These chapters are hard to read. But sadly these are all too real of even modern domestic violence situations... there's always complications to resolving it. But I absolutely promise in this book I gave the fantasy all of us wish we could have when we have loved ones harmed by another.
XOXOXO Elizabeth Ann West
Chapter 19 - A Virtue of Marriage, a Pride and Prejudice Variation
Once saddled, Sampson and Alexander, two chestnut hunters sharing the same sire, took to their normal race past the post and across the meadow separating Rosings and Hunsford. After a last rousing gallop over the hill, both Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam slowed their horses to navigate the narrowing path to the parsonage. Darcy ducked his head slightly to avoid an overgrown branch, as the gravel road was a barely wide enough for a phaeton, and not two strapping stallions traveling side-by-side.
“Have you considered a celebration for Georgiana's birthday?”
Darcy clicked his tongue and pulled on his reins slightly to keep Alexander alert. “I have sent my sister a new collection of music books and a few inexpensive pieces of my mother's jewels. Reset of course, in the latest fashions.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam pulled back on Sampson to let Darcy cross a small footbridge first. The wider road was more than two hundred yards to their right with a bridge over the same creek wide enough for two carts. The bridge was an improvement he and Darcy oversaw final construction on last spring. The staff at Rosings, for a shorter walk to church and market, used this crossing.
“Will she not expect a ball or some other type celebration?”
“You are jesting. I will not reward her headstrong, impertinent decision to tie us to that . . . man . . . for all of our days. Could you attend such an event with him?” After a moment's pause, Darcy added the last argument against a party for Georgiana. “As her husband, the provenance of planning and paying for such a fete now rests on his happy shoulders.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam let the discussion drop and both men dismounted and tied their companions' reins to nearby tree.
Briskly knocking on the door, Darcy finally took a moment to take in the improvements on the parson's cottage his aunt oversaw last year as well. The stonework appeared patched in the places needed, and a new coat of blue paint covered the shutters. The side garden was new to him and he wondered if it was the chief work of Charlotte Collins or the result of austerity measures.
After such a long delay, Darcy looked to Colonel Fitzwilliam as he knocked again, louder and with more urgency. Seconds later, Mr. Collins, himself, opened the door.
“Gentlemen, forgive me, I was in my study contemplating this week's sermon as the Archbishop shall be present. What brings you to call at my humble abode? Though your mere presence elevates the home, yet on days without your gracious visit I am most pleased with the dwelling furnished by the generous living provided by the most charitable Lady Catherine. I trust that your aunt is in good health?”
Darcy broke his normal austere facade to glance at Colonel Fitzwilliam's slacking jaw. At catching his cousin's eye, Colonel Fitzwilliam closed his mouth and barely hid his smile at the parson's introduction.
“Mr. Collins, may I formally introduce you to my cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam?” Darcy exposed the ridiculous man's false closeness to him and his cousin through Lady Catherine's long-winded speeches about her nephews. There had been no time for a proper introduction the last time they met due to Anne's health.
“How do you do?” The colonel made a pert nod to the lowly parson, now cowering slightly from his earlier and typical faux pas.
“Colonel Fitzwilliam, it is an honor to meet the illustrious nephew of my patroness.”
“On the subject of our mutual aunt, she is in fine health. It is my cousin we call on you about.” Colonel Fitzwilliam's easy manners saved Darcy from the trouble of addressing Collin's obsession with Lady Catherine and her whims.
“Ah, poor Miss de Bourgh. Is her time so very near? Is this a summons to Rosings so I may serve the family in its time of great spiritual need?”
Darcy took a moment to glance at their horses to ensure they were sufficiently restrained. “Perhaps we might discuss this in a less public location than your front door stoop, Mr. Collins?”
Collins took a look inside his own house with a nervous, barely observable quibble to his lower lip. He opened the door wider to allow the two gentlemen entryway. “Of course, please join me in my study.”
As the three walked back towards the parson's study, their boots and heavier weight making a mighty echo on the wooden floor of the home, Collins offered them both the refreshment of tea.
