For Better or For Worse
The post arrived late at Pemberley that day. Elizabeth Darcy sat quietly on the sofa in the music room and worked on her embroidery, while listening to her sister Georgiana practice on the pianoforte. The servant entered the room and brought her the post. Elizabeth looked through the letters in haste, searching for a postmark from Netherfield Park. Elizabeth's sister Kitty was to be married in two months and Jane Bingley kept her abreast of all the wedding preparations and gossip from the family and neighborhood concerning the upcoming nuptials. Georgiana quit her practicing and watched intently as Elizabeth skimmed the letter. Georgiana was as fond of gossip as her sister and together they looked forward to all the news that Jane's letters would offer.
"What does it say sister? How are all the preparations coming?" Georgiana inquired anxiously.
Elizabeth looked confused and she searched through the other letters until she came to a certain one and turned it front ways and back. "Oh dear, here it is." She sighed and began to open it. She pulled out a fine piece of engraved stock and read it aloud to Georgiana.
"You are cordially invited to attend the marriage of Miss Maria Lucas to Mr. Anthony Grayson, the twelfth day of October, Eighteen hundred and eleven." Elizabeth looked up at Georgiana with eyes wide. "Two weddings! Just a week apart from each other."
"My goodness!" exclaimed Georgiana. "Things certainly happen quickly in Hertfordshire."
Elizabeth giggled with her sister. She supposed Georgiana to be correct. There had been quite a rash of weddings in the last year in Meryton, her own happy one included. Elizabeth wondered how lively the assemblies should be now, owing that most of the eligible young women in the neighborhood were gone. Elizabeth tried to remember a Mr. Anthony Grayson, but could not place a face with the name. She again turned to Jane's letter in hopes it would provide some revelations to this latest betrothal. As she began to read again, her husband entered the room and sat down next to her.
"What news, my love?" he inquired of his wife as she continued to read Jane's letter.
"Hmm? Oh, I believe these are for you." And she absentmindedly handed Darcy the other letters in the pile.
Darcy accepted them and shook his head as he looked them over. He had come to know that the earth practically stood still, when Elizabeth was reading a letter. She loved communications of all sorts and her weekly letters from her dearest sister were the highlight.
She finished her letter and laid it in her lap and looked at Darcy with some trepidation. "My dear, have you made arrangements for us to travel to Hertfordshire for Kitty's wedding yet?"
Darcy looked up from his correspondence with alarm. "We do still have time, do we not? It is not for two months yet?" He looked at Elizabeth in panic, believing he had forgotten something of importance. She handed him the wedding invitation and he quickly read it.
"Good lord, another wedding. Why am I not surprised?" He reflected to himself a moment then offered a comment. "I have always found weddings to be the most tedious occasions." He looked at his wife who had the hint of a devilish grin on her face, then he quickly offered, "Excepting my own, of course."
"Of course." Elizabeth agreed.
Georgiana giggled at her brother's propensity to invite trouble. He looked at his sister with a quizzical expression. "And you sister? Are you to join us for these joyous occasions?"
"Have you forgotten Fitzwilliam, that I am expected at Rosings Park at that time? To visit our Aunt?"
Darcy looked defeated, but reached for his wife's hand and kissed it. As he got up to go to his study to answer his correspondence and begin the necessary travel arrangements, he turned to his wife and sister. "I never thought I should say this, but for just this once, I envy Georgiana a trip to Rosings Park."
The Darcys arrived at Netherfield Park on schedule and were greeted by its inhabitants the Bingleys. Elizabeth was delighted to be with her sister Jane again and hugged her tightly then greeted her brother Charles. Jane and Elizabeth quickly went into the house to discuss their plans for the week. Darcy greeted his friend Bingley and both men stood outside the house. Neither man held much excitement for the coming weeks, save each others company.
"Bingley, I am eternally grateful for your hospitality."
Bingley laughed at his friend. "You do not care for the alternative Darcy?"
"A fortnight at Longbourn? Bingley you astound me." He chuckled. "How are our in-laws? You must know since you are in such close proximity to them."
Bingley's easy countenance changed. "Darcy, that is something I have been meaning to speak to you about. I am contemplating purchasing that estate which my sisters so dearly wished me to. Preferably some distance from Hertfordshire. Jane has no desire to spend much time in London, she wishes to settle somewhere and so do I, and it is not an attractive prospect thinking I should be so near to my meddling mother-in-law."
"She interferes, does she?" Darcy asked.
Bingley rolled his eyes to the sky. "Darcy, be thankful that she is preoccupied with this wedding, for you would not be safe. I believe her mission in life, after she marries off her single daughters, is to manage the affairs of her married daughters. I have a dream every so often that she has come live with us."
"Bingley, that is no dream. That is a nightmare." Darcy laughed at his brother, although deep within him, he feared that Bingley's prediction may not be so far from the truth. "However, should something happen to Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet would be at the mercy of her son-in-laws. Since I do not foresee dear Wickham being of consequence to assist her," he winced at his own remark, "I fear the task will fall upon us."
Bingley sighed, "You are right Darcy, as usual. Perhaps we could set her up in a house in Meryton, near Mrs. Phillips?"
"That, Bingley, is the best idea you have ever had." Darcy concluded. "Tell me of the latest son to join the Bennet clan, Miss Catherine Bennet's fiancÈ."
Bingley and Darcy began to walk up the steps to the house. Bingley chuckled at Darcy's inquiry. "I believe you will have the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Aaron Moore tonight at supper. The whole lot of us are to dine at Longbourn this night."
They had reached the Library and Darcy threw himself down into a large leather chair in exhaustion. "Good god, I had hoped to have one quiet evening before the torture of wedding revelry. You have not told me of this fellow Moore, Bingley. Break it to me gently." Darcy rubbed his temple.
"He is very young, Darcy."
"That is it? He is very young?" Darcy was becoming annoyed. "How young?"
"He is but twenty." Bingley cut off Darcy as he opened his mouth in protest. "Darcy, do not say it...he is young, but he is settled as a law clerk here in Meryton. It seems he took a position last year with an attorney here and has the educational background. He is very ambitious I believe, and will do well.
"Humph." Darcy grunted. "Mr. Bennet must have lost his wits, allowing his daughter to marry this...boy. Do you seriously believe he will make a proper husband, Bingley?" Darcy waited for a reply, however Bingley ventured none. "Good lord, I barely know what I am doing."
Bingley looked at Darcy and raised his eyebrow. Darcy blushed in embarrassment, realizing his folly. "Not in that way, Bingley." He sighed sarcastically.
"Well Darcy, try to have an open mind this evening. Whether you know it or not, your opinions carry some weight around here. There is no reason to start an uproar over two young people in love."
Bingley spoke good sense, and Darcy realized that he did not know exactly why he felt uneasy over the matter. He supposed he should reserve his judgment, until after the evening was over.
Darcy walked back into the bedchamber after having dressed for supper. Elizabeth was still dressing and he looked around and poured himself a quick glass of wine.
Elizabeth stole up behind her husband. "Do you think it will be that bad?"
Darcy gave a start and turned around to see his wife grinning from ear to ear. "It has been some time since I have been in Meryton society. You cannot deny me the privilege of a little fortification before I throw myself to the lions, can you?"
"No my diffident lover, I cannot," she reached up and put her arms around his neck.
"I am not diffident...in your company my love." He grinned and kissed her. "I will try to be agreeable this night...for your benefit."
