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Mr. Darcy’s P&P POV (the abridged version) – Part 11

July 03, 2015 01:32PM
DNA: Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Americans! RA

Author’s note: All chapters below correspond to the chapters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

***

Chapter 48 –

As it turned out, finding Wickham was ridiculously easy. A few words and a few coins to his former confederate, Mrs. Younge, were all that were required to determine his address. The boarding house was not as bad as it could have been, but it was no place for a gentleman’s daughter.

Unfortunately, Miss Lydia proved as stubborn and foolish as she was lovely. She utterly refused to leave her lover. She was sure they were to be married, and it did not particularly matter when. She went on and on about her wedding, how many of her sisters would stand with her, and how jealous all would be when she could sign her name “Mrs. Wickham.”

As for Useless, he was truly in desperate straits. What he owed to barmen and shopkeepers were as nothing compared to his gambling debts and other matters of honor among his comrades in the militia. He saw no other recourse but to flee, even though desertion in time of war was a capital offence—we were fighting Napoleon, after all.

His plans were, as usual, half-thought out. He was to escape to the Continent where, as an English gentleman of easy manners and fine looks, he was sure to secure his future with a lady of large dowry. I sighed. Only an idiot who had never gone on a tour could believe such nonsense.

It seemed he had no intention of running away with Miss Lydia. The baggage had invited herself along, and Wick-head, typically thinking with the wrong head, offered no discouragement.

I could see why he was so weak. Miss Lydia was just the way he liked his ladies: young, well-formed for their age, immature, and easily led. Like Georgiana, I recalled sadly. Wickham never stood a chance with a lady of sense and maturity.

Which gave me some comfort. Elizabeth might have been taken in by his words, but she did not, could not, care for him.

Miss Lydia was well and permanently ruined, and (according to Pond Scum) perfectly happy about it. When I informed him he should then marry her, he laughed.

“Darcy, I admit she’s a jolly and generous girl, and pleasant to look at to boot—there’s no doubt about that—but she has nothing! How does that help me?”

“Wickham!” cried I. “You claim to be a gentleman, yet you refuse to do the gentlemanly thing!”

“Certainly! We’ll just pop over to St. —— and have the priest make everything nice and proper,” he sneered. “And when the militia drags me off to the guardhouse, what good does that do me—or her?”

She would be your widow. That should give her some measure of respectability, I thought at the time. “You cannot abandon her.”

To my surprise, he actually colored. “What can I do? She has no dowry, does she?”

Money. It always comes down to money. “Grant me a couple of days, and we will see.” My former friend brightened, and I added, “But you must keep Miss Lydia safe. Allow her to come to harm, and I will inform the army of your whereabouts. Understand?”

My anger gave my threat weight. Straw For Brains blanched. “Never fear, Darcy. I will protect her with my life!”

“Funny you should say that, Wickham,” I growled as I rose to leave. “Your life indeed depends upon her safety.”

***

Chapter 49 –

It is passing strange that the most difficult part of rescuing Miss Lydia was speaking to her relations. I did not want to do it. I wanted no thanks or gratitude for doing my duty, for patching up what never should have happened had I been open about my history with Wickham. But there was nothing for it. Elizabeth’s relations had to be told. I was thankful I had to bargain with Mr. Gardiner and not Mr. Bennet, though. Elizabeth must never know of my involvement.

My secret might be safe, but I paid a heavy price for it! Not the money I settled on Useless and his bride. I can surely afford it. No—the interview with Mr. Gardiner was one I should never like to experience again.

I first stopped by Gracechurch Street and learned that Mr. Gardiner was unavailable, as he was meeting with Mr. Bennet, who was leaving in the morning. I left straightaway, not leaving my card, thanking my lucky stars. I did not think Mr. Bennet was in any mood to be reasoned with, and I did not trust him not to tell his whole family about my participation.

The next day I returned. Mr. Gardiner was surprised to see me—you would think I had never traveled through Cheapside before. His astonishment was doubled when he learned that I not only knew of his family’s troubles, but had located his nonsensical niece and her dubious lover. He had despaired of finding them and was overjoyed at my success. Mr. Gardiner threatened to shake my hand off.

“This is wonderful!” said Mr. Gardiner. “My brother left for Longbourn only this morning. I shall send an express straight away, begging his immediate return. Where is Lydia?”

I told him that she was with Pond Scum in a disreputable part of London, and she was not willing to leave him. As a precaution, I had left men watching the establishment. “Not that it is truly necessary,” I assured him. “Wickham is awaiting my return; he has nowhere to go. I must regretfully inform you marriage is the only proper option, and Miss Lydia’s dowry is … insufficient to be an inducement.”

Mr. Gardiner darkened. “So the scoundrel will have to be bribed, eh? Well, so be it. Give me the direction, and I shall see to it.”

“Do not concern yourself over that.”

“What do you mean? You just said arrangements must be made.”

I said as evenly as possible, “I will see to this matter.”

“Are you saying you will pay the money for the marriage? What are you about, sir?” demanded Mr. Gardiner incredulously.

