Part I, A Dream
Posted on Sunday, 8 January 2006
As Fitzwilliam Darcy started up the hill from the pond towards the house and passed the trees, he stopped in shock. “Miss Bennet!” he exclaimed.
Elizabeth Bennet stammered, “M- Mr. Darcy!”
Darcy was overwhelmingly grateful for three things at that moment: first, that Elizabeth Bennet was there at his home; second, that he was impeccably turned out and had not given in to an impulse to take a swim that would have ruined his appearance; and third, that he had a firm enough footing so that when Charles Bingley ran into him from behind, he did not fall over at Miss Bennet’s feet.
“Miss Bennet!” echoed Charles, his eyes firmly locked on those of Miss Jane Bennet, who was standing by her sister’s side.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Bingley,” replied Jane quietly, with downcast eyes.
An embarrassed silence followed during which each of the four wished desperately for inspiration to meet the situation. Darcy determinedly recovered first. “You are very welcome, ladies. Have you been long in this part of the country?”
Elizabeth looked at Darcy with both gratitude and surprise at his civility, a deep blush in her cheeks. “Thank you, sir. We are traveling with our aunt and uncle. We have been in this part of the country but four days. Our uncle felt that we should not leave Derbyshire without seeing your lovely estate. We would never have trespassed on your privacy had we known…”
“Please do not distress yourself… your selves,” he corrected himself, with a friendly smile to Jane. “You are most welcome at Pemberley. Please, will you join us for some refreshment? I can send a servant to fetch your aunt and uncle, if you like. They are touring the grounds elsewhere?”
Darcy was acutely aware of the tremendous pounding of his own heartbeat. He wondered if the others could hear it. That he should have some time with Miss Bennet was his dearest wish. To be able to impress upon her that he was not so mean as to resent her because of their last meeting, to show her how he had improved, to earn her approval--- these were the things that hastened his heartbeat. Other possibilities and dreams he pushed back from his thoughts vehemently for fear of straining his heart to death!
Elizabeth seemed to have recovered her equilibrium. Only surprised doubt lingered in her beautiful eyes as she replied to his offer. “Yes, they took the path by the stream. I know that they would appreciate your kind offer…” Elizabeth glanced uneasily at her sister.
Jane looked a bit pale, but calm and poised, as she spoke up, ”Thank you for your invitation, sir. We would be glad to join you.”
Darcy motioned for the ladies to precede him towards the house. Walking alongside the Bennet sisters he spoke up again, saying “My sister will be your hostess. I am glad for the opportunity to introduce you to her.”
Darcy noticed then that Jane Bennet’s step faltered and she grew even paler. She resolutely continued toward the house, however.
He nearly asked if she was well before he realized the turn her thoughts must have taken. This would not do! He had to think of some way to reassure her and correct any misconceptions she held of Charles’ relationship to Georgiana. He wanted for the Bennet sisters to love Georgiana, not view her as Jane’s rival!
Part II, Dreams and Interactions
Elizabeth seemed about to say something. Her expression had noticeably darkened. Darcy spoke quickly to prevent her fleeing. “Georgiana is perhaps an inexperienced hostess. She is only sixteen and is not yet out. She is easy enough among those she views as brothers, such as Bingley and me, but I am eager to have her become accustomed to better society. I know that your warmth and energy must be a welcome influence for her.”
Elizabeth looked into his pleading eyes, seeming to understand his desperate communication. She held her peace and took her sister’s arm in a comforting gesture.
Darcy turned to Bingley, concerned at his friend’s unusual silence. Bingley was a bit confused by Darcy’s abrupt descriptions of Georgiana, though he was preoccupied by the current situation. He stared at Jane Bennet as though struck by lightning.
Darcy also noticed the way that Elizabeth seemed to be taking every detail of Jane and Bingley’s reactions in for consideration. Though he had no doubt of Elizabeth’s acute powers of observation, he was grateful that Bingley was behaving in such a discomposed manner. Elizabeth could have no doubt as to Bingley’s continued regard for her sister. Considering Jane Bennet’s equally discomposed demeanor, it seemed to Darcy that the two must still love each other. This chance meeting might allow him to undo one of the mistakes that had cost him Elizabeth’s affection!
As they approached the house, servants opened the door and waited on the party. Darcy called one of the man servants “Ho there. Please fetch these ladies’ aunt and uncle to the Drawing Room to join us for refreshments. They walked in the direction of the stream some moments ago.”
“Yes, sir. I shall fetch them immediately,” replied the man.
“Mrs. Reynolds, good day.” said Darcy with a warm smile,. “May I introduce Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet? They and their aunt and uncle will be joining us for refreshments in the Drawing Room. Can you tell me where I might find Miss Georgiana?”
Mrs. Reynolds greeted the sisters warmly and said, “You will find Miss Georgiana in the Music Room, sir.”
“Georgiana is very accomplished,” offered Bingley in an attempt to finally join the conversation. He was surprised when Darcy turned to glare at him at this statement. Elizabeth looked as though she wished to say something, but was at a loss. Jane avoided his gaze and looked to the floor, a resigned expression on her face.
Darcy turned again to Mrs. Reynolds. “Mrs. Reynolds, would you be so kind as to show our guests to the Drawing Room? Mr. Bingley and I will go to find Miss Georgiana.”
To her credit, Mrs. Reynolds’ surprise that Darcy and Bingley would leave their charming guests to go find Georgiana instead of sending her as she’d anticipated, (she’d already begun walking in the direction of the Music Room.) was only noticeable to Darcy and an alert Elizabeth. Mrs. Reynolds gracefully changed direction at once and pleasantly ushered the Bennet girls away from the gentlemen. Elizabeth looked back as she and Jane departed. Darcy looked her in the eye with determination.
“Darcy, what on earth is going on? Why did you look at me so darkly just now? Why have you arranged for us to speak alone?” burst out Bingley.
Darcy took a deep breath and motioned Bingley to a nearby bench, “Sit, please. We must talk.”
Part III, Dreams and Revelations
“What I am about to tell you will shock you, Charles,” said Darcy. “Please try to believe me when I say I thought I was acting in your best interest and that I hope you will be able to forgive me. I hope you can control your anger enough in the next few moments to make the most of this golden opportunity. Miss Bennet, Miss Jane Bennet, loves you and always has." Bingley’s mouth fell open in disbelief as he sank weakly to the bench.
