Docstoc

In Sickness And In Health

Document Sample
In Sickness And In Health Powered By Docstoc
					In Sickness And In Health
By Betsy R
Though the Christmas season at Longbourn was usually a festive time, this year‟s celebrations were tinged with discontent. Mrs. Edward
Gardiner, a favorite aunt of the eldest Miss Bennets, had noticed a chain of events that happened each time Mrs. Bennet thoughtlessly mentioned
Netherfield or its absentee master, Mr. Charles Bingley: first Jane Bennet would catch her breath, as though she were trying to calm herself, then
Elizabeth would either reach or look over to her sister in reassurance.
Clearly, Jane, the most sedate, genteel, deserving young woman one could imagine, was suffering from a severe disappointment, and her mother,
though she cared greatly for her daughters, did not have the tact or disposition to understand that each reminder of the situation brought pain
upon her daughter.
After speaking with her husband and brother-in-law, Mrs. Gardiner issued an invitation to Jane to accompany the Gardiner family when they
returned home to London at the beginning of January. Certainly, the deep winter held more beauty in Hertfordshire, but London had its own
attractions and entertainments. A change of scene might be just what Jane needed to move lift her bruised spirits.
Elizabeth and Jane discussed the possibilities of London well into the evening the night before the Gardiner's departure. Jane felt it polite to write
to Caroline Bingley once she was in town.
Elizabeth believed that her sister had been ill-used by the entire Bingley family: the brother had pretended a deeper affection than he had and the
sisters had, no doubt, abused Jane when she was not present, just as they did everyone else they felt beneath themselves. Jane, who had
conducted herself with propriety and trust throughout the entire autumn, was left broken-hearted and open to the whispers of the whole
community as a result of her failed romance and the subsequent treatment she had received at the hands of the Bingleys. Elizabeth thought the
Bennet family would do well to forget the acquaintance of the Bingley family, but she knew that Jane thought the best of everyone, and wished to
politely extend the hand of friendship to Miss Bingley – they were, in a manner of speaking, neighbors, and the proper action would be to contact
them. In the end, Elizabeth concurred with Jane and counseled her only to be careful.
Turning the conversation to London in the winter, Elizabeth pleaded with Jane to pick up some of the newer editions of verse that she had heard
of, and some sheet music. Jane smiled and said she would add it to the list of ribbons, buttons, sermons, and other trinkets that their other sisters
had requested. Gently laughing at the relatively harmless absurdities of their family, the conversation eventually turned to utterly ridiculous Mr.
Collins and his very new wife, Charlotte.
Lizzy hoped that Jane would be home before Lizzy went to Kent to visit the Collins family. As much as Jane was looking forward to her London
trip, she thought that it highly likely she would be home well before Elizabeth went away in March.
Elizabeth was looking forward to her own visit with a mixture of feelings. Charlotte was her best friend. Lizzy still could not believe that
Charlotte, sensible Charlotte, had felt such pressure in her situation that she had accepted the strange Mr. Collins. The wedding, which had
occurred the day previous, had been a very quiet one, with few attendees. Mrs. Bennet had tried to forbid her own family from attending, but Mr.
Bennet countermanded that, asking what she could have to gain by alienating the heir to his estate. So, the Bennet clan had attended, and
Elizabeth had waited and waited for her friend to deny the vows, to turn and walk away. But she hadn‟t.
It had been an autumn of severe disappointments for Elizabeth Bennet. She, who acknowledged the folly inherent in all people, also believed that
goodness would ultimately triumph over any folly. Yet, this season, she had seen so many situations which had sorely tried her philosophies. The
actions of the gregarious and seemingly innocent Mr. Bingley and of her dear friend Charlotte had disturbed her view of the world.
Sighing, she turned back to Jane and began another gentle conversation - this time about the tenants and poor of the community. Usually, Jane
and Elizabeth shared the burden of visiting all these families through the winters. This year, since Jane would be gone, Lizzy thought it was time
to bring Mary into the fold. Lizzy would dearly miss Jane‟s company and conversation, but knew that this change would do Jane much good. The
two sisters talked well into the night, knowing it would be the last time for many weeks that they would be able to do so.
Promising to write, Jane hugged her sister one last time, then retired to her own chamber to sleep.
So it was that Jane Bennet accompanied the Gardiners to London in the first week of the New Year. Christmas and the New Year had brought
many visitors, families, and friends to the Meryton area. Any of the militia who were fortunate enough to get leave also went to visit their own
families and friends. One of these gentlemen brought back with him an unexpected and undesired gift: a highly contagious fever.
The damp of an unusually cold Hertfordshire winter along with the crowded, unsanitary conditions of the militia encampment were perfect
conditions for the spread of the disease. Within a fortnight, the number of sick began to worry the command of the militia, especially as the blight
had spread to some of the local populace.
The fever was one of a strange variety. It raged, then abated, then, when it seemed as though the patient would get better, the fever would rage
again. By the beginning of February, the fatalities had begun to mount.
The very young, the old, and the infirm were the first to fall. But, as several of the strong, young men in the militia had also fallen victim, it was
decided to put a quarantine in place. Contact to the outside world was limited to those who had no illness under their roofs, and the community
prayed to their God to take away the horrible plague that had been visited upon them.
(End first post)
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 2
The following is a sample of the post that was written to and from the stricken region of Hertfordshire during the winter fever of 18--.
January 23
Dearest Jane,
I write this to you in the hopes that you and all of our family have arrived in London and are settling in for the long winter.
The rooms of Longbourn are cold and damp; the snow outside does not seem to know that it is not welcome. How I long for the days of spring,
when the first shoots of green break through the sod to greet the warm sun. But, spring only comes when winter ends, and this one seems as
though it will be long.
I do not tell you this to distress you, but distress you I must. Illness has come to Meryton in the form of a fever. A significant portion of the
militia rank and file troops have been infected with the illness. It may be that all will be well in a matter of days, but I find that my spirits are
greatly troubled. I attribute this malaise to the fact that Lydia and Kitty have been forbidden to visit Meryton til such time as the sickness is
declared over. They have been taking out their frustrations on all of the other occupants of this household, and I fear that Hill may finally follow
through on her threat to abandon us all.
Pray for your sister‟s patience, Jane, as I do not have you here for your wise counsel on forbearance.
Do let me know all of the news from Cheapside. Love to Aunt and Uncle and all our cousins.
Yours &c
Lizzy
~~~~~
January 29
Dearest Lizzy,
I long to hear news of home – are you certain all of you are well? I do not think that father would be willing to lock his youngest daughters
indoors without great necessity. Our young cousins are all well, though suffering from the same lack of outdoor activity that all house-bound
children share. Between us, Aunt, Nanny, and I contrive to keep them entertained. They are truly wonderful, and if I am ever blessed with a
family of my own, I hope to have children much like them.
I have been to the bookseller and purchased the editions you asked for. The bookseller seemed to want to talk a great deal to me, and
recommended several other books that I might like based on the ones you had me purchase. Mr. Greeley was a very nice gentleman, and even
gave me one sample that he had of a new book of verse. It is not something I shall read, however nice the gesture; the novel that Aunt Gardiner
gave me is much more to my taste. But I believe you shall like it. Mr. Greeley was such an uncommonly nice young man. Uncle Gardiner agreed,
though he teased me that Mr. Greeley was acting more as an admirer than a shopkeeper, but I know that could not be the case. It would not be
proper, and Greeley and Sons is a very proper kind of shop.
Will you be surprised when I tell you that I plucked up my courage and called on Caroline Bingley when Aunt Gardiner was making a call in the
same neighborhood? She was home; Mrs. Hurst was there with her. They have a very fine home – though it is much grander than anything I am
familiar with. I think the furnishings must be of very high taste. They were both exceedingly courteous to me. They mentioned that Mr. Bingley
was out of town and likely to be for some time. I do not believe that I blushed when I stated that I was sorry to have missed his company. I am
determined not to be sorry, though. You would be quite proud of me, Lizzy. I did mention that there was illness in Hertfordshire, and he may
want to investigate and make sure that his property was unaffected. However, as he has only let Netherfield, he may not feel any inclination to do
so. Though they were quite polite, I did feel rather nervous being in such a fine home in only my day-gown. So I took my leave as soon as I
properly could.
I do not believe I shall hear from them again. Though it is proper to return a call, I recall that they were a bit alarmed at the address of my Uncle‟s
home.
I am glad for it to all be behind me. This novel is quite diverting, and I have begun work on a chair cover that promises to be very fine when
done. Please write back to me soon, dearest Elizabeth, and assure me that all is well with our dear family. I shall be home soon, and will help
with all the tenants and our sisters and mother, who I am sure is not taking these trying times well.
Love to all,
Jane
~~~~~
January 30
Dearest Elizabeth,
Greetings from Kent. We have arrived and settled and I am quite satisfied at my current situation, I assure you.
Our house is a humble one, but Her Ladyship has spent much effort on our part to make it more comfortable. I have a parlor that I have claimed
as my own: it looks out upon the woods of Rosings, and I can often see bird and beast as they pass by. I am in my parlor now, writing this to you,
sipping a most excellent cup of tea.
I so enjoy running my own home. It is such a relief to me to not be a burden to my parents any longer.
Mr. Collins and I endeavor to get along well. He is kept much occupied by the inhabitants of Rosings, the members of his congregation, and his
various correspondents. I have met Lady Catherine and her daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh and have been duly impressed. I believe I can
tolerate their condescension very well.
There is one particular piece of interesting news I wish to relate to you, Lizzy. Lady Catherine and I had been speaking about the various
acquaintances,. Somehow, I do not quite recall the precise details of the conversation, but Mr. Wickham‟s name was mentioned. You can imagine
my shock when Her Ladyship replied furiously that his name was not to be mentioned again in her household.
Of course, she went on to tell all sorts of tales, of how he ran up debts wherever he went and expected her nephew, Mr. Darcy, to cover those
debts due to an old family connection. She told of how he had been offered a living, but refused it for money which he promptly gambled away.
Even more shocking, I gather that he may have tried to impose himself on Miss de Bourgh at one point, though that is merely supposition on my
part, based on comments Lady Catherine made. You may remember that Miss de Bourgh is promised to your Mr. Darcy. (Say what you will,
Lizzy, he watched you with too much interest to consider you a common, indifferent acquaintance.)
There, now I truly feel like an old married woman – revealing juicy pieces of gossip in letters to old friends. I hope that it does not hurt you to
hear such things of your favorite.
I miss you, my friend, and anxiously await your coming to visit in March.
Your friend and source of interesting tidbits
Charlotte Collins
~~~~~
February 2
Edward,
I write this letter to you as a request to keep my eldest daughter with you a while longer. We have had, as you have no doubt heard from Jane, an
outbreak of fever in Hertfordshire. Meryton is now under quarantine.
This fever seems to be particularly contagious and, for lack of a better term, vicious. I will spare you further details, though Fanny and Mrs.
Phillips will no doubt provide sufficient accounts in their own letters. Your sisters have a particular penchant for melodrama.
We have been blessed at Longbourn with immunity thus far. My biggest complaint is that my port stores are running low, and the quarantine will
keep my latest shipment from coming in with due haste. The sacrifice!
We are managing to keep ourselves quite busy. Though we miss the company of others, we have managed to muddle along. Mary has very
considerately provided us with daily sermons, so we feel as though every day is Sunday. By the time this quarantine is lifted, I will have been
through a full month of Sundays, as the saying goes. I now know how long it truly is.
I have gone on longer than I should, brother. Give my Jane a pat for me; reassure her as you can. She is a good girl. Greetings to your family
Thomas
~~~~~
February 12
My Sweet Jane
Happy Valentine‟s day to my loveliest sister! I do miss you so, Jane, and hope that London, nasty Bingleys aside, is treating you well.
I am sorry that I have not written so very often. The fever has hit our area very hard, and of course this means Mama‟s nerves have quite outdone
themselves. I am afraid that poor Kitty has had to bear the brunt of this, as Mary and I have been working very hard trying to keep the tenants
well fed and clothed and as calm and happy as they can be, in the circumstances.
A side effect of this is that Mary and I have become very close in the last few weeks. She is gaining compassion from this experience that she
seemed to lack before – she speaks more to comfort than to lecture, and even her playing has reflected a greater depth than it did before. Kitty is
also learning patience, sitting with Mama through the day, reading to her from novels or simply drawing or stitching while Mama complains. The
three of us have endeavored to keep the household calm in this trying storm.
I have not mentioned Lydia. Lydia seems to keep more to herself these days, declaring that Mary, Kitty, and I are too priggish to be tolerable.
Honestly, I do not understand how she can be so unaffected by what is happening around us.
The streets are eerily quiet, Jane. The shops are closed. Very few people walk about. Healthy children are being kept home. The number of
healthy children, though, is very low, as this vile illness seems to strike our weakest and most precious friends. I fear when it is done there will be
few under the age of 7 and fewer over the age of 50 left in all of Hertfordshire. Though, people may begin to recover. I must not lose hope.
We have come to an arrangement: the militia control the quarantine, marking the homes of the sick, keeping visitors out of the area and keeping
residents here, to try to contain the illness. They also make sure that the post continues and we still get supplies. I cannot imagine our situation if
we did not have these lifelines.
We gentry have all banded together to make sure that supplies are distributed. The stores of all the manors are open for the tenants, most of
whom have suffered from the fever. We are all doing as needs must – I even took an axe to wood, Jane. I have much more respect for James than
I did before – chopping wood is very difficult, indeed.
When we do have time to sit together, all of our talk is of the poor souls who have perished and all who have been affected by this plague. Poor
Mary… yesterday we found out that little Timmy Avery died. Mary had become ever so attached to him.
There has been so much suffering, Jane. And it has come on so quickly. Forgive me for burdening you so, but we feel so isolated here, and I have
been left to be the strong one for my sisters.
I cannot speak of it more.
I was writing of Lydia. I did catch Lydia coming into the house – the second time this week! – from out-of-doors yesterday. She insisted that she
was simply getting some fresh air. It does not seem in character for her, yet all of our characters are so changed by our current circumstance. And
I have come to greatly question my own ability to sketch a character in the best of times, Jane.
I have news on a common acquaintance of ours from two different sources. It seems that when Charlotte mentioned a certain regimental officer
to her husband‟s patron, a great deal of fuss was raised. This man was no gentleman, but was instead a wastrel and a cad. I read this missive with
interest, but considered that the source was certainly the same source who had, I thought, blackened this officer‟s name before.
Much to my surprise, it has come to light that this same officer may have spread the disease to others outside our community - he has abandoned
his post and fled the vicinity. It seems that he would not risk his own health to protect that of others here. This is not the behavior one would
expect from one who would aspire to be a minister of the faith. He left under the cover of night, and he lightened the pockets of several of his
fellow soldiers – both the living and the deceased – before he departed. Incidentally, he left behind huge debts to the local tradesmen, several
gaming debts, and many broken hearts. You can guess that, though the Meryton grapevine is greatly diminished, it rang with the tales of the
dread W… I shall not write his name. Suffice it to say that I am reviewing the entirety of my acquaintance with that man, as well as any
particular opinions I formed based on his lies.
Oh, Jane. I do not know myself. When I think of how I practically accused Mr. Darcy of wronging that man – how much affront must he have
taken? Thinking back on the events of last autumn, I find I must have been mistaken the entire time! Mr. Darcy was, of all of our new
acquaintance, the only one who acted with honesty. Our general company (and my looks, in particular) may not have been to his liking, but not
once did he lie or dissemble in order to mislead anyone. He caused no harm. When I think of how I treated him, Jane!
Charlotte, I see now, was not so blind to his good qualities as I chose to be. If she was correct about that, perhaps she was also correct in reading
his intentions toward me. He did follow my conversations and seek out my own opinions several times. He did ask me to dance. These were
compliments of the highest order, and I spurned them. Oh, I do not believe that anything would have ever come of it – he obviously held himself
too far above us all. Except perhaps I could have enjoyed time spent with a man who was obviously intelligent and witty. Instead, I chose to
believe a pretty face and gilded tongue.
I am filled with shame that I not only misread so many of our acquaintance, but that I acted as I did. Truly, I can think of few times when I was
acceptably polite to Mr. Darcy. I am mortified by my own behavior.
There. I feel better having related the whole of this sad tale to you. Oh, Jane, I do miss you so! I understand why father keeps you in London for
the time being. I do envy you the company of other people! I would give much to be able to converse with a new face, or listen to a musical
performance that was not mine or Mary‟s. But so long as we all at Longbourn stay healthy, I have much to be thankful for, and remain
Your devoted sister
Lizzy
(End second post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 3
February 20
Edward,
I am sorry to be the bearer of unhappy tidings: The sickness has breached our home.
It seems that somehow, Lydia has been exposed to the fever, and has taken to bed with the symptoms. Fanny has insisted that Lizzy nurse Lydia.
I am left with little choice but to isolate the two of them in the small cottage at the back of the property. I cannot risk the rest of the family and
house staff becoming ill.
There is some good news, however. The number of new infections has dropped dramatically. Restrictions should begin to be lifted in a week or
two, at which time I shall write again.
Keep my dear girls in your prayers, Brother.
Yours &c
Thomas
~~~~~
February 26
Dear Lizzy,
I know you are under quarantine there, and cannot send word out, but I cannot believe that they will not allow messages in. And I know that you
need all the encouragement and support that we can give.
Oh, that I were there to help you! My heart aches to think of you alone, taking care of Lydia. I hope that she is a better patient than she was last
spring! I am sure, however, that as she is such a strong girl, she will recover soon. Having been the lucky recipient of your nursing skills in the
recent past, I know that you will do all you can to make her feel better.
We had surprise callers today. Miss Caroline Bingley and her sister Mrs. Louisa Hurst returned my call today. It has been over a month since I
went to call on them, but I suppose them to have been very busy. In fact, they were quite surprised to see that I was still in town, but took the
chance whilst they were in the neighborhood.
They asked after you all, and I told them that the sickness in Hertfordshire had worsened, and that our sister was now ill. I could see that they
were quite worried. I assured them that all would be done that could be, and that they should be thankful they had removed from the country
before that sickness struck. They agreed with gravity.
Though they did not accept an invitation to tea, I felt that this visit was pleasant. Still, I was relieved when they alighted into their carriage.
March is quickly upon us, and London has lost any appeal for me that it ever had. I am longing for the vistas of Longbourn, hoping to soon be
back with all of you, smelling the fresh country air and spending time with my sisters.
Take care of yourself, Elizabeth. I am still your elder sister, so you must do as I say. I would not lose any of my family.
Your worried but loving sister,
Jane
~~~~~
March 6 – express post
Dear Mrs. Collins,
That eponym sounds so lovely, Charlotte. Your father and I are excessively proud of you, and we thank the benevolence of our creator that you
were taken from Hertfordshire before this dreaded winter set in.
Be not alarmed at this express. We are all well.
Things are beginning to calm. We have lost a number of our populace, and the militia numbers are much thinned, but the number of people
getting sick seems to have diminished greatly. Thank providence.
 I do have some very disturbing news for you, my dear. Not all of our friends have been so fortunate through this trial. The Phillips are all fine
still, but the Bennets have not fared as well. Word came through this morning that Miss Lydia has succumbed to the fever. She passed yesterday
and will be honored with several others in the mass ceremony to be held next Sunday. Such times as these, where funerals are done in plural.
