Spare the Rod
William whistled spiritedly as he strolled toward his chambers to change his clothes. It was a mild summer day at Pemberley and his new gelding was waiting him in the stables. Having dutifully dispatched the lessons in Greek and Latin his father dictated during holiday, the whole of the morning was now his to show Ivanhoe the grounds of his new home. He would make it a leisurely introduction around the park, knowing he had many hours until he must return to dress and join his father for dinner.
The variable tones of an immature soprano's refrain reached his ears before the appearance of the child herself. Without hesitation or conscious thought, William looked around for a place to hide. The nursery door. Quite suitable! William quickly flattened against the door, concealing himself within the arch of the room's entry.
Georgiana sang freely as she skipped happily to her door.
"Huzzah!" William cried, pouncing from his seclusion.
The echo of a shrill scream followed the four year-old as she ran terrified down the hall. William held his sides as he fell against the wall, shaking with laughter.
William whistled the same refrain he had been repeating all morning while removing his coat and kicking off his shoes. What is that tune? he pondered--its repetitiveness becoming almost annoying in its persistence. Ah yes. It is that bawdy Irish song. The one the new man in the stables is always singing. Something about the bonnie lassÖ, William recalled the words with a sly smile.
A purposeful knock came at his outer door as William pulled out his heavier riding breeches. "Yes? Enter!" William called loudly from his bed chamber. Poking his head around his open door, William was surprised to find a very small woman wearing a disapproving expression. Georgiana's governess was certainly not one of the people he had expected. "Mrs. O'Phelan," William acknowledged her politely, his brows raised slightly in question.
"Master Fitzwilliam, your father requires your presence in the library," she informed him sternly.
Coming completely into the room with her, William asked carefully, "Mrs. O'Phelan, were those my father's exact words?"
"Yes. And one more--'Immediately!'" the woman added dourly before turning sharply on her heels.
The bothersome tune had been driven from his head by the new words occupying his mind. Requires your presence immediately!
Were they Your father hopes you will join him... would mean his father missed his company and only wanted to see him some time that day. Were they Your father wishes to see you... would mean his father needed to speak with him about a particular subject constrained in some way by the timing of their talk. However, this message, Requires your presence immediately! meant You are in trouble and you will come to me now, no matter how you are presently engaged.
William rolled his eyes disparagingly, Georgiana. She probably ran to father. He deduced, This would explain Mrs. O'Phelan as the messenger.
William returned from his room pulling on his jacket so he would be properly attired as he responded to this summons. Stopping to fix the shoe he had put on too hurriedly, William assumed confidently, I'll just apologize to Georgiana and still have plenty of time to change and ride.
The door to the library stood ajar, allowing William to just make out the voice of his little sister still whimpering and her father's soothing replies though the distance made his words indiscernible. Holding the knob so the door would not open with him unannounced, William rapped the door twice in quick succession.
"Come," an authoritative voice commanded.
With her back to him, Georgiana did not see her brother enter while nestled in her father's embrace as she sat atop his legs behind his big mahogany desk. Mr. Darcy raised his hand to his son, silently indicating for him to hold his place. William watched with interest as his father whispered some final words of encouragement to his daughter. His assuring smile was rewarded with one from Georgiana, hers filled with trust and adoration. William expected to be summoned to the desk at any moment to deliver his apology.
To his surprise, however, the moment never came. Mr. Darcy calmly lifted Georgiana from his lap, placing a light kiss upon her forehead as her feet met the floor.
"Close the door behind you on your way out, will you Little One? There's a good girl." Mr. Darcy patted her back as she turned to go.
His sister's eyes widened as she came upon him just inside the room. William felt a twinge of guilt as she shrank from him, her tender feelings still hurting from his ill-treatment. William was confused why he should come, but without giving apology before she left.
His father did not look his direction until the latch was heard "clicking" shut, leaving the two to speak in private. Seeing the turn of his father's countenance, William wondered if perhaps it was not too late to leave with his sister. His father's kind, gentle, loving face had become as hard as granite--his eyes black with anger.
