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To Love Unselfishly:
Mr. Darcy Faces his Ghosts

A tale in three parts by Renée, Roya and Lisa L


Part Two: The Second Spirit
by Roya

Darcy awakened slowly and reluctantly, recollections of the conversation with his father assailing him. Groaning, Darcy peeked through squinting eyelids, fearful of the sight that may lie before him. He breathed a sigh of relief when all he could discern in the darkened room were the draperies of his own bed. It was a dream, albeit the strangest dream that I have ever known! he thought. Unwilling to dwell upon feelings -- visitations from the grave, indeed -- he ascribed the level of detail in the dream to falling asleep on a full stomach and a rather substantial portion of cognac. He made a mental note to speak to Cook on the morrow on the inadvisability of serving such a large amount of rich foods and wine at one meal, though if he was honest with himself, he could not remember partaking of a particularly larger than normal portion. Of food anyway. Darcy gathered the linens under his chin and willed himself to return to sleep.

His eyes were scarcely closed five minutes when he perceived the sound of footsteps just beyond the safety of his bed. Mindful of the other visitations promised, and praying that it was only his valet, Darcy called out, steeling himself not to betray the desperation he felt at the thought that the strange dream was not over and he was about to receive another ghostly visitation.

"Thank you, Rowland, I have seen to my toilette already - I have no need for you tonight. Please have my bath drawn by seven in the morning. Er...I wish to go for a ride before breakfast. Will you see that my horse is saddled no later than six?" Darcy had not considered riding on Christmas day before, but hoped that by giving Rowland instructions to carry out, he would be left in peace.

Darcy unwittingly held his breath as he awaited the telltale sounds of his valet exiting his chambers. The level of his alarm rose when not only did he not hear the removal of his valet, but he was also certain that he heard a derisive snort and the sound of someone sitting down in the chair by the fireplace and apparently pouring liquid into a container.

With courage he did not feel, Darcy drew back the draperies. To his shock, he found his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, in full uniform, sprawled casually on the chair in front of the fire, one leg slung over the arm, a brandy glass twirling in one hand, and Darcy's decanter in the other. Colonel Fitzwilliam looked at Darcy and gave him a knowing smile, but did not speak. He calmly took a sip from the glass, clearly relishing the drink and resumed his imperturbable gaze.

Infuriated, Darcy leapt out of bed. "Fitzwilliam, how dare you! I demand that you remove yourself from my chambers immediately! What are you about? It is the middle of the night, why are you here?" With that question ringing in the air, Darcy suddenly recollected that Fitzwilliam was not in London for Christmas, but spending the holidays with his parents at Matlock. Paling at the visage before him, he could only muster a hoarse whisper, "You are Fitzwilliam, are you not? How can this be? You are not dead!"

A broad grin broke across the apparition's face. "It would be more accurate to call me an echo of a memory of the one you know as Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is very much alive and well at Matlock. But if you would like, you may call me as such, for truly, my name is of no import to your journey," he spoke amiably.

"My journey? I simply want to be left alone, whoever you are. I have no desire to undertake any journeys. Please leave me be."

"Ah, but you were informed by Aunt Henrietta of my coming, Darcy. I admit that I am not of a mind to be as gentle with my guidance as your own good father was, but rest assured, I do have your best interests at heart. I am afraid that it is very necessary for you to join me. Worry not, though, we will not go far. In fact, our first stop is merely downstairs." Fitzwilliam took another bracing sip from the brandy glass, and the walls of Darcy's mahogany panelled bedchamber began to dissolve into the gold papered walls of the formal sitting room. Darcy started when he perceived Mrs. Hurst lying back against a divan observing Miss Bingley taking a turn about the room. He began to gather his bedclothes to him; this was certainly not the state in which he would wish to come upon Miss Bingley, of all people. "Fear not, Darcy. As with your father's visitation, they can neither see nor hear you. I merely want to demonstrate the sort of Christmas spirit you have inspired."

Thankful for small favours, Darcy looked with disgust as Miss Bingley selected objects around the room, clearly appraising their value. Miss Bingley singled out a small statuette that his father had presented his mother from its place of honour on the mantelpiece. Clearly, though the object in question was quite fine and delighted his mother, it did not pass muster with Miss Bingley, who moved it to a smallish side table behind an arrangement of fruit. A satisfied smile on her face, Miss Bingley allowed her hand to languidly trail along the rosewood credenza as she made her way to the divan upon which her sister rested.

