Author's note: For many days I have been reading all your stories (and that was fun!). About a year ago I posted this one on BoI at Pemberley, but I couldn't find it anymore, so I decided to post it again after making some alterations to it. Lise hinted me to post it here as well! Hope you all enjoy it!
Elizabeth was standing in the painting gallery of Pemberley and watched the portrait of Mr. Darcy. She felt puzzled and could hardly make out her own feelings after the good reports Mrs. Reynolds had given of her master. Her opinion of him had changed gradually since she had read his letter. Now she was standing here and began to understand that he could be the man she needed. But she knew it was very unlikely that it would happen after all she had said to him that terrible evening at Hunsford. Furthermore, she would probably never see him again. She had made sure he wasn't at Pemberley before she agreed to see the house and its beautiful grounds.
A few moments later she went downstairs to meet her aunt and uncle again and they all decided to take a long walk in the park. It really was beautiful and Elizabeth enjoyed herself very much. To think that she could have lived here, if only she had not been so prejudiced. But all that was in the past now, she knew. Besides, though Mr. Darcy had not been to blame in his actions with Wickham, he was proud and arrogant. Still, Elizabeth thought, she could have lived with it and, perhaps, he could have learned to be less aloof and be more gentle. She started when she heard her aunt speak: "Lizzy, Lizzy, wake up! What were you thinking of? I have been trying to get your attention now for a few minutes. It is time to leave and return to Lambton."
Before they departed, they took their leave and thanked Mrs. Reynolds who had a request. "Would you be so kind to write your names in our guest book?" Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner obliged happily. Elizabeth hesitated, but saw no way to refuse and signed as well.
The following day a carriage accompanied by men on horses drove up the lane to Pemberley. The family came home for the summer. Mr. Darcy was glad to be back again. Maybe here he would be able to forget Elizabeth, he sure had not been able to in London. On the way over here, they had passed Hertfordshire and he had felt drawn to it. Had things worked out differently in Hunsford in April, maybe he and his wife would have visited her parents.
Oh yes, this is really the perfect way to forget her, dreaming of something that will never happen. I came here to forget her, remember!
Georgiana watched her brother. What was the matter with him, she could not make him out these past few months since he had returned from Rosings. But she was sure something was wrong. She only wished he would open up to her and that she could help him.
She looked around her to the party that joined them. Mr. Bingley was nice, her brother's best friend and a real gentleman, but his sisters! At first she had thought they were quite friendly, but then she found out they could only talk about fashion and society. Their favourite subject was men, rich men. She sensed that Miss Bingley had set out for her brother and she could only hope that she would not succeed.
As soon as everyone was settled Mr. Darcy took his sister to see Mrs. Reynolds and discuss their plans for the next weeks and to hear what had happened during their absence. She told them about what had been going on in the lives of their tenants and many other things, and ended in saying: "We had some visitors from London yesterday. A very nice family indeed, a very nice couple in their forties with their niece. No, she wasn't from London, if I remember correctly she was from Hereford.. no it was Hertfordshire. They mentioned you were acquainted with her, sir....Sir?"
Both she and Georgiana started when they saw Mr. Darcy turn pale. "Yesterday? From Hertfordshire, you say? What was her name?" Mrs. Reynolds could hardly speak. Never before she had seen her master in such a state. "I don't recall, sir. But they signed the guest book before they left...I am sorry to have permitted them to see ...Was I wrong in letting them..." She could not speak another word.
"No, my dear Mrs. Reynolds. Tell me where I can find the guest book." When Mrs. Reynolds had told him, he ran off.
"Miss Georgiana, what did I say that was wrong? I don't understand why he..?" "I don't know, Mrs. Reynolds, but I intend to find out. What else do you remember about their visit? Did they tell you where they are staying or were they just passing by?"
"I really don't know, but I remember the woman mentioning that she grew up in the neighbourhood," Mrs. Reynolds answered.
"Thank you for telling me, I must go to my brother now," and Georgiana ran away after him.
She found him in his room, sitting on the bed with his head in his hands. The guest book was lying on the pillow.
"What is the matter Fitzwilliam, please talk to me. Why were you so shocked? Who are those people? Does it have anything to do with your behaviour these last months?"
He looked up to her and just said: "I can't tell you, Georgiana. You are my little sister. I can't tell you this."
"I know you are more than ten years my senior, but I am not a little girl anymore. I have always looked up to you, even more since...," she stopped.
"But I must tell you something. These last months you have been behaving so strangely, that it made me sick worrying about you. I always confided in you, now it's time you confide in me! Let me think: three people visiting Pemberley. I am not stupid, you know. This must have something to do with the younger girl, since I can't imagine you falling in love with a woman in her forties. Are you in love, William? A simple yes will do...", she smiled.
"Okay, yes it is then. I met her a long time ago and I fell in love with her before I knew it. I tried to forget her, but I can't."
Georgiana sat down beside him and begged him to tell her everything. And so he did, he told her everything about Hertfordshire, Hunsford and his proposal to Elizabeth. He told her about her refusal in so harsh words, that he had been angry with her, but that he had come to his senses and knew that he had treated her abominably. He told her that he still loved her, even more since. He told her that he had come to Pemberley hoping that he would forget her. But he had also prayed he would see her again so that he could show her he had changed. Why could he not have come a day earlier? He loved her so much. He spoke on and on. Now that he had begun he could not stop.
Georgiana listened. It hurt her so much to see him in this state. Something must be done, she thought. He must have a chance. And a plan came to her.
