Posted on 2012-02-13
Mrs. Reynolds welcomed the three unexpected visitors with some trepidation. Pemberley was being readied to welcome the return of the master and his party on the morrow and many things remained to be done. She was happy to note the absence of young children, at this point she was afraid her nerves would be cruelly wrought by the ceaseless attention needed to prevent their disappearance in the many rooms. The couple were agreeable in appearance and more than fine in their manners. From London by their own admission and their style and speech provided good proof of their veracity. The young woman accompanying them was really quite handsome. More striking was her air of sense and sensibility. Upon admittance she viewed the interior with calm demeanor and there was nothing excitable overly demonstrative to mark her as someone light or wanting in control. Her clothes indicated position but not of the first rank. In short, she was worthy of attention.
She directed John to take their cloaks and whilst they were so engaged, she glanced upon the visitor's book just signed. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner of London and, the lady's own fair hand, "a friend". Her interest was immediately for such reserve was unusual. Rather than the simple tour of the first floor, Mrs. Reynolds decided to provide a more extended view of Pemberley. The private library of the late Mrs. Fitzwilliams was close upon the stairs, and had not been used since her departure. Upon entrance, Elizabeth was struck by the harmony of proportions and the excellent arrangement. Here, she felt, one could write a great many letters; except that the desk was not positioned well. In fact, the room and common sense demanded that it be placed exactly -- here. Elizabeth found that she was standing in a position that fronted a small alcove, facing a wall of splendid bound volumes across the room. Here at this spot there was space to write and support to help the hand when it faltered. Whereas the desk was now directly under the window which would surely distract the writer. She suddenly became aware that Mrs. Reynolds was watching her most attentively and on noticing Elizabeth's gaze she smiled and noted that the desk was moved for ease of cleaning. Her respect for the visitor's discrimination rose significantly. Elizabeth turned away in some embarrassment as her actions may have been construed as being over familiar with Pemberley.
The next room was given over the late master's personal effects suitable for public display. Mrs. Reynolds could have no disagreement with the young master wishes to keep these effects but she longed for him to be productive, Pemberley needed a new generation and for him to place his own stamp upon the house. The group paused in front of a small desk that held some miniatures taken some eight years ago. Mrs. Gardiner called upon the lady to pay attention to one of the images. "Lizzy, this looks just like someone we know." Mrs. Reynolds provided the information that the portrait was that of a Mr. Wickham. She was rather short in manner since Wickham was a source of great distress. His dalliances with the maids had to be continually checked and she was more than happy to see him gone from the county.
The neighboring frame held a visage that was very dear to her heart and she noticed that while Mrs. Gardiner paid scant attention, the lady immediately stiffened as if she recognized someone. Moving closer she asked "Does the young lady know the young master?". Elizabeth had a close acquaintance with Darcy's features and no difficulty in discerning the smile portrayed in the rather badly painted image. "Yes" was the short reply, and the accompanying blush that arose on the fair lady's face was a wonder to behold. It was far more agreeable than the determination stamped upon the faces of the many women who had attempted to storm Pemberley.
The speech of the young visitor informed to Mrs. Reynolds the belief that she was from the south. And this drew her attention to the fact that Mr. Bingley had taken up residence in the south, in Netherfield Park, and the master had indeed visited him to settle his friend and provide some experience in handling the estate. And indeed, hadn't Lester, the master's manservant, mentioned to Sara, and thus the whole house, the gossip that the master had danced in Netherfield with a young person of some importance to the master?
She approached the subject with some trepidation but finally ventured to ask "The master was recently in Hertfordshire, perhaps you were able to meet him there?" Elizabeth colored in remembrance of their first meeting and agreed. Mrs. Reynolds noted that the Gardiners were occupied in the books and felt her safe to add "Oh fortunate are the people in Hertfordshire. Their society is so agreeable that my master was able to find some fine dancing partners." At this Lizzy appeared quite unable to reply and Mrs. Reynolds was now sure that this was indeed the woman in question. Mrs. Reynolds knew that the master was intending to return that day but the time was unsettled. Mrs. Reynolds was more than interested to see what effects would occur if the two were to meet.
All public areas having been visited and admired it seemed as if the guests would have it leave and this would have to be prevented. Remembering that Mr. Gardiner had paid close attention to any window that overlooked the lake, she told him that the lake was famous for its quantity and variety of fish. The eager response convinced her to arrange for Dawkins senior, the junior having moved to Kent, to escort them around the grounds.