“I joined with your sisters to separate the two of you because I did not believe that she loved you and I did not believe that a match with her would be advantageous,” Darcy continued. “I later discovered I was in error on both counts. Your sisters’ part in the scheme was to lead Miss Bennet to believe you to be in love with another, in truth, Georgiana. So, just now when you praised Georgiana, you inadvertently gave pain to Miss Bennet. Also, Miss Bennet was in town some months over the winter and we all concealed that fact from you. She even called on your sisters at the town house.”
Darcy remembered the sad set of Miss Bennet’s shoulders as he had seen her leaving after her visit with the Bingley sisters that cold winter day. It was the first moment that an inkling of doubt had crept into his mind regarding her sentiments for Bingley.
His thoughts returned to the present as Bingley’s expression changed to one of rage. “What!?” cried Bingley in horror. He leaped from the bench and moved toward Darcy angrily.
“Hush, man, or they’ll hear you!” whispered Darcy fervently as he put up his hands to push Bingley back from him. “You have every right to detest me until the end of time. I grant you that. I was absolutely in the wrong. But did you hear me? SHE LOVES YOU. As to the advantages of the match… what could be more advantageous than being married to the woman you love more than anything in life, especially when she loves you just as much?”
Bingley looked as though he might weep he was so overwhelmed by the turmoil of his emotions. He sank back down and put his head down in his hands. He recoiled when Darcy put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Steady, old friend. I would not have told you in such a manner but for this incredible, unforeseen circumstance. They are here! Carpe Diem.”
Bingley stared up at Darcy and took a deep breath. He took a second deep breath and sat back straight against the wall. “Well, I shall have to find a better way to explain everything to Jane than that. Do you not think?”
Darcy chuckled weakly, “Your options seem limitless.” He offered Bingley a hand up and set off down the hall.
Bingley grinned in reply as he followed. His look grew more serious as they approached the Music Room. Beautiful music could be heard from within. Bingley put a hand on Darcy’s arm and paused, “Darcy, we shall need to discuss the situation in more detail when time allows. I need time to consider what you’ve told me… time to consider what you’ve done… and, my sisters!” Bingley shook his head in disbelief and continued, “Yes. I shall need time to think. For today, however, I thank you for your information. I believe I could be on amicable terms with Bonaparte if he gave me right information indicating that I might have a chance with Jane!”
"Thank you for the opportunity of talking through this in the future. You are too generous, Bingley. I was utterly in the wrong. I should never have interfered. I do, of course, wish you Godspeed. Again, I apologize," replied Darcy. He turned away from Bingley and opened the door to the Music Room.
Georgiana stopped playing when the door opened. She smiled uncertainly at the gentlemen. “What is wrong, William?” she asked, looking in concern at Bingley.
Darcy and Bingley exchanged glances. Bingley straightened both his cravat and his expression. Darcy stepped forward and took Georgiana’s hands in his. “Do not be concerned, my dear. Bingley and I were only having a discussion. We have… some visitors. We would like for you to meet them and perform your duty as hostess.” Georgiana nodded yes, curiosity and trepidation evident in her face.
Georgiana took Darcy’s proffered arm and asked, “Who are our visitors? I did not know you were expecting anyone.”
Darcy allowed some of his excitement to show as he smiled at his sister. “I was not expecting them. It is a pleasant surprise. Do you remember my mentioning the Bennet family of Hertfordshire? Bingley and I made their acquaintance last fall. Two of the Bennet sisters, Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth, are visiting Derbyshire with an aunt and uncle. They are here at Pemberley today.”
Georgiana nodded and smiled. “I shall enjoy the opportunity of making their acquaintance.”
Part IV, Dreams and Manipulations
They entered the Drawing Room. Elizabeth and Jane were sitting together on the sofa with their heads close together in serious discussion. They both stood as the gentlemen and Georgiana entered the room. Elizabeth smiled. Jane blushed.
Mr. Darcy said, “Miss Jane Bennet, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, may I present my sister, Georgiana. Georgiana, Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth.” The ladies curtsied to each other.
“I am so pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Darcy,” said Elizabeth with a warm smile. “I have heard much about you.”
“And I about you,” managed Georgiana shyly. She then turned to Jane. “It is a pleasure to meet you too, Miss Bennet. Welcome to Pemberley.”
Everyone took a seat and Georgiana called for tea. There was an awkward pause in conversation until Darcy recalled that the ladies had been traveling.
“Tell us about your travels, Miss Bennet.” Elizabeth obliged with vivid descriptions of their recent adventures. Her vivacity and charm left Darcy so breathless that he feared he might appear insensible. Georgiana was obviously taken with Elizabeth as well, to his great joy.
After some time, Elizabeth turned to Georgiana and sweetly, encouragingly teased, “Now, Miss Darcy, you must assist me in entertaining the company. I have so dominated the conversation that I am beginning to lose the interest of at least half of the party.” Charles and Jane seemed able to only stare at each other or avoid looking at one another altogether.
Georgiana responded shyly to Elizabeth’s invitation. “Oh, I could not begin to do half so well in conversation as you, Miss Elizabeth. I…”
Elizabeth smiled understandingly and leaned in to share with Georgiana, “I’ve told your brother before that conversation and ease in company are talents that must be practiced. I have heard much praise of your dedication to practicing music and that as a result you are a very accomplished musical performer. I have no doubt that you will apply the same principal to mixing with company and become equally successful in that regard. Warmth, intelligence, and sweetness give you a definite advantage over many!”
Georgiana warmed under the radiance of Elizabeth’s confidence and praise. Darcy was delighted at the friendship developing between the two women. He noticed, however, that Bingley and Jane were still distracted and quiet. He decided that drastic action was needed.
He smiled and spoke up in what he hoped would pass for an easy manner, “Ladies, this talk of music has put me in the mood for a song. I should be exceedingly happy if either or both of you would oblige me. Perhaps we could adjourn to the Music Room. Oh, Miss Bennet has not finished her tea. Bingley would you be so kind as to keep Miss Bennet company while she finishes her refreshment? Also, you would be able to guide the Bennets’ friends to us in the Music Room when they arrive. That would be a great help.”
Before anyone could protest he stood and smilingly offered Georgiana his arm. She followed his lead easily. Jane looked startled. Elizabeth seemed a bit uncertain, but did not offer protest. Bingley stared at Jane.
Part V, A Dreamer
Darcy realized that he stood by the window of the library at his house in Town. It was raining steadily. The lonely quiet of the house had finally broken through his long reverie and brought him out of the day dream. He had been standing there so long that his coffee was completely cold. He set it down on the table and stared out at the day.
