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The Elopement Project - Complete Series

The Elopement Project - Complete Series

The Complete Series!

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Chapter 1 Look Inside

Uncertain Endeavor
1

Fanny Bennet was a beautiful woman, even after bearing five daughters and seeing them grow into beautiful young ladies themselves. But the sounds that drifted under the door of her room each night were far from beautiful. Mr. Bennet pressed his pillow over his head, idly wondering if the sawing sounds emanating from her nose were more like a wheezing badger or a braying donkey.
After another quarter hour of tossing in his bed, Mr. Bennet gave up and lit a candle, tied his banyan tightly about his waist, and made his way to his bookroom. He would read for a time, and if he was lucky, he would achieve a few hours of sleep in the blissfully quiet room. He made his way into the bookroom in the dark and lit the fire, coaxing it into a cheery blaze. He gathered up the book he had been reading earlier and a soft blanket and settled onto the sofa beneath the window.
He was two chapters in and beginning to feel drowsy when he heard crunching gravel outside the house. When he looked out the window, the moon illuminated a rider coming to a stop and leaping off his horse, looking about for someplace to tether the animal.
Bennet threw open the window and called out, “You there! What are you about?”
“Is this Longbourn?”
“It is.”
“I am looking for Mr. Thomas Bennet.”
“I am he.”
The young man nodded and stepped toward the window, reaching up to pass Mr. Bennet a letter. “I have a letter for you from Brighton.”
Bennet’s eyes widened and he took the letter, wondering what it could possibly be about. He found some coins in his desk and pressed them into the rider’s hand. “You may rest yourself and your horse in the stables, around the west side of the house. The groomsman sleeps there; his name is Horace. Tell him I gave you leave. Cook will feed you in the morning.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The man headed off towards the stables and Bennet settled back onto the sofa, breaking the seal and unfolding the parchment.
He had heard people say they felt themselves go white, or ice down their backs, or a suddenly leaden stomach, but he had never experienced anything of the sort himself. Such things were for more fanciful people than he. But on this chilly August night, he felt every drop of blood in his body pool at his feet. He could not breathe, he could not blink, he could not swallow or close his mouth.
They were ruined. All of them. All five of his beautiful, perfect little girls, and their mother with them. They would be shunned, outcast from polite society. They would never marry, except perhaps to a farmer who would work them to the bone, or a tradesman who wanted their dowry and a pretty face, but would treat them like the poor, ruined gentlewomen they were.
He sank onto the faded fabric, his mind whirling with dire predictions and half-formed plans. Thomas Bennet was not a man of action, but he was a man of thought, and he put his considerable powers to work now. He would go to London immediately. The Gardiners were in Derbyshire, but he was sure their butler would permit him entry to the house. Colonel Forster had written that he was on his way to wait on them—Bennet would attempt to catch him before he arrived.
He could not know what would happen to Lydia, but he knew one thing for certain: if there was any hope of containing this scandal, he must not tell his wife. Fanny Bennet could not be discreet for all the lace in Brussels.

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