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For Want of a Nail - Chapter 3

July 16, 2015 01:12PM
Chapter 3


February – April, Longbourn, 1813

The winter had not been particularly severe. Spells of cold weather persisted with frequent days with a cold, bitter rain that occasionally produced snow and ice. Weather that, if there were places to go and people to see, would have rendered the activity almost impossible. As there were no places to go and people would not have received them if they had visited, the prospect was even more dismal as there could be no anticipation of an improvement. Elizabeth found the days even more burdensome with the absence of Jane whose turn it was to visit the Gardiners in town. The loss of companionship and conversation could not be made good by any other in the household. Her father remained secluded in his bookroom, her mother in her chambers and Kitty and Mary, despite their efforts, were poor substitutes. Yet she could not begrudge her sister the opportunity to be out in society. If her recent letters were an indication, her spirits had finally recovered from the disappointment that was Mr. Bingley. It was possible, Elizabeth conceded, that her sister’s improvement had begun before she left for town, but that she, Elizabeth, had been too much in her company to have been aware of it as familiarity ofttimes does with those whom we are closest.

It was the arrival of two letters, one from her sister and the other from her aunt that produced an almost immediate raising of spirits throughout the house – with one exception – as they contained news of some import. Jane had a suitor! A most worthy gentleman according to her aunt – although polite society will not afford him that distinction - by the name of James Simmons. He was the son of a business associate of Elizabeth’s uncle; and had taken charge of his family’s business. He was about thirty years of age, possessed of a very respectable income and, most importantly, was unmarried, or, as her mother was once heard to say, in want of a wife.

As Elizabeth opined, while she read the letter to her sisters, “If our aunt is to be trusted – and she has spoken of him much more than Jane attempted in her letter – Mr. Simmons is quite a good-looking man and possessed of most gentlemanly manners. Most important, she assures me, is that he appears quite smitten with our sister. But how could he not be?”

At this point her mother, hearing the happy exclamations of her daughters, had come down to learn the cause of the excitement. She was quickly apprised of the news and her effusions were all that could be expected until she learned that Mr. Simmons made his living from trade which fact caused a reversal in her opinion and sent her directly to her husband’s bookroom to persuade him to prevent the acquaintance by whatever means were at his disposal. As Mr. Bennet was not inclined to do so himself, nor to allow her to travel to town to accomplish that purpose, nor allow her to demand her daughter’s return, Mrs. Bennet returned to her chambers feeling very much put upon once more.

This bit of excitement had not deterred Elizabeth from continuing to describe the circumstances of Jane’s meeting with Mr. Simmons.

“Apparently he encountered them at the theatre over a week ago and asked to call on them the very next day. Aunt says she spoke to Jane after that call, as Jane, in her usual wont, was extremely circumspect in her behaviour – perhaps to the point of not indicating any interest in Mr. Simmons’ company. Fortunately, our aunt invited him to dine the following evening – which he was pleased to accept. Aunt Gardiner writes that she canvassed Jane’s opinion and, finding her quite disposed towards liking the gentleman, encouraged her to be more forthcoming in expressing her appreciation for his company. She was gratified to see Jane put aside some small portion of her reserve that evening.”

Elizabeth stopped to ensure that their mother was not present before saying, “I suspect Jane is more comfortable doing so in the absence of our mother who would happily parade Jane's feelings before the entire world should they be displayed. In any event, Mr. Simmons appears to be quite determined and has called on Jane several times since then. The only sad part of the whole business is that our aunt has requested of my father that Jane’s visit be extended to promote the attachment. I cannot complain, although it means that my own visit must be postponed for some time as our father would not encompass the loss of both Jane and me at the same time. I would not by any means wish to suspend Jane’s pleasure.”

She folded the two letters and rose. “I must speak to father immediately and make him aware of the circumstances.”

The progress of Jane’s courtship was followed avidly by her three sisters; each letter becoming the subject of discussion until the arrival of the next, and, in the process, lifting their spirits greatly. It was in early April that the news, long expected and greatly desired, was finally imparted.