"Thank you." Elizabeth reluctantly released her grasp of him and they left their rooms to find the Bingleys.
The party at Longbourn was already in full swing when they arrived. Mr. Moore was entertaining Kitty and Mrs. Bennet with his vivacity. Elizabeth entered the house and saw her father.
"Oh papa, you are looking well." She looked him over and gave him a peck on the cheek. "I have missed you so."
"And I have missed you Lizzy." A delighted Mr. Bennet embraced his daughter. Is your husband being good to you my dear?" he eyed Darcy who stood waiting to be acknowledged.
"I was not wrong in my assumptions, papa. He is the very best husband." She whispered to him and Mr. Bennet nodded approvingly.
Darcy greeted his father-in-law and they all walked into the sitting room where the rest of the party was gathered. Mrs. Bennet affectionately greeted her second daughter and her prestigious son-in-law with great decorum. Kitty stood by her fiancÈ and made the introduction.
"Lizzy, Mr. Darcy...this is Mr. Aaron Moore. Mr. Moore, my brother and sister, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy."
Elizabeth smiled and curtsied and Darcy bowed to their future in-law. Mr. Moore gave a quick enthusiastic bow and beamed in delight.
"Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. I have heard much of you both and am most pleased to finally make your acquaintance."
Elizabeth made small talk with him and Darcy stood behind her studying the young man. Darcy thought to himself that he was indeed young, but enthusiastic and polite as Bingley had said. Kitty moved Elizabeth away from the gentlemen to tell her of the upcoming wedding plans and gossip. Bingley joined the group, handing Darcy a glass of wine.
'Mr. Darcy, I must say I am honored sir." Moore rattled away with eagerness.
Darcy cocked his head to one side. He simply said, "Sir?"
"Well, I am honored to be in the company of the man who will one day be the family patriarch." Moore smirked, and Bingley looked at Darcy in amusement.
"Patriarch? Mr. Moore, I am simply one of Mr. Bennet's sons-in-law. Nothing more." Darcy played back in relatively good humor.
"Well sir, I assumed since you are so much older than the rest of us, that you would assume the responsibilities as head of this family. I have heard that you are accustomed to having your way with things, as is your right, and I assure you I will not stand in your way."
Darcy could not help but feel that he had just been enthusiastically and respectfully insulted. "My way with things?" he thought. "So much older?" he recalled the phrase. What a pompous youth this Mr. Moore was. Darcy thought the boy would make a good lawyer one day. When Darcy regained his composure, he tried to choose his words carefully.
"You have been led astray, Mr. Moore. I have no designs on being head of any family, save my own."
Mr. Moore held the previous smirk on his face and nodded, as if he had heard nothing that Darcy had said. "I am looking forward to getting to know you better. Shall we spend some time together this week? We have much to discuss."
Darcy looked at Bingley, begging him with his expression to jump in at any time. Bingley thought this a good joke, and invited Mr. Moore to shoot with he and Darcy on the morrow.
Mr. Moore just shook his head. "I am sorry gentlemen. I do not believe in hunting defenseless animals for personal gratification. It is a sorry state of affairs when grown men feel the need to stalk among the wilds, as a dog would do."
Bingley was taken aback, and Darcy...well, Darcy just stood there dumbfounded. Bingley took the defensive.
"Mr. Moore, the hunt provides food for our table, of which I am sure you partake."
"Very rarely sir. I prefer a good plate of vegetables and a slice of bread for sustenance. Ah, if you will excuse me I see my sweet Catherine beckoning me." And with that he gave a quick bow and headed off in another direction.
Darcy and Bingley stood silent for a moment, each man trying to make sense out of the last few moments. Bingley shifted positions and scratched his head.
"Darcy? Did you make all that out?" Bingley inquired.
Darcy took a sip of his wine. "I believe Bingley we have just been called...dogs? And I have been chosen as leader of the pack."
Darcy and Bingley sat quietly at supper and listened to the conversation of one Mr. Moore. Darcy thought the fellow certainly did like the sound of his own voice. Even Mr. Bennet seemed perturbed by Mr. Moore's resounded opinions, especially for one so young. Kitty however, wore her infatuation with the young man on her sleeve and doted on every word he uttered. Mrs. Bennet cooed and fawned over him and he seemed to relish in the attention. When the evening drew to a close, Darcy was first to utter his good-byes and bolt from the house for a little fresh air. Elizabeth noticed his early absence and after bidding her family good night, walked out in search of her husband. She found him pacing in front of the carriage, impatiently awaiting their departure.
"Fitzwilliam?" she inquired as to his impatience.
Darcy simply frowned at her and motioned with his arm to the carriage. He helped her in and they waited in tense silence for the Bingleys, who soon embarked. All sat in silence the first mile of the ride, Darcy staring precariously out the window, tapping his foot and the carriage floor, and Bingley puffing air in his cheeks and rhythmically blowing out. It was evident to their wives that both men were extremely vexed for some reason. Jane soon broke the tension by asking a question.
"How did you get on with Mr. Moore?"
Darcy and Bingley both turned their heads towards her and glared. Elizabeth knew Jane had touched on a sore spot with the gentlemen, and she winced. Bingley pursed his lips and made a face at his wife's question. Jane was indeed innocent.
"Charles? Is something the matter, my dear?"
"Jane, I do not wish to discuss it." He snapped at her as he had never done before.
Darcy looked out the window again. "Patriarch, indeed." he grunted. "So much older than the rest of you. I am not yet three score and that young buck speaks to me as he would a decrepit sage." He turned to Elizabeth. "Ha! I can run with the best of them!"
Bingley added his two cents, "And he speaks as if your father were planted six feet deep already!"
Jane quickly looked at Elizabeth for an explanation. Elizabeth just shrugged, eyes wide in disbelief.
Darcy shook his head, still mumbling to himself. "A sorry state of affairs...indeed. Defenseless animals? That boy is nothing more than a runny-nosed brat."
Elizabeth bit her lip and uttered an almost inaudible, "Oh, dear."
The next morning the ladies were to meet again at Longbourn. There was much to do in preparation for Kitty's wedding. Elizabeth kissed her husband who was waiting to go out shooting with Bingley. He sat in a large chair by the morning fire, reading the newspaper. She stood behind the chair looking over his shoulder and playfully ran her fingers through his hair.
"Do not forget, Fitzwilliam, that we are to have supper here tonight with my family. Darcy looked up at her a moment, then nodded his head in affirmation of the engagement. He kissed her, rustled the newspaper and went back to reading. She walked around the chair, removed the newspaper from his hands, and sat down on his lap to snuggle him.
"You must love me very much." She cooed.
"You are very good to put up with all of this again."
"I am." He said with a faint smile.
"You were always a man of many words. It is what I love about you most. That, and your tolerance for society." She giggled and kissed him again, and he had to laugh at himself. "Good bye my love, I will be home soon." And with that she quit the room.
Darcy and Bingley had an enjoyable morning in each other's company, but by midday, they found themselves lacking for something to do. To satisfy their rather strange curiosity, they found themselves riding towards Longbourn. They were shown into the parlor where the women had gathered to go over Kitty's trousseau. Bingley entered the room with a smile, followed by Darcy who wore the same expression until he saw a tall, dark hair gentleman turn around.
Darcy's countenance fell as he stood face to face with none other than George Wickham.
