Hey everyone, sorry it's been so long since I've updated this story here on FFN. BUT I am determined to use NaNoWriMo to finish it! I've rearranged the order of some things, so I'm just reposting what I have in the order I plan on keeping it.

As always, I appreciate constructivefeedback! This story will remain up to read for free until it finishes its final edit and goes live on Amazon (where it will be available for free in Kindle Unlimited, like all my other stories have been).


Longbourn 1789

A piercing scream echoed through Longbourn as Thomas Bennet sat in his library. He nervously downed another glass of port. Across the room, his brother Philips gave a hearty chuckle.

"Not too much now, Bennet. You don't want be too drunk to remember meeting your firstborn!"

Glancing ruefully at the half-empty decanter, Bennet stood and walked towards the window. "I had no idea how terrible this could be. It has been a day and a half since her waters broke, and still there is no babe."

"It always takes longer with the first birth."

"How would you know? You and Lucy haven't got any children!" retorted Bennet.

"My mother was a midwife. I know more about babies being born than probably any man in England. She took me along with her when my father was at sea, as she didn't want to leave me at home where I could get into trouble."

Bennet stared in surprise at his brother-in-law. "How is it that I never knew that about you?"

Philips shrugged self-consciously. "I don't talk much about my childhood, I suppose. It wasn't easy, and it was very different than the life I've made for myself now. My parents sacrificed much so their only son could go to school and gain an education. They wanted better for me than what they had."

The conversation was interrupted a loud, high-pitched wailing. Bennet's shoulders sagged in relief, and a few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Mrs. Hill, who served as both housekeeper and lady's maid for Fanny Bennet, poked her head through the opening.

"Best you come up now, Mr. Bennet, and meet your child."

Without pausing to excuse himself from Philips, Bennet dashed out of the room and up the stairs to his wife's chamber. Fanny Bennet lay in bed, her sister at her side and the midwife near the dresser.

"Oh Thomas, we have a daughter," wailed Fanny.

Bennet stopped short and stared at the little bundle in his wife's arms. "A girl? Can I - can I see her?"

Mrs. Philips gently lifted the baby out of her sister's arms. She showed Thomas how to support the infant's head, and Thomas looked down at the child he held.

"She's beautiful, Fanny," he whispered.

The small babe had a head of blond hair with large eyes that slanted upwards slightly on the edges. One hand was flying around in the air, and he gently touched it with his finger. The babe closed her fist around his large finger, and Thomas felt his eyes fill with tears.

"Oh, Fanny, don't cry, love," he said tenderly, looking at his still-weeping wife. "You have given us a beautiful girl to dote on! We'll call her Jane, for my mother and your grandmother."

"But the entail!" the woman sobbed.

"God will provide," he said firmly. "For now, we will work on giving our daughter a dowry that will fit her beauty."

The midwife cleared her throat. "Mr. Bennet," she said, beckoning him towards her.

Bennet crossed the room to where the elderly woman stood, wringing her hands. "Is there a problem?" he asked in a low whisper.

She pressed her lips together. "Do you see her palms?"

He lifted his finger and gently pried the fist open. After inspecting them for a moment, he looked at her and shrugged. "She seems to have all her fingers."

When his light-hearted tone fell flat, the joy he'd been feeling began to sink into a rock in his stomach. "What is it?" he insisted when the woman remained silent.

"She only has one line across her palms. And her toes… there's a large gap between the largest and the second. When you combine that with her eyes…" her voice trailed off.

"What?" he urged.

"I think she might be defective, sir."

A rushing sound filled his ears. "I beg your pardon?" he cried, startling the child in wailing.

Mrs. Philips took the baby from his arms and returned her to her mother, who put the babe to her breast. It was slow going, but eventually the babe began to suckle weakly.

Bennet watched a moment, calming his anger, before turning back to the midwife. "What did you say?"

The old woman pressed her lips together even more firmly. "I've seen this before, sir. Babies who have these deformities rarely live long. Those that do won't grow at a normal rate. She'll struggle to eat, never be able to learn how to read, and may not even be able to walk or talk."

Bennet felt as though he'd been hit with a carriage. "What are you saying, exactly?"

"I'm saying it's best if we take the baby now away from its mother. Mrs. Bennet will not recover well if she bonds with the child, only to have the child die early or be too stupid to grow."

When Bennet's only response was a blank stare, the midwife sighed. "For your sake, and that of your wife's, we need to tell everyone the babe died in childbirth. Your wife is young and healthy."

"But what… what do you intend to do?"

"I know of a workhouse not too far from here. They take in infants in the hopes that they can be raised to work hard. The other option is to let the babe be out in the cold to hasten its passing."

