Although the time spent at Rosings was far more pleasant that expected, Lizzy was still glad to be in the carriage with her young family and travelling to her beautiful home. She was holding her daughter as the child slept. It was a quiet time as Catherine was also asleep and Darcy was absently playing with his sons hair. This was the perfect picture of a family that Lizzy wanted, nothing could be better. After a quarter of an hour spent in this happy reflection Darcy broke the silence.
"Darling Elizabeth, does it please you that we return home?"
"Yes, your aunt was nearing pleasant near the end of the visit and I would return if you wish it but to return to ones home with ones family is something that I have been wishing for. It was good to see dear Charlotte though and James and Louisa."
"Of course, and the arrival of Col. Fitzwilliam in the second week of our visit was a pleasant surprise, even though he stayed only a week. I believe that his visit made lady Catherine happier, she even invited us all to return at the same time next year as it was my custom in the past as I am sure that you are aware." A hint of a smile edged Darcys mouth at his reference to the visit that he had made when Miss Elizabeth Bennet was a guest of Mrs. Collins.
Returning the smile but otherwise not responding to the last part of her husbands comment, Lizzy answered "Such and honour I did not expect, not to be arranged least of all before we returned to Pemberley."
"My aunt is all surprises."
"Indeed she is."
A pause followed. Darcy again broke the silence "My aunt has also told me that she may consider bequeathing Rosings to one of our children. This is attention that I did not expect, it was not something I wished to hear but with the loss of her daughter, and she is not a young woman and she has a large estate and many tenants to consider. I believe that she still favours me."
"It does appear that way. I do not wish to discuss such things now, enjoy the ride with the children, you spend too much time away from them."
"You are right of course Lizzy, nothing I would like more than to spend time all my time with my family, especially my wife, but business cannot always be left to others. The girls are asleep and Fitzwilliam is trying hard not to sleep." Mr. Darcy and his wife returned to speaking of pleasant things such as travelling and returning home, the picturesque countryside they were travelling and of course the new addition to the Bingley family. Conversation was occasionally interrupted by a child waking and wanting to look out the window or receive some attention from one parent or the other but the smiles on the face of her husband assured Lizzy that it was a pleasant trip for him as well as herself.
The arrival of three children and Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, three nurses and a number of maids and servants was a joy to all concerned. Lizzy enjoyed travelling with the children but was aware that they were best in the routine of home. That routine is exactly what she was going to give them now. Visits to Jane and Jane visiting Pemberley was all the excitement Lizzy wanted now. Time with her husband, her children and her sisters family is all she ever wanted to keep her in perfect happiness.
Four months after the birth of Elizabeth, on almost the same day, Mrs. Timothy Black and Mrs. Frederick Black gave birth to sons. Each was named for his father and the joy felt at the Darcy household was only slightly less than what was felt in the homes of the new children.
Nearly a year has passed since their last visit to Rosings Mrs. Darcy receives a letter from her husbands aunt. Although the Darcy family take small trips to Longbourn or London, they spend most time at home at Pemberley as a family should.
If it is at all convenient to yourself and your husband, I would be grateful if you would come and stay at Rosings for a fortnight. Your last visit was long ago and since the loss of my dear Anne I long for the company of my nephew.
Lady Catherine de Burg.
Both Lizzy and Darcy were surprised that such a letter should come addressed to the wife, but it was the proper way to address such a letter. Darcy was extremely gratified that the letter was addressed to his wife, it showed him that his wife had been accepted by his aunt, at least as much as she was ever going to be able to. They agreed that the invitation would be accepted and they would leave for Rosings one year after their last visit.
For six years the trip to Rosings was repeated and at every visit, lady Catherine seemed weaker and weaker. Lizzy divided her time, and the time of her children between the main house at Rosings and the Parsonage. Lady Catherine was growing more fond of the twins with every visit and she appeared in much better spirits whenever the children had spent half a day with her. The manners of her husbands aunt with respect to Lizzy had improved so much over the years that Lizzy felt almost valuable to this woman. On their third annual visit Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were able to present their second set of twins, Anne and Theodore. They were also able to announce to lady Catherine the birth of the third Bingley child, Thomas. A year later they were able to inform lady Catherine that Mrs. Bingley had been safely delivered of her fourth child, Sarah, who was to be the last Bingley child.
Rather than an invitation to visit an eighth time, Darcy received a letter from his aunts lawyer, lady Catherine had been hiding from her nephew and all other relations how ill she really was and she had died in her sleep. Darcy was requested to attend town and visit his aunts lawyer on a matter of urgency.
Lizzy agrees that it is best for Darcy to attend this business on his own as the elder children especially were quite attached to lady Catherine and to go to London where there will be little news that will be happy would not be of benefit for the children, and Lizzy secretly desired to stay home as they had just arrived home from a month at Longbourn.
Darcy planned a trip that would be less than a week in duration as he knew that lady Catherine had considered leaving her property to his children, but she had not discussed this in three years, and Col. Fitzwilliam himself or his children had an equal claim to the property.
Lizzy was incredibly happy that her second son would be so well provided for but feared that while her husband was responsible for two estates at such a distance he would be away from home a great deal more often than he already was.
Lizzy and her husband discussed the matter and it was decided that a manager would be employed to oversee the daily running of Rosings, but the family would visit twice every year. This would mean more time away from her beloved home but was willing to agree as it would mean that her family of seven would be together, and she could continue to visit her dear friend Charlotte Collins.
