Fantasy Friday- Mr. Darcy and the Bewtiched Sisters, Chapter One part 2

Road in dark forest

Here’s the second part of Chapter One! I really like how we get more of Darcy’s point of view in this version.

London

September 23, 1811

 

Fitzwilliam Darcy now just under thirty, with the same dark hair and piercing blue eyes of his youth, leafed through several letters of recommendations. He brushed an unruly and curly lock slightly to the side.

“Richard,” Darcy said in a deep but distinct voice, “I think Mrs. Annesley is the one.”

Richard, around the same age as Darcy and wearing Regimentals, took a sip of wine before replying. “I believe you’re right, which will come as no surprise to you.” He assumed an exaggeratedly pompous posture as his companion scowled. “Fitzwilliam Darcy is never wrong.”

“Very amusing,” Darcy scowled. These days, he felt like everything he did was wrong. “Has she spoken to you at all?”

“No. Father and I only get one-word answers. Mother gets little more. When we mention her returning here, she bursts into tears.”

Darcy glared as Richard drained his glass as though there was nothing unusual with what he just said.

“Well, if you’re sure her references all check out, then I’ll be off. The Major has complained about my absences recently. You’ll be ready for Georgiana at the end of the month?”

Darcy’s grip on the papers tightened. He had checked Mrs. Annesley’s references three times personally and employed half a dozen others to do so as well. He would not be caught unawares again. It was all entirely his fault, but Georgiana could not bear the devastation she almost caused by her planned, but thankfully interrupted, elopement. “Yes. I think redoing the upstairs drawing room will excite her. And by then I will be free of daily correspondence with my steward at Pemberley. I do not want any distractions when she returns.”

Richard stood and shook his head. “You’ll frighten her more if you hover. Don’t treat her like a child — ”

“That is precisely what she is!” Darcy said with a quietness that belied his intense feelings and the temperature in the room dropped. “I never should have allowed her to go to Ramsgate, or to entrust her care to a woman who was not a relation.” His sister, twelve years his junior, was all he had left of his family. His parents had believed he would protect her and instead his selfishness nearly led to her ruin.

“You will not always live with her,” Richard said. “Someday she will marry, and you will have to have faith that man will see to her wants and needs. You will have to trust Georgiana…and yourself,” he added softly.

Rather than replying to his cousin, Darcy turned his attention to other correspondence. His mentor wrote to him of a group of ladies in Hertfordshire that he expected to come into magical powers very soon. The General reminded him of his duty to his mother’s memory. He alone knew all of her prophecies — which ultimately got her killed — and he alone could determine if these sisters fit the prophecy of restoring balance to the forces of good and evil.

Darcy did not need the reminder. He could never forget his duty, even as he loathed the requirement. Did anyone understand the pressure he felt having to straddle two worlds? The mortal world required he present the face of a typical English gentleman: impeccable manners, landlord, with a healthy interest in sporting, ladies, politics, concern for over taxation, and his estate’s drainage ditches. To be entirely mortal would mean sacrificing his magical heritage. The magical world, however, desired he fully embrace his legacy. Yet, how could he want to live in a world which killed his loving mother? A world that now thought they had endless claims on him no matter that he had his own desires. Both worlds had one thing in common: they expected him to marry one of their own.

Memories washed over Darcy. His father and mother had a love story the likes of which few could understand. However, his mother had kept her powers a secret and the older Mr. Darcy did not take to the truth very well. Especially as he only became aware of his wife’s abilities when he began having premonitions himself. It was proof that they were true soul mates but put the Darcy family into even more trouble when the Caligo took over.

While Mr. Darcy had been called away on Council business, Caligo struck at Pemberley. Even now, that day haunted Darcy. If he had been braver, he would have protected his mother instead of hiding. He could have prevented her death, and that tormented him more than any concerns about weaknesses in the magical world. In the years that followed, Darcy’s father could hardly look at the boy who led to his wife’s demise.

“What a monstrous frown, Cousin,” Richard interrupted Darcy’s musings.

“News from the General.”

Although Darcy did not serve in the military or the magical community’s counterpart the agmen, he headed the Cabinet of Premonition. In particular, he had taken over his father’s tasks of investigating claims of an ancient prophecy regarding three sisters who would restore the balance of power between good and evil. His mother had the sight and became a renowned oracle. In her later years, most of her prophecies proclaimed the impending arrival of the Bewitched Sisters. Darcy did not realize it at the time, but most of the things his mother taught him, from nursery rhymes to fables, held some degree of memorizing her prophecies. The instruction served as insurance should she be killed and evil infiltrate the Council.

“He and the family will return to their estate in Hertfordshire around Michaelmas to investigate a claim to the prophecy.”

“Ah,” Richard said with raised eyebrows. “So it begins again. Are you ready for it?”

Darcy sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I only wish I did not have to leave Georgiana, but she must stay.” In the years since he had become Minister of Prophecy, he had investigated many claims between sisters.

“This is the first time you will be staying with the Tilneys, however,” Richard said. “Bingley’s sister—”

“I know she’s a devious, grasping woman, and a powerful witch. I will not fall prey to her wiles — magical or mortal.”

“I did not mean to insinuate you would,” Richard raised his hands to cease Darcy’s tirade. “I only worry about the added stress you must bear.”

“Thank you,” Darcy gave his cousin a soft but sincere smile.

He had few he could count on and few who understood him. Richard had reason to fear Darcy’s travels to Hertfordshire with the General. Tilney’s first wife had died five years ago, and he remarried last year. It was not a love match by any means. Mrs. Bingley was still lovely at forty and had a substantial fortune. Additionally, she had a noble magical legacy. Darcy, however, had reason to rejoice and mourn the match. His good friend Charles Bingley was now the General’s step-son, and that would naturally help advance his career and position in both worlds. On the other hand, Charles’ sister Caroline had set her cap at Darcy years ago and would not give him up.

“I had best be off,” Richard said and stood. “Give my regards to Charles and Henry.”

“Is that all you wish me to do?” Darcy asked with a raised brow.

“Oh, I’ll be around with a letter for Ellie. Why would I trust you to give her my sentiments? She might just as easily fall for my loving words from your rich mouth.”

Darcy laughed. “She is far too intelligent for that.”

“That she is,” Richard smiled and agreed. “She loves me, after all.” The gentlemen shared a laugh and Richard took his leave.

