Previous Section, Section IV
Posted on Monday, 20 January 2003
The guests did not linger long after the couple had been gone. Mr. Bennet thought it best to take Mrs. Bennet home, along with his other daughters, most of who were trying to outdo themselves in silliness. Still, they were the last to leave Netherfield for Caroline had a sudden bout of coughing that required her to cling onto the nearest gentleman for support. Unsurprisingly it was Mr. Darcy who was honoured. Lydia was however walking past at the same moment, and it was a matter of moments, not to mention genius, that Miss Bennet was quickly transferred to clinging to her younger sister.
Mr. Bennet imperceptibly rolled his eyes at Miss Bingley and offered her his very best wishes for her journey to Derbyshire. Mrs. Gardiner, hearing this, also related a few fond memories of her childhood at the town of Lambton. Elizabeth grew slightly nervous, realising that it was nearly time for her to leave and move into his territory.
Finally ushering the last of the guests out, Elizabeth, Darcy and Georgiana let out a collective sigh.
"It was a beautiful ceremony." Georgiana expressed out loud.
"Yes, wasn't it?" Elizabeth answered, remembering the radiant looks on both her brother's and her new sister-in-law's faces. "A wonderful wedding for the two very best people in the world."
Darcy was inclined to disagree, but kept it to himself, only nodding at Elizabeth and Georgiana.
"Now ladies, I do not wish to rush you, but it is a long way to Pemberley, and I would like to get to --- to stop for tonight. When do you think you could be ready and I shall have the carriage readied?"
Georgiana and Elizabeth both explained that they were already packed and all that remained was to have the carriage brought round and loaded with their luggage.
Darcy, eager to be off, quickly summoned the carriage and the process of organising trunks, giving last minute instructions and the frantic checking for forgotten items began.
After half an hour, all were satisfied that everything was in order, and Darcy had the pleasure of helping the ladies into his spacious equipage. This time he sat opposite the two young ladies, however much he wished to feel Lizzy beside him again. This made him think of his last encounter with Charles.
Lizzy caught Darcy grinning softly to himself and wondered what it could be. Feeling much too self-conscious to ask, she nevertheless noticed how handsome he looked. Elizabeth was slowly adjusting herself to the full knowledge that she was in love with Darcy, and she was perceptive enough to realise that he had strong feelings for her as well. But she acknowledged that there would be a difference from now on, for there would be neither Charles nor any of her family members to provide any shielding from Mr. Darcy's attentions. This thought came with conflicting emotions that were only intensified when she realised that she would be staying at his house, amongst his family and servants and seeing him in his natural environment. The idea certainly had its merits and she was ultimately looking forward to seeing how well she fit in, for she was almost certain that she wished to.
Darcy was going through similar thoughts, albeit he was certain that she would match naturally into his environment, and if not, he would simply change it to suit her. Darcy felt assured of Elizabeth's feelings towards him, although there was a little worry in the corner of his mind that she only considered them friends and nothing more. He was missing the feel of her hand in his though and he knew that he couldn't torture himself with memories of her close to him the entire trip. If Georgiana wasn't here, perhaps it would have been more pleasant... He quickly stopped that train of thought. It wouldn't do to sit here in silence for the entire trip. But he couldn't think of a thing to say.
And so the task fell to Miss Darcy. Knowing both her friend and brother enjoyed reading, she chose that topic to break the awkwardness.
"Elizabeth, I had forgotten to show you the books my brother recently purchased from the store in Meryton." Seeing Elizabeth's interest, she produced them out of her travelling bag. They were two very slim books smartly bound, one being The Tempest by Shakespeare and another a book in three parts called Emma by A Lady.
Elizabeth, having only read The Tempest, did not comment on Emma, although Georgiana promised to lend it to her once she had read it.
"I have a better idea, Georgie," Darcy smiled affectionately. "Perhaps you could read it together. There will be plenty of time at Pemberley."
Georgiana's eyes lit up. "That is a wonderful idea, Fitzwilliam! Elizabeth would love to read near the orange orchard and then there is the library and the little pavilion or..."
Elizabeth laughed. "Pemberley does sound delightful and it is a wonderful idea to read the novel together. Then we could compare notes and ideas without spoiling the story for the other."
"Yes, exactly!" cried Georgie. "I tried reading a book that Fitzwilliam had read before and commenting to him all my ideas, but he kept spoiling it for me."
"Indeed?" Lizzy arched her eyebrows at Darcy. "Pray don't tell me that you are one of those individuals that ruin the ending of a book for others? I had not thought so meanly of you."
Darcy hid his smile. "I'm sorry to confess Miss Bingley that I suffer from a far worse malady than that."
"Yes, you see I am one of those persons who read the last page first."
Elizabeth's eyes widened in shock. "No!"
"I am afraid it is all too true, Miss Bingley, I find that I simply cannot stand not knowing if the ending is happy or sad, and therefore save myself the trouble of reading all the way to the end just to find out that it is sad. I find the entire book is ruined for me, and I would have rather not read it."
Georgiana shook her head sadly at her brother's admission. They had had many discussions over this issue many times. Elizabeth was simply stunned. How could anyone ruin the enjoyment of a book that way?
"But Mr. Darcy!" she exclaimed, "What about the enjoyment of figuring out what happens step by step? By reading the ending of the book, you know how it will all finish and therefore what is the point?" she stopped to draw breath and Darcy responded.
"Ah, my dear Miss Bingley, but it is the journey, not the ending that is interesting. For sure I know that Mr. X gains captaincy and marries Miss Y at the end, but how do they get there? What happens to them? That is the enjoyment."
Elizabeth was unmoved. "But it is the end of the book that you dislike because it is sad, and yet you have just read the end of the book! There may be happier parts during the book that make it worthwhile to read the book? How do you know if it is a sad ending if Mr. X marries Miss Z instead of Y? But I don't know, it seems quite unnatural to me, but Mrs. Hurst and Mr. Bennet, I recently found out, are the same." She was disappointed, and then she thought of something. "What about the Shakespearean tragedies?"
Darcy slightly shook his head. "I'm afraid not, Miss Bingley. I read only one tragedy- Romeo and Juliet and simply could not bear to read any others. I do read his comedies however, Much Ado About Nothing is my favourite. What is yours?"
Elizabeth did not know what to make of Darcy. Her impression of him had always been the dark, brooding type, and yet he just stated that he didn't like reading anything dark or sad! She recollected herself to answer his question.
"I'm afraid to say that Hamlet is my favourite play. It is a fascinating play- was Hamlet mad or simply pretending? Why did the Queen marry so quickly after her husband's death? Was the Ghost from Hell or Purgatory? All these questions that can be discussed over and over again is part of what makes it so captivating for me."
They both fell into an uneasy silence. Georgiana was at a loss to explain it or to think of something to ease the conversation. She didn't have to worry however, because Elizabeth soon shook off her gravity and laughed to herself how she became so affected by a little thing such as reading a book.
"But Mr. Darcy, I must recommend that you read a tragedy other than Romeo and Juliet to form your opinion, since I personally dislike that particular play quite strongly and I enjoy his tragedies!"
Darcy was amazed at her passionate response, and therefore decided that he would do anything to please her. "Perhaps I was too quick to judge by one play. I will try Hamlet," he paused, "if you will perhaps read it with me?"
Elizabeth looked at Darcy and saw a new kind of vulnerability in him that was endearing and made Elizabeth fiercely protective towards him.
Georgiana clapped her hands excitedly, "what fun! We could have our own private little play-acting!"
Elizabeth and Darcy turned to smile fondly at Georgiana's exuberance, whilst at the same time thinking what it would be like to read it together, more privately.
Some moments were spent in solitary reflection on each other's reading habits. Soon Georgiana asked Lizzy's opinion of The Tempest.
"Oh no," Elizabeth laughed, "I shall not spoil it for you- you must form your own opinions and then come to discuss them with me later."
"Very well, Lizzy."
