Title: The Shades of Pemberley
Category: Books » Pride and Prejudice
Author: Lady Gwynedd
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Published: 10-30-12, Updated: 10-30-12
Chapters: 1, Words: 4,118
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
AN: Thanks to Jane Austen for creating a wonderful cast of characters that I've borrowed in this story.
The Shades of Pemberley
The young woman sat up in bed and clutched the covers to her neck, eyes widened in fright. The eerie sound had returned! Her eyes darted around her darkened bedchamber, searching for the source of the frightening noise but to no avail. There were only shadows cast by her flickering firelight that created menacing shapes here and wavering shades there. With a gasp, Kitty dove under the covers and squeezed her eyes tightly shut. Oh, how she wished she had declined her sister's invitation to visit for a season!
She had been so excited to leave bucolic Longbourn and her mother's haphazard care for the rarified air of her brother-in-law's estate. Since the militia had left Meryton as well as three of her five sisters when they embarked upon their matrimonial careers, Kitty had been overcome with tedium. There was only so much hat-trimming, lace-tatting, and garden-walking one could do, especially as there were none to appreciate her efforts except her studious sister, Mary—and Mary cared not a fig for such endeavors. Mary was more prone to preaching than to prattling and the two rarely spent much time together in enjoyment.
Certainly, there were no suitable gentlemen around for Kitty to impress with a new dress or dance step. Why, she had even taken to visiting the lending library in the village and actually had begun to read to pass the time. Her father welcomed this change in occupation until he saw the subjects of the books she had selected: The Vampyre by Mr. Polidori and The Italian by Mrs. Radcliffe. After a few sardonic words, he returned to his study disappointed that the glimmer he thought he saw in his daughter was nothing more than a will-o-wisp.
So, when Elizabeth wrote to invite Kitty to Pemberley, the young woman rejoiced that her purgatory was at an end. With great excitement, she and her mother prepared for her visit, selecting the best that could be had between their wardrobes. Mary had not much to offer besides a wide lace meant to be used in one's décolletage for modesty's sake. Kitty thought she may use it to trim her parasol.
At last the day had come for Kitty to make the arduous trip from Hertfordshire to Derbyshire. She was to pass the first part of the journey travelling with Mr. and Mrs. Lucas, their neighbors and close friends, who were to visit a relative of Mrs. Lucas' who was reported to be not long for this world. Kitty wondered a bit about the wisdom of visiting someone at death's door but didn't ponder it too long. Nothing could compare to the excitement of her visit to Pemberley.
Her brother-in-law, the severe Mr. Darcy, was sending a carriage to Hatfield where she would part ways with the Lucases and would make the remainder of her journey alone.
She had always known that Mr. Darcy was of the upper-crust and he was superior in all ways to most everyone she had ever known. In fact, his normally haughty expression and fine appearance quite frequently left her tongue-tied and awkward. The few times she had been in his presence, she had been content to melt into the scenery and she was sure he paid as much attention to her as he would her mother's new settee. Honestly, she didn't know how her sister, Elizabeth, had the courage to marry such a man. True, she was now rich beyond all imagining but the price of such an arrangement? It was beyond Kitty's comprehension.
She began to have misgivings when the most superb brougham carriage that ever was pulled into the coaching inn where Kitty awaited. Everyone in the vicinity stopped and turned to watch as it tooled into the yard pulled by a beautifully matched set of four grey horses. Surely, that couldn't be Mr. Darcy's conveyance?
But it was.
Kitty's cheeks blazed as the groomman escorted her from the inn and up the folding steps into the carriage's plush interior. She was sure every person in Hatfield stood in their tracks and watched. She wished she could crawl between the cracks of the seats to be out of their view but her mother's lessons stood her well. She sat poker straight on the velvet cushions as the carriage pulled off and managed to remember to flutter her handkerchief at Mr. and Mrs. Lucas who were waving from the stoop of the inn. Kitty supposed that even the verbose Mr. Lucas was stunned to silence to see such an elegant equipage.
