No One Can Commiserate
Elizabeth stared out the window at the passing countryside as she rode towards what she had known for the past twelve years to be her inevitable fate. She recalled speaking of the subject with Charlotte, when she had made just such a decision. Now, it was her turn to relieve her family of her care. Jane had married well enough to support herself and, thankfully, to launch her two younger sisters into society. Mary had found a husband as well. But after Mr. Bennet's death, and Mr. Collins' return to the neighborhood to claim Longbourn, Elizabeth could not burden Jane with her own care as well as that of her mother, her two sisters, and her own two dear children. Nor could she stand to be in the constant presence of her mother who was forever bemoaning her failure to catch a husband.
Charlotte had learned of a position in Derbyshire through her own patroness, and had recommended her friend. Elizabeth had met with Mrs. Darcy in London, and had realized soon into the interview that this was the wife of the very man Kitty had mentioned meeting on her tour of Derbyshire. The business of their meeting had been concluded quickly, Mrs. Darcy offering Elizabeth the position of governess to her two children, twins barely one year old, a boy and a girl.
Darcy was taking his daily ride through Pemberley, thinking of her as always. He had once hoped to find her, but now his marriage had constrained any possibility of happiness even if he could meet her again. She would forever be only a memory. Recalling that the new governess was to arrive today, and eager to meet the person with whom his wife had contracted the care of his own darling children, he turned his horse toward Pemberley with increased speed. Now that they no longer required a nurse and were entering the age of learning, the children would need a competent instructor. He only hoped that Anne had chosen well.
When Elizabeth arrived at Pemberley, she was amazed by the beauty and grandeur of the house. When she entered the saloon she was greeted by Mrs. Darcy with the same coldness that had attended their interview in London. She was immediately shown to the nursery and this is where they were found by Mrs. Reynolds who came hurriedly to advise the mistress that the master had been brought home injured. Apparently, he had taken a fall from his horse and hit his head on a rock.
Mrs. Darcy thanked Mrs. Reynolds for the information with an air of indifference and politely excused herself from Elizabeth to check on her husband. She returned within a quarter hour explaining that the doctor had been summoned and that she was certain the master would soon by quite well.
Darcy awoke with a terrible pain in his head, but otherwise he felt well. His sister was at his bedside and it was through a conversation with her that they both realized he recalled little, if anything from his youth. His earliest memories seemed to be of the death of his father.
It was some weeks before Mr. Darcy was well enough to leave his rooms and finally meet the new governess. Elizabeth had settled comfortably into her routine and was quite satisfied that Mrs. Darcy had little enough interest in her children to allow Elizabeth full independence in caring for them. Often they saw her not at all for an entire day at a time.
It was on a blanket, in Pemberley's garden with his children playing in her midst that Darcy first beheld her. She looked up as he approached and nearly gasped when she recognized him. He smiled, but no look of recognition crossed his features. "You must be Miss Bennet." She could not speak. "Please forgive my inability to make your acquaintance sooner. I have been convalescing these past few weeks from an injury."
Without saying a word, she gathered the children and went into the house. She immediately sought out the mistress and explained that she must give up her position due to unforeseen personal difficulties.
"I am afraid, Miss Bennet, that that is quite impossible. You have signed a contract to remain with us for one year. I will hold you to it."
Elizabeth begged Mrs. Darcy to reconsider, but was unable to provide further explanation. As it was, she agreed to remain. During the next year, Elizabeth's pain was renewed each day by the lack of acknowledgment by her one true love. She had been forgotten, dismissed. That it had been twelve years was not a sufficient consideration to relieve her pain.
During that year Mr. Darcy found himself inexplicably attracted to the governess. He was not wholly surprised by the sensation, being as he was entrapped in a cold, loveless, marriage; but he felt the shame of it nonetheless. He was constantly drawn to her, bewitched by her wit, her liveliness, and the intelligent expression of her fine eyes. He soon learned that she was not wholly indifferent to his attention. But what could be done? He would not ruin her or debase himself by following through on his feelings. He had sacrificed enough of his integrity in marrying Anne - he could not add to it by committing adultery.
