Welcome! Thank you for reading. XOXO
-Elizabeth Ann West, author of To Capture Mr. Darcy
Chapter 1 - By Consequence of Marriage, a Pride and Prejudice Variation
A map of London lay spread upon the cherry stained table in Fitzwilliam Darcy's study. Considerable fatigue presented along the heavy crease lines dividing the city into roughly six quadrants. Scribbled notations in the meager margins blurred with street names and two men continued to argue over their next step in a search for the missing Georgiana Darcy.
"Here. Right here." Colonel Fitzwilliam, a distinguished member of His Majesty's finest, pointed with his thick, coarse fingers clenched together to underline the place name. "Were I Wickham, I'd hightail it to within a block or two of the docks. The men and wares coming and going make for easy marks. They'd find lodgings without considerable questions asked."
"The docks? George likes high society. I say we inspect the alleys and boarding houses off Bond. How would he explain a dirty, dingy inn down by the wharves to Georgiana?"
"It's been three weeks, man! They've not the funds for much more than quarters near the docks." The Colonel glared at his cousin. Both were responsible for Georgiana's safety, appointed as co-guardians of the girl since the death of Darcy's father. The current situation would prove their mettle as protectors if all ended well.
Fitzwilliam Darcy walked away from the table and collapsed into an armchair near the fireplace. His lanky frame slumped, defying his noble upbringing to stand tall in the face of challenge. He rested his elbows upon his knees, his hands massaging the tired skin around his eyes and sagging cheeks. Weeks of slight respite as he and his cousin pursued the ill-matched couple weighed heavily upon his shoulders, his regular business suffering from lack of attention.
If his horse hadn't thrown a shoe and he had arrived a day earlier at Ramsgate . . . Still, he couldn't give up. Not yet. He fervently hoped George Wickham was keeping Georgiana well, if only for the thirty thousand pounds of her dowry. His cousin's concern that they might very well be out of money raised fears of Wickham selling his sister, but he shook them away. No amount of money from a flop house would equal her dowry so why hadn't the devil come forward to claim his bounty?
The predicament remained beyond comprehension as Darcy attempted to puzzle it out. A large commotion in the hall drew both men from their strategy as a red-faced butler opened the study door. The man made to announce the visitor but the Countess Matlock, Colonel Fitzwilliam's mother, entered, her face flush with anger and lacking concern for lingering introduction.
"Richard! William! Just how far have you two bungled these affairs? Why was I not informed the instant Georgiana went missing?"
Jaws agape, the men exchanged mutual expressions of surprise at being caught out by Lady Matlock. They had been exceeding careful in their search to avoid detection, or so they had thought.
"How did you know, Aunt?"
Margaret Fitzwilliam waved her hand dismissively at her nephew. "That is not the topic at hand. I can keep this quiet for a little while longer, but you must get out of London in a trice."
She advanced across the room to Darcy. Though she stood a full head shorter than the formidable master of Pemberley her long, pointed finger in his face revealed height no indicator of intimidation.
"If you stay just one more day, the whispers of an ongoing search for Georgiana Darcy will be confirmed. Go! Go play the wayward gentleman and visit a friend out in the country. Pretend your sister is in the capable hands of her tutors and you have not a care in the world concerning her well-being. Do so and the entire House of Matlock will not sleep until my niece is found. But if you stay . . . I cannot help you. I cannot help her."
Darcy looked to his cousin, a brother-in-arms since they were mere lads, and sighed as Richard gave a slight nod. Darcy raked his hands through his hair, then smoothed his mussing as he walked to his desk. Never in the five years since his father’s death had he and Richard, as protectors of Georgiana, faced such a disaster in her upbringing. His sensible side knew Aunt Margaret was the ally they needed, especially if the gossip was beginning to swirl. Thank goodness his sister was but fifteen and not yet debuted in society. No one would expect her attendance to teas or any number of balls, though most of the Ton had already vacated to their country homes for the shooting season.
