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Even More Consequences From A Call

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Chapter 3

 

Day 1 on the road to Pemberley
Monday, December 3, 1810

 

“Are you sure I should have brought my carriage, Darcy,” Reginald Hurst asked.

 

“Yes, most definitely,” Darcy answered. “How much abuse would your staff have taken from Miss Bingley if she was denied use of a carriage that was sitting in the mews?”

 

“No wonder Beech looked relieved when I told him he would be joining me after all,” he said thoughtfully.

 

“I rarely travel further than Lambton after it snows. Wiggins performs detailed maintenance on my carriages and I will ask him to start with yours this year,” Darcy offered.

 

“He should do mine last to be sure yours are completed,” he argued. “I will reimburse you for your staff’s time.”

 

“Nonsense Hurst, you will be my guest, I could never accept payment. I am asking Wiggins to start with your carriage because he is not familiar with the equipage. What if he has to make parts? It could take a lot longer. If you feel the need, I would not object to you speaking with Wiggins to ask what his staff needs to make the winter easier.”

 

“I never would have thought about the parts,” he said sadly. “I truly have a lot to learn. For example, not just giving Wiggins money. I will have my butler or housekeeper send whatever is needed from London.”

 

“Might I offer another suggestion?” Darcy asked. At his nod Darcy continued, “Check Lambton before you write to London. Business from the estate helps the village. My staff have instructions to start with our stores. There are items, such as my favourite coffee, that I have sent from London. In Lambton you will find Georgiana’s dressmaker, the cobbler who makes all my boots, the tailor who makes my clothes, and the blacksmith partners with Wiggins when repairs are beyond his capabilities.”

 

“My father never mentioned any of this,” he said while shaking his head. “I should not be surprised, like his father before him, he leaves the management of the estate to the steward. His training on estate matters consisted of showing me where to look at the bottom of a quarterly profit statement and introducing me to the solicitor. I believe my first order of business will be to purchase a journal from the store. I will be taking copious notes.”

 

“We will visit the cobbler too. Your boots are appropriate for London, but Derbyshire feels much colder than London because it is so windy and you need new ones if you will be joining me outside in the muck,” Darcy said. “Come, we are on a long open stretch of road, let us join Georgiana and Maggie in the carriage. You are not used to riding long distances yet.”

 

“Why would it matter where we are,” he asked after Darcy informed Wiggins and Georgiana of their plan. Darcy answered as they were attaching their horses to the back of the carriage.

 

“I really have no cause to worry, but a wide-open space means fewer places for people with nefarious intentions to hide.” At his shocked expression Darcy continued, “As I said, there is no need to worry. Wiggins and the footmen have asked about highwaymen every time we stopped and they are all armed. Having your carriage along helps too, it makes our party look larger. Hurst, I take the protection of those I care about very seriously.”

 

“Maybe the next village we stop in will have a store,” he muttered as he climbed stiffly into the carriage.

 

“Mr. Hurst, are you injured?” Miss Darcy asked.

 

“No Miss Darcy, I am well. It has been a long time since I have ridden horseback this far,” he answered while sitting down gently. He chose not to think about how many days it would take his muscles to stop throbbing.

 

“I understand, and empathize,” Miss Darcy said. “I remember when William was teaching me and Maggie to ride. He had to make me attend him on the second day, I was very sore and thought riding again would make it worse. As usual, my dear brother was correct and it helped.”

 

He looked at Maggie before turning to Darcy and asking, “You taught your sister’s maid to ride a horse?”

 

“Of course, I also taught her to shoot. As I said, I take the protection of my sister very seriously. I trust my grooms to ride with Georgiana, but Maggie is the daughter of my housekeeper at Pemberley. Mrs. Reynolds’ family has worked for mine for generations. My valet and Wiggins are her nephews, my butler is her husband, and my cook is her cousin,” Darcy explained. “Maggie was born a few years before Georgiana, when Mrs. Reynolds was an upper maid. When Georgiana was born, it was decided Maggie would become her maid when they were old enough. Maggie took lessons with Georgiana to ensure she had all the knowledge necessary to protect her. What if she was asked to give Georgiana a letter and did not realize it was from a man? Georgiana could be considered compromised and forced to marry. What if Georgiana was riding with a groom and one of them was hurt? Should my sister be left alone and unprotected waiting for help or be made to ride to Pemberley, unescorted, for help?”

