Take the good with the bad
Lady Anne Darcy considered herself quite a fortunate woman. At the age of five and thirty, she had achieved every single one of her dreams. She had an attentive husband who loved her and treated her as an equal—a circumstance most unheard of among the ton—a kind and dutiful son, a sweet and generous little girl, a wonderful home, loyal servants and happy tenants. Indeed, there was nothing she lacked. As she walked the extensive grounds of her illustrious Pemberley, she reflected on her almost perfect life.
Now, at nine and forty, Lady Anne found herself in the most contemplative of moods which she attributed to the wisdom that comes with age and experience. In the last few years of meditation, she had only been able to find one cause for discontentment. When she came to Pemberley for the first time, after only having resigned to the name Lady Anne Fitzwilliam only the day before, she had watched the enormous manor in awe and decided—as her dear new husband, Mr. George Darcy, handed her down from the carriage—that she wanted to fill the house with their children. As incredible as her new home was, it certainly lacked life and laughter, something she promised herself she would make her goal. And what better way to bring life and laughter than with children? She had dreamt and, in her youthful wistfulness, resolved that a dozen children would do quite well indeed. It had not seemed such a fanciful yearning back then at one and twenty years of age, but then, after just having achieved what seemed impossible only a few years back, nothing appeared to be unfeasible.
She had longed for a love match and if said husband-to-be also had consequence and fortune the better, but she longed for love and respect. She had feared that her father, Lord Matlock, would not deem Mr. Darcy to be well-connected or wealthy enough. Mr. Darcy had an incredible manor, extensive grounds, many properties—including Pemberley in Derbyshire and Darcy House in London—and ten thousand a year; he lacked, however, the kind of connections his father was most interested in: he had no title and no intention of attaining one—although the Darcy name was quite prominent, respectable and ancient—and no political ties in the House of Lords. Lord Matlock would have wished for a more noble line, but the look of mutual affection in the eyes of both his favourite daughter and his prospective son-in-law softened the heart of the old Earl. Lady Anne knew that her father preferred her over her older brother, Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam—now Lord Matlock after their father's death—and over her older sister, Lady Catherine Fitzwilliam—now Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She was the baby of the family, and after exploring the very best that Almack had to offer, she was always dissatisfied with her findings: mercenary and avaricious men who saw her beauty, her thirty-thousand-pound dowry, and her status as the daughter of the Earl and Countess Matlock as her only value.
She had long believed she had an uncanny ability to see right through mercenary intentions. She had only been out in society for three years when she started relinquishing the idea of love. What had she to offer a gentleman but beauty, money and connections? She had believed herself to be a decent conversationalist, an attentive listener and a generous friend, but what did she know about pleasing a worthy man of the world? She had been quite disheartened for some time—a fact that her father might have noticed—when her dear George appeared. And what a sight had he been! In his perfectly cut and tailored dark suit and intricate cravat, with his dark curls and brown eyes, he had swept her off her feet to the dance floor where he charmed her with his wit and dry humour. And she had known, in the deepest part of her soul, that he was not interested in titles—he had enough power and influence to obtain one had he wished to—and he had no need for her fortune, which he promised later to use only to add to their daughters' dowry, should they have them. In her confusion—for why could possibly be his incentive if he had no wish for her connections and fortune?—she almost dismissed him as a potential suitor, only to realise weeks later that he was interested in her. Her! Little and naïve Annie, not Lady Anne Fitzwilliam, daughter of the prominent Lord and Lady Matlock. He wanted her, and the realisation almost left her breathless. Oh, he had faults aplenty! But a most generous and responsible master and landlord she had never seen! And she knew she would make the best and most loving of husbands and fathers.
Now, almost thirty years later, Lady Anne knew she had been right, and her only possible regret, in a life so full of love and happiness, was that she had not been able to give her wonderful husband the amount of life and laughter—that is to say, children—that she had previously dreamt of giving him. She had given him Fitzwilliam, of course, a little over a year after they had been united in matrimony. She had been ecstatic to present him with a strong healthy heir after only a year of marriage. Surely this was proof that they would be very blessed in the future! Little Fitzwilliam George Darcy had been born on a beautiful morning in 1783 after many hours of fatiguing labour, but nothing could ever replace the overwhelming happiness and joy she felt when holding her flushed-red screaming newborn baby boy in her arms. She knew that day that her sweet Fitzwilliam, her darling boy, would always own her heart. This delightful event was followed by many miscarriages that left her sorrowful and defeated. No matter how much George assured her that he was completely happy and satisfied with only having his needed heir to pass on his legacy, Anne had always felt she had failed her duty. Oh, she did not care for what the ton called "the spare". If something were to happen to Fitzwilliam, her life would be over. He was not replaceable! But she had longed for many children and her dream was evaporating right before her eyes. She had despaired of ever having another child. It was so unfair! They had the means to care for a dozen children were they so blessed to have them. But most importantly, she had so much love to give, to shower children with!
