Netherfield, 29th November 1820.
For the third day in succession Jesmond Calverley once again found himself outside the building that was Netherfield Park. on this day however, it should perhaps be noted that he found himself in a much more calmer and content state of mind. His confession to Mrs. Blakeney the day before and her positive reaction to it was all he could have hoped for from the best friend of the woman that he loved. Oh, he would make no attempt to deny it now. He could disguise himself no longer. Sending out a silent prayer for good fortune he stepped into the foyer and handed his card to the Butler, with the request to see Miss Lydia Bennet.
Lydia this time was glad to receive him. After their agreement to begin their acquaintance afresh the day before, she had spent a long and pleasant afternoon with Mr. Calverley. Gone was the suspicion she had held in previously, disappeared was the reserve in which he had retreated into during many of their past conversations. It seemed to her as if a heavy burden had been released from his mind, for he had been more relaxed in her company than she had ever seen him. Now she rose from her seat and greeted him with pleasure. "Mr. Calverley, it is a delight to see you again."
Jesmond happily took her hand and raised it to his lips. The gesture was purely gallant, but it caused Lydia to blush, and then, surprisingly, smile, giving him hope that his wishes were not in vain. "The feeling is entirely mutual, Miss Bennet," he returned, as she, still blushing, gestured him to take a chair. "How are you this fine morning?"
"I am very well thank you. And yourself?" Lydia tried to keep a calm voice as she stroke the hand that his lips had just kissed. The feelings that the gesture had produced were ones that she had both felt and yet not felt before. There was no fear, only joy.
"I am slightly more well now than I was this morning. And your children?"
"Louisa is sleeping. Henry is playing with Lawrence and James, while the girls are with the twins and Elspeth," Lydia replied, musing with pleasure on how well her children had taken to their cousins, coming out of silent shells and enjoying their childhood, with the Darcy, Bingley and Blakeney offspring.
"I am glad to hear it," Jesmond replied. "What are your plans for the rest of the winter?"
"I am not sure," Lydia replied, as his reply before the enquiry concerning her children repeated itself in her head. Her mind wondered what he could mean by it. "I think I will spend it either at Longbourn or Pearlcoombe, for the Darcys are going to Matlock, the Blakeneys to there then Richmond, Kitty and her family to home. Then I shall look out for a home of my own to rent."
Her last comment startled Jesmond out of a daydream about his hoped for future with her and children. "Your family are not forcing you to do this I hope?" He asked, not out of the thought that they would, but out of sheer concern for her.
"Oh, good lord no, it is for my own peace of mind that I do so. I do not wish to prevail on their good will all my life. They have already promised too much in the way of help," She added thoughtfully, remembering the kind offers from Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Blakeney concerning her income and education for her children, which, after a lot of persuasion Lydia had accepted, albeit temporarily. She wished independence, if she could afford it. "I find I shall miss the delights of Meryton very much. I have made good friends here that I doubt I shall see again."
"I hope I am not too presumptuous if I ask that I am one of those friends?" Calverley's glance and tone betrayed all that he felt and more.
"Indeed you are," Lydia replied, having no idea the effect she was having on her companion. "I shall miss your company very much Mr. Calverley."
"I intend to make every effort, Miss Bennet, that you do not miss it at all. If I may, I hope to be a frequent visitor to wherever your company presides as often as I can."
It was this last phrase that Lydia dwelled much upon after Mr. Calverley's departure. Indeed she gave much thought to all the conversation that had passed between them recently. Since their mutual agreement to begin anew, his manner had differed completely, an altercation that at first she had put down to the part that he had played before. Now however, she found herself giving much speculation to the possibility that he had another reason for being so. For, due to the history of Lawrence Bennet being lost to her family for so many years, he could have no reason for not playing the part in name only, while keeping to his own general manner. She knew not what to describe it to and thus sort out the advice of a friend the moment after he had gone.
She found Georgiana in the company of her cousins, Richard and Anne Fitzwilliam, and instantly decided against talking to her at present. Yet Mrs. Blakeney could do naught but notice the signs that something was troubling her friend and made move to discover it. "Lydia, is something wrong? Be assured, you can speak freely if there is. Richard and Anne will speak of it to no one."
"I am puzzling over Mr. Calverley and his changed manner since the revealing of his true identity," Lydia confessed at last. "Many of the things he said today struck me as odd." She then proceed to relate the entirety of the conversation.
Their reaction, was to smile at each other. A private, secret smile, that spoke of their knowledge of things to come and their approval of it. Georgiana was the first to speak. "Do you wish to continue the acquaintance, Lydia?"
"I do," she replied.
"Then that is all you need to concern yourself with now. What ever his intentions are, you will found them out soon enough. As well as your own feelings on the matter."
"Calverley, a word before you go."
