A/N: This is a sequelish thing, but not THE sequel, just a short story inspired by the HG drabble challenge -- although the plot bunny is much older than that.
Posted on Saturday, 7 October 2006
Elizabeth stared incredulously. “She would never have anything to do with you, George.”
Her brother, a very handsome man who was well aware of his good looks, flung his dark head back. “Would you care to make a wager on it, dear sister?”
She had enough of her father’s temperament to be tempted. She glanced over her shoulder to see that their priggish younger brother John was out of earshot, and said, “How much?”
He shrugged. “Say -- two hundred pounds?”
She choked. “Two hundred pounds? I don’t have that sort of money; besides, I’m saving for my wedding-clothes.”
“You’re not even engaged.”
“I will be, soon.” She threw a smug smile at him. George raked his fingers through his hair.
“Who is the lucky man?”
He choked and coughed as his amused sibling watched impassively. “He would never look twice at you, Bet.”
“Very well then. Make it a double wager. Ninety pounds -- no, an hundred -- that you shan’t manage to seduce Anne Darcy, and I will be Mrs Collins by this time next year.”
George and Elizabeth Wickham looked at one another a moment. Then they smiled and clasped hands. “Done.”
Letter 1: George Wickham to Elizabeth Wickham
Posted on Tuesday, 10 October 2006
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
Forgive me for taking so long to write. I had forgotten the ferocity of Derbyshire winters. It was an extra day and a half, if you can believe it, of travelling to get to Pemberley, although the view was almost worth it! Sometimes I half think Aunt Darcy fell for my uncle when she set eyes on this place. The chill caught up with my raptures, however, and I could only think of the comforts of the house -- blankets, a change of clothes, the fire. Alas, no willing parlourmaids. I have no intentions of endangering myself, but in any case you know my uncle does not tolerate licentious behaviour on his property. Which, I might add for your future reference, now includes Rosings.
Speaking of whom, I have not seen him since he had me caned for the aforementioned licentious behaviour six years ago, but I can assure you that Lord Darcy is every bit as forbidding and puritanical as Mr Darcy ever was. I quake in my boots at the sight of him. He would have made a fine clergyman, although he is so much master of his domain it seems impossible that he could ever be anyone else. I seem to be alone in my fear, however -- I have never met a man so capable of inspiring affection from all and sundry, unlikely as it seems. --He is supposed to be an eloquent speaker, but I have scarcely had ten words from him. He simply looks and I try not to squirm. You would tell me not to be so childish if you were here, but I feel about twelve years old and five feet tall.
Except in the main regard, of course, in which I am excruciatingly aware that I am not twelve at all, and neither is our dear cousin. I admit unreservedly that she is the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on. What a terrible hackneyed phrase! Yet if I try to describe her it is still worse -- she has very dark hair and very fair skin and very bright eyes and she is very tall. If she sounds like her father it is because she is, almost enough that I am half-frightened of her. But she is also clever and spirited and one cannot discount the lure of the unattainable. I would make the attempt had she only twenty thousand pounds, ten even, instead of thirty and, someday, Woodthorpe. I know how you would look, Betsey, but it is quite true. For such a wife, a man would make many sacrifices. Oh, she is very cold, very distant in her manner towards me -- years of hostility cannot be so easily overcome -- but I have seen that there is warmth, tenderness, passion in her. The two of them, father and daughter, are thick as thieves and sometimes I hear them laughing together. It is rather surreal as I have never seen either show the slightest amusement at any thing. I am not permitted into the charmed circle, but I flatter myself it is only a matter of time.
Aunt Darcy and little Georgiana are the weak points, I believe. They are both prodigiously fond of me, and I can say with all sincerity that I quite reciprocate the feeling. It seems impossible that Aunt D should have ever fallen in love for such a man as my uncle, but I have no doubt that she did, for there is no mistaking her manner towards him. Oh, how I hated her! Do you remember? I hated the whole lot of them. God, they had everything, that perfect, lovely, happy family, and then Mother would take us back to scrape by until we had to beg their charity again, or the Bingleys’. Now I must pay for it -- Anne hasn’t forgotten how I behaved then -- but even this tie is better than none at all. As for Georgiana, she is a sweet, unspoilt girl, and it should be no great difficulty to cultivate her, she has such an affectionate heart she is easily won over;--she has more of her mother than any of the others, who consider me with various degrees of suspicion. Dislike of all things Wickham is deeply ingrained in the Darcy consciousness. You should have aimed higher, Bet; Edward has less of his father’s looks and more of his temper, he overflows with disdain at what he calls the littleness of Society, he might defy it for defiance’s sake alone. But perhaps you are better where you are, our proud cousin feels his obligations keenly. Your only real chance would be Alexander, and what care you for a younger son?
Give poor Mrs Collins my best wishes. To have borne such a child! One William Collins was quite bad enough.
Letter 2: Elizabeth Wickham to George Wickham
Posted on Friday, 13 October 2006
Longbourn House, Hertfordshire
Yes, you read the address correctly. I was tragically stranded in Hertfordshire on my way north -- very near to Mother’s childhood home, astonishingly enough. As concerned and careful a brother as you are, I felt assured you would wish to hear all the details of my latest misadventure. It has turned out much less badly than such unfortunate accidents often do. I am installed at Longbourn with nothing worse than a sprained ankle, grateful recipient of the Collinses’ hospitality.
The Collinses themselves are quite kind and seem content enough with the addition to their family party. Mr Collins delights in displaying his charity and is constantly inquiring after my well-being. William is following his father’s example admirably. Do not worry! nothing like a flirtation, I would not be so foolish. I am very humble and lowly in my manner -- quite the image of proper feminine modesty. I have heard them wondering that I should have come from such a union but are pleased enough with the result. Is not every one who knows me?
In all honesty, Mrs Collins is the only tolerable one of the lot. The girls are prim misses, though Charlotte joins some of her mother’s sense to her father's crude mind. Catherine never fails to delight in informing me that she is the namesake of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I was forced to mention -- softly and shyly, of course -- that I am well aware of that lady’s connections, her nephew married my aunt. She is now the most faithful little pet you can imagine.
