The Son of an Earl
My mother was wont to say, when I was a child, that life does not always turn out the way we suppose, but we must try to deal with it and learn from it. This wisdom, falling upon the years of an impressionable child, was ingrained into my memory, and I found, as my years passed, that it was true, indeed.
I had a fairly happy childhood. I was my mother's favorite child, though I was the youngest. Father was an earl, and though amused by his children's antics, he was somewhat detached from us. Mother was the opposite. She loved us dearly, and took care of us with all of her heart. She was considered very handsome, I understand, when she was younger, and my father fell in love with her despite her lively, and often impudent, manner.
I wasn't very well liked by my two older brothers, and was often the object of ridicule. My mother often rescued me from becoming the prey to my brothers' latest pranks, but that only served to bring worse upon me later.
I soon grew up, though, and, I hope that I was none the worse from my brothers' spite. When I was sixteen, my eldest brother was in a riding accident, and died. Later that summer, Mother fell ill and after a slow and painful struggle with death, passed away. Father was deeply grieved by her death, and my older brother and I were sent to relations. My older brother went to an aunt in Scotland, and I was sent to Derbyshire.
My uncle had requested for me to come to him, at the first news of my mother's death. He thought that it would be good for me to be in the company of other young men of my age. I was to stay only a few months. My uncle was a kind man, and was also very rich. He owned Pemberley. When I arrived, I was somewhat frightened of my new surroundings, but never let my feelings show, because I was nearly a man, and would never show fear. From experience with my brothers, I knew that fear would only get me into trouble.
I was pleased to see that I was the eldest on the estate. My cousin was younger than I, as was his friend George Wickham, who was the son of my uncle's steward. I thought that I would now be able to push someone else around for once, but I soon found that this was not the case.
I was considered, when I was at school, to be a very intelligent boy. My cousin, Fitzwilliam, whom I dubbed "Darce," was much smarter than I, as I soon discovered. Whenever I would try to play a trick on him, along with my cohort George, Darce would, more often than not, outsmart the both of us. I was often piqued by this, but after a while, I realized that I had better become friends with him than try to outsmart him.
Darce and I soon became friends. I was disappointed when I had to return to my father's estate, but I promised that I would keep in correspondence with him. His father soon sent him to Cambridge, along with George. When he graduated, I visited him at Pemberley. My uncle was glad to see me, as he had become fond of me, but his health was failing. Before his death, he appointed Darce and I as the guardians of his daughter, Georgiana.
Darce and I both had an aunt named Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine was quite fond of her "dear Colonel" and "dear, dear Darcy," and every year around Eastertime, had us visit her at Rosings. Lady Catherine was a very talkative woman. She hardly ever required us to respond, though. She was also very commanding, and very tyrannical, if I would have to supply a word for her officiousness. When I was at Rosings, I often spent my time riding, or playing billiards with Darce. He, too, tried to stay as far away from Lady Catherine as I did, within the bounds of propriety. He would always complain to me about our aunt's "hints" (if they were indeed subtle enough to be called that) about our cousin, Anne de Bourgh.
Anne was a sickly sort of young lady. She wasn't very handsome, and rarely spoke more than one or two words to me or Darce during our whole stay at Rosings. Darce had the misfortune of being designed for Anne, and Lady Catherine would always take the time to remind him of that. We would always laugh at our aunt's expressions when out of the room.
The year after Georgiana's nearly disastrous vacation at Ramsgate, Darce and I were again soon to be on our way to Rosings for our annual visit. Unbeknownst to me, this visit was going to be the beginning of the most interesting time of my life.
I sat with my cousin Darce in his parlor in London, the day before our journey to Rosings for our annual visit. I had not seen him for a while, since the previous summer, in fact, but the events of that visit were ones that I dared not mention aloud. Darce sat in his favorite chair, near the fireplace. He had not spoken to me for nearly a quarter hour, and I was starting to get the sense that there was something definitely wrong. He was usually slightly morose and reticent, but nothing like this. I soon asked him what the matter was.
He did not turn his gaze from the fire, but said in a tired tone that there was nothing wrong with him. I laughed, knowing this to be false. I pressed again, and this time he turned his face towards me. Even when he looked directly at me, there was such an abstract look in his eye, that I felt as though he did not see me, as if I did not exist in the room.
"Fitzwilliam, it is something I would rather not discuss. If you would be ever so kind as to leave me to my own thoughts, I would be grateful to you."
I was startled at this speech, and knew not how to respond. His pale face, and haggard appearance had alerted me, when I first entered the house, that something was wrong, but now I was certain. "Darce, I am sure that there is nothing that you cannot discuss with me! I have always respected your confidences, and am certain that if it is a matter of business or such, there should be no scruple in telling me. It may do you some good to tell me your problems."
Darce looked back at the fire and responded, "It is not about business, Fitzwilliam. Please, respect my privacy."
I was even more amazed at this. Darcy had never been one to fall in love with anyone, but I was sure that this was the case. The only other type of difficulty that I could fathom, was one involving Georgiana, but if it were so, he would definitely tell me. I decided that there was no sense badgering Darce any more than I had already, and picked up a book to read.
The evening went slowly, as Darce was not a very enthusiastic companion, and I soon retired to my room. I was disturbed by Darcy's appearance, and knew that he had something on his mind, and was somewhat offended that he would not inform me of his dilemma. In the past, Darcy had been open and honest with me. Whenever there was something troubling him, I would be his confidant. I decided that I would try to get as much information on the way out to Rosings as I could.
The next day dawned bright, and Darcy and I were soon on the road to Rosings. I asked him questions about some acquaintances he had seen lately, and he answered me with abrupt answers. After a short silence, I asked him how Bingley fared. He looked at me strangely, and asked me what I meant. I did not understand how he could have construed my question into anything but a civil inquiry after his friend's health. I realized that Darcy's dejection was beginning to make him suspicious of every question put to him.
"Darcy, what is wrong? You have not said one kind word to me since we left London. Your responses to my questions have actually been quite cruel and provoking! Why are you so cross?"
Darcy looked at me and apologized. "Bingley was in health, as were his two sisters"--this was accompanied by a growl--"when I left them last in London."
I asked him how his time in Hertfordshire had been. He mumbled something about "country manners," and said no more. I was becoming annoyed. Darcy would not respond to any of my overtures of goodwill, so I tried one more time.
"Have you done anything interesting since the last time I saw you?"
He must have heard the peevish tone in my voice, for he looked at me, surprised. He must have decided to give in to my inquisition, for he replied in a somewhat lively tone, "Well, Fitzwilliam, I can't say I have done nothing interesting. I did at least one good thing for someone. I have lately saved someone from a marriage that would have been both imprudent and illogical." And with that, he looked away from me, as if that was all I was going to get from him. I was persistent, though, and asked him more about it.
Rolling his eyes, he explained. "I do not think that I should tell you all of the particulars, but there were very many objections to the young lady's connections. I did what was best for my friend, and that is all that is to it."
I laughed and said that it was just what I would have expected from Darce. His face suddenly fell, as if he recalled some bad memory, and he looked away again. I felt that I should say something, but I was not sure what. I felt concerned about the welfare of my dear friend, and knew that if he didn't lighten up, I would have the worst time at Rosings that I ever had in my life. I guess you could call that selfish, but it was also for Darcy's sake that I said this:
"That is it, Darcy, I am tired of your self-pity," I said. Darcy looked at me, surprised at my sharp tone. I have to admit that I was surprised at myself, too, but I did not dare show it. "If you don't tell me what is wrong, you must at least stop acting like the world is ending tomorrow. If you don't start acting like yourself by the time you get to Rosings, Lady Catherine will have much to say about the way you look, and that isn't what you want, is it?"
Darcy smiled at this, and agreed that he would try to liven up a bit. I was grateful for this, though still slightly stunned by my nerve to stand up to Darcy the way I did. By the time we saw Rosings, Darcy was nearly back to his old self, but not quite. I could still see that his heart was heavy.
We were nearly at Rosings. We passed the parsonage, and saw a man standing out in front, waving to us. He was a plump fellow, and looked quite, how should I say it, interesting? Darcy looked at the man with disgust, and I was relieved that we were too far away for Darcy's expression to be seen.
I laughed and asked, "Darcy, what have you against that man? He looks like a simple clergyman!"
Darcy turned to me with the expression of contempt still on his face. "I met him in Hertfordshire. He is the cousin of an acquaintance"--his face flushed as he said this, but I showed no signs of acknowledging his embarrassment--"I had met while at Netherfield. He was a most pompous, obsequious man. To think that we will have to listen to his pretentious speeches. I had heard a rumor that he married his cousin, though I had thought she was more sensible than that."
I raised my eyebrows at this, but said nothing. We soon reached Rosings, and went into the house. Darcy was a faster walker than I, and reached the drawing room more quickly.
"Ah! my dear Darcy! How are you? Where is Colonel Fitzwilliam" I could hear the shrill whine of my aunt's voice as Darcy passed into the drawing room at Rosings, even though I was all the way down the hall. I soon went through the door, though, and saw my aunt and cousin. Lady Catherine immediately asked after Georgiana, and soon was talking without cease. I looked at Darcy, and saw him smile discretely at me.
Lady Catherine soon freed us from her prattle, and I went to my bed chamber to dress for dinner. I was fatigued from the journey, and from the incessant talk of my aunt. I went to dinner, and sat down across from Darcy. He had become slightly melancholy in the short period of time that he had listened to our aunt's talk while I was still in my apartments. I ate the dinner, and completely ignored Lady Catherine. I needn't have worried; she hardly ever addressed me, anyway. I felt pity for Darcy, who had to respond to nearly all of her questions, and was subjected to Lady Catherine boasting of Anne. Not that there were many accomplishments for our aunt to talk of.
The next day soon came, and we were visited by the little plump man, who went by the name of Mr. Collins. I nearly laughed outright at the complements he attempted to give Lady Catherine, and at his stupidity. But I managed to keep my composure.
He soon said something that was of a bit of interest to me. "Highly esteemed gentlemen,"--I nearly exploded with laughter at this--"I hope that you will come to visit myself, my wife, and her sister and friend, at the parsonage sometime, when it is at all convenient to you."
Darcy looked confused. "Has her sister come from London, then?"
Mr. Collins looked as stupefied as Darcy. "No, she came from Hertfordshire with my wife's friend, and her father, who has already left us."
Darcy looked confused, until Lady Catherine broke in. "Oh, what an insolent girl. Did you hear, Mr. Collins, how she speaks to me? I could not have been more offended at her discourtesy. Your Charlotte, Mr. Collins, has definitely more manners and refinement than her friend. What is her name again, Mr. Collins?"