After his cousin had left, Darcy perused the General’s letter again. It was an unusual set of circumstances. Mr. Bennet had two daughters. The eldest was an empath, and the younger had the ability to create and control fire. His step-daughter had just come out and was rumored to have the sight. However, Darcy did not think as step-sisters they would have the required bond to manifest the strength of the Bewitched Sisters. Additionally, their powers were currently bound, and while they would soon be released, they would be utter novices at the craft. It seemed unlikely they would fulfill the prophecy, but Darcy’s duty required he examine them anyway. Too many mortals and witches both had perished in the last twenty years. Once peace was restored, Darcy could have the peaceful country existence he had always craved.

Fantasy Friday- Pride and Prejudice and Prophecies, Mr. Darcy and the Bewitched Sisters Chapter One, post one

I’m going to do a cover reveal when I get closer to publication so for now we just have the Fantasy Fridays graphic. Here’s the prologue in case you missed it.

Road in dark forest

Chapter One

Longbourn, Hertfordshire

September 21, 1811

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that love is the greatest magic of all and to most of the old families in Britain, just as inconceivable.

As the Bennets of Longbourn in Hertfordshire were neither an ancient family nor had they the distinction of rank or wealth, they must be forgiven for Mr. Bennet learning to dearly love his second wife. Despite this vulgarness, they had not openly spoken of the magical world in sixteen years, at least. When news arrived of returning neighbors after a long absence, the conversation between husband and wife were so discreet as to puzzle their three adult daughters. They gathered in the drawing room to enjoy the last hours of sun through the southern windows.

“Have you heard, Mr. Bennet, that General Tilney is to return to Netherfield Abbey, at last?” Martha Bennet asked her husband.

After several moments of silence, Mr. Bennet replied from behind a newspaper. “Is he? I suppose he has his reasons.”

“Indeed. He has married a Mrs. Bingley.” Mrs. Bennet pulled a lamp closer as she pulled out a pile of stockings to darn for the little children.

“And does the new Mrs. Tilney have any grown children? The General’s should all be past their majority by now.”

“Yes, all of their children and a large party of friends are coming to Netherfield.”

Mr. Bennet put down his paper and raised his eyebrows in silent question.

His wife complied. “They are to be here in time for the ball after Michaelmas.”

Mr. Bennet stroked his jaw line. “I suppose that will turn the neighborhood on its heel.”

“Will you call on him?” Mrs. Bennet gave her darning more attention than it usually warranted and did not meet her husband’s eyes.

Mr. Bennet put aside the newspaper and walked across the room to the bookshelves on a far wall. He scanned it for several minutes, muttering under his breath. “I believe I’ll read Leonora to you all tonight. You like that one, don’t you, Lizzy?”

Their second eldest daughter looked up from where she sat with her sisters. “You know I like all those sorts of novels — ”

She was interrupted by the youngest, Catherine. “Oh, no. Why not The Italian?”

“No, Kate! Not that one again!” Lizzy argued. “I am sick of melodrama.” She tossed a ribbon at her younger sister’s head, who shrieked in undignified shock. “I was aiming for the basket to your side. It’s not my fault your head is so big,” she said with a shrug and a smirk while Kate glowered.

“Elizabeth,” the eldest said in a firm but gentle voice. Her wide, clear blue eyes made it difficult to displease her.

“No need to defend me, Jane,” Kate said. “I know how to get even.”

Elizabeth’s jaw dropped open for a scathing retort, but Mrs. Bennet cleared her throat. “Girls,” she said in a sharp tone and with raised eyebrows. Her dark eyes transformed from gentle to piercing and each daughter ducked their heads and returned to their work.

“Ah, here we are. The Vision of Don Roderick by Scott shall be an agreeable compromise,” Mr. Bennet said as though he had not paid any heed to the squabbling of a moment before.

“Mr. Bennet,” Mrs. Bennet said in a milder tone than she used on her daughters but one that demanded an answer all the same.

Mr. Bennet sighed before speaking. “I think it better should I see him at the ball and allow him to settle in first.”

The answer displeased his wife, who sucked in a breath and pursed her lips in a thin line. However, she said nothing.

The three eldest daughters exchanged curious looks with each other. Ordinarily, their parents had far too much sense to care this much about a neighbor returning to his estate.

Elizabeth mused to herself that her birth mother would have had many flutterings over a wealthy gentleman with available sons coming to the area. The first Mrs. Bennet had passed five winters before in an illness that swept the area and took her three youngest daughters and their nearest neighbor, Mrs. Tilney. The current Mrs. Bennet’s first husband, the Reverend Morland, also passed as they were visiting a relation in Hertfordshire.

Mr. Bennet found himself with two grief-stricken daughters of marriageable age, and Mrs. Morland with several children and no pension, the two married for necessity when their half mourning was complete. General Tilney had quickly left the area and took his children: two sons and a daughter, with him. They had not heard a thing from him or about him in all these years.

“Jane, Lizzy,” said Kate, “do you remember General Tilney or his children?”

“It was years ago,” answered Jane, “but they were all kind.”

“But did you know them well?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Eleanor is Jane’s age but the boys, Frederick and Henry, are four and two years older than her. They were too old to join in our games.”

Kate frowned, and Elizabeth passed a newly mended handkerchief to her. Kate had the most patience for embroidery out of all the girls. Elizabeth looked out the window longingly. It was now too dark for a stroll in the garden. Her father took a break from his reading to place lamps around the room. The slightly worn but pale wallpaper and several well-placed mirrors magnified the light. Elizabeth shuddered at how much they would spend monthly in candlesticks otherwise.

Jane stretched out a gown her youngest sister had outgrown and neatly cut a rectangle. She cut a long strip from a contrasting fabric to make an apron string. “Eleanor was at school when her mother died, as was Henry. The eldest was at university. We had seldom been in their company for many years before Mrs. Tilney’s death. I know not being at home bore heavily on them all.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, as much as I wish Mother would have agreed to send us to school, I am glad we were at home for her final hours.”

Her mother had insisted she would have missed her daughters too much to send them to school, but Elizabeth believed the real reason was that her mother was a spendthrift. Of course, her step-mother’s brood of children cost nearly as much, and so the Bennets continued to spend most of their annual income of two thousand pounds a year.

Kate let out a happy sigh. “General Tilney must have loved his wife very much if he could not stand to be home or remarried until now.”

“Perhaps,” Elizabeth said while shrugging. She had been fifteen and in little company of either elder Tilneys.

