A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Twelve

The blurb for this story can be found here, along with all previous Chapters.

Chapter Twelve

Yet again, Darcy did not sleep well. As a consequence, he rose early and was soon dressed and on his way down the stairs, determined to pay his call without delay, that he might put the matter aside. His only intent was to establish which other Bennet daughter remained at home, and the answer would determine what he may do next with regard to his friend. Until then…

‘Fitz! Where are you going?’

Darcy looked up as he reached the hall to see his sister emerging from the breakfast room, a napkin clasped in her hand.

‘I have a brief call to make, Georgie.’

‘But you have yet to break your fast!’

‘I shall hardly starve, my dear.’ Darcy walked over and dropped a kiss upon the top of her head and steered her back into the room. ‘I shall return directly, and we will take a walk about the grounds, as I promised you.’

Making good his escape from the house, Darcy decided against using his mount. It was early enough without ensuring his arrival was expedited. He turned his steps in the same direction as the previous evening, trying, with little success, not to dwell upon his first sight of Elizabeth in over eighteen months. Their last two encounters in Kent had been so fraught with tension, he had been thankful for the dim light of the lamp last night, casting her countenance almost into shadow and doubtless his own likewise.

This morning, there would be no hiding, and no element of surprise to excuse them every day civilities. Would she receive him in a more welcoming manner? Then, Darcy swiped at the long grasses bordering the lane with his cane. What did it matter? He had but one purpose with the family, and it did not concern Miss Elizabeth Bennet!

Reaching the entrance to The Grange, Darcy paused as he saw someone coming down the drive – it was the lady herself, a bonnet swinging loosely from her hand, her face raised to the weak sun’s rays. Suddenly, Elizabeth saw him and stopped. He had no choice but to walk on and join her, and the low curtsey she afforded him at least gave him a moment to gather his thoughts.

‘Mr Darcy.’

Meeting his gaze, she raised her chin slightly, such a familiar gesture and, against his volition, his chest tightened.

Swallowing quickly, he bowed. ‘Miss Bennet. No bucket today?’

Her eyes flashed. ‘Not yet.’

‘I have come to call upon your father. Is he at home?’

‘He is in his library.’

‘And – will you take me to him?’

‘If you insist.’ She made as though to turn back.

‘Miss Bennet.’

Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder. ‘Yes?’

‘I do not insist. It was a request, not an order.’

Elizabeth turned back to face him, looking a little shame-faced. ‘Forgive me, sir. You have caught me in an ill humour.’

‘I am sorry to hear it.’ Darcy felt a momentary relief he was not the only person who could affect her so, but then realised there was every chance the sight of him was the cause.

Elizabeth stared at him for a moment, then gave a small shake of her head. ‘Pay me no mind, Mr Darcy. I do not wish to return to the house yet, but propose to shake off my frustrations with a long ramble.’ She curtseyed. ‘Please excuse me. Alice will be happy to show you to my father.’

Darcy turned to watch as she passed through the gate into the lane, made her way up an incline into the trees and quickly moved out of sight.

He did not know what to make of their conversation, if it could be deemed such, but one thing was clear: Elizabeth was still not inclined to look upon him with favour. Time may have passed since the unpleasantness of Kent, but little else had altered.

With a sigh, he turned back and walked to the door. For both their sakes, he was thankful he would not be making a habit of calling at The Grange.


Darcy was shown into the drawing room without delay, where Mr Bennet soon joined him, but there was no sign of anyone else.

‘Forgive the intrusion, sir,’ Darcy bowed as the gentleman entered, a newspaper clutched in his hand.

‘Not at all, Mr Darcy. Do be seated.’ He waved a hand towards a chair before taking one himself, dropping the newspaper onto a nearby table. ‘To what do I owe this honour?’

Shifting awkwardly in his seat, Darcy met the elder gentleman’s gaze warily. ‘I – er – that is, I felt I owed you the courtesy of a more formal call. What took place last evening was inexcusable, and…’

Mr Bennet frowned. ‘Lizzy’s mistaking you for a predator, you mean? I quite agree.’

‘No – no, not at all!’ Darcy knew they were alone, but he could not help glancing about the room, unwilling for Elizabeth to overhear a perceived criticism from him. ‘What I meant, sir, is my trespassing upon your property so late in the evening. I believe I received my due reward.’

With a harrumph, though Darcy could not tell if it were from amusement or otherwise, Mr Bennet got to his feet and tugged the bell near the fireplace. Then, he turned to study his visitor, his gaze narrowed, and Darcy forced himself to remain still under his scrutiny.

‘Pemberley is your estate, Mr Darcy, and you have every right to… inspect whichever of your properties you desire at whatever time is convenient. Of course, a little notice is usually the order of the day, but if I am not mistaken, your presence here yesterday evening was less to do with this house and more to do with its inhabitants.’

The man was all too astute, damn him, but at least he had no idea which particular possible inhabitant had drawn him out so late in the day! Darcy shifted his position in his seat as Mr Bennet retook his own and then cleared his throat which felt strangely tight.

‘I will not deny it. I had learned recently of a new tenant here by name of Bennet; I apologise for being unable to quash my curiosity until a more civilised time of day.’

Mr Bennet waved a hand in the air. ‘Let us speak no more of it, Mr Darcy. I assure you I have chastised my daughter for her part in it. Though she generally means well, Lizzy is altogether too impetuous for her own – and others’ – good at times.’

Darcy was torn between gratitude for the gentleman’s forbearance and dread of what precisely he may have said to Elizabeth. It was no wonder the lady had been out of sorts at the sight of him this morning.

The door opened then, and Alice stood aside to allow a young maid to enter bearing a tray of tea, which was soon placed on a low table between the two gentlemen. Darcy’s stomach let out a protesting rumble as the smell of freshly baked scones reached him, and he eyed the laden platter keenly.

‘Come, sir, do not stand on ceremony. Alice will report to the cook if you do not show her offering adequate appreciation.’ Mr Bennet handed Darcy a dish of tea before pressing the plate of scones on him, and there was silence for a while as both men munched contentedly.

Conscious, however, that the main purpose of his call was to ascertain the whereabouts of Jane Bennet, Darcy settled back in his chair and surveyed the room as discreetly as he could over the rim of his cup, seeking some sign of who the other occupant of the house might be.

There was a workbasket on the floor beside a comfortable looking chair near the fire, over-spilling with colourful embroidery silks, but that could belong to any of the girls. There was a small stack of books on a table beside the chair opposite him, but he could not read the spines to determine their subject. Glancing to his right, he could see some prettily arranged flowers – not the hothouse variety, more of the nature to be found in a country garden such as The Grange possessed – but again, they could have been placed there by any hand, even a servant’s.

Darcy turned back to face his host; to his alarm, the gentleman was now watching him intently.

‘I trust you find all in order, Mr Darcy? We have made very few alterations.’

Darcy threw him an apologetic look. ‘Forgive me. I must be honest with you. I mentioned my curiosity over whether the Bennets in residence here were one and the same family I made the acquaintance of in Hertfordshire in the year eleven.’

‘Indeed, you did. That has surely been satisfied.’

‘Yes – yes, of course. But,’ Darcy hesitated. He felt incredibly ill at ease.

‘Come now. You know what befell us, what brought us to your fine county. I am not a man to air his business with all and sundry, but as you can claim a prior acquaintance with all of us, and we are now beholden to you as our landlord, I have no objection to answering your questions, should I feel they are of relevance.’

It was such an opening, such an invitation, and Darcy, who had not the highest opinion in the world of Mr Bennet from his past observations of him, felt grateful for the attempt to put him at ease.

‘I have one question, sir; the response will determine whether it leads to more.’ Darcy met the gentleman’s eye firmly, ‘My steward advised me of a widower, a Mr Bennet, taking over the lease of The Grange before I left Town. He referred to you as having two daughters. Whilst I understand the loss of your youngest, and I have met with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, I held some further curiosity – and please forgive me for it – about the second daughter who remained at home. I assume your other two daughters are now happily settled and wish to offer my congratulations.’

Mr Bennet grunted and took a long draught from his cup before leaning forward to place it on the tray.

‘Congratulations, you say? There has been little opportunity for celebration this past year, sadly.’ Then, he sighed. ‘I do not resent the question and consider it perfectly justified, though I will own to some surprise at the depth of your interest in our family?’

Mr Bennet raised a questioning brow, but unable to answer this, Darcy said nothing, and the gentleman continued. ‘My eldest daughter remains at home with Lizzy. You recall Jane, do you not? I believe your friend had the misfortune to take her in as a guest when she fell ill on a visit to Netherfield.’

Darcy inclined his head. ‘I trust Miss Bennet, along with Miss Elizabeth, continue in good health, sir.’

‘Yes, yes, of course. And how is that curiosity now, Mr Darcy? Fully sated? Or do you wish to know the whereabouts of my other daughters? Perhaps, by way of exchange, I should challenge you to recall their given names before I tell you?’

Names? Darcy blinked. Was the gentleman serious? Before he could search his memory, however, Mr Bennet gave a short laugh.

‘I sport with you, Mr Darcy. Forgive me. My sole company is that of Jane and Lizzy, but most often my own, and I am enjoying having the chance to spar with another gentleman.’

‘I would not suspend any enjoyment of yours,’ Darcy said quietly, attempting to mask his discomfort.

‘Well, then – my two other daughters – Kitty, or Catherine, as she was christened and Mary – are gone away to be educated. Properly educated, sir. It is long overdue, and had I the resources or the inclination sooner, it might well have saved their sister from her fate.’

Darcy did not know what to say, but it seemed he had no need of words, for Mr Bennet continued, ‘You see the enhancement of my decision, I trust? Longbourn, though entailed, is a valuable and extensive property, and being so conveniently located to Town, it commanded a premium in rental value. Derbyshire, though an admirable county, is adequate distance from any major city, and most notably London, so as to offer sufficient opportunity to lease a substantial property at much lower cost. The difference permits me to send two of my daughters to a finishing school where I hope they will learn how to comport themselves as young ladies should and where their talents – such as they are – will receive some polish.’

‘An admirable decision, sir. I trust – that is, the girls, are they well settled? It must be hard for them to be away from their sisters.’

‘Yes, well, what must be suffering for one is pleasure for another. I am relishing the peace and quiet!’

Unsure whether the gentleman was serious or not, Darcy refrained from smiling, but, having ascertained all he needed to know, he got to his feet.

‘I have trespassed on your good nature long enough, sir. I will take my leave and restore you to your peace and quiet.’

Again, Mr Bennet grunted. ‘My good nature has been sorely lacking of late.’ He got to his feet as well and shook Darcy’s proffered hand. ‘But I appreciate your calling, sir.’ He glanced over towards the clock on the mantel. ‘I am due to leave myself directly. I will set you company as far as Pemberley.’


Having parted company with Mr Bennet where the lane to Pemberley forked in two directions, the elder gentleman continuing on his way towards the nearby town, Darcy hesitated. He needed to return to the house; he had promised his sister a walk and the morning was already well advanced, but he felt the need for a moment to consider what he might do about his friend.

Mr Bennet’s figure was some distance along the lane to Lambton now and, turning on his heel, Darcy turned down the even narrower lane, signposted to Kympton. It would result in a two-mile detour, but the time afforded by the longer walk would be beneficial. Knowing Jane Bennet remained unmarried and living here on his estate, he was honour-bound to let Bingley, though it would have to await his arrival. It was too late to send word ahead and besides, Darcy knew this intelligence needed to be accompanied by a long overdue confession that ought not to be communicated by letter.

This much he had understood. What he did not fully comprehend was how Miss Bennet might feel about seeing his friend again. Could the lady still retain feelings for Bingley after all this time, especially in the light of his perceived neglect? If her affections had been as engaged as Elizabeth had implied, it might well be so. Yet it was a good deal of time, was it not, almost two years? Bingley and Miss Bennet had not been in company since the night of the Netherfield Ball, and their acquaintance had lasted but two months in its entirety. Surely there could not be such a depth of feeling it inspired a lasting attachment?

Yet you saw Bingley’s reaction to the notion of Miss Bennet’s being wed to another, did you not? And did not your own attachment, forged in the same amount of time, linger, taunted the familiar voice in the back of his head. So much so, you carried it with you into Kent?

Pushing the words ruthlessly aside, Darcy increased his pace. That was in the past. His present focus was upon his friend and Miss Bennet.

Engrossed in such thoughts as he walked, Darcy barely noticed as he passed through the village of Kympton, skirted the church and continued alongside the green. It was as he neared the other side, he heard the sound of a voice and the click of a gate latch being closed.

Raising his head, Darcy was surprised to see Jane Bennet turning away from one of the cottages, an empty basket on her arm and a smile on her face as she walked to meet him.


Chapter Thirteen will be posted on Tuesday next!

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016

Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 31 Comments

A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Eleven

The blurb for this story can be found here, along with all previous Chapters.

