Young Fitzwilliam Darcy
The season of courtship passed uneventfully for Mr. Stone and Miss Field; they remained in the school room by day, and only when Fitz was otherwise occupied and in the evenings did they spend private time together. At the end of March Mr. Stone returned to Cambridge, where he resigned his fellowship and received his ordination. On his return, Fitz and his parents witnessed the marriage in Matlock church; the bride and groom left immediately for their new accommodations in Lambton, whilst the Darcys returned to Pemberley for a day before they traveled south.
Fitz was quieter than usual on the road to London. He was thinking of a recent conversation with Mr. Stone, trying to understand its meaning. Two days before his marriage Mr. Stone had found Fitz sitting by the trout stream and sat down beside him asking, "are you excited about going to Eton and your new life at school, Fitz?"
"Yes and no," Fitz replied; "I am excited but also a little apprehensive. What if the other boys do not like me? Will I be able to make friends?"
"I think you will have no trouble making friends, Fitz," Mr. Stone reassured him. "You will have your lessons together, live in the same house, eat the same meals, and play the same games; you will have much to talk about; and remember your classmates will come from similar homes to yours and their young experiences will be like yours. Only members of the best families go to Eton. It is one of the oldest schools in England." Mr. Stone paused, thought for a moment, and continued "the best way to make friends, Fitz, is to be a friend. They will accept you if you are open with them."
"I will try to be open and talk more," Fitz determined; "I want to have many friends."
"That is good, but most of all, and heed this well Fitz, do not be afraid of making mistakes, provided that those mistakes do not hurt any other person. This is the time in your life when it is acceptable to make mistakes, or else how will you ever learn. Remember that you do not have to be perfect at everything you do; try the different sports and whether you excel or not is of little matter; attempt some different course work whether you are first or last in your class. If you do not sample different ways, you will never learn to appreciate what you really can accomplish well and what gives you the most enjoyment."
"Do you mean that mistakes do not matter?" Fitz asked, very puzzled.
"I mean that you should not be so afraid of making a mistake or not excelling that it would stop you from attempting something new," Mr. Stone explained. "I advise you to be open to new ideas, new people, and new adventures; in that way you should have no problems at school."
Fitz was considering these words when his father asked him why he was so quiet. When he told him about Mr. Stone's advice, his father replied "that is excellent advice, Fitz, and something I should have told you long ago. Mr. Stone has been a good friend to you."
"We certainly want you to enjoy yourself at school, William, but remember that you must never disgrace the Darcy or Fitzwilliam names," his mother cautioned; "politeness and propriety are expected at all times in society, no matter how many new adventures you might attempt."
Fitz continued to puzzle this contradictory advice--try new things, make new friends, do not be afraid to make mistakes, be polite, be proper, enjoy himself and have fun--how could he manage to do all that? "I will have to ask Edward for some guidance on our way to Eton," Fitz determined to himself, and settled back to enjoy the remainder of the journey to London.
The visit to Rosings proved to Fitz that Sir Lewis' death had made no change in the characters of its inhabitants; Lady Catherine was, if possible, more domineering and certainly more opinionated than previously, whilst Anne was, consequently, quieter than usual. He was very glad indeed that at the end of two weeks the necessity of preparing for school enabled him and his parents to return to London.
Edward Fitzwilliam joined them at the beginning of May and within a week he and Fitz set off for the twenty-five mile drive to Eton. Edward was then fifteen years old and in the upper fifth form, whilst Fitz was to enter one of the forms in the lower school. On their journey Fitz confessed his excitement and doubts about school to his cousin and mentioned the contradictory advice he had received.
"Oh, Fitz, you are much too serious," Edward laughed; "just be yourself, watch the other boys in your house and classes, do as they do and you will have no problems."
"Then you think I will make friends at school?" Fitz asked, as yet a little anxious.
"No doubt about it," Edward assured him. "Just remember two pieces of advice; never be late for absence, and in all events avoid the block."
With that cryptic advice the carriage rolled into Eton town and joined many other carriages along Slough Road, waiting to draw up in front of the mellow-toned brick buildings and the arch leading into the college. At last it was their turn to descend; their trunks were unloaded, and they joined a throng of other boys, all dressed alike in dark blue coats and white cravats, as they entered through the arch.
Emerging from the archway, Fitz stopped for a moment to look around the quad, which Edward had informed him is what every Etonian calls the quadrangle; straight ahead was the large, imposing statue of the school's founder, King Henry VI, the Scholar King; on the right hand, looking up the school-yard, was the gray chapel, picturesque and beautiful in its old age. Behind the statue of the founder was a low arch which led into the cloisters. The clock-tower, contained a beautiful oriel window, dating from the time of Henry V3--a century later than the chapel. The oriel window lit the "election-chamber" and the row of windows on the left were part of the "election-hall," a private dining-room of the provost of Eton. On the left, opposite the chapel, was the building containing the Long Chamber, a dormitory for the collegers; and behind Fitz, over the arch through which they had entered the quad, was the upper school over a covered cloister which, Edward said, served as a useful retreat for football on very inclement days.
"Come along, Fitz," Edward said after a few minutes, "I will introduce you to the provost, Mr. Frost, after which I will show you to your house and introduce you to your house-master; then I must hasten back to my house or else I shall be late."
They walked through the upper school building to the Library, the headmaster's room which, Edward informed him, was where the sixth form boys were taught, knocked on the door, and were ushered into the Provost's presence; Edward bowed and introduced his young cousin.
"I am glad you have come to Eton, Darcy," Mr. Frost said in warm tones. "Now, let me see . . . ah yes, here it is; hmm . . .I received this letter from your father enclosing a report from your tutor, . . .er,. . . Mr. Stone is it?"
"Yes, Sir" Fitz said in a very shaky, quiet voice; he was rather awed by the elderly, tall and white-haired figure before him.
Mr. Frost scanned the papers before him and continued, "it seems that you have attained the level of our third form; hmm, . . . you have just turned eleven years old, I believe?"
"Yes, Sir," Fitz replied.
"Well . . . er . . . I think it best you start in the lower third form. Hmm . . .if we find, after a week or so, that you are further advanced than the other pupils, then we may have to move you into the upper third form. Hmm . . . but you are rather young for that form . . . well, . . hmm . . . yes, that is the best plan," the Provost decided and continued, "I see you are to be in North house . . . hmm . . . well . . . that is all then . . . hmm . . . I hope you will be a credit to all of us, Darcy!"
With a nod of his head, the Provost dismissed the boys. They walked off towards North house as Edward laughed and explained to his smiling cousin that the Provost is always like that; "all his speeches are laced with hmms and errrrs as if he forgets what he is talking about!"
"I was wondering if I would ever find out which form or house I was to be in! It does take him a long time to get through a sentence, does it not" Fitz said, laughing.