“I'll take something stronger if you have it.” Ever the one to make a situation jolly, Colonel Fitzwilliam clapped the squat parson on his right shoulder. The force of the unexpected blow made Collins nearly jump in reaction. Standing with his feet perfectly together, the man of the cloth nearly shrank in the broad physique of His Majesty's Finest. A reluctant host, Collins poured the Colonel a drink of his best cognac, and offered the same to Mr. Darcy, who declined.
“Please, have a seat.” Collins motioned as he took his normal seat behind a humble writing desk that appeared to be designed for a woman it was so small in stature. “I fear this must be extremely difficult for a man of such exalted status as you, Mr. Darcy, but it is with the utmost discretion that I will now hear your troubles and upon on my honor, as a servant of our Lord and Savior, ease your conscience in any manner available.”
Darcy inhaled and moved to the very edge of his seat, almost leering at the pompous parson. “I see you are engaged in a great deal of work, we must be a complete intrusion. Forgive me.”
Darcy placed a hand on his right knee, a long-standing sign between the two of them for Richard to wait and play along. His eyes flicked to his right to see if Richard noticed and a slight nod from his cousin was all Darcy needed to see.
“I am flattered that you noticed so, sir. Yes, it is a most busy time for the church and me. We are repairing the damage done to the roof over the winter and I've received word that Bishop Lowell is to also grace us with his visit in two months' time to inspect the rectory and parish. I am also overseeing the spring planting–”
“And Mrs. Collins, I take it, is assisting you in visiting the glebe land families and tending to the sick.”
Mr. Collins was startled at the interruption, but recovered quickly.
“Ah, I've lessened the demands that my office might impose on Mrs. Collins. She assures me she supports my work and families we are to care for most fervently with prayer and careful reflection.”
Mr. Darcy raised an eyebrow at this description of Charlotte, but would never presume to call her undevoted to their Heavenly Father.
“You don't plan to visit your mutual relations in Hertfordshire in the coming weeks as part of the customary traveling season?” Darcy assumed Collins had no idea of his plans with Elizabeth and might intend to return his cousin to her family in Hertfordshire. He may not know of the breach.
Mr. Collins sat baffled for a moment that Mr. Darcy was so interested in his business, but at the same time, completely disinterested as to interrupt him. He hesitated a moment before answering. “No, I believe my wife and I visited extensively during our courtship and during the time leading up to our happy nuptials. My cousin has managed those lands for decades and would not take kindly to my interfering at this juncture, even though I am the heir to Longbourn.” Collins sniffed and raised his chin a bit, as Richard struggled not to laugh.
Taking a more relaxed posture in his chair, Mr. Darcy paused at the mention of Mr. Collins' marriage. Removing his hands to meet at his navel in an interlaced fashion, Colonel Fitzwilliam took this as his cue to speak up.
“Mr. Collins, my cousin and I are in need of your services via your wife. Miss de Bourgh's weakness has increased and the rattling in her cough is most haunting. Seeing what I've seen of Death on the battlefield, it is too short a time before we must say farewell to Anne for my tastes. She is never one to complain or make grandiose requests.” Colonel Fitzwilliam politely swallowed more of the foul tasting cognac for propriety's sake, but made a note to never ask persons of lower annual salary than even he for a good drink.
“No, Lady Catherine's daughter is the picture of humility and discretion that we might all strive to don as our time to meet our Maker draws near. The world will indeed be short one of the brightest gems in society when we lose Miss Anne de Bourgh.” Mr. Collins speech patterns returned to his practiced monotony of a pulpit recitation.
“Then you will agree most heartily with our plan to install Mrs. Collins and her friend visiting, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, in one of the guest wings to keep vigil over Anne in her last days, as she has requested!” Colonel Fitzwilliam’s grin maintained its position despite Mr. Collins' souring facial expression.
“No, gentlemen, I cannot acquiesce to this request. The most wise Lady Catherine has cautioned me about undue exposure of my cousin's spirited nature to Miss be Bourgh at this time when her mortal soul is most in danger to secure salvation.”
