Beginning, Section II
It was three days until Charles and Jane's wedding and Charles was expecting his good friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, to arrive within the hour. He had written to him to inform him when he should expect him and Georgiana to arrive. However, he also wrote that he had to discuss something important with him. Charles waited with anticipation for the day when he and Jane were to be married. He had promised Jane that he would journey to Longbourn later on that evening and take Mr. Darcy and Georgiana with him.
The carriage arrived just before noon at Netherfield and Charles went out to greet his guests. Darcy got out first, followed by a rather sad looking Georgiana. He looked at Georgiana in surprise, something was amiss. He looked over at Darcy and was surprised to see the same look reflected on his face. Miss Bingley approached both Darcy and Georgiana as they arrived in the entrance hall.
"My dear Georgiana, how are you? Was the carriage ride intolerable? I can tell by your face that it was. However, I shall get Townsend to leave your luggage and you can rest for a while. I shall entertain your brother," Caroline finished with a wily look at Darcy. Georgiana's eyes widened in comprehension, and then a sly ironic smile crept across her face.
"Caroline, Darcy and I will be in the study for a while, not to be disturbed." Charles emphasized the word "not." Caroline gave her brother daggers looks and swept away towards the staircase to lead Georgiana to her room.
Darcy stood at the window of the study and looked out over the Hertfordshire countryside with an impassive look on his face. "It is done Bingley."
Bingley looked slightly confused, trying to comprehend his friend's cryptic words.
Eventually Darcy turned around, eyes looking toward a painting hanging behind Charles. "I am a married man."
"Miss Elizabeth, the post has just come and there is a letter for you here."
"Thank you Hill." Elizabeth stared at the handwriting, it looked familiar but she was unable to place it. A slight frown creased her forehead and she ran up to her room to read the letter. Opening the sheets, she recognised the Fitzwilliam family insignia.
31 June 18___
Dear Miss Bennet,
I write to you now to put right the wrongs that I may have inflicted upon you. I realise that my behaviour to you was seen by some as an attachment and, if I have given you any cause to feel that what I felt for you was more than just friendship, then I am deeply grievous.
I regret to inform you that my affections have been long elsewhere. I know that this will be a shock to you, as I did not always conduct myself in such a manner that would indicate that my affections were already the property of another. I feel that I should explain myself to you in the honest way and hope that I have not succeeded in losing a friend that I greatly admire.
Nine months ago my dear cousin, Georgiana, introduced me to a most spectacular creature called Miss Kathriona Lyons. She was the most beautiful woman that I ever beheld. Her beauty however was not only on the outside; her kindness outshone that of every other woman that I have ever known.
Unfortunately, being the second son of an Earl, her father did not look upon the match with a kind eye and sent her away to the country where I was not permitted to visit her. She left for her family estate a week before my journey to Rosings. Going to Rosings to visit my aunt was unbearable for me, however your presence made it all the more pleasurable for both my cousin and myself.
Meeting you again in London was an agreeable surprise and I admit that I enjoyed your company immensely. However I am ashamed to say that there was an ulterior motive for me. Miss Lyons' father, hearing that you and I were supposedly attached allowed his daughter to come to London. She believed me to be in love with another woman. She was quite upset, as I am sure you can imagine Miss Bennet, indeed what woman would not be?
Eventually I received the opportunity to speak with her and told her the truth of my situation. I cannot lose her again, Miss Bennet, and she vows she cannot live without me. By the time you read this letter we will have left for Gretna Green to be joined as man and wife.
I regret any upset that I might have caused you and hope that one day you will be able to forgive me for what I have done.
Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam.
"William! Oh William!" Georgiana cried as she spied her brother walking along the rose garden in Netherfield. He looked up with a look of surprise and concern on his face.
"Georgiana, whatever is the matter?" He looked down and noticed the letter in her trembling hand. "Is it Aunt Catherine, has she gotten any worse?"
"No, William, but it is news equally as dreadful. I have just received a letter from Kathriona. Oh William, she has married Richard!"
Darcy stood dumbfounded, looking at his sister. Fitzwilliam was to marry Elizabeth, everyone expected it. He grabbed the letter from Georgiana and slowly read it. It was true they had been secretly engaged and had run away.
"How foolish can he be? He has disgraced us, Georgiana." Darcy looked up and saw his sister's eyes shining with unshed tears, however he was extremely angry. "How could he have done this to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Georgiana? How are we to face that family tomorrow knowing that our cousin may have broken the heart of their daughter? It is unthinkable Georgiana. Foolish, foolish man! If he had but come to me, I am sure that some resolution may have been acquired." Darcy turned and took Georgiana's arm lightly. She looked up and tears streamed down her face.
"William, this is my entire fault. If I had not introduced Kathriona to Richard this would never have happened, and Elizabeth would not have been used in such a cruel way!"
"Hush, Georgiana. You are not at fault, and I am sure that Elizabeth Bennet does not blame you. It is our thoughtless cousin who is the cause of all this. I had not thought he would do such a thing. I am exceedingly disappointed in him."
Elizabeth had gone for a walk when the Darcys and Mr. Bingley arrived at Longbourn. However, when she arrived she found her youngest sister was full of delight over Miss Darcy.
"She is quite a pretty thing, although much too shy, although Papa says she will not remain that way if she stays around Kitty and me. I agree with him, the girl needs to come out more."
"Lydia, do not annoy Miss Darcy and pester her. It would be most unwelcome I am sure," Lizzy said with a reprimanding look.
"Very well then, Lizzy, I shall not tell you the interesting news that Miss Darcy told me."
Lizzy sighed, thinking that it was something to do with soldiers and knowing Lydia would tell her since the girl was unable to keep anything to herself.
"Lydia, what is it?"
"Why, Mr. Darcy is already married. To his cousin, Anne de Bourgh," Lydia said triumphantly at her sister. "I knew I would surprise you! Mama says that there is a reason for everything and that Mr. Darcy's reasons for marrying his cousin quicker than expected have a reason, too. However, the reasons he has for marrying her so soon are probably nothing honourable at all. Mama says he has not an honourable bone in his body. Indeed how could he? He was so dreadfully proud to everyone, especially when he slighted you, Lizzy. It would not surprise me if there were some ill in his decision to marry his cousin so quickly."
Elizabeth merely walked blankly past her sister, walked up the stairs and sat weakly down on her bed and whispered softly over and over again to herself, "He is married."
"Oh Jane, you look exceedingly beautiful this morning. There has never been such pretty bride in all the country. You shall outshine Charlotte Lucas when she got married; there is no doubt about that!"
"Oh Mama, you must not say such things." Jane reprimanded her mother.
Elizabeth looked at them both with a soft smile. Her mother would never change, and Jane did look wonderful this morning. Why should she not, she thought to herself, she is marrying the man that she loves! A soft sigh escaped her as she went over to make some last minute adjustments to Jane's dress.
She could not think about him. It was too hard. How she was to face this day she did not know. She walked into her father's library and sat down, just thinking. She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she failed to hear her father as he entered the room.
"Have you chosen to escape to my library too, Lizzy?"
"Indeed Papa, it is a little bit hectic out there just now."
"Indeed Lizzy, and what a day we have in front of us. I admit I shall be sorry to see Jane leave, and if you marry, Lizzy, I shall be left with your mother and your three silly sisters."
Elizabeth laughed as her father rolled his eyes heavenward. "There is no danger of me marrying Papa, I assure you."
Mr. Bennet regarded his daughter for a few moments before replying.
"I admit I was surprised to hear that Mr. Darcy got married so suddenly. He never struck me as the type to do things on the spur of the moment. He always appeared to me to be a rational man, one who would think things through before doing them."
Elizabeth didn't answer. She looked down at her dress suddenly having the feeling of wanting to leave the room, run out of it if necessary.
"Excuse me Papa but I really must go up to Jane. If I leave her with Mama too long she may end up becoming very distressed.
"Very well my dear. I shall see you later."
