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Chapter 9


Caroline Bingley rushed down the stairs in anticipation of the invitations that would be in the morning post requesting her attendance at a society function.  As she looked through the post, each letter caused her frown to deepen.  These were not the invitations she was hoping to receive.  That is until she got to the last one.  A big smile lit her face as she turned it over in her hand.  It was an invitation to her brother, Charles, inviting him, along with a guest, to a dinner party at Matlock house hosted by the Earl and Countess of Matlock.  Now this was the type of invitation she had anticipated. 

Quickly penning the acceptance for her brother and his guest, Miss Caroline Bingley, she rang for a footman to have it delivered post haste.  Sitting back, she could not help but be pleased.  She had high hopes for this season and this invitation just made those hopes shine all the more brightly.

At the age of five and twenty and still unmarried, most people would consider Caroline Bingley a spinster---a woman on the shelf.  However, Caroline did not view herself in such a way.  She was on a quest to become Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy and had been ever since she debuted into society at the age of eighteen.  Her brother, Charles, was a particular friend of Mr. Darcy’s and up until a few years ago she believed she was close to obtaining her goal.  But after the Hertfordshire debacle, as she had come to refer to that time, Charles and Mr. Darcy had seemed to drift apart thereby curtailing her access to Mr. Darcy, but she had not given up hope. 

With the debut of Miss Georgiana Darcy this season, she had reasons to be optimistic as she claimed Miss Darcy as her particular friend.  The fact that Miss Darcy did not seem to reciprocate that closeness did not seem to affect Caroline.  Her hope was that with Georgiana Darcy coming out that she could persuade Charles to offer for her, and if she was Miss Darcy’s sister-in-law, she would be in Mr. Darcy’s company, and thereby could set her trap.  Once they all resided within the same family circle, she knew that the title of Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Mistress of Pemberley, would soon be hers. 

On the afternoon of the dinner, her anticipation of the event was high as she knew it would only lead to the end of her quest.  She would marry the most eligible gentleman in London.

The morning post had been delivered at Crandall House.  When Elizabeth saw the footman approach her carrying a silver salver bearing a missive, terror fill her senses as she knew who it was from.  Taking the letter offered to her, she glanced at the address and quickly slipped it in the pocket of her gown.

Lady Suzan suspected, based on Elizabeth’s reaction to receiving the letter, that it was the long-dreaded letter from her mother.  If the mysterious missive was from Mrs. Bennet, Lady Suzan needed to know its contents.  Clearing her throat, Lady Suzan asked, “Do you not wish to read your letter?”

Shaking her head, Elizabeth replied, “No, Lady Suzan, it only contains bad news.  I will read it later.”

“Elizabeth, I must be frank with you.  If that…” She nodded toward the pocket of Elizabeth’s gown.  “…is from your mother.  I need to know her intentions.”

Elizabeth gave her friend an odd look.  Lady Suzan had never pried into her private affairs and was confused as to why she would now.  She, also, knew that she would, sooner or later, have to inform Lady Suzan about her mother, and, by the receipt of this letter, it would be sooner.  For all she knew, her mother could be out on the sidewalk about to raise her fist to pound on the door of Crandall House, demanding to be let in so that she might instruct her daughter on all the right warehouses to go to.  Cringing at the last thought, she reluctantly removed the missive from its hiding place and laid it on her lap.

Lady Suzan waited a moment for Elizabeth to open the letter and when she did not, stated, “You have always been forthcoming about your father but have said very little about your mother.  I have not pressed you to speak about your mother as I know from Emily that your relationship with Mrs. Bennet has been a trial for you at best.  Your mother’s grievances against you have been unfair and unjust, not to mention irrational.  Emily has also related to me enough about your mother for me to know that you fear her interference in our plans.  Am I correct in my knowledge?”

Elizabeth looked down at the paper that lay in her lap and nodded.  “Yes, Lady Suzan, indeed, you are correct.”

