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The Road Back - Chapters 55, 56 + Epilogue

February 16, 2015 11:04PM
Chapter 55

Saturday, January 1, 1814 – Pemberley

The road leading to the entrance of Pemberley was lined with lights which reflected off fresh fallen snow to cast an even greater brightness to the evening’s darkness. The stream of carriages had begun shortly after eight and showed but few signs of slowing. Fortunately most of those attending the ball were guests at Pemberley but still the surrounding estates had been delighted to accept the invitation and had made the trip despite the winter weather. The rooms at Pemberley were filled with guests and Mrs. Reynolds could scarce remember when the house had been as full of life and laughter. That problems would arise was a foregone conclusion but those that had were dealt with at little discomfort to anyone.

It had proven fortunate that Richard Fitzwilliam had taken residence at his small estate, which was reasonably close to Pemberley, since he was able to accommodate not only his Fitzwilliam relatives but also some for whom Pemberley had been unable to find space. The earl and countess had arrived several days previous to the ball and had been in company with the Darcys almost every evening since then. The coolness between Darcy and his uncle had almost completely dissipated, assisted undoubtedly by the news that Lord Albert had become engaged to the daughter of the Earl of ____. That the lady had a handsome dowry and face and was unattached after three full seasons may have ensured her ready acceptance of Lord Albert’s offer. If her other attributes were somewhat deficient, they apparently were not of concern to her betrothed. The Earl of Matlock may have regretted the loss of such a connection but the speed with which Lord Albert sought and found another lady to grace his home consoled him that the Duke of ____’s displeasure might be of short duration.

The Matlock party were among the first to arrive and greet Elizabeth and Darcy. Lady Eleanor was quick to praise the arrangements for the ball and noted to Elizabeth that it was unfortunate that her confinement would prevent Elizabeth from participating in the season since she, the Countess, would take great delight in Elizabeth to perform a similar task in London. As the lady observed, “Elizabeth, it is past time that Mrs. Darcy take her place in society and I am looking forward to your doing so!”

“Aunt Eleanor, I may be forced to disappoint you. I look forward to spending my days here at Pemberley and raising my children.”

The countess shook her head, although a small smile touched her lips, “I am afraid that will not do, Elizabeth. You, your husband and your children will have a position in society. You must give some time to filling that position.” Her smile broadened, “Of course that does not prevent you escaping to the wilds of Derbyshire…which event I am sure will happen with great frequency.”

“You know me too well indeed, aunt.”

Their conversation was cut short by the press of other guests and Elizabeth found herself rather bemused by the stream of faces that she scarcely recognized and secretly gave thanks to the presence of her husband who seemed to know them one and all and made such introductions as were necessary. When it appeared that the last of the guests had arrived, Elizabeth gave the signal for dancing to begin and the musicians signalled their readiness. Elizabeth as hostess was moving to begin the task of circulating and ensuring that ladies found partners when she was prevented from doing so by Darcy taking her hand and leading her to the dance floor. Her surprise was evident as she cried quietly, “William, what are you doing? We cannot dance. I am the hostess!”

“I intend to ignore society’s dictates tonight and dance the first with my wife. I will not be dissuaded on this! Do not try Lizzy!” His smile belied his words and, truthfully, she knew she was not inclined to deny him or herself, the pleasure of this dance.

That Mr. and Mrs. Darcy took up the first position in the set caused as much whispering as her obvious enceinte condition. Their equally obvious pleasure with each other and the affectionate glances they exchanged and made little effort to hide were a surprise only to those who had not previously been much in their company and such murmurings of disapprobation as did arise were quickly suppressed by the general approval of the lady and her husband. The conclusion of the dance saw the Darcys separate, each to perform their own tasks for the evening; Elizabeth to circulate and ensuring the enjoyment of her guests and Darcy to partner such ladies as might be in need of one for a dance. It would have taken an acute observer to notice that his attention, even when dancing, was focussed very much on his wife and her movements around the floor were tracked closely. However most of the guests could not be unaware that Mr. Darcy was quick to return to his wife’s side following every dance set and that attempting to deflect him from such a purpose was futile. Several gentlemen had indeed tried, only to have to be satisfied with a brief apology to the effect that he was required to attend his wife.

Richard Fitzwilliam was one of those who had carefully observed his cousin's behaviour with some amusement and had remarked to his partner at the time, Miss Thompson, “I never really expected my cousin to find a wife who would so capture his affections.”

