~~ Prologue ~~

My diary,

I have no defense to offer that would be credible to justify my negligence. The past fortnight has presented a flurry of activity to which we are unaccustomed, and it is only now that I find myself with an opportunity to sit before you with my writing instrument in hand.

The month began with the arrival of my dear friend, Charlotte, and her husband, Mr. Collins, in Meryton. They are visiting with her parents and are not scheduled to leave for another week which, I must admit with regret, is not soon enough. Sadly, I understand why Charlotte wed my elder cousin, for she is not the first woman to marry for material comforts, but how she can tolerate his daily presence, I cannot fathom.

In the past, I have dwelt on my less than generous regard for Mr. Collins’ character and find the need to continue my abuse this day. I have not formed a fresh opinion of him; he continues to be too smooth in his words and actions—too pleasing in his speech to us. My father and I have, once again, concluded that a distance must be maintained between Mr. Collins and our family, for he has the tendency to ask questions that border on intrusive.

Three nights ago, our family was invited to Lucas Lodge to join a small party in honor of Charlotte and her husband being in the neighborhood. We all attended with the exception of Lydia. Unfortunately, any expectations that Mr. Collins would improve in manners were thwarted shortly after our arrival. We had not been in residence one half-hour, when Mr. Collins sought out my father, brother, and myself. What began as a dissertation praising the merits of our estate and the bounties which Longbourn produced, soon turned hostile as the object of his questioning rapidly turned solely to Daniel.

I am not so naive as to be indifferent to the fact that, had my brother not been born, Mr. Collins would be next in line to inherit Longbourn, according to the entailment that surrounds the property. Certainly, this might raise his curiosity about what could have been his, but this evening, in particular, his tone was harsher than I have heard him use in the past and the delivery of his questions verging on severe. My father and I both were left with the impression that Mr. Collins was searching for more than idle conversation about the land or the tenants. Perhaps I could have excused my suspicions as baseless, for Mr. Collins is not that well known to me, and might have overlooked his boldness, had my father not acted on his own instinct. The conversation abruptly ended with my father removing himself and Daniel to my mother’s side, leaving me alone with our cousin.

“You must harbor hesitation about Daniel’s capability to govern a manor as grand as Longbourn,” he dared voice to me.

I cannot reflect kindly on my behavior, for my tongue was sharp and used weapon-like against our relative, when he went against propriety to pose an inquiry about my brother that was more of an insinuation than familial interest. If Mr. Collins was ever in doubt about Bennet family loyalty, he was not when I was finished with him. I could not tell from his intonation, nor did he detail where he thought my concern should lie, in Daniel’s age or elsewhere, but by what right did this man pose such a question? Was it ignorance or arrogance that motivated him?

I was in the midst of reminding Mr. Collins that concern about my brother was none of his affair, when Jane came to me with Charlotte in tow. My time alone with Mr. Collins terminated, and thankfully, there were no other opportunities during the remainder of the evening for us to be alone.

I do not trust him, but cannot state a reason for feeling thus. By all outward appearances, he leads a respectable life. A parson on a large estate in Kent, Mr. Collins can quote the Bible like a man of God, but could there be greed lurking underneath the surface that is shadowed by the exalted occupation he embraces?

It is possible that the sister in me worries needlessly. I adore my brother, and as anyone who cares for another, it is quite natural to wish to protect him. Daniel will be a fine master of Longbourn when the day comes. Of that I am confident.

I have not yet told you, but Netherfield Park has been let. Mr. Bingley and his sister arrived less than a month ago from London and have taken up residence. The fires had not yet been lit on their first night, when rumors about the man began to circulate. He is a single gentleman of good fortune and temperament in need of a country estate. Luckily for him, not only could Hertfordshire provide a fine property, but as my mother has said, if he needs a wife to share in his fortune, we may also accommodate that need. Of course, she did not say this with Jane present in the room. Mother still senses that my sister’s heart is not healed from the passing of Edward last spring, although I feel that Jane has shown a return to her former self. Oddly enough, the uplifting of my sister’s spirits coincides with the arrival of Mr. Bingley. Time will tell what his arrival into the neighborhood will signify, and I will not speculate too much.

I pity any single man who dares step foot in our county, for the present stock of bachelors is in very short supply and fresh blood is always welcome. Mr. Bingley seems to be taking the attention bestowed upon him in stride and maintains a cheery disposition, according to all reports. My mother pressed that both Father and Daniel be introduced to Mr. Bingley, with the reasoning that if the man did indeed purchase Netherfield Park in the future, they would have already formed a connection. I agreed with her logic, and after a bit of nudging, my father agreed to meet with Mr. Bingley.

There was another gentleman present on my father and Daniel’s second visit that truly sent the town awhirl. His name is Mr. Darcy, and he hails from Derbyshire, near the town where my Aunt Garner was raised.

I can not report much about Mr. Darcy, for I have not had the leisure to judge his personality, regardless of the exposure I have had to him. I believe he and Mr. Bingley have come to call on us four times since he arrived. I may have missed a visit or two, depending upon what day of the week it was that they called. From my observations, Mr. Darcy speaks rarely and appears more content to observe rather than participate in any of the liveliness around him. I have no qualms with this behavior, for as I grow older, I find myself doing the same. There is talk that Mr. Darcy’s country estate is easily four times as large as ours. This leads me to believe that he has matters on his mind that take precedence over who has spoken to whom or the latest preparations for Mr. Bingley’s ball. At least I would hope so, for irresponsible men are the worst offenders of their sex, in my opinion…

Noting the darkness looming out her windowpane, Elizabeth Bennet laid the pen down before rising to don her robe. It was her practice to bid goodnight to her family every evening, and not to do so because she was writing out her judgments of others, seemed very wrong.

“You are late.” Daniel informed her as he came up the stairs, wearing a concerned expression on his face that made him appear older than his eighteen years. Cupping his chin, Elizabeth smiled at her brother and assured him that although she might be a creature of habit, even she could lose track of time.

Daniel Bennet was a man blessed both in material assets and good health. The dark coloring of their father had been inherited by three of the four Bennet children, yet it was Daniel who wore it to its greatest advantage. Elizabeth had often teased that her brother was indeed the most handsome of them, but she did not credit, that to one unfamiliar with their family, she could easily pass for his twin, despite being two years older.

They were a pair—Elizabeth and Daniel. It was rare to discover one without the other being nearby, and as they ventured deeper into Meryton society with the passing of years, it became acknowledged that to approach the future heir of Longbourn, one must also be willing to address his sister. There was a time when it was not unheard of, for individuals acquainted with the family, to express their unsolicited opinion that Thomas Bennet might be too indulgent a father toward his second-born daughter. He allowed Elizabeth a man’s education and did not hesitate exposing her to realities most deemed too harsh for the fairer sex. The conviction expressed by outsiders was that to allow Elizabeth the liberty to be present in the realm of men could be nothing but detrimental to her and her development as a woman.

She proved their predictions incorrect and maintained all those qualities found in her counterparts, yet there was a distinct mark upon Elizabeth. When given a choice, her interests were more parallel with those of her brother than her sisters. While other young women were sitting with their needlework daydreaming about when they might someday be married, Elizabeth was out on horseback inspecting her family’s property. She preferred outdoor pursuits to decorating bonnets, mathematics to music.

Elizabeth’s physical attractiveness won her the admiration of many a man in the neighborhood, yet she never encouraged their attention beyond a casual acquaintance. Left unsaid was the speculation that her heart was untouchable and that she was not seeking out any matrimonial prospects. Most doubted Elizabeth would ever leave Longbourn in her lifetime, for to date, there had not been a man who seemed to even tempt her to take a second look.

Elizabeth knew full well what was being said about her when people thought she was not listening. The Bennets were not wealthy by the standards of the day, but Thomas Bennet led the comfortable life of a gentleman. This did grant them the privilege to be mildly eccentric if they so desired, as long as it was kept under good regulation. The Bennet family did, and theirs was a home where felicity appeared to be in abundance.

Maintaining the smile on her lips, Elizabeth and Daniel engaged in light conversation while standing alone in the hall. Being that it was Monday, Elizabeth had spent her morning in the parlor at her mother’s request and had not yet had the opportunity to ask Daniel how he enjoyed his ride with their father.

“Where did you two venture off to while I was listening to Mrs. Long describe lace?”

“Sheldon’s pass.” Although content with his answer, Daniel could sense by his sister’s expression that she desired more information. “We met Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy along the way.”

“Did they join you?”

“Oh, yes.”

“How did you find their company?”

“Father carried most of the conversation with Mr. Bingley.”

“Was there mention of Jane?” Folding her hands in front of her, Elizabeth waited patiently for Daniel’s reply. He was not the best conversationalist in the family, but she knew how to get him to divulge details that he had mentally deemed too insignificant to share.

“I could not tell you.”

“Why not?”

“Mr. Darcy and I took a trail while they stopped to rest.” Laying the subject aside for the moment, Daniel changed the topic to a matter more important to him. “What shall we do tomorrow, Elizabeth?”

“Ah, tomorrow. Here is my plan. We will rise at our usual time and go about our morning routine. Once breakfast is over, you and I will get our horses so we may tour the northern land visiting with the tenants along the way. Of course, that is if it does not rain.”

“You dislike riding in the rain.” Daniel reminded her.

“Yes, I do!” Elizabeth laughed. “Afterwards, I hope to be home before luncheon so that we can share the meal with our family. When it is over, you and I will join Father in his study and report our findings. We must return before two in the afternoon because it is my wish to take a short rest before preparing for Mr. Bingley’s ball.”

“Shall we depart for Netherfield at seven?”

“Yes. It should give us plenty of time for travel.”

“And we must attend this ball?” Casting his sister a weary glance, Daniel did not hide his regret at having to devote his evening in such employment. He, like many other young men his age, could devise much more pleasurable ways to spend his time.

Daniel continued to question Elizabeth about why people felt compelled to hold balls, since apparently, no one but the ladies appeared to enjoy them. His sister informed him that was exactly the reason why their existence continued and that no amount of male logic could change it. Just as she had finished convincing one of the men in her household why it was important for him to be in attendance at Mr. Bingley’s ball the next evening, Elizabeth had to face yet another reluctant male. With this one, she knew, victory would not be hers.

“I am told, sir, that you are unable to attend Mr. Bingley’s ball this evening due to a complaint of indigestion,” Elizabeth said the next evening while perched in the doorway of her father’s study with her arms crossed.

“That is true, Lizzy.” Thomas Bennet nodded his head while remaining seated behind his desk. There was a book in his hand and a glass of port beside him, hardly making his explanation of illness convincing. “Please offer my apology to Mr. Bingley and his sister.”

“If I remember correctly, you suffered from the same ailment last month for the assembly.” Noticing that the room was warm and her father’s cheeks flushed, Elizabeth went over to a window to open it. She was not surprised by his sudden inability to go with them this evening, for it was becoming commonplace ever since Daniel reached the age to be able to escort them.

“Tis your mother’s menus I blame,” Thomas defended himself. He already knew he was forgiven for his trespass by the way Elizabeth raised her eyebrows in mischievous disbelief. “Too many heavy foods are the culprit. My poor stomach cannot tolerate them anymore.”

Elizabeth wished to remark that her mother’s menus were obviously pleasing to her father if she used the happy paunch about his midsection as an indicator, but she held her tongue. “We must remedy that so you are not denied the simple pleasures in life of dancing and communing with your neighbors.”

“The music…the noise! Will you be able to manage without me tonight?”

“I will muddle through, father. But next time either you need to be more creative in your ailments or I will throw a tantrum in the hallway like Lydia.”

“I will get no rest tonight. She will bombard me with her whining and crying because she is too young to attend, and I will have to do my best to ignore her. That is until Lydia locks herself in her room in protest. It almost seems the lesser of two evils to attend the ball.”

“You think we women are that predictable?”

“I know it,” he replied absently as he worked the muscle in his left arm by stretching it out.

“What happened to your arm?”

