I planned to start posting this story months ago, but a move and health problems made a wrench in my plans. Once I was feeling up to writing again, I found it difficult to get back into this story and thus The Set Down came first.
I am currently undecided on this project. I have been working on an original story for a few months (well, actually for a few years) and unsure if I should continue Angelica and her siblings as a JAFF or turn it into an original series. So, I have decided to begin posting on my blog earlier than planned to get opinions.
It is not a true sequel to Pride and Prejudice, but rather is a sequel to my first novella, The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter. In that story, Darcy and Elizabeth have a less painful path to marriage. The main difference from Canon is that while Lydia and Wickham do marry, he is sent to the Continent right away and is presumed to die very soon. Additionally, Darcy and Elizabeth first meet because of her cousin, Michael Gardiner who mistook Georgiana Darcy for an angel. You’ll have to read the book to learn more, but his belief that most people were named after angels encouraged Darcy and Elizabeth to name their children after angels or passed loved ones.
The story begins in 1836 and is centered on the debut of Darcy and Elizabeth’s eldest daughter, Angelica. There are other posts discussing the rest of the family and you’ll learn more about them throughout the story.
That being said, Austen’s characters will only have brief cameos. This first chapter is from Darcy’s point of view, and he and Elizabeth will be helpful parents at a later time in this story but the majority of each story will be from the point of view of one of their children and their romantic partner.
As such, I could easily tweak things and set this in the Victorian era without any relationship to Jane Austen at all. I have enjoyed thinking of these characters as Darcy and Elizabeth’s children through the years (the series has been brewing for at least five years), but I admit they may be better loved as original characters. I would really appreciate feedback on this! I don’t mind writing this as a passionate project with limited sales, but at the same time, I do run a business and need to be mindful of return of investment.
That being said…let’s meet the Darcys!
Fitzwilliam Darcy watched as the angelic lady descended the stairs at Pemberley. His breath caught at her beauty. She was easily the loveliest young lady present at the ball held in her honour; she saw him, a dazzling smile spread across her face, making her eyes dance. They sparkled in the candlelight.
Her white gown had fashionable and enormous off the shoulder sleeves gathered just below her elbow. She shunned excessive adornment and instead had chosen a gown of stunning satin with a crimson overdress, held at the waist by a diamond encrusted belt. Matching brooches pinned the overdress to the sleeves and her glorious blonde hair was crowned with a delicate diamond tiara. She wore no other jewelry or finery, allowing her natural beauty to shine.
Reaching the bottom of the steps, Darcy hooked her hand over his arm and led her to the entrance to await the guests. She greeted each of them with a smile and a kind word, her tender heart and good nature shone even brighter than her beauty. After the final guest arrived, a few people lingered in her circle. She laughed and teased, offering her dance card to several young men when requested for a set. Each time, Darcy had to repress a growl, though perhaps once or twice he had emitted a sound, given the anxious expressions the gentlemen threw in his direction.
At last, the music began, and Darcy took his lady to the floor for the first set, swelling with pride. She moved with practiced grace and ease. He always enjoyed dancing with her and tonight was no exception, no matter how little he generally liked the activity. Although he knew his expression was likely austere and grim, she did not laugh at him or tease. As he brought her from the floor and they awaited the next gentleman to approach, she squeezed his arm and gave him a sympathetic smile. An eager young man approached, and Darcy’s heart thudded loudly in his chest as she let go of his arm and took another’s. Watching her go felt like a knife to his gut.
“You did very well, my dear,” his wife of twenty-five years said from his side. Darcy glanced down at her. Emotion shimmered in Elizabeth’s eyes. “It is hard to see her so grown up, is it not?”
Darcy merely nodded as he looked out over the sea of skirts swaying on the dance floor. “Must we do this four more times?”
“I am afraid so, my love. Perhaps it will get easier with each one?”
He shook his head. “I do not believe it will. Your father surely never found it easier.”
“No, I suppose Papa did not.” Elizabeth squeezed his arm before laughing to herself. “Did you ever think all those years ago that you might be in his position with five daughters of your own?”
His lips curled up in a small smile. Lizzy could always put him in a better mood. “The thought of that would have put me into hysterics like your mother.”