Chapter Eleven

Concealed by the obscurity of her unlit chamber, Elizabeth watched from the window as Darcy strode down the lane in the direction of Pemberley, his great coat billowing behind him; she chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip and then, as his tall figure faded into the shadows, she fastened the shutters and turned around to face the darkness of her room.

This would never do! For months, eight long months, she had anticipated their paths crossing once more, conscious of its inevitability. Yet never had she contemplated a re-acquaintance in such a manner as this!

Blowing out a frustrated huff of breath, Elizabeth felt her way to the door and pulled it ajar to permit some light into the room. Then, she quickly retrieved a candle from beside the bed and, lighting it from an obliging wall sconce as she left her room, she walked softly along the landing, stopping outside a door on the opposite side and, pressing her ear against the wood, she strained to listen for any sign of activity.

Hearing nothing from within, she grasped the handle and slowly opened the door to peer inside.

‘Have you come up to bed?’ Jane Bennet eyed her sister drowsily from her propped up pillows, a book resting on the coverlet. ‘What is the time? I cannot seem to sleep.’

Relieved to see her sister still awake, Elizabeth closed the door and walked over to sit on the bed beside her, placing her candleholder on the table next to Jane’s own.

‘I am most surprised to see you awake! You had no rest at all last night and you endured a long day to follow it.’

Jane shrugged lightly and pushed herself up against her pillows with a weary smile. ‘There was little else I could do; sickness does not consider the clock when it comes to call, and I was needed.’

‘Indeed, it does not. But, Jane,’ Elizabeth grasped her sister’s hands and squeezed them lightly. ‘Do take care. Though Mr Wentworth values your efforts to help care for some of his parishioners, you must ensure you get adequate rest, or you will be the next patient, and I am no consolation at anyone’s bedside. Who will comfort the comforter then?’

With a soft laugh, Jane shook her head. ‘Do not worry about me, Lizzy. I am in sound health, merely a little tired this evening, that is all. Besides, I do believe I have never felt more… alive than I do here in Derbyshire. The air is so clean and fresh, and the constant breeze is a helpful ally in driving away stillness and melancholy, and even sickness.’

Elizabeth understood entirely. Much as she had missed the gentle, undulating landscape of Hertfordshire during their winter arrival at The Grange, by springtime she had found both her place and her feet; the summer walks along the rocky peaks all about were her absolute delight, as was the ever-changing parkland of the Pemberley estate – not that she wished to think on that just now.

‘Is aught amiss?’ Jane frowned as she peered at her in the dim light. ‘You appear out of sorts. Did something happen after I came to bed? Is Papa in one of his brown studies?’

Elizabeth laughed ruefully. ‘No, he is in good spirits this evening, though I fear I may have caused him a little undue anxiety.’ She sighed, all sign of humour fading. ‘Mr Darcy is returned; he was here.’

It was Jane’s turn to give her sister’s hands a comforting squeeze. ‘Oh Lizzy! Was it – was conversation difficult? I cannot imagine how you must have felt; indeed, how he must have felt.’ Then, she frowned again. ‘It is a singular time for paying a call, is it not? What could Mr Darcy have been thinking?’

Elizabeth sighed. What indeed had he been thinking and, moreover, what was he thinking now as he made his way home, thoroughly dampened by her hand?


‘I cannot comprehend his purpose; I cannot comprehend if a call upon us was his intention.’ It was Elizabeth’s turn to frown. ‘Though I suppose it must have been, for why else would he have entered the grounds?’ She gestured with her hand. ‘It is of little consequence; Mr Darcy is returned, as we knew he would, and we have been face to face once more.’

‘And was it… did you… pray tell me, Lizzy – how do you feel he received you?’

‘Heaven only knows, dear Jane!’ Elizabeth could not help but laugh again, despite her underlying discomfort, as she recalled the sight of him. ‘I greeted him with the same consideration I show our Mr Fox when he comes to call!’

With a gasp, Jane sat forward and put a hand to her mouth. ‘You did not! How so? Oh dear – what must he think?’

Elizabeth shrugged. ‘It was an accident – of course it was. I thought our usual intruder disturbed the hens; who could expect a visitor at such an hour? Besides, Mr Darcy was all politeness, in the circumstances. Indeed, he did not seem to mind so terribly – perhaps I should have done it long ago!’

Jane bit her lip. ‘But you cannot have been anything but appalled!’

‘Oh I was uncomfortable enough, I assure you – at first.’ Elizabeth’s eyes sparkled as she met her sister’s anxious gaze. ‘Yet I will own, had our situation not been as it is, my humour might well have prevailed!’

‘But what now? Are we likely to receive him here again?’

Elizabeth let out a short, derisory laugh. ‘I cannot think of anything less likely. I fully expect Mr Darcy to avoid me at all costs henceforth! Thus it is I do not worry unduly for us being often in company. Think on it, Jane. If he considered our position as so beneath him when we resided in a home belonging to our family for generations, imagine his scorn for us now, leasing a manor from another, Papa merely a tenant on another man’s land…’ she stopped as a sudden wave of longing swept through her for Longbourn, for how things used to be.

Then she turned a reassuring smile on her sister. ‘No. I think we may rest assured we shall escape too much notice from the man himself; and I have been quite reconciled to having to face him again at some time or other. Now he has returned, I shall be well-rehearsed in how to greet him.’

Jane leaned back against her pillows, her air and countenance troubled. ‘Lizzy – you will be careful, will you not? We are, in effect, at Mr Darcy’s mercy.’

Elizabeth shook her head. ‘You misunderstand me, Jane, dearest. Despite what happened earlier, it is not my intent to say or do anything to either anger or displease Mr Darcy.’

‘Then you will be civil?’

With a laugh, Elizabeth got to her feet and leaned down to drop a kiss on Jane’s cheek. ‘I cannot profess to hold him in quite as high a regard as most of the district seem to, but I shall, for your sake and Papa’s, strive to be meek and subservient at all times; indeed, Mr Darcy shall hardly know me!’


Darcy’s heart was still pounding in his ears by the time he reached the house, something he quickly attributed to his rapid walk down the lane, and he let himself in through the boot room, shrugging out of his still damp great coat.

So, what he had considered his foolish speculation over the Bennets being in Derbyshire had been confirmed – but what of it? He was quite over his former admiration for Elizabeth Bennet and, he was certain, despite her initial mortification, the lady held him in no higher esteem than when they last met.

Refusing to allow his thoughts to venture down this path, he made his way along the corridor into the main house. All was quiet as he crossed the hall, but his housekeeper met him at the top of the stairs, exclaiming over his bedraggled appearance.

‘An accident, Mrs Reynolds. Perhaps you could send Thornton up?’ he added over his shoulder before taking the next flight two at a time in his haste to reach his chamber.

Closing the door behind him, he leaned back against it, his heart frustratingly still pounding in his chest. Then, he straightened and walked quickly over to the mirror on the dresser, eyeing his appearance warily. It looked just as he had supposed – a trifle wild, to say the least, his hair in tousled disarray, his shirt hanging open at the neck and the collar of his coat damp and uncomfortable.

Removing the coat quickly, he dropped it onto the bed and turned about as the dressing room door was pulled open by his valet, somewhat out of breath.

‘A small mishap during an evening walk, Thornton,’ Darcy said, fully conscious of the startled countenance of his man as he took in his master’s dishevelled attire. ‘It is of no consequence. All I require is a bath and my dressing robe.’

‘The water is on its way, sir.’ Thornton turned towards the tallboy where towels were housed.

Darcy began to loosen his cuffs. ‘You are prescient.’

‘No, sir,’ Thornton returned with a towel and the dressing robe which he laid reverently on the day bed. ‘Mrs Reynolds gave me some forewarning.’

Darcy grunted and dropped his watch onto the tray on the dresser before stripping his shirt from his shoulders and turning to walk into the dressing room.

Lying in his bath some fifteen minutes later, Darcy welcomed the heat of the water against his skin as he reflected on the outcome of his evening walk.

Damn foolish decision,’ he muttered. ‘What possessed you to go there at this ridiculous hour? What must they think?’

More to the point, what did he? What of the fact that this was the Bennets of Longbourn?

‘This alters naught!’

Thornton’s head appeared round the door to his chamber. ‘Did you call, sir?’

Darcy shook his head, wet tendrils of hair clinging to his forehead. Enough of this. ‘No – I wish for my towel, Thornton, if I may.’

As his valet left the room, Darcy leaned back against the bath and closed his eyes. He would focus upon the impending arrival of Bingley and his familiar presence would…

This was insufficient aid, as another thought suddenly swept through his mind. Was Jane Bennet the other daughter residing at The Grange? Darcy let out a frustrated huff of breath. He had thought himself heartily sick of the resurgence of the name of Bennet when in Town. How dare it come to haunt him here at Pemberley?

He sank lower into the water, allowing it to close over his face and hair, then emerged to find Thornton holding out a large towel.

Soon wrapped in his robe, Darcy walked over to the full-length mirror, rubbing vigorously at his wet hair as he stared at his reflection. Disquiet was writ upon his countenance, as he well expected.

Like it or not, he must ascertain if Miss Bennet remained at home. If she did…

With an impatient sigh, Darcy tossed the damp towel aside and turned for his chamber. His friend was due to arrive in a se’ennight, a visit that could not be avoided. Somehow he must determine where Jane Bennet was and without delay, and he feared his only recourse was a return on the morrow to The Grange.


Chapter Twelve will be posted on Thursday.

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016

Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Ten

The blurb for this story can be found here, along with all previous Chapters.

Chapter Ten

Darcy put the rapid pounding of his heart down to the shock of the cold water. Indeed, if he had not felt quite so awkward at being discovered, and equally discomfited at being soaking wet, he would have found the realisation dawning on the lady’s countenance amusing.

Elizabeth Bennet had dropped the bucket, which fell with a clang as it hit the stone paving, a hand to her mouth, eyes wide with shock. ‘Forgive me, sir! I – I know not what can be said to atone.’

A formal gesture seemed ludicrous in the circumstances, and though he had no desire to appear even less of a gentleman than she had implied in Kent last year, he could do no more than shake his head – causing more icy droplets to trickle down into his sodden neck cloth – and say, ‘Do not concern yourself, madam. I am perfectly well, merely… wet.’

‘We have been troubled by a fox; he has been harassing our birds. It has been an effective way of driving him off before now.’

‘I can understand why.’

Elizabeth bit her lip. ‘I do beg your pardon, sir.’ She seemed to realise all of a sudden her situation, and dropped him a curtsey before raising troubled eyes to his. ‘You must be wishing me the other side of the earth.’

Before he could respond to this, a figure appeared in the doorway holding aloft a lamp.

‘Lizzy! What is all this commotion?’ Mr Bennet’s eyes widened in surprise as he took in the scene before him. ‘Good heavens! Is that you, Mr Darcy?’

‘I believe so,’ Darcy said drily. ‘Though Miss Elizabeth mistook me for a fox.’ He hoped very much the incident would distract them from asking the obvious question: what was he doing outside their home at such an hour?

‘Come, sir. You must take a moment to dry yourself.’

Darcy shook his head and immediately wished he had not. He tugged his handkerchief out and blotted the rivulets running anew down his cheeks, his gaze narrowing as he caught a slight movement from Elizabeth. If he was not mistaken, she was not as chagrined as she pretended; she was quite clearly struggling to conceal her amusement at his plight.

‘I urge you to go back inside, Mr Bennet. It is a mild night, and I shall soon dry off with a brisk walk back to Pemberley.’

Mr Bennet walked up to him and looked him firmly in the eye. ‘You may be our landlord, Mr Darcy, but I trust you will bow to an older man’s judgment on this occasion. At least come in and take a warming dish of tea before you walk back. Indeed, you are welcome to use our pony and trap to get you home more quickly.’

Elizabeth let out a short laugh. ‘Papa! I hardly think Mr Darcy will wish to avail himself of the donkey cart!’

Mr Bennet turned to her and said sternly, ‘I hardly think the gentleman would expect the carriage to be readied either. Now, the less said by you the better, young lady. Go inside and ask Alice to put the kettle to warm.’

She looked like she was going to refuse, and Darcy saw her eyes flash in the light of the lamp still held aloft by her father. Then, she took a step backwards, threw a quick glance in his direction and turned to re-enter the house.

‘Come, sir. Let us sit you by a warm fire for a while. It is the least we can do in the circumstances.’


A manservant disappeared with Darcy’s greatcoat, and he was shown into a small room off the kitchen where he was offered a dry towel for his hair. He did his best to remove the worst of the wetness, though without the aid of a mirror, heaven only knew what his hair looked like. He was not a vain man but encountering the woman who soundly rejected you last time you saw her in such a state was not much aid to his confidence.

He blew out a frustrated breath; what on earth had he been thinking? His heart continued to pound fiercely in his ears, and he could feel the stirrings of a long forgotten ache in his breast. Though the light had been dim and Elizabeth’s presence fleeting, he felt an echo of his former danger whisper through him.