Bennet's jaw dropped in shock, and he stared disbelieving at the midwife. "Are you telling me we should… should murder my daughter? Or send her - the daughter of a gentleman - to a workhouse?" His voice escalated until he nearly shouted the last word.

"Quiet!" she hissed at his loud voice, glancing warily at the new mother. "It's just what should be done, that's all. If word gets out that your wife carried a deformed child, any future children will be tainted. And since the child will most likely die young anyway, you'd only be hastening what nature intended all along."

Bennet swallowed hard and looked over at his wife, tears filling his eyes. "So you're telling me I have two choices. Sentence my firstborn to death, or destroy the hopes of my future children's lives?"

The midwife nodded solemnly. "There is only one right choice, sir."

Pemberley 1794

George Darcy stared down at his wife in disgust. "What have you done, Anne?" he seethed with fury, his face turning purple in apoplexy. "You gave birth to this… this monster!"

The frail woman burst into hysterical cries. "Please, George. I didn't… I don't…"

"Who is the father? It clearly can't be me, as no Darcy has ever produced such unnatural evil!"

Lady Anne Darcy's weeping only increased. She shook her head vehemently, but her gasping sobs prevented any words from leaving her lips.

"We must get rid of it."

George stepped forward with a snarl on his face, hands reaching out to take the infant from its mother's arms. She jerked away from him, shielding the baby with her body.

Enraged, he tried once more to separate his wife from the child. Lady Anne shrieked and twisted back and forth, frantically trying to keep bundle from her husband's grasp. "No, George!"

"Anne, so help me -"

"Stop it!"

Both parents froze and turned towards the door. Eleven-year-old Fitzwilliam Darcy, who had come home on holiday, was standing in the frame with wide eyes, hands clenched into fists at his sides. He was tall for his age, which made it easier for him to fit in at Eton, although he was two years younger than the age most students began their attendance at the prestigious school.

"Leave her alone," the tall, gangly youth demanded, his voice cracking on the last word.

If the situation hadn't been so serious, the high pitch would have forced his parents to smile. Instead, it caused George to turn from his wife and approach his son.

"Fitzwilliam, you don't understand -"

"You're right; I don't! You were hurting Mother! You want to get rid of the baby! Why?"

The anguish in the boy's words caused Lady Anne's sobs to begin again. "You can't do this, George. I swear to you, I have always been faithful. I don't know how -"


Lady Anne fell silent, her ashen face wet with tears burrowed into the bundle in her arms. George's shoulders sagged. "The babe can't stay here, Anne."

"I have tried for another child for over a decade, George. You cannot take my baby away from me," she pleaded. "Not when I've lost so many others."

"Please, Father," Fitzwilliam added his entreaty to his mother's.

George let out a tremendous sigh as his family waited breathlessly for his decision.

Yorkshire, 1798

Ten-year-old Charles Bingley raced along the lane towards his home, the mills and factories casting long shadows over the path as the sun began to dip below the horizon.

Charles had been attempting to visit his father in his offices, which were adjacent to the most recently-built mill that was owned by Bingley's Textiles. The parent, however, was much besieged with work, and he had immediately ordered his son to return home. "I don't have time for you now, Charles. You'll only get in the way."

The invention of textile machinery had caused the elder Bingley's business to expand rapidly. They now worked with more than ten times the profits than they had just five years prior, and the Bingley family was quickly becoming part of the nouveau riche that was making such a splash in England.

Having been a hard worker all his life, it was Mr. Bingley's dream to purchase an estate and see his children raised as part of the landed gentry. As such, he labored long hours each day in order to increase his company's profits as much as possible.

Charles would be leaving for Eton in a few months, his father having paid a significant amount of money for his only son and heir to be educated with the highest levels of society.

His twin sisters, Louisa and Caroline, had been sent to a finishing school in London. While the two girls had always been ambitious - a trait learned from their mother - they had returned home to visit with their noses in the air and eyes wrinkled in disgust at the evidence of trade all around them.

As Charles hopped along the newly-laid cobblestone that wove between the recently-constructed buildings, he spied a dash of color poking up between the sand and stones. He slowed to stop and looked down in delight at the pretty wildflowers that had flourished against all odds.

Knowing that his mother and sisters disdained the ugliness of industrialization around them, he carefully pulled the flowers up, determined to bring them home. Delight filled his chest as he imagined their joy at seeing the beautiful little plants. After all, they had often spoken of the honor it was to receive flowers after a dance from a suitor.

Once he had arrived home, Charles made his way up the stairs of the large house to where his sisters shared adjoining chambers. He knocked on Caroline's door, and entered the room when he heard her voice grant admittance.

"Look, Caroline!" he cried, eagerly thrusting the flowers forward towards her.