Mr. Bennet did not attend breakfast with his family and this concerned Lizzy a great deal. On inquiring of a servant, she was told that he was not well enough to leave his room. Lizzy instantly sent for a doctor to attend him and then attended her father herself. If she had proposed a doctor to Mr. Bennet he would have dismissed the idea as unnecessary and strained himself to prove this to his daughter. Rather than argue with her father, having a doctor in attendance would ensure his cooperation, however unhappy he was about the arrangement.
Mr. Bennet died two days later. Jane and Bingley were already on their way to Longbourn as Lizzy had sent a message to her sister to tell her that their father seemed very ill and she should attend him. The death of Mr. Bennet also brought Kitty Black and her husband to Longbourn.
Soon after the funeral of Mr. Bennet while his daughters were packing his things and the things of their mothers family the Collins' arrived at Lucas Lodge, the home of Mrs. Lucas' family. Although arriving unaware of the fate of Mr. Bennet, Mr. Collins felt it necessary to offer his condolences to the bereaved daughters as soon as he heard of the death. Charlotte attempted to deter her husband from this course of action as she knew her dear friends would not welcome a visit from her husband who was to inherit the home of their childhood. Charlotte proved correct and the visit her husband made to his cousin was an untimely reminder that the home that they grew up in was to be lost to their family and Mr. Collins was to inherit due to an entail that prevented the property being passed down the female line and Mr. Collins was the nearest male relation to Mr. Bennet.
With each subsequent visit Mr. Collins made to Longbourn he began by offering his condolences to his cousins, especially concentrating on Mrs. Darcy and assuring them that he was not going to force their removal and would allow them to take all the time they required. Although his words spoke of patience the change in his manners spoke volumes to Lizzy that he would take possession and move his family into Longbourn the following day if his wife did not prevent it.
Mr. Collins' compliments reduced and he began to speak to Mr. Darcy as an equal in consequence, and worse to Mr. Darcys ear, Mr. Collins spoke to Mrs. Darcy as if she were a lady that he were superior to in fortune and consequence and she had made an error in refusing his hand years ago. Lizzy calmed her husband but consulting with Charlotte, convinced him to return and close the parsonage of Hunsford before taking possession of Longbourn. Mr. Collins left two weeks before he would return to take his new home.
It was necessary that Mary find a sister to stay with. Kitty and her family had returned home soon after the funeral and she would rather not have Mary with them. This left Lizzy or Jane to take in their sister.
The Collins' move into Longbourn two months after the death of Mr. Bennet. It was much due to Charlottes insistence that Mr. Bennets daughters not be forced from the home before they were ready. Mary moved in with Jane Bingley to assist the children and teach the girls to play the piano and embroider. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, Catherine Wickham, Fitzwilliam, Jane, Anne and Theodore returned to Pemberley.
During their tenth annual visit since the death of Mr. Bennet, Mr. Darcy and his fourteen year old son Theodore meet with the estate manager. Mr. Darcy had decided two years earlier that, as the estate was to be Theodore's, and he was a level headed young man, that Theodore would be involved in all decisions related to Rosings. Although all decisions were finally made by Mr. Darcy himself, he encouraged his son to make his own decision first and then present them to his father. This he did and Mr. Darcy thought it strange at first how different the ideas of his son could be to his own. A thought to his wife quickly reminded him that his son had been brought up to think away from the class and time honoured way of dealing with business and taught to think what is best for himself, his family and his estates. Darcy was proud of his son and often allowed the decision made by Theodore to be the decision he followed, even if he was not convinced that this was the best course of action, if it would not incur great problems for the estate or family than Darcy, with a little help from his wife, allowed his son to learn from his errors.
Mr. Darcy and Theodore are informed that the rector of the Parish that was Mr. Collins' living wishes to retire. No successor has been chosen as yet so Darcy asks the man to remain in the position for a further year so that a suitable person may be found for the post, for he wished to consult with his wife and Theodore may learn the best way of finding a new person for a post of responsibility and value. As the current occupant of the position is a true man of the cloth with a concern for his parish that is admirable, he agrees to defer his retirement for a year.
When Theodore mentions to his mother that the living at Rosings is to be vacant, she instantly thinks of her dear friend Charlottes eldest son. Although he is to inherit Longbourn, the estate is not sufficient to keep him and his parents family. James had expressed an interest in joining the clergy to Mrs. Darcy when she had been visiting with his mother. As Charlotte had encouraged her husband to have the entail broken when their son reached the age of 21, this had been done quite recently, but this did not change that the estate was a small one with little to need the attentions of Mr. Collins and his son.
At this time Mr. Darcy received a letter from Mr. Wickham. It clearly indicated that Mr. Wickham knew that the living at Hunsford was soon to be vacant and he wished to be placed in it. He felt no doubt about his entitlement to such a position. His daughter, who he had never seen, resides in the Pemberley house and has been brought up as a Darcy in all but name, and as far as he was aware, Darcy had no other person who could lay any claim to the post.
Lizzy mentioned these thoughts to her husband who hesitated. In the way that Lizzy had developed of talking with her husband and directing his thoughts, she quickly pointed out to him that he had no other person in his gift who deserved such an appointment. They had also known James since he was a child and were very much attached to him. Darcy, after months of discussion and thought agreed with his wife that James Collins should be offered the living at Hunsford.
