Pride and Joy
Christian Darcy was a pleasant, spirited boy. He was of average size for a young child of four, with the resemblance of his father's dark curly hair, and his mother's fine bright eyes, however the most striking thing about Christian's appearance was his constant smile, which was all his own. Christian had the heart of a angel, but there were times when he had a bit of the devil's mischief in him. He was the joy of his loving parents, and he was their undoing as well, for the trouble with Christian was...that he was more than likely into some sort of trouble.
"Good day, Mr. Darcy!" Mrs. Drake called out from behind the counter of Burnside's.
Darcy nodded to the Lambton shopkeeper, "Good day." He pulled out a small sheet of paper from his waistcoat pocket and handed it to Mrs. Drake. "Mrs. Darcy has written down a few items in which she is in need of...if you will fill this for me?"
"Why certainly, sir," the woman took the list and fluttered about, gathering each item and placing them in a box, as Darcy stood an waited patiently.
When she had finished, Darcy paid her, scooped up the box and made his way to the door. "Thank you, and good day."
"Good day, Mr. Darcy...and I certainly hope little Christian will be just fine!"
Darcy broke his stride as he heard the shopkeeper's words. He turned around to look at her, in question, however she simply smiled and went back to her business. Darcy headed again for the door, wondering what the woman had meant about his son.
Darcy had not been home for a good portion of that day, for he had gone to Kympton on business early that morning, and was on his way back home to Pemberley. He could not help but imagine what Christian could have gotten into in his absence. He feared the worst, that perhaps his dear child had been injured in some way.
He left the shop and made haste to the carriage, nearly colliding into a man passing in the other direction. "Mr. Darcy!" Mr. Graves, the physician exclaimed, looking up at the taller man.
"Mr. Graves...good god, I did not see you! I apologize for my haste, but I am in a great hurry to return home."
"Indeed, sir...you have been missed there today. I returned from Pemberley earlier this afternoon." Mr. Graves divulged with a smile.
Darcy's eyes widened with concern, "Were you called there? Is someone ill? Christian...is anything wrong with Christian?"
Mr. Graves had never heard Mr. Darcy string together so many words in one breath. The kindly physician took pity on the young father, "Mr. Darcy...all is well." Mr. Graves chuckled, "Christian had a minor altercation, and is already recovered. I must be on my way, sir...your wife will tell you all there is to know." Mr. Graves continued walking down the street, "Until the next time we meet!"
Darcy quickly returned to the carriage, "Pemberley," he called up to the driver. "Straight a way."
When Darcy returned home, he was told his wife and children were in the dining room, preparing to sit down for supper upon his arrival. Mrs. Reynolds had assured him that everything was fine, and that if he wished to wash up, they would serve supper. Darcy tried not to act irrationally and he did as his wise housekeeper had suggested.
Darcy walked into the dining room, and everyone smiled at him. He strained a smile back, and went to greet his wife, "Good evening, my love", he said as he kissed Elizabeth on the cheek.
"Good evening, dear...how was your trip?" she said, in good humor.
"It went very well," Darcy took his seat and checked over his children, to make sure they were well. "How are you all...Andrew, Hannah...," he turned to his youngest son, furrowed his brows and said suspiciously, "...Christian?"
"Good Papa!" Hannah and Andrew spoke in unison.
Darcy kept an eye on his smallest son. The boy grinned, "Very good, Papa!"
"Well", Darcy sighed in relief. "I am very glad to hear it." He looked back over at Elizabeth, somewhat perplexed. "You have no idea how glad I am to hear it."
Elizabeth smiled uncomfortably, and tried to send her husband a secret message through her facial expressions and the rolling of her eyes. "We had an eventful day...but the children must eat and prepare for bed now."
Darcy nodded to a servant to pour him a much needed glass of wine, and he decided it best to turn his attentions to his meal. The sooner they were done with supper, and the sooner the children were made ready for bed...the sooner he would know the details of Mr. Graves' mysterious visit.
After supper, Mrs. White came and took the children up to the nursery to bathe them and prepare them for the rest of the evening. Elizabeth remained with her husband in the dining room, for she could see that the curiosity of what had transpired that day, was annoying him greatly.
"Well?" Darcy breathed as he sat back in his chair with his glass of wine, bracing himself for another recount of Christian's antics. "I came across Mr. Graves outside of Burnside's on my way home...it seems that everyone in town knows what happened to Christian today...except no one appears to be willing to tell me."
"Fitzwilliam...it is nothing dreadful...just a slight mishap, is all. If it had to happen, it was actually fairly good timing, for Mr. Graves had stopped by Pemberley almost at the very moment." Elizabeth nervously laughed as Darcy grew impatient.
"Why not come out and say it, Elizabeth? If it was simply a small mishap...what is the reluctance on everyone's part to inform me of it?", he growled the last few words.
"It is nothing, dear...we simply do not want to worry you with minor details."
"Tell me!" Darcy demanded huskily.
Elizabeth flushed a little and mumbled quickly, "Christian accidentally got a button stuck in his nose."
Darcy clenched his teeth and groaned, "How does one accidentally do that?"
"Fitzwilliam", Elizabeth sighed in frustration. "You really must allow for children to be children." She pushed the remnants of food around on her plate with her fork. "Christian is afraid that you will be angry."
"That is damn fine reasoning on his part, I would say", Darcy huffed.
"It was nothing serious...the physician got it out...and the child is no worse for the wear." Elizabeth thought it best to calm Darcy, before he was to go upstairs to read the children their story. "It is nothing that any other normal child has not done!"
"Are you positive about that?" Darcy snorted. "I do not recall ever doing anything of the kind...nor do I recall my sister, nor Andrew or Hannah doing anything so preposterous."
Elizabeth knew from experience that Darcy was not about to give up his tirade on the subject. She also knew that her best defense against her husband's outbursts was to remain silent and put up a good offence. She reached out and took a sip of her wine and quietly stared at a painting of the Derbyshire landscape which hung on the wall.
Darcy abhorred it when Elizabeth ignored him. He was perfectly content to rant and rave on the subject for as long as he felt the subject warranted. "Sometimes I do not know how people with more children survive at all." Darcy sighed and finished his glass of wine, while contemplating the trials of fatherhood. "I believe three children is absolutely all that I can handle!"
Elizabeth, upon hearing her husband's last conjecture, glared at him. She kept her silence, and Darcy reluctantly, but wisely gave up his oration for the time being.
Darcy entered the nursery to read his children their nightly story. He sat in the chair, and Christian scrambled up onto his lap, resting his dark curls against Darcy's shoulder. Christian had a way of preventing his father from remaining angry with him for very long.
Darcy held the boy tightly, then looked down at him. "Christian, I know about the button," he spoke softly, but firmly.
The smile left the small boy's face, "I am sorry, Papa...are you very angry?"
"I am not as angry as I am relieved that you were not seriously harmed. You must never do anything like that again."
Christian shook his head resolutely. "I was frightened, Papa." He leaned closer to his father and whispered, "I cried."
Darcy smiled warmly, "I do not ever want to see harm come to you. You are my pride and joy...you and your brother and sister." Darcy kissed the boy on the forehead and began to read the story to all three of his children.
