Young Fitzwilliam Darcy
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a son. George Darcy of Pemberley, in Derbyshire, was no exception to this truth, although he cared not whether a son or daughter were to be born so long as the child were healthy and his wife survived the ordeal.
Mr. Darcy had been pacing his library throughout the long, fretful night. It was dawn before a knock at the door stopped his walking and Simmons, the butler, said: "Congratulations, Sir! Lady Anne has been delivered of a fine, healthy boy and both are well." Mr. Darcy gave a deep sigh of relief as his countenance changed from frowning anxiety to one of the utmost happiness. "Thank you Simmons. Please inform me when I may see Lady Anne and my son." "A healthy son" he thought when he was again alone, "and Anne is well! What a happy outcome on such a beautiful spring morning."
He sank into a comfortable chair to collect his thoughts. At twenty-eight he was a tall, good looking young man, with a pleasant disposition, made happier this past year by his marriage to Lady Anne Fitzwilliam. It had been two years since he had inherited the extensive Pemberley estate, a house in town, and an income of eight thousand pounds a year on the death of his father.
The Darcys were known throughout the country as an old family dating its ancestry back to the days of William the Conqueror when the first d'Arcy had come from Normandy to settle in England. Some had distinguished themselves in battles; others as ministers at court. But recently their fame lay, for the most part, in their vast estate and the wealth it produced. George Darcy's father had prudently sold all his property in the North American colonies and invested the monies in the West Indies before the start of the War of Independence, a wise move much envied by many of his friends. He had lived just long enough to hear of General Cornwallis' surrender and to realize that the colonies were irretrievably lost.
George Darcy recollected the past two years with some satisfaction. While his new duties as master of Pemberley had kept him in Derbyshire, he had not had far to search for a wife.
He had known the Fitzwilliam family since he was a boy; he had played with and attended the same school as John Fitzwilliam, the second son of the Earl of M.... whose manor was only ten miles from Pemberley. The eldest son, Charles, heir to the old Earl, was three years older; and there were two younger daughters, Catherine and Anne. Catherine was two years Mr. Darcy's junior and John had hoped she might win his friend's affection. At four and twenty, she had been a fine looking young lady; she was fashionable, proud, opinionated, domineering, and utterly devoid of sympathetic feeling for others. Had he sought her hand in marriage he had little doubt she would have refused him; he lacked a title to go with his large estates and a title, she doubtless believed , was her due as the eldest daughter of an Earl. Anne, then just twenty, had long been his favorite of the two. She was just as handsome, more accomplished, quieter, and considerably more amiable than her sister. While she retained some of the hauteur and sense of superiority which her family title afforded, she also had the sense to realize that she had no fortune attached to her name. When George Darcy applied for her hand in marriage she was happy to accept him; she had an additional reason for joy;- no longer would she have to live in the shadow of her overbearing sister.
They were married in May, coming home to Pemberley when all the flowers and trees were in full bloom and the park at its most beautiful. Now, as he gazed at the green lawns and new spring foliage on the trees, George Darcy thought that the twelfth of April, 1784, would indeed be a day to remember; a day that saw the birth of his son and the continued future of Pemberley.
After the doctor's departure, George Darcy ran up the stairs to see his wife and meet his newborn son. Lady Anne was tired, indeed, but happy to see him and introduce him to their baby. In her arms he saw a small bundle with some dark hair and a rather sleepy, solemn look as if he were trying to get accustomed to this strange, new world.
"Would you mind very much if we call him Fitzwilliam?" asked Lady Anne, "I would so much like to connect my family name with yours." The happy father agreed but wondered how the boy would like it and what he would be called by his family and friends. But that could not worry him today; nothing could worry him today he thought as he left his wife and son in the care of a nurse and returned to his study and the running of Pemberley.
Lady Anne's strength returned, Fitzwilliam flourished under the care of his nurse, and within three months Pemberley was alive with house parties; George Darcy enjoyed company and Lady Anne was a gracious hostess. The Fitzwilliam brothers were frequent welcome visitors. John Fitzwilliam, a Colonel in the militia, was often with them since his return from North America. Charles Fitzwilliam would bring his family--his wife and their two little boys, six year old Frederick and four year old Edward. But Lady Anne had no happy anticipation for the visitors expected in August.
Lady Catherine had married wealthy Sir Lewis de Bourgh, of Rosings in Kent, six months before and they were to come to Pemberley for the first day of the grouse shooting season. However much Lady Anne was eager to show off her son, she feared that her sister would tax her patience and sap her strength. At four months Fitzwilliam was an active baby, smiling at his mother and father and gurgling happily whenever he was with them. But no smile could be coaxed from him for Lady Catherine. The latter had all manner of advice for her sister; "the nurse is too lenient", she told Lady Anne, "she does not make him wait the allotted time before letting him feed again"; "he should not have so much freedom as to turn himself over"; "too much air is unhealthy for children, you should cover him with more blankets" were some of her admonishments. When Mr. Darcy intervened on his wife's behalf reminding Lady Catherine that, as yet, she had no child, the latter pointed out that while her sister was a tolerably good mother, she would be a truly proficient one; her child would be stronger, better looking, and more intelligent than any other.
Five year old Fitzwilliam ran up the steps and into the house hurrying to tell his father about the fish he had caught in the stream; he skipped through the hall and into the study without bothering to knock as he called "Father, you must see ..." before coming to a sudden halt. Mr. Darcy was not alone. "Fitzwilliam!" his father said severely, "did I not tell you to knock before entering my study?" "Sorry, father, but ..." the boy replied, with a mischievous grin; then he noticed his father's very serious and rather sad demeanor and the doctor who stood beside him looked equally serious. "Oops!" he muttered and left the study quietly to seek out his mother; perhaps she would listen to his story of how he had caught his first fish. As fast as he could, he ran upstairs and along the corridor where he bumped headlong into Mrs. Reynolds' skirt. "Take care, Master Darcy" she said quietly, "your mother is quite unwell today and must not be disturbed. That is why the doctor is now with your father" she explained. "Oh, I'm sorry" Fitzwilliam replied, "I will go upstairs then and tell Miss Field about my fish!"
Mrs. Reynolds, who had joined the Pemberley staff as housekeeper the year before, watched the young master heading upstairs to the nursery-schoolroom area of the house. She thought it was a shame that yet again there would be no brother or sister for him, no companion to play with. This was the third time that Lady Anne had lost a child. When the young master was a year and a half she had miscarried just three months before the baby's birth; then when he had been a little over three years old, Lady Anne had had a still-born son; and today she had miscarried yet again. "It is lucky that he is too young to realize his parents' loss" thought Mrs. Reynolds, returning to her duties of organizing the staff at this difficult time.
