I was sick with the flu for a week and missed my appointment with the neurologist but finally got in to see her. It looks like I have Multiple Sclerosis. There is an additional test (lumbar puncture) which will be done this week to confirm but between my MRI and personal history, she spoke in very definite terms. I wrote on Facebook that other than a case of strep, I haven’t had a doctor speak so assuredly about my situation in three or four years. Unfortunately, it takes a few weeks for the results to come back and I can’t start treatment without it. The good news is, that this flare up might end on its own and I might be feeling better by then. I sure hope so. Right now I have enough energy to do basically one out of house thing a day and not even every day. There are some days when I can do a few computer things stretched over the day and there are others when I can do nothing, just getting up to use the rest room is a challenge. I’ll be posting more about all things medical and my symptoms later.
I have finished Mr. Darcy’s Compassion but it’s taking me longer to look over it before I send it to the editor. At this point, I’m hoping for a release at the end of February. It’s possible that there will be changes made in editing to round some things out but there should not be any huge changes. I wanted this story to be focused on Darcy and Elizabeth and while they don’t live on a deserted island and the actions and lives of others affect them, I don’t believe it serves the story to have extended scenes with them. Lizzy’s entire journey is about learning to take care of herself so if we get wrapped up in the lives of her sisters, it would detract from that. You’ll have to use your imagination. 🙂
There is an epilogue to come after this post which I’ll share later this week.
It was three days before Darcy or Elizabeth turned their thoughts to leaving the Portpatrick Inn.
“Do you still wish to see Ireland? It would require more ships, but I think you tolerated it well, all in all,” Darcy said over their private breakfast on the fourth day after they married.
Elizabeth hung her head and chewed her bottom lip. It had been such a relief over the last few days to ignore all the problems with her family and just live for herself.
“Or we could go straight to Pemberley.”
Elizabeth did not reply and did not need to seek Darcy’s eyes to know he was looking at her and attempting to read her expression.
After several minutes of silence, Darcy asked in a voice just above a whisper, “Are you regretting our marriage?”
“What?” Elizabeth’s head bobbed up, and she threw her arms around him as they sat next to one another on a settee. “No, never that!” She pressed kisses to his face as tears filled her eyes.
“Then what are you afraid to tell me?”
Elizabeth sighed. She should have known he would pick up on her reticence. She should have guessed that he would feel hurt. “Before we left Holyhead, I had a letter from Jane.”
“Yes, I recall. You did not wish to discuss it.”
“She told me that our father was on his deathbed. He most assuredly dead by now. She asked me to return to Longbourn.”
“She asked for your return or attempted to manipulate it?”
“I am not quite sure,” Elizabeth confessed. “You can read it for yourself.” She retrieved the letter from a valise. “I do not think Jane would intentionally manipulate me, however, it hurts to not be sure. You can see, though, that I made my choice.”
Darcy scanned over Elizabeth’s letter and thought for a few moments before replying. “What do you wish to do now? We could go to Longbourn, and you could pay your respects to your father. I assume your mother is provided for?”
Elizabeth nodded. “Despite all of Mama’s fears, I know she had a competent jointure. Mary is welcome to live with Jane. Her income will be more than enough just for herself.” She blew out a long breath. “I suppose I do not know what I want to do. I feel as though I am supposed to return, as though it is a duty or expectation.”
“Do you fear what others will think or say if you do not go?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Is that so wrong of me?”
“Right and wrong are not at stake. If you feel in your heart it is the right thing to do, then do not dismiss it. However, if you only feel pulled to go because it might displease others of no consequence to yourself, then I would say it is harmful.” He reached for Elizabeth’s hand. “However, I will support you either way. I would not have you go alone.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth said and squeezed his hand. “I worry about my sisters and how they might bear the weight. However, it is not my role to save them. Jane is married now and perfectly in her rights to employ her time with her husband. Mama’s situation of losing her husband is pitiable, but I cannot heal her heart—if indeed her heart is touched at all. I will continue to communicate with Jane and begin writing Mary. I can always visit later. It is better to not begin how I mean to continue.”
“Very well, love.” He pulled Elizabeth to him and kissed her forehead. “So, do you wish to journey to Ireland or Pemberley?”
“I know we are far closer to Ireland than we will likely be at any other time and I do wish to see it someday, but I think I would very much like to go to Pemberley. I just want to go home with you.”
