Posted on Sunday, 15 April 2001
"Look at that prospect over there," Elizabeth said as she pointed out the window. She had come with Jane to Netherfield. They were in Jane's sitting room, or what was soon to be Jane's.
Jane looked out to where Elizabeth pointed. The hills had trees with new green. Jane remembered that it was those very hills that she rode on horseback to come dine with Caroline Bingley. She suppressed a laugh.
"What is so amusing, Jane?"
Jane recollected herself, "I was remembering a time when I wished those hills were not so grand..." Jane trailed off and gave Elizabeth a shy smile.
Elizabeth's brow was raised and she suddenly remembered when Jane was invited to dine at Netherfield, "Ah, yes, I remember now..." Lizzy began to smile.
"I remember..." Jane was looking out the window, but she also was deep in thought, "riding up the hills, hoping the rain would let up." She began to smile again.
"Continue..." Lizzy was eagerly waiting for Jane to share her experience.
"I remember how awfully wet I was and how mother..." Jane paused and looked down. Lizzy gave her a look of encouragement and Jane continued, "I felt disheartened because of the weather...but as soon as I rode over the hill..." She looked first at Lizzy, then at the hills, "I never felt such pleasure." Jane could not hide her smile, and blushed. Lizzy smiled too and Jane continued, "Seeing Netherfield, even in that dreadful weather... I never expected that one day I would be mistress." Jane looked around the sitting room that would soon be hers.
Lizzy looked at her sister. She smiled and took her sister's hand, "I knew... I knew that you and Mr. Bingley would be together and you would be mistress of Netherfield."
"Lizzy! How could you so presumptuous? I could only hope," Jane was surprised by Lizzy's presumption, but she began to reflect. Only Lizzy would be daring enough to make such a presumption.
"Truly Jane! With your goodness and Bingley's good nature, I knew that you two would be an excellent match."
Jane giggled and Lizzy smiled.
"I am truly happy for you Jane." The two sisters looked at each other.
Then Jane took Lizzy's hand, "I am truly happy for you as well."
Jane and Elizabeth had always shared a unique intimacy. Their intimacy was built more than on just their closeness of age. They developed a mutual love and admiration for each other's disposition. Each admired qualities in the other that they lacked. In Jane, her unyielding kindness and ability to always see good in people. In Elizabeth, her quick wit and ability to laugh at herself.
Now both were recently engaged. Both of them were happy for her own and her sister's engagement.
"Lizzy," Jane paused before she continued, "how did you feel when you first saw Pemberley?"
They had just finished tea in the drawing room. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy were out shooting with Mr. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet went to town with Kitty to talk to Mrs. Phillips and Lady Lucas about wedding preparations. Mary was neither interested in going to town or to Netherfield. Mary thought with everyone indisposed of other engagements, she would have no one impede her progress for self-betterment, so decided to stay home.
Although Jane and Elizabeth had an intimate relationship, the events of the past few days kept them preoccupied. When Jane and Mr. Bingley announced their engagement, everyone, especially Mrs. Bennet, was delighted, but when it was announced that the second daughter, Elizabeth, was also engaged to Mr. Darcy, no less, the house and the neighborhood were in an uproar. The two eldest Bennet girls were to be married for love and advantageously connected. This was very rare for women, especially women of their station. Both scarcely had the time to reflect on the events of the past few day, let alone share with each other their thoughts. This was the first time since the announcements were made, three days ago, that they had time to speak privately with each other.
Lizzy was recalling the time she and her Uncle and Aunt Gardiner went to Derbyshire during the summer. Feelings of pleasure had overcome Lizzy's thoughts. Then she remembered that not all her feelings were so cheerful.
"Jane, I wished you could have seen the beauty of the peeks in Derbyshire," Lizzy trailed off, but was brought back by Jane's eagerness to hear her continue, "it was delightful."
"I must admit, however, when my Aunt Gardiner suggested we go visit Pemberley, I was very apprehensive."
"Indeed, was it not after Mr. Darcy proposed to you while you were at Hunsford?"
Lizzy nodded and let out a sigh. "I did not want to disappoint my Uncle and Aunt, but I admit... I was curious." Lizzy smiled.
"Of course... Pemberley is a grand estate."
"Indeed," Lizzy said and continued, "but I was not just curious to see the grounds, I wanted to see Mr. Darcy's home. I know it sounds silly. I wanted to see how a man like Mr. Darcy lived... I wanted to see how a proud and wealthy man lived," Lizzy suppressed a smile.
