The Darcys left early the next morning for Surrey. Because of the presence of Elizabeth’s nurse in the carriage, Anne and Fitzwilliam were not able to converse on the subject foremost on their minds as they traveled to see Arthur and Helena de Bourgh at her family’s estate. They had sent a message ahead to warn their cousins of their unscheduled visit. Helena was expecting their first child soon. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, were also at Thigston for the birth of their first grandchild.
It was a long journey for the family; Darcy was cramped, Anne was exhausted and Elizabeth was fretful. Anne’s cousin Arthur greeted them when they finally exited the carriage.
“Anne, Darcy! We received your message that you would be arriving this afternoon! Come in, come in! Helena is anxious to see you and your daughter.”
“Please forgive the suddenness of our visit.”
“Nonsense. We are happy to see you again. Come inside and refresh yourselves and then you can tell us what has dragged you to Surrey.”
The Darcys were grateful for the genuine hospitality offered by the Simpsons and de Bourghs. All four of them were gracious despite the near rudeness of arriving practically unannounced. Anne was quick to show little Elizabeth to Mrs. Simpson and Helena. Thankfully the child wanted nothing more than to sleep through the introduction. The couples spent time reacquainting themselves. It had been over seven months since they had last seen each other. Eventually the elder couple realized their guests wished to speak with Arthur and Helena alone; they made their excuses and retired for the night, leaving the younger people to their conversation.
“Now that our parents have so generously left us alone, will you tell us why you have made this impetuous journey?”
“Darcy, you never arrive unannounced on someone’s doorstep. I know you sent a note, but you know what I mean.”
Anne and Fitzwilliam shared a look.
“Is there something wrong?” Arthur asked.
“Yes, no. We do not know.”
“Is someone ill?”
“No, your family is well.” Darcy stood and started to pace. Anne sat with her hands in her lap, twisting a handkerchief, her eyes examining the carpet.
“Has something happened at Bingley’s?” Arthur shared a concerned look with his wife.
Darcy did not answer. Anne looked up.
“Fitzwilliam, please sit down. Your pacing is making me more anxious.” After he was seated, Anne, now composed again, continued. “I suppose it would be easier if we started at the beginning. As you know, we were invited to Hertfordshire to a house party at the estate Charles Bingley has taken. I did not wish to go, thinking Elizabeth was too young to travel, but my husband prevailed. We had just arrived when we were told of a local assembly to be held that evening in the small nearby town of Meryton. When we arrived, a most extraordinary introduction took place…” Anne and Darcy then related the entirety of their acquaintance with the Bennets and their trip to Rosings to confront Lady Catherine. At that point, Darcy had the portrait of Mrs. Bennet brought out and both Arthur and Helena were amazed.
“Good lord, Anne. That could be you!” Arthur exclaimed.
Upon further inspection, Helena noted, “The eyes are slightly different, but that should not be surprising.”
Then they were told of Anne’s portrait and young Anne Bennet.
“I do not know what to say, Anne. You are still my cousin, but then again, you were not born my cousin. Not that it matters; you are still Anne de Bourgh Darcy. I assume the issue of Rosings has already come up?”
“Yes…” Darcy said warily, having no way of discerning Arthur’s motives.
“Oh good grief, Darcy! I am not plotting how to steal Rosings from Anne. I highly doubt my uncle would not have provided for Anne after he adopted her – albeit in a rather suspicious circumstances. If he had any scruples about giving Rosings to Anne, he would have made sure the estate would go elsewhere. His will did name Anne as his heir, correct?”
“It would seem so. Lady Catherine kept a copy of it at Rosings in the event that the deception ever came to light. Our uncle, Lord Perryton, is in London investigating the matter, but it appears Anne is the legal heir, despite how she came to be a de Bourgh.”
Anne looked at her cousin. “You are not angry with me?”
“By all rights, Rosings should have been yours.”
“Rosings was my uncle’s to do with as he pleased. There was no entail, he could have left it to whomever he saw fit.” Arthur sat next to Anne. “I reconciled myself to this a long time ago, Anne.”
“No, Anne. What is done is done. Helena, tell her.”
“Anne, Arthur and I have spoken about this many times. He bears no grudges over Rosings.”
