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The Good Brother.

Volume Two.

Part X.

Afternoon drifted into early evening and the Bennet family ensconced themselves en mass upon the Phillipses for drinks, dancing and whist- though not necessarily in that order -along with any officers that happened to be passing by Mrs Phillips' sitting room window that day.

Among this group of upstanding gentlemen was also the new friend of Captain Denny, Mr Wickham, who within a minute of arrival had entranced almost every female in the room,- except perhaps for Mary Bennet, whose eyes were confined either to a book or to Mr Collins, whichever was nearer -and, after scouting around, choose to dignify the second Miss Bennet with his 'delightful' company.

Elizabeth naturally, had discerned the glance of recognition between said gentleman now seated opposite her and the tenant of Netherfield's friend early that morning. Equally naturally, she had deduced from the redness and paleness of each gentlemen's features respectively that neither were on the best terms with each other.

However, curious as she was, she could not ask either of the gentlemen herself about the nature, the very question being rude and improper. Fortunately for her however, Mr Wickham began the matter himself. He inquired quite casually how far Netherfield was from Meryton and after receiving her answer, asked in a hesitating manner how long Mr Darcy had been staying there.

"About a month," Elizabeth replied, and then, unwilling to let the subject drop, added, "he is a man of very large property in Derbyshire, I understand."

"Yes indeed he is," Wickham agreed, "his estate there is a noble one. A clear ten thousand pounds per annum. You could not have met with a person more capable of giving you certain information on that head than myself - for I have been connected with his family in a particular manner from my infancy."

Momentarily did he pause, enough to just catch Elizabeth's gasp of surprise before he continued, "yes, Miss Bennet you may be surprised. No doubt you noticed the cold manner of our greeting. Are you much acquainted with Mr Darcy?"

"With Mr Darcy, no," Elizabeth replied, startling the gentleman not, "but I am acquainted very much with his wife. Have you met Mrs Darcy?"

"So, he did bring her along, I am surprised," Wickham murmured in reply; more to himself than his companion, but Elizabeth heard him nonetheless. "Yes, I was once acquainted with all of Darcy's cousins, she was no exception, no matter how much her mother strove to keep her from becoming ill by confining her to the house. It does not startle me that you know her better than her husband, but I have no right to give my opinion as to he being agreeable or otherwise.

"I have known him too long and too well to be a fair judge. Mr Darcy can please where he chuses. Among his equals and consequence he can be liberal minded, witty, and amiable. As for the world in general, it is blinded by his fortune and consequence, or frightened by his high imposing manners and sees him only as he chuses to be seen."

Mr Wickham paused, letting that thought be digested before embarking upon another trail. "I wonder, whether he is likely to be in this country much longer."

"I do not know," Elizabeth replied. "But I hope his plans do not affect your own."

"Oh no, it is not for me to be driven away by Mr Darcy. If he wishes to avoid seeing me, he must go. We are not on friendly terms, but I have no reason for avoiding save one." Here he paused and leant forward, lowering his voice.

"His father, Miss Bennet, was the best man that ever breathed. My father was his steward and when he passed on, old Mr Darcy cared for me, loved me, I believe, as if I were his own son. He raised myself and his heir together, ensured both of us had a good education. He intended me for the Church. And it was my dearest wish to enter into that profession. But after he died and the living he had promised me fell vacant, the son refused point blank to honour his father's promises."

"Good heavens!" Cried Elizabeth, her astonishment profound. "I had not thought him as bad as this. Reserved, perhaps, yes, but not resentful, not disposed to malicious revenge. Certainly not of his father's protégé."

"Oh, I am afraid a resentful temper is not his only fault. As far as I am concerned he has a far greater one, but..... perhaps it is not place to mention such here, particularly in this company. Better I just say that the outward appearance of his marriage differs entirely from reality."

"You mean it is of a convenience only?" Elizabeth questioned quietly, too absorbed by the tale to dwell on the impropriety of the direction that it was taking.

"Not uncommon a reason for marriage among the Ton, I know, and it eminently fulfills all other requirements of familial honour and duty. Indeed family pride and filial pride, matters much to him. Not to appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or lose the influence of the Pemberley House is a powerful motive.

"In fact his marriage to his cousin not only obeys an agreement between his mother and hers, but also allows him a certain freedom to indulge in society's other inducements."

Had Elizabeth been able to comment upon his words, disgust would have been added to her opinions of Mr Darcy, but their party two was enlarged by the breaking up of the Whist table and Mr Collins devoted attention to her enabled to keep her from Mr Wickham for the rest of the evening.


Later, as she retired to her bedchamber at Longbourn was the only time Elizabeth had to review the conversation without distraction. Wrapping a shawl around her shoulders, she rooted herself upon her window seat, allowing the prospect to give her a needed objectivity.

She begun with her previous impression of Mr Darcy, comparing it to the one Mr Wickham had delivered hours earlier. The contrast was great indeed. Elizabeth could not reconcile herself at all with the view Mr Wickham had given her.

All her encounters with Mr Darcy had left her believing him to be a respectable man, if a little reserved amongst strangers. His relationship with Anne, and the easy humour that existed between them had given her no hint that the marriage was anything other than recent and affectionate.

Yet, as she continued to reflect upon Mr Wickham's words, Elizabeth found herself coming to believe them. His story had been delivered without ceremony and most privately, as was due such a matter of indelicacy.

This, taken into account with Mr Darcy's reaction upon seeing him, and Anne's confirmation of her mother's self-belief in her fragile disposition along with all that Mr Collins had conveyed of the history of his patron and her familial connections, were points in favour of his story being the truth.

Mr Darcy can please where he chuses. Among his equals and consequence he can be liberal minded, witty, and amiable, those had been Wickham's words and at the moment, Elizabeth could well see their authority.

But the tale was so very shocking! Elizabeth was not naive of the ways of the world in the highest circles of society, nor had she had an censored education in any of the subjects that sometimes referred to those sins and pleasures, but for one of the Ton's scandalous examples to be living amongst her neighbourhood and to be a friend to a man that her sister was coming to care very much for, seemed rather suspect.

Thus, it was with this conclusion in mind that she chose not to reveal what Mr Wickham had relayed to her sister, and to not take it as certain as her final judgement of the character of Mr Darcy, resolving to look for further proof that could be determined by herself.


Part XI.

Elizabeth Bennet entered the Ballroom of Netherfield upon the evening of the 26th of November with an open mind. In vain she looked for Mr Wickham among the cluster of red coats there assembled, assigning his absence at this event to be another reason for his story to seem suspect.

The thought that he might have been omitted from the general invitation to the officers for the Darcys' pleasure did occur to her, but immediately she was forced to discount it upon hearing Mr Denny's report that Wickham had been obliged to go to town on a matter of business. His further comment of his friend possessing a wish to avoid a certain gentleman, added further to Elizabeth's suspicions that Mr Wickham was not to be trusted.

Thus, with only the prospect of Mr Collins as dance partner for the first two, Elizabeth felt she had little to look forward to. Indeed, she only had time to make her presence known to Charlotte- whom she had not seen for a week -and introduce her to the oddity that was her cousin, before being led away for these said dances.

Mr Collins, awkward and solemn, apologising instead of attending and often moving wrong without being aware of it, gave her all the mortification which a disagreeable partner for a couple of dances can give. The moment of her release from him was ecstasy.

Seeing that Charlotte was occupied by her mother, Elizabeth went to Anne, whose amusement at hearing her description of Mr Collins sufficed as a cure to her good humour.

"Do you believe he means to attach himself to you?" Anne asked.

"Unfortunately, yes," Elizabeth replied laughingly. "But I know I can count on my father to refuse consent, so it is of no special worry. He would do for Mary, if indeed his choice was limited to only my sisters, but I hardly think he will consider her."

