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Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 10

November 09, 2020 01:44PM
Chapter Ten

“Come to bed, Fitzwilliam. This problem will not be solved tonight.”

Elizabeth Darcy kneaded her husband’s shoulders as he sat in his shirtsleeves by the fire. He pressed his fingers to his temples and shook his head. “I need some solitary time to think. Go to bed my love; you must be exhausted. I’ll be up later.”

Elizabeth concentrated her massage at the base of his neck for a while, then twisted round to look at him. So much had happened since news of Anne's flight from Rosings had reached them ... and Elizabeth's painful secret had been revealed. They had not yet had the time nor the emotional energy to talk to each other about their feelings. Elizabeth believed it important to begin.

“Are you very angry with me, Fitzwilliam?”

He looked up at her with a weary smile and reached for her hand. “My mood is black because I feel so terribly helpless. And I cannot bear feeling this way. It is arrogant, I know. In any case, how can I be angry with you? After all, your motives were pure, and you were doing your best to protect a member of my family.”

“Anne is now part of my family too. I love her dearly.”

“As you have proven. But surely you grasp my meaning. Had you been hiding something concerning your own family, I could have suspected a personal motive of some kind. But in this situation you had nothing to gain by agreeing to keep Anne’s secret. Indeed, you were risking a great deal.” Here Darcy winced as the thoughts that had earlier tortured him came to mind.

“Forgive me, Fitzwilliam, but I know you too well not to see that you are hiding your true feelings from me.”

“Unlike me, you mean…who was blind to your deception for all these months.”

Elizabeth blushed. “No, of course not. You are angry and hurt, and I cannot blame you for being so. Naturally, I wish you to understand the predicament I was in and the choice I felt I had to make…but you need not spare me your disapprobation. We must talk about this, Fitzwilliam, or it will grow into something far more insidious. Please… please, talk to me…”

“I cannot deny that I find your ability to deceive me — especially, for such a length of time unnerving. And yes, of course I am hurt. Hurt that Anne should want to hide from me, and that you did not think me capable of keeping her secret without interference. But as I said, I cannot really be angry. I feel I have no right to be. You were there to support Anne when I could not.”

Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak but her husband interrupted her, saying, “Let us put this whole discussion off for the time being. I have not the energy nor the wherewithal to deal with it just now. Let me concentrate on finding Anne and getting her out of London. You and I,” he paused, staring for a moment at the fire, “you and I love each other far too dearly to allow this episode to injure us in any significant way.”

“Fitzwilliam,” cried Elizabeth, throwing her arms about his neck. “How blessed I am to have you for a husband! I love you so very much!” She hugged him tightly. “Come to bed soon…and don’t hesitate to wake me.”

As she bent to kiss the top of his head and drew her fingers through his hair, Darcy caressed her beautifully rounded belly, then placed his cheek upon it. “Good-night, my love. Go and get some rest.”

***


It had only been about twenty 24 hours since Richard had reported the news that Fennimore knew little more than they of Anne's whereabouts. It left Darcy feeling utterly lost and frustrated.

He sat in the stillness for some time, trying to focus on the random bits of information Elizabeth, Richard and Fennimore had given him…but it was no use. His mind kept drifting back to Elizabeth…and Anne…and the successful deception that had, without his knowing it, been part of his every day life for lo these many months. This was no good! He had to concentrate on finding Anne, for in a matter of days, all hell would break loose!

He decided to go down to the wine cellar, select a fine port and retreat to his old thinking spot. No, by rights it should be called his brooding spot, for that was where he had gone, even as a boy, to curse his demons, rage against the world, his parents and sometimes…G-d. How many hours had he sat on that cellar step, a wine bottle in his hand, after arriving home from Rosings that spring? He rose from his cozy chair and headed for the stairs. As he reached the door, Strickland came rushing towards him in his nightshirt.

“Master Darcy, is there anything I get for you, sir?” said the old butler, anxiously. “Forgive me, sir, but I thought that you and the mistress had retired.”

“It is I who am sorry to have disturbed your sleep, Strickland. Go back to your bed; I’ll help myself.”

And although the devoted servant again tried to be of service to his master, Darcy dismissed him with a firm tone. Holding a three-branched candelabra, he slowly made his way down the steps. As he moved past row after row of fine wines nestled in their wooden racks, he thought of the times he and his father had spent together before these aging bottles. He had learned as much about his family history and his responsibilities here as he had about grapes and fermentation. The few words ever uttered about the physical relationship between a man and woman were spoken here, in the deep, dark stillness of the cellar. In a way, it seemed that while the family was in town, this unlikely place substituted for the open fields of Pemberley. And so, he was here once again.