"Oh yes, but you will get used to it--we all do and we even manage to keep a straight face which you will have to learn to do also" Edward warned. "But you will like Mr. North, your housemaster. He has one of the best houses here and is generally thought to be very congenial. You are lucky to be assigned to his house. I am in Bridge house and I can tell you, Mr. Bridge is quite different to Mr. North. Well, here we are," Edward finished as they came to the front of a large brick house facing the playing field behind the cloister.
Edward and Fitz entered the house to find a hive of activity in the front hall; porters depositing trunks along one side, other servants carrying trunks up the staircase, boys ranging in age from ten to seventeen running up and down the stairs or congregating in small clusters to greet each other in an ever shifting pattern. In the midst of all this bustle stood Mr. North, calm and stationary, with a slight smile on his pleasant face as if he enjoyed the scene before him which, indeed, he did. He was always happy to see "his" boys return from their holidays.
"Mr. North, may I present my cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy?" Edward said when they stood before the housemaster.
"Welcome to the house, Darcy," Mr. North replied, "I am glad to make your acquaintance."
"Thank you, Sir" Darcy replied. Fitz realized that from that moment he would be known as Darcy, while his cousin Edward was called Fitzwilliam.
"Hey, Fitzwilliam!" a tall, older boy called from across the hall, "are you not in the wrong house? You will be late to Bridge House if you do not make haste!"
"I was here to introduce my cousin to Mr. North," Fitzwilliam called back. Turning to Mr. North he continued "I must leave now Sir; goodye" and to Darcy he said "I will see you in Chapel in the morning; and remember, do not worry!" the last said in a very quiet undertone.
"Have you already met with the Provost, Darcy?" Mr. North asked, "and, if so, in what form did he decide to place you?"
"We stopped at the Provost's study on our way here, Sir," Darcy answered, "and he said I should start in the lower third form.
"Good," Mr. North replied while looking around the busy hall; spotting two boys by the stairway he called "Mortimer, Ogilvie! Come over here, please."
Mortimer and Ogilvie appeared to be the same age as Darcy. When they had made their way across the hall, Mr. North said "Mortimer, Ogilvie, allow me to introduce you to Darcy. He is to be in your form, the lower third, and he will be in your dormitory. Take him along now, show him the room and acquaint him with all our customs here, please." To Darcy, Mr. North continued "Darcy, I hope you will be happy here. If you have any serious questions you may always ask me during my house hours, but first ask your friends or the prefects. They can usually show you the way, or explain any of the rules for you."
"Thank you, Sir," Darcy answered and followed the two boys up the stairs, along a landing and into a sizeable room where five beds stood against the walls, facing into the room. There was a good fireplace with a mantel above, tables, chairs, and next to each bed an upright chest which served to store a wash bowl and jug and each boy's flannel, soap, brush and comb. Until he entered this room Darcy had not thought what it would be like to share a room; this, indeed, would be a novelty for him.
"Where are you from, Darcy?" asked Mortimer. He was rather short and stout, with red hair, green eyes, a multitude of freckles and a smiling expression that implied a happy and mischievous personality.
"I live at Pemberley in Derbyshire" replied Darcy, "and where do you live?"
"I live in London, but Ogilvie here lives in Cheshire, right next to Derbyshire," Mortimer informed Darcy.
Ogilvie, the same height as Darcy, was as fair as the latter was dark, with bright blue eyes and a quieter but equally smiling demeanor as Mortimer. "I have seen Pemberley," he now told Darcy, "it is only thirty miles from my home. Do you know Lyme Park? That is where I live."
"I have heard of it, but I have never seen it" Darcy answered, asking "who else lives in this room?"
"Norton--he is in the upper third form and is always late; he will probably arrive two minutes before lock-up time!" Mortimer replied grinning.
"And that bed over there" interrupted Ogilvie, pointing to a bed a little separated from the rest, "is for Holmes; he is in the upper fifth form."
"The House thinks we need an older boy with us to keep order," explained Mortimer, "but Holmes is all right. He is rarely here in the room."
The three boys unpacked their trunks, put away their clothes and personal possessions in the closets and shelves provided, and returned downstairs just in time for dinner.
Morning light was filtering into the room when a loud, clanging bell roused Darcy from his deep sleep. He turned over, blinked, looked around the room where the others were also struggling toward wakefulness, and only then remembered that he was at school. For a moment he lay in bed, remembering the past night; he had, for a fleeting moment, wished himself back at home in his own room as he tried to fall asleep with a roomful of others, but had, after wakefully listening to the unfamiliar sounds in the house and in the room, managed to fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The clock on the mantel said half-past-six; the boys jumped out of bed, threw cold water on their faces, dressed and hurried down to morning school which started at seven o'clock and continued until breakfast at half-past-seven. After breakfast, Darcy accompanied Mortimer and Ogilvie to the chapel where attendance at the half hour morning service, beginning at half-past eight, was compulsory for all. He saw his cousin after the service and smiled briefly to indicate that he was all right and had no questions; suddenly he was startled by a loud shout of "boy" as all the younger boys started to run in the direction of that voice. Darcy, after a short delay when he watched the others running, was the last to arrive in front of the prefects and the headboy, who had issued the shout.
"Hello, who is this last one, this snail?" asked the headboy in a very superior, haughty tone.
"His name is Darcy and he is new here," Ogilvie replied for Darcy.
"Well Darcy, post these notices in each house and make haste about it!" the headboy commanded.
Darcy took the notices and looked around to find the various houses. He really had no idea where they were but Mortimer decided to accompany him on this trek and show him the way. After a half-hour they had completed their round; Darcy had visited every house and would not need help in the future. When they had posted the last notice in North House they had only time enough to cross the quad again before ten o'clock school.
They entered the Lower School, running at right angles to the Upper School. Darcy looked around the room, which dated from the sixteenth century, and which, Ogilvie informed him was "the original classroom of Eton." It was a dark room, heavy and antique, with rows of solid oaken pillars running its length; the long tables, serving as desks, and the seats were hacked and mutilated by the knives of generations of boys. Mortimer and Ogilvie showed Darcy to the lower third form table where they settled with twenty others. Darcy noticed that Norton sat at a crowded table nearer the entrance; "that must be the upper third form table" he thought.
Lessons continued all morning; known as ten o'clock school, eleven o'clock school and twelve o'clock school, their names bore little resemblance to the actual periods for the different subjects. Each period found a different teacher with a different form; the lower third started with English history, followed by Greek, then mathematics, Latin, and finally ancient history. There was no break until they were dismissed for dinner just before two o'clock. It was a long morning for the boys and some became very restless before their dismissal. Darcy, however, found the masters pleasant and the lessons easy, perhaps even too easy for he was more advanced than the others in most of the subjects covered that first morning.
