“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Ben Solo, being a single man in possession of a good fortune and family name, was one such. His father, Captain Solo, commandeered the famed Millennium Falcon during the late war, and his mother, Duchess Leia Organa, had impressed upon the government a need to reform and consider more than just the landed gentry in their decisions.
From his father, he would inherit a stable full of the finest horses in Derbyshire; from his mother, the estate and ancestral title of the Dukes of Organa. However, he had been estranged from his family for the past six years, after quite an infamous incident with his uncle and tutor, Master Luke Skywalker.
The Lady Rey Kenobi, recently introduced to society as the long lost granddaughter of the late General Kenobi, would be the most sought after dance partner at the ball to take place that Friday.
Ben Solo had no desire to attend, for nearly the entire town and surrounding countryside would be there, and he heartily disliked having attention thrust upon him, as he certainly would. With such famous parents and such a large fortune, he was the subject of whispers in crowded ballrooms and salons the world over. However, his dearest childhood friend, Commander Poe Dameron, had enjoined him to come along, for there was certain to be a great deal of merriment, and many charming people with whom to converse. The two gentlemen had now attained an age where they would be expected to pay compliments to all, to press kisses to elder ladies’ hands and to dance with as many of the younger ladies in attendance as possible. In their younger years, the pair had caused a fine amount of consternation at their antics, but few now could remember the dashing gentlemen officers for the rambunctious boys they had once been. The two would certainly set hearts a flutter, and perhaps more than just hearts.
The Lady Rose Tico and her elder sister Paige, great friends of Poe’s, would also attend, as would Captain Finn Stormbreaker, late of Her Majesty’s service and paying court to the Lady Rose.
As the days leading up to the dance passed by, Ben heard much talk of Finn and Rose’s courtship, and many questions as to whether he would attend or not.
With a frown not easily displaced and a quizzical brow, Ben entered the ballroom at Poe’s side. As they passed by, the assembly respectfully bowed and curtseyed. The dancing soon resumed as they reached the end of the packed hall, and voices were once again raised in delightful conversation.
The room was a riot of color, of girls twirling in their partners’ arms, of ribbons and handkerchiefs being waved about, of flowers being pressed into hands.
Wine and cider were served on the sideboards, where many of the elder generation had clustered, watching the young people dance a cotillon, then a minuet, then a boulanger, and so on until the sun had long ceded to the moon and the many candles in the hall were the only source of light.
It seemed that love was in the air, for many happy couples beamed at each other as they danced; both hearts and feet were light, floating above earthly cares that evening.
“Will you not dance, Mr. Solo?” Rose asked, Finn’s hand clasped about her arm. Poe sighed and chuckled into his cider.
“You should ask the Lady Rey for a dance. Her grandfather and yours were the best of companions during the last war,” she continued, unperturbed by the expression on Ben’s face and Poe’s head shaking.
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to Finn and enjoy his smiles, for you are wasting your time with me," Ben replied, scarcely glancing up at Rose from the wine glass he swirled in his hand.
“Mr. Dameron, I do beg you to bring a more agreeable companion to the next dance, for our dear friend Mr. Solo seems determined upon not being sociable, even when there are many handsome young ladies sitting down without a partner.” Rose took her lover’s arm and returned to the dance floor, her skirts sweeping behind her as if to censure the disagreeable Ben Solo for his lack of courtesy as she went.
Little did the longtime companions know, but the Lady Rey had overheard their conversation. She was seated in all her finery next to the Lady Paige as they watched the dancers twirl by, as there were far more charming young ladies in attendance than courtly gentlemen to wait upon them.
Rey managed to have a pleasant evening with her companions, however, and kept her wounded pride and mortification at having been so discussed wrapped as tightly as her corset had been wound underneath a veneer of calm and ladylike comportment.
“Are there any gentlemen in attendance here tonight that catch your eye?” the Lady Paige asked, passing Rey another glass of wine.
“Only the deepest love will persuade me into matrimony, which is why I will end up an old maid,” she replied, causing Paige to laugh into her own glass of wine.
“Not handsome enough to tempt him! Can you imagine the pride of that man?” Rey practically shouted as she tossed down her gloves and wraps upon arriving home that night.
“I can, as a matter of fact. I am his uncle, after all, and I was his tutor for many years, as I’m sure you recall.”
Luke Skywalker, famed veteran of Her Majesty’s service and world renowned scholar, had taken in the Lady Rey as his ward after he learned the truth of her heritage. Ben Kenobi, after whom Ben Solo was named, was one of the greatest generals the Order of the Jedi had ever seen, and his death in battle had devastated young Luke, whom he had taken under his wing. After the war’s end and the return of peace to their sceptered isle, Luke became an expert on the Order’s history and took on a select number of students, including his disagreeable nephew.