Jesmond turned from his horse to find Richard Fitzwilliam standing before him. "Of course, Fitzwilliam."
"I want you to know that had I known it was you who was heading this from the beginning I would never have unmasked you the way that I did."
"I know and I do not hold it against you. I'm glad you did, I was fast loosing the courage to do so myself. No doubt you know as to why."
"Yes, I think I can hazard the reason. As is the lady herself beginning to do so." Richard smiled at him. "I wish you luck, my friend. And I hope to see you both under much happier circumstances soon enough." He held out his hand.
Jesmond shook it. "Thank you Fitz. I hope you shall."
Netherfield, 30th November 1820.
Early morning brought a handsome carriage and four to the front of Netherfield Park. The coachman kept the former occupied, while footmen from the latter lifted band boxes and trunks upon it ready for departure.
A small congregation of six people came to be assemble on the front steps. The two appareled in coats and hats broke from the rest to deal out their farewells. Handshakes between the trio of gentlemen, embraces amongst the women, then the two united once more. "We'll see you on New Year's Eve at Matlock," Richard Fitzwilliam remarked to his cousins before following his lady into the carriage. The coach struck out the riding crop and the horses sprang into action. The four followed the sight of them until the surrounding countryside made fade away.
Lydia saw none of this farewell between the Darcy side of the family. Her presence was situated in the south drawing room, which looked upon the formal gardens and the wilderness at the back of the country house. Her mind however seemed to be in an entirely different space. Her conversation with Georgiana Blakeney and Mr. Fitzwilliam the afternoon before had aroused within her many a startling revelation, its aftershocks resulting in the most of the evening and the morning that followed in contemplation of her next move, should his prove to be the motion that everyone else believed he would undertake.
Unlike the last time, she was not going to enter into it lightly. She would not rush it, nor would she allow herself to be confused by emotions that originated from nothing more than pure friendship, or familiarity brought on by frequent acquaintance. At four and twenty, she had no desire to make the same mistake that she had made eight years ago. There would be no miracle awaiting her at two and thirty, uncertain as the future was. If events repeated themselves, the effects would not just be cast on her, but on her children as well. She had to be sure, beyond any doubt, before she committed herself.
Separated by the glass, a figure observed her preoccupation. He had been standing outside for quite some time, uncertain as to when he should announce his presence. Only this morning had his fears overtaken him and produced a terrible dream within his sleep.
He had been standing in the very room that now lay before his eyes. He had declared himself, only to be cut to quick as some mysterious apparition swept itself between and took her out of his life forever. So convincing had this illusion been that he had barely woke fully before grabbing the nearest horse and riding full pelt to Netherfield to assure himself that it was not true. Even now his mind remained undecided upon the matter, a fear lurking in the back of it, trying to persuade him that the nightmare had been prophetic.
Jesmond Calverley forced his mind to return to the present. to the woman that lay seated before him, separated only by glass. He took a deep breath, sent a prayer to the heavens and knock upon the window pane.
Lydia rose up and opened the door for him. "Mr. Calverley, forgive me, I had not seen you standing there," she uttered in greeting, blushing into silence when in reply he took her hand and raised it to his lips.
"There is nothing forgive," Jesmond replied, quietly wishing he could attach an endearment to it. "I needed a moment to gather my thoughts any way. I hope you are well?"
"I am very well, thank you," Lydia replied, gesturing him to a seat, her mind still musing over his greeting, convinced that was it longer than the first, and marveled over how a mother of eight could still be reduced to shyness before a gentleman. "The Fitzwilliams departed for Kent today," she began anew in an effort to distract herself.
"I thought as much, I passed their carriage on my way," Jesmond replied, thinking back to the parting between himself and Richard Fitzwilliam, remembering their mutual past on the battlefields of Spain and France and the friendship that had emerged as a result, grateful that his deception had not altered it. "I hear that they plan to rejoin your sister and brother in law at Matlock in the new year."
"Yes, it is something of a tradition I believe. Usually it begins at Christmas, but Elizabeth wished to spend that at Pemberley in the company of her children and her husband." Unconsciously Lydia sighed at this, trying to imagine what it would be like.
Jesmond caught it. "Why do you sigh?"
"Because I wish I had had the luck that she had in choosing her love," Lydia replied. "Theirs is truly a marriage to model others upon, especially after no one, even they themselves ever thought it would occur."
"Why ever not?"
Lydia looked at him in surprise. "No one has told you the story?" Jesmond shook his head. "Well, the story is too intricate to be related now, but briefly, it began with a misunderstanding, followed by a revelation, then a deception, then a declaration, which brought on a refusal, which resulted in an alteration, followed by a renewal, swept apart by a tragedy, and reunited forever by an unexpected intervention that had no idea her act would result in such a union. Remind me to tell you the full story some time."