Fitzwilliam however had understood what Mrs. Reynolds said. It meant that his parents would be sad for a while and would cling to him rather more tightly than felt comfortable. He was a happy boy with a very good understanding and a quick mind. His nurse had been superseded by a governess, Miss Field, two years before; she had taught him to read and write, simple arithmetic and some basic history and geography. When he was forced to stay indoors, Fitzwilliam liked reading above everything; he enjoyed any good story, especially a true story from history.
When the weather was dry, Fitzwilliam liked to be outside fishing in the stream and lake, or better yet riding his pony. He had learnt to ride when he was four years old; the groom had walked beside the pony at a gentle pace at first but Fitzwilliam had soon wanted to go faster and faster. Thereafter, the groom would ride beside him; but the boy was always happiest when riding beside his father. They would visit some of the tenants and Fitz, as his father called him when alone together, would listen to the conversations--his father asking after the tenant's health and welfare, the condition of their house, and any needs that he could help meet. Riding back to the main house, Mr. Darcy would point out the various fields to his son, teaching him which crops were best suited to each area, which trees needed to be cut down or pruned, or which stream bank needed clearing; although he was very young for so much information, these talks instilled in Fitzwilliam a love of these lands quite equal to that of his father's.
When his father was in town or otherwise engaged, Fitzwilliam liked to be in the company of Edward Fitzwilliam. Although he was then nine years old, Edward was very kind to his younger cousin and the two would often ride or fish together. But Edward would go away to school in another year; his brother was even then at Eton and only returned home for the holidays.
The Darcys' annual Easter visit to Rosings had been postponed that year. They had instead decided to visit Sir Lewis and Lady Catherine in the autumn and to take young Fitzwilliam with them to meet his nine-month old cousin Anne. It was Fitzwilliam's first long journey from home and he was fascinated by all the new scenery on their way south. He had been used to the wild peaks of Derbyshire; the gentler rolling hills and lush green fields of the southern counties were something new. He chatted away to his parents about everything he saw, asked endless questions and listened to their answers with rapt attention. He could not remember that he had ever spent so much time with both his parents or had received so much of their undivided attention as he had that day.
Lady Anne had smiled at her son with pride and tried to hide her fear that he might be their only child; she was determined that no harm should ever come to him and had attempted to curb his outdoor pursuits. George Darcy had felt the same fear but had decided not to interfere with his son's manly endeavours; he had only advised his grooms and gardeners to keep a close watch on him to be sure of his safety.
The family interrupted their journey into Kent at their house in town and Fitzwilliam was awed by his first sight of London--the streets full of fashionable people and carriages, the houses so close to one another, the big palaces at St. James and Whitehall, the Abbey at Westminster and all the shops in Bond Street soon became a jumble of impressions.
Two days later their carriage arrived at Rosings where they were welcomed by Lady Catherine and Sir Lewis. After making his bow to them Fitzwilliam's first question was "why are your shrubs cut in such peculiar shapes?" Lady Catherine decided to overlook this lapse in manners and led the way into the morning room. "Careful what you say, Fitz!" whispered Mr. Darcy to his son, holding him back in the hall before Miss Field took the boy off to his room.
The Darcys were introduced to Anne de Bourgh later that day. The parents paid the customary compliments, however little truth lay therein; but Fitzwilliam with his usual frankness exclaimed "Anne is very small, and pale and sick-looking; she does not even smile!" This was too much for Lady Catherine. She swept from the room and left the Darcys to deal with their son.
Lady Anne took Fitzwilliam off to her room and told him, very seriously "William, if you can not say something complimentary or kind about someone, it would be better not to say anything at all!" In private he had long been William to his mother.
"But, Mother, you have always told me to tell the absolute truth!"
"True, dear, but in such cases as these, where the truth is hurtful and impolite, it would be better not to say anything. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Mother, I will try. But it is going to be very difficult here" he replied.
"Listen to your mother, Fitz" said Mr. Darcy entering the room. "I am sure you will not disappoint us."
A few days later Fitzwilliam, returning from his morning walk, overheard a conversation between the two mothers; they were standing one on each side of Anne's cradle.
"Anne would make a perfect wife for Fitzwilliam" Lady Catherine announced.
"Perhaps -- but they are as yet very young. Perhaps, in time, if they have any feelings for each other. . ." Lady Anne said doubtfully.
"Nonsense! What have feelings to do with it. They are made for each other; indeed their families and fortunes demand such a union. If we arrange it now, it shall be so!" Lady Catherine would brook no opposition.
"I would not wish Fitzwilliam to marry without love," Lady Anne responded; she had never been able to argue her sister out of a scheme once she had put her mind to it. "But if, when they are both old enough, he does care for her, then I would have no objection and I am sure George would have none."
"Good. That is settled then. Of course Fitzwilliam will love Anne if we tell him he does!" was Lady Catherine's last word on the subject only adding "you have always been far too lenient with him Anne. His rudeness today quite shocked me!"
"I have already talked to him about that, Catherine."
"Good. You can not be too firm with him. He must learn to respect his nearest relations; he is altogether too free with his questions and comments. You must curb his spirit, Anne!"
Fitzwilliam hurried down the corridor amazed at what he had overheard. "Marry that sickly little baby" he thought. "My aunt Catherine must be out of her wits. She will not make me do anything I do not want to do, especially when I am of age!" He straightened his shoulders in a very determined manner and marched off in search of Miss Field and some more childlike amusement.
The three weeks in Kent were not happy ones for Fitzwilliam. There was no pony for him to ride, no lake or stream to fish, just walks and those in an artificial garden where play was impossible. His parents had not wished him to walk beyond the bounds of the home park, fearful for his safety in a strange area. And when in the house, if he was ever near his hostess, he had remained firmly silent; he had been determined to please his mother and father but had not wanted to lie and had not found anything complimentary to say about the house or grounds. He rarely saw his host, and he also avoided his cousin as much as possible; she cried a great deal too much, was rarely allowed outside and only for a few minutes at a time, and not allowed to play when indoors. "She might as well be a doll to be put on a shelf," he thought and wondered whether she would ever be allowed any freedom once she could walk and talk.
Finally the happy day arrived when the Darcys said farewell to Lady Catherine, Sir Lewis, and Anne. Fitzwilliam gave a big sigh of relief as their carriage rolled out of the gates on the way back to London and then home to Pemberley.
Fitzwilliam, accompanied by Miss Field, had returned directly to Pemberley while his parents remained in town for a few weeks, arriving at Pemberley just in time to prepare for the Christmas festivities. George Darcy, although he did not like to be too long away from Pemberley, was forced by business affairs to spend some time in town two or three times each year. However, he had the comfort of knowing that his estate was being very capably managed by his steward, Mr. Wickham.