Though he could not be absolutely sure, this evening being more than usually disconcerting, Darcy thought it to be far later than polite company would stay downstairs. Indeed, he could perceive the stifled yawn in the countenance of the footman waiting for the ladies to depart for their rooms in order that he could close down the downstairs portion of the house.

"It is uncommonly rude for them to linger here at this late hour. I retired hours ago... I believe. Do they have no consideration for those of us in bed already? And the impertinence of Miss Bingley to move my mother's piece!" Darcy growled, "Is this what you wanted to show me? That my friend's sisters are ungracious? I believe I have comprehended that quite well enough on my own; you need not have removed me from my room for this."

"Really, Darcy, you disappoint me," Fitzwilliam shook his head ruefully, as one would when referring to an unfortunate soul. "Do you perceive nothing except how it affects you? Have you heard one word that has been said between them? Now, you are here to learn a lesson. You cannot know what that lesson is unless you hold your tongue and listen."

The upbraiding Darcy felt Fitzwilliam merited with his impudent speech lingered on the tip of his tongue. Had the figure before him actually been Colonel Fitzwilliam and not some eerie spectre of him, Darcy would have unleashed a torrent of words not often seen in gentlemanly circles. But how does one scold a figment? Determining that the most prudent course of action was to keep his silence lest he find himself shivering in the snows of Siberia in his nightclothes, Darcy turned his attention to the ladies sitting in confidence on the divan. Mrs. Hurst idly turned the pages of the latest edition of La Belle Assemblée in her lap as Miss Bingley made a grand sweeping gesture with her feathered fan.

"...It is no Pemberley, I grant you, Louisa. Still, one cannot argue with the comfort of these rooms. Poor Mr. Darcy, it is clear he needs a woman's touch. Really, the décor in this room wants for more elegance. It is fine in a country home to display objects that signify personal meaning. But in London, my dear, in London, one must have the finest and latest of accoutrements if one wishes to encourage the right sort of people to call. When I am mistress, I must be sure to do so."

"You are very confident, Caroline. He has made no offer to you. Exercise some caution in your manner, Sister. Remember, you were sure that he would propose after observing your skills at Netherfield Hall whilst you kept house for Charles. Instead, he became far more concerned with those dreadful Bennet girls than he was with you." Louisa's bored tone indicated this was hardly a new topic of conversation between them.

Darcy could hardly bear to hear more. How dearly he wished that Miss Bingley could see him at this very moment so that he could demand that she remove herself from his premises immediately, late hour be damned. He felt the chilling touch of Colonel Fitzwilliam's hand on his shoulder, reminding him to pay heed to the conversation.

"Really, Louisa, you underestimate me. It is true that I was just the tiniest shade disappointed when Mr. Darcy did not make an offer to me last year," Caroline conceded carefully, picking at the feathers on her fan. "But I am confident I will have secured his good opinion forthwith and ensure that there will be no other country upstarts, with their pert opinions and unfashionable gowns, in my way."

Mrs. Hurst raised her eyebrows. "Really, Caroline, pray, how so?"

"I have found that it is infinitely useful in the pursuit of the right sort of husband to have connections of all sorts," Caroline responded airily. "First, I have a plan to see that we need never return to that horrid little country home in Hertfordshire. I have recently made the acquaintance of someone whom I believe will do quite well for Charles. Her countenance is quite similar to Jane Bennet's but her family is infinitely more acceptable. I believe her uncle is a baronet in Dover. We shall get on famously; we are very much of like minds, the three of us. I believe that she will still look to us, Louisa, for guidance on entering London society. She is quite eager to do so, and I cannot imagine that she would be best pleased to spend time at Netherfield rather than at St. James's Court."

"Do you suppose that she and Charles can develop a true affection for each other? His heart was terribly hurt by Mr. Darcy's account of Jane's feelings for him."