“I think they are both delightful and extremely fortunate; but why should it surprise you?”

“You did not know my cousin before he met Elizabeth. He was quite different. A man of pride and position who I would never have expected to attach himself to someone from Elizabeth’s station in life.”

“He is much changed then?”

“Oh yes, indeed he is. But enough talking of my boring cousin. Are you engaged for the next set?”

“I am not but it would be quite improper for us to dance it. We have danced the first and you have requested the supper dance.”

Richard smiled broadly, “I have no intention of asking you to dance, delightful though it would be. Come, I would have a private talk with you…if I may?” And after her nod of acquiescence he placed her hand on his arm and led her out of the ballroom.

Their escape had not gone unnoticed. In fact, Elizabeth had been quietly watching them both all evening and, having come to know a little of her friend’s heart, was hoping that Richard would offer for it tonight. As her husband approached she took his arm and motioned in the direction where Richard and Miss Thompson were walking through the doorway of the ballroom, “Do you have any notions of your cousin’s intentions?”

Darcy’s grin reassured her, “I believe I will have an opportunity to tease him for a change. You can be assured that I shall not deprive myself of that pleasure.”

Elizabeth shook her head, “Men!” and was about to dispatch him to find another dance partner when he demurred and stated his desire to remain in her company for this set. His company was agreeable to her and they were quickly joined by the earl and Countess who had come to impart such news as they had gleaned that evening. They had conversed for some quarter hour when Elizabeth nudged her husband and nodded to the doorway where a beaming Richard and Janet Thompson had entered and, from their behaviour, obviously searching for someone. Janet was the first to see Elizabeth and after pointing her out to Richard, it was a matter of seconds before they had spotted his father and mother and the Darcys. Richard’s happiness was palatable and he wasted no time in informing them all that Miss Janet Thompson had given him her hand in marriage. Elizabeth and the countess were no less eager to welcome her into their family with warm hugs and Richard received the congratulations from his father and cousin with pleasure along with some requisite teasing as Darcy observed, “I can easily understand you wishing to win Miss Thompson’s favour but whatever can she see in you, cousin?”

Elizabeth’s laughing admonishment to her husband was followed by a kiss to Richard’s cheek and a warm, “Congratulations Richard. I think that you both shall be very happy together.”

After accepting their congratulations, Richard turned to his father, “I applied to Mr. Thompson for consent before I left London so the engagement is official. Would you announce it during supper?”

“Of course, I would be proud to do so.” He looked at Miss Thompson, “How long are you planning to stay here at Pemberley Miss Thompson?”

“My plans are not fixed but I had thought to return home in two days.”

“Yes well, perhaps you might stay a little longer. It might be a good for us to get better acquainted with the lady who will soon be a new daughter and I am sure that Richard would wish you to visit Holsten. From what he has told us, there are some changes required there.”

The Countess could no longer be repressed, “Have you considered a wedding date? And where the wedding will take place?”

Richard laughed, “Not yet, mother. Although I am not in favour of a long engagement. Janet and I have not had time to consider these issues. Let us enjoy tonight before you force the practicalities on us.”

They conversed for several more minutes before Richard and his betrothed moved to join his sister and her husband to share their news. This seemed to be a signal for the others to disperse until only the countess remained in company with Elizabeth who thought to take the opportunity to query Lady Eleanor.

“Are you satisfied with your son’s choice?”

The countess did not answer immediately and her gaze was thoughtful as she scanned the crowd around her. Satisfied as to their privacy, her gaze returned to Elizabeth.

“I suspect that if Fitzwilliam had not married you, I might be quite unhappy. The connection to trade would have been a difficult fence to jump. But…I have met and grown to like you very much, I have met Miss Thompson, who is everything that is genteel, and her family are quite presentable as well. I could wish that he wished to marry someone of our station but he has had many years to do so and has not. I am satisfied and quite willing to accept Miss Thompson into our family. She will do well I think. She is much like you and Frances, you know.” Her pause was almost too brief to notice, “And there is the fact that he has resigned from the army and will be safe. That cannot but make me happy.”

Elizabeth smiled and laid a hand on the countess’s arm, “I am glad. I am glad for Janet and Richard as well. I know Janet was beginning to despair of meeting a man she could esteem. Too many thought only of her possible dowry, convinced that her father’s wealth would ensure that it was large. She did not reveal her heart to me but I could see Richard had gained her affections. I think they will do well together and I admit to a selfish pleasure that my friend and the man William considers a brother, will live so conveniently close to us. Very selfish of me, I concede.” Her grin was quite unrepentant and drew a soft chuckle from the countess; but that lady’s attention remained fixed on her son for a short time only. The supper dance was beginning and Bingley’s participation with Georgiana caused a slight frown to appear, which Elizabeth, once she had determined the direction of the countess’s gaze, could easily interpret.

