I have had the concept for “Losing Lizzy” in my head (and occasionally in my dreams) for nearly three years; however, I continued to set the story aside because for it to work, our dear couple had to anticipate their vows. In truth, I am not one who necessarily likes when Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet lie with each other before marriage. Although in several of Austen’s books, Miss Austen alludes to such behaviors—i.e., Lydia and Wickham, Henry Crawford and Maria Bertram, and Julia Bertram and Yates—none of these are the main characters nor do the pairings know happy endings.
Therefore, if you are one of those who does not like this particular scenario, I beg you not to give up on my story too early. I would prefer my readers know this up front so I do not receive a bad review simply because someone does not approve of the plot device. Therefore, I required ODC to be married later in the book, I explored several options. One of those was marriage by proxy. Unfortunately, it would not provide the solution I required.
Today’s interpretation of a marriage by proxy tells us that it is a wedding in which one (or both) of the people seeking to be married are not physically present and are being represented instead by another person. If both partners are absent a double proxy wedding occurs. Nowadays, a proxy marriage might occur if one or both partners cannot attend for reasons such as military service, travel restrictions, imprisonment or when a couple lives in a jurisdiction in which they cannot legally marry.
However, in Regency England, a marriage by proxy was not accepted as valid. Under English Common Law, if a proxy marriage is valid by the law of the place where the marriage took place (lex loci celebrations), then it is recognized in England and Wales. However, generally speaking, proxy weddings are not recognized as legally binding in most jurisdictions. There was no provision for marriages of English subjects in England by proxy marriage. Even before the Hardwick Marriage Act, a couple could be “half married,” meaning they were betrothed, but they still required the ceremony in the Church of England to make their joining a fully valid marriage. At that ceremony, the couple had to be present before the clergyman and swear to being there voluntarily before a marriage would be conducted.
I used Lady Catherine’s visit to Longbourn for the stepping off point for this book.
“You are then resolved to have him?”
“I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
“It is well. You refuse, then, to oblige me. You refuse to obey the claims of duty, honour, and gratitude. You are determined to ruin him in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of the world.”
“Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude,” replied Elizabeth, “have any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment’s concern — and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.”
“And this is your real opinion! This is your final resolve! Very well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratified. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable; but, depend upon it, I will carry my point.”
The Question Is: How far will Lady Catherine de Bourgh go to have her way?
She thought him dead. Now only he can save their daughter.
When Lady Catherine de Bourgh told Elizabeth Bennet: “And this is your real opinion! This is your final resolve! Very well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratified. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable; but, depend upon it, I will carry my point,” no one knew how vindictive and manipulative her ladyship might prove, but Darcy and Elizabeth were about to discover the bitter truth for themselves.
This is a story of true love conquering even the most dire circumstances. Come along with our dear couple as they set a path not only to thwart those who stand between them and happiness, but to forge a family, one not designed by society’s strict precepts, but rather one full of hope, honor, loyalty and love.
Excerpt from Chapter One
3 August 1816
“England,” Darcy whispered. “Home.” He had stood along the rail of the ship most of the night waiting for this very moment. “Elizabeth,” he murmured. Was there any chance she would welcome his return? He doubted it, for whether his actions had been intentional or not, he had ruined her. Through no fault of his own, he had left her at the altar, never making an appearance on their wedding day. Society, by now, had presented her with various name: a jilt, a tease, a fallen woman, thinking he had not stood up with her for their nuptials because he had discovered her free with her attentions to other men, when he knew, without a doubt, she had been a virgin, for it was he with whom Elizabeth Bennet had lain for the first time.
“One evening,” he groaned as the memory of her resting beneath him in all her exquisite glory—a look of pure wonderment marking her countenance—filled his mind. It was the one memory that had sustained him during his long ordeal upon The Lost Sparrow.
Three years. Eight months. Two and twenty days.
He had not know the exact count, although he had made rudimentary calculations when he had first been taken aboard The Lost Sparrow, but over the days and months and years of his long imprisonment, he had lost count. It was only when the ship—a British frigate—had fished him from the icy waters of the Atlantic that he had been made aware of the number of days he had lost with Elizabeth at his side.
For the years of his imprisonment, any time The Lost Sparrow came into port, he had been confined in the hole, chained to the inside of the ship, for the captain and the crew knew he was hell-bent upon returning to his family. “Just consider,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper, “Other than that small island, I have not set foot on dry land since long before the war with the French knew an end.” He was not certain his legs would cooperate; yet, Darcy was determined to reach Darcy House as quickly as his rolling gait would carry him.