Later that evening Darcy sat in the library reading a political journal, fully expecting Elizabeth to join him as she usually did. He heard the clock on the mantle chime nine, and he laid down the paper with a sigh. He supposed his wife to be angry with him, for it was usually the case when Christian was into trouble that she came to the boy's defense, when Darcy was quick to reproach him. Many times it turned into a minor argument between the two of them, but they had always been able to reach a compromise.
Darcy got up from his chair and walked into the hallway. "Mrs. Reynolds", he called out as he passed by the housekeeper. "Have you seen Mrs. Darcy?"
"The last time I saw her sir, she was on the back terrace. She said she needed some air."
Darcy nodded and made haste to the terrace. He quietly opened the door and slipped outside to see Elizabeth leaning against the stone railing, her arms hugging herself as she looked out into the night sky.
"May I join you?" Darcy inquired timidly. He wondered where he stood in this latest battle of wills concerning the raising of their children.
She did not turn around, but simply stated, "If you wish."
Darcy had no more need to wonder, for her abrupt answer to his question told him he stood somewhere in the vicinity of the dog house. He walked up behind her, pondering if she would allow his touch. He dared her disapproval, and lovingly slipped his arm around her waist. "I know that sometimes I should have more patience with the children, Elizabeth. I cannot help but worry about them." He shook his head, "Especially Christian...I worry about him the most."
"I admit, Fitzwilliam, that there are times when a little more patience from you would be a virtue", she sighed. "I do understand your worries though, for they are mine as well."
"Until now, they had been our worries. What have I done to offend you so?" Darcy moved closer to her, in an attempt to smooth things over with an affectionate kiss. To his continued discomfort, Elizabeth gently pulled away.
"Did you mean what you said about not wanting any more children, Fitzwilliam?"
Darcy frowned, "When did I say that?"
"At the supper table...tonight", she pinched her lips together into a pout.
Darcy was dumbfounded and could not remember saying such a thing. He tried recounting everything he had said, but he could not recall making such a statement. "Elizabeth...I do not remember saying I never wanted any more children."
"You said that you could not see how anyone with more than three children could survive."
It all came back to Darcy, especially the sarcastic comment which Elizabeth had just reminded him of. He sighed in annoyance at himself, "I did not mean that...I was just letting off a little steam is all."
Elizabeth turned abruptly to face Darcy, "This is not a subject that I wish to dare your disapproval over...will you be disappointed if we were to have another child?"
Darcy was completely repentant, and he shook his head in disgust with himself, "There are times when I am amazed at my own ignorance, Elizabeth." He reached out and pulled Elizabeth into his arms, holding her closely and nuzzling her, whispering in her ear, "I could never be unhappy to hear such news, my lovely wife." He pulled back from their embrace and looked into her eyes, "Are you...?"
Elizabeth shook her head, "No...I thought perhaps I was, but I am not."
"Do you want another child, Elizabeth?" Darcy asked of her.
She lowered her eyes and whispered, "I do not know."
An invitation arrived for the Darcys the next week. It was from the Bingleys, inviting everyone to Cheshire to celebrate the anniversary of the purchase of their estate there, five years earlier.
"May we go, Papa?" Hannah asked, all in excitement.
"Yes, Papa...it would be good to take a trip!" exclaimed Andrew.
Elizabeth smiled enthusiastically, "Indeed it would, my dear!"
Darcy awaited the input of the littlest member of the family, however Christian sat at his place at the breakfast table next to his father, swinging his feet and grinning, with eyes wide. "I suppose you wish to go also?", Darcy chuckled at the boy. Christian nodded his head as he took another bite of crumpet with jam.
"Well then...I suppose we shall go", Darcy proclaimed with a smile.
Hannah turned to her mother, "Mama...will there be a dance one night?"
"I believe there shall, Hannah", Elizabeth grinned at her husband. "Your aunt and uncle Bingley are very fond of dancing."
"May we stay up and watch, Mama?", Hannah pleaded. "Please?"
"Perhaps, a little...a very little", Elizabeth giggled along with her daughter. "Fitzwilliam...perhaps it is time we taught the children how to dance?"
"Oh Yes! Yes...Yes!" Hannah giggled.
"Andrew...you would like to learn how to dance, would you not?" Elizabeth asked her son.
"Yes, mama! I should like to learn it...I think!"
Elizabeth noticed Darcy make a quick grimace. "Your Papa is an excellent dancer...although he does not take the time to practice much", Elizabeth teased her husband.
Darcy frowned over at his youngest son and shook his head, "You do not wish to know how to dance, do you?" Christian shook his head and grimaced as he had seen his father do a few moments before. Darcy looked back at Elizabeth, pointing at Christian and teasing his wife as much as she had him, "He...is definitely my son!"
"Indeed he is!", Elizabeth laughed heartily. "I am serious however, my dear...it is high time the children learnt a few refinements. I have no plans for the present...how about you?"
"Now?" Darcy raised a brow in incredulity. "This very moment?"
Elizabeth nodded in determination and tried not to laugh. The children were amazed that their parents were actually going to teach them the fine art of dancing right then.
"Mrs. White knows how to play the pianoforte. She is sure to accompany us, if we ask."
"Elizabeth...I can actually think of plenty of things I could do with myself at this moment." Darcy attempted a protest.
"None as important as spending time with your children, I should imagine", Elizabeth came back.
Darcy puffed air in his cheeks, realizing he could not make an escape now, "Very well", he grumbled.
Hannah and Andrew could barely sit in their seats for their excitement. Elizabeth giggled, "Go and find Mrs. White and ask her...politely...if she will play the pianoforte for us in the ballroom."
The children scrambled from their chairs and ran out of the breakfast room. "Wait for me!," Christian yelled out and slipped down from his chair in a hurry.
"Christian! Do not run", Darcy scolded the boy. "And please close the door behind you!",
Christian slid past the door, then hearing what his father had just asked of him, scurried back and pulled the door shut with all his might. A picture frame from the wall above fell down upon the buffet where the tea service was sitting. Cups, saucers, plates and the teapot went flying out in all directions and crashed to the floor with a great clamor.
Elizabeth closed her eyes in disbelief of the scene she had just witnessed. Darcy sat back in his chair, taking the last sip of his tea, and sadly shaking his head, "How does one small boy manage such large disasters?"
Elizabeth and Darcy found the children and Mrs. White waiting anxiously for them in the grand ballroom of Pemberley house. The children did not go into the room very often, for it was usually kept closed up, unless it was being used. Christian could not ever remember seeing a ball. The last time that there had been one at Pemberley, he had been much too young to know about it, and had already been tucked into his bed by the time it had began.
The floor of the ballroom was shiny and somewhat slick with wax, and upon noticing this Christian began to skip, then slide across it. He giggled as he slid, still standing upon his feet, and after a few moments, became even more daring about it and took off at a full run.
Before Darcy realized what was happening, he looked down to see the small dark-haired boy streak past him. "Christian!"
Christian tried to apply his brakes as he heard his father's voice boom within the empty room. He skidded a ways, then flapped his arms, coming to a final resting spot upon his bottom, as his feet slipped out from underneath him.
Darcy walked over and lifted the boy back to his feet. "There will be no more of that", he said sternly as the boy cowered.
