Posted on Sunday, 23 July 2006
The fortnight that Randall and Phillip Darcy were in residence at Netherfield Park proved to be more than a friendly visit. When the weather was fair, it became commonplace for the elder man to invite Elizabeth out of doors to sit with him, and during these times, an education began. Randall was candid with his future niece when outlining what would occur once she became mistress of Pemberley, and although he was never brutal in describing the expectations, there were occasions when Elizabeth felt intimidated by the prospect. The grand scale of Pemberley alone was more than she had imagined, and it was not unheard of for her to walk away from their talks questioning her own qualifications. Yet Randall held no doubts concerning her abilities, and with the bearing of a good-natured father figure, he instructed Elizabeth on the basics of what would soon become her way of life.
The Darcy gentlemen were the toast of the neighborhood during their brief stay, being as popular and well-liked as Mr. Bingley, and the stark comparison between them and William gave rise to Mrs. Bennet expressing her opinion, after the men had returned to Netherfield one evening. Her censure of William Darcy was harsh, for she saw no improvement in his manners or affability since she had first been introduced to the man from Derbyshire. To Mrs. Bennet, he remained standoffish and restrained, despite being in the comfortable company of his relatives, and her abuse of his personality that night bordered on vicious.
Before Elizabeth was able to defend her beloved against the sharp criticism of her mother, Daniel spoke out with an authority he rarely used. He made it clear that William was to be welcomed as a friend to both him and their family, and that slander of his name in their home would not be permitted. Elizabeth was silent while Daniel made his proclamation, noting that her mother turned away from her son half-way through his lecture, not verbally challenging him or his authority.
William was truly a friend to Daniel, and he and Bingley treated the young man as an equal. The three of them, with Phillip in tow, often spent their mornings together, the benefit of the companionship being shared by all. Bingley was learning about what made up the estate of Longbourn, and though not much attention was drawn to it, in private, he was also being schooled by Elizabeth about the duties that she would soon pass on to him. The Bennet family had still not been informed of the good fortune befalling two of their daughters in regards to their engagements, although Jane and Bingley’s future union was the subject of much public speculation. Surprisingly, there continued to be no suspicion voiced in regard to a connection between William and Elizabeth.
Perhaps it was because these two lovers had mastered control over their countenances when in the presence of others, no one suspected there could exist more than a cordial acquaintance between them, but when alone, they hid little from one another. William was not so restrained toward his bride-to-be, neither in words nor actions when they had the luxury of privacy. He adored Elizabeth, and this knowledge encouraged her to return the warmth he so easily bequeathed. Not many who knew him would have believed that William Darcy was a passionate man, but to the one woman to whom he shared that side of himself, he was a wonder.
The afternoon before William was to accompany his family to London, he and Elizabeth were able to take a walk by themselves. Randall Darcy was to accompany them, but once out of doors, he found himself a nice shade tree to sit under and pulled a book from his coat. His intentions for the afternoon were obvious to the young couple, and when he shooed them away with an annoyed flip of his hand, the grin Randall could not conceal exposed his ulterior motives.
“You will be away for at least two weeks?” Elizabeth asked William once in the shelter of a grove of elms not far from the path they were taking. She led him by the hand to an area she had discovered when she was younger, and to this day, Elizabeth continued to come here, if for no other reason, than for a moment’s quite.
Rare was it that William and Elizabeth were able to slip away by themselves, yet they were wise enough not to squander the precious time they did have. Elizabeth no longer asked his permission to speak bluntly, and William had learned to control his urge to talk only after he had given much thought to his words. These new patterns born out of necessity would serve them well once they were married, for with each other, they were becoming comfortable simply by being truthful and open.
“One week in London, two in Derbyshire,” William confessed to her after he ducked under a branch to enter a circular opening within the trees. “There is much I need to do myself, much that I can not entrust to others.”
Elizabeth did not immediately respond, but instead pointed to the area in which they were standing. “I once found a fairy ring here.”
“A fairy ring?”
“It is when toadstools extend in a single circle. It is an olden lore, William, and nothing of importance really, except to those who find them.” With his hand still in hers, Elizabeth looked up to the face that gave her such joy. “You will be missed while you are away.”
Although William did not wish her any hardship on his account, it meant a great deal to him to hear Elizabeth admit aloud that she would be thinking of him while he was gone. Reassurances are an essential part of life for those in love, reminders of the obvious and cherished even by men as convinced as William was that his bride-to-be cared for him. Only two days before, Elizabeth had said that she loved him for the first time, and William knew he was a lost man as soon as the words had escaped her lips.
Smiling, William questioned her about her plans during his absence, and he was rewarded by Elizabeth teasing him that she was determined to spend her days locked in her room and her nights weeping for his return. This made him laugh, and as her eyes sparkled with impishness, William reminded her that she was too sensible for those sorts of behaviors.
“Do I always have to be sensible?” Elizabeth cried, feigning a disappointment she did not feel.
“Not with me,” William kissed against her lips as his arms worked their way around her. “But I do wish you the very best of luck in your attempt not to be.”
“Someday I may surprise you, and there will come a time when men will say to you, ‘Mr. Darcy, your wife may need your attention as she is presently outside dancing in the rain.’” Resting the tip of her chin against his chest, she could feel the rumble of his laughter as he told her that if she ever danced in that fashion, he hoped it would only be for him. Elizabeth diverted her eyes as a pretty pink blush crept across her cheeks as she thought on William’s suggestion. In less than two months she would be a married woman, and this man would soon know her better than anyone else.
They continued to remain chaste with one another, but the ease in which her arms were around his waist was evidence of a budding intimacy, whose boundaries changed with the whims of the two people sharing it. Elizabeth had at one point wondered if perhaps she was too unrestrained when she was alone with William, for they both seemed to lose their selves in the natural expression of their affection, but contemplation was forgotten when he was near.
Neither was of the mind to flaunt convention simply for the sake of willfulness, but forces stronger than their dedication to propriety often moved them when they were by themselves. As his mouth neared hers, Elizabeth welcomed him by parting her lips slightly while her hands clasped behind William’s neck. The Two molded against each other, and the liveliness of just a moment ago was forsaken as love took on a more serious form.
One of Elizabeth’s greatest discoveries about her fiancée was that, when they were very close to one another, as they were now, William dropped all reserve. This man believed that he could not win her with words, but the bare honesty he uttered when moved by emotion bound the one he loved closer to him than he could have imagined. William told her that she was irreplaceable to him and pleaded with her to be careful while he was away. He reminded her that if any trouble befell her or her family, she was to send an express immediately, and he would return.
The poet inside of William was not afraid of allowing just one person to know the most personal side of his nature, and when he asked Elizabeth the question, “Will you tell me again,” she knew the heart of his request.
“I love you.”
William’s eyes grew dark, and it amazed her how those words gave rise to an unmistakable warmth in him. Once again William’s mouth found hers, but the fervor of the act increased and held greater strength to which she wanted no defense. Entwined together, Elizabeth felt a gentle pull at the chain and William’s fingers at the nape of her neck, causing her to arch her back so that she could look up at him to see what was occurring.
