Disguise of Every Sort

Book Two

This story contains adult themes, sexual content, language, violence, and intense situations. It is not suitable for readers under the age of 18 on this site. Please do not read if you are under 18.

Chapter 19

The coach slowly ambled through the streets of London gradually heading northward. The passengers adjusted themselves, trying to vie for a comfortable place among the others. Michael Dunbarton looked anxiously out the window.

Sitting across from him, a kind, elderly lady saw his agitations and tried to comfort him. “It can be a bit overwhelming, lad, can’t it?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he answered.

“And where will you be going to?”

“Lambton. Do you know it?”

“No, I have never been that far north. And did I hear yer Da say you were going to family?”

“Yes, my cousins, whom I have never met.”

“Still, that should be a comfort to you; to be with family.”

“It is. I thank you.” He closed his eyes then, his lack of sleep the night before finally catching up to him, and fell into a fitful rest for the next several hours. At the various stops he woke and stretched his legs, then went back to sleep as soon as he was back inside. That night, he took a room at an inn, but was still up an hour before dawn and could not find sleep again. The coach continued its passage northwards for the length of the next day. At the end of the long journey, after seeing many different passengers come and go, the coach pulled into the final stop for the night; Lambton. Bidding farewell to the drivers who had been helpful and hard working, Michael then slipped off into the night, away from the bright little village.

There were no Dunbarton cousins in Derbyshire, but the story of their existence proved helpful to his peace of mind. People would be less likely to bother a youth who had relatives awaiting his arrival. Following the instructions he had been given, he walked to the smithy and finally spotted the trail that headed west. He knew he had a long trek ahead of him, and was at least a bit lucky in there being a half moon to help light the way.

Almost four hours later, Michael finally arrived, nearly exhausted, in Oak Hill. There was a small inn, strangely named The Crow’s Nest, where he took the cheapest room. The innkeeper had a bit of food and ale left over to sell him, for which he was grateful. It was hearty and filled his empty stomach. The name of the inn soon became apparent while he sat eating, as the walls were covered in sailing paraphernalia; a tribute to the unfulfilled dream of the innkeeper. He finished his ale and went to bed.

The next morning was crisp and clear; the sounds of farm animals in the distance could be heard, making him smile. Fresh clean air and the relative quiet of the country was not something he was used to after living in London so long, but now he rejoiced that he had the leisure time to relish the calming effect it had upon him. He bid the lady of the inn a happy good morning on his way out the door, intent on exploration and search for employment.

He walked through Oak Hill, inspecting the shops, inquiring if they had need of a worker, but was unsuccessful. Market day was set up in the town centre, and he joyfully perused the carts, purchasing ripe fruit and vegetables that could be washed and eaten raw, and would serve as his midday meal.

Later, while he ate his goods, he watched the people of the town. He could be anywhere in England right now, he conjectured; the towns and the business of its people did not change. Only the names and faces were different to other places he had seen.

One of the vendors, whom he had avoided earlier, was in full voice, coaxing a hesitant woman to buy his fruits and vegetables. Michael had not shopped at the man’s cart, for he had discerned as he walked by that the produce was not as fresh as others. The lady had her empty basket, and the man was quickly beginning to bargain with her, appealing to her purse, instead of her taste buds. The woman hesitated still, and soon the seller was starting to lose his patience, grabbing the woman’s arm and insisting she buy something, now that she had wasted so much of his time. Michael did not hesitate.

“Leave this good woman alone!” he berated as he stepped between the two. “She has every right to turn down your goods, and right she is to have done so. You dug those carrots more than a week ago, your peas were plucked too early and your beans are already dry on the inside. If you want to do a brisk business, start with the quality of your goods and tend your fields and orchard better.”

A small crowd had gathered around him, always happy to witness a good fight.

“You know nothin’ about my fruits and vegetables, so blow off, and mind yer own business.”

“He’s right, Taylor,” answered one of the bystanders. “I seen you out last week digging carrots, and you ain’t been in yer field since.

“Well, how can I harvest more, when I ain’t sold this lot, eh?”

Michael sighed and rolled his eyes. “Sell your goods today for half price. They are only good for a bad stew now, so think of who will be willing to buy them.” The man stared back at the youth, astonished at his advice. Michael continued, “Accept the loss for now and pick a small amount of what your fields have and only the ripest and best. You can ask more money for better goods, and you will not have to break your back carting them into town. More money, fewer goods to have to sell, and you will not be forced to feed any of your cash crops to your pigs. Do you understand?” He looked around, suddenly cognisant of the faces staring back, astounded.

Finally Taylor, the fruit and vegetable farmer, swallowed and answered. “Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir!” He looked on the young man with wonder. “But, if you please, Sir, how did you know about my goods?”

The young man smiled and merely tapped his nose as he turned to the elderly lady. “Can I be of any assistance, Madam?”

She smiled brightly at him, and gestured into the market. “If you would indulge me, lad. Would you be willing to help me with my shopping?” He laughed, and agreed.

They slowly walked back and forth along the rows of carts. She inquired after his name and situation, then informed him of hers. Michael picked up items as they strolled, feeling them and breathing in their fresh aromas. She gave him her requirements, and he delighted in filling her basket. When they were done, she inquired what had brought him to Oak Hill. He explained that he had only just arrived, and was staying at the inn while searching for work. When she asked if he should like to come back with her to Fairhaven Manor where she worked as cook, and partake of the goods he had helped her procure, he was happy to agree.


Mrs. Keane had been employed by Mr. and Mrs. Thurgood of Fairhaven Manor her entire life. She had slowly worked her way up the rungs of the ladder of seniority that existed in kitchens, from lowly scullery maid, scrubbing pots all day, to head cook. In its day, the house had been a bustle of activity. Mr. and Mrs. Thurgood often entertained, and the kitchen staff was large and industrious. Now, with Mr. Thurgood gone for so many years, and Mrs. Thurgood’s advancing age, the kitchen staff, as well as the entire household, was significantly diminished. She enjoyed her work, especially the ties with her fellow servant; Mrs. Edwards the housekeeper, her closest friend in the world and her sister.

As Mrs. Keane studied this handsome youth across from her, she was struck with desire to see if there might be a place for him at Fairhaven Manor. After their conversation in the market and travelling to the great house, she regretted his skills with consumables did not extend to any knowledge in the kitchen arts. The staff was setting up for afternoon tea, and she bid Michael join them all. Her sister was introduced, and she delighted in watching the reactions the young man was having upon the housekeeper. Several hours, inquiries and teapots later, Michael was finally allowed to return to the village. Mrs. Keane knew her sister would be bubbling to have a private conference after he left. She did not disappoint.

“Edwina, wherever did Mr. Dunbarton come from?”

“I have not been able to winkle it out of him, sister, but is he not a find?”

“I believe so! He is very fine, despite his clothing. I wonder what his story is.”

“He claims only to be looking for honest work, though I dare say he has not seen too hard of times. Did you notice his hands? He has never had to do rough work. I’m sure he is a gentleman, Constance. You should have heard him in the market today, defending me, and helping that nasty Mr. Taylor at the same time. The old codger was put in his place and had to thank Mr. Dunbarton at the same time.”

“He defended you? Were you threatened?”

“Good heavens, no, sister! I merely meant he very gallantly came to my aid.”

“So curious!”

“Indeed.” They both sighed.

“How I wish we could keep him,” Mrs. Keane stated simply.

“But what could we do with him?” The housekeeper thought for a moment. “We do not have a position for him to fill. He is too clever to be a footman, not to mention too slight. And Mrs. Thurgood’s steward is more than capable.”

“I know! It vexes me to think some other family or place will snatch him up.” Constance kept thinking.

“Mrs. Thurgood is most in need of a companion. If Miss Richardson had not left so abruptly, we could have a replacement already here.”

“Well, one can not hate Miss Richardson for falling in love, my dear.”

“Maybe not, but I can still be angry she has left me in need, as well as given me extra work.”


Constance was suddenly inspired and exclaimed, “What if we presented Mr. Dunbarton as a personal secretary to the mistress?”

Edwina laughed. “You mean like some Grand Duchess who needs someone to arrange her social calendar?” she asked.

“Exactly! If Mr. Dunbarton can sit through an afternoon with Mrs. Thurgood, and not mind the mutterings of ladies, he would do quite well. And if he is half as clever as we think, he could also help the steward with his business, or at the very least, help Mrs. Thurgood understand it.”

“And could I still have him to go to the market with me? I do not exaggerate his skills there. Think of what he could do to improve our table!” the cook added jubilantly.

“Sister, I believe we may have found our solution.”


The next morning, Michael was surprised to receive word a messenger had arrived and asked if Mr. Dunbarton would come to Fairhaven Manor at his earliest convenience. The innkeeper and his wife were quite impressed with their guest who had garnered an invitation to Mrs. Thurgood’s home and now treated him deferentially.

He presented himself at the kitchen door of the great manor house later that morning.

“Mrs. Keane, how may I be of service to you?” he inquired, bowing to her.

“I believe I may be of service to you today, young man,” she answered happily.


Michael had never been interviewed for employment before. Now faced with the prospect, he felt a fluttering in his stomach he was not typically subject to. He chastised himself inwardly and, after taking some deep calming breaths, finally affected a serene countenance and entered the drawing room containing Mrs. Cecily Thurgood.

Her housekeeper and cook had practically waylaid her the evening before, singing the praises of a youth they had found who was looking for employment. The mistress was a good judge of character, and though the sisters had a tendency towards some silly outbursts, they could be full of good common sense and values as well. If the two had seen something above the ordinary in this young man, at the very least she would take the time to be acquainted with him to see if there was a place for him in her household. Between the three ladies there would be enough opinions to make one sound judgment.

Mrs. Cecily Thurgood was a lady who, even upon introduction, made one smile. She was very petite, with round spectacles upon her nose, which matched the roundness of both her cheeks, as well as her middle. It was not her penchant of resembling a tiny pumpkin that pleased and made one at ease with Mrs. Thurgood; it was the smile that always graced her features and made her dark blue eyes twinkle when she looked upon you. She was simply a woman not made for unhappiness and beaming came as naturally to her as breathing. Therefore, within minutes of meeting the mistress of the house, Michael was at perfect ease, and completely contented to be speaking with her.

Mrs. Thurgood could sense the intelligence of her prospective employee, as well as the comfort he felt in her presence. After an hour’s conversation, the two felt a bonding of kindred spirits between them, for her kindly deportment did not belie an underdeveloped mind. Quite the contrary, she was well read, and enjoyed stimulating conversation, which Michael was all too happy to provide.

The only fault she could find in him was the young man’s unwillingness to be forthcoming with regards to his personal history. He dodged, evaded and circumvented the subject with expert skill, much to the fine lady’s discontent. However, she felt whatever circumstances had led him to leave his family or situation, he was not of malicious or dangerous tendencies, and felt no fear or anxiety in having him around.

“Well, Mr. Dunbarton,” she exclaimed as she started summarizing the situation. “What do you think you could do for me here at Fairhaven Manor; how would we keep you busy?”

“I would be happy to do whatever you ask, Mrs. Thurgood. However, I think I would be most useful to you as an assistant or companion to you each day. I know it is out of the ordinary to have a gentleman wait upon a lady, but my youth would perhaps excuse the ‘bending’ of society’s rules shall we say?

“I see. Then you admit you are a gentleman, do you?”

He realised his error, and now was unable to correct it. “I… I was raised as a gentleman, Madam, though I have not had the benefit of a university education. I regret I am unable to expound my history any further than I already have. Please believe me when I say in earnest that attending you would in no way be out of the ordinary for me. I think we two would get on quite well in that regard. I am happy to read whatever you might like, and provide whatever conversation in which you would care to endeavour. I can also help Mrs. Keane with her marketing, as well as act on your behalf with your steward, if you should ask it of me. I should like to learn more about the running of an estate. I have had some minimal experience with it and can always benefit from more knowledge, especially if it would help you in anyway.”

Mrs. Thurgood’s smile grew wider as the young man’s speech continued. As he spoke with such unabashed sincerity and honesty, she knew that spending her days with this interesting youth would provide her with a contentedness she had not felt for some time. Her housekeeper and cook had been surprisingly astute; here was a true find. “If that be the case, Mr. Dunbarton, I think you should return to The Crow’s Nest.”


“You will want to pack your things as soon as may be if you are to start working for me immediately.”

Michael broke into a smile which matched his new mistress’ as he stood and thrust his hand rather impetuously at her, and then shook her hand vigorously. “Thank you Mrs. Thurgood! Thank you very much, indeed!” he gushed.

She laughed at his youthful exuberance. “Go on, now. Be sure to stop by the kitchen and let Mrs. Keene know you are coming to live with us, though if I know her, she and her sister are standing outside the door as we speak.” Her last words rose in volume, and slight shuffling could be heard outside the room. They both looked to the door, and then back at one another, and shared a knowing chuckle.


In the ensuing weeks, Mr. Dunbarton became Michael, and Mrs. Thurgood was affectionately called Mrs. T. Laughter often rang out among the quiet halls, and the staff at Fairhaven manor rarely let a day go by when they did not bless the day that Michael Dunbarton met Mrs. Keane.

Michael was content beyond his expectations in his new situation. He quickly came to care a great deal for Mrs. T. and there was nothing he would not do for her, often thinking up things on his own to please and amuse her. She was equally delighted in the youth, and was often caught staring intensely at him, something he at first was disconcerted by, but later came to accept it as an odd habit of hers. Together over the summer months, they became very close. His attentiveness brought a calming effect to the staff, who never worried over their mistress anymore, as she was in the very best hands.

The effect of spending so much time in anyone’s presence allowed each person to understand the other to a degree not found with other acquaintances, for Mrs. Thurgood noticed an underlying melancholia to her youthful companion. She sensed a sadness that he kept well hidden, but would surface, just barely perceptible, when they spent long hours of peaceful idleness together. She often watched his face, studying the array of emotions playing across it, and tried to decipher him. She knew he had a past history that he found impossible to share with her. She wanted very much to help him, but without his disclosure, she was at a loss as to how. There was also a nagging thought in the back of her mind about him which she could not place. Somehow, she thought she might have seen Michael before. A part of her mind knew he belonged somewhere… different. She realised that until she could remember where or when she might have seen him, the nagging idea would not go away.

For Michael, the time he spent with Mrs. T. allowed him to intimately understand her routines, her moods and her personal habits. It was no surprise then, after several weeks in her company, he began to detect Mrs. Thurgood was hiding something from him and the staff. As he began to catalogue the anomalies to her routine, he sadly realised she was, in fact, hiding an illness. He decided for now to let her keep her secret. She was having no troubles in her day-to-day existence, the summer weather was perfectly suited to all their endeavours, and until an episode of obvious need or distress presented itself, he thought it better to keep his suspicions to himself.

It was therefore a surprise when, less than a week after his decision not to ask his mistress about her suspected condition, it presented itself in a most alarming way. They had been out walking in the gardens, heading for one of their favourite stops, a bench under an enormous elm tree, when suddenly Mrs. T. was stricken in the side with a debilitating pain. Michael instantly helped her to the bench, alarmed at her face, which was contorted in terrible agony.

“Mrs. T., allow me to call the doctor, you are not well!” he cried. But she stayed him with her hand.

“No, Michael. I am well.” Her breathing started to slow down as her pain was obviously easing.

“You are not! Please do not ignore such a pain, it might portend to something very serious.”

“Michael, you will obey me in this. No doctor will be sent for.” He studied her face. Her colour was returning, and her breathing was almost normal again. She seemed to have little concern for what she had just experienced. They sat quietly for several minutes.

“You have not been well for some time,” he finally replied, now understanding. “Am I right to think the doctor has already seen you, then?” She gave a slight nod, turning away, embarrassed. He took up her hand gently. “What has he advised you to do?”

She seemed to be studying the leaves of the elm above her head. He waited.

“There is nothing to be done, Michael. There is nothing that will stop the inevitable. I take solace only in knowing I will soon be with my dearest Harry. And I am thankful for the happiness I currently have spending my days with you.” Michael could not help the choke and tears that followed her heartbreaking confession. She drew his head onto her shoulder, as he cried for the thought of losing this woman who had become so dear to him.

Soon she straightened his head up and looked him straight in the eyes. His spectacles had fallen into his lap, and she realised she had never had the chance to see him thus as she spoke, “Now, we’ll have none of that, dear Boy. My happiness stems from you sharing your youthful exuberance, your laughter and your wit. If you do not provide me with it in abundance, I will turn you into the first gentleman scullery maid!” He laughed lightly, but his face still betrayed his sorrow.

They eventually made their way slowly back to the house. She promised to let him help her whenever the pain came back, and he promised to keep her secret until she was unable to hide her condition. As she entered her chambers, thinking back to their conversation under the great elm tree, she felt suddenly struck with a realisation, as if she had seen a blast of light that revealed the truth.

“Oh, good heavens!” she exclaimed as she sunk to the edge of her bed.


Chapter 20

Pemberley, September 1813

Georgiana Darcy had lived through many difficult times in her young life. The general populace considered her to be a lady of uncommon good fortune, in terms of dowry, as well as situation and connections. However, if asked today, the lady would not agree. What were lovely gowns and carriages, grand homes and fine horses, without the happiness of sharing them with loved ones? After suffering the loss of both her parents, and the foolishness of a failed elopement with a man to whom she had briefly given her heart, Miss Darcy’s only source of constant love and devotion came in the form of her most beloved brother. Now that all-important source was being threatened, and Georgiana was at a loss as to how to preserve it.

He had arrived at Pemberley in a mood unlike any she had ever witnessed in him before. Though never open and easy with each other, for the first time in her life, Fitzwilliam had completely shut her out. It had been over three months since he had returned home, and she hardly had the chance to speak with him, save the barest of conversations. Her meals had been taken alone in the dining room, her afternoons spent at her pianoforte without his ever looking in on her. At night, she could hear his outbursts and pacing in his library or in his room, but she was simply too intimidated at the prospect of seeking out the man whom she looked upon almost as a father, and demanding he explain himself.

Mrs. Reynolds was well aware of the amount of fine wines, brandy and port that had been brought up from the cellars over the past months, but could hardly confer with a mistress of just seventeen years as to what to do.

Darcy’s steward, Mr. Grant, was also not pleased at his master’s complete disinterest in the estate’s business, and complained bitterly to the housekeeper the master needed to control himself and stop his drinking. He had not looked at his correspondence since arriving. He had simply told his steward to make the decisions to the best of his abilities and he refused to even hear of the concerns of his estate.

Mrs. Reynolds finally decided a suggestion to the young Miss to seek out her cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and ask him to attend her would be a wise move. One week later he arrived.


Georgiana had been softly playing her instrument in the music room, when the doors opened and her cousin greeted her warmly.

“Richard! Thank goodness you have come!” she cried, as she flew into his arms.

“My goodness, Georgie! Whatever has come over you?” he replied, as she sobbed into his coat.

“Richard, you cannot know how worried I have been. He refuses to see anyone. He never comes to his meals, and I know he has had far too many bottles from the cellar brought to him. I am scared of what he is doing to himself, and why he will not let anyone near him. Please, Richard, will you try to discover what ails him? He will listen to you, you are older than him, and I know he looks up to you.”

He assured her he would go directly to Darcy after changing. This gave her some relief and he was able to leave her in much calmer state. He suggested she retire for the evening and have her dinner sent up to her, as he did not know how long he would be with his cousin and, more importantly, he did not want the possibility of Georgiana hearing things that would only upset her, should Darcy wish to put up a fight. She started, surprised for a moment.

“Be well, Georgiana. I only meant we may have to resort to raised voices. It has been ages since I have tried to put my younger cousin across my knee, and success can no longer be assured, considering your brother’s great size.”

Before entering the dreaded room, Richard had frank discussions with the housekeeper, butler, valet and the steward, reassuring them as best he could he would try to restore their master to his former self. Armed with little useful information, but genuine concern, he finally entered the library.


Darcy sat in a deep chair facing the fire. Though it was still full light outside, the curtains were drawn, and the room smelled of having been closed up for several days at least. The colonel was all too familiar with what he was looking upon. He had seen plenty of men over the years on a binge. No doubt a woman was behind it all. They usually were. Darcy sat in his shirt, waistcoat and breeches. His face was not dirty, but was badly in need of a shave. The glass was half-full in his tottering hand.

“Good afternoon, Cousin. Are you not happy to see me?” he cheerfully greeted him as he slammed the library door.

Darcy turned slowly, scowling upon seeing him, and uttered a simple, “No.”

“Good! That means you have something to hide, and I mean to ferret it out, Darcy. You have spent enough time wallowing in self-pity. “

“Go away, Richard. You are wasting your time.”

“Sorry, Fitzwilliam. I shall not leave until things are set to right here.” He made himself comfortable on the large leather sofa, directed a footman to bring him his tea, and settled himself in for the evening.

Later, he instructed the butler, Ferguson, to bring dinner to them in the library and insisted Darcy eat. He also removed the offending bottles which were placed about the room, ignoring Darcy’s rantings and threats.

“You ARE going to get sober cousin. I have had plenty of experience with men in your position, and I warn you now; you will do as I command and stop this cowardly escape. You have duties to attend, Master of Pemberley.” Darcy sneered at him; the colonel ignored him. “You have had almost an entire year to clear your head and your heart in Europe. And now, you are hardly back on English soil, when you fall headlong into a binge. Your sister is worrying herself into illness, and your staff are at a loss what to do. It is time for you to return to the living, Cousin.”

Darcy continued his scowl unabated.

“That look never did work on me, so you can cease your attempts at intimidation, young man.”

The rest of the evening continued in much the same vein. Richard attempted to get Darcy to sober; Darcy barked or scowled at Richard. They both ended the night sleeping in the library, which suited the colonel perfectly as it gave him the chance to keep a close eye on his cousin.

In the morning he met with Darcy’s valet, and advised him to clear the bedroom of all spirits. He further notified the shocked man that he would be attending his cousin night and day for the next week at least, to help insure the master’s sober state, and to ease the pain the staff would no doubt be suffering through. He checked on his cousin’s snoring repose and, satisfied the man was yet unconscious, he left to find Georgiana at breakfast.

She had retired to her rooms like a dutiful young ward, but she had not stayed the entire night. Several times she had felt compelled to stand outside the library door, needing the reassurance that both men were still inside, and that her cousin was trying to work upon her brother. She had peeked in very early this morning, pleased to see the two men sleeping, and silently thanked Richard for being both brave enough and willing to make the effort.

As he walked into the breakfast room, she rose from her chair, and went to him. Instead of throwing herself into his arms like the child she was yesterday, today she calmly reached out and cupped his cheek tenderly, then grasped his large hand in both of hers and squeezed while softly telling him, “Thank you, Richard. Thank you for all you are doing. You are the very best of men, and the dearest relative I have next to him.” He swallowed hard, amazed at the change in her.

As if she could read her mind she answered, “I am sorry for my outburst yesterday. I fear I was no longer in control of my emotions and acted quite like a child. Perhaps if I did not love him so much I would have been more reserved, but you know what he means to me, and I was simply at my wit’s end to help him.”

Richard nodded, patting her hands with his, and they then sat at the table. “The road ahead is long, my dear, but we have made a start. He will have to stay clear of any spirits, even with his meals. I am afraid he will suffer for a long while, as the poison takes many weeks to leave his body. I suspect right now, he is made more of wine than flesh. If we can get him to take up his role of master and encourage him to be active, he should have the chance to fully recover.”

“You speak as if he has an illness, Cousin.”

“Indeed! That is precisely how one should approach this. His body is suffering from the abuse he has given it. As far as his head…” He raised his brows and shoulders, indicating the lack of any answer.

“Then you still do not know what has caused him to do this to himself?”

“I do not, but I can conjecture, Georgiana. Most men who have been in similar positions are usually crossed in love.”

Her mouth fell open. “A woman? But we have been together nearly everyday for over a year! The only women in our constant presence were Charles Bingley’s sisters and, while he would never say it, I feel I can guarantee he has never had the least interest in either. Good heavens, one is married! No, it cannot be them; we even made plans to separate from them while on the continent, neither of us like them. Oh! That was rude of me. I….”

By this time Colonel Fitzwilliam was laughing openly at her, and she joined him in the moment.

“You need not apologize, Georgie dear. I have met the ladies myself and understand you perfectly. Be patient, and we will find out what ails him, then we can help him heal.” She agreed.


When Darcy woke that morning, nothing could make him feel better; not even the cheery countenance of his cousin’s face directly in front of him. Richard warned him before he could even open his mouth that more strong drink was not part of the menu offered at Pemberley anymore, and that he, Darcy, would have to buck up, and suffer through the pain that was going to be his companion for many days.

“Have some little mercy, Richard, and at least close the window coverings,” he pleaded.

Thus the pattern of the following weeks was established. The colonel concentrated on the task of ridding his favourite cousin of the poisons that flowed in his veins, all the while looking for a chance to get Darcy to open up his heart to him, and reveal what had started this irresponsible behaviour.

At the beginning, Darcy had been annoyed with his cousin’s constant presence, primarily because it interfered with his ability to procure alcohol. But as the days went on, and he was sober longer, he found the man’s close proximity a comfort to him, as though with Richard near him, he need not fear being lured back to a bottle to make him forget his pains. Finally, after several weeks, he once again began to be annoyed with Richard’s constant insistence he tell him the reasons for his desire to drink, as well as perturbed that he was still not working on his estate business. He felt he was ready to take on his responsibilities once again, and that the Colonel and his steward should acquiesce to his desires.

“You wish to resume your former duties?” the colonel inquired one day, when Darcy had finally come to the end of his tether.

“Yes, Richard!” he said, exasperated.

“You feel you no longer might be tempted to return to your former ways?”

“No! And I find your lack of faith in me discouraging as well.”

“Fine, Darcy. Prove to me that you are worthy.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You shall wait here until I return,” Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam of His Majesties Army commanded. Will sat dumbfounded, but obediently remained.

He returned with a tray, two glasses and a bottle of the finest brandy Pemberley had. He sat down upon his now favourite leather sofa, and motioned for Darcy to sit across from him. He then poured out two large glasses of the fragrant amber liquid, picked one up, swirled it slowly, sniffed it carefully and, sipping it, said, “Kindly tell me what this is all about, or pick up that brandy and descend again into your self-made hell.”

They sat in silence for nearly an hour. Finally, Darcy sighed. He knew this side of his cousin. The man was like a bull terrier; if he got his bite around your neck you were doomed, as he would never let go. He thought on how to get rid of Fitzwilliam, without revealing his dreaded recent past, and finally concluded to answer simply, “Wickham.”

The colonel’s face dropped and then a grave foreboding crossed it. “Wickham is causing you problems?” he questioned, disbelieving.

“Yes, Richard!”

“Then I believe I can solve your problem, Darcy.”

“I do not appreciate humour at this moment!”

“No humour, Cousin, only the truth; Wickham is dead.” Darcy guffawed at the statement. His look was one of such astonishment as to make his cousin worry on another point. “Darcy, surely you did not have anything to do with his death?”

“What do you mean Richard? How could I have anything…? Good God! You mean he was murdered?”

“Yes, he was beaten to death. The details have been scarce at best, but from what we have been able to find out, he was attacked by a rather large number of people, who have been amazingly silent upon witnessing or participating in the event.” Darcy was dumbstruck.

The colonel continued, “Did you know he had deserted from the army the summer before last?” His cousin shook his head. “No, I would think not, it happened just before you headed over the channel as I recall. The army had been looking for him, though not too hard. Last June we began to hear small rumours of his possible death. You can imagine how thrilled the powers that be would have been to announce one of their own had been brutally murdered after deserting. They knew he had several enemies. He had left enough debts within the ranks of the officers alone to warrant many a duel. Once they were able to confirm that he was truly dead, the nasty business was entirely hushed up.”

Will could barely think straight, but part of him was beginning to make some startling realisations and he managed to ask, “When did this happen?”

“We believe early May.”

“And where?”

“Where else? The black holes of London, naturally. Where else could this kind of activity be hidden so well, and people bribed to ignore it? Darcy, do you know anything about it? Were you involved?”

“No Richard, I was not involved in any way, I assure you. This is the first I have ever heard about it.” The colonel was satisfied his cousin was telling the truth. God only knows what he would have done if he had to cover up involvement in a brutal murder.

“I believe you. Though I would wish such a demise upon no man, I am glad to be rid of the scoundrel. I cannot imagine his debtors are glad to see him gone, nor his wife, but you can at least be assured he will no longer bother us.”

“Wife? He was married?” Darcy was beginning to feel truly ill.

“Yes, last summer, when he deserted, he took some young woman with him and married her on a ship bound for America.”

“America? Where the devil would he get the funds to go to America?”

“No idea, just that he went, and left his wife there.”

The inside of Will’s head was beginning to complain. “Richard, do you remember what his wife’s name was? Can you recall her first name?” He was dreading hearing his cousin’s next words.

“Heavens, Darcy, I can try to think, I saw the report. No one knows where she is in America, it will be unlikely that word of his passing will reach her anytime soon, if at all. Was it Laura? No, I think Lydia.”

And there it was. The pieces to the puzzle suddenly fell into place; Lydia Bennet had run away the previous summer with George Wickham.

“Did the army know he had married?”

“No, we knew he had run off with some girl, but only discovered where they had gone, and that they had married, around the time we learned of his death. Her family had found out through the captain of the ship, as I recall, else we would never have known it.”

Will’s head was suddenly pounding. His fingertips flew to his temples as an almost instantaneous headache came over him, and he groaned.

“Darcy, are you well?” his cousin asked, concerned.

“There is nothing the matter with me, Richard.”

“You obviously have something to do with this whole Wickham business. I demand to know what it is. If you are in trouble, I am sure I can be of assistance.”

“I appreciate your concern, I truly do. I am telling the truth when I say I had nothing to do with George Wickham’s death. Nor did I have anything to do with his marriage or the trip to America. I am only distressed upon learning the news.” He continued rubbing his temples attempting to dissuade the fierce pounding that was not listening to his fingers’ silent plea. “Richard, I cannot help but feel that had I made more of my personal history with Wickham known, much of what you have told me has happened might have been avoided. No guilt falls directly onto my shoulders for what has occurred, but allow me to examine myself and see that my inactions may have started the course of events which have led to such an unhappy conclusion.”

“If you insist cousin, but I think you take too much upon yourself.” They sat for several more minutes. Darcy was in no hurry to reveal any more details about his obvious distress.

The colonel finally lost his patience. “Are you telling me I should now believe that you have been drinking yourself into a daily stupor these past months because of something a man, who has been dead all this time, did to you?”

“Indirectly, but yes.” He spoke no further.

The colonel let him stew for a few more minutes, but would not relent. “You are not going to tell me about her.” A furious glare and growling clearing of the throat was his answer.

“Just promise me it was not Wickham’s wife,” the colonel pleaded.

Darcy almost choked. “Good God, No!” They sat in silence; each in his own protected bubble of unshared intimacies.

“Fair enough, then. I will have to be satisfied, though I think you will regret not unburdening yourself. However, my concern right now is more important: Georgiana. I know she is still young, but she is no longer a child. You cannot continue treating her like one. She is nearly of age, and soon will have to make her way in the world on her own merits and skills. How is having a brother who barely acknowledges her existence helping her to grow and mature into the woman we both hope she will become? You have done her a great disservice these past months. Surely the two of you grew closer on your Grand Tour? I believe she would benefit more from a brother, instead of a father, do you not?”

Darcy was taken aback. “Your words are wise beyond what I would have expected, Richard. I confess I had not given Georgiana much thought these last months, and your admonishments are well deserved. I love her very much, and must think to put her first. I owe it to her. I owe it to my family. I am sorry for the way I have been treating her. I swear I will not let her, or you, down again.”

“Good! Now, if you think you can manage to find your bed, may I suggest in the morning you and I start through the pile of letters you have allowed to stack up? Then you can reacquaint yourself with the running of your estate. Afterwards, we can devote ourselves in the afternoon to teaching you how to beg Georgie‘s forgiveness.”

“Yes, Richard. I want no more spirits. Thank you, for all your help. I know I am not as easy and open as I could be, but you must know how deeply your care of me these past weeks moves me.”

Both men coughed nervously and fidgeted, until Darcy managed to see the humour in the evening. “However I must say it was very inconsiderate of you to drink my best brandy in front of me.”

The colonel grinned. “Perhaps. However, if you plan to re-enter society, you will have to endure the nightly ritual of cigars and brandies after every dinner, Will. No time like the present to learn to deal with it,” he said, as he placed his now empty glass upon the tray and picked up the second full glass in one hand, and the bottle in the other. Then, grinning harder, he added, “Good night, Cousin. And congratulations; you did very well.”

“Thank you, Richard. You are quite correct. However, if I am to suffer through gentlemanly traditions in future, I think I shall have to teach myself how to appreciate a good cigar.”


Darcy stayed awake, thinking on all he had learned that night.

Elizabeth must have left Derbyshire because her younger sister had eloped. It had been well over eight months between that fateful day at Pemberley and when the news of the Wickham’s marriage had most likely been made public. If the Bennet’s had not known Lydia and Wickham were married all that time, they must have been shunned from Society and their reputations would have been in ruin. Elizabeth would have suffered horribly, and all because he had allowed his pride and feelings to be hurt! He had run away to nurse his wounds. How she had suffered because of him! His bitter tears ran unheeded down his face.

He thought back to what she had told him when she was still disguised as Chantal Moreau. She had said that Caldhart had provided her revenge. He heard her words again in his mind; her hatred so sharp as she spit the words out against her enemy. Now he knew that enemy was Wickham. She had become a man’s mistress and the price was revenge against Wickham.

But why? If he and Lydia were married, then her family was restored. Was she so spiteful she merely wanted him to suffer for her family’s distress over the past months? Unless… he groaned to think of it.

Wickham had not married Lydia. It made perfect sense. She had no money, nothing to tempt him. He had used her for his pleasure and then who knows what. Elizabeth did not fall merely because of the desire for revenge. Richard said they found out about the marriage just before his death.

Elizabeth’s price had been the restoration of her family’s reputation by Caldhart arranging her sister’s marriage, then revenge against the man who had, in truth, first ruined her sister and, subsequently, her entire family.

He had been furious at her when she had told him Caldhart had found her with Wickham. But now he doubted the truth of her declaration. Suspecting all that he did now, he reasoned she was grasping for anything to say that would make him give her up. With a heavy heart, he sadly agreed she was right to have done so.

He could never take her as his wife after all her family had been through. The circumstances of her youngest sister’s elopement would open his family to censure and ridicule. He could never subject Georgiana to the humiliation of having George Wickham as his brother-in- law, albeit dead. Who knows if Lydia had any child by him? To have to acknowledge a niece or nephew of Wickham’s would be too cruel to do to her.

He also realised he could not have her as his mistress, either. Elizabeth had chosen to go with Robert Caldhart with good reason as she had many secrets to hide. She was bound to him, she told Darcy so. Caldhart had every possible advantage in keeping her for himself. He shuddered to think that Elizabeth might have been involved in the murder of another man. If Will tried to take her away, there was more than honour at stake; the woman he loved could be sent to prison if she had been an accomplice in Wickham’s death.

And Caldhart could ruin her family again so easily by revealing Elizabeth as his mistress. Now he understood why she called herself Chantal Moreau; she had to hide her situation from her family and society.

Darcy cried more tears as he realised the hopelessness of his situation. He loved her. She loved him. Those words he had so desperately hoped to hear from her lips, she had said them, and now he did not doubt she had meant it. She had nothing to gain. She wanted nothing from him but his love. She had given herself to him, and been willing to suffer the consequences of what Lord Caldhart might do, should he find out. He shuddered once again to think of his Lordship’s reaction upon finding her sullied. He was fairly sure he had left marks upon her delicate skin. The thought of that man touching her turned his stomach until he could not breathe.

He had failed her in every way possible. She had suffered, and all the while he could have prevented it. He could have saved her. He could have been the one. And she could be his.

And then, the bitterest truth stood before him. She might not be his, but he was hers. There would never be anyone else. His future no longer included a wife or children, for he was now bound to a woman he would never share a life with.


He walked to his study and examined the legacy he had left these last months; letters piled high in the corner of his study, unread newspapers folded neatly into varied stacks on the floor around his desk. He was disgusted by his own inattentiveness.

He needed to come to a decision. He had to allow himself to decide, though most of the matter was completely out of his hands. He could not have her, but he also could not bear the thought of possibly seeing her in London, or hearing of Caldhart and his latest mistress’ escapades. It was too much to ask of any man. He thought long and hard, examining the deepest parts of his heart, and then scrutinizing the practical aspects of any plan he tried to make.

Several hours later, he looked out at the sky, now turning a lovely shade of pink, trimmed with blue; the colours for new babes. Satisfied with the writings on the sheets of paper in front of him, he rang the bell. The yawning footman startled at the sight of the master half-dressed but fully awake and energetic.

“Barnes, I want you to take all those newspapers out and have them burned, then find my steward and arrange for him to meet with me at nine o’clock this morning. Also have my cousin informed of the meeting, as he will wish to attend.

“Very good, Sir. Is there anything else?”

“No, nothing more, thank you.” The footman turned to leave when Darcy called to him once more. “Oh, Barnes! Is there any news these last months? Is England at war with anyone I should know about?”

Barnes looked startled, unsure if his master was serious. “No, Sir. But I would be happy to leave the newspapers if you would care to get caught up on the current events.”

“No, no. That will not be necessary. If there was anything of import, I am sure I would have heard of it.”



Chapter 21

Derbyshire, October 1813

Michael stood at the window silently staring at the woods beyond the house. The trees had lost most of their leaves, and the few left were straining to hold on in the stiff, cold wind that blew. The thick blanket of clouds high in the sky gave the earth an ugly monochromatic pallor, which suited his mood perfectly.

“I wish for no colour today. Colour means life to me, and I feel lifeless,” he thought. The occasional sniffles of a passing servant could be heard out in the hallway, adding to the sad demeanour the entire house had taken on. Today Fairhaven Manor had buried its beloved mistress, Cecily Thurgood.

Many hours later the staff would gather in the great hall, where Mrs. Thurgood’s attorneys had called them, and slowly, item by item, they read her last will. Every member of the staff was bequeathed an amount by her; Mrs. Keane and Mrs. Edwards in particular were provided with an income that would serve the two of them until their deaths, should they wish to retire. Many more sobs could be heard as the list continued, demonstrating Mrs. Thurgood’s boundless generosity.

The Manor house would fall to a great-niece of Mr. Thurgood‘s, of whom none of the staff had ever heard. The attorneys comforted them, saying that Fairhaven’s staff would stay intact for anyone who wished to stay on. After the exhausting reading, the group was dismissed and each headed for their private mourning. As Michael headed toward the drawing room, the attorneys approached him and asked for a private conference.

“Mr. Dunbarton, the will we just read to the staff was incomplete.” Michael looked surprised. The attorney continued, “In order to fulfil all of Mrs. Thurgood’s last wishes we need to ask you something. Please do not take offence but, would you be so kind as to tell us your name?”

“My name is Michael Andrew Dunbarton,” he answered, frowning. “Can you tell me what this concerns gentlemen?” The two looked at one another and then nodding to the leather case, one of them opened it up and withdrew a thick letter, addressed to Michael.

“Sir, if you would be so kind, Mrs. Thurgood asked specifically for us to withhold this letter from you, until we had asked you your name. If you had answered as you just did, we were to give you this.” He handed Michael the fat missive. They indicated for him to read it, while they discreetly backed into an unobtrusive corner, quietly conferring.

Michael sat himself down at the pair of chairs that he and Mrs. T. had often used to enjoy the sights of the woods outside the windows. He carefully opened the letter, at first surprised when a thin gold band fell out of its centre and into his lap. As he began the first line, the first of many gasps spewed from his mouth as he read these three words,

My Dearest Elizabeth,


Five months earlier; London, May 15, 1813

The maid helped her out of her dressing gown and into her simple morning dress. The doctor had dismissed her quickly upon arriving into his Lordship’s bedroom, and she gratefully accepted the opportunity to defer to his authority. She sat and waited while he attended his patient. Gemma paced nervously in the dressing room, and she could hear the mutterings of various servants outside her rooms. Finally a knock was heard from the door to the connecting room, which she quickly answered.

“Miss Moreau,” the grave doctor said, as he bid her enter. “I am sorry, my dear, but there was nothing to be done. His age and his heart were simply not strong enough.”

There lay Lord Robert Caldhart in his bed. He was still dressed in his fine blue silk dressing gown and his hands already placed over his chest in the traditional pose of the dead. Elizabeth felt light headed. She slowly walked to him, unable to answer yet.

“Miss Moreau, I know some of the circumstances surrounding his Lordship’s end. There were many witnesses to the argument you had. There were also many witnesses to the fact that his Lordship had raised a whip to your person, leaving you little choice but to flee him, lest you be my patient now, instead.” She turned back to him, surprised.

