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George Wickham’s Journal

This vignette was originally written for the blog tour of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner. It was first published on Candy Morton’s Blog So Little Time. It can also be found on Goodreads.

Visitors to this post will automatically be entered for a drawing for two free Audible codes for the new release, so be sure to leave a comment!

 

The following journals were discovered among the disordered personal effects of one George Samuel Wickham, after his unceremonious final departure from his childhood home of Pemberley, in Derbyshire. Many of the later journals appeared to have been willfully destroyed by their author, perhaps to conceal from curious eyes information which might have proven embarrassing or compromising. Those earlier, surviving journal samples were frequently outright illegible, having been marred by various ink stains, char marks, and smeared by (it is suspected) numerous splashes of red liquid.

Copied below are the first few entries ever made. It was noted by the current master of the aforementioned estate, a Mr Bennet Darcy (said to be the grandson of the Mr George Darcy described in the journals), that the commencement of the exercise by Mr Wickham coincided curiously with several noteworthy events in the annals of both his father’s and his mother’s family. The careful reader will take especial notice of the great Derbyshire hailstorm of 1800, which is mentioned in some of the entries.

The current Mr Darcy’s family has recently published a memoir, detailing their own perspectives on what was later discovered to be a fortuitous series of meetings for both families. Many of these events are confirmed in Mr Wickham’s journal entries. There remain, however, a number of curious discrepancies between the two narratives. I suggest the readers may discern the truth for themselves.

17 July, 1800

A journal! That is what Mr Darcy demanded, and so I must begin. I expect it will come to little more than a random assortment of thoughts and anecdotes, but such is to be my occupation. Mr Darcy dictates that even my hours of liberty are not to be my own, but that I must spend some time each day in “reflection and the pursuit of wisdom.” What does he take me for, that stodgy Fitzwilliam? As if I had nothing better to do, like the Master’s son, who has all of the world brought to him on a silver platter!

At least I may have the pleasure of writing whatever I wish. Mr Darcy assures me that “A gentleman’s private journals are his own affair, but the keeping of one is the mark of a man of insight.” Poppycock! He just walked by the room to observe that I am, in fact, writing. Fortunately, that is all the satisfaction he requires on that point.

In addition to this new task, Mr Darcy has given direction that I am to work four hours each day in the stables for a month under Mr Douglas. I am no stable hand! It is not as if my crime was so very dreadful. I was only having a bit of sport with the colt, mind you. How Fitz’s face turned purple when he saw it! It was jolly fun, and I confess I would do it twice over just to have the pleasure of his reactions. The sod is far too sullen and dour. He ought to thank me for livening him a bit!

18 July, 1800

Today in the stables, I had the most ripping good time with Travers, the under groom. He had instructed me to clean out Fitz’s horse’s stall when “The Young Master” went riding. Well, rather than clean the entire thing, I raked all smooth and sprinkled some fresh bedding over the whole. It looked marvelous, and I was quite proud of how quickly I was done.

While he thought I was still working, I slipped to the tack storage room and found some shoes he had made up. At first I thought simply to enjoy a little game of horseshoes with myself, but when I found the nails, I thought of a better idea. What a good joke to see Travers when he came back to the barn aisle to find a perfect trail of horse shoes, just like footprints, hammered into the mortar and stretching the length of the barn!

Well, I tell you, he was quite put out with me, but I was rather lucky in my punishment. Naturally I had to clean the stall over, but although I am certain he meant for me to clean the rest of the aisle, he did not specifically say as much. What I was to do after I had done was to repaint a segment of fence, but I was let off when the storm came up. I said how Mr Darcy wished for me to complete my studies, and so Mr Douglas gave permission for me to come back to the house during the rain. Well, I have finished my journal for today.

I wonder if Cook has any fresh candied nuts?

Fitz has it coming to him at last! Oh, I can scarcely write for laughing, but this merits an addition to the day’s journal entry! The fool got caught out in the hail storm with his sister! I had no idea he had taken the baby along on his ride, until I went to share some of my fresh treats with her and could not find her. Privately, I think she likes me better than Fitz, and it annoys him like you cannot imagine. Oh, but I digress!

So there he was, stranded in the storm like an idiot, and he decided to run to Lambton rather than back to the mansion. I suppose he thought to avoid a good whipping, but he has only made matters worse for himself. Mr Darcy was furious! No one knew where to find the sod, but at last I suggested to my father that Fitzwilliam might have tried to hide in the village. He always was a coward.

Certainly enough, there he was, shivering pitifully in Lambton’s worst inn, with Georgiana to boot. The poor little darling! Naturally, I comforted her on the ride home, for it was clear that her brother could not be bothered to do so.

I live in perpetual anticipation this evening, for I cannot abide not yet knowing what Fitzwilliam’s punishment is to be! If I suffer a month in the stables and a new mountain of studies for simply harassing a colt, what will happen to Fitz? He is sure to be miserable, waiting as I for Mr Darcy’s edict. At least I have that comfort, that the dread of his punishment will keep him from sleep tonight. He deserves to be set down at last, the stuffy prig!

Oh, how I wish I could have watched him enduring the attentions of the farmers in Lambton! He was there for nearly two hours, and his face was all splotchy red from the degradation. When we found him, he had been holed up in a corner, playing chess with himself. How typically Fitz! Poor Georgiana was left to sleep in the draughty window, while he spent his time ignoring everyone… well, trying to, at least.

