During the editing process of my recent story, my editor suggested that I cut the last chapter of the manuscript. She reasoned that the pace had slowed way down in my draft and would need heavy edits to get it back on track. The project was already behind schedule and I was eager to get her final edits back so I agreed. I published the story without the last chapter that I had originally intended.
In the Amazon reviews, several readers expressed their disappointment with the ending, saying that it was far too abrupt. I can’t say I disagree, since I did write that chapter to address the future of our dear couple. Now I’m kicking myself for making the decision to cut it. This has been a hard lesson for me; I should always go with my first instincts.
Please understand that I am not blaming my editor. She has done an amazing job on my stories and turned them into better stories. I was the one to make the decision so the full blame rests with me.
But the book is out there now. I could revise the manuscript and reload it but that would not help the readers who have already purchased the book. I have decided to post it here instead. This chapter has not been professionally edited but I hope it improves the opinion of the readers who hated the way the book ended.
Please let me know if I have redeemed myself.
Jane Austen Quote: “But the wife of Mr. Darcy must have extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 61)
Wednesday, 22 April, 1812
Darcy cursed under his breath as his carriage slogged through the mud. He and his wife were on the road to Hertfordshire, on an errand for his father-in-law; to bring Jane Bennet home to Longbourn. Charles Bingley had appeared in Darcy’s study on Monday evening bearing a letter from Mr. Bennet. He had agreed to allow Charles to court his daughter under one condition: Jane was to be returned to his care as soon as Darcy could make the arrangements.
Little more than having Jane’s trunk packed was needed to prepare for the short journey, however, a violent storm had prevented them from travelling on Tuesday. Even though Jane had only just moved in on Sunday, the ladies of the house were cast into gloom at the prospect of her sudden and unjustified departure. The joy of her imminent courtship had been forgotten, surpassed by the cruel edict that would sever their newfound sisterhood. Darcy had attempted to soothe their concerns by explaining that Mr. Bennet would naturally wish to have his daughter under his own roof if she was to receive a gentleman’s attentions. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning met with no success.
He had appealed to Mrs. Annesley, Georgiana’s trustworthy companion, hoping that she would offer her sage guidance; however, she too had been separated from her sister in her younger days. All she could manage was to dab her eyes and whisper, “All will be well.” The ladies had spent the rainy day sharing stories of their girlhood, which one would think balm for their wounded spirits but only served to sink them even lower.
To help ease the pain of their pending separation, Darcy had suggested that he and Elizabeth stay a few days at Longbourn. Despite this agreeable possibility, the ladies all retired to Elizabeth’s chambers, forcing him to spend the night without his bride.
Since the rain had persisted throughout the night, Darcy knew the roads would be in deplorable condition that day; their journey was sure to be prolonged. Nonetheless, he refused to delay their departure any longer, coaxed the ladies to ready themselves for travel and they set out shortly after breakfast.
Knowing that the addition of two extra guests would strain Mr. Bennet’s limited staff, he had a small contingent of his own staff follow behind in a second carriage; his valet, a maid to tend to Elizabeth, a kitchen maid, and two grooms. Within minutes of leaving the paved streets of London, Elizabeth’s and Jane’s melancholy were nothing compared to Darcy’s cantankerous mood. With the roads mired in muck, their progress was irritatingly slow. The second carriage trudged through the slog in good form but his beloved bays lagged behind at a snail’s pace. The wheels became bogged down twice and they were forced to wait while the grooms and drivers extricated the vehicle from the sludge. He scowled and grumbled in exasperation. The fear that they may become stuck again gnawed on Darcy’s last nerve.
The ladies paid little heed to his outbursts. “You may well imagine, Lizzy, that Mama will want you to take Kitty or Lydia back with you to London,” Jane said.
“Oh dear,” Elizabeth said, a crease forming in her brow. “I am sure you are right but I would much rather not; Kitty is so silly and Lydia is far too wild.”
Jane nodded her head with a beleaguered sigh. “Kitty is rather impressionable,” she said. “She would do better under your care, away from Lydia’s influence.”