The day being unseasonably mild with a warmish southerly breeze, Elizabeth had taken Jane’s letter to read as she sat in the garden. It could not, she believed, have contained happier news. Her dearest sister was to be wed. James Simmons had made her an offer and she was most happy to accept it. Elizabeth found it hard to credit that the passage of a scant twelve months had worked such a change in her sister’s fortunes. Her letter overflowed with such happiness as Elizabeth had never seen her express before. Mr. Bingley had not inspired such profusions of happiness. Her aunt also wrote to provide those details which Jane would not vouchsafe. Suffice it to say that her Aunt Gardiner was pleased with the attachment and assured her that Jane’s affections were totally engaged. Elizabeth thought “What matter Charles Bingley now? I am convinced that the man was never worthy of her and that Mr. Darcy may well have done Jane a favour by encouraging her separation from Mr. Bingley.”

They were to marry in June; the wedding to take place in London and Elizabeth was to stand with her sister. Their aunt had, at Jane’s request, agreed to organize the affair. This, Elizabeth admitted to herself, surprised her greatly as she had thought Jane would wish to be married from Longbourn; however, it appeared that other factors had dissuaded Jane from doing so. Elizabeth suspected that her mother’s distaste for Mr. Simmons being in trade – an opinion which she had expressed strongly to all at Longbourn and in letters to Jane and Mrs. Gardiner - had caused Jane to take this step.

Of equal importance, Elizabeth suspected from the tone of Jane’s letters, was that she did not want to be forced to recognize and be civil to those who had spurned her and her family for the last few years. Elizabeth could find no fault with this and thought that should she ever, which seemed unlikely, be faced with the decision, she would do likewise. She spoke with their father, who had received a letter from Uncle Gardiner outlining the settlement, and he was quite happy for Jane although Elizabeth suspected he would view her own absence from Longbourn with increasing displeasure. She found it difficult to understand such a concern as he was little in company with her or his family. She now only visited his bookroom to discuss estate matters. Her love for her father had not diminished but she found it increasingly hard to be in his company without feeling greatly aware of his failures in his duty to his family. That he had become increasingly aware of her opinion and discouraged her attendance now appeared obvious. Elizabeth, after some thought, decided that his opinion on that matter, nor her mother’s on Jane’s marriage, was of any import and she would not allow such thoughts to suppress her joy at Jane’s happiness.

Mr. Simmons, Jane and the Gardiners had travelled to Longbourn a week or so after the engagement had been announced. The initiative was at Mr. Simmons instigation. He wished to become acquainted with his betrothed’s family and so to Longbourn they came. His reception by Jane’s sisters was all that he could have wished for: their expressions of delight at Jane’s good fortune; their pleasure in finally meeting him when all they had previously known was learned from letters from their aunt and Jane; and the prospect of being able to visit a married sister in London, only fixed his desirable qualities more firmly in their minds. They were not behind in expressing their approbation. With Elizabeth, in particular, he became quite close, enjoying her lively manner and clever conversation. That she was the favourite sister of his beloved, only enhanced her character in his mind and to her, and her only, was extended an open invitation to visit them whenever she wished to do so.

The separation of more than three months had not been greatly eased by frequent correspondence and that first night, ensconced in Elizabeth’s bed, Jane had finally the chance to open her heart to her sister.

"You must tell me all, Jane. Your letters were hardly sufficient.”

Jane smiled, “You know I am not as easy a writer as you, Lizzy. I find it difficult to put my thoughts on paper.”

“Well I am here now and you may speak as you wish. Any confidences you shared will not pass beyond these walls.”

“You know that our uncle and aunt usually take me to the theatre when I visit. We went to see ‘Love’s Labour Lost’. The theatre was, as usual, quite a crush and it took us some time to move to our seats. As we did so, a gentleman approached claiming an acquaintance with uncle and, in fact, proved to be the son of a man with whom uncle had done much business in the past and, having recognized uncle, wished to renew his acquaintance. We were prevented from talking overmuch at that time since the bells signalling the start of the performance began to ring. Mr. Simmons did come upon us during the intermission and talked with aunt and myself for some time while uncle was getting us some refreshments.”