"Do not discount so soon, Lizzy," Anne replied, a wicked smile forming upon her face. "I am sure that the approval of the heiress of Rosings will matter a great deal."

And with that Mrs Darcy disappeared, leaving Elizabeth only to watch as her friend located Mr Collins and put her notion into motion. She witnessed the conversation, but was too far away to hear the words; her cousin's excessive gesturing was only thing for her to judge as to point to a conclusion.

Anne returned in less than ten minutes. "There, Elizabeth, I have succeeded. Mr Collins is now entranced completely with talents of Miss Mary Bennet and is only to happy to press his advances to her."

"Anne, I did not mean for you to change his mind...."

"Oh, have no fear for your sister, Lizzy. I have seen her frequent gaze upon him and her constant quest for his opinion, she shall be quite happy to accept him. And as for him, he loves the idea of love. I only had to assure him of Mary's suitability and affection for him and he was transformed."

Elizabeth looked upon her sister to see that her friend had indeed accomplished everything she had just described. "Then all that is left is for me to say thank you."

"Oh, it was no trouble, I assure you."

They drifted into companionable silence, pausing to observe the dance. Elizabeth smiled when she saw Jane dancing with their host. They had not left each other's side from the moment of the Bennet's arrival and to Lizzy the happiness of both was readily apparent upon both their features.

Anne saw her smile and instantly inquired for the cause. Elizabeth's reply gave her instant happiness. "Oh, Darce will be pleased. He and I were both concerned that this would turn out to be another unrequited affection for Charles. I am so happy that is not the case. Oh, by no means do I tend to insult your excellent sister, Lizzy, it is just that the women of the Ton are so very contrary in their ways that we learn to be cynical of any woman that our host attaches to."

"Your concern for Mr Bingley does you credit," Elizabeth replied distractedly, her thoughts preoccupied with Wickham's story once more.

Anne was instantly contrite. "My dear Lizzy, I mean no insult to you or to Jane. I am ashamed that I brought it up. Can you forgive me?"

"It is not that which distresses me," Elizabeth assured her friend.

"Then what does?"

"I met a gentleman a few days ago who claimed to have once been intimately connected with your husband."

Anne's face solemnised instantly. "You mean Mr Wickham. What did he tell you?"

Elizabeth quietly related all the particulars she had received, from the evening at the Phillipses to the last time she had seen and talked with Mr Wickham before the ball.

Anne's features grew more and more serious at each sentence. When her friend had finished, she remained silent awhile longer, wondering how best to reply. "I wish that I could tell you the entire history, Lizzy, but it is not my place. I can only warn you that Mr Wickham is not a man to be trusted."

Elizabeth would have pressed her friend more, but she suddenly found herself addressed by Mr Darcy, who took her so much by surprise in his application for her hand in the next dance, that without knowing what she did, save for a desire to not injure her friend his wife, she accepted him.

The dancing recommenced immediately, leaving her no time to fret over her own want of presence of mind as he claimed her hand.


Despite the nuances that the addition of many other characters has brought to this work, the author shall refrain from commenting upon the event of the dance between our hero and heroine. The author does not mean to disappoint any readers by doing this, indeed quite the contrary.

Such an account has been rendered excellently many times before, thus any description of it here shall no doubt in some way lessen the feelings that arise from reading the original source. Therefore she shall only comment that their dance passed the same as it has done so in the masterpiece that first brought alive our hero and heroine, and then continue with her own variation.

They finished the dance with much dissatisfaction on both sides, though not to an equal degree, for in Darcy's breast- despite all motions to conquer it, for the key to that lock had long been lost -there was a powerful feeling towards her, which soon procured her pardon and directed all his anger against another.

Upon his exit, Darcy found himself accosted immediately by Anne and led away to the far wall, where he was speedily acquainted with all of the conversation that had passed between her and Miss Bennet before he had surrendered to the temptation of asking her to dance, antecedent to being then led through a door into a small library that was connected to the ballroom.

Scarcely did he have time to accommodate this new location into his mind and form a question to ask his wife for her reasons, when she exited the room, to return a moment later with Miss Bennet, locking the door behind her.

Holding a hand up to forestall the both of them, Anne once more took command of proceedings. " Before either of you begin to speak, let me. I have brought you both here because I have no desire to see either of my two greatest friends in all the world at odds with each other and all because of a certain person. Darcy, you shall now tell Lizzy the truth of Mr Wickham, after which I shall expect an avowal for friendship from both of you towards each other for the future."

Darcy listened to all of this with astonishment. The discovery of Mr Wickham's new deceptions was of no surprise, indeed he had gathered as much by his conversation with Miss Elizabeth Bennet during the dance.

He had hoped however that the truth would not be needed to be told to anyone other than Bingley, whom stood acquainted with it from the moment of Wickham's arrival.

A single glance at Anne convinced him that this could no longer be the case. Running a hand through his hair, he motioned silently for them to sit. Leaning against the desk he began the sorry tale, recounting everything and embellishing nothing.

Elizabeth listened silently, her shock increasing at every moment. Each glance at her orator assured her of its truth. Mr Darcy spoke with seemingly calm tones, belied by features that revealed for the first time in their acquaintance with each other that he was suffering under great emotion.

His sadness at the betrayal of his childhood friend was equally apparent. When his tale reached the events concerning Georgiana, Elizabeth's disgust, which had been previously directed at the brother, now turned with all force upon Mr Wickham, of whom she could no longer think of without abhorrence.

Immediately she offered her apologies to both, feeling entirely ashamed at ever having suspected him of the foul treachery that Wickham had attributed to being existing.

Darcy shook his head in reply, his mind too occupied with trying to re-establish his control to reply with eloquence to her. Rapidly he sought the comfort of the window as an excuse to turn his back upon them, while he struggled to regain his equilibrium.

The room sank into silence. Only the occasional notes from the music played out next door strove to break it. Finally, Anne rose from her chair, gesturing for her friend to do the same, knowing that her husband would recover faster if left alone. Unhappily they had not walked more than a few steps towards the door when another calamity befell.

"Anne, are you alright?" Her friend anxiously asked as she saw her suddenly falter.

Her friend was insensible to the enquiry. She could not stop. The coughs racked her throat, making speech impossible.

Darcy rushed towards her. Holding a handkerchief to her mouth, he waited until she had regained her strength. Slowly he took the cloth away, unable to even look at it, knowing the truth with horrible certainty that he was not allowed to prevent it. Anne, seeing the emotions flicker briefly upon his features, smiled sadly at him and then departed from the room.

Darcy sighed aloud, swallowing a cry of sadness and frustration at his wife's lot in life. Suddenly he heard a gasp and he turned from the closed door to the woman that he loved. He accepted that now. He could no longer fight it. The feelings had overwhelmed all his defences. He loved her with every breath, every heartbeat, every fibre of his being.

He saw her gaze fixed upon the handkerchief, his visible monogram now stained with Anne's blood. Her fine eyes betrayed her thoughts. She knew the truth now, as did he. She knew it with that same horrible certainty. "How long?" She softly whispered.

"Less than a year." Darcy looked away, not able to see her grief. "Only Anne and I know this," he added in a low voice, hoping his meaning was clear.

"I won't say a word. You may be assured of my secrecy."

"I never doubted it for a second." He folded the cloth away into his pocket. "So what Wickham told you was true, at least in some part. Ours is a marriage of convenience. But not for my sake. It is for Anne's and Georgiana's alone. The former is released from the possessive care of my Aunt and the latter is given constant and trustworthy female intimacy."

"Did your Aunt know of Anne's indisposition?"