Dinner from two to three o'clock was followed by "after two" classes. These were followed at half-past three by "absence" or, as Darcy discovered, a roll-call. He had not realized before that "absence" meant that every boy had to be present; the reason for this ritual's name remained a mystery, lost in the history of the school's traditions. Following the absence was the "after four" recess. The boys were free of all restrictions until time to return to their houses for "calling over" at five o'clock in winter but not until quarter to nine during the longest days of the summer. That first day of the summer half calling over was at seven o'clock, after which all the boys had to remain in their houses for study, supper and recreation until their appointed bed times.
Darcy discovered during the first evening that recreation time for the lower school boys was rare and precious. There were constant shouts of "boy" or "fag" from the house prefects to make their tea, toast their crumpets, polish their boots, hang up their clothes, and even to straighten their beds and rooms. Darcy took his turn with all these chores and, while resenting this intrusion upon his personal time to be turned into a mere servant, he accomplished the tasks to the best of his ability. Some of the prefects were kinder and easier to deal with than others; Nicholson, the head of house, and Henderson were preferred by the juniors whilst they all tried to avoid Fowler; it was impossible to please him, as Darcy found that first evening to his chagrin. After polishing his boots for the third time Fowler was, as yet, not satisfied but dismissed Darcy with a warning to mend his attitude in the future.
As Darcy lay in bed that second night he thought about his very busy first day. Every minute of every hour seemed to have been occupied, but he had not been unhappy; he found the routine somewhat comforting and it had left him no time to miss Pemberley. He decided that he would in all probability be quite happy at school.
North House, Eton, 20th May, 1795
My dear Mother and Father,
I hope you are both in the best of health and that your journey home to Pemberley was a pleasant one. I am settled in at North House and enjoy school very well.
I share a room with four others, Mortimer of London, Ogilvie of Lyme Park, both in the lower third form and very pleasant and friendly. They are my best friends now. Then there is Norton of Bath, in the upper third form, and Holmes of Canterbury who is in the upper fifth form. When I saw the Provost on my arrival, he placed me in the lower third form, but after ten days the lower school beaks (that is what we call the teachers here) thought I was too advanced and placed me in the upper third form. I miss sitting with Mortimer and Ogilvie, but I am happy to have lessons that are new to me instead of ones that I had already learnt from Mr. Stone.
Now I sit with Norton; he is twelve years old, pleasant enough, but he is more interested in the shape of his cravat than his studies. He is always late because he dresses himself with the utmost care. He told me that he intends to catch the eye of the Prince of Wales when he is older, as George Brummell did last year. Some of the upper school boys also follow Brummell's style of wearing their cravats over the lapels of their jackets. Brummell left Eton at the end of last summer's half when he was a mere sixteen years and only in the upper fifth, to join the Prince's own regiment. Many boys want to follow his fashion dictates, but I think it is rather foolish to waste so much time and energy on somebody else's idea of fashion. What do you think?
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays we have no classes after dinner. At that time I am learning to play cricket; it is a very good game and gives me much enjoyment. When there is no game, I like to go down to the river with friends or with only a book for company. As we are not allowed on the path leading to the river, we have to be careful not to be seen by a prefect or beak on our way there; but there is no mention in the rules about the river itself, and it is a good place to sit on a warm day. I would like to try fishing there, but a rod would appear too obvious and would announce my destination to all.
Please give my regards to Mrs. Reynolds and tell cook that the food here is not half as good as at Pemberley! In fact, it is barely edible!
Your affectionate son,
On a beautiful, sunny June Saturday afternoon Mr. North had been working at his desk in his library whilst occasionally looking out of the window to watch the cricket practice. After dinner the lower school had gathered in the field by North House to practice for an upcoming match against the lower school of Bridge House.
Suddenly there was a loud crash as a hard, red ball flew into the library, on to the floor and came to rest against the back of the desk with a dull thud. Mr. North got up, went outside and called all the young boys to him. They assembled in front of the housemaster reluctantly; some were shame-faced, some ashen, others flushing. They all knew they were in trouble. Darcy had been the farthest away from the house and arrived after Mr. North's initial question but in time to witness the ensuing silence among all the boys.
"If I do not receive an answer I shall bill you all tomorrow," Mr. North threatened. "I shall ask you again, who is responsible for the broken window and the cricket ball in my library?"
"I am, Sir" Darcy spoke up, rather shamefaced. "I am sorry, Sir, but I was far out in left field and my throw-in went astray," he explained. He had arrived in time to realize that none of his friends had betrayed him, but he felt he could not let everyone take the blame for his bad throw.
"Darcy, I am glad you have admitted your carelessness," Mr. North said in a stern voice. "Come to my study after call-over and I will deal with you at that time. And may I suggest that in future you practice your bowling instead of your fielding skills; with your ability to throw a curve ball you should do very well as a bowler!"
As Mr. North returned to the house he thought about the punishment he would have to impose on Darcy whilst, at the same time, admiring the length and curve of that throw-in. At the same time, the boys let out a long, communal sigh of relief; they thanked Darcy for acknowledging his errant throw and admired his courage in doing so. They also decided that they had a new bowler in their midst.
North House, Eton, 17th June, 1795
My dear Mother and Father,
You may already be in receipt of a letter from Mr. North, or you will be soon. I am sorry to inform you that what his letter contains is true. I did, indeed, break a window in North House; but please believe me when I say that it was an accident. I did not do this on purpose.
When Mr. North questioned the lower school boys and threatened to restrict all of us, I had to own that it was I who broke the window. Now he has put me on restriction until the damage is paid and a new pane is installed. Restriction means I am not allowed away from the house during recess times; but perhaps I can consider myself lucky that he did not put me on the Bill, which he had at first threatened for the entire lower school. The Bill is the list of boys to be sent to the Provost for a breach of the rules; that could have resulted in being put on "the block" which is used for a whipping.
If you would be so kind as to send the payment to Mr. North as soon as possible, I would be very grateful.
Your affectionate son,
It was a good three day drive from Eton to Pemberley and Darcy had much to think about as he sat in the coach looking out at the bleak December landscape. He was traveling by post; it was too far for a carriage from Derbyshire to travel down and back on the bleak winter roads, unlike the previous summer when he had traveled home accompanied by Ogilvie.
Darcy smiled briefly as he recalled the end of last summer's half and their escape into the carriage whilst Fowler was still insisting that his packing be finished; he remembered Mr. North's farewell wishes for a pleasant holiday and Fowler's calls from above, "what about my packing, Darcy? Come back here at once! I will remember your insolence in the next half!" as the carriage rolled away. Ogilvie had spent a week at Pemberley and their days had been occupied by fishing, swimming and riding over the vast estate. Their first breakfast at Pemberley they had both smiled when they saw the smooth, creamy porridge without any lumps; they had thanked Mrs. Reynolds and gone to the kitchen to praise the cook personally, telling her that her food was a great relief after the congealed mess served at school. At the end of the week, Darcy had accompanied Ogilvie to Lyme Park, where he had been invited to spend the following week.
