1 Though the Universe Conspires

[Note: This is one of the stories that might have been written in the book given to Darcy and Elizabeth in my novel, Oxford Cottage.]

George Darcy looked once again at his watch.  Half an hour…half an hour late! He sighed in frustration.  He had begun his preparations with ample time to be ready and arrive at the ball on time if not early.  He tucked his watch back in the pocket of his waistcoat and rubbed his temples.  Everything had seemed to conspire against him.  A pulled thread in his breeches that required a new pair to be found, a dribble of wine on his cravat….all small things that required very little time to fix, but  when combined had caused him to be late.  He wished that the traffic was less, that the line of carriages waiting to deposit their cargo at the entrance to Matlock House would suddenly disappear.

Finally, his carriage stopped in front of the entrance, and a footman opened the door and lowered the steps.  George climbed out of the carriage.

“About time you got here.”  Henry Fitzwilliam, Viscount Brantworth, was leaning against one of the large columns in front of the door.  “I thought perhaps you had decided against meeting her.”  He scowled at Darcy.

“I gave my word, Fitzwilliam.  I should think you would have more faith in me than that,” he replied flatly.  “Now that I am here, can we get on with this?  After the frustrations of getting here, I have a devil of a headache forming.”

“I know you are not fond of society, Darcy, but she is not like the other debs.  And I am not saying that just because she is my sister.”

“Is she like your other sister, Lady Catherine?”  Darcy gave an involuntary shudder at the thought.  Catherine, who had come out two years ago, had, upon learning of his wealth and estate, set her cap at Darcy and had made his season nearly unbearable as he had been forced to spend much of his time dodging her attacks.  He never knew when she would creep up beside him and attach herself to his arm. Thankfully, she had found another gentleman with a slightly larger bank account that she found even more attractive and had married him.

Fitzwilliam laughed.  “No, Anne is nothing like Catherine.  They are quite opposites.  I really do believe you and she will get along quite well.”

Darcy breathed a sigh of relief.  “Then lead on my good man.  My fate awaits.”

No truer words had been spoken.  One look was all it took to capture Darcy’s interest in Fitzwilliam’s sister.    A young lady with soft golden coloured hair and sparkling eyes of blue was surrounded by gentlemen vying for her attention.   She stood nearly as tall as most and even taller than some of the gentlemen.

Fitzwilliam slipped in among the gentlemen and extracted his sister.

“Thank God you came when you did, Henry.  I was running out of insignificant topics of conversation.  Why must men demand unintelligent wives?  And must I continue giggling?  It is quite an annoying sound.”

“No, you do not need to continue giggling, and I suggest you think of some significant topics of conversation, for I have found a gentleman who cannot abide giggling girls and shuns insignificant discourse.”

“Is he very old and boring?” questioned Anne.

“He is my age and my very good friend so how could he be boring?”

Anne narrowed her eyes at her brother and was about to retort when she saw him.  He was handsome and not old at all.  He was tall and stood proudly with his shoulders thrown back not like some men of great height that seemed to slouch forward to join the ranks of those who were considered of desirable height.  His hair and eyes were dark and there was, despite his grand presence, a gentleness in his expression.

“Close your mouth, sister mine,” whispered Fitzwilliam.  “I am sure mother would find staring agape at any young gentleman to be unsupportable, even one with as fine a bank account and as beautiful an estate as George Darcy.”

“George Darcy?”  Anne whispered.  “He is the gentleman you arranged to have meet me?  Is he not the gentleman that so ardently avoided Catherine?”

Fitzwilliam nodded.  “One and the same.”

“Will he not also wish to avoid me since I am her sister?”

“You are her sister, but you are nothing like her, Anne.  You are just the type of lady my friend prefers.”  He took three hurried steps toward his friend ending the conversation with his sister before she could mount any further protests.  “Darcy,” he said pulling a blushing Anne up to stand next to him.  “May I present my sister, Lady Anne Fitzwilliam.  Anne this is Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire.”

Darcy bowed and stumbled over his greeting before apologizing for his late arrival.  Finally, after some nudging by Fitzwilliam, the two were standing up next to each other preparing to dance.

“I thought you had changed your mind and did not wish to meet me,” said Anne as they waited for the music to begin.

“Though all the forces of the universe conspire against me, if I say I will be by your side, I will happily be by your side.”  He smiled charmingly at her and his eyes seemed to convey a promise of a place near his side forever.

******

Six months later, Darcy once again grumbled as he looked at his watch.  Ten minutes, ten minutes late!  He was certain that all would be at the church waiting for him and thinking that he was going to jilt Anne at the altar. A bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face, and he tugged at his cravat.  Again, he had run into small problems that had converged to cause his lateness.

He jumped from his carriage as it slowed before the church.  Seeing Fitzwilliam waiting for him, he held up a hand to silence whatever remark might be forthcoming.

“Point me to the door, Fitzwilliam, and then extend my apologies to Lord Matlock and Anne and notify them that I am indeed here.”  He ran in the direction indicated and burst into the side room at the front of the church startling the parson who was pacing and wringing his hands.

Darcy’s breath was returning to normal as Fitzwilliam entered the room wearing a large grin.  “Your dog truly tried to run away with the ring?”

Darcy nodded.  “Just one of the mishaps that slowed my arrival.”

“Your father is regaling my father and sister with the tale of those mishaps.  I do not know who is laughing the most.  It may take a few moments for my sister to regain her composure, but we should probably be standing at the front of the church when they open the doors.”  He nodded to the parson and motioned for he and Darcy to precede him into the church.

******

“I thought you had changed your mind and did not wish to marry me after all,” said Anne as she and Darcy took their places at the wedding breakfast.

“Though all the forces of the universe conspire against me, I will not be dissuaded from being at your side.”  He lifted her hand and kissed it.  “Forever.”

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