A Young Man's Love
Fitzwilliam Darcy sat in the study at Pemberley, feeling melancholy. It was a year since his father, George Darcy, had died, and Fitzwilliam still felt the burden of his duties and responsibilities heavy upon himself.
His father had grown ill right after Darcy had finished university and was getting ready to take his grand tour of Europe. He regretted that he had missed his trip; but he regretted even more his father's death. He had loved his father dearly, had always looked up to the older man as the pinnacle of fairness and hard work. Not that his father had not been deceived sometimes by the cunning.
George Darcy had always seen the best in his godson, George Wickham, despite all evidence to the contrary. When he was on his deathbed, he had begged that Wickham be sent a letter, asking him to come see him. Wickham had not bothered to show up until it came to the reading of the will, at which time he took his legacy of £1,000 and £3,000 more in place of the Kympton living. Darcy was secretly relieved that Wickham would not be taking orders, since he was not suited to the life of a clergyman; but he was also disgusted that Wickham could not have taken the time to give his godfather some comfort on his deathbed. That was one of the reasons Darcy had not disabused his father about Wickham's true nature; it would have been cruel to do so while the older man was dying.
But Darcy had never been jealous of Wickham. He knew that his father loved him and respected him more than Wickham. It was Wickham who had always been jealous of Fitzwilliam. Darcy had not realized before that the nasty pranks Wickham had perpetrated and then blamed on him as a youth had stemmed from a deep envy and bad nature. After they had gone to school together, Darcy had seen his true nature. It disgusted him the way Wickham behaved, taking advantage of the Darcy connection and gambling and consorting with loose women. It made him want to be the opposite of Wickham. It made him want to be more like his father.
But Wickham was no longer his responsibility. He was relieved of that, and hoped he would never see his father's godson again. However, he did have another responsibility that puzzled him: that of his eleven-year-old sister, Georgiana. Georgiana was clearly grieving deeply for their father, just as Darcy was. But the age difference made it difficult for him to know how to approach her. He had been away at school most of the years she was growing up. He had seen her on holidays, and she had always appeared delighted to see him; but now it was just the two of them: the only Darcys left. Lady Anne had died when Georgiana was only two years old, having been in poor health since the birth; so Georgiana had never had a mother's influence over her life. She could not remember her mother, but she had had a loving father to guide her through the years until his death. Now, how was Darcy supposed to take his father's place at the age of only three and twenty?
Perhaps he should send his sister to school. Were there not schools for young ladies, to teach them how to be proper gentlewomen, and prepare them for marriage? And yet he could not bear to send her away. He wanted her close to him in his grief. Perhaps it would bind them closer together. Still, he had no idea what to do with a child of eleven.
He went searching for her and soon heard her tinkling half-heartedly at the pianoforte. She had a natural talent, he could tell, which was not thoroughly developed yet. He needed to see that she had a master to refine her artistic taste. She looked up when he entered the music room, but did not bother to try to smile at him. She had been this way since their father's death a year ago.
He wished she had a cousin her age, as he had always had Richard. As it was, there were no children of her age for her to play with, unless you counted tenant children, which would not be proper for the sister of the master of Pemberley.
All in all, Darcy felt very lonely, and he suspected Georgiana felt the same. He had few friends; at school he had noticed that the young men gravitated toward him because they wanted his connections or the eminence of being the friend of the heir of Pemberley. The only true friend he had found at school was Bingley. Bingley had not cared about his position, wealth, or connections. Bingley himself, in fact, was the son of a tradesman who had wanted his son to be parted of the landed gentry. Bingley was a year younger than Darcy, and had been picked on and bullied at the school for his origins until it became clear that he was Darcy's friend.
Darcy wished he could provide a sister for Georgiana, but he did not feel he was ready for marriage, with all the duties of Pemberley currently residing on his shoulders; and he had no liking for the simpering debutantes who all wanted his attention and agreed with everything he said. He also was not attracted by their pasty white skin and stick-thin figures.
"That was wonderful playing, Georgiana," he said as he came to sit by his sister.
She smiled wanly. "You are kind, Fitzwilliam."
He struggled with what to say next. Whenever he had come home from school, he had always had a trinket or something of that sort to give her, and his parents had been there. Now it was just them, and he did not know what to say to his grieving sister. Then he had an idea.
"What would you say to going to London?" he asked. "I have some business I have to conduct there, and perhaps you would enjoy it."
"That sounds lovely, thank you," she said, although she did not sound excited.
"Very well; we shall leave in a few days. Should you like to do some shopping there?"
Georgiana looked befuddled, and Darcy realized she was perhaps too young to enjoy shopping just yet. Maybe if he took her to a bookstore, they could find some books for children that they could read together.
He sat back in his seat. "Keep playing, if you wish. I would love to listen."
With a weak smile, Georgiana went back to her music.