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I have place a copy of the original FFN version of Given Good Principles and If Only I had Learnt on Gumroad for you to down load and pay what you think it is worth. A number of you have asked for the original rather than the published version and I've finally found a way to make it happen. You an find it at: gumroad dot com forward slash mariagrace
Given Good Principles
"I was given good principles but left to follow them in pride and conceit" Darcy tells Elizabeth after his second proposal. What if there had been someone there for him to help him follow his principles as they were meant to be followed?
A tall young man stood silhouetted against the rising sun. The morning mist lay like velvet across his great coat and hat, touching his somber features with a cold softness that somehow matched the state of his heart. From the window of the grey stone parish church, his observer watched the vigil, repeating the ritual they shared most mornings. A familiar pull tugged at the curate's heart. John Bradley pursed his lips and nodded his grey head. It is time.
Donning his own coat, worn at the collar and elbows, he reached for his cane. I'll be glad for spring. I'll be able to set this old stick aside when the warm wind touches these old bones again. Pulling on his wide brimmed hat, Bradley made his way toward the heavy wooden door. A chill wind buffeted him as he stepped into the morning. Thank God the young master saw fit to install proper windows and doors in this old sanctuary. Don't think I could keep time here otherwise. He's a good man from a long line of them.
With unhurried steps, the older man approached the younger. For several minutes they stood in silence, side by side, contemplating the neat graves, one long set, the other much more recent but showing signs of settling into the quite response of the family resting place.
"Someday I will take my place there beside them." The young man's voice was flat, empty of feeling.
A less astute companion would have mistaken the tone to be cold and unfeeling. But Bradley knew better. Years ago he had held this young man in his arms to baptize him into the church. Through the years he had spent many hours in the company of the serious, earnest boy who asked questions that reflected an understanding well beyond his years. No, there is nothing about young Darcy that is cold. So many misunderstand.
"You will indeed, young master. And I will likely be there." He pointed to an empty plot near the church wall. "Keeping watch on you even then, sir. You will never be rid of me."
A small smile lifted the corners of the young man's mouth. "I suppose that is for the best." Darcy drew a deep, almost painful sounding breath. "I miss him, Mr. Bradley. I miss him. How will I ever walk in his shoes? He always seemed to know what to do, what decisions to make, what was best for everyone! Everyone trusted him so. I trusted him." Broad shoulders slumped in defeat.
"We did and for good reason young master. Your father was a man of principles and he did not compromise them. He was kind and generous, but we trusted him because of his principles." Another cold gust blew through the graveyard, blowing the iron gate closed with a loud ringing clang.
"I do not know if I can do this." The wind tore the anguished confession from Darcy before he could stop it. There is no other man I would speak of this to.
"Of course you do not." A strong hand squeezed the young man's shoulder. "Your father said the same thing."
"Yes son, he did." Bradley thought back to the many hours of conversation he had shared with the elder Mr. Darcy in the quiet comfort and privacy of the well fitted manse Pemberly established for its curate. "We spent many evenings over tea and biscuits discussing just that."
"He trusted you. You know that? He told you I hope? In private moments, he told me he valued your advice and insight over all others."
"I am deeply honored that he should feel that way. But he was not a man of mean insight himself." Bradley sighed.
"I'm not like him sir. I lack his wisdom, his understanding…"
"But you were given good principles, the same principles that made your father what he was."
"Is that enough?"
"That is what your father began with."
"But how will I know how to apply them?"
"I am a man of faith son." Bradley smiled kindly. You look so much like your father-you have his brow and his jaw. But the eyes are definitely your mother's. "I will help you, as I did your father, for all the days that the good Lord grants me on this earth. Then, when my time is through, I have to believe there will be another to take my place that will have the words you need in the season that you need. If you want to follow the principles you have been given, I am certain the good Lord will make a way."
Darcy turned to look at the old curate in the eye. Bradley's blue eyes held steady under the young man's scrutiny. "Yes, son, I am sure."
A look of relief softened Darcy's sad features. "Would you care to join me for coffee and breakfast this morning? I have a tenant quarrel to mediate today and I find I am in need of my father's wisdom."
"A warm fire and a hot cup would be a welcome thing indeed for these old bones."
Taking the curate's arm in this, Darcy led them back to the manor house, some of his pain and uncertainty melting under the minister's warm gaze.