While searching the treasure troves of universities such as Oxford for artefacts of the Jedi Order, Luke heard rumors that his former master’s line had not ended, and discovered Rey languishing in a disreputable orphanage in the London slums. At first, he had been hesitant to take on another pupil, but the young heiress was charming and remarkably intelligent, witty and spirited.
Luke was proud of her, as unsure as he was of his capabilities for teaching after his nephew had spurned him and gone off to make his own way as a mercenary soldier.
Ben finally returned to England in the past months, no more willing to embrace his family’s legacy and become the great statesman that all hoped he would become, but at least he had returned from overseas to his mother’s great relief.
Leia Organa had borne too many losses over the years, politically and personally. She could not bear to lose her son too.
Luke sighed as Rey sat on their sofa, still smarting from Ben’s indiscreet remark.
“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”
“Anger is not the Jedi way, Rey, you know that well,” Luke replied. “All that beside, you will have to attempt to converse cordially with him, for we have many social engagements in town this week.”
“I shall try, Luke,” Rey sighed in turn, pressing a kiss to his forehead and heading upstairs to bed.
“I hope I am doing right by your granddaughter, Ben,” Luke said into the air as he blew out candles and made ready for bed.
Rey simply adored Captain Finn, and for him she would endure Lord Ben’s presence at Commander Poe’s invitation, although his conversation was severely lacking. Lady Rose, however, provided delightful conversation, and Poe was as charming as Finn had made him out to be. As charismatic as the two military men were, Ben Solo’s dour countenance caused quite the opposite conclusion to be drawn.
The group played at cards and discussed the latest novels and news from the Continent, save for the recalcitrant Ben Solo, who played his cards without enthusiasm and only spoke when directly addressed, showing no interest in becoming better acquainted with Lady Rose, Lady Paige, or Captain Finn.
However, the manner in which he played his cards, never revealing what he held in his hand, and addressing the subjects of conversation to which he had been prevailed upon to answer, demonstrated to the Lady Rey that despite his lack of inviting manners, Ben Solo was indeed clever and well-bred, if rather haughty and full of pride.
When the conversation turned to the games of love that were so often played amongst companions of their class and breeding, Rey and Rose jested about some pretty verses the latter had received from a former suitor, who had given the appearance of making her an offer, but disappeared without a trace.
“What do you then recommend to encourage affection?” Ben Solo asked, and Rey knew she had an opportunity that she could not hesitate to utilize.
“Dancing,” she replied, smiling merrily. “Even if one’s partner is barely tolerable.”
When it was time to bid everyone adieu for the evening, Rey gathered up her wraps and gloves and waited for their carriages to be drawn forward. She kissed Lady Rose on both cheeks as she headed home, with Commander Poe and Captain Finn soon following.
Ben Solo stood behind her, waiting patiently for their carriages. When Rey stepped forward to her own, to her surprise, Lord Ben stepped forward and handed her up into it. His hands were surprisingly soft, she realized, once she recovered from her astonishment at the gentlemanly gesture and from the fact that neither of them had been wearing their gloves.
A lesser lady might have thought the gesture untoward, but Rey recognized it for what it was. She did not notice in the dark night and the midst of her own reverie that as Ben’s carriage was drawn forward, he flexed the gloveless hand that had grasped her own for that briefest of moments.
Ben Solo’s temper was legendary among military men, but the social group of young people that had been formed for the season under the watchful eye of Master Luke and Duchess Leia did not bear witness to such a startling event. Perhaps his time abroad caused him maturation, or perhaps he preferred to keep his own counsel, wary of all the eyes upon him.
Rather, high society watched carefully as the Lady Rose and Captain Finn fell ever more eagerly in love, sharing small smiles and quiet confidences at cards and at table.
Ben Solo remained as reticent as ever, save for when the Lady Rey addressed him in conversation. It seemed he was always startled by her direct gaze and manner of speaking when she addressed him, which caused him to make off-hand remarks about how charming the home they were visiting was, or about the quality of education offered by governesses and tutors.
That conversation was perhaps more delicate as a result of Ben’s disastrous relations with his own family. He was very stiff and awkward in both his posture and his manners when Master Luke Skywalker would enter a room seeking a word with Rey. Ben did not address his own uncle at these times. Nor did he discuss his mother; she did not often attend the many social engagements of the season, being far too busy with her work and also desirous for happy unions among the young people without an excess of matchmaking interference.
