Random Acts of Kindness

A moving sermon and a random act of kindness impacts the lives of the Darcys and changes the course of their story. What will be the final result for Elizabeth and Darcy?

Chapter 19 – Coming Full Circle

December arrived and Mrs. Bennet began preparations in earnest for the weddings of her two eldest. The inevitable discussions of ribbons, lace, and silk had the men running for cover again, but never too far from their beloveds.

The Countess of Matlock had returned to London, arriving in London with a highly positive report of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and the rest of the family. Three week's exposure had provided enough time for the Bennets to relax around her and show their true selves, but she liked them anyway. What she saw was a family in transition. They might have notable flaws, but they were attempting to improve. With harridans like Lady Catherine in her own family, she knew that things could have been worse.

The Earl of Matlock, inclined to be skeptical of any match not proper Ton, eventually bowed to the reassurances of his wife and second son. He would attend the wedding and would give his blessings. He did remember seeing the pretty little girl, Elizabeth, moving about Darcy House with Georgianna years ago, but remembered little else. Her quick thinking in posting Richard in Kent in preparation for Lacy Catherine's precipitous departure showed the Earl that Elizabeth might just be able to handle the Ton after all.

He could only be grateful for the results thus far. Not only was Richard married to his beloved Anne, but he was now Master of Rosings. Moreover, he had requested and had been extended a one-year leave of absence from his military duties. After twelve years, numerous battles, and four wounds, Lord Fitzwilliam hoped that this leave-of-absence would eventually become a complete retirement. Until then, the Earl could only be thankful and focus his attentions on his nephew.

Darcy had made his choice. It would be up to the Matlocks to ensure that his choice was well-received. Thus the Earl and Countess wrote letters and spoke positively about the match among friends. The rest would wait for the next season.


The Gardiners arrived at Longbourn for their annual Christmas visit. The young Gardiners, James, Julia, Thomas, and Lucy, loved coming to Longbourn to see their cousins and to enjoy all of the running room the country afforded. This year they were doubly excited because their favorite older friend, Miss Georgiana Darcy, was also nearby. The children had only met Mr. Darcy three times after Elizabeth's sudden departure the previous spring, but they liked him as well.

The elder Gardiners braced themselves for Fanny Bennet's usual litany of nerves and complaints. They were quite surprised, then, when she greeted them with a quiet dignity. Of course, it wasn't long before her usual effusiveness came through, but there were none of the usual complaints, accusations, and general cries concerning the cruelties of the world. Elizabeth and Jane had both written of the change in their mother, but the Gardiners had to see it to believe it.

The next surprise was that Thomas Bennet was out of his bookroom and sitting with his family in the parlor. He greeted the Gardiners, both young and old, with the usual twinkle in his eye but less of his biting wit. While the parents sat and conversed, the young ladies enjoyed listening to their young cousins as they told of all their many exploits. Soon the girls realized that the young ones would need to stretch their legs after a long ride, so they led them out into the park.

When the Gardiners retired that night, they talked together and came to the conclusion that Thomas' injury, though still painful, might have been the best thing that ever happened to the family.

The Netherfield Party had talked together and agreed that it was best to absent themselves on the day of the Gardiner's arrival so that the family would have time together. The following day they arrived promptly at visiting time. The little children immediately absconded with their beloved Georgie, leaving her only a moment to greet her favorite pseudo aunt and uncle. Laughingly, she allowed the children to drag her outside. They each had their favorite places at Longbourn, all of which they wanted to share with Georgiana. She wisely refrained from telling them that she knew this estate quite well by now.

Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley enjoyed sitting with their fiancés and the elder Bennets while they got acquainted with the Gardiners. Louisa and Geoffrey Hurst kept their visit short, but they extended an invitation to a dinner party on the following day.

Charlotte and her Colonel were frequent visitors as well. She would be leaving after the holidays, establishing her new home in Brighton while Colonel Forster prepared his troops. The militia would travel first to Brighton for more training. In March they would march to Portsmouth to board transports for Spain.

Over the next week, traffic between Longbourn and Netherfield was frequent. Half of the party went one direction and the other half would go the other, keeping horses, carriages, and feet quite busy. There were several short absences as certain parties made quick shopping trips to London. And then Christmas arrived. A delightful service was held at the church in Meryton. Wonderful meals were enjoyed. Presents were opened. Carols were sung. Visits were made around the neighborhood.