"I am not certain of my sister's affections; she has not confided in me to that extent – perhaps because she does not know them herself. I am convinced that she holds Mr. Bingley in considerable regard; it is not the work of a few meetings – indeed she had known him as William’s closest friend for several years.” She paused, unsure how much to relate and decided that certain matters – Bingley’s intentions in particular – would be best left to William to reveal.

“I have no particular disinclination to Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth. He is quite an amiable and genteel gentleman....”

Elizabeth knew the earl would be less favourably inclined – Bingley’s personal involvement in trade would be upsetting and his acquisition of an estate would not ameliorate such a disinclination. Her response was temporizing, “Well, let us deal with problems if they arise. I cannot say that William favours Mr. Bingley but he will not discourage him – of that I am convinced.” After a moment’s thought – she would be imparting information that the countess would shortly learn anyway – she mentioned, “Mr. Bingley will be staying with us for several more days before returning to York. I believe he has business with William but he will be seeing Georgiana as well.”

The countess’ pursed lips suggested that this did not meet with her complete approval, but she let the matter drop and tactfully began to discuss some of their guests. Elizabeth was inclined to reveal that Georgiana had also assigned the last dance of the ball to Mr. Bingley but thought better of it – perhaps Lady Eleanor would not observe this obvious sign of Georgiana’s preference though such was not likely. More likely she would observe but refrain from commenting when nothing further happened – she could hope anyway. Shortly thereafter the two ladies separated; to mingle with crowd in the case of the countess, and Elizabeth to visit the dining area where her guests would shortly congregate.

Chapter 56

Early May, 1814 – Pemberley

As Elizabeth had come to recognize, there is frequently a degree of inevitability about certain events. A couple will wed and, if they are blessed, children will be conceived and then birthed; a couple may court, become engaged and then wed; a conception that was so welcomed but seemingly taking forever to come to its usual conclusion will eventually do so. One can set something in motion and then one is left powerless to alter, in any significant manner and mostly unwilling to do so, the course that is followed to its predestined end. So it had seemed to her for the last four months. Perhaps, she thought, it was that her confinement was wearing on her; certainly her inability to walk comfortably for more than – to her – a short distance without tiring and being required to sit down. Feeling bloated and ungainly as well was not designed to improve her mood and all the solicitous care of her husband and sisters was frequently a cause for irritation – which she tried to conceal as much as possible. If not for the comforting presence of Jane and her Aunt Madeline, she probably would have loosed her ire at them all more frequently.

As she thought back, it was little more than a year ago that William had proposed to her here at Pemberley and in little more than fortnight, they will have been married for a year and in a few days, or less, they will be presented with their first child. With all that had gone before, the humiliation that followed Lydia’s ruin, the despair of believing that due to her own immaturity and prejudices she had lost the affections of Mr. Darcy and the unbelievable pleasure that arose when she met him once again and realized his affections had not faltered in the period of their separation, she could now see as akin to one of her morning rambles where the path rose and fell, twisted and turned presenting a different landscape with every change. That she was only on the early stages of that ramble and the prospects ahead – although certain to present some troubles and sorrows – were, for the most part, likely to be full of joy and love. If her days were tedious at the moment, she knew that state would not continue for long.

Fortunately, today was one of the better days and she had managed to walk to the conservatory to rest in the comfort that it provided. If she could not wander the wilds of Pemberley, here she could feel close to trees, plants and rivers she had come to love. As she relaxed in the warmth and sounds of the nearby fountain, she watched her sister cradling her child beside her murmuring and crooning to him and remembered the day of his birth.

About a week after the Pemberley Ball, the day started rather earlier than was usual for Jane who, as she admitted later, could remember only poorly her last night of uninterrupted sleep. That morning’s discomfort was quite a bit different from the usual need to visit the water closet or to change position because the ache in her back or her hips or some other part of her body. The cramp that caught her by surprise was like none she had ever previously experienced and, if not unduly painful, had been sufficient to wake her thoroughly. A return to sleep proving impossible and, as the discomfort of the cramp receded, she had risen to begin her preparations for the day. Her maid was called to assist her and a request for tea and a light breakfast sent to the kitchen. A quarter hour later, dressed and refreshed, she had moved to her sitting room awaiting a tray from the kitchen which arrived at virtually the same time as the next cramp. Alarmed now, she had called for her maid who, understanding what was happening immediately moved to assist her mistress and then, when the cramp had passed, to make Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth aware of what was happening.

