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Happily Ever After with Mr Darcy A Collection of Short Stories Inspired by Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice by Jan Ashton, Julie Cooper, Amy D'Orazio, Anniina Sjoblom, Karalynne Mackrory, Lucy Marin Book

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Happily Ever After with Mr Darcy A Collection of Short Stories Inspired by Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice by Jan Ashton, Julie Cooper, Amy D'Orazio, Anniina Sjoblom, Karalynne Mackrory, Lucy Marin Read Book Online And Download

Overview: Happily Ever After with Mr Darcy is a compilation of previous published novellas, all of which are variations on Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice.


Happily Ever After with Mr Darcy A Collection of Short Stories Inspired by Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice by Jan Ashton, Julie Cooper, Amy D'Orazio, Anniina Sjoblom, Karalynne Mackrory, Lucy Marin Book
Happily Ever After with Mr Darcy A Collection of Short Stories Inspired by Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice by Jan Ashton, Julie Cooper, Amy D'Orazio, Anniina Sjoblom, Karalynne Mackrory, Lucy Marin Book





Happily Ever After with Mr Darcy A Collection of Short Stories Inspired by Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice by Jan Ashton, Julie Cooper, Amy D'Orazio, Anniina Sjoblom, Karalynne Mackrory, Lucy Marin Book Read Online Chapter One




A Great Misfortune



His head was pounding when he woke, a tight band of agony that squeezed and pressed against his skull. He opened his eyes slowly, wincing against the searing daylight; even more slowly he pushed himself to a seated position.

His vision swam for a moment, everything hazy and unclear; then he saw the Prussian blue striped wall coverings and the enormous leather chair with a book still lying on its seat and he knew he was at his home in London. How had he gotten here? His mind struggled to make sense of it all, to remember what had happened and when.

Rosings, he had been at Rosings and Elizabeth Bennet was there and then—oh!

Remembrance was sudden and painful. Hunsford cottage, his declarations of love and her declarations of hatred, both equal in measure it would seem. He winced, the motion causing a shooting pain into his head.

“Brother?” Georgiana’s face, pale and worried, floated into his line of vision. “You are awake! How do you feel?”

“I feel…” He trailed off. In truth, he was not certain how exactly he was feeling. Miserable, but was it his head or his heart? “I scarcely know. A bit beat up, I suppose. What happened?”

“He has lost his memory!” Georgiana exclaimed to someone, unseen, also in the room.

“Not wholly unexpected.” A young man, downy-cheeked and fair, leant into view. “Not likely to be permanent either. Mr Darcy, sir, do you know where you are?”

Darcy recoiled. “Who might you be? And why are you in my bedchamber? Which I do know is in London, by the by.”

“Forgive me, sir.” The man stepped back at once. “I am Mr Simmons, your physician.”

“Mr Dunwoody is my personal physician.” Darcy did his best to be authoritative, though it was a struggle, being that he was in his nightshirt and feeling more than a little befuddled.

“I am here at Dunwoody’s request,” said Simmons, with a kindly smile as he passed Darcy a letter of introduction from his usual physician. “Dunwoody thought it best that I should examine you as I have had particular experience in illnesses such as these.”

Darcy scanned the letter quickly, noting it was his physician’s seal on the note and appeared to be his writing. “Very well. But what happened to me? Why am I in this bed unable to recall anything of how I got here?”

Studying Darcy for a moment, Simmons dismissed Georgiana from the room.

Simmons began his examination as soon as the door closed behind her. He pressed his ear to Darcy’s chest, he poked his face in several places, lifted his eyelids and, most unusually, used a crude sort of musical instrument to produce tones near his ears, ordering Darcy to tell him if he could hear them.

When he had done, he leant back, looking rather grave.

He then began to question Darcy on the events of the previous weeks: his time at Rosings Park, his activities there, the persons he had seen and spoken to. Darcy did what he could to conceal the miserable truth of the matter, but he could not deny that he felt very much like Simmons somehow knew of his failed proposal.

When the recitation was done, Simmons rose, going to the window and folding his hands behind his back. Darcy watched him for a time, his anxiety increasing, until at last he could tolerate no more. “Well? What is it?”