Mrs. Gardiner had visited one of her old friends today and had returned with a invitation to a small party for this evening. Her friend, a Mrs. Parker, was well educated and had married well. Her husband was the steward of Pemberley and they lived in a lovely cottage in the park. Mrs. Gardiner was very happy to see her again and had accepted the invitation immediately. Mr. and Mrs. Parker were both good people and it would be a very nice evening.
Besides Elizabeth could certainly use the distraction. All day she had been thinking about her visit to Pemberley. However, she was not very pleased that the Parkers lived so near it.
When they arrived they were surprised to see more people than they had expected and they were introduced to the others guest.
Mrs. Parker moved to Elizabeth with a young girl.
"Miss Bennet, I would like you to meet Miss Darcy. She lives here at Pemberley, at least some part of the year. She always comes here on the evening of her first day at Pemberley. She used to play with my daughters, but they are married now. How very fortunate that there is another young woman here now, so you won't be stuck with some older people this evening." Laughing about her own words, she left them together.
Elizabeth watched her anxiously. She wasn't arrogant at all, perhaps a bit shy. Nothing that Wickham had told about her seemed true. Everything she saw and heard of Georgiana Darcy pleased her a lot.
Georgiana on her part paid much attention to Elizabeth. She was pretty, perhaps not a striking beauty, but very pretty. And what her brother told of her eyes really was true. They were lively and seemed to see everything.
She overcame her shyness - (something has to be done!) and sat by her. "Miss Bennet, how do you like Derbyshire so far. It must be different from Hertfordshire."
"I really do love Derbyshire, Miss Darcy, and it's true, it's very different from where I come from. It's wilder than at home and I can't compare the peeks to anything I have ever seen. I am really enjoying myself."
This was certainly going the right direction.
"I understand from Mrs. Parker you are from Hertfordshire yourself. Do you happen to know Mr. Bingley? Or maybe even my brother? They have spent some months there last winter in Mr. Bingley's house. I heard they had a very good time there."
Don't overdo it Georgiana.
Lizzy blushed and could hardly compose herself, but she managed to reply. "Yes, I know Mr. Bingley and .... your brother. We have met them several times."
They talked more for a while, Georgiana most of the time praising her brother, both contented with each other, both trying to find out what the other knew, and both careful no to say too much.
The door of the library opened.
"Fitzwilliam, I am sorry to intrude on your business, but there is something you should know. Last night I went to see the Parkers as I usually do, and can you image who was there?"
"No, Georgiana, but I am sure you are going to tell me anyway. Go on then, I have a lot of work to do," Darcy replied. He felt sorry that he told Georgiana everything. Her knowing everything about Elizabeth, made it even harder to forget her.
"Elizabeth Bennet!" Georgiana said. "I met Elizabeth Bennet! Her aunt is an old friend of Mrs. Parker's and they were there... Did you hear me, brother?"
"Yes, I heard you", but then Darcy remained silent.
Could this be his second chance? She was still here, she was still here. Would he be able to meet her again and show her a new Darcy? Oh, my dearest Elizabeth, will I see you again?
"Fitzwilliam, are you still with me? Miss Bennet is really nice, so easy and open. And her aunt and uncle are such friendly people, she reminds me a bit of mother... We played the pianoforte last night and Elizabeth plays really well. We had a very good time. They are staying at the Inn at Lambton...Did you hear me?"
"Oh yes, I heard you. Sorry, but my mind was elsewhere. At the Inn at Lambton. Did you really like her, Georgiana? She is beautiful, don't you think? I think we must pay her and her aunt and uncle a visit, don't you? It would be a slight if we don't. Shall we take Bingley with us? You have really grown up Georgiana, this can't all be a coincidence. But stop interfering now, I will have to take the next step myself, if you please."
Why can't I speak normal English anymore, just short sentences.
He watched his sister. She just smiled.
Lizzy had woken up this morning after a restless night. These last days had been very confusing. Her own emotions watching the painting of Mr. Darcy at Pemberley, Mrs. Reynolds (who had known him all her life!) speaking so highly of him and finally, last night, Georgiana Darcy praising her brother to the skies. It almost looked like a conspiracy to make her love him.
She turned around in her bed. She felt warm inside, thinking about him. It seemed there was no escape now to see him again. Georgiana had insisted that they would meet again...
But how would it be to see him again?
"Lizzy, get out now!" "Yes aunt, I will." She got out, took a bath and got dressed. At breakfast she didn't say much, but dreamed on. She woke up by a knock on the door. The inn's maid entered, told them they had visitor's and was allowed to show them in.
There he was, Mr. Darcy, right before her. "Miss Bennet, I am very happy to see you again. How are you, how is your family, are they in good health?" "Yes sir," she looked at him, but saw only politeness and kindness in his dark eyes, no arrogance at all, "we are all in excellent health."
She did not know what else to say, she could only stare at him. He seemed to have the same problem.
"These are your aunt and uncle I presume?" "I'm sorry, yes, may I introduce you to them."
The introduction was made and a silence fell upon them. Fortunately, Bingley came in, unaware of the tension between them and it was obvious he wanted to speak to Elizabeth. Darcy went over to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner and they seemed to be getting along just fine.
Bingley asked if "all her sisters were still at Longbourn?" and Lizzy could ease his mind on that. It was obvious that he still had an eye for her sister, because he seemed to be much relieved to know that none of her sisters had any plans of marrying soon.