From this point there was an inevitability about the process and although the labour was not complete until late that night, Thomas Joseph Stovall – named in honour of both of his grandfathers – made his appearance to a tired but joyful Jane Stovall and only the absence of his father could diminish that joy by the slightest portion.

Mrs. Bennet, who had been removed to Derby, when Jane’s labour began – a fact which was kept from her by her husband - for the purpose of shopping in the stores there and hence did not greet her grandson until two days after his birth. That she was displeased at the inconsideration shown her was made known to all her family – several times; however, Mrs. Bennet’s delight in the child quickly was sufficient compensation such that, within minutes of being allowed to hold him, she proclaimed that he would be much the handsomest of any grandchild she could possibly have.

For her part, Jane had consoled herself for the absence of her husband by writing him a letter describing the child’s perfections in great detail. Another, less voluminous letter was dispatched to York to impart to Amos’ mother the important news. Her reply was swift and contained all the assurances that a new mother could wish, the regrets that she was unable to have been present at the birth and the best wishes of Amos’s sister and brother.

For Elizabeth the months that followed were a time of quiet enjoyment with but herself, her husband, Jane, Georgiana and Kitty as the Bennets and Gardiners removed to their homes a week after the birth of Jane’s baby. Her own increasing size and a blustery winter largely confined everyone indoors and, for Elizabeth and Darcy in particular, the conservatory became a favourite retreat. Music, reading and chess were the staple of an evening's entertainment and while several dinner parties were arranged in January, Elizabeth found more interest in remodelling her own bedroom into a nursery.

It was only the need to remove to London to attend the wedding of Richard and Janet that had disturbed their quiet. Accompanied by Georgiana – Kitty deciding to remain at Pemberley with Jane – Elizabeth and Darcy had made their way carefully to London. Janet and Richard’s preference for a quiet Hertfordshire wedding had been overruled by the two mothers who, for different reasons, wished for a more prominent ceremony. Their original proposal for a wedding in April – to allow for the most exhausting of preparations – ran into opposition quickly when it became apparent that the Darcys would not be able to attend since it was too close to the expected date when Elizabeth would deliver the heir to Pemberley. Janet and Richard insisted on an earlier date and eventually agreed to a date in late February which Darcy stated was the latest that he could allow Elizabeth to travel – ignoring, it must be added, the eye-roll performed by that lady when informed of his decision.

Fortunately, the weather, although cold, was good and the roads clear and hard with the result that the trip was more expeditious than usual. They arrived several days in advance of the wedding, and if Elizabeth’s activities were limited to family dinners, the constraint was borne by them both with great equanimity. The wedding took place as planned and both matrons could not help but be pleased with the result of their endeavours. The bride was beautiful and the groom, if not handsome, was most presentable and his adoration of his wife hidden from no one. Darcy had the joy of having his cousin happily and safely married and Elizabeth, the pleasure of one of her best friends becoming a close neighbour. The newly–wedded couple had chosen to remove to their estate in Derbyshire with the intention of taking a bridal trip during the summer months and chose to return in company with the Darcys albeit in their own carriage.

The sound of footsteps drew Elizabeth’s attention and she looked up to see her Aunt Madeline and, to her surprise, Janet Fitzwilliam approaching her.

“Janet, I am surprised to see you. When did you arrive?”

“Richard and I arrived but a half hour ago. He is with your husband now.”

“Can you stay for the night? Or longer perhaps?” Janet did not miss the hopeful note in Elizabeth’s voice.

“Richard and I are here until the baby is born. Richard rather thought your husband would wish for the company and I believe his father and mother can be expected shortly.”

Elizabeth began to laugh, “With my aunt, my sister, Aunt Eleanor and yourself the birthing room will not lack for support. Will there be room for the midwife do you suppose? You know Mrs. Reynolds will want to be there as well. I fear to disappoint you all by only having a single baby. Should I not have twins to merit such a congregation?”

Mrs. Gardiner chuckled, “You should not joke about twins, Lizzy. They have appeared in the Gardiner family in the past.”