"I shall," Jesmond replied, thinking how some of it mirrored their beginning. "And you are right. Their marriage is truly one to be admired. I long for the same state myself."
"And whom do you see as your partner? If indeed you have found one, that is."
"Oh, I have found her," Jesmond returned, as he cast his eyes upon her. "It is just a matter of summoning my courage and declaring myself to her."
"Do you not think you will succeed?"
"I uncertain. Many things have occurred between us to make me wonder if I even deserve to try and obtain her. However, I believe I will soon have sorted many of them out." He leaned back upon the sofa, his gaze still fixed on her face, praying that he was no misinterpreting her looks or manner.
"Well, whoever she is, I think she will be lucky to have you."
"You do? I think I will be very lucky to have her. She has had so much sadness in such a short time. I know it will influence her answer."
"Are you sure? It may convince her otherwise." Was all that Lydia uttered in response, causing Jesmond rejoice inside. Did this mean he had a chance? That he was right to hope? He returned his gaze to her once again, his mind now made up.
Netherfield, 1st December 1820.
Elizabeth looked up from her book the moment she heard the click of the door. "Mr. Calverley," she uttered in greeting.
Jesmond halted and began a retreat. "Forgive me, Mrs. Darcy, I had thought that someone else was in here."
"Lydia has gone to spend the morning with Kitty," Elizabeth explained with a smile. "She left not ten minutes ago."
Jesmond sighed. "How did you know?"
"Georgiana told me of your declaration. I must confess that I was surprised that you have yet to tell my sister."
"My delay is due to nerves and fears," Jesmond replied, closing the door and coming to stand in front of her. "Nerves that she will refuse me and fears that her family will not look upon the match with approval."
Elizabeth gestured him to sit. "Well, as to the first, you can only try, and to the second, I believe most of us have suspected its coming for quite some time and have thus reconciled ourselves to looking forward to such a match."
"May I ask your own opinion of it?"
"I approve, providing you have the right intentions."
"Concerning your sister, Mrs. Darcy, I have only the very best and most honourable intentions." Jesmond paused to collect his thoughts. "Do I have her blessing do you think?"
"You have mine, but only time will tell if you have my sisters," Elizabeth replied. "And I wish you luck in obtaining them."
Jesmond rose from his seat. "Thank you, Mrs. Darcy," he uttered before bowing and leaving her to return to her book. Once outside, he leaned against the wall, gathering himself back together once more, his thoughts having fallen apart the moment he had discovered that Lydia was not in the house. He had intended to declare himself today, but it now seemed that desire was in vain, as he could not interrupt her time with her sister, especially if he planned to deprive her of it in the future.
Inside behind the wall he leant against, inside the room he had just quitted, Elizabeth reflected upon the meeting that they had just had. Despite his deception, Mr. Calverley appeared to her to be a good man, the kind of gentleman that her youngest sister was in need of. She just hoped that Lydia recognised that need and allowed herself to not be swayed by her fears that the past could repeat itself.
Lydia returned to Netherfield after luncheon, having spent a morning trying not to think about Mr. Calverley and failing utterly in the process. The night before had already exhausted her thoughts about him and their last conversation, leaving her convinced that she needed a distraction lest she began doubt her desires once more. However, no such relief could be found.
She entered into the same room that the object of her thoughts had quitted some hours ago, and found the same person as he had. In this case though, Lydia had wished to seek this person out. "Elizabeth, could I speak to you for a moment?"
Mrs. Darcy put down her book once more. "Of course Lydia, come in."
Lydia sat down opposite her. "What do you think of Mr. Calverley?"
Elizabeth smiled. "I think him to be everything that is amiable and true." She paused to see her sister's dissatisfaction with that reply. Regarding her with a trademark lively gaze, she added, "but he would have my unswerving devotion if he ever became a brother."
Lydia, finally having the reply she had sort, blushed in response. "Do you really think it can happen?"
"If you want it to, then it shall. I believe he is only waiting for the right moment to declare it so." Elizabeth smiled once more at her sister.
A knock came upon the door and called the latter away to attend to Imogen, leaving Lydia to her thoughts once more. repeating a gesture of his, she sent a silent prayer to the heavens that they would both be deprived of their misery soon, leaving only happiness to contain them.
Snow decided to grace the county of Hertfordshire the next morning, blanketing every thing in sight, the grounds of Netherfield included. Inside a gentleman rose from a richly upholstered sofa which had served as his bed for the night, and set about establishing a fire in the impressive hearth of the south drawing room. This task now accomplished, he walked to the nearest window and surveyed the results of the weather. Satisfied that it had served his propose he returned to the seat to wait for her arrival.
The click made by the opening of the door to the room five minutes later came to be his reward. Silently he remained in his pose, waiting his new companion came in sight of him. At the startled gasp of surprise, he rose from his seat. "You found my note then?"
