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Tapestry of Lives, Chapter 66

June 19, 2015 07:36PM
Well folks, we've finally reached the end! Hard to believe that a little drabble about Mrs. Gardener's origins grew into such an epic, but hopefully you enjoyed the ride (convoluted as it might have become at times). With an enormous amount of help from my most excellent beta, Niki, an edited version of Tapestry of Lives has been published (paperback and kindle), but I'm going to keep the old version archived on DWG because it has some bits here and there that I like but ended up being cut from the published version. Anyways, thanks for all the encouragement! Best, -Jean

A TAPESTRY OF LIVES

by Jean M.


Chapter 66. Mission’s End.

Mrs. Mary Tucker stepped down from the hired wagon onto a street that was so far removed from her recent experiences that it might have belonged to a different planet altogether. A pair of well-dressed ladies stalked past, peering down their noses at her travel-stained cloak and worn boots; London’s fashions might have changed since she had left England a decade before, but the people had not, it appeared. An ironic smile warmed her eyes in an expression that would never have occurred to Miss Mary Bennet.

A noise from the street recalled Mrs. Tucker’s attention to the present, however, and she looked to a gangly youth of nine with her own eyes but his father’s sandy hair. “Matthew—you are in charge. Everyone is to stay seated in the wagon until I come back, do you understand?” She waited until all the children nodded. “I shall only be a few minutes.” Turning to the driver, she added, “I have your fare here in my purse; I will pay it when I come back—do not move from this spot, do you understand?”

The old man nodded obediently, unconsciously touching his cap. To himself, he admitted not a little admiration for the lady’s pluck, for there were not many females who could keep such a flock together once deposited alone on the docks, much less pack the whole lot and their luggage into a hired wagon and keep the young’uns quiet while directing a driver through London traffic.

Mrs. Tucker would have appreciated the compliment.

Resolutely, Mary climbed the steps and tapped the knocker. The door was opened so quickly that she wondered if someone had been watching out a window, though the solemn, black-clad butler did not appear remotely welcoming. “Yes, ma’am?”

“Is this still the Darcy residence?”

The man might have been astonished to receive such a question, but the only emotion he showed was in the rapid blinking of his eyes. “Indeed, ma’am.”

“I need to see Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, or if she is not at home, her husband. I am Mrs. Mary Tucker, Mrs. Darcy’s sister.”

The manservant remained still for just an instant before nodding once. “Do you wish to leave your card, Mrs. Tucker?”

Good humor lit an otherwise exhausted countenance. “I have been in Africa for almost eleven years; I cannot remember the last time I paid a call, much less had a card to leave.”

Such directness and composure, combined with various aspects of physiognomy so reminiscent of Mrs. Darcy, prompted the servant to open the door wider. “Would you care to wait inside, then, ma’am?”

Mary looked back to the wagon and, deciding that her little flock appeared safe enough for the moment, stepped through the portal and back into a world that she had walked away from a decade prior.

The butler departed to search out his mistress and Mrs. Tucker was left in the foyer, feeling not a little out of place. Catching sight of her rather crumpled bonnet in a mirror, she felt a tremor of that insecurity which had so plagued Miss Mary Bennet, but shrugged it off an instant later. “After all, how many of these fancy London ladies can claim to have plucked their ostrich feathers right off the bird himself, alive and kicking?” she snickered to herself.

However, she forgot all about her bonnet when the sound of light footsteps tripping down the stairs came echoing from the hall. Mary turned and caught sight of her sister, a little older perhaps, but with the same bright smile she remembered from girlhood. “Lizzy!”

“Mary? Is that really you? Oh my stars—what a wonderful surprise!” Just as Elizabeth was catching her up in a hug, Mrs. Tucker caught sight of the butler, trailing along in his mistresses’ wake with a bemused expression.

