By reason by reflection.., p.1
By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything, page 1
By Reason, By Reflection, By Everything
A Pride and Prejudice Variation
P. O. Dixon
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About the Author
P. O. Dixon is a writer as well as an entertainer. Historical England and its days of yore fascinate her. She, in particular, loves the Regency period with its strict mores and oh so proper decorum. Her ardent appreciation of Jane Austen’s timeless works set her on the writer’s journey.
Also by P. O. Dixon
Bewitched, Body and Soul
To Refuse Such a Man
Miss Elizabeth Bennet
Still a Young Man
Love Will Grow
Only a Heartbeat Away
As Good as a Lord
Matter of Trust
Everything Will Change Series
So Far Away
Dearest, Loveliest Elizabeth Series
Dearest, Loveliest Elizabeth
A Darcy and Elizabeth Love Affair Series
A Lasting Love Affair
‘Tis the Season for Matchmaking
Pride and Prejudice Untold Series
To Have His Cake (and Eat it Too)
What He Would Not Do
Darcy and the Young Knight’s Quest Series
He Taught Me to Hope
Hope and Sensibility
Darcy and Elizabeth Short Stories Series
Expecting His Proposal
Pride and Sensuality
A Tender Moment
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“A scheme of which every part promises delight, can never be successful; and general disappointment is only warded off by the defense of some little peculiar vexation.”
* * *
“Pray, tell me again why you are going through with this scheme of meeting this young woman from Hertfordshire?” Colonel Fitzwilliam beseeched his younger cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Reared with certain guiding principles, the younger man considered his obligation of uppermost importance to his family was to be heir to Pemberley and to beget the next heir after him. Knowing his duty and behaving in a manner to bring it about were different matters altogether. Few people who knew him well were more aware of Darcy’s dilemma than the colonel.
Darcy’s thoughts of his father’s failing health had been a near constant companion of late. Concerned that the elderly man was nearing his final days, Darcy wanted to do something he thought would bring his father a bit of comfort and peace of mind.
He was no stranger to the fact that his father had long entertained the idea of his first-born son marrying the first-born daughter of Mr. Thomas Bennet, one of his closest friends from university. It was all rather informal - this arranged marriage - given one rather material point: neither of the gentlemen had even chosen their own future brides.
In the ensuing years, the elder Darcy went on to marry Lady Anne Fitzwilliam, the daughter of the fifth Earl of Matlock. Not long after that, he begot his only son and heir, Fitzwilliam. As it happened, his wife made a pledge of her own to her sister, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. From their children’s cradles, the two aristocratic sisters had decided that young Fitzwilliam and Lady Anne’s niece as well as her namesake, Anne, were to be married.
For the sake of familial harmony, the Darcys had agreed that when it was all said and done, their son should choose his own bride. So long as he at least entertained the idea of marrying one of the prospective brides that had been ordained for him, then neither parent would have cause to repine.
The fact that his parents’ plans for his future were at complete odds suited Darcy’s purposes perfectly well. For his part, Darcy simply was not ready to take a bride. His father’s dire fate did not change that, but the prospect of reuniting his father with his old friend before it was too late was not without its own appeal. With this scheme, his father would have the comfort of knowing he had kept his word to his friend.
Darcy was not at liberty to share such intimate details of his father’s health with anyone, not even the colonel with whom he had a habit of confiding almost everything.
“As I have said, I am doing so chiefly on behalf of my father. It is the least I can do to repay him for all he has done to ward off Lady Catherine’s insistence that I am to marry our cousin.”
“You would have your father believe you will marry a young woman whom you have never laid eyes on when you have successfully spent the past years since reaching the age of majority fending off beautiful girls and their scheming mamas. Are you certain you know what you are about? Why not just marry Anne and settle the business once and for all?”
“Should I harbor a desire to marry at all, I would have to say marrying Anne is completely out of the question. We may be relations, but, I assure you, we have nothing else in common. However, as I have no desire to marry anyone — regardless of how beautiful she may or may not be, I see no harm in meeting the young woman. Once I have met her and spent the requisite time in her company, I shall simply inform Father that she and I are not well-suited.”
“I say it is a precarious scheme at its best. You might fall in love with the young woman.”
Darcy shrugged. “I might, but as I am not looking to fall in love with anyone in the near future, I believe it is very unlikely.”