"Fitzwilliam, dear...stop playing and come over here, so we may begin!" Elizabeth called out.
Darcy groaned inaudibly and pulled the boy with him along the floor. Elizabeth lined up the older children then pointed to Darcy to take his place.
"You shall have to watch, Christian...until you are a little older." Darcy placed the boy on a chair next to the pianoforte. "You will be good, and stay here?"
Christian nodded and grinned. Darcy smiled back at the young boy, and patted him on the head. Elizabeth explained briefly the mechanics of a simple country dance to Andrew and Hannah, as Darcy listened intently.
"Mama...what if you make a mistake?" Andrew asked.
"No one makes many mistakes, Andrew...that is why you practice before attending a ball, until you are sure you know the steps", she gently coached.
Darcy looked up and grinned, "With the exception of Mr. Collins."
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at her husband's sarcasm, and called out for Mrs. White to begin to play. Christian sat in his chair, watching his brother and sister as they attempted to imitate the movements of their parents. They were not very good, and Christian began to giggle upon seeing their clumsiness. Darcy could not help but chuckle also, especially when he heard the infectious giggling of his youngest son. Andrew became frustrated with the whole thing, and was not keen at being giggled at by his younger brother, or his father for that matter.
"Both of you...stop it", Elizabeth said, mostly to Darcy.
Darcy tried to stifle his mirth, "I cannot help it, Elizabeth...boys do not have very much patience for such refinements."
Elizabeth sighed in annoyance and Hannah put her hands on her hips, and sighed in mimicry of her mother.
Darcy looked at Andrew, "Do you want to do this anymore?"
Andrew shook his head and frowned, "No Papa...I would rather go fishing!"
Darcy turned to where Christian was sitting, "And you? Would you rather go fishing?" Christian nodded his head emphatically, still grinning. Darcy looked back at his wife, still grinning, himself. "There you have it!"
Elizabeth, Hannah, and Mrs. White watched as Darcy happily marched out of the ballroom with the boys, in search of more manly pursuits down by the stream. Hannah looked up at her mother, shaking her head while exclaiming, "Men!"
Darcy stretched out in the chair in his bedchamber, reading a book and waiting for Elizabeth to come to bed. He was a little tired from the days events, although he had had a splendid time fishing with his sons, once he had weaseled out of having to dance.
He felt some remorse about undermining Elizabeth's efforts to teach the children something they really would need to know as members of society. Elizabeth entered their bedchambers and went to turn down the bed. She smiled enticingly over at her husband as she crawled into their bed. Darcy thought her a very good sport to put up with most of her family's manly pursuits, and he smiled back at her, with a twinkle in his eye and lascivious thoughts.
With great flare, he threw his book down on the table and made haste to his bed. He shimmied down underneath the soft covers and moved his way over to embrace his wife. He slipped his arm around her waist, and nuzzled her neck.
"You are a fine figure of a woman, Elizabeth Darcy", he whispered through the small, tender kisses he placed on the nape of her neck.
"I am very glad you still take the time from fishing to notice, Mr. Darcy."
Darcy turned Elizabeth around to face him, finding the sweet temptation of kissing her lips, too fine to be ignored. "Well...there is a time and a place for everything", he teased her and she giggled at his playfulness. With a frolicsome growl he kissed her again, "Right now you are mine, Mrs. Darcy!"
"Mama!...Papa, help me!" came a child's shriek, then a loud pounding on the door between their chamber and the nursery. The lovers discontinued their convivial tryst and looked at each other tautly.
Darcy launched out of bed and ran to the door, opening it quickly to see Christian standing on the other side, with tears in his eyes. "What is it, Christian?" Darcy exclaimed, but before he had a chance to kneel down to the boy, Christian ran over to their bed and was hanging onto the edge of it, trying to reach his mother's arms.
Elizabeth reached over and pulled him up, and he buried himself in the comfort that only his mother could give him. Darcy stomped back over to the bed and plopped down on the edge.
"What is the matter, my little love?", Elizabeth asked, calmly rubbing his little back.
"I am not sleeping in there!" he screeched. "The curtain monster will carry me away!"
Elizabeth glanced over at Darcy, who rolled his eyes. "There is no such thing as a curtain monster, Christian", she soothed.
"Yes...yes there is! Andrew told me all about it. He said it would come and take me away if I did not stop bothering him!", the boy sobbed and trembled.
Darcy growled, as anger and frustration replaced the passions he had possessed only moments before. "Christian...Andrew was simply teasing you. It was very mean of him to do so, and I shall set him straight in the morning. Come now...I will take you back to your bed."
Christian sobbed harder at the thought of having to go back into his darkened room and face the monsters behind the curtains. "I am not going!", he wailed.
Darcy felt as if his hair stood on end as the child mewled and gasped for air, still clutching his mother. Elizabeth frowned with worry, "Fitzwilliam...he is hysterical. I shall hold him here for a while until he falls asleep."
Darcy crawled back into bed, as Elizabeth rocked and hummed to the little boy, until he finally cried himself to sleep. Darcy fully intended to place Christian back into his bed, but Elizabeth was concerned that he would awaken again, screaming. "Let him stay here, just for tonight...until Andrew can assure him that it was all a joke."
Darcy frowned his disapproval, thinking of the conjugal delights which had gone by the wayside. By now it was late, and he not only had an appointment in the morning, but would have Andrew to contend with as well. He angrily mumbled to himself something about continence and rolled over to get some much needed sleep.
Sometime during the night, Darcy's eyes popped open as he realized he was precariously close to falling off the edge of his bed. Christian was snoring and grinding his teeth, sound asleep in the bed between Darcy and Elizabeth. The child was sprawled out, taking a good portion of the bed, leaving his parents hanging onto the edges. Christian had tossed and turned so much during the night that Darcy had only managed to close his eyes and drift off to sleep for a few minutes at a time.
By morning, Darcy could barely move, from sleeping in one cramped little space. He counted the chimes of the mantle clock every hour on the hour, since three that morning. He was relived to hear the clock chime six, and he rolled off the edge of the bed and landed on his feet, hunched over from the pain in his back. He turned around to look back in the bed. Elizabeth was still sleeping, and Christian was completely passed out, with his head pointed down towards the foot of the bed.
Darcy began to make his way to his dressing room, but he bellowed out as he took a step, for the pins and needles in his leg. Elizabeth sat up and blinked, trying to see within the room, "Fitzwilliam...are you alright?"
"No!" Darcy groaned as he groped back for the bed. "I should have been more comfortable sleeping on the floor!"
Darcy walked into the breakfast room with Andrew in tow. He pointed Andrew in the direction of Christian and Andrew stood in front of the small boy.
"Christian...there is no such thing as a curtain monster", Andrew looked at his feet. "I made it up to scare you."
"Truly, Andrew?" Christian cast a disbelieving eye.
Andrew looked back up at the stern demeanor of his father and replied, "Positively."
Darcy put his hand on Andrew's shoulder and turned him in the direction of his chair. "Sit down", he commanded and Andrew swiftly did as he was told. Darcy poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. "Everyone is to remain in their own bed this night. There will be no exceptions...and if I ever hear of one of you scaring the other again, there will be a serious price to pay!"
