Posted on: 2008-10-18
While the ladies had their conversation Adelaide's house was extremely busy-- the staff preparing the large dining room and setting it according to Adelaide's specific instructions, Georgiana and Elizabeth practicing their duets, and Madeleine Gardiner ferrying further instructions on Adelaide's behalf to guests and staff alike.
The kitchen was busy preparing a sumptuous dinner -- knowing full well that Adelaide would not eat much of it, but the staff were pleased to have something more to cook than the broths and gruels that had dominated the menus during the preceding weeks, and they worked hard to create a dinner that would please and delight the guests despite the limited time available for preparation.
One of the instructions that Adelaide issued was to the ladies. Adelaide asked that Georgiana, Elizabeth and Madeleine Gardiner attended her room at seven as there were some matters she wished to discuss before the evening commenced. She wished that they dress in their finest and had made specific requests with respect to the colours that they wore.
Adelaide asked that her maid prepare one of her own silks so that she would match the grandeur of her guests. The gentlemen were asked to dress as if they were to attend an evening at the theatre. Darcy was just relieved that he kept a second wardrobe in London and could comply with Adelaide's request as their hurried departure from Pemberley had not provided time for consideration of a wider variety of attire. Rebecca Fitzwilliam sent a message home to ensure that her staff would make ready her dress for the evening, as after spending time preparing for the evening she would only have a short time to dress before she returned.
Mr Morrison the physician arrived late in the afternoon and wondered what was going. Staff were rushing around, the sound of music emanated from the lounge and some wonderful scents were wafting through the house. Thankful to see Madeleine Gardiner amidst the hustle and bustle, Mr Morrison asked about the reason for all of the activity he was witnessing. Mrs Gardiner related about how a scheme to entertain Adelaide for the evening had grown (at Adelaide's request) to a dinner to be followed by music and conversation.
"This will tax her greatly" said Mr Morrison softly.
"We are aware that this may hasten her demise -- but she is set on the plan and seems quite delighted by the prospect. It seems to have given her an energy that she has not had for many weeks" replied Madeleine Gardiner.
"Well then I had best visit her whilst she is so animated" said Mr Morrison, and he turned to climb the stairs following Smythe.
Rebecca Fitzwilliam was just taking her leave as Mr Morrison arrived. She was to visit her house and return with her husband Gerald in time for the festivities.
The physician was delighted to find her as Mrs Gardiner had described -- bright and animated -- and pleased at the activity of the household. He checked her again as he had done every night and morning, and made her promise that she would indicate when she was tired and needed to return to her room. Whilst he supported the plans for the evening, he did not wish to see her suffer for the sake of the enjoyment, and having secured her commitment he was content to leave her in the company of her maid who was to dress her in preparation for the dinner and entertainment that had been so lovingly planned.
Due to the time that Adelaide had requested that they visit her room Georgiana, Madeleine Gardiner and Elizabeth dressed early, and arrived at her door promptly at the required time of seven.
They knocked on the door and the maid came out -- "Lady Lyell will see you now" she said and bobbed a curtsey. Madeleine Gardiner asked of the maid "Is she dressed for the evening?"
"Yes ma'am. I have done the best I can as her dress is now a little loose on her, but she does look very fine. If you will excuse me Mrs Gardiner, Lady Lyell asked that I show you all directly in and I do not wish to go against her wishes."
"You are quite right to say so. We shall not delay any further." Said Mrs Gardiner and the ladies entered Adelaide's bed chamber.
When they entered Adelaide's bed chamber they found her fully dressed in a bronze coloured silk, lying on top of the bed covers. Her hair had been primped and pinned, and she was wearing an elegant set of jewellery, complemented by a diamond and pearl pin in her hair. She looked like the Adelaide of old, part from her face being thinner and a little pale, it seemed that for one evening at least everyone would be able to pretend that everything was as it used to be.
"My you are a pretty picture" said Elizabeth waltzing into the room. She had taken her cue from Adelaide, and was determined to be bright and merry and not dwell on what was to come.
"Oh Adelaide" said Georgiana, "You are wearing the dress you wore to my wedding! That dress has always been my favourite!" She clapped her hands and held them to her mouth -- pleased to see Adelaide looking so well.
"I am most pleased to see you took note of my request and dressed for our event. I am so pleased to see you all looking so fine and elegant" said Adelaide brightening now that company had arrived. She was pleased to find Georgiana's memory so exact about where Adelaide had worn the dress she had chosen for the evening. Adelaide had chosen it as it held special memories of a very happy day. "Rebecca and I spent the afternoon recalling your wedding day."
"It is a delight to be dressed so to share this evening with you" said Madeleine Gardiner.
"Well my dears I asked you to arrive early this evening for a special reason. I have some pieces I would like you to wear. Elizabeth would you bring over that jewel box to me please?" said Adelaide indicating a hand crafted yew jewel box that was sitting on a chest of drawers at the edge of the room.
Elizabeth lifted the box from its position on the chest of drawers and placed it beside Adelaide on the bed. Elizabeth found it rather heavy to lift and wondered what pieces it contained.
"Now I have a gift for each of you" said Adelaide.
"Adelaide, we did not come here expecting gifts" exclaimed Elizabeth.
Adelaide then explained "I am well aware of that, but please indulge me just for once. I have written strict instructions for my estate, and that includes the provision of certain items for each of you. Given that this evening has been arranged I decided that I would much rather present some of the items to you in person, so that I may have the delight in seeing you wear them."
Elizabeth was quite overcome with Adelaide's comment, but her aunt happened to catch her eye. A serious glance from aunt Gardiner was enough to make Elizabeth regain control of her senses and she collected herself. As a result she did not upset either herself or Adelaide before the night had really begun.
Adelaide began distributing some items she had specially selected for each of them.
"Georgiana, I would like you to have these pieces". Adelaide passed to Georgiana a chain, bracelet and earrings made from sapphires and diamonds. As with all of Adelaide's jewellery the pieces were simple yet elegant, and perfectly complemented the navy blue silk that Georgiana wore and especially highlighted the deep blue of her eyes.
Elizabeth helped Georgiana fasten the clasps on the jewellery, and then stood back to admire her sister. "Georgiana, they are simply perfect!" exclaimed Elizabeth.
Next, Adelaide took some emerald and diamond pieces from her jewel box she had chosen for Madeleine Gardiner passing them to her saying "My dear I have long desired to see you wearing these pieces -- they complement your colours and are just the pieces to set off that dress."
"Thankyou" said Madeleine Gardiner with tears in her eyes. Whilst Edward Gardiner had been most generous to his wife with dress and adornments, she had no pieces of jewellery that rivalled these fine items.
Georgiana assisted Madeleine Gardiner to put on the items Adelaide had selected for her. Amongst the items was an emerald and diamond hair pin that Elizabeth took and placed into her aunt's hair.
"Oh aunt" said Elizabeth delighted in how her aunt looked. "Adelaide, you have gone to great efforts to ensure that we wore items that would match these pieces."
"So can you guess what colour of jewellery you are to wear?" Adelaide asked of Elizabeth.
"I could guess, but I am not confident in my conclusion" said Elizabeth in all honesty.
Adelaide then picked up some pieces destined for Elizabeth. They were made of rubies and diamonds and included a bracelet, earrings, a brooch and two hair pins, besides a fine necklace with the rubies and diamonds presented in a drop formation. Some of the pieces Elizabeth hadn't seen before but the necklace seemed rather familiar.
Elizabeth was hesitant when she asked Adelaide "I believe I have seen this necklace before, but not the other pieces. Am I correct in thinking that this was the necklace you wore the day we first met?"
"I am pleased to find your memory so exact and that you remember what I wore that day as well as I do." said Adelaide smiling at their shared recollection. "it marked the beginning of some grand friendships!" she added smiling at them all.
Aunt Gardiner came over to help Elizabeth with the clasp for the necklace and bracelet, whilst Georgiana fixed the hair pins in Elizabeth's hair. The rubies and diamonds brought out the highlights in her dark tresses, and Georgiana was delighted how they complemented the arrangement of her sisters' hair.
"Now I would like you to stand back so I can fully take in how you look now that your dress is complete" asked Adelaide of the three ladies.
Elizabeth, Georgiana and Madeleine Gardiner stood a small distance from the end of Adelaide's bed so that she could admire how her jewellery appeared. She was extremely pleased with the effect, and just asked them to wait there -- it was as though she was committing the picture to memory, delighting in the handsomeness of the ladies she loved so well. It seemed the effect exceeded her expectations.
The ladies then heard a knock at the door, with the resonant tones of Fitzwilliam Darcy asking if Richard, Edward Gardiner, and himself had permission to enter. Adelaide had previously asked the gentlemen to attend at half past seven in order that Darcy convey her downstairs. She trusted no one else and knew that she would be safe in Darcy's strong arms. Meanwhile Edward Gardiner, and Richard Fitzwilliam had been asked to escort the Georgiana, Elizabeth and Madeleine Gardiner downstairs. The gentlemen entered the room upon receiving permission, and were quite in awe of the beauty and splendour of the ladies.
"My eyes are delighted at the visions I behold!" said Darcy. "Why gentlemen, how are we ever to live up to the standard of the beauty we have the fortune to observe?" he flashed a rather large smile in Elizabeth's direction and was seen to wink at Adelaide as if he had been privy to the part of her plan.
"I quite agree- rarely have I seen so much beauty in the one place" said Edward Gardiner bowing to the ladies with a flourish.
"Why the sight is so dazzling I do believe every lady in London will be quite jealous, and the gentlemen too. Other ladies have no hope in appearing as handsome as those before me at this moment" said Richard Fitzwilliam.
"I am glad you are delighted by what you see. We went to great pains with our appearances, and I have distributed a few small items to enhance the picture" said Adelaide smugly.
"Small items?" said Elizabeth smiling at Adelaide, "Madam I do believe you have understated your gifts. Gentlemen, Lady Lyell has gone to unusual lengths to improve our appearances, including specifically outlining the colours that we wore so that our adornments were presented to best effect. You can see she was most successful in her endeavours!"
Adelaide replied "Thank you for your kind comments Elizabeth, but your appearances never need improvement. Now, if we are to achieve everything I have planned for this evening, we had better get underway. Gentlemen, if you could escort the ladies downstairs to the lounge, Gerald and Rebecca should be here shortly to join you. I will have Fitzwilliam bring me down in a few minutes and will ask you all to join me in the dining room."
"Ladies?" said Richard Fitzwilliam and Edward Gardiner in unison while the held out their arms.
