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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE IIThe Sequel
By VICTORIA PARK
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 Victoria Park
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Engagement and Wedding
Mr. and Mrs Bennet had announced in the newspapers the engagement of their daughter, Miss Elizabeth Bennet to Mr. Darcy. The bride's father felt great pride in next announcing that the double wedding of his daughter and Mr. Darcy and his eldest daughter, Miss Jane Bennet to Mr. Bingley will take place at the church at Meryton. Family, friends, acquaintances and the country all around received the announcement with great alacrity.
* * *
The double wedding (by special license) of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and Miss Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley
The wedding service will be conducted at the Parish Church of Meryton on the 10th day of January in this New Year.
* * *
Following the completion of the ceremonies, Mr. and Mrs Bingley returned to Netherfield Park to find the staff waiting to greet them. Everyone was eager to offer their congratulations to the young couple. No greater greeting was surely ever seen between servant and master? The villagers made the ceremonies of the double wedding an excuse for much festivities and merrymaking.
The first party of the double wedding, now Mr. and Mrs Darcy, took their coach to London. After an overnight delay, they continued their travels. From London, their road led directly to the East Coast of Kent to find the ancient town of Dover. The road proved to be of good metal and their journey swift and comfortable.
Chapter TwoMr. and Mrs Darcy Journey Home
Mr. and Mrs Darcy, the newly wed couple, had sojourned for a month at the beautiful Port of Dover. From Dover, they had spent much of their time exploring the places of interest even as far as the City of Canterbury. They were captivated with its grand cathedral, the ancient buildings and sightings of the Pilgrim routes of medieval times. This month had seemed to pass too quickly for them, for they became accustomed to the style of living that included pure self-indulgence and leisure. The sojourn had offered Mr. and Mrs Darcy the opportunity to explore also each other more intimately. The experience did not disappoint either party. One might even observe that they had moved closer together, even more consolidating their intimacy and harmony.
With their honeymoon spent, they made good preparations for departure. Now they would journey homeward but also, along the way, pay their respects to their friends and family before finally moving on to Pemberley.
Elizabeth was in high expectation of returning to Pemberley. The house that she believed to be, "the most pleasantly situated." Pemberley was now her home of which she was the absent mistress.
This, the last breakfast before leaving, was in progress even before Elizabeth arrived at the table with her customary polite but cheerful morning greeting. Over her husband's shoulder, as he sat at the table, Elizabeth leaned forward to start their day with a kiss on his cheek. Then she enquired if any post had arrived. Mr Darcy was already anticipating her, in return offering letters and smiling at his new wife saying in good humour,
"Only three for you today, Mrs Elizabeth Darcy."
Delighted both for the mail and the address of her new married status she exclaimed,
"Three, but from whom?"
Taking them eagerly, Elizabeth shuffled through the letters, "One from Charlotte.
This letter is from dear Kitty and this one? Oh! How grand this one appears. Do you recognise the seal, sir?
Mr. Darcy had already marked the letter but knew nothing of its contents. He was, of course, aware that this was their first married correspondence from his Aunt, the Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
"Why", He thought, "should my aunt write to Elizabeth and not to me in the customary fashion?"
Mr. Darcy addressed Elizabeth, "My dear Elizabeth, why not save your letters to read while we are on the road? You will, no doubt, be glad of the diversion."
Disappointed but in agreement with her husband's sensible submission, Elizabeth carefully placed her correspondence into her pouch. She looked forward so much to the news from Charlotte and from home. The third letter was less certain. Was this a dark foreboding or an elevated greeting from what was now a distinguished relative by marriage?
Preparations all made, the luggage loaded, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy mounted the coach to take their seats for the journey that should eventually lead them home. As they quitted the town, Elizabeth could not but look back and remember all the happy events that she and her husband had enjoyed over those precious days of the last month. Across the coach, Elizabeth looked at her most handsome husband to inform him, "I am so very happy Mr. Darcy."
