It’s Chapter 26! 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 25.
I confess that I have gone over this and over this trying to get it right. It was a difficult chapter to write for some reason. I’m sorry if I have some editing errors!
Okay, I hope you wore your best gowns and suits! We’re having a wedding!
Chapter 26: Weddings, Weather, and Windows
Ellie gave a girly sigh when the vicar pronounced Elizabeth and Mr Darcy man and wife. There was no kiss, like in the modern day ceremonies she was used to, but the deliriously happy expressions on their faces satisfied Ellie just as much. She’d seen them kiss before anyways.
As they both signed the register, Mrs Bennet wept loudly from her seat in front of Ellie. “A daughter married, and to a man of ten-thousand a year! Did you ever think we could be so fortunate?” she whispered so all could hear. Mr Bennet shushed her, but she waved away his scolding with her handkerchief and continued to sniff loudly.
Unfortunately for Ellie, Lydia was told before the wedding to sit beside her. Neither of them preferred that seating arrangement, but Elizabeth and Mr Darcy had insisted on it. That morning, when Lydia had protested loudly of being made to get out of bed and go to the church, Elizabeth had told her in detail Ellie’s attack on Wickham and threatened to have Ellie do the same to Lydia if she tried to ruin the day. As it turned out, Lydia could be loud and obnoxious, but she was a massive wimp.
Jane stood up with Elizabeth, and Mary, who would’ve been preferred by leaps and bounds to Lydia, was seated beside Mrs Gardiner. Kitty had been quiet for the wedding, but she sat between Mr and Mrs Gardiner with a dreamy expression on her face.
Lydia gave a scoff and took a deep breath when Mr Darcy gazed adoringly at Elizabeth. Oh Lord, Lydia wasn’t going to say something, was she? Before a word could escape her lips, Ellie elbowed her hard in the ribs.
“Ow!” She gave Lydia as evil a look as she could, which made Lydia flinch and sit quiet, making Ellie snicker quietly at her retreat.
A bubbling laugh came from Elizabeth at Lydia’s sulking when she passed. She smiled at Ellie and winked. On the way to the church, Elizabeth had said she owed Ellie a great debt, but Ellie hoped she wouldn’t stay long enough in eighteen-thirteen for Elizabeth to repay it. She loved Elizabeth, but she wanted to go home!
The family stood and followed the happy couple wishing them well, the ladies all kissing the bride on the cheek. Elizabeth stretched out her hands when she saw Ellie. “I am so glad you stayed for the wedding.”
“As much as I want to go home, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
As soon as their family delivered their wishes of joy, everyone moved to step outside so they could return to the Gardiners for the wedding breakfast. The day had been brilliant and sunny when they arrived, so Ellie braced herself for the change in brightness when the doors opened. When the sun didn’t immediately blind her, she stopped squinting and gawked.
“Look at the sky,” said Mrs Gardiner in wonder.
She turned to Elizabeth, who lifted her eyebrow and dragged her through the doors where they came to an abrupt stop. The day was no longer bright and the sun didn’t beam down on them like it had before. Instead, the sky had become covered with those clouds she had definitely seen several times now and everything had that same strange purplish tinge.
When she looked to Elizabeth, her friend shrugged. “Perhaps you were meant to see us married?”
“I suppose.” Her trips back and forth had never made much sense or followed any particular pattern, so why should it now?
“You should ride with us. It would not do for you to suddenly disappear while in a carriage with my family. You might give my mother an apoplexy.” Elizabeth pulled her toward Mr Darcy’s carriage while Mrs Bennet protested vehemently that Ellie should be riding with the Gardiners since the newlyweds no longer required a chaperon. Did that daft woman believe they would have their wedding night on the way to the Gardiner’s or something? What could her riding with them hurt?
When Elizabeth and Mr Darcy both insisted on Ellie joining them, Mr Bennet herded his wife inside their own carriage for the ride to Gracechurch Street. While they travelled, the wind picked up and great gusts howled around the carriage, making it rock and lurch. Elizabeth peered out of the window. “There are no shooting stars yet.”
“Shooting stars? In the middle of the day? I do not remember you mentioning such a spectacle,” commented Mr Darcy in a surprised tone. “That would be a sight indeed, though the strange hue of everything is odd enough.”