Reflecting back after so many months, Darcy remembered his surprise at the size and beautiful lines of the house, at its sadly neglected state, and particularly at the cold reception awaiting them. He had known that Ogilvie lived at Lyme Park with his maternal grandfather and a spinster aunt, but he had not been prepared for the resentment with which his young friend had been received by his family. Ogilvie's mother, the youngest child in her family, had run off to Scotland to marry an army captain who, according to her father, brother and sister, had been much beneath them in family, rank, and fortune; but the couple had been very happy until her early death after giving birth to their only son. Captain Ogilvie had returned to his military duties and had tried to care for his son until his regiment had been sent to the West Indies two years earlier; he had then sent his son to Eton and his grandfather had reluctantly allowed him to come to Lyme Park for his holidays. The nine years since his wife's death had increased Captain Ogilvie's fortune, while his in-laws' wealth had been dissipated by Ogilvie's uncle, the son and heir; the latter's fashionable life in town was one of idleness, dissipation, and reckless gambling, leaving the family at Lyme Park with little to maintain the building and park.
Ogilvie had never previously invited an acquaintance to this temporary home and Darcy was shocked at the treatment his friend received from his miserly aunt. To her the boy was little more than an extra hand around the house or in the park; someone who could help with the chores or fetch and carry for her. He was obliged to dust the books in the library but was not allowed to waste his time reading them; he had to groom the horses but was not allowed to ride them unless on a specific errand for his aunt. Darcy felt sympathy for his friend, but there was little he could do to alleviate the situation, except to help him as much as possible during his visit. He did, however, determine to ask his parents whether Ogilvie could, in future, spend more of his holidays at Pemberley instead of Lyme Park. While sorry to leave his friend at Lyme Park, Darcy was happy to return to Pemberley in time for the start of the shooting season. The short week away had made him all the more appreciative of his parents and their love, his home and all the comforts of faithful servants, and the vast estate which had not been gambled away in idle pursuits in town.
As the coach neared Derbyshire, Darcy's thoughts turned to the Michaelmas half at school. He had been raised to the fourth form in the upper school. While he remained in North House, he now shared a dormitory with other upper school boys. He regretted that he could spend less time with Ogilvie and Mortimer, but he did make a few friends among his class mates. The upper school hours allowed him more recess time; morning classes ended at noon after which he was free until dinner and the "after two" classes.
He smiled as he thought of the first day of the half; he had arrived just in time to hear Fowler calling for a fag and, seeing Darcy entering the house, had selected him. Mr. North, in his usual position in the center of the hall, had quickly informed Fowler that Darcy, as an upper school boy, was no longer a fag. Fowler's countenance reflected his frustration before changing to one of determination to hold Darcy to the strictest rules.
Towards the end of the half Darcy had asked his parents if Ogilvie could visit Pemberley for the Christmas holidays; while Darcy did not see him as much as in the summer half, he yet felt much sympathy for him. His father, however, had requested that he bring no friends for the holiday because his mother was confined to her bed and Christmas was to be a very quiet, family affair this year. Instead, he now looked forward to some peaceful weeks with his parents; there were tales from school that he could relate to them for their amusement and he was looking forward to some riding and shooting accompanied, perhaps, by his father. When the carriage arrived at Pemberley, he jumped out in eager anticipation of enjoying every moment of the Christmas season and his three weeks at home.
"Welcome home, Master Darcy," Mrs. Reynolds greeted him as he ran up the steps and into the hall. She smiled a little as she saw how much he had grown; his wrists were well outside the sleeves of his jacket and she noticed a gap between his stockings and his breeches. "Your father is in his study," she informed him, "and your mother is in her room upstairs."
"Thank you Mrs. Reynolds, it is good to be home!" Fitz smiled at the housekeeper; "I will go see my father before I disturb my mother," he said as he walked down the corridor. After a quick tap on the door, Fitz entered the study saying, "Hello, Father!" George Darcy looked up from his papers, left his desk and in two strides reached his son exclaiming "Why Fitz, it is good to see you home! I had not anticipated your arrival for another two hours," while giving Fitz a warm hug. "Jamison must have made good time from Matlock," he added. "Yes, at my urging he did," Fitz replied, "I wanted to get home to see you and mother and see how she is. Is she very ill?" Fitz asked, a worried frown suddenly replacing the mischievous grin.
"Sit down, Fitz," his father invited. "I am sorry that I had to ask you not to bring your friend, Ogilvie, with you this holiday; but do not worry, your mother is not ill. She is merely confined to her rooms because, at the end of January, she is expecting to present you with a baby brother or sister; the doctor thought it wisest for her to have as little activity as possible while she awaits this event. Last month she was allowed downstairs only once a day; now she is not to come down at all, or at most one time each week. I am sure we will have a very happy, albeit quiet Christmas with just the three of us."
"That is exciting news, Father!" Fitz declared. "Will the baby arrive whilst I am at home for the holidays?"
"I do not think the baby will arrive before you have to return to school, Fitz," George Darcy told his son; "in fact, I hope it will not arrive for another five weeks. You may not be aware that we have lost several babies over the years. That is why you have never had a brother or sister. But this time everything seems to be going along very well and we are hoping for the best. Why do you not go upstairs and see your mother, now. She should be awake and I am sure she is eager to see you. We will talk more later."
Thank you, Father. I will go and see mother now." Fitz said as he walked to the door, then hesitated for a moment and added, "thank you for telling me the truth and talking to me as an adult instead of a small boy, Father!"
After Fitz left the study, George Darcy realized that he had, indeed, spoken to Fitz as an equal, happy to be able to take him into his confidence and mention his fear of another lost baby. Fitz had not seemed like the little boy who had left for Eton last spring, or even last summer. He had suddenly grown into a big boy, with some early signs of the young man yet to come.
"Come in," Lady Anne called after Fitz's knock on her door. "Hello Mother," he said, smiling at her as she sat on a sofa in her small sitting room next door to her bedchamber.
"William, I am so glad to see you. Come and sit by me and tell me about your journey. How is school? How are your friends, and in particular how is Ogilvie?" The questions seemed to tumble eagerly from Lady Anne, looking for any distraction from endless reading and needlework.
Fitz sat by his mother, giving her a hug and a kiss, and tried to answer her questions one by one before realizing that he had three weeks in which to catch up, and his father had warned him not to tire his mother. Lady Anne, however, asked him to stay, reassuring him that she never felt better than when she had lively conversation and company.
