Yaye! Update! Again, sorry for the delay. This batch of letters was... stressful to write because of the more-than-usual number of formal letters. I don't think I've quite got the formal-ness, but hey! The end result was worth the effort!
As usual, my humble, teensy-weensy request: Please review!
VIII: Lydia's Appointed Hour
Saturday, August 8 1812
I must begin by informing you that this express has naught to do with my last correspondence with your trusted firm. It is a matter of utmost urgency and secrecy that compels me to seek your aid; we have once before been concerned with the subject, I only rue that we must set upon it again. Allow me to be direct: George Wickham has entered my scope once more, albeit indirectly, and has been persisting in those activities for which he has made himself renown. He was lately employed as a Lieutenant in the –shire militia, currently camped in Brighton. It is believed that he has amassed quite a debt –honourable and otherwise –with several people in the camp, and it is known for certain that he made himself scarce Sunday last. But far more distressing is the fact that his defection was no mere escape, but an elopement. He has spirited with him a young lady of sixteen who answers to the name of Lydia Bennet. It is believed that they are currently in London.
I know that it is redundant to request you to set a search for the duo, especially to secure the lady, for I am certain you will already have made the arrangements. You may provide the searchers these particulars: she is moderately tall, well-proportioned, dark hair and dark eyes with no distinguishing marks that I am aware of. I may also add that it is unlikely that she shows any sign of emotional distress, in fact, she was totally compliant to this entire scheme, and as such, might even be generally euphoric. Nonetheless, I would not look at marriage registers as I am almost certain they are not married: the lady does not bring any material advantages his way.
I must also add another person to be watched out for, or indeed, sought, for she is a former associate of Wickham and may have knowledge of his current whereabouts. She was known to me as Abigail Younge, the veracity of which appellation I cannot guarantee. She is about fifty years of age, very short and stout, bleached white hair and blue eyes. She had a mole in the corner of her right eyebrow, which again, I cannot vouch for, as she may have painted it on. I should imagine her preferred occupation is as a lady's companion or governess, but solely as a respectable front. She seems to have known Wickham for at least more than a year, thus she may have mutual acquaintances with Wickham.
It is needless to state how imperative it is that some knowledge of any of the three must be found as quickly as possible, for the reputation of the girl and her family is at stake. I myself am departing for London within an hour of posting this express; I shall call upon you in your offices tomorrow.
I pray to God that a quick solution may be found.
I am, Sir, &c.,
Saturday, August 8 1812
You will forgive me if I convey to you a sense of 'déja vu' as the French call it. Wickham, that rascal, has been up to even more mischief again. He has eloped with a certain Miss Lydia Bennet, a young woman gentle-born in blood, but quite loutish brain-wise, since she has gone with him most willingly, the foolish child! It does not bode well for her that she does not hail from an affluent family, and that her dowry is practically non-existent –as such, it is easy to believe that Wickham required her companionship with only one object in mind. They are most certainly in London, and I mean to recover her as soon as possible. Needless to say, I require your help, and urgent help in fact, for the longer we tarry, the greater chances of him abandoning her, and consequently, the deeper the stain on her honour. I shall be arriving at London tomorrow. If it does not inconvenience you, I would appreciate it if you awaited me at Darcy House whence we may hasten directly to Smoulding's(I have already written him to begin the enquiries). May our endeavours be smooth and swift,
Smoulding & Pritchard,
Monday, August 10, 1812
Pertaining to our conversation yesterday, I am finally in the possession of some pertinent information. It seems very little for now, but I am certain it is a step forward in the right direction. One of my boys returned with the positive identification of the Mrs. Younge. She still subsists under the same name, and offers lodging services on Edward Street. We have not done anything other than obtaining the address and confirming that fact that she is rarely out most evenings. We await your further orders, and hope that this issue is resolved speedily.
God be with you,
Tuesday, August 11, 1812
I am sure you are aware that we have not been acquainted, and thus may wonder at my writing you. My name is Edward Gardiner, and I am brother by marriage to Thomas Bennet. Mr. Bennet and I are currently residing in my home here in Town. It has been several days since my brother began his search for his daughter; we are even now in the process of scouring the various hotels and inns for any information about the couple. I write you, Colonel, in the hope that you may provide us with any information concerning Mr. Wickham. Even the smallest details may suffice –we do not even know if he has any relations to whom he may apply for aid. I need not emphasize the gravity and urgency of this request. You may send your missives to the abovementioned address.