Elizabeth could feel the gold of the cross as it skimmed against her skin, emerging from between her breasts from where it was hidden.
“I wear it always, even at night.” She told him as he gingerly slid his hand under the pendant, reassuring William that his family’s treasure will be concealed for just a short time longer. His mouth curved in pleasure as the sparkle of the rubies caught the light of the sun, while they stood secluded in this grove so special that fairy rings grew.
“I am with you, please remember that,” was William’s request before he brought the cross up to his lips to kiss. He paused a moment, lost in his own thoughts before allowing the pendant to return to its home over her heart.
The Bennet family had come to the end of their period of mourning, and soon it would be time for their reentrance into society and Jane and Elizabeth’s engagements could be announced. Jane and Bingley had decided to remain in the area once they were wed. Bingley had not yet committed to the purchase of Netherfield, for the repairs it would need had become more evident the longer he was in residence, therefore, he and Daniel toured other properties in the county as potential homesteads.
All the couples were awaiting the return of William to Hertfordshire, and he was expected to arrive at Netherfield on the morrow. The letters William and Elizabeth had exchanged through Bingley as a go-between, did alleviate a small portion of the gloominess his intended experienced as she waited for his return, but seeing the man himself would be all Elizabeth would require to lift her spirits once again.
Before William had gone, Elizabeth made the request that he wait to seek out Daniel’s permission for her to marry until after she had first spoken to her brother. Elizabeth wanted to be the one to prepare Daniel for the changes that would soon occur, as she had done throughout most of her life. William did not question her reasoning, only stated that he trusted her judgment. Elizabeth had three weeks in which to do this while William was away, but for one reason or another, she kept delaying her task.
There was no more time left for Elizabeth to tarry, and on that beautiful afternoon, she gathered all of her courage and requested that Daniel join her in the study. There were two wing back chairs separated by a modest table in the room, and Elizabeth asked her brother to sit with her there. Daniel did so without questioning her, and that small act brought about a sharp pang of guilt to Elizabeth’s breast. Daniel trusted her implicitly, and despite her belief that he would fair well once he adjusted to her absence, the changes that would become necessary from what she was about to do weighed heavy on her conscience.
Forcing a smile to her lips, Elizabeth studied the face of the young man from whom she had only been separated for three weeks in all of her life. Behind the blue of his eyes existed an intellect which was so sharp, yet its intelligence could not understand many of the simplicities of life. Now nineteen years of age, Daniel had blossomed under the friendship of William and Bingley, and Jane’s gentle ways were beginning to be mimicked in his actions. There would remain aspects about her brother that would never change, and he would always require guidance, but after observing him of late, the idea that her father might have been in error by shielding Daniel from others began to predominate Elizabeth’s thoughts.
“Daniel, I have very good news to share with you,” Elizabeth started calmly. “As you may have observed, Mr. Darcy and I have become good friends.”
“I, too, consider him my friend.”
“I am aware of that, and of his friendship you may always be assured.” Elizabeth leaned forward to rest her elbow on the arm of the chair. “Mr. Darcy has asked me to marry him, and I have accepted his offer.”
“But Elizabeth, you do not have to marry,” Daniel replied while shaking his head. The delivery of his words was intended to be a comfort to his sister, for Mr. Collins was no longer a threat to their family, and they would not be required to conform to the predictions the parson had made in regard to their future well-being. But Daniel’s statement was not a comfort, as it was apparent to Elizabeth that Daniel had not considered the possibility that there could be other reasons for her desire to marry.
“Daniel, I would like to become Mr. Darcy’s wife by my own choice. He makes me very happy and is the best of men.”
Daniel fell silent as his mind wrestled with a concept that, as Elizabeth had rightly believed, he had never considered. As disguise was a skill unknown to her brother, Elizabeth watched as a cloud of confusion marred his handsome features, and she was certain that thoughts were racing through his head as he struggled to understand why more change would have to come to their family.
The death of their father could have been the undoing of her brother, and to her credit, the diligence of Elizabeth was all that had preserved him during the first month. Although Daniel had dealt with death before, it had never occurred within his family circle, and God must have been watching out for him since it was Elizabeth, and not Daniel, who found their father that evening.
She had been the epitome of calm when it had happened, as she was now, though her fears were lying just below the surface. Not a word was said by her brother as the clock on the wall ticked out the passage of time, and Elizabeth reached out to touch her brother’s arm so that he might be reminded of her presence and know that he was not alone in the room. Change was the fiercest of enemies in Daniel’s world, but loss…loss was inconceivable.
“You wish to wed Mr. Darcy of your own free will?” He spoke nearly inaudibly, staring down at her hand as it rested on his forearm.
“I do,” Elizabeth returned, her words birthing yet another wave of silence. For a fleeting moment in that quiet, Elizabeth chastised herself for the selfishness of her actions. She alone was hand-delivering pain and confusion to her brother, and had she not been taught that it was her place in life to protect him from all harm?
On the tip of her tongue were the words, I will stay at Longbourn with you, and there they died. Elizabeth had to remind herself that she deserved, as much as Jane, Lydia, and Daniel, the right to love another. If Elizabeth set William free because she could not face the guilt she had taken upon herself, she knew she would live the rest of her years with the regret of what might have been.
The struggle was indeed real inside of Elizabeth. She knew she was not choosing between William and Daniel, although it felt as if she were. She had racked her brain for the past fortnight, trying to find a compromise that would be satisfactory to both men, but those attempts were fruitless due to geography. Had Elizabeth believed that she was leaving her brother alone in the world, she would not have been able to live with her decision to marry William and leave Longbourn. But she was not, as evidenced by Jane and Bingley’s willing acceptance of the responsibility of seeing to her brother’s guardianship. Yet why did this knowledge not grant her peace of mind?
Perhaps because there were no guarantees and only time could prove to Elizabeth that her brother would fare well and that she had made the right decision in following her heart.
“Would you live in Hertfordshire?” Daniel blurted out as the freshly formed idea came to him, startling his sister as she controlled demons of her own. Unfortunately, there was a glimmer of hope in his expression; one which Elizabeth would have to extinguish because she would not have her brother cling to false hope simply to gain his easy acceptance of her proposal.
“No, that would not be possible. Mr. Darcy could not relinquish his estate so that we may stay here. Once married, we would live to the north in Derbyshire, in his family home that has been theirs for many generations.”
Desperate to give Daniel something of a promise that he could depend on, Elizabeth elaborated. “We will return to Longbourn often, Daniel, although I doubt it will be as frequently as Mr. Darcy has been here lately. And you would always be welcome at our home.”
“Elizabeth, have I made you want to leave?” The innocence of his question broke her heart, but as she had learned to do long ago, Elizabeth did not let the emotion show. The only outward indication that she was unsettled was the slowness in which she voiced her reply.
“No. You have done nothing but give me joy.”
