Thank you all. The responses here, on Facebook, via email, and private message was amazing. In the end, there were two names that had the most requests. Jonathan was a close third.
To reveal my selection, I’m going to post my work-in-progress. In reading it you will see why I rejected William, Bennet, and any other name relating to Mr. Bennet or the Fitzwilliams. Without further ado, here’s the story so far (the reveal is at the end if you want to skip ahead):
“I am sorry to
hear about Anne.” Hugh Fitzwilliam, Lord Matlock, watched as his elder sister,
Lady Catherine de Bourgh shrugged. They were a cold family, regularly accused
by jealous friends and spiteful enemies of being devoid of natural human feeling.
He had no regrets that his reputation was one of power and prestige. In his
opinion, kindness and consideration were for the lower orders inhabiting
England. “You show little regret for the loss of the child you raised.”
“Had Anne been
mine, not the by-blow of my husband’s infatuation with Lady Smythe, I may have
done.” Lady Catherine lifted a porcelain dog imported from the Orient and
studied the garish surface, as if it held her captive. Finally, she placed it
back on the table.
“Yet, you raised her
as your own.”
deceptively like commendation, Hugh.” She inelegantly dropped into the chair
across from him, then harrumphed. “Fitzwilliams are lacking in progeny. I never
conceived, despite the filthy attempts by my long-dead husband. Your eldest has
been wed six years with no offspring. You have no grandchildren to call your
own. Anne was always weak. Her outcome was not unexpected. The real loss was
the babe. It was a boy.”
“I wanted that
baby!” Lord Matlock pounded his fist. “I need an heir.”
“You have an heir
and a spare,” his sister taunted, knowing the truth of the matter. In their male
dominated society Lady Catherine was not above using any means to point out any
childless. Richard will mourn his wife and your daughter by running off to fight
Napoleon and I will be left with no one I can nurture and mold to be a force in
Parliament and a strengthening aid to the Fitzwilliam name. If Rupert does not
have a son, we are doomed to having a Darcy becoming the next Lord Matlock once
the next generation is gone. With his family’s politics and character, the
Fitzwilliams would lose all control.”
nodded. There had not been one occasion when the brother and sister had been
together since adulthood that they had not thoroughly considered the
ramifications of not having just the right male inherit the title. Where Lord
Matlock wanted power, Lady Catherine would have used a child for leverage to
gain her way.
“Are you certain
your firstborn is the problem? Possibly, it is that viper he married.”
mistresses nor his wife have shown any sign of a babe.” Hugh Fitzwilliam
smirked. “Not through lack of trying, he reassures me.”
“You disgust me.”
Lady Catherine said the words, but her countenance had shifted forward in her
chair, the better not to miss a syllable of the lascivious comment.
“Be that as it
may, this leaves us with our hands open, holding nothing.”
“Anne is dead.
Richard is now unattached,” his sister offered.
Disgust churned in
Lord Matlock’s gut. “His wife, your daughter, has been dead less than a day.
Can you not allow him to mourn?”
“We do not have
the privilege of being able to wait. He needs to marry again as soon as you and
I select him a wife. As you said, we
need an heir.”
“He informed me
only an hour ago when he gave us the news of his loss that he would be leaving
for Spain as soon as Anne is buried.”
stubborn sons!” She bounced from the chair and paced. “Then we have only one
course. He shall have to bed his brother’s wife before he goes.”
“Do not turn
Puritan on me, Hugh. We do what we need, we make any sacrifice necessary to
keep the earldom with the Fitzwilliams. Richard should have wed someone strong,”
she spit out each word. “I will never forgive him for marrying Anne. Darcy should
have had her. As it stands, his progeny will be the future Lord Matlock over my
She had been sold;
bought and paid for by an arrogant almost-stranger who now had the right to
treat her according to his desire with no regard for her opinions or her
person. Bartered by a man filled with selfishness to a man filled with disdain.
Bennet, now Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, curled her fingers tightly into her palms.
The smooth surface of the gold band was cold to the touch. Her teeth clamped
together until they hurt. A tear born of fierce anger trailed a lonely path
down her cheek.
Until that day,
Longbourn chapel had been a peaceful refuge where she had found solace in times
of distress. From that moment on, she would shun the aged stone building as the
origin of the grandest lie that had ever passed her lips and forced her onto a
journey of deceit, misery, and isolation.
The carriage shook
violently as the horses started their pull.
She refused to
look at the man seated across from her. She would not speak to him either.
Elegantly dressed, the stiffness of his backbone defined his character more
than any of his actions from the time he had arrived in Hertfordshire after
Michaelmas until he unexpectedly departed during the Netherfield ball the prior
The day before, she
and her sisters had spent hours readying themselves for their first private
ball. Elizabeth knew Mr. Darcy would be there as he was the guest of Mr.
