Frankenstein Darcy by Cass Grix © 2016
Lizzy Bennet had seen enough portraits and chairs to last a lifetime.
Unlike her older sister Jane who almost swooned over fine carpets and satin curtains, Lizzy preferred nature to the ornate accomplishments of men. When her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner had invited them to tour Derbyshire, Lizzy had been looking forward to seeing new landscapes. As a young girl of thirteen, she had seen little of the world beyond her home in Hertfordshire and she was eager to travel.
But she had been taught her manners, so she smiled and tried not to look as bored as she felt when they toured yet another beautiful home: Pemberley, owned by the Darcy family.
They were in the area because her aunt had spent some of her youth in Lambton, a small town near Pemberley. They had come for Mrs. Gardiner to visit with old friends, and Mr. Gardiner wanted to see Pemberley. “I have heard they have some of the finest woods in the country.”
As they walked through the house, Lizzy kept looking out the windows rather than at the furnishings. From the dining parlour she saw a hill, crowned with wood, from which they had approached the large house. She sighed with pleasure. It was a beautiful view. She admired the whole scene: the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it. She sighed with delight.
She thought that if she had been fortunate enough to live here, she would have spent her days out of doors, exploring the grounds.
The housekeeper, a pleasant elderly woman, gave the tour.
In one sitting room, Mrs. Gardiner noticed a collection of miniatures over the mantelpiece. “Mrs. Reynolds,” she asked. “Is this young man the son of Master Darcy? If so, he has the look of his father.”
“Oh, do you know the Master?” the housekeeper asked.
“I met him and Lady Anne in Lambton years ago, but I do not know them.”
Mrs. Reynolds said, “Yes, the gentleman on the left is Mr. Frankenstein Darcy. The gentleman on the right is the son of the Master’s steward.”
“Both handsome young men,” Mrs. Gardiner said with approval.
Lizzy looked closer at the miniatures, not impressed. They were handsome portraits, but even her neighbour Sir William Lucas had a handsome portrait of himself hanging in his drawing room. The artist had corrected all his flaws and painted him as if he were twenty years younger and two stone lighter.
“And here is a recent portrait of Miss Darcy.”
Lizzy looked at the portrait of a young girl in a pretty pink dress. She looked about the age of her younger sister Lydia.
“Frankenstein,” Mr. Gardiner said, musing. “Is that a German name?”
“No, Genevan,” Mrs. Reynolds answered. “It is a family name. The young Master is called Frankenstein for his father’s family, then Fitzwilliam for his mother’s.”
“Frankenstein Fitzwilliam Darcy,” Lizzy whispered to Jane. “It must have taken a long time to learn to write it.” She was glad that her name was much simpler.
“I have always thought it a nice custom to name one’s children family names,” Mrs. Gardiner said to the housekeeper. “It gives a child something to aspire to.”
“I agree,” Mrs. Reynolds said. “And there is no better master than Mr. Darcy. He is the best landlord, so affable to the poor and needy. You might not have noticed, but some of the servants at Pemberley are maimed. Unlike many wealthy men who require their staff to be physically beautiful, Mr. Darcy is more concerned for their characters and their willingness to work. He has hired many who are crippled or otherwise injured. Indeed, his valet Greenwood is a hideous man but has a heart of gold.” She turned to Lizzy and Jane. “Some children are frightened by him, thinking he is a monster, but you are old enough to know better.”
Jane’s heart was touched by his plight. “The poor man,” she murmured. “I hope I would see the good man inside regardless of his outer appearance.”
Lizzy smiled. Jane always saw the good in others.
When all the house that was open to general inspection had been seen, they returned downstairs and, taking leave of the housekeeper, were consigned over to the gardener, who met them at the hall door.
Mr. Gardiner spoke to the gardener about the date of the building and various modifications. Mrs. Gardiner was interested in the rose gardens and the vegetable gardens. The gardener mentioned two different walks available in the park – one that was two miles, and a larger of ten miles. Lizzy wished they could take the ten mile walk, but knew that would be beyond her aunt’s capacity. “May we go on the shorter walk?” she asked.
Mrs. Gardiner declined. “I am too tired. I would rather sit by the roses. What of you, Mr. Gardiner?”
He turned to the servant. “Is the shorter walk well defined?”
“Yes, sir. It walks by the side of a pond and through some woods.”
“Have any of your guests gotten lost before?”
“None that I know of.”
“Very well,” Mr. Gardiner said. “Lizzy, Jane you make take the shorter walk if you wish. I will stay with your aunt.”
Lizzy caught his hand and kissed it. “Oh, thank you, sir.”
He laughed at her exuberance. “But don’t dawdle too much or wander off. If it takes you more than an hour, I will come after you.”
“I will keep her on the path,” Jane said seriously.
“You are both good girls,” Mr. Gardiner said. “Run along.”