Mr. Collins replied that it was Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I smiled to myself; I would definitely have to meet her. Anyone who could have the courage to stand up to Lady Catherine was definitely going to be an asset to the company here in Hunsford.
When Mr. Collins took his leave, Darcy told him that we would follow him to the parsonage. "We are?" I said, slightly confused.
Darcy just nodded and followed Mr. Collins out the door. He explained to me as Mr. Collins ran ahead to the parsonage. "While I was at Netherfield, I had received the impression that Mr. Collins was going to propose to his cousin, Miss Elizabeth, but she must have refused him, which must be attributed to her good sense. Apparently her friend Miss Lucas married Mr. Collins instead."
Here I asked what Miss Bennet was like.
"She is very handsome, Fitzwilliam. Not quite as handsome as her elder sister, though. She is quite accomplished. She plays and sings remarkably well. You will definitely appreciate her company here at Rosings, Fitzwilliam."
I smiled at this, recalling my own thoughts on that when I had heard Lady Catherine's remarks on the topic of this young lady. We soon reached the parsonage and were first introduced to Mrs. Collins. She was very plain, but smiled kindly at us, though she looked at Darcy with an inquiring gaze. We were next introduced to her sister Maria. We last met Miss Bennet.
I was pleasantly surprised at Miss Bennet's appearance. She was very handsome, and smiled warmly at me, though she looked at Darcy with an air of indifferent civility. After Darcy's recommendation, I wondered at this. A thought presented itself, but it was unlikely, so told myself not to jump to conclusions. I entered into conversation with Miss Bennet as soon as we had sat down, and found her to be a very pleasing young woman. She was very well read, from what I could gather, was quite witty, and was nearly always smiling. I told her how I had heard that she played well, though she seemed slightly surprised to hear it. She remarked how Darcy was her severest critic.
I was somewhat puzzled at this. I noticed her glance across the room occasionally, and after a moment or two, she turned to me and asked me why Darcy was staring at her. Apparently Darcy heard this, for he suddenly stood up and approached us. At first he said nothing. I was a bit amused at this, for I wondered why he had stood up at all, if it was only to stand there silently.
"I hope your family is well, Miss Bennet," he finally said.
She replied that they were. "My sister has been in town these past few weeks. Have you not happened to see her there?"
Darcy seemed taken aback, but replied that he had not had that pleasure, and walked to the window and looked out. I was perplexed by this, but did not say anything.
"You see, Colonel, that we are not the best of friends," she went on to say.
I replied that I was surprised to hear that, and she looked at me strangely, saying, "Why should you be? I always believe in first impressions, and his opinion once lost is lost forever."
My bewilderment was now at its peak. I could make neither heads nor tails of this, and decided that there was something between Darcy and this young lady that I did not know about. We soon took our leave and walked back to Rosings. I could not evoke a single word from Darce on the way, though, so decided to let it go, and worry more about having to listen to Lady Catherine when we arrived.
In the next week, I, unlike my dear cousin Darce, visited the parsonage frequently. I enjoyed talking with Miss Bennet and somewhat with Mrs. Collins, though not as much as the former. I often went merely to escape Lady Catherine's incessant flow of talk, and the boredom of Rosings. Why Darcy did not avail himself of this opportunity, I could not understand. I often tried to convince him to join me, but he always found some book that was more interesting, or a letter he absolutely had to finish. So I went myself.
I soon found myself to be enjoying Miss Bennet's company more and more. I cannot say that I was in love with her, because I wasn't. After all, I had only known her a week. She was definitely standing high in my respects, though.
While we were leaving the church on Easter day, Lady Catherine invited the party at the parsonage to join us in the evening. I was overjoyed. I was so pleased that I would be able to spend an evening at Rosings in the company of someone with whom I could converse.
I was determined that I would be seated by Miss Bennet, and not be deprived of the only interesting person in the room. When they entered the drawing room, therefore, I contrived to find a place by her, and succeeded in being seated in two chairs slightly apart from the main group. Here I was able to talk with Miss Bennet. We had lively discussion on any topic we could think of. We talked of different counties, traveling, and books and music, so agreeably, that I could not remember a more enjoyable evening I had spent at Rosings.
All too soon we were interrupted by my aunt, telling us to inform her of what we were talking. I was reluctant to tell her, as it would mean the end of my conversation, since she would wish to dominate it, no matter what the subject. When I finally told her, my fears were confirmed. The pleasant conversation I had been having with Miss Bennet was forfeit. I happened to glance at Darcy, and saw him gazing in our direction with an absent look. He suddenly realized that I was looking at him, and glancing at Lady Catherine, raised an eyebrow at me. I smiled, trying to contain my laughter.
After coffee and tea, I reminded Miss Bennet of her promise to play on the pianoforte. She sat down immediately at the instrument, and I pulled up a chair, close beside her. I watched her graceful hands glide up and down the keys as she played the notes. Her expression was beautiful as she concentrated on the page of music before her. I was completely oblivious to all except her and the music she played, until her voice broke through my reverie. Only then did I notice that Darcy had approached the piano, and was also watching her play.
"You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy," she said, "by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me."
I snickered at this. I could now plainly see what Lady Catherine had been talking about, the first time I had heard Miss Bennet spoken of. If this was the type of attitude she used with my aunt, I could see why she had been offended.
Darcy replied with a smile, though. "I shall not say that you are mistaken, because you could not really believe me to contain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own."
I raised my eyebrows at this, but Miss Bennet only laughed. She addressed me with, "Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so well able to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit."
She said this in a mocking tone, and I couldn't help laughing. "Indeed, Mr. Darcy," she continued, "it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire--and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may come out as will shock your relations to hear."
Darce replied that he was not afraid of her. I was very desirous as to what she could say, for it may lead me to a clue as to what was wrong with Darcy. "Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of. I should like to know how he behaves among strangers."
She looked at me with an air of suspense, and replied, "You shall hear then--but be prepared for something very dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball--and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact."
I laughed aloud, as my cousin bit his lip. "I had not the honor of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party."
"True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball-room. Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders."
I began to look through the music, while Darcy tried to defend himself. "Perhaps I should have judged better, had I sought an introduction; but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers."
I looked at him, perplexed by his sudden wish to talk so much, and Miss Bennet said turned to me and smiled. "Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this? Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?"
I smiled at her and replied, "I can answer your question without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble."
Darcy looked at me with an ungrateful look. He then looked at Miss Bennet. "I certainly have not the talent which some people possess, of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in concerns, as I often see done."
Miss Bennet looked at him and replied, "My fingers do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault--because I would not take the trouble of practicing. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior education."
I looked at Darce, wondering how he could respond to that, but he merely smiled and said, "You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers."
This response was followed by a short moment of silence, which was quickly filled up by Lady Catherine. She called out to know what we were talking of, and Miss Bennet immediately began to play the music I placed before her.
My aunt approached us, and to my great distress, began to comment on Miss Bennet's playing. I felt embarrassed for my aunt's impertinence, and saw that the same expression was slightly visible upon Darcy's face, too.
It was a long night for me. I could not sleep; I had too much playing in my mind. First of all, I was still distressed by Darcy's depression. He had somewhat recovered, but I could see that it was only replaced by a nervousness. I could not find anything to attribute it to. Possibly it was Lady Catherine. Though, I could not conceive why. She was nothing to be nervous of. She was a harmless old lady, who liked to get her own way.
This brought me to thinking about the way she had acted earlier. I could have smacked her, the way she was talking to Miss Bennet. Well, I might as well admit it; I would never hit anyone unless absolutely necessary, and even then, it would have to be a man. I would never resort to hitting a woman, even if she was Lady Catherine.
Well, maybe Lady Catherine was the reason. After all, she had been a little more persuasive in her efforts to remind Darce about his "engagement" to Anne. I nearly fell of my chair at this point, convulsed in laughter. Engagement! I imagined poor Darce, trying to entertain at Pemberley with a wife such as Anne. She would sit in her corner, pale as a ghost, trying to avoid the guests. The grounds of Pemberley would be useless, as she would never go out in them, and the London townhouse would be vacant, except for Darcy's solitary visits for business matters, as Anne would not be able to withstand the air of London.
Suddenly I heard a knocking on the door, and Darce looked into the room. "Fitzwilliam, are you well?"
I sat up from my position on the floor, and told him that I was fine. I had stifled my laughter for the most part, but looking at Darcy again, and imagining Anne hanging on his arm made me start again. Darcy looked at me strangely. I beckoned for him to enter the room. He entered, and sat in a chair. He waited for me to stop laughing, which took a while.
"Fitzwilliam, is there something that funny? You seem to be absolutely enjoying yourself here."
I smiled at him, and replied that I was merely thinking about something. He asked me what, but I could not, in good faith, tell him that I was laughing at his future. I said, instead, that I was thinking about Mr. Collins. He looked at me strangely and asked me why I would be thinking of that pompous, arrogant...
I quickly interrupted him. "No, Darce, he is not more arrogant than Lady Catherine. Could you imagine having someone like him hanging on your every word? I would absolutely die of laughter with every sentence!"
He smiled and stood up.
"No, wait, Darce. I want to ask you something." After he had reseated himself, I asked him what he thought of Miss Bennet.
He started at the question, and for a few moments, said nothing. I wasn't sure what to make of this, but waited patiently. He soon looked up at me and sighed. "She is a wonderful woman. I knew her when she was in Hertfordshire, at a ball."
I smiled. "Yes, I remember you saying that tonight. What exactly did you do there Darce?"
He paused, and then said, "Well, what she had said was true. I had danced only four dances. Two with Miss Bingley, and two with Mrs. Hurst. I guess I ought to have been more social, Fitzwilliam, but I," he paused, seeming to be searching for words. "I was still slightly disturbed about the, uh, event during the summer with Georgiana. I wasn't very agreeable, as you may imagine, and was definitely not in the right humor to be pleasant to some country folk."
I looked at him and laughed. "Well, she certainly remembers that. You have made a definite impression on her, though it may not be the best."
He looked at me, apparently disconcerted, and left the room. I watched him go, and began thinking again. Why was he so dejected? I ruled out the idea of it being Lady Catherine. Her presence would not affect him this much. And anyway, he had been this way before we had even left Rosings, and by his appearance when I had met him in London had been such to indicate that his troubles had been with him far longer.