Darcy agreed that, of the two girls, Kitty would cause Elizabeth the least trouble. “She would look up to you and Georgiana,” he said. “However, we need not make a decision now. Let us see how they both behave and then decide.”
The two hour trip had taken twice that time and they arrived at Longbourn hungry and irritable. “There is my dear Jane,” Mrs. Bennet said as the party entered the drawing room. Beaming with delight, she rushed to embrace her eldest daughter. “Did I not say that Mr. Bingley would come up to scratch?”
Despite his relief to be out of the mud, Darcy doubted that their stay at Longbourn would be any less wearisome. His wife’s discontent, his father-in-law’s disfavour, his mother-in-law’s unrestrained glee and his new rowdy sisters were sure to try his patience.
Thursday, 23 April, 1812
By Thursday evening, Darcy had come to an agreement with Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth; Kitty would come to live with the Darcys. For the past two days, Lydia’s behaviour had been nothing but shameful; she whined and pouted, she ignored all attempts to bring her to order and was altogether unmanageable. Darcy had never known a more thoughtless, vain and temperamental creature than she. If Kitty was ever to make a successful match, she must be separated from her younger sister.
The news was received with jubilation by Mrs. Bennet and Kitty; Lydia, however, raised a rumpus. “Why should I not go, too?” she said, stomping her foot. “I have just as much right as Kitty. What shall I do all summer if I do not go to London?”
“You will go to Bath with the family; at Mr. Darcy’s expense, I might add,” her father said. Darcy was relieved that, after spending some time in his father-in-law’s company, his disapproval had lessened to some degree.
Lydia rolled her eyes. “How dreadfully dull. I should die of boredom.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at her unruly sister. “If you continue in this manner, Lydia, I will never invite you,” she said in a harsh tone. “I am embarrassed that you have become such a hoyden.”
“Just because you have a rich husband, Lizzy, you have no call to insult me,” Lydia said with a rebellious sniff.
Darcy had heard enough. “Miss Lydia Bennet,” he said in a commanding tone. “You will apologize for plaguing your parents with such impropriety. No woman of quality would conduct herself in such a deplorable manner.”
“I will not!” she said, her chin jutting out in defiance.
Since Darcy’s withering glare had no effect on her, he tried another tactic. “As you wish,” he said, as if accepting defeat, then turned to his father-in-law. “Mr. Bennet, there is a school just north of Derbyshire where young ladies who are in need of certain… refinements are accepted,” he said, using a quick wink as a signal to the older man who then nodded his head.
“I have heard of such establishments,” Mr Bennet said, a twinkle flashing in his eye for a scant second. “Perhaps Lydia might benefit from a year or two of instruction,” he said with a grave mien.
Lydia shrieked. “Two years!”
Darcy paid no heed to her protests. “With your permission, I would be happy to sponsor her.”
“She is a difficult student,” Mr. Bennet said, while his wife gaped in disbelief.
Darcy nodded and leaned in closer. “I believe that is their specialty,” he said, whispering loud enough for everyone to hear.
“No Papa, you would not send me away,” Lydia cried.
Mr. Bennet turned his head to hide his amusement. “I know not what else can be done with her. She never listens to me.”
Although Darcy was enjoying the charade, he kept a solemn expression for his new sister’s benefit. “Well then, are we decided?” he inquired.
Lydia clutched her father’s arm. “No Papa, I beg you, please don’t send me away,” she said in a state of panic. “I apologize for troubling you. I promise to be good.” Darcy had to admit, she did appear contrite in her attempt to sway Mr. Bennet’s decision.
“You will go to Bath with the family,” her father said.
“Yes, yes!” she said in earnest.
Mr. Bennet’s countenance remained severe. “You will not complain.”
“Not even once.”
The room fell silent while Mr. Bennet took a moment to consider this appeal; all eyes were fixed on him. “If you give me the least cause to regret my decision, I will send word to Mr. Darcy.” Lydia responded with a curtsy then stood in silence, staring down at her feet. “Very well, then,” Mr. Bennet said, with an air of finality.
Mrs. Bennet was overjoyed. “What an excellent father you have, my dear girls.”
