Fitzwilliam Darcy was in his study going over the figures in the year's ledger. It was a task he could easily do without, but it was a necessary evil and he alone must attend to it. He always allowed it to dampen his mood, and the household lived in dread during that time when the master closed out his books.
Darcy sat back in his chair, stretched his arms and tried to roll out the tension from his neck. "I must finish this tonight." He told himself.
Pemberley was to have visitors for the next few weeks. Darcy's cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam and his new bride were to spend some time with the Darcys. Fitzwilliam had retired from the military and his wife Laura and he had settled in a fine house in Town, not too far from the Darcy's town house. The former Miss Covington had brought with her a sizable dowry and Fitzwilliam invested some of it in purchasing the town house. Both their families had added to the couples nest egg, and with what the Colonel had managed to put away from his days in the military, they found themselves in a pretty fair position. Fitzwilliam was now engaging himself in London politics, and it provided him and his wife with a comfortable income. Darcy was relieved that his favorite cousin had managed so well and had found the love that he deserved.
This had been a good year for the Darcys as well. Their family had doubled, with the birth of the twins seven months earlier. Elizabeth was happy as mistress of the estate and was quite contented with motherhood. Darcy found that he loved fatherhood as well, and had been very happy to settle down to a life devoted to his wife, his children and Pemberley. Georgiana had taken on the restlessness that Darcy had entertained in his youth. She now spent as much time in London as she did at Pemberley. She found that society life was not so bad, and actually enjoyed mingling more with her peers. The new Mrs. Fitzwilliam had taken her under her wing, and Georgiana enjoyed her company as much as Elizabeth's. Through these two young women, Georgiana's confidence blossomed into that of a vibrant young woman.
Darcy began his work on the books again, and he remained in the study until it was almost time for supper that evening. At seven o'clock he left the study and ran upstairs to the nursery, to kiss his babies good night. When he got there, both Andrew and Hannah were fed, washed and dressed for bed. They were Darcy's pride and joy for they were indeed happy little children. They had beautiful rosy complexions, fine dark curly hair and big dark eyes. Hannah was much more petite than her brother. They each had good dispositions, although Andrew had been known to have his mother's temper at times, and Hannah possessed the Darcy shyness. Even at seven months, one could see their fondness for their father. Hannah always squealed in delight when she saw him and Darcy would pick her up and kiss her on the neck as she giggled. Andrew liked to pull on Darcy's sideburns and was always happiest in the morning, when he was allowed in his parents bed to crawl onto his papa and play rough.
Darcy sat in the large chair that had been placed in the nursery. It was the reading chair, and every night the children sat on either side of Darcy's lap and they read little picture books together, before the children went to bed. Elizabeth could never tell if Darcy or the children enjoyed it more. Many times one or both of the babies fell asleep while in the chair, so she sat on the rocking chair and waited to put them into their beds. This night, however, Darcy left the nursery after one book, and headed back downstairs to eat and get back to his ledgers. Elizabeth could see the fatigue and anxiety on his face as they sat together for supper. He barely spoke to her, ate a few bites and excused himself to go back to the study.
She thought to herself how good it would be to have the Fitzwilliams at Pemberley. Darcy needed the diversion that his cousin always seemed to provide him. She looked forward to being with Laura Fitzwilliam again. She was good-natured and sweet, and had written that she desperately wanted to spend time with the children. In a way, she reminded Elizabeth of her dear sister Jane.
An hour after supper, Elizabeth found herself restless and bored without the good company of her husband. She dared to knock on the study door, to check on his progress. He harshly grunted a "come in" and kept working, not even bothering to look up to see who it was entering the room.
"Fitzwilliam? I know you are busy but..." she meekly said.
Darcy tried not to show his annoyance. "Yes, Elizabeth. I am very busy." He sighed. "I would like to get this done before our guests arrive."
"May I offer my assistance?" she said intently.
Darcy looked up finally and raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"I would like to help you...it would go much faster if we worked on it together, Fitzwilliam." she replied.
"That is a good joke, Elizabeth," he snickered, shaking his head.
Her countenance took a turn, "It is not a joke, Fitzwilliam. I am perfectly serious!"
He sat back in the chair and started tapping the pen on the desk. He was in no mood for a contest of wills at the moment. He quickly turned the ledger around and pointed to a column of figures with the pen. "All right then." He sharply said. "Take the pen...add it up...transfer it to this column...add those...divide by four." He held the pen out to her, his face flushed in aggravation.
Elizabeth pulled up a chair and plunked herself down. She did not like his tone of voice and she was as determined as ever to prove to him that she was worthy of the task. She began to add in her head and scribbled figures on a scratch piece of paper. She was vexed by his apparent censure of her and she mumbled to herself under her breath, "how dare you treat me in such a manner Mr. Darcy."
She looked up and said, "One thousand, five hundred and twenty-three." Stressing the 'twenty-three'.
Darcy took the ledger and began checking her figures. He looked up and said, "One thousand, five hundred and thirteen." And gave her a determined grin at the end.
"You forgot to carry the one." She pointed to the ledger, her cheeks just as flushed as his.
His eyes widened and he angrily looked back down and recalculated. When he finished he looked up at her in embarrassment and nodded.
"You forgot to carry the one?" she inquired.
He nodded again, giving her a pen and a ledger. She smiled in conquest and began her calculations as he sat back and groaned. After a while they were both feverishly working away on the ledgers. She asked a few questions, making sure they were clear and concise, as to not elicit his temper again. His bad mood gradually disappeared as he saw her genuine attempts to assist him. Guilt got the better of him and he tried to make amends.
"Can we call it a truce then, my love?"
"Well seeing as I am finished, and we are now to go to our bedchamber. I suppose it would be a good idea." She sighed in a dramatic fashion. "That is unless you should wish to find fault with me there also?"
He grimaced at her admonition. "Oh no, I am a fool...but not that much of a fool." He walked over to her and gave her a kiss. "Elizabeth, thank you for your help. It was much needed and greatly appreciated."
She kissed him back and he snuffed out the light. As they left the study, he whispered "Next year, my dear, you may do the whole thing."
The Colonel and his new wife arrived the next day. In the afternoon, Elizabeth announced to Laura that she was planning a short trip to Lambton and inquired if she would like to accompany her.
"I would love to see Lambton, but first...may we see the children?"
"Of course you may." Elizabeth smiled and asked Mrs. Reynolds to have Mrs. White bring them down.
Darcy and his cousin sat talking and enjoying each other's company. They had not seen each other since Fitzwilliam's marriage and had much to catch up on. Mrs. White brought the children in and Laura engulfed little Hannah. Mrs. White plopped Andrew onto the Colonel's lap. He sat there holding the little boy, looking as if someone had just put a keg of gun powder on him and lit a fuse.
Darcy laughed at him. "It is all right Fitzwilliam, he does not bite, yet."
"Are you quite sure, Darcy?" the Colonel winced as Andrew reached up and yanked on a mutton chop.
Laura Fitzwilliam was enchanted by them however. "Oh Richard! Are they not adorable?" she looked at him, longing in her eyes. "I hope we shall be blessed very soon."
"Aye, we shall work on it, my dear." He whispered to her with a sheepish smile, as Darcy turned his head and grinned.
The footman entered the room and announced that the carriage was awaiting the ladies. Elizabeth stood up and went for the door. "I shall call Mrs. White to come and get the children."
