Posted on 2013-07-30
Col. Richard Fitzwilliam was a man of duty. If you asked the General, he would tell you that there was no one as respectfully and hardworking as Fitzwilliam. If you asked his contemporaries, they would tell you that good ol' Ricky was as good a sport as any. One thing they were also very sure of was that Richard Fitzwilliam was not a coward. He never hesitated to enter into a war zone if it was for the good of the nation. However, unlike the other colonels in the army, he hated unnecessarily sacrificing his troops. He knew the cost of a life, of blood and his priority was his regiment. Yet, if orders to march came in, he was not one to hesitate. No one would ever call Col. Richard Fitzwilliam a coward.
Yet, our dear colonel was not feeling particularly brave today. Inspite of reminding himself again and again of the numerous times he had marched bravely into the battlefield, never flinching, never backing down, always facing Death resolutely in the eye, he could not stop his heart from racing. 'You can do this,' he repeated to himself under his breath. 'You have faced worse, surely this is nothing.'
Taking a deep breath, he climbed the stairs and entered the parlour, where he saw a young lady, the sole occupant of the room, seated near the window, trimming her bonnet. She had a lively demeanour and a very bright countenance. Seeing the colonel enter the room, she greeted him warmly. He looked at her apprehensively and sat on a chair next to her. "A bee in your bonnet?" she asked him gaily, in her usual teasing manner, which people often misinterpreted. Col. Fitzwilliam who was never one to pass away the opportunity to battle wits, regarded her passively and yet, those who knew him well, would know that he was simply of that state of mind wherein even the funniest and wittiest of lines would not amuse him.
The young lady was no fool and knowing her companion well, she knew that only something of the most grave nature would turn the otherwise jocular colonel into a taciturn gentleman. "Come now Richard, what troubles you so?" she asked quietly. Richard stood up sharply, paced around the room before finally returning to his former position. In the meanwhile, the young lady couldn't help but observe that the Colonel's behaviour bore a resemblance to another gentleman who also paced like a caged animal in a room when distressed.
"Richard?" she asked before the colonel began heedlessly and swiftly, "Dearest and sweetest Marianne, words cannot express my regard for you. Your hold on me grows stronger and stronger with each passing day that I find it quite impossible to imagine a world wherein you do not exist. Please be assured, that my love for you is fixed and immutable as the North star, which pales in comparison to your beauty. Your nature, your kind and benevolent nature, was what drew me to you and .."
"Oh Richard, how beautiful!" the lady exclaimed, using a handkerchief in her dainty hand to wipe away the tears which threatened to leak from her eyes. She was a romantic at heart. "Pray, do continue" she added.
"Well, I know of the differences in our circumstances, I am the younger son of an Earl and you are the daughter of a physician and yet..."
"Richard!" exclaimed Fitzwilliam Darcy who had discreetly entered the room. He was privately known as William to those who loved him and was the owner of Pemberley, the house which served as the stage for this present interlude. "You cannot speak of your objections to the match in your proposal. Am I right, Elizabeth?" he asked turning to his wife who was seated by the window.
The young lady whose name was Elizabeth Darcy, gazed fondly at her husband, "Of course, my love. You of all people must know of the disastrous consequences such a declaration will cause."
"Eavesdropping at the door, cousin?" asked Richard in a rather displeased manner. He wanted his proposal to be perfect which was why he turned to Lizzie for her help. He didn't want Darcy of all people to witness how truly inept he was at proposing. Lizzie at least would tease him privately and not think less of him. He did not want to involve Georgiana in this delicate matter. To him, Georgiana would always be his little princess regardless of her age.
Richard needed all the support he could garner as his dear family would be quite disapproving of his choice of wife. His aunt, Lady Catherine had been most vexed and was exceedingly displeased when according to her, Darcy disgraced the family by falling in love and marrying a country nobody. She now consoled herself with the thought that at least her second favourite nephew, who was promoted to her most favourite nephew, after the displeasing Darcy business, would marry Anne.
His elder brother would give him a talk about 'doing his duty' and force him to marry Anne. "You will inherit Rosings!" his parents would say. In the past, that might have been the practical approach for Col. Fitzwilliam who was a strategist by nature. However, such a proposition of mortgaging his heart in this businesslike manner no longer appealed to him. Anne, of course, was in love with a stable hand employed at Rosings and was in the process of making arrangements to elope to Gretna Green, but that is a story for another time.
'Lizzie is the only person who will understand,' Richard thought, which is why he made her his confidant. 'Darcy will think I'm getting myself entangled in apron strings and that will not do,' Richard thought with a shake of his head. He like all Fitzwilliams before him had inherited a strong sense of pride, which prevented him from showing weakness easily to others, especially to Darcy.
