Author’s Note: This is the epilogue to Darcy and Fitzwilliam – Parenthood, which is currently a work in progress.Posted on 2011-01-25
The sunsets were magnificent in Rome; no two were ever alike but each and every one possessed jeweled colors splashed across the Eternal City, the emeralds, reds, violets all contrasting with white marble and the majestic vision of the ancients. The newly elevated Cardinal gazed, still in awe at the sight, as the lowering sun just stroked the horizon.
"Your Grace?" An earnest young assistant knocked softly on the open door. "Your Grace, are you ready to leave; the Cardinals are beginning to assemble."
"Pardon? Oh, yes; fine, Father Robert; thank you. I'll be right along."
The youthful priest hesitated for a moment then walked over to join his superior, smiling warmly up at the tall man. Something was causing the brilliant theologian to be uncharacteristically quiet and withdrawn. The assistant searched for the proper words, his English rusty still. "Do you do this each evening, Your Grace - watch the sunset? Perhaps you had been too busy to watch the sun set in England, no?" He was still in awe of this newest member of the College of Cardinals - Edward Cardinal Fitzwilliam had been well spoken of, was known as ambitious, hard working, personable, and happily enjoying the notoriety that came with being the first Catholic Cardinal from England in many years.
"Oh, yes, Father Robert. At my home in the north of England we would often all gather on the shore and watch the sun going down. It was always great fun – a huge crowd. There were nine of us children when all were home, plus nannies and nurses and Mama and Da. I remember as a child that at the very moment the sun would seem to touch the water my father would make a loud hissing sound, as if that scorching hot orb had actually touched the cold ocean. We all giggled at that." He smiled wistfully and looked over at his aid. "It was a happy family silliness."
"You are close to your family, I think." The young man turned toward a faded calotype picture hanging on the wall; it showed a huge family standing upon the steps of a very famous home in England – Pemberley. The image was of a wedding party with rows of elegantly dressed people looking serious and formal. "Are you in this picture, Your Grace?"
"Talbot himself took this." The Cardinal walked over and smiled, then pointed at the blurry figure of an imp in the front. "There I am, couldn't stand still long enough for the picture to be taken; you needed to stand motionless for more than a few moments in those days. I was a horrid little brat, spoiled terribly by my mother and father and everyone else for that matter - perfect training for the priesthood."
The younger priest smiled. "You seem to be a little sad. Is everything well?"
The Cardinal's lips thinned; his hands clasped behind him. "You are very perceptive, Father Robert. As a matter of fact I just received rather bad news from home – my uncle has just passed; my favorite uncle. He was ninety years old, can you imagine. I would tell him, 'Uncle Wills, how wonderful that you have lived so long' and he would incline his head very proudly and smile."
"Is he in this old photograph?"
"Yes." The Cardinal removed the picture carefully from the wall then pointed to two men standing in the background. One was an elegant, slender, dark haired gentleman, very handsome and distinguished. He stood beside a more robust, rough looking fellow with twinkling eyes, a crooked smile, and unruly, wild looking hair. The slightly taller man had his arm draped casually, in some ways protectively, over the shoulder of the more elegant one. "That is my late uncle. Sir Fitzwilliam Darcy. One of the finest men I have ever known. And that wild looking rogue next to him is my father, his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam, Duke of Beucclich."
The young priest studied the picture carefully and grinned. "They looked nothing like each other. I would never guess them to be related at all."
"No, they looked nothing alike and their personalities were complete opposites. They differed in temperament, politics, even religion - my father converted to Catholicism before I was born. But they stood as brothers their whole lives, loved each other as brothers. 'Thicker than thieves' as my father would say."
"Where was this calotype taken?"
"This was taken at a double wedding - my older brother Harry – here he is - was married to Uncle Wills daughter, Alice. And then my sister Catherine – here – was married to Uncle Wills son Georgie. Very confusing, no? The aristocracy thought nothing about cousins' marrying in those days and actually Harry was not a blood relation to Alice, he was from my mother's first marriage; but, Catherine and Georgie were second cousins." A sad look passed quickly across his face. "And here is my mother. Wasn't she lovely? She bore nine children, two sets of twins. And this charming woman beside her was my Auntie Eliza. 'Lizzy Bennet' my Uncle Wills would often call her, especially when he was angry with her, even when they were quite old. 'Lizzy Bennet, what have you done now?' She passed on a year ago; his health failed quickly after that. My own parents died only months apart from each other about five years ago. I loved them all dearly; miss them all dreadfully."
"Are your brothers and sisters still alive?"
"Oh yes, all are still alive, scattered around the world; all married and grandparents. My brother Matt is now the Duke, my other brother Mark a Marquis. I'm leaving for there next week. Another wedding; in fact, a rather special wedding for us all. The bride is my brother Harry's…secret granddaughter. Christina. Actually the Archbishop of Canterbury will be performing the service. I'm just family for a change; probably do a christening or two while I'm there. With such a large family someone's always with child; just want to share my brother's joy as it were. He was never able to acknowledge the girl's mother as his own child. To the outside world he's just a dear family friend. This is all very confidential, you understand."
"Perfectly, Your Grace."
A knock on the door brought the gentle reminder that the Cardinal would soon be late for Holy Thursday services. He nodded to the messenger. "I'll just hang this picture back on the wall." He hesitated; looking at the images, remembering the past always was bittersweet. He moved slowly, his thoughts dwelling on long forgotten memories.
He suddenly laughed.
"We had these great family theatricals as I was growing up. I wanted to be an actor very badly you know, loved to be on stage and the center of attention; another preparation for holy orders evidently." He fingered the picture tenderly. "I never did give my great speech at this wedding," he said softly.
"What speech was that, Your Grace?"
"What? Oh, we did Midsummer's Night Dream that day. I was Puck and I was very good too. Shall I say my speech finally, for you?"
The young priest smiled and nodded.
Teddie's eyes grew suddenly moist, his gaze drifting from parent to parent, from uncle to aunt.
"'If we shadows have offended," he began quietly,
Think on this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumb'red here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding than a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend,
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.'"