 

When everyone in the carriage burst into laughter, Hurst knew he must have an incredulous look on his face.

 

“I continue to shock you. Yes, the Darcy’s allow servants to marry. When a maid is found to be in a delicate condition, they inform the housekeeper and, if necessary, their duties are changed so they may continue working and are kept out of sight of guests.”

 

“I say! I had heard you were a liberal master, but this is beyond the pale,” Hurst exclaimed and noticing Miss Darcy’s discomfort he apologized. “I am sorry, Miss Darcy. I did not mean to scare you. I was simply surprised.”

 

“I am not scared, Mr. Hurst,” Miss Darcy responded, looking uncomfortable.

 

Darcy shared a look with him before interjecting, “Georgiana, is something wrong?”

 

“No brother,” Miss Darcy answered softly.

 

“Miss Darcy, please do not think that I am upset. It was simply unexpected, but now that I think about it more, I am intrigued. Do the maids return to work after they give birth, Darcy?”

 

“Some do but most do not, it depends on their situation,” Darcy answered. “My grandmother’s maid fell in love with and married grandfather’s valet. They tendered their resignations, but my grandparents refused to accept and I cannot but agree. I shudder to think about Murray leaving my employ, I trust him implicitly and rely on him heavily.” Darcy paused and Hurst saw him physically shake. “When their first child was born, the current Mrs. Reynolds, she was sent to live with her grandparents in a pensioners cottage. My grandmother was a liberal mistress and when they were in Derbyshire, she allowed her maid to see her daughter as much as possible.”

 

“And from there it continued,” Hurst guessed. He was awed at the kindness of this family.

 

“You would not look down on a servant in that condition, would you Mr. Hurst?” Miss Darcy tentatively asked.

 

“Miss Darcy, I am going to be at Pemberley for five months. Please do not be afraid you will offend me by asking a question,” he said gently. “To answer you, no I would not. I am continually amazed and humbled at how well your family takes care of your servants and estate.”

 

Miss Darcy gave a relieved sigh and smiled. Hurst saw a look of comprehension cross Darcy’s face.

 

“Little Star, were you worried about Sally?”

 

“Yes brother. I am sure Mrs. Reynolds would keep her out of sight, but I am relieved we do not have to end her employment,” Miss Darcy answered.

 

“Sally? An increasing maid?” he guessed.

 

“Yes Hurst, very much so. She is expected to start her confinement within a fortnight. Her husband works in the stables, his name is Wiggins,” Darcy said wryly. “Georgie, I would never release Sally. If necessary, Mrs. Reynolds knows to move staff to the dowager house temporarily. Now Maggie, what book do you have there?”

~*~

Day 2 on the road to Pemberley
Tuesday, December 4, 1810

 

The next day, after they stopped for a midday snack and her brother and Mr. Hurst had joined them in the carriage, Georgiana Darcy was staring out the carriage window thinking about the past week. She could imagine how Miss Bingley reacted to finding out about her sister’s death. Mr. Bingley would sit back, never correct her vulgar and abhorrent behavior, and instead defend her no matter what. She was so very glad William was nothing like the Bingley’s.

 

She looked at Mr. Hurst and wondered how much he suffered.

 

“Miss Darcy, do I by any chance have food on my face?”

 

“No sir,” she responded quietly, feeling her face flush.

 

“Do you have a question?” Mr. Hurst asked. “Remember, I told you yesterday I do not mind answering questions and promise I will not be angry.”

 

Georgiana saw Mr. Hurst grin at her brother and noticed he was shaking. “William! Are you laughing at me?”

 

“No, my dear. Why would you think that?” William asked innocently.

 

“Hmmmph,” responded Georgiana before turning to Mr. Hurst. “I do want to apologize to you, Mr. Hurst. My brother and I should have invited you to stay at Darcy House after the accident. I am worried the week was horrible for you.”

