Have you ever wanted to read how a conversation would go between Darcy and Captain Wentworth? Have you ever wished Caroline Bingley might make the acquaintance of Sir Walter Elliot? Have you ever thought Mrs. Norris and Lady Catherine could be best buds? Then you’ll love March Madness where we combine characters from Jane Austen’s books in way you may not have imagined or in ways you may have hoped. Find a comfy chair, grab a cuppa and a few biscuits, and join us for the fun!
Darcy and Wentworth Meet
Darcy entered the inn, darkened save for the candlelight flickering on the tables and against the walls. He shuddered as he took in the assaulting smells and heard the vulgar language bellowed by the men seated at the tables. He blinked his eyes several times to aid his vision and then let out a groan when he could not find a vacant table.
Normally he visited the finer men’s clubs when in London, but tonight he wished to be alone. He wanted no conversation and hoped he could be left in solitude with his drink and his thoughts. While not gregarious, he could readily converse with anyone on most subjects, but he was in no mood now.
His mouth went dry when he thought about the two months since Elizabeth Bennet had refused his offer of marriage. Much to his chagrin, he had not been able to expunge her from his heart and his mind.
He looked about as he meandered through the maze of men and tables and was about to leave when he noticed a lone table against the far wall. He made his way quickly towards it, squeezing sideways past some men engaged in a card game and apologizing when he bumped into one of the occupied chairs. No one from the table seemed to notice or acknowledge him, and he turned back to reach for a chair at the empty table.
At that moment, however, another gentleman reached for the opposite chair. As the chairs scraped across the floor, both men looked up, startled.
“Pray, excuse me,” Darcy said.
This time he was acknowledged by a gentleman wearing the uniform of a captain in the navy, “I see we had the same thought.”
The two men eyed each other with resignation. Darcy then turned to glance about the room. “I do not see another open table.”
The captain nodded of his head. “I believe we may both wish for solitude, and if you do not mind us both sitting at the same table, I think we can offer each other that.”
Darcy pressed his lips together and extended his hand for the captain to sit. The two men sat silently for some time. Darcy occasionally shifted restlessly in his chair, and the captain occasionally let out a sigh.
Both men ordered brandy and they waited in a comfortable silence until the drinks were brought to the table.
At length, Darcy looked at his table partner. “Pardon me, but did you see much fighting?”
The captain lifted his eyes and nodded. “I did.” He extended his hand. “Captain Frederick Wentworth.”
Darcy smiled. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Captain. I am Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
Wentworth started. “Darcy… of Pemberley?”
Darcy gave a resigned nod. “I leave on the morrow and am eager to get home. It has been many months.” Darcy took a sip of the brandy and leaned back. “And you?”
Darcy noticed Wentworth grimace and tightly grip his glass. At length, the captain said, “I am here for a few more days and then will set out for Somerset.”
“It must be difficult to come back with all that fighting behind you.”
Wentworth slowly shook his head. “Not so much the fighting.” He paused and drew in a breath. “One would think that being captain of a ship in time of war, fighting off the enemy, and managing a young and undisciplined crew, one would…” He rubbed his jaw and leaned his head back. “Eight years,” he said softly.
“Pardon me?” Darcy asked. “Eight years?”
The captain took a sip of his drink. “It has been eight years, and I have not been able to forget… her.”
Darcy’s eyes widened. “A lady? You have not been able to forget a lady in eight years?”
Wentworth looked up slowly. “Pathetic, is it not?”
Darcy cradled his drink in his hands and a low groan escaped. He did not pry for more information, but it appeared the captain suddenly was in the mood to talk.
“We were engaged. We were very much in love.” He looked down and swirled his drink. “But then she suddenly and quite unexpectedly broke off the engagement.”
“What prompted her to do that?”
The captain slowly shook his head. “Another woman, one who was almost like a mother to her, persuaded her that I had not the fortune or connections worthy of her… of Anne.”
“And you have not forgotten her after all these years?” Darcy’s mouth went dry.
“No,” Wentworth replied tersely, tightening his jaw. “I feel as though she is as much in my heart now as she ever was.”
Darcy looked at him incredulously and then began to shake his head. “But at least she accepted your offer of marriage,” he said softly.
“Pardon me?” the captain asked.