A pile of opened correspondence lay on the left side of his desk in a haphazard array, all social invitations for the autumn. His hand fell upon the one he required, and he reread it with one eye squinted, turning the paper at different angles to grasp the contents of the missive. His aunt and cousin regarded him in silence until his aunt could no longer keep her counsel.
"For heaven's sake Darcy, whoever writes you with such an appalling hand you must resort to theatrics to decipher the letter?"
"Bingley," Richard answered offhandedly as he skimmed the map of London once more.
"There it is!" Darcy smiled as he finally found the name of the county he was to visit. He waved the paper in minor triumph before looking annoyed that Richard would continue the search for his sister without him. Before Darcy could utter this sentiment, his aunt moved to his side taking the letter from him with the lightest of pressure.
"Perfect. Hertfordshire is half a day's ride away. We shall send you an express as soon as she is found."
Darcy gazed at his aunt with the saddest expression she had ever beheld on her nephew. Forced to carry the burden of being the landlord of an esteemed estate at the tender age of four and twenty wore on his handsome face.
"Please find her."
Without a word, she embraced him tightly. Upon releasing the tall man, she straightened his coat. "We shall. You must leave at first light."
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Chapter 2 - By Consequence of Marriage, a Pride and Prejudice Variation
The ladies of Longbourn played a symphony of giggles, shrieks, and hurried footsteps above the head of a patient Mr. Thomas Bennet. Father of five daughters, and nary a son, he sipped his port as he practiced his preparation for the evening ahead: a healthy amount of alcohol to brave a local assembly and delight in the folly of his neighbors.
His door flew open before the visitor could muster a knock and Mr. Bennet startled as he glanced over his glass to find his wife in a fit of nerves.
“Mr. Bennet! Is the carriage ready? We mustn’t be the last to arrive!”
As Bennet glanced at the fading sun outside his study window, he met his wife’s query with stern logic. “The carriage shall be summoned the moment you and your daughters are fully prepared and awaiting in the foyer.”
“But, Mr. Bennet, you do know how the girls love to dally, I really must prefer the carriage be summoned this instant as I oversee the final preparations. Our girls must shine tonight as the county’s finest.”
“My dear, our daughters are the only jewels of the county.” Mr. Bennet boasted as he grabbed his wife’s hand to kiss it gently, a gesture that always made her girlish youth reappear. This evening it was quickly replaced by the presence of a mature matron in near hysterics over the plight of her daughters’ marriage status.
“To be sure, yet there is to be Mr. Bingley, and I overheard from Mrs. Long he is to bring no less than ten eligible men of significant wealth and means. With your dreadful cousin able to turn us out the moment you heart ceases to beat, the girls must marry well!”
“The carriage will be called when they are assembled, ready to leave.”
“My dear, as you linger fretting about the carriage, the later we are in attendance of this assembly with what, you say, five eligible bachelors?”
“Ten, Mr. Bennet, I said ten!”
Mr. Bennet seized his chest in mock surprise, making Mrs. Bennet’s eye widen with fear before he started to laugh. “My apologies, ten then.”
With a small growl and a foot stomp, Mrs. Bennet quit her husband’s study to thunder up the stairs. “Girls! Girls!”
The eldest Bennet daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, shared the room at the farthest end of the hall. They could hear the familiar final rumblings of the family at large that occurred before any event in which all seven attended. Jane sat before the pier glass as Elizabeth tucked a few more dried roses into the back of Jane’s pinned hair.
“You are decided then on encouraging John Lucas’ attentions? I thought you were not truly in love with him?” Jane smoothed imaginary wrinkles from her pale blue silk dress as she presented a questioning expression to her sister's reflection in the glass.
Elizabeth pulled a pin from her mouth with her left hand as her right held the last flower in place. With a quick movement, she shoved the last pin to cross the previous one and prayed it would remain for the evening. She stared at her sister’s reflection and smiled at her handiwork.
“John isn’t so bad. I am simply maturing. I may not be in love with Mr. Lucas at the moment, but I do admire his countenance, and he is a man I can respect. I do so love our home, Jane. If none of us can inherit Longbourn, at Lucas Lodge our family line will continue in the county.”