“Oh Lizzy, it is good to see you,” said Mary, holding her sister very tightly for a minute before stepping back. “I apologize for showing up on your doorstep uninvited like this, but I was not sure where else to go. We stopped at Gracechurch Street first, but no one was home. We can find an inn, if this isn’t a good time…”

“Oh pish tosh—my sister will not be staying at some inn while I am mistress of this house! And the Gardiners will not be returning from Kent for three more days, so you have no choice, you see? Ah, Mrs. Wilkins, excellent—this is Mrs. Tucker, my sister just returned from Africa. Now Mary, how many of you are there? Hutchinson mentioned a cart with children waiting outside on the street.”

“Ten, all totaled.” Upon seeing her sister’s astonished expression, Mary laughed a little. “Not all the children are mine—it’s a long story, I fear.”

Mrs. Darcy took it all in stride and fortunately, as the mistress did, so did the servants. In minutes, the foyer was filled with eight children of varying ages, the older ones holding tight to the hands of the younger, but all left speechless by the grandeur of their surroundings.

Mrs. Tucker performed the introductions and was impressed by Elizabeth’s ease in greeting each child and making them feel welcome. She did not even blink when Mary reached the end of the line and, taking a deep breath, introduced a cadaverously thin man with a bushy beard and a vacant expression. “And this, of course, is my husband, Mr. Avery Tucker.”

The missionary showed no sign of recognition and made no response when Mrs. Darcy greeted him.

“Well, come along then, all of you,” exclaimed their hostess without missing a beat. “Let’s go up to my sitting room where you can all have a bit to eat and drink while Mrs. Wilkins sees to your rooms. How does that sound?”

“I fear that we have just come off the ship, Lizzy; none of us have bathed in weeks,” murmured Mary apologetically.

Elizabeth nodded in understanding. “Mrs. Wilkins?”

That good woman ran a considering eye over the lot. “I’d suggest we take them down to the laundry room for a good scrubbing right off. That tub is as big as any and it’s right by the kitchens, so they’ll not get chilled and there’ll be plenty of hot water.”

Mrs. Darcy agreed, but added, “That will do very well for the children, but have the tub in the blue suite filled for Mrs. Tucker. And let us round up some clean clothes for everyone to wear until their own have been washed or we can have some new ones made up.”

Mrs. Tucker watched with amusement as a small army of uniformed servants leapt to work and the children were herded off. As Elizabeth turned to lead her upstairs, Mary could almost feel the house humming with purpose. She took her husband by the hand and followed.

The sitting room that Lizzy brought them to was just what Mary would have imagined for her sister. The furniture was simple and comfortable, with full bookshelves and a basket of children’s blocks in the corner.

A tray had magically appeared before they arrived, and Mary sighed a little when the hot cup of tea with just a little sugar was placed in her hand. “Oh, this is heaven.”

Elizabeth smiled, but seemed to be thinking very hard about something. “Mary, Mr. Darcy will not be home for a few hours at least. Perhaps his valet might assist Mr. Tucker for now?”

Appreciating her sister’s tact, Mary agreed and the manservant was sent for. When he arrived, Mrs. Tucker set down her cup and turned to help her husband stand again. Leading him over to the valet, she explained, “Mr. Tucker suffered an illness some time ago and the fever addled his brain. Treat him as you would a child of four or five; he is not violent, but he will not recognize something that may hurt him—a hot stove, for example—so he must be watched at all times.”

Hawkins indicated his understanding and, after a few more questions, led the missionary away by the hand.

Mary watched them go before turning back to her sister. Observing Elizabeth’s curious look, she explained quietly, “It was almost two years ago, now. We were going to visit another missionary for Christmas, but we arrived at their village to find the couple and all the natives suffering from fever and chills; the English call it marsh fever, I believe. By the time we got there, several were already dead, including Reverend Burgess. We did not have much medicine with us—just a bit of fever tree bark—but we did what we could. I promised Mrs. Burgess that I would look after her children, just before she passed on as well.”

Elizabeth drew her sister over to a sofa and sat by her, holding her hand.