“He called on us the next day – it seems that our aunt gave him the address – and we spent a most enjoyable half hour conversing on a variety of subjects. He was a most interesting gentleman and I found his company very pleasant and most agreeable. To my surprise – although aunt did not appear to be so – he asked, before he left, if he could call on me. I was quite flustered – I had certainly no expectation of such a request - but managed to express my willingness to receive him. He called several times thereafter – almost daily in truth – and was invited to dine. I greatly enjoyed his conversation; we talked of so many things. You know when I consider Mr. Bingley, as amiable as I found him; his conversation was not as interesting. I quite found myself reading books I would not have thought to even open so as to be able to contribute to our conversations. Mr. Bingley never talked of his business and only rarely of his family. Mr. Simmons is very proud of his background and not afraid to talk about his family and their business. I quite enjoyed the experience and when he asked for my opinion on a few matters, I found that I could give one and he would discuss it with me. It was…oh, so very different from what I had become accustomed to here at Longbourn. It seemed much similar to how our aunt and uncle deal with one another. I found my respect for Mr. Simmons growing with every encounter. He is quite amiable but very decided in his opinions although I believe him to be careful in forming them. I have come to appreciate such firmness and decisiveness.”

“He seems like a very fine gentleman and I applaud your choice of a husband. I think you will do very well together. He is not as handsome as Mr. Bingley but I am most favourably impressed by his character. He reminds me very much of our Uncle Gardiner in manners and comportment.”