She had never felt more out of place. At that very moment, she felt every inch the daughter of a gentleman of modest means from a small country village and so very unused to such finery and sophistication. She was unlike her younger sister in that way. Lydia had always craved rank and the notice that went with it. In their girlish world, they had believed that being a married lady to a gentleman soldier was the height of accomplishment but Kitty was beginning to believe they'd been ignorant of most of what lay beyond the confines of their world.
She felt even more out of place when the carriage pulled through enormous gates with no great house in sight. Why, the gate house alone was larger than Longbourn! She was on tenterhooks awaiting the moment when Pemberley would be revealed as they drove for miles through the rolling fields and noble forests of the estate until finally the edifice appeared. She could hardly breathe at the sight.
Pemberley was more a castle than a house. In fact, it very nearly resembled what she imagined the Villa Altieri looked like—the grand mansion belonging to the heroine Ellena from Mrs. Radcliffe's goulish novel. A thrill travelled down her spine as she studied its grey stone, mullioned windows, and soaring towers. She was so entranced with the vision that she failed to notice her sister standing on the front steps eagerly awaiting her arrival.
"Kitty, how well you look! Please come inside and we shall have a comfortable coze as you tell me all about your journey," Elizabeth said as she bussed her sister on both cheeks and led her into the house. There were a few scattered maids and footmen bustling about as they unloaded the carriage and carried Kitty's meager belongings up the grand stair case presumably to the room where the young woman would be staying. Elizabeth nodded at them as they did their work, linked her arm through her younger sister's and led her down a hallway to a relatively small—but it still big enough to encompass both their mother's morning room and their father's library with some left over—sitting room.
"Do you go through that door and you'll find my private withdrawing room. You can refresh yourself before tea."
Curtsying her thanks, Kitty did as she was bid and found a sumptuous comfort room, intended to meet every need and desire of a lady. It certainly outshone the smelly water closet they had at Longbourn.
Refreshed, she returned to her sister, her pelisse shed, her hat stowed and her face, hands and hair ordered.
"Now tell me of your trip and of all that are at Longbourn? How are Mary and Mama and dear Papa? Have you heard anything of Lydia?" Elizabeth asked eagerly. It would seem the newly-wedded lady had a touch of homesickness which didn't surprise Kitty a bit. No matter how comfortable, this centuries old pile must be filled with the spirits of former Darcys homesick themselves for their old lives. It was sure to wear upon a lady's nerves after a bit.
The two sisters chattered about family news, completely enjoying each other's company when a soft knock was heard at the door and a second later, Mr. Darcy entered. In Kitty's mind, marriage hadn't made him any less austere as he bowed over his wife's hand and then turned to welcome Kitty to Pemberley. He still had a dour look on his face, no matter how kind his words.
"I must thank you for sending your carriage to meet me in Hatfield, sir. 'Twas most generous."
"My pleasure, Miss Catherine. I would not have you lack for anything on your visit."
"I am sure that is an impossibility in such an exalted place. I've never been treated so grandly."
He bowed at her compliment and went to sit next to Elizabeth to take his tea. The conversation digressed into generalities until Mr. Darcy said, "Your father writes that you have taken up reading as a hobby, Miss Catherine. I would inquire as to what you have been reading?"
Well knowing her father's opinion of her reading material, Kitty blushed and murmured, "They aren't very weighty things, sir; nothing that would interest a gentleman, at least."
"Ah, but sister, you would be surprised to know that Mr. Darcy is a broad reader and he's not so narrow in his views as our father concerning what is worthwhile reading and what isn't," Elizabeth said.
"Well, sir, I have of late read Mrs. Radcliffe's story called "The Italian."
"Did you enjoy it?" he asked.
"That I did. It was so exciting, I could scarce put it down!"
Mr. Darcy smiled at her enthusiasm and asked, "Did you bring it with you so we could share our opinions as you read?"