It was not long before a daily pattern emerged. Fitz visited his mother each morning and, after breakfast, would join his father for a ride or shooting; when his father was not available, he rode alone or, occasionally, accompanied George Wickham into Lambton where Fitz would visit Mr. and Mrs. Stone whilst George sought out his own companions. After his outdoor excursions, Fitz again sat with his mother, frequently reading aloud to her. She enjoyed listening to him, while Fitz was often amazed at her insightful analysis of a particular passage or section of a book. Dinner was served in that same sitting room. George Darcy joined them for dinner and, instead of the men retiring after the meal, the three stayed together for the evening engaged in conversation, reading aloud, and occasional card games.
His parents particularly enjoyed hearing Fitz's tales from school. He told them of the evening when his dormitory had made plans for a midnight feast; they had all bought some supplies in the shops of Eton and had carefully prepared the feast; but, when midnight came, all six boys were fast asleep and the food was found untouched by a prefect the following morning. They had been sent to see Mr. North, who had lectured them on the horrors of mice and rats in their room and the reason why food was not allowed anywhere in the house outside of the kitchen, the dining room, or the prefects' study; but he had only restricted them for a week. Fitz suspected that this was a rule that was frequently broken and Mr. North was lenient, whereas Mr. Bridge, according to his cousin, would have billed the culprits and they would have been sent to the provost for this infraction.
On Christmas Eve Fitz and his father were in the library when they heard the sounds of carolers coming from the front of the house. They both went outside to compliment the tenants' children on their singing and invited them into the servants' hall for some hot chocolate and biscuits. Suddenly Fitz realized that his mother would not have been able to hear the carolers since her rooms faced the back of the house.
"Father, when we go upstairs for dinner why do we not stop outside Mother's room and sing her some carols until she invites us in," Fitz suggested smiling, "she missed all the songs here." Lady Anne was very surprised, later, when she heard a man's deep voice and boy's contralto singing The First Noel and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. She smiled as she opened her door to her private carolers and invited them in for a hearty dinner; after the meal the three amused themselves by singing more carols. Their voices were not good enough to be heard often in society, but for their own amusement they served very well. Fitz went to bed that night still tingling with the warmth of one of the happiest evenings of his young life.
When Fitz woke on Christmas morning the feelings of the previous evening still lingered, producing a happy anticipation of the day to come. He accompanied his father to church; on their return home they stopped to wish all the household staff a happy Christmas before going upstairs for the remainder of the day. They would have their dinner later, but first Fitz gathered the presents he had prepared for his parents.
When he entered his mother's sitting room, he wished her a happy Christmas and presented her with a small volume of Thomas Gray's early poems; for his father he had several pages of his own translation of The Odyssey of Homer. "These are only the first three hundred lines of Book I," Fitz explained, "but I promise I will continue and give you many more lines next Christmas." His parents were delighted with his thoughtful gifts.
"Thank you very much, Fitz; I am very impressed and can see that your education has not been wasted," his father exclaimed. His mother also thanked him, adding, "I want to hear you read the opening of one of these poems after dinner, if you will." She, in turn, gave Fitz a part of Chaucer's Prologue to his Canterbury Tales copied in her own hand saying, "I wish to read this to you later;" and from his father he received his own copy of Sheridan's The Rivals. The three of them laughed when they realized that all their gifts revolved around books and literature but, as his father explained, "there is no better way to pass the time during these cold, winter days when the evenings are long and we are alone together; it just shows where our interests lie!"
After the traditional Christmas dinner finished with the flaming plum pudding, Lady Anne asked Fitz to read the opening of Gray's "On a Distant Prospect of Eton College", and he was happy to comply with her request:
Ye distant spires, ye antique towers,
That crown the watery glade,
Where grateful science still adores
Her Henry's holy shade;
And ye that from the stately brow
of Windsor's heights th' expanse below
Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,
Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among,
Wanders the hoary Thames along
His silver-winding way;
"That's very like the way I first saw Eton," Fitz remarked, "but I would never have been able to put my thoughts into such poetry." George Darcy smiled and then continued with the third verse:
Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen
Full many a sprightly race,
Disporting on thy margent green,
The paths of pleasure trace.
Who foremost now delight to cleave,
With pliant arm thy glassy wave?
The captive linnet which enthral?
What idle progeny succeed
To chase the rolling circle's speed,
Or urge the flying ball?
"That is a good description of football and cricket," Fitz exclaimed, "but we do not spend all our time playing games in the fields."
"We know that; you would not have been able to translate the Greek verse for your father if you did!" Lady Anne said as she prepared to read the final verse:
To each each sufferings; all are men,
Comdemn'd alike to groan;
The tender for another's pain,
Th' unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies;
Thought would destroy our paradise--
No more;--where ignorance is bliss
'Tis folly to be wise.
"Does that mean ignorance is better than wisdom?" Fitz asked, very perplexed.
"No," his father told him, "it only means that life's sorrows should not encroach on childhood and youth."
Later in the evening, shortly before Fitz was ready to retire for the night, Lady Anne sat down beside him on the sofa, saying "Now, William, I want to read you the verse I gave you. It is my wish for you--that you become such a man in another ten years." And from Chaucer's Prologue she began to read of "A Knight":
A Knight there was, and that a worthy man,
Who, from the moment when he first began
To ride forth, loved the code of chivalry:
Honour and truth, freedom and courtesy.
. . . .
Renowned he was; and, worthy, he was wise--
Prudence, with him, was more than mere disguise;
He was as meek in manner as a maid.
Vileness he shunned, rudeness he never said
In all his life, treating all persons right.
He was a truly perfect, noble knight.
"Thank you, Mother!" Fitz whispered feelingly, "I shall endeavour to live up to those expectations."
On the last day of the year Fitz and his father returned from their morning ride to find Simmons and Mrs. Reynolds in an agitated state in the hall.
"Oh, Sir," Simmons said in a great rush, "I am so glad you have returned. You must send for the doctor immediately."
"Please, Sir," Mrs. Reynolds interrupted, "Mrs. Darcy has been in pain for the past hour."
"We sent a groom out to find you, but he has not yet returned," Simmons added, "he was to enquire whether Mr. Wickham knew of your direction."
George Darcy lost all the colour in his face but not his wits; he gave quick commands: "Send Jamison to Matlock to fetch the doctor, at once; tell him to lose no time on his way there or back. Send Smith in the second carriage to fetch the midwife, and tell him also to fetch the nurse. We may need all of them before this day is over. Mrs. Reynolds, please see to my wife; stay with her and tell her I will be up to see her immediately."
After Simmons and Mrs. Reynolds had left to fulfill these commands, he turned to Fitz who looked very worried and nearly as ashen as his father. "Fitz, wait for me in the library or in your room; I will go and see you mother. Do not worry, this may signify nothing. I have heard that sometimes the pains come too soon and then go away again. Let us hope for the best and not fear the worst until the doctor arrives and we have heard what he has to say."