As no requests to purchase the living had occurred (and Lizzy would not approve as she did not agree with the sale of clergy positions) Mr. Darcy sat his son down in his study and explained the two options for the post at Rosings. As the current holder of the office had no children and Darcy had placed all those he felt entitled to such a post into other posts within his control. Theodore listened to the letter, and remembered James. Theodore had only met James Collins on a dozen occasion, four of which were before his memory but he remembered the kindness he had shown to all his family, especially his cousin Catherine. As Mr. Collins did not speak a great deal to Catherine, Theodore thought James a better person for making up the difference. Although Theodore knew very little of the man who was father to Catherine, he did know that Catherine had never met him and Theodore thought that was enough to demonstrate James Collins as the better person for the post. Mr. Darcy agreed, and although he did not confess it to his son, he would not have allowed Mr. Wickham in the post of Rector.
The Darcy children knew very little of Wickham though Fitzwilliam knew a little more detail. Both Darcy sons knew Wickham was Catherine's father and had married their mothers sister, their sisters also knew this much. The boys were further aware that Wickham had been granted payment rather than a living. Fitzwilliam, through hearing his parents and uncle Col. Fitzwilliam discuss it knew that Catherine's father had greatly offended Darcy in relation to aunt Georgiana and he was not thought to be a respectable gentleman. Neither Darcy don was predisposed to like Mr. Wickham or grant him any favours.
As it was not an immediate need, the discussions regarding the living at Rosings were carried out over a number of months. Not one of the five children of Pemberley were unaware of the discussions, although Jane Darcy was not concerned by it as she was being courted by a young man with a small estate in the neighbouring county. Fitzwilliam did not pay it much attention as he was always being given greater responsibility around the Pemberley estate. To Anne it was of no consequence at all she had much rather attend her aunt Bingleys home and play and sing with her aunt Mary. Anne had quite a talent for the piano and the harp, singing and drawing. At fourteen, Anne was happy to spend all day reading playing and singing and in the evening sketch her family as they sat around and discussed the day passed. To Catherine the discussions held a little more interest. When she was younger she quite liked James but that was when she was a child, she was now eighteen and had not seen him in three years as she was ill when Lizzy had visited Mrs. Collins two years ago and last year Catherine was with Anne Darcy at the Bingleys. Further interest than James held her attentions whenever the living was discussed. Her father had approached the man who had taken her into his home and loved her and cared for her as if she was his own. One evening, as Anne was sketching her brothers and sister in one corner of the sitting room, Catherine asked her aunt about her father
"Aunt Lizzy, why does my father not visit?" This question surprised Lizzy as her niece had not asked about her father since she was a small child. Then Lizzy had answered that her father could not take care of a little girl without her mother. This time it would need to be a better and more detailed answer than this. Darcy, who had looked up at this question, also knew that the answer would need to be better and it is probably time for more truth than any wished to relive. He left it to his wife to answer and hoped that his children would be quiet in the corner or even leave and attend the library. Almost as if his mind had been read by his eldest son, Fitzwilliam suggested to his sister that the light would be better in the library. As she saw no reason to doubt the older brother who she idolised, Anne gathered her materials and hustled her subjects out of the room. Darcy gave his son an approving look. Fitzwilliam gave a slight nod as he followed his sisters and brother from the room.
"Your father has not been seen by anyone here in a number of years. You know that aunt Kitty and aunt Georgiana saw him in Bath when they were there and you were a little girl."
"Yes I did know that aunt Lizzy, but why does he not visit me, does he blame me for my mothers death?" Lizzy moved beside her niece on the sofa to comfort her and help stem the tears that were forming. Darcy put down his book as he knew that the child was clever and would not settle for part of the story and he knew that this would not be a pleasant evening. Catherine would not doubt them, but the story of her parents would not be nice for her. Darcy moved to the chair opposite the sofa as his wife comforted the child, no she is a young woman and he would do best not to forget that, soon she would be leaving Pemberley, he was sure as she had the looks of her aunt Jane and the quick wit of her father without any of the selfishness.
"No dear he does not blame you for your mothers death, the only way that I can answer your questions is to tell you about your parents. How they met and what happened to bring their marriage to fruition." Catherine's eyes, glazed by tears, looked to her aunt with hope. Nobody had ever told her much about her parents, she knew that her mother was Lizzy and Jane's youngest sister who married first. Beyond this she knew very little. This had always bothered her but the love of aunt Lizzy and uncle Darcy that was equal to that they showed their own children had made it so hard to ask these questions before for fear of seeming ungrateful. Her cousins were as close to her as sisters and brothers could be.
Lizzy gave her husband a quick look which communicated her feeling that she knew that she was to disappoint the child and although she would recover, it would make her a little less innocent and a little more grown up at the end. Darcy looked back with understanding but indicated Lizzy should continue, he could not control himself when talking about Wickham.
"Your mother Lydia was very young when she met Mr. Wickham. Lydia was spirited and your grandmother encouraged her but my father felt that she would not get into too much trouble so allowed her to attend balls and be out a great deal in public. With all our sisters, Lydia and I met Mr. Wickham in Meryton where he was in the company of an officer. Mr. Wickham was soon to join the regiment. On that first meeting I noticed a look pass between Mr. Wickham and Darcy (as Darcy and Bingley were residing in the neighbourhood at that time and they happened to stop to greet your aunt Jane in the street, you, along with all the children of Pemberley have heard the stories of how Aunt Jane and Bingley met many times) Mr. Wickham attended balls and tea with his fellow officers and often my sisters and I attended with Mr. Collins (as he was a guest at Longbourn at that time). Mr. Wickham paid a great deal of attention to" Here Lizzy paused, she wanted to save all in the room now as much pain as was possible and too much detail will cause not only Catherine pain but Lizzy and her husband too. If Catherine noticed the pause she did not speak about it. "Our family. Later Lydia went to Brighton with the Colonel of the regiment and his wife. Here Lydia and Wickham must have spent a great deal of time together, but Lydia did not write a great deal to her sisters, only your aunt Kitty may know more about this time. Lydia left Brighton with Wickham and they were found in London. Lydia went to stay with aunt Gardiner and they were married in London.
