Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 7

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Chapter 4A

The sun was just stretching its fingers above the horizon, poking them into windows, waggling them under noses and across eyes, stirring the occupants within when Elizabeth stretched and yawned as she rose.  Her sleep had not been sound, and her body wished for her to pull the blankets up to ward off the advances of the day continue its repose.  However, Elizabeth could not indulge in such luxuries if she wished to have a cup of tea before her walk. If she lounged in bed for too long, she would doubtlessly meet with either Charlotte or Mr. Collins, and she felt prepared to meet neither this morning.  The information contained within the letter under her pillow still weighed heavily upon her mind, and she wished for some fresh air in which to think before she met with the colonel and Mr. Darcy.

She paused in her morning rituals and ran a hand over the book of verse that sat on her dressing table.  She flipped it open to the place that was held by a length of material stitched with several small flowers and a heart.  At the bottom of the bookmark was a single elegant G.  It was obviously made for him by his sister.

She read the poem on the marked page and wondered again at Mr. Darcy’s having given the book to her before he had even finished reading it.  She knew he had not completed it, not only because of the marker but also because this was a book they had discussed wishing to read when at Netherfield but at that time neither of them owned it.

She closed the book and hurried through the rest of her preparations, slipping into a green day dress and styling her hair simply. Then, she tucked his letter into her pocket and, taking up her bonnet and his book, slipped out of the room and down the stairs.

She was just finishing her tea when Charlotte arrived in the morning room.  “Good morning,” Elizabeth greeted as she rose to leave.  “I was just on my way for a walk.”

“Are you planning to spend some time reading?” asked Charlotte, noting the book Elizabeth carried.

“Yes, it is a book I have not yet read.”

Charlotte raised a questioning brow.

“Mr. Darcy loaned it to me,” Elizabeth explained, “and I would like to return it to him before he leaves for town.”

Charlotte’s eyes grew wide.  “Is he not leaving today? I know you read quickly, but surely even you could not be finished in time to return it to him before he departs.”

Elizabeth sighed and stood impatiently at the door. She did not wish to answer questions. She wished to be outdoors alone with her thoughts.   “Colonel Fitzwilliam said they may not leave until tomorrow or Monday.”

“Interesting,” said Charlotte, the corners of her mouth turning up ever so slightly.  “It seems their departure will coincide with yours.  I wonder…” her voice trailed off as Elizabeth gave an exasperated sigh.

Elizabeth did not wish to hear Charlotte’s theories on Mr. Darcy’s actions, for Elizabeth was no longer certain how to interpret that gentleman.  She had thought she knew him, but after having read that letter — the letter that shared all the details Mr. Wickham had neatly left out of his tales, the letter that told how Mr. Darcy’s sister had fallen prey to the schemes of Mr. Wickham –, she knew that whatever she had thought Mr. Darcy to be was completely and utterly wrong.

Seeing that her friend was not going to provide any further information or argument, Charlotte sighed in resignation. “Very well,” she said, “I shall wonder on my own until you return.”

Elizabeth nearly flew out of the room and the house, desperate to be away and alone for the time it would take her to walk to the grove and meet the gentlemen.

Darcy and Richard were waiting on a bench under a large tree in the grove.  As Elizabeth approached, they both rose to greet her and then joined her.  Together, they walked in silence for a short distance.  Elizabeth knew what must be done, but an admission of errors was never easy.  Eventually, she spoke.

“I must apologize, Mr. Darcy” she began the small speech she had practiced.  “I should not have listened to Mr. Wickham, and I should not have been so critical of your behaviour when you were in Hertfordshire.” She drew a quick breath and hurried on, hoping that haste would make the shame of her previous actions more bearable.  “You may find it interesting to know that Jane told me not to listen to Mr. Wickham.  She also scolded me about my criticism of you and insisted there must be a reason for your behaviour, for a gentleman could not be friends with Mr. Bingley and be anything less than perfect in her eyes. However,  I chose not to listen and allowed my pride rule my actions.  For that, I am truly sorry.” She studied the ground in front of her.  Her cheeks burned, and tears stung her eyes.