That reminds me of your situation. I wish you luck, for you shall need it. You would have done better to wait for Georgiana. You forget I have seen them more recently than you -- I accepted the invitation to Baildon last year. Little G could easily be persuaded to imagine herself in love with you -- she seemed a sweet romantic sort of creature. Anne is neither. She is a cold, passionless, eminently rational girl who cares for no one but her father who is just the same. I confess I do not understand your attraction -- I do not deny that she is handsome, but proud icy beauties have never been to your taste before. The lure of the unattainable -- that is the only explanation, but it is a heady thing, I know. I know better than you do! Tread carefully, dear brother -- if you think Uncle Darcy’s fury when he caught you with the parlourmaid was terrible, it would be nothing if you laid a finger on his precious daughter. You must be quite certain of yourself, and her -- with her face and fortune, she could aim high, and I am sure she does. You will have to win her heart completely -- no trifling infatuation will do. To have such a near connection to the Calverley money! It would answer all my wishes, I assure you -- fifty pounds would be nothing, even should my uncle live thirty or forty years more there is always her dowry. Dear George, I truly wish you the best of fortune.
Letter 3: George Wickham to Elizabeth Wickham
Posted on Monday, 16 October 2006
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
You cannot think I cherish any doubts of your capacity for enchantment. It is our dear cousin’s ‘crude’ mind that gives me pause. If any man could be unaffected by your charms, even if cloaked in apparent artlessness, it would be him. Illiberality and a mind untainted by any original thought does the work of perception and genius.--Well, perhaps not. If you convince him that you really are the picture of purity you seem -- then matters will be different. There is generosity in his nature -- I am sure it is from his mother, poor woman -- he will be all the more powerfully struck because of your unsavoury origins. Do not hide your ill fortune, flaunt it -- tastefully, of course. Lament Mother and Father’s want of principle as much as their poverty. Spare mournful thoughts for your brothers and sisters. Speak however you like of me -- and keep John as a model, though he would detest the very thought. He is exactly what they should think you are. In fact, you may wish to repair your bridges there -- he would be better affirmation of the possibility of virtue than a thousand beautifully crafted falsehoods breathed through silver.
Am I not the best of brothers? Always ready to dispense useful advice? I am taking my cousin for an example, you see. Well, in this matter -- I could not dream of emulating most of his ways. There is something positively saintly about him -- and I do not speak of a repentant St Augustine! He lives the most monastic existence possible for a young man,-- perhaps the weight of being the example to his siblings; but no, for there are always respectable routes in that circumstance -- others in his position and with something like his temperament manage discreet indiscretions. Partly it his father, who needless to say he thinks the world of, and holds in awe that almost overcomes his affection. I am careful not to speak a word against my uncle, even if I dared -- not even to the most downtrodden-looking servant.
Not that very many here are downtrodden, and if they are, it is their own fault -- they seem quite a contented lot, and well they should be with what my uncle pays them. Do you know, I almost fancy a domestic life after staying here? You would laugh, I know. Yet there is something to be said for settling down, putting down roots, even creating a family -- if there is money to do so comfortably. I don’t know how they manage it, but this house full of the most disparate characters imaginable all live together in the utmost degree of complaisance. It boggles the mind. I am determined to see how they manage it. Affluence only goes so far -- just look at the Holbrooks, they are profoundly miserable together.
Anne smiled at me to-day. Now I am making you laugh again! As if I, a very accomplished flirt if I do say so myself, should be satisfied with so little; but from her, it is a great thing. Better still, Lord Darcy and St Edward are leaving next week for a fortnight, south to Rosings. I think of London with a sigh, but it is better to stay away from temptation. There is little enough to alter my resolve here, only Anne herself distracts me in any way. Yet you are right about one thing, she is not at all the sort I have always been attracted to before. Somehow I nevertheless find myself unable and unwilling to resist. I notice the smallest, most trivial things. She has quite the strongest hands I have ever seen in a woman; rather a pity as she will never need them. I would almost say she would have made a good farmer's wife had she a shade less hauteur. Yet I have seen the mask drop. Yesterday I was able to accompany her when she went to visit a tenant family. Why she should do so I have no idea, but they have never been normal folk. In any case she was as easy as you please with them, and I made myself very charming to the children. It was easy enough;--I am fond of children.
Ah, little Georgiana. Were I determined to get any rich wife, I should undoubtedly adopt your scheme, but Bet, dear, I am not entirely without scruple. She is a little girl to be entertained, not a woman to be seduced. Thirteen years old! I am content to help her with her lessons and make her laugh at my nonsense. Aunt Darcy finds it a relief, I daresay -- G can be a very difficult child for all her sweetness. My aunt disapproves of me, I am sure, and likes me nonetheless. I suppose blood is thicker than water; I cannot dislike her, I am too fond of her. She is a lovely, remarkable woman -- not a beauty, and she does not have quite her daughter’s poise, though she is very elegant -- but she is my aunt and we are far more alike than Mother and I. Mother had all her liveliness burnt out of her long ago, but Uncle Darcy, whatever else I could say about him, cherishes and nourishes Aunt Darcy’s while lacking anything like it himself. I cannot help simply enjoying being with her, in some ways more than Anne -- for there is nothing else to muddy the waters with us. She is too clever and has been too much in the world, for me to attempt any sort of deceit with her. We simply talk of mundane matters but there is something about her that makes the dullest of subjects interesting. She is the only one I have ever heard you speak well of -- unless your schemes for Georgiana count -- and I can see why. She is so much a Darcy of Pemberley, yet one can see in her a sort of kinship to us and ours.
She asked after Mother and you particularly. Well, she is your godmother, though you are not in the least alike. I made her laugh with my talk of fashion, and particularly those horrid sleeves.
