Posted on Saturday, 30 August 2003, at 2:14 p.m.
Life goes on. In good times and in bad. In plenty and in poverty. In health and in illness. In love and in loneliness. In joy and in grief. In prosperity and in trouble. In hope and despair. Life goes on.
Life goes on. Indeed it did, unfortunately. No matter what happened. Irrespective of what fate had to throw at you. Completely independent of how you may feel about it. Without consideration to whether life may even still be worth living. Life goes on.
That simple statement had become Fitzwilliam Darcy's mantra in the last several months. It was only the slow and steady repetition of that phrase that enabled him to even drag himself out of bed in the morning. The weight of his conscience was so oppressive that the only desire he had was to hide, to run, to disappear. And while life did go on, it could only be half a life if Elizabeth was not a part of it.
Until only last week, Darcy had been regretting her loss most acutely. It was his own fault, he knew that. He prided himself on his self-control, his civility, his unwavering principles. True, his principles had never waned, but neither had his self-control, to his detriment. Hindsight was always perfect, of course. Now he could easily see that his self-control had caused him to build an even higher wall around himself after Ramsgate, to no-one's benefit, least of all his own. Georgiana had suffered acutely from the lack of meaningful attention. Bingley had suffered acutely from his overzealous attention. Elizabeth had suffered acutely from his misplaced attention. All in all, he had managed to alienate the very people he needed most in his life.
And until last week, his focus had remained on regrets. He regretted neglecting Georgiana, he regretted misleading Bingley, he regretted hurting Elizabeth, he regretted neglecting his tenants. But for a man as intelligent as himself, and while he knew he had many faults, he also knew lack of brainpower was not one of them, it had taken him an awfully long time to realise that regrets could not correct the past. Nothing could do that. But they could corrupt the present, and destroy the future. And while life would indeed go on irrespective, only he could make sure he had a real part in it.
And so it was that he invited Bingley and his sisters to join himself and Georgiana at Pemberly. Darcy had decided that he would tell Bingley the truth, but procrastinated, convincing himself that it was best done on his own estate, although even he could not find the logic in that. He returned a day early to sort out the mounting pile of problems among the tenants. And on his solitary ride, he was able to finally feel within his soul that his life was going on.
Once he had accustomed himself to carrying on with the present, it was a relatively easy jump to think of the future. Bingley would certainly return to Netherfield once he believed that there was a chance that Jane might love him, and provided he wasn't too angry at the interference, Darcy might just be able to join him. And of course, thoughts of Hertfordshire automatically led him onto thoughts of Elizabeth.
One of the things that Darcy knew with his very being was that he loved Elizabeth Bennet, and that he always would. Whether she could ever love him in return was an entirely different story. Although with such an inducement, and having already made some sort of a start in acknowledging her reproofs and their validity, Darcy was fairly confident that he would be able to change his behaviour, in effect, return to who he was before Ramsgate. He would start now with the occupants of the carriage he could se at the top of the drive. He knew that no form of civility required him to attend to members of the public viewing his home, but if he wanted to ever be worthy of being Elizabeth's husband, it was as good a place as any to start.
Besides, even if Elizabeth did not agree to marry him, at least he would honestly be able to say that loving her had made him a better man. At that he caught himself. He turned the thought over in his mind. And again. That, more than anything else, convinced him that he had a chance. If he could understand, having the depth of feeling for her that he did, that love was about becoming the best person you could be, then certainly he was already well on the way to becoming that person. And as he again resolved to be utterly civil to the visitors currently in his home, he again thought of his mantra. Life goes on.
And with that turning over and over in his mind, he exited his carriage in order to greet his unknown guests. And completely forgot it on witnessing who the visitors were. The part of his mind that had been telling him that 'life goes on' now changed its tune, prodding him with the idea that this was his chance. Not one to be slow on the uptake, Darcy moved over to Elizabeth to greet her.
All through the saga with Wickham and Lydia, Darcy had once again returned to the mantra. It was all he could do to force himself to carry out this task that he had set himself. After all, was he not doing this for Elizabeth? He constantly thought about her improved attitude towards him in Derbyshire. He was working so hard to become a man who was worthy of her love, and this was just another duty necessary for that to be accomplished.
And when Bingley returned to Netherfield, Darcy returned with him, and resolved to be the perfect gentleman that Elizabeth had once thought he was incapable of being. His mantra became a prayer; a plea that life would go on, with Elizabeth at his side. There was only one way to ensure that.
So when he and Bingley visited Longbourne, rather than sit in a corner and observe Jane, as would have been his first strategy, Darcy exerted himself to arrange a conversation between Bingley, Jane, Elizabeth and himself. That way he would be able to observe Jane as well as engage Elizabeth in conversation. And he was delighted with his conclusion. While, when he actually bothered to look, it was easily possible to discern Jane's regard for Bingley, he could also see signs that Elizabeth cared for him. So, feeling bold from this new understanding, he jumped at the opportunity when Mrs Bennet suggested they all walk out.
As Bingley and Jane easily separated, Darcy found himself becoming nervous. He began repeating his mantra. Life goes on. When Elizabeth spoke, it caught him a little off guard. She was only asking about his sister, but that opened the gateway to conversation. He asked how the family at Longbourne had been since her trip to Derbyshire. Her answer was simple, yet to him it was everything.
'Life goes on.'
With that one statement, Darcy was liberated. Everything slipped into sharp focus. The entire chain became clear. He could see that it was fate that had prompted him at Hunsford, fate that had returned him to Pemberly a day early, and fate that was encouraging him now.
When Elizabeth said that she loved him, Darcy's heart soared higher than he could ever imagine. And he understood, with absolute clarity, that there was a Force guiding this world, and because of that, life would always go on.
Darcy had that mantra engraved on their wedding bands. The understanding that the Darcys had come to on the day of their engagement served them well for the years that were to come. When Elizabeth miscarried for the first time, it helped them deal with the grief. When Wickham died young, it helped them console Lydia. When Mr Bennet passed away, it helped them overcome the numerous problems. Every new challenge, problem and grief was dealt with in the same way. After all, it had brought them together so it would bring them through. Through their lives they lived by their love and their understanding. Life goes on.