Mr. Bennet had come for a visit to Pemberley, to, as he said, find some intelligent conversation. To Darcy's great relief Mrs. Bennet's nerves would not let her undergo such a long journey at this time. It seemed that she was waiting for word from Lydia about the birth of her child.
On the second day Mr. Darcy had to go to visit some of the farms on the Pemberley estates, so Elizabeth and her father decided to take a trip into Lambton. "You know my dear Lizzie, I am quickly finding that your husband is my favorite son in law, he is well read and a master at chess and other diversions that I myself enjoy," he said with a satisfied smile.
"Thank you father, I knew that given a chance to really know him you would love him too, I do love him so very much, Father."
"My dear Lizzie that is apparent to anyone who spends five minutes with the two of you, of course the fact that he loves you so very dearly too is enough to increase my regard for him."
After a morning of shopping and acquainting her father with the town they decided to have tea at the inn where Lizzie and Aunt and Uncle Gardiner had stayed on her first trip to Derbyshire, where she had first acknowledged to herself that she could indeed love Fitzwilliam Darcy and had cried for what she had thought was losing him.
As they walked around the town they had been accompanied by Toby, the lad from the Inn who always rushed to carry her packages for her whenever she came into town.
He was a dear child as she told her father, but there was something about him that made her think she should know him.
While they were having their tea, the landlord came to see if all was well with them and to tell the boy, who had been enjoying tea with them, that his grandmother wanted him in the kitchen.
"The boy has a familiar look to him to me too," said Mr. Bennet. "Tell me, sir, is the child Hannah's son."
"Hannah, Lord, no he is her younger sister's boy. A lovely child she was too."
"Was?" said Elizabeth, "what happened to her."
"John, please go out and help grandfather," came the voice of Hannah from behind them.
"I'm sorry," said Elizabeth, "I would not impose on you or your family. If I have said something to offend you, I do apologize. It's just the boy seems to look so familiar to me, but I just can't put my finger on who he looks like."
Hannah sat down with a sigh, "I suppose I might as well tell you about Toby, and the two other broken lives he has left behind, along with the pain and heartbreak suffered by the families.
"My sister was a lovely young thing, but looked older than her 13 years, being larger than most other girls of the same age. Yes, she was but thirteen when he seduced her and left Lambton to escape marrying her. Being so young, she of course did not survive the birth, but perhaps that was for the best after all."
"But who, who would do such an evil thing," gasped Elizabeth. To seduce such a child and then run away. I cannot believe anyone would be so low."
"He's not anyone a lady like you would know," said Hannah. "His name is George Wickham, his father was steward at Pemberley estates. Thank the good Lord that Mr. Wickham and the elder Mr. Darcy were not alive to see such a dastardly thing from the young man they both thought so highly of."
Elizabeth suddenly felt ill and turned pale as a ghost.
Thinking to divert Hannah who was looking at his daughter with some alarm, Mr. Bennet asked what had happened to the other two girls she had mentioned.
"Oh, they fortunately miscarried, both of them and are now married with families, but their paths were not easy, as you can well imagine, the oldest being just 15 at the time."
"Does Mr. Darcy know of this," whispered Elizabeth.
"Oh, yes," replied Hannah. "He was so sorry for what had been done to Maggie and tried to do all that he could to rectify things, but there was nothing he could do. It was none of his doing, but he paid for the doctor and the burial anyway. I understand that he tried in vain to find Wickham but he had disappeared as if into thin air."
"Please, Father I think it is time for us to return home."
"Yes I agree," said Mr. Bennet and paying for the tea and scones he assisted his shaking daughter to the carriage.
As they reached Pemberley they were greeted by William who asked with a smile if they had enjoyed their sojourn into town. The smile swiftly disappeared when he saw his wife's face.
"Elizabeth, my dearest love what is wrong, are you ill, you are as white as a sheet," he cried.
"She found out who Toby's father is," said Mr. Bennet.
"Good God," said Darcy. "I had hoped you might be spared that. I am so sorry my dearest that you should have been given this information in such a manner, I suppose I should have told both of you, but I had hoped that you would never know."
"Please, William just hold me for a moment, I need your closeness and your goodness right now," sighed Elizabeth.
Picking his wife up in his arms Darcy gently carried her into the house where he sat for over an hour just holding her in his lap, while her father and Mrs. Reynolds saw to it that they were not disturbed.
Mr. Bennet had been at Pemberley barely a fortnight when they received a post from Mrs. Bennet demanding that he return home at once to take her north where Lydia had given birth to a daughter.