Such times, Charlotte.
I am afraid that is not the whole of the tale, either. Your good friend Elizabeth has now fallen ill, also. You would remember that she was nursing
her sister morning through night with no help from any quarter. They were all too afraid of exposing others to the fever. I am afraid that Fanny
will bury two daughters before the spring. I ache and grieve for her. I could not imagine losing any one of my precious children, and each day, I
look on Maria with a combination of fear for her and thanks that she has been so far spared.
And now, dear Charlotte, I have a terrible request to make of you. Jane Bennet is staying with her family the Gardiners in London, at –
Gracechurch Street. I know that you have stated you are less than half a day‟s distance from town, d you think that you would be able to go to
Jane and let her know the news? The Bennets are under quarantine and the rest of us feel this news best given to her first hand if possible. I
understand if your husband would rather you did not, but as he is their cousin, and you are such close friends with Elizabeth and Jane both, I feel
perhaps he may deem it wise.
I am sorry to add that your father will not be able to bring Maria to you for another three weeks, and then they will not be able to stay long. We
need able bodies here to help in the recovery and planning of the spring planting. I will only be able to spare the two of them for a short visit, but
I fear they desperately need the change of environment. Maria has been working diligently with the other young ladies of the area. I am
excessively proud of her. I am also in need of assurance that you are well, though, so come to you they will, even if just for a few days.
Give our love to your husband,
Mother
~~~~~
March 8
My Dearest family,
I hardly know how to begin this letter. Charlotte Collins came yesterday to tell us of the dreadful news.
Oh,Mama, how your heart must ache! I would that I were there to hold you and help you through this awful time!
Kitty, you and Lydia were always so close. I know you feel this pain so keenly.
Mary, Lizzy has written to me of how close you and Kitty and she had come through this trial. Lizzy spoke of how you had become so strong and
compassionate, and how you, Kitty, had been such a comfort to Mama.
Papa, I know you wish to keep me away from home, where the quarantine is just now being dropped. But I beg of you, now that the quarantine
has been lifted, please let me come home. Please let me come to Lizzy. I am now the strongest of all of us – I have not been toiling my fingers to
the bone all winter. Please let me come home, I am needed and need to be there, to help and to grieve with you.
Your loving daughter and sister, who misses you all so terribly,
Jane
(End third post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 4
March 15
Jane,
It is the ides of March, and they say to beware of this time, but I write you with reasonably good tidings. Lizzy seems to have beaten the fever.
The doctor has stated that she is beyond the infectious point, and should recover given rest and time.
Your mother does not want you to come home yet, as she still feels there is significant risk, and, as ever, she looks to you, as the most beautiful
of our girls, to make her fortune.
Truly, though, Jane, there is a delicate balance in place at Longbourn presently. Your mother is not well, and I would not do anything to upset
her. Her request that you abide in London is a small one. I know it is hard for you, but please consider that she has lost her youngest daughter,
and is very difficult to console at this point.
You may be quite proud of your sisters, however. Mary and Kitty have quite become another Jane and Lizzy for me. They talk sense most of the
time, and are quite pleasant to work with. Now, if I could only see the color come back to my Lizzy‟s cheeks, things would be almost well again.
As well as they can be with a lost child.
God Bless you, my dearest.
Your Papa
~~~~~
March 23
Dear Jane,
Please ignore the scratchiness of this letter – I‟m writing it under cover of night. If Mama discovers me, she shall be quite put out.
I am so sorry not to have written of this sooner, but I could not write what I wanted. Mama insists on knowing all we write, and would be very
perturbed upon reading this letter.
Jane, Mama is not well .She has not been herself since poor Lydia passed. She accuses Lizzy of not nursing Lydia back to health on purpose. She
accuses Papa of killing her favorite daughter. She accuses Lizzy of killing us all because she refused to marry Mr. Collins.
She refuses to let Lizzy rest, and refuses to let us nurse her. She refuses to let you come home because she knows that Lizzy longs to see you.
I fear greatly for our sister, Jane. She fell ill again with fever yesterday morning. She burned all day before finally responding to the cool flannels
and willow brew. Though the fever lasted a shorter time this time, it took so much out of her. She looks as though she will waste away before us.
I know you can do nothing, but we are forbidden to speak of it here. It is as though Mama wants her to die.
I do not want her to die, Jane. I have already lost one sister; I could not bear to lose another. Even now when she is ill, Lizzy brings out the
laughter in all of us. She has been such a boon to Mary and me. I never thought I could cry so much, Jane.
We have bearded the lion in his den this evening, and Papa has agreed to take a desperate measure on Lizzy‟s behalf. I only hope it is not too late.
I know there is nothing you can do, but I greatly needed to talk to someone about this. And I felt you needed to know our situation. As hard as it
is being here, I cannot imagine being separated from my dear family while this was all happening, Jane. You are never far from our thoughts.
Your grieving sister,
Kitty
~~~~~
March 25 – express post
Dear Cousin William,
I hope that you will forgive the shortness of the notice, but I would like to ask that my daughter Elizabeth may come to stay with you and your
wife, as planned earlier this year.
I have spoken with your father-in-law, and he informs me that he and Miss Lucas plan to make the trip to Kent three days hence. I know that you
have heard that Elizabeth has been ill, but the dangerous part of the illness has passed, and I am of the belief that the superior environment of
Kent will help to bring her health back quickly.
If this arrangement is not acceptable to you, please reply at your earliest convenience.
Thank you,
Thomas Bennet
(End fourth post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 5
Easter fell at the end of March that year, and Fitzwilliam Darcy approached his annual pilgrimage to Rosings with a mixture of distaste and
excitement. His cousin Richard had once again agreed to accompany him, and the two of them discussed any manner of topics during the carriage
ride to Rosings, the home of their aunt, the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
As much as he respected his aunt, Darcy could feel nothing but dread of his time in her company. Lady Catherine‟s irrepressible demand that he
announce his engagement to her daughter had only grown in force over the last few years, and it was only Anne's insistence that this state of
affairs was to her advantage that had prevented him from forcing the truth on his aunt long ago. He had no intention of ever marrying Anne, and
she had absolutely no desire to marry him. Most of the time, the non-existent betrothal was forgotten by both Darcy and Anne, except when
Darcy used it to hold back a very small percentage of the mothers of the ton from hunting him. But the trip to Rosings was torture, because he
was hounded over these marital expectations daily.
This year was bound to be worse. After the disastrous autumn in Hertfordshire, Darcy had decided that it was time for him to marry. So, he had
attended dinner parties, teas, and balls, all in the hopes of finding a prospective wife. The women had neither tempted nor entertained. They were
truly barely tolerable, the entire lot of them. However, the fact that he had thusly put himself forward had certainly made its way back to Rosings,
so his aunt was certain to be more demanding of his time and attention than ever.
Additionally, this year, there would be a new people attending her Ladyship‟s table. The parsonage at Hunsford was occupied by Mr. William
Collins, cousin to the lovely Elizabeth Bennet, and the new Mrs. Collins, great friend of the same young lady.
Elizabeth.
He could barely stop himself from sighing like a lovesick fool at just the thought of her name. It had been four months – and he had only been in
her presence for two! And yet, what had she done to him? He dreamed of her almost nightly, and thought of her almost constantly when awake.
He knew the Collins‟s would talk about her; indeed, the Bennets were one of the few topics of conversation he could imagine sustaining with
them. And he steeled himself for whatever the news held.
A lovely woman like Elizabeth would not remain single indefinitely.
The news, when it came, was not, however, what he had expected.
“Darcy, come here. Sit beside Anne. Fitzwilliam, you shall sit here, next to me. Mrs. Collins, you sit next to Fitzwilliam. No, No! Mr. Collins!
You cannot sit next to your wife! Over next to Darcy, if you please!” Once Lady Catherine was satisfied with the seating arrangement, the soup
course was served.
Over the second meat course, Darcy looked up at Mrs. Collins, “Are your family all well, Mrs. Collins?”
Charlotte looked at Mr. Darcy sedately and replied with a cool voice, “Yes, sir, thank you very much for asking.”
“Yes, yes, my nephew is all things considerate,” Lady Catherine inserted into the conversation. “I am sure we are all greatly relieved to know that
your family are all fine, Mrs. Collins. What a shame, Darcy, all that has gone on in Hertfordshire. I have often told Mr. Collins that he should
preach to the masses that we should be thankful for our health. Though I cannot believe that such a situation would happen here in Kent. I am
sure that there must be something… peculiar in the air of Hertfordshire to allow such misery to take root. Indeed, Mr. Collins has often said that
there is much licentiousness in the general vicinity of Hertfordshire, due to the presence of a great number of soldiers. Yes, they have brought this
illness onto themselves, with their behavior. One can never be too careful. Of course, people of our rank would never suffer so. We have a moral
purity that makes it such that nothing of this magnitude can ever approach us.”
She went on in this manner for a number of minutes, switching to a lecture on classes and circles that somehow enabled her to remind Darcy of
what she expected of him with respect to her own daughter. Darcy heard none of it, though. His mind was dwelling on the fact that something of
a terrible nature had happened in Hertfordshire. The bleak, tired look on Mrs. Collins plain features belied the idea that no one in Kent had been
affected by this.
Easter dinner ground to a halt, and the Collins‟ excused themselves shortly thereafter. Richard looked at Darcy askance when he announced a
while later that he was going to call on the parsonage.
“There was something left out of that dinner conversation, Fitzwilliam. Something is terribly wrong with Mrs. Collins, and I would be boorish,
indeed, to see the signs of suffering and ignore them.” With that speech, he strode to the door.
(End fifth post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 6
Charlotte Collins stood in her parlor, and upon seeing Mr. Darcy enter, she registered no surprise.
After general salutations, she ordered tea, sat down and indicated that he should do the same. Then, in a quiet but resolute voice, she spoke to
him, “I could see, Sir, that you were concerned when your aunt mentioned what has happened in Meryton, but the conversation is not one I
would wish to carry out over Easter dinner.”
“What exactly, Mrs. Collins, has been happening in Hertfordshire?” Darcy asked with concern.
“Plague, sir.”
Before she could answer any further, her husband came in.
“Mr. Darcy! Thank you for blessing our home with a visit! We are so grateful to be condescended on by you, and so soon after seeing you at
Rosings!”
Darcy managed to hold his patience and replied sedately, “I was merely concerned about something that was mentioned at lunch and wanted
clarification from your wife. She was about to tell me of the goings on in Hertfordshire.”
“Oh, it is indeed very sad, sir,” Mr. Collins said with gravity that somehow was not matched by his features.
“Plague, you say?” Darcy turned back to Mrs. Collins.
“Yes, a highly contagious fever. Many, many people fell ill, and many did not live. Not a family has been completely untouched. Except,
perhaps, my own.”
“How fare the Longs? The Phillips? What of the Averys?” Darcy raised his eyes to Charlotte‟s, almost pleading, “The Bennets?”
If Charlotte was surprised that Mr. Darcy remembered any of the families of Hertfordshire, let alone showed concern for them, she was not at all
surprised at seeing his almost desperate look when asking about the Bennets. She had always suspected he had a soft spot for Lizzy. This would
not be an easy piece of news to break.
Unfortunately, her husband did not possess such insight or tact.
“Oh, it is a shame about my poor cousins. To hold healthy for such a long period only to lose two daughters to the fever!”
Darcy started at that, and his breathing became shallow. He was very pale, but he managed to ask, quietly, what had happened.
Charlotte took pity on him. It was completely obvious that this man knew nothing about the plague, that this had taken him completely unawares,
and that he was in shock and very worried about Elizabeth. “Lydia fell ill first – sometime near the end of February. She held on until the
beginning of March before her body failed.”
She paused then, not sure of how to say the rest, “Eliza was taking care of Lydia. From what my mother says, Lizzy was already exhausted from
taking care of the tenants and workers at Longbourn. Shortly before Lydia died, Eliza fell ill herself.” She could see the hopeless grief in his eyes,
and ignoring the rules of propriety, she briefly touched his arm in reassurance. “Despite what my husband has said, Eliza is still very much alive.
She has had a rough time of it, but, well, you know Elizabeth. She is as stubborn as the day is long. We expect her to come here in a few days –
hopefully the fresh, healthy air of Kent and required rest that I will ensure she gets will put her back on her feet.” Charlotte tried to sound more
hopeful than she felt, and she saw resignation and hope mingled in Mr. Darcy‟s eyes as he nodded.
“What about Miss Jane, Miss Mary, and Miss Catherine?” he asked, after a brief pause.
“Kitty and Mary are grieving as best they can while trying to cope with taking care of Lizzy, Longbourn, and the tenants in need. Poor Jane has
been beside herself with worry. She was in London when the illness broke, and it was decided that she should stay there while it ravaged her
home. Once Lydia fell ill, there was not much word, and Jane had no way of knowing what was happening. Her worst fears were confirmed when
she was told that she should grieve her youngest sister, and pray for her closest sister, who had fallen ill. Now, she waits in London to hear if
Elizabeth will live or die. I just had a letter from her today, and she is understandably becoming frustrated with waiting. Her Aunt and Uncle in
London have even offered to escort her home, but her mother will have none of it.”
Darcy sat quietly for a minute, barely registering that Mr. Collins was going on with an almost gleeful fascination, about all the casualties in
Hertfordshire. Darcy could not bear the presence of the little man anymore, but before he left the parsonage, he asked, “Mrs. Collins, would it be
too much… would you mind very much hosting Miss Jane Bennet for a few weeks?”
Charlotte nodded in approval and said that she would certainly have room for her dear friend Jane. Mr. Darcy assured Mrs. Collins that he would
arrange all the details, ensuring Miss Bennet would arrive in Kent on the morning when Miss Elizabeth was due to arrive. He only needed details
of her current whereabouts and a letter of explanation to have it all made ready.
Mr. Collins was shocked that Darcy would take such trouble.
“It would not do for the parish priest or his wife to spend too much time attending to someone outside his flock,” Darcy rejoined, seeing for the
first time a small smile grace the features of Charlotte Collins. William Collins nodded and started to thank Mr. Darcy profusely for his generous
benevolence when Mr. Darcy stood and took his leave.
Darcy made his way to Rosings, aligning his thoughts and planning his actions. He dealt well with crisis only when he had a plan of action. At
the back of his mind, however, was the plaintive cry that Elizabeth was seriously unwell. He knew if he listened to that voice, paralyzing fear
could take him – he had watched what happened to his own father when that gentleman‟s beloved wife had taken ill and died. He needed to
work; he needed to keep busy.
With this in mind, he rapidly prepared parchment and quill and penned two express posts.


Marcy 26 – express post
Dearest Georgiana,
I am writing to you from Kent with the most urgent request. I know that your spirits are not much up to a visit with Aunt Catherine, but I have
need of your services in an endeavor of the utmost urgency.
Do not fear that it is I or any of those you know and love who is in need of your aid. Instead, it is one I know and care for a great deal. Miss
Elizabeth Bennet, an acquaintance from Hertfordshire, is expected to be here in Kent in two days time. She is seriously ill. She wishes to see her
sister, who is currently in London. I am attempting to arrange for Charles Bingley to bring his fastest carriage, collect Miss Jane Bennet and
escort her here. It would not be proper for them to be alone, however, so I am hoping very much that you will provide them escort.
Please bring Mrs. Annesley and enough clothing that you might stay for the rest of the time here; we shall return to London together at the end of
the month, if all goes well.
I remain
Your devoted brother
Fitzwilliam
Re-reading this letter to his sister, Darcy felt that there might be a better way to ask for Georgiana‟s help in the matter, but he did not have the
wherewithal to rewrite it. The second express required all of his concentration. He knew what he had to write, but he knew not how to go about
the business.
March 26 – express post
Charles
I am writing with an urgent request.
Miss Jane Bennet is in need of your assistance.
Miss Bennet is in London. Her sister, Miss Elizabeth, whom she has not seen these many months, has been seriously ill and is to arrive in Kent
two days hence for a period of recuperation. It is of the utmost importance that Miss Bennet be here to help nurse Miss Elizabeth back to health.
Georgiana and her companion will provide escort. If you are able to aide Miss Bennet, please be so kind as to send my sister a note with the
details of your journey.
Miss Bennet is staying at –Gracechurch street. I have included a letter of explanation from Mrs. Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, stating that she and
her husband, Miss Bennet‟s cousin, if you recall, will welcome Jane into their household. I have also included a letter from me to confirm that
my sister and her companion shall accompany you. The Gardiners (with whom Miss Bennet is staying) will know all the details, and will, I am
certain, approve of the visit.
Please, Charles, put aside anything you have pending and bring your fastest carriage to Rosings. I would not ask this of you if it were not
extremely urgent.
I feel I must admit to you, Charles, that I knew Miss Bennet was in London this winter, and I never told you. I though it would be best if you got
over her. It was wrong of me. I was wrong. I apologize.
I hope to see you on Tuesday.
Darcy
After collecting the note from Mrs. Collins, Mr. Darcy posted his letters and took himself off to speak with his cousin, Anne. He and Anne did
not have much unsupervised time together, but he knew that she looked forward to their conversations as a diversion from her solitude.
Anne knew Darcy well enough to know that something had happened at dinner that had disturbed him terribly. He spoke to her of Hertfordshire,
and all the people he had known there. Only then, as he spoke with Anne, did he recall the details that Mr. Collins had so gleefully provided.
Anne, also, was quite concerned, mostly on behalf of Mrs. Collins. It seemed that the two of them had become friends of a sort, though Anne did
hold tightly to her social standing and did not generally condescend to parsons‟ wives. Mrs. Collins‟ father was a knight, so there was some
mitigating circumstance.
Anne was quite proud of Darcy for intervening on the part of Mrs. Collins‟ friend, and did not hesitate to add her own details to the scheme. She
decided that she would inform her mother that it was she who required Georgiana‟s presence. Lady Catherine would be so happy to learn that,
upon Anne‟s request, Darcy did all in his power to grant Anne‟s wishes. The thought of misdirecting Lady Catherine brought a smile to both of
their mouths; though Darcy knew it would only be a matter of time before his aunt knew of his own feelings toward another visitor to Kent. He
knew that, if somehow Elizabeth should heal from this ordeal, he would move heaven and earth to ensure that she remained by his side for the
rest of their lives.
The next morning, he received the following, confirming that his plan was in place:
March 27 – express post
Darcy
All is arranged. We will arrive tomorrow morning.
You owe me more than an apology. You owe me an explanation. But, based on our friendship, I‟m willing to listen to your side of the story.
What has happened to Miss Bennet‟s family and her friends is shocking. I am completely ashamed that I did nothing for my neighbors in this
time of extreme need. I do not believe any apology to them will suffice.
I am heartily ashamed of myself that I abandoned my friends. That I abandoned Miss Bennet. If it takes the rest of my life, I will work to try to
make it up to her.
Charles
(End sixth post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 7
The carriage containing Jane, Bingley, and Georgiana in Kent before lunch the next day. After delivering Jane to the parsonage, the rest of the
party continued on to Rosings in silence.