Shortly after he had inherited Pemberley, when his father's steward retired, George Darcy had retained Mr. Wickham in his place. The latter had been an attorney in Matlock but sought the change for the sake of his family. He had married his senior attorney's pretty daughter, then not yet twenty, but had very soon discovered that her good looks had hidden a silly mind and a frivolous manner whose tastes had always been more extravagant than his income allowed. Mr. Wickham had hoped that a remove from the market town onto a country estate would curb her spending habits. When they had arrived at the steward's cottage on the Pemberley grounds they brought along their two young daughters. One year later, in January 1784, they had added a son to their family and George Darcy had consented to be godfather to young George Wickham; he had attended his baptism, had always enquired after his well-being, but otherwise took little notice of his godson whilst George was an infant.
Christmas was a jolly season with family and friends entertained by dinner parties, a ball, carol singing, impromptu dancing, or games every day between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night. And the second day of Christmas had traditionally been given to Pemberley's servants and tenants; they were invited to the main house with their families for a special dinner in the servants' hall, usually followed by carol singing and a dance. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy had always visited this assembly to drink a toast to the season and to wish all their staff and tenants a merry Christmas. This year they brought Fitzwilliam with them to the servants' hall; the latter was amazed to see so many children among the group and begged his parents to allow him to stay and play with some of them. But Lady Anne did not like the idea of her son being exposed to disease, perhaps unknowingly carried by any of these children, and she quickly silenced her son's requests. Instead, he joined his parents while they circulated throughout the room, quietly talking to each family individually. Fitzwilliam knew some of the adults from his rides with his father, and, of course he knew Mr. Wickham and had sometimes seen his son, George. They were nearly the same age, but where George Wickham was outgoing and talkative, Fitzwilliam was quiet and unsure of himself.
Mr. Darcy also noticed the difference between his son and godson and decided, in his own mind, that Fitzwilliam needed more exposure to children his own age; he had been too much surrounded by adults and needed the leavening of youthful companions. He determined that a friendship between these two boys might be a very good thing for both of them, especially as Edward Fitzwilliam would soon join his brother at Eton.
Lady Anne was not so sure whether this idea was really wise. She had always been hesitant to let her son play with the village or tenant children; she feared they would instill bad habits and wrong ideas which might be difficult to overcome. In the end, though, she accepted the idea provided that the company was limited to George Wickham.
Thereafter Fitzwilliam and George played together once or twice a week when the weather was fine. They enjoyed each other's company; Fitzwilliam was happy to have someone to play with and George was glad to spend a few hours away from his older sisters who were not interested in outdoor activity. Within months the boys also met on inclement days; George would come to the main house after Fitzwilliam's lessons and the boys would occupy themselves with toy soldiers, card games, or draughts. Fitzwilliam was learning to play chess and backgammon with his father, but was not skilled enough to teach George who knew nothing of those games.
In the winter they played in the snow, sliding down hills, building snowmen, or having snowball fights. In the spring Mr. Wickham fashioned kites for the boys and they spent many happy hours trying to fly them; they had some success but more failures because of the many trees on the Pemberley grounds. George, who could barely sit a horse, had to be taught by his father before the boys were able to ride together in the fields and park, always accompanied by a groom. George did not care for this pastime as much as Fitzwilliam. "Riding is all right if you have to get somewhere," George confessed to Fitzwilliam, "but I do not find any pleasure in just galloping over the fields where no one can see how well we look."
Both boys enjoyed fishing in the summer; they would run to the stream to see who could get there first until, one day, Fitzwilliam ran too fast and tumbled into the stream before he could stop. He was sent back to the house to change where his father saw him on the staircase. "Whatever happened, Fitz?" he asked. When Fitz explained, George Darcy considered for a moment and declared "I think it is time you and George learnt how to swim. I would not wish you to be in deep water by accident and unable to save yourself."
Mr. Darcy conferred with Mr. Wickham and the latter asked an under-gardener, who had once been a sailor, to teach the boys to swim in the pond. Phil, the young gardener, took the boys to the pond on sunny, warm days; he stood in the shallow water, near the edge, and the boys took turns being held prone on top of the water whilst Phil taught them how to move their arms and legs. Fitzwilliam quickly adapted to this method of movement; Phil had then let go of his charge and Fitzwilliam found he was moving through the water by himself, calling to George "I am a fish! Catch me if you can." George had not cared for the water; he learnt to swim, but he disliked the weeds in the pond and never wished to swim just for fun. From that time, Fitzwilliam after riding in the fields on a warm day, would find Phil to watch him while he cooled off with a swim in the pond; George preferred to walk home from the stables.
Fitzwilliam reported all his adventures and achievements to his parents, relating his own and George's accomplishments. Lady Anne had listened patiently, smiling at his evident excitement. But she had also reminded him never to forget the disparity in the boys' circumstances, their different family and social status. George Darcy had been equally delighted at his son's new skills but had also thought to himself, "I wish Fitz could obtain some of George's easy manners and pleasing smiles; and George could well use some of Fitz's love of books and pursuit of knowledge." But these were idle thoughts and had not detracted from his love and pride in his son and godson.
In the early summer after Fitzwilliam's eighth birthday Lady Anne lost yet another child; her spirits were very low as she despaired of ever producing a brother or sister for their son, and it made her more determined than before to keep William near her at Pemberley. George Darcy was equally despondent and decided that Fitzwilliam would not join his cousins at Eton any time soon; instead they would retain a tutor who would live with them and prepare Fitzwilliam for either Eton or directly for Cambridge.
"Perhaps George could join Fitz for these lessons" Mr. Darcy suggested, "it would be to his advantage to learn more than he does at present with the village curate, and Fitz would likely enjoy his studies more if he were not always alone."
"You may be right," Lady Anne replied, "but I think you should ask Mr. Wickham to caution his son; George seems to think he is your son and has all the same rights as William, or perhaps even more since he is three months older. I believe he is apt to forget that he is the son of your very worthy steward; that he is only your godson and will have to make his own way in the world when he is a man."
"Your understanding of the situation is very sound, Anne, and I will talk to Mr. Wickham. But George's manners are very pleasing; he has great charm and I am sure that, after a good education, he will have no trouble making his way in the world. I rather hope he will make the church his profession and perhaps we can guide him along that path."
The new tutor, Edmund Stone, arrived at Pemberley in August 1792, whilst Lady Anne was still recuperating from her latest loss. He was not yet four and twenty with a degree and fellowship from Cambridge where he had been a tutor at King's College. He was a pleasant looking man with gentlemanlike manners and demeanor, an excellent understanding, and a mind that was equally adept at receiving and imparting information. Fitzwilliam was delighted to have Mr. Stone for a tutor; he had nearly exhausted Miss Field's knowledge of mathematics, geography and science. She stayed on in the schoolroom, however, as an assistant to Mr. Stone and her help proved invaluable because George had not attained Fitzwilliam's standard of education.