“It was Lord Robert’s choice to chase you. An argument alone would not have done this; it was his hunger for violence that was his undoing. Every creature on God’s earth has the right to defend itself.” She looked at him, uncertain of his judgement. He took his hand gently in hers and patted it reassuringly.

“You were not responsible for his death. It is that simple.” She finally let go her breath.

“Thank you doctor. I… I was afraid it was my doing.”

“Nonsense, Madam. He knew he had a bad heart and I had warned him for many years about trying to act like some young bull. But he would have none of it. He ignored what he did not like to hear, and it proved his folly in the end. Now, I suggest you get some rest, before his sons descend upon the house. It will not be long, I assure you. I will inform the housekeeper and the staff of the cause of his death, as well as the new Lord Caldhart in the morning.”

The housekeeper came to her, and asked if she could be of assistance. Elizabeth inquired if any note had been sent to his Lordship’s sons, to which she replied it had not yet. They conferred and decided a messenger would be sent at first light. As his Lordship’s condition could not be changed, there was no need to awaken the family in the middle of the night. Elizabeth gave the housekeeper the jewels she had worn that night, and asked her to place them in safety until the new Lord Caldhart arrived in the morning and could be given them. She firmly told the shocked servant she had no intentions of keeping them for herself. When she had finally left, Elizabeth sat back down on the little divan in front of her fire. She had held up remarkably well considering the past three-day’s events. But rather than looking forward to a restful nights sleep, she had her entire future to contemplate.


Her first instinct was to run. Her situation was so very different this morning from the one she had previously awoken to, that her every fibre was telling her she should leave Caldhart’s home and leave London. She feared repercussions from Lord Caldhart’s death. What if his sons were not convinced of her innocence in their father’s death? They was no money to be gained from her, but the circumstances of his death would no doubt stain the family name for a time, and she already knew the Caldhart family was capable of revenge. Would they try to have her incarcerated or publicly humiliated? Her real name would undoubtedly come up. If she disappeared, they would not be able to get to her and, hopefully, her family.

She also feared for her freedom and safety because of Wickham’s death. Lord Robert might be dead, but what if anyone connected her with his involvement? Higgins had promised to keep her secrets, but now he might be without employment. Would his pledge hold if he were faced with his own lack of means to support himself?

There was also the problem of his Lordship’s will. He had just recently changed it to accommodate a settlement upon her, in the event of his demise. The attorneys would no doubt come looking for her. If she stayed in London, and worked as Mrs. Johnson, she would be taking too many risks for her peace of mind. She felt leaving was the safest course of action.

Now that she had made the decision, she was forced to consider how she could make her escape successfully. Without the protection of his Lordship’s secluded Surrey estate, Elizabeth would have a hard time finding a place to hide. Her family would look for her, and it was even possible Darcy might try to find her. She sat for a long while, thinking about how she could facilitate her wishes. She rose from her sitting area and walked into her dressing room, to stare at her things, looking for inspirations. She could not leave as Mrs. Johnson. Her Uncle was too smart, and would be sure to ask if anyone had spotted a lady, or an old lady, anywhere they searched, she was sure.

Suddenly, she spied something unusual in the back of the closet. There were the clothes she had worn the night that in the Tavern. The breeches, which had luckily been dark, and the shirt had both been freshly laundered and though still no more than working clothes, they looked acceptable. She fingered the material while her mind quickly assessed the possibility of this disguise. She held up the shirt under her chin, satisfied until she turned her head and spotted the large form of her abundant twist on the back of her head. She remembered the struggle she had experienced trying to hide her telltale female locks up under her boy’s cap.

Her heart beat wildly as she contemplated. Then, before she could lose her nerve, she quickly rifled through her table drawers and pulled out a pair of long shears. Unpinning her twist and taking the heavy length of it in her one hand, she placed her lifetime of growth in between the blades, shut her eyes, and closed the scissors sharply down. The tail sprung free and her hand flew out from the force. She gasped to feel the heavy length in her outstretched hand, while her head felt strangely light. She looked over the beautiful tresses, amazed at seeing them in front of her. Before she could allow herself to be swept up into the emotions of her actions, she quickly crossed into her sitting room and, wrapping the mass up into a coil, placed it in the centre of the flames.

She returned to change into the clothing, ignoring the odd feeling of air upon her neck. She found her old wrappings to bind her chest, and padded her mid section to even out her appearance. This time, her hair fell easily around the cap, luckily hiding more of her face, though she decided to don her spectacles for good measure. She wished she had a second change of clothing to take with her, but reasoned she could always purchase some if need be.

She looked around her bedroom. There on the floor was the money she had thrown in his Lordship’s face; her repayment to extract her from her contract with him. She considered the possibility of her surviving without means to shelter and feed herself. She also considered her financial obligations to a man now deceased. Her survival won.

As she was packing the few personal articles she thought she could not do without, she espied her letters from her family. She knew she could not leave them behind, and there were too many to take with her, not to mention they might prove to reveal her true identity to someone who read them. She considered carefully, and drew out the last note she had received from Jane. It was light-hearted, and only talked of everyday, ordinary things. There was no direction, and it was simply addressed ‘Dearest Lizzy’. She knew she would treasure this personal item for years to come.

She sadly threw the rest of the letters along with personal papers, her contract with Lord Caldhart among them, onto the fire and watched the flames erase the evidence of her being there. She then check her dressing room for any other personal affects and burned them along with small amount of clothing she had brought with her. She had just determined to try to stealthily make her way out of the house, when a quiet knock at her dressing room door caught her attention. She made her way quietly over to it, and asked who was there; she was not prepared for the answer.

“It’s Higgins, Miss.”


She opened the door cautiously and stepped back to let him in. He turned back as she closed the door and gasped slightly at her appearance.

He seemed to come to some sort of conclusion before he inquired of her, “May I speak frankly to you, Miss Moreau?” he pleaded. She nodded.

“I think you are right to leave, Ma’am. There can be no good from your being here when the sons show up. And even less if you stay in town.”

“I agree, though I know not where I will go.”

“Miss Moreau, I made you a promise once, not too long ago I know, but I will hold to it. Your secrets are safe with me.”

“News of his Lordship’s death will make the rounds at the gentleman’s clubs I fear, and your reputation as a dangerous woman is going to go along with it. The family is going to be very angry, even if you did not cause him to die. They will most likely try to make you suffer for it, though. And pardon the idea Miss, but no one else is going to come along to, well, to try to rescue you, if you get my meaning.” Elizabeth blushed.

“I understand Mr. Higgins. I can assure you, I have no interest in finding another… situation similar to the one his Lordship and I entered into. I have my money I earned from my cigar shop, and I think it will tide me over until I can find some other kind of employ.”

“Don’t forget your jewels, Ma’am, and I am sure his Lordship will have taken care of you in his will; he was always a generous man, if a little lost in his ways.”

“No, Higgins. I want nothing to do with any of his money. We both know I never, I mean, I do not believe I deserve any of it, and it would be wrong of me to take it. You can tell the family that later if you like. They will never hear from me again, I assure you.”

“Yes, Ma’am. May I ask what you intend to do?”

“I shall take the post coach out, and get as far away as I can.”

“As a lad?” She nodded. He thought it over for a moment. “I think there are some things you best know, then.”

For the next hour he filled Elizabeth in with the details of living in the world as a man. She had been embarrassed by some, grateful for almost all, and not a bit doubtful that most would come in very handy to her. He had also left for a short while and returned with another set of clothing and undergarments. She had insisted on leaving some money for whoever had involuntarily donated his clothes to her, and Higgins agreed and informed her of a fair price. He then continued her lessons on the practical world.

“Just remember the two places where a bloke is most tender. If you hit either you will give yourself a fair chance at running away from any bad situation, and that is always the best thing to do when you’re not a fighter.”

He also gave her a suggestion for a town where she might go. He had grown up in Oak Hill and told her it was a fine enough village. The people were good, hardworking, honest folk, and she had as good a chance there as any to find work. She would have to walk at least eight miles from the nearest posting coach stop, but she assured him the walk was nothing, and he new it to be true. The distance from the coach stop made it more inviting, since no one would look for her in a town without a post stop. His last act of kindness to her was seeing her out of the back of the house safely and walking her down to the posting station. As they came up to the ticket agent, he told the man to sell him one passage for his son, to Derbyshire, Lambton stop. Elizabeth almost backed out of the entire scheme.

“Are you sure that is the nearest stop?” she asked, panicked. He led her away from the few people waiting for the dawn to break.

“Afraid so. The other stop is nearly thirteen miles, much too long to walk without staying some place, and it would just be Lambton you would have to stay at anyway.” She could barely think clearly, due to her distress.

“But Oak Hill is eight miles away? And to the west you say, correct? Please! Tell me it is to the west.”

“Yes!” he answered, attempting to calm her while keeping his voice lowered. “Please! You must not get upset. It is due west of Lambton, you heard me say so. You have to walk the western trail to get there, just past the smithy. You’ll have no trouble, I am sure.”

“Thirteen miles! Only Thirteen miles from Pemberley! Lord, how am I ever going to do this?” she thought. They waited nearly an hour while the sun finally rose, and the horses were brought out and hitched. He walked her to the coach and, purposefully speaking much louder, bid her adieu.

“Now you be a good lad, and mind yer manners at yer cousins. I want to hear good reports of you being a hard worker, mind ya.” She nodded obediently, aware of his intent to lay claim upon her, and chase away anyone who thought she was without a friend or relation. Suddenly she found herself enveloped in a fierce embrace, while he whispered faintly to her.

“God speed and good luck to you, child.” The next thing she saw was his back as he quickly strode away. She entered the carriage still staring after him.

“Your first time away from your Da? Asked a kindly looking lady across from her.

“Yes, Ma’am,” she answered in nearly a whisper.

“And where are you headed, Lad?” She drew a great breath.



Chapter 22

Pemberley, October 1813

The morning meeting with his steward and the Colonel had gone well, despite there being much to be done after five months of absence. They first concentrated on the larger issues of the estate that needed to be addressed, with a plan to go over all the decisions Mr. Grant had made on behalf of his master during his incapacitation. Schedules were drawn up, and Mr. Grant’s son was suggested to help for the next weeks until Mr. Darcy and the running of the estate would once again be performing at their usual efficiency. The master looked determined, interested and bright-eyed. The Colonel and Mr. Grant were greatly relieved.

Both men felt Darcy was well on his way to his previous attentive work habits and would once again take up his role as Master of his estate admirably. Richard had intended to stay on another week complete, and then return to his duties to King and country. He conferred with his cousin and, though unhappy at their imminent parting, both knew the time had come to cut Darcy from his cousin’s apron strings.

“I would not be at my present state of recovery, if not for you Richard,” he said. “I will never forget your rescue, nor your hard taught lessons of what happens to a man who loses sight of his responsibilities as well as his sensibilities. I will make this up to Georgiana, and the family. My promise of last night I will not take lightly; I intend to never again risk our good name or bring shame upon them with my actions.

“What nonsense, Darcy! We are proud of you! You only lost your way for a short while, but I have no doubt you are your old self again.”

Darcy shook his head. “No, that is not true, I will never be what I once was.” he said resignedly. “However, I will be a better man; on that I am determined. I think we should now find my dear sister, for I have much to impart.”


Georgiana was in the drawing room, quietly reading. She had missed her brother at breakfast and had gone out riding when she learned he would be sequestered with his steward most of the morning. A tiny sense of hope had blossomed in her when she heard he was meeting with Mr. Grant again; perhaps her brother might be healed after all. She prayed it would be so. The book held little interest to her and she found herself, more often than not, looking out the window, and breathing a large sigh, not knowing her loved ones had just entered and were observing her from the doorway.

Darcy saw the sighs, and suddenly understood the situation his beloved sister had been forced to endure these past months.

“How many days might she have passed alone in a room, with no comfort or even companionship? My selfish behaviour has been atrocious!” he admonished himself. With a determined air, he walked in, startling his sister, who rose instantly to her feet. As he came to stand in front of her, he gently touched her shoulders, directing her back down upon the sofa, and then to her and Richard’s amazement, he dropped to his knees, took her hands in his, and kissing each softly said, “Georgiana, I have been the greatest of fools in so many ways, but the worst is in what I have done to those I love. Please, I beg you to forgive your brother’s behaviour these past months and let me prove myself worthy to you.”

It was simple, and perhaps incomplete, for Darcy could never tell her everything he had done, but it was completely from his heart, and neither of the two listening doubted his sincerity for a moment. Georgiana removed her hands and taking her brother’s face in them, kissed his forehead tenderly, giving him the absolution he so wanted.

“Always, dearest Fitzwilliam,” she whispered as she cradled his head to her shoulder.

Richard could hardly swallow, after witnessing such an affecting scene and finding his throat strangely constricted. He quickly schooled his thoughts to his upcoming arrival back to camp and looked out the window to distract the unwelcome warmth he was feeling; a soldier did not lose his check on his emotions.

Soon the Darcys had settled next to one another on the sofa with her brother’s comforting arm around Georgiana’s shoulder while he whispered his thanks and endearments of love to her. They all were enjoying the peace and contentment of the moment when finally Darcy spoke up again.

“Thank you for your forgiveness Georgie, though I suspect Richard is disappointed you did not let me suffer long or at least atone for my transgressions. Perhaps I should not speak of it or he might be tempted to re-acquaint you with the tale of the Twelve Labours of Hercules, and fill your head with ideas for my penance.” He chuckled, while Richard smirked and Georgiana looked quite surprised, which her brother did not fail to notice.

“Yes, Sister, I do have a sense of humour, though in my folly I have been censoring it around you. Such practices, however, will no longer be employed.” He straightened himself up, and sat very still. Then, somehow not satisfied, he stood, wrenching his cravat once or twice and began pacing in front of the two, who waited patiently for his obviously forthcoming words of import.

During the months of his depression he had dwelled upon the thoughts of disreputable people trying to take advantage of those he loved. Now, when he had finally recovered, a sense of duty and retribution had set into his mind. Elizabeth’s fall into shame, and Georgiana’s past with Wickham had shown him how any woman, even the best of women, could become a victim in this world. Last night, when he learned of George Wickham’s fate, he had come to a decision that would change both siblings’ lives forever. Elizabeth might be lost to him, but if he could, he would teach Georgiana to be a woman no person could ever hurt again. Now he struggled to explain to her and her guardian, what he wished to accomplish.

“After our talk last night, Richard, I did not retire. Instead, I reflected on many things, not the least of which was you, Georgiana. I realised our elder cousin was right; I have failed you in many ways. I have spent most of my life following the excellent morals and values our parents taught us, but in conceit, vanity and pride. I allowed you to see my poor example and did nothing to correct it. I hid behind a mask of shyness and indifference and I fear oftentimes I did it without consideration to the feelings of others.

“I had always thought I abhorred disguise of every sort, yet in some ways, I employed that very thing to wilfully avoid social situations I was uncomfortable in, or society I considered beneath me. It was wrong, Georgie, and I learned the truth of it in a very painful way. I hope I can teach you not to make the same mistakes and suffer as I did.

“I also came to realize one can never tell what you may find in society, be it in town or a small country village. There are hidden treasures to be discovered wherever you might go, and keeping yourself open to the joys of such a possibility will make your life much richer, Dearest. I promise to help you with this and I will practice the same. Our wealth might allow us to travel in higher social circles, but it does not make us less responsible to treat everyone with kindness and respect."

Richard interjected, “What do you propose, Darcy? Georgiana has finished her studies with her governess, and we shall soon be arranging her presentation at court.”

“I think Georgiana’s coming out should be postponed.”

His sister gave an audible sigh; confirming her agreement with him.

“She will be eighteen this winter, more than old enough to be out.”

“True, Richard, but young ladies are presented up until they are twenty-one, and are not considered too old to come into society.”

“Fitzwilliam, what is it you wish us to do?” his sister asked.

He took a deep breath and proceeded. “Georgie, you are a very accomplished young lady. You are charming, although a bit shy, lovely to behold, and your singing and performance at the pianoforte are rarely rivalled. Combined with your fortune, you are a woman who will be well sought out when you enter society. If you were to remain exactly as you are, no doubt you might find a man who could someday make you happy, or at the very least content in marriage.

“But I am hoping you will admit this is not enough for you, that you might wish more from your life. I am hoping if you had the chance to improve yourself in ways much greater than most young ladies are ever offered, you would be intrigued, and then happy to accept the inducement put before you.”

“What improvements do you mean, Darcy? What accomplishments are left for a lady to learn that Georgiana does not already know, if not master? Who would teach her? You certainly do not know how. And I think it only fair to mention her needlework is beautiful, and her French is very good as well.”

Merci,” said Georgiana.

“You are welcome,” replied the Colonel.

“I am not speaking of ladies’ accomplishments, Cousin! I mean to guide Georgiana into adulthood, not make her a worthy prize to be married off.” Here he hesitated again, knowing the radical idea he was about to propose would most likely alarm his sister and cousin.

“I speak of knowledge of the world, knowledge normally only open to a man. The knowledge I have after living in the world for so many years, opening up my mind and history and sharing it, no teaching it to her. We would study Latin, Greek, philosophy, history, science, higher mathematics, literature, politics and geography. All that I learned at Cambridge, I would be eager to impart to her.”

Their countenance betrayed that neither could believe what they were hearing.

“You would turn her into a bluestocking!” exclaimed his cousin.

“No, Richard, I would give her the education to let her decide what she wanted to be; bluestocking, or blueblood’s wife, it does not signify. She would have the basis in her life’s experiences and knowledge to make any decision about herself, wisely.”

“A Cambridge education for a woman! She will be far more clever than most men of the ton; they will not take to that lightly.”

Georgiana giggled.

“She is already brighter than half; we would simply work on the other half.” Now Georgiana laughed outright. “I also mean to teach her to shoot, to ride better, and to fence, if she will let me.”

“Fencing!” Georgiana cried, while Richard sat, shocked.

“Yes, fencing,” Darcy replied calmly. “The impact on the body and crispness fencing adds to the mind is well worth the effort. And I know several young ladies have taken it up in London; I have seen them myself at my fencing club.” Now it was Richard and Georgie’s turn to be at a loss for words as he continued pleading his cause,

“Allow yourself to reap the benefits of my own experiences in society and the world, Sister. The rules we live by are rigid and controlled, and those rules force most women to few choices. I believe a woman of superior education, accomplishments and understanding would have the most or at least the finest choices in her life, including who her husband would be or the role she would take up in her marriage. Only a foolish man would wish for a silly, stupid wife, I think only a man of the highest excellence would want a gem of a woman; the woman you might become.”

Georgiana did not look pleased though she barely uttered, “It sounds as if you do wish to make me the worthiest prize of all for the marriage market, Fitzwilliam.”

“No, my Dear, quite the opposite. In fact, considering your fortune, and my willingness to aid you in any way, I can tell you sincerely, should you choose to never marry, you will have no cause to repine because of anything I might say or do.

“However, should you someday choose to marry, by the time we are finished you will be quite a formidable woman and only the very best and worthiest of men would dare ask for your hand.”

He then proceeded to show Richard and Georgiana the papers he had written up the night before showing the curriculum he was considering for their studies, and the ways he thought they would employ their time.

“I have been so much older than you for so long, almost like a father, but now you are growing into a capable young woman and we are becoming more equal. I think it is time for us to be brother and sister. I know I wish for, no, I need a sister in my life to love and support me, as I will her.” At last he summed up all he thought with a single quiet plea.

“I think your life could be extraordinary, Georgiana, if you only choose for it to be.”

Georgiana could do little but sit. At first she hardly could believe such extreme views were coming from her conservative brother. She was convinced he was surely jesting. However, as Darcy began to outline his timeline and goals for her, the expression on her face turned from mirth to true astonishment. He was serious! The thought of spending several more years in what amounted to more schooling did not, at first, appeal to her in the slightest, until he began to speak about all the things he wished to share with her. She was speechless as he laid before her his offering of opening up his mind and giving her any of the knowledge he possessed; the offering of entering what was typically only a man’s world.

Richard voiced some concerns over turning his sweet, innocent, dutiful Georgiana into a force to be reckoned with. Soon enough though, he admitted her character was well established and the essentials could no longer be changed, but her sense and education could certainly be improved upon. In the end, he told her she must make the decision which would affect her life so greatly.

Both men now looked expectantly at the astounded young woman. She almost laughed when realising they thought she could make a decision of such magnitude instantly. Instead, she drew on the careful tutoring she had already received as a properly bred young lady and addressed the two calmly.

“Fitzwilliam, I thank you for your offer. Richard, I appreciate your words of wisdom regarding this endeavour. Bearing in mind the enormity of what you propose, I know you will both understand it is not an undertaking I should enter into lightly. Therefore, I should like to ask for time to consider all you both have said.”

Darcy went to her smiling and drew her up and into his arms, embracing her tightly.

“Already quite wise, I dare say,” he stated quietly.

She spent the night with little sleep, in deep thought over the challenge now sitting enticingly before her. It was overwhelming, it was exciting, and quite easily, it was the single hardest thing she had ever tried to resist. Late that night, she laughingly admitted to herself that her brother was correct; she did wish something more from her life, though she did not know exactly what. However, her instincts told her that Fitzwilliam’s tutoring would certainly be the means to discovering it.

Though not completely confident their endeavour would meet with success, or moreover, in her abilities, the next morning she entered the breakfast room, extended her hand to her brother, and accepted his offer.


When the day came for Colonel Fitzwilliam to leave, he and Darcy had one last conversation, out amongst the last of the falling leaves of the trees that sheltered the pond in front of Pemberley. It was a crisp day, the wind blowing steadily, stripping the last of the foliage from the great old oaks, while the sky was blanketed with a high thick cover of grey. Richard turned back, gazing upon the impressive façade.

“She will make a fine Mistress of Pemberley, Fitzwilliam.”

Darcy’s heart skipped a beat as he stared, incredulous at his cousin.

“Did you think you were the only man who has given up?” the Colonel asked.

“Given up?”

Richard gave Darcy his best look of disapprobation. “No games, little cousin. Did it not occur to you that one who had already suffered would not recognise it in someone else? When one does not have an estate to pass along, or a fortune to inherit, people pay less attention. If that same said person had lost his one true love, and decided never to pursue the matrimonial state again, few would notice it. You did not.” Darcy was touched by his admission, and instantly bonded with his cousin’s suffering.

“I am sorry for your loss, Richard.”

“As I am yours Darcy. Is there truly no hope?”

“She refused me.”


“Twice, Richard,” he quickly interjected.

“Ah, I see. Yes, well, we have even more in common then.” A flock of birds flew overhead, their dark bodies contrasting against the gloomy sky. At last Richard spoke again.

“So to satisfy your obligations to family you seek to make Georgiana heir to Pemberley, after first recasting her into your own image?”

“No, I do not seek to make another Fitzwilliam Darcy. I only hope to help her become a woman who can manage the role of running the estate successfully, safeguard herself financially and have enough insight to keep her heart from being hurt should she choose to love again.”

“You cannot teach sagacity, Darcy, nor can you protect her forever.”

“Perhaps, but still I mean to do everything in my power to give her all the wisdom, however wanting, I possess. You need not worry, I mean for her to make her own way when we are done and I promise to someday let her go.”

“And it gives you something to do with your life for now.”

“Georgie and Pemberley, Richard. I always have Pemberley. I mean to be the very best of masters.”

“I do not doubt you will succeed. You always seem to, when you set your mind to it.”

“Not always,” he whispered.

“No, quite.”

“I have one last piece of advice to give, Fitzwilliam. I ask you do not dismiss it too hastily, for I have given it a tremendously large amount of thought. I believe you should tell Georgie of your heartache. You need not impart the details, but I think she has a right to know what set you off last spring; especially as she was in no way to blame. More importantly, you seem to have forgotten she shares the experience.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“If Wickham had truly loved her, he would have fought for her; done anything possible to be with her. In essence, his leaving her was no different than a refusal. Young though she was, her heart was still wounded and you both now share this. I think you need to be honest with her, if she is to blossom the way we both hope, and if you are truly sincere about wanting to change the way you interact. Brothers and sisters console one another, you know.”

Another flock headed across the great expanse of lawn near the northern edge of the house and they watched for a long while.

“Does the army have any idea what they have in you, Richard?”

“I sincerely hope not, Cousin. I might have to work!” He clasped his larger cousin heartily upon the shoulder and together they headed towards the Colonel’s awaiting mount.

Just before he was to depart, he stopped suddenly and snorted, “I just realised your admission will give Georgiana great relief.” He laughed.

“How so?”

“She worried you might be pining after Caroline Bingley which cannot possibly be the case since you were refused.”


Chapter 23

Pemberley, October 1813

Fitzwilliam and Georgiana began a series of studies few ladies had ever likely attempted. Darcy knew his sister had a quick mind, but until he became her mentor, he had no idea how astute she truly was.

They began with basic knowledge of the running of Pemberley. She was already serving as hostess of his house and mistress to his needy tenants, but Darcy was determined she understand every aspect as he knew it. Though he would not confess it to her, Richard had been correct; he intended to make Georgiana, or her child, heir to Pemberley. He knew his own future no longer included a wife or children, and he would do everything to help his sister be successful.

Darcy committed himself to his work with an enthusiasm not previously seen. His estate prospered more than he would have thought possible, and all his staff and tenants reaped the benefits of his efforts. Daily meetings consisting of Darcy, Georgiana and their steward became routine.

Afterwards, he gave one of two lessons; riding or fencing. He trained her both on side saddle, like any proper lady, as well as astride. At her first lesson, Georgie came to the stable wearing the soft leather breeches beneath her very proper riding dress as he had requested. When she saw what he had in mind, she was taken aback but, only meekly questioned him.


“Yes, astride,” he answered, in a way she knew meant not to oppose him. However, her temper was quickly flaring; an occurrence she rarely allowed herself to indulge.

“What possible reason could a woman have for sitting upon a horse in such a way?”

Darcy’s eyebrow raised slightly, as he cautiously regarded her. This was a crucial moment for brother and sister, and an important lesson for her to learn. He needed her to dismiss some of the notions of the proper deportment of a lady in order to embrace what he wished to teach her.

“Georgiana, surely you can not have failed to notice the diversity, if not the departure from more… genteel practices we have already endeavoured upon? I do not mean for you to stop being a lady, but some of the physical aspects of our studies will demand you put aside some of your modesty and trust me as to what is best learnt and how.”

Now it was Georgie’s turn to raise her brow. “You evade the question, Brother.”

“Protection, speed and balance,” he answered quickly.

Her head cocked slightly to one side as a reply.

“Sitting astride allows for better balance, especially should you be drawing a pistol or shooting. Astride also allows for much faster riding should you ever need to outrun another horse, or an animal. Lastly it affords you better protection in any instance, for you would have more options as to where to put your body…” here he blushed, “ …in a defensive situation.”

The horse stomped his approval, and then waited patiently many moments for the lady to mount.

Georgiana was not pleased. His mentioning shooting a pistol (again) had not escaped her notice, nor quelled her anxiety. Some of the stable hands were beginning to lose interest in their tasks, and gathering within easy hearing range of the much more fascinating event going on in the yard where the master stood speaking with his sister. She knew she had little choice, at least for today.

“Will I qualify for an army commission when I have learnt all, Fitzwilliam? I think I should like to ride next to Richard into battle,” she teased.

“Move to the mounting block, impertinent girl,” he growled. The lesson continued throughout the afternoon.


Not long after Richard had departed, Darcy found the courage to speak to his sister of his heartache. It was late one evening, after the two had spent a satisfying hour reading and discussing Donne’s works. Darcy picked up the page and read the last stanza of A Feaver aloud

Yet t’was of my minde, seising thee

Though it in thee cannot persever

For I had rather owner bee

Of thee on houre, than all else ever.

“It is a beautiful sentiment; to feel one would rather have loved one hour and lost, then never to have loved at all,” Georgiana reflected quietly.

“Do you agree, then?” her brother asked tentatively.

“I, I am not sure of what you mean.”

He took her hand gently in his. “Despite the outcome, would you have rather not cared for Wickham; never had your heart touched?” He felt her flinch at the mention of the name, but she remained calm.

“I sometimes wonder if I ever truly loved him.”

“I would not discount the possibility, Georgiana. Nor would I chastise myself for having feelings that were natural at the time.” She nodded, then turned her head to study the fire.

“I think if I had truly been attached I would not have recovered so easily,” she spoke softly.

“You believe had your feelings been stronger you would have behaved differently?”


“More wretched or perhaps irresponsible?”


He gave her hand a squeeze and with a grimly set mouth contemptuously replied, “You might have locked yourself away from the world in your room or the library and indulged your heartache for months with the help of strong spirits?”

Georgiana’s hand flew to her mouth as a look of horror spread across her face. Her tears filled her eyes, as she whispered to him, “Oh, Fitzwilliam?”

Darcy nodded.

Georgiana quickly moved to sit closer and soothe him in her arms. “Richard once told me brothers and sisters console one another.”

He spoke at last against her hair. “I wish I had learnt this lesson earlier; I could have benefited greatly from the comfort you give me.”

“You have always comforted me, Brother. It is high time I reciprocate, and happily so.”

“He also reminded me we now share broken hearts, and could help one another heal in our camaraderie.”

She looked up at him with a tremulous smile. “And so we shall.”

They sat for long contented moments in one another’s arms, until Georgie finally pulled away and turned to face him directly on the sofa. “I will never ask you about her, or your pain, again if you desire, and no word of it will ever be spoken to anyone else on earth. However, tonight, I think we should both open our hearts, and perhaps by sharing our misfortunes, our anguish can be lessened.”

“We will swear never to tell another? Not even Richard, or if you marry, your husband?”

She took his large hands in hers. “Not another living soul, Fitzwilliam. I swear it on my life.”

“I swear it also, then,” replied her brother.

Georgiana took a deep breath and started first. “I did love George Wickham, with all that I could feel at the time. I know I gave him my heart entirely, and even to this day, it is bitter and wonderful.” Darcy nodded.

Now that it was his turn, he suddenly felt vulnerable, as if when he spoke of his beloved something would change, or he might lose something. However, he shook off the feeling and proceeded slowly.

“Her name I cannot tell you, but I love her with my heart and my soul, and if I should live to see a hundred, I know I will never know the like again.”

Georgiana nodded, a sour pain stuck in the back of her throat but still she managed, “Tell me about her.”


Several hours later, brother and sister walked serenely up to their chambers. The physical exhaustion of having spent such an emotional evening was making its presence known with each step. Darcy bid his sister a good night and sweet dreams, which she knew would be a command easily fulfilled.

He walked into his dimly lit bedroom, and sat on the edge of the bed. He had spoken as frankly as he could tonight, but had left out the sordid details of his liaison with Elizabeth, and her family‘s situation. He was glad his sister now knew of his lady, but also wished for her to like Elizabeth, even if she would never know her.

He knew it would be a long while before Georgiana truly believed he had been as rude, insulting and unfeeling a person as he told her he was the day he first proposed. Yet someday she would no doubt agree her brother probably had indeed acted as abominably as he professed.

He had been careful as to what he told his sister for fear Elizabeth’s identity might somehow surface. He told her he had to leave out places, dates and names of acquaintances to protect his love, and she did not question him. Part of him worried that someday she might figure out the mystery, but for now, especially with their mutual promise of absolute discretion, he felt secure.

He then realised what the fear he had felt before he began speaking to Georgie about Elizabeth had been; a fear of losing his pain. He no longer had the charge of grieving by himself. He no longer had to suffer in silence and alone over his broken heart. He could begin to be free of the shackles of anguish he had wallowed in these past months because he had finally shared it with his sister.

Richard was possibly the wisest man in the world.


Georgiana understood her brother wished for her to know his distress had not been caused by her in anyway. He promised he would not let his disappointment hurt him anymore and that indeed, he was grateful to the lady for she had taught him to understand himself in a way he never had before, and he had determined to see to her reproofs.

For the first time, she felt her brother valued her as an adult; not a ward, or child. The simple, yet powerful exchange between the siblings the night they opened their hearts to one another, boosted her confidence and self-esteem greatly and she threw herself into her studies with unabashed energy and enthusiasm.

Darcy found he thrived teaching his sister. He spent his nights reviewing his Cambridge classes, deciding what could be of use to her. He would collect his books from his student years and plan his lessons for her accordingly.

His dry wit, he never held back, but he did encourage her to develop her own opinions on any situation, speak her own mind and, was more than willing to debate the merits of either opinions. He often cautioned her to realize that while he was pleased to share his mind with her, she still had to rely on her own head in future and, to learn to exercise as much of it as possible.

Her intellect was excellent; she had the ability to absorb all he presented to her with ease and they truly enjoyed their hours spent in learning. She especially excelled in mathematics and language; not surprising considering her mastery of music. Eventually, Darcy and his steward came to use Georgiana for her accounting abilities and translating skills.

The first time they truly had a difference of opinion on a subject and debated it enthusiastically was another milestone for Georgiana. Darcy wisely recognized the situation for what it was and refused to either back down or let Georgie give in without a fight. She stumbled, she tried to compromise, but in the end, she fought bravely and won her point.

He stood abruptly, causing her a brief moment of alarm; thinking he was angered. Then he bowed deeply. "Madame," he said seriously, "you are perfectly correct, I concede the point. And may I add how very proud I am of you?"

"For having stood up to you?" she asked, shocked.

"No, my Dear, for having stood up for yourself!" The exhilaration and triumphant smile upon her face was a memory Darcy held fondly for the rest of his life.


While his sister was willing and happy to use her intellect in the classroom, the physical aspects of her other lessons were harder to accept. If music was her first love, fencing was her first abhorrence. Darcy explained that lack of skill with a sword did not keep one from being injured or killed by it.

She learned the threat of harm was what disabled most persons. The ability to defend oneself in a variety of ways helped one’s confidence, as well as serving to protect one’s self in the instance of an actual attack. Her brother was careful to explain he did not expect her to ever be in such a situation, however the importance of what such skill did for the entire body as well as the mind, could not be overrated. If Georgiana was going to improve as an individual, this part of her education could not be ignored.

“Besides,” he jested, “what sister would not like the opportunity to repay an elder brother for all the teasing he did when she was little?”

Reluctant at first, Darcy’s logic wore down her natural timidity. This, combined with the absolute trust she felt in him, and the appeal of retribution for all the various deceased creatures of multi-legged species she found placed in her toy chest when she was a child, allowed her to finally agree.

Her natural grace made the lessons easier than she expected, but her sweetness and shyness, restricted her ability to be aggressive in her routines. Eventually as her confidence in all things improved, so did her fencing and the day (admittedly several years later) she pinned her brother against the wall in the grand ballroom at Pemberley was a day Georgiana remembered fondly all the rest of her life.

Under Darcy’s tutelage, she became a superior horsewoman in addition to her considerable fencing skills, and her brother also eventually convinced her to learn to shoot. She knew how to handle a shotgun, and duelling pistols, but only felt comfortable with the small pearl handled pistol Darcy presented to her one day as a celebration of her successful target practice.

She no longer felt any hesitation in taking on any activity her brother challenged her to undertake. Darcy gained the added benefit of having a companion for all his favourite activities and they grew even closer as a result.


Each day they would study the newspaper. Georgie learned of world politics, as well as the social aspects of the ton. Darcy told her everything he knew about anyone who was mentioned.

One of their episodes of reading the social column, however, brought news of a more serious nature for Fitzwilliam. Georgiana was reading out loud when she began an article about Lord Caldhart’s son who, having recently graduated from Oxford and returned from his Grand Tour, was anticipated to be the catch of the coming Season, for he stood to someday inherit his father’s vast fortune and title.

“That cannot be correct,” Darcy interjected. “His lordship’s son is well older than I am.”

“It says the young man is but three and twenty, brother, I can hardly see the paper mistaking his age by more than ten years!”

“Lord Robert’s son was born ages before me, Georgiana, I have met the man. They must be speaking of his grandson. The paper will surely rue this stupid mistake.”

“Not Lord Robert, the current Lord Caldhart; Lord Henry Caldhart, and his son Frederick.”

Her brother’s face fell.

“Lord Robert is no longer living?” he whispered, disbelieving.

“Good Heavens, Fitzwilliam! How can you not know? His death was the scandal of the spring of last year. It was in the papers for weeks!” Darcy cringed.

“What did they say?” he asked. Georgiana was surprised, as gossip was not typically to her brother’s liking.

“The usual innuendo of Miss This and Lord That of course, but the gist of the tale was he had an argument with a mysterious lady. They insinuated it was a closer relationship than mere friendship, of course, but it resulted in his having had a heart attack and dying. She was instantly dubbed an infamous woman, however no trace of her ever surfaced again. The mystery of her, and her disappearance was of great interest; hardly a day went by without it being mentioned in the papers.” Suddenly recollecting how her brother had spent the spring, summer, and greater part of autumn that year, she made to apologise, but Darcy was quicker.

“No, do not say it! You need not apologise for my lack of knowing the goings on in the world during that time.” Both siblings were silent, briefly remembering that unhappy period. Darcy was determined not to wallow in the past, and returned to the subject at hand, almost cheerfully. “Was there any resolution to the gossip?”

“She was never found, if that is what you ask. Eventually, with the lack of any new information, the interest and the articles died out. I must say you surprise me brother, usually such sordid gossip is not to your liking.”

Darcy collected himself. “Indeed you are right, my Dear. However, lack of such simple knowledge has already had a ramification: I did not know who the present Lord Caldhart was! I can not forgive myself for committing such a serious faux pas!” Georgiana giggled, and Darcy was satisfied he had circumvented more inquiry into that which gave his heart great pain.


Now he wondered what might have happened to Elizabeth. He had no doubt that she was the mysterious lady who was with Caldhart when he died. He lost no opportunity in planning a trip to town, and engaging the help of an investigator.

He did not ask the man to find the whereabouts of Miss Chantal Moreau. Rather, he told him he was hoping to find a Miss Elizabeth Bennet. He explained the she was an acquaintance of his from several years past, and he wished to renew the friendship. However, he was unsure of how he might be received, so rather than call upon her family himself, he wished to find out if the lady was still unmarried, where she currently resided etc. He provided the names of her family and location in Hertfordshire, as well as the names of her aunt and uncle and their street in London.

Less than a week later, the investigator, Mr. Smith, reported that Miss Bennet had in fact, disappeared almost a year earlier. Her family was deeply disturbed at her unexplained absence and was known to have launched a full scale search which had yielded few results. They were still looking for her, or any word of her whereabouts.

Darcy could not help the look of surprise and worry upon his face when told Elizabeth had gone missing. He asked Mr. Smith to investigate Miss Bennet’s disappearance more thoroughly. Any information that could be uncovered was to be reported, no detail omitted. When Mr. Smith was finally gone, Darcy fretted.

He was unwilling to meet with the Gardiner’s for fear his liaison with Elizabeth would somehow be revealed. He also knew that disclosing his meeting with her at the ball, besides bringing her family shame (considering what her situation had been that night) could also possibly connect her with his Lordship’s or Wickham’s demise. He was convinced it would only put her in peril and would not help anyone to discover her current whereabouts.

His largest worry had been his own lack of confidence in his ability to remain composed in front of the Gardiners if they were to inform him of more dire news. He knew he could not hold his emotions in check if they were to tell him anything had happened to her, if she were married, or if her situation with Lord Caldhart had been discovered.

Over the next weeks, Mr. Smith’s further inquiries yielded little results. Darcy travelled often to London to meet with him, always returning quickly to Pemberley to continue his sister’s curriculum. They now knew Miss Bennet had last been seen on the afternoon of May the fourteenth and her family, while still looking for her, did not seem to fear that foul play had been involved. In fact, by small hints here and there, both the investigator and Mr. Darcy began to believe Miss Bennet had purposely run away.

Darcy made a point of visiting his clubs, especially Whites, to see what the current gossip regarding the Caldhart affair was. The infamous betting book proved interesting to say the least. The number of wagers on the evening of the Blakely’s ball was astounding, as were the payouts that had been demanded. There were many more speculative wagers as to the lady, her eminent discovery, and who might next lay claim to her, but none of them had come to fruition, and those bets remained unclaimed. Part of him was disgusted to see Elizabeth’s fate speculated so crudely, but he was equally happy that no man had had the satisfaction of seeing the gossip and guesswork resolved.

It also had not escaped his notice that Lord Robert had in fact died the very night of the ball. He wondered whether Elizabeth had been forced to consummate the relationship before his Lordship’s demise. Without knowing what had become of her, such vain wishes were hardly appropriate; she might now be living under a hundred different circumstances, many of which could be just as dismal as her living with Caldhart.

The thought that Elizabeth might only have been his, filled him with a happiness which could only be described as foolish male ego. He chastised himself inwardly for thinking it and put it out of his mind.

It seemed the current Lord Caldhart was eager to put his father’s sordid past behind him, and there was very little said by any of the gossipers at the clubs on the subject. His Lordship’s household had behaved admirably and information regarding the night of Lord Robert’s death had not been bantered about by the servants. It seemed the newspaper’s articles were truly based on rumour and gossip alone and, without solid facts, the interest had thankfully died away.