Bingley descended from the carriage with none of his usual levity. His face was drawn, and for one of the few times in their acquaintance, Darcy
thought he saw anger in his friend‟s visage. They quietly shook hands before Darcy turned to help his sister.
Darcy greeted Georgiana with a long, quiet hug. Georgiana was quite bewildered by the urgent summons to Kent and the knowledge she had
acquired during the journey. She knew her brother was upset; she could read it in his eyes. The presence of the others, however, made it
impossible for her to speak to him about it at the moment.
The housekeeper escorted the new guests so that they might refresh themselves and remove the grime from the road. To her dismay, Georgiana
was informed that Lady Catherine awaited her in the Red parlor. Her brother owed her for this.
As Georgiana was being interrogated by Lady Catherine, Bingley had a footman guide him to Darcy. He found Darcy at a customary position,
looking out of the window in an isolated parlor. Trying to rein in his burgeoning anger, Bingley approached Darcy.
“Well, Darcy?” he asked quietly, not trusting his voice to hold for anything else.
“Thank you for coming so quickly, Bingley,” Darcy responded, quietly.
“You know that you only had to ask. I simply cannot understand…” Bingley broke off, then started again. “It was the most miserable trip I have
ever experienced, Darcy. Miss Bennet… she was so worried. I could not bear it. I wanted to help her, to give her some sign of support. But even
if she is ever inclined to forgive me for abandoning her, today was not the time to ask. She was beside herself.” Bingley‟s voice trailed off,
remembering the look of terror and sadness in Jane‟s eyes. “I should have been informed she was in town. If nothing else, I could have been there
to listen to her.”
“I knew she was in town, but that is all that I knew.”
“Oh, Darcy, I know this is mostly Caroline‟s doing. I confronted her and Louisa last night. They admitted to seeing Miss Bennet twice. They
even admitted that they had heard something of a sickness in Hertfordshire. They claimed they were protecting me. Protecting me!” He
practically shouted in his anger, “In a way, Darcy, I expect such behavior from them. They have always been selfish, and I have always allowed
it, because it was easier than trying to fight against them. But you! I cannot believe you knew Jane needed me, and you did not tell me!”
“I swear, Bingley, I knew nothing of the sort! If I had known… but no matter. There is nothing to be done now. The fact of the matter is that she
still needs you. Let us go to the parsonage and wait with her. Stand by her now, Charles. You cannot go back, but you can be there for her now.”
Charles nodded grimly, and the two men donned outerwear for the walk to the parsonage.
~~~~~
Their reception at the parsonage was quiet. Mr. Collins was attending to business in the parish, and Charlotte greeted them solemnly. Bingley had
not known Charlotte Lucas well, but still felt that her reception of him was a bit cooler than it might have been, had he acted more respectfully
toward his neighbors in Hertfordshire. Shame stung him, and once again he apologized to Mrs. Collins for his ignorance of the situation.
Charlotte took some pity upon the gentleman and began to speak of common acquaintances. She did not know all of the details herself, just
scattered facts that her family had passed to her. It was hard for her to speak of, so they changed the topic to more general things. Still,
conversation was strained, as they were all thinking about something quite different. Jane Bennet entered the room shortly afterwards, greeted
everyone quietly, and sat in chair facing a window overlooking the drive.
Less than an hour after Bingley and Darcy arrived at the parsonage, Mr. Collins arrived home and began regaling the gentlemen with tales of the
parish, the parsonage, and the condescension of his Lady patroness. Though the topics were not ones that particularly appealed to any of the other
four people in the parlor, there was some degree of relief to have someone speaking.
When the carriage was heard to approach, all of the occupants of the parlor walked to the door to greet the visitors. Waiting for the dust to settle,
Mr. Collins approached the carriage and opened the door.
Sir William Lucas was the first to alight. He shook hands with his son-in-law and walked to encase his daughter in a hug. If any were surprised
by the lack of propriety in this greeting, they were more surprised by the fact that Sir William Lucas was utterly silent. His drawn, tired look was
a shock to all of those who knew the man as a gregarious, happy gentleman who had not a care in the world.
Mr. Collins reached into the carriage to help Charlotte‟s sister Maria down. She smiled shyly at her brother-in-law, then after curtseying to
Bingley and Darcy, quietly greeted Jane and Charlotte.
Darcy saw a shadow move in the carriage and went to the door to help Elizabeth. As he looked into the carriage, his shock was palpable. Nothing
he had heard or thought could have prepared him for the sight before him.
Though her stature had always been small, she now appeared tiny and frail. She looked as though a stiff wind would blow her away; that the
smallest bruise could break her. Her complexion was so white it bordered on translucent; her hair limp with ill-health. And though they were still
beautiful, her eyes looked almost dull without their normal sparkle. She looked tired, worn. Upon seeing him, though, she smiled, and, for a
second, some of the spark that was Elizabeth reappeared.
Holding out his hand for her, Darcy tried to smile in return, but found he could not. “Miss Bennet,” he whispered, hoarsely.
“Mr. Darcy,” she whispered, astonished to see the person who had for some strange reason so occupied her fevered thoughts. Was he here,
really? It seemed impossible. Yet she was certain she had not slipped into the fever again.
He looked at her, curiously. She smiled again. Taking a deep breath, she began her painful descent from the carriage. It hurt to move; she ached
everywhere and the unending hours in the carriage had not helped. The three steps to the ground seemed to stretch to eternity, and what little
strength she had seemed to be fading fast. Darcy longed for permission to lift her safely to the ground, and was only partially rewarded for his
forbearance by the smile he received in return for his help, once she had descended the final step.
“Lizzy?” The voice, so familiar, so gentle, brought tears to Elizabeth‟s eyes. She slowly turned to see Jane, her Jane, looking at her, tears
streaming down her face.
Jane walked to Lizzy and slowly folded her into a sweet, sisterly embrace. There was a sound of gentle weeping, and Lizzy, so in need of comfort
herself, quietly consoled her sister.
Charlotte viewed the scene with stinging eyes. Not used to such emotion, she sniffed, straightened her back, and offered to bring her father and
sister into the house. Mr. Collins led the way, pointing out all of the obvious luxuries of his home to his wife‟s family, wanting to impress upon
them that Charlotte had, indeed, found herself in a comfortable situation. If no one answered his statements, he did not notice, and again, his
conversation filled any uncomfortable silence that might have occurred.
(End seventh post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 8
Elizabeth pulled back from Jane, taking her handkerchief and drying Jane‟s tears.
“I think now I must be dreaming! Jane, how is it that you come to be here with Charlotte?”
“Mr. Bingley brought me,” Jane answered softly, sniffing and not taking her eyes from Elizabeth.
Elizabeth turned into the sunshine to see Mr. Bingley standing a bit apart, watching the reunion. “Mr. Bingley! How good it is to see you!”
Though she honestly sounded happy, there was none of her usual animation in either her voice or her gaze. She only seemed tired to all who
watched her.
Charles walked forward and bowed gracefully to Elizabeth, “Miss Elizabeth, it is good to see you, also. When Darcy mentioned that your sister
wished to come here to see you, I simply jumped at the chance to see all my friends.”
“That is very kind of you, sir,” Elizabeth nodded, then looked at Jane. “Shall we make our way into our cousin‟s house, sister?”
Jane smiled and made to step next to her sister. Lizzy shook her head sadly. “I am afraid this will not do, sister. My gait will make for little
progress. Mr. Bingley, would you be so good as to escort my sister into the house? I find, much to my embarrassment, that I have need of a
stronger arm to assist me on such a long walk.” Pausing, she turned to Darcy, who was standing back, quietly studying her. “Do you think, Mr.
Darcy, that you can assist me? I see no mud or wilderness that would affect your sensibilities,” she teased.
Darcy smiled and bowed, “Of course, I should be honored, Miss Elizabeth.” He offered the crook of his arm, and she took it gingerly, the smile
fading from her face as her eyes closed. She gathered her strength and began to step forward.
“You probably think me quite forward, Mr. Darcy. But I find that providence has provided this opportunity, and I shall not let it pass,” She spoke
quietly. “I must ask you to walk more slowly. It is… humiliating to admit it, but I am no great walker now,” smiling ruefully, she gathered her
breath and energy.
Darcy smiled down at her, his happiness at being with her tinged with sadness at realizing the severity of her condition. Just as he had fought the
urge to lift her from the carriage, he now resisted the temptation of simply gathering her in his arms and carrying her to the house. Instead, he
confined himself to taking his free hand and placing it on her small, cold, gloved hand as it rested on his arm. “I gathered, Miss Bennet, that you
wished to speak with me. What is it that is of such great import?”
“I must apologize to you. It has been on my mind for weeks.”
“Apologize?” he was taken aback. “Whatever for?”
“For listening to the malicious slander that was laid against you. For treating you with discourtesy simply because you were honest in your
opinion of our general company. In short, for being a terribly impertinent chit.”
“I noticed no such behavior,” he declared, gallantly.
Elizabeth smiled, “Well, it was there, I assure you. I could not speak to you without daring you to find fault. I argued with mean spirit, and in
truth, I am heartily ashamed of myself.” She stopped again, and Darcy was once again grimly reminded just how frail she had become. A few
steps and a few words had exhausted her. But, as her friend Charlotte had stated, she was stubborn. She continued her self-deprecation, “From the
beginning of our acquaintance, you proved to be nothing but honest in your dealings with us all. I saw your censure and decided to dislike you
because of it. But when your party left, and life, as we knew it, fell apart, I was struck with the knowledge that you had not meant to offend. You
had merely wished to avoid raising any false hopes. I dearly wished that all of your company had acted the same,” she said with a tinge of
bitterness.
Darcy listened with growing alarm. He had not realized that she had thought his opinion of her to be so low. He also had not realized how much
harm he had caused by talking Bingley into staying away from Hertfordshire. The pain in his chest and tightness in his throat compounded.
“I have nothing to forgive of you, Miss Bennet. I apologize if my general manner caused you or anyone else to think that I… disapproved of you.
I have not a great ability to converse with strangers…” he broke off, seeing a small sparkle in her eyes.
“You are shy, Mr. Darcy? I never would have believed it. Of course, never having suffered that particular malady, I cannot understand it in
others.” She laughed then suddenly stopped, trying to catch her breath. Concern clouded his features.
“Miss Bennet, is there anything I can do for your present relief?”
She smiled up at him again, but sad acceptance clouded her eyes. That look shook him to his core. Her words, however, were calm and reassured,
“I am sure all I need is some rest, Mr. Darcy. But I thank you for your concern. And thank you for listening to me.”
They continued to walk to the door very slowly. When they entered the parlor, Elizabeth quietly asked Charlotte if she could be escorted to her
room, as the journey had tired her. Charlotte nodded, her eyes solemn. “Jane is already there, unpacking your trunk. Are you able to climb some
stairs?”
The room was exceptionally quiet as the ladies left. When quiet conversation began again, Darcy took no part in it. The look in her eye would
haunt him forever, he knew.
~~~~~
“Jane, Charlotte, it is so good to see you,” Elizabeth sighed as they washed her gently and prepared her to lie down. When Lizzy‟s head rested
upon the cool pillow, Jane looked at her sister with concern. She had a feverish hue, and her eyes did not focus. Jane knew from her sisters‟
letters that Lizzy had fallen to the fever twice, and each time it took more to fight it off. She also knew from various correspondences that it was
the recurrence of the fever that killed the patients. She swallowed her panic, and put herself to the task at hand.
“Lizzy, you must rest now,” Jane said quietly.
“Yes, Jane, I am very weary. I will rest, and with you here, I am not afraid.”
Charlotte looked upon Elizabeth with a knowing eye and excused herself to send for the doctor.
Jane fixed the coverlet over her sister, fussing as a mother with a child. She began to hum Elizabeth‟s favorite lullaby, preparing a cool linen to
place on Lizzy‟s fevered brow.
“Jane,” Lizzy whispered, “I am glad you have come to take me.”
“Take you?” Jane asked, baffled.
Elizabeth‟s voice became fainter and her eyes closed. “I was worried it would be Lydia. She is certain to be angry with me. But you are never
angry. Jane, I am sorry that I killed you.”
“Lizzy, Lizzy,” Jane cried, gently pressing cool cloths into her sister‟s burning brow. “You are talking nonsense. I am here. I have come from
London. You did not kill me; I am quite alive.”
Lizzy looked confused, but did not argue. The fever had taken her away.
(End eighth post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 9
Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy excused themselves soon after Charlotte returned downstairs. Darcy heard Charlotte telling the servant to go for the
doctor and offered his services in any way that he could. Charlotte thanked him, but stated that there was nothing more to be done at that point.
She thanked him and Mr. Bingley once again for bringing Jane Bennet to them, assuring them that this was the kindest thing they could have
done for Elizabeth. The men took their leave, asking to be informed of the doctor‟s prognosis when he had finished his examination. Charlotte
promised to send the physician to Rosings when he left the parsonage. With that, they quietly departed.
When they got back to Rosings, Bingley excused himself almost immediately. He had much to think on, and preferred to do his thinking out of
doors. Darcy watched the younger man walk away, back straight, stride purposeful. Darcy, however, knew there was nowhere for him to go
where his own thoughts would not assail him.
He went to his only haven at Rosings: the library. Walking to a glazed window that offered a view of a perfectly manicured lawn, he stared
unseeing until he felt a small hand on his arm.
Turning, he saw his sister looking at him with concern.
“Brother?” she asked quietly.
Darcy looked at his sister and forced himself to concentrate on her instead of his bleak self-reproach.
“Thank you, Georgiana, for coming on such short notice.”
“Fitzwilliam, you did not ask me to do anything so terribly arduous. Miss Bennet seems like a very nice person. She is certainly beautiful and
well mannered. I only wish we had met under better circumstances!”
“And what do you know of the circumstances?” Darcy asked, willing to give his sister whatever information she asked for.
“I only know that her sister is here, and she is sick. What is the true situation?”
Darcy held his sister‟s hand as he told her of meeting the Bennets in Hertfordshire the previous autumn, all that he knew of the sickness, and how
he had come to bring Jane Bennet to be with her sister, Elizabeth.
“But it is so shocking! Poor Miss Bennet! She was so very brave, Fitzwilliam. I could see how much pain she was in, how she wanted to cry. She
even tried to make polite conversation, but did not listen to our answers. Her mind was obviously with her sister. I am astonished that she has not
been allowed to see Miss Elizabeth, given that the fever is no longer contagious.” Georgiana continued, thinking aloud, “I cannot imagine what
her family is thinking. I know I could not stand it if you were ill and they kept me from you. I am not so brave, but I think I would even challenge
Richard if it meant getting to you, dear brother.”
Georgiana smiled slightly, but saw her brother was far away. She took his hand between hers, “Will Miss Elizabeth recover, Fitzwilliam?” He
gave her no answer, but she saw the anguish in her brother‟s eye, and decided not to push. A few minutes later, she left the library with the
excuse of going to practice the pianoforte.
Richard Fitzwilliam wandered into the library shortly after Georgiana left to find his cousin Darcy alone, staring out the window.
“Darcy?” Though it was still a bit early in the evening, he poured two glasses of cognac and handed one to his solemn cousin. It was rare that
Fitzwilliam Darcy was upset enough to warrant an inquisition, but this was obviously one of the times.
“Fitzwilliam,” Darcy replied, “I am ruminating on how utterly stupid I have been, and how I may pay for that stupidity the rest of my life.” If the
Colonel was surprised that his cousin would tell the tale without prompting, he hid it well. Sitting back with the glass of amber liquid in his
hands, Richard Fitzwilliam prepared himself to be Father Confessor.
“I met her in Hertfordshire, at a ball of all places.” Darcy laughed without humor as the memories assailed him, “I wasted no time in loudly and
publicly slighting her. Instead of being affronted, she laughed. She laughed, Richard, and it was then that I started to melt.” Shaking his head, he
looked out the window, but saw nothing save Elizabeth in his mind. “Over the weeks, I could not help but notice that her figure was light and
pleasing, that her features, though not what one would commonly call beautiful, were completely captivating. She bewitched me. I yearned for
her conversation, for her laughter. When I knew my own heart to be in danger, I reminded myself of her very inferior birth,” He looked to his
cousin to see if there was any judgment registered on Fitzwilliam‟s face, but the Colonel maintained neutrality. He only watched and listened.
Darcy continued, “Oh, she is a gentleman‟s daughter, but her connections are rather low – so I treated her family and general company with cold
contempt. I lost no opportunity to seek out improper behavior and used those examples as reminders to myself of my rank and my duty. And I
left her behind.” Darcy could not keep the bitterness out of his voice as he recounted his own actions.
Lost in recounting the tale, Darcy had not heard the library door open to admit his friend, Bingley. Charles listened, astonished, as his friend told
a tale Bingley had never dreamed. Darcy loved Elizabeth Bennet? The rest of the tale confirmed the truth, and Bingley felt compassion melt the
anger in his gut.
“All these months, I have not been able to get her out of my mind. I dream of her – her laughter, her scent. She prefers lavender, do you know?
Just as my mother did. I searched the ballrooms and parties of the ton, trying to find someone else who could satisfy me as she did, but it was all
in vain. There is no one like her…” he paused, then seemed to collect himself.
“When we planned this trip to Rosings, I was full of anticipation. I knew Mr. Collins‟ relationship and Mrs. Collins friendship with her would
certainly ensure that Elizabeth was a topic of conversation. And, like an opium addict, I eagerly craved any information they could give me. Even
if that news contained a suitor, or, as I sometimes tortured myself into supposing, a fiancé. I knew I would never have her, for her station is so
much below my own,” he said with ironic self-contempt, “but if she were happy with someone else, that would be a pain I would find hard to
bear.
“And now I see that she is…” he put down the glass and released a shaky sigh. “Richard, I do not know how she‟s even alive. And if that carriage
trip has not killed her, that will be a miracle. When it comes down to it, the pain of knowing she may be somewhere else, happy with someone
else, is nothing to the idea that she would be gone, forever out of reach. That the light in the world that is Elizabeth will be extinguished. The
thought nigh kills me,” he closed his eyes in pain, and swallowed harshly.
Shaking his head, he spoke again, “Sunday, when Lady Catherine was talking of rank and class distinction and how what happened in
Hertfordshire would never happen here among the elite – I realized it was all stupid and pointless. Lady Catherine has nothing. She is miserable
here, and mostly alone. Elizabeth Bennet is dying, and she has more happiness in her grief and illness-worn body than Lady Catherine has in her
rich, hearty, hale one. The only time I have ever felt truly alive was when I was with Elizabeth, even withered as she is now. And I may have
thrown it all away, simply because of arrogance and misplaced pride.”
Richard remained silent, passing no judgment. Darcy was a complex man, sometimes too complex. He took duty and propriety to a level that
Richard thought laughable, usually. But the stark pain on his cousin‟s face led Richard Fitzwilliam to believe that Darcy was learning a very
painful lesson on the priorities of life. It was a lesson that Fitzwilliam had learned on the battlefield: life is precious, and society‟s rules can be
damned if true happiness is at stake. He knew, whatever the outcome, his cousin would be a better man for this pain. He also knew that nothing
could be done to help Darcy. So he remained silent, holding his counsel.
