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For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

July 09, 2015 11:39AM
Chapter 1

May - London, 1820

“Papa, might we stop at Gunter’s for an ice?”

Darcy looked down at his daughter – so much like her mother in looks and tastes – smiled and teased her in return, “You would deprive me of the pleasure of visiting the bookstore?”

If she had been older, he doubted not that a roll of her eyes would have greeted his sally; however, being but five, the delay in having her wishes granted usually only produced a pout. She had yet to learn the enjoyment of reading by herself although she had yet to lose the habit, gained early in her life, of climbing into his lap with a book for him to read to her. It was a pleasure they both enjoyed and she was not loathe to avail herself of his lap any time she found him sitting. He chuckled at the memory of his Aunt Matlock’s countenance when Ann-Marie had invaded his library one afternoon while his aunt was visiting. Bearing a large book, Ann-Marie had commanded his lap and his attention to have a story read. His aunt had been quite overset to have him comply with his daughter’s demand. That her conversation had to be delayed some quarter hour until the story was finished bothered neither himself nor Ann-Marie. His aunt on the other hand…

“I must stop at Anderson’s for a few minutes. He has finally received several volumes that I ordered several months past.” He smiled down at her, “We shall also look for some story books for you while we are there. I promise.”

A pair of twinkling brown eyes looked up at him. “And you can read it to me when we get home.”

It was not a request. His eyebrows rose.

“Will you read it to me when we get home, pleeeese?” she amended.

The interrogative lift of her eyebrow reminded him of his wife once more; however, it no longer led to the twinge of loss or at least the pain of that loss had been muted.

He nodded his head. His daughter skipped a couple of steps in anticipation.

“It will be but a few scant minutes.” He assured her. “The stop, that is. As for reading to you, I shall do so before you go to bed.”

She nodded, skipped a few steps and looked up at him once more. “Shall you tell me a story? About when you were a little boy?”

He assumed a thoughtful air, added a touch of hesitation to his voice and aid, “Well…maybe…”

“Pleeeze….about when you played at Pembly…Pemberley?”

He had no intention of refusing her. “Very well, but only one story after I read to you and then you must go to bed.”

She smiled and nodded once more.

“Will we visit the park tomorrow, Papa?”

He was saved from answering immediately by the need to open the door to the bookstore for his daughter. She, not recognizing that he would not wish to answer in such a public location, had stopped to await his response. After obtaining his agreement, she allowed him to lead her to browse amongst the displays adjoining the entranceway where several books for children were on display. After spending a quarter hour as they leafed through those which he thought might interest her, a selection of two books were agreed upon. Reposing their care to her arms, Darcy strolled towards the counter where Mr. Anderson, who had noticed his appearance, was bringing out a package from under the counter. A few minutes later, his new acquisitions reviewed and paid for, he observed his daughter already immersed in one of her acquisitions.

He stepped to her side and asked, “Is it a good story?”

He had startled her and she jumped slightly which caused him to chuckle, “It must be a good book, to capture your interest so thoroughly and quickly.”

Embarrassed she laughed and pointed to a picture in the book, “Look, she looks like Aunt Georgie!”

“So she does.” The girl in the picture was dressed in an elaborate ‘princess’ gown and had long blonde hair. She brought the page closer to her face before stating emphatically, “Aunt Georgie is much prettier!”

“I agree. Much, much prettier.”

“I wish I had hair like Aunt Georgie.”

“You have your mother’s hair, Ann-Marie and that is, I assure you, quite beautiful and suits you perfectly.”

Even now, two years later, mention of her mother could cause a fleeting feeling of sorrow. Ann-Marie had only scant memories of her mother and those memories were fading with time. He felt the need to lift his own mood immediately. “Shall we remove ourselves to Gunter’s, then? It is just down the street.”

Her response was quick and the prospect was viewed with anticipation. It took some few minutes longer than expected for them to walk the several blocks to Gunter’s. Bond Street was not unusually busy but their progress was not unimpeded. The Darcys were not frequent visitors to London, preferring to spend much of the year at their country estate – Pemberley – but his circle of acquaintances was too wide to allow them to escape unnoticed in such a public venue. The attention was perhaps more annoying to him than to his daughter who seemed to view acquaintances with ill-disguised interest. His reserve was a trait that she had not inherited and neither of them found cause to regret its absence.

