Authors: Elizabeth Ann West
Tags: #Jane austen fan fiction, #pride and prejudice variation, #pride and prejudice series, #Jane austen
The Fourth Season of Serendipity
W E S T
© 2015, Elizabeth Ann West. All rights reserved.
To contact the publisher, please write to
41 Silas Deane Road
Ledyard, CT 06339 or email
Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.
ALSO BY ELIZABETH ANN WEST
By Consequence of Marriage
What if Darcy never saved Georgiana from the clutches of Wickham? First novel in the Moralities of Marriage series.
The Trouble With Horse
Darcy falls off a horse, Elizabeth saves him and the whole town is talking about it! A sweet historical romance novella.
A Winter Wrong
First book in the Seasons of Serendipity novella series. When Mr. Bennet dies of an epidemic, Elizabeth Bennet learns that the kindness of a stranger can be quite dashing! A sweet, historical romance novella.
A Spring Sentiment
Second book in the Seasons of Serendipity novella series. It's going to take all of the Bennet sisters to get Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth to march down the wedding aisle!
A Summer Shame
Third book in the Seasons of Serendipity novella series. The honeymoon trip of Darcy and Elizabeth is a crowded affair and Jane learns London Society is a scandal waiting to happen.
Original novel, a modern romance told mostly from the male point-of-view. A robotics engineer becomes engaged to his perfect match when a previous one-night stand shows up to return his shirt. Pregnant. And it’s his.
To my husband, because without your love, I am lost.
Catherine Bennet stared at the navy blue drapery across the dining room as Lady Matlock’s voice droned on in regard to table settings.
. . . and so if the lady is a peer in her own right, the precedent still remains with the lady of the realm whose husband holds the higher title — Miss Catherine, are you paying attention?” The Countess of Matlock glared at half her young charges as she called on Kitty.
Georgiana Darcy nudged her friend with her elbow, startling Kitty out of her daydream. Kitty’s distraction had been envisioning the look on her mother’s face when she at last held a leather-bound volume of her story to present. Quickly, the young woman from Hertfordshire attempted to recover from her rudeness.
I apologize, we were learning about the forks. The fish fork, the meat fork, the salad fork…”
Lady Matlock crossed her arms. “Honestly, your sisters never gave me such trouble. I don’t know why I’m bothering to spend my time –”
We are appreciative, Aunt Maggie. Kitty was lost but a moment. Perhaps we could take a break and resume later this afternoon? I confess I too am a bit lost about who proceeds whom into a room based on the titles of courtesy.” Georgiana applied to her aunt’s kinder sensibilities.
Suspiciously, the older woman eyed the girls and noticed the indifference both held for the topic at hand. With still six months until either would debut, the grand lady relented. “Oh, you two have convinced me!”
The girls shared a shy smile. “What am I to do when I’m so hopelessly outnumbered?” Lady Matlock gave a conspiratorial wink to her niece.
Oh thank you! Thank you! I’m utterly famished!” Georgiana pecked her aunt’s cheek and grabbed Kitty’s hand to quit the formal dining room and forget the many place settings they were expected to memorize.
Lady Matlock watched the girls exit the dining room. She did have her own agenda to fulfill this morning. Smoothing her skirts, the grand lady left the formal dining room through the servants’ door and walked down the hallway into the back quarters of the town home. She felt a slight dizziness as she navigated the narrow stairs to the lower levels.
As the servants spied their master’s aunt, all snapped to attention in anticipation the lady was there to find fault. Lady Matlock wandered the kitchens for less than a minute before someone fetched Mrs. Kensington, the housekeeper.
Milady, what a lovely surprise! Is there anything I may help you with?” No true deference attended Mrs. Kensington’s voice. Although Lady Matlock outranked her, she was still in the employ of Mr. Darcy, not the Countess of Matlock. The kitchens in service of Darcy House were under her purview.
You are indeed the woman I wished to engage. I am working with the girls to help teach them the proper manners and expectations of a lady of the household, and I was wondering if you might have some time to sit with us and help explain the ways in which the lady of the house works with her housekeeper for menus, household budgets, and the like.” Lady Matlock’s voice smoothed faster than silk. With a plastered smile in place, she sincerely hoped this one would take the bait.
One way or another, Margaret Fitzwilliam determined to uncover who amongst the Darcy staff traded in gossip about the master and mistress away in Scotland. When she arrived unexpectedly a few weeks before, she was dismayed to find Miss Mary Bennet summoned to the house for questioning about the Darcys’ plans. If the culprit interested in such information was who she thought it was, it was well known Lady Catherine de Bourgh would bribe none but the highest rank of servants for espionage.
Thank you, madame, for the invitation. I confess I am much too busy this afternoon, but perhaps Thursday of this week would suffice?”
Yes, Thursday afternoon would be lovely. If you have any old notes or examples from Miss Darcy’s mother’s tenure, it would be most welcome.”
The housekeeper nodded and Lady Matlock was relieved to quit the steamy, dingy servant’s quarters of Darcy House. She passed the girls huddling over the post in the morning parlor, finished with their repast, and in finding she had no interest in listening to the raptures of young maidens in their correspondence with other young maidens, she instructed the footman to see to the two girls as she was to take a rest in her room.
