Confessions of a Man Rejected (Or Fitzwilliam Runs Interference)
The sudden sound of raised voices caused Georgiana Darcy to look up from her music. Just as suddenly the voices were silent and a door slammed violently shut. She closed her eyes and sighed. Her brother had locked himself away in his study again. He had done this almost every evening since his return from Rosings Park, and, unable to obtain a syllable from him in response to her delicate enquiries, Georgiana was at a loss as to what to do next.
Abandoning the instrument before her, she rose, setting her determination to approach him one more time. Even in a foul temper, Fitzwilliam Darcy had never been cross with his younger sister, only silent.
Before she could reach the door, however, it opened and Colonel Fitzwilliam entered the room. Judging from the expression on his face Georgiana knew her cousin was the latest recipient of her brother's uncharacteristic wrath.
"Georgiana," Fitzwilliam said resignedly. "Poor girl! What have you had to put up with?"
"Oh, cousin!" Georgiana felt herself near tears at this sudden ally, after weeks of enduring Darcy's mercurial moods on her own. "What am I to do? What has happened to make him so unhappy?" A tear broke free and slid down her cheek.
All of Fitzwilliam's sympathy for Darcy dissipated into anger at this evidence of how the man's self-absorbed behaviour was affecting his own sister. The Colonel gathered his cousin into a warm embrace, and as she cried into his shoulder, desperately tried to think of something to say, or do, to rectify this situation. After a while Georgiana's sobbing abated and she drew back, sniffling. The gentleman offered her his handkerchief and led her to the settee.
"Georgiana, dear," he began. "Perhaps I can persuade your brother to take you to Pemberley as soon as possible. The change in surroundings may help shake him of this ill humour."
Sadly the young lady nodded. "I would do anything to have my dear brother back. I feel as if I've been sharing this house with a stranger. He quarrels with everyone, for no apparent reason. He finds fault with the smallest things. I seem to be the exception. He just doesn't speak to me." Her gaze fell to her lap where she was pulling at the handkerchief. "What has happened, do you know, to change him so? Have I done something?"
Fitzwilliam debated in his own mind just what to say. He hadn't even confirmed his suspicions of Darcy's troubles with the man himself. Was he sure enough in his suppositions to even need Darcy's confirmation? In any case he wasn't even likely to get it. The wretched man would probably avoid the confrontation with a glare calculated to strike terror into anyone attempting to pierce his armour. Still, Fitzwilliam felt enough confidence that he knew the root cause of Darcy's misery that he thought it best to relieve some of Georgiana's. Perhaps, once she knew the reason, her views as a woman would offer some assistance. She was looking at him pleadingly, and he smiled weakly.
"My dear, I'm not sure what I can......what I should say, but rest assured, you have done nothing wrong. Although I have not actually discussed the situation with your brother, based on my own observations and knowledge of recent events, I believe him to be mourning the absence of a certain young lady who has captured his heart."
Georgiana was incredulous. "But.....how could......I thought, I mean.....Isn't love supposed to make you happy? William is so very sad!"
"Yes, love certainly makes one happy. But it is a different story when the one you love doesn't return the compliment, or in this case, where your brother is too reserved to approach her, and consequently is doomed to never know!" Fitzwilliam replied, exasperated.
Astonished, Georgiana cried "But who is she? Do you know her? How could she not love my brother in return? Oh, there must be something we can do to help him."
"Dear Georgie, I did not say that she doesn't return his affections, but I must confess that I do not know the state of hers." Fitzwilliam smiled at her. "At the risk of betraying Darcy's privacy.....her name is Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I believe you would like her very much. She is charming and kind, but quite sharp in her wit. It is very entertaining to watch Darcy and Miss Bennet in conversation; almost like a fencing match. Each tries to score a point to the other's disadvantage. He has definitely met his match in that young lady!"
Intrigued by this picture of her brother, Georgiana was about to enquire further when the door suddenly opened and the sad object of their discussion quietly entered the room. Darcy stiffened when he caught sight of his cousin, but almost immediately his shoulders slumped once more, and he crossed the room to slip into a chair near the fire. Without a word to either of the persons present he turned his face toward the low flames.
Georgiana looked to Fitzwilliam as if to say Do you see what I mean? She made a move to approach her brother's chair, but Fitzwilliam shook his head.
"Come Darcy, this will not do at all!"
Darcy glared at his cousin, but the fire quickly left his eyes and he turned away. This was too much for his sister, who, having previously broken down, had very little control left on her emotions. Stifling a sob, she hurriedly ran from the room.
Alone with his cousin, Fitzwilliam now moved in for the attack.
