<div><div> <h2>CHAPTER 1</h2> <p><i>1859</i></p> <br> <p>If Jonathan Bingley had not previously recognised that there was developing a serious problem that threatened his happiness and the stability of his marriage, he was certainly made aware of it as they returned to Rosings Park.</p> <p>Throughout the journey, Amelia-Jane remained seated on the opposite side of the carriage to her husband, rather pointedly placing their youngest daughter Cathy, who was nine, and her lady's maid between them. She also insisted that the blinds be drawn down on her side of the vehicle, so as to preserve her, she claimed, from suffering another severe headache on account of the glare.</p> <p>Their two eldest children, Charles and Anne-Marie, had already returned to their respective educational establishments on the previous day. Jonathan knew that they, like him, were uneasy about their mother's changing moods and uneven temper, for indeed, of late, she had changed greatly from the vivacious, light-hearted girl he had married and the easy-going, compliant mother they had known.</p> <p>Jonathan was very troubled indeed; troubled and grieved. He had, at first, attributed the change to the loss of their two little boys, Francis and Thomas, born two years apart, both of whom had not survived longer than a year after birth. The terrible trauma of their deaths had affected all of them, but it had affected his wife more deeply and for a longer period because, with her elder children away from home and his own work keeping him busy, she seemed to find no solace at all.</p> <p>Understanding the weight of the blow she had suffered, Jonathan had tried to reach and console her, but had failed repeatedly. Each time he tried to comfort her, she seemed to retreat even further into her own grief or break into heart-wrenching sobs. She was reluctant to talk of the children to anyone and, if pressed, would take ill and retire to bed.</p> <p>Jonathan was too loyal a husband to breathe a word of this to his mother, who knew only that Amelia was still deeply distressed following the death of their sons.</p> <p>The problem, however, continued to plague them and had recently worsened. Though devoted to his wife and family, Jonathan found it increasingly difficult to keep it to himself and finally sought his sister Emma's advice.</p> <p>The opportunity to do so presented itself quite fortuitously, when some weeks later, his brother-in-law James Wilson, a long-standing and dedicated member of the Reform Group in Parliament, wrote inviting Jonathan to dine with him at his club in London. He had, he wrote, an interesting political proposition to put to him.</p> <p>Jonathan, who had spent some twelve years in Parliament representing a constituency in the Midlands, had left the House of Commons some seven years ago, tired and bored with the bickering and dissension that had, in his opinion, opened the way for the Tories and set back Parliamentary Reform for a decade.</p> <p>Thanks to the recommendation of Mr Darcy, he had been appointed by Lady Catherine de Bourgh to take over the management of her vast estate and business affairs—a prestigious position which included a very pleasant house in Rosings Park.</p> <p>Others may have felt that the task of reporting regularly to Lady Catherine and being on hand whenever she felt the need for congenial company was too high a price to pay for the modest remuneration offered, but Jonathan, being an amiable and easy-going young man, had not been unduly troubled by Her Ladyship's demands upon his time.</p> <p>The move to Kent had meant that Amelia-Jane, who had felt very isolated in Derbyshire, had found herself drawn into a new social circle, in which she seemed to find some enjoyment. There was also the very great advantage of being settled near Hunsford, the parsonage where her sister Mrs Catherine Harrison lived. Catherine provided invaluable support to Amelia-Jane when she needed help with the children, and, more than her mother or her husband, it was to Catherine that Amelia-Jane had turned for comfort following the loss of her sons.</p> <p>Practical and mature, Catherine had been better able to cope with her younger sister's demands. Jonathan had seen clearly the advantage of their situation.</p> <p>More recently though, he had begun to feel restless; irritated by the superficiality of the social round at Rosings Park, he had begun to miss the involvement in politics and the brisk jostling of ideas in the public arena of Parliament. Which was why he had accepted James Wilson's invitation; there had been a promise of something interesting to do.</p> <p>James, an active member of the Reformists, had insisted that Jonathan should maintain his membership and interest in the party.</p> <p>"You are far too young to give up on politics, Jonathan," he had said. "We may yet have you back in the Commons, one day." And when Jonathan had modestly pointed out that it might not be easy to get back in, James had laughed and assured him that "room could always be found for a good man."</p> <p>Jonathan was eager to discover the reason for the invitation, wondering what his brother-in-law had in mind. James Wilson had married Jonathan's sister Emma after the death of her first husband, David, whose abuse and mistreatment she had borne secretly for years. James, who had given her a new lease of life, was a man of absolute integrity, and Jonathan felt sure he could trust him.</p> <p>When they met, James was as good as his word. He was hoping to involve Jonathan in the negotiations following the elections, which had given the opposition parties a majority, but ironically, it seemed their disunity would deliver government to Derby, again.</p> <p>James pointed out that some skilful negotiations were needed if the Conservatives were to be defeated in the house and, by participating in them, Jonathan could perform an invaluable service for his party and the nation.