Richard gave Darcy a surprised look which was returned in kind.  An apology was not at all what either gentleman had expected. However, it was a fortuitous advance in their position for which Richard was glad.  However, he also did not want Miss Bennet thinking herself unworthy of a man such as Darcy and once self-depreciation began, some individuals fell prey to its destruction more quickly than others.  He did not know if Miss Bennet was one of those sorts of people, but he was not willing to accept the risk.

“Do not regret listening to Wickham,” Richard said in an attempt to mitigate the damage over-blown guilt might wreak. “You must remember he is a practiced liar of the worst sort.  Many, many people have fallen victim to his lies.”

“I appreciate your words, Colonel Fitzwilliam, but the fact that Mr. Wickham is a practiced deceiver does not negate the fact that I failed to listen to sound reason and chose to disparage your cousin because of my wounded pride.  I will not so quickly place my responsibility beside the road.  It is mine to own.”

“As you wish, Miss Bennett,” conceded Richard.  He had heard similar comments all his life from Darcy and knew that argument was useless.  “Do you have any questions regarding what you read last night?”

She shrugged.  “The letter was so very thorough and clear that I do not find I have any issues with the content.  I do, however, wish to ask you how you feel I should use this information to protect myself as well as my friends and family from Mr. Wickham.”  She attempted to brush a wayward tear away unnoticed. However, she was not successful and soon found herself in possession of Mr. Darcy’s handkerchief.  It was difficult in and of itself to consider the way in which she had been fooled, and how foolishly she had acted without her emotions being stirred, but when one added to that the knowledge of how perilously close Miss Darcy had come to ruin, the task became insurmountable.

“His tales are convincing. They contain just enough truth to be believed.” Darcy smiled at her, hoping she understood that he did not blame her for being drawn in by Wickham.  “Sharing the information regarding the living at Kympton, and the money that was given and squandered should do some good in discrediting Mr. Wickham.”  He paused.  “As to my sister.  Her ordeal may be spoken of in generalities — a young lady of means was deceived, he sought not her heart but her fortune, that sort of thing.  Your father must know of any danger Wickham might pose to your sisters.”

Elizabeth stopped and looked up at him. Could she trust another with such information about one of her sisters as he was willingly placing in her hand? He must think very highly of her to do so.  The small furrow between his eyes and the set of his mouth spoke let her know that it was not easily done.  It was a decision to trust — a decision he needed to know had not been made in error.  “I will share what I know of Mr. Wickham’s true nature,” she said, “but please know that I will protect your sister.”

“Thank you, Miss Elizabeth.”

His reply was little more than a whisper, and she was startled by the glistening she saw in his eyes before he quickly looked away.  How he must have suffered!

“Was there anything else you wished to know?” Richard asked.  Elizabeth was as fine a lady as he had met.  Her willingness to admit her wrong and to not excuse it when given a chance as well as the fierceness with which she pledged to protect Georgiana stood as a testament to that fact. Darcy would do very well with this woman at his side.

Elizabeth’s brows furrowed as she thought. “No,” she said slowly drawing out the word as her head began shaking from side to side and then stopped, “actually, yes.  There is one thing I would like to ask.”

“Go on,” Richard encouraged.

“How is Miss Darcy?”

Her question touched the hearts of both men, one perhaps more than the other.  Richard was able to speak first, “She is not quite herself yet.  She is making improvements, but the process is slow.”

They walked in silence for a while before Elizabeth spoke again. “She will never be herself again, you know.  Every experience changes us to some extent, and the greater the emotional drain, whether happy or sad, the greater the change.  When she recovers, for how can she not with such good guardians, she will be stronger, but she will not be the young girl she was before the incident. And, you gentlemen will no doubt experience a period of mourning as a result.  Have you prepared yourself for that?”

“I had not thought of it in such a way,” Darcy admitted, looking at Richard.

“Nor had I,” Richard agreed, “although it makes perfect sense.”

“It does take a woman to make sense of things, you know,” teased Elizabeth in an attempt to lighten the mood.  Thankfully, it worked, and both men chuckled.

“While we are on the topic of sisters,” Darcy’s heart beat a loud rhythm in his chest.  He hoped that the discussion he was about to begin would not end in disaster.  “Might I inquire as to how your eldest sister fares?”

(I know, not fair, leaving you hanging like that, but I wanted you to know these three will be completing their discussion next week. 🙂 There is a little over 1000 words of this stroll through the grove left.)