"Charles!" The twelve-year-old young woman screeched her brother's name and leaped from her bed. "What on earth are you doing? You've gotten me all dirty! Do you have any idea how much this lace cost? It came all the way from Paris!"

She brushed frantically at the front of her dress, pausing only to look up and glare at him. "What could you have been thinking?" she demanded again.

"I picked these for you," he said in a small voice as he knelt to pick up the precious flowers, which had lost many of their petals in Caroline's hysterics.

Sniffing, she looked down at the posy in his hand, before sneering and tossing her head. "How could you possibly think I would want those weeds?"

Charles's reply was interrupted by Louisa, who had joined them via the door connecting the two girls' rooms. "I heard a scream. Are you alright, Caroline?"

"Here, Louisa!" Charles cried, once again extending his hand with the posy. This time, however, he was careful to keep them out of reach.

"Oh, Charles," she sighed, looking down at him with pity. "I have nowhere to put them, and even if I did, I wouldn't want to display something so… cheap."

"Honestly, what would the girls at school say?" Caroline added.

The two girls became lost in conversation, gossiping about their schoolmates. Seeing that his presence wasn't desired, Charles left to go find his mother. Perhaps she will like them.

Mrs. Bingley was in the drawing room with several ladies who had come to call. By the time he realized she had guests, he was already a few steps into the room.

"Charles?" she asked sharply, annoyed at having been interrupted. "What in heaven's name are you doing in here?"

Unable to think of anything else, Charles held out his hand. "I brought you some flowers," he mumbled.

The ladies in the room all tittered behind their hands, and the young lad felt his face turning a brilliant shade of red.

"Oh, honestly, Charles. You interrupted us to bring me some weeds? Whatever am I going to do with you?" Mrs. Bingley sighed. "Run along, now, and be sure to take those grubby things with you. I don't want a mess."

Charles gave a quick bow, then backed out of the room as swiftly as possible. His shoulders sank further with every step he took, and he had barely made it out of the house and around the corner before the tears he'd been hiding began to fall.

Doesn't anyone want me?

"Are you okay, Charlie?"

Charles's head snapped up, and he frantically wiped at his eyes, not wanting whoever it was to see that he had been crying.

To his relief, he looked into the round face and wide-set eyes of Maggie, the sixteen-year-old daughter of his father's chief foreman. "Hello, Maggie."

"Why were you crying, Charlie?" she asked.

Knowing that her simple mind wouldn't fully understand his tumultuous feelings, he said simply, "I wanted to give someone flowers, but no one wants them."

"Flowers?" she asked eagerly, a large grin crossing her face.

He nodded; then, for the fourth time, he held out the bouquet of flowers he had picked. By this time, they were beginning to wilt, and most of the petals had fallen off.

"Here, you can have them."

"I can?"

Maggie looked at him, her face beaming with delight. She reached out her hand to his and gently took the battered stems. Lifting them to her nose, she inhaled deeply. "Oh, Charlie," she sighed in awe and wonder, "these are the most beautiful things anyone has ever given me."

"Truly?" he asked, the disbelief in his voice so plain that even Maggie could hear it.

She nodded furtively. "Oh, yes! I haven't seen wildflowers in ages, and no one has ever given any to me, not even after an assembly!"

He gasped slightly at this. "Well, that's just plain rude of them! If I were to go to an assembly and dance with you, I'd send you flowers the next day. Prettier even than these ones!"

She laughed and again put the bouquet to her nose. "I think you're the sweetest boy I've ever met, Charlie."

Charles felt himself turn pink at this bit of praise, and she laughed again. She leaned forward and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "I like you, Charlie Bingley. You're the best boy in the world."

Maggie then skipped away, singing off-tune as she went. Charles just stared after her, his lips still tingling from where she had given him his first kiss.

He knew that Maggie wasn't all the way right in the head; at least, that's what his parents had always said with a sigh whenever her name came up. But at that moment, he didn't care. The pure joy she'd shown at his small gift caused him to feel a depth of happiness that he'd never before experienced, and he knew he never wanted the feeling to end.

"I'm going to marry her someday," he whispered.

Note from the author:

My dear readers,

This book does have a bit of a trigger-warning, but not really.

It takes place in the early 1800s, and some of the characters are born with deformities and disabilities, including chromosome abnormalities.

As you can imagine, some people who were born different were not treated very well by some people in those days. Some of the other characters in this story may say or do things that are historically accurate to the time period.

I have nothing but love and sympathy for anyone born "different." Three of my four adopted siblings have severe chromosomal abnormalities (although you would never guess by looking at them), and a good friend of mine has three children with a similar defect (again, with no difference of appearance).

Please, please know that I am in NO WAY endorsing those feelings or beliefs stated by those characters. In fact, my hope is to give some perspective into just how radically different life was back then.

