Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pride and Prejudice Janeicillin: Part Four

“Wickham! Oh Wickham! Wake up!”

The screech of his wife’s voice broke upon his pounding skull, which felt as if it were being crushed by a vise. He groaned and pulled a pillow over his aching head, struggling in vein to block out Lydia’s far from dulcet tones.

“George!” she cried, grabbing the pillow away. “You must rise at once, for I have just received the most astounding news. You shall never believe what has happened!”

He blinked, the light sending a sharp stab into his temple. Moaning slightly he sat half up, glaring at the excited countenance before him, “Do you have any idea what time I retired?”

“Well after myself, I know, but whose fault is that if not your own? I have the most amazing news from Longbourn!”

Having been married long enough to know that Lydia’s whims were not to be thwarted without a good deal of exertion, he resigned himself to consciousness. “At least bring me some water before you spew your gossip. I’m terribly parched.”

For once obedient, Lydia quickly poured a glass from the jug on the mantle and brought it to her husband, spilling a few drops as she plopped herself down on the edge of the bed. Wickham added a few splashes from the flask on the nightstand before drinking deeply. “Now,” he said once the draft was drained, settling himself back against the bedding, “I will listen to your news from Longbourn. You haven’t heard from your mother since Jane’s engagement.”

“Indeed I have not. I am very surprised. I would have thought Mama would have immediately informed me of events, or Lizzy herself, but instead it has been weeks since I have heard from anyone in Hertfordshire and now am only to find out because Kitty, who really must have all the time in the world, penned me a single hasty page.” She flourished the offending letter, pouting pettishly all the while.

“Please, Lydia, just tell me what she said.”

Her smile returned, “You shan’t believe it, not in one hundred years. I never dreamed there was any attachment between them, and Kitty is quite vehement about the fact that this is a marriage of affection. What a shame we cannot be there.”

He knew that it was not Lydia’s intention to build suspense by speaking in such a vague manner, but that she really was just flutter brained. If he were ever to bring an end to this inconvenient conversation, he must coax her into coherence. “Who is getting married now, my dear?”

“Why, Lizzy of course. Did I not just say so? What is astounding is the name of the bridegroom.”

Wickham felt a sinking sensation in his gut. It couldn’t be. Ignoring the pain in his head, he bolted upright and looked Lydia square in the eye, “It isn’t Mr. Darcy, is it?”

Lydia was all amazement, “But how did you guess? I was quite convinced they hated each other. Kitty says that they met often in Kent, when Lizzy was visiting Charlotte, and again at Pemberley itself when she toured Derbyshire with the Gardiners. To think of Lizzy as mistress of such a grand estate! She will become quite insufferable, I am sure. But do think of it – my sister, Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley! La! That does sound grand, does it not?”

Lydia did not wait for a response, continuing on in the same manner while Wickham, who by now had gotten out of bed, paced the room, lost in his own thoughts. How could he have been so stupid as to believe the tale Darcy fed him about why he became involved in the Bennets’ affairs! Always he had known that his former playmate was attracted to Elizabeth Bennet – Darcy could not hide such unusual admiration from him – but never had he imagined he would condescend to marry so very far beneath him. Not that he could blame him. Elizabeth was one of the most attractive women he had known, and there were many. Certainly she would make a far more agreeable wife than the one to whom Darcy had saddled him. Well, there was nothing to be done now but to try and turn to good account the family connection. It was unfortunate he had laid his old story about the living at Kympton on Elizabeth, as she must now become acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown to her. He knew she was not a lady to be fooled twice. His best avenue was her sisterly affection.

“Though why Lizzy would not wish to inform me herself, especially of such a triumphant marriage, I cannot understand. Surely, she must wish to gloat. I certainly would.”

“Perhaps you should write to her,” Wickham interjected. “Your sister must be very busy right now, but if you express the right sentiment, it might benefit us later on.”

“I have no intention of writing to Lizzy when she cannot be bothered to do so for me!”

“Do you hope to visit Pemberley?”

“Oh, yes indeed! I shall enjoy it very much.”

“Well then, Mrs. Wickham, if you think Mr. Darcy is just going to invite us to be a part of his family party, unless you make an enormous effort to maintain Elizabeth’s favor, which the nature of our marriage has already damaged, you shall surely be disappointed.”

“I do not understand you! Why would Mr. Darcy exclude us, when he was so very obliging as to secure you a commission only a few months ago?”

