Darcy and elizabeth what.., p.1

Darcy and Elizabeth What If? Collection 4, page 1

 

Darcy and Elizabeth What If? Collection 4
 


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Darcy and Elizabeth What If? Collection 4


  Darcy and Elizabeth What If?

  Collection 4

  Includes

  #10 Mr Darcy’s Wedding

  #11 A Pemberley Christmas

  #12 A Christmas To Remember

  JENNIFER LANG

  This collection © Jennifer Lang 2017

  Each separate novella © Jennifer Lang 2016

  The moral right of the author has been asserted

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher. Nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  This book is a work of fiction. The characters and incidents are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any real person or incident is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author.

  Table of Contents

  Mr Darcy’s Wedding

  A Pemberley Christmas

  A Christmas To Remember

  Mr Darcy’s Wedding

  Darcy and Elizabeth What If? #10

  JENNIFER LANG

  Table of Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter One

  Mr Darcy of Pemberley was in the habit of being pleased with himself, but in the spring of 1813 he felt very differently. For the first time in his life he was dissatisfied with himself. He had met a young woman the previous autumn, a Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and try as he might, he could not forget her. But he must forget her, for Miss Elizabeth Bennet was not a suitable wife and he must do everything in his power to drive her from his mind.

  And so when his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, called on him one day in late March and suggested they bring forward their visit to see their aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, at Rosings Park, he eagerly agreed.

  ‘I am glad the idea meets with your approval,’ said Colonel Fitzwilliam, as he settled himself into a comfortable wing chair and took a sip of brandy. ‘My orders have come through and I must return to the Continent sooner than expected. I would like to see my aunt before I leave England and so I must go sooner rather than later. Will you take your sister, Georgiana, to Rosings with you?’

  ‘No. She is visiting friends in Bath and I do not wish to interrupt her stay. She has been invited to stay at Rosings over the summer so she will be seeing Lady Catherine in July anyway.’

  ‘Lady Catherine . . . and Anne,’ said Colonel Fitzwilliam.

  Miss Anne de Bourgh was Lady Catherine’s daughter, and a considerable heiress. There had been a longstanding arrangement between Mr Darcy and Anne, and both families expected them to marry. Mr Darcy had never felt himself bound by the arrangement, which had been made between his mother and Anne’s mother. He had allowed himself time to find another young lady more to his taste. But all he had found was Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a young lady of many attractions but one who was merely a country squire’s daughter.

  Marriage to Miss Elizabeth, a young woman of no fortune and no breeding, was impossible for a man of his consequence. To put the idea out of his mind, he was half inclined to marry Anne at once. That would stop him doing something stupid as far as Miss Elizabeth was concerned, such as proposing to her in the heat of the moment, then regretting it for the rest of his life.

  The more he thought about it, the more the idea seemed the only sure protection against his own unruly feelings. Once engaged to Anne there would be no chance of him forgetting himself and offering marriage to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. He would be safe from Miss Elizabeth’s charms forever.

  His cousin was still looking at him enquiringly.

  ‘Yes. Lady Catherine . . . and Anne,’ said Mr Darcy.

  Colonel Fitzwilliam sat forward in his seat. It was a brisk movement, full of decision, and it reflected his energetic and martial nature. He was decisive on the battlefield and decisive in ordinary life as well.

  ‘Something has changed,’ he said. ‘The way you spoke of Anne just now . . . have you finally decided to marry her?’

  ‘Yes,’ said Mr Darcy rashly.

  As he said it, an image of Miss Elizabeth’s fine eyes rose before him, but he banished the image forcefully. He would not be prey to such feelings. He would not lose his pride and his self respect, and offer for a woman who was in every way beneath him. He was determined not to do it.

  ‘In that case, I must look elsewhere,’ said Colonel Fitzwilliam.

  He sat back in his seat, tilted back his head and finished his drink in one gulp.

  ‘Do you mean that you had thoughts of Anne for yourself?’ asked Mr Darcy in surprise.

  Colonel Fitzwilliam gave a rueful smile. ‘Yes. I must admit that I did. I need to marry an heiress, you know, Darcy. I am an earl’s younger son, which means I have expensive tastes without the means to satisfy them. Anne would have suited me very well. But you are the better suitor. I cannot hope to offer her what you can offer her. I have no estate, no Pemberley, and I have no fortune either. I have nothing but an old family name and my soldier’s pay. I cannot compete with you. Never mind. There are plenty more heiresses and perhaps some of them will be content with an earl’s younger son.’

  Colonel Fitzwilliam sprang to his feet.

  ‘Thank you for the drink and the company, but I must be on my way. I have a number of matters of business to attend to before I go to Kent. Can you be ready the day after tomorrow?’

  Mr Darcy nodded. ‘I can.’

  ‘Good. We will travel down in your coach, I take it?’

  ‘Unless you have suddenly acquired one,’ said Mr Darcy with a wry smile.

  Colonel Fitzwilliam shook his head and gave a rueful laugh.

  ‘Alas, no. Such things are out of my reach. I will be only too pleased to travel with you.’

