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Without Pride Or Prejudice Pride and Prejudice Fanfiction

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                     Without Pride Or Prejudice -- Section I
                                       By Dawn R.

                                  Section I, Next Section


                                           Part 1
                              Posted on Monday, 19-Oct-98
The Austen household was alive with activity. One of their own was returning home after
six long weeks. Although it would not be entirely accurate to say Elizabeth Bennet lived
       there, she did occupy Elizabeth's room eight out of twelve months last year.
 Jane Bennet, her elder sister, married Dr. Andrew Austen three years previously. After
   the wedding ceremony, Jane and Andrew went forth to Austen House, Dr. Austen's
family home in London. There they took up residence with Andrew's father, Mr. Edward
                                         Austen.
All agreed Dr. Austen would pursue his medical practice in the impoverished districts of
that fine town, without charge to his would-be patients. Whereas many people had their
doubts of the propriety of such an activity, Mr. Austen gave his full support to his son's
                                        endeavor.
   Mr. Austen was considered a progressive by many of his fellow men. He held social
status and class discrimination in low esteem, valuing merit and personal attributes above
  individual wealth and birthright. As a man not prone to discount the plight of the poor,
Mr. Austen took great care of the men and women who worked in his service, referring to
them as "attendants", not what he considered the degrading term of "servants". Of course,
    he could afford to be charitable in his opinions as well as his finances, for he was a
 wealthy man who could want for nothing material. The only aspect of his life he would
        consider lacking was in family members to share his generous nature with.
When Andrew married Jane, she brought a large, diverse group of people into their small
circle. For the most part, it could be said Mr. Austen enjoyed his inherited relatives. As in
  most extended families, there are always an individual or two who attempt to spoil the
   harmony between others, whether it be motivated by spite, greed, jealousy, or simple
  ignorance. His daughter-in-law's family was no exception. Over time, Mr. Austen took
    instruction (by watching Jane) on the fine art of ignoring the "spoilers" and guiding
 conversations to leave no opening for a display of bad behavior. He constructed a sport
   out of this new activity, mentally keeping score on how many times he washed over a
             nasty comment, or changed a subject matter without being obvious.
Mr. Austen's tendency to derive felicity from life was a great source of enjoyment to his
family and friends; it was often commented "a visit to Austen House would elevate one's
 spirit". Rarely did a day go by when there were not callers eager to visit with any of the
                                 three fashionable Austens.
  When Elizabeth Bennet was in residence, the numbers of callers (particularly single
 gentlemen who may or may not be searching for a wife) noticeably increased. She had
   once been described as possessing an air of dignity, uncomplicated by conceit and
 pettiness, but with just enough independent thought to make her interesting and fresh.
 When combined with her pretty face and abundance of wit, she stood a good chance of
                          being looked upon with a friendly eye.
 Also noted in her representation, although more men considered it as a challenge than
 not, was that no man had yet won her heart. Her lack of a proper dowry did keep many
would-be suitors away, but the independent gentlemen who not need concern themselves
  with bettering their financial position through marriage came to inspect this woman.
   Elizabeth took her celebrity in stride. She did not find it distasteful, for who in her
 position could? Rather, she received great diversion from the young men and what she
                             called their "quest for a wife".
    She understood the matrimony process well enough to apprehend that she would be
saving them all a great deal of time if she were put in a display case and sat out in front of
 the house. Eager gentlemen could then simply pass by and judge her, saving them all the
 inconvenience of polite conversation in the parlor. Of course, she reasoned that it would
     get rather hot and tiring standing outside all morning, surrounded by glass. Not to
                  mention that a chair to sit on would simply be improper!
This was Elizabeth's attitude, and it kept her from taking the attention too seriously. She
had yet to find a man enter into Austen House who could possibly tempt her. It was not
as if her expectations were too lofty and unapproachable, but she would never consider
                 entering into the married state without the deepest love.
    Elizabeth had the advantage of observing her sister's marriage, and she used it as a
comparison point, right or wrong, on which to base her standards. Jane and Andrew were
  the happiest of couples. Their intimacy was of the best sort for it was based on mutual
  respect and admiration. Even in the most content of marriages, there would always be
  tensions and misunderstandings, but the Austens vowed to resolve such difficulties as
soon as they arose. Their union proved to Elizabeth marital bliss could exist, despite what
 she had observed from her own parents, and she was determined to never settle for less.