"Come here, Fitzwilliam."
William approached, his heart beating a little faster. His father only called him by his full name when he was most seriously displeased. William stood before the desk as a felon culpable for his crimes might stand before the bar, waiting for the Magistrate's pronouncement. William was eager to speak--to mollify his father's anger--but remained silent knowing it would not do to speak until he had been spoken to. His shoulders began to relax, drooping slightly as his confidence slowly wilted under the intense scrutiny of his father's unyielding gaze--his eyes only able to focus on the desk's blotter.
"Fitzwilliam..." William's eyes snapped onto a distant point as his shoulders squared, his father's commanding voice bringing him to attention. Mr. Darcy paused, his anger threatening control of his words.
"Fitzwilliam," his father began again, more evenly, delivering a terse sentence. "Your callousness toward Georgiana is inexcusable. Since you are unable to conduct yourself properly in the halls of Pemberley, I think it best you not be seen outside your chambers 'til Saturday-week."
Confined to my rooms for seven days?! William complained to himself. His incredulity loosed his tongue before he had control of his reaction. Looking as desperate as he felt, "But Father, I had planned...Ivanhoe...I just got him...You cannot..."
Mr. Darcy's statement remained unchanged as his son sputtered.
William stopped, looking away to compose himself, before continuing. "Father, I simply teased Georgiana a little. I cannot see that I deserve this," William defended. "I will apologize, sir." William offered. "But please, not this!"
Mr. Darcy's displeasure with his son's lack of discernment etched a furrow in his brow. William watched anxiously as his father paced to the window, his fingers knotted together behind his back as he collected himself. William closed his eyes momentarily, his father's demeanor portending more censure.
Turning back to his son, Mr. Darcy held his son's eyes with his own as he walked toward him. "Fitzwilliam, let us come to a right understanding on this. Your sister is a timid little girl who does not have the comforting embrace of a mother to rely upon. Mrs. O'Phelan, God bless her, had helped Georgiana to finally venture through the house without fear, so that she might at least find the library or the morning room without the need of accompaniment. And now, she has been traumatized within the very halls in which she once felt safe--her confidence, her sense of security having been stripped from her by a terrifying monster lurking in her door. A monster, whose identity is revealed to be that of her own brother..."
The smirk underlying his son's expression did not escape his notice as he continued.
"...One of two people she ought to be able to trust above all others in this world. You have trampled that trust with your 'little teasing.'" Mr. Darcy almost spat the last two words. Pausing to subdue the anger that was growing, he began again. "We are Georgiana's only family, you and I. If we do not act in her best interest, protect her, then upon whom may she depend? This is the reason I find your actions intolerable."
William's age did not serve him well, young men of sixteen years often believing themselves better able to judge than their parents, especially when matters of self-interest are involved.
"Father, I cannot comprehend that I have accomplished all this by merely surprising her. I do not deserve seven days restriction," William objected, teetering on the thin edge of being disrespectful.
Mr. Darcy sighed. A rational explanation had failed to sway his son's heart from its original attitude. William was still more selfishly concerned with his own affairs than with admitting his wrongdoing or compensating his sister for the distress he caused her. Mr. Darcy appraised the person before him. At fifteen--sixteen he corrected himself with the recent passing of William's birthday--his son was a man, although still young. His height almost equaled his own, with his heretofore angular features now well proportioned. His regular physical pursuits had made him quite strong. His voice resonated deeply having already passed through its awkward stage. And Mr. Darcy knew his son was already considered handsome by the ladies.
But what good to the world is a handsome form if the man within is selfish, caring not for the consequence of his actions toward others? He must understand his responsibility to those who rely on his care and protection. If he will not do this for one of his own family, then how for a servant or tenant?
Mr. Darcy walked pensively around to his side of the desk, as he informed William, "You disappoint me, Fitzwilliam. You seek to understand neither the reason nor the lesson. Grown or not, perhaps I have been too lenient with you." Mr. Darcy considered what had laid idle for some years in the top drawer of his desk. "I will not have you be a spoiled young man.
