Chapters Thirteen-Fifteen



Chapter Thirteen

Elizabeth felt as if her heart was parched. She longed for some affection and attention. She missed Jane and her beloved father so much that it hurt. And now Pemberley felt as empty as her heart was. Darcy had left. And she missed him. Somehow she had developed feelings for her husband. Her aunt was right, wasn’t she? What did she write? “…your heart has not been untouched by your husband”. This emptiness that disturbed her… This longing for his presence… Could she be in love? She sighed and closed her eyes tightly, weary of all the unsettling feelings that rushed through her ever since that fateful day at the Hunsford parsonage.

Mrs Gardiner’s letter had affected Elizabeth more than she had expected to. She knew she would have to face her situation and the truth of her feelings and take a step forward. Otherwise, their life would be utterly miserable.

Did he no longer want anything from her? Elizabeth feared this separation. But the tone of his letter had filled her with a tiny glimpse of hope. He was away from her in London and planning to return in a week. Once returned, what would happen? How would he face her? How should she face him? Would she be condemned to being an estranged wife? The doubts raced through her mind leaving her dizzy and even more confused than before.

“Stop it, Lizzy!” she scolded herself. “You need to put your life in order. This is so unlike me to be moping over the past.” She glanced again at her husband’s portrait and sighed nervously. In a sudden fit of energy she left the gallery, heading towards her sitting-room. “I’m writing to my Aunt and then I shall write to him.”

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“The post, Madam”. The footman extended his arm placing the silver platter within her reach.

“Thank you, James.” She answered quietly as she set down her pen and grasped the envelopes.

“Two letters from Jane!” she whispered as she broke the seal. Elizabeth eagerly drank her beloved sister’s words. She had missed her sorely! Even her mother! She perused her letter and her pleasure quickly shifted into embarrassment…

I am ashamed to tell you, dear Lizzy, that Mama has been behaving quite strangely lately. She no longer complains of her nerves and flutterings as she did in the past. And despite the fact that we are still in mourning, she is always eager to visit upon her friends and receive everyone here at Netherfield. I have never seen her hosting some many tea and dinner parties in my life! I have written to our Aunt Gardiner and I do hope she will attend to my request. I have asked our dear Aunt and Uncle to come to visit us. I am very worried about our Mother.

…and then astonishment…

Since writing my last letter to you, Mama has allowed Lydia to go to Brighton. The whole regiment has left Meryton and gone to the seaside. Lydia was invited as Mrs Forster’s particular companion. I imagine you are as surprised as I was when she permitted her to go and even encouraged her to attend all the parties and balls she could. I fear Mama is not well. How can she behave so improperly? Our beloved father has only passed away three months ago and she and our younger sisters are disregarding the mourning period. I do hope Lydia will not make a spectacle of herself while in Brighton.

…and then horror…

Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred of a most unexpected and serious nature; but I am afraid of alarming you -- be assured that we are all well. What I have to say relates to Lydia. An express came a moment ago, from Colonel Forster, to inform us that she has eloped with one of his officers; to own the truth, with Wickham! Imagine our surprise. To Kitty, however, it does not seem so wholly unexpected. So imprudent a match on both sides! But I am willing to hope the best, and that they must be deeply in love.

They were off Saturday night about twelve, as is conjectured, but were not missed till yesterday morning at eight. The express was sent off directly. Colonel Forster had also informed us that Lydia left a few lines for his wife informing her of her intention. I have already written to my dear uncle and aunt to aid Colonel Forster instantly and to try to discover her.

I must conclude, for I cannot be long from my poor mother. I am afraid you will not be able to make it out, but I hardly know what I have written.

Without allowing herself time for consideration, and scarcely knowing what she felt, Elizabeth, on finishing this letter, instantly seized the other, and opening it with great impatience. It had been written a day later than the conclusion of the first.

By this time, my dearest sister, you have received my hurried letter. My head is so bewildered that I cannot answer for being coherent. Dearest Lizzy, I hardly know what I would write, but I have bad news for you, and it cannot be delayed. Imprudent as a marriage between Mr Wickham and our poor Lydia would be, we are now anxious to be assured it has taken place, for there is but too much reason to fear they are not gone to Scotland.

