Wickham’s Diary by Amanda Grange will be published by Sourcebooks on April 1, 2011. Sourcebooks sent AustenBlog an exclusive excerpt from this upcoming novella. Check out another excerpt on Amanda Grange’s website.
27th May 1791
I went round to Darcy’s rooms early this morning, and after a little coldness I confessed that he had been right and I had been wrong and that I had fallen into bad company. He looked relieved and offered me a horse to ride and we went out together, talking of Pemberley and our experiences at Cambridge and our futures.
‘My father intends to give you the living at Pemberley,’ he said, as we returned to our rooms, ‘but I am not sure that you are suited to the church. Are you comfortable with the idea of preaching sermons, George? Because the church is not a profession to enter lightly. A clergyman has the good of his parishioners in his care and if he cannot set them an example…’
‘My dear Darcy, I have learned my lesson,’ I said, and I used all my charm to help me. ‘It went to my head, the new place, the new people, the easy friendship, the parties, the… yes, why not say it?… the wine and the women. And then Mama… But such a life palls before long, and I do not think a man is any less fitted for the church because he has found this out through experience, rather than finding it out through the experience of others.’
‘There is something in what you say.’
‘To understand sinners, I have to understand their sins. I have to understand their temptations, too, for how else could I treat them with understanding and grant them forgiveness?’
He was satisfied. Indeed, as I spoke, I more than half believed it myself. But I must be careful if I am not to lose his family’s patronage. Mama was right: there is something implacable in Darcy, some strength of character that will not allow him to be bullied or persuaded out of doing what he thinks is right. Moreover, his good opinion, once lost, is never regained, a fact James learned to his cost, for when he approached Fitzwilliam to help him with some trifling debts, Fitzwilliam refused him; he has never forgiven him for tormenting Georgiana by taking her doll, all those years ago.
I am lucky I did not lose his good opinion entirely this year and that he remained my friend. But I must be careful if I am to keep it, for until I marry an heiress, I need influential friends on my side.
30th October 1791
I have taken to carousing in London rather than Cambridge, where I comport myself with more or less dignity. Peter’s family have a house there and we often escape and go to town, where we have several sweet little dancers and opera singers who keep us amused, as well as several taverns where the serving wenches are willing, when we are in a mood for lower company. We were escorting two dancers back to our rooms tonight and were just having fun in the carriage when it stopped outside Peter’s house at an inopportune moment.
‘Oo, don’t stop,’ begged my partner, and like a gentleman I obliged, only to hear the door open.
I looked up, annoyed, only to see Darcy standing on the pavement!
By some ghastly chance he had been to the theatre and had decided to take a hackney cab home instead of walking. Thinking the stationary cab was empty, he had opened the door, meaning to climb inside. He had then been confronted by more than he had seen since we were boys swimming naked together in the river at Pemberley, and more of Molly than anyone has ever seen without paying her.
To his credit, he simply raised his eyebrows, said, ‘I beg your pardon, I did not know the cab was taken,’ and closed the door again. I burst out laughing, Molly did the same, and I hastily fastened my breeches and tumbled out of the cab.
‘Darcy!’ I called. ‘Darcy! Wait.’
But he did not stop.
My little dancer followed me, for she had not been paid. I handed her what I owed her as I watched Darcy’s retreating back and I thought, It is all up with me now.
I felt a sense of relief, for going into the church is not something I have any desire to do, no, not even for a large rectory and an easy living for the rest of my life. But I felt a sense of disappointment, too, that he should have found me like that.
Damn! Why is it that he makes me feel like that? Without ever saying a word he makes me feel inadequate.
But as he dwindled into the distance I felt a sense of sympathy too, for as I watched his retreating back it came over me that he was a lonely man, for all his money, his family, and his friends.
I remembered him telling me that he was looking for something.
Whatever it is, he has not found it.
I wonder if he ever will?