One unusual point of note was the discovery some time later that Miss Bennet had disappeared the day before an employee of Mr. Gardiner’s, a Mrs. Johnson, of Johnson’s House of Cigars, also went missing. The investigator was familiar with Johnson’s and told his employer of their excellent reputation as well as their success. He also informed Darcy, it was universally acknowledged that Mrs. Johnson, who ran the shop, was the secret behind the quality of the shop’s product. It seemed the Gardiner family was searching for Mrs. Johnson, as well.

Darcy was curious about this Mrs. Johnson and went himself to visit the shop soon after. He was pleasantly surprised at the interior furnishings of the place, and impressed with Mr. Whitaker, who waited upon him. When queried about his cigar preferences, Darcy was regrettably unable to give much useful information, as he hardly ever partook in them. However, Mr. Whitaker was able to ask him about his taste preferences in foods and, based on those inclinations, had a short made up for him to sample which he truly relished.

While enjoying his cigar, he asked about the proprietress of the shop. He was told Mrs. Johnson, whom the shop was named for, had sadly left them a year before. Darcy extended his condolences for their loss, after which they informed him Mrs. Johnson had been lost to them; not passed on. He inquired if foul play was suspected, but both Mr. Whitaker, and later Toby, coming out from the back room to join the men, informed him that Mr. Gardiner did not believe her to be a victim of any kind.

Toby had felt the loss of Mrs. Johnson greatly. He had become quite attached to the dear old lady, and ever grateful to all she had taught him, and as well as the kindness she had shown in in her shop. Now any opportunity to bemoan his loss was always eagerly taken advantage of. Darcy was taken aback by this boy who was obviously mourning her absence greatly.

“You must have worked with her since you were a small boy, then,” he asked sympathetically.

“Oh, no, Sir. Johnson’s used to be Mr. Merriweather’s shop, and when he retired, Mrs. Johnson took over. She knew Mr. Merriweather for years and he was so happy when she agreed to continue the shop for he didn’t have no sons, ya see, no one to pass his learning on to, but she already had more in her head than he did, and she was kind enough to pass it all on to us before she went missin’.”

“Pass it on?”

“Yeah, she left us a book. Only Mr. Whitaker can read it, course, but she wrote all her secrets for us. Made sure if anything happened to her, we would all know how she done it, and be able to run the shop. We wouldn’t have such a good business if not for her. It was all her and that nose of hers.” There were faint shadows of tears in his eyes as he spoke of his beloved mentor.

“Would it be too much to ask to see this book of which you speak? I promise you I am not here to abscond with your secrets. It is just that your description of this extraordinary lady has piqued my interest and I should like to see the legacy she left behind.” Mr. Whitaker nodded to Toby, who fetched the volume and presented it to the gentleman.

Darcy thumbed through the missive, surprised at the quality of the hand, which was very fine, and the inherent intelligence obvious throughout. He would have loved to study the article thoroughly, but knew such intense scrutiny would sadly not be possible.

“It is exceptional!” he praised sincerely, as he handed it back after only an insufficient minute of perusal. “I suggest you have copies made to preserve the knowledge she has bequeathed you.”

Mr. Whitaker smiled. “An excellent idea, Sir. Thank you! If anything were to happen to this, I’m sure we should be lost. We shall have copies made directly.”

Darcy paid for his box of cigars and went home very puzzled. Neither he, nor later Mr. Smith, could discover the connection between the two women. They wondered if Mrs. Johnson had somehow helped Miss Bennet run away and was even now, helping to hide her. Unfortunately, Mrs. Johnson’s disappearance had been as thorough as the younger lady’s and neither woman could be traced.


With the efforts of the brilliant Mr. Darcy, and the excellent work habits of Mr. Smith, the search that was endeavoured upon could justifiably be compared to the old saying ‘leaving no stone unturned‘. Between the times the Darcys went to London, and the many more individual trips by the brother, an impressive amount of time dedicated to searching for the illusive Miss Elizabeth Bennet had been tallied, albeit unsuccessful. By the time Darcy was finally willing to give up his search, almost a year later, it was only because he was convinced she had left of her own accord, and did not wish to be found.

Over the following years, he did intermittently continue the investigation with Mr. Smith, but she had been far too clever. His results mirrored her family; no trace of Elizabeth Bennet or Mrs. Johnson could ever be found. He kept his ears open to news of various men’s new mistresses, but all the lady’s backgrounds were well known. He was glad of this, and at least told himself that wherever she had gone, it was hopefully to a better life than the one she had almost lived with Lord Robert. He reasoned that until Elizabeth wanted to be found, or word of her whereabouts was heard, there was little he could do.

He continued to give Johnson’s House of Cigars his custom, the young men always welcoming him warmly and speaking affectionately of the dear lady they all admired whenever he visited.


The years during Georgiana’s instruction found the siblings almost always at Pemberley. They rarely ventured to town except for purchases, and the occasional discreet outing to the theatre, concert hall, gallery or museum. They planned their stays to last more not more than a day or two, therefore, before anyone had a chance to call upon them, they were returning to Derbyshire.

When Darcy went to town for purposes of his investigation, he never made his residency in his town home known. He learned to arrive on horseback, late at night and enter through the rear of his home. His carriage arrived separately and was unloaded near the servant’s quarters. He enjoyed the anonymity his subterfuge afforded; he found he never had to bother turning away callers, as they never knew he was there. Eventually, he became quite proficient at stealthily entering and leaving his home.

They completely shunned the Season, and while the rest of society felt put out, Darcy knew, and told his sister as much, that all would be forgiven when they did venture back into society. Two wealthy, eligible Darcys would always be welcomed back with open arms when they returned, he solemnly pointed out with a laugh.

Because of their reclusive nature, social appearances by either Darcy were almost non-existent. Charles Bingley wrote regularly, and Darcy was happy to re-establish correspondence with him. He felt badly about not issuing an invitation to Charles to come to Pemberley, but he and Georgiana had spoken honestly about it, and they knew Bingley would not be able to come without his sisters.

Georgie no longer felt compelled to hold her tongue about "those dreadful women" and she proceeded to give her uninhibited opinion of them both, including deadly accurate and wickedly funny imitations. This caused her brother to laugh until tears were forming at the corner of his eyes, and she happily joined him. The servants were quite used to the lively conversations the master and his sister had and their gay laughter was no longer out the ordinary.

However, in December of the year eighteen fourteen, little more than a twelve month after their self imposed seclusion, Bingley paid a visit to Pemberley, unannounced and thankfully, unaccompanied. He was beginning to doubt Darcy’s existence, he explained, and begged for a room and a brandy. The Darcys welcomed him heartily, and enjoyed a fortnight of his society before he was called away by his sisters in town.

While he was there, Darcy and Georgie suspended all her lessons, but continued to do their estate business together and ride daily, accompanied by Bingley, of course. The evenings spent together were lively and witty and Bingley privately marvelled at how much "little" Georgiana had altered and matured. She still had her sweet and caring side, but the interaction with her brother, as well as the conversations she had with him, were nothing short of astonishing. He wisely kept his observations to himself until the last night of his stay, after she had retired for the night and he and Darcy headed to the library.

There Bingley commented on Georgiana’s remarkable liveliness, grace and wit. Darcy was terribly proud she had made a good impression on Bingley. He knew Charles was the perfect person for her to begin her re-entry into society. She was comfortable with him, and her true self had shone through while he was visiting them.

"Darcy, I do not know what brought her out of her shell, but I think I now understand why you spent so much time crossing wits with Miss Elizabeth Bennet. They are very similar in their turn of minds, their humour and their liveliness, do you not think? You must have seen a kindred spirit to your sister in her. I am glad to see her be able to blossom and reveal her character to the world. You will certainly have your hands full when she is presented. I think she will break many a heart, my friend."

Darcy almost fell off his chair.

“Good God!” he thought. “What revelation! Is that what I am doing; making my own version of Elizabeth?”

He sat stunned for several moments while he quickly considered Bingley’s words. Soon enough he was able to dismiss the notion; it was not true. He and Elizabeth were well matched in most things, and in teaching Georgie to be more like him, it made her similar to Elizabeth. He breathed a large sigh of relief, however he conceded to Bingley that perhaps he did like crossing wits with Elizabeth Bennet.

This now opened a subject Bingley was hesitant to bring up, but he continued on. He confessed to Darcy he planned to return to Netherfield. He had given it a great deal of thought. He had not hidden himself in society since Jane Bennet, but still he had never found a woman her equal, nor had he feelings for anyone else since Jane.

In short, Bingley had come to announce his intentions, not solicit Darcy’s opinion. Bingley had become his own man, and in the year and a half of his friend’s absence, he had begun to trust his own judgement, and was going to follow his heart.

Darcy felt keenly all the shame of his past deception to Charles. He had been unfair, especially when considering his greatest motivation for encouraging Charles to abandon Netherfield was to avoid the company of one Elizabeth Bennet. He decided then and there to correct his error, and confessed all he had done in the past (though he did not mention his interactions with the sister of the object of Bingley‘s affections). He ended his speech with a heartfelt apology and a solemn promise he would never again presume to know what was best for his friend, instead he hoped that someday he and Miss Bennet could find it in their hearts to forgive his arrogance and interference.

He knew he could not tell Bingley about Elizabeth’s fall from grace or her disappearance. The Bennets might very well still be the respectable family of Longbourn they had been two years earlier and Darcy would not ruin the happiness of Jane Bennet or any of her sisters due to anything he would say about Elizabeth.

Bingley stood, mouth agape, hardly believing the words he had heard. His face showed all the anger he was feeling, as well as the hurt. He questioned Darcy on his role, his sister accomplice and the times they had lied. Darcy never hesitated to answer truthfully, or say how utterly and completely wrong, he had been.

If Darcy thought he would have to suffer a long and hard fought battle to win back Bingley’s trust and regard after the wretched way he had treated him, he could not miscalculated the kind heartedness of his friend more. Before the two retired for bed that evening, Bingley had forgiven him completely, and asked if Darcy would give his blessing to him, though he did not need it; he would simply like it.

"Charles," he said, "I wish you speedy journey, all the luck the world holds and from the very bottom of my heart, my blessing and joy to you my friend; you deserve it more than anyone I know. I am not worthy of the friendship you have always shown me, but I do desire it, and will never again take it for granted."


Mr. Bingley returned to Netherfield in January with a heartfelt apology and, a not insignificant amount of bouquets. After several weeks of daily calls to Longbourn, he was granted the right to formally court Miss Jane Bennet, under the very constant, watchful eye of her father.

No proprieties were breeched and every formal rule and bit of etiquette was followed so that no stain would fall upon the couple. Two months after courtship had ensued, Mr. Bingley petitioned, Miss Bennet accepted, and Mr. Bennet blessed and consented.

Darcy was pleased to read the letter bearing the news of Bingley’s engagement to Jane Bennet in the spring. That is to say, the parts he could decipher were read with joy. He and Georgiana sent their sincere congratulations to him.

Bingley’s sisters had decided a happily married Charles was much easier to bear than a Charles whose temper flared at the least mention of any disapprobation on their part of his actions, his choice of bride or his new connections.

His sister Caroline Bingley had recently married a foreigner from Austria, Mr. Hans Wiegriffe, whose family owned several prosperous ironworks. He had come to England to find a refined wife who, frankly, would improve the gentility of his family’s breeding line and, in view of her recent decline of reputation, his lack of understanding in the nuances of the English language had worked greatly in her favour. With few people to speak with, he and Caroline had entered instantly into a delightful and animated conversation in German.

Unbeknownst to the Bavarian gentleman, it seems that after the night of the Blakely’s ball, Caroline had a decidedly difficult time in attracting the attention of any man in society. They were willing enough to speak to her in a group setting, or if seated next to her at a dinner, but she was never sought out in a drawing room when on her own, asked to dance at a ball, or shown any particular attention by a gentleman.

She had all but given up on finding a match when Mr. Wiegriffe had been introduced to her. Grateful for the attention of a man at last, Caroline had allowed herself and, more importantly, her heart to become quickly attached to the stout moustached man whose height allowed him to look her directly into her eyes when standing close. He wasted no time with silly courting and flirtations, and she wasted no time in accepting the man who had endeared himself to her so speedily.

Now, with Caroline’s future secured and her imminent removal to Vienna, and Louisa and Hurst permanently in residence in London, the news of Charles’ forthcoming marriage was all that was disinterested, insincere and wholly expected. The liberation from the lack of the Bingley sisters’ involvement in their brother’s life would afford the couple many years of contented peace.

After a four-month engagement period, Jane and her Mr. Bingley finally married in Longbourn chapel, on August the fifteenth, eighteen hundred and fifteen, fulfilling a lifelong dream of the mother of the bride. The absence of the bride’s dearest sister was quietly noted, but not dwelled upon by any of the guests, and the absence of the groom’s youngest sister and new brother-in-law, was noted with sighs of appreciation. The presence that day of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sister Georgiana added to the felicity of the entire wedding party.


Chapter 24

Pemberley, September 1815

Several weeks after the Bingley’s wedding, Darcy and his sister began to talk of Georgie’s coming out. In the past, he would have simply told her when it was to occur, taking control of the entire dealings. Now, they sat down to rationally and logically decide what would be best. Georgiana admitted to having no illusions as to her role in a marriage and certainly had no desire to hurry into the state, but also knew that, until she did come out, certain pleasant experiences would be denied to her.

The two came up with an answer to appease all; Georgiana would be presented to the king in the winter season of her twentieth year. However, she would only indulge in the balls and parties she truly was interested in and not feel pressured to accept invitations she did not wish to. She had no desire to make a splash, be the talk, or any other social column fodder. She simply wished to meet people and see if anyone interesting might be found among the dregs.

Six months later, Georgiana Darcy was presented at court; another significant milestone in her life. She had just turned twenty years of age and, whether she meant to or not, her entrance into society was indeed a great success. The sight of two single Darcys, magnificently turned out, and most especially the return of the eligible gentleman after an absence of nearly four years, was nearly overwhelming for the mothers of single ladies and gentlemen alike.

Georgiana’s aunt, Lady Matlock, had happily sponsored her niece and had also stealthily concealed the fact of the lady’s entrance into society until the last possible moment. It was with great satisfaction that she witnessed the reactions in the room when her dear Georgiana’s name was announced. She knew full well the reputation her niece had as a shy and reticent young woman.

“Just wait until they speak with her,” she laughingly mused behind her fan.

By the end of the evening, more than a few tails of unsuspecting young bucks were bruised when they dared enter the seemingly sweet realm of Miss Darcy. She was never cruel, nor unwelcoming to those who would seek an introduction, but she would not suffer fools gladly. With a brilliantly placed word, comment, or witticism, she quickly scared away those not worthy of a second look. The next round of possibilities often succumbed and gave up as well, but Georgiana did not have to dwell upon them. By the end of that first ball, she had danced every dance, and a few intelligent, sincere and interesting people, both male and female, had found their way to her and her brother. Thus they could both say, with honesty, the evening had, thank heaven, been very worthwhile.

Her aunt could not agree more. Though Darcy had acted similar to his habits of past, in that he only danced with his sister and his aunt, she had seen a softening and ease in his interactions with others that had not previously existed. While she hesitated to call it friendly, it was certainly friendlier than Darcy had ever been in the past. However, Georgiana had been the real star that evening. Her debut was an unmitigated triumph. She was beautiful, confident, brilliant and charming and she would no doubt have the pick of society if she wished it.

Her first season was a delight to Miss Darcy. Her brother supported her decision to only attend dances and events she wished to, and the diminished social schedule allowed her to relax and relish her first experiences.

One of the most telling conversations that Georgiana had early on in the Season was also, unbeknownst to her, overheard. She had been resting at the side of the dance floor, when the very wealthy, very large, very meddling Lady Ravenshaw cornered her. Georgie was not worried. Lady Ravenshaw had finally married off her last eligible son the previous Season and Fitzwilliam had assured her the elderly dowager had no prospects to try to push upon her. With an imperceptible sigh, she smiled and greeted the lady who immediately tried to determine if there were any gentleman who had caught Georgiana’s fancy yet.

“I am not looking for a husband, Lady Ravenshaw, I assure you.”

“Not wanting to marry? Why ever not?”

“I am wealthy enough to support myself, your Ladyship; I have no need for someone to put a roof over my head.”

Lady Ravenshaw harrumphed loudly, “Then why come out in society at all if you are not looking to make a good match?”

“I seek something else, madam.” Her ladyship looked dumbfounded at Miss Darcy.

Georgiana leaned in conspiratorially and whispered loudly, “Treasure, Lady Ravenshaw!”

The lady frowned. “You wish for jewels?”

Georgiana stifled a giggle. “No, but I seek jewels amongst society; people who are treasures to befriend, life long companions to enrich my life,” she answered confidently.

Lady Ravenshaw shook her head quickly, her curls flying from one side to the other with her movements. “I do not understand Miss Darcy. Oh, I see Mrs. James. I simply must pay my respects. Pray excuse me.”

Georgiana laughed at the quickly retreating lady. “No, Lady Ravenshaw, I am quite sure you will never understand.”

However, a gentleman who had heard the entire conversation understood very well. The very next day he called upon the Darcy town home, and requested a private audience with the master of the house.

The most astonishing discourse that Darcy could recall having in years then ensued. Mr. Patrick Kevin Louis McNally had come to tell Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy he intended to marry his sister, Georgiana.

However, he had no wish to be introduced to the lady. He had no desire at the time to receive Darcy’s permission for marriage or even courtship. He merely wanted to state his intentions honourably, give his reasons, and put forth his own personal history, fortune, and situation, for the express purpose of allowing Darcy to know the man who would one day pay his sister attentions, thus ensuring he would not be alarmed.

At first, Darcy was somewhat startled. Mr. McNally was not a man of diminutive stature. Darcy was already considered a great tall fellow, but Mr. McNally made him feel, for the first time since his boyhood, small. Moreover, his height was only a small portion of his size. He had the strapping shoulders and back of a coalminer to match. His face was not immediately handsome, but he was not plain either and he was blessed with a head of thick jet-black hair that any man would envy. Darcy could not help but admire the man’s physique, it was obvious he must partake of a great many physical sports or amusements to be so healthy. Luckily, McNally’s open demeanour and speech, soon made him forget his previous worry.

“I have spent four years in London, Mr. Darcy. Four years of attending each new Season, looking over all the young ladies coming out, meeting them and speaking with them, trying to find someone I could admire and love, and someone who would love me in return. I know it is not fashionable to marry for love. However, I have no desire to take a wife merely to provide me with an heir to whom I will pass along my fortune. I wish to share my life with a woman who is my equal in affection and intellect.

“I apologise if speaking frankly offends you, or if my views are too radical for your tastes. I have seen enough of the ways society lives by, and most of it would make the commoners stone them.

“I want a partner in my life, not a trinket. Most ladies I have met barely have the mettle to be more than a trinket.” Suddenly the man let out a hearty laugh from deep inside his person as he realised his joke. “Ha! Mettle,trinket.”

Darcy was instantly charmed by this unassuming hulk of a man who laughed so easily at himself, and joined with him in his mirth. He had noticed him recently. It was indeed hard for Mr. McNally to be unobtrusive and Darcy had seen him hanging around the fringes of their circle as they spoke to people at various events.

“I have been observing your sister, Sir. More importantly, I have been listening to what she has to say. Most people, I think I can confidently say, have not actually been listening to her. I have often observed the conversations young men have with her, and most of them simply want to hear their own voices, instead of learning what opinion she might have on a subject. I cannot tell you how delightful her opinions have been to me and, if I might be so bold, so in line with my own. I know you do not know me yet. I would be happy to start an acquaintance with you, so that you might get to know me better. But regardless of whether you wish to or not, someday, I will be applying to you for permission to court Miss Darcy.”

“Mr. McNally, I must confess to being intrigued by you, but I feel I must first ask the obvious and demand to know why you do not actually wish to be introduced to Georgiana yet.”

“She has just come out!” he replied, surprised.

“Yes, I am certainly aware of that fact.”

McNally began to roll his eyes, but then thought better of it.

“If I were to court your sister, if she and I were to begin a friendship right now, it would essentially be the end of her Season.”

“You are worried that as a courted woman, or an engaged woman, Georgiana would miss out on the entertainments?

“Yes, of course! She only has the chance once in her lifetime to be a debutante, Mr. Darcy. I would never deny her the enjoyment and carefree life she will live these next months. If she were to attach herself to me, I think she would always regret having missed it, though she might never voice it.”

“But what if she meets with another man and attaches herself elsewhere? Would you not be angry?”

“I think you already know the answer, Sir. Nevertheless, I will take what hand fate deals me.

“Miss Darcy and I will be introduced by this summer, and I hope that when we do meet, she will have the memory of many a young man in her head, and know what it is she wants from a man she might accept.” McNally smiled wryly, his green eyes twinkling in mischief. “Can you see some of the logic in my thinking now?”

This man might talk simply, but his words hid an intellect much more cunning than most would realise. Darcy would never admit it then, but he liked Mr. McNally exceedingly.

“I think I understand you perfectly, Sir,” he answered with his own smirk. “Now I would ask you a personal question.”

“I will answer anything you wish to know.”

“Do you fence?” Darcy queried.


The day finally did come in which Mr. Patrick McNally was introduced to Miss Georgiana Darcy. He had lived the last five months in the shadows around Georgie; a fleeting glance of him on the edge of a ballroom, his retreating back espied after she sensed his presence near her while she conversed.

She had lived with the constant excited ramblings of her elder brother about the new friend he had made, yet who never dared show his face. Darcy and McNally fenced together, rode together, met for dinner at their club, but never had the elusive man ventured back to the Darcy’s town home since the fateful March day when he introduced himself to the brother.

By the time Patrick announced he was ready to meet Miss Darcy, Georgiana’s curiosity, not to mention her considerable interest in this mysterious man of whom her brother was so fond, was at a peak. Therefore, when the two at last actually laid eyes on one another, rather than it being a shy uncomfortable moment, it was almost a relief.

The usually outspoken Georgie did blush a great deal under the heated gaze of Mr. McNally, but her silence grew from an earnest stare that she did not seem to be able to keep herself from participating in with him. Darcy stood back in silence for most of it, completely caught up by the sight of two people who were almost instantly falling in love. He retreated to the end of the room, to give the two a chance to speak in privacy.

“Miss Darcy, how lovely to finally meet you at last! I have heard so much about you.”

Georgiana smiled sweetly. “As I have about you, Mr. McNally. You have won yourself a loyal and praising friend in my brother.”

“If I have, Miss Darcy, I assure you it was friendship offered sincerely. Your brother is the very best of men and I am proud to call him friend.”

“Then you share that sentiment most earnestly with him, I assure you.”

They continued to stare unrelenting at one another during the entire exchange, seemingly unaware of the propriety they were both happily breaking.

“I suppose it would only be fitting to acquaint ourselves with the basic facts of our existence, Madam. It is considered the polite way to conduct oneself in the instance of an initial meeting, is it not?

Georgiana laughed lightly, and answered impertinently, “Perhaps, Sir, but truly, is there anything about my connections, fortune or accomplishments that you could not possibly know?”

McNally burst outright. “I dare say, not, Miss Darcy! He laughed. “And you- are there any details of my situation that have not been sufficiently explained to you?”

Georgiana’s face suddenly became serious. “Actually, yes, Mr. McNally, I do have questions with regards to your property in the North. Is it a large estate?”

McNally was momentarily taken aback, and replied cautiously,

“Large and small are relative terms, Miss Darcy. I find it a manageable sized estate. Some might find it large, and yet others might consider it quite small.”

“I see, and what is the approximate acreage, Mr. McNally?” she asked most directly.

Now he hesitated visibly. “I have approximately seven thousand, three hundred acres, Miss Darcy,” he replied shortly.

“The north can be quite rugged terrain, Mr. McNally, is all of the land farmable?”

His eyebrow raised in a disarming manner, rendering his face ruggedly handsome in almost a rakish fashion. He was obviously very interested in where this conversation was being directed by the lady.

“No, you are correct. We run sheep upon nearly half of the land; less than four thousand acres can be farmed.”

“An excellent usage, Sir. What are your crops then? What do you grow?”

“Wheat, barley, turnips, clover, oats, some vegetables in small quantity, mostly for the benefit of my tenants; they are not cash crops and we are very far north, after all.”

“Excellent, Mr. McNally. Can I assume you practice crop rotation and allow your fields to fallow as well?”

Here Patrick broke out in a wide grin; now on to her game. “We do indeed, Miss Darcy. I read everything I can find of the latest farming techniques and animal husbandry as well.” He lowered his voice, “Some time you must allow me to tell you of our methods to induce our ewes to always produce twins.”

Now Georgiana grinned. “Perhaps, someday, Mr. McNally, but I think, for now, that conversation needs to be postponed.”

“Quite so. I must say it is refreshing to speak to a lady about one’s estate concerns. Most women I speak with would only be interested in the details of the income my estate produces, not the crops.” Georgiana nodded her agreement.

“If there is such a thing as a gentleman farmer, then I am a lady farmer, Mr. McNally. My fortune comes from, and is dependent upon, the prosperous running of my family’s estate, the success of which falls to both my brother and myself. I do all that I can to secure its continuity and all aspects of the venture interest me exceedingly.

“While I often come to town for the amusements, they are to me just that, amusements, not real life; not my life now, or in the future. I live in the country, amongst the verdant green fields, and the wilds of the forest, riding, walking and enjoying the clean air: the healthful habits of a farmer‘s life and an active participation in the running of our estate with my brother. Do I make myself clear, Sir?”

“Indeed you do Miss Darcy and, if I may be so bold, I agree with your predilections and could not be more pleased at hearing your future plans.”

They stared, unfazed at one another, yet again.

“And if I may be so bold, Mr. McNally, I would be very pleased at hearing your future plans.”

He gasped.

“For your estate, of course,” she demurely added.


Within the month, the gossip of how Mr. Patrick McNally, who had previously been known to rarely have more than one conversation with any eligible lady, had been calling steadily upon Miss Georgiana Darcy, and the apparent pleasure the lady had been receiving these attentions, was all over town. After five weeks, Mr. McNally had officially requested permission to court Georgiana, and was happily granted the right by the lady, her brother, and her guardian cousin.

The next two months were spent in utter bliss by the two doves who could barely turn their heads to anyone else in the room. Patrick opened any dance they attended together with her, and always closed the same with his lady. She spent little time in the company of other gentleman and, though always polite, the eligible young men of society soon learned that to try to engage Miss Darcy for a dance, or more importantly, engage her attention away from her suitor, was fruitless.

She was dubbed a hopeless case, as was her lover, and soon society resorted to trying to find fault in the match, no matter the futility. The greatest hopes of the matchmaking mamas of society were solidly dashed when it was formally announced Miss Georgiana Darcy and Mr. Patrick McNally were engaged to be married. The wedding was set for six weeks hence, and was to take place, to the horror of all, at the bride’s home, Pemberley, in Derbyshire, and not in town.


Patrick’s fortune proved to be one of the great misrepresented facts of the London ton. It was common knowledge that he was master of a large estate in the North, at the very edge of the Scottish border. The general consensus, egged on by McNally’s own boast, of an income of eight thousand pounds a year, was sadly incorrect. What none of society had known was Mr. McNally’s family, coming primarily from Scotland, and, most unfortunately, Ireland, had left the eldest and only descendant from both his mother and his father’s sides all their holdings. The properties his parents had inherited and passed on to him had not only been vast, but also highly profitable. McNally had wisely preferred to keep as many of them in the original family names, so as not to draw attention to himself.

When the day came to draw up the marriage settlement papers and confess his worth to Fitzwilliam and Richard, the look upon his future relatives’ faces made the deception worth every moment.

Darcy had held the paper in his hands, quickly skimming the rhetoric and coming to the pertinent numbers. Richard held his own copy and had almost simultaneously come to the same astonishing calculation before the two cousin’s heads snapped up to stare at one another.

“Patrick!” Darcy turned to his future brother, incredulous. “You… that is, are you sure? I mean, you intend to settle,” here he was forced to stop, shake his head and blink hard at the paper, “seventy thousand pounds upon Georgiana?”

“It is an appropriate amount for my wife, Darcy. I think it correct, do you not?”

Richard, who had continued reading the document, interrupted, “Good God, McNally- you own a fair part of Ireland and Scotland! How can none of us have known this?”

Patrick smiled good-naturedly. “You, along with the rest of the world, have only known what I wished them to, my future cousin. I could hardly find a good woman if such a ridiculous fortune were known, now could I?”

“Does Georgie know?” Darcy asked, truly concerned over the ramifications of her being mistress to such an overwhelming array of properties.

“She does, Darcy. From almost the beginning, I wished for her to know what she was getting herself into before her heart was beyond retrieval, should she change her mind. But being the extraordinary woman she is, do you know what she said?”

Both cousins shook their heads together as they listened, mesmerized

“She asked, ‘Will you be with me always, to weather through whatever is necessary to manage it all? For if you will share our burdens and your life with me, I would not care if you were a pauper, as long as you were by my side.’”

All three men nodded appreciatively at the sentiment.

“At the beginning?” Darcy remarked, now realising how intimate a conversation they must have had early on in their relationship.

McNally grinned sheepishly. “Yes, I’m afraid there have been aspects of your sister’s and my interactions about which we have not been completely forthcoming.”

Darcy was about to get angry, but Patrick appeased him quickly. “No proprieties were breached, my dear future brother! I have never imposed myself upon your sister in any way. I only speak of what we have said to one another. You see,” here he stopped, eyes glazed, staring blankly with a hint of a smile whilst remembering, “I actually proposed to your sister three days after we were introduced. She accepted happily, and we agreed that, while we both knew our hearts were true, society would never understand the connection and deep abiding love we already felt for one another. We decided we would continue our acquaintance with all the proper decorum, propriety, and time lines that society dictates. Therefore, five weeks: courtship, two months later: engagement, and six weeks later: wedding.”

“You decided beforehand on the date you would come to me and ask to court her, and when you would say you proposed, all of it?” Darcy asked amazed.

Patrick grinned. “We did. Actually, your sister chose the dates. She was very methodical on deciding when we would begin each step. She has a great capacity for numbers; I merely agreed to her choices.”

“Yet had you both had your way, you would have been married two months ago?” Richard asked, snickering.

Patrick laughed too. “No, I think for the sake of all proper deportment, and for our children’s futures, their Mama and Papa must have an entirely proper courtship to present to the world.”

Darcy and Richard could do little else but shake their heads still dumbfounded.

Patrick, however wished to reassure his new relations of his devotion to Georgiana. “Fitzwilliam, Richard, never doubt that Georgiana is the reason my heart beats happily and the only woman whom I shall ever love. I know it is highly improper to say it, or not the current practice, but I will never break my vow of fidelity to her; no woman but my wife, on that oath I will swear.”


Later, after McNally had left, Richard and Darcy sat, still slightly dazed in his study.

“I wish I still drank spirits,” Darcy said solemnly.

Richard immediately was disturbed. “What has you so riled?”

“I am trying to get my mind around the amount of money Patrick has,” Darcy muttered.

“Some would say the same about you,” Richard retorted. Darcy gave him a scowl. “What is really rankling you?”

Darcy pouted. “Do you have any idea how many times at our club he has made me pay for our dinner?”


The night before the wedding, the Darcys, Fitzwilliams, McNallys and Bingleys were happily gathered in the blue drawing room of Pemberley. Lady Catherine had meant to attend with Anne, but they had both come down with putrid throats and, combined with the bad weather necessarily associated with December, had cancelled the trip at the very last moment. The bride and groom as usual had no eyes for anyone else, but they did manage to thank their friends and relations now and then for the heartfelt good wishes that were being bestowed upon them.

Darcy was to give the bride away the next morning and was having a difficult time not feeling melancholy about the bittersweet day ahead. He was overjoyed at seeing the deep and abiding love his sister had found with Patrick. Part of him tried to take credit for the match, but he chuckled to himself at his obstinate pride. It was all Georgiana’s doing. She was the woman who attracted such a fine man. The very best of men, he had wished for her, and now she had found him. His wealth was immaterial; Patrick’s excellence of character was based upon everything in spite of his fortune. How happy he was to call him brother. Tomorrow would be the day for speeches, and teary farewells, tonight the excitement of the wedding called for happiness and love.

He caught Richard’s eye to stay behind as the guests bid their host goodnight. Soon only the betrothed couple remained and they, uncharacteristically, actually realised the room had gone silent.

The two men then stood in front of the couple; Richard nodded to Darcy, who took both their hands in his and put them together, just as he would the next morning at Pemberley chapel and said, “Patrick, Georgiana, tomorrow will be a whirlwind, I have no doubt, so I wish for this one moment to extend my sincere blessings to you both. Everyone will be saying it tomorrow, but no one will mean it more deeply than myself when I tell you I wish you joy. I wish you joy in every day you spend with each other, and I do not doubt you will be able to discover it together.

“Your betrothed is a frank man, Georgiana, and I know if you both are frank and honest with one another, and remember to cherish this rare gift of love you share, you will be very happy all your lives. For me, it is everything I could ever wish for you, Sister.”

He patted their hands gently and stepped back, whereupon Richard, not expecting anyone to look at him at the moment, and resembling a bright Christmas ribbon, coughed nervously, nodded his head, and replied, “Yes, well said, Darcy; I feel quite the same.”

The couple stood, laughing through their misty eyes while embraces, handshakes and smiles were exchanged. Darcy and Richard then looked significantly at one another and then purposely turned their backs upon the couple and made to leave. Richard, now recovered, turned as they started to close the door and stated, in his best commanding voice, “You will leave this room in ten minutes time, no longer. Heaven help you both if I have to come back in here.” Then he grinned like the cat that ate an entire field of mice, while quietly closing the door behind him.

Georgie was in Patrick’s arms before the latch had clicked.


Sometime later, after they had once again caught their breaths, Georgiana was firmly seated in her fiancé’s lap, playing with his thick hair while nuzzling his strong neck. His hands were thoroughly taking stock of his beloved’s bottom, and he was pleased to note the strength of her haunch.

She giggled. “Do you think I shall be fair breeding stock, Sir?”

He pinched her, twice. “Aye, Lass. I think at the very least you will be that.” He moved his mouth to her ear and licked the soft lobe while whispering, “And I plan to practice breeding with you as often as possible.”

She gasped, then bit his neck in retaliation for his cheek. “You should be ashamed, but I can see from your smile you are not the least repentant for your bawdy words! What manner of man is it I am marrying?”

“Besides a man who is deliriously in love with you, he is also a man who is being driven wild with desiring you. Oh Georgie, just think what we shall be doing this time tomorrow!” he cried as he began kissing her throat.

She moaned her approval, while grasping at the expanse of his shoulders. She giggled when he began to nibble on her, breaking the heat of their passion and showing, once again, his deep respect for her by not taking too many liberties.

“I try not to think about it too much,” she answered.

He withdrew frowning but she instantly sought to soothe him by taking his face into her hands and drawing him back to her lips.

She spoke between kisses. “Not because… I am frightened….my love…it is… my own …desire…I seek…to avoid.”

He groaned at her admission of desiring their union and she found herself held tightly against the great mass of man that he was.

“Oh, my girl, how I shall love you tomorrow!” he cried as his mouth covered hers possessively. She finally broke free from his searching lips and tongue and rested her head against his forehead. They looked into each other’s eyes and smiled, then laughed together.

“Tomorrow,” she said happily through her panting breaths.

“Tomorrow night!” he replied with a grin. “Though that does bring up one subject I think would be worth mentioning. As you have no mother, my Dear, and usually brides are… advised on all aspects of their marriage by their mother…”

“Yes, Patrick?” she asked innocently.

He gave a great sigh. “I wondered if there were any questions you might have, or any information you might wish for me to impart to you, before, before tomorrow.”

“I cannot think of what you might mean,” she answered.

“Georgiana, has your aunt, or maybe Mrs. Bingley or even Mrs. Reynolds spoken to you concerning the duties of a wife?”

“Goodness me, Patrick! I am mistress of Pemberley and have been hostess for my brother for almost five years. I think I know my duties.”

Patrick now sighed even harder, but continued on. “My Love, I do not speak of household duties, I am speaking of duties, well, the things a husband and wife share.”

She looked at him blinking lightly with confusion upon her face.

“What a husband and wife share in the marriage bed, Georgiana,” he finally blurted out.

At that point, Georgiana could no longer keep up the ruse and started giggling.

“You Minx! You knew all along what I was eluding to?”

She nodded, pulling in her bottom lip.

“And am I to assume you have no questions?”

She shook her head.

“Did your aunt tell you everything you wish to know?”

She shook her head again.

“Mrs. Bingley then?”

When she shook her head a third time, he winced.

“Mrs. Reynolds?”

She shook her head yet again.

“Then whom?”

Now she had to cover her mouth to stifle her laughter.

“All of them,” she managed to squeak out. “And that information was in addition to the books my brother hides at the top of the library shelves. I found those years ago; quite edifying, really.”

He pulled her back into his arms.

“I think I shall always have to thank your brother for deciding you should be educated so thoroughly,” he growled as his lips trapped hers once more.

“Mmm,” she murmured. “Thank me first.”


Mr. McNally’s perception in realising how perfectly matched he and Georgiana would be in intellect, temperament and affection, turned out to be completely justified; they married exactly five months to the day from whence they first were introduced: December the fourth, eighteen hundred and sixteen, and lived a life filled with love, if not perfect peace. She was after all, a Darcy.


Chapter 25

London, April 1817

Jane Bingley sat in her drawing room, quietly reflecting over her correspondence.

“Things do not change,” she thought as she read her Mama’s letter from her girlhood home. She daydreamed about what they would all be doing right then; Papa in his library, a good book snugly grasped in his hand. Kitty, who was now Mrs. Fletcher (having married her Uncle Philips’ law partner a twelvemonth earlier) no doubt visiting Longbourn, while her mother would be playing sentry at the windows to see who else would be calling. Mary might be going over the household accounts or visiting a tenant’s family.

Well, there was one change: Mary had come into her own and provided the common sense and economy her family had always lacked. She had slowly taken up the role as mistress of Longbourn in all the ways that truly mattered, and neither her mother, who really only wanted to be the hostess of her parlour and table, nor her father, who preferred to be treated as a guest, objected in the least to her active running of the estate. Jane smiled thinking how much happiness and peace of mind Mary had brought to them all. God bless dear Mary!

Jane was happy, she had her Charles whom she loved and was loved by in return, and she had her quiet life in the country and here in town. She and her husband participated in few of the social activities of the ton. They mostly enjoyed a very comfortable existence with each other, and their close family and friends. Yes, Jane had very little to complain about, with one very important exception: she had lost the person most dear to her next to Charles. Almost 4 years earlier Jane had lost her Lizzy, and no matter the happiness the rest of her world afforded her, she still felt her loss keenly; as if part of her was missing.

It was on this lovely April day, the sun shining with a light warm breeze announcing spring was well and truly here, that the servant brought in his tray with a card upon it to his mistress. She picked up the card which read:

Mrs. William James Cartwright

Jane frowned; she knew no such person and was about to tell the butler to inform the lady she was not at home, when he discreetly cleared his throat, indicating she should look more closely. Turning the card over she saw, in a hand she knew almost as well as her own,

Jane, please see me,


She ran, almost knocking into the poor startled butler, but never slowed her pace until she reached the front door. There, standing in the sparkling afternoon light with the dust particles floating magically around her like a dream, was Elizabeth. They flew into each other’s arms crying and smiling and squealing like two young girls again.

They could not release each other, though neither one cared. Most of the servants could not help walk past them as if their duty somehow demanded they cross the front hallway, but still the sisters did not stop their embraces.

Later, Mrs. Bingley would think it odd seeing the upstairs chambermaid and the scullery kitchen maid in her front hall, but she did not comment to them. She knew the usually calm and level headed mistress wailing in the doorway was enough to garner the interest of her servants and she wisely decided not to further the talk with explanations.

“Lizzy, Lizzy, my dear sister! How I have wished for this day! How I have missed you!” she cried, her tears still not abating.

“Jane, dear Mrs. Bingley, how wonderful you look! You are well, yes?”

Jane nodded mutely. “And you Lizzy, you look lovely; you are well too?”

“Yes, Jane, I have never been better, especially now I am with you.” Tears started flowing again: happy tears, welcoming tears of joy and relief for both women. Eventually they calmed down somewhat and Jane led her sister into her house.


The butler ushered the gentleman in.

“I have an appointment with Mr. Bingley this afternoon, Jacobs, is he in? “

“Not yet sir, but I’m sure he will be home shortly if you had established plans, may I escort you to his study to await him, Sir?”

“Thank you, yes.”


The two sisters sat under a lovely shaded area in the back of the house, relishing the fresh air, and the dear company they both were keeping. After the initial excitement had died down, they were able to inquire more thoroughly into one another’s health and happiness. Jane was more forthcoming than her sister with her life‘s details, but Elizabeth did not hesitate to assure her sister of her complete felicity.

Not long after they had been sitting, the maid came and delivered a message to Mrs. Cartwright. She looked up with an impertinent sparkle in her eye and asked, “Jane, may I introduce you to someone?”