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Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 6

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Chapter 3B

“May I tell her you read and insist upon showing you her library?” Richard suggested.

“That you may do,” Elizabeth replied.

“Miss Elizabeth is a great reader. It was rare to see her without a book in her hand when she was at Netherfield.”

“I would not say I am a great reader,” Elizabeth protested softly, her cheeks growing rosy.  This complimentary Mr. Darcy was rather unsettling.

“What do you read?” Richard asked. He was enjoying watching the effect Darcy was having on Miss Bennet.  The lady was not unaffected by his cousin, this was good.

“Whatever I can find,” Elizabeth said with a laugh.  “My father’s library has books on medicine and science as well as history, philosophy, and agriculture.  As you can imagine, some have been more enjoyable than others.  I also read poetry, and,” she lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “do not let my cousin know, since he has already lectured me at great lengths on this, I quite enjoy novels.”

“Your cousin has lectured you about reading novels?” Darcy asked incredulously.

“Most assuredly he has.  They are highly inappropriate for young ladies.  It would be far better to read a book of sermons.”  Elizabeth chuckled. “I have no need to read sermons since my sister Mary reads only sermons and insists on sharing what she has read with us on a regular basis.”

“Pray tell, Miss Bennet,” Richard’s tone was light and teasing, “which novels have you read that cause such censure?”

“Oh, I dare not say lest my reputation be ruined,” Elizabeth returned with a smile.  “I will tell you, however, that it did make Mr. Collins much relieved that I had turned down his offer as he could not have had a wife who read such books.”

“No!” exclaimed Darcy and Richard in unison, drawing the attention of their aunt.

“Yes,” whispered Elizabeth with a twinkle in her eye, “three days before he made an offer and was accepted by Charlotte.”

“Colonel Fitzwilliam, of what are you speaking?  I must know of what you are speaking,” demanded Lady Catherine.

“Books, my lady.  I was telling Miss Bennet about the excellent library you have here at Rosings. May I have your leave to show it to Miss Bennet?”  He rose in anticipation of his aunt’s approval.  She was always willing to show guest all the best parts of her estate, and even some of the less impressive parts if it would duly impress upon the observer how much they lacked compared to her.

“Most certainly, you must!” Lady Catherine answered.  “I should think that anyone would be fascinated to see its scope … ”

“Thank you, my lady,” Richard interrupted. His aunt continued on with her comments about the importance of a well-stocked library but turned them toward Mr. Collins, who was always eager to hear her opinions and agree with them.  “Miss Bennet, may I escort you to the library?  Darcy, you will join us, will you not?”

Elizabeth took Richard’s proffered arm, and Darcy rose to follow. However, upon reaching the hall, Darcy stopped. “I will join you in a minute.  I have a book in my room that I think Miss Elizabeth will enjoy. I will fetch it and return directly.” Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 6

Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 5

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Chapter 3A

Richard leaned toward his cousin as the Collins’s and their guests entered the drawing room at Rosings.  “Wait to see how she acts. Then we will know how to proceed.”

Darcy raised a brow and rolled his eyes.  He had heard Richard say the exact same thing three times earlier this evening.  He was not likely to forget the instructions so quickly.

Richard scowled lightly.  “I have seen how you lose the ability to form words in her presence.”

“I will do better this evening,” Darcy reassured him.

“Try to look pleasant, and treat her how you would treat Georgiana or me,” Richard advised.  He raised an impertinent brow.  A bit of a tease might keep his cousin’s mind from becoming a pile of unusable mush — a very likely possibility based on how Darcy was fidgeting at Miss Bennet’s approach.

Richard leaned a bit closer to Darcy’s ear and lowered his voice.  “She is not Caroline Bingley.  You do not need to protect yourself from her, unless you no longer wish to take her as a wife, in which case, I am certain Miss Bingley would step in and fill the role whether you asked her to or not. Ooof!”  A smirking Richard let out a loud burst of air as his cousin’s elbow made solid contact with his gut.

“Are you well, Colonel?”  Elizabeth had just reached where they were standing.

“I am well, thank you, Miss Bennet.  Darcy was just showing his pleasure with my teasing — something we have done since we were children.”

Elizabeth tilted her head as a small smile crept across her lips.  She glanced at Mr. Darcy, who was looking a trifle flushed, before directing her comment to the colonel.  “I am all astonishment, sir.  I have it on very good authority that Mr. Darcy is not to be teased.”