Finally, he could usher her into Gunter’s. Their release by that last acquaintance had produced a relieved sigh by him and a puzzled look from his daughter. Their footman, who had accompanied them silently throughout their excursion, took his usual position just outside the door of Gunter’s.

“Papa, why did those ladies wish you to call on them? And why were you frowning at them?”

“I was not frowning, Ann-Marie. I was trying to……ah, discourage their interest.”

“What interest, Papa? I do not understand.”

“And I hope you do not for many years, Ann-Marie. Many years!”

She made no answer but any interest she might have harboured in pursuing the question disappeared as he seated her at an empty table. Darcy took the opposing seat which, as usual, gave him a view of the entire room. He could not answer for this preference but he always felt uncomfortable and exposed unless his back was to a wall and he could see all before him. His attention, in this instance, was captured by the appearance of a waiter to take their order which was quickly and easily done.

Ann-Marie was almost bouncing in her seat waiting for hers to arrive and, when it did, had no thought other than to consume her treat as expeditiously as possible. Fortunately she was a child who preferred to prolong the enjoyment by eating slowly. His attention, now that his daughter was diverted, was to scan his surroundings and take the measure of those who were also enjoying Gunter’s delicacies. His sharp intake of breath which he could not control drew his daughter’s attention. Darcy knew not what his countenance betrayed but, if it mirrored his thoughts, his perturbation must be obvious to everyone. He was as if paralyzed. His daughter’s lips moved. He was sure she had spoken but he heard nothing. She grasped his arm and the alarm in her voice as she exclaimed, “Papa!” returned him to himself.

“Papa, what is wrong?”

He could hardly form the words, “Nothing…..Nothing is wrong!”

She shook her head in denial and looked towards where his eyes remained fixed. A woman accompanied by a young boy of about five years – Ann-Marie could only guess at his age but he looked of an age with herself - had entered the shop and taken a table almost adjoining their own. She was speaking to the boy as she placed a few parcels on a chair and seated herself. The ever-present waiter had barely given her time to sit before soliciting their orders. Her son – Ann-Marie thought he must be her son since the resemblance between them was marked – must have said something amusing because her laugh – low and pleasant – could be heard even several tables removed. She was an extremely attractive woman and seemed vaguely familiar.

”Do you know that lady, Papa?”

Her father’s answer was so soft as to be almost unheard. “Oh yes.”

He made as to rise from the table and the awkwardness of his movement disturbed his daughter and also attracted the attention of the woman on whom his attention was fixed. Her response was as startling to Ann-Marie as her father’s. The woman’s sharp gasp was audible, even from where Ann-Marie sat, and she grasped the table seemingly to steady herself. Her son, on the other hand, simply looked bewildered as Ann-Marie. Darcy marvelled that his mind had noted such a triviality.

Darcy had finally managed to control his reaction and, after a brief – very brief – pause, he had moved towards the woman. A few quick steps brought him to her side. His quick bow was acknowledged by a small inclination of her head. Darcy could read little from her countenance although he rather guessed that she was as disconcerted as he. Ann-Marie heard her father speak.

“Miss….Bennet…I am sorry, I know that is no longer your name and, to my regret, I have forgotten your husband’s name.”

“Mr. Darcy, I am…my husband’s name was Waring.”

Darcy was not sure what he wanted to do next but the need to speak with her once more was too strong to ignore. He had not missed her use of ‘was’ – her husband had died then although he had not learned of it till now. He noted that she was not wearing mourning clothes. “I am sorry to hear of your husband’s passing. I have suffered a similar loss. My own wife died two years ago.”

Elizabeth nodded, “My condolences, Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Collins informed me of her passing.”

“Will you and your son not join my daughter and me? We have just arrived ourselves and have only begun to eat. Your company would please me greatly.”

Elizabeth was not yet in full control of her thoughts. What could he mean by asking her to sit with him? She had not thought of him for years and had heard little of him since their parting at Hunsford some eight years ago. For some reason, her friend Charlotte Collins felt compelled to share with her those small pieces of information that had been imparted to her. Elizabeth’s delay in responding caused Darcy to step back and say, “Forgive me. I have intruded. Please accept my apologies.”