“I knew it! Foolish Lydia!” she cried as her tears tumbled down her face.

Colonel Forster came yesterday, having left Brighton the day before, not many hours after the express. Though Lydia's short letter to Mrs Forster gave them to understand that they were going to Gretna Green, something was dropped by Denny expressing his belief that Wickham never intended to go there, or to marry Lydia at all, which was repeated to Colonel Forster, who, instantly set off from Brighton intending to trace their route. He did trace them easily to Clapham, but no farther. All that is known after this is that they were seen to continue the London road.

I know not what to think. After making every possible enquiry on that side of London, Colonel Foster came on to Longbourn, and broke his apprehensions to us in a manner most creditable to his heart. Our distress, my dear Lizzy, is very great. My mother believes the worst, but I cannot think so ill of him. Many circumstances might make it more eligible for them to be married privately in town than to pursue their first plan; and even if he could form such a design against a young woman of Lydia's connections, which is not likely, can I suppose her so lost to everything? -- Impossible. I grieve to find, however, that Colonel Forster is not disposed to depend upon their marriage; he shook his head when I expressed my hopes, and said he feared Wickham was not a man to be trusted. Could it be true? He is such an amiable young gentleman, but not to be trusted, dear Lizzy?

“Oh Jane, only if you knew what a scoundrel he is… And there is no hope! What will happen to all of us?”

My poor mother is really ill and keeps her room. Could she exert herself it would be better, but this is not to be expected. Poor Kitty has anger for having concealed their attachment; but as it was a matter of confidence, one cannot wonder. I am truly glad, dearest Lizzy, that you have been spared something of these distressing scenes. Mama earnestly begs you to ask for Mr Darcy’s assistance as soon as possible. I do believe, dear sister, that Mr Darcy’s advice and assistance would be everything in the world; he will immediately comprehend what I must feel, and I rely upon his goodness.

Elizabeth stood up and started pacing her room in a frantic manner. The horror of Lydia’s situation, knowing that she willingly threw her future and her safety into the hands of such a man! Wickham… Darcy’s enemy! The very man who slandered the Darcy name and who attempted to ruin a sweet girl’s reputation and now he had ruined Lydia’s! And by association she has tarnished all her family and even Darcy’s good name! How could she ask for her husband’s assistance? Would she dare to?

“He will never forgive me now…” she whispered surrendering to her misery.

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Darcy stood in front of the window gazing into the darkness that covered London. The books that filled his library did not arrest his attention that night. His heart was full of longing for Elizabeth and his head was still pounding from the meeting he had before supper with Bingley. He had not informed his wife about the nature of his business in London. If he had, she would have learnt that Bingley was his top priority ever since that fateful night in her bedroom.

As he had expected, the meeting did not go well. Despite his amiable and cheerful nature, Bingley reacted furiously at his friend’s disclosure. Darcy told him all: his interference in separating him from Jane Bennet, the concealment of Mr Bennet’s death, the loss of Longbourn and the Netherfield purchase and his own marriage to Elizabeth. He revealed all in full detail to his friend. Each word uttered, to his dismay, seemed to have the effect of blows upon Bingley’s countenance. He had never seen him so livid and cold. He remained silent for too long, Darcy thought. But when he spoke…

“Why Darcy?” he inquired irately.

“I-I am utterly sorry, Bingley.” Darcy started uncertainly. “I felt I was doing a favour to a friend.”

“A favour? A favour to a friend?” Bingley spat interrupting him.

“Yes! I believed Miss Bennet’s heart was untouched. I did not want you to come into a loveless marriage!” He closed his eyes and repeated to himself a loveless marriage as I am in.

“Thank you, Darcy! I am exceedingly obliged. Thank you for destroying my life!” He approached him and stared icily into Darcy’s dark eyes. “I thought you abhorred any sort of disguise and deceit. It seems I have been mistaken about your character! What a fool I have been!”