"I cannot bear to look that man in the face, but I must go and accommodate your mother," said Mr. Bennet.
A week later the Bennet carriage again arrived again at Pemberley where Mrs. Bennet decided that her nerves need a few days rest from the journey, and this would be the ideal place to do so.
Within five days Elizabeth was in a state to scream and she could tell that her husband was feeling much the same. All that her mother seemed to want to talk about was the fact that Lydia had a child and Jane was due to give birth in less than three months.
She harped constantly on the fact that Elizabeth was not yet with child and was giving her endless advice about how to keep her husband's attentions and not to be too cool to any of the advances that he might make, at any time of the day reminding her that it was her duty to bear him an heir. She seemed not to notice in the least what a painful subject this was to her daughter, and nothing that her husband or Darcy could do or say could divert her.
Darcy watched the pain in Elizabeth's face with love and pity. How could the woman be so unfeeling? could she not see the tears that formed in her daughter's eyes these last few days every time she brought the subject up? He had all he could do to contain himself and bite his tongue it seemed every time he was in her presence. Even her husband, who was becoming more and more angry could not seem to silence the woman.
At last Darcy had had enough. Elizabeth had not wanted to come down to breakfast that morning, she said she could no longer stand her mother, but she forced herself to do so.
It seemed that they had barely entered the breakfast room when Mrs. Bennet began again, prompting Elizabeth to quit the room with tears running down her face.
Darcy had had enough, "I believe it is time to continue your journey north," he said in a tight voice, "I will tell the staff to see to it that your bags are packed and the carriage ready."
"Are you asking us to leave," cried Mrs. Bennet, "this is insupportable to be asked to leave my own daughters house. Mr. Bennet can you not make this man see that this it the most rude thing that we have ever seen, how can he be so thoughtless to deprive my poor Lizzie of her own Mother."
"Rude, you have the audacity to call me rude, you who have done nothing but cause your daughter constant pain since you have been here, I will tolerate no one who gives my Elizabeth such hurt," growled Darcy.
"Pain, how could I cause my daughter pain, I am her mother," she wailed.
"My good Lord woman can you not see the pain your constant reminder of the fact that she is not with child gives Elizabeth, do you not see how much she loves this man and wishes to give him a child." said an exasperated Mr. Bennet. "Do you never see anyone but yourself."
"But I was only trying to help," wept Mrs. Bennet. "Now my nerves are on edge again and my heart is aflutter, I could not possibly travel today."
"You will travel tomorrow by coach," said Mr. Bennet, "I shall go into town now and make the arrangements, I will stay here or go to Jane's until you return, but I will not go north."
"I knew you would take her part, it is always Lizzy who comes first with you," wailed Mrs. Bennet as she left in tears to go to her room.
"You have my apologies, William, I should have made her leave days ago but I thought that she would give up on the subject when she saw how much it hurt Lizzie, I should have known that she sees nothing that she does not want to see. I hope it will be all right for me to stay for a few days before going to the Bingleys, but I cannot bear the thought of looking into Wickham's face in view of what I have lately learned about him," said Mr. Bennet.
"You are always welcome here, sir, I must apologize myself for my outburst, it is only that I cannot bear to see the woman I love so very deeply in such pain. Elizabeth wants a child so much and the fact that she has not yet conceived is a constant source of pain to her, she tries to hide her disappointment but I can see it in her eyes. If you will excuse me sir, I must go to her." Said Darcy quietly.
"Of course, son, go to her. I know how much she is in need of you right now. I will go into town and make arrangements for tomorrow said Mr. Bennet with a sigh.
Darcy leaned forward to look out the window of the carriage as they passed through the entry gate at Pemberley. For the first time in three years he was alone coming home from London.
Last year at this time he recalled Elizabeth sitting across from him with a small secret smile on her face that drove him to distraction. He knew that she had a present for him that would delight him no end, but had not the slightest idea what it might be; she would give him no clue what so ever. She just sat with that smile on her lovely face, saying this shall be the most wonderful Christmas ever, I can hardly wait to have Jane and Charles and Aunt and Uncle Gardiner here.
She had given him the most wonderful gift possible when she told him that their first child would be born in May. She had teased him happily about how and where the child was conceived, but he would not easily forget that day, even if they had not made Will up there on the hill under the oak tree.
This year they had not gone to town for the season, as Elizabeth would not take young Will on such a long journey at such a young age.