Anne bowed her head in retreat. She would address the question of Rosings’ ownership with them later.
“What of your other family, the Bennets?” Arthur asked in an attempt to change the conversation.
Darcy responded. “They seem to be honest and respectable people. Mr. Bennet owns a small estate in Hertfordshire near Bingley’s residence. They have seven children, besides Anne, ranging from two and twenty to ten years of age. Anne now has five sisters and two brothers. Only one, Jane, is older than Anne. We really know very little about them.”
“But we intend to become better acquainted with them as soon as possible,” Anne added. “I have had the chance to spend some time with two of the Misses Benn…of my sisters, Anne and Catherine, on our journey and at Rosings.”
“I think my wife is excited to have brothers and sisters after being raised as an only child.”
“Then we will be happy for you,” Arthur said with obvious pleasure.
“Thank you,” Anne replied sincerely, just as obviously pleased with her cousin’s generous support.
“What is to be done now?”
“We will wait to hear what our uncle discovers. For now, we will return to Hertfordshire and if asked, will only admit that Anne is a cousin to Mrs. Bennet. I think we should remove ourselves from the neighborhood before people ask too many questions, though. It is Anne’s hope that the Bennets will join us at either Rosings or Pemberley immediately following our exodus.”
“That sounds like an excellent idea. I know I speak for Helena in telling you how happy we are to see you, under any circumstance, and that we hope you find the answers you seek. I know I appreciate that you came to speak with us in person, and as soon as you uncovered Sir Lewis and Lady Catherine’s secret.”
“We would have you hear such news from us.”
“I know, Anne. I have never had any reason to doubt you.”
“Pardon me for waking you, sir. Mrs. de Bourgh is asking for your wife.”
“Is there anything wrong?”
“The baby is wanting to be born, sir. My mistress was hoping Mrs. Darcy would come.”
Anne had donned her robe and come to stand next to her husband. “I will come immediately.” She squeezed her husband’s hand and gave him an apologetic smile. “Please take me to her.”
Helena was resting in between contractions when Anne arrived. Mrs. Simpson and the midwife, as well as Helena’s lady’s maid, were there as well.
“Thank you for coming, Anne,” Helena said wearily.
“Of course! You know I would do just about anything for you and your husband.”
Another contraction came and Helena was nearly doubled over. Anne held her hand and whispered encouragement to her dear friend. When the pain had passed, Helena kept a hold of Anne’s hand and pulled her closer.
“Does it get much worse than this?” she panted, trying to catch her breath.
Anne laughed. “A little, but then it will be over and you will have brought a child into this world. The memory of the pain quickly fades away the first time you hold your newborn babe. The pain will seem insignificant in comparison to the abounding joy you will experience.”
Helena de Bourgh lay back against the pillows and closed her eyes, a faint smile gracing her features once again. She gave a small nod of her head and rested until the next birthing pain.
The women continued in their vigil all night and through the dawn. Darcy had dressed after his wife had left and gone to keep Arthur and Mr. Simpson company until there was news of the child.
Finally, the sounds of a newborn child were heard. The midwife told the new mother that she had a fine, healthy son. Anne, who had earlier slipped away to change out of her nightclothes, went to find the men and bring her cousin to meet his heir.
Arthur left to see his wife and the newest member of his family as soon as Anne had finished relaying the news.
Darcy drew his wife into an embrace, kissing the top of her head.
“You look happy… and exhausted.”
Anne laughed. “I am, both. It was a long night. Come, I have a sudden urge to hold Elizabeth and then I think I will lie down for a while. Will you join me?”
Darcy could not refuse, nor did he wish to. He too longed to have his daughter safely in his arms.
Mr. and Mrs. Simpson were justifiably overjoyed with the birth of their grandson. Arthur could not stop grinning.
“You are starting to remind me of Bingley, de Bourgh,” Darcy said dryly.
“And I seem to recall a man I know from Derbyshire feeling just as ebullient about three months ago. Perhaps ebullient is not the correct word… delighted might be more appropriate. He is never one to effuse about anything.”
“Except for his wife and daughter.”
Arthur laughed. “Very good, Darcy! We understand each other completely.”
Darcy raised his glass in salute. “To our children.”