Richard was called away from his thoughts when Darcy asked, "Have you finished proposing to my wife or should I leave so that you can continue? Will the duel consist of foils at sunrise or pistols at dawn?"
"Propose? Foils? Pistols?" Richard asked distractedly, "Lizzie was graciously assisting me in the formulation of my speech," he said. In his agitated state, he failed to notice the upward turn of Darcy's lips, which could constitute as a smile.
Seeing that he stumped his cousin, Darcy took pity on him and asked, "So, when are you going to propose to the fair Ms. Marianne Dawson?"
"Elizabeth!" Richard growled turning in Lizzie's direction. How could she betray his confidence?
Lizzie looked confused, "How did you know of Ms. Dawson, William?"
Darcy smiled broadly and replied, "You talk in your sleep, my love"
"William!" she exclaimed turning red.
"Yes, William, let us talk about you and your marital felicity! Can you not see that I am tense?" Richard exclaimed sarcastically and began pacing the room.
"Relax, Richard, you know I come in peace." sighed Darcy wondering how the tables had turned. Usually, it was Darcy who was tense and Richard who lightened his mood. 'Love makes you do strange things,' thought Darcy looking at the love of his life. He had been married for a year and it was the best year of his life. 'You weren't truly living before you met Elizabeth,' he thought to himself. He could not help but wonder at all the light Elizabeth brought into his life and Pemberley.
'Think about Richard, he needs you now,' Darcy thought. 'He was there when you needed him,' the same voice in his head remarked. Richard stood by him like a rock when Aunt Catherine disapproved rather vehemently of Elizabeth. It was now his turn to stand by him.
"Richard, you know that no matter what happens, Elizabeth, Georgiana and I will stand by you." Darcy remarked uncomfortably. He hated being overly emotional and only Elizabeth and Georgiana ever saw that side of him.
"Of course, I know that you dolt, tell me something I don't know!" Richard said with a small smile playing on his face. He knew Darcy very well and he knew how much it must have cost him to confess something so personal.
"Let us get back to the matter at hand," said Elizabeth in a businesslike manner, " I love the beginning of the proposal, it is rather romantic. Please do not, I repeat, do not mention the disparity between your situations under any circumstance, unless you expect her to reject you in a vitriolic manner." Darcy winced sharply. He still could not think about his first proposal without abhorrence, inspite of adopting some of his Elizabeth's optimistic philosophy. He hoped Richard would not repeat his mistakes.
"Then, what shall I say? What shall I do?" asked Richard whose hair was now badly disheveled as his hands ran through them quite frequently when he was most distressed.
"Be yourself, Richard. Sometimes, a true heart speaks volumes and is more favourable in comparison to a well rehearsed speech. If she truly loves you, words are not necessary." Lizzie smiled thinking of how she would have accepted her William immediately without any fancy speeches or entreaties after she had fallen madly in love with him.
"It is all well and good for you to speak in such a manner; you are assured of your happy ending. What about mine? What if I...?" asked Richard nervously.
"Richard, Elizabeth is right. Take it from someone who is assured of a 'happy ending'. Be yourself. Do not be proud, do not be arrogant, do not knowingly or unknowingly insult her family," at this, Lizzie laughed, "do not snub her at a ball or call her barely tolerable, do not try to separate her most beloved sister from her true love, do not..." recited Darcy in a monotone, as if this doctrine was firmly engrained in his head.
"Insult her family? Separate her sister from her true love? Do not jest, Darcy, only a dimwit would do such a thing." remarked Richard wondering why Darcy would come up with such preposterous ideas. Surely, this is Lizzie's influence, he thought.
"Retract your statement, Richard or else I shall have to duel you over my husband's honour," said Elizabeth with a hearty laugh as Darcy winked at her.
"You did not?" Richard asked Darcy questioningly, to which he only nodded.
"You never told me any of this before," stated Richard.
"You did not tell me of Ms. Dawson," retorted Darcy.
"Touché, cousin," replied Richard with a smile.
"So, if I could have my happy ending inspite of such insurmountable obstacles, surely you can," replied Darcy calmly.
"Yes, I can. She seems to return my regard. Perhaps I will stand a chance." said Richard hopefully.
"Even if she rejects you, remember it is not the end of the world. Try to find out what her objections are and work upon them. Do not be disheartened even if she says that you are the last man in the world whom she would ever be prevailed upon to marry." said Darcy catching the blush which always covered Elizabeth's face whenever he mentioned her response on that fateful day when he first proposed to her. In response, she casually reminded him of his conduct at the Meryton Assembly. This playful banter would always end in a stalemate!
"Fine! I will be myself and will not overreact," grumbled Richard.