But if it wasn't Lady Catherine, what could it be? He had been depressed in London, after his visit to Hertfordshire. When he had first come to Rosings, he was somewhat recovered, but after we visited the parsonage the second day we were here, he relapsed into his gloom. Could there be a connection there, I thought. But what would the connection be? Last night he seemed to show an interest in Miss Bennet. Could Miss Bennet be the connection? Possibly something had happened to him in Hertfordshire, and seeing her reminded him of it.
My thoughts were in a whirl. I sighed, and decided to stop thinking about it. It was Darcy's problem, and if he was unwilling to trust me with it, I would have to be satisfied with being kept in the dark. Maybe I could talk to Georgiana when I returned to London.
I happened to glance in the looking-glass before I turned down my bed covers. I wasn't exactly satisfied with what I saw there. I was never a handsome man, and now I felt the effects of it. There would be no possibility of Miss Bennet ever falling in love with me. I was too ugly. Darcy was ten times more handsome than I, yet I seemed to get the sense that Miss Bennet did not like him, either. If she could not love him, was there any chance for me?
I woke up the next morning to an incredible headache. It may have been from thinking so much the night before, but I wasn't sure. I didn't want to test my theory by thinking about it too much, so I dressed and went to breakfast. My head ached considerably, and Darce must have noticed.
"Are you well, Fitzwilliam? You look pale," he said, sounding quite concerned.
I sighed and said that my headache had returned. He smiled sympathetically. "I am going to be paying a visit to the parsonage this morning. I would have asked you to come along, but I am sure that with your headache you would rather stay here with Lady Catherine and Anne."
I responded that their company would probably help to lessen my headache considerably. He laughed at my response, but I simply smiled, as laughing would probably only hurt my head. I told him to enjoy the conversation, and he wished me health, before taking leave of us. I watched him exit the room. Well, this certainly wasn't the Darce from last night; he seemed much happier. I wondered what had affected the change.
Lady Catherine interrupted my thoughts by proposing a game of cards. I groaned inwardly, but agreed. Lady Catherine was a poor sport, and could not stand losing, so playing cards with her was not enjoyable. We always had to let her win.
Two hours after we had begun to play cards, Darcy returned. He did not seem as cheerful as when he had left, and I was troubled by the change. What could be causing his moods to change so suddenly like that? My concentration on the game had been broken, and I accidentally won. Lady Catherine was quite upset, but for once I didn't really care. I excused myself, and went to talk to Darcy.
He looked up at me as I entered the study, and I smiled as I took a seat opposite him. I sat for a few moments in silence. Darcy was quiet, and continued to read his book. His face was calm, though I could see by his tired eyes that he was containing all of his emotions.
"Darce, is there something about which you would like to talk? I know that something is troubling you. Why won't you tell me?"
He looked up at me, annoyed, as if interrupting his book with trivial questions was something of which I would never be forgiven. "There is nothing wrong with me, Fitzwilliam. I appreciate your concern, but I am fine."
I tried another tactic. "So, Darce, how was your visit at the parsonage?"
He replied that it went well, and went back to reading his book. I followed up this response by a question after the health of Mr. and Mrs. Collins.
He replied without looking up, "I wouldn't know. They were not there when I had called."
I looked surprised. "Well, Darcy, that is very interesting. And you must have had a good time, then, and spent two hours in the housekeeper's society?"
He looked up at me and brusquely replied that Miss Bennet had been there. I raised my eyebrows, and he quickly said, "I talked with her, Fitzwilliam for the time. The others had gone to the village. We had a nice little chat."
I laughed. "Oh, and that is why you returned in this humor! Come, man, let it out! What did she say to make you so unhappy?"
He looked at me quizzically, and asked what I meant. I replied, "When I first saw you at breakfast this morning, you were in the best of spirits. I could not have been more content with your humor. You laughed, Darcy, which I haven't seen you do in the longest time. And now, look at you! You sit here, in the study, away from everyone else, and sulk into a book. And you are asking me what I mean? You have to be joking!"
"I am just a bit out of sorts, Fitzwilliam. Miss Bennet received me most cordially, and we talked about, um...things."
"Things?" I laughed, "What do you mean by 'things?'"
"I mean that we talked about trivial things, such as Kent, and common acquaintances, and the house. There was nothing in our conversation that you need be aware of, Fitzwilliam."
I sighed, and decided to leave him alone. There was no sense asking more questions, as I would not get any suitable answers. I went into the billiard room and tried to enjoy myself there. For once, I could find little enjoyment from the game. It was a dull day at Rosings, as usual; I could not wait until we left.
Darcy now seemed more interested in visiting the parsonage with me. We often went every day, or every other day. I could not understand this sudden interest in visiting, as most of the time he would sit there, silent and moody. Possibly it was only to get away from Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
I thought that conjecture viable, as he would also go on solitary rambles through the park, at the same time each day. I once offered to go with him, but he was so emphatic in his reply, that I did not ask him again. I wondered why he did not want me as company. One time he returned, a smile on his face, and as he sat down opposite me, he said, "I ran into Miss Bennet on my walk."
I wondered at his sudden declaration, as it had no provocation whatsoever. In fact, I had not even looked up from my book as he entered. I now raised my head. "How exciting," I said dryly.
"Oh, it was, Fitzwilliam," he replied, completely ignoring my tone of voice. "We talked for a while, as I walked with her back to the parsonage."
"Oh, really? Does she often go walking at this time of day?"
He hardly paused before answering, "Yes, she does. I have often met her while on my walks."
I smiled, suspicious of his own timing. I also wondered whether his path always "happened" to collide with hers at the right moment. I said nothing, though. I simply nodded and went back to reading my book. He must have noticed my indifference to his talking, as he soon after left the room.
Darce and I were, soon after this little dialogue, to leave Kent. Before our departure, I had to take my customary tour of the park. On a whim, I decided to go during Darcy's usual walk. I happened to run into him as I was leaving. He regarded me with a questioning look in his eyes, and I said, "I am only going for a walk through the park, Darce. Don't worry--I will be back before it grows dark!" I laughed as I continued out the door, leaving Darcy staring after me.
I left the house, and began to walk through the park. It was a beautiful day, and the air was crisp. I sighed as I thought of the fact that I was about to leave this place for the stuffiness and fog of London. Although, I thought, London doesn't have Lady Catherine. I almost laughed, but suddenly, I heard another's footfall on the path ahead.
I looked up, but did not see anyone. Then I realized that there was another path nearby, about to intersect with mine. I smiled, and kept walking. Suddenly, I saw a figure on my right, walking on that path. I looked over, and saw Miss Bennet. I smiled. So this is why Darcy walks this way every day at the same time.
I must have stepped on a twig, because suddenly she looked in my direction. I could have sworn I saw an expression of annoyance, or possibly even apprehension, when she turned in my direction, but if it was there, it was quickly replaced by a smile when she saw me. I greeted her with a smile and a wave.
"I did not know before that you ever walked this way," Miss Bennet said with a bit of nervousness.
"I have been making the tour of the park," I replied, "as I generally do every year, and intend to close it with a call at the parsonage. Are you going much further?" I inquired.
She replied that she was about to turn, and so fell in step with me. She then asked if we left Kent on Saturday.
"Yes," I replied in a slightly peevish tone, "if Darcy does not put it off again." Lately he had been delaying our departure. We were scheduled to leave a whole week earlier, but he decided to stay an extra week. I was slightly annoyed by this, as I did not want to stay too much longer with Lady Catherine, though it did grant me some time to spend with Miss Bennet. "But," I said, "I am at his disposal. He arranges the business just as he pleases."
"And if not able to please himself in the arrangement," she replied, "he has at least great pleasure in the power of choice. I do not know anybody who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes than Mr. Darcy."
I somewhat wondered at this comment, and tried to defend my friend. "He likes to have his own way very well, but so do we all. It is only that he has better means of having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A younger son, you know, must be inured to self-denial and independence."
"In my opinion," she said, laughing, "the younger son of an earl can know very little of either. Now, seriously, what have you ever known of self-denial and independence? When have you been prevented by want of money from going wherever you chose, or procuring anything you had a fancy for?"
I saw some truth in this, but also felt uncomfortable talking about it. "These are some home questions--and perhaps I cannot say that I have experienced many hardships of that nature. But in matters of greater weight I may suffer for want of money. Younger sons cannot marry where they like." I regretted it as soon as it left my mouth.
"Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they very often do."
I felt very uncomfortable now, but tried to make a suitable reply. "Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money."
I saw Miss Bennet flush slightly, and I knew that I had gone too far. I wanted to say, "No, that does not mean that I do not love women like you! Fortune means little over love!" But I couldn't. She saved me the trouble by replying.
"And pray," she said in a lively tone, "What is the price of an earl's younger son? Unless the elder brother is sickly, I suppose you would not ask above fifty thousand pounds."
I cannot remember what I replied, but she laughed at it, so I will assume that it was funny. We lapsed into silence for a short while, when she said, "I imagine your cousin brought you down with him chiefly for the sake of having somebody at his disposal. I wonder he does not marry, to secure a lasting convenience of that kind. But, perhaps, his sister does as well for the present, and as he is under his sole care, he may do what he likes with her."
I wondered where she had gotten this misapprehension, and corrected her in her ideas by replying that Georgiana was also under my care.
She seemed slightly surprised. "Are you indeed? And pray, what sort of guardians do you make? Does your charge give you much trouble? Young ladies of her age are sometimes a little difficult to manage, and if she has the true Darcy spirit, she may like to have her own way."
I was startled at this, and tried to detect from her any awareness of the event of the previous summer. I asked her what she meant, and she immediately replied, "You need not be frightened. I never heard any harm of her; and I dare say she is one of the most tractable creatures in the world. She is a very great favorite with some ladies of my acquaintance, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. I think I have heard you say that you know them."
I disregarded my suspicions with this speech, and replied that I had known the two ladies a little. "Their brother is a pleasant gentlemanlike man--he is a great friend of Darcy's."
"Oh, yes. Mr. Darcy is uncommonly kind to Mr. Bingley, and takes a prodigious deal of care of him," she remarked sarcastically.
I wondered at her tone, but replied, "Care of him! Yes, I really believe Darcy does take care of him in those points where he most wants care. From something that he told me in our journey hither, I have reason to think Bingley very much indebted to him." I paused for a moment. "But I ought to beg his pardon, for I have no right to suppose that Bingley was the person meant. It was all conjecture."
She asked me what I meant. I replied, "It is a circumstance which Darcy of course could not wish to be generally known, because if it were to get around to the lady's family, it would be an unpleasant thing."