Richard Fitzwilliam escorted Madeleine Gardiner, whilst Edward Gardiner took the arms of Georgiana and Elizabeth. The noise of swishing silk was heard as the ladies exited the room and entered the hallway to move to the stairwell.
After they had left the bed chamber, Darcy asked Adelaide if she was ready to leave.
"In a moment or two, let them settle in the lounge first which will give sufficient time for you to convey me to the dining room" said Adelaide.
Darcy quickly realised that there was probably some embarrassment on Adelaide's part in having to be carried about like a small child, and she was probably trying to arrange matters so that fewer people saw here that way. She spent some further moments describing her delight in her gifts to the ladies and how they were received. Finally she said to Darcy. "Now I believe it is high time I greeted my guests -- shall we make a move to the dining room?" asked Adelaide.
"Right away Madam. Now if you place your arms around my neck, I will lift you up so we can be off" said Darcy.
Adelaide placed her arms as he requested, and he lifted her gently from the bed. He was extremely surprised at how light she was to lift -- she now weighed less that young William -- but he tried his best not to indicate his alarm. If Adelaide was in pain she made no comment, instead putting on her broadest smile she made ready to enjoy her special evening.
Adelaide asked that she be taken directly to the dining room, where with the assistance of Smythe she was settled in a large comfortable chair at the head of the table. The staff had kept the table ornaments low at Adelaide's request so she would be afforded a good view of everyone around the table.
Once settled, Smythe announced to the other guests that dinner was served. Darcy managed to slip out of the side door from the dining room and make his way to the lounge so that he could escort his wife into the dining room along with the other guests. It was time for the evening to begin.
Adelaide was enchanted with the picture the couples made as they entered the dining room to take up their seats. Having already seen the others upstairs, she made a particular welcome to Rebecca and Gerald Fitzwilliam, who had recently arrived at the house.
"Now I am not standing on ceremony this evening -- it is my wish that you change seats when we change courses, that way I shall be able to sit near everyone for at least some part of the meal" said Adelaide holding court from the head of the table.
Everyone murmured their agreement, and Elizabeth thought to herself Adelaide is going to great lengths to ensure that everyone is included, and that she share conversation with us all. I wonder if she has planned any topics of conversation? With this question on her mind Elizabeth asked Adelaide "Do you have a preference for any particular topics that we are to converse upon over dinner?
"Despite all my planning for this evening, that is one area that escaped my attention. Would you have any suggestion I may consider?" said Adelaide in reply.
Elizabeth contemplated the question for a moment and then happily responded "Perhaps if I ask a question of you -- that may spur our conversation in the beginning at least".
The other guests at the table wondered what Elizabeth's question may be. Darcy had a moment of concern knowing full well how Elizabeth's and Adelaide's minds worked -- and that there was the potential for embarrassment to be attached. Given this was Adelaide's evening and they were in such intimate company he thought to himself Well come what may -- I will just participate in the spirit of the evening and if perchance the ladies throw jests in my direction I will just have to tolerate it. Darcy took a sip of his wine and waited for Elizabeth to ask her question.
"Well I am in a quandary and wish to know which event involving those around the table has brought you the greatest amount of amusement" said Elizabeth. Whilst Elizabeth tried to remain serious a smirk was apparent on her face.
Darcy was heard to utter "oh dear" while rolling his eyes, whilst Richard Fitzwilliam smiled said "Elizabeth that is a very dangerous question!" Gerald Fitzwilliam almost choked on his wine, and Georgiana was forced to hold her hand to her mouth. Aunt Gardiner and Rebecca Fitzwilliam smiled as though they were stifling laughs.
Adelaide smiled "An excellent suggestion -- and one that I am happy to answer." Adelaide was well aware by the reaction around the table that there was more than one person nervous about what her answer would be.
"My my" Adelaide continued "Such a selection to choose from. Would it be Fitzwilliam and Richard duelling with the curtains in my late husband study (groans were heard from some at the table when this was suggested), or perhaps when Gerald and my husband returned late from the club one evening a little the worse for wear after a drinking challenge"
Gerald Fitzwilliam was heard to utter "I had hoped you had forgotten about that one".
Adelaide was quick to respond "I heard that Gerald, and I can assure you that Rebecca and I have certainly not forgotten about it" she said playfully wagging a finger at him with Rebecca Fitzwilliam nodding and smiling in agreement.
"And for other suggestions? Watching Richard and Georgiana trying to ignore each other after disappearing together for a while at a London ball, and when they returned to the ballroom they kept their distance but gradually moving closer together, where I noticed there was a deep blush on each of their cheeks when they looked in each others' direction."
It was Georgiana's turn to squirm and she turned bright red.
"Now I didn't hear about that one" said Darcy smiling in his sisters' direction. "I would beg that you enlighten me later on that score."
"And I would beg that you leave my wife in peace" said Richard Fitzwilliam sharing his wife's embarrassment, whilst fully understanding the reason for the taunt.
"Or perhaps Edward, when fishing at Pemberley and being quite patient when the fish were not biting only to discover 3 hours later when you finally checked your line that there was in fact no hook on it at all, and that the line had only been weighted down due to a stick."
"Most embarrassing" said Edward Gardiner nodding in the direction of his wife.
"Despite all of these amusing events, I have determined a favourite after all." Said Adelaide.
Darcy said "and would I be correct in assuming that it involves me?" with a studied glance in Adelaide's direction.
"More to hide than anyone else eh Fitzwilliam?" said Gerald Fitzwilliam to his nephew.
Darcy was quick to reply "I think it is to do with the fact that I have had a greater interaction with Adelaide -- therefore a greater possibility of an embarrassing event emerging. I would only hope that it does not involve my wife."
"I am sorry to disappoint you Fitzwilliam, and you too Elizabeth as I find an event involving you both to be the most amusing that I can recall -- more to do with the level of embarrassment involved --although I will be quick to point out it did have a most satisfactory conclusion."
"Whatever can you mean?" said Elizabeth innocently - all the while being most certain of the event Adelaide would relate.
Adelaide did not delay any longer in relating the amusing event she cherished most "The most amusing event I have been a party to was when Richard related about Fitzwilliam's swim in the lake at Pemberley, and Elizabeth happening upon him whilst he was still wet and most underdressed."
The "I should have guessed" comment uttered by Darcy was all that could be heard amongst the laughter emanating from all of the others at the table. Despite all the years that had transpired it was still an event that could still make Darcy blush.
Despite his dislike of social festivities Darcy was particularly fond of commemorating any event that had brought him closer to the happiness he had achieved with his precious Elizabeth. As a result, and much to the surprise of his household, he decided that a summer ball should be staged at Pemberley. The reason for the ball was the first anniversary of Elizabeth visiting Pemberley with her uncle and aunt.
Due to the forthcoming ball, the Darcy's had invited Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr and Mrs Gardiner, Charles and Jane Bingley and Rebecca and Gerald Fitzwilliam to join in the festivities. Their guests had arrived a few days before the scheduled ball, and the days and evenings were spent relaxing and dining with the group as a whole.
This particular evening, after they had dined, the party had adjourned to the music room to be entertained by Georgiana and Elizabeth. Whilst the performers took a short break, some spirited conversation eventuated as everyone enjoyed some refreshments.
Suspicions had recently arisen with Adelaide and Elizabeth as to the possibility of some shared affections between Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana Darcy. The Colonel was quite observant and noticed that both he and Georgiana came frequently under the gaze of Adelaide and Elizabeth. Therefore, the Colonel saw fit to turn the attention away from himself and lighten the tone of the conversation. "Now Adelaide, how acquainted are you with the protracted courtship of Darcy and Elizabeth? My cousin caused no end of trouble to Georgiana and myself until he secured Elizabeth's hand. I also believe he caused Bingley a fair degree of grief."
Bingley nodded in agreement, but was rather reluctant to speak negatively about his good friend and brother.
Adelaide responded quickly. This was a subject she wished to know more about, and determined that she would receive a greater volume of information by this means than directly through Darcy and Elizabeth. "I can well imagine it -- Fitzwilliam had been quite open when we first met saying that his and Elizabeth's courtship had been somewhat difficult. They even related some of the conversations that had taken place with your Aunt Catherine."
Darcy and Elizabeth were glancing between Adelaide and the Colonel and then looked alarmingly at each other unsure of what information was about to be retold.
"Well you may have been told some of it but not all. Are you aware-- Darcy had actually proposed some months before he was finally accepted? -- his rejection was the making of his character. Elizabeth saw fit to point out defects in his character that no one else was game to do" aid the Colonel smugly while glancing towards Darcy's horrified face.
Elizabeth said quickly in a tone of alarm. "Adelaide I must ask -- I have no issue with you knowing this, but I must relate that there are only a few in my family who know of this fact. While some outside our family are aware I must beg that it goes no further particularly to my parents. Whilst my father would likely find the whole thing amusing I don't believe my mother would cope if she had known I could have been married some 6 months sooner than I was. Maybe in time but certainly not while she is visiting soon!"
"I promise not to let on what I know. I was not aware of that fact. But now my I insist on knowing it all. How did they become reacquainted?" asked Adelaide
Georgiana interjected "Aunt and Uncle Gardiner brought her here to Derbyshire so that Mrs Gardiner could visit some former acquaintances, and managed to talk Elizabeth into visiting Pemberley. As they had no knowledge of the rejected proposal they saw no harm to the scheme. Elizabeth only agreed to go once she was advised that none of the family were at home. It transpired that Fitzwilliam returned home earlier than expected and he met her whilst she was in the grounds"
"Georgiana, there is one piece of information of which you are not aware" said the Colonel.
"Oh?" she said in genuine surprise.
Richard Fitzwilliam held Darcy's gaze while he responded "Ask your brother what he had been doing just before he met Elizabeth."
"Surely he has nothing to relate. Fitzwilliam gave me hardly time to draw breath after my arrival, so keen was he to tell me that he had met Elizabeth while she was walking the grounds with her aunt and uncle and that she was staying nearby in Lambton" she said turning around to face the Colonel.
"That is true -- but he did do something else before he happened upon her" the Colonel could hardly contain himself.
"I am sure there could be no issue with any action a gentleman takes on his own property? What could Fitzwilliam have done that would give him reason not to relate the whole to me?" Georgiana responded in defence of her brother who had always acted in the most proper manner.
"Perhaps one very good reason" he glanced towards Elizabeth and Darcy and saw that they had both reddened considerably. "Darcy, are you going to tell her or will I?"