"Elizabeth, the children can stay with Fitzwilliam and I for a bit." Darcy told her as he took his daughter from Mrs. Fitzwilliam, and sat back down in the chair.
"Will you be all right, my dear?" Elizabeth inquired of her husband, as the Colonel shot him a bewildered glance.
Darcy feigned indignation, "Oh course, my dear! What do you think...I am master of a large estate and manage people every day." He smiled and kissed his daughter. "And Fitzwilliam has led hundreds of men onto the battlefield."
The Colonel nodded his head reluctantly in agreement.
"I think between the two of us, we can manage two small children for a time, without assistance." He finished his tirade.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and looked at Laura Fitzwilliam, who did not look convinced either. "Well...if you are sure?" she sighed. "If you need anything, you will call for Mrs. White?"
Darcy nodded and the ladies departed for Lambton. Darcy looked over at his cousin, who was beginning to lose his nervous demeanor as he held little Andrew on his lap and smiled playfully at the boy.
"Well Darcy, you appear to enjoy fatherhood." The Colonel speculated.
"Yes, Fitzwilliam. I must say that I do." Darcy smiled down at his daughter as she cooed at him and giggled. "There is nothing to compare to it."
"Laura wishes to have a child soon. You must fill me in on all the details, so I will not be so na´ve when it happens."
"I tell you Fitzwilliam...a man believes his life is all settled, then he has children." Darcy shot the Colonel a sideways look. "They turn your whole life upside down."
"I can tell, Darcy!" the Colonel laughed trying to pry Andrew's little hands off his face. "I say! What has happened to the indomitable Fitzwilliam Darcy? The man I once knew, who would do nothing that he did not want? The man whose mind could not be swayed by anyone?"
"That man is still here, Fitzwilliam." Darcy frowned. "It is just that children rather wear a person down."
All of a sudden the Colonel looked confused. "Darcy?" he said low.
"You will see Fitzwilliam. One day your wife tells you that you are to be a father..." Darcy continued.
"You spend months in anticipation of that day. Fretting, worrying...that things will go well. That you will keep your sanity. That you will be worthy of the task at hand..."
"Ah...Darcy?" Fitzwilliam said, still confused.
"That day comes and you pace the floors...trying to maintain the deportment that you are known for. Hour upon ceaseless hour, you wait, until you cannot last another second. You are reduced to a helpless pile of mush..."
"DARCY!" the Colonel growled impatiently.
Darcy looked over at him, "What?"
"I have been trying to tell you...the boy has sprung a leak!" He cringed as he held Andrew up underneath the arms.
"Oh good god, Fitzwilliam." Darcy got up, opened the door and bellowed for Mrs. White.
The Colonel joined Darcy in the library after having gone upstairs to change his clothes. Darcy looked up at him and snickered as he entered the room. The Colonel looked cross at his cousin and pointed at him.
"Not a word, Darcy...not a blasted word!" he snarled.
Darcy just shook his head and poured his cousin a drink. The footman interrupted them again, "Sir, there is a school master here to see you. A Mr. Kimball."
"A school master?" Darcy looked confused. "I know of no Mr. Kimball? What does he want?"
"I do not know sir...he asked for you and the Colonel, sir."
Fitzwilliam looked at Darcy and the two men were too intrigued to refuse to grant the man an audience.
"Show him in." Darcy commanded.
Mr. Kimball was shown into the library. He was a small man in stature and talked very, very fast.
"Mr. Darcy? Mr. Fitzwilliam?" he said upon entering and looking quickly back and forth between the cousins.
"I am Fitzwilliam Darcy, sir. This is my cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam." Darcy replied and the Colonel extended a courteous bow.
"Ah! I am very fortunate to find you both together! Very fortunate, indeed!" said Mr. Kimball.
"Yes, Mr. Kimball? What is it that you wish to see us about?" Darcy replied, beginning to lose his patience.
"Well sir...it is about your cousin." He smiled nervously.
"Our cousin, sir? Ah...exactly to which cousin are you referring?"
"Master Jonathan Fitzwilliam."
The Colonel heaved a laugh and said "Lord!"
Darcy looked at him disapprovingly, and began to question Mr. Kimball. "Jonathan Fitzwilliam? My mother's late brother's son?" Mr. Kimball nodded his head. "Mr. Kimball, I have not seen Jonathan in...four years."
"Yes, sir. He has been at the Hargrove school, of which I am employed." Mr. Kimball said enthusiastically. "Of which, I believe your father pays for." He nodded to the Colonel.
"Mr. Kimball?" Darcy said beginning to let his impatience show. "What has this to do with the Colonel and me?"
"Well, sirs. Master Jonathan has been expelled from the school." He waited for a reaction, however none was offered. "His conduct is insubordinate, at best. He is rude and disobliging, and does not get along with his classmates." Mr. Kimball stopped to sigh. "We have tried everything, revocation of privileges, punishment. Nothing has an effect. Since the Earl is away in Scotland, naturally we had to turn to you both. As his closest next of kin, you understand."
Fitzwilliam sat down and began sipping his drink, pale as a ghost. Darcy felt numb and he had trouble focusing on what the school master had just said.
"Ah...do you mean to tell me, Mr. Kimball...that you want me to take him in?"
Darcy sat down and nervously laughed. He looked at the Colonel, who just shrugged.
"Mr. Kimball. How old is the boy now?"
"He is fifteen, sir.?"
"Fifteen." Darcy nodded running his hand through his hair.
"Mr. Darcy...Master Jonathan is on his way to meet me here in Derbyshire. He will be here, day after tomorrow. I was hoping for your assistance in this matter, sir?" The school master pleaded.
Darcy heaved a sigh, "All right sir. Bring the boy here day after tomorrow."
"Very good sir. I shall take no more of your time." Mr. Kimball bowed and quickly left the two cousins alone.
Darcy began pacing in front of the window, stopping to stare out of it every few minutes. "Fitzwilliam, What are we to do?"
"What can we do, Darcy?" the Colonel sat in the chair working on his drink. "I suppose he is our responsibility."
"Responsibility? Fitzwilliam, I do not know anything about disciplining a fifteen year old boy." Darcy said, agitation in his voice.
"You are a father, Darcy. You have that advantage over me."
"Fitzwilliam...I have been a father for seven months! I hardly think that qualifies me as an authority!"
"Darcy, calm down!" the Colonel snapped. He took a deep breath to calm himself. "We must think rationally about this." He tapped his fingers on his forehead. "We shall have to formulate a plan...before our wives get back."
"Wives!" Darcy turned around his eyes wide. "Good lord, I forgot! What on earth am I to tell Elizabeth." He stared pacing again. "Congratulations my dear...you have just become the proud parent of a spoiled fifteen year old brat!"
"Darcy." the Colonel tried to calm his cousin.
"Do you know, Fitzwilliam. The last time I saw Jonathan...he walked straight up to me...and booted me in the shin."
"Darcy, what alternative do we have? There is only Lady Catherine and we cannot send a boy to her."
"Why not, we had to go every year. You know as well as I that it is a humbling experience."
"Darcy, be reasonable." The Colonel sighed. "We shall share the responsibility...equally." He got out of his chair and walked around the room quietly contemplating. "Do you suppose this is payment for all the wicked things we did as boys, Darcy?"
Darcy leaned against the wall, "If that is the case, Fitzwilliam...we owe a lot of debts." He smiled at his cousin, "Especially, you."