Lizzy was much surprised when she heard Mr. Darcy invite her uncle to Pemberley for a small fishing expedition. "I do not take no for an answer."
So he doesn't think them beneath him anymore, what a change! Is it true then? Could he really have changed this much?
She heard her uncle agree to join them immediately in their return to Pemberley.
"Miss Bennet, Miss Bennet."
"Oh, Miss Darcy, I am sorry. I must have been...." Now she finally saw Miss Darcy.
"It doesn't matter, I just wanted to invite you and Mrs. Gardiner to come to Pemberley today as well, now that we have deprived you of your uncle. We already planned to come along and have lunch together. I and my brother would be very pleased if you came as well. Unless you have other plans of course."
Lizzy watched her aunt and her eyes begged her to consent. "We would love to come, Miss Darcy," Mrs. Gardiner replied.
Mr. Darcy's face expressed mere happiness. "We already hoped you would be joining us today, so we came in two carriages."
Lizzy sat at the side of the famous trout stream. It was a warm day and she felt like she was dreaming. This couldn't be the same Mr. Darcy she met in Hertfordshire or Hunsford. He had undergone a complete transformation. He was kind to her aunt and uncle, it seemed he had forgotten all about her behaviour and hard words in Hunsford. He was a true gentleman. She could not stop watching him standing beside Mr. Bingley and her uncle in the water. He looked so good. He seemed very much at ease and enjoying himself. She had never heard him laugh so much. Well, it really became him. And she had the time of her life.
While Lizzy was secretly watching Mr. Darcy, she didn't notice she was being watched herself. And by more than one person. Mrs. Gardiner couldn't believe what she was seeing. It was very clear that Mr. Darcy admired her niece and she could easily believe that, Lizzy looked remarkably well today. But she did not understand why Lizzy had been so severe and hard on him. Mr. Darcy wasn't at all what she had thought before she met him. He was very much the opposite. And Mrs. Gardiner saw the same disbelief in her niece. She wondered what had passed between them, it was clear that they knew each other better than Lizzy had claimed.
Georgiana was quite satisfied with the progress so far. She saw her brother was happy just being near Miss Bennet, and it seemed that whatever had going on in the past was different now. She saw Elizabeth watching her brother with an expression on her face that easily could be called love, at least amazement. Yes, everything was going well so far.
She started, they had all completely forgotten about Mr. Hurst and Bingley's sisters. Well, she knew this was quite inappropriate but they must be forgotten for the rest of the day. She rose to her feet and walked to Elizabeth.
Mr. Darcy was standing in the water and watched his sister and his beloved together. This could not have been better. They seemed to be getting along fine. Georgiana had quite surprised him by her actions. He was sure she organised this all, by simply trapping them into a situation. He didn't mind, at the first opportunity he would hug and kiss her out of gratitude: his grown-up sister. She really had overcome her shyness.
After lunch they all sat on the bank of the stream. It had been an excellent lunch: fresh fruits, lovely sandwiches and a light white wine to go with it. Lizzy felt a bit languid and layed down on the blanket. Before she knew it she fell asleep.
The rest of the party saw it happen and decided they would go for a walk to keep awake.
"Someone has to stay here to watch over her, someone has to be here when she wakes up" Georgiana said.
"I'll stay, I don't feel like walking now," Mr. Darcy said.
He put up a sunshade over her to screen her from the sun and put a small pillow under her head. He touched her hair and felt a pain inside.
God, I must control myself. She is here, but she is not mine. Yet, she looks so good, so soft and she is so close. But I must give her no reason to despise me again. It's a miracle so far that she stand to be near me.
He moved a bit away from her and layed down on the ground himself. But he couldn't take his eyes from her while he fell asleep by her side.
When Elizabeth woke up, the first thing, or rather person, she saw was him. Even though they had scarcely said a word directly to one another, she knew that a lot had changed between them. Never had she felt so at ease with him, never had she felt so attracted to him. She felt she could really love him. She saw him open his eyes and stare into hers. He smiled.
"Did you sleep well?" "Yes, very well, thank you. There's nothing like sleeping in the open. When I was a child I used to do it often to escape the noise of five girls at home." "I can't say I am surprised, Miss Bennet. I can see it clearly before me: walking and walking and then fall asleep wherever you are."
Her face expressed amazement. He is teasing her. - I am teasing her. They both laughed.
"Do you care for a walk, Miss Bennet?" "I would be delighted, sir". He helped her to rise on her feet and led the way in the opposite direction from where the rest of the party had gone. (She never asked where they were.)
Walking side by side, Elizabeth told him how much she was pleased with the acquaintance of his sister. "She is a very friendly girl. But she is not as shy as I had heard."
You see, I don't believe a word Wickham said, not any more.
"No, I was amazed by her easiness with you. You must be a good influence on her, for I never saw her so open to anyone before."
"How is your sister Jane doing? Did she not want to come with you and your aunt and uncle for this trip. She would have been very welcome too."
Please understand that I feel ashamed of my behaviour towards her and Bingley.
Talking was, for the first time during their acquaintance, very easy.
After half an hour of walking and talking, they arrived at a beautiful lake. "Would you mind if we sat down for a while, sir? My feet are hurting a little and I would like to cool them in the water.." "Of course we sit down. Though I must say I think it is a victory having out-walked such an excellent walker as yourself," he replied. "Oh, we have not stopped walking yet, sir!," Lizzy laughed.