"No, but she always protested that she was of sickly constitution. Myself and my family always suspected the contrary. It was a terrible blow when Anne told me the truth. I had hoped our marriage would make her stronger. To learn that it would do the opposite...." Darcy trailed off and turned to the window.

As his eyes glanced upon the flickering lights that emanated from the carriages, he spoke once more, his voice thick with emotion. "Forgive me, I have no right to burden you with my troubles."

Elizabeth smiled and came to rest beside him. "You must burden someone, lest you wish to remain conflicted. The longer such feelings stay in your mind, the more strength one requires to keep up a calm facade."

"Yes, you are right. I have been struggling. Thank you, Miss Bennet."

"It is nothing. I would never be a good friend to your wife if I did not help you." She laid a hand on his in a comforting gesture. "You must not blame yourself. You could have no way of foreseeing that Anne had this disease."

Darcy could only nod in reply, the effect of her comforting hand producing feelings within him that could almost make him forget that he ever had a wife. He returned his eyes to the window, hoping the scene outside would restore his previous balance. Why was it he lost all rationale in her presence?

He took a deep breath, her scent assaulting his senses. Closing his eyes he focused upon on the silence which held reign over the room, regaining his calm collectedness but a moment or two later. He returned to her and held out his arm for her to take. "Miss Bennet."

She noticed the difference instantly. The mask was back. Elizabeth could not help but feel disappointment at it. Yet she understood now the reason for its existence. His past had given him many trials, far more than most men his age, taking away his willingness to trust anyone but family and close friends.

Added to this was the stress that must be caused by running such an expansive estate from an unusually young age. He needed to appear in control, to protect his true self from those that could damage it. She accepted his arm.

"We must return to the ball before we are missed."


Part XII.

Darcy approached breakfast the next morning with a grim countenance. For him, this late dawn repast was nothing more than an ordeal to endure in order to obtain the marrow upon which he needed to live. His thoughts and spirit were waylaid elsewhere; his wife's apartments- from which she had not emerged since her early exit from the ball last night -and a certain young lady that occupied the building that was barely three miles away from his present location.

Both troubled him greatly, so much so that not even his sister dared to disturb his disquiet. With the former it was an old worry, one that he had long been used to, no matter how fresh the torment appeared in his mind each day. These were the worse times; when he knew full well that there was nothing he could do, when his uselessness in this matter weighed upon him heavily.

Anne, he knew, disliked letting him know how badly things lay with her and last night had been no exception. She knew his tendency to jump to the worse possible conclusion, she had known of it from their first meeting many years ago. Therefore she had entrusted to his valet a note which he had received this morning saying that she was perfectly well, but would remain in her chambers for the day just as a precaution.

Darcy had taken this with an outward appearance of calmness, but with an inward feeling of remorse, guilt and concern. The first, because he wished he could do more, the second, for he felt that he was the fault for her illness and the third because for her to retreat to her room meant her condition was worsening without a hope of recovery.

Now as he consumed his meal without care for taste or fulfillment, he tried to resign his mind to the prospect of the day, knowing that he could not visit her, for his fear would undoubtedly make her worse.

As for the latter, the one that lay a mere three miles from his form, Darcy was also concerned about her. Her features upon the conclusion of his tale had occupied his mind from the moment he had first laid eyes upon them. He wondered how she had borne it, in what light she looked upon them now. How she would regard them when they next met.

His desire to close a door on those feelings for her had not succeeded; in truth his mind had barely attempted the motion. Last night the depth of them had shown him for the first time that any escape was impossible, and had been from the first moment he had laid eyes on her. The devotion he felt for her was such as he had never experienced before and doubtless he never would again. Love like this he had never known and never expected or hoped to know.

His life so far had convinced him that such feelings only existed in the imagination, that reality could not fulfill them. His only desire now- and a selfish one at that -was to learn if she felt them same, a development that he had no right to even wish for. He was married and both of them knew that!

The circumstances of it mattered not; nor did the inevitable future of it. He was a gentleman, she was a gentleman's daughter, to express such desires and expect her to return them would not only go against propriety, but it would also go wholly against his character.

Every experience life had thrown upon him had convinced him that nothing but faithfulness in marriage was acceptable. The very notion of anything else as well as the display of such disgusted him. Although every disguise of sort was his abhorrence, he could do naught but strive to conceal these feelings for the rest of their acquaintance.


While her husband strove to rise out of his conflicted feelings, Anne, from her position of recluse in her bed in the guest apartments on the first floor, struggled in vain to concentrate upon the volume of literature that lay in her hands. She had no energy; only desire for other occupations and the effect of this upon her concentration was proving to be long lasting. She longed for company, but had no wish to inflict the now obvious appearance of the severity of her condition upon the few personages that knew of it.

These were the worse times; when she could not escape the true nature of her illness and when the inevitable end seemed nearer than it had been before. Last night had by no means been unexpected, only the lengthy awaited release of symptoms that were soon to prevent her from concealing this illness any further. The end was definitely nigh, had been so for quite some time. She could not hide it from herself.

A ray of light landed upon the bedspread; causing Anne to gaze at the prospect from where she lay. The sunshine weather which christened everything with bright, miraculous colours, lay waiting, calling to her to take such joy in it as many would this fine day and was a complete contrast to her presently gloomy state of mind. It was time, she realised, to focus upon what life she had left and to strive to get as much delight as she could out of it.


Three miles away, Longbourn awoke to a tremendous state of activity. Mrs Bennet and her nerves could not be contained nor escaped- except perhaps for those that followed Mr Bennet's example and retreated to the library for the day, coming out only for meals. Her long desired wish of having one of her daughters settled was about to be fulfilled. Its source lay in the surprising form of Mr Collins, and the daughter in question, equally surprisingly, was Mary.

The former had sought her approval for such an endeavour by addressing her that very morning soon after breakfast with the request that he might humbly hope for her interest when he solicited the honour of a private audience with her fair daughter Mary in the course of said morning.

If Mr Collins had wished to take Mrs Bennet by surprise, he had certainly achieved thus, for the good lady had assumed that her second daughter Elizabeth was to be the receiver of his hand. However, whatever little regret she might have contained within her concerning, was soon done away by the prospect of his actual choice.

In retrospect, Mrs Bennet now perceived that Mary would do extremely well for Mr Collins, in fact few could do better. Her preference for the Christian works and her concern for the moral behaviour of others and herself would compliment his profession and serve to be the foundations of what she was sure would be a happy future together.

Thus she dawdled about in the vestibule to watch for the end of the conference, and no sooner than she saw Mary open the door and with quick step pass her towards the library, did Mrs Bennet enter the breakfast-room. She congratulated both Mr Collins and herself in warm terms on the happy prospect of their nearer connection.

Mr Collins received and returned these felicitations with equal pleasure, and then proceeded to relate the particulars of their interview, with the result of which he trusted he had every reason to be satisfied, since the quiet acceptance which his cousin had steadfastly given him would naturally flow from her bashful modesty and the genuine delicacy of her character. Her consent and blessing she now happily bestowed upon him and desired that he informed Mr Bennet of it at once.

Ten minutes later, Mr Collins exited the library in the search of his intended, the reaction of his host clearly displayed upon his inanely smiling features. Mrs Bennet spared him a joyful glance of her own and then entered the library herself.

Barely however did she have time to express her joy when Mr Bennet began thus; "my dear, I have two small favours to request. First, that you will allow me to express merely that I am satisfied at the outcome of Mr Collins endeavours, and secondly, the free use of my room. I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be."