Elizabeth paled, “Oh, that I did not know. Surely I do not have twins now. Would not I have been told? Would they know?” Her agitation started to increase until finally Mrs. Gardiner managed to calm her with assurances that twins would represent no more of a problem than a single child and, where there were nurses to care for the children, she should not worry about something that was unlikely.

The arrival of Jane with her baby successfully diverted attention and the conversation reclaimed its happy tenor for the rest of the day. The arrival of the Earl and Countess of Matlock completed the party that awaited the birth of Elizabeth’s baby and the next day or so passed in relative ease although everyone admitted, out of Elizabeth’s hearing, to finding the wait to be tedious and tense.

As with all things of this nature, the waiting did come to an end. The delivery was relatively fast and Elizabeth endured not more than four hours to safely deliver the Pemberley heir. While she was quick to appreciate the support of those who attended her, she drew her strength and calmness from Jane as the travails of the birth grew most painful. In the early hours of the afternoon, Bennet Joseph Darcy arrived healthy and strong and, as his father was wont to concede, possessed of a healthy set of lungs.

Darcy had tarried not at all when apprised by the countess that his wife and babe were both healthy and arrived in the birthing room within minutes of receiving the news. Presented with the picture of his obviously tired but glowing wife cradling his child – his son – in her arms, he could not control the tears that flooded his eyes. As he knelt beside her and enveloped them both in his arms, he whispered, “Lizzy, I do not believe I can be happier than I am now.”

“William, I have thought much lately of the journey we have taken to get here. I know the journey is not over - that we have much joy ahead - but this moment, this day I will never forget. I am in your arms and holding our son. I can ask no more. Are you truly happy?”

“Such a foolish question from such an intelligent woman. The husband of Elizabeth Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to his situation that he could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.”

Epilogue – Loose Ends

It is not to be wondered at that any couple – no matter the depth of affection that exists in the marriage – will find disagreements arising between them; pride, a willingness to compromise and discuss the issues that lie between them will not inhibit the resolution of such differences and prevent erosion of the love and respect each brought to the marriage. Fortunately for Elizabeth and Darcy, the travails and misunderstandings that plagued the early days of their relationship taught this valuable lesson. Theirs remained a love match that deepened and broadened as their family grew and the years passed. Bennet was joined by four brothers over the first fifteen years of the marriage; but the couple had all but despaired of having a daughter – Darcy, in particular, wanted a daughter cast in the image of his wife – until Elizabeth, then in her late thirties, unexpectedly found herself again with child and pleased her husband with the delivery of twin daughters, Jane and Ann. Now nine years of age and virtually identical, they are – in the words of Mr. Bennet – the image of Lizzy with the added advantage of five older brothers to plague – which they do as much as their governess will permit – and the girls, as Mr. Bennet was also wont to observe constituted a just reward to Elizabeth for the vexation that she gave her own mother at a similar age. Elizabeth appeared to take it in stride and was heard one day by her husband to inform her daughters ‘what are girls for but to make sport for their brothers and to laugh at them in turn’.

Amos Stovall had returned to England several months after Napoleon abdicated in 1814, his ship laid up in ordinary and his services no longer required by His Majesty’s Navy. Not wasting any time, he was in London short days later to join with his wife and son in London. While some business kept them there for a fortnight, they made their way to York as expeditiously as possible with only a short visit to Pemberley on the way. Once established on their estate, they were extremely reluctant to leave and the fact that a daughter – Elizabeth – was born a scant year after Amos’ return, encouraged them in that decision. Due to his being rather remote from news of events on the continent, Napoleon’s return and ultimate defeat at Waterloo, was over before he could be called back into service and his ship commissioned for duty. The Stovalls were blessed with another three children and lived quite happily in Yorkshire with only occasional visits to visit relatives in the following years - London, in particular, held few attractions and had been visited there but twice – to visit the Gardiners. Shortly after his return, Stovall purchased a cottage in Scarborough and a small schooner which he kept docked there. His summers were frequently spent sailing, an activity which none of his children much enjoyed but which quickly became a favourite pastime of the second youngest Darcy son who, from the age of ten, spent most of the summer months visiting the Stovalls and sailing with his uncle. That he, at the age of fourteen, would join the navy as a midshipman came as a surprise to no one although his mother was less than pleased by the decision.