 

“Georgiana, why do you feel the need to apologize?” William asked, looking baffled.

 

“I know how sad I was after my father died and I cannot imagine circumstances at the Hurst townhouse allowed for mourning,” Georgiana answered, her eyes glistening. Her brother reached across the carriage and took her hand.

 

“Little Star, I did offer to let Hurst stay with us.”

 

“I declined Miss Darcy. There were too many things I needed to do and plans to make with my staff.”

 

“Was it horrible for you?” Georgiana asked.

 

“It was unpleasant but not horrible, thank you for asking,” Mr. Hurst answered. “We did have a few heated discussions regarding Miss Bingley’s actions and Mr. Bingley finding alternate housing for them. I felt it was best to arrange for my solicitor to deliver an official warning stating I would not allow them to reside at my home after February twenty sixth. It should be delivered sometime today.”

 

“That was wise, Hurst,” William agreed.

 

“I also called all of my servants together, with the Bingley’s present, to make sure there were no misunderstandings regarding the household while I was gone,” Mr. Hurst continued.

 

“Another wise move, my friend.”

 

Privately, Miss Darcy agreed.

 

“When I returned from your townhouse, I had a frank discussion with my butler and housekeeper. My paternal grandmother passed away before I was born. When I reached my majority, I inherited her townhouse, some jewellery, and half of her dowry. When the housekeeper was ready to retire, Mrs. Mayes, my current housekeeper, was let go by my parents because my sister no longer needed a nanny. She accepted the position immediately and got on so well with my butler, they married.”

 

“I assume your sister inherited the other half of your grandmother’s dowry?” William asked.

 

“I must ask for your discretion on this matter. Based on the conditions of the will, Horace would never conform, but we are her only grandchildren and it appears she split her dowry between us. My grandmother never approved of my father ‘putting on airs’ as she said. She summoned her Cousin Horace and a solicitor to change her will making her cousin executor and trustee of the inheritance. Cousin Horace was authorized to read two paragraphs of the will to her family, which basically said the heirs will be informed when certain conditions are met, until then everything would be managed by him. Grandmother inherited the townhouse and jewels from her mother and because she had no daughter, her marriage settlement gave her rights to determine who would inherit them and her dowry upon her passing. Grandmother’s will forbad me telling my family what I was left. When my sister reaches her majority and is told of her inheritance, everything should be revealed to my parents and we may read the will in its entirety.”

 

“Why did she not leave everything to her husband?” she asked.

 

“Grandfather was a good sort. He knew the solicitor had been called for and had assumed what grandmother ordered. He told me he was happy for me because he really did not approve of his son either. In fact, part of me wonders if it was not his idea. When I reached my majority, my parents could not but know that I inherited grandmother’s townhouse and they were angry. When they saw Louisa wearing one of the necklaces, they knew I inherited at least one piece of her jewels and Venetia tried to force me to reveal everything. Thankfully Cousin Horace was in town and I was able to get a note to him.”

 

“Mr. Hurst, who is Venetia?”

 

“I apologize Miss Darcy, Venetia is my mother. My parents are Ernest and Venetia Hurst. They are both social climbers. If the estate would not have been in need of capital, there is no way father would have arranged a marriage to a tradesman’s daughter. In a way, living with Miss Bingley was like being home.”

 

“You were sold for the sake of your estate?” she asked with tears in her eyes.

 

“In a way, yes. To keep his reputation intact, father never would have considered selling his townhouse. He has asked me many times what his mother’s will said, but I could honestly tell him I was not allowed to read it or disclose what I inherited. The quarterly earnings of the dowry were reinvested and I inherited a nice sum which allowed me to claim independence from my father. It was my decision to marry Mrs. Hurst to save the estate, Miss Darcy.”

 

“How old is your sister, Mr. Hurst,” she asked.

 

“She is twenty, Miss Darcy, and will reach her majority just after the new year.”

 

“Have you seen her recently? Is she married?”

 

“No, I have not seen her in a while and she is not married. My sister has a way of manipulating a situation to get what she wants without you knowing what has happened. It is an amazing talent and thankfully, other than a little bit of mischief, she uses it for good.”