"Lizzy! But honestly, did you still feel apprehensive about going to Pemberley after you found out that the family were from home?" Jane was in earnest when she asked.
"Yes... but it was not the same apprehension that I felt about going to Pemberley. Instead, my apprehension was about witnessing the consequence of such a man as Mr. Darcy." Lizzy paused and continued.
"He was known as the most proudest, disagreeable man," Lizzy and Jane giggled, "but to actually have a chance to see what his fortune and estate entails, it was quite a humbling experience."
"Humbling? Surely, Lizzy, you were not intimidated?"
"It is true that I do not let others intimidate me..." Lizzy smiled, "however, here was a man who had proposed to me and then I was to see the consequence of this man if I had accepted him...to see what he offered...now that I think about it, I am surprised that I was not more apprehensive."
"Lizzy, you are truly courageous. I would not be able to bear it!"
Lizzy looked at her sister and continued, "Even now I can not believe what I experienced at Pemberley. After seeing it, I realized that Mr. Darcy had a deep regard for me if he was willing to share its beauty and grandness. Then hearing the housekeeper's account on Mr. Darcy's character... I truly did not know what to think."
"Do you think that is when you perceived Mr. Darcy in a more favorable manner?"
Lizzy hesitated before responding. Then she replied, "I think that was one of the instances that helped change my opinion of Mr. Darcy. As you know Mr. Darcy is not one to reveal his thoughts so easily, but he is thoughtful in his actions. The way he presented himself to my Uncle and Aunt...the way he treats his sister..."
"And you, Lizzy...are you happy with they way he treats you?" Jane looked genuinely concerned.
"Jane, I could not expect...I could only hope... Truly, he is the best man I have ever known," Lizzy smiled at Jane.
After some time, Lizzy began, "I must admit, when I first saw Pemberley, I was overcome with it's beauty. It is delightful," Lizzy looked out the window. She could see the shooting party. The men were returning to the house. Lizzy continued, "Pemberley was certainly not what a proud man would have. It looked like a place where I could live, could be happy...," Lizzy looked down and Jane reached for her hand. Lizzy smiled at Jane.
"Of course, " Lizzy looked at Jane, "the past was all forgiven. When I met Mr. Darcy at Pemberley after what had happened at Hunsford, I thought surely this man would be full of contempt." Lizzy smiled, "But I was wrong. His thoughtfulness and his gentleman-like manners..."
They heard voices in the hallway and the door opened.
Jane and Elizabeth immediately stood up. They both gave each other a look. Elizabeth tried to compose herself. Although thoughts of Darcy brought her pleasure, she had to maintain the decorum of a gentlewoman.
"Daughters! Exchanging secrets about your beaux. Well I am sorry for the interruption, but we have come from the shooting party and we are ready for tea." Mr. Bennet appeared with Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. Although he favored Jane and particularly Elizabeth, his manner towards them could be misinterpreted as careless sentiment, when in fact he cared for them deeply.
Jane and Lizzy exchanged looks again. Mr. Bingley, in good humor, showed Mr. Bennet into the drawing room and Mr. Darcy followed. Although Mr. Bingley had grown accustomed to Mr. Bennet, Darcy was still learning to understand him, but enjoyed his presence. Mr. Bingley called for tea and some refreshments. Elizabeth was standing and looking at Mr. Darcy. At one time, his presence brought feelings of disapprobation, but now, his presence was welcomed. How much had her feelings changed over the past eight months. Sometimes she could not believe the change.
As the tea was being served, Darcy walked over to Elizabeth. Mr. Bingley and Jane were waiting on Mr. Bennet.
They did not share a private moment since their engagement had been announced. Although they were in each other's presence for the past three days, there were always others present. Both were eager to have a private moment, but unaware of the other's feelings because of the lack of the latter. The excitement of the news had dwindled somewhat and they were able to have an outing at Netherfield. Each were hoping this would give an opportunity to share a private moment.
"What do you find so amusing?" Mr. Darcy was standing directly in front of Elizabeth.
"Amusing?" She could not remember the last time she had stood so close to him. His hair was slightly ruffled from the gentlemen's outing. She resisted the urge to touch his hair.
"Miss Bennet," Darcy was looking at Elizabeth. He looked down at her topaz cross around her neck. He noticed that her chest was rising at an unsteady pace. When he looked at Elizabeth's face, he noticed that there was some color in her cheeks. This look was very becoming, but he realized that his closeness must be contributing to the change in her composure. Darcy stepped back. He suddenly remembered that others were in the room.