Mary smiled a little in thanks, but her eyes still looked into the distance. “Mr. Tucker developed a fever almost immediately.” She sighed a little. “We were blessed, I suppose. I spent the first fortnight helping those who were too sick to move; by the time I fell ill, there were several survivors well enough to nurse the rest of us.”

“Oh Mary—I cannot even imagine it! Thank the Lord you have been returned to us.”

The younger woman nodded grimly and continued her story; “Mr. Tucker was bedridden for some months, but even when the fever subsided, he remained as you see now.”

“And you, Mary?”

The other lady made a small movement with her hand. “I was in the middle of Africa with eight white children to look after. There was no time for me to be ill.” When her sister continued to study her as if a tree might suddenly sprout from her forehead, Mary smiled a little. “Truly, Lizzy. I was not as ill as most, nor for so long. There was an old healer from the next village who arrived just as I was starting to run a fever; her concoctions may have tasted dreadfull, but I believe they worked very well indeed.”

Although there were a dozen questions she wanted to ask, Elizabeth reminded herself that her sister had only just arrived. She rang the bell and commented only, “Well, I am very, very glad that you and your family are here. I want to hear all of your stories, but for now you must be wishing for a bath. You go ahead and I’ll go find some clothes for you to change into.”

“Thank you, Elizabeth,” murmured Mrs. Tucker. Just as she was about to follow a maid through the door, however, she turned back with an uncertain look. “Lizzy, please, nothing too fancy…”

Elizabeth laughed, happy to see a flash of the sister that she recalled from childhood. “Nothing fancy, Mary, I promise.”

The Darcys had planned to join a group of acquaintances at the theatre that night, but were glad to send their regrets so that they might spend the evening with their unexpected guests. Elizabeth began peppering her sister with questions even before the three of them had sat down to dinner, and Mary found herself telling stories that she had not thought of in years.

At some point, however, Mr. Darcy pointed out that his sister-in-law had barely touched her food. “Perhaps you might tell some of your own news, Elizabeth.”

When her sister appeared uncertain, Mrs. Tucker urged, “Please do, Lizzy. I only received seven letters from England the whole time I was away, and three of those were in such wretched condition by the time they reached me that I could barely make out who they were from, much less read any of the contents.”

Once Elizabeth was assured that Mrs. Tucker had received word of Mrs. Bennet’s demise, she began telling of her sisters and of Longbourn. “Our father spends about half his time in Meryton, when he is not visiting one or another of his daughters.”

Mary was intrigued to hear Mr. Darcy chuckle softly; the gentleman’s wife rolled her eyes at him and explained, “Papa rarely bothers to warn us that he is coming; we have learned to keep a room ready for him at all times and the staff knows to let him in, whether or not we are in residence.”

Even Mr. Darcy laughed aloud when Mrs. Tucker remarked that this seemed perfectly in keeping with the Mr. Bennet she recalled from childhood.

In truth, Mary was fascinated to see how much her sister’s husband had changed, and yet how much he had stayed the same. Darcy remained the tall, handsome aristocrat with the noble mien and formal manners that she recalled meeting long ago in Hertfordshire, but now he had permanent laugh lines creasing his face and the soft look that had warmed his eyes when he looked upon her sister appeared to have become a nearly constant trait.

“Papa always manages to remember when Master Collin is coming to visit, though,” offered Elizabeth after a moment. “Just wait until you see them together, Mary. Collin is at school now, of course, but he spends his time between terms at Longbourn and our father is very good with him. Mr. Higgins—the steward—continues to run the estate (I fear that our father has not lost his indifference toward the mundane), but since Mrs. Hill retired and Mrs. Higgins took over as housekeeper, Longbourn seems to run like a well-oiled clock.”

Mrs. Darcy looked to her husband and he nodded in agreement, adding, “Indeed. The profits have increased significantly, and that is without even considering the stable.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Ah yes—the horses! You will be amazed at all the activity when you visit. The bloodstock that Sir Richard Fitzwilliam brought back from the continent has proven to be exceptional. The Duke of Wellington himself purchased one of their yearling fillies last year.”

