Wednesday 13th August
My inclination was to walk out and leave Lydia to the life she had made for herself. But the thought of Elizabeth's pale face sustained me.
'Meet me at my club tomorrow,' I said to Wickham.
'My dear Darcy, you know I am not welcome there.'
'I will make sure you are admitted.'
He looked surprised, but said, 'Very well.'
As I left the house, the memory of his insolent smile went with me.
Thursday 14th August
I met Wickham at my club and the negotiations began.
'You must marry her,' I said to him shortly.
'If I do that, I give up forever the chance of making my fortune through marriage.'
'You have ruined her,' I said. 'Does that mean nothing to you?'
He crossed one ankle over the other and lay back in the chair.
'She ruined herself,' he said.
A waiter passed, and he ordered a whiskey. I did not react, knowing he did it only to annoy me.
'How much do you owe?' I asked, going straight to the heart of the matter.
'Several hundred pounds.'
'Whether that is true or not I do not know, but I shall. If you give your bills to my agent, he will pay them for you. In return, you will marry Lydia.'
'Come now, as you are so anxious to see her wed, she is worth a lot more than that. Is it Miss Bennet who has caught your fancy, or is it the lovely Elizabeth?'
'I am doing this for my own conscience,' I said.
He laughed in my face.
'No man goes to such lengths to ease his own conscience. Let me guess. It is the beautiful Jane Bennet. Sweet natured, beautiful Jane. She would make a splendid addition to Pemberley. I congratulate you, Darcy.'
'I have no intention of marrying Miss Bennet.'
'Then it is Elizabeth.'
I said nothing, but he must have guessed it from my face.
'Ah! So it is! Her liveliness appeals to you. I would not have thought it. You are so pompous, Darcy, but they say that opposites attract.'
He had the upper hand, and he was enjoying using it.
'Have a care,' I warned him. 'I will do much to save Lydia Bennet from disgrace, but if you go too far, instead of having your debts paid and something more besides, you will find yourself pursued by every creditor in Brighton, and maybe the army, for I will give them all your address.'
'I can go to Bath, or Lyme, or the Lake District,' he said. 'I do not have to live here.' But I could tell he had no stomach for further flight.
'Do so,' I said, calling his bluff. I stood up and turned towards the door.
'Wait,' he said.
'I will marry her -'
'Good,' I said, sitting down again.
' - for thirty thousand pounds.'
'What?' I cried.
'It is the sum I should have had from Georgiana.'
I mastered my temper with difficulty. 'I will give you nothing of the kind.'
'Very well, then, twenty thousand.'
I stood up and left the club.
He will come to me soon enough. He has nowhere else to go.
I do not relish seeing him, but the knowledge that it will ease Elizabeth's fears recompenses me for any time or trouble I might take, and I hope that, before very long, I will see her happy again.