Disclaimer: Pride and Prejudice and every character of the book belongs to Jane Austen
Summary: How an odd, plain duckling conquered the ton's most eligible bachelor and didn't even ask for it. First story in the series " The Silliest Girls in England".
London in the middle of spring meant that the city was filled with aristocrats, rich landlords and many, many young girls and their mothers who are desperately scheming to ensure a good marriage.
In other words, the Season was in full swing.
And one bachelor was the most sought after price. His name was Edward Cavendish, Marquis of Hartington and only child of the Duke of Devonshire.
Blessed with a large fortune, more grand estates than imaginable and incredibly good looks-though his appearance was secondary to his title and everything it entailed- many mamas were salivating at the thought of their daughter catching his elusive eye.
At the moment, said bachelor was making his way to Piccadilly, intending on visiting his father in Devonshire House –one of the aforementioned grand estates- to enjoy the superb breakfast that their faithful butler Johnson insisted on preparing every morning.
Edward whistled a merry tune; imagining scones, sandwiches, fruits and tea.
William Cavedish, current Duke of Devonshire, was reading the Morning Post, captivated by an article about the perils of investments in exports through ships by the anonymous writer M.B. when Johnson cleared his throat and announced, " Lord Hartington has arrived, milord."
As soon as the butler had said the words, his son entered and sat on the table, disregarding any form of courtesy or politeness.
His father frowned disapprovingly, wondering how a governess and five teachers couldn't teach his son the simplest manners.
"What're you doing here, Edward?", spoke William brusquely.
His son-used to his father's dure ways- was not discouraged and only smiled cheekily at him, "I'm here for the food. What else could lure me into the den of a lion?"
A young maid brought Edward his plate that was filled with an assemblage of food and his cheeky smile turned charming, " Among other beautiful sights."
The young girl blushed furiously and practically sprinted out of the room. William knit his grey brows in annoyance and frustration, "Edward!"
His son, recognizing the reprimanding tone, rolled his eyes before his father started his lecture, "Men of our status should not encourage young maidens of low birth into believing having prospective chances with becoming more than casual flirts, do you understand?"
The steely note in his father's words surprised Edward for usually he let him do as he saw fit but then he realized what his father was warning him about and burst into loud laughter, "I don't intend of finding a wife, father, neither a maid nor any other female."
His father regarded him sternly and nodded sharply, "Good. And keep it that way. Of course, just until you find a suitable candidate for marriage."
Edward nodded flippantly, "Of course." And filled his mouth with a sandwich to make sure no further words left his mouth.
His father-having enough of watching the disgusting display- went back to reading the newspaper.
The silence between the two nobles was broken by the loud chimes of the old grandfather-clock. Edward cursed loudly and colourfully, making his father snap at him, "Edward! What the devil is wrong with you?"
"I forgot that I had a meeting with Darcy fifteen minutes ago. Damn it!", he hit strongly on the table with his fist.
William sighed in disappointment at his son's forgetfulness, wondering when the boy would be ready to finally mature. "Well, you better make haste then. Darcy is not someone who appreciates people who make him wait."
His son nodded and jumped up from his seat, calling loudly for Johnson, " Johnson, prepare a carriage ! Fast!"
He sprinted out of the room, almost not catching his father's words, "Tell Darcy that his investment into Larkin's Company for textiles was very clever of him!"
Edward gritted his teeth, jolly well fed up with his father praising his friend for either his recently resurfaced keen sense of economics or his interest in boring politics.
But he didn't voice his anger at his father's complete disregard of Edward's great breadth of understanding concerning philosophy, literature and sports.
He was the man other men wanted to be; handsome, rich and the most popular in the ton's eyes and yet his father treated him like the same little boy who had brought him without thinking about decorum the first fish he caught with his bare hands, sullying the floor with dirty water.
He shook his head to escape the depressing thoughts; running to the carriage that awaited him.
"Father! Have you seen Mary?", Kitty's voice carried from the bottom of the staircase through the heavy door of the library in which Mr. Bennet read the last passage of his book's chapter.
He sighed heavily, remembering how Fanny used to call for him in the same loud, annoyed manner when it was him who wouldn't appear before they went on a journey.
Quelling the hurt and sadness at the thought of his late wife, not believing that it had been already two years since she had left him and the children, he left the library and went to where Kitty's voice lead him.
"Father! Father?", called his second youngest daughter.
"I'm here! I'm here!", appeased he Kitty who he saw was agitated beyond reason. Maybe it was because they should have been on their way to Lizzy half an hour ago.