His movement to return to his table was halted by her words, “No! Please! I would...we would be delighted to join you and your daughter.”

Collecting her parcels they moved awkwardly to the table where Ann-Marie sat gazing at her father with a rather befuddled look. Today they had encountered several young women and toward none of them had he behaved as he was now doing. To them his manner, while polite, was hardly welcoming.

Darcy introduced his daughter, and Elizabeth, her son – David. Conversation was as awkward as could be expected between two people separated by eight years and an angry last parting. Darcy felt the need to find out more of her situation.

“Mrs. Waring, I perhaps have the advantage of you. I still visit my aunt at Rosings once a year. Mr. Collins remains my aunt’s rector, as you undoubtedly know. I am glad to hear that your father is still healthy.”

“Yes, he is; although this past winter was hard on him.”

“I was sorry to hear that your mother had passed on. Mrs. Collins mentioned it to me a years or two ago.” He gave a rueful shake of his head and continued, “I am sure that it is no surprise to you that I remember Mr. Collins being more distressed that your father lived although he made an effort to hide it.”

Elizabeth gave a sharp laugh that contained little mirth, “I am sure your observations are quite accurate, Mr. Darcy.”

“Well, I can...we can hope that his tenure at Hunsford lasts some years more. I cannot imagine such a man as Mr. Collins as master of an estate.”

“My cousin has married a sensible woman. I believe Longbourn will be in good hands. They have a son that I have not met but Charlotte seems to think well of him.”

“I met him last year. He appears to be sensible enough – a credit to Mrs. Collins, I am sure.”

Elizabeth felt all the discomfort of their situation but certain civilities must be made. “I wish to extend my condolences, Mr. Darcy. Charlotte informed me of your wife’s passing.” She made a quick glance at Ann Marie before continuing, “Once more, it seems, you have the charge of raising a young girl by yourself – nay, I forgot - you have a younger son as well.” She found she could not continue. She knew nothing of his sister’s situation. What little information she had received about Mr. Darcy had come from Charlotte and beyond his marriage, the birth of his children and the death of his wife, she knew little. She suspected that Charlotte had told him little more about her. His next words confirmed her supposition.

“Mrs. Collins was kind enough to inform me of your marriage. She spoke highly of your husband. I can only guess how much you must regret his passing.”

Elizabeth gazed fondly at her son, “He was an excellent man and his loss would have been greater except he left me with a fine son. I was very fortunate!” She looked at Ann Marie and smiled, “I believe you are as well. Charlotte has spoken fondly of you, Miss Darcy, in her letters. She was most impressed.”

Ann Marie could not help but return Mrs. Waring’s smile but before she could respond, young David Waring who had been sitting a little restlessly throughout the conversation could restrain himself no further.

“Mama, you promised we could visit the sweets shop!“

“David, you know better than to ask in such a fashion. A gentleman does not whine.”

"I am sorry, Mama.” David noticed Ann-Marie smirking and sent a glare at her which only increased the smirk he faced.

“Ann-Marie!” Darcy’s voice was sharp. He also had notice his daughter’s smirk and was happy to see it suddenly disappear at his sharp warning. Ann-Marie, ever quick to deflect her father’s displeasure, asked, “Will we not also stop at a sweet shop? Andrew might wish to have a treat also.”

Darcy shook his head, “We have discussed this already.” And noticing Elizabeth hesitate to ask a question, volunteered, “Andrew is my son. He is but two and home with his nurse.”

Ann Marie smiled at the sound of Mrs. Waring’s laughter. It was genuine and she had not heard its like since…since her mother died. That realization suddenly filled her eyes with tears. Fortunately, she thought, no one had noticed and busied herself with her treat until the desire to cry had passed.

David leaned towards his mother and whispered to her. She sent a disapproving look at him and said, “It is quite impolite to whisper when in company as we are now, David. If something cannot be said where all can hear it, then it should not be said at all.” She raised an eyebrow and waited for his response.

