Beginning, Section II
Posted on Saturday, 13 January 2007
Georgiana sighed as she looked at the storm clouds that gathering over Pemberley. An air of misery had descended upon the house. It pained her greatly to see her brother and sister so unhappy and torn apart by grief, but there seemed to be no solution. She watched as the sky darkened.
She looked down and slipped a ribbon into her Bible, her eyes falling to a verse in Romans: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”* She sighed again; it did not always feel that way.
Putting her Bible down on her bed, she went in search of Kitty. She needed to talk to someone who understood. She walked downstairs, hoping to find her in the library; one of Kitty’s more recent hiding places. She knocked on the door, and hearing no response, pushed it open. Kitty was not in the room but Darcy was, sitting in an armchair, his head in his hands.
She quietly closed the door behind her and watched her brother shaking with silent sobs. She leant back against the door for support as her heart broke, her own tears falling. She bit her lip, desperate to hold back her weeping but unable to do so. Darcy turned as he realised he was no longer alone. He looked away again before opening his arms to his sister, crying openly. Georgiana ran to him and tightly wrapped him in her arms.
Darcy pulled back and reached for his handkerchief. “Thank you.”
Georgiana sat on the floor and put her head on his lap. Darcy gently stroked her hair. They sat as they had done many times before, in comfortable silence.
“When mama died, I thought that there was nothing in the world that could possibly be worse.”
“Fitzwilliam, you were a child.”
“Yes, I know. But now . . . now it is different. I cannot explain it. When mama and papa died, they left a hole, a hole that you and Elizabeth filled with your love. Now there is another hole . . . oh, Lord . . . ”
As he wept, Georgiana held her brother, hoping and praying for a miracle.
Elizabeth’s strength was returning slowly to her, helped, it seemed, by the unexpected arrival of her father. Mrs Bennet, however, had remained in Hertfordshire, claiming to be too unwell to travel. Elizabeth was ashamed at her relief that her mother had not come to Pemberley, but could not help feeling bitter that her mother did not appear to care about her well-being.
Elizabeth was pleased at the number of people staying at Pemberley; it meant that the house ran as usual, providing some sense of normality. Normality was what Elizabeth craved to distract her from her thoughts. Yet this did not prevent her from grieving -- indeed it could not for there were no such distractions at night.
The following days seemed very strange. Elizabeth often felt as if she were in a daze, often unable to recall the events of those days. She had recovered enough to leave her chambers and join her family. At first, there were silences, which she found unbearable, and she begged Georgiana to play for her.
More unbearable than the long silences were the constant enquiries after her health and happiness. It seemed that everyone wanted to know everything that lay within her heart. She knew they meant well, but she wanted to be distracted from her emotions, not forced to confront them.
Elizabeth was in this frame of mind when Darcy approached her as she took a turn on the lawn. She had left the house after breakfast to avoid the incessant questioning, knowing that she was in no mood to talk.
“Lizzy!” Darcy called to her.
Elizabeth turned to face her husband as he approached and raised an eyebrow.
“Lizzy, are you well? You left so quickly after breakfast, I was worried.”
“Fitzwilliam, I am perfectly well.” She tried to sound reassuring.
“Elizabeth,” Darcy began, “I cannot understand what I feel nor try to understand your feelings.”
Elizabeth could not bear the emotions that her husband’s words brought to the surface and she turned away from him, hiding the tears that threatened.
“Please, Fitzwilliam, I do not wish to talk about it.”
“Why, Elizabeth? I wish so much that we could speak, I do not wish to confront this alone.”
“Please sir,” Elizabeth cried, the tears falling, “I do not wish to talk about it now . . . it pains me too much.
Please, I need some time.”
Darcy watched as she fled. He struggled to compose himself and, despite his exposure to prying eyes, could not stop hid tears. He did not understand why Elizabeth would not talk to him -- he knew she was in pain, but so was he. He truly did not want to be separated from her, but it seemed as though there was an invisible barrier between them. He turned back to the house, feeling frustrated and even a little angry at his wife.
* Scripture reference: Romans 8 v 28 - King James Version
Posted on Saturday, 3 February 2007
A month passed, and, as their period of mourning came to an end, neighbouring families began once more to call on the Darcys.
Miss Preston had recently married and her nuptials were Lady Preston’s preferred topic of conversation.
“I daresay I have never seen Sophia look so handsome, she was a beautiful bride -- oh, and Beatrice was a very pretty bridesmaid too, were you not, my dear?”
Beatrice smiled benignly at her mother. She found her mother’s choice of conversation tedious, after having been subjected to it for a month. At thirteen, her social engagements were naturally very few, but she was determined to enjoy the rare occasions when she joined her family at Pemberley. She discovered that her mother’s exuberance detracted from any enjoyment to be had and turned the conversation the only way she knew how.
“We have been enjoying very fine weather this week, would you not agree, Miss Darcy?”
Thus they spoke of the weather until the gentlemen joined them.
