GordBamfordVEVO. “Gord Bamford – Don’t Let Her Be Gone.” YouTube. YouTube, 25 Sept. 2015.
CONNECTION BETWEEN STORY AND SONG:
I will admit that when this song started playing regularly on the radio, I did not like it. In fact, I can remember whining to a friend that it was “so sad.” But as it played over and over each day as I made supper or did the dishes, I grew to like it — which is a lot like the characters in this week’s featured novella, Through Every Storm.
Lydia and Wickham are easy to dislike. Everyone dislikes them, don’t they? They are horrible, rotten, self-centered individuals….right? Perhaps they were. 😉 However, my challenge in writing this novella was to make them likable. Yes, you heard that correctly, I wished to redeem the unredeemable, so to speak.
But what if after several years of marriage, Wickham has both matured and come to love his wife? What if that wife loves her husband deeply but has not matured as much as he has and still holds on to some scars from her youth? What if she does something stupid and justifiably unforgivable by her husband? What if she discovers the truth behind his reason for marrying her — that he was paid to do it? How does a family, for they have two children, weather such storms?
That’s the story you’ll find in Through Every Storm.
It, like the song this week, is sad, but it, unlike the song, ends on a very sweet and hopeful note. I think you’ll be surprised by the characters. I know I was. I came to love them — yes, actually. And I’m not alone. I have heard from readers who have also (shockingly) found themselves liking Lydia and Wickham.
Now, there are two places in this story where Wickham finds himself thinking “please don’t let her be gone.” The first time is in chapter one which can be previewed here: Through Every Storm. The second can be seen in this Music Monday excerpt from when I was writing the story.
Since this novella is featured in this week’s discounted books, I thought I would share the second chapter with you. So, read that first chapter at the link above and then continue on with the chapter below, and I will urge you to give the book a try.
Chapter 2, Through Every Storm
Wickham had slept, but it had been fitful at best. He pulled out his watch fob. One more hour, one more hour and they would be on their way. He paced the length of his bedchamber, his stocking clad feet making a soft padding sound as he paced. His boots stood ready by the door; his bag was packed and waiting. Fifteen minutes, fifteen minutes and Denny would join him to break his fast. Five more minutes of pacing and turning over what he needed to do in his mind. He checked his watch one more time; then, he straightened his cravat, slipped into his coat and tugged on his boots before proceeding down the hall to his wife’s room. There, he gave a loud knock before throwing the door open and striding into the room.
Lydia shot up in bed, clutching the blankets to her. “George!” she squealed. “You gave me such a fright. What do you mean disturbing my sleep so early?”
“We leave in less than an hour. If you wish to dress and eat before entering the carriage, I suggest you get out of bed now.” He spun on his heels and strode out of the room, leaving a gaping and sputtering Lydia.
“Good morning, Wickham,” said Denny as they descended the stairs. “I see you have taken to my method of rousing the wicked.” Denny laughed and smacked Wickham on the back.
Wickham smiled. “Seems effective.” He could hear his wife banging about in her room.
Denny and Wickham were the first to enter the breakfast room and hungrily filled their plates from the steaming serving dishes on the sideboard. They were both half way through their plates and on their second cup of coffee when Lydia stomped into the room.
“Good morning, Lydia. Nice of you to join us,” said Denny.
“As if I had a choice.” Lydia rattled the plates and clanked the serving spoons to show her disgust as she filled her plate.
“You had a choice. Eat or go hungry.” Wickham spread jam on his toast. “If you break the dishes, you will pay for them. I will not. I suggest you swallow your annoyance and start acting like a lady instead of a spoiled child. Good morning, Darcy, Mrs. Darcy.”
Lydia huffed once again and sat her plate down on the table rather heavily while shooting her husband an obvious look of displeasure.
“You are off early this morning?” Darcy asked.
“Yes, there are bills to be paid. Mr. Hamilton is expecting Lydia to report for work this afternoon.”
The cup of tea Lydia was lifting to her lips stopped in mid-air and slowly moved back down to the table. “Mr. Hamilton? Work?”
“You remember Mr. Hamilton, do you not? He is the owner of the inn that you left without paying.” Wickham forced himself to calmly sip his coffee. “Denny and I have made arrangements for you to work off your bill since your allowance seems to have already been spent.”
Wickham finished the last of his toast and coffee. “You will want to hurry if you wish to pack before we leave.”
“Is there not someone to do that for me?”
“No. I have informed Darcy’s housekeeper that her staff have done quite enough for you already. After all, you did arrive unannounced. It is the least you can do.”
Wickham could see Lydia’s ire beginning to bubble up. He steeled himself for the coming storm.