Here Lizzy paused. She had related a great deal of information with few omissions, and was unsure how her niece was dealing with it. Lizzy and Darcy looked at each other and at Catherine. Tears were running freely down her cheeks but she nodded to enquires if the narration should continue. Lizzy drew her niece to her against a little resistance, kissed her forehead and released her. Catherine looked to see her uncle a little grave and squeezed her aunts hand as she turned to face her. Catherine wiped her tears and Lizzy continued
"After their marriage, Wickham left the militia and joined the regulars in a northern regiment. This commission needed to be purchased and, as your father had a great many debts. This commission was purchased by Darcy he also paid the other debts." Here Lizzy stopped to see Catherine's reaction. Tears were running down her cheeks and Lizzy thought that maybe she had said too much. Just as she was about to reach for Catherine and apologise for this, Catherine spoke
"You are not telling me all. Why would a man who did not like another and was not in any way connected with him purchase a commission? Please do not spare me the details I need to know. Now the tears were flowing freely but Darcy felt it time to continue.
"You are perceptive as always child. At this time I did love Elizabeth, but she had rejected me, as you know" A look from Lizzy showed that she had told Catherine a number of years ago when she, Jane and Anne had been playing with dolls and Anne had asked how her mummy met her daddy and Lizzy told the whole story. What Lizzy didn't know was that Darcy was watching his lady and the children with a great deal of affection. The smile on his face said he was not upset but was happy that his daughters knew that their mother had said no to a gentleman who was feared by others, he hoped that this helped them in their life so they know they too can say no to a man they do not love.
Darcy continued "So Elizabeth Bennet and I were not engaged at that time, we were friendly as she had recently left Lambton with her aunt and uncle and I now know that she was confused about me." Here Lizzy gave a look of embarrassment and Catherine stifled a giggle as she had come to know the playfulness of her aunt but rarely did she se her embarrassed.
"Lizzy and her aunt and uncle left as Lydia and your father had eloped and had been traced to London. You must remember that your mother was very young so do not judge her harshly" Here Darcy stopped. The rest of this statement, that she had been indulged by her mother would do no help and only cause pain so he left it unsaid. Lizzy continued
"Darcy also left soon after and he found Lydia before my father and uncle did. My father returned home before Darcy approached my uncle and arranged the wedding and the new post for your father."
Catherine's composed herself and started "Thank you for telling me all of this. I have long wondered about many of these things but this tells me little relevant to today. Why does my father not write to me?" To her uncle Catherine continued "Why did you do this?" Catherine saw the mask of pain come over his face and for a minute feared that she had gone to far, she was an orphan welcomed into their home and brought up as one of their own children after all. She turned to her aunt "I am sorry I will go to bed"
As Catherine began to stand, Lizzy put a restraining arm on her shoulder. Lizzy pulled Catherine to sit beside her again and began. "Perhaps we can forgive the rudeness in your remark as you want to know about your family, this is only fair and I am sure you have realised that in the past your father did not have a friendship with your uncle. I am aware of the particulars but I believe that he should tell the story."
"I am not angry with you Catherine, your questions merely remind me of pain that I had believed forgotten. Only a few others know the details of what I am going to tell you and I would ask that you do not repeat it to anyone, not even your cousins." She nodded.
Darcy went on to explain that this Mr. Wickham was the son of the former steward of Pemberley and in this he proved is behaviour to be less than appropriate. He had requested payment rather than a living at Kimpton. This was paid and Wickham left and did not return to interfere the Darcy family for a number of years. He further went on to say that the next contact with Wickham was when he had planned an elopement with Georgiana, and although it never took place it had a great affect on Georgiana as she had been in love with a person who was kind to her a child.
"As you see, it was my fault that he had eloped with Lydia as I should have made his behaviour public. I was too proud. It was Lizzy who showed me my pride and that she would be disgraced by his behaviour I could not stand. I loved Lizzy then and hoped one day that she would marry me so I could not allow the behaviour of her sister and Wickham to cause her pain." A look from Lizzy who was holding a tearful Catherine told Darcy that he had said enough and it was good for the child that he had said it.
"So you see Catherine" Lizzy gently said with affection calculated to comfort her niece. "Your father was not a respectable man the last time that we saw him. He hoped to make his fortune at the hands of Darcy or through marriage. He had done neither so seeks a living here. I cannot answer why he has not contacted you, he knew that one of my sisters would care for you and he knew from Georgiana (in Bath) that you were at Pemberley. Would you like for him to come to you?"
Catherine was silent and looked to her aunt Lizzy, who along with aunt Jane were the only mothers she knew. "I would like to meet him. I do not wish to go to him, I love it here I love you and uncle Darcy I only wish to have seen him, I need to see him."
Darcy stood, bent to his wife and kissed both ladies on the forehead and left the room. Catherine was crying in Liz's arms but the tears were slowing and the embrace of her aunt told her that this was her family now. Almost as if on cue, three of Catherine's Darcy cousins entered the room intent on sitting down to cards with their cousin.
Before departing for Hertfordshire, Darcy had a difficult letter to write to Mr. Wickham. For Catherine's sake, Darcy was more polite than he would otherwise have been.