"Can you not see what harm you are causing Georgiana? Darcy, look at me! What do you think this depressed state of yours is doing to that young girl?"
Darcy looked up, and Fitzwilliam was relieved to note that he had finally distracted the man from the depths of whatever pit of despair he'd flung himself. But his cousin's next words took him by surprise.
"Tell me honestly, Fitzwilliam, do you find me arrogant? Inconsiderate of the feelings of others?"
Confused, the Colonel replied "At this particular moment you seem to be rather unconcerned for the feelings of your sister!" Upon seeing the effect his words had on Darcy, he softened his tone. "As a general rule, Darcy, you are very considerate of others, particularly family and friends, although sometimes that attention to their welfare extends beyond their feelings. But arrogant?" He drew his brows together in thought. "I suppose your self-confidence and your reserve in general company could be interpreted as such." He looked at Darcy curiously. "Where are these questions originating?"
Darcy didn't answer at first, but closed his eyes as if in pain. When he finally opened them he merely rose from his seat and began to pace the room. Seemingly coming to a decision, he stopped, drew himself up and looked his cousin in the eye.
"Thank you, Fitzwilliam. I appreciate your honesty. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some reparations to make with my young sister. I have behaved most abominably." He began to make his way to the door, but Fitzwilliam hurried to block his exit.
"Just one minute, Darcy! You cannot escape so easily. You're correct; you have behaved abominably, and as the other of your sister's guardians, I demand to know what has been going on! She has been worried sick about you for weeks! Finally broke down under the strain and cried on my shoulder for a good fifteen minutes just now. I demand an answer!" Darcy appeared stricken, and Fitzwilliam played his final card. "Has this anything to do with Miss Bennet?"
Stunned, Darcy blurted out "Why do you ask that?"
Convinced now of his earlier suspicions, Fitzwilliam said heatedly, "Good God, Darcy, it doesn't take a genius to see that you are hopelessly in love with her! But what are you playing at? She's miles away in Hertfordshire and here you sit in London, pining for her! Get on your horse and go, man! I just don't understand you."
Darcy seemed to shrivel up before his very eyes. Thoroughly confused, Fitzwilliam strained to hear his voice as the younger man said "It is not so very simple as that, Fitzwilliam." Expelling a sigh, Darcy continued. "Miss Bennet is perfectly aware of my feelings towards her. I informed her as much in Kent."
Ah, finally it comes out! thought his cousin.
"I am such a fool!" Darcy spat out his sudden self-recrimination, once again catching Fitzwilliam by surprise. "Such a complete fool! To think that I could aspire to win such a woman! Oh, yes, she put me in my proper place, all right. I was so vain, so arrogant. Never stopped to think that she might have formed her own opinion of me. Never stopped to think at all, beyond my own selfish desires. You should have heard me Fitzwilliam! My God, I was pompous! Her rejection of me was certainly justified in her reproofs of my character."
Fitzwilliam had sat down in shock during Darcy's outburst. Never had he thought that his cousin had proposed to this woman and been rejected! It was no wonder the man was inconsolable. And keeping it all to himself must have nearly driven him mad. Darcy in love, he had never seen before; the man's regard was nearly impossible to procure. Fitzwilliam knew that the rejection of that oh- so-carefully bestowed affection must be torturing him. And what of Miss Bennet? To have outright refused an offer of marriage from such a quarter! For it was evident that the only reason she could possibly have to turn him down was a thorough dislike of the man himself. She must have been entirely mislead by that face he puts on in the company of strangers, for she could hardly object to his true character. A more generous, intelligent man it would be difficult to find.
"I'm sorry, Darcy. I never realized the full extent of the situation. But this will never do. You cannot sit here day after day, wasting away. Georgiana needs you. Why don't you return to Pemberley? London is certainly no consolation, it cannot offer you the peace and quiet that Pemberley does."
Darcy continued to look into the dying fire, seeing the remains of his life in the ashes. "A very good suggestion, cousin." His chin rose, and Fitzwilliam was delighted to see a hint of Darcy's resolve return. "I have some matters to finish up and then we shall go home." He practically sighed the last word.
"Perhaps some company for Georgiana.......?"
"Yes, I'll invite Bingley and his sisters to accompany us. There is a matter I need to resolve with my friend as well." Turning to his cousin, he tried to smile. "I know what I must do now, Fitzwilliam. If you'll excuse me, I must humble myself before Georgiana." So saying, he left the room.
Fitzwilliam sighed. Perhaps now things will get back to normal. But in his heart he knew that his cousin would never be the same again.
* * *
"Can you ever forgive me?"
