To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven… A time to rend, and a time to sow; a time to keep silent, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate" Ecclesiastes 3:1,7-8a KJV
On a clear July day in Derbyshire, Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley became the wife of Robert Bennet of Longbourn. The ceremony was simple, with those friends and family members who loved the couple best in attendance. Pemberley was nearly bursting at the seams, if such a thing was possible for so great a house, with guests who had come from all over England. The only family member not present was Lady Catherine de Bourgh; her daughter, however, asserting a stubborn defiance too rarely aroused, had insisted that, with or without her mother, she was going to her cousin's wedding.
When the banns had first been read, the Pemberley parishioners were astonished. No Darcy in recent memory had taken such a humble step. Skepticism and disbelief were soon put to rest with the news, quickly spread by the Pemberley servants, of the engaged couple's felicity. Although there was never any doubt that the banns would encounter no opposition, this was a Darcy marrying after all, Georgiana was nevertheless relieved when they passed without challenge.
With Darcy's assistance, Robert had secured a secluded cottage on the road to the Lakes. After a splendid dinner, the newlyweds were left in privacy.
"We are alone, my love. The servants will not return until morning. Come with me." Georgiana nodded shyly. Robert raised her hand to his lips. "You need not be afraid of me."
He led her to their bridal chamber; he had no intention of leaving her tonight. Robert closed the door and turned to look at his wife. A variety of emotions played across her face: shyness, a hint of fear, hope; but most of all, love.
She saw the love, passion, and concern in his eyes and was calmed. Her hand moved slightly, beckoning him towards her, and he crossed the room in an instant, his eyes never leaving hers. His lips brushed hers gently, once, twice, thrice, as they slowly wound their arms around each other; slowly their kisses lengthened and deepened.
Georgiana was first to pull back. She wanted to look at her husband to assure herself that she was not dreaming. Convinced he was really there, and she was truly his, she smiled.
"You are not an illusion, this is not a dream."
"No, my love. It is the fulfillment of our dreams. You are mine at last, and I will never let you go."
No more words were necessary.
That night Robert loved his wife the way he did everything: Completely.
One year later, Robert was holding his three-month-old son, Thomas Darcy Bennet, as he opened the letter from his brother Darcy.
To my Brother Bennet,
After the deaths of Lady Drury and then Lord Drury, I realized that I was still in possession of the two letters Wickham sent to me. I give them now to you, to do with as you wish. I never gave them to Georgiana, as it seemed senseless after she broke with Drury. Some things are better left unsaid. However, given the rumors surrounding his death, I thought it fitting that you should have them. Georgiana is your wife now; you will know what is best for the both of you.
The death of Lady Drury (née Stallworth) and that of her unborn child are a tragedy, even more so given the circumstances of her husband's death. The murder of Lord Drury is, unsurprisingly, creating a sensation. Fitzwilliam tells me that the word around Town is that Sir Alfred Cox discovered Drury in an indecent state with his only son and heir, and flew into such a rage that Drury never had a chance to dress before Sir Alfred was upon him. I cannot mourn his passing. Drury was a wicked man and the world is a better place without him. My only regret is that the deed was done at too great a cost; Sir Alfred, a good man, will likely have to forfeit his own life.
Our little William continues to grow and Elizabeth laughs each time he makes a face that she swears is a perfect imitation of his father. Let us hope that in every other way he takes more after his mother!
We look forward to seeing you at the end of the month. Give my love to my sister and tell her that Beth is plotting all sorts of mischief, and that my wife continues to encourage such disgraceful behavior. Life with Elizabeth is never dull.
Robert broke the seal on the paper enclosing the two letters. He slowly read each of them and then stood up, with Thomas asleep in his arms, and walked to the fireplace. He struck a match and set the two letters ablaze, reducing them to ashes. Darcy was right; some things were better left in the past.
With Georgiana and Robert's announcement, it often fell upon Mary and Richard to play chaperone. Whilst that may seem a bit extreme for a couple as mature as Robert and Georgiana, some of society's dictates still had to be obeyed, especially when those affected see the wisdom of such ways. Richard, no longer obliged to forsake other women for Georgiana's sake, found himself intrigued by the youngest Bennet daughter. Mary, although possessing neither Elizabeth's wit nor Jane's beauty, was an attractive and pleasant young woman in her own right.
Richard, observing the contentment of his cousins with Miss Bennet's siblings, began to speculate if his own happiness could be found in a match with the remaining sister. Shortly after the wedding, Richard spied Mary walking alone in Pemberley's gardens.
"Colonel Fitzwilliam! I did not expect to meet with anyone today."
"May I walk with you?"
"It would be a pleasure, sir. I am looking forward to returning to Longbourn, but I will miss these lovely gardens."
"The Darcys have long prided themselves on their gardens, all the park really."
"It is a beautiful estate."