They made it to the Gardiners before the weather worsened, and Elizabeth and Ellie hurried inside. Before the rest of their group entered, Elizabeth grabbed her hands and pulled her into a small study. “Before you vanish, I want to thank you. I enjoyed seeing the future very much, and I cannot express enough my appreciation for your help in saving Lydia. You are a dear and true friend, Ellie Forrester. I shall never forget you.”
She blinked and swallowed. “You will make me cry if you keep it up.”
They both laughed and Ellie squeezed Elizabeth’s hands. “I messed your life up so badly that I had to fix things. I couldn’t let you and your Mr Darcy die. I’ve loved meeting you, though. It was so much fun teaching you how to live in twenty-seventeen.”
Elizabeth chuckled. “I gave up trying to teach you to speak like us. I am afraid you are a hopeless cause.”
“I cannot argue with you. I did try sometimes and I think I did better—unless I was angry.”
Mr Darcy entered and held out his hand to her. “I must thank you for helping Elizabeth and I find one another. Your loyalty and friendship are valued by us both.”
At the sound of the ladies gasping in the hall, they hurried out to hear and see the pinging of small hailstones against the glass of the windows.
“’Tis bad luck,” wailed Mrs Bennet, fluttering her handkerchief.
With a smile, Mr Darcy looked meaningfully at Ellie. “On the contrary, I believe it is an omen of good fortune. It has brought us all together, has it not?” Kitty, Mary, and Mrs Bennet stared at him as though he were insane while the rest of their party still watched the weather.
Mrs Gardiner tapped Mrs Bennet on the forearm with her fan. “Of course, it is not bad luck.” She leaned closer to Elizabeth’s mother and whispered, “You should not upset Lizzy on her wedding day. The weather must be a disappointment in itself without you becoming overwrought.” When she straightened, she smiled warmly at Elizabeth. “We should all move to the parlour. Tea and refreshments will be brought in soon and the meal will be served directly.”
Ellie looked back and forth between those going into the parlour and the stairs. How was she to be with everyone when she could disappear at any minute? It would be noticed if she asked to go to the room she’d shared with Elizabeth since they moved to the Gardiners—particularly if she remained for the rest of the day, but before she could speak with Elizabeth, Mrs Bennet shooed her and Mr Darcy into the parlour while Ellie hung back, trying to figure out what to do.
“You will join us, will you not, Miss Forrester?” Her head jolted to Mr Bennet, who stood near the door with an expression that eerily resembled Elizabeth. “I am certain my Lizzy would appreciate your presence.”
Without a reasonable excuse, Ellie allowed Mr Bennet to escort her inside where she sat in the window seat, which was not far from Elizabeth, but not in the centre of all the attention. For the first few minutes, she couldn’t sit still, worried she would shock everyone with her sudden vanishing act. The clock ticked but it seemed to go as slow as a snail on pavement. Why wouldn’t something—anything happen?
What felt like hours later, they moved to the dining room where it was much more difficult to hide, seated at a table with three assembled families as she was. She did her best to eat the lovely meal placed before her, but was too out of sorts. When was she to return to Tom? This was ridiculous! It always seemed like when she didn’t want to go back, she did, and now that she wanted to go home, she wasn’t. Why couldn’t she control anything?
While she tried not to worry, she watched Elizabeth and Mr Darcy more or less ignore their families as they bent their heads close together and spoke quietly. Meanwhile, the wind continued to howl and groan around the back of the house, causing some to stop eating and widen their eyes. This was so not typical English weather!
When the meal concluded and the family made to move back to the parlour, Elizabeth grasped her wrist. After Mrs Bennet finally hurried out, Mr Darcy closed the door behind her.
“Fitzwilliam believes he knows why you have not returned to twenty-seventeen,” said Elizabeth hurriedly.
She gave a little start. “Really? How?”
“During the meal, Elizabeth and I spoke of each instance of your travelling back in time and we seem to have noticed a pattern.”
He lifted a shoulder. “A pattern of sorts, I suppose.”
Ellie thought of the times she’d travelled and shook her head. “I don’t see any pattern. They were all too random.”
“But they were not,” he said with a smile. “Each of your instances of time travel was induced by a fall or near death experience of some sort.”
“Think of it.” Elizabeth searched her eyes. “Whenever you travelled back, you fell somehow, and whenever you told me of your return to the future, it was due to either your jumping in front of the post coach or a severe problem with my health.”
“What about when Mildred crashed into that field?”
“The car left the ground briefly. Did you not feel it?” asked Elizabeth.