Simmons returned to the seat by Darcy’s bed. “I cannot lie to you, sir, this is very much what I had hoped I would not find.”

Darcy said nothing, uneasiness and fear twisting in his gut.

“Allow me to relate to you what I know.” Simmons took a seat, folding his hands on the small paunch of his stomach and staring at a point far distant. After a moment, he began to speak. “You likely recall very little of the tenth of April—or do you?”

The tenth of April? He knew nothing of it though being that it was the day following the ninth of April—and the ninth of April would be forever remembered as the day of the most painful humiliation of his life. He shook his head in response.

“On the tenth of April, you were found at Bromley, in a tavern, rather, um…” Simmons lightly cleared his throat. “You were drunk.”

“Drunk in a tavern at Bromley!” Darcy could not fathom that even Elizabeth Bennet’s rejection could lead him to such behaviour as this. “Impossible. Where was my cousin?”

“Your cousin?”

“Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam.” Darcy spoke sternly. “He travelled with me.”

“Ah, the colonel, yes. The colonel was the gentleman who was summoned to Bromley to collect you on the eleventh of April. Needless to say, between the tenth and the eleventh—when it was observed you and your horse were missing without word to anyone—everyone at Rosings was quite concerned for what dreadful fate might have befallen you.”

Darcy sighed. Such disgraceful actions! Once Fitzwilliam knew he was well, he would likely run him through for such appalling rudeness. “So who found me in Bromley?”

“You were very fortunate to be found on Friday and given a room at a nearby inn.”

“But who? Who found me in such a state?” Darcy supposed that whoever had done so had done him a good turn.

“The tavern, where you were found, was rather,” again Simmons cleared his throat. “Rough. Not your usual sort of place at all. They might not have looked for you in such an establishment for some time if ever. Fortunately, the son of one of the former stewards at your house in Derbyshire recognised and cared for you.”

Sudden suspicion and anger shot through Darcy. “Not George Wickham, surely?”

“Why, yes.”

“Well, this is absurd!” Darcy shot up, swinging his legs over the side of his bed. “I believe we have our explanation now! Wickham has put some sort of a… an agent to induce madness… he is behind this, I assure you, now permit me to—”

What it was that Darcy intended to do would be lost, for as he attempted to rise, he learnt that his limbs lacked the strength to support him. Within moments he found himself in an undignified heap beside his bed, his head throbbing more than ever.

Simmons looked down on him pityingly for a moment before getting to his own feet and hoisting Darcy back into his bed. “I entreat you not to attempt further sudden movement, sir,” said the man calmly.

“What sort of illness induces such as this?”

“A very serious one, I am afraid.”

Simmons was stern and grave and kind all at once and it chastened Darcy. He nodded and settled himself back into the bed linens.

“Mr Wickham was concerned by the state in which he found you—to say nothing of the fact that it is dangerous for a man of your standing to be in such a place—so he removed you and arranged for lodgings in Bromley.”

“Sounds unlikely,” Darcy said. “Did he lighten my purse while he did it?”

“You were there without your purse,” said Simmons with an admonishing little frown. “Mr Wickham arranged everything—was very good to you, in fact. It was he who sent word to your cousin to come retrieve you. Alas, that was not the whole of the problem.”

“No?”

Simmons shook his head sadly. “No, for as it turns out, when your cousin asked for the bill from the tavern keeper, he realised you had, in fact, had rather little to drink—one tankard. We could not account for your drunken state. Thus it was discovered that you suffer from a lack of symmetry.”

“Lack of symmetry?” Darcy fought the urge to laugh. Surely lack of symmetry was nothing so concerning?

“You have contracted an illness of a peculiar nature,” explained Simmons. “One of the hallmarks of it is rapid and irreversible loss of symmetry in one’s face and drunken behaviour in the absence of strong drink.”

Darcy’s jaw dropped. He watched as Simmons rose and took a looking glass from his dressing room, bringing it to him to show him. Darcy studied himself critically. “I do not see it.”