Georgiana watched Mr Preston as he stood by the window with his brother. She sighed as she smoothed out the skirt of her grey gown. Should she really be considering an attachment at this time? Their month of mourning was coming to an end but that hardly meant life could resume as normal. She looked towards Elizabeth and wondered if they would ever return to how they once were.
But now, in the presence of Mr Preston, Georgiana felt her heart beating violently in her chest and she knew not what to think of it. She struggled to make sense of the strange longings she felt and wished deeply to consult Elizabeth on the matter. However, she did not wish to burden her with such a trivial subject when there was a more serious matter at hand. Georgiana had noted Elizabeth’s unusual silence and also that of
Darcy and her heart bled for them, seeing in their silence, their pain. Nevertheless, Mr and Mrs Darcy remained the perfect hosts, engaging in conversation with their guests although not themselves.
“Miss Darcy, I trust you are in good health?” Mr Preston enquired, his mother having prevented him from conversing with her earlier.
“Yes sir, I thank you.”
“I am pleased. I…” he struggled to find his words, “how does your brother and his wife?”
Georgiana looked towards them and lowered her eyes. “As well as can be expected.”
“Forgive me, Miss Darcy; I did not think.”
“You are forgiven, sir.”
“You are very good ma’am.” He paused, his countenance becoming thoughtful. “I hope that you will find some relief from your distress.”
“I. . . thank you, sir.”
Georgiana looked up and briefly caught Elizabeth’s eye. Elizabeth arched one eyebrow, but noticing the younger woman’s peculiar countenance suggested some music.
“Miss Preston, your mother says you have become most accomplished on the pianoforte; perhaps you would do us the honour of playing.”
Thus, the evening turned musical, agreeable to all those present. As the evening drew to a close, the pain and distress that had distracted her was temporarily replaced by the thoughts of what might pass the following day.
The next morning, Georgiana found Darcy and Elizabeth sitting at breakfast in silence. Both greeted her with a pleasantness that appeared to be a little too forced for her liking. Georgiana observed her brother’s dark countenance and the red rings around Elizabeth’s eyes and her heart sank, for she knew the signs of a quarrel -- and a large one at that. She tried to lighten the mood but to no avail; her brother left the room without a word to either lady.
“Elizabeth? What has happened?”
“Do not worry yourself, Georgiana, it was a small quarrel, nothing more.”
“I cannot help but worry, it pains me to see you like this.”
“I am sorry that you are pained, but I ask that we discuss this no longer.”
Later that morning, the ladies of the house sat at their work in the sitting room. Mr Darcy had not yet left his study but the three ladies were content in each other’s company. Georgiana struggled to concentrate on her work, the anticipation overwhelming her. Her heart leapt when a servant announced the arrival of Mr Preston.
“Mr Preston,” Elizabeth greeted him, “it is a pleasure to see you.”
“Thank you, Mrs Darcy,” he replied, taking a seat.
Georgiana returned to her work, saying as little as civility would allow before Elizabeth suggested that they go out and enjoy Pemberley’s grounds.
The ladies fetched their bonnets and with Mr Preston, ventured out onto the lawn. They walked for a little while, Elizabeth with Mr Preston and Georgiana with Kitty.
“Kitty, I must confess I am somewhat scared. I do not know what to expect. Goodness, what if he means to propose?”
Kitty squeezed Georgiana’s arm gently. “Do not fret so. Surely he would not propose at such a time.”
Georgiana looked ahead to where Mr Preston was engaged in conversation with Elizabeth. They paused and turned to face Georgiana and Kitty.
“Kitty,” Elizabeth began, “Mr Preston has given me some wonderful ideas for the rose garden and I should like to have your opinion. Georgiana, perhaps you would like to show Mr Preston your mother’s bench.”
Georgiana paled with worry and Elizabeth smiled, “Do not worry, we shall not be long.”
The couples parted and Georgiana led the gentleman towards her the bench that had been built in memory of the late Lady Anne.
“I had hoped to speak with your brother this morning but it seems he is occupied.”
“Yes, he has a great deal of business to attend to,” --sitting down on the bench, her stomach churning and her heart beating wildly.
“Miss Darcy, I am afraid that this must be goodbye for a time.”
Georgiana looked at him in confusion.
“I must go to London on business; I do not know when I will return.”
Georgiana nodded, quickly composing herself. “I hope your journey is safe, sir.”
As Elizabeth and Kitty approached, they were concerned by Georgiana’s less than happy expression but said nothing. On returning to the house, Mr Preston made his way to Darcy’s study.
Elizabeth sat in her bed thinking on recent events and shook her head. She grieved deeply for her son, yet nothing could remove the pain. She did wish to talk to Darcy, but it was difficult. She had needed time to collect her thoughts, but his persistence had not allowed it, and they frequently quarrelled. A knock at the door brought her away from her thoughts, and she looked up to find her husband entering her chamber.
“Good evening, Fitzwilliam,” she greeted him coldly.
Darcy noted the absence of warmth in her tone and his ill temper increased, darkening his countenance.
