The tall, robust gentleman held the hand of the child who had celebrated her fourth birthday a few days ago. She bounced on her toes, anxious to find her favorite person in the whole world and show her the new dolly Papa had given her prior to their coming to uncle’s house.
“Since Isabella’s passing, I cannot bear the empty rooms any longer. I see her in every corner. I hear her laughter and turn to find myself alone with nothing but memories.”
“But, what of your daughter? Should you not stay and guide her in life? She will have no memory of either parent if you resume your command in the Navy. We might not see you for years!”
“I promise to write letters, and mail them from every port of call.” He looked down at his precious girl, who looked so much like her mother his heart ached. “My solicitors have all the proper documentation if… well, if the inconceivable happens. She has been well provided for. Her grandfather has promised to stay in touch. If you need anything, do not hesitate to write to him.”
It was the closest he would come to admitting his life was taking a dangerous turn, where death was expected sooner rather than later, but he could not remain in the home he and his wife had purchased to raise their family.
“You know as well as I that correspondence from Spain is painfully slow, even worse, given the current political state. Regardless, I will send regular updates on her upbringing. Of that, you have my word.”
The gentleman released his daughter’s hand in order to pick her up and hug her tight.
“Be a good girl for Uncle Thomas, Elizabeth. Papa has to go and sail a boat for the King.”
“Cannot the King sail his own boat?” the precocious four-year-old asked.
“The King trusts me to take care of his biggest boat. It is called a ship, and your Papa is the captain. Can you give me the best kiss you have ever given before I go?”
“Yes!” The child threw her arms around her Papa’s neck and favored him with a loud kiss on his bewhiskered cheek. Then, sensing things as only children can, she lowered her head onto his shoulder, the dolly hanging from her hand behind his back. “I will miss you ever so much, Papa. Almost as much as I miss Mamma.”
“I will miss you as well, my darling girl.” Tears welled up in his eyes and he lowered her to the ground, giving her shoulder a soft squeeze. “Go see Jane. I am sure she will want to see your new doll and help you unpack that enormous trunk.”
“I will show her Lizzy Izzy.” The little girl turned to skip toward the house. With one foot on the stone portico, she turned and said, “I love you, Papa.”
“And I love you, my Elizabeth Rose.”
That was the last Elizabeth Bennet saw of her father.
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