Darcy detected a hint of approval from his father-in-law as he nodded his head in acknowledgement of his contribution to the family. More importantly, he was struck by Elizabeth’s quiet gaze, which held more affection than he had yet witnessed. He hoped that he had pleased her.
Friday, 24 April, 1812
Darcy’s plan was to leave Hertfordshire as soon after the morning meal as propriety would allow. Elizabeth was especially morose that morning, barely touching her breakfast. Jane, likewise was pale and sullen, regarding her sister with misty eyes. Lydia was just as affected, however, Darcy suspected the reason had more to do with her being left behind. However, the cloud of gloom oppressing Longbourn was instantly lifted upon the arrival of Mr. Charles Bingley.
“Oh Mr. Bingley, how lovely to see you again!” Mrs. Bennet said.
“Welcome back to the neighbourhood, Mr. Bingley,” Mr. Bennet said, appearing more pleased to see Charles than he had been upon Darcy’s arrival.
Even Elizabeth seemed encouraged by the return of colour to Jane’s complexion.
“Thank God you are here, Charles,” Darcy said. “Without your addition to the party, I fear we would not have survived.”
This ray of sunshine was treated to a hero’s welcome and offered every delicacy in the larder; fruit pies, lemon biscuits and butter cake with plum preserves were brought forth which Charles received with the greatest aplomb. “You must give my housekeeper your recipe, Mrs. Bennet,” he said, his eyes shining with pleasure.
Now that Charles had arrived, Darcy had no doubt that Jane’s mood would undergo a considerable improvement. If only he could say the same for Elizabeth.
The travellers took their leave with promises to write with every bit of news. The roads had improved, the weather was mild and the journey passed without incident in just over two hours. Darcy was never more relieved to be home again. Kitty and Georgiana formed an instant kinship based on their mutual interest in gothic novels, which had surprised Darcy. He knew his own sister had read them but had no idea that Kitty had ever so much as opened a book, much less read one. Obviously he had much to learn about his new sisters.
Elizabeth’s good humour returned and they settled into a comfortable routine; enjoying park outings during the day, suppers with the earl, evenings at the theatre and opera, and occasional parties and assemblies. Darcy was encouraged by Richard and Perry’s frequent visits.
Even Charles Bingley was an occasional caller, when he was in Town. Much to Darcy’s relief, he even seemed to enjoy his visits, reverting to his usual smiles and amiable demeanour. “Darcy, you are welcome at Netherfield anytime,” he said after supper one evening.
“I thank you, Charles. Perhaps we may make some stay with you when we retire to Derbyshire for the summer,” Darcy said. Charles agreed that this was an excellent notion. “I am glad you have decided to go back to Hertfordshire. Netherfield suits you, as does Jane Bennet.” There could be no doubt that Jane had had a calming effect on Charles.
“Yes, I believe they do, almost as well as Pemberley and Mrs. Darcy suit you,” Charles said. Darcy reacted with surprise to this observation. “Anyone can see how well you get on together.”
“Well then, if you and Jane were to marry, we would be brothers. I hope you will have no objection.” Darcy found himself quite pleased by the prospect.
Charles had no objections at all. “Perhaps you will offer your advice to a fledgling estate manager,” he said. Darcy assured him he would be his honour to provide any assistance he required. Of course, in the future he would take care to only provide his advice when requested; at least he had learned that valuable lesson.
Friday, 15 May, 1812
Elizabeth sent a footman to summon her husband, then paced in the portrait gallery, drawing deep breaths to calm the butterflies that teased her stomach. While her sisters were busy with their lessons, she would have a moment alone with Fitzwilliam. She thought it a fitting location to have this discussion; it was the same place where he had made his vow to her and Lady Anne. On their wedding day, he had promised to restore his mother’s faith in him and earn Elizabeth’s forgiveness.
Now that so much had changed between them, she felt obliged to set things to rights but worried just how to express herself. When she heard his steps in the hall, she ceased her pacing and smoothed the folds of her skirts, attempting to appear composed even though her heart fluttered wildly in her chest.
He entered the room wearing a smile. ‘You are a vision,” he said as he strode toward her.