Elizabeth cuddled close to Darcy for the remainder of the morning. In the afternoon, they explored the port. Then, Darcy arranged for them to rent a carriage for their trip to Pemberley. They left the following morning and arrived in Dumfries before dinner on their second day of travel. While dining in the coaching inn, a man continually stared strangely at Elizabeth.
Before he left, he paused at their table. “A fine performance you gave a few nights ago, Miss Lucks.”
“I beg your pardon,” Darcy stood so suddenly his knee hit the table, jostling the silverware. “My wife is not an actress.”
“I mean no offense, sir,” the man said with raised palms. “She looks very much like Miss Angelina Maria Lucks who I saw only a few nights ago.” He turned a truly remorseful face to Elizabeth. “I ask for your forgiveness, Missus. You do look remarkably like her.”
Elizabeth blushed, but said, “All is forgiven, sir. I bid you good evening.”
The man nodded and walked on. Darcy took his seat, and the meal resumed as best it could. However, Elizabeth turned over what the man had said. When they returned to their room, she spoke her thoughts to her husband.
“I think, dearest, that man might have spoken of Lydia.”
“Do you think she would be an actress?” Darcy sounded shocked.
“It surprises me no less than her elopement did. She followed reports of many actresses in the gossip columns. She loved putting on plays when we were children. She and Maria Lucas sometimes made their dolls actresses. Maria always chose the name Maria Lucks. I could see Lydia poking fun by borrowing her friend’s never-to-be-realized stage name. Additionally, she would have had very few options available to her after Wickham’s abandonment. People have often said we looked very similar. Although,” Elizabeth added with a sad smile, “she always enjoyed letting everyone know she was taller.”
“Do you wish to see her?”
Elizabeth had a ready answer. “First, it is worth knowing a bit more about this woman. I do not know how she would have made her way to Dumfries. It could also be that she is part of a traveling troupe and has already left. At any rate, I think I should not publicly approach her. I am sorry for your sake if she is on stage.”
“Why is that?”
“The wife of Mr. Darcy related to an actress?” Elizabeth shook her head. “The scandal!”
“I do not care about that at all,” Darcy said. “I have told you I do not care about Society’s opinions anymore. At any rate, some actresses become quite famous and nearly respectable. It would be far better for her to have a visible profession than the more likely alternative.”
Elizabeth could only nod. “Then, I suggest you ask about Angelina Maria Lucks. When we are home at Pemberley, you could arrange for a representative to speak with her. I do not suppose she would give up her career or think we should offer her an alternative. She could not return to Longbourn. However, it would mean the world to me to know that she was alive, healthy, and reasonably safe.”
“An excellent plan, my love. Now, I would much rather discuss Elizabeth Darcy than sisters or actresses.”
“Yes.” Darcy smiled seductively and leaned close to her ear. “There is no other woman worth discussing. Your beauty is unparalleled.”
Elizabeth felt her face warm, and goose pimples covered her flesh. “You did not always think so.”
“Do not quote the ignorant and foolish, my love.”
He kissed just below her ear, causing a shiver to race through her body.
“That was when I only first knew you, and I know you far, far better now.”
He kissed down the side of her neck, and Elizabeth angled her head to give him better access. He reached her collar bone and sucked. Elizabeth’s toes curled, and a longing moan escaped her parted lips. “Fitzwilliam?”
“Yes, Elizabeth?” Darcy murmured against her flesh before continuing his exploration.
“Let us go to bed.”
Darcy scooped Elizabeth into his arms and carried her across the room.
“We will arrive at the house in about five minutes,” Darcy said as they turned up the drive to Pemberley two days later.
Elizabeth knew he could sense her anxiety. At first, she had expressed nothing but a desire to see her new home and meet her new sister, but as they drew closer to their destination, she had confessed to being nervous. It was incredibly difficult for her to articulate her fears and misgivings.
Thankfully, Darcy responded with patience, rather than presuming every self-doubt meant she regretted their marriage. He had praised her emotional strength and resiliency. Additionally, he acknowledged her hard work to overcome the crippling self-doubt and distrust which assailed her when they first met again. Darcy said she was one of the bravest people the world had ever known, and Generals could only wish to have her courage.
“Are you still nervous about meeting the staff?” He asked as he took her hand in his. “Remember what I said. There is no pressure to take on any duty for which you do not care. I did not marry you so I could have someone run my estate. I love you just as you are.”