I am sure you expected that I would not be offering you the living at Hunsford. You will no doubt be satisfied with this confirmation that I will not now or in the future offer you any such living in my gift, nor will you received any recommendation to the church from me.
As you are aware but the information supplied to you in Bath, your daughter Catherine Wickham is living in my home as a part of my family. She is fully aware of our connection and history. Your daughter would like to meet you and for this reason only would you be welcomed to Pemberley.
Write explicitly you intentions and a note to your daughter would be appropriate at this time.
The party from Pemberley remained in the neighbourhood of Longbourn for a month. The communication was made on the first evening of their visit but the business required a great deal of preparation and Mr. Collins could not express his displeasure at his son going so far away strongly enough at first, especially as he expressed gratitude at the offer from such an important person as Darcy. Time and Charlotte convinced Mr. Collins that the position would be good for his son and now Mr. Collins could not express his gratitude strongly enough. James was thrilled with the proposal and would accept at once if he could arrange to take his orders immediately. It was decided that he would take orders and then move to the rectory in three months as this would coincide with the next Darcy visit to Rosings.
The month was not all business for James. The young lady who he had not seen in more than 2 years had returned and more beautiful than when he last saw her. Catherine and James spent a great deal of time together, sufficient that Lizzy and Charlotte noticed and when they mentioned it to Catherine, she blushed and said nothing of any consequence. No lady concerned wished to mention it to Darcy or Mr. Collins so at the end of the month they were none the wiser. Mr. Darcy was busy avoiding Mr. Collins' company and Mr. Collins was preoccupied with questioning Master Theodore about Rosings and Hunsford parsonage. Mr. Collins wished to be assured that the current rector was in no way capable of living up to all the duties Mr. Collins had undertaken. He further felt that the decision as to the next rector should be chosen only under his recommendation.
James quickly settled into his new home. He had a few things to do to the house to make it his own but he was quite satisfied that he would be happy in Hunsford. He was very happy there while the Darcy family were in residence and he quite often was invited to dine in Rosings Park and he always seated himself next to Miss Wickham.
Before the Darcy family left Rosings, James Collins proposed to and was accepted by Catherine Wickham. As her father was not available, James approached Mr. Darcy for consent. This consent was given but against his better judgment. Darcy felt that James was young and should take up his duties first. It was decided between Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and James that a twelvemonth engagement was required. Darcy had other reasons for this, as he had replied to Mr. Wickham's request for the parish in the negative but had indicated very strongly that he should come and see his daughter at Pemberley. Darcy was not sure he would attend but felt that if Wickham was in as poor a way as he thought that any chance to gain from Pemberley would be welcome. Darcy further believed that the father should be aware of the engagement of his daughter and the visit to Pemberley would be the place to tell him.
Catherine was not happy but at the age of nineteen she had few resources but to express her displeasure at the arrangement to delay her wedding. The spirit she had inherited from her parents showed as it had on a few occasions before when she was not happy with Darcy or Lizzy. She even considered disobeying and marrying James then as they were not her parents and could not prevent it. James calmed her and told her that it would be best and she should be grateful that the living was granted and the consent to marry was given after all it was at Darcys pleasure that James' living depended.
A month after the return of the family to Pemberley, Jane Darcy was married. Mr. Stevens owned a small estate in a neighbouring county and had been courting the pretty Jane Darcy for a while now and had only lacked the courage to approach her father, who she assured him was kind and nice but he had heard that Mr. Darcy was proud and unlikely to allow a marriage to a young man of less fortune than his daughter. Mr. Stevens was surprised when all the assurance that Darcy needed was that Mr. Stevens could provide for a wife and that he loved Miss Jane Darcy.
The weeks that passed before the arrival of Mr. Wickham were terrible for Catherine. Her father was coming to see her for the first time. Catherine was happy that he had finally decided to see her, scared of what he would think of her and she was angry with him for never seeing her and never writing sooner. If he felt the obligation and wish to visit as strongly as suggested in his letter, why had he not written before there was a living to gain. Sometimes she was even angry at Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, she loved them but did they keep her from her father.
At last Mr. Wickham arrived at Pemberley. Anne saw the man at the door first and called Lizzy to see. Lizzy looked from the upstairs window, told Anne that it is a visitor for Catherine and she should bring Catherine to her room quickly. Anne flew from the room, curious who was visiting Catherine. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy had not informed their children about the expected visitor as they feared for the comments that may cause Catherine additional pain on reflection, also Darcy feared Wickham may not arrive as he promised. All the Darcy family knew that a guest was coming to stay and would be visiting with Catherine a great deal. Lizzy quickly moved to Catherine's room, which also faces the drive.
Catherine arrived in the room just as Lizzy arrived at the window. Lizzy was thinking how Wickham had not changed a great deal. He had a little grey in his hair and his step was not quite as strong but he was still quite an attractive man. Anne understood her mother well enough to go to her own room and seek other employment. Catherine looked out the window and Lizzy told her that the gentleman walking to the door is George Wickham.
Catherine stared out the window, confident that he could not see her as the light on the window prevented anyone seeing in from down below the first floor. She could not decide if she should change into her best clothes or send a message that she is not fit for visitors today. Lizzy could see the confusion and asked Catherine to accompany her down to the lounge. Catherine asked that Lizzy not leave her alone with her father. Lizzy agreed.
As the ladies passed through the hall, they heard the front door open and Mr. Wickham ask to be shown to Mr. Darcy. Catherine stopped when she heard the voice and only the gentle nudging of her aunt guiding her into the lounge ensured she arrived before her visitor.