He was disgusted with himself. Too often, of late, he had found himself lost in day dreams, attempting to rewrite his life more to his liking. Try as he might, he couldn’t imagine what Bingley would do next in such a situation as that he’d dreamed up. Thus, he would simply leave the poor chap sitting there, staring at his lady-love.
“Not that Bingley would at all mind staring at Jane Bennet for so long!” mused Darcy aloud to himself. He thought of the upcoming days. Plans made long previous would put him in Bingley’s company again. He had been avoiding that company of late and now his day dream had caused him to realize it was because of his guilt over his role in 'the Jane Bennet affair.'
He realized now that if Bingley suffered half of the anguish that he did, he ought to feel the weight of his own actions regarding Miss Bennet. He wondered if she still thought fondly of Bingley. It had been nearly eight months since they’d seen each other last.
But what difference did time really make to a heart in love? It had been three months since he’d seen Elizabeth Bennet. Time had done nothing to cause him to love her less. She was in his thoughts and dreams both day and night. He thought that if he went the rest of his life without seeing her again he should love her as much or more than he did today.
Like her sister, Jane Bennet had seemed a steady girl. As recently as April, her suffering had been enough to leave Elizabeth in no doubt that he “had ruined all her chance of happiness.” He knew Bingley had never quite regained the relentless happiness that had so characterized his life before parting from Jane Bennet. Most likely they both still loved each other. It was also most likely then that they both suffered as he did.
What could he do about that now? Restlessly he paced back and forth before the window.
Darcy knew that if he slipped back into his dream of a day with Elizabeth at Pemberley he would dream of exchanges of intelligent wit, conversations in which she noted a change in his character and forgave him his former behavior, dazzling embraces and kisses, AND all this would follow an atonement for his actions regarding Bingley and Jane. He would try to make things right between them. He would say to Elizabeth, “I owe them a chance at happiness at least, don’t you think? My behavior was unpardonable.” He would look into her eyes, “Likewise, I owe you my most humble apologies for my behavior toward you. It is my dearest wish that you might forgive me… that perhaps we could begin our acquaintance anew. Is that possible?”
That was the nature of all of his reverie of late - be it during the day or the night. For too long his dreams had been more of nightmarish quality. Over and over he had relived the disaster he had made of proposing to Elizabeth Bennet. Finally convinced that he had tortured himself with these dreams and imaginings long enough, Darcy had driven those visions from him. Now he tormented himself in a different way - with visions of desperate imaginings of ways to rectify his situation.
“But the only way my dreams can come true is through real change in my character,” he said to his dog, Rutherford. Rutherford’s ears twitched as he raised his head and wagged his tail. “Well of course you have forgiven me, old boy. You are the most easily pleased of all my acquaintance!” Darcy chuckled as he rubbed the animal’s head.
“I believe I must confess to Charles. If I could somehow mend the relationship between him and Miss Bennet then I might stand a chance of happiness - or at least I would find it more bearable to live with myself. Now that must be a change for the better. I’ve realized my own happiness depends on creating happiness in another. Or am I just manipulative and selfish, Rutherford? Let’s find out. When Mr. Bingley and his party are next with me at Pemberley I will confess it all to him.”
Rutherford yawned. “Man’s best friend, indeed,” joked Darcy ruefully.
He had come to realize over the past three months that he would never be happy unless he could convince Elizabeth Bennet to accept him. This realization humbled him. Of course NOW he realized that humbling was exactly what he had deserved. Now when it was too late.
The likelihood of his ever spending time with Elizabeth again was very low - outside of his dreams. As to his hopeless love for her… he must stop dwelling on it. He’d always sought to avoid making himself ridiculous. He now worried that his obsessive love for her was beginning to make him so. As if she would ever come near him again! He’d thought so many times about having her at Pemberley with him as his wife (a word which caused the necessity of banishing an entirely different set of imaginings)… That must explain his preposterous imagining of a meeting there with her.
He felt torn between sifting through the meaning of all he’d dreamed up and his embarrassment at his preoccupation with his feelings for Elizabeth Bennet. And the temptation to return to his reverie was great.
Bingley and Jane radiantly announced that they were to wed and Darcy found that Elizabeth was gazing at him gratefully. He felt hot, cold, fear, joy, and most of all the flame of hope. They stepped slightly away from the others.
Before he could stop himself he reached out and brushed back a stray curl from her face. Instead of reacting with disgust as he expected, she moved closer to him. She whispered, “Thank you for helping to bring them together.”
He shook his head in dissent and started to speak only to find her warm finger gently placed against his lips. “No, no,” said Elizabeth reassuringly. “That is all past. All that matters is the present.”
Oblivious to the others, Darcy pulled Elizabeth into his arms, more conscious of the beating of his heart than ever before. “All that matters is to me is that I love you.”
But was that all that mattered? Did he really want her to come to him through gratitude? Granted, he simply wanted her. More importantly, however, he wanted her to love him. How did one earn love? He was the last man on earth she would consider. How could he expect her to love him? An image of her beautiful eyes flashed through his mind.
Determinedly, he decided that he would try to do things that would be worthy of her approval. He would become a man worthy of her love. That was the first step. He would conquer this. He would overcome his sadness, his overdeveloped sense of pride, his inability to mix with society well, and the things he had done wrong. Regardless of Elizabeth knowing of it, he would do the right thing where Bingley was concerned. He would tell him the truth. Even if it cost him that friendship (which was what he deserved) he would tell his friend how things had really been in Hertfordshire - and that Jane Bennet had called on them in London. When they were at Pemberley, next week, then he would tell him. He would encourage Bingley to return to Netherfield.
The clock chimed. Darcy started, realizing he must prepare for his fencing lesson. Over and over the thought ran through his mind, “I shall conquer this.” He ran to his chamber to change, Rutherford loping along happily at his heels.
The fencing lesson that followed was typical of Darcy’s mood of late. He was alternately distracted, filled with frustration, and despondently calm. His lack of overall concentration left him more frustrated than ever as the lesson ended. “I shall conquer this. I must!” he told himself.
Part VI, A Dream of A Day- THE NEXT DAY, at the Hursts’ House
“Ah, I win again!” crowed Mr. Hurst. “I say, Bingley. You’ve lost your way at cards entirely, man. You are as easy as either of the ladies.”
“Really, Mr. Hurst. That is most ungenerous of you. Perhaps Louisa and I would offer you more sport if you took more care in instructing us rather than bullying us to hurry on to our next play,” sniped Caroline Bingley. Mr. Hurst looked bored and ignored her.
