Mr Darcy's Secret

After capturing the heart of the richest man in England, Elizabeth Darcy believes her happiness is complete until mysterious affairs involving Mr Darcy’s past, and concerns over his sister Georgiana’s own troubled path to happiness, present Elizabeth with fresh challenges to test her integrity, honour, and sweet nature. However, nothing can daunt our sparkling and witty heroine or dim her sense of fun as Elizabeth and the powerful, compelling figure of Mr Darcy take centre stage in this romantic tale set against the dramatic backdrops of Regency Derbyshire and the Lakes with the cast of characters from Pride and Prejudice we love so well.

Excerpt

On the following Tuesday afternoon, finding the time to take a stroll together at last, Fitzwilliam suggested they walk high into the woods, taking the path past the water cascade. The day was fine, the November sun melting the crystals of ice frosting the grass and the remaining leaves on the trees. The sound of the rushing water falling down the hillside, bubbling along, was a joyful noise to Elizabeth’s ears, and as they walked she admired all the views around.

The subject of their conversation soon turned from nature to nurture and subsequently to that of Miss Darcy.

“It is so good to have Georgiana with us,” said Elizabeth, taking his arm as they progressed up the steeper part of the hill. “If only we can make Pemberley into a cheerful home for her once more, I will be happy. I am conscious that she has spent considerable time in London and must have missed her child- hood home greatly. I am most anxious that she may come to feel the happiness she formerly knew in this house when your parents were alive.”

“It is a relief to have her with me again, with us, Elizabeth. I am so fortunate to have you help me with Georgiana, as I know you will.”

“I only hope there are not too many memories to haunt her, ones that might give rise to the unhappiness and melancholy that she suffered in the past.”

“Never will I forgive that blackguard George Wickham for  his treatment of my sister. To think how I might have prevented it if I had spent more time with her.”

He stopped and Elizabeth observed how altered his mood became when the displeasing subject of their brother-in-law was touched upon. His black eyes seemed darker than ever and his smile, which usually softened his features into gentleness, was replaced by a scowl. It was evident that he struggled with his composure.

Elizabeth could not bear to see him so upset. “Fortunately for your sister, there was no great harm done, which cannot be said for my own.”

“There is always great harm done where that gentleman is concerned,” he answered. “At least in Newcastle he has a chance to redeem himself. We can only hope that their marriage will succeed, even if I feel my hopes for such worthwhile attain- ment are quite in vain.”

“I cannot help but feel for my heedless sister. Lydia will have to live with him for the rest of her life. However silly and impru- dent her behaviour, in my heart I do not think she deserved such a fate, even if I know there was nothing more that could be done.”

They gained the top of the hill and, looking down, saw the valley and the rising prominence on the other side of the vale. “I do not mean to sound so ungrateful, Fitzwilliam. Without your intervention, who knows what would have become of Lydia. No doubt, when Wickham had become tired of her... Oh, I cannot even contemplate such a thing!”

“Let us not worry our heads over people who do not deserve such attention,” Mr Darcy continued. “Let us look forward to our future, to being all together again. I have longed for this time to come to pass, a chance to be settled at Pemberley once more and amongst my fellow Derbyshire neighbours. This county, this land of high peaks and lush valleys, all you survey before you is in my blood; it forms part of what it is to be a Darcy. Oh, Elizabeth, I hope some day you will feel as I do about our home. Georgiana, I know, was unhappy in town and longed to come back. I see the change in her already. Soon she will have to make her own establishment, but I see no reason for her to go very far from us. A neighbouring estate will do very nicely. We shall have to look about for a husband for her in the not too distant future.”

“Surely there is no need to do that just yet,” Elizabeth implored. “Besides, I cannot think of anyone suitable in the vicinity.”

“Hugh Calladine would make a good match.”

“But he is at least ten years older than Georgiana, and besides, I thought it was common knowledge that he is in love with Eleanor Bradshaw. Mrs Bradshaw entertains high hopes of there being an alliance between the families.”

“Hugh Calladine is a good gentleman of suitable standing, with a fine property, a sizeable inheritance, and what is more, a title to come. He has ambition, despite his friendship with the Bradshaws. They are a respectable family, but there is no fortune. Hugh Calladine will not make an imprudent match; he is very sensible. He is a young man and like all young men he has had his share of falling in love and breaking one or two hearts. That is the way of life; there is no harm done. Besides, I like the fellow. It is true, he is older than Georgiana, but I think he would be a settling influence on her.”

“Do you mean to tell me that you would encourage him? And what does Georgiana think of him? I’m sure she would have no interest in a man who loved another. Darcy, you cannot be serious. Please tell me that you are joking, that you are teasing me for some cruel amusement. You do not really mean to marry Georgiana off for money and position alone, do you?”

Darcy let go of her arm, and turning away from her con- tinued to speak. “Georgiana is a wealthy young lady and, as such, will be the prey of fortune hunters. It is imperative that a suitable marriage be made for her. There is no reason to delay.”

“But surely you will let her find her own love,” said Elizabeth, lightly running to catch him up slipping her arm inside his again. “Georgiana has not yet attended her first ball or had the pleasure of meeting any suitable young men who are nearer to her in age. She is just at the beginning and learning how to overcome her shyness. Even talking to young gentlemen will be a sore trial at first, let alone to someone of more mature years who might require a certain sophistication. Besides, you surely cannot deny her what you have allowed for yourself, can you?”

“I can think of no other gentleman more suitable; my parents would have been delighted if they had thought my sister would make such a match. It is all they dreamed of for their only daughter. You do not understand these matters, Elizabeth. Romance and sentimentality have no place here. Georgiana is a dutiful girl; she knows what is expected of her.”

At this point Elizabeth lost her temper. “So, you are deter- mined on this course for Georgiana. Oh, Fitzwilliam, I do not understand you. The poor girl has hardly set foot in Derbyshire and you have her married off to a man we know little about except for the fact that he is rich and enjoying the charms of another, less fitting candidate. Well, I cannot be a party to such folly and I will not discuss this matter further until you have come to your senses.”

Elizabeth turned on her heel and, before her husband could stop her, she left. He stood, half amazed and half angry at the sight of his new bride running down the hill as fast as she could to get away from him.