She said that she would tell no one, and I quickly asserted that I had little reason, in the first place, for suspecting it to be Bingley. "What he told me was merely this: that he congratulated himself on having lately saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without mentioning any names or any other particulars, and I only suspected it to be Bingley from believing him the kind of young man to get into a scrape of that sort, and from knowing them to have been together the whole of last summer."
"Did Mr. Darcy give you his reasons for this interference?"
I replied that there were strong objections to the lady. She asked me what arts he used to separate them, and I smiled and replied that he did not tell me that. She did not respond, and we walked on. I began to sense a feeling of unease, and I asked her what she was thinking of.
"I am thinking of what you told me. Your cousin's conduct does not suit my feelings. Why was he to be the judge?"
"You are rather disposed to call interference officious?" I replied with a smile.
"I do not see what right Mr. Darcy had to decide on the propriety of his friend's inclination, or why, upon his own judgment alone, he was to determine and direct in what manner that friend was to be happy." She had said this with a somewhat agitated tone, but quickly added with a more cheerful expression, though it still sounded slightly affected, "But as we know none of the particulars it is not fair to condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much affection in the case."
"That is not an unnatural surmise," I replied, in a jesting tone, "but it is lessening the honor of my cousin's triumph very sadly."
I laughed, but Miss Bennet only smiled and looked away. We were nearly at the parsonage, and we walked the little distance in silence. I stayed at the parsonage for a little over fifteen minutes. I noticed that Miss Bennet was a little out of spirits, and I became worried. I hoped that it was not anything I had said. Though, I have always have been known as one who did not know when to stop talking.
I returned to Rosings shortly, and went into the drawing room, where the rest were sitting. Lady Catherine was talking to Darce chiefly, and Anne and her old governess sat on one sofa. I sat down, and pretended that I was interested in what Lady Catherine was saying, though it was difficult, as my mind would stray to my walk with Miss Bennet. I was trying to make out the reason for Miss Bennet's odd behavior, and the relevance of some of her questions.
After a while I got tired of Lady Catherine's prattle, so I picked up a book and moved to the other side of the room, by the window. A few hours later, I saw Mr. Collins, Mrs. Collins, and Miss Lucas approaching the house. I wondered where Miss Bennet was, but when the guests entered, I was beaten to that query by Lady Catherine, who demanded the answer from them first. Mrs. Collins said that Miss Bennet was at the parsonage with a headache. I felt sorry for her, and said so to Mrs. Collins, who thanked me for my concern.
The Collins were not there long, when Darcy excused himself from the room. I watched him go, and wondered slightly what the cause of his disappearance was. But at that moment I was addressed by Mr. Collins. The basic idea of his ten-minute speech was his disappointment in the loss of Darce and I in the next two days. I made a civil reply, and he then turned to Lady Catherine with a thousand apologies for his not attending to her for the space of time it took for him to deliver his speech to me.
I had nothing else to do, so I tried to amuse myself for the rest of the evening by trying to get Miss Lucas to talk to me. She was terrified of me, I think, for she would only mumble responses to my questions, and looked as if she would be anywhere but sitting beside me.
The evening wore on, and soon our visitors left. About five minutes later, I met Darcy in the hall. He was just coming in the door. I greeted him, but he did not respond, so I tried again. After a few more attempts, and my being within inches of colliding with him, he finally noticed me, and apologized.
"I am sorry, Fitzwilliam. Forgive me."
I looked at him strangely and asked him if he was ill. His face was extremely pale, and he looked flustered.
"No, no. I am fine. I, uh, have just, um..." he stopped for a moment and looked at me dumbly. "I must go, Fitzwilliam," he said, shaking his head as if to recollect himself. He turned away, and ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
I stood still, trying to make out the meaning of his behavior. I could not understand what had gotten over him. I began to walk up the stairs after him, but changed my mind and went into the library. Poor ole Darce just needed some time alone. That would help, I was sure of it.
I went into the library and sat down. I did not spend long reading my book, for my mind kept reverting back to my conversation with Miss Bennet. There was something wrong, but I could not put my finger on it. Something was nagging at the back of my brain, though.
Suddenly, I remembered something. Darcy had gone with Bingley to Hertfordshire, where he had met Miss Bennet. Oh, blast it! I groaned inwardly; I had told her about Darcy's interference in Bingley's affairs. She must have known Bingley, and since this event had probably happened while in Hertfordshire, she would probably also have known the lady who was separated from Bingley.
Suddenly, thousands of possibilities rushed into my head. My thoughts flowed rapidly into focus. Could Miss Bennet have been the one broken off from Bingley? Could I have made that big a mistake? It would surely account for her coldness to my cousin, and of her disapproval of Darcy's conduct.
No, no, I reasoned, it couldn't be her. Why would Darcy be so interested in her if he had objected to an alliance between her and Mr. Bingley? I stopped myself there. I had no reason to assume that Darcy was interested in Miss Bennet. In fact, I hoped that he wasn't. If that was the case, I could entertain no doubt that I would not be able to win her in marriage. For who would object to Darcy?
My semester exams are approaching, and so the flow of entries will decrease. My next won't appear for possibly a week or more.
The next day was to bring our departure. A few hours before we left, I caught Darcy in the hall, and asked him if he had been at the parsonage yet that morning. He had replied that he had not, and reluctantly agreed to accompany me on my way thither. He was silent the whole way, and I was silently wondering why his attitude had changed so much since a few days before. I knew that it couldn't be the prospect of leaving Rosings; no one would feel depressed about that (well, except maybe Mr. Collins).
Darce and I were happily ushered into the parlor, where Mr. Collins and his wife, and Miss Lucas sat. After exchanging civilities, I asked where Miss Bennet was. She was still walking, Mrs. Collins had replied. A sideways glance at Darcy revealed no emotion on his face. In fact, his expression of composed gravity had not changed since I had first seen him that morning. I wondered at this, but was distracted by a small speech by Mr. Collins, during which Darcy stood, excused himself, and walked back to Rosings. I was somewhat embarrassed by his impertinence, but turned my attention back to hear the end of Mr. Collin's speech.
After the speech was completed, I asked Mrs. Collins when Miss Bennet would possibly return. She was not sure of that, and asked if I would like some tea. I assented, and the tea-things were brought in. We sat for a while, listening to Mr. Collins talk. I was bored out of my mind.
I imagined what I could be doing had Miss Bennet been there. We could have been discussing poetry or books, or some other interesting topic. But no, instead I was listening to Mr. Collin's views on scriptures. I sighed. Possibly I could go looking for Miss Bennet. I truly did want to see her before I left the countryside. If she would not marry me, which I was nearly certain of, I would at least like to see her beautiful face once more before my departure.
I suggested to Mrs. Collins that I should look for her, as it was getting late in the afternoon, but she replied that Miss Bennet should return soon. I realized that my case was hopeless, unless she opened the door in the next ten minutes, when I had to return to Rosings. I watched the door out of the corner of my eye for that time, while pretending to listen to Mr. Collins. I was disappointed in the end, though, and had to leave without talking to Miss Bennet again.
I took my leave and walked back to Rosings. I was unhappy with the way things had turned out. I had wished, in the deepest part of my heart, to ask Miss Bennet to marry me, though I knew that the possibility of her accepting was slim. I had really fallen in love with her over the time that I had spent here in Kent. She was the perfect woman. Possibly, I reflected, too perfect for me, but I don't think I would have minded that.
I reached the house and went inside. I could Lady Catherine in the drawing room, complaining about Darcy's resolve to leave. Of course, she never once mentioned my name. When I was around her, I always felt like a fly on the wall; she rarely took notice of me. It was only when I looked as if I was enjoying myself. If I was, she would find some way or other of ending that circumstance. I suppose that was the reason I always hated visiting Rosings, but every year, for Darcy's sake, I tagged along anyway.
When I entered the room, Lady Catherine glanced at me. "Oh, we are sorry that you are leaving us too, Fitzwilliam. It was wonderful having you here." Then she continued to talk to Darcy. I shrugged my shoulders and sat down. I must have looked unusually depressed, for suddenly she accosted me again.
"Fitzwilliam, are you so unhappy to be leaving me? Is that why you sit there so glum? I am sure that is the reason. Of course you would be depressed to leave me. Why would you not be?" I would have said something to the contrary, but decided it was best to keep quiet. I glanced at Darcy. He, too, was looking at me. I smiled slightly, and he turned to look at Lady Catherine, who had again forgotten about me and was addressing poor Darce.
I sat for the remainder of the time with the rest, and then Darce and I departed. I could tell by Darcy's solemn expression, that it would be a long, quiet ride to London.
I sat opposite Darce in the carriage. For ten minutes, his face did not move, and his expression did not change. He simply stared into space. I was beginning to become concerned, so I asked Darcy what the matter was. He looked at me sadly, but said nothing. I repeated my question.
"Oh, I had heard you the first time. I was merely deciding how to respond. I would like to respond that I have no problems, but I would be telling a falsehood if I said this, and would rather not lie to you, Fitzwilliam."
I waited for him to continue, but he didn't. He turned his head to gaze out the window of the carriage. For a few minutes, we sat thus, when he suddenly turned his head and looked at me.
"I see that you are anxious to know why I am so downcast, and I suppose I must tell you, or I will never have any relief from your questions. If you truly want to know I will tell you. Yesterday, when everyone was having tea at Rosings, except Miss Bennet, who had remained at the parsonage under pretense of a headache, I walked to the parsonage. You may have seen me leave. I had gone to the parsonage in order to talk with Miss Bennet. I had resolved to ask her to marry me."
I let out an involuntary gasp, and he looked at me. "What, are you surprised at this? Well, I suppose I have never told you of our acquaintance in Hertfordshire, have I? Well, let me enlighten you at once.
"I had gone to Netherfield with Bingley. I was still unhappy about the problem we had with Georgiana, and I was very dispirited during the first part of the visit. After I had made a rude comment about Miss Bennet to Bingley at the first dance, which I think she might have heard, and ridiculed her appearance and manners with Bingley's sisters, I began to fall in love with Miss Elizabeth. I cannot explain how it happened; it just did. She was unlike anyone I had ever met, Fitzwilliam. She did not seek my affections, and somewhat avoided me or gave me nearly impertinent replies to my civilities, which I found captivating." He paused and gave me a sad smile. "Little did I know that it was from dislike that she did so. I had been convinced, and Miss Bingley seconded my opinion, that it was to recommend herself to me. I cannot believe how wrong I was.
