As a thank you to all those who commented on Janet Taylor’s blog, More Agreeably Engaged, I’ve added an explanation of the wager made between Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam about the naming of their firstborn sons. I hope you enjoy.
Darcy was uncertain what woke him from a sound slumber. His mind was filled with impressions as he opened his eyes. It was the master’s bed chamber at Pemberley. The sun had risen. And, there was a woman snuggled next to him. A woman!
He pulled his head back to see who had infiltrated his private sanctuary and found dark curls that his left hand had somehow entangled themselves in. His right arm was positioned underneath the woman’s head and his hand was… well, his hand was where it ought not to be. His body stiffened in panic; his movement waking the woman. What should he do now?
“William?” the woman muttered.
He knew that voice. He was sharing his bed with Miss Elizabeth Bennet! His mind raced as it screamed for answers. How had she gotten from Hunsford to Pemberley? She had, only the night before, refused his offer of marriage. Why is she now here? How is she here now?
He could feel panic rising in his chest and it threatened to squeeze the breath out of him.
Elizabeth must have sensed his discomfort because she turned in his arms and faced him.
“Fitzwilliam, are you well?” She reached her hand up and soothed his brow. “My love, how can I help you?” She had never seen her husband in this condition. All that life had thrown at him since their marriage, he had handled with ease. Yesterday’s accident resulting in a small bump to his head surely had not caused him this amount of distress. The doctor had said that there might be some memory loss, but it would most likely be a quick recovery.
“We are married?”
“Yes, dear, we are. We have been these nine years.”
“You share my bed?”
“Every night of those nine years, William.”
“Have we children?”
“We have three sons. Richard is seven years, Henry is five, and Thomas is three.”
“I named my heir after my cousin?” He was incredulous; even more so than waking to find he had married Elizabeth Bennet.
“You did, William.”
“Why?” Darcy was completely confused. Certainly, he had deep regard for his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. However, it was the custom of the Darcys to name the first born after the family name of the mother of the child. His firstborn should have been named Bennet Darcy.
Darcy was unaware that his hand continued to stroke his wife’s hair. Apparently his body remembered what his mind had forgotten.
Lizzy chuckled. “My love, I have never been told all of the details of your agreement with your cousin, but he is Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam no more and our son is named for him.”
“You did not mind?”
“No, I did not. The agreement between you and me was that I would choose the name for a girl child and you would name our son. Having our eldest named Richard was entirely acceptable to me.”
“He is no longer in the military?”
“Richard retired his commission and is married to a lovely woman with a strong hand who only just prevented their first son from becoming Fitzwilliam George Darcy Fitzwilliam.”
“Our son’s full name?”
“Richard Alexander Fitzwilliam Darcy, the name you chose at his birth.”
Darcy shook his head, completely perplexed by the events of the morning.
“You have several times called me “my love”. You love me?”
“More than my life, dear man.”
“And, we have three sons?”
“Yes, the same three boys as when you asked me but a moment ago.”
“And, what of Georgiana?” His mind easily pictured the shy, reticent fifteen-year-old whose heart was crushed after Wickham tried to elope with her. He wondered if she ever recovered.
“She is here at Pemberley and is an excellent aunt to our sons.”
His mind added the years of his marriage to the last he remembered of his sister. When he realized she had long passed her majority, he wondered that she was still in residence in his home.
“She is not married?”
“No, she is not yet married. Though, your frantic ride on that ridiculous stallion after her heart’s desire asked you for her hand yesterday might have resulted in your fall.”
“I fell off a horse? Impossible!” He reached up and soon found the lump on the back of his head; evidence that he might be wrong.
Elizabeth did not answer, but her right brow lifted. Darcy imagined it was a look often required for their boys.
“I fail to understand this, Elizabeth.” He thought for a moment. “I… I am pleased that we are wed and we have been blessed with children. I am also content that Georgiana has found someone to love and that she does not still suffer over Wickham. Why, though, would I not be pleased over her choice of a husband?”
“Because, my husband, it was George Wickham who asked for her hand in marriage.”
Two things happened at once. Darcy sat straight up in the bed while exclaiming, “WHAT!”, and he felt the immediate impact of the blow he had sustained during his ride the day before. He quickly layback down. His mind was in turmoil. As the moments passed, vestiges of memory returned and started piecing themselves together.
Unexpectedly meeting Elizabeth at Pemberley.
George Wickham running off with Miss Lydia Bennet.
