’s elevated rank. Through a flurry of letters, the family decided to attend the quarterly Assembly in Meryton, en masse, two weeks hence. Lizzy and Darcy rented Wilton Manor for a month complete as their entourage of children, nannies, and servants was too much for Longbourn. The Duke and Duchess of Adborough elected to stay with them, as did Kitty and Lord George, while Jane, Charles, Caroline, and Lord Nathan were guests of the Hursts at Netherfield Park.
Mr. Reginald Hurst and his wife Louisa purchased the estate when Charles abandoned the lease to buy in Derbyshire. A small smile graced Mary’s face when she thought about all of them in attendance at the Assembly. Fifteen in total, if her mental math was correct. More than enough tolerable dance partners this time around, although Darcy would never make the same mistake twice when it came to her sister, his wife.
The Hursts hosted a dinner party the day after all expected parties had arrived. Not only to mix and mingle away from the prying eyes of curious neighbors but also to plan the logistics of their arrivals at the Assembly. The Bennet family arrived at Netherfield Park a half-hour before expected, so excited was Mama to see her daughters and extended family. Louisa Hurst stepped forward, absolutely radiant in her final months of pregnancy. After the birth of their first son, Nicholas, they’d despaired of having another.
She invited them to join everyone in the front drawing-room. Chaos ensued almost immediately upon Mama sighting Lizzy and Mr. Darcy. As per usual, Mary hung back and watched, quietly content.
“What? No hug for your sister?”
Mary looked into the twinkling eyes of Elizabeth. She gave her a quick hug, noticing almost immediately her slightly rounded belly.