Caroline's Fate © 2016 by Gaskellian All rights reserved.

Miss Caroline Bingley had decided that this evening was most opportune. She had requested her maid to lay out Miss Bingley's finest silk nightdress and, after ensuring her appearance was perfect, dismissed the maid until morning. Caroline waited until the house had quieted; by the light of the moon, she watched the clock hand as it inched toward one am. At the toll of the clock on the hour, Miss Bingley silently exited her bed chamber and made her soundless way to her destination: Mr. Darcy's rooms. She had brought a skeleton key in case of a locked door but, as she carefully tried the knob, it turned easily and Miss Bingley was able to secrete herself inside the apartment, taking care to secure the door after her. She slowly approached the sizeable bed in the middle of the room with its lone slumbering inhabitant and gently lifted the cover to slide as softly as possible beneath the spread. Caroline looked at the sleeping form next to her and felt a sense of victory. Mistress of Pemberley! Charles might be pursuing a daughter of a landed gentleman but Jane Bennet would not in any way improve their family's connections and social standing. Upon discovery in the light of morning, Mr. Darcy would be honor bound to offer marriage and Caroline would be ranked amongst society's finest. She lightly ran a possessive hand along the firm back muscles in front of her and heard a groan from the object of her attention. Miss Bingley shifted her body closer to Mr. Darcy, as her nightdress was beautiful but had never been intended for warmth and the night air was indeed chill. The gentleman turned over and, to Caroline's surprise, embraced her tightly. He then proceeded to make the lady very, very happy.

Not long before sunrise, the valet of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy silently entered his master's bedchamber to ensure preparedness for the coming day. He stopped, shocked by the sight of the unclad man and woman still asleep on the bed and rapidly retreated from the room to hurry down the hall.

Four days earlier. . . . .

'Blast Darcy' and 'Hang him' were the most complimentary sentiments running through the mind of George Wickham. He had purchased a commission in the militia, thus guaranteeing himself the satisfaction of his basic requirements of food and shelter, and landed in a relatively unimportant town in Hertfordshire with which he had no prior connection. Quite significant to Mr. Wickham, in addition to his bare necessities, was the matter of trust – that is, the inhabitants of a great number of minor towns were inclined to trust officers of the King. Therefore, provided one could remain carefully discreet, the possibilities for entertainment and otherwise unattainable items increased quite considerably. Merchants were not disposed to ask for payment too frequently if the individual requesting credit was an officer in his uniform and they were not liable to exert themselves overly much to restrain their daughters around those who did the King's bidding. All things considered, purchasing the commission was an excellent use of funds.

But now Darcy had come to visit and was likely to curtail Mr. Wickham's enjoyment of his current situation. George Wickham disliked Fitzwilliam Darcy but he abhorred hunger and poverty more and thus, he put his mind to devising a strategy which would allow him to remain in his present state of comfort and perhaps also permit a bit of revenge on Mr. Darcy. Mr. Wickham reviewed what little information he had been able to glean – Mr. Darcy was accompanying his friend, Mr. Bingley, to Hertfordshire for an indeterminate span of time and was considered by the neighborhood to be rather aloof and cold but, as he was rumored to be quite wealthy, most people regarded him as justified in his behavior toward those who would be deemed his inferiors. Mr. Bingley was leasing Netherfield Park and residing there with Darcy, Bingley's two sisters and the husband of one of the women. Was it possible that Darcy had an attachment to one of Bingley's sisters? Could his presence in the area be, in fact, a blessing in disguise? George Wickham determined to discover the precise location and layout of the Netherfield house and began to investigate if there were any of its staff presently making purchases in Meryton. He would utilize his pleasant appearance and good manners to ascertain the knowledge of which he had need in order to effect his plan.

It was the work of a day more and Mr. Wickham found himself the recipient of attention from one of the housemaids employed at Netherfield. He had, to be sure, given her much friendly attention and flattering compliments. Amanda – for such was her name – wished to meet surreptitiously, so as not to excite suspicion. George Wickham was to await her in a stand of trees situated in a particularly dense copse which was located not terribly distant from the main house. He planned to furtively follow her return so as to quietly familiarize himself with the immediate vicinity and when he revisited later under cover of darkness, it would not be difficult to gain access to the house and, if all went according to plan, Darcy's possessions.

Thus two days hence, Mr. Wickham happily found himself ensconced in a hidden position inside of the Netherfield house. Perseverance and the fall of nighttime would aid him in gaining his reward. After a significant time spent in waiting and planning, darkness fell and George Wickham removed himself from his niche. He ascended the stairs which he had determined beforehand as the least probable to have traffic and applied his new-found knowledge of the home's arrangement to creep directly to Darcy's rooms. Mr. Wickham turned the knob and stole into the darkened apartment, grateful for what little moonlight was present. Remarkably, there was no occupant on the bed and now he could hear noises coming from the valet's chamber. Swiftly, he slid underneath the massive bed and primed himself for more delay. George Wickham was nothing if not opportunistic; he could be patient. Mr. Darcy's man entered his master's bed chamber and collected several items from around the room while cataloguing his requirements aloud. From what Mr. Wickham could gather, Mr. Darcy was to retire in another bed chamber this evening. Laughing silently at the whimsical vagaries of the wealthy and entitled, George Wickham remained in situ and optimistic. After not much more time had passed, Mr. Wickham and the room were left to themselves, so he carefully rose and assured himself of his continued solitude. Taking in the objects in the room with a measured glance, he made his way first to the most likely location to contain valuables – the chest of drawers. Running his hand gently along the articles in the topmost drawer, Mr. Wickham did not feel the metallic solidity of cufflinks or coins. As he continued his search, there came a slight sound from the corridor. Quickly shedding his garments, he noiselessly climbed into Darcy's bed and feigned sleep, amused that the great Fitzwilliam Darcy would lie upon the same sheets as George Wickham. Within a very short time, however, he found himself quite distracted from thoughts of Mr. Darcy.