Ladies' fashions, 1834
Perhaps you might talk of London fashions with the Collinses?--but no, that would not really fit the unsophisticated young ingénue, would it? But you do not mean to pretend you have not been in town, do you? It is always better to keep your deceptions as simple as possible -- keep to the truth as much as you can, except when it cannot be avoided. Use manner and implication rather than one of your involuted stories. They may not be as deficient as they seem, barring Mr Collins of course. There! I hope you are grateful for the plethora of brotherly advice. I imagine I shall have more promising news when I next write.
Letter 4: Anne Darcy to Lord Milton [discarded]
Would it be I am unsure Papa is going, with Edward, to Kent I long for good company
Letter 5: Anne Darcy to Lady Westhampton
My dear aunt,
I was hoping that a small visit would be no imposition? I would greatly appreciate your advice on a matter that has been preying a little on my thoughts. Mother does not mind, I assure you, and the distance is nothing -- I can be back at Pemberley tomorrow or even this evening. I hope my uncle’s health is improved and Cass is willing to share you after so long apart.
Letter 6: Lady Westhampton to Anne Darcy
My dear girl,
Of course you may come. I have just sent the carriage. You know, I hope, that you are always welcome with us. --Cassandra is not only willing but longs to see you, she thinks herself as much your little sister as Georgiana.
Letter 7: Elizabeth Wickham to George Wickham
Posted on Thursday, 19 October 2006
Longbourn House, Hertfordshire
Who is the seducer and who is the seduced? I am really starting to wonder. Not that there is any deliberation on her part, of course, but your feelings may lead you astray. Perhaps they already have. You must be guarded -- begin with a desire only for friendship, even as little as reconciliation. Anne is not a sheltered miss, she is on her guard. Be guided by your reason only, dear brother, nothing else is to be trusted. Only intellect is truly in your service, passion and gentler feelings both will betray your interests.
An opportunity has landed in your lap, but do not be too eager to grasp it. She will be more careful without her father’s guidance, not less. To take advantage of the situation, you must convince her that you are utterly harmless, no threat to her person or her composure. She must think you safe, reliable, steady -- even dull, if that is what it takes to win her trust.
I must confess to a certain amount of wariness, George. Anne is just the sort of girl I most dislike; because she can afford to be virtuous she enjoys disdaining those who cannot. Edward is an insufferable prig. Alexander is more promising, but quite the most self-centred person in the world, and Georgiana, though sweet and pleasant, is quite insipid. I have no patience with Lady Darcy’s airs;-- her husband is sanctimonious and overbearing, though I confess to finding his utter lack of duplicity something of a relief -- it is only necessary for me to be deceitful because the rest of the world is; if there were more like Lord Darcy, I could afford honesty and scruple. What I mean to say, however, is this -- all of that notwithstanding, they are our only chance. Do anything before alienating them. Who sent you and John to Cambridge? Whose interest has allowed you to rise in your profession already? Whose connections have allowed me to mingle in good society? We would be scraping a living out of those hovels we lived in were it not for them. We do not have to like them, but to remain on good terms is crucial, not just for you and me, but Tom, Will, Anna, all of us. Until I catch William, we are absolutely dependent on their good will. Do nothing to jeopardise it; I do not care how alluring or tempting or challenging you find our cousin to be, not all of her wealth is worth the prospect of losing their patronage. Uncle and Aunt Bingley are the only other good connections in the family, and they are wealthy but even their wealth will not amount to much, stretched among eight children -- dowries for the girls, professions for the boys; really I would be surprised if Charles has three thousand a-year left by the time they are all disposed of. Do you understand me? I am making good progress on this front, but think of John, Fanny, little Andrew, think of yourself, before you do anything precipitous.
Forgive my ill humour, George; it is a trial to maintain the constant appearance of good temper here. They would leap on the tiniest flaw in my demeanour, I can afford no mistakes. I faltered -- in a moment of weakness I mentioned to William my longing to see the garden, anything pretty and natural. And can you imagine what that dear, stupid, chivalrous boy did? He offered to carry me out to the park so I could see the leaves falling. I had to refuse, of course -- this time -- but so graciously that he kissed my hand instead of shaking it, and called me ‘dear cousin.’ I am most assuredly making progress. William made Catherine go outside and draw the scene -- she is a tolerably good artist. Ah, I am foolishly sentimental today; I miss you, and I miss Tom and Fanny, even Susan’s creep-mouse ways and John’s sermons and Mother and Father’s quarrels. I would be gone in a moment if I was actually back home, of course, as soon as I could manage it.
Letter 8: Lady Westhampton to Lord Darcy
Aincourt Park, Derbyshire
Forgive me, but I am rather concerned about Anne. She is uncomfortable with that nephew of Elizabeth’s, although she admits that she has no reason to be so. I have never seen her so eager to come here, nor so reluctant to leave. As far as Anne can tell, the nephew wishes to make amends for his unfortunate behaviour growing up -- there is nothing untoward at all -- but still she is not at ease. I of all people cannot blame her; you know I am as fond of her as I am of Cass, I would gladly have her with me as long as she desires, but it seems wrong that he should be welcomed there and she driven from her own home. Yet if he has done nothing to warrant dismissal -- oh, I will freely admit it, I cannot help distrusting anything named Wickham. I am sure it is unfair, and he is Elizabeth’s nephew, Anne says he is everything amiable and certainly he is not his father, he has done more with less, but nevertheless -- could not Edward go on without you? No -- of course not -- but I cannot think of anything better. Fitzwilliam, you are the clever one, surely you can think of something? If you were there, or anyone she could confide in, it would be different. You and Edward are her only mainstays, I think; I try and convince her to trust her mother, but like all children nearly grown, she is convinced she knows best, Mother could never properly understand, it would not be right, et cetera.
I hope I am not impertinent, brother, but she was so distressed when she arrived, if it had not been for Cassandra being so cheerful I think she would have burst into tears. I do hope the visit has done less harm than good, it pains me to see my dear niece so unhappy. Tell me what you wish for her, I will see it done.