“Of all the preposterous –” Mr. Darcy rose violently from his chair. “You sit there, sir, and question the salvation of MY cousin?”
Mr. Collin's face paled under the ire of Mr. Darcy. “No, of course not. Miss de Bourgh is the epitome of grace and charity, and would sooner fly with angels than anyone of my acquaintance. But Mrs. Collins is having difficulty adjusting to the calling of a parson's wife, and she would be a poor influence at this time, I believe.”
“How can you charge such behavior of your own wife?” Colonel Fitzwilliam was appalled by the nature this conversation was taking in discussing a woman he had yet to meet. “Or is this a delusion my aunt has pressed upon you?”
Mr. Collins glanced back and forth at both gentlemen with an expression of complete shock. He stood to match Darcy's position. “You declare Lady Catherine to suffer from delusions, not on my word!”
“Settle down, Mr. Collins. No, Aunt Catherine doesn't suffer from delusions in the strictest sense, but knowing her all of my life, her suppositions of others’ behavior are trumped to the most extreme description on the slightest provocation. Why I myself am a loafing drunkard, unfit for the most elegant of dinner tables.” Colonel Fitzwilliam lifted the last of the cognac in mock toast and knocked it back.
“Richard, you are a loafing drunkard to those whom you do not wish to know your true nature.” Mr. Darcy quipped.
“Fair enough, Cousin, but if my true gentle disposition were known in the Army, I'd have a difficult time prying intelligence for my superiors' ears.”
Mr. Collins gulped as he sat once more before two men who clearly outclassed him. Still, as her husband, he had the right to deny Charlotte and his cousin from this visit, and save his own skin with Lady Catherine in the process. After all, she was his patroness and he had worked under her tutelage for three years with a clear understanding of her expectations for loyalty and obedience.
“I cannot grant your request to send Mrs. Collins and my cousin to Rosings. I fear Elizabeth's behavior will be disreputable for the society Lady Catherine is accustomed to encountering. Her father had a loose hand with her upbringing, and I am working earnestly to guide my cousin in the ways and manners now expected of her lower rank.”
“Lower rank? Is not Miss Bennet the daughter of a gentleman and thus the same rank of my cousin and myself? Are you not to inherit that same property, thus soon to join the same rank?” Darcy chose not to address the work Mr. Collins might be doing to guide Elizabeth's manners to be more like his own crude posturings. Though he had to admit, having met the younger Bennet sisters, he couldn’t completely fault Mr. Collins for his opinion of Mr. Bennet.
Mr. Collins blanched. His own father, a third son, never owned land out of an inability to manage funds. This made Oxford nearly unbearable and the chief reason why Collins pursued a living with great focus. The law and military were far too competitive for his tastes.
Lucky enough to complete university on the generosity of his late grandmother's will, Beatrice Collins was a daughter of a wealthy baronet in Matlock, before she married the second son of a neighbor wealthy from trade with the colonies. Lady Catherine remembered Beatrice as an older woman invited to help accustom Lady Anne and herself in the arts of polite conversation, long before Beatrice married Henry William Collins. In accepting his grandmother’s inheritance, as she had outlived her husband by twenty years, he himself had taken on the honorable name of Collins and cast aside the underachieving name of Bennet with glee.
“Be that as it may, my wife is not at home presently. She is out on an errand with our cook and my cousin.” Mr. Collins smiled smugly as he lied through his teeth to the two men before him. He knew both were locked in their rooms for disobeying his express orders to no longer give food and assistance to the heathen family on his lands. He had not wished to strike Elizabeth so hard, but her chit of a reply that the candlesticks somehow did not belong to him since they were a wedding gift from her aunt and uncle was an impertinence he would not tolerate.
Mr. Darcy realized this was going to get them nowhere and began to move towards the door when a large thump could be heard upstairs. All three men looked up at the ceiling.
“Sir, perhaps your wife returned early without your knowledge?” Colonel Fitzwilliam found the blood draining from Mr. Collins face a curious reaction indeed.