Elizabeth hurried over to her husband's side as Darcy tried to compose himself enough to convey any sort of a greeting to Mr. and Mrs. Wickham. He had been told that the Wickhams were not to travel to Hertfordshire for the wedding. Somehow, as was fitting in these stressful times, he was not at all surprised to see them.
"Mr. Wickham...Mrs. Wickham." Darcy bowed curtly as he spoke.
Wickham politely bowed in return and the two men stood staring at the other, completely at a loss. Mr. Bennet sensed the tension in the room and quickly gave assistance.
"Gentlemen, may I offer you some refreshment?"
Darcy came back to the present and took Mr. Bennet up on his offer. He walked over to a corner of the room and settled it to himself that he would remain polite, however tense he felt at being in the presence of his odious brother-in-law. Wickham stood, drink in hand, nervously shifting positions and smiling at Bingley. Mr. Bennet was at a loss as to what to do to smooth things out between his sons. After all those years of dealing with the trials and tribulations of daughters, he had absolutely no idea as to dealing with the complications between these two men.
A commotion was heard in the hallway and Hill stepped into the parlor and announced the arrival of Mr. Moore. Darcy fidgeted as he stood, thinking things could not get much worse. Mr. Bennet did the honors of introducing Mr. Moore to Mr. Wickham, which did help ease the tension in the room. Elizabeth walked over to Darcy and whispered in his ear. Darcy smiled at her and she turned to her father.
"Papa, we are going to take a turn outside for a while."
Mr. Bennet looked up at Darcy, who gave him a reassuring smile that there would be no trouble. Mr. Bennet had never thought that he would grow to like Darcy as much as he had. He was very grateful that his Lizzy had the good sense to marry this fellow. He turned around to view his other sons-in-law. He smiled as he saw the good natured Bingley conversing with Jane. He looked at Wickham who was playing favorites with Mrs. Bennet, and remembered how he had sarcastically looked upon this fine fellow. Then he looked at this new one, Moore. He sighed and hoped along the way the young man would channel his enthusiasm in a worthy direction. Yes, Darcy would do quite well, indeed.
Elizabeth slipped her arm into her husband's as they walked along the path. When they were safely out of earshot she spoke. "Fitzwilliam, we were all as surprised as you to see Lydia and Wickham. No one knew they were to come."
Darcy smiled at his wife. It seemed when they were in the presence of her family that she was always having to make excuses for something. He felt guilty for making her feel it was necessary.
"I know, my love. You could not have foreseen it. It appears that by some kind of intervention, divine or not, Wickham and I must be thrown together. I suppose we will just have to learn to live with it."
They walked on in silence, happiest when in each other's good company. After a while Darcy stopped on the path and looked at Elizabeth.
"These were some of my happiest memories with you." He reflected. "Walking in the Fall countryside, in love with the woman who was to be mine for all time. I think I shall remember it until the day that I am taken from you." He stopped and Elizabeth looked at him, those being her fondest memories as well. "How I loved you then, and how I love you now."
"How I shall love you forever." She whispered.
He looked to the heavens and smiled. "Well...shall we head back, before we are missed. If that is possible. We will have to make sure that Mr. Wickham does not persuade Mr. Moore that I am the enemy. Mr. Moore has such a high opinion of me already. Did you tell him I was out all morning, stalking defenseless creatures?"
Elizabeth laughed with him. Darcy was beginning to see the ridiculous in things. In the almost year of their marriage, Elizabeth had indeed shown him how to make sport of his neighbors, even if he was still reserved about it. As they approached the house, Darcy playfully pulled his wife aside. "Tell me Elizabeth." He said with a wide grin, barely able to contain himself. "Has your father had his wedding night talk with Mr. Moore yet?"
"No dear, I believe I heard him mention something about having you do it." She turned around to walk into the house followed by Darcy bellowing the words absolutely not!
That afternoon Netherfield was descended upon by none other that Mr. and Mrs. Collins, who were in the neighborhood for the wedding of Maria Lucas which was to take place the following day. Darcy was in the Library with Bingley when the butler announced the arrival of the guests. Elizabeth and Jane were already in the sitting room with the Collinses when the men arrived.
"Mr. Darcy...Mr. Bingley, I am most honored to be in your company once again." Mr. Collins sniveled and bowed several times at least.
Darcy bowed. "Mr. Collins." He walked over to the sofa where Elizabeth and Charlotte Collins sat conversing. "Mrs. Collins. It is a pleasure to see you again." He sat on the sofa next to his wife furthest away from the parson.
Bingley stood and made his greeting and Mr. Collins began to occupy his conversation with the finery of Netherfield Park, but not so fine as Rosings Park to be sure. For once Bingley envied Darcy's power of escape on such occasions. Darcy listened to his wife's conversation with Mrs. Collins, with occasional interjections as to her family. He began to relax and believed he may just be safe on this visit from Mr. Collins's news and views of his aunt Catherine. However, after a few more moments he looked up to see Mr. Collins standing over him, dabbing sweat from his brow.
"My dear Mr. Darcy. I must acquaint you with the latest from Rosings." He breathed.
"If you must, sir." Darcy heaved a sigh.
"Your Aunt was quite well and in good spirits when we left her, two days ago. We had the very greatest pleasure of having tea with your sister, the day before our departure. She is a lovely young woman, I must say."
"Thank you, Mr. Collins. On that score I agree with you." Darcy turned his head as if to continue his attentions towards Elizabeth's and Charlotte's conversation.
"But sir, there is one point which I am sure..." Mr. Collins paused and smiled as if thanking the almighty, then continued. "you will be most pleased for me to relate. Such good fortune and condescension, I must say."
Darcy turned back around to look at him. Elizabeth noticed Charlotte's expression of vexation at her husband and Elizabeth turned around to hear what Mr. Collins was going to say next.
"Lady Catherine has introduced your charming sister to some of Kent Society. Especially..." he made a flourish with his handkerchief, "Mr. Owen Meredith, who is to be the Earl of Lytton." Mr. Collins stood triumphant in his revelation and stood waiting for Darcy's joyful and appreciative response.
Darcy went pale. "Sir, you tell me my aunt is...hoping for an alliance between this man and my sister?"
"Oh sir! Is she not good! To have gone to all that trouble to solicit a very desirable union for your dear sister to enter into. It is Lady Catherine's opinion that your sister would never be matched with anyone worthy of her stature in Derbyshire. She is the epitome of condesc..."
Darcy stood up and began to walk out of the room at a quick pace leaving Mr. Collins in mid sentence. Mr. Collins turned to his wife and Elizabeth and smiled in evidence of his mastery.
"Mr. Darcy is so overjoyed...he could hardly speak it!"
Elizabeth was anxiously waving good-bye to her friend, when Darcy emerged from Bingley's study with a letter. He bellowed to a servant to dispatch the letter as an express to Kent.
Darcy frowned at his wife. Elizabeth felt pity for him, he was so protective of his sister. She knew this must weigh on him greatly.
"We are very fortunate that Mr. Collins cannot hold his tongue." She walked over to Darcy and reached her hand out for his. "Do not worry so. Georgiana is not one to be fooled. I am sure she has rejected any influence Lady Catherine would try to exude over her."
Darcy nodded to her. "I'm sorry my dear. It seems I have developed a headache. I believe I shall just go up to our room and sit in the dark for a while.
When Elizabeth went to check on her husband half an hour hence, she found him stretched out on the bed with the curtains drawn and his arm over his forehead. She sat down on the bed next to him and whispered his name.