"Mr. Darcy, I assure you my thoughts were pleasantly diverted," Elizabeth smiled at him.
"Pleasantly diverted?" He was hoping that she would share her thoughts. They had maintained the decorum of a gentleman and woman, but ever since they were engaged to be married, Darcy and Elizabeth were developing a closeness only two people who admired each other could form.
"Indeed, sir, I was...I was remembering a time when your presence was...not so welcomed," Elizabeth looked at Darcy and gave him a knowing smile. She noticed that Darcy's countenance had turned.
"Of course, that is not the case now...," she trailed off.
Darcy was trying not to show his eagerness, "It is not? How do... What is...?" he tried to match Elizabeth's playfulness, but he was not accustomed to such openness, especially from the opposite sex.
Elizabeth noticed his struggles and decided that she should intervene before he became discouraged, "Your presence is received with growing pleasure." She looked directly at Darcy.
Darcy could hardly restrain his feelings. A smile came across his face and he almost reached out for her hand when he was reminded of where they were and who was there. Her ease in revealing her thoughts would normally be considered improper, but Mr. Darcy never experienced such a deep regard that at times propriety...
They were both diverted by a conversation between Mr. Bingley and Mr. Bennet.
"Mr. Bingley, I hope that after you and Jane wed, you can tolerate living at so close a proximity to... Well, it would be a shame to loose such agreeable neighbors." Mr. Bennet was attempting to be civil. Elizabeth noticed that her father was trying to be courteous for Jane's sake. Although Jane tried to keep her countenance, Elizabeth could tell that she was mortified by her father speaking so unguardedly.
Elizabeth, trying to ease Jane's feelings, responded, "Come now, Papa, Mr. Bingley and Jane will be the most agreeable neighbors in Hertfordshire. I am sure that they will be welcomed here."
Mr. Darcy noticed how she tried to keep her father in check and assisted her.
"Mr. Bennet, did you enjoy the sport today?" Mr. Darcy had moved into the conversation. Elizabeth looked at him with warmth and his heart rose.
"Well, I tolerate sport, but I would rather be in my library." Mr. Bennet was trying to be civil, but felt that his attempts were not pleasing his daughters.
"Well, Mr. Bennet, I hope that when you visit Pemberley that I might show you the library there. It has been put together and maintained by many generations."
Elizabeth watched Darcy as he conversed with her father. He was all ease, no improper pride. In fact, she could see her father had noticed this and became more at ease himself. She could feel the smile on her face as she thought how much her regard for Mr. Darcy was growing deeper.
"The library at Pemberley is grand. I am working on the library here at Netherfield. I know it is nothing compared to Pemberley's, but in time I hope to have a respectable library." Mr. Bingley looked at Jane. She smiled at him.
"Although I am eager to see the library at Pemberley, until then, I would just the same see the library here at Netherfield." He got up and began to walk when Mr. Bingley realized that Mr. Bennet was making a request. Jane followed them to the library. Darcy began to follow, but noticed that Elizabeth did not. He turned to Elizabeth.
"Are you not coming to the library?" Darcy asked.
"You may go to the library. I think I will have some tea and enjoy the prospect from that window." She looked at him directly and gave him one of her knowing smiles. She hoped that he would not disapprove.
Although there was no one else in the room to chaperone them, Darcy realized what Elizabeth was doing. Decorum was to follow the rest of the party to the library, but his heart wanted to be with Elizabeth, alone.
Elizabeth walked to the window she and Jane were standing in front of before the rest of the party joined them for tea. Mr. Darcy followed her, but when he stood next to her, she walked away, towards the further end of the room, next to the fireplace.
Mr. Darcy was unaccustomed to such play. It was usually he who was followed by others trying to win his attention. His grand estate and large fortune were what recommended him to others first. The fact that he was a tall, handsome young man made him even more agreeable. He did not usually have trouble gaining attention from others; it was given to him even if he did not want it at times. Elizabeth was the only one who did not seek his attentions. When he first met Elizabeth, she did not try to seek his attention or approbation. There were times when she even tried to draw him into an argument and contradict him. It was refreshing.
This playfulness was not a characteristic of a proper courtship. He never would have considered pursuing in this manner before he met Elizabeth. He was challenged in a way he was never before. He could not resist her. Mr. Darcy followed her to the fireplace.
"Miss Bennet, you neither are enjoying the prospect from that window nor have taken tea." Darcy was trying to illicit a response from Elizabeth. He enjoyed having the possibility of some banter with her.
They were standing face to face.