“When would you leave Longbourn?” Unable to face his sister, Daniel turned toward the window. Bright sunlight was streaming through the panes of glass, and Mariah Lucas could be seen walking up the lane to call on the family, yet Daniel saw none of it, as he only looked in that direction so that Elizabeth would not see his sorrow.
“Mr. Darcy and I would like to be married in a month’s time.”
A knock at the door interrupted a conversation that had already ended, and Bingley partially entered after Elizabeth called out to him. Having foreknowledge that Elizabeth was going to speak with Daniel about marrying William, Bingley easily surmised from the mournful mood in the room that he had walked in at an inopportune time.
“I apologize. I will return later, ” he said directly to Elizabeth.
“No, Mr. Bingley.” Elizabeth eyes moved back to her brother. “I believe we are finished for now.”
Bingley’s constant presence at Longbourn had given him an insight into the family that few had ever witnessed. He knew their secrets when it came to protecting Daniel’s reputation, and he had also been afforded the privilege to know Elizabeth when she was not playing the part of her brother’s guardian. The woman who sat before him had assumed the posture more of a mother than a sister, but Bingley could see that the stress of the situation was taking a toll on her.
“Daniel, we are going to Meryton this afternoon as planned. My carriage is ready if you would like to join us. Miss Elizabeth, you are also welcome.”
“I am going to stay at home this afternoon. Daniel?”
“I will go.” He answered without enthusiasm, glancing shyly over at his sister.
“Is there anything more we need to discuss about what I have told you?”
“No,” shaking his head, Daniel rose to address Bingley. “I am ready to leave.”
“Very well, I will collect the ladies and meet you outside.” Once again Bingley asked Elizabeth if she was certain of her decision to stay behind.
“I am,” she told him softly, grateful for his intervention, but not moving from where she was seated. Excusing himself, Bingley left them alone.
Daniel was never purposely selfish, and his sister stating that she wanted to be with William made it impossible for him not to grant Elizabeth her wish. Like his sisters, Daniel only desired his family’s happiness, and whatever he could do to increase it, he would.
Before Daniel left that room to make his way to Bingley’s carriage, he stepped in front of Elizabeth, leaned down, and placed a single kiss on her forehead. The phrase that went with the gesture he could not quite say, at least not at that moment, therefore, Daniel silently walked from the room as Elizabeth recited in her mind the words an elderly aunt had taught them as children.
You are loved.
Once the sounds of people preparing to leave moved from the house to out of doors, Elizabeth exited the study and cautiously approached the front door hiding herself so that the others would not see her. She watched as one by one they settled themselves into the carriage, Bingley talking the whole of the time to Daniel about the stops they were going to make. Mariah Lucas had joined them for the trip, and Mrs. Bennet fretted as the hem of the young lady’s gown caught on the edge of the step.
Bingley was the last to enter, and as he placed his foot on the step, he gazed over at the door and locked eyes with Elizabeth. He smiled sadly at her, yet with resolution, as if he were trying to convey to Elizabeth that he understood how painful her passing the care of Daniel to him must have been. Those tears Elizabeth had held as she had forced herself to remain calm for Daniel no longer obeyed her will. Nodding at her future brother-in-law, she returned his somber smile, hoping that perhaps sometime soon it could be replaced by a sincere one.
Elizabeth did not cry until she heard them pull away, and then it was by herself, sitting in the old chair her father used to occupy in his favorite room in the house. There had been so much change in the past year. Some of the change was for the better - the addition of William and Bingley to the family, and some was not. The ruby cross her beloved had given her was brought out from where it was concealed. No one but Jane had ever seen it, and once the business of announcing their engagements was over, it would be worn on the outside, instead of under the material of her gowns.
Her thumb caressed the gold backing that protected the underside of the gems, over the area where William had kissed it before he left her. Elizabeth wished the lore William had told her was true; that the cross could act as a beacon to bring him home to her a day sooner. His comfort, above all others, was what she longed for, and that was an entirely new sensation for her - to need someone.
When her tears had stopped and hope faded that there was a magic to the cross, Elizabeth went into the room that housed their pianoforte and sat at the bench. She played rarely, believing that no one would really want to listen to her play when they had the beautiful music Daniel could make, but with the house empty, she could play for herself this once.
Able to read sheet music, Elizabeth sorted through the pages her brother had out. They were pieces that required a technical ability she did not possess, and few were beneath the difficulty range that only the truly accomplished would attempt, but there was a song she remembered, one she had not played years. It was a sweet melody, slow and simplistic and perfectly fitting her mood. With fingers stiff and a memory hazy from neglect, Elizabeth touched the keys, and within a few minutes, that which she thought she had forgotten, came back.
It was not magic that brought William to Hertfordshire a day earlier than expected, but his own efficiency. He had worked hard while at Pemberley to finish what needed to be done, and the house he would soon share with his wife had already taken on a fresh spirit, regardless of Georgiana being the only person with the knowledge of things to come.
He could hear her music at the door, and when no one answered his knock, William walked over to peer in a window to the room from where the pianoforte was being played. There William listened contently, until a servant, who had been hanging laundry out to dry, led him into the home.
The song ended before the young girl had the opportunity to announce William to Elizabeth. Their greetings to one another were perfectly timed, and it was not until after Elizabeth excused the servant that she rose from the bench. Sheet music fell unnoticed to the floor as she bravely closed the door to the room before going to William, the weeks that had passed forgotten as familiarity renewed sought gratification.
With a slight tremor, Elizabeth reached out for William’s hand as if she was seeking out proof that she was indeed not dreaming that he had come to her, but the warmth of his skin was not enough to convince her. It took the brush of William fingers against her cheek, and the softness of his lips against hers for Elizabeth to believe.
Another milestone was reached between them this day, for it was one of the few times in his life that William would witness his darling, courageous Elizabeth weep.
When the carriage returned from an afternoon in town, three of the occupants were absent. Mrs. Bennet had decided to stay at her sister, Mrs. Phillips, for an hour longer so that she and Lydia could visit, and Mariah Lucus had been taken home. Daniel handed Jane out, then without discussion, headed in the direction of his stables, the distraction of Meryton not being enough to soothe his mind. Bingley had not yet asked Daniel for Jane’s hand in marriage, and was rightfully concerned that the young man might not take the news much better than he had Elizabeth’s.
The carriage was long gone, but Bingley and Jane stood in the drive, both intently watching her brother with consideration that their intervention might be needed to bring him a degree of solace. Neither of them was frightened by the idea of approaching Daniel, but both were hesitant about intruding on his privacy. Therefore, when William emerged from the home where he had left his dearest Elizabeth in the parlor, he went unnoticed until they saw him walking after the retreating form of Daniel. Bingley did not attempt to hinder his friend with pointless salutations, as he could gauge by the strides William took that he knew what needed to be done.
Daniel had heard someone approach as he bent over a chest where he kept his grooming supplies, with his face turned upward in anticipation. It was not shock that registered when he acknowledged that it was William who was joining him, rather, it was relief.