I had hoped to avoid this explanation. “Mr. Gardiner, there are reasons I feel I must inject myself into this, your family’s matter. I know Mr. Wickham very well—far more that I would like. I knew of his dishonorable habits and behaviors, and this is not the first time I had to make right what he has done. He has injured my family and friends before. I am reserved by nature and feel it beneath me to share such information.

“That is why when I was in Hertfordshire, I failed to let the residents, including the Bennets, know what sort of man Mr. Wickham is. It was very wrong of me. Had I done so, Mr. Bennet would never have allowed his family to cultivate any sort of acquaintance with Wickham. There would have been no need for an elopement. My false pride is the root cause of this calamity, and I must make amends.”

Mr. Gardiner considered my confession for a moment. “Mr. Darcy, I think you take too much upon yourself. This is not your doing.”

“I think it is. The fault is mine, and so must the remedy be. I shall not be moved.”

“You shall,” vowed Mr. Gardiner. “This is my family, not yours, and you will give way!”

For the better part of an hour we talked and argued, firmly and reasonably, as gentlemen do. I was forced to give details about The Shiftless One’s past, but I never spoke of Ramsgate. Mr. Gardiner proved to be as obstinate as I; I think the better of him for it. In the end, we had made no progress except to agree to meet again the next day after church.

“I must meet with Wickham later today in any case,” I said as I rose to leave. “I hope to have final details for you tomorrow.”

“Then I will know the exact cost,” said Gardiner.

“Which shall be nothing,” I responded with a slight smile.

“By thunder, Darcy, you are hardheaded!” he cried as he extended his hand. By common agreement we had moved on to a more familiar manner of speaking to one another.

“You are as well, Gardiner. I can see why you are successful.”

“Will you not stay for dinner?”

My smile faded. “Thank you, no. My business with him cannot wait.”

***

On Sunday, Mrs. Gardiner greeted me as I entered, her knowing look indicating that her husband had shared what had happened the previous day. We three enjoyed a bit of tea before Gardiner and I retired to his study.

For an hour we again battled—politely, respectfully, but it was a battle, nonetheless. The honors were divided, and all we could agree to was to meet again on Monday. As I took my leave, I made a request of both of them.

“I must ask, most firmly, that you do not reveal to Mr. Bennet my involvement in this matter.” At their incredulous looks, I added, “I know this is extraordinary, but I must insist. Look at it as an apology for my bad behavior in Hertfordshire.”

They looked at one another and agreed, reluctantly.

***

On Monday, Mrs. Gardiner was a witness to the negotiations. Perhaps Gardiner thought her presence might help his cause; it did not. In the end, he would not capitulate until I told them of what that reprobate had attempted with Georgiana. Mrs. Gardiner gasped while Gardiner held his head in his hands.

“And my niece is to marry such a man,” he said.

“I am sorry.” I knew of nothing else to say.

Gardiner sighed, looked up and said slowly, “You win. It shall be as you request. We shall pay Wickham’s debts in Meryton, and my brother shall guarantee one hundred pounds a year for Lydia, as well as her share of her mother’s dowry when the time comes. As for your part—”

“I shall see to his debts in London and Brighton, including what is owed to his fellow officers. My cousin the colonel has learned of a lieutenant’s vacancy in a regiment in Newcastle. I shall purchase that and provide a little more to augment their income.” I relaxed for the first time in three days. “There is no victory here, Gardiner, save that the Bennets’ honor remains intact.”

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner shared an unreadable look before he rose and extended his hand. “You know, Darcy, I would have given way to no one but you.”

A suspicion was planted in me as I shook his hand, one that grew when Mrs. Gardiner kissed my cheek. “Now that all this disagreeable business is done, you shall stay for dinner,” she said sweetly and firmly, “I insist this time!”

I think they suspect my admiration for Elizabeth, not that it matters. She is utterly lost to me.

“Nothing would give me greater pleasure,” I tell her.

She left us to work out the details of the settlement.

***

Chapter 50-51 –

I sit alone in my study, contemplating the wreckage of my life.

Oh, everything with Useless and his intended went smoothly. It was as fine a wedding as could be expected for an elopement-turned-proper marriage between a foolish bride and a bribed seducer. As least some good came out of it—my friendship with the Gardiners, for one, and the Bennets are still a respectable family.

Elizabeth can marry—someone else. She will never forgive me foisting Straw For Brains on her sister. Meanwhile, I must find a way to live without her. Damn it!

I am roused from my unhappy ruminations by the butler. “A letter for you, sir.”

It is from Bingley. It takes no little time to translate his blotches. He is returning to London and wants my opinion about Netherfield.

Netherfield. That is how this whole mess started. How can I go there and see Elizabeth again?

Drat it, man. How can you not go?

***

To be continued…



Jack Caldwell
Ramblings of a Cajun in Exile
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Mr. Darcy’s P&P POV (the abridged version) – Part 11

Jack C.July 03, 2015 01:32PM

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Re: Mr. Darcy’s P&P POV (the abridged version) – Part 11

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Re: Mr. Darcy’s P&P POV (the abridged version) – Part 11

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