Bingley was astonished. He saw how contrite, how devastated Darcy was. The goodness in Bingley‟s own heart led him to realize that there
would be no point in holding any kind of grudge against Darcy for withholding whatever knowledge he had. In fact, Charles was castigating
himself. He had known of his own love for Jane Bennet. He should have been strong enough to weigh the opinion of his friend against his own
conscience, knowledge, and heart. It was not Darcy‟s fault that he had stayed away from Hertfordshire. Charles Bingley was his own man, and
part of being a man was taking responsibilities for one‟s own actions.
Shaking his head, Bingley answered a quiet summons from a footman outside the library door. Nodding and murmuring acceptance, he
announced to the cousins, “Darcy? The doctor is here.”
Fitzwilliam stood as Bingley brought the doctor into the room. Darcy walked to the gentleman and shook his hand.
“Doctor, it is good to see you again. I am sorry it is under such circumstances.”
“Yes, yes, Mr. Darcy. It is often my lot in life that I meet people only under the direst of situations. I did want to take the time to thank you for
the information which has helped Miss de Bourgh. Your cousin is doing quite well with the treatment that you forwarded me. Quite an interesting
bit of work that young doctor friend of yours is doing.”
“Yes, Anne is getting stronger, but she is not your patient today,” Darcy reminded the doctor with patience.
“No,” the doctor lost the smile he momentarily had shown. “Miss Bennet.” He paused, “I had heard of the fever in Hertfordshire. I‟ve a young
nephew in the militia down there. His mother has been beside herself with worry. Now that I‟ve seen it, I can understand…”
“What can you tell me of her condition?” Darcy interrupted quietly, but his anxiety showed in his voice and his carriage.
The doctor sighed heavily, “She is much ravaged by the fever, sir. I have given her the best medicines I have, but if she does not have the
resources to fight this, then there is nothing I can do for her. To put it bluntly, I do not expect her to make it through the night. But, if she does, it
is possible that she can recover.”
Darcy did not register the last sentence at first. Hope seemed so distant. All he could do was castigate himself for his own stupidity and pig
headedness. He felt Fitzwilliam‟s hand descend on his shoulder, and he thanked the doctor quietly once again before turning back to the window.
“She may yet live, Darcy,” Bingley‟s voice interrupted Darcy‟s self-recrimination. He remained silent.
Bingley also poured himself a glass of cognac and seated himself at the table with Fitzwilliam. The three remained mostly silent that night,
waiting for word from the parsonage, holding vigil for a young woman whose life was burning away in that small cottage down the lane.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 10
Jane squeezed out another cloth, applying it to Elizabeth‟s forehead. Nothing seemed to bring the fever down. But Jane was strong, and Jane was
patient. Every hour she washed Lizzy down with cool water. Jane forced her sister to drink cool liquids. Though Elizabeth was mostly silent, not
raving as many fever patients do, Jane spoke quietly to her all night. She insisted that Lizzy get better. She told of how Charles, and she now
again called him Charles, had known nothing of the fever in Hertfordshire. She spoke of how she would need her favorite sister to commiserate
about the horrid Bingley sisters and their vile treatment of their angelic brother, for Jane could never abuse them, but Lizzy was so efficient at it.
She talked of Mary and Kitty and their father and how all of them wanted, needed, demanded that Lizzy get well. She read from the book that
Mr. Greeley had given her, and from the other books Lizzy had asked for. She asked Lizzy what the verse meant, but received no answer.
Jane talked until she was hoarse. She bathed and nourished Elizabeth until she shook with fatigue. But still the fever burned. Still Lizzy stayed far
away, locked in her mind. But Jane would not give up. So, when the clock struck six, she changed the water again, and began to wash Lizzy‟s
hands, arms, and neck. She dipped and squeezed the cloth again, and began to wipe down Lizzy‟s face. She noticed that Lizzy‟s cheeks were not
as red. Pulling the cloth away, she felt Lizzy‟s forehead, and it was noticeably cooler.
But Lizzy‟s eyes remained closed.
Jane observed all this, and watched closely for any sign of movement. She saw none.
Panicked now, she gasped before collecting herself enough to lower her cheek to Elizabeth‟s face. Holding her breath, she waited for some sign,
any sign, that Lizzy was still there.
Only when she felt the small puff of air did Jane allowed herself to cry. And once the tears started to fall, they became a river.
“Jane?” It was a whisper, barely registered by the crying woman.
Jane looked up and saw her sisters eyes open, barely, but quite lucid.
“Oh, Lizzy!” Jane squeezed Elizabeth‟s hand and smiled, still crying.
“You must not cry, Jane. Mama says it ruins your complexion,” Lizzy smiled, teasing her older sister. She closed her eyes again, and fell into a
light sleep.
Jane hastily wiped her eyes and took the basin down to the kitchen. Instead of filling it and returning to the upstairs, as she had done countless
times that night, she went outside. In the chill of the early spring morning, she found a bench, sat, and wept. The tears were a catharsis. Lizzy had
lived. Lizzy would live.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Darcy had slept little that night. He called his valet with the first light of the sun. He dressed with no interest, his mind obviously trained
elsewhere.
Rosings was quiet as he descended the stairs. He had been up through the wee hours with Fitzwilliam and Bingley. At some point in the evening,
Bingley had started talking about the people of Hertfordshire, he and Darcy sharing the stories of the people there. The stories, of course, ended
up centering around the Bennet family.
Fitzwilliam had listened to the tales of the very diverse family with a small smile. If the situation had not been so grave, he would have raised a
toast to his two fallen comrades. For these two were certainly lost as bachelors. He listened with shock as Bingley recounted stories of the verbal
jousting that occurred between Darcy and Miss Elizabeth.
“She concluded that he had a propensity to hate everyone! I have never seen Darcy so flummoxed!”
As Darcy passed the library that morning, he thought back on the conversation. It had felt good, after so many months of denial, to finally talk
about Elizabeth. The freedom of being able to openly admire her, to share his admiration of her wit and beauty, had been the first relief in the
overwhelming depression he had felt since he had heard that Elizabeth was ill. And something of that feeling was with him still. He felt hope.
He passed through the park of Rosings, not noticing his surroundings, only knowing that he needed to make his way to the parsonage. He needed
to know.
Crossing the lane, he heard the gentle sound of a woman weeping. He skirted around the back of the parsonage to the garden, where he found
Jane Bennet, sitting on a picturesque bench, head in her hands, crying endless tears.
He approached her quietly, not quite knowing what to say. He feared that the worst had happened, yet, if it had, why was Miss Bennet alone?
Placing his hand gently on her shoulder, he spoke quietly, “Miss Bennet?”
Jane raised her eyes to greet Mr. Darcy. The joy and relief that filled her was quickly mirrored in his eyes. He knew, without asking, that
Elizabeth would be well. She had, once again, beaten the fever.
Wanting to express his joy, yet not quite knowing how, Darcy took one of Jane‟s hands, bowed over it, and kissed it, gratefully.
It was this action, this moment, that brought clarity to Jane. Mr. Darcy had not brought her here only out of the kindness of his heart. He loved
her Lizzy – loved her as surely as Jane loved Bingley. This knowledge guided Jane‟s subsequent actions. She squeezed his hand reassuringly and
smiled.
“Miss Bennet, you are exhausted. You should go rest.”
“Thank you, Mr. Darcy, I may just do that. You have no idea how fussy a patient my sister can be. When she is feeling better, she will require no
end of distraction to get her to rest!”
Darcy chuckled, his relief evident in his completely relaxed actions. “Knowing what I do of your sister, I am inclined to believe you!”
They shared a small amount of conversation before he turned back to Rosings and she walked back into the parsonage.
(End tenth post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 11
The first thing she noticed was the bright light on her face. She thought it must be late in the day for the sun to be shining so strongly. As her eyes
fluttered open, Elizabeth took in the warm, comfortable room around her.
So she had made it to Hunsford.
She could not be sure how much of what occurred before had been dream and how much had been real. The carriage ride had seemed to last
forever; the jostling of the wheels jarring her further and further into a sense of un-reality.
And yet, she was here. Tentatively, she stretched her arms outside the blanket that covered her and surveyed the bedroom. Gently, she raised
herself into a sitting position. As she swung her legs over the side of the bed, she realized she felt the steadiest she had felt in weeks. She was
weak, true, but there was no dizziness. And, she was actually quite hungry.
Thoughts of hunger also brought to light other necessities, and as she was completing a small amount of personal toilette, Charlotte came into the
room.
“Well, I thought perhaps I heard you up and around. Elizabeth, it is so good to see you!”
“Charlotte! I must apologize for what must have been a dramatic entrance yesterday. I really have little recollection…”
“I am well accustomed to your ways, Eliza.” Charlotte‟s smile and teasing tone set to rest any tension that might have risen in the room. Guiding
her friend to a comfortable chair, Charlotte indicated that she would send the maid to change the sheets and help Elizabeth into a new night dress.
Jane came back into the room while the sheets were being changed. She had slept a while that morning and felt somewhat refreshed. Carrying a
tea tray which held a variety of tidbits to tempt a fractious sister, she smiled at Elizabeth.
“Jane! I had thought you were a fever dream!” Lizzy stated happily as Jane put the tray on the table.
“Yes, I thought you might. You were not very coherent when you arrived.” Jane paused, then looked at her sister, and reached for Lizzy‟s hand.
“You scared me, Lizzy.”
Elizabeth squeezed Jane‟s hand and smiled, “I am sorry, Jane. If it is within my power, I promise never to scare you so again. Now, I am utterly
famished. What has Mr. Collins‟s cook prepared for us to eat?”
As the two sisters enjoyed the tea, Jane was satisfied to see her sister eat a good amount. The conversation flowed, centering mostly on the
Gardiners and all that Jane had experienced in London. As she had hoped, Elizabeth abused Mr. Bingley‟s sisters in a manner that made Jane feel
guiltily satisfied inside, though, of course, she protested aloud. It was not long, however, before even the light conversation became tiresome for
Elizabeth, and Jane helped her back into bed, thanking providence once again that Lizzy had been spared.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Day turned to night and back again. To Elizabeth, the time seemed almost static. She had visits from Maria Lucas, and, of course, both Jane and
Charlotte were often with her for the periods when she was awake. They talked about many things, but mostly avoided the subject of home,
knowing that none was quite ready to speak of the tragedy of the plague. The few times that it did come up, a shadow would pass over
Elizabeth‟s features. The fevered comments Lizzy had made weighed heavily on Jane‟s mind, and she wanted nothing more than to comfort her
sister. It was obvious that Elizabeth continued to feel extraordinary guilt over Lydia‟s passing, but Jane feared Lizzy‟s health to be too tenuous to
press the matter.
Charlotte amused her guests by sharing conversations with and instructions from her husband‟s Lady patron. She conveyed every piece of
information with utter seriousness, and never once slighted Lady Catherine‟s name. Yet she knew that the stories would shock Jane and
thoroughly amuse Lizzy. By the end of the second day of her visit, after Maria had also met Lady Catherine, Lizzy was a-quiver with curiosity.
She could not quite believe that the great woman was quite as bad as the stories indicated, but if she were not… what a disappointment it would
be!
Elizabeth listened with astonishment and gratitude as she heard what Mr. Darcy had done – both reuniting Jane and Bingley and bringing Jane to
Hunsford. It served only to reinforce her shame in how she had sorely misjudged the man before. She resolved to be polite and friendly when
they next met, unless he left Rosings before she was able to go downstairs.
The visitors at Rosings did make a call upon the parsonage in the first afternoon of Elizabeth‟s recovery. Jane and Charlotte greeted them with
placid happiness. Colonel Fitzwilliam was introduced to Jane and Georgiana Darcy to Charlotte. Charlotte, in turn, introduced her very shy sister
to both of the cousins. They had a merry visit, much lighter in tone than any of the visits between Rosings and the parsonage had been to date.
When Mr. Collins and Sir William returned from visiting the church, Mr. Collins was shocked to see such noble persons gracing his own parlor.
The shock of such condescension silenced him for the majority of the visit.
Before long, Sir William had made it generally known that he and his daughter would be returning to Hertfordshire by week end. He had asked
Mr. Collins to procure transportation when Mr. Bingley calmly stated that he would be returning to Hertfordshire at the week end and offered to
accompany them in his own carriage. Bingley knew that he could not make up for his previous absence, but he would do what he could now.
Sir William accepted the offer from Charles Bingley with a smile. William Lucas was a generous spirit who always strove to find the best in
people. He did not have to look hard to find good in Charles Bingley. When Bingley had taken up residence at Netherfield the previous fall, Sir
William was certain that the man was of good character and spirit. This initial impression had been reinforced in all dealings with Netherfield,
and cemented by the ball given at that estate. It was not generally known why Bingley had vacated his estate with such rapidity and
completeness. But Sir William had already dispatched a note to his wife telling her how Bingley had been completely ignorant of the happenings
in Meryton, how he and Darcy had acted since they had known, and that he was, in general, quite pleased with the young man‟s penitence.
And so within a few days, the number of visitors to the parsonage decreased greatly. Within a week, Elizabeth became, as her sister had
predicted, quite fractious at having to rest so much and being unable to walk in the burgeoning spring.
It was a warm afternoon on which Lizzy first came downstairs. Jane had finally relented, based on the doctor‟s say so, and helped Elizabeth to
dress. As she put the finishing touches on Lizzy‟s hair, she bent down and kissed her sister‟s crown, something she had not done since they were
children. Elizabeth smiled and thought to herself what a wonderful mother Jane would make. Though Elizabeth had been unable to see Mr.
Bingley before he left, she had heard all about his visits and conversation from no less than three sources. Jane never quite met Lizzy‟s eye when
she spoke of Mr. Bingley, but her blush and smile was enough to let Lizzy know that things were back on the proper track.
“Jane, I positively ache to go out of doors. Could we please venture to that little wilderness behind the house that has so tempted me from my
bedroom window?” Lizzy pleaded.
Jane sighed and rolled her eyes. So much for taking things one step at a time. But it was a beautiful afternoon, and Lizzy was looking with such
yearning that Jane did not have it in her heart to deny the request. They walked slowly to the bench in the back garden. Jane sat Lizzy carefully
before returning inside for shawls and giving instructions to delay tea for half an hour.
As Elizabeth sat outside for the first time in more than a week, she allowed the sun to soak into her skin. Raising her face toward the sky, she
closed her eyes and breathed it all in: the sounds of the birds, the smell of the damp earth, the warmth of the sunlight.
It was this sight that greeted Fitzwilliam and Georgiana Darcy. The brother and sister had taken to visiting the parsonage at various times.
Georgiana had become friendly with Jane Bennet and was extremely curious to meet Miss Elizabeth Bennet. As she felt her brother stiffen, she
looked up to his face. The expression – a mixture of wonder, relief, and yearning – was quickly stifled. Following his line of sight, she saw the
petite brunette relaxing in the afternoon warmth.
Jane exited the house with a shawl for her sister and saw the Darcys approaching. Elizabeth heard her sister return and opened her eyes. As Jane
was greeting the newcomers, Elizabeth‟s sun-shocked eyes were startled to focus upon Mr. Darcy. Still, the smile that graced her face as
introductions were made was all that is gentle and genuine. Jane had mentioned meeting Miss Darcy a number of times, and Elizabeth held as
much curiosity toward the younger Darcy as that girl did for Elizabeth.
“Will you not both come inside and have tea? Mr. and Mrs. Collins are not here currently, but Lizzy and I would love the company,” Jane
assured them. She believed this would be a good way to get Elizabeth inside without too much fuss. Darcy and Georgiana readily agreed to the
invitation.
Lizzy stood slowly, and Mr. Darcy offered his arm to her. “Miss Elizabeth, may I escort you inside?” he asked gently.
“Of course,” she smiled and took the proffered arm. Jane and Georgiana made their way a bit more efficiently, and soon, Lizzy and Darcy were
alone, slowly meandering their way around the house. She felt very awkward, but knew that she must begin again with this man she had so sorely
misjudged.
“It is very good to see you again, sir. I must say, I did not think we would have the pleasure of your company after you all quit Netherfield last
autumn,” Elizabeth said.
“So you lead me to believe the other afternoon, Miss Bennet,” Darcy answered.
Elizabeth stopped and looked up at him with a question in her eye. “The other afternoon?”
“Yes, I was here when you arrived. Do you not remember?”
Elizabeth paused, furrowing her brow and nibbling on her bottom lip. So much of the fever passed in a haze, and she had no recollection of what
was real and what was not. Shaking her head, she smiled slightly, “I must say that I do not. Did I embarrass myself thoroughly?”
“No, indeed! We had quite a good talk, in fact.”
“Did we really?” Elizabeth‟s sparkling eyes met his, and his breath caught in his throat. As one of her eyebrows peaked, it became obvious that
she wished him to inform her of the content of their conversation.
“Well, Miss Bennet, I believe I have you at my mercy now, do I not? I may tell you that you promised me any manner of things, and you cannot
refute anything!”
Lizzy smiled widely at the open teasing. This was so out of character for what she knew of him, but something had obviously happened to make
him feel at ease with her. “But you are too much a gentleman to take advantage of a sick woman, sir. Tell me, true. Did I at least apologize to
you?”
Darcy once again placed his free hand on hers which was nestled in the crook of his arm. “Please be at ease, Miss Bennet. Yes, you did offer an
apology. For which, I informed you, as I shall restate now, there was no need.”
Lizzy sighed, still smiling. “Well, I have cleared my conscience, at any rate. Now, shall we go in to tea?”
Tea passed quickly, Elizabeth guiding the conversation from one topic to another, drawing Miss Darcy in to the conversation with practiced ease.
“Miss Darcy, I must say that I am quite jealous of you,” Elizabeth stated, when she was seated next to that young lady. Though the cast of her
face was serious, her wide eyes betrayed her humor to any who knew to look.
“J-jealous?” Georgiana stammered.
“Yes! You have a brother! I always wanted a brother,” Elizabeth smiled and sighed.
“Yes, Aunt Catherine says your estate is entailed away because you have no brother.”
“Oh, not for any reason so practical as that, I assure you!” Lizzy laughed. She leaned closer to Georgiana, as though she were to impart a secret
of great import, “You see, Miss Darcy, I always wanted a brother because it simply is no fun playing pirates or climbing trees or catching frogs
and snakes alone! Jane is a perfect sister, but she is just that: a sister!”
Georgiana‟s eyes warmed, “I always wanted a sister,” she said shyly.
“Well, I have four of them…” Lizzy suddenly trailed off, thinking of Lydia, and that now she only had three sisters. She closed her eyes briefly,
then nodded, continuing, “and you have no idea how hectic it is to be raised in a house with all girls! No bonnet, ribbon, button, or any such thing
lies unclaimed, and no surface in the house isn‟t covered with bonnets, ribbons, or needlework. Why, my father takes to shutting himself in his
library just to avoid female frippery!”
“Lizzy!” Jane joined in, laughing at the description of her family. “It is not so bad as all of that, Miss Darcy. Do not let Elizabeth‟s sense of
humor mislead you. Life with sisters is often quite pleasant.”
Between Jane and Elizabeth, Georgiana felt completely at ease, and she was most disappointed when her brother announced that they needed to
return to Rosings. Mr. Darcy, whose attention never truly left Elizabeth, noticed that she was tiring rapidly. Wishing the Bennet sisters a warm
goodbye, he escorted his sister to the door.
