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Walk With Me - Epilogue

June 13, 2015 01:53PM
Well, here it is - the final installment. I hope you have enjoyed this little bit of fluff. Many thanks to my most excellent Beta (Alida) who caught and corrected my many punctuation errors and not a few of the other errors in the story. Those that remain are the responsibility of me and me only.
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Epilogue

April 1862

“Walk with me.”

He took his last sip of coffee – he only allowed himself a cup in the mornings now – before rising from his chair. She noticed the suppressed grimace as he did so – he found the dampness of the early April morning harder on his joints than she – but said nothing – what was the point. They both had their share of aches and twinges but neither of them had the power to reverse time. He grasped her hand as firmly as ever and, hand-in-hand, left the breakfast room together.

“I am glad to get out before the children descend on us. I love them dearly, Lizzie, but the exuberance is more than I wish to bear so early.”

“I know. That is why I am absconding with you now.”

They walked in the comfortable quiet that fifty years of marriage endows. Their occasional comments frequently needed little more than a chuckle or a nod of the head in response. It was not that all sources of conversation between them had been exhausted - rather the reverse if truth were known - but today remained very special to them both. In the fifty years of their marriage, they had failed to visit Rosings Park on only three occasions. The first being the year following their marriage when Lady Catherine had yet to reconcile to their marriage and twice when Elizabeth’s confinements had precluded their travel.

Their feet carried them to the grove where their life together had its roots. A bench had been placed there some forty years ago – Elizabeth had been quite pregnant at the time and, while still quite capable of walking for some duration, found it helpful to rest periodically. Grandmama’s bench, it was called, although Elizabeth teased her husband that it could now just as easily be called Grandpapa’s bench since he welcomed its presence as much as she.

“Fifty years” sighed she.

“Hhhmm.”

She could see his thoughts turn reflective and she knew he was remembering the past. “I hope, William, that your thoughts of the past are only the pleasant ones.”

His response was slow as he considered her words. “Of course, my dear. I am allowed nothing else, am I?”

She responded to his tease with a chuckle, “Very well, you may continue them then.”

Gradually the view before her receded as her own thoughts travelled the course of fifty years. Their marriage ceremony had been wonderful – despite her mother’s best efforts – and their month alone at Pemberley – she had eschewed a wedding trip in preference to being at Pemberley with her new husband – had been everything she could have hoped for. Even now, fifty years later, she could not but remember those days and nights of intimacy with a flush of pleasure. She had not realized there could be so many private places in the Pemberley park in which she could be intimate with William – so many, in fact, that it had taken them almost ten years to discover the last and even then she wondered if the presence of their children had not inhibited further exploration. As it was, they had almost been intruded upon more than once during those years. She glanced sideways through her lashes to see if her husband had noticed her flush but he seemed absorbed by his own thoughts and not unpleasant ones if the small smile on his lips was an indication.

She could not be sure if any of her children had been conceived during one of those moments though the timing of her fourth was rather auspicious in that regard. She thought happily of her family. To have given birth to six children, four of them sons to carry on the Darcy name, and seen them survive into adulthood, all of them married with children of their own – she had six and twenty grandchildren for heaven’s sake and almost as many great-grandchildren, with more to come – was no little accomplishment. The Darcy family had grown to the point where Pemberley could barely contain all of their numbers and, indeed, when Georgiana’s family were included, it was filled to overflowing. She had married a gentleman whose estate in Shropshire was only a day's travel distant from Pemberley – and now only a few hours with the advent of trains. Such proximity had ensured frequent visits between his estate, Pemberley and Amberdown, where the Bingleys had finally settled when they left Netherfield a year after their marriage. Georgiana provided her husband with a brood of children, two sons and three daughters, over the course of their marriage but her passing some fifteen years ago after a prolonged illness had left him desolate and his own decline and death some two years later had not been unanticipated. Fortunately, the children were now all married with families of their own and the connection with their Darcy cousins remained as strong as ever, to the point where two of Elizabeth’s grandchildren had each married one of Georgiana’s grandchildren.

Jane and Charles had been similarly blessed with a healthy brood of offspring – all of them a healthy mixture of the reserve and amiable natures of their parents. How could they be otherwise, she thought, given the characters of their parents. Oddly enough, as close as the Bingley and Darcy families were, none of the Darcy children or grandchildren had formed an attachment with a Bingley cousin.

She could not help but consider her other sisters. Her father had been persuaded – and her mother had not raised any serious objections – to send Catherine and Lydia for schooling. Mary had spent several years with her two older sisters and received much benefit from their society and exposure to such masters as would advance her musical abilities. If she did not become truly proficient, her performances were subsequently greeted with much more pleasure than in the past – particularly since she no longer endeavoured to accompany herself vocally. Mary never married but had remained at Longbourn upon the death of her father, some fifteen years after Elizabeth’s marriage, to live with the Collinses. Mrs. Bennet, of course, would not reside there and had taken up residence in Meryton with her sister Mrs. Philips, herself widowed for some five years by that time. They lived quite happily together, gossiping endlessly about their numerous grandchildren and ensuring that all of Meryton was not unaware of the splendid matches made by the Bennet sisters. Both ladies had been in their graves for twenty years or more.