"I thank you for your concern, Mr. Darcy, but I decided to forego the later and enjoy the fire," she smiled at him. Elizabeth enjoyed using her playfulness on Mr. Darcy. Although she was inexperienced in these matters, it was obvious that Mr. Darcy was more so. She believed it to be harmless banter and also believed that Mr. Darcy enjoyed it.
He looked thoughtful. He then replied, "I hope that you will not be this inconstant when we are married." He was trying to create banter with Elizabeth.
The smile slowly disappeared from her face. Darcy thought his attempt was poorly made. Elizabeth recognized his attempt to reciprocate. She did not want to censure or discourage him. Elizabeth wanted to acknowledge that their openness is acceptable, but at the same time that her feelings are constant.
Elizabeth stepped closer to Mr. Darcy and looked directly at him. He had forgotten how her gaze could pierce through him. Darcy did not know what feelings were evoked in Elizabeth from his statement. He did not know what to anticipate. The warmth of the fire was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He had never felt this way. He was unprepared for what to receive, censuring himself for such a careless statement, and unsure of his own abilities compared to Elizabeth's quick wit and playfulness. Mr. Darcy was always used to being in control of his situation. He always made sure that he never put himself in a situation that he could not control. However, whenever Mr. Darcy was with Elizabeth, he seemed to loose control over the situation before he knew it. He was now doubting himself, but could not help loving her at the same time.
She reached for his hair where it had been ruffled by the outing. Elizabeth knew that it was improper, but wanted to convey to him that she valued their openness and wanted to continue the intimacy. She hoped that he would be receptive. His words did not hurt her. In fact, Elizabeth's regard had grown even more deep. She realized that he was trying to be playful, but revealed a guarded sense of insecurity in their relationship. Mr. Darcy had revealed himself to her. Her breath began to grow unsteady again as the thought of their growing intimacy went through her thoughts. She wanted to convey to him that he should not have any doubts of her attachment.
Her fingers went through the wave in his hair. The softness of his hair pleasantly surprised her. Mr. Darcy had never experienced such tenderness with another person before. He could not believe that in a few weeks, they would begin their life together. Although she lightly touched his hair, Darcy felt as if she were touching his heart. It was brief, but it left a lasting impression. Darcy was utterly and completely devoted to Elizabeth.
As she moved her hand away, Darcy caught it as it came down. As she looked at him she said, "Be assured that although my manners my be playful, my heart is always constant. You have nothing to fear."
Darcy could feel his hand being squeezed by Elizabeth's. He had never known such closeness with someone. His thoughts were racing at the idea that they would soon be man and wife. His chest was beating violently. There was so much he wanted to convey, but again he did not know how. He was not use to such openness. Eight months ago, he prized his ability of being able to keep his feelings and thoughts guarded from others. Now, he wanted to share the joy of his heart with this woman.
He did what a man like Darcy could do, he squeezed her hand. He first looked at his hand holding hers. He thought he would never get a chance to know what it would be like to touch her. Now he was doing what he only dreamed. He then looked directly at Elizabeth. He brought her hand to his mouth and softly pressed his lips to it. He never took his eyes off her as he did this. Elizabeth felt as if the fire were burning inside her, not merely contained in the fireplace. She felt that her breathing was unsteady, but tried to preserve her countenance. Elizabeth received this kiss with a smile and warmth that he could feel in her eyes. She was truly the only woman who captured his heart.
They could hear voices in the hall. The party was returning. Elizabeth and Darcy released their hands...relunctantly. They each stepped back from each other. Elizabeth prepared to receive her father, Jane, and Mr. Bingley, but Darcy was still looking at her. Before she thought his constant looking was of disapprobation, but now she knew what it really meant. It was hard to take her eyes away from his, knowing his meaning. Her heart rose and she could feel the color rising in her cheeks.
"Well, it is a fine library, Mr. Bingley. I look forward to seeing it again when you have made more additions." Mr. Bennet appeared to be sincere.
"Of course, Mr. Bennet. I would also like to hear any recommendations you may have for my library. I would be much obliged," Mr. Bingley said as they walked into the drawing room.
They continued their conversation and Mr. Darcy joined later, but not before he gave Elizabeth a final look. Jane had noticed that the color in Elizabeth's cheeks had rose. She walked over to Elizabeth as the men were talking.
Elizabeth met Jane's eyes with a smile. Whatever apprehensions Elizabeth or Mr. Darcy had about their future no longer existed. The private moment they shared was treasured by both. The possibility of sharing more moments like this excited Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. They both looked forward with eager anticipation to the next opportunity they would have together now and in the future.