She blushed. "I did not think you would be able to come today."
"Actually I came last night, I anticipated such a change in weather." He reached into the pocket of his jacket and drew out the box that had been nesting there for some days. Stepping forward he took her shaking hands and quietly lead her to stand in front of the now roaring blaze in the hearth. His never left her face as he kneeled upon the ground beneath her. Opening the box to reveal its precious gift, he began. "Miss Bennet, Lydia, I love you. I have from the first moments of our acquaintance. Since then my behaviour to you has committed grave errors, ones that at times made me believe that I could never hope to reveal such feelings to you and expect the same in return. Recently however I have come to realise that unless I declare them soon, I will fear from even trying. I wish nothing more than to give you the happiness you deserve. Dearest Lydia, will you do me the greatest honour and become my wife?"
Smiling and crying in delight, she replied thus. "Yes, Jesmond I will."
His response was only to silently take her hand and place the ring upon it. He then rose from his knees and capture her lips with his.
Outside the snow began to fall once again, in celebration.
Lydia and Jesmond married in March of the year of grace, 1821. The author wishes she could say that the match was happily regarded by all, but it could not be so. Mrs. Bennet, after vowing to hate the man who had 'usurped the rightful place of her beloved son,'- her words, no one else's -came to be in raptures over the wedding, not five minutes after the engagement had been announced, but the rest of Meryton decided not to join her in such an emotion. Most looked upon it with anger, expressing the view that Lydia should have left him to meet women who had not her 'baggage' and that she was quite decidedly mercenary by choosing to marry a man of seven thousand a year, instead of seeking suitable employment. As I have mentioned before, the village at times tended to have a malicious streak when the occasion called for it.
Despite all this outside friction the couple had a happy marriage, moving to Jesmond's Sussex home a month after their union. Mr. Calverley looked upon all his wife's children as his own, adopting them as soon as he could, leaving Henry the estate as his future inheritance and the girls comfortable dowries with which to seek an equally comfortable future. Henry survived to achieve it, becoming Wickham-Calverley in gratitude.
A month after the wedding, while residing at Blakeney Manor beside the river Thames in the fashionable echelons of Richmond, Georgiana Blakeney gave birth to the promised cousin for Imogen Darcy, August Sara. The two girls, having enjoyed a close intimacy with each other within months of their births, grew up to be great friends, both eventually becoming mirror images of their mothers.
Alexander Darcy also survived to achieve his inheritance, following in the footsteps of two of his uncles, by arising to the rank of Colonel at the end of the Crimean War. Two years later, he married August Blakeney. He, like his cousin Henry, took up the Bennet name in gratitude to his grandfather who lived long enough to see his grandson achieve success in his chosen career. It may also prove of interest to the reader that Mr. Bennet did out live his wife by several years as he himself had once predicted. Each year however, he would pay tribute to the wife that was Mrs. Bennet, by placing a bouquet of her favourite flowers in the family crypt upon the day she departed the world.
Another arrival came to the extended family in the summer of 1822, this time to Anne and Richard Fitzwilliam. Rupert Fitzwilliam came to follow in his father's footsteps, joining his cousin Alex in the Crimean and achieving by the end the rank of Colonel. His elder brother, Michael, tragically for all of the family, died young, leaving Rupert to inherit Rosings, and fulfill a wish of his late grandmother, although not in the way she had once hoped for, by joining the name of Darcy to the Fitzwilliam-de Boughs when he married his cousin Heloise in his seventh and twentieth year.
As for the remaining Darcy children, all save Lawrence married outside the family. While he sought and won Elspeth Bingley, Alexa and Imogen crossed another of society's circle and became countesses.
Mr. William Collins never even came close to achieving his father's wishes of inheriting Longbourn, by dying but a year after Mrs. Bennet, much to the relief of most of the family concerned. His death granted a miracle to which his wife had never looked nor even hoped for, when a gentleman of comfortable means fell in love with her and she vice versa. They married in time for Charlotte to bare two children, fulfilling the belief of her friend that anything is possible.
Lastly, we come to who, without a doubt will always be fixed upon our minds as our eternal couple, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam. Eight years of wedded bliss soon grew into four and twenty, then eight and forty, even passing over the first squared without the loss of either, much to both of the couple's satisfaction. Their marriage remained the one perfect model that the generations of their families and their relatives families sought to achieve for hundreds of decades and beyond.
Author's note: One hundred and eighty pages later, we come to the end of this story. I have enjoyed writing it from day one, and to everyone that has taken as much joy as I have in reading it, as well as responding to it, I give my thanks. I dedicate this however not to the fans, as wonderful as they are, but to the two people in my life that I hold most dear, my mother and father, Michael and August. Thank you both so much for giving me not only your support and approval in everything that I do, but also the strength to believe and have faith in myself and my abilities. I know not what I would do without either of you.