He paused, and I waited patiently. I felt incredible pity for my dear friend. I could see a mixture of anger and grief in his countenance. No doubt they were vying for his whole heart. "Miss Elizabeth had an elder sister. Her name was Jane. She was very beautiful, and Bingley had the misfortune to fall in love with her. He believed her an angel. I must admit, she was, but I could see none of Bingley's regard reflected in her behavior towards him, and was worried. Apart from her low connection, I thought that her indifference would break Charles' heart. I decided I had to do something, so I brought Charles with me to London, where I convinced him to give up his ideas of ever marrying the eldest Miss Bennet. At first he would not believe me, but I convinced him that Miss Bennet did not love him in return, and he believed me. I had not realized that Miss Elizabeth had known of this, or would think of me as some monster for doing it."
I felt ashamed. "Darce?" I said timidly. He looked at me and I continued. "I accidentally told Miss Bennet about your interference on Bingley's behalf."
He asked me what I meant, and I described my conversation with Miss Bennet. When I had finished, he sat back. "Well, that explains it. I had thought it was just a lucky guess of hers. I see that I have a traitor here." He turned his head away from me.
I tried to defend myself. "Darcy, please do not be upset with me. I did not know that Miss Bennet had any connection whatsoever with the situation. She was merely curious, and I told her. I did not think any harm would come of it. Really, Darcy, I did not know something like this would happen."
Darcy waved his hand at me. "Do not worry, Fitzwilliam. What is done is done. There is nothing else that I can do about it. Miss Bennet has already refused me, and I cannot change her mind now. I only regret I had opened myself to her, only to be shot down so viciously."
I looked at Darcy's face, and felt compassion for my favorite cousin. He had been through a lot, and the knowledge that the person you love does not love you in return is heartrending. I should know.
He continued with his tale: "Miss Bennet had a few more arguments against my suit. She mentioned Wickham."
"Wickham!" I replied, not believing my ears. "How did she know Wickham?"
"He had come to Hertfordshire, in the regiment that was stationed in Meryton, while I was at Netherfield. He must have told her numerous lies about my conduct towards him. I cannot believe that he, of all people, would be able to poison her against me. I do not know what he told her, but whatever it was, she believed him."
"Did you set her straight, Darcy?"
He nodded. "I wrote a letter to her this morning, in which I defended myself against her accusations that I had separated her sister from Mr. Bingley, and that I robbed Wickham of his future. It was difficult, Fitzwilliam, to tell her this type of information, and even more difficult to give her the letter. I could not send it with a servant; it would be too detached, too indecorous. I gave it to her early this morning, when I met her in the park." He sighed and shook his head sadly. "If you could have seen the hate in her eyes, Fitzwilliam..."
We sat for a while in silence. I was still digesting all of this information. So Darcy had asked her to marry him. He was in love with her. I had not believed it, but it was true. No wonder he had been so downcast! It was all becoming clear to me now.
"The thing that hurts me the most, Fitzwilliam," Darcy continued, "is some of the expressions she used. I did not know how to address her, and I must have sounded so arrogant, so conceited. " He sighed. "Now I can see this. I had said things which I should never have said. I told her, plainly, that she was beneath me, that her connections were low, and that it was almost a punishment for me to ask her to marry me!" He put his head in his hands and moaned.
If it had not been insensitive of me, and if I had been a calmer mood, I probably would have laughed at this. The thought of anyone addressing a woman in this manner is abominable. To ridicule a woman, whom you would like to marry, and ridicule her family, is almost beyond my ideas of propriety. But I could imagine Darcy doing this. He had so high an opinion of himself and his situation, that he would be one to do this sort of thing. I sighed.
He looked up at me. "Do you know what she said, Fitzwilliam? She told me that I was the last man she could ever be prevailed upon to marry. I will never forget when she said, 'You are mistaken, sir, if you think that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way than to spare me the concern I might have felt had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.'" He ended this softly, and closed his eyes, as if it was painful for him to recollect this. "Can you believe she had the audacity to say that to my face! Oh, Fitzwilliam, I am such a wretch!"
He buried his head in his hands and groaned. I could see now that there was no way I could help him, but to comfort him. I tried to convince him he was not a fiend, but he would not listen to me. I became even more uncomfortable when he started to weep. It was only a slight sniffling noise, and the removal of his handkerchief from his pocket, but I could tell that he was crying. I felt so uncomfortable, as I had never known Darcy to cry. I felt embarrassed, but tried to give Darcy his dignity by pretending not to notice. Oh, yes, it would definitely be a long journey to London, though it was only a few miles, and we were nearly halfway there.
We finally reached Darcy's house in London, and I helped my friend out of the carriage and up to his room. I left him in charge of the servants, and went down the stairs to the library. I sat down in a chair and sighed. Poor Darcy! How heartbroken he must be. I was suddenly glad that I had not gone to find Miss Bennet. What would she have thought of me, after Darcy had just asked her to marry him? I would have had no chance at all.
I was not sorry for telling Miss Bennet about Darcy's interest in Bingley's detachment from her sister, but I felt sorry for Darcy. Although, if he had let things run their course, he might not have had to repent his actions. It was Darcy's own pride, and his opinion that he knew what was best for his friends, that ruined his chances. But then I remembered that he had not thought there was much affection on Jane Bennet's part. I reflected on this. I remembered what Elizabeth had said, when I was talking with her on this subject. She had said, "But as we know none of the particulars it is not fair to condemn him. It is not to be supposed that there was much affection in the case." I had not remarked heavily on it then, but she had said it in a tone that was slightly troubled. Perhaps Darcy had not been able to detect love in Jane Bennet's behaviour, but that does not mean it wasn't there. Some people do not show their feelings as well as others.
I then thought of the subject of Wickham. Here I felt truly sorry for Darce. His plans again had been foiled by that scoundrel. First he had refused the living, and asked for money instead, then he had plagued Darcy for more money, and then he tried to elope with poor Georgiana for her dowry. I felt sorry for Georgiana. I do not think she will ever recover from that.
And now Wickham had spoiled Darcy's chances with the woman he loved. Darcy cannot blame himself here. Darcy had treated Wickham with as much kindness as would be possible under the circumstances. And how did Wickham repay him? By spreading rumors and falsehoods about him that tainted Elizabeth's idea of poor Darce. I did not blame Elizabeth for believing Wickham. I am sure that he had played his part well, and I always remembered him as a sly, deceptive creature. A very good actor, too.
I could not feel much pity for Darcy when it came to his behaviour towards Miss Bennet. If he had truly said such things in his proposal, I think he might have deserved such a reprimand. Though, I was slightly surprised that his wealth could not overshadow his faults, however grievous they may be. I did not think Miss Bennet a fortune hunter, but I had thought that money would play a small part in her opinion of him. I guess I was mistaken.
Suddenly I looked at the clock. I realized I had been sitting there for over three hours. I suddenly realized how tired I was. As I passed Darcy's room, I softly opened the door to check on him. He lay in his bed, sleeping, with an expression of anguish and pain still on his face. I was surprised he could sleep at all.
I was alone the following morning, as Darcy was still asleep. I felt that he needed the rest, so took pity on him, and warned the servants to let him lie. After eating a good breakfast, I went out on the town, and roamed the streets. There was nothing interesting, so I soon after returned to the house. Darcy, to my surprise, was awake, and sitting in his chair by the fire of the parlour. He looked up as I came in, and addressed me sharply.
"There was no need for that, Fitzwilliam. I can take care of myself, and I know when to rise."
I knew he was in no humour to tangle with, so I shrugged my shoulders, and sat down opposite him. He was definitely not in the same mood as the day before, though if the mood was better, I could not say. He was leaning forward in the chair, glaring into the fire. His whole countenance expressed his frustration and inner torment. I felt sorry for Darcy, but I knew that he had brought it on himself, and would have to suffer for the time being.
"Darce," I began. He turned to me with piercing eyes, and I nearly started back with the anger that I saw there. "I need to return to my father shortly. I will not be staying with you long. I need you to promise something before I go."
He did not acknowledge me, but turned again to face the fire. I went on. "Darce, I need you to promise me that you will try to bear this out. Miss Bennet's refusal is not the end of the world. There will be others, I am sure."
"Not like her, Fitzwilliam, not like her," he muttered.
"Well you cannot do anything about it now, can you? She has already refused you, and you cannot change that. You should begin to start anew. Though you may not be able to find an exact replica, you may find someone more to your liking." He looked at me sharply, and my temper began to rise. "Darcy, I am only saying things that may help you. You need to forget her."
He grunted and threw a wadded-up piece of paper that he was holding into the fire. His attitude was starting to grate on my own nerves, and I began to speak angrily at him. "Do you know what your problem is, Darcy? You do not know how to forget the past. You spend all your time harboring grudges and spite for people who have wronged you, or you dwell on your own mistakes. I am glad that I have never gotten on your bad side, because I am sure that once on it, there is no chance of ever returning to your good judgment. Good God, Darcy! The past is done! Move on, and stop acting like such a fool."
I stood up and began to walk out the door. My blood was still running warm, since I had begun to yell at Darcy. His voice called me back. I did not want to return, but something in his tone checked me. I might have been feeling some repentance for my anger, which stayed me despite my wish for a grand exit, but whatever it was, I was persuaded to return to my seat. He looked up at me when I sat down.
"Fitzwilliam, that was very harsh of you. I would not have expected it from one of my good friends." My blood chilled, and I felt sudden remorse. I should not have yelled at him as I did, especially as he was already trying to recover from Miss Bennet's refusal. "But I cannot say that you were wrong in what you said to me."
"No, Darce, it was inexcusable in me, and I did not mean--"
He held up his hand to interrupt me, and went on. "No, you did mean what you said. It is my fault, and I accept the blame for my behaviour. Fitzwilliam, you have known me since I was a child. I have not always been the way I am now. As Miss Bennet said so gracefully once, my fault is to think meanly of everyone. I did not take that into consideration. It was water off a duck's back. I never listen to criticism, and look at where it has brought me."
He gestured around the room, and then laid his hand on his heart. "I, for once, must take the blame for my actions, and your criticism has brought me to my senses. You are right; I may never see Miss Bennet again, but no, I will not search for someone else to fill her place here, in my heart. I do not deserve that much."
I looked at him with pity. He sat in his chair, still, looking lost and forlorn. I felt awful, having said so many cruel things to him. I remembered all of the things I had said to him during our visit to Rosings, how insensitive I was to his feelings. But, in sooth, I did not know his feelings, I reflected. Darce was definitely not one to easily show them. But this reflection did not allay the pain I felt, seeing my friend hurting.
"When are you leaving, Fitzwilliam?"
"Possibly later on today, if it is agreeable to you. If not, I can stay until tomorrow to keep you company."
