It’s insane how much of our daily lives revolve around technology, as I have had occasion to understand these past couple of weeks. As I mentioned, I had a procedure done on one eye and have been prohibited from computer, TV, books, phone, etc., and because it wasn’t healing properly, it was extended to two weeks. Holy boring, Batman! The prohibition was lifted this morning, but I’m still supposed to take it easy, and the amount of eyedrops I’m using could fill a lake. (I may be exaggerating juuuuuuuuust a little there…)
Anyway, as I’m limiting my hours on the computer, I won’t bore you with much more of a recitation of my lamentations at present. I will note that the extra week not being able to work and the extra two weeks on light duty will undoubtedly impact my publishing schedule. How severely I don’t know at present, but Bonds of Friendship in particular, which is scheduled for this month, might be the first casualty. I’ll make an announcement later this month on the FB as to whether I’ll be able to get it ready in time. I suspect it will be a one month delay.
To the point of this post, I thought I’d wind up the way back machine and go back to my favorite of my own novels. Anyone who has followed me for any length of time knows that the only thing in the P&P universe that is sacrosanct to me is the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy. Anything else is fair game. In Shadows Over Longbourn I killed off not only Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, but one of the beloved locations in the story is all but wiped out. In this excerpt, Fitzwilliam and Darcy neutralize Wickham once and for all, and while there is a bit of violence, I have always thought their handling of Wickham was rather satisfying. For anyone who hasn’t read it I won’t go into any more detail, but I thought I’d like to share a short excerpt from the story that happens to be one of my favorite scenes. I hope you enjoy!
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Thus it was only a few days after Darcy and Fitzwilliam’s return to London that they entered one of the seedier sections of London, intent upon neutralizing the man who had been a source of worry and headache for the entirety of Darcy’s life.
The building to which they were led might have been fine many years in the past. Now, however, the wood was weathered and the paint peeling off, leaving a sort of drab grey behind. The door to the establishment was in a similar condition, with rusted hinges holding it in place, though it creaked ominously when moved. Darcy looked around with distaste—it almost seemed like a stiff wind would send the entire structure into the Thames, so derelict it had become.
The proprietor was an elderly man who peered at them with a squint and a snarl. When Fitzwilliam informed the man they were there to see Wickham, he watched them with distaste, only tempered by respect for Fitzwilliam’s sheer size. He directed them toward the stairs with a weathered hand.
“He’s in the last room on the right.”
Thanking the man and passing him a few coppers, Fitzwilliam led the way to the stairs. When they reached the indicated door, Fitzwilliam did not stand on ceremony; he simply pushed the door open, allowing it to impact the wall behind with a loud thud. Unfortunately, Wickham was not alone.
The woman in bed with him screamed and sat up, revealing her lack of clothing and the activity in which they had been engaged some time earlier. Only then did she realize the state of her undress, and she clutched the blankets around her frame. Wickham did nothing more than groan and throw an arm over his face.
“Whoever it is, go away. I shall have your money within three days!”
“I doubt you could afford me, Wickham,” said Fitzwilliam.
Wickham’s eyes opened with alarm and he sat up, inadvertently disturbing the blankets the young woman had clutched around her, causing her to squeak and slap at him.
Knowing the young woman had to go, Darcy reached down to pick up her dress which was lying on the floor. He threw it onto the bed, saying: “George will not be able to entertain you any longer. Put on your dress and leave.”
A retort seemed poised on the tip of her tongue, but it died when she saw Darcy’s implacable stare. With difficulty, as she tried to cover herself with the blanket and dress at the same time, the woman proceeded to make herself presentable, and then she fairly fled the room in fright. When she was gone, Darcy closed the door after her. He then turned and regarded Wickham, who had sunk down on the bed again, alternately trying to muffle his head in the pillow, while at times daring to peek out at them, a scowl impaling them when he saw they had not yet departed.
“Go away,” mumbled he, turning away from them with a petulant sulk. “I have nothing to say to either of you.”
“I am afraid not,” said Fitzwilliam. He strode up to the bed and removed the blanket from Wickham’s form. “Get up. I will not talk to a man naked in his bed.”
“And I will not arise, so you had best leave.”
Fitzwilliam’s actions were so quick that Darcy almost missed what happened. He strode forward and grasped Wickham’s legs, pulling him from the bed, and depositing him on the floor like so much rubbish. The man squawked at the treatment, but his protest died on his lips when Fitzwilliam bent over close to him and hissed:
“You will dress yourself now, or you will not like the consequences.”
Apparently the softly spoken but menacing words reached through the fog in Wickham’s head enough to inform him that this was not merely a social call between friends. Though with groans, no doubt due to an excess of drink, and slow, lethargic movements, Wickham gathered his possessions, stood, and dressed himself, muttering to himself all the time.
“I am dressed. Now what do you want of me?”
Exchanging a look with Fitzwilliam which was as much exasperation as disbelief, Darcy focused on Wickham. “You require an explanation?”