Once the meal began in earnest, Arthur could not resist teasing his cousin. “Anne, I was just thinking. Perhaps we should try and attach our children like your mother did with you and your cousin. The results speak for themselves.”
“Elizabeth and your son? Arthur!”
“I hardly think Fitzwilliam’s and my union was the result of anything other than prudence and the happy chance we fell in love.”
“Why could it not be the same for our children? We can suggest the match and leave it up to them to secure it. I think the years of your mother’s speaking about her wish that you marry Darcy worked splendidly.” Arthur broke into a huge grin. “Oh Anne, the look on your face! I am joking, of course!
“That is not funny, Arthur,” Anne said quietly.
He saw she was in earnest. “I apologize, cousin. Of course I was not serious. I should have been more circumspect considering your errand. In my defense, I only see how happy the two of you are and how happy I am with my Helena and… well… my good sense ran away from me for a few moments.”
Anne managed to smile at his concern. “I have known you too long to doubt your sincerity, but let us move on to more important things. Have you decided on names?”
“Malcolm Andrew George de Bourgh. That is, if you and your husband will consent to being godparents?”
A less tremulous smile graced Anne’s face; both she and Darcy expressed their delight in the honor and pledged to return in a month’s time for the christening. They also confirmed their original design to leave in morning. They needed to hasten back to Hertfordshire.
“Papa! Mama! You have returned.”
“So have you, it appears.”
“We did not expect you before Monday.”
“The rest of the party left Kent this morning and we thought it best to do so as well.”
Mr. Bennet looked pointedly at the unknown man.
“May I present Sir John Whitby of Slaton Manor in Surrey? Sir John, this is my father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. George Bennet.
“Papa, Sir John is a guest at Netherfield and has been kind enough to see me home safely from visiting Jane.”
“Heavens! Is Jane still ill?” Mr. Bennet said with some alarm. Mary’s reply to the letter had implied Jane would be home within a day.
“She is much improved, Father.”
“Indeed, sir,” concurred Sir John. “She was well enough to come downstairs for a few minutes this afternoon. Miss Bennet expressed a hope of returning home in the morning after church. Of course, Miss Bingley has offered the use of their carriage due to the uncertainty of your return.”
“Ah yes. Well, thank you for the report on my eldest daughter and escorting my second eldest home. If you will excuse us…”
“I should be returning to Netherfield,” Sir John agreed with the dismissal.
“Will you not come in for some tea?” Mrs. Bennet asked, trying her best to mask the panic in her voice.
“You have just arrived, I really should be on my way.” Sir John knew the master of the house would rather have a chance to shake off the dust of the road before being burdened with entertaining an unexpected guest.
“NO! I mean,” Mrs. Bennet continued more calmly, “we may have just arrived ourselves, but we are always ready to offer hospitality at Longbourn. I insist you stay and take tea with us whilst the servants see to our things.”
Not wishing to offend the lady of the house, Sir John acquiesced. He felt all eyes were on him. His courage rising, he stood a little taller – though it made no difference – and offered his arm to escort Miss Mary into the house.
Ensconced in the parlor, Sir John was introduced to the other members of the Bennet family. Of course he remembered Miss Kitty from the assembly, though he had not had a chance to ask her to dance before Mrs. Bennet became indisposed. Mary served him his tea, and soon Mrs. Bennet began her interrogation. She asked him about Slaton Manor and offered her condolences on the passing of his parents.
“And how long will you remain in Hertfordshire?” Mrs. Bennet inquired.
“My plans are not yet fixed, but I hope it shall be many more weeks, at least!”
“Excellent! You are always welcome here, Sir John.”
“Thank you. madam. I must take my leave of you now so you can recover from your journey. I am sure we shall meet in the morning at the church.”
“Oh yes, and my dear Jane!”
“She is anxious to return to her home.”
“Thankfully it appears that she had nothing but a trifling cold. You must extend our gratitude to your hosts for nursing her back to health.”
“It will be my pleasure.” Sir John stood. “I have lingered much too long. Good day to you all.”
“Good day, sir. Mary, will you please see Sir John out?”
Mary blushed, but did as her mother bid.
While they waited for his horse, they stood in full view of the house.
“You will be relieved to have your sister return.”
Mary smiled. “Yes, Jane was missed.” She thought of another sister who would soon return as well. A return twenty years overdue.