At the same moment, Jane said, “Of course!”

“Such romantic sensibilities must be passed on to his sons then,” Catherine continued.

“Kate!” Elizabeth chided quietly. Her sister read too many romantic and gothic novels. “Life is not like your books. Do you suppose that your mother felt the loss of your father any less than General Tilney would have felt of his wife? And she remarried quickly.”

“My mother did love Father dearly,” she replied, evidently reconsidering.

“Life is not fair to women, Lizzy,” Jane said. “Mama may love Papa now, but you know that was not the arrangement when they married.”

Elizabeth frowned as she pulled out another handkerchief from the mending basket. At least this one was for a brother and therefore required less fancy needlework. “Mama, is it James that needs more handkerchiefs?”

“Allow me to consult the list,” Mrs. Bennet said and held a ledger toward the lamp at her side. As a mother of nine children of various ages, she managed the household through extreme organizational means. “Yes, James and John both,” she informed Elizabeth. “What they do with them, I don’t know,” she muttered to herself and stabbed a child’s stocking with her needle.

Elizabeth bent her head over her work and blew a wisp of dark hair out of her eyes. She kept her thoughts to herself about the potential personalities of their neighbors. Jane was too apt to trust and like people. No intimacy had existed between the Netherfield and Longbourn families. Jane would only know what she had seen on the civil calls and large dinners. Additionally, she had only been in company for a year before the Tilneys left the area. She had always been predisposed to view everyone in a favorable light.

Elizabeth wondered if the situation of their parents’ demise and remarriage colored the outlooks that Jane and Kate had of romance and marriage. For herself, she was not easily pleased or impressed. A man would have to love her quite ardently to marry her with only fifty pounds to her name and yet that could hardly be sensible. She could never marry a man out of his wits.

Pride & Prejudice & Epiphanies- Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

P&P&EPrevious Chapters: Chapter OneChapter Two Chapter ThreeChapter Four / Chapter FiveChapter SixChapter Seven

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

Longbourn

January 13, 1812

 

Elizabeth looked in the mirror as she readied for her wedding day. The three weeks of her engagement to Mr. Darcy had been a whirlwind. Last week, her cousin, Mr. Collins, had married her best friend, Charlotte. Lady Lucas enjoyed crowing about the county that although Mrs. Bennet had three engaged daughters, hers married first. Amazingly, Elizabeth’s mother had not taken the bait. The revelations of the weeks preceding her engagement remained fixed in Mrs. Bennet’s mind, as well as the minds of the others.

The house was quiet now while Jane, Elizabeth, and Mary shared a chamber to dress. Mrs. Bennet and Aunt Gardiner were downstairs overseeing the wedding breakfast. Kitty, Lydia, and Georgiana were helping with decorations. Elizabeth smiled softly as she considered that at last her father would have the quiet and peace he had long desired, but it came at such a cost.

“I think I am ready,” Elizabeth said. She had elected to use the mirror last.

“Are you sure?” Mary asked, her voice trembling.

“You are not having second thoughts, are you, dearest?” Jane asked and hugged her sister.

“No, I do not think so.” Mary shook her head.

Elizabeth smiled. The engagement had allowed Mary’s beauty to blossom. She now looked lovelier than she ever had before, and the confidence she gained from feeling the unconditional love of a good man made her glow.

“I love Richard so very much,” Mary whispered. “I am worried about being a wife; running a house and pleasing him.”

“He does not seem very hard to please,” Elizabeth said. Richard was one of the most amiable gentlemen she had ever met, and she looked forward to calling him brother.

“I know,” Mary agreed, “I never said my fears were rational.”

Jane and Elizabeth shared an amused look.

“He is so…so worldly. What if I cannot please him like a wife should?” Mary blushed scarlet.

“Oh,” Jane said and looked at her feet.

From the colour rising in her elder sister’s cheeks, Elizabeth guessed that Jane also had such fears.

Pulling on courage that Elizabeth did not know she had, she came to her sisters’ sides. “Do you believe they love you?”

They both nodded.

“Then what do you have to fear? Our gentlemen do not love us because they believe we are perfect. That would not be love. As much as we see their flaws, they see ours.”

“Sometimes I do fear that Charles puts me on a pedestal,” Jane confessed. “Although I know if I had shown him more encouragement, he never would have left Netherfield.”

“Did you say as much to him?” Elizabeth asked.

“I tried, but he would not listen. He took all the blame.”

Elizabeth nodded. “He was not entirely innocent. Selfishly, I would rather you be with a man who thinks you faultless than who tosses all blame on you.”

“Lizzy,” Jane laughed, “you would not want the same for yourself. I know you have disagreed with Mr. Darcy about him taking the blame for everything.”

“Our mistakes are far different from either yours or Charles’s. We will all soon be married and have plenty of time to talk with our husbands. I am sure you will find a way to say what you must. Do not let this evening end without expressing your fears.”

Mary sighed. “It is not as easy for Jane and me, I think. Our husbands did not save our lives at risk to themselves.”

“Is that what has worried you?” Elizabeth laughed. “Well, Mr. Darcy did not fight tooth and nail to come propose to me for weeks on end. He did not even want to love me. Nor did he kiss me senseless in a crowded room.”

“I was not senseless,” Mary pouted.

“Did you stop him?” Elizabeth raised her brows.

“Of course not,” Mary laughed. “That was proof of my good sense!”

“Indeed!” Elizabeth and Jane laughed as well.

“We must not compare our experiences. I trust that just as we each have the perfect man for our personalities, we have experienced the best journey to love in our individual way. Let us try an experiment. Mary, how did you know you loved the colonel?”

Mary blushed but raised her chin proudly. “You know that I recorded journal entries. Increasingly, I grew concerned about the strangeness occurring. However, whenever I saw Richard, I felt my worries vanish. Something about him gave me hope. Something told me he would assist us. Even after he kissed me, I had not known I loved him. Now, I can see that I saw in him what was lacking in my life: a source of joy and someone I could confide in and rely upon.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Jane?”

“All my life I have been called beautiful. It never felt like anyone saw beneath my exterior. When Mr. Bingley returned and apologised, when he understood the pain I went through, I knew he possessed my heart. He made me feel truly beautiful by recognising I was more than the sum of a well-proportioned figure and face.”

