Prologue ~ After all the rain
Posted on Thursday, 29 January 2004
After all the rain, the sun
Shines on hill and grassy mead;
Fly into the garden, child,
You are very glad indeed.
For the days have been so dull,
Oh, so special dark and drear,
That you told me, "Mr. Sun
Has forgotten we live here."
Dew upon the lily lawn,
Dew upon the garden beds;
Daintly from all the leaves
Pop the little primrose heads.
And the violets in the copse
With their parasols of green
Take a little peek at you;
They're the bluest you have seen.
On the lilac tree a bird
Singing first a little not,
Then a burst of happy song
Bubbles in his lifted throat.
O the sun, the comfy sun!
This the song that you must sing,
"Thank you for the birds, the flowers,
Thank you, sun, for everything."
"Mama, oh Mama!" Abigail cried running into her Mama's room without even knocking first. The young girl truly wasn't dressed to be seen by visitors but she didn't seem to care at all. The old green dress surely was comfortable but barely pretty and being matched by worn out slippers and a wild mane of dark curls only the freshly coloured cheeks and glittering eyes made amends for her being poorly dressed. Straw was clinging to the shiny hair and dust covered her slender fingers which held a little bird tenderly. Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, a most noble lady, was entertaining guests in her apartment and none of her movements betrayed her feeling embarrassed by the behaviour of her daughter. Having been a tomboy herself she understood the untamed wildness of Abby's childish spirit more than her rather severe father but even her patience had its limits.
"I found this little darling on the lawn, her mother has abandoned her! Isn't that most unkind, dearest Mama?" the young girl rattled on without even paying attention to Lady Swanford and her husband. While the said lady saw nothing except poor breeding in our little hoyden her husband could see beneath the rough externals and he liked what he saw. He knew Abigail to be a kindly natured young girl, there was nothing this little angel could do to upset him.
Mrs. Darcy calmly rose from her seat and answered her daughter warmly. "Indeed, my child, this is most deplorable. But darling, I suppose you didn't know that we're having guests. Please greet them and don't forget to knock on my door again!" The words were spoken mildly but they provoked a thunderstorm in Abigail's passionate character. Her face was red with shame, her eyes were blazing with fury and, without another word, she stormed out of the room without saying another word; she buried her burning eyes in the soft feathers of the little bird.
No matter how much her daughter's behaviour might have displeased her there was no sign of it in Mrs. Darcy's countenance. Closing the door Abigail had had left open she went back to her guests without mentioning the sad incident until Lady Swanford brought it up most tactlessly.
"Dearest Mrs. Darcy, I do feel for you, my Agnes just grew out of the most obstinate age. Indeed I declare that there's nothing as straining as an untamed child!" With that she sipped her tea loudly causing Elizabeth to cover her mouth with a napkin for a moment to disguise a rather pitiful smile.
Before his wife was able to humiliate his friend even more Lord Swanford stepped in with another topic by bringing up the event which would be, there just couldn't be any doubt, the highlight of the season. The Darcys planned to give a masked ball to honour the birth of their oldest son's third daughter which was to be called Emilia. Alexander Darcy and his wife Aurelia lived close to Pemberley; indeed it was one of Abigail's greatest delights to ride over to Asham Place because she enjoyed the company of her sister in law and the little children. There was yet another happy event to take place on the day of the ball, it would be Abigail Darcy's debut in society.
"Mrs. Darcy, I cannot praise my seamstress enough for designing a unique Swan Princess costume just for me! Lady Swanford coming as Swan Princess, isn't it a delicious idea?" Lady Swanford put an entire piece of bread covered with caviar in her mouth and didn't notice several of the black globules falling on her rather large bust. Once again Elizabeth smiled, the idea of this huge, matronly woman as Swan Princess was a delicious joke indeed! Encouraged by what she thought was applause to her idea Lady Swanford went on chattering about her costume and the guests she couldn't wait to dazzle with this unique creation.
A knock on the door saved Elizabeth from more meaningless chit chat. Hoping that it was Abigail coming back to present herself in a better light she bade the person to enter. A mixture of disappointment and joy filled her heart as her husband opened the door to join her and the guests. Kissing his wife's hand he greeted her rather formally, just as he always did in front of guests he disapproved of. "My dear, please forgive me for joining you so late but I had urgent business to take care of!" He greeted Lady Swanford with polite bow and shook Lord Swanford's hand kindly. "Lady Swanford, I'm delighted! It's very good to see you, Richard!" Despite his poor choice for a wife Darcy was fond of Sir Richard Swanford, a man fifteen years his senior and a good friend of his for the last thirty years.
"We were just telling your wife how much we are looking forward to be here for the Masked Ball!" Lady Swanford tweeted on without being asked. "Of course young Miss Darcy will have to be dressed much more tastefully than just now!" Elizabeth's face blanched at this tactless comment and, seeing her husband's tightened jaw and stiffened shoulders, she tried to change the subject swiftly. "Miss Darcy was not aware of me being in your company. Normally she's very attentive and understanding. Please excuse my daughter's fiery spirit, at present she's feeling a little unwell. I'm sure that, once she has had time to think, she'll be just as delightful our sweet Aurelia!" Elizabeth knew of Lady Swanford's rather overblown fondness for Alexander's wife and, indeed, Lady Swanford's interest took a little turn and remained with the young Mrs. Darcy.
