One of Fitzwilliam’s earliest memories is of a summer orchard. He himself, no more than five years of age, is gleefully collecting apples from throughout the grove, with the warm smiles of his now long dead parents pursuing him. Suddenly he falls, and skins his knee. With a childhood impertinence, he lashes out at those around him, bitterly casting blame on his own mother for his own carelessness. His father crouches down, and pins down his lashing arms. “Do not let yourself be consumed by such arrogance,” that deep voice lectures. “Be accepting of your own errors, and be modest of your own capacity.” These are phrases, of course, that such a child can barely comprehend; yet he stops and stares anyway, even at such an age being drawn into the orbit that surrounded that ever-generous man, the late William Darcy.
He wore a dark hat band five inches wide, to match his black cravat and gloves and the dark border that prominently adorned his letters and envelopes. It was the same manner of dress to which he had been accustomed for several months now, yet did not cease to seem peculiar whenever he glanced in a mirror. His sister, still not of age, was the only spot of brightness in a house that had been dulled in mourning, in the requisite grief that accompanied the passing of the head of the household. Now he was left alone, at three-and-twenty, with only a sister ten years his junior as a companion, and with alarming haste was to be burdened with the titles and duties of a high-born noble. The painted visage of William Darcy in the corner of the room was the only witness to that quiet grief of his son, dwarfed in the shadow of he who came before.
Those trickling streams flowing freely down his cheeks would be granted no relief.
“No! I don’t want a brother or a sister!”
The child of nine let out this proclamation with a stubborn set to his chin, indicating his unwillingness to capitulate. Unfortunately for him, such a matter was not one that the whims of a child could easily sway.
“Be good, child,” his father said with uncharacteristic sharpness. The boy stepped back with a sudden fear, but his mother reached out to gently steady him. “This is not a matter up for debate. You will have a sibling, and you will learn to love it.” With this final statement, his father turned away; Fitzwilliam seized the moment and broke out of his mother’s hold, breaking decorum to run down the hallway and out of sight. William Darcy moved to follow him, before sagging with a sigh of frustration. “Perhaps we have over-indulged him...”
“It’s something he will overcome in time, with the help of a steadying hand. You and I will guide him, and soon that child will grow to treat his sibling justly, the same as he treats the servants and your ward.” She smiled softly, as she lay a hand upon her stomach.
“I hope that you’re correct. Elsewise, we might be forced to treat him with a crueler hand than we would choose to...”
“Say, brother,” comes the hesitant voice of Georgiana. He looks up from his letters to give her his full attention, ever-careful to protect that fragile confidence so mercilessly trampled by his childhood companion, that dastardly George Wickham.
“Would it be possible for you to introduce me to Ms. Elizabeth Bennet, of whom you speak so fondly?” Her shaking hands are concealed behind her, as to not betray the steadiness of her resolve, yet they catch his eye despite that, and his pooling fondness is almost sufficient to drown out the shame of his miserable failure to propose to that object of his affections.
“I will endeavor to contrive such a meeting,” he promises her with a slight quirk of his lips, aware that he would trample on even those remaining tatters of his pride to help mend her turmoils. She smiles back at him, a warm, glowing thing, and thanks him with effusive sincerity.
He clenched his fists in bitterness yet again, at the sight of the perfect sculpt of familial harmony in front of him. George Wickham, that scoundrel, was almost glowing in happiness at the praise heaped upon him by Darcy’s father!-not his!-for his had already departed to Heaven, may God bless his soul.
Fitzwilliam breathed in, carefully, and tried to ignore the clenching feeling in his chest as he backed away from that idyll scene. It didn’t matter. After all, the other was merely a commoner boy, with no inheritance to his name, and the legitimate heir was him. It didn’t matter.
He hurried with quickened steps to his sister’s room, trying to evade his own self-doubt.
“With you having deprived me of the family living to which I was entitled against your gracious father’s own intention, the only option that remains to me is to make my fortune by marriage. Though I acknowledge that it was not merely Ms. Lydia Bennett’s childish fancy to blame for our current circumstance, I shall not squander my slight possibility of such a future, without a similar recompense from some avenue.” Though he kept a pleasant countenance, it was of no doubt what Wickham was insinuating, nor what twisted pleasure he was gaining from the anger steadily building on Darcy’s face.
“I must admit, I had hoped that your conduct would have improved some standard of moral decency in the interim of our meeting, but you truly have only become more disgraceful.”
Despite these bitter words, Darcy’s face held a certain resignation, knowing that he would be forced to relent, to give the man who squandered an inheritance and took such grevious liberties with his beloved sister an additional sum for the sake of the family from which the woman he was partial to hailed. It was his own pride and folly, after all, which had allowed such a distressing state of affairs to come about, and his own limited expectations which had been betrayed further by the impudence of George Wickham.
“Regardless, if you wish to continue, you may return with the ten thousand pounds you have pledged, no matter the contributor. Now, good day.” And with that, Wickham turned away; Darcy exited the room, feeling as if he had swallowed some bitter draught.
Truly, nothing could be as insufferable as to bow his head to someone such as that devil, Wickham.
Though the conduct and status of her family had held his passions in check for several months, he could no longer repress them. Foolishly, unfortunately, he held such an ardent admiration towards Ms. Elizabeth Bennet that no manner of logic could suppress it. Such were the feelings that had built up within him, till the point of overflowing—he could not help but propose to her. Yet at least, there was no possibility of a rejection towards one as far elevated from her as him. He held scarce doubts in his mind to her answer.
(......He was wrong.)
Elizabeth took a good, long look at her husband’s face; age had mellowed his features, while the silver in his hair added a dignified mien that was complemented by the wrinkles which now lined his face. Though age had taken its toll, Darcy remained as handsome as ever; she said as such out loud, adding a teasing tone when she mentioned how the ladies at society would surely hanker after him in the event of her inopportune passing.
He turned to her and said gravely, “Why, I believe the greatest commotion would be caused in the sake of my own end; for even without a title, I’m certain no one could mistake how far your beauty outstrips my own.” She laughed, he smiled, and they both continued their stroll to where their children were settled, all five of them reassembled in the garden after societal obligations had parted them for so long. They truly were the model of harmony, enveloped in marital bliss even thirty years past their marriage—engaged in a partnership built on honest affection and mutual trust, and free of those vices of jealousy, cruelty, and pride and prejudice.