Catherine and Lydia both married well, if not as prominently as their elder sisters. Their husbands were respectable men able to provide comfortably for their large families. That these husbands were both more closely tied to trade than Mrs. Bennet could perhaps have wished was of lesser consequence than the size of their respective incomes and – to Mr. Bennet’s satisfaction – their ability to esteem and respect their wives. For, instead of being the two silliest girls in the country, Lydia and Catherine had developed into moderately sensible young women and, if neither was as intelligent as Elizabeth or possessed the decorum of Jane, they never gave their husbands cause to question their behaviour. Both lived in London and were frequent visitors with the Darcys when they could be persuaded to come to Town.

Elizabeth could not think of Longbourn without regret. After her father’s death, they had little cause to travel to Longbourn and the changes that had taken place there under the guidance of Mr. Collins had distressed her greatly. She had hoped that Charlotte’s sensibleness would guide and direct Mr. Collins in managing the estate. That, unfortunately, was proven to be wishful thinking. Mr. Collins was not a sensible man and Charlotte’s ability to manage him in her personal life could not apparently be extended to management of the estate. His inability to accept any advice that did not emanate from Lady Catherine and the years he had ignored his wife's guidance in preference to that of her ladyship, had ill-equipped him to listen to his wife's advice. A steward who was more interested in promoting his own interests and fully aware of his master's ignorance had not worked to the benefit of the estate or the Collinses.

The ending of the war against Napoleon had caused problems for all estates as the high prices that had supported the lifestyle had fallen and estate incomes as well. Even Pemberley had to retrench. Longbourn, under her father’s rather indolent management had not fared as well and when Mr. Collins took over, the situation deteriorated even more. It was perhaps fortunate that Mr. Collins had died some ten years after her father – a love of eating and a distaste for exercise had eventually overtaxed his heart. His son inherited Longbourn from his father and good sense from his mother and he had gradually reversed much of the damage inflicted by his predecessors - foremost amongst which was the removal of the steward. Longbourn, if not affluent, eventually returned to producing a respectable living and, oddly enough, young William Collins had married a Bingley daughter and the Bennet line was once more established at Longbourn.

Lady Catherine had resisted acknowledging her nephew’s marriage to Elizabeth until the birth of his son, and the Darcy heir, a year after the marriage. She, and her daughter, attended the christening and comported herself civilly with Elizabeth, although heard on more than one occasion to mutter about the impertinence of his wife and that her own daughter would have done as well. For her part, Anne was quite happy with her circumstances and confessed to Elizabeth a private relief that she was not to wed. The prospect of childbirth was viewed by her with trepidation rather than appreciation. Sadly, Anne did not outlive her mother; her poor healthy and a severe winter in 1822 combined with widespread illness claimed her life. Lady Catherine was finally persuaded, a few years after Darcy’s marriage, to acknowledge that Anne would not wed and give birth to an heir for Rosings Park. She was further persuaded by her brother, the Earl, to name Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam as the heir presumptive and to allow him, some five years before his cousin’s passing, to take on the management of the estate. The change in his fortunes afforded the Colonel to opportunity to retire from the military; within a year he had married – a most sensible young woman of modest means but impeccable connections – and, five years later, was the father of two children. He and his wife resided at the Dower House until Lady Catherine’s death ten years after her daughter's – living with her ladyship on a daily basis not being desired by either of them – at which time they removed to the manor house with an even larger family.

The Darcys had visited Rosings Park at Easter two years after their encounters in the groves that abutted the estate and returned every year (but three) afterwards, accompanied by children and, in later years, by grandchildren. When the Darcy heir, young Bennet Darcy, met and eventually married his cousin, Rachel Fitzwilliam, in his twenty-sixth year, Lady Catherine’s wish to see a connection between Rosings and Pemberley was finally granted, although she would have been greatly displeased that the two young people's marriage was founded on a mutual esteem and affection that had begun and grown over the years of those annual visits. That young Rachel had spurned the attentions of the heir to a dukedom to wed Bennet Darcy would have displeased Lady Catherine greatly. But that is another story.

Finis
SubjectAuthorPosted

Walk With Me - Epilogue

PeterJune 13, 2015 01:53PM

Re: Walk With Me - Epilogue

PatriciaNJuly 12, 2015 05:32PM

Re: Walk With Me - Epilogue

InesJune 14, 2015 07:06PM

Re: Walk With Me - Epilogue

terrycgJune 14, 2015 03:19AM

Re: Walk With Me - Epilogue

LucieJune 14, 2015 01:59AM

Re: Walk With Me - Epilogue

ShannaGJune 14, 2015 01:18AM

A lovely story

KathyJune 14, 2015 12:25AM

Re: A lovely story

PeterJune 14, 2015 02:53AM

Re: Walk With Me - Epilogue

Shannon KJune 13, 2015 10:56PM

Re: Walk With Me - Epilogue

Kathy BerlinJune 13, 2015 02:58PM



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