Darcy downed his breakfast, while everyone else at the table glanced over at him occasionally, afraid to speak or move. When he was finished, he stood up and threw his cloth on the table, "I shall be back this afternoon. I want no reports of any mischief today..." he turned back to his family before exiting the door, "...for I am in a dreadful spirit!"
He did not wait for a reply, but stormed out of the room to attend to his business. Hannah looked over at her mother and whispered, "Mama...why is Papa so irritable?"
Elizabeth blushed and looked at all of her children, "I am afraid your father does not have a talent for getting over some things as easily as others."
Mrs. White scurried about the nursery making sure she had not left anything behind. Poor Mrs. White was usually a bit flustered when the Darcys took a trip, for there was a lot to remember when packing, and the children never seemed to stay in one place long enough for her to keep her mind on what she was doing. Hannah tried to help her governess, but Andrew and Christian were busy chasing each other around the room, succeeding in causing quite a disturbance.
"Children!", Mrs. White turned to the three of them. "Please make sure you have everything you wish to take with you...we shall not be home for almost a week!"
The children ignored her and continued to run around the room, causing everything to be in disarray. Elizabeth had heard all the thumping and yelling while in her dressing room, and she quickly went to the nursery before Darcy got word of the disturbance.
"Andrew! Christian! Do as Mrs. White has told you...this very moment!" Elizabeth yelled out as she entered the room.
"I am sorry ma'am...they can be a handful at times", Mrs. White gasped.
"Dear Mrs. White...you are not to blame...they are quite a handful."
Servants came into the room to take the children's trunks to be packed onto the carriage. Mrs. White gathered up the last minute items, and she herded the children out the door, in a fashion resembling the precise movements of a highly trained sheep dog.
Darcy walked out of the house with his steward, giving him last minute instructions to carry out in the master's absence, as everyone climbed into the carriage. Darcy took the reins of his horse, as he was to ride to Cheshire since the family had quite outgrown even the largest of their carriages. He took a last look inside the carriage and smiled at his wife.
"Very well then, are we all ready to go?"
"Yes, dear", Elizabeth smiled back at him, while she tried to push the loose wisps of her hair back in place after the harrowing ordeal of gathering everyone together.
Darcy looked at Mrs. White, as the governess fanned herself, trying to cool her body down from running after the little ones. He another glance around the carriage, then a frown came to his face.
"What is the matter, dear?" Elizabeth questioned.
"Where is Christian?" Darcy asked.
Elizabeth and Mrs. White took a quick look about the carriage, but there was no Christian. "Oh dear...I believe he was here a moment ago?", Elizabeth began to fret.
Darcy turned around and bolted inside the house. A few moments later he was seen descending the stone steps of the back verandah, with the child underneath his arm. He put Christian in the carriage, giving the boy a brisk pat on the bottom and secured the door of the carriage.
The Darcys arrived safely at Greywood Manor, the home of Charles and Jane Bingley, and their two young daughters. The Bingley family had seen the Darcy's carriage driving up to the house and they had come outside to enthusiastically greet their dearest family.
Darcy dismounted from his horse, and greeted his brother-in-law. "Charles, it is very good to see you!"
"And you Darcy! I see you do not fit in your own carriage anymore!" Bingley chuckled.
"I prefer to ride." Darcy grinned and leaned closer to his brother-in-law. "It is one of the rare occasions that I actually get any peace and quiet."
The Bingley girls held onto their mother, excited at the prospect of seeing their cousins again. They were shy, good-natured and quiet little girls who rarely if ever found themselves into any sort of mischief. The eldest, Meg, was near to Andrew and Hannah's age, and the youngest, Alice, was barely six weeks younger than Christian.
Darcy helped Elizabeth from the carriage and she scooped up little Alice into her arms. "Alice...sweet, Alice", she exclaimed, giving the darling girl a snuggle.
"Aunt Lizzy...is Christian with you?" Little Alice asked anxiously.
Elizabeth set down the petite little girl with a smile, thinking what an angelic picture was before her. Little Alice was as fair as her parents, with shiny blonde hair, and big blue eyes. Her hair was always cut to resemble a page boy and she usually donned two matching ribbons on top of her head. She was the epitome of politeness, for a four year old, and when she curtsied, the bell of her dress made her look just like a flower.
"Dear Lizzy...Alice has been so excited to see her cousin Christian, she has spoke of nothing else for days!" Jane smiled down at her daughter.
"Well...it is a delight to know that someone anticipates a visit from Christian", Elizabeth smiled broadly.
Darcy finally extracted Christian from the carriage and set him down on the ground. Little Alice approached the boy with a giggle and a blush, "Hello, Christian...it is very nice to see you again."
Christian scurried behind his father's coattails , then peered from his hiding place at the pristine, well mannered young lady. "Go on, Christian...you may go into the house with Alice", Darcy instructed as he plucked the boy out from behind him. Alice took a hold of Christian's hand and the boy followed her, reluctantly. "Christian...do be on your best behavior!" Darcy called out after the children, wondering if Christian's best behavior was sufficient in the company of others.
As everyone went to their rooms to get settled, Darcy and Bingley had some time to relax. They went to the billiard room, and Darcy selected a cue.
"How have you been, Darcy?" Bingley smiled as he chalked his cue.
"Not bad, Bingley...not bad at all!" Darcy racked the balls onto the felt, "And you?"
Bingley nodded, "Quite the same, everyone is happy and healthy...I cannot complain."
"Well you probably will not be quite as apt to say that when we have been here for a while", Darcy grinned as he completed the first break with a loud crack.
"Darcy!", Bingley shook his head. "If you are referring to that dear little boy of yours...save your breath. He is a favorite with me...trouble or no." Bingley made his shot and bent over the table to attempt another. "Speaking of trouble...what has the little scamp been into lately?"
Darcy sighed, watching Bingley continue to sink his shots, and thinking of Christian's latest antics, "You name it, Bingley...and the boy has done it. Perhaps there is something to be said about having daughters."
Bingley turned to his friend, "I should dearly like to have a son, Darcy."
"So you probably shall...with a little patience...", Darcy eyed Bingley wryly, "...and perseverance."
"I am afraid, Darcy...that is not possible", Bingley replied stoically.
Darcy frowned as he heard his friend's words, however he did not know what to say. Bingley missed his shot, and stood up to see Darcy's reaction.
"The physician told us that Jane would most likely not be able to bear any more children."
"I see," Darcy replied in a whisper, feeling like a imbecile for teasing his brother-in-law.
"Do not be uneasy, Darcy", Bingley smiled. "We are resigned to it...and we have two fine children, who we adore."
"They are very fine children, Bingley." Darcy put his cue down and leaned against the table with a sigh, "I am not sure that I wish for more children", Darcy admitted abruptly. "I think that Elizabeth does. I made the mistake of forming some smart comment on the subject a few weeks ago when I was frustrated with the children and their mischief...that three children would be enough for anyone."
Bingley grimaced as he thought of what the consequences of Darcy's sarcasm must have cost him. "Three is not all that many, Darcy."