“No, I don’t remember anything after crashing through the fence.” She shook her head. “There was also the very first time, before I jumped in front of the post coach. I didn’t fall or have a near death experience then. I simply fell asleep reading your letters.”
Mr Darcy tilted his head down and looked at her. “You fell asleep?”
“But that shouldn’t count, should it?” She looked between the two of them. This was truly mental. Travelling home to Tom would take her risking her life somehow?
Elizabeth grasped her by the arms. “The weather and sky disturbances that were always a prelude to our travelling have occurred, but you have not gone anywhere. Perhaps you need to fall.”
“Lizzy, I can’t exactly go to the top of the stairs and throw myself down. Too many people would notice.”
She shook her head and bit her lip for a moment. “No, but you can go to the windows on the top floor—the ones where your flat will be and jump from there. Those rooms are a link to your future and then you would have the fall as the spark to light the fire so to speak. Fitzwilliam and I believe it is your best chance.”
“And what if I hit the ground with a tremendous splat.”
Mr Darcy winced while Lizzy huffed. “Really? You threw yourself in front of a post coach and fell from the roof of Pemberley, and now, you’re afraid of jumping from a third-floor window?”
“I thought I was dreaming when I jumped in front of those horses and I didn’t fall from the roof of Pemberley on purpose.”
“What if you are dreaming now?” asked Elizabeth.
“You know I’m not, though!” What was Elizabeth doing? This wasn’t like she was doing a bomb1 into the local leisure centre’s pool. It was more like diving from one of those giant platforms in the Olympics. It was insane!
“Ellie! You must return if you are to be our great, great, great, great granddaughter.”
She laughed. “I think you missed a great in there.”
Elizabeth squeezed her hands tightly. “You made me see that I had to take a leap and trust in my feelings for Fitzwilliam. Now, you must take a leap and trust your feelings for Tom. He will be waiting there for you when you return.”
“What if he doesn’t remember any of this?”
“Then, start from that drink he promised you.” Elizabeth gave her a sidelong look. “Would you really object to having a first kiss again?”
Her shoulders slumped. “I just don’t want to have this as a secret I can’t share with him.”
“Miss Forrester,” interrupted Mr Darcy, “you will not know unless you return. If you desire a life with him, you must face your fears.” He took her hand and bowed over it. “I must say I have enjoyed making your acquaintance. I shall never be able to repay you for your assistance in bringing Elizabeth and I together. I wish you well and joy in your life.”
Ellie felt all warm inside and couldn’t help but grin. “Thank you. I am glad to have met you also.”
Elizabeth threw her arms around her and embraced her tightly. “I shall miss you. If only I had a portrait of you as you will have of me.” She cleared her throat. “You must go. There are servants’ stairs just off that corridor, there.” She pointed to the far corner of the room.” You must hurry.” After one last hug, Elizabeth backed from Ellie and followed Mr Darcy through the door, watching Ellie until the door closed.
A sound came from the kitchens and Ellie rushed to the stairs but didn’t run up the steps. She was too afraid of tripping on the hem of Elizabeth’s gown. When she reached the first floor, she glanced up and down the hallway. With no one around, she took the next flight of stairs to the attics and the hall that would one day be outside of her flat in London. It had barely changed in two hundred years except that the paint was in better condition and didn’t peel from the walls like it did in the future.
Trailing her fingers down the plastered wall, she made her way to the second to last door—one of the few along that passageway that remained in twenty-seventeen. Several more doors existed in this time, but when Ellie entered the servant’s room and looked around, she realised why.
The rooms were not large at all, just enough for a bed, a small bedside table, and a wardrobe. By the time she lived here, the walls between the bedchamber at the end of the hall as well as the walls between the next room or so on the other side were knocked down to form her flat–and she thought her flat was tiny!
What would be her parlour window was directly across the room, so she walked over and opened it as far as it would go, but it wasn’t enough. The wind rushed through the small opening and hailstones pattered against the glass. Hopefully, the hail would stop before she jumped. She really didn’t want to get pelted and bruised by ice on her way down.
She pushed again at the window, but it wouldn’t budge. What was she going to do? She couldn’t fit through an opening that size! She pulled a small chair over and stood on it to have more leverage and heaved against the window.
She jiggled it and then jammed her shoulder into the frame. “Ow!” She winced and rubbed her shoulder.
As she spun to see who said her name, she fell from the chair, landing on her bum in an ungraceful pile.