“I-I am ashamed of my actions, Bingley. My arrogance and conceit led me to act in such an abhorrent manner. I should not have done so and for that I beg your forgiveness.” He looked at his friend hoping that some day he would be able to forgive him. He softly added, “I have been told that Miss Jane Bennet is not indifferent to you. In fact, she has been suffering ever since you left Netherfield.”

“Are you a mind reader, now, Darcy?” he replied sarcastically. “Who told you? Your wife?”

“Yes, Elizabeth has told me. She is distressed on her sister’s behalf.”

“I must go. I can’t bear to see you now, Darcy.” Bingley looked away trying to control his emotions. “Answer me this, though. Are you happy?”

Darcy gazed at his friend and dropped his mask of self-control. His mournful eyes betrayed his sorrow. He answered quietly, “No, I am not happy, Bingley.”

Bingley looked at him sharply and quickly replied, “Well that makes the two of us. Thank you, Darcy.” And with those last words he left the Darcy townhouse.

Darcy groaned as he recalled the harsh conversation. He had lost Bingley’s friendship and it pained him. He swallowed the brandy left in his glass and grabbed to bottle to pour some more. “I will drown this pain and forget everything…” he muttered between his clenched teeth. But before he could pour the liquid, the library door opened abruptly and in came the butler with an express in his hands.

Darcy recognised immediately Elizabeth’s handwriting. He tore the letter open and noticed another enclosed inside. He set that one aside and eagerly drank her words.

My dear husband,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. I am afraid I cannot say that all is well though. Be not alarmed, I am well and everyone here at Pemberley is in good health.

I have just received a letter from Jane of a most alarming nature. My foolish sister Lydia, who had been allowed to go to Brighton as Mrs Foster’s companion, has left her friends and eloped with an officer. I dread writing the name, sir… I am deeply ashamed to say that she has eloped with Mr Wickham. I am well aware, sir, of how much you despise the man. But can I dare to entreat you sir to come to aid to my poor family? I am sending enclosed Jane’s letter so that you can read her account of the events. My Uncle Gardiner seems to be assisting Colonel Forster in their search but I fear the outcome.

I am well aware that you have already been extremely generous to my family and that I have become a disappointment to you, dear sir. And now, once again, I am mortified to subject you to this sordid affair. Were it not your own honour and good name be soiled by this affair, I would never have put this upon you. I also fear the impact of all this on your dear sister, Georgiana.

I am eager to become more acquainted with your sister. Thank you for your kind words to me but they are undeserving. I look forward to your return as Pemberley seems to be empty and despondent since you have left. Please allow me to anticipate my gratitude for I know enough of your generous disposition that you will come to aid my poor sister.

I humbly remain your loyal wife,

Elizabeth Darcy

Darcy folded the letters in deep thought and left the library in haste. There is a lot to be done! There isn’t an instant to be lost! And as he dashed up the stairs his heart swell with the tiny hope her letter had inspired him. Dearest, how I long for you!

