I am pleased to say that my vignette received such a warm response that I decided to add two more chapters. Many of you will have read Chapter 1, but since I wanted the entire story to be all in one place, you may have to scroll down to Chapter 2 to begin or you could read Chapter 1 again.
The Fitzwilliam Brothers at the Pemberley Ball
Darcy waited patiently while Avery, Elizabeth’s lady’s maid, finished dressing his wife’s hair. Because tonight was the night of the New Year’s Eve ball, extra care must be taken, and so there were pearl pins and rosettes woven into Elizabeth’s beautiful dark brown tresses, and her gown, the color of claret, had been made months before by Madame Delaine, London’s finest modiste. After being properly thanked for her efforts by her mistress and receiving a nod of approval from her master, Avery was dismissed, but even before the door had closed, Darcy was beside his bride.
“Elizabeth, I do not think that it would be possible for you to look more beautiful than you do right now.”
“William, aren’t you exaggerating?” Lizzy asked, looking down at her chemise and stays. “You should reserve such comments for when I am dressed in my ball gown.”
“I like you better when you are not dressed,” and he traced the outline of her neck with his lips. “And why must you wear those stays? They are unnecessary as you have a superlative figure, and you know how it frustrates me to struggle with your laces.”
“My stays serve to slow you down, which are the only things that do,” she said with a laugh.
“They only delay the inevitable,” and Elizabeth could see his passion growing, and fearing that his ardor would not be suppressed, she was relieved when she heard a knock on the door. It was Avery.
“Ma’am, Mr. Jackson asked me to tell you that Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam are here.”
Elizabeth looked at her husband. That could not be right. The two combatants had not been in the same room since the birth of their second daughter ten years earlier.
“Do you mean Lord Fitzwilliam and Colonel Fitzwilliam are here?” Darcy asked, a nervousness creeping into his voice.
“No, sir. It is Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam,” and Avery was again dismissed.
“If this is Antony’s idea of a joke, bringing one of his paramours and presenting her as his wife, I shall have his hide,” an angry Darcy said.
“Darling, if it was Antony’s intention to pass off his mistress as Lady Eleanor, Jackson would have sent word of the charade, so you need to find out what is going on.”
Darcy reluctantly left his wife, and with a disregard for decorum, he came down the steps, taking them two at a time. At the bottom of the stairs, he was met by his butler, and Jackson’s dour expression did nothing to reassure his master.
“Lord Fitzwilliam and Colonel Fitzwilliam are in the library, sir, and Lady Fitzwilliam is conversing with your sister in the drawing room.”
As soon as the door to the library closed behind him, Darcy lit into His Lordship. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I come by invitation—apparently from your wife. Does Elizabeth not tell you who is on your guest list?” Antony said with his most devilish half smile.
“You haven’t been to Pemberley in five years, and you decide to put in an appearance now—on the night when Elizabeth is to give her first ball?” Darcy said, in his first blast. “And am I supposed to believe that you and Eleanor have reconciled. The last time you paid a call on your wife, she set the dogs on you.”
“No harm done as they were my dogs,” Antony chuckled, “Besides, animals like me.”
“In light of the fact that you dislike each other intensely, why would Eleanor agree to a reconciliation?” In Darcy’s mind, there could only be one reason: Eleanor had agreed to pay off Antony’s debts, and when questioned, His Lordship revealed that that was what had brought the two adversaries back together.
“I was being pressed by my tailor,” Lord Fitzwilliam said, eliciting a chuckle from his brother. “May I have a glass of port?”
“Very well, I shall tell you the reason for Eleanor’s generosity,” Antony said, pretending to pout. “Does the name Edward Denby ring a bell? Probably not, as you are not known to associate with importers of fabric. Denby was Eleanor’s love interest for the past two years, but, apparently, he has given her the boot. He must not like being with someone who bites the heads off of chickens and drowns kittens. As a result, she has been rather depressed and came running to me.”
Darcy looked to the colonel for confirmation, and Richard nodded. “You are man and wife again?” Darcy asked.