Elizabeth was a confident woman who took a great deal of care in forming her opinions,
but she was not infallible. There were times when her judgment was proven wrong, most
                             often at great expense to her ego.
A gentleman had affected her once and only once, but she realized his true nature before
it was too late. Mr. Ian Dobbs came to call last year in September. An Irish gentleman of
 noble decent, he appeared all that was genteel and handsome. His personal fortune was
    estimated at 8,000 a year, although it possibly could have been more. He presented
himself well, wooing Elizabeth and the Austen family with unaffectedness and elegance.
  If it was not for his love of brandy, he may have succeeded in gaining a wife. Fate was
 not working for Mr. Dobbs's though, and after consuming a wee bit too much one night
 during cards, his other side was unveiled. Mr. Dobbs was a belligerent drunk, cross and
                                          barbarous.
 Two days after the brandy episode, he returned to apologize to the family. Being good
  Christians, they accepted his apology with forgiveness. It was at this point where Mr.
Dobbs may have confused forgiveness with forgetfulness, because he went about asking
for Elizabeth's hand not five minutes afterward. Needless to say, he was promptly turned
                            down and ushered from the house.
The amount of time Elizabeth spent at Austen House grew with each visit. Jane, in unison
with husband and father-in-law, enjoyed her company and had grown to depend on it. To
            them, Elizabeth was as much a part of the family as they were.
 The event of last year made Elizabeth uncomfortable in her mother's presence, for Mrs.
   Bennet was informed of the refusal of Mr. Dobbs and voiced her displeasure over it
 often. This being the situation at home, Elizabeth sought the refuge her Austen family
  afforded. It was not simply for a bed to sleep in, but for the people who resided in the
house. She had grown quite relaxed in her London surroundings; it nurtured her need for
a loving, stimulating environment. Here she was free to express herself -- within reason.
The exposure to clever, philosophical people aided in expanding her understanding of the
world. She now realized she could never go back to being the naive country girl she had
                                        once been.
The carriage delivering her from Longbourn to London reached the outskirts of town. She
    felt the tension of the prior six weeks leave her. Gone were the hurt feelings, the
                     frustration, and dread of being away another day.
                           Elizabeth Bennet was almost home.


                                         Part 2
                             Posted on Tuesday, 20-Oct-98
   The Austen men were gathered in the parlor with their guests. Mr. Austen or "Papa
     Austen" as he preferred to be called by family, was pacing the room, paying little
   attention to the other gentlemen. Every few minutes he would peek out the window,
 believing he heard a carriage pull up, only to find none. The anxiety of having Elizabeth
traveling through the streets of London at this busy hour was wearing on his patience. He
     worried after her as if she were his own child. In fact, in his mind, she was like a
     daughter. Her disposition matched his more closely than his son's. Andrew was a
 compliant man, always seeking harmony, while Mr. Austen and Elizabeth would rather
                  spend their time arguing over the definition of harmony.
Mr. Austen was fiercely proud of his son. Andrew was an honorable man, who had found
 the perfect balance of heart and mind to lead him through life. He had thought Andrew
might someday have been lead to missionary work and now he was doing just that, safely
  in London as opposed to a far away country. Instead of spreading the Gospel, he was
                              healing the bodies of the poor.
   After working the slums for the past two years, Andrew saw a need for more than
 medicine and bandages. Improper nutrition and hygiene, lack of essential clothing and
 supplies were common denominators in the households he visited. Andrew knew if he
  could supply these items to the neediest of people, their constitution would improve
greatly. He was determined to raise funds for this mission. Many wealthy connections he
had, what he lacked was advice on the best way to go about asking for donations. Charity
 was foreign to many in his circle; most people voiced the opinion that the destitute were
    simply too stupid to better themselves, so why give them the means to live longer?
  Defeating inherited prejudice was more difficult than Andrew had expected, hence the
 reason he called upon a few old friends today to seek their guidance. Andrew had hoped
his father, being the eloquently persuasive speaker he was, would help him in stating his
                                            plan.
Andrew could not avoid noticing his father's lack of attention this morning. He decided it
would be best to explain what had his father's attention, so the others in the room would
                  not think it was based on indifference to his cause.
