First, permit me to say the chapter below is unedited and may see some minor changes (meaning something is mentioned at the end of the book which must be introduced earlier) before publication, but I wanted to provide you a taste of what was to come.
Next, I should explain why I chose the word “amend“ for the title, rather than “mend” or even “emend.” In truth, the word “mend” might have worked, for it means “to put into good order something that is injured, damaged, or defective.” Such is true in my story, for Darcy’s life, as well as Elizabeth’s is in disarray; yet, I felt “mend” did not speak to the root of the problem—did not speak to the losses buried at the proverbial “roots” of Pemberley. “Emend” could not work, even though it means “to correct,” yet, generally such is correcting an error in text. “Amend” was perfect, for it not only means to change a document, it also means to address personal behavior. It is the old adage of “There is no future in the past.” You will see the truth of that line in my story repeated often.
Therefore, I give you chapter one of Amending the Shades of Pemberley. The story takes place two years after the original Austen tale. Tell me what you think, unless you absolutely despise it. In that case, leave me with a bit of Darcy-style pride. LOL!
(Meaning it is more than 200 words and must be shortened before printing, this is the working) Book Blurb
“You have willfully misunderstood me, Miss Bennet. You have no worry of my releasing you, for I do not wish you to perform as a governess to my daughter, but rather as my wife and the mistress of my hereditary estate.”
Elizabeth Bennet had thought the stranger quite handsome; yet, she had ignored those first tendrils of interest, for she was in no position for the gentleman to pursue her. She and her sister Mary were all who remained of their family. Moreover, Longbourn and its furnishings were to be sold. They were destitute, and, if fortunate, headed for service in some stranger’s household.
Fitzwilliam Darcy’s proposal of marriage would save both Mary and her, for her sister had agreed to assist with the gentleman’s young daughter. But what of the man’s tale of having corresponded with her father and of Mr. Bennet having purported a marriage between this stranger and her? Elizabeth knew nothing of the arrangement nor of the man’s existence. Though their marriage would solve all her troubles, what if the man’s tale was not completely truthful? Would Mr. Darcy become her enemy or a man she could learn to love?
Early Autumn 1814
“How might I be of service, Sister Elizabeth?”
Elizabeth looked up to view the solemn face of Mr. Bingley. Today was the first time he had made an appearance at Longbourn since Jane’s untimely passing. Sadness still marked the man’s features, and Elizabeth reached out to take his hands in hers. “Thank you for coming. I know all this is difficult for you.”
“No more so than it is for you and Miss Mary,” he said kindly. “Have all the arrangements been made? What of you and your sister?”
“Mary will stay with Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. The Phillipses have offered me a home, but I could not remain in Meryton and view Longbourn in the hands of another,” she admitted. “Aunt Gardiner’s second eldest brother is a vicar in the north. Her eldest brother passed at the same time as her father. Mr. Ericks has agreed to take me in until I can claim a position as a governess or a teacher at a girls’ school.”
“There is no need for either you or Miss Mary to enter service. You are my sweet Jane’s sisters. You will always have a home with me,” he declared.
Elizabeth wrapped her arm through his. “You are wonderfully generous and caring, and Mary and I are honored by your kindness; yet, we cannot accept. First and foremost, you do not require a constant reminder of your loss. You must eventually begin again, for you owe it to your family name to do so. I know you cannot yet think of taking another to wife, but you must some day act accordingly, and such would be quite awkward if your late wife’s sisters resided with you. No woman wishes to share her house with ‘reminders’ of another, especially a woman of Jane’s angelic beauty and kindness.”
Elizabeth knew Mr. Bingley’s sisters would not approve of his attentions to Jane’s family. Although Jane’s being a gentleman’s daughter had raised Mr. Bingley’s status in society, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst had never approved of their brother’s marriage to the woman he loved and was dearly loved in return. The sisters wanted their own tickets into society, riding their brother’s coattails into the haut ton.