  Colonel Fitzwilliam took his leave and Mr Darcy sat down once again by the fire. It crackled in the grate, sending welcome warmth into the room, for the March day was very cold.

  As he stared into the flames, Mr Darcy knew that the die was not yet cast. He still had time to pull back from the brink. He had told Colonel Fitzwilliam he would marry Anne, and yet the news had gone no further. But once he arrived at Rosings; once he spoke to Lady Catherine and asked her, formally, for Anne’s hand in marriage – since he could not ask Anne’s father, because her father was dead – once he did that, there would be no turning back.

  ‘Good,’ he said out loud, staring into the fire. ‘That is what I want. No turning back.’

  Chapter Two

  The Darcy coach made its stately way through the English countryside, heading south from London and heading for Kent. The journey would be completed in a day, for the coach was well built and the roads were good. The weather had been fine; not too wet, which meant the roads would not be muddy, but not too dry, which meant that they would not be hard baked or dusty either.

  The two gentlemen passed the time by speaking of the war against France, which was dragging on, and by matters of business that concerned them both. Then they spoke of family matters, in particular Mr Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, who was also Colonel Fitzwilliam’s ward. The two men had shared their guardianship of her since the
death of Mr Darcy’s father, and they worked hard to make sure that she was well looked after. True, there had been that unfortunate business in Ramsgate the year before, when Georgiana had almost eloped with Mr Wickham, but in general she gave them very little trouble and repaid their care with gratitude and love.

  In this way the journey passed pleasantly and before it seemed possible they found themselves rolling past the paling of Rosings Park. The grounds were not looking their best as it was March and the day was dull. The trees were denuded of leaves and they looked rather gloomy and sombre beneath the grey sky. Mr Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his seat, for in truth he too felt rather gloomy and sombre. It was no small thing to have decided on his future bride, and therefore his future life. But as the coach rolled past the Parsonage he held true to his purpose, for in the garden he discerned Mrs Collins. Mrs Collins was a reminder of Elizabeth Bennet, the young woman he was determined to put out of his mind, for Mrs Collins and Miss Elizabeth were old friends.

  That was the social level of Miss Elizabeth, if truth were told. She was friends with a rector’s wife and she herself would no doubt one day marry someone with a similar social standing. She would certainly not marry someone of Mr Darcy’s exalted rank.

  They passed fields and trees, and then the prospect of Rosings was before them. It was a handsome building, well situated on rising ground. The coach soon rolled up to the front door. The step was let down by one of the footmen and Mr Darcy climbed out, followed by Colonel Fitzwilliam. The two gentlemen mounted the steps to the front door, which was opened by a respectful butler. He bowed them into the hall, which had fine proportions and ornaments, and then went through an ante-chamber. Lady Catherine, Miss Anne, and Mrs Jenkinson - Miss Anne’s companion - were sitting there.

  Her ladyship rose to receive them. She was a tall, large woman, with strongly marked features which had once been handsome. She welcomed them in an authoritative fashion and they bowed over her hand. She then invited them to sit down and the gentlemen took their places on the sofa opposite her.

  Mr Darcy looked towards Miss Anne, and steeled his resolve. She was a thin, small woman of some twenty-seven summers, with a pale and sickly complexion. Her features, though not plain, were insignificant. But she possessed the breeding and dowry that Mr Darcy demanded in a wife; nay, to which he thought himself entitled. She would never bring a breath of scandal to him; never cause anyone to pity him or mock him; never cause any reaction at all, for she was exactly the sort of wife everyone expected him to take.

  Miss Anne greeted the gentlemen in a thin, weedy voice and then relapsed into silence.

  Lady Catherine rang the bell for refreshments and, after taking tea with the ladies, the gentlemen retired to their rooms, where they found their valets unpacking their things.

  Mr Darcy looked out over the park.

  It is now or never, he thought.

  Leaving his valet to unpack the remainder of his things, he went downstairs and found Lady Catherine still sitting on the sofa where he had left her. Miss Anne was at the far end of the room with Mrs Jenkinson. Mrs Jenkinson was listening to Miss Anne with avid attention and placing a screen in the proper direction before her eyes, to shelter her from the glare of the fire.

  ‘Aunt, I would like to speak to you,’ said Mr Darcy.

  Lady Catherine graciously inclined her head.

  ‘I am at your disposal,’ she said.

  ‘I would like to speak to you in private,’ said Mr Darcy.

  ‘Indeed.’ She raised one eyebrow, which gave her a haughty look. It was not unlike Mr Darcy’s own haughty expression. ‘Then you may join me in the small parlour.’

  She rose in stately magnificence and sailed out of the room, with Mr Darcy following her. The servants bowed as they crossed the hall and a footman opened the door to the small parlour with a flourish.

  Once inside, Lady Catherine took a seat by the fire, and after complaining that it was not bright enough and that the servants were negligent and that the sun was very remiss in not shining, she folded her fan with a snap and inclined her head to show that she was ready.

  ‘You know, Aunt, that you and my mother arranged a marriage between Anne and myself when we were in our cradles. The time has come when we should go ahead with that marriage. I have therefore come to ask you, since Sir Lewis is dead, for Anne’s hand in marriage.’