After agreeing that this was a remarkable feat, Mary inquired, “And do the Fitzwilliams have any more children?”

“No, only Collin,” answered Elizabeth, sharing a look with her husband. Not even to her sister would the Darcys confide the truth, that Richard’s injuries from the war would forever prevent him from siring any children of his own. “They do not seem to regret it, however. He and Charlotte split their time between London and Hertfordshire, when they are not abroad.”

At Mrs. Tucker’s curious look, Lizzy explained, “Richard continues to work at the War Office and is often attached to various diplomatic envoys.” Mrs. Darcy raised one eyebrow at her husband and added in a whisper, “From various hints that Lydia has let drop, I suspect they may be doing more espionage than diplomacy on these trips, though!” Fitzwilliam shook his head in amusement.

“Lydia!?!” exclaimed Mary. “What does she have to do with it?”

“Well, did you receive word when she married Richard’s assistant?”

When Mrs. Tucker mutely shook her head, Elizabeth explained, “You may remember him as Lieutenant Sanderson—he was an officer in the militia that was stationed at Meryton for a time during the year Jane and I married?”

When the other woman nodded slowly, having a vague recollection of the gentleman, Mrs. Darcy added, “Well, apparently he has an exceptional capacity for languages; Richard recognized how useful such a talent could be and arranged his transfer.”

“And Lydia?”

“Ah. I will be interested to hear your opinion when you next meet our youngest sister. She has changed, and yet she is very much as she ever was. Just as lively and full of energy, but she is able to control it… channel it into more appropriate behavior.”

“But how did she come to marry Lieutenant Sanderson?”

“Well, once she finished three years at school, Lydia returned to Longbourn.” Elizabeth’s tone became solemn. “That was the year Mama passed away and Kitty married Mr. Wright; I fear Longbourn felt very dull to Lydia. I do not mean to say that she did not grieve for her mother, for she did… indeed, I think she may have felt the loss more than any of us. It is just that she and Papa have very little in common, and I suppose that she was accustomed to always having other young ladies around her.” Elizabeth sighed, recalling the many unhappy letters she had received from her youngest sister during that time.

“We asked Lydia to remain at Longbourn for her mourning because we worried about Papa being there alone; the Fitzwilliams visited as often as they could, but it was not the same as having someone else living under the same roof. They came to spend several months at Pemberley… or perhaps I should say that Lydia stayed with us while our father came to visit the library and Sir James.”

Fitzwilliam chuckled a little but Mary only looked confused.

With a smile, Elizabeth explained, “Mr. Darcy’s uncle, Sir James Darcy. He was a high court judge until he retired some years ago, and now he lives in the dower house at Pemberley. He is a very educated gentleman and is nearly finished with a monograph on the birds of England.” She laughed a little, thinking about how the acquaintance had helped draw her father out of his melancholy. “In fact, it was Sir James who encouraged Papa to organize his own essays on the Greek philosophers into a manuscript.”

At Mary’s raised eyebrows, Mrs. Darcy nodded with a smile. “Indeed, our father has devoted himself to the project with an enthusiasm that I would never have predicted. Papa even went back to consult some of his colleagues at the university several times; he says that the book is to be published within the year.”

“Astonishing,” said Mrs. Tucker with no little wonder in her voice.

“Indeed. But you asked about Lydia,” said Elizabeth, returning to her original point. “She visited us at Pemberley and then stayed with the Bingleys at Holloway for a time, but I suppose that neither Jane nor I maintain a particularly active social calendar when we are in the country.”

Mrs. Darcy winked at her husband and the gentleman rolled his eyes good-naturedly in response. The Darcys generally visited London twice a year for part of the Seasons, but in general they were perfectly content to spend the majority of their time in Derbyshire; they continued the traditions of a fox hunt and harvest ball in the autumn and a large gathering of family and close friends at Christmas, but beyond that, they remained largely content with their small circle of intimates.

