In any case, George Wickham’s father was a faithful servant to mine, and very kind to me also. He devoted most of his life to running this estate.”

“A pity,” his cousin replied, “that he did not take more care in his marriage, for his wife was not only much younger, but was also a woman of very extravagant habits, and with a frivolous disposition.”

Darcy did not reply.

“I have also heard,” said Fitzwilliam, “that George Wickham has been putting it about that you did not discharge your responsibilities to him in accordance with your father’s wishes.”

“Yes,” said Darcy shortly, “but, as you know, there is no truth in that. I hope never to have any more dealings with that gentleman. Hopefully, when I paid him off, that was the end of it.”

His cousin’s remark reminded Darcy that young Mr. Wickham had been born within a few months of himself. The owner of Pemberley had gladly consented to be godfather to the child of his steward, who was named after him. The boy had been a great favourite of Mr. Darcy, to the extent that his own son had sometimes been jealous of young George Wickham’s pleasing address, good figure and very happy readiness of conversation.

The cost of sending the steward’s son to school and later to Cambridge had been borne by his godfather. When they were young, the two boys had been regular companions. However, his own acquaintance with the son as he grew to manhood had convinced Darcy that young Mr. Wickham had not inherited the integrity or abilities that had served his father so well. At college, Darcy saw the young man turn to frivolous and dissolute habits, of which his benefactor had remained unaware.

When Darcy’s father died, he had asked in his will that provision be made for George Wickham. If the young man desired to take holy orders, the request was that a valuable family living should be his. Mr. George Darcy also left his godson the sum of one thousand pounds.

The steward had not long survived his master. Within half a year of leaving Cambridge, young Mr. Wickham decided against holy orders and accepted instead the sum of three thousand pounds from Darcy, saying that he intended to study for the law.

Darcy had doubted the likelihood of Wickham applying himself to that profession. He had heard nothing more of his childhood companion, since the day several years ago when the sum of money agreed had been paid to him, until Wick-ham had written to him when the living at Kympton on the Pemberley estate had become vacant. He said that he had spent the money paid to him, that he had changed his mind, and would now like to go into the Church. He had asked for the living, which included an excellent parsonage house.

Darcy had not deigned to reply himself, but had instructed his attorney to write, saying that all Mr. George Darcy’s intentions had been met by paying Wickham a much larger sum than that mentioned in the will.

The living at Kympton was then given to a worthy young man already known to the Darcy family, who appeared to have a true vocation for the Church.

On the morrow, Darcy left his instructions for the estate and the house for the next few weeks with his steward and with Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper at Pemberley, who had been with the family since he was a child. He then left in the chaise with Fitzwilliam. After the first day’s travel, he said farewell to his cousin, who left to take the stage to Essex to see his family near Chelmsford.

On Darcy’s arrival in town, he did not find a letter waiting for him from his sister as he had hoped. Instead, there was a note from his friend Charles Bingley, saying that he had been detained in Scarborough where his sisters were residing for a few weeks. However, he wrote that he should be in town within a few days, staying with his brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, whose house was but a short walk from Darcy’s mansion in the Square.

They had become friends whilst at Cambridge, and Darcy had introduced the younger man to his father, who had enjoyed the company of Bingley on the few occasions they had met before the death of Mr. George Darcy. An easy going, good-looking young man now of some three and twenty years, Bingley came from a respectable family in the north of England. Although the fortune had come from trade, he had inherited property amounting to nearly an hundred thousand pounds from his father. He enjoyed country pursuits and, on leaving the University, had considered purchasing an estate, or at least taking a lease of a property. So far, he had not been able to find a place to his liking.

Bingley was as easily pleased by female company as his friend Darcy was not. He was often in love, but as quickly changed his mind. He had easy, unaffected manners, and was always happy to defer to the superior understanding and judgement of his friend on any topic. After the death of his father, Darcy had been glad of the company of his friend, since at that time his sister, Georgiana, had been but ten years old and away at school.

Bingley had two older sisters. The elder, Louisa, had married Mr. Hurst some years earlier, a man more of fashion than fortune with a house in town in Grosvenor Street. The younger, Miss Caroline Bingley, was a little older than Darcy and of an age when many of her contemporaries were now married. Each had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds.

Darcy was regularly in the company of the two sisters when they were with their brother, and found their concern for their place in society, and their habit of associating only with people of rank, very proper. Both sisters were very fine ladies, although seen by their inferiors as proud and conceited.

The following afternoon, Darcy visited his attorney, Mr. Stone, to discuss his business affairs. On his return, he found a letter waiting for him from Georgiana.

He took his favourite seat in the drawing room, facing the window onto the Square, and began to read.

My dear brother,

We called in at Rosings as I promised.

Our cousin Anne was unwell, and kept to her room. However, Mrs. Younge and I took luncheon with Lady Catherine before continuing on our journey. Our aunt had messages for you that I will pass on when we next meet.

Mrs. Younge and I are now well settled in our lodgings, and Ramsgate is a most delightful place.

We are walking every day along the front by the sea to watch the ebb and flow of the tides. We have also taken a carriage out into the country; there are many pretty lanes and woods to see round about.

I am very much enjoying the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with the gentleman whom I mentioned to you in my last letter. He knows Mrs. Younge quite well, and is just as delightful a companion as I remember him.

He says that I should not tell you anything of his being here, which seems to me a little strange. I have not seen him for more than 5 years, when he returned to Pemberley with you while you were both at Cambridge.

If I say that his name begins with W, I shall not be breaking my promise to him to keep our secret.

Your loving sister


Darcy read the letter twice through.

Suddenly, a terrible thought came to him. He leapt to his feet and called to his man to pack an overnight bag, and get the carriage to the door within half an hour.


The journey to Ramsgate seemed to take an unconscionable time. The carriage passed within a few miles of his aunt’s home at Rosings, but Darcy was in no mood to pause. He urged the coachman on, but the recent rain had made the going difficult, and it was late in the evening before he reached Ramsgate, and secured a room at the Inn in the main square. Before retiring for the night, he sent his coachman to search out where his sister’s lodgings were situated, and told him to report early the following day.

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