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Authors: Stanley Michael Hurd

Into Hertfordshire

BOOK: Into Hertfordshire
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© 2014 by Stanley M. Hurd.

 

 

All rights reserved, including reproduction in whole or in part, in print or electronic media, except by Amazon and its affiliates for the purposes of marketing the work through their online program.

 

 

This is a work of fiction, and all characters, character names, places, and events were created as such to meet the needs of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, or any locale, or any event, is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

Publisher: Stanley M. Hurd

 

 

Second edition, published 2014.

 

 

ISBN 13 978-0-9910382-4-4

 

 

Cover design: J. E. Hurd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many friends have made this possible; a special thanks to my daughters, who were my Editors in Chief, and my wife, who was my long-suffering reader, companion, sounding board, and, in sum, long-suffering mate, period.

 

I also owe a great deal to my friends at the Derbyshire Writers’ Guild for their scholarship, aid, and encouragement. May you live long, may your numbers grow, and may you be called home to Pemberley in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A man is rich who has a good wife—

I have wealth beyond counting.

Thank you, KB.

 

 

 

 

FOREWORD

 

 

This second edition has been substantially re-edited for anachronisms and Americanisms; our thanks to those sharp-eyed readers who have helped make this edition possible.

 

Darcy’s Tale
is presented in three volumes, as was the original
Pride and Prejudice
200 years earlier; this has been done both for reasons of historical accuracy and because the story naturally divides itself into three major sections.

 

The correspondence between Darcy and his sister is included in its entirety in the Appendix, as certain letters had no place in the events of the book. They have been included to allow the reader to follow each letter as it was written, without the shifts in time and circumstance which occurred during the intervals between writings. In an age when communications took weeks to complete, letters held their own internal chronology, quite independent of external events; the reader is invited to enjoy this more stately rhythm of life by following the correspondents’ individual stories as described in their letters, in the order in which they were exchanged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

Mr. Charles Bingley to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy

Manchester Square

September 6, —

Dear Darcy,

Greetings from the South, my friend! I trust all is well in Derbyshire and you are enjoying your usual good health; please give your dear sister my best regards.

Well, now! I must ask for your congratulations, as I am about to join you amongst the ranks of England’s landed families. I have taken Netherfield Hall, the property in Hertfordshire that Delacroix mentioned to us in Town last July! I went down to see it for myself last Friday, and it is eminently suited to my needs. Fine hangars of timber, just enough variety in the lay of the land to lend interest to the hunt, and enough arable to be profitable—given an infusion of resources. I had my agent execute the lease on Monday. I have sent my man Roberts down to hire the servants, and the Hall should be habitable by the end of the month.

I should very much like to have your opinion of the property. When do you plan to be back in Town? We could ride down to see it together, or even make a stay of it and get some shooting in if you like.

Your Obedient &c.

Charles Bingley

 

*****

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy to Mr. Charles Bingley

Pemberley House,

September 9, —

Dear Bingley,

Never one to do things by halves, are you? My dear Sir—you saw it for one day? Good timber and pleasant scenery do not make a manor! “Enough arable” is well and good, but what about drainage? Not to mention the drains in the Hall. Do you have any idea what a disaster it is to have a houseful of guests when the drains refuse to do their office? And the cistern, in what condition is the cistern? Your new servants will desert you
en masse
if they must carry every quart of bathwater up stairs by hand. Your blithe mention of an “infusion of resources” I find a bit troubling, but that, after all, is your look-out. If you want to spend your capital on a leased property, well, I am sure that any resultant impecunities will have a most salutary effect on your character.

I shall be back in Town after Michaelmas quarter-day; I am obliged to remain at Pemberley until then to settle the harvest affairs. The harvest this year has been exceedingly generous and I shall have certain affairs to set in motion once I get to London, but they should not take long. I shall look forward to placing myself at your disposal any time after the second week of October.

Truly, my dear Bingley, I hope from my heart that the property will prove itself worthy of your most sanguine hopes, and that my more jaundiced eyes will see it even as do your own. I look forward to seeing it, and you, very soon.

Yours faithfully, &c.

Fitzwilliam Darcy

 

*****

Miss Georgiana Darcy to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy

[1]
Pemberley

October 7, —

Dearest Brother,

Thank you for sending Mrs. Annesley to me; she is very gentle and obliging. We spend time every day on my music and reading. Pemberley has been cold since you left, but as I have no wish to go out this is no hardship on me. Colonel Fitzwilliam has stopped in to visit, although you are doubtless already aware of that. He is all kindness, but his solicitude is a constant reminder of my transgressions, and, indeed, I need no such reminder. The Colonel means well, I know, and next to you he is the dearest of my relations, but I do not deserve his concern and my spirits are not sufficient to make me good company. I do not ask a boon, Brother, as I merit none, but I do think my cousin’s time would be better spent elsewhere. Perhaps, dear Brother, if you see this as I do, you might suggest to him a different and more worthwhile endeavour? I cannot bear to have him waste his time and care on one such as I.