“Of course, Lizzy! I did not know you had brought someone with you! I wish you had informed me; I would not have hesitated to let them into my home. Oh my, they have not been waiting in your coach all this while, have they?”

“Not at all, he has been exploring the lovely park across from your house. I assure you he was very happy to do so and will be most content to call upon you here in your delightful garden.” Jane then entreated the maid to bring the visitor to them.


A boy ran across the garden followed by his nurse. He was very young, but quite a tall and sturdy fellow.

The ladies could hear him calling, “Mama, Mama?”

Elizabeth smiled. “I am here, William,” she answered, as he hurriedly scampered to rush into her skirts. She sighed and tousled the thick dark curls on his head as he hugged her.

“You have a son!” Jane exclaimed happily. Elizabeth nodded with a radiant smile upon her face.

“William, do not forget your manners, there is a lady present.” He shyly peeked out from the folds of the fabric, stopped and quite obviously stared at the vision next to his mother. Elizabeth cleared her throat pointedly and William, remembering himself, jumped up tall, placed his feet properly together bowed slowly and deeply, a large dimpled grin on his face as it was raised to his aunt. Jane gasped, not for his forgetful manners; it was the face in front of her which made her catch her breath.

“My God, Mama!” he cried. “She is exactly as you said; an angel, a very angel!”

“Son, have we not spoken of using that phrase?” she admonished back.

He bowed his head and sheepishly replied, “I am sorry, Mama, I have been reading and the words still stick inside my head. I will try not to use them again.”

“Very well, but you must apologise.”

William turned back to Jane and spoke humbly, “Please except my deepest apologies, my dear Lady Angel.”

Jane stood blankly at him. Their entire discourse had been in French.

“In English, my Love,” his mother said softly.

William repeated himself again, and bowed once more.

“Your apology is accepted, Sir and I am pleased to meet you. My name, however, is Mrs. Bingley, not Lady Angel.”

“William Bennet Cartwright, my Lady, at your service.”

Jane giggled.

“You are a very proper gentleman, Master Cartwright. I think your mother has done a fine job raising you.”

“Thank you, my Lady, I cannot help but concur,” he said, not realising the obvious compliment he was in fact, paying to himself.

“I think your house is very beautiful, but I cannot help wondering if….” He stopped to look up innocently at his mother.

Elizabeth laughed. “My dear Jane, this is William’s way of being coy when he wants something.”

“And what would that be?” inquired Jane, puzzled.

“Your library!” they both exclaimed together.

“Why, Master Cartwright, you do not mean you take after your mother and read the day away? Besides, you cannot be more than three years of age.”

“Mama says I take after her and my father in that way. My birthday was three months ago, Mrs. Bingley. I am now…” he stopped to think, “…three and seventy-seven three hundred and sixty-fifth’s years old,” he declared proudly. “And I have been reading for over a year now.”

“How extraordinary!” exclaimed Jane, while Elizabeth tried very hard not to beam as she stroked her son’s head.

“Yes, Jane, William is as voracious a reader as can be. He delights in discovering treasures in anyone’s library.”

“Then you must see Mr. Bingley’s library, William. Shall I have the maid take you directly? Will you go with her?”

“Of course, Lady Angel, I am not afraid.”

Jane smiled. “Of course you are not, Master William; I never thought you would be.”

The maid went off with William and his nurse after he graced Jane with a heartfelt thank you and another beautiful smile. Jane’s eyes betrayed her thoughts immediately. She turned to Lizzy who had not missed the look upon her sister‘s face.

“Will you tell me his true name now, or must I say it?” she asked softly.

“William Bennet Cartwright,” her sister answered without thinking.

“Lizzy.” Jane was not going to allow her to escape this. Silence hung between the two sisters.

Finally, she drew a great breath and sighed, “William Bennet Cartwright …”

“Yes?” Jane raised her brows to signal her to continue.

“Darcy,” she breathed out slowly, staring blankly at the ground. “I have not said his full name out loud since January the twenty-ninth, eighteen hundred and fourteen; the day he was born.” A silent tear ran down her left cheek without her realising it.


Inside Charles Bingley’s study, Fitzwilliam Darcy sat motionless on the sofa next to the open window over-looking the Bingley’s garden. A silent tear ran down his left cheek, the owner completely unaware of it. Time froze, and he was cognisant of the ticking of the clock, and the slight humming of insects in the garden. How long he remained immobile he did not know until he heard the maid coming down the hall with the lad on their way to the library. He was torn between hearing Elizabeth speak again and the mad desire to see this child. His son! He had a son, his and Elizabeth’s! His mind was racing, as was his heart. He had no time to think; instead, jumping up quickly but quietly, he very nearly ran down the hallway to the library after them.


“Is it so obvious, Jane?” she asked, though she already knew the answer.

“Like looking into a mirror that turns back time, Lizzy; he is the picture of his father, like no other son I have ever seen,” she answered solemnly. “And his smile! Oh my, he has the Darcy dimples!”

“Yes, I know. You cannot imagine my shock the first time as a baby he smiled at me,” she replied with a slight laugh. “But he does not know his real father; he may never know, I have not decided. I have not told him you are his Aunt. I am afraid he believes you are merely my friend. Please forgive me, but I must ask you to agree to keep this secret.”

Jane nodded her reluctant agreement while Elizabeth continued, “William is unlike any other boy. He is not the same for many, many reasons, not least of which is his mind.”

“Whatever do you mean, Lizzy?”

“He is not just a clever; his brilliance goes far deeper. He has an intellect which is truly gifted in ways I could not have thought possible in a person, much less a young child.”

Jane looked concerned, but encouraged her to continue.

“When William was not yet nine months old, he started speaking, putting crude sentences together very quickly, never forgetting anything once he had learned it. He quickly started speaking whole sentences, and sang entire songs, often in other languages, if he heard me sing them.

“He continued by playing with all the puzzles in the house, and very quickly mastered them. I started to make up new games and challenges for him everyday. His ability to master anything I set to him was astounding. Around the age of eighteen months I began seeing how interested he was in my books, and let him see the pages and the print. Soon after, we started studying his letters and then his numbers as well. I rarely had to tell him any fact twice. His mind absorbed everything with a keenness I could hardly believe.

“Before the time he was two, he was reading. He progressed so quickly, soon all the children’s books I had acquired, and afterwards the lending library books as well had been read several times over. Also at age two he started adding and later subtracting his numbers.

“He began asking me about languages. His nurse is French, and together we started teaching French to him. William now speaks it far better than I do, but it does not stop there. He found a book on Latin at the vicar’s parsonage, and started studying it on his own.

“I have continued teaching him all I know of mathematics, and we started learning geography and history recently. Unfortunately, because he is still so young, he cannot write well, so most of his studies are conducted through speech alone. This makes the schooling progress very fast, but Jane, I will have to stop William’s lessons soon.”


Darcy’s hand hesitated at the library door. He knew what his heart wanted, but he also feared it. Taking a deep steadying breath, he turned the handle slowly and stepped into a new world.

William was there, standing at a row of books, the shelves lined upwards from him for what seemed like several stories. He seemed so small, not more than a babe to Darcy, who was not accustomed to such small children. They had not heard him enter and Darcy took advantage to observe in great detail, as was his habit.

“My son!” he thought. He looked earnestly for those telling details which would prove him the son Darcy so desperately wanted him to be. The boy’s hair was a mop of mahogany curls, which he quickly discounted as both he and Elizabeth had such. However, on closer inspection William’s hair was more like his. Her hair was much thicker and wavier compared to Darcy‘s. This boy’s hair, his curls, were much more to his own than to his mother’s. His profile, Darcy concluded, was undecided, he had a fine nose, like both his parents, and a good chin, but he could not see more resemblance from a mere side view at twenty paces.

Then suddenly William spied a book he liked. His previous frowning curiosity as his fingers tread lightly across the spines was replaced with a beautiful wide grin of discovery and delight. As the grin spread across his little face, the sides were suddenly graced by two sweet indents which Darcy immediately recognised and he drew a sharp breath.

The nurse and William turned at the sound, and upon seeing the gentleman standing there, he bowed politely and, smiling, he spoke. “Sir, this is a most excellent library, I hope you do not mind my looking.”

Darcy walked slowly up to him, his gaze never leaving the boy’s face. The closer he got, the harder his heart beat. He did not know the smile upon his face made William feel very welcome and immediately relaxed any anguish he might have felt from the failure of the gentleman to address him. Darcy could not help but be deeply moved. William’s face was like a ghost to him: his own ghost of the boy he once was. Only a blind fool could not see Fitzwilliam Darcy in this child.

“Our son,” he thought again. He sighed so deeply it made the boy frown a bit. Remembering himself, Darcy determined to not waste this precious time.

Standing directly in front of him, he bowed, a deep, deep bow, at the bottom of which he looked directly up into William’s eyes and winked.

He then stood up to his fullest height and with an air of authority said, “Sir, any gentleman with enough good sense to appreciate this library, and give it such fine praise is always welcome. Your taste does you credit.”

“Ha!” laughed the lad. “I think you are having a bit of fun with me.”

Darcy immediately let out his breath and laughed along with him. He then knelt down to William’s level. “What do you find here that makes you smile so, young master?” he asked, studying the books in front of them. He had almost let slip out “young master ‘Darcy‘” but caught himself in time.

“I have found a few good books I have already read and two good books I have been wishing to read!”

“And what do find that you wish to read?”

“Beowulf and the Canterbury Tales, Sir!” he replied excitedly.

“My, those are very exceptional pieces of literature; whatever made you think to read them?”

“Well,” he started, but then gave his ideas some contemplation before continuing, “Mama says if I wish to study philosophy, and higher mathematics principles, I must first learn to have fun and read about exciting adventures and classic stories. Then later, when I look at the whole of an idea, I will have much more than my simple life in Derbyshire to draw from. What say you, Sir? Do you think I should know more?”

Darcy was mulling over his answer when suddenly, he was cognisant of what this child was actually asking, then replaying over in his mind what William had told Jane; it did not make sense. This child is but 3 years old, he told himself. How can a child, nay almost a babe, be thinking like this, can be contemplating Chaucer and poetry, and speaking of his education at such a tender age to include philosophy and higher mathematics?

“Master William,” Darcy began, “how came you to think of studying such advanced subjects?”

“Because Mama says we will begin those subjects when we get to university, Sir.”

“You do not continue your studies at home with your mother?” Darcy questioned frowningly.

“We have nearly finished those, Sir. Soon it will be time to learn more,” he answered, a bit exasperated. Darcy’s frown continued. The boy turned to his nurse and once again in French asked her, “Mademoiselle, please tell the gentleman Mama has announced her teaching is nearly complete, for I think once again we have an adult who does not believe what I say.”

Darcy turned a knowing look to the Nurse who nodded her assent. He then addressed William, “That will not be necessary, William, for I can see you are in earnest. Please accept my apologies if you have been offended in any way. I can only say you are truly the most extraordinary young man I have ever met.”

“And I accept your apology, Sir. But you need not worry; if I took offence to every new acquaintance who found my interests and studies unusual, I think I would be a very gloomy chap indeed!” he replied, laughing at his own good sense.

“You have the right of it William, and no improper pride, I dare say,” said Darcy affectionately. There was something about the boy’s small face that he could tell was not his own and, finally having the chance to seriously study it, recognition came over him; Williams eyes. They were the exact shape as his, but their colour was Elizabeth’s brown, and the lashes much thicker and lovely, like hers. He admitted they made an improvement over his, and laughed lightly to think how young ladies would one day swoon over such fine eyes.

“Now tell me about your home; you live in Derbyshire?”

William proceeded to tell his father about his beloved county of Derbyshire, the beauty he had known there through his mother’s careful tutelage, and their carefree rambles through the country walks. He spoke of the village he lived in, Brampton, and the entire goings on, the vicarage and school where he and his mother worked each week with other children and helped the less fortunate members of their community. William very seriously told him his mother believes everyone needs kindness and that we all need to help others.

Darcy knew the place well; it was just off the main road between Pemberley and London, not thirty miles from his own home. How often these last three years would he have passed near Brampton and not known that two of the three most important people in his life resided there?

William spoke well; his words, though coming from a child’s mouth were full of the vivacity, and spirit of life Elizabeth had always exuded. Darcy had only been in his company for ten minutes, but already in that short time, this boy, this tiny little man, had completely enraptured him. His heart was so full, it took every ounce of his control to not kiss his dear son and hug him tightly.

“Well, Sir, if I might have your permission, may I take these two volumes to the garden where my mother is sitting with your lady? I promise not to let them touch the ground or get soiled in any way before I return them,” William asked sweetly.

Suddenly Darcy realized his son thought he was Bingley. This was not his library, and he did not have permission to give the boy anything. He was not meant to be with him. He was not sure if he should reveal his name to William. Knowing now just how intelligent his son was, he was sure the boy would remember his name, and there was no way to gauge how Elizabeth would react to his having been introduced to William. He desperately did not want him to leave. He needed time to think, and he did not have that luxury.

Sadly but resignedly, he knew what he must do. He turned to William, and spoke very softly, “I know what a very clever boy you are and you are still very young, but I think, William, I would trust you with the most precious things I possess. You may keep the books for your own, for providing me with such delightful conversation, as I have not had these past four years. I only ask a small favour; will you kiss my cheek in thanks?”

William looked at his father, wide surprise across his face. “Keep them, Sir? For my very own?”

“Yes, William, give them to me, and I will make them yours forever.”

William clasped his hands and jumped in joy, acting like the young three-year-old boy he still was. Then, seeing the smile on Darcy’s face, he took it in his tiny hands, and observed him intently for several moments. He kissed his father’s cheek, threw his arms around his neck and thanked him over and over. Darcy hugged his son tightly and choked back his emotions while enjoying the bittersweet moment. William released him and handed him the books. With that, Darcy brought the two volumes over to the desk, took out the pen and ink, and inscribed each book.

A smiling boy left the library; his treasures tucked safely in his hug. His nurse reminded him he needed to take his meal, and that books were not allowed at table, therefore he deposited them next to their things in the hallway, and proceeded down to the kitchen. The maid picked up the books and looked at the inscription, smiling. It read:

For My Dearest William


In the garden, Jane asked Elizabeth to explain why she would no longer be teaching William.

“He will very soon be beyond my knowledge; less than a year, I am sure. Our Vicar, Mr. Awdry, who also has been teaching William this past year, agrees with my assessment. He will need excellent tutors to keep his mind growing. He also wants to start the study of music soon, and I only play quite ill, not at all qualified to teach.”

“What will you do, Lizzy? Jane asked. “I can not imagine such a young child at Cambridge, or any university in England for that matter!”

Elizabeth laughed. “Yes, you are correct; Englishmen hold tight in their conventions of education. No lad may be ready for any subject unless he has traversed the same road as everyone else. It is a sad truth, but one my son will not have to suffer through if I have any say in it.”

Just then, the servant arrived with tea and lemonade, cakes and fruit to refresh the ladies. They began serving the tea, chatting about the lovely day, and the delicious treats in front of them. Later, the maid returned and informed Mrs. Cartwright the young master and his nursemaid would be taking their refreshments below stairs and were doing fine. She thanked the girl, relieved to know of her precocious son’s whereabouts.

“He is the most amazing boy, Madam!” the maid exclaimed. “The cook and housekeeper are heartily discussing things with him I’ve no get up about! And he seems so young, but he must be older than he looks.”

“Thank you, Annie, but Master William is only three years old, despite his cleverness, and we must remember to keep him safe while he is here,” Jane replied.

The maid excused herself with this interesting bit of information; hardly able to keep herself from sharing with the first serving person she met in the house.

Darcy had by this time re-established himself in the small study, eager to hear more, and not feeling a little bit guilty about his eavesdropping. The two women were laughing.

“Is that usually the way of it?” asked Jane.

“I fear it is,” her sister replied. “Fortunately William does not see it as something to grow vain over, he simply enjoys life too much to bother dwelling on what others think of him. I hope his good nature and easy manners stay part of his countenance when he is grown.” She then began describing how she had planned for William’s future.

“I have a tidy sum from dear Mrs. Thurgood, which I have invested in several places such as Walters and Elliott, the Bartswith Shipping Company, a few smaller businesses. I am proudest to say I am an anonymous partner in Uncle Gardiner’s warehouses. He runs an amazingly profitable place!”

Jane conceded, “I certainly thought as much from how lovely Aunt Gardener’s gowns always are!” The ladies giggled appreciatively.

“From the profits of my investments I run our household and I purchase the necessary books and materials William has needed so far. But there is so much more yet to come. I will have start paying wages for tutors, masters and the like. I must keep our money safe, and profitable enough to secure William’s future. I never knew the difficulties that come with providing for a household.”

“From the profits of my investments I have run our household and purchased the necessary books and materials William has needed so far. But there is so much more yet to come. I will have start paying wages for tutors, masters and the like. I must keep our money safe, and profitable enough to secure William’s future. I never knew the difficulties that come with providing for a household.”

“This is all too remarkable to me; hearing you talk of investing and profits, wherever did you learn it all?” replied an overwhelmed Jane.

“Necessity! There is nothing like it to get one to take action. I had also learned some book keeping, investing and rudimentary skills of running of an estate from father. It is no different with my investments; the numbers are simply different.

“However, caring for our fortune is but a small part of my plans. William needs the opportunities to seek out the great minds and thinkers of our age. I need to learn who is the most reputable. I need to find out who can teach him, guide him and with which people I can trust him. I cannot, will not, take any chances with what is most precious to me.

“What William needs is the connections to the thinking world; hang fine ladies and dandies. Unfortunately, many of them are actually part of society.” Here she laughed. “The very people who I would shun gladly the rest of my life, I now need. How ironic life can be.”

“You cannot be so light-hearted about this, surely?” Jane suddenly became concerned; she knew her sister’s habit of brushing off serious issues in jest.

“No, of course not, I simply try to keep my spirits up for my darling boy of course.”

“You seem very taken, Mrs. Cartwright,” Jane consoled her. Elizabeth beamed.

“He is my reason for living, my love, my light, and my redemption for being a fallen woman. I cannot say it clearer.” Jane gasped.

“When I discovered I was with child, I was so frightened. How I suffered and tortured myself with my emotions, then ended up making myself physically ill. I tried to punish myself for having been such a fool. I did not wish to go on, but one day Mrs. Thurgood, my employer, said something to me. I do not know if she knew my shame, but never the less, it was so poignant, I knew her words were pointing the way for me. She said, ‘We are not always happy with ourselves, not proud of our actions, or our feelings, but what never will change is that we do not go through our lives alone. We, each of us, have someone, somewhere to answer to.’

“I knew she was correct. What I was doing to myself, I was doing to my babe as well, and I could never live with hurting my child. So I stopped and decided to live for my child and myself.

“Once William arrived the rest was simple. He was so easy to love. So easy to feel blessed. I may have given up my soul to have him, but I will not spend his soul to release mine.”

Jane reached over and clasped her hand in understanding and sympathy. At length she replied, “Perhaps if you were to marry again? Might you fall in love and wish to, Lizzy? Then you could find happiness again and William would have a father in his life.”

Elizabeth stared openly at her sister, her amazement clearly written on her face. “Goodness, Jane! How could you say such thing? Can you really not know? I am in love, and in my heart I am married, and always have been, to Mr. Darcy! There could never be any question of another.”

“But Mr. Cartwright?” Jane asked alarmed.

Elizabeth sighed, “My late husband …” Her mind suddenly drifted off as she remembered the day she was given the letter from the attorneys that was forever to change her life.


My Dearest Elizabeth,

For dearest you have become to me in these short months I have come to know you. I write to you now with the knowledge I will have passed on as you read this. Be well, my Dear, do not despair, for I have seen what no other has yet to, and I am here to help you, even if no longer in person.

I know you are Elizabeth Bennet. I saw you once, over a year ago, in Lambton with your Uncle Edward and Aunt Madeline Gardiner, nee Walker.

Mrs. Doris Walker was one of my dearest friends and her daughter Madeline is dear to me as well. We were to meet that summer, did you know? I suspect not, since you did not recognise my name when we met. It was several months before I recognised you for who you were. Madeline had often written to me about her two favourite nieces, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet. The day we first spoke of my illness under the great elm was the day I recognised you for who you really were.

Later, I recognised something much more serious about you: I know you carry an unborn child. I know that whatever has come between you and your baby’s father has not been resolved, and I fear it may never be. Can you not tell him? I seem unable to help you in this, but I will not dwell on it. The two of you are grown adults, and you must make your peace as you see fit. However, your babe cannot. I see your spirit waning daily as you fret over what is to become of you and my resolve is set. I am sorry to give you pain, but I must be frank with you, as you were most often with me.

You cannot keep this child without a great deal of deception. I am sorry that it is the way of the world, but it is so. You cannot be an unmarried woman with a child and have any hope to live in peace.

I have therefore undertaken to find you a suitable husband. A suitable, deceased husband, of course. You must be his widow, and no one must ever be able to trace your history. Therefore, I am pleased to inform you, that you are the widow of a Mr. William James Cartwright, a soldier in the regulars, who was stricken and died of influenza while serving his majesty’s army in Spain. He was a real person who was known to me, an orphan with no family to trace. His dear new “cousin” has left his widow, Elizabeth Cartwright, six thousand pounds and a small cottage in the south of Derbyshire, in the town of Brampton. The money was my dowry, and the cottage belonged to my family. My husband’s great niece will inherit Fairhaven and its fortune, but my legacy I pass happily onto you. I have written a letter which can be sent to the vicar there instructing him to welcome my cousin’s wife and the child she is soon to have. It is up to you to direct my solicitors to do so.

I know you do not like to have anything forced upon you, Elizabeth. I know you will be at first furious with me for making so many presumptions and taking on tasks which might seem mortifying to a lady. Please believe me when I say to take the opportunity I lay before you. My good name and your new relationship to me will serve you well, my Dear. Your respectability will remain intact, and you will have the financial independence to do with both your lives as you want.

I cannot tell you the pleasure it gives me to think you might do this. I envy you your freedom if you do; I hope you can see this as just that. To know you and your child could be happy and healthy living in the country, growing up under your excellent tutelage, truly puts me at peace with my fate.

Consider carefully, my dearest friend, and do what is best for you both. If you truly cannot reconcile with the father, then do what is right for yourself and your child. All you have to do is tell those two toady attorneys of mine your real name is Elizabeth Cartwright…

“My late husband … was a slight acquaintance of Mrs. Thurgood’s. He left for Spain just before I went to work for her. I never met him. She was kind enough to honour me with his very deceased hand, adopting him in the process thereby making me, and subsequently William, her legal heirs. She then set us up in a lovely country town, where I have been respectably keeping my widow’s cottage these past three and a half years. It was all her doing. I knew none of it, until after her death. She cared for me even after she left me. I will never forget her kindness. William knows to whom we owe our good fortune; I make sure he knows who gives of themselves and their hearts.”

“You were never married, then? Oh, this is somewhat disturbing news. But Lizzy!” she exclaimed. Finally understanding the full weight of what her sister had revealed, she ventured, “You loved him, you are in love - with Mr. Darcy?”

“Of course,” she answered, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I could no more stop loving him then stop breathing.” However, seeing her sister’s beautiful face now brimming with tears she tried to lighten the mood. “I would not be Elizabeth Bennet if I were not doomed to love a man who hates me”

“Hates you? Oh no, I am sure he does not hate you.”

“You did not see him, Jane, you did not see his eyes, and you did not hear his voice. We hurt one another so much, our tempers raged at their fullest, and we each inflicted our worst. No, he will never forgive me. I know this. Once his good opinion is lost….” She suddenly hesitated, cringing at using his words.

“It would not change, he could never change,” she quickly ended. “So you see, Mr. Darcy and I are not the best of friends.” She said, trying to brush off light-heartedly that which plagued her every day of her life. Several moments of silence past, before Lizzy became serious again.

“He has my heart, but I have lost any share of his. That is my penance; my burden is to know I have cut off and flung from me the only man I have loved, and the only man with whom I could have been happy. Lydia’s foolishness, next to my own, pales. She had dreams; I never allowed them for either of us.”

“But why? Why did you leave him? Why did you turn his offer down in Kent if you loved him?”

“You know the reason I refused him then; I did not love him, only after, when I read his letter, when I saw the pain of what I had said to him; how unjust I had been. How I had so easily thought ill of him because he had wounded my vanity. I never knew myself until then, and I never knew the man I had refused. I had acted despicably to another human being and I felt the bitterness of my shame. And justly so. I began to read his letter, over and over, truly searching out the man I knew not. Slowly it came unto me: who he really was, and what I felt. I did not know my own heart until we met again at Pemberley the summer Lydia eloped. However, what began there, ended in London. I ended it. I alone was at fault.

“When we met in London… I cannot tell you all of it; it would not reflect well on either of us. After… after Lydia…” Small tears, a regretful trickle started down her face. She knew she had already shed enough tears for her loss, but there still seemed to be a few determined reminders of her folly.

“Forgive me, I have never spoken about this before,” She wanted to confess this; she knew she needed to make sure someone knew what had happened.

“About nine months after Wickham and Lydia eloped, while I was living on my own in London, I met him one night, and I… I made a decision.” She paused, thinking over how much she should reveal of her plots, intrigues and shame. Deciding nothing would be served by confessing to Jane all that she had done, just how low she had sunk, she chose a highly edited version, though still grave in its outcome.

“I gave him myself of my own free will; he never coerced me. I wanted him, and I swear I did not know then how much I would hurt him. I only knew I was meant to be with him and I did not wish to stop and think of why I was making the choice. What will you think of me, Jane? Please do not be disgusted, but I do not regret what we shared that night. I cannot regret such love and passion, such a night! I wished to have such a memory to secretly keep with me forever, to make up for the empty years I knew would be ahead of me.” She sighed, not sadly, but resignedly. “But it was not to remain secret; unbeknownst to us, we had made my beloved William.

“I had dishonoured myself, and I knew I could not live with him, knowing what he would think of me. I refused his hand, yet allowed him to….” She shook her head.

“I had fallen from grace and from his esteem forever. Therefore, I left, meaning to never see him again, and determined to make sure he would never try to find me. I could not bring my shame and the shame of our family to him, so I ensured that he would hate me. I said words I knew would seal our fate, not knowing what the future had in store for me. It mattered not; all I ever wanted was to secure the safety and futures of those I loved.”

“He has not married, Lizzy, surely he must still be in love with you. Else would he not marry and start a family?”

“But I am not the same. I am no longer respectable and worthy of marriage. I would never marry him and bring upon him the humiliation of being connected to me. If he takes a bride, I will never begrudge him his happiness. I want him to find it; I pray for it. I am bound to him dearest, I cannot help it, but he can never be bound to me.”

“Then why not tell him? Why not give him his son? Or let him at least share in him? “Jane cried.

“My dearest sister!” she exclaimed heartily. “How strong you have become!” She hugged Jane to her. “I could not be prouder!”

“Do not put me off,” Jane whispered, her anger rising, her face flushed. She pushed Elizabeth back slightly, setting her back to her place, to make her finish.

“No, Jane,” she said sadly shaking her head. “For you, only the whole truth. That is not the end of it, of course.” She dropped her hands absently in her lap and stared steadily at her motionless fingers.

“He alone can hurt me above all others. Fitzwilliam is also the only man I have ever been afraid of. The only man who ever stood up to me, the only man to best me, the only man I have ever loved. It also makes him the most dangerous man in the world to me. He alone has the power to destroy that which is most dear to me.

“I am not speaking of merely taking my son from me, but from the world. Can you understand? William is not here just for me to love or Darcy to raise. I cannot be so selfish. His mind, Jane! He has a mind that only comes along once in a generation. Like Mozart or Aristotle, he thinks even now so far beyond me, I am humbled and tremble at the responsibility I have to the world to give him every chance to contribute. I know it seems impossible, but I assure you, I am not alone in this assessment. We have been to see many men; they all agree with me.”

Jane slowly shook her head, trying to comprehend an idea so far removed from Longbourn, Netherfield, or her life with Bingley.

“But I see you do not understand why I cannot let his father know him. It is really very simple. I cannot take the chance that William might become Master of Pemberley. I cannot let him idle his life away on something as worthless as society. I could never risk the chance of him growing up spoiled, thinking the rest of the world is beneath him in any way. He might never be humble, he might never be benevolent, or do anything for the greater good of humanity. He would always have to think first of his family, his property, his place in society. These encumbrances would hinder him so much. In the end, he would become a portrait in the gallery of Pemberley: William Darcy, the twenty-second master of Pemberley, with ten more masters on either of his sides. How could I waste him so? Do you not see? Truly?”

Jane shook her head. “No, Lizzy, I do not! He has a father who has a right to see his son. It cannot be right!”

Lizzy’s eyes filled once again with tears, new tears, born from this new idea, a new hurt, that she did not like to dwell upon.

“I do not know if I can ever involve his father in his life. As painful as it will be to Mr. Darcy, and as hurtful as it may be someday to William, I must take the chance of making the two people I love most in the world hate me forever. I hope and pray it is the right thing to do and for all the right reasons. But please know, dearest, that in my heart, in my heart as his wife, I do want Fitzwilliam to know and love his son someday.” Lizzy wept silently to herself, Jane gave her some privacy while she cleared the tea things unto the tray. When she had at last composed herself, she explained her reason for visiting Jane.

“I came to ask something of you. I want you to tell Papa you saw me and you know I am well. I want you to tell him not to worry anymore, and most importantly, I want you to tell him to stop looking for me. I know he does this, and I cannot tell you how, only that he must stop. I want to ease his pain and his heart, and reconcile him to realising that, while I will always love him, I can no longer be his daughter.”

“But you are respectable Lizzy; you have your husband and your story.”

“No, father is no fool and can count numbers and look up dates as well as the next man. I will not add injury and insult to his pain. I love him too much. When William finishes his studies this year, we are going away. We must find the best there is for his education, and that is in on the continent. I think we will be gone a very long while. And I am certain…” Elizabeth choked on the words as they left her mouth, “…I will never see Papa again.

“I want him to remember me as I was: when I had not a care in the world past the next bend in the footpath. That is the Lizzy he loves. He deserves to keep that Lizzy with him. Not me. Will you do this for me; will you assure him in every way possible, without revealing William or my situation?”

“But what have you told me, Lizzy? I know not where you live, where you will go, or how to write to you if anyone needed you?”

Elizabeth smiled slightly, “Dear Jane, I was never needed. Lady Catherine de Bourgh once told me if my mother did not need me then my father could spare me; daughters can always be spared, and it is true. I can be spared; I only wish to not be a burden as well. I must go where I am needed, and my son needs me most.

“I will write, but not often; perhaps on William’s seventy-seven three hundred and sixty fifth’s birthday every year. It will be the anniversary of our lovely afternoon together, and I would always wish to mark it.”

“You are leaving? Oh no! Please say you will come again, please do not leave me again!” Jane was sobbing now, and poor Elizabeth could not hide her emotions, though she tried hard.

Through her tears she said, “I left four years ago, remember? I left you all to find your lives, your loves and your dreams, and now that you have found it, it makes my own happiness complete. I love you dearest sister, nothing will ever change that.”

“Lizzy, wait! Please do not leave yet. I have something, something I was told to give you, should you ever come to me. Will you wait while I fetch it?” Elizabeth agreed and soon Jane returned with a large envelope in her hands.

“I know this will come as a surprise to you, and perhaps it will not be pleasant, but Lizzy, Father gave this to me many years ago. He hoped that one day it would find its way into your hands. I do not know what it contains, but he did not deliver it in anger. Indeed, I believe he offered it in the most tender of regards to be passed on to you. Will you accept it? I know it would be of great relief to him, and perhaps, when I speak to him of your desire for him to give up his search, he would be more likely to agree.”

Elizabeth’s eyes gleamed with more tears. To know that her father had not abandoned her completely, gave her great comfort.

“Yes, Jane. I will accept it,” she whispered, “Tell father, no matter what it contains, I am glad to have it.”

They hugged each other tightly again. Finally, after many minutes they both had calmed down, and with their arms around each other, Jane called the maid to get William and his nurse.

As William came to his mother’s side, Lizzy whispered to Jane “I am sure you will see him again Jane, I feel it in my heart and it warms me to know he will know you throughout his life.”

William gave his Lady Angel a lovely kiss on each cheek and held her face for several moments, as if trying to commit it to memory. Then, after thanking her quite sweetly, ran off with his nurse to the door.

Jane smiled and frowned questioningly at Elizabeth.

“He sees things as we see a painting,” she said “When he wishes to see you again, he will merely close his eyes, and the picture of you in every detail will come into his mind: every curl, the lace on your collar, your beautiful smile, they are all there directly in front of him, for his asking. It is an amazing gift and I envy him it. He is very selective in his ‘picture making’ as we call it. He says he will live to be very old, so he should not waste the canvases.”

Then she and William left.


Jane stood in the garden as a light breeze blew softly thru her hair. She knew she should feel alone, but something crept upon her countenance. Turning around suddenly, she saw the drapery in Charles’ study silently floating upwards and twirling around in a lazy dance upon the breeze. Sitting stoically on the small sofa next to window, Jane saw Fitzwilliam Darcy, the father of her nephew, staring at nothing particular, yet steadily.

“You heard her?” she gasped.

He did not answer, but turned to her slowly, a deep, heavy pain shadowed across his face.

“You heard everything!” she cried, her voice breaking, as she realized the import of the wretched situation, and her sobs returned unabated.


Chapter 26

London, April 1817

Jane Bingley’s sudden burst into tears had broken the solitude of shock that he had felt, and instantly plunged Darcy into a rarely felt panic. He had an intense urge to leave the Bingley’s house immediately. However, to abandon Mrs. Bingley sobbing in her garden would be unforgivably rude, especially considering he was, in part, the source of her discomfort. He had just settled next to her outside, attempting to give her relief, when Bingley appeared.

“Good God! What is the matter?” he cried.

“Bingley! Thank heavens you are here. Your wife needs you and I must away.” Jane’s sobs seemed to increase, despite her being gathered into her husband’s arms.

“Darcy, what has happened?”

“There is much to impart, but I cannot stay. I must go. Please ask your wife; she will tell you all.” He answered while attempting to excuse himself. Bingley scowled and his anger began to boil.

“Have you done something to cause my wife’s distress?”

“No, not directly. That is not what…” He heaved a great breath, accepting he must explain something of what had occurred. “Charles, Elizabeth Bennet was just here.”

“Lizzy was here?” He took Jane’s face in his hands. “You saw your sister? She is alive and well?” Jane nodded through her tears.

Darcy continued, “There is so much more, but I can not stay to tell you. Mrs. Bingley, please, I think he deserves to know everything we two learned today. Will you tell him?”

Jane’s bottom lip trembled as she once again nodded her agreement.

“Thank you. I know it will not be easy. I promise you both I will call again tomorrow, but for now, I really must go.” He stormed out after his quick bows.

“Oh, Charles, what wretched chaos this day has been!” Jane cried through her tears as she embraced her husband fiercely.


Darcy strode with determination away from the Bingley‘s house, heedless of anything around him except for the need to escape the prying eyes of those who would look upon him and judge him with their stares.

“Georgie,” he thought. “I must see Georgie.”

His ordered life had not often been disrupted. He relished the control he was afforded by his position both as master of his grand estate and head of his family. His vast knowledge of his world and the success of his endeavours gave him the sense of security he wanted, and one of only two sources of happiness he knew.

Now, in one afternoon, his carefully constructed control and the comfortable world he had built around himself was sifting hopelessly through his large graceful fingers. His tightened fists could do naught to stem the tide.

At last he stood upon the doorstep of his sister’s town-home. The late afternoon sun was setting behind him, encouraging the onslaught of crisp spring night air of April with its impending absence. His great agitation was barely concealed. The butler brought him immediately to Mrs. McNally, who was luckily alone, for as soon as the door to the drawing room closed behind the servant, he fell to his knees at her feet, his shoulders wracked with the sobs he had been forced to hold in as he cried, “Oh, Georgie, I have a son!”

She sat, startled and helpless to assuage his grief, and could think of nothing to do but hold her brother tightly to her as he wept.

Georgiana’s calm in the storm of his woe was a blessing and a necessary part of his attempt to be collected once again. He was aware of her stroking his hair, and whispering endearments to him, just as his mother had once done. The siblings were again supporting one another in whatever way each needed.

At last he began to settle. He knew he could trust his sister’s judgment and sense in advising him what he should do with his situation. Whilst trying to think of the words to begin, Georgiana spoke first.

“Are you feeling any better?”

“I think I am. I apologise for such an outburst.”

“I think it perfectly understandable; considering the circumstances.”

“Thank you, Dearest.”

She leaned over and kissed the top of his crown. “You are most welcome.” They sat embracing while tranquillity began to descend upon the room. Georgie spoke once again.

“Was it the woman you spoke of that night, all those years ago?”


“I am sorry, Brother.”

He nodded silently.

“What do you intend to do?”

He looked up earnestly at his sister. “Georgiana, my head is so full of thoughts right now, I do not think I could draw a straight line with a pen.”

“I think I understand. How can I help you in this?”

“I could use the peace of home at this moment, however, I am uncertain of my ability to convey myself hither.”

“Stay here then; I will make the arrangements, and Patrick and I will accompany you home.”

Her brother’s face instantly darkened.

“I do not keep things from my husband, and as this involves family,” she emphasised the word, “he has every right to know,” she stated firmly. She then clasped her brother’s hand. “Do not fear; Patrick loves you as I do, you know.” He nodded and agreed.


“Darcy, do you wish for us to stay the night here at your town-home? It would be no trouble, and if you have need for counsel from either of us, we would be readily available.”

“Thank you, Patrick. I know there is no finer friend in this world than you, and now that we are brothers it gives me every hope that with your and Georgiana’s excellent advice, I can find a satisfactory solution to my predicament.”

Georgiana had returned from meeting with Darcy’s staff, and informed the men a light repast would be provided in the drawing room a short time later as they took their seats.

“I believe in order to make any sense of what has happened, I need to speak to you of what I have learned,” Darcy began.

“Tell us what you see fit to share with us, Fitzwilliam; we will not press you.”

“I promise you will not regret taking us into your confidence,” Patrick added solemnly. Darcy thanked them for their solicitude and began.

“Her name is Mrs. Elizabeth Cartwright, and our son is William. He is just three years old, and I can tell you a more unique person in the world you would be hard pressed to find.”

“You have met him?”

“I have,” he answered, while a slight smile tugged at the corner of his lips.

“What does he look like?” Georgiana asked the obvious.

Darcy rose and went to the wall where some half dozen small portraits hung near the mantle. He lifted one off, and brought it to his sister who smiled tenderly upon seeing the image of her brother as a child.

“He looks exactly like me.”


Several hours later Georgiana and Patrick retired to their rooms, exhausted from having spent such an emotional evening with Darcy.

He had shared everything he could about Elizabeth and William, with the exception of her involvement with Lord Caldhart and her possible involvement in Wickham’s death. However, he knew the unfortunate time had come to finally reveal Elizabeth’s and the Bingley’s connection to Wickham.

He told of meeting Elizabeth at Pemberley with her Aunt and Uncle several years ago, and the subsequent departure she had made that very night. He was none too proud to admit the scheme for their Grand Tour, was actually a ruse to cover his escaping what he thought was another refusal of his affections on her part.

“Unfortunately, in my vain blindness I failed to discover the reason for her family’s expedient departure was of a much graver nature. Her youngest sister, who could not have been more than sixteen years old at the time, had eloped with George Wickham.”

Georgiana paled, and Patrick’s face was one of concern for his wife as he took her hand firmly in his.

“Her youngest sister?” Patrick asked.

“Lydia, Lydia Bennet,” he frowned then grimaced, aware his next words would shock, “Mrs. Cartwright is the former Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Mrs. Bingley’s lost sister?” Georgiana gasped. Patrick arms were now firmly around her shoulders.

“Darcy, did he, did he…?” Patrick could not ask the unthinkable. Darcy hesitated but an instant to lie to his loved ones, but knew he had little choice, especially as he did not know for certain that Wickham had not married Lydia Bennet.

“They ran off to America and were married on board the ship they sailed.”

“Oh, thank goodness he married the poor girl!” Georgie cried as she let out a held breath. “But why has Mrs. Bennet never mentioned it?”

“The Wickhams are now in America. And I believe she was more interested in the new Mrs. Bingley the day you met her. Bingley is aware of my… dislike of Wickham, and has been kindly keeping his name out of any conversation,” Darcy answered.

“Patrick knows about Mr. Wickham, Fitzwilliam. You do not have to hide it from him.” She gazed to her husband with unabashed affection. He returned her look with one of deep admiration. “Were the Bingleys trying to protect my feelings as well?”

“I believe they may have Georgie; you see, Elizabeth knew of Wickham’s attempt to elope with you.” Georgiana grew flushed.

“I wished to correct the lies he had been spreading to her about us, and I told her everything many years ago. Considering how close she and Mrs. Bingley were then, I suspect she might also have told her sister. I apologise if you feel your privacy has been violated.”