"Louisa, you are getting soft in your own complacent marriage. I am sure that Miss Walters will develop a very real affection for whatever home we persuade Charles to purchase in London. After all, I am very fond of this home, and I find its situation quite agreeable to my way of thinking."

"And its owner? Are you equally as fond of him?"

"Really, Louisa, I would be a great fool if I did not see that Mr. Darcy is an attractive prospect in many aspects. But as my aspirations lie in being the Mistress of Pemberley, I would feel as fond of Mr. Darcy were he three times older and a whole foot shorter." Caroline tittered.

"Still, I wonder, Caroline, how is it that you expect Charles to forget Jane Bennet so readily. Here it is, a full year since he last saw her and he continues to pine for her as much as ever."

"You see, Louisa, this is where another sort of acquaintance can prove to be quite useful. Do you remember that horrible man, Mr. Wickham, the one with whom Miss Eliza seemed so taken?"

At the mention of his former friend's name, Darcy stiffened, his body poised for flight. The grip on his shoulder tightened ever so slightly and he attended to the conversation once more.

"Yes...he behaved quite infamously towards Mr. Darcy, did he not? Caroline, I cannot imagine Mr. Darcy being at all pleased that you would count Mr. Wickham amongst your acquaintances." Louisa looked at Caroline as if she was quite mad. But Caroline simply smiled what appeared to Darcy to be a particularly feline smile; the sort one might see just before discovering one's pet bird has gone missing.

"Louisa, I quite agree that he is not at all the sort of man whom one would wish to invite to a dinner party. However, as his interests are quite mercenary and his debts are high, I have found that he is very amenable to acting in my best interests -- for the right price."

Mrs. Hurst sat straight up at such a wicked admission. "Heavens, Caroline! Do not tell me you have paid him to marry Jane Bennet!"

"I do not believe I have sufficient pocket money that sort of arrangement would entail." Caroline scoffed, "No, Louisa, at first I simply wished for him to attend to our Miss Eliza, hoping that it would make her fine eyes lose some of their charm for Mr. Darcy. But I realized that Mr. Wickham could be of much more use by diminishing all the Bennet sisters' prospects."

"Caroline Bingley! What have you done?" Both Darcy's and Mrs. Hurst's faces were a fair way to approximating the paleness of Darcy's otherworldly escort.

"I simply asked Mr. Wickham if he would turn his attentions to Miss Lydia Bennet, you remember, the silly one who chases after the officers? I assure you, Louisa, there was very little necessary to convince him. All I did was rent a room in his name at the Frog and Peach Inn in Cheapside, the remainder of the infamy will lie with him. As I see it, it cannot but benefit me. Should Miss Lydia act as I expect that she will, the Bennet family's disgrace will be complete. There can be no question of either Charles or Mr. Darcy aligning themselves with such a family! If Mr. Wickham is called out for his behaviour, well, it can hardly be ascribed to me at all, can it? Even if by some circumstance Miss Lydia convinces Mr. Wickham to marry her - mind you, I put no artifice or connivance past those Bennet girls - Mr. Darcy could never call that man his brother. No, each and every possible scenario would be quite insupportable. Of course, I shall be on hand to comfort Mr. Darcy and remind him of the proper behaviour expected of fine ladies. Therefore, Sister, I am quite confident it is only a very short time before he will make me an offer of marriage."

This was all too much for Darcy, and his anger boiled over. "I demand that you return me immediately to my room - I cannot bear to be one minute more in the presence of that scheming, horrible woman! I have abided by her flirtations and less than subtle insinuations for the sake of Bingley, but no friend is worth this level of treachery!"

Colonel Fitzwilliam did all but openly laugh in Darcy's face. "So you find her machinations treacherous, do you? Are they as treacherous as say, interfering in that same friend's choice of marriage partner?"

"That is hardly fair, Fitzwilliam. I acted in the best interest of my friend; Miss Bingley acts solely in her own grasping interest. I did not observe any such affection reciprocated by Miss Bennet and simply informed Bingley of my observations. I did not wish for his amiable nature to be encumbered by an unequal marriage. He did seem hurt, I admit, but Bingley appears to be adequately recovered now. I am sure that he will lose his heart again soon enough, he seems to have a talent for it." concluded Darcy, somewhat more weakly than when he started.