Letter 9: Lord Darcy to Lady Westhampton
Rosings Park, Kent
I know Anne is unsettled with the present situation at Pemberley, though neither she nor I can think of an adequate reason for it. I would have her stay with you as long as you will have her. Elizabeth would rather she confide in you than no one, do not fear overstepping your bounds in that regard. Let her do some good, it will please her more than any thing and she will need all the good humour at her disposal to manage George. I do not trust him; I admire his tenacity, but some things cannot be forgotten, and if he is not vicious, neither would I call him a young man of principle. Though as practical as he is, his intentions may be simple enough, a determination to be on the best terms possible with those whose interest can be turned to his advantage. Perhaps the natural duplicity, if such a conjunction may be allowed, is all that unsettles her -- she has always had an antipathy for that sort of thing -- I can only hope it is so little. If I had known before I left, I should not have gone, for all the steward’s crookedness. But now there is nothing to be done for it.
My dear sister, a marchioness you may be, but to me you will always be little Georgiana, and so I have no qualms about the occasional reprimand. Your ladyship’s penmanship is beginning to compare to Bingley’s. How came you to write the address so ill that it was sent to Pendleton? I am deeply grateful that you are so affected by my daughter’s welfare, but Georgiana, you must learn to take care; I would never have left had I known how distressed she was, had I received your letter in a timely fashion. Meanwhile I have discovered that Wilcox is an utter scoundrel and draining the estate of all it is worth. There are too many lives dependent upon him to let him be, but it will take time to set everything to rights. I cannot in good conscience leave until I have done so, as I trust Anne will be perfectly safe in Elizabeth’s hands and yours. I know you would never consciously neglect the good of any of the children.
Nevertheless, you are quite right; she is surrounded by parents and children, she needs not another protector but a companion, a friend. I shall send for Paul. He has no interest in the profligacy and extravagance of most heirs, he will be delighted to be of some use. And he is as fond of Anne as any brother could be.
Please give Westhampton and Cassandra my regards.
Letter 10: Lord Darcy to Lord Milton
Rosings Park, Kent
I believe my family would very much enjoy your presence at Pemberley, if it is not too much of an imposition. My wife’s nephew, George Wickham, is presently enjoying an extended holiday at my home;--need I say more? Anne is quite distressed and I believe would especially welcome your company. As it is, she is running off to Aincourt every other week. I myself must remain at Rosings for some time, except in the circumstance of a less ephemeral crisis at home, and would be greatly relieved to know someone worthy of trust was watching after Anne in particular.
Please give my regards to my cousins and my aunt.
Letter 11: Lord Milton to Lord Darcy [express]
Houghton Park, Yorkshire
I am honoured by your confidence and will be at Pemberley tomorrow.
Letter 12: George Wickham to Elizabeth Wickham
Posted on Monday, 23 October 2006
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
Have no fear of heedless behaviour on my part. Even had I such an inclination, I am not in the habit of rating my impulses above my reason. The final decision will have to be Anne’s; not only am I not such a man as to prefer my women unwilling, but I cannot afford, we cannot afford, any culpability to rest with me. However fond of her I am, I will not allow it to overcome my interests. Acting on passion has never done any of our family good. One need only look at Mother to see that.
The first week of Lord Darcy’s absence went well enough. I made Anne laugh; we looked over poetry together -- she has a fondness for romantic poetry, but she made me promise not to tell her mother. There is, I think, something of caution and suspicion still there, but it seems that she is content to enjoy my company for the present. At first, she was often gone -- visiting with her aunt, it transpires, who lives about fifteen miles away. However, quickly enough she found my company tolerable enough to remain here. I rather owe Georgiana for that. I sat down to entertain her, meaning nothing by it except to entertain myself; I did not even think Anne present at the time.
‘Anne!’ Georgiana cried, and I glanced up. There she was, just returned from Aincourt, standing in the doorway. I have no idea how long she was there; that my greatest progress with her occurred completely by accident on my part seems particularly ironic. I had nothing prepared to say and must have looked very stupid as I stood there gaping at her -- she was nothing like the impeccable Miss Darcy I have generally seen.
‘I -- I beg your pardon,’ said I. ‘We, Georgiana and I, were merely . . . er . . . playing a game.’
I had never seen her expression so soft, and tried to think of some way to take advantage of it; but Georgiana took matters quite into her own hands. ‘I missed you, Anne. Why are you hardly ever here? And I’m sure cousin George missed you too. Did you not, George?’
Anne looked guilty as I said with all the eloquence at my disposal, ‘I . . . er . . .’
‘You must not go away again, even to Aunt G’s,’ my young accomplice declared, ‘You are needed here. What would Papa think?’ She stood there, hands on her hips, looking for all the world a fair-haired version of her mother, and neither Anne nor I could help laughing.
Of course it was awkward after that and she fled -- there was some excuse about having traveled -- but it was most assuredly progress. Bless that girl!
However, that was only the first week. On Monday a new addition to our charming family party arrived. Lady Darcy was pleased though startled to see him, while the girls were nothing less than delighted.
You will, of course, recall Paul Fitzwilliam, one of Lord Darcy’s interminable series of godchildren. We detested one another growing up, and the sentiment continues unabated, if relieved by somewhat improved manners on both sides. He is now heir to the earldom, still proud as Lucifer, still Lord Darcy’s favourite. I daresay my esteemed uncle is still suspicious of my intents and has sent his minion ahead to protect his interests! A cunning plot, but I am not fooled.
Forgive my dull spirits. I am very happy for you, dear. You must send me the happy news express whenever it occurs.
Letter 13: Lord Milton to Lady Amelia Dashwood
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
I can certainly see why Uncle Darcy wanted me here. Wickham is very sly, very clever, but there is no doubt in my mind as to his motives. He appears trying to get into all their good graces, but his preference for Anne’s company is obvious enough. The whole lot of them are loathsome creatures. Somehow he insinuates his way into nearly every aspect of her life, he never lets her alone. I quite detest him; though I would never dream of anything so ill-bred as a quarrel before the servants, I have made it perfectly clear that I am neither fooled nor confused.