"I suppose you have a point...look at Harry Wright and Elizabeth's sister Mary...they have three already, or is it four?" Darcy laughed. "Then there is Aaron Moore and Kitty...they have one, because in his opinion the world is overpopulated already." Darcy and Bingley laughed at the folly of their in-laws. Darcy shook his head, "I would however not wish to be eighty by the time the last child is out of the house."
"'Tis a dilemma, Darcy...although I seriously think there is not a damn thing you can do about it."
Darcy raised his eyebrow at the revelations of his friend, and grinned.
"Not short of abstinence," Bingley felt obligated to harass his brother-in-law in return. "Knowing how you and Elizabeth feel about each other, I would say that is an improbability."
Darcy laughed and picked up the pool cue again and took his shot, "I would say you are quite perceptive, Charles."
"Darcy...there is something of this nature I would wish to discuss with you", Bingley continued.
Darcy looked back at his friend, who had gone to a brandy decanter and poured a glass for his brother and himself. He handed a glass to Darcy, and sighed.
"What is it, Charles?"
"I have been thinking about what I should do." Charles took a drink from his glass. "Darcy, I have discussed this with Jane, and since we will not be blessed with an heir of our own...we should like to entail Greywood to Christian."
Darcy was completely amazed at Bingley's disclosure, "Charles, surely there is plenty of time to make such decisions."
"I have quite a fondness for your youngest son, Darcy...Elizabeth is Jane's dearest sister, and you have been my mentor and confidant for longer than I can remember. It is only right that my property should be handed down to one of your sons, given our friendship and family relationship."
"What about your sisters, Bingley?" Darcy inquired, still a little shocked, but not shocked enough to be unable to deduce that Bingley's relations may have a difficult time accepting their brother's decisions.
"You know as well as I, Darcy, that Louisa and Hurst have no children, nor do the prospects of it look promising. As for Caroline, the possibilities of her even marrying are grim. Every man who takes an interest in her, she either will not have, or she scares away the more they get to know her."
Darcy could not argue with his friend on this score, nor did he wish to turn down an exceptional prospect for his own son. "Bingley, I am beyond flattered that you should think so highly of Christian."
"He is a good child, Darcy...and I have no doubts that he will grow into a fine man. With you as his father, how could he help but not?" Bingley finished his brandy, "I have had the papers drawn up. All that remains is for you to read and sign them, and we shall file them with the solicitor."
"Charles, I have no wish to hurt your feelings or imply that I am not grateful, but there are some things I feel I must consider. I should like to sleep on it, I think."
"Of course, Darcy...take whatever time you need." Bingley smiled, "I must speak with the housekeeper about this week's events. I shall meet up with you in a hour...in the library?"
Darcy smiled and nodded his head. When he was sure Bingley had left the room, the smile on Darcy's face subsided, as he pondered everything which had just transpired.
The two men spoke no more about their contracts that evening, but decided to enjoy their families instead. Elizabeth did not appear to be aware of Bingley's plans, and Darcy had assumed that Jane had been upright enough not to tell her of it. Darcy had always admired his sister-in-law's sense of propriety.
Darcy did not sit and read that night in their bedchamber, as he usually did. Instead, he laid in bed on his back, with his arms behind his head, running over every possible angle on this issue that he could think of. Elizabeth found this curious, for her husband was such a creature of habit, that any bend of events meant something was definitely afoot.
Elizabeth crawled into bed and settled down next to Darcy. "Tell me what you are thinking?", she inquired innocently.
"Elizabeth...I have something of great importance to discuss with you. I would ask that you let me finish what I have to say before you react to it."
Elizabeth eye's widened, worried at the somber tone of her husband's voice. "I shall do as you ask, dear."
Darcy sat up to look at his wife. Elizabeth sat up as well, and hugged her knees tightly, as she eagerly awaited his news.
"Bingley informed me this afternoon, that he and your sister cannot have another child."
Elizabeth felt her countenance fall, and a shallowness in the pit of her stomach.
Darcy continued, "Since he is now a man of property and they have no male heir who may inherit this estate, he wishes to establish an entail...upon Christian."
Elizabeth did not know what to think. What Darcy had told her in the last minute, was more than she thought she could digest. As for her feelings, all she could distinguish at the moment was utter shock. She opened her mouth to make comment, but Darcy gently brought his fingertips to her lips.
"Bingley has had a contract drawn up and wishes for me to sign it. I told him I wanted to think it over...I also wanted to discuss it with you. There are many things to consider about this, Elizabeth...as I think you are well aware." Darcy reached up and rubbed the tension in the back of his neck. "I think that most likely his relatives will not be very happy about his choice of inheritor."
"I think you are right!" Elizabeth blurted out indignantly.
Darcy sighed, then continued, "I am sure he intends to disclose it to them when they arrive tomorrow. I have no intention of signing any documents until this is settled between he and they." Darcy frowned, "But I fear they will not only be upset with him, but may take their condemnation out on us as well. Elizabeth..." Darcy looked into his wife's eyes. "...I want you to keep your distance...and your temper, when Miss Bingley and the Hursts are here."
"I have never been on very easy terms with Miss Bingley, Fitzwilliam." Elizabeth sighed, "I shall do my best, for your sake."
"Good", Darcy said as he kissed his wife on the forehead. Elizabeth could see that Darcy was worried, and she knew he had no wish to participate in a confrontation with his friends. He had, however, not disclosed his intentions to her beyond that.
"May I ask, when this is over...what will you do?", she inquired.
"This is an remarkable opportunity, Elizabeth. Christian will be well settled, and our worries for his future will be for naught." Darcy was resolute, "I will sign that contract."
Elizabeth cast her eyes down towards the bed, "What about those darling little girls...we are their godparents, Fitzwilliam?"
Darcy put his hand lovingly on Elizabeth's cheek, "I will secure a proper inheritance for them...do not worry about that. At the present there are more immediate worries ahead."
The next day, Darcy informed Bingley of his reservations about his family's disapproval. Bingley had to acknowledge that there was a chance that it could happen, and he agreed with Darcy that they would hold on anything definite, until after the festivities of the coming week.
Elizabeth chose not to discuss the matter with her sister, for she could never think of exactly how to bring it up. Jane did tell her that the physician had proclaimed that it was more than likely that she would not be able to conceive again, after losing two children in a row.
Elizabeth's heart broke for her sister, for she had not known about Jane's loss. She thought it tragic that their lives had grown so preoccupied with children, husbands, and households, that they did not have the relationship that they had use to. Elizabeth made a resolution to herself, then and there, that she would visit Jane more often. She knew that Darcy would not disapprove.
That afternoon saw the arrival of Mr. And Mrs. Hurst, and Miss Caroline Bingley to Greywood. After polite greetings and socializing at luncheon, the Darcys excused themselves to take a turn about the grounds.
Bingley informed his relatives of his intentions to entail his property to the Darcy's youngest son. The Hursts were not as upset as they were annoyed at themselves for failing to realize the possibilities that such an opportunity could occur. Caroline Bingley, however was incensed at the whole idea.
"Charles! How could you disregard your own family in such a way?", she snapped.
"There is nothing to disregard, Caroline. You have been given your inheritance from father's estate, just as Louisa has. Besides, the Darcys are my family."
"What if I were to have a son, Charles? Did you ever consider that possibility?", she retorted in a snit.