"My son," Mr. Darcy spoke gravely as he opened his desk drawer, "you would do well to heed the correction of words when offered, before you come to blows. As my words have made no affect, perhaps this will."
William's mouth grew dry, his eyes widening in disbelief as his father retrieved a narrow, black cane from the desk.
Mr. Darcy walked solemnly around to his son. "In my judgment, you deserve one for every year of age giving you the benefit of better understanding--I would say a minimum of ten..."
Good God! Ten?! William found it difficult to swallow around the lump in his throat.
His father continued, "However, this number is overly severe. Severity is not my intent--for you to learn is. No, you shall receive half so many. But, be forewarned, Fitzwilliam. Because their number is less than deserved, they shall not go easily."
As with the beating of his heart, William found his concern for his sister's well-being increasing by the moment. "Father, I am..."
Mr. Darcy motioned his son to take up position over the desk. The opportunity for words had passed.
William removed his coat while attempting to keep the dread out of his expression. The palms of his hands met quickly with his thighs as he blotted their perspiration before reaching across the top of the desk. His height allowed him to grasp the opposite edge easily as the crease of his hips met with the desk. The more the desk supported him, the easier it would be for him. Hugging his chest close into the dark wood, William prepared for the first.
Mr. Darcy hesitated, summoning the strength of resolve required to punish his son in a way he was loathe to do. But it must be done.
William grunted involuntarily with the landing of the first strike, as searing heat striped across his skin, the sting of the unyielding rod feeling as though there was not the cloth of his breeches between them as his father performed the task with the vigor he had warnedÖ
Georgiana jumped, squeezing her governess' hand tightly at the startling sound coming from behind the library door.
Mrs. O'Phelan had decided a bit of fresh air would put her charge's spirits finally to rights and was leading her outside.
Wondering if her brother was still with their father, Georgiana looked up to her trusted care-taker, "Mrs. O'Pheyan, (her "l's" spoken as a "y" as four year-olds are wont to do), what is happening?"
"Your brother is being punished from the sounds of it," her governess explained, a sympathetic tone softening the edge of her matter-of-fact reply. Mrs. O'Phelan's features flinched with the sound of the landing of another strike. Her disapprobation of William's behavior had not altered, but she had not expected him to receive a punishment of this nature. However, she knew Mr. Darcy to be a wise man and right in his ways with his children.
Georgiana looked at the library door, contemplating what this "punishment" might be. Having never been disciplined in any corporal way, Georgiana considered the information she received from the sound she was hearing, the word "punishment," and a scene she had recently witnessed in order to piece together an understanding of what was taking place behind the closed doors.
Looking back into the face of her teacher, Georgiana asked seriously, "Do you mean what the lady was doing to her son?"
A little dark-haired boy of not many more years than she had been running about, darting between the walls of wash hanging to dry in the English sun. As he raced under the tunnel of a square, his hands streaked along, leaving long trails of dirt on the white cloth. Seeing the labor of her hands ruined, the scrub woman marched over, snatching the boy by the ear before he could dirty anything else. Bending his body over her knees, the woman had struck the boy repeatedly with a short length from one of the narrow poles used in hanging the wash.
"Mrs. O'Pheyan, Mrs. O'Pheyan, why is she hitting that boy?" Georgiana had asked alarmed.
Knowing the woman to be the boy's mother, Mrs. O'Phelan explained, "She is punishing her son for dirtying the wash."
The color drained from the little girl's face as she heard the boy's pitiable cries.
"Do not fear Miss Georgiana. You are a good girl. You will never give your father cause to thrash you so." Mrs. O'Phelan firmly led her away from the unpleasantness, as Georgiana grieved for the little boy, peering at him over her shoulder as they walked away.
Mrs. O'Phelan did not believe in hiding the truth, "Yes, very much like it."
Georgiana jumped at the sound of another blow meeting its object. Quivering, the little girl buried her face in the folds of the elder woman's skirt, horrified by what was happening to her brother.