“Elizabeth,” he warned, “I do not wish to quarrel tonight. Today has not been enjoyable. I may have to go to town tomorrow so I wish to sleep.”
“So, you wish to leave me?” Elizabeth replied angrily, her temper rising.
“No, I may need to assist Mr Preston in some business.”
“Yes, of course, business. Once again, business must come first.”
Darcy felt his temper rise and he struggled to compose himself. “Elizabeth! You know that is not the truth!”
“Do I? Do you really have business, or are you just running away?”
“Running away? Well, perhaps I am!” Darcy’s temper broke. “I do not wish to remain at Pemberley while you continue to behave like this!”
Elizabeth’s own resolve to remain calm also broke. “Sir, I am grieving for my child! My son is dead and I do not know what I did wrong. Did I really deserve to lose him? You do not understand! How could you possibly understand?”
“You think I do not understand? Elizabeth, he was my son too! Why must you think that you are the only person grieving? You are not the only person in this family who is hurting, why can you not see that?! I did not think you could possibly be so selfish!”
Elizabeth stared at Darcy, unable to believe his words, “Then perhaps you should not have married me.”
“Perhaps not,” came Darcy’s angry reply as he strode out of the room.
Posted on Wednesday, 4 April 2007
Darcy strode out of Elizabeth's chamber in anger. He could not compose himself, thinking only of the fury that she had ignited in him. All the strains of the previous weeks had come to a head and he could stay at Pemberley no longer, not with Elizabeth nor with Georgiana. He decided that he would go to town to put some space between them. His fury got the better of him again as he recalled the quarrel.
“Perhaps I should take a mistress,” he thought, but recollected himself quickly.
He hastened to the stables and departed for London, leaving behind him his home and his family without so much as a note.
Elizabeth awoke to find her pillow still damp from the tears that had at length closed her eyes. Recalling the events of the previous evening, she had no desire to see her husband. She was angry at his words and at his behaviour towards Georgiana. She had not felt such fury since learning of his interference in Bingley's attachment to Jane.
She completed her toilette and joined her father and Georgiana for breakfast. Mr Bennet raised an eyebrow at her unusual countenance but thought nothing of it, returning to his egg.
“Elizabeth,” Georgiana started, “my brother cannot be found this morning. His horse is not in the stables. Do you know where he has gone?”
Elizabeth's face darkened at the news. “London,” she replied sharply, startling Georgiana somewhat.
“Oh. Please excuse me, it is a fine day, I thought perhaps I would take a walk.” Georgiana stood, leaving Elizabeth and Mr Bennet at the table.
“Elizabeth, is there a reason behind Mr Darcy’s departure?”
“I do not know, Papa, business, I believe. I have no desire to know.”
Mr Bennet grew very concerned by his daughter's indifference and he turned to look at her, “Elizabeth, I may be old but I am no fool. You are out of spirits and Mr Darcy is mysteriously gone from Pemberley; you have quarrelled.”
Yes, Papa, we did quarrel last night. He said a lot of things that hurt me, and I am beginning to regret this marriage.
“Lizzy, you are too hasty. I know your disposition and I am inclined to believe that perhaps Mr Darcy is not entirely at fault.” He raised an eyebrow at his daughter.
Elizabeth submitted to her father's wisdom. “Yes, I believe I must bear some of the guilt myself, but he hurt me deeply.”
Mr Bennet sighed and took her hands in his. She was so stubborn and her pride was still easily bruised. “Elizabeth, you are a mother grieving for your child. You are already experiencing much pain, and therefore you are entitled to be out of spirits. However, you must understand this much; Mr Darcy is a father grieving for his child. You are not alone in your pain; he feels it also but if you continue to push each other away you will create an obstacle in your marriage.”
“I do believe that by leaving Pemberley, my husband has already created such an obstacle. He pains me with his words and then leaves me to grieve alone. I cannot forgive him.”
“No, Papa, I cannot forgive him.”
Darcy arrived at his townhouse exhausted after his long journey and relieved to be in familiar surroundings, having spent the previous night at an inn. He was greeted by his manservant.
“Mr Darcy sir, welcome back.”
“Thank you, Brooks.”
“Your rooms are being aired for you; we did not know you were to come to town.”
“I did not know that I would be coming so soon. I may be here for some time.”
“Will Mrs Darcy be joining you?”
“No, I expect not. I will be the billiard room.”
In no mood for company, Darcy spent the following days in his library. He considered writing to Elizabeth but could not bring himself to do so. Her sharp words had pained him greatly, he felt angry and frustrated and he wished to forget her and Pemberley for a while. He did, however, write to his sister informing her of his safe arrival in town.
Several days later, Darcy was disturbed by a knock at the door.
“Mr Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam comes to visit you.”
Darcy was a little surprised. “Show him in, please.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam entered the library and greeted his cousin warmly. “Darcy, it is good to see you. I had no knowledge that you were coming to town. What brings you here?”
“I could ask the same of you, Fitzwilliam; why are you not with your troops?”