“I hope you and Miss Bennet will be able to call again at Netherfield, in complete health.”
“I would like that.”
“Your mother wishes for me to call again. Would you welcome my visit as well?”
“As Mama has said, you are welcome at Longbourn.” Mary refused to say more – at this time. The stable boy brought Sir John’s horse around and helped him to mount before any conversation could continue.
“Good day then, Miss Bennet.” With a tip of his hat, Sir John rode away.
Mrs. Bennet wasted no time in rhapsodizing over her guest.
“A baronet! You have done well for yourself in the days we were in Kent.”
“Mama, Sir John knew how preoccupied I have been worrying over Jane. He merely ensured that I traveled to Netherfield and back in safety yesterday and again today.”
“He is smitten with you, mark my words! He may be a little shorter than you, but what does that matter! He is a very eligible catch! And estate all his own!”
“What of Kent?”
“Kent? Kent! Your father wishes to speak with everyone after dinner. Our news can wait until then. You must tell me everything about your Sir John. Such charming manners!”
Mary sighed. Once her mother caught wind of a man being even remotely interested in one of her daughters – usually Jane – she would not rest until she knew all. In truth, Mary had little to tell, but Harriet Bennet was determined to have her daughter say it all at least four times and four different ways before dinner. After-dinner conversation was reserved for another daughter; Lydia, William and Henry would be surprised to learn which sister!
Jane Bennet was well enough to return to Longbourn after Sunday services. Thank heavens she had traveled to Netherfield in the Bingley carriage instead of on horseback, as she would have had Miss Bingley not offered other transport! Jane would have been forced to ride Nellie to accept the invitation and been caught in a downpour on her way to Netherfield, surely the cold would have been much worse.
Despite her poor health, Jane had enjoyed her time with the Bingleys. Miss Bingley was all that was kind and Jane took pleasure in their many conversations. Mrs. Hurst also proved to be a well-informed woman. But most treasured were the minutes when Jane was well enough to leave her room and meet with Sir John and Mr. Bingley! Her initial impressions of the latter gentleman had proven correct. He was ever so amiable! He took great pains to see to her comfort, offering to rearrange her chair in front of the fire so she would be neither too hot nor too cold. He had even touched her arm once while they conversed. The room did seem too warm at that moment but she was too embarrassed to mention her discomfort. It was just as well that she remained silent; soon she was feeling her normal self.
Mary had come twice to visit her, but neither time could her sister remain for long. The news that their sister Elizabeth had been found was the chief topic of conversation when they were alone. Both hoped that Mrs. Darcy would return with the rest of their family. Therefore, when Jane arrived at the church, she was disappointed to find her family had returned and the Darcys had not.
Mr. Bennet called his eldest for an audience in his book room.
“Are you well, Jane?”
“Yes, sir. I could possibly have returned home last night but Mr. Bingley beseeched me to remain one more night to assure him that I was fully recovered.”
That statement, and Jane’s attending blush, caught Mr. Bennet’s attention. He merely raised his eyebrows.
“You have told my brothers and sisters the news?”
“Yes, last night after supper. Kitty and Anne knew of course. I spent much of the journey home stressing the importance of keeping such information in the family. I did the same last night. I am not worried about William and Henry’s ability to be discreet. William is much like you, quiet and serious. Henry admires him enough to emulate his behavior. No, your brothers will do as I ask. My main concern is your sister Lydia. She is much too much like her mother – prone to gossip and nary a sober thought in her head.”
“How then shall you assure her secrecy?”
“Ah, Jane. Sometimes one is forced to be cunning. You know how much both Lydia and your mother have pleaded for Lydia to come out this year?”
“You are not thinking of allowing it? She is much too young! None of us have come out so soon.”
Mr. Bennet laughed and patted his uncharacteristically agitated daughter. “No my dear, however I would think of threatening to move her coming out back if she does not keep her tongue.”
Jane looked relieved. “I should have known you hard worked out a solution.”
“Do not be distressed, my dear. It has been a trying week for all of us.”
Jane looked down at her hands; they were folded in her lap. “And what of my sister and brother, will they return to the neighborhood soon?” she asked quietly.