“I understand, Fitzwilliam. I think you may be right. The Bingleys have never mentioned Mr. and Mrs. Wickham to me. I think I am glad to know, and can be thankful I have them watching over me.” She then bit her lip, not wanting to acknowledge what might have been.

Darcy was never prouder than in the moment he watched his sister composedly ask the difficult questions about the Wickham’s elopement, the family’s shame, the tryst with Elizabeth and how he had discovered all today at the Bingley’s home.

Georgiana had already told her husband of her past history with Wickham, yet Darcy had not known it until that evening. He realised he should have sensed the strong bond between them could only have been forged with great honesty towards each other. Patrick was there to support his wife as well as Darcy, and once again he was humbled by the depth of love his sister shared with her husband and was grateful for their willingness to support him as well.

He knew that while Georgiana no longer considered him like a father, the confessions he had made tonight and the sins he had laid before her would lower her and Patrick’s esteem of him. However, if they were going to be able to aid him, he needed for them both to see as much of the harsh reality of truth he dared to divulge.


He lay on his bed in his nightshirt, the fire blazing warmly as he reflected upon all he had heard Elizabeth say. The first thought that came to him was her heart-wrenching confession she loved him and considered him, in her heart, her husband. With that nearly happy thought also came the sadness Elizabeth believed his good opinion of her was lost. Her words came back to haunt him:

“He will never forgive me. I know this.”

Inside his turmoil began. He had never allowed himself to think on her actions, and his feelings regarding them. Was he unforgiving towards her for being with Caldhart? If they had indeed consummated their relationship, would he allow it to lower his opinion of her? Another part of him secretly hoped she had never had to succumb to his Lordship. He knew the man’s death the night of the ball made the possibility she might only have been his very likely. Yet she had told Jane she did not believe he would forgive her. Was it forgiveness for being with another man to which she was alluding?

He thought of his own romantic history in which he had had relationships with women who were not his wife. His stubborn pride argued it simply was not the same for a man as it was for a woman. His conscience however, had other plans.

“Why is it not? Does Elizabeth not answer to the same God as you? Will you not both be accountable for your actions someday? How is it different for a man? Does a woman lack feelings and desires now?

“Do not mistake right and wrong with social acceptability. Most men treat women as little more than playthings or breeding stock. You have spent enough time in society to see that blatantly revealed and you know it.”

He attempted to squash the truths of his own argument.

“Did she know it was you she was with?” he asked himself.


“Yet you did not know it was your Elizabeth.”


So despite the immoral gravity of the activity, she was choosing to be with the man she loved, and you were with a virtual stranger.”

That sat bitterly in his mind.

He claimed to have desired her above all others and yet never hesitated to take Chantal Moreau, another man’s mistress, into his arms. He stood and walked to his mirror; the man who stared back was not one he was proud of.

“You see the scorn in your face, Fitzwilliam Darcy; do not try to deceive yourself. Your pride was hurt. You thought she had chosen him over you. Did you ever stop to think of her situation alone, and not what it had done to you? Her fate had already been cast before she had met you that night.”

Now he could only feel contempt at his foolish emotions. Did it matter whether she gave herself to Lord Caldhart? Could he truly feel respect for Elizabeth for keeping her promise to his Lordship, even if it was to do a sinful thing?

He had thought she had treated him ill, used him, but in reality she had given herself to him, sacrificed her virginity as a precious gift to the man she loved.


He thought of the meaning. When had he ever really sacrificed anything? When had he ever acted in a wholly unselfish way? Some might cite his giving his sister her advanced education, but he had ulterior motives; he wished to continue his estate successfully and it gave him a purpose, something to keep himself busy for years.

But Elizabeth was different. Long ago she had nursed her sick sister in a home with people who practically scorned her to her face. Then she had given up everything a woman has and had made a deal with the very devil himself, but had done it to repair the good name and place in society of her family and to allow her sisters to have a future. She had angered him on purpose to drive him away the night of their illicit affair to protect him from whom she had become. She had wished him a wife and family to love.

“What have you done for her?”

He had put his pride before anyone else’s concern and caused Elizabeth’s very fall into damnation. If he had not kept Wickham’s character secret, none of it would have happened. He was as much to blame for her situation as Wickham’s despicable actions. Yet instead of hating Darcy, she loved him, she had told him over and over. He had thought it was only the French seductress encouraging him in his amorous pursuit of her body, when it was Elizabeth confessing her feelings to him; her love. Even now still she loved him and prayed for his happiness.

She thought she was dishonourable, that he would think less of her for committing her person to him as she had her heart. He shook his head at her words and his foolishness.

Never a particularly religious man, he was surprised when his mind suddenly turned to a biblical passage he had often read, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’

The walls of prejudice which had built up without his even realising it fell to a crumbling heap inside him. He would treat her with the equality of guilt that he himself owned. They were, neither of them, irreproachable.

“You have never fallen from my esteem, Elizabeth,” he whispered to no one, “There is nothing for me to forgive, and I shall not judge you.”

He thought he understood the love his sister and Patrick shared a little better. His love for Elizabeth had little time to grow, as they had rarely spent time together. But deciding to embrace her despite any faults or misdeeds and face the truths of all of it, yet still choose to love her - this was the first step.

He now realised a great a task was set before him. His mind tried desperately to catalogue all he would need to do, but his weariness told him the time for such plans must be put off. He would need days, weeks even, to work. But for now he must rest, and then tomorrow he could start. Tomorrow, he would find her. The last thought in his mind as sleep finally overcame him was a determined wish he meant to fulfil no matter what the difficulty,

“I cannot lose her.”


The morning came earlier than he would have liked, but as soon as the light of dawn broke through the heavy brocade curtains in his room, his mind was instantly alert and flooded with a hundred different thoughts. He repressed most as he prepared for the day, lest he become overwhelmed by them, and instead concentrated on the most important. He decided he should travel to Brampton as soon as possible and by the time he had finished his morning ablutions he had determined he would leave that afternoon.

He made his way to breakfast, slowly treading down the grand staircases of his town-home, when as he made the last turn upon the wide landing, he looked up to see his ancestor sitting upon his stallion, staring blankly back at him.

He would end up a portrait in the gallery of Pemberley…” He heard Elizabeth’s haunting voice in his head. He stared silently at the painting, unaware Georgiana had come up behind him.

“Does Great-Great Grandfather impart any words of wisdom to you?” Darcy jumped as his sister spoke. He shook his head, and turned to see her amused expression.

He gathered his wits once more, reigning in the strong desire to put his hand to his frantic heart, and answered as calmly as he could, “He is strangely silent this morning. Apparently he is expecting me to find my own wisdom.”

“And what success have you found so far?”

“Very little wisdom, I fear, and more decisions before me than I would have thought possible. Yet, the first has already been made; I must first find out where they live.” She nodded her head. They continued to the dining room where Patrick was already tucking in to a large plate when they entered, and continued their conversation.

“Will you travel to Brampton?”

“Yes, as soon as possible. It is the only source I have to find whether she is living here in London or still in the north.”

“I agree. Do you mean to present yourself to her eventually?”

“I had not thought on it. Do you think I should not?”

“She said she fears you, Brother. Seeing you might cause her to flee again.”

“I agree, Darcy,” Patrick joined in. “You should not risk it this soon without first knowing what her plans are.” Darcy’s face fell.

“I must go to Brampton if I am to find them; they may even be there now. How am I to discover them if I do not go?”

Georgiana glanced to her husband first before directing her speech to her brother.

“Fitzwilliam, it is not a question of your going, it is a question of how you go.”

“I do not understand your meaning.”

Patrick coughed slightly, and spoke up. “Georgie and I spoke last night and we both feel that in order for you to ascertain much of the information you will no doubt try to find, you are going to have to do so under the guise of someone else. You, your name and wealth are far too well known, especially in Derbyshire, to allow you to travel anywhere without stirring up great interest. How would you ever be able to inquire after a simple widow and her son without people talking? Just the sight of the Darcy coach rolling through a village is enough to stir up gossip.”

Darcy sat thoughtfully. His brother in law was correct. He would never be able to be discreet. He groaned.

“Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence,” he weakly protested.

“I know it is, Fitzwilliam. Yet, I see little choice in the matter, for at least what you hope to accomplish in Derbyshire. Your only other option would be to send someone else.”

“No!” He cut her off abruptly. Her mouth snapped shut, surprised at his outburst. “I am sorry, Georgiana, but do you have any idea how much of the tangled web that is my current situation is due to lack of real information, and inaction on my part? I am determined to find out every possible fact of anything of importance in these circumstances. If I fail in future, for once it will not be for lack of trying, or inability to discover the whole truth.

“I am for Brampton. I must see if I can discover her address from her friends in her home village. Then I may keep a watch on them both. It is much easier than searching blindly.”

Suddenly a great commotion was heard in the hallway. A loud voice trying to be appeased by the servant’s mumbles could be heard through the thick doors, when suddenly the occupants clearly heard, “I do not care if he is entertaining the King, I will see him NOW!”

“I believe your son’s uncle has come for a visit, Darcy,” Patrick said quietly. The doors flew open as a man strode determinedly through them.

Bingley had arrived.


Darcy had just enough time to stand, turn and recognise his friend before his world went black.

He next remembered feeling a shooting pain in his left jaw before he felt the cold of the marble floor of his dining room beneath his cheek. Jane and Charles Bingley both stood over him, Jane angrily chiding his ridiculous behaviour to his dearest friend. Bingley was barely listening while his hands were still clenched tightly, a sign his ire was not yet assuaged. Patrick and Georgie were at his side attempting to help him up. Patrick put himself between Bingley and Darcy in obvious defence, when Charles’ tirade began.

“How dare you, Darcy! You Cad! She ran away because of you! All these years her family has suffered. Jane has been tormented not knowing if her Lizzy were alive or dead, and you knew!

“I want to know what kind of man compromises a woman and then abandons her. I want to know what kind of man attends my wedding, eats at the Bennet‘s table, and never tells them he knows what has happened to their beloved daughter.

“Have you seen my father in law? Have you seen the sadness behind his eyes every waking moment? Can you think of how you would feel if your sister had disappeared like that? This was his child, Darcy! You have a son now; try thinking like a father.”

“Charles, please,” Jane hissed. “You are not helping the situation.”

“I am not trying to help. I want satisfaction. And that rake will give it to me before I leave.”

Darcy began to stand, the throbbing in his head increasing with each moment as Jane spoke, “Charles, Elizabeth confessed she did not wish to tell Darcy about their son. She kept his existence and true parentage a secret all these years. And she also admitted,” Jane blushed brightly, “she was not forced.”

He stared, disbelieving at his wife. Then he looked to Darcy, “She agreed?”

Darcy nodded.

“Then you are merely a damnable seducer, not a brute,” he replied in a huff.

“Charles Bingley!” Georgiana’s rarely raised voice sounded over them, already tired of the posturing males. “Remember your claim to being a gentleman and conduct yourself with appropriate manners in this home, Sir.”

He looked around, as if suddenly conscious of where he was and with whom.

“Mr and Mrs. McNally, I must apologise for my outburst.” He bowed slowly, while Jane curtseyed to them. He drew a great calming breath, then turned back to Darcy.

“Now in a rational and calm method, I will ask the bombastic villain who is my nephew’s father to explain himself.”

Jane gasped, while Georgiana bit her lip and stared decidedly at the floor and Patrick used his linen to keep his tea from ruining the fine polish of the cherry-wood table.

“I love her,” Darcy answered simply. “Charles, I know you have no reason to, but I beg you to believe me. I swear I love Elizabeth Bennet with all my heart and always have. I have proposed to her twice and each time she has refused me.”

Bingley’s shocked face was enough to prove Jane had never betrayed her sister’s secret that Darcy had offered Elizabeth marriage.

“I could not tell her family of our relationship, for fear how badly it would reflect upon her, and how it might ruin their reputation should the facts ever become known to the world. But most importantly, the existence of our past relationship did not alter the truth that I had no idea where she was.

“I have searched for these past three years relentlessly. I am convinced the only reason I could not find her was she did not wish to be found. I believe she planned her escape from London to the last detail with the purpose of never being traced. Whether or not the Bennets knew of our assignation had no bearing upon being able to find her. Yesterday was the first day I have seen her since our fateful night together, and the first time I had ever heard we have a son.

“But now I have seen her again, and seen and met our son, I give you my blood oath I am going to do everything in my power to help them both in every way I can.”

Bingley still frowned. He did not acknowledge Darcy’s explanation, but he did remove himself to one of the chairs and sat with some little calm.

“You met William?” Jane asked, surprised.

Darcy smiled. “I did, I went to your library while he was there with his nurse.” He then proceeded to tell her of his encounter with his son, including revealing William now thought that he was Bingley, and apologising for having given the boy two of Bingley’s books.

“And my meeting him has been a boon to us in addition. Your sister was careful not to reveal her situation to you, Mrs. Bingley, but William was not as covert. He told me he and his mother have been living in Brampton, in Derbyshire.”

“Brampton!” Bingley exclaimed. “That cannot be more than 30 miles from Pemberley!”

“But I believe she and William are residing in London, Mr. Darcy,” said Jane.

“Yes, I think you are right, but she still has property in Brampton, and William mentioned she was friends with the vicar. I am sure someone in the village is taking care of her concerns at her home, and reports them to her in London. They will have her direction here in town. To search the whole of London without a clue would prove fruitless otherwise”

“Are you saying Elizabeth is planning on living in secret again?” Charles inquired.

“Yes, it seems she wishes to continue to live incognito. And, unfortunately, she still has no wish to be known to her family or former acquaintance, or me.” All but Jane were surprised. “She wants nothing to do with me; she admitted she was afraid of me, of what I was, and what William, as my only child and heir, might become.”

Jane reached out for his arm and made to soothe his hurt, but he stopped her.

“She did not mince words, Mrs. Bingley. I heard her clearly. She fears nothing more than the chance our son would grow up to be Master of Pemberley, grow up… to be me.”

Jane smiled tremulously, her tears softly flowing down her cheeks. “You have a mountain to move, Brother,” she whispered kindly to him as she squeezed his arm.

“Brother?” he asked.

“Yes, I think the man who is in love with my sister, and with whom my sister is in love, and the father of my nephew, is my brother, do you not?” Darcy smiled kindly at her.

“Thank you.”

“Jane,” she said decidedly.

He smiled. “Only if you will call me Fitzwilliam,” he answered. She nodded her agreement.

“I think you are all being too kind to him. You have not earned my pity, Brother,” Bingley growled.

“You are right, Charles, I do not deserve such tenderness. I deserve rebuke and admonishment. If you wish it, I will give you satisfaction in any way you deem necessary.”

Jane gasped and clenched Darcy’s arm tighter as she hissed, “Charles Bingley, if you make my nephew an orphan, I swear by all that is dear to me, you will rue the day for the rest of your life.”

Three heads turned in great surprise at the outburst they had just witnessed. The tension in the air was so thick, Georgiana thought she might actually swoon.

Jane’s eyes never left her husband, who returned the glare with a strength Darcy had never before witnessed in his friend. His arm was begging to be released from her torturous hold when Bingley’s voice finally broke the stalemate.

“Darcy, it seems you have yet another Bennet to admire and be indebted to.”


The next hours were spent talking of William and his wondrous abilities, and later Jane decided Elizabeth’s history of living on her own, and opening up Johnson’s Cigar Shop for her uncle, should be revealed. The family could hardly believe Elizabeth would agree to dress up day after day as an old woman and wait upon the gentry of London. They listened, rapt, to Jane’s description of her sister’s incredible abilities of taste, and smell. They were impressed at her efforts and success with the cigar shop.

“I have been to the shop. The products are considerably better than any other I have ever found in the city,” Patrick declared.

“I know the shop well, Jane. When I first started looking for Elizabeth, I discovered Mrs. Johnson had also disappeared and wondered if I might find a connection. I went there to find out more about her disappearance and made friends with Mr. Brooks and Toby. Now I understand when they spoke of her nose. They even showed me the book she wrote to guide them after she was gone. If I had but been familiar with Elizabeth’s hand I might have recognised the missive as hers.”

“I do not think it would have helped you find her, Fitzwilliam. I believe you are right in thinking she did not wish to be found. My father and uncle searched for her, but I sometimes heard them speaking and I now think they, too, thought she had planned to leave.”

Georgiana bravely decided to confide to the Bingleys that they need not hold their tongues about Mrs. Bingley’s youngest sister’s marriage to Mr. Wickham. Mr. And Mrs. Bingley replied compassionately, assuring Mrs. McNally that, while they would never say anything to bring her pain, Mrs. Wickham no longer corresponded with her family, and there was simply no news to convey or withhold.

Broaching that subject, however, did allow, Mrs. Bingley to confess the pain and humiliation her family had suffered when they were shunned from society, and, more importantly, how much it affected Elizabeth. Her heartfelt tale could not be listened to by the others without deep emotion. Darcy’s fear the Wickham’s marriage had not been discovered for an extended time was sadly confirmed, along with the suffering his beloved and all her family had endured because of it.

Darcy announced his first priority had to be discovering where Elizabeth and his son were now living. He promised he would do all he could for them, but did not know all that would entail. The business of finding them was paramount.

When the clock struck one, each person was tired to the very marrow of their bones; the emotional upheaval had taken its toll. The assembly broke up with one last promise.

Darcy felt a weight had been lifted from his shoulders on one hand, but the new danger of having so many people aware of his and Elizabeth’s indiscretion gave him worry. He also knew what he ought to do, something he had rarely ever done in his life; he needed to ask for help.

“There is little of my life, nor Elizabeth’s, you do not all know now, I am concerned at having so many people part of this conspiracy. But I must put my trust in all of you. Please take great care with what you all know. I may call upon you in future to help me, to help Elizabeth or to help our son. Are you willing to come to our aid?” Everyone nodded their agreement.

“You are all my family now. I willingly declare before all gathered here, that William Bennet Cartwright Darcy is my natural born son, and heir. You are my son’s aunts and uncles, I charge you all with protecting him, and helping him if ever I cannot.

“I will do all that I have sworn today to take care of him and his mother, but in so doing, I fear the discovery of my involvement could make her run. We all know she can disappear if she wants to. She has shown us her expertise at the skill already. I do not think I could suffer through another four years without her, or without my newly found son.

“I ask each of you to swear to me that none of the information which has passed between us today will ever be shared with another soul. There is more at stake than a matter of family honour, and I feel compelled to ask for your oaths.” All heads stared in concern at his statement, but one by one they swore their oaths of secrecy and help to his loved ones.

When Darcy finally left for Derbyshire that afternoon, he did so with purpose, resolve and anticipation for all that lay ahead of him. Once more the idea which had sent him to sleep the previous night pervaded, with one significant difference: this time as he nodded off to sleep in the corner of his coach he thought,

“I will not lose… them.”


Chapter 27

April 1817

The carriage rolled into a small village in Leicestershire, just south of Derbyshire. The driver, Riley, was eager to provide rest for his horses and to procure for himself and his master fresh drinks to soothe their parched throats, now filled with the dust of the road. Darcy entered the inn, paying little attention to anyone else, intent on quenching his thirst and eating his midday meal instead. Later, when he was finally sated and able to clear his head, he heard a conversation outside the doors.

“Them’s some horses, all right. Very fine. And the carriage as well. Who’s is it, do ya say?”

“My master is Mr. Darcy who lives in Derbyshire.”

“Darcy you say? Think I’ve heard o’ him. Tall bloke, yes?”

“Yes,” his driver replied quickly, obviously busy with the team.

“Well, that will give them something to talk about fer the next week at least. We don’t get too many rich folk stopping here. They like the inn up in Merryvale; nicer they say.”

This conversation mirrored one he had heard the day before and was enough to confirm what his relatives had feared: his presence was never going to be discreet if he was to travel as he was now. He spent the next hours on the road, and that evening at another small inn, planning how to remedy the situation.

The next morning he instructed his driver to stop at the posting town, about 10 miles to the north of Brampton, and not more than a few hours ride from Pemberley. “When we arrive there, Riley, we will be taking rooms at the inn, but I wish for you to saddle up one of the team, and ride on to Pemberley. I will have a set of instructions for my staff and they will have a trunk for you to bring back. I also wish for you to return with the gig, and two horses from the stable: Honey and Patches.”

“The Hay Burner and The Bucket?” his surprised driver asked.

Darcy laughed. Honey was over seventeen hands tall, and not a fine horse, rather a worker. His one claim to notoriety however, was no other horse on the property could eat as much as he could. Luckily he was willing to work off all he ate, so was in very good, though worn, condition.

Patches was an older gelding who, although cursed with one of the ugliest coats a poor horse could have, had an excellent disposition. When Darcy and Georgiana were younger, Patches was their choice to use for play and was one of the first full grown horses Georgie ever rode. Darcy remembered when he and Richard were teens, they had backed the docile creature up to a small rise and tied him in place so they could run down the hill and jump onto his back like wild men. They called the game, ’drop in the bucket’ and the horse was ‘The Bucket’ ever since.

Since Patches had seen better days Darcy felt compelled to ask, “Do you think Patches can make the trip back to London?”

“Oh yes, Sir. He’s not too old, just slow. It will do him good to get some miles under his feet.”

“Excellent. I will need Honey first. Please send him along with one of the stable-hands ahead of you, and mind they do not overwork him. I will be doing some riding later today and need him able.”

“Wouldn’t one of your regular mounts be better for you, Sir?”

“Not for what I wish to do, no.”

Riley’s face showed his bewilderment. His master’s stallions were envied throughout the county and a much better ride than Honey, but he knew his employer long and well, and was not going to question him. “The roads are still dry; so we should make the town by eleven. I think Honey could be back to you by four, would that suit?”

“Yes, thank you, Riley. It would be wonderful.” They loaded up the last of their things and headed north.


Mrs. Reynolds had seen her fair share of unusual requests from Mr. Darcy. In fact, after the day she was told the mistress of the house was to be fitted up with fencing pads so that she might learn the sport from her elder brother, she thought she was well prepared for any whimsical orders she might receive. But there it sat in front of her, in very plain black on white, begging to be disbelieved:

Have a footman search my dressing room and prepare the oldest garments he can find. I am thinking specifically of the things I wore at Cambridge, but if anything older can be found, even better. If by some bad luck the clothing is no longer available, ask Barnes if I might have one of his waistcoats and jackets. I will gladly pay for him to have a new set made, but he is the only servant who is my size, and I must have the garments straight away. Please make sure my older worn boots are included in the trunk….

If that wasn’t disturbing enough, her master had further asked her to employ the tailor in Lambton to make him three new complete suits of clothes and a travelling suit and coat. The request alone would not have been too disturbing, but Mr. Darcy had specifically requested the garments be made in the fashion of essentially a tradesman, and not even a well-to-do one. He had specific types of fabrics, as well as instructions on complete lack decoration. She shook her head at it all.

There were also several books requested, reference as well as pleasurable reading, which also took her by surprise as Mr. Darcy’s London home was filled with pleasurable reading materials, while Pemberley’s library was oriented more towards learning and reference. Still, she knew Canterbury Tales and Beowulf were classics and perhaps he simply wished to read them whilst travelling, as she was sure the house in town had copies.


Riley returned to the inn later that evening with the gig, Patches and a large trunk for his master. Darcy was already off riding Honey when he arrived, and discovered his master had procured the room for him and the coachman while he had been at Pemberley. The two men settled in for the night, waiting for their next instructions.

Darcy, in the meanwhile, had been circumnavigating the area around Brampton. The small village had an inn and tavern, a church with a small school attached, a blacksmith and acres of fine woods surrounding it all. He tried to imagine which house might be Elizabeth’s but could only hazard a guess. He wished to have a fair knowledge of the area before he came into it the next day. He dared not show himself in his fine clothes from London, and made a point of never coming too near anyone today, lest they be able to distinguish him on the morrow. Luckily, Honey drew little attention, and he was grateful to have thought of using the workhorse instead of one of his usual mounts.

That night he went through the trunk sent from Pemberley. He was unprepared to find himself sentimental as he looked through his old clothing. He could not help but remember what his life had been like when he wore some of the items. His clothes from Cambridge brought a slightly painful memory, as he had learned of his father’s illness when he had almost completed his studies. He would lose him just two years after graduation.

The next morning he packed a small bag and asked Riley to hitch up the gig with Honey. He then told his driver and coachman he might not return to the inn that night, but they were to stay there until receiving word otherwise, and to keep his room ready each night, in case of his return. He informed them he simply had business in the area, and was not sure where he might be sleeping. If their master’s attire was unusual or alarming, neither Riley, nor the coachman, dared to commented upon it.

Darcy had been worried when he dressed that morning. Two pairs of his breeches proved too tight to fit comfortably. Luckily the third pair fit well enough. In addition his old coat and boots were so perfectly stretched to accommodate his figure and feet, he was consequently more comfortably dressed than he had been in years.

“I should allow my regular clothes to be worn out to this level of comfort,” he mused.


When he entered the village of Brampton, he could not help but think of Elizabeth and William walking the same road he was on. He kept his head down, for fear they might actually be somewhere nearby, and he did not wish to risk their seeing him. His first order of business was to go to the inn and take a room and stable his horse. The many years working with his horses, and the more recent years in which he had taken an active part in his estate, served him well as he unhitched Honey quickly as if he had been doing it his entire life. He wished to gather information, and assumed the tavern below his room was the best place to achieve it.

He sat down at one of the tables near the fire and ordered a mug of cider. There were only two other patrons present, who regarded him curiously at first and then shrugged and went back to their own cups. Darcy frowned. He needed to speak with people, but did not seem to encourage it.

I should smile,” he suddenly thought. He remembered Elizabeth’s admonishments of how his air often bespoke of disapproval of those around him. He was doing it most unconsciously, but, he knew he was doing it all the same. He shook his head and laughed lightly to himself. With his smile still upon his face he looked up to notice the two other men now looking at him once again. He drew a breath and determined to be more friendly.

“Forgive me, gentlemen. I think I needed to get rid of a bad mood before I was able to be amongst company. Good day to you, Sirs,” he said, raising his mug to the pair in salutations. To his great surprise they both broke out in smiles and raised their mugs back to him.

“Welcome to Brampton, Mr…?” the larger one asked.

His mind quickly engaged and he answered the man, “Sheldon, John Sheldon,” not knowing where the name had come from, but grateful he could think swiftly on his feet. The men introduced themselves, and the three talked for a good deal of the afternoon.

Several hours later, after many mugs of ale had been purchased for his new friends, he had learned the aging vicar was Mr. Awdry, who also taught in the school along with members of the community who helped him with his duties. Mrs. Cartwright had been one of the citizens mentioned as helping in the school but he dared not ask anything specific about her. The school was only open three days a week, today being the last.

He inquired about the general trade and prosperity of the area, until the smaller man he was speaking with commented, “It sounds as if you are thinking of settling around here, Mr. Sheldon.”

He considered the question and the implication he might garner more information of the neighbourhood and, more importantly, the citizens of Brampton, if answered in the positive.

“I am interested in the area and perhaps discovering if there are any potential places to settle,” he replied cautiously. The words had no sooner passed his lips, however, when he realised he would never be able to live here himself, and this particular deception might be hard to continue.

He determined he might be able to say he was looking for another party, acting for their interest with few repercussions, therefore added, “I have a client who is seeking to find a place to settle quietly. I am scouting the area, looking on his behalf.”

The two men nodded. “There might be some properties available, Mr. Sheldon. I would enquire at the vicarage to Mr. Awdry. He acts as many things for us here, including dispute settler, legal advisor and even land agent, if need be. If anyone had thoughts of selling or leasing a property, he would know it.”

“Thank you, gentlemen. I think I shall do just that.”


Darcy headed out into the warm spring air, a lighter feeling to his step, but still kept his head down, lest he be seen by his quarry. His mind was racing, thinking on what the man had just suggested to him. If Elizabeth and William had already settled in London, and if she planned to educate their son on the continent, there would be almost no call for her to return to Brampton for years!

He walked out of the village and into the surrounding fields, lost in his preparations for his conversation with the Vicar. As he made his way back, his thoughts were abruptly stopped when he found himself already past the churchyard. He meant to retrace his steps and collect himself better before speaking to Mr. Awdry when the man himself was nearly bowled over by Darcy’s imposing figure turning.

“Whoa, steady there, young man. I am sure it cannot be so urgent a situation that you must run.”

Darcy looked down to see a gentle face smirking at him. Mr. Awdry was indeed aging. His round clergyman’s hat betrayed mere wisps of white hair peeking out, and his hands shook as he leaned on his cane. His back was very rounded from his advanced age, but his eyes were an amalgam of blue, green and brown, and shone bright and keen.

“I beg your pardon, Sir. I did not mean to knock into you.”

“No harm done. Come to see me, did you?”

Darcy hesitated, he wished for more time to formulate some sort of plan, but could not see anyway around speaking now with the Vicar. “I came to inquire about many things, and, after speaking to some local gentlemen in the tavern, I have learned you are the source to get answers from.”

“Ha!” he snorted. “That would be old Jeffries, I’ll wager. He is really nothing but the town gossip, though you never heard it from me. Well, come in, come in. Let us find some tea and we shall have a nice chat, Mr…?”

“John Sheldon, Sir,” Darcy replied bowing.

“Mr. Everett Awdry, at your service.” The vicar returned the bow and they headed to the vicarage.


The tea service was nearly cleared, and the two men sat chatting amiably about his interest in a property. Darcy could not help but scrutinize the face of the man who was his son’s first tutor. He was very well pleased that such a man would have taken William under his wing. He saw similar traits in their senses of humour, as Mr. Awdry did enjoy laughing over anything, including his own mistakes.

“Did you have a specific size property in mind, Mr. Sheldon?”

“Yes, something on a small scale, suitable for a man living alone, and his cook, housekeeper and a man servant.”

“Is your client a gentleman, then?”

“He is, but a man of moderate means and habits. He desires a place of solitude to do his work in peace, and yet enjoy the simple aspects of country life. The excellent woods surrounding Brampton would be a bonus as well.”

“And would this be for purchase, or lease?”

“Definitely lease. My client is not looking at this time for a permanent situation, but certainly long term, several years if possible.”

Darcy could see the wheels of the vicar’s mind turning. He desperately hoped he was describing Elizabeth’s cottage perfectly. He sat attempting not to look nervous, wishing against all odds the man would think of it. He had no doubt leasing her home would never have occurred to her, considering it would be of small size and not a typical property to be sought after.

“I think there may be a place your client would find suitable, Sir,” the vicar finally replied. “One of our citizens recently vacated their property and is not expected to return for some years. The house is a good-sized cottage, with two bedrooms and rooms for the staff. It has been maintained very well, and might suit your needs.

“However, I know the thought of leasing the place had never occurred to them. Brampton is not known for attracting much attention and a cottage is not a typical property to be sought after. I know the family well, and my recommendation would go far towards securing their agreement. I also know having someone living in their home would bring them great contentment, and the extra income would always come in handy.” Darcy nodded slowly. The man had yet to divulge a name, but everything he described could be Elizabeth’s situation. “Would you care to view the property?”

“You are certain the family is not at home? I should not like to intrude upon their privacy.”

“No, no, they left last Tuesday week for London, I saw them to the post coach myself.”

Darcy’s heart beat faster. “Then by all means, I would appreciate the chance to see it. Does it have a name?”

The vicar cocked his head and smiled. “Now how did you know it had a name?” he asked with a chuckle.

“Just a notion I suppose, I had no idea otherwise.”

He did not answer, but instead smiled again as they gathered their things to walk out. Despite his bowed back and cane, Mr. Awdry could move rather quickly; he was merely a bit tipsy. Darcy felt compelled to attend the man’s elbow more than once on the walk to the cottage, which lay some ten minutes walk away.

He expected to somehow see something different in the home Elizabeth might have kept, yet when it came into view it was simply a typical lovely English cottage, very traditional in all ways. The flowers of spring were blooming in profusion in small tidy beds all around the front path. He spied a swing hanging from a large oak tree near the back, and his heart beat harder once again as he smiled.

The vicar caught where his line of view was directed and laughed. “There was a young child living here and you will see signs of him no doubt. If your client is offended by such objects as swings or playthings, they can be removed and stored with little trouble.”

Darcy flushed when Awdry mentioned the child and then nearly gasped when he said the word ‘him’. Each little clue brought the reality of this house actually being Elizabeth’s closer and made him more excited.

Mr. Awdry produced a key, explaining he was overseeing the house while they were gone. As he unlocked the front door, he turned to Darcy and said with a twinkle, “Welcome to Asile, Mr. Sheldon,” and swung the door open.

“Ah-zeel?” Darcy repeated, trying to recall his French vocabulary.

“Sanctuary, or refuge if you like. Mrs. Cartwright is the widowed owner and gave the house its name. I shall be curious to know later if you agree with her judgement of the place,” the vicar explained.


It had been difficult to hold his emotions in check when he walked into Elizabeth’s home. He felt horribly guilty for being there under somewhat false pretences, though he fully intended to lease her house if she would let him. He was also strangely nervous, feeling that at any moment she might appear in the doorway and expose him for who he really was. It took many minutes before he could calm himself and listen more attentively to the facts the vicar was relating about the property.

“Mrs. Cartwright’s son was an overwhelming presence in this house,” he laughed when espying so many things belonging to the young man. William’s room itself was a contrast; one half clearly brimming with books, papers, and a variety of apparent experiments he had been working on, the other had toys typical of a small child, and seemingly just as worn as their more studious counterparts. “I am sure it would be no trouble to clear away his things and make the home more accommodating for a single gentleman.”

“It would be very much appreciated, Mr. Awdry,” Darcy answered, remembering he was supposed to be representing another. His desire for more information, however, was very strong, and he could not resist asking, “Though I do find the young man’s belongings fascinating. They seem to be a contradiction: books for studying next to amusements meant for a very small child. Are you sure there were not two sons living here?”

Mr. Awdry laughed. “How very accurate a description of my young protégé, Sir. He is quite the contradiction, for you see he is a boy of just three years with a mind of a young man nearly five times as old.”

“How is that possible?” Darcy asked, hoping his open question would encourage the vicar to talk more.

“Oh, my good boy, I could fill your ears with tales of my dear William, but I think first we had best finish our tour, and then tomorrow I can tell you stories of Mrs. Cartwright’s wondrous son. I wish to write to her this afternoon and, if my letter is to make the final post call we should continue here. It would mean an answer much faster for you as well, which I am sure your client would appreciate, would he not?”

Darcy agreed.

Their last stop had been to see the master bedroom. The two men simply stood at the doorway and looked in, aware propriety demanded they treat the room as if the lady were in residence. There were few personal belongings on display, which was understandable as Elizabeth was not expected to return for some time and would have taken most things with her.

But on the small dresser under a window near the side, he saw a series of framed drawings which he instantly recognised as her mother and father and, on the end, her sister Lydia. It struck him as odd that none of her other sisters were represented anywhere in the house, especially her beloved Jane, but Lydia was. Perhaps with Lydia so far away in America, she felt she might never see her sister again, and needed to draw her so as not to forget her face.

As they slowly made their way out of the house he was struck by the manner of her decor. The furnishings were of very good quality but more importantly they were obviously chosen for their comfort. He was enchanted by the additions she had added to many things. Places to sit featured embroidered cushions or pillows, and the sofa featured at least six of them. The draperies were unique as well, for he noticed she had stitched many of them with decorative patterns. Most table- tops featured handmade runners as well. Clearly she had had a great deal of time these past years to add her personal touches to her home. He gently smiled to see the proof of her quest for things that would soothe her and her son.

Overall, he would be hard pressed to say what one thing made the house so restful and inviting. It might be the warm colours she had chosen for the walls, or the sweet smell of the dried flowers she had so liberally placed around the rooms. In the end, he supposed it was all the things that seemed to come together and do their magic upon a visitor.

He stood upon the threshold, looking over the place one last time before leaving, when Mr. Awdry’s voice broke the peaceful solitude. “Do I hear your agreement in your sigh, Mr. Sheldon? Is it truly Asile?”

“Indeed it is, Mr. Awdry,” he happily replied.

Darcy left the vicar at the cottage door with a promise to call again on the morrow. He had made a very generous offer for the lease, hoping it would entice Elizabeth all the more. It was not a sum so large as to make them question his genuineness, but it was enough to allow him to feel he would be making a first step towards helping his new family.


Later in the day, Darcy was pacing the floor of his room attempting to design a plan whereby he might see the letter Mr. Awdry would be sending. However, as intrigues and deceptions were so very foreign to him, he was having a difficult time of it. He was furious with himself for not being able to come up with any ideas. It was such a simple task; he needed only to see the front of the thing, yet how to get to it escaped him. He noted the time and realised he had better hurry to intercept the carrier or his own letter to his attorneys in London would not be sent. He was apprising them to expect letters under the direction of one Mr. Sheldon, an agent he had hired to find a lease property on his behalf. They were to forward any correspondence addressed to Mr. Sheldon directly to him.

He spied the man carrying the post and called to him, requesting his letter be included. His frustration was high though his outward demeanour remained calm, the key to his future lie within the grasp of his fingers and he could not think of how to touch it! There was little left to do but send his own letter on.

He was opening his purse to retrieve payment at the same time the carrier opened his leather pouch to insert Darcy’s letter, when the answer he sought came to him. The next moment he almost smiled as he simply spilled his purse over into the pouch and onto the ground, causing the man to drop everything, and the coins and letters to scatter. They spent the next minutes finding all the lost papers and coins, but it was sufficient time for Darcy to spot the vicar’s letter among the few the man carried and, more importantly, clearly read the name and address on the front.


That night Darcy wrote to the Bingleys and McNallys, advising them of Elizabeth’s address in town. If anything should happen to him he wanted his relatives to know where they were. He was no longer willing to take any chances on William‘s, nor Elizabeth’s, well-being and safety.

He fought the urge to simply head straight back to London by reminding himself Mr. Awdry would not have written to Elizabeth if she was due back to Brampton, or if she was planning to leave London anytime soon. The next morning they were scheduled to finalise his offer, ‘Mr. Sheldon’ was to leave his attorney’s address with the vicar for future correspondence and, most importantly, Mr. Awdry had promised to tell him tales of his son.

He took the opportunity to reflect on his first attempts at disguise, shaking his head at his nearly inept methods. Now with the deeds done, he analysed what had worked best. Simplicity seemed to be the most effective. He was not used to living by his wits, and had foolishly been trying to think of some intricate plan to extract information, yet it was listening to those around him that provided him with a method to find it. He could not contrive a way to obtain an address, until a simple distraction of the post carrier allowed him to see the pertinent letter from Mr. Awdry. He would tuck this important lesson of simplicity into the recesses of his mind and use it again if needed.

He now contemplated how he was going to watch their moves in London without her knowledge. He reconsidered presenting himself to her and William, but Patrick’s words warning she might flee brought him true panic. He could not allow her to disappear again.

Once he arrived in London, he could don one of his old sets of clothing and seek out her street. However, what he would do there he was not certain. He could not spend his entire day watching her and be of much use, but he did need someone to do it. He considered whether hiring his private investigator again would be wise, but he feared the man seeing his son and making conclusions he did not wish made at this time. Perhaps at the beginning he could simply pay one of the street urchins to watch her comings and goings. He smiled inwardly when he realised the simplest method was, once again, proving to be the best.

For the first time since leaving the Bingley’s house, he felt he was making some headway. Now he could concentrate on the one thing he had not allowed himself to consider lately: Elizabeth’s involvement in Wickham’s death.

The possibility of her guilt in that event precluded all hopes he had ever dared to have. Her absence these past years had taken the edge off his worry, but now, having seen her and William, the fear of prosecution was brought to the fore. If there was ever to be a future for Elizabeth living as herself, without disguise or false names, her innocence in the matter must be proven. He struggled with how to go about it.

In the end, the only action which made sense was to involve Colonel Fitzwilliam. He would have eventually told his cousin of William’s existence at the very least, and with his announcement would have come the revelation of the Bennet’s connection to Wickham. For now he decided to simply write to explain the recently discovered connection of Wickham and the Bennets and Bingleys, and to ask Richard to look into Wickham’s death more thoroughly, under the pretence of ascertaining whether to tell the Bennets of the man’s demise.

He did not wish to tell his cousin about Elizabeth and William yet, and certainly not in a letter. He ventured that if Colonel Fitzwilliam had no idea of the familial connection to the late Lieutenant, he would be better able to root out information and details as his emotions would not be in play. Later, Darcy would visit the man and deliver his other news in person, preferably after Richard had discovered all the information he could. An hour later a letter to Richard had joined the others.

He rose early the next day and prepared to leave Brampton later, after visiting the vicar. He would take his gig back to Riley and settle his bill at the second inn before finally making the return trip to London with coach, gig, a team of four horses, Honey and Patches. He laughed when thinking of what an odd caravan they would make, but he needed them all to set the stage if he was to disguise himself again in future.

Late that night he crawled into his rented bed on the road to London with daydreams of his dear son in his head. Mr. Awdry had not exaggerated his ability to fill his ears with tales of the boy.