(End 11th post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 12
The following week passed rapidly, and Lizzy got steadily stronger each day. Though she still could not walk far, and still napped daily and slept
long through the night, she could feel health and energy coming back to her. The Darcys again visited the parsonage, this time their cousin
joined them. Colonel Fitzwilliam, upon meeting Elizabeth Bennet, saw immediately what so captivated his cousin. Even diminished, she held a
wit and fire that would be impossible for someone of Darcy‟s nature to ignore. She teased mercilessly, yet with a gentleness that would disarm
any insult. Though he could not tell if she reciprocated Darcy‟s interest, she was certainly no mercenary – he would wager on that. And if she
chose to accept Darcy, she would indeed make him happy. Not that Darcy would ever ask, but if he did, Fitzwilliam would certainly approve of
his choice.
Charlotte and Jane watched the growing relationship with quiet satisfaction, each knowing that Elizabeth‟s former passionate dislike was now
turning in a more positive direction. Gone were the comments on Mr. Darcy‟s arrogance and aloofness. If she mentioned him at all, it was with
friendly rancor.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
It was breakfast time at the parsonage a few days later. Elizabeth had spent a few precious moments wandering through the gardens and the brief
exercise brought some color to her cheeks. As she sat down across from Jane at the table, the two sisters exchanged a quiet, satisfied smile.
Mr. Collins waited until his cousins were properly seated, blessed the meal, then began to load his plate with the filling provisions.
“My dear Charlotte, I have been most remiss. I received an express yesterday indicating that we should expect more company this afternoon.”
Charlotte raised her eyebrows but remained calm, “Of course, Mr. Collins, our home is always at ready to greet guests. May I ask who it is we
are to host?”
“My cousin, Mr. Thomas Bennet, is coming.” At this news, Jane‟s eyes widened and Elizabeth smiled. Mr. Collins was triumphant in being able
to deliver such happy news to his cousins. “It seems, Cousin Jane, that your mother has finally relented. She will allow you to come home. In
fact, she demands it. Your father is to bring you home within the next few days.”
Elizabeth looked quizzically from Mr. Collins to her sister. Jane shared her confusion. “Sir, did my father mention Lizzy?”
Mr. Collins paused in chewing the large piece of bacon he had just eaten. “Yes, of course. Cousin Elizabeth is to spend a few more weeks here,
as planned. She was promised to Mrs. Collins for six weeks, and has been here less than four.”
Charlotte smiled at Elizabeth. “It would not do for you leave Kent when you are recovering so well, Lizzy. I think your father wise to allow you
to stay.”
Elizabeth nodded, “You are correct, Charlotte, as usual. My only concern is how I shall return home when the time is finally at hand, but I shall
cross that stream when I come to it!”
(End 12th post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 13
When the carriage pulled into the parsonage drive later that day, Mr. Collins was momentarily taken aback at the amount of luggage on it. Mr.
Bennet, it seemed, was not a light packer.
Jane stood beside her cousins, waiting for her father to exit the carriage. It was a cool, damp, windy day, and she did not want to expose Elizabeth
to the inclement weather.
Mr. Bennet stepped down from the carriage, bowed to Mr. and Mrs. Collins, then briefly patted Jane on the back.
“It is good to see you, Jane! I see a season in London has not changed your countenance. You are quite as pretty as your mother tells everyone
you are.”
They walked indoors, exchanging small talk, but all the while Mr. Bennet was distracted. It was not until he heard the minuet being played on the
piano that he relaxed fractionally. When he entered the parlor, the playing stopped.
Lizzy got up from the piano bench and smiled at her father. “Papa! It is wonderful to see you.”
Thomas Bennet had not cried since he was a child. When his daughter had died, when his other daughter had become ill, he had kept all the
worry and shock and misery inside. But now, seeing Elizabeth poised on becoming whole again, he felt tears in his eyes. His usual acerbic wit
deserted him, and he simply smiled, hugging Elizabeth. “Ahh, Elizabeth.”
Blinking to clear his vision, he turned to his cousin, “Thank you, once again, Mr. Collins, Mrs. Collins. I was a bit worried about Lizzy, but she
seems to have recovered quite nicely here in Kent.”
Mr. Collins accepted this praise as was his due, then proceeded to wax poetic about the superiority of Kent in general and Rosings in particular.
“Well, indeed it is a shame that Longbourn is in Hertfordshire, sir. Pity we cannot move it before you inherit, no?” Mr. Bennet smiled at his
cousin, who suddenly looked as though he did not know what to say.
It was at this point that Elizabeth noticed the number of trunks the servants had brought in. “Papa, is that not my old trunk you have brought with
you?”
Mr. Bennet looked at Elizabeth, then nodded. “Yes, my dear. I have brought some small items that your sisters felt you needed. I have also
brought letters from Kitty and Mary for you and Jane.”
Elizabeth looked at the trunks and realized that they were big enough to hold more than a few items from her sisters. Mr. Bennet sighed. He had
hoped to avoid this discussion for a few hours, but Elizabeth was already too curious to put it off.
Charlotte, seeing that something was amiss, directed her husband to a matter in his study, leaving the Bennets in peace to discuss their family
business. When the parlor door was closed behind them, Mr. Bennet turned to his daughters.
“Papa?” Jane asked quietly.
Mr. Bennet sighed. “Ah, Jane. It will be good to have you home again. Though Kitty and Mary have become quite good company, I find that I
miss all of my daughters. Longbourn is too quiet these days.” He paused, and Elizabeth reached out and squeezed his hand. The look in his eye
mirrored the one she felt – guilt, pain, and sadness. He swallowed visibly, then turned the topic.
“We were all surprised to see Mr. Bingley come back into the neighborhood. He has been visiting all his neighbors, and has even called on
Longbourn. He has asked my permission to court you, Jane.” Jane blushed, smiling. “I see that you will not be opposed to the idea. That is well,
as your mother has ordered you home simply to be at Mr. Bingley‟s disposal.”
Lizzy, too, smiled at this outcome. It seemed as though Jane and Mr. Bingley might find a happy ending after all. She only hoped she would be
home in time to help plan the wedding.
“Papa, when am I to come home?” Lizzy asked.
Sighing, Mr. Bennet rose and walked to a window. He turned back to his daughters, who were watching him with curiosity and concern.
“Elizabeth, much though I would like you to come home, I do not feel it is the best place for you currently. Your mother is not well. She remains
above stairs. She will not hear of you coming home for some time yet.”
“But, Papa, surely you cannot expect me to remain in Kent indefinitely?”
“No, no. The current plan is for you to remain here for another fortnight and then go to your aunt and uncle in London for the summer. I have
brought your summer dresses – Kitty packed them for you – so you should have all you need.”
“All but her family,” Jane said, quietly. Mr. Bennet raised his eyebrows and studied his eldest daughter. It seemed that none of his family had
come through this trial unchanged. Jane seemed to have developed more of a certainty behind her serenity.
The door to the parlor opened at that point, and Charlotte came in announcing that some of the Rosings party had come to visit. Mr. Bennet was
surprised to hear that the solicitude that Sir William had described continued. Mr. Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Miss Georgiana Darcy entered
the parlor and happily greeted his daughters. He was astonished to see the spark of friendliness between Elizabeth and the party – though he knew
she had repined her treatment of Mr. Darcy when he had been in Hertfordshire, he had never believed that Mr. Darcy would be so open with
Elizabeth and Jane. Indeed, there was warmth in the gentleman‟s eyes not heretofore seen. The warmth disappeared, however, when his eyes alit
upon Mr. Bennet.
The colonel and Miss Darcy were pleasantly amused by Mr. Bennet, and the short visit passed rather quickly with Mr. Darcy speaking almost
exclusively to Elizabeth. Though Mr. Bennet talked amicably with the others in the room, he kept an interested eye on his daughter and Mr.
Darcy – it seemed as though the young man might be a bit late in approaching her father for certain permissions. Mr. Bennet would not stand for
it if this man, no matter how wealthy, decided to play with his weakened daughter.
(End 13th post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 14
When the trio rose to take their leave, Mr. Bennet asked to speak with Mr. Darcy, mentioning that he had some correspondence from Netherfield
to pass on. Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana took their leave at Darcy‟s insistence. He wanted the opportunity of speaking with Mr. Bennet,
and this seemed a good chance to have it.
As Mr. Bennet handed Bingley‟s letter to Darcy, he was surprised that Darcy approached the subject first, “Would you care to walk outside with
me, sir? I have a matter that I would speak with you on.” They exited the parsonage together, followed by the curious eyes of the ladies in the
house.
Mr. Bennet was the first to break the silence.
“I was very glad to see Elizabeth so well. She was not in good spirits at all when I last saw her. Do you not find her much altered?”
“Indeed, sir, I have watched her come back to life these last weeks.” Mr. Bennet heard the bitterness in these words, but chose to ignore it,
pursuing his own questions.
“You seemed to pay an inordinate amount of attention to my daughter, Mr. Darcy. I am very concerned that in Elizabeth‟s weakened condition,
she is not acting in a manner that best befits her.”
“Her condition? You are acting rather late in concern of her condition, sir.”
Mr. Bennet‟s eyes narrowed as he observed the angry man before him. “I would have you explain yourself, sir.”
“I was here the afternoon she arrived, sir. Her countenance I shall never forget.” Thinking of Elizabeth being so ill put harshness in his voice, and
he turned once again to her father to ask what he had wanted to know all these weeks, “She was so diminished, so frail. How could you allow her
fall to that state? And since she was indeed so ill, how could you think of allowing her to come to Kent? She should not have made the journey. It
nearly killed her!”
Mr. Bennet closed his eyes briefly to remembered pain. It seemed that Mr. Darcy did have a great deal of concern and care for Elizabeth. Mr.
Bennet knew that many had questioned his rationale with regards to Elizabeth‟s treatment; he had seen the accusation in Jane‟s, even in Charlotte
Collins‟s eyes. But, somehow, the bewildered pain in this man‟s voice demanded an explanation.
Sighing, Mr. Bennet attempted to explain. “I had no other choice. She was so very ill, and her mother did not want her to get well. It is no secret
that Elizabeth is my favorite, but Lydia was far and above her mother‟s favorite. My wife, I am sad to say, has been much altered by Lydia‟s
death. She is so very angry, Mr. Darcy. It is as though she needs others to feel the pain she feels, and she has chosen Elizabeth as the one who
should suffer most. It is as though she has lost her favorite daughter and so has decided to punish me by making me lose mine, also. Had
Elizabeth remained at Longbourn, she would not have lived. My wife would not have allowed it. ”
Darcy heard and saw the pain and grief in Mr. Bennet‟s eyes, but somehow, this was not enough to stop his questions. The brief conversation he
and Elizabeth had in the parlor that afternoon had brought up another concern.
“Mr. Bennet, Miss Elizabeth is just recovering her health, and you propose to send her to London when she leaves Kent.” Darcy could not keep
the astonished anger from his voice. “London, in the summer, is a den of disease! In her weakened condition, who knows what she will contract?
And yet, she tells me you will not hear of bringing her home. Indeed, you have brought all of her possessions here, as though you are disowning
her.”
Mr. Bennet could not keep the anger from his voice as he justified himself to Mr. Darcy. “Mr. Darcy, I do not believe you fully comprehend the
situation in Hertfordshire. We lost dozens of people. Every able body is working – late spring and early summer will have every man woman and
child in the fields. Even if I could convince Elizabeth to rest and let the rest of us handle things, her mother would still hound her. In fact, her
mother still becomes quite agitated if anyone even mentions Elizabeth in the house. It will be easier for all around if she does not come home
until she is fully recovered.”
Darcy was beginning to get a glimpse of the delicate balance Mr. Bennet was attempting to maintain in his shattered home. Knowing that
Elizabeth was still haunted by what had happened in Hertfordshire, and knowing that she now had an enemy in her own mother, Darcy
understood that Longbourn was not the place for her. But, then, neither was London.
Quietly, he offered an alternate suggestion, “Perhaps then, she might be able to accept the hospitality of my sister, who would very much like to
retain an acquaintance with her.”
Mr. Bennet could not hide his astonishment. This man who had been too arrogant and proud to even speak to a Bennet in a public setting was
opening his home to Elizabeth. And yet, all that he knew of the man was astonishing. He had been given the responsibility for a very large estate
at a young age and had succeeded where other men would most certainly fail. He had the responsibility of a younger sister, and that young lady
seemed well adjusted and happy. He was, in fact, the type of suitor any father would welcome. Would this man really choose to associate with
Elizabeth? “You would take my Lizzy to your Pemberley?”
Closing his eyes briefly, Darcy admitted the truth of the matter, “I should have asked you last autumn for permission to take Miss Elizabeth to
Pemberley. If not for my misplaced pride, she may never have fallen ill to begin with.”
Mr. Bennet quietly surveyed Mr. Darcy. He realized the strong young man before him greatly esteemed Elizabeth, and could be trusted to take
care of her. “You could not have got Elizabeth to agree with you on the color of the sky last autumn,” he teased, then grew serious. “But she
seems to have warmed to you.”
It was a moment he had dreaded – he knew enough of Mr. Darcy to know that, given the fact that Elizabeth liked him now, it would only be a
matter of time until his intelligence and wit would win her heart. Clearing his throat, he began again.
“There are few in this world I would trust with Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy. Those who have asked before have been easily denied. But if Lizzy wants
to go with you to Pemberley, you have my blessings to take her there.” Both gentlemen understood that Mr. Bennet was giving permissions for
more than a simple trip to Derbyshire. They shook hands.
Darcy saw the fresh pain in the older man‟s face, and understood instinctively what Mr. Bennet must feel. “When you find that you have leisure
to leave your estate, Mr. Bennet, I hope that you find your way there, too. Elizabeth‟s family will always be welcome.”
With a small smile, Mr. Bennet bowed. “I thank you for that, Mr. Darcy.”
(End 14th post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 15
Mr. Bennet returned to the parlor, quiet with thought. He trusted Darcy – the man was the sort who inspired trust readily. Derbyshire in the
summer would be a superior place for Elizabeth to recover. But the question remained: how would Lizzy react to the proposal?
The three women were conversing happily, Mr. Collins having retreated from the scene when the important guests left. When Mr. Bennet entered
the room, Elizabeth smiled up at her father and indicated that he should sit in the comfortable chair next to hers.
“Are you curious, Elizabeth, as to what Mr. Darcy had to discuss with me?”
“I would be a fool to admit it, Papa, for if I did so, you would be sure to keep it all a secret, simply to vex me.”
Mr. Bennet laughed, happy to have Lizzy next to him, laughing with him.
“Indeed, Lizzy, our conversation primarily concerned you. Mr. Darcy wished to extend an invitation for you to spend a few weeks with his sister
when you leave Kent.”
Elizabeth could not hide her astonishment. “And how do you feel about the offer, Papa.”
Mr. Bennet looked closely at his daughter, “I have no objections to the plan if you choose to go. In fact, I believe it may be wise for you to
accept. Though I greatly appreciate the Gardiner‟s offer, London in summer is not what I would choose for your recuperation. Additionally, this
will allow the Gardiners to go on their tour, as they had originally intended.”
“Lizzy,” Jane joined in, “from all that Mr. Bingley and his sisters have said, Mr. Darcy‟s estate is a fine one, with lovely grounds and an excellent
library. You could not find a better companion than Miss Darcy. Consider it!”
“Yes, my dear,” Mr. Bennet patted his daughter‟s leg, then stood, “you should consider it seriously. Meanwhile, I am going to excuse myself for
a moment and go to speak with my cousin in his library.”
Elizabeth was visibly torn. She and Mr. Darcy had put any former differences behind them and had formed a friendly rapport. His sister was
perfectly delightful, and Lizzy could think of nothing better than to spend a few weeks in the company of the Darcy family at their home in
Derbyshire.
But her conscience told her she deserved no such leisure. Her family and her neighbors needed as much help as possible. She was not back to full
strength, but surely, with two more weeks of rest, she would be a useful pair of hands. Her place was with her family.
In the end, she did not know how she could justify enjoying a trip to Derbyshire. She had been able to avoid thinking on the winter and all that
had happened over the last few weeks. But the stronger she felt, the guiltier she felt. She was getting better. Lydia never would.
Jane and Charlotte watched Lizzy closely. “It would be good for you to have a change of scenery, Eliza,” Charlotte said, “and Miss Darcy seems
to be an excellent person.” She refrained from mentioning what she believed Mr. Darcy‟s primary motive was in removing Lizzy to Derbyshire.
When Lizzy would protest, Jane put her hand on Lizzy‟s. “The hardest thing I have ever done was tarry in London this winter. But I understood
that my parents were comforted with the knowledge that I was not in danger. Knowing I was safe was one comfort they had in a world of chaos.
It is your turn now, Lizzy. It is your turn to make the sacrifice, and put Papa‟s wishes ahead of your own. He needs you to get well. He needs you
to recover. You must know that neither Longbourn nor London is the best place to do that. Pemberley will give you what you need to fully heal.
Go to Pemberley, and when you come back to Longbourn, come back whole.”
Swallowing, Lizzy nodded, “I promise you both that I will think on it.”
She thought of little else for the next few days. At war was the desire to please her Papa and the need to appease her own conscience. No one
spoke again of the offer, but she saw in Charlotte, Jane, and even her father a plea to do the sensible thing. It was her father‟s plea that swayed
her. Papa asked so little of her; in the end she would do what would please him.
She would go to Derbyshire.
(End 15th post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 16
The first of May dawned bright and warm. It was the morning of Jane and Mr. Bennet‟s last day in Kent, and the entire party was invited to
Rosings that evening for dinner. Lady Catherine had refrained from inviting the residents of the parsonage since before Mr. Bennet had arrived,
and Mr. Collins was particularly anxious over this visit. Lizzy was feeling much better and had taken to roaming the lanes of Rosings in the
morning to escape her cousin‟s lectures on behavior and deportment.
This morning‟s walk found her in a particularly isolated grove. There, underneath a pine tree, was a blanket of lilies of the valley, one of her
favorite flowers. Smiling, she picked a stem and raised the small bells to her nose. Closing her eyes, she inhaled the perfume and felt her spirits
lift with the scent.
Mr. Darcy found her thus, and smiled. He had wanted to speak with Elizabeth for several days now, but had been reluctant to intrude on the
family reunion of sorts that had occurred at the parsonage. He knew that were he in Mr. Bennet‟s position, he would wish to have his long
separated Jane and beloved Elizabeth to himself for a while. Additionally, Darcy‟s aunt had, as he had predicted, noticed his interest in the
visitors at the parsonage. Visiting would bring more pressure on Elizabeth.
This morn, fate had given him a golden opportunity. He would not waste it.
“Lilies of the valley are one of my sister‟s favorite flowers,” Mr. Darcy said quietly.
Lizzy smiled up at him, “Mine, also. I simply adore the fragrance. Good morning, Mr. Darcy.”
“Good morning, Miss Bennet.” Mr. Darcy knelt and picked a handful of stems, handing them to Elizabeth. “Joyeux Fête du Muguet.” He smiled
and bowed to her.
Smiling in return, she gracefully accepted the flowers. As Mr. Darcy knelt to pick more flowers for Georgiana, Lizzy thanked him, “Merci! The
French always have a lovely way of saying things. Happy May Day, Monsieur.”