Climbing the stairs to the family apartments, Margaret Fitzwilliam hoped the business keeping the Darcys in Scotland would soon reconcile itself and she could find relief as foster guardian to Georgiana. There was still much to do for her son Richard and Miss Mary Bennet, including a formal agreement between the two. Juggling the lives of so many young people in her charge was becoming tiresome.
In the morning parlor, Kitty traced the edge of the fine linen paper addressed to herself with a return mark of London. She dreaded, yet was anxious to know, the contents of the letter within. For two weeks, she had painstakingly rewritten her manuscript and sent it off to a London publisher of ladies novels. She had not hoped to hear back so soon.
Well if you shall not read it, hand it to me. I’m dying to know what the publisher said.” Georgiana eagerly extended her hand for her friend’s letter.
Gingerly, Georgiana Darcy pulled open the letter sealed with emerald green wax. Her eyes shifted through the contents and she gasped.
Kitty, with her eyes pinched shut, waited and held her breath. Upon hearing not a word from her friend, she carefully opened one eye. “Well, what is it? What does it say?”
Georgiana released a breath and inhaled to fill her lungs. “We regret to inform you we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts from ladies at this time. It is our practice to work with gentlemen and their appointed agents in the handling of proper contractual obligations. Sincerely yours, Edmond Simon, publisher.”
Kitty snatched the letter from Georgiana’s hands to read over the rejection herself. Her mouth opened in horror and she fell into the chair beside her to complete the dramatic reaction.
As her tears began to fall freely, she crumpled the letter into a ball. Her thoughts raced before she could stop them. “But I worked so hard! They didn’t even have the decency to return the manuscript!”
Georgiana kept her counsel for a moment before an idea sprang forth. “What if . . . what if they thought you to be a gentleman?”
A man?” Kitty ceased her crying thunderstruck at the very idea of impersonating a man.
How long will it take you to write your manuscript again? If I helped?”
Kitty furrowed her brow and considered the question. “I think each writing two chapters a day, we could finish within a fortnight. I had begun again, out of nerves you see.”
We must hurry!” Georgiana moved as if she was to leave the room but paused as Kitty called out.
Wait! I don’t understand. What is this plan?”
Georgiana turned around with her back to the door, her hands poised on the golden knobs. “I’ve seen you, you can copy almost anyone’s hand. We shall send your manuscript again and this time you can sign the letter with my brother’s name. I have plenty of letters for you to practice his signature.”
We cannot! If he finds out, I’ll be banished forever.” Kitty followed her sister Lydia into much mischief, but the old Kitty was gone. New Kitty was to be an accomplished lady, a lady of writing.
Georgiana shook her head. “They’re still in Scotland for at least another month. If we hurry and write to the publisher again he should write back before Fitzwilliam even returns and we will intercept the letter so he’ll never know.”
Catherine Bennet bit her lower lip and weighed the risk involved with her friend’s plan and the epic reward if the manuscript should be accepted. Her artistic desire won out over her common sense and she nodded her head in agreement to the plan. Georgiana smiled and turned to open the door suggesting they begin right away. As soon as she opened the parlor doors, a footman was there and she nearly ran into him. Both girls giggled nervously, and Georgiana apologized to the servant before clasping Kitty’s hand so they could go upstairs together.
I’ll have to send for some more paper,” Kitty mentioned as they rushed up the stairs.
We will both send for more paper so no one will ever suspect anything is amiss. They’ll simply think we’re writing letters!” Georgiana whispered as they quietly tiptoed down the hall.
While Lady Matlock rested, the two young ladies labored meticulously all afternoon, managing to transcribe three chapters each and feeling well on their way to making Catherine Bennet’s novel a published one.
The late-summer sun rested upon the tired shoulders of Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam as he gleefully rode his trusted steed, Hercules. The Colonel and Hercules moved as one entity, an alliance forged on the battlefields of the Continent. The beast deserved as many decorations as his rider.
Richard amused himself by whistling a lively Irish aire as he slowed Hercules to a mere trot. Traveling to Somerset to inspect the promised estate of Grover Downs with his father, Richard had forgotten how slowly his father liked to travel. A trip of this length, for him and Darcy no more than two days there and back, was already on day four. Another five miles and the old man would insist they stop once more for another rest.
In frustration, Richard reached up and batted an errant twiggy branch already surrendering to autumn’s rusty brown on the edges of the leaves. A military man through and through, a plush carriage for too long would spoil his rugged nature and at the last inn he had released Hercules to run free for a spell. Lazily slowing the horse to a walk around a bend in the road, a crossroads appeared in the distance.
As the duo approached the major road crossing, Hercules’ ears twitched.
Easy now, easy now. I don’t care for the feel of it either.” Ever the cautious man, Richard straightened in the saddle and held the reins exclusively in his left hand with his right ready to pull his saber. Shrubbery on the northern side of the road shook unnaturally. Hercules snorted and his ears popped into a rigid stance.