Welcome back to my blog!
This post is brought to you by Promises Kept. (affiliate link; free to click on but may result in me earning a few pennies)
We’re on the downhill slide, now. I should have this story wrapped up by mid-July.
Want to go back and read the previous chapters?
You can find the first one here. The second one is here. Chapter 3 is here.
Chapter 4 can be found here. This is Chapter 5. This one is Chapter 6.
Chapter 7 is here. Chapter 8 is here. Chapter 9 is here.
With the care and attention of his family and servants, Darcy made a rapid recovery. Within a couple of weeks, the headaches caused by his head injury had all but disappeared, and his bruises faded. His memory of the accident was slow to return, and his broken ankle took the rest of the summer to mend, but he was soon eager to return to the helm and take back the running of the estate from Fitzwilliam. His children, with support from the doctor, insisted he do so from his bed. Reluctantly, he gave in.
During this time of recuperation for the master of Pemberley, visits between the residents and the neighbors came to a halt. Letters were sent back and forth between the families, but no one wished to intrude on them when the master was ill. Nor were Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth in any mood to go around the neighborhood as though nothing were the matter. They were far too busy with estate and nursing duties.
Added to their burden was the desire to be strong for each other, and for each to absolve the other of any responsibility for Darcy’s accident. Both repeatedly heard his words against such feelings; each repeated them to the other, sometimes daily, yet they both were aware of their own guilt. Neither could really see the truth in their father’s words in relation to their own decisions; yet, they could clearly comprehend it for their spouse. Oddly enough, it was this constant holding each other up, this frequency of speaking a lack of guilt over each other that eventually began to turn their feelings. First convincing each other of their own innocence in the matter, they began turning their thoughts and words of forgiveness inward. Once that happened, they began to realize that their father was correct, and were able to forgive themselves.
One of the duties the young couple took on was visits to tenants. While it was a task Elizabeth would have taken over eventually, no one had planned on it being forced upon her so soon. Still, the visits would have to be made, and she was eager to begin. She was acquainted with a few of those who lived closer to the manor house, though she had never met the ones who lived further out. Fitzwilliam insisted on making the first round of visits with her, both for her support and to see for himself what the situation of each family was.
As they rode in her husband’s curricle out to the first family on the list, Elizabeth realized just how eager she was. She considered her reasons and realized that she had nothing to fear from any of the people she was about to meet. She was the mistress of Pemberley. She had protection in the form of her father and husband, she was married and thus not to be pursued, and her status was higher than theirs, all of which meant she would receive deference and respect rather than snobbery and abuse. Added to the situation – this was not a London ballroom or the drawing room of a peer – her comfort level was the highest it had been outside of home for a long time. She smiled widely. Fitzwilliam, catching sight of the twinkle in her eye, naturally enquired as to the reason. Elizabeth happily shared her thoughts with him.
“I am not dreading these visits, and I asked myself why. I concluded I have no reason to, and I am ecstatic to be unafraid.”
“I am glad to hear it. You, Mistress, are going to be loved by all who meet you today.” He leaned over to punctuate his words with a quick kiss to his wife’s enticing smile.
Elizabeth responded by holding his arm tighter, cuddling as close to him as she dared in such a public place. This, combined with her words, inspired her adoring spouse to pull the curricle off the road and into a wide path in the trees. When he was sure they were far enough from the road so as not to be seen, he stopped the horses and turned to his wife, pulling her into his arms. They kissed deeply, expressing their pleasure in each other’s company the best way they knew how. Soon enough, hands began to wander and desire to race, but they kept their heads about them and desisted before they went too far. The day promised to be a long one, and they wanted to get as many farms in as they could before it got too late. Eventually, Fitzwilliam got the equipage turned around again and they were back on the road toward the farms.
They stopped to see the Bartons first. Mr. and Mrs. Barton were relieved to hear from Master Fitzwilliam’s own lips that Mr. Darcy was doing well.
“We begged him to stay, sir. That rain was coming down in buckets! The missus offered him supper, even. He was insistent he was going home.” Mr. Barton shook his head at the memory, even as his wife nodded hers in agreement.
Elizabeth was quick to reassure them. “We are so grateful that you offered,” she began earnestly. “Mr. Darcy, as you have learned, is quite willful when he is of a mind to be. You did the best you could, and I assure you, none of us hold it against you.”
“Thank ye, Mrs. Darcy,” a relieved Mrs. Barton responded. “The Darcys have always been the best family to work for. And we …” She reached to tuck her hand into Mr. Barton’s elbow. “Believe what we learned at church, to do to others what we would have done to us. Mr. Darcy takes good care of his tenants. It is an honor and a pleasure to take care of his family in return, when the need arises.”
Soon after this exchange, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth were on their way to the next farm. Every family was eager for first-hand news of the master, for even though Wickham kept them updated, the words meant more coming from the family itself.