She sat down and took off her shoes. Holding up her dress she jumped into the water and let her feet cool off. Mr. Darcy sat down and watched her with a big smile on his face. "Are you afraid of getting wet or even drown, Mr. Darcy?" she provoked him. "Me? Afraid?" and he followed her into the lake. Well, he was afraid to drown, to drown in her laughing, teasing eyes.
After a few minutes of joy, they looked at each other and decided they had better get out and return to the rest, before they would start to wonder where they were.
He handed her his arm and helped her out. Her feet slipped away however and he had to grab her waist to hold her from falling back into the water. He held her in his arms for a moment and then put her safely back on her feet. He could barely avoid holding her again and kissing her, but he managed. Had he only known what Elizabeth thought of it... She wished that moment in his arms would last forever.
After putting on their shoes, he chivalrously offered his arm to her, which she accepted with a smile, and they returned to the trout stream.
When they returned, it was clear that they had been missed, but no one asked anything.
Mr Darcy took Georgiana apart and asked her to help him inviting the Gardiners and Miss Bennet for dinner that evening. And so Georgiana did. They all agreed they would be back for dinner.
"No, he has changed very much since I last saw him. Very much. I wonder what could have brought on such a transformation."
"Do you?" Mrs. Gardiner replied. Lizzy did not answer, but only looked at her aunt with a questioning face.
In the Inn they all hurried to get ready for their second visit of the day to Pemberley. Lizzy, however, found a little time to sit down and think.
What is happening to me? I feel so strange, I feel like I have a temperature where I am sure I have not. I still see his face before me. He teased me, I teased him and we had such a good time together. He is handsome, that is certain. Why did I not see that before or why did I not want to see that. I have been blinded by prejudice all this time. But now, I must not be blinded by what's happened today. He can not be still in love with me, that is impossible. All the things I said... I do not understand how he can be so nice to me today, but I am very grateful for it.
Meanwhile at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy sat in his library while the household was preparing a perfect dinner. After returning to the house, they had found Miss Bingley and Mrs. and Mr. Hurst. They had been quite upset, especially Miss Bingley. They had reason to be upset, but she had become almost aggressive when hearing that Miss Bennet and her aunt and uncle would come to dinner that evening.
"I think you have fulfilled your duties as the master of this house enough now. There was no need inviting them over again this evening. I do not understand the power she and her so-called fine eyes have over you, Mr. Darcy," she almost shouted hysterically.
Mr. Bingley got angry and told her that was quite enough. "I am your brother and I tell you here and now that if you can't behave properly, there is only one solution: that you go back home!" Reluctantly Miss Bingley came to her senses and apologised to Mr. Darcy.
Now he was alone in his library, thinking about this beautiful day.
I love her so much. How could I ever have thought that I could forget her? It would have been impossible to forget her, her eyes, her laughter. Will she think better of me now? I hope she does, it seemed so today. She teased me, I was even able to return it. Fortunately I could resist kissing her at the lake, though it was so hard. For one moment I felt she would not have stopped me, but I could not risk it. Oh, I was almost drowning in her eyes. They were so full of life. And it was so typical for her to go into the water and have fun. I won't ever let her go again.
Georgiana and Mr. Darcy were ready to receive their guests. An excellent dinner was being prepared, a fire was lit in the dining room and in the music room. Everything was perfect. Soon, the sound of a carriage coming up the lane was heard.
Mr. and Miss Darcy went to the door to welcome their guests. He helped Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner out and then Miss Bennet. Georgiana led the first two into the house and he took it on himself to escort his beloved. She looked even prettier than today. Her cheeks were still rosy by the sun and he could hardly resist touching them. She looked up to him with a shy, but lovely, smile and made a joke about coming here twice on one day.
Inside the house, they were welcomed by Mr. Bingley, Miss Bingley and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst. Warmly by the first, politely by the others, that is to say.
After a drink, Mr. Darcy asked the Gardiners and Miss Bennet if they would like a tour around the house, this time as friends and guests and not as just visitors. Of course they didn't refuse. Mr. Darcy monopolised Elizabeth again and Georgiana took it upon her to walk with her aunt and uncle. Now they visited the more private rooms and the beautiful library. Elizabeth felt overwhelmed, not only with the magnificence of the house but mostly with his behaviour to her. He felt happy.
After an excellent dinner, the ladies went to the music room and had their coffee. The men followed not long after them. Georgiana did not forget Elizabeth's promise to play for them and led her to the instrument. Together they look for a suitable piece to play and when Elizabeth began, Mr. Darcy sat back in his chair and watched and listened. She had picked one of his favourite pieces and he was sure Georgiana had led her to it. He did not mind at all.
After Elizabeth's playing, she persuaded Georgiana to play and sing and went back to her seat. Before she had got there, Miss Bingley (who had behaved so well so far) stopped her and asked: "Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the ---shire militia removed from Meryton? They must be a great loss to your family, especially one gentleman."
Lizzy saw Georgiana start and said: "I don't know what you mean. Oh, Miss Darcy, I'm sorry I neglected you. How can you play with no one to turn the pages."
Mr. Darcy rose back into his seat, relieved. How well and easily she had handled that incident. He on the other hand did not know how to handle that other 'lady' and her insinuations.
The evening came soon to an end.
The following morning during breakfast the mail was delivered at the Inn. Most of it was good news from Longbourn about the Gardiner's children - mama finds them very tiring, but they are really sweet children, Jane wrote - and some business letters for Mr. Gardiner.