Trying not to jump herself at the sound of another, Mrs. O'Phelan stroked Georgiana's hair soothingly, "Do not worry yourself, child. Your father is a just man. He will not give your brother more than he can bear. Come, Miss Georgiana. This matter is between your father and brother." The governess began ushering her away to happier pursuits outside. As with the little boy, Georgiana looked back, wishing she could somehow help.
William's forehead beaded with perspiration, his knuckles growing white as he gripped the desk, trying to manage the pain of another stinging blow. Four. God help me, only one more. William's breathing was rapid and shallow as he anticipated the fifth and final blow. Why was his father hesitating?
Mr. Darcy had delivered each steadily with equal force, while giving his son at least a breath in between, allowing him to recover, if only a little. Waiting longer before the final strike, Mr. Darcy prayed, May God help you amend your selfishness, that no more be required. Raising the rod high above his shoulder, Mr. Darcy delivered the last with ample force to guarantee the lesson would not be forgot for some time.
William groaned through clenched jaws, unable to silently withstand the pain of the final stripe. He felt the firm press of his father's hand on his shoulder as he pronounced, "It is done." William collapsed against the strength of the mahogany frame.
His father's voice was sympathetic as he directed, "You may repair to your room to recover."
Out of sensitivity to his son, Mr. Darcy left the room, allowing William to exit in private.
At the sound of the closing door, William slowly raised, wiping the wet of his eyes and brow with the cloth of his sleeve. Bracing his arms on the surface of the desk, William breathed deeply to master his emotions and the throbbing of his flesh.
Draping his coat over his arm, William walked stiffly to the door, mustering all his dignity, convinced all the servants of Pemberley already knew of his humiliation.
William's shoulders slumped as he entered his bed chamber. Bruised pride railed, hating his father for what he had done to him. Hot tears of anger streamed down his face as he saw his riding clothes on his bed with his polished boots standing at the ready--for what he had taken away from him. William broke down on his bed, burying his face in its pillows, no longer able to check the pain of his body or the vehemence of his emotions.
Mr. Darcy laid the rod on his desk before slumping into his chair, haggard and spent from the execution of his paternal duty. A firm disciplinarian, as his father before him, he had always demanded obedience from his son, but he had never taken pleasure in punishing him.
Rubbing his forehead wearily, George Darcy longed for the restorative touch of his Anne. He could almost feel her come up behind his chair, reaching her hands down across his chest, drawing the softness of her cheek close to his.
He could hear her assuring words, "Your goodness as a father is undeniable. Though unable to acknowledge the wisdom of your reproof now, a day will come when a man will owe you his gratitude for the strength of his character."
But no such presence came or spoke her words. The emptiness left by Lady Anne's death was deeply felt by her forsaken loved ones, each requiring her healing ways and receiving none--her widower as he sat feeling very alone; her son as he cried himself to sleep; her daughter as she carried the weight of undeserved guilt.
William awoke to the pain he had forgotten in his sleep, conscious of someone entering his chamber. "Not now, Phillips," William growled into his pillow, "I wish to be left alone."
"William..." came the unexpected voice of his father.
William raised on the support of his elbow as he twisted to peer over his shoulder at his surprise visitor. Collapsing pathetically back onto his stomach, William conceded sullenly, "Father, punish me no more. I will not do it again."
I dare not, Mr. Darcy thought, mildly amused by his son's dramatic performance. However, he suspected none would be required.
"I see the pain of your punishment has subjected your actions, but your heart strives against me yet. I dare say your visitor shall test the resolve of your unyielding temper, though." Mr. Darcy intoned knowingly, aware of the power this little person exerted over himself.
William turned his head atop his pillow, staring at his father disbelievingly. Sarcasm laced his concession, "Show in the King himself if you wish, I am apparently at your disposal."
Mr. Darcy's brow arched. As a patient man, he was willing to excuse some of his son's anger, but blatant insolence would not be tolerated. "Take care, William, I will brook only so much."
William turned his head, hiding his churlish scowl.
