Posted on Sunday, 1 July 2007
It wasn't until little Fitzy was born, as his mother calls him, that the Darcys finally heard once again from her great ladyship, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Though after all, there wasn't that great a time lapse between her ladyship's last visit to Elizabeth Bennet at Longbourn and the birth of Elizabeth Darcy's son, Fitzwilliam Darcy III.
After Jane and Lizzy wedded Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, respectively, they all took a honeymoon tour of the continent together. The two couples spent a full three months enjoying each other's society exclusively, without any interfering relatives to spoil their amusements in the great cities of Europe. Like all rich young men newly and passionately in love, Bingley and Darcy bought, or tried to buy, every object and piece of clothing that Jane and Lizzy happened to remark on, no matter how casual the remarks may have been. As a consequence, when the young couples returned to England they brought half of Europe's niceties with them.
Three months after their return, the ladies each announced to her husband, only after confiding it first to each other of course, that she was expecting. Both young men in turn sent their swiftest messengers out directly in the direction of each other's estates. These messengers happened to run into each other very near the half-way point between the two estates, which was a great help in expediently increasing the young mens' joy that much more.
Six months later Lizzy had her son and Jane brought Elizabeth Bingley into the world. Caroline Bingley, Mr. Bingley's youngest and still unmarried sister, was now all smiles and politeness to Lizzy in public, but it was rumored by the servants that to her elder married sister---Mrs. Hurst, Caroline railed out her true feelings about the name of her brother's first daughter and all other ladies who have ever had the misfortune to be named Elizabeth. It is rumored that once she even went so far as to disrespect the great Queen herself.
Lizzy was inwardly aware of her sister-in-law's feelings, of course. She could always see through Caroline Bingley, but she repeated to herself many times, with great forbearance I might add, that she would try very, very hard never to triumph over Caroline's mortification at the name of their niece.
Little Fitzy was just a little over a year and a half when Mr. Darcy received a word from his aunt disclosing her intended arrival, which happened to be the very evening of the day he received her letter. The note had only been sent on ahead as Lady Catherine always loved causing a stir. After Darcy opened and read this letter from his aunt, he got up and walked out of his office, the letter still in his hand, his other papers left unopened and forgotten on his desk for the moment. He strode down the hallway calling for his housekeeper, who hurried to him wondering what the matter was.
"Where are Mrs. Darcy and Miss Georgiana?" He asked walking towards his housekeeper as she entered the hall.
"They went into the Lady's garden after breakfast sir," she said with a look of growing curiosity on her face.
"Thank you, Mrs. Fossit." Returned Darcy with a wry smile and headed off immediately with Mrs. Fossit calling to his retreating back: "Is anything the matter sir?"
"No, no," Darcy called over his shoulder, "nothing the matter at all. Oh, but Mrs. Fossit," said Darcy, pausing for a moment at the doorway, "we shall be expecting an important guest tonight for dinner. See that the appropriate arrangements are made."
"Yes sir," replied Mrs. Fossit to her master's retreating back, and walked off thinking that the king must be stopping by for a visit.
It was late spring and the weather had been wonderful so far this year. Darcy found his wife and sister sitting with his son on a blanket that was spread beneath a huge old oak tree on the west side of a garden that Lizzy had claimed for her own when she became mistress of Pemberley. Georgiana was playing with Little Fitzy in her lap while Lizzy read to them, from one of the silly novels that she was so fond of no doubt.
As Darcy walked towards them, both ladies looked up from their occupations and little Fitzy squealed with delight, reaching out his chubby little arms and hands for his beloved pappa.
Whenever Darcy laid eyes on his young son, the graveness he usually carries on his face vanishes from his countenance, replaced completely by a look of baffled joy. Lizzy, her eyes sparkling at her husband's familiar reaction to their son, sat up a little from her lounging position. Her belly was just beginning to show the next present she had in store for her darling Darcy.
"Well hello my love," she greeted her husband smiling. "Pray, what's that you have clenched there in your hand, sir?"
Darcy, who had completely forgotten about Lady Catherine's immanent arrival as soon as his son began trying to get up and waddle towards him, looked up from the child he now held in his arms and gave his wife the same wry smile with which he had favored Mrs. Fossit.
"Here Eliza, my dear," he said as he scooped his son up with one arm and walked towards his wife, extending his other arm out to hand her the letter, slightly crumpled from his romp with little Fitzy.
"It seems we are to have a visitor this evening," said Lizzy, chuckling to herself as she perused the letter.
"Is it anyone I know?" Georgiana asked, looking enquiringly at her older brother.