Turning back to her sister, Elizabeth resumed, “Apparently Mr. Sanderson had developed warm feelings for our sister while he was in Meryton with the militia and never forgot her. When he became Sir Richard’s assistant, he and Lydia saw a great deal more of one another and formed an attachment very rapidly. They married from Longbourn on Lydia’s eighteenth birthday and now spend most of their time in London, when they are not abroad with the Fitzwilliams.”

“Children?”

“No, but they are so busy that I do not believe either regrets it. Right now they are in Russia—Saint Petersburg—and when they get back, you will understand; Lydia will have a dozen stories about the parties they attended and the noblemen and diplomats she danced with, and Mr. Sanderson will sit there smiling like a sphinx. Truly, Mary—I genuinely believe that they are working as spies for the government.”

“Elizabeth,” murmured Mr. Darcy warningly.

Mrs. Tucker studied them both and decided that her host’s genuinely serious tone told her a great deal about the potential truth of the matter. She chose to turn the subject. “And how are Jane and Catherine?”

After throwing a final look of amusement toward her husband, Elizabeth answered, “Well, Kitty and her Mr. Wright spend most of their time at his family’s estate in Essex. They have three children—two girls and a boy—and seem to be perfectly content tending to their bat willows and entertaining the four and twenty families in their neighborhood. Mr. Wright’s father suffers from gout, but he and Mrs. Wright get along very well with Kitty, and I believe that they enjoy having their grandchildren growing up around them.”

Noticing that they had all finished their meals, Mrs. Darcy suggested that the trio adjourn to the sitting room for tea and cakes. While she was serving, Mr. Darcy told Mary a little about the Gardiners. “I am sponsoring Jonathan at his levee next week, after which we will host a dinner here and then accompany him to a ball at St. James. He has grown into an exceptional young man; I expect that he will do very well.”

“By which my husband means that our young cousin has been schooled in the dignified air and forbidding countenance that Fitzwilliam deems necessary for the new Master of Rosings Park to survive in the first circles of Society,” said Elizabeth impertinently.

“By which I mean that he is likely to be accepted into whatever circles he chooses to frequent, due to his intelligence and good manners, not simply the size of his bank account and estate,” retorted the gentleman firmly, though it was clear that he knew he was being teased.

Elizabeth’s voice softened and her pride in her husband was perfectly obvious. “Yes, dear.”

After a few moments, Mary observed, “You have not said much about Jane and Mr. Bingley. Are they well?”

“Oh yes,” responded Lizzy, a little too quickly. “They have eight children and I just received a letter from Jane—she is increasing again.”

Mrs. Tucker watched the Darcys exchange a worried look and easily understood their concern. “And they have only been married for twelve years? Or is it thirteen? How is her health?”

“Not quite twelve,” agreed Elizabeth somberly. “Jane says that she is perfectly well, but when has she ever been one to complain? All I know is that she has seemed so very tired these last few years. Of course, they have a wet nurse and a governess, but… well, you know the risks as well as I.” Seeing her husband’s expression become increasingly grim, Mrs. Darcy changed the subject. “But Mary, you have told us very little about your family.”

The other woman sipped her tea and gathered her thoughts for a moment before answering. “Matthew is my eldest—he was born while we were still in the Cape Colony—he is my strength, though he is not quite ten.”

“He is well-named, then,” commented Mr. Darcy.

Mary smiled in agreement before continuing; “My younger son is six—Jeremiah. He is a good boy—very quiet, but not quite as serious as his brother.”

“And the others?”

Mrs. Tucker bowed her head for a moment, saying a prayer for the dead. “The others are orphans. Fred and Johnny have family near Basingstoke whom I hope to discover. The other four have no one but me; their mother died in my arms and I promised her that I would raise them as my own.”

Elizabeth had tears in her eyes when she reached to squeeze her sister’s hand, and Mr. Darcy offered gruffly, “We will be glad to help in whatever way we can, Mrs. Tucker.”

