Posted on: 2012-09-25
No one was more surprised than Mr. George Darcy when his namesake and godson, George Wickham, was shot through the heart by his stable master, John Wilkins. Wickham was only nineteen years old.
As the shooting was investigated, it became clear it was a result of the condition Wilkins' daughter found herself in. Further investigation unearthed evidence that Julie Wilkins was not the only young woman in the area either carrying one of George Wickham's bastards, or already caring for his babies, the eldest child being three years old and raised by his grandparents, as his mother had died in childbirth.
As more and more information was revealed, George Darcy came to realize he was the only one shocked about this information. Everyone else had suspected Wickham of unsavory habits, including his own father, Wickham, Sr.
Two weeks after the death of George Wickham, George Darcy had a very enlightening conversation with his own son, Fitzwilliam. Although his son answered his questions very evasively, it did not take long for George to realize that the obvious favoritism he had shown to George Wickham had hurt his own son in many ways. When Mr. Wickham, Sr. had named him as George's godfather, he was flattered, and had allowed himself to indulge in the whims of a child that did not need to be groomed to inherit such a massive estate. Mr. Darcy had not meant to neglect his son in any way, but came to realize that bestowing such favors on another had damaged his son's self-confidence. Fitzwilliam had developed the impression that nothing he accomplished could generate praise from his father.
Although he would always mourn the death, and the wasted life, of George Wickham, Mr. Darcy took this opportunity to evaluate his life and the way he interacted with his children. Over the next five years he concentrated on building up the confidence in his son, and teaching him to place more value on the actions of others than on their connections. He knew that if he had not been blinded by the fact that Wickham was his godson, he would have been able to recognize him for the scoundrel that he was.
As he lay on his death bed, the last advice he gave to his son was to find a wife that would be a companion to him, someone that would care more for him than for his fortune. He knew that leaving this earth while his son was still at such a young age would make Fitzwilliam a target for fortune hunters. Mr. Darcy told Fitzwilliam to trust his instincts and choose a lady on his own, without regard to her connects or fortune. Those things, he had learned, were only superficial. What mattered was the worth of the lady's character.
Five years after the death of his father (and ten after the now distant memory of the death of his childhood friend), Fitzwilliam Darcy found himself accompanying his friend Charles Bingley to Neatherfield Park in Hertfordshire.
Although his self-confidence had seen a massive improvement during the last five years of his father's life, he was still reticent when in the company of those he was unfamiliar with. He was thankful for the support his father shown him toward the end of his life, building up his confidence and putting aside his conceit. He had long ago realized that he could not tolerate the conceit of many of his acquaintances, including that of his friend's sister, Miss Bingley. Although it would be inconvenient to spend time in the same house as Miss Bingley, Charles was one of his closest friends, and had asked for his help in learning about estate management.
Shortly after their arrival at Neatherfield Park they were invited to attend an assembly in Meryton. Darcy had hoped to become better acquainted with Charles' new neighbors before meeting them in a social setting, but the timing could not be helped, and so to the assembly he went, with no acquaintances outside of his own party.
Once at the assembly, Darcy proceeded to sit out the first dance, not wanting to raise any expectations in Miss Bingley. He felt obligated to dance with Bingley's sisters, so danced the second with Bingley's married sister, Louisa Hurst, and the third with Caroline Bingley. After depositing Caroline back with her sister, he then beat a hasty retreat to the other side of the room. He then spent the next couple of hours studiously avoiding the Bingley sisters. Charles danced every dance, so was not much of a help.
After avoiding Caroline's presence for about two hours, by always walking in the exact opposite direction so the entirety of the room was placed between them, he was captured by a pair of laughing eyes. The eyes were coming from the most unexpected source. Mr. Hurst, brother-in-law to Charles Bingley, had somehow been convinced to dance. Although it was surprising that Hurst could be motivated to set aside his refreshments for a half an hour, it was even more surprising that his dance partner seemed to be enjoying the exercise. When both dance partners glanced first at Miss Bingley, then at himself, then shared a small laugh, he suddenly realized what had amused her.
At the end of the dance, the most unexpected happened. It was evident that the young lady was asking Mr. Hurst for an introduction, to which Hurst was agreeing, with merriment in his eyes. Instead of heading in his direction, though, Hurst led her toward Miss Bingley.
Elizabeth Bennet had been attentive to the movements of Mr. Darcy almost from his arrival at the Meryton Assembly. Even she had to admit that he was an attractive man. As she kept an eye on him through her peripheral vision, she began to notice the most unlikely behavior. It would appear he was doing his best to avoid a member of his own party. Judging by the feral look in the eyes of the young lady trying to draw closer to him, it was clear she was Mr. Bingley's unmarried sister.