By the time Fitzwilliam was ten years old, and a whole decade had passed since her only child had been born, she had given up. She had determined that her heart could be filled only by her little boy and she would take from her child all the happiness she could get. She had no patience for the type of motherhood that other ladies from her class deemed appropriate. No, her son would be brought up with love: with affectionate parents who loved him and each other. He was not to become a trophy one shows when guests arrive only to be sent to the nursery the next minute. She played with him, laughed with him, sang and taught to him, and dedicated her life to her son's well-being. She could not care less what the ton thought about the way in which she and George doted on Fitzwilliam. He was the most delightful child and she believed it was due to their care.
And then, when Fitzwilliam was eleven, after only one year of having renounced to the idea of being a mother again, she had the most incredible joyful news for her husband: she was with child! She was extremely conscious of the dangers—she had lost three pregnancies, after all—so she took every possible precaution for the following six months. She did not truly allow herself to hope until that day in 1795 when she held little Georgiana Darcy in her arms. Oh, such happiness and pleasure she was sure she had never known! She had been born a month before she was due and the labour had been much more arduous than it had been with Fitzwilliam.
Lady Anne now stopped by the lake in front of Pemberley, remembering the day she had given that last push and collapsed onto the pillows. She had been dizzy and confused as she stared at the high ceiling. She heard voices, but could not, for the life of her, determine their origin. She did not know where she was or what was happening until one sound cut through all the noises in her head: her newborn crying. Such a magnificent sound! Still, it was not enough to keep her awake and as she felt herself fainting, she cried:
"My child! Give me my child!"
She was sure she was dying. This labour had lasted almost thirty hours and the midwife had had to use instruments she had never seen before. However, she wanted to look into the eyes of her baby before she went away. The midwife put the small bundle in her arms and said:
"Here, Your Ladyship, you have a small, but healthy baby girl."
Lady Anne looked into the eyes of her daughter, a symbol of her everlasting love with George. She did not want to name her Anne—there were already too many in the family, including lately, her niece, Miss Anne de Bourgh. She wanted to honour her husband, the man who had loved and supported her through everything.
She remembered she had wanted to name Fitzwilliam "George", but her George had told her of the Darcy tradition to give the heir his mother's maiden name as his first name. She had known that "George" was not his Christian name, but that he had always gone by it for he had never been very fond of "Alastair". She had felt honoured and thought she would name her next boy George, but the opportunity had never arisen.
"Georgiana," she whispered looking into the red face of her tiny infant. She was so very small she feared for her life. "Tell Mr. Darcy," Lady Anne said softly to the midwife, "her name is Georgiana."
"Yes, Your Ladyship," the midwife said.
"And tell Fitzwilliam..."
And that was all she remembered. She had spent the following days in such a feverish state that she had no recollections of her daughter's first week of life. She remembered hearing the words "infection" and "death", and she would have succumbed to her destiny if not for one thing: she had not told the midwife what Fitzwilliam needed to hear. She had not used her last breath to reassure her family of her eternal love and she was determined to fight until her last bit of energy had left her in order to tell them.
She awoke ten days later to a sight she had never imagined she would see: her husband was by her bed, holding her hand, praying and begging with tears running down his handsome face.
"Please..." his voice broke. "Please, Anne." He brought her hand to his lips and she left his tears running down her fingers. "Do not leave me, my love."
"George," she whispered.
He raised his head immediately and she could now appreciate the pain he must have gone through: his eyes were red with dark circles underneath them, he looked pale and thin, and he had a beard, something she had never seen on him.
"Anne! Oh, my Annie!" He cried, cupping her cheek and looking at her with such tenderness that she knew she could not leave.
He decided, a few months after when she had made a full recovery, that Georgiana would be their last child, even if he had to keep from his wife's bedchamber for the rest of his life and take a celibacy vow. He was determined to never put her life at risk again.
"I can live without sharing your bed, Anne. But I cannot and will not live without you," he argued every time she tried to convince him he did not need to keep away.
"But why can you not sleep next to me as you have done since our marriage? Why keep to your bedchamber?" Anne asked once.
"Because... because I do not trust my self-control with you, my love."
Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on one's view—the doctor had determined that she would not be able to become with child again. Georgiana's birth had destroyed her womb, he had said, and she was lucky to even be alive. She had feared George's reaction. After all, it is not the same to choose not to have children than to know you will not be able to have them. But George had been very glad indeed! He did not need to keep from his wife's bedchamber and could rest easy knowing she was safe.