But there was one envelope with the seal of Pemberley addressed to all three of them. It was an invitation from Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Georgiana Darcy to a summer ball that was to take place at Pemberley in one week from now. Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner were very excited after reading it, but then they remembered that they had planned to leave Lambton in a few days and continue their journey, so they wouldn't even be here.
They both looked very disappointed, but on seeing their expressions Mr. Gardiner told them that there must be a solution to it. So they decided to change their original plan and they agreed to leave Lambton a day earlier than they had planned and shorten their journey with a few days as well, so that they would return in time for the ball.
'Maybe this is for the best, ' Lizzy thought, 'maybe it is better to have a few days alone with my aunt and uncle and have the opportunity to think. I have to make out what is going on inside me. My opinion of Mr. Darcy has certainly improved, I can't stop thinking of him. But I must try not to fall desperately in love with him now. Or have I already? It would be fate indeed if I loved him now while he has stopped loving me. I need time to think. Oh I wished my dear Jane was here to talk to. Maybe I should speak with my aunt about it.'
Mr. Gardiner had already begun writing a letter to Mr. Darcy and his sister to accept the invitation and to inform them of their plans. But he did not have to finish it, since Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley arrived at the Inn. Mr. Darcy seemed very pleased about their wish to attend to the ball and said: "We came here with yet another invitation. With the ball coming up, the ladies expressed a wish to go shopping in Derby. I really can not understand why, since I have seen all the trunks they brought with them. But we must oblige them, I suppose. And, besides that, Derby is a nice town."
This invitation was accepted as well and so they took off. They picked up the rest of the party at Pemberley and travelled to Derby. Mr. Darcy shared his carriage with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Mr. and Mrs. Hurst took Miss Bingley in theirs and Lizzy was in the company of Mr. Bingley and Miss Darcy. She was glad to be able to speak with Mr. Bingley and was happy to hear that he was only interested in talking about Hertfordshire and the good time he had there. Whenever she dropped Jane's name he seemed to listen even better.
When they arrived in Derby the women soon took their leave and went off by themselves. Mrs. Gardiner knew a very nice shop that had beautiful gowns and they decided they would go there. Or at least she, Lizzy and Georgiana did. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst preferred to go to a 'well-known' tailor with 'an outstanding reputation'.
The shopkeeper recognised Mrs. Gardiner and helped them very well. Lizzy saw a beautiful gown of a stunning simplicity. It had a lovely champagne colour and the material was soft and shiny. Mrs. Gardiner saw her looking at it and decided to buy it for her as a gift. It had to be altered a little, but the shopkeeper promised to deliver it in time at the Inn. Then they both helped Georgiana to choose a dress which suited her perfectly. Georgiana was very anxious for her first ball.
They all met again at the inn where they had left the carriages and returned home. During the day Elizabeth had not had a chance to speak with Mr. Darcy, but she had often felt his eyes on her.
'So I will not be seeing her for a few days,' Mr. Darcy thought. He knew that Elizabeth and her friends had left Lambton this morning and he could not wait until they returned.
Mr Bingley's company is alright, but how must I endure his sisters. They rattle on and on and I can see even Georgiana can't stand them any longer. I thought these past months felt like ages, but these days that are to come... When will they come to an end? I longed to see her and now I let her go away again. When she returns I must act or else....
Lizzy saw Lambton getting smaller and smaller. Going away, even if it was for a few days, wasn't as easy as she had thought it would be. Mrs. Gardiner was observing her
What could be more simple. He loves her and she loves him. Why does it take so long for them to find out? What has happened between them that they are both so cautious?
She intended to find out soon.
And so she did. One evening she asked Lizzy out for a walk, just the two of them. Lizzy did not say much at first and just answered, absent-minded, in short sentences. "Yes, it is beautiful here." "Yes, I like Derbyshire." "Yes, Miss Darcy is very amiable and so is..." There was no stopping it now. For one moment she looked at her aunt with an expression of despair on her face without saying anything. Then she burst down in tears and told her aunt the whole story.
"....and now, I don't understand my own feelings. He has changed so much. At Hunsford he made it very clear that he looked down on my family and friends, but now he is perfectly amiable towards you and Mr. Gardiner. I have never seen him like this. If only for that, I must love him. Yes, I do love him. I am sure of that now. But I have hurt him so much, maybe he has forgiven me, but can he still love me? No, impossible!"
Mrs. Gardiner was quite taken by all her niece had said. So they had a past together, that was clear enough to her now. But this, she had not expected something like this at all. She knew that Mr. Darcy had lowered himself in proposing to her niece. And she knew that he knew that as well. Maybe she could not agree with this look upon things, but English society would certainly look upon such a marriage that way. And then, to propose and be refused with such words. It would make a second proposal very difficult indeed.
But none of what she was thinking she told Lizzy. She just tried to comfort her.
The Gardiners and Elizabeth spent a few lovely days on their journey through Derbyshire. They visited grand houses, parks, the Peeks and made long walks through the countryside. Lizzy felt much relieved after telling everything to her aunt. At least, she had someone to talk to if she wanted to and someone who could understand her changing moods. She was thinking a great deal about Pemberley and its owner. Sometimes she wished they would return soon, sometimes she got scared and wished they would never return.
Two days before the ball was to take place, they returned to Lambton where they were welcomed warmly by the innkeeper. During their absence their gowns had been delivered and Elizabeth was very excited to see how beautiful they had become. Just two more nights and then...She was really looking forward to it.