       "My wife's sister is arriving today, and Father is impatient for her return."
                    Andrew turned to his father and smiled broadly.
                  "How late is she, Father?" he asked in a playful tone.
               Mr. Austen looked at the clock on the mantel and frowned.
               "Ten minutes!" He replied as he went back to the window.
    Andrew turned back to his guests. "She is ten minutes late gentlemen," he teased.
Whenever someone he cared about was late, Mr. Austen was reminded of another time,
another trip that haunted him. Five years ago, on a beautiful March day, very much like
this one; his beloved wife Margaret was involved in a carriage accident that claimed her
 life. Her death affected him greatly, and it was many years until he was himself again.
 Jane entered the parlor as her husband was quizzing his father. She did not approve of
 him making light of the poor man's suffering, but trusted Andrew's discernment on the
     issue. Andrew had been dealing with his father's unease longer than she had.
          "Poor Papa," she sighed as she crossed the room to join her husband.
All eyes turned to the direction of her voice. Andrew held out his arm to her, inviting her
  to join him. Her face lit up when she recognized one of the gentlemen; the other was
                                         unfamiliar.
   She was a sight to behold as she almost floated to her husband. Admiration clearly
showed on the faces of all present. When Jane was secured at his side, he turned to make
                                    the introductions.
      "Mr. Bingley," Andrew announced, "may I introduce my wife, Mrs. Austen."
     Mr. Bingley bowed. What an angel, I have never seen a more perfect woman.
               "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Bingley."
                                  "And yours, Madam."
 Jane greeted the man next to him, granting him a full smile. In the past month she had
 grown fond of her husband's friend. He received her complete respect and admiration.
 "Mr. Darcy, it is always a pleasure to see you." She said with genuine warmth. "I hope
                              you and your sister are well."
 "Quite so, thank you. Dr. Austen informs me that you are expecting company. I do not
                    wish to invade your reunion with my presence."
       "Oh no, Mr. Darcy. I would be most pleased to introduce my sister to you."
"Yes, Darcy, you and Mr. Bingley should meet her. It seems as if every time she is here,
                           you are gone." Andrew added.
   Mr. Darcy gave his hostess a small smile. "It would be my pleasure, Mrs. Austen."
 A pleasure it would not be for Mr. Darcy. He had been introduced to enough "sisters" to
know he should be on his guard. It seemed to him as if every man in England had a sister,
 a cousin, or some other dependent female relative hidden away in a closet, waiting for a
  man of good fortune to come to call. No, he was not in the mood to meet a future bride
today. He did owe Mrs. Austen every courtesy, though, and this conviction propelled him
                                         to stay.
 Mr. Darcy did, though reluctantly, have to admit a small amount of curiosity. He heard
about Miss Bennet from several of his London acquaintances. She had been praised to the
   skies, something he found amusing. He wondered how a poor country gentleman's
  daughter could attract such attention. If she favored Mrs. Austen, he would accept she
 could be a beauty, but surely she was nothing more than a weaker version of her sister.
  He knew that rarely, if ever, did a family produce two exceptional daughters. In most
 cases, the most promising was given all of the attention, leaving the others to live in her
                                           shadow.
  Desiring to expose his sister to the proper behavior of a lady, he had been fostering a
    relationship between Mrs. Austen and his younger sister Georgiana. Mrs. Austen
  graciously took Georgiana under her wing, spending several mornings a week in her
company. This gave Darcy great pleasure, for Georgiana at seventeen was still painfully
shy and uneasy in company. It was his aspiration to see her develop the quiet composure
                  and confidence Mrs. Austen displayed with such ease.
 He would do as Mrs. Austen wished and wait for her sister to be introduced, but he was
not willing to let himself be one of the fawners who came to offer their respects. He cared
 not how handsome or fine she reportedly was. Mr. Darcy stood firm, there would be no
                                    Miss Bennet for him.