“Mr. Hurst is correct that I am having a bad run at cards,” said Bingley. “I believe I shall take my leisure with a spot of brandy. Some for you, Darcy?”
Though Darcy did not drink spirits much, seeing the expressions on his companions’ faces made such indulgence almost desirable to him. If his friend’s sad expression wasn’t enough to entice him to the drink, certainly the smug and simpering looks of the younger Bingley sister would have done the job.
Bingley poured drinks for each of the men. He then took a seat by the fire, sinking down with a deep sigh. Darcy wished they might speak alone so that he could discover if the source of Bingley’s distress was as he suspected.
Miss Bingley moved to a seat near Darcy. “How I look forward to seeing Georgiana again. Such a delightful girl!”
Darcy nodded his agreement. Much to her credit, he suspected that Georgiana was not equally anticipating spending time with Miss Bingley. If only he could provide her more enjoyable companionship…What would she think of Elizabeth? Undoubtedly they would be fast friends. Darcy smiled at the thought.
Miss Bingley continued with a knowing smile, “Of course I am certain you look forward to seeing her again as much as I do, Charles.” She glanced at Darcy to see if this statement would produce the same breathtaking smile she’d seen come across his face a moment before.
Bingley looked up at the sound of his name. “What is that you say, Caroline?”
Miss Bingley laughed a contrived little laugh. “I was saying that I know you are looking quite forward to seeing Miss Darcy again.”
“Georgiana?” said Bingley in a dull and confused way. “Well of course I look forward to seeing her. She is a very nice young girl.”
Darcy carefully noted Bingley’s demeanor. It had not been so long ago that he had harbored hopes of a match between his sister and his friend. It was one of the many reasons he had so carefully kept the details of her near elopement with Wickham from Bingley. Now he saw clearly that Bingley’s affection for Georgiana was quite similar to his own - that of a brother.
Wryly he admitted to himself that he was probably not yet ready to see a man regard Georgiana in a more passionate light. Previously he had attributed his dismay over her relationship with Wickham entirely to his knowledge of that man’s character. He shifted uncomfortably as he realized that the idea of Georgiana regarding any man warmly had repelled him nearly as much as the idea of that man being Wickham. He admonished himself, ‘One crisis at a time, Darcy!’ Certainly he would have ample opportunity to come to terms with Georgiana growing into a woman.
As Georgiana related to the present discussion, however, it was much as he had dreamt up of recent date. She was no competition for Jane Bennet in Bingley’s heart. Though Caroline Bingley might persist in her insinuations, it would come to naught.
“I say, where has your attention gone Charles? Mr. Darcy, you must impress on my brother that he needs to attend to his duties among company,” declared Miss Bingley.
Darcy laughed out loud, startling the others. “You appeal to me to form Bingley’s behavior among company? Never have I been appealed to on a matter I am more ill-qualified to remedy. You astound me.”
Bingley smiled faintly, “While I know I am not the best of company today, I must agree. I mean you no harm in doing so, Darcy.”
Miss Bingley looked taken aback and spoke in her stilted way. “I know of no one who is more of a gentleman than Mr. Darcy.”
Darcy looked at Miss Bingley with an undisguised wonder that was entirely lost upon her. “I only wish that were true,” he said quietly. “Occasions come to mind which prove that assertion incorrect.”
Miss Bingley was entirely perplexed by now. As such, she beat a hasty retreat and called upon her sister to entertain the company with some music, leaving Darcy and Bingley to themselves.
Bingley broke the silence between them first. “You are quite hard upon yourself, Darcy. Is there any way I may be of assistance?”
“Do not concern yourself, Bingley. There is nothing for you to remedy. I deserve my self-recriminations,” Darcy replied. “Really it is most generous of you to concern yourself with me when you are so obviously troubled. You are distracted, low, and not at all happy. I hate to see you so. Is there anything that I can do?”
Bingley looked up at Darcy forlornly. “There is nothing that you can do. I must learn to accept the truth and go on. It is only that I found her to be the most agreeable… No, there is nothing you can do.”
Looking into a reflection of his own torment in his friend’s eyes, Darcy nearly confessed all right then and there. But Darcy realized that confession would not ease Bingley’s distress unless Jane Bennet still cared for him. On the other hand, a small part of his mind roared with laughter at the discomposure the Bingley sisters would experience were he to burst forth with his confessions here and now.
Darcy dismissed the errant thought and sat back in his chair. Was there any way that he could determine the state of Jane Bennet’s affections? He changed his plans. Instead of confessing all at Pemberley he would suggest a return to Hertfordshire. Once he ascertained the state of Miss Bennet’s affections for his friend he would tell him the truth of the events of last fall and winter. If Miss Bennet still loved his friend then all would be well. If Miss Bennet did not… then, perhaps he might lose his friend, but at least the truth would be known.
The idea of returning to Hertfordshire and facing Elizabeth Bennet again caused his stomach to churn. On the one hand he was desperate to see her again. On the other, he remembered again the fire and disgust in her eyes that awful day in Kent. He took a deep swallow of his drink.
“Really, Darcy, I do not know who seems more unwell of us two,” Bingley chuckled with a shadow of his customary good humor.
As he intended, Darcy smiled. “I apologize, Bingley. I am not unwell. I think that too much time in Town disagrees with me. Even Pemberley can become tiresome when I am there alone too much. Perhaps I only need some sport. It is good that you come there with me this week. Perhaps what I need is good company, or even a change of scene.”
Bingley looked as though he might like to venture a suggestion of a change of scene, but thought the better of it.
Louisa stopped playing and spoke, “Caroline, as the rain has finally stopped, I believe we must pay some calls today. We should at least call on the Misses Truitt and the Misses Dewitt. And perhaps we should even call on Mrs. Hennessey?”
Miss Bingley shuddered. “No and no again! We may call on the Truitts and Dewitts, but I will not pay consequence to the likes of Mrs. Hennessey. She is unpolished, unsophisticated, and abominably rude. If you insist, you may call on her alone. I prefer, however, that you abandon the idea altogether.”
“My goodness, Caroline,” replied Louisa. “If you feel so strongly then of course we won’t visit her. Whatever caused you to feel that way? I did not think her so bad.”
Charles spoke up, “I think Mrs. Hennessey quite pleasing and agreeable. She even has some wit to her. She reminds me quite strongly of Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”
Darcy’s head jerked up at the sound of her name. Fortunately, the Bingley sisters’ attention was concentrated on their brother.