A few months after Elizabeth's arrival, Anne began to show signs of increasing. Darcy confronted her one day and she confirmed her condition, daring him to challenge her. He knew he had not touched her since the conception of his own dear children, but he would not bring shame upon his family by exposing her. He found himself remarkably indifferent to the news.
It was only a few months later that Anne became ill and felt, too early, the pains that had preceded the birth of her first two children. After the event, Mr. Darcy saw her briefly. She was sobbing and he offered what comfort was within his power, but felt she probably longed for the comfort of another. Yet he had no idea who it might be, who to notify of the loss. After he withdrew from her chamber, Anne's sobs silenced as she succumbed to the fatigue of a cold, lonely and bitter life.
The loss of the mistress affected the household but little. The children scarcely missed her. Elizabeth felt sad but could not bear to be around the grieving husband, or hope that his wife's passing might give her any chance with him. He was lost to her, had never truly been hers to lose. On the day of her one year anniversary in the house, she left her resignation letter with Mrs. Reynolds and quit the place abruptly after saying a tearful goodbye to the children, certain that their father would be able to secure someone competent for their care and that their aunt would do quite well for them until that time.
Elizabeth ran from Pemberley to Jane at Litchford House and was relieved to again be with the dearest person to her in all the world. With both Lydia and Kitty married, and Mrs. Bennet established in a modest house in town, the two sisters found joy in one another's company. Jane's children were blossoming into delightful girls.
They went to town that season to visit their mother and their other relations and because Jane had hoped Elizabeth could find some happiness there. Inevitably, they met with Mr. Andrews. Elizabeth, realizing that her dream of meeting her lover from so many years ago was no longer a reason to prevent her happiness, as he had no recollection of her, gave Mr. Andrews to know that he would be rewarded for his patience and his constancy should he venture to offer for her again. He did and they were married before the end of the season.
Upon reading Elizabeth's letter of resignation, Darcy set about finding a replacement. He traveled to Kent to meet a girl at Rosings that Lady Catherine had recommended, a sister of her clergyman's wife. But, his carriage broke down in a rainstorm near an orchard and he was forced to seek shelter in an abandoned cottage. As soon as he entered it, the memory of his encounter there flooded his mind. He remembered everything and now he knew the identity of his one true love: Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
As soon as he arrived at Rosings, he wrote to Mrs. Reynolds to obtain the direction that had been left by Miss Bennet for her things to be sent. As soon as he received her response, he wrote a letter to Elizabeth explaining his feelings, his loss of memory, and his recovery of it. Explaining his marriage and his freedom from it. He offered himself to her, imploring her to just send word of her acceptance and he would be at her side in an instant.
The letter was received at Litchford House and forwarded to Elizabeth's new home with her husband. But it was intercepted by Mr. Andrews, who turned out to be a very jealous husband and read its contents. He said nothing to his wife, but concealed the letter in his desk drawer.
Charlotte was relieved of her duties, due to the master's excessive gambling and the mistress' excessive shopping, just as Elizabeth delivered her first child, a daughter. She wasted no time in hiring Charlotte to be her child's governess, forgetting the feelings her friend had for her own husband. Knowing of his wife's youthful indiscretion had left Mr. Andrews bitter and relieved him of any feeling for her. He still took his pleasure from her, but he wasted no time in taking advantage of Charlotte's vulnerability to his attentions. The two soon began a passionate love affair. Elizabeth delivered two more children to her husband in the ensuing four years, another daughter and finally the son he desperately wanted. But Charlotte, thankfully, never came to be with child so Elizabeth was none the wiser as to the affair.
Upon the birth of his heir, Mr. Andrews was so delighted that he celebrated with a bit too much wine. In his inebriated state, as he meandered the streets of London towards his townhouse, he was overtaken by robbers and stabbed to death. Elizabeth remained in London almost a year after her husband's death to be near her family. Towards the end of her year of mourning, however, she longed for the countryside and returned with her children and Charlotte to her estate.