Conversation soon turned to Pemberley and Lizzy was very curious to hear all about the grand place that was to be her home for the next few weeks. Georgiana grew animated and even Darcy contributed greatly to the conversation. He was eager to show Elizabeth all his favourite haunts, especially a little shaded spot by the pond to the eastern side of the House. He often sat there when saddened or needing to ponder his life and which direction he wanted to take with it. It was a secluded, private spot that Darcy had striven to keep even his closest relatives away from, but to take Elizabeth there would be different. He wanted to share everything he had with Elizabeth, including his special secret places on the estate.
The carriage bowled on and they reached their night's destination in good time. They opted for a light supper in a private room after the richness of the Wedding feast. Georgiana and Elizabeth were to share a room whilst Darcy was in a room down the hall. He could not help wondering the next time they would have to stay at an inn whether the room arrangements would be different.
Even though they were all tired from the excitement of the day and the journey, Elizabeth and Darcy did not want to retire and leave the other's company after such an eventful day. After a few minutes silence, Georgiana quietly excused herself. Elizabeth watched her go, torn between the desire to stay longer with Mr. Darcy, alone, and the embarrassed silence.
"Was the carriage ride to your satisfaction Miss Bingley?"
"Yes, of course, Mr. Darcy, you have a beautiful carriage." Lizzy replied, not catching the deeper meaning.
"Having experienced two such rides, how would you compare them then?"
Understanding dawned, and Elizabeth blushed as the answer came to her. How was one supposed to answer such a question without sounding shocking? It was Darcy's turn to raise his eyebrows questioningly.
"Come Miss Bingley, I was hoping that after you so graciously gave me advice earlier today that a carriage ride should have more conversation, that this second trip would be your favourite."
Elizabeth really felt that conversation could be pleasant or not- it really depended on the circumstances, and the people present. It was difficult to rate conversation over the sensation of her leg brushing against his and he gently stroking her hand. She could not lie, and she could not encourage such scandalous behaviour.
"Then you must be right." Was all she let herself comment.
Darcy wasn't satisfied however. "Must be? But am I, in your opinion?"
"Well," she stammered, "I really can't say." Truth. "They were both pleasant." Truth. "Both passed quicker than expected." Truth. Lizzy was quite pleased with herself. "And now, Mr. Darcy, I really must be retiring to enjoy another carriage ride." She rose hastily.
Darcy was not tricked. "Running away, Miss Bingley?"
"No!" Lizzy disliked the notion of running away from anything. "I have given my opinion, what more do you want from me?"
Darcy rose and walked towards her. "The truth, in detail. Which carriage ride did you prefer Miss Bingley? So I know for tomorrow how best to act for your enjoyment."
He was now quite close and Elizabeth was mesmerised by the depth in his eyes. He reached out and clasped one hand, gently mimicking his earlier action of stroking it. Elizabeth swayed as emotions coursed through her.
"I believe," she breathed deeply, "the second was more preferable." She could not mistake the crestfallen expression in Darcy's eyes as she spoke. Gently disengaging her hand, she boldly caressed his face. "For it was longer." Darcy smiled ever so slightly at this concession.
Elizabeth slowly turned and moved towards the door, feeling his eyes follow her. Before scurrying up to her room, however, she turned and added, "And the first was far too pleasant to have for longer periods."
Darcy's smile widened to resemble Charles' this morning as Jane was pronounced Mrs. Bingley.
The next morning found them again journeying along the road at a comfortable pace. Darcy had been tempted, after last night's revelation, to seat himself by Miss Bingley, but Elizabeth had seen what he was about to do and gave him a warning look and blush. He was content to smile at her and settle himself directly opposite her as if to promise her that he would act upon his knowledge of her enjoyment of their first carriage ride. When the carriage jostled over a little ditch in the road, Elizabeth's legs brushed against his and he grinned at her. Georgiana wondered at the silence and looks between the two, but since she had spent a very restless night, dozed for the majority of the trip in a corner.
This left Darcy and Elizabeth to fend for themselves. Elizabeth soon asked Darcy to give her more details about Pemberley and the running of the estate- anything really to take her mind off the fact that he was looking intently at her and would occasionally stretch his long legs. Darcy was content to explain anything about the House and surrounding countryside to her, already envisioning her as its Mistress.
"There is a very fine spot to the east of the House, near the lake that I would very much like to show you." Darcy's gaze again made her cheeks burn. She felt as if she were perpetually blushing in his presence.
"I..." she cleared her throat, "would be delighted to see the grounds. Is the lake very far from the House?"
"Close by, but far enough away to let you feel isolated in the surrounding trees and bushes. It has been a favourite spot of mine since I first found it when my mother first became sick. No one knows of its existence, or at least I hope not, but I would be honoured to show you."
Lizzy allowed herself to nod, not really trusting herself to answer.
And so the carriage ride continued. Darcy roused Georgiana as they neared the gates and she begged her brother to take the winding road to the House so that Elizabeth would get her first glimpse of Pemberley as it lay beyond the lake. Darcy, having already instructed his driver to do so when they stopped for lunch, nodded.
In her excitement, Georgiana changed to the opposite seat, leaving a space beside Elizabeth. Georgiana prattled on about how exciting it was to be coming home, how much Lizzy would enjoy herself. She urged that Elizabeth take her former place so that she could have the best seat for viewing the house. Elizabeth complied and Darcy quickly sat down beside her, in Elizabeth's vacated place. Georgiana raised her eyebrows at him, but he simply replied that he wished to point out all the spots that they had been discussing earlier. Georgie merely nodded and turned her head to hide her smile.
As the carriage rounded a bend, Pemberley was at last visible in all its natural splendour. Elizabeth gasped in pleasure, and Darcy moved closer, so that he could whisper to her.
"You see the lake in front of you. To the side, over there (pointing), is a little place where the bushes screen you from everything. That is my little hiding spot." He trusted himself to go no further. Her neck, with little ringlets cascading down randomly, was within kissing distance, and it was all he could do to stop himself from gently caressing her.
For Elizabeth's part, she was similarly affected. She felt his breath on her ears and closed her eyes to revel in the sensation- the wonderful view of Pemberley could not compare with his closeness.
All too soon, they rounded another bend and Pemberley was lost for some time. It allowed Darcy to put some distance between himself and his desire, and for Elizabeth to compose herself.
When they reached the house, Darcy again jumped out, shooing away the footman, and helped both ladies out of the carriage. Without letting them go, he escorted them into his family home, nodding to the servants' greetings as he passed.
Mrs. Reynolds hurried to greet them at the door and show them into the parlour, where she had prepared a light snack.
"Miss Bingley, this is my house keeper, Mrs. Reynolds. Mrs. Reynolds, Miss Elizabeth Bingley."
Mrs. Reynolds curtseyed to Elizabeth, noticing how the Master was still gazing at her and decided that she would have to get to know this future Mrs. Darcy better. Elizabeth in turn, greeted Mrs. Reynolds graciously, without the officiousness she had come to expect from most of the Master's few invited guests. She informed Mr. Darcy that everything was in readiness, and that Miss Bingley's room was prepared whenever she wished to see it.
They nibbled on a few biscuits and a glass of wine, Elizabeth's nervousness growing. Georgiana saw that she was becoming more agitated and offered to show her to her room. Elizabeth gratefully accepted and bade farewell to Darcy.
"For the present, Miss Bingley," Darcy was quick to add, "Perhaps you may wish for a tour before dinner is served?"
"Thank you, I believe that would be the best way to ensure I know how to get to the dining room!" Elizabeth smiled.
Darcy watched her walk out of the room with Georgiana satisfied that at last she was here, where she belonged.
Posted on Friday, 11 April 2003
Dinner that night was an informal affair. Elizabeth was beginning to feel very much at ease, especially after the chat she had had with Georgiana when she was shown her room.
"Miss Bingley," Georgiana began as they climbed the grand staircase, "you must not feel trepidation whilst you are here. I know both Fitzwilliam and I are very much looking forward to making your stay here as pleasant as possible. My companion, Mrs. Annesley will not be here until your brother and Jane arrives and so I shall be able to devote myself to your amusement."
Elizabeth felt comforted at the thought and smiled gratefully at her friend.
Upon beholding her rooms, which were large and spacious, she gasped. "They are simply charming Georgiana! And so very large, I am sure that I could easily pass all my time here going between the rooms."