No one entered their sanctuary that afternoon. William and Daniel spoke at length as they sat side by side on a bench. More than Elizabeth’s future was discussed between them, and with gentle prodding, William was able to coax Daniel into stating his fears about his family leaving him. William also eased the way for Bingley to approach Daniel about his own proposal.
“Why do people marry?” Daniel asked William after they touched on the subject of Elizabeth’s dowry.
“Hopefully for the right reasons. It is different than friendship, Daniel. It goes deeper than that. There may come a time when you find a young woman with whom you wish to spend your life, whose companionship you want always for yourself.” William did not brush aside his friend’s curiosity with only this brief explanation, and a good twenty minutes was devoted to why marrying for love was the most important decision a man could make in his lifetime.
“Marriage is selfish, then?” Daniel clarified.
“Yes and no. It is also wanting the best for another, and standing together when life is not so kind. If you are fortunate, a family will come from your union, and with it, more people for you to care for and watch over.”
“My mother is insistent that I find a wife, but I have not met a woman who meets the criteria you have told me about.”
“There is no rush. I am nine and twenty, and have just found such a woman. You have time.”
Reaching down into a crate of reins they had moved in front of them, Daniel paused as a confession heavy on his heart and mind begged to be voiced. “I would entrust Elizabeth to no other but you, my friend.”
The following Sunday at luncheon, after the second course was served and while Elizabeth held tightly to William’s hand under the table, her brother rose and announced to his family that Bingley had requested and received permission to marry Jane a week after their period of mourning had ended.
Before his mother could react, Daniel turned to William with a glass in hand to toast. Daniel was not prone to smile often, or show any excess of emotion, therefore, when he cast a smile at the man from Derbyshire, who a year before had been nothing more than a stranger to them, the expression itself bespoke testament to the friendship forged that no distance between the estates of Longbourn and Pemberley could ever break.
“And I will soon have the privilege to call Mr. Darcy my brother, as he and Elizabeth will also be wed on the same day.”
Posted on Friday, 28 July 2006
I have decided that this will be my last entry. Once the ink has dried, I will put you away in a place secure from others, and there you will stay. Maybe someday I will open you again to relive the past, but for now, I feel it would be inappropriate for myself, as a soon to be married woman, to make entries when my life will be tied directly to another. This is difficult for me to explain, but I am convinced that if I write in a book those thoughts that weight upon me, I will be less inclined to share them with my husband.
In six days I am to be married to man who encourages me to share my ideas and trepidation. Not long ago, Lydia said to me, “Mr. Darcy never talks.” Oh, he does, but he is not one to make conversation simply to fill silence. Of the two of us, I am inclined to believe that I am the more guarded in exposing myself, but I am coming around slowly. Perhaps the years when our family so carefully regulated our words and actions in regard to Daniel still affect me. Yes, I believe that to be true.
Last week I went to London to purchase my wedding clothes. Jane and I went at separate times, so that one of us would be at Longbourn, and of course, Mother traveled with Jane, but I had the good fortune of being under the direction of William’s aunt, Mrs. Darcy, while browsing the warehouses. I stayed at Randall Darcy’s townhouse for the five days I was in the city, since my Aunt Gardiner recently welcomed a son into their family, and once I became accustomed to the noise level the Darcy children produced, it was a wonderful week indeed.
Aunt Martha, as she insists on being called, has a devious streak to her and was not above trickery when it came to filling my trunks. I would make sensible purchases in the stores we visited, using the considerable amount Daniel had given me, but when the packages arrived, there would be two or three times as many items delivered. I soon realized that anything I showed a passing interest in was destined to be deposited on Randall Darcy’s doorstep.
I confronted my William about the phenomenon of the multiplying purchases on the third evening of our being in town, and he did not deny that he had instructed his aunt to buy whatever I wanted.
“I promise you that I will not be reduced to selling horse chestnuts on the street corner to pay for your gowns,” William told me while he smiled like the devil. “And if you allow me this pleasure, I also vow that I will only spoil you half as much on your birthday.”
Incorrigible man! I was only angry for a short time before he won me over, but I will not write down the number of gowns that I now own because it still embarrasses me.
I toured what would soon be my home in London on the day I arrived and subsequently spent every afternoon and evening in the company of William and Georgiana. The house is beautiful and exquisitely decorated, although it is a bit formal, if I am being honest. William must have sensed that I felt slightly out of place in my surroundings, and told me that Pemberley was more comfortable and home-like. “London is for show, but Pemberley is for living,” were his exact words. I love that man.
Since I have every intention of hiding this book so that no one will find it, I am going to write about an occurrence that I truly should not. Years from now, if I reread this diary, I want to be reminded of one particular afternoon in London before I was married.
I arrived many hours before supper, which was only meant to be attended by William, Georgiana, and myself, but Georgiana retired before the meal with a headache. I sat with her for a while until she fell to sleep, then joined William. Perhaps I should have returned to his uncle’s since we were alone, but I did not. William expanded on the tour of the townhouse, giving me the history behind different artifacts in the residence and showing me rooms that I had not yet viewed.
One of the rooms was to be my bedroom. When William opened the door what I first noticed about it was that walls had been especially painted a vibrant shade of gold for me. I had told William long ago that I preferred the color yellow. He remembered and had instructed a painter to make the room my own. I had not one complaint about the bedroom itself; it was inviting, warm, and very beautiful. I must have stopped talking while inspecting what would be my future quarters because William asked me, with some concern in his voice, what was troubling me.
The problem was that I had assumed he and I would be sharing a room. For as long as I could remember, my parents had slept in the same bedroom, and though I am aware that the elite sometimes participated in the practice of separate sleeping quarters, I had taken for granted …
It was difficult for me to find the words, but I did admit to William what was on my mind. He did not reply, but took me by the hand to a door that was on the far side of yellow room. This opened to what I could best describe as a large dressing room with a table and chairs in the center. We passed through this space to yet another door, and even before it was opened, I knew where it led.
After I crossed the threshold of William’s own chamber, he turned to me with shyness that I had never seen in him before and said, “This is our room.” I must have smiled because soon thereafter, William did too, and a very important understanding was reached between us. There would not be separate rooms once we were married.
I am selfish for wanting him to myself at night, and I do not apologize for it. I would not have it any other way and consider myself the most fortunate of brides to be.
I am going to hide you away now, my friend and keeper of all my secrets, but I may be back for you one day.
Daniel paced by the front door, while the rain came down steadily. He was waiting for Mr. Bingley so that they might tour yet another home in the area, this one five miles away. The delay caused by the weather was not only dampening the ground outside, but also his spirits, as they were going to be late to meet the man who would show them Lace Hall.
“It is in here!” Lydia called out to Georgiana and Mariah as the three of them came rushing down the stairs. His sister and Miss Darcy passed by Daniel without a second thought to enter the study, however Mariah paused in the foyer to take in the scene before her.
“You continue to wait?” she inquired of Daniel, as she glanced past him through the doorway. After he nodded his response, Mariah assured him that the shower did not appear to be the sort of long duration.
