Thomas Bennet poured himself a rather generous aliquot of his favorite brandy. He kept it in a small compartment of his desk that his wife didn't even know existed. He was a father again. She was a beautiful squirming robust child with rather healthy lungs. She would be a handful, he thought. His little Lizzy, was also quite a whirling dervish and he couldn't love her more, however. His heart skipped a beat when he thought of what his little Kitty Cat had looked at as a newborn. It was a miracle that she was still with them. By God he would do everything he could to keep it that way.

He loved his girls. He had always been studious and quiet and had been secretly pleased that his wife gave him little girls that he could bounce on his knee, and twirl their curls around his finger rather than having to referee roughhousing. He didn't know what he would have done with a child like John Lucas. If it weren't for the damnable entail!

Thomas Bennet didn't delude himself. Although his youngest little girl was all that was healthy, the birth had been hard on his wife. This would be his last child. Out of his bottom drawer file with his legal papers he extracted the copy of the entail. He had read it so many times and couldn't find a way out of it. That oaf of a cousin of his would inherit Longbourn, or his idiot of a son. After his Kitty Cat had been born, Thomas had finally visited his cousin and had been horrified that either of his possible heirs would ever be in charge of his beloved home or his family.

"Closest male relative". That was certainly his horrid cousin. Thomas let his mind wander and paint castles in the air for his daughters. He envisioned what they would be like when they were older. His Jane would need a very kind man full of good cheer. She took the sorrows of the world too much upon herself. A melancholy man would never do. And Lizzy. Good lord what kind of a man could parry his Lizzy's mental gymnastics? Mary Bo Beep loved her little critters. She was still a bit too small to imagine what kind of a man would be best for her. Visions of future husbands naturally led to pictures of future grandchildren. The idea of being able to hold his grandchildren on his lap without the worry of their future actually being his, he found very pleasing. Suddenly his feet hit the ground after being propped on his desk. With five daughters, he was likely to have a grandson! That grandson would be his closest male relative. The entail didn't say it had to go through the male line. Collins didn't bear the name of Bennet so for Collins to inherit, it would have had to go through the female line. His grandsons would be just as eligible.

He was healthy so his daughters didn't need to marry as soon as some did. They should be appealing to future possible husbands. They were getting old enough that he should likely pay more attention to their education. It wouldn't do for them to only attract the backsmith. The smithy was a fine man, but couldn't run an estate until a son took over. No his daughters needed to marry gentlemen, and gentlemen had expectations from their wives.

Dear Lord though how he loved his solitary time with his books. Perhaps though if he instilled in his daughters that same love he could still read his books but with a bit of company. His wife was full of life and kept him from being a hermit, but he did miss the intellectual discussions he used to have with his pals at school. Perhaps eventually he could have a bit of that with his own daughters. Thomas leaned back again and put his feet back in their place on the desk. Another sip of brandy left him smiling like a fool. Yes it would be alright. His little girls would be the jewels of Herfordshire and one of their sons would take his place as the heir of Longbourn.

"Bennet did you hear that Netherfield is let at last", Christopher Phillips asked his brother in law as they reveled in being by themselves for a while away from a bevy of females during the separation of the sexes?

Thomas was immediately more attentive. "Netherfield you say. That would be a fine thing for my girls if some gentlemen have leased it."

"Yes" Phillips exclaimed, being as much of a gossip as his wife. "The butcher told our maid that he was told that eight gentlemen and five ladies would be arriving tomorrow."

"Well then, it would be only right to make them feel welcome in the neighborhood. I should likely give them a day to settle in before I call on them. "

Phillips, who was very aware of Bennet's ambition to have his daughters well married teased back, "Oh I think a half of a day would be sufficient."

Phillips had been right. Thomas Bennet was so impatient to meet the new tenants of Netherfield that after the news had spread that their carriages had been seen rumbling through Meryton, that he showed up at Netherfield walking his horse behind him, only a few hours later. Thomas debated in his head. "It was after polite calling hours, but a man couldn't help if his horse limped, now could he?" If anyone noticed that the horse showed no sign of a limp now, that didn't mean that it hadn't been there before. Thomas further rationalized, "with these hot blooded stallions, you just can't be too careful. They are glorious when healthy, but they have such a deuced time with their legs. Surely they will let me wait a bit at Netherfield to make sure his leg really is sound."

Thus is was that Thomas Bennet found himself in the sitting room of Netherfield while a groom slowly walked his horse in the corrals by the stable. Thomas Bennet felt the briefest moment of guilt for providing the groom extra work, but that quickly subsided when thinking of the grand scheme of things. If Thomas' plan worked, that groom would have a wonderful mistress in the form of his Jane or Lizzy. After all BooBoo was a grand horse. The worse that would happen to the groom is that he would get a nice hours walk and get his arm rubbed by BooBoo. Thomas Bennet made a note to himself not to let any of the Netherfield group know the actual name of his horse, and to not let Mary name any more of their animals.