Desperate for distraction, Darcy inspected the rest of his clothing, most of which had been relatively well protected, save for his neck cloth which seemed to have soaked up a goodly portion of the water as it ran down his face and neck. He unwound it and squeezed it out into the bowl the servant had put out, but before he could attempt to replace it, a woman came into the room, tutted loudly at him and whipped the cloth from his grasp.

‘’T’will need to dry, sir. You cannot be wearing it in this condition.’

Before he could protest, she had left the room as quickly as she had come, and he was left to retrace his steps into the stone flagged hallway in search of his host.

A door to the right creaked and Mr Bennet’s head appeared. ‘Come, come, Mr Darcy. There is a chair by the fire with your name upon it, and some hot tea waiting for you. Alice will work her magic on drying out your coat.’

Holding the collar of his shirt together with his hand, Darcy followed Mr Bennet into the room, a large parlour with a roaring fire in the grate and warmly lit with glowing lamps. To his relief, Elizabeth was nowhere to be seen, and as he took a seat by the fireside he released his grip on his shirt.

‘Forgive my informal attire, Mr Bennet.’ He waved a hand at his shirtfront. Your housekeeper – Alice, I think you said? – insisted on having my neck cloth to dry.’

Mr Bennet laughed. ‘You did well to concede without complaint. You would not have won, had you tried. We learnt quickly to heed her direction! Come, Mr Darcy. Drink your tea – it will warm you well.’

Darcy did as he was bid and a comfortable silence fell, the only sound being the crackling of the logs in the hearth. He knew not what to say to his host; with all he had learned in Hertfordshire, where did one begin? Mr Bennet seemed untroubled by his silence, but he could not ignore the fact he was a tenant on his estate!

‘Are you – er – have you settled well at The Grange, sir?’

Mr Bennet withdrew his gaze from the flames, where his attention had been fixed, and looked at Darcy. ‘I believe we have. You keep a fine estate, Mr Darcy, and your steward has been most attentive. We were established with all the necessary assistance as expediently as one could wish.’

‘I am glad to hear it. I-’ Darcy hesitated, then cleared his throat. ‘I was sorry to hear of your loss last year. Please accept my deepest condolences.’

Mr Bennet shifted in his chair, his gaze once more with the hearth. ‘Bad times. Difficult times.’ Then, he looked quickly back to Darcy. ‘Might I ask how you learned of it? It is not something we have spoken of here in Derbyshire – for obvious reasons.’

‘Do not be concerned, Mr Bennet. I learned of the sad passing of both your wife and youngest daughter but recently when my friend, Bingley, and I were at Netherfield.’

Mr Bennet snorted. ‘Yes – no doubt whatever you were told was embellished to make it suitably garish, too!’

Darcy shook his head, pleased not to be showered with droplets this time. ‘Not at all. We spoke only to Bingley’s housekeeper and the local curate, both of whom were discreet.’

A grunt was the only response to this. Then, Mr Bennet shrugged. ‘You know the whole sorry tale, then. Well, it is what it is – or was. We have striven to make a fresh start, a new life for ourselves here in Derbyshire. The early months were difficult for the girls, for arriving in winter was not conducive to being able to explore our new surroundings at any length. But time passes, as it must, and with the change of seasons we have all adjusted. I believe we could all be considered content.’

‘I am glad to hear it.’ Darcy hesitated. ‘There was – in Hertfordshire, sir, there seemed an excess of secrecy over your whereabouts.’

Mr Bennet raised a brow. ‘Can you blame me?’

‘Not at all.’ Darcy eyed his host warily. He did not know the gentleman well, and certainly did not wish to trespass upon sensitive feelings, but his curiosity would be satisfied. ‘What I meant to say was, if secrecy was so essential, how came you to accept a tenancy from a prior acquaintance of the family?’

With a shrug, Mr Bennet returned his gaze to the fire. ‘Who is to say where one can trust? Oft, one is better served by strangers than by those one considers friends. And this is the nineteenth century. One cannot just disappear entirely from the face of the earth. I sought a fresh start for us, somewhere disassociated with unhappier times and where the family name would be untainted by the stain cast upon it.’ He turned to fix Darcy with a compelling eye. ‘Our prior acquaintance was fleeting, yet you, Mr Darcy, I do not fear. I have no reason to suspect you will be at your desk by break of dawn, penning letters to all and sundry in Meryton to advise of your discovery.’

‘You suppose correctly.’

The older gentleman nodded. ‘I felt no need to share our direction with anyone in Hertfordshire; we were universally shunned in our hour of need, not supported and warmed by the comfort of loyal friends and neighbours – or some aspects of the family.’ He leaned forward to grab the teapot and replenished both their cups. ‘

Then, he frowned, his gaze once more with the flames in the hearth. ‘My poor Lizzy displayed quite an aversion to coming to Derbyshire,’ Mr Bennet raised his head and glanced at Darcy. ‘An unprecedented aversion. However,’ he shrugged. ‘She also admitted she believed we could trust to your discretion; thus when my sister Gardiner was able to make the introductions locally, I considered it fortuitous. Derbyshire is sufficiently remote from the only society we frequented and also from Town, where any delight in gossiping about our misfortunes must have been of little consequence, for we were hardly known amongst the Ton. As far as this neighbourhood is concerned, I have lost my wife and a daughter. That is all they need to know.’

Understanding full well how difficult it must have been for Elizabeth to discover where her new home would be, Darcy said nothing, instead draining his cup and then pulling out his watch. ‘Well, sir, I believe I have trespassed long enough on your hospitality. I thank you for the chance to warm myself, but I must return before I am missed.’

They got to their feet and walked to the door. ‘Were you on your way anywhere in particular, Mr Darcy? It is some miles beyond The Grange before there is further civilisation.’

Darcy was thankful for the dark hallway as heat stole into his cheeks. ‘No – no, I was not. I had spent the second of two long days in the carriage and was restless after dining. My sister had retired early, and I felt in need of stretching my legs.’

‘Ah, yes, I see.’

They had reached the door and before Darcy could ask for his coat, Alice appeared behind them.

‘The worst is gone, sir, and Higgins has given it a good brushing.’

‘Thank you, Mrs… Alice.’ Darcy accepted his coat and shrugged into it quickly. There was still no sign of Elizabeth; he was unsure whether he was relieved or disappointed.

‘Well, goodnight, Mr Bennet. I hope to meet again in pleasanter circumstances.’

‘Indeed, indeed. Goodnight.’

Darcy walked swiftly. The night air had become cooler and his damp coat weighed heavily on his shoulders. He was but a half mile from home when he realised he had left his neck cloth behind.


Chapter Eleven will be posted on Tuesday next.

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016

Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Nine

The blurb for this story can be found here, along with all previous Chapters.

Chapter Nine

The first day’s journey went without mishap, and it was only as they made a stop to change horses at a coaching inn south of Nottingham on the second day that Darcy took the opportunity to advise Georgiana of his intentions for a small party of guests to join them at Pemberley.

With Mrs Annesley settled with a cooling drink, he took his sister upon his arm and suggested they take some exercise before being returned to the confines of the carriage for the final stretch. There was a woodland path running away from the inn, and they soon turned their steps in this direction.

‘I have invited a few people to make some stay with us, Georgie.’

Georgiana looked up in surprise. ‘Truly, Brother? But will we not have sufficient company with Olivia and Viola?’

‘The twins will be at Pemberley but a week on this occasion, and the house is long overdue in hosting a house party. Our guests arrive once Olivia and Viola are gone on to school.’

Georgiana turned to stare ahead as they passed a small copse. ‘And may I ask who is to join us?’

‘The Latimers and the Hansons. I hope Bingley will return to us also, once the twins are duly settled, and the Colonel is certain to pay us a visit.’

They continued on in silence for a moment before Georgiana spoke. ‘I will own to some apprehension of being in Miss Latimer’s extended company when I know so little of her.’

‘I have seen sufficient to understand the lady to be an accomplished artist, and I believe her to be fond of music’

Georgiana threw him a startled glance. ‘You believe? Oh, Fitz!’

With a shrug, Darcy smiled ruefully. ‘She is not overly forthcoming; or perhaps she is merely overly modest. Yet I have heard her perform and she is truly proficient.’ He stopped and turned his sister towards him. ‘Pemberley is where you are most at ease, and I am certain it will be the perfect setting for you both to become better acquainted. If you have music in common, it will be a beginning. Besides, you are quite familiar with the Miss Hansons, and I believe the wider party will relieve you somewhat.’

‘Yes, of course.’ They turned to resume their walk. ‘I suspect they will be quite the contrast to having been so recently in company with the twins.’ She glanced up at Darcy, and her smile widened. ‘When Mr Bingley called the other day, he told me Olivia and Viola were prone to mischief, particularly once taken with a notion!’

Darcy laughed. ‘Indeed. I have heard much of them in recent years! They are younger than you and, from what I understand, not just in years. I had hoped you might find the less demanding company of the Miss Hansons and Miss Latimer a welcome relief!’

‘Fitz?’ Georgiana shook him by the arm gently, and he looked down at her. ‘I know you have my best interests at heart. I am grateful to have so much company. Thank you for thinking of me.’

‘You will ever be first and foremost with me.’ Darcy patted the hand resting on his arm, then turned her about to retrace their steps. ‘Come, let us begin the final stage of our travels and breathe in the welcome air of Derbyshire once more.’


When they were but an hour from Pemberley, Darcy excused himself from the ladies’ company and took to his mount, relishing the chance to be in the open air and taking some exercise after two days of confinement in the carriage.

At first, he rode fast, galloping past familiar fields, outcrops of rock, streams and lakes, but as he by-passed Baslow and approached Pemberley’s grounds, he slowed to a canter and, reining in his mount as he reached the bridge over the River Derwent, Darcy stared across the water at the vast expanse of stone forming the house.

He could not deny he was proud of the estate, of his home and all he had done to ensure it would be passed on to yet another generation in good stead. Yet as he surveyed the familiar sight, he knew he was seeing it with new eyes. Something had changed within him since last he was in Derbyshire and, loath though he was to allow Elizabeth Bennet any purchase, he cautiously admitted her presence as he absorbed the scene before him.

She had changed him; or rather, he was altered because of her. Elizabeth had stripped him of all pretence, shown him his faults in all their awful splendour. By her, he had been truly humbled.

Releasing a long, slow breath, Darcy’s gaze took in the expanse of his home. How he had missed it! This was where he belonged, and at last he felt he was worthy of it.

Urging his steed onwards, he crossed the bridge and rode up the hill towards the stable block, leaving his mount with a young hand who appeared at the sound of hooves upon the cobbles, but as he turned to take the footpath towards the house, a voice hailed him.

Turning about, he observed his steward emerging from the stables, and he walked to meet him.

‘Good afternoon, Rivers. Is all well?’

‘Indeed it is, sir. Forgive me for accosting you so soon upon your arrival, but I received an Express this morning, which I believe was delivered to the office in error. I thought you may wish to collect it as you are close by.’

‘Good thinking. Lead the way.’ Darcy waved a hand and then fell into step beside his steward as they walked to the nearby building housing the estate office.

‘How is the harvest progressing? This fine weather is to our advantage, is it not?’

Rivers nodded enthusiastically. ‘Indeed, sir. All goes according to plan. Here we are,’ he opened the door and stood back to allow Darcy to walk ahead of him. ‘Now – where did I put it?’

Walking into the centre of the room, Darcy eyed with appreciation the neat order of the office and, as Rivers rifled through a small but equally tidy pile of paper on his desk, he strolled over to the far wall to study the detailed plan of the estate spread across it. Before he could stop himself, his eye was drawn immediately to a well-sized building on the road to Curbar, to the west of Pemberley’s grounds, marked neatly by a long-ago hand: The Grange.

He was gripped by a sudden desire to go there, to prove to himself he had nothing to fear from whomsoever the new tenants were; he would…


Darcy started as Rivers appeared at his side, offering him the aforementioned letter, and he tore his gaze from the plan and took it, silencing the foolish notion by focusing upon the direction. The hand confirmed it to be from Bingley, and he could see why the misdirection had happened, for his own name was nothing more than a large smudge.

Hoping there would be nothing of ill tidings within, Darcy took his leave of his steward and, as he strode purposefully towards the house, broke the seal and began to read.


They dined early, a concession to their long day of travelling, and soon after repairing to the drawing room, Georgiana and Mrs Annesley bade him goodnight and retired for the night.

Restless when left to his own devices, Darcy prowled from room to room, knowing full well whence his agitation stemmed. Now restored to Pemberley, to his estate, it was nigh on impossible not to dwell upon whom the new occupant of The Grange might be.