Richard’s eyes grew wide, and he could not help his small laugh of disbelief.  “I fear your source, whomever that may be, was not correct.”

Elizabeth’s eyes twinkled, and her smile grew.  “Oh, I am certain there is no better source.  Miss Bingley is very knowledgeable about Mr. Darcy.”

At this, Richard let out a loud guffaw.

Elizabeth paused, lips parted as if to speak.  Had she seen what she thought she had seen?  Had the dour and serious Mr. Darcy just rolled his eyes? So startling was the thought that whatever Elizabeth was going to add to the conversation flew completely out of her head. Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 5

Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 4

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Chapter 2B

Charlotte released a slow breath.  “I would make another point,” she said, “but I am fearful of increasing your distress.”

Elizabeth could tell by the way her friend fidgeted with a seam of the quilt that the matter was not going to be left unspoken.   “You might as well share it,” Elizabeth prompted.  “You know I always like to have my curiosity satisfied, and if you share it now, you will either save me the trouble of ferreting it out of you or yourself from devising another way to say it later.”

Charlotte gasped indignantly, though a hint of amusement shone in her eyes.  “I would do no such thing!” she cried.

Elizabeth cocked a brow at her friend’s protest.  “Yes, you would,” she retorted.  “Remember I know you as well as you know me.”

Charlotte smiled and chuckled softly.  “Very well, but remember I did give you the option not to hear it. I will not bear your displeasure.”

“Go on,” Elizabeth encouraged.  “I shall not hold you accountable for any distress your words may bring.”

Charlotte’s look was skeptical, but she began the next necessary bit of conversation regardless of the small niggling worry that Elizabeth might indeed hold some animosity for a time against her for what she was about to say.  “Do you remember how I said Jane should act more in love with Mr. Bingley than she might feel?”

Elizabeth remembered the conversation very well.  It had been during an evening at Lucas Lodge, just prior to her being entreated to play and sing and before Charlotte’s father, Sir William, had attempted to make Mr. Darcy dance with her.

“Jane’s reserved manner may not have allowed her preference for Mr. Bingley to be noticed,” Charlotte continued.  “Perhaps he stays away because he knows not that he would be welcomed if he returned. It is much easier to listen to a friend’s advice when you have nothing with which to refute it.”

Elizabeth’s mouth twisted into a frown.  “Do you really think so?”  It was a thought that had poked its way into Elizabeth’s mind and been summarily dismissed several times over the past few months.  ” I saw how she looked at him and he at her. Surely he must have known.”

“Not all men are so astute as to be able to infer true feelings.  Remember what Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy are used to — women of the ton who use all matter of arts and allurements to secure a wealthy husband.  They are constantly surrounded by insincere women — look at Miss Bingley, for example.  I doubt there is a sincere bone in her body.  And if Mr. Bingley, for all his charm and ease is not confident in his own judgment but relies on the judgment of Mr. Darcy, he may find it even harder to discern the sincere from the insincere.”

Charlotte’s argument was plausible so Elizabeth could not refute it.  She had no doubt that women in town were much more insincere in their actions if Miss Bingley was any example.  Still, she could not entirely believe that Mr. Bingley did not recognize some of Jane’s preference.  However, it would do no good to argue that point since the only person who could substantiate or deny such a claim was not present.  “I will allow that it is a possibility.  But what of Mr. Darcy’s concerns about Jane’s family?  Colonel Fitzwilliam mentioned nothing of a lack of attachment.  He specifically said that there were issues with the lady’s family.  How does that not heap the whole sorry business on Mr. Darcy’s head?”

Charlotte shook her head.  “It is not easy to hear, nor to say, but we both have mothers who are looking out for good matches for their children. My mother is less vocal, but she is insistent nonetheless.  And our fathers. What do they know of fashionable society? I do not doubt we all appeared a bit backward.  And our sisters.”  She sighed. “We love them, but do they not at times embarrass you?  I know mine do.”

Elizabeth’s shoulders drooped under the weight of the truth her friend spoke and was about to tell her friend that she was correct, but Charlotte was not yet done making her points.

“You will not like me for asking this, but if your friend were to fall for someone with such connections, and you were not certain of that person’s feelings for your friend, what would you do?”

