Beginning , Section II
Book Two, Chapter Three
Posted on Tuesday, 1 February 2005
Darcy's carriage pulled into the yard of the Two Kings Inn a little after sunset. Upon checking with the owners, whom Darcy knew well, Elizabeth was shown into the deserted dining parlor. She soon learned that their party was the only one at the inn. Elizabeth was at once relieved and disconcerted by this fact. On one hand, the dining parlor was completely deserted when their supper arrived. Elizabeth had a splitting headache and the last thing she wanted to deal with was casual conversation with total strangers.
On the other hand, she was completely alone with Darcy, and so conversation was inevitable. As Elizabeth picked through her lamb stew, the silence was deafening. She casually glanced up to find Darcy regarding her with concern.
“Is everything to your liking?” He asked with his brow furrowed. Elizabeth gave him a weak smile, and was quite surprised to find that she wanted to relieve his anxiety for her.
“I am merely tired, Darcy.” Elizabeth replied awkwardly. She still felt somehow unsettled by the use of his surname. Why couldn’t she call him Fitzwilliam; he was her husband after all. Perhaps she could call Colonel Fitzwilliam by his rank, and not his surname. It would certainly clear the situation.
“Is there…something else?” He ventured quietly. Elizabeth blinked, surprised that he was so perceptive. But how could she begin to explain to her husband that she did not want to go to bed with him? “I have a headache.” Elizabeth finally answered, and took a bite of her stew to cover her lie. Well not a complete lie…
“Elizabeth, I need to say something…” Darcy began. His discomfort was very evident.
“Darcy…” Elizabeth interrupted.
“No, Elizabeth, I…you… I mean… I have ordered separate chambers for us tonight. I didn’t think that there would be enough space for you and Meredith should you share a chamber with me.”
Elizabeth sat back in her chair, confusion written all over her face. “How very kind of you,” She said softly. She felt utterly…terrible. She thought that she would feel relief, but instead she felt disappointment and… Elizabeth felt unwanted. She had spent the years of her marriage to William Collins dodging his unsolicited attentions. And now, not four and twenty hours into her new marriage, she was being dismissed. Elizabeth began to have an inkling of how her former husband felt. But why? She thought she wanted to be left alone, that she wanted nothing of that side of this marriage of convenience.
Elizabeth came to her feet; the scraping of the chair legs on the worn floor grated on her nerves. “I shall retire for the evening. I shall…” She faltered, wanting to say that she would wait up for him. But that wouldn’t be necessary. “I shall see you on the morrow.” Elizabeth finished and disappeared from the room.
Elizabeth was awake early. She had spent a sleepless night, which was not unexpected. But the combination of two sleepless nights and the wedding festivities had exhausted. She stared into her looking glass, and then touched the dark circles under her eyes. She wished she was at home so that she could use some of Lydia’s face tints that she was so devoted to. “How far I have fallen…” Elizabeth thought ruefully.
Elizabeth rose and finished packing away her things. Meredith played happily on the bed with one of her toys. She, unlike her mother, had slept soundly. “I know that you shall be full of energy today, my love.” Elizabeth smiled fondly at her child. Meredith gave her a gummy smile in return.
A knock on the door brought Elizabeth to attention. She took Meredith in her arms and answered the summons. Darcy stood in the corridor. He looked startled and then concerned when he saw his wife. He was quick to cover his feelings. “Are you ready to depart? I should like to make Pemberley by this afternoon.”
“Yes of course.” Elizabeth answered, trying to smile. She shifted Meredith onto her other hip and opened the door wider. The coachman entered and hoisted her small trunk. After the coachman trudged down the stairs, Darcy offered his wife his arm. “Did you not sleep well?” Darcy asked quietly as they descended the stair. “No I did not. A bit of insomnia I think.” Elizabeth replied, trying to shrug away his worry.
“I should hope that your chambers at Pemberley will offer you much comfort and rest. I wrote to Mrs. Reynolds and she was going to prepare my mother’s former chambers; although we can redecorate at your discretion.”