“Mr. and Mrs. Darcy traveled to Surrey yesterday to speak with her cousin. They will stop in London on their way to Hertfordshire. I believe Mr. Darcy wishes to meet with his uncle and they need to inform Miss Darcy.”
“Of course, they have family to inform as well. I should have thought of that.”
“They will arrive soon enough. I know you are anxious to meet you sister. She has a child. A daughter named Elizabeth.”
“That is… remarkable.”
“Hmm, yes. Well, we shall get to know them and they shall get to know us. For now, if anyone remarks on the family resemblance, we shall tell them that Mrs. Darcy is a cousin of your mother. I know this is not exactly the truth, but it is what has been decided for the present.”
“I do not understand,” Jane said, a little hurt, “why my sister does not wish to claim her rightful place.”
Mr. Bennet sighed. “Jane, it is not so simple due to Elizabeth’s upbringing and marriage. Anne Darcy is a very, very wealthy woman with many obligations. She is, and rightly so, concerned and confused as to what this all means. She may loose her inheritance over it. Thankfully, her husband’s wealth is great, and they would not be left paupers if the worst came to pass and Rosings reverted to her cousin.”
“Fortune before family?”
Mr. Bennet had never seen his eldest so… cynical. “I would not characterize Mrs. Darcy as mercenary. I understand that you are disappointed that they have not returned with us, but they have very valid reasons for not traveling to Hertfordshire straight away, as I told you.”
“It is only that we have waited for so long; I supposed I thought she would be as eager to meet us as I am to meet her. I am being very silly, I know.”
“You have been ill, and had too much time alone to worry. Patience child. It will all turn out well in the end. Elizabeth will soon discover what the rest of us already know, that you are to be valued and admired.”
“Shall we call her Elizabeth?”
“No! Mrs. Darcy or Anne, depending on company and situation. I discussed this with her personally, though you may wish to ask her what she prefers yourself.”
The twenty miles or so from Kent to London gave the earl plenty of time to think. The revelations of the day before had profoundly shocked him. That Anne was not his real niece, that she had been maliciously taken from her family, and that Lewis deBourgh was the architect of it all was beyond belief. He remembered his brother-in-law well. He was a man Harold Fitzwilliam respected and liked. He was proud to call him brother. But Lewis was also a man of integrity and secretly adopting a child did not sound like the man he knew.
Lord Perryton would talk to his wife when he returned, but he would not tell Georgiana the purpose of his errand to Kent. Fitzwilliam and Anne would be in Town in a few days and wanted to impart the news to Georgiana themselves.
Until they arrived, he had much to do. A note must be dispatched to the deBourgh’s solicitor Monday morning requesting a meeting as soon as possible. Lord Perryton also needed to appoint someone to inquire after the names Mrs. Stuart had given him whom were involved in bringing Anne to Rosings. It occurred to him that they should have someone take a look at the household accounts from 1790 through 1792, at least, to confirm to whom payments were made. This was something he would need to discuss with Anne and Fitzwilliam to gain their permission. Darcy had already given him charte blache to investigate the will and the co-conspirators, but this was far enough away from the terms of their discussion that the elder man would not have felt comfortable proceeding without the consent of his nephew and niece.
Fortunately, Georgiana did not seem too curious about her uncle’s quick trip to Kent. Lady Perryton was not so apathetic once she was alone with her husband. He recounted everything.
After a few well-placed gasps, hands to the bosom, and very sincere – but extremely elegant – tears, Alice Fitzwilliam was ready to hold forth.
“The poor dear! It must have come to her as a terrible shock! And none of us had any idea! What was Catherine thinking agreeing to such a scheme?”
“That, my wife, is a very good question.”
“And Fitzwilliam, how did he take the news?”
“His only concern was Anne.”
“Yes, they did make a love match after all. It is a good thing too, now that he knows her common origins.”
“I would hardly call being born the daughter of a gentleman common.”
“Yes, well in comparison to being the granddaughter of an earl, it is quite a step down.”
“She still is, by adoption. Catherine has no intention of disowning her now that it is known that Anne was not her daughter by birth.”
“I never inferred that Catherine would do such a thing. And she was prepared to never tell anyone that Anne was the offspring of some unmarried union. Heavens, from what you said Sir Lewis might have even thought her to be a foundling! Thankfully she does have parents who are gentry, otherwise, imagine the social consequences for Fitzwilliam, and by extension, our family.”