Elizabeth Darcy and Laura Fitzwilliam sat at the supper table, curiously eyeing their husbands. Since they had returned from Lambton, the gentlemen had been precariously quiet. It was quite unlike them, when they were in each other's company. Fitzwilliam smiled at his wife every now and then, but Darcy had trouble even catching his wife's gaze at all.
"We had a lovely time in Lambton, my dear." Elizabeth finally spoke. "We saw our neighbor, Mr. Fell. He asked me to give you his regards."
Darcy pinched a smile and quickly said, "Yes, very good."
Elizabeth inquired of her husband. "Has something happened while we were away, Fitzwilliam?"
Darcy did not answer her, he just pushed food around on his plate. Laura Fitzwilliam looked at her own husband, who was contemplating the contents of his glass of wine.
"Richard? What is it?" she became almost afraid.
Darcy looked up at both women and gave up the charade. "We had a visitor today, a Mr. Kimball. He is a school master."
Elizabeth furrowed her brow in confusion. "A school master?" she asked.
Darcy nodded, "He is bringing a boy here, day after next. The boy is the son of my mother's youngest brother, Henry Fitzwilliam. He was a seaman, and he passed away two years ago. His wife died fifteen years ago in childbirth, and...they have left a son...Jonathan Fitzwilliam."
The Colonel took up the story. "My father, pays for the boy's schooling. However, he has been expelled as a delinquent, and since my father and my brother are residing in Scotland for some time...Darcy and I have become the boy's guardians."
Both men waited silently for the row that they assumed was to ensue. However, the room fell quiet and calm.
"Well?" asked Elizabeth. "I suppose we should make preparations for the boy's arrival."
Darcy looked up at his wife, awestruck. He had expected an argument on this. Elizabeth looked at him, and thought to herself how peculiar he was acting. "Elizabeth...you do not understand? This boy is spoiled, bad mannered, insolent and a damn nuisance."
"Fitzwilliam Darcy!" she huffed. "Are you telling me you would willingly turn your back on your family?"
He sat back, red with anger at having been reproached. He did not wish to admit, even to his wife, that he could think so cruelly.
"You are always the one spouting of your loyalty to your kin, talking of traditions and honor. I cannot believe you would think of turning a boy away...impertinent or not!" Elizabeth flushed in exasperation. "If you will excuse me...I shall take my tea...elsewhere." And she got up, quitting the room in a flurry. Laura Fitzwilliam got up as well, looked at her husband and shook her head in relative disgust then followed Elizabeth.
The gentlemen remained in their seats, wondering how they had miscalculated the reactions of their wives. The Colonel threw down his napkin onto the table and grumbled low. "Damn...I hate it when they are right."
Darcy took a drink of his wine, "I am beginning to grow accustomed to it."
The household awaited the arrival of the boy that Friday. Mr. Kimball was shown into the parlor, along with Jonathan Fitzwilliam. The boy was tall for his fifteen years, and had an arrogance about him. He looked a little bit like Darcy, only with sandy brown hair. The boy bowed to his new guardians. Elizabeth thought he looked more frightened than anything else.
Darcy looked him over and said, "Jonathan...welcome to Pemberley."
The boy raised his chin in the air and frowned. Mr. Kimball, poked him in the side. "Can you not greet your cousin, Mr. Darcy, boy?"
"Darcy. Colonel." He said, his voice cracking.
Darcy looked towards Fitzwilliam for a little support. The Colonel walked over to Jonathan, and put his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Come and sit down, cousin." He turned around to the ladies. "This is my wife, Laura. And this is Darcy's wife, Elizabeth."
The ladies smiled at the boy, and he relaxed a bit and smiled back, giving them each a slight bow. Mr. Kimball made his apologies, and stated that he must be getting back to the school. He was shown out and the Darcys and the Fitzwilliams were left with their young charge.
"So..." Darcy sighed, taking a seat himself. "your school master has said you have been expelled. Pray, tell me...for what reason?"
"None that I can give...cousin." The boy snapped.
"Is that so?" Darcy smiled. "We should like to start this off on the right foot, Jonathan. We do not know each other as well as perhaps we should. There are no secrets between us and we do expect you to act in a manner befitting your family."
"I do not wish to be a part of your family, Darcy! I am here against my will." The boy hastily replied.
The Colonel spoke up, as he saw Darcy purse his lips in annoyance. "No boy...you are here by the good grace of your cousin Darcy. This is his house and you shall abide by his rules."
"I do not need your charity. I do quite well by my own rules."
"Yes...so we hear?" Darcy replied with a huff. "Jonathan...you are welcome in this house for as long as you wish it, or for as long as you deserve it. Which ever comes first." Darcy stopped to reconnoiter. "We did endeavor to deserve our good family and our reputation when we were your age. We shall treat you no differently, than our fathers did us. I do not think that is asking too much of you."
The boy looked at his feet.
"The servant will show you to your room. Get yourself settled and we shall talk later, before supper."
Jonathan got up and followed the servant to his room. Darcy rubbed his forehead, feeling a headache coming on. Colonel Fitzwilliam sat in his chair tapping his foot on the floor and looking at the wall, trying to calm his inner feelings of rage at the insolent behavior of his young cousin. Elizabeth got up to check on preparations for supper. Before she left the room, she walked over to her husband and put her hand on his arm.
"Perhaps it is not my place to say, Fitzwilliam..." Darcy looked up at her soft face. "However, consider that his impudence may stem from a lack of love and affection...the kind of love between a father and a son."
Darcy took her hand, closed his eyes and kissed it. She was a wise woman for her age, and he loved her enough to respect her opinion, even in this case.
Darcy climbed the stairs and walked down the gallery to his dressing room. He heard a commotion down at the end of the great hall in the vicinity of Jonathan's bedchamber. A servant came running out of the room and looked at the master. He shook his head, shrugged and said, "Sir?" and quickly took his leave. Darcy knocked on the half opened door, however there was no answer. He pushed the door open and walked into the room. He saw Jonathan stuffing his belongings back into his trunks and grumbling.
"Pardon me for intruding...but is there a problem?" Darcy inquired of the boy.
"This room will not do at all! It is nothing to what I am used to...when I resided with my grandparents! One would think that such a wealthy gentleman as yourself would have a more spectacular house!" The boy screamed.
Darcy stood in disbelief. His eyes wide and his temper boiling within him. He felt as if he had just been kicked in the shin once again.
Jonathan stood with a shirt in his hand, taunting Darcy with a smug smile. For a year after his father's death, he had stayed with his maternal grandmother. She had indulged the boy, almost beyond repair. He had come to realize that all that was necessary, was to pitch a fit, and he would get what he wanted. Darcy, however, was clever enough to realized this, and decided to call the boy's bluff.
Jonathan snickered to himself in triumph as Darcy walked over to the servants bell and rang downstairs. Within a few minutes a servant knocked on the door, awaiting his orders.
"Take master Jonathan's belongings," Darcy instructed the servant "...to the stables!"
The servant looked confused, but walked over to a trunk and closed the lid. Jonathan looked at Darcy in incredulity. "What are you doing?" he demanded.
"Since this house does not suit your taste...you may reside in the stables from hereon!" Darcy folded his arms and clenched his jaw.
"Ah...well..." master Jonathan stammered, having not prepared himself for such a reaction from his cousin. "I suppose if there is nothing else...this room will have to do."
