*AN – Welcome back. This story, after two chapters which will give us our main character's back story, will take us from the point where Miss York joins the Bennet family forward through events covered in Giving Consequence and beyond. I hope you will enjoy the story. - Lady Jaeza


My name is Sophia York. My father said Sophia was the goddess of wisdom. He thought it only right to give me a good education to go along with the name. I am glad he did. It may have saved my life.

My father was Damien York, Viscount Stone of Stone Landing. The Landing, as it is referred to locally, is a small estate of little true importance. While prosperous enough, it is remote from any great centers of influence. The title was of equal inconsequence. My father liked it that way. He avoided local politics, held no official positions and simply worked to manage the estate well when he was not reading or exchanging correspondence with other men of letters. My father had no son and the viscountcy ended with his death. The estate was inherited by a distant male cousin, but not the title. Viscount Stone is no more.

My father may have admired wisdom, but he did not always show it. His will and other preparations for his demise are a case in point. At least, they are if one assumes he intended to provide for his family. If it was actually his intent to have his wife and two daughters cast out into the world with nearly nothing to support them, he was very wise in his planning indeed.

Do I sound bitter? I often feel bitter. This is not the life I expected. This is not the life my father led me to expect. I know bitterness will solve nothing. Anger, the frequent companion of bitterness, will solve nothing. I do my best to push them both aside and move on with my life. Try as I might, though, thoughts of the will always leave me feeling bitter and angry.

He could have done so much more for us. All it would have taken was a clear declaration of the plans and arrangements he already had in place. Such a little thing. A few words on a piece of paper. I do not know what stopped him. I do not know why his wisdom failed him and, ultimately, failed us.

When I was very young my father began to give me the same kind of lessons he would have given a son. He enjoyed teaching. I was set to learning a variety of subjects over the next few years. He started with French and mathematics. I learned to read and speak French at the same time I learned to read English. He and mother were as likely to converse with me in French as in English at any given time, to ensure I truly learned both languages.

As I grew older, he also taught me Italian and some Latin. Historical texts were added to my studies, along with literature in all the languages I was learning. By the time I entered my teens he had introduced me to philosophy and a variety of religious texts.

No matter what the subject my father emphasized discipline as the key to success. He did not refer to punishments, but to the internal strength of will that carries you forward to complete your appointed task well, no matter how tempted you may be to rush it through or simply give up. It may be that I am naturally stubborn anyway, but I did learn the concept of discipline well. As a consequence I was a successful student.

When I was not occupied by the studies my father set me I worked with my mother. I applied the same discipline to learning sewing, embroidery, drawing, singing and playing pianoforte and harp. I am no prodigy at any of these, but I am proficient in them all so far as dedicated practice can make me.

A few months before my twelfth birthday my mother was delivered of a second daughter. Mother was ill with fever for some time thereafter and never fully recovered. Both she and my father had hoped for a son to inherit title and lands, but that now seemed unlikely.

My sister, Grace, thrived and soon enough father began teaching her in much the same fashion he taught me. I helped with her studies and went on to teach her many of the things mother had taught me. Our mother continued to be weak and Grace needed the company, the attention and the encouragement.

Father knew there was little society to be had in our neighborhood and even less chance for me to make an eligible match locally. He decided that I must have a London season. To better prepare me and to enable me to establish social connections, he sent me to a finishing school for young gentlewomen shortly before my sixteenth birthday. The school had a good reputation and was run by a woman known to be of fine character.

It was at school that I learned I am not beautiful or even particularly pretty. This was not something I had actually thought on much before.

"You are no beauty," Mrs. Haversham had said, "but you have a pleasant face and equally pleasant manners. Those will hold a gentleman's interest far longer than mere physical beauty can do."

I assumed that by saying my face was pleasant she meant that servants and children would not run screaming from me nor would my glance curdle milk. I had never before been invested in a vision of myself as a radiant beauty, so it was not too terribly disappointing to find I was not. To be considered "pleasant" was acceptable, not that I actually had a choice.

I had considered myself well-educated. In the subjects I had been taught I was. I now found that there were many subjects that my parents had not considered important enough to speak of or did not feel competent enough to teach. These were largely social skills and matters of society and rank. I knew books, but I did not know people. I harnessed all the discipline in me to learn.

My first challenge was coming to terms with having a roommate. Being for so long an only child, I was not accustomed to sharing a room or having company my own age. It was uncomfortable to us both until my roommate, Miss Abigail Sanders, realized that I was not so much stand-offish as simply unsure how to react. Abigail had sisters, cousins and friends all near her in age. She taught me about friendship, how to share and how to react to playful teasing. I was still far more solemn than the other girls, but now I knew what was insult and what was not.