Georgiana laughed at her reaction. "Well, you mustn't, otherwise Fitzwilliam will become extremely vexed with you and arrange for you to live in more cramped quarters so that you may come and spend your time with him."
Elizabeth blushed, but Georgiana went on. "However, at least this way you may escape from our company should you desire to, and we may read Emma together in your sitting room, or mine, so as not to disturb Fitzwilliam with our giggles."
"I would enjoy that very much Georgie, but I doubt I shall ever be bored or get tired from your company, especially when I have such an attentive host and hostess."
Afterwards, Georgiana and Mr. Darcy had shown her some of the rooms, including the dining and drawing rooms and then a quick walk outside before dinner was announced.
Dinner was delicious, and Elizabeth was hard-pressed to eat half of what was before her. Soon they were comfortably ensconced in the music room, where Georgiana played for them on the new pianoforte Darcy had purchased for her.
They both sat in companionable silence contemplating what it would be like to spend the rest of their lives thus, and both finding it a pleasant thought. Georgiana soon tired and excused herself to retire for the night. Darcy and Elizabeth were again left in each other's company.
"Perhaps I should retire as well, Mr. Darcy." Elizabeth said, feeling awkward once more.
"If you are tired, Miss Bingley."
"Tired. Yes. I am a bit tired from the journey." Elizabeth told herself to leave, and yet she wished to spend as much time as possible with him. It was an irresistible urge to be close to him- to hold his hand, feel his arms around her, his hands gently caressing her face- anything! But she knew she should fight this feeling and leave the room now before she betray herself.
Darcy saw her struggling with something. "Is there anything the matter Miss Bingley? You can tell me anything, and I will try my best to assist you in any way."
Elizabeth's face softened as she saw his concern for her. "Thank you Mr. Darcy, you are the kindest man I know and you have already done so much for me. Nothing is the matter that thinking cannot solve (I hope), and I had best retire to do that now." She held out her hand to him and he rushed to hold it and placed the gentlest kiss on the back.
"Sweet dreams, Miss Bingley."
"Thank you." They will be if they are of you. Reclaiming her hand, she quickly hurried out the door and made it to her bed chamber without becoming lost.
That was not the case the next morning however. Darcy found Elizabeth wandering aimlessly, a puzzled frown on her face. She noticed him staring at her from a doorway and broke into a relieved smile.
"Mr. Darcy! Be my knight in shining armour and help me find my way outside? There are entirely too many rooms in this house of yours." Elizabeth was refreshed. After a night spent wondering what to do, she came to the conclusion that since she loved him there was nothing else to do but let him gently know her regard and to let his behaviour be her guide.
Darcy thought she was charming and bade her wait one minute whilst he finish tying his cravat and then he would escort her wherever she wished to go.
Realising that she was standing outside his room, Elizabeth could not help feeling curious as to what it looked like, nor whether these were the master chambers that his parents would have occupied, or whether he stayed in his own quarters even after their death. He finished quickly, and she blushed slightly at her thoughts.
"The garden, I believe you said, Miss Bingley?" Darcy held out his arm for her to take.
"Anywhere outside, Mr. Darcy, would be a pleasure." Elizabeth took his arm and he quickly led her outdoors.
"I'm afraid, Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth laughed, "you walked so quickly that I still have no idea of how to make it outside."
"Never mind, Miss Bingley, I shall be happy if you will accept my services to escort you of a morning for the duration of your stay."
Elizabeth smiling accepted his gallant offer and they moved further away from the house. Elizabeth wondered where he was leading her, but complied with his directions. She was enchanted with her surroundings.
"Mr. Darcy, you have a beautiful home, and such lovely grounds. I could never tire of walking in them!"
"Thank you, Miss Bingley, I hope you may spend much time walking the grounds here. I have been walking them all my life and never fail to realise with wonder that I have the privilege of owning it."
They walked on in silence for a while, both content with the nearness of the other. Soon, the path gently declined and after rounding a curve in the path, where Lizzy caught a glimpse of water sparkling in the sunlight, Darcy led her off the path and through some bushes.
"Here, my dear Miss Bingley, is the little spot I mentioned yesterday." And he permitted Elizabeth to take a few steps away from him and wander around whilst he soaked in her presence in his secret place.
Elizabeth had never seen a more natural and secluded setting. The lake was before her and she could see the sunlight sparkle on the clear water. A few boughs trailed lazily in the water as the breeze rustled the trees. On the other three sides, great trees and bushes surrounded them, with only a slight opening where they came in.
"I can see why you love this place Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth whispered, not daring to break the silence, "it is beautiful and peaceful- the perfect spot to sit and ponder."
"Thank you." Darcy responded, thinking how much more beautiful it was with her a part of it.
Their gazes locked, and held. They drew near and Darcy took her hand, caressing it as he had done so yesterday. Elizabeth did not blush this time, it felt so natural to be with him at his secret haunt- being a part of his life, sharing an experience with him.
For a moment, Elizabeth saw a questioning look pass in his eyes- he struggled with the answer for a moment, until he shook his head slightly and she heard him murmur "too soon". He smiled his dazzling, dimpled smile and placing her arm on top of his, led her out onto the path again.
They walked together for close to an hour, for the most part silent, but occasionally Darcy would point out a certain spot and explain it to her or relate a memory connected to a particular scene or place. Elizabeth had never felt so connected with him- even more so than when they danced at her brother's wedding.
They soon found themselves back at the house and Darcy escorted Elizabeth to breakfast, where they met Georgiana. Plans were made to spend the day out of doors and Darcy ordered a picnic lunch.
They ambled, much as they had this morning, although with Georgiana's presence, more effort was made at carrying on a conversation. The sound of hoof beats alerted them to someone's presence, and Elizabeth spied a tall, well-built gentleman coming towards them.
"Richard!" Georgiana cried out in happy surprise and ran towards the rider.
Mr. Darcy smiled and drew Elizabeth towards him. "He, Miss Bingley, is my very good cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. What he is doing here, I cannot fathom!" A small measure of alarm crept into Darcy's consciousness. His cousin was quite the ladies man, not to mention the fact that most ladies loved a man in regimentals- and Elizabeth was already smiling at him as he drew nearer. A sense of impending doom made Darcy's own pleasure in seeing his favourite cousin dim.
"Hello" the Colonel cried out as he grew nearer, "who have we here Darce?" he asked as he swung off his horse and flashed Elizabeth his charming grin. Elizabeth couldn't help smiling in return at this swaggering individual. She then felt Mr. Darcy's arm tense under where she was holding his arm, and became slightly puzzled. Could Mr. Darcy not enjoy his cousin's company? Surely not, Georgiana and he both seemed quite happy to see him.
"May I present Colonel Richard Fitwilliam, Richard, this is Miss Elizabeth Bingley."
"Miss Bingley, it is a pleasure to meet you." And with a roguish smile, he kissed her hand.
Elizabeth was slightly uncomfortable at his overt flirting, and she saw that Mr. Darcy was also not impressed.
"Thank you, Colonel." Elizabeth smiled slightly, waiting for him to release her hand.
"Yes yes, Richard" Darcy stated impatiently, and leading Elizabeth by the hand, motioned for the Colonel to come into the House. "What brings you to Pemberley? I thought you were stationed with the - Regiment at -- ?"
Colonel Fitzwilliam offered to escort Georgiana to the house, since Darcy was occupied with Miss Bingley. Being an observant man, he read the situation with Darcy towards Miss Bingley and couldn't help smiling to himself.
"The Earl asked that I be released from duty for a fortnight to attend to Mother whilst he is in Town on business. You know how Mother becomes agitated when the menfolk are away from home, and as my brother is still returning from his trip to America, it falls on me to ensure Mother is attended."
"Why did you not bring my Aunt Matlock to visit with you?" inquired Georgiana.
"She felt slightly indisposed this morning, but would not hear of me postponing my call. She has requested your presence one morning when you are free though Georgiana, and I would greatly appreciate if you would visit her."
Georgiana nodded her assent quickly and the Colonel turned towards Elizabeth. "You see, Miss Bingley, my Mother was unfortunate enough to have only sons, and she is of a disposition that only a female can appreciate, and therefore it falls to our Georgiana to become her daughter in that respect."