Now, both sisters looked expectantly at Elizabeth. “Darcy always created extreme emotions in me. The passion he stirred frightened me. Hatred was so much easier to understand and maintain. However, I craved to know more of him. To understand him. When we faced Wickham, he showed me parts of himself that he had tucked away from others. When I thought he might die…it was like a part of me was dying as well. I may not have always recognised my feelings as love, but once I did, I would not let them go.”

“I think I understand,” Mary said. “I am ready now. I wish to become Mrs. Richard Fitzwilliam.”

Jane eagerly nodded, and the three sisters rose from the bed they sat upon and hugged. Walking down the stairs, their family awaited them in the drawing room. The carriage took them to the church, and while they recited their vows, their hearts soared, knowing their joy was shared by a sister as well.


I hope you enjoyed reading about Kitty, Lydia, Mrs. Bennet and even Mr. Wickham finding a better path in life. I’ll be posting an extended epilogue called MR. DARCY’S CHRISTMAS CAROL in the next few days.

You may also purchase MR. DARCY’S MIRACLE AT LONGBOURN, going live as ebook on Amazon, Nook, Kobo and iBooks on 12/8/17 which contains all three parts.

Pride & Prejudice & Epiphanies- Hallelujah Chorus

P&P&EPrevious Chapters: Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six

Hallelujah Chorus

London

December 23, 1811

 

Darcy entered the rented stagecoach and sighed. Across from him, Mr. Gardiner smiled.

“Relieved?”

“Incredibly,” Darcy answered. “I know you might think I should have pushed for this years ago, but devotion to my father’s memory made it impossible.”

Mr. Gardiner shook his head and held up his hands. “No, no. I do not pass judgment on the situation. I think perhaps I saw it with more clarity, but surely even your father would have washed his hands of Wickham after everything.”

“If Father had been alive, a great number of these things never would have happened.”

“You cannot know that,” Gardiner insisted. “If the events of this season have not made that clear to you, then perhaps nothing will.”

Darcy grew quiet. He had not thought Wickham destined to become a murderous madman. Darcy had long believed that if his father had lived, many events would have happened differently. However, he never would have met Elizabeth. That was an alternate reality he did not wish to consider. All the headache and heartache with his nemesis was worth the joy he felt with her.

“Perhaps things may have been different with Father alive,” Darcy said slowly, “but that does not mean they would have been better.” The years that his father was alive and yet blind to the perfidy of Wickham’s ways had been inexpressibly painful to Darcy.

Gardiner peered at him.

“What is it?”

“I was checking for grey at your temples,” he laughed. “For such a young man, you speak with wisdom!”

Darcy chuckled. He genuinely liked Mr. Gardiner and his wife. They had both been easy to talk with. They were neither vulgar nor conceited. He had invited them to Pemberley next Christmas. Mrs. Gardiner added the notion of touring Pemberley wrapped in snow. Elizabeth’s eyes lit with joy as she listened to Darcy talk about the sleigh rides and snowball fights of his youth.

Longing tugged at his heart. It would make for a very long day, but they were now on their return trip to Meryton. Having lived through the pain of separation from Elizabeth for a month and then the havoc of recent events, he wished never to leave her side again. When he arrived at Longbourn that evening, he hoped she would consent to a speedy wedding. Grinning, Darcy did not think the other prospective bridegrooms would dislike the notion of a triple wedding.

When not woolgathering about his beloved, Darcy and Gardiner spoke of fishing and hunting. Darcy learned Gardiner had enough income to purchase an estate, like Bingley’s father had amassed, but he did not wish to give up the day-to-day control of his enterprise. He enjoyed the work, and Darcy respected him all the more for it. Most landed gentlemen became useless wastes and raised just as terrible children. George Darcy had worked hard to keep his children from becoming such, although with influences from his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, it was not easy.

Mr. Gardiner must have sensed the direction of Darcy’s thoughts, for his next question was about the very lady. “I understand your aunt has an estate in Kent. She is the patroness of my brother-in-law’s heir.”

“Yes, such a strange set of connections. He is to marry Elizabeth’s friend. It seems that even if I had not returned to Netherfield, I would see Elizabeth again at Easter.”

Gardiner grinned. “Love conquers all, then!”

“Indeed.” Darcy smiled.

“I am happy to hear you agree. My wife and I have worried the most for Elizabeth’s attachment to you. All the engagements are unexpected to us—you can understand why. However, your situation in life is far different than Elizabeth’s.”

“I believe she is up to the task,” Darcy said. He chose to tread carefully. He did not wish to insult the Gardiners or Bennets and agree too readily, but neither could he lie and say it was not a concern.

“As long as she knows what is being asked of her.”

Darcy shrugged. “Some may view her with contempt. That would be the case no matter how I married. Some might believe her beneath me. On the other hand, if I married a title, many would say that was above me. Unfortunately, people feel they have the right to judge my life.”

“You understand that Elizabeth can be a tad sensitive to judgment and feelings of inadequacy.”

“Respectfully, sir,” Darcy said with a solemn voice, “I believe I have seen her in the company of those who disapprove of her more often than you have. Mr. Bingley’s sisters, while not very important in society, hold similar opinions to them. Elizabeth ran circles around their intelligence. Miss Bingley never knew if Elizabeth mocked her or was being civil. It was entertaining to watch, and she was nothing short of magnificent.”

“Indeed?” Gardiner laughed. “I am pleased to hear it.”

“I understand I uttered words before our acquaintance began which wounded her. I know she, quite justifiably, did not spare any grace when she reported my deficiencies far and wide. I suspect you and your wife received such information?”

“Yes,” Gardiner agreed. Sitting back, he folded his hands over his belly. “I do not doubt her attachment to you. Even at the time of her letter, it seemed as though she was oversensitive because she cared for your opinion despite her words.”

“Ah,” Darcy said. They had got to the heart of the matter. “And you want to be sure I understand that she values my opinion.”

Gardiner nodded. It had not entirely occurred to Darcy before. He had been so desperate for her good opinion, once he realised he did not have it, that he never considered she felt equally desperate for his.

“Let me tell you why I am the perfect husband for Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy said and leaned forward. “No man could love her as I do. No other man needs her as I do. They might see her beauty and enjoy her wit, but they do not need to hear her laughter like a drowning man needs air. They do not need to see her eyes light up in amusement. They are not fascinated with the pitch of her voice, the flip of her hair, the movement of her hands. They do not see her as a glowing light which, while I admit I desperately want to light my own, can be snuffed out with selfishness.”