“Thank you.” Elizabeth replied, a slight smile coming to her lips. Lady Catherine had decorated the parsonage, and William would entertain no notions of redecoration. Elizabeth sincerely hoped that Lady Anne Darcy’s taste differed from her sister’s. But at least her husband was amenable to her changing the state of the chambers.
Darcy helped Elizabeth into the carriage and then joined her within its confines. After they adjusted themselves, Darcy knocked on the ceiling and the carriage jolted forward.
Their trip was uneventful; Meredith dozed in her mother’s arms, and Elizabeth eventually followed suit. Darcy had been reading an old copy of the Times, occasionally glancing up to check on his wife and child. When he found them asleep, he lowered the paper. Elizabeth was beautiful when she slept. Her dark lashes were fanned out on her creamy cheeks. The only marring feature on her face was the dark circles that graced the skin beneath her eyes. Had he been the cause of her sleeplessness last night? The very idea pained him immensely. He truly hoped Elizabeth would like Pemberley and that she would come to view it as her home.
Darcy let his head rest against the squabs and closed his eyes. He had spent a sleepless night as well, although for what he thought were different reasons. He was kept awake by longing. He wished that he could have held Elizabeth in his arms last night. It was his dearest wish, however he respected her more. For one thing, he knew that he would have to earn her trust and that would be the most difficult thing of all.
“Elizabeth. Wake up.”
Lizzie heard the voice in the midst of her slumbering. Her first reaction was to defy the voice, but then somehow she registered that it was her husband calling her.
Her eyes fluttered and she found Darcy regarding her with a slight smile. “I was about to carry you in, but I did not want to ruin your first impression of Pemberley.”
“We’re here already? How long did I sleep?” And then as an afterthought, “Where is Meredith?”
Darcy’s smile widened. “We are here already. You slept for two hours, and I took the liberty of hiring a nursemaid for Meredith. She has taken Meredith into the house.” Darcy exited the carriage and then offered his hand to Elizabeth.
“I do not need a wet nurse.” Elizabeth said, allowing Darcy to assist.
Darcy averted his eyes to cover his embarrassment. “I do...I do not believe that she will be handling that aspect of Meredith’s care. I was under the impression that…”
“Thank you.” Elizabeth smiled at his discomfiture. The illustrious Mr Darcy reduced to stammering over the mere mention of a wet nurse? Elizabeth was learning quickly that there were many facets to her new husband’s personality.
“Welcome to Pemberley.” Darcy said, regaining his composure. Elizabeth looked around her self for the first time. Her mouth dropped slightly as she surveyed the place that was her new home. The house was grey stone and plain, yet beautiful all at the same time. It rose on a raised basement and soared three stories above her. How would she ever learn to navigate it? The house sat in a valley and fronted onto a lovely lake. Azaleas and willows framed the lake and concealed more foliage beyond. Elizabeth could see the formal gardens were situated below the lake behind a low stone wall.
“Do you like it?” Darcy asked tentatively. He was twisting his signet ring around his finger. Elizabeth had noticed him perform this act when he was nervous.
“It’s the most perfectly situated house I have ever seen.” She answered. Darcy sighed slightly. “Shall we go in?” He offered his arm to her, and she took it gratefully.
They entered the massive entry hall and were greeted by rows of servants. One cheerful faced woman approached them. “Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Darcy, it is so lovely to have you home.”
“Thank you Mrs. Reynolds. I see that all is in readiness, as usual.”
“Yes Mr. Darcy. I have taken the liberty of having luncheon set up in the conservatory.” Mrs. Reynolds’ smile widened as she turned to Elizabeth. “I am so pleased that you have come, Mrs. Darcy. I hope that everything will be to your likening.”
“Thank you Mrs. Reynolds. I have no doubt that everything will be.” Elizabeth smiled.
Elizabeth looked up to see a young woman come rushing down the stairs. She assumed that the girl was Georgiana Darcy. Elizabeth watched as she threw her arms around Darcy. His face was lit up in happiness and embraced his sister eagerly. Elizabeth was surprised at the affection between them. But then again, the loss of two parents would naturally bring the two together. Not to mention the ordeal with Wickham.
