Sadly, we have come to the end. I am working on several older works in progress as you read this. I'm hoping to have the revamped Something up in the next few weeks. Also Alternative Reality is almost done with many more chapters than I first considered I'm off on holiday next week, but will endeavour to do as much on Deceived as possible with a view to adding a new chapter or two in the near future.
Please enjoy this work
Epilogue – Exit Miss Bennet.
"That must be the 'Elizabeth' Mr. Holmes spoke of," sneered one young lady as the party from Leighwood entered the theatre. Dressed in silk, liberally trimmed with the finest Brussels lace, the young woman's countenance openly displayed her dislike of the newcomer. "Mr. Darcy's betrothed, I scarce believe it."
"Her connections are nothing to ours! Lady Marianne, on Mr. Darcy's other arm, is but a widow and not even of a baronet. I have never heard of the family Bennet, and so they must be of little consequence. Her dowry cannot be much. Imagine the halls of Pemberley accepting such a woman," snickered her friend, ensuring the party heard every word as they entered the auditorium.
Angered beyond belief at the offensive audacity of the young women, Mr. Darcy looked to the lady on his left arm. The disparity between the course and vulgar young ladies, considered fashionable and accomplished, before him and Miss Elizabeth Bennet had never been more apparent. Leaning down, so that his breath tickled her lobe, he whispered, "Elizabeth."
They had been in company for the last three evenings. In that time his admiration for Miss Bennet's fine eyes had increased, as had his respect for her wit. Darcy had attempted to find a moment alone, only to be foiled in a household that seemed filled with intrusions upon his time. He had still to establish her regard towards him and make his offer, if she felt even the smallest affection towards him. One look into those hazel eyes, and Darcy had his answer before Miss Bennet spoke.
"Yes, Fitzwilliam," Lizzy answered in a light tone, with an emphasis on the affirmative.
While her eyes twinkled, Elizabeth's calm countenance did not betray her elated feelings. Heart beating in her chest, she glanced at Lady Marianne on Darcy's other arm. The older woman, as expected, and acting as Miss Bennet's guardian, nodded her consent to the match. With those two words, Miss Elizabeth Bennet found herself officially engaged to Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.
"Mr Darcy," Lady Marianne pointed out the tittering girls they had overheard, "I see the daughters of my acquaintance, Mrs Worthington. Please allow me to introduce you."
Not at all pleased, Darcy allowed the older lady to make the gesture, well aware that her sarcastic wit could reduce even Miss Bennet to silence on occasion. However, one look at Elizabeth beside him gave the end game away. Lady Marianne, it seemed, wanted word of their engagement spread upon the Ton as quickly as possible, and directly from the horse's mouth. A dangerous diversion, yet it would give respectability to the match in supposing the betrothal to be of some duration and well known to the young couple's family.
"Tell me," Lady Marianne requested after the polite conversation waned, "do your mother and father accompany you this evening? I should very much like to speak with Mrs Worthington on a matter of some import."
"We are the guests of Mr Holmes and his mother tonight," the elder Miss Worthington stated, sharing a knowing look with her sister.
Elizabeth merely allowed one eyebrow to rise at the mention of that gentleman's name. Mr. Darcy found a smirk appearing upon his face as he comprehended the unspoken words accompanying the gesture. Holmes's propensity to violence must be unknown to the Worthington family, for Darcy suspected the discourse that would occur between Lady Marianne and these silly girls' parents. Mr. Holmes was not to be fostered upon any young woman in any strata of society. Indeed, his ways were more dissolute than first suspected, if even one tenth of the rumours at White's were to be believed.
"Oh," Marianne frowned, "we were not much in that gentleman's company in Ramsgate. I do recall you, Mr. Darcy, coming upon Mr. Holmes when he made his final call to Bainbridge house and not at all pleased at his attempts to entertain my niece or your sister, Miss Darcy. I believe it was before business recalled you to town some weeks ago, was it not?"
"I believe so," the man allowed tersely. In company unknown to him, Darcy became his taciturn best. Seeing the opportunity to publicly announce his engagement in an arena where it would quickly circulate, he added, "I should not like neither my sister nor betrothed in his company at any time."
The Worthington sisters might not have believed another gentleman. However, Mr. Darcy's protective ways and honesty were well known among the town. Unable to formulate an answer, Lady Marianne knew the time was upon them to end this conversation and make their way to Mr. Darcy's box.
"Please give my warmest salutation to your mother and request she call on an infirm old lady, while I remain in town. We are currently residing at Leighwood, at the pleasure of Miss Darcy," Marianne could not leave it there. "I am sure Elizabeth and I can spare some little time from the wedding preparations before we retire to the north for the winter to accept a few intimate acquaintances. I shall miss you exceedingly at Hollingsworth this winter, my dear. However, I shall tempt Miss Bennet to accompany me so you may be but thirty miles of good road from your most beloved sister."