He shook his head. "No, Georgiana will be coming later today, also. If you want, of course, you may stay until she comes. Your presence would be a great benefit."
I agreed, and sat back in my chair. Poor Darce, I thought, he will never recover from this blow.
Georgiana did come later that day, and I was glad to see her. She immediately saw that Darcy was not in his right spirits, and when he was not looking, she glanced at me with a questioning gaze. I mouthed, "later" to her, and she nodded. I was anxious to talk to her before I left, but found that difficult, so I proposed that we take a walk. Darce did not want to go, as I had assumed would happen, but Georgiana, seizing the opportunity, agreed.
"So, Robert, what is wrong with my brother? Is it something that I may be made aware of?" she questioned me when we had gotten out of the house.
"Well," I said, trying to decide how much she should be allowed to know, "I do not know how much I can tell you. Whatever I do is in the strictest of confidences, and I will trust you not to mention it to anyone, least of all your brother."
She nodded, and I proceeded. "Your brother is in love, Georgiana. I am not sure if I should tell you who, though. Let me decide while I tell you the story. Darce and I, as you well know were at Rosings lately."
She looked astonished. "He is in love with Anne? Impossible!"
I could not help laughing, her expression was so full of distaste. "No, no, my dear! No, that would be a tragedy. No, it is someone very different from Anne. Probably her exact opposite. While Anne is quiet, Miss Bennet is talkative. While Anne is..."
Beside me, Georgiana smiled. "Really, Robert, you do talk too much, and have no discretion whatsoever. You may not realize it, but you have just told me the name of the woman my brother is in love with."
I felt so stupid. I could not believe I had been so half-witted as to reveal it. "Well," I said, "apparently I have made my decision that you shall know her name. I hope that you will be very discrete and never, ever, mention her name in your brother's presence."
She nodded solemnly. I needn't have worried. Georgiana, I knew, was the soul of discretion. Since her near elopement with Wickham last year, she had been even more cautious and circumspect than before. "Tell me more about her, Robert," she pleaded.
I sighed. "Miss Elizabeth Bennet is very handsome. She has dark hair, brown eyes, and a fair complexion. She has the most beautiful smile; it lights up her whole face. She is as tall as you, though a few years your senior, I believe. She is very witty, and most definitely not shy. You cannot imagine Lady Catherine's contempt of her! Miss Bennet would speak to Lady Catherine as an equal. I thought it hilarious, how she would subtly ridicule Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine, and neither would understand.
"Do not misunderstand me, Georgiana, she is very amiable and sweet, but seems to have something against authority. She is definitely not very submissive. Her temper is very lively, sometimes bordering on the impertinent, but it is so pleasing, that you cannot help loving her for it."
"Oh, Robert, you are in love with her, too," Georgiana said quietly.
My heart caught in my throat. "Georgiana," I croaked.
"Nay, you do not need to deny it, Robert. I could tell from your expression when you were talking of her, and from your flushed face now. Do not worry, I will tell no one."
I thanked her with a nod of my head. I could not believe she could have perceived my feelings for Miss Bennet. But, she was a woman, and they always have more perception in cases such as this.
"So," she continued, "what does this Miss Bennet have to do with the state I find my brother in?"
I heard the slightly defensive tone in her voice, and was unsure whether I should tell her the next part. "Your brother has been, and is still in love with her."
As I took a breath, she stopped and looked at me questioningly. "Why has he not asked her to marry him? If he is so in love with her, as you say, why does he delay? I am sure that she would not refuse my brother!" She looked so confident in her brother's capabilities to engage any woman's heart, that I was loath to disavow her of that notion.
She must have seen the expression on my face, for suddenly her smile disappeared. "Robert, why do you frown so? Has he asked her?"
I nodded. "She has not accepted him, then?" I nodded again. She looked bewildered. "But, why Robert? What has she against my brother?"
I was unsure how to answer this question. I would not dare mention Miss Bennet's mistaken ideas of Darce's conduct towards Wickham, for I was afraid to mention that gentleman's name in Georgiana's hearing. "Georgiana, your brother met Miss Bennet at a time when he was not himself. He had acted most disagreeably, from what I understand, and did some things that she could not well forgive him of. His behaviour was abominable."
"It must be a lie!" she retorted, still trying to defend her brother's character.
"Georgiana, he told me this himself."
She looked crestfallen. "But I am sure that this cannot be all that she had against him. Why, I am sure that when he fell in love with her, he paid her so much attention that she would have had to have a heart of stone to refuse him."
"No, Georgiana, do not think so ill of Miss Bennet. She does not deserve that. She had a good reason to dislike him."
"Oh, really," replied Georgiana. "Surprise me."
I ignored her sarcastic tone, and proceeded to tell her of Darcy's involvement in Bingley's affairs. She looked at me, disbelieving what I said. "That cannot be true," she said, when I was finished talking. "He would not do something that cruel." She stopped and thought for a moment. "Poor Mr. Bingley. I cannot imagine why Darcy did something like that."
We had just reached the house. "You will not tell Darce that I told you this?" I asked her. I was still afraid that she would inadvertently inform Darcy of my betrayal of his trust.
"No, Robert, I will never tell him. Now that I understand his situation, though, I will not ask him any questions that may hurt him unwittingly. Thank you, Robert." She kissed me on the cheek and ran into the house.
I was relieved of some of the weight of this secret. I was thankful to Georgiana for it, but was still somewhat wary that she would accidentally mention something to Darcy, and I would be betrayed. I should not have worried, though. To my knowledge, Georgiana never told him.
I left soon after we arrived at the house after our walk. I was to go to my father's estate, and then resume my normal duties. I did not want to go back to my regiment, after my long vacation. I had enjoyed myself. I was still haunted by Miss Bennet's face, though, and the realization that I could never have her.
I received a letter a month later from Georgiana, saying that they had returned to Pemberley, and that Darcy was doing well. She told me that I should have no fear of her informing Darcy of our conversation. I wrote her back soon after, but did not receive another letter for more than three months. She then wrote to inform me that they were now in London with Mr. Bingley and his sisters, and that they were going to be at Pemberley in a few weeks. She asked me to join them, but I wrote in return, saying that I could not, as I was expected in London that week. I was disappointed that I could not rejoin them, but resigned myself to that fact.
When I arrived in London, I immediately wrote a note to Georgiana, to see if the party were still in town. I was pleasantly surprised later on that day, by a visit from Georgiana herself. I greeted her with enthusiasm.
"I have not seen you in a long time, Georgiana. How is Darce?"
She smiled. "He is better, but not happy still, Robert. I do not like his mood. It has brightened by being with Mr. Bingley, but his sisters do not help the situation any."
I smiled, remembering Darce once talking of Mr. Bingley's unmarried sister. He had said how she was an annoying woman, who was constantly trying to recommend herself to him. Poor Darce! First he is subjected to the presence of Mr. Collins, and now Miss Bingley!
I asked where Darcy was, and she told me that he had just left that morning. "It is some business with his steward, I believe. We are to leave later tomorrow morning. I cannot wait to return to Pemberley. I do not like London as much as the country."
We had tea, and then I escorted her back through the crowded London streets to Darcy's house. She invited me inside, but I declined and walked back to my own small lodgings. So, Darcy was still not happy. I did not like this at all. He should have been able to recover in this amount of time. He must have really loved her, I thought with a sad smile.
I completed my business in London in a week. I was leaving my lodgings, and was packing my things, when suddenly I heard a knocking on the door. I wondered who could be calling, since I had few acquaintances in London, and opened it. You may imagine my surprise when I saw Darcy standing there.
"Darce!" I said with some confusion. "What in Heaven's name are you doing here?"
He ignored me and, pushing past me, walked in and looked around. "So this is where you are staying, eh?"
I noticed his haggard appearance and tired voice. "Darcy, are you well?"
He turned around. "No, Fitzwilliam, I am not. I have come to London under the most painful of circumstances."
"Georgiana..." I said, with a slight gasp. I am not sure what I assumed at that moment, but whatever my fears were, I was quickly relieved of them.
"No, no," Darcy said quickly. "It has little to do with Georgiana. She is well at Pemberley with Bingley and his sisters. It has more to do with Miss Bennet than my sister."
Now I was confused. "Uh, would you like to sit down, cousin?"
"No, not at all. Would you come with me to my house?"
I agreed, and as we walked out the door, he grabbed my luggage, which happened to be packed and sitting on a chair. I would simply be changing my lodgings, it appeared.
Darce and I walked into the sitting room of his townhouse in London. "Darce," I started, "I do not know how long I can stay here. I am--"
Darce looked at me, and I noticed the bags beneath his eyes, and the overall tiredness of his appearance. "Fitzwilliam, I only need you to keep me company for a few days. Also, I need some information from you."
I looked at him quizzically. "Information?"
He took a deep breath. "Yes, information. Shall I tell you the whole story, Fitz?"
I sat down in a chair, and he sat down opposite me. "You were wrong," he said with a tired smile. "I did see her again. I saw her while going home."
I did not need to ask who he had seen. The answer was in his eyes. They brightened considerably when he said this. I would be a simpleton, indeed, if I did not understand. "Oh, and was she in health?"
He smiled and replied that she was. "She was with her aunt and uncle, visiting Lambton. They happened to be taking a tour of Pemberley when I arrived. She was very flustered to see me, but I think that she felt more at ease when I tried to be civil, and more easy-going."
I laughed. "Oh, was she really?"
"Yes, I do think so, but I introduced her to Georgiana when she arrived, and Miss Bennet and her aunt visited Pemberley while I was taking her uncle fishing. So, I returned to the house to see her. Oh, Fitzwilliam, you cannot imagine how much I love her." Suddenly his face grew dark. "She is the reason I am here."
I looked puzzled. "Darcy, what on earth can you mean?"
He sighed. "Fitzwilliam, I went to the inn where Miss Bennet and her relatives were staying yesterday. Miss Bennet was the only one there. When I walked in, she looked as if she had just been given news that the world was to end the next day. I was frightened, Fitzwilliam, and very concerned. She told me what the matter was." He paused, and took a slow breath. "Fitzwilliam, Wickham eloped with Miss Bennet's youngest sister."
I was shocked. After a short silence, with me just staring, open-jawed at Darcy, I stuttered, "Are you sure? Why would Wickham do such a thing?"
"I do not know. I really don't know. But he did. No one knows where the couple is. They have been tracked here, to London, but no further. Fitzwilliam, I think they are here in town. This is where I need information from you."
I looked puzzled. "What information could I possibly have?"
He looked at me. "You took charge of the Mrs. Young problem when we had dismissed from her position as governess for Georgiana, did you not?"