"Indeed it is Georgiana," said Darcy, squatting to set his squirming son down on his feet to practice his balancing skills. "Our mother's sister shall be dining with us this evening and perhaps even our Cousin Anne, though Lady Catherine wasn't explicit. What think you, Eliza dear?" He said turning to his wife.
Now Lizzy, who had just finished the letter, was practically bursting with suppressed mirth, the giggles breaking out all over her countenance and through her sparkling eyes.
"All I ask of you, my love, is that you let me send for Jane and Bingley, for I am always able to keep my wicked tongue under better regulation when I have Jane's goodness there to censure me."
"Oh Eliza!" exclaimed Georgiana, who had picked up the habit of calling her new sister Eliza after her brother, who just couldn't stomach calling the woman he worshipped by such an unsophisticated name as Lizzy. "I've never heard you say a wicked thing in my life!"
Lizzy finally laughed outright at this, then leaning over to her sister by marriage, now as dear to her as any of her sisters by blood, and turning her sparkling eyes towards her husband, she said: "That's because, my dear sister, you've never seen me in the company of Lady Catharine de Bourgh. Ask your brother, he can attest to my occasional lack of propriety with his aunt."
Darcy, who had allowed himself to be tackled to the ground by his young son, laughingly looked up and remarked to his sister: "I wonder, Georgiana, if you and I shall ever get used to this teasing manner of our dear Eliza. In truth, I believe we should all be hard pressed to keep our countenances respectfully serious tonight at supper if Eliza gave full reign to her wit."
Lizzy laughed even harder at this.
"I swear to both of you upon my honor that I shall not tease Lady Catharine a jot if you'll only let me send for Jane."
Lizzy leaned over towards Darcy to kiss her son's head which was snuggled up underneath her husband's chin, and looked up at him, biting her lower lip.
"Indeed my love, you cannot but desire your dear friend's presence any less than I do my dear sister's."
"Indeed my love," returned Darcy, kissing his wife on the temple, "I cannot refuse you anything."
And so the Bingley's were invited to Pemberley for the evening, and much in the habit of visiting rather regularly, as the Bingley's estate was within quite an easy distance, they happily accepted the invitation.
At last, the moment was come. All the company, except the guest of honor, was gathered in the drawing room; Lizzy, Jane, and Georgiana sat together on one sofa, with Lizzy in the middle so she could be supported by both her sisters. Bingley sat in an armchair across and to the right of the three young ladies, his charming, wanting-to-please smile ever ready upon his lips, and Darcy stood at the fireplace in his accustomed pose, one foot on the grate and one arm resting on the mantle piece. Every one was a little subdued this night due to the sense of nervous anticipation that permeated the air around them. All at once the quiet was broken by a maid opening the door and announcing Lady Catharine de Bourgh.
And there, indeed, was Lady Catharine, sweeping into the room stiffly jeweled and laced; her eyebrows arched as her eyes quickly took stock of the company present. Everyone stood up at her entrance. Lizzy felt more than a little nervous until she saw the kind smiles that beamed from the faces of her sister and Bingley and the little trembling she felt from Georgiana at her side helped her courage rise as her husband stepped forward from the fireplace to greet his aunt.
"Welcome to Pemberley Aunt Catharine." He said with a dutiful bow.
"Well," said Lady Catharine, who sat down immediately in a large armchair with a stiff flourish, "you act as if I've never been here before in my life, nephew; as if it was not my own sister who was the last mistress here." She gave Lizzy a pointed look as she said this.
Lizzy felt the color rise in her face, but her dear husband would keep this meeting that was taking place in his house under his control, and he stepped forward to introduce the Bingleys to his aunt.
"Lady Catharine, this is my good friend Mr. Bingley, you may have heard me mention him before, and his wife Mrs. Bingley, and of course you remember your niece Georgiana and my own wife Elizabeth." At this last, Lady Catharine turned her countenance fully towards Darcy with a very arch, very displeased look.
"Yes, yes, well I've come to see the child. Where is my grand nephew? I am prodigious about getting to the point of the matter, you know. I never waste time with idle pleasantries, even with family and so advise all worth my attention to follow my example."
Her ladyship then proceeded to give a lengthy lecture to the company about the virtues of being brief and direct about one's purpose while Georgiana got up and rather scampered to the wall to pull the corded, golden rope that would ring for the nurse to bring in the children. Darcy returned to his station at the fireplace as Georgiana returned to her seat.
"Georgiana, you have grown quite tall. I declare, I should hardly know you," said Lady Catharine. "Come and give your aunt a kiss and a proper welcome."
Georgiana did as she was bid but she quickly re-took her seat next to her new sisters and Lady Catherine looked less than pleased. At that moment the nurses arrived with their charges.
"What's this!?" exclaimed Lady Catharine, "You said nothing of twins!"
