Chapter Eighty-Nine – A Turn or Two
You know what I really enjoy reading? Books where the characters are sometimes wrong. Where they have faulty information and react logically to that faulty information. It’s the kind of thing that actually happens in real life, quite frequently. And it happened even more a long time ago. Nowadays, with instantaneous communication around the globe, virtually everyone knows almost immediately when something big happens, or they can find out with a bit of quick Googling. A few hundred years ago, it might take months for news to properly travel, and when it arrived it might be thoroughly inaccurate.
Along the same lines, I really dislike it when authors feel the need to ‘give’ characters information that they have no business knowing, just so the characters know as much as the reader – or know what REALLY happened. Typically, there’s no plausible way to do this, so the author has to rely on the implausible.
Berdoll falls firmly into the second category, which is another reason why she’s a shitty author.
Sally Frances talks to Elizabeth. Apparently, a bunch of men in the army knew about what happened to John Christie. But they didn’t tell anyone. Yes. They apparently witnessed an officer pulling a gun and shooting a soldier on his own side, in cold blood, and then donning the enemy’s uniform and riding away…and they didn’t report this. They also knew that it was Wickham…and they didn’t report this.
This is despite the fact that Berdoll explicitly said that Wickham and John Christie were alone when Wickham killed him.
And also despite the fact that we know Wickham isn’t stupid, there’s no way he would murder one of his own men if there were any witnesses that could cause problems later.
Anyway. Berdoll goes on to explain that this story has been passed from person to person and changed and been tweaked considerably in the ensuing time between the actual murder, which was months ago, and the distance from France to England. Somehow, the story is still plausible. And it still gets both names right. I call bullshit. Odds are good that next to no one even knew who John Christie was. And no story, passed around in alehouses, remains that accurate.
Further, Berdoll explains that this story has never reached the ears of anyone who would actually do something about it. But eventually it’s overheard by Sally Frances. Of course. Who immediately believes the story. Of course. Because it’s the truth. Honestly, I think it’s more likely for her to cling to the hope that her brother is alive, but instead she immediately accepts the fact that he’s dead and switches her focus to making sure that Wickham is punished for the murder.
Sally also manages to find out, through an unlikely scenario, that Wickham is actually Darcy’s half-brother. The secret that Darcy has been diligently keeping and that practically no one knows about? Yeah, apparently it’s being passed around as well.
Sally tells Elizabeth that Wickham murdered John Christie and that she plans on killing him. Elizabeth is surprised and then says that that probably isn’t a good idea. And then she asks Sally if she would be willing to help her. Sally agrees and sets her thoughts of revenge aside, for the moment.
Darcy saves Bingley from financial ruin…exactly the way he had planned. Afterwards, he’s walking out of Sir Henry Howgrave’s house when he runs into Juliette Clisson.
They exchange a few pleasantries and Darcy is about to politely exit when she mentions that she has a friend who has news about Wickham. Darcy takes her arm and escorts her inside to see the friend, who turns out to be Marie-Therese.
She doesn’t give any real information, beyond informing Darcy that Wickham is still alive, and gives him Mrs. Younge’s address.
Wickham calls Elizabeth’s bluff and calmly requests ten thousand pounds to leave well enough alone. Elizabeth realizes that once again, she will need a man to solve her problems for her.
She meets with Jane who tells her where Darcy is, and she takes off for Sir Howgrave’s house in a coach. And this novel wouldn’t be complete without some more angst, so here comes the rationale:
With the unerring bad luck of certain happenings, the moment she caught sight of the her husband was one and the same moment in which he took Miss Juliette Clisson’s elbow and began escorting her up the stairs. She watched as they walked through the door and into the house. Elizabeth watched as the door closed behind them. She even sat there a moment to ascertain that he eyes had not deceived her (page 387).
It is truly astonishing how little faith Elizabeth has in Darcy.
She tells the driver not to stop at the house.
Elizabeth sells the horses and coach and makes five hundred pounds. She gets another five hundred from Kneebone and heads off to see if she can bully Wickham into taking one thousand pounds. On the trip, she angsts:
Indeed, the vision of her husband escorting Juliette Clisson would not leave her thoughts in peace. She had employed every device imaginable to make it not what it looked for all the world to be. She was alternately incredulous and furious. The realization that he took his sweet leave and left her in the clutches of his scheming aunt whilst he gad about London with a former lover made her angry. Exceedingly angry (page 388).
They’ve been married what, five, six years now?
Total lies Darcy has told her: Zero.
Total promises Darcy has broken to her: Zero.
Total times her suspicions that Darcy is having some sort of illicit affair behind her back have proved even remotely valid: Zero.
Elizabeth is an idiot.
She gets to Wickham’s room. He’s not wearing his coat and his shirt is slightly undone so she can see a bit of chest-hair.
They verbally spar a bit and Elizabeth says that she knows he’s a deserter, a murderer, and all that. Wickham laughs it off and informs her that she can’t prove anything. Elizabeth offers the thousand pounds. Wickham says his price is ten thousand – or something of similar value. He very clearly means sex. Somehow, I don’t think having sex with Elizabeth Darcy is worth nine thousand pounds, but your mileage may vary.
A bit tardily it occurred to her that a man who would do murder would be unlikely to have any qualms over committing a lesser crime (page 391).
Such as raping her.
Or, if that seems a bit much, simply taking the money from her?
God, she’s stupid.
Darcy makes up his mind to confront Wickham himself. So he heads off to do so. Arriving outside Wickham’s lodgings, he sees hack pull up and a woman gets out. He can only see her feet and thinks to himself that her boots rather look like Elizabeth’s, which would be disconcerting, except he knows that Elizabeth is at Rosings Park. (hah) He’s about to head inside when one of Bingley’s men runs up and tells him that Bingley has gone alone to one of his warehouses. Apparently the men guarding his stores plan on burning it all if Bingley doesn’t pay them what they’re owed. And this warehouse is on the wrong side of town. Darcy acquires a weapon, jumps on a horse, and takes off.
Arriving, Darcy spots a large, raucous group of men leading a horse away. He waits until they’ve gone and starts looking for Bingley, and eventually finds him, stark naked. The men stole all of his clothes and his horse. And his twenty thousand pounds. Darcy lends him his jacket and they take off. However, Bingley spots his boot and makes Darcy stop to retrieve it – because that’s where he was holding the twenty thousand pounds. I’m a little surprised that twenty thousand pounds, notes or otherwise, would fit into a single boot. Or that that just happened to be the one boot that the men missed. But whatever.