"Alas, no. I had borrowed it from the Meryton Lending Library and needed to return it before my travels."
"I believe we have something of Ann Radcliffe's on our shelves, do we not Mrs. Darcy? The Mysteries of Udolfo is one I recall. I shall fetch it for you so that you can continue your past time here. 'Twould be a shame to give it up simply because you have come away from home."
"That is generous indeed, sir. I would be most grateful."
So, Kitty wasn't surprised to find the first volume of that novel set by her place when she came to supper later that evening.
She could hardly wait to get to bed to read it. Her candle was long and she knew she could indulge in the story for hours before it burnt out. Back at Longbourn, her mother would begrudge the wasted wax but it seemed there were an army of candles at Pemberley and no one would care if she sat late into the night a-reading.
Her bed chamber was a grand affair, located on the same hall as family stayed and it was comforting to know that her sister was nearby. She was sure she'd be frightened if she was relegated to some distant wing. The house was so large, she got lost every time she set out from one room to another. Fortunately, footmen were aplenty and could direct her to her desired location. She was of half a mind to draw a map to aid her the next time.
But that was the first night she heard the unholy noise. Kitty had finally dropped off to sleep after avidly consuming half of the fine beeswax candle as well as most of the first volume of The Mystery of Udolfo. With each flowery description and overwrought phrase, Kitty's heart pounded in sympathy for the forlorn heroine, Emily St. Aubert. She had changed her mind about Pemberley's resemblance to Villa Altieri and now decided it reminded her more of the crumbling Castle Udolfo. Mind you, Pemberley wasn't crumbling but it may one day, so she thought.
Suddenly, she was jerked from a delightful dream of damsels and dungeons and heroes thwarted from rescue to hear a fearful moan that echoed throughout her room.
It was low and guttural and sounded like a lost soul pining for his unrequited love.
"What's that?" she whispered but there was no answer.
Then, so softly she could barely hear it, a slow, muffled knocking came from the vicinity of the far wall opposite the one that housed her bed.
"Who's that?" she shakily called but still, there was no answer, just the knocking grew louder and the low rumbled groans became more frequent until she couldn't stand it. She jumped from her bed, dashed out into the hallway, and knocked frantically on her sister's door.
"Lizzy! Lizzy! Help!" she called through the doorway. Perhaps her sister would let her sleep with her tonight?
It took Elizabeth a few minutes to answer her door. "What is it, Kitty?" she asked, her hair tumbling from her nightcap.
"There's a ghost in my room!"
Lizzy sighed. "No there isn't, goose. Go back to bed."
But Kitty was frightened beyond measure and grabbed onto her sister's sleeve. "I can't go by myself, Lizzy. I can't! I'm so frightened! May I stay with you?"
Lizzy looked back over her shoulder then turned back to her little sister and said, "Why don't I accompany you to your bed just as we did at Longbourn when we were little? You'll sleep soundly with me next to you."
"Would you, Lizzy? Would you? Oh, thank you ever so much!"
And so the two girls cuddled next to each other as they did when they were children and soon Kitty fell into a deep sleep. In fact, she didn't even turn over until the sun shone brightly into her room the next morning. She rolled over to see her sister was gone but she reckoned that as the lady of the house, Lizzy must rise early to see to her duties."
Kitty was surprised to discover another book by her place setting that morning writ by one Rev. Richard Hooker entitled Sermons and Tracts. Who on earth would ever think she'd be interested in such a boring subject? Not even her father would insist upon such.
The days went by and Kitty found she was enjoying herself tremendously. After the first night, she realized that as comfortable and elegant as Pemberely was, it truly only resembled Castle Udolfo in size and so her fears dissipated considerably. Besides, she now made sure to only read Mrs. Radcliffe during the broad hours of day. Rev. Hooker could be relied upon to send her to sleep within minutes each evening and she was beginning to think it was an over-active imagination that had prompted her ghostly hallucination that first evening.