“I strained it while riding out with Daniel yesterday. He prefers a quick pace, not realizing that I am an old man, but my pride will not allow me to fall too far behind. I am content to go at a slightly faster trot if the ground is level. No need to concern yourself, my dear. I promise to have no enjoyment this evening and will be in bed before the sun sets.”

“Are you that tired, Father, or is it a case of ‘I do not wish to attend a ball’ that has fatigued you?”

“Perhaps a bit of both, Lizzy.”

“You sleep well, and we will tell you all about our escapades in the morning.” Walking over to where her father sat, Elizabeth leaned down and placed a kiss on his forehead before heading toward the door to leave.

“Is this Jane’s first outing since Edward died?” Thomas asked quietly just as Elizabeth’s hand reached out for the doorknob. The period of mourning had long passed for Jane since the death of her fiancé, but it had taken her several months more to reacquaint herself in society. In truth, her father should have been the man this night to be at Jane’s side. By all rights, it was his duty, yet the conviction of the obligation was not quite strong enough for him to vacate his chair to spend an evening at Mr. Bingley’s.

“Yes. I will have Daniel escort her. I doubt Jane will be on his arm long, though. Mother told me she has already accepted Mr. Bingley for the first two dances.”

“You take good care of us, Lizzy. Go to your ball and enjoy yourself. Dance!”

Smiling over her shoulder, Elizabeth bid her father good-bye and shortly thereafter, left with the others.


The navy blue material that composed Elizabeth’s gown rustled as she walked by the dancers with a punch glass in her hands. Unaware that the eyes of more than one man were upon her, she caught sight of her sister being led to the floor once again by Mr. Bingley, and her happiness for Jane brightened her face. If she had done more than give a cursory glance in the mirror before she left home, Elizabeth would have realized that this evening she was beautiful and smiling only made her more so.

Her skin had an olive tone to it, and when she chose to wear dark colors, which was often for reasons more practical than fashionable, the effect was lovely. Elizabeth knew she was not unattractive, but for a woman who spent minimum time each morning at her dressing table Elizabeth did not make an issue about how she looked as long as she was presentable. Perhaps that was what made her pleasing to some men; she did not fuss so that she might always appear as near to perfect as possible.

There was one man in particular that could not stop staring, regardless of his mind willing him to do so. Fitzwilliam Darcy, or William as family and friends called him, had been engaged in the occupation of watching Miss Elizabeth Bennet for the majority of the evening. When she traveled a few feet in front of him, it appeared as if he were about to address her, but Elizabeth passed by him so quickly, that William had not the chance. Elizabeth went to her brother’s side, not too great a distance from where William stood next to an open door, leading out to a balcony.

“Daniel, perhaps you would like to ask one of the ladies to dance during the next set?” Elizabeth suggested after surveying the people mulling about in the next room.

“There is no one present who could tempt me to do so.” The son’s dislike of dancing was obviously a trait inherited from his father.

“You should not say that aloud. It could be interpreted as rude.”

“Why so, when it is the truth?”

“Not all truths should be made public. A lady without a partner could easily have overheard you and taken your remarks to heart. Even in the strongest of women, confidence can be made frail when faced with a handsome man, declaring them undesirable.”

“I did not intend to offend anyone,” he apologized with sincerity after some thought.

“I know that, Daniel, but there are more ladies than gentlemen here this evening. If it pleases you, it would be kind for you to ask a lady to dance the next. It is a most unfortunate thing when a young woman returns home from a ball without having received an offer to dance.”

“Would you like to dance, Elizabeth?”

A hearty laugh preceded her explanation that she was not referring to herself. Soon thereafter, Daniel approached Maria Lucas to solicit the next set, his sister watching him from nearby. It was then when another gentleman, who had overheard Elizabeth’s advice to Daniel, approached her.

“Miss Elizabeth, would you do me the honor of dancing the next set with me?”

“I…” Elizabeth turned her gaze from her brother to identify the speaker, only to realize it was Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth knew of the man only slightly because he had accompanied Mr. Bingley to their home on several occasions, but the surprise that a relative stranger would make such a request banished her usual response from her head, making it difficult for her to form a refusal.

“It would be my pleasure, sir.” Elizabeth mouthed without thought. “Thank you.”

The dance had been agreeable, Elizabeth admitted to herself once it was over. Her partner did not miss a move, nor did he expect an excessive amount of conversation to be made to fill the silence between them. Before the dance, Elizabeth had not realized how tall Mr. Darcy was, or that he appeared to be slightly older than his friend, Mr. Bingley. There was a cultured elegance about him that bespoke of a privileged upbringing beyond that which Meryton society could offer, yet Elizabeth found it interesting that, at times, he hesitated before making a statement, as if he were uncertain of himself.

As the supper was about to begin, Elizabeth excused herself to find her mother and Jane. They were both quite content with how the evening was progressing, and only once did her mother ask her about Mr. Darcy, commenting on his superior dancing skills. Strange, but Elizabeth felt embarrassed and did not reply when her mother teasingly asked if she thought Mr. Darcy handsome. With the intent of escaping unscathed, she soon left them to locate her brother. From across the room, Elizabeth noticed Daniel and Mr. Darcy in conversation away from the crowd. As she approached them, so did Mr. Collins, a man she had been happily able to avoid up to this point.

“I acknowledge that we have not been properly introduced, Mr. Darcy, but I feel as if I already know you,” Collins lamented with an air of false deference that Elizabeth easily recognized. “Your aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is my most esteemed patroness…”

“You should not be addressing him,” Daniel energetically interrupted his elder cousin. “You have not been properly introduced.”

“I have admitted that to the man himself, Daniel. As I was explaining to Mr. Darcy, I am the rector to his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and have heard much about him.”

“Inconsequential.” Daniel retorted. “This rule should not be broken on the assumption that a connection has been made simply because you have heard about him.”

“Of course,” Collins admitted curtly. “You are quite right and undoubtedly my better in matters of propriety.”

“I will do it for you, Cousin. Mr. Darcy, may I introduce Mr. Collins from Kent. He is rector of Hunsford Parish and married to the former Miss Lucas, Sir William Lucas’ eldest daughter. His father-in-law’s estate of Lucas Lodge is not a mile from my own. It is a good property, but lacking acreage.”

Elizabeth placed her hand on her brother’s arm thus silencing him before daring to raise her eyes to gage Mr. Darcy’s reaction at the faux pas committed by her cousin and the reprimand that followed from her brother.

His countenance unreadable, a slight nod was given in the direction of Mr. Collins, and seconds passed until Mr. Darcy spoke. It was not to Collins that his words were directed, but to Daniel.

“I believe you were telling me about the horses you are breeding. I would appreciate hearing more, if your presence is not required by Miss Elizabeth at this moment.” Mr. Darcy turned his head to meet her gaze, as if waiting for her permission. With relief expressed by a warm smile, it was granted.

“Mr. Darcy, you may be at leisure to speak with my brother for as long as you desire, but be warned that it must be you who will need to end the conversation. My brother can talk about horses for hours.”

“I will take that into account, Miss Elizabeth.” The smile Elizabeth gave him because he made no issue of the errors committed by her family, was then reflected back to her from the lips of William Darcy.


The following morning, William’s valet entered his room with a message that Mr. Bingley needed to speak with him as soon as it was possible. He dressed quickly, wondering why his friend was up so early, as it was obvious that the sun had barely risen. Making his way down to the library to meet him, William was not fully in the room when Charles alleviated his curiosity.

“Mr. Bennet passed away last evening.”

“Daniel Bennet?”

“No, his father.”

~~ Chapter One ~~
Grief Realized.

The rain, in unison with intermittent hail, thrashed against the roof of the old chapel making it nearly impossible for the inhabitants to clearly hear the minister speaking before them. In accordance with the explicit instructions outlined in Mr. Bennet’s will and testament, his body had been buried beneath the chapel floor within hours of his demise, and on this day, the third since his passing, an abbreviated memorial service was held.

The poor attendance of only eight men was attributable more to the weather than the popularity of Mr. Bennet in his township. Those without carriages found themselves prevented by the storm to venture the distance from their homes to the chapel, and the men with the means to travel were compelled to weigh the possibility of damage to their calash top against any allegiance to their former neighbor.

Shifting his weight to a comfortable position, William could not recall the last time he had witnessed a thunderstorm of equal magnitude, the cadence it produced as the rain hit the roof, distracting him when he should have been in thoughtful reverence. He harbored no concern over his carriage when he and Mr. Bingley boarded it to make the journey from Netherfield that morning. At present, it was sheltered in the Bennet’s barn by invitation of Mr. Gardiner, brother to the Widow Bennet.

After a prayer for the departed soul of Mr. Bennet had been recited, the clergyman conducting the service released the congregation. Handshakes and words of comfort were exchanged while they tarried until a time when the storm would allow them safe passage to their carriages. As minutes ticked by, William’s attention continued to be drawn to the new master of Longbourn.

In William’s estimation, Daniel appeared nervous as evidenced by the young man wringing his hands together. Then again, William’s own habit of twisting his signet ring when uncomfortable, as he was doing at this time, could be perceived as an outward sign of his own discomfort.

From their earliest acquaintance, William became aware that Daniel Bennet was a man of sharp intelligence. With facts and numbers he was brilliant, although other details seemed to elude him at times. It was true that Daniel did speak out of turn on occasion, but William attributed the tendency to his limited society and not a flaw in his character. When Daniel was in a group, it was rare for him to speak, but in the company of his sister or when conversing in confidence with a trusted friend, he was free with his ideas.

What can only be described as brotherly feelings flooded William when he dwelt on the younger man’s predicament. Thankful that Daniel had a sister like Elizabeth to watch out for him, William recalled with clarity what it was like for him to inherit the responsibility of running an estate at such a young age. His greatest desire for Daniel was that he would benefit from the sound guidance of a knowledgeable man as he had.

There was a total absence of brotherly feeling when William’s thoughts turned to Elizabeth. While their initial meeting reenacted itself in his mind’s eye, William recalled the image of Elizabeth riding up to him after he and Bingley had paid a call on her father. Her smile was bright and her cheeks rosy from the exercise she had recently undertaken. Bingley made the introductions before Elizabeth turned her full attention toward William to offer the hearty greeting one would express for an old friend. Though their first interaction lasted only a short time, it was long enough for her to make clever conversation laced with a touch of dry wit. William left Longbourn that day impressed by the second daughter of Thomas Bennet, and subsequent meetings had transformed his good opinion into one of admiration.

Drawn back to the present, William chided himself for the impropriety of his thoughts. It was neither the time nor place to contemplate the beauty of the deceased’s daughter. She had just entered her period of mourning, and out of respect for both Elizabeth and her father, William would cease daydreaming.

Unfortunately, the exchange taking place between the gentlemen in attendance was of the dullest variety, and William soon found it impossible to be an active participant. Mr. Collins was recounting, yet again, the story of his father-in-law’s unfortunate injury to a bone in his foot the day before, stressing how disappointed Sir William Lucas was at not being able to pay his respects to his finest neighbor. The recitation was far too tempting to ignore, and glancing about him, William discovered that he was not the only man with a wandering mind.

As if remembering something of importance, Daniel raised his head and told the gentlemen that he was required to express gratitude to the minister for his service. Neither uncle accompanied him, instead nodding their heads in agreement as he went off alone. During Daniel’s absence the topic of conversation within the small group changed to the weather, and it was broached with an enthusiasm not given to the previous dialogue. Seemingly disinterested in the topic at hand, Mr. Collins wandered off to explore the small chapel.

Perhaps Mother Nature was pleased with the men’s attention because suddenly the rain began to let up. Two of the gentlemen, who would not be returning to Longbourn, excused themselves, leaving William and Mr. Bingley as the sole mourners apart from the family. Mr. Gardiner brought the pair into the tête-à-tête he was sharing with his elder sister’s husband, Mr. Phillips.

