Author's Note:

Hi, guys!

It's been so long. To be honest, the only reason I'm even posting this is that, from time to time, I get a sweet review asking if I'm alright and saying they miss this story. Lately, I feel that everything I write is rubbish. I've been trying to force myself to write even a little at the time, but I'm so rusty that this single chapter took forever, and I'm still not happy with it.

I would also like to point out that I based a couple of lines in this chapter on another fic/book I read. A character (that I will not name so as not to spoil anything) will confuse Bennet with someone else. I gave it my own little twist, but I can't remember where I get this idea from. I'd rather be safe than sorry, so if the original idea was yours, let me know and I will give you credit for it.

Anyway, as I've said before, Bennet is based on my little nephew, so I hope you enjoy his character and his inability to interpret metaphors (like most toddlers).

I don't know when I will post again, so please be patient. I'll do my best!

Stay safe!

Jen


"Yes. I thought I could not possibly love another as I loved Bennet, being my first son and my heir... I was wrong again. I love Matthew just as much as I love Bennet. I am starting to understand that there can always be more room. So," he finally smiled at her, "if you are to give me ten more children, I now think I can accommodate them."

"Ten!" she chuckled. "I do not think so!"

"Well, we shall see."


61.

The first days of September brought a new guest to Pemberley. Elizabeth could hardly contain her excitement as she watched Mrs. Collins descend the carriage.

"Oh, Charlotte. 'Tis so good to see you!" She said, embracing her friend.

"I have missed you, Lizzy. It has been too long."

Indeed, it had, for Lady Catherine's anger had kept them apart while Mr. Collins depended on his patroness and then Mrs. Collins' mourning period had kept her from visiting. They had exchanged letters for the last three years, but she was now free to do as she wished, as she did not depend on her husband nor had she to please her benefactress.

"Come, let me introduce you to my family," Elizabeth said, taking Charlotte's hand and turning to the Darcys. "You know Fitzwilliam, of course."

"Welcome to Pemberley, Mrs. Collins," her husband said with a bow.

"Thank you for having me, Mr. Darcy," Charlotte curtsied.

"And these are Lady Anne and Mr. George Darcy, my parents in law, and my sister Georgiana."

Greetings, bows and curtsies were exchanged before they moved to the parlour.

"I am sorry for your loss, Mrs. Collins," Lady Anne said after they were settled.

"Thank you, your Ladyship. I admit that it has been difficult to adapt to my new life, but my parents are good people and have kindly taken me back."

"Your parents are Sir William and Lady Lucas, are they not?" Mr. Darcy asked. "We met them when we were first in Hertfordshire. They seem to be quite amiable people."

"They are. I am very fortunate to have them."

"I think you shall enjoy your stay here, Charlotte," Lizzy said. "My parents and younger sisters are here as you know and the Bingleys will join us in a sennight to celebrate Bennet's birthday."

"I am looking forward to seeing Jane again, but I confess I am eager to meet Master Bennet and Master Matthew."

"If you wish, I can take you to the nursery after you refresh yourself."

As the family predicted, Bennet was happy to make a new acquaintance and spoke a great number of words, though Charlotte could only discern a dozen of them. He showed her all his toys and his new brother, who, unfortunately, could still not play with him.

"He is very handsome, Lizzy," Charlotte said as she held Matthew. "And Bennet is full of energy and mischief. I can see you in him."

"Yes, Mama is getting her revenge," Elizabeth laughed. "He is always up to something."

"I thought him quite smart, too, though I confess I do not know much about children," Charlotte pointed out. She noticed Elizabeth expression and after so many years of friendship, she knew what her friend was thinking. "You wonder if I am glad or gloomy about my lack of children."

Elizabeth looked startled for a moment before she blushed. "I forgot how easy you can read me."

Charlotte smiled at her. "You are too expressive. That makes you an open book to those who know you well. I am not offended. The truth is that I would like to be a mother but I am glad I am not at the moment. It is one thing to be a mother when you have a home and a husband and another quite different thing when you are a guest in your parents home."

"Oh, Charlotte, I am so sorry."

"Do not be. It certainly not your fault," she said and noting her friend's sombre expression, added: "I am better now than I was five years ago. I am not a spinster, but a respectable widow with some money to my name."