Darcy replied "I think if I relate the story I am at least in control of the words to describe the situation."
"As you wish" said the Colonel, knowing that Darcy would be required to relate what was for him a most embarrassing situation.
Darcy then went onto describe his sudden decision to swim in the lake due to the heat of the day, and how he meet with Elizabeth while he was less formally attired and still soaking wet. He then went onto relate how he ran to his rooms and quickly changed so he could speak with Elizabeth again before she left.
"No wonder you didn't tell me" responded Georgiana smiling at the thought of her brother dashing about the house dripping water all the while.
"I do believe I shocked some of the household with my mad dash -- my valet had never seen me change so quickly and without care. I did not want you to form a wrong impression of your older brother's behaviour to I chose to omit that fact when relating to you what had happened."
"But he did happen to write and tell me" said the Colonel chuckling at the memory. "His concern about Elizabeth's impressions of him I believe only lasted a short time."
"They lasted long enough to make me uncomfortable until I knew I had secured her hand -- so it was of some duration."
"I was meantime suffering embarrassment of a different nature" said Elizabeth.
"What was your concern?" asked Georgiana
"Being discovered visiting the property of a man whose proposal I had refused. I have never felt such discomfort." Said Elizabeth.
"Not even when Mr Collins proposed, or Lady Catherine berated you?" asked Darcy teasingly.
"Well, put in that context perhaps not to the same extent but I never longed for their good opinion - but I did of your. I spent the rest of the visit wondering what you thought of me -- that was enough to cause discomfort. I even asked my uncle and aunt that we leave immediately. The situation was not assisted when my aunt and uncle noticed that I was ill at ease." Said Elizabeth.
"Well, we were rather surprised at the casual attire of Fitzwilliam, but even more surprised when he took the time to ready himself so quickly to converse with us. It led your uncle and I to surmise that there was another reason for his speed in changing dress -- and it certainly wasn't out of any pressing desire to meet us" said aunt Gardiner playfully.
"Our suspicions were further fed the following day when Fitzwilliam came to introduce Georgiana to you."
"But I said nothing at all" replied Elizabeth. "Whatever gave you any idea that anything existed at that time between Fitzwilliam and I?"
Madeleine Gardiner then said "Your actions and your looks were sufficient on both sides, and rather confirmed by the behaviour of you at the dinner the following evening -- well sufficient enough for us" due to the light hearted nature of the conversations Mrs Gardiner thought but did not say and also that you were confident enough in each other's company for you to relate what had happened to Lydia.
"What in earth do you mean?" asked Elizabeth, who had discussed a number of aspects of her courtship with Darcy but had never actually discussed the dinner at Pemberley with her aunt.
Georgiana chimed in first "It was not only the Gardiners who noticed, I did too, although I admit that information provided by Fitzwilliam did assist me in taking notice of certain things. Both of you played with your food that evening, and hardly seemed to eat at all, whilst struggling in vain to avoid looking at each other. I will admit though Elizabeth, it must have been rather uncomfortable, as it seemed every eye at the table was turned towards you both."
Elizabeth then saw the need to try and steer the conversation to safer grounds "Well I am glad that our guests for the ball have not been invited to celebrate the anniversary of a certain swim, or a mad dash through Pemberley."
"Do we have to keep talking about that swim?" asked Darcy in mock frustration. "I will admit that my actions that day were certainly out of character, but I was eternally pleased with the result of that day's endeavours." He reached out to grasp Elizabeth's hand.
"You were never comfortable in having your out of character actions examined, were you Fitzwilliam" said Adelaide. "But it would be my favourite amusement to think about you letting your guard down and having your real emotions guide your actions -- the thought of you dashing about Pemberley dripping water and discarding clothes, is one I wish I had seen in person. Whatever did Mrs Reynolds think?'
"I do believe that she thought I had taken leave of my senses. But as with others around us she quickly deduced the reason for my hasty actions were related to the presence of Elizabeth -- although it was only later, just before Elizabeth came to Pemberley permanently that I explained the reasons for my actions that day including the failed proposal -- I felt she had earned that privilege. I can tell you that she was highly amused."
Darcy was relieved of further examination of that event by the parties at the table changing places again to partake of desert. Just to ensure that he was not the topic of conversation, he turned the conversation towards an event raised by Adelaide earlier that seemed to cause his uncle some discomfort.
Once seated, Darcy said "Now I would be most interested to know about that event you alluded to earlier Adelaide -- where uncle Gerald and your husband came home rather late?"
"Yes father" said Richard Fitzwilliam, "I would be most interested too. When I came home a little worse for wear when I was younger, you inferred that your own behaviour was above reproach and that you would never undertake anything like that."
Gerald Fitzwilliam was forced to relate the amusing incident that saw Adelaide receiving a message late in the evening, asking her to send some staff around to White's to bring home their master. Knowing that James Lyell had gone there to celebrate with Gerald Fitzwilliam the birth of Richard Fitzwilliam, Adelaide had sent a few staff, Smythe being amongst them to retrieve not only James Lyell, but Gerald Fitzwilliam too.
"It took four of my strong men to bring them into this house -- I was not about to let Gerald go home in the state he was in, and he and James were put to bed, where they awoke the around lunchtime the next day with extremely sore heads. I had sent word to Rebecca not to worry and that I had Gerald in my care."
"At the time I was furious with them both -- to be in such a state that the club had to send a messenger to me! The next day I was more able to see the amusing side of it -- particularly when I recalled how they tried to hold each other up while climbing the stairs. Needless to say they were not very successful and sported bruises for a number of days as evidence of their crimes" said Adelaide chuckling to herself at the memory.
"I gave your father a tongue lashing when he eventually made it home Richard." Said Rebecca Fitzwilliam. "He told me he was going to White's for a few quiet drinks and to advise his friends of your birth. It turned into a rather long evening- a few drinks turned into some 10 hours at White's and then an unscheduled overnight in this very house."
"I am glad I was not on the receiving end of that speech" said Richard Fitzwilliam. "It was probably just as well that you laid low at Adelaide's for a while father."
"If anything I do believe it made matters worse -- it gave your mother more time to frame a response appropriate to my actions!" said Gerald Fitzwilliam "but I grant you that her comments to me were more than warranted."
"I did not see the amusing side of it until Adelaide visited me a few days later. She took great pains to describe the sight of James and Gerald struggling to place one foot in front of the other. We had quite a good laugh about it -- didn't we Adelaide?" said Rebecca Fitzwilliam.
"That we did. So you see we all tend to drop our guard once in a while, and I think it a good thing if it only happens on occasion. Now, how about we adjourn to the music room where I believe some entertainment has been planned. Smythe can you bring our coffee and port to the music room -- I do not wish the gentlemen to be separated from us this evening."
"As you wish Madam." Said Smythe.
Smythe ushered the party into the hallway, where they waited patiently whilst Darcy moved Adelaide into the music room and settled her on a chaise lounge. A maid brought a light covering and placed it over Adelaide's legs, and Darcy ensured that the shawl was placed around Adelaide's shoulders. Once these actions were complete -- Smythe invited the guests into the music room, and arranged for coffee, port and refreshments to be served on a side table.
"How am I to be entertained this evening?" asked Adelaide -- knowing full well the answer, but she wanted to hear it all the same.
"Elizabeth and Georgiana, are to entertain you with some duets. Ladies, are you ready to commence?" said Darcy.
"Yes, my sister and I have chosen some pieces that should be familiar to you all, with a couple that are particular favourites of Adelaide. We are a little out of practice given that we do not have many opportunities to perform together recently, but I trust you will find our selection enjoyable" said Elizabeth by way of introduction.
"Shall it be interspersed with laughter such as I heard this afternoon?" asked Madeleine Gardiner.
"Hopefully not" said Elizabeth. "I think we will managed to maintain a little more control of our behaviour this evening."
Georgiana and Elizabeth sat down at Adelaide's fine piano forte and began playing the pieces that Anne Darcy and Clarissa Lyell had entertained Adelaide while in their youth. The guests in the room were observant enough to watch Adelaide close her eyes and become lost in the music, smiling softly to herself.
As they played Adelaide dreamed of performances in years past when she was surrounded by her own family. She was conscious enough to appreciate the significance of the gesture by those she considered her new family, those who had given life and friendship to this past decade of her life. Adelaide was broken from her reverie when the first piece ended and polite applause was heard. "I am lost between memories hearing that piece -- from both Anne and Clarissa playing it, and when you both kindly favoured me with a performance when you covered the music from its place in a cupboard. I do hope you have more" said Adelaide.
"Yes, we have a few more pieces that we have prepared for you" said Georgiana, "and I hope to that I can persuade my sister to sing after that."
"Only if you play for me" said Elizabeth to Georgiana "I find I cannot concentrate properly on the music and sing at the same time"
"Very well then" said Georgiana.
The sisters continued to play a number of pieces that they knew Adelaide particularly enjoyed -- after all the evening was for her benefit. They took a short break, then Georgiana successfully persuaded Elizabeth to sing a couple of pieces, before they played another duet.
While finishing the last duet Elizabeth motioned to Georgiana and caught Darcy's eye -- noticing that Adelaide was becoming fatigued. Elizabeth whispered "I think after this we should check on the strength of our host --it may be time for her to retire."
"I see what you mean" said Georgiana whispering her reply.
Posted on: 2008-10-25
When the piece had been completed and the generous applause had died down, Elizabeth and Georgiana did not have to ask if Adelaide wished them to continue as Adelaide made the following comment. "I find I am feeling a little fatigued after the events of today, and such a wonderful evening -- I have enjoyed myself immensely. I pray you will excuse me but I think it is time that I retired for the evening."
"No need for excuses -- the hour is growing late-it is high time that we too called it a day" said Gerald Fitzwilliam.
"I must claim to be rather weary myself" said Richard Fitzwilliam. The all night session with Adelaide, plus an afternoon at the Parliament were starting to take their toll on his strength. Georgiana was pleased that he would finally admit it aloud -- she had pressed him over the past few days that he needed more rest himself. All of the Fitzwilliam's rose to leave, and then took their farewells of Adelaide, thanking her for her hospitality and complementing her on her arrangements.
"I am pleased that you all seemed to enjoy yourself as much I have" said Adelaide while patting hands and accepting displays of affection and regard.
Darcy and Elizabeth walked with them to the door, waving them off as the Earl and Countess departed in their carriage, and Richard and Georgiana made their way down the Mayfair street to their house which was but 5 houses away.
