Note: This idea (Mr. Darcy’s Bennet) wouldn’t let me go until I started writing it. Enjoy!
“Eli! Eli!” The crowd stamped and chanted as Mr. Elias Bennet ducked under a wildly thrown fist from a much larger, much slower, and very much stupider opponent.
The air stank of fish, blood, and brine. If one of those massive fists hit, Elias would be flattened and spitting teeth.
Speed and brains made no difference when you were spitting teeth, Elias thought as Dirk, the lout’s name was Dirk, clipped Elias’s shoulder with a second, crippling blow.
With the lightness of a lady on the Assembly floor, Elias twisted, dancing back.
“Stay put,” Dirk shouted. “I’ll wipe them pearly whites from your molly mouth!”
Elias Bennet was slight, with wide, dark eyes set beneath thick lashes under a mop of curly, near-black hair a touch too long for fashion. With those looks, Elias was used to insults to ‘his’ manhood. Found them funnier than they had a right to be, considering the situation. Not that Elias considered it often.
Elias grinned, teeth flashing pearly white. “Your Molly’s mouth tasted sweet last night, you slow bugger.”
Dirk roared, breath laced with gin, face flushed, eyes narrowed to slits as he barreled towards Elias.
Elias focused, waited until the lout’s fetid breath wafted hot and damp over the skin, then shifted, swinging boot against knee. As Dirk buckled, Elias slammed small, heavy fists into his side, beneath his ribs. Gasping, Dirk twisted towards Elias, who struck again, jaw, chin, nose.
Pain spiked through Elias’ fists with each punch.
“Ten. Nine. Eight…”
Elias waited for the crowd to finish counting, and the judge, barrel chest thatched with thick, red hair, walked over and took Elias’ hand.
“You’re a crazy little gent,” the judge muttered as he held Elias’s hand up.
Elias laughed. If only they knew.
The ruse of Elias Bennet had been born in the death of Elizabeth Bennet’s twin.
“But surely, I will give my husband another son!” Mrs. Bennet had insisted, hugging the cold infant to her breast.
“If Mr. Bennet lives. He has been in his sickbed for days, likely the same illness that took this babe. If your husband dies, what then? You and Jane and any daughters you bear, including that one,” Mrs. Gardiner waved at the pink-faced daughter who shared her brother’s dark hair and eyes, “will have nothing.”
“But—surely someone will guess.”
“A babe is a babe. See to ‘his’ care and feeding. No wet nurse. They will humor you, considering the death of the girl.”
“How can you be so cruel?”
“It was cruel of your husband not to reveal the entailment until after he wed you. Any cruelty done in turn is justice. Or as close as we get in this world.”
“Oh, Amelia!” Mrs. Bennet sobbed.
“Quickly, change their clothes.”
And so Elizabeth Bennet died.
After Elias came Mary, Kitty, and then Lydia.
“All girls,” Mrs. Bennet lamented, years later, after her husband had learned their secret. “Without our Elias, that horrid cousin of yours would seize Longbourn, and he would cast us out!”
“My dear Mrs. Bennet, it is no use lamenting things that will not come to pass.”
“But how is our Elias to marry? A young man in possession of a fortune must eventually want for a wife. God weeps for us! For our deception!”
“Your deception, Mrs. Bennet.”
“It is our deception now,” Mrs. Bennet said.
Mr. Bennet turned his gaze back to the book in his lap. For once, he did not correct her.
Mostly, deception sat easily on Elias’ shoulders. She preferred life as a boy. She was light and fast on her feet, and her Uncle Gardiner’s boxing lessons, instruction he would never have offered to Elizabeth, meant she could use speed and technique to overcome any deficiencies in strength, which did grew more noticeable as the other village boys reached their growth. While Elias was not fond of riding, no awkward skirts meant she could sit astride, making the entire thing far more bearable. And Elias, unlike many of the young village men, adored dancing and never lacked for a partner.
As Elias approached her fifteenth year, the ease of life as a boy took on a bittersweet air as she noticed the other young men in the village and wondering what it would be like to be kissed. Sometimes, when she and Jane were alone in Jane’s room, the door locked, Elizabeth would try on one of her sister’s gowns. Elias’ toned body and lack of much by way of feminine endowments made the gown hang awkwardly, even when Jane attempted to tie the stays to elevate Elias’ slight décolletage.
Likely for the best.
Even if Elias wished to become Elizabeth again, such a revelation would ruin the family. Upon her father’s death, the entailment would pass their home to her father’s cousin, and her sisters would have no chance at a proper marriage.
The Bennets depended on the face and sex Elias presented to the world.
Elias turned her thoughts away from these worries with the ease of practice. The judge handed her a purse for her winnings, and Elias split it into three parts, wrapped and hid them inside the secret pocket sewn in her drawers.
The Bennets, while not poor, were by no means rich, and these small purses helped support more whimsical (or illicit) purchases, like a book of saucy poems Jane coveted and Elias had promised to buy her.
In case the worst happened and Mr. Elias Bennet was unmasked, she saved most of her winnings for her sisters’ dowries.
Elias had a small mug of ale to wash the taste of blood from her mouth, and, leaving it half empty (she did not hold liquor well, a trait shared by her father), made her way back towards the Gardiners’ home in Cheapside.
Halfway between the docks and proper streets, a series of shouts: “Unhand me!” and “Blasted cur!”
At first, Elias ignored them. Fights were always breaking out in this area, and the shrewd saw best not to interfere.
But the sound of running boots grew closer, and Elias spotted two gentlemen, surrounded by a group of nine.