I was starting to make the connection. "Yes, and I found her a lodging in London," I said slowly. "She must know where Wickham is!"
"Where is that lodging, Fitzwilliam?"
I wrote down the address and handed it to my cousin. He took it from me and began to exit. "Darcy, do you want me to come with you?"
He shook his head. "No, Fitzwilliam, it is my problem. I am the one who will save her."
I sat by myself in Darcy's townhouse in London. I picked up a book lying on the table beside me. He had been gone for nearly three hours now, and I was beginning to wonder what could have happened to him. I had just rung for a servant, when Darcy himself opened the door. I dismissed the servant who had come to answer the summons, and Darcy sat himself in the chair opposite mine.
Darcy looked more tired than before, but now there was something in his eyes. It was an intense hatred and disgust that I saw there. "Darcy, what has happened? Have you found them?"
"Yes," he said in a tone of disgust, "and the stupid girl has refused any help from me. I have managed to talk with both her and Wickham. I was forced to give Mrs. Young fifty pounds in order to find where Wickham was hidden. That woman is the most..."
"Darcy," I interrupted, impatient to hear the next part. "what did Wickham say? Will he marry the poor girl?"
He snorted with abhorrence. "I had to bribe him, also. He has promised that he will marry her for twelve thousand pounds. I also have to wipe out his debts. She, of course, still thinks that he loves her, and that he is going to marry her for that reason."
"Darcy, that is a great deal of money to put out for a man you hate and a young lady that has no connection with you."
He looked at me. "You are wrong, Fitzwilliam. She has a connection with me. She is the sister of Miss Bennet, for whom I will do everything in my power to make happy."
I sighed. Yes, I thought, but will this make her love you any more?
"I next visited Miss Bennet's uncle, but he was with Mr. Bennet, and I did not wish to consult with him, so I am postponing that meeting until tomorrow."
I looked confused. "Why would you go to see the girl's uncle? What purpose does that serve?"
He looked at me as if I was an idiot. "Why, I am to give him all of the credit for this, Fitzwilliam."
Now I was completely muddled. "But Darcy, what will that do for you? Do you not want Miss Bennet to know that you have rescued her sister? Will that not make her grateful to you?"
"Yes, grateful," he said with a slight sneer, as he stood up and began to pace the room. "But Fitzwilliam, I do not want her grateful to me. I want her to love me. Her gratitude means little. I must earn her love, not buy it. I will, therefore, give Mr. Gardiner the credit, and she will never know, unless I choose to reveal it."
I laughed. "Darcy, you are definitely crazy."
"No," he smiled, "just in love."
I left the following day, to return to my father's. I was not to be gone for London long, as I was returning, in the company of my father, in a month. Darcy told me, before I left town, that I should be welcome to use his townhouse, instead of staying in a hotel. I thanked him gratefully and rode back to my father's estate.
I found a letter from Georgiana when I arrived, and read it directly. I soon found that she was writing to inform me of Miss Bennet's visit.
'My dear Robert, when I arrived at Pemberley, I was astonished at the expression on my brother's face. He was so completely happy, Robert. He was smiling so broadly, that I was sure that he had gone tipsy. But no, he had not drunk at all. He had been visited by Miss Bennet and her aunt and uncle. I was astonished at the expression on Miss Bingley's face when he told us this. I was absolutely terrified of her, Robert! She looked so dreadfully furious, but my brother did not notice. He was completely oblivious to everything!
'We went to visit the inn an hour after we arrived. Darcy had been so persuasive that we should go soon. Well, actually, it was only Mr. Bingley, my brother, and I. Miss Bingley refused to go, Mrs. Hurst stayed with her sister, and Mr. Hurst only wanted to sleep. So, the three of us traveled into Lambton. Mr. Bingley was in such happy spirits since he had heard the name "Bennet." I cannot deny that I was not eager to meet this woman, Robert. I decided that if she was able to cause my brother to act so strangely, she must have been very remarkable, indeed. He could not sit still the entire five miles! Both he and Mr. Bingley were rather fidgety, but I think my brother was more so.
'Miss Bennet is so beautiful, Robert! She is so kind, too. I was slightly nervous at first, as I do not like meeting strangers; I am too afraid that they will not like me. Mrs. Gardiner was as amiable as her niece. She would smile at me constantly, and asked me questions about music and art. I felt so at ease with them. They were not anything like Mr. Bingley's sisters. I was disappointed that we had to leave so soon, but my brother allowed me to ask them to dinner at Pemberley.
'I was so pleased when they came to call on us the next morning, when the gentlemen were fishing. Miss Bennet was very agreeable, and tried to talk with me, but Miss Bingley kept giving her the most unpleasant looks, that she did not often get the chance. I was happy when my brother arrived. He looked so happy, and was so civil to our guests.
'Miss Bingley and her sister did not talk to Miss Bennet or her aunt, except for one instance. Miss Bingley was very cruel to have brought it up, but I do not think she realized my involvement in the affair. My brother had told me, when he had arrived in London after his trip into Hertfordshire, that he had seen Mr. Wickham, who had joined the regiment stationed there. I am sorry, I have difficulty even writing that man's name. Well, Miss Bingley asked Miss Bennet if the regiment had left Meryton. She then said how it must be a great loss to Miss Bennet's family. I did not understand this, but it was said in such an insinuating way, as if to imply something. My brother, beside me, gave a slight start. I only had to look at his face to understand who they were talking of. Oh, I was so embarrassed, Robert! I could have run out of the room, but I knew that my brother would not wish me to be so rude, so I stayed. Miss Bennet and her aunt left soon after.
'When they were gone, Miss Bingley began to ridicule Miss Bennet. I was so upset. I knew that my brother would not stand for it, so I did not join in. Fitzwilliam had gone out the door with our guests, but when he entered the room, she told him all of what she had said to me. He ignored her at first, but then gave her such a sharp reply, that I could have cheered! I was so glad to see him defend Miss Bennet as he did.
'Oh, but Robert, Miss Bennet could not come to dine with us the next day. Something called her away, as Fitzwilliam told us after he returned from a visit to their inn the following morning. He looked so flustered, and so upset, that I was afraid something had gone terribly wrong. I did not want to bother him about it, so I did not ask him any questions. He left the next day for London. He looked as if he had not slept at all. I was so worried about him. He would not tell me why he went; I only can wonder. If you know anything, Robert, please write to me.'
I sighed as I put away the letter. So that was what had happened with Darcy while he was at Pemberley. I did not blame him for not telling Georgiana the reason for his visit to London, but I felt sorry for her because she may never know. I felt pity for her, also, for having to be subjected to Miss Bingley's remarks. If I would have been there, I thought, Bingley's sister certainly would have gotten a piece of my mind. I guess it was a blessing that I wasn't.
The next few weeks went slowly, but soon I found myself traveling with my father into London. He went every year, and most years, Darcy was kind enough to let us use his townhouse. My father always wrote him a long thank you letter afterwards, and when I saw Darce next, he would always roll his eyes and ask me to inform my father not to waste the paper for such a triviality. But, of course, my father would not, as he has never been one to listen to others' opinions once his mind is set.
We arrived in London near three in the afternoon, and after a short tea, my father went out to call on some acquaintances. I, on the other hand, sat in the study and read. I didn't care for most of his friends, and would infinitely prefer a book.
I was sitting in the study, when I heard the bell pull. At first I wondered why my father did not just enter the house, but I quickly realized that it must be company. I could not fathom who it would be, as few knew that we were in London, and fewer still would come to Darcy's house when he wasn't in town. I was not left to wonder long who had come to call, for in a few moments, the door was opened by a servant, and Darcy entered.
"Darcy!" I cried. "What are you doing here? I mean, I am not disappointed to see you, but it is so strange. I thought you had said in your last letter..."
"Yes, I was in Hertfordshire, but I came to town on business. Where is your father?"
"Oh, he is visiting. Please, make yourself at home."
He smiled at my quip, and took my offer. I immediately asked if he had seen Miss Bennet while he was in the country. "Oh, yes, I have seen her." Darcy said with a half-smile. "Bingley has seen the eldest Miss Bennet, also. I cannot believe him." Darcy began to laugh.
I looked at Darce quizzically, and asked him why he was laughing. "Oh, it is to funny, Fitz! He is so in love with Miss Jane! 'I hope we shall stay a few weeks. I should very much like to stay a few weeks. At the least.' Bah!" Darcy had done such a perfect impression of his friend, that I laughed until tears ran out of my eyes. "He might as well have said, 'Miss Bennet, you are an angel! Run away with me now!'"
"Stop...stop, Darce," I managed to splutter out. "You are...making my sides...hurt!"
He looked at me with a smile and shook his head. "Lud, Fitz. It wasn't that funny."
I tried to control my laughter and eventually managed to look at him with only a smile. "So, Bingley is still in love with Miss Bennet?"
"Oh, yes. Head over heels. But, I gave him leave to like her. Oh, was he upset with me when I told him that she had been in London, and I had not informed him of it." I looked at him, not understanding, and he sighed. "Slightly less than a month after brought Bingley to London and convinced him not to be in love with Miss Bennet, which I was stupid to think that I could manage, I found out from Miss Bingley that Jane was in London, also. I made certain that Bingley would never accidentally see Miss Bennet, and never told him that she was there."
I stared at my cousin. "Darce, that was cruel! How could you?"
"It was surprisingly very easy, but I didn't realize what the consequences would be." He grimaced, and I figured out what he was thinking of. "But Bingley has, by now, forgiven me, and we should hear within the next few days, I suppose, of their engagement."
I smiled. I had no doubt that Darcy had done all of this for Miss Elizabeth's sake. The question still was, though, whether she would notice.
My father, Darcy, and I, spent a delightful week in London. We all went to plays and Darce and I attended a ball. My father did not like going to balls, so he stayed home instead. Darce was much more agreeable there than I expected. He danced nearly every dance with any woman he could get an introduction to. I could tell, though, that he was not thinking of any of his partners during those dances.
Darcy's time in town was soon to come to a close, when we had an unexpected visitor. My father was visiting some friends, and Darcy and I were in the parlour, when we heard a carriage approach the house. I went to the window to look out, as we were not expecting anyone. I was surprised to see a carriage with familiar livery. I was about to tell Darcy who was here, when the person in question entered the room herself.
"Lady Catherine," Darcy sputtered. "What are you doing here?"
I tried to be more civil. "Good afternoon, Lady Cather--"
"Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, I have just traveled into Hertfordshire, and I demand an explanation this instant!"
