Darkness Falls Upon Pemberley: Part Three
Throughout the month of October, I’m posting a very short supernatural Pride and Prejudice novella, just for fun. The last part should appear on October 31st. It’s a love story, but several P&P characters have become vampires. Don’t worry, though; they won’t bite.
Since there are now more than the original six parts I promised, I’m running out of days on which I’m able to post. Part Four will appear tomorrow, and then five and six next weekend. I hope you’ll enjoy them.
In case you’ve missed the first several postings, here are the links:
A fortnight had passed since he’d seen her. Though Darcy told himself repeatedly that her absence from society was no cause for concern, a pang of desperation still took root in his breast. She was forever in his thoughts, no matter the hour—even while he slept—and, try as he might, he could find no cure. Nothing eased his hunger for her presence, or quenched his thirst to hear her voice. Nothing purged her image from his mind, or dulled his intense desire to know her more intimately.
What was this hold she had over him? What sort of spell had she cast, with her artless beauty and engaging conversation; her fine eyes and clever wit? How many mornings had he awakened from dreams so vivid he’d confused them with reality?
Had she truly come to him in his bedchamber, he wondered, her expression as tender as her touch? Each time Darcy stumbled to his door and found it locked, the absurdity of such a scenario seemed obvious; but why, then, did his heart pound as though it might burst from his chest? Why did his lungs burn as though he hadn’t been able to draw breath? Why were his sheets a tangled mess upon the floor, and his nightshirt sweat-soaked and twisted upon his body?
Darcy ran shaking hands through his hair. He was a disaster. If he didn’t speak to Elizabeth soon he was afraid he’d go mad. But where on earth was she, for when he’d brazenly called upon her at Longbourn during Mr. Bennet’s absence she was nowhere to be found. Neither had she attended Church, or visited the village, or called upon her neighbours and friends.
Clearly, her family was keeping her under lock and key, and Darcy feared it was somehow his fault. After passing so many agreeable moments together, he flatly refused to believe that Elizabeth’s sentiments weren’t equal to his for her. The idea was simply too painful for him to contemplate. It must be Mr. Bennet who was responsible for their separation, but for the life of him Darcy could not fathom why.
Had his private thoughts and desires concerning Elizabeth been known, there was no doubt in Darcy’s mind that her father would have deemed them inappropriate; but Mr. Bennet was no mind reader, and Darcy’s conduct toward his daughter had always been that befitting of a gentleman. He could think of nothing he’d either said or done that might have angered Mr. Bennet to such a degree as to deny his approval; nothing, that is, except the keeping of Georgiana’s secret.
That Mr. Bennet would even suspect what had transpired in Ramsgate was impossible, for no one but Darcy, Georgiana, and Fitzwilliam knew of it. Of course, one of their servants could have betrayed them, but Darcy sincerely doubted that was the case, as the servants who lived at Pemberley had proved trustworthy and loyal to his family for generations. But perhaps his sister’s current proclivities no longer transcended that loyalty. It was a prospect that terrified him, and he suddenly felt a chill in his bones that had nothing at all to do with the weather.
The view from the drawing room window was wretched, the surrounding land and everything upon it mired by drizzle and fog. It had been this way for days and by mid-morning Darcy was at his wits end. He’d no patience left to extend to Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, who sought to engage him in insipid conversation, inquiring in cloying tones after Georgiana; nor did he desire to remain any longer where he’d no chance of meeting with Elizabeth.
No doubt sensing his restlessness, Bingley challenged him to a game of billiards, but Darcy declined and called for his greatcoat and hat instead, intent on riding out.
“Are you completely mad?” Bingley cried. “The fog is thicker than Cook’s pea soup. Surely, you’ll lose your way and take a chill. Besides, we are to dine with the officers this afternoon, or have you forgotten? What shall Hurst and I tell Colonel Forster when you fail to attend?”
“You may tell the colonel that if I’d remained any longer in this house without the benefit of fresh air and exercise I could not have been held accountable for my actions.”
Bingley frowned. “Darcy,” he said, “it’s dreadful out there. Do be sensible.”
Darcy clasped his friend’s shoulder. “I appreciate your concern, Bingley, but my mood is beastly. Trust me when I say that you and Colonel Forster would do well to be rid of me today.”
“However appalling your mood may be, I wish you’d reconsider and stay at home. At the risk of sounding like a woman, I will not be easy until you return.”
Even as Darcy’s lips twitched his resolve held firm. “I will be careful, I promise. You need not worry yourself over me.”
By the time his horse was saddled and ready, the rain had grown heavier. Darcy mounted without a second thought and set off at a canter until he reached the crest of a nearby hill, where he took several deep, cleansing breaths. The air there was crisp and cold, and helped clear some of the fog in his head, just as his journey to higher ground had led him above the fog below. With renewed focus he urged his horse onward at a punishing pace.
He knew not how long he rode, nor how far when his mount became spooked by some unseen apparition and reared. Darcy held fast to the reins, intent on keeping his seat, and managed to get him under control.
Muttering an exhalation, he dismounted, speaking quiet words of assuagement as he stroked the animal’s thick neck. This did little to soothe either man or beast, however, and Darcy squinted into the pouring rain, wondering whether there was real danger afoot. For the most part, he was on open road, but the road was flanked by several meters of hay, with thick woods bordering either side. The trees within appeared dense and overgrown, littered with briars and dead brush; a veritable fortress that Darcy speculated could not be easily penetrated by humans unless they wielded pitchforks and sickles.
A loud crack of thunder echoed across the leaden sky, chased by a blinding flash of lightening. Darcy’s horse tossed his head with a squeal, nostrils flaring and eyes wide as the freezing rain assaulted them with renewed determination.
For one wild moment, out of the corner of his eye Darcy imagined he saw an all-too-familiar face watching him intently from between the trees, her eyes as dark as ever—as dark as the surrounding woods; but rather than lips the colour of pale rose petals, these were dyed a deep crimson—bright, and slick, and wet.
A shock of fear shot through his breast before he realized the absurdity of such a thing and shook his head, irritated and angry with himself. At last, he thought darkly, the madness has set in. Grabbing hold of his horse’s mane, Darcy jammed his foot into the stirrup and mounted, more than willing to return to the warmth of Netherfield and the devil he knew.