Hunting them down and forcing them to wed.
Returning to Longbourn to ask for Elizabeth’s hand.
Their wedding day.
The birth of their sons.
The purchase of that infernal colt.
Receiving the express from Longbourn that while her husband was facing the French on the continent, Lydia had run off with a militia officer whereupon the two perished in a coaching accident not far from Newcastle.
Wickham returned from battle, scarred and weary.
George Wickham courting Georgiana.
“How could she, Elizabeth? How could a woman as sensible as Georgiana accept a man like him?
Elizabeth smiled at the expression on Darcy’s face. She clearly remembered the day George Wickham presented himself at Pemberley. Six years of marriage to Lydia Bennet and serving under the firm hands of superior officers had wrought an extraordinary change in the man. He was now everything a gentleman should be, spending the past few years proving it to himself and to others that he was no longer the Wickham of almost a decade past.
It had taken those years to change Darcy’s attitude towards his former enemy. Eventually, he had acknowledged his existence, but only from a distance. However, to welcome him as husband to Georgiana? That had been altogether traumatizing.
“She loves him, Will.”
He sighed heavily. “Then there is nothing left but to give her permission, is there?”
“No, my dear, there is nothing left. It is a testimony to her admiration and his respect of you that your approval was asked. She is plenty old enough to make her own choice and act on it.” She wrapped her arms around her husband and held him tight.
“Then I shall say yes.” It was quietly muttered. He felt Elizabeth’s smile on his neck, then he felt her quick kiss.
“You are a good man, Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
“I try to be.”
“Then, tell me about the bet you made with Richard.”
Yes, he lived his life each day trying to be the man his father wanted him to become. However, as memories came rushing in, he chuckled at the memory of why he had a son named Richard. It was a story worth telling, but one he would never share.
“And, what have you found such delight in, my husband?”
“Only you, my beloved. Only you.”
The Rest of the Story
“I thought to find the great master of Pemberley laid up in his bed chamber, yet here you are working.”
Darcy looked up from his desk at the unexpected interruption and greeted the man who had forever been his closest male friend. His cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam, had arrived. Despite the fact that he was no longer in the military, he had kept himself fit and his bride kept him well-dressed so he looked every inch the landed gentleman.
Though Darcy had earlier used the injury to extort sympathy from his wife, it was not manly to admit to another male that any damage had been done. Thus his reply. “It was nothing to worry about or require you to run to my side.”
Richard snorted as he helped himself to his cousin’s brandy. When he turned, his eyebrow lifted in the same manner Elizabeth’s had done earlier.
“I take it my wife informed you of my accident?” Darcy was resigned to his cousin’s customary teasing.
“The express rider arrived last night and I left early this morning.”
“Did she share the details or are you fruitlessly expecting me to expound?”
The chuckle was soft, yet Darcy heard it clearly. He pushed back his heavy, leather chair and stood, moving to stand next to his tormentor. Using his superior height to intimidate his shorter cousin had never worked, though it did not stop him from trying.
“Your wife knows you.” Again, Richard snorted. “And she knows me as well.”
“She told you, then.” It was not a question.
“Wickham!” Darcy rubbed his hands over his face, suddenly desiring a drink more than his next breath. He refused to indulge, unlike his cousin.
“I have seen it many times before, Darcy. Men enter the field of battle with a cocky arrogance and return humbled and silent, never to return to their former character.”
Darcy recalled the stories Richard had told him of his years on the continent with horror. His admiration for his cousin was admittedly great. The possibility that he could ever have similar feelings for George Wickham was slim to none.
When Richard dropped into one of the chairs facing the empty fireplace, Darcy did as well.
“Recall the last time you saw Wickham. It was at his wedding, was it not?”
He could easily picture Wickham standing next to his bride, wearing a pained look as Lydia prattled on about being the first of her sisters to marry. He recalled being grateful that Miss Lydia Bennet was Wickham’s fate, not his.
“Yes, it was the summer Elizabeth and I met again at Pemberley.”
“Almost ten years, Darce.” Richard looked closer at his cousin. “With the exception of a bit of grey in your hair and a few laugh lines on your mug, you are fundamentally the same as you always have been. Not so George Wickham.”
“You have seen him?” Darcy was startled.
“Georgiana did not tell you?” Richard was puzzled, though he admitted his young cousin’s course had been wise. “He came to see me before he arrived here to ask for her hand.”
“You gave him permission?” Darcy was incredulous.
