Hidden in Plain SightBy: Harriet Knowles
(Pride and Prejudice Variation)
I am writing this letter in a great deal of haste; I have a duty to do so because we share Georgiana’s guardianship. But I am also writing this to you as my friend.
I have to take Georgiana away at once. We will have to quit Darcy House and Pemberley for the time being and take a small country house under assumed names.
I cannot take any possible risk with Georgiana’s well-being and future, and I am sure you know of my great devotion to her as my sister, and also our shared responsibility to her in memory of my own beloved father and mother.
I must explain to you in full the reason why I have made this decision and I will have this letter delivered securely to Matlock House for your attention.
As you know, Georgiana has been in Ramsgate this summer, in the care of Mrs. Younge. I understand now that there was some connivance between that lady and Mr. Wickham.
He also went to Ramsgate. It was Georgiana’s natural affection for her childhood friend, together with the strong recommendation of him by Mrs. Younge, which led her to consent to an elopement.
Georgiana was uneasy enough about the circumstances to write to me and I hastened down there at once, as you can imagine.
Unfortunately, there was some difficulty which I had not anticipated, and although I was able to recover Georgiana safely, I was set upon by a group of men. Were it not for the intervention of the Earl of Sandwich, who had brought his wife and daughters for the sea bathing; and some of his servants, I might have received worse injuries than I did.
It transpires that Mr. Wickham — of course — has very considerable gambling debts, and these thugs are the face of those to whom he owes money. They are determined that he will obtain Georgiana’s fortune and thus be able to pay his debts.
We are presently at Darcy House, while the physician is dealing with my injury, but Georgiana is much affected by the threat to Mr. Wickham now that I will not permit her elopement. She still fancies herself deeply in love.
As we both know, she has no knowledge of what the man is really like, and all my attempts to inform her are falling on deaf ears.
I am sufficiently aware of those behind the attack to be concerned that there might be significant attempts to continue to inveigle Georgiana to Scotland from Pemberley. It is too close to that border for my peace of mind, should my protection fail.
Unfortunately, I no longer believe London is a safe place, either, there are far too many places and crowds to hide within.
I have, this morning, received an anonymous note, written in a rough hand, not Wickham’s. It states:
“We know where she is. Miss Darcy and her fortune will be ours.”
It cannot be long before it occurs to the organisation behind Wickham’s creditors that he is not required. She might be forced to marry any one of them and once they have access to her fortune, her life may well be in danger, and will certainly not be worth living.
I am indebted to the Earl — as you know, his estate at Sandwich is less than ten miles from Ramsgate — for the information which has led me to this knowledge.
But by going into hiding, which is what we shall effectively be doing, I am very much aware of the need for great secrecy in order to prevent us being discovered while we are less protected than we could be at Pemberley.
I have one man whom I will take with us, and whom I trust absolutely. He is currently in a part of the country chosen by me mainly as being utterly unfamiliar to Georgiana and myself, where nobody would think of us going, and is attempting to find a small but hopefully comfortable estate which he will then rent using the assumed name we will be living under.
I can only ask that you do not make any attempt to find us, which might draw unwanted attention our way.
I will, of course, continue to keep you informed as to our well-being as soon as I judge it safe to do so. I would urge you to contact the Earl of Sandwich, with whom I believe you are already acquainted, and he will be able to inform you as to the nature of the threat to Georgiana, and the professionalism and utter ruthlessness of the forces against us.
But now I must finish, the physician is waiting to do his work.
I remain, sir, your friend,
He threw down his pen and grimaced. Even now, he hadn’t said what he really wanted to. But he had managed not to give anything away, should the letter fall into the wrong hands.