Believe me, sir, cognisant of and thankful for your assistance so far.
I am, Sir, &c.,
Tuesday, August 11 1812
I am certain you will be blaspheming my good name even as you read this missive. I apologise, and only once at that, for how was I to know that the moment I left London deeming it too boring for my tastes was when that useless ruffian chose to return? In any case, you may depend on my speedy return; in fact, I believe I shall be departing with this very letter. We will see if it truly is possible to arrive before one's intimation, as some people claim.
As to the rogue, it appears he has crossed a line this time around: eloping, and that too with a penniless gentlewoman? I should have thought him incapable of such foolishness, for he certainly must wed her now, and banish all thoughts of honey-trapping a plump, rich heiress for his own satisfaction. You will forgive me my blunt words, I'm sure, for I speak the truth, do I not? Ah, despair not, Darcy m'boy, I have taken upon this matter with utmost seriousness, for I recognised the last name of the foolish lout in question. I think I am not wrong in believing that the girl has at least one other sister, whom I certainly regard with some esteem, as I'm sure you do as well. I perfectly comprehend your determination in seeking to preserve the girl's honour, for her family is directly affected by her reputation, is it not? Well, well, I have written enough, it is time I depart. Save your rantings and scoldings until my arrival; at that moment, I promise to solicitously listen to your every admonition.
Thursday, August 13, 1812
This to inform you that we have held good upon our threat –you are now unobligated towards various tradespeople in Meryton, Hertfordshire, and miscellaneous officers in Colonel Forster's regiment. However, you do owe Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, Derbyshire, a sum total of five thousand, eight hundred and seventy two pounds. If you wish to persuade the gentleman to not have you thrown in debtor's prison where you belong, you will have to comply with his demands. We will wait for two days.
Brighton Military Cantonment,
Thursday, August 13, 1812
As per your letter, I immediately instituted inquiries throughout the entire camp. It is with deep regret that I must inform you that we have not unearthed any possibly helpful information. Despite his open manners, Mr. Wickham seems to have been successfully keeping his past in the dark. There were only two officers he confided in more than others. Lt. Trenton, I am sorry to say, was killed in a civilian skirmish more than a fortnight past. It is a pity, for Wickham and he often socialised together, and he may have had some pertinent knowledge. Captain Denny, while still alive and in my employ, insists that he knows no more than the rest of the camp: that Wickham hailed from Derbyshire, and was educated, possibly with the clergy in mind, at Cambridge. Captain Denny was the individual who introduced Wickham to my regiment, I am sorry to say that I was given a notion of false honour when I recruited the latter. As it happens, Denny had only just met Wickham, lost to him spectacularly in a card game and was forced to purchase his commission and vouch for him as payment. Beyond that initial interaction, Denny knows no more.
I also took the measure of inquiring my wife, who, as your niece's dearest confidant, might have some notion of their whereabouts. But my wife is far more ignorant of the particulars of this situation than even the officers, perhaps: she insists that Gretna Green was the predetermined destination, and is quite surprised at their going to London instead.
I wish I had happier news or concrete information to give you, Sir, or indeed, to be of some assistance. Believe me, I still find myself partly culpable for this misfortune, and add my hope to yours that this bother may be resolved speedily and with satisfaction.
I am, &c., &c.,
Colonel Reginald Forster
Friday, August 14, 1812
You drive a hard bargain, and it seems you have no scruples in dooming a childhood playmate to the hellish depths of prison. I suppose I have no other choice in the matter. You are given leave to visit me again, and then we will talk, for I have demands of my own, old boy, make no mistake. And leave your pet Colonel Cousin behind; his affinity to blades and other weaponry will not make me as accommodating as you'd like, on the contrary.