“There must be something of significance I may do for you,” he insisted.
Elizabeth led him to a small sitting room. She purposely avoided her mother’s favorite drawing room. She and Mr. Bingley each had too many memories associated with the room. It was the room in which Bingley had proposed and in which her dear father had taken his last breath. “Would you like tea?” she asked. “Or something stronger?”
Mr. Bingley shook off the offer. “All I require is for you to speak to me honestly,” he instructed.
Elizabeth heaved a weary sigh. “The news from Mr. Birkhead was worse than I initially thought,” she began without looking directly into Mr. Bingley’s eyes. “The area lost so many to the pox. Some saw whole families wiped out. Despite the passing of Lydia and Kitty and Mama, Papa was certain we could go on. I should not say this, but you will understand: Neither Mr. Bennet’s thoughts nor mine were meant to be malicious. Yet, with Mr. Collins’s passing and Charlotte delivering forth a daughter, Mr. Bennet believed he had been presented a reprieve. He could, assuredly, after a period of mourning, marry another and, perhaps, produce a son to keep the entailment alive.”
“Who is to inherit now?” Mr. Bingley asked.
“If I understand it properly,” she began, “the entail will end, but a thorough search will be conducted to learn if another can make a claim. There are no male heirs coming from Mr. Bennet’s line, but perhaps that of another cousin.”
“Could not you and Miss Mary inherit through some sort of common recovery? Or, perhaps, though not what you wish, even Mr. Collins’s daughter? Was not Collins’s claim through a female line some four generations removed?” Mr. Bingley asked.
“I am not as well versed in Mr. Collins’s lineage as I should be, but Mr. Birkhead says otherwise. Moreover, I have spoken to Charlotte, and she will make no claim on the estate. In fact, it is my understanding, the gentleman who will replace Mr. Collins at Hunsford has requested to court Charlotte once Mrs. Collins’s mourning period has ended. It seems Lady Catherine de Bourgh believes Charlotte would be a good influence on her ladyship’s new rector.”
“Then why cannot you and Miss Mary remain in Meryton?” Mr. Bingley asked.
Elizabeth swallowed hard. “There is not enough money.”
“I could . . .” Mr. Bingley began.
However, she signaled for him to swallow his words. “It seems Mr. Bennet planned some sort of sweet revenge on Mr. Collins. As you may have concluded, my dear father greatly despised Mr. Collins’ father. When Mr. Bennet thought he held no chance of seeing his own line succeed, my father mortgaged Longbourn in order to invest in a mine. If the mine succeeded, Papa meant to provide all his daughters with enticing dowries and simply enjoy his final years in some luxury. According to his correspondence with Mr. Birkhead, if the investment failed, it would be Collins’s debt of honor. Unfortunately, when Mr. Collins passed, along with Mrs. Bennet and my younger sisters, Mr. Bennet’s prospects changed, but the gold mine vein was too weak to sustain the debt. My father’s revenge on Mr. Collins turned its ugly head on its server. The realization of his gambling away his heritage was enough to drive Mr. Bennet into a fit of anger and a spasm with his heart, one strong enough to kill him.”
“How much?” Mr. Bingley asked.
“Nearly ten thousand. Everything must be sold or else Mary and I will each inherit a debt we can never repay, no matter how many years we labor in service. Uncle Gardiner has offered to assist us, but neither of us can permit his family to suffer because of our father’s messy revenge on another claiming his beloved Longbourn.”
Mr. Bingley appeared not to agree with her assessment, but he said, “In your note, you asked for my assistance: If I am not to see you well settled elsewhere, then I must return to my initial question: How might I be of service?”
“Mary and I discussed it. We hoped you might organize some sort of auction of the household goods. Surely my father’s books must be of interest to collectors. He has many first printings, and there is the china and artwork. I realize Longbourn is not a stylish house in Town, but, according to Mr. Birkhead, we should not simply walk away from all inside. The gentleman says we could greatly reduce the debt if we sold the household in ‘parts,’ rather than a whole. I thought with your import and export business . . .”