“While I do not know what you related to your mother about Emily’s legacy to you, I do know your extended stay here with me will set your mother’s fertile mind into imaging that she needs to be here to guide you.”

Elizabeth nodded dejectedly.

“That is why I need to know her intentions in regards to you, as soon as possible, so that I might prepare for her if she arrives unexpectedly.”

Elizabeth’s response was to pick up the letter and open it.  Closing her eyes for a brief moment as she took a deep breath, she then opened her eyes and began to read it.

My dearest Elizabeth,

My darling daughter, you have made your sisters and me so extremely happy with your news.  A Season in Town!  I am quite beside myself with pride in having one of my daughters so honored.  I have always dreamed of having one of you know what it is like to have a Season, such as can be had in London.  And now my dreams are to come true.  What joy you bring to me!

Now, you must make sure you take every opportunity to enjoy yourself.  Your sisters send their best regards. We all wait patiently to hear word of your goings on, so please write often.  We look forward to that time when you are able to join us again.

Your loving mama,


Elizabeth closed her eyes tightly and shook head trying to clear it.  She must have misunderstood something, so she opened eyes and reread the letter.  Something was not right; the words were still the same as the first time she read it.  She could image her mother saying those words to one of her sisters but not to her.  Still uncomprehending, she read it a third time.

Lady Suzan was concerned and worried by Elizabeth’s reaction in reading the letter.  Standing up, she walked over to Elizabeth.  “Elizabeth, what is the matter?  What has happened? Or what is about to happen?”

Giving Lady Suzan an astonished look, she handed the letter to her friend and stated, “I do not understand what she means to do.”

Quickly perusing the missive, Lady Suzan chuckled.  Her ploy worked.  Handing Elizabeth back her letter, she walked back to her chair and sat down.  Looking back to Elizabeth, she confessed, “I had hoped this would happen.  Now it gives me relief that my hopes were justified.”

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked.

“I have a confession to make.  But before I do, I need to inform you of a special clause in Emily’s will that, except for the solicitors who drew up the will, only I was privy to.  Emily knew your mother well and did not approve of her or her means to get her way.” 

Elizabeth nodded.  While she and Lady Emily did not talk much about her relationship with her mother, she knew Lady Emily to be astute enough to discern her mother’s reasons and motives for each situation that Mrs. Bennet was confronted with.

Lady Suzan continued with her confession, “Emily anticipated your mother’s response to discovering what you would receive upon her death and took actions to thwart her.  The clause states that if Mrs. Bennet or any of her daughters tried, in any way, to interfere with you receiving your bequest that all the arrangements for her to stay at Peach Cottage will be revoked, as well as the dowries for your sisters.  The sums recovered from such revocation will be added to your portion.”

“Oh, my!” Elizabeth exclaimed.  Then confusion clouded her countenance, “But how did my mother know that such a stipulation was made.”

“That was my doing,” Lady Suzan said.   “When you accepted Lady Emily’s bequest, I went to Mr. Mallory and Mr. Stanton and asked them to detail in a letter to Mrs. Bennet what she and your sisters would receive under the terms of the will.  I also asked them to make sure they explained the special clause clearly enough that your mother would understand the consequences if she so much as said a word about interfering in Emily’s wishes.”

Incredulously, Elizabeth held up the letter and said, “So this is the result of that letter.  Her fears of being set out and left to starve in the hedgerows would become realized if she even said or did anything to meddle.”

“Precisely!” Lady Suzan smirked.

While Elizabeth could not help but have a twinge of regret on how that clause would affect her sisters, it did not override her profound relief at not having to worry about her mother.  Looking up at the ceiling, she whispered a prayer of thanks to Lady Emily.  Turning to Lady Suzan, she sincerely stated, “And thank you as well, Lady Suzan.”