"Are you sure?" Darcy mocked him. "I would not want you to be too uncomfortable."
Jonathan squirmed in his boots, "quite sure...cousin." He spoke as he looked back down at his feet.
"Very good." Darcy said a smile reappearing on his face. He turned to the servant who was beginning to tug on the truck. "Walters, thank you for your assistance, but you may leave the trunk, and go."
Jonathan sighed in relief and so did the servant. Darcy turned to leave the room and as he came to the door, he turned around to address his impertinent young cousin again.
"Supper is in half an hour. You will make sure you look presentable...and do not be late!" and Darcy quit the room, still hot under the collar.
Darcy had just finished informing the Colonel of the bedchamber incident, when Jonathan entered the dining room, and curtly bowed. The two men nodded a bow in return and smiled broadly. The boy nervously stood in a corner and awaited his placement at the table. Darcy leaned over to Fitzwilliam and whispered, "remember we are in this together...the next conflict belongs to you." He raised his eyebrows at his cousin and took his place at the table.
Fitzwilliam walked over to the boy. "Well Jonathan...I shall hate to see what Darcy does when you find fault with the meal."
Jonathan stuck his chin in the air and flushed with embarrassment. The servant showed him to his seat and the rest of the party took their places for supper. The Darcys and the Fitzwilliams conducted themselves as usual, with lively conversation and much enjoyment. Jonathan sat quietly and listened to the adults, at times even enjoying himself. After some time, Elizabeth turned to the boy and tried to include him in the conversation. However, he felt awkward and only favored her with short responses. She took pity on the poor boy, and left him to himself after awhile.
For the rest of the meal, he silently watched his cousins. He began to form an admiration for his cousin Darcy. No one in his family had ever tried to match wits with him, and he formed an opinion that perhaps Mr. Darcy was not one to be trifled with. However, he was still a boy, and not a sensible one at that. He observed his other cousin, the Colonel, to be a man of easy manners and thought that if the one was not a pushover, perhaps the other one was.
A servant entered the dining room, with an express for the Colonel. He handed the letter over, and the Colonel politely thanked him. Jonathan's eyes widened at the Colonel's response and he laughed out loud, chiding his cousin.
"Surely you do not 'thank' a servant."
"What?" the Colonel furrowed his brow.
"A true gentleman never speaks to his servants, unless he is commanding them to do something." The boy authoritatively announced.
Darcy sat back in his chair and grinned at Fitzwilliam. He was certainly going to enjoy watching his cousin assert his diplomacy on the young man. The Colonel looked up at Darcy's face and bit his lip, knowing full well, it was his turn to teach the lad a lesson.
"I do not know where you have learned your manners, boy...but a gentleman is always polite, to peer, or to servant."
"Do not call me boy!" Jonathan yelled.
Darcy lifted his napkin to his mouth to cover the laugh that threatened to escape it. Darcy knew his cousin well. He may have the exterior of a sheep, but when provoked, could be as volatile as a caged bear. Elizabeth and Laura looked on, in relative horror wondering what the Colonel might do to the young man.
The Colonel stiffened his back and continued, "...and a boy...is always respectful and polite...to his elders!"
"Are you deaf? Did you not hear me tell you not to call me boy?" Jonathan screamed.
The smile left Darcy's face as the situation became more serious than he had anticipated. The Colonel fumed in anger and slowly stood up and threw his napkin down on the table.
"Get up!" he said to the young man through his clenched teeth.
Jonathan looked at him in determination and kept his seat. "You shall have to make me...old man."
The Colonel turned to his wife and the Darcys and said, "If you will excuse us." He walked over to Jonathan, yanked out his chair and grabbed him by the back of the collar, lifting him up in one fell swoop. He swiftly drug the boy, who was kicking and screaming, out of the dining room and down the hallway to the back doors which led to the courtyard.
The ladies and the servants looked on in shock. Darcy however, continued to eat his corned beef and vegetables. He stopped, knife and fork suspended in mid air, pensively thought for a moment, then mumbled, "Mmm, this corned beef is very good."
He picked up his wine glass and savored the flavor of his wine. Elizabeth turned to him in impatience. "Fitzwilliam? Are you just going to sit there?"
"Yes." He calmly said.
"Are you not going to follow them?" she pleaded.
"No." he innocently shook his head.
"Elizabeth, what would you have me do?" he inquired patiently. "Fitzwilliam and the boy need to come to an understanding. The boy needs to understand how to behave in society...and Fitzwilliam will see that he does."
"What makes you so sure?" she asked.
Darcy laughed. "Fitzwilliam did almost the exact same thing, one time when we were all at Aberfeld. Of course he was only twelve at the time. His father was furious..." he shuddered at the memory of it, "...and do you know...he never spoke to another person disrespectfully again."
Darcy continued to eat his meal and suggested that the ladies do the same, after some time the Colonel walked back into the dining room, without Jonathan, and took his seat. He sighed and took a bite of his cold meal. Darcy motioned to the servant, who brought out a clean plate and proceeded to serve the Colonel a new helping.
The Colonel ate his fill and sat back in his chair and looked over at Darcy. Darcy stared at him, a smile slowly coming to his lips. Fitzwilliam shook his head and started to laugh, then Darcy laughed as well. Elizabeth and Laura failed to see the joke, which obviously was being shared by the cousins. Having had no brothers, neither woman knew quite what to think.
"I believe he will never do that again." The Colonel ascertained.
"I should think not." replied Darcy.
Late that night, Elizabeth quietly knocked on Jonathan's bedchamber door. He opened it and she smiled and rolled her eyes towards the servant to her side with a tray of food. The young man sighed and smiled and motioned for her to enter.
"I thought you may be hungry." She said politely.
"Yes, ma'am." He said, eyeing the tray.
She dismissed the servant and went to leave, however Jonathan stopped her. "Mrs. Darcy?" he stammered. "Thank you."
She smiled at him and put her finger to her lips, "Shhh, it is our secret." And she closed the door behind her.
She entered her own bedchamber and found her husband sitting in his chair by the fire, reading a book. She said nothing to him as she walked over to the hearth and warmed her hands.
"Well?" Darcy's voice pierced the silence.
Elizabeth turned around to look at him, "Well, what my dear?"
"Elizabeth...you had better not let him know you have a soft spot. For he will certainly take advantage of it."
She blushed at his good information. "Fitzwilliam...he is a lost boy, who is trying to fit in. Life has dealt him enough heartache."
Darcy closed his book and thought a moment in silence. She walked over to him and sat down, wrapping her arms around him and laying her head on his shoulder. He held onto her and stared into the fire.
"I cannot help thinking. What if he were our son? What if Andrew were in his position?" she sat up and looked him in the eye. "What if Andrew were to grow up without you to guide him?"
Darcy kept staring into the fire...not unaffected by his wife's questions. "Elizabeth. I will never abandon our children...and I will not abandon Jonathan either." He wearily closed his eyes and she leaned over to kiss him.
Jonathan walked slowly down the staircase, heading for the breakfast room. At the bottom of the stairs he encountered Darcy, who had just come in from outside. The weather that morning was dreadful. The winter had been stormy and the air as cold as Darcy had ever felt it. He found that he had other things on his mind, one being the reports of a pack of wolves that had descended down into lower Derbyshire from the forests in the north, in search of food. They had already killed several sheep and last night had felled a calf on the Pemberley grounds some three miles away. Darcy feared that they would become even more dangerous as they neared the populated areas of the village.