“You have your sister. Her little cousins foiled my plans, and you have no doubt informed little Georgiana of all my ‘indiscretions.’ What more do you want of me? There is no chance for me to be successful now—why would I bother you again?”
“That is the problem with you, Wickham,” growled Fitzwilliam. “You see everything through blinders. Your machinations did not work in this instance, and you cannot see why anyone would wish to prevent you from forming similar designs on others. Besides, what you have done is enough to warrant me calling you out.”
Wickham only favored them with an insouciant shrug. “I am much too small and insignificant to be of concern to the high and mighty such as yourself. I do not understand why you would care how I live my life.”
Then a wicked smile came over Wickham’s face. “Perhaps I focused on the wrong young lady; surely you would not have been so protective of Lydia and her sisters, though living with Lydia for a lifetime would have been a punishment. Perhaps Elizabeth has a fine dowry as well? I am certain she would be worth a roll in the hay, being more sensible and prettier than her sister.”
Though his tone was all insolence, no doubt hoping to have a little fun at their expense, Wickham did not count on the Bennet sisters being very high in Fitzwilliam’s estimation. With a faint smile, Fitzwilliam stepped forward and drove his right fist into Wickham’s gut, lifting the man off the ground with the force of the blow. Wickham collapsed to his knees, retching out the contents of his stomach, which likely sobered him, given the quantity of liquid which spilled out.
After giving the man a little time to empty his stomach, Fitzwilliam reached down and grasped Wickham by the shoulders, depositing him in a nearby chair a little more roughly than perhaps was necessary.
“You will not speak of the Bennet sisters. You will not call them by name or even refer to them in passing. I am married to Miss Bennet and Miss Lydia’s sister, and they are far too fine to be referred to in such a manner by the likes of you. Am I very clear?”
Wickham’s only response was a groan and to bend over again, holding one hand to his bruised stomach.
“Now that the pleasantries of been dealt with,” said Darcy, earning him a grin from his cousin, “let us get down to business.”
“Can you not leave me alone?” moaned Wickham. “Your sister is safe from me, and I will never trouble your cousins again. Leave me to go my own way. You have already reduced me to this . . . this poverty.”
“You never did understand, did you?” asked Darcy.
“I understand I was meant for greater things until you refused to honor your father’s wishes.” Wickham’s injured glare told Darcy the man actually believed what he was saying.
“It is no use, Darcy. He will not see reason.”
“I have no intention of trying to reason with him. The time for reason has passed.” Darcy glared at Wickham, feeling a measure of satisfaction when the other man looked away. “Good. You do possess some discretion.
“I have decided to give you this one choice, Wickham, and it will be the last time you will ever be required to deal with me.”
Though contemptuous as always, Darcy’s words seemed to prompt Wickham’s interest, though Fitzwilliam’s baleful glare kept him silent.
“If you will recall, I hold debt receipts you have run up in several towns, the sum of which would see you in prison for the rest of your natural life, whatever remained of it. I will call those debts in immediately, unless you accept a ticket to the Americas and agree to go there, never to return to England.”
“Why would I do that?” scoffed Wickham.
Fitzwilliam cuffed him. “Were you not listening? You will keep your freedom and your life, cretin.”
“But I would be in a savage place, and all chance of making my fortune would be gone.”
“All chance of you making your fortune in England is gone now,” said Darcy, looking at the man pointedly. “And it was never very good in any event, given your methods of obtaining it. In the New World, a man’s chances of finding fortune are as good, or better, than they are here.”
Fitzwilliam grinned. “Unfortunately, they require something that was never your forte; a little hard work and effort.”
“That is not difficult to say, when you have been born in luxury, never having had to work to obtain your own bread.” Wickham’s glare was pointed, and it was clear he considered his words to be nothing less than the absolute truth.
“Something else you have never understood,” said Darcy sadly, wondering how all the teachings of his and Wickham’s fathers had never resulted in the son’s understanding. “If you had any indication of how hard Fitzwilliam worked to learn how to care for his own estate you might judge the matter differently. Being a gentleman is not simply about collecting rents and gambling the money away. There is a measure of responsibility involved in being a gentleman, that, if not upheld, will quickly result in the estate’s production falling and a severe loss of income. Every gentleman worthy of the title understands this.”
“So says the man who has more than ten thousand a year. I would live like a king if I had half such a sum.”
Darcy exchanged a look with Fitzwilliam, and he knew exactly what his cousin was thinking. It truly was pointless to argue with Wickham, and far too late, regardless.
“What will it be, Wickham? America or Marshalsea?”
Wickham attempted another glare, but it was clear that he had seen something in Darcy’s countenance which told him the offer was the only one he would receive. He grimaced, but in the end, he made the only choice he could.
“Very well,” said Darcy.
Thus, within a week, Darcy and Fitzwilliam escorted their erstwhile companion to the docks and loaded him on a ship, leaving no possibility for his escape. The ship soon departed with its cargo still on board, its next stop the port of Baltimore in the Americas. Darcy was content; it was a shame Wickham had never lived a life his father would have been proud of, but at least he would not prey on the good people of England any longer.