</p> <p>"Just think, Jonathan, if Russell and Palmerston were back in government, reform would be back on the agenda. Is it not what you have always wanted?" he asked.</p> <p>"It certainly is," Jonathan replied, "but how could I or any other ordinary party member have much influence on the negotiations? Is it not for the elected members to realise they owe the nation a duty?"</p> <p>"You are too modest, Jonathan." James' words were almost a reproof. "You do not know your own ability. You above all, with your commitment to reform, your eloquent powers of advocacy, should be involved in lobbying members and winning them to the cause. You would be best placed to persuade recalcitrant Liberals that it is better to have Palmerston in office concentrating his mind on Italy, while Russell brings down a new Reform Bill, than to have Lord Derby back again, kept in power by our disunity alone."</p> <p>James argued passionately and Jonathan assured his brother-in-law that his commitment to reform had never waned and, together with the excitement of a new government and the prospect of an active role in the party, the offer was very tempting indeed.</p> <p>He asked for time to consider it, a request that was gladly granted with an attached invitation to Standish Park.</p> <p>"Emma and I would love to have you to stay. Amelia-Jane and the girls too, of course," said Wilson. "Stephanie and Victoria seem to be very fond of your Teresa. I believe they became good friends at Louisa's wedding."</p> <p>Jonathan agreed that they had and promised to convey the invitation, pointing out that they would probably appreciate a change of scene.</p> <p>For his part, he preferred by far the comfortable elegance of the Wilsons' family home to the rather more ostentatious grandeur of Rosings Park.</p> <p>The two men parted after a most satisfying evening, Jonathan promising to visit Standish Park very soon and have an answer for James. He left for the Bingleys' town house in Grosvenor Street, where he stayed overnight, returning on the morrow to their home at Rosings Park. He was excited and pleased with the news he had to impart to his family. He anticipated a whole new career opening up before him.</p> <p>But, if he hoped that James Wilson's proposition for him to play a more active role in politics would be welcomed by his wife, Jonathan was due for profound disappointment.</p> <p>After dinner on Sunday, at which they had exchanged little more than a few morsels of information of the kind that may pass between husband and wife at table, Jonathan accompanied Amelia-Jane upstairs, intending to tell her of Wilson's proposal and his inclination to accept it.</p> <p>Amelia-Jane had appeared to have recovered somewhat from the headaches and dizzy spells that had assailed her during most of the previous month. Indeed, he had been glad to see that she had taken to driving out in fine weather around the park and sometimes to her sister's at the parsonage at Hunsford.</p> <p>Jonathan had hoped that with this obvious improvement, she would be more receptive to James Wilson's proposition.</p> <p>But it was not to be.</p> <p>In fact, it was the very opposite. Even the mention of a return to politics seemed anathema to her and she cried out as if physically hurt by his words.</p> <p>"You surely do not mean to go back into the Commons! Oh, Jonathan! I could not bear it, if you did. I certainly have no wish to return to London and attend all those dreary charity fairs and boring garden parties again. It would kill me!" she protested, tears filling her eyes.</p> <p>Nothing he could say, no amount of reassurance that he was not intending to re-enter the Commons, that he had no offers of a seat, and anyway, the election was over—none of this seemed to penetrate her remorseless opposition.</p> <p>As for the invitation to Standish Park, she viewed it with great suspicion as part of a conspiracy by the Wilsons to lure him back to Westminster. In vain did he try to point out that his role would not be as arduous nor would it keep him as busy as being an MP. She was unconvinced.</p> <p>"I do not trust the Wilsons; Emma supports everything James proposes. I cannot believe that they would let you go once they have you back at Westminster. It will be exactly as it was before. I can see it, and do not tell me that you will refuse them, because I know how dedicated you are to the party. You will put the party before us, to be sure," she complained, plaintively.</p> <p>"Amelia, dearest, that is not fair. I have always put you and the children first; it was the reason I agreed to leave the Midlands and move to Kent. You know that to be true," he protested.</p> <p>"I know nothing of the sort!" she cried. "I recall very clearly that whenever there were debates and votes in the House, you thought nothing of rushing back after dinner, night after night, or staying overnight at Grosvenor Street, while we returned home."</p> <p>It was a litany of complaint and it soon became abundantly clear to him that it was of no use to pursue the matter any further. He would have to make his own decision and travel to Standish Park alone, for clearly, Amelia-Jane would not accompany him.</p> <p>Later that week, their son Charles, who was diligently pursuing his medical studies, came to inform his parents that, having consulted Dr Richard Gardiner, for whom he had great respect and affection, he had applied to enrol at Edinburgh in the new Academic year.</p> <p>"It does not sound as grand as Paris, I grant you, Father, but Dr Gardiner assures me it is the right thing to do."</p> <p>Jonathan agreed that Richard was probably right, and told him of his own decision to return to work at Westminster.