Mr. Darcy’s P&P POV (the abridged version)
Greetings, folks. Jack Caldwell here. This is Part 13 of my little work-in-process. For Part 1, go here, Part 2, here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here, Part 6 here, Part 7 here, Part 8 here, Part 9 here, Part 10 here, Part 11 here, Part 12 here.
Remember, comments are required.
Chapter 46 – continued
WTF? WICKHAM! That bounder! That scoundrel! That no-good, two-faced, egg-sucking, inadequately-endowed piece of pond scum! He has hurt Elizabeth’s family! Something must be done!
“When I consider,” Elizabeth adds in a yet more agitated voice, “that I might have prevented it! I who knew what he was. Had I but explained some part of it only—some part of what I learnt—to my own family! Had his character been known, this could not have happened. But it is all, all too late now.”
Her words strike me like a hammer. Stunned, I manage, “I am grieved, indeed—grieved—shocked. But is it certain, absolutely certain?” Meanwhile, my stomach is trying itself into knots.
Elizabeth nods. “Oh yes! They left Brighton together on Sunday night and were traced almost to London, but not beyond. They are certainly not gone to Scotland.”
My mouth is as dry as ashes. “And what has been done—what has been attempted to recover her?”
“My father is gone to London, and Jane has written to beg my uncle’s immediate assistance, and we shall be off, I hope, in half an hour.” She shakes her lovely head. “But nothing can be done. I know very well that nothing can be done. How is such a man to be worked on? How are they even to be discovered? I have not the smallest hope. It is every way horrible!” She begins to cry again. “When my eyes were opened to his real character—Oh! Had I known what I ought, what I dared, to do! But I knew not. I was afraid of doing too much. Wretched, wretched, mistake!”
I make no answer. Her words are more painful than at Hunsford. I know of what she speaks. Who was it that opened her eyes to Wickham’s capacity for perfidy but practically swore her to secrecy? Who was too proud to share his family’s shame with those he called his friends? Who let a monster run free in Hertfordshire? Me—Fitzwilliam Arthur George Darcy.
This is my fault. She all but said it. There is nothing I can do to wipe my shame from her memory. She can never forgive me; indeed, I do not deserve her forgiveness. Elizabeth is lost to me forever. But I can do her one last service.
“I am afraid you have been long desiring my absence, nor have I anything to plead in excuse of my stay, but real, though unavailing, concern. Would to Heaven that anything could be either said or done on my part that might offer consolation to such distress! But I will not torment you with vain wishes which may seem purposely to ask for your thanks.” Thank goodness my voice is level, that it gives no hint of my disappointment. This is not about me, but about Elizabeth! “This unfortunate affair will, I fear, prevent my sister’s having the pleasure of seeing you at Pemberley today.” And me, as well.
“Oh, yes,” she readily agrees. “Be so kind as to apologize for us to Miss Darcy. Say that urgent business calls us home immediately. Conceal the unhappy truth as long as it is possible.” She sobs. “I know it cannot be long.”
She is leaving. I will never see her again.
I manage some inane parting comment—expressing sorrow for her distress, wishing a happier conclusion than there was at present reason to hope, and leave compliments for her relations. My heart is breaking as I take one last, long look at her lovely face, committing to my memory. She is trying so hard to be brave, to behave like the lady she was born and raised to be, all the while knowing that this event puts her reputation and that of her family in peril.
This will not stand, I vow. Fear not, my love. I know you are lost to me forevermore, Elizabeth, but I will not allow Wickham to ruin your family! No matter the cost!
I leave before I embarrass and distress her further. I have planning to do.
I lock myself in my study, reviewing old correspondence, refreshing my mind as to Wickham’s habits and acquaintances in London. Several hours pass and I am interrupted by a knock on the door. It is Georgiana.
“Brother,” says she nervously after she takes a chair by my desk. “Why did the Gardiners and Miss Bennet beg off coming to Pemberley today? Was it—was it something I said?”