The next day was Boxing Day for the Bennet family. This was the day for delivering presents to the servants and tenants. The Darcys had also kept this tradition and were pleased to join in. They had long ago arranged their own Boxing Day presents for both Darcy House in London, for Pemberley, and for their other smaller estates. The Bingleys and Hursts had never before done this, so it was an eye-opener for them. They resolved to follow this tradition themselves in the future.

After two days more, there was an exodus. The Gardiners returned to Gracechurch Street. The Hursts and Mr. Bingley went to London to take care of business and personal concerns. The Darcys also returned to London to spend time with family, take care of business, and for Georgiana to resume her lessons with the masters.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their two youngest daughters followed the others to London as soon as the weather looked promising. They needed to outfit the girls for finishing school. After spending over a month in close association with Miss Darcy, the girls were enthused but still nervous. They wanted to make the best impression possible.

Mrs. Gardiner, Georgiana, and once even the Countess joined in for the visits with the modistes. Mr. Bennet was surprisingly generous with funds, though he still avoided any extensive discussions on dresses and lace. Kitty and Lydia would be delivered to begin school in late January, immediately after their older sisters' double wedding.


In Axelby, Mary, Bart, and Penelope enjoyed a very subdued Christmas. That is not to imply that it was not enjoyable. Penelope, now the dowager countess, had found great comfort in her new daughter-in-law. Mary was at her best when she climbed out of her shell and cared for others. The two ladies established a bond so deep and intimate that many assumed that Mary was Penny's true daughter on first meetings.

Mary's relationship with Jarvis grew as well. Prior to meeting Mr. Jarvis, she had honestly abandoned all hope of a marriage of affection… or any marriage. Now Viscount Bartholomew Jarvis was her life, her very reason for existence. Together they learned and performed the duties as master and mistress of a great estate. Mary was also learning the duties of a Countess, even though she did not yet bear that title. She and Jarvis had made one trip to his brother's estate. That one visit had been enough to quell any doubts about the poor man's impending death.

It had also been the time when Jarvis first learned of the duel his brother had fought, and the reasons. It explained many things and greatly saddened him.

When the Viscount and Viscountess returned to Axelby, they no longer held back in assuming duties that would soon be theirs. They visited the tenants on Boxing Day. They scheduled needed repairs. Mary made plans for a new tenant and servant school. In all but name, they were the new Earl and Countess of Axelby. Despite Mary's life spent in the shadow of her sisters, she grew into her new role quite naturally.

And then it was time to head back to Hertfordshire. The pair felt guilty about attending a wedding dressed in black, but they could not ignore the mourning period. The family understood. Mrs. Bennet wanted to make much of her daughter, Lady Jarvis, the Viscountess. Thankfully she listened to her husband, who pointed out that any taint of "celebration" in this period of mourning would appear crass and barbaric. Fanny contented herself with ensuring that her noble son-in-law never wanted for his favorite dishes.


The week of the wedding arrived, along with numerous guests. Both the Darcys and the Bingleys had large, extended families. Nobility, genteel, and merchant class mingled with relative aplomb as they watched the two adoring couples interact. Jane and Charles, Elizabeth and Darcy all felt as if they were on display at a menagerie.

There were highlights: One branch of Charles Bingley's relatives were from Scotland. This family was a cheerful bunch with three very handsome sons. These cut a swath through the ladies of Hertfordshire, where many sighs and giggles were heard daily. Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam and his wife Anne arrived early and quickly made friends with all and sundry. Anne, now married and separated from her mother, had become a new person under her husband's loving care.

The Earl of Matlock also turned out to be as amiable as his wife. He was struck by Jane's beauty, but it was Elizabeth's vivacity that ended all skepticism. After only one visit, he knew that his nephew had found the perfect lady for himself. Lord Fitzwilliam knew that his beloved sister Anne would have loved her daughter-in-law.

The day of the wedding arrived. There was the usual chaos of preparation and nerves, but the brides were delivered to the church on time. Their mother had originally planned on using Longbourn Chapel, but as the guest list grew, the venue was changed to the much larger Meryton church. It was full to capacity now, with many well-wishers having to stand outside.