"Yes… Miss Bennet, may I speak freely?"
Mary looked at him warily, but replied, "You may, sir."
"Miss Bennet, as you have said, you return to Hertfordshire soon. I would like permission to call on you there."
"My family would be delighted to see you, Colonel."
"As much as I respect your parents, I would come to see you, Miss Bennet."
Mary was afraid his thoughts might be leading in this direction. A quick look around revealed a secluded nook. She directed him there.
"Colonel, before I answer you, I have a very bold and most improper request."
"How may I be of service?"
"Please kiss me, Colonel."
"You heard me, kiss me."
As a man trained to follow orders, he followed this one with alacrity. When he drew his head away, Mary sighed and opened her eyes.
"Did you feel that?"
"Feel what, Miss Bennet?"
"That is the point sir, you felt nothing. And for all the novelty of the act, neither did I."
"I do not understand."
"Colonel, the point, to be blunt, is that neither of us felt anything. I have seen my sisters and brother happily married to those they truly love. Elizabeth always said that nothing but the deepest love could induce her into matrimony. That is not quite what happened, but matrimony did induce her to find her deepest love. I desire that kind of love, too, from the man I marry. I do not believe you are that man, Colonel. And you, sir, deserve the same from your wife. I do not believe I am that woman."
Richard had to smile at the young woman standing in front of him. She was right, and they both knew it. He extended his arm to her again.
"Shall we continue our walk, Miss Bennet?"
"Lead on, Colonel Fitzwilliam."
Richard had much to think about after his conversation with Mary. He knew he had been mistaken once again on matters of his heart; it had not been touched. Thank God, Miss Bennet realized it!
It was time to leave Pemberley to Darcy. Richard knew his presence was no longer needed. He would return to Matlock.
His parents welcomed their son. It was good to have him back with them. Lady Matlock, though, noticed a melancholy about him and was determined to discover its source. Finding him alone one day, not long after he had returned, she engaged him in conversation, slowly bringing it round to suit her ends.
"Richard, you seem unhappy," she finally said.
He looked at her in surprise, then resigned himself to the inevitable.
"I suppose I am."
"What troubles you?"
"Mother, I am one and thirty years old. What do you think troubles me?"
"You desire what any good man desires – a wife and a family. That is not so surprising," she stated matter of factly.
"It is a surprise to me."
Lady Matlock shook her head. "You are more like your cousin Georgiana than you realize. You, too, have spent your life trying to fulfil your duty to your family. Your duty to your own heart always came second. Now that your responsibilities at Pemberley are drawing to a close, the very thing you repressed all these years has finally surfaced. There is no shame admitting you are lonely, Richard."
"Wise Mother, what am I to do?"
"Live and find your love, Richard. You may be in you thirties, Son, but you have never looked for a wife. It is time to start looking."
"But is there a woman waiting for me? Someone I can respect, admire and even love, like you love Father and Elizabeth loves Darcy? Is there such a woman for me?"
"I cannot answer that. But you will never know for certain, unless you look for yourself."
"Thank you, Mother. I will. I will look for her."
And eventually, he found her.
Mary returned to Longbourn, and for two years enjoyed the confined society of the country. She and Georgiana, despite the difference in their ages, became as close as sisters could be. Mary relished becoming an aunt and spent as much time with her brother's son as her father and mother would allow. Two years after her first London ball, she returned to Town, ready to face society. Mary had many admirers that first year, but none caught her fancy. The following year, during the first ball of her second season, one man did. He was neither tall and dashing like her brother Darcy, nor affable and open like her brother Bingley. He was, however, perfect for her. And when he kissed her, she most definitely felt something.
Not long after the deaths of Lady and Lord Drury, the younger brother of Lord Allenby returned from Spain. General Andrews was a man of principles, and thus had been estranged from his brother – whose string of mistresses rivalled any peer in the land – and his brother's calculating wife. Within a year, to Lady Allenby's utter horror, her husband's years of excess finally caught up with him, and he followed his son to the grave. The new Earl and Countess of Allenby, whilst polite, made little effort to befriend the previous Earl's widow. All that remained to her was a house in Town that her father had given her and the money she had brought into her marriage. She was never poor, but the days of her influence in society were over.
Perhaps the greatest misery inflicted on the dowager Lady Allenby came in the year 1820. The new Viscount Drury, Geoffrey Andrews, stood in anticipation as Miss Elizabeth Darcy walked down the aisle of Pemberley's chapel to become his wife. Geoffrey, like his father and unlike his late uncle and cousin, was a good and honorable man, who, after overcoming Darcy's initial skepticism, had been granted permission to court the lone remaining unmarried Darcy sibling. Beth had grown into womanhood with her view of the marital state formed from the examples of her brother and sister. She was determined to marry a man whom she could respect and love, and in her Geoffrey, she found him. The couple never visited his Aunt Margaret, and when his father passed away a few years later, little Beth Darcy became Countess of Allenby, the position all had thought her elder sister would someday occupy.