“You must be Elizabeth.” Georgiana said with her face wreathed in smiles. “I am sorry that I could not make the wedding. I wanted to, but Darcy assured me that it would be over and done with before I could get there.”
“Yes it was just a small affair. Not worth the travel involved.” Elizabeth assured her. She was pleased by the girl’s affability. She knew that Georgiana had spent time Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, and had wondered if their haughtiness had affected her. It was apparent that their disdain for everything outside their world had not rubbed off on Georgiana. That was one hurdle out of the way.
“May I show Elizabeth around?” Georgiana was addressing Darcy now. Darcy looked to Elizabeth. “I think perhaps we should have luncheon first. And then Elizabeth might like to rest, the journey was tiring.” Georgiana’s enthusiasm deflated. “Oh I didn’t think of it that way.”
“Perhaps I could see some of the rooms after luncheon, and then we can finish the tour on the morrow.” Elizabeth ventured with a smile. Georgiana’s grin returned.
“A perfect compromise.” Darcy concurred. He was very pleased with Elizabeth’s diplomacy. “Shall we go to the conservatory then?” He offered one arm to his sister, and one to his wife. Both ladies accepted and started out of the hall.
Book Two, Chapter Four
Posted on Thursday, 3 March 2005
Elizabeth woke with a start. She had been dreaming some strange dream, but she could not remember its subject. She blinked hard and realized that it was well past ten o’clock in the morning—the sun streaming through the French windows of her chamber told her so.
Her chamber. How odd her life was turning out. Elizabeth’s eyes moved about the room that was now her safe haven. Mrs. Darcy’s chambers. Elizabeth was quite pleased with the room. Her late mother-in-law’s taste in décor had proven itself much better than Lady Catherine’s. The furnishings were simple, but were of expensive quality. The walls were covered in pale blue silk from the white wainscoting up. The furniture was dark wood and was upholstered in matching blue silk. Her huge four posted bed sat on a dais, and was swathed in white chiffon netting. It was a queen’s bedchamber, and Elizabeth, though sensible, felt like one in it.
She had been disconcerted when the rooms were shown to her. In the back of her mind she wondered if Darcy would share these rooms with her. Apparently he had no intention of doing so, as she found out later that his private chambers were connected to hers through a shared sitting room. Elizabeth had yet to explore that room, and the very thought of her being in proximity of her husband’s bedchamber filled her with conflicting emotions. Longing and unease, they had names. How could one be attracted to one’s husband, but yet the very thought of his touch sent one into panic mode? Elizabeth started. Was she attracted to Darcy? Her mind explored the notion for several moments. Any woman would be attracted to him: tall, dark, handsome, well dressed, wealthy… He was the epitome of every woman’s desire. And she, Elizabeth Bennet Collins Darcy was his eternally. The thought sent a shiver down her spine. Must be the chill in the room, she thought to herself as she rose from the bed.
Elizabeth quickly pulled on her dressing gown, and turned to check on Meredith. The cradle was empty. A swift feeling of panic rose within her. Where was…. She stopped. Elizabeth had almost forgotten that she had a nursemaid now. Or at least, a maid devoted to little Meredith. How odd, she thought to herself. She was now free to do anything she liked, just as she had before Meredith had been born. It was an interesting sensation. She squelched it. While she enjoyed the notion of freedom, her maternal nature won out.
Elizabeth quickly prepared for the day. She felt guilty that she had slept the morning away, as she was an early riser most days. She did not want the house thinking she was a slug-a-bed. Well, that and the fact that she was dreadfully hungry. Before descending to the ground floor, Elizabeth checked in on Meredith. The nursery adjoined her room from the south side. It was a bright room painted in sunny yellow with white painted furniture. Elizabeth was pleased to see Meredith crawling on the floor of the nursery. She was intent on grasping a rattle but when she saw her mother, she stopped and then took off towards her. Elizabeth eagerly plucked Meredith off the floor and situated her on her hip. Meredith smiled and drooled, and then began babbling in a language that only babies knew.