"You thought it best? You feel he has recovered? Darcy, I know what is in your heart better than you do. Were not your actions predicated on your fear of being thrown into company with Miss Elizabeth too often were Bingley to propose marriage to Miss Bennet? Was your fear truly of an unequal match between Bingley and Miss Bennet? There is little question that Miss Bingley's scheme is ill-advised and of questionable morality, but pray, tell me, in what manner is her interference worse than yours? You have both acted without regard to any nterest save your own. Most unfortunate it is that the Bennet family will pay the price for it."

Colonel Fitzwilliam took a step closer to Darcy. Unwilling to show fear to what was likely a figment of his imagination, Darcy stood his ground, summoning up his most severe countenance. Colonel Fitzwilliam raised an eyebrow, amused at this show of bravado, and refilled his glass from the decanter. "Excellent brandy, by the way, Darcy. There is much to be said for your taste in spirits." Laughing heartily at his own joke, Colonel Fitzwilliam slapped Darcy hard on the shoulder, propelling him through space as if the walls of his sitting room were not plaster and lathe but shadows and mist.

When Darcy straightened, he comprehended that he was no longer in the sitting room. Looking about the darkened room, he recognized it as the bedchamber Bingley was presently occupying. He allowed his eyes to adjust to the darkness, the only light emanating from the glowing embers in the fireplace. At length, he could discern the hunched figure of Bingley at the window, clutching an object in his hands.

"Recovered, is he, Darcy? I dare say I would hate to have come across the man when he was still feeling the pain of separation from Miss Bennet." Colonel Fitzwilliam remarked, mildly.

It was true; Darcy could not deny that Bingley was in the worst of states. Not one normally given to melancholy, Bingley could only be charitably described as devastated. Tears welled visibly in his eyes, as he murmured "Oh, Jane....oh, Jane...." In his hand he held a delicate handkerchief. The floral embroidery declared that it belonged to a female and Darcy did not need to look closely at the initials to divine who that female may be; the desperate grasp of the object in Bingley's hand left no doubt.

The embarrassment Darcy initially felt at intruding upon this private moment, however unwillingly, gave way to a crippling pain in his heart at the comprehension that it was by his hand that his friend was in such misery. ...your selfish disdain for the feelings of others...How could a man who prided himself on being a good and loyal friend be guilty of causing such distress? Still, Darcy could not own that his behaviour was in any way similar to the evil schemes of Miss Bingley. Bingley's affections had never been in doubt; the question had been whether they were shared by Miss Bennet. Darcy quashed the niggling doubt rising in his breast. It was not comfortable to witness such an overt display of anguish in his friend, but Darcy's own reasoning that lay behind its cause remained unchanged.

Colonel Fitzwilliam shook his head sorrowfully, as if he could read clearly the tumult of thoughts and emotions Darcy was experiencing. "So, you still do not apprehend the consequence of your actions then, Darcy? I must admit to no little disappointment. I would have taken you for a gentleman of some acuity. Well," he sighed resignedly, "there is nothing for it but to be less subtle with this next part of your journey. I do wish I had the foresight to snatch a little of Cook's excellent gooseberry fool, these trips do tend to famish me. Hang on, Darcy, this might be a little cold!"

A frigid wind swirled around Darcy, causing every hair on his body to stand on end. His fingertips tingled in numb suspension as the walls of the guest room whipped and whirled away like leaves pulled from their tree by a gale storm. Darcy closed his eyes against the bitter cold, hugging his dressing gown closely in a vain attempt to shield himself. Dear Lord, I am going to the snows of Siberia!

Just as suddenly as the whirlwind of the trip began, it stilled. Fearful to find his worst fears confirmed Darcy refused to open his eyes, lest he be blinded by snow.

"MR. BENNET!!!! WHAT WILL BECOME OF US? OH, WE ARE LOST!!! MY POOR, POOR LYDIA!!"

The familiar and not altogether welcome voice grated stridently through the recesses of Darcy's mind, causing his shoulders to flinch as if to fend off a blow. Slowly opening one eye and then the other, he found himself on the first floor vestibule at Longbourn. He gasped in horror as various servants in all manner of nightclothes literally ran through his body as they flew up and down the stairs. Mrs. Bennet's wails could be heard throughout the house, interspersed with demands for smelling salts, compresses and fresh handkerchiefs. Colonel Fitzwilliam leaned his shoulder against the grandfather clock opposite, his right foot kicked back against the wall.