Mr Bingley had been all that was amiable. Thomas Bennet had an unfortunate urge to rub Mr. Bingley's stomach, because he reminded him so forcefully of D'oro their golden retriever. He was almost still a pup like this Mr. Bingley. Thomas had to admit that Mary's names for animals had improved. Mr. Bingley even had the same color hair and eyes as D'Oro. He might be just the match for his Kitty Cat. She had improved in health immensely, but was still a bit fragile. Thomas was pretty sure that this young man could be easily convinced to take Kitty to Spain in the winter to help her lungs. Yes he would do nicely. Thomas would orchestrate Mr. Bingley and Kitty's lives until Mary or Lizzy was old enough to take over. He wasn't going to leave the fate of his most fragile daughter to some stranger who he hadn't trained to take care of her after all!

Now this other young man. This young man was so quiet. Thomas could tell that he noticed everything and saved those observations for later for processing. As the young man talked about his property with great pride, Thomas could see how much responsibility this man had taken up at a young age. A few quips of Thomas' caused just a hint of a smile to come to the young man's face. He wasn't totally without a sense of humor then. He would be perfect for Jane. They both felt so deeply, Thomas could tell, but didn't let society see it. Lord how tall this Darcy and Jane's children would be though!

"Well gentlemen, I think it likely that your groom has likely walked Bo… Beauregard's cramp out". I shouldn't take anymore of your time. I will see you at tomorrow's assembly. The town has a surfeit of young ladies who wish to dance so it behooves us gentlemen to do our part and dance most of the dances. I am not as young as you bucks, but even I will get in a few. I would be happy to introduce you to the young ladies of our town".

Mr. Bingley beamed back. "I have heard that your own daughters are quite lovely. I look forward to meeting them and the other young ladies. Might I request the first dance with your oldest, and the second with your second eldest? I would like to make a good impression on the community." Thomas tried not to look too gleeful. This young man really was easy to manipulate. He hadn't played Juliet at Cambridge for naught however. He did see the brow of that Darcy chap take a decided journey upward. "Yes, I believe I can acquiesce for Jane and Lizzy, Mr. Bingley. It will be the first assembly for my second youngest, Kitty."

"Oh, could I possibly have a dance with her also? That would be such an honor to dance with a young lady at her first assembly".

"I'll tell her she will be dancing the third set with you."

Both Mr. Bingley and Mr. Bennet looked expectantly at Mr. Darcy. Darcy knew how to put off match making mamas, but he was not sure what to do with Bingley and Mr. Bennet. Sometimes the most honorable thing to do is yield the field. "I don't typically dance with those I am not acquainted with, but in order to help my friend in the neighborhood and fulfill my role as a gentlemen, may I respectfully ask to dance the second dance with your oldest?"

This was going perfectly, Thomas thought. This would cause a lot of gossip for Jane however. "Mr. Darcy, I believe my Jane would enjoy that immensely. However, it would set tongues waggling if she were the only local girl you danced with. Could I suggest that you dance the first with my Lizzy?"

Darcy thought he could live with four dances, two with the Miss Bennets and two with Bingley's sisters. Then he would have fulfilled his duty. "Yes Mr. Bennet I would be honored to dance with Miss Elizabeth also."

Mr. Bennet's heart was light as he galloped home. Booboo would be getting an extra apple tonight.

As Mr. Bennet watched the assembly, he couldn't help think that maybe he had read a damn sight too much poetry. "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley" was the phrase that kept going through his head. It was obvious that even during the first dance that that Bingley fellow was quite taken with his Jane. Those mischievous brows of Mr. Darcy's did a veritable dance themselves while he was dancing with Lizzy. Thomas Bennet actually saw a full smile on the dour visage of Mr. Darcy during the man's dance with Lizzy. When Bingley and Darcy changed partners, they were still polite and graceful, but the looks were just not the same. Later in the evening, Bingley had asked Jane to dance again and Darcy had asked Lizzy. This was not the plan at all. Jane and Bingley were both too trusting. Their servants would rob them blind! Thomas thought for a minute though. It was Jane that could get his other daughters to behave. Jane could get the servants to do things without repeating herself that Mrs. Bennet could not. Jane was perhaps firmer than he thought. Perhaps she would be alright with this Bingley after all. Looking at that Darcy fellow though, Thomas Bennet knew that Lizzy would have her hands full. This was not a fellow to push around. He was going to have to ask the young man to come to Longbourn tomorrow the way he and Lizzy were looking at each other. Perhaps that would be alright also. Thomas Bennet went back to castles in the air, daydreaming about dark haired little girls and a few little boys, with those dimples that Darcy fellow had.

Thomas felt a head upon his shoulder. "God has been very good to us" sighed his bride. Thomas squeezed her hand. "Yes he has my dear."