“Your uncle’s business could serve you equally as well. Mayo’s is larger than mine in that manner,” Mr. Bingley argued.
“Uncle Gardiner already holds several such obligations for others,” she explained. “Moreover, I thought it would be difficult for him to be required to see his youngest sister’s belongings sold to another, especially if someone offered less than the true worth.”
Mr. Bingley smiled comfortably. “I have viewed more than one ‘heated disagreement’ at an auction, but never between those overseeing the sale and those bidding.” He sighed in regret. “Naturally, I will arrange it all. Leave it in my hands. It will be part of my debt to Jane. I will bring my staff from Netherfield to assist Mr. and Mrs. Hill in preparing the rooms. Once we have a list of the furniture and goods, I will have adverts printed and posted along the roads between here and London and throughout the neighboring shires. You should know,” he said in hesitation, “I have decided not to renew my lease at Netherfield. It is simply too hard.” He broke off with a sigh of grief.
“I am greatly remorseful for not being in a position to offer you the necessary comfort you required with Jane’s passing,” she said in true sympathy.
“You had your own hardships,” he returned. “All of Meryton had their own hardships.”
“We all thought you and Jane would be together forever,” she assured.
“So did I,” he said as tears misted his eyes. “If I had known having a child would steal away the woman I so dearly loved…”
“Each of us thought when you sealed off Netherfield from the rest of the community all would be well. It was quite a task to keep Mama from visiting Jane, but once she, too, took sick, Mrs. Bennet praised her own sensibility in protecting your child.”
Mr. Bingley said with renewed sadness, “In the end, all our protections proved worthless. The pox did not take my Jane, but, rather, the gift with which God had blessed us did the job. I lost both Jane and my first child in one fell swoop. I cannot think upon how empty Netherfield appears without her within.”
“You should have come to us,” Elizabeth declared, although, instinctively, she knew he could not, for Longbourn was in total chaos.
“You had too much sorrow of your own,” he countered, “and I required time to permit my dear wife her leave-taking. I am not quite there yet, but, with God’s grace, I have reached some peace. It will do me well to serve Jane’s family.” He reached across to her and caught Elizabeth’s hand. “You must make me a promise, if your plans become too much for you as a genteel lady, you will send me word. I will come for you immediately. Inform Miss Mary of my offer. Anytime. No matter the circumstances. I will be your gallant.”
* * *
Elizabeth pulled her cloak tightly about her and set off for Oakham Mount. Within a little over a fortnight, she must say farewell to her favorite walk. She had no idea how many times she had climbed the “hill” and looked down upon all of Meryton and the surrounding estates and farms. When she was young, she had pretended to be a queen or a princess looking out over the ramparts of her castle and upon all over which she ruled. It was here she came when her mother had chastised her for first one offense and then another. She came to the mount when she wished to daydream over the latest handsome young man who had caught her eye and who had briefly claimed her heart. She came to Oakham Mount to grieve when the same boy chose Jane over her. More than she would care to recall, she nursed her broken hopes of knowing love while looking out over the fallow fields of nearby farms. It was here she came when she wanted to practice the Greek and Latin phrases her father had taught her, although young ladies were not to study the subject domains of a gentleman.
“My heart is broken,” she told the view spread out before her. “When I leave Longbourn, you will no longer be a part of my life. I do not know how to say farewell to you. I had always thought I would some day bring my children here and point out all the fabulous places below and teach them something of my dreams and of . . .” She wanted to say how other dreams could become true; yet, her dreams would never know fruition. She would never know children, at least none of her own.
“Farewell, Meryton!” she called and heard the slight sound of the echo she so dearly loved.
“Farewell, Netherfield!” she shouted to the view off to the right, where the rooftop of Mr. Bingley’s estate could be seen beyond the tree line.