Caroline looked down her nose frostily, “Is that remark meant as a compliment to Mrs. Hennessey? If so, I fear you do her even greater injustice than she merits. Elizabeth Bennet is the most willful, independent, and wild country girl we have ever had the misfortune to meet. I will never forget her appearance when she traipsed across all of the mud of Hertfordshire because her sister had a cold. Oh, let us be on our way, Louisa.”
With this, the Bingley sisters swept out of the room. Mr. Hurst mumbled something about some correspondence and left as well.
Bingley poured himself another brandy. “Actually I did mean it as a compliment. I thought that Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well that morning when she arrived at Netherfield.”
“As did I,” agreed Darcy, painfully reflecting.
“Yes,” continued Bingley. “She had the most becoming color to her cheeks. And I thought her going to the trouble of coming on foot was a tribute to the affection she bore her sister. She is a lovely young woman. I should like to see her again.”
Darcy looked alarmed, “I thought your affection was for Miss Jane Bennet, not her sister.”
“I find Miss Jane Bennet to be the most agreeable and wonderful woman I ever met,” said Bingley with serious intensity. “It is only that I also found Elizabeth Bennet to be a woman of merit. Why do you ask, Darcy? You sound as though you have changed your mind about Miss Elizabeth Bennet. You once indicated that you did not find her to be attractive. Now you sound quite the opposite.”
A Dream of a Day, Part VII - Callers at the Hursts’
As it spared him from having to reply, Darcy was grateful to hear the servant enter and announce, “Mr. and Mrs. Hennessey, sir.”
Behind the servant came a man and woman with arms closely linked, both in their late twenties, and both with open and pleasant expressions. Mr. Hennessey, the newly-made parish cleric, was a tall, intelligent-looking fellow. His wife was dark-haired beauty who did indeed bear a small resemblance to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. The most notable likeness to that lady was a mischievous twinkle in her eyes that worked on Darcy’s heart most cruelly. Bingley and Darcy stood and bowed in greeting.
Mr. Hennessey spoke up, “I hope we find you well, today, Mr. Bingley. Jane, excuse me, Mrs. Hennessey, insisted we pay a call when she heard you were to leave us soon.”
“And I am glad that you took her advice, sir. You are very welcome. Indeed, I am well. I hope that you are the same,” Charles said, smiling as the Hennesseys bowed and curtseyed. “Mrs. Hennessey, you are very welcome. It is a pleasure to see you again.”
Mrs. Hennessey smiled brightly, “I am sorry not to find your sisters with you, Mr. Bingley, but am delighted to see you well. Will you do us the honor of introducing us to your friend?” She fixed her gaze on Darcy.
“May I introduce Fitzwilliam Darcy of Derbyshire? We are to travel there with him and his sister,” said Bingley. Bows were exchanged again and Bingley then motioned for the Hennesseys to seat themselves.
“You must be very close with the Darcys, Mr. Bingley,” said Mrs. Hennessey. “You have spoken of them each time we have had the pleasure of meeting with you. How long have you known each other?”
To Bingley’s surprise, Darcy spoke up first. “I have had the pleasure of Bingley’s friendship since we were lads in school together. He is my oldest and dearest friend.” Bingley smiled, both at the praise and at the spectacle of his friend exerting himself with company unfamiliar to him.
“You seem quite fortunate in your choice of friends, Mr. Darcy,” responded Mrs. Hennessey. “Mr. Bingley is of an easy temperament and agreeable to all. His only defect seems to be a sadness of heart from time to time, but he is so sweet that that only makes one want to help cure him. You shall have to help him find a young lady to take care of him.”
Darcy replied, “I doubt that I am qualified to advise Bingley in such matters. He knows his heart far better than I ever shall.”
Bingley stared at Darcy in undisguised wonder.
Mr. Hennessey misconstrued Bingley’s look as censure toward his wife’s comment and groaned, “Really, Jane! You speak too freely. I am certain that both Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy can take care of themselves without any interference. My wife means well, gentlemen. Please accept her concern in the sweet spirit it is intended.”
Though Mr. Hennessey chastised his wife, he blunted his criticism by taking hold of her hand and gently kissing it. Her fiery look softened as she said, “Oh, Robert, whatever will you do with me? I fear I am not the ideal clergyman’s wife.” The couple laughed quietly as they gazed into each other’s eyes.
“You appear to be an ideal wife to Mr. Hennessey, madam,” said Darcy, eliciting a deep blush from Mrs. Hennessey.
She gently pulled her hand away from her husband and looked to Bingley. “Is your friend always so gallant?” she asked.
After a pause, Bingley echoed his sister’s earlier words with some irony, “I know of no one who is more of a gentleman than Mr. Darcy.”
Darcy shot him a look which fortunately went unnoticed by the others.
Mr. Hennessey turned the conversation to a discussion of the upcoming trip to Derbyshire. The rest of the visit with the cleric and his wife passed pleasantly and ended too quickly. After their departure, both Darcy and Bingley stood pensively by the fire.
"Hennessey is fortunate in his choice of a wife," said Bingley. "I approve of her even though I know my sisters do not. Caroline has been uncomfortable with Mrs. Hennessey since she first pointed out that I seemed sometimes melancholy. My sisters have been hard on the lady ever since." Bingley shrugged. Darcy looked intently at the fire, not quite ready to admit everything he knew about Bingley's melancholy.
Bingley continued, "But Hennessey is much happier than he ever was before he met her. He can be a bit serious sometimes. I think that she lightens him up, makes him more amiable. Much like her affect on you. Either that or it could be that you are a changed man."
Darcy’s eyes darted to Bingley quickly, “What would make you call me changed, Bingley?”
Bingley sat in the chair by the fire and rubbed his hands together thoughtfully. “Well, you certainly showed more interest in the Hennesseys’ visit than I would have expected of you. Not only are they not so very well connected, but I believe that Mrs. Hennessey does not suit my sister’s taste because she is not overly… refined and tied to the structures of social interaction on which Caroline places such value. In the past, you have seemed to agree more with Caroline’s emphasis on such things. Additionally, you seem much more conscious of other people’s feelings now than you used to be. I don’t know exactly what it is, Darcy.”
“I am glad to hear you say that I am changed,” said Darcy. “I recall a lady once remarking with justice I did not appreciate at the time that I had no right to think myself ‘so far above the rest of my company.’”
Once again Bingley looked at Darcy oddly.
“What is it, Bingley?” asked Darcy.