Then Elizabeth asked, "Will it always be like this?"
Mr. Darcy beamed a smile as broad as his face and took Elizabeth's hand to reassure her,
"I am told it improves with the years."
Mr. and Mrs Darcy smiled broadly and at length to each other until Mr. Darcy reminded Elizabeth of the contents of her purse.
It was after a few miles, upon the prompting of her husband; Elizabeth retrieved her correspondence from her pouch. The initial problem for Elizabeth was which piece of news to read first. As the coach continued onwards, her thoughts meandered back to her former life with her mother and father and four sisters. How she would miss all her family. All the memories she recalled, including the fiasco with Mr. Collins' proposal and then Charlotte marrying him. Latterly, her visits to Rosings and the overpowering Lady Catherine de Bourgh did not make her decision easier. At length, Elizabeth took the letter that was from her sister Kitty. It read,
* * *
Longbourne March 1st. May
My mother and father and Mary too, desire that I should send you their very best wishes. All the family knew that I was about to write to you again. Our home seems so empty now without our three lately married sisters.
Maria is visiting often because she too must miss the company of her elder sister.
We have not heard from Lydia yet but I understand that Wickham has sent a note to father to say that they shall be in the country while they travel south. He gives no reason for their move but seeks an invitation from our father for a visit. I know no more than that. I am sure we will learn more in due course.
I have had more news from Charlotte but she says that she will write to you. She will tell you her news but I must add that by the time you reach her Charlotte will be in confinement. She asked me to beg you not to prevent that from visiting her. We are planning a family outing to visit Charlotte immediately after the birth or as soon as she is ready to receive us.
Dear Jane and Mr. Bingley have travelled north to choose a house for their future life together. I understand that they may not be too far distant from Pemberley. It is not yet decided.
I will write again as soon as I am able to learn of the missing pieces of information.
Your most affectionate sister, Kitty.
* * *
Elizabeth contemplated the contents of the letter. It was quite short and precise, as she would expect from Kitty. The news that Jane may not be too far from Pemberley pleased her immensely. Elizabeth could imagine many visits to Jane and Mr. Bingley and their return visits to Pemberley for many happy distractions. The news from Wickham was no less interesting but intriguing. Why should he and Lydia be travelling southwards? Was all well with the regiment? Were Lydia and Wickham still in favourable circumstances? With so many questions running through her mind, Elizabeth wanted so much to know more. The answers must wait as she and they endure the passage of time. Elizabeth carefully refolded the letter to replace it in her purse. As the coach rumbled and tumbled on its way, her thoughts dwelt on Charlotte, her cousin and best friend. As Charlotte now is to become a mother, so she, Elizabeth, will become an aunt. The thoughts provoked the feelings of a sense of really being adult and important now in some way. The thoughts of her importance naturally led her to the tasks and adventures awaiting her as Mistress of Pemberley. Pemberley, her home and her responsibility is waiting for her so patiently in Derbyshire. Until Elizabeth returned to Pemberley, she felt that she could never be a complete person.
These thoughts were galloping through her mind as she automatically withdrew the next letter from her purse. Slowly breaking the seal and unfolding the letter from her Cousin Charlotte as though, deep in her thoughts as she was, Elizabeth was far distant in spirit.
Mr. Darcy invaded her contemplations to explain, "We are making good progress. Already we have passed the little village of Bonham Marshes. The next place of interest is Dagenbury and we could stop to refresh ourselves and rest the horses awhile if it would please you? There is a wholesome inn called The Two Black Cats, which boasts an excellent fare and good stables for the animals."
This interjection drew Elizabeth's thoughts back to the present moment and place.
"Why, yes that would be an excellent diversion indeed and good for the horses too. Thank you, Mr Darcy, and thank you from the horses."
They smiled again at each other until her eyes were distracted and rested on the unread letter.
"I will sit here quietly while you read your letter." Darcy assured Elizabeth with a broad smile, which she returned.