I cringe. Here is more evidence of my thoughtlessness, my selfish distain for the feelings of others. “No, sweeting. I apologize for my abruptness to you, the Bingleys, and the Hursts when I returned from Lambton. I saw Miss Bennet, and she was very sorry not to come. She received news from home, and it was necessary for the entire party to depart as soon as could be.”
Georgiana paled. “Nothing terrible, I hope!”
Bad enough. “I was assured of her family’s good health.”
Just then, the butler stepped in. “The express rider is here, sir.”
“Excellent.” I stand and hand over the letter I prepared for the housekeeper at Darcy House in Town. As I return to my chair, I see a suspicious look in Georgiana’s eye.
“Why are you sending a note to Town? Are you leaving, too?”
Blast, Georgie saw the direction! “Yes. Urgent business calls me away.”
Georgiana gives me a hard look, one I remember seeing on my mother’s face. “Fitzwilliam, you are hiding something. I can always tell.”
I make a decision. “I cannot share the particulars, but I go to help a friend.”
A bright smile breaks over her face. “Then I shall ask no more.” She stands. “I will see to your packing and play hostess to our guests. How long shall you be away?”
My sister is growing up. “I do not know. It could be several weeks.”
She nods. “Very well.” She then gives me a knowing look. “Give my best regards to ‘your business’ when you see her.” With that she leaves the room.
She certainly did not see the despair that I am sure was clearly written on my face. I wish I could, Georgie.
As it turned out, finding Wickham was ridiculously easy. A few words and a few coins to his former confederate, Mrs. Younge, were all that were required to determine his address. The boarding house was not as bad as it could have been, but it was no place for a gentleman’s daughter.
Unfortunately, Miss Lydia proved as stubborn and foolish was she was lovely. She utterly refused to leave her lover. She was sure they were to be married, and it did not particularly matter when. She went on and on about her wedding, how many of her sisters would stand with her, and how jealous all would be when she could sign her name “Mrs. Wickham.”
As for Useless, he was truly in desperate straits. What he owed to barmen and shopkeepers were as nothing compared to his gambling debts and other matters of honor among his comrades in the militia. He saw no other recourse but to flee, even though desertion in time of war was a capital offence—we were fighting Napoleon, after all. His plans were, as usual, half-thought out. He was to escape to the Continent where, as an English gentleman of easy manners and comely looks, he was sure to secure his future with a lady of large dowry. I sighed. Only an idiot who had never gone on a tour could believe such nonsense.
It seemed he had no intention of running away with Miss Lydia. The baggage had invited herself along, and Wick-head, typically thinking with the wrong head, offered no discouragement. I could see why he was so weak, for Miss Lydia was just the way he liked his ladies: young, well-formed for their age, immature, and easily led. Like Georgiana, I recalled sadly. Wickham never stood a chance with a lady of sense and maturity.
Which gave me some comfort. Elizabeth might have been taken in by his words, but she did not, could not care for him.
Miss Lydia was well and permanently ruined and, according to Pond-Scum, perfectly happy about it. When I informed him he should then marry her, he laughed. “Darcy, I admit she’s a jolly and generous girl, and pleasant to look at to boot—there’s no doubt about that—but she has nothing! How does that help me?”
“Wickham!” cried I. “You claim to be a gentleman, yet you refuse to do the gentlemanly thing!”
“Certainly! We’ll just pop over to St. —— and have the priest make everything nice and proper,” he sneered. “And when the militia drags me off to the guardhouse, what good does that do me—or her?”
She would be your widow. That should give her some measure of respectability, I thought at the time. “You cannot abandon her.”
To my surprise, he actually blushed. “I would rather not, but what can I do? She has no dowry, does she?”
Money. It always comes down to money. “Grant me a couple of days, and we will see.” My former friend brightened, and I added, “But you must keep Miss Lydia safe. Allow her to come to harm, and I will inform the army of your whereabouts. Understand?”
My anger gave my threat weight. Straw-For-Brains blanched. “Never fear, Darcy. I will protect her with my life!”
“Funny you should say that, Wickham,” I growled as I rose to leave. “Your life indeed depends upon her safety.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
It takes a real man to write historical fiction, so let me tell you a story.