Story Go Round 10/19/2001, round 3, #3

Post Pride & Prejudice

Two years after Lizzie quitted the name Bennett and became Mistress of Pemberley her sister Kitty came for an extended stay. She insisted on being introduced to people as Catherine, an affectation from her recent infatuation with Catherine the Great. She had the feather and the gloves. Mother had warned her about the possible negative effect on her popularity at balls, but Kitty continued headstrong. She'd gotten that from Lydia.

While Kitty had become more and more enchanted with nobility, Lizzie had been headed in the opposite direction. The gossip, the precision, the distinctions from hedges to hem lengths. She'd cried about it on a carriage ride on more than one occasion. Her mother would have said, "This is not to be borne," but Lizzie, ever the pragmatist, found a way to bear it, and without losing her humor.

Kitty took exception to the notion that calling herself Catherine was an affectation. "It is my Christian name," she was frequently heard to say. And if she had said it with Lizzie's aplomb, they would have believed her.

It hadn't been so long that Lizzie and Kitty had been apart. Mama had said that regular visits were the only thing to keep a family connected. The Darcy's were running out of excuses for why she was never invited north, and Lizzie dreaded the day she would hear her mother's shrill voice echoing in the parlour. In the words of her new aunt, "Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?" This made her burst out laughing, which was fine as she was walking in the woods by herself. Who could resist the roses or the oaks and birches, bursting with vernal vitality.

Times like these, she could imagine herself floating, attended by angels. She rounded the path by the pond, curved around the Wishing Stump, as she and Darcy called it, and halted when she noticed a figure. The shock in her body registered before conscious recognition. It was soon evident she was beholding the backside of George Wickham alone by his childhood pond, looking morose and meditative, alone.

"What's he doing here"? she thought, a little too petulantly for her comfort. Here, unannounced, and without Lydia. It was common knowledge that he and her sister were not getting on so well these days, but this was surely the most unlikely place in the world for George Wickham to retreat to if out of favor with his wife. Should she leave him to his furtive purposes, or call him out into the open and enquire as to his design in coming so secretly to Pemberley?

A flushed quail prevented her deciding for herself as Wickham turned in her direction.

"Lizzie," he said with surprise and as if he hadn't time to draw a breath.

"Yes, Mr. Wickham, I did not know we were to expect a visit," she said dropping into a cold tone.

"Dear Sister," he opened humbly, his voice lacking the characteristic ooze of charm which had once made him the object of her affection. "I did not intend for you to see me this way. I came merely to revisit my youth."

Amber is purple; John is pink; Alan is blue; Terry is orange