Georgiana looked into her brother's pleading eyes. She could hardly believe the change in him since only an hour before. Whatever Fitzwilliam had said to him must have done the trick. She only hoped it would last. If he sank back into despair after their cousin left, how could she bring him back by herself?
"Dear brother, I could forgive you anything, but in this instance I must also extract a promise from you."
Darcy raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"Promise me that you will never sink so far into yourself again. I could not bear to see you so unhappy ever again."
Darcy slowly nodded as he took his sister's hand in his. "Dearest Georgiana, I am ashamed that I forgot myself and my responsibilities to you. From this point on you and Pemberley will be the only concerns in my life. I will forsake everything else for your happiness." He smiled down at her.
Georgiana was unsure of what to say. What about this woman he loves? This Miss Bennet? Was he not going to pursue that avenue? Trying to match his light tone she said, "Surely, William, I haven't been that upset with you! After all, you will marry someday and I'm certain your wife will be your primary concern." No sooner were the words out of her mouth than she regretted them. His expression had changed from tenderly attentive to closed and withdrawn. With a gentle touch on his arm, Georgiana brought his gaze back to her face. "I'm sorry," she whispered.
Darcy shook his head. "No. No, I am sorry. I'm sure Fitzwilliam spoke to you about my interest in Miss Bennet." Georgiana inclined her head, hoping for him to continue. "Please be patient with me, Georgiana. This is not easy for me. I am resigned to putting her out of mind, and wish only to step forward with my life. I do not want to upset you any further, or give you any cause to worry about me."
"Oh, William, is there no hope? I just don't understand what happened. If it helps at all, you can come to talk with me any time. I would like to learn what kind of a woman could touch your heart so deeply."
Darcy sighed. "I know you mean well, Georgiana. Perhaps another time. Perhaps in a few weeks when I am more a master of myself, I will be able to answer your questions. But at the moment, just the thought of her causes pain." He smiled faintly and touched a tear glistening on her cheek. "You will be my strength, my focus to get over this. But more than that, I need to put aside my arrogance, my puffed up self-importance, and learn to put a new face to the world. If there is one thing about Miss Elizabeth Bennet that I will not forget, it is how correct she was in her assessment of those aspects of my character."
Wondering just what it was that Miss Bennet had said to her brother, Georgiana squeezed his hand.
"We shall leave for Pemberley as soon as I can finish up a few business matters, here. Probably near the end of next week. I'll write to Mrs. Reynolds directly, and also ask Bingley if he'd care to join us. Does that meet with your approval?" Darcy's smile had returned.
Georgiana nodded. Although she liked Mr. Bingley well enough, his sister was not at all what she would call charming. Miss Bingley was constantly parading around Darcy in her transparent attempts to secure his affections. Georgiana could only wonder how her brother could tolerate her.
"I would like that. I shall like anything that will restore your peace of mind."
Over the next week, as they made preparations to vacate their London home, the Darcys found frequent opportunities to sit and talk. Each evening Georgiana was delighted to keep her brother's company in the drawing room. While he nursed a glass of brandy, she managed to elicit small pieces of information concerning Miss Bennet. Over the course of many evenings she had discovered her brother's admiration for the lady's singing and playing, her lively turn of mind, but most of all her beautiful eyes. The latter appreciation was apparent from the number of times Darcy made reference to them. Georgiana could barely repress a smile at each successive mention of this fine feature.
As the time drew near to leave London, Georgiana could see Darcy becoming restless. The day before they were to depart he found her in the music room, practising one of the new selections she had obtained for the harp.
"My dear, at the risk of enduring your disapproval, I must beg a favour." At his sister's enquiring glance, he continued. "Would you mind terribly if I left for Pemberley ahead of the rest of you? This afternoon in fact. I find the prospect of being subjected to Miss Bingley's interrogation for two days a little more than I am able to withstand just yet. You may think me a coward, if you will, but I need to find some solace in a solitary ride back to Pemberley."
Georgiana rose to give her brother a quick kiss on the cheek. "I think that is an excellent idea. I shall make excuses for you to the Bingleys and suffer Caroline's disappointment myself. After all, I did say that I would do anything to see you happy again."
Darcy thanked his sister warmly and hurried off to see to the details for his departure.
* * *
It was with great relief some three days later that Georgiana saw the towering front gates of Pemberley from the window of the carriage. And it was with a great joy that she saw her brother, his eyes shining with undisguised happiness, and heard him say that they were to call upon a young lady who was staying in Lambton. It was to be his greatest pleasure to introduce Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley to Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn!
© 1998 Copyright held by author