Thursday’s 300: Lilacs & Lavender, Chapter 10

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This is the third-to-the-last chapter of this story. I plan to have the edits finished by St. Patrick’s Day, and then I’ll likely take a couple weeks off for a final read-through and a format and to make a cover. I also have two other projects that need some small finishing touches to complete. Then, I’ll begin the next story. 🙂

Today I present to you chapter 10.

If you missed chapter 1, you can find it here.

Chapter 2 is here. Chapter 3 is here. Chapter 4 is here.

Chapter 5 is here. Chapter 6 is here. Chapter 7 is here.

Chapter 8 is here. Chapter 9 is here.

Did you know that Patreon patrons who pledge $2 per month or more get to read these posts an entire week early? Also, patrons at all levels get to read my current work-in-progress as I write it.


Chapter 10

The next morning, after breaking his fast, Lord Matlock handed his sister into her carriage for the trip back to Rosings, warning her about her behavior, and reminding her of his expectations and the consequences she would face if she failed to live up to them. He knew she was unhappy, but she would have to remain so. It is a shame, he thought, shaking his head, that Sir Lewis had to die before Catherine. She is unsuited to be left alone to run things.

Once back in the house, he went to his study and drafted a note to his nephew, asking for an audience and an introduction to Darcy’s betrothed. He rang for the butler, asking that it be delivered immediately and only into his nephew’s hand.

An hour later, the butler returned with a message from Darcy. The delivery boy had found him just as he had been about to leave Darcy House. His nephew would be available this evening for dinner, if it was acceptable. He believed he could bring Miss Bennet and her relatives, as well, as long as she had no previous engagements. Knowing his spouse had nothing planned for the evening, Matlock dashed off a message extending the suggested invitation to dinner for his nephew and the young lady. The relations business was a bit sticky. As a peer, it was not done to accept a tradesman into his home. The tradesman’s wife, well … he had best check with the countess before he sent the message.

After asking his wife and discussing it with her, he decided to include Miss Bennet’s aunt in the invitation. True, her husband was in trade, but the earl knew the pair would soon be family; after the wedding it would be acceptable to invite them both. Within just a few minutes more, his reply was off to be delivered.


 “Good evening, Winslow.” Mr. Darcy greeted the butler as he entered. “Let me introduce to you Miss Bennet and her aunt, Mrs. Gardiner.”

Winslow bowed. “Good evening, Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Gardiner, Miss Bennet. If you will follow me, please.”

The Matlocks’ butler led the group to the drawing room, where the earl, the countess, and their eldest son had gathered before dinner, announcing the visitors and closing the door behind them after they entered.

The family stood as their guests crossed the threshold. Once the announcement was out of the way, Lord Matlock strode forward to shake Darcy’s hand.

“Darcy, so good to see you!” Turning his smiling attention to the rest of his nephew’s party, he asked, “Would you be so good as to introduce me to your friends?”

“Certainly, Uncle.” Gesturing to Mrs. Gardiner, he began. “May I introduce Mrs. Gardiner of Gracechurch Street? And this …” He paused to take the hand of the beautiful young lady standing beside him, tucking it into the crook of his elbow and covering it with his own. “Is my betrothed, Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn in Hertfordshire.”

The ladies curtseyed to the earl. He grasped the hand of each and bowed over it, saying, “Welcome, ladies. Leave it to Darcy to find two of the most beautiful women in London to grace his arms. I did not know he had it in him; it is always the quiet ones, you know,” he continued, winking at them and causing Elizabeth to giggle and her aunt to smile.

“Indeed, Uncle,” Darcy intoned. “Please stop flirting with my betrothed.”

“Ah, Darcy, you take the fun out of everything.” Lord Matlock laughed, before turning back to the ladies and gesturing for them to accompany him across the room to be introduced to his wife and son.

Once Elizabeth and her aunt had been presented to the countess and the viscount, everyone took a seat. Lady Matlock opened the evening’s conversation by expressing her delight in meeting Darcy’s intended.

“Miss Bennet, I have heard so much about you. My son Richard, Colonel Fitzwilliam …” She paused to look at Elizabeth, making sure she knew about whom she was speaking. When her guest nodded, the countess continued, “… wrote us a long letter, praising your good qualities. And of course, Darcy here added his effusions when he accepted our dinner invitation.” She smiled at her nephew, who blushed, then turned back to Elizabeth, who was also red-faced.

