August 1812 - Derbyshire

I welcome you to this tale with the earnest hope that you will enjoy its telling; however, it is only fair, I believe, to warn my readers – for I hope there to be more than a solitary soul – that I ascribed most devotedly to that precept handed down by Miss Jane Austen a few years ago and so aptly purveyed when she wrote "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery, I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and have done with all the rest."

If it is your hope - or expectation - to find from this story such misery and unhappiness as is frequently so thoroughly described in other stories such that two or three chapters are insufficient for its fullest exploration, and, if such is, in your estimation, a prerequisite for an enjoyable tale, I beg of you to desist from reading further; for most assuredly, you will find little enjoyment on the pages that follow. It is, as I have stated, a simple tale, possessed of moments of happiness and unhappiness although, I trust, in measures to favour the first condition rather more than the latter. If your tastes are such as to prefer that which is dramatic or precarious, you will, I fear, also be disappointed. There are no pirates, no bandits, no dreary old castles with or without secret passageways, no misadventures and no narrow escapes from death or such perilous adventures as might raise concerns as to the life and safety of our hero or heroine or even their close acquaintances. After suffering through such disclaimers, I do not doubt that you wish to know what the tale does contain but, having insured that you begin with no false expectations; I will indulge my own preference and allow you to discover that for yourself.

Our tale begins with a young man suffering two most unfortunate events although it was many years before he was to realize that the second had even occurred.

Fitzwilliam Darcy was but an hour out of the Inn and only three from arriving at his home, Pemberley, when his horse began to limp. It was a matter of a minute to determine that one of the shoes was loose, two nails having been lost and the remainder loosened. It was the work of but a few minutes to remove the shoe altogether. After a brief curse directed at the stable from which the horse had been rented, he began to consider his situation. The small village that he had just passed through did not possess a smith as far as he could recollect but the next one, being somewhat larger, might well have one. With a resigned shrug, he began the walk in that direction leading his horse. If he was fortunate, the smith would be able to start immediately and he might well make Pemberley by mid-afternoon; but if the smith had pressing business, he would do well to arrive before dark.

As it turned out, he was fortunate in that the village did have a smith but there his luck ended since the man had been called to a neighbouring estate to attend a problem there and could not be expected to return for several hours. The next nearest smith was at least two hours walk distant and there were no assurances that he would be immediately available. The only sensible option was to wait and, although it pained him to sit so idle; he had little or no recourse. He could, he thought, console himself with the absence of Miss Bingley. To avoid her company had been one of the reasons he travelled ahead of his company – his excuse of having business with his steward, while not false, was a slight fabrication as that business alone could not justify his departure. Now he must simply wait.

It was nearing dark before he finally arrived at Pemberley, to be greeted, with some surprise, by Mrs. Reynolds.

"I did not expect you until tomorrow, sir. I shall have hot water sent to your room within the half hour. Do you wish a tray of food?"

"A bath would be a delight, I assure you Mrs. Reynolds. The food as well."

"Is the rest of the company close behind you, sir? I had not expected you until tomorrow mid-day, but the rooms are prepared now."

"I rode on ahead of the others. I would have been here hours ago but my horse threw a shoe and it took some time to find a smith to fit him with a new one."

They walked in companionable silence towards the stairs and Mrs. Reynolds was about to go about her business when Darcy asked casually, "Anything of interest that I should know about, Mrs. Reynolds?"

"No, sir. It has been very peaceful, very quiet here. Having some company will be a pleasure."

"Well, a part of my company is Mr. Bingley's sisters." Darcy knew that the previous visits by those ladies had not left a favourable impression on his housekeeper.

"Mr. Bingley is a most amiable visitor, sir."


"Oh, I should mention we had some visitors today to view the house and grounds. If your horse had not lost a shoe, you would likely have encountered them. A very pleasant, genteel couple accompanied by a young lady. Their niece, I believe. She apparently can claim a slight acquaintance with you, although she did not presume upon it in any way."

"Do you remember their names, Mrs. Reynolds?" Darcy wondered who the young lady could be. He was not aware of any of his acquaintance who were travelling in Derbyshire and it must be a slight acquaintance otherwise he was sure that they would have informed him of their travel plans. He wondered that they had not left a card.

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a maid and a footman with whom Mrs. Reynolds quickly turned her attention, giving them such directions as were necessary for the preparation of her master's bath and meal. As she spoke to them, Darcy continued his progress up the stairs towards his chambers. Mrs Reynolds, her thoughts already turning to other matters, gave little thought to her answer.

"No sir. I believe the couple were a Mr. and Mrs. Garden or Gardiner. I am not sure. I did not learn the young lady's name."

"That is unfortunate or perhaps not. One never knows with visitors. I certainly do not include any Gardiners amongst my acquaintance. I think it quite unlikely that I would have known them." He spoke over his shoulder as he continued to mount the steps, "Please send that tray to my room as soon as possible. I find myself quite hungry indeed."

It is unfortunate that Mrs. Reynolds was so distracted as to forget the young lady's name and, when she did remember it later that evening, she saw no reason to bring it to Darcy's attention. The young lady had, after all, not intimated that her acquaintance was of any significance and her master had asserted that he did not know the other members of the party. Within four and twenty hours it was doubtful that she would have even remembered the name, if anyone had been interested enough to ask – which they were not.

I am sure that you are all aghast at such misfortune and blindness but such is fate and our hero and heroine – for indeed she was that very same young lady with whom he was acquainted – were rarely ever to be in such close contact to one another for many years. True, they may have been closer in distance whilst both were in London at the same time; however, when such was the case, they were separated by marriage and station so as to preclude any happy meeting and, as well, by ignorance as to the presence of the other. The five miles that separated Lambton and Pemberley was of little significance if Darcy had known of her presence. Unhappily for them both, he did not and they were not to meet again for many years and thus our story really begins.