Your devoted sister,

Georgiana

 

*****

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy to Miss Georgiana Darcy

Grosvenor Square

October 10, —

Dearest Sister,

My dear, gentle Georgiana, your letter grieves me more than words can express. Your pain is my doing, entirely; I neglected you and trusted others to perform duties that properly belonged to me. Mrs. Younge abused my trust while you were at Ramsgate, it is true; but she could not have done so had not I, with an imprudence altogether inexcusable in one of my years, accepted her recommendations without sufficient enquiry. Nor had I prepared you as I ought to have done for such men as he. I knew him for what he was, yet never sought to inform you, not only of
his
character, but even of the existence of such predatory men. My excuse is that I had thought to preserve your innocence and spare you this knowledge, but I see now that that is like sparing the knowledge of fire: we encounter it every where, and if we are not taught caution it will do us grave injury. My Mother, I know, would not have left you defenceless in this way, and I berate myself for not having foreseen this need. I, who pride myself on my understanding, have failed utterly in its application.

I have allowed you to be badly burned, and I pray to God that the pain will subside and the scars will fade, for yours is the sweetest nature Heaven ever sent to Earth; if I have allowed such an angelic disposition to suffer permanent damage I shall never forgive myself. Dearest, you must believe me: you did no more than accept the lies of a man who could deceive even one so worthy as Father, as you must now realise he was wholly deceived by the man. And you must remember, as I certainly do, that it was your own goodness that made you acknowledge to me your planned elopement, for the pain you knew it would give me. You are too good: you cannot allow even your most pressing desires to harm another. Please, please consider my words, Dearest, and believe that I am,

Your most loving and contrite brother,

Fitzwilliam Darcy

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

On a Thursday morning in mid-October, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy sat in his library overlooking Grosvenor Square in London, studying in a desultory fashion some of the details of his affairs. The business of the year had gone well and the coffers were pleasingly full, and he was enjoying a not unreasonable amount of that satisfaction which comes from seeing one’s efforts justly rewarded. But the financial outlook was, in fact, very nearly the only part of the past year upon which he could reflect with any complacence. It had all begun with the Season the previous winter: more so than any other in his memory, it had been one long, dreary round of sterile society and empty pomp. Darcy was one of the most eligible bachelors in London, and was therefore much sought after by the misses and matrons of Society. The matrons urged their daughters on his acquaintance, and the misses fluttered around him at every dinner and ball. London’s Season was little less than a matrimonial fair for people of his age and condition, and, while not an excessively social man, he would in general accept two or three invitations a week; perhaps rather less than that in this last year. He was not by nature attracted to the
ton
—although his wealth and connections placed him in the first circles—and he had no urgent need of a wife, so he felt free to pick and choose from among the invitations he received; still, he remembered to advantage the happiness of his own parents’ marriage, and had always entertained the hope that he would, at some time in the indefinite future, enjoy the same benefits. Lately though, that hope had been dwindling. The unfortunate reality he observed in the married couples of his acquaintance, and the promise of the matrimonial state offered by the women he knew, was far from the ideal he had observed in his parents’ union. He was sensible enough to be conscious of the want of true character in those Society misses so abundant in London, and philosopher enough to find some small entertainment in the unwitting ironies and absurdities of the women who surrounded him. What he did not realise was how very isolated his life was becoming, and that the reason he was secure against the women of his circle was the fact that his own more serious nature was very much out of place amongst the intrigues and inconsequentialities of Society. All this summed itself up in him as an indistinct, but growing, dissatisfaction with things in general, and with social intercourse in particular.