“Darcy, don’t be revolting. Of course not. I merely serve as her escort. I take her wherever she wishes to go in her carriage, and once there, I go right out the back door where my carriage awaits. Does that satisfy?”
“I am warning you,” an irate Darcy said, “I will not tolerate any shouting or thrown glassware from either of you. If you do, I shall not hesitate to throw you out. And another thing. I know your reputation for seducing married women, but Pemberley will not serve as a place of recruitment.”
“Agreed. May I have the port now?”
* * *
Although Darcy trusted Lord Fitzwilliam only as far as he could throw him, the guests were beginning to arrive, and so he went into the foyer where he found his beautiful wife welcoming the earliest arrivals and motioned to Colonel Fitzwilliam to join him in the receiving line.
“Richard, I am asking you to keep an eye on your brother,” Darcy said under his breath as he took the hand of the nearly deaf Countess of Roxbury.
“I shall do my best, but I have come with a purpose as well,” the colonel answered.
“And what would that be?” Darcy said, bowing to the equally hard of hearing Lord Roxbury.
“I have resigned my commission, and it is my intention to find a wife.”
“Here? Tonight? Are you mad?”
“Speak up, Darcy,” Lord Roxbury said. “I don’t have my horn with me. I thought you asked me if I was mad. If so, it was inappropriate, unless, of course, you were referring to my wife,” he said, chuckling.
Elizabeth quickly covered up for her husband’s comment. “Your Lordship, Mr. Darcy was saying how glad he is that you were able to come tonight,” and then she whispered in her husband’s ear: “Perhaps, you should wait for a more propitious time to continue your conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam.”
After welcoming their guests, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy went into an anteroom off the ballroom where they found Lord Fitzwilliam sitting on a sofa between Mrs. Gardiner and Mrs. Kenner, the vicar’s wife, and both gulped. Lizzy quickly crossed the room for fear that the His Lordship would say something shocking and give offense.
“Ah, Elizabeth, I was just telling these beautiful ladies of my preference in fruit. Like Adam, I cannot pass up a perfectly ripened apple. Unlike many, I do not care for the fruit when it has just been plucked from the tree. It is much more delicious when it has sat in the sun for a while and been handled a time or two. Do you agree?”
Lizzy blanched, but when her Aunt Gardiner winked at her, and Mrs. Kenner actually giggled, she decided that she had best leave His Lordship where he was, lest he say something to someone who did not appreciate his double entendres.
Mr. and Mrs. Darcy walked arm in arm into the ballroom, and Lizzy took a deep breath. She could hardly believe that she was the mistress of Pemberley, and yet, here she was in this glorious ballroom, decorated with pine boughs and holly and with a hundred burning candles in the chandelier, casting its lights on the guests below.
As soon as the couple took their place, the musicians played the first chord, indicating that the dancing was to begin, and Elizabeth, who felt as if she were living the life of a princess, joined her consort and they led the first dance. Darcy looked at his bride, and his dark eyes reflected the love he had for his wife, and she returned the look, knowing that it was impossible for her to be happier than she was at that moment.
The second dance with Elizabeth was claimed by the colonel who wasted no time in explaining the reason for resigning his commission. “With the wars in the Peninsula, I thought I would be in the thick of it. Instead, I sit in Kent and keep my powder dry, and I know that you are asking yourself, ‘but what will Richard live on?’ A good question, and one I intend to answer tonight. I shall tell you Elizabeth that the first woman whom I set eyes on who is single or a widow and has £20,000 to her name, I shall ask to be my wife.”
“I do believe you are serious,” a stunned Elizabeth responded. “But there are few who will meet your criteria. After all, this is not London.”
“I have already taken into consideration the latest crop of ladies who came out in to society this year. Rather poor harvest, if you ask me.”
“Maybe you would do better if you stopped thinking of women as plants, all in a row, awaiting the scythe,” Lizzy said, trying to lighten the colonel’s mood, but in that she was unsuccessful.