“Alas, I took a bullet to the leg and have been sent home to recover. You have not answered my own question. I hear you plan to stay in town for some time.”
“I have business and, yes, it could take some time.”
“Yet you come without Mrs Darcy. Surely London is not so intolerable to her!”
“Fitzwilliam, it is no business of yours whether my wife chooses to come to town or not.” Darcy stood up and poured himself a brandy.
“Darcy, I was very sorry to hear about your loss. It must have been very hard for you both.”
“I - I - thank you. It is hard indeed. Elizabeth has not taken it well.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam observed the change in Darcy's
countenance at the mention of Elizabeth and raised an eyebrow.
“Ah, and so you come to London to take shelter!”
“Fitzwilliam, it is not an amusing matter and if you cannot see that then I suggest that you leave.”
“Forgive me, Darcy, I did not mean to pain you. Perhaps you would like to join me at the theatre tonight, take your mind off things?”
Darcy nodded in consent, unwilling to argue with his cousin and oldest friend.
Later that evening, Darcy and Fitzwilliam emerged from the theatre. Darcy was somewhat bemused, as he had never found particular enjoyment in Shakespeare’s plays, preferring Marlowe and Webster, and had been subjected to “The Tempest.” He thought it a remarkably silly play with very little to recommend itself.
The colonel laughed at his cousin's expression. “Darcy, forgive me, I forgot what displeasure Shakespeare gave you!”
“His plays, yes, but I hold nothing against his sonnets. You are forgiven, sir, but I think a drink is necessary to recover from such a trauma.”
“A very good idea indeed!”
They soon found themselves in the nearest inn, each enjoying a tankard of the landlord's finest ale. Darcy allowed himself to relax as he and his cousin reminisced about their past.
“Darcy, do you remember Marianne?” the Colonel enquired.
“Surely you have not forgotten Marianne Ellerby? You claimed that she was the love of your life and that you
wished very much to marry her.”
“Ah, yes, she had golden ringlets and blue eyes. I do believe she refused my offer of marriage.”
“Indeed, she was ten years old and a marriage to an eight year old boy must have been thought imprudent!”
“You dare to mock my first love?”
“Aye, I do!”
The gentlemen continued to enjoy their ale and each other's company, recalling the young ladies who had entered their lives.
“Darcy, I hope very much that one day I shall have your good fortune.”
“I do not understand your meaning.”
“Here we have discussed ladies who once caught our eye but you have had the good fortune to find a young lady who captured your heart and in return, gave you hers.”
“Fitzwilliam, I do not wish to talk about my wife.”
“Darcy, she is a fine woman. Do not let her go, do not allow any barrier to form which may lead to indifference. You are both very much in love.”
Darcy knew his cousin was correct but he did not want to acknowledge this. “Cousin, I am a little tired, I think I shall return home. Perhaps you will call tomorrow?”
“Aye, perhaps,” the Colonel smiled warmly as his cousin left the inn.
Darcy walked out into the dark street meditating on his cousin's words. He certainly loved Elizabeth but he was still angry with her, and he was very unsure about the matter. He was suddenly diverted from his thoughts by the sound of a woman in distress. He followed the noise into a side road where he saw a young woman being harassed by a gentleman. Darcy shouted as he ran towards them. The gentleman looked up in surprise and cried out as Darcy pulled him away from the girl.
“I suggest sir,” Darcy started, pushing the man against a wall, “that you think very carefully about what you do next. If you do not wish for an encounter with the Runners, I suggest that you leave immediately.” He let go of the man and watched as he fled into the night.
The young woman thanked Darcy profusely and turned to him. She lifted her head and Darcy was taken aback as he beheld Lydia Wickham.
Posted on Wednesday, 11 April 2007
“Mr Darcy!” Lydia exclaimed as she backed away in fear.
Darcy was still shocked at the discovery of his wife’s sister alone in London at this time of night. He recollected himself and greeted her civilly, “I did not expect to see you in town, Mrs Wickham.”
“I - I -” Lydia, unable to compose herself, wept bitterly. Darcy, unsure of what to do, observed the young woman and saw that she was with child.
“Mrs Wickham, do you have somewhere to stay?”
Lydia nodded. “Yes sir, but only enough money for one more night.”
“Come, I shall escort you and then you can tell me what brings you here.”
Lydia nodded and Darcy soon found himself in a somewhat dubious inn in Whitechapel. He looked around, taking everything in, shocked at the squalor in which Lydia was currently living.
“OI! Mrs Wickham! It’s about time you returned. I’m not your nanny!” Darcy turned as a red faced woman emerged from behind a door. “Here’s your brat and I ain’t watching her again!”
Lydia stumbled over her apology and picked up the little girl. Darcy watched as Lydia kissed her daughter’s dirty cheek.
“This is my daughter, Catherine.”
The little girl turned to look at her new acquaintance and Darcy found himself staring into George Wickham’s eyes.
“Thank you, sir, for escorting me back.” Lydia turned to go to her room.