Then there had been the disastrous events of July. Having gone to Ramsgate to make a surprise visit to his young sister, Georgiana, he had arrived to find her on the very eve of an elopement! And the man! —George Wickham, the son of his father’s steward; Wickham, whom Darcy had known since childhood, and moreover, known to be a thoroughly deceitful and dishonourable individual. Darcy had early on discovered that Wickham was, by some cruel chance, his own personal Nemesis; always possessed of a great deal of charm, which he would wield to his advantage at every opportunity, Wickham had an extraordinary capacity for lying which was exceeded only by his credibility while doing so. Darcy was not so blest with social grace and ease, being rather too forthright in his manner to be generally pleasing, so it often came about that, though Darcy was devoted to the strictest truth, Wickham’s lies carried a sweeter taste and, therefore, a greater conviction. Many and many a time had Darcy gone to his father to report some base act of Wickham’s, only to earn the frustration and shame of his father’s disbelief; Wickham had so thoroughly seduced his father’s reason in his favour that he was always able to wriggle, eel-like, out of any difficulty. The smirk Wickham always gave him over his father’s shoulder at these moments angered Darcy with the unalloyed intensity of youth, but he could never manage to convince his father of his protégé’s unworthiness. He had eventually taken refuge by distancing himself from Wickham as much and as often as possible, but even this brought with it a degree of mortification, in the form of his father’s censure for his coldness to one whom the elder Mr. Darcy thought so deserving.

Wickham was one who would always take more than he was offered, and had quickly managed to exhaust his father’s small legacy, a rather larger one left him by Darcy’s father, and a settlement from Darcy himself made in honour of his father’s wishes, which combined would have kept a prudent man for ten years. Having already petitioned Darcy unsuccessfully for additional funds, Wickham had obviously decided to worm his way into the Darcy fortune through marriage, and Georgiana was ready to hand. Her ruination and the degradation of the Darcy name meant nothing to him, so long as he could supply himself with the money he desired.

At Ramsgate, when Darcy had discovered them, he had for the first time in his life seriously considered issuing a challenge; this treacherous attempt to injure his sister and, indeed, his entire family, had swept him up in a murderous wrath that had astonished him by its fury. All that kept him from it was the eventual realization that to
afficher
the affair publically with a duel was to spread the scandal throughout his acquaintance and beyond. There had remained nothing to do but to escort Georgiana back to their estate in Derbyshire and try his best to repair the damage done to her heart. Thankfully, nothing of the matter had reached outside ears; his cousin, Colonel Edmund Fitzwilliam, who was joined with him in Georgiana’s care, was the only other soul who knew of the intended elopement. At least, Darcy hoped that this was so.

Georgiana herself had been completely overcome with heartache and remorse. She could barely tolerate being in Darcy’s presence, as her sense of guilt over the ruin she had almost brought down on them all was made all the more acute by his gentle treatment of her: convinced as she was of her unworthiness, his kindness served only to hold up the mirror of her disgrace. Darcy had eventually left Pemberley for Town several weeks early, just to spare her pain.

Concern for his sister and the indefinite sense of emptiness in his own life oppressed Darcy’s spirits during unoccupied moments, and consequently he worked hard to have as few such moments as possible. His diligence to his affairs in recent months therefore had had a twofold purpose: to improve the family’s fortunes, yes; but also to push away from himself a black mood that always hovered in the back reaches of his mind, waiting to descend upon him whenever his thoughts were free to turn to his own condition.

With cares such as these to afflict him, it can be no wonder that he had sought relief in solitude and activity. But now the harvest affairs were over and he was settled in London; having no business to absorb his time, and solitude in London being a near impossibility, he rather imagined that the diversions of the place and season would serve him well. His social duties were sure to rise, and, he rather hoped, would provide the distraction he had enjoyed through his attention to his affairs.

He had just done with his last business of the morning when the sound of the knocker echoed through the house. Since very few knew he was in Town and it was rather early in the day, he assumed it was some concern of the household. However, the sound of footsteps approaching down the hall heralded an arrival at the library door.

“Mr. Bingley,” announced the butler, Goodwin. His countenance remained perfectly impassive, as always, but an air of approbation for this particular visitor seemed to waft from him. Mr. Charles Bingley was Darcy’s closest friend, and very nearly his only close friend in London. Darcy’s acquaintance was large, but his intimates were few, and in Bingley he found the only person outside his own family in whom he could confide, and on whom he might rely.

Bingley’s family money had come through trade, but Bingley was thoroughly the gentleman, and of a most complaisant temperament. Most of those who knew them both wondered that so strong a bond could subsist between two such opposite characters: Bingley was all that was amiable, while Darcy was renowned for his reserve. They lived not far apart in London and had met, as people do, in the course of an evening’s entertainment; they were introduced by their hostess and seated together at supper, and the rest followed naturally. Bingley was undeterred by—indeed, he seemed altogether unaware of—Darcy’s reserved manner: he spoke to him as though they had been the best of friends since childhood. The novelty of being thus addressed, combined with Bingley’s good sense, informed mind, and affability, produced in Darcy a most favourable impression; this was reinforced by the discovery that Bingley belonged to the same college as himself, and shared an admiration for Darcy’s favourite professor. With all this in their favour, it was the work of but a very few weeks before they were every where seen together. Darcy, being the older of the two, and admittedly the cleverer, looked out for Bingley’s interests with care, and Bingley’s natural diffidence and obliging nature allowed him to be led by Darcy in many ways. Bingley, on the other hand, had the wiser heart, and made return to Darcy through his warm affection, great good humour, and by continually forcing Darcy out of his own constricted existence and into society. During this last year Darcy had relied on his good nature extensively to help ward off his tendency to lowness.