“Oh! Forgive me for startling you.” Kitty ran over and helped Ellie stand. “Are you well?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I went to my bedchamber to retrieve the novel I am reading—I am ever so fond of Ms Radcliffe—and I saw you come up here. Out of curiosity, I followed.”
“You should return to the party.”
“Does Lizzy know where you are?” asked Kitty, peering around Ellie at the window. “I am certain she desires your attendance as well.”
“Lizzy knows exactly where I am and why.”
“Then can I not remain with you? Mary keeps reciting moral platitudes about marriage, which is such a bore! And, I am still angry with Lydia. She told me the truth of what happened at Brighton and how Mr Darcy, Lizzy, and you found her.”
Ellie’s eyes stung when they widened. “She told you that?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “I confess I thought it to be romantic at first, but people in Meryton treated us differently when they thought Lydia had eloped. Some families would not speak to us and Jane appeared so worried.” She bit at her lip for a moment and sighed. “Mr Wickham did not really want to marry Lydia, did he?”
She shook her head. “No, he didn’t, but look, you can’t tell anyone what you know—not even your mother.”
“Lord, if I told Mama, she would tell all and sundry of Lydia’s ruin. I do not want people to treat me like they did before. I will not tell a soul.”
“If you need to speak of it, you can talk to Lizzy, your aunt, or your father. They all know the truth.”
Kitty glanced around her again. “What are you trying to do?”
She peeked back at the window. “I… I needed fresh air so I was trying to open the window, but it seems to be stuck.”
Kitty walked around Ellie, put her hand around the edge of the window, shook it a bit, and then, pushed it open like it was the easiest thing in the world. When she turned, she scanned the room. “It does not appear that a servant occupies this bedchamber.”
“No,” she said looking around. “It’s pretty empty.”
When would she leave? Now that the window was open, she couldn’t just throw herself through. What if Kitty had major psychological issues after witnessing that? She might think Ellie was trying to off herself.
“Look, Kitty, I hope you won’t think badly of me, but I really need some quiet. That’s why Elizabeth told me to come up here.”
“Oh! I had not realised. I hope you will forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Kitty smiled. “I do not give a whit what Lydia says. You are not a horrid piece of baggage.”
A bark of a laugh escaped before Ellie could stop it. “Is that what she calls me?”
With a nod, Kitty giggled awkwardly. “I should not have repeated Lydia’s words.”
“It’s okay. I’m not worried about what Lydia thinks of me. I understand from Lizzy that you used to follow Lydia in everything she did. I hope you’ll do your own thing from now on. People will find you more interesting if you think for yourself.”
She scrunched up her nose. “I believe I know what you mean, though you explain it in a very odd fashion.”
“I’m afraid I have a bit of a headache,” Ellie lied.
“Oh, forgive me. I almost forgot you were seeking quiet. I should return to the wedding breakfast before I am missed anyhow. You will return soon?”
Ellie shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe. If the quiet helps my head.”
Once she left and closed the door behind her, Ellie climbed into the window and froze, perched on the sill. What was she doing? This wasn’t a dream. She couldn’t just jump from a window, could she? She looked down and wobbled before pulling herself back so she was balanced again. This was mental! She wasn’t doing this!
A mixture of rain and hail continued to fall from the sky and she closed her eyes, trying one more time to jump, but the problem wasn’t actually jumping. It was the ground—she didn’t want to hit it!
Trying not to think of the pavement and the street below, she took a deep breath and tried to psych herself into it. She lunged forward but never lost her hold on the window frame. Instead, she only gripped it harder.
“Crap!” she cried. “Why can’t I do this?”
What she needed was to regroup and start again. She would get out of the window and then talk herself back into it. Carefully, she shifted one foot back, but her foot suddenly wouldn’t budge. She tried to move it again, but it was stuck in the fabric of Elizabeth’s gown.
She tried kicking back to free it, but found herself falling forward and flapping her arms like a bird to regain her balance. Wait a minute? When had she let go of the window?
A scream rent the air as she plummeted down. That was when she saw them. Two lights piercing through the torrents of rain from the sky. She squinted. Were those headlights? Then, everything went black.
Darcy and Elizabeth married and Ellie’s jumped. Will she end up 2017? If she does, will Tom remember? Was it all a dream? So many questions and so little story left to answer them! Tune in same time, same place next week!
Thanks for reading everyone!