I continued to practice my "accomplishments", but now I learned new ones. I was taught carriage and deportment. I learned to walk, stand, sit and rise with calm grace. That took practice until it became so engrained I no longer had to think before moving. I learned the myriad rules of propriety to guide my behavior and protect myself from entering situations that could damage my reputation or my prospects. I did not have to believe in or agree with the rules, which is good because many of them are rather foolish. I just had to know them so I could follow them or choose to knowingly flout them with a full understanding of the possible consequences. I learned the rules of discourse, what should and should not be said in polite company. I found this set of lessons more difficult than the mental studies my father taught me or the physical studies my mother taught me for they were neither fully one nor the other. Although my parents had modeled good behavior, we had been outside of our small family group so little that the whole concept of moving in society was somewhat foreign to me. My father certainly showed wisdom in sending me to school before providing a London season.

I made a few friends and gained several friendly acquaintances. Although I liked them for their own sakes, these were also my "connections". As Mrs Haversham told us, "You young ladies have a responsibility to each other by virtue of your fellowship here. The Ton can be a cruel place, particularly for newcomers. Help one another with invitations and introductions. It costs you nothing to introduce someone whose behavior you already know should reflect well on you. The invitations you give or receive, the help you give could be the vital piece to place you in front of the right potential spouse."

We all agreed with the idea. It made sense. Of course, we already knew who we could each count on and who would probably drop all acquaintance with us the moment our schooling ended. It was still a valuable piece of advice.

Everything we did and learned at school flowed from the single ambition to find an appropriate, respectable man to marry. The lessons would carry over to help us be proper wives and members of whatever circle of society we landed in. That was a side benefit. The primary goal was to attract and hold the interest of a man long enough for him to offer marriage.

Mrs. Haversham made it sound like a simple set of steps:

1- Practice your singing and musical instruments so you may perform with confidence and skill if called upon. These skills show you can entertain your husband or his guests of an evening.

2-Behave and dress modestly, but avoid appearing too shy or dowdy. This shows that your husband can trust you will not embarrass him in company.

3-Listen politely to those around you and, if appropriate, offer your opinion, but only if that opinion is appropriate to the company. This shows your discretion and courtesy.

4-Dance when asked, showing the grace of your carriage and the lightness of your figure. This will attract the attention of eligible young men in an acceptable way.

5-Once you attract the interest of a suitable man nurture it with your good behavior and show interest without being too forward. This should lead to a proposal of marriage.

I was not quite certain the logic was sound. While I had no actual experience in society there seemed to be more possible variables than were accounted for in this list. Still, it might have worked if I had been given more time. To be honest, it did work – just not to find me a husband.

My father delayed my presentation until he felt I was old enough to consider marrying. That is, after all, the purpose of a season. He did not like being in London, so he was hoping I would "take" in my first or second season and then he could be done with it until Grace was old enough for her turn.

My first and only season began two months before my nineteenth birthday and ended two weeks before that date. It did not end with a marriage.

My father took a house in London for all of us. Our address was respectable although not overly fashionable. Under my mother's sponsorship I was presented at court. My father had contacted several of his usual correspondents to arrange for introductions for me and invitations to a variety of functions. I contacted my schoolfellows for the same. Several of the girls had already had their first season. In fact, a few had already married. Most were willing to oblige me and I had no lack of events at which to be seen.

The parties and balls often felt like a duty to be endured. There was fun to be had, but it was often overshadowed by the intense scrutiny I felt myself under. I knew my role, though, and continued to attend, following all the advice Mrs. Haversham had given.

Most people do not expect their world to change in an instant. Mine changed when my father decided to visit an acquaintance one afternoon. Another driver lost control of his horses when they were spooked by something. My father's carriage was in the way and there was a terrible crash. Father did not survive long enough to be pulled from the wreckage. With that my season ended as did the life I had known.

I mentioned that my father's heir did not inherit the title of Viscount Stone. As it turned out, that hardly mattered. He already had a title.

Our distant cousin, Lord Willoughby, was a young earl. His family estate was impoverished when he inherited it at three and twenty years of age. Now, two years later, it was even more so. A notorious rake and gambler, Lord Willoughby had expensive tastes. All this led to the problem of my father's will.

Stone Landing had prospered under my father's care. The estate ran using the most effective methods of farming and animal husbandry. Father's tenants prospered as well, offering hard work and timely rents in return for the use of the lands. He managed his accounts carefully and had a significant savings fund. The estate accounts were well filled, with far more set aside than was needed to support the Landing. On its own it was a good inheritance.