Lizzy and Catherine entered the room and found that Darcy was already there, a servant (who recognised him from years ago when he lived at Pemberley) had given him the earliest possible knowledge of the arrival of Mr. Wickham. Wickham had been taken to the rooms where he will stay to allow Catherine time to compose herself.
Catherine was sitting on a sofa thinking to herself and preparing herself for her fathers entrance. Lizzy looked to her husband. Darcy's face had returned to the unyielding look that he had at the ball where they first met. Lizzy knew that Darcy did not like the person who was now a guest in his house for two weeks. Lizzy also knew that Darcy was doing this for love of the daughter of two people who he did not have respect for. Liz's reflections were interrupted by footsteps in the hallway and a hand on the door. A blushing young servant entered and announced Mr. Wickham. She curtsied looked to Wickham and stifled a giggle as she left the room.
Wickham walked into the room as if he was born to be master of the house. Catherine did not look up as it was proper for the guest to address master and mistress of the house first. If she had looked up she would not be disappointed in the appearance or manners of her father but she would be disappointed that he did not even glance at her.
After brief but polite greetings, Darcy sat in a chair and picked up a book. It was clear that the ladies would act as host to the current, not so welcome visitor at Pemberley. Lizzy invited Wickham to sit and she sat next to Catherine. Wickham sat and began to speak with Lizzy as if they were friends and nothing had passed to affect that. Catherine listened with interest at the way her father almost flirted with the mistress of the house with her husband in the room. Catherine looked to Darcy and saw that he was not reading his book, merely pretending to as he listened to Wickham's conversation. He knew his wife well enough to know that she was polite and friendly for Catherine's sake. Catherine also knew her aunt and was aware that the attentions of Mr. Wickham were not pleasant to her. Catherine realised that the aunt and uncle who raised her were receiving a man they did not like or respect solely for her sake. This realisation more than anything else made Catherine feel more loved and more at home than anything else that had ever happened in her life.
After sufficient time had passed and Wickham had not asked after his daughter, Lizzy interrupted him
"Mr. Wickham, you have come all this way, let me present to you Miss Catherine Wickham, your daughter" The shock on Wickham's face passed quickly and he regained his composure and stood to great the now standing young woman who was sitting on a sofa in the corner.
"Catherine, let me see you. You are a young woman, I was expecting a child." If she had not heard the exchanges between Mrs. Darcy and Mr. Wickham this may have softened her heart to him but it did not. Catherine offered her hand and Wickham took it, lightly kissed it and released it and they both sat opposite one another.
Wickham was all that is charming, asking Catherine if she drew or sang, played or embroidered. If Lizzy did not know the man better, she would think that he was a doting father returning to his family after a long voyage. This is how she remembered Wickham, charming and always able to say what a young lady would wish to hear, as Mr. Bennet had said when he had first wed Lydia 'he simpers and smirks and makes love to us all' and here he is, in Darcys home, Lizzy's home doing the same thing again, only this time he was not attempting to charm Miss Eliza Bennet, he was attempting to charm his own daughter only Lizzy knew that his daughter was smarter than that and she knew more of his history than he would wish.
The interview passed pleasantly enough until Catherine excused herself to practice the piano. Lizzy knew that Catherine did not practice every day and as she practiced yesterday it was unlikely that she wished to practice now. Clearly Catherine wanted to be away and alone to think. Mindful of this, Lizzy requested that Mr. Wickham join her in a walk around the gardens. This allowed both Catherine and Mr. Darcy time to decide what they wished to say to Wickham when they next met.
Not fifteen minutes after leaving the lounge, Catherine reentered it in the hope of finding either Mr. or Mrs. Darcy, she found Mr. Darcy pacing the room.
"I am sorry, I did not mean to interrupt you I will return later"
"No, Catherine stay, I was thinking about you"
"And my father?"
"Yes. What do you want with your father, you did not even tell him that you are to marry. He is acquainted with the Collins' that would give you something to speak to him about."
"I do not wish to tell him at this time. I do not know what I wish to happen, I did not know what he would be and now he is not what I had hoped" Tears were welling in Catherine's eyes and she was hoping that they would go away. She was painfully aware that Darcy did not like her father, that had been obvious even before this interview, but she also knew her aunt did not like her father but is outside with him so that she can think. For this and the welcome into their home that Darcy has given a man that has caused so much pain in his family shows how much he does love her. Then it struck her that Darcy was more of a father than her true father really was. Catherine walked towards her uncle and he briefly embraced her as he would his own daughters. Darcy gently released the girl and began again.
"Do you wish him to stay longer or leave?"
"Can we decide that later. I wish to speak to him more and learn more about him and I have not yet asked why he left me?"
"You are aware that he may not answer that question."
"I am and thank you for however you got him to come here. I know enough of his disposition to be aware that he did not come to see me. He demonstrated that when he arrived." Here Catherine paused. A thought had occurred to her and it was of a delicate nature but she felt she needed to know. It would be easier to speak to aunt Lizzy about this, but it was always easier to speak to aunt Lizzy about the serious things, but Catherine felt that her uncle needed to talk to her about this too. Mr. Darcy was like a father to her and Catherine had inherited her mothers ability to question with confidence about topics that would not normally be discussed. Catherine would not feel threatened even bringing a delicate subject to light with her uncle. "Mr. Darcy, did Mr. Wickham ever attempt to court Mrs. Darcy?"