“You want me to pack my own things?”
“And carry them to the carriage.” Wickham’s face was implacable, though, his insides churned.
“Do you wish me to drive the carriage as well?” Lydia was on her feet leaning across the table towards her husband.
“If I thought you could manage it. But, I would like both you and the carriage to return home unharmed.”
Lydia was well and truly beside herself. She stamped her foot and crossed her arms. “And if I do not wish to do those things and work at an inn?”
Wickham pulled a small notebook and pencil from his pocket. He opened it to a clean page and wrote the date.
“What is that?” Lydia demanded.
“And what is it for?” She eyed him warily.
“It is to be an account of your behaviour. We do have a review of your agreement coming in six months. I would like to think that I would remember every detail between now and then, but I do not wish to risk missing some important point. So, what should I write? Shall I write that you refused to accomplish your first task?” Wickham cocked an eyebrow and stared at Lydia.
Lydia flopped into her chair and glared at him.
Wickham held her gaze and tapped his pencil on the page. “I really do need an answer, my dear.”
“Fine. I will pack my own things and carry them down. Happy?” She spat the words at him.
Wickham scratched a note into his journal, then looked at her. “Nothing about this situation makes me happy, Lydia.” He tried to keep the pain he was feeling from tinging his voice, but to those who were listening, it was there. He stood. “I will see to the carriage and horses. We leave on the hour. Be ready.”
Drops of rain merged and raced a track down the carriage window. Wickham shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The rain had forced both him and Denny to abandon their horses for the dry confines of the carriage.
“You could sit on the other side,” suggested Denny.
“You know I cannot. Not yet.” Wickham looked across at his sleeping wife. He longed to be next to her, to have her head resting against his chest, to have his arm around her shoulders. Beyond reason, he loved her.
Love is not an easy option, son. He could hear his father say. It is an all consuming thing that takes strength and fortitude. It can be the most wonderful comforting feeling in the world and the most painful at the same time. Though he knew that his father had loved him, it was not a subject that often crossed the old man’s lips. Wickham remembered as a boy accompanying his father in his duties at Pemberley. They had come upon Mr. Darcy just as he was finishing yet another lecture to his son.
“Father,” George had asked. “Why does Mr. Darcy not love his son?”
“Why do you say he does not love the young master?”
“He is so hard with him. He is always instructing and correcting.”
“And you think that instruction and correction are not signs of love.” His father had smiled down at him. George had always loved the way that smile made him feel. “If he did not love his son, he would not care about his future. Master Fitzwilliam will one day be the Master of Pemberley. Without proper instruction, he would fail at the task. If his father did not instruct him and correct him, his character and knowledge would be lacking, and the whole of Pemberley, including Master Fitzwilliam, would suffer. Would that be love to allow a child to grow into an adult who would suffer because of lack of proper instruction and correction?”
Wickham had not been convinced at the time that his father was right. He saw the pain caused by Old Mr. Darcy’s constant demands. He knew how hard his friend tried to please his father. Perhaps Mr. Darcy had loved his son, but to never tell him, to never praise his efforts unless perfect, what kind of love was that? He sighed and reached forward and brushed a wayward strand of hair from Lydia’s face. He was still convinced that his father was not completely correct. Love was a combination, instruction and demonstration.
The carriage rolled to a stop in front of an inn.
Lydia stretched. “Why are we stopping?” she asked sleepily.
“It is time for work.” Wickham climbed out of the carriage and offered his hand to his wife. Her hand trembled as she placed it in his. Inwardly, he was slightly pleased by this sign of discomfort over her circumstances while his gut wrenched at the idea of her being afraid. Father had been right about that. Love was a mixture of opposing feelings. He held her close to him as they dashed into the inn.
“Mr. Wickham, Colonel Denny, it is good to have you back.” A short, stout man wiped his hands on his apron as he approached.
“Mr. Hamilton, it is good to be both out of the rain and out of the confines of the carriage. I trust the men I sent settled the bill left behind by my other officer?” Denny extended his hand and clasped the older man’s hand, giving his arm a good pump.
“Yes, yes. It has been settled. Fine attachment of men you sent, quite proper the lot of them.” He turned to Wickham.
“Mr. Hamilton, allow me to present my wife, Lydia Wickham.” He glanced around the busy public room. “Is there a place we could speak regarding the remainder of the outstanding bill?”
Mr. Hamilton’s eyes narrowed as he studied Lydia. “Mrs. Wickham,” he said with a bow. “If you will all follow me, there is a private dining room where we may have such a discussion.”
Wickham placed his hand on the small of his wife’s back and gave her a nudge to follow.