“Mrs Wickham, where is your husband? Surely you are not in town without him.”
Lydia stopped, and she turned around, her face fearful and eyes brimming with tears.
“I - I - do not know. Mr Darcy, George fled Newcastle with his mistress. He has left me alone with our daughter and unborn child. I believe they are in town. Sir, I must find him, for the sake of my children. What future will they have? I have little to support them with.”
Darcy’s face became grave as Lydia recounted her story. He thought Lydia Wickham to be a silly girl whose foolish actions had led her into this predicament. However, despite his dislike of her and contempt for her adulterous husband, he knew what he must do. He had been in this position before; she was Elizabeth’s sister. Elizabeth. On seeing Lydia’s distress at being abandoned, Darcy began to regret his thoughtless words and hasty actions, thinking perhaps leaving Pemberley had not been such a good idea. He quickly recollected himself and turned to Lydia.
“Mrs Wickham,” he began, handing her his card, “I - I think you would be more comfortable, away from such a place.”
“Is my sister in town?” Lydia inquired, puzzled at the gentleman’s actions.
“No, she is not.”
Lydia, all the more surprised by the invitation, curtseyed, stumbling over her words of gratitude.
“I shall expect you tomorrow then.” Darcy bowed and took his leave.
The following morning, Darcy was sat in his library with Colonel Fitzwilliam when there was a knock on the door.
“There is a Mrs Wickham to see you, sir.”
“Show her into the drawing room. I will see her shortly.”
The maid curtseyed, leaving Darcy to face his rather bemused cousin.
“Darcy, why should Mrs Wickham be calling on you when Mrs Darcy is not in town?”
“It seems her husband’s habits have brought her to town.”
The colonel raised an enquiring eyebrow.
“Wickham has abandoned his wife. I am sure the Bennets do not wish for anymore scandal-”
“Nor, I am sure, does Mrs Darcy.”
“No, I expect not. I feel I must, once again, locate
Wickham and return him to his wife.”
“May I be of any assistance?”
“It would be much appreciated. Excuse me, I must speak with Mrs Wickham.”
Darcy strode into the sitting room where Lydia sat waiting. As he entered, she stood to greet him.
“Please sit down, Mrs Wickham. I shall not keep you long. As you are probably well aware, you are in no condition to roam London alone. I shall assist you in your search and if my wife were here, I am sure she would insist on you staying here for the time being so I invite you to stay here until your husband is located.” Darcy paused at the awkwardness of this invitation but knew he must be compassionate towards the unfortunate girl and her daughter.
“I - I- thank you very much Mr Darcy, it would be an honour.”
“I shall a servant to retrieve your belongings.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Darcy spent the following days, with the assistance of his cousin, visiting old acquaintances with whom Wickham had connections. They had little success as he had severed many of them.
He and Colonel Fitzwilliam were beginning to consider abandoning the search as they made their way along a murky street in Hackney.
“Well Darcy, perhaps this will give us another lead?”
“I certainly hope so,” Darcy replied as they stopped outside a decrepit house.
He hammered on the door and it was pulled open to reveal a wide-eyed little girl. She stared at the gentlemen, wiping her hand across her nose. “What?”
“We’re looking for Mrs Younge.”
“She ain’t here.”
“Where is she?”
Darcy paused. “Her daughter?”
“What’s it to you?”
He handed her a pittance and she moved to one side. The gentlemen entered the house and took in their surroundings.
From an upstairs room they heard the sound of a woman giggling.
“Leah!” the child yelled up the stairs.
A male voice cursed and there was a lot of clattering before a girl, no older than fifteen, came down. She glared at the youngster as she re-arranged her skirts.
“Bess, what ‘ave I told you about disturbing me when I’ve got one of my visitors?”
Bess shrugged. “They want to talk to you,” she replied, nodding towards Darcy and Fitzwilliam, “asking about mam.”
Leah eyed the men suspiciously. “I know she ‘ad some richer clients, but never knew they was this posh.” She looked them up and down, very brazenly. “What can I do? I can be really obliging.” She ran her finger down the front of the Colonel’s coat.
He quickly sidestepped her, letting Darcy intervene.
“We’re looking for George Wickham.”
Immediately, Leah backed off and folded her arms across her chest. “What about ‘im?”
“Where is he?”
“How would I know? He ain’t been ‘ere in months. Anyway, I won’t ‘ave anything to with ‘im. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I ‘ave company upstairs.”
“Why won’t you see him anymore?”
“That ain’t your business.”
“Will this make it my business?” He tossed her gold coin.
“It might do.”
He offered her another. “Start talking.”
“He used to visit regularly; one time he even brought some girl from the country with ‘im. Anyway, he wouldn’t pay ‘is debts so I told ‘im he weren’t welcome ‘ere no more.”
Darcy gave her more money. “Is he in town?”
Leah shrugged. “Could be. Can’t be sure.”
“Where might he be?”
The girl stopped talking and shook her head. Darcy parted with more money.