Never one to forgo an opportunity to observe the ridiculous, she determined to keep an eye on both the lady and the gentleman for the remainder of the evening. She was happily surprised to have the opportunity to gather more information when Charles Bingley induced his brother-in-law to dance with her. It was clear that with the lack of gentlemen, he could not excuse his decision to ask Jane for a second dance while one of her sisters was along the wall. His duty done, Charles retreated back to Jane's smiles, leaving Elizabeth with the fairly silent Mr. Hurst.
As the dance commenced, she noticed Miss Bingley making an overt movement in a clockwise direction around the room, trying to catch Mr. Darcy unawares. As Mr. Darcy made a similar movement, to keep himself as far aware from Miss Bingley a possible, she caught Mr. Hurst stifling a laugh. With merriment in her eyes, she realized that Mr. Hurst had made the same observation as she had. Since it was clear he found it amusing, she decided to question him.
"Mr. Hurst," Elizabeth began, "I wonder if I might enquire your opinion on a hypothetical situation?"
As he noticed Elizabeth trying to stifle a laugh as Caroline tried cutting a corner short and getting in the way of the end couple, in her haste to draw closer to Mr. Darcy, he readily assented to her inquiry.
"What would your opinion be of a young lady who ignores all evidence of a gentleman's indifference, and continues to try to throw herself in his way?"
"I would imagine it is dependent on how closely the lady and the gentleman are acquainted," Hurst replied. "If they are only slightly acquainted, the young lady might be ignorant of the gentleman's habits, and think that all of his attempts to distance himself from her are completely coincidental."
"An interesting theory," Elizabeth stated. "What about two people who are more closely acquainted, perhaps even have some sort of connection, like a friend or relative that they have in common?"
Hurst had noted the way that Elizabeth was tracking Caroline's moves, always knowing that Mr. Darcy would be on the opposite side of the room. He chuckled slightly before answering.
"In such a case, I am afraid that it is caused by the inability to give in to disillusionment." They had moved in the dance, so now Elizabeth was tracking Darcy's movements, while Hurst had a better view of Caroline. "Some young ladies are not willing to admit that they are not the primary focus of all gentlemen, and that her brother's friend might actually want to visit him, instead of her."
With this they both glanced first at Miss Bingley, then at Mr. Darcy. Laughing, Elizabeth reminded Mr. Hurst that they were talking of a hypothetical situation.
As the dance drew to a close, Elizabeth asked Mr. Hurst to introduce her to Miss Bingley.
"I will do my best to distract her for a few minutes to allow your friend a chance to rest. Perhaps he will even be given enough of a reprieve that he will be able to find someone to dance with."
"You have been a delightful dance partner, Miss Bennet, I would be delighted to introduce you to my sister. I would also enjoy staying to listen to your conversation, but I will retreat to inform Mr. Darcy of his short reprieve."
After the introductions were made, Mr. Hurst retreated toward Mr. Darcy (though not until after Miss Elizabeth gave a very carefully worded comment to Miss Bingley on the striking quality of her orange gown, which Miss Bingley immediately assumed was a compliment).
"I say, Darcy, I have never been more amused in my life," Hurst said upon reaching the side of his brother's friend.
"What has amused you, so?"
"I have been instructed to inform you that Miss Elizabeth will do her best to distract Miss Bingley for at least half an hour so that you may enjoy a slight reprieve. She asked me to tell you that you should now feel free to ask another young lady to dance, as you would not have to be on the lookout for Miss Bingley. I did not have the heart to tell her you would not choose to spend your time dancing if you could at all avoid it."
"I do not dislike dancing itself," Darcy objected. "I dislike the need to have a conversation either with someone I know nothing about, or with someone I would rather avoid. It has been some time since a young lady from the first category has not become a young lady of the second category."
"Perhaps your luck has changed," Mr. Hurst said, noting the direction of Darcy's gaze. "Though it will be hard to determine as long as she is in Caroline's company."
"What do you suppose they could be discussing?" Darcy asked, mesmerized by the gaiety in Elizabeth's eyes in contrast to the conceit in Caroline's. "I cannot imagine Miss Bingley puffing herself up like a peacock to be amusing, yet Miss Elizabeth seems to take great delight in their conversation."
Caroline was getting upset with Mr. Darcy. For the majority of the evening, it almost appeared as if he was avoiding her on purpose. Her only consolation was the fact that he did not appear to take notice of any of the other young ladies present at the assembly.
When Mr. Hurst first brought Miss Elizabeth in her direction and introduced her, she was annoyed. Soon, though, her annoyance turned to jubilation. The longer she conversed with Miss Elizabeth, the more extensive Mr. Darcy's gaze became. She convinced herself that standing in such close proximity to a country chit only accentuated her desirability in comparison. Taking a moment to subtly ensure her feathers were just right, she began an animated discussion with Miss Elizabeth concerning the delights offered in town in comparison to the country. Elizabeth gave every indication that she found the conversation fascinating, even asking after the gown Caroline had worn most recently to the theatre (it was tangerine in color).