So what cause did she have to repine now? Absolutely none, she decided. She could not have chosen a better or more fulfilled life! Fitzwilliam was now a grown man, one she was truly and utterly proud of. At eight and twenty, he was an extremely intelligent and dutiful master, a fair and caring landlord, and a loving and warm son and brother. He was a constant reminder of the day she had met George. He was his exact image! The same dark curls and brown eyes, the same strong square jaw and high cheekbones, the same thick brows and tall stature. Her husband was still a handsome man, more mature looking now with a head covered in grey hair that she found astoundingly alluring. But looking at her son, she could see young George Darcy.
Fitzwilliam had been learning the ways of Pemberley since he was eighteen—though, in a way, he had been since he was born—and he had been managing most of it since he turned five and twenty. George had been passing on to his son more and more duties with the years since he had wanted to be sure that Fitzwilliam would be completely ready when he came to his inheritance and became officially the master. Now, George merely helped him when he needed to be away for other business or when he required another opinion. George and Anne were glad they had lived to see their child being able to manage the estate with such ease and dedication. Fitzwilliam loved Pemberley and his family name, and he would continue to honour it in every way possible, of that, she was sure. He had a very ingrained sense of family duty—one that both Lady Anne and Mr. Darcy had been trying to pass on to their son since a very young age.
And Georgiana, sweet Georgiana, was everything that was kind and gentle. She had grown up to be such a beautiful and accomplished lady that her mother could barely believe she was hers. They looked very much alike, of that there was no doubt. Georgiana had Lady Anne's colouring: blue eyes and blond curls, and her small and delicate figure. At sixteen she was still at that awkward age when girls are not girls anymore, but not quite women either. She was sweet, naïve, and extremely shy among strangers. Her unfortunate experience with Mr. George Wickham last summer had left her unsure of herself and fearful of everything and everyone. Had she failed as a mother for not being able to protect her daughter? She shook her head as she resumed her walk. No, she had admonished George and Fitzwilliam several times for blaming themselves, she should not follow the same path.
"You might be the unofficial master, Fitzwilliam, but Georgiana is my daughter and my responsibility," George had said.
"And she is my little sister! Surely it is my job, and within my duties to care for her! And being closer in age, she should have felt secure enough to confide in me! The fact that she did not only proves that I have not been the brother she deserves," Fitzwilliam argued.
"Enough, you two!" Lady Anne cried out. "Your arguing only unsettles Georgie even more and makes her feel guiltier. There is no point in taking the blame. The only one to blame here is Wickham."
"Yes, Wickham! My godson..." George sighed in frustration. "You tried to warn me about him, Fitzwilliam, and I did not listen to you. I thought you were jealous and I thought my judgement better. If this whole experience has taught me something is to believe in your better judgement. I am sorry, Son."
Fitzwilliam shook his head. "No, I should have done more to..."
"Fitzwilliam, I will not hear another word on the subject. Our job now is to restore Georgiana to her former self. I do not want to hear another word from either of you about blame," Lady Anne warned.
"You are right as always, my dear," George agreed, taking his wife's hand and kissing her knuckles.
"Yes, Mother," Fitzwilliam nodded.
Lady Anne sighed as she approached Pemberley. Her gentle and kind daughter had not been completely restored to them, even now, when a whole year had passed. She had felt a certain relief when Georgiana admitted she had not truly loved Wickham, believing her heart would recover more easily, but although Georgiana did not suffer from love, she had been terribly disappointed in herself and her guilt over what could have happened, had not Fitzwilliam arrived at Ramsgate when he did, was a great cause of grief for the young girl. She was happier now, that much was true, but there was a lack of confidence and conviction that hunted her spirit. An already shy girl had become even more shy and secluded and in need of constant reassurance and support. The fact that she did not have any friends her age did not seem to help either. The manners of the ton intimidated her, and although she had her family, she felt that no one would choose her company for the mere pleasure of it.
The sound of a carriage approaching pulled Lady Anne from her thoughts and made her turn around as she was about to enter her home. She was rewarded with the sight of the familiar carriage bearing her husband's crest and the d'Arcy name. She waited until the gentlemen descended and walked to her.
I know this first chapter is very Lady Anne/Mr. Darcy centred, but I promise it is only the first two or three chapters. This story is about Elizabeth and Darcy, and the whole thing is already written, so (if you, guys, like it) I will continue posting. It is rather long (really, like 300 pages), so I hope you enjoy what I hope will be a long journey.
I do not own any Pride and Prejudice properties, nor do I make any money from the writing of this story.
Characters and situations, created by Jane Austen, are taken from Pride and Prejudice and from the Pride and Prejudice (1995) adaptation created by Simon Langton and distributed by BBC.
This story is released under the GPL/CC BY: verbatim copying and distribution of this entire work are permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided attribution is preserved.