Forbearing his son's moodiness, Mr. Darcy continued what had been interrupted. "Georgiana made request of me to bring her to you. Unhappily, she was made aware of your punishment by the inopportuneness of her coming by the library," he paused, regretting the inevitable embarrassment this must cause. "She wishes to speak with you. In this, she has my full support," he added meaningfully. "We will wait outside."
Wishes to speak with me, indeed. So she may glory in my humiliation? I think not. He sneered, lying motionless on his bed, having no intention of going out to her.
The sound of his father's voice as he spoke with Georgiana in the other room, reminded him however, he would not only be affronting his sister, but his father as well if he did not go out. The consequence of which he knew he did not wish to suffer. Come man. You shrink back from the blathering of a four year-old girl? Hear her out and be done with the little troublemaker, William chided himself as he carefully got up to receive his visitor.
Feeling very unsure, Georgiana did not look up as her brother stepped into the room, preferring instead to consider the creamy amber of the flowers she had collected.
Her father urged her forward, pressing her toward William, encouraging her to act upon the wish she had made known to him, gently instructing, "Go ahead, Georgiana."
Georgiana's eyes met William's shyly for only a moment before she ran across the room, wrapping her arms around him in a tearful embrace. William winced as her tiny arms found the source of his pain. He could barely make out her words as she cried into him.
"Wiyyam, do not hate me. I did not know Father would fwash you! It is my fault. I am sorry. Do not hate me! Please do not hate me!"
William's arms hovered outside her body unsure where to light. Alarmed and bewildered from his miscalculation of her purpose, William looked beseechingly to his father. Mr. Darcy only inclined his head toward Georgiana in answer, his mouth tipped with a smile, leaving his son to the wisdom of his own counsel.
William looked down to the dark brown hair shaking in little sobs, as he haltingly placed his hands on his sister's back. No cane could ever have convicted him of his guilt as thoroughly or painfully as the tearful plea of his blameless sister.
William lowered to his knees, drawing Georgiana into his chest, resting his cheek atop her head. "Shh, Little One. Please, do not cry. The fault is not yours. I alone own it. The punishment I received is just."
Georgiana's sobs shuddered against him.
"Please, Georgiana. I cannot bear your tears. They pain me more than any thrashing." William gently pried her away from him, smoothing her tears with his thumbs. "Please, will you not smile for me?" William gave her his most charming and disarming smile.
Georgiana hiccupped. "You are not hurt?"
William looked into the compassion of her little hazel-brown eyes. How could he tell this innocent he was in agony? "I am well, Little One."
"You do not hate me?" Her tears ceased.
"How could I hate you Moppet? You are my sister." His smile, as he gently chided, finally evoked one of her own.
Mr. Darcy cleared his throat for the benefit of his son. Having observed the scene's unfolding, he was well satisfied with the reconciliation, but he had yet to hear William's words of apology. Glancing over Georgiana, William understood the meaning of his father's stern countenance.
William's smile faded into contrition. Laying Georgiana's delicate hand in the palm of his own, William lowered his eyes, stroking her hand with his. "Georgiana, I have used you very ill. It was very wrong of me. Will you forgive me?" William felt strangely humbled before this little creature who had no physical power to exert over him.
Georgiana asked shyly, "You will not jump at me again?"
"You have my word." William's eyes searched for his father's, his words intended as much for him as for Georgiana. Mr. Darcy returned his acceptance with a slight inclination of his head.
His sister's reply was more exuberant as she flung her arms around his neck, squeezing him tightly. "Oh, I almost forgot," Georgiana proclaimed. "These are for you, Wiyyam." Georgiana proudly presented her brother with her bouquet of Buttercups.
Taking the clump of wilting flowers tenderly in hand, William kissed her on the forehead. "Thank you, Moppet, you are very thoughtful."
Mr. Darcy's expression was soft as he nodded his head, condoning his son's actions.
"Georgiana, would you dine with your brother and me tonight?" Mr. Darcy extended the unusual invitation, relieving his son's suffering from under the tender mercies of his sister.