“We should follow their example,” Mr. Phillips said in reference to exiting the chapel, after what seemed like a long wait. Many minutes had passed since Daniel had left their company, certainly enough time to say what needed to be said to the minister. “I will fetch the…”

A shout of ‘No’ coming from the next room stopped Mr. Phillips from finishing his sentence. It was repeated a second time with even more vehemence and agitation, and a look of recognition passed between him and Mr. Gardiner. As the men rushed in the direction of the voice, a third cry directed them to an antechamber where they found Daniel and Mr. Collins. William halted as soon as the sight of the young man came into view, his arm reaching out to keep Bingley from advancing on the scene. Daniel Bennet was facing a corner and banging his head against the wall.

Mr. Gardiner went directly to his nephew, lifting his hands as if he would touch Daniel’s shoulders, but instead, he placed his hand against the wall, palm out, to buffer the blows Daniel was administering and protect him from further harm. In hushed tones his uncle spoke softly to him while Mr. Collins took several steps back to give the two more space.

“I found him this way,” Collins stated under his breath to William, pointing in the direction of his younger cousin. “I asked him a question about his sisters, and he started this.”

William did not make a reply, but silently considered the inconsistency in Collins’ account.

Mr. Gardiner continued in vain, his efforts not convincing Daniel to halt his actions. Different approaches were attempted, all of which met with the same failure, until a shaken Mr. Gardiner turned to Mr. Phillips and requested that Elizabeth be brought to the chapel.

“I am a competent runner. I will go.” Mr. Bingley offered. Without waiting for permission from the elder man, he dashed out the nearest door. While he was gone, Mr. Phillips also strived to console his nephew by taking hold of Daniel’s shoulders in an effort to distract him. The effect was the opposite of what he wished to achieve, and soon it became apparent that the harder the two men tried to restrain him, the more agitated Daniel became.

From his vantage point in the background, just out of Daniel’s sight, Mr. Collins watched the scene before him unfold with a countenance which expressed more curiosity than concern for the young man.

Mr. Bingley made true on his claim of speed. Elizabeth, stained with watermarks on her black gown and mud splattered on the hem, soon materialized. No details or suggestions were necessary for her, nor did Elizabeth make any special requests of the men. She simply went to Daniel’s side and began to talk.

“Daniel,” Elizabeth whispered gently. “Daniel.”

Bewitched by the woman, who reached out to her brother only with words, William did not remove from the antechamber. He was not compelled by curiosity to remain, but rather it was a protective instinct against the unknown. William thought Elizabeth’s voice acted as a balm, but if Daniel turned his violence towards her, he and the others would be there to control him. William vowed to himself not leave her until convinced the situation presented no danger to Elizabeth.

Seeming to recognize the voice of his sister, Daniel suddenly stopped what he was doing and turned to Elizabeth. Eyes dull, they stared through his sister into nothingness, his face expressionless while she continued to say his name. The act of wringing his hands that Daniel had done after the service began again. William observed Elizabeth assessing the situation while her words continued to soothe, yet he doubted that the composure she was exhibiting was genuine.

“I am going to take your hand,” Elizabeth announced before she touched her brother. Daniel’s response was a slight flinch, almost as one might behave when being awakened from sleep. “Now I will take your other hand.”

Shyly, Daniel looked over at her as a connection between the two began to bond. He did not hold his gaze for long, but he was beginning to react when Elizabeth would speak his name.

“Daniel, tell me about your visit to the trail with Mr. Darcy the other day.” Confusion creased the brows of both William and Daniel when Elizabeth asked her question, for it appeared to come from nowhere. When she did not receive a reply, Elizabeth rephrased her request.

“You never gave me any of the details about your morning spent with Mr. Darcy at Sheldon’s Pass. Tell me now.”

“I…” Shaking his head, Daniel was unable to complete his thought.

“Did you ride the trails or did you walk?”

“We rode,” he murmured hoarsely.

“Where did you start?”

“Miller’s Point.”

“Did you show Mr. Darcy the trees you helped plant when you were a boy?”

“I did.”

“Will you tell me more about that day?”

After a lengthy pause Daniel answered her. “We took the eastern paths.”

“A difficult course. How did your horse handle?”

Why Elizabeth chose a subject so unrelated to their current situation, William could not fathom, but Daniel had become calm, and her uncles offered no explanation after the men went back to the main room to stay until the siblings were ready to depart. Mr. Collins was the last to join them, his delay caused by a one last look back at Elizabeth and Daniel.

Settling on the decision to keep his own counsel for the moment, William dared not seek out Bingley to gage his reaction. There was nothing to be said while the men stood there. The only sound was the rain that continued to fall until Elizabeth could be heard approaching the doorway while explaining to Daniel that they needed to return home before there was another downpour.

“You will get wet,” her brother replied, his words still shaky, but audible.

“Hold tight to my hand, and I will non slip in the mud.”

A somber parade of individuals trailed Elizabeth and Daniel, the sister’s prediction of an impending downpour coming true. They were but twenty feet from the house when the clouds opened up with a renewed onslaught, however, neither sibling hastened the pace, and all became soaked by the time they reached the shelter of the foyer. Elizabeth, her brother, and Uncle Gardiner immediately entered Mr. Bennet’s study. The other four tarried in their wet clothes until Mr. Phillips suggested that they go to the parlor, where he had seen a fire burning in the grate that morning.

William followed Mr. Phillips toward the parlor when the absence of Bingley encouraged him to turn around. Following his friend’s line of sight, he peered up the stairway to witness Jane passing from one room to another. She must have heard William’s footsteps because she paused to look down on them.

She was the only fair-haired sibling of the four, her gown the same sable black that Elizabeth wore. It might have been the manner in which Jane seemed to float rather than walk, or her unmistakable paleness that William could see even from a distance - regardless of the inspiration, he was struck with the notion that Jane was ghostly in her grief.

Acknowledging that he was intruding on the family’s privacy, William resolved to leave as soon as possible in spite of the conditions outside. After the door to the parlor had been closed, fresh hail taunted William as he made his plan known to Mr. Phillips. Bingley was unusually quiet and did not contribute his opinion of the proposal until Mr. Phillips remarked about needing to ensure the safety of the carriage driver.

A lull soon developed which Mr. Collins felt obliged to fill. He had been at Longbourn since early in the morning, having walked before the rain began. Once again, Collins’ attempts at engaging the men in dialogue failed miserably, for his flowery dissertations went against their sensibilities. When he tried to raise commentary about Daniel’s behavior in the chapel, even the mild Mr. Bingley shot him a glare that told him to say no more. Silence became the preferred medium in the room.

Later the door opened and Elizabeth entered the parlor followed by a maid carrying a tray laden with a tea service.

“Miss Elizabeth, would I find Mr. Gardiner in the study?” her Uncle Phillips asked as the items were put into place. Upon an affirmative reply from his niece, he excused himself and followed the servant from the room. Elizabeth then devoted her concentration to pouring out tea for the remaining three gentlemen, avoiding eye contact while she went about her duty.

“May we inquire after your brother’s health?” Mr. Collins asked as he approached the table to take his share of the refreshments. “I was most concerned, indeed shocked, at the display of odd behavior by poor Mr. Bennet. I pity my young cousin.”

“We do not require your pity, Mr. Collins. If your charity extends beyond my brother and you wish to offer us a particular sentiment, then we will gladly accept your sympathy. We have just lost our father and feel adrift in unknown territory. I believe no man should dictate to another the reaction they are allowed to have when an occurrence of this magnitude has taken place. The rules of civility do not apply.”

“My design was not to offend, Miss Elizabeth.”

“Of course, Mr. Collins.” Frustration tinged her words as she handed him a saucer and cup. Glancing over at the next closest man, she offered William tea.

“No, thank you.” He replied, puzzled that Elizabeth felt the obligation to wait upon them.

“Mr. Bingley?”

“Miss Elizabeth, please do not trouble yourself. We will attend ourselves until a time when it is safe for Darcy’s driver to return us to Netherfield. We do not wish to impose during your family’s time of sorrow.”

“You are not an imposition, Mr. Bingley. It is my pleasure to offer you tea.”

“Then I will gladly accept it.” The three men sat with Elizabeth at a round table that dominated the room. They did not speak with any depth, although when the topic of Jane was raised, Bingley did show relief at the report that Elizabeth gave that she was not ill, but rather attending their mother.

Once satisfied, Bingley rose from the table to observe the storm’s progression. He called Mr. Collins to him, claiming to seek his advice about the possibility that it was nearing its end. When they were alone, William took advantage of the intimacy to pose a question to Elizabeth that was heavy on his mind.

“Has your brother been able to rest, considering the circumstances?”

“Yes, he has retired to our father’s study.” Elizabeth looked William in the eyes as if she was attempting to determine the sincerity of his inquiry. She must have been satisfied because Elizabeth continued. “Please accept my apology on my brother’s behalf. He would be most discouraged to learn…”

“Miss Elizabeth, further clarification is unnecessary. You owe us nothing.”

She fell silent as the discomfort that had surrounded her when she entered the parlor returned. Try as Elizabeth might to hide it, William could see it, and therefore, he decided that an explanation was in order.

“I once attended a funeral where the father, much like yours, died unexpectedly. His son was a year older than your brother and was to inherit responsibilities far greater than he believed his capacity to attend to properly .”

Capturing Elizabeth’s attention by the whisper of his narration, she leaned forward and encouraged William to go on. “What did he do?”

“He broke down after the service and did not speak for four days, overwhelmed to such a degree that he had become incapacitated. The young man was fortunate in that those who witnessed his grief were compassionate toward his condition. When he emerged from his exile, they did not make issue of it. His father had been central in his life, a mentor, and a confidant. He undoubtedly would have benefited from more years under his guidance.”

“Did the man recover from his loss?”

“He did, and with time and patience, he was able to fulfill those duties he once thought impossible.”

“Am I to understand correctly that you have also lost your father, Mr. Darcy?

Barely nodding William confessed, “Both my mother and my father.”

William was not a man known to expose any details of his life without forethought, but neither was he a man of disguise. What motivated him to be so open in his dialogue with Elizabeth he did not know, yet as he watched her study him while digesting what he had just said, William believed he would be susceptible to telling her anything, if only she would ask.

A ray of sunlight streaming through the window alerted him that it was now safe for them to depart and give the family privacy. William made an offer to take Mr. Collins back to Lucas Lodge in his carriage, which the parson readily accepted. Elizabeth never left her station by the table as the men prepared to leave, and after Collins and Bingley wished her well, William gave his own salutation.

“May God bless your family.”

Her lips parted as if Elizabeth was going to respond, but in place of words, her eyes told the story of the grief that they were all experiencing. It was a sadness that threatened to break free of the façade Elizabeth had been maintaining. In that brief flicker of time, William Darcy knew that she had no opportunity, since her father’s passing, to mourn.

Once William was settled into his carriage, the driver circled the home to reach the roadway. As they passed by the front, William’s vision scanned the exterior and caught sight of Daniel Bennet standing at the window of this father’s study looking out from the room with Elizabeth at his side. Her arm was linked with his.

It was then that William realized that he had forgotten something at Longbourn of great importance that would be irretrievable by common methods.

It was his heart.


My Diary,

My uncles have sent Daniel and me to our beds with the understanding that we are not allowed to leave them until we have rested. I have no intention of obeying them, regardless how heartfelt their request. My mind will not cease its activity despite my fatigue.

Daniel lost his composure today at Father’s service, as I feared would happen. He has slept the least of our family since we found Father in his study, and as I suspected, three days were not enough for him to accept the finality of our situation. My uncles are Godsends, with Uncle Gardiner pledging to stay another full week to support Daniel in his transition from being the child of a gentleman to an estate holder. Still, they cannot replace our father.

At present I do not wish to recall what I saw in the chapel this morning or any other matter of consequence . We are unaccustomed to the drama currently playing out in our home, and it has already consumed two in my family. Jane is also not well. Tonight I will give her a reprieve from Mother’s room in hope that it will lift her spirits.

I suppose that when one is in the depth of grief, they do not believe they will ever be right again. Mr. Darcy came to our home after Father’s service and described for me a personal experience. What he said about his own reaction after his father passed away was poignant. It gave me hope and reminded me that we will recover in time.