If the vicar had been surprised at his guest’s apparent inexhaustible curiosity in hearing stories of his favourite topic, he did not say. Instead the old man seemed to relish the opportunity to rattle on unopposed in his speech to such an appreciative audience. Darcy only wished he could have stayed in Brampton several more days, and coaxed every story Mr. Awdry had of William out of his head. However, London loomed in just two days time, and the opportunity to perhaps see his boy with his own eyes again was a greater draw.

He fell asleep believing he had won great treasures on this trip. He had Elizabeth’s address, he might be able to lease her house and provide her with extra income and, most precious of all, he had stories of his son told to him by a man who loved the boy and knew him well.


Chapter 28

London, April 1817

Though he had travelled the route from Pemberley to London dozens of times, never had the trip seemed as interminably long as this particular ride back. He arrived at his home in the early evening, anxious to share all he had learned with his family. Fortunately, his sister and brother-in-law were of the same mind, for when he entered his drawing room after bathing and changing, they were already there.

Georgiana rushed into his arms, flushed and exhilarated. “I am so glad you have returned. We have such news! We have seen them!”

“You have seen..?”

She cut him off, “William and Elizabeth! Just this afternoon at the park near their home. You were correct, Brother; he looks so much like you! I could barely keep my countenance nor restrain myself from rushing up to embrace him.”

Darcy’s surprise changed to one of worry. “Georgie, you did not risk my precarious position? Surely you must have known that you might scare them?”

“Not at all, Brother,” Patrick reassured him. “My wife and I were not so daft as to take any risk. In fact we made a point of working very hard not to draw attention to ourselves in any way, least of all to your new family.”

Georgiana was keen to tell the tale. “It was quite the adventure! I borrowed a dress from my maid and Patrick wore a set of working clothes he uses on his estates. We knew we would have to wear more appropriate clothing if we were to walk about the neighbourhood without seeming out of place. Of course, as Elizabeth has never met us, we did not need to hide our faces from her or William.

“First we walked far away from our house until we could hire a hackney cab without anyone recognising us. Then we rode to her neighbourhood and sat in the park near her street for what seemed like hours, just waiting. Late this afternoon, we saw a mother and son approach from her street. We made sure to face one another to enable us to keep a constant eye on them. I was so very excited thinking it might be them, especially upon seeing the boy who looked so much like you as a child.” Georgiana’s enthusiasm was making her glow as she spoke, her hands gesturing quickly.

“Then the lad threw the ball he was playing with too far away and started to run after it, when his mother called out his name, and we knew.” Her excited smile matched her husband’s as they looked to Darcy for his reaction.

“I… That is… extraordinary.” He struggled for a few moments, taking in the importance of all she had told him. He felt his sister’s arm upon his, and turning to her, saw her questioning look of concern upon her face.

“No, I am well. This is excellent news, it means the address on Mr. Awdry’s letter was correct.” He stopped and shook his head ruefully. “I have spent the past two days speaking with a man who knew Elizabeth and William intimately, and now you and Patrick have seen them, and my foolish sensibilities are at odds with my common sense. Please forgive me; I cannot help feeling a bit envious of you both.”

Georgie threw her arms around his neck. “Oh, Fitzwilliam, do not be dismayed! If Patrick and I saw them today, I am sure you will see them tomorrow. You can stand watch over the house all day if you like!”

Darcy returned her embraced tightly. “Always the wise woman, Georgie. Of course you are right. Now, tell me what you thought of them.”

“She is a lovely, handsome woman, Darcy. And your son is a copy of you and quite a handful I suspect,” Patrick said with a smile.

“I thought her vivacious,” Georgiana added. “So very different from her sister Jane, of course, and not just in looks. Mrs. Bingley is so composed, while Mrs. Cartwright is so lively. She and William spent so much time merely laughing and enjoying the day. I felt as if I were watching pixies at play.”

Patrick nodded his head. “I quite agree, my Love; a very good likeness, indeed.”

Darcy merely smiled. “Thank you. I cannot help but concur with all of your opinions. Now, shall I tell you what else I have discovered?” They readily assented.

An hour later the three were discussing what would be done if Asile, Elizabeth’s house, were to be let. He petitioned Patrick to inquire if there was anyone who might fit the bill as a gentleman looking to live a retiring life in Derbyshire for a few years. Patrick assured his brother he would make inquiries around to see if anyone might be interested.

“How much are you asking for the lease?” he asked.

“I had not thought to seek recompense, I was merely going to offer it gratis.”

“I would not recommend it, Darcy. Better to have a tenant who has some investment in the place. They will take better care of the property, and you would not be in trouble with Elizabeth in future.”

“Yes, I will set a price. Once again your advice is exactly what I need. Tomorrow I intend to spend the day in her neighbourhood. I have clothing to disguise myself, and I will make a point of not going too near her home, lest she or William spot me. I do not know yet how I will manage to watch them in future, but I have every hope that some way will make itself known to me. For now, I merely wish to see them.” He stifled a yawn behind his hand, and murmured his apologies. Patrick and Georgiana then seemed to notice how tired he truly was. They agreed to meet again soon before the couple departed.


The next morning Darcy was up with the sun and heading out before most people had begun their morning routines. He walked quickly out of his own neighbourhood, taking the rear servants’ entrance to keep prying eyes from perceiving the master of the house, dressed in shabby clothes, skulking off into the city. He hired a hackney cab almost a mile away and began the journey to his destination near Lambeth, Elizabeth’s new address.

When the hack finally stopped and he alighted from the cab, he looked around to view their new neighbourhood. He was satisfied with the quality of the surroundings. They were neither overly fine, nor in disrepair. He suspected most of the community would consist of tradesmen on their way up the social hierarchy and retired naval captains and other such gentlemen and their families.

His first stop was to see the house she had taken. This might be the only time of day he would have to get a good look at it, before the household arose; therefore he hastened to it immediately.

Her street featured the rows of terraced houses popular in the area. As he walked quickly past he dared a covert glance across to see her house, number twelve, and then diverted his view back to the pavement and continued. When he got to the end of her street he turned and, after he had passed the side of the building blocking the view to her house, he stopped and looked about to see if anyone had noticed him. Few were paying attention to the surroundings, as they seemed to be heading off in particular pursuits of their own. He then casually walked to the edge of the building and peeked slowly round the corner. Now, with the shrubbery hiding most of him, he allowed himself the luxury of staring openly at the building that housed his new relations.

He spent the next hours walking nearby and ascertaining which vantage points around Elizabeth’s house would allow him to watch without being noticed. The park Georgie and Patrick had earlier described had proven practical as there were at least two benches he could sit at and, though very far away, still espy her front door. He watched for signs of either of them venturing forth, but he also kept looking for boys he might potentially pay to watch the house.

Much later in the day, he had sought refuge from the spring sun under a fine tree, keeping one eye always on number twelve, when he saw the door open and a flurry of light-coloured skirts standing in the doorway. A maid was affixing a small jacket onto a young boy, and two ladies were raising their parasols to the strong rays. As soon as the mother held out her hand to the young lad, a river of warmth spread over Darcy’s chest for he recognised his lover and son.

They were obviously making their way to the very park he was lounging in and, while sufficiently large enough to hide most persons, his great height and the severe lack of trees and shrubbery for cover made him realise he would have to quickly retreat to a safer spot should he wish to watch them without being discovered. He strode directly opposite from them, to the corner of the park and down the street, until he could find a building which to position himself behind and still spy upon them.

It was exactly as the McNallys had said; they were a lively group, especially with the addition of the French nurse he recognised from the Bingleys’ library. He smiled unconsciously as he watched William play among the two women, racing up and back at full speed, purposely falling into the grass and rolling about. His mother laughed at his antics, while his nurse fussed over his clothes. The ladies eventually made their way to the bench he himself had occupied earlier in the morning, and he gazed as they watched his son frolic around them for the next hour.

At one point William was running around a large tree with his hand trailing around the trunk as he tried to make himself dizzy with his circles, when Darcy heard the boy exclaim loudly and run suddenly to his mother, holding his left hand out. She immediately took him into her arms and onto her lap, kissing his brow and examining the offended digit, which had obviously felt the sting of a splinter from the now horrible tree.

He could see William’s shoulders stifling the cries he wanted to let loose while his mama treated his wound. She reached deftly into the bag they had brought and Darcy momentarily caught the glint of a small metal object in her hand. She seemed to ask the boy’s permission and he nodded slowly while she carefully worked upon his open palm. He saw the boy wince slightly, but kept his composure while Elizabeth finished the dreaded task.

Darcy could not understand the sudden wince he too had experienced, nor the ghostly feel of pain in his hand as it clenched involuntarily while he watched his son suffering. His eyes were strangely pricked while he witnessed this small rite of passage all boys endured. Why he had never been affected before he did not know but, watching now, as mother and son held each other tight, and seeing her kiss William with unending affection, touched his heart more deeply than he would have thought possible. It was at that moment he realised he not only loved Elizabeth, but he had also fallen in love with their son.


That night he sat in his room, pleased with many aspects of how the day had turned out. He could not help the smile which graced his face for the rest of the day after the trio had returned to their little terraced house. He merely had to stop his train of thought for an instant and the vision of Elizabeth kissing William in her lap brought him sweet solace.

He had only stayed for a short while once they had retreated, for it was soon after he found a likely waif to watch over the house. The boy’s name was Oliver, and Darcy promised if he could be given a satisfactory report upon his return the next day, another coin, the same as was given today, would be the boy’s reward. There was little more he could hope for at present, and it gave him some security to know his interests were being attended to, albeit unprofessionally.

Seeing Elizabeth that day had set his blood on fire as well. He had caught glimpses of her at the Bingley’s house but only through the cracks in the draperies in Charles’ study. Today he had the first opportunity to see her plainly, in full sunlight, and relish in her visage once again. She looked as lovely as ever, though perhaps more womanly in her figure and carriage. He would be hard-pressed as to what was different about her, perhaps more confidence, but overall, it was a siren’s call to his lonely heart and body. He had never had a thought for another woman after their ill-fated night together and now, seeing his lover so close, yet untouchable, had been exquisite torture.

He felt ashamed that part of him was envious of his son, who could claim her entire affection, yet part of him was instantly saddened as he realised he could not share their bond. He wanted nothing more than to sweep them both up and carry them away to Pemberley for the rest of their lives.

Elizabeth’s blunt words then came back to haunt him and his pride began to ruffle once again. He could not remember hearing her say being the master of Pemberley was a waste without being wounded.

He attempted to discern: what was wrong with thinking of one’s family, property and place in society? Generations of Darcys before him had done the same. Was his family not one of the oldest, most distinguished, in the country due to their diligence in adhering to these important values? How would that hinder his son? He would have a massive fortune at his disposal. He could study anywhere in the world, travel at his leisure, and never have the worries he and his mother had already encountered.

Just then he looked to his desk. Some of his correspondence which had not been earlier attended to, lay neatly piled; invitations, letters from his steward, drafts from his attorneys. He knew what was contained therein; it had not changed since the day of his father’s death. Downstairs, in his private study, even more papers would be awaiting him.

It made him think how different his own life might have been had his father lived another ten years. It would have been long enough for Darcy to learn the business of running the estate more thoroughly with his father‘s help, instead of having to struggle with his steward to make sense of it all.

He did not begrudge the duties he had to undertake. Yet, thinking back to when he was a young man of four and twenty, and all that he was suddenly master of, he was struck with the truth of Elizabeth’s assessment. William would be encumbered, just as he had been. How many years did he essentially have to excuse himself from the usual pursuits a young man would have been enjoying to attend to his responsibilities? What might William have to sacrifice in order to take his father’s place if he were needed? There was no way to tell when Darcy might die. It might be fifty years, but what if it were fifteen? How would his son, at only eighteen, weather the responsibility?

He did not care for the answer.

Admitting to himself he was hardly going to fall asleep yet, he put on his woollen robe, took up a candle, and headed towards his library. On the way down the grand staircase of his family’s home, he stopped once again in front of the larger than life vision of his great-great grandfather, Harold Darcy. Elizabeth’s stinging words of being another portrait in the gallery came back to him.

“There is nothing wrong with being a good master of your estate,” he thought indignantly. But then he looked to the portrait.

“Were you a good master? I know nothing about you, though your blood runs through my veins. I only know you sired my great grandfather and he my grandfather, and then my father. Who were you? Did you love your wife? Your son? Did you play at cards, like to fish or ride your horses?

“Should I be sorry you did nothing to distinguish yourself, or merely grateful you did not burn the house down, or squander the family fortune?” The picture refused to answer.

“Are you proud of me, your descendant, for being the same?” He truly wondered. He thought of his own fine portrait hanging in the centre of the great gallery of Pemberley. He imagined his own descendents standing before his likeness in a hundred years.

“Will my great-great grandchildren know nothing of me as well?” He then asked the dark question which troubled him most. “Will I be worthy of being missed?”


When he awoke the next day he was determined to solve at least one problem. He made his way to his favourite bookshop and, less than three minutes later, left with his purchase.

“Dodds,” said the bookshop owner, “was that Mr. Darcy I saw leaving just now?”

“Yes, Mr. Hardamon, Sir.”

“Was he unable to find what he was looking for? Or did he place an order for some new book?”

“Neither, Sir. He made a purchase.”

“So quickly? What was the book?”

“No book, sir. He purchased a large journal; the large red leather bound one we thought would never sell.”

The owner nodded appreciatively. “Excellent work, Dodd,” then went back to his work.


The next weeks saw a flurry of activity for Darcy. He travelled to Lambeth daily to receive reports from young Oliver, who proved to be attentive enough for his new employer. He also had the opportunity to see Elizabeth and William in the park nearly every day.

A steady stream of new faces had been seen regularly at Elizabeth’s door. Most were gentlemen, dressed well, though not richly and most stayed for longer than a social visit would demand. Darcy had seen some of them too, and suspected they were being interviewed and hired as tutors for William. Soon enough, the variety of men dwindled and there seemed to be only four who came regularly. Oliver kept an excellent watch on them all and soon he had the names of the men. With this information, Darcy was able to assemble a crude schedule that William’s studies seemed to be following. One of the names, however, caught his attention immediately; a Mr. Von Humboldt. The chance that two such men would be living in London, and giving lessons, could not be coincidence. He had been Georgiana’s music master, and he no doubt was now training William. He suspected this connection would be useful someday.

Mr. Awdry had finally written to him, informing him his offer to lease Elizabeth’s house had been accepted at the offered price. Neither he, nor Patrick, had found a tenant yet, however he decided to begin the lease as soon as possible to provide the Cartwrights with the extra income.

Darcy had just returned from one of his excursions to Lambeth to see Elizabeth and William when Patrick arrived to confer with him as how to best handle the paperwork of the lease.

“Give me a month, Darcy. I am sure I can find you a tenant, and a name to put upon the papers. I would not be concerned about the time it might take. She had not expected to let the house, therefore you have no competition for the lease.”

“Quite true. I suppose I am only anxious to get the money to them.”

“Very admirable, but you must be patient. All your tasks will get done, in good time. Now, I have been thinking, how do you plan on watching them here in London? Do you think you can trust the local boy to continue doing so discreetly?”

“Frankly, no. I worry about his ability to keep his new job to himself. Oliver is a good lad, but I also fear this is too much to ask of him. In addition I have no information as to what Elizabeth is doing or planning, other than knowing, or guessing rather, at what their daily lessons schedules are. If she were to hire a coach and travel very far, I would have no way to know where she might go.”

“True, Brother. What you really need is someone in her household reporting to you.”

“Would that it were possible, Patrick. If only it was my house she was letting, I could set up my own staff at her disposal. I would not worry about the quality of the work they would be giving my family, and I could know her every movement.”

Patrick nodded his head in agreement. “Unfortunately, if Elizabeth found out a Darcy owned her house she would no doubt run again. Your owning it would not help your situation.” The two men sadly shook their heads.

You could buy it, Patrick!” Darcy suddenly exclaimed.


“I would provide the funds of course, but you could purchase the entire row of houses. There are four in all, and in very good repair. Then you would act as the new landlord.” Darcy’s mind was racing. “Good God, I could make improvements to her house, her furnishings and change the staff to suit my purposes.”

“You would have to improve them all, Darcy. It would look suspicious if only one house was upgraded in anyway, you must be equal with all your tenants.”

He looked a small bit discouraged, but not defeated. “You are correct, of course. I could use your excellent input as to how to handle the property, Patrick, beginning with a good manager. I have never been a landlord for a London property”

“Nothing easier, I will have a name for you before week‘s end.”

“You do realise it will mean having to go into Lambeth again and look over the place, you may even meet them officially, though I think it would be better if the manager met with the tenants. We may need you, or you and Georgie together, to meet Elizabeth and William under other circumstances.”

Patrick laughed. “Of course I would happily travel to see the building. But what ‘other’ circumstances are you suggesting?” He wearily asked.

“You and Georgiana are the only family of mine Elizabeth has never met. I may need you both to interact with her in future, though I have no fixed plans or specific ideas. That is all.”

A feminine voice at the doorway startled the two men. “As long as you intend on conferring with us if you do come up with some sort of scheme,” Georgiana reproved.

She then took in her brother’s choice of raiment. “Is this what you wear when you go to see them?”

Darcy looked down, studying his clothes. “Yes, or something similar. Why, do you think it unsuitable?”

Georgiana took her time appraising his garments with a more critical eye. “They are old, but still very fine. Do you find anyone regarding you in particular when you are in Elizabeth’s neighbourhood?”

“I must confess I had not paid close attention. However, I would say I do not draw any pronounced notice. And in another week I should be receiving new clothes I had the tailor in Lambton make for me. They are all very plain, and the material more appropriate to lower classes.”

Georgiana nodded, though her head was obviously still engaged in deep thought. “Good, I think it might help you in your endeavours,” she answered, snapping out of her reverie.


Darcy received a note from his sister the next week and duly appeared at her doorstep in the late morning. He had no sooner been announced in her drawing room than she nearly dragged him back out again.

“Fitzwilliam!” she chattered. “Thank goodness you have arrived at last. We must make haste, for we have an appointment, and I should not wish to be rude by being late.” He found himself donning his hat and gloves and back out the door in moments. In the coach she finally had the chance to explain her rush.

“I know I am acting like a foolish girl, but I am very excited to see the inner workings. I feel as if someone has given us the keys to a jewel vault.” She giggled nervously.

Darcy merely frowned at her. “Georgiana, you are making no sense.”

She regarded him curiously, as if she could not have been plainer. “We are going to the Haymarket Theatre.”

“The theatre? At eleven o’clock in the morning? Whatever for?”

“Training of course. You need to learn how to disguise yourself properly, and, I dare say, are in sore need of some acting lessons.”


Three hours later it would be appropriate to say Fitzwilliam Darcy was not a happy man. Indeed it might be more accurate to say Mr. Darcy was irate and bordering on violent tendencies.

“No, no, Mr. Sheldon,” came the exasperated voice once more. “You must stop thinking like a young society gentleman. If you are going to convince those around you that you are an old man, you must think like one. Surely you have imagination enough to pretend.” Mr. John Liston’s arms flailed out above his head in grand gestures. He too, had thoughts bordering on violent tendencies, however the lady and her brother had paid him good money for his time, therefore he would keep at this, no matter how dreadful his student‘s abilities.

“I am no actor,” Darcy, or rather ‘Mr. Sheldon’, grumbled.

Liston rolled his eyes. “A fact none of us have failed to notice, Sir. However, I do have a reputation to uphold. I expect you to make a greater effort than I have seen thus far. You must allow yourself to be free from this resistance to my suggestions.” Darcy huffed.

Mr. Liston tried another tactic. “Stop for a moment.” Darcy sat down immediately. His back ached from leaning over his walking stick in his attempt to make himself look smaller, more frail.

“I want you to think carefully about what you are doing. I know it must seem embarrassing to you, but think about the circumstances under which you will be… well ….performing. You will not be on a stage. You will not have an audience who knows your real name, where you live, or even what your true face looks like. They will see you as however you present yourself. If you tell them you are an old man, if you look like an old man, and if you act like an old man, then that is what they will believe.

“However, if you show mortification or any embarrassment as you play your role, those around you will sense it, and the game will be up. Do you understand?” Darcy agreed.

“Good! Now, let me see you walk across the room, greet your sister slightly and return. And do it with the confidence you are a poor elderly man.”

Darcy took a deep breath and, ignoring the presence of the two watchful eyes, he stood and told himself he was Mr. Awdry, the vicar from Brampton. He put the vision of the old man in his mind, and proceeded to act just like him as he cautiously walked back and forth across the room. Georgiana clapped in delight as he sat back down.

Mr. Liston raised his head and brows then bowed his head ever so slightly, in approval “Now we are making some progress.”

He later called for the costume mistress who appeared slightly dishevelled and rather perturbed for being disturbed once more. “It is time for Mr. Sheldon’s next costume change, Martha. Would you bring Marston’s costume from the second act of tonight’s play?” Martha looked surprised, than snorted and shook her head as she went for the costume.

“Mr. Sheldon, your type is difficult to disguise, Sir. Your height makes you a particular challenge and, of course, it does not help you are rather handsome as well. It would be much easier to assume a different character if you were more plain.”

“There is little I can do about it, Mr. Liston.”

“Too true,” he sighed, “would that I were cursed with your bad fortune, young man. But I am a comedian, and more so for my silly face. Now we must do what we can with your pretty one.”

Darcy was quite put out by the actor’s continual comments, which were far too intimate for a new acquaintance, but knew he was also making headway, not to mention gathering valuable information on disguises from the man.

“My suggestion would be to see if you can affect a common accent. If you can, then you can dress significantly poorer. The lower your class, the less others will notice you. Wearing a gentleman’s hat adds nearly a foot to you already, and it makes you stand out even more, if possible. If we can get you into a plain cap, or perhaps a parson’s flat round, it would help. Do I need to write any of this down?” They told him it would not be necessary.

“I will also give you the direction of the shop where you can obtain some of the face paints we used today. The aging lines are simple enough. If you practice and are sparse with your application, I think you will convince most people. Hiding most of your face with your wig was most effective as well, I believe. Do you agree, Mrs. Reynolds?” he asked, looking directly at Georgiana.

The three walked to the mirror in Mr. Liston’s dressing room. Darcy was once again shocked to see himself looking thirty years older. The actor’s talents were very valuable indeed. All three agreed his disguise was well done.

Just then, the costume mistress returned with the wardrobe and laid it across an empty chair before leaving. Georgiana had to stifle her laughter with her entire fist, while Darcy attempted to control his rage, rather unsuccessfully, as his entire face was a burning red.

Mr. Liston stopped him with his hand before he erupted. “Allow me to say two things, Sir. Firstly, you may very well find this particular type of disguise might be your only option at times, therefore you would do well to keep an open mind and allow yourself to be properly trained in its use.

“Secondly, before you even attempt the blatant refusal that is sitting upon your lips, I will add you have an annoying habit of raising your brows each and every time you have lied to me today, Mr. Sheldon,” he emphasised Darcy’s false name shamelessly.

Darcy’s mouth, which had been poised to deliver his outrage, snapped shut, while Georgiana became suddenly interested in the patterns of the carpeting. Deception being new to both of them meant their skills at subterfuge were not well honed. They had little choice but to admit guilt through their silence and continue the lesson.

“Excellent. I appreciate your willingness to cooperate. As you both have assured me your new talents will not be used for nefarious purposes,” here he looked once again for confirmation from the two people sitting across from him who did not hesitate to give it to him, “then I, too, am willing to continue and hopefully complete your education.”

He lifted the costume up and sized it against Darcy’s frame. “Now, shall we put thison?”


Much later that day the siblings travelled back to the McNally residence together.

“You do realise I shall never go to the Haymarket Theatre again?” Darcy, still sulking, groused.

“Why do you think I chose it in the first place? I know you do not like it as well as others. Now you have a perfect excuse to never attend a performance there again.” She looked out the coach window, biting her lip and attempting to curtail the jovial picture she knew her face would betray.

“Indeed I do. How shall I ever thank you?” he replied sarcastically.

“Hmmm,” she said, considering his offer carefully. “Perhaps could you play the part of the beggar woman again?” she asked and then burst into laughter.


Chapter 29

London, April 1817

Elizabeth tucked William into his bed, eyeing the books he had received earlier. She had been surprised when he told her of meeting Mr. Bingley that day in the library. She was also disappointed she had failed to see her brother-in-law.

“Was he as jolly a fellow as I remember?”

“Yes, I think I would call him jolly; he certainly smiled a great deal. But also, I think he was a little sad.”

“Sad?” Elizabeth asked, concerned.

“Yes, sometimes I thought I saw a little sadness in his eyes, but he was very agreeable. I enjoyed speaking with him.”

“I am glad you are acquainted with him, William,” she said, as she deposited a kiss upon his sleepy brow.

“So am I, Mama.”


Elizabeth sat on the edge of her bed, the envelope Jane had given to her now in her trembling hands. She had carried it all night in her apron pocket, the gentle thumping at her hip reminding her of its presence. Now, with William asleep in his bed, she felt she was prepared to read the only words her father had communicated to her in over four years. Inside, she found two separate, smaller envelopes. One was clearly labelled with her name, and a request to be read first. She opened it and began.

Longbourn, November 14, 1813

Dear Lizzy,

I write to you this evening, hoping someday this missive will reach you. I do not know if it is possible, but my heart wishes it very much, and I am moved to follow the desires of my emotions for a change. I will leave this with your sister Jane, as I feel if you ever contact a member of your family again, she would be the one mostly likely to receive that honour.

It has been more than a year since I have had the pleasure of looking upon your sweet face. I know at the time we did not part under the best of terms, but believe me, my dear girl, I miss you fiercely.

For the past six months your Uncle Gardiner and I have searched for you, to no avail. I do not tell you this to cause you pain; I merely wish for you to know what we have done and have ascertained.

I know now you do not wish to be found. Your Uncle and I speak of it as fact, and the preparations we discovered you had made prior to your disappearance confirm what I write.

The day he discovered you missing was very trying for him. He sent an express immediately to Longbourn, and I arrived later in the afternoon. Speaking with him that day was one of the most difficult conversations I have ever had.

I learned what lengths you had gone to in the winter and spring, and of how you had risked your health and well-being in pursuit of finding your sister. I learned you had suffered through the indignity of seeing your brother-in-law with another woman. I also learned it was your recommendation that kept the shame of that knowledge from your family at Longbourn, and society at large, in an effort to protect the fragile reputation we were just beginning to recover.

He told me of what extraordinary steps you had taken to make his cigar shop a success. Hearing all you had accomplished made my heart soar with pride for you, and curse in ignominy at myself for not helping and, most importantly, not acknowledging your abilities, labours, and results. I learned you essentially had taken on the responsibility of defender of your family. My disgust with myself was well deserved.

However, before I could begin to wallow in my own self-pity, my brother Gardiner insisted it was no time for personal introspection, and we needed to begin our search for you. Thus the hunt began.

Your Aunt Gardiner joined us at your lodgings to search your belongings, hoping for a clue as to what might have happened to you, or where you might be. We interviewed your landlady and the neighbours, but none could provide us with any insight as to your whereabouts.

However, what we did not find was as revealing as any outright clue. When we first inspected your rooms, your Aunt and Uncle were quick to reveal what they had seen the last time they had been there, and the significant change in your, shall we say, décor? The room was too neat and tidy; it was the room of someone who had no plans to return. It was then we first suspected no foul play was responsible for your disappearance; rather, you had in fact been planning to leave.

We next went to your shop, to search for any insights, and to question Toby and Mr. Whitaker if they had any ideas what might have happened to you. There, we found further proof you were planning to flee; the missive you so thoughtfully left behind.

I was very impressed at how explicitly you noted your methods, recipes, and practices. I further marvelled after trying one of your custom blends when Toby offered it to me. I congratulate you, my Dear, on a truly superior product. The existence of the manual, along with the knowledge of your having taken Toby under your wing while teaching him the last valuable skill to running the shop, choosing the leaves, led both your Uncle and I to believe you were planning, with stealthy skill, an escape.

Our interview with the boy also provided us with some very startling facts. I will not recount to you what he told us. You lived through it all, and I am sure are in no doubt of what we learned. Toby was not completely aware of the practices a man bent on pursing a woman might employ, and to this day he believes a secret admirer, who never revealed himself, was your benefactor.

Your aunt and uncle, however, were able to expound a great deal more upon the possible identity of the gentleman in question. We only had speculation, but a large body of circumstantial evidence pointed to one obvious man. This conjecture was, sadly, later confirmed when a pair of attorneys presented themselves to your uncle, searching for a beneficiary of a settlement of two thousand pounds from their lately deceased client.

He took it upon himself to deceive the attorneys, declaring our Elizabeth Bennet lived in Hertfordshire, had not been to London for months, and had never had contact with their client. He further suggested their lady in question had simply picked an alias to use, which happened to be your name. They were both satisfied with the explanation, and have never attempted to contact us again.

I am deeply grieved to think you may have suffered, Elizabeth. I do not care about the breaking of proprieties and rules, only for your well-being. The scandal surrounding that gentleman’s passing was fodder in the papers for weeks. I understand the need one might feel to escape such a nightmare. It has been more than six months since the incident, and no names that would be familiar to any of our acquaintance have ever been discovered by the press. I believe the gentleman’s heirs are happy to have the interest in their personal family matters no longer at the forefront, and the past shall remain in the past. I hope you will find peace someday, and know I wish it for you with all that I am.

Dearest Lizzy, you are the truest Bennet there ever was; you have shown loyalty, bravery, and sacrifice for your family. You have done it all; restored our good name, restored your sister’s reputation, protected your uncle’s investment and brought no further shame to your family. I swear to you I will not let your efforts be wasted, and I shall endeavour daily to become the father you had hoped I would be. Your sisters will be safe and guided in the ways they always should have been, on that you have my word.

I thank you, my dear daughter, but I cannot help but wonder what price you paid; I hope to God it was not too dear. I pray you are well and wish to assure you, if I ever have the fortunate chance to meet you again, you will never know judgement nor condemnation from me and I will remain forever,

Your loving father

Thomas Bennet

Her hands still shook as she opened the second, smaller envelope, where, delicately wrapped in a fine piece of silk, lay her garnet cross necklace. Before her tears could fall over the return of her precious keepsake, a heartier piece of gold was discovered under it, attached to a small tag which read:

Please, you deserve it most.

Her breath hitched as she slowly pushed her father’s signet ring onto her finger.


Though her uncle and father were clever men, she had not expected them to discover her compromising situation with Lord Caldhart. That her father would then write to her of it, claiming he would not judge her actions or condemn her, left her stunned. It was not a letter from which she would soon recover. She had never expected anyone to forgive her fall into shame, him least of all. Now it seemed he not only gave her his forgiveness, but also granted her the title of defender of their family and still loved her.

Despite the measure of relief that part of her father’s letter brought her, she could not find peace with herself, or reconciliation with her family. There was a boy sleeping in the next room, whose age and looks betrayed her further indiscretions. Perhaps someday, when he was grown and his exact age could not be so easily determined, she might be able to seek out her family. But her meeting with Jane today had proved beyond any doubt that William’s existence must be kept secret at all costs.

No one in her family would believe she had met a man, fallen in love, married and conceived in the space of the month after she left London. Most particularly when her offspring so clearly resembles another gentleman of their acquaintance. She thought of her sister; Jane would not betray William to anyone.

She also knew her involvement with George Wickham’s death would taint her for the rest of her life. She often had time to reflect on those three days. She wondered if any investigation into his death had been launched. Higgins would never betray her confidence, of that she was certain. He had as much to lose by implicating her as she did. The men in the tavern had no idea who she was, nor that she was a woman and not a young man. The only other witness, Lord Robert Caldhart, was now long dead.

She had never seen the papers. Mrs. Thurgood did not take the London papers, and gossip of the ton was hardly a regular topic of conversation in Oak Hill. Therefore, she had no idea the ball and his Lordship’s death had been such fodder. She wondered what people had said about her. What name had been used in the papers, or in the chatter of the elegant salons of London’s high society? Her father had obviously kept a close ear to the news, or he would not have reassured her that her name had not been discovered.

She sighed. The burden of keeping so many secrets weighed heavily upon her. Normally, she did not dwell upon them, yet sometimes the scope of all she had done forced itself to the surface of her consciousness, and she was unable to deny the multitude of sins she had committed. Those days were the hardest for her. She took the solace in the only form of comfort and happiness she knew: William. He was perceptive enough to notice her melancholia and called them ‘Mama’s Sad Days’. He tried to cheer her on those days, and Elizabeth loved her little son all the more for his tender care of her when she suffered.

She folded the letter carefully, and put it in her desk. She was glad to know her father though better of her, yet nothing had really changed. She must continue on as she had been doing, providing for her son and his future as best she could, and trying to conduct herself as the parent she knew she needed to be for him.


The next weeks were a whirlwind for Elizabeth. Her days were filled with settling herself and William into their new home, and beginning the search for proper instructors. She had several sources to draw upon from Mr. Awdry, and in turn more names had come forth for her to investigate. She would soon discover which were the best candidates to tutor her son. In the end, she hired four different men: one for Latin and German, one for history and literature, a mathematics and science tutor, and a music master.

Elizabeth had started teaching William on the tiny pianoforte they had in Brampton, and he had taken to it immediately. His small fingers did not allow him to play the large chords he wanted to, but the scales and arpeggios he tackled eagerly. The repetitive exercises necessary to increase his abilities seem to fascinate and capture him. Elizabeth laughed thinking of how she herself had dreaded practicing, yet William seemed to almost relish in it and found relaxation out of the work. She would often catch him with his eyes closed as his fingers struck the keys over and over.

One day she could not help but interrupt him and he startled as if waking from a dream.

“Where were you just now? Your fingers were playing the scale, but your face seemed as if it was in some far away land.”

He smiled. “I was far away, Mama. I was still in the music, but surrounded by numbers.”

Elizabeth struggled to understand. “How can one be surrounded by numbers?”

“They were there before me, and also behind me and next to me and the music made them move and jump and I saw the equations and their answers and then more equations and more answers farther down there.” He had by now closed his eyes and in his mind was seeing everything before him, for he would point into the air at the places he was obviously looking.

“How long are the equations?” she asked, fascinated. They had just recently delved into the rudimentary principles of the unknowns, a subject she did not much care for, but William had been instantly caught up by it.

He looked to her curiously. “They do not end, Mama.”


Thus the routines of two households were set. William and his tutors met daily for lessons, while Darcy was arranging the financial tasks of leasing Asile in Brampton and purchasing the building of her terraced house in London. He also corresponded daily with his steward at Pemberley, his mail arriving in large pouches, full of the business of running a successful estate.

He still travelled nearly daily to Lambeth to watch for the afternoon respite William took from his lessons. Sometimes the nurse would bring him, but often it was Elizabeth, and Darcy would once again be transported into near heaven to look upon her.

There was one final aspect of Elizabeth’s finances Darcy wished to address, but he would need the Bingley’s help. They arranged to meet one afternoon at his home; the first time they had seen one another face to face since the morning he had made his confession.

Jane smiled sympathetically, while Bingley merely seemed apprehensive, as they were announced. The two men met in the middle of the room, unspeaking and stiff, until Bingley offered out his hand and patted Darcy’s shoulder with the other. He nodded confidently as they shook hands “It is good to see you, Brother.”

Darcy smiled at Bingley’s acceptance of him. “I have missed you a great deal, Charles; and you, Jane. You are both well?” The group confirmed the general good health of one another.

Darcy then began to recount all the tasks he had endeavoured to achieve the past weeks. He had written to them several times; however, this was the first opportunity to speak in person to Elizabeth’s relatives and tell them all he was trying to do.

“Fitzwilliam, I am overwhelmed. To think you have taken all this upon yourself for my dear sister. I must thank you. I know Elizabeth does not know to whom she will owe her good fortune,” Jane exclaimed.

“If you must thank me, let it be for yourself. Elizabeth can never know I was involved. However, if I have given you some peace and assurances for William and his mother’s future, then I shall be happy.” He took up her hand and kissed it.

She smiled sweetly at him. “I do thank you.”

“What further help do you require, Darcy?” Bingley asked.

“There is the matter of her investments, Charles. She mentioned several companies she has put her money into, and I mean to do everything I can to see she enjoys a good return, and can never lose her capital.”

“That is no small order!”

“No, indeed. Nor will it be as easy as I would like, for at the very least I will not be able to invest personally in all of them, as Elizabeth might learn of my involvement.”

“You are speaking of my uncle’s warehouses, Fitzwilliam?” Jane asked.

“Yes, exactly. I do not know if Elizabeth could ever learn about my putting money into them, but your Uncle could, and I do not want to draw attention to myself. I must be an anonymous partner, just as she is. That is where the two of you can help me. I propose to put up the money; however you and Charles will be listed as the actual investors. I think the same can be done for Walters and Elliott, and the Bartswith Shipping Company.”

Charles’ eyes rose at the names. “Excellent choices!” he observed.

“Indeed,” Darcy agreed. “I own a fair share in Bartswith already. However, I would like to see the percentage increased enough to have complete availability of any information with regards to their profits and, more importantly, any potential losses.”

“You wish to become a part owner?”

“I do.”

“Darcy you might need tens of thousands of pounds.”

“I should be surprised if I could buy a partial ownership for less than a hundred, Bingley.”

Charles coughed and was nearly too frightened to ask, “Walters and Elliott?”

“I plan to purchase them outright. I want nothing to do with the running of the business; their expertise and management is without parallel. I have already spoken to the owners, and told them I wish to own the business in a financial capacity only. They are very interested in my offer.”

“A hundred thousand pounds, plus another business bought and investing in my uncle’s warehouses? Fitzwilliam this is too much.”

“It is not as inconvenient as you might suppose, Jane.”

“Darcy, you are known for your fortune of ten thousand a year. Surely a capital outlay this large will weaken even your financial state.”

“I appreciate your concern, Charles, but…” here he smiled deviously, “…reports of my fortune have been grossly…. miscalculated.”

“Miscalculated?” Charles asked with a frowning smile on his face.

“Misconstrued?” Darcy tried. Charles shook his head.

“Perhaps ‘extraordinarily underestimated’ would be more appropriate,” Darcy offered.

“Define ‘extraordinary‘,” Bingley countered.

Darcy grinned mischievously. “By a factor of three.”

Bingley sputtered. “Thank goodness that fact is not generally known to the matchmaking Mamas. You have been busy these past years.”

“And I hope your sister and nephew will someday reap the benefits. Now will you agree to be the name behind the investment? If Elizabeth found out, you have the perfect excuse, for she told Jane herself about investing in them. You could simply say you wished to help her and William and invested your own funds for their sake. It would not be far off the truth.”

Jane looked to Charles, who read her wishes perfectly. “Allow us a few minutes in the library, Darcy. My wife and I should like to discuss this together before making a decision.”


When they returned nearly a half hour later, Darcy was taken aback by their suggestions.

“We agree to use our names as investors in Walters and Elliott, and the Bartswith Shipping Company. However, Jane I and wish to be the investors in Mr. Gardiners warehouse, both financially and in name.”

“I would provide the money, Charles. You do not need to risk your own.”

“We know we do not need to invest our own funds, Darcy. Jane and I wish to help the Cartwrights as you do. We are all a family now, as we agreed in April, and we would like to help our family. We also believe the risk for us would be less than what you are going to hazard. Jane’s uncle is a shrewd businessman, and clever as anyone I have met. I think we shall do very well by our investment with him.”

Darcy considered briefly, then nodded. “I agree, then. Charles you always were a smart man, but I think with Jane by your side, you have become wise as well. Perhaps in another ten years I might add ‘clever’ to the list.”

Jane giggled, while Bingley shook his head. “Perhaps in another ten years, we might be able to add ‘amusing’ to your accomplishments, Darcy. For the present, you have no hope.”

Darcy then turned solemn. “Thank you both. I cannot tell you how much your support of my undertakings means to me. You both have my deepest regards.”

He then turned to Jane. “I wished to inquire, that is, I wanted to ask you what has been done to inform your father of Elizabeth’s situation, if it is not too difficult of a subject.”

Here Jane hesitated. Bingley moved next to her and took her hand in loving support. “I wrote to my father soon after the day Elizabeth came to see me. I simply told him Elizabeth had come unannounced to see me and reassure me she was in perfect health and well, but could not see any of the family,” she sniffed slightly, “including me.”

“Two days later, Papa arrived at our house. He was not happy with the lack of true facts about how Elizabeth was living. I gave him every reassurance I could that she seemed happy, and well. I told him she claimed to have the means to support herself, and she had specifically asked he stop looking for her.” The tears had started as Jane spoke the last words.

“He was so broken-hearted. I told him she wanted him to remember her as she was at Longbourn so many years ago, out on her walks in the fields and woods. He seemed to understand better, then. But I will never forget the hopelessness in his eyes, when he heard Elizabeth’s request to be left alone. I wished I could give him more reassurances, but there was little knowledge I could impart without betraying so many. He only seemed to rally when I told him Elizabeth now had his letter. Then his face brightened and he said ‘Good, she will at least know.’ though I do not know to what he portended.”