Mr Bennet's words did nothing to disrupt Mrs Bennet's joy; indeed she remained distracted for most of the day, rousing her voice to congratulate her daughter and future son in law once more, before sending for the carriage to travel to town in order to inform her dear sister Phillips, Lady Lucas and Mrs Long and triumph over the prospect of having a daughter married before all three of the ladies.

While the family attempted to rise out of this state of affairs Charlotte Lucas came to spend the day with them. She was met in the vestibule by Lydia, who after flying to her delivered the news of the morning events with laughter. Charlotte hardly had time to answer before they were joined by Kitty who came to tell the same news and then left to find Elizabeth and Jane by herself as the two young Bennets rushed outdoors towards Meryton in quest of the officers.

Miss Lucas soon found her friends in the grounds, and once there gratefully entered into conversation with them. Jane's mood was almost as joyous as her cousin's for her recollections of the ball served only the time she had spent with Mr Bingley, a passage that had passed so agreeable as to leave her in all hope of a happy future. Elizabeth however dealt few remarks to the discourse, being much preoccupied.

Unlike her sister, Elizabeth had seen all the idiocy that her family had fallen into the rest of the evening after she had exited the library with Mr Darcy. Their temporary absence had been noticed not, nor had their studied avoidance of each other for the rest of the evening. Such an avoidance had been a necessity; for he needed to keep up his mask and she needed time to reflect upon all that she had just learned.

Such reflection had quickly become impossible however, for upon their move into the supper-room, the actions of her family had served to occupy most of her attention. To her they had seemed to have developed a mutual agreement to embarrass all and sundry by making complete fools of themselves.

First there had been Mary and her performance on the pianoforte, a display which had been stopped not before time by her father, but in such a way as to make Elizabeth wish he had not interfered in the first place.

Then Mr Collins spoke the praises of such talent and his long held desire to possess such a gift himself before the whole room, finishing with a bow to Mr Darcy, upon whom Elizabeth had been unable to prevent him making his introduction in the course of the evening.

According to Mr Collins it had gone well, but Elizabeth had seen the truth by the reaction of the other gentleman, as she watched him exit the conversation as quickly as he could, returning to his table, his outward expression speaking quite clearly of the disgust that he obviously felt at having such an acquaintance.

Then it had been the turn of her mother who had remarked loudly and constantly to Lady Lucas about the future prospects of two of her daughters and their intended. All attempts to quieten her had been made by Elizabeth in vain; she could only listen in silence and pray that no one gave concern to them.

Lastly Lydia had then made the La Morte d-Bennet complete by rushing into the supper-room carrying a sabre of an officer who was chasing her. Collapsing into a chair before finally giving it up, she exclaimed to the entire room that she was 'so fagged' before downing a glass of wine.

Elizabeth had therefore greeted this morning with relief. She now retreated fully into her thoughts as Jane occupied the whole attention of Charlotte. For the first time since she had heard the story did she now focus fully upon it. With great concern and distress did she recall the torment of emotions displayed upon Mr Darcy's face as he relayed the true tale of the history of Mr Wickham.

With further worry did she recollect her friend suddenly coming to halt and experiencing a coughing fit, along with the horrible realisation that she made when seeing the bloodstain upon Mr Darcy's monogrammed handkerchief. To have it confirmed was even more horrible.

She had only known Anne for a short time, but already she was an excellent and close friend. To learn that she was soon to leave this world had been and still remained a terrible blow. Elizabeth could not bear to think how Anne herself bore it.

Mr Darcy's torment seemed considerable and she could not help but feel greatly for such a kind man whose lot in life had been so hard. She felt that he had had too many troubles in such short a time. Most of all she admired how bravely he had borne each one of them.

From this moment on she vowed to help him in his quest for control. Such a desire was the mark of the depth of her friendship with Anne, and she felt he deserved nothing less. Once she had established this vow firmly upon her mind, Elizabeth returned to the conversation of Jane and Charlotte, focusing upon them for the rest of the day.


Part XIII.

 

I do not pretend to regret anything I shall leave in Hertfordshire, except your society, my dearest friend; but we will hope at some future period, to enjoy many returns of the delightful intercourse we have known, and in the mean while may lessen the pain of separation by a very frequent and most unreserved correspondence.

I depend upon you for that.

Yours
Caroline Bingley.

With a sigh of dramatic proportions, the author of this note surveyed once more all the words she had written. She came to the end with a feeling of great satisfaction, having decided that it was sufficient enough for her plan.

Yes, Caroline Bingley had a cunning plan. She had formed its foundations yesterday, having been forced do so by the most disagreeable of events. Upon arriving at Netherfield from an afternoon walk- spent following Mr Darcy's horse and the rider upon it, in the vain hope that he would halt and accompany her back.

When this figure did finally stop this chance turned out to be very definitely a slim one, for it was not Mr Darcy at all, but his stable hand, who had been ordered by the gentleman to exercise his steed upon a regular basis when he himself could not see to it,- but the author now realises she has digressed from her point and so shall immediately return to it forthwith -she found her brother gone, with only a note- if you can call a piece of blotting paper such -as explanation to his present whereabouts.

Fortunately for Caroline,- though perhaps unfortunately in Mr Bingley's case -the letter, despite resembling something which a spider had crawled across, still contained enough that was legible as to ascertain his reasons for so hasty a departure. In short, it was to obtain a suitable ring with which to grace Miss Bennet's hand in marriage.

Naturally, this left Caroline in shock. After standing about in the staircase hall looking stupid- though she believed intelligent and sophisticated -for ten minutes, she escaped to her sanctuary- otherwise known as the East Drawing Room -to think. By morning, her mind had formed a solution, to which this letter above was the starting point.

With a graceful flourish- her words, not mine -she finished the direction and sealed the note. After ringing the bell for a footman, Caroline sat back in her chair, her mind picturing the scene that this note would induce. She hoped that her point had been understood. Charming as Miss Bennet had been, she was not at all the woman that Caroline had had in mind for her brother's wife. Looks and charm she may have had, but no money or class for Caroline to attach herself to.

The footman entered the room, bowed, took the proffered note, bowed once more, and left the room. Caroline rose from her chair to stare out the window, awaiting his return. When he had, she turned to face him, addressing him with the following: "Inform my dear sister and her husband that we shall be departing Netherfield this very day for London, then return to me."

When the click of door that served as the signal for this servant's exit, Caroline resumed a seat at her desk once more. Retrieving several sheets of paper from it, she picked up her pen and began another letter.


When the Darcys returned to the East Drawing Room- having been for a drive about the country in a low phaeton -they found the house in the same state that its previous occupant had, with only a small sealed letter for explanation. Anne was first to descry its presence, and after picking it up and surveying its contents produced a cry of disgust and anger that served to echo around the room. "Darcy," she exclaimed immediately afterwards, "we must leave for London at once!"

Naturally her cousins stared back at her in astonishment and incomprehension. In reply Anne merely handed the letter to her husband. Determining at once that it was Caroline's handwriting, Darcy chose to refrain from reading it and waited instead for Anne to calm down sufficiently enough to tell him why.

"Caroline and the Hursts have departed for London in order to dissuade Charles from marrying Jane Bennet."

To her surprise, Darcy exhibited none of the same emotion. "I suspected as much. However, we do not need to follow. Bingley will not be dissuaded from his course by them."

"Darcy, you are forgetting just how malicious and devious Caroline can be. She will not stop until Charles is convinced that Jane cares nothing for him. You and I both know that the opposite is the case. We must open up your townhouse as a sanctuary for him. For neither of his sisters will allow him to return to Netherfield."

Had Anne done naught but finish this speech with a coughing fit, Darcy would have continued to debate. As it was, he helped her to a chair and supplied her with a glass of wine before any words came forth from his lips.

