It’s Chapter 25! In case you are only just joining us, or have missed a part, never fear. Chapter 1 is here. Just follow the “Next Chapter” links at the bottom to read it as a serial. If you only missed last week’s chapter, then just click for Chapter 24.
I have gone round and round on this chapter, trying to decide if I wanted it this way or another idea I had. I almost scrapped most of it and re-wrote it on Monday, but was afraid it wouldn’t be quite ready for posting or that I’d spend all day writing something that didn’t pan out. I also liked the interaction between Mr Darcy and Ellie at the end of the chapter and didn’t want to lose it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
Chapter 25: Mothers!
“Oh! My poor nerves,” muttered Mrs Bennet. Ellie turned from her place in the window seat as Elizabeth’s mother looked about the room and then hurried out. With a small laugh, Ellie leaned her head back against the wall and watched the people stroll along the pavement along Gracechurch Street.
The day after Lydia’s recovery and the plan of Elizabeth’s wedding was finalised, Mr Darcy sent a carriage to Hertfordshire to retrieve the remaining Bennets for the wedding while Mrs Gardiner, Elizabeth, and Ellie purchased fabric and arranged for Elizabeth’s wedding clothes.
After only one day of shopping in eighteen-thirteen, Ellie would never take Primark and Peacocks for granted again. The process was so very different than what Ellie was accustomed to. She preferred seeing something she liked and simply buying it to sifting through patterns and the endless tiny details Elizabeth endured for one gown.
Though the Bennets arrived that evening, Mr Darcy delayed two more days until the arrival of his sister. What none of them had realised before leaving Pemberley was that Mr Darcy had left instructions and a note for Mr Bingley as well as his sister upon their arrival.
While Miss Darcy and her companion were to rest for a day and follow Mr Darcy back to London, Mr Bingley and his sisters weren’t to remain the week like they’d originally planned. Instead, they were to continue their journey to Yorkshire when Miss Darcy departed.
Since they moved to Gracechurch Street, Mr Darcy had called daily, but he had not stopped by today because he expected Miss Darcy.
Mrs Bennet bustled in again and began to search through embroidery baskets and the cushions on the chairs and the sofa. “I must have left it here somewhere,” she mumbled. “Why that girl had to wed Mr Darcy now than have a perfectly decent betrothal is beyond me. Mr Darcy is so proud and disagreeable. He will never allow me to plan a party or a tea to show him off to the neighbours. He will take Lizzy and disappear north.” She sighed. “At least he is rich. What pin money and jewels she will have.” She gave a little tinkling giggle and Ellie pressed her lips together. Mrs Bennet was a piece of work!
“May I help you find something, Mrs Bennet?”
Elizabeth’s mother jumped and pressed her hand to her chest. “Miss Forrester! I did not see you there! You should not scare me in such a fashion. I might die of fright!”
She fought the urge to roll her eyes. “Forgive me.”
“Lizzy will be the death of me. She plans this travesty of a marriage without so much as a fortnight to plan—I have a few days! My sister does not even know the best warehouses. She could not have bought Lizzy appropriate wedding clothes. My husband should never have entrusted that to her.”
“Lizzy’s wedding clothes will be beautiful,” said Ellie. “Mrs Gardiner selected some lovely fabrics and paid quite a sum from what I understand.”
“Yes, well, my sister is always well turned out. I suppose she did well enough, though I am certain the gowns are very plain. Lizzy has never used enough lace, and I know her aunt indulged her whims.” She glanced around. “Now, where was I?”
“You were searching for something.”
“Was I?” Mrs Bennet shook her head. “I suppose I shall remember later. I still do not understand why Lizzy is having the wedding breakfast here when it should be at Mr Darcy’s. His home is sure to be much grander. Can you imagine what his friends will say when they learn his wedding breakfast was in Cheapside? Oh, where is that girl? She needs to change her mind on this ridiculousness.”
“How is Miss Lydia today?”
Ellie knew how Lydia was doing since she’d spoken with her earlier, but Elizabeth wouldn’t want to have this conversation with her mother for the fiftieth time in the last few days. She was already being driven mad with demands and questions from Mrs Bennet. The wedding tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough for any of them!