Bingley, who was the current lessee of the estate. Mr. Bingley’s two sisters,
whom Elizabeth referred to silently as the “supercilious” sisters, had the
propensity to impress. Thus, the prospect for Netherfield Park being elegantly
decorated with quality musicians in a ballroom unlike no other any of the
Bennet girls had seen before created an eagerness beyond anything they had
In addition, the
charming officers of the visiting militia had been invited. One, Mr. Wickham,
had sought Elizabeth’s company during every gathering they had attended since
his arrival in Meryton. Mr. Wickham’s ready smile and easy camaraderie made him
a favorite in the community and a favorite with Elizabeth. She yearned to dance
with him. In advance he had requested the supper dance.
Within minutes of
stepping into the ballroom, Elizabeth’s dreams of an evening of a lifetime were
shattered. While the decor was as expected, the attendees were not. Reports
were that Mr. Wickham had gone to London to avoid his enemy, Mr. Darcy. There
would be no pleasant supper dance. Her father’s cousin, Mr. Collins, had asked Elizabeth
for the first set then proceeded to stomp on her toes through the whole of the
dance. Her sister’s Kitty and Lydia romped through the guests as they chased
down their favorite officers, braying laughter spewing from them as they carelessly
bumped into others with no apology. Her mother’s loud bragging of a possible
engagement between her eldest daughter, Jane, and Mr. Bingley was offensive as
no offer had yet been made. Elizabeth’s middle sister, Mary, had brought a
book. A book. At a ball. She had seated herself in the far corner and would only
look up to scowl at anyone who dared to approach.
weighed Elizabeth’s heart until it felt like it was beating from the pit of her
stomach. The rhythm of the music and the heels of the gentlemen’s boots as they
went down the line pounded between her ears.
Shaking off her
low spirits, Elizabeth located her good friend, Charlotte Lucas, standing by
the drinks table.
“I was sorry to
hear Mr. Wickham would not be in attendance,” Charlotte whispered above the
music. “You were not the only one looking forward to dancing with the lieutenant.”
Her companion was
the perfect medicine. Not one to hold onto disappointment, Elizabeth grinned, “Why,
Charlotte! I am pleased he saw your sweet smile. Or, was it your quick wit that
as she chuckled. “I am sad he is not here, Lizzy. However, I will hold the
memory of him requesting the final dance of the evening for my lifetime.” She
“Oh, my dear, Miss
Lucas. You had best guard your heart or you will end up as romantically
inclined as the rest of the unattached females in Hertfordshire.”
as Elizabeth had known she would. With a much lighter heart, Elizabeth turned
at the clearing of a male throat behind her. To her intense displeasure, Mr.
Darcy had approached.
The man was a
menace, an egotistical, pompous snob who had insulted Elizabeth’s looks with
cruel comments on the night they met. Over the course of his two-month visit in
Hertfordshire, his attitude and opinions had not improved. When he asked her to
join him for the next set, she had to accept or sit out the dances for the rest
of the evening. It was highly unfair.
The dance had been
a disaster. Their arguments during the course of the dance had been that of two
strong-minded individuals who both were confident they were in the right. She
loathed his every word, every expression on his face, and every breath he dared
to take. When a footman interrupted due to an emergency and Mr. Darcy walked
away, the gratitude surging through her rendered her knees weak. Had she never
had him in her eyesight again during her lifetime, she would have been pleased.
Later, Mr. Bingley
told Jane that Mr. Darcy had left immediately for town. What a tremendous
Yet, he had
The next morning,
instead of continuing to Netherfield Park, he stopped at the Bennet’s estate of
Longbourn. Arriving early in the morning well before visiting hours after a late-night
party was the height of rudeness. Elizabeth was unsurprised at the rudeness of
What she had not
expected was the result of his conversation with her father. No matter how thoroughly
she pleaded her case once Mr. Darcy had stepped outside the room, Mr. Bennet
refused to budge from his position. She would wed Mr. Darcy. Immediately.
Ignoring her tears
and her pent-up anger, her father marched her down the aisle of Longbourn
chapel without once glancing at his daughter. Her mother applauded, squealed
like a wiener piglet, and gloated throughout the abbreviated ceremony.
Within moments it
was done. As soon as the register was signed, Elizabeth was herded outside into
the carriage by her parents and the man now her husband. The newly wedded couple
departed Longbourn without looking back.
at Mr. Darcy from the corner of her eye. She wanted to strike the smug look
from his face. How dare the man!
“We must have some
conversation,” he insisted.
Petulance was generally outside of her normal character. Although she strove to
display calmness, her insides roiled against the circumstances. For a wedding,
the most important occasion of a young woman’s life, it had not been much. No
flowers, no new gown, no wedding breakfast, no guests. Only Mr. Darcy, her self-satisfied
father, and triumphant mother had attended. Her parents and groom had not even
allowed time for Elizabeth’s four sisters to rise from their beds to witness
we must,” Fitzwilliam Darcy ran his hand over his mouth, a nervous gesture
quite unexpected from a man who gave the impression of constantly being in
control. Sighing, he continued, “Although my attentions were likely
anticipated, you must wonder at the speed of our union. Pray, feel free to quiz
me at your leisure. We will not arrive at my estate…our estate, rather, for
four days, weather permitting.”