I have been talking to Aunt Darcy, who of course sees more than anybody guesses. She is such a sensible person. Many clever women are not, you know, but she is always practical. She likes him, of course; she can’t help it. He is her nephew, and in fact as far as I can tell his fondness for her is genuine. Well, I daresay he is genuine, as far as it goes -- he likes Georgiana, and children in general, and there is no doubting his passion for Anne. That does not make him any less of a vicious, unprincipled cad.
I am not entirely certain how to manage it. Thus far, I have simply joined them. It is worth it simply to see the expression on their faces -- he always trying to be charming and agreeable, and of course quite livid, and Anne so relieved. She does not dislike him exactly, but she is so bewildered she hardly knows up from down, poor girl, and she misses her father. The difficulty is that it is just as difficult for me to get her alone as Wickham. At least the Season will soon be upon us and we may go to town. George will probably finagle an invitation there, but he will not be welcome many places, Lady Darcy’s nephew or not, and there will be more opportunities for conversation then.
If you could see the way he looks at Anne, it would anger you just as much as it does me. They say that blood will tell, and it is certainly true in this case -- there is something unquestionably crass in him. He is, to put it simply, not quite a gentleman. Odd as the steward grandfather, I understand, was quite a respectable sort -- but then there is Mrs Wickham. Forgive me, I know she is Lady Darcy’s sister and you have always been so fond of her, but you must admit that her people were very much below par as to good society and its ways, of course excepting the Gardiners -- charming people. Wickham certainly has nothing in common with them.
Adieu, dear sister. Give my regards to Dashwood and my nieces, and if you must to your mother-in-law.
Letter 14: Lady Ancaster to Anne Darcy
Averton Hall, Lincolnshire
Forgive this little scrap of a note, but I understand from my brother that you have certain company at Pemberley that is not altogether agreeable to you. You have never required it but I expect you would have no hesitation in writing any of us, should you ever desire advice, or simply a confidant. We will be in town for the Season, I dearly hope to see you then. You have not been seen as you ought, and you are lovely, elegant, and accomplished, everything a well bred girl ought to be and then some. We are all so very fond of you, if your father does not mean to come we would gladly have you with us.
Letter 15: Lady Amelia Dashwood to Anne Darcy
Norland Park, Sussex
I have just had a long gossipy letter from Paul; I hardly know what to make of it. I understand that that rakish nephew of your mother's is at Pemberley? I think too well of your sense to imagine you swayed by such attractions. He is the very thing the family would most hate, but that is not a reason to encourage him. Even men of his sort deserve consideration, and I would not wish to be indelicate, but he may have feelings for you that run deeper than passions of the flesh. If so, you must be gentle in your discouragement, but firm; leave no question where you stand.
This may be entirely precipitous, of course. Over distance, these things can be sadly misrepresented, and Paul so detests Wickham. Would it be too difficult to speak to him privately, and allay some of his concerns? He is horrified that you might fall victim to a fortune-hunter, cousin or not. And though he can be a stuffy fool, beneath it all he has only the best of intentions. You understand, I am certain, that nobody in the family would approve a match of this sort. They have great ambitions for you! I would be pleased enough to see you comfortably settled with a respectable man; then, you could be happy, and that is all I wish for any of you. Look at your parents; have you ever met a couple better suited? Yet there was nobody in the family pleased about it. I was only a child at the time but I remember well enough. She was by no means well born, but good enough -- just -- for his position then, and we girls thought it the most romantic thing we'd ever heard. And they did better under each other's influence in four years than anyone else could manage in twenty, I am certain of it. But you must remember that your mother, despite everything, was a gentleman's daughter; Wickham does not have that claim. His father is a drunkard, his grandfather a steward. He is in no respect good enough for you. You deserve better, Anne. I would rather see you with one of the Gardiners. Their father may have been in trade, but he is rich now, and they are all respectable and well-bred.
I have convinced Henry to go to town this Season. I would love nothing more than to see you admired as you ought to be; you must come and stay, if your parents mean to bury themselves in the country this year.
Letter 16: Lady Darcy to Mrs Wickham
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
Enclosed are fifty pounds to cover your debts. George begs to be remembered to both of his parents.
Letter 17: Lady Darcy to Lord Darcy
Posted on Sunday, 29 October 2006
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
You are sorely missed -- and not only by myself -- but of course you must remain at Rosings. I am not at all surprised at the state it is in. Wilcox was rather like a clever Mr Collins -- a frightening thought, truly. Perhaps the curate at Hunsford might be of some assistance? He is no Mr Hammond, but I believe he could do considerable good in the village, at least, and some financial compensation for his efforts would certainly be welcome; a pittance to us would be wealth for them.
As for George, I hardly know what to think, and you know better than anybody that that is not an affliction I am often subject to. He is very careful, very proper, but I am almost certain he is also very much in love with Anne. His intentions are what I remain undecided about. His fear of you made him guarded; he takes much less care now, particularly since Anne is less distant towards him. She is nowhere near to reciprocating his feelings, or even enjoying his attentions. I have no doubt that Anne’s fortune and position are a large part of the attraction; I cherish no illusions as to his character, however amiable he may pass himself off as. He may intend a respectable courtship, but I doubt it; he knows without a doubt that there would be objections from every possible quarter.
Paul is a welcome relief. Both young men pride themselves on their manners -- charming and well-bred respectively, and that very pride ensures that they hold one another in contempt and refuse to act on it. Their cordiality is truly awe-inspiring. Anne and I can hardly keep ourselves from laughing. She has spoken to me, a little, of the situation; I would wish for more, but I am certain every girl of nineteen thinks it impossible that her mother could ever have been young. Except Betsey; I have never been able to like her, but I pity her as I do them all, all those children paying for the missteps of youth. To this day I wonder, if I had been a little less credulous, would it not all have been avoided? Yet who am I to wish nine children, my own nephews and nieces, unborn? I am fond of the others, as much as I can manage. Poor John and Will and Anna, they are so out of place. I confess I would be delighted to have any of them here, particularly Anna. She is scarcely older than the Georgianas and they might be good influences on one another.