“Those who suffer this are rarely able to discern it in themselves. Not only does one become asymmetrical in appearance but also in the ability to see the affliction. So the two asymmetries cancel one another, and the bearer thus appears correct to himself, but not to others.” Simmons smiled sadly. “I am alas something of an expert in this field, Mr Darcy. Most sufferers see it—or rather fail to see it—just as you do.”

“Oh,” said Darcy, still studying himself. In truth, now that he looked a bit more closely, he did indeed see that his left nostril was not precisely aligned with the right… and did his left dimple not seem higher than the right? Why were his eyelashes so long on his right eye… or was it that they were shortened on the left?

“Will the condition eventually set itself aright?”

Simmons pressed his lips together, looking down for a moment. He reached, taking the glass from Darcy’s hand, and setting it gently beside them on the night table. “I am afraid not,” he said quietly. “The asymmetry, you see, is but a symptom of a much larger problem. A problem in your brain.”

“My brain!”

“I am afraid so,” Simmons confirmed. “There is not an easy way to tell you this, Mr Darcy, but I fear that you do not have very long to live.”

Darcy’s mouth fell agape again and he stared, disbelieving, at Simmons. He was dying? But… but how? It could not be. “Preposterous.”

Simmons said nothing.

“But I am exceedingly healthy!”

Simmons offered a rueful smile and half a nod.

Darcy leant back, thinking of it. Georgiana left alone, Pemberley without an heir… and what of his own dreams? Never to know true love, never to hold a child in his arms… never to understand what it was to grow old with someone. An ache began in his chest, and he swallowed against the pain of knowing all he would never get to experience.

“How long?” His voice emerged thickened and rough. “Do you know?”

Simmons shrugged. “You can enjoy relative good health for several months more—with good fortune, perhaps you might even survive into early autumn.”

“A few months.” It was more than Darcy had expected but still astonishing nonetheless.

“I will give you some remedies to help you.” Simmons regarded him a moment before adding, “I cannot tell you how sorry I am to be the bearer of such dreadful news.”

“But…is it certain?” Darcy asked, hearing the note of desperation in his voice.

“I am afraid so. Now, let us summon your man. I have arranged for the appropriate remedies and wish to instruct him as to their proper use.”

Fields came quickly and listened as Simmons described the regimens that he would be required to follow precisely. “Understand,” Simmons told him. “Any deviation will result in a diminished state of health for Mr Darcy, so times, amounts—all must be delivered just as I have specified here.”

Fields nodded solemnly and then stood by while the first doses were administered to Darcy. A number of instructions were ordered that Darcy listened to with half an ear: headaches would be, at times, rather unbearable. His vision might be a bit blurred, and his legs could grow weak but, on the whole, he was to enjoy relative vigour until the end. The end, when it came, would be precipitously severe and his demise rapid.

“Well then.” Simmons stood, gathering his things and preparing to depart. “Mr Darcy, I will tell you again how dreadfully sorry I am to deliver such news to you. I pray, sir, that you will be able to have as much good health as is possible in these, your last days. Do not tarry in settling your accounts, for nothing is guaranteed.”

“I understand,” Darcy replied.

The shock of it all was beginning to leave him and in its place, sorrow. Sorrow and fear and—strangely—the sense that he was meeting a predestined end. After all, his father and mother had both died young. His grandfather was killed in a hunting accident when he was forty. His great-grandfather was similarly unfortunate although the details were not clear.

Darcys are a hapless lot, he thought grimly. What made you think you would be different?



 

  


A fine thing, thought Darcy wryly several hours later. A fine thing indeed.

Fields had helped him down to his study, Darcy leaning upon him like a man of eighty, where he intended to begin the business of settling his affairs. A complex mixture of emotions assailed him. Sadness, of course, along with a healthy measure of anger and more than a little bit of ‘why me?’ But he did not like feeling this way.

You must accept it. It cannot be changed. Darcy was determined to meet death just as he had every other thing in his life—with duty, and honour above all.

He had sent a note to his physician who replied within an hour, saying he wished he had better news but that Simmons was the expert. Nonetheless, there was something in him which held onto hope that Simmons was wrong. Never mind his expertise, these things could never truly be known with certainty, could they? Was all hope lost?

