TAKEDOWN NOTICE

This story will be removed for publication on or around Nov. 18. I will wait 24 hours to remove it, however, if it has received a review in the last 24 hours.

It will be available on Amazon soon after that date.


Hello, dear readers! As I have in the past, I would love to receive feedback on this story (and I mean really really love constructive criticism that helps me make the story better. And as worked so well for Mistress, I will be giving copies of the final novel to those who give the most helpful feedback.

If you happen to be a new reader encountering this story on this site, I can understand being frustrated that it is the third book in the series, and books one and two are no longer posted here. They are available for free if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. If not, I would be glad to provide review files to those who email me at sophieturner1805 AT gmail DOT com and express serious intent at giving feedback on the third book.

For anyone who needs a refresher as to the major characters and marriages, I have posted an updated version of the family tree at my blog, sophie-turner-acl DOT blogspot DOT com

Readers looking for specific content warnings should be aware that this story contains: natural miscarriage, sexual assaults, the slave trade, illness and death.

A Season Lost

PART ONE

February, 1816

Chapter 1

There was a morning, at Pemberley, in which Elizabeth Darcy went in to breakfast wearing a cap. It was a fine cap, trimmed with some of the lace her sister Georgiana had purchased for her in Paris, and – so Elizabeth thought – fully appropriate for a married woman who had now borne two heirs for Pemberley.

Most of their house party had left already: Captain and Mrs. Ramsey, and their brother, Herbert, had gone south to visit family in Salisbury; and the Stanton men had returned to their various careers, their wives in consort. Thus Elizabeth found the winter breakfast room empty, save her husband, who was lingering over his coffee and looked at her with what seemed censure, when she walked in.

"What is this nonsense?" he asked, rising to walk over to where she had entered the room and, as though to ensure her certainty of precisely what he had labelled nonsense, plucking at the edge of the cap and looking his wife in the eye.

"It is a cap, Darcy – surely you have seen them."

"I have, on matrons."

"Is not your wife a matron, after two years of marriage and two children?"

"She might be such in status, but I had not thought of her as such in looks," he said, and turned to the footman standing by the sideboard. "Will you have Kelly summoned here at once?"

"Darcy, do not be severe on her. The cap was my idea. In truth, I had thought myself overdue to begin wearing one."

"Why? Why should you frame a beautiful face in anything less than it deserves?" he asked.

"Well, I suppose I had thought the cap tolerable enough."

"You sly woman," he said. "But do not think that shall prevent me from standing firm on this, for I will. I most certainly will."

Sarah Kelly appeared then, curtsying deeply and looking with puzzlement between her mistress and master. "Sir? Madam?"

"I must apologise, Miss Kelly," Darcy said. "Clearly your wages are not what they should be. I would have expected my wife to bring this to my attention, but it seems instead she has wished to curtail your duties. So please, let me make clear to you, for every day Mrs. Darcy does not appear to the household in some ridiculous cap; for every day her hair is styled to become her countenance as it should be, I shall now supplement your pay by ten per cent."

"Sir – I'm so sorry – I – "

"Miss Kelly, I have already informed Mr. Darcy of how the cap was my idea. Do not worry yourself over it, although I shall take him up on raising your wages by ten per cent."

"Thank you, ma'am," said Sarah, awkwardly curtsying, and then rushing from the room with a flustered countenance.

After she had left, Darcy pinched his fingers upon the top of Elizabeth's head and plucked off the cap, examining it for a moment before he scowled, shook his head, and tucked it away within his waistcoat.

"Much better," he said. "Please do not deprive me of my lovely wife again for breakfast. I fear I shall lose my appetite."

"Darcy, I suspect you have already ate."

"Perhaps I have, but that is only because I was not faced with my wife attempting to look as some half-centurion dowager at the breakfast table."

"Are you going to keep it?"

"Yes. I might consider giving it back to you in thirty years or so."

Mrs. Bennet walked in then, and as she was wearing a cap that looked wholly appropriate on a woman with five daughters grown and married, no more could be said on the subject.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet had joined Jane and Charles Bingley as houseguests of longer duration, for Pemberley's nursery presently housed all three of the Bennets's grandchildren – the Bingley's daughter, Elizabeth, and the Darcys's twin sons, James and George. The nursery was, as always, the destination for the women after breaking their fast, and Elizabeth went there after returning briefly to her dressing room so that Sarah could style her hair. She opened the nursery's door and very nearly tripped over her young namesake – whom they all called Bess – for the child had become quite an excellent crawler.