“Why do you say that, Miss Lucas?”
“Look to the south. The clouds are breaking apart.” Doing as she suggested, Daniel returned his interest to the skyline to witness the clearing that he had not noticed on his own. As he turned, Mariah studied his profile, but it only made her sad, and she ceased the indulgence. She knew that any hopes she might have toward the man were folly on her part, for as the second daughter of a comfortable but not wealthy gentleman, she would not be considered an eligible match for the Master of Longbourn, regardless of how sincere her affection. Mrs. Bennet had grander plans for her son’s future, and Mariah reminded herself to accept fate and enjoy Daniel’s companionship for as long as it was available to her. Her practical nature often ruled Mariah, and without another word she left Daniel’s side to join her friends.
William was also waiting for Bingley’s carriage to return from Netherfield, but unlike Daniel, he found peace in a London newspaper. Elizabeth was off with her mother and Jane to Meryton, and he was acting as an unofficial chaperone to the younger ladies. William remained mute when his sister and Lydia came barreling into the room, only turning the edge of his paper down to peer over it at them, but again, William did not need to say a word. Lydia was just intimidated enough by his presence to lower her voice to an acceptable level.
“We are searching for a book.” Mariah explained with an expression of embarrassment as she stared at the formable man from Derbyshire. It was not fear as much as awe that made Mariah realize that their undignified behavior of racing down the stairs might have disturbed William. Little did she know that he remembered with clarity those days when he once ran through his home, and that the liveliness Georgiana displayed in the company of her friends was a welcome change for him.
William returned to his reading, muttering an unperturbed “very well,” while Lydia covered her mouth to stifle a giggle, as she and Georgiana continued to rummage through the bookcase.
“I found it,” Georgiana whispered to her friends a few minutes later, and the three ladies gather around an empty table where a pristine copy of Fordyce Sermons was laid.
With all of the drama a thirteen-year-old girl could muster, Lydia cleared her throat and began her narrative about the importance of the book.
“My father told me that we were never to open it. It was a gift to him from one of his old uncles, and Father refused to even break the binding on the book. He did not like that uncle much.” In a hushed tone, Lydia told them about the man who had actually entailed Longbourn to Thomas Bennet over twenty years before. “Not long ago, I asked Lizzy if I could peek inside of it, and she flatly refused unless I promised to read it cover to cover. La! As if I would sit still to read a book this boring….”
While Lydia was educating Georgiana about the evils of Fordyce Sermon’s, Mariah left them to return to Daniel. She had heard the story before and frankly, it was not diverting enough to overcome her concern over Daniel’s agitation about being late for an appointment.
On the cusp of her eighteenth birthday, Mariah was a pleasant, level headed girl who was a bit too mature for Lydia, but her fondness for the entire family gave her more than one good reason to visit often. The recent addition of Georgiana only made her time at Longbourn more enjoyable, and as the rules of proper visiting hours never applied to Mariah, she found herself at the Bennet home nearly every day.
Mariah’s eldest sister, Mrs. Charlotte Collins, remained at Lucas Lodge, although her daughter had been born a month prior, and she was healthy enough to travel back to her husband’s home. Mr. Collins had recently taken a different position working under a parson in a small parish located in central London. According to his most recent letter, he had obtained suitable living conditions for his budding family, yet his wife gave no indication that she would be returning to his side in the future. Mariah did not understand the working of her sister’s marriage, since no one spoke on the topic, but she could not help but find it odd that Mr. Collins had not traveled to Hertfordshire to meet his daughter when he was so near.
“Mr. Bennet?” Mariah asked gently as a more relaxed Daniel stood apparently lost in thought by a large window facing the south. She was curious to know if he had any idea about the ruckus that his inheriting Longbourn outright had had on their community since it occurred the week prior, but knowing Daniel as well as she did, Mariah doubted he paid much attention to how people were treating him differently.
The sometimes eccentric and always forthright bachelor was now the catch of the county according to several families with unwed daughters. To have the heir of Longbourn as an in-law would be a benefit in itself, but now that the two eldest Bennet sisters were marrying so well, it was considered a gateway to an easier life by some.
Daniel’s equine interests were just beginning to turn a profit, and as he was open about his plans for the future with anyone who questioned him, his long-range estimates were impressive. Randall Darcy had been so taken with the stock that he bought two horses, and since his return to London, Daniel had received letters of interest from several of Randall’s acquaintances. It could not be said that Daniel was a sudden success, but quietly a solid reputation was being built.
Monetary stability combined with excellent connections had made Daniel attractive, even to those who had been more polite than friendly to him in the past. As Mariah suspected, Daniel took little notice of the change, but his mother relished every minute of it, and this worried Mariah in many ways.
Daniel was the most beautiful man Mariah had ever known, and it was not only to his appearance that she assigned that description. Mariah knew he would never intentionally harm another person, and though this was a trait to be envied, it was also one that could invite others to take advantage of him. Within Daniel was the ability to turn down another’s request, but what few people realized was that if they worded their petition so that it appeared to be an urgent need, Daniel would never deny the request. Daniel could not bear the idea of another’s suffering, even if their suffering was simply an illusion to mask their greed.
Thankfully Elizabeth’s instinct to shadow her brother was still intact and proved quite useful at a dinner held at Lucas Lodge recently. She had observed a neighbor of theirs practically pushing her niece, a Miss King, toward Daniel, inviting Elizabeth to intervene with a finality that left no room for misinterpretation. Old habits die hard, but perhaps, in this case, it was for the best.
Unbeknownst to Mariah, after that night William again spoke to Daniel about marriage, expectations, and how to avoid unpleasant situations like the one in which he found himself with Miss King. Unfortunately Daniel had difficulty accepting that others would purposely deceive him for their own gain, therefore, Bingley and Jane were given the same lecture.
Daniel had more than his family looking out for his best interests, and one of those was the practical young lady standing next to him, awaiting acknowledgment. Mariah would not let harm come to him if she could help it, and when Daniel turned to her, having known each other for so long, it made initiating conversation effortless.
“Yes, Miss Lucas?”
“While you are unoccupied, sir, would you be of a mind to play for us?”
“I am waiting for Mr. Bingley,” Daniel returned as he pointed out the window. “Undoubtedly he will come once the rain has ceased.”
“What if I were to inform you when the weather has cleared or if Mr. Bingley’s carriage arrives, would you play for us then?”
Her offer gave Daniel pause, but soon thereafter he agreed. “Have you a particular request?”
“Whatever you play the best.”
“I play them all perfectly,” he replied without an ounce of vanity. It was the simple truth, and Mariah was not offended by his honesty.
“It is your choice, then,” Mariah smiled. Daniel left his post by the window and walked toward the music room, but as he neared the threshold, he stopped and addressed her once more.
“You will not forget to watch for Mr. Bingley?”
“No, Mr. Bennet. You may be at ease. I will not forget.”
With Longbourn now filled with the sound of the pianoforte, Lydia and Georgiana returned to the front of the house in mid-conversation on a subject that had been troubling Lydia.