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Chapter Fourteen As Elizabeth roamed through Pemberley’s halls and groves, she kept telling her heart to quiet down. The distress surrounding Lydia’s elopement had affected her profoundly. Her nights were restless and her days were spent in weary dazedness. She felt so lonely and utterly hopeless. She scolded herself for feeling so despondent. Her husband had managed to rescue her family once again. He had sent an express days ago informing her of Lydia and Wickham’s discovery and that they would be wed in three days time. That fateful event had occurred ten days ago. Elizabeth could not but feel sorry for her sister despite her foolishness. Her fate was now irreversibly tied to a man of no honour. She feared for her sister’s well being. Thoughts of her husband aroused in her a bitter mixture of longing and anxiety. She missed him, of that she was certain. But she also dreaded his return. How would they face each other after their separation? Would he despise her and be angry at her because of Lydia’s folly? As she returned to the drawing-room, Elizabeth reminded herself of her resolution. She would follow her Aunt’s advice. She picked up her sewing basket and settled down in the window seat. She had been embroidering a series of handkerchiefs for her husband. She lightly caressed the monogram she had created entwined with discreet sweet williams. Would he be pleased with them? She dearly hoped so. Her reverie was interrupted by loud voices in the hall. She could hear Mrs Reynolds upset tone and the others seemed vaguely familiar. But before she could recognise any of them, the door swung open. She stared in shock at the visitors. “Lydia! Mr Wickham!” she shouted astonished. “What are you doing here?” “Oh Lizzy! Did you think you would keep all this wealth just to yourself? I hope not!” Lydia dashed around the room fawning over the furniture and art pieces. She joined her husband and embraced him as she looked over her shoulder eyeing her sister. “Well, Lizzy,” she added, “and what do you think of my husband? Is not he a charming man? I am sure my sisters must all envy me, even you, Lizzy. They should have gone to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands. What a pity it is, Lizzy, that they didn’t go too… Even Mamma could have found a husband as well!” “Lydia!” Elizabeth gasped horrified. “Madam, I do hope you welcome your new brother…” he said seductively as he grasped Elizabeth’s hand and kissed it. She acknowledged him icily and roughly withdrew her hand from his grasp. “May I inquire the reason of this most unexpected visit, sir?” Wickham eyed her surprised. He had expected a warmer reception from her. Had she not fancied him? Even Lydia had told him so. “Well, my dear Mrs Darcy, we are on our way to Newcastle… and Lydia expressed her wish of seeing you on our way. Well, I will be on commission there for the next two years…” “I see.” She curtly interrupted him. “Shall I ring for tea then?” “Oh Lizzy! Don’t you see? We want to stay!” And Lydia squealed in full enthusiasm. “Maybe you could even throw a ball to celebrate our wedding! Wouldn’t that be grand, Wicky dear?” She dashed towards her husband and threw herself on his lap unceremoniously. Elizabeth could only but stare at her sister in utter contempt. Lydia was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She had no regard for propriety at all! She felt nauseated with such shameless lack of decorum. How dared they impose themselves on her? Such disrespect of her husband’s home? She closed her eyes in disgust and breathed deeply attempting to regain control of herself. “Lydia!” she chastised her. “Have you forgotten that I have not issued an invitation and, as far as the ball is concerned, we are still in mourning!” “Lord! Don’t be such a bore, Lizzy! No one cares for such things nowadays. I want to have fun!” she pouted. “My dear sister,” Wickham interrupted. “We would enjoy your company for a few days greatly, would we not, darling Lydia?” Lydia nodded affirmatively and planted a kiss on her husband’s mouth. Elizabeth looked away in disgust. Wickham caught her gesture but mistook it as a jealous reaction on her part. He grinned seductively at her and continued, “We were always good friends; and now we are better… Are we not, dear sister?” Elizabeth looked at him seriously. The gall of the man! How dared he? “True.” She replied sharply. “Unfortunately your plans will have to change. You will understand that I shall only have you for tea. You must continue your journey.” “Oh Lizzy! But we can’t travel at night! And I want to stay!” Lydia stood up and stomped her feet. Glancing towards the windows, Elizabeth realised that the evening was swiftly approaching. They had calculated well when to arrive, she thought. She fumed inwardly and conceded that they would be allowed to stay for supper but they should leave early morning, right after breakfast. Lydia whined “But Lizzy, we…” “Tomorrow, Mr Wickham, you shall leave to Newcastle.” She declared coldly. She inwardly cringed, hoping her husband would forgive her for allowing their presence at Pemberley. The situation was hateful but she needed to be practical about it. She could not send her own sister away travelling through the night. It wouldn’t be safe and she could not refuse her in good conscious. Displeased with the outcome, Wickham could do nothing but accept staying only for the night. He silenced Lydia by pinching her arm and mellifluously thanked their hostess. “Mrs Darcy, we thank you. We are exceedingly obliged for your gracious hospitality.” Elizabeth acknowledged him and sighed in utter despair. This will be a long night, indeed.