Mr. Darcy didn‟t bother to correct her – that the lilies were given to loved ones as a French holiday tradition was something he knew from his
father‟s mother. She, too, had loved the lilies and the tradition of the holiday. But he was fairly certain that Elizabeth wasn‟t ready for his
declarations of love. So he allowed her to think of his gift as one celebrating spring.
Offering his arm to her, they walked quietly down the path, speaking of general topics. After a short time, Lizzy realized that she was
inordinately comfortable with Mr. Darcy now. She looked at him with a smile.
“Why do you look at me thus, Miss Bennet?” he queried.
“Perhaps I am simply returning past favors, sir,” she gently teased, remembering how he had often looked at her in the past. Thinking back on
that, she became quizzical. “I know that I misjudged you heartily in Hertfordshire, Sir. But your behavior here is so very altered, Mr. Darcy. It is
as though you have gone through some metamorphosis.”
“I must apologize for my behavior then,” he stated quietly. “I have few reasons but some small excuses. I am never comfortable among strangers,
and, in this case, my manner was affected by very stressful situation my family had recently endured that I should have prevented. I was in no
mood to make friends. When I look back upon how I acted to you and your family, I am amazed that you talk to me at all.” Shaking his head, he
suddenly turned his eyes to her. “Now it is my turn to ask, what was it that changed your opinion of me?”
Lizzy was quiet for a moment, then looked up to answer him. “Your behavior did not go unnoticed. I took very personally the fact that you
seemed completely unimpressed with all of us. Mr. Wickham‟s charges against you merely reinforced my own prejudiced view of you.” Darcy
tensed at the mention of George Wickham, but let Elizabeth continue her story. “It was not until we were isolated, and Mr. Wickham‟s true
character was revealed, that I was forced to think of your visit with new vision. I tried to take my personal feelings out of it, and review what you
had seen of us.”
Her eyes were unfocused as she recounted her thoughts, “You walked into a room where people were loudly stating your monetary worth. You
saw us all at our very worst: my youngest sisters at their most rambunctious; my mother at her most avaricious. My own behavior, though strictly
proper, bordered on the uncivil. And yet, you tolerated it all. When I threw accusations at you which were founded by a man who is most
certainly not a gentleman, I must have insulted you deeply.”
“Miss Bennet, I realize this may be a hard topic to speak on, but I would sincerely like to know how Mr. Wickham revealed his true character to
you.”
Elizabeth looked up at Darcy again, her dark eyes serious. She told the tale of Wickham and the risk that man had exposed so many to. She had
no further word of where he had gone, but his actions blackened his name beyond all repair. Darcy apologized to Lizzy for not exposing
Wickham‟s true character, and Elizabeth laughed without humor. “None would have believed you, Mr. Darcy. We had to learn our lessons our
own way.”
Then she smiled and looked back into his eyes, “But as for my change in opinion? In light of my new knowledge, I reviewed the conversations
we had. Perhaps, I thought, you were not judging me so harshly. Perhaps you were actually teasing me. Perhaps, just perhaps, taking away my
prejudiced view, you were actually offering friendship of a sort to me. And I spurned it.” With a slight laugh, she shook her head. “I cannot tell
you what it means to be allowed to redeem myself for my own foolish behavior. Thank you for that, sir.”
“Miss Bennet, you take too much on yourself. My behavior to your family and friends was intolerable. I am simply glad these misunderstandings
are in the past. I would like to tell you, if you will allow me, that I admire you a great deal.”
Elizabeth blushed and turned her face away. Darcy smiled, reigned in his own desires, and presented what he thought she could accept.
“Georgiana also admires you a great deal. I would be very honored if you would accept her invitation to summer with her at Pemberley. I believe
that she would benefit a great deal from a further acquaintance with you.”
Elizabeth smiled and blushed again. “I assure you, Mr. Darcy, that any improvement would be mine. Your sister is a lovely young lady, and
having thought about and discussed the situation with Jane and Charlotte, I have already decided. I would be most honored to be your sister‟s
guest. At any rate,” she added, teasing, “I have heard so much of the splendor of Pemberley; I am not sure how I could refuse!”
Mr. Darcy‟s happiness at hearing her speech was clearly expressed on his face; had Lizzy had the courage to look there. Instead, feeling strangely
overwhelmed by the presence of the man next to her, Elizabeth kept her eyes fixed on the ground as they walked. The conversation gradually
turned back to less intimate topics, and when Mr. Darcy delivered Elizabeth to the parsonage path, they parted with great amiability.


(End 16th post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 17
May 5
Dearest Elizabeth,
Greetings from Longbourn. Papa and Jane arrived home without incident, as Jane no doubt has informed you. She and Papa both have assured
Kitty and me that you are doing very well and recovering quickly. I am so glad, Elizabeth.
Thank you for the sheet music. I understand that you and Miss Darcy picked it out specifically for me. I shall endeavor to learn it and play it for
you when we next meet. I hope you do not mind that I did not send many of your favorite books to you. I have decided to branch out in my
readings. Fordyce, much to my amazement, has not succored me through the trials of the past, and I find the words to be almost empty now.
Some of your tomes, however, hold more interest. I find Donne speaks to me especially, and I have also turned my mind to the book of Blake‟s
works.
Though Papa is not quite fond of poetry, he is more inclined to discuss these with me than he ever did with Fordyce.
Jane says that you are to go to Pemberley with Miss Darcy for a spell. I understand the area of Derbyshire to be quite beautiful. I know that you
will feel that you should be here with us, but fear not. Kitty, Jane, and I have bound to each other with sisterly affection. Though we would be
improved with you here, we shall contrive to manage without you.
Jane assures us that Miss Darcy is quite an accomplished and lovely young woman. Mr. Darcy impressed me as quite knowledgeable and staid
when he was in Hertfordshire. He is, no doubt, a balancing influence on a young lady. It is to your detriment that he will pass much of the early
summer in London attending business. But it would not be quite proper for him to be alone with you and Miss Darcy at Pemberley, so I
understand the necessity of his withdrawal.
Mr. Bingley has called frequently at Longbourn. I believe he is quite eager to be reunited with our sister. He does seem to be more attached than
he once appeared – I hope he does not play with our sister‟s affections again. I do not think Papa will allow it!
The tenant visits are becoming more pleasant once again. The Avery family have a new babe – he will not replace young Timothy (none could, in
truth), but he reminds us that life goes on. And we should enjoy while we can.
We here at Longbourn miss you dreadfully, and await your homecoming in the late summer.
Your sister,
Mary
~~~~~
May 15
Oh Lizzy!
Can such happiness truly be mine? I cannot deserve this!
He loves me, Lizzy. He told me he has always loved me. He begged forgiveness for not being with me through the winter. The look in his eyes I
shall never forget; they were filled with warmth and at the same time almost pleading with me to forgive him. Though I assured him that all was
forgiven, Charles promised to do all he could to make up his absence for the rest of our lives.
The rest of our lives. That is how he said it. When he asked me to marry him, I was so happy I could scarcely get a word out. It is fortunate that
he accepted my nod and smile as affirmation and acceptance. I am now engaged to become Mrs. Charles Bingley.

Oh, Lizzy, that I could see you so happy!
The news even cheered Mama, though she remains above stairs. She has instructed that we shall marry no earlier than October; that Lydia‟s
mourning period must be at least six-month. Charles is so busy working with Papa and the other landowners that it is perhaps a blessing that she
has asked us to wait. I am sure that she shall soon relent and demand you come home. You must stand up with me, my Lizzy.
The only regret I have is that Charles remains estranged from his sisters. I am sure it was all a misunderstanding, and had they known the truth of
the situation (they believed me to be indifferent to Charles, Lizzy!), they certainly would not have stood betwixt us. But Charles is firm in this
matter. I must bow to his opinion, though I shall work to help him forgive. Family is important. I understand that now more than I ever have
before.
There is a little more news here. You will remember I told you of the new rector in our parish? He is young and unattached. I believe that his
presence may do more to induce Mama‟s removal from above stairs than anything else. She has spoken of pairing him with both Mary and Kitty.
Though both of our sisters roll their eyes at these demands, I believe that Kitty may not be so opposed to the idea. He is a rather nice young man,
not exactly handsome, but cheerful and intelligent. Incidentally, he is the third son of a Lord. Though this does not impress Kitty, Mama seems to
think it quite important.
Mary received the sheet music you sent with gratitude. She has been practicing diligently, and plays the Hummel with great introspection and a
light hand. It is not quite the same as having you play, Elizabeth, but it is a comfort to us all, nonetheless. (And tell me, are you still practicing
daily? Miss Darcy must be a good influence on you.)
Do send all the news from Derbyshire.
Yours &c
Jane
~~~~~
May 30
Dearest Charlotte,
I must thank you again and again for having me at Kent with you. Your home is lovely, and I am so glad to see that you have settled so well. I am
sorry to hear that you will most likely be unable to attend Jane‟s wedding, however, it is for the happiest of reasons. Congratulations, Charlotte!
You will certainly be there with us in spirit.
Although I am most certainly not an old married lady, I do have some interesting information for you. Mr. Darcy has informed my father (who
passed the information to me) of the outcome of a rather tricky situation. It seems a scallywag that we all once knew has been handed his
comeuppance. Having been discovered, tried, and found guilty of desertion, Private Wickham now awaits trial for forgery. He apparently tried to
pass off some notes that came into his possession by a questionable manner. Additionally, his debts of trade are still outstanding. Between one
charge or another, he shall not see the English light of day for years to come. There is still the hope of Australia, however.
Justice has been served. We must be thankful that he did not spread the pestilence, and that his own personal plague will no longer be allowed to
visit upon anyone unsuspecting.
Please do pass on my regards to Miss deBourgh and Lady Catherine, and thank them once again for their condescension. Will they be attending
the Fitzwilliam family party here at Pemberley in June? I must admit to a bit of trepidation at meeting all of Miss Darcy‟s family. Mr. Darcy was
quite formidable upon first introduction, and Lady Catherine remains challenging. Were it not for the congeniality of the Colonel and Miss
Darcy, I should almost find myself nervous at meeting them all. (Of course, I cannot fool you, dear Charlotte. I look forward to meeting all these
new and interesting people. My courage always rises at any attempt to intimidate me, as Lady Catherine no doubt recalls. I did not shame you too
much, did I, my friend? I know she is not used to one such as I offering differing points of view, but I simply could not help myself. I seemed to
amuse the Darcy and Fitzwilliam cousins, if I did embarrass my own!)
Pemberley is indeed a magnificent estate. The library and paths and galleries and rooms… they all have such understated grandeur. The gardens
are so naturally magnificent. I have completely recovered my health, I think, and walk for hours each day as Georgiana practices. She really is
quite a wonderful person; I am glad for this opportunity to get to know her better.
Though I am well, I find myself restless now and again. I cannot help but believe I should be at home, helping there. But the days simply fly by
here in this piece of paradise. I shall return home ready for whatever faces me there.
Be well, my friend!
Yours &c
Eliza
~~~~~
June 1
Sir,
I am writing to confirm that all at Pemberley is ready and waiting for your family to arrive. I have readied the Milan suite for the Earl and his
wife; she seemed to prefer the view from that side of the manor when last she visited.
Your cousin and his wife have been given the Strasbourg suite. Its location should be quite ideal, and Miss Georgiana indicated that Lady
Elaine‟s heritage would allow her to appreciate the furnishings in that suite quite particularly.
The Colonel has his usual room, if his leave does allow his presence. Miss deBourgh and Lady Catherine‟s rooms have been prepared, as you
advised. We are all hoping that Miss deBourgh‟s health allows her and your noble Aunt to travel to Derbyshire.
Miss Georgiana blossoms under the care of her new friend. Miss Bennet also seems to blossom, sir. I have endeavored to do as you ask, but the
young lady goes out of her way to be an easy guest. She is so appreciative of all your staff does that we cannot tell if we are spoiling her or not. I
must say that she is an extraordinary young lady. She has quite charmed all of the staff and several of neighbors who have called since Miss
Georgiana has been in residence.
If you have any further orders before your arrival a week hence, please express them. Your staff wishes to represent you and Pemberley as well
as possible for your relations.
Matilda Reyonlds
~~~~~
June 2
Dearest Elizabeth,
It was lovely to read your description of Mr. Darcy‟s estate. Charles laughed aloud at your tale of becoming lost on your way to the dining room.
He said that you should ask him about the time Caroline got lost in the maze. It shows how little we really know Caroline, for I never would have
imagined her voluntarily walking in a maze. She must have sought some prize in the middle.
As for the more personal testimony and questions you have, well, though I am your elder, I do not know that I have the answers you seek. I am
blessed, though, that you and I have such a relationship that we can tell each other these things. Truly, Lizzy, you have been such a wonderful
sister when I needed you. I hope to do the same for you.
You say that you have great confusion in your feelings for Mr. Darcy. Since you have asked my opinion, I will give it, freely. I would like to
point out that you have never been indifferent to Mr. Darcy. You hated him; you could not put aside your remorseful guilt in your treatment of
him. Even in Kent, where you spent so much time dwelling on the recent horrors you had escaped, Mr. Darcy could bring a smile to your face
when others could not. Now, you find yourself thinking of him, missing him. You wonder how you go from hating a man to longing for his
presence.
I believe, Lizzy, that you may be falling in love with Mr. Darcy. You have always felt strongly about him. When your understanding of his
character was corrected, you could not help but love him. Indeed, even Charles has mentioned how well you suit. (I assure you, my dearest sister,
I did not bring this topic up. Charles did.)
Before you hide yourself from him in embarrassment, I must tell you something. The first morning you were in Kent, the morning your fever
broke, Mr. Darcy came upon me in the parsonage garden. I had gone there to cry my relief. I was so scared that I would lose you, my beloved
sister. And when I saw the fever had abated, that you had once again passed through the valley of the shadow, I could do nothing but weep.
He came upon me then. When I first looked up, I saw fear in his eyes. Fear, Lizzy. And when he knew from my own visage that you were on the
road to recovery, the look of gratitude and joy on his face was one to behold. He feels quite deeply for you, of that I am certain.
I know that you struggle daily with your own conscience and doubts. But, Lizzy, I think he could make you happy. You deserve happiness, no
matter how you feel currently.
I hope that this has helped you somewhat.
We all miss you dreadfully, and await your return.
Jane
~~~~~
Georgiana and Elizabeth were discussing a piece of gossip from the London papers when the post was delivered. Georgiana happily received a
note from her brother and another from her cousin Anne while Lizzy had one from Kitty and one from Jane. Kitty‟s note was sweet and light and
full of bits of wisdom and conversation of a certain parson. Elizabeth smiled, glad that Kitty was finding some happiness. She had taken Lydia‟s
death very hard – they all had.
Before she could allow herself to go down that morose path again, Lizzy opened Jane‟s mail. As she read the sisterly advice, she blushed to her
ears. Georgiana noticed this reaction, but said nothing, not wanting to invade her friend‟s privacy. Turning to her friend, Georgiana asked
Elizabeth how all her family was.
Lizzy was glad to have the conversation to take her mind off Jane‟s letter. But the content was never far from her mind. “Could I really be in love
with Mr. Darcy? Could he care for me? Or does he simply feel the same concern for me that he would feel for anyone?” The thoughts churned in
her mind. She did not know herself.
Reaching for her friend‟s hand, Georgiana at last captured Lizzy‟s full attention. “Pardon me, Elizabeth, but I must say that you seem very upset.
Can you not confide in me?”
“I wish that I could. Truly! You have become such a good friend to me, Georgiana!” Elizabeth reassured her young companion, then she lowered
her eyes again, “I simply am in such a state of confusion! A year ago, I was so certain of myself, so certain of my own discernment. But this past
year has shown me that I cannot so often trust my own insight…”
“You have shown nothing but intelligence and good judgment in my opinion. What can have caused this crisis of confidence?”
“Oh, it is no secret, Georgiana. Ask your brother how I misjudged him! I believed the words of a scoundrel when that man lied about Mr. Darcy!
Mr. Wickham‟s true colors have since been demonstrated, but it took… Georgiana?” Elizabeth noticed as the color first flooded into her young
companion‟s face then completely left it, leaving Georgiana looking pale and incredibly upset.
“What do you know of Mr. Wickham, Lizzy?”
Somehow, from the manner in which she said this, Lizzy knew that Georgiana had been hurt by George Wickham. Angry once again at her own
gullibility, she sought to reassure the younger woman.
“I know that he has been blessed with a beautiful face and easy manner, but that his actions do not often mimic his outward appearance. I
apologize if you hold him in high esteem, Georgiana, but he has greatly wronged many of my acquaintance.”
“Oh, I do not hold him in high esteem, Elizabeth. Though I once did.” To her mortification, tears welled in her eyes.
Elizabeth chewed on her lower lip, not knowing what to say or do. She squeezed Georgiana‟s hand in a show of support. After a strained silence,
Georgiana began to talk of George Wickham and what he had done to her. To Darcy. Elizabeth was mortified once again at how she had taken
Wickham‟s side over Darcy‟s, but it was not the time for self flagellation. Her friend needed her support.
She listened while Georgiana talked, and held her hand while she wept quietly. Then, when it was all out, she invited Georgiana to take a turn in
the garden. While they walked, she told her own history with George Wickham.
“Oh, Elizabeth. You do not know how last summer has haunted me! I know it must pain you, but it makes me feel so much less ashamed to know
that one such as you was also taken in by him.”
Lizzy smiled, “I am not so special, Georgiana. But I thank you for such a compliment.”
The two ladies turned back in to the house and rang for tea, consciously changing the subject. George Wickham had occupied enough of their
time.
(End 17th post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 18
Darcy pushed his horse the final miles to Pemberley. He had ridden ahead in order to ensure that all was ready for the guests who would be
coming on the morrow. Or that was the reason he provided when asked. In reality, he simply could stay away no longer.
When Elizabeth had agreed to accompany his sister to Pemberley, he knew that she had a great deal of recovery ahead of her. Physically, she was
starting to resemble her former self, but her spirit was still much diminished. He knew if he were present, he would not be able to keep from
offering himself to her, and he knew she was not ready for such a commitment yet. So he had stayed away.
But with the Fitzwilliam clan descending on Pemberley for some weeks of activity, he had a perfectly good reason to be with her again. Smiling
to himself, he gave orders to the groom for his horse, then headed for the main house.
Coming around the stables, he encountered what he had often dreamed: Elizabeth standing in the sun at Pemberley. She shaded her eyes with one
dainty hand, and smiled widely as she recognized him. Curtseying deeply, she warmly greeted him, “Welcome home, Mr. Darcy.”
The look in her eye, the tilt of her head, the tone of her voice… It was so close to fantasy for him that he had a difficult time not pulling her
directly into his arms. Bowing deeply, he swallowed over the sudden tension in his throat. “Miss Bennet, thank you. Please allow me to say how
lovely and healthy you look.”
“I thank you, though I believe I must remind you that I am only barely tolerable when at full health. Perhaps the glare of the sun has blinded you,
sir?” Her teasing tone belied any reprimand at his old insult, but he still had the grace to blush.
“If I promise to compliment you every day for the rest of our acquaintance, will you promise to forgive that ill-advised remark?”