Darcy was, at this moment, but one mile from Pemberley and riding hard. He was perturbed by the summer heat, the flies, the dust. Really he should have come by coach but the thought of being attended to by Caroline was not to be born. Pemberley was before him and now it seemed nothing but a bitter rebuke. It was certainly fair but he was not happy. He now knew what was needed, and indeed he felt sure that he had changed to the better, but the object of his attention was beyond his reach. Was beyond his ability to show her what he had become.
He handed the horse to the stable boy and gave close instruction on the animal's care. The boy undoubtedly knew his job but it meant a lot to demonstrate his understanding. While receiving these instructions, the lad glanced at the speaker and was rather surprised by the besmirched countenance before him. He tried to intimate by gestures to his own nose that the master had indeed a rather suspect mark, something that resembled dirt in fact, but the speaker failed to acknowledge these kindly meant offers of assistance.
On leaving the stables Darcy decided to turn left and enter the Italian court instead of moving directly to the house. His appearance was sullied, he knew full well what the intimations of the servant meant, and he hated appearing before the whole household in such a state. The Italian court was so named for the fine fountain built by an Italian under the orders of his father to crown a walk that was a particular joy of his mother. Since Pemberley lacked a mistress Darcy knew that he would have privacy in making some rough ablutions and gaining relief from the exertions of his ride.
At the fountain he delighted in the coolness of the waters and their cleanliness. He had thought of the lake when entering the grounds but knew that it was full of weeds and other foul things; no one could imagine him embracing that to gain a momentary pleasure. At first his face received a cleaning but soon the water was taking rather too many liberties and his shirt became soaked.
Mrs Reynolds was told immediately of the master's welcome arrival and she gave all instructions necessary to prepare a change of clothes. She had been walking the second floor reliving the happier times when Pemberley rang with the voices and activities of children. Moving the west side of the house she immediately saw a totally unexpected sight; the master was almost bathing in the fountain of the Italian Court. Never since the master's accession had she witnessed such a deviation from the most proper and reserved behavior. Her excitement rose further when she saw that Dawkins senior was even now leading the visitors to the very same spot.
Posted on 2012-02-15
Darcy heard Dawkin's voice first and wondered why he had entered the court. His vexation at the intrusion turned rapidly to confusion and alarm upon hearing unknown voices responding to the servant's exposition. It was his house but he felt in no condition to receive strangers. Neither his pants nor his composure were adequate for the occasion. He endeavored to keep the fountain between himself and the others and was in some hope of securing a clean escape when the voice of Mrs. Reynolds cut down into the court instructing Dawkins "to be mindful of the master."
Dawkins was far from being the wooden-headed fool he appeared and knew enough of Mrs. Reynolds to promptly inform the party that they could expect to meet the master himself, just as soon as they could move themselves around -- this way.
Darcy found himself confronted by a couple, clearly married, who seemed rather more interested in him than surprised. They had intelligent faces that now turned to the unseen member of their party with inclination to suggest that the person might be better placed to perform the introductions that now seemed inevitable.
He needed no introduction to Elizabeth. Her face had taunted him for these many months but now that she was here before him he found that he could only offer her the welcome that any visitor might receive. On her side there was regret at acquiescing to the Pemberley visit. Darcy's attentions to Jane had been of one piece mischievous and she still felt justified in separating them. Without his presence and interference Elizabeth felt sure that Bingley would have developed a strong attachment to Jane that would have been welcomed and returned.
Driven by the now urgent gaze of the aunt and uncle, Elizabeth introduced Darcy Fitzwilliam to the Gardiners, and indicated their relationship to her. She expected at least some of the temper he displayed the last time they talked as it was to the Gardiners that Jane had been sent. She remembered all too well the strength of his gaze and now the wet clothes brought back memories of dancing with him in Netherfield. The recollection of his hands upon her was rather at cross purposes with her resolve to never forgive him.
It became immediately clear that Darcy of today was not the one of old. He willing acknowledged the Gardiners and entered into easy conversation. Elizabeth worried that he would raise the topic of her sister but the talk tended only to the trip and the Gardiners ready delight in Pemberley.
This conversation was interrupted by the butler informing Darcy that a change of clothes was awaiting him and that light refreshments were provided for the guests.
"I trust that having ridden this far Miss Elizabeth you will persuade your relatives to partake of some refreshments. I will join you soon."
"For my part I would be happy to see the hospitality of Pemberley. Miss Bingley described it as quite extensive." She smiled sweetly as he remembered of old, but indeed he knew enough not to be deceived.