“Your family will know surprise with your return,” Captain Robert Bruester said as he joined Darcy at the railing.
“I imagine so.”
Bruester and Lieutenant Wilder had both spent their years at university with Darcy. Thankfully, Wilder had been on the deck of The Resolution when Darcy had made his swim to safety.
The Resolution had been spotted early on by those in the crow’s nest of The Lost Sparrow, and the pirate ship and its crew had claimed the cover of an island’s sheltered cove. From there, they had watched the slow progress of The Resolution, debating on whether to engage the ship or let it pass without notice.
For Darcy, the vigil had renewed his hope of escaping his ordeal. “Ironic,” he had thought the words without saying them aloud. “Historically, an ‘ordeal’ was an ancient test of guilt or blamelessness brought about by subjecting the accused to severe pain. The accused’s survival was taken as divine proof of his innocence. I wonder how others will judge me, for I hold my suspicions, and I know how I will judge those who acted against me.”
After so long a time upon the ship, neither the crew nor The Lost Sparrow’s captain had considered him anything other than one of them, although they never permitted him to be a part of those who plundered other ships. Evidently, they were either ordered to keep him away from others or they had come up with the scheme themselves. In truth, he was not certain how it all came about. He was, however, assigned much of the labor on the ship from scrubbing to repairs. Because he could read and write and perform his sums, he had often been tasked with dividing up the booty confiscated from the crew’s various skirmishes. Therefore, on this evening, no one noticed he had become one of those on deck to keep an eye on the British ship’s maneuverings.
With each breaking of water from the frigate’s approach, Darcy estimated whether he could swim out far enough to reach it without the notice of those aboard The Lost Sparrow. As night fell, he had hidden below the stairs leading to the hole. Everyone remained eager to learn that the frigate had moved on; so, no one had checked on his whereabouts. No alarms had been raised. No lanterns lit to allow those on watch to take notice of him in the dark shadows waiting for the perfect moment to stage his escape. Among those in charge, it had been decided that they would permit The Resolution to pass them by for the British ship sported eight and thirty guns, and The Lost Sparrow had but twelve.
Hence, with a dark ship, the crew of The Lost Sparrow sat in silence as Darcy’s chance at freedom slipped away. A frigate could easily cover twelve knots with a good wind, and if it kept moving away, he would never reach it in time. Finally, the British Navy brought in their sails and also settled in for the night. With a grumble of displeasure, The Lost Sparrow’s captain left men on deck to sound the alarm, if necessary, and sent the others to their beds. With only a handful of men remaining on deck, Darcy had shored up his courage and had sneaked from his hiding place. He had spent nearly four years of his life walking the boards of The Lost Sparrow. He knew every squeak and nail. Barefooted, he had eased himself over the railing and down the ladder, quietly slipping into the water. Treading to stay afloat, his heart pounded so hard he was certain someone on board would hear it, but no one on The Lost Sparrow had sent up a cry. Grabbing his chance at freedom, he reached out and cupped the water with one hand to pull his body forward. Then, slowly and quietly, he repeated the motion. Easy stroke after easy stroke. Nothing frantic, he warned himself over and over. Slow and steady until you are away from the ship and the crew’s hearing. One stroke at a time. One stroke closer to freedom and Elizabeth.
Within minutes, he reached the island. Pulling himself from the water, he had stumbled forward. The exercise had been harder than he had expected, for it had been too many years since he had gone for a swim for his body to recall the movement without his concentration. As he suspected, when he attempted to stand and to take a step on the beach, his legs wobbled, giving him the appearance of being drunk or being a new foaled horse; yet, he made himself fight his way through the vegetation. The rocks cut his feet, and the branches slapped him across the face; however, he did not falter—refused to surrender, for this was the only opportunity he had been presented in the nearly four years he had been on The Lost Sparrow.
The island was only a narrow strip of land, not much wider than some of the parks in London. He kept telling himself, “If I can make it to the other side without being seen by someone aboard the ship, I can swim to where the British frigate has chosen to sleep for the night.”
When he finally burst through the scraggy trees to the other side of the island, Darcy bent over long enough to recover his breath. He looked back toward where he had come. The trees were not as dense as he had first thought. He could be seen if someone on The Lost Sparrow turned to look his way.
“Now or never,” he declared. “I cannot go back. I must either return to Georgiana and Elizabeth or die in the sea. I can wait no longer for another opportunity to show itself.”
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