Fitz went off to the library thinking, "It seems that Father was trying to allay his own fears as much as mine; I wish I knew what this meant." With that thought in mind, Fitz looked along the library shelves, searching for a book on medicine or babies or any book that might give him some knowledge of what was happening upstairs. He found a book by Galen, a Greek physician who lived around 200 A.D., but after glancing through it found no answers for his present questions.
Fitz heard the arrival of the nurse, midwife and doctor, yet his father did not return downstairs. He tried to take an interest in a book, any book, but he could not concentrate; he gazed out of the window, walked about the room, walked in the corridors until, seeing Simmons, he asked him for any news but the latter knew no more than Fitz. He was about to return to the library when he heard his father and the doctor talking quietly on their way downstairs.
"Let us go into my study," George Darcy suggested, adding, "come along Fitz. You may as well hear what the doctor has to say."
"It appears that the baby is very eager to enter the world," Doctor Macleod told Mr. Darcy and Fitz. "Although this event is almost a month too soon, I believe everything will be well. Now, if you will excuse me, I will return to Lady Anne; and I had best make arrangements to remain here overnight. Mr. Darcy, if you would be so kind, would you send a message to Matlock to inform my wife that I shall remain here for the duration."
"The message will be sent," Mr. Darcy promised, "and, if you can leave Mrs. Darcy, please join us for dinner, doctor."
Left to themselves again, Fitz joined his father in the study. "Father, what is really happening with Mother, and how can the baby decide when to enter the world. How does all this occur?"
"These are good questions, Fitz, and I think you are old enough now to know about babies, and how, when, and why they are born," Mr. Darcy told his son as he settled down to a man-to-man talk about the basic facts of life. After he had told Fitz as much as he knew and had answered as many of Fitz's questions as he had answers for, he added, "there is yet very much that is unknown about medicine and the mysteries of birth, death, diseases, and the human body. Perhaps you should ask Dr. Macleod, if he joins us for dinner, for more scientific facts."
"Thank you, Father," Fitz replied as he settled down to think over everything his father had told him. Whilst this information did not allay his fears for his mother, he felt better for knowing what was going on upstairs.
After a dinner, during which Mr. Darcy and Fitz barely touched their food although Dr. Macleod ate heartily, Fitz joined his father in the drawing room, prepared to keep him company during the evening's long duration. They played chess, but Fitz found that his father's mind was not on the game; after he had won two games, they turned their attention to Backgammon which demanded less active thought and left them free to listen for any sounds from above. Despite the games, time passed slowly. Supper was served and, despite his worries, Fitz found he was hungry and did more justice to this meal than he had at dinner. Mrs. Reynolds was their source of news from upstairs, but she had nothing to report.
Fitz was struggling to stay awake, trying to concentrate on his book, when the clock chimed midnight. "Happy New Year, Father," Fitz smiled as his father returned the greeting saying "Happy New Year, Fitz--1796-- a new day, a new year, and a new baby, let us wish for the best for all." Realizing the hour, he added, "Fitz, you had better be off to your bed. It is very late for you." But Fitz was adamant that he would keep his father company through the night if necessary and stayed where he was, reading on the sofa.
After another hour, and still no news from upstairs, George Darcy looked lovingly at his sleeping son stretched out on the sofa. "He looks just like a young colt," thought Mr. Darcy, "all arms and legs at awkward angles; but if he keeps growing the way he has recently, he will be a very fine looking young man."
Finally, at seven o'clock, when the sky was just beginning to lighten, Simmons announced that Mrs. Darcy had been delivered of a daughter. "Congratulations, Sir!" Simmons added before withdrawing. Fitz woke to the news that he had a sister. He smiled at his father and gave a big sigh of relief, but his father, whilst returning the smile was yet worried about the health of both the mother and the child; his wife had had a very long ordeal and the baby was immature to be born into such harsh winter weather.
George Darcy visited his wife on that first morning of the new year; she was very tired, rather flushed and feverish, but very happy that the baby was healthy. He looked at his small daughter in the nurse's arms as the latter assured him "she is small, but very strong--a little fighter." She was as blond as Fitz had been dark and looked very much like her mother.
"I have a request to make," George Darcy said while talking quietly to Lady Anne, "you asked that Fitz be called after your family as well as mine. I would like to suggest that we call our daughter after both our names again--what think you of Georgiana?"
"I like the name very well indeed," Lady Anne smiled at her husband, "and not only does it combine our names, but it also honours the king."
Fitz had to wait another day before he was allowed to see his mother and new sister; he was only permitted to see his mother for a few minutes, but he spent a long time gazing at Georgiana; he had never seen anything so tiny, so delicate, and yet so perfect.
During the next ten days before Fitz had to return to school, Georgiana continued to flourish; his mother, however, remained weak and feverish, but to Fitz she seemed cheerful enough. He visited her briefly each morning and evening, but there were no lengthy evenings of conversation, reading, and cards.
On his last morning at Pemberley he went to the nursery where he was surprised and delighted when the nurse sat him down in a comfortable chair and carefully placed his small sister in his arms; suddenly he felt all the responsibilities of an older brother and handled her as if she were a china doll, breakable at the slightest movement. Later, as the carriage waited to take him to Matlock to meet the coach for Windsor and Eton, he bade his mother good-bye in the hope of seeing her restored to health as soon as maybe; and, as he climbed into the carriage, he asked his father to be sure to write and inform him of his mother's and sister's continued well-being.
The Lent half, during the coldest months of the year, meant less outdoor activity for Darcy and his friends. Instead, he began fencing lessons which provided both physical and mental exercise. Although his mind occasionally strayed back to Pemberley, his father's letters assured him that his mother was over the worst of her fever and was beginning to regain her strength whilst Georgiana continued to make progress. With his mind thus eased, he concentrated on his lessons, fencing, and, when the weather allowed, the outdoor field and wall games. The months at school passed quickly; by the beginning of April during a cold, raw spring, he was on his way back to Pemberley and his family. He was looking forward to Easter and Georgiana's christening the following week; even the thought of his Aunt Catherine and cousin Anne's visit for these events did not dampen his cheerful anticipation.
The first three days of his Easter holiday were very happy ones for Fitz. His father had lost the worried look Fitz had noticed the previous January; his mother, though she remained weak, was now well enough to sit in her favorite room whilst employed with her correspondence and to join them for their family dinner in the dining room; and Georgiana, at three months, was alert, looking around, aware of new faces and sounds, and, to Fitz's joy, she smiled at him. He was delighted to be home at Pemberley and to be spoiled by his parents, Mrs. Reynolds, cook and the servants. He went riding, demonstrated his newly acquired fencing skills for his father, and spent many happy hours with his mother and Georgiana.