Elizabeth left, feeling guilty that she felt so relieved for being able to escape her father. She ran upstairs and into Jane's room where their mother was fussing over her daughter's veil.
"Excuse me ma'am," Hill said as she entered the room, "but Mistress Catherine is having a problem with her dress and she wants you to help her with it."
"How am I ever to get Jane ready if Kitty cannot even get herself ready? Oh my nerves. She has no compassion for my nerves, none of you have!"
"Mama, Lizzy can look after me." Jane said, kindly laying a hand on her mother's arm. "Now go quickly and help her."
Lizzy and Jane were left alone in the room while their mother and Hill went to help Kitty with her dress dilemma.
"Lizzy, I know how hard it will be for you today. Especially now that Mr. Darcy is married."
"Jane do not worry. I shall be fine. I hope to enjoy myself today, and you worrying about me will not make me happy. Besides you'll have enough to worry about. You know, keeping Mama from scaring your husband away."
"Oh Lizzy." Jane said laughingly before they both quickly finished getting ready and the whole family headed for the church.
Bingley stood nervously at the altar. He was wringing his hands and worrying at his lip. His friend was not doing much better! Although Darcy appeared more composed on the outside, inside he was a bag of nerves. He had not seen Elizabeth since he had arrived, for one reason or another and he was nervous to see her, talk to her and explain. He had wondered what she had thought when she had heard that he was already married and whether he should talk to her about Richard, in fact he had been wondering if he should talk to her today at all. Eventually he decided to talk to her. After all he could hardly ignore her, especially since he was best man and she maid of honour.
Darcy had spoken to Georgiana earlier about after the wedding. It was decided that Georgiana and he would travel to London to spend a few days there. Later he would travel to Rosings where he would spend time with Anne and Lady Catherine. Unfortunately he knew that he would not see Pemberley for a long time as Anne, understandably, refused to leave her mother's bedside. Caroline Bingley and her good, if not slightly annoying friend, Angela Woods had promised to travel with Georgiana to Pemberley where they would remain with her until Darcy arrived with Anne.
As Darcy's plans and thoughts were running through his mind, he suddenly heard the wedding march being played on the organ. Bingley lightly gripped his arm and they both turned around to see the bride walk up the aisle.
Jane looked radiant, like an angel as Bingley had always described her. Darcy had never seen her look more beautiful. Her eyes were shining and she looked lovingly and expectantly into Bingley's face. Her empire dress was made of satin and was beaded with pearls as was her lace which fell to just below her waist. But the sight that came floating up the aisle after Jane really took Darcy's breath away.
Elizabeth held her head high as she walked up the aisle behind Jane. She would not allow the likes of Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst to undermine her, especially today. She could feel Caroline's small sharp eyes boring hatefully into her back. She had a small smile of satisfaction on her face. Caroline had been defeated. She had not got her brother to marry Georgiana Darcy and she had lost Fitzwilliam Darcy. Elizabeth refused to allow that little voice to inform her that she too had lost him. She walked up the aisle gracefully, seeing nothing, as she was so engrossed in her thoughts. As she reached the top of the altar she dared look over to the right to find herself staring hypnotically into the deep, dark chocolate eyes of the man she loved. He looked at her with such intensity as to make her turn away and blush.
The ceremony was simple, much to Mrs. Bennnet's annoyance and disappointment, but very beautiful. After the ceremony family and friends retired to a celebratory feast. The wedding party was seated at the top with Elizabeth and Darcy sitting opposite each other. Her grew more nervous as the meal progressed. Although always talking to the people sitting around them, she could hardly deny to herself the amount of times she felt his eyes upon her or how often she suddenly realised she had her gaze fixed upon him. They did not talk much during the meal since Caroline seemed determined to commandeer every moment of his time, but the glances that Elizabeth sneaked of him were more communicative than any words, if he had noticed of course.
Georgiana was enjoying herself. She talked a lot to Lydia, which surprised Elizabeth since they appeared so different in character. Georgiana loved the Bennet girls and had spent almost all her time with them since she had arrived in Hertfordshire. When Caroline Bingley had found out about Darcy's marriage she had been quite difficult and had sulked for days in her room apparently. Refusing to eat any meals until Charles had threatened to have her force-fed! However she soon recovered and seemed determined to be the only woman around Darcy claiming she was looking after him for 'dear Anne'. As far as Elizabeth knew Caroline Bingley had never met Anne de Bourgh...er Darcy. By the end of the meal, Mr. Hurst was substantially drunk and Louisa was spending as much time away from her embarrassing husband as possible.
After the meal there was dancing, which lasted well into the evening. Elizabeth danced with Charles, her father and a few friends. The militia had left Meryton, much to Lydia and Kitty's disappointment. Even though Lydia had been asked by Mrs. Forster to go with them to Brighton, Mr. Bennet had deemed it unsuitable for a girl in her station to be going out every night to balls and flirting with a new officer every night, as she undoubtedly would.
After dancing two dances with her new brother, Elizabeth decided to sneak out for a breath of fresh air before her cousin Mr. Collins could accost her for the next two dances. Elizabeth still didn't know how her friend Charlotte Lucas could live with him. She walked through the forest towards the little woodland area of the garden convinced she would be left alone. She sat down on the stone, backless bench and just thought about things.
She thought about her life, her family and most of all how much she was going to miss Jane. She sighed to herself and then started thinking of those eyes. No. I promised myself I wouldn't think about him, and I will not. All the while her mind was playing images of a pair of deep dark brown eyes. Frustrated she stood under the large oak tree and paced back and forwards, kicking small stones in her path. She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she jumped in surprise when she heard someone behind her. Whipping around, she found herself in the presence of Mr. Darcy. She stood dumbly staring at him for she knew not how long.
"Forgive me Miss Bennet. I did not mean to startle you," he began.
"It is quite alright Mr. Darcy. I just came out for a little fresh air. It was getting a bit crowded in there." She turned away from him awkwardly.
They stood in an embarrassed silence for a few minutes, before neither of them could take it any longer.
They both began at the same time. They both gave a little chuckle.
"Please continue Mr. Darcy I am sorry for interrupting you."
He paced up and down before her and she looked quite confused and quizzical before he started.
"Miss Bennet, there has been a matter that I have wished to speak to you of since I learned of it. It saddens me greatly to think that a member of my family could have used you so abominably as to further his own needs. It causes me even greater pains knowing that I was the one who introduced you to my cousin. I hope you will accept this apology from not only Georgiana and myself but from the family as a whole. Again let me express my regret and sympathy at the underhand way in which Richard abused your feelings."
"Mr. Darcy please do not trouble yourself with any apology. Although I was very fond of Colonel Fitzwilliam I harboured no feeling for him other than friendship. He has not injured me in the way that you seem to believe. Even though I value him dearly as a friend, it is not he that I love."
She bent her head and turned away from Mr. Darcy, afraid to look him in the face and to have him realise that it was he she loved. He stood unsure of what to do. Was it too much to believe that perhaps it was he whom she loved? He dismissed this quickly, she had made her feelings perfectly clear at Hunsford.
"Miss Bennet I cannot stay long, however allow me to express my dearest wish for your future happiness with the man that you love." His large expressive eyes looked downcast as he sadly turned away from Lizzy.
"I wish I could Mr. Darcy, but it is not to be. He belongs to another." Darcy turned around surprised at her admission.
"Is he aware of your feelings?"
"I do not believe so. You see I abused him so abominably to his face that I do not believe he could ever forgive me."
Darcy stood stock still unable to believe his ears. Elizabeth now shied away in embarrassment realising she had said too much.
"Please forgive me I do not know what I was thinking. I am afraid that in my old age I'm turning into Mama!" She attempted a smile but failed miserably.
She stopped in her tracks, her heart pounding in her chest. He had called her by her name.
"I'm sorry." The words were said so quietly that they barely carried over the gentle breeze.