Oh, that one stung.  Elizabeth nodded.  She knew that she would attempt to prevent such a match.  Had she not wished to separate Charlotte from Mr. Collins for similar reasons? True it was not his family but he himself that was ridiculous, but it had been enough for her to worry about her friend’s happiness.

“If you would do the same, how can you be angry with Mr. Darcy for his actions?” Charlotte asked.

Elizabeth shrugged.  It was rather disappointing to not be as justified in her anger as she had imagined herself to be.  Indeed, it was impossible to just put it aside completely at the moment.  “I cannot be, I suppose.  However, that does not mean I have to like his actions or him, for that matter.”

Charlotte sighed.  “Very well.  No one will ask you to like him — for now.  But I dare say they may in the future.  I may be mistaken, but I believe, Mr. Darcy likes you, if he is not already half in love with you.”

“He is not!” Elizabeth protested firmly.

Charlotte laughed.  “I see how he looks at you and how he finds time to be in your presence. Has he not found you each morning on your walks? I dare say it has not been a happy coincidence but rather a planned meeting.”  She patted Elizabeth’s leg.  “You would do well to, at least, be aware of it, for if he proceeds as he has been, I would not be surprised if he were to ask you to do more than merely like him at some point.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes.  Charlotte was as much of a matchmaker as Lady Lucas or Sir William.  She was always going on about the business of understanding gentleman and marrying well.  A small worrisome thought crossed Elizabeth’s mind as she considered how very often she was wrong and Charlotte was right.  “I shall consider myself warned. However, I will also assure you that he looks only for more reasons to judge my family.  It is nothing more.” Surely, Charlotte could not be correct regarding Mr. Darcy.

Charlotte wore a knowing smile and patted Elizabeth’s leg once again in a cajoling fashion.  “I will say no more on that front.” Her lips twitched with laughter.  “Now, I must know how I am to proceed. Will I make your excuses to Mr. Collins, or are you going to come with us to Rosings?”

Elizabeth groaned.  “Must I go?”

“It is up to you, my dear.”

Charlotte’s tone and look were the sorts that said Elizabeth’s choice, should it be the wrong one, would not be without some degree of unpleasantness.  Therefore, with a great sigh, Elizabeth resigned herself to the idea that she would have to endure an evening at Rosings rather than face the censure of Mr. Collins for having disappointed Lady Catherine.

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Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 3

A special note:  At All Costs, the last Thursday’s Three Hundred story, is now available for purchase in both ebook and paperback format.

Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2

Chapter 2A

Elizabeth tossed her bonnet on the dressing table and flopped onto her bed.  She closed her eyes and drew a slow deep breath.  It did little, however, to quell her anger. Of all the horrible, rotten, high-handed, arrogant things!  That man had no respect or care for anyone but himself!

She flicked off her shoes, wiggled her way up to her pillow, and draped an arm across her eyes to keep out the afternoon sunlight that shone through the window.  A dull pain drummed a steady rhythm behind her temples.  She knew tears would relieve some of the pain, but tears would also create red eyes and a swollen nose, and neither would aid her in her hope to retire peacefully to her room this evening instead of making the journey to Rosings and having to endure both his presence and that of his aunts. Then, once locked safely away from prying eyes, she would allow herself to indulge in tears for her sister.

She took another deep breath, followed by a third, a fourth, and so on until the slow rhythm lulled her from her contemplation of Jane’s sorrow into a somewhat restful slumber.

“Elizabeth,” Charlotte called softly as she slowly opened the door to Elizabeth’s room.

Elizabeth lifted her head and propped herself on her elbows.

“Oh, Lizzy, you are not ill, are you?”  Charlotte latched the door quietly and scooted across the room towards her friend.  Elizabeth rarely rested during the day.

“It is only a headache.”  Elizabeth drew herself to a sitting position. She had not intended to fall asleep.  She rubbed her temple.  It was not hurting as it had been.  Drat! She had no desire to be in the same room as Mr. Darcy. Perhaps if she were to dwell on him for a moment, her headache would increase, and her guilt for claiming to have one would lessen.  “It is nothing serious.  I am certain I will be well by morning.”

Charlotte tipped her head and studied Elizabeth’s face.  Her friend rarely had any malady, including headaches.