Darcy shook his head. “A few weeks ago, I would have argued I could offer Elizabeth the world. I would have enumerated what she could gain by marriage to me or vow to keep her safe. In my heart of hearts, I would have acknowledged that I wanted to capture her essence, for it brought me comfort. Now, I only know that I have the good fortune of her esteem, and I will never let it go. Now, I know that it is not enough to be two independent, strong-willed people, but that together, we can defeat anything. Now, I know that to love a person means to encourage them to grow. That by adding to their strength, my happiness is intensified. I never knew such selflessness could be so rewarded.”

Mr. Gardiner said nothing, but his smile was answer enough. When Darcy reached Longbourn, he requested a walk with Elizabeth. The cold air made their breaths puff out like billows of chimney smoke. He wrapped his arm around her tightly as he whispered in her ear his love and devotion to her. In between stolen kisses, they planned their wedding and the dreams they hoped to achieve in their marriage. Fortunately, when they returned to the house, no one commented on the contrast between their breathless state of overheated cheeks and the coldness of the outside air.

Pride & P rejudice & Epiphanies- I Saw Three Ships

P&P&EPrevious Chapters: Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five

 

I Saw Three Ships

London

December 23, 1811

 

Wickham cursed under his breath as the coach brought him closer to the London docks. He had terrible luck before, but he had always counted on Darcy’s need for privacy and his familial pride to save him. It kept Wickham coming back time and time again.

The strangeness of the repeating days merely allowed him to hone his plans. He kept meticulous notes, and while he had no memories of the events, he had recorded them all. Whatever was going on centred around Darcy and the Bennets. There was only Bennet who could interest Darcy: Elizabeth.

Wickham had to admit, Darcy had exquisite taste. It was one reason why as children, he always sought to emulate his chum. Elizabeth was a fine specimen of a woman. He could have asked Darcy for anything, and the man would have offered it to him to ensure her safety. Wickham had not expected Elizabeth to act so courageously.

Of course, even when she did, Wickham triumphed. Darcy had not pursued him. Mr. Bennet had not pressed charges. That he had not been invited to Longbourn again served as enough fact that they had either regained their memories or left their own means of recalling them. Just when he was planning to slip away, Colonel Forster began having him watched constantly. In time, he might have figured out a way to leave the area. However, Wickham had not considered that Darcy would share the information with an outsider. Nor could he have guessed that Elizabeth Bennet’s London uncle had the means of silencing him.

This morning, when offered the choice between debtors’ prison and Australia, Wickham eagerly chose the latter. Even more surprising was Darcy’s treatment of him.

“Why, George?” he had asked quietly.

He shrugged. “I told you, I felt entitled.”

“Do you remember that night?”

“No,” Wickham answered truthfully. “After I fled Longbourn, I returned to my room. You may not guess, but I keep scrupulous notes on things. It’s how I can always fleece people out of money and favours.”

“By people you mostly mean me.”

“Not just you.” Wickham shrugged. “You did not get me into the militia.”

“No, I had quite washed my hands of you and thought you were afraid enough of my reaction to stay away.”

“I was,” Wickham confessed. “At first. But then you did nothing, as you always do, and I grew comfortable.”

“That night, though. You seemed crazed.”

“I had been reading my notes in the morning and growing more confused and desperate by the repeating days. Since I have no memories after December twenty-second, I really cannot say how I felt, but in my journal, I was becoming unhinged.”

“What has stopped you from acting that way now?”

“I do not know.”

Wickham affected a shrug, but the truth was he hated feeling like he had no control over his behaviour and actions. He had often played the victim and claimed to have no control over his destiny and situation in life, but this was far worse. It was as though he had strings attached to him and someone else pulled them.

“Would you have really hurt her?”

The smallest remaining sliver of remorse and compassion, of real humanity, in his heart was stung by the feeling in Darcy’s words and the look of mourning that entered his eyes as he thought about the woman he loved dying. At that moment, Wickham felt disgusted with himself for the first time in half his life. Darcy had been his friend and playmate before jealousy reared its ugly head.

“I want to say no, I would not have, but I cannot promise that.” Looking down at his hands for a moment, he wrestled with his next words. Finally, he lifted his head and looked Darcy in the eye. “You ought to send me away. I cannot control this compulsion to harm you, it seems. I am always begging for you to save me; this time save yourself. Save me by saving yourself.”

Darcy held his eyes for a long time, then slowly nodded. “You would have a chance to truly start over. Transform your life. No more Darcy name and money to rescue you.”

Wickham slowly exhaled. A few weeks ago, the thought would have been insupportable. He should not have to pick himself up by his bootstraps and make a life for himself while others, ones he was raised with and did everything better than, had everything. But he could lie to himself no longer. Perhaps with an ocean and continents between them, he might live to the potential that Mr. Darcy and his father had seen in him. He might cease comparing himself to his old friend.

“Thank you,” Wickham said as he stood to leave. It was too simple to convey all he felt and owed, but gratitude was a new sensation.

Darcy nodded and told him to get ready, that they would leave in a matter of minutes.

Now, four hours later, Wickham saw ships at port and smelled the stench of the Thames. God help him. Spending months at sea in winter and during a war was no easy task. If he made it to land, he would be a better man.

The carriage came to a stop, and Mr. Gardiner exited first. Wickham moved forward on the seat, but Darcy stayed him for a moment.

“I have been deciding if you should know this or not,” Darcy said. “I hope I am not making a mistake. You were not entirely to blame for your actions that night.”

“I wasn’t?” Wickham looked at Darcy in disbelief. “I was drunk or drugged, I suppose you will tell me. Well, it’s never happened before.”

“I would not know your behaviour under the influence of such things.” Darcy scowled. “You did not press for information about the repeating days.”

“I would rather not talk about that madness. It is over, and I have a ship to get on.”

“In a moment,” Darcy sighed. “You may have guessed that those of us at Longbourn and Netherfield have discovered the truth. Others in your unit did not. You were always so clever, George.”

Wickham tipped his head in acknowledgement, knowing it was not an easy confession from the man.

“In your journal as you recorded events, did they vary drastically?”

“Well, I did not take them very seriously,” he said. “I thought I must be going mad, or at the very least recorded dreams which I no longer recalled.”

“So, they did vary?”

“Not usually. There was one where I had eloped with Lydia Bennet. Of all the stupid things.”

“Then your next entry returned you to Meryton as though nothing had occurred?”