“…Daniel will not raise my allowance. I asked him again yesterday, explaining that since Jane and Lizzy will be married next week he would certainly have spare money, and he did some sort of adding in his head.” Lydia made an exaggerated gesture. “Then he said was going to lower the amount of my allotment!”
“What was his reasoning?” Mariah questioned Lydia, unmoved by her obvious attempt to garner sympathy.
“Daniel told me that I receive more at my age than my sisters had. Disproportionate was the word he used. My mother had to intervene as Jane was no help to me, and after she explained that I was a growing girl….”
Mariah’s attention wandered as Lydia continued to detail the hardship of not having quite enough pin money to buy everything she wanted. Judging by the sheer number of gowns stuffed into her closet, Lydia exaggerated her situation, and Mariah knew that her mother subsidized her spending money with her own. Lydia Bennet was the best dressed young lady in Hertfordshire, and though she agreed with Daniel about the amount being disproportionate, Mariah kept her opinion to herself.
Some time later while Lydia was describing a fabric she had seen in Meryton and desperately needed, the pianoforte suddenly stopped.
“Mr. Bennet, it is still raining,” Mariah called out after checking out the window.
“Thank you, Miss Lucas,” he returned from the bench where he was still seated.
“My pleasure.” Mariah turned her attention back to Lydia and Georgiana as the music restarted. “I do not have the privilege of hearing him play often.”
“La! I hear it everyday, but let us return to my dilemma. Daniel was quite ugly and stubborn and refused to understand my plight last night.”
“There is nothing ugly about Mr. Bennet. I think him the handsomest man in the world.”
A rush of blood reddened Mariah’s cheeks as she realized that she had said the last sentence quite aloud and within William’s hearing.
A humorous smirk formed on Lydia’s mouth. She was not about to let the comment slip by her. “That is well and good, Mariah. Perhaps you could marry Daniel and get him to raise my allowance. Make it part of the marriage contract!”
A fit of giggles overtook all three of the young ladies. From behind his paper, William grinned at the conversation.
The smile the bride wore on her wedding day remained constant on this, the third day of her marriage. Laughing, Elizabeth cornered William in the drawing room of their London townhouse. Both of his hands were behind his back, clutching a book.
“Mr. Darcy, I must insist that you tell me what you have in your hands.”
“Is this how it is going to be?” William laughed as he lowered his face closer to hers. “That you will be addressing me as Mr. Darcy when you do not get your way? I cannot show you yet, Elizabeth, since it is not time for us to retire.”
“I am not patient with surprises, and may have to bully it from you, if you force me.”
“You would not.” After a moment of studying Elizabeth’s sincerity, William concluded that, yes, she might. “Very well, but you ruin the surprise. I thought that it would be beneficial for us to read to each other when we retire for the evening. As this is my idea, I have carefully chosen the first piece of literature for us to share.”
Seeing that he had her attention, William continued, “I am convinced you will find this both interesting and pertinent to our times.”
From behind his back William produced a copy of Fordyce Sermons for his bride, as her expression registered shock.
“Who told you?” Elizabeth cried out, her laughter echoing against him, but William would not disclose his source. “I cannot believe you would bring that into our home!”
“I will read from the first chapter for us tonight.”
“I already know what is in the first chapter. It is the story of Adam and Eve.”
“Does it turn out well?” William asked with mock seriousness as Elizabeth snatched the book from his hands and tossed it on a chair.
“More or less.” Tilting her face to him, Elizabeth gazed up at her husband. “Do you have the time for an abbreviated version of the story?”
“I am all yours for the remainder of the day.”
“Good. In the beginning there was Adam. But Adam was in need of companionship, so God created Eve.”
“Eve was beautiful.” He smiled as his eyes devoured the form of his bride.
“Eve loved him more than anyone else.” Elizabeth raised her hand for him to take, inviting William to come nearer to her.
“Was she content?”
“Always.” Elizabeth answered as her husband brought his mouth close to her ear.
“Promise me, promise you will never leave me, my Elizabeth.”
She fell silent as his plea wove through her thoughts until Elizabeth found the only compromise she could give that was conceivable.
“I will never willingly leave your side.”
A year later…
I received your letter this day, and sensing the importance of the message, an immediate reply seemed necessary. Before I am allowed to start a letter of my own, Elizabeth wishes me to send you her salutation and greatest love. She has requested of me to remind you that the journey to Pemberley that you will undertake next week will not be terrible, and once you have joined my Uncle Randall and his sons at Netherfield Park, the ride to Pemberley will be swift.
The men I am sending to tend to your horses for the three weeks that you will be in Derbyshire are my very best. I trust their abilities without question, and with Bingley remaining in Hertfordshire with Jane and their child, Longbourn will not be left unattended.
Please pass on to Miss Lucas and Miss Lydia that Georgiana is, in her words, “counting the hours” until they arrive.
On to what you have written to me. My Uncle Randall once told me that the most important decision a man can make in his lifetime is whom he will marry. When I read your letter which related your fondness of Miss Lucas, and how if you were to apply free will to the decision of your future wife, she would be the one you would ask, I felt a great relief.
I have long admired Miss Lucas, and she has earned all of the praise you bestowed on her in your letter. It is of no importance if her dowry is small, or if she is deficient in London connections; you lack neither and a happy marriage is rarely made when based on that criterion. All that is important is that you care for her…
The sound of Lydia’s voice startled Daniel out of his solitude, and he looked up to see both her and Mariah nearing him as he sat on the steps leading to the house. Standing, as a gentleman should, Daniel folded the letter from William neatly and placed it in his pocket just as the ladies returned from a walk with Mariah’s niece, Juliet Collins.
“Miss Lucas,” Daniel said before she reached the door. “Have you seen the foal born last night?”
“No, I have not, but I would like to, sir. Lydia?”
“I do not care to come. I am going inside to get a cup of tea and prop up my feet.” Holding her hands out to the baby, Lydia took her from Mariah. “You may go if you want to.”
“I do. Please lead the way, Mr. Bennet.”
Daniel knew that Mariah’s interest in the horses was sincere, and though she did not have the same level of fervor as he did for them, she found them fascinating none the less. On their way to the barnyard Daniel relayed how he had been alerted early that morning that one of his best breeding mares was ready to give birth. He had been up since three in the morning helping her along, and before sunrise a healthy foal had been born.
The day was absolutely gorgeous as they settled themselves against the fence to watch the activity in the pasture from a distance. While he looked upon the obvious delight Mariah took in observing the newborn foal, Daniel pondered just how his attachment had grown past a brotherly affection into a more mature devotion. What had baffled him in the beginning had actually encouraged him to ask Bingley how a man knows when he is in love. Daniel had all of the classic signs of being love struck; he watched Mariah when she was near, sought her out whenever an opportunity presented itself, and believed her to be one of the most amiable women he had ever known.