She laid her head against her husband’s shoulder, and he gentle embraced her. Darcy was struck by the resemblance to Georgie and Patrick at that moment; husband and wife drawing strength from each other when needed. A twinge of jealousy ran through him and, for a moment, he would have given anything to share such intimacy with his beloved Elizabeth.

“I am sure it must have been very difficult, Sister. I thank you for you loyalty to all of us. I know asking you to deceive your father has been a strain on you. I would never ask it unless absolutely necessary. Please forgive me for requiring it.”

Jane smiled timidly. “It is difficult, Sir, but not impossible. I assure you I am up to the task of keeping up the ruse.” He thanked her sincerely.


Within the next month, Patrick had found an excellent tenant for Aisle: an artist who was nearing retirement and wanted the chance to create a few more paintings in the pastoral countryside and fine woods that surrounded Brampton. Darcy was delighted the area his son grew up in might be persevered in oil, and asked McNally to purchase any good pieces the man might create as a future present to little William. It was a day of great satisfaction when he finally signed the lease and paid the money to his attorneys. Despite everything he had already undertaken, it was not until this first task was completed that he truly felt he was aiding his new family.

He was invited to the McNallys for dinner to celebrate and was pleased to see the Bingleys in attendance as well. After dinner, the group began to discuss the final parts of the purchase of Elizabeth’s building. He was once again unprepared for the examples his relations would show of their love and generosity.

“Fitzwilliam, Patrick and I have an announcement we wish to make.” Georgiana began. “The building Elizabeth and William are living in has already been purchased. The transaction was completed last week and the papers have been signed and recorded. Patrick and I are now the owners.”

“Why would you do this?” he asked, truly overwhelmed.

“Because you are not the only relation William has, Darcy. Georgiana and I are his aunt and uncle, and we have a right to provide for him as well. You see, we have amended our wills and an entailment now states when we pass from this world, William Bennet Cartwright will be the owner of the building. It is our way of aiding you, and doing our part to help William in future. He need not act as landlord, and may sell the property one day if he wishes, but we wanted to leave something for him, something that would be his alone,” said Patrick.

“I hope you can forgive us this small bit of subterfuge, Brother. We felt you would never agree to allow us to use our own funds to make this purchase, and therefore made the transaction ahead of schedule,” Georgiana pleaded. “If anything should happen to you or Elizabeth, the boy would have something to live upon, and it would not countermand his mother’s wish of not being master of Pemberley.

Darcy was still speechless. He stood shaking his head, a bit bewildered.

“If it will make you feel better, Darcy, you may use your own funds to make the improvements to the property or the furnishings.”

Darcy turned to his brother, still greatly moved. “I … I think I must insist upon it, Patrick.”

Georgiana drew her brother in a tight embrace as her husband patted his shoulder. He looked to Jane and Bingley, who were also caught up in the moment. “I believe you all have once again proven to be excellent friends as well as excellent relations. No man could ask for better. Thank you all.” He was dreadfully close to tears.

Georgiana made to lighten the mood immediately. “I think I feel the urge to play; would anyone like to hear some music?”

Jane immediately jumped to her request and the two ladies made their way to the pianoforte. Bingley moved over to join the two men.

McNally began to chuckle. “I believe we have managed to do something unique tonight, Charles. We have outwitted Fitzwilliam - no small feat.” He slapped his brother heartily on the shoulder this time. ”Come, Darcy; consider it a large repayment for all the dinners I made you buy before I married your sister.” The men laughed heartily and the mood lightened considerably.

“Have you considered how you get your servant into her household?” Patrick asked.

“I think the more difficult question is who should be placed there,” Bingley suggested. “Anyone on your staff would see the resemblance betwixt you and William, Darcy. And, unfortunately, many of my staff have met the boy before.”

“I may have a solution,” said Patrick. “My housekeeper at Branmoor, my mother’s home, has a widowed daughter who would delight in coming to London, especially for a temporary position which would allow her to return to her mother in a year or so. She has been working as cook with her mother these past ten years and could easily handle the position as both housekeeper and cook for Elizabeth. I have known both women since I was a boy, and she and her mother are devoted, reliable people. More importantly, I think she would be willing to pass along information to me. The McNally name would not be used in her references, only my mother’s family name: Ferguson.”

“Would she spy for you?” Darcy asked.

“I hesitate to use that term. I believe as long as your requests were reasonable she would be willing to keep us updated on the goings on in the house.”

Georgiana and Jane had stopped speaking, and Patrick now looked over to his wife for support. She nodded her head in encouragement.

“I must caution you though, Darcy, no person should be made to spy upon another. You will need to curb your curiosity where your son and his mother are concerned. I think it will be hard not to want to hear every minute detail of their lives; however, they deserve their privacy. Should she learn of your imposing on her do you not think she would feel violated?”

“I had not thought on it, Patrick.”

“How would you feel if someone were telling her your daily movements? What sort of trust would you feel towards Elizabeth under those circumstances?”

Darcy nodded, deep in thought. “I would feel hunted; like prey.”

“I think you would as well.”

“You need to decide what you would need to know from your informant, Darcy. Not merely what you would like to know,” said Bingley.

“These are excellent suggestions, brothers. Most of the things I wished to provide to them are being accomplished. Now I must decide what the future holds for the three of us, what role I will fulfill in their lives.”

“And your brothers and sisters as well, Darcy. We will all be affected by whatever your plans are.”

“Indeed. I have much to consider.”


And so it was that Elizabeth’s house had a new landlord. She liked the new manager who introduced himself to the families occupying the four homes in the building. The man was extremely thorough in examining the interiors of each home, taking notes on anything that needed repairing or updating.

Her new housekeeper was a competent, jovial lady who quickly became very attached to her new mistress and the young master. Mrs. Cartwright did not know the woman was also telling the new owners pertinent information with regards to any plans she was making for herself and William. The housekeeper only had one afternoon each week free, and Elizabeth never suspected she spent those afternoons with Mr. or Mrs. McNally, divulging the household goings on.

Darcy had taken his brother’s advice, and only asked for information with regards to any new acquaintances they had made, if Mrs. Cartwright’s finances seemed to be in order, or if any travel plans were being made. The new housekeeper did not consider her mistress’ privacy or safety were being compromised, especially when the McNally’s continually reassured her of their concern for the Cartwrights welfare alone. All parties were happy, with peaceful existence that pervaded for many months.

Elizabeth was continually astonished at the excellent care the new owner was putting into his investment. She knew the quality of the new furnishings, and the painting and repairs that had been done to the place, had rendered it worth much more than the current money she was paying. However, as the landlord had no inclinations to raise the rents on hers, nor her neighbour’s homes, she was very happy and grateful indeed.


Chapter 30

It was nearly three months after initially receiving Darcy’s letter before Colonel Fitzwilliam made any headway in the investigation into George Wickham’s death. Richard was not worried about the amount of time which had passed, nor the lack of true progress he made. He knew the army well enough; if one allowed enough time and persistence, something was bound to happen and provide him with the answers he sought.

His good fortune came in the form of a superior officer, General Tippington, who had a penchant for fine liquors, jovial conversation and cards. Tippington was also cursed with very bad luck when he imbibed in all three. Richard was well aware that this particular General’s offices were the ones who had the responsibility to look into the errant officer’s disappearance and then subsequent demise. His evening proved to be both lucrative and informative. He wrote to Darcy to expect him soon with new information.


London, July 1817

When the two cousins finally met up, they wasted little time in getting to the business at hand.

“I am afraid I have little new information, Darcy. Most of what I had heard before was the extent of the army’s knowledge of the affair, save one fact: I now know the name of the tavern where he was last seen alive.” Darcy’s spirits lifted immediately. “I have no doubt you will wish to go as soon as you may, but I strongly suggest you and I change clothing before venturing into that part of town if we wish to make it safely back home.” The two were off soon after dressing themselves appropriately.


Neither felt comfortable in the place. They settled in at a table, observing quietly for some time. The rough customers paid them no mind. Eventually the two decided the only person who might provide any information worthwhile would be the barman. They waited until closing when nearly all the patrons had left, then made their way to the man.

He seemed chary of being approached by two men who were clearly not drunk. Darcy realised there were few reasons for someone to ever come to this tavern, and if a man did not drink, he probably was not to be trusted, therefore they proceeded cautiously.

“We’re closing. You two need to find yer ways out.”

“We should like to speak with you first,” Richard began. “Then we shall be on our way.”

The barman eyed them warily. “It’s my place, and talk’s not free here.”

“Undoubtedly,” Darcy answered calmly, while laying his coin upon the bar. The man picked it up and pocketed it immediately. He then stood still, waiting for them to play their hand.

Richard began first. “We seek information. Specifically, anything which has not already been… shared with certain authorities about an incident which happened in this area in May of 1813.”

The landlord stood unmoving, silent as the grave.

“The incident in which a certain former officer was last seen in this tavern alive, yet was not so the next day,” Darcy added.

The man did not budge.

“We are interested to know whether you might have recognised any of your patrons that evening,” Richard asked.

“I rarely know the men who come in here for a drink, exceptin’ for a few regulars. But my regulars aren’t always around every night, and maybe on the night you are thinking, they weren’t here at all,” he finally said.

Darcy looked to Richard, who replied, “What would keep your regulars out of your establishment for an evening?”

The man looked expectantly at the two for some time, until the rules of this game finally dawned upon Darcy. He brought another coin out and laid it upon the counter. The man looked insulted, until a second coin joined the first. Both were quickly swept up by the barkeeper’s battered hand.

“If someone was to pay enough money for the place to be closed to all but certain of his friends, we would turn the regulars away.”

“Would the man have a name?” Richard asked.


“Would the man happen to have been…. not at all young?” Darcy offered a more convoluted way to get his information.

The man stared with his now familiar ‘expectant’ face. Darcy laid three coins upon the bar.

“Not young at all.”

“Did you know any of his friends who came that night?” Richard asked, placing his coins upon the bar.

The man snorted. “Hardly; none of them were from ‘round here, nor even London, I’d wager.”

“Strangers?” Darcy asked, laying more coins out.

“They might not have known each other, but there was one man they all knew.”

Darcy paled at the thought.

“Caught in his own web,” murmured Richard.

The barkeeper nodded.

Richard jingled his coin purse “Is there anything else you can add, or I should say earn?”

He shook his head sadly. “But I will tell you what I told the rest, the man was alive when he left my tavern, on that I swear.”

Darcy and the Colonel nodded, satisfied. They had almost reached the door when Darcy hurried back to the bar.

“The elderly gentleman: he did not have a woman with him, did he?” Darcy uttered emotionally, before he could contain himself. From the door Richard’s head whipped around as he discerned the word ’woman’

Before the barman could make his request a pound note was slapped upon the wood; it disappeared instantly.

“No women there at all, just two men with him. Well, a man and a youth.”

He swallowed hard. “The youth, can you describe him?”

The barman’s face betrayed he was considering bargaining further.

“The note covers the rest of our conversation,” Darcy added with finality.

“I never did see his face. He was a small lad, but I’d still say sixteen or seventeen as he didn’t walk like no little boy.

“And what did you see him do?” Darcy demanded.

“I didn’t see anything.”

Darcy began to fume.

“I pour drinks and don’t see, understand? Just like I didn’t see you two dandies walk in here tonight and I didn’t answer any of your questions. I only was willing to talk to you ‘cause I knew you wasn’t trouble the second I laid eyes on you. I told you all I’m going to. The rest you can figure yourselves. Now, we’re closed, Gents. Get out.”

As the coach pulled away, Richard began to speak, but Darcy stayed him with his hand.

“Not until we are home, Richard. I wish for as much privacy as possible, if you would.” His cousin conceded with a nod.


They arrived to a sleepy butler and footman, who did not grumble, but were clearly not happy to have been required to attend at such a time. Darcy dismissed both to their beds and asked his valet be sent to bed as well. He and his cousin would attend to their own needs when they retired.

They then repaired to Darcy’s private study, which was smaller and more intimate a setting for a conversation that needed to be discreet above all else. Richard poured himself a brandy, while Darcy lit up a Johnson’s cigar.

Richard, the commanding soldier in him taking over, did not hesitate to engage. “I believe you know much more of the story of Wickham’s death than you have previously led me to understand.”

Darcy drew a great breath. “Sit down, Richard. I did not lie to you when I told you I was not involved in Wickham’s death in any way. I did not even know it had occurred until you told me at Pemberley. However, I find I now wish to know the truth of his end for many reasons.”

Darcy started pacing the rug.

“The woman I love so very dearly…” He paced once more. “I have never mentioned her name because you are acquainted with the lady, and I could not bear the thought of you teasing me after she refused me.” Richard nodded, remembering the conversation they had outside Pemberley that cold November day.

“Before you think less of her, I must tell you my declaration was probably the single most haughty, cruel and thoughtless set of words which have ever passed my lips. I do not exaggerate. Not only did the lady rightly refuse me, but, in my arrogance, I demanded she tell me her reasons for turning me down, and received the soundest thrashing of my life.”

He then went on to briefly explain more of his history with the lady, the same as he had once explained to his sister and brother-in-law. At last he came to the dreaded revelation of the lady’s departure from Lambton because of her youngest sister Lydia’s elopement with George Wickham. Richard, having made the connection with surprising alacrity, had to grasp his legs to keep from bounding out of his seat.

“You were in love with Elizabeth Bennet?”

“No, Richard. I am in love, and will always be in love, with Elizabeth Bennet.”

“She is Wickham’s sister-in-law!”

Was his sister-in-law.”

Richard’s mind was reeling. “Tonight at the inn, you asked if the man who paid to have the tavern closed was elderly; do you know who it was?”

“No.” Darcy answered easily, for he did not know for certain if it was Lord Caldhart.

“But you have an idea who it may be?”

Darcy stared unfazed at his cousin, and would not answer. Richard tried to read his face, unsuccessfully.

“Do you think Elizabeth Bennet had anything to do with Wickham’s death?”

Darcy flinched. “I do not know,” he answered carefully.

Richard studied him again. “No you do not, but are you frightened she might somehow have been involved?”

“There is much more at stake.” He looked longingly at Richard’s brandy, wishing he could feel the heat of the liquid down his throat to spare him the anxiety of telling all he needed to impart. Instead, he was forced to once more, slowly and painfully, reveal meeting Elizabeth again at the masked ball and their secret tryst.

“That night, she gave herself to the man she loved, while I took a woman I thought worldly; a virtual stranger.”

Richard frowned, a startled dawning creeping across his face. “Darcy, surely you do not mean she was a… that she had never…”

He nodded.

“When I discovered who she was, I begged her to run away with me, but she would not agree. We spoke such harsh words to one another, but only later did I realise she was merely trying to get me to give her up, and all for my own good. She was protecting me from the scandal of her sister’s elopement, which had sullied the family’s reputation.”

Richard was confused. “Surely there might be some gossip from an elopement, but not enough scandal to ruin you, Darcy.”

“The marriage was not discovered until many months later; almost a year. The family was ostracized and shunned because of it. I did not know of any of their scandal. Therefore, I could only think she was once again refusing me.

“The very next day I ran away again, this time to Pemberley, and a never-ending parade of bottles. She ran away the same day, to live I do not know how, but once again I was not there to help her. I had failed her again.

“She had never been heard from until the day, three months ago, when fate bid me sit and wait for Bingley in his study overlooking the garden, and I heard her sweet voice, and then her tiny sobs, as my heart wrenched in silent witness to all her confessions and sufferings to her sister, Jane.”

He leaned heavily against the mantle at the fire, “We have a son, Richard.”

For once Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam was speechless. Eventually the question Darcy knew Richard would ask formed on his face. He was cut off by his cousin before he could ask it.

“I have met my son, and believe me when I tell you, not a soul on this earth would doubt the boy is a Darcy. Jane Bingley saw him and immediately recognized him as mine, without ever having known Elizabeth and I had been together. He also revealed his birthday, which is almost exactly nine months after our assignation. I do not doubt his parentage, and neither will you, Cousin.”

Richard numbly nodded. Darcy went on to explain Elizabeth’s new name, her rise in fortune, and her current address.

“You said you learned of your son’s existence three months ago, but you did not say you are in contact with Miss Benn… Mrs. Cartwright. Is this fear of Wickham’s murder foreshadowing your ability to reconcile with her?”

“It is one of many reasons. I must find out if she played a part in the actions.”

“And you feel responsible for not revealing the scoundrel’s character so many years ago, and protecting the ladies he encountered from him, including her sister?”

“I am responsible; it has nothing to do with my damned feelings! I sought to protect my sister, without regard for the greater good of the rest. In essence, I lied to protect Georgiana, as though I had no responsibility to the other women in the world, as if I had no duty to them!

“I did not feel he would bother the Bennets, as they have no fortune, conveniently forgetting a man can steal more than a woman’s money. Am I right in thinking Lydia was not the first girl without money he might have ruined? What of shopkeepers’ daughters and the like?”

Richard nodded.

“My prideful ways helped him. My silence may as well have been permission. The money I gave him enabled him to travel to places to find new victims, and my silence gave him no opposition.

“Elizabeth’s admonitions have never rung more true; if this is not proof I have behaved with the selfish disdain of the feelings of others, then what is? I considered the actions of that viper were beneath my notice or interference because his victims were beneath my notice. If this is not the actions of a guilty man, then I do not understand its meaning.”

“I see.” Richard answered carefully.

The two sat thinking for a long while. “Do you at least know why she might have been involved?” Richard finally asked.

“I can only conjecture; I have no proof. I believe our dear childhood friend had not married her sister. I suspect the marriage was false. I suspect Elizabeth had been moved to revenge. I know, had it been me, I would have done the same. Georgiana was almost forced into the identical position.”

“Not quite. Wickham would have been sure to marry her, to get at her money. But where is Mrs. Wickham? How is she living without a husband to support her?”

“I have no idea. Perhaps she did sail to America. If she had passage only one way, she could never return to be a burden to him.”

“What do the Bennets know?”

“The same as you did three years ago; Miss Lydia and Wickham sailed to America together, and were married on the ship. Jane Bingley speaks as if both are still in America, and mentioned they never write to their family here.”

“We know why Wickham does not write. I wonder what has become of the girl?”

“We may never know. If he did not marry her, and she sailed without him, she would hardly write to her family, for they would learn of her shame. Perhaps she is living the lie of being his wife in America. We can only hope she does not return.”

“What do you wish to tell the Bingleys and the Bennets with regards to Wickham’s death?”

“I feel we should not reveal it. Do you agree?”

“I do. I can see no good coming from telling them. Too many secrets are dependent upon his death being unknown. This is a bad business, Darcy. I do not like the idea of Mrs. Cartwright’s or your son’s freedom being jeopardized by a loose tongue.”

“You and I are the only ones who know, Richard. Can I trust you?”

“Of course.”

“Because you have not only me to answer to, but your new cousin as well.”

“Yes, I have a new cousin. What is the boy’s name?”

“She named him William.”

“Darcy, while I can not completely agree with your assessment of your accomplice in all that has happened, I can certainly understand it. But now I think the more important question is: what are you going to do about it?


“A rather large order, even for you.”

“I agree. Luckily, I do not go through my life alone.”


“We are not always happy with ourselves, not proud of our actions, or our feelings, but what never will change is that we do not go through our lives alone. We, each of us, have someone, somewhere, to answer to.”

“Who said that?”

“Two very wise women. Richard, I am going to need your help.”

Richard rolled his eyes. “How did I fail to see you were going to ask me for something more?”

“Because you have lived as though you were alone too often. Will you help me?

“You know I will.”

“Thank you, Richard. With your help, and the McNallys and the Bingleys, I may just be able to accomplish all I wish. They know everything about Elizabeth and William, though no one knows of what I have told you about the Wickhams.”

“And do you know what you wish to accomplish?”

“Not completely. I will need a great deal more time to think, but, for now, knowing my family can support my endeavours gives me great faith that all will end well.”

“You will not reveal your plans?”

“They are still being assembled, Richard, I assure you. But I will tell you what I have accomplished so far.” He explained all he had undertaken that spring and summer. By the end, Richard was amazed at his cousin’s fortitude and determination to help William and his mother.

“What do you wish me to do?”

“I was wondering if there was any way you could make discreet inquiries as to whether the army or the London authorities are still investigating the …incident. And…I need to find a witness to that fateful evening’s events.”

“Anything else?” the colonel asked, clearly daunted.

“I know it is a great deal to ask. Any success you have will be appreciated… and thank you, Richard.”

“You already have enough tasks to take on, Darcy. I am glad to relieve you of some of the burden.”


Chapter 31

London, January 1818

The routine set the previous summer continued through the autumn and following winter in the Cartwright and Darcy households. William continued to excel in his studies, while his mother began her search for ideal situations and contacts on the continent to continue his education.

Darcy was also searching for information on the educational institutions of Europe. He had written to several of his Cambridge professors, and had made the journey three times to consult with his old masters as to the best course of action for the ‘friend’ he had described to them. Eventually, a list of possibilities and contacts was made, and he now pondered how to get the information to Elizabeth.

It was his clever sister who came up with the idea. She had re-acquainted herself with her old music master, Mr. Von Humboldt, after learning he had taken on William as a student, and quickly engaged him to begin lessons for Patrick, enabling her to see him each week.

Patrick was game to allow the lessons, and eventually began to enjoy his new skills. Georgiana had secretly hoped her husband would come to love playing. The thought of someday indulging in duets together might have spurred her to exaggerate her praise to her husband a tiny bit; however, it was in the name of a good cause.

Mr. Von Humboldt was pleased Mrs. McNally took such an interest in his work, his other students, and even went so far as to offer to sponsor those he deemed worthy. The two often sat after her husband’s lessons talking of music and eventually other things.

Many months later, he would not think it at all strange to be discussing the educational systems of his motherland versus the surrounding countries. Mr. Von Humboldt had a preference for his beloved Viennese institutions, as their superiority in music and the arts were well known. The McNally’s were just as adamant the Universities of Greifswald or Rostock were also excellent choices, as were Padua or Pisa. They further suggested that even Bonn, where the Prussian king was rumoured to be setting up a new university, would be appropriate, if one was not bent on a purely musical education. The three deliberated the merits of all, many times, and Mr. Von Humboldt was indeed impressed with his new patron’s extensive knowledge of European universities.

The McNallys later showed no signs of surprise when Mr. Von Humboldt asked if they would be willing to share the information and contacts they had spoken of with his young protégé, a Mr. Cartwright. They generously acquiesced.

The Cartwright’s housekeeper later confirmed several letters had been written to, and received from, the continent. By the end of winter, it seemed the boy’s future had been decided. Elizabeth and William would be moving to the newly established kingdom of Lombardy and Venetia, ruled by the nephew of the late Marie Antoinette, Austrian Emperor Franz I. The University of Padua was to be his new home.


London, April 1818

Little more than a month remained until the journey to Padua was to commence. Darcy had been busy making the arrangements with all his business interests, attorneys and steward as to how he was going to keep in contact. The McNally’s would act in his stead if a situation arose which required personal attendance, and all other decisions would be made via post whenever possible.

He had found a villa to lease on the banks of the Brenta canal, and could only hope it was not one of the monstrosities which he had seen on the riverbanks near Venice years ago. It would not do to be talked of; he wished to slip into the city quietly, without notice.

His Italian lessons continued daily, and he was pleased with his progress in the language. He had picked it up when on his tour four years earlier, as they had spent a great deal of their time in the southern part of the country. Now, he was grateful to have at least some working knowledge of speaking it, and was learning to read and write it as well. His German was excellent, and he felt he would have no trouble with any Austrians he might encounter in the city.

He planned to return to England regularly, for the thought of not seeing his beloved sister and brother-in-law, the Bingleys or Pemberley for years was not an option he was willing to entertain. Though giving up Elizabeth and William, and this half-life they shared, was something he could not do either. He decided he would be able to arrange a system to watch over the Cartwrights within a year after they had settled, enabling him to make the trip back soon. Georgiana and Patrick promised to make the trip to see him someday as well.

As he thought of what he was leaving behind, Darcy began to dwell upon what Elizabeth and William were giving up. As well as their home and their language, more important was the fact that, with William's education likely to last as long as fifteen years, they were, in a way, also giving up their loved ones.

It had been the portrait of his ancestor in the grand staircase of his town home that convinced Darcy. Great-Great Grandfather Harold had made him realise his family and loved ones were the single most important thing in his world. He knew if William had disappeared and had a child… he could not finish the thought. It was right; all his convictions told him so. Now, with the imminent departure to the continent, and no return date considered, he felt Mr. Bennet was due what might be his only opportunity to meet his grandson.


The butler had ushered the new houseguest into Fitzwilliam Darcy’s private study. The air was ripe with nervousness as Mr. Bennet regarded the usually stoic man’s now obvious lack of composure.

“Mr. Bennet I thank you for accepting my invitation. I know it was no small favour to ask, and I appreciate your willingness to come to town.”

“Mr. Darcy, I do appreciate the hospitality you have offered me this week. However, your purpose for bringing me to London eludes me. As I am no longer a young man, I would appreciate it if you would speak openly, frankly, and, if at all possible, expeditiously.

“As you wish, Sir. I would, however, strongly recommend a brandy and my sofa. What I have to impart is not of short duration, nor joyful.”

“Now you have me worried, young man. Please do not make me suffer needlessly.”

“I apologise, Sir. I do not mean to say I have specific ill tidings to impart, but that I have a very long, pertinent story to tell you, regarding myself, your family, and your daughter Elizabeth.”

Mr. Bennet paled. “You have seen my Lizzy? Has any harm come to her? Is she well?”

“I have not spoken to her, Sir. However, I have often seen her, and I can assure you she is in perfect health, and finds happiness in her life. It is my history, our history, of which I wish to speak. And I wish to consult with you about the future of many.”

Mr. Bennet regarded this man before him. He had not seen Darcy for many years, but from the times he had, he discerned the edge had come off of him; he had softened a bit. Not friendly of course, but not the disdainful man that he, and so many others, had thought him so many years ago.

“Very well, Mr. Darcy, tell your story.”

“Thank you, Sir. I believe I should begin in Meryton, in the autumn of 1811.”

Mr. Bennet groaned. “Not the night you slighted Lizzy? There simply cannot be anyone on this earth who does not know you said she was tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt you.”

Darcy’s face lost all colour so quickly, Mr. Bennet thought the great man might actually faint. “She heard me?” he whispered.

“Good God, Man. Can you really be so thick? Yes, she heard you, and told everyone in the town of your appallingly bad manners.” Mr. Bennet chuckled slightly. Darcy was not amused. “I apologise for taking delight in another’s misfortune, Mr. Darcy, but you brought it upon yourself. Luckily Elizabeth laughed over your ill chosen words, but I know it jaded her opinion of you from that point; she did not care for you one jot.”

“I never knew. She never told me.” Darcy shook his head. He admired her all the more knowing now she had never brought up his shockingly bad behaviour or berated him directly for it. He felt like a fool now, but would go on.

“Despite my utter stupidity of saying such a thing about your daughter, Sir, much less within her hearing, no sooner had the words left my mouth, when I realised her face was actually very appealing to me. I can honestly say that, by the time Bingley and I had left Hertfordshire after the Netherfield ball, I had fallen utterly and completely in love with her.

Mr Bennet’s shock was clearly visible. “I believe you offered me a brandy earlier, young man. I should be very grateful if you now would renew the offer.”


Unfortunately, ‘gratitude’ could easily be said to have been the last thing on Thomas Bennet’s mind as he stood in front of Darcy after his speech. Shock, grief, bitterness, disgust and fury would have been more likely. Not unlike most persons when faced with such an amalgam of overwhelming emotions, Mr. Bennet did the only thing which seemed rational at the time: he sat down heavily in the chair beside him, and broke down.

Darcy allowed the man his time alone and retreated behind his desk.

When Mr. Bennet finally seemed composed, he tried to offer his help. “If it brings you any relief, I had the same reaction when I learned of William’s existence,” he said, as he refilled Mr. Bennet’s brandy.

“I find it hard to fathom your ever losing control, Mr. Darcy.”

He contemplated the elder gentleman‘s perception of him for a moment. “Perhaps the Darcy who once silently stalked the edges of your drawing room, Sir. But I gave that man up many years ago. The man who stands before you now happily claims to have feelings of great depth. When I learned of William, I cried like a babe; in my sister’s lap, no less. I have a great sympathy for your own suffering, and I mean to prove it to you every way I can.”

Mr. Bennet looked sceptical, yet still managed, “You certainly do not bandy words about, I will give you that. Very well, Sir; you may begin to state your case.”

Several minutes later, Mr. Bennet had found little relief. He stared silently into the fire, not for the first time that day, while Darcy allowed him to find his composure once more. “Wickham dead. I cannot believe it.”

“My cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, can verify all I have said. It was he who informed me of the man’s passing several years ago. The army wishes to hush it up, considering the circumstances.”

The elder man stood up and began pacing. Darcy was surprised to see an imitation of the habit he displayed in time of stress.

“Do you think she had anything to do with Wickham’s…fate?”

“I do not know. I can only tell you I intend to find the truth. Without absolving her of guilt in Wickham‘s death, I have no hope of a future with her.”

Mr. Bennet regarded him a long while, finally venturing, “And if the truth is not to your liking? If it is in any way… dangerous?”

“Wickham’s ending was not so different from what I had often contemplated inflicting upon him. I would also point out it was well deserved.”

“While I cannot argue that merit, it still does not explain what your actions would be.”

“I would try to protect them in every way. If I could, I would advise another… residence, exactly what they are already planning.”

“I see. What if what your quest for all truths should prove to uncover information which was …. less palatable?”

“There is very little I expect to be surprised at,” Darcy answered cautiously.

“But if there were? Are you willing to pursue this? Would you still be willing to aid them, even if you were to discover more … things which might not reflect well upon Elizabeth’s character?”

Darcy resented this posturing. “What do you know, Mr. Bennet?”

“There was another name associated with that time. It now seems it may have been pertinent, though I did not think so then, owing to the gentleman no longer being alive. Of course, I did not know Wickham had been... Perhaps the authorities felt, if this gentleman’s involvement in the activity were proved, his fate would have been the same, therefore, further investigation would yield the same results. As far as they might have been concerned, all parties were now satisfied.”

“In what way do you think this is important?”

“The ‘other party’s’ demise was only a few days after the first party’s departure.”


“All of this activity took place in mid May.”


Mr. Bennet grimaced and shook his head. “Blast it, Darcy! He was at the Blakely’s ball the night he died. A night which was witnessed by hundreds, bet upon by many, and scandalously written about in the gossip for weeks, mostly due to the fact that, when he passed into the next world, he was not alone.”

“Please, stop.” Darcy quiet voice pleaded.

Mr. Bennet saw the pain upon his face. “I am not telling you anything you did not already know, am I?”

Darcy shook his head.

Now it was his turn to pace. Realising there was no turning back, he began; “I attended the Blakely’s masked ball, where I met an extraordinary French woman. She had a bevy of admirers around her all night, and I was next to her for most of it. I am not proud to say she captured my interest immediately and I was quickly enamoured of her in an… ungentlemanly manner. We had the opportunity to be alone at one point…”

Mr. Bennet’s face was still as he listened to Darcy’s story. His face betrayed no surprised as the man continued his painful confession.

“Sir, the woman with whom I had this… encounter was Chantal Moreau. She had been spoken of openly as the new mistress of Lord Robert Caldhart.

Mr. Bennet’s head dropped, “Elizabeth.”

Darcy nodded. “But there was worse to come. I did not realise it at the time, but she had recognised me. She had not merely attempted an assignation, she had, in fact, sacrificed her virtue to me; the man to whom she later confessed she was in love.

“It was the first night… She had only moved into his Lordship’s protection that day. The ball was his own perverted attempt to show her off, and to make his fellow gentleman envy his newest possession. Consequently, their relationship had not yet been consummated.

“She did not reveal herself until we had…. You cannot know how sorry I was, thinking she was another woman, a woman I did not love, and then have it revealed to me she was the very woman who owned my heart.” Darcy choked upon his confession. “My disgust and shame in myself has been well deserved.”

He then went on to reveal his second proposal to Elizabeth, and her subsequent refusal and the reasons for her doing so. Mr. Bennet’s tears spilled slowly as he heard the tale of his daughter’s trials.

“I believe his fury over finding her sullied later that night resulted in his attempt to bring harm to her, and the subsequent fight, which I believe all of England has read about.

“Apparently, she then refused to go through with their arrangement, and he was unwilling to let her go. In the end, the decision was not left to him.”

Mr. Bennet slowly dried his face. “Caldhart must have found Wickham.”

“He had the means.”

“And the motivation, Mr. Darcy. It seems he had been pursuing my daughter for sometime.” Darcy’s surprise was evident. “At the cigar shop, he deduced who she was and began his seduction weeks, if not months, before. Perhaps she thought she could rebuff him on her own. She cared not for worldly goods, but, in the end, he held the key to the things she wanted most.”

“Revenge and restoration to your family‘s reputation,” Darcy said. “At the ball, she said he could provide the one thing she wanted; to see the man who had made her and her family suffer, dead. No,” he corrected, suddenly remembering clearly. “She said she would have been happy to see him die, not that he was dead. There may be hope.”

“We must believe in the possibility, I think. However, there is still one more unanswered piece to the puzzle. If Caldhart found Wickham, then where is Lydia? Why did she not come back from America with him?”

“I have not been able to ascertain anything about Lydia’s whereabouts, but I have a theory. I am afraid it is not pleasant.”

“Nothing about this day has been pleasant, Mr. Darcy. I think you had better tell me all you know, as well as what you suspect. Perhaps together we can fill in more missing pieces.”

Darcy once again continued the convoluted tale, including his conjecture that Wickham had never married Lydia, and of her being abandoned in America. He held back nothing, and the complete story was finally told.

“Damn Wickham… and Caldhart! And damn you, too!” Mr. Bennet cried. “If I did not blame myself so greatly for having raised such a silly, worthless daughter in Lydia, I would call you out, or shoot you where you stand. “ He shook his head. “I know it would serve no purpose. I know I would never survive a duel with you.” He buried his face in his hands. “I feel as useless as an old woman.”

“I brought you here to give you the opportunity to meet William, and to make my confession. I will accept whatever punishment you see fit to give.”

The only noise in the room was the occasional snap of the fire in the grate as Mr. Bennet was once again thrown into meditation. “I cannot force you to marry her. Your fame in the society makes you an easy target for scandal and investigation. It may as well be a sentence to Newgate. Anyone seeing the two of you together with William would instantly recognise the boy’s parentage, as well. No, I cannot see any way for you to marry her. However, I cannot forgive your actions. You compromised my daughter, and she has suffered as a result.”

“I do not seek your forgiveness. I cannot regret loving her; I cannot regret the extraordinary child we have created. It is only Elizabeth’s forgiveness I someday hope to earn. She is the one who has truly suffered on my account, and I intend to do all I can to make it up to her. My oath to you is that she and your grandson will be taken care of in every way possible.

“However, you seem to have forgotten the other objections; the lady herself wants nothing to do with me, or to involve me in William’s life. Our situation is one bound by the precarious danger surrounding it, but also by the limitations she has set. I bow to her will in this. But I swear to you, despite the separate way we are living, and though it might seem shocking, even blasphemous - to me she is, and always will be, my wife.”


The two elderly gentlemen made their way slowly across the stretch of green. The day was bright and warm, and throngs had gathered in the park to take advantage of the fair spring weather. Eventually they found an unoccupied bench and sat quietly, only occasionally commenting to one another.

The elder of the two noticed a small boy running across the shorn grass with his nurse following behind, and pointed him out to his younger companion. The younger was immediately on his feet, but, before he could leave, the elder stopped him, and pleaded with his hands and his voice.

“Please, could you… that is, would you bring him to me, and introduce me?” he asked with warbled voice. The younger frowned, but did not answer before hurrying away to intercept the youth.

William had been playing with his ball, attempting to make it touch the sky, when the disobedient toy once again got away from him. This time the errant sphere happened on a man, who picked it up and returned it to him with a mischievous smile on his face.

“I believe this may belong to you, young man,” he said a little roughly.

William’s countenance fell, not sure if the gentleman was offended, or perhaps even injured, due to his neglect.

“I apologise, Sir, if my ball has harmed you.”

The man looked surprised. “Harmed? By a mere ball? I think not. I may be old, my lad, but I certainly can cross swords with your ball and come out unscathed!” he challenged. “If you would allow me, perhaps together we can see just how stern of stuff your ball is made,” he invited.

He then turned to the lady. “With your nurse’s permission, of course.” She smiled and nodded.

“Excellent! May I have the privilege of knowing who my companion is, Sir?”

The move now nearly perfected, William stood straight, brought his feet carefully together, and bowed before him. “William Bennet Cartwright, Sir,” he answered as he grinned happily.

The elder man returned the bow. “I am Benjamin Thompson, Master Cartwright, and very pleased to make your acquaintance.”

The two spent the next half hour finding out how much abuse ‘Ball’, as they had decided to name it, could weather. William’s energy seemed to have an endless source, but Mr. Thompson, though laughing heartily throughout, soon lagged, and the nurse suggested the gentleman needed a well deserve rest.

“Thank you, Mademoiselle; I believe you are correct.” He looked up then, finally remembering his companion who sat as a silent sentinel to the entire proceedings on the bench not far off.

“Master Cartwright, I did not come to the park alone today, and would very much enjoy introducing you to my companion. Will you permit me?” William happily agreed.

They walked to the benches, finally allowing the boy and his nurse to see the other gentleman more clearly. He was much older than William’s new playmate. His hands trembled lightly as he leaned heavily on the cane between his legs while he sat. His head sometimes rested upon his folded hands even in the short time it took them to make their way before him. When they finally stood in front of him, Mr. Thompson made the introduction.

“William Bennet Cartwright, please allow me to introduce you to my father, Mr. Will Thompson,” he replied. William bowed once again as the elder Mr. Thompson nodded his head in acknowledgement.

“You must forgive me, Master Cartwright, for not standing to receive you,” he began with shaking voice. “My son insists I walk each day, but it is an arduous task for me, therefore I try not to expend any extra energy when I reach the halfway point, for fear I will never make it to the final destination: home.” William laughed at this amusing man.

“You have provided me with some excellent entertainment today, young man, for it has been many a year, I dare say, since my son has run about like a boy. More than forty years I should think, Benjamin.”

“Yes, Father. Though I believe I still ran about quite a bit even when I was fourteen or fifteen,” he chuckled.

“I am pleased you have had your exercise for the day as well, my son,” said the elder. “Master Cartwright, how do you like this park, then?”

“Very well, Sir. I come here most every day, along with Mademoiselle and Ball.”

“Ball? Who is Ball?”

William held out Ball to the old man and they both shared a laugh.

“Ball seems a very dependable sort of friend. Rarely complains I expect, and never runs away,” the elder Mr. Thompson remarked.

The younger Mr. Thompson coughed conspicuously. “I would not go so far as to say that Ball is above running… er, rolling away every now and then, Father.” Young William suddenly looked guilty. “But, if he did not, I would not have been introduced to Master Cartwright, and that would have been a great shame,” he said with a distinct twinkle in his bright, though lined, eyes.

“Indeed it would have,” said the elder, with significant feeling in his voice and face.

The nurse declared it time to return home, and, with a sad face, William turned to his two new friends to bid them farewell. Both men eagerly held out their hands to shake, and a delighted William was happy to indulge. They promised to try to see one another again sometime if the weather was fair, and the elder Mr. Thompson could manage it.


After the boy and his nurse had departed, the two sat in silence for some time. The elder Mr. Thompson could hear the tiny sniffles of his son next to him and, understanding the sentiment completely, did not comment.

“A most wonderful lad,” the younger finally managed to say.

“He is.”

“I know I have no right, as I have never had anything to do with his upbringing, but I feel compelled to say I am prodigiously proud of that little boy.”

“As am I,” said the elder. “The only thing I probably have a right to be proud of as well.”

“Now you are too harsh and I cannot agree. You can be proud of everything you have set your mind to. Anyone who has seen what you have done would agree,” said the younger.

“Perhaps,” he sighed. “But those things do not signify, only two things matters to me; that boy and his mother.”

“I will be grateful to you for that until the day I die, Darcy. Elizabeth and William are fortunate to have you watching over them. It is the only reason I can find a modicum of peace in this situation. I hope for all our sakes my daughter and grandson can someday join together with you as a family.”

“As do I, Mr. Bennet; I pray for it daily,” Darcy said sadly. “Now, I could not help but notice how much you exerted yourself playing with my son, Grandfather. Are you as tired as I suspect you may be?”

“Strangely, no. I suspect I will feel the effects of running about like a four-year-old tomorrow. However, at this moment, though sad to say goodbye to my grandson, I am also strangely jubilant. I should have no trouble making our way back to a cab.”

“You could lean on me if you need to. It will look like you are helping me if we place ourselves just so.”