"Hmm? I am awake my love."
"I hope you are feeling better?" she whispered and laid down next to him. "It is very peaceful in here. Perhaps I shall rest with you for a while."
"Yes, yes." He lazily said and wrapped his arm around her as she pulled a coverlet over them.
Darcy startled awake at the sound of knocking. He sat up dazed and confused and had no idea of the time or even where he was for that matter. Elizabeth was still asleep next to him. He heard the knocking again on the chamber door and got up to answer it. He was confused to see Bingley standing on the other side, smartly dressed.
"Darcy. I came to see if you were both dressed for supper yet?"
"What Bingley?" Darcy said rubbing his neck and running a hand through his hair. "What are you doing here?"
"Supper, Darcy." Bingley noticed Darcy's confusion. "You know, supper...in-laws, annoying future relations...weddings." Bingley said the last word very slowly.
Darcy's eyes widened. "Ah, yes...yes...supper. God, Bingley are they here yet?"
"No, but they shall be here any moment." He said impatiently.
"Make some excuse, Bingley. We shall be down directly." Darcy shut the door, leaving poor Bingley standing on the other side, scratching his head again.
Darcy greeted his mother-in-law as he walked in the parlor. He and Elizabeth were only fifteen minutes late in coming downstairs. Bingley was standing next to Mrs. Bennet, and winked at Darcy.
"I understand you and Mrs. Darcy had a rather long walk this afternoon, Mr. Darcy." she tittered.
Darcy looked up at Bingley who nodded in the affirmative.
"Yes, yes we did. Most pleasant...I must say." He stopped and sighed and looked at his Mrs. Bennet who seemed to be waiting for more of a reply. "Yes...ah...the walk to Meryt..."
"Oakham Mount." Bingley interjected.
Darcy quickly changed his answer. "...Oakham Mount, was very fair indeed, however we returned later than we thought...and here we are just a few minutes late. I hope you were not inconvenienced by it in any way."
"Not at all, Mr. Darcy. It is quite a mad house at Longbourn these days, and we were running a bit late ourselves. Dear Lydia and Wickham held us up even longer, until we could just not wait another minute for them. They will be coming on in a few more minutes."
Darcy looked at Bingley, who rolled his eyes behind Mrs. Bennet's back. The party waited another half hour for Mr. and Mrs. Wickham, but to no avail. Mr. Moore greeted Darcy, this time a little more reservedly.
"I say, I do hope they arrive soon. I am getting a bit hungry." Mr. Moore grinned.
"I should think that vegetables do not stay long with a man, Mr. Moore." Darcy modestly commented.
There was a commotion at the entrance to the parlor and Lydia Wickham entered the room, quite alone and in tears. Elizabeth scurried over to her, noticing Lydia's fearful disposition. She whispered something to Lydia and Lydia replied with a resounding "Yes!" which made everyone in the room turn around and take notice.
"He struck me Lizzy! We had an argument and he struck me!" Lydia sobbed.
Mr. Bennet darted over to his daughters and demanded to know what was going on. Elizabeth was desperately trying to calm Lydia down to ascertain what had happened. Darcy walked over to them to try to run interference with Mr. Bennet.
"Now Lydia, tell me, what has happened?" Elizabeth demanded sternly trying to get to the truth.
"Wickham and I had an argument and he reached out and struck me. He has never done such a thing! He left me off here at Netherfield and took the carriage into Meryton." She sniffled. "He is gone...Oh mama...he is gone!" and she ran over to her mother.
Mr. Bennet began to turn red and gulp air. Elizabeth saw her father and quickly looked at Darcy, however Darcy did not know what to do. She tried to talk to her father, but he shunned all her attempts and stormed out into the hallway in search of his hat and coat.
Elizabeth turned to her husband. "Fitzwilliam, please!"
Darcy took off in search of Mr. Bennet, followed by Bingley and Moore. Darcy ran from the house and saw Mr. Bennet calling for his carriage. Darcy ran up behind him and grabbed his arm.
"Mr. Bennet...father...may I ask where it is you are going?" Darcy demanded.
"This is intolerable, Darcy! I will not stand here while some young ruffian impresses himself upon my daughter with physical force. I do not care that she is his wife or not!" Mr. Bennet was despondent.
Darcy spoke quickly and directly. "What is it sir that you intend to do? That is, once you find Wickham?"
Mr. Bennet looked towards the ground, for lack of an answer. Bingley and Moore came running up behind the two men and Elizabeth ran out of the house, her mind racing with fear that her father would do something rash or make himself ill. She saw her husband still talking to her father, still with a hold on his arm.
Darcy turned around to Moore and Bingley. "Mr. Moore, tell me, is striking your wife in this manner a punishable crime, according to the law?"
"No, sir. The ways of the world are very cruel...when it comes to these matters." Mr. Moore pronounced with great sadness.
"There, sir." Darcy turned back to his father-in-law. "There is nothing to be done on that score. You will be doing no one any good by charging into Meryton in search of Mr. Wickham."
Mr. Bennet looked at Darcy in disbelief. Was this man, who had been of such great assistance to their cause once before, was he to stand here and quote laws and make excuses for Wickham's vile behavior? Elizabeth also, could not believe what she had heard. She walked up to her husband and father and grabbed Darcy's coat.
"Fitzwilliam? Is there nothing to be done? I cannot believe you would do nothing to help my poor sister?"
Darcy looked at his wife's face, wracked with concern for her sister and father. Mortified that a man could take such wrongful liberties with his wife and come away untouched by society's mores. She pleaded with him in all her looks.
Darcy removed his hold on Mr. Bennet and took his wife's arm and placed it on her father's. "Elizabeth, you and your father go back into the house. I will be in shortly."
"But, Fitzwilliam! This is family!" she impatiently uttered.
Darcy was stern. "Elizabeth, do as I ask and take your father into the house."
Her hurt was evident, but she did as her husband requested. Darcy stood and watched Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet until they were safely back into the house. Bingley and Moore stood and looked at Darcy, wondering why he stood there so passively. Darcy looked back at his brothers.
"Darcy?" Bingley questioned him. "Are we to do nothing?"
Darcy ran his hand through his hair and began to pace. "What would you have me do Bingley? You heard Moore tell us that legally there is nothing to be done. Would you have me take the law into my own hands? Even if I were to find Wickham. He is no doubt drunk and enraged. I have no intention of sacrificing myself for that blackguard."
"You astound me Mr. Darcy. I had thought you to be a man of honor." Moore bravely committed.
Darcy wheeled around to face the young Mr. Moore and raised himself to full height. "Do not question my honor, boy. And do not provoke my anger on you!" Darcy amazed himself with his own fortitude. "Do you want to help...as a member of this family?"
Moore nodded his head and resumed a more placid demeanor. Darcy looked at Bingley who nodded his assistance.
"Good." Darcy backed down as well. "Then listen to what I have to say, and I will entertain any suggestions you may offer. We will do this together, but do not speak of it in front of Mr. Bennet or the women. I do not intend to disgrace the Bennets in this town, and what we will have to do will be somewhat underhanded, to say the least."
Bingley and Moore listened to Darcy's plan. Moore agreed that he could solicit the town Bailiff's assistance, for he was an honorable and righteous man, but was not opposed to making a few unsolicited shillings. Moore's respect for Darcy was somewhat restored having heard Darcy's intentions and he said so.