"I believe," Darcy whispered loud enough for only the ladies on his arm to hear as they moved, ever so slowly, up the stairs to his box, "it is you who has placed the cat among the pigeons this time, Madam."
"I have to admit, Mr. Darcy," Lady Marianne replied, "I had thought that remark so long ago forgotten. Yet I cannot be displeased with the outcome."
"And you Elizabeth," Darcy turned his attention to his betrothed.
"I am not displeased either, Sir," teasing in her tone, Lizzy added, "in fact, I find my feelings quite the opposite."
"That is good indeed," Lady Marianne commented with an ever so slight irony, "for Mr. Darcy can no longer remain at his London home when it is known you are in residence, Elizabeth."
"I shall see you home in my carriage this evening, then remove to my Aunt and Uncle's townhouse," Mr. Darcy's rare display of humour caused perhaps his first ever public smile, "for appearances must be kept."
"I believe, Sir," Lizzy managed to add, "my aunt and I are your sister's special guests. I should not expect less of you."
"While you are so eager to agree to all my plans, young man," Lady Marianne deliberately stumbled, openly displaying her condition and reminding the pair of her precarious health, "I should like to see you go into Herefordshire as a newly married couple."
"You are of the same mind as my sister then," Darcy stated. While lending his strength to Lady Marianne, he glancing at his betrothed for agreement to this plan. Elizabeth's delicate blush said all he needed to know. "Who shall I apply to, for the settlement, Madam?"
"I will look it over, and approve the document in-lieu of Elizabeth's father," Marianne responded. "Oh course, Mr. Bennet shall sign it when he comes to give his daughter away, shall we say the last day of this month. That will give you and the new Mrs. Darcy several days in town before removing to Netherfield."
"It seems," Darcy's intense glare would inopportune anyone less formidable than Lady Marianne, "you have arranged everything to your liking."
"Quite," she agreed with the smallest smile before all but falling into her seat, leaving those that would best display Elizabeth and Darcy to the crowd on the auditorium floor.
For the remainder of the night, Darcy could not stop the satisfied expression infusing his features. The more he thought on Lady Marianne's plans, the better he liked them. Now publicly engaged to Miss Bennet, neither could take back their commitment without damage to their reputation. One glance at Elizabeth's happy countenance, and he knew she felt the same as he. However this engagement came about, Darcy determined to make the marriage a happy one, steeped in affection and mutual respect.
"I have not told you," Darcy suddenly realised his lack this evening, "how handsome you look tonight, Elizabeth. That colour becomes you very well."
Blushing, Miss Bennet took the compliment with aplomb, even if it did increase the colour on her cheeks. So far she had not uttered a word, her mind rapidly considering the situation in which she now found herself. Not at all unpleased, she knew tomorrow would be soon enough to seek a somewhat private audience with Mr. Darcy and discuss this new relationship.
"Etiquette demands I follow your observation with one of my own," Lizzy teased, her eyes twinkling in the candlelight, "however sorely I am tempted not to, lest it make you insufferable, Fitzwilliam."
Chuckling at her response, Darcy chose his words carefully. They began to speak on the amusement to follow, while Lady Marianne feigned a light doze. More open in conversation with Elizabeth, others partaking the theatre noticed the change in the taciturn gentleman's character. They supposed the transformation to be the lovely, and completely unknown young woman at his side. News of the engagement soon followed, as Mr Holmes, hearing of the encounter with the Miss Worthingtons, recounted his meeting with Darcy in Lady Bainbridge's Ramsgate house to any and all who would listen.
At intermission, the Darcy Party did not leave their box which induced much disappointment and more innuendo. Thus many sought out Lady Marianne's intimate acquaintances. When Mrs Charlesworth was applied to, she admitted to seeing Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet at the fashionable hour, riding with Miss Darcy in the Darcy crested traveling coach through the streets of Ramsgate. Many wished her to be more explicit. She could not, being only acquainted with Miss Darcy, however she intended to call on Leighwood in the morning for further details. This time, and after the gossip of an attachment between Mr. Darcy and Miss Anne de Burgh last season, many greeted the story with overwhelming belief, as the proof sat in the Darcy box before their astonished eyes.
I am working on a sequel of sorts, which will, I hope, answer many of your unanswered questions. However, I will not be publishing until the entire story is complete and edited. I will give you the title and let your imagination run away from there. Newlyweds Arrive to Netherfield will most likely follow a similar style to Ramsgate Reimagined. However it may be several acts longer.