 

“If she reaches her majority soon, your father will lose his control over her,” William observed.

 

“Yes, that has me worried but we do correspond occasionally and so far, she is well. As I mentioned, my mother did not approve of Mrs. Hurst, neither did my father, really, so I rarely see my family. At first, it looked like Louisa and I would get along well and fall in love. After Louisa’s siblings moved in, I found a way to cope. Do not feel sorry for me, I agreed to the wedding,” Mr. Hurst said gently.

 

“Now you have to deal with the Bingley’s,” William added.

 

“Correct, Darcy. Most of what happened this past week were suggestions made by Mr. or Mrs. Mayes. My favourite two are taking all of the jewels to my bank vault and informing Miss Bingley that she will receive a bill for the items she has or will break,” Mr. Hurst finished with a wicked grin.

 

“What about...” Georgiana closed her mouth and finished with, “Pardon me, I am going to read my book.” She saw her brother and Mr. Hurst share a look before speaking.

 

“Georgie, if you have a question, please speak.”

 

“I do not have a question, brother. Thank you for asking,” she said while opening her book.

 

“Miss Darcy, did you have a statement to make?” Mr. Hurst asked. “Remember, you will not insult me.”

 

She bit her lip while thinking.

 

“Little Star, you only do that when you are nervous. Please, speak your mind,” William said.

 

“Well, it crossed... I recalled a conversation the sisters once had in our drawing room. They were talking about a ball they attended earlier in the week and Mrs. Hurst was reminding Miss Bingley that she had not returned the jewellery she borrowed. I wondered if Miss Bingley’s jewellery box was checked and if you have a way to prove what was borrowed versus what belongs to her,” she finished. After her statement, the silence in the carriage was unsettling. She was growing uncomfortable and started to apologize when Mr. Hurst interrupted her.

 

“Do not apologize, Miss Darcy,” Mr. Hurst said still looking shocked. “I cannot believe neither I or my servants thought about what was in Miss Bingley’s jewellery box.”

 

“I never would have thought to look there either, Hurst,” William said. “Do ladies really share their items like that?”

 

“Of course, brother,” she said. “Girls at school borrow ribbons, bonnets, dresses, hats, gloves, spencers, and shoes occasionally if they are the same size.” The gentleman still had shocked looks on their faces so she continued, “Have you ever borrowed a cricket bat or a pen from a friend?”

 

“But that is different,” Mr. Hurst said.

 

“Why?”

 

“It just is,” he responded.

 

“Brother, has Richard never borrowed an item of clothing from you?”

 

“Of course not.”

 

“You mean, to your knowledge he has not. You are the same height and have a similar body shape. Would your clothes fit him?” she asked.

 

“Most likely,” William responded, “but they would not be an exact fit.”

 

“I believe if you asked your valet, he has loaned clothes to Richard’s batman. For example, if he came over and it was a pleasant spring day but got colder before he left? You think one of your coats was not offered, accepted, and returned? Or that time we went walking in the park and it rained?”

 

“Well, I guess I never thought about what would happen in the circumstances you described,” William answered thoughtfully.

 

“Mr. Hurst, do you have a way to prove what jewellery belonged to Mrs. Hurst?” she asked.

 

“Yes, thanks to Louisa, I do.”

 

“What do you mean, Hurst?” William asked.

 

“Louisa demanded her father add an appendix to our marriage settlement outlining the possessions she inherited from her mother with instructions that they were to be held for our eldest daughter.”

 

“Do the items revert to the Bingley’s now?” William asked.

 

“I believe the only stipulation was that if there were no daughters, the eldest son would inherit for his first daughter. They should belong to me as they were her personal property. Louisa also insisted on an inventory of the townhouse while we were on our honeymoon, which would include the pieces I inherited from grandmother Hurst. I thought it was due to her upbringing as a tradesman’s daughter but now I wonder if she envisioned trouble with her younger sister over some of the pieces.”

 

“How detailed is the inventory,” she asked.