"Aunt Matlock is so good to me." Georgiana's tone slightly censured the Colonel's habit of turning his Mother's nervous bouts into a jest. "She has the most wonderful garden Elizabeth, and tends to it as much as she can."
"Yes," Darcy interjected, "Matlock Manor is very beautiful."
"Even more so than Pemberley, Mr. Darcy?" Elizabeth asked archly.
He smiled at her tenderly, "No indeed, Miss Bingley. I believe Pemberley has no equal, but I am slightly biased. Matlock does not have quite the natural wildness that Pemberley has, nor is it as stately as my Aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh's estate, Rosings. I suppose you could say it is a happy medium, if you believe that there needs to be a medium between natural and artificial beauty."
Elizabeth laughed and turned to Colonel Fitzwilliam, "Colonel, you are perhaps as biased as Mr. Darcy in familial duties, but what is your opinion? Can Matlock compare with Pemberley?"
"I am afraid, Miss Bingley, of proving to you my bias when I say that I prefer Matlock precisely because of the reason why Darcy loves Pemberley. Natural wildness is all well and good, but can overwhelm one with the sense of one's own insignificance. As a military man, I like to think that I play a crucial role in everything I do, and therefore dislike being reminded that in the grand scheme of things (this with a wide gesture to Pemberley's vast grounds), I am only one man. How do you find Pemberley?"
Darcy listened keenly for her response.
"I have only been here a day, and although I have only had a brief walk this morning, I find Pemberley delightful. I confess I have always preferred natural beauty to the structured landscapes, but Matlock could prove me wrong."
Elizabeth felt a slight pressure on her arm, and looking up saw Darcy smiling broadly in pride. How lucky I am that I have such a beautiful home that I can offer to Elizabeth, and I have found someone who can love it as much as I do.
They reached the house, and Darcy motioned for them to precede him in. Mrs. Reynolds greeted Colonel Fitzwilliam fondly and offered refreshments to all. A light and pleasant conversation was maintained for the remainder of the Colonel's visit. He tried his best at being charming for the lovely (and well dowered) Miss Bingley, but could not hold her attention as Darcy easily and powerfully did. Before leaving, the Colonel requested Darcy's presence at Matlock on the morrow to discuss estate business and to go shooting with him. Darcy reluctantly agreed, secretly delighting in the crestfallen expression Elizabeth showed upon realising that she would not see Darcy for the entire day tomorrow.
"But I must be going. Thank you Darce for a pleasant visit. It is wonderful to see you again Georgie, and a delight to meet you too Miss Bingley. I hope to see you again soon. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate your brother on his wedding as well. Darcy mentioned that Bingley had fallen for a young lady living near his estate. But well, I must be off."
Darcy and Georgiana saw him to the door, leaving Elizabeth to dredge up memories of Darcy's previous behaviour. Could Mr. Darcy have spoken to his cousin about the unsuitableness of Jane? Would he confide in his cousin? What would he have said? Elizabeth struggled against the memory of Mr. Darcy's behaviour when he first came to Netherfield and some of the awful things that he said. She felt that the Colonel had spoilt her entire afternoon by recalling painful memories that she thought she had dealt with and overcome. Plagued by uncertainty again, Elizabeth felt unequal to meeting with Mr. Darcy until she had sorted through her feelings again.
Elizabeth rose and moved towards the door, only to be confronted with the object of her reverie.
"Georgiana wished to have a few moments before dinner, resting in her rooms, so it falls upon me to continue with the tour, if you wish?" He offered her his arm.
Elizabeth looked at him, this handsome young man who challenged her and completed her as no one ever had. Her brother was kind and intelligent, but could not fill her need for complete understanding. Here was the man whom she had started to think she could deeply love, and yet there were still doubts, still memories of a time when he was not so pleasant towards her, nor so caring. Looking into his questioning eyes, she realised that there was no special moment when she would stop remembering the past, when she could stop doubting, when everything would become perfect and she could trust in him explicitly. Then she understood that it would be a constant decision to place her trust in him, to let him guide her and to love him. Taking a moment to consider the import of what she was about to do, she searched her feelings and knew that this was one affair she could not be a bystander in- she would have to come to him as much as wait for him to come to her. And so, she stretched out her hand, and returned his smile. And everything felt right.
Darcy did not understand what was going on in Elizabeth's mind, but he saw that she must have been considering something important, and decided on a course of action. He inexplicably felt relief and optimism that she would soon be his.
With this newfound optimism, he decided to show her the library, and her first reaction to it was all that he anticipated. Elizabeth gasped in wonder at the large quantity of books. It truly was nothing compared with her brother's collection. It was more than vast- it was generations of the Darcy's love for literature.
Darcy watching her could not help but draw closer. It was only the two of them, and how easy it would be to lose himself in her presence. He had not come to an understanding with her however, so what could he do? Only half a day had passed since he deemed it too soon to ask for her hand, and yet how he wanted to! To be assured of her return of affection, to anticipate the time when she would share his life and be by his side.
Elizabeth, however, was for once oblivious to his presence. She unconsciously moved away to browse through the books, and Darcy let her go, watching her fondly. Her hand lightly brushed covers, and she would smile to herself in memory of books that she had read. All of a sudden, she was blushing furiously, and turned to glance at him. Just as quickly she turned back, hoping that he hadn't noticed. But he had, and smiled to himself, and guessed which book she had come across. He feigned ignorance however, and her composure quickly returned.
Darcy took a seat within the room, content to let Elizabeth explore as much as she liked. He was soon lost in a pleasant daydream of spending the rest of his days like this. The daydream seemed to become more real when, finding a book she had wanted to read for a long time, Elizabeth turned around, smiled broadly at Darcy and brought the book over and sat down beside him.
"Mr. Darcy! I have long sought for this particular book and never found it. I started to despair of ever being able to read it, and here it is!"
"Indeed," he smiled at her exuberance, "you are welcome to borrow it for as long as you like."
"Thank you, sir, have you ever read it?"
Darcy shook his head and reached over to take a look at the book, and instead encountered Elizabeth's hand. Sparks flew between them and she willingly surrendered her hand to him. His face softened and they gazed lovingly into each other's eyes. His resolve to wait longer crumbled, there was no point waiting when she looked at him in this way.
"Miss Bingley," he hesitated, "Elizabeth..."
But he was interrupted.
"Mr. Darcy, sir, when would you like dinner to be..." Mrs. Reynolds walked through the door, "ready?" Oh dear, she thought, I picked the wrong time to inquire.
Elizabeth and Darcy flew apart at the sound of her voice. Elizabeth quickly snatched up her book and walked to the opposite end of the room as if searching for another book. A blush spread over the usually implacable features of Mr. Darcy's face.
"Ahh," he stammered slightly, "whenever it is ready Mrs. Reynolds."
"Thank you sir," Mrs. Reynold's smiled to herself, determined to leave the young couple alone, and simply tell Cook to serve it whenever it was prepared. "Sorry to have disturbed you sir." She bowed and left them.
But the moment was spoilt, and Darcy watched in frustration as Elizabeth kept her distance. It was not long until they both had to retire to prepare for dinner, and then during dinner and afterwards, Georgiana was present to steal half of Elizabeth's attention away.
Darcy consoled himself with the thought that he may get another chance alone when Georgiana retired, but in this too his plans were thwarted as Elizabeth and Georgiana had agreed earlier in the day to start reading her new book, Emma. They had also decided that Elizabeth's sitting room would be the best place to read to each other, and so Darcy found himself alone early in the night. He could not even console himself with the thought of her presence tomorrow since he would be leaving early in the morning for Matlock to visit his cousin and Aunt.
Elizabeth enjoyed Georgiana's company, but also missed her brother's presence. She was intent upon rising early to see him off, and perhaps having the chance to take a walk with him in the morning again.
Unfortunately it was not to be. Although both Darcy and Elizabeth retired early, they both found sleep hard to come by. What resulted was that Elizabeth, falling asleep early in the morning, overslept, and by the time she hurried down to breakfast, she was informed that "the Master had already taken breakfast and would be back for dinner tonight."
The day passed slowly for Elizabeth, and although Georgiana and she walked amongst the gardens and took turns reading from Emma, even Georgiana noticed that Elizabeth was pining for Darcy's company.
