It certainly is no secret how I feel about Caitlin Williams’ stories. “Ardently,” and “The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet,” both have very special places in my hearts, and with both books having around 150 reader reviews on Amazon, I know my feelings are also shared by numerous JAFF readers!
Last year, Caitlin wrote a holiday short story titled, “Even More Ardently” exclusively for my readers and it was a thrill beyond words to share it on Just Jane 1813. Today she is here to share an epilogue she wrote exclusively for my Just Jane 1813 based on “The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet,”
Everything I have ever read by Caitlin brings me such joy. I believe she has a unique way of capturing the essence of Austen’s characters within her stories and immerses us within the world of Regency England in a way that feels natural and captivating to the senses. Today she takes us several years down the road into the Darcys’ marriage and gives us a glimpse into how events have unfolded for them and their family members. To read this epilogue as a separate document, visit this link to read, “Fifteen Again.”
I’d like to thank Caitlin Williams for taking the time to write this lovely epilogue for her readers and for sharing it exclusively with my Just Jane 1813 readers. Reading and sharing an epilogue that I know so many readers asked for on Just Jane 1813 has been a highlight of my holiday season this year! Like many of you, I can’t wait to read Ms. William’s next JAFF book!
Please sit back and enjoy “Fifteen Again.”
Darcy began to think nothing was as strong as her will, not the wind that whipped in over the cliffs and almost knocked them off their feet, nor the mighty waves that crashed onto the beach. A stubborn, willful, obstinate child was she. At fifteen she had a self-assuredness about her that almost made him jealous. Though he tried to feign it often, he didn’t think he had ever been as confident as she was now, at so tender an age. He blamed her mother. Not that there was anything wrong with his dear wife’s parenting, no, but her daughter had inherited all her fire, and every ounce of her spirit, along with her quick, lively intelligence.
They were a little alike in looks, mother and daughter, possessed as they both were of huge eyes—framed by impossibly long lashes—dark hair, rosebud mouths and trim figures. Yet there the similarity ended. Charlotte’s hair was fine and straight, could not take a curl, and her eyes were a shade of grey he had never seen before. She was extraordinary looking, tall and willowy. There had been no awkward phase. She had been born beautiful and remained so.
She sat on the sand beside him and defiantly began to unlace her boots.
“Charlotte. You must understand, you are no longer a young girl. You must come back to the table.”
Her top lip curled in distaste as she gazed out at the water. She would not look up at him; probably as angry at his use of her full given name, as she was at being told her behaviour was not appropriate.
“Lottie,” he said, trying to be conciliatory, though the sound of it pained him. He detested the shortening of names—had never called Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ as her family did—yet he had managed to give all his children names that begged diminutives. Thomas was often Tom, Frederick was nearly always called Freddie, and young Fitzwilliam, well he was—and this grated more than any of the others— sometimes just Will. Will Darcy! The appellation surely, of a rake. “Lottie,” he cleared his throat and began again. “Next year you will go to London, with your mamma and me, begin to mix in society. The year after you’ll be fully out and presented at court. You cannot continue to go running around with your hair loose and wild, and with mud on your cheeks.”
“It is not fair, Papa. I do not like to do what other girls do. Other girls bore me. I wish I were a boy. I am your firstborn, I ought to have been a boy.”
“Parents, unfortunately, have little control over such matters. Besides, you will not always think so. In a year or so your head will be full of parties and balls.” And there would be men, Darcy added silently to himself. Heaven help him, there would be dozens of men. She had it all, his girl. Wealth, beauty, intelligence, and an indescribable exotic quality. She was a rare bird. Darcy crouched on the sand beside her. “There will be the theatre and opera and many things you will come to enjoy as much as running about the caves and rockpools.”
“Mamma sometimes takes her boots off and paddles in the stream,” she said.
Darcy tried not to smile. “Yes, she does. Your mamma is a most singular lady, but only at home, with family. She would not do so here, amongst company, as much as I suspect she would like to.” He nodded back up at the small party on the grass that bordered the beach, where friends and relations were partaking of a fine picnic, replete with tables and chairs and footmen to wait on them. Elizabeth was rising from her seat, and for a moment Darcy thought she was coming to assist him with Charlotte, to coax her back off the sand. Instead she looked his way with an amused smile that told him he must battle on alone. Darcy knew his wife had perhaps reached the limits of her own ability to do what was expected and proper, and was politely excusing herself to spend a few moments alone. Both he and Charlotte watched as Elizabeth began to walk up the path that led to the top of the cliffs. She held a parasol demurely over her shoulder, but upon reaching the highest point, she closed it and turned to look out at the sea, unafraid to have the wind whip at her hair and the sun warm her skin.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things,” Darcy quoted, putting a hand over Charlotte’s where it rested on the toe of her boot.
“Corinthians,” she said.
He nodded. “It happens to us all, Lottie. We grow up. I wish it were not so. I wish you were still five, so that I may throw you up in the air and catch you again, and hear you laugh so, as you used to do. I fear it is a long time since your Papa made you smile.”