“He likes to go to the Kings Arms. There’s girls that rent rooms there. If he’s in town then he’ll probably be there. Ask for Molly. I don’t know anymore-“
“LEAH!” a man’s voice bellowed from upstairs.
“I can’t keep ‘im any longer. Show ‘em out, Bess.”
They entered the crowded inn and pushed their way to the bar. A red-faced man who sweated profusely greeted them.
“What will it be?”
“We’re looking for Molly.” Fitzwilliam answered.
“You’re too late. She’s taken for the night.” The man nodded towards one corner of the inn.
They glanced in the same direction and saw a large group of people.
“I believe our search has come to an end, Darcy.”
Darcy looked over to where his cousin had glanced. There, in the centre of the group, sat Wickham. He was laughing merrily with a girl on his lap, his hand groping her breast through her dress.
“Good evening, Wickham.”
His gay countenance altered suddenly as he recognised Darcy and Fitzwilliam. He pushed the girl off his lap and scowled as he staggered towards the unwelcome visitors.
“What are you doing here, Darcy?”
Darcy glanced around at the crowd of people surrounding them. “Perhaps we should step outside.”
“I don’t think that is necessary. What do you want?”
Darcy, trying to remain calm looked Wickham in the eye, “I think, sir, that you know exactly why I am here. I was most intrigued to find your wife in town.”
Wickham scowled again at the mention of Lydia, “I daresay then that you have it in mind to return me to her. After all, since you are so very good at rescuing her, I suppose this is all at your lovely wife’s orders. Pray, how is the delightful Mrs Darcy? I am sure her lively mind and willful independence have been quite a challenge for you. Pray, is she satisfied with you? I am sure I could have made her just as happy as I once made her sister, or perhaps they both lacked that virtue. Tis a shame I never found out.”
At this slur on his wife’s reputation, Darcy could no longer keep his temper in check and forced Wickham into a wall.
“You will not speak about my wife in such a manner! Do you lack the courage to take your revenge face to face? Using innocent women in your schemes for vengeance for my supposed wrong-doings against you is hardly the work of a gentleman!” Darcy shouted.
Wickham forced his way out of Darcy’s grip, his face flushed with anger and alcohol.
“Ah, dear Georgiana, is this what is concerning you? Do you suppose I might pursue her again? An unlikely event indeed!”
“Indeed, for you are too busy pursuing other women who are not your wife!”
“Yes, I forgot, Lydia,” he spat vehemently, “my dear wife! I have no use for her. Perhaps I should send her back to Longbourn. Unless, of course, her sisters would like to take their scandalous sister under their wings!”
Darcy swung out at him, catching him on the jaw. Wickham reeled from the shock of this sudden blow, and, quickly recovering, returned it.
The ensuing fight was vicious until Darcy pinned Wickham against the wall again.
“You will apologise,” he spat “for speaking ill of Mrs Darcy and you will return to your wife.”
“I will do nothing of the sort!”
Darcy did not see Wickham slip a knife out from his belt.
Posted on Tuesday, 19 June 2007
That afternoon found Elizabeth standing by the window in an upstairs sitting room. The fine prospect from this window was one she favoured highly, despite the dark storm clouds overhead. She moved away from the window as the rain began to fall and opened her workbox. She frowned at her embroidery, a handkerchief for her sister Mary’s birthday. It would not do, so she resolved to unpick it and start again. She had never been one for embroidery, infinitely preferring a walk or a book but had taken to her work to appease her mother. On removing the handkerchief in question, she upset the box, causing its contents to scatter across the floor. As she bent down to recover the lost items, her eyes fell upon a piece of white cotton. She picked it up and sat down, spreading it out on her lap, revealing it to be small gown whose embroidery had yet to be completed. Elizabeth’s eyes filled with tears as she recollected the article, a gown for her child, the onset of labour preventing Elizabeth from completing this work of love. Elizabeth could bear the pain no longer, and, burying her face in the tiny gown, wept as though she had never wept before.
It was in this state that Georgiana came upon her sister. She hurried to Elizabeth’s side and embraced her tightly.
“Elizabeth, what is wrong?” she exclaimed.
“Nothing, my dear, it is simply recollections of the past,” Elizabeth replied, hastily returning the gown to her workbox.
Georgiana took a deep breath. She did not wish to upset Elizabeth anymore, but she feared that if she did not speak now, she would not find the courage to do so in the future.
“Elizabeth,” she began, “I - I wish very much to talk to you of a most important matter.”
“Why, yes, of course. What troubles you?”
“Oh, dear sister, I pray that you will forgive me for the intrusion, but I cannot remain silent. I - I wish to understand what has occurred between my brother and yourself.”
“Georgiana, I -”
“Please, let me finish. I know I cannot possibly understand the pain of losing a child, but it grieves me to see you and Fitzwilliam estranged. Elizabeth, please, let me urge you to consider the consequences of such an estrangement, do not let it eat away at your love for one another.”