“Oh, Mr. Darcy, the remark is long since forgiven. Forgotten, however, is another story. A girl must keep what few advantages she has when
dealing with a faultless man!” Again, her smile was warm, and her tone held none of the confrontation of the days of old.
“You, Miss Bennet, are incorrigible!” Her laughter was fresh and strong and all that he remembered Elizabeth to be. Still smiling, he looked
directly in her eyes, “You must allow me to say how relieved I am to see your health so much improved.”
“I can well believe it! I was a veritable fright in Kent. You would not think that a parsonage would have so many mirrors – but apparently Mr.
Collins allows for both dancing and vanity in a clergyman. He is quite liberal in his beliefs, is it not so? But there you have it. I could not enter a
room without being confronted with my own gaunt, horrid visage. Is it any wonder that I wished to spend my days out of doors?”
“Well, whatever the curative, I am glad to see that it has worked.”
He had offered her his arm, and they turned to walk together into Pemberley.
Lizzy chatted companionably with Darcy, ignoring the flutter in her stomach his sudden appearance had rendered. Pieces of Jane‟s letter floated
through her mind, but she put them away forcibly. She did not know how she felt, she could not tell how he felt. All she could do was be herself
and enjoy the moment.
~~~~~
The plush carriages began to arrive late the next morning. Colonel Fitzwilliam arrived on horseback with his brother, while Lady Elaine and the
youngest Fitzwilliam children rode in the relative comfort of the carriage.
Elizabeth watched as her friend greeted each new arrival with poise and grace that the mistress of any estate, small or large, should have. Mr.
Darcy entered the room with his cousins, laughing, and Elizabeth could not help but be drawn to such a sight. The colonel had been correct in a
statement he had made at Rosings one afternoon; Darcy was lively enough in the right circumstances. Smiling at the sight of the happy family
interaction, Lizzy suddenly was reminded of the lack of felicity in her own family.
Quietly, she removed herself to a favorite outdoor path. Knowing how busy they all were, she knew she would not be missed. Lizzy found the
center of the maze easily and sat down to reflect. A year ago, Longbourn had rung with the laughter and silliness of five young, happy, and
hopeful women. Now, though she was far removed from her family, Elizabeth would lay wager that there was no such laughter ringing in the
house. She sat quietly until she contained her morose thoughts and once again felt calm and serene.
Making her way indoors, Lizzy strove to rejoin the family in a way that brought the least attention to herself. Because many of the visitors had
gone to freshen themselves, Lizzy found Georgiana entertaining her youngest cousins in the parlor.
“Oh, Elizabeth, come meet young James and Herbert. Young men, this is my good friend, Miss Bennet.”
Lizzy curtseyed properly to the children and did not laugh when they executed their not-as-proper bows and greetings. Leaning down to them,
she asked them seriously if they had seen any highwaymen on the road, and if they were prepared to defend themselves if they did. The boys
looked askance at her for a moment and then began discussing all sorts of plans for defense and attack. The three became fast friends, and
Georgiana smiled to see it happen.
When the nanny came back to the room to relieve Miss Darcy of her charges, she found them in deep conversation with a household member she
had not met. Georgiana made the introductions, and Lizzy congratulated Miss Hewitt on such excellent charges. Reminding them that, if their
parents allowed it, she would take them on an excursion after tea, she smiled and bid them farewell.
“Elizabeth, I‟d no idea you were so good with young children!” Georgiana was amazed. Though she loved her cousins, she was never quite sure
what to say or do with them.
“Oh, that comes from familiarity. Aunt Gardiner has four rambunctious little ones, and when Jane or I visit, we spend much time with them. Jane
is quite the favorite of the girls, while I seem to be more of a favorite with the boys.” They both laughed.
Lady Matlock entered the room quietly, watching the interaction of the two young women. Catherine had written a letter full of the young,
impertinent Miss Bennet. Behind the bluster, she could see that Catherine had been impressed by the impoverished gentlewoman who stood up to
the very firm opinions of an aristocrat. When questioned, Richard had stated that he was quite impressed with both Miss Bennets, and had never
enjoyed a visit to Rosings so well, due to the extra company that was provided.
Though her curiosity had been sparked, Lady Matlock knew her son, highly trained in the art of concealing important information in His
Majesty‟s service, would give nothing away. Knowing from Catherine that the young woman was to be companion to Georgiana for the summer,
Lady Matlock had bided her time. And here was the opportunity she had awaited. Now, she could study Elizabeth Bennet to her content.
The commanding voice in the hall startled Elizabeth. She had met Lady Catherine, of course, when she was in Kent. But she had forgotten the
tenor of that Lady‟s voice. Understanding that Lady Catherine was lecturing Lady Elaine on the proper way to bring up young children, Elizabeth
held back a smile.
Tea was served to the six women in attendance. Georgiana quietly conversed with her cousin Anne, who had politely greeted Elizabeth then, just
as politely, had dismissed her. Lady Catherine greeted Elizabeth with voluminous remarks on that girl‟s good fortune in traveling in such circles
as Georgiana could expose her to. Lizzy agreed gravely, but the spark in her eye belied her submissive acceptance of such statements.
Lady Elaine proceeded to ask Lady Catherine her opinion on several of the great families that did associate with the Fitzwilliams. Anne was
drawn into that conversation, but neither Georgiana nor Elizabeth had much interest. The two of them were pulled aside by Lady Matlock who
began a subtle but thorough interrogation of Elizabeth.
By the time tea was cleared, Lizzy wondered if she would not have to provide dental and medical history to the Fitzwilliam clan. Preaching
patience to herself – after all, they most likely wanted to ensure that Georgiana was not exposed to a wicked character – Elizabeth queried of
Lady Elaine if her Ladyship would allow Lizzy to take that lady‟s sons out for a walk while their governess took tea. Agreeing with a surprised
smile, Lady Elaine turned back to her Aunt to continue the discussion on the Cromptons of Surrey.
(End 18th post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 19
Over the next few days, through various dinners, picnics, teas, and assorted amusements, Elizabeth gradually won over the majority of the
Fitzwilliam clan. The matriarchs were at times pleased with and startled by her outgoing, impudent nature. She showed respect to her social
betters, but always acted with propriety and elegance which easily allowed her comfortable discourse with that circle. If there was a difference in
circle, she never openly admitted to it.
Lady Catherine was vastly amused at the younger woman‟s opinions, Lady Elaine found Lizzy‟s penchant for her young boys quite flattering, as
any mother would. Miss Anne de Bourgh noted how her male cousins respected the opinions and performances of Miss Bennet with a critical
eye, almost as if she were hoping to learn the trick herself. The gentlemen soon found that conversations in which Miss Bennet took part were
livelier and more challenging.
It did happen that shadows crossed her features, and she would sometimes slip from company, needing time to think alone. The family was all
aware of what had happened in the winter, and understood that sometimes, Miss Bennet remembered those happenings, and needed solitude. But
those instances were becoming more rare, and the pain in her eyes was slowly disappearing.
Lady Matlock genuinely liked the girl. She also liked that Darcy, though he hid it well, esteemed Miss Bennet greatly. Lady Matlock had married
her husband because she loved and respected him. As a result, their marriage had been a good, long, happy one. It was the rule for a marriage in
their circle to be more of a business merger, but there was no reason, if he did not desire that sort of relationship, for Darcy to settle for a loveless
proposition.
There was, however, at least one woman in the family who thought Darcy had real obligations to marry within a certain, very small circle. Lady
Catherine watched with growing unease as Anne distanced herself more from Darcy, while Darcy seemed to watch Miss Bennet with great
intensity. It frustrated Lady Catherine that Anne made no effort for Darcy – in fact she treated him no differently than she treated James or
Richard.
Anne did not pay any mind to her mother‟s censure. She spent most of her time conversing with her cousins Elaine and Georgiana. In the rare
times when neither of those ladies was present, Anne would sit quietly, usually with one great volume. This behavior was not unnoticed. Smiling,
Lady Matlock sat herself next to Anne one such afternoon. “What is that book you have been reading, Anne?”
“‟Tis the most recent copy of the Baronetage. Lady Elaine had purchased it in London and kindly brought it to me to study on my request.”
“And what is it that you find so fascinating?”
“I find tracing my lineage to be quite rewarding, Aunt. See, here is my father‟s line, and here is my mother‟s. I have not found yours or Darcy‟s,
however, which is what I have been searching for.”
“Oh, well, mine you will find under the Harvey line, from Cheshire. Darcy, though, only has nobility in his mother‟s side.”
This news seemed to startle Anne, and she looked at Georgiana and Darcy with new eyes. She truly loved her Darcy cousins, but as cousins. She
had no desire for a closer relationship. It was the knowledge of the Darcy line that gave Anne an idea. Though rank was important to her, she
knew it was of ultimate importance to her mother. This could be just the opening she had sought.
Later that evening, Anne approached her mother with concern. She felt that a line as royal as hers should not be twice-stunted with untitled
relations. Lady Catherine listened to her daughter‟s concerns. At first, she wanted to push them all away: Darcy was made for Anne. But
gradually, she came to see the wisdom in her daughter‟s words. Had not Darcy and Georgiana made several firm acquaintances – even friends –
outside the proper circle? The clear approbation of Miss Bennet, although she was quite an entertaining sort of girl, was a prime example of the
Darcy lack of true gentility and breeding.
No, Anne was correct. She needed to wed a man who would understand the sanctity of the noble lines of Fitzwilliam and de Bourgh. Mother and
daughter began discussing possibilities the next day, and with the aide of Lady Elaine, had several prospects lined up before the close of the day.
It was settled that Anne and Lady Catherine would return to town with the Viscount and his family, and there, Anne would find a proper husband
for herself, and a proper man to take on Rosings.
Darcy watched this turn of events with a sense of relief. He had never wanted to hurt his Aunt, but he had known for years that Anne would not
suit as mistress of Pemberley, and he would not suit as master of Rosings. Indeed, the difference in the estates quite outlined the differences in
the people. He would, with his uncle and cousins, ensure that Anne married well. But now he was free to marry his own choice.
His own choice was, at that moment, animatedly discussing fashion with his Aunt and sister. The party, now two weeks at Pemberley, was a
smashing success. His family had accepted Elizabeth, and though he had not stated his intentions, he knew that none would be surprised at an
eventual engagement. He was well satisfied but for one small fact. The presence of all his relatives had necessarily limited any time he could
spend with
Elizabeth. Aside from some early morning walks, he had very little time with her at all.
A letter from Bingley that day had conveyed news of the Bennet family and Hertfordshire in general. Darcy used the letter as an excuse to speak
with Elizabeth and she gratefully heard all he had to say. He did hold some detail back, however. Though Bingley was a most amiable man, he
wanted his Jane to be happy. The situation with her mother was making her unhappy. Bingley had stated that Jane was extremely vexed at not
being near Elizabeth on Lizzy‟s birthday, which was just a few days hence. It seemed that Mrs. Bennet was still quite vexed with Elizabeth, both
for Lydia‟s death and for refusing an offer of marriage from Mr. Collins.


Darcy had to read that line several times to be sure he had not mis-read it. The thought of Elizabeth married to Mr. Collins was not something
Darcy could come close to comprehending, though, to an impartial observer, it could be a good match. Darcy was far from impartial. He fought
for composure, not understanding why he felt so possessive toward her when he had no claim, and not knowing why he suddenly had such an
urge to go to Rosings and throttle a certain clergyman. Bingley had related the proposed marriage with humor, but Darcy found nothing funny
about the idea of Mrs. Elizabeth Collins.
Shuddering, he read through again to ascertain just when Elizabeth‟s birthday was to occur. Without mentioning anything to the lady in question,
Darcy shared his information with Georgiana, and the two planned a special dinner in celebration of the occasion.
~~~~~
The morning of Elizabeth‟s birthday dawned crisp and clear. The men of the house decided it was a perfect day to visit the far corners of the
estate, and the ladies enjoyed their post in private.
Elizabeth received several letters that day, and none of the Fitzwilliams were surprised, as they were aware of the occasion. One of the addresses
did cause a flash of concern to cross her features, and she asked the other ladies if they minded very much if she excused herself to read her post.
The ladies agreed amicably and wished her a lovely walk.


Several hours later, the relative silence of the afternoon was disturbed by the return of the gentlemen from their survey of the estate. James and
Richard loudly contested who had ridden better, while Darcy and the Earl discussed the various outlays that Darcy planned for capital
improvements in the next few years. When they reached the small parlor, Georgiana met her brother‟s eyes, conveying a message that she needed
to speak with him.
Excusing himself from his cousins, Darcy pulled Georgiana aside.
“What concerns you, dearest?”
“It is Elizabeth. She received several messages this morning, as we expected, since it is her birthday. She looked quite happy at first, then quite
pensive. Fitzwilliam, she excused herself several hours ago. She missed lunch, and it is almost time for tea.”
Darcy sighed. It did not take a great deal of logic to know what had happened. Touching Georgiana‟s arm reassuringly, he assured her that he
would find Elizabeth and do all he could to make all well.
~~~~~
As he entered the small clearing he knew she favored, he found her, still and silent, staring into the distance.
“You have word from home,” he stated. There was no question in his mind, only word from her mother could put the stains of tears on her face.
Elizabeth laughed, but without humor. “You know me so well, Mr. Darcy. You not only know where to find me, but you also know what troubles
me. How is it that you know all of my secrets?”
“I have been studying you for these many long months, Miss Bennet. I know only your mother can make you cry. What did she write to you?”
Elizabeth handed him a paper, “Please read it, I do not mind.”
He took the letter from her and began to read, growing angrier with each line.
“Surely you cannot believe this tripe?” he growled. He was livid, but tried hard to control his vitriol. Miss Bennet was not the target of his ire,
and yelling would only make her more upset.
Elizabeth sighed, taking the paper back, folding it, and putting it along with her other letters into her reticule. “My mother grieves the day I was
conceived, curses the day I was born, Mr. Darcy. What is there to believe but that she feels this way?”
“But her feelings are baseless, grounded in grief-induced mania, not fact. Surely, you understand that?” he demanded quietly.
“If all that she accused of me were groundless, I would not feel so… haunted. So guilty…” Her voice fell off in a whisper, and he had to listen
carefully to catch her words.
“Elizabeth, you are the kindest soul I know. You would never do the things she accuses of you.” Neither of them registered that he used her
Christian name. It seemed so natural to him, as it was how he thought of her. She wasn‟t really listening.
She turned her eyes, full of tears, back up to him, “But there is some truth in the accusations,” she whispered, full of self-recrimination.
“I did, for my own selfish desire, put to ruin the comfort and safety of all my sisters and mother. I turned down a completely respectable offer of
marriage simply because I could not tolerate the idea of spending one day in that gentleman‟s company. Because of this, should my father die,
my mother and unmarried sisters shall be homeless. All for my selfish needs. What makes it worse is that I should do the same thing today – that
is the sad truth of the matter. That is the length of my selfishness.”
They both thought on William Collins with no small amount of distaste for similar reasons. Neither could imagine Elizabeth as Elizabeth Collins.
Darcy could not bring himself to place any culpability in her resolve to not meet that particularly gruesome fate, and struggled with a way to
voice that reassurance. Before he could speak, she continued.
“As for the other charge? Also, not so groundless. Oh, I know I did not kill my sister, Lydia. But my mind often wonders if I did as much for her
as I could.” He stared at her with open disbelief. He remembered the state was in when she arrived in Kent. Elizabeth had wrecked her own
health, almost dying, taking care of everyone save herself. If she had forgotten that fact, he certainly had not. He doubted he ever would.
“You see, we were so busy, all of us, trying to contain the fever and trying to serve those in need. It was all we could do to arrange and organize
and limit exposure. And Lydia, well, she was never one to be tied down.
“When I found her coming in from outside, I believed her excuse that she was simply out walking, because I wanted to believe her. I knew she
was no walker, and the fact that she could not bear to be inside anymore paled in comparison to the fact that she was lonely. I simply did not
want to believe she would break quarantine.” He sorely wanted to interrupt her, but saw that she needed to finish. She needed to purge these
thoughts.
“When she started to show symptoms of the fever, I knew she had lied. And I was angry. I was so angry with her for risking us all simply
because… what was her turn of phrase? „La, Lizzy, I am so bored! You all are so dull! A girl needs the company of soldiers to keep her happy,
and there are ever so many soldiers still camped in Meryton!‟” Tears filled her eyes as she thought of her poor, silly sister. Darcy saw this, but
again held back. She was not done. Her eyes hardened.
“Stupid, thoughtless girl! I was so angry with her. And I was so tired. Mama left the treatment of Lydia on my shoulders and kept the rest of the
household away. Lydia was a fussy patient, always complaining, and it made me even more angry. By the time she became too ill to complain, I
was showing the earliest signs of the illness myself, and I knew she had killed me. I knew I would never see Jane again; I would never see you,
never be able to set right my own actions. And I was angrier still…” her voice broke off here, and she closed her eyes before finishing her tale.
“Before I knew it, she had died. And for the first time, something besides anger pierced my tired, fevered mind. Lydia had paid the price for her
indulgence, and whose fault was it, truly?” She looked at Darcy, willing him to answer. But he remained silent, letting her pronounce what filled
her mind with guilt.
“I was her elder sister. I knew that Papa was too busy to protect my sisters, and I knew that Mama was simply not capable of protecting anyone.
It was my job to keep her safe through the quarantine. It was my job, and I failed to do it. Lydia died because I did not protect her.” Tears ran
down her face, and she turned away from Darcy, wiping at her cheeks with a handkerchief already soaked with tears she had shed since reading
her mother‟s letter.
“So, you see, Mr. Darcy, I did not kill her. But I did not do right by her, not completely. I only hope that someday I can find peace with myself
for being so harsh on her.”
He contemplated for a minute, gently replacing her soaked handkerchief with his own, then, as she wiped the last of her tears, he quietly asked,
“You believe that you should not have forgiveness?”
“I did not protect my younger sister, Mr. Darcy. That is unforgivable,” she stated in a resolute voice.
“Then, Miss Bennet,” Darcy mused quietly, “I suppose we are in good company together. We have both done the unforgivable.”
She looked at him with a question in her eye.
“Did you ever wonder why I hated George Wickham so, Miss Bennet?” Darcy asked, as though this non-sequitur was completely expected.
Elizabeth shook her head slightly, a puzzled expression crossing her features. She knew now of Mr. Wickham‟s character, and what that man had
done to Georgiana, but did not understand how Mr. Darcy could possibly relate himself to Mr. Wickham‟s actions.
“George was my father‟s godson, son of my father‟s most excellent steward, Edgar Wichkam. George was my friend, my brother. Growing up
we played together, schooled together, got into the same scrapes, and admired the same girls.
“When we went to Cambridge, I noticed things about George that I hadn‟t wanted to notice before. He didn‟t like to lose. He didn‟t like it if
someone liked me better than they liked him. He did, however, readily enjoy women, cards, and whiskey. In short, he was not the George I
thought I knew. He was not my brother.
“I let it all pass, I forgave the insults, I overlooked the boorish behavior, I paid the debts. He was still my father‟s godson. My father, bless his
soul, never knew, but certainly suspected that George had somehow gone awry. He tried to counsel George into a sturdier, more stable life. But
George had gone wild.