She gathered her knees up in her arms and rested her forehead on them, curling herself up into a disgruntled ball.
Darcy sighed and looked up at his wife again. Though she’d had no sight of it until she was twenty, his beloved had a great fondness for the sea. They had come back yearly since their first visit, renting the same house for a few weeks at a time during late Spring. Elizabeth had always been happy here, when able to live simply for a while, without visitors or estate responsibilities. It enabled her to devote the entirety of her time to being a mother and wife, and to be quiet, to read and walk. Darcy suspected Charlotte had been conceived during one such trip. And through the years, many a happy day had been spent watching their children run about the beach. He sighed heavily. This year was different though. This year they had been joined by others; his sister and her husband, numerous Bingleys, the Earl and the Countess and all of their children. And Darcy had noticed, with no small amount of shock, how different Charlotte was to Sarah Bingley; a very demure young lady of fourteen who sipped tea with her little finger extended, spoke only when spoken to, and whose every movement spoke of her elegance and grace.
“Go on then,” he said.
Charlotte looked up at him suddenly, her smile wide with surprise. “May I?”
“Do not ask twice, a second request may be met with a refusal. Be off with you.” He shook his head as he watched her quickly tug off her boots, and then she was gone, running towards her brothers who were playing by the water’s edge, throwing stones into the waves.
Darcy made his way back to the picnic, where his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam, the Earl of Matlock, greeted him with an understanding smile. “Be grateful you only have the one daughter, Darcy. I have a house full of them. Me, a former military man, drowning in lace and petticoats!”
“I have never seen you happier,” Darcy replied, patting him on the arm, before moving on. He climbed the same hill as Elizabeth had done and when he reached the top, she greeted him with a nod, before turning her attention back towards the beach.
“I see you have lost.”
“I did not lose,” he said, as he came to stand beside her. “I realised it was a battle not worth fighting. She is, after all, a Darcy, not a Bingley.”
“She will find her own way, when there is something to change for, she will.”
“Marriage, I suppose, matured you?” he asked.
Elizabeth frowned, and was deep in thought for a few moments. “Not particularly,” she said at last.
“Pemberley. Pemberley was a house in dire need of a mistress. I learned to be the lady it required.”
“And now you make it seem so effortless, it has never had a better one.”
“I thank you.” She favoured him with an intimate look. “Fitzwilliam, I know you look at Charlotte and see me at her age. Yet I believe her to be very much like you, in ways it would be not be politic for a wife to expound upon.”
He laughed. “Well, we are in for further trouble then.”
“And wasn’t it you who taught her to ride and fish, and use a catapult?”
“In my defence, I had no sons then.” Their children, on the beach below them, had been provided with a bat and ball by Uncle Richard and were setting up a game of cricket. As he looked on, Darcy remembered the sadness they had felt for a long while when it seemed Charlotte would be their only offspring. Yet, just as contentment and acceptance had found them, the boys had come along, one quickly following the other. An exhausting period when they had rapidly gone from a small family of three to a large one of six.
“I cannot imagine Charlotte married now, yet you were the same age when we were wed. How we fought and resisted one another, but my father foresaw how things would be; told me how you might be the best thing that ever happened to me. He was right. We have been married for twenty-two years, my love. Isn’t that astonishing?”
“‘Tis only seventeen years. I do not count the first five.”
“You cannot disregard them!”
“I can if I choose to.” Her manner bore no broking with and she held out her hand. “We should go back to our guests.”
He took her hand and put it into the crook of his elbow, a place where it sat so naturally. “Am I forever to be reminded of what a complete fool I was back then?”
“Oh yes,” she said, smiling. She rested her head against his arm as they descended the hill. “A woman forgives, but never, ever forgets.”
They stopped mid-stride at the sound of a ball and a bat connecting; a sweet, true thud. Darcy turned back to see their daughter running from one wicket to the other. “Well played, Lottie,” he called out, before they continued on their way.
On the Beach, Sunset, Eugène Boudin
(French, Honfleur 1824–1898 Deauville)1865
Copyright @ Caitlin Williams. Not to be reproduced without the express permission of the author.
I hope you enjoyed reconnecting with the Darcys as much as I did. To add Caitlin’s books to your bookshelf, visit Amazon.
To enter the giveaway for a readers’ choice giveaway of one of Caitlin’s ebooks, leave a comment on this blog no later than midnight, ET, on December 19, and the winner will be announced on this blog on December 20, 2016. We would love to hear your thoughts about this epilogue!
To make this holiday blog event even sweeter, I am offering a giveaway of one of my very own favorite finds from 2016; a pair of Plantronics wireless headphones, which will be given away to one Just Jane 1813 reader, along with one JAFF audiobook of your choice, from Audible.
All you have to do to enter this special giveaway is leave a comment on every post on this blog from December 1-12, 2016. Just think of it as your way of saying “Hello” to us every day during this event and letting me know what you think about each post. At midnight, ET, on December 15th, I will select the winner of these headphones and JAFF audiobook from the names of the readers who commented on each post, and on December 16, 2016, I will announce the winner of these awesome headphones.
Good luck to all of the entrants!