& Moira Bianchi: Dirty Petticoats - chapter 3

sexta-feira, 14 de fevereiro de 2020

Dirty Petticoats - chapter 3

happy Valentine's!
Next to falling in love,
reading a romance is the best thing for this date!
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It's Valentine's and DIRTY PETTICOATS is available everywhere.
The ebook version has tidbits of other novels, the paperback is just fine! 
I enjoyed composing this story very much. It took me a good deal of research - even hotels Austen mentioned! - and a lot more of crazy imagining why Lizzy and Jane's marriage didn't mess with Meryton... It would, right?
Hope you enjoy this good humored tale of gossip and misunderstandings. Here you'll find more details and links. 
So, as promissed, here is the 3rd chapter.

PG 13 - Regency - P&P continuation

~ chapter 3 ~

Lady Catherine de Bourgh was a woman of determination. A widow for many years, accomplished mother who alone raised a daughter, competent ruler of her kingdom composed of a grand estate and several investments. Had she not been such an extraordinary woman, her life would be reduced to a pawn of her weak brother’s earldom or a puppet for her silly nephews’ exploits in businesses.
Of course she needed a man to – at least officially - be responsible for her dealings, that was why she put up with Darcy and Fitzwilliam’s reluctance in visiting to aid her with estate affairs and crops’ planning. Those were tedious matters, steward’s responsibilities, mundane worries; let them care for those. Men were made for that purpose, anyway. 
While they were distracted, she had time for important dealings, such as the future. The next generation was in severe risk and she was the only one capable of solving the problem. 
Anne, her daughter, neared the completion of her third decade of existence and was still single. And sickly. And childless. If only had been married, she could be a widow by her 30th birthday…
Fitzwilliam, her second oldest nephew, was also single, cavorting his way as much as the army uniform allowed him. Certainly he could be persuaded to accept the right lady, were she found and presented to him.
Darcy, her youngest nephew, married an obstinate headstrong girl who suspiciously didn’t give him an heir after the first anniversary. One might imagine that, from the obvious nature of their attachment, a brood of children would have already been in this world. But, to Lady Catherine’s surprise, not one had been born. Could Darcy be finally seeing reason?
And finally, her young parson was also childless after two years of matrimony. Mrs. Collins was by far more congenial than her husband, Lady Catherine with her tired eyesight saw her own predicament on Charlotte’s for she herself had been so much smarter than her late husband. But if the woman had accepted the man in the sacred bond of marriage, she had to do her duty and bear his heirs. All parishioners expected to see newborns and toddlers roaming the newlyweds’ parsonage, after all!
Oh, so many problems to solve!…
At least, being such a formidable mind for people’s affairs, Lady Catherine had an intricate plan already in motion. As a busy spider, she weaved her silky trends making sure every piece of this jigsaw fell into place perfectly. The winter was just about to start; next spring shall bring many blossoms…
She rang the bell that rested on her desk summoning the butler and stood to look proudly at the many letters spread over the leather top.
‘Yes, milady.’
‘Smith, take care of this morning’s mail in person.’ She pointed a crooked finger at each small pile of letters. ‘These ones shall go by Express, these by coach, these to the Post directly so you may deliver at the village office, and these are for the cook.’
‘Our cook, milady? The woman in charge of the meals?’
‘Of course! Whoever else could I mean?’ Lady Catherine shrieked. ‘Go, these are important matters!’
‘Yes, yes…’ the butler took the piles one by one stuffing them in different pockets, bowed and left.
‘Do not mix them up!’ She yelled after him.
Annabel Levork, née Williams, was lazily listening to china clinking and waited until the perfume of fresh tea reached her nose to stir. It was early morning, perhaps not even seven yet. Her lover, the dashing colonel Fitzwilliam had barracks’ habits which were unfortunate when he took his warm body from her side as soon as the first sun rays appeared and fortunate for her situation of unofficial guest at the Albany where he lived.
As a widow she was at some liberty to appreciate the attentions of a handsome bachelor of good breeding, a second son of an earl was an excellent choice. But she lived with her deceased husband’s uncle while her meager inheritance was engaged in business beyond her reach. Although juvenile, she used the excuse of visiting an old friend or cousin to occasionally spend nights in his company.