"Very well," he began solemnly, "to London we will go. Before we make arrangements to do so, however, do you not think that a note should be sent to Longbourn in order reassure Miss Bennet that whatever Caroline may have said to her is not the case?"

"You think Miss Bingley would stoop that low?" Georgiana asked her brother, who nodded in the affirmative.

Anne sighed, her fit having taken much of her past energy. "I do not see how we could phrase it without revealing Charles' intentions. We shall just have to depart, and hope that Elizabeth will see to restoring Jane's faith in her suitor."


While the Bennets said farewell to Mr Collins as he left for Hunsford to inform his Ladyship of his success, Mr Bingley came home to his townhouse from the jewellers to face the English equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition.

After seeing to it that he had a chair, Caroline and Louisa towered over him, torturing him with words for as long as they had breath. They did not desist until it was time for them to retire, by which time Bingley was exhausted and disgusted. He slept not at well and awoke to the dawn, a changed man.

But not however in the manner that his sisters had hoped for.

Unusually for him, he rose and sent for his valet. An hour later he was out the door and down the street without so much as a word to anyone. Moments later did he arrive at whose house he had sought, and to his immense relief, the owners were at home.

Darcy and Anne welcomed him with open arms, supplying him instantly with drink, nourishment and comfort. After he had communicated all his woes, they made him avail himself of the guest apartments, seeing that he rested while they sent a note to his house for his valet and belongings to be transferred to their establishment.

Bingley did not emerge from his rooms till dinner. His usual good humour however, did not return with him, an sign that was evidently discernible from his gloomy features. The ladies of the house immediately left the gentlemen to themselves, whereupon Darcy set about restoring his friend's faith in his plans for the future.

One evening though, soon proved to be insufficient for this venture. For while Bingley was still certain about Miss Bennet and all that was connected with her, he was uncertain that he should proceed while his immediate family objected to the match. To make matters even worse, Anne did not come down for breakfast, her condition being so particularly severe that next morning as to precipitate sending for the doctor.

While they waited for him to finish examining Anne, Darcy launched into the next stage of arguments as to Bingley still offering his hand to Miss Bennet, that of family objections meaning nothing where love was concerned, even though he felt his words and experiences inadequate to the task, given the present situation. As he had long suspected, only his assurance that he would accompany his friend, gave Bingley the confidence to proceed with his desires.

It was then that the physician returned. Having known the family for as long as he could remember- his father having served the later Mr Darcy and his wife -Dawson hated the news that he had to bring to the present Mr Darcy at this moment.

Indeed if he knew of any cure he would traverse the ends of the earth to find it. "I am so deeply sorry, sir, but there is very little I can do for your wife. The illness is in its last stages. I can only ease her suffering, not make it disappear."

Darcy rose up from his chair and escaped to his sanctuary; a window. Only there did he discard his mask and let the grief that this news brought show. "How long?" He asked, in a voice of heavy emotion.

"I am not certain. Perhaps four, maybe five months. This much is sure. She will not see out the summer."

Darcy inclined his head in acknowledgement of this, remaining at the window while Dawson departed from the house. His friend, seeing the distress that was plain from his reflection, silently left him alone. Only then did Fitzwilliam relax, his entire form beginning to shake as the tears fell from his eyes.


Part XIV.

Upon the second day of the first month in the year eighteen hundred and twelve, the carriage of Mr Edward Gardiner and family came to a halt in the driveway of their London home, situated in Gracechurch Street. The owner stepped out, gave a hand in assistance to his wife, then to his children, and finally to the young woman that would be their guest for the next few weeks; their eldest niece, Jane.

Both adult Gardiners were very concerned about her, and hoped that this stay in town had not been accepted by all parties just in the vain hope of a chance encounter with a certain gentleman during it. Indeed, their primary motive for Jane staying with them was that she might find the peace and reflection needed to recover from this recent disappointment.

The Gardiners had never met the gentleman himself, but they knew their eldest niece's disposition well enough to believe him to be a very good sort of man, else she would never have attached herself to him. Thus like her, they were mystified at his continued absence from Netherfield and the report of his changed affections by his sister. Unlike Jane however, they held that Elizabeth's view of Miss Bingley deceiving her beloved sister had some measure of truth in it.

Jane herself knew nothing of the Gardiners' opinions. She was grateful for their offer of spending a few weeks with them in town, and held no other expectations. Longbourn, despite the presence of her sister, had driven her almost to breaking point since the departure of the Netherfield tenants.

Miss Bingley's explanation and her further letter in the weeks that followed had done nothing to lessen this. Her mother continued to lament his absence, all the while offering advice to her daughter, having no idea of the effect it had had upon Jane herself. Her father had done nothing but keep to his library, engaged in the matter of preparations for Mary's wedding. Even Elizabeth's advice had done nothing to reassure her.

Unlike her sister, Jane could not believe that Caroline was capable of deceit, and could only be persuaded that she was deceived herself. He- she had not quite reached the stage where she could pronounce his name without a loss of composure -would remain in her memory as the most amiable man of her acquaintance, but that would be all. He would be forgot, and she was determined that they would all be as they were before.

Thus she looked upon this stay with her Aunt and Uncle as the perfect thing to distract her and make the task of forgetting all the more easier. She would involve herself with satisfying the whims of her cousins, walk about in the parks, write to her sister and attend the theatre with the Gardiners. She would from this moment on, not think about that gentleman at all.


Several miles away, in what was considered among those of consequence and influence to be the fashionable part of London, that gentleman whose name she could not speak was at present taking stock of the past few weeks.

After Dr Dawson had departed the Darcy townhouse, Bingley had tried to comfort his friend as best he knew how. Scarcely however had he begun to speak, when the butler entered the room, with the news that a Miss Caroline Bingley was outside the front door and wanted to see her brother.

This news had caused said brother to lapse back into silence, leaving his friend to follow the butler back out into the hall, confront Miss Bingley with the report that firstly, her brother had no desire to see her, secondly, that he would not be returning to either his house in town or the Hursts within the near future, and thirdly that if Miss Bingley came to visit the Darcys again, she would not be admitted inside the hall, let alone the house.

All this was accomplished in the space of ten minutes and his host, after telling his friend of the event in clear brownstudy,1 shut himself in his business study,- known to his friends and family as the room that you never disturbed him from unless on pain of death -and did not re-emerge from it until later that day.

Thus Charles Bingley was left to sit about in the drawing room feeling very much the inadequate friend and totally at loss as to what to do about it.

The next day events returned to normal in the Darcy townhouse. Bingley found his friend and host, although quieter than usual, more like himself, and thus spent most of the remainder of the week and the days that followed placating to his every whim while Anne recovered from her attack.

The four celebrated a subdued but welcome Christmas, and an equally peaceful new year. Now, for the first time since their return to London, they were to venture out into society.

Anne, now almost returned to health- or rather good spirits, as that word was a relative term -had a great desire to see the new production of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, which was to perform its last night that very evening. Darcy had secured tickets and his family's usual box so they could all attend, Bingley included.

It was be the first test for Anne since the onset of her illness, to judge if she could cope with a social evening once more, before returning to Netherfield.

Charles felt extremely guilty about wishing them to accompany him back to the neighbourhood, but in this motion his friend was firmly obstinate; securing the hand of Miss Bennet must be done before any more time passed; else risk losing her altogether.

Charles himself was doubtful that he would succeed in this task. Not only did his prolonged absence stand against his favour, but also, knowing his sister, this absence would have only confirmed her assertions- that she had no doubt written to Miss Bennet about -that he was paying court to Miss Georgiana Darcy.

This match, Mr Bingley begs the author reassure her readers, is entirely of Caroline's making. Nothing has been further from Charles' mind than a match with a young woman, that he looks upon solely as a sister.