“Bingley!” Darcy welcomed his friend, rising from his cluttered desk. “Hail to England’s latest country squire!”

Bingley, whose open and pleasant face bore a famously large smile, came through the door and shook hands happily with his friend. “Darcy!” cried he, “how good it is to see you. It has been an age! I have not seen you since you left us for Ramsgate last summer. Oh, and I say! you never told us how your surprise visit to Miss Darcy went off.”

A cloud passed briefly across Darcy’s face and he shot a cautious glance at Bingley; seeing nothing but a friendly, confiding countenance, his own brow cleared. “Ramsgate, it was…indeed…” he said in his momentary confusion. “My sister was thoroughly surprised by my arrival, I assure you. I found her, though…not in spirits…and so took her back to Pemberley directly after.” He returned quickly to his first topic: “But here you are, and set to become a landowner! Squire Bingley, commissioner of the peace and patron of the parish! Or have you done another about-turn and decided to leave off?”

“No, no,” replied Bingley with a self-satisfied air, taking a seat and stretching out his legs, “I have no thought but to proceed.”

Darcy arched a brow. “What, a full month gone and you still steady to your purpose? The heavens must be reeling!”

“Come, Darcy, I am not as bad as all that. In any event, the countryside is delightful, and I have met several of my new neighbours already; they seem a decent lot.”

“And how many beautiful country misses have you fallen in love with?”

“Nary a one, so far,” replied Bingley, his smile making another appearance. “But I have heard rumours of several very pretty girls in the neighbourhood. I mean to track them to their lair this coming week. I am to attend a ball…well, an assembly, really…Tuesday next.” He looked at Darcy optimistically. “I
am
hoping to persuade you to accompany me.”

“Bingley,” Darcy groaned, “you know how I hate balls…and at a village assembly! Great Heavens!”

“It is not such a
very
small village,” Bingley protested, encouraged by not receiving a frank negative. “Meryton is quite a decent-sized little market-town. Caroline says she will go, but only if you do.” He looked hopefully at his friend.

At this Darcy’s shoulders sagged imperceptively; he saw defeat looming before him. Bingley’s shot, loosed at random, had found the chink in his armour. His friends could always urge Darcy to action on the strength of his sense of duty and propriety, especially where a lady was concerned. Not that this was Bingley’s intent, nor did he even realise it; his own desire for society, particularly in company with ladies, was so constant, so honest and forthright, that he often carried his friend along while being completely unaware that Darcy was acting contrary to his own wishes—the nicety of Darcy’s scruples quite escaped Bingley’s notice. Miss Caroline Bingley, Mr. Bingley’s younger sister, was not a great favourite with Darcy, but he had admitted her into his acquaintance willingly for Bingley’s sake, and over time had even allowed her a degree of familiarity unusual in his general acquaintance. Having thus admitted her, he recognised his duty to play the gentleman to her—at measured intervals, at any rate. But though his attendance at this country affair might be unavoidable, Darcy had no wish to let Caroline Bingley think she could call his tune. “I shall consider it,” he replied evenly. “But in any event I stand ready to accompany you into the wilds of Hertfordshire. I am most anxious to see what you are getting yourself into.”

“Oh, that is excellent, Darcy! Would it suit you to go down on Monday?”

“Admirably.”

“That is all I could hope for! But now I must run; I am sorry I cannot stay longer, but will you come round for dinner on Sunday? Caroline would be delighted, and it would certainly brighten
my
afternoon.”

“I thank you for the invitation, but will you allow me to exchange it for one of my own? I have been haring all over London since the moment I arrived, and I was looking forward to a bit of quiet this weekend. Come and dine with me, instead.”

“With very great pleasure!” Bingley agreed with alacrity. He looked questioningly at Darcy. “Do you feel the need to extend your invitation to my sisters?”

“‘Sisters’? Are both your sisters in Town, then?”

“Yes, Hurst has been staying here for his mother’s sake. She has been feeling poorly, or so she says, and Hurst and Louisa have been up to see to things for her. They said she was on the mend, though. Caroline invited them for Sunday, without discussing it with me, mind you, so I should be happy to forego the pleasure in favour of dinner with you.”

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