Wickham nodded

“Yes, we also have suffered from strange occurrences. It seems our fates were linked together. The more I ignored your presence and its potential problems for the Bennets, whom I had wanted to reject as unworthy of my notice and fought my love for Elizabeth, the more havoc was wreaked. One day, you had eloped with Lydia, abandoned her, and she bore your child. I never knew. Bingley and I had left the area and saw nothing of the Bennets for years.”

Wickham scrubbed a hand over his face. Would he do something like that? Probably. What was Darcy’s point?

“However, there was another day when you were not involved at all. Mr. Collins had died, and Bingley could not court Jane because she was in mourning.”

“What are you getting at?”

“The things we experience during this time loop are only glimpses of what might have been. When I fought returning to Hertfordshire, I made everything worse. When I insulted Elizabeth in a proposal, you attacked us that very night.”

“You blame yourself?” Wickham’s mouth hung open. He had always known Darcy took on too much responsibility, but this was the height of stupidity. He could not play on his guilt this time.

“No.” Darcy shook his head. “Lizzy is teaching me not to blame myself for everything. No, I merely mean to say they were only what might have been.”

Wickham continued to stare at Darcy, uncertain what he meant.

“You are not mad, George,” Darcy said with a sigh followed by a small smile. “Neither are you a murderer. Your actions that night propelled me and many others into better decisions, but they are not a reflection of what you absolutely are. You have a choice.”

“I have a choice?” It felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted from his shoulders.

“Get on that boat and change your life.” Darcy pointed out the window before exiting.

Wickham followed suit. It suddenly occurred to him how alone he was in the world. The man who could have been like a brother to him now saw him go with no regret. Not one soul in England would miss him. Yes, it was time to change.

Settling for a nod to Darcy and Gardiner, he walked up the gangway to the boat and was directed to the correct chamber. In the distance, he heard church bells ringing, and Wickham had no choice but to collapse in his bed as his senses swirled.

Pride & Prejudice & Epiphanies- I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

P&P&EPrevious Chapters: Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Longbourn

December 23, 1811

 

Kitty awoke the morning before Christmas Eve with a start. She felt she had overslept. Her brain was fuzzy with dreams she could not recall.

The house seemed quiet and still. Where was all the usual noise? In her seventeen years, not once had she heard silence in the morning. Her mother was always wailing and bemoaning something.

Scrambling from the bed, she checked the clock. No, she had not awoken very early. Was Mama ill? Lydia had already left the room. How strange!

Pulling a wrapper on over her nightgown, Kitty stuck her head out the bedroom door. Her mother’s door was open, and the room was empty. Creeping halfway down the stairs, she heard quiet conversation from a drawing room. Lizzy said something that caused a deep voice to lightly chuckle. Who could it be? It did not belong to her father or Uncle Gardiner.

Quietly slipping back to her room, she readied for the day. As she dressed, she heard the church bells announcing the hour in the distance. At least one thing remained familiar.

Arriving in the drawing room, Kitty could not contain her surprise at the presence of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and a third gentleman introduced as Darcy’s cousin. He was a fine enough looking man and an officer in the Horse Guards. Making her way to him, unable to resist a man in uniform, she frowned when he leaned in close and whispered to Mary.

Strangely, Lydia did not appear enamoured of the man. She acted more sedate than Kitty had ever seen. Recalling her worry for her mother, she found Mrs. Bennet sitting in a corner with needlework, a fond smile on her face and her husband by her side.

Kitty stood in the middle of the room, mouth agape. No one seemed to notice her, which aside from the Christmas bells was perhaps the only familiar thing about the scene.

“You must be Miss Kitty,” an unexpected and quiet voice spoke at her side.

Kitty’s head jerked in the unknown lady’s direction. “Who are you?”

“Pardon me for not waiting for an introduction, but it seemed everyone else was otherwise occupied.” She waved her hand around the room. “I thought it was forgivable since we are to be sisters.”

“Sisters!”

“Yes, my brother will marry your sister.” Laughter danced in her eyes. “I thought a sister to my sister would make us sisters. I look forward to having so many!”

Kitty blinked at the young lady, who wore impeccable and fashionable clothes and whose beauty rivalled Jane’s. She glanced around the room. Jane sat with Mr. Bingley. A Christmas proposal for them would not be out of the ordinary, but this lady was not one of Bingley’s sisters. Mary was still whispering with the colonel, but Mary getting married? The man was a stranger! And no one cared for the plainest and most awkward Bennet daughter. It was almost as absurd as…Lizzy making love eyes at Mr. Darcy! As she was currently doing!

Lizzy said something, and Darcy chuckled—the voice Kitty had heard before. He scooped up Lizzy’s hand and kissed it.

“They will be very happy, I think,” the young lady beside Kitty said and sighed while looking at Lizzy and Darcy.

Kitty had nearly forgotten about the girl’s presence. “Miss Darcy?” Her voice rose in pitch.

“The one and only.” She smiled and curtsied. “Well, I suppose there are others with the name, but I mean that I am the only one from Pemberley.” Her brow furrowed. “That sounds arrogant, doesn’t it?” She sighed and continued rambling. “I mean I am Fitzwilliam’s only sister.”

Nervous laughter erupted from Kitty. This was the girl who Bingley’s sisters touted as an alternative to Jane? Attempting to stifle the laugh, as amazingly everyone else was quiet and well-behaved, it turned to a cough. Suddenly, she felt all eyes upon her.

“Kitty, are you well?” Mrs. Bennet’s voice came from across the room.

Relief filled her not to be scolded for once. “No, merely a dry throat.”

“Have your tea,” Mrs. Bennet said.

“Will you sit with me?” Miss Darcy asked.

Kitty agreed and sat quietly as Miss Darcy talked of her pleasure with the Bennet family. The silence and lack of arguing seemed as loud as cannon fire to Kitty. What had happened? Her voice sounded impossibly loud and uncouth compared to the demure actions of everyone else. Once or twice she tried to engage Lydia in laughter but did not succeed. Lizzy did much better with her subtle wit.

“Perhaps we will have guests for dinner,” Mr. Bennet said.

Kitty clapped her hands, causing everyone to jump and Mr. Darcy to frown. “Do you expect Colonel Forster? Will he bring other officers? Mr. Wickham would be a lovely dinner companion.” And much livelier than the unrecognisable people before her.

“Mr. Wickham will never step foot in my house again,” Mr. Bennet boomed and shook the walls as an earthquake might.