  Mr. Bingley, on the other hand, was most anxious to meet her. From what he was told,
she was a woman worthy of admiration. Mr. Bingley had been feeling lonely lately, as if
 he had a void that needed filling. He was not quite sure what was missing from his life,
    other then a proper estate, but he reasoned within himself that it might indeed be a
 woman. All around him were signs pointing him in that direction and lately he had been
  witnessing them in spades. Happy couples walking down the street, children in prams,
 laughter coming from established homes, the indicators were becoming clear. Even his
 sister Caroline had recently become engaged, and he had questioned whether she would
 ever find a man who could please her. Soon she would join his eldest sister in the ranks
  of the wed, leaving him to be the only single family member. He had visions of nights
spent in the company of his bachelor friends, playing cards and talking politics. This was
   not an appealing thought to Mr. Bingley; his happy countenance could only stand so
                                       much boredom.
  Mr. Austen came away from the window and joined the others, as the conversation
continued. Mr. Darcy was alarmed at Andrew for speaking of fund-raising in front of his
wife, but the Austens' marriage was a modern one in his mind. He would never behave in
                    this fashion, but it did seem to work for Andrew.
  Mr. Darcy was about to pledge his support when someone calling out in the hallway
                                   interrupted him.
 "…And a lady travels all the way to London. When she arrives, does her family greet
her? Nooooo! She is left to fend for herself." Elizabeth entered the room, beaming from
                                       ear to ear.
   "Elizabeth!" cried Jane. "We did not hear you enter!" Jane rushed to hug her sister.
"Elizabeth! I was just about to send Andrew out on a search for you," Mr. Austen called
                    to her, much relieved. "I did not see you arrive."
   "Papa Austen, I have missed you!" Elizabeth laughed as she gave him a kiss on the
          cheek. "I had Smyth stop down the block so I could surprise you."
    "Well, how did you find Longbourn? Was all well with your parents?" he asked.
 The smile on Elizabeth's face tightened slightly. A moment of unspoken understanding
 passed between the two. She had confided in Mr. Austen the situation with her mother.
  Mrs. Bennet's treatment of her daughter grieved him deeply. He had a strong desire to
 protect Elizabeth from any unhappiness. He felt her family at Longbourn was a definite
       source of unhappiness, but he would never dissuade her from visiting them.
 "All is the same, they are well and in good health," she replied, "thank you for asking."
   She held up a letter she had in her hand. "I bring you a gift from the country, Sir. A
                                  message from Father!"
            Papa Austen's eyes lit up, for he knew what the letter contained.
          "And on what new subject shall our debate be?" he asked innocently.
 Mr. Austen's correspondences with Mr. Bennet were of the lively sort. They both had a
  passion for a good argument, and in each other they had found a source of intelligence
and discrimination that added to the pleasure of exchanging ideas and ideals. Each debate
 comprised of three letters from each side. Elizabeth was judge and jury when it came to
   choosing a winner. She thoughtfully considered each position offered and rendered a
        decision. The standings currently were Mr. Bennet three, Mr. Austen two.
                          Elizabeth leaned in to whisper to him.
      "He will not tell me and has requested I do not judge this particular contest."
  Mr. Austen was intrigued. He opened the letter right away and read the first few lines.
 The subject was a dowry. Mr. Bennet would take the con view, since he was a father to
 five girls. Try as he might, Mr. Austen could not help laughing out loud. This was a far
                  cry from their last topic- the existence of multiple Gods.
   "I agree with your father's assessment!" He laughed and wrapped his arms around
            Elizabeth to hug her. "We have missed you terribly, Elizabeth."
                         "And I all of you," she whispered back.
Darcy had been watching their exchange with interest. Miss Bennet and Mr. Austen were
 openly displaying their affection for each other and it was making him uncomfortable.
Dear Lord, she is embracing Andrew now! Darcy could feel his cheeks getting hot. This
  country lass is rather forthright. Did she not notice there are others in the room?
      Andrew offered her his arm. "Elizabeth, may I introduce you to our guests?"
                "Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, this is my sister, Miss Bennet."
 Elizabeth curtsied and gave them an embarrassed smile. In her excitement, she had not
                                  noticed the visitors.
       "Gentlemen, please forgive my entrance. Mr. Austen does love a surprise."
  "Mr. Darcy lives three houses away from us. I have known him since I was a child."
                                Andrew informed her.
  "It is a pleasure to meet a neighbor, Mr. Darcy." She smiled pleasantly at him. "Dr.
Austen has mentioned your name before, but I was beginning to believe you a phantom."