Mary nodded her gratitude, as her throat was too tight to form any words. Fortunately, a knock at the door saved her from having to speak.

The maid who had been put in charge of the Tucker children appeared, looking slightly abashed for intruding upon the master and mistress while they were entertaining a guest. “Yes Alice?” asked Mrs. Darcy gently. “Is anything wrong?”

“No ma’am. The children are all washed and fed and ready for bed; we set up cots for them in the guest nursery, just as you said. They’ve all been good as gold, nary a complaint, but they’re feeling a mite out of place, if you catch my meaning.”

Elizabeth understood instantly. “And seeing their Mama would help them settle before the candles are put out; of course.” She turned to Mary. “Shall we go up to see them together?

Mrs. Tucker agreed instantly and stood. Though she turned away slightly, she could not suppress the yawn that threatened to split her face at the thought of a bed that did not move with the rocking boat.

“Oh Mary—you are exhausted and here I am keeping you from your rest. Please forgive me.” Elizabeth took her sister’s arm and, once Mr. Darcy had bid their guest good night, the pair followed the maid upstairs.

The house seemed like an endless maze of hallways and doors to Mrs. Tucker; she was relieved when her hostess pointed out that Mary’s bedchamber was separated from the children by only a sitting room. “During the first few months that we lived here, I was convinced that the rooms rearranged themselves while we were sleeping, or at the very least, that someone was moving the paintings around so that I could not rely on them as landmarks.

“Well, here we are. Fourth floor—just come up the front staircase until you see this portrait of the young lady with the red sleeves and the black hat, and then turn left.” Elizabeth paused for an instant; “I have always thought that she has a very satirical eye—I would have liked to have met her, I believe.”

With that one brief, quirky comment, Mary finally relaxed and allowed herself to feel truly safe for the first time in years, sheltered as she was in the bosom of her family. She turned and hugged her sister tightly. “Oh Lizzy—how I have missed you!”

The Tuckers remained at Derwent House for two weeks before traveling north with the Darcys. Though she did not attend any of the public festivities associated with her cousin’s presentation at court, Mary was very glad to see the Gardiners again and enjoyed a long chat with her aunt about how the realities of missionary work had been nothing like what she expected. “I feel closer to God, but less concerned with the Church and its strictures, if that makes any sense,” admitted Mrs. Tucker.

When Mrs. Gardiner asked her to explain, Mary was silent for a moment. “One of the most spiritual people I have ever met was an old Zulu woman who had never heard of Jesus Christ or Jehovah… she had other names for her gods, but her faith was so strong that one could feel the power in her. We talked a great deal while I was recovering from the fever, and I came to understand that it matters little what name we call Him by, or what myths we use to explain His origin or existence. It is those most fundamental tenets by which we are taught to live our lives—the virtues we aspire to and the vices we fight against—that are most critical. When we compared notes, the similarities were too great for it to be a coincidence; I could only conclude that there is a higher power, but that he cares little about what we call him or the semantics of our prayers… what matters is how we honor our faith by living an honorable and moral life.”

Madeleine squeezed her niece’s hand and said, “That is beautiful, Mary. I hope that, one day, you will write down these thoughts and share them.”

Mrs. Tucker actually laughed aloud at that. “I may write them down, I suppose, but I dare not distribute them unless I wish to be excommunicated at best, or perhaps tried for treason at worst!”

Mrs. Gardiner was forced to admit that some in the Anglican Church would probably object to such ideas as heresy. “Well, perhaps if you merely reported the conversation as a small section within a broader account of your travels. Truly, Mary—I have heard only a few of your stories, but I believe many would find them fascinating.”

Mrs. Tucker agreed to consider the prospect more out of politeness than any ambition, but within a few months she found herself jotting down various anecdotes that recalled her experiences, and it was not many years later that she asked the Gardiners and Darcys to read a manuscript. The subsequent publication proved so popular among the general public (the vast majority of whom were admittedly more interested in hearing tales from Africa than considering divinical philosophy) that the Tucker children (born and adopted) each inherited a far more significant portion than one might have expected, given their origins.