Darcy returned home from a pleasant, but, in his mind, too long visit at Matlock, only in time to dress quickly for dinner. The ladies had arrived before him, and seeing Elizabeth seated at his table for the first time that day warmed him to the core. Smiling brilliantly at her, and seeing her return his greeting with her own enthusiasm, he entertained both his sister and his guest by recounting his day. They in turn, informed him of their progress in the book, and Elizabeth's suggestion for planting lavender in the East garden to blend with the flowers already growing there.
Darcy informed Georgiana that he had accepted on her behalf a visit to their Aunt Matlock the following day. Some discussion was had by all three as to whether Elizabeth could accompany Georgiana on her visit. Eventually it was decided that Elizabeth would visit another day, since Darcy had found their Aunt in low spirits, and would perhaps not welcome a stranger.
After dinner, they all moved to the music room, where Georgiana and Elizabeth entertained them. Although Darcy's intention was to try to have a moment alone with Elizabeth, the lack of sleep the night before and the activity of the day caught up with him, and it was his turn to excuse himself and retire early. Elizabeth suggested shortly after that they read one more chapter of Emma in her sitting room and then they too, should go to sleep, for Georgiana had an early rise in the morning.
Elizabeth rose in time to see her friend and Mr. Darcy off. Mr. Darcy was to accompany Georgiana on the trip, and then would come back and travel again later to pick Georgiana up with the carriage in the afternoon.
When they were gone, Elizabeth lingered over a cup of hot tea in the Breakfast room. She then spent some time practicing on the piano in the music room. Finally, she found herself in the library, thinking that surely Mr. Darcy would be back soon.
Elizabeth wandered through the library bemused at the size of it. No matter how many times she walked into the room, she was overwhelmed by the size of the room, the bookshelves and the quantity of books. Pemberley was a vast estate, but it was only in the library that Elizabeth felt the true magnitude of Mr. Darcy's fortune.
Being in the library also reminded her of another time in a library. Even alone, she blushed furiously at the feelings he had evoked in her. She pondered yet again those awful things she had said to him. No matter how many times they both had agreed to forgive and forget, Elizabeth was not about to pass up the opportunity to learn from her mistakes. She vowed never to harshly pronounce judgment on anyone until knowing him or her fully.
She smiled ruefully; dear Jane would probably say that you should never judge anyone for any reason. Elizabeth still felt the small thrill that always accompanied the thought that Jane was now her own sister, and that her brother was blissfully happy.
Waking out of her reverie, she scanned the bookshelves for something to read. She wanted to keep herself occupied so that she wouldn't dwell on Mr. Darcy and wonder what was keeping him so long.
"Now what to choose?" Lizzy muttered to herself. The name of a book above her caught her attention. "Could it be? Yes, I think it is! Shakespeare's comedies. How funny to find it here, and..." she tried to reach it, "yes!" she sighed in exasperation, "exactly a little too high for me to reach! What are the chances that the same book would be unreachable in two different houses? I suppose Mr. Darcy will walk in any moment and pull it down for me!" She chuckled to herself.
"I can if you would like."
Elizabeth spun around at the sound of his voice. He stood by the doorway, leaning casually against the frame.
She blushed furiously. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"How long have you been standing there so quietly, sir?"
Darcy grinned. "Long enough."
Lizzy fought the urge to stamp her foot in frustration. Why was she the one always being caught in embarrassing situations?
"And I suppose you can tell me the name of the book I am wanting?" she arched her eyebrows.
He started walking in her direction. "Certainly I can."
Elizabeth swallowed heavily, and took a step back.
He drew closer. "I believe you just said that it was Shakespeare's comedies."
Elizabeth nodded, taking another step back.
"I know exactly where it is situated as well." He was within a couple of steps of her now.
"You do?" Elizabeth's voice squeaked slightly.
"Yes." He took another step. "For you see," another step, "I put it there." He was less than a step away now, and she could feel the warmth radiating from his body. She closed her eyes a bit unsteadily, and took another step back. Her eyes flew open as she bumped against the bookcase.
He was grinning at her. He took another step forward, "Last night in fact."
Elizabeth watched in fascination as he reached up to take the book. His eyes never left hers.
Why is he taking such a long time? Elizabeth thought frantically. He has no idea the havoc he wreaks upon my feelings does he?
The smile on his face would say otherwise. It seemed that he was taking much pleasure in unsettling her equanimity.
Finally the book was taken from the shelf, and Darcy brought it down between them.
"Your book, Elizabeth."
Her eyes closed slightly at the sound of her name on his lips. It was not fair that he had such an effect on her.
Elizabeth looked up, a dazzling smile upon her lips, a mischievous look in her eyes. "Why thank you, Fitzwilliam."
His eyes dilated. No one had ever spoken his name like that, and he needed her to say it again.
Darcy looked at her, deathly seriously. "Please don't say that name unless you mean it." He leaned towards her.
The mischievous look vanished, to be replaced by an equally serious one.
Elizabeth had never been kissed, and if she had, she would never have been kissed like that. She had always felt that the only man she would ever kiss was her husband. She dearly hoped that she would still be right.
The need to breathe was the only reason Darcy broke the kiss. He took the time needed to regain his breath to look at his effect on Elizabeth. She still had her eyes closed, her lips parted, a becoming blush spread across her cheeks. She was all the beauty, more beauty, than any man ever needed. Some curls played across her face, and he thrilled at the ability to finally touch them, and brush them from her face.
Her face tingled from his touch, and her lips felt on fire. She knew that they both could not survive another kiss like that without causing a scandal. What if a servant was to walk in on them?
Elizabeth slowly opened her eyes and encountered Darcy's tender gaze. She smiled lovingly up at him.
A clock in the distance chimed the hour.
"I believe, sir, we are needed for lunch. You have returned just in time it would seem."
"I'm not hungry for lunch."
Elizabeth had to avert her gaze before her resolve crumbled.
"I think it is important to not keep the servants waiting." Elizabeth looked pertinently at him.
He smiled at her, and helped her to stand upright. "Of course, milady," he kissed her hand, "if you would do me the honour of allowing me to escort you to luncheon."
Elizabeth laughed, "I would be delighted."
Darcy took her arm and placed within the crook of his arm. As they neared the door, he remembered his earlier resolve, and stopped her before opening the door.
She looked up at him expectantly, and he fought the urge to kiss her again.
"Elizabeth, please allow me to detain you for a few moments longer?" he pleaded.
She could not refuse him anything.
Still holding onto her left hand, he slowly knelt before her. She blushed and smiled, a nervous fluttering in the pit of her stomach.
"Miss Elizabeth Bingley, would you do me the great honour of becoming the Mistress of Pemberley, an equal sharer in all my earthly possessions, trials and tribulations, and be my wife?" Darcy anxiously awaited her answer.
Elizabeth, who had closed her eyes to savour his words, slowly opened them. She moved closer to his still half kneeling form, freed her hand from his grasp and cupped his face.
Darcy was very much surprised by her reaction.
She continued to caress his cheek. It was very pleasant, but he was, literally, on hands and knees waiting for her response.
She giggled again.
She turned her eyes innocently from his face to his eyes. "Yes, Mr. Darcy?"
He smiled playfully at her own expression. "Was that a yes to my question, or yes to gaining your attention?"
She arched her eyebrows. "Both I imagine."
That was it! That smile needed to be wiped from her face, and he managed to do so, very effectively.
A few minutes later, as she was leaning her head against his chest, she murmured to him how much she loved him.
His heart swelled with blissful contentment. "I love you too Lizzy." Wiping the trickles of tears that had fallen from her eyes, he again took her hand and led her out of the door towards lunch.
She smiled up at him in gratitude for loving her so much.
"Have you suddenly regained your appetite Mr. Darcy?"
He merely smiled at her.
"I had been afraid that I had ruined it."
He raised her clasped hand and kissed it.
"Indeed not. I am still quite hungry."
Her laughter rang gaily through the hallway. He decided it was his turn to tease her, and inquired what was so excessively funny during his petition?
She grinned impishly, somewhat embarrassed.
"Tell me!" he growled playfully.