 

“The bills were exorbitant, or so I thought at the time. Louisa hired an artist from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell to sketch items. She also had Philip Rundell himself and other specialists come to the house and verify the authenticity of pieces and add values,” Mr. Hurst explained.

 

“I do believe expresses to your solicitor, butler, and bank are in order, Hurst,” William said.

 

“Yes, I must authorize my solicitor to commission the firm to inventory the pieces in my vault. Grandmother was the daughter of an earl, most of her pieces were valuable,” Mr. Hurst said. “I think legally the pieces all belong to me, but I had planned to speak with Bingley and find out if any of the Bingley pieces had sentimental value.”

 

“What happens if pieces are missing?” she asked.

 

“I believe that is why he will be sending an express to his butler too, Georgie,” William answered. “I would give instructions to allow the firm entrance to search the townhouse for pieces not in the vault, with the Bow Street Runners along to witness.” Turning to Mr. Hurst, her brother asked, “Will this affect your plans for the Bingley jewellery?”

 

“I did not think about having the Bow Street Runners witness the process, Darcy. That is a very good idea. I do not know what I will do if pieces are missing,” Mr. Hurst answered. “If there were a few pieces mixed in with Miss Bingley’s jewellery, given Miss Darcy’s recollection that they often shared items, I think they will be taken to my vault. If there are a lot of items missing and it appears to be purposeful... I do not know.”

 

“In good weather, it takes two days for an express rider to travel the distance from London to Pemberley. I think it would be wise for the four of us to discuss your plans. I have a travel desk we can use to take notes while we think about possible issues and questions your solicitor will have. We could send instructions with the initial letter,” William suggested.

 

“The four of us?” Mr. Hurst asked in surprise.

 

“Yes Hurst, Maggie too,” William said with a grin. “Maggie has helped with numerous inventories at Pemberley. She will be able to give details about the process we would not know and scenarios we never would have thought about. That is one thing I learned early on. I give my servants directions and listen to their opinions. If they say something I am asking for is not possible, or could be done more efficiently, I listen. I might not always follow their suggestions, but, for example, if Mrs. Reynolds tells me we do not have the staff to complete a project, I know I need to authorize funds to hire extra help.”

 

“I would also ask your housekeeper to inventory your townhouse,” Maggie added. “If you were serious about Miss Bingley paying for items she has broken, should you not have a list ready? Pemberley is inventoried once a year. Do you know the last time your townhouse was done?”

 

“I do not know, maybe not since our honeymoon,” Mr. Hurst answered.

 

“Your housekeeper needs to do an inventory of the contents of your townhouse immediately,” William said.

 

“After the jewellery is done,” Maggie corrected.

 

“Why after, Maggie,” she asked.

 

“It is best not to make it known an inventory is happening. If you have untrustworthy residents or staff, what is to stop them from putting an item back until the inventory is done? I also suggest, your housekeeper work with a locksmith. Once a room is inventoried, it should be locked. If Mr. and Miss Bingley are the only residents, and they are in mourning, they do not need to access the entire house.”

 

“See Hurst, this is exactly why I suggested we include Maggie. Well done,” William said.

 

“I am sure the jewellery store or the Bow Street Runners will suggest this, but just in case they do not, I would have them start with your vault and then contact your butler to find out when your townhouse will be empty. Maybe the siblings will have to try on their mourning clothes?” Maggie suggested.

 

“Darcy, where is that writing desk?” Mr. Hurst asked. “I wish I had that journal,” she heard him mumble.

~*~

Pemberley’s drive
Wednesday, December 5, 1810

 

“Goodness gracious!”

 

Hurst heard Miss Darcy giggle and saw Maggie smile and Darcy smirk.

 

“It is just a house, Hurst,” Darcy said.

 

Just a house?” he asked incredulously.

 

“It is home,” Miss Darcy said with a contented sigh. “It is my favourite place.”

 

“But it is huge!” he exclaimed. “It will take me five months to learn where the principal rooms are located. Have either of you entered a room you did not know existed?”

 

“When I was younger, I would sometimes follow William into a room I had never seen. We will arrange for William or Mrs. Reynolds to give you a tour,” Miss Darcy offered.

 

“How many servants do you employ,” he asked.