So as you read this story, please keep that in mind.

I know that many of you probably have close relationships with people who are born with Down Syndrome and other chromosome abnormalities. You may insist that the Jane in this story does not reflect a real person with these characteristics.

You would be somewhat correct.

The truth is that Down's Syndrome is just ONE of many chromosome abnormalities, and each has its own very wide range of symptoms. Some are born with strong facial features and no other issues. Others may only have slight exterior characteristics, yet have severe heart deformities or an inability to progress beyond the mental age of two or three.

Some people with chromosome abnormalities have lived full, active lives with jobs and even their own homes, whereas others may never be able to clothe or feed themselves.

The Jane in this story has a chromosome abnormality (similar to Down's, but not Down's Syndome), but there are only a few subtle visual cues.

And yes, people like her do exist. I've met several of them. As a former public school teacher who worked with grade-level and remedial students, I often came across students with Down Syndrome and similar chromosome abnormalities.

There was one student in particular whom I never would have guessed had Down's, had I not seen it on his IEP.

You may also know people who have some of these physical attributes (like almond eyes and gaps in the toes), yet don't have Down Syndrome or other chromosome abnormalities at all.

Again, it is not my intent to disrespect anyone or any condition. My own experiences with Crohn's (an invisible disease) has shown me time and again that people can have the same disability and yet be radically different in its manifestation.

I'll say that again: people can have the same disability and yet be radically different in its manifestation.

For example, 50% of people born with Down's have a heart condition, which means that half of them will be perfectly healthy (with regards to their hearts).

So if you know someone with a chromosome abnormality, and my Jane in this story doesn't seem to be like your loved one - that's okay. It doesn't mean that someone like my Jane is impossible.

And just because your loved one is in a much different place along the chromosome abnormality spectrum doesn't mean anything about them, either.

The entire point of this story is to give a glimpse into the world of disabilities in the Regency era. It is a work of fiction, but a lot of research went into it as well.

At that time period, the way of life was changing. While many people were able to care for their loved ones with disabilities, others were abandoned to asylums and the streets. Some were treated "normally," while others were abused and disdained.

Our own Jane Austen had a brother - George - who was born different. George was most likely deaf, dumb, and an epileptic. While he was cared for along with another family member who was disabled, he did not live in the family home, and he was never mentioned in Jane's letters. In Mrs. Austen's will, she left her estate to all of her children except George.

Depending on what historical documents you read, how people with disabilities were treated in the early 1800s varies widely.

So please don't take offense where absolutely none is intended. I do not approach this story light-heartedly or ignorantly.

~ Tiffany Thomas

Recommended reading for research:

The Poor Law Amendment of 1834, which ensured that conditions within the workhouses should always be worse than the worst conditions outside them; and 'the workhouse test' – meaning that relief should only be available to those within the workhouses. This results in more and more disabled people being forced into institutions.

The Alleged Lunatics Friend Society (and books by John Thomas Perceval, born in 1803, and the son of a British prime minister who spent time in an asylum.

Lainston House near Winchester, Hampshire, where private patients resided in the mansion but paupers were kept in converted stables and outbuildings. The home was closed in 1847 for mistreatment of its paupers who had been left chained in cold and filthy conditions.

"George Austen: Jane Austen's almost forgotten, invisible brother" on JaneAusten'sWorld website

"Living With Disability in the Regency" on Life in Words Blog website.

"People with Disabilities in Jane Austen's England, a Guest Post by Elaine Owen" on Regina Jeffers blog

Types of chromosomal abnormalities:

Deletions: A portion of the chromosome is missing or has been deleted. Known disorders in humans include Wolf–Hirschhorn syndrome, which is caused by partial deletion of the short arm of chromosome 4; and Jacobsen syndrome, also called the terminal 11q deletion disorder. Duplications: A portion of the chromosome has been duplicated, resulting in extra genetic material. Known human disorders include Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 1A, which may be caused by duplication of the gene encoding peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22) on chromosome 17. Inversions: A portion of the chromosome has broken off, turned upside down, and reattached, therefore the genetic material is inverted. Insertions: A portion of one chromosome has been deleted from its normal place and inserted into another chromosome. Translocations: A portion of one chromosome has been transferred to another chromosome. There are two main types of translocations: Reciprocal translocation: Segments from two different chromosomes have been exchanged. Robertsonian translocation: An entire chromosome has attached to another at the centromere - in humans, these only occur with chromosomes 13, 14, 15, 21, and 22. Rings: A portion of a chromosome has broken off and formed a circle or ring. This can happen with or without the loss of genetic material. Isochromosome: Formed by the mirror image copy of a chromosome segment including the centromere.