Posted on Wednesday, 5 March 2003, at 4:54 a.m.
Past, Present, Future
The rocking movement of the carriage did little to calm him. Indeed, all it did was infuriate him further. That incessant back and forth motion. He felt as if his nerves were shaking with every jolt of the carriage.
Fitzwilliam Darcy was on the road to his estate, Pemberly. He was to have returned from London the next day, but the bustle of town had suddenly become too much for him; he had to escape. And now the rocking claustrophobia of the carriage was doing little to calm his nerves. He had to get out, he had to escape.
As the carriage turned up the road leading to the gates of Pemberly, Darcy suddenly stood up, planning on instructing the driver to stop, so he could walk. However, he miscalculated, and stood just as they passed over a particularly large bump. He hit his head on the roof of the carriage, hard, and immediately blacked out.
Before his eyes was a vision. Two people, young people, were in a dimly lit room the woman was holding a bundle in her arms, reclining on a sofa. He peered in for a closer look, and recognised the couple as his parents, in the nursery. They were occupied with the bundle in his mother's arms. A baby. A baby! But they are so young, it could not be Georgiana. It must be him! He listened to the words they spoke.
'What should we call him, my dear?'
'Perhaps George, for you.'
'No, I do not want him to be a clone of me. He must have a name that reflects his heritage, but that leaves room for him to make his own name in the world.'
'I see you have thought much about this, darling. What do you suggest?'
'Fitzwilliam, for your family. That way his name will be unique, but representative of who he can be. . .'
He was outside, in the Pemberly woods, running through the trees with gay abandon. 'Come Father!' his five-year-old self called. He was on the way to the stream, to fish with his father. It was the first time he had been allowed to join the men fishing, and he was impatient to begin. . .
He was walking down the path behind Pemberly House, alone. It was
winter, with a crusty layer of snow crackling on the ground with each of his steps. His shoulders were hunched, and he looked like someone with nothing left to give. The path passes through a line of firtrees, and into the Darcy family graveyard. He walked to the back, down the middle, and stopped at a fresh grave. He leaned down and placed a single, withered rose on his mother's eternal resting place. . .
He was sitting on the floor in the parlour at their London house. His father was sitting in an armchair, staring blankly at the fire as he was wont to do of late. He was on the floor with Georgiana, playing with her dolls, marvelling as to how oblivious she was of the sorrow that had encompassed them all. . .
He was at Cambridge, in the final year of his studies. He stared at the page depicting the muscles of the human body, but he did not see it. He focused on the picture of a man, and instead saw the image of his father, in his coffin, moments before he was interred beside his beloved wife. . .
He was walking along the beachfront at Ramsgate, watching the waves break along the sand, listening to the roar of the ocean. He looked up to the house to see the forlorn figure of his sister, his baby sister, thrown into womanhood by that scoundrel Wickham. She was but fifteen; she knew enough of how cruel the world could be. . .
He was at Netherfield, in the library. A volume of Shakespeare's sonnets sat open on his lap, but the image of a woman with fine eyes was not inspired by the words on the page, but rather by the sparkling pair that had sparred with his earlier. But it was ridiculous; she was merely a simple country girl, and as such there was absolutely no potential for anything to develop. He must just put her out of his mind . . .
He was walking up the path that led from the Hunsford parsonage to Rosings House. The last man she could ever be prevailed upon to marry. She had refused him! Him, Fitzwilliam Darcy! How dare she! But he had not been particularly kind to her. No, he had been quite rude, in fact. What had she accused him of? Wickham. That was an easy enough problem to solve. The facts supported him. Bingley and Jane? That was another scenario entirely. Miss Bennet had been reserved, polite, gentle. Just as society dictated a woman should behave. He would have to improve Elizabeth's opinion of him. He would write a letter. . .
He was lying in a carriage. His carriage, bearing the Darcy crest. He was unconscious, but no one else was aware of that fact. He was driving up the road to Pemberly, to home . . .
He was standing outside Netherfield, about to board his carriage. It was very early; the sun had barely risen and the morning fog still lay over the land. 'So you mean to say that you deceived me?'
'I do, Bingley. And I am sorry for it. It was presumptuous of me to assume that Jane was a fortune hunter who did not care for you. As I said, this horrible misconception has since been corrected, and I have sound information that she loved you, and still loves you.'
'So I have your blessing?'
'Do you need my blessing?'
'No, but I should like to have it all the same. . .'
Again he was in a carriage driving up to Pemberly, but now he was not alone. Elizabeth was by his side. In fact, no, she was not by his side, she was leaning on him, with his arm around her shoulder and her head resting on his chest. They were both sound asleep. Their hands were clasped, each with a gold band on the ring finger . . .
He and Elizabeth were in the nursery at Pemberly. Elizabeth was sitting in an armchair, while he was crouching beside her. In her arms was a bundle, a baby, their baby.
'Darling, I was named Fitzwilliam for my mother's family. My parents wanted me to have a unique name that would reflect my ancestry, my heritage. I would like to do the same for our son.'
'You wish to call him Bennet?' He nodded. 'For his combined heritage, yours and mine. For my family, and for yours . . .'
He and Elizabeth were sitting in twin armchairs before the fire in their London townhouse. In his lap was their baby, Edward. Elizabeth was holding two-year-old Emma. On the floor were Bennet, Anne and Sarah. He stretched out his hand to Elizabeth, and she took it, giving a gentle squeeze and that smile that he had come to love so much. . .
He was at Pemberly, ageing with dusty grey hair. He had his arm around his wife, who, to him, was still as beautiful as that day at the Meryton Assembly hall, where he had called her tolerable, only to realise that she was in fact the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He reminded her of this, and she laughed, that bright, fresh laugh that she had retained even after Edward had died. How he loved her! She drew his attention to the window, looking out on the lawn directly in front of the house. She pointed to Emma, walking with Richard Bingley, her fiancÚ of half-an-hour. They were about to give away their last child, their baby . . .
He was walking down the path behind Pemberly House, alone. It was
winter, with a crusty layer of snow crackling on the ground with each of his steps. His shoulders were hunched, and he looked like someone with nothing left to give. The path passes through a line of fir trees, and into the Darcy family graveyard. He walked to the back, down the middle, and stopped at a fresh grave. He leaned down and placed a single, withered rose on his wife's eternal resting place. He sat down on the stoned in front of the grave, and doubled over sobbing. He cried until he could cry no more, then he lay down at her feet, and fell into a sleep from which he never awoke. . .
The first thing Darcy was aware of was the pounding of his head. He put a hand to the crown of is head and felt a bump rising. He thought of what he had seen. Some of the scenes he remembered, others he recognised instinctively. His life. His past, his present, his future.
He glanced out the window of the carriage, only to see Elizabeth, with a gentleman an a lady, exiting the house. His house. Pemberly. He would have plenty of time for contemplation as to what he had seen later. Right now, if he ever wanted the visions of his future to become a reality, he would have to act. Greet Elizabeth Show her how he had changed. Prove that he still loved her.
He called for the driver to stop the carriage, and immediately exited to greet her. By the time the Gardiners and Elizabeth left, his headache was so intense that he could scarcely recall where his room was, let alone any vague dreams. But as he lay down on his bed, images of Elizabeth filling his mind, he tried to recall his visions, and could not. But he was filled with a sense of comfort, of confidence, that he and Elizabeth would be together. From within his soul, he knew she was his destiny. His past, his present, his future.