Jonathan bowed to him and spoke. "Good morning, cousin...sir."
Darcy smiled at the boy and asked him if he had rested comfortably...especially in such a wretched room.
"Yes, sir...the room is quite to my liking, after all. I am very sorry that I complained of it. Please forgive me."
Darcy raised his eyebrow at the boy's apparent change of character. They walked together down the hall, and then Darcy remembered something. He asked Jonathan to come with him and rounded the hall to the study.
"Here, I found this." He said handing the boy a framed miniature. "It is your father. It belonged to my mother, and I thought you might like to have it."
Jonathan looked at it and smiled. "Thank you...I do not have anything like it."
"I know what it is like, you know." Darcy said as the boy looked up at him. "To be alone."
Jonathan looked as if he would cry, and Darcy walked over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.
"I also know what it is like when your own arrogance causes you pain. It is never easy to tell yourself you must change. But you will never command the respect of those you want it from, unless you respect them first." Darcy watched as the boy nodded his head, his face looking down at the portrait in his hand. "Come on...I am famished." Darcy's voice picked up, and they left for the breakfast room together.
The ladies and the Colonel were already in the breakfast room, having morning tea. Jonathan entered behind Darcy and caught the Colonel's eye. He stopped dead, and bowed courteously to his cousin and greeted the ladies with the utmost respect. Darcy turned around and saw the display, and looked at Fitzwilliam nodding his head. The Colonel approved of the boy's behavior so far and decided to put it to the test.
"Good morning, Jonathan. It is a pleasure to see you looking so well."
"Thank you, sir."
"And how did you find your accommodations?" the Colonel glanced at Darcy, who was stirring his tea with alacrity.
"Very well, Colonel. Pemberley is a grand estate."
Fitzwilliam smiled and agreed with the boy. Laura Fitzwilliam sighed in relief at the compliance of the young man. She was a pacifist at heart, and did not wish to witness another manly confrontation. Elizabeth smiled at Jonathan, who in turn looked at her with a beholden grin.
"Have you been out already this morning, Darcy?" Fitzwilliam inquired of his cousin.
"I went out to speak with a group of farmers, Fitzwilliam. They came to warn us of a pack of wolves, terrorizing the area."
"Wolves! The cold and snow bring them down from the north?"
"Aye, they took down a calf last night, and have been seen and heard circling the village." Darcy explained, a hint of worry in his voice. "They prey on the young and the weak, but will attack anything or anyone when desperate."
"Will they stay long, husband?" Elizabeth worried.
"Elizabeth, I do not want you venturing out of the house, for any reason. They are indeed very dangerous and may be in the area for some time." Darcy put down his utensils, "Jonathan, that goes for you as well, do not leave the house unless you are with Fitzwilliam or I."
Jonathan assured Darcy that he would do as he asked. The Colonel buttered his toast, thinking to himself that he might persuade Darcy to take a ride later and look for tracks. Darcy on the other hand had no intention of tracking the animals, unless the situation became worse.
"Well Fitzwilliam, what are you to do today?" Darcy lightened his mood to inquire of the Colonel.
"I have some correspondence to catch up on...politics you know." He winked.
"Ah yes, I almost forgot that you now hold all of our fates in your hands." Darcy smiled. "You are welcome to the study, if you wish it. I am going upstairs to play with two very small, but lively children, until they wear me down, or I tire them out...which ever comes first."
Darcy got up to leave the table, but turned to Jonathan before leaving. "If you like Jonathan, I shall teach you to fence...perhaps you can persuade Fitzwilliam to join us? Although you would do well to learn from me. Fitzwilliam is terrible."
The Colonel made a face at Darcy and muttered something unintelligible as Jonathan dared to snort a laugh.
Darcy laughed as he lifted his son into the air above him. The youngster giggled with happiness, delighted with his father's attentions. Elizabeth sat on a pile of blankets on the floor, which were spread out for the children to play. The room was warmed by a wonderful fire, and Darcy lay on the blankets next to his wife, at the mercy of the two children. They would crawl over to him, lifting themselves up attempting to pounce on him. He would never have thought two infants could be so destructive, but he allowed himself to be jumped on and pulled, this way and that, for the shear satisfaction of seeing their happy little faces. Every now and then they would turn their attentions towards each other, and one of them would end up wailing. Darcy would break it up and give the perpetrator a good-natured scolding, resulting in a small pouty face that melted his heart. He was a push-over when it came to them, and he knew it.
He looked over at Elizabeth who was there mostly for moral support, for her poor battered husband. She laughed at him, and admired his good nature with his children. She loved her family and they provided her with all the happiness in the world. She secretly wished that she would conceive again soon. She may not have had a partiality for pregnancy, but the result was all worth it.
Jonathan heard laughing coming from the nursery, as he passed by. He poked his head in the door and saw his cousin laying on the floor, being consumed by the tiny army. Elizabeth noticed him and motioned for him to join them. He stood on the floor and looked down at Darcy who grimaced at the tiny elbows being jammed into his sides.
"Ah! A new victim." He grunted as Andrew jumped onto his father's stomach. "Well, do not stand there. Come down here and relieve me!"
Jonathan sat down on the blanket and Darcy handed him Andrew. He took the child by the hands and Andrew attempted to stand up. When the baby was comfortable with his position, he yelped and jumped up and down on Jonathan's lap, and he laughed as he was mauled by the baby.
"Do not let go, Jonathan." Darcy said as he held his hands slightly away from the baby, in case he were to slip.
Father and mother watched as their young cousin played with the two babes. They stacked blocks and knocked them down. Jonathan took Hannah's rag doll and made it dance, much to her delighted giggles, as Andrew pulled on Jonathan's shirt and yelled. Children love other children, and the twins were overjoyed to have the attention of their cousin, and their attentions made Jonathan feel important and loved. Eventually the little ones tired out and Elizabeth and Mrs. White took them to be fed and put down for a nap.
Darcy and Jonathan went downstairs to check on the good Colonel, hoping to tempt him away from his business, and into a little merriment. Fitzwilliam was just coming upstairs to find Darcy, when they met.
"Fitzwilliam! What do you say we show Jonathan how to play at cards?" Darcy suggested.
"I thought you wanted to showoff your expertise with a foil, Darcy?" the Colonel mocked him.
"Well, Fitzwilliam. I would gladly show you up, but I have been several rounds with two little sets of elbow and knees, and cannot take any more at the moment."
"Darcy...you are getting old...and soft," laughed The Colonel.
Darcy nodded his head in annoyance. "Well at least I am not getting...fat! Sitting around in a London office...popping bon bon's in my mouth, whilst someone pays me good money."
"Are you calling me lazy, Darcy?" the Colonel tried to raise himself to look Darcy in the eye.
Jonathan stood listening and watching his cousins playfully joust with each other. They did seem to have a good time at it, and they never really meant any of it. He could tell that in actuality, they each admired and respected the other, somewhat like brothers.
"Well...if that is the case I shall have to take your money at cards. Except that you are always attempting to cheat when we play."
"Cheat, indeed. You are delusional, Fitzwilliam."
"We shall see..." The Colonel grumbled as they entered the drawing room.
Laura Fitzwilliam walked into the drawing room a few moments later. She greeted her husband and looked at his hand of cards. She smiled and whispered in his ear and went to the sofa to pick up her needlepoint. The Colonel's eyes lit up and he smiled broadly, looking in her direction. The newlyweds played their own game as Darcy attempted to play out his hand.
