From the ages of five to twelve years, hardly a day went by that Miss Elizabeth Bennet could not be found by the side of her constant childhood companion, Peter Goldswaith. The younger son of Lord Brandon Goldswaith, Peter was a pleasant and compassionate child ever thinking of the needs of others before his own. Unfortunately his elder brother Robert, heir to the Goldswaith fortune of four hundred thousand pounds and an income of nearly twenty thousand a year, was quite the opposite. Repulsed by Robert's conceit and selfish disdain for the feeling others, lively young Elizabeth was not afraid of him, as many of the other Meryton children, and delighted in vexing him. Aware of his brother cruel nature, Peter, felt it his duty to protect the girl from his wrath, which he knew could be had the potential of becoming dangerous. Thus began the unusual friendship between the spirited little girl and polite young boy
Though their natures were quite the opposite, they complimented one another perfectly. Peter enjoyed listening to the elaborate fairytales that Elizabeth delighted in weaving with much detail. Elizabeth's aggressive style in chess was a most interesting match to Peter's more cautious, thoughtful approach to the game. From Elizabeth, Peter learned to jest and converse easily with others; from Peter, Elizabeth learned constraint and refinement. They were inseparable until, they came of an age in which boy and girls are not so easily allowed to play together without the suspicion of adults.
On the eve of his sixteenth birthday a Peter Goldswaith approached thirteen-year-old Miss Elizabeth in private regarding a rather delicate subject.
"Excuse Miss Bennet, May I speak with you privately for a moment?" It still felt awkward for him to address his life long best friend so formally.
"Certainly, Mr. Goldswaith," the formality felt rather strange to her, as well.
"Miss Bennet- No, Elizabeth, since you were only five and I but seven years of age we have been the closest of friends and I want to be the one to inform you that my family has decided to leave Meryton."
"No-" started Elizabeth trying to repress a sob, wondering what she would do without her closest friend.
"Oh, Lizzy, don't cry. It may be a very longtime before we meet again, but I will return, I promise you that. Now I must ask you for a promise."
"Lizzy, will you promise to marry me when I return. As my brother is heir to my family's fortune my inheritance will be quite small, but I will find a way to provide for us. I have seen what other girls are like, empty headed, prudish or fortune hunting, and would never want to marry any of them. You are different Lizzy."
"I-" Elizabeth paused, she did not know what to answer. Peter was her best friend, and she loved him very much, but not in the way of a lover.
"Before you answer, consider the marriages that the you have witnessed. Seldom are they based on love and respect. You deserve to be treated, as equal to your husband. I would hate for you to marry into anything less."
Elizabeth deliberated for a moment before giving her answer, "Yes, Peter I will marry you."
Seven years later
"Mr. Darcy, I am a very selfish creature; and, for the sake of giving relief to my own feelings, care not how much I may be wounding yours. I can no longer help thanking you for your unexampled kindness to my poor sister. Ever since I have known it, I have been most anxious to acknowledge to you how gratefully I feel it. Were it known to the rest of my family, I should not have merely my own gratitude to express."
"I am sorry, exceedingly sorry," replied Darcy, in a tone of surprise and emotion, "that you have ever been informed of what may, in a mistaken light, have given you uneasiness. I did not think Mrs. Gardiner was so little to be trusted."
"You must not blame my aunt. Lydia's thoughtlessness first betrayed to me that you had been concerned in the matter; I could not rest till I knew the particulars. Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications, for the sake of discovering them."
"If you will thank me," he replied, "let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owes me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe-"
Before Mr. Darcy could finish his statement a young man on horseback approached at a gallop and stopped suddenly before reaching Elizabeth.
"Elizabeth" called out the Young man.
"Captain Goldwaith," Elizabeth replied as Mr. Darcy noticed her eyes brighten in recognition of the man and a smile appear on her face.
"You haven't heard? I am Lord Goldswaith now, Elizabeth".
"My brother passed away from a terrible illness two months ago, leaving myself master of the Goldswaith fortune."
"I am so sorry Mr. Goldswaith, I had not heard. I am sure that your family suffers greatly from the loss." Replied Elizabeth full of emotion.
"We are coping the best the we can," he stated somewhat awkwardly as he had never felt any true brotherly affection for Robert, and felt guilty because of it.
"Mr. Darcy, may I introduce you to Lord Goldswaith"
"Yes, I was acquainted with your brother Lord Goldswaith." Replied Mr. Darcy in an almost accusatory tone, as he remembered his fleeting friendship with Edward Goldswaith.
Both arrogant and conceited Fitzwilliam Darcy and Edward Goldswaith quickly became friends during their studies at Eton. However, it did not take long for Mr. Darcy to find a defect so repulsive in Mr. Goldswaith as to put the newfound friendship to an abrupt and final end. Unlike Mr. Darcy, the young lord Goldswaith was cruel, and even went so far as to physically abuse a servant before Mr. Darcy's own eyes without the slightest hint of regret. In his prejudice opinion it was probable that Peter Goldswaith held the same contemptible habits, and must be kept far away from Elizabeth.
As she looked out towards Netherfield from the hilltop; Elizabeth Bennet was filled with such misery as she had never felt in the whole of her life. On this evening her best friend would ask to apply to her father for her hand, but instead of elation all she could feel was despair. Peter had looked so eager as he asked if she was still willing to fulfill her promise, his eyes showed such gentleness that she could never refuse to obey her pledge. He was everything that she thought that a man should be amiable, kind, courageous, handsome, and bright, but she could not love him in the way, which he deserved. It was too late, she had already given her heart to Mr. Darcy; a heart that she knew was one, which once given could never be take taken back. Only no one could bring her to betray Peter's trust; they had shared too much together, and he had taught her the true nature goodness. Despite her lack of passion for him, marriage to Peter would be far better than could ever be hoped for by most women. He would make an excellent husband, ever thoughtful and devoted to his wife, and perhaps with time her sincere love for him would blossom into something more than mere friendship. Though she knew that she could never feel for anyone even a fraction of the desire that she felt for Mr. Darcy, maybe she could at least feel just a little of it for Peter, he deserved at least that.