The formality was not lost on Darcy and only because it was so long ago he was able to answer without becoming angry and quiet. "He did attempt to gain her favour but as we have told you he had hoped to make his fortune by marriage and Mr. Bennet could not give him what he wanted. For a while his lies did gain the sympathy of Elizabeth Bennet but she had no knowledge of his true character. As soon as she was aware of his character the sympathy and any affection disappeared."
"Thank you for your love and honest uncle Darcy" and with that Catherine left the room and walked towards her rooms so that she could be alone until dinner.
"Ah Darcy, Pemberley has not changed."
"It has a better class of people here now, and a beautiful mistress and children. I would say Pemberley has changed a great deal."
"In those ways you are correct, There is a beautiful family at Pemberley and the mistress ...."
Darcy cut him off with contempt and anger in his voice "You are here to see your daughter and we have dealt with your debts. To fill in the other gaps in your understanding, my sister is married and settled, as is my eldest daughter, Kitty is also married. If you do not stay away from the servants you will be leaving my home. If you speak to my wife in so familiar a way as you did today you will leave immediately, if you cause Catherine any pain and she wishes you to leave, you will leave at a moments notice, and your daughter will remain here." Lizzy was not surprised by her husbands manner and she was far from returning the look of amusement that Mr. Wickham directed towards her at the beginning of Mr. Darcys speech. By the end of the speech, Wickham was shocked that Mr. Darcy would speak so directly especially with his lady present.
"As you wish, I do not wish to cause you problems, as you say I am here to visit with my daughter."
Darcy collected his wife by the arm and walked towards the door. He stopped, turned and told Wickham that Dinner was at the same time in the dining room. He then escorted his wife to the gallery.
Three days passed uneventfully. Catherine spent a little time with her father but had a newfound dedication to reading and her music. Lizzy asked Anne not to spend a great deal of time with Mr. Wickham and she was to spend no time alone with him. Anne agreed as she was suspicious of any man that her mother did not like. Lizzy boys were curious but at the request of their father they avoided conversing beyond the weather and general topics that acquaintances of very short time would discuss. All in the house had now learnt that Mr. Wickham is Catherine's father. That he had not met her until she was 19 years of age made them further wary of him.
On the fourth day, when the family and Wickham were playing cards, Catherine decided it was time to ask what she wanted to know even if it was before her entire family, for Catherine felt that the Darcys were her family and Mr. Wickham a part of her history. "Mr. Wickham, why did you leave me as a child?"
"Catherine, why do you ask this? I am here now and will visit you anytime that you ask" A quick look to Darcy said that if she wished she may invite Wickham but he would not do it again.
"I wish to know why I was abandoned. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy care for me, they even love me as if I were their own. Why was I left to the care of my aunts?"
"Can I think and answer in the morning?" This was less a question than a statement that rang loudly that he would not answer this question now. Wickham excused himself, blaming a headache for his need to retire early.
Dearest Mrs. Darcy
I am sorry that I am to leave so unexpectedly but I am sure that you will understand that I have business to attend to. No with you I must be completely honest. I could not stay and speak to my daughter as I do not have the answers that she wishes. I cannot say that I blamed her for her mothers death for I did not and I did not much think about her mother and her name has not entered my mind more than twenty times since.
I did not wish the burden of a motherless child and I could not care for her. She is better with you. Elizabeth take care Make my apologies for departing so suddenly to my daughter but tell her that I will write soon
This letter did not surprise Lizzy or Darcy. Neither expected to hear from Wickham again, and if she considered it carefully Catherine did not expect to hear from him again. Catherine left the room in silence and Mr. and Mrs. Darcy understood and left Catherine to herself. The letter Darcy received a week later was more of a surprise and Catherine was never told of it.
I am by no means deceived into believing that you are unaware of my circumstances. You paid many of my debts but that is not sufficient for me.
If you do not agree to grant me a 400 pound annuity I will write to my daughter explicitly as to the character of her mother and even more so about yourself and your wife. OF course I will not feel obliged to remain within the bounds of truth in my narration.
When you fulfill the arrangement as I have outlined, I will visit my daughter and write regularly as any loving father would. You owe me Darcy.
Darcys reply to this letter was brief and gave Wickham no reason to believe that any communication with Catherine would result in payment of any type. In this response Darcy did not feel it necessary to be polite for Catherine's sake so did not exert himself. Darcy was quite sure that her father could tell her nothing true that she did not know or suspect about her mother and she would not believe anything that he wrote about Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Darcy expected that Catherine would receive a letter as he believed Wickham to have not feelings for his daughter and no concern for her welfare. Mr. Wickham did not write to his daughter and Lizzy hoped, much as her sister Jane would, that this was a demonstration of some affection for his daughter.
Catherine was brooding for days so Lizzy decided it was time to begin preparing for the wedding. She approached Catherine and at first Catherine resisted the attempts of Lizzy to get the girl excited about her wedding that would be in half a year. It was a little early to begin preparations but Catherine needed to be reminded of her life before the visit of her father.
"He isn't coming back is he?"
"I don't believe he will no" Catherine turned to Lizzy and embraced her and cried. The tears flowed for half an hour and then Catherine was recovered. She had met the man who was her father, found him to be a man that she would not like to see again.
A year after the marriage of Catherine and James Collins, they were well settled into the parsonage at Rosings. Theodore was master of Rosings in all but name, and having a cousin who grew up as her brother so near was such a comfort to Catherine. When Mr. and Mrs. Darcy visited Rosings, Mrs. Darcy was sure to call on her niece and dine with her. When Mrs. Darcy, or Mr. and Mrs. Darcy did not dine at the parsonage, the Collins family, including baby Elizabeth, dined at the main house of Rosings as guest of the guardians of Theodore. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy visited Rosings three times in the year following the marriage of Mr. James Collins and Catherine, and Mrs. Darcy called on one further occasion for the birth of the child.