What she now hoped for her son besides a return to the family home, none could say, although that possibility seemed to slip away by the day as Ben Solo remained in town, residing with Commander Poe at Netherfield Park.
Rey’s whirlwind week of social events in town had nearly drawn to a close when she received a call from Lord Solo one rainy afternoon. She had gone out for a walk and been caught in the sudden downpour, her hem positively drenched and splattered with six inches of mud.
Still slightly dripping as she sat before the fire in the parlor, sipping at tea, she was startled to hear the maid announcing Mr. Solo’s arrival. Luke had left to visit old friends early that morning, and he was not due back to arrive until late that evening. Rey could not fathom what Ben Solo could possibly want with her; it seemed to her that he had made his disregard for her completely clear.
It seemed there were still surprises to be found beneath his sullen countenance, however, for the man who appeared before her seemed to be disturbed by something profound. He struggled to appear composed before her, but his hands ran continually through his lush hair after he had removed his hat.
“Lady Rey,” he began, looking at her in earnest, then his gaze fell back down to his hands, which he stretched before him as if he wished to reach forward, but then rested them upon his knees once more.
“I have struggled in vain and can bear it no longer. These past days have been a torment. I came here today only to see you, not my uncle. I have fought against judgement, my family’s expectation, inferiority of your birth, my rank. I will put them aside and ask you to end my agony.”
“I don’t understand,” Rey replied, unable to conjecture what he meant.
“I love you. Most ardently. Please do me the honor of accepting my hand.”
Rey sat for a moment in stunned silence, knowing she was being untoward by staring at the man who had so awkwardly just proposed to her, but she could not fathom how he had gone from not finding her handsome enough to dance with the week prior, to being ardently in love with her and asking for her hand.
She began her reply slowly, with measured, calm words. Rey did not wish to provoke an excess of emotion in the gentleman; she was not sure as to what had caused his torrent of words in the first place.
“Sir, I appreciate the struggle you have been through, and I am very sorry to have caused you pain. It was unconsciously done.”
Ben paused for a moment, running his hands through his hair once more. He looked up at her, his hand on his forehead and his elbow on his knee.
“ Is this your reply?”
“ Yes, it is,” Rey said, conviction evident in her every word and calm demeanor.
The nervous energy presented by Ben Solo increased with every moment. His mental state was clearly one of agitation precipitated by Rey’s response to his untoward proposal.
“Are you rejecting me?” he asked, not deigning to look upon Rey once more, his brow creased in frustration.
“I am afraid I have but no other choice,” Rey replied, wishing that her unwelcome suitor would leave her parlor with haste, as the situation was becoming exceedingly awkward the longer he remained, looking uncomfortable, and seemingly unwilling to accept that the woman he had insulted in front of her friends the week prior was uninterested in such a union.
“Why are you rejecting me with such little consideration?” he asked, finally standing and looking down at Rey.
He was truly a tall man and cut a fine figure, Rey realized as he stood before her. While his intellect had previously impressed her, that and his fine looks, however, could not compare to his dismissive attitude and lack of civility.
“I might ask you why you asked for my hand with such little consideration. You stand in your uncle’s home, yet you do not speak with him or the rest of your family. Your parents desire that you return home, Ben, as does your uncle. You should very well know I have other provocations in addition to your lack of regard for your own family. Why should I endeavor to consider a man who not only abandoned his own family, but also insulted me just one week ago, and treats my acquaintances with such disdain?”
“Did my uncle tell you what happened the night I left my family?” Ben responded to Rey’s attempt to deflect his question with barely restrained contempt. She was finally receiving a glimpse of his infamous temper, Rey realized, and she sought to regain control of her own situation. Though she had not been born to the same amount of privilege and rank as Ben Solo, she was still a lady, and deserved to be treated in a dignified manner.
“You are the last man I could ever be prevailed upon to marry,” she practically snarled at him.
Ben appeared to be startled by the vehemence of her response.
“Forgive me, madam, for taking up so much of your time. I will bid you adieu,” he said, with a far more collected composure and sadness evident in his voice. He put his hat and gloves back on, and stepped out into the rain without a further word.
After Ben’s disastrous attempt at a proposal, Rey found herself quite disquieted. She could not bear to tell Luke about what had occurred when he returned home, however, and she found herself unable to provide any conversation of consequence. They left soon after for a tour of the Peak District, where Leia and Han resided.