Elizabeth unfolded, the letter to reveal the hand of Charlotte. She read on ...
* * *
The Parsonage, Hunsford Friday
My Dearest Cousin Elizabeth,
I do hope that you are well and that you have enjoyed your stay at Dover with Mr. Darcy.
I have heard some news regarding Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is still unashamedly opposed to your marriage with her nephew. Her objections seem to be your family connections, which are bad enough in her opinion. Also, that you have little otherwise to recommend yourself as the wife of her closest nephew. I tell you this so that you can be on your guard when you arrive here.
As you must know, I am in confinement waiting the birth of our baby. I am so apprehensive and to make things the worse everyone is trying to reassure me that there is nothing to give concern. If there is indeed nothing to give concern, why do they say so and so often? I shall be so pleased to see you and I shall be pleased when this uncomfortable event is over. Make all haste, dear Elizabeth; I so need your company even more at this time.
Mr Collins keeps to himself but busy and apart from me, mainly because he has no comprehension of this situation. So that I am really alone.
I have more news of Lady Catherine but I cannot set it on paper. It will do until you come.
Writing is so very uncomfortable. I cannot find a position that does not give me some pain so.
I apologise for being so short. Come with haste and I will tell you all.
God bless you.
Your affectionate friend and cousin, Charlotte
* * *
This was unlike Charlotte, to be so self-indulgent. Charlotte's anticipation of the birth of her baby must be the reason.
"I agree, Charlotte." Elizabeth thought to herself. "Let us pray that all will go well for you and your baby."
Folding the letter, she carefully returned it to her purse.
The thoughts of Pemberley were ever with Elizabeth. "Later today, just hours away, I shall be mistress of the house and all that surrounds it. There will be so much to do and learn. So many tasks for me to attend. So many new people to meet."
These thoughts became more detailed, made her feel even more excited for the new life waiting for her in Derbyshire.
Chapter ThreeMrs Darcy meets Mr. and Mrs Dubery
Elizabeth was pleasantly surprised as the coach reached the very pretty town of Dagenbury. As they passed the houses and places of trade and business, all seemed much like any other little market town with all the accompanying noises and voices crying their wares. The hustle and bustle of market day was now in full swing. The excitement it caused took Elizabeth's attentions away from the correspondence and Pemberley even.
The party arrived at The Inn of the Two Black Cats. Ostlers were there at once. They attended to the horses even before they had descended the coach. Elizabeth was thinking this to be strange because Mr. Darcy had not yet settled with the office.
From the coach, Elizabeth was at Mr. Darcy's side as they approached the entrance to The Inn of the Two Black Cats.
Mr. Darcy took Elizabeth's hand as they walked forwards to the doors to say; "This will prove to be a pleasant breaking stage for us, Elizabeth. Our hosts Mr. and Mrs Dubery are very attentive and will be even more so where you are concerned. They have been looking forward to meeting you for some time."
These words surprised Elizabeth. She felt like something small bobbing in some vast ocean. She had lost control of her normal sense of decorum. She did not know nor had she ever heard of a Mr. and Mrs Dubery.
There were questions running through her head. "Why should this be so? Why attentive to me so specially?" Before Elizabeth could dwell longer on the puzzle, she was inside the inn and before Mr. and Mrs Dubery, their hosts for the short break of their journey.
Mr. Darcy with his broad smile spoke first to announce proudly, "Mr. and Mrs Dubery, my wife, Mrs Elizabeth Darcy."
This, he followed with a polite bow.
Mr. Dubery was a tallish man of full figure. Smiling pleasantly almost constantly, he presented a picture of an altogether very agreeable gentleman. Mrs Dubery looked very pleasant and appeared to be an ideal match to her husband. Less than him physically but having the appearance that suggested a more practical turn of mind.
Mr. Dubery took a generously low bow, "I am indeed enchanted, Mrs Darcy. On behalf of my family, I would like to greet you to our establishment and offer you all assistance to satisfy you and Mr. Darcy during your stay here now and at any time. We are at your service Mrs Darcy."