The end of their first year of marriage, nothing could be better for the family in Hunsford parsonage. Their income was sufficient for their needs, their baby was healthy and Mr. and Mrs. James Collins were as much in love as any married couple could hope to be. Both believed that nothing could change and their domestic felicity was assured until James received a letter from his mother. Immediately James called his wife to him. They had to pack up and go to Longbourn as the words of his mother were so urgent.
I hope that your family is well. Be assured that I am well but your father is in need of you. Please come with the utmost haste as he needs to see you.
James could not refuse such an urgent request. Mr. Collins had been ill for some time and James knew that he must be at Longbourn within two days. The family left immediately and was in Longbourn within two days.
On arriving at Longbourn, James Collins was told that his father was not expected to live another night. James flew up the stairs to his fathers rooms and was not seen again by his wife until a maid came to her to say that her father in law had died and that she should attend her husband.
Mr. Collins was buried quite near Mr. Bennet. This was something that would have amused Mr. Bennet and made Mr. Collins as thankful as ever. Now Mr. Collins could be grateful for ever and Mr. Bennet be entertained without the need to keep up a correspondent.
James is now the master of Longbourn. He could now leave the parsonage and move his family to Longbourn. James had always known that this day would come but he was happy in the parsonage at Rosings. He had a wife and daughter who he loved and they loved him. He was devoted to his Parish and was close enough to Catherine's family that she saw them regularly, her cousin was to be master of the estate. James did not wish to move his family.
James was walking in the shrubbery with his wife one evening and he asked her if she wished to move to Longbourn.
"James that is a strange question, it is to be your home, of course I wish to be with you. This is the home that my mother and aunt Lizzy grew in"
As he embraced her James continued "You will always be with me but are you happy at Hunsford parsonage? I would continue there and allow my mother and brother and sisters to continue at Longbourn. As the entail is no longer active, I could even pass it to my sister to be mistress. Now I have no further plans than allow them to continue there in my estate."
"Oh James this is what I had dreamed but not dared hope. Your mother needs a home and has not the means to move to one and our home, for now at least, is at Rosings with our little family. I consent to stay at the Parsonage."
"I will tell mother tonight, shall we go to her now?" They left the shrubbery together and walked straight into the house in search of Mrs. Collins. Mrs. Collins was found in the nursery with baby Elizabeth Collins on her knee. It was such a picture that both Catherine and James stopped at the door to watch for a minute.
When they entered the room, Catherine quickly saw that Mrs. Collins had been crying and quickly pushed her husband back, silently urging him from the room. Although confused, James left as his wife moved to comfort his mother.
The next morning at breakfast James told his mother that she would stay, along with his brother and sisters, and that he, Catherine and the baby would return to Hunsford at the end of the week. Mrs. Collins was overcome, but she consented as she saw that her son was determined and he would not allow any disagreement. Mrs. Collins could easily see that this had been decided between husband and wife. She was only sorry that the baby would be taken away from her.
The day arrived and the guests arrived at Pemberley. Georgiana and her husband and child and Kitty and her husband and child were the first to arrive. The joy of the Darcy brother and sister on seeing each other for the first time in eight months was beyond description. Mary arrived with her aunt Gardiner and Mr. and Mrs. Bingley and three of their children arrived soon after. A Jane Stevens and her husband arrived with the happy news that they were expecting a child midway in the new year. Theodore arrived with Catherine, James and baby Elizabeth and Charlotte Collins to be greeted by Anne and Fitzwilliam Darcy who were at Pemberley already.
Lizzy had arranged such a large party of twenty one plus the young children. It was a fitting way for the family of Pemberley to celebrate. The party continued guesting at Pemberley for three weeks before returning to their respective homes. It was such a party of pleasure that none wished to leave and the hosts were willing to have it continue long past the planned ten days.
It was a sorry day for Lizzy the day that her Catherine left. Catherine, although not her child had been brought up in her family, left with James, Theodore and Charlotte for Rosings. Charlotte was to stay at the parsonage for a further month before returning to Longbourn. Fitzwilliam followed on horseback as he was to go to assist his brother in the running of Rosings before touring the northern Darcy estates.
Jane Stevens and her family left two days after Catherine, and Anne accompanied them. Anne had been forming an attachment with a friend of Mr. Stevens'. He was a young man who was to inherit a large estate and he was charming and pleasant and even Mr. Darcy owned to his wife that he was a fine young man who he would be proud to call son in law. It was expected that this change would occur soon.
Mr. and Mrs. Darcy were alone in Pemberley and they were happy. After 23 years of marriage they are as much in love as they were the day that they were married. They had four children who they loved and a grand child on the way. Both of their sons were provided for and one daughter was well married and the other on the way to being equally well situated.
Mr. Darcy was able to allow his son to care for his properties as he had been raised for the responsibility and he had his fathers ability for business and his mothers wit and ability to move and change as the world does. All this in mind Darcy and his wife decide to travel to their holdings in Scotland for a trip like that which newly married people do. Through all the trials of lady Catherine and her plans for her nephew, Lydia and Wickham and then Mr. Wickham and Catherine, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy have grown together and the shades of Pemberley were not polluted by the introduction of the Bennet blood as was predicted by the aunt, they were coloured and improved.