He made his discard and looked up to see Fitzwilliam gawking again at his new wife. Darcy cleared his throat in an attempt to solicit the Colonel's attention.
"Is it my play?" Fitzwilliam asked, innocently trying to come back to the game.
"It is." Darcy huffed.
"What are trumps, again?" The Colonel inquired.
"Good god, Fitzwilliam. You would know if you could keep from ogling your wife for two seconds." Darcy whispered, somewhat annoyed.
The Colonel laughed. "Really Darcy. How many times did I have to suffer while watching you stare across a room, moonstruck with Elizabeth. And you still do it!"
Darcy ignored him and said, "Clubs".
The Colonel threw a card down and Darcy authoritatively commented to Jonathan on the Colonel's bad judgment by discarding a deuce. Darcy played his next move and looked up to see the Fitzwilliams amorously gazing at each other again.
"Fitzwilliam!" Darcy loudly whispered, and the Colonel jumped. "It is the middle of the afternoon!"
The Colonel blushed and looked back down at his cards. Jonathan watched and listened to the game.
"What is it like?" he blurted out.
Darcy and Fitzwilliam quickly looked up at the young man, then nervously looked at each other.
"I should dearly like to know?" he said in his innocence.
"What?" Darcy nervously inquired.
"Being in love? What is it like falling in love?"
Darcy rolled his eyes and the Colonel gave a relieved sigh.
"Well..." Darcy thought a moment. "It is like...nothing you have ever felt before."
Jonathan was confused and looked quickly at the Colonel, hoping he had a deeper more meaningful answer. The Colonel was staring at Darcy, with the same look of confusion as the boy. He began to stammer and offered his advice.
"It is like...being knocked senseless...except it does not hurt. You are happy, and nervous, and it feels as if your feet never touch the ground when you walk. You cannot sleep at night, for thinking all the time of the woman you love."
Darcy blinked, "That certainly clears it up for me." He looked at the boy. "When you fall in love, suffice it to say that you will know it. Besides, you have a lot of life to live, before it happens to you." He frowned at the Colonel saying, "It is still clubs, and it is your play."
A servant quickly walked over to Darcy, informing him that his steward wished to speak to him. He laid his hand down and followed the servant into the hallway.
"I do not wish to disturb you, sir." The steward bowed. "However, the pack of wolves has been sighted near the village sir, and they have attacked a man who had gone to the well for some water."
"Is it serious?"
"The man escaped with minor injuries, but I am afraid that this problem is not going to go away on it's own."
"How many are in the pack?" Darcy inquired.
The Colonel walked out into the hallway and overheard the conversation.
Darcy turned to his cousin, "Do you think we can track them?"
"Not while it is dark. We will have to wait til the morning." Fitzwilliam committed.
Darcy turned to the steward. "Make sure everyone knows to stay indoors tonight, organize a hunting party for the morning, including the Colonel and myself."
Jonathan blurted out, "And I!"
Darcy turned around, "Absolutely not." he said emphatically.
The Colonel entered his bedchamber to find his beautiful wife awaiting him. Her long blonde curls were down around her shoulders and her blue eyes sparkled at him.
"You are a lovely woman, Mrs. Fitzwilliam. You do not know how I have longed for you all this day?" He cooed in her ear.
"Why husband!" she laughed. "I assure you, I...and everyone else...could see it written all over your face."
He laughed and kissed her. She drew away from him momentarily. "Richard, I am very worried about you going out tomorrow. Please promise you will be careful."
"Do not worry my dear...Darcy and I take care of each other. We got through our youths unscathed, and we took many more chances back then, than we do now."
"Still, I have a feeling of dread that I cannot seem to shake. Elizabeth is just as worried as I, believe me. I should never recover if anything ever happened to you."
"I promise my dear, nothing bad will happen." He embraced her tightly and grinned. "I promise. Now come to bed...before I go quite distracted."
Darcy walked down the great hallway, looking over the house before he went to bed. He came to a stop and shuddered as he heard a howl come from outside. Jonathan ran out of his room and saw Darcy in the hallway.
"Did you hear that Darcy?" his heart raced.
Darcy nodded his head. "Go back to bed, Jonathan. Tomorrow we shall take care of them."
"Please Darcy. I want to ride with you. I am excellent with a horse and you need not worry so about me."
"Jonathan...even I do not want to go out there tomorrow, but I must. You will stay here." Darcy would not bend to the boy's wishes. "Good night." He walked down the hallway and entered his own room.
Elizabeth was in her nightgown, sitting on the rug on the floor in front of the fire. Her arms were hugging her knees as she stared into the flames, and she had wrapped herself in a blanket. Darcy was amazed to see her in such a state, and she did not appear to have noticed him.
"Elizabeth?" He whispered, so as not to startle her.
She looked up at him and wrapped the blanket around herself more securely, and went back to silently staring into the fire. He knelt down in front of her.
"What are you doing here on the floor?"
"I am cold Fitzwilliam, that is all...I am very cold." She said as her face contorted.
Darcy reached out to touch her face, "Are you ill?"
She shook her head in the negative. "I am just cold." She finally reached out for him and he pulled her close, trying to warm her. "I want it to be spring. It is so cold we cannot go out, and even if it were not, we cannot go out because of the wolves. Oh...why do they not go away!" she shouted and began to cry.
"Come on, my love." He helped her off the floor. "A good night's sleep will do us both good."
They walked to the bed and he helped her in, arranging the covers snugly around her. He left her to go to his dressing room to change and she turned over to watch him go.
"Please god, watch over him." she whispered as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
Darcy was up early the next morning, and he ate a little something in his room while Elizabeth dressed. When he was done, he stood up and walked over to her dressing area and called for her. There was no answer, so he left the room and walked down the hallway for the nursery.
The children were already awake and were being dressed by Mrs. White. "Good morning, sir. You are early, but they are always ready to play with their papa." She smiled at him.
"I cannot stay long, Mrs. White. I just came to see the children before I went out." He spoke low and uncharacteristically melancholy, especially when he was with his children.
He walked over and picked up little Hannah, cradling her in his arm. He took her to the window and looked out as the baby played with the buttons on his vest. There was a dense fog outside, which made the grounds of Pemberley look eerie and still. His daughter squawked at him, showing her displeasure with being ignored. He looked down at her and lifted her higher, giving her the usual kisses on the back of her neck. She giggled and reached for his chin and he smiled at her. "You are my little love," he said as he kissed her hand and placed her back in her bed.
He turned to Andrew, who was making a fuss, in an attempt to get his father's attention. He picked him up as well and looked into the child's face. The baby grabbed his cravat and yanked.
Darcy scolded him. "No, no Andrew."
The boy let go and his face scrunched up to let out a howl, a result of the stern expression of his father. He started to wail and Darcy brought him closer, holding him tight, in an attempt to quiet him. "Shhh, Andrew. You must be a good boy while I am gone." He handed the baby back to Mrs. White and turned around to quit the room, when he saw Elizabeth standing in the doorway, watching him.
"Mrs. White, I shall be back in a while. I am going to see Mr. Darcy on his journey."
They walked down the hall in silence, Darcy did not know how to comfort himself, let alone Elizabeth's fears. When they neared the top of the stairs, she slipped her hand into his. "You will not take any chances? You will be safe?"