Rey was eager to get away from London, from the expectations and obligations of being a young woman out in society. She was excited to finally see the great manor home of the Dukes of Organa for the first time, and to get better acquainted with the Duchess and Captain. Both had been legends to her, growing up in the orphanage. Young Rey, serving at table for an ungrateful and vicious master, could never have dreamed that one day she would be served at high table alongside a peer of the realm.
She never would have dreamed that same peer of the realm’s son would inconsiderately propose marriage to her.
She tried to put Ben Solo and his barely restrained anger out of her mind as she and Luke traveled northward. She would endeavor to treat him civilly in the future, if he treated her likewise. She did not hold out hope that his behavior towards anyone else would improve. If he had been reticent to improve his relations with his family and companions in the past, Rey’s association with them would certainly be an impediment to his doing so in the future.
“What are men compared to rocks and mountains?” Luke remarked one afternoon as they picnicked in the sunlight, fresh apples, bread, and cheese spread before them.
Rey could not help but agree. The fresh air was doing much for her complexion and her spirits. In the dingy part of London from whence she had come, fresh air and natural food were also but a dream. Her life had changed drastically, but her innermost self was still given to reflective introspection; her inner dialogue rarely ceased. Thankfully, as the scenery changed and turned into great stretches of moorland the farther north they traveled, she was able to put Ben Solo and her own miserable past behind her, physically and mentally.
Captain Solo and Duchess Leia showed Rey every courtesy imaginable when she and Luke finally arrived at the great manor house. Everywhere Rey turned, a fine work of art caught her eye. Her suite of rooms was well appointed, a ladies’ maid helped her dress and set her hair each day, and most importantly of all, the food and tea was divine. Captain Solo took her out riding with one of his finest horses, and Luke appeared to be the happiest and most content that he had been in years.
Rey did not want her summer in the north to end. She wrote Finn and Rose a letter nearly every day, extolling the virtues of living in the countryside, simply and close to the land. She eagerly awaited a letter confirming what everyone had desired for the two for quite some time, and near the end of their stay, formal letters addressed not only to her, but to Master Luke, Captain Solo, and Duchess Leia arrived bearing the long awaited good news and wedding invitations.
The London social season would close with the wedding of Lady Rose Tico and Captain Finn Stormbreaker.
Rey’s preparations to depart and head southward were bittersweet. She and Luke had passed nearly three months in their meandering travels northward and time at Pemberley; they had stopped at the great universities and historic towns and spent many days simply wandering the countryside, discussing the Jedi Order and London politics as long as they so chose. They would take a far more direct route home; the school term would begin within the next few weeks, and then it would not be long before Finn and Rose’s wedding.
It was much to everyone’s surprise, as Luke and Rey were nearly ready to take their leave of Duchess Leia and Captain Han, when none other than Ben Solo himself appeared in the dining room at breakfast.
Rey remained unable to move or speak, so great was her shock upon seeing him again. He greeted her pleasantly, much to her even greater surprise. Something within him had profoundly changed, she thought, watching the way he kissed his mother’s hand and inquired after his father’s horses.
It had been nearly seven years since Ben Solo had renounced his family, and it seemed he had finally decided it was time to make amends.
Rey and Luke were due to depart in the morning, and she could not help herself but to wander the halls once more, soaking in the rich history woven in tapestries and carved in marble surrounding her. She found a bust of Ben, cast not long before he set forth for the Continent, and deemed it a fair likeness.
Her solitary walk through the great home brought her to a small but well appointed parlor containing an intricately carved pianoforte. Growing up such that she did, she scarcely had time to practice and achieve a fortitude of talent that so many young ladies of her age possessed. But now, she had time at her leisure, and she was drawn to stretch her fingers and practice an adagio or two.
Rey engrossed herself in playing for a few hours; so intent was she that she did not notice she had an audience until she checked the time on a mantlepiece clock across the room. Unbeknownst to her, Ben Solo had seemingly materialized on a chaise lounge, content to watch and listen to her poor performance without remarking upon it.
She started upon seeing him, putting her hand to her chest, and did not know how to begin a conversation.
“Miss Kenobi, I apologize. I did not mean to startle you. I merely wished to discover the source of the beautiful music I overheard, and found myself drawn to listen.”
“I apologize for intruding in your home and for my poor playing. I did not have a great deal of time to practice when I was young.” Rey would only ever speak the truth; some children at the orphanage called her blunt. Perhaps Ben Solo would agree. She, however, valued honesty.
“You play beautifully,” he replied, looking down at his feet.
“Thank you,” she said, hoping he realized she was truly grateful.
