Friday, March 10, 2006

Left to Follow

Mr Darcy,

I am certain you will understand, given the occurrences of last evening, why I feel obliged to pay a visit to my father and mother. My father is in very poor health and wishes to see his grandson before either of them dies. We should both be back at Pemberley on the ninth of May.

I remain, your obedient wife


Her parents welcomed her home with open, if startled, arms. Her father — who had grown to like her husband in spite of himself — instantly asked, “I hope Mr Darcy is well?”

“Very well,” she said dully. Her father’s eyebrows raised; he could hardly believe the pale, shrinking creature before him was his daughter. Yet she had fled Pemberley, which she had loved from the first time she’d seen it, fled her husband — who by all accounts she was very fond of — and come here, begging refuge. The sight of his proud daughter begging had nearly reduced him to tears, not to mention the pale, eerily quiet bundle in her arms. She had stolen the heir to Pemberley into the bargain; her son as well as Darcy’s, but there were few who would look at it that way. Nevertheless, she was his daughter, and he gladly welcomed her back into their home.

“Why have you come, child?” She had been the baby of the family for several years, and he had never stopped thinking of her as his baby; perhaps because she had always been closer to him, and to her elder sister, than anyone else in the family. He felt his heart breaking as he looked at her, eyes blank and face ashen. Her child could not be more than six weeks old, and he knew from her one letter that parenthood was already a bittersweet experience; she fiercely loved her son, but he had been born so early, and he was so frail. Even the most hopeful did not expect him to live more than a few years, and she herself had nearly died in the birth.

“I’m sorry, papa,” she said, dark eyes wide and dry. “I didn’t know — it was so awful — I —” she stared down at her hands. “I think I shall be able to forgive him this, and go back; just not now. After everything that had happened; we had a dreadful quarrel before it happened, and I didn’t know he was still with her —” She looked up at him desperately. “You do not blame me?”

“Oh, no,” he assured her instantly, briefly imagining the tortures he would like to subject his son-in-law to — although it briefly crossed his mind as peculiar that it should be Darcy, easily his favourite among his sons-in-law (although he had no objections to his eldest child’s husband, except that he was rather spineless), who had committed this all too common transgression. Even Catherine’s stodgy husband had seemed more likely. Darcy was proud, and honourable, and even kind; but he supposed all men could make mistakes. Suddenly, he intensely wished that he had more strenuously opposed the marriage; he had really made no more than a token objection, after her reassurances of affection for the man. And it was by all accounts an excellent match.

His wife fussed over their daughter and grand-son, had her rooms made ready, and called for a nurse. She had had the foresight, despite her distress, to bring a wet-nurse with her (a grim-faced martinent reminiscent of his fearsome childhood governess), and handed the now quietly crying child over to her. “I’m sorry, Sarah, to bring you into this.”

“It’s quite all right,” Sarah said sternly, taking the child out of his daughter’s arms. She looked decidedly reluctant to be parted from him, and Sarah added, “We must take care of the young master, madam. Wouldn’t do to have him catching something, now would it?”

She smiled wanly. “No, of course not. You’ll take care of him?”

“Of course, ma'am.” Sarah had been her maid as a young girl, and had gone to Derbyshire with her upon her marriage. There was no doubting her devotion, naturally, but he was still rather uneasy until she had left the room.

“Have you heard from Catherine, papa?”

He smiled. “Yes, she has settled into married life very comfortably; more comfortably than her husband, I daresay, who accedes to her every command. They have a little daughter, not much older than your own -- ” He frowned. “To think I don’t know the name of my own grandson. What did you call him?”

“I thought to name him after you, papa,” said she, with a sweet smile, “and Mr Darcy did not protest.”

“Edward?” he asked thoughtfully. “My dear, I am more pleased, and flattered, than I can say.”

She laughed, for the first time since her arrival an hour earlier. “No, not Edward,” said Anne; “his name is Fitzwilliam.”


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