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The morning did not come as fast as she wanted. And her guests seemed to be lingering on over breakfast as long as possible. Elizabeth quietly observed her sister and Wickham as they eagerly swallowed their food. Lydia’s open flirtation towards her husband and his overt caresses disgusted her. How could they be so vulgar? She shivered as a wave of nausea flowed through her body. She winced as she thought how right Darcy had been about her family’s ill behaviour. Lydia was wilder and louder than ever. She had no respect for herself or for her father’s death. She did not care at all that she had nearly ruined her entire family. “Stupid, stupid girl!” she repeated to herself. Memories of the previous evening were constantly on her mind making her feel even more ill. Her sister’s wild behaviour and Wickham’s repulsive seduction affronted her. He even congratulated her for having married wisely. A blunt innuendo implying she had married Darcy for his money! But Elizabeth instantly grimaced as she recalled that had been her ulterior motive… her family’s security. Wickham had been trying to regain Elizabeth’s favour but rather unsuccessfully. The night before she dined in silence and then retired early forcing them to go to their rooms too soon for his taste. He ignored Lydia’s babbling as he perused her sister’s figure. It seemed that her marital state had rendered Elizabeth even more beautiful than he remembered. There was a certain glow about her and her body seemed more curvaceous and supple. Her skin seemed softer and creamier… If I could touch her… Oh that would be exquisite, wouldn’t it, Darcy? If I could seduce her… he wondered with a sly grin on his face. Unconsciously he licked his lips as he glared at her. But she is too proper for her own good, he thought. But, perhaps, I can turn her against Darcy… Yes, he certainly was jealous when he had seen us together at Longbourn, just before her wedding... “Tell me, dear sister, when are you expecting Darcy’s return?” he inquired feigning an aloof disposition. “As I told you last night, sir, he shall return very soon.” “Well, Lizzy, if I were you, I would be glad that he was away! He is so boring and dreadfully serious! You should have got a husband like my dear Wicky! What a laugh!” “Darcy seems to be enjoying town. When we last saw him…” “Yes, Lizzy! We saw him strolling in the park with this beautiful lady! I wonder who she was…” Elizabeth paled. Her husband… with a lady? Could it be…? “I dare say, she was quite elegant but not as much as me! She had blond hair and she was wearing a blue dress though its lace was not as b-…” Elizabeth stopped listening to her sister’s babbling. It could be Mrs Worthington from her description. But then, it could be Georgiana as well. Lydia doesn’t know her but Wickham does… But he remained silent and had not disclosed if he was acquainted with the woman at all. She chose to be silent as well. She had enough on her mind for now, to be thinking of that woman! Weariness fell upon Elizabeth as she stared at her sister. What a sad fate awaits her, she thought. Wickham’s affection for Lydia was just what she had expected to find it; not equal to Lydia’s for him. She had scarcely needed her present observation to be satisfied. Lydia was exceedingly fond of him. He was her dear Wickham on every occasion; no one was to be put in competition with him. He was the best in the world. How blind I have been? How could I have considered my husband a man of no honour? Her eyes brimmed with tears and hurriedly she attempted to conceal them. “Oh Lizzy! Why do we have to leave?” Lydia whined again. “You are so selfish! I want to stay!” And she threw her cutlery against her plate in frustration. Elizabeth flushed in anger at such childish display. She was exhausted with her sister’s behaviour. She stood up and trembled with fury. “Lydia! That is enough!” Before Wickham could say a word, the door to the breakfast room opened. Elizabeth turned to face it. She swayed in shock at seeing her own husband. Darcy stood there livid and appalled at the sight of Wickham. Darcy’s mind reeled. He could not believe what he was seeing… Wickham at Pemberley! Wickham with Elizabeth! His wrath blinded him as he walked into the room. Oblivious to his surroundings, he forgot that his sister was behind him. Elizabeth gasped in horror as she observed Georgiana’s livid face. The poor girl turned away and ran off. What have I done? She thought nervously. She wrung her hands in great despair and started shivering greatly. She couldn’t even dare to meet her husband’s gaze. “What is the meaning of this, Mrs Darcy?” he shouted at her. Elizabeth refused to look at him. She attempted to collect herself, and hesitatingly, she explained, “I-I… You, see, sir… My sister arrived yesterday and they…” She swallowed nervously as she grasped hold of the table. She felt sinking into a dizzy spell as cold sweat covered her skin. “Come now, Darcy!” Wickham interrupted. “Is that the way to welcome an old friend and your new brother! ” He laughed nervously. “How dare you set foot in this house?” Darcy yelled at him. “Get out immediately! I have warned you already to stay away from my family, Wickham!” “You can’t forbid Lydia from seeing her sister… And dear Elizabeth is my sister now! We are all one big happy family!” He grinned sarcastically. “Wickham! How dare you?” Darcy paced towards him, alarming Elizabeth. She raced after him but suddenly collapsed on the floor as a severe pain pierced her body and she sank into darkness.