“Err, yes, she did return but a few moments before your arrival. I had forgotten she had retired to rest.”
“Good God man, that was a nasty crash. Perhaps you should check to see that she is alright?” Mr. Darcy prodded the man, putting Mr. Collins in a completely stuck position.
“Yes, I shall do just that.” Without thinking, Mr. Collins fumbled with his top desk drawer to pull out the key. Neither man missed the implications, though where Colonel Fitzwilliam was able to steel his gaze as indifferent, Mr. Darcy's eyes widened and then slanted in rage.
Both Fitzwilliam men waited at the bottom of the stairs as they heard Mr. Collins speak to Charlotte and Elizabeth just upstairs and alert them that Miss de Bourgh's time was near. Despite trying to dissuade their visit at this moment, but thinking they might go in a few days, Elizabeth informed her cousin that Miss de Bourgh may not have a few days and her regrets would be too great.
She almost pushed her oaf of a cousin aside to descend the stairs in a glory only the most noble of women pull off. With a glint of defiance in her eyes, she donned her bonnet and gloves as both Rosings men took shocking stock of the large, grayish purple mark across her right cheek. Charlotte followed in silence, as if trying to hide she was siding against her husband.
With a smile, she turned to her cousin, now on the ground floor with them. “Don't worry Cousin Collins, I am sure Dr. Smeads can attend to this nasty gash from my foolhardiness. I must be careful not to slip on one of my garments and fall into the bedside table again.”
Mr. Collins gulped as the two men nearly a head taller than him both moved a protective step closer to Elizabeth. The tension in the air caused the ladies hold their breath.
“Er . . . yes, I'm certain Lady Catherine will be most eager to share her generosity by instructing Dr. Smeads to do just that. As soon as I finish my work here, I will join you at Rosings to attend her Ladyship in this dark, dark time.”
Chapter 20- A Virtue of Marriage, a Pride and Prejudice Variation
The odd foursome walked the short distance back to Rosings across one of Elizabeth's favorite meadows. She knew she should be self conscious about the mark on her cheek, but the glorious sunshine and smells of fresh greenery invigorated her spirit with each step.
"Miss Bennet, forgive me for appearing bold, but you have a quick step!" Colonel Fitzwilliam emanated his normal charm, as Elizabeth was a good two or three paces ahead of the gentlemen. She smiled broadly in response.
"No offense taken, Colonel. I am known as a great walker and it has been some days for me to stretch my legs. It is we who should worry to offend as our presence forces you gentlemen to walk your gorgeous companions when you are clearly more accustomed to riding them."
"Do you ride?" Darcy blurted out, realizing it was a strange question to ask of his Elizabeth, but he also could not recall discussing the matter with her. Darcy felt better when he remembered he had to keep up appearances about not knowing Miss Bennet that well, though his blood boiled over that parson! He wanted to march back and throttle the man.
Elizabeth shook her head. "Sadly, not well I'm afraid. We only had two horses on our lands and they were mostly reserved for work or when Papa had to go into town for provisions. We did have a pony for a time, but a cruel winter stole her life when I was but eleven."
The mention of the unfortunate beast’s fate brought back a mood of somberness as they came to the grand mansion. Charlotte casually made her way to the door, removed her bonnet and gloves and began to walk towards the back hall where the servant's staircase was housed. Darcy and Richard exchanged a look before the Colonel called out to her.
"Mrs. Collins, I believe the shortest walk to Mrs. Darcy resides this way," and he pointed up the stairs.
Charlotte nodded meekly; embarrassed she was now instructed to take the main staircase as opposed to the instructions Lady Catherine had laid down for her once daily visits to the ailing Anne. Elizabeth joined her in taking the stairs, resisting the urge to glance down at Mr. Darcy one more time. Before Darcy could follow the ladies up the stairs, Colonel Fitzwilliam clapped Darcy's shoulder.
"Let's make sure our beasts of burden are well groomed, Darce, before we visit our cousin."