“Lydia? I suppose she is well enough. I have yet to speak with her today. She is still confined to her bedchamber as punishment for that terrible joke she played. Making us believe she had eloped with that man was quite uncharitable! She is a lively girl—so agreeable—but I nearly fainted when I heard the news from Colonel Forster.”
A part of her should feel guilty. The Tansy tea, they insisted Lydia drink, had upset her stomach, and fortunately, Mr Bennet’s restricting her to her bedroom had prevented the girl from pestering everyone in the house because she felt unwell. Ellie and Elizabeth had checked in on her first thing, but had left her to whinge on her own after a moment or two. Lydia didn’t need Mrs Bennet hovering over her, but neither did Elizabeth.
“Perhaps you should look in on her,” offered Ellie. “She was still sleeping when I peeked in her room earlier.”
“Still asleep? She does like to keep town hours—even at Longbourn, but ‘tis quite late.”
Completely distracted, Mrs Bennet hurried from the room as Elizabeth peeked from another door. “Is it quite safe?”
Ellie laughed. “Yes, she’s off to pester Lydia.”
“Lydia does feel poorly. She will not be best pleased to find Mama waking her. You must have forgotten to mention that Jane is sitting with her.”
“I didn’t forget.” Elizabeth raised her eyebrow and Ellie shrugged. “I know I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resist. I was enjoying the quiet and watching the people walk by when your mother came in. She was going to find you and complain for the millionth time about the wedding.”
“Oh, Mama,” she exhaled. “I appreciate your effort to save me from my mother’s complaints. I know there is precious little quiet to be had with my mother and sisters here. I apologise. I know you are unaccustomed to such exuberance. At least, my aunt took Kitty and Mary to the shops today.”
“You have no reason to be sorry. Please don’t think I am rude, but I didn’t expect to still be here. I thought I’d have returned and would be with Tom by now.” She’d been thinking of Tom before Mrs Bennet entered. The way he treated her—so much better than Greg ever did—and the way he could turn her into a puddle of mush with a look, and his kisses, well, her toes curled in her slippers just thinking about those.
“I have no wish for you to tell me what you are thinking.”
Ellie’s cheeks warmed. “I miss Tom.”
“I could tell that much,” giggled Elizabeth. “I just have no wish to know what you miss about him.”
At a knock on the front door, Elizabeth ran to the window and smiled. “Mr Darcy has come.”
“Don’t you mean Fitzwilliam?” teased Ellie with a grin.
“Hush!” Elizabeth’s face turned bright red. “People do not use given names as frequently as we do family names. After all these years, my mother still calls my father Mr Bennet. I have never heard her refer to him by his given name. You must remember that the future is very different.”
Before Ellie could respond, the door opened and Mr Darcy was announced. He entered and stepped to the side as a young woman shifted along beside him. She resembled him a little. They both had dark hair and blue eyes, and she appeared tall for her age.
“Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Miss Eliza Forrester, may I present my sister, Miss Georgiana Darcy.” The girl, who couldn’t be any older than Lydia, stood with her hands clasped before her and her eyes wide. She looked petrified. And Mrs Bennet complained of her nerves!
“I am very pleased to make your acquaintance,” said Elizabeth as she curtseyed. Ellie smiled and tried her best to curtsey without falling on her face. She wobbled a little, but not nearly as bad as she had before. At least, she was improving.
“I am honoured to finally make your acquaintance as well.” Miss Darcy spoke slowly and carefully. “I have heard much of you from my brother and have been eager to meet you.”
“Your brother is too kind.” Elizabeth blushed as she always did when she spoke of Mr Darcy. Eventually, she’d have to get over that. Perhaps her wedding night would… No, she’d probably blush more furiously than she did now. “I have heard that you play and sing very well.”
“Not very well,” said Miss Darcy, looking at her hands. The girl was painfully shy. Elizabeth should be able to help her with that. How did Miss Darcy turn out? She’d never considered it before. She’d have to check Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s journals when she returned, even though Tom could probably tell her.
“Forgive me for not offering sooner, but would you care to sit?” Elizabeth’s giggle seemed to relax Miss Darcy a little since she smiled while they all sat. “I hope you had an easy journey?”