"With whom are you thinking about producing this offspring, Caroline?" Bingley questioned, a little amused.
Caroline huffed, "I have... I have plenty of prospects. Alexander Wilson is coming tomorrow on your invitation, do not forget! He has shown his regard for me in the past!"
Bingley shook his head and sat down wearily in a chair, as his sister paced back and forth across the room, wringing her hands. "No, Caroline, I have made my choice, and we will all have to live with it."
"The son of Eliza Bennet!", Caroline said indignantly under her breath.
"The son of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Caroline", Bingley reminded her. "Or have you forgotten that fact?"
"Pray, do not remind me of it, Charles! It is too painful!", she moaned dramatically.
Bingley got up from his chair, "My mind is made up, Caroline. I do not want to hear another word on the subject!" He quit the room leaving his sister to stew by herself.
After some moments, Caroline entered the saloon where the Bingleys, Hursts and Darcys were gathered. She walked in with as much dignity as she could muster, given her jealousy, and allowed her brother to hand her a glass of wine.
"Well, here we all are, one big happy family!" she boasted in mockery. "Mrs. Darcy, how are your children--especially that little one? What is his name? The one that is always into trouble?"
"You must be referring to Christian, Miss Bingley?" Elizabeth replied as she tightened her grip on Darcy's arm.
"Yes, Christian. What an inappropriate name you chose for him," Miss Bingley sniggered.
Elizabeth simply smiled warily as she did her best to avoid any trouble, as Darcy had requested of her. Darcy patted her hand which was tightly gripping his arm, and he changed the subject. He asked Miss Bingley about the latest happenings in Town. Since Miss Bingley found Darcy to be as captivating as she always had, she relished in his attentions and obliged him by giving forth a lengthy answer.
As Miss Bingley droned on and on, Elizabeth noticed Christian and little Alice enter the room. Her eyes widened as they came closer, for they were both covered from head to toe in something resembling soot. Little Alice recognized her aunt sitting in a chair and scrambled over to greet her.
"Aunt Caroline!", she screeched and ran enthusiastically into her aunt's arms. A poof of soot escaped her little dress and landed all over Miss Bingley's fine clothes and pinched face.
Miss Bingley wailed in disgust and pushed the little girl away, "My dress...my face, MY hair, Louisa!"
Mrs. Hurst came to her sister's aid, and they left the room much to the amusement of Bingley and Mr. Hurst. Darcy looked down at his son, who was completely covered in the black soot and alternating between grins and frowns until he was sure of his father's countenance.
"Oh dear", Elizabeth whispered to her husband. "What is to be done?"
Darcy grinned broadly, and the youngster heaved a little sigh of relief, "I suggest we should live by your philosophy, my love--and let children be children."
Darcy was furious with Miss Bingley's reaction to his son as inheritor of Greywood, and her continued harassment of his wife. He had told himself that he had known this would be the case, but it hurt nonetheless.
More guests began to arrive at Greywood for the ball which was to be held that night. The Bingley and Darcy children were allowed to mingle outside with the guests at the garden party that afternoon. Darcy's hurt was replaced by immeasurable pride as he witnessed the fine behavior of his children.
Hannah carried herself with remarkable poise and charm. Her cousin Meg had quite an influence on Hannah in the last few days, and she curtsied politely in a pretty white dress, as she remained by Elizabeth's side and studied her mother's charm amongst strangers. As each day passed, Darcy saw the best of Elizabeth's qualities in his daughter, and he was very glad for it.
Andrew conducted himself as a young gentleman, bowing to everyone who greeted him. Even at six years he had the air of his father about him, and his striking appearance. Darcy would smile and give the boy a nod each time the youngster looked to his father for his approval. The boy's eyes sparkled upon seeing his father's favorable regard.
When Darcy was not occupied in proud reflections of his eldest brood, he kept a firm hold of Christian. The boy wriggled and squirmed as his father held him, but when Darcy set him down, he took off with glee only to be chased back down and restrained in his father's arms.
"Christian!", Darcy began to lose his temper with the child after restraining him for the better part of an hour. "Why can you not conduct yourself as your brother?"
Christian raised his large brown eyes up at his father. The child's constant smile faded into a pout as he was compared to his brother, and vied for his father's affections.
"If you cannot stop fussing, and conduct yourself in a fit manner, you shall have to go with Mrs. White to your room", Darcy gave him an ultimatum.
Darcy put him down one last time and Christian stood by his father, holding his hand as Darcy continued his conversation with one of the guests. Christian did not like it when his father's disapproval was directed towards himself, although it happened quite often. The boy was naturally curious, and although he wanted to be more like his older brother, it was simply not in his nature to do so.
Christian wiggled his hand out of his father's and Darcy looked down with a frown at the boy. Christian knew the look, and the look meant 'conduct yourself properly, or else'. The boy remained at his father's side, until he glanced over and saw Bingley's dogs lounging in the grass next to a tree.
Mr. Alexander Wilson stood in conversation with Charles Bingley. Darcy was conversing with one of Bingley's business associates and the man droned on to Darcy about investments and the like. Darcy put on a good show, but subconsciously he turned his attentions to the conversation behind him of his brother-in-law and Mr. Wilson.
"Well Bingley, your sister tells me you are to turn this place over to Darcy's youngest", Wilson commented.
"That is right, Wilson. Young Christian Darcy shall be my heir."
Wilson gave a chuckle, "I dare say, your sister seems quite put out by it all. I recall her saying something about the obnoxious little sprat in the very next breath!"
Darcy clenched his jaw as he heard the gossip. He could not see how Caroline Bingley could have the audacity to take her frustrations out on a four year old child, especially since that child happened to be his child. He frowned unhappily and looked down next to him towards his innocent progeny, but Christian was not there.
Darcy quickly looked about him, but he did not see the familiar figure of his youngest amongst the throng of people. He turned to Bingley's associate and quickly excused himself, then nervously began his search of the grounds for the boy.
Elizabeth had been keeping her eye on her husband and son as well, but she had gone into the house with Hannah for a few moments. When she stepped back out into the garden, she saw Darcy weaving through the crowd, quite alone, in all nervousness.
"Fitzwilliam?", she whispered to her husband as she approached him.
"Elizabeth, I let go of Christian, only for a moment, and now he is no where to be seen", Darcy breathed.
Elizabeth searched the yard, however she did not catch sight of little Christian either. The Darcys began walking together, each of them looking in another direction. They accounted for each and every child, Darcy and Bingley, with the exception of one.
No sooner had they stood in the middle of the garden, contemplating what to do next, when they heard a loud crash and a commotion of people. Elizabeth walked towards the source of the disturbance followed by Darcy. When the crowd of people parted, the proud parents of master Christian Darcy caught sight of him, covered in cake and giggling as a hound licked his face clean.
Darcy entered the bedchamber and slammed the door behind him. He was reddened with anger and smarting from the embarrassment of being laughed at by his contemporaries. He looked down at Christian who had just had his clothes changed by his governess and Elizabeth.
"Mrs. White, if you will leave us", he commanded.
Mrs. White scurried out of the room, but looked back at her small charge with worry on her features before leaving. The boy remained by his mother's side, seeing the grim disapproval of his father.