"I don't want your pity, only your love." Lizzy was amazed at herself. Had she really said that? She was just thinking it. He wasn't supposed to know but it was too late, her secret was out. She could feel her colour rising more and more with every second that passed, maybe she really was becoming like Mrs. Bennet! She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she almost failed to hear the words that would change her life forever.
"You've always had my love Elizabeth, and you always will."
They both stood still in shock and amazement a river of emotions flowed through each of them, shock, happiness, relief, hurt, anger but most of all the overpowering emotion of love. Suddenly they were hit with the horrible reality.
"You are married," Elizabeth stated blankly. "Neither of us should have said anything, we both knew you were married."
"Would you have us continue the emotional torment that we have both been suffering from? I am married to Anne in name only, my heart belongs to you."
Lizzy placed her shaky hand up to her head and paced to and fro in front of him. She was obviously upset.
"There is nothing we can do. You married Miss de Bourgh. I can't see you again it would hurt too much for both of us, knowing the truth as we do."
His heart plummeted, he knew she was right, there was no way they could pretend to be friends after their recent revelations.
"I would never wish to hurt you in any way and if never seeing you again is the only way to protect you, then that is what we will do. Goodbye, Miss Bennet." He said this while looking deep into her eyes and lightly placed a kiss on her cheek. He could taste the saltiness of her tears that were now streaming down her face. He turned and walked away, leaving her alone.
Darcy raised his eyes from the letter he had received from Georgiana. He missed her so much. After the wedding he had only been able to spend a few quiet days with her in London before he journeyed to Rosings to be with Anne and his sickly aunt. Georgiana had travelled to Pemberley where she now resided with Caroline Bingley and her friend Angela Woods. Although he wished to join his sister he could not since Lady Catherine appeared to grow sicker with each passing day, her face becoming pale with dark hollows under each eye making her look twenty years older.
It was about two o'clock one Thursday morning when Darcy was summoned urgently to Lady Catherine's bedside. He hurried down the long corridors to her room. He entered and was surprised to find himself alone with the sickly old woman.
"My dear nephew, please come forward to me." She held out her arm limply to him and he held her hand awkwardly. "I fear I am not have long for this world. I have not called for Anne yet as I must speak with you alone."
"Of course, Aunt." he answered hoarsely.
"I did not expect to leave so suddenly. In fact I did not expect to leave for several years. The physician told me I had many years left in me. But what do they know, they are just common people who believe that by attending one of the aristocracy they are one of us."
Darcy realised that his aunt had deceived him into believing her condition was worse than she had let on.
"Darcy, Anne is frail and she needs looking after. I have been with her every day since she has been born and she depends upon me. Unfortunately I will not be there for her in future, but you will. You will take care of her, Darcy?"
"Of course I will."
"Good because she has no one but you now, Darcy. She's got you. I hope that will be all she'll need. Now send for her."
Anne came into the room, already in hysterics, she knew what was coming. Darcy left the mother and daughter alone for the last time. He waited patiently, pacing along the hall. A few minutes later Anne came out and nearly collapsed in Darcy's arms.
"She is dead." Anne could barely get the words out and so Darcy ordered the Mrs. Annsley to take her back to her room while he looked after the funeral arrangements. He wanted the arrangements made as soon as possible and preferably without upsetting Lady Catherine's daughter.
He never knew my mother. How can he stand up there pretending he knew her like I knew her? Anne thought bitterly. She felt like her whole world was collapsing around her. Her beloved mother was gone, she owned a huge estate that she knew she could never properly run or use and now she would have to move to Derbyshire with a husband whom she didn't love and who clearly didn't love her. Her only consolation was spending more time with her dearest cousin Georgiana. Anne looked around at the many faces, many of them she had never seen before in her life. Hopefully Mr. Collins would finish soon and she could get back to Rosings.
Jane walked into the reception banquet with her husband Charles. Her long blonde hair was carefully arranged with black silk ribbons keeping it in place. She stood by the fireplace talking to Charles. Out of the corner of her eye she spied a familiar figure. It was Colonel Fitzwilliam and his new wife, the former Miss Kathriona Lyons. Unsure of what to do, she smiled, nodded and returned to her conversation with Bingley. Suddenly, she noticed a tall man moving swiftly past her. It was Mr. Darcy and he was heading for Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"Darcy, I received your express. I was very sorry to hear the sad news of our Aunt. I believe you have already met my wife, Mrs. Kathriona Fitzwilliam," began Richard. Darcy bowed to Kathriona.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Darcy. My husband has often spoken of you," Mrs. Fitzwilliam replied.
"It is a pleasure to meet you too. Richard, I would like to talk to you in private for a moment if you don't mind."
"Of course not." He turned to his wife, "Excuse me my love." They moved into the library.
Darcy walked around nervously for a couple of minutes. "Richard, when I heard of your elopement with Miss Lyons I was shocked and angry and I was disappointed. I couldn't believe that you would use Miss Bennet so terribly and I resolved never to see you again. I was ashamed of you when I had to apologise to Miss Bennet for your ungentleman like behaviour. Thankfully, she only thought of you as her friend." He stopped here to see Colonel Fitzwilliam's reaction. He was silent so Darcy continued, "I was seriously considering not inviting you to this funeral, but Lady Catherine was very fond of you, even after she heard the scandalous news. I realised I was being stupid and stubborn. Clearly you love Miss Lyons, forgive me, Mrs. Fitzwilliam, and I wish you every happiness. Everyone deserves to be with the person they love." Darcy's thoughts were on Elizabeth. It was nearly a year to the day since he had proposed to her and she had refused him. He turned away from his cousin, not wanting him to see his expression.
Colonel Fitzwilliam stood, dumbfounded. He couldn't believe his ears! Darcy was admitting he was wrong! "I am very sorry cousin for the trouble and pain I have caused everyone. I didn't mean to hurt anyone, especially not Miss Bennet. I just knew that Kathriona's father would never allow her to marry me and I don't think my father is too pleased either. I couldn't live without her. I am very grateful for you being so understanding. I have already spoken with Georgiana about it and she understood straight away. She always was a bit of a romantic," he added with a soft chuckle.
"I think we better get back out to our guests," stated Darcy before turning and walking out the door with Colonel Fitzwilliam close behind him.
Darcy soon spotted Charles and Jane. He went over to them and immediately Jane began to console with him and asking him if he needed anything. "Mr.Darcy I am very sorry for your loss. We both are. How are you feeling? You and Anne are welcome to come and stay with Charles and myself if you wish to. Or if there is anything you need you can always ask us."
"You are very kind, Mrs. Bingley. I'm afraid I must decline your kind invitation. Anne and I would like to go to London as soon as possible after the funeral. Georgiana will be going on to Pemberley, as you know with Caroline and Miss Woods. Thank you very much for your kind enquiries. I'm afraid I must leave you now to check on Anne and the other guests."
Darcy desperately wanted to ask Jane how Elizabeth was but restrained himself. He decided he couldn't bear to hear of her happiness without him and yet he couldn't bear to hear that she wasn't happy.
A few hours later the house was empty. Everyone had come, expressed their sorrow at the untimely death of Lady Catherine and left. But Darcy couldn't leave. He wearily climbed the stairs to his bedchamber. Tomorrow would be a busy day. He had to start organising the whole house, with the help of the housekeeper, for their departure. Things had to be discussed with Anne as to what she wanted to do with the house. It wouldn't be easy. He would liked to have left it until she had had time to come to terms with the death of her mother, but she had said herself that she didn't want to be in the house any longer than was necessary after the funeral. She told him that it just didn't seem like the house she had grown up in without her mother giving orders. Darcy got into his bed and the minute his head hit the pillow, he fell asleep.
Kent, 23 April 18__Elizabeth couldn't imagine her Mr. Darcy looking so terrible. But he is not mine, I must not think like that! It has been nearly a year since I last saw him, and year since I made the biggest mistake of my life by far. She had to do something to take her mind off him, so she was thankful that in a few days Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner would come to take her away to tour the Lake Country. They had meant to go last summer, but one of the Gardiner's children had suddenly fallen ill and so the tour had been postponed. This year Lizzy was looking forward to this trip more than ever.