"Quite a bit of commotion for such a late hour, would you not agree, Darcy?"

If Colonel Fitzwilliam was hoping for a reply, he would receive no such satisfaction, for at that very moment Darcy saw Elizabeth again, standing at the foot of the stairs, lost in contemplation. He drew in a sharp intake of breath; she was as he imagined her so often: her hair unpinned, tied in a careless bow along her left shoulder, curls cascading down the front of her nightdress. Her nightclothes, while modest by any standard, gave new life to those imaginings with which he had tortured himself over and over again.

But something was amiss with the picture. Immediately, he ascertained the cause. Her dark, fine eyes so full of life, that had danced in his memory with intelligence and wit, bewitching him cruelly, were now sleep-dulled and fretful. How he longed for the right to comfort her! Even whilst still revelling in the pain caused by her refusal, his very soul unwillingly ached to alleviate her distress. As she dashed up the stairs, her body passed through his, and it was the first moment of ease Darcy had experienced in this truly perplexing evening. An all-too-brief moment of serenity and peace suffused his spirit and he inhaled deeply of her scent so that he might keep her inside of him as long as possible. He could not deny the sensation of emptiness when she let herself in to one of the bedrooms and he lost sight of her.

"Go on, Darcy, be not a fool - follow her. She can neither hear nor see you, but her words will bear out the import of this journey you take." Colonel Fitzwilliam urged him. "Do not sit on wasted propriety in your undetectable state. There will be nothing improper, I assure you, and matters of no small consequence will be achieved."

Ill at ease at the thought of acting in a manner so contrary to how he would act in his corporeal state, Darcy reluctantly followed Elizabeth's path to a room above stairs. Standing at the threshold, he momentarily considered knocking to announce his entry before discarding the idea as laughable. Still, he was at a loss as to how exactly to enter the chamber. Shooting a helpless glance at Colonel Fitzwilliam, he was rewarded with a roll of the spirit's eyes and an insistent nod forward. Tentatively, Darcy reached out a hand towards the knob on the door only to discover that his hand fell through the door as he attempted to grasp it. He allowed his arm to continue its path through the door, grateful that the sensation of passing through a heavy walnut door as though it were naught but a shadow was not entirely unpleasant. Closing his eyes to summon the courage to continue, Darcy took a deep breath and stepped through the door.

Whatever expectations Darcy had of what was taking place in the room were not satisfied. He found Elizabeth kneeling by a rocking chair, stroking the arm of the woman seated in it, murmuring in a voice too low to discern. Assuming that Elizabeth was comforting Mrs. Bennet, whose shrieks had momentarily stopped, Darcy was not a little surprised when he came around to the front of the chair and realized that the person to whom Elizabeth was giving such solicitous care was in fact, Jane Bennet. At least, it appeared to be Jane, though her countenance reflected a somewhat more drawn appearance than Darcy remembered.

He gave in to curiosity and drew closer to the sisters. Although he could see Miss Bennet's mouth moving, the voice that appeared to emanate from it bore no resemblance to the serene and warm tones he had come to expect from her. Instead, the voice chilled him in its grim similarity to the voices of the spirits who had guided him this evening.

"It is too much, Lizzy, how can we bear such sorrow? I cannot believe that Lydia would be so headstrong, so wildly imprudent! And who would have known that Mr. Wickham could act so wickedly? Nay, I cannot believe it, there must be some gross misunderstanding. Oh, my mother! How this will break her heart! I must go console her."

"Jane, you are not strong yourself. Mama has Hill and Mary and Kitty to care for her. Dear Jane, I fear more how your heart will endure than Mama's. You have fared so poorly these past months. Poor, foolish Lydia! To think that she has thrown herself into the power of Mr. Wickham! He is not to be relied upon, of that we may be sure. Stupid, stupid girl! Her incautious manner has ruined her and we all must bear our share in her disgrace."

"Is it that hopeless then, Lizzy?"