At the end of Lady Margaret Andrew's life, only Lady Catherine de Bourgh sought her out. Two women, two allies, two widows, two forgotten ladies.
Charles and Jane Bingley lived at Netherfield for a year and a half. At the end of Bingley's second lease, he and Jane moved into Burton Hall, the estate he bought just east of Doncaster. Elizabeth and Jane were overjoyed to be within a day's travelling distance of each other. The Bingleys were blessed with three wonderful children, two sons and a daughter, who was her father's pride and joy.
Caroline Bingley, having finally accepted that Darcy and Pemberley were lost to her, soon set her sights on a titled young man of considerable wealth and property. Not long afterward, Jane found her crying. Upon learning of the man's cruel and callous dismissal of Caroline, Jane took advantage of her sister's momentary vulnerability to make Caroline understand that she would never find a husband, much less one who would hold her in esteem, if she did not amend her ways. Caroline would always struggle to control her more selfish urges, but she did manage to secure the affections of an honorable and amiable gentleman of acceptable fortune who, amazingly, loved her despite her faults. Thus was Caroline spared the destiny of Lady Allenby, doomed to spend her life in bitter regret over the loss of a Darcy and of Pemberley.
After her visit to Lady Allenby, Lady Catherine knew she needed to introduce Anne into society. Anne de Bourgh's dowry and legacy made her a very attractive potential bride, and she had many suitors. But Anne had other ideas. She had, for many years, held a tender regard for the heir to the estate next to Rosings. When young Michael Wise, fresh from his tour, came to call on his neighbor Lady Catherine, he discovered that the young, shy girl with whom he had grown up had become a lovely young woman who soon captured his heart and his hand.
George Wickham served his country with honor and distinction. He survived the Peninsular Campaigns, but on the great and terrible day that was Waterloo, he was gravely wounded. Darcy had kept apprised of his whereabouts; his family's connections ensured that he always knew where Wickham was and how he fared. When Darcy learned of his boyhood companion's condition, he saw to it that the now Colonel Wickham received the best care available. When the Colonel recovered, Darcy told Elizabeth all he had done. Together, they decided that there was only one way to show their pardon.
A shocked George Wickham received a letter from Darcy's solicitor that offered him a small property in the West Indies. The only conditions were that he never use slave labor and that its name never be changed. The name was Venia. *
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet lived alone in Longbourn for many years after Mary left. Their children and grandchildren were frequent guests, but the couple relished the quiet of their last years together. Many may have questioned the depth of emotion Thomas Bennet felt for his Fanny, but when she died, his grief and loneliness were so great that he did not survive her by a year.
And so, shortly after his thirty-fifth birthday, Robert Bennet came to live again at Longbourn, this time as its master. He brought his wife and children to his inheritance, no longer entailed, but full of love and laughter. He and Georgiana had argued which number of children was best; she said three, he said four. Their dispute was settled when their last child, a girl, joined her two brothers and two sisters before they claimed Longbourn as their own.
On the night of 6 December 1816, Fitzwilliam Darcy carried his lovely wife of five years, Elizabeth, into her chambers. They had come to establish a happy rhythm: At Pemberley they stayed in his room, in Town they stayed in hers. He sat her at her dressing table and let down her hair, then brushed it with long and loving strokes the way he knew she liked. When he finished, he picked her up and carried her to the bed. They leisurely helped each other undress, and then climbed under the covers. They were in no hurry, determined to enjoy their time together. Their two sons and daughter were asleep in the nursery, and they strongly suspected that a fourth child was on the way.
"My dearest Elizabeth, I can hardly believe it has been five years since we married. It seems a lifetime ago that I brought you here."
"Hmm, and I did not then have the foresight to invite you to my bed at first. I wasted seven nights."
"I still ended up in your bed each night."
"Pity I did not know you were there."
"I think, deep within you, you did."
"If I had been sensible I would have wanted more than an embrace."
"Woman, if you do not keep provoking me with such words you will receive more."
"That is the point of this, William dear."
"A temptress and a seductress!" he accused mockingly. Then his tone changed. "I never suspected I was marrying a woman who would so capture my soul and make me her prisoner."
"You were never my captive. You were my salvation."
Darcy looked deep into his wife's eyes, his heart overflowing with love for her.
"No, Elizabeth. We were each other's destiny."
* Latin word meaning: grace, indulgence, favor, pardon, forgiveness.
And that's the end. I didn't tie up all the loose ends because I like to leave things open to your imagination.
I killed off Drury because I thought he was reckless enough to push the limits to see what he could get away with and at that time, his demise wasn't out of the question. When it came to his mother, I figured the best revenge was a loss of the power she so misused combined to knowing that her plots had the opposite effect than she intended.
Thanks for reading!