"I am very angry with you, Christian", Darcy huffed. "You shall have to stay with your governess in your room, until you can learn to act like your brother and sister!"
Tears welled up in the boy's eyes at the thought of not seeing his parents that night at the ball. "I wanted to play with the dogs, Papa."
Darcy bent over, speaking directly to the boy with an outstretched finger. "You are a Darcy, Christian, and you will learn to conduct yourself properly, if I have to impress it upon you with the strap that my father used to demonstrate to me right and wrong!"
Elizabeth bit her lip at her husband's lecture to the boy. Darcy paced about the room, with his hands behind his back and his cheeks flushed. He was not comfortable punishing his children, but he was even less accustomed to looking like a fool in front of his peers.
After watching his father for a moment, Christian's little face reddened with uncommon belligerence, "I hate Andrew for always being good!", Christian screamed out.
Darcy wheeled around enraged, and grabbed the boy by the arm, ready to strike the boy's backside. "Fitzwilliam!", Elizabeth called out. "You are too angry to be sensible!"
Darcy stopped and looked at his wife, fury in his eyes, still holding onto the boy. "Do not interfere, Elizabeth!"
"I will interfere--he is only four years old!", her voice raised. "I will not stand by and watch you take away your son's childhood, as your father demanded of you!"
Elizabeth struck a nerve with Darcy, and he let go of the mewling child, and Christian ran to his mother. Elizabeth felt dreadful for saying what she had said to her husband. He had every right to discipline his children, for he was not the kind of father to be severe upon them without good reason. She only wanted Darcy to see what his heart had known.
Darcy swallowed hard and breathed deeply, trying to control his emotions. Then he turned around and left the room without uttering word to his wife or son.
Darcy tugged on his waistcoat and fussed with the sleeves of his shirt, as he peered in the looking glass at his reflection. He had not been angry with Elizabeth for saying what she had earlier. He knew it to be the truth, although he had no idea that she had known it.
He had always felt cheated that his father had impressed the responsibilities and duties of a man on him, at such an early age. His father had told him that it had been so when he was a boy, as it had been with his father before him. Generations of stoic, well-mannered and self-possessed Darcys, all living within the boundaries of propriety. It had taken Elizabeth to prove it to him before their marriage, and now she had demonstrated it to him again.
Elizabeth came up from behind Darcy and wrapped her arms around him. He turned to face her with a pensive smile. "I must apologize, Fitzwilliam. I never meant to undermine your authority as a father."
"Elizabeth, you were right to do so then. I was far too angry to be sensible about my actions." Darcy sighed, "Tell me. How did you know about my father?"
"I did not know for sure 'til then. I formulated the opinion from my observance of you as a father, and how you sway from delighting in watching your children act like children, to demanding perfection of them."
Darcy frowned and nodded his head in thought, "My parents demanded good regulation from me as a child, and I equated it to the attainment of perfection. I wanted nothing more than to please them, which is what my children want to do for me."
"They will be grown before you know it, Fitzwilliam. Your daughter will be a fine young woman, and your sons..." Elizabeth stopped to place a hand on her husband's cheek, "...your sons will each have the demands of being landowners and masters of estates. There is no finer man than you in which to learn those good qualities from. They have many years in which to learn from you--do not push them."
"Not at all, as long as you are here to keep me in line." Darcy smiled his appreciation of her good sense, then took Elizabeth by the hand, and they walked to their children's room.
"Mama! Papa!" Hannah exclaimed upon seeing her parents in all their finery. "You look beautiful, Mama!"
"You look very fine yourself, Papa!", Andrew exclaimed with a grin.
Darcy knelt down in front of his son, "You are a good son, Andrew. I was very proud of you today." Andrew beamed with delight. Hannah walked to her father, and Darcy reached out to her, "And you, my lovely little girl."
Christian stood behind the door to where his bed was, hearing his father praise his brother and sister and their goodness. He then heard footsteps coming in his direction and he slipped back into his bed and curled up with his blanket. Darcy peered into the room, and smiled at his sleeping son.
"He has been asleep for some time, sir. Tired out from the day, I suppose", Mrs. White volunteered.
"Is he alright, Mrs. White?", Darcy asked her.
"Oh yes, sir...he is quite a remarkable young man. He bounces back from everything."
Darcy nodded with a reflective smile, and took one last look at the boy before pulling the door closed.
As Elizabeth had promised, she knelt down and instructed the children that they would be able to watch the dancing for a little while, but then they would have to return to their room with Mrs. White. The children were delighted to have the opportunity to do that alone, and they each held onto Mrs. White's hands and followed their parents downstairs to the ballroom.
Christian heard the door close, and climbed out of bed. "Where is everyone?", he exclaimed realizing he was alone in a strange house. "Wait for me!", he squealed and ran out into the empty and unfamiliar hallway in his nightclothes, still clutching his blanket.
The Darcys entered the crowded ballroom and Mrs. White took the two children and stood with them behind the sliding doors of the side entrance. They had a good enough view from there and the children watched intently as they saw their parents weave through the crowd and greet their friends. After some little time, the music began to play to announce the upcoming dancing, and Darcy took his wife to the dance floor.
Hannah and Andrew grinned at each other as they watched their parents dance with graceful form. Their mother had been correct that their father was indeed a fine dancer, although they knew he had no taste for it. Their mother was the picture of loveliness as she smiled affectionately at their father each time she passed him with a swoosh of her dress.
Hannah sighed with the romantic visions of a young girl. Andrew sighed, thinking that the merits of a good fishing spot far outweighed any old ball, but he was pleased to have the opportunity to stay up late. After two dances, Mrs. White tapped the children on the shoulders and they reluctantly followed her back to their room.
Mrs. White laid out nightclothes for the children, then went to check on Christian. "Oh dear! Oh dear!" she wailed as she fluttered out of the side room. "Children! Your brother is not in his bed!"
The children and Mrs. White scurried about the room and the adjacent ones, looking for the boy, but there was not a trace of Christian.
Darcy stood in a corner of the ballroom, nursing a drink while Elizabeth and Jane spoke to some of their friends. Darcy's eyes followed Caroline Bingley around the room as she made her best attempts at flirting with single men of good fortune. Darcy was still angry with her snide comments about his youngest child. He had no idea how he had ever tolerated being five minutes in the woman's company. He watched her latch on to Mr. Wilson and the couple left together arm in arm, for another part of the house.
Darcy smiled at Bingley, and the two men stood together watching other couples dance. "Did you and Christian patch things up, Darcy?" Bingley inquired with a grin.
"He was sleeping when I looked in on him, Charles", Darcy frowned a little. "I am sorry for the disturbance he caused this afternoon. I hope it did not cause you undue stress?"
Bingley laughed heartily, "Not at all, Darcy. It was quite a memorable picture. This would have been just another stuffy old party, without him!"
Darcy had to laugh at the recollection. He admitted to himself that his son did not lack in liveliness, and Darcy supposed that to be what endeared the boy to him the most. He did love the boy, with all his heart.
A servant came up and whispered to Darcy. Bingley saw his friend's eyes widen and the color drain from his face.
"What is it, Darcy?"
"Charles," Darcy said nervously. "Christian is not in his bed, and no one seems to know where he is!"