“I was hoping that the Lady Morton would be here,” the colonel said, scanning the throng.
“Lady Morton is still in mourning. You will have to wait another three months before she is available.”
“Perhaps, her sister, Miss Nelson?”
Elizabeth looked at him with a jaundiced eye. “A somewhat tamer version of your sister-in-law? I should think not.”
By the time the next set had concluded, Richard was still in search of a marriage partner, and Lizzy was wondering where Jane and Charles could be. “Of all nights to be late,” Lizzy muttered under her breath.
At supper, a concerned Darcy, his brow scarred with worry lines, found a few minutes to speak to his wife. “Do you know if Antony has offended anyone?”
“You really need not worry. Your cousin’s reputation has preceded him, and those who enjoy his particular type of wit, flock to him, and those who do not, avoid him. You should be more concerned about Lady Eleanor as she gives offense wherever she goes.”
“But I am not related to Eleanor. I wish I could say the same for Lord Fitzwilliam. But you are right. Despite the presence of His Lordship, I think everyone is having a good time.”
“I love when you start your sentences with, ‘You are right,” Lizzy purred. “But there is one thing you should know,” and she acquainted her husband with Richard’s purpose in attending the ball.
Darcy actually started to laugh. “Richard will find the pickings meager. Possibly Lady Ashtonbury will serve?” and Elizabeth joined her husband in laughing at the idea of the handsome Richard Fitzwilliam married to a lady who was older than his mother and who looked very much like her matched pair of horses.
“No worries there, but I am beginning to worry about Jane and Charles.”
Although the couple were not the most punctual of people, Elizabeth had never known her sister and brother-in-law to be so late, and she feared that their carriage had broken down somewhere on the fifteen-mile stretch of road between their two houses. Darcy, who had been joined by the colonel, was reassuring her that there was no need to worry when Jackson informed them that Mrs. Bingley had arrived, and the three immediately went to the foyer to find Jane standing all alone.
“Jane, where is Charles?” Elizabeth asked.
“Oh, he is coming,” a clearly irritated Jane answered, “and here is the reason why we are so late,” and Caroline Bingley swept into the foyer on the arm of her brother, and Richard’s eyes took in the scene of an attractive lady with golden hair and blue eyes, a comely figure, and one known to step lively, but the best thing about Miss Bingley was all her beautiful money that she kept in a bank in London.
Darcy looked at Elizabeth, and Elizabeth at the colonel, and both looked at Richard. “Oh no! Please no! Not Caroline!”
After greeting Miss Bingley and leaving her to the gentlemen, Elizabeth pulled her sister into a corner, her face demanding an explanation as to why Caroline Bingley was standing in her foyer.
“I am so sorry about all of this, but I had no choice but to bring her with us,” Jane said, her voice a mixture of anger and repentance. “Allow me to explain why she is here. Apparently, Louisa, who is with child, much to everyone’s utter astonishment, decided to visit Edward’s parents and stay until Twelfth Night. Caroline cannot abide them because the senior Mr. Hurst is engaged in trade, and she considers them to be of the ‘middling sort’. Do you believe that?”
“It seems that Caroline wishes to forget her own family history.”
“She is the vainest creature I know. Can you guess how many times she changed her dress? Four. I am convinced her purpose was to show William that he chose unwisely.”
“Do not worry yourself on that account, especially in light of what we learned tonight...,” but Lizzy was prevented from completing her sentence because she was stunned to witness the sight of her husband deliberately putting out his foot so that he might trip Richard Fitzwilliam, a feat that was observed by a growing number of their guests. As the colonel slid across the foyer, landing at the feet of Miss Bingley, many wondered if the scene had been staged for their amusement, especially with the arrival of His Lordship, who everyone knew to be a farceur.
“Ah, Miss Bingley, I see my brother has made his presence known to you—perhaps, a bit prematurely. It was my understanding that the colonel, in his attempt to make an impression, meant to lay flowers at your feet, but he forgot the bouquet. Jackson,” His Lordship said, turning to the Darcys’ butler, “please bring some flowers from one of the vases so that Richard might do this properly,” causing Caroline to break out into a fit of giggles.