Elizabeth was somewhat shocked at the younger woman’s speech, and she struggled to keep her quick temper in check, not wanting to cause any injury to a much-loved sister.
“I - perhaps Mr Darcy should have considered the consequences before leaving Pemberley,” she replied bitterly.
Georgiana, a little shaken by Elizabeth’s response, was undeterred. “Fitzwilliam is only human. He acted hastily, as his temper dictated. I know my brother. His anger does not allow him to think clearly.”
“Georgiana, I do not understand how you can think so well of him.”
“It is quite simple; he is my brother, and I love him.”
“He LEFT me!” Elizabeth burst into tears.
“Lizzy, I cannot say why God chooses to take those we love from us. Sometimes there seems no reason, but this I do know: It may not seem possible, but I do believe that in the future, something good will come from this unhappy situation.”
Elizabeth frowned and looked away, not wishing to acknowledge that Georgiana might be correct.
Georgiana continued. “Forgive me, you are so very dear to me, and I have come to love you as much as I love my brother and this is why I say do not give up hope. He will return, but you need to forgive him.”
Georgiana observed Elizabeth closely before rising and taking her leave.
Elizabeth was overwhelmed by Georgiana’s words, uncertain of how to react. Perhaps she was right. She looked down at the gown on her lap, and her eyes filled with tears again.
The following days were quiet for the two ladies. Neither seemed particularly inclined to converse beyond the necessary civilities. Georgiana was fearful that Elizabeth would never speak to her again and was beginning to regret the words that she had spoken. She found herself retreating more often to her pianoforte and into Pemberley’s extensive library, which was where Elizabeth located her one warm afternoon.
“Elizabeth? Has something happened?”
“No, no, do not worry yourself. I simply wished to tell you that I am going to take a walk. It is such a beautiful day that it would be a shame to spend it indoors.”
“It would indeed. Where do you intend to walk, should anyone call while you are gone?” Georgiana enquired.
“I believe I shall walk towards Lambton.”
“I doubt I shall reach Lambton. I often find myself diverted by everything around me!”
“I hope you enjoy your walk.”
“Thank you, Georgiana. I shall be back soon.”
The recent storm had restricted Elizabeth to the grounds, and this fine afternoon was a blessing, for she had a great need to gather her thoughts and try and make sense of the situation in which she found herself. Having fastened her bonnet, she took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the fresh air and, with a smile, began her walk. She felt at ease amongst the beauty of Derbyshire’s countryside and turned on to a small path that led into a small copse. Shortly after her arrival at Pemberley, she had discovered within it a small glade and quickly established it as her own personal haven. Elizabeth found her way carefully along the narrow path and the treacherous roots that threatened to cause her to stumble, but she soon reached her refuge. She looked around her, amazed at the dappled sunlight as it shone through the canopy above and onto the ground below. She had seen this many times before, but somehow, this time it seemed different. The beauty of nature had always touched her, and for a moment, it distracted her from the turmoil of her mind. She sat down on a fallen tree as her thoughts drifted back to her husband.
She reluctantly admitted that she missed him; Pemberley was different without him, almost empty. Despite the anger she had felt, she missed him deeply, but would she be able to forgive him? She sighed and stood up, deciding to leave the copse and continue her walk. She knew she should forgive him. Georgiana had been wise in her words, but she did not know how without re-living the pain.
“What would Georgiana do?” Elizabeth asked herself in frustration, reflecting on the younger girl’s words.
Her thoughts turned to those of a more divine nature, when she was suddenly distracted by a voice crying her name. She turned to find one of Pemberley’s servants approaching with some speed and considerably urgency.
“Yes, Davis, what is it?”
“Mrs Darcy, forgive me for disturbing your walk, but Miss Darcy urged me to bring this note to you immediately.”
Elizabeth was surprised at this but took the missive and quickly opened it, her eyes widening in shock as she read it.
Lizzy, you must return to the house as soon as possible. An express has just arrived from Colonel Fitzwilliam which contains such dreadful news I can barely write. My brother has been seriously injured, and the Colonel urges us to travel to town as soon as we can. Elizabeth, please make haste.
Elizabeth could hardly breathe as she finished the missive. She turned on the path and set off at a brisk pace towards Pemberley.
Elizabeth burst through the door into the hall to find Georgiana waiting for her, her trunk already packed.
On seeing Elizabeth, Georgiana threw herself into her arms, sobbing violently.
Elizabeth held Georgiana close to her, stroking her hair to soothe her. Georgiana gradually became quiet and pulled away to look at Elizabeth, her eyes rimmed with red.
“Oh, I thought you would not be found soon enough! I - I - oh, we must go to town directly!”
“Georgiana, calm yourself. Come, let me read the express from Colonel Fitzwilliam. I must know the details.”
Elizabeth took the paper from her sister’s hand and read it quickly, before Georgiana handed her another, unopened missive.
“This was addressed to you.”
Elizabeth took this new letter and opened it swiftly, her countenance darkening as she read its contents.