Intense anger shot
from the bottoms of her traveling boots to the tip of her bonnet. “Anticipated?
You believe I expected your proposal, Mr. Darcy? How can that be? For the last
I heard from you was that I was barely tolerable, certainly not handsome enough
to tempt you.” Even she heard the sneer in her tone. “No! You have a motive other
than love or lust to demand my hand in marriage, for there has been no
inclination on either of our parts for the other.”
inclination…” he whispered, as if to himself, a deep frown settling on his
admittedly handsome face. “You are
saying you harbored no expectations? None?” He leaned forward, drawing
uncomfortably close. “None at all?”
flustered her. Was he completely dense? “Sir,
in the eight weeks you remained in Hertfordshire you have done nothing to gain
favor from any neighbors other than Miss Bingley, your host’s unattached
sister. You freely showed your disdain for my friends and family, each and
every one of them. In fact, Mr. Darcy, I rejoiced to have you return to London last
evening where you would have undoubtedly been in company with like-minded
individuals who were full of self-praise at how wonderful they are. No, I had
anticipated nothing from you except silence.”
Each word appeared
to strike him in the chest until his back was pressed against the squabs. His
eyes looked everywhere but at her.
“I see,” he
mumbled as he began to slowly shake his head from side to side. “You do not
“I do not even like you.” Because of his prior
disapprobation, she had no reason to hesitate in telling the truth.
“You were not seeking
to attach yourself to me, not even for my wealth?”
“Mr. Darcy, let us
be clear,” Elizabeth clamped her jaws tightly together and pressed her eyelids
together before exhaling so she could continue. “At a ridiculously early hour
this morning, my father’s cousin, Mr. Collins, the heir to Longbourn, proposed
marriage. Had I sought the security of a home and a husband I would have accepted
him as my mother desired. However, I refused. He could not have made me happy
and I know I would have made him miserable. Unlike Mr. Collins, had you asked
me before approaching my parents, I
would have gladly refused you as well. Since my youth, when I realized how
miserable a bad choice of a mate could make a life, I determined to marry only where
there was love and mutual respect. I feel neither of these sterling qualities
for you and sincerely doubt you feel this for me. Therefore, I ask what is your
purpose, Mr. Darcy? Why have you, who could have the choice of the ton’s debutantes, tied yourself to a
simple country gentleman’s daughter who lacks a proper dowry, education,
connections, or looks? Why me?”
proud of herself. Despite her inclination, her voice had not risen. In the
silence inside the carriage, she quickly rethought her words. Yes, they were
harsh, something she would never have uttered under normal circumstances. But
this man had yoked himself to her for her lifetime. She needed to know why.
After a lengthy
pause, he met her eyes with his own. Where she had expected them to be as dark
and cold as flint, they were stormy, as if the turmoil in his mind overflowed
his self-imposed barriers. “I cannot speak of this now.”
And, that was
it—all he offered to ease the agitation in her own head.
Crossing her arms,
she harrumphed. She could play this game.
the window she noted they were approaching Meryton. Had they only traveled one mile since Longbourn? It felt like they
had already been enclosed in the carriage at least an hour or two.
As the seconds
passed, Elizabeth’s mind began to focus.
Why had her father
refused Mr. Collins and then, almost immediately, accepted Mr. Darcy as a son? What
did one have that the other did not? Why the rush? And, what gave a man of the
world the impression that she was in love with him? Had she acted the flirt
when in Mr. Darcy’s company? Certainly not!
Jane, her eldest
sister and closest confidant, would be devastated at the news of Elizabeth’s
hasty marriage. Mary would worry there had been some indiscretion. Undoubtedly,
she would seek comfort in the moral platitudes from Fordyce’s Sermons which
ruled her thoughts and actions. The youngest two Bennet girls, Kitty and Lydia
would find some reason to joke and laugh about Elizabeth’s attachment to a man
they concluded was an arrogant boar, or rather, bore.
As they drew close
to the White Swan Inn, the driver pulled the team to a stop. Elizabeth was puzzled.
They carriage horses had appeared fresh so they would not need rested. Mr.
Darcy was immaculately groomed as usual. Possibly, his valet and luggage needed
loading before they could proceed with their journey.
reason, she was not one to waste an opportunity. Gathering her reticule, she
moved to exit the coach behind Mr. Darcy. When she began to lower her foot to
the step, he turned back towards her.
he commanded, his tone chilling her from the inside out. “I shall return
The nerve of him! How dare he keep her
hidden away while he did who knew what in the small farming town she had grown
up in! Dropping the window glass, she stretched her neck to search the street
behind them. A smaller carriage containing a pile of trunks had pulled up
behind them. Elizabeth had never laid eyes on Mr. Darcy’s valet. Yet, she
honestly could not deny the man was talented at his craft for Mr. Darcy never
appeared to have a wrinkle in his garments and was always well-turned out. It
must have been him who was overseeing the transfer of her hastily packed
luggage as it went from the more luxuriant coach to the one behind.