Mariah was neither as serious as Elizabeth, nor as composed as Jane, but had a kindness that was extended to those around her, including Daniel himself. Not long ago he had inadvertently hurt Mariah’s feelings with a comment he had made about the needlework she had done, and it tore at Daniel that he had harmed such a sweet lady with his words. He apologized profusely for his actions, which were accepted, but more importantly Mariah later explained to Daniel why his statement hurt her so that he might not make the same error with another.
He was certain Mariah understood him, even at times when he could not make sense of his own thoughts, and this was something no one beyond his family tried to do. There were occasions when Daniel would make a comment and people would only smile at him, or nod their head as if they agreed, then walk away looking confused or humored. But Mariah ‘s curiosity was rarely satisfied to accept what she did not comprehend, and she would question Daniel, asking him ‘why’ until clarity was often achieved for the both of them. He had never told her how much he appreciated her doing this for them, but it was one of the aspects of Mariah that drew him toward her.
As the conversation drifted to their upcoming trip to Derbyshire, Elizabeth’s recently discovered delicate state was briefly touched upon. Daniel mentioned that he would be an uncle twice that year, if Elizabeth had her child in December as William had predicted.
“Mrs. Bingley’s son is a fine baby, and I suspect that Mrs. Darcy will share the same good fortune.” Mariah replied offhandedly, as a young colt that had been grazing nearby approached her for a petting. Taking off her gloves, she reached over the fence. “Marriage often brings lovely children.”
“Miss Lucas, have you thought much about whom you would like to marry?”
With eyes open wide, Mariah bit her bottom lip as she considered about whether to be as forthright as Daniel often was with her, or to pretend that she rarely gave the thought much credence. She chose both by casually stating, “Yes, I have.”
Although her words were plain and difficult to misinterpret, Daniel managed to do just that, as evidenced by the disillusioned cast on his face. Yet there existed in the corner of his mind a sliver of hope that perhaps Mariah was not completely convinced of her choice, and that she might consider him.
“Are you firmly set on the gentleman?”
“Quite set, Mr. Bennet.”
Turning his head toward the barn lot, Daniel became quiet as he attempted to accept that Mariah, the young woman to whom he was very attached, had set her cap at another man.
Of course, Daniel was completely wrong, but in his favor was the fact that Mariah had, for over a year, watched as his mother paraded potential brides past him, and believed that it was time for her to know where Daniel stood. Removing her hand from the colt, she placed it on Daniel’s forearm and asked him a question she had wanted to know the answer to for quite some time.
“Have you decided upon whom you would like to marry?”
“Yes,… but it is you,” Daniel exclaimed seriously, “and you already have your mind made up on another. I am too late.”
“You did not ask me who I favored.”
That was true, and after he struggled a bit between wanting to know and wishing to never hear it, Daniel asked Mariah the gentleman’s name.
“Mr. Daniel Bennet.”
There was no hesitation in Mariah’s reply, and as recognition of his own name dawned on Daniel, the crestfallen expression he had adopted disappeared as a small smile born from true happiness burst forth.
“If I asked you to marry me,” Daniel started shyly, but with the beating heart of a man in love, “would you say yes?”
“Mariah, will you have me? Will you be my wife?”
For just an instant before she spoke her acceptance, Mariah closed her eyes as the belief that her prayers had been answered swept over her. In the past she had been advised to be bolder in expressing her attraction toward Daniel if she wanted him to take notice of her, but she never succumbed to schemes. Mariah’s reward was that Daniel sought her out on his own, without any trickery or manipulation used as persuasion. She was his choice, and he was definitely hers.
Daniel approached Mariah to take her hand in his own for the first time in his life. “You are very dear to me. I will do my best to be a good husband to you, and will seek out your father’s blessing this very day.”
As they stood face to face, Mariah lowered her gaze to the sight of their hands linked together between them. She fell unexpectedly quite as another question that truly needed to be answered lie on her tongue waiting to be said. It took her a minute to muster her bravery, but once that was achieved she asked, “Do you love me, Daniel?”
He replied the only way Daniel knew how, and that was honestly.
“Yes, I do.”
The circle of those closest to Daniel had remained steadfast throughout most of his life. With the death of his father, he had to learn to let them go, and with the addition of his brother-in-laws, to allow new people in. He learned from Mr. Collins that sometimes they might be false, and from his mother and Lydia, he saw that at times they would need guidance.
Distance was not the enemy as he had once thought, and Elizabeth continued to advise him even while miles away in Derbyshire. Daniel would never welcome change purposely, but he was beginning to understand that he had to accept it—for one cannot stop change. Mariah would be a constant presence for him, surrounding him with an acceptance few had, but he would not be the only one to benefit from their union. When Daniel loved someone, he loved them unconditionally, and this Mariah would have forever.
A year ago Bingley’s tour of Lace Hall yielded the same results that all the other homes in the area had, and though the man was of a temper to be easily pleased, finding the perfect home for his darling Jane was one area in which he was rather particular.
Frustrated that yet another afternoon had been wasted, as Bingley found nothing to recommend Lace Hall to him, Daniel suggested that he and Jane move into Longbourn once they were married.
“You can build separately on the property or add on to the existing building, if you prefer,” Daniel had told him with very little patience, “and the money you save can either be invested as I do, or spent on your own house in town, if you are so inclined.
After thinking on it overnight, Bingley declared the suggestion brilliant and plans were soon drawn up for an addition to be built to Longbourn. It was actually more than a simple addition, doubling the size of the original home, and designed with enough privacy that he could escape Mrs. Bennet, when the need arose.
Netherfield Park sat empty exactly one day after Bingley gave up the lease, and the new tenant (and future owner) was a man, who in the past, had made sport of the angularity of its rooms.
Randall Darcy had resided in Town since he reached adulthood, and despite the longing he would endure whenever he visited Pemberley, Randall was never quite tempted to take up a country property of his own. That is, until he spent two weeks in Hertfordshire.
Although he could not fully explain it to his wife, he rather liked the neighborhood for all of its simplicity. A week before Bingley completely vacated the premises, he arrived as the last visitor to Netherfield Park with his wife, Phillip, and youngest son, Christopher, in tow.
“It is an ugly building,” Mrs. Darcy claimed as she sat her son on the ground so that she could put her hands on her hips. This was her first trip to Hertfordshire, as she had been unable to attend the marriage of her nephew.
“Yes it is,” Randall admitted as his eyes scanned the uninviting façade of Netherfield Park.
“Is the inside any better?”
“Barely,” Phillip answered for his father. “Everything is square.”
“Your father likes square,” Mrs. Darcy quipped as she squinted her eyes and took in the house and pitiful gardens. After a long silence, she spoke words neither Randall nor Phillip ever anticipated. “I believe, with a little work, this place could look a bit like Ireland!”
Two jaws dropped open as Randall and Phillip had not visualized the place exactly as the lone female of the group had. Tuffs of grass were the only green littered amongst large patches where nothing grew, the lack of foliage at the front of the home was shocking by anyone’s standards, and when Randall turned his head to the right, an impressive amount of pond scum had accumulated since his last visit.
