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Sufficient Encouragement: A P&P Variation Chapters 35-37 COMPLETE!

September 14, 2022 02:38PM
AN: This is the end! (Chapters 35-37) Unless I decide to revisit this story or get some good advice prompting me to, for the purposes of publishing! Thanks so much everyone who has taken the time to read and comment. Such kind people I didn't know existed. I have never written and shared anything like this ever, so to have you all along and encouraging me is a delight I had not anticipated. This work will remain here in full unless something more exciting happens to it...

CHAPTER 35

There was no peace at Gracechurch Street when the news was broken, and two days were spent in vociferous resentment before the two girls realised that their parents and sisters would not be moved. They had missed another tea at Darcy House, where the Bennets were introduced to Viscount Harley and his wife Isabella, accompanied by the Earl and Countess. Mrs Bennet had been on her best behaviour and was reduced to praising Darcy and Bingley on their fortunate choice of brides and complimenting the Fitzwilliams and Georgiana on their dress, their conversation and even the weather, which had been fresh and sunny after the drizzle of the previous day. Mr Bennet exerted himself and discovered he enjoyed sparring verbally with the Earl, disagreeing impertinently with every second thing he said. This reminded Darcy so forcefully of Elizabeth's habit of professing opinions which were not her own, that he whispered as much to her from their seat on the couch. "I am not afraid of you," she smiled and leaned a little closer to him.

The change in the family dynamic had been a revelation to Mary, whose retreat into pompous piety and vainglory had been a reaction to being overlooked by both parents, being neither pretty enough nor quick enough to please either. However, she had recently become the sole focus for her mother's attentions, who, in her vicarious need for approval exerted herself to beautify her daughter, and in so doing, began to truly see her for the first time.

Mary still managed to quote Fordyce and the bible at inappropriate intervals quite often, but in seeing herself, and being seen, through different eyes, she began to take small steps to improve in her manners and her address, taking for her role model the quiet, beautiful and diffident Georgiana Darcy. Mary watched Georgie interact with her guests with quiet warmth, receive praise with humility and play the pianoforte with such emotive musicality that she began to see a future for herself which did not contain bitter resentment and retreat. Georgie saw in Mary a kindred spirit with whom she could empathise and looked forward to furthering their acquaintance as sisters.

After refreshments, the parties separated as the Fitzwilliams returned to Chilton House. Mary and Georgiana had expressed a desire to play the pianoforte together, so the elder Bennets departed while Jane and Elizabeth remained behind, as there were still a number of accessories being delivered to Darcy House for Elizabeth's dresses and they were hoping to spend some time deciding on the finishing touches for her ballgown, as well as the rest of her trousseau. Both were also hoping for an opportunity to have a moment or two alone with their intendeds.

It was a quieter appointment for the sisters in the mistresses' chamber as the maids had laid out all the new articles delivered and they took time pairing slippers with gowns, discussing overlays that could be exchanged to give the appearance of novelty to an existing gown, and then deciding which bonnets could be paired with which day dresses, and the number of shawls that might be needed for the various morning gowns she now owned. In the end, the decisions became business-like and perfunctory for Elizabeth, who collapsed melodramatically, saying she looked forward to the day when a lady's maid might be entrusted to make all these decisions for her. She sat up from her posture of entitled ennui, on the daybed under the window, and chided herself for such ingratitude.

"Oh Lizzy, be kind to yourself. You have always disliked the endless details that went along with choosing your apparel, but you are going to have to spend more time thinking about these things in your position as the Mistress of Pemberley. It matters not that you did not marry for position or consequence – they are the misfortunes that come with the man you are marrying." Jane laughed at the irony and Elizabeth's frustration. "It probably did not help that we spent a significant part of yesterday doing the same thing with all of my gowns! That was not exactly calculated to soothe your spirits. You are not becoming Caroline Bingley and I don't think you will every truly take for granted the blessings you will have as the wife of Mr Darcy."

Elizabeth hugged the throw pillow to herself and laughed, "I should hope not, Janey! Imagine having two such sisters for yourself!" Jane embraced her sister and excused herself to find Bingley in the music room, settling onto the couch next to him and enjoying a longed-for private moment as they watched the two young women play.

Elizabeth lay back and tried to get used to the idea of this room belonging to her. It was at times so overwhelming to consider how different her life was going to be. Jane was right, she hoped she would never get so used to it that she took being the wife of the best man she had ever known for granted. She considered her future husband as her gaze fell again to the door she had not yet opened, that led to the master's chambers. She understood her apprehension. As much as she loved the idea of having a space of her own, she knew she wished for a marriage more like her Aunt and Uncle's. Though it was not customary for those in Darcy's station in life, she wanted no separation and hoped he might feel the same.

Even her parents maintained the gentle distinction of separate chambers at Longbourn, but she was convinced that had more to do with a lack of rapport between them and not just adherence to status. She could well imagine the conflict that had been avoided by her parents simply retiring to their separate bed chambers, but the connection and support that she knew existed between her Aunt and Uncle, was well able to withstand the petty arguments bound to happen between all couples. She knew her Aunt insisted on never going to bed with unresolved conflict between them.