During their journey everyone at Pemberley had been very busy with the preparations for the ball. Mr. Darcy wanted everything to be perfect. He made sure that he or Georgiana checked every arrangement, but besides that he had not been very good company. Most of the time he was absent-minded and retired to the library. Georgiana could clearly understand why and even Mr. Bingley began to suspect something after observing his friend closely.
The Gardiners were going to visit some friends today, but Lizzy decided to stay at the inn to write some letters to Longbourn and Charlotte. She wanted to her save all her energy for the night.
At the end of the day she dressed with more than usual care and the result was she had never looked better. The gown was perfect and she almost felt like a princess wearing it. Mrs. Gardiner felt very proud looking at her.
Darcy at once recognised the carriage he had been waiting for among the ones that were arriving at Pemberley and he made sure that he and Georgiana were ready to welcome their 'guests of honour' themselves.
"Miss Bennet, I am very happy to welcome you at Pemberley again," he said, while he was not able to keep his eyes off her, "and I sincerely hope you will do me the honour of dancing at least the two first dances with me."
"I would be very happy to oblige, sir," Lizzy replied and felt very happy. This was a very good beginning of the evening indeed.
Georgiana welcomed her very warmly and really seemed happy to see her. "Oh Elizabeth, it is very good to see you. Are you as excited as I am? It is my first ball and I am feeling quite nervous about it."
"There is no need for that at all, you look really beautiful and many men will show an eagerness to dance with you. And besides, you do have one advantage over me: you know almost everyone here, while I know none. You are the one that must help me."
"Well, we have to help each other then," Georgiana said. "But to make sure this evening will be a success, my brother and I called in some extra help. Someone you know very well! You better look behind you, there is another carriage coming up."
Puzzled Elizabeth looked in the direction Georgiana had pointed out. An unfamiliar carriage approached them, stopped and a doorman opened it. For a moment she gasped for air, but then ran to the person that had just stepped out and embraced her.
"Jane, I can't believe it. It's really you! O Jane!"
Then she turned around to Georgiana. "You sly thing, you made this happen! Thank you, Georgiana, this makes it already a perfect evening." She embraced her warmly and kissed her on the cheeks.
"Me, sly? I have not done this all alone, you know."
Still standing close to Georgiana, Lizzy looked at Mr. Darcy and sent him a thankful smile. For one moment there was just the two of them, but it could only last for a few seconds. Soon Jane and Georgiana forced her into the house.
"How on earth did you get here, Jane?" Lizzy asked, still amazed at what had happened.
"By coach, how else," Jane answered her teasingly. Lizzy groaned.
"Well, five days ago I received a letter with an invitation to come. You might imagine how it effected me. I did not even know you had visited Pemberley and that you had met Miss Darcy."
Georgiana intervened. "I have to go find my brother, since I have to assist him in welcoming our guests. You talk and I will see you later."
"Let me continue then, so we can go in soon. I really was surprised, Lizzy. What happened here? To receive an invitation from Mr. Darcy and his sister. It really overwhelmed me. They sent it by express and had arranged a coach for me in case I accepted the invitation..."
At that moment Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were approaching. Georgiana had already seen them and told them that Jane was there.
Mrs. Gardiner hugged Jane. "Oh Jane, how is it possible you're here too. How good it is to see you. But what are we standing here, let's go inside and not miss a minute of this evening."
When Elizabeth entered the drawing-room with Jane and their aunt and uncle she was quite overwhelmed by the number of people. For one moment she felt intimidated but her spirit rose when she saw Mr. Bingley coming. She grasped Jane's hand, when she heard her gasping for air. Mr. Bingley did not seem to do any better. He stopped as if he had seen a ghost, but then seemed to control himself and moved on.
"Ja.., M-miss Bennet, what a wonderful surprise to see you." He could say no more.
Elizabeth turned away from them. It was almost embarrassing to see their surprise and happiness, and though she was happy for them, she was anxious to see someone else, but she could not find him.
A few yards behind Mr. Bingley, however, was another unexpected guest: Colonel Fitzwilliam.
He seemed very happy to see Elizabeth again and asked her a lot about her life since Rosings. "Don't you Miss Lady Catherine?" he asked with some irony.
"Indeed I do sir, there has not been a day since that I did not think of her or her good advice."
Colonel Fitzwilliam saw her eyes wandering about the room.
So, I see, a lot has changed since I last met her. It was wise for me not to have fallen in love. Her heart is taken by someone else obviously. I wonder...could he be so lucky?
Then he saw his cousin approaching and he knew. Music started to play and Mr. Darcy just ignored him and moved to Elizabeth.
He said nothing, just looked her in the eyes and offered his arm. She could not help recollecting the first time they had danced at Netherfield. How different things had been then... Then she felt trapped and only wanted to punish him. Now there was nothing in the world that she wanted more than to dance with him.
At first they did not speak a word, but just looked at each other. But when Mr. Darcy broke the silence by asking her about the last days, they talked on and on.
There was one person however among the enthusiastic crowd, who did not have a very pleasant evening. The night had started like a nightmare for her. Before the guests had arrived she had been involved in a conversation with her sister about that wretched Bennet girl but was overheard by Georgiana and Mr. Darcy. She had never seen him so infuriated as at that moment.
"The fact is that you are your brother's sister and that I respect him, but if it was up to me I would throw you out this instant. You have been insulting Miss Bennet for months now and I have had enough of it. However, you will still be welcome here tonight. I would not miss for the world to see your face when you meet some unexpected guests. Taking a good close look at their manners will do you good."
Miss Bingley had been shocked by hearing him say all those terrible things to her. How could he have done that? And then, to make her misery complete, she saw the other Miss Bennet walk in on her brother's arm. Then she saw Mr. Darcy.