Making his selection, he uncorked it and took it half way up the stairs. This had been the very spot. He could see the entirety of the cellar from here: the racks, the kegs, the large worktable, as well as the tools and utensils that hung on the wall. Though these objects were first bathed in darkness, his eyes had adjusted enough to see them clearly now, and he smiled to himself as he took a swallow. “Not a very gentleman like way to down your Port, Darcy!” He grinned and took another swig.

Tilting his head back, he closed his eyes and began to recite all he now knew about Anne’s residence in London. Fennimore was right. There were only so many suitable neighborhoods within a reasonable radius of Crestwood Lane, and a painstaking, systematic search would be the most logical way to begin. But it was impractical, given the time restraints, and more importantly, dangerous for Anne. He thought in wonder and some admiration of the length of time Anne had been living on her own. How in the world had she made these involved arrangements from Rosings? Surely she did not arrived in London like a lost child!

The more Darcy pondered these questions, the more focused his thinking became, despite the wine. And suddenly, he was struck with what he thought was a very logical assumption. If Anne had prearranged her London accommodations from Rosings, she must have done it either through a trusted acquaintance or through an advertisement in the newspaper. A trusted friend would be impossible to track down without a great deal of investigation, but an advertisement… If he could locate the newspapers from the months prior Anne’s escape, he might be able to narrow down the probable locations even further. What he had to do was look at the advertisements through Anne’s eyes. What would she have been looking for in an ideal living situation? Where would she have felt most safe?

Remembering that Mrs. Pritchett saved newspapers for the dirtiest chores, Darcy rose, the candelabra in one hand and the bottle in the other, and hastened down the steps. He searched the wine cellar, the root cellar, the kitchen supply pantry and the small back shed where the wood was stored. There, he finally found what he was looking for, and after carrying stack after stack up to his library, he finally settled down to sort them out.

Although he was missing several editions from the three-month period before Anne’s departure, Darcy found enough of them to be encouraged. And as the clock on his mantel struck four, he began his meticulous perusal of the classifieds.

***

The next morning the family came down to find the dining room table covered with newspapers, sorted chronologically and opened to the classified. Darcy was disheveled, wearing yesterday's clothes, stained with drops of port. His eyes were almost as red as the wine stains on his shirt. Normally, Elizabeth would have dressed before coming down, but she was now in search of the husband who had never come to bed. She had imagined him falling asleep in his chair or taking to another bed so as not to wake her. But one look at him told her the most likely story.

“Fitzwilliam, have you slept at all? And what on earth are you doing with these dirty old papers?”

“We are going to search out and hopefully find the most likely neighborhoods that Anne could be residing in ... and perhaps, even the residence itself! Look, she must have come to London with an address already in mind. Perhaps someone had suggested a pleasant place for her to stay, but more likely, I believe, she must have arranged it all herself through the classifieds. I've sorted them from three months prior to the time she disappeared to that very week. Now, I need everyone's eyes and thoughtful examination of these advertisements to determine which ones would have attracted her. We have a one mile radius marked around Fenimore's laboratory and we can eliminate the more affluent neighborhoods as well as the poorest ones!”

Elizabeth smiled, put her arms around her husband's neck and kissed him. “Come upstairs, my darling, clever boy and take a hot bath, at least. It will revive you. In the meantime, I will see Mrs. Pritchett about setting up breakfast in the sunroom. Then I'll come up to dress.”

He began rambling on about losing precious time, but she would not have it.

“Fitzwilliam, you can bathe or you can sleep. It is your choice. Though eating is not negotiable either way,” she said, pushing him towards the stairs. “Oh, and when you pass the nursery, tell Nanny Henderson that she will have Edward all to herself this morning.”

***


There were animated conversations across the breakfast table as each member of the family eagerly came up with a question or suggestion concerning their search. Georgiana again asked Elizabeth about her meetings with Anne.

“Elizabeth, was Anne always waiting for you when you arrived, or were you ever there first, so you could see from which direction she came?”

“As I told you earlier, Georgie, we met at Dr. Fenimore's, but she entered from Bentley Street and I from the front door on Crestwood Lane. So even if I was there ahead of her, I never saw her approach the building. And the day we met at the library, she was already there when I arrived.”

“The library?” asked Darcy, looking bewildered. “Elizabeth, you've never spoken of the library before. When was this meeting?”

“Oh dear, how could I have forgotten to mention it?” murmured Elizabeth. “We made an arrangement to meet there, in the autobiography section, soon after our first meeting. It was a Wednesday, I recall, and it was there that we set up our plan for me to accompany Anne to her appointments with Dr. Fenimore.”