"Pa!" exclaimed Bess. "Pa! Pa!"

It had been Elizabeth who realised that when Bess said this, she was asking not for her father, but to play the pianoforte, which had always held a fascination for her. Up until recently, a small square pianoforte had been housed in the nursery so that it could be played for her whenever she fussed. Now, however, Bess's preference was to play for herself by pounding on the keys, and the resulting cacophony had necessitated moving the pianoforte into one of the bedrooms down the hall from the nursery. It appeared Bess wished to go thither.

"I shall take her," said Jane, with an apologetic look to them all. She picked up her daughter and left, and a few minutes later, the distant, wholly illogical sound of the pianoforte could be heard.

"I should not say anything against any of my grandchildren," said Mrs. Bennet, "but oh how that noise plays on my nerves!"

"We can have the pianoforte moved farther down the hall if you like, mama," Elizabeth said.

"No, no, then poor Jane and Mrs. Padgett will have to carry her even farther when she wishes to play," said Mrs. Bennet. "I only wish for their sake she was better-behaved, like your boys."

"Mama, I suspect when they are older and Bess is taking proper pianoforte lessons and the boys are playing rough, as boys do, you will change your mind about who is better-behaved."

"Perhaps," said Mrs. Bennet, doubtfully. She was sitting and holding James, who by virtue of being the heir to Pemberley, was her favourite child, and so Elizabeth picked up George. Elizabeth did not like to think of favourites among her own sons, but she did feel for poor George, who had been born a second son by mere hours.

The boys were beginning to show small differences in their personalities: both were quiet, but George was the quieter of the two, and although he had been the first to smile, it was James now who smiled more often. Elizabeth tried to avoid thinking about what this would mean for how they would turn out in the future, but it was impossible to do so entirely.

Sometimes, she allowed her thoughts to trail far ahead to the future, to wondering what sort of career George would prefer as a second son. They had family connexions who might give him a start in either the navy or the army, but as a mother, she could not like the thought of her son choosing a career that might risk his life. The clergy or the law would be much better, Elizabeth thought, and she resolved that George should have every opportunity to spend time around her brother, David Stanton, and perhaps even her uncle Philips – although a boy of George's birth would be expected to be a barrister, not a small town attorney – in the hopes that he might take an active interest in one of his relations's careers.


On most days, Elizabeth returned to the nursery numerous times, for she had chosen to nurse her sons herself, and although their nurse, Mrs. Nichols – a widow who had a young son of her own – nursed them if needed, Elizabeth preferred it be her that fed them, so long as she was available. She had completed the last of these feedings, for the night – any needs the twins had in the midst of the night were seen to by Mrs. Nichols, something Elizabeth felt a little guilty over, but Mrs. Nichols assured her it was not so bad – and been changed by Sarah, and was now walking through her apartment to the master's bedchamber.

She was surprised to find herself immediately taken up into an ardent embrace, upon her entry into that chamber, an embrace punctuated by a very passionate kiss.

"My, what is this for?" she asked, gasping, once the kiss had ended.

"After what happened in January, I feared you might have misinterpreted what I meant at breakfast, about the cap." He referred to a brief period of time just before their return to marital relations after Elizabeth had given birth, when she had feared his lack of attention towards her meant he no longer desired her. Elizabeth had been too stung by the rejection to understand the truth: startled by the death of their cousin in childbirth, he had feared getting his wife with child again and losing her in the same manner.

Darcy continued: "I never meant to censure your beauty, or indicate that I felt any less attraction to you – "

"I understood you perfectly, my love. You need not explain yourself further."

"Thank goodness," he said, looking very relieved.

"So this was your attempt to convince me of how you desire me?" she asked.

He replied that it was.

"It was a very good attempt. I think you should make another."

He did so, kissing her very thoroughly and then grasping at the folds of her nightgown as he said: "You are at your best without any unnecessary adornments, my love, and I would very much like to remove this one, if you are amenable."

"Oh yes, I am very amenable."