There was one particularly bright little lass who would not leave him be. I think she was only passing through, for she was dressed far too well to be one of the local tradesmen’s daughters. Nevertheless, she seemed to have discomfited my companion most admirably! I should have liked to hear what she might say about my friend, for it seems that she took great delight in tormenting him during his stay in the inn. I wish I could learn her secrets!

19 July, 1800

Nothing! That is what is to happen to Fitzwilliam Darcy! Nothing at all, after the fool took a three-year-old girl out in the most violent summer storm Derbyshire has seen in more than a decade, and then fairly ran away to hide his disgrace… Nothing! I could spit- I have done so- I am perfectly outraged! My hand is so clenched that it is a wonder I have not br~

Mr Darcy keeps ever so many pens in his study! I wonder if he knows I have the key. I thought he had found me out this time, as he passed me just as I was coming away. I had to tuck the pen away in the back of my trousers- which, by the way, are nothing like as fine as Fit~

He caught me this time. I made as though I only wished to borrow a book, and I am not certain he noted that the pen I held had been pilfered, but he caught me fairly in the study without permission. He is a noble man, though, and I believe he pretended not to notice. He asked me to sit with him again, that he had something serious he wished to discuss with me. Then, he told me what he had arranged in his revised will.

A clergyman! I cannot think of a more repugnant position for myself. To grovel my days at the churchyard, calling on the sick, making sermons, and forever answerable to Fitzwilliam Darcy! For I can see, if Fitz cannot, that Mr Darcy only wants a few years of death’s door. The man lost half his strength this year- he is a shadow of what he was. That will leave the Snob of Pemberley in charge here, and myself at his beck and call!

There is some hope, I suppose. I am to attend Eton next year with Fitzwilliam, then my enrollment at Cambridge is assured. After that, I shall have to shift for myself. Mr Darcy said I must prove myself “suitable” for the post he has designed for me, by which I suppose he means that I must study and “mend my character” so that I might make a “worthy” parson. Bah! I know my patron. Perhaps if I declare myself inclined to study the law, after my father once did, he would oblige himself to support me there. I do not like that idea any better than the other, but there might be more opportunities to improve my circumstances in the London circles.

This is quite a nice pen. I think I shall keep it.

20 July, 1800

Today Georgiana’s nurse took her out for some air. Poor Miss Tuttle, she has absolutely no authority over the child! It is a mercy for her that her charge is typically docile, but I believe she found herself quite unable to object when Georgiana determined to visit the stables. I was cleaning that same stall again when she came looking for Fitzwilliam’s horse. Now, I have a horse as well… Fitzwilliam’s old horse Barnaby, a spavined old campaigner wi~

Mr Darcy certainly has a deal of nice pens. As I was writing before, Barnaby was nothing to her- no, only Saul would do! Happily, she allowed me to lead the horse about for her to brush and pet. I really think she does prefer me to her brother, for at least I am happy to please her.

I think I shall encourage her affections for me- it can do no harm, at least! I can think of nothing I should like better than to find myself an heiress one day. If not she, then perhaps one of her friends would be happy to oblige. It would certainly be preferable to seeking a profession.

On another note, Fitzwilliam has made a new friend. A tradesman’s son! I saw them together on the lawn today. I had a good laugh watching him stumbling for something to talk about with the fellow. Oh, Fitz! Will you never learn to please in company?

Lady Catherine is here!

21 July, 1800

The house is surprisingly quiet today, considering its present guest. I suspect that is because Mr Darcy has kept Lady Catherine in the drawing room, and Fitz has been making himself scarce. All of the staff are keeping well clear of that room when they can, which means hardly anyone is about to observe my own activities.

I had no idea that Mr Darcy had such a fine store of tobacco in his study.

What a lark! Just when I think Fitz the dullest creature on earth, he does something monstrously amusing! I was on stable duty when he had to take his cousin driving, and had to bring the carriage round for him. How he annoyed his future bride when he dragged his feet long enough for Georgiana to come to the carriage! Purple is a becoming shade on a lady’s face. I think it must be a family trait.

I believe Georgiana liked the sweeties I had for her.

I nearly forget the best part of all. When they returned from the drive, what a display Lady Catherine made! It was worth all the shame of acting as a groom just to watch Fitz looking so helpless as she fumed! She slammed the carriage door and was off, and the whole time Fitz just stood there with his mouth open! Even now, several hours later, I think I shall go distracted from laughing!

There was the strangest circumstance this evening. I was in the study when my father and Mr Darcy and Fitzwilliam all entered, and I was forced to hide behind the sofa. Some shepherd from the hills arrived on other business, and I overheard him telling of a family which he had earlier found stranded along the road. It came out that they had been passed by and neglected by Lady Catherine.

Mr Darcy was positively livid at her behaviour, but it was Fitz’s response which took my attention. He questioned the fellow again and again, asking the description of the family he found. At last I understood- he suspected the daughter to be that little girl from the inn!

Whether it was or not, I doubt any shall ever know for certain, but it was a most curious thing. Fancy, Fitzwilliam Darcy forming an attachment to some waif he discovered in a little country village! Ha!

Perhaps the old boy has a weakness for fine brown eyes. I shall have to remember that note, for it may prove useful one day.

Mr Darcy keeps a flask of scotch whiskey in his writing desk!

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