Chapter 1 Posted on Friday, 17 January 2003
It seemed to Elizabeth that the meal dragged on and on. She waited on pins and needles for everyone to leave the table and her father to go to his library so that Mr. Darcy could follow after him and ask for permission to marry her.
She knew her father would be even more shocked than Jane had been when she told her the night before. She smiled to herself as she recalled Jane staring at her opened mouthed before she finally said, "Lizzie, you are joking, it cannot be true. I know how you have always disliked him so very much."
It had taken her some minutes to convince her sister that she was indeed in earnest and that she truly loved Mr. Darcy.
They had talked far into the night of their husbands to be and how happy they intended to be in their marriages.
"My poor dear Fitzwilliam, she thought as she watched her mother making occasional cold comments to him. How much you will have to bear until we at last are married and off to Derbyshire. Mama will not be pleased with my news, I think. She dislikes you, my love, even more, I think than I once did."
At last Mr. Bennet put down his napkin and excusing himself went straightway into his hiding place.
Mr. Darcy looked at her and with a gentle smile arose and followed his host.
Knocking on the door he heard a rather curt, "Enter."
Mr. Bennet was all astonishment when he saw who it was that was intruding on his privacy.
"Mr. Darcy, he said in surprise, "How may I help you? Do you wish to borrow a book perhaps. I know that my wife's prattle can get on ones nerves and I find it convenient to have a book to lose myself in so that I can shut her out.
Darcy straightened his tie and walked to the mantle, then to the window where he gazed at the garden for a moment.
Mr. Bennet was becoming impatient, he wanted to get on with his reading of a new Swift book he had received from Mr. Gardiner.
Finally Darcy turned and walking to stand in front of him said nervously, "I do not wish to borrow a book, Sir, I wish to beg you for permission to marry your daughter Elizabeth."
"Lizzy, Mr. Bennet gasped, you wish to marry my Lizzie, but how can you ask this, you have never been friends.
Darcy smiled, " I see that she has not told you of our meetings in Kent and Derbyshire, sir. I am sure she will explain things if you ask her."
"Will you give your consent sir, I love your daughter dearly and can never be happy without her at my side."
Mr. Bennet stared at Darcy in disbelief.
"Sir, Darcy said with concern, are you going to forbid my marriage to your daughter."
"No, no, Mr. Bennet snapped, it would be useless for me to forbid the marriage if Lizzie wants it. She is a most stubborn young woman and would marry you if I said yea or nay."
"I would like to speak to my daughter though before the announcement is made to the rest of the family. Please ask her to come to me when you go back to the sitting room."
Lizzie found her father sitting with his head in his hands as she entered the reading room.
"Father, she said with concern, what is it."
"Mr. Darcy has just asked for your hand in marriage he said, rising to pace the floor. What are you thinking Lizzie, He is rich I know but have you not hated him from the first time you laid eyes upon him. I would not object if you liked him, but I know better."
"Oh Father I do like him, I love him. I love him very dearly Papa. Indeed he has no improper pride as we all thought. He is the kindest most generous man I have ever met. If I could only tell you how very generous he has been to us. What grief he has spared our family."
"Lizzie you will not leave this room until you explain that statement, her father said , sternly. Out with it girl, of what generosity are you speaking."
He sat with a shocked look on his face as she told home how kind her beloved had been to her and the Gardiners when they visited Derbyshire, how he had welcomed to his home and how he and the Gardiners had become fast friends.
Most of all he was shocked to hear that it was Darcy, not Mr. Gardiner who had paid Wickham's debts and forced him into marriage with Lydia.
"Only one thing I would ask of you Father, she smiled. I beg that I may be the one to speak to Mama about this."
"Of course, Lizzie, better you than me," he answered
She left him staring at the wall murmuring to himself.
Elizabeth took a deep breath before she knocked on her mother's door and was answered with a weak, "Enter."
"Mother she said I have something to tell you about Mr. Darcy," she said.
"Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Bennet snapped, how I despise that man, what has he done Lizzie, what has he done to you my poor dear girl. How I wish he would go back to Derbyshire and stay there. I would never wish to see him again, it is disgraceful, the way he has treated our poor dear Wickham.
"You despise him," Elizabeth exclaimed in mock consternation.
"OH dear Mama, I fear we have a problem here. I have accepted Mr. Darcy's proposal of marriage and Father has given his consent. You however would not like him for a son in law and would never wish to see him again, because you prefer Mr. Wickham to him."
"I fear we were perhaps too hasty. we should have asked your permission before making it final."
"Whatever shall I do now Mother, dear. I shall let you tell Mr. Darcy that he is not welcome into our family when he come tomorrow."
Mr. Bennet gaped, fell back on her bed, gaped again and made small squeaking noises before getting up to stand leaning on the back of a chair, then making five circles about it before falling back onto the fainting couch, signaling for her smelling salts.
Lizzie brought the smelling salts to her mother and placed them under her nose.
Mrs. Bennet took a deep whiff and jumped up to embrace Lizzie, saying in high glee, "Mr. Darcy has asked for your hand. Oh Lizzie how rich you will be, what carriages, what jewels, what clothes you shall have,"
"Lizzie, Lizzie, my favorite daughter, I knew you were meant for great things, Mrs. Darcy, how well that sounds. Mrs. Darcy.
How Lady Lucas and Mrs. Hill will turn green with envy."
"Lady Lucas thought her dear Charlotte had wed so well."
"Mr. Collins, a minor clergyman, what is he compared to the richest man in all of England, and the handsomest too."
Lizzie, you must tell me what are Mr. Darcy's favorite dishes so that I might have cook prepare them.
"It seems to me that a year ago you did not feel this way about Mr. Collins, Lizzie grinned, as I recall you were most upset that I refused him, Mother."
"Pish tosh, Mrs. Bennet laughed as she whirled about the room, I only acted like that to make him feel better, I knew you were meant for better than he, but the man was heartbroken. I had to do something to ease his damaged heart."
"Charlotte Lucas is good enough for such a man as Mr. Collins, but not one of my daughters."
"Think, Lizzie, now you can take Mary and Kitty into society. What rich handsome husbands do you think they will find?
I must go as soon as may be tomorrow to the Lucas' and the Hill's, but first to my sister Mrs. Phillips. I shall have such a busy day tomorrow. The busiest I have had in my entire life, but I must let everyone know of our good fortune."
"Goodnight Mother," Lizzie said with as smile as she went out the door.
"My dearest Mr. Darcy, she thought, what you will have to bear in the next weeks."
She had not even turned down her bed before her mother burst into her room.
"Oh, my dearest Lizzie, A grand estate in Derbyshire, a house in town, jewels, carriages. A place in the highest of society, I am so happy.
"You must have a special license, Lizzie, a man of Mr. Darcy's stature must be married with a special license."
"Mama, Lizzie sighed, don't you think you should get a good nights sleep so that you will be prepared for your big day tomorrow."
"Of course, dear Lizzie, how thoughtful you are," Mrs. Bennet sighed as she left the room.
Elizabeth sighed, How glad I shall be when this is over and I am safely in Derbyshire."