A touch of uneasiness prevailed despite Mrs. Darcy's diplomacy which was fuelled by Abigail's appearance by the window; she was chasing her dogs and looked even more like a wild fairy than before. Mr. Darcy left his treasured spot by the window but did not become more talkative, no matter how much Lady Swanford tried to convince him that he had to relate the list of invited guests to the most talked about ball of the season. All Darcy wanted to do was discussing his daughter's future with his wife. Abigail's behaviour didn't make him angry but very upset. It worried him that his little treasure was so unlike his feminine and gentle sister or his beautiful and witty wife. Abigail knew no restraint and being the spoiled treasure of her parents didn't improve the situation. It was time for drastic changes and persuading his wife to let go of her beloved child was not the task he dreaded most.
"Elizabeth, we need to talk," he began cautiously as soon as the Swanfords had left. He knew his wife's fondness for their youngest child and there was no need to hurt her by chastising her for it. Ever since Abby had nearly lost her life to a vicious attack by her brother's emotionally twisted betrothed Elizabeth had guarded her baby like a lioness; she was totally blind to the girl's uncontrolled behaviour. There was no doubt that Darcy shared Elizabeth's tender love for their only daughter but he also saw her untamed nature, her wilful behaviour and her dislike for anything concerning her lessons.
"William, you do look serious. Has anything happened?" She sensed his discomfort immediately.
"No, as yet nothing has happened but if we won't act soon something unpleasant will take place sooner or later!" He sounded stern and Elizabeth didn't comprehend his meaning.
"What are you so concerned about, my dear?"
Her concern mellowed his rather tense features; he hated to see her in pain or worried. Holding her by the hand he led her to a sofa and made her sit down gently. Leaving his hands on her fragile shoulders he continued most carefully. "Dearest, I was mortified by Abby's behaviour towards our guests. Of course I share her opinion of Lady Swanford but it will do her no good if she keeps presenting herself in such an imprudent light!" Her shoulders tensed under his fingers as he spoke.
"But William, she is but a child! I too disapproved of her behaviour today but don't you think that she'll outgrow this childish disposition?" She sensed his intention of sending their darling away before he even mentioned it.
"Elizabeth, she will be fifteen this year. By that time Georgiana spoke French and German fluently, not to speak of her musical abilities and womanly behaviour. Please, before you defend our treasure, think if you can truthfully say that you don't dread Abigail's upcoming debut at our ball!" He had spoken most sensibly but his words never lacked affection and kindness.
Hearing her own concerns being confirmed by the person she trusted most Elizabeth swallowed her rather angry response and merely nodded her head. He was right of course. Ever since Abby had survived the horrible attack they were spoiling her without any limits. When she skipped her lessons they barely objected, watching her running around outside was too enchanting to punish her. Of course her writing was rather childish and she was barely seen with a book but she had always been a child of nature instead of a bookworm and so far nobody had ever seen anything amiss in their little treasure.
"What do you suggest?" she asked, dreading the answer.
"Lizzy, I know how much you cherish our baby but it is most urgent and necessary to send her away to school!"
Elizabeth jumped to her feet and started pacing up and down the room. "William, there is no need to lock her away!" Her words sounded tense and fearful. Feeling his arm around her waist she halted to look up to him with tears in her eyes.
"Nobody is locking her away, my love. There is still time to tame Abby's wild spirit! I do not mean her temperament but her stubbornness. She is defying us both and you know that well. I know a wonderful school in Dover. She would be close to the sea and enjoy the fabulous air. The woman running the school is a sensible person, I am sure that she'll take good care of Abigail. Please consider my idea! I know you to be a loving mother but also to be a bright and sensible woman. See my concern and please do not object without having considered it first!"
"True, she did embarrass me with her behaviour in front of Lady Swanford. I see the logic behind your idea but there is still time to send her away after the summer!"
To this Darcy objected most vehemently. There was little time left to mold Abby's behaviour. "She will be among other young girls. The competition will arouse her ambition and improve her talents. Abigail is a bright young girl but most of her talents are dormant still. In school she will blossom and her virtues will be nurtured. If I were negating Abby's truest, loveable self I wouldn't consider sending her away to school!"
"Alright, I think you are right. I too am convinced that this method will bring out the best in her. But remember that she is likely to refuse and to make a scene. True, this is another reason why she must learn even more. It is time for her to see how serious life can get but I just still see her as our little baby... Sometimes I wish that she may never grow up..." Seeing his wife's mournful face Darcy took her in his arms and rocked her softly.
"Lizzy, dearest, think how happy she will be in a year or two when her debut will be a success and people will admire her intelligence and wit. She has inherited your wit, my angel, let her discover her true precious self!" Stroking her silky hair he felt her giving in. Knowing how hard this was for her his admiration for her increased to greater heights. Finally both parents decided to send Abby away to Dover in July. There was much to come, they knew their beloved tomboy well enough but both of them also knew that, with time, Abigail would see that this was done for love and gentleness.
To be continued…