He was impeccably attired, as always, and especially handsome that day in Elizabeth’s estimation. She curtsied to acknowledge his compliment, then reached out to take his hand. “I have something to tell you and I hope you will give me your full attention.
“I am at your service.”
She guided him to Lady Anne’s portrait. “You made a statement here, not long ago and I am compelled to do the same. When I made my marriage vows, I was not fully conscious of what I was saying. I was under duress and, in all reality, scarcely able to refuse. My reputation and that of my sisters depended on my acceptance of the circumstances.”
As she spoke, his smile slowly faded and his expression became grim. She pressed on. “However, my feelings have undergone a material change and are quite the opposite of what they were then. I could not allow you to harbour any mistaken impressions.”
He remained silent, his eyes searching hers.
She took a step closer and held both of his hands. “I love what you have done for my sisters. Jane has never been happier. I have every reason to believe that Mr. Bingley will do whatever he can to win her regard. Mary is enjoying her lessons and has not quoted her sermon books even once. Kitty is thriving under Georgiana’s and Mrs. Annesley’s sensible guidance. Even your threat to send Lydia away to school has done more to correct her abhorrent behaviour than my parents have been able to achieve these past few years,” she said, recalling her letters from home.
A smile crept back to his face and he released a sigh of relief. “My only thought was of you.”
This brought her to the reason for summoning him to the gallery. “As for me, I regret ever saying that you were the last man I would marry. Even though my marriage did not come about as I had once hoped, as my husband, you have answered every wish of my heart. You have been thoughtful, attentive, generous, affectionate and patient; every quality I have ever hoped for.”
“It was only through your instruction, my love, that I have become as you describe. My only purpose was to show you that your reproofs had been attended to,” he said, his face gleaming with affection.
“You have made good on every promise you have made. In return, I promise you that I will obey and serve you, love and honour you, keep you in sickness and in health; and forsake all others, keeping only unto you, so long as we both shall live.” Those marriage vows held more meaning to her now than they had on her wedding day.
“Dare I hope that you return my regard?” he said, raising her hand to his lips.
“You may dare as much as you choose,” she said without hesitation.
He cradled her face in his hands and softly kissed her lips, whispering endearments and calling her ‘my fair Eliza’.
“I love you, my dearest Fitzwilliam,” she said, joyous at her first declaration.
His kisses quickly became more ardent.
Breaking away, he pressed his lips to her ear. “Shall we repair to the master’s chambers,” he said in a husky voice.
Elizabeth had needed no further coaxing and instantly agreed.
Darcy spirited his wife away to the master’s chamber. Elizabeth’s declarations of love ignited his fervour and transported him to paradise. Replete with idyllic serenity, he held his wife in his arms and savoured the warm glow suffusing her complexion. Her fine eyes inspired him to recite poetry.
“She was a Phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament.”
“You know perfectly well, you found me merely tolerable when you first saw me.” Her teasing smile spurred him on.
“Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn.”
She kissed his chin. “My good qualities are under your protection and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible.” [i]
“A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.
I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!”
“Did this haunting image occur to you the first time I refused to dance with you, or the second?” she said. However, her impertinence did not dissuade him from his purpose.
“Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin-liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet.”
“No doubt you had that same thought when I escaped on our wedding night.”
“Must you interrupt?” he said, to which she offered a pretty pout.
“A Creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.”
“Finally, a fair portrayal of my incivility. As I recall, I rarely spoke to you unless it was to give you pain.”
“And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A Being breathing thoughtful breath,
A Traveller between life and death.”
“I fear you have indulged your imagination, Mr. Darcy.”
“Owed only to the liveliness of your own mind, Mrs. Darcy,” he said, then continued with the final verse.
“The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.” [ii]
“You paint a very pretty picture of me when I am mostly undeserving but I shall not complain. It is far better to receive your abundant praises than to hear the unflattering truth.”
In her state of dishabille with her hair in disarray, he found nothing unappealing about her. He could only look forward to more afternoon rendezvous with her. “My beautiful, impertinent bride, where shall we go for our wedding trip?” he inquired. He would take her anywhere in the world she wanted to go.
She considered this question for a moment before giving her answer. “To Pemberley.”