Tears welled in Kitty’s eyes. She had never heard her father so stern or mean before. Heat slapped her cheeks as she considered that everyone listened to her reprimand. He never censured Jane, Lizzy, or Mary. Now Lydia had become a turncoat. They never knew what it was like to feel as unloved as she did.

“Why not? What did he do but be used by Mr. Darcy?” Kitty bowed her head to hide her embarrassment and tears. “Just because he hates poor Wickham does not mean we must!”

Beside her, Miss Darcy trembled. For a moment, the room was so quiet that one could hear a hairpin drop. Then Kitty heard boot steps. They paused in front of her.

“Miss Kitty,” Darcy’s deep voice drew her face up. “I am sorry if your father’s decision has upset you. I do not like Mr. Wickham, but I do not hate him. He has hurt my family and wounded my sister. He plotted against yours.”

Kitty gasped and looked at Lizzy, whose eyes were shiny. A hand went to her throat, and Kitty could see the red outline of a new scar. Miss Darcy squeezed Kitty’s hand.

“If he has hurt you as you say,” Kitty said slowly, “then why do you not hate him?”

“Hate drowns out love,” Darcy said. “And I want to live my life full of love. It is your father’s love which sends him to protect you all from Wickham.”

Kitty’s bottom lip trembled as her father walked up as well.

“Forgive me for speaking so harshly,” Mr. Bennet said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “What Mr. Darcy says is true. I have been too selfish in the past. I have neglected you, as well as your mother and sisters. That has been my fault, not because of a deficiency in you.”

“So you do love us all?” Kitty twisted her hands. “Even me?”

“What would I do without my Kitty?” He pointed at his chest with a finger, covered his heart with both hands, and then pointed at his second youngest daughter.

“What was that?” Kitty sniffled.

He smiled. “I know how you love languages. Out of all my daughters, you are the one most gifted in learning foreign tongues.”

“You always say it is because I never cease talking.”

“Forgive me for teasing you. The truth is I’m in awe. What if we learn a new language together? You will not have to put up with my poor pronunciation.”

“How could we do that?”

Mr. Bennet again pointed to himself, covered his heart, and then pointed at Kitty. “It is a new language I have heard about, created for the deaf.” He did it again. “It says what I struggle to put into words. I love you.”

“Oh, Papa.” Kitty sobbed and repeated the signs. “It’s beautiful.”

The church bells chimed again, and Kitty’s vision blurred even as a feeling of peace filled her heart.

Pride & Prejudice & Epiphanies- While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night

P&P&EPrevious Chapters: Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night

Longbourn

December 23, 1811

 

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner arrived at Longbourn as dusk was falling. Their four children spilt out of the carriage in alternate states of exhausted and energetic. Giving each other an indulgent smile, they followed behind their children and the maid they had brought.

“Edward, Margaret, you are most welcome.” Mrs. Bennet greeted them cheerfully but without her typical exuberance.

A confused look passed between them, but they bustled into the drawing room as their children went upstairs to the nursery. Mr. Bennet greeted them and explained his daughters would soon be in from walking in the garden. Then most surprising of all, their sister asked after them and calmly listened to news from London rather than complain about whatever crisis she unjustly faced. In fact, watching her, one would think she had never been perturbed in her life.

The sound of laughter drew their notice, and their two youngest nieces filed in. Lydia had grown much since they last saw her. Instead of seeming as though she bounced from place to place, she walked calmly and welcomed them before sitting. Requests of presents, which usually served as a greeting, never fell from her lips. Kitty came next, looking worriedly at Lydia; she barely spared her aunt and uncle a glance.

Mary, Elizabeth, and Jane came through the door almost on top of one another. Smiles lit their faces, and to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, they glowed brighter than an angel’s halo.

“Hello, my dears,” Mrs. Gardiner said warmly.

“Oh, Aunt Gardiner!” Lizzy exclaimed and rushed over for a hug. “Wait until you see our surprise.”

“A surprise?” Mr. Gardiner said as he was kissed on the cheek by Jane.

“Yes, the very best.” Jane beamed and hugged her aunt.

“And quite unexpected,” Mary said with an unusual amount of levity.

Elizabeth dashed to the door and poked her head out. “We’re ready,” she laughed.

Rushing out of the way, she stood to the side with her sisters. In walked a young lady, introduced as Miss Darcy, followed by three handsome gentlemen. Each stood behind a niece, and the ladies turned their heads up to grin at the men.

Mrs. Gardiner watched in fascination. That the men loved her nieces, and it was returned, was easy for her to see. But who were they? How did her nieces know them, and when had this developed?

“Aunt and Uncle,” Lizzy said with a saucy grin, “may we introduce our betrotheds?”

“My congratulations!” Mrs. Gardiner exclaimed, but she needed to catch her breath and allow her mind to calm before speaking again. “You all have been very sly. In none of your letters did any of you mention anything of this sort.”

“That’s not true,” Lizzy laughed. “Surely Mama told you about Mr. Bingley and her hopes for Jane.”

“I will count myself as Mrs. Bennet’s favourite son, then.” The blond man with a jovial smile, who stood behind Jane, bounded over to them.

Mrs. Gardiner had not put any credit in her sister-in-law’s words. Countless times since Jane’s come out she had believed a husband was in the making.

“Yes, I recall now.” Mrs. Gardiner smiled at the man. “I am pleased to meet you.”

“And I you!” he said before resuming his position next to Jane.

The tall man behind Elizabeth whispered in her ear, causing her to rapidly nod and hide a smile. “May I present Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire?”

“Darcy of Pemberley!” Mrs. Gardiner could not contain her surprise and joy. She stood and met the gentleman halfway. He elegantly bowed to her. “I lived in Lambton about ten years ago and passed the chief of my childhood there. I knew your father by reputation.”

“Indeed?” Mr. Darcy smiled. “What an honour to meet someone who knew my father.”

“I was very sorry to hear of his passing a few years ago,” she said kindly.

Mr. Darcy nodded, and his lips lifted slightly. “Thank you. I think he was the very best of men and hope one day I may fill his shoes.”

“I take exception to that, Fitzwilliam,” Lizzy said as she came forward and placed a hand on his arm. “For you are the very best of men. You must already exceed your father’s talents.”

Her betrothed blushed slightly. “Allow me to introduce my cousin on my mother’s side, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam.”

The gentleman behind Mary stepped forward. He was not as handsome as Bingley or Darcy but had watched their interaction with merriment in his eyes.