I thought it was extremely rude of her to interrupt me, and to be shouting at Darcy. I knew that she was upset, but I still thought she had no excuse. "Lady Catherine, would you like to sit down? Anything to drink?"
She looked at me with piercing eyes, and told me to sit down myself. I went to the window and looked out instead. She began to yell at Darcy. "I have heard the most shocking rumors, and I demand an explanation from you. I have already discussed this with Miss Bennet, who was most abominably rude--"
"You did what?" cried Darcy.
I was about to propose that we all sit down and have some tea, when Lady Catherine responded. "I went to Hertfordshire to ask her what she meant by accepting your hand. I did not at that time know that the reports were not true, but by the way that she responded, I am now certain that there is some truth in it. Therefore, I have come to London to speak with you. You must not marry that girl."
She said it in such a confident, pragmatic way, that it took much self-control not to start laughing. I could not believe that I was hearing this. I watched Darcy's face flush with anger. I knew that he would say something harsh if I did not prevent it, so I stepped forward and asked her what happened when she talked with Miss Bennet. Darcy flashed a look of anger at me for asking this question, but my aunt turned to me, happy to find someone who would listen to her rantings.
"Miss Bennet at first, refused to understand what I was talking about. I was incensed at this deliberate idiocy, and asked her if she was engaged to my nephew. She pretended to be ignorant of this. She would not give me a direct answer to any of my questions. Even when I told her of Mr. Darcy's engagement to Anne, she refused to give me a promise not to marry him! I finally managed to find from her, that my nephew had not proposed, and I asked her to give me a promise never to accept him if he did, do you know what she said?"
"No, what?" I played along.
"'I will make no promise of the kind.' Can you believe that obstinate, stupid girl! She said that to me! I insisted that her persistence would lead only to his ruin and demise, and do you know what she replied? She said, in the most insolent manner, 'Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude has any possible claim on me in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment's concern- -and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.' What an impertinent girl! She has no feelings, no ideas of propriety!"
During this speech, Darcy had suddenly turned towards the fire, in deep thought. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. Suddenly, he spun around and asked Lady Catherine if Miss Bennet had promised to refuse him if he proposed.
"No! Have you not been listening? She was most rude, and said she would not grant me such a promise as that! That girl has no respect for anyone!"
I saw Darcy's face light up considerably. I could see what he was thinking. Miss Bennet had not refused that she would not accept him. He may have a chance!
"I must receive from you, the promise that I could not get from that girl. You must promise me never to degrade yourself to ask her to marry you. You will grant me that, nephew?" She said this in a sickeningly sweet tone.
"No, I will not," he replied in a calm, concise voice.
I could see two veins in my aunt's neck; they looked as if they were about to explode. "WHAT? You defy me, too? You will not ask her, nephew. I absolutely forbid it."
"I do not care if you forbid it, Lady Catherine. I will not be manipulated by you. I will do whatever I wish. It is my life, not yours." He said this in a placid voice and turned away from her.
"NO!" she screamed. I covered my ears. "I will not bear this! You, too, are determined to taint the shades of Pemberley?" She turned to me, though I really did not feel like entering this conversation any longer. "Colonel, I appeal to you. You must help me to convince your cousin that he is wrong."
I shrugged my shoulders as Darcy answered, "I will not listen to him, either. Much as I respect his opinion, I will not be controlled by it."
"You will not be happy, I know that you will not. That girl--"
"Stop referring to her as 'that girl,'" Darcy said, a tone of anger creeping into his otherwise calm voice, as he turned around to face her.
"Miss Bennet," Lady Catherine sneered, "has such low connections. And will you lower yourself to be the brother-in-law to that sinful man? To that infamous Mr. Wickham?"
"Now, madam, you have said too much!" Darcy said, trying to control his voice while his face flushed. "I must beg you to leave. You can have nothing more to say. Good bye."
He turned away from her, and she went to the door. She turned around to look at him as she exited. "I will never speak to you again!"
She slammed the door, and I could hear her stalk out of the house.
"Good," mumbled Darcy, after a short silence. I began to laugh, and even a smile appeared on his own face.
"So, Darcy, you are going to return to Hertfordshire today?"
Darcy looked at my father, who sat across the table from him as we sat eating breakfast. "Yes, sir, I am. My friend is still at Netherfield, and all alone, I daresay."
"Oh," my father replied with a smile on his face, "do you happen to mean Mr. Charles Bingley?"
Darcy looked up at my father with a confused look on his face and replied that it was. "Well, then," said my father, "I hope that you will congratulate him for me."
Darcy looked even more bewildered, and I must admit that this sentiment must have been reflected on my face, as well. My father passed over the newspaper. Darcy glanced at the page indicated, and began to laugh. "Well, I'll be! He actually asked her. Not that I am very surprised, but it is quite hilarious."
He handed the paper to me, and I perused it. I then found the denoted announcement. "So Bingley has proposed! How delightful," I said with a smile. "Apparently your conjecture was wrong, Darce. Miss Bennet did return his affections, as it can be readily shown."
Darcy laughed. "Yes, I will admit my mistake. It was not that difficult to commit, you must understand. When I returned to Hertfordshire a few weeks ago with Bingley, we called a few times on the Bennets, and I was able to make a more precise judgment on the case. I was wrong, Fitzwilliam, and I can see it. As I had told you before, I admitted my mistake to Charles, and I hope that he has forgiven me by now."
"How could he not?" I laughed. "He could not live without you making all of his decisions for him! I am surprised that he did not ask you for consent to marry Miss Bennet."
He looked at me with a smile on his face. I decided that I did not want to know. Really, I didn't.
My father had been confused through the whole of this conversation, and decided to strike up one that he could actually have interest in. "I hear that my sister had called last night."
Darcy did not show any emotion, and I replied that she had. When asked what for, I replied, "Oh, she was just calling here on her way back to Kent. Merely to say 'hello.'"
My father laughed. "Oh, Robert, you are the worst liar in the world! You could not convince a camel that it has a hump in its back! Lady Catherine de Bourgh would never do such a thing. London? Ha! And only to say 'hello?' Not a chance!"
I wondered how he could tell I was lying. He laughed for a while then asked me, "So, what did she really come to see you about? Or was she here to see my nephew?"
Darcy looked up from his meal. "Yes, she had come to see me, uncle. You should be glad that you were not here when she had called. You probably would have been astounded at her powers to deafen those in the room."
My father raised his eyebrows. "Really? What was the purpose of this call, or am I on the edge of invading your privacy?"
Darcy shook his head. "No, sir, do not imagine so. Your son knows the purpose of her visit. It is no secret. She called to inform me that I was not to marry a young lady I had met in Hertfordshire."
"Yes, that is just the thing I would suppose from Catherine! But I did not know that you were betrothed."
"I am not. She had heard a rumor that I had proposed to this young woman, and so she went to Hertfordshire to attempt to persuade her to break off the engagement, which was impossible, as there was none in reality. When she could not get a promise from this young woman not to enter into such an engagement, she came to London to make me promise not to propose to Elizabeth."
"Oh, Elizabeth is it? And does this Elizabeth have a last name?" Father said.
Darcy flushed slightly. "Yes, she does. Bennet."
Father smiled. "And is this young woman in the same Bennet family as the one to whom Mr. Bingley is betrothed?"
Darcy nodded. "Yes, sir, and that is where I think the rumor has come from. One good marriage deserves another."
"So did you grant Lady Catherine that promise?"
Darcy grinned. "I did not, sir. And I am now on my way to Hertfordshire to start what I have not finished yet."
"Well, good luck, my dear boy."
Darcy thanked him, and left the table. My father looked at me. "My nephew no doubt will carry home his prize. How could anyone refuse him?"
I sighed, as I remembered this same thought, on my last night at Rosings. Hopefully this time, Darcy would not be so disappointed.
As I found out shortly, in a letter from Darcy, Miss Elizabeth Bennet was soon to be Mrs. Darcy. I smiled at this, and put away the letter. I had known that this would happen, ever since I had known Darce's feelings for her. I could not suppose that he would be defeated in the end. Darcy always overcame his obstacles, no matter what.
I could not say the same for myself; I was merely a spectator in this whole drama. My part was a small one: to say a few choice words, and for the rest, to be a confidant and prop. I could never have expected the main role. My life had never been like that. A second banana I definitely was.
I was at the wedding in Hertfordshire, and was happily situated as the groom's man. Mrs. Darcy was gracious enough to give me a kiss before they left, which I treasured. Of course I was resigned, but I could not help loving her. I sighed as they rode away in the carriage. My best friend was now tied down, and to the one woman I admired.
Georgiana was on my arm as we stood, waving to the new couple as they disappeared out of sight. She looked up at me with a gentle smile. "And when will I be given the honour of seeing my other guardian so well looked after?"
I smiled at her. "Not for a long while, my dear. I still have you to look after me, though, don't I?"
She laughed. "Yes, I guess so."
I smiled down at my young charge. Yes, I thought, it would be a long while. I probably would see Georgiana well married before I ever found the one for me. I could not expect the luck that Darcy had; he was ten times as handsome, rich, and lucky as I. There was no reason why I should have the same amount of happiness as he.
Yes, I had certainly found that life did not always turn out the way we expect it to be. The events of the last year had been enough to prove that point. But these twists of fate taught me much. It had taught me that I should never give up believing in fate, and that life would eventually right itself to everybody's satisfaction. Darcy had shown me as much. If he had completely given up hope of ever meeting Miss Bennet again, and making everything right, things never would have turned out the happy way that they did. And I do believe that it was the best way for things to turn out.
Through the years, I was often invited to Pemberley, to visit my cousin and his new wife. I almost became a part of the household, I came so often. They were very kind to me, and I had the honour of being named the godfather of their firstborn.
The Darcys were happy; I can vouch for that. Through my whole life, I have never come across a couple more perfectly matched. I believe that in marriage each must take a little, and give a little. The Darcys demonstrated that. Their marriage was, for the most part, peaceful. The fights that were big enough for me to hear about were few and far between, and were most speedily settled.
Their most long-standing argument was about me. Mrs. Darcy was always thoughtfully trying to find me someone that I could marry, but Darcy was pessimistic. He did not think that I would ever be in the mind to find a wife. I can now laugh at this; I managed to disprove both of their ideas. Well, actually, Mrs. Darcy was the instigator of the acquaintance. My wife is the most wonderful woman, and quite like Mrs. Darcy, though less outspoken. She is also a pushover for men in uniform. This lovely young lady is now my dear Mrs. Kitty Fitzwilliam. But that, I am sorry to say, is a whole other story...
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