George did not have the same interest in mastering the elementary subjects and rarely paid attention to the entire lesson. Indeed, the previous year when Fitzwilliam had talked about the French revolution, George had known nothing of either France or what was happening there.
"I am not interested in other countries," he had explained, "I do not like history, geography or reading and my mother does not make me do anything I do not wish to do."
Fitzwilliam had been much amazed by this information but had taken it upon himself to teach George everything he knew of what was going on in the outside world. He had not realized that George rarely listened to more than a word or two of his explanations. Now Mr. Stone and Miss Field also discovered that George was inattentive, did as little work as possible, and preferred to use his smile and graceful manners to charm Miss Field into giving him easy work and only during the morning school hours; he never took work home and spent his evenings in idle gossip with his mother and sisters.
That autumn marked another new experience for Fitzwilliam; he was allowed to go out with a shooting party, not to shoot but just to watch. He usually stayed with the guns, but occasionally he was allowed to go with the beaters or with the dogs who retrieved the birds.
"You will have to wait another year or two, Fitz, before you learn how to handle a gun," his father had told him, "but I think you may enjoy watching the line of guns and how the beaters get the birds into flight."
"Will you teach me to shoot next year, Father?" Fitz had asked.
"Perhaps, Fitz. You know your mother does not care for guns. She knows that the grouse and pheasants must be brought down to supply the kitchen, but I believe she would prefer that you do not participate in the sport until you are much older."
"Maybe you can teach me without telling Mother," Fitz had suggested with a mischievous grin.
"Fitz! That would be dishonest. Have I not always reminded you to tell the absolute truth, that disguise of any sort is abhorrent?"
"Yes, Father, I remember. I'm sorry, but it is difficult to wait just because Mother does not like guns."
"I know it is, Fitz, but in two years you will probably be big enough to use a full-sized gun which you could not do this year. Just be patient, son."
Fitz always enjoyed these moments alone with his father, as he also enjoyed the evenings when there was no company and he joined his father for a game of backgammon, chess, or talking about the stories from Greek and Roman mythology and the histories of these civilizations. On such evenings Lady Anne would sit quietly with her needlework, happily listening to the two people who were dearest to her.
Fitzwilliam had been delighted when Mr. Stone introduced him to the classics. He had made a good start in learning Greek and Latin and was always eager to demonstrate his new knowledge to his father.
During the Christmas holidays the entire Fitzwilliam family stayed at Pemberley for a week. Fitz was glad to be with Edward again and listened eagerly to his comments about Eton; he learnt about Edward's friends and how he lived, the food, the classes and teachers, and the games they played. Fitz was eager for the day when he could join his cousin at Eton.
Fitz was also happy to see his godfather, Colonel John Fitzwilliam again; the latter had been with his regiment in Canada for nearly two years and was amazed at Fitz' growth and maturity during that time. When John complimented George Darcy on his son's development, Mr. Darcy smiled and commented "Oh, yes, he is outgoing and talktative in this family circle; but I am afraid he is quite shy and uncomfortable with all others."
Charles Fitzwilliam and his family left Pemberley at the start of the new year, but John remained behind; after two years away from England, he was allowed several months rest from his regiment and he enjoyed the quiet winter months with his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. Fitzwilliam was glad to have John's company, especially when he related tales of his experiences in Canada.
In the middle of January, Fitzwilliam was invited to a party at the Wickham's house for George's ninth birthday. As he entered the house with Mr. Stone the noise emanating from the main room quite overwhelmed him; boys laughing and shouting, girls giggling, a baby crying, and adults talking in groups when not calling to one or another of the children. He shrank back a little, not really wishing to enter this fray but Mr. Stone urged him on. He found George in the midst of a large chattering group; Fitzwilliam offered his congratulations, was introduced to the others and was soon drawn into various games, such as Hunt the Slipper and Oranges and Limes, being organized by George's oldest sister. He enjoyed the games and was sorry they ended when it was time for supper. As the guests collected for the refreshments, Fitzwilliam noticed a small group of girls huddled together giggling as they looked at him and, on the other side of the room, some boys also looking at him and whispering; it made him feel extremely uncomfortable, as if he were an object of ridicule or a misfit in this company.
The dining room was set up with several tables and the guests were soon seated; the adults together at one table, the boys at another, and the girls at yet a third table. Fitzwilliam was glad of this natural division; he would not have known what to say to any of these rather silly girls who had little or no education and talked only of dresses and each others' looks. But his relief was quickly overcome by disgust when he noticed the behaviour of some of the boys at his table. They lacked any table manners and were soon throwing food across the table at each other. He watched them with horror, said nothing, ate very little, and sincerely wished he were at home with his parents.
Further trials awaited Fitzwilliam after the supper was done. There was to be dancing and he would have to stand up with one or two of these girls. He eventually stood up with George's sister, three years his senior. They talked not at all; she was in too much awe of dancing with Mr. Darcy's son to venture any of her usual flirtatious conversation while he was completely unable to find anything to say that could have interested a girl. After two dances he was happy to escort his partner back to her seat, find Mr. Stone, say goodnight and thank Mr. and Mrs. Wickham and George, and head back home. It had been an evening he did not want to repeat any time soon.
At home he related the evening's events to his parents. They agreed that it must have been difficult for him but were glad that he had engaged in the games and had danced a little; they tried to explain that most of the children had not had his advantages of education and polite society and that he should not judge them harshly. They reminded him that his future social position would put him in a very different circle; while he need never mingle with these local people on a daily basis, he should always be polite and generous, even if there was little of common interest between them.
John Fitzwilliam had divided his winter between his brother Charles, the Darcys, London and Bath. Toward the end of March when the Darcys were preparing for their annual visit with the De Bourghs at Rosings, George suggested that John might like to accompany them.
"You would provide company for me and Fitz, especially since Lewis is not at all well this year," George added.
"Yes, I suppose I should see Catherine, Lewis and Anne before I rejoin my regiment and since you will be there it will not be all bad. I can tell you, privately, I do not think I would go for more than a few days on my own."
The party, which this year included Mr. Stone instead of Miss Field, reached Rosings at the beginning of April. Fitzwilliam was glad of Mr. Stone's company; he would be able to continue his lessons instead of being forced into Anne's company all day and, at the end of their visit, they were to stay in town for a few weeks and he would be able to explore that great city with his tutor.
They were welcomed by Lady Catherine on their arrival at Rosings who immediately informed them that there was another visitor, one she had never met before and had never expected to see at Rosings. "A distant cousin of Sir Lewis surprised us yesterday when he arrived here in a very disheveled state," she told them as she led the way to the morning room where they were introduced to the twenty year old Vicomte Pierre de Bourgh. Pierre had just escaped from France where his father, the former Vicomte, had met his death by the guillotine. His mother had been too ill to endure the sea voyage to England and had remained in France with her sister.