Darcy shot Jackson a look to let him know that he should do no such thing, and all the onlookers stood about staring in amusement at the supine Colonel Fitzwilliam.
Elizabeth signaled to her husband that he should see to his cousin while she dealt with the source of their difficulty.
“Caroline, how good it is to see you again,” Elizabeth said to her former rival. Unsure of what to say, she commented on the snowflakes clinging to her cloak. “I see that it is snowing out—hopefully, not too heavy.”
“It is just a dusting,” Charles answered for his sister and looked at his sister-in-law with doe-like eyes, pleading to be forgiven for bringing Caroline to Elizabeth’s first ball, and Lizzy smiled to assure him that all was well.
After dusting off his breeches and the sleeves of his coat, Richard approached Caroline, but before he could utter a word, Darcy requested an interview with him.
“In a minute, Darcy, I wanted to ask Miss Bingley…”
“It is a great matter of military importance,” Darcy said, preventing Richard from continuing.
“Did I not tell you that I resigned my commission? You will have to seek military advice elsewhere.”
“You are still an officer in His Majesty’s army,” Darcy said, his voice growing louder, “the proof of which is that you continue to wear your red regimentals.”
“Very well, Darcy, but first may I ask Miss Bingley to join me at supper and for at least two sets after we finishing dining?”
Caroline went wide-eyed. She had no idea that Darcy’s cousin was so enamored of her. Although merely the younger son of an earl, he did have rank and excellent connections and looked so handsome in his regimentals, and despite her criticism of Lydia and Kitty Bennet and their chasing after the junior officers, the sight of a well-built man in a tailored uniform was not lost on her. Yes, he might do very well for me, Caroline thought. Although not as handsome as Mr. Darcy, but then there are few who are, he certainly fills out a uniform.
“I would be honored,” Caroline responded with a slight curtsey, and while Elizabeth directed her to the ballroom, Darcy gestured for the Fitzwilliam brothers to join him in his study.
As soon as he was comfortably settled in a chair closest to the fire, Antony began. “Oh my! Darcy has that parson’s look on his face. Richard, I fear we are to be subjected to a sermon.”
“But before we get to the homily, Darcy, I am going to assume that it was an accident that I went arse over tea kettle in your foyer and that you did not deliberately trip me,” the colonel said.
“It was no accident that you landed on your arse,” Darcy answered, his face reddening, “and I can assure you that I am not here to preach a sermon. At the moment, I am too angry with both of you to engage in such a tame pursuit. This is my wife’s first ball, and you,” he said, pointing to the earl, “show up with the Evil Eleanor, and you,” he said, gesturing toward the earl’s brother, “come to my house for the purpose of looking for a rich wife. Have both of you gone mad?”
The two brothers talked over one another in an attempt to justify why they were there, but even if Darcy had understood them over the babble, he would not have a cared a whit about what they had to say. This was Elizabeth’s night, and they were ruining it.
“Darcy, I do apologize,” Richard began. “But there are rumors that because of a possible war with the Americans that my regiment is to be sent to North America, so I really had to do something. I have been to America. I have friends there. It would be impossible for me to point a gun at them, so I sold my commission to Lord Corman’s son who has no such qualms.”
“As for me, Darcy, really, if you do send someone an invitation, you should prepare yourself for the eventuality that the parties so invited might actually come,” Antony said, refusing to appear contrite.
At that moment, the men were joined by Georgiana, who looked very much like someone who had just sucked on a lemon.
“This is so unfair,” she began, and Darcy could see tears welling up in her eyes. Georgie was a crier, and it didn’t take much to get a good flow started. But he would have preferred anger to hurt feelings, as this, too, was her first ball at Pemberley since her coming out into society. “Antony, I have been stuck with your wife for the past hour, and it is only because Jane Bingley has taken my place that I was free to seek you out.”