Returning in doors they went to back to Adelaide who was conversing with the Gardiners. Turning to them she said "Thankyou my dears" drawing Elizabeth and Darcy near so that she could place a kiss on their cheeks -- "this evening was everything that I could have wished -- there is one, no perhaps two things that could have made it more perfect"
Elizabeth was dismayed at this comment thinking that there was something she had overlooked in their preparations. Her fears were soon alleviated when Adelaide added "I would have been delighted if Jane and Charles could have been here also, and James --he would have enjoyed this evening so! But now for bed."
"I think that very wise" said Darcy concerned about how frail Adelaide suddenly appeared to be.
"Do I ask too much if some of you were to keep me company this evening as you have done recently?" asked Adelaide.
Madeleine Gardiner replied on behalf of them all "Not at all. We shall be glad to sit with you and converse with you if you feel the need."
Edward Gardiner then added -- "I shall let Madeleine, Elizabeth and Darcy see you to bed while I see to ensuring everything here it put to rights". Edward Gardiner knew full well that Smythe could be entrusted with this duty, but also knew Adelaide was always more comfortable knowing that Mr Gardiner took care of certain things each evening. He leaned over and kissed Adelaide good night "I am very pleased you enjoyed your evening -- I wish you sweet dreams".
"Good night and thankyou Edward" said Adelaide patting his hands. "I will rest easier knowing that you are taking care of such things."
Adelaide then held out her hands to Elizabeth and Madeleine Gardiner "Now will you two precede us and see that my room is ready and I shall have Fitzwilliam bring me upstairs."
"Of course- we shall see you in a few minutes" said Elizabeth placing a kiss on her forehead.
The ladies went up to Adelaide's rooms, leaving Edward Gardiner to take care of the rest of the household arrangements. The maid removed the throw from Adelaide's legs and Darcy leaned over so that Adelaide could once again place her arms around Darcy's neck.
Darcy carried the frail figure back up to her room where Elizabeth and Madeleine Gardiner ensured that everything was in readiness for her return. The maids had take advantage of Adelaide's sojourn downstairs to freshen her room and the linens, and Adelaide despite her extreme fatigue seemed to notice the crispness of the sheets placing a hand out to finger the linens when Darcy placed her gently back on her bed.
Adelaide seemed to lose her sense of time and presence when laid back on the pillow and said "Thankyou James, we had such a pleasant evening" raising a hand to Darcy's lapel.
"Goodnight dear lady" said Darcy, and leaned over to kiss her on the temple.
Adelaide's eyes closed quickly as the evening had sapped most of her energy and very quickly she seemed to fall sleep.
"James?" said Elizabeth quietly as Darcy came over to join his wife on a sofa.
"I believe she was so tired that she mistook me for her husband. She must have been thinking of the past. He must have carried her upstairs at one time. Given her fatigue there seemed no point to correct her -- hopefully it will mean that she has pleasant dreams" responded Darcy.
"I am pleased to see her achieve some sleep -- it has eluded her these past days" said Madeleine Gardiner who had seated herself nearby on a large winged back chair.
"Why don't you ladies try and get some sleep while Adelaide does -- I can keep watch and then wake you if you are needed" said Darcy. Darcy had noticed that Adelaide was not the only one who had a pale face. He hoped that Elizabeth could also achieve some rest for a while at least.
Elizabeth saw the sense in her husband's suggestion and readily acceded to his request. "I think it would be a good thing to take you up on your offer -- would you mind if I nestled against you?" asked Elizabeth.
Always delighted to embrace his wife even in the presence of their aunt he replied "Please do." He saw to it that his wife drew her legs up, and covered her with a light throw that had been lying over the arm of the sofa. Elizabeth then rested her head on her husband's chest, and he stroked her hair until she was quickly asleep.
"It seems Elizabeth was more tired that she would own" said Madeleine Gardiner looking fondly at her niece. Mrs Gardiner drew a footstool to the end of her chair so that she could raise her legs while she napped. "It there anything I can get you nephew?"
"No thank you, I do not need anything for the present. I promise to wake you if you are needed. Try and rest while you can" said Darcy.
"Wake me in an hour or so, that way you can get some sleep yourself" said aunt Gardiner "You too need your rest. Good night my dear."
"Goodnight aunt" said Darcy.
Madeleine Gardiner was almost asleep as quickly as her niece. Edward Gardiner came up to Adelaide's rooms some half an hour after they had gone upstairs. Opening the door quietly he silently asked Darcy if anything was required and was just checking to see if all was in order. Darcy indicated that all of the ladies were sleeping peacefully -- and that he needed nothing for the present -- and that Edward Gardiner too should seek some rest.
Edward Gardiner mouthed the words "Call me if I am needed"
Darcy nodded and wished uncle Gardiner good night.
The lamplight in Adelaide's room was sufficient for Darcy to keep watch on the time, realising that he must have slept lightly himself -- seeing that an hour had passed since he had last checked the time. It was now 3 in the morning. He saw no need to wake his aunt, or his wife, and thought it best that they continued to sleep.
The night was peaceful and quiet, with no noise from the street given the hour, and only sound he heard was from the regular breathing of Elizabeth, Madeleine Gardiner and Adelaide. He thought of Pemberley at this hour -- a few occasions had seen him awake at this time of day-- when Elizabeth was in childbirth, and when young Cassie was extremely ill. The difference between here and Pemberley was the chiming of Pemberley's large grandfather clock in the hallway whose noises echoed through the certain parts of the house, and the sound of the owls hooting in Pemberley's grounds while they foraged.
You certainly don't hear the owls in the centre of London.
He drifted off to sleep again, waking himself after another half hour had passed, but this time he detected a change in the noises in the room. Adelaide's breathing was now laboured and noisy compared to the regular sounds he had heard earlier.
Then suddenly the noise ceased.
He rose quickly as he could try not to disturb Elizabeth as he moved to Adelaide's bedside. Once there he saw that Adelaide had in fact stopped breathing and was now lying still. Darcy's movements had disturbed Elizabeth, and the noise of his footsteps soon woke aunt Gardiner.
"Is Adelaide all right?" asked Elizabeth still wiping the sleep from her eyes.
"She sleeps well Elizabeth" said Darcy quietly. "Adelaide has gone to join James."
"She has passed?" asked aunt Gardiner who jolted herself awake on hearing that news.
"Yes, so it would seem" said Darcy quite overcome with the moment.
Elizabeth rose from the sofa and came to see for herself -- she hoped that she was dreaming, but upon nearing Darcy she saw what he said was true. "Oh Adelaide- I did not have the chance to say goodbye!" said Elizabeth who buried her face in her husband's chest. Darcy moved and placed a protective arm around her shoulder.
Aunt Gardiner moved over to join her niece and nephew "Elizabeth, don't think of it like that -- Adelaide would not have liked such a formal ending -- I think she preferred it as it was -- that we just said Goodnight -- as it is when we know someday we shall see someone again"
Elizabeth raised her head, then turned to embrace her aunt. She realised what her aunt had said was true.
"Fitzwilliam, can I ask that you fetch your uncle? We should alert him to what has happened, but there is not a great deal we can do now -- we shall have to wait a few hours before others can be called."
"Yes of course -- I shall go directly" said Darcy. He lit a candle and moved out of the room in search of Mr Gardiner.
Madeleine Gardiner and Elizabeth waited in the room with one arm about each other overlooking the silent form of Adelaide.
"She seems at peace aunt, but do I detect a slight smile on her face?" said Elizabeth examining the kindly face so once full of life.
"I think that you are right -- it must be due to the pleasant evening that she had -- whilst it may have fatigued her greatly she enjoyed it so much -- it was the right thing to do even if it caused her to pass more quickly than we had hoped" replied aunt Gardiner.
Darcy quickly returned with Edward Gardiner who had been sleeping in a room just down the hall. He had not bothered to change into nightclothes thinking that it was very likely that he may be called at some hour during the night.
"She rests well then" said Edward Gardiner. "A grand lady and a great loss."
Aunt Gardiner turned to Elizabeth and Darcy and said "your uncle and I can take care of things here -- there is nothing much to be done at this hour, so why don't you both go and get some proper rest. There will be a great deal to be done today, so some respite is essential."
"I think you aunt is right Elizabeth, come and get some rest" said Darcy.
Elizabeth turned to Darcy for a moment and asked hesitantly "May I....?"
"Do you wish to have a moment alone with her?" said Darcy immediately understanding her meaning.
"Yes, just a minute or two -- I shan't be long" said Elizabeth.
Darcy, and the Gardiners discreetly left the room, leaving Elizabeth alone with Adelaide.
Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed, taking the hand that a few hours previously had held her own in an affectionate clasp. Fighting back the tears Elizabeth spoke to her friend "I can never thankyou enough for your love, your friendship, your advice -- I owe you so much! I only hope I can attend to tasks you have left to my care, and take care of others as you have done. I only wish we could have had more time together. But you are right as always -- we have our memories to sustain us, and your letters too. I shall never forget you -- you will always be in my heart and no doubt you will be watching over us. Goodbye my darling Adelaide." Elizabeth leaned over and kissed Adelaide one last time on the cheek, and placed Adelaide's hand across her chest.
Elizabeth rose slowly and left the room, letting her tears flow freely as she went to the waiting arms of her husband. She released one of her hands to grab her aunt's and smiled at her through the tears. "Goodnight aunt, wake us early so that we can be of assistance."'
"We will wake you when you are needed" said aunt Gardiner. "Goodnight my dears -- do try and get some sleep."
Edward Gardiner patted Darcy on the back as Darcy turned to escort Elizabeth down the hall to the room they were occupying. Despite all of their thoughts that any form of sleep would be difficult to achieve given the circumstances, it was only but a few moments until they were both very quickly asleep in the comfort of each others' arms.
The following morning saw Adelaide's household very busy. All of the staff bustled about making work for themselves to keep themselves occupied, but any astute observer would have noticed that there was many a red eye to be seen between the males and females alike. Adelaide was well loved by her staff being a kind and generous employer, and her household staff were extremely sad at her passing.
The Gardiners had taken care of the immediate arrangements, putting into place plans that had been determined with the assistance of Adelaide over the preceding weeks. Adelaide had wanted a say in everything to do with her passing, and had made specific requests in terms of laying out, service and music, even down to what was acceptable in terms of a wake.
Elizabeth and Darcy were not woken until around eight that morning. While the Gardiners would have wished that they remained undisturbed for a while longer, there was a great deal to take care of and Darcy was required to join Mr Gardiner and Adelaide's solicitor to commence arrangements regarding her large estate and investments.