“It was warm today, and I must have walked too far in such warmth.  A little rest and I will be well,” Elizabeth assured Charlotte.  “I fear, I will be very ill company this evening.  It would be best to leave me here and go on without me.”

Charlotte’s brows rose at her friend’s explanation.  The day had been warm, but not overly so, and Elizabeth had not been gone so long as to have out-walked her capabilities.  “You appeared well in the sitting room while the colonel visited? Are you certain it was the walk that fatigued you?”

“I do not know what else it could be,” Elizabeth hedged. Her stomach twisted at the need to prevaricate, but she really could not abide being in that man’s presence. Remaining at the parsonage was imperative and, therefore, so was her lie.

“It was pleasant to have Colonel Fitzwilliam call today.  I dare say I shall miss his company when he leaves.”

“He is pleasant,” Elizabeth agreed as she groaned inwardly.  Charlotte was smoothing the blanket on the bed and only peeking up at her.  Both were actions that spoke of her friend’s desire to discover the truth behind the pain in Elizabeth’s head.

“Did you walk together long before you arrived home?”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes at what she knew was the beginning of Charlotte’s interrogation.  “Not for too very long.”

“But it was long enough to have a pleasant conversation?”

Elizabeth sighed at the determined look in Charlotte’s eyes as they finally rose from examining the coverlet to Elizabeth’s face.  “I do not wish to speak of it.”

“Lizzy, my dear, you know that Mr. Collins will be expecting you to attend Lady Catherine.  I am more than willing to plead your illness with my husband, but I will not do so unless you tell me about your walk.”  Charlotte spoke sweetly, but her look was unwavering.

Elizabeth sighed.  She knew that there was nothing to be done.  If she hoped to avoid going to Rosings this evening, an explanation must be given.  “Very well.  I will tell you about my walk. It was pleasant and solitary until I came upon Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was, as he said when he arrived, taking his annual tour of the estate before he and Mr. Darcy leave tomorrow.  We walked and talked for some time. I cannot say exactly how long it was until we arrived here.  My headache was starting even as we sat in the sitting room, but it was not so bad as to alter my disposition.  However, it has continued to grow, and I am certain I will be very poor company for Lady Catherine.”

“And that is it?  You walked; you talked; and then you developed a headache?”

Elizabeth nodded.

“That is very strange,” muttered Charlotte. “You have never walked so far as to cause yourself to feel ill.”

“Perhaps it is the air in Kent.” Elizabeth grimaced.  It was a sorry excuse of a reason.

Charlotte chuckled softly. “Yes, fresh country air is so taxing, is it not?”  She placed a hand on top of one of Elizabeth’s.  “What did the Colonel say that upset you? Remember how well I know you, Elizabeth Bennet.  You do not get headaches unless you are overwrought.”

“Must I tell you?”

Charlotte smiled sadly and nodded. “I fear you must.  About what did you and the colonel speak  that has caused your distress.”

Elizabeth gave an exasperated sigh. “Mr. Darcy and Jane.”

Charlotte’s brows furrowed.  “I did not know Colonel Fitzwilliam knew Jane.”

“He does not, but Mr. Darcy does.”

This statement did nothing to lessen the confusion on Charlotte’s face.

“You know how despondent Jane has been since Mr. Bingley left Netherfield,” Elizabeth explained.

Charlotte’s brows rose in understanding.  “Did Mr. Darcy have something to do with Mr. Bingley leaving?”

Elizabeth nodded.  “Colonel Fitzwilliam was telling me how Mr. Darcy is loyal to his friends and always watching out for them.  He illustrated his point with a story of how Mr. Darcy saved his friend Mr. Bingley from an imprudent match.  It seems that there were issues with the lady’s family.”  Elizabeth blinked against the tears that wanted to fall.  “He worked to separate Jane and Mr. Bingley.  It is Mr. Darcy who is responsible for Jane’s grief these last months. And that is what is giving me this headache.”

Charlotte rubbed the top of Elizabeth’s hand.  “Oh, that is serious news, indeed, but I do not think I can hold Mr. Darcy entirely responsible.”

“Why ever not?” Elizabeth snatched her hand away from her friend and crossed her arms. “He separated them!”

“Did Mr. Darcy force Mr. Bingley to leave his estate? Has he kept him bound and unable to return?” Charlotte asked.