</p> <p>To his surprise, he received his son's immediate support. "That has to be the best news I have heard in many months," Charles declared. "I have often wondered how long it would be before the business of managing Rosings would bore you back to politics."</p> <p>"Then you approve?" asked his father, a little unsure he had heard right.</p> <p>"Indeed, I do, and I encourage you most assuredly to take up Mr Wilson's offer. He cannot have made it lightly; he takes his involvement in Reform politics very seriously."</p> <p>Jonathan was so pleased that his countenance reflected his satisfaction. Charles, seeing the relief on his father's face, was moved to add, "And I am sure your work will prove most valuable. There is no more important cause than Parliamentary Reform at this point in England's history. One more term of stagnant government and we would be the laughing stock of Europe. We have a great opportunity and must not throw it away."</p> <p>With his son's encouragement and his own commitment, he left for Standish Park the following week.</p> <p>He had not brought the matter up with his wife again, having resolved to accept James Wilson's proposal. He seemed resigned to the fact that Amelia-Jane's opposition was inevitable and unshakable and would have to be borne with as much patience as he could muster.</p> <p>He set out looking forward to seeing his sister and his charming nieces and nephews in an environment in which he always felt life was lived just as it should be.</p> <br> <p>* * *</p> <p>Emma Wilson greeted her brother warmly on his arrival at Standish Park, and if she was disappointed that his wife had not felt fit enough to travel the relatively short distance between their homes, in the same county, she concealed it well.</p> <p>Emma's good taste and sensibility, combined with her excellent education, had seemed to present an insurmountable obstacle to her young sister-in-law, whose lack of serious learning often left her outside of their conversations. Despite Emma's best efforts to nurture a friendship between them, Amelia-Jane had always held back. Recently, she had taken to avoiding their functions.</p> <p>"I never quite know what to say to James and Emma," she would complain to Jonathan. When they were first married, her exquisite youth and charm had sufficed to dismiss any qualms he may have had. Later, though, her reluctance to make any attempt to cultivate and enjoy the fine taste and genuine values of his sister had begun to embarrass and even occasionally distress him. Neither elegant surroundings nor cultural pursuits involved her mind for very long.</p> <p>He recalled an occasion when Emma's very talented young daughters, Victoria and Stephanie, had been invited to perform after a family dinner party and as they did so, Amelia had begun to chat to a woman sitting beside her, very softly at first, but gradually reaching a point when her whispering so distracted and irritated those sitting around her that they had finally requested her to stop. Whereupon she had been so mortified that she had left the room in tears and refused to return.</p> <p>It was but a small incident, and Emma had dismissed it as nothing to be concerned about, but Jonathan had never forgotten it. Neither had Amelia-Jane, who afterwards complained, quite unfairly, that she felt awkward and unwelcome at Standish Park.</p> <p>On this occasion, however, there was no awkwardness at all as Emma embraced her brother, welcoming him after a long absence.</p> <p>"Jonathan, it is so good to have you here. It has been too long since you have been with us," she said as they went indoors.</p> <p>They had always been close, and this time, Jonathan looked forward to the visit especially because he felt impelled to speak to his sister of the increasingly concerning situation in his marriage and, particularly, his ailing, unhappy wife.</p> <p>On their first evening together, they were only the family at dinner, and it was a happy occasion, with Jonathan producing gifts for everyone. His two nieces, being well-read young ladies, appreciated the volumes of romantic poetry, while his two young nephews, Charles and Colin, were easily captivated by the latest mechanical toy train. Good-humoured and fond of children, Jonathan was a favourite uncle.</p> <p>James and Emma were overjoyed when he disclosed that he had decided to accept the position at Westminster.</p> <p>"I cannot tell you how delighted I am, Jonathan," James declared, adding, "I promise, you will not regret this decision. You will be performing a very important service to your party and the nation."</p> <p>Later, as they repaired to the drawing room to be entertained by Emma and her daughters, Jonathan, sensing the warmth and happiness this family enjoyed together, felt increasingly isolated and alone as he contemplated his own wretched situation.</p> <p>It was not long before Emma, noticing his subdued mood and solemn countenance, came to sit with him and asked if there was anything wrong.</p> <p>Jonathan, although aching to pour out his heart, realised that this happy evening was not the time. He promised Emma that they would talk; indeed, he wanted very much to discuss some important matters with her.</p> <p>Concluding from the seriousness of her brother's demeanour that he meant exactly what he said, Emma assured him she would find the time and the occasion for them to talk privately, very soon.</p> <p>Later that night, after most of the family had retired to bed, Emma sat with her husband discussing Jonathan's situation. </div></div><br/> <i>(Continues...)</i> <!-- Copyright Notice --> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'>Excerpted from <b>Netherfield Park Revisited</b> by <b>Rebecca Ann Collins</b>. Copyright © 2008 Rebecca Ann Collins. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc.. <br/>All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br/>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.</font><hr noshade size='1'></blockquote>