Oddly, this was the first scene I wrote for this book. I had originally planned for George Wickham to be as he ever was, and for Lady Anne to put him in his place. She was a smaller character then, and so was Wickham. Then I got further and further into the story and it just didn’t work. Lady Anne had grown too much to behave like this, and so had George Wickham. But… I still love it and it was by far the most painful cut I made to the story.
This scene takes place shortly after the death of George Darcy. Wickham comes to collect his legacy and Lady Anne is taking care of it. Enjoy!
Lady Anne sat behind the desk with her back ramrod straight and her face in a frozen mask of inscrutability.
“Please be seated, Mr. Wickham.”
He sat in front of her with a charming smile. “Lady Anne, I was touched to be remembered in Mr. Darcy’s will. You know not how I esteemed him.”
She interrupted him. “Enough, Mr. Wickham. Your flattery may have worked on my husband, but it will not work with me. The secretary has your bank draft, a legacy of five hundred pounds. See you use it wisely. I would hate for my husband’s generosity to be misplaced.”
“Thank you, Lady Anne, I will-”
She cut him off again. “Of course, I do not expect to see you again at Pemberley. Your father may do with his own home as he wishes, but this is my house and after today, I do not want to see you in it. The same goes for the grounds. When on Pemberley property, you may restrict yourself to your father’s home or come here not at all. Is that clear?” she said in a no-nonsense voice.
“Perfectly clear, madam.” He stood and bowed slightly.
She spoke again just as he was nearing the door.
“Mr. Wickham?” he turned and faced her with an expectant look. He never did learn. “I expect you to stay clear of my children as well, including Eleanor. If I hear otherwise, I will know how to act.”
“Yes, Lady Anne.” He bowed again, his expression caught between a grimace and a smile, and walked out the door.
“Well, there’s that taken care of.” She brushed her hands together and stood behind her husband’s desk, removing the cushion from the chair she had been sitting on to make her appear taller.
“That, Mr. Darcy, is how you deal with the steward’s son.” She nodded at the painting of herself and her husband hanging on the opposite wall and left the room, her head held high.
Wickham stomped down the stairs, silently fuming. Five hundred pounds! He had expected a thousand at least. What was he supposed to do with a measly five hundred? He already owed nearly a hundred between the tailor and the card games at the inn. If he didn’t pay soon, he would have to leave Derbyshire for a time.
He was nearing the front door when he saw Fitzwilliam coming from a door on his left.
“Well, well, how does the prince of the castle now that he’s king?”
Darcy clenched his jaw and grimaced. “Have you been to see Lady Anne?”
“Yes, and she’s sent me off with less than my due. Don’t worry, you may tell the great lady that her message was received loud and clear.”
Darcy looked heavenward. “You are never satisfied, are you, George?”
Wickham pinched his lips and his nostrils flared, but he said nothing.
Darcy sighed. “You could be more than what you are,” he said gently, “if you so choose. Your father is a good man. He is in you, somewhere.”
George looked at him angrily, his cheeks flushed and his eyes rapidly shifting from anger to shame to hope to frustration.
Finally, he turned toward the door and walked out without a word. Darcy watched him go with a heavy feeling in his chest but did not call after him.