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Authors: Shannon Winslow

Tags: #prejudice, #sequel, #jane austen, #darcy, #austen sequel, #pride, #elizabeth, #pemberley

The Darcys of Pemberley

BOOK: The Darcys of Pemberley
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The Darcys of Pemberley

 

BY:

 

Shannon Winslow

 

 

 

 

The Darcys of Pemberley

 

Published by Shannon Winslow at
Smashwords

 

Copyright © 2011 by Shannon Winslow

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition License Notes

 

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the hard work of this author.

 

The Darcys of Pemberley
is a work of
fiction. The characters and events in this book are fictitious or
used fictitiously. Any similarity to real people, living or dead,
is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may
be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written
permission from the author. Brief quotations may be embodied in
critical articles or reviews.

 

 

Author Acknowledgements

 

My respect and thanks first belong to Jane
Austen, whose novels have delighted readers for two hundred years
and have inspired some, like me, to follow in her footsteps.

 

My sincere appreciation goes to all those who
have helped and encouraged me in the creation of this book – dear
friends too numerous to name. To my family: Each one of you has my
deep love and gratitude for the special role you have played in my
life and in my work. This book is dedicated to my husband Ron, my
own personal Mr. Darcy. Without his love and support, following my
dream would not have been possible.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

Prologue

 

To those of us who fondly remember our former
visits to the village of Meryton in Hertfordshire, the name of
Bennet is already familiar. As the principal residents of the
adjoining hamlet of Longbourn, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five
daughters are well known thereabouts. However, for any who do not
yet have benefit of their acquaintance, allow me to introduce our
friends.

Mr. Bennet, a gentleman of satirical wit and
indolent habit, chiefly amuses himself with the perusal of books
and the study of human folly. These entertainments he keeps close
to hand, possessing a fine library for one and an obliging family
for the other. His singular capacity for deriving humor from all
things ridiculous finds regular cause for application in the person
of his wife, whose weakness of mind and unsteady temper frequently
combine to produce behavior beyond the bounds of good sense and
propriety. Mrs. Bennet’s fading youth and beauty no longer obscure
these disadvantages so well as they once might have done.

The Bennets’ two youngest girls, Kitty and
Lydia, resemble their mother in temperament, being also decidedly
silly and uncontrolled. Since their mother cannot see their faults
and their father will not exert himself, these tendencies continue
unchecked. Mary, the middle child, attempts to compensate for the
misfortune of being plain by developing her mind and displaying her
accomplishments, to no great advantage thus far. The two eldest
Bennet daughters, however, Jane and Elizabeth, are universally
admired for their fine appearance, pleasing manners, and excellent
understanding. It is a blessing that, of the five girls, at least
these two possess quality and charm enough to recommend them, for
there was little in the way of fortune to secure advantageous
alliances, the wealth of the Bennet estate being entailed away from
the female line.

Lydia married first – and most imprudently,
to the mortification of her family – becoming Mrs. Wickham at age
sixteen. Her two eldest sisters soon followed her to the altar,
their finer attributes securing for them more favorable results.
Jane married the amiable Mr. Bingley, and they are settled at
Netherfield, a comfortable estate not far from the Bennets.
Elizabeth made an especially good match. A bright and spirited
young woman, she is now Mrs. Darcy and resides with her illustrious
husband at Pemberley, the finest estate in Derbyshire.

As it happened, Elizabeth’s close friend,
Miss Charlotte Lucas, also wed round this same time, marrying a
cousin of the Bennets, a Mr. Collins, the rector of Hunsford parish
in Kent. Even casual observers soon apprehended that Mr. Collins
was not a man of great intellectual power or finest character.
Still, for Miss Lucas, he was considered a most eligible match,
since at the age of nearly eight-and-twenty she could no longer
afford to be too fastidious in her choice.

Developments in the Bennet family and amongst
their connections provide a fertile source of conversation for
those in the neighborhood whose own lives hold little excitement
and few distinctions to celebrate. Consequently, the marriages of
three Bennet girls and Miss Lucas within the space of a year came
as a particularly welcome convenience, keeping local busybodies
supplied with gossip fodder for months. Alas, with these resources
finally exhausted and domestic felicity settled in all about, some
lamented that there would likely be nothing else newsworthy
immediately forthcoming. On the contrary, before long something
occurred of a most unexpected and serious nature, cutting short the
joy of one of the young couples.

 

Chapter 1

 

A Gathering

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that
even the most ignoble person on the face of the earth appears more
praiseworthy after death. Thus, as the news of Mr. Collins’s odd
and untimely passing spread far and wide, the reputed quality of
his character improved accordingly. The significant defects of his
disposition, so recently impossible to overlook, were all but
forgot, and the general consensus developed that he had been a fine
clergyman, and a kind and generous human being.

As his relations, the Bennets of Longbourn
were amongst the first to hear of the sad event. Although they had
not been especially close to their cousin, his death could not help
but make some impression on them. Mr. Bennet felt the loss most
acutely. Having come to regard Mr. Collins’s correspondence as a
priceless source of amusement, he would not have given up the
association on any grounds less consequential than those supplied
by the present impediment. Mrs. Bennet, though not ordinarily
quick-witted, on this occasion immediately perceived how
insupportable it would be to keep the burden of this tragedy to
herself. Hence, she made haste to publish the tale abroad,
beginning in Meryton with her sister, Mrs. Phillips, who was always
anxious for the latest news.