When my season began my father made it known that my dowry was fifteen thousand pounds and that an equal amount was set aside for my sister. The funds sat in an account at the bank separate from the estate funds. He also had ten thousand pounds set aside intended to support my mother after his death.

Here is where is wisdom failed him. He assumed it was enough to simply tell his solicitor and others his intentions for those funds. He was still young enough to expect he would be around to disburse the dowries and my mother's funds were clearly set apart from the other property.

His assumptions might have been valid with a different heir. Lord Willoughby was not a man to honor any obligation unless legally required to do so. Perhaps not even then, if he could find a way around it.

My mother and I told him of my father's intentions for the funds. The solicitor told him of my father's intentions for the funds. Several people who had known father told him of my father's intentions for the funds. The will said nothing of my father's intentions. Lord Willoughby chose to ignore my father's intentions for the funds. An extra forty thousand pounds would give him entry into many high stakes games.

Although the funds were set aside from the estate accounts, because the will did not specifically list those accounts as bequests we had no legal claim to them. The will contained no provisions for the care and maintenance of my mother, my sister or me. Lord Willoughby had no legal requirement to give us a single penny of support. So he was firm in giving us nothing beyond our clothes and a few personal effects of little value. The rent on the townhouse had already been paid to the end of the quarter. We were allowed to remain until then, but any servants we had brought from the estate were to return immediately and bring with them any furnishings or other possessions beyond what we were allowed to keep. Lord Willoughby would not pay them to serve us. The solicitor insisted the estate had to pay any other servants to the end of the quarter as well, but Lord Willoughby refused to allow anything beyond that. If we wished to eat or burn coal to cook or warm the house then we would have to purchase anything we needed beyond what was already there. By the time all this was worked out, the end of the quarter was almost upon us.

The only funds Lord Willoughby could not take were a trust fund of one thousand pounds that was part of my mother's settlement and whatever Mother and I had remaining to hand of our personal allowances. Mother kept little money with her. Her allowance was usually included as part of the household accounts and she usually left it there unless she needed it. Those accounts were no longer hers to access. I had some money on hand for I did take my allowance in cash and usually spent little of it. I did not have enough to support the three of us for very long.

We also discovered the limits on my mother's settlement. It had been set up in a trust fund and she was not allowed to touch the principle no matter how dire the circumstances. She would receive the interest quarterly. While better than nothing, it was not enough to support the three of us. I would have to find work, and soon.

I contacted my circle of connections asking for their assistance finding a position as a governess or companion. Some refused to see or speak to me. As a fatherless, penniless woman I had fallen too low for their notice. Given what I knew of their characters I was not truly surprised. Some offered condolences but knew of no openings. It was my roommate and first friend, Abigail, who came through for me. She had a cousin who had invested with a wealthy shipbuilder who had mentioned he was looking for a governess to teach his daughter. I asked for an introduction and it was granted. I asked for the job.

Here is where Mrs. Haversham's rules for attracting a husband stood me in good stead. Mr. Gerald Thompson and his wife were, due to their wealth, often invited to events held by those of the same circles I had attended. We were, after all, not of the first circle. They had seen me at some of those occasions. Mr. Thompson remembered hearing me play and sing. He noted my proper behavior, both previously and during the interview. All the things Mrs. Haversham had taught along with the accomplishments I learned from my parents counted heavily in my favor. Even my "pleasant" face was considered an asset.

Mr. Thompson wanted his daughter to gain the accomplishments and behavior of a gentlewoman. He hoped she would eventually rise above her status as the daughter of a tradesman. Who better to teach her than a true gentlewoman who displayed the necessary skills.

In answer to his questions about my background I told Mr. Thompson of the various things I had been taught. I also let him know I would be my mother and sister's primary support. Being a kind man, as well as a smart businessman, he offered me a salary that would meet my ordinary needs while still allowing me sufficient extra to lease safe lodgings for my mother and Grace. The interest from my mother's settlement would have to pay for their other needs. With care, it would be enough.

I knew I was receiving a very good deal, but so was Mr. Thompson. He knew I would do my best and be unlikely to leave a position where I was valued and paid well. In return his daughter would have the benefit of all my education.

We struck the bargain. I left behind my position as the Honorable Sophia York, daughter of Viscount Stone. I became simply Miss York, governess.

It was not what I had expected my life would be. It was better than I feared my life would become. The opportunity was before me to be useful and make a difference to another person's course and destination. A new chapter had begun.