Catherine and Mary both married; Catherine to a promising young clerk in her Uncle Gardiner’s company who, ten years later, had been promoted to a junior partner and were blessed a brood of children; Mary, however, did not marry until almost thirty years of age and her husband, a widower of some ten years her senior, was in possession of a small estate in Lincolnshire and several young children for whom he needed a mother. While conceding it to be a prudent marriage for both, Elizabeth’s concerns were not alleviated until she recognized the affections that each held for the other. The friendship that developed between Catherine and Georgiana lasted throughout their lives although it was carried out mostly by correspondence with Georgiana living in the north and Catherine in London.

Lydia and James Simpson raised a large brood of children in Canada and, if neither had the opportunity to visit their homeland again, they did have the pleasure of Elizabeth and Darcy crossing the ocean to visit some fifteen years after their marriage – Elizabeth was heard to aver that sea trips must encourage getting with child, attributing the trip to the birth of her twin daughters. With eight children Lydia’s days were full and the Simpson farm was large and prosperous. Most of her sons had made a place for themselves on the farm but their second oldest son not being interested in farming and longing for a city profession travelled to London and eventually found a position in the Gardiner’s company. Elizabeth thought that James Simpson had much to do with the gentlemanly behaviour of his sons and the girls, who she feared might resemble their mother in her early years, were indeed lively but very well behaved. If the society they moved in was less refined than London it was not dissimilar to Hertfordshire in most respects.

Charles Bingley waited until Georgiana’s eighteenth birthday to request a courtship; however, before Georgiana would accept the courtship offer she felt the necessity to inform Mr. Bingley of the events at Ramsgate involving George Wickham. His response was all that she could have hoped for and her acceptance was joyful and approved, with reservations, by Darcy. The courtship lasted a scant six weeks and his offer of marriage accepted with considerable delight and the couple were married three months later. The marriage was a happy one and blessed with several children. They remained in York in comfortable distance from Pemberley to visit the Darcy’s and, as well, the Stovalls with whom they became very close.

Mr. Bennet had retired to Pemberley some twenty years after the Darcys married; too enfeebled to live alone at Longbourn – Mrs. Bennet having succumbed to an illness ten years previous - he availed himself of the Pemberley library and the company of his most cherished daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Collins were established at Longbourn to take care of the estate. The death of Mr. Collins – an ill-advised tour of his farms left him wet and badly chilled by a severe rainstorm, from which a severe fever developed – left Charlotte Collins to raise the heir of Longbourn – Thomas Collins – along with her two daughters. Young Thomas, with help from Darcy and being blessed with his mother’s good sense, quickly learned the rudiments of managing an estate. At five and twenty, he actively courted and married the Bingley’s middle daughter whom he met while they both were visiting Pemberley.

The Gardiners remained in London until such time as Mr. Gardiner retired from his business, turning it over to his own sons and those of his nieces possessed of a commercial bent. Upon retiring, the Gardiners removed to Lambton where Mrs. Gardiner was able to develop and improve those connections and acquaintances which had been created during her many visits to Pemberley. Proximity to the superb fishing at Pemberley and the ability to enjoy that pastime fully provided no small amount of pleasure to Mr. Gardiner.

Richard and Janet Fitzwilliam settled down in close proximity to Pemberley and each of the two families was much in the company of the other and the cousins were as close as siblings. Richard was able, over a ten year period, to improve the productivity of the estate to more than three thousand pounds per year. He also, as a personal project, began to breed and raise thoroughbred horses, a sideline which gradually developed into the main business of the estate and a source of considerable earnings.

For those less estimable characters, the years treated them as well as may be expected. Lady Catherine de Bourgh never reconciled with the Darcys and the death of her daughter some five years after their marriage only fixed her disdain for Elizabeth even more firmly and none of the representations of her Fitzwilliam relations managed to alter her opinions. As Rosings Park had been inherited by Anne by virtue of her father’s will and would pass to the nearest de Bourgh relation if she died childless, her death in 1820 saw the removal of Lady Catherine to the Dower House a circumstance held against Elizabeth for the remainder of Lady Catherine’s life.

Some two years after his marriage Darcy received a letter from a Colonel of the Georgia Militia to the effect that George Wickham had died in the Battle of New Orleans – one of the few American casualties in that battle. According to the Colonel he had comported himself well and his death was regretted by his comrades. If Darcy suspected that such regrets may have been fuelled by debts of honour that Wickham had left behind, such suspicions were only spoken to his wife. Lydia’s response, upon being informed of Wickham’s demise in a letter from Elizabeth, was a succinct ‘Good!’ and could not be induced to express any other opinion.

The Road Back - Chapters 55, 56 + Epilogue

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