“When my father died, he left a sum of money in his will to George, and requested of me that, should George want it, the living of rector at
Kympton should be given to him. My father thought the church could save George. He never really thought what having a rector like George
Wickham would do to the people at Kympton.” Darcy smiled a small, ironic grin which did not reach his eyes.
“Of course, George wanted nothing to do with the church,” Darcy continued. “He asked for a sum of money, instead, which I readily provided. I
paid him to get out of my life. Unfortunately for me, he had other ideas.
“When the living at Kympton became available, George came back and demanded it. I refused, and he ranted and raved. My father had loved
him, he said, and I could not tolerate that. I was accused of jealousy, of selfishness, of being petty. He had run through the 4000 pounds he had
received from the Darcy family, and believed himself entitled to more. He was my brother in all but name. He deserved all that I had.
“When I did not bend, when I did not yield, he took himself off. But he swore revenge. Last year, he attempted to exact that revenge.
“My sister, who was but fifteen at the time, had no idea of the situation between George and me. She only remembered him as a charming,
handsome man whom her father had loved. When he presented himself as a suitor, she fell for him, as hard as any young girl can fall. She loved
him, and he convinced her to elope with him. Had I not surprised her with a visit, he would have married her, taken her dowry, and certainly
broken her heart and spirit.
“I, who knew what he was, did nothing to prevent that from happening. I did not protect her from him. I did not thoroughly review every
reference her companion at the time had given – that companion who turned out to be a great friend of George Wickham.
“In short, I failed my duty as her guardian, and but for a whim of fate, I would have lost her forever to the most heinous of outcomes. She would
have been Mrs. George Wickham, which is a fate I would not wish on any young lady.”
Elizabeth listened to his tale, reliving her own guilt in misjudging both of the men concerned. She looked upon this man whom she had come to
admire so greatly and her heart broke anew at the anguish on his face. She tried to console him with logic. “But, sir, he took advantage. I, more
than anyone, know just how his charm and manner can influence opinion and emotion.”
“Yet, I knew what he was, and I did nothing to protect my own beloved sister from him. In your eyes, I have done the unforgivable, no?” He
asked, his voice hoarse.
“No, sir,” she contradicted him, “That is not true. You are an excellent brother. Anyone can see how you care for and protect Miss Darcy. I never
cared for Lydia that way. I never took care of my baby sister.”
“No, that was your parents‟ job. Unlike you, I have no parents, and so am more culpable in the situation with Georgiana than you are with Lydia.
Lydia had two parents and three other elder sisters. Georgiana has only me.” What had started as a simple example to alleviate her guilt had
unearthed a well of his own culpability.
Elizabeth stepped lightly up to him and put her small, warm hand on his tense arm. “Sir, you are right. Now I think on it, I do not deserve
forgiveness, neither do you. We neither of us did anything wrong to need forgiveness. In any case, forgiveness is not earned. It is granted. And I
believe, by watching Georgiana speak of and to you, that any forgiveness is long since granted in your case. Georgiana loves you. You are her
world. Never doubt that you have done well by her.”
Looking down on her hand which rested lightly on his arm, he swallowed harshly. He wanted nothing more than to wrap her in his arms and hold
her until the world around them disappeared. But he could not. There was ground to be covered, healing to be done, before he could make her his.
But he would. This day, this conversation, had made that resolve even more firm. He placed his hand over hers, trapping her warm flesh.
“Miss Bennet, you must also recognize the worry and love that is expressed to you by your own sisters. I have seen the sheer volume of
correspondence you have with all of your sisters and I know that you care for them. I have watched your face light up as you read a tale from
Miss Catherine; I have seen you puzzle out Miss Mary‟s logic; I have shared your joy as you learned of Miss Jane‟s happiness. You are an
excellent sister. I believe, if you will pardon my boldness, that your feelings of guilt now are compounded by grief for Lydia and simply missing
your family.”
Elizabeth puzzled over what he said, and marveled that he had turned it all around on her. She had sought to comfort him, and he was now
comforting her. And he was right. She smiled slightly and shook her head. “I have never had anyone argue me out of my own logic before, in
doing so, protecting me from myself. You are indeed an excellent brother.”
“Ahh, but Elizabeth,” he smiled, raising her captured hand to his lips and bestowing on it the most gentle of kisses, “I would not be your brother.
Think on that.” He emphasized this by very gently brushing her cheek with the back of a finger on his free hand. He then placed her captive hand
in the crook of his arm and prepared to walk them back.
She blushed furiously, for the first time completely acknowledging that warmth in her stomach which was due to feelings for him. Jane had been
right, after all. He had never before openly confirmed that he had feelings for her - non-brotherly feelings. She knew that they had both been
through too much, and there was still ground to cover, before anything could be done about those feelings. But his open acknowledgment of his
regard for her (she was confident that his eyes conveyed the warmest of regard) was the best birthday present she could ever imagine receiving.
Suddenly, the day no longer was clouded in shadow, and Elizabeth felt a weight lift from her. She wasn‟t looking back any longer, she would
look forward. Squeezing his arm, she smiled up at him, expressing her gratitude, regard, and all of the other tender feelings he fostered in her. His
breath caught in his throat as he read the promise in her eyes. Smiling in return, he continued to guide them home, to Pemberley.


“What else does your family have to say, besides, of course, to wish you a happy birthday?” he asked, wanting to put her at ease once again.
Elizabeth looked at him with surprise.
“Bingley informed me. You shall have to put your smile back on, madam, for we are to celebrate your nativity this evening.”
Lizzy sighed and laughed, “I see your family uses any excuse for a celebration. Which is fine, especially if your chef creates a gateau!” Darcy
grinned at this nod to Lizzy‟s sweet tooth, which was legend already among Pemberley staff and residents.
“As to other news, sir, I do have some of great import! It seems that my Aunt and Uncle Gardiner are touring Derbyshire, and will be in Lambton
within the week. I am to return home, to Hertfordshire, with them.”
Darcy had known it was going to happen. He knew she could not be at Pemberley permanently until they were married. And, with her latest
reaction, believed that it might be some time before he could convince her she should marry him. But time was now of the essence.
Just as Darcy made firm his resolve to spend as much time with her as possible, it seemed his family decided they must keep Darcy and Elizabeth
apart. As days passed, and he was able to spend no more than a quarter of an hour alone with her, he felt his frustration mounting.
(End 19th post)
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In Sickness And In Health – Part 20
The day before her Aunt and Uncle were to take Elizabeth away, Darcy was in a black mood. He was as quiet and reserved as he had ever been,
and excused himself to his study to work most of the morning. Part of him knew he was being childish, but he could not help himself.
The letter from Mr. Bennet was both unexpected and strangely comforting. Mr. Bennet thanked Darcy profusely for his care of Elizabeth that
summer. Her letters, and the attitude and wit they conveyed, had been a great source of comfort to the Bennet family. He went on to express to
Darcy that he knew letting Elizabeth return to Hertfordshire under the circumstances would be a hard thing for Darcy to do. But Mr. Bennet
stressed to Darcy that Elizabeth needed to go home. She needed to close a chapter of her life before she could truly open a new one.
Darcy sighed, knowing Mr. Bennet was correct. Elizabeth needed to make her peace with her Hertfordshire ghosts and with her mother. Only
then would she be healed enough to come to him whole and happy. Accepting this, he got up from his desk and went in search of his love. He
found her in the library, and, closing the door firmly behind him, he approached her, ensured of privacy to fully discuss the situation with her.
“Miss Bennet,” he began, only for his thoughts to dissolve from his mind in the presence of his beloved. He knew what he wanted to say, he just
didn‟t know how to say it.
“Sir?” Elizabeth drew closer to Darcy, wondering what it was he wished to say to her. Knowing what she hoped he would say to her. Fearing he
would simply want to say goodbye.
He bowed his head, gathering his thoughts, “You know,” he continued in a husky voice, “that you will be greatly missed here at Pemberley.”
Elizabeth smiled, “I shall miss all of you, also. Your family has been so gracious to me; so kind. I know not how I shall ever repay you for giving
me this time to heal.”
Stepping closer to her, he took one of her small hands into both of his, “My family came here knowing how important you are to me, and through
your own brilliance, you have become important to them. They all like you, Elizabeth. They all regard you, not simply because I do, but because
of the person that you are. You are wholly loveable.”
“I fully return that regard, Sir, and thank you for the generous compliment,” blushing, Elizabeth squeezed his fingers with her own, reveling in
the improper but reassuring contact.
He raised that hand to his chest and looked deeply into her eyes, “Elizabeth, my own Elizabeth,” he pleaded quietly. “I know not how to part with
you! Please allow me… please say that you feel the same.”
Her breath caught in her throat, and her eyes watered. She could not believe the depth of emotion coming from the man before her. “I… You
must know that I do, sir,” she managed to stammer.
It was her disconcertion that gave Darcy courage to continue. He knew somehow that her own emotions were what caused her to be so
uncharacteristically hesitant. “Elizabeth, I know that you need to go home, I know that you need to see your family and put to rest the events of
this past winter. I know that you need to face that, but you do not need to face it alone, though I respect you enough to know that you can. I
would be with you, I would stand by you, if you would but let me.”
As his words washed over her, her heart softened even more toward him. This man proved his love in so many ways without ever having to say
the words. This quiet, intelligent, handsome, wholly wonderful man had chosen her. She felt truly humbled and completely exhilarated, “Indeed,
sir, if I did not have the comfort of your presence to anticipate, I would be truly desolate.”
Smiling once again, he studied her carefully, “Then you will allow me to call on you at Longbourn?” he asked, holding her gaze with steady
intensity.
“I… of course, sir” she stammered in a whisper, blushing all the while.
His smile widened as he now bowed over her captive hand, bringing it to his lips. Again, his eyes held hers. The look burned through any defense
she had, and she bowed her head with a blush and a smile. “Thank you,” was all he said before rising once again and pulling her hand to the
crook of his arm.
With the expertise of a dozen years in society, he put her at ease with quiet talk before taking leave of her for the evening.
As the carriage pulled out of Pemberley drive the following afternoon, Elizabeth‟s mind was on the parting of the previous evening, and not the
proper goodbye that Mr. Darcy had given in front of her aunt and uncle. He had given her much to think on, and much to look forward to.
~~~~~
The tension at Longbourn elevated each day that Elizabeth remained at home. It was as though a storm were brewing. Mrs. Bennet‟s complaints
could be heard more loudly, and her criticisms of her second daughter became more frequent, more pointed, and more vicious. But Lizzy let it all
roll over her, and attempted to put back together the pieces of her old life.
She wandered the familiar paths of home, the halls of her youth, but she felt somehow disconnected. The house was quieter than it ever had been.
Her mother kept upstairs, and aside from her diatribes, spoke with no one. She was bitter with the loss of her favorite daughter.
It was after visiting Mrs. Lucas and seeing how that normally staid woman was so anxious to go visit Charlotte that Elizabeth decided it was time
to visit her own mother, no matter what that lady demanded.
As Lizzy entered her mother‟s bed chamber, Kitty looked up in surprise. Seeing that there would be a confrontation, Kitty quietly exited the
room. Elizabeth was startled at the physical changes in her mother, who seemed thoroughly diminished by her grief.

“Well, I see who has finally deigned to visit her mother!” Mrs. Bennet bitterly declared, breaking the tense silence that had fallen upon the room.
“Mama, I would have visited the second I came home, had you let me,” Lizzy replied, quietly.
“It is not as though you are one who does her duty. I cannot believe I raised a child who cannot do her duty in the most basic things. You, Miss
Lizzy, are a complete disappointment.”
Elizabeth simply watched her mother, not arguing, not justifying. She let her mother vent her anger. “You should have married Mr. Collins, as I
instructed. But he was not good enough for you. And when I told you to take care of your sister, you failed me there, too. How could you? You
let my Lydia die! How could I let my Lydia die? How could I…” Mrs. Bennet stopped, then, aware suddenly of what she had said. Then she
dropped her face into her hands and began to cry, endless tears of bitter grief.
Lizzy knelt beside her mother and enveloped her in a hug. At first Mrs. Bennet resisted, then she leaned into her daughter‟s shoulder. “It was no
one‟s fault, Mama. It was just rotten, rotten luck. Lydia was not one to be tied down. She lived her life to its fullest. Can we not mourn her death
and still celebrate her life? She is gone, and we all feel that, but you have four other daughters that need you, Mama. Four other daughters who all
love you. Can you not live for us, Mama?”
“You always were one to talk your way out of anything, Lizzy.” Mrs. Bennet whispered, but the harshness was gone from her voice. She
sniffled and nodded.
“Mama, can you forgive me for not saving Lydia? Can you believe that I tried?”
Mrs. Bennet looked at her child with a stony expression, then nodded. “I shall try, Lizzy. That is all I can promise.” Elizabeth knew that her
mother would never openly admit that she had been wrong, and would certainly never take any share of the blame on her own shoulders. But this
statement was the first indication that Mrs. Bennet might actually begin to let go of her anger, no matter who the target was.
Mrs. Bennet came downstairs that afternoon, though not for long. Mr. Bennet was surprised to see his wife in attendance at tea, and walked to her
chair, bowing, kissing her hand, and welcoming her back. Mrs. Bennet blushed for perhaps the first time in a quarter of a century. That day, the
healing at Longbourn truly began.
~~~~~
One Sunday, not too many weeks after Mrs. Bennet‟s first step in recovery, the gentlemen of Netherfield arrived at Longbourn to escort the
family to church. Bingley had long been a staple of the Bennet family‟s social calendar, but in recent weeks, Darcy had also begun to appear with
the Bennets quite frequently.
He had held Elizabeth to her promise and had begun to openly court her, and her family‟s favor, in the late Hertfordshire summer. Dinners, teas,
walks; though they were frequently together, they were almost never alone. It was as though Darcy was waiting for a sign of some sort.
That Sunday, Mrs. Bennet joined them for only the second time at service. She enjoyed Mr. Spencer‟s sermon, picturing him next to Kitty. She
watched with pride as Jane was escorted by Mr. Bingley, and allowed some satisfaction in seeing Elizabeth so well paired with Mr. Darcy. Only
Mary remained unpaired, and she seemed quite satisfied at that prospect.
After the service, Mr. Bennet guided his family not to the path home, but instead to the little graveyard behind the church. There were all together
too many new stones in the graveyard. Too many tears and too much grief had been shed in the past year. But the Bennet clan filed to the far
corner sedately, paying attention to nothing but their final destination.
In a well-cared-for corner of the graveyard, the Bennet family had a large plot. On the edge, there was a freshly-hewn stone. In Loving Memory,
Lydia Grace Bennet. Mr. Bennet put his hand upon the stone, whispering goodbye to his youngest child. Kitty cried silent tears as she deposited a
small bouquet she had brought. Mary said a brief prayer. Jane said a quiet farewell, saying that she would always remember Lydia as the healthy,
energetic girl she had been when Jane had last seen her. Lizzy quietly asked Lydia for forgiveness. Mrs. Bennet was silent through all of this,
merely remembering her daughter and imagining her whole family was together one last time.
Mr. Spencer joined the family, along with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. Hastily wiping the tears from her cheeks, Mrs. Bennet spoke to the rector,
thanking him for the lovely service and inviting him to dinner. She hurried Mary home with her to help with the arrangements, pointedly telling
Kitty that she must escort Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer looked slightly shocked, but offered his arm to Kitty, who blushed, smiled, and guided the
parson toward Longbourn.
Mrs. Bennet‟s manner had been just a bit too obvious, and so closely resembled the Mrs. Bennet Darcy and Bingley remembered that the two
men could not help but exchange a smile. Mr. Bennet also smiled and wryly remarked that he could not believe he had lived to see the day he
was glad to have his wife behave thusly.
Jane and Elizabeth joined in the laughter at this point, and the rest of the group also turned to Longbourn, though at a more leisurely pace than
Mrs. Bennet had set. It was not long before Jane, Bingley, and Mr. Bennet outpaced Lizzy and Darcy, who seemed to purposefully lag behind.
When they reached the lands of her father‟s estate, Elizabeth was surprised to have Mr. Darcy escort her to a more private wilderness to the side
of the house. Offering her a seat on the bench, he sat next to her and turned to her.
“Miss Bennet, I find that I can wait no longer. Now, when you have faced all you must face, seen all you must see - now, will you come back to
Pemberley with me? Share Pemberley with me?” The look on her face gave him the hope he needed to continue, “Elizabeth, will you be my
wife?”
The intensity in his eyes held hers. The warmth in the depths was almost more than she could bear. The love she saw held her and gave her the
strength to answer him in just the way he wanted.
“Fitzwilliam, I would be so honored to be your wife, to live the rest of my days by your side. You have stood by me already in sickness and in
health. You have loved and cherished me. Indeed, I can not imagine living my life away from you.”
Her answer produced more happiness in that young man than he had ever experienced. The road had been long and fraught with difficulties, but
in the end, he had won. The prize was one he was sure he did not deserve, but he would always strive to be worthy of Elizabeth‟s love.
~~~~~
The day that Mr. Bennet gave away his two eldest daughters was one of the best days in his memory. The whole family felt the absence of their
youngest, and yet, they believed she would not begrudge them happiness. It was at the wedding breakfast where Mrs. Bennet remarked how well
Lydia would have liked the wedding, for dear Lydia had always loved a wedding. Elizabeth smiled and agreed. The specter of Lydia no longer
haunted her. Turning, Elizabeth smiled into her new husband‟s adoring face. She had loved her sister; she still loved her sister. And from that
moment on, she remembered Lydia with happiness, not guilt.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Epilogue
Fitzwilliam Darcy paced his library. The books brought him no solace. Though he had already been through this particular exercise twice in their
seven years of marriage, each instance brought with it the same fears and anxieties.
In their suite, Elizabeth fought valiantly to bring the newest Darcy into the world. The midwife calmly gave instructions, the servants went about
their work, and her mother held her hand calmly through it all.
The tradition had started when both Jane and Elizabeth were in confinement. Neither could attend the other, and their sisters were unmarried.
Mrs. Bennet rose valiantly to the occasion in a manner none expected. She would have no further regrets in her life; she would not fail her other
daughters in the manner she felt she failed her Lydia.
And so it was that Mrs. Bennet had witnessed the birth of James Bingley, Elizabeth Bingley, Thomas Darcy, and Richard Darcy, as well as
Kitty‟s son, Martin Spencer. Now it was time once again.
Elizabeth gave one final push and heard the strong cries of her child for the first time. Laughing and crying all at once, she pondered the miracle
that was the babe before her. The attendants cleaned the child gently before handing the baby back to Mrs. Darcy.
“Congratulations, Mrs. Darcy, you have a daughter!” the midwife smiled.
“Grace Anne Darcy,” Elizabeth whispered, gently touching the soft cheek. Mrs. Bennet‟s eyes widened, and tears formed. Grace for Lydia Grace,
she was certain. Smiling a watery smile, she reflected on the blessings before her. She bent and kissed her second eldest daughter, whispering
good wishes, then went to tell her son-in-law the wonderful news.
Grace. How truly appropriate.
(*)>

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Stats:
views:155
posted:2/3/2010
language:English
pages:31