Also, since her inquisition upon him, Charles was determined to never speak to his sister ever again, let alone be in her company. He was sick of her constantly ordering him to fulfil her dreams obtaining a rank of life in the highest circles of society. From this moment on, she would have to rely on the goodwill of her sister and Mr Hurst.


Darcy noticed first. He happened to have raised his eyes from the stage just before the end of the first act, only to blink in surprise. A second glance confirmed his first and instantly he tapped his friend on the shoulder.

Bingley turned his gaze from the play to his friend and then in the same direction. Within seconds, a wide smile spread across his face. For sitting in the box opposite them, was none other than Jane Bennet.

From that moment on, Bingley remained oblivious to the rest of the play. It was not until intermission, when Darcy shook his shoulder vigorously in order to get his attention, that he became sensible of anything but the vision that lay in front of him.

"Darce!" He cried upon their exit to the social rooms, "is it not....."

"Yes," he replied with an bemused look upon his face.

"She is......"

"Yes."

"Can we....."

"No.... at least not yet." Darcy scanned the crowd, locating the group that had accompanied Miss Bennet in the box. For some moments his eyes remained fixed upon the gentleman, as he tried to recall where he had seen him before. Suddenly the memory came over him and he pulled his besotted friend over towards the trio. "Mr Edward Gardiner, I presume?"

"Yes, I am he, but forgive me, sir, I do not recollect....."

"There is no need to apologise, sir, except on my part for bringing business into a social evening. I only know your name by reputation. My solicitor recommended you some weeks ago when I was looking for a reputable contact for the East India Company. I was to have visited your offices next week....."

"Only to see me here, correct?" Mr Gardiner finished, pleased already by his new acquaintance. "And your name, sir?"

"Fitzwilliam Darcy at your service, sir," Darcy replied, shaking the proffered hand, his gaze drifting to the two ladies, noticing Miss Bennet's surprise and blush as she encountered the eyes of his inanely grinning and nervous friend. He now offered his hand to her. "Miss Bennet, it is a pleasure to see you again. I had no idea you were in town."

It was the most words Darcy had ever said to her, yet Jane could summon only enough courage to take his hand in greeting, while he explained their prior acquaintance, greeted Mrs Gardiner and then introduced his friend.

It was at this moment that his presence, and indeed her that of her Aunt and Uncle's was forgot, as Mr Bingley took her hand and raised it to his lips for the sweetest of salutations.


1. Brownstudy- Gloomy meditation. From Thomas Brown's Union Dictionary, circa 1810.


Part XV.

Days passed, scarcely noticed by either. Each lived, breathed and supped upon the other's company. Neither felt that they had experienced happier days in their life.

Immediately after the play, the Gardiners and their niece attended dinner at the Darcy townhouse. Both spent most of it in the same fashion as they had done the rest of the play, gazing at each, oblivious to anyone or anything else.

The Darcys and their guest returned the dinner with a call at Gracechurch Street the next morning, followed by dinner there and on the third day, Mr Bingley called alone.

While Mrs Gardiner provided a discreet but present chaperone, he began the task of restoring their acquaintance to the state that it had been on the night of the Netherfield Ball.

Firstly, he apologised for his unexplained departure from Netherfield the day after said ball, relating the events that delayed his planned return- save for the onset of Mrs Darcy's illness, for it was still to be kept secret for as long as possible -and then his activities until their meeting at the theatre.

"Believe me, Miss Bennet, I would have returned as soon as was possible. I do not wish to lay blame on my friend for keeping me here, indeed the delay is solely my own. I felt that to abandon him in his time of need would be remiss of me and our long standing friendship. I also feared that my sister had done too much to ruin any hope that you- forgive my presumptiveness -may have harboured of me."

Jane herself knew not what to say. The surprise of meeting him at the theatre and the events of the day before were still too fresh in her mind, preventing her from completely absorbing anything else. Just as she had resigned herself to never seeing him again, he had met with her once more.

Now, only two days later, she was sitting beside him, listening to his confirmation of her sister's judgement of the situation, her hand still tingling from the tender kiss that he had laid upon it that evening.

As it had been for him, it was for her, the rest of the play but a blur; along with Mr Darcy's townhouse and the meal she ate inside it. All she could remember was Mr Bingley; his words, his gestures and his looks. Each had been solely directed at her.

Not once had there been any sign of truth in his sister's assertion. That Caroline had indeed lied to her, hurt Jane deeply. She had thought her to be a good friend, to approve of her and Mr Bingley. Now to hear the contrary..... it was distressing.

Just as these words were laid aside in her mind, she gathered the next, and her astonishment increased. Had she heard him correctly? Did he truly meant what he was hinting at?

"Mr Bingley," she began to reply, the words coming slowly, "I must confess I was hur....... disappointed when you did not return for the winter. But I do not wish any continued acquaintance of ours to come between you and your family."

"You may not wish it, and indeed I would do anything for your comfort," Bingley responded, "but it is inevitable. I have long grown tired of my sister's desires for me to advance myself through........ in a certain manner. I am determined to be master of my own actions. Miss Bennet, tell me to go and never come back, and I will, but only if it is just your will, and not the claims of anyone upon you. I only wish to seek your happiness."

Jane blushed, but managed to accept. "Mr Bingley, I do not wish for you to go away."

"Thank you," he replied.


Days passed, each one of them turning to be more idyllic than the rest. Jane and Bingley spent every one of them in the company of each other. They walked and talked, seated and talked, walked and were silent, seated and were silent.

Every moment that was spent apart, they immersed themselves in thoughts of each other. And every second assured them both that they had never been more happier.

Soon the date came for Jane's departure from Gracechurch Street to attend her sister's wedding to Mr Collins. With great reluctance did she bid farewell and with the same emotion did Mr Bingley return it. He handed her into the carriage himself, and only left the house when it was gone from his sight.

When he arrived back at Darcy's house, Charles witnessed a most pleasant sight. Mr Darcy's carriage, complete with baggage- a few pieces of which he identified as his own -stood in front of the house, with four fine horses, impatient to be off. Barely had he arrived at the open door, when his friend emerged from it.

"Well, did you expect anything less?" Darcy replied when Charles had asked about the sight before him. "You have been a most excellent friend to me Bingley, during these weeks, and I would not be the same if we did not depart for Netherfield at this moment."

"But how did you know Jane..... I mean Miss Bennet was to depart today?"

"I thought you had noted not. While you spent most of your time with her, I have spent it her Uncle's company. Mr Gardiner is really a most valuable contact for what interests I have in India...... and during our business talks, I managed to ascertain from him when Miss Mary Bennet's wedding was."

"But what about Anne's health?"

"Do not worry, she is well enough," Darcy assured his friend, trying not to look in the least concerned. Anne herself was the only one that knew the truth of her predicament and feared telling him, his present torment was enough.

Nevertheless, Darcy still worried. But right now that was not important. He had promised Bingley that he would accompany him back to Netherfield and accompany him he would. One lifetime of happiness had to be enough for both of them.


Part XVI.

When Jane arrived at Longbourn and greeted her family with quiet solitude, Elizabeth was all prepared to give up any former feelings of admiration and like for the Darcys and the Bingleys. She perceived her sister to be the worser for her trip to London, a circumstance confirmed by the lack of letters that she had received from that quarter.

Therefore having only Miss Bingley's last letter to go on, she was fully persuaded that she along with the Darcys had forced the brother to court Miss Darcy.

Despite the telling points which stood against this match, the fact that Miss Darcy was not yet out and Anne had assured her that she and Mr Darcy were all for their friend offering his hand to her sister -Elizabeth's view of her sister and the lack of information from town convinced her that Miss Bingley's hopes were the case, and thus was ready to deliver all feelings of dislike against them.