Madeleine Gardiner meanwhile sought assistance from her niece to write the many notes of advice that required distribution. There were many people who would need to be informed of Adelaide's passing, and given that the funeral service would be scheduled for the following day the advices needed to be sent quickly. While many people had a period pass between their death and their funeral Adelaide wanted no such ceremony, her only concern was that those closest to her were present- if others happened to attend so be it, but on that particular subject Adelaide had not been particularly fussed about what others thought.
Georgiana and Richard came early -- Smythe walking the short distance to their house to personally pass on the sad news. The Earl and Countess of Matlock arrived soon after. All came to provide what assistance they could and to condole with each other. The gentlemen took care of the arrangements for the service, whilst the ladies prepared notes that saw Adelaide's staff riding about the city to distribute them.
Mid morning saw their first visitor, but it was one who had yet to be told of Adelaide's passing. It was Lady Caroline Clay.
Elizabeth was walking between two rooms and perchance was in the hallway when Smythe answered the door. Elizabeth immediately detected that he did not know what to say on seeing who their visitor was. Elizabeth quickly sought to alleviate him of the grim task of relating what had transpired overnight.
"Caroline!" said Elizabeth rushing up to her friend.
"Oh Lizzie! I came as quickly as I could. Your note took days to reach me as we were down in Kent with Louisa. How is she?"
Elizabeth hesitated before answering, and began by shaking her head ".....she passed only last night"
Caroline's face dropped. "...then we are too late....." she said dejectedly.
Elizabeth reached for Caroline's hand giving it a reassuring squeeze "I am afraid so" said Elizabeth while tearing up again. "Come with me and I will tell you all" she took Caroline's hand in hers and took her friend into the lounge.
The ladies sat and Elizabeth went through what had happened since they had arrived, and saying while Adelaide was frail her last days were happy ones, and Caroline's name had been mentioned fondly in many of their recollections. Caroline sat mopping her eyes as Elizabeth related her tales.
"Will you be able to attend the service?" asked Elizabeth.
"Most certainly, David will want to be there as well -- she was the one to bring us such happiness!"
"May I ask that you sit with me? You would be of great comfort.'
"....and you to me. I would be honoured Lizzie" said Caroline embracing her sister fondly.
Caroline then took her leave, allowing Elizabeth to return to the arrangements for the following day.
By the end of the day all was in order and had been arranged according to Adelaide's instructions. The day had passed more quickly than Elizabeth had anticipated -- the tasks that required attention had kept her extremely busy, and she was grateful to have useful employment.
They had all decided to return to their respective residences that night -- given the fun and laughter that had taken place in Adelaide's house the previous evening Elizabeth on her own part couldn't face spending the night there knowing Adelaide had now passed. She sought the familiar surroundings of her own London house as a source of comfort.
Darcy arranged for a light supper to be brought to their rooms -- they neither had the energy or the inclination to dress for dinner and sit through a formal arrangement in their dining room. Their household were sensitive to their needs, and prepared a meal that was both light and satisfying but the staff noticed that while the meals had the appearance of being touched, not a great deal had actually been eaten.
The only question Elizabeth asked of Darcy that evening was if word of Adelaide's passing had been sent to Jane and Bingley. Darcy reassured her that he had very early on sent an express to Bingley alerting him to what had transpired, and that he would send further word of their movements in a day or so.
"So that is all taken care of" was all that Elizabeth had strength to reply.
The Darcy's retired early, knowing that the following day would be a further tax on their thoughts, feelings and forbearance.
Elizabeth was pleased at least that the day dawned fine and sunny -- even Adelaide's weather order was met she laughed to herself, and then smiled at her ability to find something small that was amusing on this sad day. Elizabeth was somewhat more resigned to the events of the day now that she was over the initial shock of Adelaide's passing and knew that Adelaide would want them to celebrate her life -- and not to be melancholy over her passing.
Adelaide had asked that her service be conducted early in the morning at her London church -- St James in Piccadilly. This was the same church where she had first seen Elizabeth and Darcy after their marriage. They arrived at the church early where they were met by the Gardiners, the Matlocks and the Fitzwiliam's and the Rector of the Parish -- the same Reverent Forsythe who conducted the first service Elizabeth had attended there shortly after her marriage.
Despite the short time between Adelaide's passing and the service the church was quickly filled with people from all walks of life -- so broad had been Adelaide's sphere of influence. It seemed that word of her passing had spread very quickly.
The Gardiners and Darcy's had arranged for some of their own staff to mind Adelaide's house so that Adelaide's staff could attend. Elizabeth insisted that kindly old Smythe sit with them given his close association -- which resulted in some of the more snobbish people around town sniffing impolitely at Elizabeth's gesture -- but Darcy more than approved, knowing it was an action that Adelaide would have taken herself. Caroline and David Clay sat in the same pew as the Darcy's and Smythe.
Adelaide's instructions were followed to the letter. There were flowers around the church -- but it was not overdone. Richard Fitzwilliam and Edward Gardiner both read lessons. Darcy read a eulogy covering all aspects of her life, which Adelaide had previously approved, but Darcy saw fit to add a little more to fully cover Adelaide's charitable works which she had specifically sought to exclude.
Adelaide had said to Darcy "the Bible teaches us not to be boastful" to which Darcy responded "it also teaches us to speak the truth". In the end they agreed to disagree, however Darcy gave the appearance of acceding to Adelaide's wishes knowing that when the time came he could ensure such facts were included. He knew that she would not have approved of his action, but he thought to himself -- for once Adelaide just for once I shall have the final word!
After the service was over, the gentlemen accompanied Adelaide's coffin to its final resting place -- beside her husband James, before returning to Adelaide's house where a select number of people had been invited for a morning tea.
Elizabeth and Madeleine Gardiner played hostess for the tea, Elizabeth longing all the while for it to be over so that she could enjoy the more intimate company of her family who had a better appreciation of how she was feeling. The guests politely gave their condolences, which they all accepted with good grace. The staff from the Darcy and Gardiner households provided the service to allow Adelaide's own staff to participate in a wake of their own below stairs.
The last of the guests finally departed shortly after noon. The Darcy's, the Gardiners the Matlocks and the Fitzwilliam's were relieved when they had left, however they knew that there were other challenges to be faced that afternoon when Adelaide's will was to be read.
Fitzwilliam Darcy and Edward Gardiner had spent a large number of hours over the previous days with Adelaide's solicitor regarding the future management of her vast estates. When Edward Gardiner briefed his nephew on the extent of her holdings Darcy was very surprised as to how much Adelaide actually owned. But this was only part of it -- Adelaide had revealed some but not all of what she had intended to do with her estates and holdings.
Adelaide had taken time to brief her trusted solicitors in private -- outlining the matters she wished to be discussed with Mr Gardiner, Richard Fitzwilliam and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and others that she wished only to be revealed once she had passed -- Adelaide was concerned about how some would react when they were advised what Adelaide intended they had -- and wanted to give them to have no opportunity to refuse what she felt was their due.
Darcy and Edward Gardiner had arranged with the solicitor that he should arrive at about 2pm, when those present were asked to meet with the solicitor so that Adelaide's will could be read.
The solicitor had arrived to meet everyone at the appointed time, and in order to make the occasion slightly less formal, he arranged that they would meet in the lounge. Smythe had taken care that seating was arranged so that the couples could sit together while the will was read.
The solicitor began by reading a note from Adelaide before moving onto the formal aspects of her will.
"To those I cherish most, you have been invited here to hear how my holdings and belongings are to be dispersed. I request that you comply with my wishes that are well intended. There are some tasks amongst my requests and I ask that you do your best to ensure that my wishes are fulfilled - remember that when you hear my wishes that I will be watching to see that you do as I ask"
"And I thought I had the last word this morning" Darcy quipped. Darcy's comment lightened the sombre mood. Given Adelaide's remarks they now wondered what Adelaide had in store for them.
The solicitor began. "Lady Lyell has left quite a list of instructions and bequests. Some of these have already been discussed and outlined to Mr Gardiner and Mr Darcy relating to donations to charities, hospitals and the church, and I will not delay you by reading all of these at this time."
Edward Gardiner and Fitzwilliam Darcy nodded in agreement.
The solicitor then moved onto the next items "There are a number of specific bequests to those in this room, and these are the items I will move onto now. To Richard and Georgiana Fitzwilliam, I transfer the deeds to lands associated to my former Cambridge estate."
Richard Fitzwilliam was most grateful but not totally surprised by this gift. He had tried to purchase the lands surrounding Lyellton however Adelaide had consistently refused his offers, and insisted things remained as they were. He had suspected that she may take this step so that he and Georgiana could not refuse, and now his suspicions had been confirmed. Richard was also to receive the remaining swords that had belonged to James Lyell.
"To Edward and Madeleine Gardiner, I leave my Mayfair house so that they can reside near to the Darcy's and Fitzwilliam's."
The Gardiners were shocked and surprised with the generousity of Adelaide's gift. They had only come to know Adelaide through Elizabeth and Darcy, but once introduced they had become quite close.
Elizabeth exclaimed "My that is wonderful -- I had not considered what was to become of this house -- knowing that you will be next door to us in London is better than I could have hoped. I would dislike seeing strangers live in this house".
"To Georgiana Fitzwilliam I leave the painting of her mother and my daughter, the contents of her mother's former bedroom including some contents in the drawer" read the solicitor.
"Oh" said Georgiana quite overcome. "I am most pleased for the painting and the items of my mothers -- but I am unsure what she has hidden".
"Knowing Adelaide there will be further gifts hidden away" said her sister.
"To Charles Bingley, I leave my late husband's library" Darcy smiled to himself at this pronouncement -- he had always lamented the standard of Charles' library. This gift would see it extremely well stocked. Mr Gardiner had a fine library of his own that would find a new home in Adelaide's house, so the room would not be vacant long.
"To Jane Bingley, I leave my silver collection and my fine china, and some pieces of jewellery in the walnut jewel box"
Elizabeth said "Jane will be surprised and well pleased to be remembered in such a way." The Bingley family had not handed down any large china service, and Jane had always admired Adelaide's china.
"To Elizabeth Darcy. I leave the contents of my travelling trunk, my yew jewel box, and my personal writing desk, and whatever contents are contained within."
Elizabeth knew that the travelling trunk contained all of Adelaide's correspondence and was honoured with the thought that Adelaide trusted her with seeing to her personal writings. She knew not what was in the jewel box but did know that anything she found there would be most tasteful and will have held strong sentimental value to Adelaide. But the solicitor was not yet finished with regards to Elizabeth.