"Where. Is. Mary?", asked Kitty in a frightening voice. Before he could answer that he didn't know his missed daughter appeared, accompanied by Mrs. Stradford, the housekeeper.
"I have left enough money to pay the monthly rate, buy food for the household and the animals and the books I have ordered. Next to the money lies a notice in which you can see how much everything should cost-roughly estimated, of course.", told her Mary in a no-nonsense tone.
Kitty whirled around, facing her sister and exclaimed, "Mary! Where were you? And how are you dressed?"
"What is wrong with what I'm wearing?"
Mr. Bennet hid a wince at Mary's choice of attire. All of his daughters were beautiful but in vastly different ways. Personally, he believed that all of his daughters were the most beautiful and perfect girls in England, though he didn't show it especially not to anyone but Lizzy who was so like himself that he could show his feelings without feeling reserved.
But objectively looked at all of his daughters were beauties. Jane in her perfection rivaling the greatest belles like Helen of Troy, Elizabeth who was the epitome of English gentry with her mysterious dark eyes that ensnared a man like Fitzwilliam, Kitty with her exotic features, her rich auburn hair and bright blue eyes and Lydia his youngest with her seductive curves and tongue.
Mary…Mary was -compared to his four daughters- a plain sight. She wasn't beautiful in a seductive, exotic, English or general way but in a very a subtle prettiness. One wasn't aware of her fetching features until it one day surprises you and one cannot realizes that this seemingly plain woman had a hidden amenity that wouldn't let you see her in the same way as before.
But what she was wearing now was not helping ANYONE to see her attractiveness. The plain gown she was wearing was dark blue muslin that made her pale, unblemished skin look bloodless and gave her an ill look. Her hair was bound in a tight bun that made her seem like a strict governess, her appearance intensified by her unattractive glasses.
Even he, who did not care for fashion, was appalled at the sight of her gown and it seemed like his other daughter would not let Mary embarrass herself in London.
"What is wrong with it? The better question would be: What ISN'T wrong with it? You will take off this hideous thing and wear something else!", ordered Kitty steely.
Seeing that her sister didn't take her seriously, she grabbed her hand and pulled her forcefully up the stairs, intending on going to Mary's room to change her gown.
"Kitty! Kitty, let me go !", protested Mary but Kitty didn't listen. She'd be damned if her family was made a laughing-stock and she'd be especially damned if snobs like Caroline Bingley would hurt her sister's feelings. Mary didn't understand why clothes mattered so much to people but she got hurt when they mocked her behind her back and often in front of her, too. It reminded her of the days in the past when she was the most self-conscious and the most humiliated girl in a ball-room.
"Oh dear! Do you have any gowns that do not clash horribly with your skin tone?", wondered Kitty as she rummaged through Mary's closet.
"I see no reason why I should have to change my attire, Katherine.", replied Mary sharply.
Kitty rolled her eyes, "Of course, you don't. You look HORRIBLE, Mary. And I'm not saying you are ugly but in this outfit you look like an unattractive governess who eats children! You should really dress better, sister.", reprimanded she.
"Well, excuse-me for putting stock into other, more important matters than gowns and hats and gloves.", said Mary stiffly.
Her sister snorted indelicately and snapped, "Well, clearly you should start caring!"
Frustrated, and more than a little miffed, Kitty pulled out an emerald green dress with delicate embroidery on the décolleté.
"Oh my! Mary! Where did this gown came from? It's breathtaking and I already know that it will suit you as if it was made for you.", whispered Kitty in reverence.
Mary huffed in annoyance, "I had to buy it a few months before because I had to visit Hertfordshire to meet with Mr. Rowen. The man is easier dealt with when he is…let's say preoccupied with other matters than our debt."
Kitty stared at her with wide, astonished eyes before she smirked, "My, my, Mary. And people belive you to be such a virtuous, honest maiden while you use your attributes to charm our dear Mr. Rowen."
Her sister scoffed in disdain, "There is nothing, absolutely nothing dear about Mr. Rowen! The man is a pig and a heartless loan-shark who wouldn't hesitate for a moment to take our home and everything we possess if he suspected us of being unable to pay our rates anymore!"
The younger girl nodded, having encountered the man before and seeing him leer at her sister and herself and using every opportunity to make a shameless innuendo. He had been lucky papa wasn't present that day.
"Did Lydia give you the advice of distracting him in such a way?", wondered Kitty, knowing that Mary would have never considered such a thing without prompting.
Her sister nodded in confirmation, "As a matter of fact, yes she did. Lydia can be very self-absorbed and silly but there is no doubt that she knows how to deal with men."
Kitty giggled, "Yes, but God knows how she developed this talent."
