May 29th, 2014 - Now that track season is over, my son has graduated from high school and has left for the summer with his drum corps, I have time to post another story I wrote. In fact, it's the very first story I ever wrote. I had never really done much creative writing (unless you count the blue books for college exams) when one night I sat down and outlined this story. I confess I was bored and just gave it a go, never intending to actually write the thing. Alas, when I sat down at the computer and started typing the story just poured out of me. I've never been as prolific as I was in those rushed 2 months I spent writing The Sister She Always Wanted. Part of the reason is that I wasn't very conscientious about my Regency accuracies. I cringe now re-reading my errors. One of my early betas tried to point them out to me but at the time, I didn't care. I was more concerned about writing the story that was in my head, inheritance laws be d****d! This was well before I made my own list of character names so you're going to see some fanon in here as well. Oh well! I had some help for Laura and Sylwia but a majority of the editing was done by good ol' tJ! Charlene lent a hand later to clean it up some more. It's not perfect, I'm still dyslexic, so don't get too caught up in the grammar errors and typos that remain.
*Warning - Story contains some serious Regency factual errors.*
Right, now that that's done it's time to enjoy my first-born novel/romp. It's 10 years old!
The Sister She Always Wanted
30 July 1810
The carriage carrying Elizabeth and the Gardiners pulled onto the road to Pemberley. They had arrived in Lambton two days before and had spent a pleasurable day yesterday renewing old acquaintances. Madeline Gardiner could not wait to show her husband and Elizabeth the grandeur of Pemberley. She had been there many times as a girl visiting her good friend Mary Reynolds, the housekeeper's daughter. Mary, of course was married now and living in London. Her husband, Edmund Clark, and she were the Gardiner's close friends. Indeed, Mary was in on the conspiracy to keep news of their visit from her mother. Madeline wanted to surprise Mrs. Reynolds. She loved the housekeeper dearly and had not seen her since Mary's last child, her godson, was born three years ago.
With growing anticipation the party marveled at the beauty of the woods as the road wound closer and closer to the great house. Suddenly the trees opened to reveal the most wondrous sight Elizabeth had ever seen. Pemberley! It was everything that her aunt had promised, and more.
"How do you like the house, Lizzy?" asked Mrs. Gardiner.
At first Elizabeth was too engrossed to answer. Finally she replied, "I have never seen a place for which nature has done more, or where natural beauty has been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. I like it very well indeed."
The carriage continued on towards the house and the thoughts of the party turned towards its inhabitants.
"I cannot wait to see the look on Mrs. Reynolds face when we are announced."
"Yes, my dear, it will be good to see Mary's mother again. I know you are very fond of her," her husband replied. "I just hope she does not hold this little deception against you and Mary for long."
Elizabeth smiled at the easy banter of the couple. Once again she was grateful to be in their company for this trip. If it had been her parents in their place she knew that she would have had little enjoyment on the holiday. She sighed at this reflection but quickly regained her spirits and asked, "Will the Darcys be home, Aunt?"
"Mary said Mr. Darcy was in London but that Miss Darcy remained in Derbyshire with her new companion. I do not know Miss Darcy so I do not know if we will see her on this visit. I have heard that she is extremely shy around strangers so I doubt we will meet her today."
When the carriage pulled up to the front entrance of Pemberley, Mr. Gardiner stepped down first to assist his ladies. The three were admitted inside when they requested to speak with the housekeeper about taking a tour. Mrs. Reynolds was used to this. It was one of the many obligations she had running this grand place. Putting on a resigned smile she went to greet the newest visitors. Upon seeing them, her smile became genuine as she hurried to embrace Mrs. Gardiner.
"Madeline, Edward, why did you not write to tell me you were coming to see Pemberley! Did Mary not know?"
Mrs. Gardiner laughed. "Yes she did, but I convinced her not to tell. I was sure that if you knew we were coming you would work your staff to a frenzy to present the house in its best light. However, I know that this House is always at its best so it would make little difference if you knew we were coming. Do you like your surprise?"
"Of course I do! Though I am a little put out with Mary for agreeing to your scheme. Who is this lovely young lady with you?"
"May I present my niece Miss Elizabeth Bennet? She is the second born daughter of my sister, and my favorite I might add." Mr. Gardiner turned to Elizabeth, "I will deny ever saying that if you dare tell your family!"
"So this is the famous Miss Elizabeth Bennet. My grandson Nicolas was quite taken with you on your last visit with Madeline and Edward, Miss Bennet. Mary had written to me that he kept asking why you could not come visit him after you left London."
"Yes, I agree. It was hard not to notice since my godson never fails to mention you when we see him. I am afraid you have him wrapped around your little finger. A splendid conquest, niece," added Mrs. Gardiner to Elizabeth.
"Do not tell me you are trying to play matchmaker too. I get enough of that at home." The Gardiners exchanged a knowing look. "He is a little too young for me. I am not sure I would want to wait until he becomes of a marriageable age, adorable as he is."