“I will not have you speak so of my future husband, Lizzy.” Laughed Jane, “It is true that my first impression of Mr. Simmons was that he was rather plain-featured – I am afraid I even said as much to our aunt; but the more I was in his company, the more pleased I became with his countenance. I now find him quite attractive and wonder that I had ever thought otherwise.”

~~~

Mr. Bennet’s approbation was easily won. Satisfied that the gentleman was clearly enamoured of his daughter, that his income was more than sufficient – superior to Longbourn’s, in fact, and sufficient to assist in the care of Mrs. Bennet when her husband died - to support a wife and family; he was happy to sign the marriage settlement, knowing that his Brother Gardiner would have ensured that Jane was protected. Once his blessing was issued, he was content to retire to his bookroom and if Mr. Simmons had hopes of establishing a closer relationship with Jane’s father, he was to be disappointed.

Mrs. Bennet’s approbation was not to be won however. If she was persuaded by both husband and brother to moderate her objections, her manner clearly signalled her dissatisfaction and the unhappy recipient of her displeasure was not Jane but Elizabeth. By whatever process of reasoning that was employed, which no one else could fathom, Mrs. Bennet spared no opportunity to protest that she had been ill-used by everyone and, in particular, her second oldest daughter who, if she had married Mr. Collins as was her duty to her family, none of the unpleasantness – and everyone was left to presume that Jane’s marriage must be included in that list – would have occurred, for surely Lydia would not have felt compelled to elope had the security of her dear mother been assured. Such were her lamentations that finally Mrs. Gardiner and Jane persuaded her to retire to her chambers. It was with no small relief to everyone that she remained there for most of the three day visit by Mr. Simmons, only presenting herself at meals.

When Mr. Simmons, Jane and the Gardiners returned to town, life at Longbourn resumed its normal patterns.


June - London, 1813

We find our Mr. Darcy standing alone – well, as alone as a man can be on a dock bustling with other men loading and unloading cargo from scores of ships. Lighters plied their way from ship to dock ferrying those cargos and stores in an unending stream. Shouted instructions, jeers and curses mingled with the sounds of gulls and raised such a cacophony of sound as would quite embarrass a busy London street. None of it impinged on his consciousness. As he watched a particular ship, bound for Australia, weigh anchor, he wished he could take some satisfaction in the sight. One festering sore had been dealt with now, more or less, but the harm that had been left behind would admit of no solution that he could see. Wickham had the satisfaction, unknown though it was to him, of destroying, perhaps forever, Darcy’s most passionate hopes and dreams for the future. His revenge, if it were known to him, would be complete.

It had been, he knew, most unlikely that Elizabeth Bennet would once more visit her friend, Mrs. Collins, at Hunsford at Easter as she had done the previous year. The knowledge that he and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, visited their aunt at Rosings Park every year at that time would surely persuade her against making such a visit. Her denunciation of him and his character, although dulled by time, still haunted him on occasion. He hoped that his letter would have absolved him of some of the charges against him but his manner, his very dealings with her and his proposal had spoken too well of his conceit and pride; and those charges he could not hope to address in his letter. It had taken some months for him to realize how severely he had wounded her and to begin the process of change; but, unless he could be in her company once more, he could not show her that he had done so. And he knew no way of making her acquaintance once more without calling on her directly. Given her previous contempt for him, he could not see how such a call would be accepted, much less welcomed.

Correspondence from his aunt in planning his next visit to Rosings Park did not reveal any knowledge of Elizabeth's presence and he could hardly inquire about her without raising concerns and questions from Lady Catherine. He and his cousin arrived, received the usual suffocating attentions from their aunt and, out of courtesy, called on Mrs. Collins the next day. The visit started out well as Colonel Fitzwilliam, as was his wont, conversed amiably with Mrs. Collins and then, remembering her pleasant friend who had visited the previous year, inquired after Miss Elizabeth Bennet. The Colonel, of course, had not, at this time, been made privy to his cousin’s dealings with Miss Bennet. Mrs. Collins was clearly discomposed by the inquiry but, before she could form a response, her husband interceded.

"I have, with your aunt's gracious condescension and, as ever, mindful of her most excellent advice, severed all connection to that unfortunate family who have fallen into ruin due to the wanton behaviour of my youngest cousin who ran away last summer - to elope it was said, although proof of such a marriage has not been shown - with a most undeserving person. Charlotte informs me, that this licentiousness of behaviour in my cousin Lydia proceeded from a faulty degree of indulgence by her parents, though I am inclined to think that her own disposition must be naturally bad, or she could not be guilty of such an enormity at so early an age. Howsoever that may be, the family is grievously to be pitied, in which opinion I am not only joined by Mrs. Collins, but likewise by Lady Catherine and her daughter, to whom I have related the entire affair. They agree with me in apprehending that this false step in one daughter would be injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who, as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, would connect themselves with such a family. In this outcome we are assured, as the family has not been admitted to good society in their neighbourhood and has been shunned by all of society. I am satisfied, moreover, to reflect, with augmented satisfaction, that I was able to avoid an attachment to my Cousin Elizabeth, avidly promoted by her mother, for had it been otherwise, I must have been involved in all the disgrace of that family. Mrs. Collins and I are of one mind on this, we shall have nothing further to do with the family and, once I inherit the estate, I shall remove them from there as expeditiously as possible so as to avoid sharing in their contamination. Your aunt has recommended such a course and I have never erred in following her most gracious advice."