"I also leave whatever funds are necessary to establish a home for orphans in Derbyshire -- to be run under the management of Elizabeth and her sister Catherine."
"Oh!" exclaimned Elizabeth. Of course Adelaide had known that this had been a favourite subject of Elizabeth and Kitty over the past few years, and whilst they had raised some initial subscriptions, the means of funding such a venture had not been finalised. Elizabeth and Darcy had set aside a significant sum towards its establishment, yet needed another benefactor to see their dream realised.
"To Fitzwilliam Darcy, I leave the painting of Georgiana and Elizabeth, and some instructions contained in an envelope".
The painting of Georgiana and Elizabeth had been a birthday gift given to Adelaide so that the picture of "the girls" as she liked to call them could appear near to the one of Anne Darcy and Clarissa Lyell. Darcy was pleased to have the picture as it meant so much to him, and immediately knew that it would occupy a place of honour in his Pemberley study. The envelope and what it contained however had him mystified.
The solicitor passed Darcy the envelope, and he opened it -- removed the contents and read. Seeing the colour drain from his face, Elizabeth was immediately concerned.
"What does it say? Are you at liberty to share the contents?" asked Elizabeth.
Darcy's colour slowly returned to normal "Yes I can. It seems that Adelaide has not only had the last word, but has managed to outfox me as well. It is the documentation for a title that I have long been refusing. Adelaide has presented documentation in a manner that I will be forced to accepting her late husband's title of Earl of Stradbroke*."
"Lord Darcy eh? " said Richard Fitzwilliam "It's about time." Richard Fitzwilliam had long thought as Adelaide did, that a man with Darcy's strong principles and good business sense was required in the House of Lords in order to counteract the influence of those who thought nothing more that spending their hours drinking and eating, not caring for the populace or the responsibilities associated with their inheritances. He did also know that it would require a partial sacrifice on Darcy's part as it meant that he would have to spend more time in London and away from Pemberley.
"Why Lizzie, that will make you Lady Darcy, and a Countess!" said Georgiana pleased to see such an honour bestowed on her sister and brother.
It was Elizabeth's turn to be shocked. She knew how many times her husband had refused titles, just as his father had done in the past, but upon glancing through the papers that Darcy handed to her, she saw that Adelaide had indeed outfoxed Darcy, and that to refuse the honour would be snubbing the King -- something that neither of them would ever do.
"Well it appears that we shall have to get used to it, m'Lord" said Elizabeth handing the papers back.
"Elizabeth, this is not a laughing matter. We shall have to discuss this later" said Darcy while folding the papers and putting them in his breast pocket.
"You did agree, as did all of us to comply with Adelaide's wishes" said Edward Gardiner.
"Yes I did, but I had no idea when I agreed that it would include something like this." Darcy responded. "I am sorry to have delayed you" he said to the solicitor "Pray continue."
Elizabeth leaned over and took her husbands hand giving it a gentle sqeeze. As was the way with them this gesture reassured him that they would make the best of whatever was directed their way.
"There are a number of other bequests to some not present today, and some to the staff of the household which I am happy to read through later. There are a number of smaller items of jewellery and furniture that Lady Lyell wished to be distributed amongst you. The other matter that involves those here is related more to your children."
"Our children? What does it involve?" asked Elizabeth.
"Lady Lyell has a number of other estates, bank shares, and overseas investments apart from those that have been earmarked for charities, and the church. She has asked that a trust be established and that the estates are distributed to your second and subsequent sons so that they may not be left in the position without an inherited estate. Should all of the estates be distributed remaining funds are to purchase estates for those sons. Should any daughters marry a second son who is without a landed inheritance they too are to have a property purchased in their name. This is to apply to the children of the Gardiner, Darcy, Fitzwilliam and Bingley families. Should there be any funds left after these wishes have been taken care of remaining funds are to be used for charitable works or used as you see fit."
"What a generous bequest! Adelaide's request was both thorough and extensive" said Elizabeth.
"Only Adelaide could envisage such a bequest -- her holdings are of such an extent that there will be plenty for charitable distribution" said Darcy. He then asked the solicitor who was to administer the fund.
"Lady Lyell stipulated that the fund was to be managed by the fathers of the beneficiaries, together with Lord Matlock and myself" said the solicitor.
"She certainly had it all worked out" said Edward Gardiner.
The solicitor went on to outline a small number of other specific bequests including a special one for Smythe. The solicitor ended by asking Mr Darcy when he was leaving to return to the north. Darcy outlined that he anticipated in leaving in a day or two, but was happy to return in a couple of weeks so that more of the paperwork and transfers could be completed. Having left a copy of the major items in the will with each of the major beneficiaries, the solicitor left to return to his office.
Edward Gardiner was given the task of relating the bequest to Adelaide's most trusted servant, which included funds for the purchase of a house for his retirement and an annuity for his lifetime. The old man was so touched he wept openly and had to rely on Mr Gardiner for support.
*an article about the passing of Earldom's in Regency times is available here. http://it.uwp.edu/lansdowne/als.html So under the lines of inheritance listed in the article Darcy's inheritance would have been a stretch but not too way out the realms of reality it as it could have passed down the Fitzwilliam line (but then Adelaide could always arrange anything the way she liked so I went for artistic licence!). Under these rulings eg the waiver Act of Lords the Darcy's would have become Darcy-Lyell but I will not adopt that technicality for this story's purposes. The title probably would have actually passed to Richard Fitzwilliam due to the male line.
The Earl of Stradbroke is purely fictional (any resemblance to anyone real is an unintended co-incidence). I only chose the name Stradbroke for Adelaide's family as it sounded right -- named after an island off Brisbane Australia. http://www.stradbroketourism.com/ - nick named by the locals as "Straddie"
Posted on: 2008-11-01
When Elizabeth and Darcy returned to their house at the end of a rather emotional and eventful day, they again chose to take dinner in their rooms.
On his way upstairs Dillon had passed Fitzwilliam Darcy the mail and messages that had accumulated during the daylight hours. He thanked Dillon, and took the small pile with him-- he had no wish to sit at his desk at this hour and decided he would peruse them in their chambers to see what required urgent attendance, or if it could be left until the following morning. Elizabeth still felt the need for solitude, whereas Darcy was trying to come to terms with the fixed arrangements Adelaide had made for his peerage. He acknowledged the compliment whilst remaining cognisant of the obligations that were attached to it for both himself and his family.
The Darcy's entered the lounge adjoining their rooms, where Darcy threw the correspondence on a table and then removed his coat and cravat. While unbuttoning his shirt, he came back to where the correspondence lay, and idly scattered the pile with one hand to see what was there.
Elizabeth's head ached. She felt that every pin in her hair was now digging into her scalp. She began pulling at the pins to release her dark tresses before she called for the maid to assist her. While she was doing this she asked Darcy "Is there anything of consequence?"
Darcy replied while he was still sifting through "Most seems as though it can wait." Then he paused "Ah....here is something that may be of interest."
"Surely matters of business can wait until morning?"
"It is not a matter of business" he replied.
"Who is it from?" said Elizabeth who had now had began brushing her hair.
"Bingley. I can tell from the blots in the writing without having to even look at the sender" he smiled while he said this. Despite all the years that had passed Bingley's writing had never improved. "It is only a shame that Jane didn't write -- at least then we would spend less time deciphering the letter's contents." This response caused Elizabeth to smile and Darcy was well pleased. Anything to lighten her mood and see her smile.
"Fitzwilliam that is too much -- you know he cannot help it. What does our brother say?" said Elizabeth coming over to her husband's side.
Darcy opened the letter and summed up the contents. "He is in receipt of my express, and says of his and Jane's sadness in Adelaide's passing, but blessed to know we were able to spend some time with her. The children are all well" Darcy noticed that Elizabeth let out an audible sigh of relief with that comment "and that there is no need for us to hurry back. He asks that we attend to whatever is necessary before returning home."
"Oh" said Elizabeth "I had hoped we would leave soon -- I do miss our family so. How much longer will we need to remain in London?"
Darcy had waited for Elizabeth to ask about travelling homewards before he revealed what he had planned. There had not been any real opportunity to discuss it before now. "I do have to attend to some documents with uncle Gardiner in the morning, so I thought that we may commence our journey homewards in the afternoon, that is if you are in agreement."
Elizabeth stood on her toes to kiss her husband on the cheek. "Thank you. I was hoping that we could leave soon. I was concerned that we would not be able to leave until the day after tomorrow."
"We may leave tomorrow however we shall not be travelling directly home. Leaving in the afternoon we shall need to overnight along the way. I was thinking that we should try and stay where we first stayed together on that journey back to Pemberley." Turning to face Elizabeth, Darcy then said "What do you think of that suggestion?"
Elizabeth smiled "That is a lovely thought and a delightful prospect. What time will that see us with Jane and Charles the following day?"
Darcy put his arms around her before answering her question "We shall see them the day after that. If we stay at one place from that journey, we should revisit the other one too. That will mean we can collect the children around lunchtime the following day, and be back at Pemberley in the afternoon."
"But...." Elizabeth went to say something and Darcy silenced her by placing a finger over her lips.
"I have arranged the journey home that way on purpose Elizabeth, you need some more rest on the way home before you resume your motherly duties. You heard what Bingley had to say the children are fine, there is no need to rush. Besides I need to see some roses back in those cheeks" said Darcy then brushing the back of his hand over her left cheek.
Elizabeth knew it was pointless to argue when her husband spoke in that manner, and that all she could do was to go along with the plan that would see her back with her family at Pemberley within the next few days.
The following morning saw Darcy off early to complete as much as possible with Edward Gardiner before their departure for the north, and Elizabeth attending to a few matters that she felt required attention. Elizabeth recalled that her husband had mentioned something about gifts being a necessary element after a time away, and realised that she had nothing at hand, and there would be little opportunity to make any purchases on the journey home.
As a result Elizabeth sent a note to her Aunt to see if she could assist with some appropriate purchases. Aunt Gardiner was quick with her reply, delighted to assist with such an excursion. The two ladies spent a couple of hours visiting various shops and establishments, which was a pleasant diversion from the events of the preceding days, and in that time managed to secure items for all of the Darcy and Bingley children, and a couple of gifts for Jane and Charles as well.
Elizabeth had made ready with the assistance of the staff all of the items that would travel with them this day. A number of pieces including some of Adelaide's items would travel separately by cart, and would possibly arrive at Pemberley before they returned home themselves.
