The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy by Don Jacobson
“You must throw away notions of what you want. Only then will you be free to accept what you need.”
—The Brown Guide to Fitzwilliam Darcy, 1840
Long has the amazing Bennet Wardrobe involved itself in the affairs of Longbourn. Where before its actions have been cloaked in mystery, its purpose now becomes clear. The fey cabinet has molded the universes to strike a balance that can be achieved only by saving the greatest love story ever told.
Follow the paths taken by Pemberley’s master and mistress after their children are grown. See Elizabeth Darcy struggle to rekindle the love glow that has dimmed after a quarter century. Grasp the unaccountable pain her departure levels upon the entire Derbyshire family. Watch Fitzwilliam Darcy learn that which he must in order to become the best version of himself: worthy of his Elizabeth.
The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy closes out the Bennet Wardrobe series. The disparate threads spun by the remarkable women born to a Hertfordshire couple of insignificant fortune are woven together. These lives have become the tapestry that records the destiny of Jane Austen’s lovers, immortal in any here/now or where/when.
Selkirk Castle, 1835
The room had darkened as the sun slipped behind the ridges to the southwest. Darcy stepped away from the casement and made his way to the decanter. Grasping the container, he stepped back to the seat he had earlier vacated. Then he motioned toward the chair opposite him.
“Take a pew,” Darcy said as he placed the liquor on the low table between the seats, pointedly leaving the stopper on the tabletop. “This will be thirsty work, I imagine. You may correct me, but I wonder whether the countess is expecting us for dinner this evening, lest we leave a poor impression upon your sons.”
Richard’s rich chuckle rumbled throughout the room. “As I said, Lydia wanted me to prepare the ground for her. I had planned to loosen your tongue, but she was not explicit about her plans for the evening.”
Darcy looked at his life-long confidant and resolved to explain himself as best he could. “I am getting old, Richard.”
His cousin immediately interrupted him and scoffed. “If you are old, then I must be positively ancient. In case you have forgotten, I have two whole years on you.”
Darcy quelled Richard’s impertinence with a glare. “Restrain your commentary. This is difficult enough as it is without you japing about like Harlequin.” After a sigh, he continued. “You realize that I have now far exceeded my father’s life span. I will concede that he was a husk in the years after my mother died, but I am now a contender for the longest-lived Darcy. As for the record of Fitzwilliam men, I wager that your lineage would impress a gypsy palmist with the length of your lifeline.”
“You are wrong, Darcy,” Richard rejoined. “My papa was taken far too soon by that awful fever back in the year twenty. And lest you forget, Henry was swept off along with Addie at the same time. Both were barely twenty-five. God willed it was them and neither you nor me.”
Darcy took a long pull on his glass and shook his head before continuing. “Can you not believe that I have marshaled every argument against the capriciousness of this mortal coil? That somehow you and I are the lucky ones, or at least blessed with two women who refuse to let us fall ill? However, have you not noticed how often death notices of our contemporaries are appearing in the columns of The Times? How many funerals have you had to attend from the crowd who populates the benches in the Lords? Except for Gardiner, I know few men older than me. Oh yes, the duke lives, but I doubt whether the Reaper would dare approach him.
Silence draped its shroud over the two men, each deep in his own counsel.
Darcy stirred first and spoke in a voice barely above a whisper. “I have not felt the age difference between Elizabeth and me as keenly as now. Men of our age—not years, mind you, but rather era—cherished the freshness of a woman’s youth. Yet there comes a point when the lady retains her vitality while we become paunchy relics. Sadly, male vanity has us imagining ourselves yet to be Adonis. Go to Covent Garden and watch the pathetic display that proves my point. How many doddering old men do you encounter as they squire their ladybirds? The only attraction drawing these mercenary females to their sides is the size of their purses compounded by their proximity to the grave. Before you married, Richard, how often did you find comfort in the arms of a well-dowered widow ‘mourning’ a husband who survived their wedding vows by but a few months?”
Richard’s reply was garbled as he choked on his whiskey.
Ignoring his cousin’s discomfort, Darcy forged ahead.
“I simply wonder how the attraction Elizabeth and I felt for one another survives. I delude myself into believing that I can do that which I was able when I was twenty-nine. The marriage bed remains an agreeable experience, though less frequent now than before the children. I look at Elizabeth and see my youth. Yet, in the mirror, I see my dotage. And that, dear cousin, is the rub. Elizabeth has changed little—of course, that is an over-simplification—other than to become more burnished as a woman. How can she find the man she first married in my current decrepitude?”
Richard raised a shaggy brow and paused before replying. “Has she given you any cause to believe that her regard is slipping because you are getting a bit bowlegged and swaybacked?”
At Darcy’s negative, Richard carried on. “All right, if that is not the case, then why is she complaining to Lydia?”