The conversation continued, with Elizabeth and her aunt contributing effortlessly, even as the group relocated to the dining room. Lord and Lady Matlock asked probing but tactfully worded questions, with their guests giving succinct and polite answers. It was obvious that both women comported themselves well, and were able to converse on any number of subjects. Their table manners were lacking in nothing; in fact, if one did not know already that Mrs. Gardiner was the wife of a man in trade, one would have mistaken her for a gentlewoman, so graceful and refined was her behavior. Miss Bennet’s comportment was exactly as the colonel had described to his parents – above reproach in every way.

After the meal, the ladies left the gentlemen to their port, walking back into the drawing room to enjoy some tea and conversation. Lady Matlock took this opportunity to probe even further into Elizabeth’s background and accomplishments. The answers she received from the young lady were honest and forthright, and were delivered in a respectful way. She was not cowed, however, by dining and conversing with a countess. Lady Matlock could see a strength in the young lady that would serve her well as she faced the ton as Mrs. Darcy. The longer she spoke to Miss Bennet, the more certain she was that this girl was perfect for her nephew. She would wait to confer with her husband, but the countess was sure they would be welcoming Elizabeth to the family with open arms, despite what Lady Catherine wanted.

The separation of the sexes did not last long and soon the gentlemen rejoined the ladies. Darcy was heartened to see his aunt conversing freely with Miss Elizabeth. He knew from speaking with his uncle in the dining room that Lord Matlock was pleased with his choice. To see his aunt so open and amiable was a good indication that she shared her husband’s opinion, and that they would help his soon-to-be-wife make her way in society. He strolled to his betrothed’s side, anxious to be in her company once again. He sat in the chair next to hers, smiling at her before speaking to his aunt.

“Lady Matlock, I trust you have enjoyed your visit with Miss Bennet?”

“Yes, nephew, I have. She is delightful,” Lady Matlock paused to smile at Elizabeth before continuing. “You have chosen well. She will be magnificent moving amongst our society.”

“Thank you, madam,” Elizabeth blushingly replied. “As long as Mr. Darcy considers me magnificent, I will be pleased.”

“I do, Elizabeth; have no fear of that.” Darcy looked deep into her eyes.

“Thank you, sir,” Elizabeth blushed at his words, caught in his look. She stared back, soon losing all sense of her surroundings.

Lady Matlock laughed, breaking the spell that had bound the couple together and startling them into awareness. They each visibly jumped and then blushed further when they realized what had happened.

“I can see that we will need to keep an eye on the pair of you to keep you from becoming abominably rude,” she teased as the pair turned even redder.

After their guests left later that evening, Lord and Lady Matlock met in their shared sitting room. This was not an unusual activity for them; they had long enjoyed a quiet cuddle on the settee after a long day. Their purpose at this time, beyond enjoying the closeness of a loving relationship, was to discuss their soon-to-be-niece.

“I like Miss Bennet a great deal, Henry,” Lady Matlock began, not waiting longer than it took to nestle herself in her husband’s arms on the sofa.

“I do, as well. She is quick, and intelligent. Not afraid to use her wit, either. She will keep Darcy on his guard, I think.”

“Yes, and he needs that. Too often he believes he is right when he is not. He needs someone to check him now and then.”

“As you do me, my dear Audra?” Lord Matlock replied with a smile, leaning down to kiss his beautiful wife.

Kissing him back and giggling like a young girl, Lady Matlock replied, “Indeed, Henry.” Squeezing his middle tightly for a second, she continued their discussion. “I am of the opinion that we should support the union. More than that, I think we should publicly support it. Miss Bennet has not had a curtsey before the queen; as Mrs. Darcy that will be imperative, and I will sponsor her in that endeavor.”

Lord Matlock smiled as he gave her a hug. How he loved watching her delineate her plans. She would have made an excellent general in the army. Her ability to see a whole, section it into pieces, and then lay out a course of action to conquer each piece never failed to amaze him. She was a formidable woman. And she was all his. He kissed her again and said, “Come, my dear, let us leave the details for tomorrow. I have a better way of spending this time with you.”

With those words, he rose, pulled his smiling wife to her feet, and led her into his bedchamber.

To be continued …



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