Darcy could see the boy was reluctant to repeat whatever he had said and he had opened his mouth to relieve him of the obligation where David finally blurted, “I was wondering when you met Mr. Darcy. I have never met him, have I?”

Darcy could see that his daughter was as interested in the answer as Elizabeth’s son and took upon himself the office of explaining some portion of their shared history.

“Mrs. Waring and I met before either of us was married. We last saw each other in Hunsford – which is in Kent - about eight years ago.”

“And you have not met since then, Papa?”

“”No, we have not. Providence did not place Mrs. Waring in my path till now.”

Elizabeth's eyebrow rose, “Providence, Mr. Darcy?”

“Providence, Mrs. Waring! Good fortune that she did so now, I believe.” His tone was very firm.

Elizabeth made no response but, conscious of his close scrutiny, made no effort to hide her interest at his words. She had mourned the manner of her refusal of his offer of marriage although she had never repented the decision itself. But she had come to realize, in the months immediately following his proposal, that he was a much better man than she had given him credit for – his letter, her visit to Pemberley and the recommendations of his housekeeper there, had accomplished that much. His manner today was such as to recommend him as well. That he viewed their meeting as fortuitous was to be savoured. Nevertheless, she was caught by surprise by his next words.

“I see that our children have finished their treats. We must both, I would assume, be about our business.” His pause was brief, lasting but a few moments, “I would…I wish to see you again, Mrs. Waring. Are you to be in Town much longer?”

“Yes, I plan to stay for another month before going to Longbourn to visit my father for a fortnight.”

“Might I inquire as to where you are living?”

“I am staying with my Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. They live on Gracechurch Street.” If there was a challenge in her tone, Darcy chose to ignore it. It mattered not to him where she was living or with whom she lived. As long as he could call on her, and that he must now determine.

“May I call on you there?”

Elizabeth’s hesitation was too brief to be noticed by any but the most careful observer; her smile held some warmth as she said, “I would be pleased to receive you, Mr. Darcy.” She paused and looked at him reflectively, “Quite pleased.”

The two children had listened to these exchanges with little interest. If they had been older they would have recognized that Mrs. Waring’s response had pleased him greatly. It would have been obvious from the warmth of his gaze and the small smile that curled his lips. Ann-Marie knew he was acting oddly but the reason for it was beyond her understanding. All too soon she had finished her and it was time to depart.

They all rose from the table and began to collect their individual parcels. Elizabeth agreed to receive his call the following afternoon and provided the address but declined the offer of his carriage to carry her and her son home. “My uncle’s carriage is waiting for us now to carry us to the sweet shop, Mr. Darcy. But I thank you for the offer.”

“Then I will take my leave until tomorrow.”

Their parting was all that was amiable although Darcy did not relinquish her company until she had entered her carriage and departed. He turned to find his daughter’s gaze fixed sternly upon him which he pretended not to see and scanned the street for sign of his own carriage. Fortunately for his composure, it had been waiting down the street and was already moving towards them. He was hardly of a mind to answer any questions raised by his daughter for he had too many of his own to ponder. At least, he thought, Ann-Marie would not be overly curious and such questions as she might have were more than likely to be forgotten before they arrived home.

And thus we may safely leave Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Waring for the nonce. While the temptation is strong to ignore all that happened in the past to bring them to their current state, it would be remiss of me to do so and leave such questions unaddressed, for surely they will arise as our hero and heroine – strange though it may be to call a man of five and thirty, a hero; and a woman of eight and twenty, a heroine; such they are and such they will be for the remainder of this tale – become more closely acquainted. I will endeavour, in the chapters that follow, to plot the course that each followed to arrive at this point and hope that the telling will both entertain and illuminate.

For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

PeterJuly 09, 2015 11:39AM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

ShannaGJuly 11, 2015 03:10AM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

MichaJuly 10, 2015 08:31AM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

terrycg_not_logged_inJuly 09, 2015 11:21PM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

Lucy J.July 09, 2015 06:34PM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

PeterJuly 09, 2015 06:47PM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

InesJuly 09, 2015 05:40PM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

PeterJuly 09, 2015 06:49PM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 1

LindaJuly 09, 2015 03:49PM


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