"Do not celebrate a victory as yet, Mr. Moore. Mr. Wickham may be unscrupulous, but he is not a fool. We shall have to be very convincing." Darcy began to walk back towards the house. "Come Mr. Moore, I believe you were hungry at one time. I must admit at this point a little squash and a bit of asparagus sound quite satisfying."
Elizabeth was preparing herself for bed that night. Poor Kitty, she thought to herself. This was her time to be happy, and Wickham and Lydia were taking all that away by creating another family scandal. Poor Lydia, married to a man who did not respect her and proved it by cruelty. Elizabeth began to feel remorse for speaking to Darcy so, about his unwillingness to help her family. She knew that was simply not true. When she walked out of her dressing room, she saw her husband already in bed, sitting up and reading a letter. She sat down on the bed behind him and wrapped her arms around him. She wished to apologize for her rude behavior. Darcy looked behind him and smiled.
"It is an express from Georgiana. She is taking Lady Catherine's interference as you had said. It appears that this Mr. Meredith is, and this is a quote, 'Short and fat and obnoxious, not the sort of man to be attractive to me as a mate.'" Darcy breathed a sigh of relief. At least one problem was solved. "I am very glad you have taught her that there are times when it is best to do what you feel is right."
"Yes." She regretfully sighed. "Someday, we will have to let her go, however."
Darcy nodded, sad at the prospect of losing his little sister. "But not until she is ready to go, Elizabeth."
"Fitzwilliam, I treated you shamefully earlier. I hope you are aware that I do not lack confidence in you. I was very upset and let my temper rule my mind. You are a generous and loving husband...and as honorable as they come."
Darcy put down the letter and reached around to embrace his wife. He pulled her down on the bed and ran his fingers through her long locks of hair. "I am very glad you still think so, my loveliest Elizabeth." and he kissed her most passionately.
When Elizabeth awoke in the morning, Darcy was not in bed. She got out of the bed and peeked into his dressing room, but the room was empty. She rang for Darcy's man, who came up immediately.
"Where is Mr. Darcy?" she inquired.
"He has gone out this morning very early. He and Mr. Bingley. They said they would return soon to dress for the wedding this morning, ma'am."
"Thank you." Elizabeth whispered and quietly shut the door. She rang for her maid and then sat in the chair by the smoldering fire, wondering where Darcy could have gone so early. She told herself she must not inquire, for Darcy was being very tight lipped indeed about his actions as of late. He would tell her when he was ready to, although her curiosity was consuming her.
The Bingleys and the Darcys arrived at the Church in Meryton, for the wedding of Maria Lucas to Mr. Grayson. Elizabeth observed Mr. Grayson, who in many ways resembled Mr. Collins. It was funny how these two sisters had the same taste in a mate. And of course as everyone knows...there is no accounting for taste. The Darcys and the Bingleys occupied the pew that had been reserved for them by the Bennets and Mr. Moore. Darcy sat on the end, behind Mr. Moore.
Darcy's eyes opened wide when he saw Mr. Collins come out and stand at the front of the church. Mr. Collins was to perform the ceremony! Bingley, who was sitting next to Elizabeth, reached behind her and tapped Darcy on the shoulder. Darcy took a quick look at him and made a face. Bingley tried to hide his amusement, but was already having a hard time. Darcy prayed to the almighty that Bingley would be able to contain himself during the service. For as it had been throughout their friendship, once Bingley started laughing, Darcy had a hard time maintaining his own composure.
Sir William led his second daughter down the aisle, and gave her to Mr. Grayson, who bowed to his soon to be father-in-law. The couple turned towards Mr. Collins and the ceremony began.
"Dearly beloved. We are gathered here in the sight of God, to join together these two persons...Mr. Anthony Greystone..." Mr. Grayson cleared his throat and corrected Mr. Collins who gave a quick. "Yes, of course...Grayson."
Darcy could see Bingley begin to shake as he tried to maintain his composure. Mr. Moore, who was in front of Darcy, gave a snort as well. Darcy bit his lip and looked at his shoe, until he felt it was safe to look up again.
When Darcy felt he could maintain himself, he looked up and saw Mr. Collins dabbing his forehead with his handkerchief as he desperately tried to continue on. Mr. Collins made a few more faux pas in the way the ceremony was to be recited, then looked up at the congregation and apologized, stating that he did not, by rule, conduct many marriage ceremonies. As he tried to continue, he started to shake so much from nervousness that he inadvertently lost his place in his book and dropped the wedding ring and the book on the floor.
Bingley blurted out a short "Ha" and turned red, and Moore snickered and put his hand to his mouth. Darcy could take no more and remain in the boundaries of good decorum. He looked at Elizabeth, who for some reason did not see the humor in the destruction of a poor girl's wedding day, said "Excuse me", and bolted from the church. When he got himself outside, he looked up at the sky and took a few deep breaths, trying to hide his laughter. Before long the door opened and Bingley, having made the excuse of checking on poor Darcy, came out of the church and started laughing out loud.
Darcy pointed at Bingley, trying to act in a serious manner. "Bingley! Stop it!" Darcy said with a brief laugh. "Stop it I say. I cannot remain serious when you are snorting and changing colors."
Both men turned around at the sound of the door opening again. They were astonished and embarrassed to see Mr. Bennet, who gave them both a stern, serious look as a father would give to his naughty sons. Bingley and Darcy stopped laughing and stood waiting for the lecture they knew was rightfully forthcoming.
Mr. Bennet pursed his lips and said. "That man is the most preposterous person to walk the face of this earth!" and he started laughing. "I certainly am happy he is Lucas' son-in-law and not one of mine!"
The door opened one more time, as Aaron Moore stumbled out. "How dare you all escape without taking me with you!" he blurted out with a laugh. "One would think the good lord would be more merciful."
Bingley started laughing out loud again and they all waited outside until the ceremony was over. They would have to come up with some excuse to appease the women, however, facing the disapprobation of their wives seemed a better alternative than marching back into the church. All in all it was one wedding none of them would ever forget.
Darcy entered the breakfast room the next morning to find Bingley already seated, eating a muffin and drinking tea. Darcy poured himself a cup of tea and sat down at the table. Both men looked at each other and smiled.
"You in a bit of a spot, Darcy?
Darcy nodded, but with a slight grin. "And you?"
Bingley started to laugh, but quickly stuffed his amusement when Jane and Elizabeth entered the room. Their wives had indeed been angry with them, for their lack of decorum at the Lucas wedding. Elizabeth looked at her husband, who did his best to avoid her glare. "I hope all is well at Longbourn." She sighed. "I wonder if Wickham has been discovered yet?"
Jane whispered. "Poor Kitty...poor Lydia."
"I am sure everything will turn out well, my dear." Bingley tried to comfort her.
"Yes, I hope you and my husband will be able to make it through Kitty's wedding." Elizabeth voiced her admonition. "What do you say, husband?"
"I am sure we will?" Darcy said with a quick look at Bingley. "Unless, Mr. Collins is to officiate."
Bingley stuffed a snort as Darcy grimaced in pain from the kick Elizabeth playfully gave him under the table. The butler entered the dining room, showing in Mrs. Phillips.
"Oh, dear nephews and nieces! Your mother has asked me to bring you the news!" she fluttered.
Darcy quickly rose and held a chair for her. She sat down and fanned herself and took a deep breath.
"My dears...Wickham is in the Meryton jail. The bailiff arrested him last night! What a business this is!" Mrs. Phillips was besides herself, relating the news.