My dearest Lizzy,
Charles and I have just left Rosings Park and are now staying with some friends of Charles. The funeral was very sad. I felt extremely sorry for Mrs. Darcy as she now is. She never spoke a word to anyone she just sat there in the church with a blank expression on her face. When we returned to the house for a small reception she disappeared to her room I believe. We spoke for a moment with Mr. Darcy. He looked so different, so run down and tired. I suppose it should be expected, he did have to organise the whole funeral after all. But I have never seen a man so changed for the worse. However, he was a most gracious host and looked after all his guests. How I felt for him. He and Mrs. Darcy are travelling to London in a few days until the end of the summer while Miss Georgiana Darcy will be going on to Pemberley with Caroline and her friend Miss Angela Woods.
There was nothing extraordinary about the ceremony, except of course for the fact that our cousin, Mr. Collins gave an extremely long speech on the wonderful condescension of Lady Catherine. I fear he might miss her. This is all I have to tell you dear sister so I must go back down stairs and be sociable. I will not see you before you go away with Aunt and Uncle Gardiner so I wish you the best of journeys and I hope you enjoy your trip. You must write to me often and tell me all you have been doing.
Your loving sister,
The days passed slowly but at last the Gardiners arrived. There were the usual enquiries about the families before Lizzy's aunt and uncle had a chance to talk to her. Mrs. Gardiner began thus, "Lizzy, we bear you bad tidings but not too grievous we hope."
"The guilt is mine," added Mr. Gardiner. "My business will not let me away long enough to tour the Lakes. We shall have to content ourselves with Derbyshire."
Although Lizzy was disappointed not to be able to see the Lakes, she was very glad to spend time in Derbyshire because she knew that her aunt had grown up there and she loved it very much.
Elizabeth loved the wildness of the Derbyshire countryside and she tried very hard to keep that thought out of her head that this is where Mr. Darcy lived. She was enthralled by the scenery, the mountains, the forests, everything pleased her. They visited the great houses of Blenheim and Chatsworth. The interior of the houses was magnificent but the grounds were magical.
As they sat having dinner in the Bull Inn in Lambton, Mrs. Gardiner suggested that they go to Pemberley.
"No!" Lizzy almost shouted. How could she go to his house? "I mean it's just that I feel it might be awkward to go to the home of an acquaintance without a proper invitation. And I have seen plenty of fine furnishing in Chatsworth and Blenheim, what could be so different about Pemberley?" But she felt very selfish saying this, clearly her aunt and uncle wanted to go. "But if you especially want to see it, I don't mind going I suppose."
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were quite surprised at their niece's strong objections.
"I shouldn't like to go if it were just a fine house richly furnished, but the grounds are meant to be absolutely fabulous, the best in all the country. It is not directly in our way, but no more than a mile or two out of it. And as you know yourself, the family is in London for the summer." Her aunt had a point, she obviously wanted to see the grounds and if he were not there it wouldn't be so bad.
"Then perhaps we shall go to Pemberley after all." Elizabeth replied. Suddenly she remembered that Georgiana would be there.
I cannot object to going now, I've just agreed to go! What shall I do? Maybe she will be gone out for the day, anyway we probably won't be going near the house; we are just going to see the grounds. Elizabeth was determined not to see anyone connected with the Darcy family in any way.
"I have never seen a house for which nature has done so much." Elizabeth stated, and her aunt and uncle agreed wholeheartedly with her.
The only thing Lizzy had to do now was keep out of the house. However, that would be easier said than done.
They had not been allowed to tour the house, much to Elizabeth's delight, as Georgiana had been in residence. The head gardener had obliged them by bringing them on a tour of the woods that surrounded the great house. The gardener was showing Lizzy's aunt and uncle a den belonging to a family of foxes, while Lizzy, seeing something moving in the bushes up ahead, went on without them. She was curious to see the animal and so went through the underbrush and just caught sight of a baby fox before almost colliding with Georgiana Darcy.
"Miss Darcy!" Elizabeth exclaimed in surprise as she finally clapped eyes on the mistress of Pemberley. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, Georgiana was not alone. Looking haughty shocked and disgusted were Caroline Bingley and whom Elizabeth could only presume was her friend, Miss Angela Woods.
"Miss Bennet" Georgiana began, "I did not know that you were in Derbyshire. You should have informed me of it upon your arrival. I am so happy to see you." Her face seemed to light up when she recognised Elizabeth, and Lizzy could hardly blame her. She would not like to spend days or worse weeks with only Caroline Bingley and her obnoxious friends.
Miss Bingley glowered at her. "Still living in the wild I see, Eliza. May I introduce my friend, Miss Woods, to you Eliza? Angela, this is Miss Eliza Bennet." Then in a more conspiratorial whisper to her friend, "She's the one I was speaking about earlier."
Miss Woods smirked at Elizabeth. "I'm pleased to meet you at last Miss Bennet. I have heard so much about you from Caroline."
"I'm sure you have, Miss Woods."
Goergiana coloured in embarrassment and quickly changed the subject. "How long have you been in this part of the country Elizabeth?" she asked obviously interested and happy to see her friend.
"For the past three days Georgiana. I came with my Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. They are on a tour of the grounds at the moment with your gardener, and are enjoying it immensely. I should probably rejoin them, as they'll be wondering where I am."
"Why do we not go with you, Elizabeth? I would dearly love to see Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner again."
Caroline and her friend looked uncomfortable, and she spoke in a patronising tone to Miss Darcy. "My dear Georgiana, I believe it is getting chilly outside. I think it would be better if we went inside. We would not wish you to get sick."
However Georgiana would not be deterred. "Then there is even more reason to fetch Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. Perhaps Miss Bingley, you and Miss Woods would like to return to the house first. We will be along soon." Seeing Caroline about to protest, she said, "You appear to be a lot more sensitive to the cold than myself and it would not do if you became sick when William was to return to Pemberley." She smiled sweetly and Caroline, not wishing to be ill when the master of Pemberley was to return, conceded and returned with her friend to the house.
Elizabeth was surprised. Georgiana appeared a lot more confident than when she had last seen her. They chatted amongst themselves until they finally found the Gardiners. Mrs. Gardiner spotted her niece first.
"Lizzy, we feared you had gotten yourself lost," she said happily and then her gaze fell upon the young lady by her niece's side.
Mr. Gardiner greeted Miss Darcy with great zest, "Why Miss Darcy it is a pleasure to meet you again. We did not expect to see you."
"The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Gardiner. If I had known that you were to be in the country, I would have brought you on a tour of the estate myself. However it does appear to be growing cold, so allow me to have your company for dinner tonight. It would mean a great deal to me." She smiled good-humouredly at the party in front of her and they all readily agreed, before heading for Pemberley house.
Caroline glared at the new arrivals at Pemberley. She was sitting beside her friend, Angela, on the settee in the music room listening to Eliza Bennet fumble her way through a sonata by Mozart. Angela gave her a look that clearly conveyed her disgust with Elizabeth's playing.
"If she has to play, she could at least play something that she knows how to play well. It's a disgrace." She hissed in Caroline's ear.
"I know, and did you see her when we met her? Carrying on like a peasant. Why if Mr. Darcy saw her he would be shocked I am sure. I highly doubt that he would wish Georgiana to be influenced by her. He would be disgusted to think of Georgiana crawling around in the hedges and gutters."
"Very true dear Caroline. I could hardly blame him. I thought you were exaggerating when you told me she arrived at Netherfield with her petticoat six inches deep in mud, but I can see now you were being too generous. I'm surprised you were able to see her clothes at all!" They both laughed and were then silent as the piece ended. Georgiana played next and soon after the Gardiners and their young niece left, but not without being invited to visit again tomorrow. Miss Woods and Miss Bingley both shared a pained look.