Although visiting with the Gardiners was always enjoyable, the Darcys and Tuckers were glad when they could finally leave London behind. After delivering the two Burgess lads to an aunt and uncle (a heretofore childless couple whose joy upon receiving the boys was diminished only by the news of their parents’ demise), the carriages headed into Hertfordshire.

They broke their journey at Longbourn for a week, and although Mrs. Tucker was glad to see Mr. Bennet and to visit her mother’s grave, the residents of Meryton (most of whom had never ventured more than fifty miles from the place where they had been born) did not know quite what to make of her. Mary found Mrs. Phillips particularly difficult to endure, for not only did her aunt have looks and mannerisms reminiscent of the late Mrs. Bennet, but she also felt it necessary to take her sister’s place in advising Mary on how to be a proper mother and wife.

The younger woman had sat placidly, listening to her aunt’s well-meant but ignorant counsel, right up until Mrs. Phillips saw fit to express her opinion on Mr. Tucker. “You would be better off if he had died from that fever, for what use will such a husband be? Why, it will be like having a child for whom you are doomed to care for the rest of his life! At least if he were dead, you could re-marry, and I’m sure that with your sisters’ connections… Mary? Where are you going, Mary?”

Although Mrs. Tucker was tempted to tell her aunt precisely what she thought about that woman’s less than Christian attitudes, Mary merely excused herself to take the air in the garden, where she walked until her temper had subsided to a manageable level.

As a result of several such conversations, Mrs. Tucker did not mourn their departure from Meryton overmuch. In truth, she found herself quite cheerful upon resuming her place in the carriage, despite the challenges that could be expected from restricting so many active children to the confines of a coach for several long days of travel. Though she had only visited Derbyshire once (and then as Miss Bennet), Mary found herself increasingly anxious to arrive, if for no other reason than to look upon a place that she might call home.

Mr. Owen Tucker (vicar of the Pemberley chapel) was very glad to see his twin again, and likewise welcomed his sister-in-law and the children with open arms. As he himself had no real wish to marry, it was the work of an instant to decide that he and his brother’s family would move into the parsonage (a domicile which the vicar had previously avoided, deeming it much too large for a bachelor). The house was large enough to accommodate all the children, and Mr. Owen Tucker was very glad to turn over the housekeeping to his brother’s wife.

Though barely a mile away, the parsonage was separated from Pemberley House by a small wood lot, lending it a feeling of privacy. Mary was glad to see that the little cottage had a garden that, though somewhat overgrown, was easily put to rights, as well as a shed large enough for a cow, some poultry, and perhaps even some pigs and a horse or two. The Tucker family was quickly settled into their comfortable new abode and it was not long before it felt as if they had always lived there.

Mrs. Darcy was pleased to have a sister settled so nearby, and the children from the two families rarely spent a day out of one another’s company, whether in the school room or at play.

Mr. Darcy in particular was glad to see how close the children became, for it occurred to him that these boys and girls born in Africa were, in general, a self-sufficient, happy lot, accustomed to making do with very little. They did not whine or throw tantrums demanding that the newest, most expensive toy be purchased for them, but treated each gift as a treasure; indeed, it often seemed to Fitzwilliam that the youngsters were quite content to entertain themselves with games requiring nothing more than sticks, stones, and their imagination.

Mr. Darcy’s heir, in particular, spent many hours listening to his cousins’ stories and, in doing so, gained an excellent sense of how those born under very different circumstances from his own might live out their lives. Indeed, in later years, no one would ever accuse Mr. Bennet Darcy, Master of Pemberley, of having any improper pride.