Darcy nodded his head in the affirmative and led her down to the foyer. The Colonel was putting on his overcoat and gloves. "Darcy! Come on man...we want to catch them before they begin to hunt."
The servant helped Darcy with his overcoat, he then put on his gloves. "Where is Jonathan this morning?" he asked Elizabeth.
"I have not seen him. He is probably still asleep."
He looked at her lovely face, hardened by worry. "You are a beautiful woman." He whispered in her ear as he bent to kiss her cheek. "I love you."
"And I you." She said as she reached up, not wanting to let go. She finally released him, and he followed his cousin to the door. He turned back and smiled at her, then they were gone.
They mounted the horses which were being held for them by Darcy's steward and two other men. It was intensely cold out, and the fog had not lifted, reducing the visibility considerably. Darcy looked around, still dreading going at all. The Colonel saw his worried expression and teased him.
"What is the matter Darcy? You are not afraid, are you?"
"Yes, Fitzwilliam...I am. I had nightmares about them when I was a boy. They are my one dreaded fear." He breathed out a cloud of steam.
The Colonel flinched at the response, wishing for once he had not teased his cousin. "Water." He said.
"I am afraid of the water, Darcy. Drowning...you know?"
Darcy gave his cousin an appreciative nod, and the hunting party started out towards the forest near the village. They picked up tracks at the perimeter of the forest, and the tracks went in, but not out. Darcy's steward thought it best for the party to split up and come at the pack from both sides. Darcy and the Colonel headed east and the other men headed west. The cousins had not gotten far when they heard a horse riding up from behind. It was Jonathan, and he pulled up next to Darcy and said, "I will not allow you to go without me."
Darcy's anger increased to an all time high. "Jonathan...you go back to the house at once!" he growled.
"You need me!" the boy insisted.
Darcy began to dismount his horse. If the boy would not go back voluntarily, Darcy would pull him off his horse, and drag him back to the house, even if he had to beat some sense into him.
"Darcy!" The Colonel yelled. "We have no time for this...let him come." He turned to Jonathan. "But you beware boy...stay close to us and no heroics...do you understand?"
Jonathan nodded, and even though Darcy was incensed at his behavior, he heeded Fitzwilliam's advice. They entered the forest, visibility was still poor and the branches of the trees were heavy with snow and cracking from the weight. Fitzwilliam rode ahead and Darcy brought up the rear. They were deeper into the forest by now and there was no sign of the wolves, nor Darcy's steward and the others.
The horses were nervous and flighty, partly because of the fresh scent of the wolves and also the nerves of their riders. Fitzwilliam pulled up to get a better look in all directions. Darcy was looking behind him, when a group of quail came fluttering out of a nearby evergreen, past the horses. The horses shied and Darcy's mount reared up, throwing him back into a thicket of branches and knocking him off. Darcy hit the soft snow, but felt an intense pain in his side, for he had fallen onto a log which was lightly covered with snow. He grabbed his side and yelled out in pain, rolling around in the snow.
"Darcy!" the Colonel called out as he jumped off his horse and ran over to his cousin.
Darcy kept rolling, gulping air as he tried to catch his breath. The Colonel pinned him down and kept him from moving. Darcy shuddered with the pain. "My side," he managed to groan.
"God...you have probably broken a rib or two." The Colonel tried to help Darcy to his feet, but he could not move him. Every time Darcy tried to sit up the pain was just too intense. The Colonel knew Darcy would not be able to ride his horse out and it looked as if he would not be able to walk out either. He looked up at Jonathan. "Can you find your way out of here and back to Pemberley?"
"Tell them to bring a sled, he cannot move himself. Go...go, and hurry...do not stop or get off the horse until you reach the house...Go!" the Colonel directed.
Jonathan quickly left, leaving Fitzwilliam grounded with an injured Darcy. He looked down and saw Darcy begin to shiver from cold and shock. He began to talk to Darcy, partly to keep his mind off the pain, and also to keep his own thoughts from turning for the worse.
"We have gotten ourselves in another fix, Darcy. I do not know why I let you talk me into these things."
Darcy moaned, "Do not make me laugh."
The Colonel got up and located his pistol and Darcy's. He had momentarily forgotten about the wolves, however, he told himself he must not let his guard down. He made sure the pistols were loaded and tossed a bag of ammunition over near his cousin. He ran back to Darcy, who was shaking even more than before.
"You have...to get...me out of here, Fitzwilliam." Darcy had trouble getting out the words.
The Colonel took off his overcoat and laid it over his cousin, trying to keep him warm. He took a quick look around the forest, breathing a sigh of relief that the wolves were no where near. He did not know how he would fend off half a dozen ravenous wolves by himself.
Darcy lay in pain. He could not focus his attentions on his cousin, nor could he stop his body from shivering. He found it incredibly hard to take a breath, for when he did, the pain in his side stabbed at him as if someone had stuck him with a knife. He had never wanted to be in his house more than at this moment. Perhaps if he went to sleep, he would awake to find this all a bad dream. He started to feel as if he was reeling, and told himself in vain that someone would come for them soon.
Fitzwilliam kept chattering away, asking Darcy if he remembered this time when they were young and that time. He did anything to keep Darcy from passing out. Suddenly, he heard a noise and turned in its direction. The horses ran off out of the forest before Fitzwilliam could tether them. He saw a gray mottling and heard a low moanful growl. He turned in another direction and saw and heard the same.
"Oh god!" he said, as he scrambled closer to Darcy, lifting his pistol and aiming. "Darcy...can you shoot this pistol?"
Darcy came back from his dream state and heard the growling. He turned his head and saw the wolves. He slowly rolled over onto his good side, which still caused him considerable pain. "Give me the pistol!" He yelled.
Fitzwilliam handed him the pistol and the two men took aim, one at each animal. Darcy tried to steady his hand and focus his eyesight enough to get off a good shot, but it was almost impossible. His heart raced and he waited for Fitzwilliam to give him a signal.
"Now!" the Colonel bellowed.
Darcy squeezed the trigger and the gun fired. The recoil of the pistol was so violent that he dropped it and writhed in pain. He let out one loud scream, "Oh God!" as he gasped for air.
The Colonel had killed one of the wolves and the others in the pack proceeded to drag it off back into the woods, giving the men momentary relief. Fitzwilliam reloaded the pistols and tried to keep Darcy as comfortable as he could. He saw Darcy's eyes start to close, and he yelled at him.
"Do not you go under on me...blast you! You stay with me, Darcy!"
Darcy felt a moment of despair. "Fitzwilliam." he gasped, his voice cracking. "You know what to do if we cannot hold them off."
The Colonel looked at his cousin, his teeth clenched in rage.
"I do not wish to be torn apart...while I am still alive. Do it and get yourself out of here." Darcy grabbed his arm. "Do you hear me, Richard!" he cried.
"No!" Fitzwilliam shouted back at him. "I will NOT!"
"You WILL!" Darcy's body heaved trying not to let his emotions surface. "Do not let my children forget me...you will care for them, and Elizabeth!"
The Colonel looked away fighting back his emotions. "Shut up, Darcy!" He looked around to see another wolf making its way towards him. They had tasted blood, and were in a frenzied state. He pulled Darcy over onto his good side again and put the pistol in his hand, trying to steady Darcy and his own pistol at the same time.
Darcy clenched his teeth, anticipating the recoil. "God help me!" he yelled and pulled the trigger as he watched the beast leap into the air above him.