“Farewell, Elizabeth Bennet,” she murmured, nearly in tears.
Turning to the left where several Longbourn fields could be seen, she called with less force. “Farewell, Papa! Mama! Jane! Kitty! Lydia!” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “Farewell, Mary Bennet, for soon we will be separated for the remainder of our days.”
After several minutes consisting of a good cry and deep regrets, she turned to make her way down the mount to the road leading back to Longbourn. By the time she reached her home, she had composed her features to convey assurances for all who depended upon her. She had been required to serve notice to all the servants except Mr. and Mrs. Hill. Elizabeth had taken what funds remained in her father’s safe and bestowed them upon the pair for their devotion to the Bennet family. Now, her days at Longbourn were numbered.
* * *
Finally, the day of the auction arrived. For the last sennight various neighbors and others from the shire and outside Hertfordshire had traipsed through Longbourn’s rooms, sizing up what was worth their time. Mr. Bingley had brilliantly numbered each of the items and grouped them as “china” or “linens” or “paintings. He had arranged it so people moved back and forth between the rooms to create more purchases of items someone may have overlooked otherwise.
“What a lovely vase!” Elizabeth had heard him say to his staff. “Move it into the large drawing room.”
Every item in the house had been valued and labeled and priced. Mr. Bingley had brought what must surely be all the flowers still standing in Netherfield’s gardens and the conservatory to provide Longbourn the feeling of “life” and not the somberness they all carried about with them.
“Jane would be so proud of you,” Elizabeth told him. “She loved you dearly, you know.”
For the briefest of moments Mr. Bingley’s eyes were veiled by sand-colored lashes, and he ducked his head to disguise his emotions. “Some days, I still talk to her. I told her all about what we had planned and why we were all going away, but we would always carry her essence with us.”
“Pardon my intrusion into your private moment,” a deep voice said, “am I too early for the auction?”
Elizabeth rose quickly to shake out the skirt of her day dress. “Certainly not, sir,” she managed to say, forcing herself to meet his grey eyes with a steady gaze. “My brother-in-marriage and I were just speaking of last minute details.” She curtsied. “I am Miss Bennet, and this is . . .”
However, Mr. Bingley said from beside her. “Darcy, is that you?” He crossed the room to extend his hand to the stranger. “My goodness, man, I have not seen you since you departed university. Your face is so tanned, but then I had heard you were in India.”
The gentleman took Mr. Bingley’s hand. “I had no idea you were in Hertfordshire, Bingley. You were still studying for your oral exams when we last parted.” The man glanced around the foyer and the drawing room. “And you have married into the Bennet family?”
Mr. Bingley’s cheerful expression fell. “I did, but many in the area have lost their loved ones. A pox claimed Mrs. Bennet and two of her youngest daughters. Mr. Bennet passed from some disturbance of his heart. My Jane avoided the pox, but she lost her life to childbirth. I will be leaving Hertfordshire soon, but, first, I serve my wife’s family.” A few more interested in the auction entered the open door. “Pardon me, I see a few of the people who have approached me regarding the china and several of the paintings, including the one by Reynolds. Hopefully, we will speak again, Darcy.”
“I would enjoy that very much,” the gentleman said.
As Mr. Bingley moved away to greet the new arrivals, Elizabeth asked, “How did you come to hear of the auction?”
“I noticed the flyer posted on the wall of an inn in St Albans. I have known your father for several years. He was a fine man and a strong influence on my life. I admired his quick mind and generous nature. I had hoped, when I returned to England, I would have the opportunity to call upon him personally.”
“Although the name sounds vaguely familiar, I do not believe I ever heard my father mention anyone named ‘Darcy.’ How well did you know him?” Elizabeth asked suspiciously.
“We met several years back. Six in total. Since then, we have corresponded regularly, or as regularly as the mail between Hertfordshire and India allowed. The last letter I received from him was shortly after the first of the year.”