Glancing the other
direction towards the haberdashery, she scanned the walkway for a hint of someone
who might possibly come to her aid. Nothing or no one.
filled her eyes, blinding her to her surroundings, and distorting her vision. How had her life come to this? What had she
ever done to earn such a dreadful future?
handle of her purse, Elizabeth wiped her eyes on her sleeve and moved back to
the door. Grasping the handle, she pushed down, freeing the latch. If only she
could slip away while he was engaged with his business inside the inn, Elizabeth
could run as far as she could to hide from her misery.
She stopped. Where
in the world could she go? Her closest relatives were in London, too far for
her to walk. Elizabeth had only a few coins in her reticule, surely not enough
to purchase passage on the mail or post coach. Considering each acquaintance
who lived far from Hertfordshire, she realized her only option was ridiculous.
For the only person she had been introduced to who had offered to host her for
a lengthy visit, a close friend of her Aunt Madeline Gardiner, lived in the
village of Lambton, which was but five miles from Mr. Darcy’s estate of
Pemberley. That would simply not do!
If she attempted
to return to Longbourn, her mother would refuse her entry, demanding she return
to her wealthy husband who, she had proclaimed following the ceremony, would
throw her remaining daughters into the path of other rich men. And, her father?
If she could somehow get passed her mother and slip into his personal library,
how would he react?
could not know. For the man who had always been her refuge from the storm of a
household teeming with feminine emotions, had turned into the worst traitor.
Instead of supporting his favorite daughter as he had done when Mr. Collins had
sought Elizabeth’s hand, he had quickly and easily accepted Mr. Darcy as his
son-in-law not thirty minutes later.
Why? What could
have possibly motivated her sole sensible parent to turn her over with no more
care than he had for which pair of breeches to don in the morning or which
field horse to hitch to the plow?
where her father should have indicated some sign of sorrow at the loss of
Elizabeth from his household, there was firm acceptance, even relief.
Certainly, she would not have been surprised at his feeling those emotions once
his youngest two daughters were safely wed, for they were, by his own
proclamation, silly girls.
noise behind her, she glanced behind their carriage in time to see Mr. Darcy
escort a young woman from the inn. A maid accompanied them, stepping quickly
into the smaller carriage, being welcomed by the valet within. Footmen were
attaching a traveling case to the top of the coach, while Mr. Darcy,
Elizabeth’s own husband, gently handed the young lady into the interior.
Elizabeth in place was not the lovely countenance of the young woman, the fine
fabric of her garments, nor the fashion of her bonnet and lovely auburn hair.
Rather, it was the baby she carried in her arms.
Oh, my heavens! Disgust churned in her
belly until the breakfast she had eaten an hour before threatened to make its
presence rudely known.
spun. The female was not Miss Darcy, the only sister of Mr. Darcy. For Miss Bingley
had gushingly described her as not yet sixteen, with flaxen hair and blue eyes,
almost the same height as Elizabeth. This woman was very petite with a
thickness around her middle that spoke of a recent birth.
Anger boiled as
the situation unfolded before her.
Mr. Darcy, the man
who had arrived at Longbourn not two hours past, who had sequestered himself in
her father’s study with a common license and a purse full of coin, had a
mistress and child.
From his infancy,
Darcy understood what it meant to be honorable. A good name, opinions that
merited respect, and a keen sense of ethical conduct were as fundamental to him
as the need to breathe to sustain life. Nonetheless, from the moment he had
arrived at Darcy House in London and entered his private sanctuary the night
before, he would live a lie.
Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam was his closest and dearest friend. He, too, was an
honorable man who understood Darcy like no other. Thus, when confronted with
the most untenable of circumstances, the colonel had known whom he could trust.
The journey from
Hertfordshire to town had been made
as quickly as possible. Richard’s summons had demanded speed and silence.
At each turn of
the carriage wheels, Darcy’s mind considered potential threats. Richard was
co-guardian to Georgiana Darcy. Had he learned the location of the evil rake
who had attempted an elopement with Darcy’s innocent young sister? Had Richard
done as he had threatened, running George Wickham through with his blade the next
time he laid eyes upon the rogue? Was it another threat to his sister prompting
Or, was Richard’s
wife in danger? Anne de Bourgh had grown up with ill health, finding the
simplest tasks unachievable. She had been eager to wed, to escape the domination
of a mother with no understanding of frailty. Upon her marriage to his cousin
and hers, her joy at having the affections of a good man had put roses in her
cheeks for the first time in Darcy’s memory. Both Anne and Richard knew the
risks of bearing a child. Nevertheless, Anne desired the chance to become a
mother in the worst way. When she had announced the quickening, confirming the
pregnancy, Richard had been both horrified at her failure to practice the
measures to prevent a child and joy at the idea of becoming a father. However,
the baby was not due to be born for several weeks. Had the child come early?
received word from his command that an invasion of England by Napoleon was
imminent? Was the Frenchman looming with a command of ships in the Channel
waiting to attack?
reason, Darcy knew his cousin well. Richard would not request his immediate
presence unless the need was of serious concern.