Darcy glared at his cousin with his back to the ladies. Their horses were always well tended at Rosings, Darcy made sure of it. But he knew Richard must have a thought on his mind and needed a private word.
As the two men stepped out into the sunshine once more, Darcy didn't have to wait long.
"Did you see the bruise on her cheek, cousin? What could a nice lady like her be doing with a mark on her such as that? Her story of falling today doesn't explain the deep purple and indigo colors. That injury is at least a day or two old!"
Darcy scowled, remembering the sight of Elizabeth's face as she came down the stairs to join them.
"I shall have a strongly worded conversation with that parson of mine."
"Oho, will you now? And what shall you say to him? Inform the man on how he must treat his female cousin in his protection?"
Darcy glanced about to see if any servants might have overheard as they neared the stables. He realized it would overstep his place to interfere in another man's household over a woman so officially wholly unconnected to himself.
"It is abominable for a man to raise a hand to a woman," he hissed.
"We must not jeopardize our plans. Your lady is made of stern stuff, that much I can say. Did you see the way she stared him down before we left? Have faith, Darcy, she will be safe."
Darcy stopped walking. Richard's assessment stung him and he immediately panicked over what further injury she might endure.
Darcy glared at Richard's sympathy with a jealous lover’s eye "It was dangerous to bring her here."
"You were insistent."
"I said no such thing!”
Richard made a mock face of surprise. “Truly? All that whining of being separated must have been a different man's letters I read each week.”
“Richard. Collins is the man she was to marry. I've told you . . .”
Richard kicked a pebble and frowned. “Well, we’re in a fine pickle now! The lot of us. It’s a damned morbid comedy, that’s what it is.”
Angry and annoyed, Darcy turned on his heel and strode to the house. Let Richard pamper the horses, he was going to see to his future wife, and her friend, and make sure they had every comfort.
As Darcy entered the sitting room outside of Anne's bedroom, he could hear Elizabeth's voice through the cracked doorway. Taking a deep breath, he acknowledged that eavesdropping once again was reprehensible, but he couldn't deny himself the pleasure of drinking in her voice. He closed his eyes and listened, but snapped them back open as he quickly realized the subject matter the three women were discussing. At that point, he was rooted to the spot to hear more.
"It was horrific, Anne. That poor family needs Christian charity, not exile! So yes, I sold the candlesticks and gave Diana the money. It took Collins two days to notice there were wooden ones on the table."
"Was he most upset that you had helped the family he was evicting or that the candlesticks were gone?"
Both women laughed leaving Anne confused.
"See, I knew you would help me see the folly in this! I think it might have been losing the precious silver candlesticks, that was the biggest blow."
As the laughter stopped, Anne's voice became serious.
"But he struck you, you must be careful, Miss Bennet."
"Oh it doesn't hurt now. And better me than Charlotte, though I'm certain he has struck her before, has he not?" Elizabeth looked to her friend who hid her face in silent shame by looking down.
"Yes, but" Anne stopped to catch her breath and refused her friend Charlotte's assistance. Once she could slowly breathe in normally, she continued, "But next time he might not just leave it at one strike. Promise me, promise me you will take care to not raise his ire. Not before the Archbishop arrives."
Elizabeth took a deep breath and paused as she thought she saw movement in Miss de Bourgh's sitting room. As she took a few steps closer and opened the bedroom door wider, she saw an empty room. Shrugging, she turned back to her friend and resolved to move to a happier subject. She meant to ask Anne about the dreams and wishes she had before she became ill.
The Trappings of Marriage
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are off to Gretna Green!
In Book 4 of the Moralities of Marriage series our dear couple have survived accidents, forced marriages, and meddling relatives. After a short stay at Pemberley where the future Mrs. Darcy comes to terms with the kind of wife Fitzwilliam Darcy will need on his arm, they take off for the border to marry over the anvil. When Mr. Darcy plans an idyllic wedding trip to his family estate just outside of Dumfries, the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Darcy discover the trappings of marriage have yet to relinquish their hold.