He had received and urgent post from his cousin Col. Fitzwilliam begging him to come to town on urgent business. He had not wanted to go, but Elizabeth had insisted pointing out that the Colonel would not send such a letter if it was not of the utmost importance.
When he arrived in town his cousin informed him that Wickham was in town and desperate to see him. It seemed that he had himself in such a bind with debts that he was going to lose his commission if they were not paid soon.
After a tense meeting with his brother-in-law it was agreed that the bills would be paid by Darcy, and Wickham would be put on a tight budget to keep his living within his means, and that he would control his wife better too. Darcy knew that both Lizzie and Jane frequently helped them out, using their own pocket money, but it was never discussed among them.
As he prepared to leave the desperate, frightened Wickham disappeared, replaced by the cunning arrogant man they both knew so well.
"How nice it is to have a brother who is rich," he smirked. The arrogant look quickly disappeared as he saw the looks that crossed their faces, and with a mocking bow he left them.
As they watched him swagger jauntily down the street bowing and smiling to the ladies Darcy muttered "Will I ever be free of that man?"
"I think we both shall, swagger away Mr. Wickham I have plans for you," replied his cousin with an evil smile.
"Plans, what plans," asked Darcy
"I cannot tell you now, but when everything has been put in place, I will come to Pemberley and give both you and Elizabeth the particulars," answered Edward absent-mindedly.
Now as he was arriving home, Darcy could only wait with the people he loved most in the world for word from his cousin. As he stepped from the carriage he was greeted by his wife and son and Georgiana. This he knew was going to be a happy Christmas indeed.
Darcy sat in a chair facing the piano where his sister was starting to play for their guests, but his mind soon wandered to the tear stained face of the woman he loved more than life.
It was the first thing he saw when he entered the room at the Inn in Lambton. He had gone to town with such high hopes this morning thinking to ask his Elizabeth to accompany him on a visit to two of the farms of Pemberley Estates in the afternoon, but on arriving had found her in tears and barely able to talk at first. After sitting her in a nearby chair he had at last had the entire story from her.
That cursed Wickham, would he never cease causing those Darcy loved the most pain and anguish. Lydia Bennet was a silly foolish girl, just the age and sort that Wickham would prey upon. It was his fault that all of the Bennets were suffering. If he had not been too proud to make known his attempted elopement with Georgiana and his refusal to take the post of pastor at the church that Darcy's father had designated for him. If Darcy himself had let it be known that George Wickham had indeed not been left penniless and adrift by him but had given in 3000 pounds in addition to the 1000 left to him in the will of his father, the late George Darcy, people would have seen George Wickham for what he was a liar and a scoundrel.
It had started out to be a glorious week when he had returned to Pemberley to find Miss Bennet and the Gardiners here at Pemberley. His embarrassment was great when he had met her just after his swim wet to the skin and his clothes clinging to him in such a manner to make him rush away from her as soon as civility would allow after repeating himself at least three times he believed.
He had rushed headlong into the house and up the stairs shouting for dry cloths sending servants scurrying in surprise at the sight of him, but he had to catch her before she could get away and he did just that.
She had been about to enter the carriage when he had appeared in the courtyard. He had asked her if she approved of his home and received the much wanted answer in the affirmative. After an introduction and conversation with her aunt and uncle they had taken a turn down to the lake. On the way he had asked for and received her permission to introduce her to his sister.
Darcy smiled as he remembered trying to button the buttons on his shirt and adjust his ascot while asking to be introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, and his surprise to learn that they were the relatives with whom Jane had been staying in London. She had pushed his hands aside and with that smile he knew and loved so well proceeded to button his cuffs and adjust his neckpiece to his great delight.
The days before today were a joy to him, introducing Georgiana to his beloved and seeing them become friends so quickly. She had a way about her that put people at ease and it was never so evident as the way Georgiana relaxed and conversed with her so easily. After issuing a dinner invitation, which was readily accepted they had taken their leave with her promise to play and sing for them the next night.
The dinner had gone so well with the bright conversation of Elizabeth, Charles and Mr. Gardiner. Darcy for his part was content to listen and enjoy.
The rest of the evening too had gone beautifully until a catty remark by Caroline Bingley in and effort to disconcert Elizabeth had upset Georgiana instead, but Elizabeth had handled the situation beautifully and no one but the three of them even noticed that Georgiana had missed the notes.