"Why has he been arrested aunt?" Elizabeth inquired.
"That is the thing...no one seems to know why. The bailiff suggested that he found him drunk and disorderly, but Wickham clearly denies it."
Darcy raised an eyebrow and glanced at Bingley, who was intently eating his breakfast. Elizabeth thought it strange that her husband and his friend did not seem all that surprised by this news. Mrs. Phillips excused herself to hurry home, but not until she had drank a cup of tea and eaten a muffin.
"This is dreadful!" Elizabeth uttered.
"How so, my dear?" Darcy asked of her, not seeing the dread in it at all.
"Fitzwilliam, what will people think of us? That man has disgraced our families in every possible way."
"Perhaps, my dear, it is good that Wickham spend some time incarcerated. Then perhaps he will know where it is he does not want to be." Darcy reflected. "Loss of freedom does strange things to men, Elizabeth." He reached for his watch to check the time, "as for what people will think...after a fashion it will all be forgotten."
"You are taking this all quite calmly, Mr. Darcy." Elizabeth pondered out loud. "It never fails, that when I think I could not know you better, you alter your appearance."
Darcy smiled at his wife. "What are the plans, my love? What merrymaking are we to partake of today?"
Elizabeth allowed him to change the subject. "It just so happens that you and Mr. Bingley are unencumbered by wedding plans this day, and night for that matter. This eve the ladies are to gather in Kitty's behalf. Perhaps you could see yourself clear to entertaining Mr. Moore?"
Bingley interrupted. "That is a splendid notion. I shall extend an invitation directly to his place of employment. Would you care to join me Darcy?"
"Yes Bingley, I believe I would." Darcy threw his napkin down on the table and bid his fair wife good bye, leaving Elizabeth and Jane looking at each other in clear amazement.
Elizabeth's eyes sparkled as she looked at her sister and declared. "Jane, in the words of Shakespeare, something is rotten in the State of Denmark!"
ingley and Darcy entered the office of Mr. Pratt, attorney at law, who was the employer of Mr. Moore. Mr. Pratt greeted the men with extreme cordiality. It was not every day that he received a call from the prestigious Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire.
"Good day, Mr. Pratt. We are here to see Mr. Moore." Bingley told the portly man.
Mr. Pratt put his hands together and nodded quickly. "Yes, yes indeed, sir. I will call him for you at once!" he said bowing as he quit the room. He quickly looked up for one more glance at the two men, commenting to himself on the extreme height of Mr. Darcy. After a few moments Mr. Moore entered the room, followed closely by Mr. Pratt.
"Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley. It is a pleasure to see you both this day." Mr. Moore quickly bowed to his future brothers.
Darcy looked at Mr. Pratt who was intently waiting for someone to speak. "Mr. Pratt. If it is no inconvenience to you, might you spare Mr. Moore for a few moments?"
"Uh...yes, yes of course. Why it is no inconvenience at all, for such a man as yourself, Mr. Darcy. And you Mr. Bingley."
Darcy smiled slightly and nodded his head to Mr. Pratt. He held the door open and motioned to Mr. Moore to join them outside. Darcy took a look back at the portly attorney as he quit the building, thinking to himself that societal influence was indeed advantageous at times.
Bingley extended an invitation to Moore for the evening, which Moore gladly accepted. As they walked down the street, away from other passers by, Moore began to speak.
"I assume that you have had the news of Wickham's incarceration?"
"Yes, indeed Mr. Moore. Allow me to congratulate you on managing it." Darcy spoke expressionless.
"Thank you, sir. It was not all that difficult. Wickham appears to have a previous reputation in this town. The bailiff was happy to oblige, and quite inexpensively, I might add." Moore commented with a grin. "I plan to visit Mr. Wickham later this morning. To inform him of his rights, or rather his lack of them."
"Excellent. Mr. Moore, you shall make an excellent attorney one day, I am sure." Darcy grinned.
Moore welled with pride at the compliment, even though it was underhandedly deserved. It was silently agreed between the three of them that a man should always protect his family, the best way he can.
Aaron Moore walked into the jailhouse and spoke with the bailiff. He was shown to the cell where George Wickham was housed.
Wickham stood up amongst the other prisoners who shared his cell and stepped towards the front. "Mr. Moore! It is very good to see you!" Wickham looked desperate.
"Yes, well...I thought I should come and see if there was anything I could do for you...since, we are to be brothers soon."
Wickham was hopeful. "You could have me released from this cell."
"I am sorry Mr. Wickham. I am afraid your situation is more desperate than you may think." lied Moore, but very convincingly.
Wickham gasped in disbelief. "What...what are you saying Mr. Moore?"
"Well sir, it appears that the Bennets have explained to the bailiff about your unfortunate behavior towards your wife. This is an unusual case. There is no chance of your release until your bond has been paid."
"Well man, I will ask you to pay it and I shall reimburse you!" Wickham looked around in the cell, and looked down his nose at the two other occupants.
"Mr. Wickham, surely you must know I do not have the five hundred pounds it would take to secure your release." Mr. Moore quoted a figure, assuming Wickham did not have that sum either.
"Five hundred pounds! That is utterly ridiculous! I do not have that kind of money." Wickham began to pace within the cell. "Who came to that figure?"
"I believe it was the magistrate, sir. He was in an exceptionally foul mood when he heard of your case from the bailiff. He is extremely unforgiving of such behavior." Moore stepped closer to the cell and whispered, "I believe he wishes to make an example of you to the townsfolk."
Wickham was on the verge of a nervous fit. "Mr. Moore," his voice cracked. "You must acquaint Mr. Darcy of this. He will come to my assistance."
Moore cleared his throat and shifted his position. "I overheard Mr. Darcy say that he would sooner dance a jig on Prinny's dining table, than post bail for you...sir." Moore thought that was a convincing touch. "I bid you good day, sir." And he quit the room leaving Wickham standing with his mouth hung open.
Mr. Moore arrived that evening at Netherfield, and was shown into the Billiards room, where Bingley and Darcy were enjoying a little unmitigated freedom from social obligation. The men had a most enjoyable time in each others company, and Darcy and Bingley were rather glad to have another opportunity to try and get to know their young associate. Mr. Moore informed them of his visit to Wickham's cell earlier that day. Darcy was surprised to hear that Wickham had the audacity to believe, that he would pay his bail.
"This could work out to our advantage more than I had thought. One can always rely on Wickham's arrogance." Darcy said as he sank the last ball in the corner pocket. "Mr. Moore, would you care to have a go, or are you opposed to gentlemanly competition as well?"
"No sir...I am not opposed to a game of billiards. However, I fear I am no match for you." Moore wore that grin on his face that he always seemed to have when complimenting Darcy.
Darcy was beginning to believe that young Mr. Moore was a good-natured con artist. Within twenty minutes Moore had Darcy hung out to dry, and laughing at his own gullibility. The men retired to the dining room where Darcy and Bingley enjoyed perfectly prepared squab, while watching Moore attack a large plate of greens and a hunk of rye bread. Bingley began to inquire as to Moore's family background, and to his acquaintance with Miss Catherine Bennet.
"I have no family to speak of Mr. Bingley. My mother died when I was but a year old. My father traveled extensively about the country as a personal injury attorney. He made a very small living. I believe he was an innovator, ahead of his time."
Bingley and Darcy looked at each other wondering exactly just what a personal injury attorney was?