Bingley began to laugh. It was some time before he could control his laughter enough to respond. “Forgive me, Darcy. But I think that you just quoted Mrs. Bennet of Longbourn to me as an authority on proper behavior. Good God, man! You have changed. You think both Elizabeth Bennet a beauty and her mother a wit!”
Darcy joined in the laughter and remarked wryly, “It seems the joke is on me.”
Part VIII, A Dream of a Day -“About Your Sister…”
The gentlemen settled back into their chairs by the fire and sat in silence, each lost in his own thoughts. Darcy’s thoughts returned to his reverie of meeting with the Bennet sisters, seeing his friend happy at last, seeing his sister delighting in the company of the woman he loved, feeling himself reveling in her forgiveness…
“It is my dearest wish that you might forgive me… that perhaps we could begin our acquaintance anew. Is that possible?”
Elizabeth seemed touched by his declaration. “Mr. Darcy, I believe I should like that. You seem quite changed from when we last met.”
The soft expression of her countenance along with her kind words brought a kind of blissful exuberance to his heart. Once again, he was aware of its tremendous pounding. Warmed by Elizabeth’s forgiveness, however, he did not fear for his heart quite so much as before. The possibility of being able to renew his addresses to her entered his thoughts.
While Georgiana delighted them with her playing, they talked. They talked of music, of books, of travel, of all manner of things. Darcy knew with certainty that he had never passed an afternoon so delightfully, and that he never would again unless he could convince Elizabeth Bennet to accept him.
The loud tones of Louisa Hurst burst in on his thoughts, "Well, I am certain that her gown was just like the one you wore to the theatre that night we attended with the Dewitts," Darcy heard her say as she and Caroline Bingley entered the room.
“You missed the Hennesseys, sisters. They called on us while you were out,” remarked Bingley.
“Excellent!” replied Miss Bingley with a smile to her sister. “I am glad to have missed such a mortifying experience. I am sorry you had to suffer it, Mr. Darcy.”
“I did not suffer, thank you.” said Darcy as he stood up and strode to the window. “I found them quite well-meaning and pleasant. They certainly seem very happy with one another. Bingley and I were saying how fortunate Mr. Hennessey seems in his choice of wife."
Bingley spoke up, “They seem to have great affection for one another. I should like to marry a woman I felt even half so much for as Mr. Hennessey seems to feel for his Jane.”
Miss Bingley looked sharply at her brother, her cheeks overspread with a deep blush. Obviously discomfited, she ignored his comment, turning to Darcy instead. “You are much too generous,” she prattled. “I suppose that a country girl such as that is in general an eligible match for a clergyman, but Mrs. Hennessey is really too free in her manner to be an appropriate cleric’s wife. She is so obvious in her affection that she is almost coarse.”
As he watched Miss Bingley parade stiffly back and forth in front of the fire, Darcy reflected that she would be more interesting to him if she were less refined, perhaps even a bit ‘coarse’ as she called it. He had realized over the past months that he was of passionate disposition. For him to be happily matched with a woman… that woman would need to be passionate as well. Moreover, he realized from Bingley’s earlier description of Mr. Hennessey’s felicity in marriage that he, himself, had a tendency to seriousness that would benefit greatly from a woman who could teach him how to laugh.
What would Caroline Bingley say if he told her that his greatest desires were to learn to sometimes set aside his dignity, to laugh, and to live with great passion? Furthermore, what would she say if she knew how desperately in love he was with Elizabeth Bennet, the one woman he knew who could give him all of that?
He looked at Miss Bingley speculatively and realized that she was looking to him for a response to her last statement.
“I would say that she is of a lively disposition,” was his reply.
Miss Bingley gave him a strange look and turned back to conversing with Mrs. Hurst about their recent calls. Then their conversation turned to their upcoming visit to Pemberley and to praises of Georgiana.
“What a fine thing it will be for you, Charles, when Georgiana finally comes out,” said Mrs. Hurst. “When will that be, Mr. Darcy?
Bingley blushed as Darcy responded, “We have not decided for certain. Georgiana is somewhat shy. I would not rush her into society.”
“Oh, she will be greatly admired,” said Miss Bingley. “She is so lovely and accomplished. Don’t you agree, Charles?”
“Well… of course, Georgiana is all of that,” responded Bingley awkwardly.
Boldly, Miss Bingley continued, “I should be delighted to call her sister.” She smiled smugly and awaited a response from either of the gentlemen.
Neither man seemed able to form a response. Darcy decided to change the subject. “Bingley I think I shall need to depart tomorrow and ride ahead of the rest of the party to complete business with my steward before you join me at Pemberley. Would you mind escorting Georgiana and the others?”
“It will be no trouble at all, Darcy,” replied Bingley. Darcy nodded his thanks to Bingley.
Miss Bingley looked downcast. “We shall be quite desolate to be deprived of your company during our journey, Mr. Darcy.”
Darcy looked at her with a neutral expression. He felt himself tiring of both her attentions and her way of speaking. He had to remind himself of his resolve to change his manner with people and be more attentive to their concerns. While he had no intention of gratifying Miss Bingley’s obvious hopes of securing his affections, he decided he must treat her with the respect she deserved, both as his friend’s sister and as a long time acquaintance.
He replied, “Thank you, Miss Bingley. I appreciate the compliment.”
Miss Bingley looked at Darcy in confused surprise at his restrained civility. She was accustomed to barbed responses to any direct statements that showed her regard for him.
Mrs. Hurst spoke, “Come, Caroline. We must prepare for dinner. Will you join us, Mr. Darcy?”
“No, thank you,” replied Darcy. “I have trespassed long enough. Georgiana will be waiting on me and I must prepare for my journey. I should be on my way.”
The sisters bid Darcy farewell as he left the room. Darcy was surprised when Bingley followed him to the foyer.
Bingley began awkwardly, “Darcy, regarding Georgiana…”
Darcy interrupted compassionately, “Bingley, do not trouble yourself. I understand that you regard her as a sister. My proposal is this: I will not take offense if your relationship with my sister does not extend beyond friendship… if you will accord me the same courtesy.”
Bingley chuckled ruefully, “Agreed.” The two men shook hands.
Darcy started to leave and then turned back to say, “I will look forward to seeing you at Pemberley in three days’ time, then. Good evening, Bingley.”
A Dream of a Day, Part IX, That Evening - Treasured Confidences
Georgiana Darcy glanced up from her book to see if her brother was still gazing into the fire. He had been doing so for at least a half hour, she thought. She set her book down, walked close by the fire and leaned down in an exaggerated manner to stare at it. Then she looked up into her brother’s questioning gaze, barely able to contain her desire to laugh.