Mr. Bennet laughed. “You have entirely too much expertise at this, Darcy. Who would have ever thought you would turn out to be such a fine actor.”

“Certainly no one at the Haymarket,” Darcy retorted without thinking.

“Eh? The Haymarket Theatre?” Mr. Bennet asked.

Darcy groaned. “A very long, painful and embarrassing story.”

“Excellent! He replied with a grin. “I was hoping for some entertainment over brandy tonight.” As they stood up to leave, Mr. Bennet grabbed the elderly looking gentleman’s arm, stopping him.

“Thank you, Darcy. I think you understand how much it has meant to me to meet him. I know the extraordinary courage it took for you to send for me. I am sure I did not profess it that night, but truly, Son, thank you.” Darcy nodded, patting the man’s hand with great tenderness.


They stood once again in his study. Mr. Bennet’s travelling coat lay aside, waiting for him to begin the trip back to Hertfordshire. Darcy was glad for this week he had spent with the man. It had taken several more days of talking, combined with showing all the papers, proving all he had already done to insure the Cartwright’s financial safety and his continual love for them, before there was any sign Mr. Bennet would relinquish his anger and accept the man who had truly earned his respect for his actions, save one.

Together the two had come to terms with the conception of William, and Elizabeth’s role in Lord Caldhart’s life. When they realised they each had separately already forgiven her for her transgressions, they knew they could not be enemies considering the love they both felt for Elizabeth and William. Mr. Bennet, however, had felt the need to threaten that, should Darcy change his mind about accepting Elizabeth’s past actions, he was not above hunting the large man down and making use of his pistol.

Mr. Bennet’s sharp mind and wit had delighted Darcy, as it made him feel closer to his beloved to speak with the man. Now that he had her father’s agreement on his chosen course of action, he felt relieved at not having to carry the burden alone. Together they decided not to mention Mr. Bennet’s trip, or introduction to William to the Bingleys or McNallys. They felt, for now, it would be easier on Jane to not keep more secrets, as she was expecting her first child.

They could hear the sound of the carriage pulling up to the front of the house.

“Darcy,” Mr. Bennet began. “Never in my life have I been so glad to have been so grievously mistaken about a man’s character than I have with you. I hope someday to call you son, just as you wish for me as a father-in-law. I know the path you have chosen is not an easy one. God help you on the day Elizabeth learns all you have done. I would not expect her to be grateful, nor silent on the subject.” he chuckled. “I suspect ‘spectacular’ might do.”

Darcy was continually surprised at the Bennet’s habit of making light during serious conversations, but had come to accept it with this man. “I only hope it will not be revealed until I have cleared her name.”

Mr. Bennet nodded. “I expect you to be a faithful correspondent. You are the only line I have to my loved ones. I hope you will not deny me the pleasure of hearing of their exploits. I only wish you could draw, so that you could send me pictures as my grandson grows and changes.”

“Perhaps I may learn. I will be in the heart of the land where great artists are born. Perhaps one will take pity on a very old student and teach me well enough to grant your wish.”

“You are ever attentive, Darcy. We may not be family, but I hope I can now call you friend. I would be privileged if you would think of me as such.”

“Fitzwilliam,” Darcy answered with a genuine smile and an outstretched hand.

Mr. Bennet nodded back. “Thomas,” he replied and, taking the offered hand, pulled it to him and embraced the man.

“God bless you, Fitzwilliam, and all the best of luck to you.”


Chapter 32

London, April 1818

Colonel Fitzwilliam sauntered slowly along the path near the water in Hyde Park. His mother leaned lightly on his arm as they enjoyed the unusually warm spring day. He was happy for the moments of peace after recently having spent two weeks at Rosings. His month’s leave was nearly up, and he wished to have some pleasurable memories to tide him over when he returned to his regiment.

“Our dear Anne’s health is failing even more?” his mother asked.

“Yes, I fear it is so. She must be carried down to receive visitors with her mother and often drifts off to sleep in the middle of the day.”

“How awful for Catherine to watch her child slip away,” Lady Matlock reflected with tenderness.

“I am sorry to say I do not believe my aunt is aware how precarious my cousin’s situation is. She still talks of the marriage between Anne and Darcy as if it were to happen anytime now. She even had the audacity to mention how she was looking forward to seeing her grandchildren someday.”

“Heavens! How sad to be so disillusioned. Darcy will never offer for her; everyone knows it.”

“Indeed, though I do not believe her mother’s constant effusions of weddings bothers Anne. She seemed to pay her no mind. We did have many opportunities to talk. I wish circumstances were different and she was more often in company with us here in town.”

“She could hardly endure the travelling, Richard.”

“Oh… I only meant if she lived here in London permanently. It would afford her more society than what she has in Kent. I enjoy Anne’s company, but would prefer to see her without my aunt in constant attendance. She is, I suspect, rather lonely at Rosings.”

“She has her mother.”

“She is two and thirty years old, Mother. I hardly think she wants her mama with her at all times. I am speaking of younger people with whom to converse. Despite the circumstances of her health, she does not deserve to live in the tomb of a home my Aunt runs, listening to talk of organizing pantries and the proper raising of pigs. I had to keep from nodding off myself. The situation is barely tolerable for her.”

“And if Anne were to come and stay with your father and I for an extended time? What are you hinting at Richard?”

“Please stop where those thoughts are going, Mother. I only meant I would wish to give Anne some happiness in what may very well be her last days.”

“There are many forms of happiness. Are you sure you are aware of them all?” his mother hinted with a smirk.

“And I thought only Darcy had to put up with matchmaking mamas. I never believed I would have to duel one in my own family.”

“Very well, Son. I shall sheath my foil for now. But be warned: if you ever show any inclination to speak of serious paths for yourself again, I will be forced to draw it out, and I will show you no mercy.”

They both laughed heartily when, suddenly, Richard heard another laugh seemingly joining theirs from a bench not far from them. He turned, automatically drawn to the sound, while something tugged at his memory. A couple sat on a bench behind some shrubbery near them, and it was the lady whose laughter had drawn his attention. His mother turned to sit upon a bench, and Richard placed himself standing in front of her where he could watch the couple in the distance.

Lady Matlock was commenting upon the variety of people in the park when he saw the lady and gentleman rise. He heard her laughter once again and suddenly was aware of who he might be looking at. The height was correct; even her form would be about right. He struggled to catch a glimpse of her hair colour under her lace cap and bonnet. At last she turned sharply around, her attention caught by a boisterous group of children off to his right and he could finally get a good look at her face.

“Clever girl, the lace and bonnet certainly hide a good deal, and the spectacles even more, but I recognise you now, Elizabeth Bennet,” he thought before quickly averting his face lest she see him.

They spoke a few more minutes, when Richard saw Elizabeth bow her head and shake it adamantly. The man stepped very close to her and Richard felt a brief panic set in as he saw the man reach out and tip up Elizabeth’s chin. Her face showed a sadness he had never seen in her before. The man stroked her cheek, briefly speaking to her once more, and she nodded to him. Then he saw the man raise her hand to his lips, kiss it and depart. Elizabeth watched his departure a long while. Then he saw her heave a great sigh and head off in the opposite direction.

“Hardly your type, Richard.” His mother’s voice woke him from his reverie.

“I …I thought I recognised someone.”

His mother raised her brows. “And I am sure your father gave you the speech about dallying with chamber maids.”

Richard laughed. “Of course he did, Mother. You have nothing to worry about, I assure you.” He escorted her back home, all the while wondering how on earth he was going to tell Darcy.


Darcy entered the room and immediately could tell something of consequence had happened. Richard’s happy demeanour was forced and he looked distracted. It only took a few minutes of civilities before Darcy felt he had had enough. “Well?”

Richard faltered.

“Please tell me. Your hesitation makes my imagination leap to horrifying conclusions, and I would much prefer the immediate truth,” he demanded.

Richard then haltingly explained what he had seen. He knew his cousin preferred his truth unvarnished as well, so did not leave out he had seen the man touch Elizabeth.

Darcy sat quietly lost in thought for many minutes. “If you had to hazard a guess, what would you say the man’s age and occupation were?”

A surprised Richard answered, “Perhaps five and fifty years old, and considering where he was, and how he was dressed, I would spot him for some servant from one of the grand houses nearby.”

Darcy nodded, his head once again in thought. “Do you have any idea if they plan to meet again?”

“I am sorry, Cousin. I heard nothing of their conversation. However, their parting did not seem to indicate finality; I believe they may well meet up again.”

“And the day and time indicate a traditional servant’s afternoon off,” Darcy added.

“I must say you are taking this remarkably well.”

Darcy frowned. “Did you think I would assume she was having some sort of assignation? She has lived for many years away from me, when she could have no doubt married if she wished. Added to which she told her sister she believes herself tied to me. No, Richard, I do not believe this elder man to be a suitor. Who he is, and what he is to her is indeed a mystery, and I plan to discover where the truth lies as soon as may be. I think I shall take up a temporary residence at the park.”

“You will be recognised, Darcy.”

“No.” He shook his head with a grimace, “I shall not.”


Curse all actors to Hades,” he thought happily. Simply thinking the intemperate words made him feel slightly better. It would take an entire hour of bathing at the end of the day before he knew he would truly feel well. He was sitting, once again, in Hyde Park. Today, at least, was not as brutishly cold as the first days had been almost two weeks earlier. The chill winds of winter still teased the tip of his nose and threatened to make it wet. He was grateful, albeit very reluctantly, for the extra padding wrapped around his torso for it kept him from being too cold during the long hours he sat perusing the visitors in the park.

He was beginning to question the wisdom of his attempt to lie in wait for Elizabeth or her friend when something caught the corner of his eyesight. He turned and there she was across the corner of the Serpentine, having found a likely resting place in a well-placed bench. He had an excellent view across the edge of the water to the proceedings. He attempted to view as many men in the area as possible to see if he could determine who might be her friend and, more importantly, the direction from which he had come. Soon a likely candidate came into the park from his side of the lake. He crossed in front of Darcy and made his way directly to Elizabeth.

The couple finally separated an hour later after being in serious conversation the entire time. Darcy had curbed his jealousy when Richard had described the scene of tenderness at the last parting these two had made; however, its strength was nothing compared to actually witnessing Elizabeth showing affection for another man. His fists clenched and a rash of heat rushed over him as he watched the man gently embrace her before leaving. He swallowed hard and looked away, attempting to regulate his breathing and struggles.

After the man had passed him, he started a cautious pursuit, following him south towards Belgrave Square. Soon he saw the man duck into the Nags Head, a pub in a former mews, and followed him in.


He knew he had made a mistake as soon as the door closed behind him. The noise of the greetings that had met his quarry instantly faded when Darcy entered. He attempted to walk calmly to the bar, but it proved difficult as all eyes were upon him.

“Yer money first,” the gruff barkeeper warned him. He produced a coin. The barkeeper nodded and poured out a mug of ale. The hum of the room slowly returned.

“You know him, Higgins?” came a voice from his side. The man, Higgins, slowly shook his head. For the next two hours, Darcy slowly sipped his ale and kept his head down. He had rebuffed the attempts of anyone who tried to engage him in conversation.

Eventually the tones of the largest group, who had been drinking with Higgins, began to rise as they bid farewell to their friends.

“Caldhart expecting you back soon, Higgins?” Darcy nearly dropped his mug.

“No, his Lordship is staying in for the evening. If he has need of me, I have a new stable boy who wants to get into my good books and knows where to find me. He will come for me if the family wishes to go out.”

“What a life you lead! Such luck to work for a man who is so very dull. Not like the last one, eh?”

“ ‘Tis wrong to speak ill of the dead, Jack. I will not and neither should you.”

“True, true. Sorry ‘bout that.” His friend apologised as the group departed.

The tavern was now threadbare of customers; the only others were a pair near the fire who looked half in their cups. Darcy’s head was still spinning at the news Higgins worked for the Caldhart family when a tankard of ale was pounded down on his table, and the man himself suddenly plopped down onto the bench across from him, in none too good a mood.

“You ready to tell me why you are following me now?” he asked, crossing his arms in front of him.

Darcy’s faced dropped, too stunned to reply.

“If you are some poor beggar man then I am Henry the eighth. I saw you at the park and not for the first time.” He took a swig from his mug. “What would a poor man be doing sitting in Hyde Park all day, I had wondered. Then you were there the next day and the next and not looking too poorly fed, I might add.”

Darcy was still trying desperately to organise his thoughts when the man grabbed his hand roughly and splayed it out in front of his face.

“Good costume, but you forgot about your pretty hands. Gentlemen always do. They forget the working class notice things: like hands that aren’t battered about, or someone who smells as if he bathes everyday. Next time best to get some old gloves at least.” He threw the hand back.

Darcy had not expected to be on the receiving end of an interview with the man; he had expected to conduct it. He was inwardly cursing himself for not being better prepared when Higgins began again.

“I see I will have to provide some answers, then. You sit for days in the park talking to no one, until today, when for some reason you suddenly are interested in me. Not too unusual, I suppose, except I have been in the park many times over the last days, and you paid me no mind then. What could have made you follow me today, of all days? What was different?”

The two sat in stalemate, locking eyes with each other.

“Could it be because today I was finally not alone?”

Darcy knew a threat when he heard one and was not a man to back down. He laid his palms down carefully on either side of his mug and leaned forward until his face was mere inches from Higgins’ before he warned in an eerily calm voice, “If I find you are trying to harm her in any possible way, I will make you suffer like no other. If you wish to avoid my wrath, you will never communicate with her or come near her again.”

Higgins’ face was a mask of control, showing not the least bit of fear. Suddenly it changed drastically; but, instead of looking afraid, he seemed completely shocked. He dropped all pretence of bullying and danger, squinting at the stranger as though seeing him for the first time. “It was you!” he sputtered.

Darcy was confused. Higgins’ countenance had suddenly turned calm, even relieved. “What are you to her?” he demanded.

A well-recovered Higgins snorted. “Well now, that’s the prize, isn‘t it? What are you to her, and what am I to her? But we will not get far asking questions and not giving any answers, will we?” Higgins smiled at him and Darcy suddenly realised this man was no longer a threat. A hand extended across the table. “Tom Higgins.”

If he had believed in the occult, he might later have reflected he had had a flash of intuition at that moment, for he did not hesitate to feel he could somehow trust this man. Darcy took the offered hand, surprised at the strength, warmth and sincerity it seemed to be offering as he replied, “Fitzwilliam Darcy.”

“No! Really?” A now shocked Higgins exclaimed. “From Derbyshire?” Darcy nodded. “Well, damn me if that isn’t the best thing I have heard in nearly five years! Well, Mr. Darcy, you already know my name is Higgins, but what else do you know about me?”

“I heard your friends say you work for the Caldharts. I know you had a long conversation today in the park. I know you seem to be very closely acquainted with the lady to whom you were speaking.” He hesitated, searching the face across from his for any hint of deception. “ I think you mean her no harm.”

“Right on all counts,” Higgins answered lightly, taking another long drink while Darcy did the same. Higgins smirked slyly as he waited for his companion to fill his mouth before he said, “How long have you been in love with her?”


It took Darcy several moments and many slaps upon his back to stop coughing and clear the sour ale travelling down his windpipe. When he finally could breathe clear, Higgins began.

“Your face shows what you feel for her; and, even if it had not, I would know what you are to her because he looks exactly like you, doesn’t he?” Darcy gasped.

“Yes, I know about him.” Higgins shook his head. “Like looking at the same painting - you two.” He slammed his palm loudly upon the table. “It was you that night who outfoxed Caldhart!” he cried, as his thoughts came together. Darcy could see the wheels turning in Higgins’ mind; putting together the puzzle pieces of his relationship to Elizabeth as his face flashed a hundred different emotions. The final look upon Higgins’ face was, curiously, one of admiration.

“He was furious. Tried to beat her, you know.” Darcy’s mouth slid open in shock.

“Chased after her with a crop. She wouldn’t have any of it - was not about to stand there and let him hurt her, so she ran. Good legs from walking all around London, looking for her sister, I expect. Then he went after her, which was his big mistake. She had the youth and the strength, and he had a bad heart and his anger to push him; and, in the end, it was his downfall.”

He regarded Darcy, who had gone pale once more. “She said you were a far better man. Said she loved you right to his face, she did.” Higgins watched for the reaction.

“How can you know all this?”

“Haven’t figured it out yet?” he chuckled. “Well, perhaps you are a better man than he was; you certainly are not as devious, else you would know who I am.”

“Deviousness implies being underhanded. I have no evil intentions.”

“No, too true. I could tell from the first. I have worked most of my life in the service of the Caldharts. Lord Robert until a few years ago. Now I work as driver for his snivelling son.”

“How would a man’s driver have such extensive knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors in his house?”

Higgins laughed. “Ah, now you’re using your noggin. I was much more to Lord Robert: snoop; spy; seeker of information, gossip and rumours. For years I was his Lordship’s eyes and ears to anything his mistresses were up to. Sometime he used me for the ladies he was looking to add to his collection.”

Darcy’s eyes went wide. “You found her for him?” he gasped.

“No! I am no panderer! He saw her and wanted to know more about her. I merely trailed her to get the information.”

“Why would you now befriend her? Why would she want anything to do with you?”

Higgins was indignant. “I am her friend; I kept all her secrets, did I not?”

“You are spilling them readily to me, now.”

“Did you not listen to what I said about my past work?” He lowered his head towards him. “Lord Robert is gone now; my loyalties lie with her. I promised her five years ago when she was forced to run away. I was the one who told her to go to my old village, Oak Hill, in Derbyshire.”

Darcy gasped again.

“Ah, I see you did not know she was so near to you.” His eyes diverted to the floor as he struggled with a memory. “I remember her panicking when I told her it was only eight miles from Lambton, she worried what direction the village lay.” He nodded to himself. “She wanted to make sure it was farther from Pemberley, not too close to you.”

“I had no idea.”

“No, you were very good at being absent, I noticed.” Darcy fumed. “If you had come along, he never would have had a chance with her. Why did you not help her then? She was so miserable all those months, suffering so. What made you stay away and not help her?”

Higgins could not know how those words tore apart Darcy’s heart. To hear she had needed him, desperately needed him; and he was sitting on an Italian beach, letting the warmth of the rich Mediterranean sun soothe his broken heart, and tan his smooth pale skin.

Guilt permeated his being and compelled him for the first time in his life to open his heart to a near stranger as he uttered the complete truth. “Because a greater fool there has never been. Because my damnable pride compelled me to turn tail and hide when I thought she had rejected me.

“I mean to spend the rest of my life making it up to her. If I can ease her existence in any way, I will see it done. I will not allow any harm or distress come to her again, nor ask anything of her. If you can see it in your heart to tell me all you know, I swear on all I hold holy I will only use the information to bring her happiness.”

Higgins blinked. “Blimey, I wish I had known a love like yours,” he could not help but utter.

Both men rearranged themselves uncomfortably.

Higgins finally continued. “You were the one to finally beat him at his own game. He thought about bringing you in on the plan you know, but thought you were too good a man for revenge and seduction. Ha! Little did he know.”

“He was immoral and you helped him.”

“I was his servant, not his priest,” Higgins immediately retorted. He regarded him once more. “You have a child, Mr. Darcy; do you think none of your servants know about him? If they did, would they not work for you, or do whatever you asked? Tell me: when is a servant’s place to tell their master what is right or wrong?”

“I had not thought on it.”

“No, I daresay you have not. But despite the wanton ways of his Lordship, I had never seen him turn violent until then.” Darcy’s eyebrows raised, his face clearly disbelieving. “I was in the house, and watched it happen; but I swear to you, if he had touched her with his whip, I would have stopped him. It was not his Lordship’s way.”

Darcy stared at the man, attempting to see the truth in his eyes. Finally, he decided to take a chance. “Then explain the Black Mare tavern.”

Higgins started. He had not heard the name of the wretched place since leaving it with his Lordship and Miss Bennet so many years ago.

Darcy continued. “I do not care what role you played; I need only one thing: to know there was nothing for her to be… blamed.”

Higgins lifted his cup, but found it empty. Darcy pushed his mug to him, and gave him a nod. Higgins gladly took it. He then spoke in a low voice. “She did not kill him. The man was alive and would have recovered from any wounds she had given him, I am sure.” He sniggered. “Though I suppose he walked a bit unusual after what she did to him.”

He leaned forward conspiratorially and whispered the next words after he took another large swig. “I saw him. I felt his neck and he was alive as anyone. She had sliced him across the belly. I saw the blood already drying. Not a deep wound. Not deep enough. Then his breeches, well, you get the idea. She wanted to make sure no woman would ever suffer like her sister had. So she took care of him. Did a right proper job of it, too.

“Then she stopped herself - didn’t finish what anyone else would probably have. She is too good by half, you know; certainly better than him, or Caldhart or even me.”

Darcy exhaled loudly. He could have shouted with joy, but curbed his happiness. His curiosity, however, was too strong and wished to be sated in the end. “Then how?”

“Not me. I’m no fool and will not do such a thing for any man.” Higgins crossed his arms once more. “I have nothing to answer for. I brought her and his Lordship to the tavern, stood guard outside the doors and drove them back home afterwards.”

“What of the man who was never violent?”

“He would never stain his gloves. However, perhaps he knew of people who would be willing to meet up there. Maybe he would have written them and told them of where and when they could find a certain person. Then he would not have to do anything at all. Just make sure the fly was sitting there, waiting for the spiders that would finish the job for him.”

Darcy shivered.

“If I had said anything afterwards, what purpose would it serve? They were both gone just two days later. He never told me his plan, just used me when he needed information. His Lordship got those names from my travels to find the man for whom he was searching. I live with some guilt, Mr. Darcy. ”

“It was not your responsibility how the list was used.”

Higgins nodded. “True, but it brings me no peace.”

Darcy sat staring at this unusual man. “Are you in love with her?”

Higgins began to laugh. It started as a slight giggle and grew to a full out gale before he finally drew a calming breath.

“Your jealousy does not suit you, Sir. How I feel about her matters not; it is with you she is in love. There is no reason for your suspicion; I am not in love with her. I only care for her the way a man would for a daughter. She no longer can go to her family, so I am a bit of a guardian for her.”

“You are protecting her,” Darcy sighed, closing his eyes.

“We both, Mr. Darcy,” Higgins replied.


The two had sat a long while sharing the past, present and even a small amount of what they perceived to be the future. Darcy was surprised Elizabeth had told Mr. Higgins about their plans for the continent. Higgins was surprised Darcy would think she would hide it from him. Higgins could at least justify his tender parting with Elizabeth that afternoon; it was an embrace from a man who doubted he might ever see her again.

As the light waned, Darcy received some insightful words from his new acquaintance.

“She is not a woman to be coerced into anything. He tried to force her and she turned on him for it. Barging in on her like the great master of Pemberley is likely to get you thrown out on your ear. If you are ever to win her, you must appeal to her sense, her heart and her reason.”

“Her reason?”

“Yes. If you think hard enough, you can find logic for why you should be together. I am not saying it would be easy, but if you entreat her, using all of these things, you may have a chance.

“Good luck to you, Mr. Darcy. No matter what road you choose to travel, I do not think it will be easy. Yet, the greatest prizes are only for the bravest, true?”

“How is it you are but a stableman, Higgins?”

He shrugged. “I like horses,” he answered simply.

“You do not like the new Lord Caldhart?”

“Known him since he was born. Not an ounce of wit nor interesting bone in his body.” He snorted. “Lord Robert at least kept me on my toes. Now I grow fat.”

Darcy had to laugh. He had met Lord Henry and his servant’s character sketch was aptly drawn.

They parted under much better terms than they had met. Each willingly shook the other’s hand and before returning to his home, Darcy felt he had made a new and valuable friend. While he was satisfied with the information they had shared, he was not aware Higgins had spoken the truth about keeping Elizabeth Bennet’s secrets. He had not divulged Lydia Bennet’s death, and unless Elizabeth instructed him to do otherwise, he would take the secret to his grave.


Chapter 33

London, May 1818

Darcy was conflicted over whether to see Elizabeth and William the next morning or make the trip to see Colonel Fitzwilliam and discuss his findings. He needed to consult with his cousin on his next course of action and did not wish to delay as he was due to leave for Padua in two weeks time. The trip to the regiment would take three days, and he needed to be back in London quickly to finalise his arrangements before crossing the Channel. However, now knowing Elizabeth was innocent of Wickham’s murder brought him one step closer to a future with her, and his heart yearned to at least see her, even if from the shadows near the park. In the end, he decided to do both; he would stop in Lambeth and hope to catch a glimpse on his way to Richard’s encampment in the north.

It was much earlier than he normally arrived in Lambeth. Dressed now in his travelling clothes, instead of the dusty working clothes he usually wore there, was a different experience for him. He felt at ease in the neighbourhood, as everything was familiar after nearly a year of spending his time there, but now people looked up to him as he strode along, nodding their respects to him. He was used to the bowed heads of passers-by never bothering to look at him even briefly. Just as he was about to school himself for the need to be less obtrusive, he was quite violently barrelled into by a small, speeding blur that immediately found itself propelled backwards onto its nether regions after meeting with Darcy’s mass.

“Master William!” came the servant’s admonishment from behind.

“Master Cartwright?” Darcy gasped at the now upturned head.

“Mr. Bingley!” cried William.

“I am awfully sorry to have knocked into you!” William smiled brightly with little hint of repentance. No doubt the gentleman’s utter lack of movement after the impact made the little fellow confident he had done him no harm.

Darcy leaned down to help his son up. “You are well, Master William? You were not hurt from your fall?”

“No, Sir. I hope I have not wounded you?”

“No, no, I am completely uninjured.” The two looked at one another, then, helpless to stop it, broke out in raucous laughter.

“I was in a hurry to see if my friends will be in the park this afternoon. I am afraid Mama will be cross with me for running near the street again.”

“You may assure her I was not offended by you.”

William smiled. “Thank you, Sir. I shall.” He turned to the servant. “This is Mrs. Barnes, our housekeeper.” Darcy nodded to her. “Mr. Bingley and his wife are friends of my mother, Mrs. Barnes,” he added. The lady nodded her acceptance of the relationship and curtseyed to Mr. Bingley.

“She said I could accompany her today to the shops while she does her marketing. My good friend’s family run them, and I can sometimes see them there.”

“Ah, a chance to have a social visit and get work done; very commendable.” Darcy smiled. “How tall you have grown since last we met! I might not have recognised you now.”

William beamed. “I have! I am now taller than my friends Jack and Peter Miles are! And they are both older than me!” he boasted.

“No doubt a tribute to your cook.”

“Mrs. Barnes is both cook and housekeeper, Mr. Bingley. I think the credit would go to her.”

Darcy turned to nod his approval to the woman when he was taken aback by her obvious scrutiny of him. He nodded while her eyes betrayed she was quickly coming to an unwanted conclusion. Thankfully, William interrupted their thoughts.

“But I am afraid we must keep to our schedule if I am to return in time for my morning lessons. I should not like to delay Mrs. Barnes.” His brow suddenly arched in an all too familiar way. “Would you care to accompany us, Mr. Bingley? We could chat a bit before I have to return home. Or were you coming to my house this morning?”

Darcy knew the longer he stayed with William the greater the danger and possibility Elizabeth might happen upon them. He considered himself forced to answer, “Sadly, no. I was just out on some business in this area before I leave town this morning. I must take my leave of you if I am to make any headway as I travel to the west.”

Now William’s brow furrowed. His small fist clenched as he struck his hip in frustration. “I would have liked to spend some time with you Mr. Bingley. I understand your need to be on your way. I… I hope we shall have the chance to meet again.”

Darcy could see an underlying sadness in William’s face, and realised his son was thinking of how he would be going to the continent soon and would not have the opportunity to see ‘Mr. Bingley’ again. He also realised William had not spoken of the upcoming trip. Elizabeth had no doubt schooled him not to reveal their plans to depart to anyone. He pitied the poor lad who was distressed over giving up the fledgling friendship they had. He knelt down to look his son in the eye, hoping to obtain a bit of privacy as he told the boy, “I would have welcomed the chance, William. I hope some day we are not restricted by our responsibilities and can spend a great deal of time together. I truly would like to know you better.” He smiled, trying to encourage his son to be brave.

“Thank you, Mr. Bingley. I hope we shall, too.”

Darcy half-expected William to throw his arms around his neck, as he once had done. Instead, he was surprised at the young man’s maturity when he held out his hand and, a little more strongly than would be considered polite, shook hands heartily with his father.

“Farewell, Mr. Bingley. God speed you on your trip,” he said.

Darcy was once again taken aback by such an adult blessing. Nevertheless, he managed to smile and nod. After his farewells, he added under his breath to himself, “God speed you and your mother, my son.”


Richard’s encampment proved to be a bustle of seemingly disordered activity. It had been many years since Darcy had visited him at his work, and he had not remembered the experience clearly, for now he felt a bit overwhelmed. A young lieutenant, apparently recognizing the look of confusion of a visitor, approached him and provided him with the directions to find Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Richard’s head was bowed over the papers on his desk as Darcy approached. He stood in front of him and, giving in to an impulse of effrontery, clicked his heels together and addressed him.

Major Fitzwilliam?” He could see Richard’s hand still, and could feel the anger rise off the man. It was simply all he could hope for.

“I hope you like the stockade, Lieutenant, for you will be intimately acquainted with it before I am through with you,” he said as he raised himself, his head and his ire.

A very satisfied Darcy burst into laughter when Richard’s eyes finally met his face.

“Damn you, Darcy! Are you twelve years old again? You are lucky I did not set a guard upon you without looking up.” This proof of how well his jest had been played only set his cousin into guffaws.

“Someday your whimsies will get you into trouble.”

Darcy had finally calmed down enough to answer. “Perhaps, Richard. However, I am certainly enjoying the indulgence today.”

They quickly made their polite inquiries into one another’s health and familial news. Richard declared his surprise upon seeing him as they had said their farewells a se’nnight before. Darcy’s demeanour turned serious.

“I have found a witness, Richard.” He need not say anymore, his cousin understood him perfectly.

“Give me an hour to arrange it, and I will be at your disposal this entire afternoon, Darcy. We will go where we cannot be disturbed.”


The two horses regarded each other briefly before attending the grasses beneath their hooves while their masters sat nearby against the trees.

The colonel was not completely satisfied with all that Darcy had told him. His horse whickered softly at him, clearly perceiving the tension in his owner.

“You say you trust the veracity of this witness’ statements, and are willing to risk everything on one man’s tale, yet you will neither reveal his name to me nor his situation in life?”

“I do.”

“Can you tell me why you feel the need for the secrecy at least?”

“To protect Elizabeth and myself.”

“Do you feel I am so little to be trusted?”

“This is not about whether you are worthy, Richard. It concerns my duty to her alone, including anything she would not wish to be known to anyone else.”

“She has not spoken to you about Wickham’s death; how can you know her wishes?”

“You will forgive me if I claim a superior knowledge of what her best interests are. If I thought any good could be served by sharing this new knowledge, I would reveal all, but you must trust me in this. The man responsible for the mob being there is dead, and I do not know who any of the participants were. I cannot help to bring about any justice for the crime and we must both be satisfied that its mastermind has already met his end.”

“You are asking me to put a great deal of faith in a stranger’s account.”

“No, Richard, I am asking you to put your faith in me.”

The Colonel sat quietly for some time. “Very well. Assuming all you have told me is true, you no doubt now wish for my advice as to how to proceed.”

He nodded. “We are balanced on this knife’s edge and I hesitate to step off.”

Richard sat for some time in contemplation before continuing. “What are you hoping for?”

“Everything: marriage, more children, Pemberley.”

He nodded his head. “I realise her innocence has allowed you to overcome an important hurdle, but can you truly envision marriage?”

Darcy began to fume. “I will not have her disparaged, Richard.”

“I meant no offence to you or the lady. I merely cannot fathom your being able to marry her. Tell me, how you would explain the existence of a step-son who looks exactly like you?”

His cousin winced.

“Your son is the impediment. The proof of your sins is written upon his face; you could never be seen together. The boy is too young to be on his own, and I cannot imagine his mother would wish for her to be separated from him. She may never wish to be away from him until he has reached adulthood.”

“She is utterly devoted to him. I daresay she feels the responsibility to raise him as penance for her fall.”

“If you took that away from her, how do you think she would feel about you or your relationship? Perhaps at first she might accept it, but do you not think she would come to feel guilty? She would have given up her son for her own happiness. I do not think it would make for a felicitous marriage.”

Darcy sighed. His cousin’s wisdom was never more unwanted.

“Of course this is all merely conjecture; for, unless I am mistaken, you told me the lady had no desire to marry you.”

At this Darcy scowled. His cousin was right, but to hear it so frankly spoken was difficult. “She believes herself unworthy of marriage to anyone, least of all me. She fears what I might do to her or that I would take her son and destroy this life she has built with him.”

“Which is exactly what you are contemplating doing.”

He could not help but cringe. They could not keep William with them if they were to marry. Not only would Elizabeth never agree, but also, in truth, Darcy did not wish for them to be estranged from their son. His stomach turned in acknowledgment of the hopelessness of the situation.

“You do not wish to take her son from her, do you?” Richard asked gently.


“You are even now supporting the way she wishes to raise him in every way possible, are you not?”

“Yes. I have been able to manipulate every situation to my liking and provide them with everything I had hoped.”

“Everything except living a life with them.”

“A look, a glance, a stolen afternoon as voyeur into their lives; this is what I share of their life. They share none of mine.”

“Do you really see yourself living like this in ten years, twenty? What will happen when you are old and grey and cannot creep around like a stealthy cat?”

“It is my happiness we speak of, Richard. How can you expect me to give up the little I have? Yet, someday William will be grown and perhaps Elizabeth and I could grasp our happiness. There would be no need for her to hide.”

“Then Georgie is once again to be responsible for providing an heir to Pemberley?”

“I never expected to have a wife, as you well know. I will accede to Elizabeth’s wishes and not leave Pemberley to William, though I will leave him plenty.”

“Is it enough for you, then?”

“I know my heart would never recover if I was to let her or William go. This is my predicament. Do I go back to Pemberley, dying in obscurity because I merely chose to dedicate my life to increasing my family’s wealth and improving our property like every other gentleman who lives in my time? Or do I go on as I am, living this half-life with them? She once said she never allowed us dreams, but our reality is already cast, and she has dreams for our son. I wish to be part of those dreams. I want to enable him in every way to become whatever he can. I want to see his future as it happens.”

“You are speaking of William’s abilities?”

“Yes. I think I had discounted her judgement of his abilities at first. Yet, each man who teaches him sees the truth in her original assessments. She said she felt humbled at the responsibility of having to raise William in a manner which would allow him to contribute to the greater good of the world. Such ominous, great words. I now wonder at how accurate they will prove to be. Only time will tell the final outcome of her endeavours, but for now, I have to consider the consequences if what she said were the utter truth. What if he could be a man to contribute significantly to the greater good of more than just his friends and family? Should I act beyond the confines of my position in society, turn my back on it and take an action that might bring disapproval from so many but might change… everything?”

“It is not right to risk censure or scandal for them both, merely to keep you from being estranged with them.”

“No, as much as it pains me, I have to agree. I do not see any sort of life I can make with them. However, I think I can be as brave as she was and, without knowing what the future has in store for me, try to secure the safety and futures of those I love. I can do all this, yet still adhere to the confines she has fixed. I cannot marry her without exposing who she and William are, yet I can still be a part of their lives from a distance in this stalemate.”

“You will follow them to Padua and continue as you are?”

“I think I must.”


Elizabeth held William’s precious books in her hands, about to place them in the trunk bound for Padua in two weeks time. How often she had found the two volumes next to his bed. They seemed to be two of his most treasured possessions. This was curious, as books generally did not hold quite such a distinction for him. Perhaps the memory of meeting Charles that day rendered them special to him? She sat in the chair near the fireplace and opened the Chaucer, flipping through the pages quickly until the first page, lastly arrived, stared plainly into her shocked face. Her heart beat wildly as her mind tried to get round Fitzwilliam Darcy’s handwriting clearly sat before her, as she read, ‘To my Dearest William’.

Had Darcy truly met their son? He might have been there the very day she met Jane so long ago. Had he known about her and William all this time? What if he had heard any of the conversation she had with Jane?

“William, Mr. Bingley gave you these volumes did he not?”

“Yes, in his library at Lady Angel’s home a long time ago.”

“And this same Mr. Bingley you met today?”

“Yes, it was the same man. I remembered him instantly, for I have his picture in my head.”

Her panic was impossible to stop when her son spoke the next words.

“Mama, how is it I look just like Mr. Bingley?”


Elizabeth sat in the little park, grateful for the overcast skies that threatened rain, and kept potential visitors snug in their homes. She did not wish for witnesses to what she might say to her sister.

She had sent the note over half an hour ago, and still Jane had not come to her. As she waited, her patience wore thin. She was both angry and fearful of the confrontation she planned to have. At last, she saw her sister slowly make her way to the corner where Elizabeth sat. Jane’s pleasure in seeing her seemed genuine and she could not detect any hint of worry in her countenance. After they shared their embraces and good wishes, Elizabeth began her inquiries into her brother-in-law’s whereabouts.

“Charles would have loved to have seen you, Lizzy. Unfortunately, he is in Scarborough, visiting his aunt.”

“I am sorry to have missed him, is he to return soon?”

“I am afraid not. His visit is not social but rather an obligation, for the lady is not expected to live much longer. He left last month to be with her at the end and will stay on afterwards to fulfil his aunt’s wishes as executor of her will. I miss him dreadfully.” Jane looked truly forlorn.

Elizabeth had her answer. Charles was not in town, and had not been for some time. The man her son had met the day before must have been Fitzwilliam Darcy. Now the question was: how much had Jane told him about her son? Was he planning on coming after her? Were they still safe?

Before she could try to ask these questions, Jane asked after William. Elizabeth tried to detect any hint that her sister may have seen William or knew of their circumstances, but could find none. She seemed sincerely disappointed William had not accompanied her on her visit and inquired in great detail after his growth, his studies and their happiness. They had just exhausted the subject when Jane went on to explain her delay in getting to the park.

“I apologise for not coming to see you more quickly. I am afraid it was difficult to leave the house, for you see Mama and Papa are visiting. I did not want to risk them seeing you, and it took me some time before I could get away safely.

“Lizzy, I am afraid my reassurances to father of your well being and safety last year did little to comfort him. He seemed so broken hearted, and his face so hopeless. He did say something about being glad you finally knew, but I do not know what he meant by it.

“It has been difficult keeping the news from Mama; luckily, she has been concentrating her energies on me lately and is not as wont to complain about losing you.”

It took Elizabeth several moments to understand the underlying message in Jane’s words. When the truth finally dawned upon her, she congratulated her sister enthusiastically.

“Oh, Jane! You are increasing?”

Jane blushed and nodded. “At last. You cannot know how relieved I am to finally give this to Charles. We had all but given up hope we would ever have children.”

Elizabeth saw the worry in her sister’s face as she wished her well. She could not imagine the pains poor Jane had no doubt gone through these past two and half years of her marriage while hoping for a child.

She also knew her mother would hardly bring comforting advice. She remembered well enough Mrs. Bennet’s endless prattle of how difficult bringing her children into the world had been. Jane’s face betrayed all her anxieties clearly to the sister who knew her best. She reached for her hands, intent on reassuring her, when Jane suddenly spied Elizabeth’s finger.

“Father’s ring!” she cried. “I had wondered why he never wore it anymore.” She continued staring at it, then began nodding her head. “The package father left for you. This is what it contained.” She squeezed her sister’s hands tightly, then, without raising her face to Elizabeth, she whispered the only words which might betray what she knew. “He was right to give it to you. You were our champion, Lizzy. I thank you.”

At that moment, Elizabeth knew she could not indulge her desire to lash out over Darcy’s possible interference with her son. Jane might know some of it, but she would not risk her sister and her unborn child with an argument. She decided to put aside her own wishes to help her beloved Jane. The decision of what to do about Darcy would come later.

“When I finally decided to accept my fate and my condition, I found I loved the time I was carrying William. Shall I tell you everything I experienced during my confinement?” she asked quietly.

Jane’s relief was palatable. “Oh, Lizzy, would you?”


Darcy chose to enter his house by his old scheme of riding on horseback to the rear of the building and allowing his coach to follow along later. He had perfected the method of keeping his residency from his inquisitive neighbours so long ago, and now the system seemed ingrained into his habits. He mostly enjoyed the control it afforded him, since none of his friends or acquaintances would make any demands on him, and his first days would be at leisure until his presence was known.

Therefore, he was greatly surprised when he entered his drawing room and found Georgiana, Patrick and Jane awaiting his arrival. He had notified all three of his trip, but their attendance on him now was foreboding at best. The three faces they presented to him confirmed it. He stood stock still, waiting for one brave soul to speak.

Patrick stepped forward, placed his large hand upon Darcy’s shoulder in comfort and said the words.

“She has fled, Fitzwilliam.”




End Book Two



  • Book Three

  • Disguise of Every Sort, Table of Contents


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