The two nervous grooms looked incredibly handsome, even more so when they caught sight of Mr. Bennet walking both of his beautiful daughters down the aisle and the two men smiled. Only a few knew the pain that he was enduring to make this little journey. The weather had been especially cruel to his leg in the past week, but today he would walk his beloved daughters to their destiny. Tonight would be soon enough to nurse his pain.

The ceremony was brief. Not one of the four could truly remember the words that were said, but somehow they gave the correct responses at the correct times. The kisses that followed caused great amusement, especially when Mr. Bennet had to loudly clear his throat to remind the pairs of their surroundings. The registry was signed and then the couples stepped outside under a shower of petals.

Perhaps it was evidence of the numerous good deeds, or perhaps the people of Meryton simply liked the two young ladies, but it seemed as if the entire county was gathered to wish them well. The breakfast that followed was a pleasant affair, but the two couples were anxious to depart. Georgiana had tears of joy in her eyes as she hugged her Lizzy and said, "Now you're finally my sister." Elizabeth hugged her younger but taller friend just as tightly and replied, "You have always been my sister, Georgie, we just hadn't formalized it.

Many more goodbyes and farewells were exchanged before two carriages departed. One went southwest, towards Ramsgate. One went north, towards Pemberley. Darcy had offered to take Elizabeth anywhere she desired for her honey-month. But she had only seen Pemberley once, at the elder Mr. Darcy's funeral. Even then she had been enchanted. She wanted to spend her first days of marriage in her new home, walking the snowy grounds with her handsome husband and cuddling by a fire to get warm again. Darcy was happy to comply.

On the morning after their arrival, three days after their departure from Longbourn, Fitzwilliam Darcy had a whim. He asked his bewildered bride to stand "just-so" at a particular spot in the ballroom. Then he walked across the room and turned. Satisfied, he nodded decisively and said, "Don't move, my beautiful Lizzy. Do you know, you were standing right there when I first saw you? I was instantly intrigued, but I couldn't reach you… and then you disappeared and I spent the next hour or more looking for you."

Darcy had been walking forward, devouring Elizabeth with his eyes. When he reached her, he kissed her hungrily, and then pointed out of the window. "The next time I saw you, you were out there, by the water, talking with Georgiana. Again, I tried to get to you, but was waylaid." He kissed her again, deeply. "It has taken six years, Elizabeth, but now you are back where you belong… with me, by my side."

Elizabeth reached up and stroked her husband's strong jaw, "I saw you that day too, Fitzwilliam. You were so handsome that it made my breath catch and my heart race… but I knew who you were and I knew that you would never marry someone like me. I am so very happy that I was wrong."

We will leave our couple now to their privacy. Suffice it to say, they enjoyed a glorious month together before being joined by Georgiana and the Matlocks. Elizabeth had consented to undergo training for her presentation and preparation for the following season. Georgiana, soon to be seventeen, had asked to wait one more year for her presentation. She was in no hurry to be separated by marriage from her new sister.


Elizabeth Darcy continued her practice of random acts of kindness throughout her very long and fruitful life. She passed her habits onto each of her children as well, making the Darcy's one of the most popular and beloved families of their time. Their children were as varied in personality as the Bennet daughters had been. The eldest son naturally trained to be master of an estate. The second, a daughter, followed in her Aunt's footsteps, becoming a great musician like the Duchess, Lady Georgiana Pembroke. The next son relocated to Hertfordshire where, by the agreement of the entire extended family, he became Master of Longbourn and its many enterprises. And their youngest daughter joined her Aunt Kitty in breeding horses… an unladylike profession, to be sure, but highly profitable.

Mr. Collins was not defrocked after his visit to the Archbishop. Instead it was recommended that he consider missionary work. He departed for the South Pacific islands shortly thereafter where his ship was taken by pirates. His passing ended the entail… not that he would have inherited very soon anyway. Mr. Thomas Bennet did outlive his beloved wife. In fact, despite the chronic pain of his left leg, Thomas Bennet lived until the age of eighty-three.