The miles moved
slowly by. Even in the late evening the traffic entering London was congested.
With each jangle of the harness or brisk contact of a hoof on the hard ground,
Darcy’s worry increased.
timepiece in the light of the carriage lantern, he was unsurprised it had
reached the midnight hour.
Upon arrival at
Darcy House, instead of finding his cousin, a young woman—a stranger—rocked a tiny
babe back and forth while quietly muttering tender words of solace. On the
table next to where she was seated was a sealed missive with Darcy’s name
scrawled on the front in a familiar hand. When he started to speak, to demand
an explanation, the woman put her finger to her lips, stopping him. Gathering
the folded parchment, she held it out to him. As soon as he took it, she
returned her attention to the infant.
Quick strides took
him to the heavy leather chair behind his desk. On his way, he spied a maid
seated behind the door, a fresh tray with a pot of tea and a plate of meat,
cheese, and cakes, and warmth from a roaring fire. His staff had seen to his
uninvited guest’s comfort.
the seal, he read, his jaw dropping with each paragraph.
As I write these words, my heart is leaden.
Anne is upstairs struggling to bring our child into the world. Her expectations
for this babe have lightened her heart. She would laugh at my worry in light of
all she hopes to gain by the possibility of holding a baby of her own in her
arms. But I cannot share her joy. I fear for the lives of both of them. My
Annie for not having a strong enough constitution, and the child for being too
early and a Fitzwilliam.
In my deepest heart, I yearn for a daughter.
For then, and only then, will my father and Lady Catherine leave the child
alone. Should she deliver a son? I shudder at what my family will do. Darcy,
you know them. With the exception of your dearly departed mother, the Fitzwilliams
are a hard lot. Brother and sister would battle for supreme control as they
seek every legal means to strip my child from me to be used as a pawn in their
political games and power struggles.
I will not have it, I tell you! The months
since Anne shared the news of her increasing have been plagued with my father’s
or her mother’s unending barrage of plans for this child if it is a boy. The
last time her mother visited, she taunted Anne with reminders of how poor her
health had been. In the midst of her bitter words, Lady Catherine’s purpose was
revealed—that she would, out of service to her weakling daughter, remove our
son from our home and raise him at Rosings. Bah! That woman is a menace. My
father is no better. If only my own mother were still alive. She was the only
restraint to father’s insatiable quest for power and his burning ambition.
How could my sweet Annie have lived all of
those years at Rosings under the thumb of our aunt? I cannot imagine her misery.
Darcy, if you ever have the hope for the love of a good woman, grasp it with
both hands and hold on tightly. The joy is unexplainable. There are no words.
The sounds from upstairs have stopped. So
has my heart. I cannot…
NO! NO! NO!
Dear Lord in Heaven! I have lost her, my
dearest sweet bride. I cannot…Darcy, my worst fears have come to fruition.
Anne is gone and I have a son.
For the past five months, since the
quickening, I have pondered what needs done should this come to pass. Cousin,
you must take this child, hide him. Keep him from my father and Aunt Catherine.
He is the next in line for the earldom after my brother and me. If they learn
he is alive, any prospects for a good life will be forfeit.
With the loss of Anne’s life and the birth
of my son, my path has been chosen. Should I remain in England, I would have no
peace. Therefore, I go to the War Office as soon as I deliver my son and the
wet nurse Anne chose to your house. I cannot risk being seen with a babe.
Oh, Lord! This is far more difficult a task
than I had imagined. I need to hurry but the thought of never holding my son,
not watching him grow, and seeing you raise him as your own once I return from
the continent is ripping my heart to pieces. But, needs must, Darcy.
Hold him. Love him. Find a compassionate
woman who will be a good mother. Rear him as your own.
My God! I pray you never feel the pain of
having your flesh torn from you out of necessity. The emptiness…the depth of
my sorrow. I will not have my son threatened by my staying here, Darce.
Write me should my brother have an heir. But
do not write other than as normal, I pray you. Both father and Lady Catherine
have spies. I want nothing to give them a hint that the boy is mine.
Pray forgive me for presuming on the bonds
that have long held you and I together as friends. In truth, there is no other
I trust like you, Darcy.
I have made arrangements for Anne. She did
not want returned to Rosings for…burial. Blast! I hate this! The woman
currently holding my son acted as an assistant during the birth, covering my
son in rags so the midwife and physician believed him gone. I have sent a note
to father and Lady Catherine that they both are deceased. “Their” funeral will
be on the morrow.
