You can read other Friday Features here: How Darcy Saved Christmas / Treasured / Reunited / Pledged / The Secrets of Pemberley / Mr. Darcy’s Miracle at Longbourn / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter Second Edition / Sufficient Encouragement/ Mr. Darcy’s Kindness / Once Upon a December / Love Lasts Longest / A Sense of Obligation / No Cause to Repine / Undone Business / Letters from the Heart / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter
What if Elizabeth ran away from Longbourn?
For years before beginning this story, I always thought there were shades of extreme dysfunction at Longbourn. I always wondered what it would be like if Elizabeth just said “Forget this place!” and ran off to find her own life in the sunset. Writing this story as entirely unlike what I expected.
First, I needed to set up sufficient grounds to make Elizabeth leave and have to fend for herself, all with the intention of going back for her sisters. I found that within my past. The story started as a catharsis just for me. I shared it with my betas and they were eager for more. In my own healing, I discovered that stories like Elizabeth’s need to be told. There is such an expectation that daughters should be loyal to their family until the end. That no matter what parents put you through, they’re worthy of your respect and you keep quiet about abuse. All that does is perpetuate the cycle. I had to write this Elizabeth’s story for my own sake. I published it for others’ sake.
Additionally, I wrote the bulk of it through immense physical pain. I was diagnosed with MS just before its release and from the end of 2018 had bizarre, terrifying, and agonizing neurological symptoms. Working on this story probably kept me sane and from an abyss of depression. It kept me going when it would have been easier to give up and wallow in bed.
I’m still not quite sure why, but this book rocked the Amazon rankings. At it’s best, it was #728 in the Kindle store. My books hardly ever break 1,000 for a variety of reasons. I don’t know if it was the subject matter, the teaser that I put on the book page, the fact that it was in Kindle Unlimited, or just pity for me. I haven’t been able to entirely replicate it. It’s remained my highest earning book at release. But I sure needed a “win” that March. I was, and remain, so thankful for the support readers have shown Mr. Darcy’s Compassion.
“Unwilling to return to Longbourn, I spent the last of my money on a hack and then walked the rest of the way to this village. Here, Mr. Cuthbert had pity on me and allowed me to work for room and board.”
“How long have you been here?”
“About two months,” Elizabeth said, and her chin quivered.
“You have been through more than anyone should—betrayed by all you knew and trusted. My heart truly breaks for you.”
Elizabeth looked at him warily. “Why should it? Why should you feel so much for me? Why take me in? Why ask all these questions?”
Suddenly she bolted from her seat. “Oh, I have been such a fool. Has this made you feel mighty? How the Bennets have fallen—how Elizabeth Bennet, headstrong, impertinent girl that she is—has her just desserts.”
She darted to the door, but Darcy reached it first. “Madam, I will not allow you to leave my company and face God knows what out there.”
“I have been here months and have managed to keep my virtue intact if that is your concern.” She glared at him, tilting her head back to meet his eyes. “I have no reputation left to lose at any rate.”
“I have no care for your virtue or reputation! I care for you! It is not safe, and you require rest. Your mental fortitude is at stake which I cherish far more—”
“Cherish?” Elizabeth’s eyes fluttered, and the tension in her frame eased. She now appeared slightly more confused than affronted.
Darcy led her back to the sofa. “It is natural after so many hurts to be wary of others. You do not know who you can trust, and I did not display much in our previous acquaintance to earn it.”
“No,” she agreed. “You did not.”
“Allow me to rectify that now,” he knelt at her side. “I will not return you to Longbourn. I do not condemn you, and I am not mocking you. Indeed, the story of your family concerns me, and I will speak more on that later. Allow me to assist you.”
“Are you to be my benefactor now? I did not forget your high handedness in ending my employment.”
“I ought to have considered differently, and if you still wish employment after you hear my offer, then I will help you procure some honourable position.”
“What is your offer?”
Darcy saw Elizabeth’s hands grip the armrests of her chair and felt her body shift to plant her feet more firmly on the ground. She was ready to dash away from him in an instant. It made his next words all the more foolish than if she were only a penniless runaway. Indeed, Elizabeth did not trust him and probably did not even like him very much. It mattered not. Once more, Darcy gathered her hands in his and attempted to put all the sincerity and emotion he could into his eyes. “I offer you my hand in marriage.”