The gentleman’s two younger brothers developed an early fascination with travel in general and steam locomotives in particular, as a result of their cousins’ stories, and they dreamt of a time when any Englishman might travel from London to Edinburgh in a day. By the time they graduated university, however, the environmental destruction as well as the disturbing frequency of fatal rail accidents resulting from an industry with little consideration for anything but profit left the two young men greatly disillusioned.

Much to their Uncle Matlock’s joy and their father’s consternation, Thomas and Henry Darcy announced their determination to enter politics; they were elected to the Commons and proceeded to campaign for greater regulation of the railroad industry, as well as the preservation of natural areas for future generations.

Like their brothers, the Darcys’ two daughters exhibited a decided tendency to forge their own path. Much to her mother’s amusement, Miss Anne Darcy was known to spend endless hours practicing her instruments; in later years, several of her original compositions would even receive some significant acclaim. Miss Darcy’s younger sister would occasionally tease her sibling that Anne had taken all the musical talent in the family for herself and left none for her sister, for indeed, Miss Edna had neither much aptitude nor much inclination to practice. Thus, while Miss Anne Darcy spent a great deal of time with her Aunt Georgiana and Uncle Jonah Somerset (eventually becoming so dear to that childless couple as to be made heiress to all their properties), Miss Edna Darcy became well known in Society for her intelligence and wit, much as her mother had done years before.

Certainly some in Society never forgot Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy’s humble origins and continued to look upon the couple with a suspicious eye, hoping to see some regret on the side of the gentleman or vulgarity from the lady. Unfortunately for them, the Darcys grew only more content as the years passed, and indeed, neither Fitzwilliam nor Elizabeth ever found anything wanting in their marriage. Those who sought an introduction, hoping to hoodwink or intimidate a naïve country girl, soon discovered that, not only did Mrs. Darcy have several powerful connections in the highest circles (not to mention a protective husband who was perfectly willing to use his power against any who threatened his wife), but the lady herself had such a quick wit that her critics often found themselves withdrawing from an encounter with the feeling that they were being laughed at, though none could ever point to anything Mrs. Darcy had said as uncivil.

Even when Mr. and Mrs. Darcy had grown old and grey and retired to the dower house at Pemberley to live out their twilight years, their children and grandchildren often observed the pair walking in the park together, laughing and teasing like a couple newly courting. Certainly they had their share of arguments and misunderstandings, but their quarrels rarely lasted long enough for the sun to set and rise again, for there was one point upon which Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam could always agree: pride and prejudice made poor bedfellows indeed.

THE END!!!
SubjectAuthorPosted

Tapestry of Lives, Chapter 66

Jean M.June 19, 2015 07:36PM

Re: Tapestry of Lives, Chapter 66

June C.October 20, 2015 11:41PM

Forgot to ask ...

June C.October 21, 2015 01:25PM

Re: Tapestry of Lives, Chapter 66

gioJune 24, 2015 04:42PM

Byeayutiful story!

TashaJune 23, 2015 07:04PM

Re: Tapestry of Lives, Chapter 66

TeresaCJune 23, 2015 10:19AM

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

LisetteJune 21, 2015 08:20PM

Re: Thank you, thank you, thank you!

NickiJune 25, 2015 01:07PM

Re: Tapestry of Lives, Chapter 66

InesJune 21, 2015 01:45PM

Re: Tapestry of Lives, Chapter 66

Melissa AJune 21, 2015 02:26AM

Thank you for this wonderful story (nfm)

JoAnneMJune 20, 2015 07:06PM

Re: Tapestry of Lives, Chapter 66

Kim W.June 20, 2015 12:54PM

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PatriciaNJuly 16, 2015 02:35PM

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Lucy J.June 20, 2015 07:09AM

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Tessa LJune 20, 2015 06:53AM

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Linnea EileenJune 20, 2015 06:44AM

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Deb O.June 20, 2015 05:48AM

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Mari M.June 20, 2015 01:37AM

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Roxey WJune 20, 2015 01:19AM

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NicoletteJune 19, 2015 11:48PM

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terrycgJune 19, 2015 11:38PM

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