"Will you come with us to London next season?"

"With the Darcys?" Charlotte asked, surprised.

"Yes," was all Elizabeth said.

"Are you matchmaking, Lizzy?"

"Maybe," Elizabeth smiled.

"Oh my! You are turning into your mother."

"Charlotte!" Elizabeth gasped, feigning offence.

"I do not know, Lizzy."

"Think about it. You shall be out of half-mourning by then, and I shall certainly not push you to do something you do not wish to do. I would only like to introduce you to some people, but the decision shall always be yours."

"I shall think about it. For now, this young gentleman is hungry," she said, giving Matthew to his mother.


"Papa, Mama, Papa," was the first thing that Fitzwilliam heard as he opened his eyes that morning. He looked around in confusion and saw his eldest son's grin as he jumped up and down in bed. "Papa, wake up! Mama!"

"Bennet?" he said.

"Papa, it's my birthday! I'm two!" the toddler exclaimed as he kept jumping over his father and showing him two fingers.

Fitzwilliam came to his senses and looked down at himself. He was immediately relieved to discover he was wearing a nightshirt and Elizabeth had donned her chemise at some point in the night. Bennet was not in the habit of entering their bedchamber without permission, but they had learnt to be prepared just in case.

"Happy birthday, Son," he finally said, tackling Bennet down and placing kisses on his neck, which caused the boy to giggle.

"Papa, tickles!"

"Oh, my," Elizabeth mumbled. "Bennet, what are you doing here?"

"Mama, my birthday!"

"You are quite right, my love," she chuckled. "Happy birthday, darling."

Elizabeth took her son in her arms and kissed his cheeks before the boy started wiggling around.

"Presents!" he said.

"What a mercenary son you have, Fitzwilliam," she said to her husband, and released the boy. "You shall have your presents after breakfast. Be a good boy and go to your nursery to get dressed."

"Yes!" he replied, happy that he would get his birthday presents as he climbed down the bed.

"And Bennet?" his father said. "Remember to knock and ask for permission before you enter our chambers. Since it is your birthday, you are forgiven this time."

"Yes, Papa."

As soon as he was gone, Fitzwilliam laid back down again. "Dear Lord."

Elizabeth chuckled and laid her head on his chest as she cuddled to his side. "Those are the delights of fatherhood, Fitzwilliam. One wakes up with little feet trampling all over you."

"I was not warned about that," he argued, wrapping his arms around her.

"Aren't you grateful that I put on my chemise, even though you never wish me to?"

"I thank God for that. How would we explain it if you had not?"

"He would surely tell everyone, too, if he were to witness such a scene," she laughed. "Will you now tell me about his present?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"You shall disapprove."

"And will I not find out sooner or later?"

"Yes, but my hope is that when you see Bennet's happiness, you shall not be able to scold me too much."

She laughed. "You'd better hope so. I am getting anxious and my imagination is surely worse than whatever you have bought for him."

"Come, let us get ready for breakfast and you shall find out then."

Bennet was even more full of energy than usual and having the whole family visiting only made him more lively than was his wont. Fitzwilliam watched him in amusement as he went from one family member to the other and attempted to chat with everyone, though many did not understand the words he was saying, he made himself clear with a mix of half-right words and gestures. As he observed his son, he could hardly believe that one person could be so similar to his wife. He was just as expressive and outgoing and had none of his own reserve. He was comfortable with the Fitzwilliams, the Bennets, the Gardiners, and the Bingleys, and he had no trouble getting to know new people, like Mrs. Collins. He was grateful that his son would not struggle to socialise as he did.

His gaze turned to Elizabeth and saw her talking to Jane while holding Charlie in her lap. Elizabeth was Charlie's favourite Auntie and he clung to her and to Bennet whenever he saw them. He was a delightful boy, calmer and better behaved than his own son, if he was honest. He was not surprised by that, whether he had inherited Charles' or Jane's character it hardly made a difference since they were both such gentle and calm people.

Fitzwilliam now saw Bennet's animation and liveliness in his wife's expression and chuckled to himself. He hoped he would not have five such lively children or he would not have a moment's peace! He suddenly felt he had a new understanding of poor Mr. Bennet. Matthew seemed calm in his grandmother Bennet's arms, but he was only two months old and Bennet used to be an easy babe. He would have to prepare himself mentally for lively children, just in case.