  Mr. Darcy could not help but return the smile, although it showed the signs of being a
            confused one. He knew he needed to say something, but what?
                "I have been away traveling," was all he could blurt out.
   Elizabeth was now the one confused, so she turned her attention to Mr. Bingley. He
    struck her as a pleasant sort of man, with his curly blond hair and sparkling eyes.
  Mr. Bingley gave her a large smile. He found her delightful. Expecting her to appear
 more like her sister, he was surprised by the opposite. One look at her and he knew that
                  before him stood cheerful maiden, carefree and joyous.
   Mr. Bingley was thankful for Dr. Austen's invitation today, even if he really had not
   wanted to come at first. A discussion on alleviating the suffering of the poor had not
  excited him, but his chance meeting with Miss Bennet made the dullness of the earlier
 intercourse fade away. It was not as if Mr. Bingley did not care for the underprivileged,
but he would have much preferred to draw up a draft, without being subjected to all of the
                                          details.
Mr. Darcy watched as Mr. Bingley and Miss Bennet started up an animated discussion on
 the merits of London in the springtime. He observed how Miss Bennet spoke with her
         hands and the way her eyes twinkled when she said something clever.
  "Miss Bennet, will you be joining us day after tomorrow?" Mr. Bingley asked with a
                             permanent smile on his face.
             Elizabeth looked perplexed. She knew of no plans being made.
Mr. Darcy spoke up, not allowing Mr. Bingley's ill-timed remark cause discomfort to the
                                       group.
"I have issued an invitation to the Austens for the theater in two days' time. It would be a
  pleasure if you could be a part of the party. My sister Georgiana and Mr. Bingley will
                                     also be attending."
 Darcy was surprised at himself. It was a rare occurrence for him to issue an invitation;
                        especially to someone he had just met.
   "Thank you, I accept your kind invitation, Mr. Darcy. May I ask, what play will be
                                     performed?"
                                 "Shakespeare's Othello."
  The smile on Elizabeth's face dropped and for a moment she said nothing. Darcy was
  convinced he had inadvertently offended her. Granted, Othello was not a play for the
   faint of heart, but he did not see the harm in a lady attending this particular drama.
"Mr. Darcy," she said slowly, "I have longed to see Othello. It has been a favorite of mine
 for some time. I do believe I have read it fully five and twenty times. I am most grateful
    to have the opportunity to see it performed in a place other than my imagination."
  Mr. Bingley, who originally dreaded the idea of spending the night at the theater, had
 now revised his position. If Miss Bennet were excited at the prospect, he would be, too.
 He made a mental note to reread the play when he returned home, although he was sure
                               only to get past the first act.
   Mr. Darcy bowed to Elizabeth's acceptance. When he looked up, Elizabeth had an
    inviting look on her face. He wondered if she expected him to discuss the play's
 dynamics with her. He had never had a deep discussion with a woman on Shakespeare's
 works before, and was not sure how to proceed. He decided to once again remain silent.
Elizabeth wandered around the room as the callers began to take their leave. Jane and Mr.
  Austen were standing by the window, pouring over Mr. Bennet's letter. An occasional
laugh was heard from their quarter, but they spoke too softly for Elizabeth to understand.
    The other three gentlemen were stationed by the hearth, finalizing plans for a later
                                         meeting.
  Elizabeth was becoming restless. She had not seen her nephew yet today, and she had
   missed him greatly while she was away. She approached Andrew and waited for an
                                   opening to speak.
 "Andrew, would it be considered terribly impolite for me to excuse myself? I have not
          yet visited Evan and fear he may forget me if I wait any longer."
              "Not in the least, Elizabeth. You will find him in the nursery."
                           Elizabeth curtsied and left the room.
 The gentlemen took their leave a short time later. As they were exiting the room, Darcy
 heard the Austen's young son let out a squeal. He looked in the direction of the nursery
                            and saw a most interesting sight.
Evan Austen had obviously escaped his confinement, running down the hall as fast as his
  legs would take him. From behind him came Miss Bennet, scooping him up. She then
twirled around in circles, holding the lad at arm length and laughing just as arduously as
 the boy. It was a scene of pure unadulterated joy and playfulness. Darcy experienced a
flood of memories awakened in him, when he had been privy to an exhibition similar to
               this one. It was one if his fondest memories of his mother.