Mrs. Reynolds had worked miracles with the tea service and all were quite well entertained. She dallied long enough in the hall to watch his entry and she saw a lot to raise her hopes. The party from London had been seated to overlook the park and the far vistas. Darcy endeavored to enter into conversation with mention of the many large fish in the front lake. Mr. Gardiner willing expressed an interest in the fish but seemed more happy to remain seated. His good wife paid close attention to Darcy's details of the arbors and fruiting trees but seemed rather more keen to remain seated and in reply enter into recollections of her recent trip to Longbourne.
"I hear Mr. Darcy that you yourself have a good friend taken residence in the area of Longbourne."
"Indeed I have, Madam, Mr. Bingley rented Netherfield Hall with a view to satisfying his family's desire to become more settled. How long he will remain is unclear."
"It is a pity then, Sir, that he was gone before our arrival."
His eyes turned to Elizabeth and she now saw some of the steel she remembered all to well. She responded
"We all hope that he may become more accepting of the local hospitality over time. We have so few persons of note that sometimes our manners may not equal those of London."
"Madam, let me hasten to assure you that his departure casts no reflection on manners of any form. You may remember that I too have experienced the gentile atmosphere of Longbourne and found nothing wanting."
The Gardiners were more than amused, they were simply dumbstruck. Elizabeth had always been a carefree soul more interested in describing and laughing at all the failings of her family and acquaintances. Quite different was her present form and attitude. They longed for more enlightenment and nothing short of invasion by the French, or the Pope, would have shifted them.
Elizabeth appeared serene but her keenest desire was to have it out with Darcy. The gentleman in question was less settled but not at all reticent. Calling out to the servant for another round of cake and tea, which would of course occupy the Gardiners for some time, he bade his intended target remember her desire to test her knowledge against the very challenging worts in his garden.
"Since today is fair Miss Bennet, may I offer you this chance to demonstrate your extensive horticultural knowledge?"
She rose with alacrity to forestall the hand that Darcy would inevitably offer. Insufferable man to think that she could be so easy worked upon. Her gaze captured her aunt and uncle looking rather perturbed at being so neatly cut from the conversation - the return trip to the Lambton inn would be full of questions for which she had no answers as of yet. They knew that she absolutely no interest in things herbaceous or even merely bushy.
Darcy's suggestion that the Italian court had more than enough worts to occupy her brought a ready response - both were aware that it offered sufficient separation from her relatives and his household. The next county was really necessary for the latter but time was ever short.
"Mr. Darcy, I pray you not to mistake this visit. We were told that the family were not in residence. I, of all people, have no desire to impose myself where my presence may not be appreciated."
"True appreciation requires an understanding of the intentions. Appreciation is likely to fail only if discernment is lacking."
"How could there be misunderstanding" she responded. "Your actions were clear to all. You interposed yourself between my sister and your friend. That was proximate cause. Poor Jane, she has never had to deal with a person such as yourself. I could see that she was unable to laugh at your attentions. And Bingley, what could Bingley make of her confusion?"
"Madam, you forget that you know only one side of the picture and even for that I now entertain doubts. Bingley has been my good friend for many years and I know well his weaknesses. Oh yes, to you he is the paragon of charm and good manners, but I trust you are not so easily deceived. "
She was rather taken aback by his words. Why should he be so keen to disabuse her with regard to Bingley?
"It is not my opinion that matters Mr. Darcy but that of my sister. She was growing quite fond of him but your attentions and her natural diffidence have lost all chance of happiness."
"My attentions? I assure that nothing was further from my mind. My intention was to push Bingley into making his own decision. Not follow the advice of his sisters as he is wont to do. But why should you describe any of my actions as predisposing to attentions? "
Here she blushed as this was exactly the topic she hesitated to raise with even herself. She reminded herself that shifting Jane to London was a rational decision, done entirely for Jane's benefit alone. Heaven knows what Jane would have done with her mother providing so much turmoil and excitement. Darcy was capable of turning any woman's head and fancy and he had been watching her, Jane of course, with an intensity that bore unmistakable intent. It was only for Jane’s sake that Elizabeth had convinced Jane to depart Longbourne.
She shook her head to regain the edge needed when talking with Darcy. He really was insufferable, immovable like a block of granite on which Pemberley was built. Here she took heart, for had not the blocks been ripped from the ground and fashioned for a purpose?
"Do you deny that you have been manipulating your friend?"
"If I do it is with his acquiescence and for his advantage. And do you disclaim responsibility for the sudden departure of the Hursts? Caroline has strong suspicions of your involvement."