“No.”

“Then, do be reasonable, Elizabeth.”

“He hurt her.” A tear slid down Elizabeth’s cheek.

“Yes, he did, but do you honestly believe that to be his intention?”  Charlotte placed a hand on Elizabeth’s knee.  “Mr. Darcy could not have separated them if Mr. Bingley placed greater confidence in his own judgments rather than the judgments of a friend.  And what of Mr. Bingley’s sisters?  Could they not have been party to this separation as well?”

Elizabeth pondered Charlotte’s questions for a moment. There was truth in what Charlotte was saying.  Mr. Bingley should not have bowed to the wishes of his friend, and Miss Bingley had proven herself a false friend once Jane had arrived in town.  It was quite likely that she and Mrs. Hurst had played some role in the separation.  “I will allow that you might be right.”

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Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 2

Previous parts: Part 1

Chapter 1B

Richard muttered a curse.  “How could I forget that scoundrel?”

“He is part of the regiment that was in Meryton last autumn.”  Darcy nodded his agreement to another curse that his cousin muttered.  “He was his normal, charming self, and ingratiated himself with many of the town’s people –”

“The young female ones no doubt,” Richard interrupted.

“Precisely,” Darcy agreed. “Elizabeth was among them.”

“He did  not…”  Richard raised a brow in unspoken question.  Wickham was not known for his restraint of desire when it came to many things — young, pretty ladies among them.

Darcy shook his head.  “Surely, she would not fall for his tricks, would she?” No, he was almost entirely confident Elizabeth would not fall for his flattery. She was intelligent and witty and not like other ladies, was she not?

“Georgiana did,” Richard reminded him.

Darcy grimaced and shook his head again at the problems he might face when attempting to win Elizabeth’s good opinion.

“So, Miss Bennet and Wickham were in company?”  Richard asked.

“They were when I first came upon Wickham in Meryton. I did my best to avoid his presence, and he did his best to avoid mine.”

“And this first meeting was civil?” Richard knew that such a thing was unlikely — even for Darcy.  One did not face the man who nearly stole your sister without some amount of animosity being shown in his features.

Darcy’s expression was pained.  “No, I could not speak to him or even remain in his presence, so I nodded and rode on.”

Richard steepled his fingers, tapping his first fingers together as he thought.  Such a greeting would play nicely into any tale Wickham decided to weave about the arrogant Mr. Darcy.  “So, he painted you as rude and who knows what else — none of it favourable.”

Darcy could well imagine the stories that Wickham might have told Elizabeth.  None of them would be completely true, of course, for the truth would make Wickham look very bad indeed.  However, there would be enough truth sprinkled here and there to make every tale believable.  It was how Wickham had always manipulated facts to obtain what he wanted.

Darcy blew out a frustrated breath as he recalled the last conversation he had had with Elizabeth. Thinking about it now, it seemed evident that Elizabeth must have fallen for at least some of Wickham’s tactics.

“At Bingley’s ball, Miss Elizabeth mentioned not being able to decipher my character due to differing accounts about it.”  He sighed. “She also mentioned how Wickham had been unfortunate enough to lose my friendship and in a manner which was likely to cause him suffering for the rest of his life.”

Richard’s groaned.  Was there any female in all of Britain who was impervious to that scoundrel’s silver tongue? “So to sum up, you have injured her sister, presented yourself as high and mighty, and been painted a blackguard by fraudulent accounts.  Is that all, or is there more?”

Darcy sighed.  There was at least one more reason Elizabeth might dislike him.  “I was not in an agreeable mood when I attended a public assembly upon first arriving in Hertfordshire.  Bingley was delighted to be at such a soiree and was insistent that I dance.”

“And you refused.”

Darcy nodded.  “Bingley suggested I dance with his partner’s sister, and I let my dour attitude get the best of me and not only refused but declared Miss Elizabeth to be tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

Richard let out a slow whistle. “So, injured sister, high and mighty attitude, Wickham, and a personal slight.  Darcy, could you make things any more difficult?”