Elizabeth grinned. “It does seem I can understand my parents far better now than I did as a child. The boys are so loud sometimes that I wish to lock myself in the library the way my father did.”
“Do not forget our many impertinent daughters. I never have a moment’s peace from teasing these days!”
“You are too easy a target for them. And do not hide your smile from me. I know you love it.”
“That I do, for they are just like their mother.”
With golden blonde hair and sky blue eyes, Angelica did not look very much like her mother, but was very like her in spirit. While their eldest daughter had inherited the coloring of her aunts Jane and Georgiana, the rest of Darcy’s daughters had the darker hair and eyes of their parents. Unfortunately, they had also all inherited a fine share of their parents’ dispositions.
“Rather too much, sometimes,” Elizabeth said with a rueful look. “Whatever were we thinking of bringing eight children into the world with my impertinence and your obstinacy?”
Darcy gave his wife a heated look before whispering into her ear. “I am rather sure we were thinking of far more pleasant things at the time.”
He pulled back in time to see Elizabeth’s eyes widen in shock before shaking her head and grinning. “Wicked man. You are incorrigible.”
“A man with eight children often is, Elizabeth.”
Their discussion ceased for a moment so they could greet passersby.
“You are not regretting your decision to take the boys and their friends fishing tomorrow, are you?”
“Not at all. It shall be most welcome to be out of the house and away from all the females.”
“And their talk of lace?” Elizabeth chuckled. “If only Papa had had a son to give him such a reprieve.”
“The fashion these days encourages far more lace and fripperies than there was in our youth.” Darcy turned his head to hide a grimace as their niece passed by them. “Alice takes far too much after her aunt Caroline.”
“Only in her taste in gowns. I do not think Angelica would enjoy her company so much if she were much like Caroline in personality.”
“Unless Angie were like your sister Jane.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Well, we have no reason to fear on that account. I am sure she is far too much like me.”
“Yes, kindness combined with good sense. I have always thought so.”
Elizabeth shook her head in disagreement. It was a topic often canvassed by the parents. Their opinions often diverged, for Elizabeth had a harsher view of her younger self than Darcy did. Additionally, he had to admit that he was often blind to his children’s faults, especially his many daughters. They were all the apple of their father’s eye. Of course, he did not know how much he would enjoy this next stage of life. He glared at the young man dancing with his eldest daughter until the man’s hand returned to a more appropriate place on her waist.
“Who is dancing with Angie?” Darcy asked his wife.
“I believe that is one of George’s friends, the elder of the two Ward brothers. That one is Daniel. The other one is John, but I do not see him just now.”
“Heirs to the banking family?”
Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, although the gossip says the elder Mr. Ward is angling for the daughter of a peer. They would like a title for the family.”
“Good. I do not think I like Mr. Ward.”
“You have never met him, my love.”
Darcy grunted. “That he is enjoying his dance too much with my daughter is enough to make me hate him.”
“Do you not wish for her to marry?”
“She does not wish to marry for several years.” Darcy shrugged his shoulders. “Why should I wish it?”
“Then, at the very least, you should hope that she may have an enjoyable season.”
“She may enjoy her season far from Mr. Ward.”
Elizabeth merely sighed as the set ended, and they clapped. Mr. Ward escorted Angelica to the punch table. Darcy continued to glare.
“We must greet the guests, my dear.” When Darcy did not move, Elizabeth took his hand in hers. “We have raised her well. Trust her. She has her elder brothers and cousins watching over her as well.”
Reluctantly, Darcy followed his wife as they made their rounds. The unease of being on display had never left him. Still, after many years of marriage to Elizabeth, the discomfort had lessened. She had invited all of his favourite people, who took pity on him on this day above others. This evening, his anxiety was due to the prospect of losing his eldest daughter more than his personal concerns of disliking large gatherings and dancing.
“It is a splendid crush!” Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, Lady Cavendish, said before kissing his cheek. “She is doing quite well,” Georgiana whispered.
“I do not think that makes me feel better,” Darcy muttered under his breath. Louder, he said, “I did not think you could come. Elizabeth said you had sent your regrets.”
