Tomorrow I am to be married, Darcy thought, as he enjoyed a glass of port in his bedchamber. Although delighted by the prospect of sharing his life with the woman he loved, his thoughts turned to another couple—that of his parents, David Darcy and Lady Anne Fitzwilliam.
As a child, it seemed as if his mother was always going somewhere—a card party, a reception, a ball, the theater, each requiring that she be swathed in layers of clothing. Before each event, the young Darcy visited her suite and watched as her lady’s maid powdered her hair. That exercise was followed by the insertion of elaborate hair accoutrements, such as feathers and strands of tiny pearls and, on least one occasion, a songbird. Only when everything was just so would Lady Anne descend the stairs, and in his impressionable, young mind, she appeared to float above them. At the bottom of the stairway, his father waited for his bride in a sky blue jacket, matching satin breeches, and shoes with jeweled buckles. In addition to his finest clothes, he wore his best wig—the queue tied with a satin ribbon to match the color of Mama’s gown. All this Fitzwilliam observed whilst holding tightly to the hand of his nurse or governess. Once his parents had left Pemberley or Darcy House, depending upon the season, he would be whisked back to the nursery for lessons or a bedtime story.
Darcy had been at Cambridge when he was called into the headmaster’s room. It was there that he learned that his mother had died after a brief illness and that his father was sending a carriage for him. Although his dear Papa’s grief was real and sustained, so much of his parents’ lives had been spent apart. Whilst Mama preferred London or visiting with her brother, the Earl of _______, and her sister, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, his father was happiest when working on improvements at Pemberley—his mother frequently teasing her husband that every time she returned to Derbyshire, it was necessary for her to have a tour of the house and gardens as nothing would be the same as when she had left it. An exaggeration, of course, but it was evidence of their lengthy separations.
With his mother’s death, all improvements at Pemberley had ceased, and the elder Darcy turned his attention to making the estate as profitable as possible. To that end, he leased land to pottery and timber concerns and doubled the size of the grist mill. In Lambton, he subsidized the building of a new assembly hall and the expansion of the town hall, a place where, as Lord of the Manor, he served as magistrate in connection with minor disputes. Observing the flurry of activity, Fitzwilliam understood that with his mother gone, his father had lost the only admirer who mattered for the vast improvements he had made at Pemberley.
Darcy shook his head at the memory. Although he loved and admired his parents, that was not what he wanted for his marriage with Elizabeth.
After walking to the window, his eyes followed the tree-line that would eventually lead to Longbourn where his bride would spend her last day as Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Tomorrow night, they would share the same bed—something his parents rarely did—or at least something he was unaware of. In the morning, when the children were sent for, Lady Anne could be found propped up on pillows in her own chamber—alone. After gently tapping the satin covers, Fitzwilliam and little Georgiana ran towards the bed and climbed in beside their mother who regaled them with stories of her time in London.
Thinking of the children Elizabeth and he would have, he smiled, but swore that when his children came into their mother’s suite, they would find their father there as well.
“I want the first person I see every morning to be Elizabeth and that she will be a part of every day of my life, and I want to be part of hers,” he said aloud. “Of course, that does not mean I shall meddle with the menus or discuss household purchases nor will she accompany me when I meet with my steward. But in all other matters, I want Elizabeth by my side. Ours will be a very different marriage from that of my parents. Tomorrow, when the parson declares that two have become one, it will be a statement of fact not some lofty ideal. And why should it not be,” Darcy continued. “I have found the perfect wife. I am determined to be the best husband I can be.”
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