Out Of The Ashes
Darcy stretched his long legs before rising to walk to the window. He saw below him Elizabeth with her arms filled with lilacs going up the small rise.
He knew immediately where she was going, to the top where she would lay the flowers on the graves of his mother and father, and then to that other small plot where their second child, their daughter Cassandra lay, struck down at three by a disease they did not understand.
What a delightful child she had been so full of joy and sunshine that he often told Elizabeth that she should have given way to his wishes and named her Lizzy.
She had taken her first steps at ten months; when seeing him enter the room, she had let go of her mothers skirt and taken those few steps calling out "Papa, Papa" before plopping down where she sat clapping her hands and again calling for him. He had crossed the room to swoop her up and place her on his shoulders where she banged on his head with her small hands calling "Mama, Mama, look where I am Papa has me."
Elizabeth had laughed with delight while turning her face up for his kiss sending Cassie into peals of laughter saying, "kiss Mama again, which to her delight he did of course, telling Elizabeth that he did not want her to suffer disappointment.
She had loved to go riding with him sitting in front of him in his arms and crying with delight.
She followed him and her brother like a shadow when her mother would allow it, Will was surprisingly patient with her, but then he had no other playmates so they were great friends.
When she was two, her sister Jane Anne arrived to her delight and he loved to see her showing her new sister off to her cousins or anyone else she could corner. The had been afraid that she might be a little jealous of the new arrival but Elizabeth had wisely made her a part of the new baby activities giving her a sense of importance that was a joy to see.
Soon after her third birthday though they had noticed a change in her, some of the liveliness seemed to be fading and at first they had thought it was because of her new sense of responsibility, but as he became quieter and quieter and finally when she seemed to lose all interest in her excursions with him the had taken her to their London Doctor who could find nothing amiss, telling them that it was probably just a phase she was going they and returned to Pemberley.
She however got no better, instead she seemed to be rapidly getting worse, so he sent for a specialist in children who gave them the sad news that she was very ill with a disease of the blood that they could do nothing about.
After this devastating news, Elizabeth had devoted herself to nursing her trying by the sheer force of her will to make her better, but to no avail and on a bleak April day she had slipped quietly away.
He didn't remember much of what happened for months after that day as he withdrew into himself not knowing or caring what went on around him.
He was brought to his senses however by his dear sister Georgiana.
She had cornered him in the library and berated him for the way he was treating his wife and family. When he had told her that she knew nothing about what as going on with him. She had told him in no uncertain terms that she could see what he was doing to Elizabeth and the children with his, as she said, selfish concern for only his own grief.
"Do you know that young Will is convinced that if he dies, God will perhaps let Cassie come back so you can be happy. If your son kills himself in a mistaken belief that this will happen will you be better off," she had said to him,
"You do not even see how pale and thin Elizabeth is, blaming herself for Cassie's death in the mistaken belief that she could have done something more, blaming herself for your unhappiness. If she grieves herself into and early grave will that make things better.
"Do you blame her also for it seems that this is so.
"I would never have thought you capable of such selfishness and self absorption if I had not seen it for myself.
"Do you think that you are the only one who has lost this child, no you are not. She is the one who carried her under her heart for nine months, the one who tended to her scrapes and bruises and the everyday chores that go with raising a child. You seem to think that you are the only one who is feeling pain here, well look around you, brother and see their grief and the added pain that you have given them.
"Wake up Fitzwilliam before it is too late."
He had fled the room and her words, riding for hours cursing her and everyone else including God.
He didn't know how long he had ridden before he noticed that night was falling and he turned his horse toward home
While riding home he began to ponder what his sister had said to him and to see the justification in her words, he had not seen his family's grief, he had been so absorbed in himself. Her words struck a pang of fear in his heart, as he prayed that he would not be too late in making amends.
It was after dark when he arrived at home and the family had retired.
Making his way to his sons room he was looking down at him when Will opened his eyes and looked at him with fear in his face.
Feeling such remorse he lifted his son and taking him to the chair next to the bed sat down and rocked him holding him closely.
"Are you not angry with me anymore Father," asked the boy.
"No Will, I have never been angry with you, only with myself, please forgive me if I have frightened you, I promise that I am no longer angry with anyone and things will be well again," and he put his son back into his bed and went to make amends to his wife or at least to try to.
When he came into the bedchamber for the first time in months he found Elizabeth reading and casting himself on the bed beside her begged her forgiveness, when she answered that there was nothing to forgive he had said, "How can you be so kind to me when I have been so cruel to you these past months."
She replied "I love you."
With this he began to weep for the first time in his life. Great racking sobs that shook his whole body, he wept, sobbing out all the rage and pain that he had kept bottled up inside him, weeping for his mother his father and his daughter.
She held him in her arms and rocked him like a child speaking lovingly, soothingly to him until totally spent, he slept for the first time since Cassie's death.
When he awoke the next day feeling cleansed, it was the middle of the day and he was alone in the room still fully clothed on the bed, Elizabeth was nowhere to be seen. Jumping out of bed he stumbled to reach the door just as she was coming with a tray of food for him, saying "Good afternoon, sir"
For the first time he noticed how thin and pale she was and he vowed that never again would he let her suffer as he had these past months.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.