Lanterns, hung and refilled every few hours to provide a dim glow to the street, flickered dimly over the narrow street. The taller gentleman, dark-haired with angular features, lean jaw, firm chin, and a shocking menace in his focused gaze, turned, putting his back to a packing crate, and addressed the thugs. “Leave, or you will regret it.”
“Us, regret!” A scrawny, washed-out man with the air of a predatory rat stepped ahead of the others. He grinned with yellow teeth, the front left cracked, the center bottom missing.
The second gentleman, fair-haired with the even features that some women found attractive, pulled a pistol from his coat and held it out towards the rat-faced man, who laughed.
“A single shot, is it? And your hand shaking so.” He spat on the ground.
“What is it you want? Money?” The fair-haired man asked, his voice steadier than the sweat beading his brow suggested.
“Money we will have, from you and our employer.”
Someone had targeted these two gentlemen specifically, it seemed.
Elias knew better than to stand here like a lump. It was not her business that two gentlemen had taken a late-night stroll by the docks and found themselves the worse for it. But these were not fair odds, nine on two, and these were not simple nappers but hired rogues who seemed intent to leave their message, whatever it was, in bodies put to bed to bloat in the Thames.
To leave them would be tantamount to abetting murder.
No, Elias would not leave two gentlemen, no matter how foolish, to this fate.
The rogues were intent on their prey. Elias, at the least hoping to give the two men distraction enough to run, crept to the closest crate. Inside, stacked fowl churred and cheeped, feathers rustling against the wooden slats.
Elias smiled and kicked the crate towards the ruffians. It slid, and bird screams pierced the air as the crate smashed into the closest rogue. The cursing man flailed out to stop the box, and his fist went through the slats, breaking open a hole through which angry chickens rolled and scurried outwards, pecking viciously.
A pistol sounded, and the rat-faced man staggered.
“Run!” Elias shouted, waving the two gentlemen towards her.
Another of the rogues pulled a cutlass from his back and, screaming, charged.
More To Come!
After the birth of twins Elias and Elizabeth Bennet, a sickness sweeps through the household, killing the boy and leaving Mr. Bennet near death. To protect her family from losing their home, Mrs. Bennet takes the desperate action to raise the daughter as their son.
Now, twenty years and three sisters later, Mr. Elias Bennet is content with her ruse. She may never find love, but her role offers freedom, and she is committed to seeing her sisters happy.
Until a chance meeting with Mr. Darcy makes her question everything.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is not inclined to dockside brawls or improper passions. But he finds himself making an exception for mysterious Mr. Bennet.
The young gentleman awakens hidden desires, and now Mr. Darcy is questioning everything. Someone is trying to kill Mr. Bingley. Is Mr. Bennet involved?
Or is his secret something far more dangerous?
Mr. Darcy’s Bennet is Part 1 of A Bennet by Any Other Name, an adventurous sweet and spicy Pride and Prejudice serial where gender lines are blurred as passions rise.
Warning: This is a serial. Each part ends on a cliffhanger. I will be collecting the parts into one volume whenever the serial is finished, so if you’d rather wait, I understand.
Will deceptions, highwaymen, and a rambunctious eleven-year-old girl bring Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy together or tear them apart?
After rejecting Mr. Collins proposal, Miss Elizabeth Bennet assumes the persona of a widow and goes to Lambton to find work. But when she befriends Mr. Darcy’s half-sister Rose and becomes her governess, she must contend with Mr. Darcy, a man she wishes to despise, and Col. Richard Fitzwilliam, a man she wants to love but cannot. With Rose’s help, will Elizabeth find the strength to follow her heart?
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy would sooner face bandits than return to Pemberley and deal with his stepmother — alas, he must do both. And when he discovers Miss Elizabeth Bennet in his home, serving as governess to his half-sister Rose, things go from bad to worse. Col. Fitzwilliam is falling for her. Mr. Darcy is too — or would be, if Miss Elizabeth were at all suitable. Will Mr. Darcy stop denying his heart before his cousin steals Elizabeth’s?
Find out in An Unsuitable Governess, a standalone Pride and Prejudice novel of 64,000 words
Warning! This book contains: one not at all wicked stepmother, one 100% wicked band of highwaymen, one rambunctious eleven-year-old, one deceptive governess with a heart of gold, one love-stricken colonel, one handsome gentleman in denial of his true feelings, one found treasure, and two happily ever afters to set your heart aflutter.
If undeterred, grab a copy of An Unsuitable Governess today!
Beneath a gray and weeping sky, a Royal Mail stagecoach trundled north towards Derbyshire. Miss Elizabeth Bennet wished to pretend it was all a grand adventure, but three days being jounced about until her muscles and teeth ached and three nights in tiny coaching inn rooms with the thin, ill-tempered maid Mrs. Gardiner had insisted Elizabeth bring as a chaperone, had robbed Elizabeth of her sense of wonder. Her eyelids were stiff, her hair itched, and she stank.
After settling herself and Adelaide at the Rose and Crown Inn, Elizabeth ordered them both the luxury of a hip bath and changed into a fresh frock. The Gardiners’ had given her coin for her troubles, but Elizabeth wished to find work as quickly as possible. She would not impose herself further upon their charity by writing to ask for assistance.
“Highwaymen you say?”
Mr. Darcy did not like the glint in his cousin’s eye. Col. Richard Fitzwilliam had been given leave from the front at the behest of his father the Earl. Richard had explained neither the reason, nor how long he would be on English soil. He attended to his duties, but Darcy could tell his cousin itched to return to battle, and anything that promised excitement was enough to send him charging forward.