Mr. Collins was quite insensible to the amazement and displeasure with which his words were received by those to whom it was addressed. That his opinion was not wholly shared by his wife, whom he could not observe directly, seemed likely as her countenance assumed the most tight-lipped appearance. The Colonel shared a glance with his cousin, neither of them quite knowing how to respond until Darcy ventured to say, "This is quite shocking indeed. I can feel nothing but dismay for Miss Bennet."

Mr. Collins was not inclined to let the matter rest, "Her behaviour, I am sure, was little better than her sister's. In Lady Catherine’s words, she..."

Darcy could be silent no longer and interrupted, "Mr. Collins! That is quite enough, sir! Miss Bennet is everything that is proper and it does you no credit, sir, to disparage her so."

Mr. Collins was taken aback and his thoughts warred between accepting the rebuke of his patroness's most favoured nephew and his concern that that nephew had spoken in terms which contradicted those of his patroness. Silence was his refuge as he tried vainly to assemble his thoughts - even one thought would do, if, perchance, he could find one, a result that Darcy doubted – and to respond so as to insult neither his patroness nor her nephew. Mrs. Collins's countenance, on the other hand, showed her satisfaction at this defence of her friend and it was she who Darcy addressed.

"Mrs. Collins, I realize that this is a distressing business but neither I nor Colonel Fitzwilliam is privy to the circumstances. If it is not too much of a burden, could you relate them to us?" A glare at Mr. Collins was sufficient to silence any objections he might harbour. Mrs. Collins took a few moments to organize her thoughts.

"You must understand I have not heard all the particulars. My husband has refused to admit of any correspondence with the Bennets and all that I have learned is from my parents."

Darcy and the Colonel nodded their understanding and the puzzled glance directed by the Colonel at his cousin, appeared to be noted by Mrs. Collins who had, at one time, suspected Darcy of some interest in Elizabeth Bennet but had finally come to believe herself mistaken. She put such thoughts aside and continued, "It seems that Lydia Bennet left with a militia officer from Brighton - intending to elope apparently. The officer - Mr. Wickham..."

"Wickham!" Darcy and the Colonel spoke almost as one and quite startled the Collinses. Mrs. Collins looked at Darcy and responded, "Yes! George Wickham who has proven to be a most disreputable person, leaving debts and debaucheries behind him in Meryton although none of it known until he had been gone for some months." She looked at Darcy, "He spoke poorly of you, Mr. Darcy. Very poorly!"

"Indeed. I am sure he did." Darcy looked at the floor for some moments before returning a severe gaze at Mrs. Collins. "What has been done to recover her? Has she been found?"

Mrs. Collins could only shake her head.

"And the family is being shunned?"

Mrs. Collins nodded.

Darcy looked at Mr. Collins for a minute or so, his gaze as severe as Mrs. Collins had ever seen it. When he finally spoke, it was in such a tone as to brook no opposition.

"Mr. Collins, you are a man of God, one who is expected to lead by example as well as by words. Miss Lydia's sisters should not be punished for that over which they have no control. On their father's death, which I hope will not occur for many years, it behoves you as a rector to demonstrate that charity which is so much a part of our Christian faith. I expect no more from you, and I will accept no less. Mrs. Bennet, should she be alive, and such daughters as remain with her, must be allowed sufficient time to remove themselves from Longbourn. It is your duty, sir, as a Christian and your obligation as a rector to ensure that such is the case. Am I perfectly understood, Mr. Collins?"

Mr. Collins could only nod. Whether he would follow such direction in the future was far from assured - such was his reverence for Lady Catherine. A slight nod from Mrs. Collins signalled her agreement; however, neither the Colonel nor Darcy could be certain that she had sufficient influence with her husband to direct his decisions appropriately. The reverence he held for their aunt seemed to exceed that which he held even for the Lord himself.

Darcy and the Colonel took their leave shortly thereafter. Colonel Fitzwilliam mused on the matter as they strolled back to Rosings, commiserating with Miss Bennet's situation and commenting more than once on the perfidy of Wickham. "It is a shame, Darce that we could not deal with him properly after Ramsgate. I would have gotten much pleasure from crossing swords with him although I doubt if he would have accepted a challenge. Courage and honour are not characteristics with which he is intimately familiar."

