Thanks for not stoning me on the village green. Here’s a bit of the next chapter to tide you over. It’s still a wee bit rough…
Fitzwilliam Darcy, as master of a great estate, had already set into motion all the resources that Pemberley and his house in London had to offer. There was no need of his walking across muddy fields to inspect properties or engaging talkative local servants. He had servants enough of his own to do his bidding and everything that was needed to assure his comfort in Hertfordshire was in the process of arriving that day or would most likely be in place by the end of the week.
The two gentlemen had, for a few days now, been firmly fixed in Hertfordshire. He, the colonel and their personal servants had removed to the great house at Stoke just the morning before. The wedding date had been finally set, several horses and a curricle had been brought up from town just that morning, and he half expected the ladies and his cousin Lawrence to appear at any moment. All was well in the world.
Well, nearly all was well. He still had a visit to pay.
“What did you say?” asked the colonel catching a whiff of his breakfast only to immediately push it away with distaste.
“I said I have a call to pay. I’m sure you can find something to occupy yourself with this morning.”
If truth be told, the colonel had much to occupy himself with that morning. It was all the colonel had thought of since Mrs Bennet had mentioned at dinner two days previous that her eldest daughter was due to return home. He and Darcy had purposely stayed away from Longbourn to give the young lady a chance to settle back in while they attended to their own removal from the Meryton inn.
The great House at Stoke was a welcome change from the small inn. It was no Pemberley or even Longbourn, for that matter. It was small, but pleasant, not the most elegant of furnishings, but it was well kept and comfortable, even if the bright colours of the breakfast room made the colonel’s eyes ache.
“A call? I can only assume that you mean to Mr. Bingley. Tell me, Darcy, what is going on there exactly?”
Darcy, who detested disguise, found it especially hard to moderate his voice when he responded with, “I’m sure I-I don’t know what you mean.”
The colonel, who was no fool especially when his cousin was so visibly uncomfortable, replied, “And I’m quite sure that you do.” He paused for a moment, pondering just how to approach the subject of Darcy’s particular friend.
“You and Bingley are the best of friends, yet I haven’t heard you mention him once, nor has he called upon us since we have been in Hertfordshire. I know you haven’t the time to pull yourself away from Miss Elizabeth’s kisses,” he smiled roguishly at the remembrance of catching Darcy engaged in just such an activity days before, “but you must own that it all appears a bit odd: you neglecting your duty to your friends.”
Darcy cleared his throat. He felt no need to tell Jonathan every particular of his estrangement from his friend, but he also felt he could not continue on with the ruse either.
“Bingley and I have had… a misunderstanding.”
The colonel raised his eyebrow as if to ask what sort of misunderstanding.
Darcy looked everywhere but at his cousin. “He—I–we have had a parting of the ways.”
The colonel nodded slowly to encourage Darcy to be more forthcoming.
Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “It stems from a mistake I made concerning a certain lady.”
“I knew it!” said the colonel, smirking. “One can only assume you mean the lady you objected to, the one that you separated him from.”
Darcy winced at the colonel’s exacting memory. “If you must know, yes.”
“Are you ever going to tell me who it is?”
“No,” replied Darcy, tersely and succinctly.
“Considering your excellent judge of character, she was, no doubt some conniving harpy.”
Darcy shook out the newspaper. He was very uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation. Darcy cleared his throat; the words conniving harpy and the image of Jane Bennet could not coalesce in his mind