"The two matters are of significant difference. I could see that Bingley was being put upon by that ridiculous man of society and found it easy to have him gone. I merely had to mention the gambling habits of the Duke of ----. Bingley's appreciation was sincere I assure you. Why, if you love your friend, did you take so much pleasure in toying with my sister? Seldom has a night passed in unencumbered response since your arrival."
Neither were willing to yield space to the other and Darcy found himself to leaning forward and down as if to catch her every breath. He leaned back and directed her attention to the house.
"Let me direct your attentions to Pemberley itself. Its history tells us that interference is not to be undertaken lightly. If possible, it should be indirect and with a view to arousing self decision in the other. Your sister certainly gave no evidence of strong attraction and Bingley is rather too remonstrative without regard. My hope was that Bingley would either firm his intentions and provide your sister with assurances of his love or determine that his interest was merely slight. My success was assured until you engineered her move to London."
"I have no hesitation in accepting your charges. Before your arrival I readily accepted, and laughed at, the foibles of others. I came to realize that the faults of the world demanded action and a true understanding of emotion. Something that you would do well to learn. Jane was close to total confusion and with that your plan."
"I will not let emotion rule my life or indeed Pemberley. "
Her response, "Was not Pemberley raised by passion?" stilled any immediate response as the subjects of the old miniatures, now safely stored away, had far from saintly lives.
His own mother had named his sister after the Duchess of ---- and Lady Catherine herself had been cut from all the better London clubs for want of restraint. These recollections brought him to the present and the now urgent need to determine the extent of Elizabeth's knowledge of his family.
"I can well believe that Mr. Wickham has made wild accusations with regard to his Pemberley connection."
"He told me of your withholding of his living out of mere jealousy. I hesitated to believe that of you but his assurances were firm. "
She was rather surprised to hear Darcy's basic confirmation of the story but more surprised by his obvious relief. His claim that it was done on the best of reasons was certainly no adequate justification and she now felt that neither Wickham nor Darcy had been completely forthright. Why had Wickham taken a commission with a regiment moving into Meryton? Without the living, what benefactor was supporting him? Why was Darcy relieved since the story was not to his credit?
Relief he found in Wickham's continued protection of the family's secrets. Wickham had tried to blackmail Darcy by threatening to elope with Georgiana. Fortunately, he kept his head and told Wickham to go ahead, sure that even Wickham would not break the universal law.
Since his accession his every effort was directed to maneuvering over and around the embarrassments that came with Pemberley. He marveled at the youth before him. How fortunate she was to have a normal family an such a normal life. Certainly her mother was nervousness itself but no hint of moral turpitude attended her.
Posted on 2012-02-29
Termination of this reverie was swift as noise of the Pemberley coach preceded the actual horses and the inevitable dust. Instinctively he took her arm and indicated with a glance that they should return to her aunt and uncle. She understood the need for caution but was perturbed her ready acquiescence. She stopped only to pluck a small native flower as evidence of her interest in all things wortish.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were found admiring the portrait of girl of fair proportion and fairer hair. Upon the entrance of Darcy he was asked to name the subject.
"That Sir, is my only sister, Georgiana. Only recently turned sixteen and, I am happy to say, just this moment she has arrived with the others in my party. Mr. Bingley and his sister Caroline. "
Mr. Bingley then entered and immediately took refuge in the largest, most steady chair the room could offer.
"Sorry Darcy, but I fear my nerves have quite got the better of me. Caroline rode the coachman hard to reach Pemberley without delay and I am afraid that several of your red deer are now dead."
Darcy expressed no shock as he had done worse in his youth.
Caroline swept into the company but abruptly drew up short at the slight of Elizabeth. She remembered well her comeuppance at those fair hands and the embarrassment at being unable to name even one qualified lady of her acquaintance was still severe.
"Darcy, I see you have anticipated my arrival by setting tea. But you have overlooked my preference for faggots, I will have to speak to cook to see what can be procured."
The host waited for his sister to enter and then performed the introductions. Bingley went so far as rise from his chair in some form of good manners but immediately sat down again.
Miss Georgiana was a very comely lass but her conversation was brief and she ventured no topic of her own to enhance the general conversation. She did however pay particular attention to Elizabeth and it seemed that she had some private intelligence regarding her.
The Gardiners were keen to enter into discussions with Bingley. Jane's condition had not improved and they were unable to discover the cause or the schedule. All her small asides seemed directed toward the gentleman before them and so they willingly offered their condolences on his present state.