“Let it go, old man.” Richard would not bend. “Wickham returned to an unholy mess when he came back to British shores. His wife was dead and, due to her disgraceful conduct, his name was in disrespect. She had frittered away all the pay he had sent her and instead of having a loving wife welcoming him home, he arrived to a mountain of debt she had left. These last few years found him working hard to overcome these obstacles.” Richard put his palm up when Darcy attempted to speak. “Yes, he worked hard. He sought no help and stayed out of the gambling halls. And, he kept away from women. What he has now is from his own two hands.”
“You sound like you admire him!”
“I do.” Richard set his empty glass on the table. “The opposite of men like Wickham are those who enter the military as upright and honorable. Oftentimes, they return as degenerates. Wickham is no longer the boy you grew up with nor the man you saw at his wedding.”
“Well, the war changed you little. You are still a good man, no matter how much you continue to lord it over me that you won the wager of who would first stand up with Georgiana at her debut.”
“It was spectacular, was it not?” Richard smiled broadly. “I will remind you, cousin, that I have the superior skills.”
It was Darcy’s turn to snort. Distraught was a mild term to define the emotions an older brother and guardian was feeling the night of his little sister’s debut ball. Elizabeth had done all she could to distract him and soothe him, but nothing had worked. Finally, Richard, who was a social creature compared to Darcy’s reticent personality, had arranged for his most honourable fellow officers to fill Georgiana’s first dance card so she did not have to stand up with strangers or gentlemen she did not need to know. Darcy’s appreciation ran deep, but he refused to allow his cousin to know it. “One time! Just one time in all our years you were my victor. How long will you lord it over me?”
“Until my last breath.” Richard’s rich laughter filled the room.
“Elizabeth asked about the wager only this morning.”
“Did you tell her?”
“Not at all.” Darcy smiled at the memory. He had been sorely tempted, but had kept his silence.
“My dear wife incorrectly assumed that if she guessed correctly, I would confess.”
“Elizabeth has a vivid imagination. What were her theories?”
“Yes, her mind is quick.” Pride surged through Darcy’s chest. “She first thought it was a lost horse race that ended in me naming my heir after you.”
“That could have happened.”
“Hah! You have yet to find a mount as fast as mine.” Was Darcy’s immediate rebuttal. “Then, she pondered aloud if you had somehow wagered, after we three met at Rosings, that I would offer for her.”
“No, I would not have done so. I had no clue you were interested in making her your wife. Nor was I suspect that you had asked her to marry you and she refused.”
“Not my finest hour.”
“I’d say not!” Richard rubbed his chin as he rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “So was she close? Did she mention Georgiana?”
“She did not.” The smirk on his cousin’s face was surely reflected on his own and he inherently knew Elizabeth would not have appreciated the expression at all.
Richard rubbed his hand over his mouth, as if to wipe away his humor. “It has been almost a decade since the wager. All I remember is that I won.”
“You are fishing for praise, which is below you, cousin.” Darcy kept his voice as stern as he could manage under the circumstances.
“No, although it would be just like me to do so.” Richard candidly admitted. “What I do remember clearly was that I was determined, as Georgiana’s guardian, that I would stand up with her for her first set.”
Darcy picked up Richard’s glass and held it up to the light from the window, the refraction from the crystal painting rainbows on the wood-paneled walls.
“And I was equally as determined that since I was her closest relative it should have been me.”
“That sounds like a claim our late Aunt Catherine would have made. She always felt she deserved to meddle in our business, particularly yours, Darcy, because she was family.”
Both men cleared their throats at the same time. Neither of them missed their mandatory spring visits to Rosings. Lady Catherine de Bourgh would have turned in her grave to know a distant de Bourgh tradesman was its current resident and not a Fitzwilliam.
“You lost and I won fair and square. The targets were yours, the longbows and arrows were yours, and the field upon which we drew and released was yours. There was no wind that morning so the odds were as even as they could be.” Richard raised his chin. “Admit it, my man, you were bested by the best.”
“Well…yes…” Again, Darcy cleared his throat. “Are you always this boastful?”
Laughter filled the room. “For a certainty, I am.” Richard sat up straighter in his chair. “While I may have won Georgie’s first dance, it will be you who will walk her down the aisle.”
Resting his head on the back of the chair, Darcy closed his eyes and imagined the sight of George Wickham waiting at the altar. He vowed to himself right then that he would avoid looking at him. He would fix his gaze on his lovely wife instead.