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Chapter Fifteen

Darcy paced the corridor frantically as he waited for the doctor’s diagnosis. He desperately weaved his fingers through his unruly curls. His face was dark and unreadable. He knew he should control himself. It would not do to be in such distress when he faced Elizabeth and even for his sister’s sake. He looked at Georgiana who was leaning against the wall. She looked very pale and he could see she was frightened. Her misery over Elizabeth’s state and their confrontation with Wickham was written all over her sweet face.

The mere thought of that man having the audacity to set foot in Pemberley! And addressing his wife! Once again anger flushed on his face and hardened his jaw and fists. “Oh Elizabeth!” he mumbled in despair. How could I have yelled at you, dearest one? His eyes flooded with unshed tears and his frame slumped as he recalled his wife’s cry in pain. She had collapsed at his feet and he had felt desperately hopeless and guilty. And the horror! The horror that seeped in his soul as he felt the warm moistness of her blood dampening her dress and his shirt as he carried her to her room. What if she would d-d… Stop! I cannot bear the idea of losing her! It cannot be!

In his sudden outburst of despair, Darcy banged his head against the wall. Georgiana started crying as she took in her brother’s agony. Immediately regretting giving in to such behaviour, Darcy rushed towards his sister and held her tightly in his arms, cuddling her and whispering words of assurance and hope in Elizabeth’s recovery.

The door opened abruptly and out came the doctor. Darcy hastened to approach him but he was unable to utter a word, thus he glared at him questioningly.

“She is well now, Mr Darcy. She is resting. Time will heal her body and her spirit. Allow me to express my deepest sympathy for your loss, sir.”

“S-s-she is well? Is it certain?” he stuttered worried about her. But then confusion clouded his beautiful dark eyes. “Loss? What do you mean Mr Thompson? I don’t understand!”

“I’m afraid she has lost your child, sir. It was unfortunate… but a miscarriage is a common occurrence, Mr Darcy. Especially at such an early stage.”

“A child? ” he mumbled astonished. “She was carrying a child? B-but… how, I mean… when…”

The doctor observed him closely. He was as surprised as his wife had been. It was clear to him that the both of them had not noticed her pregnancy which was quite natural as it was still at an early stage. He faced the young man and told him,

“Well, sir, Mrs Darcy was only a few weeks along her condition. She hadn’t realized she was with child yet. As I have said before, a miscarriage is unfortunately a common event. However, I assure you she is well and she will be able to conceive again. There is no reason to fear the opposite, sir.”

Darcy stared at him in silence.

“She needs to rest and not to be disturbed. I have left several recommendations with Mrs Reynolds. I shall come to see her tomorrow again. There should be no reason for concern but please call me if you feel the need, sir.”

Georgiana swiftly accompanied the doctor out as she realized her brother was unable to attend anything beyond his heart’s desire: Elizabeth. He hesitantly approached her door and entered the chamber. It was kept dark so that the mistress of Pemberley could rest.

Darcy stood beside her bed as he watched his wife’s fragile frame lying there. She looked so small and so young and so pale! Even though she was sleeping, he could see that she was not resting peacefully. She was frowning and twitching nervously on occasion. He sat on the bed as he enveloped her with his loving glance. How he loved her! And he had failed her! He had not been there to prevent Wickham from disturbing her!

He reached for her hand and enfolded it with his. He tenderly kissed her fingers, her palm and wrist as he repeatedly whispered “I love you” and “Forgive me” mingled with his tears.