“Whatever are you doing, Georgiana?” asked Darcy.
“I was only attempting to discover what holds such fascination for you in the flames. You have been staring at them for a full half hour,” came her amused reply.
Darcy smiled and gave a small chuckle, “I suppose I have. Pray forgive me, Georgiana. I have turned into a dreamer.”
Georgiana gracefully sank to the floor by the fire and looked up into her brother’s eyes, “And what do you dream of, brother? Will you tell me?”
Again he smiled, “We are all allowed some secrets.”
She replied thoughtfully, “Yes, we are allowed secrets. It is only that I hope that your secrets involve a woman who will be a charming sister for me and a loving companion for you.”
Darcy raised his eyebrows in surprise, “Georgiana! Whatever would give you such an idea?”
Not daring to meet his eyes, Georgiana looked into the flames. “Fitzwilliam, you seem… lonely. Worse, you seem somehow… sad… and you are very hard on yourself. I do not have the words… I only know that in my dreams you are happier than I see you now.” She turned back to look up at him.
He moved from his chair to sit beside her on the floor. “You are too good.”
She looked down, denial in her face. He nudged her shoulder with his own in a playful fashion.
She smiled at him again as he placed a kiss on her forehead. They sat leaning together and looking into the flames for some time before he spoke again, “There is a lady that I wish I could introduce to you. You would like her. She is lovely and intelligent and… well, charming, indeed. She shares your love of music. I have rarely heard anything that gave me so much pleasure as her playing and singing.” Again he looked into the flames, remembering.
Georgiana was exceedingly grateful whenever her brother talked to her with such directness. The times were rare, to be sure, and made such confidences even more precious to her. She replied quietly, “I should like to make her acquaintance very much.”
“I would be surprised to have the opportunity to ever introduce you,” he replied, suddenly tense. “Anyway, we should both retire for the evening. I am to depart early tomorrow for Pemberley, and you must make ready to follow on the next day.” He leapt up.
She took his helping hand and stood, looking uneasy as she said, “I wish that I could travel with you, Fitzwilliam.”
“I must tend to my business so that I can enjoy the time with you at Pemberley,” he said, chucking her on the chin. “The Bingleys will take good care of you, dearest.” Offering her his arm, he led her out of the room and toward the stairs.
“I think that Miss Bingley is very… sharp sometimes. I am not comfortable with her,” confessed Georgiana.
Darcy smiled understandingly. “I find her so sometimes, too. But do not be troubled. She has only praise and affection for you.”
“I sometimes wonder at the sincerity of her praise and affection,” replied Georgiana with a slight blush.
“Do not be embarrassed, dearest. I understand your feelings. Though she is harmless, Miss Bingley becomes caught up in her own concerns and manipulations. Know that you are worthy of such praise even if she does not always bestow it on you with sincerity. If she is insincere it is a defect of her own character, not yours,” Darcy replied. He stopped at her door. “I am sorry that I cannot offer you better companions at present. You deserve the charming sister you so wish for.”
Georgiana looked up into his eyes, noting that the sadness had returned. She kissed him on the cheek as he left her. She said, “Good night, brother. Sweet dreams.”
He looked back at her and smiled wistfully, “The same to you, Georgiana.”
A Dream of a Day, Part X, Darcy Arrives at Pemberley
Darcy pulled up short on his horse’s reins as Pemberley came into view. Throughout his ride home his thoughts had returned repeatedly to his dreams of meeting Elizabeth Bennet at Pemberley. Seeing the house and knowing that she would never be there was very disheartening.
The day was warm. Darcy was hot and tired from his ride. The sun sparkled on the surface of the pond. The day seemed too lovely for his dark melancholy. Hopeless of any reason outside of his day dreams to be mindful of his appearance, Darcy decided he would take a swim.
As he untied his cravat, he grimaced, thinking that what would ordinarily be somewhat unseemly behavior for him was the right thing for him to do today. He needed to come face to face with reality, to wake himself from dreams. This decided, he dove in. He sliced through the dark- feeling the cool, soothing water tingle all over his body.
Some time later, he walked up the hill away from the pond. The swim had refreshed him and cleared his head a bit, he thought. He allowed the stable hand to take his mount. Carrying his hat and coat, he walked past the trees down through the wildflowers toward the house… and stopped in disbelief at the sight which greeted him.
A Dream of a Day, Part XI, Dreams and Reality Meet…
Elizabeth Bennet, looking startled and uncomfortable, stammered, “M- Mr. Darcy!”
“Miss Bennet!” he exclaimed. He felt the deepest shock as reality and unreality collided in this one moment.
Darcy looked past her, fully expecting to find her accompanied by her sister as she had been in his dreams. Some distance off he noticed an older couple, perhaps the properly chaperoning aunt and uncle he’d imagined his servant seeking?
Returning his attention to Elizabeth, he saw her penetrating gaze take in his disheveled condition. As he felt water trickle down his legs into his boots, he struggled for composure. He hardly knew what he was saying in the next few moments.
He began to realize that she seemed concerned over what he thought of her for being at Pemberley. He did his best to assure her that her concerns were unfounded. What he really wanted to say was that he thought it was simply wonderful that she was there… that it was as a dream, come true. Unfortunately, the circumstances of this meeting kept him at a distinct disadvantage.
Meeting her whilst he was standing about in wet undergarments was not what he had had in mind! He wished to show her that he had improved. Instead he felt ridiculous.
A small chuckle from Elizabeth made him realize that he was repeating his inquiries about the health of her parents. She had recovered her equanimity with admirable speed. He found himself entirely unable to conduct himself as he should. He decided that he must flee inside the house and make himself presentable before he did anymore damage to her opinion of him. He excused himself.
He was striding away from her as quickly as possible (without being seen to run by her or her companions) before he realized that he had not met her companions. He had not greeted her properly at all. His heart was pounding hard indeed, first with the dreadful thudding of a heart full of self-recrimination, then with exertion as he left sight of Elizabeth and her company and began to sprint to his chamber in earnest.
Past what seemed like scores of surprised servants, Darcy fairly flew to his chamber. Once there, he shed the wet clothing as quickly as possible, calling to a servant to bring him a new outfit.
The servant, Mr. Billings, asked, “Does the master have a preference of color or style?” Billings turned toward Darcy and jumped out of the way as a button flew at him from the shirt that Darcy was ripping from his body.