I remember when Mr. Darcy first arrived at Netherfield. To be frank, Mr. Darcy was not received as kindly as he should have been by our society. I am secure in my belief that some found him intimidating, in action and position. I have heard him referred to as aloof and proud, but Daniel has also been wrongly accused of the same disagreeable qualities in the past and this makes me hesitant to adopt the impressions of others as my own.

I should have thanked Mr. Darcy for sharing his personal account with me, but I was speechless by the gesture. When it was finished I was left with the impression that he did not judge my brother harshly for what occurred in the chapel this morning. A proud or aloof man would not have made the effort to convey this…

~~ Chapter Two ~~

Despite the roads being treacherous and the horses unsure, the skilled driver that William had employed did not indicate concern when asked to extend their journey, so they might pass by Lucas Lodge to place Mr. Collins at the door of his father-in-law. Settling back in his seat as they pulled off of the drive leading to Longbourn, William avoided looking at the parson directly so that the man might not be encouraged to talk. William’s mood was not one that would welcome needless chatter, and he doubted that he would be able to maintain patience with anyone, including Bingley, if they tried to encourage his participation in the activity.

Judging by his menacing appearance, William might have been referred to as brooding when observed while in this particular state of thought, but William was more considerate to the needs of others than many realized, often taking on the troubles of those he cared for without their knowledge. In sharp contrast with the public persona of the privileged man he was expected to portray, there was a soft-heartedness reserved for those who had his loyalty. Contemplation of the situation at Longbourn occupied the whole of his attention with consideration given to all the occupants of the estate. They could not have been aware of what was transpiring in the mind and heart of the dark stranger from the north, but by the end of the carriage ride, they had gained themselves an ally whose fundamental concern was their well-being.

“I am most grieved by the state of my Bennet cousins, at this time,” Mr. Collins admitted, breaking the stillness between the three men.

Bingley, who was sitting next to Collins and directly facing William, shook his head slowly, as if to warn the parson to say no more. Long acquaintance with his friend’s demeanor alerted him that William had no wish to talk. Civil words of advice began to form in Bingley’s mind, but their delivery would be too late, as Mr. Collins once again drew breath.

“I have long suppressed my uncertainty about my young cousin’s odd behavior, however, on this day, Mr. Bennet legitimized my trepidation by displaying a failing of a most deviant and regrettable nature. It was damning, if I allow myself to be so bold as to admit it. Word will spread quickly, I fear, and I will not be able to guard my cousins from the repercussions that will undoubtedly affect their good name and standing. These most peculiar actions by the son will surely be injurious to the fortunes of all the others, for who will connect themselves with such a family once it is out? It is a disappointment of the bitterest kind.”

His conscious pierced, William narrowed his gaze at Collins, while repulsion for the man flourished within his chest.

“Mr. Collins, you state your conjecture with the fervor of prophesy.” The deep baritone of William’s voice reached out across the aisle to reverberate against the weaker Collins. “Who do you presume will spread a report? Other than Mr. Bingley and myself, the only witnesses were intimately connected to Mr. Bennet. I assure you that we will not speak out of turn about the display of Mr. Bennet’s grief. Therefore, if a report of what occurred reaches the neighborhood, it must be contributed to the loose lips of a relative. Disloyalty of that kind is reprehensible, would you not agree?”

Collins did not reply.

“Furthermore, if I may borrow from the wisdom of Miss Elizabeth, it is not our responsibility to determine if Mr. Bennet’s reaction was acceptable or not.”

“Mr. Darcy, I agree with your estimate that the conduct of a gentleman would not include the spreading of a rumor, but those of lesser morals, who might have heard or seen Mr. Bingley fetch my lady cousin, cannot be depended upon to uphold our standards.”

“No one was present when I spoke with Miss Elizabeth,” Bingley confided, his dislike of Mr. Collins closely mirroring William’s. “You may be assured of my silence on the matter.”

“If I have overstepped the bounds of civility with my frankness, I apologize, gentleman, for I find my words cannot be fettered during these trying times. This day, I have been privy to yet another example of the weakness of mind in my young Daniel, and it has shaken me.”

“Mr. Collins, enough!” How William became entangled in verbally sparring with the likes of Mr. Collins, he could not recall at the moment, but it would continue no longer.

William did not mask his displeasure with the parson, as he once again settled back in his seat. He was amazed at the insolence shown by Collins considering his station in life and his present situation with Lady Catherine. Within William’s power, was the ability to devastate the parson using only words as a weapon, but to indulge in that desire would grant credence to Collins’ statements by giving them too much credibility.

“It is not my desire to offend you, Mr. Darcy.” Mr. Collins murmured quietly, subdued to the level of appropriate meekness.

“You make that admission often, Mr. Collins. Perhaps the stilling of your tongue is advisable to keep you from being required to say it once again.” William’s carefully chosen words served as adequate warning to the man that the discussion was over, and he spoke no more except to humbly thank them for the ride once they reached Lucas Lodge.

Little else was said between Bingley and William, as the final leg of their journey to Netherfield was completed, other than William making the promise that Lady Catherine would be informed of the behavior of her employee when Collins was free from her supervision.


Bingley’s sister, Caroline, was waiting for the men upon their arrival inside the great doors of Netherfield and was subsequently disappointed when her brother excused them both, so that they might share a brandy together. She had been agitated with worry that the weather would hinder their safe return to her and bored to the point where snapping at the servants was the only entertainment she could find. Needless to mention, the gloom surrounding Caroline did not lift when her brother declared that he and William would retire to the library until a time when they would join her for dinner.

Drinks were poured, a fire lit, and the heavy curtains covering the windows were parted so that the two men might witness the dissipation of the storm from the safety of their shelter. Quiet conversation was soon to follow initiated by Bingley.

“When are you required to be in London?”

“I should have been there last week.” William absently told his friend, his attention more focused on what was occurring outside the window.

“I am inclined to remain a few more days here at Netherfield before Caroline and I return.”

“May I ask why?”

No explanation was given to William’s inquiry, except a serious expression cast his way.

At first Bingley’s proposal to extend his stay puzzled William, for until that moment, he had not taken into account his friend’s growing fondness for Jane Bennet. Bingley had professed to be in love on many occasions in the past, only to change his mind shortly thereafter. William did not consider his friend fickle, as much as an easy target for a pretty face, offering flattery and promises of happiness.

Bingley’s agreeable personality left him vulnerable, and more than once William intervened, when mercenary pursuits directed at his friend were made known to him. In his defense, William did not profess to be an expert on love. Had Bingley shown genuine interest in a woman, he would have stepped back, but in his estimation, this had not been the case, simply due to the fact that the next pretty face Bingley encountered too easily pacified his heart.

Recognition dawned on William, as he reflected on his friend’s actions of late. With Jane Bennet, there were indications that Bingley might have finally formed an earnest attachment, the first that William could recall him having made. Bingley sought her out, as he had never needed to do before. He became the pursuer, aiming to find favor and win the lady’s regard. The ball, their numerous visits to Longbourn, and the continued delays in leaving the area merged together to form the impression that his friend was indeed serious in his intentions.

“You cannot casually call on Longbourn, Bingley. Their mourning must be respected.” William replied with sympathy.

“Did you see Miss Bennet at Longbourn, when we returned after the service?” Bingley asked without bothering to deny William’s allegation about the reason for his wishing to remain at Netherfield.

“I was standing behind you.”

Running his hand over the arm of his chair, Bingley looked into the fire. “Did you know that Miss Bennet was engaged to be married at one time?”

“No. Did she tell you this?”

“She did not. Sir William Lucas relayed it to me on the night that I dined at his home without you. According to him, she was to wed a man who had been known to her family for many years and was a particular favorite of her father. Shortly before the nuptials were to take place, Miss Bennet went to London to purchase her wedding clothes. I was told that her intended fell ill with stomach complaints the day after she had departed. Miss Elizabeth sent her sister a letter by post, informing her of the situation, but the concerns for his illness did not become dire until the following evening. An express was then set out when the man’s condition worsened. Miss Bennet returned immediately, but it was too late. Sir William claimed that they were much in love and that Miss Bennet was inconsolable after his passing.”

“A tragic circumstance.”

“Yes it was. The ball was Miss Bennet’s first public appearance since his death.”

The meaning of Bingley’s final sentence was not lost on William. “Bingley, you are not responsible for her being away from home the night her father passed on. You could not have known what the future held.”

“Part of me does accept the responsibility, William, despite your sensible reassurances. I held that ball solely for the purpose to impress her.”

“You are not the first man, nor the last, to hold a ball to try to win the regard of a woman. The timing was unfortunate, but I know you too well. If you would have had any reason to believe Mr. Bennet ailing, the ball would have been postponed. You are not indifferent to the plight of your friends.”

A glance over at Bingley alerted William that he was considering what had been said, and his friend replied, “I thank you.”

“I can stay another three or four days. That will put me in London less than a week before Georgiana arrives.”

Bingley nodded his head. “We shall join you, then. That will be convenient for me, also.”


Two days later, Bingley graciously received Mr. Gardiner at Netherfield, without any outward sign that he had been surprised by the call. The two gentlemen present welcomed the appearance of the man, for no news of Longbourn had reached them in the previous days.

Caroline Bingley had not been informed of what had transpired after Mr. Bennet’s funeral service, instead she was told that ‘the minister did a fine job delivering his eulogy’ in response to her questions. It was not as if the two men were protecting Bingley’s younger sister from disturbing facts related to close friends. She had shown no partiality for the Bennets except Jane, and Caroline’s praise of the woman was often tainted by her mention of Jane’s low connections when compared to their own.

Therefore, when the conversation between her brother and Mr. Gardiner eventually found its way to the subject of the Bennets, she paid little attention. That is, until Bingley asked if Mr. Bennet had recovered from his distress.

“He has improved. I wanted to thank you in person for aiding us. I apologize for the lateness of expressing my gratitude, but I have not had the opportunity until today to come here.”

“Mr. Gardiner, you need offer me nothing but comforting news that the occupants of Longbourn are in good health.”

“They are improving, Mr. Bingley.”

“What of their cousins, the Collinses?” William asked as he leaned forward in his chair. “Have they departed for Kent?”

“This morning. Mr. Collins insisted that he and his wife stop before they left so that he might again offer his condolences. He stated that he could not quit the area in good conscience, without knowledge that all those who resided in Longbourn were at peace.”

“May I assume that he left them so?” There was an edge to the tone in which William phrased his question, one that Mr. Gardiner acknowledged immediately.

“Yes he did. I saw his carriage off myself.”

Mr. Gardiner and William soon dominated the conversation, and through their open dialogue, the topic of a steward was broached.

“They have none?” William asked for clarification, knowing it was truly none of his concern.

“Mr. Bennet kept his own records and did not…” Mr. Gardiner paused to properly phrase the rest of his sentence, “he did not use the services of a man in that position.”

“I thought Longbourn to be of adequate acreage that the use of a steward would be necessary.”

“It is, by some standards. Mr. Phillips is an attorney in Meryton and has agreed to guide our nephew in matters of the law, and I am working with them…him to organize the records. I fear I am not much of an expert on land entitlement and the distribution of taxation rights, but the skills that I have developed in trade have been marginally useful.”


Caroline Bingley wasted no time once Mr. Gardiner quit Netherfield to begin abusing his chosen occupation, raising again her opinion that the Bennet family and their relations, while fine for country folk, were beneath the standards of the ton. Bingley was far too tolerant of his sister and her prejudiced opinions, but being a man who avoided strife whenever possible, Bingley waited her out, knowing that Caroline could only go on for so long before she would change the subject to one more focused on herself.

William could not condone the behavior of Bingley’s sister and had learned over time that his silence was the most effective method in dealing with her. Caroline would undoubtedly twist the meaning of any comment he would make, as a means of proving they were both of the same mind. But her prideful ways were not his own. William could not condemn a person because they had to work for a living, neither could he say that their life was less meaningful than his.