She was fully justified in doing this, or so she believed, by her sister's quiet and pensive manner. Affection for Jane she placed paramount to all else and, any that caused her unhappiness, no matter what their connection to her, must feel the dissatisfaction of losing her favour as well.

Scarcely had she begun to feel this dislike, when all of Meryton came alive with the news that Netherfield was open once more. Barely had she time to wonder at this when a carriage drew up at Longbourn, and Mrs Hill announced into the presence of herself and the rest of her family Mr Bingley, Mr, Mrs and Miss Darcy.

It being but a day before the marriage of Mary to Mr Collins, this new event put Mrs Bennet into even more of flutter than she had displayed already, which was only increased when Mr Bingley sat immediately by Jane, and revealed his joy at seeing her so soon after their acquaintance in London.

Only after the visit was Elizabeth able to converse with her sister. "Jane," she began the moment they were left alone by all, "you have been very sly. Not once did you reveal that you had met Mr Bingley in London. How on earth did it come about?"

Jane immediately related all that had passed during her short stay in town, and Elizabeth was able to attribute Mr Bingley's delay and continued stay at Mr Darcy's house to what her sister could not; the health of Mrs Darcy. All the while that Mr Bingley conversed with Jane, Anne, Georgiana and Darcy had entered into conversation with her and the rest of her family, leaving Elizabeth only able to observe rather than ask after her friend's health.

Anne had appeared to her to be very well, but hearing now Jane repeat the words of Mr Bingley's excuse, Elizabeth realised this was not the case. The phrase 'abandon him in his time of need' could not point to anything else. Instantly now did she regret ever determining to dislike them all for Mr Bingley's absence. Most guiltily did she feel that her hate had been quickly applied, all because she misunderstood her sister's quietude upon her return.

So heavily did this guilt prey on her mind that Elizabeth thought nothing of refusing her mother's request that she visit Mary in March, after she and Mr Collins had settled themselves at Hunsford.

When she had enough presence of mind to realise what she had done and think of ways to withdraw herself from such an obligation without upsetting anyone, she was tied to a continued acceptance of it by her friend.

Anne, upon hearing Elizabeth mention the visit in passing, requested that she honour the agreement, as she herself was to be in Kent that month with Darcy and Georgiana, in an attempt to tell her mother of her inevitable fate.

It was with all this upon the air that the day of Mary's marriage to Mr Collins finally arrived. The ceremony took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door, and everybody had as much to say or hear on the subject as usual. Then, but two days after this happy event,- in Mrs Bennet's judgement it was, the rest of Meryton viewed it with varying opinions -this good lady found another reason to laud it over the neighbourhood.

Jane had been seated in the drawing room since morning upon the second day after Mary's wedding, occupied in a volume from her father's library, when she had call to lay it aside and welcome Mr Bingley into the room. A blush and a smile followed his arrival and kind inquiry after her health before she resumed her seat, with an offer that he took one also.

Mr Bingley however, had no desire to do this. Instead, he placed himself at her feet and immediately began to speak to her in terms of the deepest emotion. All Jane could do was wonder at the circumstance, and listen with ever rising happiness in her heart as he related to her feelings which heretofore he had only hinted at.

With bliss in her breast did she witness him place his hands over hers, asking to make him the happiest man in the world by accepting his proposal. Unable to gaze anywhere but into his dear face and eyes, Jane felt that entire worlds had ended and begun anew before she could shyly assent that his affections and wishes were returned.

He took her hands in his trembling own, and lifted her up. In union did they stand by the fireplace, expressions of the profoundest joy displayed by both their features. Only then did he lean forward to catch her lips in his own.


Evening had long given way to night when Mr Bingley returned to Netherfield, his joy evident by every facet of his usual happy nature. With laughter in his voice and heart did he proclaim to his friends the news and receive their congratulations in return.

Merrily did he describe the event to all, praising his 'beloved angel' at every turn. In only one matter did his disposition lean to seriousness, when he thanked his friend for accompanying him to Netherfield and convincing him to remain steadfast in his plans to marry.

Darcy himself could not be more happier for his friend's success, an emotion that he assured Miss Elizabeth Bennet of when her and her family stayed to dinner the next evening. "I am just sorry that it did not happen sooner," he finished.

"You must learn some of my philosophy; think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure," was her reply. "Although I believe neither of us can heed that of late. Tell me true, it was for Anne was it not that your return was delayed?"

"Indeed it was," Darcy replied, as a particle of the grief that he felt concerning this washed over his features for the briefest of moments. "It is for that why we are going to Kent. Lady Catherine can remain in the dark no longer." He paused to glance at Anne, who was helping his sister overcome her shyness to talk to Miss Kitty. "I wish I had her strength in coping with this."

"You are doing better than I know that I would in your position," Elizabeth assured him vehemently. "Yea, I am sure," she added when he uttered a protest, "and it is much to your credit. Indeed it is. There is not more you could have done."

"I wish I had your faith on that. Recently I have begun to regret my actions, concerning all that I have done for Anne. What was previously put to generosity I now regard as selfishness."

"Such as?"

"Our marriage. I have prevented her from the probability of finding anyone to love in what little life she has. At the time it never occurred to me, but now I realise just how important love can be to live. Especially if one has the freedom to express and receive it."

"I see your point," Elizabeth acknowledged, "but let me remind you that frequently, happiness is entirely a matter of chance."

Too true, Darcy thought as he gazed upon her, too true.


Part XVII.

Happy for all her maternal feelings was Mrs Bennet on the day she got rid of the daughter that was in her opinion, most deserving. With delight did she refer to 'dear Mrs Bingley,' declaring that she would visit them the very day after their wedding, causing Mr Bennet to reply most forcibly that she would not and that, if she left them alone for at least a month, she would be doing a great favour for the peace of all concerned. Mrs Bennet however refused to listen, vehemently insisting that visit she would and with frequency.

As this argument and the repercussions of it- such as Mrs Bennet retiring to her room with an attack of nerves -took most of the day after said marriage, Mr Bennet felt his mission had been accomplished and promptly retired to his library. His good lady however, he had underestimated, for upon the morning of the second day was Elizabeth to be seen pleading with her mother, who paid her no mind and went.

No more than a fortnight had passed in this manner, when Jane announced to Lizzy, during her first dinner as Mrs Bingley at Longbourn, that Charles was considering giving up Netherfield as soon as may be. Despite the prospect of losing her sister, Elizabeth completely agreed.

It has often been said by many, how little a couple, if quite properly enamoured with each other, recollect the events of their marriage ceremony. This was certainly true in the Bingley's case, indeed considering the state of affections between them and their mutual dispositions, how could it be otherwise?

Frequently did they find themselves seeking friends and relations views upon the details of how the ceremony went. Indeed, as far as they were concerned, a carriage might have run into the church and they would not have noticed. It was perhaps with luck therefore, that they managed to note the timing to kiss at the end.

Elizabeth often found herself an observer of events and people during the ceremony and the wedding breakfast, despite her recent reunion with the Darcys, who could have involved her in conversation, if she had displayed any enthusiasm for the occupation.

More oft to be the occasion that she would be watching her friend's husband rather than her friend, whose lack of well-being was more known to her. His appearance was a shock to Elizabeth, as indeed it had been since his return to Netherfield. Until now, however, she had been too concerned about Jane's wedding to dwell properly upon it.

In short, Mr Darcy looked quite ill. His usually exquisitely tailored clothes, which had set the gossips of Meryton chattering about his wealth, seemed to emphasise a thinness quite unhealthy, and when one glanced at his face, the evidence to support this conclusion was only intensified, as he gazed back at the speaker with haggard eyes.