Darcy began tapping his fingers on the table and did not immediately answer. Finally, he said slowly, “My offer was refused most vehemently.”
The captain stared into his drink. “And may l assume you were not expecting that?” he asked softly.
“I went to her fully confident she would accept me. I had no idea the depth of her dislike.”
Now it was the captain’s turn to look incredulous. Looking up, he said, “I am rather surprised. You are a gentleman of wealth and good breeding, and from what I hear, Pemberley is a magnificent estate. What woman would not be delighted to marry someone like you?”
“What woman indeed!” Darcy said.
There was silence at the table again as the captain waited.
Darcy drew in a deep breath. “She was a young lady who I felt was perfect for me in every respect, but who had her reasons and was more than willing to let me know what they were.”
“Do you feel they were valid?”
Darcy bit his lip and drew in a breath through his teeth. “Some were. In others, she had been misinformed.”
“She turned you down…” Wentworth said softly.
“Eight years…” Darcy murmured.
Wentworth braced his elbows on the table and clasped his hands. “It is not, however, just the memory of her that is tormenting me this evening, however.”
Darcy lifted a brow. “Oh?”
“Her family had financial difficulties and had to let their country home. They settled into a smaller house in Bath. In a cruel twist of fate, my sister and her husband are their new tenants, and that is my destination in a few days hence.”
“But you said her family moved to Bath. Do you anticipate seeing her again?”
“She may be with them; I am uncertain. It matters not, for whether she is there or not, I shall feel her presence and all that we shared eight years ago as we walked together through the grounds and in her home. I do not know if I will be able to remain strong when I feel as though I am being torn apart inside by just the memory of her.”
Darcy’s hand went up to his mouth and he rubbed his jaw. At length, he asked, “What do you think you will do if you see her again?”
Wentworth leaned his head back against the chair and lifted his gaze to the ceiling. “Oh, I have pondered this a great deal. I confess there is a tiny part of me – the part that is still angry at her for breaking our engagement – that would like to make her regret her decision by showing her what I have made of myself. Perhaps even make her jealous.” He clenched his jaw, but then let out a sigh. “For the most part, however, because I still love her deeply, I would hope to discover if she might still love me.” He was silent for a moment. “That is, if she has not already married.”
Darcy closed his eyes for a moment. He did not know how composed he would be if he encountered Elizabeth again. There had been several times in London he had seen a lady at a distance or from the back and thought it was her. His heart always leapt at the hope that it was her. He would hope that if he encountered her again, he might remain composed enough to exhibit gentlemanlike behavior and possibly change her opinion of him. He shook his head. In truth, however, he doubted he would ever come upon her, and it was unlikely she would give him a second chance.
As he considered this, silence descended upon the two men once again. Darcy finished his drink, his eyes remaining fixed on the glass as he set it down. Would he continue to find himself lost in the love of Elizabeth for another eight years? Would she continue to haunt his thoughts and dreams? As he considered the depth of emotion he felt for her now, even after her stinging rebuke, he doubted that he would ever be able to forget her. It was a painful thought to consider.
The quiet between the two men was abruptly interrupted when a younger man pulled out the chair between them and sat down. Darcy and Wentworth looked at him with surprise and then at each other.
The three sat silently for a few moments until the young man let out a groan and hung his head. “I do not know what I am going to do!” he said to no one in particular.
Wentworth leaned towards the young man. “Are you in financial distress?”
“Did you commit a crime?” asked Darcy
To both of these, the young man vehemently shook his head and then looked up. “I… fell in love with the most wonderful lady. A lady beyond all measure, one with whom I wish to spend the rest of my life!”
Darcy and Wentworth looked at each other and then back to the young man.
“I would have thought you would be delighted at having found such a woman,” Wentworth said softly.
“Does she love you?” Darcy asked.
The young man nodded. “I believe she does.”
“Then what has you so distraught?” Wentworth asked. “Why are you in such distress?”
The young man looked up and then closed his eyes. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I am… I am already engaged to another.”
The two men’s jaws dropped.
“What is your name, young man?” Wentworth asked.
“Ferrars. Edward Ferrars.”
“Well, Mr. Ferrars,” Darcy said. “We are good listeners. Why do you not tell us all about it?”