Elizabeth tried desperately to keep a straight face. "I was merely fascinated by the small prickles of hair on your chin." She had to lower her face to keep from laughing at the silly expression on his face.
He chuckled ruefully. "I will never shave properly again if it produces such caresses!" he declared.
Again her laughter rang throughout the house.
Just as it should. Darcy thought with satisfaction as he conducted her into the room, and sat down for a quiet, intimate lunch.
Posted on Tuesday, 22 July 2003
Lunch was quiet and intimate, with both Elizabeth and Darcy slowly adjusting to the idea that the rest of their lives would be spent together in such a way as this. Lunch was also long, as there were great pauses between courses and even bites as the couple gazed lovingly at each other. Mrs. Reynolds, who had been alerted to lunch taking a long time, and that dishes were coming back to the kitchens hardly touched, took it upon herself to investigate. She stumbled on an intimate moment, and smiled happily to herself at the exchange.
Because they lingered for so long after lunch, the carriage was already at the door before they were ready. Darcy reluctantly allowed Elizabeth to leave his side for a few minutes to freshen up. In his mind, she needed nothing to add to her beauty. By the time Elizabeth returned, Darcy had organised everything, so he quickly escorted her into the carriage and they departed with a clatter.
Elizabeth found that she had been placed next to Mr. Darcy and that he had yet to release her hand. Smiling happily to herself that this need no longer be denied her, she was relaxed enough to placed her free hand on top of his arm. This gesture at once so simple and natural thrilled Darcy to the core. She was his at last!
Elizabeth, never one to be kept silent for long, decided that they had better discuss a few things without Georgiana in attendance. Although hesitant to broach such a topic, Elizabeth was not one to shy away from something when it needed to be done, or said in this instance.
"Fitzwilliam?" she had to pause to watch his face light up, yet again, as she spoke his name.
"Yes my love?" he replied and kissed her lightly on the hand.
"We will have to wait until Charles returns from his honeymoon to make it official. I have no doubt that he will approve of my choice, but there are formalities to be gone through before we can announce it publicly. What do you think?"
"I already have your brother's permission my dear." At Elizabeth's astonished look, he explained, "He has been aware of my, feelings for you for quite some time, and has encouraged me in them. Before getting in his carriage at his wedding, he turned and gave me permission to ask for your hand. Therefore, we have your guardian's approval and everything is settled." Seeing Elizabeth about to object, he went on, "however, I do not think we should let too many people know yet. I would rather keep it private for a while, so we can enjoy the delights of betrothal without parading it around."
"We will tell Georgiana though will we not?" Elizabeth asked concerned.
Darcy laughed, "Of course! I think she would get entirely too suspicious if we did not, because I do not plan on letting you out of my sight, or reach, for the rest of my life." Elizabeth blushed at his intensity, and was relieved. For a moment, she thought he would insist on a secret engagement, and although it might add spice to their engagement for a while, it would be hard to keep up appearances, nor did she want to. She was a bit surprised at Charles giving his permission already, but was ultimately thankful. Not that it would change much, officially he would have to be there to announce it, as well as overlook the legality and monetary arrangements such a union would require. Elizabeth just hoped that she would not have to deal with such matters. She was uninterested in these affairs, and felt that if she or Fitzwilliam were poor, they would still find a way to marry.
"What are you thinking?" Darcy leaned closer to Lizzy.
She smiled fondly at him, "Nothing in particular, just wedding details. Would you like to discuss a possible date?"
Lizzy laughed, "Soon? Is that all you will say? Pray tell me, dear sir, how soon is soon?"
Darcy kissed her hand again, "Tomorrow?" Elizabeth raised her eyebrow. "Too soon?" he queried. "The day after? Still no good, well the latest is Sunday!"
"No, that will never do," Lizzy laughingly shook her head. "I would like my brother and Jane at my wedding, and perhaps Louisa and Mr. Hurst will deign to attend."
"Well, what day did Charles say he and Jane would be arriving at Pemberley?"
"Two weeks' time I believe."
"Two weeks!" exclaimed Darcy dramatically. "Much too long! I fear I cannot wait, and will therefore have to whisk you off to Gretna Green."
Elizabeth laughed delightedly as Fitzwilliam comically expounded upon his plan. "Tomorrow night, I shall convince you to go outside on a walk with me, and I will have a carriage waiting. I will force you in, gently of course, and we shall be away. Not even Georgiana will know! You shall sign your name 'Mrs. Darcy' to your brother in the first letter to inform you of your change of fortune."
"But my dear sir," Elizabeth played along in her best simpering voice. "I fear one day will not be long enough for me to pack my clothes, especially since I shall have to pack them myself and not let my maid know for fear of discovery!"
"Well, madam, one day is all you shall be given. If you cannot organise yourself in that time, then you shall just have to remain in your clothes for the entire time."
Suddenly they both felt a little self-conscious. But Elizabeth did not want tension to suffocate the rest of the journey and dampen their first day as an engaged couple.
"Mrs. Darcy?" Elizabeth noted from his previous speech.
Darcy's smile was slow and wide. "Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy." He drew her closer.
"How well that sounds" Elizabeth mumbled as he gently leaned and kissed her- not on the hand this time.
After a few moments expressing their joy in each other, Darcy wrapped his arms around her, so her head was leaning against his shoulders in the carriage. Kissing the top of her head, he murmured "Indeed it does. Very well indeed."
Georgiana instantly guessed what had transpired while she was away by the way her brother hovered around Elizabeth and refused to let go of her hand. It did not escape Colonel Fitzwilliam's notice either. Lady Matlock was not quite so pleased however. Darcy had explained to Elizabeth in the carriage that Lady Matlock suffered from nervous disposition and a natural tendency to melancholy. She did not welcome with enthusiasm this vivacious young woman into her household, but knew it to be her duty. An awkward fifteen minutes passed for Elizabeth who would have preferred her new relationship with Fitzwilliam to be announced to his closest relatives. Darcy noticed her discomfort, and Colonel Fitzwilliam's smirking gaze, and decided that perhaps letting his aunt and cousin know would still be keeping it fairly private. Colonel Fitzwilliam smiled in delight and clapped Darcy on the back, and placed a kiss on Elizabeth's hand. Lady Matlock, who had seen nothing amiss in the midst of her own worries, was surprised and unsure of how to take it. A formal and unenthusiastic congratulations followed, for which Elizabeth was disappointed, but hoped that they would become better acquainted in the weeks leading up to the wedding, and if not, the years during their marriage.
Darcy, not wishing to share Elizabeth, soon announced that they should be leaving, and he quickly bundled the ladies into his carriage. Elizabeth thought she should be annoyed at his expectations that his commands should be obeyed, but with his hand clasped in hers, she could not bring herself to mar this perfect day. Georgiana was quite exuberant about the engagement, and peppered both of them with questions.
Elizabeth answered her questions to the best of her ability, and asked Georgiana if she would stand with her at the ceremony.
"Of course I will, my sister!" Georgiana exclaimed, happy tears falling down her cheeks.
Elizabeth hugged Georgiana tightly, as Darcy looked on, feeling nothing could be better than this moment.
Mrs. Reynolds of course was informed, along with a few other more senior servants, and thus soon the entire household knew and rejoiced, for the soon-to-be new Mrs. Darcy had already shown herself to be a kind and happy woman. Mrs. Reynolds in particular felt so much happiness for her dear Mr. Darcy. Having seen him grow from a boy, and knowing what he had suffered as a child and a young man, to see him so joyful was a balm to the old lady. She took Elizabeth aside the next morning and congratulated her on her engagement and inquired if she would like a tour of the house to make a list of changes.
"Dear Mrs. Reynolds," Elizabeth laughed, "I find that Pemberley is a dear old house, and can think of nothing to change. Mr. Darcy has taken me through many of the main rooms, and there are no changes. I will inform you however if I do find anything."
"Very good ma'am" Mrs. Reynolds curtseyed.
"Unless, of course, there are any renovations that you think need changed? Working closely as you do with the house, perhaps there are a few things you need?" Elizabeth saw her shake her head, and smiled warmly. "Well, please do not hesitate to bring any concerns to me, and I shall discuss it with Mr. Darcy."