Jane rose and collected her gloves from where they lay upon her bed. Sliding first one on and then the other, she carefully considered her sister’s words. “If you shall be happy, then I shall be happy for you.” She made a careful smile and Elizabeth gave her elder sister one last hug.
Elizabeth laughed with her customary contagious jubilation. “I shall always find joy around me.”
Jane blew out a breath and glanced once more at her reflection, practicing her sweetest smile. “I will have to find a husband nearby as well.”
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows at Jane, knowing that to be quite the task considering the lack of advantageous suitors. Though there was the rumor that the newest neighbor to Hertfordshire, a Mr. Bingley, was a pleasant sort of fellow. “We will see that you do.”
“Girls!” cried Mrs. Bennet, louder and more insistent. With a nod, Elizabeth opened the door and waited for Jane to take her precedence before following down the narrow hall to the foyer below.
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 3 - By Consequence of Marriage, a Pride and Prejudice Variation
The floorboards of the assembly room trembled under the spirited dance of twenty couples, with three of the five Bennet sisters gaily contributing to the merriment. Mary and Kitty Bennet looked on wistfully, with the latter pouting and the former perfectly content. As the couples twirled and clapped, it was the keen Mrs. Bennet who first beheld the entrance of the most anticipated guests.
In the doorway, a man of his mid-twenties stood with a woman of similar height and hair color in front of a slightly older couple. The foursome paused in the entryway before the taller, younger woman in a gown of deep red flicked out her fan and gazed over its lavishly decorated front with a withering stare. The gentleman on her arm smiled at the raucous hall, in contrast to his sister's dismissive demeanor, before taking confident steps to lead his party further into the room.
"Mr. Bingley! We are quite delighted at your arrival. I trust the roads were not a nuisance?" Sir William Lucas made haste in approaching the singular, most anticipated guest. Having made acquaintance with Mr. Bingley during the leasing process, he was one of the few local men on familiar enough terms to greet the illustrious party.
"Sir Lucas! Please allow me to introduce my sisters. This is Miss Caroline Bingley." Caroline made a slight curtsy to Sir William with her nose turned up. "And this is my eldest sister, Mrs. Louisa Hurst and her husband, Mr. Edward Hurst."
The formal introductions aside, Sir Lucas pressed his suit, subtly suggesting his daughter Charlotte as a partner for the next set to Mr. Bingley. Being an agreeable sort of fellow, Bingley pleasantly made an offer to the modest Charlotte.
At the punch table, the winded Elizabeth Bennet joined her sister Jane as John Lucas fetched both women a glass. A flutter coursed through Elizabeth's body as she had truly enjoyed the quick music and her twirls with Mr. Lucas.
"Lizzie, do you see that Mr. Bingley and his company are present?" Elizabeth searched the crowd demurely until Jane qualified their position more clearly. "There, next to Sir Lucas."
Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. "I fail to see ten eligible bachelors in tow." Just then, she made eye contact with Caroline Bingley across the assembly room as she made an ill-timed laugh over her jest.
"Sssshhhh, you know how gossip becomes stretched in our county. They look perfectly amiable to me." Jane gave a small smile to the fair-headed gentleman, whom she assumed to be Mr. Bingley.
"Who is amiable?" John Lucas returned with the punch and Mr. Albert Masters, Elizabeth's next partner. John gave each lady a cooling glass of refreshment while the musicians began to tune up for the next set.
"Why anyone we've yet to make an acquaintance with! All strangers are perfectly amiable!" Elizabeth beamed at Mr. Lucas, hoping to tease one more smile from the man she'd known since childhood. Her efforts were rewarded as Mr. Masters escorted her to the floor and she happily met John's gaze before turning her attention to the set.
Before long, the smile on Elizabeth's face was replaced with a serious frown. As Albert spun and clapped with Elizabeth in time to the music, dutifully minding his step and not treading on her toes, a most horrific scene played before her. There was John Lucas, her John Lucas, talking with that deplorable lady and his father! The woman placed her hand on John's arm as they shared a laugh and gazed pointedly in her general direction.