At the end of the day, they had made brief visits to almost all who leased farmland from Pemberley. Elizabeth’s joy in the visits was plain to see, and the families rejoiced that such a warm and outgoing young woman was now mistress. Her charm and wit were a stark contrast to her husband’s, but they could see the warmth and pride in his eyes when he looked upon her. The future of the estate looked brighter, in the tenants’ eyes, and was cause for celebration.
With that in mind, Fitzwilliam pulled back into the hidden spot they had made use of earlier in the day. Their passion had been quietly simmering through all the calls, and neither was prepared to wait until nightfall for satisfaction. This time, when they returned to the main road, both were glowing and slightly disheveled.
Eventually, the elder Darcy was out of bed and using canes to get around. It was now late September, and preparations for the harvest were being made. The days were still rather hot, and the family enjoyed time spent out of doors as often as their schedules allowed. During one of these picnics, Darcy brought something up to Elizabeth that he was sure the housekeeper had already addressed, or was about to.
“Elizabeth,” he began, “I do not remember your family ever visiting in the autumn, but one of the traditions that my wife always organized was a harvest festival for the tenants and workers. Has Mrs. Reynolds said anything to you about it?”
“No, she has not, not yet. What goes on during this festival?”
“Mainly, it is a feast to which all of Pemberley is invited. I remember Anne organizing activities, though. There were games for the children, especially, and I recall activities for the adults, as well.”
Fitzwilliam interjected, “I remember you and Uncle Henry taking part in a footrace one year.”
“Yes, and one year we raced Pemberley’s horses.” Darcy smiled fondly. The memories were as vivid today as they had been ten years ago on the day his wonderful wife had passed away.
Turning his focus back to Elizabeth, he continued. “Anne had a great talent for organizing gatherings of all kinds. I am sure if you asked some of the older tenants, they would be full of stories of our festivals then.”
Smiling at him, Elizabeth agreed. “Perhaps I will do just that. Thank you for sharing this with me. I will ask Mrs. Reynolds tomorrow; I know she will have journals of previous festivals, as she has kept detailed descriptions of every event Pemberley has ever held, it seems.”
The family shared a laugh, as it was a fair depiction of the housekeeper’s great attention to detail.
The next morning, during their meeting, Elizabeth did ask Mrs. Reynolds, who did have several journals containing accounts of previous harvest festivals. The two began planning for this year’s party to be held at the end of October, once the remaining crops had been harvested.
Hearing a knock on the open door to her sitting room, Elizabeth looked up. There stood a footman looking very much as though he wished to speak to her.
“Come in, Joshua. How may I help you?”
Clearing his throat and bowing to her, he began, “Mrs. Darcy, your presence is requested in the master’s study.”
Elizabeth was surprised. She wondered what possible need for her Papa George could have. Her thoughts quickly turned to her husband, and she blushed. Surely he could not be requesting a private rendezvous in his father’s study! Before her mind wandered any further, she thanked Joshua and dismissed him to return to his duties.
When she arrived at the study door, she was astonished to hear her newest sister’s voice. She knocked with her hand on the latch, jumping back when it opened on its own. Standing on the other side, head peeking around to see who requested entrance, was Fitzwilliam. The relief on his face was almost comical, but she held back her smile until she could ascertain what was distressing him so.
“Elizabeth, I am so glad you responded so promptly!” her husband exclaimed. He reached for her hand, almost pulling her into the room before shutting the door again.
“What is the problem?” She looked into each face. She could see frustration in the male countenances and stubborn anger in the female one.
Georgiana burst out, “I will not go. You cannot make me!”
“Go where, dearest?”
Darcy cleared his throat. “I have just informed Georgiana that she is to go to school in the fall, following the harvest festival.”
Fitzwilliam added, “She refuses to attend. Elizabeth, you have told me many times of your desire to be educated and your disappointment when your request was refused. Please, will you not speak to her? See if you can change her mind. Where this stubbornness and outright rudeness has come from, I do not know.”
“I apologize, Father. I should not have questioned your parenting.”
Elizabeth laughed. “You do not know where her bull-headedness came from? Have you looked in the mirror recently? It is a family trait!”
Her husband turned red, and her father-in-law chuckled. He had been accused of that fault many times by his beloved Anne and was well-aware of the arguments Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth had gotten into, in large part due to the refusal of one or the other – or sometimes both – to see any other point of view but their own. Fitzwilliam was also recalling a couple of those arguments. Mostly the ones he had lost. He covered his embarrassment by returning the discussion to its topic.
“We were discussing my sister and her education.”