He tried to immerse himself in a book. When it failed to hold his attention, he fetched a glass of brandy from the drinks table and picked up Bingley’s letter again. It was short and to the point: the twins had managed to upset Caroline Bingley within four and twenty hours of their arrival. Something to do with a frog mysteriously making its way into the house and then into Caroline’s bedroom. Darcy grinned. Though Bingley’s letters were always short, he could tell from what had been shared that his friend was struggling over his amusement quite as much as Darcy was.

Be that as it may, Bingley felt his only recourse was to remove Olivia and Viola as expeditiously as possible from Caroline’s reach, and he begged his friend’s patience, as he felt obliged to bring their departure from London forward. Darcy shook his head, smiling faintly as he read the postscript. Even if he were to send a response by Express, he doubted it would reach Bingley before he set off for the north, as he now intended to join them within a se’ennight.

Darcy put the letter aside. It made little difference, other than the twins spending an additional week at Pemberley before heading to school. Then, he picked up a newspaper and tried to immerse himself in its pages. Five minutes later, he tossed the paper aside in frustration. If he was to achieve any peace this night – and any tolerable amount of sleep – he had to find out if his ludicrous suspicions bore any weight.

But how to achieve it? It was too late to pay a call, even on one of one’s own tenants. Besides, it was too unlikely to be the Bennets of Longbourn… but what if it was?

‘Enough!’ Darcy exclaimed aloud. Then, he drained his glass, placing it firmly on the side table and got to his feet. He would just take a short stroll before retiring – that was all. He needed some air after being confined to the carriage for two days.

Five minutes later he was shrugging into his great coat and letting himself out of the boot room into the quiet courtyard at the back of the kitchens. Though only a little after nine o’clock dusk was falling, but thankfully the skies were clear which foretold a bright moon and plenty of stars to combat the encroaching darkness, and he made his way easily onto the road leading away from Pemberley towards Lambton.

He saw no living person, though twice a fox crossed his path, staring at him with bright, beady eyes, and he could hear the sheep bleating in the nearby fold.

He passed through a hamlet with a small mill, a smithy and several farm labourers’ cottages and out onto open road again and then, after a further ten minutes’ of walking, he saw lights in the distance and knew from the building’s position on a rising bank he was approaching The Grange.

Darcy walked on with a purposeful stride, but as he neared the short driveway to the house he moved into the shadows of the overhanging trees, anxious not to be detected. What would any tenant think should they come across their landlord skulking around at this time of night? It would hardly create a favourable first impression… he tried to deflect the thought, but it rushed in upon him. If this was the Bennets of Longbourn, he had already made a lasting first impression – he doubted anything he did thereafter could supersede it.

He was unsure whether he was relieved or disappointed to find the shutters closed on any window with light behind it, but then again, perhaps it was for the best. Being caught peering in through the window would lead to uncomfortable questions!

The faint strands of a pianoforte drifted out into the night air, but beyond that there was no sound other than the clucking of some hens over to his right.

He peered into the growing darkness for any indication of the house’s inhabitants. There was a discarded pair of boots by the door, but no indication who their owner might be. A wicker basket containing some drying herbs lay on a wooden table in the courtyard – no surprise if there were ladies in the house, and this much he knew for certain.

He crept a little closer. There was a chink of light shining through a small gap in the shutters of a large window facing the road, and oblivious to the increased squawking of the hens as he passed their run, he walked over to the window and tried to peer in. The music had ceased; he heard a chair scrape and a door bang but he could see nothing, for the gap was too narrow.

With a resigned sigh, he turned away. There was little for it but to return in daylight and pay a formal call… but suddenly, two things happened in quick succession: a door was flung open and before he could move, he was showered from head to foot in icy cold water.

‘What the devil-!’

‘Who are you?!’

Shaking his head to rid his hair of water, Darcy wiped a hand across his dripping face and stared into the indignant face of a young woman wielding a large tin bucket.

‘Mr Darcy!’

‘Miss Bennet!’


Chapter Ten will be posted shortly!

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016

Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Eight

The blurb for this story can be found here, along with all previous Chapters.

Chapter Eight

With his decision made, Darcy anticipated an undisturbed night’s rest; yet he struggled to find sleep. What he had not foreseen was the resurfacing of feelings and sensations he thought he had long buried – and buried deep. Was it his decision to marry? He had travelled such a road before, of course, but with less measured steps. Back then, in the year twelve, he had found himself careering beyond his own control down a steep slope towards his fate; and his deepest regret.

Now, he was merely walking a straight and steady line towards what his future should always have been: his duty.

Tossing and turning, the sheets entirely mangled about his legs, he drifted in and out of consciousness, fighting the memories of his rejection by Elizabeth, only to be thwarted as the more recent intelligence of her supplanted them.

The clock against the far wall chimed five in the morning before he fell into a fitful slumber, filled with fractured dreams of whispered words from a shadowy figure in the far distance. It was as though he were wading through time surrounded by swirls of mist, desperately seeking something, someone, and culminating with him calling out Elizabeth’s name as she appeared suddenly before him. It was sufficient to awaken him, only to find himself drenched in sweat as though he had been running and his breath sufficiently laboured to support the notion.

Against his volition, his eyes closed as though trying to hold on to the remnants of his dream, but Elizabeth’s image faded from him as she was enveloped by a vast sky, a hand outstretched towards him and tears shimmering on her lashes.

Darcy sat up and rubbed his eyes, conscious of the tension gripping his shoulders. This would not do! Unravelling the sheets, he swung his legs out of the bed and reached for the bell to summon his valet.

By the time he had bathed and dressed, his unsettled emotions had receded to a normal perspective. It was only natural in the circumstances for his subconscious to drift towards Elizabeth, having learned all that had befallen the family. He would not berate himself, as once he would have, for failing to keep her from his mind.

His travels to places with no possible association with her had fully served their purpose in successfully banishing all thought of Elizabeth in the past. Pemberley was always his solace, and once returned to its comforting embrace, he duly anticipated being equally successful in relegating the resurfaced memories of the lady to where they belonged.

Darcy repaired to his study knowing it was too early for Georgiana to be about. As soon as the hour was acceptable, he intended to call on Latimer, and in the absence of company, he settled into an armchair with the day’s newspaper and a welcome dish of tea brought in by his housekeeper.

Before long, a light tap came on the door, and Georgiana’s head appeared.

‘There you are, Fitz! Will you join me in breaking my fast?’ Mrs Wainwright says you have yet to eat.’

Darcy smiled. ‘Yes, of course.’

They walked in companionable silence to the breakfast room, but as they settled at the table and a footman proceeded to serve them, Darcy threw Georgiana a puzzled look.

Her air and countenance were expressive of some discomfort, and more reminiscent of her demeanour before their travels. Darcy stared at the now laden platter before him, waiting for the footman to leave the room before speaking.

‘Are you quite well, Georgie?’

She met his gaze with a conscious look, then sighed. ‘Naught troubles me, Brother. At least, not by way of ailment.’

‘Yet you are not yourself this morning.’

‘Am I so inept at concealment?’ Georgiana smiled faintly. ‘I do not wish to cause you any concern, Brother. Perchance I did not sleep well.’

Unconvinced, Darcy picked up his fork and prodded the eggs on his plate. He had not slept well either; it was nigh on time for the soothing air of Derbyshire.

‘Did you have a pleasant evening? At the Latimers?’

Darcy looked up to meet his sister’s gaze, then shrugged lightly. ‘It was much like any other I have passed there of late.’

Georgiana drew in a shallow breath, then spoke quickly. ‘I fear speaking out of turn, but I must know… is it decided? Are you – do you,’ she stopped and swallowed visibly. ‘There is talk of you taking Miss Latimer as your wife.’

‘Where did you hear such a claim?’ Darcy frowned. He knew he had called on the family a few times since his return to England, but it was not the only house he had frequented, and his social engagements had involved many families – and young ladies.

‘The Miss Mortimers called upon me – yesterday morning when you were with your fencing master. They said,’ Georgiana hesitated, and met his eye with an anxious expression writ across her face. ‘They seemed to be most put out about it, especially Miss Mortimer herself.’

Darcy felt little concern for the tattletale of young ladies, but as he fully intended to make the offer, his priority was to comprehend Georgiana’s obvious disquiet.

‘Georgie, you know I must take a wife. If not least as mistress for Pemberley and to safeguard its future, then most assuredly as a long overdue sister for you!’

She lowered her head to stare at her hands in her lap, and Darcy got up from his seat and went to crouch down beside her, laying a hand over hers.

‘What is the cause of your uneasiness? I promise I have spent an undue amount of time with the Latimers purely to ascertain her suitability on all counts.’

A soft sigh emanated from Georgiana, and she raised her head to meet his anxious gaze. ‘But I know her not. I have seen her but twice in my life, and barely exchanged words beyond the common civilities, yet we shall all be living in close proximity. What if-‘

‘Do not be distressed, my dear, I beg of you.’ Darcy’s heart ached for his sister’s obvious unease. ‘There is naught of unpleasantness about the lady.’

‘Forgive me, Fitz. I know it is not my place to speak of such matters, but I have become accustomed to the open discourse we enjoyed during our travels.’

Darcy straightened up and placed a kiss on top of her head before returning to his seat. ‘And long may it continue, Georgie! I wish you had spoken to me of your concerns before now, but please set your mind at rest. Your happiness will always be my first consideration.’

Giving him a relieved smile, Georgiana applied herself to her meal, and Darcy picked up his cooling tea and took a long draught of it. It was time he went to call on Latimer.


The following day was the penultimate of their sojourn in London, and Darcy could not have been more thankful for it. A continuous flow of visitors called upon them before they left Town for the country, and hard upon the heels of the last, the Colonel arrived.

Tempted by a day of fine weather, they agreed to a stroll around St James’ Park, and as soon as the ladies were ahead of them, the Colonel dropped the mundane conversation they had been having about the impending journey northwards.

‘Word about Town has it you have fixed upon a wife – a certain Miss Latimer.’

Darcy released a frustrated breath. ‘So I believe, though I do not see how such a conclusion can be drawn when I have extended no offer.’

‘Perhaps it is the frequency of your suppers at the Latimers’ table of late.’

Darcy rolled his eyes. ‘If one’s marital prospects are measured by the number of meals one consumes in particular company, I am more likely to wed you, Cousin!’

‘Then you have come to no decision?’ The Colonel cast a quick glance at Darcy’s impassive countenance. ‘And you are gone from Town as of the morrow with no announcement made.’

Darcy’s gaze rested briefly on his sister where she walked up ahead with Mrs Annesley.

‘A decision – yes. Acting upon it directly – no.’

The Colonel snorted. ‘You are not getting any younger, Darce. Thornton will be having you measured for flannel vests before long.’

Darcy turned to face his cousin who had stopped walking and was eyeing him with amusement. ‘I mean a delay of a few weeks, nothing more. Removing Georgiana to Derbyshire and seeing her settled before the Bingley girls arrive is my priority for now.’

‘And then?’

Darcy glanced towards his sister again. ‘Then I will fulfil my obligation.’ He turned back to the Colonel. ‘Latimer may have wished for more when I called upon him yesterday, but as it stands, I have invited a few people to make some stay with us, and he, his wife and daughter are amongst them. I wish to see how the latter rubs along with Georgiana, but I do not foresee any difficulty. The matter will be resolved directly.’

‘Excellent decision – safety in numbers, and all that – it will keep the gossip mongers guessing a tad longer, to be certain. So,’ the Colonel squinted at his cousin. ‘Miss Latimer it is, then; a lady of impeccable lineage and a generous dowry An excellent choice. I like to see there is method to your madness.’

Darcy frowned. ‘Madness? Did you not urge me to seek something – or someone else – to fix upon?’

‘Indeed, though I think my advice was directed more towards finding a passion for something. You will forgive me for saying, but you do not seem remotely interested in Miss Latimer, other than to fulfil an obligation.’

‘Is that not the way of the world? It is a path from which I should never have diverted.’

‘It is the way of our world, without doubt.’ Then, the Colonel smirked. ‘Is your delay not also partly down to being a little wary, nervous even?’

‘Nervous? Of what?’

‘Not being accepted, old chap!’ Fitzwilliam gestured with his hand. ‘You know, Darce, this offering of one’s hand business. One would hardly say you are proficient!’

‘Trust you to speak as you find, Cousin!’ Darcy paused, then added, ‘I remain confident Miss Latimer will accept my hand.’

The Colonel shrugged. ‘As you wish.’ He turned to walk on, then said over his shoulder, ‘Or perhaps you are not nervous because you care little enough for the outcome. Georgiana!’ He hailed his cousin and walked quickly forward to join her as Darcy bit back on an expletive.

Damn Fitzwilliam; he was quite right of course. What was he doing?

You are doing what you must, what you committed to do for the family, the estate. You own it yourself – you are doing your duty.’

This time, Darcy was thankful for the small voice in the back of his head. It was an opportune reminder. Duty was safe, and nothing would persuade him from it a second time.