Alas, instead we have George. I like him, I do, but I do not wish him for Anne, in character or situation. I am starting to think she has not really spoken to any one. She has grown quite as nervous as Kitty, all in barely six weeks’ time. We are at such odds and ends, I am half inclined to send for every sensible relation I can think of, simply to keep the peace. Paul told me himself that he would dearly love to run George through.
Do you think he will ever learn that there is a line between honesty and tactlessness? Even Georgiana lacks his singular capacity for offence. Simply keeping the household intact is a feat of genius on my part. Did I mention that the servants dislike George, as well-- his food is always cold now and I have not the heart to reprimand M. Renaud for it. They are all conspiring to make his life as unpleasant as possible. I am practising a disapproving expression in the mirror for when they force me to confront them over it. Otherwise it will be so evident that we are all of one mind, they will simply attempt to subvert my orders in some newly creative fashion. There is no snob like an upper servant. I still remember the baleful glares I used to receive from old Edwards, or would have if he had been able to see me. Only you, my love, would keep a blind valet.
Fitzwilliam, I will not ask you to hurry. Your concerns there are far weightier than this parody of a courtship. I have been spoilt by too many years of plenty, the famine wearies me. Write back quickly, one of your delightful long, rambling letters full of advice and nerves and how dreadfully you miss me.
I have been thinking, if we go to town for the Season, Anne would be exposed to much wider company and be free to go her own way without shunning George. Georgiana is such a healthy girl, I am sure there is no danger.
Give Edward my love, and tell him that I have it from Lady Westmorland that her daughter does not think beards at all flattering so he might as well spare himself the trouble of growing one.
Elizabeth, Viscountess Darcy (1827)
Letter 18: Lady Ancaster to Lord Darcy
Averton Hall, Lincolnshire
I feel obliged to mention our anxiety over my cousin Anne’s situation. If you cannot go to town, Ancaster and I would be honoured to have her stay with us. I hope I am not impertinent, sir, but a girl of her birth, beauty, and genius deserves to be seen, and I am certain that in no time at all, she should discover that this whole dreadful affair is only a molehill after all.
Letter 19: Lady Amelia Dashwood to Edward Darcy
Norland Park, Sussex
I am certain you know all about your cousin Wickham’s infatuation with Anne? Paul is quite concerned, and we all think that it would be much for the better if she went to London where he would just be one among many beaux. You know as well as I that his intentions cannot possibly be honourable. It would be very helpful, I believe, if you spoke to your father on the subject.
Letter 20: Lord Milton to Lord Darcy
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
I fear my cousin is growing quite highly-strung. I wish to heaven that I could do more! Yet even I have seen nothing truly reprehensible in Wickham’s behaviour. Perhaps, if she were in larger company, the effect would be lessened? I know my mother and father, or any of my sisters, would be pleased to have her with them, if you do not care to go yourself. Forgive me if I am too impudent, but I must confess that it makes me ill to see her peace of mind so destroyed, and in her own home.
Letter 21: Lord Holbrook to Lord Darcy
Houghton Park, Yorkshire
I have received incoherent demands from my children to persuade you to stay in town this spring. I daresay this has some connection to Paul’s sudden urgency to visit Pemberley? Come by all means. I should feel infinitely better if I knew you were sharing the misery of London life.
Letter 22: Eleanor, Lady Ellsworth to Lord Darcy
Bernake Hall, Warwickshire
Fitzwilliam, what on earth is the matter? Diana, Amelia, Paul, and Edward (yes, cousin, your Edward) are up in arms about going to town, as if Anne’s eternal salvation depended upon it. Of course I should like to see you but I am clearly ignorant of some great matter.
Letter 23: Lord Darcy to Anne Darcy
Rosings Park, Kent
My dearest Anne,
I should be home in another week, as planned. I will be forced to leave some matters unfinished, but I believe Jamison will be fully capable of carrying on by himself, with Edward’s guidance. It has been a good opportunity for your brother to learn how to manage a large estate in practice as well as principle, however much I regret that the matter has taken me from the rest of my family.
I will not mince words, my dear. George has given me no reason to suspect him of any untoward intentions. The only cause for distrust is my own impression of his general character as essentially immoral and faithless -- completely unsubstantiated by his present behaviour, I must add -- and yours. I do not wish to be the domineering guardian of novels, but on this point I must insist; if there is anything else, you must tell me, or your mother. Above all, even before affection, I owe our family my protection, but I can with justice do nothing in this circumstance, without any more information except that he makes you uncomfortable.
That said, I will confess that I do not believe anything more has happened, and that is exactly what makes this so awkward and unpleasant for you. Like both your mother and myself, you have always preferred to deal with facts instead of theories, absolutes over ambiguity, and the very fact of this -- that there is nothing firm enough to put your finger on -- is what renders the whole affair so troublesome.
You should also know that your mother believes George is in love with you. Do not fear any conflict of her feelings. She does not love your cousin; she feels an obligation to him as her nephew, and she likes him -- that is all. He will never be to her what you are. She would rather see him begging on the streets than see you suffer a moment of unnecessary pain. She worries as much as any mother could. The difference in your dispositions has prevented any great degree of confidence from subsisting between you, but the habits of childhood need not carry into the future. I know better than anybody that reserve is difficult to conquer, but just as well I know it can be done. I hope I need not remind you that she cares for you as much as your aunt and I do, and in this matter is as deeply concerned. It would not take a great deal, a word or two, to assuage her present fears. You should not forget, Anne Elizabeth, that you are her child as much as mine, and owe her a daughter’s consideration.
As for solutions, the simplest is what you have yourself discovered -- absenting yourself from his company. I have received a flurry of letters, and I imagine you have also, advising us to return to town this spring. If we choose to do so, George will undoubtedly be there also, but not the greatest of connections would allow him to associate at the level you shall. That, needless to say, seems a near universal desire, and I am fully prepared to acquiesce unless there is an objection I am ignorant of.