Lydia moved slowly. This was the part she disliked the most, the part when some ill-thought-out action was dredged up, and she was made to feel stupid. She had planned to pay the gentleman on her return trip. She sat in the chair Wickham indicated. She clasped her hands tightly in her lap and prepared to be lectured and berated. She thought of presenting herself as she often had to her father and as she had to Wickham just yesterday. While pretending to not care and pouting had worked especially well with her father and until yesterday with her husband, she felt sure that today, such tactics were not going to be effective. So she sat, allowing her shame to settle in around her instead of being held at a safe distance.
Wickham tried to ignore the pain in his heart as he saw Lydia’s head bowed and her hands clasped so tightly that her nails were white. He wished to pay the bill and be done with this lesson, but he knew that was not in her best interest. Demonstrations of love, he determined, were not always easy and often looked very much like correction. He gave her hands a light squeeze before beginning. “It seems my wife’s purse is not so deep as her expenses.”
“That would be a problem, would it not?” asked the innkeeper.
“Indeed it is. Since her trip was not sanctioned by me, she is fully responsible for her debts.” The knot in his stomach tightened.
The innkeeper drummed his fingers on the table while he looked over Lydia carefully. “It is not wise to willfully leave the protection of one’s husband, is it my dear?” His tone reminded her of her father. How many times had he used that very tone to chide her for some foolish behavior?
“So, I have been told,” she replied softly.
“But do you believe it?” the man prodded.
“I am beginning to.”
“Good. My Molly could use some help. She has an extra bed in her room where you may sleep tonight, and I believe you and she are about the same size. She will provide you with an appropriate dress and smock.” He rose. “I have assigned you gentlemen the room at the top of the stairs with the two single beds again as you requested. Come along, Mrs. Wickham, I will take you to Molly.”
Lydia rose to follow him. “Thank you, sir.”
“We shall dine before retiring to our rooms,” said Denny.
The innkeeper nodded and gave Wickham’s shoulder a squeeze as he walked past him. “Molly’ll take care of her right proper.”
Lydia followed the man through the kitchen and down a hallway to a small room that was barely big enough for two beds, a wardrobe, a small writing desk and a wash stand. A pleasant looking girl greeted the innkeeper with a kiss on the cheek.
“Molly, this is Mrs. Wickham. She is the lady that will be staying with you tonight and assisting you. Keep her assignments to the back. There is no need to parade her in front of all the patrons. Her husband is too honourable a man to suffer such mortification.”
“Yes, Papa. Mrs. Wickham, I have a dress on the bed for you. Do you require assistance?”
Lydia smiled tightly. “No, I can manage.”
“Right, then,” said Molly. “When you have changed, a bowl of stew awaits you in the kitchen.”
Lydia pushed the door closed and leaned against it. Mortification. She was a mortification to her dear Wickham. Tears stung her eyes. She had been called many things in her life, foolish, a ninny, one of the silliest girls in all of England, selfish, spoiled, the list could go on and on, but never had she been called a mortification. She wiped at her eyes and began changing her dress. She would face her responsibility with dignity. She would hold her chin high and perform her duties, whatever they may be, to the best of her ability.
The day was long; the chores were many. She had scrubbed pots and lugged jugs of water. She had plucked chickens and scraped vegetables. Her whole body ached as she followed Molly down the hall to bed. Silently, she slipped out of her dress and into her nightgown.
“Mrs. Wickham.” Molly held out a package. “Your husband asked me to give you this. He was asking about you all day.”
Lydia took the package and climbed into bed. She pulled the blankets around her and propped the pillow between her back and the wall. Carefully, she opened the package. Inside was a journal, the very journal that her husband had pulled out of his pocket that morning. She opened it slowly, nervously wanting to see what was written inside. A knot formed in her stomach. She had seen him scratching in it at the table that morning while she had huffed and stomped. She was not sure if she wanted to see a listing of her actions. She knew she had allowed her temper to once again control her actions and tongue, but anger was a much easier emotion to harbour than hurt. It had hurt when Wickham had pushed her away with his arms and his words in Darcy’s office. And it had hurt when she had heard his disappointment in her. She took a breath and opened the book. To her surprise, underneath today’s date were written three simple words, I love you.
Lydia stared at the words. This was what he was writing as she grumbled about packing? She studied the binding where the papers attached. No pages had been torn out. She looked carefully at the paper. There were no smudges from rubbed out words. These were the words he had written during their argument this morning. Her eyes filled with tears, and she blinked rapidly to drive them away.
There was a list of today’s tasks written below those wonderful words, but that did not matter to Lydia. She closed the book and held it close to her heart as she snuggled down into her blankets.
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