“Elizabeth,” Mr. Bingley said softly as he returned to where she conversed with Mr. Darcy. “I will require your assistance in greeting those who wish to know more of individual items. We both adore Mary’s goodness, but she does not possess your ability to make strangers feel comfortable.”
“Most assuredly,” she said. “Pardon me, Mr. Darcy, while I see to the business of dispensing with my family’s history. Was there something in particular you wished to view?”
“Your father’s library,” the man announced. “Yet, I am certain there are other items which will catch my eye.”
“Mr. Bingley will direct you to the library. Thank you for your kind words regarding my father. They were very comforting.” She curtsied and moved away, but, for the next few hours, every time she looked up, her eyes met the gentleman’s. He watched her with such interest, she began to feel as if he intended to bid on her.
As she made herself enter her mother’s favorite drawing room, Elizabeth noted quite a few of Mrs. Bennet’s former friends sitting about the room and sipping the wine Mr. Bingley had furnished for the occasion. “Dearest Elizabeth,” Mrs. Long said, “you have our heartfelt sympathy. Your sweet mother must be turning in her grave with outrage at this travesty.”
“Then I am assured you will wish an item or two to commemorate your long-time friendship with Mrs. Bennet,” she said knowingly. These women came to gloat—not mourn Frances Bennet’s loss. Her mother had bested them again and again. Mrs. Bennet had not only managed to place her eldest daughter with the first eligible bachelor to move into the neighborhood in more than twenty years, but she herself had landed a country squire, whose estate made them all jealous. Mrs. Bennet’s only failure in life had been Elizabeth and her sisters. Bless their souls! If Mrs. Bennet had delivered a son, neither she nor Mary would now be in this predicament.
As she made her way across the room to greet several more of her mother’s long-time friends, Elizabeth had heard the whispers speaking of how far the Bennets had fallen. The idea people spoke against her father, who would gladly have presented any of them the last shilling he had in his purse, saddened her nearly as much as the idea she and Mary were now penniless orphans.
“Pardon me,” she said to the group when they meant to corner her and gossip as they always did. “I should assist Mr. Bingley.”
She swept through the crowd to join Bingley, who was touting the merits of a large porcelain vase sitting prominently on a table. “The vase was a gift to Mr. Bennet from a friend living in the East,” Bingley shared.
The words her father had repeated when he had uncrated the vase rang clear in Elizabeth’s mind. She repeated them, as best she could, in remembrance. “It is from one of the southernmost sites of the ancient Indus Valley civilization—from Lothal, where the world’s first dry dock was located. People have also found ancient, polished ceramic there. I believe in what is called the Adichanallur and Brahmagiri regions. Is that not correct, Mr. Darcy?” she asked the gentleman, who appeared to be closer than she had expected, as if he meant to protect her somehow. The idea both amused and confounded her, for she had yet taken a full measure of the man.
“Yes,” he said with confidence, “although neither Adichanallur nor Brahmagiri have been properly excavated. Legend says Brahmagiri is where the sage Gautama Maharishi and his wife Ahalya lived. He was one of seven known Hindu saints. As to the particular piece on display, it was discovered in the area of Rajputana along the Van Ki Asha River. If one knows anything of the pottery of India, he knows, in opposition to the red ceramic, grey pottery originated along the basin of the Ganges, and black pottery can be found in the area of Delhi.”
“Mr. Darcy has quite recently arrived in England from India,” Elizabeth told those gathered about. She nodded her gratitude to the man. He was still leaning casually against a door frame as she made her way from the room.
“You were quite knowledgeable,” the gentleman said when he caught up to her in the passageway. “Such will serve you well. I suspect the man and his wife will bid high on the vase,” he observed softly.
“No matter how much Mary and I gain from the sale of our parents’ life story, it will never bring them back. My sister and I will never know peace and family again,” she reminded him.
“Then do not accept a lower price for your family’s history,” he warned her.