My dearest sister,
I hope that your journey has been as delightful as you anticipated. You must write and tell me all that you have seen. I hope that my Aunt and Uncle Gardiner are in good health as are you dearest Lizzy. I especially hope that you are feeling well and I am sure that this trip will do you good.
Mama has been very ill lately with her nerves and so I gladly took Aunt and Uncle's dear children from Longbourn and they now reside with us. I am quite tired at present; my nieces and nephews have commandeered almost all of my time! The house is full of life with children's voices!
I believe Papa is missing you greatly. He spends little time at Longbourn and when he does it is to be in his library. He spends quite a lot of time at Netherfield and goes hunting with Charles and Mr. Hurst. Both Papa and Mama are to dine with us tomorrow night.
I am feeling a little unwell at present and Charles insists on calling the physician. I am sure that it is nothing much.
Oh Lizzy, I have the most wonderful news, and wish only that I could tell you in person! I have seen the physician and he has informed me that I am with child. I can hardly believe it Lizzy. I am so happy! Charles is delighted and I could not be happier. I decided that you must know straight away, however the physician has warned me to take care, as this early stage is a very dangerous stage for the child. Oh Lizzy, if only you were here to share my joy with me in person, but I know you will share it even in Derbyshire.
Write to me soon,
Your loving and happiest sister,
Jane Bingley. Elizabeth soon told her Aunt and Uncle Jane's happy news and they were filled with warmth that Jane, who had always thought of others' happiness, was now finding her own happiness in the expectancy of a new child. However Lizzy did wonder what Mrs. Bennet would say or, even more worrying, do when she heard the news of Jane's state of health.
Georgiana was sitting in her room having her hair put up in a simple chignon. She was looking forward to the arrival of her friend today. She had spent too long with just Caroline and her annoying friend for company. She awaited her visit with anticipation and only wished her brother were here to see her. She had thought that he might have favoured her once but now looked on the notion as nonsense.
Suddenly she heard a squeal coming from the breakfast room. She dismissed the girl with her and ran down the stairs. She found Caroline sitting stunned in a chair and Miss Woods getting her friend a glass of water. Both unsure of what was the matter, Miss Woods inquired first.
"Why, Caroline, whatever is the matter? Are you ill?" Miss Bingley shook her head and gave her friend the letter she had been reading. Miss Woods glanced over the letter before the replying.
"Your brother and his wife and going to have a child."
"Why that is wonderful news, Caroline," said Georgiana brightening up considerably. "You are going to become an aunt. How wonderful. I wonder if Elizabeth knows of it yet."
Caroline smiled tightly, "Yes wonderful." She gave a meaningful look to her friend.
"Miss Georgiana, why do you not go upstairs and finish having your hair done?" She smiled politely but the message was clear, she wanted Georgiana out of the room. Georgiana was wounded. She may not be as old as them, but she was mistress here, and they were her guests. She left the room and headed up the stairs and could hear the soft weeping behind her.
Elizabeth arrived at Pemberley in high spirits. She wanted to shout it out to the world she was going to be an aunt! But she felt that it was only right that Charles and Jane had a chance to tell Caroline the news themselves, if they had not already told her, that is. Georgiana welcomed the Gardiners and their niece to Pemberley and she did not fail to notice that Lizzy was especially happy. She took her to one side and asked her if she had heard about Jane. "Indeed I have," replied Lizzy "and I am exceedingly happy for her. How is it that you know?"
"Miss Bingley received an express from her brother today, however, I fear that this news is not as good to her as it is to you. In fact, she seemed very distressed about it."
Lizzy made no reply to this, what could she say? So Miss Darcy suggested that they go into the living room. As Lizzy entered, she noticed the absence of Mrs. Annesly. "Georgiana, is Mrs. Annesly not here?"
"I'm afraid not. She went to visit her sister in Newcastle."
Caroline gave Lizzy a cold look and Lizzy could see that she did indeed look a little out of spirits.
"I suppose you have been informed of the condition of your sister, Miss Bennet?" Caroline addressed Elizabeth.
Lizzy replied smiling, for she could not help feeling so happy, " I have and I think it is marvelous news, do not you think so?"
They were then called into the dining room where the most wonderful dinner was waiting for them. Georgiana was complimented several times on the exquisite menu she had prepared and the wine, which was enjoyed by everyone. After the meal they moved into the music room where Lizzy, Georgiana and Miss Bingley played and sang all night. Georgiana and Lizzy played for their own enjoyment, Caroline played to show Lizzy up. In spite of this, Lizzy had a wonderful evening. The time flew and nobody realised it. When Mrs. Gardiner suggested they go back to the inn, it was half past twelve.
"I will not have you travelling at such a late hour, I insist you spend the night here."
"My dear Miss Darcy, we would not put you out," Mr. Gardiner said kindly as he rose from the sofa.
"Indeed there would be no imposition at all, Mr. Gardiner. I would be delighted if you would be my guest at Pemberley tonight."
The Gardiners readily agreed to the proposed plan and Lizzy glanced over at Miss Bingley and Miss Woods to see how were taking the intended plan. Unfortunately, she could not see either of their faces as they had turned away from the rest of the room, but Lizzy could guess that they were not very pleased and knowing this gave her even more pleasure. Indeed I am a wicked soul to take pleasure in another's discomfort! she smiled slyly to herself.
It was shortly afterwards when she about to fall asleep that she heard noises outside her door. Determined to find out what was going on, Lizzy left her bed and reached for her dressing gown. She opened the door quietly and peeped out. She saw two servants in the hall talking agitatedly.
"There's somethin' not right Thomas. There's so much commotion in t'house. Mrs. Reynolds is wit t'mistress. Somethin' just don't feel right."
"I know what ye mean Mickey. It has somethin' to do wit that there express that arrived for Mistress Georgiana."
"I didn't know an express arrived, Tommy."
"About a 'alf hour ago now. Mrs. Reynolds woke Miss Darcy up directly. The last time an express arrived it was to tell master his aunt had passed. I hope it's nothin' as bad this time."
"Me too, Tommy. We better go an' see if there's anythin' we can do."
Lizzy closed the door gently wondering whether she should go the Georgiana or remain in her room as if oblivious to the all goings on. But Lizzy's inquisitive nature got the better of her and she crept down the hall to Georgiana's room and knocked gently on the door. The door was slightly ajar and she could see the distraught figure of Miss Darcy frantically packing her trunks.
"My goodness, Georgiana, whatever can be the matter?" Lizzy hurriedly asked as she entered the room.
"Oh Lizzy, I have just received an express with such terrible news that I must leave Pemberley directly!"
"I must. Mrs. Annesly is away and Mrs. Reynolds has to stay to look after the running of the house and the guests. Do not worry, I will be fine, I will be travelling with Pemberley's most experienced coachmen."
"But surely there is someone who can go with you. I will not have you travelling alone!"
"There is no-one! Unless.... No."
"Who? Georgiana if you know of anyone who could possibly go with you ask them!"
"Well Elizabeth, could you come with me? And maybe Mr. Gardiner?"
Elizabeth did not hesitate for a moment. "Of course I'll go with you, we must summon my uncle at once."
A servant was called to awake the sleeping Mr. Gardiner. Soon they were all bundled in the Darcy carriage on their way to Northampton. There was an agitated silence in the confined space which Lizzy quickly abolished.
"Now please Georgiana, tell us what is the matter."
At this Georgiana burst into tears and handed Elizabeth the express. She paled as she read it
May 30 18__Lizzy stared at the piece of paper for several moments. "Is this all that you received? No other information? You know not how badly hurt they are?"
You must come to Northampton hospital immediately. Your brother and sister-in-law have been in an accident. Please hurry.
"This is all I have been told. We can only pray that they are alright."
It was late evening when they arrived at the hospital and Doctor Wilcox, who requested to speak to Georgiana privately, greeted them. Lizzy was getting nervous, as it seemed an age since Georgiana had disappeared with the doctor. After half an hour she decided to look for her. She was wandering around the corridors when she heard the Doctor's voice.