 

“There are fifty in the main house,” Darcy answered.

 

“Total, Darcy. How many servants do you employ at Pemberley.”

 

Darcy sighed, “Altogether over two hundred.”

 

“Two hundred,” he repeated in awe. “That does not include Darcy House and you have other properties?” Darcy nodded. “Bloody hell,” he quietly exclaimed, earning a sharp look from Darcy. “Miss Darcy, I apologize if you heard me just now.”

 

“I did not Mr. Hurst and I am just amazed as you. I have never thought to ask how many servants we employ. William, you said fifty in the house and over two hundred in total? How is that possible?”

 

Darcy smiled at his sister and responded, “I reacted the same way when I was learning about the estate from father. You must understand, the numbers fluctuate based on the time of year and whether or not we are in residence. Normally the housekeeper at the dowager house requires a staff of five, the stablemaster fifty, the master gardener a hundred, and the gamekeeper fifteen.”

 

“Where do they all live?” he asked, unable to come up with an idea.

 

“We will continue this discussion later, we have arrived at the house,” Darcy said.

 

Hurst stepped down, turned around, and stared at the impressive structure.

 

“Come Hurst, we do not want to leave the door open longer than necessary in this frigid weather,” Darcy said while escorting his sister into the house.

 

Upon crossing the threshold, Hurst was halted by the sight of the household staff lined up to greet the Darcy’s.

 

“Allow me to introduce our butler and housekeeper, Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds,” Darcy stated. “This is Mr. Reginald Hurst, he will be staying with us for his deep mourning.”

 

Mr. Reynolds bowed while his wife curtsied and said, “Mr. Hurst, you have our condolences. I have put you in the most isolated guest suite.”

 

“Good idea, Mrs. Reynolds,” Darcy agreed.

 

“Thank you, Mrs. Reynolds, the quiet will be nice. Darcy, why do you feel it is a good idea?” he asked.

 

“It is not uncommon for people to show up unexpectedly, especially with our unpredictable weather. As far back as I can remember, we have had friends who were in the area show up because they could not find an inn with rooms available when it started to snow.”

 

“Having seen Pemberley, and knowing of your generosity, I can understand people using any plausible excuse to stay here,” Hurst responded wryly.

 

After the laughter ended, Mrs. Reynolds said, “I have ordered water for baths and trays brought to your rooms for dinner tonight. Mr. Hurst, allow me to escort you to your suite.”

~*~

Pemberley, Derbyshire
Thursday, December 6, 1810

 

Hurst watched Darcy speaking with his stable hand and wondered if he would achieve a fraction of the natural ease the man exuded. Darcy knew what to do in every situation they had encountered on their journey, Hurst had never seen him flustered. Darcy was a man born with an aura of command, and probably more importantly, was trained for the responsibility his entire life.

 

“I hope your first night at Pemberley was restful, Hurst,” Darcy said once they were on their way to Lambton.

 

“Yes, it was. The Colonel was right, there is something about this estate that soothes the weary soul. I must thank you again. I cannot imagine another place that would have done more for my peace of mind in such a short amount of time.”

 

“It is my pleasure, Hurst. I know you and Mrs. Hurst did not have a love match, but I could tell how distraught her death made you.”

 

“I was, Darcy. I was more than fond of her, I started falling in love with her after we were married. As I mentioned, when Louisa was thirteen, Mrs. Bingley passed away from smallpox and she was essentially responsible for raising her siblings. What I did not mention, was that while Mr. Bingley made his fortune and Mrs. Bingley tried to raise the family socially, they were already being raised by a nurse and tutors. Make no mistake, the parents loved their children, however I believe they followed what they were told happened in the first circle, leaving servants to raise the children until they were old enough to join the family for dinner. Louisa was allowed to attend dinner when she was ten years old. Louisa told me Miss Bingley made such a fuss, her mother allowed all three children to join them. Miss Bingley idolized her mother and at five years old, after dinner they started reading the society papers and discussing how to meet the people they learned about.”