As he promised, he would deny her nothing. “As you wish.”
Friday, 14 August, 1812
Elizabeth’s husband gently caressed her rounded abdomen, and she released a contented sigh. When she had first married Fitzwilliam, she never would have predicted sharing the slightest marital felicity with him, but now that she was increasing, she could not imagine feeling otherwise.
“Are you well, my love?” He had asked her that same question every day since they had made the discovery.
“Never better,” she replied, as usual.
She knew he doubted her; she had said the same even on days when she was feeling poorly, but she had borne it without objection. Today however, she had not a single cause for complaint; in fact, she was in perfect health.
The Darcy party had travelled to Derbyshire at the end of June. Elizabeth recalled the miserable trip; she had taken ill not long after they had set off from London. Never in her life had she suffered from carriage sickness, so she could only suppose that a meal at one of the coaching inns had disagreed with her. She had attempted to carry on with the journey but was weak with fatigue. She insisted that she had no need for a doctor but when she fainted, Fitzwilliam sent for a physician who delivered the happy news that she was with child. Rather, she meant to be happy but was too exhausted to do anything but sleep.
After a gruesome journey, they finally reached her new home at Pemberley. She had complained when Fitzwilliam carried her over the threshold and up the stairs to her new chambers but secretly she doubted if she could have managed it under her own power. Fortunately, Georgiana and Mrs. Reynolds had attended to everything on her behalf until she was able to recover from her exhaustion. Although she had a sentimental fondness for Hertfordshire, now that summer had peaked at Pemberley, there was nowhere else she would rather be. Fitzwilliam had been loving and kind, deferring to her on every issue concerning the household and her sisters.
Her Bennet sisters, except for Kitty, were enjoying a holiday in Bath with her parents. Fitzwilliam had made all of the arrangements and according to Jane’s letters, they were enjoying themselves remarkably well. Mama revelled in some notoriety as the mother of five beautiful daughters, two of whom had already made successful matches.
Jane was engaged to Mr. Bingley, the wedding was to be in late September. Her trousseau was being prepared by one of Bath’s preeminent modistes; Mama frequently boasted to her new friends of her thankfulness at being blessed with such a beautiful family. Mr. Bingley had taken a room in a nearby hotel and was a frequent guest of the Bennets, escorting them to assemblies, the Pump Room, and the gardens.
Padre Snowden had travelled to Hertfordshire to request Papa’s consent to court Mary. She also had moved back home to Longbourn at Papa’s insistence and was now enjoying the padre’s attentions in Bath every weekend. Both he and Colonel Fitzwilliam were frequent visitors at Darcy House and were filled with stories of their time in Bath with the Bennets.
Kitty was living at Pemberley, enjoying the freedom from her lessons. She and Georgiana had forged a friendship that pleased Elizabeth. Kitty had captured the special attentions of the vicar at Kympton; however, she and Fitzwilliam agreed that at seventeen, she was far too young to encourage a gentleman’s affections. This in no way prevented her from regarding the vicar with longing gazes and her prettiest smiles. Elizabeth was certain that, in time, the vicar would be paying a call on Longbourn to speak to her father.
Lydia, who at first had felt ill-used for being required to join the Bath party, reveled in the attentions of several young men. She was scarcely without a partner at the assemblies and had been forced to admit that Bath was not so dull after all.
Darcy had never been happier in his life. Elizabeth was carrying his child and his household flourished under her gentle care. Pemberley was now Georgiana’s home. Her affection for her new sister grew with each passing day. She flourished under Elizabeth’s guidance and was no longer the shy, retiring girl she once was. Preparations for her come-out to society began in earnest with dance lessons. As with all her studies, she excelled at every turn. However, to Darcy’s great relief, she gave no indication that she was ready to leave the comfort of her home, now that she had the sisters she had always longed for.
Cousin Anne de Bourgh, a frequent guest at Pemberley, was living in Matlock with the earl and countess. Uncle Alexander had removed her from Rosings and submitted her to the care of his personal physician. Although she enjoyed reasonably good health, she was not well enough to attend any parties but looked forward to doing so when the season resumed. Under Aunt Eleanor’s tutelage, she was preparing to take her place as the mistress of Rosings. As Darcy had once suspected, Anne refuted the idea that she sent her mother to call on him upon the occasion of his marriage to Elizabeth.