The following morning, Bingley called to see them off on their journey north and, having seen his sister and Mrs Annesley comfortably settled inside the carriage, Darcy turned to take his farewell of his friend.

‘The twins arrive in Town on the morrow. It is not intended to prolong their stay in Grosvenor Street, but Julia is anxious to spend a little time with her sisters before we journey northwards. We should be with you within a fortnight.’

‘Will you make some stay with us?’

‘I hope to. I wish to satisfy myself Olivia and Viola are not causing too much of a disruption to your orderly life!’

Darcy smiled. ‘Do not concern yourself. A little disorder is good for one now and again, and Georgiana is anticipating their stay with pleasure. Send word once you have left Town, and we shall look forward to receiving you directly.’

Bingley smiled and bade his friend farewell for the present. Then, with a final glance up at the house, Darcy turned to take his place in the carriage. He felt no regret in leaving London; on the contrary, he welcomed the release. Pemberley was the only place where he truly could be himself, where he felt he belonged, and the wheels of the carriage could not turn fast enough to restore him to its calming and uneventful presence.


Chapter Nine will be posted tomorrow!

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016

Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Seven

The blurb for this story can be found here, along with the previous Chapters.

Chapter Seven

After enduring two nights of intermittent sleep and splintered dreams, Darcy was sufficiently frustrated to approach supper at the Latimers with keen relief.

Since returning from Hertfordshire, keeping thoughts of Elizabeth and what may have become of her at bay had been a constant struggle. They would intrude, but he wished for none of it. He had desperate need of distraction and hoped the evening ahead would answer for it. In this he was further aided by the appearance of Pagett in his study later that morning.

‘An Express for you, sir.’ The butler placed a silver salver by his master’s blotter and, glancing at the mark, Darcy smiled.

‘Excellent. Thank you.’

As the door closed, Darcy turned his attention to this last of the responses to the urgent messages sent earlier in the week. Then, smiling, he laid it back on the desk. They had each delivered all he had hoped for and, conscious time was of the essence, he retrieved the earlier response, quickly pocketed them both and left the room.

Within five minutes, he was tugging on his gloves as he strode down the street, intent upon reaching Bingley without delay. This was what he sought, this gave him some direction, an added impetus to attending the Latimers this evening and putting before his friend his proposal regarding the twins.


Darcy’s meeting with Bingley was quickly concluded, his friend being more than amenable to all the arrangements Darcy had suggested and, leaving him to make the necessary communication to the Hursts, Darcy excused himself and returned home.

Continuing his determination to maintain his purpose, he then shut himself up in his study to respond to the plethora of invitations piling up on a daily basis since his return, stopping only for a cup of tea forced upon him by Mrs Wainwright.

By mid afternoon, he had completed all he felt obliged to do, and he got to his feet conscious of his hunger, the stack of acceptance letters and cards to hand, but before he could reach the door a light knock came upon it and Georgiana stepped inside.

‘Will you be much longer, Brother?’

He smiled and shook his head, raising the pile to show her. ‘All is well, and I am at your disposal for the remainder of the day.’

‘Excellent!’ Georgiana clapped her hands together and returned his smile. ‘I have requested some refreshments for us in the small sitting room if you are able to join me?’

‘With pleasure,’ Darcy indicated to her to precede him from the room. ‘Is Mrs Annesley not with you?’

‘She had a few errands to complete, but will join us directly. I have asked for sufficient to satisfy all three of us!’

‘I am pleased to hear it!’ He dropped the stack of cards and letters onto the salver in the hall before he could change his mind about any of them and followed his sister into the small sitting room at the rear of the house, a cosy space often frequented by his mother when she had been alive. It had been little altered since then and was perhaps a little dated in décor, but elegant nonetheless, and Darcy had been gratified when Georgiana began using it as her own since they had returned to England.

‘Did you find Mr Bingley well this morning?’

‘Indeed; excessively so.’

Georgiana raised a brow at this as she took a seat by the hearth, and Darcy settled himself opposite her.

‘I am pleased to have this chance to speak with you, Georgie,’ he continued. ‘Bingley and I have been trying to find a solution to a small dilemma he has faced of late, and today we have settled the matter.’

‘I am all anticipation, Brother!’

Darcy smiled. ‘Do you recall Bingley’s telling us of his younger sisters’ impending arrival in Town?’

‘Indeed – I look forward very much to making their acquaintance.’

‘You will do more than that, my dear. They are to make some stay with us before they commence the final stage of their education in the autumn.’

‘With us? Truly?’

‘Yes, truly. Is it to your liking? I would not want to impose upon you, but I wished very much to help Bingley out of his present predicament, and I suspected you would gain much enjoyment from having some company for a short while.’

Georgiana shook her head. ‘It is no imposition at all, I assure you. It will be all things delightful!’

Darcy laughed, though with some reservation. He could not help but think there may be times when he would regret his impulsive decision, and so might Georgiana, the twins being very different in character to both Darcys!

‘When shall we expect them? Should Mrs Annesley be permitted some time of her own?’

‘That is thoughtful of you, but I suspect we will need Mrs Annesley’s assistance!’ He paused as a maid entered with a tray of buttered bread, sliced cake and the necessary paraphernalia for the making of tea. Then, he continued, ‘Bingley is to make the arrangements to bring Olivia and Viola to us; I will know when to expect them shortly.’

Georgiana busied herself in pouring tea for them both and offered the plate of cake to Darcy before settling back in her seat.

‘Shall we see Mr Bingley again soon? I should so like to hear more about his sisters before I meet them.’

‘Most indubitably; but Georgie, there is something I have yet to…’ he paused; a slight commotion could be heard in the hallway and then the door opened, bringing with it a wave of warm air and their cousin.

‘Ah, excellent! A welcoming dish of tea, a plate of good sustenance and the best of company!’ Colonel Fitzwilliam dropped his cloak, hat and cane onto a chair near the door and began to pull off his gloves.

‘Now,’ he pulled up a chair to join them and began to pile slices of bread and cake onto a plate, ‘tell me how much you have missed my company, for I have just come from my father’s house, and he never speaks one word of it!’

‘Oh dear!’ Georgiana looked concerned, but Darcy shook his head.

‘Pay him no mind, Georgie. He speaks in jest.’

The Colonel pretended offence. ‘How could you say such a thing, Darce! I am much maligned by my family, who have shown little interest in how I travelled back from Southampton and, despite seeing her with their own eyes, wish only to hear news of their dear niece and continued assurances she came to no harm during her lengthy absence.’ Then, he grinned and turned to Georgiana. ‘Mama is desirous of your brother bringing you to Matlock when they return home next month.’

‘I am afraid that is not possible, Cousin.’ Darcy interrupted, glancing quickly towards his sister. ‘We are destined for Pemberley.’

‘Pemberley, Fitz?’ Georgiana looked in astonishment from Darcy to the Colonel and back again. ‘But how so?’

‘Bingley was concerned about Olivia and Viola’s happiness, should they attend the seminary here in Town, and as of today I have secured an alternative. Do you recall the lady who instructed you in German, Georgiana, and what happened to her after she completed her time with us?’

‘Miss Wreaks? Yes, of course! Oh, it was so romantic!’

The Colonel laughed. ‘Romantic is the last thing I would call the German language!’

‘No, Richard!’ Georgiana turned to him, her eyes sparkling. ‘I do not refer to the tongue or its tuition. She and my music tutor made a match of it and were married!’

‘They returned to Hofland’s home in the north of England and set up a small finishing school in a spa town there. They provide tuition in those accomplishments most sought after in young ladies. The school is becoming well established, and through their excellent connections and the high standard of the tuition they offer, they have acquired an influential following.’

‘And you – or rather, Bingley – proposes placing them in this school?’ The Colonel looked at Georgiana. ‘From all I have heard, they will find them an entirely different kettle of fish to Georgie!’

Georgiana smiled widely, and Darcy laughed. ‘Quite! But it is in motion. I received word this morning, and they are more than happy to take Olivia and Viola.’

Leaning forward to grab a slice of bread, the Colonel grinned. ‘Then let us hope they will enjoy the experience!’

‘Bingley believes so and, despite the distance from London, is more than happy for them to be placed there. As a consequence, the girls will need somewhere to go when classes are not in session. The roads are good, and Pemberley is little more than a half-day’s journey. It is the perfect solution.’

Georgiana hurried over and knelt by Darcy’s chair, taking his hands in hers. ‘Oh, I am pleased! I miss Pemberley so, and to know we are to be home so soon is such wonderful news!’

Just then, there was a light rap on the door and Mrs Annesley entered, greeting the Colonel and Darcy with a smile, and Georgiana got quickly to her feet and hurried over to her companion to share the news.

Seeing the two ladies settle upon the chaise and Georgiana talking animatedly, the Colonel turned to Darcy and said quietly, ‘This is news indeed, Cousin.’ He reached for another slice of cake. ‘I know you to be a generous man, Darce, but I am at a loss to understand why you feel obligated to provide a temporary home for Bingley’s sisters! That is his responsibility, not yours.’

‘I wished to help him,’ Darcy said in a low voice. ‘Bingley could not see a solution that would answer for all the family’s happiness. Besides, Georgiana, will benefit from having some younger company.’

The Colonel threw Darcy a keen look and grunted but said no more, turning his attention to the platter of food before him, and Darcy leaned back in his chair, releasing a slow breath.

The wheels were in motion. To Pemberley they would go, but not before Darcy had made progress with his own plans.


Determined to keep to his purpose, and with Bingley’s dilemma resolved, Darcy turned his attention to finding a wife. Once the evening with the Latimers was over and he had reacquainted himself with Miss Latimer, he threw himself into a round of social engagements, night after night attending suppers, recitals, card parties and even dancing at Almacks. He forced himself to converse, to smile at inanity and too much flattery, to conceal his boredom or his distaste, to swallow food where he had no appetite yet always praise the hostess, and to dance – of all things – with partner after partner, all in an attempt to determine upon an acceptable wife, that he could cease the interminable game once and for all.

Resolutely on each occasion he pushed away all thought of how a certain lady would have approved, had she seen his efforts to be polite, friendly even, to people he was barely acquainted with and to ensure no lady was left without a partner, be it for a hand of cards or to stand up for a set. Any thoughts of Elizabeth were counterproductive and must be firmly withstood.

By the end of a fortnight, he was exhausted of mind, sore of foot and sick of the sight of his dressing room mirror as Thornton put the finishing touches to his appearance. Sickened now by the targeted pursuit of him across several drawing rooms by the mothers of young ladies of marriageable age, he knew it was time to come to a decision and end this circus.

Thus it was, he arrived at the Latimers’ house for yet another supper at the appointed time and, despite the numerous guests, he made certain to spend as much time as he could in Miss Latimer’s company.

As he arrived home later that evening, Darcy handed his coat and hat to a footman and then caught sight of his reflection in a mirror. For a moment, he stared at himself. Did he look like someone who could be a married man; a husband? For a fleeting moment, he recalled his first attempt at securing a wife and was flooded with mortification and regret. Then, he raised his chin, forcing the sensations away. It was time for duty.

His memory had done him no disservice. Miss Latimer was quiet and self-effacing and, though not the best conversationalist, she thankfully did not simper. Darcy could not abide simpering! He blew out a breath, then turned on his heel and headed for the stairs.

The lady would not disturb him with her ceaseless chatter, or even her presence. Darcy had no intention of taking a wife who would disturb him; she would suit him very well.


Chapter Eight will be posted tomorrow!

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016

Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , | 29 Comments

A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Six

The blurb for this story can be found here, and links to previous chapters are below.

Prelude and Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five


Chapter Six

On reaching London, Darcy and Bingley hurriedly parted company on the corner of Grosvenor Square, with little time to refresh themselves before meeting again at the Hursts’ where they were engaged to dine.

Darcy found the evening interminable. Hurst, whose tendency once the ladies had withdrawn was to fall asleep in his seat, his hand firmly attached to his port glass, had the temerity to remain conscious for the duration, and never could his alertness have proved more infuriating.

Once they had re-joined the ladies, however, Bingley excused them both on some spurious pretext and they removed to Hurst’s study. Picking up two glasses, he deposited them on a small drum table and unstopped a decanter.

‘Thank you.’ Darcy took the offered glass and sat opposite Bingley who met his gaze seriously.

‘Here is to the memory of the late Mrs Bennet and Miss Lydia Bennet. May they rest in peace.’ He solemnly raised his glass and Darcy followed suit before they knocked back the drink in one.

Letting the liquid burn a trail down his throat, Darcy swallowed hard on the unanticipated wave of emotion sweeping through him at Bingley’s impromptu toast. It had been an extraordinary day, a sentiment echoed by his friend.

‘I am at a loss to fully comprehend it all.’ Bingley shook his head. ‘And what of the cad who effected this elopement? What of his identity?’