There was one detail that gave her a great deal of comfort, Mr. Darcy's evident dislike of Peter. Although a little disappointed in his prejudice against her fiancé; she was also secretly thankful for it. The two men that she loved would never be friends, thus saving her from too many encounters with her true beloved. It would not be fair to her husband if her heart yearned for another, and frequent visits from Mr. Darcy would only lead to a deeper desire each moment that he was near.
Later that night
Upon his arrival at Netherfield Mr. Bingley was fraught with dread, for it was he who had to give his friend the heartbreaking news. It did not take him long to find Mr. Darcy who was seated at his usual station in the library with book in hand.
"Umm, Darcy there is a matter that I feel must be related to you without delay. I fear that there is no way to put it before you delicately- " Mr. Bingley began quite fluster for he knew the pain of being told that your beloved would never share your life.
"Good G_d, what's the matter man? You look pale; I have not seen you look so distraught in nearly a year." Darcy stood up.
"Darcy, I have realized your attraction for Miss Elizabeth for some time, since our meeting with her in Derbyshire. As I am your closest friend in the proximity I feel that it is my duty to inform you that," with this he paused searching for the right way to break it to him.
"Do not tell me that she is unwell." Mr. Darcy spoke up with much urgency.
"No, no, she is well it is only that - she is engaged to Lord Goldswaith and has been so for the last seven years." Mr. Bingley forced himself to blurt out most awkwardly.
"Seven year? Why that would have made her but thirteen years of age when she entered into this supposed engagement that you speak of. Surely, you have not been listening to idle gossip. It is untrue; it must be. Where did you hear such a false and unfounded report?"
"Mr. Bennet, announced it at dinner. So, you see Darcy. it must be true."
Mr. Darcy absolutely froze for some seconds before turning heel and heading out the door.
"Darcy," called Mr. Bingley "Wait, where are you going?"
"To find Lord Goldswaith".
Note: I want to thank the person who created the character of Lila Farewell for me. I think that it was Flo, but it's been too long for me to remember.
"Mr. Darcy, please forgive me for not receiving you properly, but I hardly expected a visitor at this time of night. This must be very urgent business, indeed." Stated Lord Goldswaith his tone was concerned yet firm, and with only the slightest hint of irritation.
"Yes, it concerns Miss Bennet," it would have pained him to use the words 'your fiancée'. Darcy was about to go on when Lord Goldswaith spoke up.
"You need not bother with explanations. I know you feelings for my Elizabeth, your every expression speaks of your love for her," Lord Goldswaith bared no ill will against Mr. Darcy, for he understood the man, "and you are afraid that I possess the same cruel temperament as my late brother. I cannot blame you for loving Elizabeth for she is truly an exceptional young woman. Your concern for her well being is also natural, but your prejudice against me is far from just. Have you had the opportunity to hear the story of my childhood friendship with her? I think that it will do much to dispel your fears in that corner."
Once Mr. Darcy indicated that he had not heard the tale, Lords Goldswaith began relating the tale of his friendship with Elizabeth. Peter was an excellent storyteller, a skill that he had learnt from his fiancée, and painted the spirited picture of Elizabeth's girlhood follies very well indeed. He told the young gentleman every memorable detail of their young lives together from how he had saved her from Edward's wrath to the time that Elizabeth had taught him how to climb a tree. Even Mr. Darcy could not help, but enjoy the account of his dearest love's misadventures.
Several hours, and a little too much brandy later
"You could not have taught Miss Elizabeth how to swim; why such a thing would have been positively indecent." Mr. Darcy exclaimed in shock.
"Oh, I refused wholeheartedly, until without warning she flung off her shoes and dove into the lake all the while declaring that if I did not instruct her that instant, she would most certainly drown. You must also remember that we were both very young children at the time." With that both men started to laugh.
"I must confess" started Mr. Darcy suddenly sounding serious "due to both my own prejudices and jealousy I was fully prepared to hate you. Now I find that I cannot, as it is obvious that you are truly a good man and hold a real affection for Miss Bennet. In fact, it is apparent that you know her much better than I ever have. It would probably be wise for me to admit defeat and try forget her, but that would be impossible. So, I shall stay here and attempt to do" at this Mr. Darcy paused a then stated in exasperation "Oh, I know not what."
Three Days Later
Just before dawn Lila Farewell entered the stables and mounted her horse well aware of the impropriety of her action. She knew that she should not go riding about the countryside, especially sidesaddle. If she were ever caught there would be a great scandal, but it could not be helped; Lila was simply not of the disposition that would allow her to behave as a proper young lady ought for long stretches of time. It was not that she was silly or irrational, as some girls tend to be at the tender age of seventeen years, just the opposite, as she had developed the cunning and wisdom of a much older woman. She had lived nearly the whole of her life in America, and had become accustomed to freedoms unheard of by genteel English women.
As she ran her steed across the countryside of Meryton Lila dreamed of her youth in the strange land of America. She remembered the colonies where she learned how to conduct herself in society and was given the education of a proper young lady. Her fondest memories though were of the wild and untamed wilderness where she had become a friend of the Indians. There was the chief's son Wild Bear who had taught her the ways of survival, how to hunt and live off the land. Tanda the medicine woman showed her how to identify the indigenous plants of the area and the way to prepare and use them as tonics to heal the sick and injured. It was there with the Indians that she had learned those things, which she deemed were truly important in life, and there was where she longed to return.