Chapter Seventy-Nine – The Vicar’s Widow
The first part of this chapter is a reasonably disturbing bit where Elizabeth meets up with Charlotte (widowed, after Berdoll killed off Mr. Collins in the previous novel, by drowning). Charlotte’s five-year-old son, Chauncey Charlemagne Collins, is an unholy terror, a thoroughly undisciplined brat who has still not been weaned. There’s an awkward scene where he starts breastfeeding in front of Elizabeth.
We then switch over to Lydia. She and her new husband head on home to their new house, which is all fine and dandy, except there’s a visitor there waiting for them. This wouldn’t be a problem, except said visitor is actually Wickham, who causes Lydia to actually faint for the first time in her life upon seeing him.
Georgiana decides to adopt Lady Anne’s daughter. Now, she just has to convince Lady Catherine.
Elizabeth gets a letter from Lydia telling her of Wickham’s reappearance. Elizabeth does some research, by which I mean she asks a man to do some research for her, and discovers that legally speaking, at this point Lydia can choose which marriage she wants to stay in. So she sets off for London, alone, to make sure Lydia stays with Major Kneebone, who is considering challenging Wickham to a duel for Lydia’s honor.
Anyway, she arrives, does her best to reassure them both, and decides she’s going to meet Wickham to square things away. With her footman as protection. Kneebone says he has to go with her.
Elizabeth wonders whether she’ll be able to successfully defeat Wickham at his own game, and then remembers that she is incredibly intelligent and talented at wordplay. Which in Austen’s version, she is. I would wager Austen’s Elizabeth a fair match for interrogating Wickham and correctly parsing through Wickham’s bullshit. But Berdoll has turned her into an unintelligent and thoroughly helpless female, and so I’m quite certain she will fail.
Wickham sells the baby to the French courtesan who stole Cesarine’s necklace after she died for Cesarine’s necklace. Apparently she’s then going to return the baby to the baby’s grandmother and reap a handsome reward. Or something. The exact plan isn’t made all that clear. Nor is it made clear how she came to London or how Wickham found and contacted her or why he isn’t returning the baby himself for even more money. This entire chapter really doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Hannah and Goodwin return to Pemberley and find Smeads (the douchebag butler) in the midst of giving a paid tour of Pemberley to visitors that includes showing them in the see the Darcy children, a fact that would have infuriated Mr. and Mrs. Darcy had then been around. It immediately infuriates the two of them. They order the visitors out and confront Smeads, who isn’t remotely apologetic, but in the commotion Smeads trips over Darcy’s dog and falls down the stairs, knocking out several teeth and rendering him unconscious.
Chapter Eighty-Five – Fortune Favours the Fools
Morland, the painter, starts flirting with Mrs. Bennet and suddenly realizes just how attractive she is. She flirts back a bit and he starts thinking about fucking her, and then decides to take Darcy’s commission to paint a portrait of her once he’s finished with the Darcy family portrait.
Smeads takes off in the middle of the night for Rosings Park. See, he was actually one of Lady Catherine’s spies in Darcy’s house. It all makes sense now. But Lady Catherine pretty much immediately turns him out because she has no place for someone who is willing to stab his master in the back.
And thus ends yet another boring, undeveloped subplot of this book.
Wickham takes the expensive necklace to a jeweler and finds out it’s an extremely well-made fake. He can only sell it for fifty pounds, instead of several thousand. This provides disappointing. He then heads home and finds a letter from Marie-Therese, the chick who stole Cesarine’s necklace. The letter explains that Cesarine and Wickham knew each other, long ago in England, and he fathered a child with her. Later, for some reason, Cesarine started fucking Wickham again, even though he didn’t recognize her, and got pregnant for the second tame. The letter is signed Your Daughter. Yes. Marie-Therese was Cesarine and Wickham’s daughter.
Whatever. I don’t care. Wickham has, I’m guessing, dozens of illegitimate children scattered around the country. I really don’t care. Unless Berdoll writes these characters well enough to make me give a shit that he randomly has a bastard daughter, I’m not going to care. And thus far, Berdoll hasn’t been capable of making me care about anyone.
This brings Wickham to start hunting down Lydia. Through some finagling he finds Lydia’s address and also finds out that she’s married. At first, he’s rather insulted that she didn’t even wait the proper mourning period before getting remarried, and also that she married an idiot like Kneebone. Then he realizes that this means that everyone assumes that he’s dead, rather than a deserter, which means that he doesn’t have much to worry about. Also, that opens up possibilities for several new money-making schemes.
Cut forward to Lydia and Kneebone and Elizabeth meeting Wickham in a sleazy tavern on the wrong side of town. Wickham cheerfully has them sit at his table. Things immediately go downhill when Kneebone tells Wickham not to interrupt Elizabeth, then Wickham tells him to shut up. I’m not really sure why Wickham is picking a fight, since he has nothing to gain from this and everything to lose. He came in hoping they would pay him money in order to leave quietly and never bother them again, so it doesn’t make any sense to just start taking offense at things.
Anyway. Lydia insults Wickham, so he calls her a tart, and then Kneebone calls him an adulterer and says he cheats at cards, to which Wickham points out that Kneebone is fucking a married woman. They both jump up, Wickham pulls out a knife and Kneebone draws his sword.
Then Lydia pulls out a pistol and fires it at Wickham. It ricochets off his sword and buries itself in his foot. And then we get the following bits of dialogue which sound perfectly normal following an attempted murder scene:
Lydia looked at the still-smoking end of her gun, saying “I thought I would be a better shot than that.”
“What ever do you mean?” cried Kneebone. “That was magnificent! You shot the knife from his hand!”
“I was,” Lydia groused, “aimed at the curl in the middle of his bloody forehead!” (page 371).
Perfectly normal, calm dialogue immediately following a scene where a character shoots another character in the middle of a crowded tavern. Am I the only one who sees anything wrong with this?
Not to be outdone, Wickham reacts exactly the way someone would react after being shot in the foot:
“Are you completely mad, woman?! Discharging a weapon at me! This is a first even for you, Lydia!”
Instantly, Lydia was by Wickham’s side. “Oh dear! Poor Wickham! What have I done? What have I done?”
Lydia was still keening whilst endeavoring to put her arms about Wickham. Kneebone was even more aghast than that she had discharged a gun, “Lydia, dearest!” (page 371).
More aghast? He just finished congratulating her on her excellent shot, he wasn’t aghast at all! And really, Lydia? You go from trying to shoot him in the face to feeling sorry for him? Make up your mind!
Elizabeth grabs Lydia and Kneebone and they make their escape.
Afterwards, Elizabeth writes Wickham a letter pointing out that legally speaking, since he was presumed dead, Lydia can choose whichever husband she wants to stay with. Further, if desertion is proven, the marriage is null and void. And if Wickham doesn’t leave Lydia alone, the gloves come off. This, of course, is a total bluff, as they have no evidence whatsoever that Wickham was a deserter. In fact, there is not really any reason for them to suspect that at all, aside from knowing what kind of person Wickham is.
Then Elizabeth randomly runs into Lydia’s maid who locks eyes with her. Elizabeth asks if she knows her. Sally Frances says not exactly.