‘From what we have been told, we must assume a Militia man.’ Darcy sighed. He did not want to think about Wickham, let alone speculate upon his deeds. He never did, and yet so it always was.

‘Colonel Forster and his men were uniformly charming, were they not? Those of our acquaintance, I mean to say. Saunders… Denny… to bear such a charming air and countenance, yet conceal such intentions!’ Bingley shot forward in his seat. ‘Good Lord, Darcy! Could it have been your old adversary? Could it have been Wickham?’ He fixed Darcy with his eye. ‘You never did reveal the full extent of his treachery towards your family, and yet-‘

‘It has been shared with no one, and I cannot – even now – besides, it is not certain he was the culprit.’ Though you are convinced, are you not? ‘Just promise me one thing, Bingley.’ His friend looked surprised, but nodded. ‘Should it ever come to your notice Wickham has shown his face in your family’s vicinity, guard your sisters with your life!’

‘Good heavens, Darcy! Are you in earnest?’

Darcy stared at him solemnly, and Bingley slowly sank back into his seat, his gaze drifting to the fireplace. ‘I heed your warning, my friend.’ Then, he sighed. ‘I can barely comprehend our findings; such tragedy, such upheaval. And to think our purpose was merely to determine if Netherfield would answer as a home for the girls.’

‘Do you…’ Darcy hesitated. ‘Had you made your mind up on it? Before we learned of all this, that is.’

Bingley stretched his legs out before the hearth, his empty glass nursed in his lap. ‘I had not. The house is infinitely better suited as a home for them, but persuading Caroline to return and have the twins in regular bouts of residence is well beyond my talents.’

‘Is it not her duty?’

‘Of course, but when did duty ever oblige Caroline to do anything other than what she wishes? You are fortunate in your sister, my friend. Miss Darcy seems to have been instructed by tutors versed in educating without instilling a want of feeling, rather than turning out highly polished young ladies hardened against the rest of the world and prepared to think meanly of everything and everyone in it but themselves. Forgive me; I know I should not speak so.’

Darcy blinked as a sudden notion struck him, and he sat forward. ‘How difficult would it be to make some alteration in your plans for the twins?’

Bingley shrugged. ‘I am willing to do whatever it takes for my sisters to be happy. What are you proposing?’

‘With the present inflexibility of Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley, I wonder if, perhaps, it might be best to find them an establishment in an entirely different location.’

Bingley frowned. ‘Whilst I care little enough for inconveniencing the seminary, I do not see how it could help! Firstly, there is the difficulty of finding a credible alternative in such limited time; and even assuming they are willing to take both girls at short notice, there remains yet the problem of where they can go comfortably when not under regular tuition.’

‘If a solution could be found, though, you would not be unwilling to consider it?’

‘I would not!’

‘Then, leave it with me for a day or so. I will make some enquiries and advise you directly of my findings.’

‘You are a good friend, Darcy.’

Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his seat; he did not consider himself a good friend at all.

‘Here,’ Bingley topped up both their glasses. ‘We are in need of a little medicinal comfort this evening.’

‘I trust Hurst will not object to us making inroads into his stock.’

Letting out a hollow laugh, Bingley raised his glass to Darcy. ‘As I fund much of his ‘stock’, most of which he consumes before I can sample it, I find I can bear the guilt well enough! Let us hope it aids our rest as effectively as it does his.’


The following morning, Darcy was once more sequestered in his study, regarding the out-dated correspondence with a baleful eye. Then, pleased he had more pressing matters to address, he wrote the letters pertaining to his idea to help Bingley before summoning a footman to send them by Express and instruct the rider to await a reply.

There was little else he could do thereafter other than succumb to the inevitable, and pulling the small pile of correspondence towards him, he picked up the first letter.

But a half hour later, only two remained unread, and Darcy stared at the distinctive hand. Lady Catherine de Bourgh appeared to have written to him in August of the previous year and again in the January of this, and he smiled ruefully as he studied the dates. He had been perfectly clear in his letter to her on his departure last year that no personal correspondence would be forwarded on to him. His aunt being his aunt, however, she evidently felt a need to air her opinion on something, despite the lack of audience!

Darcy’s humour did not endure. He picked up the first letter, the one whose seal he had already broken, and scanned the opening paragraphs. Then he blew out a breath of frustration: was the name Bennet going to haunt him forever? His aunt’s letter brought naught but intelligence of the shame falling upon the family whose estate was destined for her parson. She had added a lengthy diatribe against the daughters and both parents, all of whom she found culpable in one way or another. She then passed sentence upon the four girls remaining at home, all of whom she claimed are now ‘even less marriageable than they were’.

Darcy leaned back in his seat, his gaze on the painting of Pemberley; had he not made the decision to travel, how would he have received this news? What might he have done in the circumstances; what if he had discovered the situation before Lydia Bennet came to an untimely end? Then, he pushed aside the notion. His presence would have been unwelcome; there was naught he could have done, just as there was naught he could do now.

Screwing the letter into a ball, Darcy tossed it into the fireplace before picking up the second.

‘Oh for heaven’s sake!’ he muttered under his breath. The letter began by deploring the decision by Mr Bennet to remove from the neighbourhood. Mr Collins, his aunt commented, was in fear of his inheritance, for how could a tenant be relied upon to care for the property in the same way as an owner?

Dropping the letter on his desk, Darcy got to his feet and walked slowly over to the window. He was heartily sick of the name Bennet. He had put time and effort into controlling his memories of anything to do with any of them, be it in Hertfordshire or Kent, and had been perfectly satisfied with his success.

It was sufficient to have been in Hertfordshire, where shades of a certain lady haunted him at every turn, but to return to correspondence filled with nothing but the Bennets was entirely too much He was determined he would have none of his newfound peace of mind disturbed, nor his clear direction as to his purpose sent off course.

Darcy turned back to his desk, balled up the second letter and sent it the same way as the first and made his way out into the hall. Before he had walked more than a few paces, the door bell pealed and by the time he reached the drawing room door, Pagett was admitting Bingley and his sister, Caroline, to the house.

Georgiana appeared in the doorway, and he drew her to his side. He was permanently on his guard around Caroline Bingley. He had long known her expectations and had no intention of meeting them.

‘My dear Miss Darcy,’ the lady gushed as she swept over to greet them. ‘You look so well. We heard so much about your travels last night, I confess I was quite envious of you.’ She turned her gaze upon Darcy, ‘and Mr Darcy.’

‘Miss Bingley.’

‘You are too cruel, sir,’ the lady exclaimed, placing a hand on his arm as they turned towards the drawing room. ‘Taking your sister away from us like that. Too cruel indeed.’

Having no answer to this, Darcy escorted the lady to a chaise near the fireplace and, as soon as Georgiana joined her, he invited Bingley to take a seat on the opposite side of the room.

‘When do you expect the girls to arrive in Town?’ Darcy spoke quietly, so as not to draw attention to their conversation.

Bingley smiled. ‘Julia is due this very day. As for Olivia and Viola, they have been staying with friends in Cambridge ever since Cousin Margaret was taken ill. I plan to fetch them myself directly.’

‘Really, Charles,’ Caroline Bingley, who clearly possessed highly accomplished hearing, interrupted him. ‘I do not see why they could not remain in Cambridge until the seminary opens for the new term. Why must they come to Grosvenor Street at all?’

Bingley’s smile faded. ‘Why should they not? It is the perfect opportunity to spend some time with the twins before they begin their tuition.’

Caroline Bingley sniffed delicately. ‘I do not see why you are paying so much money for their finishing, Charles. It is bad enough Papa placed an equal dowry upon all five girls, but for you to spend such a sum on your half sisters! It is in all ways unacceptable.’

‘Caroline, we have had this conversation too many times! They may well be half sisters to us, but they were not half daughters to Papa!’

Ignoring him, she turned her gaze upon Darcy. ‘My brother would do well to acknowledge the wisdom of your family. Mr Darcy, your father was not tempted to marry again and risk diluting the family’s wealth and consequence.’

This was all a little too personal, and Darcy turned to his sister.

‘Georgie, would you call for some tea? Miss Bingley, I am sure you would welcome a refreshing cup.’

Miss Bingley welcomed this attention precisely as he had anticipated, purring her gratitude for his attentiveness so profusely he was tempted to exchange his offer of tea for a saucer of milk.

The arrival of the refreshments was sufficient distraction for a while. However, once furnished with a cup, Caroline Bingley persisted in paying more attention to the gentlemen than the young lady upon whom she had professed such a desire to call that morning.

‘We are to attend the theatre this Thursday, Mr Darcy. Will you not join us? There is room for one other in our box.’

‘I thank you, Miss Bingley, but I am unable to accept.’

Caroline pouted at him. ‘Oh come now, sir! I am certain your dear sister can spare you for an evening, can you not, Miss Darcy?’ She swivelled to fix Georgiana with a compelling eye, but Darcy interrupted her.

‘You misunderstand me, madam. I do not decline out of a desire to remain by my own hearth. I have a prior supper engagement.’

‘Oh what is that when such delights as the theatre are to be had? One may eat supper on any day.’

‘You must excuse me, Miss Bingley; I am sure you will have a delightful evening.’

Caroline frowned. ‘And might I enquire whose company provides such attraction over a play in company with your good friends? It is one of your stuffy business suppers, no doubt, all cigar smoke, port and dry conversation.’

‘Thankfully not. I dine with the Latimers.’

A momentary spasm passed over the lady’s features, but she quickly resumed her habitual air of condescension. ‘Oh, dear Miss Latimer. Such a good friend of mine, so accomplished; do please pass on my best compliments.’

‘It will be my pleasure, Miss Bingley.’

The lady graciously inclined her head, and Darcy took the moment to return to conversing with his friend.

‘And if you do return to Hertfordshire? Do you believe you could make adequate arrangements in time?’

Hertfordshire?’ Miss Bingley’s voice was strident. ‘Charles, what is this talk of Hertfordshire? Are you finally giving up that ridiculous lease you entered into?’

‘I had been considering taking up residence at Netherfield, Caroline, to give the twins a home. It is too confined for them in Grosvenor Street.’

Miss Bingley paled. ‘You would not – you could not possibly consider going back to that… place. I will not do it. I will not come.’

Bingley threw Darcy a resigned look and, as Caroline Bingley then talked of nothing but how much she despised Netherfield, Hertfordshire and every person who had the dreadful misfortune to live there, he was vastly relieved when his friend decided to bring the visit to a close and ushered his sister out of the room.


Chapter Seven will be posted tomorrow!

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016

Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Five

The blurb for this story can be found here, and links to previous chapters are below.

Prelude and Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

What!’ Bingley shot upright in his seat, throwing an appalled look at Darcy, who stared back at him in stunned surprise.

‘How – how dreadful!’ Bingley slowly sank back in his chair. ‘What on earth brought about such a circumstance?’

Mrs Preston shrugged. ‘It was said Mrs Bennet took ill from the outset, worked herself into a state for want of news of her missing daughter. They were, as it was told, excessively attached to one another.’

Bingley glanced over at Darcy again, then turned to the lady and waved a hand. ‘Pray, continue.’

‘The daughter was the first to meet her end, in some low part of London, and when word reached Longbourn, Mrs Bennet became inconsolable, had some sort of fit. They brought the girl back from Town to be laid to rest – though fortunate they are the good Reverend found it in himself to take her into his churchyard. About a se’ennight passed before another seizure came upon the mother, more severe than the first. The servants claim to have carried her senseless from the master’s library and returned her to her bed and from it she never rose again, passing away but a few days later.’ Her expression lost a little of its severity. ‘She was laid to rest beside the daughter soon after.’

Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his seat, conscious of a little guilt now his tension had eased somewhat. The family’s loss must have been terrible; why did he not feel it more? Because you believe it was not Elizabeth who cast herself into a shallow man’s power and later perished for it.

‘And what of the remaining family?’ Bingley voiced the question Darcy dared not.

Mrs Preston shrugged dismissively. ‘They could hardly continue in the district, the stain upon the family lingering as it did.’ She stopped and sniffed, raising her chin. ‘’Twas not merely the suspicion of no marriage taking place between the girl and her beau, you see; there was rumour aplenty surrounding Mrs Bennet’s final illness, and as for Mr Bennet… well now, I am not inclined to gossip, sir, you understand.’ The housekeeper looked to Bingley expectantly.

Darcy met Bingley’s bewildered look and shrugged, and his friend turned back to the lady. ‘Then let us not speak of it; if you could share what you understand to be fact, Mrs Preston?’

‘It was said a connection was able to source a property for them and before aught was known of it, the family departed the district. Then, the present tenants took up residence at Longbourn, and there is the end of it. I am not privy to where they have gone, nor is anyone in the neighbourhood.’ She paused, giving Bingley a keen look. ‘Not that any would seek to continue the acquaintance in the circumstances, of course.’