"I prefer not to know; to keep my mind's rest.", announced the brunette in a resolute way.
"Enough about Lydia!", said Kitty, "let us dress you now. Take of that thing and let's get you into this treasure I found."
Mary sighed in defeat and turned around, letting her sister open the buttons at the back of her dress. The dark gown slithered down her body, leaving her almost bare except for her white stockings and bindings around her breasts.
"Mary!", exclaimed Kitty, "Why are you not wearing any underpants!"
The brunette blushed lightly but forcefully reminded herself that it was Kitty who wanted her to dress in a different gown and it was her fault if she saw her older sister almost naked.
"You know that I do not wear them! They are restricting, stiflingly warm and of no use when I have not my monthlies. Furthermore, it's not like anyone will know or be interested of what I am not wearing underneath my dress."
The younger girl shook her head at her sister's speech who was in so many ways demure and prim and in others oh so outlandish.
"Are you still wrapping your breasts to your body, sister? I cannot believe that is necessary or healthy."
Mary shrugged, not minding her half-naked state in front of Kitty, "They're too large and I need not give men like Mr. Rowen another reason to stare at me. But don't worry, I take them off before I go to bed. Now help me into the dress. We do not want to make father wait any longer."
Her sister dressed her quickly and also demanded Mary to let her do her hair which she had re-done in a slightly looser way with some bangs falling into her face.
"You do know that we will not arrive in London in two days? There is no reason to dress me up."
Kitty sighed at her sister's lack of understanding, "Mary, you should always dress up for one does not know what can happen in life and should always look their best. But now come! The carriage has been waiting for us close to an hour."
They made their way quickly to the carriage in which their father waited. Before they departed Mary reminded Mrs. Stradford, "Do not forget to bring Mr. Harper the basket with fruits for the birth of his son, Mrs. Stradford. And I trust you to keep the house in order! Goodbye!"
The carriage drove away and in two and a half days they would be in London, Kitty hoping for an adventure, Mr. Bennet for a restful stay with his family and some new books and Mary hoping to talk to Darcy about her new ideas in what the both of them should invest-in Darcy's name of course.
As Mary had started learning more and more about economy and investments she had contacted Darcy in hope of doing them in his name for she needed his signature on many documents. On the question of why she didn't ask her father she had answered, "I love my father but he has no sense in business and people would start to wonder how it suddenly improved. Moreover, I wonder whether he would trust his silly daughter whit such risky dealings and the name Darcy has more importance than Bennet which is why no one would dare to fool us."
Understanding her arguments and trusting the intelligent female who Fitzwilliam was sure would find another way should he disregard her idea –stubborn Bennet-girl-, he consented and never regretted.
"Darcy, my friend!", greeted Edward Fitzwilliam in the gentleman's club The King's Honour.
"You're late.", said Darcy coldly, annoyed at having to wait in a place where many gentlemen talked to him in hopes of learning something about his newest investment, especially after his success with Larkin's Company. He wondered what they would say if they knew that it was a woman who decided to put the money into the companies that turned out to become very successful very soon.
'It would be very entertaining.' thought Darcy sardonically, not caring an ounce about the popularity and interest he would lose from these men.
"I know, I know, I'm deeply sorry. I had forgotten our meeting was this early at the club. Which reminds me; why do we meet so early?", asked Edward.
Darcy regarded him coldly before he sighed, knowing that his demeanour would not change Edward's vices and replied, " Elizabeth's sisters and father will stay with us for the Season. She is preparing for their arrivals and made clear that she wanted her husband's help. How could I refuse her?"
His friend laughed loudly, picturing Elizabeth who threatened Darcy with not fulfilling her marital vows if he didn't help her and sat down in front of the imposing man.
"Does that mean I will get to meet the infamous Mary Bennet of whom you are speaking so fondly of ?", wondered the Marquis.
Darcy glared at him, "You will not flirt with her or her sister, milord. They're my sisters too thanks to my marriage to Elizabeth and I will not have them uncomfortable or heartbroken because of you."
His friend laughed in reply and said, "Do not worry, Darcy. I do not intend on charming either one of your newly acquired sisters. The town is filled with women who will occupy me."
Fitzwilliam nodded and said, "Good. And don't forget that."
Edward wondered why Darcy was so adamant of repeating this for he had never flirted with Georgiana who was very lovely in her own right and his friend's blood sister but decided that he did not really care. He did not intend on finding a wife and was not cruel enough to trick any woman in such a devious manner.
Instead of voicing his previous thoughts he appeased Darcy, "As I said, you have nothing to worry about."
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