A Rose By Any Other Name

A 'what if...?' rewrite of the much loved novel by Jane Austen.

What if the Bennet family were asked to take in a half Chinese girl five years before Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy ever arrive in Hertfordshire? What impact would it make on the lives of the Bennets and Mr Darcy? Will the girl in question find love herself?

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1. Chapter One

The whole neighbourhood was abuzz with gossip.

Netherfield Park was let at last!

Rose listened to the gossip with a smile and half an ear.  It never ceased to amuse her how something as perfectly ordinary as a new tenant moving into an empty house would send the village of Meryton into a frenzy.  Even more so since it was a young gentleman with a considerable fortune.

But none was more frenzied than Mrs Bennet, the town’s premiere gossip.

‘My dear!’ she shouted as she came through the front door from her visit with the other gossips in the town.  ‘Mr Bennet!  Wonderful news!’  She quickly discarded her coat and bonnet before heading the library where her husband was sequestered, as was his habit.

Her shrill voice could still be heard through the library and sitting room doors, where Rose was sitting with the Bennet family’s two youngest daughters, Kitty and Lydia.

‘Netherfield Park is let at last!’  There was a pause before they heard her again.   ‘Oh, but it is! For I have just had it from Mrs Long.  Do you want to know who has taken it?’

The three young ladies could very well predict what Mr Bennet’s response would be; ‘You want to tell me and I have no objection to hearing it.’

‘Why then it is taken by a young man of large from the North of England.  A young man of large fortune! His name is Bingley! And he has five thousand a year!’ she heard Mrs Bennet chatter to Mr Bennet in his library.  ‘He came down on Monday in a chaise-and-four to see the place and was so delighted with the place that he agreed with Mr Morris immediately.  What a fine thing for our girls.’

‘How so? And how can it affect them?’ would be Mr Bennet’s question to that.

Rose could just imagine him arching an eyebrow as he spoke.

‘Oh, Mr Bennet, how can you be so tiresome!  You know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.’

‘So that is his design in settling here?  To marry one of our daughters?’

Rose knew that in his own way he was teasing his silly wife, who never failed to take the bait.

‘Design?  Oh, how can you talk such nonsense?  But it is likely that he may very well fall in love with one of them.’

‘And Rose? What of her?’ Mr Bennet asked.  ‘Surely she deserves the chance to fall in love with some hapless young man as much as any of our daughters.’

‘Well, the daughter of a wealthy merchant will have nothing to fear not being able to catch a good husband, unlike our poor daughters.’

Rose knew that the woman was only doing her best to secure a good match for her own daughters so that they would be well provided for when either or both she or her husband were gone, but sometimes the things she said were somewhat hurtful.

‘Therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.’

‘I see no occasion for that.  You and the girls may go, and I mean Rose as well; or you may send them by themselves.’

‘But you must go and Mr Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood,’ Mrs Bennet insisted.  ‘Consider your daughters!  Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them.  Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go and you know they generally visit no newcomers.  Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him if you do not.’

Mr Bennet’s reply to that was not so easily predicted but they were not left wondering to what it must have been, for Mrs Bennet

‘I desire you will do no such thing!  Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia.  But you are always giving her the preference.’

It was a well-known fact that Elizabeth, their second daughter, was Mr Bennet’s favourite, while Lydia, who was the youngest, was his wife’s though their eldest though Jane held a special place as the most beautiful of their daughters.

‘They have none of them much to recommend them,’ he would have most likely replied, and probably with an offhand comment about his daughters being silly and ignorant like others.  And he would no doubt correct himself, saying that his 'little Lizzy' being a little sharper than the rest.

‘Mr Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way?  Oh, you take delight in vexing me! You have no compassion for my poor nerves.’

‘You mistake me, my dear,' he would say.  'I have a high respect for your nerves; they have been my old friends for these twenty years at least.’

Rose thought this was as good a time as any to bring Mr Bennet’s tea.  Goodness knows he would need something to relax him after dealing with his gossipmonger of a wife.

After quickly filling a tray from the kitchen with freshly baked biscuits and a pot of Mr Bennet’s favoured tea, she carefully made her way to the library.  But not before waving off Mrs Hill who asked if she wanted her to take the tea for her.

Rose heard the library door slam shut.  She rolled her eyes.  Mr Bennet must have said something that further provoked her.  Mostly likely she was now in her apartments claiming that her nerves were “suffering” or her head “is very ill”.

Carefully balancing the tray with one arm, she quietly knocked on the door.

‘Your tea, Mr Bennet,’ Rose said as she set the tray down on the little side table next to his favourite chair.

‘Thank you, Rose,’ he said.

She quickly and quietly poured him a cup and carefully place it in his hand, making sure he had securely in his hand before quitting the room quickly but quietly.

‘Such a thoughtful girl,’ she heard him say as she closed the door behind her.

Rose was just going back to the parlour when Elizabeth was just coming in from her walk in Meryton’s surrounding hill.  In her hand was a bouquet of wildflowers.

Easily finding a small empty vase, they quickly filled it with water and arranged the blooms in a pleasing display, all the while Rose hummed a traditional love song from her mother’s homeland.

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