Lady Suzan nodded her head and went back to what she was doing before the letter arrived. She felt the relief of the great burden in having to deal with Mrs. Bennet lift from her shoulders.

The two days between his meeting Miss Elizabeth Bennet again and the dinner the Earl and Countess of Matlock were hosting to celebrate his engagement to Mrs. Wagstaff were a constant struggle for Darcy.  It took every ounce of restraint he possessed to keep from returning to Crandall House and establishing his residency there to be near Elizabeth.  And as much as he wished to see her again, he still had the matter of his engagement to think about.

It would not be surprising to note that he had spent the chief of those two days secluded in his chambers alternating his time between trying to figure a way out of his engagement before it was announced and letting his imagination soar as he envisioned his Elizabeth in his bed.  It is also noteworthy to mention that the only two people he spent any appreciative time with during those two days were his sister, Georgiana, and his valet, Jennings, as he had left word that he was not at home to anybody be they friend, family, or foe.

So the day of the dinner dawned on an extremely frustrated Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Not only had he not come up with an honorable way of ending his engagement, he was extremely tired of using masturbation to gratify his fantasies.  In fact, he was considering drastic measures when he pulled back his covers to find his ever-present erection (or so it seemed to him) begging for attention.

Reaching down to remedy his situation, he thought about the coming evening.  Elizabeth would be there but so would Virginia.  Virginia would probably be in his constant company precluding any conversation with Elizabeth he might wish to have.  At that thought, he left his bed and walked to the dresser where he poured cold water from the ewer resting atop the dresser on his enflamed desire.

Watching his manhood as it withered back to its normal flaccid state, he said, “There! Stay that way.  And I expect you to behalf yourself tonight.  There will be no unseemly displays until I am safely returned to this house.”

Appraising his limp penis, he knew it was safe from Virginia’s influence.  It was the effect that Elizabeth had on it that worried him.

Elizabeth Bennet sat in her dressing room as her maid set her hair.  She was nervous about the coming dinner party.  While she had met most of Lady Suzan’s immediate family on an individual basis, this was the first time that she would encounter them en masse.  Adding to her anxiety, though she was unsure why, was that she would be seeing Mr. Darcy tonight for the first time since his visit two days prior. 

She had not been able to quell the disappointment that had surfaced at the thought that he had not called in the past two days.  Elizabeth, you are a foolish girl. Mr. Darcy is a busy man and is newly betrothed.  You cannot expect him to come visit everyday.  Despite chiding herself for her irrational feelings, she could not help trying to resolve on why she was disappointed.

But deep down, she knew or, at least, she thought she knew.  Mr. Darcy represented that time in her life when she was happy, everything was normal, and her family was whole.  While she may not have thought much of him at the time, all the same, he reminded her of those times along with a sense of home and the familiar before everything went so very wrong in her life.  This new life that she had agreed to would set her down a path where she was about to embark on new experiences and meet new people.  It was just natural that having Mr. Darcy around would remind her of the person she once had been, and that would allow her to have the confidence to face whatever was ahead.

Besides, she was interested in meeting his fiancée. Having had the honor of being his first choice for Mrs. Darcy,Elizabeth could not help but be curious.  She could not suppress the smirk on her face as she wondered if Mrs. Wagstaff had been informed that she was his second choice.  The smirk widened as Elizabeth pondered on whether Mrs. Wagstaff was privy to the identity of the first.

Laughing, she shook her head.  No, Mr. Darcy is too private and proud.  He would not let that piece of information be passed around.  Just by his family’s reaction to the apologies we gave each other, I know they are not aware of just how foolish both of us had been that fateful night.