Yes, William was a member of the ton and did acknowledge that there were expectations placed upon him because of his wealth. Unwritten rules of etiquette were followed by the man, their principles having been ingrained in him from the time he was a young boy. William did not fight against society or act in any insubordinate fashion, so it was the question of every mother of a woman of marriageable age why, at eight and twenty years of age, had William Darcy yet to find an acceptable bride amongst his own kind.

Caroline Bingley wished to be that bride, and had she known the man’s true opinion of her, she would have given up the quest long ago. She was as far removed from the type of woman William would wish to wed as one could be. Caroline was frequently in his company owing to his friendship with her brother, and this did, at times, oblige William’s own sister to be exposed to her, but unbeknownst to Caroline, in private, William cautioned Georgiana that she should not follow the example set by Miss Bingley. It was William’s fear that the impressionable young lady would mimic Caroline, believing that her attitude was acceptable.

“Were not for trade, you would have nothing on which to spend your allowance. Have you taken that in consideration before forming your opinion?” Bingley said to his sister, prolonging her rant.

“I have no qualms with purchasing their goods, Charles. You are not listening closely to what I have to say. Let me repeat myself. Keeping company with a person in trade, while fine for those of lesser standing, should not be the practice of a man in your position. You have more at stake and could lose more from the association.”

“You must explain your meaning.”

“It is simple. I hardly imagine that a profitable tradesman would also be deemed an honest man. It is not in their character, if they are truly clever at what they do. Therefore, you must consider that your wealth could become an incentive for their taking advantage of your trusting nature.”

“William, would you answer a question to settle an argument between my sister and me?”

“What is it?” William dreaded being brought into their conversation and assumed an air of disinterest, hoping his participation would be of short duration.

“Did you sell off a lot of cattle raised at Pemberley last autumn?”

“I did.”

“If I recall correctly, you went to the auction yourself. I had invited you to come to Bath with me, but you declined, stating that you desired to be present to ensure the greatest price.”

“Your memory is correct. I did attend the auction and made a healthy profit.” With a creased brow, William’s confusion as to the line of questioning was evident. It was his own fault, really. William had not really been listening to the conversation between Bingley and Caroline.

“Ha! You made a healthy profit.”

“Charles! If you are attempting to assign to Mr. Darcy the title of tradesman, you are reaching too far to prove your point. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word.”

“I am not finished, Caroline.” Charles replied smoothly before once again addressing William. “If I was to follow the advice of those close to me, our friendship would not be in my best interest. You sell what you raise at Pemberley, and some might consider that an act of trade. I should find myself more idle companions, men unlike my own father, men I am certain will not swindle me at cards.”

“I promise I will not cheat you at cards, Bingley.” William replied with a straight face. “I will win with skill alone.”

Thoroughly offended at the turn of the conversation, and feeling a bit ill-used by her brother’s humor, Caroline eventually did change the subject. She was curious as to why her brother had asked Mr. Gardiner about Mr. Bennet being distressed, and she wondered aloud if perhaps Mr. Bennet had displayed his grief in front of the other men . A curt dismissal was given to her and silenced her for good.


William slept poorly that night as the intelligence gained from Mr. Gardiner’s visit churned in his mind. With little rest achieved, he woke late to the sounds of the housekeeper and Bingley in the hallway outside his room, discussing preparations for their return to London. His friend was much occupied throughout the morning with lists and consents that needed his signature, but with determination, William sought out Bingley to explain a task that he was about to undertake.


Standing at the main door of Longbourn awaiting admittance, William recalled Bingley’s disappointment when the younger man realized that he could not accompany him on the call. The logical reasons were too numerous, and the call, during the family’s mourning, was in itself improper and certainly should not be used as an opportunity to satisfy Bingley’s curiosity concerning Miss Bennet.

A girl recognizable as a Bennet, due to her familial resemblance, opened the door and greeted William by name. Basing his assumption on her lack of formality and not her physical appearance, he thought that she could not be more than twelve years old, when in fact, Miss Lydia Bennet was thirteen. She led him to the study, announced his presence to those in the room, and then fled elsewhere, as if she were confident that no entertainment would be gleaned from the meeting.

Mr. Gardiner and Elizabeth sat side by side behind a large desk cluttered with journals and papers. Daniel, who was to his sister’s left, was the first to welcome William with an invitation to enter the room and a handshake.

For Daniel and Elizabeth’s benefit, William explained that he and Bingley were traveling to London the following morning to attend to business and made an offer of assistance to the three assembled for whatever they would need while he was in town.

Mr. Gardiner expressed appreciation on behalf of his family, but declined the kind offer. He, too, would be in London within a few days, and at the moment, there was no obligation he could not attend to himself. William bowed as he prepared to leave, catching sight of Elizabeth’s eyes on him. If she were displeased with his being there, he could not say.

“You must not go, Mr. Darcy.” Daniel declared as he returned to the chair he was occupying. “We are at a standstill and cannot proceed until my Uncle Gardiner is able to secure answers from an outside source.”

“I am sorry to hear that, Mr. Bennet.”

“It seems that neither of my uncles have knowledge about the intricacies of property laws, concerning tenants receiving a portion of the profits.”

“You have such tenants?” William’s gaze shifted from Daniel to Elizabeth. Her expression remained unchanged.

“We do.” Daniel answered.

“As do I at Pemberley.”

“Will you then help us understand?”

Mr. Gardiner opened his mouth to make an excuse for his nephew’s boldness, but it was Elizabeth’s voice that reached William first.

“Daniel, we should not take advantage of Mr. Darcy’s generous offer by requesting that he instruct us. We should have already…” Elizabeth turned her head and did not finish her advice to her brother.

“It would not be troublesome, Miss Elizabeth, if you say that I am not intruding.”

There was a pause in which William was convinced Elizabeth was searching his eyes for evidence of his sincerity, and it made him wonder if she held everyone under such scrutiny. It also forced William to analyze his own motives and to find that he was just as guilty as Bingley of wanting to see one of the ladies of Longbourn once again before he left for London.

“This is most frustrating, Mr. Darcy.” Elizabeth finally said, her hand sweeping out toward the journals on the table. “Our difficulty lies in deciphering where our father made his calculations and the process he went through to determine the numbers.”

“It can be complicated, but not once you know the formula to implement.”

“Take my seat.” Elizabeth began to rise from her position next to Mr. Gardiner until William stopped her.

“Please, no. What if I bring up a chair instead?”

The seating arrangement had Elizabeth next to her uncle, but her brother did not occupy the other side. Daniel’s chair was more to the edge of the desk where there were no papers. When making the decision to place his own chair to his best advantage, William chose to sit it on the vacant side of Mr. Gardiner.

Hours passed, and Elizabeth apologized to William twice during that period for keeping him so long. He did not accept her apologies and instead reminded her that he was pleased to be of service. They became absorbed in the task of reorganizing the former Mr. Bennet’s records, for he had obviously developed a relaxed attitude toward keeping similar items together. A receipt for livestock feed could be found in one book, while the payment made in another. His tallies were accurate, but with it all scattered about, William could see how confusion would develop.

In short order, William learned that his inquiries were best addressed to Mr. Gardiner and his niece. Daniel was a participant in the discussion, but when it turned more to instruction than application, he would lose interest and Elizabeth would then need to summarize the details for him.

“Daniel,” Elizabeth placed her hand on his arm to gain her brother’s notice while they were discussing a calculation to determine profit. “Do you understand what Mr. Darcy has just explained?”

“We do not have swine, therefore, it does not pertain to us. We raise sheep and horses.”

“Of course,” Elizabeth uttered under her breath before gracing William with a warm smile. “Mr. Darcy, would it be possible for you to use sheep in your examples instead of swine?”

“It is the same regardless of the animal.”

Elizabeth continued to look at him encouragingly until William realized that she must have asked him to do so for a reason.

“Sheep it is.”


“Daniel, look at this column,” William said calmly, placing his own hand on the younger man’s arm as he had observed Elizabeth do. He was standing between the two siblings going over the entries in a new journal they had begun to fill.

“It is nearly four o’clock,” Daniel responded without any other explanation. William did not know why Daniel’s concentration seemed to wane as easily as it did, but more often than not, simple redirection brought Daniel’s attention back to them.

“That it is.” Elizabeth agreed. “Perhaps we should end for the day. I had not realized the time, and we have kept Mr. Darcy here the whole of the afternoon. Mr. Bingley must be worried over his failure to return.”

“I should go and take what we have to Mr. Phillips. I can be there and back before sundown, if I leave soon.” Mr. Gardiner announced while stretching his arms above his head. Elizabeth helped her uncle collect the papers they had worked on and tucked them neatly into the modified journal.

Daniel stood by the doorway as pleasantries were exchanged between the gentlemen, and her uncle, before his departure, gave Elizabeth a kiss on the cheek. She turned to straightening the papers that had been left on the desk and made a request of her brother.

“Daniel, is it not time for you to make a selection? Why not find one that Mother has told you she enjoys.”

Not needing to be asked twice, Daniel left the two of them to finish attending to the papers, and within a minute, the sound of music from a pianoforte filled the lower story of the home. The music played was of such a polished quality, that it was now William’s turn to lose his concentration, the perfection in the presentation convincing William that he had never heard the piece played properly before.

“Does he practice often?” He questioned Elizabeth, impressed by the talent he was witnessing in Daniel Bennet.

“Oh, yes. We are privileged to recitals every morning at seven and every afternoon. He plays for forty-five minutes, unless a piece requires more time.” The lift to Elizabeth’s brow told William that she found humor in her own statement, but she did not share it with him at this time.

“Do you play, Miss Elizabeth?”

She raised her eyes up from the papers in hand. “I do, though not as well as I should. No one who has heard my performance would say I am a talented musician. I am lacking in those accomplishments, in which I should have applied more effort, including the mastering of an instrument.”

“I cannot conceive of a person who would consider you unaccomplished.”

“I pray you do not assume I was seeking out a compliment, Mr. Darcy. I was being honest with you and myself.”

“It is only my observation, Miss Elizabeth, and not forced.” Stopping himself, William noticed apprehension cloud her face after the expression of his candid opinion. Whether it was modesty or something else, he did not want to impede the ease of conversation that had grown between them that afternoon by making Elizabeth uncomfortable. Therefore, he changed the topic back to one more neutral.

“My sister also enjoys the pianoforte, and I look forward to hearing her play once she comes to London.”

“No one had informed me that you had a sister, Mr. Darcy.”

William had the habit of using words sparingly at times, but when it came to discussing his sister, this tendency was often broken. He began with caution, describing Georgiana so that he would not give the impression that he was boasting, but soon William became convinced that Elizabeth was genuinely interested. She actively asked questions that were more directed toward Georgiana’s character than her accomplishments. This in itself gave William ease, and soon his self-censure dissipated, giving way to natural conversation. In the midst of William describing what a lovely young woman Georgiana was growing into, the music from the other room abruptly stopped, halting the talk they were sharing.

Daniel was soon seen running from the house, and as Elizabeth was about to go to investigate, a man who worked in the stables, paused to give them news.

“A mare is birthing at this moment, Miss Elizabeth!” He grinned from ear to ear. “Mr. Bennett is on his way to oversee it.”

“Thank you, Simms.” Elizabeth’s enthusiasm was instantaneous, and indeed on this day, she had found more than one reason to be thankful. Turning to William, she tried to maintain her composure and not appear childlike in her delight, but failed in her mission. Words came tumbling out of Elizabeth’s mouth about how blessed they all considered the birth of a foal, and soon William offered to accompany Elizabeth to the stables.

They could see Daniel was already in the fenced yard, and they did not enter. His coat and cravat had been stripped and replaced by a long canvas apron, gloves, and work boots. Leaning against the wooden posts that surrounded the area, Elizabeth stepped up on the bottom board of the fence so that she might get a better view of what was occurring. With her eyes fixed at the mare lying on her side and Daniel taking a brush from his pocket, she told William a story about Daniel and his horses.