"Miss Elizabeth, have I said something unfortunate to upset you?" Albert Masters, the butcher's son, tried to atone for his partner's foul mood.
Elizabeth's ears burned. She narrowed her eyes at the unknown woman and then broke into a laugh. "No, no, Albie, you are far too sweet to upset anyone!" She flashed him a genuine smile as the set ended. Spying Mr. Bingley trading Charlotte Lucas for a set with her sister, Elizabeth curtsied to Albert and wound her way through the throng of people to her best friend and confidante.
Sneaking behind her, Elizabeth blew quickly on the exposed nape of Charlotte Lucas, causing her turn and rewarding Elizabeth with a scolding glance.
"Lizzie! I wonder if you'll still play our childhood prank when we're old hens, clucking away like our mothers?" Charlotte hugged her friend and noted the heated conversation between Mrs. Bennet and her mother, Lady Lucas, across the way.
"Oh, poppycock! When I become too mature to jest, may the Good Lord carry me to my grave." Charlotte swatted at Lizzie for being as impertinent to taunt death, then tilted her head towards their politely quarreling mothers.
Elizabeth's face soured. She took a deep breath and glanced around the room for a prospective partner, purposely ignoring that John Lucas was now dancing with that woman. Unfortunately, there were far more women than men at tonight's assembly, and it was likely she would sit out another set.
"Poor Mama. What do you think it is this time?"
"I cannot be certain, but I think my mother boasted about my being first to dance with Mr. Bingley, and as he now dances with Jane . . .”
"My mother most certainly has an opinion about it!"
Both girls laughed and began walking to the back of the room near an exit to a small garden. By small, it consisted of a bench and two hedges, but it was a nice addition for the town of Meryton. Once outside, Elizabeth took a deep breath and gazed up at the stars.
"Do you ever feel like a great moment is upon you, Charlotte?"
Charlotte took a seat on the bench and smoothed her skirt with her hands. She didn't answer her friend.
"I do." Elizabeth reached over to the hedge and pulled a small twig of leaves. Absentmindedly, she began to divest the twig of each individual leaf. "You'll be pleased to know that I'm finally taking your advice and becoming more practical. I no longer dream that my future lies far beyond Hertfordshire. I am resolved to marry a man of our humble neighborhood."
"Lizzie, there is something I should warn you about . . .” Charlotte squirmed in her seat as she struggled to put words to her thoughts.
The ending of the music inside distracted Elizabeth and made her toss the bare twig to the ground. Now that the set was over, perhaps she could secure a second set with Charlotte's brother.
"Come on, Charlotte, let's try for a few more sets even if we must dance together at the end of the line."
Charlotte shook her head and rose from the bench, following her friend who was making a near beeline to stand closer to her older brother. A small sadness crept into Charlotte's heart on behalf of her bosom friend. It was obvious whom Lizzie had picked as her future husband and Charlotte knew her family would never approve of the match.
You've been reading By Consequence of Marriage
By Consequence of Marriage, Book 1 of the Moralities of Marriage
a Pride and Prejudice novel variation series
Release Date: December 23, 2014
65,000 words, ~334 pages in print.
When his horse throws a shoe, Fitzwilliam Darcy misses rescuing his sister, Georgiana Darcy, from the clutches of George Wickham by only one day. Now on the hunt to find them both, the gossip beginning to swirl in London forces him to abdicate the search to his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, while he plays the wayward gentleman in Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley. After a collision with his future, Darcy struggles to satisfy his attraction to a pair of fine eyes and keep his family's scandal hidden.
Elizabeth Bennet dreams of nothing more than remaining close to her sister, Jane. When a rich gentleman, Charles Bingley, enters the neighborhood, it seems certain that Jane will make a match with him. After all, Jane Bennet is the sweetest and most beautiful woman in the county! But Elizabeth's efforts to find her own local match go awry and she feels abandoned by the first man to cause stirrings in her heart. Her parents attempt to marry Elizabeth off to her cousin, William Collins, who is set to inherit the estate. But when she refuses, she soon finds herself In London with relatives, forced to find her own happiness.
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