Regardless of what other sensibilities he might own, he was resolved to behave as one who had accepted his fate. Men his age went to war, bravely throwing themselves in the face of Napoleon and whatever else threatened their beloved country without murmur—could he not likewise face death with aplomb? No pity, no wallowing about in despair for him, and to that end, he forcibly moved his thoughts from the sorrow of the situation onto the more practical aspects.

Settle his accounts, Simmons had advised him. There was nothing much to do there. Darcy was always fastidious, mindful that the world was an uncertain place and anything could happen to anyone at any time. He had learnt that lesson at his father’s knee and been exceedingly grateful for it when his father had met his own untimely demise.

So he would meet with his solicitor as well as his secretary and do what needed doing but in truth, it would require fairly minimal effort to arrange his matters of business.

For personal matters, things were a bit different. He liked to believe that he had been a fair and just master and that he had behaved with honour in all his doings, with two glaring exceptions. Elizabeth Bennet and Bingley. He must set things to right with both of them.

His past doings would be settled but the future remained unknown. An heir, he thought. Is it possible, in this, the eleventh hour, to sire a child?

It was entirely possible that, even if he was married today, conception might not occur, or if it did, the babe might not quicken until he was gone. It was possible that the child would be female, or that it would not survive childhood. The probability of begetting a male child who would take over Pemberley once he had reached his age of majority was very low.

Low, he thought, but not non-existent.

He considered the ladies of his acquaintance, names and faces drifting through his mind. He had not the least doubt that he could secure the hand of at least one of them, no doubt accompanied by a great deal of eagerness. For a relatively short time as his wife, she would earn a fortune, an exalted place in society, and she would be afforded the freedom of a widow after his demise. Many ladies would leap at the opportunity.

But supposing a child was born, would he wish to entrust such a lady with his child? With his tenants and his ancestral home? With Georgiana?

He sighed. There was but one lady who he would trust unreservedly with all he had and all that he was; that lady was Elizabeth Bennet, who alas loathed him.

There is always Anne, he thought dispiritedly. Anne would do as I asked, except that she would likely die in childbirth and then my child would be an orphan, left to the care of Lady Catherine.

For not the first time, he wondered if Anne was as sickly as she appeared. Anne had had a rather pronounced tendency toward manipulation when she was young, and he supposed she was only grown more adept in the art by now. Perhaps she was more capable of being mistress of Pemberley…

But no. He stopped his thoughts at once, envisioning his poor little boy or girl raised under the roof of Lady Catherine and Anne. It would not do.

Elizabeth, he thought. It can only be Elizabeth. But how?

Her heart was compassionate, this he knew, but just how far would her compassion extend? What he wished was not insignificant but then again, he was offering her a world of opportunity and independence that he believed would suit her very well. She despised him… but maybe his letter had made her despise him a bit less. Maybe his apology might even help her like him a little.

An unanticipated chuckle escaped him. There was nothing to be lost in pursuing her, was there? His time was running out; risks must be taken. His headache was worsening he noted, and he summoned his man.

“Time for another dose,” Fields replied.

He rose, feeling the stiffening of his joints and the nausea in his gut. They made their way back to his bedchamber wherein Darcy was given more of the medicines he evidently required.

Before he could swallow the dreadful concoctions, doubt seized him for a moment. The medicine in hand, he asked his loyal valet, “Fields—do you see it? Do you see the asymmetry?”

Fields considered him carefully, taking his chin and turning his head to the left and the right several times before reluctantly nodding. “I do, sir, and wish heartily I did not.”

Sleep would claim Darcy quickly but in the time he laid awake, he considered what alternatives lay before him; they were admittedly few. However, before it came time for dinner, he had formed a plan, one which he hoped would serve Pemberley well and permit him the greatest possible degree of enjoyment of his last days.


Happily Ever After with Mr Darcy A Collection of Short Stories Inspired by Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice by Jan Ashton, Julie Cooper, Amy D'Orazio, Anniina Sjoblom, Karalynne Mackrory, Lucy Marin Book Read Online Only First Chapter Full Complete Book For Buy Epub File.



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