“My brother has been riding since he was five. Our father quickly realized that his son had ability with horses that he had witnessed in few others. Daniel approaches them differently than most of us. He told me once that man has a tendency to handle a horse as he thinks the horse wants, instead of taking the time to learn the animal’s preferences. Daniel methodically studies them, seeking out their different reactions, and then uses this knowledge later when he begins their training. This mare’s name is Belle, and she prefers a brush to a hand. When her mane is combed from top to bottom, it calms her, as Daniel is doing right now.”

“He trains your horses himself?”

“Yes. He has for several years now.”

“How did he learn to do this?”

“We have read more animal husbandry books and documents than I should care to admit. If you knew the number, you might think us obsessed, when, in fact, I have scarcely an interest in the subject. But my brother insists that I be as informed as he on the topic. When this foal is born, the first person it will encounter will be my brother. Over the course of the next several days, he will spend the majority of his time out here with the newborn and its mother, getting it accustomed to his presence. Belle already trusts him and should allow Daniel near her foal without raising much of a fuss.”

“He must become very attached to them.”

Elizabeth did not reply, but turned her head to look over her shoulder at William. The sunlight from this fair day was still strong enough to reflect off of her skin giving her a healthy glow. In their rush she had forgotten to bring her bonnet, but William did not regret it. A bonnet would have made for an artificial shade to blanket her face, hiding the brightness of her eyes and pink of her lips.

Even in her mourning gown, William thought Elizabeth the most beautiful creature ever born. As his own features softened to more closely match hers, they held each others gaze longer than was dignified. He silently was falling in love, and her admiration for him gaining strength.

Neither said another word, as the birth commenced. Lydia came up to them just as the front hooves were out, taking her position next to Elizabeth and feeling her sister’s arm wrap around her shoulder. Even she was quiet while the foal slipped from its mother onto the grass, the miracle of new life not requiring commentary to give it significance.

Spinning around, Lydia beamed at her sister before taking off in the direction of their home. “I will go tell Mother and Jane about the foal.”

“I should let you return to your family,” William conceded once he saw that Lydia had safely reached her destination. “Again, I ask if there is anything you require from London. Is there anything that I may do for you?”

“No, you have done more than your share this day. All that I request is that you have a safe journey.”

“That, I shall.”


The gentlemen’s stay in London was not long, as Netherfield again welcomed back its tenant and his friend, along with others, who had not yet been granted the privilege of viewing the property. William had intended to remain with Bingley until the harvest neared, but an express received shortly after his arrival, sent him home to Pemberley with the greatest of haste.

As summer turned to autumn, and autumn to winter, life at Longbourn settled into a predictable pattern. Their wounds began to heal and as time progressed, and the family of Thomas Bennet found that happiness became easier to accept and those memories of their father less painful to recall.

Enjoying the rare seclusion of her windowseat, whenever the weather prevented her from venturing outside, Elizabeth’s thoughts often drifted back to the kindness exhibited by the man from Derbyshire. Regular correspondence was passed between her brother and Mr. Darcy, and through them, the connection between the two families strengthened.

By January, Elizabeth could not consider William Darcy a stranger anymore, even though they had not seen each other for many months. The words he wrote gave insight into the man he was, and Elizabeth respected him without need for more proof of his integrity. Although she would not admit this to herself, Elizabeth had grown very fond of him, and looked forward to the day she would see Mr. Darcy riding up the lane of Longbourn to pay a call.


My diary,

Today marked the end of our deepest mourning for Papa. I cannot begin to describe the changes we have endured these past six months. Many were for the good, but none so much that I would not trade them away to have my father back with me.

Mr. Bingley stopped by yesterday to let us know he was back in residence. I have noticed that his trips away from Netherfield are getting shorter in duration, and whether he returns with a small party or large, he has developed the custom of calling on us the day he arrives. Jane seems to be content in his presence, but the melancholy that overwhelmed her when Father died, still remains at times, especially when Mr. Bingley is away.

Once again he has brought word of his friend, Mr. Darcy. According to Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy was recently in town for a brief period before returning to his own home in Derbyshire. Mr. Bingley claims that his friend was in a disagreeable mood during that short time and shunned the amusements of the city.

Mr. Bingley remembered to pass on Daniel’s message that Mr. Darcy was always welcome at Longbourn, and in return, he wished us all well and said that we were in his thoughts. Mr. Darcy has endured his own loss since we last saw him, with the passing of his uncle, the Earl of Matlock, and had to again postpone his planned visit to Netherfield. I was relieved to read in Mr. Darcy’s last letter to Daniel, that the man injured in the fire at Pemberley last fall had indeed made a full recovery, just as the reconstruction to the damaged wing had been completed.

We continue to reap the benefits from the agent, Mr. Griffin, who our uncle had sent from London to do the assessment of our property and livestock. Last week, Daniel sold four of his horses for a top price, and the profits from the sale are a greater percent than the sheep we were raising on the same pasture land. Next spring we shall follow his suggestion and plant oats and continue shifting our focus toward shorter term crops.

I wish I knew the favor Mr. Griffin claimed he owed our Uncle Gardiner which brought him to our service, but with such tight-lipped men, my curiosity has not been satisfied. At Christmas, my uncle even pretended to forget the reason Mr. Griffin came to Longbourn without accepting payment, but my reminder aided in his recall. Uncle Gardiner is barely forty years of age, and I could not resist the opportunity to chide him for his memory loss.

Lydia is presently preparing to be brought home from London in the coming week. My Aunt Gardiner has written that her respite from the state of mourning here, seems to have improved her attitude, and she had hardly thrown a single temper tantrum during her stay. Regrettably, Aunt Gardiner cannot accompany her back to Meryton, but for the best of reasons. We are expecting another cousin this summer, and that is cause to celebrate.

My friend, Charlotte, is also in the same condition as my aunt, and I have written to her an obligatory letter of congratulations. I cannot honestly say that she and I are in contact much anymore, due to the odious man to whom she is married.

I wish above all else that Mr. Collins would not have witnessed Daniel becoming so agitated over Christmas dinner. To this day, Daniel will not talk to me about what upset him, and if he does not discuss what has troubled him, it makes it more difficult for us to keep it from occurring again. Daniel was familiar with all gathered that evening, and it should not have happened…

I was just called downstairs with news sent to us from Mr. Bingley. Lydia will be returning from London in three days, under the care of Mr. Darcy and his sister. They are coming to Netherfield for a visit at last.


~~ Chapter Three ~~

Engaging in conversation with those with whom he was not well acquainted had always been problematic for William, and try as he might, he found it difficult to improve himself in that area. He did have some success that morning while traveling from London to Meryton with Miss Lydia, Georgiana, and her companion Mrs. Annesley. Lydia had kept them all entertained with her narratives about her time spent in the city, and she seemed pleased when William made attempts to further the dialogue with questions or opinions of his own.

Once in Hertfordshire, the Darcy party’s first stop was at Netherfield Park to unload their trunks. While there, William informed Bingley of his plan for Georgiana and himself to accompany Lydia to Longbourn, but his sociable friend would not let an opportunity to visit the family of Miss Bennet pass him by, and they left Netherfield Park not a half- hour later, the carriage none the lighter, for not only did it carry Bingley to the home of Miss Lydia, but also his sister, Caroline.

That was not how William had envisioned his reunion with the Bennet family. He had the expectation it would have been a more private affair, and quite honestly, one where he might be better guaranteed an audience with Miss Elizabeth. It had been months, nearly five to be exact, since he was last in the area for a short stay before being called to Pemberley after a fire had broken out in an older section of his home. The anticipation William had placed on finally seeing Elizabeth was perhaps too great, because instead of experiencing the jubilation he was convinced he ought to be feeling, he was nervous and withdrawn.

William did not know, but rather hoped, that with the restraints of Elizabeth’s mourning observation easing, that he might be able to determine if she shared his feelings of affection. She had never strayed far from his mind during the months that had just passed, and hidden within his letters to Daniel were messages more suited for her than her brother.

What else was a man to do when he recognized he was in love? William could not write directly to Elizabeth, for the impropriety of the act could not be looked upon favorably by anyone, including himself. He maintained his connection to Mr. Gardiner, visiting whenever he was in London, and the two men soon discovered that they shared similarities other than just a fondness for Longbourn. The satisfaction with each other’s company was mutual, and what could only be accurately described as unquestionable friendship now existed between the two men.

William was more deeply woven into the Bennet family than even the matriarch of Longbourn was aware. It was his steward, Mr. Griffin, who had assessed their property under strict orders not to reveal his employer. William did not want the credit for the deed, nor their gratitude if his identity was exposed. It was not his design to buy his way into their family circle, and after much deliberation with Mr. Gardiner, the elder man understood his reasoning and allowed Mr. Griffin to be sent to Longbourn in his name.


"Daniel!" Lydia cried out in the parlor, as she caught a glimpse of her brother from the window and ran through the room in a rush to get to him. William glanced over at his sister, who had startled at Lydia’s outburst. A hint of a reassuring smile was given to Georgiana to indicate that there was no reason for her to be alarmed by the addition of yet another person to the Bennet’s parlor, knowing that the number already assembled might make his sister uncomfortable.

"The girls are attached to their brother, as you can see," Mrs. Bennet explained to the room as she calmly sat her teacup down. No admonishment for her daughter’s behavior was offered. "Our Daniel takes prestigious good care of them."

"Of that I harbor no doubt, Mrs. Bennet." The dryness to William’s response indicated a disinterest he did not intend.

"He taught them all to ride, except Jane, who already had instruction." Mrs. Bennet paused in her praise of Daniel as if anticipating a reply from William. When one was not received, she abruptly turned away to address Bingley and Caroline, her actions indicating that she judged William unconcerned about her family.

The window in the parlor was open enough for William to detect a squeal from Lydia, which drew his attention out of doors. The sight he beheld caused him to fight to contain the smile it produced as he watched Daniel pick up his youngest sister in a fond embrace and spin her around.

"You are early!" Daniel said after placing Lydia her back on the ground to be welcomed by Elizabeth.

"Mr. Darcy does not like to squander the morning." Turning a full circle, the youngest of the Bennet children looked up at her sister with an obvious eagerness to be doted on by her sister. "Lizzy, do you think I have grown taller while I was away?"

"You have grown at least an inch, if not more. Whatever did Aunt Gardiner feed you?" Kisses were granted to Lydia’s cheek detaining her reply.

"Far too much." After patting her belly, Lydia placed an arm around each of her siblings, chattering as they entered their home. "Lizzy, you must come see the new gowns Aunt Gardiner has bought me. I used all the pin money that Daniel gave me, but… Oh, did I tell you that Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy are here?"

"No," Elizabeth answered as Daniel broke away from his sisters to quickly enter the house and acknowledge his guests.

"Miss Darcy, and Miss Bingley are here as well, but Miss Bingley is leaving tomorrow to go to her sister in town. Where have you and Daniel been? We have been waiting nearly a quarter-hour, and I had given up hope that you would be back to meet Miss Darcy."

"A quarter- hour? That is a wait! Let us go greet our friends." Elizabeth answered as she crossed the threshold of the home, several paces behind their brother.

"Dressed as you are?"

Lydia’s question was voiced with enough incisiveness that Elizabeth could not simply brush it aside. Concerned that there was an element out of place that she was unaware of, Elizabeth stopped her progress, leaned down and spoke in an whisper so that her inquiry would not draw attention from the occupants in the parlor.

"What is wrong with the way I am dressed?"

"It is drab, Lizzy."

Lydia meant no offence with her open appraisal, but that did not make it less disturbing for Elizabeth to hear coming from someone other than her mother. She had occasionally been admonished in the past for not taking greater care in her appearance, but that had ceased since Elizabeth’s responsibilities had increased.

"I have been out walking with Daniel. One does not need to don their finest for the activity." If there had not been a slight quiver to her voice, Elizabeth would have been more convincing in concealing that Lydia’s remark did not touch her.

"Yes, but…" The color and vibrancy of London had a profound effect on the young lady, who had already shown a preference for fashion and gossip over more taxing occupations such as reading or needlework. Lydia’s preoccupation with all things silly had been inadvertently fed while in residence with her relations, despite their great efforts to confine her to occupations that respected her state of mourning.