The Albany was a fashionable address for the society’s finest bachelors, she very well knew that. Even if not respectable, and highly forbidden, gentlemen of fortune and breeding took selected company to their particular apartments using darkened corridors and side doors. The adventure of visiting the famous building incognito was what led Annabel to a night visit one fine day. At Vauxhall gardens’ midsummer celebration, she fell prey of a charming man of fame who induced her to trust him but once inside his set at the Albany, when she realized that not even a servant was there to witness whatever befell her, she panicked. He was insistent, she was frightened, he meant to hug her, she ran away.
The problem was that she knew nothing of the place, the tacit laws of the bachelors' expensive building and as she ran the long covered corridor of rope-walk in plain sight. As much as she asked for help, no one talked to her; she seemed to be invisible! Annabel had met few men that night, but none of them answered when she whispered the urgent plead for sheltering her from the gentleman who had brought her there. Only one offered his hand and only then Annabel realized it rained. 
Drenched, Fitzwilliam returned home for a change before attending social gatherings; frightened, Annabel accepted his offer of hiding in his attic flat. There she stood, at the living room as he undressed and redressed in the bedroom, only a door and a few candles between them. That night, as the weather didn’t light up, they spent several hours conversing and sipping a bottle of Madeira wine he had available. 
That had been months before, since then their relationship grew in fondness and trust to the point of lovers. She was very aware of the precariousness of their liaison, not only because he could be sent to war again at any moment but also because being a second son he needed a profitable marriage and she had but a humble fortune.
Let time deal with their problems, she thought when in his company. Excellent company as he was, she’d better enjoy as they could. 
As soon as she heard the under butler leave, she left the bed, dressed in one of his robes and met the dashing colonel reading his mail near the sofas.
‘Good morning, pretty one, there’s tea.’
‘Morning.’ She smiled coquettish. ‘Good news?’
‘A trip, my cousin needs protection from his lovely wife’s family and I’m his knight.’
‘Isn’t he lucky? Dividing my savior with me.’
He grinned leaning in to kiss her lips. ‘Always at your disposal.’
‘Where will he ship you to?’
‘Meryton in Hertfordshire.’
‘Oh, the marriage resort!’ Annabel smiled. 
‘Such a lovely village, I’ve spent but a day; someone told me it’d be a good place to find a good husband if I were to spend a season there. Many respectable gentlemen have chosen wives in Meryton, it’s said to be a romantic place. But I really wanted to visit the excavations, the unearthed Roman villa and the springs coming from the ancient bath salon. It is a lovely city, two good hotels, even a pump room.’
‘Yes, much improvement in a couple of years. First time I visited the place was to witness my cousin’s wedding. One of his friends from Cambridge shared the coach with me and as he invests in construction and development, he thought he saw a possibility in signs of Roman history in the road entering the village. All it took him was a little digging.’
‘Maybe more than that!’
‘Much development, the estates’ value has increased considerably.’
‘The social events are quite famous in the summer season, this time near winter, surely it must be a lot calmer…’
‘It is a family matter that needs to be addressed.’
‘Ah. Better if there is calm weather.’
‘Yes, quite.’ He perused the other letters, read the Times first lines. ‘What hour is it? Do you need to go?’
‘If you need to give attention to these other letters...’
‘News from my mother and aunt can wait if you are here with me.’
‘Well, I must leave soon to avoid being seen going along the rope-walk...’
‘Let me help you compose yourself, pretty one.’ Fitzwilliam pointed his bedroom. 
She nodded and walked in front of him.
Bingleton Court had been established only one-year prior, the owners still learned to deal with every day struggles common to landowners. Charles Bingley, heir of a considerable fortune made in trade, fulfilled a dream of his father’s and sisters in the large estate. 
Two years before, the search of the property had rendered the great profit of finding the most perfect life companion Bingley could have when he leased Netherfield in Hertfordshire. Jane Bingley, née Bennet, was natural of Meryton, the small village close to the estate he considered buying and they fell in love almost immediately.  After a period of maturation when they were kept apart because he was ill advisement, he made the offer, she accepted and their marriage brought influential guests and outstanding results for the city.
After the first year of marriage residing at Netherfield, Bingley finally resolved on acquiring a Northern estate, opting to settle close to his good friend Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife Elizabeth, Jane’s favorite sister- a couple forged alongside his eventful courtship to Jane. Bingleton Court, as the place was renamed under pressure of Bingley’s sisters, was located near the grand Pemberley. 
Up North, finally at home, Bingley and Jane could start their family. It was exactly the confinement of the first child that would keep them from traveling to aid Mrs. Bennet, Jane’s mother, in the time of distress.