After the introductions, during refreshments, Fitzwilliam noticed that Pierre stood apart, silent, thoughtful, sad and uncomfortable. He remembered George's party where he, too, had felt like an outsider and thought how terrible he would feel if he were to lose his father. Fitzwilliam was very sorry for Pierre and, trying to raise his spirits, started to tell him all about Rosings and what there was to do in the park and in the neighbourhood. The latter listened politely but answered in French; Fitzwilliam realized that Pierre did not speak English while he spoke no French and thought that perhaps they could teach each other. For the first time ever at Rosings he anticipated some interesting days ahead instead of Lady Catherine's usual tedious pronouncements.
Fitzwilliam was forced to take his dinner with Anne and her governess. He found Anne a little bigger than the previous year but no more talkative; she ate very little, said less, was uninterested in his attempts to tell her about their journey south, and looked as if she were about to cry at the smallest provocation. He would much rather have been with the adults but knew that was impossible in this house. Lady Catherine's sense of decorum ruled here and her word was not to be questioned in her home.
He was allowed to join the adults after dinner. Sir Lewis, looking weak and frail compared to the previous year, retired soon after Fitzwilliam joined the group. Seeking out Pierre, he suggested they play backgammon or chess by pointing at the games with a questioning look; they settled at the backgammon table and the two of them were able to converse with the help of pointing and giving the words in their respective language. By the end of the evening Fitzwilliam's knowledge of French included such words as salon for drawing room, salle a manger for dining room, chaise for chair, and bon soir for good evening. Fitzwilliam was proud of his new accomplishment and Pierre was equally delighted to have found such a young, sympathetic friend who was willing to provide him with some diversion.
The next day, after his lessons, Fitzwilliam saw his father and John walking in the park and ran to join them. They were talking about the situation in France and Fitzwilliam listened intently as they discussed the revolution, Robespierre, the Reign of Terror, and the recent declaration of war between England and France after the execution of King Louis XVI.
"Why did they execute the King, Father?" Fitz asked.
"That is a good question, Fitz, for which I have no real answer. It was probably a grab for power by some and a crowd reaction by the majority. But you must remember, they are not the first nation to behead a king; remember Charles I?"
"Oh yes, but that was so long ago." Fitz replied. "Is Robespierre another Cromwell do you think?"
"He would like to think he is, Fitz" John said, "but whether he will remain in power as long as Cromwell is very doubtful. These are difficult times, Fitz, and there is revolution everywhere. There was one in the American colonies and there is even one going on right now in England.
"There is not any revolution in England surely," Fitz claimed, amazed.
"Not in the sense of the American or French revolutions, I agree. The one here is a quiet, more insidious revolution--an industrial change that began about twenty years ago and is only now beginning to be felt. This revolution, I think, will continue far into the future, perhaps until your children and grandchildren are old men, Fitz."
Turning to George, John continued, "You must have seen the growth of industry throughout the land, George. I believe it will continue to increase, towns will grow and take over all the neighboring farmlands, and merchants will grow rich while farmers will struggle to produce food for all those people living in the towns. And the farmers, I think, will not want to remain tenants; they will want to own their farms." John seemed to be warning his friend while his nephew listened; he had seen and learnt much during his travels and stay in Canada.
Mr. Darcy understood John's caution and remarked "you may well be correct, John; but I have not seen any signs of such change in Derbyshire, except perhaps the new pottery kilns, and they are more like cottage industries than big factories. And my tenants seem to be perfectly content, at least at present."
"But look at the cotton industry in Lancashire, George. The land in Derbyshire is not as conducive to large industries; and your tenants are content because you are a very benevolent and tolerant landlord, " John responded, "but the time will come, perhaps not for another one hundred years, when such large landholdings will be a thing of the past."
"Well, I shall be just as benevolent and tolerant, so everything at home will stay the same," Fitz declared, adding "I love Pemberley and I never want it to change."
"That is very proper, Fitz," said John, "but I think you should not trouble yourself with all the world's problems right now. If you keep to your studies and learn about the past as well as the present then you may be able to benefit from all these upheavals either to prevent or be prepared for them in the future."
Fitzwilliam had much to think about as he went upstairs to prepare for dinner.
The four weeks in Kent passed faster than usual for Fitzwilliam. His Uncle John was not content to spend all his days in the confines of Rosings and organized several schemes to see the surrounding countryside, making Pierre his excuse. As he told his sister, "Pierre should really get acquainted with more than one house and park in this corner of England, Catherine, and while we are here we can take him further afield than he could go on his own."
Lady Catherine did not favor the idea. She preferred to keep all her guests around her, to be available and only agree to those plans that she had designed. She especially wanted to keep Fitzwilliam at Rosings to be near Anne and George to keep Lewis company. "If you really wish to see the countryside why do not you go with Pierre; Darcy can stay here to keep Lewis company and Fitzwilliam is much too young for such a day's outing," Lady Catherine declared.
"Nonsense!" John said, "it was Darcy's idea to go on these excursions and Fitzwilliam is eager to see more of Kent; he and Pierre have become such good friends that it would be good for both of them to be together."
Lady Catherine realized that she could not argue John out of his plans. She decided to take the discussion to her sister, who would surely listen to her advice.
"Anne you must help me," she demanded, interrupting Lady Anne's letter-writing, "John wants to take all the men off for the day tomorrow, if the weather holds fine, even Fitzwilliam. I do not think he should go; he should stay here and be with Anne."
"Well, Catherine, what do you want me to do about it," asked Lady Anne. "You know that if George, John and Pierre are to go then Fitzwilliam will want to go with them; I do not think anything I say on the matter would carry much weight."
"Have you not explained to Fitzwilliam that he should pay particular attention to Anne?" asked Lady Catherine, amazed at her sister's negligence. "Have you not told him what we expect of him when he and Anne are of an age to marry?"
"Pay particular attention? Catherine, you make me laugh! What kind of attention could a nine-year old boy pay a five year old girl? Is it not enough that he takes his meals with her and plays with her when she is allowed outside? You can not expect more of him at this age." Lady Anne was not certain whether to be amused or annoyed at her sister's constant renewal of this same old argument. "As for what we expect of him when he is grown, I have only suggested that he find a suitable young lady; one he can love beyond anyone else, who is accustomed to running a large house, to being a hostess in the first circles in the country and in town, and one who can help him care for the tenants and staff of Pemberley."
What Lady Anne thought and really wanted to ask was, "Are you so afraid that Anne will not find another man interested in her when she is of an age to marry?" While she smiled a little at the truth of this thought, she discreetly refrained from voicing it aloud.
