When Darcy Met Bingley
“Do fidem me nullum librum vel…” The unseen young man attempting Latin seemed to remember only the first nine syllables, repeating the same phrase over and over and over again.
Fitzwilliam Darcy chuckled to himself. He mentally recited the words from memory, though he had been a lad of sixteen the first time he had to state them aloud. He was a Cambridge man, as had been his father and grandfather before him. Yet, the use of the Bodleian at Oxford had been necessary at times so the cursed oath needed recited, allowing entrance into the hallowed halls.
“Do fidem me nullum librum vel… Instructum? Insultum? Indestructable-um?” The mumbling continued, the speaker’s self-criticism was gaining ground.
He heard the groan of the young man and inherently knew the individual would not appreciate knowing he was overheard. He was male! With that sex came the need to prove yourself forever capable— unfailing in even the menial tasks. This man was failing—spectacularly.
Darcy looked around the taproom and found only one other table with an occupant. The young gentleman pouring over the slip of paper, appeared to be a first-year student, so probably eighteen years of age. His carrot red hair stood on end where frustrated hands had plowed through the masses.
Darcy had been gone from university for almost two years, yet he understood how frustrating it had been for his fellow students to learn a language that was no longer in use. Had his father not taught him from his leading strings to appreciate classic literature, he may have likewise had the same struggles. Yet, his father had loved reading aloud ancient texts in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin so Darcy was as familiar with the sounds of differing dialects as he was with spoken English.
In truth, though the young man was not his concern, he sought to be of assistance. He, himself, was on a mission to gain aid, though he freely admitted he needed help from the research volumes lining the library shelves—this time. He, too, after all, was male.
He chuckled at his own arrogance. In his estimation, he was becoming like his father with each passing day and feared he would be knowledgeable, but completely anti-social by the ripe age of thirty if he was not careful.
His travels from Pemberley to Oxford had been to speak with a professor who had a particular understanding of archaic legal texts. A document originating during the time of King James had been unearthed after his father’s death delineating the boundaries of his home estate, Pemberley. It had been placed in a vault for safekeeping until two weeks prior. After centuries, the family bordering the estate was disputing the exact location of the eastern corner and the matter needed settling for them to keep peace.
Draining his mug, he sat it down with a thump. The other man failed to notice the sound. When the lad covered his eyes with his hands and growled, Darcy stood and walked to the corner table.
“Do fidem me nullum librum vel instrumentum,” He paused to emphasize the work that had so far escaped the gent. “aliamve quam rem ad bibliothecam pertinentem, vel ibi custodiae causa depositam, aut e bibliotheca sublaturum esse, aut foedaturum deformaturum aliove quo modo laesurum; item neque ignem nec flammam in bibliothecam inlaturum vel in ea accensurum, neque fumo nicotiano aliove quovis ibi usurum; item promitto me omnes leges ad bibliothecam Bodleianam attinentes semper observaturum esse.”
The man’s eyes were clear blue except for the haze covering them. By the time Darcy finished reciting the oath, they were as large as shillings.
Darcy translated. “I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.”
“I do not smoke,” was the gentleman’s comment.
“Neither do I.” Darcy affirmed.
“Instrumentum. No matter how hard I pondered, the word escaped me.” The man jumped up from his seat, extending his hand, a wide smile on his face. “Charles Bingley, of Oxford University…,” he quickly gazed at their surroundings, “or more correctly, the Rose and Crown, at your service.”
Darcy was pleased with the firm, confident grasp.
“Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire and Darcy House in London.”
Mr. Bingley was about four inches shorter than Darcy, but made up for his lack of height with enthusiasm.
“Might I…would you allow me…if you would not mind, I would gladly buy your next tankard if you would slowly repeat your recitation?”
Now it was Darcy’s turn to chuckle. They both sat at the table. After Bingley waved the serving maid to refill their mugs, Darcy began the process of teaching the young man the oath. By the end of the hour, the foundation for a life-long friendship had been laid.