“Just walk away from her,” Antony said, feeling a twinge of guilt that his dear cousin had been ensnared in Eleanor’s talons. “That is what I do.”
“No, that is no longer possible because she is inebriated… intoxicated…”
“Drunk?” Antony asked. “She really does have a low tolerance for spirits, especially after having a nip or two or three from my flask in the carriage.”
“You should know that your wife just told Mrs. Kitchen that her grandchildren look just like the monkeys at the Exeter Exchange,” Georgiana said, biting her lip.
“I apologize for that, but Eleanor always was one to speak the truth, no matter how unpleasant for others to hear it.”
“I see you find humor in all this. Well, do you think it is funny that Eleanor also told Lady Washburn that Mrs. Fitzgerald, and we all know what that lady means to you, is cock-eyed, cock-sure, and goes off half-cocked?”
“Again, I must apologize, but really, Susan is not cock-eyed. It is just that she has two different colored eyes, giving her the appearance of…”
“I do not care anything about Mrs. Fitzgerald or her eye color,” Georgiana said, turning on her heel and leaving, and as she went out, Elizabeth came in.
“Antony, really, I must insist on you seeing to your wife,” Lizzy said in a calm but stern voice. In addition to Georgiana’s growing frustration with Lady Eleanor, there was also the small matter of Mr. Darcy, who, despite being the host of the ball, was largely absent, and comments were being made. “William and I have guests to see to, and we cannot stand guard over your wife like a nursery maid.”
“Of course, you cannot, and I promise not to leave Eleanor’s side for the rest of the evening. But may I stay and hear what Darcy has to say to my brother? I promise to go right after that.”
“No,” Darcy and Elizabeth said together.”
“Well, promise me that you will not talk about Eleanor while I am gone,” Antony asked. “I don’t want to miss anything,” and when Darcy gave the earl a look that could have melted iron, His Lordship reluctantly departed. But when the colonel tried to slip out of the study with his brother, Darcy grabbed him by the arm. “You. Stay. Sit.” And all Richard could do was look longingly towards the door—and freedom.
“Have you gone barking mad?” Darcy asked his squirming cousin.
“No! I am neither barking nor mad. But you must think about my position," Richard said, pleading with his cousin for understanding. "Because I am the younger son of an earl, I was presented with four choices: I could become a clergyman, which was out of the question, as I like to have fun. I could take up the law, which I should have done. But at the time, it required more effort on my part than I was willing to do. The third choice was to marry well. However, unlike my brother, it is my intention to be faithful to my vows, so I knew that if I was to sow wild oats, I had to do it before I took a wife, and thus the reason why I remain a bachelor at the age of twenty-eight. That left me with my final option: the military. Until recently, I was not unhappy with my choice. But that was before I received orders to go to Nova Scotia. As I mentioned, I have no wish to wage war against Americans. Besides, there is no society to speak of in Halifax, and I do not like codfish, of which there is an abundance.”
“Believe me. I am sympathetic to your plight,” Darcy said, a good deal calmer now that Antony was absent. “However, marrying Caroline Bingley is not the solution to your problem as you would find yourself with a wife with many of the same unpleasant traits as Eleanor.”
“Does Miss Bingley pull the wings off butterflies as my sister-in-law does?”
“I see you will not take the matter seriously,” an exasperated Darcy concluded, “so I shall only say that you will reap what you sow. Now I have guests to see to, so if you will excuse me.”
Richard was hard on Darcy’s heels. He understood the perils of marrying for money and not love, but he also understood that husbands and wives actually spent little time together. The problem with Darcy was that he was the exception to that rule in that he wanted to be with Elizabeth. And because he was blissfully wed, his view of marriage was skewed. Richard, on the other hand, was a realist. In order to cover his expenses, he must marry a wealthy women, and he went in search of Caroline Bingley.
* * *
Although not as charming or witty as Lord Fitzwilliam, Richard could hold his own in the rituals of courtship. And although he loved to flirt, tonight there was business to be done, a wife to be found, and so he would use everything in his arsenal in order to secure Miss Bingley’s affections.