                         Mr. Darcy hastened to leave the house.
Outside Mr. Bingley waited for him. Right away he started expressing his assessment of
                                    Miss Bennet.
 "Darcy, have you ever met a more lively lady in your life? Her spirit positively amazed
                  me. Why did you not inform me of her existence?"
"I have never been introduced to her until today," he bluntly stated, wanting the subject to
                                       be dropped.
Mr. Darcy was not on the mood to listen to his friend at the moment. He was much more
concerned with his own thoughts. Long ago he learned not to take Bingley's infatuations
  too seriously because his friend was a man prone to fall in and out of love quickly.
The differences in their temperament never interfered in the loyal friendship they formed,
            and they had been friends for longer then Darcy could remember.
           Mr. Bingley continued to rattle on and Mr. Darcy only half-listened.
            "…And the prettiest blue eyes I have seen!" Mr. Bingley gushed.
                   "They are brown," Mr. Darcy said under his breath.
                            "What, Darcy? I did not hear you."
                "Nothing, Bingley, we have arrived. Shall we go inside?"


                                          Part 3
                             Posted on Thursday, 22-Oct-98
That afternoon, Elizabeth confided in Jane and Mr. Austen the details of her visit home.
   Her father and sisters had warmly welcomed her, yet her mother still maintained her
   resentment. Mrs. Bennet continually made references to Mr. Dobbs and his offer of
marriage. Elizabeth counter-attacked by telling her mother in no uncertain terms that she
would never marry a man whom she did not love. This escaped Mrs. Bennet's ability to
  reason. She did not understand how any woman could turn down a man of such great
 fortune and connections, especially a woman like Elizabeth, who had little to offer the
                            union! The trip ended in a stalemate.
 During most of Elizabeth's visit, Mr. Bennet remained secluded in his library. Once he
did come to Elizabeth's defense, but for the most part, he stayed out of the way of mother
 and daughter. Elizabeth was disturbed by her father's lack of assistance. He had agreed
with her a year ago when she refused Mr. Dobbs, but he would not silence his wife on the
                                          subject.
 Elizabeth found her sisters to be in the same condition as she left them the last time she
was at home. Each was pursuing their interests, without discipline or management. Mary
was becoming more distant from the world, while Kitty and Lydia were becoming more a
part of it. She had genuine concern over the fate of her younger sisters, but not enough to
 stay at Longborn with them. The girls had grown so independent in thought; no longer
                        would they accept her advice or guidance.
After a lengthy discussion on possible options they could offer the younger Bennet girls,
it was decided individual invitations to Austen House would be extended to each. Mary
would be first since she was the eldest. Elizabeth held high hopes that with the effort of
                Jane, Andrew, and Papa Austen, progress could be made.
        Mr. Austen was the first to mention the subject of the morning's visitors.
       "Elizabeth, give me your first impressions of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley."
   "Well, Mr. Bingley appears to be a happy man, quite pleasant. He speaks with an
 expression that indicates a demeanor of ease and comfort. If I were to make a wager, I
would say he was not an avid reader or participant in things unpleasant. Am I close, Papa
                                       Austen?"
"I do not know dear, today was my first meeting with him," he chuckled, "Now tell me of
                                      Mr. Darcy."
                            Elizabeth thought for a moment.
"I do not know about Mr. Darcy. At first I thought him haughty, but when he issued me
 the invitation to the theater, it was if he were nervous and shy. What is his wife like?"
           "He has no wife. Why would you think he had a wife?" he asked.
"An assumption on my part. Generally speaking, a man in his position and age must have
                           a wife to complete the picture."
        "No, no wife. There is only a sister, he lost his parents many years ago."
                                 "Oh," she replied softly.
 Elizabeth was ready to move to another topic, but Mr. Austen could see a change in her
facial expression when he mentioned Darcy's lack of a spouse. He was very interested in
  her initial reaction to the man. Fitzwilliam Darcy had long held a soft spot in the older
  man's heart. He had watched him grow up from a content lad to a serious young man.
 Darcy's care for his younger sister had been exemplary since his parent's death. He was
 forced to grow up quickly, and succeeded in running his inherited estates with the same
 pride and care as his father had. Mr. Austen had waited for an opportunity for Darcy to
                                       meet Elizabeth.