"Lydia, our grieving for Father is not over. Let us say no more on the subject."

There was a man waiting in the parlor who found Elizabeth’s appearance far from common. When she entered the room, with her eyes bright and a small smile playing on her lips, she was deemed most pleasing and no argument would sway his opinion otherwise. Without the awareness that he was doing so, William searched Elizabeth for any changes to her person since they had last met, his reliable memory having served him well during their absence.


It was with great satisfaction that William was able to introduce Georgiana to Elizabeth, for he had long wanted the two women to meet. William recalled telling Elizabeth so many months ago that his sister tended to be reserved around strangers, and she must have retained that information because care and patience were present in the manner in which Elizabeth approached her. Georgiana was, as William expected, virtually silent except for brief responses, however, Elizabeth quickly compensated by altering her questions so that single word answers became appropriate.

William spoke little himself initially, but as Elizabeth went about making Georgiana feel welcome in their home, her warm reception had the same effect on him, and he began to relax. Soon those months they had been separated faded away, and William was left with the feeling that it had only been yesterday that he had last seen Elizabeth.

He had arrived at Longbourn with expectations and rehearsed statements, but they were discarded as a natural exchange of words and ideas started to flow. Daniel joined their small circle after Elizabeth asked about the condition of Pemberley and the three of them, with Georgiana, conversed at length before William remembered his manners and asked after their health.

"We have all been in very good health, thank you." Gracefully answering for her family, Elizabeth held him in her gaze for a moment, leaving William with the perception that it was perhaps his turn to be studied.

"Is your bottom not still sore from your fall, Elizabeth?" Daniel asked.

"Fall?" Mrs. Bennet cried from across the room insuring that all who had not heard Daniel’s comment were now informed of the mishap. With an expression that was a blend of agitation and humor, Elizabeth looked to the heavens before satisfying Mrs. Bennet’s inquiry.

"It was nothing, Mother. I am uninjured."

"She insisted on closing the gate between Harper’s field and our own." Daniel added, unaware that Elizabeth desired the current topic laid to rest. "I told Elizabeth that it was not necessary, but she did not listen. She slipped on that steep hill, Mother, and landed flat on her bottom. Then she turned angry…"

"Thank you, Daniel. I am certain that everyone has enough information to draw their own conclusions."

"At times, it is like raising two sons!" Mrs. Bennet cried out in disgust to Caroline, who displayed a pose of feminine refinement. "I am grateful that Jane and Lydia do not follow Elizabeth’s example. Until you are a mother, you can not understand the difficulties faced when one has a daughter who does not behave in a ladylike manner, as she should. "

Mrs. Bennet’s remark brought silence to the room, as all good humor was lost. From his vantagepoint standing next to her, William was able to detect an immediate change in Elizabeth’s demeanor, as evidenced by the stiffening of her posture and the darkening of her features. Convinced that her mother’s words had shamed Elizabeth, William acted without forethought.

"Miss Elizabeth?" William asked gently, scarcely loud enough for the others to hear. Elizabeth boldly raised her eyes to meet his, and waited for him to continue. "Were you able to achieve your objective of closing the gate?" The corners of William’s mouth lifted as he offered her the challenge of answering his question, but to Elizabeth, his query served another purpose. William had given her a chance to recover from the humiliation initiated by her mother; in affect, demonstrating his support by granting Elizabeth an opportunity to have the last say.

Without realizing what she was doing, Elizabeth reached out to touch William’s arm. It was not often that others came to her defense, for it had always been her duty when it came to safeguarding her family members, and rarely did they think to reciprocate. William knew instantly that he had achieved his goal, because as quickly as the shadows had appeared on Elizabeth’s face, they were replaced by a smile. One she had reserved for him alone.

"I did get the gate closed, Mr. Darcy."

And with that, all was temporarily made well. This was not the first occurrence of her mother speaking out of turn by expressing her disappointment in Elizabeth’s unfeminine behavior in the presence of others. Mrs. Bennet did not do it often, but with enough regularity, that her daughter had become accustomed to it and Elizabeth tried to not let her stinging words influence her spirits for long.


Mariah Lucas came to call a short time later, and was subsequently introduced to Miss Darcy. The young women were of the same age, and there was a commonality in temperament between them that did not exist with Lydia. Mariah possessed an easy-going, natural friendliness which Georgiana lacked, but she was not as exuberant as the youngest Bennet sibling and less apt to overwhelm her newfound acquaintance.

With encouragement from Elizabeth, Georgiana left her brother’s side to join the women with Mariah taking a seat next to her. They were not to remain there for long as it was regrettably the nearing time for the Darcys and Bingleys to end their visit and return to Netherfield.

Linking her arm with Daniel’s, Elizabeth walked to the carriage to bid ado to their friends.

"Mr. Darcy, we would like to extend an invitation for you and Miss Darcy to join us at Longbourn for dinner later this week. We had already discussed the possibility with Mr. Bingley prior to your arrival, and if you have no prior engagements, would you consider joining us?"

"We have no fixed plans, Miss Elizabeth. It would be our honor."

She wavered after his acceptance, and judging by her countenance alone, William would have wagered that Elizabeth was contemplating saying more. His suspense was short-lived. Elizabeth had one final message.

"It is good to have you in the neighborhood once again, sir."

"I would be nowhere else,"


"It was agreeable to meet them all, especially Miss Elizabeth," Georgiana said to her companion, Mrs. Annesley, once she was back at Netherfield Park with her brother and the Bingleys. They were gathered in a spacious sitting room, the travelers taking a much needed rest and Charles playing host to them all. Although Georgiana had not meant for her comment to be overheard by the others assembled, Caroline decided the situation was ripe for her to add an opinion of her own, and did so turning the private conversation into a public forum.

"Eliza Bennet? If I were her, I would have wished to be swallowed whole had my mother said that rearing me was like raising a son, but after the exposure I have had to that family of late, I cannot dispute Mrs. Bennet’s allegation." Caroline tilted her head toward William. "You have not been here to witness the escapades of Miss Eliza, Mr. Darcy. I am certain you would be shocked if the details were laid before you."

With eyes narrowed and jaw set, William refused to provide Caroline the pleasure of his reply, but he did catch the notice of his sister. A slight shake of his head indicated to Georgiana that she was not to take to heart whatever came from the woman’s mouth. Unfortunately, Caroline was not deterred by his silence.

"Last week, Eliza entered her mother’s parlor with mud on her gown at least three inches deep. She had walked to a neighbor’s home to deliver soup by herself because someone or other was feeling ill. I dare say she possesses a self-sufficiency without fashion that is intolerable anywhere but in the country."

"I say it shows concern for their neighbors. An admirable trait," Bingley spoke out, while handing William a glass of brandy.

"Charles, my point is that I doubt Mr. Darcy would want his sister running about unescorted through the mud to hand out soup!"

"That is accurate, Miss Bingley. I would not desire my sister to go alone." Noticing Georgiana’s puzzlement after delivering his opinion, William clarified. "I would have accompanied her."

Impassioned by a sense of superiority, Caroline continued her abuse. She was under the false impression that by sighting the flaws in one woman, she was recommending herself.

"To be sure, I can not count the visits when I have arrived at Longbourn to find Miss Eliza behind the desk in their study and her brother nowhere to be found. I am tempted to conclude that she has spent far too much time in a man’s domain, for she does not seem to take any pleasure in sitting with me during my calls and gives her opinions most decidedly when she does talk. And what of today? Miss Eliza looked positively wild after her walk. Her skin is growing more course and brown every time I see her. She is hardly recognizable. When we first arrived in Hertfordshire, I recall her being touted as a local beauty. For my own part, I must confess that I have never seen any beauty in her."

William rose from his seat and walked over to Georgiana, his hand outstretched for her to take. He might not be able to control Bingley’s sister while a guest in their home, but he certainly did not have to expose his own sister to her bitter display of jealously. If they had been at Pemberley, William would have undoubtedly said his peace, but as they were not, he took hold of Georgiana’s hand and turned to leave the room.

"I have long considered Miss Elizabeth Bennet one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance, and yet her comeliness pales in comparison to her other merits. If you will excuse us."

William’s rebuff was firm and made with such conviction, that unkind notions came unbidden to Caroline’s mind. From the age of sixteen, Caroline’s sole occupation was to capture the admiration and regard of William Darcy, so that one day she might have the honor of being referred to as the mistress of Pemberley. Now, as the disconcerting reality that William had shown a preference to a woman other than herself settled upon Caroline, and that she had quite possibly lost her chance for the glorious Darcy name to a country nobody, the shock was difficult for her to comprehend.

After dinner Caroline listened in on the conversation between William and his sister. They were off by themselves speaking quietly, but without reserve to one another. The words Caroline heard come from William’s lips in reference to Elizabeth convinced her that his high opinion was unalterable by any persuasion she could offer. Compassionate and gracious were descriptions he tied to the woman, but it was not until Georgiana made the remark that she thought Elizabeth was much like her Aunt Gardiner from London, that Caroline lost all hope. William had obviously introduced his sister to the Bennet’s relations, and as protective as Caroline knew him to be of Georgiana, he would not have done so had his intentions not been serious.

Caroline left Netherfield the following morning as planned. Bingley sought out a private audience with William once she had departed. He apologized for his sister’s behavior, admitting that William’s removal from the room had a profound effect on Caroline, for she was well-behaved for the remainder of her visit with scarcely a venomous remark slipping from her mouth. William accepted the offered regrets, but in return left Bingley with thoughts to ponder. He broached the topic of responsibility and the need, at times, to step in and take control of a situation rather than waiting for it to resolve itself. William would not change his friend for all the world, but Bingley’s preference for avoiding strife whenever possible, instead of facing it, was a trait better reserved for youth and not a grown man of two and twenty.


Two weeks passed without incident after the Darcys came to Hertfordshire, and if anyone in the neighborhood had an opinion about the near constant presence of Mr. Bingley and his companions at Longbourn, they were not speaking publicly about it. There was gossip about an impending engagement between Miss Bennet and Mr. Bingley, but no formal commitment had yet been made.

Pulling back the curtains in her room, Elizabeth gazed out toward the barn lot and saw Daniel, Lydia, and Mariah Lucas there. The girls’ laughter could be heard even through the closed window, as her brother gave them lessons on how to properly Canterbury. This was a respite to be cherished, for the work of the estate had only now been brought up to date, and the good company they had been entertaining of late had gave them nothing but peace and contentment.

On their first dinner together at Longbourn, Elizabeth made the unorthodox suggestion that instead of the sexes splitting up after the meal was over, that they, just once, forfeit the custom, since they were all enjoying their conversations so much. Her reasoning was sincere and ever since that evening, whenever the families were sharing a meal with one another, be it at Longbourn or Netherfield Park, the practice became the accepted norm.

Certainly Caroline would have frowned upon the deviation from formality, but she was still in London and not expected back in the near future. The groups were always the same at these gatherings. Bingley, Jane and Mrs. Bennet would hover at one end of the table, while William, Elizabeth, and Daniel commandeered the other. Lydia and Georgiana tended to share in both sets while under the watchful eye of Mrs. Annesley.

The intimacy between them all was of a beneficial nature, but there was one relationship building that gave Elizabeth pause, when she dwelled on it for too long. Picking up her diary from where it lay on the small table in her bedroom, Elizabeth did not resist the urge to open it to the next empty page and begin writing.


My Diary,

I must make a confession that I cannot reveal to anyone else, not even my dearest Jane. I feel I am becoming a fool for indulging in fantasies about a man that I could never hope to call my own for many reasons. I will not write his name here out of fear that another person might ever see this. I do not want anyone to know.

If I allowed myself to love romantically, it would only be with a man like him. My esteem he has earned, but it is not only from admiration that my affection stems. Rather, it is all of him, even the flaws, which make him ideal in my eyes.

He sometimes talks too little, and his features can be difficult to interpret when he is in contemplation, but when he speaks, it is with a conviction and sensibility that delights me. I believe his heart leads him through life, although just yesterday, I overheard a neighbor refer to him as ridged and proud. They must be blind, or perhaps he adopts that mien out of necessity. For if they knew him as I do, they would not use those degrading words to describe him.