Darcy replied hurriedly, “My only preference is that the clothing be dry and that I be properly dressed within two minutes. Quick, man! There is no time to lose. If she leaves now, before I can make amends, I will not be able to withstand it.”
Billings was one of many servants whose family had served the Darcys for generations. He was a man of good sense. Though he had no idea of what his master was speaking, he knew Darcy well enough to see clearly that it was a matter of some urgency. Therefore, he rushed to assist his master.
He followed Darcy all the way to the outside door, buttoning and adjusting all the while. At the door, Darcy paused briefly to smile at him, laying a hand on his arm. “Thank you, Billings. I’ll try not to disgrace your efforts. Thank you. That will be all.”
Billings watched Darcy stride across the courtyard, still buttoning his jacket. He let out a loud sigh of relief as Darcy reached the carriage before it could depart. Mrs. Reynolds came up beside Billings and watched with him. “Have you ever seen the Master in such a state before, Mrs. Reynolds?” queried Billings.
The housekeeper replied, “I do not believe that I have, Mr. Billings. Isn’t it wonderful?” They laughed quietly together.
A Dream of a Day, Part XII, Darcy Greets His Guests Properly…
Buttoning the last button on his jacket, Darcy pulled down on the front to smooth the lines. He did his best to slow his breathing and gain control of his emotions. He was completely focused on the need to greet Elizabeth and her companions properly.
He caught up to Elizabeth just as she was about to get to the carriage. “Miss Bennet!” he called. “I apologize for not receiving you properly just now. You were not leaving?”
She seemed discomfited and looked down to the ground. “We were, Sir. I think we must.”
Hoping to move the conversation to safe ground, he asked, “You are not displeased with Pemberley?”
“No, not at all,” was her embarrassed reply.
He maintained his idea of keeping the conversation safe and neutral, but could not resist some allusion to what they were both thinking as he continued, “Then you approve of it?”
“Very much. I think there are few who would not approve of it,” she said.
He smiled, “But your good opinion is rarely bestowed and therefore more worth the earning.”
Elizabeth was unable to look at him as she thanked him. He realized that he must wait until she was more comfortable with him to allude any further to their past. He also remembered his duty as host. He turned to look towards her companions, “Would you do me the honor of introducing me to your friends?”
Her reply removed his guilt at having made her uncomfortable with allusions to their past.
“Certainly. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Gardiner, Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Gardiner is my aunt, Mr. Darcy. My sister Jane stayed at their house in Cheapside when she was lately in London.”
He was painfully aware of why she mentioned Jane and thought that, furthermore, her emphasis on the word Cheapside was expected to drive him away from her companions. But Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner seemed very respectable and intelligent to him. He worked desperately to engage their good opinion, referring to Mrs. Gardiner’s childhood home in sentimental terms and drawing on Mr. Gardiner’s interest in fishing. The latter gave him the means to move the party away from their carriage.
He offered to point out some of the best fishing places to the gentleman immediately. Mr. Gardiner indulged him in a bemused way that showed him to be of even greater sense than Darcy had first estimated. They walked towards the water, conversing. Darcy did not even allow himself to look back towards the ladies; he was so concentrated on securing Mr. Gardiner’s regard.
When Mrs. Gardiner smilingly walked between them and took her husband’s arm, Darcy turned to look at their niece. Elizabeth was turned toward the house. He walked up to her and asked her if she would take a turn with him.
He felt as though they were making the new beginning of which he had dreamed. This time, he would behave correctly. He caught himself fidgeting nervously with his pinkie ring. He started to speak and she did the same. He encouraged her to continue. She again indicated that they had not expected him to be home.
He struggled to think of a reply as she said, “We wouldn’t have dreamt of invading your privacy.” He found her choice of wording highly ironic. It was exactly what he had dreamt. He was still amazed at his good fortune in finding her here.
He did his best to put her at ease, by mentioning that he had ridden ahead of the party. Then, he realized he should be more specific about the members of the party. He said, “Among them are some who claim an acquaintance with you- Mr. Bingley and his sisters.” He felt great pain at her short acknowledgment. He redoubled his resolve to make amends to both Bingley and Jane Bennet as soon as he possibly could.
He changed the subject and carefully inquired about the possibility of introducing Georgiana to her. She seemed to relax some at this. She even seemed pleased by the request. The next several minutes were among the most joy-filled of Darcy’s life.
He and Elizabeth talked as friendly acquaintances, both tentative and careful of the other’s feelings. He could see that she accepted his attention as a compliment. For the first time since they’d met, he saw a beautiful shyness in her manner that took his breath away.
She seemed to have some difficulty in meeting his gaze. He took advantage of this to adoringly drink in her features. The sun lit the soft fabric of her gown, teasingly lighting the figure beneath. The breeze carried the lightest scent of lavender from her. The exercise gave a radiant rose glow to her cheeks. Her eyes, in the rare moments she allowed him to observe them, sparkled with vibrancy and wit. All in all, he decided that his dreams had not done her justice.
A hummingbird appeared beside the stream to take a drink from a tall flower. From their position facing the sun, they saw the creature in shadow, fluttering delicately. Elizabeth gasped, “Beautiful!” in appreciation. He stared at her. She met his penetrating gaze and quickly looked away, blushing.
He was filled with longings and desires. Much as he might dream that in the future he could examine Elizabeth’s beauty much more closely, for now he was reluctantly appreciative of the careful protection of her aunt and uncle.
Once or twice he glanced back to see the pleased expressions of her chaperones. While they seemed to approve of his affection for their niece, they did nothing to promote it beyond allowing him some measure of private conversation with her. His respect for their sensibility increased with each moment.
All too quickly, Elizabeth and her party had to depart due to a previous engagement. Darcy took the opportunity to hand the ladies into the carriage. Gently, he assisted Elizabeth. The touch of her gloved hand warmed him through. He bid each member of the party farewell, “Good Day, Mr. Gardiner, Mrs. Gardiner, Good Day, Miss Bennet.”
“I hope we shall meet again very soon,” Darcy said, very sincerely. He looked after the departing carriage longingly, when Elizabeth turned to look back to him. The interest and approving measurement in her look cut deeply into his heart. His return gaze contained all of his hopes and ardent affection.
After the carriage was out of sight, Darcy turned slowly to go into the house. He reflected on his unusual day. For so long he had dreamed of this day. Now his dream had come true. Though she had not said as much in words, he knew that Elizabeth saw that he was a changed man. He had real hope for the first time in many months. Truly, that reality far exceeded any dream.