Darcy feared to speak. Such words as he might utter would have shocked his cousin and revealed the distress he was trying hard to conceal. That he offended Elizabeth in his proposal, he had accepted but he had clung to a hope that he might encounter her once again, earn her forgiveness and possibly win her good opinion. Now she had another, more serious charge to lay to his account. He now believed it to have been his responsibility to ensure that Wickham could not harm another young woman and he had failed in that charge. And Elizabeth, and her family, had paid a heavy price for his reluctance to act. His pride - his abominable pride - had not allowed him to expose Wickham's dealings and character; and he had been allowed to prey unrestricted. Darcy’s anger drove the pace of his walk and they had reached the front steps of Rosings when he turned to his cousin saying, "It will not do. I cannot allow Wickham to continue in his dissolute habits. I can do naught for Miss Elizabeth but I can take such steps as are necessary to ensure his vicious tendencies harm no one else."

Fitzwilliam was only momentarily surprised by his cousin's statement. "What do you intend, Darce?"

"I am not sure but I must consider the matter further."

"Well, I may be able to help. Desertion, even if from only the Militia, is not a trivial matter after all."

Entrance into the house brought the discussion to a close and, while it was talked of between them at times during the remainder of their visit, they departed from Rosings beforetime, staying only a week - claiming a press of business which required a return to London - and speaking only once of the matter in Lady Catherine's presence. On that occasion, Lady Catherine censured Elizabeth and the Bennets. She was exceedingly unhappy when her favoured nephew chastised her strongly for her behaviour and they had passed the remainder of his visit speaking only to the other as circumstances necessitated. Mr. Collins was equally careful to avoid any such discussion with either Darcy or the Colonel and such conversation as he did possess was confined largely to Lady Catherine. Darcy spoke very briefly to Mrs. Collins but she could provide little further information on the subject other than to assure him that, to her knowledge, the remaining four sisters were well and living at Longbourn.

A week after returning to London, Colonel Fitzwilliam was able to inform Darcy that Wickham had not been apprehended by the militia and was still facing a desertion charge as well as other charges relating to his conduct in absconding with a young woman under the protection of his commander, debts of honour and sundry other offences which, in total, would ensure a prolonged stay in the stockade. Darcy had also set in motion a search for Wickham, using such resources as might be familiar with the dregs of London society. His solicitors had been instructed to redeem those debts that Wickham had left behind in Brighton and Meryton and, by the end of May, had accumulated such an amount as would, by themselves, ensure a long spell in debtor's prison for Wickham. All that was required was to find and capture him. To that end a fifty pound reward was issued for information leading to his arrest and capture.

Some two months later, the efforts of the handful of men set to that task proved successful and Wickham had been arrested and, within a fortnight, court-martialled and was now awaited sentencing. Darcy had requested, and was granted, permission to speak with him prior to that event. The initiative provided little comfort to either of them. Wickham was as presentable as was possible for someone who had been living in the stews of London for the best part of a year. The signs of dissipation which had only lightly marked his face in Meryton were now more pronounced and any suggestion of the gentleman in his address was hidden by a scruffy appearance and the absence of those gentle manners which he had used to win the approval of genteel society. It was his misfortune that he had never been a successful gambler - his belief in his prowess was based on a conviction of personal superiority unsupported by any demonstrated expertise. He won just frequently enough to believe he could win more often – which he never did. Unfortunately for him, his current gambling companions were less inclined to allow him to display his ineptitude, unsupported by funds, than militia officers had been; and his situation had grown so poor as to cause one of those to whom he owed money to betray his whereabouts for the reward offered. Given the bruises that were still evident on his face, his capturers had not treated him gently.

Darcy considered him closely. He could find no particle of pity for the man who faced him. Much of the assurance and bravado that characterized Wickham’s manner was gone. For the first time in his life he was facing the consequences of his choices; and Darcy could feel nothing but satisfaction and made no attempt to conceal that emotion when he spoke.

"Well, George, it looks like your future is bleak. Fitzwilliam advises me that hanging is a possibility, although unlikely; a lashing and prison time look most possible. After the prison term is done, I will have you in debtor's prison - perhaps until you die of gaol fever."

Wickham managed a sneer, "And why then should I hesitate to smear Georgiana's name?"

Darcy laughed, "Who would believe you now? Two years later and in jail? The ranting of a vengeful man. Nothing more! No one will care and you will die there and good riddance!"

"Why did you ask to speak to me then? To gloat?"

Darcy made as to leave the room but stopped and turned to face Wickham once more, "I have a question to ask you. If you answer honestly, I may be willing to seek a measure of clemency for you - in respect for my father and no other reason - although I doubt he would extend it, given what you attempted with Georgiana." He paused briefly, "I suggest you consider your answer most carefully. I could ask the court to sentence you to transportation - Australia - and a prison term there. If I am to do so, however, I wish to know what happened to Lydia Bennet. Satisfy this demand and I will speak on your behalf."

The hopeful look on Wickham's face disappeared and, from that alone, Darcy knew there was little to be gleaned. As it turned out, Wickham had finally left her in September in a seedy inn - the name of which he could no longer remember - in one of the worst parts of London. What little money they had between them, had accompanied him on his departure and he had given no further thought to her circumstances, nor had he cared.