Mrs Dubery curtsied and politely suggested to Elizabeth, "Dear Mrs Darcy, if you would like to refresh yourself and inspect the services I should be pleased to be of assistance and show you the way."
Grateful for Mrs Dubery's few words Elizabeth followed her through rooms and passages to the rear of the establishment to the private apartments. There she could refresh herself from the dust and trials of her journey. All the while though, Elizabeth's thoughts were racing to make sense of this situation.
"Why should their hosts be so warm and so generous? Mr. Darcy must have arranged this staging off to break for some refreshments." She was thinking, "But this did not explain the extraordinary behaviour and why me personally? We have never been acquainted."
Elizabeth once more recomposed, accepted Mrs Dubery's invitation to a seat in the private dining room. The table displayed much fine fare. All appeared very inviting, more than she had seldom ever enjoyed. As she was making herself comfortable at the table, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Dubery entered the room while talking and exchanging words in a most informal manner. Mrs Dubery arranged the gentlemen's seating and in a moment, they were ready to eat. Mr. Dubery made a motion to Mrs Dubery and to Mr. Darcy. They then bowed their heads to give thanks to the Almighty for the food on their table adding that Mr. and Mrs Darcy should enjoy a pleasant and uneventful journey as they travel to Rosings.
Elizabeth joined them in the "Amen."
"Now," Mr. Dubery pronounced the statement with some emphasis to gain everybody's attention, "We can be quite informal here, so I will introduce you, Elizabeth, to our names. Mrs Dubery, my dear wife, is Joyce or Joy to her friends and family and I am simply Bob to you."
Elizabeth looked enquiringly to Mr. Darcy. Shocked, surprised, completely bewildered at this strange announcement, especially the friends and family claim. "But what is all this, Mr. Dubery, who are you?"
Mr. Dubery replied straight away but not exactly as Elizabeth expected. "Bob please, Elizabeth, we have so much to talk about so let us be friendly and informal."
Mr. Darcy interjected to rescue them, "Dear Elizabeth, please allow me to explain. Bob and Joy are actually part of your extended family now. Bob and Joy are close cousins to Lady Catherine de Bourgh and this means that we are all related. Wickham, Bob and I were all at college together. These two vagabonds inherited Dagenbury including the inn, amongst other things, and took to the trade. They discovered that they enjoyed the inn so much that it is now their life. Bob is a gentleman innkeeper. This is what they want to do. Naturally, my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, was not overjoyed at hearing the news of her cousins voluntarily involving themselves in trade. She is therefore very careful to guard the secret from the world. It would be most indecorous of you to give any hint of your knowledge of her secret. Although I know you will not utter a word on the subject to anyone else."
Elizabeth tried not to imagine the detrimental effect of this knowledge becoming widely known. The possible damage to Lady Catherine's status threatened to undermine her position of authority.
She could not help but recall the question by Lady Catherine, "But what of your connections?"
Elizabeth looked down at her plate for a moment or two, and then straightened herself up to say, "Bob and Joy, I came here today expecting service and civility. Instead I find friendship and kinship and an excellent lunch altogether. So, please forgive me if I appeared somewhat bewildered."
"Oh! Bravo! Cried the hosts who hardly expected quite such an adjustment to what might have been impossible to some, like Lady Catherine de Bourgh for example.
They were all looking at her, smiling, delighted at her reaction to the news and all three waiting as though expecting some other response from her.
Elizabeth hesitated. She did not know what to do or what was required of her. Elizabeth was well aware of the importance and the implications of this new and unexpected knowledge.
"So this," Elizabeth thought to herself, "Is why Mr. Darcy came this way and to this inn in particular. I must not mention it to anyone else because if I do, I shall lose the power it has if this relationship became common knowledge. The power is in the secrecy."
Excerpted from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE II by VICTORIA PARK Copyright © 2012 by Victoria Park. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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