All four laughed at this.
Mrs. Reynolds was the first to recover. "But, Madeline, are you sure Miss Bennet is good enough for my grandson?"
"The question is, Mrs. Reynolds, is he good enough for her?"
Elizabeth had the good sense to blush at this praise, conscious that three pair of eyes were looking on her with amusement.
"As delightful as this conversation is, we best begin seeing the house. I am quite certain you would like a tour of the gardens when we are finished. I shall send word to the head gardener that I have special guests and I expect the most attentive care to your needs. Now then, Madeline, where would you like to start?"
Smiling at Elizabeth, Mrs. Gardiner quickly replied, "The library, definitely the library." She knew that her husband and her niece would be delighted. Both loved books. The many hours in the coach had flown by as the two of them read and discussed the books they had brought with them on the journey.
"The Library it is. Now if you will follow me it is just down the hall."
Mrs. Reynolds ushered her friends into the magnificent room and was surprised to find Miss Darcy there. Her smile quickly faded as she resumed her normal closed countenance.
"Excuse us, Miss Darcy. I thought you were in your rooms with Mrs. Annesley at this hour. We will leave you alone."
Georgiana noted the change of expression on her dear housekeeper's face. She could not bear to be the source of discomfort to the woman who practically raised her. She resolved to make the effort to put the woman at ease again.
"No, it is quite all right, Mrs. Reynolds. Mrs. Annesley was feeling a little out of sorts this afternoon and I told her to feel free to rest in her room. I came here to find something to read. It seems as if you know these visitors. Am I correct?"
Mrs. Reynolds smiled again. She knew it took a great deal for Miss Darcy to say so many words in front of strangers. She decided to press the advantage.
"I see that you have found me out, Miss Darcy. Yes, these are good friends of my Mary and Edmund. May I present Mr. and Mrs. Edward Gardiner, and their niece Miss Elizabeth Bennet? Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are my grandson Nicolas' godparents. Mrs. Gardiner grew up in Lambton."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, and you, Miss Bennet. I hope you will enjoy your tour of my home. If you will excuse me, I shall leave you to your tour."
"Thank you Miss Darcy. From what little I have seen I believe it will be quite delightful"
"Yes, it is, Miss Bennet. Good day"
With that Miss Darcy left for her sitting room.
The tour continued and Mrs. Reynolds became more and more pleased with Elizabeth. 'If only Miss Darcy could spend some time with her I am sure she would be good for the poor dear. Georgiana has been so withdrawn since she returned from Ramsgate last month' she thought.
When all of the house that was open to general inspection had been seen, they returned downstairs, and taking leave of Mrs. Reynolds, were consigned to the head gardener, who met them at the hall door.
"Do not forget, you promised to take tea with me before you leave. Thomas will bring you back to me when you are finished."
Thomas led them through the various gardens, taking pride in explaining the plethora of plants for which he had responsibility. Elizabeth was delighted. She longed to explore all of the paths opened to her but knew that was impossible. They needed to return to Mrs. Reynolds so that they could return to Lambton in time for dinner.
Upon entering the housekeeper's study, the three were stunned to see Miss Darcy sitting there talking with her housekeeper.
"Miss Darcy! What an honor to see you again. We did not expect you to take any special note of us," Mrs. Gardiner exclaimed.
"I found myself desiring company this afternoon. I knew that any friends of Mrs. Reynolds would be pleasant company," she replied shyly.
"Would you like some tea now?" the older lady asked.
The tea things were brought in and the next half-hour was spent in pleasant conversation.
"Miss Darcy, please let me take this opportunity to thank you for allowing us to view Pemberley. You have a lovely home."
"Thank you, Miss Bennet," was all Georgiana would say. But she was struck how Miss Bennet referred to Pemberley as a home. Most people never called Pemberley a home; they did not see it as such. All they seemed to see were the fine and expensive furnishings. But Pemberley was so much more than that. Why could not people see that? And how was it that Miss Bennet could?
Elizabeth continued, "I think the secret to Pemberley's beauty is not in just the tasteful furnishings but rather that the furnishings enhance the view from every window."
"I agree." Georgiana replied. 'Amazing, she is the only person who has ever said that other than Fitzwilliam!' she added to herself.
"We encountered you in the library. Do you spend much time there, Miss Darcy?"
"My brother and I enjoy spending quiet evenings together there reading."
'Finally, more than four words spoken together. This is progress,' Elizabeth thought before continuing. "I enjoy doing the same thing with my father back home. His collection of books pales in comparison to yours but the breadth of subjects and the quality of the authors are very stimulating."
"What do you enjoy reading, Miss Bennet?"
"A great many things, Miss Darcy!" Elizabeth laughed. "I enjoy reading histories, especially ancient history. I enjoy poetry, political treatises, biographies, plays and the occasional novel."