“I need a drink.”
Richard stood and held up a freshly opened bottle. It was one of the finest in Darcy’s collection.
“I wish you would not do that, Richard.”
“Invade my cellar for your own use.”
Richard laughed at the way Darcy’s eyes squinted like he was angry. He knew his cousin cared not for a few bottles when his sister’s future was at stake. Having Darcy want a drink before dinner was most unusual. “Are you certain?” He held the bottle higher.
“No, I will not indulge. I know better than to drink with you.”
“I do believe it was a bit more brandy than you usually drink that helped us define the terms of victory…and loss.”
Both men remembered that night. After the archery contest finished and the rest of the day passed, they had met in Darcy’s study whereupon he had tried to come to terms with not being the man to stand at the head of the line with his sister. A wager was a wager. Honoring a challenge to the nth degree was a fundamental part of Darcy’s character. It had been during the early hours, and several bottles later, that the terms of the wager had expanded like an unruly oak.
Lord Shufflebottom, a peer of the realm in search of a wife, had been first in line at Darcy’s London House, to claim a dance during her debut. Gratefully, Richard’s plan had foiled his attempt—her card was full. However, the man’s unfortunate surname had prompted a drunken discussion between her guardians that night of potential last names for Georgiana. Darcy had insisted she would not be attached to a man whose moniker would render her forever ridiculous.
It was when Richard bragged that his family, unlike Darcy’s, did not have the tradition of using the mother’s maiden name for the first name of the heir that Darcy proposed offering his full name to his cousin during a rematch should he win. Richard’s firstborn would become Fitzwilliam George Darcy Fitzwilliam, or Fitzwilliam Fitzwilliam if Darcy claimed victory. Darcy’s heir would be named Richard Alexander Fitzwilliam Darcy if Richard won. Since Richard never planned to marry, hands were shaken and a document was sloppily written and signed by both men. It had seemed like a valid idea at the time.
Richard sat forward in his chair.
“So what will you do about Wickham?”
“I already told Elizabeth that I will not interfere. He will be welcomed to Pemberley, though he will have to earn my trust.”
Richard’s chuckle was entirely lacking in mirth. “You think so?”
Darcy rolled his eyes and forced the breath from his lungs.
“No, you are correct. If Georgiana has accepted him out of love, I will accept him as well.”
“It is for the best, Darce.”
“I suppose so.”
Both men fell silent, each with his own thoughts.
Into the void, Richard blurted, “Do you still have the contract?”
Darcy knew he referred to the document they signed the night of their competition. It was not until the next morning that they realized the rematch on the back terrace had resulted in a tie. It was not until they sobered completely that they realized the terms they had agreed to the night before. In case neither of them outscored their opponent, they both were bound to name their firstborn as mentioned. As a man of honour and duty, Darcy had done so. Richard had not.
“I burned it the next morning.”
“Ah. Wise.” Richard nodded his head, then looked directly at his cousin.
“Maybe. Maybe not.” Crossing his legs, Darcy leaned his chin on his palm as he planted his elbow on the arm of the chair. “I am left with my heir named after you rather than my wife’s family, while your son is not named for me. Had the paper still been in my possession, I could have shown it to your wife as proof of your promise to name him accordingly.”
Richard snickered. “No matter, cousin. My dear wife is not only lovely, she was sensible enough to see through my rough exterior and wealthy enough to get me out of the military. I would have done and still would do anything for her so I left the naming of our children to her.”
Darcy nodded. “Though I am reticent to admit it, you are a wise man.”
“I believe with Elizabeth’s help; I will bury my resentment against Wickham. I do this for peace within my own household.”
Richard had been able to follow Darcy’s train of thought. The problem of George Wickham coming back into the Darcy’s lives had to be extremely unsettling to his cousin.
“You can forget all he has done?”
“I cannot. With that said, I can choose to not allow it to influence my welcome to him. I do this for my sister’s sake, not his. No, it will not be forgotten.”
“Speaking of which—Elizabeth wrote that you suffered from amnesia. Are you still feeling its affects?”
“Of all the horrid things to happen, I had forgotten she and I were married. So when I woke with Miss Elizabeth Bennet snuggled up to me in my bed, my initial panic was enough to worry if my heart would survive the shock.”
“Horrified you had married her? I may have to save that remark to share with Elizabeth at an appropriate time.” Richard sat back in his chair, waiting for his cousin’s response. He was unsurprised at Darcy’s immediate answer.