that we are to be tonight?” Richard asked.

“Lord Westhampton’s dinner,” his mother replied.

With a grimace, he stated, “Ah, yes.  What a bore that will be!”

“Richard!”  Both ladies cried in admonishment.

“He is a doddering, old fool who does not know how to entertain his guests with any excitement or intrigue.”  He gaveElizabeth a wink before taking his leave.

After he departed, Elizabeth turned to Lady Suzan and inquired, “Do you think that Mr. and Miss Darcy will be in attendance?”  She was not sure if she was ready to see him again tonight as there was much to think on before she met with him in the morning.

“I do not believe Darcy will be there as he expressed a wish for a quiet evening tonight.  However, he was to check with Georgiana to see about her wishes.  But I believe she will leap at the chance to stay home and out of sight from Society.”

With a sigh of relief or sadness,Elizabeth did not know of which, she quietly sipped her tea.


Later that evening, the ladies of Crandall house sat in a small parlour on the first floor awaiting Richard so they might leave soon for Lord Westhampton’s dinner party.  He had arrived back from Darcy House less than an hour before while they were dressing for their outing.

Elizabeth, you must promise to stay close to me tonight for I fear I will be in great need of you,” Lady Suzan opined.

Raising an eyebrow,Elizabeth asked, “And why, Lady Suzan, is that?”

“I am afraid this dinner party will be dreadfully dull, and I will need your assistance so that I do not make a spectacle of myself if I take a nap when the soup is served.”

Elizabeth could not help but laugh at the picture of Lady Suzan nodding off to find her face in the soup bowl.  Assuring her friend, she said, “I will be ever present to ensure that you do not disparage the family name by your indecorous behavior.”

The ladies were startled by a deep, male voice, “I am sure the sight of Lady Matlock asleep at the dinner table will be enough to make this evening a complete success for the host and hostess.”

Looking up, they saw General Richard Fitzwilliam standing in the doorway attired in his dress regimentals.

Smiling at her son, Lady Suzan asked, “And how was your tea with Georgiana?”

“Enlightening, very enlightening!” was his response.

“So what type of scheme has she cornered you into?” Lady Suzan requested.

“No scheme at all.  She just requested my consent and blessing for her upcoming nuptials,” was his reply.

Both ladies gasped at the news.  But it was Elizabeth who put into words what they were both thinking, “To Mr. Bingley?”

Richard grinned as he confirmed, “Yes, Mr. Bingley and our little Georgiana are to be married.”

“Oh, my,” Lady Suzan cried.  “A summer wedding at Pemberley, how delightful.”

“I am afraid you presume too much.  There will not be a summer wedding at Pemberley but a wedding here in London the first week in June.”

“The first week in June,” both Elizabeth and Lady Suzan cried.

“Richard, that is not even a month away.”  Lady Suzan sat contemplating the suddenness of the wedding but not sure how to put it into words.

Seeing the range of thoughts that appeared upon his mother’s face, he stated, “I believe the haste with the wedding is due to the impatience of Bingley and Georgiana to move forward with their marriage instead of anticipating it.  It seems that they had come to an agreement several weeks ago, but it took until today before they could gain Darcy’s consent.”

“Why did it take so long for him to agree?  I thought him in favor of the match,” Lady Suzan asked.

“He is in favor of the match.  He asked my opinion on it months ago.  I believe it was Georgiana and Bingley who were the delay.  From what I gather, it was quite a unique proposal, and they wished to make certain that they were not being impetuous in agreeing to such a momentous undertaking.”

“Unique proposal?” Lady Suzan queried.

“It seems Georgiana gave him her answer before he even proposed.”

The ladies were quite amused by this bit of information.

“I also believe that they took their time to plan out exactly what they wanted before approaching Darcy.  They had valid arguments for every item on which he might object.  In fact, I think Georgiana has the whole wedding organized because she distributed tasks for all of us once everything was blessed.  It seems Bingley is responsible for the special license, Darcy for securing the church and exact date, and I have the honor of placing the announcement in the newspapers.”

“I must say that my niece is quite thorough,” Lady Suzan chimed in.

“Yes, she is most adamant that this wedding takes place as soon as possible and to everyone’s satisfaction as witnessed by her resolving Bingley’s problem as to who is to stand up with him.  He had always planned when the time came to have Darcy serve as his best man, and now he is trying to find someone else for that office.”  Richard related.

“So, I can assume that you will have the post,” Lady Suzan stated.

“No,” he smiled.  “Darcy will stand with Bingley and I will escort the bride down the aisle and give her to Bingley.”

Both ladies gave him an astonished look.  Then Lady Suzan said, “She is quite a resourceful girl.  And who will attend her?”

“Well, that is not for certain as she has yet to ask Miss Bennet for that honor.”

“Me?”Elizabeth exclaimed, quite shocked.  “I am surprised that she did not pick Miss Bingley.  After all, they will be sisters.”

Lady Suzan and Richard tried unsuccessfully to hide their mirth.  But a sheepish Elizabeth could not fail to join them.

Leaning over to pat Elizabeth’s hand, Lady Suzan explained, “Elizabeth, Georgiana is very fond of you.  I believe she quite sees you as the sister she has always wanted.  She has been a shy and retiring young lady, but you have effortlessly brought her out and given her a sense of self-confidence.  She sees you as a role model, so there should be no surprise in her asking you to stand up with her at her wedding.”

Looking to Richard and then Lady Suzan, Elizabeth said, “Well, she is a lovely girl, and I will be most honored to grant her request of me.”

A quiet fell over the parlour as each occupant contemplated how this wedding would affect their lives over the next few weeks. 

Lady Suzan and Richard were happy for the engaged pair but concerned over how Darcy and Elizabeth would fare.  Having spoken to both Elizabeth and Darcy today, Lady Suzan knew both of them were aware of the consequences if they appeared interested to each other.  She gave herself hope that by the time the wedding day arrived they would have had enough practice acting as common and indifferent acquaintances and everything would work out well.

Elizabeth’s thoughts tended toward the image of it being just William and her standing at the altar before the vicar.  Though she knew that nothing would come of it, the memories that would replay in her mind later and the result would be more to her satisfaction.  Besides, if Mr. Darcy was inclined to grant her favor, it would seem like it was sanctioned.





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