Elizabeth grew suddenly thoughtful as she recalled other details of that day.

“I do remember something else, though it is nothing particularly revealing, I don't think. When we left the library we went down to the park behind it. We sat and talked for just a few moments and then said our good-byes. Anne went in one direction and I took another. I went towards Bishops Gate while she said she would still like to walk a bit before returning home. I remember her saying it was too beautiful a day to waste. When I reached the gate I turned to look in her direction and she was walking along the flower beds in the middle of the promenade – not heading toward any particular exit.”

Even before Elizabeth had uttered the last sentence, Darcy had jumped up from the table to retrieve a book of city maps that he quickly opened to that part of town. There was actually a page devoted to the park itself and Darcy placed it in front of his wife saying, “Show me where, Elizabeth.”

“This is where we entered the park and this is where we sat and talked.” She then ran her finger along the path she took to get to Bishop's Gate. “Anne continued on this way, to the very center of the park, but of course, I didn't see where she exited.”

“Well, there are only two other ways she could have left the park, and if she was walking straight down the middle, chances are she didn't take the Pershing Street exit. No, it is too far out of her way,” said Darcy slowly. “She must have gone straight through to the opposite side of the park and exited here.” He pointed to the Belamy Street exit, then quickly compared it to the larger map marked with the mile radius around Crestwood Lane. Crestwood Lane was but three streets south of Belamy!

“I believe we should be concentrating our efforts on the area this side of Crestwood,” said Darcy excitedly. “Something tells me this is the right place to look.”

For the next three hours, they studied one advertisement at a time – reading it aloud, considering the dates and the suitability of the locations. Darcy took special note of the tone of the text. Would Anne have been attracted to try this one? What did it have to offer that others did not? So far, they had selected only five for further, serious consideration.

“Fitzwilliam,” said Elizabeth, “This one here in Brunswick has been in every paper for more than three months and yet you've ignored it completely. Why have you rejected it? It is well within the radius and is in a suitable neighborhood, I think.”

“I've dismissed it for just that reason. It looks like a false advertisement, put in by the paper itself to fill empty space. Do you see how the size changes depending on how many other advertisements there are? Besides, why would anyone pay for an advertisement for more than three months? If it is unsuccessful, why would they keep paying for it?”

“Is it still in the newspaper today?” asked Georgiana.

“It is not,” said the Colonel, having immediately gone into the foyer to retrieve the current issue that had been neglected until now. “Anne went missing on the fifteenth. Let's find the papers for the next week or two after that date. Was that advertisement still being printed after her arrival here?”

Their search revealed that the advertisement had run for 5 weeks after Anne's arrival in London and Richard was therefore convinced that it could not have been Anne's destination.
If the accommodation was real and had been filled, the advertisement would surely have been removed.

But Elizabeth was not so sure. She wanted to know more about the neighborhood. The classified's description always included the name of the street, though not the exact address. What she really needed to do was walk through its streets to get a true sense of the place. All she knew about the area that Anne had selected was that she was very happy there. “If I could only see it and feel it for myself, I am sure I would know!” she thought. But if it was the right neighborhood, she'd be risking Anne's discovery.

After another hour of intense scrutiny the family was ready for some nourishment and rest. Darcy and Elizabeth excused themselves and went out onto the veranda for some privacy. They held on to one another in a long embrace, gaining the strength they needed to persevere.

“I was so hopeful this morning,” said Darcy “ – so sure that something would jump out at us and show us the way forward. Now I am feeling quite hopeless again. It is too monstrous a task. How are we ever to find her? And are we doing the right thing by trying to do so? Naturally, I share these thoughts only with you, Elizabeth.” said Darcy, smoothing wayward wisps of hair from her face. “I mustn't dampen their enthusiasm.” He leaned in to kiss her when the the sound a commotion reached his ears and he straightened, listening more intently. He clearly made out the sound of his aunt's voice.

“Aunt, Uncle, how wonderful that you are already here! We weren't expecting you until tomorrow,” said Darcy, hurriedly leading all the company into the parlor and away from the sight of the dining room table. Georgiana lingered behind to shut the large french doors, but naturally the glass panes would hide nothing.

“I shall let Mrs. Pritchett know that we are two more for lunch,” said Elizabeth, smiling warmly at Lady Matlock, then disappearing down the corridor. She came across Susan, one of the chambermaids, first. “Susan, please inform cook that Earl and Lady Matlock will be staying for lunch and that the dining room must be cleared. Oh no, we mustn't undo all that work! Send Mr. Strickland, Mrs. Reynolds and Mrs. Pritchett to me immediately. I shall be in the dining room waiting for them. Hurry!”