Friday, August 14, 1812
My dear Mrs. Gardiner,
I am certain that you will be expecting good news of any sort with this missive, and, loath though I am to do it, I must once again discourage your hopes: they are yet missed. As I feared, our rounds on the various hotels and like establishments yielded no results, and brother Bennet has finally acknowledged that there is little he can do while he remains in town. He has agreed to turn homewards on the morrow, while I continue my enquiries here. Thus, I believe it is acceptable for you and the children to return, for I am sure the Bennets miss their patriarch, even as I profoundly miss my own family! I hope my nieces are subsisting well in this adversity, and that my sister is not too inconvenienced –perhaps Thomas' return will serve to soothe her nerves.
I think it best if you depart early tomorrow in the Longbourn carriage with the children, so the Master may be conveyed home in the luxury of his own carriage. I send my fondest regards and prayers to the household, especially to my brave nieces.
I remain, my dear, your fond husband,
Wednesday, August 19, 1812
Well, it appears I have written to you with no visible change in my signature. But it is of no import, the vital thing is that we definitely are to be married, on the 31st! Not that I doubted its happening, of course. Only the date was not set yet, and, I have to admit, it is far more exciting to be married in London than at boring old Gretna Green! I find myself pining for my beloved, and quite impatient for the wedding day to come. I do not, however, understand my Aunt Gardiner, she does not speak one kind word to me! –not that she is rude, but she speaks as if we are formal acquaintances! I find myself quite astonished at her behaviour, but, I have let her be. I am sure she is simply jealous of my handsome fiancé and the grand, exciting adventure that I have had –after all, her life with all the children and old Uncle Gardiner must be rather dull, and I do not blame her for envying me. All the same, I think it is mean-spirited of her to force me to stay indoors. Indeed, we are not to visit any theatres or attend balls; in fact, she is not even receiving guests at the moment. Also, I am not even given leave to chuse my own wedding gown, or even meet dear Wickham! –as Mama would say, it is all too vexing! I find that thoughts of my dashing lover are all that keep me content in this dull, morbid house.
Although Aunt Gardiner insisted otherwise, I write to ask if any of my sisters will be attending the ceremony ten days hence: I am sure you would like to be present, Kitty, for I will certainly make you my bridesmaid! I cannot comprehend the absence of even Mama –surely she would like to see her favourite daughter getting married?
Write me your reply, Kitty, as soon as you can, and then I may plan the wedding with additional guests in mind.
Wednesday, 26 August, 1812
I perfectly comprehend your feelings and your very persistent arguments to justify banishing your errant daughter from your sight forever. With all due respect, Thomas, the banishing has already been done; after the wedding, they will set off to Newcastle, which might as well be Bombay in terms of distance! One little visit, to appease my sister and the neighbourhood, and they will never bother you again. Do think upon it, my dear fellow.
My fondest wishes to my dear nieces and my incomparable sister.
I remain, &c.,
Friday, August 28, 1812
You should have taken to the bar like our good brother Philips, for you place your arguments with much conviction. You were right: my wife needs to fawn over her dearest child one last time, Lydia needs to show her ring and husband off(in that order, I am certain) to everyone within twenty miles of Longbourn, and the good people of Meryton need to be convinced of the return of the Bennets' respectability. I will allow my youngest daughter to visit with that husband of hers, but it is a one-time occurrence, I will have her know.
You may send her after the wedding breakfast, and they will stay for not above ten days; on this, I remain resolved.
My thanks and gratefulness for your part in this affair, are, of course, well-known to you.
A/N: Explanations! The letters basically alternate between the two separate searches for stupid Lydia: her family's, which was unsuccessful, and Darcy's, which obviously was. (DUH, it's Darcy!)
"Edmund Smoulding" is a solicitor in the Darcys' official law firm. If Darcy's letter to him is not that... formal, let me explain that Mr. Smoulding, being far older than Darcy, and possibly well known to old Mr. Darcy, has had a closer relationship with him than simply that of client-lawyer.
Lt. Trenton, in case you've forgotten(blame it on my late update, I know) was mentioned in Lydia's scurrilous letter in the previous chapter.
Also, I'd like to think that the dear, jolly Colonel was not completely sober in his first letter to his cousin... just sober enough to write a perfect letter, and race to London on horseback! What do you think? *winks*
And lastly, I chose the chapter name because, it really is a significant time for Lydia: each and every letter in the above chapter centres on her! She must have savoured all the attention, I'm sure!*rolls eyes*