They call in a ear-doctor to examine Darcy, who is suffering from perpetual ringing in his ears. Darcy is not very happy about this because the man is a Scot, and Darcy’s racist. Or something.
The doctor says that Darcy will eventually regain his hearing. But for now he’s quite deaf. So he sinks into depression, stops eating, and spends his days riding around Pemberley inspecting things. The only thing he really takes pleasure in is…having sex, of course. Apparently, the loss of his hearing has made the other senses more sensitive. To be honest, considering that sex is very much touch and sight-based anyway, I doubt that losing your hearing would make that much of a difference.
However, since he can’t really converse with people, Darcy’s condition mostly gives him time to angst. About John Christie’s parentage. He decides that if the kid is really his – and John Christie is looking more and more like him, in both appearance and actions, than he’ll have to acknowledge him. Which will publicly disgrace his family name, make his father roll over in the grave, and shame Elizabeth and Georgiana, not to mention himself. So he continues to angst.
Through a chance accident – nothing happens in this book purposefully, everything’s just random accidents – Elizabeth talks to Mrs. Reynolds about John Christie, and she mentions that he was conceived under this roof. Elizabeth immediately thinks that Darcy did it and starts to turn red, but Mrs. Reynolds says that Wickham is the father. And then she mentions that he even looks a bit like Wickham. Elizabeth agrees, goes to find Darcy, and explains what Mrs. Reynolds just said. Darcy doesn’t really say anything.
That night, however, he thinks about it and it all makes sense. He fucked Abigail Christie, and a week later she left. If Mrs. Reynolds knew that Abigail was pregnant when she left, then there is no way he could be the father. Darcy feels like an idiot, but mostly just relieved.
Elizabeth wants to tell John who his father is. After all, due to Wickham marrying Lydia, this makes him family. Darcy disagrees and says it’s much better that John Christie never knows what a douchebag his father is. Then they have sex.
Lydia and Wickham hate each other. Lydia entertains herself by seeing how often she can catch her husband in bed with other women. No, seriously. That’s what she does. It becomes a game for her. I’m sure if my wife was cheating on me regularly, I’d just turn it into a game. It would be our little thing.
Then one day a letter arrives with a Pemberley seal on it.
Elizabeth is very surprised to see Wickham standing in the foyer. This is despite the fact that she and Jane went behind Darcy’s back to write Wickham a letter informing him that he had a bastard. She never suspected that Wickham would actually come to see him, making Elizabeth a bit of an idiot.
Luckily, Darcy isn’t around. So they go into the drawing room and sit down and Elizabeth looks at him and realizes just exactly how much he looks like John Christie. Wickham, meanwhile, thinks that Elizabeth has summoned him here for reasons other than a bastard. Because she wants him. So he starts flattering her and this makes her mad but her red cheeks and heaving bosom convince Wickham that his sultry words alone are making her orgasm right there or something and so he grabs her hand and leans in for a kiss and right about that time Darcy pulls Wickham’s sword out of its sheath and puts the tip under his throat. He prods Wickham out of the house and throws the sword after him as he leaves, and then goes back in to talk to Elizabeth. Wait, that was it? All that buildup? Going to the entire trouble and writing multiple scenes to contrive to get Wickham to Pemberley and then he just leaves, just like that? Is nothing going to actually happen?
Darcy is not particularly happy. Elizabeth gives a couple of weak excuses and Darcy finally leaves to go find out what debts Wickham has rung up in the county so he can discharge them. Elizabeth thinks for a bit, and decides to go tell the cook to make some of Mr. Darcy’s favorite foods. The way to any man’s heart.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh arrives unannounced, for the first time since the wedding. Darcy isn’t around, but that’s fine since she came to see Elizabeth. They sit down in the drawing room, and Lady Catherine gets right to the point:
“Darcy is an only son. He must have a son to carry the name. it has been five years since you worked your wiles upon him. Five years you have denied an heir to Pemberley. Twice you have failed.”
Elizabeth is slightly astonished to learn that Lady Catherine knows that Elizabeth has “failed” twice, since nobody, not even Jane, knows about her miscarriage. I’m slightly astonished about this whole five years bit. It’s been five years, and we still have no evidence that Darcy and Elizabeth know each other even remotely better than they did at the beginning of the book. There hasn’t been a shred of character development. Elizabeth continues to do thoughtless things and then wonders why Darcy gets upset when she goes against his express wishes and secretly writes to his mortal enemy and tacitly invites him back to their home.