Darcy’s glass clunked on the polished tabletop. A cascade of words poured from the man, tumbling and rolling atop one another. For the first time in a dozen years, Darcy was unmoored, adrift on a flood of emotions. The torrent surprised Richard, used as he was to the solid, well-anchored presence that was the master of Pemberley’s usual affect.
Darcy’s self-enforced loneliness, to Richard’s great regret, meant that his cousin was retreating into himself. Before Elizabeth breached his walls, Darcy had become rigid as he tried to control the world about him and never change his mind—breeding Mr. Blake’s “reptiles of the mind.” After they married, she had become Darcy’s confidante and relieved his engrained emotional pain.
Richard believed that the Darcys had now reached another crossroads, one that would prove as difficult for the couple to overcome as Elizabeth’s great disappointment had been in the year fifteen. Then, while wounded, the couple had one another to lean upon. But now, the slow-moving disaster was not happening to them but rather between them. As Lydia had succinctly impressed upon Richard, he would have to become Darcy’s priest while she performed the same service for Elizabeth.
The shadows lengthened. The demarcation between day and night slashed across the room, Darcy hidden in the inky umbra thrown by Richard’s body. Light may have been lost in the void but not Darcy’s voice. He left naught unsaid. Although his declaration was dry work, his goblet never touched his lips. Sobriety in all things, a lifelong personality trait, now became his safe harbor. Nothing of what he related ever could be ascribed to the heady vapors of the distiller’s art. Instead, he delivered his truth with knife-edged clarity.
Having known the boy and man for more than fifty years, Richard understood that Darcy was not expecting instant analysis. He knew that the last thing he should do was to offer anything beyond an acknowledgment that he had heard. Darcy did not need advice; that would have been presumptuous. His cousin needed to unburden himself, and so he had. Now, as a friend, Richard had to squire Darcy as he navigated the complicated channels that would lead him Home.
Richard’s cackle caused Darcy’s head to snap up, his dark eyes stormy. “No, Darcy, I am not laughing at you or about what you have just told me. Rather, I had planned to be occupied with you for the next several hours, winkling out your darkest thoughts. I anticipated having to unravel you like one of Metternich’s more deeply placed moles at Carlton House. I used to be a pretty dab hand at interrogation. I even brought some additional soldiers”—he pointed at the flagons arrayed on the sideboard—“to loosen your tongue.”
A knock on the door interrupted his explanation. He crossed the room and held a hushed conference with the servant.
Turning back to Darcy, he continued. “Lydia had not expected us for dinner. She refused to countenance two louts in their cups at her table. Now I fear we shall have to array ourselves in our finery and be present and correct in her ladyship’s salon to join in a meal en famille. I have ordered you a bath. Young Hill will take your spare topcoat and pantaloons downstairs for pressing. Let the boy play your valet. He has been nagging his father for a promotion for months. He will not cut your throat. But, if you appear in my wife’s dining parlor with whiskers like those, she just might. Lydia is as fastidious about appearance as the Beau used to be!
“And before you try to plead weariness to avoid your obligations, remember that it is the Countess of Matlock who rules here. I may be earl and you might be her brother, but she is our liege lord. I will join you in the grand salon in one hour.”
About the Author
Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years, from news and features to advertising, television, and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. He has previously published five books, all nonfiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey. Since then, Meryton Press has re-edited and republished Keeper and the subsequent six volumes in the series. The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy is the eighth and concluding volume. Other Meryton Press books by Jacobson include Lessers and Betters, In Plain Sight, and The Longbourn Quarantine. All his works are also available as audiobooks (Audible).
Jacobson holds an advanced degree in history with a specialty in American foreign relations. As a college instructor, he taught United States history, world history, the history of western civilization, and research writing. He is currently in his third career as an author and is a member of JASNA and the Regency Fiction Writers.
Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the Austenesque world, Jacobson also enjoys cooking, dining out, fine wine, and well-aged scotch whiskey.
His other passion is cycling. Most days will find him “putting in the miles.” He has ridden several “centuries” (hundred-mile days). He is especially proud of having completed the AIDS Ride–Midwest (five hundred miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-a-Wish Miracle Ride (three hundred miles from Traverse City to Brooklyn, both in Michigan).
When not traveling, Jacobson lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife and co-author, Pam—a woman Miss Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize.
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Blog Tour Schedule
March 1 So Little Time...
March 2 The Literary Assistant
March 3 From Pemberley to Milton
March 4 Babblings of a Bookworm
March 7 Savvy Verse & Wit
March 9 My Vices and Weaknesses
March 12 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl
Meryton Press is giving away 6 eBooks of The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy. Click here to enter. Thank you to Don and Meryton Press for having me be a part of this tour.
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