Carrie Bebris

The Matters at Mansfield

or, The Crawford Affair

For my brother


This novel began like all my others, with a faint whisper of an idea that developed over time into a fully realized story. As it evolved, many people lent their support, and in so doing contributed to the creation of the book you now hold in your hands.

My family probably feels sometimes as if I live in nineteenth-century England along with the Darcys. I am grateful to them for enabling and encouraging me to do so.

I appreciate my agent, Irene Goodman, for her advice and continued belief in me; my editor, Brian Thomsen, for trusting me when I said the Darcys next needed to visit Mansfield, and for his guidance on a number of matters during the writing of the novel; his assistant, Kristin Sevick, for her conscientious and prompt attention to endless details; Dot Lin for her promotional talents; and artist Teresa Fasolino for the beautiful paintings that grace the covers of the books in this series.

Fellow writers and friends Anne Klemm, Victoria Hinshaw, Mary Holmes, and Pamela Johnson served as sounding boards and critical readers at various stages in the book’s development. Their input and ongoing support were invaluable.

For my education in dueling and the mechanics of flintlock pistols, I am indebted to Kristopher Shultz, a historical interpreter and weapons expert whose knowledge and enthusiasm brought to life these aspects of a nineteenth-century gentleman’s existence. I am grateful to attorney Sheila Quigley for helping me navigate the complexities of Georgian marriage and estate laws, to Dr. Cheryl Kinney for her knowledge of Regency-era medicine, to Ann Voss Peterson for her horse expertise, and to dancing masters Lee Fuell, Patty Lindsay, and Joyce Lindsey for their patient instruction. I also thank the reference librarians of Wood-bourne Library for so cheerfully and capably tracking down materials and answers to obscure research questions.

Others provided support in ways less direct, but no less appreciated. Many thanks to Sharon Short, Sarah Schwager, Karen Downey and the staff of Carousel House, members of JASNA-Dayton and JASNA-Wisconsin, and JASNA president Marsha Huff.

Finally, I thank Jane Austen for inspiring the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mystery series, and my readers for inspiring me to continue it. A bookseller once told me, “You have the nicest fans!” and I quite agree. You help make writing a joy.

“There is not one in a hundred of either sex, who is not

taken in when they marry. .. It is, of all transactions,

the one in which people expect the most from others,

and are least honest themselves.”

— Mary Crawford, Mansfield Park


She was all surprise and embarrassment.

Mansfield Park

It is a truth less frequently acknowledged, that a good mother in possession of a single child, must be in want of sleep.

Whatever the habits or inclinations of such a woman might have been prior to her first entering the maternal state, in very short order her feelings and thoughts are so well fixed on her progeny that at any given hour she is considered, at least in the young minds of the principals, as the rightful property of some one or other of her offspring.

Be she a woman of comfortable income, assistants may alleviate many of the demands imposed on her, and indeed there are ladies quite content to consign their little darlings entirely to the care of nurses and governesses until they reach a more independent age. But in most families, occasions arise when even the most competent, affectionate servant cannot replace a child’s need for Mama, and when said Mama wants no proxy.

And so it was that Elizabeth Darcy, wife of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, mistress of the great estate of Pemberley, and presently the houseguest of the Earl of Southwell, found herself the only conscious person in all of Riveton Hall during the predawn hours of an early August morning. Or rather, the only conscious adult, her daughter being so awake to the pain of cutting her first tooth that none but her mother’s arms could comfort her.

“Hush now, Lily-Anne. Mama’s here.” Elizabeth offered the crooked knuckle of her forefinger to the child to gum. Having come to the nursery to check on Lily before retiring, she had found both baby and nurse so overwrought by hours of ceaseless crying (on the child’s part, not the nurse’s) that she had dismissed Mrs. Flaherty to capture a few hours’ rest. The stubborn tooth had troubled Lily since their arrival and rendered futile every traditional remedy the veteran nurse had tried. If it did not break through this eve, the morrow would prove an even longer day for Mrs. Flaherty and her charge. Elizabeth herself would be unavailable to soothe her daughter, her time instead commanded by the event that had occasioned her and Darcy’s visit to Riveton.

Darcy’s cousin Roger Fitzwilliam, the earl, was hosting a ball to introduce his new fiancee to his family and neighbors. The Pemberley party — Elizabeth, Darcy, Lily-Anne, and Darcy’s sister, Georgiana — had traveled to the groom’s Buckinghamshire estate earlier in the week, as had the bride’s family and numerous other guests. Darcy and Roger’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, had been the first to arrive, appearing a full fortnight earlier than anticipated to oversee her nephew’s preparations. As the late earl’s sister, her ladyship had grown up at Riveton Hall, and continued to generously dispense opinions regarding its management. That the present earl had little interest in hearing her advice did little to check its flow.

Having herself recently endured an extended visit by Lady Catherine, Elizabeth sympathized with her besieged host.

The earl, however, enjoyed one advantage that Elizabeth, in Derbyshire, had not: Lady Catherine yet maintained a large acquaintance in her former neighborhood, and had absented herself from Riveton for part of each day to call upon them. Her daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh, joined her on most of these excursions. How Southwell’s neighbors bore Lady Catherine’s company eluded Elizabeth and Darcy, but they were grateful to be subjected to so little of it themselves. Their already inharmonious relationship with Darcy’s aunt had been further fractured by the events of her prolonged residence at Pemberley, and the present house party at Riveton marked their first meeting since. Her daily absences had enabled them all to settle into a tacit, if tense, truce.

In contrast, Elizabeth had taken great pleasure in renewing her acquaintance with Roger’s younger brother, Colonel James Fitzwilliam, whom she had met two years previous. The colonel’s forthright manners and intelligent conversation united to make him the most amiable of Darcy’s maternal relations, and she regretted that his military duties prevented more frequent opportunities to enjoy his society.

The only society Elizabeth coveted at the moment, however, were the inhabitants of her dreams. She paced

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