Lady Catherine says that she knows that Darcy fathered a child right at Michaelmas this past year with some other woman, and therefore it’s Elizabeth’s fault that they haven’t conceived. Elizabeth sputters and is angry, and Lady Catherine leaves. Elizabeth thinks about things and decides that Lady Catherine just made it all up to spite her.
Col. Fitzwilliam is sitting in the library and has heard the commotion. He spends two pages thinking about how much he loves Elizabeth.
His chief reluctance in taking a bride was the eternal vexation that she would not be Elizabeth. For that lady and no other had the beauty, vivacity, and wit that he believed was the absolute perfection of womanhood.
That retching sound you just heard was me.
Fitzwilliam heads into the drawing room where Elizabeth is crying. He gathers her into his arms and she begs him to not tell Darcy about it – to which he agrees – and when she starts sobbing again, he pulls her against his chest [!] and tells her he loves her [!!!]. The crying suddenly ends. Fitzwilliam hopes fervently that she thinks his expression of love was simply familial. The expression on her face indicates she didn’t. Finally she asks for water. Fitzwilliam fetches her some and then hastily departs, not even noticing that Georgiana is standing outside the doorway, staring in with a rather intrigued expression.
Darcy, when he gets back, notices something’s wrong. Elizabeth tells him that Lady Catherine left when she realized Darcy wasn’t there and refuses to say anything else. Darcy is not fooled. That night, Elizabeth stands on the balcony and spends a page in angst about men straying, and mentally runs through a list of all the people her father might have had an affair with, and then moves on to Darcy. This entertains her for awhile, and finally she goes inside to where Darcy is lying on the bed. She pulls off her night-dress and then utters one of the most disturbing come-on phrases I’ve ever heard:
Thereupon fully limbered, she inquired “Shall we give the ferret a run?”
I’m totally going to use that line someday.
So they have sex. Then she tries to get Darcy aroused again. He stops her and says that he’s been in the saddle for most of the day. Elizabeth is momentarily irritated, then shrugs it off. Darcy goes to sleep, and Elizabeth lies there pondering the question that no love story is complete without:
In light of his inability to effect a second coitus, in just whose saddle did her husband spend that day?
Yeah. That makes total sense. I know what it’s like to spend hours in a saddle. Trust me, after spending all day in one, I wouldn’t want to have sex even once, let alone twice. And yet, the most obvious answer isn’t that Darcy is extremely sore, it’s that he was off fornicating all day. Yeah.
Elizabeth angsts for awhile about whether Darcy has fathered a child. She feels bad for wondering, but finally decides she has to know the truth. So she decides to figure out the parentage of all the babies born within a day’s ride from Pemberley. She heads down to the rectory and sneaks into the office, finding the registry of marriages, christenings, and deaths:
Small print upon one line registered the date of both the birth and death of one baby causing her a pang in the pit of her stomach. She shook off such a mawkish vagary, for she could not allow distraction from her mission.
Mawkish is defined as excessively and objectionably sentimental. Elizabeth feeling a pang when reminded of the death of her baby is perfectly natural. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, Berdoll, and by extension, Elizabeth, both feel that being sad about a child’s death is excessively sentimental. That’s nice.
She writes down the names of the other five kids and heads off to investigate. The first place has a young father and an old woman, with a baby. The mother evidently died. The next place has a fat and ugly mother with around seven children, so it’s unlikely. The third place is very quiet, and she spends several days watching the house until she sees a rider come up. A woman comes outside holding a baby. The well-dressed rider kisses the woman on the mouth and they go inside. Elizabeth feels first relief that it’s not Darcy, and then she goes weak at the knees when she realizes (after the figure disappears, for some reason) that she does recognize him.
Bingley is having an affair.
Good ol’ Bingley. First-class husband. The nicest guy in the world. Has a wife who loves and dotes upon him and would probably do anything for him. He’s screwing around. That’s likely.
I feel like calling in the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and having them excise Berdoll, with sharp objects, from this story.