"I fear it is. Our chances of making good marriages were never strong in the first place; I would venture to say they are nonexistent now." Elizabeth's eyes widened and she placed her hand over her mouth, the anguish evident on her countenance. "Oh, Jane, I am so sorry! Nay, do not listen to my pessimistic ramblings. You are too good and too beautiful for any gentleman to come to any conclusion other than you are worthy of an offer of marriage. Please, Jane, it was insufferable of me to even bring it up."

Jane patted the hand that covered hers and gave her sister a smile that did not quite reach her eyes. "I know what you are thinking, Lizzy, and you need not worry. It is true that I have endured a deep melancholy since Mr. Bingley left Netherfield. But the fault is mine; I gave him my heart all too willingly before I realized the danger. I cannot help but still feel the loss, I am afraid. Though no man will ever touch my affections as Mr. Bingley did, I am confident that, in time, I will be happy again. Having you near comforts me greatly, Lizzy."

As the sisters embraced, Colonel Fitzwilliam appeared out of nowhere. "'Tis a shame, is it not, Darcy?" Darcy was startled from his intent gazing upon Elizabeth to see the spirit come forward from a darkened corner of the room. "Wickham has notched another victim in his bedpost with his dissolute ways. For the price of a few coins, he has irreparably tarnished the reputation of Miss Lydia, and by extension, the entire Bennet family."

"Yes, I have not the least doubt that Wickham's intentions are dishonourable, with or without Miss Bingley's orchestrations." Darcy sneered. "It is an unfortunate business, of that we can agree, but I do not see why it is of any concern to me. After all, Miss Elizabeth unquestionably refused the offer of my hand in April. I am not aligned with the family - by her choice. Though I will admit that I am heartily ashamed of having underestimated Miss Bennet's regard for Bingley. To be fair, spirit, her regard was hardly obvious. Is that why you brought me to witness this distressing scene?"

"The truth shall become evident shortly, Darcy. It is your office to take heed of what you are shown."

Elizabeth rose from her kneeling position and the movement of her person distracted Darcy. He watched as she gently assisted her sister into bed and lovingly stroked her cheek before exiting. As she turned from the bed, Darcy could discern tears in her eyes and watched the loving face she put on for her sister melt into worry and pain.

"Shall we continue?" Fitzwilliam stepped abreast of Darcy and grabbed his elbow. "You seem to be a hopeless case at manoeuvring in your current state, so allow me to manage our passage."

Quite commandingly, in full officer's stride, Colonel Fitzwilliam marched across the room towards the window. Darcy flinched when the spirit slowed not at all, and the pair charged without stopping through the exterior wall of Longbourn, as if it were no more than wisps of smoke. To Darcy's alarm, Fitzwilliam continued this pace, though Darcy could detect no ground below him and they were fully five yards above the gravel path. When they reached the large oak tree with a swing, Fitzwilliam indicated that Darcy should sit on the branch in front of him. Ill at ease with the varying physical properties that defied his heretofore belief in the constancy of matter, Darcy tentatively patted the branch to ensure that he would be firmly seated and need not fear going through the oak as he had so many solid objects this night.

Curious, he could not but ask, "Fitzwilliam, why have you brought me out here?"

"Well, apart from being desirous to rid myself of the headache brought on by Mrs. Bennet's wailings - it is uncharitable of me, I know, but I do not envy her spirit guide. Do you know her cries caused me to quite finish off that fine brandy? - one of the many advantages of my station is knowing the optimal post. Look," Colonel Fitzwilliam nodded in the direction of the rear door of Longbourn.

At that moment, Darcy could perceive a figure exiting the house, and sighing a noticeable sigh. Although the figure did not appear to be heading in a decided direction, Darcy was not surprised when the figure headed towards the oak. As the figure got closer, he realized that it was Elizabeth, wrapped in a cloak for warmth, tears streaming down her face. The cold but clear night sky was illuminated by a low, large moon and Elizabeth used this light to read a well-worn paper she produced from under her cloak.

"If only I had warned them of his wicked character! I, who knew of his dissolute ways, could have prevented this horrible event. It is my responsibility and mine alone. Papa must allow me to accompany him to London at first light. I will save Lydia now as I failed her earlier." Elizabeth said, agitated. She paced back and forth, reading over and over passages on the paper, as if to confirm her guilt.