“Sister, Sister, have you heard?” Mrs. Bennet
paused to enjoy Mrs. Phillips’s admission that she was yet in
ignorance of whatever it was to which her sister was privy. “You
will never guess what has happened – I can scarce believe it myself
– so I will keep you in suspense no longer. Mr. Collins has met a
premature end!”

“No! Are you certain? How did it happen? Tell
me everything,” begged Mrs. Phillips.

“It is true, indeed, for I have just had it
from Lady Lucas who got the story straight from Charlotte. I will
tell you all, but you must prepare yourself. It is quite a shocking
and distasteful business.” Mrs. Phillips leaned a little closer as
Mrs. Bennet continued in a hushed tone. “It seems that Mr. Collins
was having his dinner when he realized that he was in danger of
being late for an appointment with his esteemed patroness, Lady
Catherine de Bourgh. She is a very grand lady, you know, and Mr.
Collins never dared to keep her waiting. Well then, in his hurry to
finish his meal, he apparently swallowed wrong and choked on a
mouthful of mutton.”

“Oh, no!”

“Oh yes, Sister. Can you imagine? It must
have been an awful sight to behold. Anyway, no one could do a thing
for him, and within minutes Mr. Collins expired right there on the
dining room floor!”

“How perfectly ghastly! I wonder if he
suffered much,” said Mrs. Phillips with a mixture of pity and
excited curiosity. “It sounds to me to be a very dreadful way to
go.”

“Yes, I quite agree. In fact, I shudder every
time I think of it.”

The sisters took a moment to do just
that.

“He was such a fine, sensible young man, and
so particularly attached to our family,” mourned Mrs. Bennet.
“Despite our small differences, I really was quite fond of him, as
you will doubtless remember.”

“I must say that I always liked him
myself.”

“Indeed, it is a tragedy, especially when I
consider that it might have all turned out so differently had he
married one of my girls instead. Mary, I think, could have been
persuaded, and I am sure she would have taken much better care of
poor Mr. Collins,” Mrs. Bennet concluded sorrowfully.

Another related topic followed exceedingly
quick upon the heels of these heartfelt lamentations. As was common
knowledge, Mr. Collins, until his demise, stood to inherit the
Longbourn estate upon the death of Mr. Bennet, according to the
terms of the entail. This fact had not endeared him to the family
in life but had been forgiven him most magnanimously the instant he
was no longer in a position to take advantage of it. So Mrs.
Phillips, very delicately and with the utmost tact, inquired what
this unexpected event might mean for the ultimate disposal of the
Bennet estate. A lengthy speculation ensued, but Mrs. Bennet, who
never fully comprehended the former arrangement, could not begin to
fathom how it needs must be altered now.

Unfortunate as the clergyman’s passing may
have been, it did serve the useful purpose of gathering together
family and friends as only a wedding or funeral can. Mr. Collins’s
relations had often been mortified by the connection, owing to his
pompous style and social blunders, but they could not in good
conscience refuse to wait upon him one last time. At least no one
had need to worry about his behavior on this occasion.

The first noteworthy party to arrive at
Hunsford Church was that of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, who were
accompanied by Mary and Kitty, the only two of their daughters
still remaining at home. Soon thereafter, other carriages brought
two of the Bennets’ married daughters, Jane and Elizabeth,
traveling with their respective husbands, Mr. Bingley and Mr.
Darcy. It had been months since these four, fast friends had last
been together. Yet, as they met outside the church, their pleasure
at the reunion was tempered by consciousness of the somber event
that brought it about. The ladies embraced and the gentlemen shook
hands, exchanging muted words of greeting before joining the rest
of the family.

The Bennets’ fifth and youngest daughter,
Lydia, lived in the far north, in Newcastle, where her husband was
stationed with a regiment of army regulars. Mr. and Mrs. Wickham
found themselves unable to attend the funeral due to the distance
and expense involved. This suited everybody exceedingly well,
except perhaps for Mrs. Bennet, who would have been happy to see
them in any event since her youngest had always been her favorite.
The rest of the family could not so easily forget or forgive the
scandal Lydia had visited upon them by her elopement. So the
couple’s absence was not generally regretted.

Sir William and Lady Lucas arrived from
Hertfordshire to comfort their daughter, the new widow. They had
been well-pleased with the match made by their eldest girl,
reasoning that their son-in-law having secured the valuable
patronage of Lady Catherine de Bourgh more than made up for any
perceived drawbacks. In fact, they had congratulated themselves on
getting Charlotte married off at last. Now they came to mark the
untimely end of the union.

The great benefactress herself, Lady
Catherine de Bourgh, condescended to attend Mr. Collins’s memorial
as well. He had given her valuable service during his short tenure
as rector, solicitously attending to her every whim, and always
treating her with the extreme deference she demanded. Still, in
truth, her ladyship’s presence resulted more from her presumed duty
to lead the way in all matters within her sphere than from any
genuine regard for the lowly clergyman.

Despite the cheerfully clement weather, the
tone as the mourners gathering outside the stone church remained
solemn and the conversation subdued out of respect for the dead.
Everybody kept to their family groups, giving only nodding
acknowledgements to the other persons present. Then, the arrival of
a stranger – a rather refined-looking young woman – created quite a
stir. Mrs. Collins greeted her with an embrace while the others
speculated about her identity.

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