On the fourth day, however, with the arrival of Lady Catherine, Anne, a governess, footmen and maids, these carefree hours were curtailed. On his return from his morning ride he would find Lady Catherine usurping his time with his mother; he was sent off to find Anne and keep her amused. While they could visit with Georgiana, this was a remarkably easy task; Anne was delighted with her youngest cousin and could happily watch her cooing and gurgling for as long as she was allowed. When not thus employed, Fitz tried to teach his seven year old cousin to play checkers but to little avail; she did not care for books, and her only amusement seemed to lie in conversing about the baby girl upstairs. Fitz soon grew weary of her repeated raptures on her size, looks, and sounds; when Anne asked about Georgiana's birth he was happy to tell her everything he had experienced that day--the long afternoon and night's wait, the worry, and all the knowledge he had acquired that evening from his father and Doctor Macleod. Anne grew quite perturbed at hearing such detailed, intimate facts, but Fitz was too involved in his narration to notice. When he had finished she ran from the room, saying she was going to ask her mother if what he had told her were really true.
That evening Lady Catherine and his mother told Fitz, in no uncertain terms, that he had been very wrong in relating all this knowledge to Anne; "it is a Mother's duty to tell her daughter these thing when it is time for her to marry," Lady Catherine intoned. "Aunt Catherine, you asked me to keep Anne amused, and she did ask me about Georgiana's birth," Fitz replied in his own defense. Mr. Darcy, barely able to conceal his smile during Lady Catherine's diatribe, informed Fitz later in private that, while he should not have tried to impress Anne with his knowledge, it was probably his own fault for not cautioning Fitz at the time that these subjects were to be broached only in private between a child and a parent; "I know you did not mean to shock or upset your cousin, Fitz, but propriety demands that these subjects remain untouched between children and between unmarried young men and women."
On a cold, blustery, damp Easter Sunday, Lady Catherine and Anne joined the Darcys for services at the small village church. When the Pemberley party arrived to take their pew in the front, it was already filled with a congregation of Pemberley tenants, small-hold farmers, artisans and their families. During the service the sermon was barely audible to the back of the crowd, owing to the coughs and sneezes emanating from so many among them. As the Darcys left the church, many of the tenants and their families remained at the door to congratulate them on the birth of Georgiana, since Mrs. Darcy had rarely been seen for the past three months. She smiled and shook hands with many of them whilst Lady Catherine swept by in her usual haughty manner, not deigning to wait for her host and hostess.
Three days later Mrs. Darcy felt very poorly; she was coughing, sneezing, running a fever, and ached all over before she reluctantly submitted and retired to her bed. When Mr. Darcy called for Dr. Macleod to diagnose and prescribe for his wife, she had no objection; she was determined to fight this illness in time to attend Georgiana's baptism, set for the following Sunday, and to be hostess for the attending company at Pemberley.
With her sister indisposed, Lady Catherine decided that it was her duty to maintain the orderly maintenance of Pemberley and to oversee the preparations for the arrival of the Earl and Countess of Matlock and their children, as well as the dinner party to follow the baptism. Mr. Darcy had assumed that Mrs. Reynolds had all preparations well in hand; he was very surprised when he discovered that the servants, from Simmons and Mrs. Reynolds to the lowliest scullery maid had been upset by the loud, strident commands issuing from Lady Catherine--her criticisms and orders for the way they were to handle their jobs. Both Simmons and Mrs. Reynolds complained to Mr. Darcy who, in turn, told them to listen politely but ignore her Ladyship's strictures and to tell everyone else connected with Pemberley to do the same. Thus, peace was restored below stairs and, when Saturday came, everything was ready for the expected guests.
Lady Catherine's opinionated behaviour was not restricted to the servants. She daily attempted to cajole and then scold her sister into health; and coming upon Fitz and his father fencing in the long gallery one morning, she exclaimed in a horrified tone, "Darcy, are you trying to wound the boy; what can you be thinking, and whilst your wife lies ill?"
"Oh, have no fear, it is much more likely that he will wound me before I get close enough to inflict harm on him," George Darcy laughed; "we both needed some exercise. You know, Fitz is really proficient with the foil."
"I think it is most inappropriate to be engaged in sport at such a time as this; I would not allow it at Rosings, I can assure you. But if you insist on idling your time away in this fashion, I shall not disturb you further; I have more important duties to attend, such as sitting with your wife and overseeing the preparations for your guests," Lady Catherine sniffed as she swept past the duelists.
"That is why I so dislike visits to Rosings," Fitz whispered to his father as they exchanged conspiratorial grins.
The Earl and Countess of Matlock, Frederick and Edward arrived on Saturday morning to be greeted by Mr. Darcy and Fitz; even Lady Anne rallied her strength enough to await her guests in the drawing room and, later, to join the assembled company for dinner. Fitz was glad to see them. He enjoyed the company of the Earl and Countess considerably more than that of Lady Catherine, and he was always happy to be with Edward. Frederick, on the other hand, did not impress Fitz; his two years at Cambridge had done little to lessen his air of superiority. Fitz was glad, therefore, that his parents had asked the Countess and Edward to be Georgiana's godparents; it would have been a disaster if they would have asked Lady Catherine and Frederick in their stead, he thought as he watched them at dinner.
On Sunday Georgiana's baptism was to follow shortly after morning services. The day dawned as grey and cold as every other day that week. Mr. Darcy urged his wife to forego the ceremony, fearing for her health, but she insisted on attending. "I shall accompany Georgiana to church after the morning service;" she told her husband, "nothing shall deprive me of the pleasure of seeing her baptized." She was adamant and, at the appointed time, she arrived at the church accompanied by the nurse carrying Georgiana; despite her pale skin, very flushed cheeks, a high fever, and a noticeable shortness of breath she joined the assembled company around the font to witness Georgiana's admission into the congregation.
A celebratory dinner at Pemberley followed the brief church ceremony. Although the guest of honour, Georgiana, was asleep upstairs, Lady Anne insisted on performing her duties as hostess until the last local visitor left the house; only then did she excuse herself, leaving the Count and Countess, Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy, Fitz and his cousins to amuse themselves for the remainder of the evening.
During the next four days Lady Anne's illness became critical; her fever was so high that she was frequently delirious and Doctor Macleod, who daily attended her, could do nothing for her. The great house was hushed and even Lady Catherine's strident tones were lowered. She had remained to help at Pemberley after the Earl and Countess had departed, taking Anne and her governess with them to their home. Mr. Darcy spent most of his time at his wife's bedside whilst Fitz watched over Georgiana and anxiously waited for his mother's recovery.
At the end of the fourth day, Mr. Darcy asked Fitz to his mother's room. She was lucid for the first time that day and wanted to speak to him. As he entered her room, Fitz was horrified at her altered appearance; the fever had wasted her body, dried her skin and made it appear thin as parchment, but he was happy to hear her speak to him as he stood next to her bed.