“I am feeling much better today. I will retire early but did not want to miss my niece’s first ball.” She sighed while looking over the ballroom. “I remember my own so fondly.” She sent a sly smile to her brother. “If I recall, you wore a similar scowl at each of the balls I attended. If you had your way, I would be an old maid at home with you still.”
“Would that have been so terrible?” Darcy asked. “Did we not provide a comfortable and loving home for you?”
A soft look overcame Georgiana’s face. “You would never begrudge me the love I have found with Julian. I know, deep down, that is what you want for Angelica as well.”
Darcy sighed, the tension in his shoulders easing. “If she found a man as worthy of her hand as Lord Julian was for yours and she loved him just as deeply, then I suppose I would have to part with her. However, I pray that it does not happen for many years.”
“Love moves at its own time, Fitzwilliam. I thought you learned that with Elizabeth.”
“True, but we were both older than Angelica is now.”
“Elizabeth was barely two years older than your daughter is now. With you and Elizabeth as parents, I daresay that Angelica has more sense than Elizabeth had at eighteen.” She raised her brows as her brother began to interrupt. “Now, now, I am as fond of Elizabeth and my Bennet relations as you are. However, you cannot deny that you are more sensible parents than your in-laws were, and as such, your children have more than an ounce of sense among them. George and Malachi are very promising young men, and the older girls are everything proper.”
“Thank you,” Darcy said with a genuine smile. Any vestiges of pride which remained in him was all for his children and wife. “Still, I value caution, and young ladies can often be mistaken in a man’s character.”
“That may be true, but it is a lesson they must learn for themselves.”
Darcy murmured a reluctant agreement before bidding his sister farewell. He smiled as his long-time best friend, Charles Bingley, approached.
“Chin up, old man,” Bingley said. “I promise you will get through this.”
Bingley’s eldest daughter was the same age as Darcy’s eldest son and recently engaged. This had allowed Bingley’s next daughter, Alice, to come out the month before.
“Does it get any easier?” Darcy asked.
Bingley’s brows contracted. “I did not find them difficult to endure, but then you always disliked a ball.”
“I meant letting go of your daughters.”
“I daresay you have faced this before. Lady Cavendish made a spectacular match. You have nothing to fear.” Bingley shrugged. “Besides, they are not ours to hold on to forever. Children are meant to leave home.”
Darcy agreed, and their conversation moved on to other topics. However, he could not prevent his mind from turning now and then to memories of years past. Their home was once filled with the sound of children’s laughter and a baby’s cries. How had time slipped away so fast? As he busied himself with the requirements of life, his children had grown before he had even realised it.
Once, he had looked forward to sending his eldest sons to school. They had been headstrong and difficult to manage, inheriting Darcy’s obstinacy and Elizabeth’s energy. When the time finally came, he realised how empty his days would be without them. Likewise, Elizabeth told him that the girls were fast getting to the age where they needed to spread their wings and were ready for their own homes. Preparing them for their debuts and ensuring their education consumed much of her time, despite their governess and tutors.
Now, as the time had come for Angelica to enter the adult world, Darcy and Elizabeth relished the stages of life their youngest children were at. Their youngest, Tommy, was spoiled and precocious. He was utterly indulged by everyone, especially his two eldest sisters, Angelica and Seraphina. Naming each daughter after an angel at the suggestion of Elizabeth’s cousin Michael Gardiner; Ariel and Raphaela came next and were still in the schoolroom. Christiane was their final daughter and was a sensitive, old soul, sometimes seeming closer to fifty years old than ten.
Each one was precious to Darcy, and each would be missed when their time came to depart the house of their youth. As he watched his eldest daughter smile in the arms of yet another young man, he prayed for patience and wisdom. They were all of them full young and determined to taste life.
At last, the ball ended, and the final guests left. Several were invited to stay for a week, including George’s friends. One of them gave Angelica a lingering look as she walked up the stairs with a tired and dreamy smile on her face, arm in arm with her mother. Silently scolding the young man with a raised brow, he returned Darcy’s look with a slight blush.
Remembering all too well the passions of youth, Darcy firmed his resolve to closely protect his daughter against any potential suitors.