Lizzy would like to run, but she knew Jane would not. “Hurry, Jane,” she urged.
The gardener showed them where the path began and explained that it turned left, past a pond, up a slight hill and then down again, where they would ultimately see the west side of the house and the stables.
Lizzy could not wait. Once they were out of sight of her aunt and uncle she took off her bonnet and ran her fingers through her hair, dislodging the ribbon that tied it back.
“Lizzy,” Jane said with gentle disapproval.
“Don’t worry,” Lizzy said. She wound the ribbon around her fingers and then stuffed it in her pocket. “I will keep my bonnet around my neck and tie up my hair before we return.” She sighed. “If I had my way, I would never wear a bonnet again.”
“Or shoes,” Jane teased. “Sometimes I think Papa is right and you are a natural savage.”
Lizzy held her arms out wide and looked up into the bright blue sky. She felt the sun warm on her face. “How can anyone bear to be cooped up in a house on such a glorious day? I thought we would never leave.”
“I thought Pemberley was a very pretty house.”
“It is,” Lizzy agreed. “But I am more interested in rocks and trees.”
Lizzy looked at her sister. When they were younger, she and Jane had both played in the yard at Longbourn, making little houses out of twigs and leaves, but in the past two years, Jane had grown into a woman. She had started her courses and now had a lovely feminine figure. Their mother said she was sure to catch a wealthy husband someday.
Lizzy’s body was starting to change as well, and she did not look forward to the transformation. She had always felt strong and capable as a child. Indeed, her father had often treated her as if she were a boy, teaching her chess and letting her read everything in his library. But now, as her breasts were beginning to grow and her waist was narrowing, she felt ugly and awkward. She dreaded having a bosom as large as her mother. She knew breasts were biologically necessary, but right now, they seemed inconvenient.
Together she and Jane walked by the side of a large pond. Every step brought them to a nobler fall of ground or a finer reach of the woods. Jane wore a women’s white dress with a contrasting navy pelisse. Elizabeth’s dress was simpler – a light brown with accents of white at the throat. It was also shorter, displaying at the hem several inches of her decorative pantalettes, which proclaimed her youth and also gave her a little more room for taking longer strides when she walked. But as her mother often reminded her, “Just because you can be a hoyden, doesn’t mean you should.”
Lizzy walked quickly, invigorated by the fresh air and the beauty of her surroundings. At one point, Jane asked Lizzy to stop so she could remove a pebble from her shoe. As Lizzy waited for her sister to untie her boot, she looked along the shoreline for a good rock. She found several small stones that were smooth and flat and had a nice heft to them – not too heavy or they would sink, but substantial enough to make a nice skip along the water’s surface as she threw them. Her father preferred circular rocks, but she liked a rock with a slight triangular shape. She held one in her hand, resting the flat sides of the rock between her thumb and the tip of her middle finger. She hugged the flat edge of the stone with her index finger. She twisted her hand so that the rock was almost parallel to the ground, pulled her arm back and with a flick of her wrist, sent the stone skimming across the surface. “Look at that, Jane,” she said happily. “Four hops.”
Jane, having retied her boot, brushed her skirts down. “I did not see it.”
“No bother,” Lizzy said. “I will try again.” She took the second stone and flicked her wrist. This time the stone hopped six times before sinking to the bottom of the pond.
“Very nice,” Jane said, just as they heard someone clapping.
Lizzy turned to see a tall young man, possibly twenty years of age with brown hair, wearing a damp white shirt and tan breeches, approach them. His legs were bare, with a few blades of grass sticking to them.
“An excellent boy’s trick,” he said. “I congratulate you, miss.”
Lizzy said irritably, “It is not a boy’s trick if a girl has thrown it.”
“I stand corrected,” he said formally and made an elegant bow. “Please forgive the interference, but I had been swimming and did not want to alarm you by following you back to the house.”
Lizzy saw that his hair was dripping and the shirt clung to his trim but muscled chest. His shirt was open, without a cravat and there was an angry red scar across his throat, as if it had been cut and then hastily stitched closed.
She swallowed nervously at the gruesome sight. “You are?”
“Frank Darcy,” he said pleasantly. “And I assume you are touring the house.” He spoke with confidence as a well-educated, wealthy young man. Lizzy recognized him as the heir to Pemberley:
“Yes.” They both nodded.
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, very much,” Jane said politely.
“I like your woods,” Lizzy volunteered.
He smiled. “So do I. Whenever I am away from Pemberley, I long to return.”
Jane said, “We are touring with our aunt and uncle. They are waiting for us.” Lizzy could tell that Jane was uncomfortable by their conversation and thought it best to turn back.
“Then I will not delay you. If you would like, I can escort you, unless you consider that a presumption.”