"Oh, yes!" Georgiana jumped up and down accepting excitedly. Being only of four years, she had never dined outside the nursery.
Mr. Darcy reminded her kindly, "You must be a lady."
Georgiana performed her best curtsey, accepting with more composure, though still with a wide smile spilling over into her sweet voice, "Yes, sir."
"There's a good girl." Mr. Darcy spread his arms approvingly, inviting her to his embrace.
"Thank you, sir," William voiced humbly, as he stood with eyes lowered, uncomfortable in meeting his father's gaze. He felt ashamed of the feelings he had harbored against him, the man who was now charitably rescinding his sentence to his room by naming him as one of the party. William felt he ought to express more than these simple words, but knew not how. Had he been able to look, he would have seen his father already understood.
Georgiana piped up excitedly, easing the awkwardness of the moment, "What are we to have, Father?"
"Let us go discover what Mrs. Reynolds has planned for us," Mr. Darcy invited, affirming his daughter's eager anticipation.
Holding Georgiana's hand, Mr. Darcy graciously maintained a slow pace to dinner in deference to his daughter's small stride and his son's painful progress.
William colored slightly at the sight of the extra cushion waiting on his usual chair. "Mrs. Reynolds?" William asked his father quietly.
"Yes, I am afraid so," Mr. Darcy complained sternly, "The woman is determined to undermine the effectiveness of my discipline. Her menu tonight includes roast pheasant, spiced apples, salmon mousse and all your other favorites."
William suspected his father insincere, knowing he would have forbidden the treats had his disapprobation been genuine. William's cheek dimpled in a wry smile, embarrassed by their housekeeper's sympathetic provisions.
William remained behind his chair to his father's right, waiting for the "lady" to be seated as Georgiana was escorted by her father to her place at his left. He could not help but grin, seeing his sister's predicament. Peering up at him were two hazel eyes, just able to see over the edge of the large table. This will not do. She cannot eat with the table in her mouth.
"Father, if you will allow?" William asked permission to intervene.
Helping Georgiana from the height of her chair, William led her around to his own. "Perhaps, if you sit on this cushion with your knees under you..." Georgiana allowed her brother to lift her up to her perch, finding herself more happily situated. William gingerly lowered himself into the seat next to her.
Mr. Darcy's pride swelled with approval, while wishing his wife was there to see her son, as William performed the tasks of a proper English gentleman, serving the "lady" to his left small portions of all the table's offerings. With his encouragement, Georgiana even attempted the odd-looking salmon mousse, making her father and brother both smile when she crinkled up her nose at the taste. But she was very well pleased with the pheasant and spiced apples. William did all that was to be done in the absence of Georgiana's governess, deigning to attend to her needs with all courtesy, even cutting her food into small bites, upon noticing the ungainliness of her knife.
The two gentlemen of the party were well satisfied with their success in drawing their guest into their dinner conversation, choosing topics of possible interest to a girl of four years. At first, they received only shy answers to their questions. But Georgiana's willingness to speak eventually increased as they listened with evident interest. Mr. Darcy and William exchanged amused glances as she recounted with great detail the most recent exploits of Sir Lollip and Lady Fancylace, two of her favorite doll companions. Georgiana even found the courage to ask her elder brother about his new horse. The answers to which, Mr. Darcy observed, his son had difficulty supplying with equanimity. It was the only time William's attention drifted from their conversation as his fork idly rearranged the food on his plate. His father graciously redirected the topic to a less painful subject.
The plates were cleared along with the platters of the first course, making way for the second. Georgiana could not be persuaded, though, to try any samples, being unaccustomed to the abundance of more than one course. Her eyelids appeared to weigh heavily as she blinked slower and slower, while relaxing against the support of the chair. Her father lightly stroked the hand resting on her unused fork, realizing the hour of her adult dining encroached upon the hour of her retiring.
"Wells," Mr. Darcy addressed his man, "send for Mrs. O'Phelan. Miss Georgiana is ready to retire."