Mr. Darcy's business called him away for a few weeks so she and Lizzy spent their time strengthening their sisterly bond by making visits to neighboring houses, sponsoring at homes for the local ladies, and working on various projects that came to hand. Lizzy gave Kitty several of her older gowns that could be made over into ones more suited to Kitty's complexion and stature and so they were kept busy during Mr. Darcy's absence.
The day of his expected return, Kitty was surprised at how distracted Lizzy was as she constantly peered out of the window, or paced the sitting room floor. Kitty wondered that Lizzy didn't save her new dress for a neighborly visit but had instead donned it today but she did look very well in it. Perhaps Mr. Darcy's warning that an old friend was accompanying him back to Pemberley was cause enough for the new frock.
About mid-afternoon, a footman knocked on the door and informed Lizzy that Mr. Darcy's coach and four had been spotted turning into the gates and he should arrive momentarily. There was a huge bustle as the servants rushed out to the front and arranged themselves in a file with the butler and housekeeper at the head just as the coach rounded the final turn. The two women stood at the top of the steps and watched as the groomsman jumped down to open the door.
Lizzy quietly reached over and grabbed Kitty's hand in excitement which surprised Kitty to no end. Kitty turned to her sister and saw a flush rise in her cheek and a sparkle dance in her eye as she watched the disembarking men. Kitty turned again just in time to see Mr. Darcy gaze up the stairs at his wife and for a moment it seemed that she was the only thing that he was aware. Kitty was shocked to see something other than the haughty somberness the man normally wore. Why, it looked to her as though Mr. Darcy may actually feel as intensely about her sister as Valancourt did about Miss Emily in Mrs. Radcliffe's book. What a revelation!
Supper was a merry event as Darcy's childhood friend, Mr. George Wentworth, was a charming wit. It seemed the two had gone through school together and had always been fast friends. Though Lizzy knew of the gentleman from her husband's fond reminisces, she had never met him before that day. Mr. Wentworth had been in India for the past several years only lately returning. Evidently, he had made his fortune in that country and was now come home to enjoy the benefit of his industry.
Kitty had never seen the like of such a man. He was dashing and brave and witty and everything good a man could be. She tried her best not to stare but she was embarrassed to be caught out by the gentleman several times during the meal. However, he didn't seem to mind and one time he even winked at her. Of course that made her blush and she studiously studied her plate from that moment onward. He must think her a raw country girl with neither manners nor upbringing. She hoped she didn't shame Lizzy with her mooning and she was very glad when the ladies were able to leave the men to their port and cigars and retire to the great salon.
"Well, Kitty, what did you think of Mr. Wentworth?" Elizabeth asked.
"He's a very fine man, isn't he?"
"That he is, and a dear friend of Darcy's. I think he shall visit with us for a while."
"He hasn't a home of his own?"
"Not at the moment. He's looking to find something. Darcy hopes he settles close by so there will be easy visits."
"Then, I hope he does for both of their sakes."
"Only time will tell."
At that moment, both men entered the room and Lizzy busied herself with the tea. Mr. Wentworth sat next to Kitty and spent the next hour regaling her with more of his adventures in Bombay. She could never remember having a more enjoyable evening and that included the ball at Netherfield.
She went to bed so enraptured that she didn't feel the need to use the soporific Reverend Hooker to bore her to sleep. She drifted off as soon as her head hit the pillow to dream of hot Indian summers and wild tigers and the sweet smell of exotic perfumes.
Startled from her sleep, Kitty sat upright and grabbed the covers to her chin. The ghost was back!
She dove under the covers, shaking in fear as the eerie sounds echoed in her room. Perhaps if she lay there very still, they would go away.
But no, the soft knocking on the wall started again just as it had weeks ago. Determined not to leave her bed, she squeezed her eyes shut and started to pray except the knocking got louder and louder.