Immediately on arriving at the dinner party, Darcy scouted out the best place to establish an observation post.  He needed someplace where he could view the entire room while still being inconspicuous.  After greeting his hosts and a few friends, he escorted Georgiana and Mrs. Wagstaff to his selected location to await the arrival of Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

As he stood behind the settee where his two ladies were seated chatting with each other, he could not help but be proud of his little sister.  She had become a beautiful young lady and with Lady Julia and Mrs. Wagstaff’s help, she was overcoming her innate shyness.  She would do well this season even though he knew she was nervous about it.  She had been through so much in her short life that he wanted to see her settled and happy.  Losing both her parents at such a young age and then being reared by a much older brother and an old horse soldier had not made things easier for her.  Though he knew that she loved him dearly, and Richard as well, she needed a woman’s influence in her life.  Then there was Wickham’s treachery against her. Darcy felt she would never recover from that and it was one of the reasons he had waited until she was nineteen to have her debut into society.  He was pleased with her progress in overcoming her timidity and hoped that she would make a match this season for her sake. Her happiness was paramount to him and he would not want her to sacrifice her well-being for his, though he would miss her terribly once she married.

As Darcy thought about who would be her possible suitors and their acceptability for that role, he found that he continued to let his mind veer to his friend, Charles Bingley.  Charles was easy-going, charming, and humorous as well as being a gentle and affectionate soul.  Charles and Georgiana shared so many traits and already held the other in high regard.  He knew they did not love each other but he felt that a love could grow between them eventually and he knew they would be happy together.  He owed that much to Charles for the role he had played in separating him from Miss Jane Bennet.  He knew what pain Charles had suffered. It was the same pain he himself had suffered with the lost of another Bennet sister.

Looking down at Virginia Wagstaff, he realized that Georgiana would have more in common with Charles in terms of affection than he would have with Virginia.  His match with Virginia was based more on attraction than affection and he knew he would never love Virginia though he hoped to develop more affection for her than he had at present.  He also knew that any attraction on his part had been generated from lust but even now that was uncertain whether he would be able to act on it.  As for Virginia’s part, he was not sure about her feelings for him but he suspected the same was true for her.  As he stared at her bosom overflowing her gown, he realized that if he was forced to enter into a marriage with her then he had best find a way to react to her obvious assets.  He only hoped that there were enough feelings between Virginia and him to make for a tolerable marriage if he could not find a way out of this engagement.

Hearing Georgiana laugh brought his attention back to her.  How would his sister fair in the bedroom?  He did not think she could handle a passionate man.  She was fragile and needed a gentle and undemanding lover.  Again Charles came to mind as a possible match.  He knew that Charles was not a virgin as he had been responsible for Charles’ deflowering, as it were. 

He could not help his chuckle at that night five years ago, when he and Bingley had returned from looking at horses for the new carriage Bingley had just purchased.  He had invited Bingley to stay for dinner and afterwards they had retired to the library for a brandy.  Both men were not much on drinking to excess, a brandy or two in the evening was usually their limit but that night, for whatever reason, the brandy flowed freely and both became somewhat inebriated.  Naturally when in such a relaxed state, confidences were revealed and Darcy had been astonished to learn that at the age of four and twenty Bingley was still uninitiated in the pleasures of the flesh.  So Darcy ordered his carriage readied and at eleven o’clock in the evening the two men set out for Madame Dupree’s with instructions to the servants not wait up for them. 

Taking the bawd mistress aside, he explained Bingley’s situation and was assured that Mr. Bingley would be properly attended to.  Leaving Charles in capable hands, Darcy had gone off to find his own pleasures.  In the pre-dawn hours, Darcy and Bingley emerged from the brothel and piled into the carriage for their trip home.  Bingley’s grin from the time that the gentlemen staggered into the carriage until they arrived at the Bingley townhouse indicated that Charles had enjoyed his new experience very much. 

