Hello, my friends. Can you believe almost half of this year is in our rearview mirror? I, for one, am glad some of it is in the past. This year has been interesting. The Barr family has good news. Mr. B's cancer treatment was successful. His numbers look very, very good and the next update will be in about another five months. If things stay status quo, he will only have to go in every six months for the next two years, then it will be slated back to annual visits. (Whew) Also, he had surgery only three weeks ago, and everything has healed nicely with his first check-up is this week. Then... THEN... we move on the 29th. Yikes!
Needless to say, my writing has been in spits and spurts because of packing, visits to the building site, picking floor, lighting, tile, fixtures... etc., etc. Having said that, I continue to work on Longbourn's Angels. The main characters are ODC (Darcy & Elizabeth), but I am weaving in small vignettes of Jane and their older twin brothers. Yes, you heard me. Twin brothers. I toyed with making them triplets with Elizabeth, but I like having them as older brothers, looking out for their younger sisters. Especially when a proud man has the temerity to insult our dear Lizzy at the Meryton Assembly.
This time, I have not written the Bennets with titled family, however, because Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's first children were male, Mr. Bennet has taken better care of his estate and so they are a little wealthier than in the original story. They also own Netherfield Park. It tickles my fancy to have the Bingleys unknowingly pay rent to the family Caroline Bingley loves to disparage. Also, the two sons have attended Eton and Cambridge, and have high-placed friends.
Below is a small snippet. In this scene, Gabriel and Elizabeth have traveled to Netherfield Park to bring Jane home. As in canon, she had ridden to Netherfield on horseback, got wet, and became sick. Alas, she does not stay longer than one night before her big brother and younger sister come to hie her home to Longbourn. What you will read is what happened between Gabe and Mr. Darcy once Caroline escorts Elizabeth up to the room where Jane spent the night.
The door had barely closed before a footman poured a cup of coffee for Gabriel. With a word of thanks, he accepted the cup and settled back in the chair he had chosen, directly across the table from Mr. Darcy and to the left of Mr. Bingley. He cast a quick glance at Mr. Hurst, who paid them no mind, concentrating solely on his overflowing plate of food. Gabe briefly wondered where Mrs. Hurst was, but quickly dismissed her from his thoughts.
“Was there any damage to Longbourn from the storm?” Mr. Darcy asked.
“Not that I could tell. My father and brother will ride the estate later this morning and assess the damage.”
“How large is your father’s estate? I have been riding the border between Netherfield and Longbourn, and have come to realize it is grander than what we were led to believe.”
Gabe assessed Mr. Darcy. Arrogant the man might be, but he was a landowner of a huge tract of land in Derbyshire and had rightly decided the Bennets were more than what met the eye.
“Longbourn, while not as extensive as Pemberley, is comfortable. Our family has owned their land since the Plantagenets.”
“I say, the Bennet history is as rich and deep as yours, Darcy,” Bingley exclaimed. “Although, I do recall you saying your forefathers arrived with William the Conqueror.”
“That is true.” Darcy conceded with a slight nod of his head. “My family does have deep ties to our lands.”
“My friend Peter tells me Pemberley is quite the sight to see.” Gabe watched the master of that great house carefully. “He opines it might be more impressive than Chatsworth.”
“I will own I am proud of Pemberley,” Darcy conceded. “However, it is not as grand as Devonshire’s home. Few are.”
“Peter’s opinion may be skewed by the fact he was not particularly fond of the late duke.”
“Have you met his grace?” Bingley asked, his mouth dropping open in surprise.
“My brother and I, along with Peter, attended university with his son, Hart and were invited to a house party they hosted last summer.”
“You have mentioned Peter a few times. Is he another minor landowner here in Hertfordshire like your father?”
Gabe longed to knock the superior look from Darcy’s smug face. His father was no minor landowner. The boundary of Longbourn estate encompassed approximately eight miles at its widest point, not including Netherfield Park.
“Peter’s main estate is in Derbyshire, although he owns property near Meryton, which his family uses for hunting parties and a quick summer escape from town.” Gabe did not tell the gentleman the estate he referred to was known as Stoke House.
“You said he owns land in Derbyshire?”
“I did.” Gabe decided to drop crumbs of information, wanting to see how far down the path they’d follow before realizing the truth. “Quite close to Pemberley, to be more exact.”
Let us see what Mr. Darcy makes of that. Gabe suppressed a grin. He could tell Darcy was beginning to put the pieces together, confirmed by his next question.
“Would your friend, by chance, be Peter Stokes?”
“He would, indeed.”
From the blank expression on the faces of Bingley and Hurst, neither of them knew who Peter Stokes was. But Darcy did, and Gabe held that man’s gaze, knowing an adjustment in attitude would soon follow. It was the way of the ton. They curried favor with those who held titles, and the Earl of Thedford was a powerful friend.
“How is it your family knows the Stokes?”
“As I said, he owns property close to Meryton and is a close friend of me and my brother. We practically grew up together. Unsurprisingly, our fathers struck up a friendship and, to this day, continue to try and outmaneuver each other in chess.”
It was a small movement, but Darcy’s left eyebrow twitched. Better and better. Now the great man knew of their close connection to the Marquis of Dorchester, Peter being his heir. Gabe heard movement in the hall and knew Miss Bingley would be joining them in a few minutes. He looked at Darcy, allowing his disdain for the man to show completely on his face.
“Do you wish now you had given consequence to a young lady who was not slighted by other men but had sat out two sets because there were not enough gentlemen to dance with?”
My, oh my, how I love humble pie.