“Elizabeth, my dearest little one…” he whispered sobbing quietly. “I am so sorry, my love.” He hesitated for a moment but dared to touch and caress her abdomen.

He gently laid his hand on her belly where their child had been. His touch seemed to have a soothing effect on her as her frowned expression gradually softened and her stirring ceased. She was sleeping peacefully then. He leaned over her and could not stop himself from brushing his lips on hers. The comforting rhythm of her breathing lulled him to a deep slumber close to his wife.

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Darcy was determined to put the Wickham subject away from his mind. He had even been spared the need to have him removed from Pemberley. When Elizabeth fainted, he had cowardly rushed out with Lydia and hadn’t even looked back. Mrs Reynolds had also explained to him what had occurred and he was informed that Elizabeth had shown reluctance in allowing them to stay.

Elizabeth was recovering slowly but the doctor was confident that she would be well enough soon. However, Darcy was worried about the sadness and desolation mirrored in her eyes. They had managed to talk quietly about the unfortunate event. Their fateful loss seemed to bring them closer though. What a price to pay, he thought as he recalled their quiet moments together.

He seemed unable to be away from her. Even if he was still uncertain about her feelings toward him. As long as she expressed no revulsion, he would not move from her side. He glanced at the clock in his library and calculated that she should probably have finished her light supper by then. Thus, without a second thought, he raced towards her room.

Darcy entered the room and his eyes fell immediately upon Elizabeth. She was reclining against the pillows as she talked softly to Georgiana. His heart swelled as he observed their gentle interaction. He was proud of the manner his little sister took great care of his wife. And Elizabeth had obviously accepted her in her generous heart.

As he approached them quietly, Darcy noticed that the tray with her supper remained almost intact. He frowned in worry. “Mrs Darcy? Has cook’s supper displeased you?” he asked softly.

“No, sir. It is just… I find myself not hungry…” she replied sadly.

Georgiana stood up and quickly wished good night to her brother and sister, retiring to her rooms. Darcy looked at his wife expectantly, assessing her demeanour… Did she wish him gone too? He wondered.

But Elizabeth raised her head and met his gaze with her tearful one. She tried to smile at him but failed and looked away.

“Is something wrong?” he asked concerned. He sat on the bed beside her and touched her arm. “Shall I call the doctor?”

She quietly denied the need for medical attention. She turned her face away again as she added “I must be a gross disappointment to you, sir. All that happened between us… and now the babe…” Unable to restrain her tears, they flowed freely down her pale cheeks as she sobbed.

He cupped her face with his hands and gently turned it to him. “No, no Elizabeth! Never say that again!” He fervently told her. “You are all that is lovely and good. You are very precious to me!” He looked away and added reluctantly, “It is I that I am disappointed at! I have failed you when I had vowed to protect you. It was my pride that sent me away to London and I wasn’t here to prevent Wickham from distressing you!”

“Do not say that, sir!” she cried. She took hold of his hands and gently squeezed them. “You have not failed me! How could you have known that he would come here? And he is my brothernow… How you must despise me for that! Connected to the very man whose only goal is to wound you! Now you must truly despise my family!”

“No, Elizabeth! It is my fault! If it were not for my selfish pride, I could have exposed the scoundrel months ago! And he would not have wronged your sister!”

“Please, William!” she pleaded. She reached his face and stroke it tenderly. He startled surprised at her address and caress and stared at her in wonder. “You, you called me William…” he whispered in awe. He drew her closer to him and closed his eyes relishing in her warmth and sweet scent.

Rising her teary face, Elizabeth smiled shyly at him. She added archly, “Is that not your name, sir? Or would you prefer Fitzwilliam, Mr Darcy?”

He looked into her uncertain eyes and then whispered into her hair “How I dearly love you, my precious little one!”

His declaration disturbed her and he sensed it. But he decided to ignore it and held her closer to his heart. A moment later, he gently relinquished his hold of her and withdrew from her bed. The longing in his eyes urged her to ask him to stay with her. Her request surprised him but he quickly drew her into his arms and held her tightly until she fell asleep. Not long afterwards, he surrendered as well and dozed off into a blissful rest.