Given that Darcy was still not back from dealing with the solicitors she wondered how to occupy the remaining time until their departure. Then Elizabeth realised that Adelaide had never dictated a response to Lydia's letter, and that Lydia too would need to be informed about Adelaide's passing. So Elizabeth went to a desk that she used in their London house, and began to write. She found the letter difficult to begin with not only from how to relate the news of Adelaide's death, but to how to include an invitation from Elizabeth that they become better acquainted and that Elizabeth would welcome Lydia as a correspondent.
It was here that Darcy found her when he returned to the house. "May I ask who you are writing to?" said Darcy smiling as he leaned over to kiss her head.
"Lydia. I realised that Adelaide never replied to Lydia's letter, and that someone had to write to her and relate the news of her passing." said Elizabeth.
Darcy had never had time for Lydia, but based on Elizabeth's change of heart he was willing to give her a chance. "You should add that Adelaide has left her some items, including a reasonable amount of money"
Elizabeth was stunned. "Adelaide left things for Lydia -- and money? What should I write?"
Darcy went on to outline some of the information that had been provided that morning, including the items and the five thousand pounds that Adelaide had settled on Lydia and her family.
"Five thousand pounds? Can Lydia be trusted with such a sum?" said Elizabeth in an alarmed manner.
"I believe from what Uncle and Aunt Gardiner have said that now she can. We need to keep in mind that Adelaide would not have made such a bequest if she had held any doubt in that regard."
"There is that. The thought of Lydia with such a sum of money is difficult to comprehend, but I suppose my thoughts are still with the Lydia of old, not the new one Adelaide introduced me to. Is there something to come from the solicitor to advise her of the details?" asked Elizabeth once this point had been satisfied.
"Yes, he will be sending a letter independently, advising her of the details and how the bequest is to be settled upon her."
"Well I will close the letter, and advise Lydia that information will be coming to her via separate correspondence." said Elizabeth, somewhat relieved that she would not be required to explain the finer details of how Lydia was to come into such a sum of money, and decided not to think upon it any further. It was Adelaide's money and she could do with it what she chose.
The Darcy's set off towards the north shortly after luncheon and made good time towards their first night destination of the ------yton Inn. The day was pleasant and during the journey Darcy related the business of the morning, and provided information on how much progress had been made towards the settlement of Adelaide's estate. Elizabeth meanwhile detailed the purchases she had made with aunt Gardiner that morning.
Darcy was both relieved and grateful that this had been taken care of, as due to the amount of work that had eventuated over the previous days he had completed forgotten about his normal pattern in London when there was time set aside for the purchase of "time away" gifts.
The trip was uneventful, and the Darcy's arrived at their first overnight stop in the early evening. They retired early and slept late. The fatigue of the previous days had finally caught up with both of them, Elizabeth coming to realise the sense in her husband's suggestion.
They continued on the next day arriving at their second night's accommodation at the ----- Forest Lodge. The proprietor recognised the couple that arrived to stay that night but Darcy did not disclose that the previous time that they had stayed was when they were travelling immediately after their marriage. The shorter length of the travel that day, and the delightful spring weather encouraged the couple to take a rather long walk in the countryside. Their visit there after their marriage precluded such activities due to the winter weather, and they were happy to explore the area together, much as they had done walking the paths around Longbourn and as they continued to do at Pemberley.
The following morning Elizabeth nervously anticipated the reunion with their children. Although Darcy was experienced with this type of homecoming it was to be a new experience for Elizabeth and she did not know quite what to expect. All she knew was that the final distance to Jane and Charles's estate could not be covered quickly enough for her liking.
Darcy had alerted Bingley as to what time they could be expected to arrive at Hintlesham so that the children would be ready for their arrival. With the prospect of seeing her children again Elizabeth awoke earlier and convinced Darcy to leave earlier than they had arranged the evening before.
The drive up to the Bingley residence was a joyous one for Elizabeth, particularly when she spied the first view of William playing on the lawn with his cousin. It was all Darcy do to contain his wife and prevent her from asking the coach to stop before it reached the entrance to the house.
Instead, she opened a window and hailed William as they drove up the drive. William acknowledged his mother's calls and waved joyously before running towards the door of the house where the coach was to stop.
"Mama, Papa!" yelled William.
Elizabeth hardly waited for the coach to stop leaping out of the coach before Mr Baverstock could assist her. Darcy knew it was pointless to try and stop her and did his best to ensure that she did not fall or trip herself up. Her son came rushing over to her and Elizabeth threw her arms around William in a joyous embrace. The noise of the coach and yelling brought the rest of the Darcy and Bingley clans, Charles carrying Jane Anne so that she was not crushed in the mêlée.
Soon Elizabeth was lost in the crowd of her children each seeking an embrace and a kiss, and then looked towards Charles to see Jane Anne holding out her arms to her mother. Elizabeth then took Jane Anne and smothered her with kisses.
Darcy looked on while their other children claimed hugs from their father, and then went to claim the same from their youngest daughter. "Happy?" asked Darcy.
"Blissfully so! Now I see why you enjoy homecomings so much. I don't see how I can ever leave them again!" said Elizabeth -- her eyes sparkling with happy tears and wearing a joyous grin.
Darcy thought a few child free evenings a year would do them both the world of good, but he knew that now was not the time to discuss such a matter with Elizabeth. That could wait until later. Jane and Charles ushered everyone into the house where an early lunch had been prepared so that the Darcy's could return to Pemberley in good time before nightfall. Gifts were distributed to all, and the children were permitted to remove themselves from the table earlier than they were normally permitted in order that they could enjoy their presents.
While the children played the sisters managed a short time together to exchange a few words where Elizabeth told Jane about how Adelaide had related the change in Lydia's character and temperament. Jane was pleased that Elizabeth had come to know what Jane had already learned. Jane disliked seeing any of her sisters distanced and had come to know Lydia as a very different person and knew that Elizabeth would come to see their sister in a new light.
Darcy and Bingley meanwhile managed a few words of their own, Darcy filling in Bingley of the details relating to the various gifts and bequests. He knew that they would need more time to discuss matters in full, and arranged that they would bring their families together in a few days time. Once this was settled, Darcy arranged for his family to depart for the last part of their journey back to Pemberley.
With her children around her relating all that had happened while they stayed with Uncle Charles and Aunt Jane the distance to Pemberley seemed to be covered in no time at all. Tales of fishing, pony rides, and games were told, Elizabeth delighting in everyone's stories. The children's happy faces were a tonic to Elizabeth, and did much to restore her spirits that had been quite low over the previous days.
Elizabeth was pleased to see Pemberley, and find some of the staff waiting to greet them. Darcy had ridden on ahead to prepare the household for the return of his family -- the solitude in the house of the was definitely about to be broken. Mrs Reynolds and Craven were on the steps -- Mrs Reynolds and Elizabeth exchanged knowing glances and Mrs Reynolds knew that Mrs Darcy would fill her in on the details of all that had transpired in the preceding days -- probably on the morrow. It was more important to see the family settled back in the house, and allow the travellers time to rest.
The children were taken to bathe, and then they would come back and join their parents for dinner. Darcy had made up his mind to ignore any noise at the table that evening- he was just happy to have his family back together again, and felt extremely blessed that they could share such time together. When the children joined their parents at the table, they had to relate everything to their father that Elizabeth had already heard on the journey between Hintlesham and Pemberley -- but she didn't mind in the slightest. She was happy to know that the children did enjoy themselves and that they hadn't worn out their welcome with their aunt and uncle.
The children had the privilege of two bedtime stories that evening -- one from each of their parents. William did ask about Lala -- here Elizabeth was glad that she had anticipated that the question may arise and had prepared a response.
"Are you sad that Lala died?" he asked.
"Yes, very sad, but happy too. She lived a long life, and we were fortunate to know her and be able to spend so much time with her" said Elizabeth.
"Is she with Cassie?" asked William. Of all the Darcy children, William was the only one who really had any memory of the sister that had died.
The question did bring some tears to Elizabeth's eyes but she managed to retain her composure "Yes William she is -- I am sure they will be friends there together and keep watch over all of us" responded Elizabeth. Darcy placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and she reached up to place hers on top. "Now William, it is time for sleep -- we can talk further tomorrow" and she leaned over to place a kiss on her eldest child.
Then the Darcy's went around the rest of the beds, kissing each of their children in turn.
"Goodnight my dear ones" said Elizabeth, and she closed the door. Darcy and Elizabeth then made their way arm in arm back to their rooms.
Darcy and Elizabeth both bathed before retiring --to relax and refresh themselves.
Darcy took a slightly longer time than his wife-- wishing to shave as well as bathe, and when he returned to their bedchamber he found that Elizabeth was not there as he had anticipated. So he returned to the pile of correspondence that had accumulated while they had been in London. Craven had provided it to his master, questioning whether Mr Darcy wished to review it or hold it for reviewing on the day that followed. Darcy had decided to at least peruse the items, more out of curiosity than anything else. He took up a seat beside the fire, and began sorting the correspondence into various piles to speed up the handling of it the next day.
He lingered over one letter hiding it in Elizabeth's pile then retrieving it again. He drummed it against his fingers wondering whether or not to give it to his wife today, tomorrow, or whether she should even be aware of its existence. He returned it to the pile thinking that he would see Elizabeth's frame of mind when she returned before making his decision as to what to do with it.
Elizabeth returned to the room and appeared as if she was floating. "I couldn't resist -- I had to go back and see the children asleep -- it seems so long since I was able to do that. They appeared so serene and so beautiful. Mathew had already kicked off his sheets, so it was nice to be able to tuck him in" she said in some sort of reverie.
Darcy held out a hand to her and drew her over to him. "I thought you may go there -- it does not surprise me at all that you went for another visit. It is one of my favourite things to do after being away."
"Is it your only favourite thing to do after being away?" said Elizabeth guessing what her husband's answer may be.
"You know the answer to that question" he said "this being one at least" drawing her near and placing her on his lap so that they could kiss and embrace.
When she drew back Elizabeth noticed the correspondence on the side table and innocently asked "So you have been busy with some correspondence while I have been visiting the children?"
Darcy was still in a quandary whether or not to reveal what was there. "I just thought I would sort it into priorities for the morning -- I did not wish to be caught up in business this evening." He thought he would see whether Elizabeth would press further or let matters rest.
"There seems to be quite a number, but then we have been away for some time. Were there any letters for me?" she asked.
Having been asked a direct question Darcy couldn't lie. "Yes a couple. Do you wish particularly to see them this evening?" asked Darcy.