Caroline was more than willing to be courted by the handsome Colonel Fitzwilliam. With his scarlet coat, the couple stood out on the dance floor, and because the colonel was by her side throughout the evening, Miss Bingley found herself the center of attention, an enviable position, especially considering who her host and hostess were, and one long overdue. When some of the guests started to depart because the snow continued to fall, Richard took the opportunity to find a corner of an unoccupied drawing room so that he might begin a substantive conversation with the lady and not the usual ballroom badinage that was all air and no substance.
Richard was grateful that Caroline was never at a loss for words. Throughout the evening, she had talked non-stop, only permitting him the occasional compliment, which was a good thing as he had found that she was not particularly nice. Therefore, he was trying to concentrate on her physical assets, which were many, because the pleasing parts of her personality were few or definitely not on display. Although it was clear that she did not like Elizabeth Darcy nor she did approve of merchant families mingling in high society, there was no doubt that there was one particular thing that she did like: Colonel Fitzwilliam’s regimentals.
But the more she talked, the more confused Richard became. He knew for a fact that the Bingleys had acquired their wealth through trade, thus making her the daughter of a tradesman, and despite her obsession with his uniform, he had already told her that he had resigned his commission in His Majesty’s Army and that his uniforms would soon be relegated to the rear of his closet or sold in an army resale store. Despite efforts to bring up subjects other than those two topics, Caroline’s ship sailed true north and would not be redirected.
“I hope that I am more than a uniform,” the colonel finally said after another ten minutes spent talking about his regiment in Kent and the occasions on which he would wear his dark blue regimentals.
“Of course, Colonel, but I would be less than truthful if I did not acknowledge that your excellent appearance in uniform is a part of your attraction—for the ladies in town—I am sure,” and she covered her face with her fan, revealing only her eyes.
“Yes, but in short order, I must put my uniforms away. As I mentioned earlier, I have resigned my commission, and as a result…”
“What?” Caroline said, snapping her fan shut. “I thought you were in jest.”
“No, I was not in jest. Effective the first of next month, I shall be a former officer in His Majesty’s army. I may possibly take up the law.”
“The law? Do you mean to be a solicitor? You may as well become a shopkeeper hawking goods from an emporium.”
“I disagree most strenuously with your statement,” Richard said, shocked at her assertion. “I consider the law to be a noble pursuit as it is necessary for the protection of the rights of the individual.”
“The rights of the individual? What individuals? Who are these people of whom you speak?”
“Miss Bingley, I can see that you and I have very different ideas of service to one’s country. In my opinion, it does not require that I wear a well-tailored uniform. I believe the professions of barrister and magistrate are equally worthy of my attention. After all, we are a nation governed by laws, and as such…”
“Oh, there you are Richard,” Darcy called out as he retraced his steps and entered the drawing room. He was unhappy to see that the colonel with the unpleasant Caroline Bingley, but if the man was determined, he would not be deterred as Darcy knew his cousin to be a resolute man once he had arrived at a decision. “I need your talents—actually your muscle—as Mrs. Kitchen’s carriage has gone into a swale, and it will take every available man to free it.”
“Gladly, Darcy,” and Richard propelled himself out of his chair and away from Miss Caroline Bingley.
“So am I to wish you joy?” Darcy asked as he waited for the colonel to put on his greatcoat.
“Yes, you may wish me joy, but not for the reason you think. Rather it is because I shall remain a bachelor and a free man. You were right, Darcy. That lady is most unpleasant. Someone should break the news to her that she is the daughter of tradesman and that taking up the law does not have me sinking to the level of a dustman.”
Darcy refrained from laughing at his cousin, and it was easily done, because he was greatly relieved to find that Richard had recognized Caroline for what she was: someone who was all nails and with a viper’s tongue.