“If Anne had been a foundling, no one would have been the wiser. It is only because she is the daughter of a gentleman that her true identity was discovered.”
“I wish they had never gone to Hertfordshire. It would be best if this was never uncovered, for all of us.”
“What of the Bennets?”
“What of them? Oh, I imagine they are ecstatic about finding their daughter so well situated, much better than they could have provided for her, if what you say about their situation is true.”
The earl sighed, a little annoyed with his wife. “One of things I intend to find out is the circumstance of Anne’s family. I grant you that it may not be a connection we would willingly encourage, but we have little choice now. They are her family. There is no doubt; the evidence is too strong to deny it. However, if there are any questions about the state of affairs of the Bennets, Anne and Fitzwilliam should know.
“When will they tell the rest of the family, our family?”
“I expect them in Town Monday or Tuesday. They will speak to Georgiana and then I believe they will return to Hertfordshire, perhaps taking Georgiana with them. I must stress that you are not to breath a word of this to our niece until Anne and Fitzwilliam have the chance to do it themselves!”
The note the earl had prepared was delivered to the deBourgh Solicitors first thing Monday morning. Within a half hour, a response was sent back to Lord Perryton. Mr. Simmons would be free to see him the rest of the day at his lordship’s leisure.
Lord Perryton presented his card an hour later to a clerk and was quickly ushered in to see Mr. Simmons.
“Milord, how may I be of service? Your note mentioned you are here as a representative of Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy?”
The earl handed the man a sealed letter from the just-mentioned gentleman. Mr. Simmons read the missive with a raised brow.
“If you will excuse me, I will have the papers brought in immediately.”
When he returned, Lord Perryton was eager to read the documents. The other man waited patiently ready to answer any questions.
“Are you familiar with the terms?” The earl asked.
“Vaguely. I was still old Mr. Hedges clerk when the will was re-drawn. Within a few months Mr. Hedges had decided to retire and I was asked to take over for him. My apprenticeship was nearly over and Mr. Hedges, and his partner at the time, Mr. Randolph felt I was competent enough to step into the position.”
“Do you remember anything unusual?”
“No sir. I believe Mrs. Darcy had been born a few months before and Sir Lewis wished to formalize her as his heir. There is nothing unusual about that.”
“But the way he referred to his daughter, by her christening and not her birth. Did that not raise any suspicions?”
Mr. Simmons took a deep breath and released it. He leaned slightly forward in his chair.
“Lord Perryton, when I began this profession it did not take me long to understand that it was as much my job to protect my client’s property as it was to protect their privacy. Everyone has something they wish to hide from general knowledge. I would hazard a guess that even you, milord, have your secrets. I was instructed by my employer to write the document in a certain way and I knew enough not to question those directions.”
The earl frowned. “Mr. Hedges was the one who spoke with Sir Lewis?”
“Is Mr. Hedges still living? Maybe I could speak to him.”
“You do remember that it has been twenty years since he retired? However, he still lives. Though you must not get your hopes up. He is very frail and his mind is gone. Even if, by some miracle, he could answer you, there is no way of knowing if what he says is true or just a twisted bit of fantasy. He cannot be taken as a credible witness to anything other than the ravages of old age.”
The earl understood the warning he had been given, but he was determined to follow every clue. He obtained the address of the retired solicitor and spent the remainder of the interview asking questions about Sir Lewis’ will and the other documents pertaining to the ownership of Sir Lewis’ estate. There was one point of interest to his lordship.
“The final will was not significantly different from the previous one. Other than naming Anne deBourgh as his heir, and providing for the birth of additional children, the other conditions remained the same. If Miss deBourgh had not come into her inheritance, the estate would have been disbursed as provided in earlier versions with Rosings Park eventually going to Arthur deBourgh. Lady Catherine would have been very well provided for with what Sir Lewis left to her from the remainder of the estate. Even with Miss deBourgh inheriting the bulk of it, Lady Catherine was generously provided for, considering the meager dowry she brought into the marriage.”
“Lady Catherine would have received more had it not been for Anne?”