Struggling to comprehend what he was hearing, Darcy got to his feet and walked over to the window again, staring out into the benign parkland. Where the devil was Elizabeth? What terrible misfortune, to lose a sister, a parent – yes, of course, he had held Mrs Bennet in very low esteem, but having lost both of his parents and knowing of the Bennets’ closeness, he could easily imagine the despair the family had experienced.

Then, he sighed. He had thought Elizabeth expunged from his mind, memories of her deftly buried beneath the new ones he had encouraged during his travels, yet how easily she was resurfacing. He could think of naught but her suffering; such loss, and then upheaval from her family home, removed who knew where by her father…

With a jolt to his insides, Darcy suddenly recalled his steward’s visit: could Mr Bennet, widower residing with two daughters on his estate, be Mr Bennet of Longbourn? Yet four daughters had left Hertfordshire – if it was they, what of the others? Had Miss Bennet and Elizabeth, as he had already considered, found their own establishment in another neighbourhood and left the family home for life as wife to another?

Darcy pushed this thought ruthlessly aside; he must not allow himself to be filled with a compelling urge to find her, to discover the truth of the matter. It was ludicrous. If the family sought anonymity, then Pemberley could never be their choice.

Besides, of what possible interest or concern could it be to him? The connection between the families, such as it ever was, was over, firmly in the past; in his past.


‘I wonder which of the younger girls ran off.’ Bingley mused as they walked their horses out of the stables and prepared to mount.

‘That is easily confirmed.’ Darcy knew full well his purpose, and his friend’s comment merely gave him the necessary opening.

Bingley frowned. ‘How so?’

Darcy gestured towards Longbourn. ‘The churchyard.’

‘Of course! Shall we… should we…’

‘Lead the way, Bingley.’

They were soon fastening their reins to the block outside the church, and then they walked into the peaceful churchyard. It had become a warm and bright day, and Darcy paused to take a slug from his water flask, leaving Bingley to wonder amongst the graves. Though he knew Mrs Preston’s account did not implicate Elizabeth as the victim, he had to be certain beyond any doubt, and if…


With a start, he looked over to where Bingley now stood. From the newness of the golden stone of the headstones and the scarcity of grass at their base, this was clearly the more recently used corner of the small churchyard. Darcy swallowed quickly and walked over to stand beside his friend, forcing his eyes to read the inscription:

Here lyeth

Frances Bennet nee Gardiner

Wife of Thomas Bennet

Born 1st April 1772

Departed this world

the 13th day of September 1812

And her daughter

Lydia Bennet

Born 14th June 1796

Departed this world

the 2nd day of September 1812

‘Miss Lydia!’ Bingley exclaimed. ‘The youngest of them all.’

And the most foolish. The thought swept through Darcy before he could catch it, and he bit his lip. He did not mean to be so unfeeling, but until he had read those words engraved in stone before them, he could not fully forego his fears. The thought of Elizabeth wed to another did unpleasant things to his insides, but it was far preferable than believing her remains buried beneath the dry and dusty ground, ever silent, forever gone from this world.

His studied the finely carved words and, despite his distaste for the family, he was filled with sadness as he read once more the words: Born 14th June 1796.

This girl and Georgiana were but days apart in age. A memory of Wickham rose before him unbidden, from their encounter in Ramsgate; this had to be his doing. Darcy’s gaze dropped to the dusty ground at his feet. How would it feel to have his sister lie thus before him? How close had her fate been to that of poor Lydia Bennet?

Not wishing to dwell upon this, Darcy turned away, but as he did so, a movement caught his eye and he stared at the low-hanging trees on the opposite side of the churchyard. Then, a figure in black emerged and walked towards them.

‘Bingley,’ Darcy muttered to his friend, and Bingley glanced up, a smile of recognition spreading across his features.

‘It is the Reverend Watts!’ Stepping forward, he met the gentleman half way and shook his hand and Darcy, recognising him now he was in full light, added his own greeting before they all turned to look back at the headstones.

‘A sad business.’ Mr Watts shook his head solemnly.

‘We learned of it only this morning.’ Bingley added. ‘I trust you have been kept informed of the whereabouts of your former parishioners, especially as Mr Bennet still retains ownership of Longbourn?’

Darcy silently commended Bingley for his presence of mind in asking such a question, but to his surprise, Mr Watts shook his head.

‘I have not. There is no one hereabouts who knows where they have gone, for their purpose in uprooting and moving elsewhere was to bury all association with the happenings here.’ He hesitated, then added, ‘I do have a London address where I send any communication I find necessary pertaining to the estate, but I am not at liberty to disclose it.’

Darcy turned away from the graves again, his gaze scanning the horizon. Where had they gone?

‘No, of course.’ Bingley frowned. ‘But what of Sir William Lucas? And Mrs Bennet’s sister and brother Philips? I had but a slight acquaintance with them, yet I understood the sisters to be very close. They must know where the family is.’

The reverend shook his head. ‘Their destination was disclosed to none, I assure you. As for the Philips, they too no longer live in the neighbourhood; they moved away shortly after the Bennets, and the house is quite shut up. They are gone to Kenilworth, where Mr Philips has re-established his practice.’

His curiosity roused, Darcy turned back and met the puzzled gaze of Bingley, who then addressed the reverend once more.

‘Were they so tainted by association, then, after Miss Lydia Bennet’s elopement?’

There was some sort of… dispute, between the two branches of the family, sir, around the time of Mrs Bennet’s final illness and it grew worse after her passing.’ The man looked a little awkward for a moment as he glanced between them. ‘I do not wish to say more than this and beg you would not ask me.’


‘My mind is all confusion, Darcy. I know not what to think on any of this. It feels as though some sort of madness has descended.’

Darcy understood entirely how Bingley was feeling as they both regained their mounts and turned them towards the London turnpike.

‘The repercussions of one’s actions… ‘ Bingley shook his head as they set off at a canter. ‘Miss Lydia must surely have had no possible concept of her rash behaviour causing such a series of events: her family’s disgrace, her mother’s illness and death, her own death, and the rest of the family broken up and displaced, living anywhere but their home of Hertfordshire.’

Repercussions… a wave of helpless regret swept over Darcy, followed swiftly by a heavy sense of culpability. This was his fault; he had no doubt of the identity of the culprit who had charmed Lydia Bennet. If only he had felt able to make Wickham’s character publically known in the neighbourhood; but who would have believed him? All he would have done was reveal how close his own family come to sharing such a disgrace; yet he had thought to protect no one but themselves.

Angry and frustrated with himself, he kicked his mount into touch and was soon setting a fair pace, conscious of Bingley’s horse attempting to keep up to his left as he strove to escape his regrets and outrun his anxiety.


Chapter Six can be found here!

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016

Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Four

The blurb for this story can be found here, and links to previous chapters are below.

Prelude and Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three


Chapter Four

Shepherding Bingley into action took far longer than Darcy had foreseen, and they had barely reached Hertfordshire before dusk fell. They passed what remained of the evening in a small sitting room, having been served a hastily prepared dish of soup by one of two custodian servants, their conversation touching on many things pertaining to the house and the twins, but not on the family who lived but three miles across the parkland.

The following morning dawned clear and bright, and Darcy took the opportunity to walk out into the grounds of Netherfield Park. The air was fresh and the prospect pleasing as he approached the area of woodland forming the boundary between the park and the lane as it wound its way to Meryton.

Reaching the far wall, Darcy leaned on the stone stile and stared thoughtfully into the distance. The spectre of Elizabeth hovered in the air, taunting and tantalising – out of reach yet ever present. It was something he had not anticipated here at Netherfield, and though he did not welcome it, he had no power to expunge it. He stood even now at the very spot where he had met her on the morning she sought news of her sister’s health, ankles deep in mud, eyes sparkling from her walk across the fields.

She appeared before him as clearly as though it were yesterday, and Darcy blew out a frustrated breath.

‘Be gone,’ he muttered, turning away from the boundary wall. He needed to concentrate on their reason for being there, and to ensure their departure today was timely.

Darcy started to walk back across the parkland, his mind and eye now fixed upon the house. It had a pleasing aspect and was in excellent condition for a property leased out since it had been built but five and twenty years ago. Should Bingley retain it; purchase it, even, and make a much needed home for himself and his younger sisters, or should he give it up?

This morning would perhaps bring a solution. They had agreed to ride out and tour the park and the remainder of the estate once they had broken their fast and, determined to hasten a decision so he could remove himself swiftly from the memories curling around him like ever thickening wisps of smoke, Darcy picked up his pace and returned to the house.


Some hours later, Darcy and Bingley turned their mounts away from the furthest boundary of the estate and began to ride back towards the house. Their tour of the land had been somewhat circuitous and any foray in the direction of the Bennets’ home had been neatly achieved.

Yet, as they made their way along the lane and neared Netherfield once more, Darcy realised they were perilously close to Longbourn.

‘I say, Darcy,’ Bingley hailed his friend as they neared the junction in the road which would determine their course.

Darcy turned in the saddle. ‘You wish to make a call.’

He knew Bingley would attribute the disinclination in his voice to an entirely inaccurate cause. It suited his purpose; his reluctance to truly test his mettle in Elizabeth’s company was his concern alone.

Bingley drew his mount to a halt next to Darcy. ‘You will not accompany me. I understand. Yet I wish to call and pay my respects. When I went away in the year eleven, I took no proper leave of the family. I do not intend to make Miss Bennet-’ he hesitated. ‘Should Miss Bennet remain at home, I have no desire to make her uncomfortable, but I do feel duty – and honour – bound to do what I could not back then.’

Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. ‘As you wish. You have my support if you so desire, but if you would prefer to attend alone…’ he hesitated. ‘I was never particularly well received by any of the family.’

Bingley threw him an unreadable glance. ‘I think it was fairly reciprocal, old man.’

With a rueful smile, Darcy acknowledged the hit. ‘Then if you will excuse me, I shall continue on to Netherfield and await your return.’

With a touch of his hat, Bingley kicked his horse into touch, branching left at the junction and setting off at a canter towards the gates to Longbourn, just visible on the corner as the road bore left towards Meryton.

For a moment, Darcy watched his friend, struggling to suppress a sudden and irrational urge to follow him. Then, he turned his mount to the right. This was no time for self-indulgence. Staying away would clearly answer for Elizabeth and her family having an easier time of it during Bingley’s visit. His friend had the right of it; he, Darcy, had displayed no inclination for the company of the family in the past, and they none for his, and the sentiment was unlikely to have undergone any alteration in his absence.


Darcy returned to the house quite out of countenance but reluctant to own it. He had no intention of permitting a resurgence of memories to undermine the newly found peace he had acquired; yet he could feel himself weakening and was gaining a devil of an ache in his brow for attempting to prevent it. The sooner Bingley returned and they headed back to Town the better! Any qualms he suffered over what news his friend might bring of Elizabeth and her present marital status he rigidly silenced.

Barely had he set foot in the entrance hall, having returned to the house through the boot room, when he came face to face with a middle-aged woman who let out a shriek.

‘Oh, my dear sir! Such a fright did you give me!’

‘Forgive me, madam.’ Recognising the woman as Bingley’s former housekeeper, Darcy racked his memory for a name, but nothing came forth. He could not recall exchanging a single word with her during his earlier stay – he had left such pleasures to his friend and his sisters.

‘Mr Bingley wished to visit the house for a brief period. We will be returning to Town directly, and thus he felt no need to recall the household servants.’

The woman before him looked disapproving. ‘All the same, sir, I would have appreciated the opportunity to ensure the provision of adequate meals and a warm fireplace by which to sit. The house is cold from lack of use.’

Darcy sighed, wishing she would leave him in peace to indulge his aching head. ‘Mr Bingley will be here directly; perhaps you could address your concerns to him on his return from Longbourn.’

The woman paled visibly, a hand shooting to her throat. ‘Oh dear! Oh dear me!’

Intrigued despite himself, Darcy stared at her. ‘What is it? What ails you – here, perhaps you should be seated.’

He waved the housekeeper onto a nearby settle but he could sense her reluctance as she all but fell onto it.

‘Oh, Mr Darcy, sir!’ Clearly, she had a better recall of names than he. ‘This is no way for the Master to find out.’

An icy hand sneaked its way around Darcy’s insides. ‘Find out what, madam?’


The housekeeper having left to prepare some tea, Darcy removed to the library but he had barely raised a hand to open the shutters when Bingley came rushing through the door. His face was flushed from his hurry, and he walked rapidly over to where Darcy stood near one of the full-length windows, his air and countenance a mixture of confusion and sadness.

‘They are gone, Darcy! The Bennets! They reside no longer at Longbourn!’

‘Yes – yes, so I understand.’

‘You know of it? How could-’

‘Your former housekeeper was here.’

Bingley sank into a nearby chair. ‘Mrs Preston was here?’

Preston! Yes, that was her name, damn it. ‘She heard from the retained servants of your return and came to check upon it.’

‘She was a good soul, was she not? So – tell me; what intelligence did she bring?’