"This little angle belongs to me, mum." Said Jane mildly as the nurses handed their squirming handfuls over to their mothers.
Little Elizabeth Bingley looked quite pleased and comfortable to be with her mother amidst mostly familiar faces. At Lady Catharine, she stared openly in quiet wonder. Little Fitzy, on the other hand, had caught sight of his father almost immediately after entering the room and now he held out his chubby little arms exclaiming, "Pappa! Pappa!" while trying to squirm down from his mother's lap, totally oblivious to his great aunt who held him in her hawk's gaze.
"Fitzwilliam." Lady Catharine said suddenly and stopped little Fitzy in his tracks, halfway to the safety of his father's legs. He turned wobbly and looked in the direction of the voice which had startled him so.
"Come here my dear and meet your great aunt." Lady Catharine ordered, as she held out a stiff arm crawling with lace and jewels.
At one and a half years old a young boy's world is extremely limited and when faced with anything strange, and therefore frightening, their first instinct is to run to their mother, and that is exactly what little Fitzy did here. He toddled as fast as he could for his mother's seated form and as he was still very unsteady on his feet, he was brought to a halt by smacking his forehead on one of Lizzy's knees, landing with a thump on his bottom at his mother's feet. He of course began to wail and this seemed to break the tension of the whole room. Lizzy lifted her little son on to her lap and kissed his forehead and both of his young aunts proceeded to make a fuss over him. Lady Catharine seemed the only person in the room not smiling and laughing over how cute the whole little episode was. Darcy came over and lifted him out of his mother's lap.
"William." Darcy said to his son, for that was the name his father addressed him by. "William you're all right aren't you? There's a good boy, now dry your tears for your pappa."
This did dry his tears, for already in his young life he was very eager to please this great tall man who was his hero.
"Pappa," he said reassuringly, as if to comfort himself.
"Yes I am," answered Darcy, walking with him towards where Lady Catharine was seated, "and this is your great aunt."
When he reached the side of Lady Catherine's chair, Darcy knelt down on one knee, bringing his son to eye level with his aunt.
"Say hello, William," said Darcy hopefully but sternly.
Little Fitzy looked from his father to his great aunt and back again, then, screwing up his face with effort, he looked directly at his father and said, "Hullo."
At this, the whole room erupted into laughter and even Lady Catharine was caught up in the moment and smiled at the child who was now giggling joyfully, very pleased with himself for causing such merriment in the room, and continued saying, "Pappa! Pappa!" over and over again.
"No matter how many words he learns, Pappa continues to be his absolute favorite." Lizzy broke in laughingly.
Lady Catharine was much softened by the moment and even went so far as to say,
"He is a dear child, though he looks nothing like my side of the family to be sure. He must have more Darcy in his blood than anything else for he looks just like his father. Now Georgiana, she reminds me more and more of my dear sister the older she gets."
And the rest of the time before dinner was served passed smoothly from then on. The Bingleys were to stay the night and they were all to attend church together the next morning.
Now it so happened that Lizzy's father, Mr. Bennet, liked to drop in on the Darcy's unexpectedly, whenever the fancy took him and time allowed. And it also happened that Mr. Bennet had been informed by Mr. Collins that Lady Catharine would be making her grand appearance at Pemberley this very week to finally bestow her divine forgiveness on her errant nephew, and was planning on staying for a good two or three days to also bestow her indispensable advice about housekeeping and motherhood on her errant nephew's wife. As Mr. Bennet had always had a great curiosity to see this personage, he made sure to arrive at Pemberley just in time for dinner that Monday. Lizzy, though always happy to see her father, did not rejoice in his unexpected appearance as usual.
"Why Pappa," said Lizzy as she greeted him in the entrance hall, after being privately informed of his arrival by a servant. "What a surprise to see you, though I'm sure I can already guess your reason for visiting," she finished off with a wry chuckle, then she led him towards the drawing room where Darcy, his sister, and his great aunt were all seated.
"Well my dear," Mr. Bennet said as he drew his favorite daughter's arm through his own, his eyes twinkling with merriment in the same way his daughter's often do. "To tell you the truth, I thought I might take advantage of your husband's trout streams, as the season for trout fishing is upon you up here in the north."
"Trout fishing! Indeed, Pappa." Lizzy said with another chuckle.
As soon as they entered, Darcy stepped forward to welcome his father-in-law and then turned to introduce Mr. Bennet to his aunt. Lady Catharine looked at him, secure in her archness, and barely nodded her acknowledgement. She was completely unaware that the colder and more prideful she acted, the more pleasure she was actually giving to Mr. Bennet.
"You are just in time for dinner, Mr. Bennet," said Darcy. "You'll join us of course."
