Hi, everybody! Welcome back for chapter seven! In case you are only just joining us, or have missed a part, never fear. Chapter 1 is here. Just follow the “Next Chapter” links at the bottom to read it as a serial. If you only missed last week’s chapter, then just click for Chapter 6.
The morning after – is Elizabeth still in 2017?
Chapter 7: From Lambton to King’s Cross
It was too bright. Ellie groaned and pulled the pillow over her face. Where was that light coming from? She’d shut the blinds before they went to sleep, so it should be blessedly dark, instead of this horrible, blinding glare.
“Miss… Ellie?” That voice. It was familiar. She wanted to go back to sleep and find out what it was going to say.
“Ellie,” said the voice again, but this time something warm touched her arm. She sat up with a jolt, the pillow falling to the floor, and her heart jumping to her throat.
After two or three hard blinks, Ellie’s eyes finally focused on Elizabeth, who stood beside her. “Crap! You’re still here.”
“Yes, it seems I am.”
Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak again, but Ellie raised a hand as she kicked the blanket to the end of the sofa and stood. “Please don’t ask what we’re going to do now. I haven’t had coffee yet, so I can barely move much less think at this time of the morning.”
“’Tis eight o’clock already,” exclaimed Elizabeth. “I have been awake since six. Do you typically keep Town hours?”
“Huh?” Ellie turned at the entrance at the bathroom. “Just give me a moment.” She closed the door, splashed some cold water on her face and looked at herself in the mirror. “Wake up!”
When she stepped out a few minutes later, Elizabeth was staring at her expectantly. Ellie shuffled into the kitchen area, opened the cabinet, and began to rummage through it while mumbling to herself, “He had to take the bloody espresso machine. I should’ve hidden it! Worthless, no-good, megalomaniac prick. Next time I see him, I’m going to shove a cup of coffee right up his…”
A glance at Elizabeth’s shocked, wide eyes kept her from finishing her tirade. She shifted a few tins of beans to one side and paused at the small jar tucked at the very back. It had been ages since she’d drank instant coffee, but without her shiny new espresso machine, it was all she had. Needs must and all that. Soon, the kettle was boiling and a mug for both her and Elizabeth were on the counter.
“Do you want tea?”
“Tea would be delightful, though I confess, I am quite hungry as well. I do not mean to be an imposition.” Elizabeth picked up a bag of bread that sat on the counter. “If you could but teach me, I might make toast for myself.”
Ellie took the loaf. “You’re not an imposition.” She looked in the cabinet and the refrigerator. She really had nothing to make a proper breakfast out of.
After a quick scan of the bread to be sure she wasn’t serving her guest mouldy toast, she popped two slices in the toaster and looked at Elizabeth. “You had so much fun with it yesterday. Do you want to press the lever?” Elizabeth smiled and used one finger to turn the toaster on.
Beans! She did have beans. Ellie opened a tin, tipped them into a pan and turned on the hob. “Lizzy? Do you have any idea what we should do now, because I really don’t have a clue?”
Elizabeth sighed. “I am not certain of what course we should follow, but perhaps a greater knowledge of what occurred after you jumped in front of that coach would be helpful. I was not a notable figure; however, so I am not certain my life, or the events surrounding my death, would have been documented anywhere.”
“I suppose it’s better than doing nothing, let’s have a look.” Grabbing her tiny laptop off a shelf, Ellie put it on the table and opened it. Elizabeth stretched out a finger to touch one of the keys, but Ellie swatted her hand away. “I’ll drive.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Just that you’ve never used a computer, and like everything else I own, it’s temperamental. I don’t want it to crash. That would get us nowhere.”
Ellie blew her fringe from her face. “I mean, it wouldn’t work.” It was the easiest answer, even if it wasn’t the best. Trying to explain things to someone from the nineteenth century was downright tricky. When she’d pulled up Google, she tapped her fingers on the edge of the keyboard. “Perhaps we should try you first.”
“I do not understand. Try me? How?”