"My older brother and I lived with my father's sister in Bristol. After my father's death some years ago, my brother took his small inheritance and enlisted in the merchant marines. He is usually in some exotic port, drinking rum and spending all of his hard earned money foolishly on wine, women, and song, as they say. My uncle discovered that I had an interest in the law, paid for my schooling and arranged for my internship with Mr. Pratt, for which I am eternally grateful. My uncle died about eight months ago and left me a small inheritance, which I used to purchase a small house in Meryton." Moore took another bite of bread and drank some of his wine. "It is nothing compared to Netherfield...or Pemberley, to be sure. But it is my own castle, so to speak, and will be comfortable enough for Miss Bennet and I until I can secure a better situation."
Darcy leaned back in his chair to contemplate Moore's tale. He had to admire the young man for choosing his course so wisely. Indeed, Mr. Moore appeared steadfast and ambitious, and would provide a good home for Elizabeth's sister. Perhaps he had misjudged the boy?
"And where did you meet Miss Bennet?" Bingley asked.
"At the assembly room in Meryton. A friend of mine convinced me to attend, under some protestation, since I abhor dancing. I was quite a dimwit though, for I would not dance with her and more or less told her so."
Bingley quickly looked at Darcy who was nervously shifting in his chair.
"After that I saw her in Meryton quite often, however, she always seemed to be engaged by someone else, and turned her nose up at me. One afternoon, I was in an exceptional hurry and ran down the walk from the law office to the pub, where Mr. Pratt was tossing down few. As I turned the corner, where the millinery shop is, I ran smack into Miss Bennet, knocking her down on her..." Mr. Moore stopped and cleared his throat. "...well...knocking her down on the ground. I assisted her to her feet and insisted that I escort her to her aunt's house, to make sure she was not injured. As I helped her down the street I asked her if I could call on her again, and to my great surprise...she agreed."
Bingley couldn't help but laugh at Moore's tale of courtship with Miss Kitty Bennet. It did seem that the Bennet daughters had somewhat unconventional courtships.
"And what makes you ready to commit to marriage, Mr. Moore? You are young still, with a promising future, you could chose to marry later in life?" Darcy could not help but ask.
"My reasons are the same as any sensible man's, sir. I wish to share my life with a woman I can love and respect, and who can respect me. I know that woman is Miss Bennet. I wish to have a family, since I never really had one of my own." Moore reflected on his own words. "When the Bennets invited me to Longbourn, I must admit that I did enjoy spending time with people who actually sat down to the table and ate supper together. For all their particular faults, the Bennets at least seem to value their family."
Darcy and Bingley heard Moore's words and felt penitence for having so little patience with the Bennets. Here they sat, masters of their own estates, properly humbled by the understanding of a boy.
Jane and Elizabeth entered the room, along with Kitty who had accepted Jane's invitation to stay the night at Netherfield for some solace. Elizabeth wore her concern on her face as she raced over to Darcy with news.
"My dear, we did not expect you home so soon? What is the matter?" he tenderly asked.
"Fitzwilliam, Lydia is carrying Wickham's child!"
This was indeed an unforeseen flaw in the plan. Darcy began to feel guilty for keeping Wickham in jail, when he had a pregnant wife at home. But no! Wickham should know exactly what he has to lose, and what he had to lose was becoming greater by the day.
"Has Wickham been told he is to be a father?" Darcy inquired of his wife.
Elizabeth shook her head. "No, not as yet. Papa says he will not visit him. We were hoping you or Charles might go to see him in the morning and inform him. He really should know it."
"I shall go Darcy." Bingley announced. "Perhaps Moore would accompany me?"
"Yes sir, I will."
Kitty stood next to Elizabeth. Her demeanor towards her fiancÈ had changed over that past few days. Lydia's marital troubles had caused Kitty to think twice about her intended marriage. Mr. Moore had noticed her distance. He walked over to his beloved and asked her to take a turn with him in the courtyard. Kitty took her wrap and consented to go with him, for a few minutes at least.
When they entered the courtyard, Moore turned to her and put his hand gently under her chin. "My darling Kitty, have I done something to offend you?"
Kitty furiously shook her head, and shrunk away from him, declining to say a word. She looked frightened of him, and he had never seen her look so. He was at a loss as to what to do and what to say, and his feelings were hurt that she would treat him so. His temper began to get the better of him and he took her by the arm, back into the house and back to the parlor where the Bingleys and Darcys had settled. He bowed curtly to her and spoke harshly.
"Good night Miss Bennet," and stormed from the room.
Kitty stood where he had left her, eyes wide at her fiancÈ's abrupt departure. She looked at her sisters, began to sob and ran out of the room. Elizabeth closed her eyes and sighed. She turned to Jane and said, "I shall attend to her." And quit the room to find her younger sister.
Kitty was laying on the bed in the guest chamber, surrounded by her overnight bags and sobbing. "Oh Lizzy! Everything is such a mess. I do not want to be married at all!"
Elizabeth was shocked by Kitty's certainty in her statement. "Why now, would you not want to marry Mr. Moore, Kitty?"
"It is not that I do not wish to marry Aaron. Oh, Lizzy, I am frightened." she sobbed into the pillow.
"Kitty?" Elizabeth pleaded with her. "Please stop sobbing and tell me what you are frightened about?"
"Lizzy, what if my marriage is as horrible as Lydia's? What if Aaron, treats me as Wickham treats her? Lydia says that marriage is a curse, that a woman is the property of her husband and she is at his mercy. That a woman's purpose in a marriage is to provide her husband with a son, and she will be neglected if she fails...just like mama!" She looked at Elizabeth with tears on her cheeks. "Did you see his anger when he left here? What if he were to strike me also?"
Elizabeth held her hands to her face in shock. She noticed the door opening and saw Jane come in and sit down on the bed. Jane had heard Kitty's ranting in the hallway.
"Oh Lizzy." Jane's heart almost broke.
Elizabeth held her younger sister and stroked her head as she spoke. "Kitty." She sighed. "What may be true for Lydia's marriage, certainly will not be true for yours. I am sure Mr. Moore was not angry with you."
"Yes, yes he was. He asked me if something was the matter, but I could not answer him. His countenance changed and he brought me back to where you were and left me!"
"Kitty, you must have hurt Mr. Moore's feelings, by not answering his question." Elizabeth realized Kitty was not as mature as she had hoped. "You and Jane and I are shall have a talk, this very moment. If you do not change your perceptions of things, then I think it would be best for you to not marry Mr. Moore."
Kitty looked at Elizabeth in horror. Perhaps she did not think her sisters would take her this seriously, since they had never done so in the past.
"Kitty, I am very happily married to Mr. Darcy, and Jane is very happily married to Mr. Bingley. Mr. Darcy is my husband, that is true, and I do what he believes is best for us. I keep house for him, nurse him if he is sick, give him encouragement, laugh with him, share his bed, and love him with all my heart. One day I hope to give him a child, which is something I want for myself as well. He in return provides for me, makes me feel secure and happy, encourages me, and returns my love unconditionally. He is not only my husband, but I think of him as my friend as well. We have had our share of disagreements, but I have never felt threatened by him, or felt he would cause me harm. He is the very best of men, as is Mr. Bingley, and Mr. Moore." Kitty smiled up at her. "Kitty, Mr. Wickham did not wish to marry Lydia and he resents her for it. He does not respect her as a wife and she does not respect him as a husband."