However, the next afternoon after having slept off the effects of too much brandy and in a more sober frame of mind, Bingley returned to Darcy House to express his appreciation for the experience and his enjoyment of the outing of the night before.  Bingley was a modest man and he, therefore, declared that he would wait until he married before he entered into another conjugal situation with a lady.  Darcy could not but respect Bingley for his convictions and let the subject of future outings drop.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement at the main doorway of the drawing room.  Darcy looked up to see his friend, Bingley, enter along with Miss Bingley.  As the Bingleys were greeting their hosts, Lord and Lady Matlock, it dawned on Darcy that with the emergence of Elizabeth Bennet into their lives that Bingley might have a second chance with his Miss Bennet.  Glancing at Georgiana, he thought he would probably have to scratch Bingley off his list of suitors for his sister.

The Bingley siblings made their way to the Darcys and Mrs. Wagstaff and made their salutations.  As they were making small talk, the room suddenly went quiet.  General Fitzwilliam and his mother, the Dowager Lady Matlock, along with Miss Elizabeth Bennet had just arrived.  The effect of their presence around the room ranged from curiosity to shock but everyone had a definite reaction to the newcomers. 

Georgiana Darcy was happy to see her new friend, Miss Bennet.  Charles and Caroline Bingley looked as if they had seen a ghost; in fact, they did see Miss Bennet as a ghost from their past.  Mr. Darcy response took on a more physical nature and he was grateful to be standing behind the settee to hide his obvious reaction.

When the Fitzwilliams, along with Miss Bennet, finally made their way to the Darcys and Bingleys, Darcy was first to speak. “Aunt Suzan, Fitzwilliam,” and bowed to them. Turning towardElizabeth, he bowed again, “Miss Bennet, it is a pleasure to see you again.”

Elizabeth curtsied and smiled as she replied, “Mr. Darcy, I thank you.  It is a pleasure to see you again as well.”

Georgiana jumped up from the settee and wrapped her arm around Elizabeth’s arm.  “Oh! Elizabeth, I am so glad you are here.”

Elizabeth smiled at her new friend. “Georgiana, you look very beautiful tonight.”

Georgiana blushed as her Aunt Suzan and Cousin Richard expressed their approbation in her appearance. 

Darcy looked at his sister and then to Elizabeth.  What happened to Miss Bennet and Miss Darcy?  When did they become Elizabeth and Georgiana?  During his seclusion of the last few days, he had been unaware that his sister had gone to call on her aunt and Miss Bennet thereby producing their newly intimate posture.

As Mr. and Miss Bingley were greeting Lady Matlock and General Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth performed her curtsy to Virginia Wagstaff, “Mrs. Wagstaff, it is a pleasure to meet you.  I have heard so much about you.”

Virginia simply gave Elizabeth a weak smile, nodded, and then offered, “Likewise, Miss Bennet.”

Virginia’s first impression of Miss Bennet was not very favorable.  Though she knew of her through Julia, it was the fact that she was merely a simple country girl, despite her connection to the Dowager Lady Matlock, which made her unworthy of much concern.  She viewed Elizabeth’s prettiness as only common and her age would be a hindrance to her in attracting eligible young men.  Surveying Elizabeth’s person, Virginia realized that Miss Bennet might generate a good bit of interest with the gentlemen if she were to wear a more daring cut to the bodice of her gowns.  Looking down at her own décolletage, she smiled inwardly as she admitted to herself, no one has a better set of breasts than I, and I am not afraid to let them be admired. She is no threat to me; though Georgiana had better watch out for her.

Miss Bingley had been struck with horror to see Elizabeth Bennet enter the drawing room.  She had thought she had seen the last of the Bennets when they left Netherfield years ago.  Looking over at her brother, her agitation increased as she could see that he was eager to be reacquainted with Miss Elizabeth and that meant he might be thinking of doing something foolish, like pursuing Miss Jane Bennet again.  How am I going to stop him?