"I would be interested to know who has sent them" said Elizabeth.
Darcy reached over and picked up Elizabeth's letters that were now lying under the edge of some others. He decided not to pre-empt what was he thought was there but let Elizabeth make the discovery herself. "Here they are" he said casually as though he was unaware of who the senders may be.
Elizabeth took the letters and looked at them in an informal way. "Mrs Evans, Mrs Stewart......these must be about the spring fundraiser for the orphanage.....they will not be aware of Adelaide's bequest. That will be a pleasant surprise" Then Elizabeth stopped when she came to the third letter.
"Is there something wrong" asked Darcy innocently, knowing what he thought Elizabeth had discovered.
"This letter appears to be from Adelaide" said Elizabeth holding the letter in a shaking hand. She recognised the writing, but turning it over there was no acknowledgement of the sender. The other letters had dropped to the floor, and Elizabeth froze as she did not know what to do.
Darcy grabbed her still shaking hand and said quietly "then you had better read it and be sure".
Still trembling Elizabeth broke the unfamiliar seal on the back and unfolded the parchment. She read the letter aloud as if that would help her make sense of the words written within.
My Dearest Elizabeth,
I know that this letter may come as a shock to you, coming from one who no longer dwells on this earth. There is something unnerving about receiving a letter from once who has since passed -- I know you well enough to anticipate how you will feel reading this -- having been a recipient of a letter that I received after my son had died.
Excuse the standard of my writing -- however I felt compelled to take this opportunity to write myself while I am still able. My strength is fading and I can no longer hold a pen well. I have been blessed with a long life and ask that you not be sad about what is to be. Between the poor standard of writing I feel that you should be able to read my words well enough and understand fully the sentiments expressed within.
I am now aware that you are on a journey to visit me, and God willing you will arrive before I pass so that I can express my thoughts to you in person. But in case your journey is delayed, or I pass more quickly than good Mr Morrison predicts, I wanted to commit some thoughts to paper, and provide you one last letter to await your arrival back at Pemberley.
One of the pleasures of my life has my re-acquaintance with the Darcy family and the opportunity to have a most special friendship with you. It is not often that we meet people who are kindred in spirit where so often there is not the necessity for words or gestures -- a mere look is sufficient to convey thought and to share the joys and the sorrows that life brings.
While family and circumstance may mean that we have not spent as much time together as we would have liked, our absences have not distanced our friendship, and our reunions have been joyous as though there has been but a moment since we were previously together.
We have shared much you and I, and whilst you may be sad at my passing I know that you will continue the works we have begun independently and in unison.
It has been a privilege to watch you grow from a newly married woman to a highly valued wife and mother and a well respected member of your local and London society.
I am proud to know you and will watch over you still and look forward to the day when we can become reacquainted.
Much love to you, Fitzwilliam and your family.
PS I will place this letter in the hands of my solicitor who will be instructed to send this on the event of my passing.
There were tears trickling down both Elizabeth's and Darcy's cheeks by the time she had finished reading the letter. Elizabeth paused a few times while she read the missive in order to wipe the tears from her eyes so that she could read further. She tried hard not to let her tears fall to the letter -- knowing that to do so could damage the handwriting and prevent her from reading the letter again.
"I thought I recognised the handwriting, but there was no writers mark so I could not be sure. I did debate about the wisdom of giving you this tonight" said Darcy drawing a kerchief to mop the tears from Elizabeth's cheeks and then from his own.
Elizabeth was trying to gain control of her emotions and drew some deep breaths to cope with her tears. "It is upsetting to be sure, but on reflection I am pleased that you did. Had I not seen this until tomorrow I would have been melancholy the whole day -- and that would not have been fair on the children."
"It was extremely thoughtful of her to write at such a time and to send such messages" said Darcy. It was difficult to find words to express what he was feeling and to provide Elizabeth with comfort.
Elizabeth smiled softly before saying. "But so like her -- thinking of everyone except herself. To take the time to ensure that there was one last letter was here for my return home....I find it difficult to comprehend where she found the strength."
"Do you think you can sleep after this or would you like to sit for a while" asked Darcy running his fingers to move some stray tresses off Elizabeth's face.
"I believe I could rest now, unlikely as that seems. The letter seems to have closed a chapter in our lives, suddenly I
find myself very weary and in need of sleep" she said taking his face in her hands and lightly kissing him on the lips.
Elizabeth climbed off her husband's lap and taking his hand they walked to their bed. Despite all of the odds and the emotions of the day, they both fell very quickly into a deep sleep.
The Darcy's and Bingleys were able to spend a few days together after the Darcy's returned from London and relate in detail all that had transpired over the days prior to Adelaide's passing. The Bingleys journeyed to Pemberley despite Jane's delicate condition -- she was well, and looking forward to a few days away from home. They also knew that the Darcy's had only just arrived back and were likely reluctant to journey away from Pemberley so soon.
The books from the Lyell Library destined for Charles had already arrived at Hintlesham thanks to the efficiency of Uncle Gardiner and quickly improved the appearance of and quality of the Bingley library. Darcy mused that it was a shame that such an instant transformation could not be applied to Bingley's handwriting, that comment achieving an appropriate admonishment from Elizabeth.
Jane had promised to entertain them using Adelaide's china and silver once it arrived at their house. Aunt Gardiner had delayed sending it as she wished to see it safely packed so that nothing would be damaged on the journey north to the Bingley estate.
Darcy was required back in London some 10 days after taking his family back to Pemberley and anticipated being away no more than a week. Darcy was reluctant to spend any greater time in London as he was still concerned that Elizabeth had not regained her old spark and remained pale -- despite his efforts the roses in her cheeks had still not returned.
By the time he returned to Pemberley Darcy was quite anxious about Elizabeth's wellbeing and thought the delay in her return to full health may be related to the slowness of her coming to terms with Adelaide's death. He was happy to be back with his family again, but noticed quickly that Elizabeth was still pale, and he himself became somewhat distressed as he was at a loss what to do to redress the situation.
Elizabeth reassured him on his return that there was nothing to worry about as she had determined what it was that prevented the roses returning to her cheeks -- that they could anticipate an expansion to the Darcy family very early the following year. Darcy was both relieved and delighted to find the reason behind his wife's slow recovery -- and realised that this was likely for Elizabeth's extreme fatigue while they were caring for Adelaide. The Darcy's were not concerned whether their new arrival was a son or a daughter, but both knew that if the new baby was a girl that she would be given the name Adelaide in honour of their esteemed friend.
The Gardiners gradually relocated to the London townhouse that had belonged to Adelaide, but retained their house in Gracechurch street due to its proximity to the warehouses, and the fact that they anticipated that their eldest son, who was working with his father, would soon make an offer of marriage and would require somewhere to live.
The Darcy's found themselves in London shortly before the start of summer, so that arrangements for Stradbroke peerage could be conferred, this being the only time available to them before Elizabeth was confined to Pemberley to await the addition to their family. Darcy was then forced to establish a schedule that saw him visiting London regularly in order to attend to his new commitments. Although Darcy had every confidence in his steward to attend to estate matters under Elizabeth's instruction, Charles Bingley kept a brotherly eye on matters whenever Darcy was required to be in the south.
Darcy quickly established himself as a valuable asset in the House of Lords, just as Adelaide had envisaged. His presence there counteracted the air of apathy that marked the attention of some of the more dissolute characters that frequented the House, and he quickly aligned himself to those who actually took an interest in the welfare of the populace, and sought to do good with their positions of influence.
Elizabeth spent the period of her confinement in close consultation with Kitty and the other ladies of the parish working on plans to open the orphanage prior to the winter. Their first priority to was address the need in their local area, and beyond that, it had been decided to see what could be done to assist children who had been left orphaned by accidents in the mills to prevent more children being indentured to the mill owners in the neighbouring districts and counties. It was an ambitious plan, where one lone orphanage would be insufficient to address the dire need, however some action was better than none. With this in mind a nearby neglected estate was purchased, and the plan for the orphanage, to be named Lyellside, became a reality some six months after Adelaide had passed.
Smythe had surprised them all by saying he wished to move to Derbyshire to retain an attachment to the Darcy's. He had no kinfolk, nor close friends in London, and felt closer to the Darcy's than anyone else. He sought and eventually received the Darcy's permission to work at Lyellside -- he stated he was used to service all of his life, and thought he could be of more use there than sitting in a house of his own doing naught. The Darcy's eventually agreed, but ensured that a provision was made for Smythe to be accommodated at a Darcy family residence, in the event he became too old or too ill to work. They were fond of him, and knew how much he had meant to Adelaide and were pleased to bring about something that the old man dearly wished for. He quickly established himself as a teller of tales, and a willing ear to the young folk, providing Smythe an extended family of sorts for one who had no children of his own.
As things transpired the Darcy's not only were blessed with the Bingleys, Fitzwilliams and Gardiners visiting with them to celebrate their first Christmas without Adelaide's company, but their visitors were treated to the early arrival of the Darcy's latest additions to the family on the 22nd of December. They were blessed with a daughter who was given the names Adelaide Elizabeth, in addition to a son whom they named James Richard.
Sitting quietly with the twins on Christmas Eve Darcy marvelled at the tiny figures who were obliging their parents by sleeping peacefully. Elizabeth smiled contentedly "I cannot always guarantee they will always be this quiet if our other offspring are any indication."
Darcy replied "I would be most surprised if they did. But I feel I am going to have my hands full with this young lady" he said planting a kiss on her forehead.
"What do you mean by that?" asked Elizabeth who was cradling baby James.
"With the names Adelaide Elizabeth -- what else can I expect?"
A couple of final trivia notes.....if you are interested....
I chose the name Adelaide, one because I like it, two because it is the name of an Australian city (capital of South Australia) and being Australian wanted to try and have something "Aussie" in this story besides the references to transportation. The third reason is that the name actually fits with the period (see below). While the name Adelaide never appears in any of Jane Austen's books, I was trying to think of a different name for such a special lady who deserved her own life and character but was still in keeping with the period.
Adelaide city was named after Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (Adelaide Louise Theresa Caroline Amelia; later Queen Adelaide; 13 August 1792 -- 2 December 1849) who was the queen consort of William IV, the last king of the House of Hanover in Britain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adelaide_of_Saxe-Meiningen.
I found it amusing and ironic that there was a Caroline in there as part of her name (just as well our Adelaide saved Caroline!), and that with the years of her life the real Adelaide may have even read Jane Austen!
Thanks Ann R...