"Thank you as always, Mr. Darcy, for your superior hospitality."
And with that, the whole party moved into the dining room.
The usual order at the Darcy table was this: Mr. Darcy at the head, of course, with his wife on his right, his sister on his left and the remaining chairs for visitors. Lizzy, who really had a peaceful heart in her, acted remarkably by resigning her accustomed place at the table to her Ladyship. Instead, she seated herself across from her father. This act of deference created a look of disappointment from her father, but that disturbed Lizzy not a bit since it had already awarded her looks of loving pride from her husband. Lady Catharine, of course, took the seat at Darcy's right as if it was her due. The meal started off well with Lady Catharine able to talk solely to her niece and nephew, while Lizzy caught up on the news from Meryton with her father.
Soon however, Mr. Bennet's attention was arrested too often by Lady Catharine's words for Lizzy to continue her inquiries with any success.
Lady Catharine was giving a lecture to her niece about properly scheduling activities for her day.
"Mornings, my dear, should be for reading and practicing music. A lady should never be outside in the gardens before lunch, or you shall catch cold. I advise my very own daughter not to leave her rooms until at least noon."
Here Mr. Bennet broke into the conversation.
"And what, pray, is your advice about a young lady being out in the evenings, Lady Catharine, if you don't mind my asking?"
This earned Mr. Bennet an arch look, but Lady Catharine is one who is always pleased to have her opinions solicited and so answered him with all seriousness.
"Mr. Bennet, I have particular knowledge of the lax methods with which your daughters were raised and so have a great pleasure in being able to impart some wisdom which perhaps you may share with your wife for the care of your two remaining unmarried daughters. I advise you to make sure that your daughters do not venture out any time after dinner, and if they have been out already that day, you must be sure and make them take a rest in their rooms before and after tea or they shall become fatigued and young ladies are always more susceptible to ailments if they are fatigued."
"Lady Catharine I am in complete agreement with you," returned Mr. Bennet, his eyes sparkling in a way that reminded Darcy of his own dear wife. "Ladies should all stay in their apartments at least till noon, only to be let out, if at all, for a short outing in the early afternoon, after which they should be returned promptly and only let out again for tea and dinner. What a blessing would the world would be if societies at large were to follow your example, and I'm sure I can safely speak on behalf of all men. I assure you, Lady Catharine, I will certainly bring this advice most heartily to my wife, and recommend it for the regulation of her own schedule as well as that of her two silly daughters."
Lady Catharine, who was used to her opinions being taken as gospel, looked a little confused at the manner in which Mr. Bennet agreed with her, but since he did indeed agree she was satisfied enough to continue, secure in the belief of her own wisdom and importance. Lizzy quickly hid her smile behind her napkin, but her father saw her color rise and gave her one of his winks. At this Lizzy was forced to begin coughing in order to hide the laughter that had bubbled to the surface beyond her control.
Georgiana, not aware of Mr. Bennet's humor nor its effect on her sister, looked with alarm at Lizzy and even went so far as to timidly enquire if Lizzy were quite all right.
Lizzy took a drink of water and glared as seriously as she could at her father over the rim of the glass.
"I am fine, I assure you," she said quietly, smoothing the napkin back on her lap. "Thank you Georgiana dear, I just choked a little on a fish bone, that is all."
"You must have been eating your food too fast Miss Elizabeth," said Lady Catharine, who refused to address her nephew's wife by her married name.
"A Lady, Georgiana," she said, addressing her niece, "must always act with the utmost patience in all things. My daughter and I are the most patient creatures in England and that is only from determination and much practice, I assure you."
Again Mr. Bennet applauded her for her wisdom and inquired what exorcises she and her daughter used to practice patience, again with the pretence of passing the knowledge on to his own wife and daughters of course. To this Lady Catharine answered vaguely. She had not any actual exorcises in mind when she had made her statement earlier and so attempted to turn the conversation to music while turning her head to address her nephew and niece exclusively.
Mr. Bennet again gave Lizzy a wink, which prompted her to do her best to keep him entirely occupied in conversation with her about Longbourn and her sisters for the rest of the meal, and she was successful for the most part since Jane did her utmost to help.
After coffee and tea were served in the parlor, Lady Catharine announced her intention of retiring directly to her rooms and advised Georgiana to follow her example so persistently that the young lady could broke no argument.
Darcy, Lizzy Jane, Bingley and Mr. Bennet were then happily left to the comfort of their own intimate circle and superior conversation. Darcy, who also had to struggle a little to keep a sober face throughout dinner, was finally able to relax and enjoy the never ending amount of witticisms that constantly flow between his wife and father-in-law when they are together.