Elizabeth leaned forward and peered into his eyes before ripping a hand from his and placing it on his brow. “Are you unwell, Mr. Darcy?”
“I am not ill and of a perfectly sound mind, if that is what you are asking.”
Pulling her hand back, Elizabeth leaned back in her seat. “Why would you offer me marriage? A man in your position must think he could have me for far less. An honourable man might suggest the governess trade or a lady’s companion. I had thought perhaps you meant to give me a recommendation to some poor relative.”
“I apologise if my offer offends,” he awkwardly rose from his kneeling position and took a seat on the sofa. Clearing his voice and attempting to conceal his mortification, he added, “I do not have any relations that would require your services, but I can make inquiries.”
“Pray, forgive me. I did not mean to seem affronted,” Elizabeth said quickly. “Only, think of what you have heard. It would be madness for any reputable gentleman to marry me.”
“Your present circumstances say nothing about your abilities. I am not taking a risk on an untried servant girl who can barely write her name. You are a gentleman’s daughter.”
Elizabeth gave him an astonished look. “And I suppose if having relations in trade were offensive that I have worked in a tavern means nothing at all?”
“As it stands, it does not sound as though you are very close to those relations.”
“So having no connections at all is sufficient? The conduct books should include that as a method to ensnare a wealthy suitor.”
“Be reasonable, Elizabeth,” Darcy said and leaned forward. “Do not make me into a monster. I would have you even with London or Longbourn connections. Even Mrs. Phillips—even Mr. Collins.”
Elizabeth gulped. “Why is that? You did not appear some great admirer of me in Hertfordshire. I am convinced you disapproved of my family and—”
“But never you,” he interrupted. “I never disapproved of you, Elizabeth. If I did not appear to admire you, it was only through the utmost effort on my part. I, too, have had revelations in our weeks apart. As much as you have faced hurt and betrayal—allowing you to see the truth of character of friends and family, I have also come to realise the depth of regard I have for a woman who I could not shake from my mind.”
“Forgive me,” Elizabeth shook her head. “Months ago, I came to understand that I must have misinterpreted you. I understood that Wickham played on your poor presentation in public and on my obvious dislike. I perceived if he was the very opposite of what he would show Society then you must be as well. I should not have brought up past hurts.”
“You are avoiding the topic at hand.” Darcy had noticed Elizabeth’s breath hitch when he said he could not forget her. Even now, her chest rose and fell rapidly. She would not meet his eyes, but she was not adamantly refusing him. She was not fleeing for the door. She did not push him aside—indeed, now she claimed to think well of him. He leaned closer.
“You will regret your choice. If anyone ever knew of my misfortune,” she shuddered. “You would be laughed at, and your sister would be shunned in Society.”
“I am not so simple-minded that I have not considered such an argument, weighed it, and found it unlikely. Even if it were to happen—I do not care.”
“You are too kind.” Elizabeth twisted her hands in her lap. “If Wickham is the foulest man on the Earth and he hates you, then you must be the kindest, and he hates all that you stand for. You cannot marry me simply because you feel sorry for my situation. Compassion is no way to start a marriage.”
Leaning forward more, Darcy whispered in Elizabeth’s ear, “What of love, then?”
Devastated. Abandoned. Will they find comfort in each other’s arms?
When Mr. Darcy stops for respite at a coaching inn, a warm meal and bed are all that are on his mind. Soon, he recognizes a tavern maid as none other than the woman who captured his heart weeks ago. Reeling from his own hardships, Darcy makes the impulsive decision to chase after her and offer assistance.
Elizabeth Bennet is alone and friendless in the world. Necessity drove her from her home and the life of a gentlewoman to working for her room and board. Mr. Darcy’s offer of aid is timely, but can she trust him when she has been hurt by all she calls family? Can she ever learn to love and forgive herself?
Mr. Darcy’s Compassion is Rose Fairbanks’ latest novel about healing deep-seated wounds, relinquishing faulty beliefs, and making a fresh start. If you love romance that is built upon genuine trust and restores the soul, then buy today!
*This story may contain triggers for emotional and/or sexual abuse survivors.