Darcy shrugged.  “I could march over to the parsonage and propose while telling her about my apprehensions about her family.” Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 2

Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 1

Welcome to a new story! I have the full first draft written — which I did in half chapter increments, and so that is how I intend to post it — in half-chapter pieces. 🙂  There are eleven chapters that at this moment, before I do any fiddling, contain just over 29,000 words in total. (So, obviously, most posts will be at least a thousand words or more.) This story is a Darcy and Elizabeth story, and shortly after it finishes posting, it will be removed from the blog and published.   Shall we begin?

Chapter 1A

The sun shone bright and warm on Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam as he stood before Rosings.  He turned and looked back in the direction from whence he had come.   The slow but persistent twisting of his stomach continued its work in making him feel very uneasy.  There was something not right in how Miss Elizabeth Bennet had responded to his information regarding his cousin, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

He took off his hat and ran a hand through his hair.  He had said it as a promotion of his cousin — a viable example of the caring sort of friend Darcy was.  However, he had the distinct impression that his comments had in fact done just the opposite of his intention.

He paced toward the side of the house, thumping his walking stick in a very intentional fashion on the ground.  He had just lifted the stick to give the ground another resounding thud when the path of what must be done became clear.  He beat one last note on the earth and then with a twirl, tucked the stick under his arm and hurried to the house.

“Darcy, we need to talk.”  He deposited his outerwear with a footman and taking his cousin, who fortunately was in the passage, by the arm, nearly dragged the poor fellow down the hall and into the billiards room.

Closing the door behind him, Richard placed himself between it and his cousin.  It was time to have a discussion that was well past due. However, he knew it was a discussion in which his reserved cousin would not be an eager participant, and that, coupled with the man-handling Darcy had just received, would likely cause his cousin to seek escape.  But escape was not an option.

“What are your intentions regarding Miss Bennet?” Richard began.

Darcy sucked in a quick breath.  How did Richard know he had intentions regarding Elizabeth?  He had not mentioned his thoughts to anyone, and he was not about to begin to share them now.  He folded his arms and tried to look nonchalantly annoyed.  “I know not of what you speak. I assure you I have no intentions in regards to Miss Bennet.”

Richard cocked a brow.  “No intentions?”  His tone was doubtful.  “Come, now, Darcy.  It is not like you to tell such falsehoods.”

Darcy swallowed.  “I speak the truth. I have no intentions toward Miss Bennet.”

Richard’s lips curled into a small smile.  “No intentions toward Miss Elizabeth Bennet?”  He was nearly certain that his cousin was playing a game of words. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the lady in whose presence you become a blundering fool and whose person your eye rarely leaves — you have no intentions towards her?”

Richard crossed his arms and leaned against the door.  “Might I remind you that you can answer my questions and do this the easy way; or I can call for some port, and we can do it the hard way. Either way, you know I will get my answers.  So, the question is, do you wish to have a headache tomorrow or not?”

Darcy eyed his cousin cautiously.  He knew that if Richard wanted information from him, Richard was going to get information from him—no matter how he had to obtain it.  Darcy had been on the receiving end of Richard’s persuasions to talk for years.  Lately, Richard’s tactic had been to fill his cousin with enough port to loosen Darcy’s tongue and leave him with some very unpleasant side effects the following day.

Richard’s gaze was unwavering as Darcy shifted from one foot to another and his jaw clenched and unclenched.  “Which will it be, Darcy?”

With an exasperated sigh, Darcy shook his head.  “Very well, I shall answer your questions. I have no desire to spend an entire trip to London in a closed carriage with you while feeling as if the carriage has run over me.”  He gave Richard a severe look.  “My answers go no further than us. Is that understood? If Aunt Catherine even thinks we are hinting at the things about which we are about to speak, things could become quite uncomfortable for many people — you and me foremost.”

Richard nodded his consent.  The seriousness of the situation magnifying in his mind as he realized his cousin was likely considering marrying Miss Elizabeth.  “I would not ask if I did not think the answer imperative.”

Darcy crossed to the window and stared out across the lawn toward the groves where he had spent so many walks at Elizabeth’s side.   He ran a hand through his hair.  “I like her, Richard.  I like her very much — in fact, I am quite certain I love her.”  He turned to look at his cousin and shook his head.  “But, it cannot be.  I must not love her.  She is not an acceptable choice,” his shoulders slumped, and he turned back to the window.  “However, I am also convinced that I will be utterly miserable without her.”  Continue reading Thursday’s Three Hundred: With the Colonel’s Help, Part 1