Charles and Jane Bingley had five children, all beautiful girls, but were gloriously happy as only that couple could be. It was not true that they exceeded their budget. In fact, with Jane's time spent as Mistress of Longbourn, she learned to run a tight ship. They were also never cheated. Their servants and tenants loved them too much to even consider the idea. They purchased Netherfield and Jane was the only daughter to settle close to home. Thomas Darcy, Elizabeth's second son, fell in love with the third Bingley daughter during his teens. He practically moved in with his grandfather Thomas so that he could be close to her. Their romance reached fruition six years later. Charles ran both estates with Thomas for years and watched over the Meryton Brick Factory, though it was actually Albert Fellows who ran the factory.

Albert Fellows, his beloved wife Chloe, and her two brothers built the enterprise up to a thriving business. When the troops came home after Waterloo, the factory was there to offer employment. They later branched out and built two more brick factories, one for each of Chloe's brothers.

Longbourn Cherries became a trademark found in all the best homes. Hertfordshire County still boasts the best black cherries today.

As already written, Bart and Mary became the Earl and Countess of Axelby within a few months. Bart continued to work with Darcy, as well as Richard and Charles, partnering in many ventures as England moved into the steam and industrial age. Lady Penelope, the dowager countess, lived a long life and always cherished Mary and her grandchildren.

Catherine "Kitty" Bennet married an older, very wealthy gentleman who owned a horse-breeding farm. Despite what many might have thought, theirs was a marriage of true love. When he passed suddenly of a heart attack, she continued the breeding farm on her own. Against all predictions, the enterprise thrived under her management and her horses were always a popular breed at Tattersalls.

Lydia was the last to marry. She met and befriended an elderly dowager who had both great wealth and a desire to travel. Once Napoleon was finally defeated for good, Lydia joined as a "lady friend" rather than companion in her ladyship's adventures. Although she enjoyed several romances, none resulted in marriage. While exploring Greece ten years after her adventures began, Lydia met Michael Shipley, a handsome industrialist* from the United States. They married and moved to New York after a year-long wedding trip around Europe.

At the request of Charles and Jane, Lydia Shipley hired an investigator to try and locate Caroline. He found Caroline McDonald in a thriving settlement in a place near the larger settlement of Columbus, Ohio. She had eight children and presided over the community as if she was a duchess… at least in her own mind. The locals simply tolerated her for her husband's sake. When approached, Caroline rejected all overtures for renewing contact.

It was Frances "Fanny" Bennet who was changed most of all by Elizabeth's random acts of kindness, though not directly. Years of pretending to be calm and serene led to her truly becoming the embodiment of her pretense. In her final days she was the beloved and respected woman that she had always wanted to be. Her friendships with the Lady Penelope and Lady Alexandra grew and lasted until her final breath. Her name was forever after honored by her family.

Both Colonel Fitzwilliam and Colonel Forster fought in France to bring about Napoleon's defeat. They were called into service again for the hundred days leading up to Waterloo. Richard was wounded again, losing two fingers on his left hand. He retired after Waterloo to be with Anne and manage Rosings. Colonel Forster, with the support of his loving wife Charlotte, went on to serve on posts throughout Britain's growing empire. He eventually retired as a Major General. The couple and their three children returned to England and purchased an estate near Brighton.

Richard and Anne became the Earl and Countess of Matlock twenty-four years after their marriage when his brother died without legitimate issue. Lady Catherine de Bourg did not live long enough to see that Anne had picked the right cousin after all. The grand lady only visited Rosings Park once after her ejection. When they deflected her attempt to reestablish control, she left and never spoke to the pair again.

On one final note: Reverend Thomas Hawkins, the radical, free-thinking rector who gave the message that started it all, came under intense criticism from the more traditional clergymen of London. Eventually he was forced out of his pulpit. When Elizabeth heard about this, she immediately spoke with Darcy. He had no living available, but Richard did. Reverend Hawkins happily took up residence at Hunsford parsonage, found a bride, and served there for the next thirty-seven years.

* Concerning Lydia's "industrialist": Though industry was bourgeoning in 1825, it was not like we imagine it now. Mass-production was at its infancy, but the idea was spreading rapidly. Many prominent industrial families got their start in this early era.

From the desk of LFU: I hope that you have enjoyed my story. Thank you to all who have read and reviewed. Thank you specifically to those who saw and pointed out the errors so that I could go back to correct them. I plan to finish the final two epilogues of "An Incident at the Royal Rest Inn" next. If my indifferent health permits, I might begin another story. God bless - LFU