Chapter 21 - A Virtue of Marriage, a Pride and Prejudice Variation
Darcy took the stairs two at a time. He scared a footman about to cross the foyer with his sudden arrival causing the young man to immediately turn and go back the way he came. Darcy was outside and about to march back across the meadow between Rosings and Hunsford when Richard called out to him. This broke the spell of rage Darcy was under and allowed him to bellow.
"He struck her! The coward hit her face because she helped a tenant family!"
Richard swiftly moved to stand in front of Darcy and coaxed him back towards the house. "We knew he hit her, there was no question about that and we agreed there could never be a cause. Now, come with me to the library. Let's have a drink and be reasonable."
"Reasonable? Reasonable? That man deserves to be beat within an inch of his life!"
"And what would that achieve? How would marching over there to teach that windbag a lesson help Mrs. Collins? Will it make a man like him less likely to strike out or more likely to prove he's in control? THINK man. Better yet, will it help us marry our loves or potentially send your Elizabeth packing this very afternoon?"
Richard had said the magic word. Darcy blew his frustrations out and ruffled his own hair in the aggravation of feeling powerless. It was not an emotion he was accustomed to experiencing.
"I need a drink."
Richard grinned and followed Darcy back inside. "Yes, and we're raiding the finest. I need to wash that horse's piss the Parson calls brandy out of my system."
The men were surprised to discover Elizabeth in their retreat of choice, reaching far above her head to a dusty shelf in the corner. Richard rushed forward to assist her. As she pointed to the tome she needed, she collected the other thick volume she had already pulled down on her own and began walking towards Darcy with a wide smile. Darcy wasted no time in pouring himself and Richard a stiff drink, and downed his in a swallow before facing the beautiful, yet flawed, visage before him.
"Mr. Darcy? Colonel?" Elizabeth looked over her shoulder to beckon her book boy to bring his burden to the front of the room. "I must enlist your aid in making mischief."
"Mischief, Miss Bennet?" Darcy hoped if he forced himself to keep using her polite name, it would help him to put his emotions back into their cold reserve. "To what end is this mischief?"
"Why pleasing Anne!" Elizabeth beamed at the two men; clearly satisfied she would not be denied. "I propose we read, nay perform, as much as we can, A Midsummer Night's Dream for Anne, I mean Miss de Bourgh, as she has just told me that one play she wished she had been afforded the opportunity to see was the same."
Darcy poured himself another drink as a memory flooded his mind, of a young Anne, nearly eleven, laughing at Richard and himself trying to wage a proper naval battle in the small pond on the west side of the property. She was healthy that year, before a bout with pneumonia that winter would rob her of every ounce of youth and send her into a faded presence. She had splashed water with her hand to make waves, causing both Richard and himself to cry out, to which she had explained surely even in battle, Mother Nature had her say. She had been reading a collection of Shakespeare's works that summer, the gold-leafed volume Sir Lewis had given her for her birthday.
"I think it's a splendid idea, what say you Darcy?"
Darcy cleared his throat. "Of course, anything for Anne."
You've been reading A Virtue of Marriage
Book 2 of The Moralities of Marriage, continuation of the saga from By Consequence of Marriage.
With Fitzwilliam Darcy hopelessly tangled in his family's lies and deceit in Kent, reinforcements are on the way in the form of his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, and his secret fiancee, Elizabeth Bennet. Two generations of the Fitzwilliam family clash at Rosings and the matrimonial futures of both Darcy and Richard hang in the balance. When Lady Catherine goes on a rampage, and the Bennets become swayed by the vicious gossip swirling the Darcy family, both Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam learn you inherit each other's family drama by virtue of marriage.
A full-length novel, A Virtue of Marriage continues the three-part Moralities of Marriage series.
A Virtue of Marriage, Book 2 of the Moralities of Marriage
a Pride and Prejudice novel variation series
Release Date: March 31, 2015
308 pages in print.
+ 15 additional Pride & Prejudice variations are available at these fine retailers . . .
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Thank you so much for reading. 🙂 Looking forward to the comments below!
XOXOXO Elizabeth Ann West