"I'm sorry Miss Darcy, we did all we could but we were just too late. It was not enough."
Elizabeth stood still as a statue in the corridor refusing to believe what she had just heard. This could not be happening. It was not possible. Could Mr. Darcy be no more? The thought was too horrible to contemplate.
"Oh Lizzy!" Georgiana cried as she espied her friend and ran into her arms.
"Georgiana, I am so truly sorry. I do not know what to say."
"It is enough that you are here with me Lizzy. Oh Lizzy how am I to tell him?"
"You mean... Do you mean to say that Mr. Darcy is not... that he is still..."
she breathed a sigh of relief, but quickly wished she hadn't when she saw Georgiana's eyes staring vehemently at her. Suddenly Elizabeth realised why.
"Georgiana, am I to understand that Anne has died?"
"Oh Elizabeth, they won't even let me see him tonight. What am I to do?!" her young friend cried as she clung to Elizabeth.
"It's alright Georgiana, we'll think of something." After a short pause she continued, "Your brother, how is he?"
"William will recover well enough, he has a broken leg and bruises but he is not awake at the moment and they will not let me see him."
Just then she noticed her uncle approaching them with a concerned look upon his face. After quickly explaining to Mr. Gardiner what had happened he decided that it was time for them all to leave.
He booked them into a nearby inn and paid the innkeeper while his wife showed Lizzy and the distraught Georgiana up to their rooms. Elizabeth dismissed the woman with a kind thank you and turned to the source of her concern and worry.
"Georgiana, you must try to get some sleep tonight. It has been a strenuous night for you."
"But Lizzy, Anne is....Anne is...." She could not finish her sentence as her eyes filled with tears. Elizabeth held her friend close to her.
"I know Georgiana, I know, and I cannot pretend to know how you are feeling at this moment. But I do want you to know Georgiana that I am here for you no matter what happens and you must always remember that."
The next morning they arose early after a restless night and went straight to the hospital. When they arrived at the hospital, a doctor took them to see Darcy. Mr. Gardiner stayed in the waiting room and Lizzy was about to as well. However Georgiana pleaded with her to come.
"Please come with me Lizzy, I don't think I could face him all on my own."
Elizabeth agreed to go with her and they hurried down the corridor. When they reached his room, the doctor had to wake him up.
"Mr. Darcy, you have two visitors to see you."
Darcy opened his bleary eyes and stared for a moment, amazed to see Elizabeth. He looked so different. He was wan and his leg was swathed with a white linen bandage. He was quite battered and bruised. Georgiana ran to him and threw her arms around him.
"Oh William I was so worried about you. Oh and poor Anne." She remained silent. Darcy looked at her confused. It was clear to Elizabeth that he had not been told about the unfortunate demise of Anne. He looked up at her with bewilderment. She had no choice, she had to tell him.
"I'm so sorry Mr. Darcy, but I.....I am afraid that your wife.....your wife has passed away." She said with genuine sorrow in her voice. He took a moment to digest this news. He looked at them in disbelief from Elizabeth to Georgiana, his younger sister's eyes rimmed as evidence of her flowing tears. He slowly closed his eyes as the pain hit him. He had lost a cousin, a beloved cousin although not beloved in the way a man must love a wife, she was beloved as a close cousin and a friend of his sister's that he had seen grow up with them. At the moment all he wanted was for the earth to engulf him. Anne hadn't deserved this, it shouldn't have happened to her. He couldn't help but blame himself for her tragic end in life, he had wanted to surprise Georgiana by arriving early with Anne.
"I think it would be a good idea Georgiana if we allowed your brother to rest for a while. I am sure this has been a shock to him and he must be very tired."
"Of course. William I will return a little later." Georgiana said attempting a small smile before she gave him a small kiss on the cheek and silently left with Elizabeth leaving Darcy alone with his thoughts.
Several days later Darcy was released from the hospital. The staff at Pemberley had busied themselves making the funeral arrangements and preparing for the mournful day. Darcy greatly appreciated their efforts as this gave him a chance to try and get himself settled back into the house. It also gave him a chance to spend some time with Georgiana.
Lizzy sat in the library flicking through the first book that came to her hand when she heard the door open.
"I'm very sorry. Excuse me." Mr.Darcy mumbled, as he was half way out the door again.
"Do not apologise Mr.Darcy, it is after all your library." She replied with a smile.
"I just came to get a book. But as I am here I would just like to express to you my gratitude. I know that you helped with most of the arrangements. All the servants have been speaking highly of you. Thank you."
"Well it was the least I could do after I have stayed here so long. If there is anything else I can help either you or Georgiana with, please do not hesitate to ask."
"Of course. And thank you again."
The next day was the day of the funeral. It was a simple ceremony. Not too long, not too short. Afterwards everyone was invited back to Pemberely. Everyone went to Darcy and Georgiana to express their sorrow at Anne's untimely death. Both accepted their condolences gratefully but there was something inside Darcy telling him that they shouldn't be sympathising with him for his wife's death. It didn't feel like that. He couldn't help it but he did feel very guilty over the fact that it just felt like he lost a cousin. He was glad when the day came to an end, when everyone left. All at Pemberely were exhausted and retired early.
One week later Mr.Gardiner and Lizzy left Pemberley despite the protests from the Darcys. Elizabeth insisted it was time to go before she outstayed her welcome. Georgiana assured her it could never happen and Lizzy left with the gratitude and well wishes of the Darcy family.
After Christmas Lizzy spent much of her time at Netherfield helping Jane. And at the beginning of February the Bingleys invited her to stay with them until a little after the baby was born. Jane wanted her to be there and Charles found she calmed him a bit and stopped him fussing too much over his wife. Elizabeth often teased him by saying he was turning into Mrs.Bennet!
One evening in early February, about a week after Lizzy had arrived, Jane was sitting in the living room when she felt a sharp pain in he stomach. Bingley jumped out of his chair and didn't know what was wrong or what to do.
"What is it Jane? Should I get the doctor? What will I do?!"
"I think the baby is coming dear. Help me to my room, then find Lizzy for me and then send for the doctor."
"The baby? My baby is coming? Jane! The baby is coming!"
"I know! Now please come and help me!"
"Sorry, of course."
He helped her to her room and Elizabeth and the doctor were quickly fetched. Everything went as planned, there were no complications. Although it seemed to be harder for Charles than Jane!
As soon as the baby was born he bounded into the room to see his new daughter, and then the Bennets were sent for. There was much rejoicing in Netherfield all through the night.
The next day, Bingley wrote a letter to Mr. Darcy informing him of the news. But he also had something he wanted to ask him. The letter went as follows:
Netherfield, 10 February 18__
I am delighted to be writing to you as I have the most joyous news. Last evening my dearest wife Jane gave birth to the most beautiful little girl the world has ever seen! She is perfect! We have decided to name her Emily. And now I have a favour to ask you.
Jane and I would be delighted if you would agree to be Emily's godfather. You are my oldest friend Darcy and it seems only right that you be godfather to her. We would be delighted if you and Georgiana could come and stay with us in a months time and remain here until after the christening.
I must go now to ensure both my wife and daughter are well. I look forward to hearing from you.
Lizzy remained at Netherfield for a few more days to help her sister and brother-in-law but decided it would be best to return home and leave them to become acquainted with parenthood. So for a month the Bingleys weren't seen or heard from around Meryton, they were too busy with their new daughter. They were excellent parents and in the years to come it would become very apparent.
But arrangements for the christening had to be made and Elizabeth was soon back in Netherfield to help her sister, well really to try and keep Mrs. Bennet from making a fuss over everything.
"So Jane, I believe everything is ready. The church is booked for next Saturday for 11 o'clock, the food has been ordered and all the invitations have been sent. I expect it will be a lovely day - the ceremony will be very simple and only close friends and family have been asked, just as you wanted. But it was a big disappointment to mother who wanted to invite half the country!" Lizzy rolled her eyes as she came out with this last sentence.