“As easy as it could be. I was just so surprised when I received my brother’s note upon our arrival at Pemberley. Mr Bingley was obliged to go to Yorkshire or he and his sisters would have returned to London with me. I believe he intends to conclude his business as swiftly as possible and make his return.”
“He sent a letter with Georgiana expressing his wish to return to Netherfield,” added Mr Darcy. “I requested his permission to open the house in the event we returned to Meryton.” He shifted in his seat and appeared a little ill at ease. Had he planned to continue his courtship of Elizabeth if she hadn’t accepted him in London?
Before another word could be said, the door opened and Mrs Bennet stopped in the doorway, obviously shocked that she didn’t know there were visitors. “I beg your pardon for not being present when you arrived, Mr Darcy,” she suddenly gushed. “Lydia required my presence.”
Mr Darcy stood and bowed while his sister curtseyed. “I understand your need to see to your daughter. My sister was eager to make Miss Elizabeth’s acquaintance and found she could not wait until the wedding tomorrow.”
Mrs Bennet’s eyes latched onto Miss Darcy. “Of course, you wished to meet your new sister.” Ellie winced at the shrill tone of the woman’s voice—it was amazing that dogs weren’t the only ones who could hear it. She almost expected them to be howling from the street.
“I have always wished for a sister. I look forward to knowing Miss Elizabeth better.”
“Well, you shall have five, though you might prefer some of us over others,” joked Elizabeth.
“Oh, Lizzy!” her mother scolded. “You always did think yourself so important. I blame your father for indulging you so.” Mr Darcy stared at his feet with his hands clenched, Georgiana’s eyes widened, and Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
“And you haven’t indulged Miss Lydia?” interjected Ellie. In the past few days, she’d hated the way Mrs Bennet always found some way to put her friend down. She knew she shouldn’t say a word, but people who are angry are rarely wise. “I only met you three days ago, but you constantly tell Lizzy how she isn’t as pretty as Jane or how she isn’t as lively as Lydia. Jane is beautiful, but so is Lizzy. She’s also witty and intelligent. She would never dream of playing the joke Lydia did.” She was itching to rant at Mrs Bennet because Lydia had actually eloped, but they’d kept the information from the woman. If they hadn’t, she would’ve told everyone of what really happened as well as their cover story. She’d ruin everything.
“Ellie,” whispered Elizabeth.
“Sod it! I know I shouldn’t say anything, Lizzy, but I’m sick to death of it. I don’t know how you’ve lived with it for so long.”
A sputter came from Mrs Bennet, and Ellie turned to find her red-faced. “I have never been so insulted!”
“It is about time someone insulted you then,” continued Ellie. “If I was Lizzy, I’d marry Mr Darcy, move to Derbyshire, and having nothing at all to do with you. Lord knows she’d be happier for it.”
“Ellie!” Elizabeth’s voice was more insistent this time.
Ellie huffed and looked at her. “What?” Then, she really looked at her. Elizabeth’s hand was on her arm, and she was begging Ellie to stop with her eyes. When Ellie glanced around, Georgiana stared at the floor, Mr Darcy watched Elizabeth, and Mrs Bennet breathed heavily but hadn’t moved. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything either.”
A sniffle came from Mrs Bennet. “Perhaps I should return home if you do not want me here.”
“Lizzy has never said that, I never said that, and you know it.” She should probably keep her mouth shut, but Mrs Bennet was now going to twist everything. How many times had she watched her do something similar over the last couple of days?
“Ellie is correct, Mama. I do want you at my wedding.”
“But you intend to leave me behind because I was such a terrible mother,” griped Mrs Bennet. “Do not lie. Your friend would not have said as much if you believed otherwise.”
“I have never said you were a terrible mother. I have never enjoyed being compared to Jane or Lydia and found wanting, but I did not complain of it to Miss Forrester.”
“She is correct, Mrs Bennet. I have witnessed how you’ve treated your daughter since your arrival and I didn’t like it. I believe Lizzy deserves better. She has so many amazing qualities that you don’t recognise. You should look and see what the rest of us do—what Mr Darcy does. When you say Lizzy isn’t as handsome as Jane, you insult his sense of beauty because he must find her beautiful to want to marry her.”