She has been in my arms almost the whole evening, but what should I do next? Darcy thought by himself.
She seems to have forgiven me, but how does she think of feel about me? It's all going in the right direction, but it cannot stop here. I can't hardly control myself any longer. With her warmth, her scent, her eyes, her wit, even with her sharp tongue she has such power over me, but how do I move on? I want her and no one else. What am I to do?
He watched her dancing with Mr. Bingley and felt envy.
"So, cousin. A penny for your thoughts," Colonel Fitzwilliam joked. "What are you thinking of? You seem to be miles away. Or may I try and guess...," and he looked in the direction of Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth.
When Mr. Darcy didn't reply he said, more seriously now: "Then do something, man. Do something!"
Filled with anger, Miss Bingley overheard their conversation and decided to follow Mr. Darcy. She could not imagine that he really had fallen for this insolent girl.
Still saying nothing Mr. Darcy walked away from him to Elizabeth.
"You must be hungry, Miss Bennet. Will you join me and have something to eat? It is a beautiful evening and I am sure we will find a table outside on the terrace."
With her hand on his arm they walked outside. When they had found a place to sit down, he rushed back in, returned with a tray full of delicious bites and two glasses of white wine to eat in just a few moments and took a seat at her side. Silently they enjoyed this moment for a while.
"Do you see the stars? They look so bright tonight" Lizzy pointed at them. When her hand came down he took it and held it.
I know this is not the proper thing to do, but don't stop me, please, don't stop me.
She did not. He must still love me. was the only thing she could think.
"Miss Bennet, I...," he began, but before he could continue he was interrupted. "Ah, here you are, we have been looking for you for ages. Your aunt and uncle, Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam, have just arrived and they are eager to see you," Miss Bingley said. Then triumphantly, suspecting what she had interrupted just yet, continued more quiet: "here they are..."
Elizabeth was feeling a little uneasy with her hand still in Mr. Darcy's and slowly took hers away. He looked at her with a grin on his face, stood up and introduced Elizabeth to his aunt and uncle. Inside he was steaming with rage about the intervention by Miss Bingley, but he managed to stay polite.
"Miss Bennet, I've heard so much about you," Lady Fitzwilliam sat down at her side with twinkling eyes. "We have just arrived from a visit to our sister-in-law, the great Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I understand you were there last April."
After a short silence she continued smiling. "Don't look so frightened, my dear. I know her all too well and therefore I know what to make of her opinions. But I have to be honest, she was quite taken with you, although she did not like your outspoken opinions, but then....."
She laughed heartily. "Georgiana does seem to think highly of you too and I always tend to agree with her opinions."
So, this is the other side of the family. A great difference indeed.
After the first 'shock', Lizzy had found her composure again and started to really like the other woman. But while conversing with her, her mind kept wandering off to Mr. Darcy and all she could think of was what would have happened if they had not been interrupted by the arrival of his family.
"But what am I doing?" Lady Fitzwilliam interrupted herself, "Miss Bennet, you really should be dancing instead of sitting here with an old woman. Darcy, come here and be a gentleman. Dance with her."
Mr. Darcy bowed to Elizabeth with a broad smile, "Miss Bennet, will you let me save you from my very talkative aunt." She just nodded. Walking back in he said: "And, how did you like my other aunt? She is different from Lady Catherine, is she not?" "Oh yes, indeed she is. Very different. Much nicer I would say." For one moment she was afraid she had said too much and looked up to him to hear him say: "I completely agree with you. I wonder how your friend Charlotte can keep up with her."
The rest of the evening they spent dancing together, unaware of the talking of the rest of the guests, but very aware of each other.
After a knock on the door, Georgiana entered his room. "Still in bed, everyone is up and having breakfast." She sat on his bed and looked at him with a happy smile on her face.
"It was such a beautiful evening, Fitzwilliam. I have been dancing all the time, but I wasn't at all tired.... Lizzy was very supportive to me knowing that this was my first ball, she made me feel more confident. Well, that is to say, when she wasn't dancing with you..."
When he did not answer, she continued. "And how did you like it? I almost have not seen you the whole evening.."
The expression on his face revealed a lot. "It was the best evening of my life," he simply said, "and I hope this day will turn out to be the best until now."
That same morning Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner had gone out for a walk, but Lizzy and Jane had decided to stay at the Inn. They had a lot of catching up to do!
"Lizzy, you must tell me everything. We did not have time last night to talk, but I am dying to know what happened before I arrived. What is it with you and Mr. Darcy? You practically danced with him all night and it quite shocked me, being under the impression you hated him. Tell me, Lizzy, I must know."
"Before I tell you... How did you find it seeing Mr. Bingley again? Are you still in love with him?"
"No Lizzy, I won't tell you. You first!"
"Where must I begin! I have so much to tell you. So much has happened with me during this journey. Well, to start I must tell you that I am in love...Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. I really am. Now, Jane, do sit down and prepare for a even greater shock. The object of my love is.... Mr. Darcy!
I met him again by accident. When I had visited Pemberley with my aunt and uncle, he must have heard it and the following day he visited the Inn where we stay, with his sister Georgiana and Mr. Bingley."
Lizzy told her the whole story, constantly smiling and laughing, and ended:
"After reading the 'Hunsford letter' I told you I never knew myself till that moment. I have been so ashamed since, but now I know he has forgiven me. And I hope he still loves me, like I do him. I do love him so very much! Now you know it all."