With a small screech, she tossed aside the covers, grabbed her shawl and ran out into the hall and right into the arms of Mr. Wentworth who had been on his way to bed in his own chamber further on down the hall.
"Good Lord, sweetness, what's amiss?" Balancing his candlestick with one hand, he held her by the other and looked down into her frightened face with a bemused expression.
"G-g-ghosts!" she said and pointed back into her room.
"Ghosts? There's not a ghost dead that would so besmirch the pristine and stuffy halls of Pemberley. Are you sure?"
"Indeed, sir! There's been groans and moans and rappings on the wall of my chamber this last half-hour! They must be ghosts! What else could they be?"
Just then a soft wail pierced the air, and Kitty jumped. However, the sound didn't come from Kitty's room but her sister's next door.
"Oh, my word. Now they're in Lizzy's room! We must help her."
Kitty turned to do just that when Mr. Wentworth stopped her. He paused a moment, then with an amused smile said, "I do believe 'tis a husband's duty to see to his wife at such times and I am sure Darcy is at hand. See, even now the ghosts have quieted."
Wentworth was correct in that. The noises had ceased. Perhaps Mr. Darcy had come to Elizabeth's assistance.
Smiling down into her puzzled face, Wentworth said, "All is well now, Miss Bennet. I'm sure any specters there were have been sent packing by Darcy's intervention. "
"Do you think so?" Kitty felt rather foolish in the face of Mr. Wentworth's reasonableness.
"I am sure, sweetness. Now go back to your bower and dream the beautiful sleep of the innocent. I am sure these ghosts will ne'er trouble you again."
The next morning, Mr. Wentworth had a rather humorous though private conversation with his old friend. Both Lizzy and Kitty were surprised when Darcy later ordered that the chimney liners re-bricked in their bedchambers and suggested Elizabeth rearrange her boudoir's furniture so that the bed was positioned between the windows rather than across from the fireplace.
After a propitious and momentous year, Mr. Wentworth took his new bride on a tour of Ireland and Wales for their wedding trip. She discovered that she rejoiced in his company and found that she quite enjoyed all that being Mrs. Wentworth entailed, even and especially their intimate moments at night. After a rather confusing and frightening conversation with her mother before her wedding concerning marital congress, Kitty had been very glad when Elizabeth took her aside and shed a happier light upon the subject. Who would have thought love could be expressed so delightfully and wondrously? After her own enlightening experiences since her marriage, she found she was well pleased. And apparently, Mr. Wentworth was pleased as well.
However one night, after a particular robust expression of their mutual adoration, Kitty sat up with wide eyes. She couldn't help but to have vocalized her satisfaction during their love making. In fact, it stirred a memory.
Wentworth lay in a pleasurable after-glow beside his still naked wife and smiled lazily at her as she stared down at him. "What is it, my love?"
"Do you remember stumbling upon me the night we met at Pemberley?"
"Aye, I do. I was smitten with you even then."
"It's a wonder you were! There were no ghosts in Pemberley that evening, were there?"
He chuckled at her outraged expression and wrapped one of her long curls round his finger. "No, my heart. They weren't ghosts."
"Lizzy and Darcy had been doing as we just were, weren't they?"
"I'm afraid so."
"And you knew!" She prodded his chest.
"I had deduced so, yes."
"You must have thought I was simple-minded."
He smiled and pulled her into his arms so that she nestled under his chin and over his heart. "Never, sweetness. I only knew I was entranced by the beautiful girl who would brave the shades of Pemberley to go to the aid of her sister. How could I not? I knew that night I had found my heart's desire."
Smiling at his sweet words, she settled her arm about his waist as she lifted her head to see his face. "I do know one thing…"
He cocked his brow as he looked into her eyes.
"I shall never be able to speak to Darcy and Lizzie again without dying of mortification."
Her husband laughed and said, "On the contrary, my dear. I think that we should visit them, raise some ghosts of our own, and see what they have to say then."