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A loud commotion was heard outside her chamber. Georgiana and Elizabeth looked at each other questioningly. But before being able to say a word, the door opened violently and Lady Catherine swept in the room.

“Miss Bennet!” she shouted. “You have no doubt why my presence is needed here!” She set her cold defiant eyes on her.

Elizabeth closed the book she was reading and placed it on the bed. She sighed deeply and exasperated replied,

“Lady Catherine, you surely must know, by now, that I no longer answer to that name.”

“Such impertinence I will no tolerate! In my eyes, you will never bear the Darcy name! That title belongs to my daughter! You, with your arts and allurements have ensnared my nephew! He has forgot all his duties to his family…”

“Lady Catherine!” she cried insulted. “I will not…”

“A report of the most alarming nature has reached me two days ago. I need to know Miss Bennet! Have you or have you not miscarried a Darcy child? Is this report true?”

Georgiana gasped in horror. How could her aunt be so unfeeling? She rose quickly from the window seat and rang the bell for Mrs Reynolds’s assistance.

Elizabeth had turned her face away. As if her pain for losing the child were not enough, she had to bear the abuse and insolence of this obnoxious woman. Unable to meet the defiant gaze of the woman, she answered softly.

“Aye, madam. It is the sad truth.” Grief was stricken on her beautiful pale face.

“Well, that just confirms what I have thought all along! You, Miss Bennet, are a disgrace to our family! I warned you in my letter to you. But you, unselfish girl, refused to oblige me! Had you not married him…”

“Lady Catherine, I do not understand what you are trying to tell me!”

“Enough!” she yelled. “I have come here expressly to tell you that you have just proven to us all your own degradation.” Her satisfaction was marked on her fierce countenance and her smug grin.

“How so, Lady Catherine? Pray, tell me, how have I brought this degradation to this family?” she spat angrily as her patience towards the woman faded quickly.

“How dare you question me? Do you know who I am? You are of inferior birth! Well, even your body, your own nature, has refused to carry the noble blood of our family, Miss Bennet! Is that not proof enough? You are unfit to deliver a Darcy!”

Elizabeth looked ashen from utter shock. Each word the formidable Lady Catherine thrashed at her caved into her mind, branding her spirit with the guilt of having lost an innocent life. She wept silently as she shivered from the shock that wracked her recovering body.

“You shall never be able to deliver him an heir! I am certain of it! Darcy will then shun you my dear! I shall see to it!”

“THAT IS ENOUGH, MADAM!” Darcy shouted as he dashed into the room. “Leave immediately, Lady Catherine! You are no longer welcome. Go!”

“How dare you speak to me in such a manner? Have you lost your senses nephew? This shall not be borne!”

Darcy glanced at his wife. She was as pale as a ghost and shuddering. Her frail figure was slumping amidst the pillows. How could he let this happen to her? Once again he failed… he had not protected her! He turned to his aunt and grabbed her arm roughly. He pushed her out of the door without any mercy.

“Mrs Reynolds, show this woman the door immediately!” he shouted.

“You will regret this, Fitzwilliam!” she yelled at him.

He slammed the door, shutting his aunt out of the room. He could hear her protests fading away in the corridor as the servants led her out. Facing his wife, he was shocked to see her in a miserable state. She had collapsed on her bed and was shivering with pain.

“Georgie! Tell Mrs Reynolds to send for the doctor immediately!” He ran towards Elizabeth as his sister went for help. He knelt by the bed and grabbed her hands. He tried to calm her as he caressed her face and hands tenderly. But Elizabeth’s sobbing seemed to increase with his gentleness towards her.

“She is gone, Elizabeth. Please be calm, my love…” He sat on the bed and pulled her into his strong embrace, her body snugly fitting against his. He whispered endearments into her ear and he kissed her hair lovingly. But Elizabeth would not calm down. She repeatedly murmured “I’m not worthy” between her heartfelt sobs. “I’m not worthy.”

Chapters 16-18

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