"Don't make promises you can't keep, Richard," said Elizabeth saucily. She knew how stubborn the Fitzwilliams could be and how prone to overreaction they were. Her prime example was Lady Catherine. But if she voiced her comparison of Richard to Lady Catherine, he would not respond well especially since he was on tender-hooks.
"Tell me more about this Ms. Dawson," asked Darcy knowing that his query would lighten Richard's mood. He was right.
"She is the most beautiful, the handsomest, and the most angelic woman who ever walked the earth. She.." Richard stopped halfway as he was interrupted by Elizabeth who was laughing whole heartedly. "I cannot recall having said anything amusing," said Richard mortified.
"I have no wish to offend you, dear Richard, but you reminded me of my cousin Mr. Collins in his manner of describing Lady Catherine, his most esteemed patroness who condescended to...," replied Elizabeth while gasping in between to regain her composure.
"Actually, you reminded me of how Bingley would describe his angel Jane," replied Darcy hoping to mollify the horrified expression which appeared on Richard's face on being compared to Mr. Collins. He wouldn't wish the comparison with Mr. Collins on his enemy, let alone his favourite cousin.
"I have gained a newfound understanding and respect for Bingley now having found myself in a similar broth," replied Richard.
"Don't tell me you are in love with my sister Jane as well," exclaimed Lizzie.The sides of Darcy's mouth twitched but his expression remained calm.
"Oh, you know what I meant. You have absolutely no compassion for my poor nerves," countered Richard. Two can play the game, he thought. The pointed reference to Lizzie's mother's favourite dialogue sobered Lizzie immediately while the smile on Darcy's face broadened. Her mother's behaviour was always a source of embarrassment for Lizzie.
"When are you going to propose to Ms. Dawson, Richard?" asked Darcy, playing the role of the peacemaker.
"Tomorrow or never," he replied tersely. Calling himself a coward didn't lessen the fact that he was petrified of her reaction.
"What about her lack of dowry? Are you willing to bear all the objections which such a match will undoubtedly bring?" Darcy asked. He knew what his cousin's reaction would be but he wanted his cousin to carefully consider the consequences. Thinking ahead was what Richard prized himself on being able to do. But love made a person cut queer capers and Richard was besotted.
"Of course, I know the consequences. But, I love her. I love her more than life itself. I cannot live without her," he replied so sincerely that Lizzie wiped the corners of her eyes quickly at his romantic declaration.
"Then go to her. Now!" ordered Darcy.
"Now? But I haven't prepared my speech or worn my best outfit or..." rambled Richard.
"Go. Tell her what you told us. Hurry! Take Sultan, he is my fastest steed. You can do it, Richard. We believe in you," said Darcy firmly.
"I agree with William. Godspeed Richard and may luck shine on you," replied Elizabeth warmly.
"But, Georgiana..." stalled Richard.
"We will give her your regards. Now go," said Darcy knowing that his cousin needed a final push. "Unless you wish to marry Anne?"
"I am headed to the stables. Hopefully, when we meet next I will be an engaged man." Richard said and bidding farewell to them, he hurriedly quit the room and later the house.
"I hope for his sake that she will accept him. He truly loves her," sighed Darcy hoping that his cousin would not suffer any heartache.
"He will be an engaged man very soon" replied Elizabeth with a sly smile as she picked up her bonnet.
"How do you know for sure? Have you concealed from me the fact that you have gypsy blood in you and are a seer?" exclaimed Darcy surprised by Lizzie's presumption.
"Not at all, my love. If I were a seer, believe me, you would be the first to know. However, my dear sister Kitty corresponds on a frequent basis with Ms. Dawson. She made her acquaintance in London while she was residing with my Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Kitty becomes rather morose if she spends too long at Longbourn as she has only Mary for company. Isn't it a beautiful day!" she exclaimed with a mischievous grin.
"Do not sidetrack me, Elizabeth. What of Kitty's correspondence with Ms. Dawson?" asked Darcy anxiously.
"Well, our dear Ms. Dawson was wondering when the handsome and respectable Col. Richard Fitzwilliam will propose to her, if ever. She is in constant despair, according to Kitty," replied Lizzie.
"Then, why did you not say a word of this to Richard?' asked a very puzzled Darcy.
"It would behoove Richard to not take Ms. Dawson's acceptance for granted. If he did, he would not be as sentimental as he is now. Besides, the proposal will be much more romantic and sweeter now," replied Lizzie dreamily.
"So good old Richard will get his happy ending," said Darcy delighted that his cousin would soon enter into a state of marital bliss.
"Of course," replied Elizabeth, an impertinent grin lighting up her features, "After all, I have always said, that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife!"The End