Mrs. Reynolds was pleased by this exchange, not only because Miss Bingley did not want to make any large changes to rooms, but because she was willing to listen to others' advice and then to discuss it with her husband.
"Do you know when you will be marrying Miss Bingley?" Mrs. Reynolds asked a bit hesitantly, not wanting to pry.
Elizabeth smiled reassuringly. "As soon as possible Mrs. Reynolds, and I do hope that you can help me with the organising of it, since I believe Mr. Darcy would prefer if I married here." Seeing Mrs. Reynold's surprised expression, she explained "My brother does not own an estate at the moment, and therefore as long as his presence is here, I will be content to be married anywhere."
Mrs. Reynolds nodded her head thoughtfully, already making plans and adjustments and schedules in her mind for rooms and catering and cleaning. "Have you fixed a date? Who else will be coming to the wedding?"
A deep voice forestalled any more questions. "Mrs. Reynolds, I'm sure Elizabeth and yourself (Elizabeth added in Georgiana as well) will be more than proficient at organising a wedding, but at the moment, the bride-to-be is needed in the garden for a walk."
The couple shared a smile and Mrs. Reynolds curtseyed and watched them slowly walk outside.
The day was spent hand in hand, wandering around Pemberley, sometimes accompanied by Georgiana, but more often than not, she pleaded a desire to finish her new book.
"Elizabeth, would you like to take a turn out in the garden with me?" Darcy asked as they sat in the drawing room that night.
Elizabeth smiled fondly and agreed, never tiring of her fiancÚ's company or the outdoors.
The air outside was cold but exhilarating to the young lovers walking closely together.
"I must request however, sir" began Elizabeth, "that we keep close to the house, for I did overhear yesterday that a local gentleman has ideas of eloping with young ladies in the neighbourhood!"
Darcy, remembering, feigned astonishment, and drew her nearer. "I shall defend you madam! But this is quite distressing! Surely he does not wish to elope with more than one lady?"
"I do not know sir, these gentlemen are enigmatic."
"No, I believe you are mistaken, for I am sure this gentleman wishes to carry off only one lady. Any more than one lady would be a bit extreme. What would he do having to please the whims of two females?"
"Whims, sir?" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"Why yes, what else do you call it when females need a new parasol, a new bonnet, to have breakfast in bed and not rise until late afternoon?" Forestalling any response from Elizabeth by placing his finger on her lips, "I look forward to satisfying each and every whim of yours dearest."
Elizabeth couldn't help but blush. He outlined her lips with his fingers and trailed the contours of her face. Shivering both from the cold and the tingling path left by his light touch, they shared a small, warming kiss and embrace, before Darcy indicated that they should return to the warmth of the house.
Elizabeth was very much looking forward to her life as Mrs. Darcy.
The next morning however, there was a great disturbance. Elizabeth had coaxed Georgiana into helping her consult with Mrs. Reynolds regarding preliminary wedding plans. The three women were sitting in the morning room when Lady Catherine De Bourg was announced. Mrs. Reynolds immediately leapt to her feet and stood near the door, curtseying. Lady Catherine paid her no heed however, and instantly openly surveyed the woman she had never met.
"Miss Bingley I presume?" Lady Catherine began in a cold voice.
"Yes, Aunt Catherine," Georgiana began, a slight squeak to her voice, "may I present my friend, Miss Elizabeth Bingley?"
"Your friend?" Lady Catherine sniffed. "That was not the relationship I heard connecting this woman with our family."
Elizabeth did not like the tone Lady Catherine assumed nor the way she held her nose in the air. But this was Fitzwilliam's aunt, and so Elizabeth smiled at her.
Georgiana faltered somewhat at Aunt Catherine's forceful tone. Aunt Catherine had always frightened her and she usually had her brother to protect her from her overbearing company. Where is Fitzwilliam?
"Aunt" Georgiana began, but was cut off by Lady Catherine.
"Georgiana, leave me to Miss Bingley. We need to discuss some things. I am sure you need to practise on your pianoforte. Anne would be extremely proficient if she had ever learnt, and I'm sure would not neglect her studies as you seemingly do."
Georgiana's face blanched and she could only nod her and slink slowly out of the door. Elizabeth's face grew hard at Lady Catherine's treatment of Georgiana.
"You can be at no loss as to why I am here Miss Bingley, even if you have never met me before, I am dear Mr. Darcy's closest relation and I demand an explanation for your plan to entrap him."
"Entrap him Lady Catherine?" Elizabeth's anger grew within her, "indeed I did no such thing."
"Then you admit to not being engaged?" Lady Catherine spoke eagerly. Perhaps it had all been a misunderstanding on Lady Fitzwilliam's behalf. She had never had the strongest mind after all.
Elizabeth searched for a way to answer this question, but decided that the direct route was the best way.
"I admit no such thing, I am engaged to your nephew." Elizabeth watched in slight amusement as Lady Catherine's face turned purple.
"But this is not to be born! How dare you aspire to this union? Mr. Darcy is a very wealthy, aristocratic gentleman from a long and illustrious line. He is connected with many of the principle landowners in England. I will not let him marry some nobody without anything to recommend herself, besides a somewhat pretty face that will wither in time!"
"Lady Catherine! How dare you insult me in such a manner! My fortune may not be as extensive as your nephews, and although my father was not a landowner, my brother will be. Even if this were not the case, I love your nephew, and he me, therefore we are to marry." Elizabeth disliked having to reveal so much of her feeling, but Lady Catherine certainly made her see red.
"Fortune you say? And how much are you worth? I suppose five thousand pounds is a large amount to a tradesman's daughter like you." Lady Catherine made tradesman's daughter drip with disdain.
"Twenty thousand pounds, Lady Catherine." Elizabeth bit her lip. She disliked having to publicise how much she was worth.
That took Lady Catherine back a step. Twenty thousand pounds was quite a sum. Not too much lower than Georgiana. But Georgiana was a Darcy. Miss Bingley was a... Bingley.
Clearing her throat, she attacked Elizabeth with her main argument- her lack of breeding. "No matter how much gold you try to gild yourself with, it does not change the fact of who and what you are. A person without connections, a person wholly unsuitable for the title Mrs. Darcy."
"I think perhaps I would be the best judge of who would be a suitable Mistress of Pemberley Aunt Catherine." Darcy strode into the room, quite incensed at his Aunt's behaviour with his intended.
"Darcy!" Lady Catherine exclaimed. "I don't know what arts and allurements this woman used to make you forget your station and your duty, but surely you must see her as she is! I do not care how many goods her father sold to become rich, it does not make her suitable."
"Lady Catherine," Darcy began in a cold voice. "You will refrain from addressing the future Mrs. Darcy in derogatory terms. It matters not to me who her relations are, nor how much dowry she brings to our marriage. She is beautiful and intelligent, witty and accomplished. She will be the perfect sister for Georgiana, and she will, and does, make me the happiest man on earth."
"But Darcy! Think of Anne..."
"No buts Aunt Catherine!" There was steel in his voice now. "You will apologise to my wife to be, or you will leave the house immediately. As for my cousin, I have repeatedly refused to enter into an agreement with Anne. I would not force her or myself into an unloving match. If you bothered to ask your daughter's opinion once in a while instead of dictating how she ought to feel you may realise that her own feelings prevent the union as much as mine do."
Lady Catherine's eyes widened in astonishment. She was being thrown out of her sister's own home, and being told how to raise her own daughter!!
"You forget yourself, sir! I am your Aunt, and I will not be subjected to such threats."
"You forget yourself Aunt Catherine. This is not your house to where your every ill-natured whim can be brandished to the discomfort of everyone else! I will not put up with you insulting my own."
"She" with a malicious glance at Elizabeth "is not yours yet!"
"Oh but she will be, Aunt, and if you do not apologise this instant, you will not only be unwelcome in any of my dwellings, but you will also not be visited, you will not be invited to our wedding, nor any of our children's christenings. In short, it will be you who will be disconnected and shunned from the family. Do not think that I will not inform you brother of this behaviour!"
Lady Catherine blanched at the reference to her brother. He may not approve of Darcy's choice of bride, but he was extremely particular regarding decorum and civility. Perhaps she had been a mite uncivil, but to be expected to apologise to this... chit of a girl was unbearable! Intolerable!