His reflections were interrupted when the family heard a carriage approaching Pemberley. He looked at his father as if to ask him who else was expected, but Mr. Darcy shook his head slightly, indicating that all their guests were already there. A few minutes later, Mr. Reynolds came in and announced:

"Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Miss Anne de Bourgh."

Everyone was shocked for a whole minute as her ladyship entered the parlour followed by her daughter and her companion.

"Well?" Lady Catherine said. "No one is to welcome me to my sister's home?"

Her sister did not know what to do. Fitzwilliam had been very clear: he would not see his aunt until he apologised to his wife for the way he had continuously insulted her. She did not think that Elizabeth was capable of holding a grudge for such a long time to a bitter old woman, but her son could, and since it was his wife she had insulted and not himself, he was less likely to simply forget.

She looked at Fitzwilliam and nodded, allowing him to take over the matter that affected his family more than hers.

"Lady Catherine," Fitzwilliam said and bowed so slightly that it was almost an insult. "I hope you have come with an apology."

"An apology!" her ladyship exclaimed. "That was three years ago, Fitzwilliam. It is long forgotten."

"Perhaps you have forgotten but I have not."

The truth was that Lady Catherine was lonely. She had lost the Darcys' company along with the Fitzwilliams' and the only people who paid attention to her were Mr. and Mrs. Collins. With her clergyman dead, and his replacement not quite as grateful and humble as she would like, she was isolated in Rosings Park with no one to listen to her many great pieces of advice except for her daughter and her companion. None of them had much to say and her boredom and loneliness, which had begun three years ago, was only exacerbated with Mr. Collin's death.

"I have come to meet your heir. 'Tis ridiculous that your aunt has not made his acquaintance," she finally said and turned to his nephew's wife who was holding a child in her arms. "Is that your son? Bring him over."

Fitzwilliam followed his aunt's eyes and found Charlie. "He is not my son, Lady Catherine."

"What do you mean he is not your son?!" she exclaimed, horrified. "I told you you could never trust her!"

Fitzwilliam grew heated as he growled: "I do not know what you mean to imply, but what I meant was that the child Elizabeth is holding is our nephew, Charlie Bingley. My eldest son is with Richard and my youngest is with my mother-in-law."

"I see," Lady Catherine said, as she realised her mistake. It went against her pride to apologise to the lowly chit, especially in front of everyone, but she knew that if she did not, her nephew would ask her to leave. "I… I apologise." Fearing that it might not be enough and she would be forced to say more, she quickly added: "Would you allow me to meet your heir?"

Before Fitzwilliam could say no, Elizabeth returned her nephew to her sister and placed her hand on her husband's arm. She put her other hand on Bennet's back to guide him gently to his father.

"Lady Catherine," she curtsied and received a nod in response.

Fitzwilliam sighed and took his son's hand as his wife retreated. "Ben, this is my aunt, your great-aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She is your grandmama Anne's sister. And this is her daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh. Lady Catherine, Anne, this is my eldest son, Bennet."

Bennet looked at him for approval and after receiving a nod, he watched with pride as his son bowed clumsily. Lady Catherine scrutinized the young boy and Fitzwilliam could almost feel his son's shrinking under her gaze. He was brave and bold most of the time, but he was still a two-year-old, facing a formidable old woman.

"You have named him after her," she said, trying to quell her accusing tone.

She had known this, of course, for she had received Lady Anne's letter announcing his birth and his christening.

"It is the tradition as you well know it," her nephew replied.

She wished to say that it was not the same when your mother carried the name of the Earl of Matlock while your son carried the name of a lowly gentleman, but she knew better and, this time, she held her comment back.

The silence in the parlour was deafening.

"He looks exactly like you when you were a boy," she pointed out, satisfied with the resemblance.

"He does."

"But he has his mother's eyes," she noticed, peering closer.

It sounded like criticism, but he still said:

"He does."

She also wished to say that it was better if he had inherited his mother's eyes and not her manners, but this comment, she also swallowed back.

"Do you not speak, boy? You are already two! You should be able to speak by now. Intelligence is a sign of good breeding and you have the Fitzwilliams' blood in your veins. I know my Anne spoke before she was one year old."