The following morning dawned fine; after a very early breakfast John, George, Pierre, Fitz, and Mr. Stone were on their way to visit Leeds Castle, some 20 miles east of Rosings. The kitchen staff had packed a hearty picnic for they would only return in time for a late supper. Fitz was thrilled to be allowed on this expedition; in fact, as soon as the gates of Rosings were fairly left behind, the entire party was in high spirits.
After several hours rolling through the spring countryside the carriage approached their destination from the top of a small rise. Before them lay Leeds Castle situated on two islands in a lake, formed by the River Len as Mr. Stone informed them. A little while later they reached the gatehouse with its barbican and drawbridge, the last remnants of the old Norman fortress built long before the castle had become a royal palace.
As soon as Fitz saw the drawbridge and what appeared to be a moat around the castle he asked "Will there be dungeons, do you think? I would like to explore them!" He was disappointed, however, on seeing a few of the public rooms in the castle; they were just ordinary rooms with no dungeons, no secret rooms behind the paneling, and no towers to imprison any princesses. The park proved much more interesting; there was plenty of woodland, a grotto, and a maze. Fitz and Pierre explored the maze for a long time, continually coming to a dead end and having to retrace their steps; when they finally reached the center they heard John's voice calling them for their picnic.
The party arrived back at Rosings very pleased with their outing and full of plans for another one the following week. Lady Anne was glad to see their happiness and listened while William told her all about the drawbridge and the maze. Lady Catherine was not as pleased; she had hoped that they would have been disappointed, making this their only excursion.
During the remaining weeks at Rosings the same party drove to the Thames Estuary where they walked along the waterfront; to Tunbridge Wells, a fashionable spa; and to picnic on the nearby Surrey Downs. The ladies decided to accompany them on the picnic and Fitzwilliam was not at all happy when his aunt insisted that he accompany her, Anne, and Mrs. Jenkinson in the de Bourgh's Barouche Box. He tried to interest Anne in the passing scenes but she remained silent; he tried to tell Lady Catherine about Leeds Castle but she was uninterested in any property save Rosings and Pemberley; he tried to tell Mrs. Jenkinson of his walk by the sea and on the beach but she was too busy fussing over Anne to pay him attention. He remained silent for the rest of the drive while his aunt droned on about the rank and consequence of the family, of the necessity of the best families in the land to band together against the pretensions of those with lesser breeding who would raise themselves above their station, of choosing an appropriate marriage partner and the degredation of an unsuitable match. Fitzwilliam listened not at all, nodded his head once in a while, and managed to keep an absolutely straight and blank expression which could reveal nothing to his aunt.
On reaching their destination, John, Pierre, Fitzwilliam, and Mr. Stone set off to explore a hill with some very fine woods at the top. The view at the summit was well worth the climb; the Downs lay undulating into the far distance like a rolling green sea. They walked through the woods and before they knew it two hours had passed since they had left the others below. They hurried back to find an indignant Lady Catherine ready to drive back to Rosings.
"Anne can not be out in the sun for more than one hour," she declared, "come Fitzwilliam; you are very late back from your walk. I am highly displeased."
Fitzwilliam was delighted when his father intervened on his behalf, reminding his aunt that he had not yet partaken of the picnic and that they should go on ahead. He asked his wife to accompany her sister while Fitzwilliam would accompany the men on their return to Rosings.
Arriving back at Rosings, Fitzwilliam ran off directly to find his mother; he felt he had to apologise to her for having to return with Lady Catherine and Anne in his place.
"Mother, I am so sorry that we were so long on our walk and that you had to go back with aunt Catherine and Anne. I did not want to spoil your day that way."
"Why, William, you do not need to apologise. I know that your aunt can talk too much and can be very tiresome but you did your duty this morning and I did not mind taking my turn this afternoon," his mother smiled and gave him a hug. They compared notes on Lady Catherine's conversation and William, attempting his mask-like face, showed his mother how well he had hidden everything he was thinking and feeling; when George entered the room they were both laughing so hard they could barely stop to tell him what it was all about.
The three weeks in London which followed the four at Rosings were delightful for Fitzwilliam. He missed his uncle John, who had rejoined his regiment, and Pierre, who had remained in Kent, but the town provided such constant fascination and interest that the days seemed to fly by with greater rapidity than he had ever known. Every morning Mr. Stone would hurry him through his lessons in order to leave plenty of time to visit one or another of the major attractions.
They visited the Tower of London where Fitzwilliam was thrilled with the history of its famous prisoners, the prisons and different towers, traitor's gate leading from the river, the ravens in the courtyard and the famous Yeomen, guardians of the Tower. They visited the Guildhall and other famous buildings in the heart of the City of London. One day they even journeyed as far as Hampton Court, the famous palace of Sir Thomas More and Henry V3, where they were happy to find another maze.
Fitzwilliam accompanied his father on some of his business visits in the City and to the new shops in Oxford Street. They watched a parliamentary debate from the visitors gallery in the House of Commons and another from the gallery in the House of Lords where they saw his uncle, the Earl of M....., seated with all the other peers of the realm. There were walks with his mother in Kensington gardens and visits to new art galleries where they both delighted in seeing the portraits of Gainsborough and Reynolds and Lawrence. He accompanied his parents on visits to their many friends in town and found himself quite easy in their company; and he mingled with his parents' friends when they called at their house in the evening before they withdrew for dinner.
One highlight of this visit to town was an evening at Vauxhall gardens. There was so much to see that Fitzwilliam did not know which way to turn; there were tight-rope walkers, jugglers, vocal concerts, and horses with acrobatic riders in different parts of the gardens. The evening ended with a large fireworks display which absolutely astonished him with its power and beauty. He never knew that so much amusement could be sampled in one evening.
Another highlight were two visits to the theatre. They saw Sheridan's "The Rivals" which Fitzwilliam thought very funny; he laughed so much when Mrs. Malaprop was on stage that he decided he had to read the play to find out what he had missed. They also saw Shakespeare's "Henry V" which prompted Fitzwilliam to wish he were an actor. He would like to be the King who advises his men:
"This day is call'd the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd, and rouse him at the name of Crispian... and Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered--we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." <.i>
Now, when England was again at war with France, he would like to declaim:
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our English dead. . . . when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger: . . . Follow your spirit; and upon this charge cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!"<.i>
Written over 170 years earlier, it was yet a rousing speech for Fitz' time and stirred the audience to cheers. After the play finished, he told his parents: "If it were not for Pemberley, I think I would like to act on the stage." They smiled but told him very firmly that acting was not a respectable profession and certainly not a suitable one for a member of one of the best families in England. They suggested, instead, that he should read Shakespeare's plays and learn some of the dialogue for his own or their amusement.