Darcy fastened the open shutters in place, before turning to his friend; then he shrugged, attempting nonchalance to mask his own concern. ‘I cannot answer. Your housekeeper told me only what you have yourself discovered, and then she took herself off to prepare some tea, seeming desirous of awaiting your return.’

A sharp rap came upon the door, which opened to reveal Mrs Preston bearing a hastily prepared tray.

‘There you are, sir!’ she exclaimed to Bingley as she came into the room. ‘’Tis a chill wind blowing out there today, despite the sun; you must partake of some nourishment.’

‘Mrs Preston, good day to you.’ Bingley got to his feet. ‘You are too kind.’

‘Not at all, sir. I only wish I had been forewarned of your visit, but I understand from Mr Darcy you intended only to remain the one night.’

‘Yes, we must return today,’ Bingley nodded emphatically, and Darcy took the offered cup from the lady and walked over to stand by one of the tall windows. ‘But before we depart, Mrs Preston, I would be grateful for some understanding of what led the Bennet family to move away from Longbourn?’

The housekeeper’s countenance hardened, but then she nodded.

‘Of course, sir. I will share all I know – though ‘tis little enough and no more or less than anyone in the district could tell.’

Bingley returned to his own seat, his cup in hand. ‘Do go on, Mrs Preston. As a former neighbour and acquaintance, I am anxious to understand what has happened, and I know I can trust to your discretion.’

The woman positively preened under such encouragement, and Darcy rolled his eyes.

‘Well now, sir, ‘twas back in the late summer of last year – one of the daughters ran off, eloped with a Militia man. Whether a marriage took place, no one seemed certain but the suspicion of it not being so was sufficient to bring disgrace upon the family, who were universally shunned.’

She proceeded to express her opinion on women of loose morals and parents who encouraged them, but Darcy was not listening. He had gone quite cold and turned quickly to stare out of the window. Elopement and the name of one he associated with it, a man whom he knew to belong to the Militia billeted in Meryton at the time, were sufficient for a wealth of emotions to flood his senses, and there was naught he could do to stem the flow.

Was this too much of a coincidence? Could it have been Wickham? But surely Elizabeth would never consent to an elopement, to cast off all her friends and, moreover, her family? Yet had he not feared the worst, of her being quite taken in by the scoundrel, her affections engaged, even? Had she not championed him, shown favour towards him, during their one and only dance at the Netherfield ball and then – later – so fiercely when rejecting him? He had to know, he must know.

Turning swiftly, he could see Mrs Preston topping up Bingley’s cup as though she had been talking of things as mundane as the weather. His friend was staring at her as though in a trance and clearly had not the wit about him to silence her, but Darcy strode across the room clear in his purpose.

‘Which daughter?’ he bit out. ‘Which of the Bennet daughters eloped?’

Mrs Preston raised a brow at Darcy’s tone; if she refused to speak, the temptation to take her by her righteous shoulders and shake the name from her would be unstoppable. He was beginning to feel almost sick with trepidation.

The lady turned away to address her master again. ‘It was not the young lady who took ill here at Netherfield.’ She did not seem to notice the relief flooding Bingley’s features. ‘Now there was a young lady who knew how to comport herself.’ She paused, clearly thinking, and Darcy could feel his shoulders tightening in suspense. ‘No, I do not recall her given name; I knew her by sight only, one of the younger girls, though markedly the tallest.’ The housekeeper’s countenance assumed a disdainful expression as Darcy dropped into a nearby chair. ‘Always hanging around the officers in Meryton, they were. A complete discredit to the family.’ She sniffed and raised her chin. ‘Mark my words, I said to my husband, it will all come to no good.’

Darcy released a taut breath as she continued. He could recall the younger Bennets from the last time he had seen them, cavorting noisily and with little decorum at the Netherfield Ball, hanging constantly upon the arm of one Red Coat or another.

‘And I was right.’ Mrs Preston declared with an air of triumph. ‘Met her end, did she not? As did the mother. Both dead and gone nigh on a twelve-month.’


Chapter Five can be found here!

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016


Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , | 36 Comments

A Quest for Mr Darcy – Chapter Three

The blurb for this story can be found here, and links to previous chapters are below.

Prelude and Chapter One

Chapter Two


Chapter Three

Once he had broken his fast the following morning, Darcy repaired to his study where he found it difficult to settle, eyeing the small pile of still unopened post on his blotter unenthusiastically. Arriving as it had before word of his departure reached some ears, he toyed with relegating it to the hearth. He knew it was an approach favoured by his cousin, most particularly in relation to any letter bearing their Aunt Catherine’s hand!

His gaze drifted to the silver salver beside the post. He had been back little more than four and twenty hours before calling cards were being handed in by those acquaintance anxious to reinstate their connection with him. Lifting the card on the top, he studied the embossed name thoughtfully, then turned it over to read the few words penned on the reverse.

Latimer was keen to see him, and Darcy suspected the purpose behind his prompt presentation of his card: his daughter must remain unshackled. Then, he released a huff of breath. What did is signify? Was this not precisely what he sought?

Richard had the right of it. He was a single man in want of a wife. Miss Latimer would suffice as well as any other – was she not well educated, of impeccable lineage and with naught but the common civilities to say for herself? She would suit him very well.

Pushing aside the distaste he felt for himself, Darcy dropped Latimer’s card onto the desk and began sifting through the post to determine if aught might warrant his attention. A letter from his aforementioned aunt soon came to light, and Darcy almost laughed out loud. He could have predicted it; his letter advising his aunt of his proposed itinerary had told her pointedly that personal letters would not be forwarded. How like Lady Catherine to ignore such an edict! He cast a regretful glance towards the empty hearth before breaking the seal, but just then a quick rap came on the door as Bingley’s head peered around it, and Darcy happily tossed the letter aside and got to his feet.

‘Good morning, Darcy! I cannot tell you how splendid it was to see you returned last night!’ Bingley walked across the room and shook the proffered hand, beaming widely. ‘Pagett will berate me, I am certain, for in my eagerness to see you, I dodged around his stately progress!’

Darcy laughed, waving his friend into a seat. ‘You look in fine spirits. Are you well?’

Bingley leaned back in his seat, crossing his legs at the ankles. ‘I shall not complain; though I would berate the length of your absence! You were missed beyond measure, and it is not only I who delights in your return. It was merely a spark of ingenuity which permitted my escape from Hurst’s house without Caroline attached to my coat tails!’

So Miss Bingley remained at home. Darcy almost shrugged. Though he had forsaken love, he was not quite so desperate!

‘We have much to catch up on, Bingley. Will you join us, take up your usual rooms?’

There was silence for a moment and then, to Darcy’s surprise, his friend leapt from his seat and walked over to the window.

He frowned. ‘There is no obligation – do not feel under duress.’

Bingley swung around. ‘No – no, it is nothing of the sort. I am merely-‘ he ran a hand through his unruly hair.

‘You wished to speak to me – you are troubled?’

Bingley stared at Darcy for a second, his air unusually serious. ‘I have long reflected in your absence on the correct direction to follow – yet always I desired your counsel, and thus my deliberations have come to naught.’ He waved a hand at the painting of Pemberley above the mantel as he walked back across the room. ‘I have been considering my estate. I am a poor tenant of it. Should I give it up?’

‘And what then? You were determined to purchase and not leave it to the next generation, were you not?’

‘Indeed.’ Bingley sighed as he sank back into his chair. ‘I did like Netherfield, very much. But I do wonder if its attraction became enhanced by the local populace.’

Darcy swallowed uncomfortably. He had long owned his responsibility in separating his friend from Elizabeth’s sister, though he had shared it with no one. ‘Then, perhaps,’ he hesitated, unsure of his motive. ‘Should you not relinquish the lease, seek an establishment elsewhere?’

‘Well, there is the rub of it.’ Bingley ran a hand through his hair again. ‘I must now consider my sisters’ needs; all my sisters’ needs. I have deliberated long and hard, yet I have failed to reach a conclusion which delivers satisfaction for all.’

Darcy leaned back in his seat and studied his friend’s conflicted countenance. ‘Perhaps you should air your dilemma – oft, one finds speaking of something encourages a solution to present itself?’

‘If only it were so simple,’ Bingley grimaced. ‘But I value your suggestion; indeed, I cannot tell you how comforting it is to have you sat behind your desk once more! Well, here it is: the twins have completed their formal education under their governess and are presently awaiting entrance into the same seminary Louisa and Caroline attended in London, where they will duly receive the finishing touches to their accomplishments.’ Bingley laughed ruefully. ‘Though I believe they will present a greater challenge to their tutors than my other sisters!’

Darcy smiled, but did not interrupt. He had heard sufficient tales from Bingley of the twins’ exploits to understand he made no exaggeration.

‘So,’ his friend continued, ‘they will be here in Town whilst being tutored and thus residing in Grosvenor Street. The former is what feeds my disquiet; the latter does likewise to my sisters.’

‘How so?’

Bingley sighed. ‘I am reluctant to place Olivia and Viola in an establishment renowned for turning young girls into what my other sisters have become. I cannot bear to think of their merry natures being crushed or their joy of life constrained into oppressive formality, though I suppose it is almost inevitable.’

With Bingley’s countenance expressive of his concern, Darcy knew not what to say by way of comfort.

‘But can you imagine, Darcy, how the thought of having the twins in their home for any duration is being received by the Hursts and Caroline, let alone my younger sisters themselves?’

‘And Netherfield? Should you return, take up residence, it is conveniently situated from Town and the perfect home for the girls when not being prepared for the demands of formal society. But what of Julia? She is full young yet, is she not?’

‘Indeed.’ Bingley nodded. ‘She will return to Scarborough to complete her formal education at home, by which time I am certain Cousin Margaret will be well once more. As for Netherfield… though it would serve the twins well when they are not under tuition, Caroline would, as a consequence, have to return to run the household. I am certain you can imagine how they all feel on such a matter!’

Darcy sighed. He fully comprehended his friend’s difficulty. Though he had rarely been in company with the twins, Miss Bingley had made no secret of her dislike of her younger half-sisters when they had made a brief appearance at Netherfield, and she frequently complained of them to her brother in Darcy’s presence. As for Miss Bingley’s liking or otherwise for Hertfordshire, he doubted it had undergone much alteration since she left with such obvious satisfaction in the year eleven.

‘It would seem the stability of a home with you at Netherfield must be preferable for the younger girls, and being cooped up in a town house in London is unlikely to satisfy any of the family. In Hertfordshire there are ample opportunities to partake of the country pursuits. Would not the size of the property secure Miss Bingley some solitude?’

Bingley threw his friend a keen glance. ‘Caroline could allocate a part of the house to the twins and keep to as many other rooms as she wished, you mean?’

Precisely. Darcy shook his head. ‘Not at all.’

Bingley sat up slowly in his seat. ‘I do not know if it will answer, but it does offer a more palatable solution than we have at present. Besides, I do wonder…’ he met Darcy’s gaze. ‘I do think I ought to pay a visit… to Netherfield.’ He fixed his friend with a determined stare. ‘I can avoid it no longer; I must speak of it. You recall the Bennet family and my… tendresse for the eldest daughter?’

Reluctantly, Darcy nodded, trying to ignore the tension seeping into his shoulders. He had suspected the matter may resurface once returned to Bingley’s company; he would not let it affect him.

‘Well, then. I will own I fear bringing unease upon the lady. You said Miss Bennet was indifferent to me. My removing myself from the neighbourhood must have brought considerable relief at the time. If I now return, will she fear I might renew my attentions? I would not wish that upon her.’

Darcy stirred uncomfortably in his seat. ‘You assume she remains at home, Bingley. It is nigh on two years since your brief sojourn in Hertfordshire. The lady may well have found an establishment.’

Bingley slumped back in his seat, his skin paling. Was it as Darcy had feared? Did his friend still remain affected, even after all this time?

Yet he, Darcy, had recovered from his foolish admiration for the lady’s sister, had he not, and had sworn to think on her no more? Thus, the sooner his friend made a decision on the property, the better for all.

‘Then shall we not go directly?’

Bingley looked up, startled. ‘Now? This very day?’

“Why ever not?’ Darcy glanced at the clock on the mantel. ‘It is a ride of but a few hours and the weather holds fair. We could stay overnight, assess the estate on the morrow, and be gone from the neighbourhood within four and twenty hours. If you are at leisure?’

With a rueful smile, Bingley got to his feet. ‘I am at leisure all too often, my friend; all too often!’

Returning to Hertfordshire had never been part of Darcy’s expectation, least of all so soon after his return! With determination, however, he got to his feet. The sooner the visit was paid, the better, and what finer evidence could there be to reassure himself his distance this past year had been the effective cure for putting the past firmly where it belonged?


Chapter Four can be found here!

Copyright © Cassandra Grafton 2016

Posted in A Quest for Mr Darcy, Writing | Tagged , , , | 30 Comments