She paused. Elizabeth was confused and Ellie again struggled for an answer. “Computers are kind of like a book. You can store pictures, things you’ve written, and music inside, and pull them back up whenever you want. You can also link with other computers by something called the internet. Almost anything is on the internet these days. You would be gobsmacked if you walked into a room filled with the same amount of information that is on the internet—it would be massive, gargantuan!”
When she had typed “Elizabeth Bennet” into the search bar, Ellie pressed enter. “Watch,” she ordered. After a moment or two, an entire page came up with a half-dozen people search sites, a Wikipedia page, and a few Amazon links, but nothing historical. “Elizabeth Bennet is a pretty common name, it seems.”
Both Elizabeth’s eyebrows lifted. “I never knew another by that name, but I suppose it would be arrogant to presume I was the only Elizabeth Bennet for two hundred years.” Once she’d scanned down the contents of the screen, she looked back at Ellie. “Could this tell us what happened to Mr Darcy? He was of more significance than a country squire’s daughter; his consequence might have caused someone to make a note of him.”
“Good idea.” What was his first name again? Fitzwilliam! Ellie keyed in Fitzwilliam Darcy and pressed enter, but this time the window was topped with a sentence that read, “Showing no results for Fitzwilliam Darcy. Search instead for William Darcy.”
“Maybe Pemberley?” thought Ellie out loud. She pressed enter and exhaled in relief as a line of familiar images appeared near the top.
“I never knew Pemberley was so grand.” Elizabeth put a hand to her chest. “With ten-thousand per annum, he was obviously rich, but I never realised…” She trailed off as she stared.
Ellie squinted and leaned closer. She clicked on one picture, enlarging it. “That’s not how Pemberley looked when I toured it two days ago.”
Elizabeth scanned the image. “Is part of the building in ruins?”
Ellie returned to her search and clicked on the Wikipedia link. She and Elizabeth’s faces were so close to the screen their noses were practically touching it. The page was pretty standard and there wasn’t much information, just a quick paragraph at the top, telling them which Darcy had built Pemberley in the early eighteenth century by overhauling the original house and adding to it. A gasp from Elizabeth startled her.
“Oh, my!” Elizabeth whispered. She had her hand to her mouth and tears were welling in her eyes.
“What!” Ellie looked back at the screen, and then she saw it. “Pemberley flourished until a mysterious fire in 1815 destroyed a portion of the house and claimed the life of its owner.” A sniff from beside her made her glance at Elizabeth.
“I never had the opportunity to apologise, to tell him I was wrong in my accusations.” Ellie saw Elizabeth was biting her lip to stop from herself from crying. “It is so very sad, I should have liked to…” her words trailed off and then her brow wrinkled. “I think it is burnt.”
Ellie nodded at the picture of Pemberley. “Yeah, that whole wing of it is gone.”
“No, whatever you placed upon the stove, the strangely coloured sauce, with the lumps. I believe you have burnt it.”
“The beans!” Ellie shouted, leapt from her chair and ran back to the pan. Too late. By the time she pulled them off the hob the beans were stuck together and black around the edges. “I can’t do anything right at the moment,” she said, tossing the pan into the sink.
When she turned around, Elizabeth was drying her eyes with the sleeves of her jim-jams. “I have no handkerchief.”
“Butterfly effect. That’s what this is. I threw me, or you, under the carriage, which ruined Mr Darcy’s life and his house burnt down and he died. It’s all my fault, and I am clueless. I don’t know how to fix this.” She trudged dejectedly back to the table and scrolled down the web page to skim read the rest of the article. There was a list of those who inherited after Fitzwilliam Darcy’s death. “A combination of debts and death duties had eventually made the last heir, a George Fitzwilliam, turn it over to English Heritage.” Ellie read aloud. “Oh, I have an idea.”
“You know how to send me home?”
“No, but I might know where to learn more.” She gave Elizabeth a shove to make her stand. “We need to get dressed.”
“Where are we to go?”
“You’ll see. Just get dressed!” As Ellie shifted around in her closet, Elizabeth reached for her gown. “No! Not that! Here.” She shoved another pair of jeans and a shirt into Elizabeth’s arms. “Wear this.”