"I believe Sir, that Netherfield has no deer, nay nothing larger than a rabbit, so you may feel quite safe there."
Bingley directed his gaze to Elizabeth and forthrightly described how it was only for business that he left originally and that Netherfield could expect his soonest return. He hoped that the society, and Longbourne in particular, would forgive him the manner of his departure.
Darcy was disturbed to find that his opinion had not been sought and that the conversation had moved to other parts of the room. Georgiana took sight of the flower still held by Elizabeth and with some hesitation begged to know from whence it came. Elizabeth smiled for the hint was rather strong and noted that it had been found in the Italian garden. The two ladies readily agreed to assist each other in acquiring further specimens. The visitors from London had moved to rally Bingley and were deep in conversation about the number of chimneys at Netherfield. Caroline being away with the cook, Darcy was left to what remained of the tea. He was not amused.
"I am so happy to finally meet you Miss Darcy. Your brother's comments indicate that you have his highest regard, and that you play the piano very well indeed."
"Thank you, but I fear that he over values my abilities. His recent comments, however, leave no doubt as to your abilities and personality. I have longed to meet you and determine what is to become of Fitzwilliam."
Elizabeth was rather surprised by the exposition as it differed so markedly in tone and content from what had been demonstrated inside the house. To mask her confusion she started picking flowers.
"I see that your perception is indeed acute. I find it safer to act younger than I am in his presence. He is the master of Pemberley and my guardian first, seldom my brother. I have confidence enough in you, however, to state that the sooner he resolves his inner conflict the happier Pemberley will be. I am privy to his proposal at Rosings but I beg you that this be kept from him."
Elizabeth blushed on hearing that their privacy had had been compromised. Not a word had reached her since that day and she longed for Georgiana to continue.
"He wrote a letter but could not find you to deliver it. In it he speaks of your obvious advantages, your excellent understanding. His proposal may have seemed contrived but his true heart is all passion. His constant endeavor is to restrain his heart and trust only the intellect."
"Your frankness does you credit and your confidence will be kept. To match your style I will plainly say that I thought it was my elder sister that first took his fancy and at Rosings I was, I am ashamed to say, just the second fiddle. His protestations of love were not accepted as I felt them false and indeed other matters lay between us."
"I beg you to reconsider. His reserve is such that all spontaneity is novel and unpracticed. There is another matter for which I beseech your assistance. Fitzwilliam has, it seems, some idea of marriage between myself and Bingley. I pray that you can arrange things otherwise. I find it is useless to address Fitzwilliam on this as he is all stubbornness, any overt resistance merely spurs his determination."
Elizabeth had long felt that Bingley was intended for Jane. Their natures were so alike, to be happy within themselves. Thus this task was no imposition and she promptly stated,
"I too was directed to marry against my wishes and it was fortunate indeed that my dear father interceded on my behalf. How pitiable it is that you have no close relative to offer you support and comfort. I will see what can be arranged in the most circumspect manner. I trust in the old saying of 'let sleeping dogs lie' and urge your patience."
The two women laughed together at the thought of the high and mighty being undermined in secret.
"As to the first matter, I beg to hold my reply until I understand myself better. And him. "
The last was not voiced and that was fortunate as the person in question emerged into the sunshine of the court, enquired as to the intended recipient of the flowers, and invited their return.
Georgiana readily acquiesced with a manner that spoke of long practice. Elizabeth silently handed him the bouquet which reduced him to state of confusion. Was he merely a servant or was this a gift of some significance?
"It is from your garden Sir, but picked by me. You may do with it as you will. Regardless of your choice I suggest that they be placed in water immediately."
Discerning that she was teasing him, he turned and arranged them in the fountain, turning it for at least sometime, into the largest vase in Derbyshire.
She laughed at being so well confounded. Not even Wickham could have responded so adroitly. Would Darcy always be so agreeable?
Less agreeable indeed were Darcy's questions as to the import of Georgiana's conversation. She could not deny his authority as her guardian and cast around for some way to satisfy him without breaking her recent vows.
"Sir, you have introduced me as a sister to your sister and sisters may, indeed must, keep confidences from mothers, fathers, and most all, brothers. I hope you will accept my assurance that I was told nothing that would discredit any one. Please, I entreat you, do not make direct refusal inevitable. "
In concluding, she ventured to place her hand upon his arm, and after a short pause, invite his support in a return to the house. He was inclined to dispute the point, he was ready to insist upon his privilege, to claim the authority that was rightly his, instead he silently accepted the pleasure offered in complying with the wishes of someone special and reentered the house far happier than he left it.