"Does it not look familiar to you, Darcy?" Colonel Fitzwilliam queried.

Having attended to nothing but the pain in Elizabeth's manner, Darcy was then compelled to look at the paper in her hand. He comprehended that it was in fact his letter, the one he handed to her after her refusal in Hunsford. She kept it! He could never claim to be more astonished in all the time he had been acquainted with Elizabeth as he was when he next heard her whisper mournfully, her voice choked with emotion, "I am without hope. He will not be renewing his addresses to me." Elizabeth let out a strangled cry and ran back into Longbourn. As he watched her figure disappear into the house, thoughts spun wildly in his head. Could it be that she is now hoping for my addresses? Oh, for a quick horse to away me to Meryton!

Colonel Fitzwilliam turned a sad eye to Darcy, "You still do not understand, do you, Darcy? I am most heartily disappointed. Through all that I have shown you, the only thing that you perceive is how it affects you. Do you have no thought at all as to how events affect those around you?"

"I do not take your meaning, Fitzwilliam." Darcy said, with more strength than he felt. Truly, this had been the most tumultuously emotional day he could ever recall.

"Darcy, think on what I have shown you. Have you not seen both your friend Bingley and Miss Bennet in anguish over your choice to separate them? Have you not witnessed Miss Bingley lower herself to the most cynical of schemes in order to secure your esteem and connive a proposal from you? And what of Miss Lydia? What do you suppose her future holds once Wickham has tossed her aside, as you know he will certainly do? Think for a moment of how this affects the entire Bennet family, Miss Elizabeth included. You disdained their place in society before, what are their chances now?

"Cousin, so many of these sad events were preventable, had you not let your abominable Darcy pride rule your actions. Wickham would never have been accepted into Meryton society had you not felt if was beneath your dignity to relate what you knew of his character. Would Miss Bingley employ such mean arts had you been open and forthright about your lack of intentions in her direction? Think of the joy that would now be present in place of the tears in Bingley's and Miss Bennet's eyes had you not interfered in their courtship. And yet, despite the pain and suffering of these good people - in which you played a prominent role - still your first and only thought is of your own happiness."

Darcy's countenance reflected the shock he felt at Fitzwilliam's unswerving attack. The indignation and anger he had nurtured in his breast at the refusal of his hand now began to feel as if they were the follies of a weaker man, one that did not take pride in his regulation and exercise of good judgment. Still, as Master and landlord, I have made decisions for dozens of lives under my benefaction. Though some have been hard-fought, in the end, they have borne out. I must believe that the future will hold the same here. Things cannot be as bad as Fitzwilliam asserts.

Fitzwilliam shook his head and sighed, "Darcy, as your relation, and moreover, as your friend, I have been summoned here to allow you to see the error of your ways. I admit that perhaps I have not been as gentle as I might; though, truly, if you feel I have been too severe, I warn you, you will not take kindly to your next spirit."

Fitzwilliam cautioned solemnly. "Let my share of your journey warn you of the dangers of false pride - I would not wish for you the chains by which your father is bound. Take heed of my words, Darcy. 'Tis not too late for you to amend your ways."

With that, Fitzwilliam gave him a hearty pat on the back. "I must be off. I feel the need for a touch more brandy; I think I saw some in Mr. Bennet's study earlier. Fare thee well, Darcy." With that, Darcy watched as the spectre became dimmer and dimmer, until it disappeared altogether.

Darcy was now in a quandary. He was still perched on a high branch of the old oak tree at Longbourn. His father had at least the courtesy to escort him back to his chambers in London, but he had no idea how to return home now. Deciding that there was nothing for it but to jump down, Darcy slid off the branch of the tree. Closing his eyes in anticipation of a hard impact upon the ground, he was surprised when there was none; rather he bounced gently. Opening his eyes, he found himself atop the counterpane on his bed.

Thanking Providence for being amongst familiar surroundings, the relief they offered was short-lived. Noting Fitzwilliam's warning of the lack of amiability of his expected visitor, Darcy lay back against his pillow with nothing less than dread at what other visions would be his this evening.

Continue with Lisa's part here


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