“But many within were friends of my family. Surely, they cannot wish me ill,” she argued, although she had thought otherwise only moments earlier when speaking to Mrs. Long.
“Not all we once considered to be our friends can be counted upon to act with honor when required,” he stated with a touch of bitterness in his tone. “Take care who you choose to trust, Miss Bennet.”
He turned then to walk into an adjoining room, and Elizabeth could not resist wondering who had betrayed him. Taking his advice, she found herself more aware of the negotiations Mr. Bingley conducted on behalf of her family. Long-time neighbors offered extremely low bids and then haggled with her brother-in-marriage when Mr. Bingley suggested more. She most assuredly could not have tolerated their insolence. More than likely, she would have ordered them all from Longbourn and simply accepted her poverty rather than to think of a favorite item from her past so openly devalued by former friends and acquaintances. Her eyes misted over as she looked upon much-loved pieces of her family’s history on display for strangers to “paw.” It felt as if she had betrayed her dear parents by sanctioning the removal of their family’s history from Longbourn.
“All is going well, Sister Elizabeth,” Mr. Bingley said as he handed her a glass of wine.
Elizabeth took a sip and sighed heavily. “You have been a godsend, Mr. Bingley.”
“The actual bidding on the main items will begin in a quarter hour,” he explained. “You should know Mr. Darcy means to bid on the paintings. The vases. Most of your father’s books, as well as the furniture and the silver.”
She nodded her understanding and took a larger gulp of the wine. “Can the man afford such expenditures?” she asked. “He warned me not to trust people simply because they are friends. Is it possible to trust him? The gentleman speaks of regularly corresponding with my father, but Mr. Bennet never once spoke of the man. However, I suspect it was he who sent the red vase to father.”
Mr. Bingley lowered his voice further. “I cannot speak to all of his history, but I can say, at Cambridge, he was exceedingly kind to me and several others who were often the object of disdain because we were not from the gentry or the aristocracy. Some criticized him for what they called ‘great pride,’ but all I ever saw was the right to his pride, for Darcy was one who acted with principles. I doubt such has changed, for they appeared to be ingrained upon his very soul. As to the matter of finances, Darcy comes from a wealthy and aristocratic family. His mother was the younger sister of an earl. However, something occurred which forced Darcy’s father to send him off. I cannot speak to the seriousness of the incident, but, at Cambridge, many said the elder Darcy provided his son five hundred pounds and told the man you met today to earn his own way in the world. There was a notice in the newspapers, perhaps eight to ten months prior, regarding the passing of Darcy’s father, which means the ‘Mr. Darcy’ whose acquaintance you have taken inherits the family estate and all it entails. A very large estate from all I know of him. Likely twice or more than my income.”
“And his mother?” Elizabeth asked, suddenly very curious about what “crime” a man could commit to force his father to send him away.
“Lady Anne Darcy passed after giving birth to Darcy’s sister,” Bingley supplied.
“A sister? Where is the girl now? How much younger is she than the gentleman?”
Mr. Bingley’s features screwed up in calculations. “Darcy, if I recall correctly, is four years my senior. He should be thirty. His sister was eleven or twelve years his junior.”
“Kitty’s age. Eighteen. How very sad. The gentleman appears to have lost as much as I. As much as we two,” she observed.
“I heard him mention a daughter to one of the other bidders when observing the nursery,” Mr. Bingley explained.
“Children and likely a mate. Then I erred: He is richer than both of us,” Elizabeth declared. “And I am not speaking of money.” Mr. Bingley’s face fell, and Elizabeth immediately regretted her observation. “I apologize. My words were poorly chosen. My mind is deeply entrenched in the sentimentality associated with today’s venture. I did not mean to betray your loyalty to this family.”
“No betrayal felt, but the loss of Jane rarely leaves me. I am hoping both you and I find peace soon,” he said before moving off to answer yet one more question before the bidding began, but Elizabeth noted how Mr. Bingley’s shoulders hung a bit lower, as did hers.