Smirking, she replied, “Yes, my darling, we were.” Turning to her sister, she sat down beside her and took her hand. She asked, “Do you comprehend the great honor you are receiving to be able to go to school, to learn in a formal manner? Fitzwilliam is correct. I have told him many times how I begged my father to send me. I pleaded and made vows and promises, but to no avail. There was not money for it, I was told. ‘I can teach you just as well,’ he said. And then there was my mother, who did not believe a girl child should have any education at all beyond basic reading and doing sums. But I craved books. I wanted to devour every bit of knowledge I could. It is well that I had that desire, as I was forced to educate myself. Georgiana, I beg you, do not throw this opportunity away! You will come to regret it later if you do. It can be nothing but a blessing to you, truly!”
“But I do not want to leave you and Fitzwilliam and Papa! I would be in London, so far away from you, all alone!” Georgiana wailed, truly distressed at the idea.
“You will have your Matlock relations right there in town, dearest. Uncle Henry’s duties in Parliament will keep them there even after we have returned to Pemberley. And you will come home for Christmas; will she not, Papa George?” Elizabeth asked as she turned from her sister to her father.
“Indeed she will. I will go to town myself to retrieve her. Georgiana, I would never leave you friendless, especially not on holidays. You will always come home when school is not in session. Your aunt and uncle, as well as Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle, are available to you whenever you need them. I have authorized both to speak for me should the need arise.
“You are a Darcy, and one day you will come out and be an adult woman. You will need to have all manner of accomplishments. There is much you can learn from Elizabeth, but there is more you will only hear about at school. You will make connections there, as well; friends of your own. Fitzwilliam went to school when he was about your age. It is expected of one of our status.”
“I will not have to stay at school all the time?”
“Well, when it is in session, you will. It is a boarding school; you will sleep there and eat your meals and everything as though you were here. However, when school is out for holidays and breaks, you will come home, to Pemberley if we are here, or to Darcy House if we are in town. If you study hard, perhaps I might even bring you home for a Saturday night now and then, or maybe a whole weekend. But you must work hard,” he finished sternly.
“Georgie, has that been your concern, that you would be stranded at the school and not see us again for the entire term?” Elizabeth asked.
Georgiana began to cry. “Yes! I do not want to leave you for months and months. I finally have a sister, and you want me to leave. Our family is complete, for the first time I can remember. If I go to school, I will never see you, not for a long time!”
Elizabeth held her, looking over her head at her men, who looked abashed; it had occurred to neither of them to ask. They had assumed she was simply being obstinate.
“Will you go, dearest, given the reassurance that you will see us again soon?”
Georgiana sniffed. “Yes, I will go.” She looked up, glaring at her father. “But you must promise me that you will not leave me there.”
Relieved, Darcy repeated his assurances. After relaying more details, the entire family retreated to their rooms to recover from the emotional conversation.
“My love, I do not know what Father and I would have done without you today. Thank you for seeing what we did not.”
Elizabeth smiled. “I think you would have figured it out sooner or later. But I am happy to have so quickly and easily restored harmony to us all.” She stood up on her toes to kiss her husband, who wrapped her tightly in his embrace. It was not until dinner was about to be served, hours later, that the couple made it down the stairs again.
When the day of the harvest celebration arrived, the entire estate expressed their delight. Elizabeth had reinstated some of Lady Anne’s favorite events, many of which had not been part of the festival since her death. Each of the Darcy family members played a part. Georgiana led the games for the children, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth took charge of the activities for the adults – and participated in a few, to the delight of the tenants and workers – and the estate’s master oversaw the horse race. A huge feast was laid out early in the afternoon for all to enjoy, followed by dancing in the evening and fireworks at dusk. At some point during the party, every attendee made their way to Mr. Darcy and his family to thank them and express their appreciation.
“This is the best estate in all of England to work for, sir. I remind my boys of that daily,” effused Mr. Mitchell, one of the more prosperous of the tenants.
“Thank you, Mitchell. We are happy to have you. Without tenants and workers like you, who put in a good, solid days’ work, Pemberley would be nothing.”
“Thank ye, sir. Missus.” He tugged at his forelock as he bowed, taking his leave of the couple.
Elizabeth sighed. “What a lovely day this has been. It was such a joy to see everyone enjoying themselves!”
“It is all due to you, my love. You have set a high standard for future celebrations, you know.”
“Yes, but I know they all work so hard for us. It is the least I could do for them.”
“Indeed.” Fitzwilliam squeezed the hand that lay on his arm, fingers intertwined with his.
Finally, after the last of the fireworks faded into black, the families began gathering together to return to their homes. When all was quiet, the Darcys followed suit.
The next day, Darcy and Georgiana headed off to London to enroll her in school. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth considered going with them for the Little Season, but instead decided to stay at Pemberley. Being well into autumn, the days were cooler, but that did not stop them from having a final picnic. So, after waving off their father and sister, the pair climbed into Fitzwilliam’s curricle, picnic basket stowed at their feet, and drove off to their favorite, secluded glen for an afternoon of talk, sleep, and love.
To be continued …