My dear Mrs Darcy,
By now I expect that you will have received the news of my cousin’s situation, and I ask that you do not reveal the contents of this letter to Georgiana, for I do not wish to distress her any more than is necessary.
I shall be frank with you, Mrs Darcy, for I expect that you will be in great haste to come to town, but I wish to divulge the particulars. Whilst in town, Mr Darcy happened upon your youngest sister, Mrs Wickham, in great distress caused by the desertion of her husband. Darcy, on learning this, vowed to find the scoundrel and return him to his wife. On discovering him, a fight ensued and Mr Wickham produced a knife. You can imagine, madam, what has happened, but be assured that Darcy is alive but gravely ill, so I urge you to come to town immediately.
Col. R. Fitzwilliam
Elizabeth folded the letter before turning to Georgiana. “I shall call my maid to pack my trunk, and we shall leave as soon as possible.”
Elizabeth could remember very little of the journey to London, her mind consumed by the thoughts of what could become of her husband. They travelled though the night, only stopping when necessary, and after two days of travelling, they approached the smoke and dirt of the city. As they drew closer to town, Elizabeth’s thoughts turned to her last encounter with Mr Darcy. She prayed fervently that the hurtful words that they had exchanged would not be their last, but a great sense of foreboding filled her heart. The thought that they might never be reconciled caused the tears that had threatened to spill to flow, and she wept bitterly.
Georgiana, who had been sleeping, awoke to the sound of Elizabeth’s sobs and instinctively took her hands in her own.
“I am scared, Georgiana. I fear that Fitzwilliam will die, and that we will never be reconciled. I do not know what I shall do! Georgiana, I love him so very dearly. I truly regret my thoughtless words.” She began to weep again. Georgiana’s heart was touched by the honest admission of her distressed sister, and she spoke softly.
“I believe you shall be reconciled, and I know that Fitzwilliam loves you and would wish for you to be at his side. Come, we are here.”
Elizabeth dried her eyes and recollected herself before stepping out of the carriage. She and Georgiana entered the house together where they were greeted warmly by Colonel Fitzwilliam.
“Mrs Darcy, Georgiana, I trust your journey was comfortable.”
“Yes, thank you-”
“Please, Richard, let me see my brother,” Georgiana interrupted impatiently.
“Why, yes, Martha will show you but-”
Georgiana departed, not waiting, even for Elizabeth. The Colonel offered Elizabeth his arm as they followed more slowly. Elizabeth took the proffered arm gratefully. “I thank you for your kindness, but I can go no longer without enquiring after my sister.”
“I understand, madam. I wrote to your uncle, Mr Gardiner, informing him of the situation, and he has been good enough to take Mrs Wickham and her daughter into his home.”
“And Mr Wickham is safely stowed away in Newgate, and there he shall remain with any luck.”
Elizabeth paled at the thought of Wickham’s prolonged stay in prison, “And my parents?”
“I believe your uncle has written to them.” He paused as they reached the door to Darcy’s chamber. “He has been asking for you. He spoke a little of what has passed between you, and I believe he regrets what has occurred. Indeed, he has been miserable without you!”
Elizabeth blushed and averted her eyes, not willing to discuss that matter.
“Forgive me, Mrs Darcy.” The Colonel opened the door and let Elizabeth enter.
Elizabeth gasped as she saw Darcy, eyes closed and face pale in the large bed. Georgiana stood up and guided Elizabeth to the chair beside the bed.
“The doctor says he is out of danger but is still very unwell.” She looked down and brushed a lock of hair off his face.
Elizabeth sat down and took his hand in hers and there she stayed, not noticing as Georgiana left nor as night fell.
The following morning, Georgiana returned to find Elizabeth asleep in the armchair. She watched as Elizabeth stirred, opening her eyes slowly and stretched out her limbs.
“Elizabeth, you have not eaten since we arrived. Will you take some breakfast?”
Elizabeth felt her stomach groan and reluctantly agreed, leaving the room.
Georgiana took her seat by Darcy’s side, gently stroking his cheek. She quickly withdrew her hand as his eyelids fluttered open to meet hers.
“William, you are awake! Thank goodness! I have been so worried!” she exclaimed, her face lighting up with joy.
“Where is Lizzy?”
“Do not fear. She is here. She has not left your side all night.”
Darcy’s eyes roamed about the room in search of the woman he loved. Georgiana laughed softly. “I have urged her to have some breakfast. She was reluctant, but I do not think she could ignore the protests of her stomach. I am surprised they did not wake you!”
Darcy smiled at the thought before returning his gaze to his sister. “Georgiana, can you ever forgive me for the pain I have caused you?”
“There is nothing to forgive. I am thankful that you are alive, Fitzwilliam.”
“You are too good to me.”
They both turned as the door opened, and Elizabeth entered the room. Georgiana discreetly moved away from the bed, allowing Elizabeth access to Darcy’s side. No words were spoken as the couple allowed their eyes to meet. No words were necessary for them to know that they belonged side-by-side, no matter what might come to pass.