Elizabeth gave him an encouraging smile. He knew just how to ease her fears. How had she ever worried he would regret marrying her? Even better than feeling comfortable in accepting his love, she realized that what she really sought was her own self-approval. She knew he would continue to support her in those healthy feelings. As such, all would be well no matter what the future held. It was fantastic to feel more carefree than she had in months.
She let out a happy sigh before meeting his eyes. “It is only fear of the unknown. I know there will be an adjustment period. I am determined, however, to keep myself happy first.”
“I would not want it any other way,” he said.
He did not ask, and she did not feel the pressure to add that she would see to his happiness. She had worried, a little, that considering her own feelings first was selfish. However, she need not be a slave to her own emotions. There was no reason why she could not consider her happiness while taking care of her husband’s feelings. She would not be like Mrs. Bennet who never thought anyone but herself.
“Here we are.” Darcy tugged on her hand and pointed out the window as the wooded lane cleared and they saw the mansion house situated behind the river they now approached.
“Oh!” Elizabeth breathed. “It is delightful!”
Darcy had turned his head to watch her reaction and grinned in response. He had told her she would like the grounds even more than the house and until this moment she was not entirely sure he was correct. She grinned at the idea of soon knowing every path.
The carriage pulled up to the house, stopping in front of the great stone steps. Outside, the staff awaited their arrival as Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley stood at the top. Darcy shared a smile with Elizabeth before handing her out of the carriage. She was most pleased to note there was no tremble to her hand.
They stopped in front of the housekeeper first. The look in Darcy’s eye as he gave the introductions and formally presented Elizabeth as Mrs. Darcy told her it was one of the highest honours of his life. Next, there was the reunion with Georgiana. After introducing Mrs. Annesley, Darcy addressed his sister.
She met him with nervous eyes, but he smiled adoringly at her. “Georgiana, may I present your new sister and my wife, Elizabeth Darcy?”
“I am very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Darcy,” Georgie curtseyed but did not meet Elizabeth’s eyes.
“You must call me Elizabeth, or even Lizzy.” Elizabeth approached and laid a hand on the younger girl’s arm. “I am pleased to have you as a new sister.”
Georgiana smiled and met Elizabeth’s eyes at last. She had wanted to convey to the younger girl that she was pleased with all she knew of her and would not love her only for Darcy’s sake.
Soon, they were inside and refreshing from their journey before a family dinner planned by Georgiana. As the evening wore on, Elizabeth’s gentle patience with the girl was rewarded. Georgiana’s increasingly left her shyness and timidity behind. They talked mostly of music and discussed duets they could practice in the coming weeks.
Elizabeth also conversed easily with Mrs. Annesley, and a scheme began to brew in her mind. Georgiana was not alone in her struggles. Too often Society would not even care about the causes for her troubles and condemn her as mad before packing her away in an asylum. There were others like Jane. Surely there were even more like Elizabeth. She had never contemplated suicide, but she had been in just as much pain and just as lost. She knew she needed help but had nowhere to turn. How she needed the bright light of compassion from someone! She would spend the rest of her life thanking God that Darcy came to illuminate her way.
She had not known how she would fill her time once she came to Pemberley, but as the evening wore on, Elizabeth considered a profound thought. If she could find others willing to be a beacon of hope, they would not be a small and distant light as dim as a candle. Instead, there would be a torch aflame for all to see. She knew no one save the people in Pemberley’s music room and relatives who had abandoned her or were too stubborn to admit their need. Elizabeth could change that, though. She had always been gifted in the art of conversation. This shared goal would be a quality she looked for when making new friends. Surely, she would meet Darcy’s neighbours and eventually they would go to London. She was not as confident as he that there was no good to be found in the ton.
As Elizabeth ended her first day as Mistress of Pemberley in her husband’s arms, she sighed in happiness. She had found the love of her life and perhaps the reason for her struggles. She would use them to help others. Georgiana could never replace her sisters, but she offered something even better: a sibling relationship built out of genuine love and respect and not merely the ties of blood. Soon, there would be letters from Longbourn as well as news of Kitty and Lydia. She would decide how to reply to them when the time came. However, Elizabeth was determined to never be guilted or manipulated again. Despite it all, she could forgive, even be grateful for, Mrs. Bennet. For, without the woman’s destructive parenting, Elizabeth never would have met Darcy once more or learned the most valuable lesson of loving herself.