The mistress of the house confused doors in her home, it was a great manor that she was still unused to possess. So, it took Jane three tries and two shouts to find her husband. 
He opened his den’s door to find her searching along the corridor, offered his arm and escorted her to the stuffed chair near the fire.
‘Shouldn’t you be in bed? Kitty was supposed to watch over you.’ He complained. 
‘She is napping upstairs; I came here to tell you of Lizzy’s letter.’ Jane sighed, moved a little to the side and took a folded paper from her pocket beside her engorged belly. ‘My sister is much agitated, Charles. Tell Darcy to bring her here, I want to see her and cannot ride the 30 miles to Pemberley. ‘
‘Absolutely not!’ He clapped his hands together.  ‘You need rest, Jane dear, you are a very fragile lady.’
‘I am not, don’t be silly. The problem are the roads you still haven’t ordered reforming.  We need to have it done by the time this baby reaches its first birthday, see that it’s arranged.’
‘Yes, dear.’
‘Lizzy is not liking this situation Charlotte is creating at Longbourn, she thinks it’s too odd, suspects something much worse behind our long time friend’s actions.’
‘Darcy also believes there are obscure motives in this.’
‘My sister says she has an inoffensive cold that is giving her the sneezes, for that they will delay their arrival in Netherfield for a few weeks, but the servants are already on their way to ready the place.’
‘They could stay at Longbourn, only Mary lives with your parents nowadays...’
‘No, they can’t. ‘Jane shook her head, eyes on Elizabeth’s words. ‘Darcy can’t deal with mamma’s antics. You have difficulty after a week.’
‘They took up Netherfield lease after we dropped it, the architect friend is staying there when the family isn’t residing.’
‘Furnington, good fellow.’ A chuckle. ‘We had good fun in Cambridge.’
 ‘You always say that, Charles.’ Jane frowned. ‘Let out this amused little laugh, compliment the man. Lizzy says Darcy also have this reaction to the remembrance of university years along this fellow. What is it?’
Nothing, nothing dear Jane. Furnington is merely engaging.’ Bingley shook his head. ‘Let me have Lizzy’s letter, Darcy writes too long missives filled with four syllable words. It’s very tiring to read his news.’
‘What does he say?’
‘Our mamma is upset, Lizzy is suspicious, Georgiana is too excited about the journey.’ He shook his hand. ‘What could be said in ten lines he made into two full pages.’ He read in silence for a moment. ‘See? This is a good letter. Short, concise, straightforward.’ 
‘So they are going to Meryton.’ Jane sighed and caressed her big tummy.  ‘But we are to stay here in the North.’
‘Waiting my heir.’
‘I’ll be chained to my desk, then.’ Jane promised herself. ‘Will write to Lizzy every day.’ She held her bump wishing her child was already a strong babe and could be carried across the country. 
‘Aha!’ Mrs. Bennet yelled from the bedrooms’ hall at Longbourn. ‘There is no evil that shall last forever!’
There was no answer whatsoever. 
‘I am to be avenged, no one will steal the roof from over my head under my husband’s nose. This traitor Collins can very well pack her trunks and return to Lucas Lodge.’
That instigated an answer from a clear and calm disembodied voice. ‘I cannot return to my parents’ home because I did not come from there, Mrs. Bennet.  I came from Hunsford parsonage straight to Longbourn.’
‘Good you realized I was talking to you, Mrs. Collins.’ The older woman dragged the ‘s’ as a snake’s hissing. ‘This is not your house yet; you are not to stay here unless invited.’
‘You would not quick me out, would you Mrs. Bennet? I grew up with your children, you know me as much as my own mamma.’
‘None of my girls could abuse an elderly as you do coming here unannounced, not even your obsequious husband when single preying on my daughters had the nerve to do so.’
Charlotte pressed her eyes. ‘I am not unknown to the family; my stay here does not compromise the daily functions of the house.’
‘Ha! Would not if you didn’t intrude in everything!’
‘I am merely getting to know the house and the estate, it is a wise preoccupation for me to have since my husband is to inherit the property.’ 
‘You have come as our angel of death! You want to take control of the house and servants and tenants and expel us from our own home!’ Her voice reached higher pitches. ‘Oh, my nerves! No one has pity of my poor nerves!’
‘I cannot do such a thing, Mrs. Bennet. Mr. Bennet is the rightful owner of Longbourn.’
‘Then you leave, leave now before the ire of the Bennets befall you!’ The older woman gesticulated widely as if calling powers from heavens.
‘I will not.’
‘You wait Lizzy arrive here, wait to face Mrs. Darcy!’ A derisive laugh. ‘She is worth 10 thousand a year, her husband advises your husband’s employer, you shall have a lot to lose!’
‘Lizzy is my dearest friend.’ Charlotte shook her head and started to descend the stairs.
‘If you do not leave now, I will never speak to you again.’
‘You said that yesterday, Mrs. Bennet...’
‘Face Mrs. Darcy if you think capable of pairing that force of nature!’
Charlotte didn’t turn back, but she considered it would not be easy.

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