Jane interrupted Elizabeth. "Kitty, Mr. Moore is a young man who knows his own mind. I am sure he would not have offered to marry you, if he did not want the responsibility of loving you and making you happy. He would have no reason to."
Elizabeth left Jane with Kitty and joined Darcy and Bingley in the parlor.
"Is Kitty quite all right, Elizabeth?" Bingley asked in all seriousness.
"Yes, she is fine. I believe she had a case of wedding jitters, brought on by Lydia and Wickham's bad example." Elizabeth offered.
Darcy raised an eyebrow to that. "I can not blame her on that score."
Darcy saw his wife's fatigue as she rubbed the back of her neck. "Bingley, I am quite done in for today. We shall see you in the morning. Come my dear." He took her arm and led her up the stairs.
Bingley was true to his word and paid a visit to the Meryton jail and Mr. Wickham the next morning. Mr. Moore had already been shown into the cell area. Wickham paced back and forth, waiting for a chance to persuade Bingley into posting his bail.
"Mr. Bingley! Pray sir, what news do you bring? Are they to let me out of this god forsaken place?"
"Mr. Wickham, do you not wish to know of your wife's well being?" Bingley inquired.
"My wife's well being? Is she ill?"
"She is not ill, Mr. Wickham. She is with child."
Wickham looked at Bingley and Moore and sat down on the cot in the cell. He held his head in his hands. "A child." He said. After a moment he got up and raced to the edge of the cell to speak again to Bingley. "Sir, you must help me out of here. I am heartily sorry for what I did. I shall never strike her again. It is just that she makes me so angry."
"Mr. Wickham, I am not your judge. However, the magistrate in this town does not view your actions warmly. He is known for making an example of wrong-doers. The last man to be prosecuted in this town ended up swinging on the gibbet at the town entrance."
Wickham reached for his neck and gulped. It was evident that he was beginning to crack under the pressure. He was just about ready to repent, however what was the sense of an empty promise? Moore looked at Wickham and sadly shook his head and the two men left to return to Netherfield.
"Mr. Bingley." Moore stopped him "Kitty. Is she quite well?"
"Yes, Moore. I believe she was when I left this morning."
"I was very childish to have left last night, in the matter that I did. Can you tell me why she is angry with me?" Moore pleaded with him.
"She is...was...frightened. She is a young and inexperienced woman in the ways of the world. You will have to be gentle and understanding with her."
"I never had any intention of being otherwise, sir. I thank you for your confidence."
Bingley put his hand on Moore's shoulder and the two men embarked Bingley's carriage for the short ride to Netherfield. Darcy was impatiently waiting for them out front.
"Well?" Darcy blurted out.
"Darcy, I am beginning to feel badly about this whole thing. I think we have made him suffer enough." Bingley disclosed his thoughts.
"You are right, Bingley. I am beginning to feel remorse myself. I shall go directly and post his bail."
arcy entered the jail and posted bail for Wickham. The bailiff reached to grab the keys and Darcy stopped him with his hand.
"I would like to speak with him before you release him."
The bailiff nodded and opened the door to the cell area for Darcy. He walked around the corner and saw Wickham standing with his hands on the bars of the cell.
"DARCY! Darcy, I am very glad to see you! I beg you, post bail and let me out of here! I will do anything you say. Pray, help me!"
Darcy stared at him, remorseful of his cruelty at having left Wickham in here for so long. However, he was still angry at Wickham for taking advantage of the Bennets' kindness, and for treating his wife in such an infamous manner.
Darcy's voice cracked. "Why should I help you? You have been nothing but dishonorable to myself and my good family. Sometimes I wonder what my father would have said to you...had he known what you were about."
Wickham hung his head in real shame. Emotions welled up in both men, for things past and present.
"I am to be a father, Darcy. A child should have a father."
"Yes, you are quite right. A child should have a father." Darcy whispered. "I will post your bail."
Wickham sighed in relief. "Thank you."
"You will agree to the terms?" Darcy demanded.
"What terms?" Wickham began to fret.
"You will apologize to the Bennets for causing them the grief that you have brought on them."
"Yes, yes...I will."
"And you will sign this note." Darcy handed him a piece of paper and called the bailiff for a pen.
Wickham hastily scribbled his name on the note and handed it to Darcy.
"And you will not act abusively towards your wife...or your children!"
"I promise Darcy I will not! You can depend upon it."
The bailiff opened the door to the cell and Wickham strode out and looked at Darcy. He repeated, "You can depend upon it."
"Yes Wickham, I believe I can. For I have just loaned you five hundred pounds bail money, which I hold your note for. I will not attempt to collect it...until I discover through the watchful eyes of my acquaintances in your regiment, that you are not a man of your word. On that day, I will notify the authorities of your forfeiture on the note, and they will promptly throw you into debtor's prison, where you will receive no assistance from me...ever."
Wickham's eyes widened and he shivered at the thought. "That Darcy, is...blackmail."
Darcy nodded his head. "How does it feel to have the shoe on the other foot?"
Wickham accepted the terms with some little grace and the four men left the jail to return to Longbourn. As the carriage rounded the drive the Bennets stepped outside to greet it. Wickham disembarked and Lydia ran to him, throwing her arms around him.
"Oh Wickham dear, you have come back!"
He humbly apologized to her and stood in front of Mr. Bennet and made a most worthy apology to his father-in-law. Mr. Bennet looked at his other sons-in-law and smiled. Wickham and the ladies entered the house and Darcy turned around to enter the carriage and return to Netherfield.
Mr. Bennet stopped him. "How can I thank you Darcy? You seem to always bail us out when we need it the most."
Darcy smiled at his father-in-law. "It is not my work alone this time, sir. It was happily done by all your sons and son to be."
The men returned to Netherfield and informed the ladies that all would be well at Longbourn, to their greatest relief. Moore stood in front of his fiancÈ and inquired of her.
"Miss Bennet...Kitty...I hope you have not changed your mind about marriage, and about me. There is nothing I want more than you as my wife. I love you, dearest Kitty."
Kitty smiled. "You are also what I want Aaron and I also love you."
Moore was terribly relieved to hear it. He nodded his head in satisfaction then turned to Darcy who was accepting a glass of wine from his wife.
"Mr. Darcy...sir. There is something I must inquire of you as well."
Darcy stood motionless, wondering what that could be?
Mr. Moore looked at Darcy this time without a grin. "Will you do me the honor, sir, of standing up with me on my wedding day?"
Darcy smiled. "It will be my honor, sir." And he reached out for Moore's hand.
The next day was again one of the happiest days in Mrs. Bennet's life. The day she got rid of her fourth daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Moore left the wedding breakfast and spent their first night together at their home in Meryton, learning how to be a husband and a wife. Mrs. Bennet was pleased that Mrs. Moore would be so near, and that she could visit at her convenience. Mr. Bennet was pleased with his sons, however he was happy to bid farewell to the Wickhams. Some months later Lydia bore Wickham a son, who they named after his father, and as far as Darcy was to ascertain throughout the years, Wickham was true to his word. The Bingleys soon moved from the neighborhood for the solace of a northern county, very close to the happy household of the Darcys. Mr. Moore became an attorney, and a good one at that. He and his wife would move to London, where Mr. Moore distinguished himself in the House of Commons. He considered himself an advocate for human rights and Darcy was indeed prodigiously proud of his brother, even if he did not conform to society.
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