Should you remove yourself to Pemberley
immediately, they think you still in the north and will not expect you to
return to London for the services. You can safely mourn my wife and child from
a distance. Do not take it upon yourself out of a sense of duty to attend the
funeral. Anne would have insisted you do all within your power to protect her babe.
Do not attempt to contact me, Cousin, until you are settled in Derbyshire and
you hear the news of my wife and son from father. Allow them to believe they
both died, I pray you.
Now, go! Leave at once! Mrs. Milford, the
wet nurse, is the wife of a good man who serves in my regiment and who recently
lost a girl child. She is ready to travel. I have known the Milfords for almost
a decade. She can be counted on to do everything within her power to protect my
Do not delay, I beg you.
I will never forget your kindness and
sacrifice in doing as I ask. Just, love him, please. He is the best parts of me
and Annie. He is my son.
his cheeks. Darcy wanted to rest his forehead on his arms and weep for the pain
his cousin was feeling. But, he could not.
As he stood, so
did the woman. Within an hour, he was back in the carriage heading north. When
they left the cul-de-sac where he resided to make a sharp right to head out of
town, a solitary man standing in the light of a lantern lifted his head,
silently watching the carriage depart.
So badly did Darcy
want to stop the coach to invite the man inside. He did not. Under the
circumstances, his cousin’s request was reasonable. Both his uncle, Lord
Matlock, and his aunt, Lady Catherine had not one ounce of compassion between
them. They were avaricious adults’ intent on their own desires. In as much as
Richard’s son would forever change Darcy’s life’s path, Darcy knew the course
his cousin had outlined was the only one to take. Never would he sacrifice an
innocent baby on the alter of the Fitzwilliam family’s greedy ambitions. Never!
It was not until
he entered the north road that the finer details of this arrangement came to
him. He needed a wife, a woman who would raise the child as her own. A trusted
female who would not mind her own son not being the heir to all of the assets
held under the Darcy name.
He had not looked
upon the babe. Both Richard and Anne had fair skin, light brown hair, and blue
eyes. Darcy had dark hair with brown eyes. How
in the world could he pass this child off as his own? It mattered not. It was
too late now. Not only was the darkness of the night filling his carriage, the
woman, babe, and maidservant rode with his valet, Parker, in the carriage
Both Darcy and
Georgiana were children of the same parents. Other than the squareness of their
jaws, they were as dissimilar as white to black. Therefore, it mattered not the
coloring of his potential bride. No, what mattered more was that she was a
woman of character, one who would bring life and joy to his home, his sister,
his new child, and to himself.
Elizabeth Bennet, the
only woman he had stood up with at the Netherfield ball came to mind. She was
an outstanding lady despite her circumstances. Her intelligence, her kindness
in caring for others, and her lovely features, which he had overlooked at
first, had drawn Darcy to her in a way no other female had done.
For a certainty,
their whole dance at the ball had not gone well. Elizabeth’s insistence in
finding good in George Wickham had stabbed Darcy in the gut. How could an
intelligent woman not see that Wickham’s charm was false and any promises of a
good life attached to him was in vain?
Yet, despite her attention
to the cur, her lack of dowry, connections, and the vulgar conduct of her
mother, sisters, and even her father, she was the only lady who had captured
his interest and held it. He was convinced Miss Elizabeth was not seeking
Wickham for herself. She was much too wise. No, likely she was attempting to
discover the man’s character to see if he would be an appropriate mate for one
of her silly sisters.
unlike Wickham, Darcy knew he himself was a desired candidate for a husband.
His wealth and the Darcy name guaranteed him attention from fawning mothers and
flirting daughters who wanted nothing more than to attach themselves to his
wealth. He wanted none of them.
Even before the
ball, Darcy had felt the danger of Miss Elizabeth. As the ball had progressed,
he saw more than enough evidence that she was embarrassed by the unseemly
conduct of her family members. With the
exception of her eldest sister, Miss Jane Bennet, all the rest had drawn
unfavorable attention to themselves.
In marrying Darcy,
Miss Elizabeth would be able to distance herself from her family. He would be
doing her a favor should he offer for her. Also, snippets of gossip had circled
the ballroom about the condition of Longbourn’s coffers being empty. Without an
immediate influx of funds, the Bennets would end up either being farmed out to
willing relatives or would need to live in reduced circumstances.
All of this made the
desperate attempts of Mrs. Bennet to throw her eldest at Darcy’s friend and
host Mr. Charles Bingley clearer. Her motives were self-serving. That she would
use her children to gain personal security was offensive. However, it placed
her in the same position as all those in the ton who pushed their daughters into marriages of convenience. It
was a shady business.
By the time the
two carriages reached Meryton and enough rooms had been engaged to house him
and his staff, Darcy had reached a decision. He would seek a common license
from the parson and offer Mr. Bennet what was needed to relieve his
circumstances in exchange for the hand of the man’s second daughter.
