A Lie Universally Hidden(9)

By: Anngela Schroeder

“Did he insult you?” Lizzy asked, her ire rising at the thought of the handsome man from the carriage looking down upon her family. Handsome or not, who is he to pass judgment?

“No, Lizzy, he did not,” Kitty said twirling a loose curl around her finger and contemplating her words. “But, just being in his presence…” She looked up at her sister’s startled expression. “It is not what you think. My heart was not taken by him nor could I have any feelings for him—how could I on this short acquaintance? But I evaluated our family through his perspective and realized I no longer wanted to be what he saw.

“Lydia wants a red coat—someone to flirt with. I realized that I want a man of merit, such as Mr. Darcy. Someone who will see the value of me and not as a mere object. If I have any hope of fulfilling that dream, I must alter my ways.”

Lizzy looked at Jane blankly and then back at Kitty. Was this their sister who only last week plotted with Lydia to visit the officers’ barracks before the men were dressed? What had become of this girl, and what were these magical powers this Mr. Darcy had to influence Kitty in this manner?

Whatever powers he possesses, I wish it were proper to somehow thank him for his unknown act of service.

Chapter 3

“Three months,” Darcy said slowly reading the letter from his aunt for the hundredth time since its arrival. He was unable to believe the time had finally come to take his bride. A Christmas wedding during the merriest of seasons. Ironic. “In three months, the dream of my mother will finally be fulfilled.” Not your dream, Fitzwilliam? He picked up his morning coffee and looked out the window. He knew the answer to that. I will honor the memory of my mother and stay resolute to the duty of both Georgiana and my mother’s namesake. He tried to hide a hint of mirth as he laughed at the irony that his future wife was named for the only woman he had ever truly loved.

“Love.” He sighed absently, tapping his fingers on the glass pane. “I will never know love, not real love as my parents did.” For a moment, the choices he would never make, would never be allowed to make, ran rampant through his mind before they were pushed aside. But, my devotion to Pemberley and Georgiana are all I will need to be happy. Eventually, Anne will produce an heir, and then he will add to my felicity. He stretched the emotional exhaustion from his muscles and crossed to the desk to finish a letter to his steward before making his way downstairs.

Though impolitic, he had remained in his room as long as possible for he had not the energy to fend off the overtures of Miss Bingley. That woman knows I am promised to Anne, yet she insists on continually attempting to draw my favor. He shook his head at her machinations. If not for Bingley… But, now with the wedding date set, her actions and words will not do. Fitzwilliam finished his letter and firmly closed the door behind him on the way to his friend’s study.

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet?”

Lizzy looked up from the rows of ribbons and lace with curiosity. Jane and Kitty had accompanied her to Meryton on the special demands of their mother to find the “perfect ribbon” for Lydia’s dress. The favored child had pouted all the previous evening that Mr. Bingley would not give two straws for her if she did not have new embellishments for her gown, and with the possibility of losing the attentions of a man worth five thousand a year, Mrs. Bennet had dispatched three daughters to rectify the situation.

Lizzy did not recognize the lady as any of her acquaintances from Meryton yet smiled at the elegant stranger before her. “Yes, I am Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Pardon my impertinence, but I heard the shopkeeper address you and wanted to make myself known. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Caroline Bingley, this is my sister Mrs. Luisa Hurst, and this is Miss Georgiana Darcy. Your father made my brother’s acquaintance a few days ago at Netherfield Park. I determined that would do for an introduction.”

“Oh, yes, my father conveyed how much he enjoyed meeting Mr. Bingley,” Lizzy said, setting aside the millinery and curtsied prettily. “My family had the pleasure of taking tea with your brother and Mr. Darcy yesterday. Unfortunately, my sister Jane and I were away.” Lizzy turned to Jane and said, “May I present two of my sisters, Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Katherine Bennet?”

“Miss Darcy was eager to make the acquaintance of a gentleman’s daughter as we will be residing in Netherfield until the Season. And after their meeting with your family, I am certain Charles and Mr. Darcy will encourage the connection with a genteel family such as yours amongst so many rustics.”