After the men and servants had freed Mrs. Kitchen’s carriage from the ditch, Darcy rejoined his wife who was standing out in the snow catching snowflakes with her fingertips. Darcy glanced at his bride of a year, and with his looks, implored her forgiveness for what was surely the disaster of her first Pemberley Ball. Darcy was reassured when Elizabeth gave him one of her dazzling smiles. Apparently, she saw some humor in the events of the evening.
After entwining her arm in her husband’s, Elizabeth whispered, “When you have time, please remind me of what your objections were to my family. After all, there is no one in the Bennet family to compare to Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam, and I can’t remember anyone lying prone in the foyer at Longbourn.”
“If the snow keeps up, we shall be able to build a snowman in the morning,” Darcy said, looking up at the sky and away from his wife. “Georgiana loves building snowmen.”
“I am not a child, William. I cannot be so easily diverted,” and Darcy was happy to see his cousin walking towards them.
After joining Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, Richard was about to apologize to his hostess for his behavior when a carriage turned into the drive. “Elizabeth, it seems that you will have more guests staying overnight at Pemberley. I suspect the people in that carriage are seeking shelter from the snow.”
“I am sure you are right, Richard. The difficulty is not in finding an available room for them, but keeping them away from your brother and his wife, lest I find them fleeing into the snow-covered landscape on foot,” and when she chuckled, Richard knew that there were no hard feelings between them.
The handsome conveyance held only two people, one of whom, Lord Pentwith, was known to the Darcys.
“Darcy,” the viscount said, descending from the carriage, “it has been too long. But if you agree to provide shelter for my ward and me, we shall have ample opportunity to catch up, and it will allow me to become better acquainted with your beautiful bride.” Turning their attention to the carriage, the Darcys and Richard watched as the viscount’s ward, Alexandra Hamilton, appeared. The twenty-year old Miss Hamilton had recently been taken under the wing of Lord Pentwith. As her guardian, he would oversee her considerable inheritance that was rumored to be somewhere in the range of £25,000 of which Richard knew nothing.
The colonel stepped forward, and seeing that the lady was wearing only satin slippers, offered to carry the young lady inside. After looking at her uncle for his consent, Richard gently maneuvered Lord Pentwith’s charge so that her slippers did not touch the snow and quickly carried the lady into Pemberley’s foyer. In gratitude, Alexandra removed her glove and extended her hand, and when Richard took it, all thoughts about finding a rich wife disappeared. As far as he was concerned, it would not matter if Miss Hamilton was a penniless waif—not with eyes the color of a summer sky and a smile that could light up a room.
Darcy and Elizabeth were witnesses to the exchange and let out a collective sigh of relief. Caroline Bingley would not be the newest member of the extended Darcy/Fitzwilliam family.
“I really wasn't worried,” Darcy said to his wife when they were finally able to retire. “I knew my cousin had more sense than to become entangled in Caroline Bingley’s web.”
“Is that right, William? So tripping the colonel in the foyer was for the amusement of your guests?”
“A little drama adds spice to an evening.”
“I am happy to hear that you appreciate dramatic scenes as there was another one that you missed. Before joining you, Jackson informed me that Lady Eleanor had attempted to skewer Lord Fitzwilliam with a fireplace poker.” Darcy’s mouth dropped open, but Elizabeth put her finger under Darcy’s chin and closed it. “Fortunately, two alert servants were able to prevent Antony being impaled and escorted Her Ladyship to her bedchamber where she passed out.”
“Elizabeth, I am so sorry.”
“It is not necessary for you to apologize.”
“Why not?” Darcy asked sensing that something was amiss.
After climbing under the bed covers, Elizabeth patted the bed indicating that her husband should join her, and although a night of lovemaking would be a perfect antidote to the antics of the Fitzwilliams, he was still suspicious.
“Why should I not apologize? My relations made a circus of the ball.”
“Did I not tell you that my mother is coming to Pemberley—and will be staying for a month?” Darcy shook his head vigorously. “With the preparations for the ball, it probably slipped my mind. Any objections?”
Darcy started to say something—not once, not twice, but thrice. But in the end, all he could manage was “not a one.”
Thank you for reading. Comments are appreciated. :) Mary