Within an hour and a half, it was over. She had been unable to look on as each item had been brought to notice. As the successful and unsuccessful bidders departed the manor, Mr. Bingley appeared again at her side. “I have the directions and the written promises of payment, along with the winning bids for each item. I will have the information carried to Mr. Birkhead, and he will collect the monies before anything leaves the house.”
Elizabeth caught his hands in hers. “You have proven to be my family’s champion. Mary and I are forever in your debt.” She rose up on her toes and kissed his cheek. “Someday, we will meet again. Please know, I love you dearly. Jane earned the affection of the best of men.”
* * *
Although exhausted, Elizabeth sent Mary upstairs for a rest and then turned her attention to gathering the glasses sitting about on every surface possible. They must be washed, dried, and boxed to return to Netherfield, and she would not permit Mr. and Mrs. Hill to be the only ones to labor in the effort to see Longbourn set to right again. “I must be satisfied to know work of any kind,” she murmured as she reached to the mantel to remove two glasses to sit upon the tray.
“Permit me to assist you,” a deep voice said from the door’s portal.
Elizabeth clutched at her heart. “You frightened me, sir. I thought all had departed.” Her eyes scanned the room. “Mr. Bingley tells me you purchased the majority of this room and several others. I offer you my deepest gratitude.”
“The house is just as your father described it,” the gentleman said. “Those images were to what I clung when I was at my lowest point.”
Elizabeth would like to ask something of what Mr. Bingley had shared of Mr. Darcy’s own family, but she swallowed her many questions. Rather, she said, “My father had an unusual sense of humor. He likely entertained you with tales of Mrs. Bennet chastising my sister Kitty for being in possession of a persistent cough, or something of my mother’s many schemes to place each of her daughters in the path of eligible gentlemen.”
He admitted, “There were a few such tales. Mostly, he spoke of books and something of politics, but the greater part of each letter spoke of you.”
“Of me?” she protested. “Was I the source of Mr. Bennet’s amusement?”
“Rarely,” Mr. Darcy clarified. “In truth, you were the source of great pride.”
“Thank you for sharing your observations, sir. The idea will sustain me as I must leave this all behind.” She made a sweeping gesture with her arm.
“Do not leave it, then,” he said softly.
“The choice is no longer mine.”
“It could be,” he argued.
“How?” she asked in frustration. Elizabeth did not understand the game he played nor did she want to do so. “You own it. I do not. Shall I set up a regular visitation on my half day off, assuming I am presented the opportunity for even a few hours to consider all I have lost.”
“There is no need for you to prove yourself the martyr,” he said in tones which irritated her further. “Do not permit your pride to destroy what may save you.”
“I do not comprehend your meaning, sir.”
“Simple. I will own all your family’s memories. Join them in my house,” he explained.
“If you are suggesting you wish me to serve as your mistress, sir, I would know great offense.”
“I do not require a mistress in my bed. I do require someone to set my house to order—an order of ‘my preference.’ Moreover, I require someone who is educated, instinctive, and caring to attend my five-year-old daughter.”
“What of the child’s mother? Will she not object to your hiring a governess without her interviewing the lady?”
“The child has no mother,” he said in hard tones, which had Elizabeth wondering whether such was the betrayal of which he had spoken earlier. “Both my daughter and I require an ally. Mr. Bennet continually assured me you could be that person.”
“You expect me to take on the role of governess to your daughter in a bachelor household? My reputation will be ruined as it is because of Mr. Bennet’s bankruptcy. It would not—could not—survive more scandal,” she argued.
“Your pride again, Miss Bennet?” he charged.
“Your insane prejudice, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth countered. “If I accepted your offer, and you later released me for not performing as you wished, I would never find another position.”
“You have willfully misunderstood me, Miss Bennet. You have no worry of my releasing you, for I do not wish you to perform as a governess to my daughter, but rather as my wife and the mistress of my hereditary estate.”