 

Hurst paused and looked at the countryside for a moment. “When Louisa was seventeen, her father had amassed enough wealth that the sisters had dowries of fifteen thousand each. He decided Charles would attend university when ready and sent Louisa to a seminary, even though she was the oldest student. When their father passed away, their dowries were twenty thousand pounds, Louisa had just left the seminary, Miss Bingley had taken her place, and Charles was in Cambridge. That spring, while in full mourning, the sisters lived with their father's cousin in Scarborough and Louisa and I were allowed to become familiar with each other by exchanging letters. Shortly after we were married and living in the townhouse, Charles left Cambridge and decided he was moving in with us. When Miss Bingley found out, she followed.”

 

“They did ask for permission, right?”

 

“Maybe there was a conversation with Louisa, but I was never approached,” Hurst answered deprecatingly. “How did you and Bingley become friends? You would not have been at Cambridge at the same time.”

 

“Father and I were, or I should say, I am, an investor in Bingley & Son. As morbid as it sounds, we met at my father’s funeral. He introduced himself, offered his condolences, empathized as his father had also passed away, and we bonded.”

 

“It seems reasonable to me. You had shared experiences, and knowing Bingley, he latched on and started following you around like a puppy,” he said then started shaking his head. “I apologize, I should not be speaking ill of my brother-in-law.”

 

“I understand. His reaction to Mrs. Hurst’s death was not what I expected either. It is reasonable to me that you would be bitter,” Darcy said understandingly.

 

“Well, enough of heavy topics. Does Lambton have a store where I can purchase three journals and some pencils?” he asked.

 

“Why three journals?”

 

“I did a lot of thinking last night, Darcy,” he began after a thoughtful pause. “I will be learning estate duties from you, however at university my notes were often illegible. To solve the issue, every evening I will copy my notes into a fresh journal. This will not only make them neat and hopefully reinforce what we worked on, but it will allow me to prepare questions to ask the next day. But,” Hurst sighed, “I also feel that I am at a crossroads. I want to start a personal journal, to keep track of my weight loss progress, the plans I have for my life, and things I do not want to forget.”

 

When Darcy failed to answer, Hurst looked up to see him frowning. “Do you disagree?”

 

“Pardon? I was wool-gathering.”

 

“Do you disagree with my reasoning?”

 

“I agree completely, I was simply marveling over this conversation. Do you have any idea what it is like being Bingley’s friend?”

 

“Ahhh, I believe I understand. With Bingley, you try to guide him and ultimately end up telling him what needs to be done,” he guessed.

 

“Correct. I was momentarily amazed that we were actually having a two-sided, intelligent conversation, as equals. I did not have to tell you to buy at least two journals and quite frankly your insight has impressed me. I did not buy an extra journal for personal notes until three months after I took over running Pemberley,” Darcy admitted.

 

“I had the advantage of watching how you dealt with the aftermath of the accident, our travels, and arrival at Pemberley. You seemed to just instinctively know what needed to happen.”

 

“For the most part, I learned from watching my father, who learned from his father, and so on. I never thought about how it would seem to an outsider.”

 

“It is an impressive sight and has made it woefully clear how unprepared I am to inherit. In my entire life, I have never known my father to consult with his steward regarding a fraction of the issues you have personally handled in the past week. It makes me wonder how much care he takes in hiring the servants.”

 

“You fear you will find misuse of estate funds?”

 

“No, I am afraid there will be outright theft. I have never liked the steward or his father before him. ‘Fools fold their idle hands, leading them to ruin.’ as is written in Ecclesiastes.”

 

“My goodness, Hurst. What else have you been studying after you retire for the evening?”

 

“I have been reading some of the books you suggested after I eat my dinner. My biblical knowledge is from spending a few summers with my mother’s father, who was a vicar. I was tasked with research for his sermons quite frequently,” he said ruefully.

 

“You continue to amaze me Hurst. Ah, that is Lambton up ahead. To answer your earlier question, Mr. Thompson owns the store. He usually stocks up this time of the year as many people start a new journal after Twelfth Night. I sent a note to the cobbler this morning, he is expecting our visit.”

 

“I am glad. You are correct, my boots are not adequate. My toes are almost frozen from this wind,” he said with a grin.