Lizzy snorted. “The path is the path. What is the point of your waiting half an hour to give us privacy?” Sometimes society’s rules were ridiculous. She knew from Jane’s wide eyes and frown that she would not want Lizzy to give him their names because they had not been introduced yet. But it wasn’t as if they were all dressed up and facing each other in a ballroom. “My name is Lizzy,” she said bluntly. “And this is my sister Jane.”
Jane glared at her, but Lizzy ignored that. At least she had not given the young man their last name.
“Very good,” he said. “Let me retrieve my boots and I will accompany you.”
He stepped back to an area that was more heavily wooded. Lizzy heard a rustling sound and then two shots rang out, close together.
“Mr. Darcy?” she called.
She heard a groan.
Lizzy stepped towards the woods as she heard the sound of someone else running.
Jane caught her arm. “Lizzy, no. What if the man who fired the shots is still there?”
Lizzy tugged her arm free. “He may be hurt.”
She found the young Mr. Darcy lying on his back, his hands on his lower abdomen. Bright red blood seeped through his clothes and his fingers. Lizzy had never seen so much blood. She looked around, and saw a man in the distance with a battered hat and worn clothes running away.
“Jane, come help me!” she cried.
“No,” Darcy said as he searched her face. “Hurry back to the house. I don’t want you to be in danger as well.”
“Can you walk?” Lizzy asked.
He closed his eyes, grimacing from the pain. “No.”
“Then I will go get help.”
“I am losing a lot of blood. There might not be enough time.”
“Don’t say that,” Lizzy argued.
Jane approached, clutching her hands before herself in distress. “What can we do?”
Lizzy said, “I don’t know.”
“Staunch the bleeding,” Darcy said weakly.
“With what?” Lizzy said.
“My shirt? Fold it up and press it on the wounds.”
There was no way she would be able to help him remove his shirt. Instead she loosened and stepped out of her pantalettes.
“Lizzy!” Jane exclaimed, horrified.
She handed them to Jane. “It doesn’t matter. I still have petticoats. Do what he says.” Jane nervously folded the white fabric and put it over his wounds.
“Press down,” Darcy ordered.
Jane did so but winced. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Too late,” Darcy said.
For a second, Lizzy thought he was saying that it was too late and that he was dying, but then she realized he meant that Jane would hurt him, regardless.
Lizzy said, “Stay with him and I will run back to the house and tell the servants.” She leaned closer to the young man. “I don’t know how far we walked. Which way is closer to the house – left or right?”
He pointed. “West.”
“Don’t die,” she thought desperately, “Please don’t die.”
She must have spoken out loud for he smiled grimly and said, “I will try not to.”
Lizzy lifted up her skirts, baring her calves, and ran a mile back to Pemberley, stopping only when her breath required it. She came into the rose garden, shouting, “Help! Help! There has been an accident!”
Mr. Gardiner seeing the blood on her dress and lack of bonnet cried out, “Lizzy, have you been hurt?”
“No, sir,” she said quickly, leaning forward slightly, her hands on her knees as she gasped for breath. “It is the young master of the house. He has been shot.”
“Shot? But how? Hunting season hasn’t started.”
“I don’t know,” Lizzy said. “He was on the path by the pond. He was shot twice and is bleeding out.”
Mrs. Gardiner turned to the gardener. “A carriage or cart perhaps?”
The gardener ran to the stables and in a few minutes, a cart and several single men on horses were riding down the walking path.
Lizzy wished that she could go with them, but knew she would only be in the way. “Lizzy,” Mrs. Gardiner said with admiration. “How brave you are.”
Lizzy did not feel brave. She felt sick with fear, and now that she had nothing else she must do, she started shaking.
“It was so sudden,” she said. “He was talking with us and the next moment he was shot.” It was incomprehensible to her that someone could be so vibrant and alive one moment and a minute later, be struggling to live.
“Shh,” Mrs. Gardiner crooned. “They will send for a doctor. He will get the care he needs.”
Lizzy clung to her and cried.
Half an hour later, the men returned with the young Mr. Darcy carried on a wooden pallet covered with blankets. He was still and unmoving as if he had passed out from the pain and loss of blood. Jane was there was well. She had ridden on someone’s horse. She was returned to Mrs. Gardiner. She also cried. Mrs. Gardiner handed her a handkerchief. Jane said, “He told me to tell his parents that he loved them and then he stopped talking and did not open his eyes.”
Mrs. Gardiner nodded and patted her arm. “You can write a letter to Mrs. Darcy tomorrow and tell her that. I am certain she would like to hear it and will not mind the impropriety of your writing to someone you do not know.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jane said.
Mr. Gardiner had gone over to where the servants were carrying the young man to see how bad the situation was and to offer his assistance. He saw the young Mr. Darcy briefly before he was carried inside the house.
When he returned to his wife and nieces, his face was solemn.
“I do hope he will recover,” Jane said.
Lizzy saw the quick glance Mr. Gardiner gave Mrs. Gardiner and she knew that the young man was dead.