Once they were dressed and standing on the pavement, Elizabeth turned and gaped at the house like she had the night before. “’Tis so strange. It is much the same as in my time, yet so different.”
Ellie pulled at her arm. “We have to be there before eleven if we’re going to talk to him. We have to go.”
Traffic was too bad on a weekday to chance taking Mildred, so she walked as quickly as she could to Bank tube station. Elizabeth was surprisingly fit and had no problems keeping up. When they entered the station, Ellie handed her a spare Oyster card.
“What am I to do with this?”
“Just do what everyone else is doing,” said Ellie, pointing to the stiles. “Tap your card on the yellow circle, and the gates will open.” It only took Elizabeth two attempts to make it through, and though she paused for a moment at the escalator, she only looked like a tourist, which in a way, she was—except instead of being from America or France, she was from eighteen-thirteen.
She grabbed Elizabeth’s arm and pulled her to the right as they rode down. “You have to stand to this side.”
Elizabeth frowned. “Am I not allowed to stand beside you?”
“No, you have to leave the left side free for people who are in a rush.” As she spoke, a man in a suit with a briefcase jogged down the steps and when he reached the bottom, turned, and disappeared.
They reached the platform and Elizabeth’s head turned from side to side, her eyes darting about. “What is this place?”
In a whoosh of musty air and noise, the train sped into the station. The doors opened and Ellie pulled Elizabeth aboard, finding a spot where they would have a little privacy. Elizabeth resisted a bit as she was keen to watch the doors close. She gasped and swayed, almost losing her footing when the carriage began to move and clung on desperately to the handle overhead.
“All of these ways to travel without the need of horses,” she whispered. “Do you not have horses in the twenty-first century?”
“Of course, but people ride more for fun or sport. Cars and trains are much faster.” Elizabeth winced as the squealed through the tunnel at high speed towards their destination.
When they arrived at King’s Cross, Elizabeth followed Ellie up until they reached the ticket hall, but before Ellie could lead her to the exit, Elizabeth became interested in another corridor. “What is in that direction?”
“It’s King’s Cross Railway Station.” She checked the time on her phone. “We have a minute if you’d like to look. I could grab us a proper cup of coffee too”
Elizabeth nodded and grinned, so they walked into the main terminus of the station, where she stopped to admire the huge glass ceiling and everything around her. “I have never seen the like.”
After being treated to a case of Ellie’s grumps that morning, and then hearing the news about Mr Darcy, Elizabeth probably deserved a little happiness, so Ellie led her to the ticket barriers for platforms nine to twelve, where a girl held a cart that was half-disappeared into the brick wall. The girl gave a jump while someone whipped her striped scarf into the air. Elizabeth laughed. “What could she possibly be about? No one can walk through walls. She appears ridiculous.”
Ellie opened her mouth, but a small voice said, “What? Have you have never read Harry Potter?” A young girl with short brown hair and bright pink glasses gawked at Elizabeth as though she’d sprouted an extra eye and horns. Elizabeth looked down and was obviously reading the child’s equally bright pink shirt that said, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good” in swishy handwriting.
Before the little girl could continue, Ellie tugged Elizabeth’s sleeve. “We need to go.” Elizabeth nodded, and after a brief stop for coffee, they left King’s Cross and walked until they reached the university. After endless stairs and doors and corridors, they finally reached a wooden door with heavily mottled glass in it; the type that only allowed them to make out movement, of which there was none. Black lettering upon the glass read, “Gareth Forrester.”
Ellie rapped upon the wooden door. When no one answered, she tried the handle and knocked again. “Dad, it’s Ellie! I know you’re in there!”
Elizabeth’s eyebrow lifted again. “We’re visiting your father?”
After a crash that sounded like a stack of books falling over, and a few thumps and thuds, the door cracked open and her father’s face peeked through. “Elizabeth?”
“Yes,” Ellie and Elizabeth both answered at the same time.
“Why don’t you let us inside?” Ellie asked.