The Darcys arrived at their London townhouse late Monday evening. It was fairly obvious to Fitzwilliam that all the traveling exhausted both his wife and his daughter and that a good night’s sleep was imperative. The call to Alton House, and the meeting with Georgiana, could wait till the morrow.
Georgiana Darcy was the next person who needed to be informed. In many ways, this was the one conversation Anne dreaded most. She wondered how the young girl, finally recovering her spirits from the Ramsgate debacle, would take the revelation. Would Georgiana look at her differently? Would being sisters be enough now that they were no longer cousins by birth? Anne hoped it would be, for she had loved Georgiana for many years, and the thought that she would think less of Anne was a possibility too painful for contemplation.
Georgiana showed her confusion and delight over seeing her brother and sister, hugging Anne and giving Fitzwilliam a kiss on the check.
“I thought you were in Hertfordshire!”
“We were, but then something called us away,” her brother answered. Before they sat, he addressed Georgiana’s companion. “Mrs. Annesley, we need to speak to my sister alone. Would you please excuse us?”
“Certainly, sir. Miss Darcy, I will be in my room if you have need of me.”
Once the door clicked shut, the three remaining in the room took their seats. Georgiana looked back and forth at her brother and his wife, whilst they kept glancing at each other and looking at her.
Unable to wait any longer, Georgiana asked, “Will you not tell me what it the matter? Why are you here? What has happened?”
Anne looked to her husband and he gave an almost imperceptible nod. She turned her attention to the girl sitting across from then.
“Georgiana, I hardly know where to begin… When we were just in Hertfordshire we met someone unexpected.”
“Of course you would meet new people, why would it be unexpected?”
“I am not expressing myself well. Yes, we knew only the Bingley party when we arrived and anticipated forming new acquaintances in the neighborhood. We just had no idea there would be family of mine there.”
“Oh! You have de Bourgh relations there.” Georgiana brightened, that was not so dreadful.
“No, not de Bourghs, Bennets.”
“I am sorry, I did not know you had family named Bennet. Are they cousins of your father?”
“No… Mr. Bennet is my father. Georgiana, I was adopted. I met my real parents, and my siblings.”
“It cannot be!” the girl cried. “There must be a mistake.”
“No dearest, there is no mistake.” Fitzwilliam interjected. “I saw them with my own eyes Anne was born Elizabeth Bennet.”
“But… but how…?”
Very gently, Anne and Fitzwilliam told the stunned girl all they had learned over the past week. Both women shed a few tears as the story unfolded. At some point, all three of them ended up sitting on the same couch with Georgiana in the center.
“We need to return there in the morning.” Darcy explained when he was done.
“May I come with you?”
“Fitzwilliam,” Anne interrupted, “I think Georgiana should come if she wishes.”
“But her studies?” he protested.
“They can wait.” Anne squeezed Georgiana’s hand. “I would feel better if my sister was by my side.”
“I am not your only sister now.” Both elder Darcys could hear the uncertainly in her voice.
“I may have other sisters but I doubt I will ever be able to love them as I love you. We grew up together, and have shared too many things for me to love you any less.” Anne leaned forward to look at her husband. “Please, indulge me and write to Bingley?”
“Very well,” Darcy was an expert in indulging his wife, “but we will not be able to travel until Thursday.”
“I could use the rest, and I know Elizabeth could as well. Her poor nurse – being dragged about the country on some wild chase.”
“Where else have you been?” Georgiana asked, intrigued by the return of some of Anne’s normal playful banter.
Anne told her sister of the journey into Surrey and the good news of the birth of her cousin Arthur’s heir. Darcy excused himself to speak to his uncle.
Lord Perryton recounted his meeting with Mr. Simmons. Darcy agreed on the wisdom of searching through the accounts to verify Lady Catherine and Mrs. Stuart’s version of the events of 1791.
A note was dispatched in the care of the Darcy currier to Netherfield. A reply was received late that night. Georgiana was more than welcome.
Wednesday was spent shopping for small gifts for Anne’s new siblings while little Elizabeth remained at the Darcy residence resting and reviving her good temper.
On Thursday morning was time for Elizabeth Bennet, known now as Anne Darcy, to return to the home and to the family that before the Tuesday of the week previous, she never knew were hers to have lost.
End of Part 3