"Father," William interjected, "Pray forgive me. I must also beg to be excused. I find I am unable to...partake... of any longer courses." He looked at his father, Please understand my meaning. I do not wish to say more in present company. "I would willing escort Georgiana to the nursery."
"Yes, of course, son. You are excused." Mr. Darcy helped Georgiana from her chair, kissing her on the forehead as he wished her a good night.
William rose slowly, using the table to support his growing stiffness. Mr. Darcy accepted his son's careful bow, also wishing him a good night, recognizing he would not have his son's company the rest of the evening.
"Mr. Wells..." Mr. Darcy summoned his man again after William and Georgiana quit the room.
"Ah, there you are Miss Georgiana," Mrs. O'Phelan cooed softly, accepting the small bundle William passed to her.
Part way to the nursery, Georgiana had refused to walk, protesting utter fatigue. "Wiyyam, carry me," she had pleaded pitifully, her arms extended for him to lift her.
Ignoring the insistent complaining of his backside, William bent over, scooping up his little sister. Georgiana had soon after fallen asleep in the haven of his arms.
"Good night, Master Fitzwilliam," Mrs. O'Phelan wished him quietly, her smile telling him her good opinion had been restored. "I will attend her now."
"Good night, Moppet," William whispered as the two disappeared into the nursery.
William was surprised to find a tray of food waiting him in his outer chamber. Curious, William read the note tucked to the side of a bowl containing a food he did not recognize. The words in Mrs. Reynolds's hand read:
Master Fitzwilliam, I have taken the liberty of providing you a salve, along with the tray your father requested. Only time will completely heal what ails you. If only you will rub this on lightly, the sting and stiffness will be not so great.
William picked up the bowl of green cream. Giving it a sniff, he deemed its scent not so disagreeable. God bless you, Mrs. Reynolds. As he replaced the bowl amongst the food, And thank you for telling me this is from Father.
Mrs. Reynolds was reminding him of a truth he had already known, but had been too hurt and angry to acknowledge. His father was an exacting man, but he was not harsh. As he stood, savoring the sweetness of the plum pudding he rolled around in his mouth, the last measure of William's resentment yielded. And God bless you, too, Father.
Mr. Darcy rested in his favorite chair, considering the day's events while sipping his after-dinner brandy. Had anyone pressed him earlier in the day for his prognostication of his son's character later in life, he would have equivocated, having wrestled with the strength of William's will. However, now at day's end, his confidence was strong in his son's sure course.
Undoubtedly, though, William will err again...Is not that the nature of man? he reflected philosophically. And when he does, I shall correct him, Mr. Darcy promised.
Oddly, he found himself thinking of his own father, feeling a sense of gratitude for his years of consistent discipline. Although he remembered a few times in his boyhood when he would never have believed such gratitude possible. He smiled wryly at the ironic application of his wife's historic words. Had it not been for his father's wisdom, he would have found his own character lacking, ill-prepared for the challenges he had faced as a parent during the day.
However, Mr. Darcy did not esteem his efforts as a father more highly than he ought. He recognized, while the punishment he meted out might have been the means to the end (an unfortunate choice of words, he reflected), it had been the affectionate heart of his daughter that had ultimately called forth the qualities he had sought in his son. In the tenderness and humility of William's good-natured consoling and his selfless provision for Georgiana's needs during and after dinner, Mr. Darcy believed he had been given a glimpse into their future. Whether his days allowed him a place in that future, he knew his children would be well.
Mr. Darcy spied the object he had left at the ready when he was not convinced its corrective powers would not yet be required later in the day. Reflecting on his son's angry mood, And so it might have been. My son, you know not the gratitude you owe Georgiana for her aid. He suspected he would not have been so tolerant of his son's surly tongue had he not known what she was about to work on him. That is all done with now. Mr. Darcy resolved, On this unpleasantness, I shall not further dwell. Mr. Darcy set his drink aside, crossing purposefully to his desk.
The rod was placed in the drawer, never again to be wielded by the hand of George Darcy.
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