Looking over at Mr. Darcy, she saw an opportunity of getting closer to him.  She could enlist his aid if Charles chose to do something imprudent.  Darcy had helped her before, and she was confident that he would help her again.  It would also be a perfect time to promote Charles as a marriage partner for Georgiana. Miss Darcy was a wealthy heiress and would have found a marriage partner by the end of the season, so it was best to get an early start in that race.  Once Georgiana is married, Mr. Darcy will be lonely and in search of companionship which I will be only to happy to provide.  Yes, whether Charles marries Georgiana or not, I should be able to become Mrs. Darcy before the year is out.

Miss Bingley was brought out of her musings by a sudden remembrance when she observed Mr. Darcy staring so intently. Where have I seen him stare so intently? Yes, in Hertfordshire, at Netherfield.  Memories of that time flooded back to her, and her most vivid memory was the one when Mr. Darcy had shown a marked preference to the impertinent Miss Eliza Bennet.

Another disquieting thought lodged in Miss Bingley’s mind, Mrs. Wagstaff. Why is she sitting with Georgiana and Mr. Darcy? Then she remembered a comment she overheard about Mr. Darcy showing an interest in Virginia Wagstaff.  Dismissing it at the time as being preposterous, now she could not help the niggling sensation that it might be true.  Struggling to dispel the gloomy thoughts that her ambitions could be thwarted, Caroline Bingley began an assessment of her rivals.

Eliza Bennet is a country nobody with no connections or fortune.  She would not have the style and elegance that Mr. Darcy would need in a wife.  But what is she doing here with Lady Matlock and General Fitzwilliam?  General Fitzwilliam!  That is it! Somehow she has met him and lured him into marriage.  Those Bennet girls were always chasing after officers.  At least, Eliza had the sense to go after a higher rank than a lieutenant or captain.

Once she had assured herself that Elizabeth Bennet would not be a rival for Mr. Darcy, she turned her thoughts to Virginia Wagstaff.  Mrs. Wagstaff is probably living on her son’s inheritance and had little to offer as far as fortune went, though she is quite close to Lady Julia.  Looking at Mrs. Wagstaff, Caroline assessed her rival’s fashion sense and deemed it vulgar to the extreme.  Yes, Mr. Darcy may be drawn in by abundant cleavage, but he would want a more decorous wife.  Maybe Virginia Wagstaff is his mistress.  I could live with that.  It will give me more time for my beauty sleep.  Tomorrow, I will go see Mademoiselle Saucier and see about having extra padding added to the bodice of my gowns. No, I do not have anything to worry about.

Charles Bingley stood impatiently waiting for a chance to speak to Miss Bennet and hear all her news.  He struggled to keep from bouncing from one foot to the other in his eagerness to address Elizabeth Bennet.

Finally, Elizabeth turned her attention to Mr. and Miss Bingley, “Miss Bingley, Mr. Bingley, it is so good to see you again after so long.”

Miss Bingley displayed a false smile as she returned, “Yes, Miss Bennet, it has been too long.”

Mr. Bingley grinned and said, “You look wonderful Miss Bennet.  I hope you are well and your family is well.”

Elizabeth smiled at Mr. Bingley’s enthusiasm.  He was just as she remembered him.  “Thank you, Mr. Bingley.  I am well as is my family.”

“Is all your family still at Longbourn?” he asked.

A shadow passed over Elizabeth’s face as she answered, “No, Mr. Bingley, we have been living at Stanfield Hall these past two years.  All but my sister, Jane, who was married last summer to the Vicar of Branford, his parish is but two miles from the estate.”

“Standfield Hall, is that not the estate of Lord and Lady Webberley?” Caroline Bingley inquired.  She had seen her brother’s face go ashen and hoped to deflect any attention from him.

Lady Matlock stepped in to answer her question, “Yes, it was.  Both Lord and Lady Webberley are deceased now.  However, Lady Webberley was a cousin to Miss Bennet’s father.  When he passed away several years ago, Lady Webberley invited the Bennet ladies to reside with her at Standfield Hall.”

Before any further questions could be asked or answered, the butler appeared at the door to the drawing room and rang a small bell, “Dinner is served.”





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