Elizabeth sat in the chair in her bedchamber. She was pale as a ghost and her eyes could not cry any more. She refused any refreshment that was desperately offered her by Mrs. Reynolds, and she would not rest. She just sat in Darcy's chair and swayed back and forth.
The Colonel stood in the doorway, watching her from a distance. After some time, his wife came up from behind him and pulled him away. "You are not to blame, Richard." She pleaded with him tearfully. "You must not do this!"
He pulled himself away from her, torment and anger on his face. He would not let her see him in such a state and stormed away down the hall. She watched him go and entered the room, in hopes of being of some use instead to dearest Elizabeth.
The Colonel walked as swiftly as he could until he came to a halt in front of the nursery. He took a deep breath and entered. Mrs. White came up to him, with Andrew in her arms. "Colonel Fitzwilliam...I..." she shook her head and looked at the small boy she carried.
The Colonel reached out taking the baby from her and sat down on the chair with him. The boy sat on his lap and reached for a shiny button on his vest. Fitzwilliam wrapped his arms around the baby and hugged him securely, rocking him back and forth.
"Colonel?" came a whisper, but Fitzwilliam kept his hold on Darcy's son. "Cousin?" Jonathan tried again.
Fitzwilliam looked up, "Jonathan. I did not hear you come in." he said.
"No sir, I did not want to disturb you. Children can give you great comfort, can they not? And love, they can give you love?"
"Yes, Jonathan...they do."
There was a silence between them as they both stared at the baby. The child began to cry, realizing no one would play with him right then. Mrs. White scurried over and took him from the Colonel.
"What are we to do?" Jonathan asked of his cousin.
"I do not know, Jonathan...I do not..." he could not finish.
Elizabeth sat in the chair in her bedchamber. The room she had shared with her husband the last few years, and the chair where he loved to sit at night and read while waiting for her to come to bed. She did not want to remove herself from it, or its comfort to her. "How could this have happened?" she asked herself over and over. Laura Fitzwilliam kept talking to her, however she would not listen. She simply would not be consoled. She wanted things back to the way they had been, when she was happy with her husband and her children. She would not allow herself to cry anymore. He would not want it that way and she swore to herself that she would honor him.
She remembered the day she first entered this house, as simply a visitor. How it had fascinated her. How she had hated to leave it. But this place would be just another house, if her husband were not in it. Her emotions started to well up inside her again and she started rocking, trying again to soothe herself. "We were to be the happiest of couples." She whispered over and over.
After some time she got out of the chair and walked over to her bed. She ran her hand lightly over the covers of it, until it came to rest upon his hand. He looked to her as if he were just peacefully sleeping, the way he looked every morning that she awoke early to happily gaze at him.
Dr. Graves stood on the opposite side of the bed. "Mrs. Darcy," he said softly. "Mrs. Darcy, I am afraid we shall simply have to wait. He remains unconscious."
She sat lightly on the edge of the bed and touched his face. She slowly bent to kiss him, as she had done so many times, in the greatest of love. Her husband had always been a light sleeper, and he would always awaken with a smile and reciprocate her morning greeting. "Wake up, my love...we must begin our day." Tearfully she pleaded with him, "the children are waiting for you. Please dearest..." she began sobbing.
She started to feel an anger towards him. "You said you would not take any chances. You promised me." She raged under her breath, fighting back more tears. "You promised." She turned to Laura Fitzwilliam who was standing at her side. "Does he not hear me?"
Laura reached for her, trying to comfort her. "Of course he hears you, my dear." She looked up at the doctor for an answer and he simply shook his head.
Darcy awoke with a start. His body convulsed and he let out a horrific yell, "Richard! Get me out!"
Elizabeth pulled back in fright as the Doctor tried to calm his patient, but he was inconsolable, and kept yelling for the Colonel.
Fitzwilliam ran into the room and over to his cousin, grabbing his shoulders. "Darcy! Darcy! They are gone...they are gone...they cannot hurt you!"
Darcy felt the pain in his side again, which brought him back to some sense. He gulped in air, again and again then finally realized where he was. He saw his cousin and gave a faint cry of relief. "The wolves?" he asked.
The Colonel laughed in shear joy. "You are in your own bed, Darcy."
"How did we...?" Darcy whispered in wonder.
"You are not a bad shot, cousin. Even when injured."
Darcy closed his eyes and opened them again, "Elizabeth?"
"Fitzwilliam," she laughed through her tears and lightly touched his face.
"Do not let go of me, Elizabeth."
"I shall never let go of you, husband." she sighed. "Never."
Darcy's recovery was slow and being the impatient man that he was, we was miserable about it. The Colonel and his wife stayed on a few more weeks than expected to aid Elizabeth and try to keep Darcy from turning the household upside-down. No one seemed to mind his irritable demeanor, as long as he was well. Fitzwilliam spent time with him, cajoling him to rest and mend. It was Darcy's happiest day in weeks when he could finally sit up without too much discomfort. One afternoon the Colonel teased him into playing a game of chess. They had not talked much about that day, out in the forest. Darcy's curiosity got the better of him and he decided to inquire about it.
"Fitzwilliam, tell me. How did you get me out of there?"
The Colonel looked up from the game and smiled. "What do you remember?"
"I remember shooting the pistol as it jumped above me, after that..." Darcy shook his head.
"You shot it and I took down another. There were only two others. I started to reload and I looked down at you, but you had passed out from the pain of the recoil. I heard gunfire from behind and to my very good luck, I saw your men come riding up. It was not long before Jonathan brought back help from Pemberley."
Darcy looked at his cousin in all seriousness. "Would you have done what I asked?"
The Colonel just stared at him, his lips pursed in determination as he said not a word.
Darcy heaved a sigh. "You are right...it does not matter." He sat back in his chair and held his aching side, "thank you."
The Colonel silently nodded, for it was no less than his cousin would have done for him, given the same circumstances. "Darcy, I have a request?"
"I would like to take Jonathan back to London when we leave next week. While you have been recovering, he and I have grown rather close."
"I am glad to hear it, Fitzwilliam."
"I think we should also put him back in school, after a time. The boy needs a good education. He is interested in the military, you know?"
"Then he should do well to be around you. But are you sure?"
The Colonel nodded, "Besides I shall need a distraction."
Darcy raised an eyebrow in curiosity, "distraction?"
"Yes, my good man. For just this morning I have been told by my wife that I am to be a father." The Colonel laughed in delight. "I should need a distraction so I do not turn into that pile of mush you were trying to tell me about."
Darcy reached out to congratulate his cousin. "Promise me you will not teach the child every wicked trick you ever devised?"
"I shall make no promises of the kind!"
The Fitzwilliams returned to London with young cousin Jonathan. Some months later the Darcys received a much awaited letter from the Colonel informing them of the birth of a son, Ian Fitzwilliam. Jonathan did indeed join his majesty's army and had a distinguished career, aided by his cousin the good Colonel.
Over the years the Darcys and the Fitzwilliams spent many a happy holiday together at Pemberley. It seemed as if Darcy and the Colonel were forever wondering that fate had been unkind, for Andrew and Ian became the best of friends and were constantly into mischief. Neither man could ever keep a straight face while reprimanding their sons, when they discovered their prankish deeds and dangerous adventures. As it had been when Darcy and the Colonel were boys, so it was for their beloved sons.
© 1998 Copyright held by author