A very anxious Mrs. White explained the circumstances to her employer. Darcy thought a moment on the best course of action, and how to find a small boy within a large house, and amongst so many people.
Darcy, Bingley and several servants split up and began to search the house. Darcy became angry again for a moment at the capers of his young son, but then he remembered Elizabeth's wise counsel. The boy was naturally curious, and he had been left alone in an unfamiliar house.
Christian crept around the door into the back parlor. His eyes were wide and he looked about the room for a sign of another presence, especially his family. He was frightened and did not know how to get back to his room. He clutched his blanket tightly and crawled into a wing-back chair to curl into a ball, until someone would find him.
The door to the parlor opened and a woman's voice was heard chattering away, "Oh, Mr. Wilson! Whatever do you mean by such a remark?"
Mr. Wilson and Caroline Bingley entered the parlor. Caroline Bingley was in the throws of luring her latest prey, and the couple had sought out the solitude of an uninhabited room.
"Miss Bingley," Mr. Wilson said. "I hope you did not find my comments officious. 'Tis only that I meant we should be more comfortable--in private."
"I believe you have a point Mr. Wilson. This house is way too crowded for my liking. Too many Bennet daughters and their spawn," she crowed.
"What makes you dislike them so?"
Miss Bingley eyed her beau in incredulity, "They lack every sort of propriety and good taste. They are a kin to heathens!"
"Heathens! Good, lord, I see no evidence of that. Your sister-in-law and Mrs. Darcy are quite lovely. I think your ill will goes beyond than that." Mr. Wilson circled Miss Bingley like a vulture. "I think you hold a torch for one Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Caroline Bingley!"
"Surely not!" Miss Bingley sneered. "He chose to ruin his life by attaching himself to that woman, and now look at them. They have brought forth the very likeness of an elf. A common trickster, who disgraces Darcy at every turn. I cannot believe my brother has the bad sense to pass his fortune onto that brat! He will ruin our good name!"
Mr. Wilson gazed at Miss Bingley in contempt. He was beginning to see for himself what a bitter woman she was, and he was beginning to believe he wanted nothing to do with her.
The sound of a small voice startled them both from their debate. Christian had slipped of the chair, and was standing and looking at the couple, his blanket dragging behind him.
"I am lost," he said meekly.
"Come here, boy," Mr. Wilson said as he knelt down to take a better look at the child. "You are Christian Darcy, are you not?"
"Yes," Christian nodded his head. "Can you take me to my Papa?"
Mr. Wilson nodded his head, "Yes, little one, I can."
Christian waddled up to Miss Bingley and craned his head to look up at her. She looked down on him, with a grimace. "You look very sad, lady. You can hold my blanket if you want?" Christian held out the well loved, blue-knitted comfort cloth.
Miss Bingley cringed in disgust at the ratty old thing, "No, take it away. Shoo, Shoo!" She waved her arms as if swatting at a fly. "I am sure that thing is full of germs. What a fair trade that would be, a disgusting old blanket for a whole estate! You ungrateful little varlet!"
She turned around, with her back to the child and began to walk away, however Christian had managed to step on the train of her skirts. Miss Bingley was too flustered to notice that the seam between the bodice of her fine dress and the back skirts had come apart with the weight of the child standing upon the train. Christian however had a child's eye view of the tear, and the crisp white fabric of Miss Bingley's exposed knickers. He quickly stepped off of the material, but said nothing.
Darcy came into the room, having heard Miss Bingley's tirade and rude dismissal of his son. He had taken all he could of her abusive manners towards his family. He stood and looked at her with a frown, and called to his son.
"Christian, come here boy," he knelt down, but the boy stood where he was and simply pointed to the back of Miss Bingley. Darcy smiled, and held open his arms and the little boy ran to his father. Darcy enveloped Christian in his arms, and Christian was happy to have his father's love.
After a moment, Darcy stood up to return his attentions to Miss Bingley. "How dare you take your petty jealousies out on a four year old boy!"
Miss Bingley's eyes widened and she huffed in dismay, "Mr. Darcy, you quite mistake my meaning."
"I have mistaken nothing," Darcy growled. "Other than not realizing a long time ago what a disagreeable woman you really are. I should think I will be hard pressed to subject my family to your ill manners and insults ever again."
"MY ill manners?" Miss Bingley screeched as she pointed to Christian. "You, Mr. Darcy have succeeded in breeding them!"
"You..." Darcy raised himself to a menacing height, "...would not know good breeding and manners in a child, if he came up and bit you in the..."
"Fitzwilliam!" Elizabeth called out from behind her husband and Darcy wisely held his tongue.
Miss Bingley, upon seeing Elizabeth Darcy, threw her head back in determination and marched out of the door, back to the ballroom. Mr. Wilson's eyes widened as he noticed the beacon of Miss Bingley's skivvies, but instead of preventing her from making a fool of herself on the crowded dance floor, he look down at Christian and laughed.
"Christian, my boy--you are a little wolf in sheep's clothing! Darcy, you have quite a remarkable little boy there."
Darcy nodded his head with a proud smile and Mr. Wilson went to enjoy the mayhem he knew to be brewing in the ballroom. Darcy reached out and gently patted his son's small cheek.
"Papa, I was afraid, and I got lost!" Christian pouted.
Darcy hugged the little boy tightly and kissed him, "I know little one, we should never have left you alone."
"Do you still love me as much as Andrew and Hannah, Papa?"
"Oh, Christian. You have no idea how much I love you." Darcy let go of the boy and looked at him, "Your mother and I have love enough for all of you." Darcy looked up at Elizabeth and grinned, "We even have enough love for a few more, I think--should they happen to come along."
The day before the Darcys were to leave Greywood, Bingley had persuaded Darcy to sign the inheritance papers. Darcy proudly did so, and the men made plans to go into the village to secure the papers with Bingley's solicitor.
As Darcy walked down the hallway, he saw the shadow of his smallest son. "Christian, what do you do there?"
Christian came around the corner, with a guilty grin, "Nothing, Papa!"
"Hmm," Darcy said. "Would you like to go with us to the village?"
"Me, Papa?" Christian exclaimed.
"Yes," Darcy smiled. "When we are finished at the solicitor's office, I shall take you to a shop and we shall buy a bag of penny candy."
Christian giggled, "Can we ride on the horse, Papa?"
"Yes," Darcy pronounced and lifted the boy into his arms.
Bingley and Darcy rode along the path towards the village, and Christian sat atop the horse, in front of his father, safe and secure in Darcy's arms. Bingley kept a steady pace, but Darcy stopped his horse, and turned it around on a hill overlooking a fine aspect of Greywood house.
"You are a very fortunate boy, Christian--for one day this place will belong to you, and it will be your job to take care of it. I know you will do a fine job of it, and you will honor it as your uncle Bingley would wish."
"Will you teach me how, Papa?" Christian asked.
"Yes, of course. You shall learn it along with your brother."
Christian looked up at his father, "Will you teach me when we get home?"
"No, Christian--not for a while, yet. Not until you are grown, and even then I think I shall not be inclined to demand perfection from you. You shall be your own man, and a very good man at that."
Darcy turned the horse around and started again on the path. Christian sighed and looked up again at his father, "Papa," he inquired. "What means perfection?"
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