“Mr. Darcy might be willing to put me in the way of advancement, if he thought it would keep both us far from his person, but I assure you he will not welcome us to Pemberley, not as things currently stand. We will have to mend a great deal of fences before receiving such an invitation.”

“Well! Do not expect me to grovel to Lizzy. Surely it is her duty to make sure we are well positioned. She cares very much for appearances, and it will not look good if she denies her sister admittance to her home.” 

“Just write to her, my dear. No need to grovel. Express your congratulations sincerely, and she will reciprocate your sisterly affection. After that, who knows? Perhaps, eventually, she can even persuade Mr. Darcy to find me a position at court. That would suit us far better than Newcastle, would it not, my dear?”

“Oh George! Do you really think so? I never dreamed of such a thing! How handsome you would look in Dragoon raiment!” She threw her arms around his neck in an affectionate, and choking hug.

Laughing, he pulled her arms from around his neck, “Go on and write then, Lydia. No time like the present.”

Inspired, Lydia hurried to gather her long neglected writing materials.

“And send up a tray, wont you? I’m famished!”

The morning following the Colllins’ arrival at Lucas Lodge, the weather turned considerably colder: a first nip of winter frost in the air. Nevertheless, Mrs. Collins, accompanied by her mother and husband, set out early for Longbourn. Their arrival was most welcome by Mrs. Bennet, quite happy to recount her triumph to new and willing ears.

“There is to be a double wedding – is that not felicitous? Mr. Darcy considered obtaining a special license, for he is quite intimate with the Archbishop, you know, but he could not bear the notion of leaving Lizzy's side. He is very devoted, you see. The wedding will be held on December 3rd. I hope your duties at Hunsford, Mr. Collins, will allow you to remain in the neighbor until that time.”

“Indeed, while my obligations are many, the affairs of the parish are in such very good order that I feel perfectly confidant leaving them in the hands of my curate. I would not dream of declining such a generous invitation, especially considering the nature of our familial connection.”

While Lady Lucas patiently listened as her neighbor and her son-in-law attempted to out talk each other, Charlotte sat by Elizabeth, enjoying the familiar chatter of the Bennet sisters.

“Lady Catherine is very grand,” said Kitty knowingly. “Her pelisse when she visited was terribly elegant.”

“Arraignment is material. It is her generosity to Mr. and Mrs. Collins that illuminates the greatness of her character.”

“You were not there, Mary, when Lady Catherine came to Longbourn, and so are in no position to judge.”

“My presence on the occasion has very little to do with the matter. Observations need not be made in person.”

“Perhaps this is one of those rare occasions when the worldly and the spiritual unite to cast their blessings upon one extraordinary human being?” Elizabeth proffered.

“But Lizzy,” protested Kitty, lowering her voice so as not to be overheard by Mr. Collins, “you called Lady Catherine an insufferable cow.”

Charlotte burst out laughing, attracting the attention of the party on the far side of the room. Elizabeth waited to respond until Charlotte had regained her composure and Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins their simultaneous diatribes. “That was before I had the good fortune to feel the benefits of her attention. I assure you, I now regard Lady Catherine much in the light of a guardian angel.”

“How is that, Eliza?”

“Had she not been so kind as to express to Mr. Darcy her disapprobation for me, he might never have proposed.”

“Oh my! That does do justice to her meddling,” said Charlotte in a quiet tone. Then louder, “I am the recipient of just such an example of Lady Catherine’s remarkable care. Had she not taken word of your engagement rather hard, I would not now be enjoying the pleasure of your company.”

Elizabeth squeezed her friend’s hand, “I have every reason to be grateful to Lady Catherine.”

Mr. Collins could help himself no longer. He rose, his voice carrying across the room, “Of course you do, dear cousin Elizabeth. I was just saying so much myself. All who have basked in her ladyship’s favor know its glories.” He was about to cross the room to elaborate on his favorite subject when he remembered that the good lady did not favor his cousin and, grinning sheepishly, sat back down to try and resume his half of Lady Lucas’ attention.

Jane, perceiving the danger narrowly avoided, thought it time to turn the current topic of conversation, “We are very happy to have you with us at this time, Charlotte. We would have felt your absence dearly were you not able to attend the wedding.”

“As would I. I am quite content with the current state of affairs.”

“But it will be hard, will it not, to face Lady Catherine once my marriage is an accomplished fact?”

“I look to time to cool her chagrin.”