It was late May before the party returned to Pemberley. Fitzwilliam, while excited about everything he had seen in town, was equally happy to see the familiar park and house again. He was eager to find Miss Field and George to tell them about all his adventures, and to try and interest George in Shakespeare's plays in the hope of having an accomplice in his attempts at acting. George, however, was not interested in anything that sounded too much like school work; instead he related his latest pranks in the village, news of his sisters, and the latest gossip from Lambton.
During the summer Fitzwilliam again tried to persuade his father to teach him how to use a gun; he wanted to be able to shoot with the party due to stay at Pemberley for opening day of the grouse season. George discussed this wish with Lady Anne, who was adamantly against the idea, and with Mr. Wickham who saw no harm in it, but agreed that perhaps one more year's wait would be better.
"I wish George were more interested in the land, the hunt, and shooting," Mr. Wickham told Mr. Darcy, "but I am afraid his mind seems to be more occupied with the shops in Lambton, entertainment, and making himself agreeable to all."
"Well, confidentially, I wish Fitzwilliam had some of George's ability in that last department," Mr. Darcy replied, "he was easy enough with our friends in town last spring, but I fear that he is very uncomfortable with anyone not in our immediate circle. I enjoy George's easy manners."
When he found Fitz near the stables his father said: "I am sorry Fitz. You will be disappointed, I know, but we all think it better you wait another year before you learn to handle a gun."
"I was afraid of that, father. Was mother against the idea?" Fitz asked.
"Yes, she was; I was not much in favour of it either and even Mr. Wickham said it would be wiser to wait another year. Come, Fitz, let us ride together." They rode over the fields and Fitz soon left all disappointment behind; he had never held very high hopes of learning to shoot this year and by the time they finished their ride he was quite prepared to wait until next year.
Late in August and all through September, while the shooting parties were occupied in the fields, George showed Fitzwilliam how to bring down a bird without a gun. They rode into Lambton and on the green they collected horse chestnuts under the largest tree. They then took their collection to the smithy who punched holes through the chestnuts; George showed Fitzwilliam how to string two or three of them on a long piece of string, swing it around above his head a few times and let the weighted string fly off at a bird. This crude weapon rarely hit its target and, if by chance it did, it only maimed the poor animal. Fitzwilliam thought this very poor sport, but he liked the chestnuts well enough and liked to swing and aim the weapon at a tree or at a fixed spot in a haystack, one day even scaring a young farm hand and farm girl sitting on the far side of the stack.
The two boys continued riding to Lambton nearly every day and were often joined in their hunt for chestnuts by some of the local village boys. George seemed to know all of them; he joked and laughed with them while Fitzwilliam stood by, wanting to join in the fun and not quite knowing how to do so; when he finally tried a joke they all stopped to look at him as if he had spoken in a foreign language, as if they did not know whether to laugh at the joke or at him. He felt very disconcerted, took his chestnuts to the smithy, and mounted his horse to head back to Pemberley, leaving George to make his own way back. Luckily the chestnut season was soon over and Fitzwilliam had no more reason to join George in his rides to Lambton.
Edmund Stone reported regularly on his pupils' progress to Mr. Darcy, but as he entered the latter's study in January 1794, his mood was depressed and his countenance very serious; he did not look forward to the coming interview for, once again, he had nothing good to report on one of his pupils.
"We have tried everything, Sir, and nothing seems to prevail with him," Mr. Stone admitted to Mr. Darcy, "he will not apply himself to his studies; George has a good mind which, I fear, he is determined to waste in the pursuit of pleasure."
"What do you suggest then, Mr. Stone?" asked Mr. Darcy.
"I have talked to him repeatedly of the need to concentrate on his lessons, but it does not seem to have had any effect on him; I am quite at a loss as to how to handle him."
"His manners are excellent, but I do detect a certain frivolous attitude to any serious converse," George Darcy thought aloud, asking "would it help to call Mr. Wickham to hear our concerns regarding his son?"
"I have talked to Mr. Wickham several times, but I fear he is not at home with him enough to prevail upon his son. I think it is Mrs. Wickham's influence that diverts George from any serious application. Miss Field and I both think that it is time to consider sending him to a boarding school away from this mother's and sisters' company," Mr. Stone suggested.
"I think you may be right. And what about Fitz? How is his progress? His mother and I do not want him to go away to school just yet, although I know he must do so in another year or so."
"I wish every student were like Fitzwilliam," Mr. Stone replied, "he truly enjoys learning; he has great curiosity and wants to know as much as he can. In fact, if there is any fault with him, it is that he is often too serious; he does not like to waste his time and gets irritated when George disrupts the lessons."
"Then you do not think Fitz will be lonely if George goes to school and he stays here?"
"Perhaps a little lonely when he rides or plays outside, but I think he will be delighted to have his lessons alone without the interruptions, without the divided attention," the tutor replied.
"If that is the case, I think your suggestion of sending George to school is a sound one, Mr. Stone. If you will recommend some suitable schools, I will talk to Mr. Wickham and see what can be arranged. I do not think he can go before the Michaelmas term, however, so you will have to struggle a little longer. Thank you for this recommendation, Mr. Stone."
After the tutor had left the study, George Darcy sat staring out of the window and thought that perhaps he had made a mistake in taking such an interest in George Wickham. Pleasing smiles and an easy manner had clouded his vision and made him overlook a lazy and vain disposition; perhaps his interest had raised George's expectations, as Anne had once suggested, into thinking of himself as an equal to Fitzwilliam. "Let us hope that boarding school will cure these evils and make him a more serious student; he might yet be able to pursue a career in the church," he reflected.
Sir Lewis de Bourgh, seventeen years older than his wife and very frail during the past year, died a few weeks before Fitz' tenth birthday. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy traveled to Rosings for the funeral but decided to leave Fitz at home; they agreed that he need not be exposed to such a cheerless time. Fitz did not regret missing this visit nor did he grieve very much over the loss of Sir Lewis; he had known him very little and only felt sympathy for Anne who would no longer have her father's leavening wisdom to combat the unrelenting care of her mother.
When his parents returned from Kent and London they presented him with a very welcome birthday present, his own light weight gun made especially by the best London gunsmith. "Thank you, thank you both. Will you teach me how to use it, father?" Fitz asked; he was delighted with this present.
"Yes, Fitz, I will teach you to shoot, but first you must learn the safety rules; how to carry it, load it, clean it, and lock it away with the other guns. You have got to be responsible about its use," his father told him.
The summer months sped by as Fitz learnt and practised his shooting skills. He was very proud when he first brought home a rabbit he had shot instead of the usual trout caught in the stream, receiving Mrs. Reynolds' and the cooks' congratulations with a big smile before running off to find his parents to tell them of his latest feat.