"Thank you so much Lizzy for keeping her under control." Jane sighed with a little chuckle while cradling the little Emily in her arms.
"I do not think I could have listened to her rhyme off everyone she thought HAD to be invited, although I know she means well."
Just then there was a knock at the door and one of the footmen entered.
"Excuse me ma'am, but Mr. Darcy and his sister have just arrived. Mr. Bingley is with Mr. Darcy in the library and Miss Darcy has gone to her room to lie down."
"Thank you James. Please tell them I will be down in a few moments."
"Very good ma'am."
Jane looked at Elizabeth.
"Well Lizzy, how do you feel about seeing him again, and after all this time?"
"I do admit I was worried about it, and when you first told me he was to be godfather I thought about him a lot. But I am reconciled to the fact that we shall meet always as mutual acquaintances, that is all. Truly, I am very satisfied with that. I shall be fine."
They got up to leave and took little detour to the nursery to put the baby in her cot. They then preceded downstairs to the waiting gentlemen.
When Jane and Elizabeth entered the library Bingley was telling Darcy how wonderful his little daughter was and how the world was such a fantastic place. Darcy was just sitting there smiling to himself.
The gentlemen rose when they saw the ladies had come in.
"Mrs. Bingley, I would like to congratulate you on the birth of your daughter, Charles has been telling me all about her."
"Please, Jane. Thank you very much. Charles and I greatly appreciate you agreeing to be Emily's godfather."
"I am honoured and delighted to do so."
"Mr. Darcy, of course you know my sister Elizabeth."
"Of course. Miss Bennet, how do you do? It has been many months since you stayed at Pemberley. I hope you have been well since we last met."
"I thank you, yes. I have been very well indeed. How does Miss Darcy do? I will enjoy seeing her again."
"She is fine. A little fatigued from travelling so she is resting up in her room. She is very anxious to see you also. She has talked of little else this past month other than our trip here, the baby and seeing you."
Jane smiled at this.
"We are very happy to have you here with us. But if you will excuse me I must tend to Emily. Dinner is in a little while and I shall see you all then"
With that Jane left the three of them in the library. As Lizzy moved to sit down, she glimpsed Mr. Darcy watching her; he then quickly looked away, as if chastising himself for some terrible crime.
"Elizabeth, were you with Emily before you came down?"
"I was indeed. She has been sleeping this past while but she was beginning to stir when Jane left her in the cot. She must have known there were visitors and did not want to miss anything!"
"It would not surprise me!"
Lizzy decided to change the subject. Although Emily was to be Darcy's goddaughter, she was sure he did not want to hear all about her for the rest of the afternoon after such a long trip.
"Mr. Darcy how was the journey here from Pemberley?"
"It passed very well indeed. The roads are quite good for this time of year."
As he answered he could only think one thing "This time last year I would never have imagined myself talking to the woman I love about the state of the country's roads!"
The next half hour was spent discussing this and that. Nothing very important but matters that always seemed to be talked about whenever people met. Dinner was soon announced and they all made their way to the dining room where Georgiana and Jane joined them.
There was nothing extraordinary to say about the meal. It passed as usual. But Lizzy could not help but look up at Mr. Darcy every so often. He looked as handsome as ever, maybe even more so than he did when she last saw him. She caught him on a number of occasions looking at her too. Each time they caught each others eye they just smiled politely while the one was desperate to know what the other was thinking.
The next few days were spent finalising the details of the christening. Lizzy spent a lot of time with Miss Darcy but still found herself staring at the brother from time to time. They talked little as both of them had so many things to do and so little time. When they did talk it was about nothing very important but with each little conversation both of them relaxed a little more.
Finally Saturday morning arrived and Mrs. Bennet was in Netherfield by 9 o' clock. Elizabeth and Jane tried to convince her that it would be easier for the Netherfield party to go to Longbourn but Mrs. Bennet was hearing none of it.
Soon everyone was ready to leave and they were shortly in the church.
The congregation was small with only the people the Bingleys were closely acquainted with there. Of course the Bennet family was there, Miss Bingley, Mr. and Mrs. Hurst, Darcy and Georgiana, Sir William and his family and Mr. and Mrs. Collins. The baby slept happily through the whole service.
There was obviously a little chat and many congratulations after the service before everyone was removed to Netherfield.
The staff at Netherfield had prepared a luncheon for the group and it was not long before all were seated enjoying the meal. Mrs. Bennet's voice could be heard ringing out as at the ball so long ago. She was telling Lady Lucas of all the changes Jane had made to the house and how helpful she had been in advising her on colour and design. And of course she did let slip on one or two occasions that Bingley's fortune consisted of five thousand a year.
After lunch, tea and coffee was set out for the assembly. Everyone wanted to see the child and talk to Jane and Charles so Lizzy thought it best for her to keep her distance and not add to the crowd. She was deep in thought when a familiar voice startled her.
"I see you and I are of the same mind Miss Bennet."
"Why yes Mr. Darcy, it would appear so."
"I'm sure we will have ample opportunity to see Emily and take care of her as we are now both her godparents."
"Indeed. Whenever Jane and Charles feel they need a break they will no doubt arrive on one of our doorsteps!"
"Well I don't think Bingley will need a break too soon, I don't think he could bear to be parted form her!"
"An ideal father then. She is a very lucky little girl."
"Yes." He paused for a moment as if he was trying desperately to think of a topic for conversation. "We have not had much opportunity for conversing these past few days, you have been busying yourself preparing for today."
"Yes but I do not mind in the least. Better I than my mother. Could you imagine how big an affair it would have been if she had organised it? Although I know she means well."
"Indeed. Mm... are you staying at Netherfield tonight or are you to return to Longbourn with your family?" There was a sort of schoolboy embarrassment about him as he asked her this question.
"I promised Jane I would stay and help her if she needed it tonight. I shall return home tomorrow. For how long are you staying here?"
He was just about to answer when he was interrupted by the shrill voice of Lydia exclaim "A ball? Oh yes Jane you must throw a ball in honour of little Emily!"
"I do not know Lydia. A ball is such a big affair and needs so much planning, I don't think I have the energy for it at the minute."
At this point Mrs. Bennet chimed in. "My dear, a ball is a most excellent idea, that way all the people who should have been invited to the christening will not be so miffed as they can come to the ball. As for the organisation, well Lizzy can do it! We can spare her another while. She won't be doing anything of much use at Longbourn for sure! What do you say Mr. Bingley?"
"Well, I think...mmm..if it's.."
"Of course Lizzy won't mind, will you dear? And this way Jane, you won't have to worry about anything! There, it is all settled. Now you must pick a suitable date for you cannot have it too late. It must be within the next month anyway. Oh how wonderful"
Mr. Darcy turned to Lizzy, "It looks as if you may be staying longer than you expected!"
Posted on Saturday, 2 August 2003
So, under Mrs. Bennet's instruction, Elizabeth remained at Netherfield to organize the all-important ball. The day after the christening a letter arrived from Longbourn for Lizzy. It was from her mother and it contained a list, a long list of all the people who were to be invited. She had little choice; she would have to invite all of them. But, she supposed, a ball would not be a ball if there were not plenty of people at it.
Elizabeth decided to forget about the ball for a few days, relax and spend time with her sister, brother, niece and of course the Darcys. But the planning had to be done. She discussed all details with Charles and Jane and everything was decided on, from food to music. All Elizabeth had to do was order everything.
She soon posted a letter to Longbourn asking for her ball gown to be sent to her at Netherfield. But, a reply from her mother was promptly sent informing her that she was to go into Meryton and get a new one and not to worry about the cost, her father didn't mind paying for it. Elizabeth found this very hard to believe but thought it would be nice to have a new dress.
Hence Elizabeth found herself in the milliners shop in Meryton the very next day. She spent a long while looking at all the material the little shop had to offer, everything from what was on display in the window to what was hiding in the back of the storeroom! Eventually she decided on pale yellow muslin with a delicate flowering pattern running through it. All measurements were taken and the milliner asked her to come back three days later for a further fitting.