He then abruptly left the room after nodding at her, flexing his hands as he went.
Rey and Luke departed, heading south for London, the next morning. Rey could not help but reflect upon her strange encounter with Ben Solo, how he had seemed more polite and docile than their meeting in the spring. She hoped that his improved comportment extended to his previously estranged family, and that his abrupt arrival at Pemberley signified a new detente in his relationship with his parents and uncle. As the road wound downward, however, her thoughts soon turned to her dearest companions’ wedding.
July had turned to August, and August then turned to September, and in a haze of sunlight and soon to turn greenery, Captain Finn Stormbreaker and Lady Rose Tico were married. It was a joyous occasion, filled with laughter and the brightest future and hopes for the young people.
Much to Finn and Rose’s joy and delight, and Rey’s surprise, the entire Organa-Solo family arrived in London together, Lord Ben escorting his mother on his arm and Captain Solo following behind with his first mate. Ben Solo even smiled and raised a glass in a toast to the happy couple, and warmly shook hands and embraced them.
When the night had turned to dancing and drinking after a fine and filling meal, Rey stood laughing, gaily watching the military men tease Finn. It was then that Captain Solo himself approached her and asked her to join him in a dance. It appeared that the men of that family would never cease to surprise Rey. She eagerly accepted the gallant old captain’s hand, and while they gently danced, his words surprised her far more than his offer.
“Thank you for bringing my son home,” he said quietly, pressing Rey’s hand.
“I appreciate your kindness, Captain Solo,” she replied, “but I do not think I can claim the credit for that at all.”
He chuckled. “You caused my son’s heart to change far more than you think you did,” he said, winking at her.
Rey did not know how to respond; the dance soon ended, however, preventing her from worrying too long over what to say.
For her last dance of the evening, her hand was claimed by none other than Ben Solo himself.
They began their dance in an embarrassed silence, not looking at one another. Rey felt herself drawn to an attempt at conversation, yet her mind was still disquieted from the tumult of the evening and her conversation with her partner’s father. Surely something profound had caused a change within him, and it did him great credit; yet she could not claim that credit for her own, as Captain Solo had given it to her.
“Have you enjoyed the festivities this evening?” she finally ventured, right before she was separated from her partner by the dance.
“Do you talk as a rule while dancing?” he responded, before they were again separated.
“No, I prefer to be unsociable and taciturn. It makes it all so much more enjoyable, don't you think?” she replied, hoping he would take the comment in stride as a jest.
“I do not have the talent of conversing easily with people, as you well know,” he said as they returned to their partnership, looking at one another through the dance.
“Perhaps you should practice, as I should the pianoforte,” she said as they were joined once more.
Lord Solo was drawn away by his mother soon after the dance ended, and Rey could not help but feel heartened by his return to his family and attempts at making amends. He had overcome his own pride, it seemed, and Rey realized she too had overcome her own ill perceptions of the man caused by his estrangement from his family and the dishonor he had brought to them.
She went to bed that night unable to sleep, wound up in her roiling emotions, torn between happiness for Finn and Rose and for Duchess Organa and Captain Solo, and uncertainty about her heart’s own desires.
At dawn she quietly abandoned her chamber for a long walk in the park to soothe her mind and soul. The fresh air would ameliorate her disquiet, she was certain.
She drew her cloak about her, as the sun was slowly rising and mist lifted from the ground, and ascertained a tall, dark figure approaching her from the other side of the park.
Ben Solo approached her, and her heart rose like the sun behind him.
“I could not sleep,” she said by way of conversation as he drew up to her.
“Nor I,” he replied. “I believe you spoke with my father last night.”
“I did,” she confirmed, not wishing to breach the elder gentleman’s confidence.
“It has taught me to hope as I'd scarcely allowed myself before. Rey, you must know--surely, you must know it was all for you. You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were in the spring, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”
She took his hand into her own, and pressed her lips to his knuckles.
“My own sentiments have undergone a very serious change,” she confirmed. He drew her closer, holding her gently.
Rey could not resist a bit more teasing of the man she could now properly call her beloved, and she wanted him to account for his having ever fallen in love with her. “How could you begin?'' she asked. “I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?''
“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun,” he confessed.
“My looks you had early withstood, and as for my manners -- my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?'' she asked, both of her hands now clasped in his before her.
“I did for the liveliness of your mind,'' he confirmed, causing her to laugh.
“We should tell your uncle and your parents,” she said, looking up at him.
He nodded, and they set off for the first true home Rey had ever known. She was soon to build another, and her heart was full and light as they held hands, walking together.