"You will get no apology from me nephew, I will not compliment you on your choice of bride. You will receive no presents from me!"
With a toss of her head, and a sniff of disdain directed towards Elizabeth, who managed a slight curtsey (although she had no idea why she would pay this Lady even that civility), Lady Catherine stormed out.
Darcy sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. "I am so sorry about this... incident... my darling."
Elizabeth laughed a little, and ran into his arms. "It does not matter dear, she will be reconciled eventually." She nestled closer in his arms, "I hope this does not affect your relationship with your family Fitzwilliam. I do not wish to be a point of contention between anyone, and as much as I disliked what she said, she was speaking the truth- I am a tradesman's daughter and low born- I could hope it would not be the case, but many of your London acquaintances may look on this match in the same light as Lady Catherine."
"I do not care about other people's opinions" Darcy brushed her hair from her face, "you are what matters most to me, and my immediate family loves you just as much as I do. If the world cannot see that you are perfect for me, then we will simply deny them the honour of your vivacious presence."
Elizabeth laughed delightedly before being caught up in a tender kiss.
Posted on Friday, 22 August 2003
The two weeks before Charles and Jane arrived back from their wedding tour was a mixture of tortuous waiting and sweet moments between the couple. They continued taking a morning walk, and when the weather permitted, an evening stroll, remembering to always stay close to the house in case there were any women-stealing-bandits around.
They also took this opportunity to read Hamlet together, and although Darcy enjoyed the play, he found himself extremely frustrated with Hamlet's character and could not understand why anyone would sympathise. Elizabeth often found herself exasperated at his inability to grasp the intricate character, but soon lost any interest of bending his opinions to her own. It was much more enjoyable to discuss, sometimes quite passionately, the differences in opinion. Georgiana, at first was quite alarmed at the heat with which they argued, soon saw it as another way they expressed their thoughts and opinions and marvelled at how close her brother's life entwined with the woman he loved.
Charles and Jane arrived at Pemberley a few days earlier than planned, to the joy of all. Charles could not stop smiling at his sisters (and his own) happiness, and Jane was more than happy for her friend. All five journeyed to London a few days after their arrival for the necessary financial arrangements to be made, and Elizabeth, Jane and Georgiana decided that a few days spent shopping was just the thing for a new bride, a bride to be, and a soon to be debutante.
Once they returned from London, Darcy and Charles formally announced the engagement, and Elizabeth had the chance of making the acquaintance of Lord Fitzwilliam and the eldest son, who recently returned from America. Lord Fitzwilliam had been disappointed with his nephew's choice, but after a few meetings with the soon-to-be Mrs. Darcy, he was more than reconciled. The good opinion of his wife cemented his like of Elizabeth and Lord Matlock it was rumoured, visited Rosings Park to berate Lady Catherine on her inability to give her blessing. Lady Matlock's good opinion of Elizabeth came about through a series of visits to Matlock Manor, where she patiently devoted time to listening to that Lady's complaints, and helping her to embroider a cushion. Playing soothing music on the pianoforte comforted Lady Matlock's complaints and she soon found that her melancholy all but disappeared under Elizabeth's excellent care. Lord Matlock and Colonel Fitzwilliam were amazed to see Lady Matlock, Elizabeth and Georgiana walking animatedly through throughout the grounds one morning. Lady Matlock had rarely gone further than her garden in the last three years as a testimony to her illness, and to see her frolicking as much as the younger women, made the two Fitzwilliam men extremely joyful.
The wedding was fixed for the week following their return from London, and Elizabeth spent much of her time with Mrs. Reynolds, Jane and Georgiana planning her wedding breakfast. It had been decided that Pemberley would be the place where they got married. Darcy made arrangements with his pastor and the little chapel on the grounds was well-aired and decorated with fresh flowers. It would be a quiet and intimate wedding. The Fitzwilliams, Hursts and the Bennets were invited, and Lady Catherine refused to attend, and ensured that Anne could not as well. Another heated discussion arose between Lady Catherine and her brother, but she was too proud to admit defeat. It was only after Anne married a dashing Admiral did Lady Catherine finally relent and see that her bitterness had prevented her from enjoying her family's lives for the past six years.
Lady Catherine and Anne were not the only people who refused to attend. Louisa did not enjoy her sister's good fortune, but realised that she could not afford not to attend, otherwise she might be denied admittance to the hallowed Pemberley. She found that referring to her sister, Mrs. Darcy in future years, greatly added to her own social position, and was ultimately satisfied with her sister's marriage.
Miss Caroline Bennet however could never reconcile herself to Elizabeth's marriage to Mr. Darcy. She was sure that it should have been her that was invited to Pemberley as friend to Georgiana, and that it was she that would have been married to Mr. Darcy now. She would have made a much better Mistress of Pemberley. Her dress would have been much more elaborate- there was hardly any lace! Pemberley itself would have benefited under her renovations, and some of the copses would have been chopped down to make room for Grecian temples. She only ever visited Pemberley once with her sister, Mrs. Bingley. But once was enough for the inhabitants. She felt herself unable to attend the wedding of her husband, and Mrs. Bennet, in sympathy to her daughter's crushed hopes, decided to remain at Longbourn, much to the relief of Mr. Bennet. It was a happy reunion between Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet and he wished her much joy on her marriage. Kitty and Lydia (whom Mr. Bennet had deemed unwise to leave to his wife's and older sister's influence), enjoyed their time at Pemberley, and Kitty was invited to stay with Georgiana at Matlock Manor during Mr. and Mrs. Darcy's wedding tour.
The day before the wedding was hectic, but Darcy kidnapped Elizabeth for a final stroll outside. He quickly led her to his small hiding place. It was a happy moment- they simply stood holding each other. There was no need for words. They knew how much they loved each other, how right they were, and how much they were looking forward to their future life together. Their future was ahead of them, and the possibilities were boundless.
"Are you happy my love?" Darcy murmured quietly in her hair
"Yes. I could not imagine being happier than with you my darling Fitzwilliam" Elizabeth breathlessly exclaimed. Her emotions were getting the better of her, and she could not help crying silently but happily in his arms. Darcy simply held her more tightly.
The ceremony was simple and plain. Mr. Bennet was asked to give the bride away, and Jane and Georgiana preceded Elizabeth down the aisle. Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam stood for Darcy, thus their closest family and friends were with them on this special occasion. As Reverend Sullivan united them in holy matrimony, the couple pledged themselves to each other, and kept that pledge faithfully in the years to come.
Darcy had been wrong in that carriage ride. There was something better than that moment, and it was every moment that he spent by Elizabeth's side in the years to come. Throughout their disagreements, despite sickness and ill humour, they continued to love each other with an unselfish and unbounded love. When their first child was placed in his arms, and he named him Fitzwilliam Bennet Darcy, he thought that his heart would burst. He experienced this heady emotion five more times when Anne Emma, Joshua Benjamin, George Andrew, Georgiana Louise and little Jane Helen were each placed in his arms for a father's blessing. Jane and Bingley had four children and within their second year of marriage, they found a suitable estate and Bingley entered into the realms of the landed gentry. Michelle Lucy (nicknamed Shemmelle), David Arthur, Phillip James and Katherine Rose became perfect companions for the Darcy children; Shemmelle was especially doted upon by Bingley having inherited her mother's flawless beauty, if perhaps she was a little mischievous.
When Jane Helen died in her seventh year, Darcy thought nothing could cause more pain. She was such a beautiful child, with her mother's love of nature and beauty, her father's capacity for quiet and solitude and her namesake's gentle nature that her passing made a hole no one could replace. She herself had no worries about passing on, and was often comforting her dear family during her lingering illness.
During Darcy's final years, he often spent time walking amongst the beloved groves of Pemberley remembering his life and felt such a surge of gratitude for his Elizabeth's unending love, and when he finally passed away in the arms of his wife, she forsook family tradition and placed his body into that little hideaway he had shown her so many years ago, and arranged that her body would be placed next to his. Their surviving children often visited the nook, and Joshua had planted two trees that grew intertwined and outlasted the storms and weather of the following generations.