“Well, we might as well have a bit of fun with this little venture—a friendly wager if you will.”
He eyed his cousin with some circumspection. “You expect me to make sport of all of this. Why am I not surprised?”
“I have come all this way to witness you take part in this scheme. I feel I ought to have some stake in its outcome.”
“You might leave Pemberley and return to town,” Darcy suggested. “No doubt there is more than one young lady in want of your amiable companionship.”
“And miss out on the excitement of seein
“Miss Bennet,” Darcy replied. “Her name is Miss Jane Bennet.”
“Indeed. And unless I am mistaken, your friend Charles Bingley and his family are to be guests as well, which means there will be a third young woman vying for your attentions. I wager you one hundred pounds you do not escape this summer a single man whose heart remains unclaimed.”
“Do not be absurd. Besides, if my memory serves me correctly, you owe me in excess of one hundred pounds.”
“One hundred, two hundred, who’s counting?” Extending his hand, Colonel Fitzwilliam asked, “Shall we shake hands on it?”
Ignoring the gesture, Darcy replied, “On the contrary, for how difficult is it for a man who does not pay his debts to embark upon such a gamble?”
His cousin shrugged. “Then, you name the terms.”
“I think I shall abstain. It is one thing to give rise to expectations of marriage in the young lady’s mind. It is quite another to make sport of it. Indeed, I shall not compound the scheme with a paltry bet. Besides, what would my father think were he to learn of it?”
After carrying on in that way a while longer, the cousins were parted, and Darcy was at leisure to reflect on their conversation. He was not about to take his cousin up on the wager that he would lose his heart by the end of the summer. Not that he doubted his resolve in that regard, but it did not seem like the gentlemanly thing to do. Certainly his father would not approve. Causing his ailing father even the tiniest bit of grief was simply not in Darcy’s nature.
His ailing father. The elderly man had no idea that his son knew about his deteriorating health. Since stumbling across the information quite accidentally, Darcy had not breathed a word of it to anyone. It was evident to him that his father did not wish for anyone to know. That anyone would dare pity the great George Darcy of Pemberley and Derbyshire was utterly unfathomable.
I doubt my father intends for anyone to know his secret, save his physician. He has always guarded his privacy most fastidiously.
The elder Mr. Darcy had spoken quite often of his friend from Hertfordshire and how fate had conspired to keep them apart through the years. Just over two decades had passed since the two old friends had seen each other. Having weighed the prospect of entertaining a household of guests at what might prove an exceedingly difficult time for his father, Darcy decided to do so with the thought that being surrounded by friends and family was just what his father needed.
What Darcy had not counted on was the addition of his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter to the guest list.
“Cousin Anne,” Darcy voiced aloud. Judging by the way she looked at him for the past decade, it seemed, she also cherished the hope of an alliance between the two of them. Darcy had hoped that despite Anne’s frail nature, she would have attracted the notice of some other gentleman years ago.
“How could she?” Realizing he was talking to himself, he shrugged nonchalantly.
It is not as though Lady Catherine allows Anne out of her sight long enough to attract anyone’s notice.
It was true. Aside from the occasional foray into town to visit Lord and Lady Matlock, Darcy’s uncle and aunt, and trips to Derbyshire to visit Pemberley and the Matlock estate, Anne ventured nowhere. She had not even been presented in court. Now, she could best be described as a spinster.
Or, as my aunt Lady Catherine argues, a young woman bound by a peculiar engagement … to me.
He laughed a little in spite of himself, for this was no laughing matter. Upon hearing that the Bennets of Longbourn were traveling all the way from Hertfordshire to Derbyshire, ostensibly to visit the elder Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine had insisted on coming to Derbyshire, as well. She, of course, had her own reasons. The lady was no stranger to the fact that her brother-in-law was opposed to his only son marrying her daughter, even hoping for an alliance with people beneath their sphere.
Indeed, the one thing that Darcy was convinced his father had not counted on while making his choice was that his friend, Thomas Bennet, would in effect manage his own affairs so poorly that his daughters would have little to no dowries to speak of.