A great sadness seemed to hung about his form. He seemed to be almost on the verge of crying aloud the grief that lay inside him. Elizabeth noted all with increasing concern and a sense of helplessness as to what she, or anyone, could do about it.

As for the man himself, Darcy remained insensible to the idea that his state of health was visible to those who knew him behind the mask of reserve. He knew he was doing himself a ruin, but felt little desire to alter it. He was doing the only thing he knew would keep his mind from worrying incessantly, throwing himself into estate work without thought or care for an substance or rest, choosing to ride and walk himself into exhausted oblivion over enduring nocturnal nightmares.

It was a state of affairs his body was well used to; having delved into this during the illness and death of his father five years ago. He knew nothing of Elizabeth's concern over him, indeed even if he did, such knowledge would only increase his desire for oblivion.

It was all right for him to care for her, to love her, he at least knew what he was getting himself into, but for her to love him in return, much less care about him, was unthinkable. He would not wish that upon her, could not bear the realty or even the idea that she cared about him as deeply as he had begun to care about her. It was bad enough that he had allowed himself to fall in love with her, he would not let her torture herself over feelings for him.


After this it was somewhat with relief that the rest of February passed with nothing more remarkable than walks to Meryton that were sometimes dirty and sometimes cold. Elizabeth spent most of it writing to Anne and Georgiana, both of whom had asked her for correspondence before they met again in March, at Hunsford.

Lizzy worried for the welfare of her friends, especially when 'Georgie' would write of her cousin not coming down from her room, or experiencing a coughing fit.

Anne, as were her wont, left this out in her letters, describing instead the brief time in London after the wedding of Jane and Bingley, the journey they took to Derbyshire, where they were to spend some time at Pemberley before travelling to Matlock to inform their cousins of her illness.

Nine days of March passed, and Elizabeth arrived at Hunsford. She found herself no longer disgusted at the prospect, for absence of Mr Collins had decreased her dislike of him, and awakened her more to the novelty of the trip, and the wealth of character follies she could study.

The only pains were of course Jane, and her father, who when it came to the point, so little liked her going, that he told her to write to him and almost promised to answer her letter.

Certainly when she arrived at the Parsonage Elizabeth found much to marvel over. She witnessed her previously piously bookish sister in full charge of a moderate household with a confidence and ease that she had never see before, and not only that, manage Mr Collins, who seemed to regard his wife with an almost reverent devotion, so expertly that both of them saw very little of him except for meals and sermons.

Mary seemed truly happy, not only with her married life, but also to have her to stay, and the weeks that Elizabeth had expected to spend alone exploring the woods and hills of Rosings Park, she instead passed bonding with her sister.

By the time of her second week at Hunsford Elizabeth received a letter from Jane, announcing that they had found a house and were to take possession of it in July. Time and her absence had done nothing to alter their mother's daily visits, causing Mr Bingley to nearly lose his usually unflappable good humour.

Their new estate had been found by Mr Darcy, whom Bingley had instantly applied to. It was in a neighbouring county to Derbyshire, and only thirty miles from Pemberley itself. Jane took pleasure in describing all the beauties of Pearlcoombe Abbey as it was called, enchanting Elizabeth with the place so much, that she found the future prospect of her sister's distance not so much a sadness than she would have expected.

Indeed, as long as her sister was happy, Elizabeth vowed that she would bear the miles between them very well.

The third week, as had been expected by Elizabeth, was to bring four additions to Rosings Park, that of Mr, Mrs and Miss Darcy, and their cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Lady Catherine, whom Elizabeth had had the pleasure of dining with at least twice a week, was most displeased to learn of their previous knowledge and acquaintance of her dear daughter and nephew.

Her displeasure increased when she discovered that Elizabeth was the same Miss Bennet Anne had written of in her letters, for Lady Catherine saw Elizabeth as too impertinent in her opinions and manner to be a suitable friend for either her daughter or her niece.

Elizabeth took little notice of this judgement, having found her hostess to be all that her friends described her to be.


Part XVIII.

"And how fare you, Darce?"

Darcy looked up from his stallion to face his cousin and actually appeared to consider the question. "I am well, Rich."

Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam highly doubted that reply to be truthful, but refrained from commenting upon it. He had known his two years younger cousin for nearly thirty years, and this experience had taught him exactly which questions not to ask. Darcy would chose to tell him when and if he wanted advice, and since Darcy chose not to admit he was far from well, Colonel Fitzwilliam could not press him further, even though the reality was a clear contradiction to his cousin's reply.

Darcy looked far from well. He had looked far from well since his arrival at Matlock, and in the Colonel's opinion, his condition had only worsened. Richard had witnessed his cousin in this state before, five years ago.

Somehow, between himself and Charles Bingley, they had managed to pull him out of it. Both had hoped their friend would never experience sadness again and when Richard had learned of Anne's fate, he feared the worse. He had not expected however, that Darcy's slide would begin before Anne's demise.

His cousin brought his horse to an abrupt halt, making Colonel Fitzwilliam sharply pull up. Startled, Richard watched him dismount and greet the woman who had crossed their path. Even from this distance he noted her singularity, her remarkable beauty. Preferring to stay mounted for what was no more than a brief salutation, he observed his cousin smile for the first time in weeks. When he rejoined Richard five minutes later, the Colonel instantly inquired as to her identity.

"She is Miss Elizabeth Bennet," Darcy replied as they resumed their ride around their Aunt's estate, "of Longbourn, Hertfordshire. Anne and her have become great friends since Bingley let the estate of Netherfield last Michaelmas. Bingley has just married her elder sister."

"This is all very interesting, Darce," his cousin replied at the end of the narrative, "but what is she doing here?"

"Oh, her younger sister has lately married their cousin and heir to Longbourn Mr Collins, who as you will remember, is Aunt Catherine's new parson. Miss Elizabeth was obliged by her mother I believe to stay with them awhile, and Anne when she heard the news requested her to come as well."

"So this is the same Miss Elizabeth I have heard of from Anne and Georgie for weeks?" Colonel Fitzwilliam confirmed. "She must be an extraordinary woman to have such an effect on you all."

"She is not wealthy, Rich."

"Meaning?"

"I will not have Anne's best friend fall in love with the second son of an Earl who has only the half pay of a Cavalry Colonel to live on, and has frequently reminded me of that fact, as well as his wish to be rich."

"I was not even thinking of that, Darce!" Richard quickly assured him, the state of affairs having become clear to him now. The only reason he wished to meet Miss Bennet, was because of the effect she had on his cousin, who was still smiling.


By the evening, when Lady Catherine had invited over the Hunsford party for dinner, conversation, supper and cards, Colonel Fitzwilliam had discovered the reason for his cousin's first display of emotion in weeks.

Observing the interaction between Miss Bennet, Anne, Georgiana and Darcy, he concluded what his cousin had only admitted to himself. Instantly, Richard's concern for everyone grew.

His cousin had been raised to regard loss of honour and propriety as sins, therefore would treat his marriage of convenience with Anne as a marriage of affection, and stay faithful to it, no matter if he fell in love with some else along the way. And fallen in love he had, Richard could determine that from a single glance.

The lady herself cared for his well-being, and had no idea of that she was loved. Richard doubted that she ever would, especially if Darcy's slide continued after Anne's eventual death. In their society where mourning was rarely concentrated on, Darcy would chose the opposite of the norm. He would feel guilty for falling in love while married, even though Anne knew perfectly well, and blessed it.

In short, Richard foresaw nothing but doom of this visit to Rosings Park and feared that there was little he could do to prevent it.


End Of Volume II.

Go To Volume III.


© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 2011.