No, the only way Netherfield Park would ever remotely resemble even the darkest part of Ireland was with a lot of backbreaking work. Unfortunately, Mrs. Darcy was not bashful about enlisting the aid and financial resources of her husband whenever she wanted a miracle performed, and that thought brought fear to the hearts of the gentlemen.
“Father,” Phillip’s voice cracked, “did you not say that there was another property nearby, Lace Hall, that had extensive gardens already in place?
“Why yes, I did, Phillip!” Randall answered with a bit too much enthusiasm. He and Phillip were of one mind, but it was already a hopeless cause. Eight days later Randall Darcy signed the lease to Netherfield Park.
When Daniel, Lydia, Mrs. Bennet, and Mariah arrived at Netherfield Park to meet the Darcy gentlemen for their trip to Pemberley, Randall and Phillip were thrilled to escape as Mrs. Darcy had just begun to complain about the lack of painters in the area, and their good moods made the trip pleasant for all. During the journey there were occasions when Daniel would slip into a fret over leaving Longbourn, but Mariah was able to distract him by reminding him how good it would be to see Elizabeth and William again, and he endured the journey tolerably.
On the second night of their residence at Pemberley, a discussion over the date of the young couple’s wedding was raised, as was the matter of Elizabeth traveling so far while she was with child. Daniel listened as his family tried to find a compromise that would agreeable for all, but unless he and Mariah were willing to wait until the child was born and old enough to travel, Elizabeth would be unable to attend the nuptials.
The place Elizabeth held in Daniel’s heart could never be replaced, regardless of how fond he had grown of Jane and Bingley. He wanted her and William with him on the day he married, and with that in mind he took Mariah aside.
“We will postpone our wedding until Elizabeth is able to return to Hertfordshire,” Daniel declared at the dinner table that evening. It was not an ideal solution to their predicament, but one that eventually all agreed to.
The following morning, Elizabeth took a moment to reflect on her own marriage while brushing her hair as her husband slept. She and William continued the habit of sharing the same room as they did when they were first wed, and the chances of that ever changing were quite unlikely. As Elizabeth listened to his soft breathing as he stirred, she held no regrets for the choices she had made to be with him.
Elizabeth loved her new home, and the people on the estate. She would always recall with fondness the first time she set eyes on Pemberley. The beauty of the home far surpassed what she had anticipated from the drawings William had shown her when they were engaged. Pemberley was grand, but more so, it was welcoming despite its size. It was an active place where rarely a day went by when something of interest did not occur, and more than once Elizabeth teased her groom that he only married her to have another person help keep his books.
It was a month after Elizabeth assumed the role of Mistress of Pemberley that the realization of how much William had sacrificed to be in Hertfordshire most of the year before they were married hit her. When she questioned him about it, William eventually admitted that running the estate from so far away had been challenging, and that many nights a week he would be up until the wee hours of the morning at Netherfield working on his business so he could stay near her. Elizabeth knew she was loved, and this she did not take for granted.
When she and William went down to breakfast, the room was filled with those closest to her heart. Chaos mixed with excitement buzzed about them, bringing smiles to the faces of Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Across the room Daniel stood off by himself, appearing out of place amidst so many. Elizabeth observed Phillip Darcy approach him, say something and receive a reply before taking a place at the table. She knew her brother was attempting to seem relaxed in the confined area with the others, but Daniel had never mastered pretending.
Whispering to William that she intended to join Daniel and perhaps remove him to a quieter section of the home until the room had settled down, Elizabeth’s plan was unnecessary as another stepped forward after sensing Daniel’s discomfort.
Elizabeth saw that Mariah’s mere presence registered ease on her brother’s face, and after they spoke quietly to one another, Daniel nodded and offered Mariah his arm to take. They exited the room without any fanfare and went out to the adjourning terrace, Mariah gently closing the glass door behind them.
Long after they left Elizabeth continued to stare at the place her brother had occupied, as she came to terms that Mariah would now assume the role she once held. Elizabeth trusted her, with her heart and mind she did, but there remained sadness as proof that this final chapter in her life was to close. Yet often in life as one avenue ends, another begins, and as Elizabeth’s hand subconsciously touched her womb, it reminded her that time stood still for no one.
Feeling the warmth of her husband’s hand on her back, a decision was formed in Elizabeth’s mind in a matter of seconds, and it was one that required no additional thought to justify acting on it. After she whispered to William what she was about to do, Elizabeth left his side and went to the terrace where Daniel and Mariah were.
“Mariah, may I have a moment alone with Daniel please?” She asked softly to the young lady Elizabeth already considered a sister. Mariah complied without hesitation, leaving the siblings with only the sounds of rural Derbyshire as a distraction.
“You have grown into a man before my eyes.” Elizabeth claimed as she clasped her hands under her chin and looked upon him with pride swelling in her chest. Daniel was a fine man, a commendable man, and all the good fortune Elizabeth could have ever wanted for him was at his feet.
“I feel no different.” Daniel admitted humbly to his sister.
“Perhaps, but you have changed. If I asked you a favor that was of the utmost importance to me, would you consider it?”
“Yes.” Daniel would do whatever Elizabeth requested of him.
“Will you marry Mariah after you return to Hertfordshire, and not postpone your wedding until the New Year?”
“Elizabeth, you would be unable to attend if we proceed as you have suggested.”
“That is correct, but I would be there in spirit with you, and William will certainly come if you do not tarry until winter.” Elizabeth could tell that her brother was uneasy about agreeing to her proposal, and she felt the urge to make it clear to him that she did not make the offer because she did not love him, but rather because she loved him so dearly.
“Daniel, you realize that if I could, I would be at your wedding in a heartbeat?”
“I know this.”
“My wish for you is that you be as content in marriage as I am. Please do not delay your happiness on my account. Life passes by too quickly to waste a day of it.”
The seriousness of his expression changed as Daniel mulled over Elizabeth’s wisdom. His dependence on her had evolved since Elizabeth had married and moved to Derbyshire, and she was now beginning to fill the position of beloved friend, rather than trusted guardian. This was how it should be.
An eruption of laughter from inside caused both of the Bennet children turn their heads to look through the glass door, temporarily forgetting their cares. They watched those people that meant so much to them entertain their selves while Randall Darcy stood by his seat at the table waving his hands in the air at his son Phillip. Judging by the reaction of the others, his humor was spreading.
A moment later Daniel consented to Elizabeth’s request.
They reentered Pemberley together before each went their separate ways. Daniel relayed Elizabeth’s wish to his lovely bride, and after a brief discussion, Mariah accepted the gracious offer and between them it was determined that as soon as the minister in Meryton was able, they would be wed in their parish.
Elizabeth naturally went to stand beside her husband, but no words of explanation were needed. William saw that peace had settled over her, and with a glance in the direction of her brother, he concluded Daniel had consented to be married without Elizabeth’s presence.
“It is all good,” William said so that only Elizabeth could hear him, she raising her eyes to him as acknowledgment that William had indeed read her mind.
And it was.