Forgive the severity of this letter and know that it springs only from a father’s affection and concern.
Letter 24: Lord Darcy to Lady Darcy
Rosings Park, Kent
I shall begin straightaway with begging your forgiveness for the tardiness of my reply. My only excuse is that I am trying as hard as I can to finish my business here on time, not to mention the recent influx of poor disguised demands.
Letters are very poor substitutes for your company. Sir Lewis’ chambers are as dreary as might be expected of such a man. He was sixty when Anne and I were born, and his tastes were that of the elderly and illiterate man he was. Lady Catherine did little to alter the room, except replacing the portrait of Lady de Bourgh with that of her great-grandfather. He was by all accounts a vicious, mercenary, sinister man whose general villainy forced his children to flee Ireland; I can easily believe it. If family legend accounted him a deformed libertine who locked his wife in the attic, I could just as easily believe that. His portrait is something out of a horrible dream; he had the Fitzwilliam looks and his face seems a twisted caricature of my own, except the eyes -- his are, or rather were, brown, close-set, and beady. It is a fortunate difference; I only had nightmares every other night until I swallowed my pride and demanded that the thing be removed.
I am certain I could not have cared less about the misdeeds and ill-favoured looks of the first Paul Fitzwilliam had you been here, you would have laughed me out of it fast enough, as you always do. I sent for the portrait of Anne and Georgiana when they were small to replace it; we never know where to put it and doubtless my great-great-grandfather would have detested such gross sentimentality. My imagination, perhaps, but the thought comforts me.
the Hons. Anne and Georgiana Darcy (1823)
Would you care to inform me if there have been any developments on the Pemberley front? I expect that the general anxiety is more a result of news being intensified as it passes -- but this is uncommonly fast even for us. Georgiana, Paul, Diana, Amelia, Ella, Milton, and Cecily have already written, in addition to Edward’s attempts at subtlety and your own letter. I know perfectly well you would have written of less ethereal concerns had anything of substance occurred. I have already been forced to lay down an ultimatum, likely an unnecessary one, to Anne. If it would mean an end of this insanity, I would be perfectly happy to go to town; and if it ensures a cessation in separations I would be even more delighted. We have been spoilt by a life of ease, my dear; we have not wished to be apart and therefore we have not been. How long has it been since our last parting? Eight years? Ten? Yes, ten -- it was when Richard died and the family went to pieces, and you had to stay with Jane while we tried to manage their troubles.
Sometimes I really think the advantages of relocation to the Continent cannot be overestimated. Of course, if you were here, you would observe how little a sulky expression befits a man of my advanced years. It reminds me of when I tried running away when I was fourteen; I was miserable within an half-hour. Did I ever tell you about that? It was after my mother had died and I had violently quarrelled with my father over some of the company he was keeping. He lectured me on the importance of controlling my temper and I was so enraged by what I saw as his hypocrisy that I determined to leave that very moment.
So you were quite right. I am rambling, and I miss you greatly. I have become quite grim and humourless in your absence, or rather, in mine. I had forgotten how cold I sleep; I will have seen fifty years in a few months, and without your warmth, however much I generally complain about it, I feel every day of them. Your portrait, after all, is not here to remind me of the man I was when we were married, or of the possibility of joy beyond mere contentment, such as I constantly felt then. But I would not wish it here -- I would not wish it moved at all. The very idea sends a chill down my spine, though as much out of -- likely excessive -- delicacy as sentiment. If Edward saw that! If anybody did! You would call me a prude and perhaps I am, but that young lady is fit for no eyes but mine.
Mrs Darcy (1813)*
The little miniature I have of you is not the same, just as letters are not the same. I feel as distant from ‘young Mr Darcy’ as ‘that little nephew of Lord Holbrook’s.’ I am tired, I can almost feel my hair turning greyer. Yes, I think we should go to town. If George happened across me on a day like this, I would as likely order him off my property as not. It has been so long since everyone relied on my judgment alone, I have lost all taste for it.
I think I shall come home early. Do not tell Anne; I should like to surprise her. In truth, though, my greatest desire is to see you again, to talk to you. Nevertheless do not be alarmed by the dreary tone of this letter. There is nothing the matter with me, I am only in poor spirits. I blame Rosings. I half believe the locals who claim there is a curse on this place. The de Bourghs are the likeliest people in the world to attract that sort of thing, I daresay.
I wish I had chosen a different phrase now. It is too close to the other letter. I suppose you still have the dreadful thing somewhere, it will become a family heirloom and in a few centuries be worth thousands of pounds and our descendants will puzzle themselves over what it could possibly mean. ‘Be not alarmed’ -- that is the only part I remember with any accuracy now.
I have already written Anne a very stern letter and begged her forgiveness for the manner of writing, so I might as well conclude by asking yours for raking up the past. Give my love to the children, and I hope to see you a day or two after you receive this.
*Jane Austen wrote her sister:
"Henry and I went to the exhibition in Spring Gardens. It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased, particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs Bingley, excessively like her.
I went in hopes of seeing one of her sister, but there was no Mrs Darcy. Perhaps, however, I may find her in the great exhibition, which we shall go to if we have time. I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds's paintings, which is now showing in Pall Mall, and which we are also to visit.
Mrs Bingley's is exactly herself -- size, shaped face, features, and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs D will be in yellow."
Later on, she said:
"We have been both to the exhibition and to Sir Joshua Reynolds's, and I am disappointed, for there was nothing like Mrs D at either. I can only imagine that Mr D prizes any picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to the public eye. I can imagine he would have that sort of feeling - that mixture of love, pride and delicacy."
I always wanted to incorporate this unknown portrait somehow, but never found one that fit my idea of Elizabeth at all. This, to use their phrase, answered all my wishes -- slim, attractive, dark-haired, dark-eyed, and in yellow. You can most assuredly see why Darcy would have flipped over any sort of public display, however! I daresay she had to work on him awhile before he even consented to allow the painter to see her long enough to paint it!