Once he had
explained to Miss Elizabeth about Richard’s request, all would be well. Darcy
would have a good wife and mother for Richard’s son. She would have the respect
of a good name, a husband who attended to his duties, unlike her father, and
distance from the tasteless behavior of her mother and younger sisters. She
would be so pleased.
of a modern female was for a lifetime. Until her marriage, her father had
authority over her. Once she was wed, she belonged in every way to her husband.
The only means of some sort of independence available to a lady was to remain
unwed and live away from her childhood home. But even that had its dangers as
merchants and others sought to take advantage of an unprotected woman.
In this, Elizabeth
found a kinship with the person her husband was helping into the carriage. A
mistress lived at the whims of the man who supported her. With his displeasure,
she could find herself without a place to live or funds to live on. The gossip
pages of the circulating papers were quick to report on the conduct of supposed
gentlemen who discarded these women with no thought to them or their children’s
future. What a disgusting business!
Yet, what about
her own future? Even thought she had held no desire to wed Mr. Darcy, the
simple fact was that she was his wife. That he would bring his mistress and
child to live with them in Derbyshire was a slap in the face to her. Pray it
would not be in the same house.
A chill started at
the base of Elizabeth’s spine, traveling up until she sat frozen in place. She
had no power, no voice in their marriage. She would be the official Mistress of
Pemberley. She would wear the Darcy jewels. She would choose the menus and plan
for guests. She would be required to welcome Mr. Darcy to her bed…
She shuddered; her
After Mrs. Milford
was seated as comfortably as possible for a woman who had recently given birth,
Darcy moved to return to his wife.
His wife. His chin
dropped as he huffed into the coolness of the late morning. Her expressed
opinions had been a revelation. An unwelcomed one.
How could he have
been so wrong about her? He had watched her closely to the exclusion of all
others each time they had been in company. As he thought back on the occasions
where they had been together, he continued in his confusion. Until, her memory
of their introduction at the Meryton assembly came to mind. Not handsome enough. Had he really said
that? Aloud? He had.
Good Lord! How could he have been so offensive?
Easily recalled was the day of the assembly. He had left his heart-broken
sister at Pemberley to visit Bingley in hopes her spirits would be restored
without the presence of an over-bearing brother. The letter from her that had
arrived not an hour before the dance had been painful to read. In it, she wrote
of her worthlessness and hopelessness. Darcy was sad for her and mad at himself
for being a male with no knowledge how to help the sweetest female on the
insisted that he ask one of the local ladies of Meryton to stand up with him,
Darcy responded unkindly to get his friend to stop insisting. He had looked at Elizabeth
when Bingley had pointed her out but had not actually seen her.
Blast his traitorous tongue! Darcy had
no one to blame for his present predicament other than himself. Apparently, he
still did not see her accurately or he would not have been shocked at her
What was he to do
now? In truth, he had no choice. It was imperative they travel to Derbyshire.
The babe was fragile. While he trusted Mrs. Milford because Richard did, she
was an army wife, not a physician.
Breathing in the
crisp early winter air, Darcy walked to his carriage and stepped inside. While
Elizabeth’s tears had been wiped away, her red-rimmed eyes told him more than
words of her suffering. He had to do something to make this right. They were
tied together until death did them part.
He sighed, the
weight of ignorance settling upon his shoulders. If he could not manage a girl
who he had shared a house with for the past five years since their father died,
how could he know how to manage a wife who hated him?
Weary to his
bones, he closed his eyes without acknowledging her. Knowing in his heart the
attempt to make peace should originate with him, he was beyond the ability to
do anything at that moment in time. Frustrated, confused, worried, and tense,
he gave his driver the signal to proceed, closed his eyes again and went to
The nerve of the
She was alone in
close quarters with a man for the first time in her life and he had his head
tipped back with his mouth open. Appalled, Elizabeth prayed he not begin
snoring. Her father could wake the dead with the noise coming from his study
when he claimed he was “reading”.
Watching him like
a hawk studied its prey, she was pleased when his lips pressed together and
He was a handsome
man. He had a full head of hair with waves of the darkest brown. His thick
lashes rested on his cheek bones while his nostrils flared slightly each time
he inhaled. Furrows crossed his forehead as unpleasant dreams invaded his
sleep. His lips pressed together as he ground his teeth, a habit she shared
with him when she was anxious.
Over the next
hour, she examined each of his visible features from his large gloved hands to
the polished boots on his feet. In all, he was most satisfactory to a lady,
perfect to be attached to in public. Until he spoke.
Elizabeth knew he
was connected to the peerage and was a man of great wealth. With that in mind,
she understood him thinking well of his position in society. Did status justify
unkindness? Was there not someone he was subject to who would help him
There was so much
unknown about Mr. Darcy. Disinterest had kept her from asking of him from Mr.
Bingley or his sisters. Now that she was attached to him, Elizabeth regretted
not taking advantage of their acquaintance.
What Elizabeth did
know was that Mr. Bingley was truly a good man. Would a good man have a close
friend who was completely objectionable? Surely not!