"William, I hope you grow to be a good man just as your father; keep him company, for he will have need of you, and help him look after Georgiana," she told him, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Of course, Mother; I will look after Georgiana and I will always keep Father company. But you will get better and then you will see how well I heed your wishes," Fitz promised; he tried to sound hopeful of her recovery, but he was very afraid that his hopes were in vain.
"And one final request, William," the whispering voice continued, "remember your family background and do not disgrace either the name of Darcy or Fitzwilliam; remember that you are of noble and honorable birth."
"Yes, Mother, I will remember," Fitz replied. He bent to kiss her and left the room, before his constricted throat and watery eyes gave his feelings away.
The following morning Mr. Darcy woke Fitz gently to inform him that his mother had died peacefully in her sleep during the night. "The fever was too much for her, Fitz," he mourned; "now we shall have to go on without her," he added with a deep sigh.
Fitz did not know what to reply; indeed, he did not know what he felt--he was numb. Her death had not been unexpected, yet he had denied the possibility; he could not fully comprehend his father's words now and he was very far from accepting the idea that she would not be with them for dinner that evening or, indeed, ever again.
Ten days after Georgiana's baptism the same family group, many friends from far and near, the tenants, servants, and local families, were gathered for Lady Anne's funeral; they attended out of respect and love for Lady Anne and in sympathy for Mr. Darcy. Only John Fitzwilliam was absent; he was on the Continent, serving with his regiment in the war against France.
The days between his mother's death and her funeral had been very confused for Fitz. When the initial numbness had worn off, he had been swept by waves of conflicting emotions-- disbelief, denial, anger, grief, sorrow--in a repetitive circle; and yet he had found no outlet for these sentiments. Day after day he had hidden his feelings and shed no tears lest he add to his father's burdens; the latter had to contend with his own deep grief as well as the arrangements for the funeral.
Georgiana was much too young to realize her loss and continued to smile and gurgle happily; she had provided some brief respite for Fitz when he watched or held her until he had thought that she would never know her mother; then he had been hit again with a wave of profound sadness which could not be expressed for fear of upsetting his baby sister.
Lady Catherine had been unaware of Fitz's inner turmoil. She had upbraided him one morning when he had returned from the stables for riding so soon after his mother's death. A wave of anger overcame Fitz--why had his mother died, why not his aunt--but he had suppressed his annoyance and assumed an impassive demeanour; "You are a heartless, unfeeling boy," Lady Catherine had called after him as he climbed the stairs. On the other hand, when the servants had been extra kind to Fitz, especially Mrs. Reynolds, he had felt himself close to tears followed by irritation at their kindness which might provoke those tears. He had thought himself too old to cry like a baby and he had feared that if he ever allowed himself the relief of tears they might never stop.
Fitz spent some of his quiet moments looking through his mother's favourite books and especially the poetry she had enjoyed. Coming across one particularly apt poem he sought his father to suggest that it be read at the funeral. "That is a good idea, Fitz. Thank you for pointing it out to me; I shall ask the Vicar to include this poem," his father had replied in a quiet, sad voice.
Fitz sat next to his father in the family pew as he heard the vicar say "At the request of the family, I shall conclude this service with the following lines from John Donne:
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death; nor yet canst thou kill me.
. . .
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die!"
These words were comforting to Fitz; for him, they personified his mother more accurately than the rather cold, formal words of the official funeral service.
Following the funeral the many expressions of condolence were an ordeal for Fitz. Although kindly meant, they did not alleviate his sense of loss and were, instead, a test of endurance for his composure. Only after the last guest had departed did he feel a sense of peace return to Pemberley.
This peace was shattered for Fitz when Lady Catherine informed him that evening that, "it is in my power to take you as far as London in my barouche box for your return to Eton, Fitzwilliam." He had realized that he would be late returning to school, but he could not support the idea of spending two days in the company of his aunt and her lectures. He begged his father to allow him to stay at Pemberley a little longer and Mr. Darcy was happy to intervene on Fitz's behalf. He told his sister-in-law that he had need of Fitz, that his school had been informed of his late return, and that her services would not be required to transport him to Eton.
During Fitz's remaining week at home a sense of normality returned. Mr. Darcy was glad of Fitz's company; they went riding, practised some fencing, had dinner and spent the evenings together, each one trying to remain strong and unemotional for the other and the subject uppermost in their minds--the loss of wife and mother--was never broached.
The summer half passed quickly for Fitz. He had been warmly welcomed back at school by all but Fowler who had made some cutting, sarcastic remarks about believing the "genius Darcy" to be already at Cambridge, remarks which he had merely ignored. When the company of his friends proved too intrusive and the need for solitude overwhelmed him, Fitz found respite by the river. One day he had been accompanied thither by Ogilvie, who had commiserated with Darcy on his return to school and tried to cheer him with the fact that at least he had enjoyed his mother's company for twelve years; when Darcy remembered that Ogilvie had never had the chance to know his mother, he recognized that he had no right to complain or to feel sorry for himself. That day by the river, Ogilvie had been in high good humour because his father, now a Colonel, had returned from the West Indies; no longer would he have to endure the holidays at Lyme Park but would, instead, join his father in town. Darcy was glad for his friend although sorry that he would not be able to invite him to Pemberley as he had done the previous year.
They had spent the afternoon talking of the war against France. It had started in February 1793 and the Coalition of allied powers had, at first, been so successful that British troops had been sent to various parts of the world in an attempt to sever French colonies; but in a fight to take the French sugar islands in the West Indies the British had lost forty thousand troops and those that survived had returned home. Colonel Ogilvie had been a lucky survivor. At the same time, a new French conscript army under General Carnot had, in 1795, routed the British from Holland. Following this defeat, Prussia and Spain withdrew from the Coalition; only Austria, Russia and Sardinia remained allied with the British.
Fitz returned to Pemberley in anticipation of finding his father's spirits raised, his grief alleviated over the past months; instead he found his father sunk into deeper sorrow. "I had some very bad news yesterday, Fitz; your uncle, John Fitzwilliam, was killed fighting in northern Italy."
"Oh, I am very sorry. But why was Uncle John fighting in Italy; I thought that all the British troops had returned home after their defeat in Holland."
"John and his regiment were assisting the Austrians and Sardinians in their fight against the French under the command of a new general, Napoleon Bonaparte; the coalition army was routed in a battle that cost John his life." Mr. Darcy, with a heavy sigh, thought, "my wife and my best friend both taken within the space of a few months."
He had not intended nor realized that he had spoken those words until Fitz said "I know I can never replace either of them, Father, but I shall try to be as much help and company to you as I can. I still miss Mother and find it difficult to realize that she is not in the house; and I know I shall miss Uncle John's understanding, wit and good humour."
Continued in Part 3
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