Letter 25: Mr Collins to Lord Darcy
Posted on Saturday, 11 November 2006
Longbourn House, Hertfordshire
I am sensible how much this address is breaking in and interrupting your most important thoughts and business, which the honour and interest of our most gracious sovereign, and the nation, can but ill dispense with. And fearing to offend you, by expatiating on the affability, candour, and humanity, which has gained you universal applause among all ranks of the people, I must beg your pardon for the manner in which I intrude upon your notice.
The business regarding my son and Miss Wickham -- a most unfortunate affair -- has brought to my mind the necessity of more diligent care. There is no blame to be placed on your unfortunate niece; I am only grieved, deeply grieved, that such an affront should come at the hands of my son -- I assure you he is in general the most upright and principled of young men, barring your own magnificent offspring. The lady’s brother, I am given to understand, resides at your exalted and noble abode, and I hope I am not too impertinent in extending an invitation on his behalf to look after her in her present discomfort?
I am, sir, your humble servant.
Letter 26: Elizabeth Wickham to George Wickham
Longbourn House, Hertfordshire
I have been obliged to complain to Mr Collins of his son’s outrageous conduct. Charlotte and Catherine are good enough to comfort me as I write this; I assure you I have rarely been so shocked in my life. I had not the slightest idea that his feelings were so fervent. It is truly my own fault; I should not have attempted to walk so soon, and stumbled all down a hill. I might have broken my neck! As it happens, I only broke my ankle.
William was really very distressed; I am sure that is the only reason he kissed me. But do not be alarmed, dear brother; he took no further liberties with my person and it was not wholly disagreeable.
This regrettable incident has shown me, however, that the chaperonage here is shamefully inadequate. I will ask John to come for Christmas, I am certain he can spare the time.
Please pass on my regards to my cousins and aunt.
Letter 27: Lord Darcy to Lady Darcy
My dear Elizabeth,
I have received the most curious letter from Mr Collins. I enclose it here as I would not presume to adequately represent the tone of his correspondence. Do you know, by chance, what on earth he is speaking of? You may need to speak to George about what scheme his sister is hatching this time.
Letter 28: George Wickham to Elizabeth Wickham
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
My dear sister,
I presume that you wrote your last charming letter while in the company of our cousins? I am very sorry for that unhappy incident. You have such admirable composure! I do not think any other woman could so serenly continue in his company. Forgive me for having doubted your abilities in this regard. Though, as you said, I daresay it was the impulse of the moment; I believe him to be a young man of sterling character.
When you are forced into solitude, you must inform me, so that I may express my condolences properly; I fear what to say, out of concern for my cousins’ sensibilities. Mr Collins, it seems, was quite disturbed and wrote to Lord Darcy. Do not fear, he places no blame on your shoulders, but he thinks it might be better if you were to enjoy my company. That, I fear, will be impossible at present, though once we are in London, matters may be different; for now, I replied to my aunt’s very discreet inquiries that John would be a much greater comfort to you. I am such a good for nothing fellow, after all.
I hope your recovery continues unhampered, Elizabeth. I remain your affectionate brother.
Letter 29: Elizabeth Darcy to Jane Bingley
Pemberley House, Derbyshire
I trust you and Mr Bingley enjoy good health? The ordinary civilities dispensed with, we are all in an uproar of sorts at Pemberley.
By of sorts I mean that all appears perfectly well on the surface. To summarise: George managed to finagle an open ended invitation and is staying at Pemberley with us until he returns to his work in town. He is very attentive to Anne, and therefore she finds solitude a rare luxury since his arrival. More than that, she is quite uncomfortable in his company, for no particular reason. When Fitzwilliam left -- the steward at Rosings was quite corrupt -- matters quickly turned into a comedy of errors. Anne stayed with Lady W for a few days, mentioned something of her feelings to her; Lady W in turn confided her fears for Anne in Fitzwilliam at Rosings. Naturally he thought the best solution was to arrange for the company of someone Anne trusts -- Lord H’s son. Well, he (for reasons nobody except he, and possibly Anne, know of) was enough alarmed to write his sisters, who wrote their father and aunt and other sundry relations-- and I daresay you can imagine what is happening now.
The simplest solution, and the universal favourite, is to go to town. There, Anne will have opportunities to spend her time away from George, she will be exposed to good society (and husbands more acceptable in every regard), we may enjoy all the entertainments London has to offer, and I am quite certain that F. is itching to -- what was his latest phrase for it? Exercise his influence. He liked the grand speeches and the excitement of the elections well enough when we were young, but now he prefers to take a less active, or more subtle, role in such affairs.
I am sorry about your trouble with Caroline and Louisa, I confess I would never have thought it of Caroline. You know, of course, that we would be more than delighted to have her with us? They have always been rather in awe of my husband, and Anne, you know, would not tolerate that sort of nonsense for a moment. She might be a good influence on her -- or even Louisa; I always thought they were rather in awe of her. She quite has her father’s gift for inspiring deference. And I assure you it has nothing to do with her aunt when I say that a good strong dose of insignificance might do Caroline a world of good!
I am so pleased about Jeremy. Mary really thought he might never recover. Even taking her nerves into account, I was nearly about to send our physician for him. My sister Hancock and her family are all in the best of health, though Bella shows some tendencies alarmingly reminiscent of Lydia at that age. When Kitty said that she would not mind if they were out together, I said -- oh, it is terrible, I said, ‘both? the younger out before the elder is married?’ Somewhere, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is laughing -- or smiling condescendingly, as seems more likely. She didn't approve of laughter.
Well, we will go to town, and I will not matchmake. I have promised myself,-- though perhaps a little proper encouragement might be permissible. F. is oblivious to it all-- men will be men. Though I daresay he may find it necessary to expand his repertoire of fearsome glares.
Tell me your wishes for the twins, Jane, and give my best regards to your family.
The first half of Mr Collins' letter is taken almost word-for-word from a real letter, from Arthur Collins to Robert D'Arcy, fourth Earl of Holdernesse. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
© 2006 Copyright held by the author.