Upon deeper reflection, he arched his brow. Perhaps my father knew exactly what he was about. With Pemberley being one of the wealthiest estates in Derbyshire, the size of his son’s future bride’s dowry likely was of little concern to him at the time. On the other hand, the elder Mr. Darcy had married the daughter of one of the wealthiest gentlemen in Derbyshire, the late Lord Edwin Fitzwilliam, the fifth Earl of Matlock. It occurred to him that his father must surely have thought a lot of his friend Thomas Bennet and for that reason, Darcy was anxious to make the gentleman’s acquaintance as well.
Darcy thought back to all he had heard about Mr. Bennet from his father. A country gentleman from Hertfordshire and master of an estate named Longbourn that was entailed to the male line. A country gentleman who, for whatever reason, had married beneath his sphere to the daughter of a country attorney - a tradesman’s daughter - who brought little to the marriage. Together they had conceived not one, not two or even three, but five daughters.
Two of the five Bennet sisters will be arriving at Pemberley with their father at any hour, Darcy considered, steering his horse in the direction of the manor house.
If I am to greet them properly, I suppose I ought to head back.
Mr. Thomas Bennet sat across from his two eldest daughters, his thoughts a mixture of varying sentiments. The day had been decades in the making. What a stroke of luck for his eldest daughter to be introduced as a prospective bride to the future heir of one of the finest estates in Derbyshire. What an advantageous prospect for his entire family. Befriending George Darcy during his days at university had been the wisest thing he had ever done in his life. Unquestionably, nothing he had done since had been as beneficial.
He had decided early in life that the terms of the entail on his father’s estate were not conducive to a happy situation for his own future family unless he could beget a male child to inherit after him. Thus, Bennet was more than pleased to enter such an arrangement.
The fact that the bargain had been struck after a long night of drinking and lamenting their own woes of being the first-born son, or, as in both gentlemen’s cases, the only sons. The terms had been loosely defined. Clearly, Bennet held the less risky hand. Should Darcy’s first-born son and heir to Pemberley, which fortunately was not entailed, remain a single man after comfortably attaining the age of majority, Thomas Bennet would present his eldest daughter, provided she was also unwed, to the young man with considerable hope of a favorable outcome.
Decades had passed with a repetition of that agreement in one form or another in each correspondence. Bennet was wise enough to know there were no guarantees, especially given the temperament of young people of the day. Arranged marriages did take place. However, the last thing in the world he planned to do was encourage a marriage if he suspected his daughter and the young man were not a suitable fit.
Tearing his eyes away from all of nature’s magnificence that stretched before him, beautiful Pemberley Woods, he looked at his daughters again. The two of them were as different as night and day, both in countenance as well as in temperament.
The one thing he could say regarding his eldest daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, was that they made his life at Longbourn infinitely more tolerable. The three daughters who remained behind were by far the silliest girls in all of England. Unwilling to concede any share of the credit for the younger girls’ behavior, he held firm to his belief: like mother, like daughters.
I do not know how I shall endure life at Longbourn without my Jane and my Lizzy.
Indeed, if he could boast of but one of the girls as being his favorite, it would have to be his second-born, Elizabeth. Were it she that he was presenting to young Mr. Darcy as a future bride, Thomas Bennet coul
Obstinate, headstrong girl is how his wife of over twenty years often described their second-born. Indeed, she could be quite stubborn when she chose to be. However, Elizabeth was also described as the brightest jewel in the country. Having always favored her with his highest esteem, Mr. Bennet was compelled to agree with this portrayal of his second-born, and it had nothing to do with boasting.
There was a quickness about her that his other daughters lacked. A man whom others regarded as having a sardonic wit with an uncanny ability to laugh at those whom he regarded as being ridiculous, he could rightfully say that he and his second daughter were just alike in said regard.
Truth be told, he was not certain his second eldest daughter would ever find a man who was truly worthy of her. She absolutely needed to marry a man whom she deemed her superior. In his estimation, Elizabeth might well become a spinster rather than subject herself to the misery which must surely accompany marriage to a man whom she did not admire and respect.
What a relief that I am not presenting my Lizzy to the young master of Pemberley.
Mr. Bennet drew on his pipe as he continued to reflect on how things had come to be. He recalled his old friend citing in his letters on more than one occasion that his son, who was more like his aristocratic Fitzwilliam relations than not, might first appear a bit aloof. Haughty and proud is precisely how the young man had been described. On the other hand, his friend had also said his son had proven on many occasions to be a most loyal friend, and one who would do anything in the world for those whom he cared about the most.
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