I love him profoundly, but rationally, I comprehend our union cannot be, and am convinced that this is worse than not knowing love at all. I pray he does not detect my partiality, and must rely on my mother’s tendency towards speculation for guidance in my behavior. She has said nothing nor hinted that she thinks I prefer him. If he became aware of it, I am afraid I would lose his friendship entirely, so as not to encourage my attraction.

My mother is not fond of the man because he does not flatter as well as Mr. Bingley…


A brief knock and creaking of her door handle interrupted Elizabeth’s solitude, and she acted with haste and was able to slide her journal under her bed before it opened. Mrs. Bennet intruded without waiting for permission to enter. Her purpose in entering the room was to seek out the last person she had not yet shared her rapture with about the charmed dining they had at Netherfield the evening before.

Elizabeth feigned attention as Mrs. Bennet prattled on, her mind still absorbed by the honest declarations she had just made about William in her diary. Every word she had written was without exaggeration, and yet the solace Elizabeth thought she would have received by telling her diary what she could not share with anyone, had not materialized.

Frustrated with herself and her perceived flight of fancy, Elizabeth mentally broke free from her own preoccupation to give heed to her mother.

"I believe Miss Darcy might have an eye for Daniel." Mrs. Bennet announced with a giddiness that would have caused most people to blush. "What a handsome couple they would make."

"That is not possible." Elizabeth returned quietly. She would not allow her mother to entertain this illusion.

"Pray, tell me why that is not possible? Do you believe Miss Darcy too good for us? Or are you of the mind that Mr. Darcy would forbid the match? I do not know why that man comes to call on us at all. He takes no pleasure in our company, sits there dully and adds nothing to conversations, and then spends his time looking down on us, as if we are beneath his notice."

"You are wrong about Mr. Darcy, and you are wrong about his sister. Miss Darcy is too timid and compliant. She lacks the forbearance that a woman connected to Daniel must possess."

"I dare disagree with you! He has come so far. You saw him dance at Netherfield." Crossing her arms over her chest, Mrs. Bennet assumed the pose of a woman impervious to logic. "I have every intention of my son finding a wife."

"Mother, did you not observe that Daniel and I spent the majority of the ball near the balcony and away from the others? The only reason he was able to dance was because the assembly was rather dull that evening and they did not prey on his nerves. I was the one that selected Mariah Lucas for Daniel to dance with because he has known her all his life, and still, I had to advise him before he asked for her hand."

"Daniel has matured greatly."

"It is not a matter of maturity."

"If you did not shelter him so, Daniel would adjust!"

Elizabeth stood motionless, shocked by her mother’s accusation toward her and the lack of understanding she displayed about her son. It was by safeguarding Daniel that he had been able to thrive, not in spite of it, as Mrs. Bennet had insinuated. Shaking her head, all Elizabeth could reply to this blatant misconception was a whispered, "No, Mother."

"You may embrace a solitary life for yourself, Elizabeth Bennet, but do not press that fate on my son. If only your father had not singled you out and gave you lofty ideas about being Daniel’s guardian."

"Father had no other choice." Elizabeth believed that this was the absolute truth.

When Daniel was very young, there was nothing conspicuous about him that could be singled out to give alarm to his parents. He was much like other young children, and yet, as he aged, he did not outgrow his predisposition to tantrums. Mr. Bennet used to blame it on his wife’s indulgences. Daniel never mastered how to play with other children, preferring instead solitary occupations. It was not until the time came for him to begin his education, that his parents came to realize that Daniel was indeed unique.

Their saving grace had been that Daniel responded to his sister Elizabeth above all others. If she would sit beside him as he learned to read, he would imitate her and do his best. Elizabeth learned that she must continuously bring Daniel’s attention back to the task at hand and carefully explain what he could not comprehend. In some of their lessons, Daniel excelled, and in others, he failed completely. Unconventional methods were sought out by their father and special tutors employed, so that Daniel could receive a gentleman’s education, but the constant that remained throughout all the changes was Elizabeth. Without her by Daniel’s side, their endeavors were in vain.

For Elizabeth to stand before her mother now and be accused of dominating her beloved brother was unbearable. Never before had anyone made this claim and it brought her to a crossroads. Elizabeth could either find a way to block out from her memory her mother’s condemnation, or she could get angry and unleash equally damning words back to her about her own selfishness when it came to raising her children. Her mother’s next words made the decision for Elizabeth.

"I was always available for Daniel. As his mother, I should have been there for him, but your father favored you, and I was cast aside."

"I suppose that is why for the three months after Father’s passing, you kept to your room. What elegance you added to our grief! Daniel heard you crying out whenever you had an audience, Mother, and it was I who had to reassure him over and over that you would be right again. All the while, you Jane kept prisoner to your own wants, waiting on you like a servant and falling into a despondency that has only now begun to lessen."

"Do not speak to me so. I am still your mother."

"Then do not refer to me as selfish. I do what is necessary so that you may dote on Jane’s beauty, spoil Lydia, and brag to your acquaintances about your son’s accomplishments. If you think that Daniel spends too much of his time with me, then why is it that none of you volunteer to assist me?"

Mrs. Bennett had no reply that could be justified because, once again, Elizabeth had spoken the absolute truth. Therefore, she lashed out in a different direction.

"Martyrdom does not suit you, Elizabeth."

"It does not suit you either, Mother."

"You do not know how I have suffered, agonized over him. Your burdens are nothing compared to that of a mother’s…"

The slamming of the front door stilled the offensive words that were being exchanged, and a moment of silence existed until Daniel’s familiar voice was heard speaking to Lydia on the first floor. This ended the argument, for neither was willing to upset Daniel should he accidentally hear them. Mrs. Bennet left the room, and minutes later Elizabeth followed, passing a bewildered Jane in the hallway without tarrying. In fact, Elizabeth had no intention of ceasing her march, until she was safely outside where the tears that were falling could be shed in private.

Daniel was still standing by the door, removing his gloves, when she reached the bottom of the stairs, and noting her expression, he would not allow her to brush past. He stopped Elizabeth, and placed both of his hands on her shoulders. Daniel’s own attractive face soon mimicked her pain.

"Elizabeth, are you crying? Am I responsible?" The innocence of his inquiry brought about fresh tears to her eyes. He had not heard the argument occurring up the stairs, nor did he have any indication of his mother’s anger, but it was common for Daniel to seek out accountability when others were hurting, even when it was not his to claim.

"No you are not, my dear." Elizabeth tried to force a smile, but it would not come. "I am just sad, that is all. It will pass."

Daniel did not understand, but did accept his sister’s explanation. Recalling a ritual they used to do to comfort each other when they were children, he leaned down and placed a kiss on Elizabeth’s forehead while reciting the words, "You are loved."

"Thank you, Daniel." Elizabeth’s arms encircled him and her cheek found a safe place to rest against Daniel’s broad shoulder. She then allowed herself to weep while being sheltered from harm by the closest friend Elizabeth had ever known.


The following day Elizabeth awoke feeling particularly groggy. She did not think on it much as she prepared to dress, but a nagging suspicion that something was amiss hit her hard while she was brushing out her hair. Taking the pins in hand that she used to dress it, Elizabeth left her room and went downstairs, pausing at a clock that alerted her to the lateness of the morning. With her long hair hanging down her back, she moved with haste to find her mother in the sitting room.

"Why did Daniel not wake me at the usual time this morning?" Elizabeth questioned before noticing that her mother was not alone. Georgiana and Lydia were also with her.

"I thought you could use the rest. I heard you stirring late last night." If there was remorse in Mrs. Bennet’s voice for what had occurred the day before, it was undetectable. Yet this was an act of kindness on her part.

"I have missed our morning outing. Where is Daniel?" The day was Thursday, and it was past time for them to call on their neighbors to the east, as they did every week at that time.

"Daniel is with Jane getting his horse ready for a ride with Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy."

Elizabeth was out the door while still placing pins in her hair. This was Daniel’s first ride with the gentlemen since the death of their father, his first ever alone. She needed to speak with Mr. Bingley to give him instructions before they left. It was not that Elizabeth showed preference in asking Bingley over William for assistance, but rather that Bingley had spent more time with them before the Darcys came to stay at Netherfield.

She espied Jane far up the lane, and it appeared as if two riders were with her. When Elizabeth turned to the stables to search for her brother, he was nowhere to be found, thus tempting her to get on horseback to reach Mr. Bingley before they departed.

Once Elizabeth was past the gated fence, William emerged from the barn, leading his horse out into the yard so he could mount and join the other two men. Her presence was not noticed by him until he was in the saddle.

"Mr. Darcy?" She called out as she approached him.


"I am not one to ask for accommodation often, but I must beg a favor of you." With furrowed brow, Elizabeth glanced once more down the lane. She was now able to make out the form of Daniel next to Bingley in the distance.

"What is it I may do for you?"

"My brother…" Elizabeth took hold of one of his reins while she struggled to find the exact words for what she needed to express. "You might have noticed that he does not have much of a funny bone."

"A funny bone?"

"He does not always comprehend humor…well rarely, actually. And Daniel might show a preference for wandering. On his horse and in his thoughts."

It was much more complicated asking for help than Elizabeth had expected, and her hesitation gave proof to William that she was not at ease in making her request.

"You may speak plainly, Miss Elizabeth."

Nodding at William’s suggestion, she did exactly that.

"My brother may require guidance while you are out. He is familiar with this area, but the compulsion to wander can override his good sense on occasion. He also does not understand humor as you or I would. For example, if someone were to say to him in jest ‘I doubt any man could cross that river on horseback’, there is an excellent chance he would attempt it. Daniel takes statements literally, and may have difficulty differentiating between witticism and sincerity."

"I see."

"He does not necessitate being told what to do, but direction, at times, could be essential. Does any of this make sense to you?"

"Yes, I have observed these traits in Mr. Bennet already."

Releasing the reins she was holding on to, Elizabeth took a step backwards, slightly dismayed by William’s confession that he had noticed traits in Daniel that they had been working hard to conquer.

"Would you be less troubled if you were to join us?"

"No," Elizabeth replied quickly. "No, I need to let him go with you and have faith that all will be as it should."

"I will not let Mr. Bennet stray too far."

"I believe you." Elizabeth did, and she realized that she was at a point where she had to trust William. With determination to lighten the mood and not burden William unnecessarily, she pursed her lips mischievously and made her plans for the next hour known. "I will go inside now, and fret over tea in the parlor.

"You do that, Miss Elizabeth." William replied, quite aware that she was charming him without effort. "And I will enjoy my ride with your brother."

"You do that, Mr. Darcy." With a final look of trepidation in the direction of Daniel, she was prepared to leave him when William voiced his own request.

"Give me your hand." William said nothing more until he was able to take her bare hand into his own. "This does not work through gloves."

"Thankfully I forgot mine. And my bonnet," Elizabeth added under her breath, confused by what he was about to do.

"My classmates and I did this at University whenever we made each other a promise or a vow." With his index finger, William traced two diagonal lines across the top of her hand. "There, you can trust me because I made the X."

With strands of hair falling across her face as they came loose from her pins, Elizabeth eyed him quizzically as she began to wonder if William had actually just teased her.

"That could be viewed as a ridiculous custom by some, Mr. Darcy." Elizabeth laughed as she slowly removed her hand from William’s while smiling widely up at him.

"Perhaps," William conceded as he indulged her humor with a variety of his own. "But others might also find that standing in a dirty barnyard in their slippers equally as comical."

"Is it possible to embarrass myself any more this morning?" With crimson cheeks and an air of defeat, Elizabeth looked down to inspect her once pristine slippers, still able to grin at her situation. "I am a fright."

"You are angelic."

Elizabeth did not openly acknowledge what she had just heard William say aloud by any means other than the increased beating of her heart. When she was brave enough to raise her head to look at him, he did not appear to regret what he had said.

And so it began - the imperfect, unconventional courtship between William Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.


To the next section of Daniel...


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