"Thankfully," thought Lizzy, "that is one thing done."
Over the next week or two there were frequent visits and messages from Mrs. Bennet making sure all the arrangements had been made and everyone had been invited. And the answer from Elizabeth was always the same exasperated "Yes!"
Finally the day of the ball arrived. The Netherfield household was busy from early morning. Lizzy spent most of her time making sure everything was ready and in place for that night as she didn't want anything to go wrong for the Bingleys. The only unpredictable part of the evening would be her mother!
The Bennet family arrived extra early despite the objections from Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth went to her room to get dressed.
When she came down stairs some of the guests were already arriving and Jane, Charles, and her mother were greeting them all. Lizzy was about to walk into the ballroom when her mother apprehended her and chastised her for not being down earlier. So Elizabeth was stuck in the hall greeting guests for a time.
When all the guests had arrived, she made her way into the ballroom. She was grateful that, for the time being at least, Mrs. Bennet was occupied with Lady Lucas. Elizabeth was in a conversation with one of the neighbours when they were interrupted.
"Excuse me for interrupting your discussion Miss Bennet, but may I be so bold as to ask for the next two dances if you are not otherwise engaged?"
It was Mr. Darcy and Lizzy was more than willing to accept his kind offer.
"I am not engaged and would be quite happy to dance with you, thank you Sir." She gave him a little smile and he walked away a contented man.
It wasn't long before Mr. Darcy was back again to find his partner. They were both quiet for a few moments but then Darcy made the observation, not for the first time that he had little chance to talk to her while she was preparing for the ball.
"Indeed." She replied. "Will you be long here at
Netherfield after tonight Mr. Darcy?"
"We have planned to stay for another fortnight at least, whether we remain after that I do not know. As much as I would like to stay in the country, I would not like to impose myself on the Bingleys."
"I am sure you would not be looked on as an imposition by either of them." She paused here as if not sure she should say what was in her mind but continued anyway. "Maybe we will get a better chance to talk as you are to be here for another two weeks."
"I sincerely hope so, I know my sister would like to see more of you. Maybe," he cleared his throat uncomfortably, "Would it be possible for the three of us to take a walk someday?"
"I would like that very much. I will be glad to spend more time with Miss. Darcy."
Soon the dance was over and the couple parted. Nothing extraordinary can be said for the rest of the ball. It passed as any ball does, lively music, happy couples, good food and fine wine. Everyone was very happy with it and all had an enjoyable night.
"Mr. Darcy, Miss Darcy, it is a pleasure to see you both again. How have you been?" Lizzy inquired.
"Very well, Miss. Bennet." Replied Mr. Darcy.
"And you, Miss. Georgiana, how have you been?"
Darcy was gratified to see Elizabeth make such efforts as this with his sister. It was just what she needed.
"I have been very well, thank you Miss. Bennet. And you?"
"I thank you, I have been very content these past few days, resting after the excitement of the ball! Do excuse my manners, will you take some tea or coffee?"
"You are very kind Miss. Bennet," answered Darcy, "but we have come to ask you if you would care to take a walk with us. I have it on good authority that no-one knows the paths of Hertfordshire, quite like you."
"Indeed? I do not know whether to take that as a compliment or not!" she replied with a playful smile. "I will be more than happy to walk with you, if you'll just give me a moment to ready myself."
They spent the rest of the morning walking all of Elizabeth's favourite paths and they finished up at Oakham Mount, all the time chatting easily with each other. When they finally returned to Longbourn, Elizabeth once again offered them some refreshment but they declined the offer. It was agreed however, that they should all meet again in two days time for another stroll.
Over the next week, the Darcys and Elizabeth spent much time together and Miss. Georgiana and her brother finally agreed to dine at Longbourn one night.
One morning, a few days after the dinner, Hill informed Elizabeth that she had a visitor waiting on her in the living room. She walked in and expected to see the Darcy siblings, but was surprised to find only one, the brother.
"Mr. Darcy, it is a pleasure to see you again, Where is Miss. Darcy this morning?"
"She is at Netherfield, she said she was feeling a little tired and preferred to stay at the house. I was hoping you and I could walk together, to Oakham Mount maybe. I thought it very pretty when we were there last."
"Of course. I will just gather my things and we shall be off!"
They walked for many minutes in silence. Elizabeth couldn't help but feel there was something on his mind. She then observed,
"You will be leaving Netherfield next week, will you not Mr. Darcy?"
"As it stands, yes, we shall be leaving in a matter of days."
"And you will be sorry to leave?"
"Indeed I will. I would very much like to stay a little longer, but I fear I have no reason to. There is nothing to keep me here." He looked at her face trying to gauge her reaction to this last sentence. He wasn't sure what he saw.
"I know Jane and Charles would gladly have you stay another month, is there nothing at all to make you stay here?" she asked.
"It depends." He was silent for a minute and then he suddenly exclaimed, "Miss. Bennet, you are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April say so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever."
She looked a little taken aback and was silent for a moment. But then she replied. "My feelings...my feelings are so different to what they were last April. I must inform you that your assurances are most welcome." She looked up and smiled timidly at him.
It was agreed that he must seek permission from Mr. Bennet first and then they would have to go to Charles and Jane to tell them of their engagement and to beg for their hospitality a while longer. Permission from Mr. Bennet was granted, much to the relief of Mr. Darcy and Charles Bingley insisted that Darcy stay with them until the wedding day.
Arrangements were soon under way for the wedding, which was to be in early June. Mr. Darcy was a daily visitor at Longbourn. The few days he wasn't there were spent in London and Pemberley preparing the houses for the arrival of their new mistress.
More than once, when they had some time to themselves, the couple discussed the rocky road they had traveled to get to where they were. They talked of their many regrets, the things they wished they had never said. But it was soon decided that it did no good dwelling on how they got there. The important thing was that they loved each other and they would soon be husband and wife, to spend the rest of their lives together.
"Oh Jane," Elizabeth exclaimed, "I cannot contain my joy! I am ecstatic! It feels like the night will never end! I just want to be with him all the time! How did you pass the eve of your wedding so calmly?"
"I know just how you feel Lizzy! But believe me, it will be morning soon and you will walk into that church and Mr. Darcy will be at a loss for words at how beautiful you are and then you will marry him and go on to spend many happy years together! I promise it will come quite soon! Now, do try to get some sleep dear, you will need all your energy for tomorrow!"
Elizabeth knew she was right, but she could not keep her eyes shut for very long.
But, just as Jane had promised, it was soon morning and Elizabeth was up before anyone else, getting ready. At ten to eleven, everyone left the house to go to the church and left Elizabeth and her father to follow them in a few minutes. Mr. Bennet took this brief opportunity to talk to his favourite daughter.
"Lizzy, my Elizabeth. I am sorry to lose you my dear, but I hope you shall be very happy with Mr. Darcy. Make sure he treats you properly. You will always be welcome home and I hope to see you often both here and at Pemberley. You will be sorely missed my dear. But we must get you to the church, or Mr. Darcy will start to think you are not coming!"
They left the house and walked the few steps to the church on the fine June morning. Everyone was inside and seated when they arrived. The music started and Mr. Bennet walked his daughter up the aisle. She saw her fiancÚ, looking very handsome in his blue jacket and she gave him the biggest smile.
When he saw her, Mr. Darcy thought about the last time he had seen her walk up that aisle. He remembered thinking about how gorgeous she had looked, but it was nothing compared to this. He couldn't take his eyes off her. She wore a simple empire cut white gown that fell softly to the floor. The dress had a fitted bodice decorated with small pearls and at the waist the skirt flared slightly covering her satin slippers.
The ceremony was a simple one, just as the two had wanted and when the pastor announced them husband and wife, for a minute neither could believe they had finally done it.
They left the church surrounded by family and friends and got into the carriage waiting to take them to London.
So Mr. and Mrs. Darcy headed off to start their lives together and it must be said that they were quite the happiest couple in all the world.