His intuition told him that they may be well suited for one another, but he would go no
further than to introduce them. Fate, luck, or whatever other element that existed would
         have to tend them past the introduction, for Mr. Austen was no Cupid.
 "I believe," he began again, choosing his words carefully, "that you will find Mr. Darcy
to be a reserved gentleman. Once I heard a woman call him proud and uncivil, but I have
never seen him behave in any manner but of the highest standard. We must remember he
 is a single man of large fortune. There are many women in the world who would enjoy
      sharing his wealth and connections, but he has the wisdom to protect himself."
                          "Why was he here today?" she asked.
               "Andrew was looking for suggestions on his fund-raiser."
  "Mr. Darcy is going to assist Andrew?" Elizabeth had not expected Mr. Darcy to be
      interested in Andrew's charity work. He did not appear to be a liberal man.
   "Yes, he has pledged his support to the cause." Mr. Austen allowed the topic to be
     dropped; sensing Elizabeth had many preconceived impressions to rearrange.
 Elizabeth pondered Mr. Austen's words throughout the day. Mr. Darcy certainly was a
handsome man, but she would not allow herself to dwell for long. She reckoned any man
possessing the qualities of a Mr. Darcy would have no need to turn to a country girl like
                                        herself.
The next morning dawned bright and beautiful. As was her habit, Elizabeth rose before
 the rest of the family and was dressed by eight. She enjoyed stealing away to the park
across the avenue every morning she was able. There was a certain bench, nestled in the
trees, which granted her the feeling of being in the country. She would spend an hour in
  quiet meditation, listening to the birds or reading. Treasured were the days she could
                          wake up knowing the park awaited her.
  As Elizabeth neared her bench, she noticed it occupied by a gentleman. Agitated, she
  turned away. She had never encountered anyone this early in the park before and was
   vexed at the invasion this man represented. She stormed through the park; muttering
 insults aimed at the unknown intruder under her breath. A reasonable woman would of
 taken another seat and made the most of the situation, but Elizabeth would not. She did
not desire being out in the open, watching carriages pass by or deliveries being made. To
her, only complete seclusion would allow her the illusion of country privacy. She vowed
to wake earlier tomorrow to claim her seat, a precaution against losing her morning ritual
      again. Elizabeth crossed the road and returned home in the foulest of moods.
   Mr. Darcy laid his book of sonnets down on the bench. His train of thought had been
interrupted when he heard a noise behind him. Seeing nothing, he concluded it must have
              been an animal. He picked up his book and continued to read.
This day brought a different Darcy visitor to Austen House. Miss Georgiana Darcy came
                   to call along with her companion, Mrs. Annesley.
Elizabeth's first reaction to Miss Darcy was one of surprise. Her resemblance to Jane was
uncanny; she could have easily been mistaken for Jane's sister. This caused Elizabeth to
  be instantly captivated by her. She observed that, although obviously shy, Miss Darcy
 had an aura of agreeableness about her. Following her intuition, she slowly engaged the
   young woman in conversation. Jane had informed Elizabeth of Miss Darcy's love of
music, so she directed the flow of dialogue in that direction. By the end of the visit, Miss
 Darcy was at ease enough to issue an invitation to the sisters for the next morning. Jane
 had to refuse; she had already made plans to visit a new acquaintance with Andrew, but
                                 Elizabeth accepted happily.
 Upon her arrival home, Georgiana stopped by her brother's study to inform him of her
                                      return.
                "William, I am home," she said quietly from the doorway.
  He looked up from his ledger and motioned her to come in. The smile on Georgiana's
 face told him of the success of her meeting with Miss Bennet and he could not help but
  be relieved. Miss Bennet was an interesting creature, but he had been concerned that
                     Georgiana might have found her overpowering.
                            "Was it a pleasant call?" he asked.
   "Yes, very pleasant. I have taken the liberty of inviting Miss Bennet to come to call
                    tomorrow. I hope this meets with your approval."
Suddenly Georgiana was nervous about her bold move. She had not asked permission to
                                   bring so...

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                    Serenite78

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       Twilight of the Abyss.doc (271 KB)
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     The Role of a Lifetime(1).doc (522 KB)

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