What was that stupid woman saying he thought as Caroline intruded on his thought with, " You are very quiet, this evening Mr. Darcy, I hope you are not repining for the loss of Miss Elizabeth Bennet,"
"WHAT" he snapped and left the room at once leaving the others staring open mouthed. He had to get away from that woman before he did or said something rash that would pain his dear friend Bingley.
He had sent a messenger with a note to his cousin in town asking him to start the search for Wickham and let him know when he found him so that he could return to town with all haste, but after this last encounter with Caroline he decided to go tomorrow and spare himself any more of her snide remarks.
Elizabeth sat staring into space thinking, can it be possible that it has been ten years.
Ten years since Colonel Fitzwilliam rode through the gates of Pemberley to inform them that Wickham had been assigned to a unit which was being sent to the penal colony of Australia. He had indeed sailed ten days before and her sister Lydia and the wives of the others on another ship which sailed a week after. Neither of them knew where they were bound and would not find out until their arrival.
Poor stupid Lydia, she had thought Lydia who was all excitement about the move thinking she was going to the West Indies, where she could reign supreme, she was sure she would have a fine house and all kinds of servants. She had spent a week at her parents house and could talk of nothing more, it seemed her husband had told her he knew where they were to go as he was privy to the orders, what a fool
When she became upset at the thought of her sister going so far from home and to such a place Edward had assured her that they had nothing to fear, that indeed quarters were furnished for the militia there, though not as grand as Lydia was thinking but much better than that to which she was accustomed in the north country and she would indeed have servants, as the wives and children of those sent from debtors prisons were hired to see to the needs of the officers households.
It was many months before they had any word from Lydia, but her letters put Elizabeth's heart at ease when she read about the quarters and staff that was provide for the officers and their families.
Through the years her sister had sent letters crowing that she was living as grandly as the Darcy's.
It seemed that there was a gentleman, as Lydia called him, who had made a fortune farming and raising livestock and furnishing the post with fresh fruits and vegetables and meat, as well as supplying the ships which sailed in and out of the harbor. Her sister had become a favorite of his and he constantly gave her gifts. She assured them that Wickham was not at all jealous, indeed he encouraged her to build on the friendship.
Elizabeth could well believe that and she was sure that he himself was rewarded by his wife's favoritism from the man in question.
Lydia was especially happy when after four years a new store appeared, a large shop she said where she could find fine silks, linens and muslins as well as the best china and silver and all other sundry luxuries that she had missed for so long. The new shop was called D G B's. She was sure that Lizzie had never heard of it but it was finer than any place in London.
Lizzie had indeed heard of it but she prayed that the Wickhams would never know that the D G B's stood for Darcy, Gardiner and Bingley. It was only one of a series of trading posts that the three of them had built in the farthest outposts of the empire. It seemed that whether they lived in Canada, Australia, Africa,. or India people wanted the better things of life and were eager to pay the price for them.
When her husband and Uncle had come up with the idea those who knew had laughed except for Bingley and her father who wished to invest in the adventure, though her fathers investment was small he was well pleased with the returns. He never told her mother, however for as he told Darcy and Lizzie if Wickham and Lydia found out who the owners were they would buy everything in the store and pay for nothing thinking that it was owed to them.
The investments that the four of them had made together seemed to take off like sky rockets and the money poured in making them all wealthy men indeed. The sugar plantation in the West Indies, farms in Africa and Canada had prospered as well as the trading posts. Her father though continued to be a silent partner and invested his money so that his wife would be taken care after his death and Mr. Collins could not get his hands on any of it, indeed he would never know of any of it .
Two years ago, she remember all too well they had received letters from Lydia informing them of her husbands murder and her displeasure with the investigation that followed.
She soon forgot him however and married Mr. Slater, her longtime admirer instead of returning to Longbourn as her mother wanted. Her letters the last two years were full of how rich she was and how she lived even grander than the Darcy's spending, spending, spending, at DGB's.
Darcy laughed at each missive saying that though it was through the back door they were getting back the money that Lydia and Wickham had taken from them for so long.
Darcy and Lizzie had questioned Edward about Wickham's murder only to find that he had been squeezing and cheating the prisoners out of money for years and it was thought that somehow they had extracted their revenge, so the investigation had not been pursued too diligently. The thought being that he had only got what he deserved.
Now Lydia and her new husband and seven children were to be at Longbourn tomorrow and she and Darcy along with their four and Jane and Bingley with their five were expected to go to their old home.
Where they would all stay she did not know, but as Darcy said it was preferable to having all of them at Pemberley.