  It had never occurred to him to ask Anne, since Anne would do what her mother told her to do. It had always been so and no one had ever questioned it.

  Lady Catherine gave a gracious nod of her head.

  ‘You are right in this, as in all things, Fitzwilliam,’ she said. ‘This is exactly the time I would have chosen for the marriage myself. You are approaching thirty, the age when a man should be married if he does not wish to be considered remiss in his duties. Anne is approaching thirty, the age by which every young woman should be wed. Since you do not wish to leave it to the last moment, and since there is no reason to delay, I suggest you marry this Easter.’

  ‘This Easter!’ said Mr Darcy, taken aback.

  ‘Yes,’ said Lady Catherine, nodding her head sagely and setting her false curls dancing. ‘Colonel Fitzwilliam can act as your best man and Mrs Collins can be Anne’s attendant. Mr Collins, of course, will perform the ceremony. I would have liked to have the ceremony conducted in Westminster Abbey but Anne’s health will not permit it, so you will be married in Rosings church.’

  Mr Darcy was about to protest, since he had planned to have his sister, Georgiana, at his wedding, but Lady Catherine’s next words decided him to say nothing.

  ‘Mrs Collins’s sister will be Anne’s unmarried attendant,’ said Lady Catherine. ‘She will be arriving tomorrow, together with Mrs Collins’s father and her friend.’

  ‘Her friend?’ asked Mr Darcy.

  ‘Yes. A Miss Elizabeth Bennet. She is a distant relation to Mr Collins, as well as being Mrs Collins’s friend. I understand that Mr Collins will inherit her house when her father dies. A most unsatisfactory arrangement. Such a thing would not pertain in a well ordered household, but these country gentry are very bad at managing their affairs. I will have to tell Miss Elizabeth so when she arrives.’

  ‘She is to arrive tomorrow, you say?’

  ‘Yes indeed. I instructed Mr Collins to invite guests for Easter as I need them to make up tables for cards.’

  ‘Mr Collins is very obliging,’ remarked Mr Darcy dryly.

  ‘It is his job to be obliging,’ said Lady Catherine sternly. ‘I appointed him on that understanding. He and Mrs Collins will dine with us tonight so that you and Colonel Fitzwilliam might have some company when you sit over the port, when the ladies have retired to the drawing-room. We will give him the good news about the marriage ceremony he is to perform and we will make Mrs Collins aware of the part she will be required to play.’

  ‘Will you tell Anne or would you rather I conveyed the news?’

  ‘I will speak to her. She will be conscious of the honour you have done her and she will be happy to accept,’ said Lady Catherine. She rose majestically and rang the bell. A footman responded almost instantly and Lady Catherine said, ‘Give Miss Anne my compliments and ask her to join me here.’

  ‘Yes, my lady,’ said the footman, bowing.

  Once he had withdrawn, Mr Darcy, too, bowed – though not nearly so low as the footman – and left the room.

  So it was done, and not a moment too soon. He had formalised his relationship with Anne, and when Miss Elizabeth Bennet arrived she would see the sort of woman he was going to marry; a woman from an old family, heiress to the beautiful Rosings estate and possessed of a substantial dowry. And now not even Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s fine eyes could keep him from his suitable destiny.

  He went into the billiard room, where he found Colonel Fitzwilliam playing billiards in a desultory fashion.

  ‘Care to join me?’ asked Colonel Fitzwilliam.

  Mr Darcy shrugged off his coat and hung it on a peg, then picked
up a cue and went over to the table.

  ‘You look like a man who has just learnt he is to be executed,’ said Colonel Fitzwilliam. There was a thwacking sound as he sent a ball careering across the table, where it hit another ball and set it spinning into a side pocket. ‘I take it, then, that you have spoken to Lady Catherine?’

  ‘Yes. I have.’

  ‘And she has given her consent?’

  ‘Yes,’ said Mr Darcy shortly.

  ‘As was to be expected. So when is the wedding to take place?’

  ‘Over Easter,’ said Mr Darcy.

  ‘Over Easter!’

  Colonel Fitzwilliam was so surprised he sent his next ball flying wildly across the table, when it hit the side and jumped to the floor.

  Mr Darcy bent and picked it up.

  ‘Exactly my reaction,’ said Mr Darcy with a wry smile. ‘But, after all, why not? If the thing is to be done, it might as well be done quickly. Anne’s health precludes any show and so we will be married quietly in Rosings church. Mr Collins will perform the ceremony —’

  ‘That should be interesting,’ said Colonel Fitzwilliam, who had had the honour of meeting Mr Collins on a previous visit.

  ‘You will stand up with me —’

  ‘Is that Lady Catherine’s decision or yours?’

  ‘It is Lady Catherine’s command, but I would like it nevertheless,’ said Mr Darcy.

  He put the cue ball back on the billiard table and leant over, running his cue through his fingers as he looked along its length and decided which other ball to aim for. He selected his target and struck the cue ball in a smooth, fluid motion. The ball flew across the table and sent two other balls into their respective corner pockets.

  ‘Will you do it?’ Mr Darcy continued.

  ‘Yes, as long as the ceremony takes place before I have to leave.’

 
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