Racing down towards the other end of the table, Elizabeth began gathering the newspapers, placing the oldest one on the bottom and piling up the others in order. When her devoted servants appeared, looking terribly concerned, she began by reassuring them.

“I do not have time to explain now, but I assure you that all is well. These papers must be stacked this way, paying attention to the chronological order, and then put away quickly and safely. Please hurry, then set the table for lunch. And most importantly, say nothing of this to anyone. Mr. Darcy and I will address the entire staff later today.” And with that, she turned and hurried to rejoin the family.

“We've come a day early so that we could speak to you privately before Lady Catherine arrives,” said the Earl. “I completely understand my sister's distress. She is dreadfully worried about Anne, and at the same time, hurt, angry and humiliated. But you know how she gets when she's upset, and she is not used to being gainsaid. I'm afraid there is no reasoning with her just now.”

“When has she ever been reasonable?” said Richard, trying unsuccessfully to bring his anger under control.

Lady Matlock turned to her son, “Richard, that will not help the situation. We have come to warn you that Catherine is very bitter, believing that you, Darcy, have engineered and brought all this about. She blames Elizabeth's influence on you and will not set foot in this house while she is here. Catherine will reside with us and all family meetings will be held at our home. We had the house opened up and all is prepared.”

“It is a shame that she has no interest in meeting little Edward, but in all other respects, her staying with you is for the best,” said Darcy.

“She is also determined to use all her influence to find Anne and bring her home, no matter the cost. You already know about the investigators, but now she has commissioned the artist who painted Anne's miniature to copy it, enlarge it, of course, and produce 20 copies more to show around town. She will be registering Anne as a missing person and offering a substantial reward for her ...”

“Capture!” said Richard angrily.

“No, of course not! For the discovery of her whereabouts. A mother needs to know that her child is safe and well.”

Richard was about to continue when Elizabeth grabbed his elbow and squeezed it.

“There is one other thing we wanted to warn you about. Our family is in for an ugly scandal unless Anne agrees to come home on her own. Once she is found, you must convince her that it is for the best. She will listen to you, Fitzwilliam.” said Lady Matlock turning to her nephew.

Richard took a step forward to protest, but Elizabeth's arm swung quickly across his chest to prevent him from doing so.

Lunch was a far more lighthearted and pleasant affair as Edward had been brought down to join them. His very messy, but adorable antics were appreciated by all the family for the relief and laughter they provided. As Edward fed himself, Nanny Henderson stood behind his highchair and cringed, while the serving staff winced at the sight of the floor that would have to be dealt with. They now understood why their Mistress had insisted on removing the large oriental rug that had always been part of the room's beautiful décor.

As soon as the Matlocks departed, Darcy and Elizabeth conferred for a moment, then headed in opposite directions. “Strickland, please gather the entire staff, stablemen and all to the foyer, and have Mrs. Pritchett and Mrs. Reynolds meet your Mistress in the library as soon as may be,” instructed Darcy.

As his servants came wide eyed and whispering into the foyer, Darcy paced along the bottom step of the grand staircase. When they were all assembled, he rose to the third step and cleared his throat.

“You will forgive the arrogant assumption I am about to make, but I do believe that all of you care for this family a great deal. Your loyalty and the quality of your work prove that to us each and every day. Sadly, I must now impose a difficult responsibility on all of you. Our family is presently in situation that requires complete secrecy. You have my word that nothing improper is going on here, but you may see or hear things that confuse and concern you. Be assured that all will be well in time, and that we will explain the circumstances to you as soon as we are able. But until then, I ask you not to speak of any goings on in this house with anyone – not your spouses, not your parents, not your closest friends. There may even be a time when strangers approach you looking for information. That may include members of our extended family, or even a constable or magistrate.” Here, there was a collective gasp, and utter shock could be seen on every face. “No matter what is asked of you,” continued Darcy, “simply say you do not know. And that will be the truth. I'd also appreciate your not discussing this amongst yourselves … as difficult as that may be. The more curious you become, the more difficult it will be to remain vigilant and silent. Your Mistress and I thank you for your trust and your loyalty.” Here, he gave his devoted staff a weak smile and a nod, sending them back to their duties.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 10

Gaby A.November 09, 2020 01:44PM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 10

SaraleeNovember 10, 2020 12:07PM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 10

EvelynJeanNovember 09, 2020 09:08PM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 10

Gaby A.November 09, 2020 10:34PM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 10

LisaYNovember 09, 2020 05:21PM



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