“You are an Elizabeth too, ‘tis your given name?” Elizabeth said in surprise.
Before Ellie could answer, her father opened the door wider and stood scratching his head, making his already untidy gray hair appear even more unkempt. “What’s the matter? We could go to the café. I could buy you a coffee.”
“We’ve already had coffee. Nothing’s the matter, does something have to be wrong for me to visit you?” So typical of her Dad—not wanting to let anybody into his private space, no proper hello—he just wanted to buy her a coffee and send her on her way again. His tie was stained with something that might have been egg. “Actually, I have a history question I need answering.”
His eyes shifted to Elizabeth, who glanced back and forth between them.
“This is my friend… Liz. She and I were talking about this old house I toured a few days ago called Pemberley. You still do a lot of freelance research work for English Heritage, don’t you?”
Her dad began smoothing his wrinkled, stained tie as he reluctantly backed away from the door. “Yes, I know some of its history. Mind, it wasn’t one of the homes English Heritage had me research, but I am friends with the historian who did. James had a devil of a time with it, he did.” His hand lifted and waved them inside while he bent over a stack of books and began to sort through them. When he found what he wanted, he flipped to a certain page and set it on the desk.
Ellie closed the door and stepped forward, studying the portrait of Pemberley. The caption claimed was painted in 1795.
“The problem with Pemberley was most of its historical records were destroyed in the 1815 fire.” He jolted as though he’d just woken up. “Oh! I’m sorry.” He rushed forward and moved books from the two chairs in front of his desk. “Please sit.”
Elizabeth did, and pulled the book into her lap, running her finger across the photo. “Is it known what caused the fire?”
He shook his head and moved to his own rickety seat. “Tales only—nothing that could be substantiated. Between the stories of the fire and the superstitions that followed, James could never give them an accurate record, nothing beyond what they had already gleaned from family documents.”
“What superstitions?” asked Elizabeth, with a tilt of her head.
A heavy breath rustled the mess of papers upon his desk. “I don’t remember much, but it’s well known that the owner died in the fire. I believe his sister inherited the property, but she passed in childbirth. I know each owner following the fire either befell some tragedy, or left no heir when they died. By the time it was turned over to English Heritage, none of the remaining family wanted it—they considered it cursed.”
Ellie glanced at Elizabeth, who was holding herself together pretty well, considering. “Is that all you know?” she asked her father.
Her father nodded. “As I said, I was told bits and pieces of the research, but I was not a part of that project.”
“What of your friend? James? Could we speak to him?” Something in Ellie’s chest was sinking to her feet. Her father had been their best bet. When she’d seen English Heritage on the computer screen, she was certain he’d know. He’d researched old properties for years to help put money aside for Ellie to go to university.
“James now teaches in America—somewhere in the middle—Nebraska, I think.”
“Mr. Forrester, do you know who might have the additional information?” Elizabeth clutched the book to her chest. “I am certain some individual must know the tales and stories surrounding Pemberley. They do not require substantiating. We just need to hear them with our own ears.”
Her father stood, opened a file cabinet, and rummaged around until Ellie heard a slight, “A-ha!” He turned with a small black leather book and thumbed through the pages, licking his finger on occasion before turning to the next sheet.
“When he moved, James left his book of contacts with me in case I needed it. I had my own, of course, but you never know. Many of those old homes are interconnected; families married other families, cousins inherited. Contacts were important.”
He stopped and flattened the book on his desk. “Here it is. I don’t know if she’s even still alive. When James left five years ago, she was living in a retirement home in Lambton.” Out of the corner of her eye, Ellie saw Elizabeth shift forward in her seat
Who is Ruby Reynolds and does she hold the information Ellie and Elizabeth need? Leave us your theories, queries, or titles in the comments please. Don’t forget! You can always ask Ellie or Elizabeth questions too! That Elizabeth Bennet is a computer whiz. She can work the internet better than Ellie can!
And, don’t forget to tune in same time same place next week for Chapter 8: “Elizabeth Bennet, far too stubborn to die.”
Caitlin and Leslie X