“Surely she will cease her protests, once the marriage has taken place? No good could come of harboring such resentment.”

Elizabeth shook her head doubtfully, “If you had heard the letter she sent to Mr. Darcy, I think you might better appreciate how very put out the lady feels herself to be.”

Just then the gentlemen from Netherfield were announced, arriving for their now daily visit to Longbourn. Mr. Collins jumped up to greet them, “Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley! What a pleasure to find myself in your company again so soon, sirs. We were just discussing the arrangements for your weddings to my lovely cousins. It sounds to be an event most exalted, as befits those of distinguished ancestry.” He bowed towards Mr. Darcy.

As Jane and Elizabeth greeted their fiancés, Charlotte caught her mother’s attention, reanimated from somnolence by the new arrivals, expressing through look that it was time to liberate the Bennets from their cousin’s courtesies. Lady Lucas rose and expressed her need to bring the visit to an end, extending to the entire party an invitation to dine at Lucas Lodge in two days’ time. Elizabeth and Charlotte made plans to meet the next morning for a private chat, and the guests said their goodbyes.

It did not take long for Lydia’s congratulatory letter to arrive at Longbourn. The very next morning following the above events found it in Elizabeth’s hand. She read it with a great deal of aggravation, instantly determining that Mr. Darcy should know nothing of its contents. Needing to express her chagrin to some sympathetic ear, she turned, as of old, to Jane. Elizabeth found her in her bedroom, where she had been secretly monogramming several gentlemen’s handkerchiefs, a wedding present for Mr. Bingley, whenever she could escape their mother’s fevered wedding preparations. “Read this. I must know what you make of it,” Elizabeth demanded, handing Jane the offending missive. Jane put aside her work and read aloud:


I wish you joy. If you love Mr. Darcy half as well as I do my dear Wickham, you must be very happy. It is a great comfort to have you so rich, and when you have nothing else to do, I hope you will think of us. I am sure Wickham would like a place at court very much, and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some help. Any place would do, of about three or four hundred a year; but however, do not speak to Mr. Darcy about it, if you had rather not.

Your's, &c."

“Well?” questioned Elizabeth. “What do you think of our sister’s sentiments.”

“She should not write so,” Jane sighed. “Mr. Darcy has already done so much for them; they must manage on what they have.”

“Yes, that is very sensible, but can we expect that they will? What is to stop Wickham from racking up as many debts as he has in the past? Certainly not Lydia. She will only add to his output. And when they are on the verge of disgrace, who is it that is expected to come to their rescue? My poor Fitzwilliam – as if he hasn’t been imposed on by them enough!” Elizabeth was outraged, passion inflaming her cheeks. She saw before her an endless succession of relations, ready and able to mortify Mr. Darcy, and refused to stand for it.

“Surely, now that he is a married man, Mr. Wickham must amend his ways. Soon they will be expanding their family, and what better to make a man rise to his responsibilities than progeny?”

“Oh, my dear Jane. You are too kind. Gladly would I have things transpire as you predict, but I am not so sanguine as to expect it. No, if this can be taken as a model for Lydia’s future letters, she shall never write one I will allow Mr. Darcy to see. If they find themselves in need, I will do what I can for them myself, but I will not permit them to build their expectations on his good nature.”

“As Mrs. Darcy, it will be your responsibility to protect his interests, even when encroachment comes from your own family. Our loyalties are about to forever change, Lizzy. I hope, should the Wickhams ever attempt to intrude on Charles, that I will have your resolution.”

“You had better start cultivating it now then, as nothing is more certain than Mr. Wickham’s taking advantage of others. But no more of this. After responding, I shall burn the letter and ban both of them from my thoughts. How good of Fitzwilliam to find Wickham such a distant post that there is no danger of them attending the wedding!”

Jane tried to look sternly at her sister but utterly failed, as she herself felt the blessings of Newcastle’s remoteness far too much to frown.

Come back next Thursday for another weekly dose!


  1. Thank you Alexa! I read this while at work and it livened my day up a bit... even if it had Lydia and Wickham ;)
    'Pouting pettishly' perfect description of what I imagine Lydia would do.

  2. Thanks Katherine. I had to work the Wickhams in some place, and now seemed as good a time as any. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  3. I've just now caught up on all four parts, and I'm enjoying it very much. I'll be looking forward to each Thurday's post

  4. Thanks PamM. I'm glad you are enjoying the story. Thanks for the comment!