As Darcy turned to go, he took a final look at his erstwhile boyhood friend. Not a trace of him was left. He searched Wickham’s eyes and could see no sign of remorse. Nothing but hatred and it left him feeling a certain disquiet as he turned away.

Darcy had left him then, spoken on his behalf - notwithstanding the strong objections of Colonel Fitzwilliam who wished, in his words, ‘to see the blackguard treated as harshly as possible’ - to the presiding officer at the court-martial and now he stood on the dock watching the ship carrying Wickham begin its journey to Australia. He waited until the ship was lost from sight before returning to his carriage, wishing to think of Wickham no further but that sense of disquiet that surfaced when he saw him in the goal, remained. He had erred in the past by ignoring Wickham’s activities; that error, he would not repeat.

His search for Lydia had proven fruitless. Mrs. Younge had little knowledge of her. An offer of a reward had produced any number of young women claiming to be Lydia Bennet; however, all had proven to be imposters and he now questioned whether she had even survived and, if she had, whether she would want to return to her family or they, to welcome her back. He could not, he believed, ally his family to the Bennets at this time even if there was a possibility that Elizabeth might accept him. Georgiana was to enter society in the next year and her prospects would be severely tarnished by such a connection.


Gracechurch Street, London, 1813

“Lizzie!”

Jane’s soft voice recalled her to her surroundings.

“Lizzie, Are you well? You looked so…lost almost.”

“I am well, my dearest sister.” Elizabeth knew she had to shake off her introspective mood for her sister’s sake. She could not dwell on her own circumstances, at least not at this time. After all, her sister's marriage is not a time for sadness and she could take unalloyed pleasure in Jane’s happiness.

The wedding had been held in London at the Gardiner’s church rather than in Longbourn, and the preparations were undertaken with little direction from Mrs. Bennet. Jane had been uncharacteristically firm, even blunt, on the matter and the direction for the wedding was placed in the hands of her Aunt Gardiner and Mr. Simmons’ mother. Mrs. Bennet was allowed to be of assistance in the acquisition of the wedding clothes although, even here, Jane deferred to her aunt’s advice. As she was to relate to her sister later, she did not repine the loss of her mother’s effusions and confusions in the smallest part.

Elizabeth smiled at her sister, “You are happy, Jane?”

“How can I not be? I could only wish as much for you.”

“I believe that until I have your goodness, I shall never have your happiness, Jane. But maybe, just maybe, I shall be put in the path of another Mr. Collins.”

They both began to laugh and their amusement drew the attention of others in the room, one of whom approached to claim his bride. James Simmons drew his wife’s hand onto his arm.

“I believe, Mrs. Simmons, that we should take our leave.”

They were to leave to spend a fortnight in Ramsgate and, if they left soon, could reach their cottage there before dark. Under his determined direction, which prevented Mrs. Bennet from the fullest expressions of her pleasure in having a daughter wed, even if only to a tradesman with an income of three thousand a year; for that good lady had been reconciled to the match due largely to the ability to be received by her neighbours and thus allowed to impart the news of the Bennet’s turn in circumstances. The Simmonses were able to make their departure a quarter hour later. Elizabeth took some comfort that her mother did not have the opportunity to remind them all how badly Jane had been treated by Mr. Bingley, who had five thousand per year, nor that her ungrateful second daughter had spurned a most eligible marriage offer from Mr. Collins.

As Elizabeth waved her farewell to her sister and her new husband, she felt her Aunt Gardiner’s presence by her side.

“I hope, Lizzie, that you are planning to stay with us for the fortnight before our trip to Cornwall?”

“I was hoping you would ask me, aunt. I will gladly stay.”

“Your father will not object?”

“I sometimes fear that my father has little attention left for his family. We see him so rarely…”

“He still feels very much to blame, Lizzy.”

"Does he? I could have wished he had done so earlier."

Madeline Gardiner was about to comment on the bitterness in her niece’s voice but then thought better of it. She, after all, did not bear the opprobrium that Elizabeth and her sisters faced daily.

“Come, my dear. Let me tell you of my plans for the next fortnight. Now that I have you to myself, I and the children shall quite overset you with activities.”

“I look forward to it, aunt. It shall be a most welcome change.”



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/17/2015 09:35PM by Amy I..
SubjectAuthorPosted

For Want of a Nail - Chapter 3

PeterJuly 16, 2015 01:12PM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 3

terrycgJuly 18, 2015 03:21AM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 3

Lucy J.July 17, 2015 05:42AM

So Darcy knows about Lydia's elopement

GracielaJuly 17, 2015 01:44AM

Re: So Darcy knows about Lydia's elopement

PeterJuly 17, 2015 02:06AM

Re: So Darcy knows about Lydia's elopement

Amy I.July 17, 2015 09:35PM

Thanks Amy! smiling smiley (nfm)

PeterJuly 18, 2015 03:16AM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 3

ISaraJuly 16, 2015 07:30PM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 3

ShannaGJuly 16, 2015 04:28PM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 3

Victoria LisaJuly 16, 2015 05:06PM

Re: For Want of a Nail - Chapter 3

PeterJuly 16, 2015 07:57PM



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