"That is a great variety of tastes, Miss Bennet. One not usually associated with women."
"I confess that it is not. What do you like to read, Miss Darcy?"
This earned Elizabeth her first smile. "Much the same thing as you do, Miss Bennet."
"Then someday, if we ever meet again, we must compare opinions."
"I would very much like that." Miss Darcy smiled again. "Did you enjoy the tour of the gardens?"
"Oh yes, they are lovely. I especially enjoyed the herb garden."
"That is not usually a favorite, Miss Bennet. What did you find so much to your liking?"
"I love seeing what the land is able to produce for our use other than flowers, Miss Darcy. The herb gardens also give a peek into the private side of the owners. It is always interesting to see what they prefer at their table. Your family appears to have a variety of tastes, Miss Darcy."
"That is most flattering, Miss Bennet. I must say no one has commented on our produce before!"
"I must find some way to distinguish myself! But I really am interested in seeing what different foods grow in different regions. I could certainly tell the difference between the progress of the peas here compared to farther south where I live."
Mrs. Reynolds once again smiled to Madeline when she saw Elizabeth taking pains to talk to Georgiana. 'Yes, I was right about her,' she thought.
"Where do you live, Miss Bennet?"
"My father's estate, Longbourn, is in Hertfordshire. It is beautiful country but much different from Derbyshire."
"I suppose, but I have never been to Hertfordshire."
"Then you must trust my opinion when I say it is a very agreeable place to live. We do not possess the wildness of woods that you have here, though."
"Did you have a chance to explore any of them?"
"No, I shall have to travel back here some time in the future to do so. Do not worry; I shall not disturb you if the family is in residence. That would not do!"
"You are welcome to come back anytime to visit the park."
"That is most kind, Miss Darcy. But I do not know when that will be. Miss Darcy, do you enjoy walking in the park?"
"Yes, it is one of my favorite things to do when the weather allows."
"I go for a walk every chance I can back home. My mother claims she does not know what I am about scampering all over the countryside. But there is nothing better to clear the mind than a good walk. Do you agree?"
"Yes, I find much solace outdoors. It is a balm for the soul." Georgiana's face clouded for a moment. Elizabeth hurried on.
"I suppose you also like to ride to get to the wilder places."
"Yes, my brother often takes me when he is home."
"He is away from home right now, do you expect him back soon?"
"Yes, he was loath to go and promised me faithfully he would be back five days from today."
"I am sure he will make every effort to be home in time, Miss Darcy."
"Do you ride as well, Miss Bennet?"
"Oh no! I leave the riding to the men and more fashionable ladies!"
Georgiana gave her another rare smile. "Am I one of the fashionable ladies?" she shyly asked.
"Of course, for you are Miss Darcy of Pemberley, the most beautiful estate in all England, according to my Aunt Gardiner at least."
"Your Aunt and Uncle seem kind people. I understand they are great friends of the Clarks."
"Yes, I am afraid little Nicolas has become quite a favorite of mine. I only wish he were 20 years older." Elizabeth sighed, and then burst into a big grin.
"Mrs. Reynolds said the same thing."
"Indeed, did she now? I think it is a little too early for her to start matchmaking for her grandson!"
"Not to hear her tell it." Georgiana replied.
Elizabeth smiled. Mrs. Gardiner then reminded her host that they had plans for the evening and needed to leave soon.
"Miss Darcy, thank you for our delightful conversation. I hope that your brother will return home safely to you soon." Elizabeth said.
As the group rose to leave, Georgiana did the most extraordinary thing Mrs. Reynolds had seen in a long time.
"Miss Bennet, I am sure your Aunt has many acquaintances she would like to visit tomorrow. Perhaps you would like to return to Pemberley and explore some of the woods you were so praiseworthy of with me?"
Elizabeth was stunned. She quickly recovered, replying, "Thank you for your generous offer, Miss Darcy. I admit that I would love to do so if you are sure you would like me to come."
"Oh yes, I rarely get to meet with young women near my age and I would be honored to show you some of the paths through the park."
Looking to see if it was acceptable to her relations, then seeing the smile and slight nod of her aunt's head, Elizabeth grinned, "Then it would be my honour to come."
Georgiana was ecstatic. "Mrs. Reynolds, could you see that the carriage is sent for Miss Bennet tomorrow. Is one o'clock acceptable?"
"Yes it is, I look forward then to tomorrow. Good day, Miss Darcy."
Mrs. Reynolds walked the party to their carriage.
"Miss Bennet, I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your kind efforts with Miss Darcy. I am amazed on how taken she is with you. I think I am beginning to understand little Nicolas better."
With that they all said their farewells and the Gardiners along with Elizabeth made their way back to Lambton, each one pleased with how the day had turned out.
I'll post this rather quickly, probably daily, as there are 39 chapters plus an Epilogue. Cheers!