Unable to speak for a few minutes and just staring at her sister, Jane finally said:
"This explains a lot. Like I told you I was shocked by surprise when the invitation from Pemberley arrived at Longbourn. There was a note included from Mr. Darcy, in which he urged me to come. He said you needed me there, but that he did too..."
They were interrupted by the return of their aunt and uncle, soon followed by a knock on the door.
"There is a carriage waiting for you to take you to Pemberley," the maid entered.
After arriving at Pemberley, they saw a lot of picnic baskets had been prepared for the day. All they could see were horses and coaches that were preparing to leave.
"Good morning, Miss Bennet, you are up already after last night."
Mr. Darcy jumped off his horse and came to her. "I hoped to see you here so early."
"Good morning, Mr. Darcy. Why waste a beautiful day by sleeping away half of it?"
"Right you are, my lady. Georgiana has held free two seats in her carriage, but she had to defend them against Miss Bingley, so you better step in and help her."
After a few minutes they all took of.
"Oh Elizabeth, Jane, did you have a good time last night?"
Elizabeth nodded, but was happy that Jane answered the question. Mr. Darcy was riding his horse next to their carriage and from her seat she had a good view at him.
I must find a moment to speak to him today. I must thank him for letting Jane come over.
While she was enjoying her view, she dozed of.
She was walking at Rosings Park along the paths she had come to know so well. "Cousin Elizabeth, come quick, we have guest coming. Mr. Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam have arrived and they are anxious to meet you." Mr. Collins came running to her. Both returned to the parsonage. "Miss Bennet, it has been too long since we last met, it is good to see you again. Have you heard of your sister and Mr. Bingley recently?" "Yes Sir, I understand I will be an aunt at last. I'm so very happy for them." She could not take his eyes of him, and did not know what to say next. He moved closer to her and before she knew what was happening, he kissed her softly. The last thing she saw was Mr. Collins' mouth falling open.
"Lizzy, Lizzy, what were you dreaming of?"
She sighed and stared into two laughing faces.
"I must have been more tired than I thought."
She was saved by the arrival on the picnic spot and, without waiting for assistance, hurried out of the carriage and stumbled.
"Ai," she twisted her ankle.
Oh, this is great! I am really making a fool of myself today.
Mr. Darcy came up to her.
"Have you hurt yourself, Miss Bennet? Let me see."
He lifted her into his arms and took her to the riverbank. His eyes seeking permission, he took of her boot and held her foot tenderly into the water. After examining it more carefully, he looked up to her.
"It is not broken, but there will be no walks for you today, I think! So, if you will allow me, I will be your servant for the day, Miss Bennet. Tell me whatever you wish and I will fetch it at once. Something to eat or a cool refreshment perhaps?"
So you think this is funny. Oh, you will regret this Mr. Darcy.
With a lovely smile she answered. "The master of Pemberley will be my servant for the day? All right then, I would like to sit in the shadow near the river. Then I would die for a cool drink and perhaps a light sandwich...Oh, and I left my book in the carriage, would you be so kind.."
He groaned. "In which order Madam?" For the second time that day, he lifted her. "Here perhaps? No, too cold. There then? No, too much sun."
Finally he found the perfect spot and put her down slowly, before he ran off. A few minutes later he returned with a blanket and took off again. Elizabeth leaned back.
"Are you hurt, my dear?" Lady Fitzwilliam sat beside her. "I have never seen my nephew run for someone." Elizabeth blushed, and could not think of an answer.
"He reminds me of his father, the way he acts. Oh well, you are very welcome my dear. Be a good wife for him."
After these words, she left Lizzy again. She stayed behind in utter amazement.
The day was spent with playing games, eating, drinking. In the afternoon most people went for a walk. Only a few stayed behind. Mr. Darcy spent most of the day at her side, seeing to it that she had nothing to wish for.
"We wanted you two to be the first persons to know, " suddenly Jane and Mr. Bingley sat down beside them. "We are engaged." Both Darcy and Elizabeth congratulated them very heartily before they set out to find Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner.
For a few moments it was silent.
"Please, Mr. Darcy, let me speak first. I must thank you for getting Jane to come here. I know it must have been hard for you, since you don't agree with the match. But I am sure you can see how happy it makes them both. If they knew you played a role in bringing them together, they would be very grateful to you, as am I."
"Miss Bennet, Elizabeth. I am glad it makes them happy, but, I have to admit, my purpose in arranging things as I did, was to make you see I no longer object.....I have been wrong in keeping them apart, as you once told me......Elizabeth, I owe you an apology, which I should have made a long time ago. I know you might consider it improper to go back to the events of last April, but I must have it out now. My behaviour to you then was completely unacceptable and, and to say the least, very rude. I am begging your forgiveness...," and he looked down.
Lizzy was speechless and could not say a word. Oh Mr. Darcy, I love you so much. This must have been so hard for you... But she finally found the word and said.
"I do, I do forgive you, sir. In fact, it has been long since I have. But I must apologise to you as well. I blamed you for things you had no part in."
When he tried to interrupt her, she continued more fervently. "No please, let me speak and let this be the last occasion that we do speak of it. I have wronged you so much. After reading your letter I knew that very well. I wanted you to know that but I could not find the courage to do so. Thank you, Mr. Darcy, for bringing this up," she ended. Please believe me, forgive me.
"Although I feel there is nothing to forgive you, I will, if you wish me to. But there is something else...," he hesitated for one moment before he could continue.
To Be Continued.....