Aunt Catherine was living at Rosings with a new companion; a widow of a Navy captain who suffered no nonsense and was not apt to be led astray by the Lady’s underhanded designs. Her former susceptible companion, Mrs. Jenkinson was pensioned off and sent to live with her son. Infuriated by the degradation of living on a stringent allowance with a stranger, Aunt Catherine penned poisonous letters to Darcy, the earl and countess. However upon being threatened with Bedlam, she discontinued all correspondence with the family. Darcy’s older cousin, Robert now served as overseer to the estate and had exclusive authority over all concerns related to the upkeep of the property.
With the threat to Darcy’s future happiness finally contained, he was free to enjoy his wife’s irresistible charms. One night after the candles had been extinguished, he asked her when she first fell in love with him. Even in the darkness of his chamber, he knew by the sound of her voice that she was smiling.
“Despite my efforts to resist, I must admit that from the moment we were married, my reserves began to melt. I was resolved to loathe you forever but you paid me every courtesy, pampered me and behaved in a way that I would have thought impossible for someone who had treated me with such callous disregard,” she said, causing him pangs of conscience. Only a man out of his senses could have claimed to love a woman while being so heartless.
“The possibility of allowing you into my heart was against my will and against my reason but, ultimately, beyond my ability to prevent,” she said, interlacing her fingers with his. “I had already released my aversion to you by the time you found me at the George but it was not until Mr. Bingley accompanied us to the park that I realized that my opinion of you had vastly improved.” He recalled those early days with great fondness and was glad that she did the same.
“It was when Padre Perry came for supper that I first came to admire you. His attentions to Mary gave her more confidence than ever before. The change in her was so pronounced, I cannot help thinking that you somehow knew they would suit. But when you admonished Lydia in your own subtle way, I was irretrievably lost,” she said, snuggling into his chest. “The improvement she has undergone, by your design, has been so great that I no longer fear for her future. That you would do so much for my sisters, just to please me, left me with no other choice than to love you.”
“I did hope to bring you some happiness after I had caused you such pain,” he said, pressing kisses to her forehead.
“Yes, that memory gives me no pleasure and it is best forgotten.”
Unfortunately, he could not do the same. “You are too kind to put aside my transgression but I shall never forget it, my dear Elizabeth. Those painful recollections will forever haunt me. That I have done something to please you at one brief moment in time is not enough to absolve me of my offences against you. Your kind and generous spirit has taught me to be ever mindful of the people beyond my own circle; that my consequence should not inspire only pride but also humility; that my actions towards the people outside my influence say more about my character than I ever imagined.”
He was constantly amazed by her devotion to her family. “You may say that I have helped your sisters by showing them kindness but if not for you, I never would have done it. I owe any improvement in my character to you. To be seen in your eyes as a good man, as a man worthy of your affection, is the only purpose of my life. Seeing the world through your eyes has been my greatest education. I shall never take your good opinion for granted.” He owed her a debt of gratitude for the lessons she had taught him.
He reached for the night stand and withdrew a small pouch from the drawer. The gift he had ordered from his jeweller had arrived that day and he could wait no longer to present it to her. “I intended to give this to you upon the birth of our first child but I want you to have it now,” he said, removing the item from the velvet pouch.
“You spoil me with your presents, Fitzwilliam.”
“You give me much more in return,” he said, sliding the gold ring onto her finger. He knew that she was unable to determine the ring’s design in the darkness.
Even so, she thanked him prodigiously. “Someday it will be an heirloom for our children and grandchildren,” she said, kissing him with all the fervour of a woman violently in love.
In the morning, she would discover that his gift was a posy ring, etched with a floral design. Inside was an inscription to his beautiful wife; My Fair Eliza.
© 2018 Cassandra B. Leigh
[i] Pride and Prejudice, (Chapter 60), Jane Austen
[ii] She Was a Phantom of Delight, William Wordsworth (1803)