The usual shooting parties arrived at Pemberley in August and Fitz was often allowed to go out with them, in particular when Pierre arrived to spend six weeks at Pemberley. His English had become quite fluent in the past year, but Fitz insisted on learning more French, and even George picked up a few words when he joined them to ride or fish. Fitz was glad of Pierre's company, especially when George left the area in September to go to Berkshire School near Reading. George was excited about the new adventures ahead of him; and Fitz, while he had Pierre's company, did not miss him.
During the horse chestnut season, Fitz again rode into Lambton nearly every day. He had just dismounted from his horse, one afternoon, when he saw three large boys surrounding a much smaller boy, beating and taunting him. Fitz ran to help the little boy and save him from his persecutors. In the ensuing melee Fitz landed a few successful punches on the bigger boys who fled the scene, shouting curses at him and the name of Darcy. The younger boy stood close to Fitz, stammering his thanks to his rescuer.
"There is no need to thank me; I only did what I thought was just; please do not mention this to anybody. But tell me, why were those boys beating you?" asked Fitz.
"They said I was not allowed to collect the horse chestnuts; that they were their property alone" replied the boy, "but I need them; I want to try some experiments with them."
"That is nonsense! The chestnuts are free for everybody. What is your name? How old are you? And what is your experiment?" Fitz asked a whole string of questions without stopping.
"I am Joe Miller; I am eight years old; and I was going to try and grow a tree from one of the chestnuts. If I take all the coverings off the nut and plant it, it might grow into a tree."
"Do you like to experiment with plants then?" asked Fitz.
"Oh, yes. I like growing things; plants, flowers, vegetables, anything that will grow in the garden."
"And you have a garden here, in Lambton?" Fitz asked.
"We have a very small one where I grow some flowers and vegetables. I was going to plant the chestnut at the other corner of the green over there so that there would be another fine tree like this one," Joe told Fitz.
"Well, Joe, when you are older, if you still like cultivating plants, come out to Pemberley; perhaps my father will hire you as a gardener. We have a vast amount of space where you can experiment and grow flowers and vegetables as much as you like," said Fitz. He collected some chestnuts, handed them to Joe, mounted his horse again and rode back home, rather pleased with his afternoon's adventure. He had never before had the chance to test his courage against such ruffians, larger and older than himself, and was glad that he had not faltered.
Two days later Fitz again rode to Lambton and, approaching the chestnut tree, saw Joe waiting near by. Joe ran over exclaiming, "Darcy, you must allow me to tell the villagers what you did for me on Tuesday; the other boys have spread it about that you are very disagreeable and ill-natured, and I know there is no truth in it."
"Never mind, Joe. You may tell your parents, if you wish, but as to the others, just let it be. You and I know better, and I care little what the other villagers think," replied Fitz.
"All right, Darcy, but I think it most unfair that those boys can spread such lies about you. I hope that one day the truth will be known to all," Joe said as he ran off down the street.
Mr. Stone knocked on the door of Mr. Darcy's study whilst trying to compose his face. It was the day after Christmas and, unlike his frown and somber expression of the previous year, he was smiling broadly and his eyes were shining. The only barrier between his present and future happiness lay in the ensuing interview with his employer, although he felt reasonably secure of a favorable outcome
"Mr. Darcy," Mr. Stone began, "if you could spare me a few minutes of your time, I have a serious matter to discuss with you."
"Of course, Mr. Stone," George replied while noticing the slight smile and happy light in Mr. Stone's eyes; "but I do not know what can be so serious while you look so very cheerful."
"I am happy, Mr. Darcy. Miss Field has done me the great honour of consenting to become my wife."
"Congratulations, Mr. Stone. Lady Anne and I were hoping that the two of you would find happiness together and, I must admit, lately we have only been wondering when the announcement would be made; we have long held suspicions that this was only a matter of time," George said with a smile to equal that of Mr. Stone. "When is the happy day to be?"
"That is what I want to discuss with you, sir. As you know, when I marry I must give up my fellowship at Cambridge; I would then like to take orders and enter the church. We are willing, however, to wait until Fitzwilliam goes to Eton."
"I would not want you to wait too long, Mr. Stone; that would not be fair to either of you." George Darcy considered for a moment and continued, "the living at Kympton is filled at the moment, but the one in Lambton will be vacant in June when Mr. Cooper is raised to bishop. I feel sure he would welcome you as his curate at any time and you would then be in a position to take over the rectory when he leaves. Would you like the living at Lambton?"
"Mr. Darcy, that would be the perfect position for us. Miss Field's family lives in Matlock, as you know sir, and she hoped we could remain in the area," Mr. Stone replied, happy at the thought of remaining in Derbyshire, a country he had grown to love.
"Let me speak to Mr. Cooper on your behalf then, Mr. Stone," George Darcy continued; "also I think we could send Fitz to Eton this spring, for the start of the Easter-Trinity term. It would only be one term earlier than we had intended. Do you consider him to be ready?"
"Yes, academically Fitzwilliam is more than ready; but socially he may have some difficulties. He is as yet quite shy and does not mix easily with strangers. Perhaps he will overcome this when he is living and learning with other boys of his age and rank."
"Will you announce your intentions to my wife and Fitz or do you wish me to tell them?" George asked before continuing, "as soon as our Christmas visitors leave in January, you and Miss Field must join us for dinner and a real family celebration."
"Thank you, sir. I would be happy if you could apprise Mrs. Darcy and Fitz of our plans because, as you know, we are going to Matlock for the next week and we do not want to interrupt your family or guests with our personal concerns. We will look forward to a family celebration on our return to Pemberley," Mr. Stone said as he prepared to leave the study.
Two weeks later Fitz, unusually distracted during his Latin lesson, suddenly asked his tutor "what made you and Miss Field decide to get married?"
Mr. Stone, startled by the question thought a minute and decided to be perfectly open with his pupil. "Because we love each other. That is usually the reason people decide to get married, Fitzwilliam."
"Oh, I thought it was to carry on a great estate, and you do not have one, do you? How do you know when you love someone? What is it like?" Fitz asked, very curious about loving someone other than his parents.
"It is difficult to describe. Love is a very personal feeling, different from one person to another. For me, it is the knowledge that my life would not be complete without Miss Field beside me every day in the future. It is like coming home to the other half of my being."
"I've never felt anything like that. Do you think I will find that kind of love when it is time for me to marry?" Fitz was still rather puzzled and very curious.
"I certainly hope you will not marry unless you do love your intended bride," Mr. Stone told Fitz. "But you are too young, as yet, to worry about such things."
"My aunt Catherine once told my mother that I should marry my cousin Anne, but I do not like her at all. She is so insipid, she never speaks, and she is always ill. My aunt can not make me marry her, can she?"
"Whatever she may wish for you and her daughter, she can not force you to do what you do not wish to do," Mr. Stone reassured Fitz; "come on now, back to these Latin verses."
Continued in Part 2
© 1998 Copyright held by author