“You seem to think my relation to you is the best way to recommend me,” he laughed and elbowed his cousin.

“Pardon my mistake,” Darcy said.

His lips twitched slightly, and Mrs. Gardiner could see that he only needed a little liveliness from his wife to be perfectly amiable. She looked forward to seeing Elizabeth loosen his stiff formality.

“And how would you introduce yourself?” Mrs. Gardiner asked the colonel.

“Hmm,” he said and stroked his jaw. “How about Defender of the Kingdom, Slayer of Old Boney’s Finest, Trainer of Puppy Whelps in Breeches, His Majesty’s Last Great Hope, and Her Majesty’s Best Seated Dragoon Guard?’”

They all laughed, and when Mrs. Gardiner caught her breath, she said, “It is a bit of a mouthful.”

“Then I will settle for the incomparable Mary Bennet’s betrothed.” He reached for Mary’s hand and kissed it.

Mary blushed furiously, but Mrs. Gardiner could not contain her smile.

“This is why we all love him,” Lizzy said. “He is so good to our Mary.”

Darcy frowned.

“What?” Lizzy asked as they made their way to seats around the room.

“I do not think he liked you saying you love his cousin, my dear,” Mr. Gardiner observed with a laugh. “Mr. Darcy, if you can stand to be separated from my niece, I would like to ask you about fishing in the Derbyshire district. My wife and I planned to journey there this summer.”

“Indeed. A topic which delights me. While leaving Miss Elizabeth’s side is no extreme hardship for me, and I daresay a recourse from sure vexation on her side, perhaps she would accompany me in the conversation to hear more of her future home?”

During his speech, Elizabeth’s expression vacillated between humour, annoyance, and laughter mixed with joy. Bravo, Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Gardiner thought. Elizabeth needed a man who would keep her on her toes. As much as she enjoyed teasing and displaying her wit, she needed a man who would match her.

“What glad tidings you all have brought us!” Mrs. Gardiner exclaimed. “Now, I should like to hear all about it, beginning with Mary.”

She began to make her way to her niece, but Mrs. Bennet interrupted her. “There will be time for such talk later. Dinner is to be served now; I saw Mrs. Hill motioning to me.”

Mrs. Gardiner bided her time, knowing that her sister-in-law had never been able to keep a secret. During the meal, while she was increasingly impressed with each of her nieces’ beaus, she wondered at the stark differences she observed in Lydia and Mrs. Bennet. Jane, Lizzy, and Mary behaved as she guessed they might when in love, assisted by the fact that a loving couple would be energised by the presence of another. In her estimation, Kitty was the only one acting as she usually did.

After eating, the ladies separated from the gentlemen. Mrs. Bennet had sent Miss Darcy, Lydia, and Kitty to check on the children in the nursery, allowing them privacy with the engaged girls.

“What strangeness has befallen this house?” Mrs. Gardiner asked, getting to the point immediately. “Sister, you and Lydia are subdued. I can understand the reason you three are happy, but how did you become engaged so quickly?”

After a moment of silent communication between them, Lizzy began spinning a fantastical tale. It was only when Mary presented her journal with the extra pages that Mrs. Gardiner could believe the story.

“And so all but Kitty have come to their senses?” she asked.

“Yes, and we are at a loss to understand what might serve as her epiphany,” Mrs. Bennet said. “I confess that I did not know my girls as well as I should.”

“That is perhaps understandable,” Mrs. Gardiner said and squeezed her sister-in-law’s hand. “I had always thought Kitty felt very insecure.”

Her three nieces exchanged looks between them. Yes, insecurity was quite the family failing, and each had suffered so privately that they had not considered whether anyone else felt like them.

“I think she needs reassurance that she is accepted and loved. She does not need to prove herself.”

“What would she need to prove herself for?” Jane asked.

“In families as large as yours, it is common for each child to become known for one quality. Jane is described as the beautiful one. Lizzy is witty, and Mary is studious. Lydia is lively. What claim does Kitty have? I understand it all too well.”

“I had never thought of it in such a way,” Lizzy said.

“Nor I,” Mary and Jane echoed at the same time.

“The poor dear!” Mrs. Bennet sniffed.

“Now, what is being done about this Mr. Wickham?” Mrs. Gardiner redirected the conversation.

“Papa and Mr. Bingley spoke with the colonel of his regiment yesterday,” Jane said. “Well, in our yesterday. We hoped we might wake to Christmas Eve, but it is the twenty-third once more.”

“Allow me to speak with your uncle. I feel we should be able to contribute in some way.”

Mrs. Gardiner left the drawing room and knocked on the dining room door, asking for her husband.

“Edward, they have told me the most incredible story!” She twisted her hands, uncertain he would believe her.

“I suppose it is very like the one I heard about repeating days and alternate realities?”

“Yes! Do you believe them?”

“What else could explain the madness we have witnessed?”

“My thoughts exactly,” Mrs. Gardiner said with a smile. “But what about this Wickham? Perhaps if we can assist them in some way regarding him, we might help the calendar turn? I do not care to be stuck in a time loop simply because we journeyed to Meryton.”

“No, I would not either,” Mr. Gardiner agreed. “What can I do?”

“Purchase his Meryton debts. Together, you and Darcy can present him with the option of prison or Australia.”

“I do not know that Darcy will allow me to do such a thing. Do you recall that Lizzy wrote of his arrogance and pride?”

“Tosh.” Mrs. Gardiner waved her hand. “Lizzy has changed her view of him. I see obstinacy is his real fault. However, if Darcy is the only one to hold his feet to the fire, then Wickham’s hatred will grow. He will forever haunt Darcy’s family. Will he have the energy to hate two men with such fervour?”

“There is merit in that,” Mr. Gardiner said.

“Of course, there is. You married a brilliant woman.”

“That I did,” he laughed. “Well, let us tell Darcy.” He shuffled her into the dining room.

When they had finished telling Mr. Darcy their suggestion, they awaited his response. They had expected him to argue. He would be justified in hating Wickham forever and wanting to mete out justice personally.

“A few weeks ago, I would have arrogantly dismissed your offer,” he confessed. “However, I have come to see the benefit of allowing others to help me and the high cost of my loathing him. I have vowed to cease hating the man. Your offer brings me peace like nothing else has. Thank you.”

As Darcy rose to shake hands with Mr. Gardiner, Mrs. Gardiner heard a loud ringing sound and grasped her husband’s arm for support.