It was there that Elizabeth undertook the task of going through her husband's papers. She soon found and read Mr. Darcy's letter. She was elated that he had only forgotten her due to his head injury, and of the return of his memory. Leaving her three children in the able care of her husband's mistress, she departed immediately for Pemberley. She ran the entire way, clutching her letter, as the tears sprang unbidden from her eyes. She arrived on his doorstep some days later, panting uncontrollably from fatigue.
He immediately brought her into the house. After a glass of wine and a good night's sleep, they finally spoke of all that had passed between them. At last everything was settled. Since his sister was still living at Pemberley, there was no impropriety in her remaining a fortnight. She was reintroduced to the Darcy children, now eight years old, who had no recollection of her. She soon learned, however, that they took after their mother and were both quite nasty. Nevertheless, their father was enamored of them and blind to their faults. Elizabeth felt that they might view her as a threat to their intimacy with their father and so tried to befriend them. They seemed to succumb to her charms and were soon playing happily with her every day. It warmed Darcy's heart to see it, and he hoped he could get along with her children so well.
Elizabeth returned home once a date had been set for the wedding. They decided that they should both move to their houses in town to be near each other as they awaited the wedding. Thither also went Lady Catherine, to see her dear grandchildren, bringing with her her parson, whose wife had recently been killed in a tragic hunting accident.
When Mr. Collins and Charlotte met again, they knew instantly they were destined to be together, and seeing no reason to wait, were married immediately. Georgiana also met a suitor in London, and as she was caught in a compromising position, her wedding was expedited. During this time, Jane came into town and finally made the acquaintance of the golden-haired young man who had once visited Netherfield. The passion between them was too strong to withstand a lengthy engagement and they too, married immediately.
Darcy's children did not like Elizabeth's children in the least. They particularly did not like it when Elizabeth told them they would soon have to share their own Papa with these interlopers. They continued to pretend friendship with her, however, biding their time.
The day before Elizabeth and Darcy's wedding, they removed to Pemberley with their children. The following morning, as Elizabeth was preparing for her wedding, she heard a strange thumping noise coming from the attic. She ascended the stairs to investigate it and was appalled when she found that the sounds came from the other side of a locked door. Removing a hairpin from her head, Elizabeth opened the door and was astonished to find Mrs. Anne Darcy tied to a bed, banging her own head against the headboard. As soon as she saw Elizabeth she began screaming and Darcy raced into the room.
Darcy removed Elizabeth from the room and explained that after losing her child, Anne had gone quite insane. He had been forced to confine her in this room ever since and allowed everyone to believe she was dead. Elizabeth was angry at him for being prepared to enter into an illegal and false marriage with her while his wife still lived. But, he soon kissed her anger away. Yet, they were still faced with the problem of not being able to marry. He soon convinced her that since no one else knew of Anne's existence, save Mrs. Reynolds, they could go through with the wedding.
The Darcy children had finally decided on a scheme to be rid of Elizabeth forever, and knew this morning was their last chance. When their father went to the church to await his bride, they set Pemberley house on fire with Elizabeth still within. Elizabeth, her children, and all the servants managed to escape, and Darcy - having seen the smoke from the church - arrived just as the flames began to reach the attic.
"Anne is still within," cried Elizabeth.
Darcy raced in to save his crazy first wife, whose very existence prevented his own happiness from being complete - or at least legal. He tried valiantly to remove her in time, but emerged from the crumbling house carrying her limp, lifeless body and collapsed on the lawn. His left arm had been so severely burned that it had to be removed, and he was rendered blind by the intense smoke that had permeated his eyes.
After a lengthy convalescence, during which Pemberley was rebuilt, he was finally able to wed his former governess and his one true love, twenty years after their first fateful encounter. Neither was as satisfied with the marriage bed, when they were finally joined in it, as they had spent so many years imagining they would be.
© 2003 Copyright held by the author.