“She’s a right good little lass.” A young girl said from the corner.
Elizabeth smiled. “She is at that.” She paused momentarily, and then said, “I take it that you are nursery maid that Mr. Darcy hired.”
“Oh yes Mrs. Darcy. I’m Jane.” The girl dropped a quick curtsey.
“That is a nice name.” Elizabeth commented. “My eldest sister is called Jane.”
Jane smiled in reply. “I promise to take good care of Miss Meredith. I have seven siblings and I am the eldest. I was always the one to help out until I was old enough to work myself.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened. Seven children? She thought one was enough at the moment. “I have no doubts that you shall do an excellent job. Please fetch me should there be any problems. Meredith can be fussy when she wants to be.”
“Thank you Mistress.” Jane bobbed another curtsey.
Elizabeth smiled and exited the room. She wandered down the corridor and down the stairs. She was still unacquainted with the layout of the great house, but she was fortunate to remember where the dining parlor was located. If she had forgotten, she would have been able to follow her nose, as the most wonderful smells of baked bread were wafting from that particular room.
She entered the parlor and found a large buffet displaying all sorts of delicacies. She still shook her head in wonder, even though the wonders of Pemberley’s kitchen had been displayed to her the night before. How ever would she accustom herself to this? She had grown used to the diet of a middle class clergyman’s wife. Being presented with several choices for breakfast was an option foreign to her.
Elizabeth started and spun around. “Oh Darcy! You scared me.” She stammered, trying to cover up her fright.
“Please accept my apologies.” Darcy said and bowed at his waist. “I had hoped to sit with you at breakfast.”
“I don’t have any objections. It is your dining parlor after all.” Elizabeth said quickly and taking a warmed plate in hand.
“Yes, that is so. But I do not know if you are accustomed to breakfasting alone. I should hate to disturb your routine.”
“No,” Elizabeth lied easily. “I never eat alone.” She had in fact taken her meals in the kitchen at parsonage so that she could avoid the disgusting grunts of her husband’s meal taking. Somehow she thought that Darcy would be a much more pleasant companion. She finished filling plate with eggs and bacon, and adjourned to the table. As soon as she took her seat, a smartly dressed maid bustled in. “Would you like a cup of tea, Mistress? They kept back a bit of hot water for you.”
“A cup of tea would be lovely, thank you.” Elizabeth replied, still enchanted with the fact that she had servants to wait upon her.
“Would you care for another cup of coffee, sir?” The maid addressed Darcy as he moved to take a seat. “No thank you, Mary.” He replied graciously. She bobbed a curtsey and returned to the kitchen.
Elizabeth eyed the empty table before her husband. “Do you not breakfast, Darcy?”
“I have already taken my breakfast.” He replied, slightly awkward.
“Oh then, you must not stay here on my account. I am sure that you have more important business to attend too. You have been away and I would not want to interfere…”
Elizabeth stopped in mid sentence, suddenly transfixed by the look in Darcy’s eyes.
“I am here because I would like to spend some of my morning with you.” He replied quietly.
“Oh.” Elizabeth answered. She was devoid of words. Someone putting aside their schedule to spend time with her seemed a foreign notion.
“I was hoping that you would allow me to show you around the grounds after you have finished. I know how you enjoy a walk.” A slight smile flittered about his lips.
“Shall I have the chance to muddy my petticoats?” Elizabeth replied impishly.
“I am sure that that can be arranged. Although… I was hoping that my presence would be the greater inducement.” Darcy’s voice grew soft.
Elizabeth laid her fork down and fiddled with her napkin. Why was she becoming such a fool for his charm? When did Darcy gain charm? Or was it that his sincerity was charming in itself? “I should say that I would be pleased to take a walk with you.” Elizabeth replied pointedly, taking up her fork again.
Darcy smiled. “Thank you Elizabeth, I was hoping that you would.”