This statement was probably false, for, at this very moment, Anne de Bourgh stood silently behind her mother as if she could still not speak at all.

Bennet turned those big green eyes to his father in confusion and held his hand tighter. The shyness and self-doubt in his son's eyes broke Fitzwilliam's heart. He had never seen his son doubt himself or cower from anything, but he also knew that Bennet had never been spoken to in such a way.

"He speaks when one is not trying to intimidate him."

"I am not trying to intimidate him!" she said with an indignant tone and turned to Bennet. "Your mother could never hold her tongue while the cat has eaten yours."

Bennet did not understand metaphors, but he did feel his mama was being insulted somehow. His mama did not need to hold her tongue! It was already inside her mouth, it would not go away! What a silly idea! He did not like this old lady. Did she bring a cat that ate tongues? No wonder his mama hid hers!

"We don't have a cat," he finally said with determination, his little voice clearer than usual. He would not be scared of the evil lady with cats that ate tongues!

This innocent statement from an offended toddler was enough to break the tension and make the adults laugh.

"Well, at least he speaks," Lady Catherine said as they all started setting back and relaxing. "I hope you have a few chambers prepared for us, Anne. We shall stay a sennight or two."

"You may stay, Lady Catherine," Fitzwilliam warned her, "as long as you remain polite to my wife and our family."

"Who do you take me for?" she asked.

He did not reply to that question, for she would not have liked the answer.

As the minutes went by, Bennet recovered his natural liveliness and was laughing with Charlie before long. When Lady Catherine and Miss de Bourgh went to their rooms to refresh themselves, Fitzwilliam seized the opportunity and took his son outside.

"Are you ready for your present, Son?" he asked Bennet.

"Present!" the boy beamed and ran after his father who was leading him outside.

"Why is his present outside?" Elizabeth asked, suspicious.

"It would have been difficult to bring it inside," Fitzwilliam replied and hoisted Bennet up in his arms and threw him up in the air, taking delight in his son's excited giggles. "Come, my boy. Let's see your present."

"Yes, Papa!"

It only took a few steps in the garden for Elizabeth and Bennet to see the present standing in the grass near the stables.

"Horse!" Bennet squealed and jumped from his father's arms.

"Careful, Ben," his father warned as he ran towards the tiny horse.

"A horse, Fitzwilliam?" Elizabeth sighed. "He's only two."

"It's a pony," her husband argued. "And a foal at that. He shall not ride it yet, but my hope is that he shall get accustomed to being around horses and having his own will teach him responsibility and will help him form a bond with his animals."

"He is so little."

"Bennet or the pony?" Fitzwilliam asked with a smile.

"Both," she chuckled. "But you know more of horses than I do, so if you think it safe..."

"He shall not ride him yet. They are both too young, but they will get to know each other."

"Mama! Look, my horse!" Bennet grinned up at them. "He's little."

"He shall grow," his father said. "And you will have to take good care of him so he can grow big and strong."

"I will!"

"What shall you name him?" Elizabeth asked. She could not help but think that they looked adorable together and she was warming up to the idea of Bennet having such a friend.

"Horsey!"

Hearing Elizabeth's laughter, Fitzwilliam shook his head with a smile and turned to his son: "Names can be difficult. We have time to think of one."

"What do you say, Bennet?" Elizabeth asked.

Their son looked up to them in confusion before he realised his mother's meaning. "Oh, thank you, Papa."

"You are welcome, Son. And thank your mother for letting you keep him."

"Thank you, Mama. I take care of horsey."

"I hope you shall," she sighed in resignation and accepted that from this moment on, horses would be a part of her son's life.

"Do not look so worried, my love," Fitzwilliam whispered to her as they watched Bennet brush his new pony with a groom's help. "I was around his age when I received my first pony and riding is part of being a gentleman."


I do not own any Pride and Prejudice properties, nor do I make any money from the writing of this story.

Characters and situations, created by Jane Austen, are taken from Pride and Prejudice and from the Pride and Prejudice (1995) adaptation created by Simon Langton and distributed by BBC.

This story is released under the GPL/CC BY: verbatim copying and distribution of this entire work are permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided attribution is preserved.