Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #10

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

This will be my final post for this story. Hopefully, I’ll have a new one next week. I have renamed this story at least once, maybe twice. It’s finalized title is Darcy’s Surprise Betrothal. I hope to have it available for sale next week.

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

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The next day dawned bright and clear. As it was her wedding day, Elizabeth did not go for her customary stroll around the estate. Her mother and sisters insisted she not see Fitzwilliam before the ceremony, and to prevent such an occurrence, one of them remained with her at all times. Mary, known to be the sister most likely to stick to the rules, slept in the bed with Elizabeth. In the morning, the rest of the girls took turns, ending with Jane, who helped her next younger sister with her hair and gown.

“It is a black dress, Jane. There really is not much that can be done to improve it.”

“That does not mean it cannot be presented in the best possible manner. I am grateful that the irises are blooming. They are both appropriate to our mourning, and cheerful in color.”

“Yes, I appreciate the blue and purple of the blooms.” Elizabeth sighed. “I wish Papa was here.”

Jane handed her favorite sister a handkerchief. “If he were here, you would not be marrying. You would not even be aware that you were betrothed.”

Elizabeth smiled her thanks to Jane and used the cloth to dab at the dears that had rushed to her eyes. “I think that I might be. Mr. Darcy’s health would still be poor, and his late wife’s sister would still be pushing him to marry Fitzwilliam to her daughter.”

“True.” Jane sighed and then pulled out her own handkerchief. Her father’s passing still seemed unreal, despite the many new and unexpected things that had occurred since that day. “Uncle Gardiner invited me to join them in London when they return.”

Elizabeth watched her sister’s reflection in the mirror. “Will you go?”

Jane was silent for a minute, fussing with a strand of her sister’s hair. “I will. Aunt convinced me that Mama really does not need me as much as she says she does; she has the other girls, and Mary is old enough to begin learning how to run the house, anyway.”

“Fitzwilliam tells me Mr. Bingley is returning to town after the wedding.”

“Yes.” The corners of Jane’s mouth tipped up a bit. “Aunt used that information, as well. She said Uncle has given Mr. Bingley permission to call on me, if I allow it. It was very generous of him, especially since we are in mourning.”

“Yes, but I think Uncle feels that exceptions can be made for certain circumstances, and given ours, he does not wish to deter a possible suitor.”

Jane nodded, then sighed. “Yes.”

“Do you want Mr. Bingley to call?”

Jane startled. She looked up, her wide eyes meeting Elizabeth’s in the mirror. “Oh, yes! Very much so.”

“Good. You did not sound very enthusiastic for a second there.”

“I am, though. Oh,” she exclaimed, letting go of the tendril of hair she was trying to arrange to clench her fists in frustration and pump them up and down. “I do not know what is wrong with me. I find Mr. Bingely attractive, and I want to know him better, I truly do. I know in my heart Mama does not really need me, and I know that Papa would want me to be happy. He would laugh at me if he could see me dithering as I am. And, he would tell me to go to town and allow myself to be courted. I know this. Still, I feel as though I’m behaving wrongly to do so.”

Elizabeth turned around and took Jane’s hands. “I hear Mama’s voice in some of that. Has she been upset that you are going?”

“Yes,” Jane admitted, misery clear in her voice and the tears in her eyes. “She told me I am neglecting my duty to her by leaving.” Jane sobbed, and Elizabeth immediately stood, wrapping her in a tneder embrace.

“She is wrong. Mama does not like change, and she wants her girls around her to coddle her while it happens. You cannot live your life catering to her whims. She is a woman grown, and she should be leading us, not you or I or Mary.” Elizabeth pulled back a few inches, and looked her sister in the face. “You must do what is best for Jane. Mama will cope. The only real difference in her situation is that she is going to be living in a different house. She will not have to cook or anything else. Everything has been provided for her. Do not allow her to run you, Sister.”

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