When her promised half hour was about up, Elizabeth realized Mr. Darcy had not yet gained a dance partner for the next set, so decided to detain Caroline even longer. She had already had her fill of amusement from the young lady for the evening, though, so decided to enlist unwitting help as John Lucas was approaching.
Although Mr. Lucas had been attempting to claim Elizabeth's hand for the next set, he willingly allowed himself to be maneuvered into a dance with Miss Bingley instead, with a promise that Elizabeth would save the following set for him.
Laughing to herself, Elizabeth starting skirting the ballroom, looking for her friend, Charlotte Lucas. She knew that Charlotte would appreciate her reflections on the young lady now dancing with her brother, John.
After only a few steps, Elizabeth found herself waylaid in her attempts to find Charlotte by the sudden appearance of Mr. Hurst and Mr. Darcy. After the introductions were made, Hurst excused himself to find some refreshment.
"I understand I owe you my appreciation, Miss Elizabeth," Mr. Darcy said. "Not only for the last half hour, but it appears for the next as well." He indicated Miss Bingley dancing with John Lucas.
"It was my delight, sir," Elizabeth replied, with a sparkle in her eye. "I do not often have the opportunity to observe a young lady of such great character and connections in our small corner of the world."
"Would it be too much to ask for your assistance for another half hour by dancing the next set?"
"I am sorry, Mr. Darcy, but my next set has already been claimed. I would be more than willing to assist you in making a new acquaintance for the next set, though."
"I would be most grateful, Miss Elizabeth. Perhaps I would be so bold as to claim the last set of the evening if you are not otherwise engaged?"
After agreeing to the last set with Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth set about introducing him to her sister, Mary. Mary was often overlooked when in the company of her sisters, and had long ago resigned herself to sitting comfortably along the walls at the assemblies. Elizabeth knew that sharing one of Mr. Darcy's few dances would garner more praise from their mother than it should.
Mary Bennet was surprised to find herself standing opposite Mr. Darcy as the next dance began. Standing next to her was her sister, Elizabeth, who was partnered with John Lucas. At first, Mr. Darcy seemed much more interested in her sister, but after Elizabeth made a comment to John about the courtesy of paying heed to your own partner during a dance instead of another young lady, Mr. Darcy's attention was turned in her direction, though his ears had taken on a shade of crimson.
As they danced, they discovered that they had read some of the same books, discussing Shakespeare's tragedies in earnest. Mr. Darcy had to admit that he had never heard a young lady take the stance that Shakespeare's works could serve as a warning to those who allow themselves to become too embroiled in human emotions, instead of turning their lives over to the direction of the Almighty. Although he could not completely agree with her view, it did make for an interesting conversation.
After making the final bow in the set, the two couples did not move far. After a few hints to John Lucas during their dance, he solicited Mary's hand for the last dance. With a slight move, the sisters were exchanged and ready for the last set of the evening.
Mr. Darcy could not remember ever attending an assembly that he enjoyed more. From the moment he first saw the laughter in Miss Elizabeth's eyes while she was dancing with Mr. Hurst, he was enthralled. The dance he shared with her did not disappoint. He found her gentle teasing to be enticing. He had never met another young lady like her.
As Mr. Darcy helped Elizabeth into her wrap, he requested permission to call the next day. She gladly gave her consent.
The courtship of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet was short and sweet. He had taken his father's words to heart, and was following his instincts. He knew that Miss Elizabeth was a lady of the highest character, and felt that no other would do.
With no conceited comments made by Mr. Darcy, and no interference by wicked gentlemen, Elizabeth quickly found herself in love. Their engagement was already announced by the time Mr. Collins came to pay a visit. As soon as Mr. Darcy realized the connection between Mr. Collins and his Aunt Catherine, he raced to town to procure a special license, allowing them to marry before Lady Catherine was able to visit and threaten his happiness with her baseless claims.
And so it was that Miss Elizabeth Bennet found herself happily married to Fitzwilliam Darcy a mere month after meeting him.
Caroline could barely contain her fury, but did tried her best as she did not want to lose the advantage of her connection to the Darcys.
Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley eventually married as well, though their courtship was of a much longer duration, as he had not gained the self-confidence of his friend. Approximately six months after meeting, Darcy asked his friend when he was finally going to come to the point. That was all the encouragement he needed, and Jane Bennet became Jane Bingley a month later.
Fitzwilliam Darcy would always remember the advice given to him by his father. He also remembered the pain of his early years, and vowed never to give his own children reason to doubt his love for them.
Darcy and Elizabeth had seven children, all raised with the confidence that their parents love was strong, not only for their children but also for each other.