Mrs Bennet blinked and turned to Mr Darcy. “I never considered it in such a manner. You think Lizzy pretty?”
His face warmed and a small smile graced his lips as he looked at Elizabeth. “She is the most handsome woman of my acquaintance.”
Elizabeth’s mother gawked back and forth at Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. “Well, I suppose there is no accounting for it.” An awkward silence fell over the group until Mrs Bennet suddenly scanned the room. “I have forgotten why I came in here again. If you would please excuse me, I have so much to prepare for tomorrow. If only you could have a betrothal like all and sundry. We could have teas and dinners and I could introduce Mr Darcy to our neighbours.”
“Mr Darcy has met our neighbours,” said Elizabeth.
“True, but not as your intended.”
“We will wed on the morrow, Mama.”
A displeased sniff came from Mrs Bennet. “Yes, I suppose you are impatient.” Her head shot up. “Or have you breached propriety. Are you with child, Lizzy?”
“Mama! No!” cried Elizabeth while Georgiana covered her mouth. She almost appeared as though she were crying, but when she snorted, she gave up and sat in her chair, holding her stomach.
“Forgive me, Miss Elizabeth. I had not meant to laugh.”
“My sisters call me Lizzy. I hope you will as well.”
Georgiana broke into a huge grin and nodded while Mrs Bennet exhaled. “Well, if you are with child, be prepared for talk when it is born.”
“Mama, Mr Darcy has always been a perfect gentleman.”
“Oh, my poor nerves. Why must you be so stubborn? Where did I leave my salts?” Mrs Bennet patted her gown and peered around her before she left the room. A steady creaking let them know she was heading back up the stairs.
Ellie sank into her chair. “I’m so sorry, Lizzy. I find her funny at times, but I hate the way she speaks to you.”
“I know you made an attempt to help, but she has behaved thus my entire life. No one has ever thought to correct her in the past, so I am unsure if your chastisement will do anything. I do appreciate your effort.”
“If you do not benefit,” interjected Miss Darcy in a small voice, “your sisters might.”
“I apologise that you witnessed such a display.” Elizabeth motioned to the chair. “If you like, I can order some tea and we can talk more. I would like to get to know you better as well.”
“I would like that.”
Elizabeth rang for a servant while Mr Darcy sat once again. When Elizabeth and Miss Darcy began speaking more of music, Ellie startled at Mr Darcy’s low voice.
“I do not care for Mrs Bennet’s treatment of Elizabeth either, but I have no authority to reprimand Mrs Bennet’s behaviour until Elizabeth and I are wed. I understand your frustration with her and I thank you for being a friend to Elizabeth.”
“I am certain what I did was not proper by today’s standards,” whispered Ellie.
“No,” he chuckled. “But maybe it should be. If more people had taken Mrs Bennet to task, we might not have had to search out her youngest daughter in Saffron Hill.”
“I can only agree with you there.”
Elizabeth explained how you have no control over when you return, but I hope you will be present tomorrow. It would mean a great deal to the both of us. You helped bring us together. I can never repay you for that.”
Ellie shook her head and laughed. “You wouldn’t have needed me to bring you together if I hadn’t messed up the timeline to begin with. I have enjoyed meeting both of you. I hope everything works out as it should, especially with Lydia.”
“Little does she know that she owes her life to you as well.”
“Lizzy, too. Lizzy was quite determined.”
Mr Darcy gazed at Elizabeth with such love it made her miss Tom. “I am certain she was.” He cleared his throat and lifted his eyebrows. “So, tell me of this descendant of mine. I am curious how we compare.”
With a gasp, Ellie squirmed a bit. “You can’t ask me to compare the two of you. I could not do it. You resemble one another, and you have similarities, but to me, you aren’t the same at all.”
“Then tell me how we differ?”
Elizabeth lifted her eyebrow at Ellie while she continued to speak with Miss Darcy. Ellie sighed. Nope, there was no getting out of it! She was stuck.
We have a wedding next week! So far, Ellie is still in 1813. Will she remain through the wedding or could she suddenly vanish in front of everyone?
Thanks for reading everyone!