Mr. Darcy stirred
as the carriage slowed to a stop in front of a traveling inn. His eyes settled
on her as soon as they opened. Again, where she expected cool disgust, Elizabeth
was surprised at their warmth—and their sorrow.
What was he about?
At the coaching
inn, he saw Elizabeth inside to a private dining room before returning for his
mistress. Surely, he would not…no gentleman would thrust a woman of ill
reputation on his wife, would he? Mr. Darcy would.
flummoxed. Any good she had ever thought of the man, which she admitted was
minimal, was gone.
When Mr. Darcy
started to introduce that woman to her, Elizabeth turned her back, giving her
the cut direct. What else could she do? She wanted to vomit.
She heard his
displeasure with a hearty measure of confusion.
“Are you well? Has
the travel unsettled you?”
Surprised that he automatically
judged her actions as her being ill rather than offended, she replied, “I am
well. Are you, Sir?”
Refusing to be
intimidated, she lifted her chin and looked back at him. He stood alone in the
middle of the room. The woman and her maid tended the babe. Elizabeth’s eyes
could not help themselves. They strayed to where the two females were
unswaddling the child.
“Boy or girl?”
“My nephew?” he
asked, as if there was more than a single little one in the room.
reply caught her attention. “Your nephew?”
“Yes,” Mr. Darcy
replied in frustration. “Who did you think he was?”
chose not to reply although she could not keep the color from heating her
“Good heavens! You
assumed he was mine? That Mrs. Milford was my…?”
Dropping her chin,
Elizabeth took in a deep breath. She had judged him unfairly; accused him and
sentenced him with no evidence other than the baby’s existence.
“I… I do not
know you, Sir. Nor do I know if you have the same habits other men do.”
The woman handed
the baby to the maid. Approaching, she gave a mannerly curtsey to Elizabeth.
“Mrs. Darcy, I am Mrs.
Abigail Milford. My husband is Major Samuel Milford. He has served under Mr.
Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam for years. Three days ago my daughter did
not survive birth, although, to my regret, I did.”
plunged to her toes. Other than the initial surprise at the way the woman had
addressed her, Elizabeth wanted to grovel at Mrs. Milford’s feet. Could Elizabeth feel any worse?
continued, “The colonel’s wife and I grew close since her marriage. She doubted
her ability to adequately feed her newborn so had asked if I would nurse both
babes. Anne did not want a stranger performing such an intimate task. I adored
Mrs. Fitzwilliam. Any woman would have done as I volunteered to do. Anne was a gentle
Elizabeth bent her knee in recognition of the woman of worth standing before
her. Mrs. Milford’s quiet dignity, her clear explanation of a situation fraught
with confusion, and her willingness to help a friend in dire need was sincerely
Her eyes darted to
Mr. Darcy, expecting him to bear an expression of justification and
satisfaction. Instead, that weary sorrow continued to haunt him.
One question after
another burned for relief. Finally, Elizabeth settled on one. “Why are you
taking him away from his parents?” What might have been taken as a challenge
Nodding, Mr. Darcy
pulled a crumpled letter from his pocket and offered it to her. Sitting at the
table next to the fireplace, Elizabeth read.
As I write these words, my heart is leaden.
Anne is upstairs struggling to bring our child into the world. Her expectations
for this babe have lightened her heart. She would laugh at my worry in light of
all she hopes to gain by the possibility of holding a baby of her own in her
arms. But I cannot share her joy. I fear for the lives of both of them. My
Annie for not having a strong enough constitution, and the child for being too
early and a Fitzwilliam…
Covering her mouth
to contain her sobs, Elizabeth knew in her heart the outcome. Reading quickly,
she witnessed the heartbreak of a good man who loved his wife dearly; a man who
would put the care of his infant son ahead of his own wishes and needs. Looking
up, the intensity of Mr. Darcy’s agony grew as he stood in front of her. This
man, her husband, was no stranger to a shattered heart.
“I…I am very
sorry this has happened,” Elizabeth whispered directly to him. “I understand
the quickness of our marriage and the reason we hurry to Pemberley.”
One nod was the
only reaction she received.
“The babe, young
master Fitzwilliam, what is he called?” Elizabeth inquired of Mrs. Milford.
“Anne and the
colonel wanted him named Richard Sebastian Fitzwilliam II after his father. But
the danger of him being found out is real. Thus, the colonel asked that he be named
James Alexander Darcy, or Jem, until he returns from the Continent and can
claim his son without interference from those who would take him from you.”
Elizabeth’s eyes flashed to Mr. Darcy. She had been wrong about him. Very, very wrong. Yet, she was correct about some things. Who was this man? Was he the arrogant oaf she had thought him? Or, was he…she could not begin to read his character.
However, some facts had been revealed over the last few minutes. First, his motive for marrying was pure. Second, he was not in an immoral relationship he would flaunt in front of his wife and sister. Third, the baby was not his son. Last, they had much to discuss.