Elizabeth had stayed with them during a difficult period early in their relationship and she had seen the effort expended and the lengths they both took to resolve their differences and maintain their commitment to each other. It was a significant testimony to Elizabeth and was the impetus for her declaration to never marry without the deepest love and respect. She was not sure that sharing a bedchamber would guarantee the same bond between herself and Darcy, and was hesitant to suggest it, knowing he had lived as an independent man for many years longer than she, and may prefer to have a space that was all his own. It may not even have occurred to him.

She had risen and walked towards the door while she was musing, noting that it did not have a lock. Gripping the handle, she rested her forehead upon the door, breathing deeply, unsure of why she felt such trepidation. Hearing movement within, she leapt back as though scalded, then laughed at herself. Undoubtedly it was a maid or Griggs as she knew Darcy was in his study. Her eyes flew back to the door as she heard a quiet knock before it opened to reveal Darcy's searching countenance.

"Forgive me, dearest, I was not sure you were within. I noticed Jane had returned but you were not with the others in the music room. Is everything settled to your liking?" He smiled but did not venture further in. She had been two steps from the door, so his body offered the wordless invitation by stepping to the side. She spoke as she walked towards him, squeezing his arm as she crossed the threshold to his private sanctum. "It is all settled so I will not have to make any decisions regarding my apparel until well after we are wed. I am fairly certain I will not embarrass you in public - at least, not with my dress anyway."

She took her time as she perused the space, touching every surface, looking at the few works of art and personal mementoes, noting how remarkably spartan it was. She spent a long time looking at a portrait of his parents. Smaller, intimate and much more meaningful than one taken by the same artist that hung in the gallery, she admired the lines and the light skilfully portrayed by the artist, which somehow conveyed the depth of their attachment and the love in their eyes. Darcy watched her with hunger and satisfaction as she inhabited his space for the first time. He closed the door behind him, not wishing to have this time interrupted. He could sense something had been weighing on her and wanted to give her as much time as she needed. He set aside propriety, knowing he would marry her tomorrow if it was demanded and almost wishing their families might insist upon it.

"What do you think of your chambers?" He asked, interrupting her reverie.

"They are significantly larger than yours." She settled on the only chair, a comfortable wingback next to the bookcases and low table that were the only other pieces of furniture in his room. "It is clear you don't entertain guests in this space." She smirked as she rested her stockinged feet upon the footstool and became still as she noticed him drinking in the sight of her. "My chambers, on the other hand, have a sitting area that seats four comfortably, which is exceedingly useful, as is my wardrobe which is also, usefully, four times the size of yours!" Her eyes rested on the largest piece of furniture in his room, a beautiful turned mahogany four poster bed, devoid of hangings and simply made up with a coverlet and pillows. "There appears to be little room for a wife in here."

"It is a good thing I will have a little wife, then." His tease did not garner the response he wished for, so he approached her, took up her feet and sat on the footstool before her. She tucked her feet up beneath her skirts rather than allow him to replace them on his knees. He drew closer and leaned towards her, filling her vision with naught but him. "Elizabeth, you own every piece of my heart, and I am indescribably happy to see you occupy all the spaces in my bedchamber and anywhere else in my homes. They will all belong to you. Please tell me what troubles you. I am not in need of more space in here, and I do not begrudge you your bigger chambers, if that is what you fear?"

She laughed and closed the distance between them, cradling his face in her small palms. "You have been One Darcy of Pemberley for so many years, and I have always shared a bedchamber and even a bed. I am loath to ask it of you, as my chamber is so large, and you have already given me so much and I think maybe you might need to have a space somewhere without me in it, but…" She shook her head, not wanting to finish her thought, knowing instinctively he would give her what she asked for whether he desired it or not. "Perhaps, once we are married and settled a bit, we can continue this conversation? I do not want to pressure you, so much will change for both of us, so perhaps I should get used to everything first." He smiled as he took her hands, kissing both of them in turn, believing he may have divined the source of her troubles.

"My parents redesigned these spaces a few years into their marriage. The original chambers were much more similar in size with a separate private sitting room between the master and mistress' chambers. It was a significant alteration, and a similar one was made at Pemberley. They never used the private sitting room and found it an annoyance to traverse across it every day." He continued kissing her palms and her wrists as he spoke, gently caressing each in turn.

"My parents shared everything, including a bedchamber. They preferred never being apart and even when my father would stay up later to read, my mother wished for him to be near her, even while she slept. My mother was the second daughter of an earl, but she saw no purpose in maintaining separate bedrooms when they never slept apart, and she was unapologetic about ignoring society's dictates. Your chambers actually belonged to them both, but when my mother died, my father could not bear to sleep in that room without her, so he returned to the master's chambers, which was always where he kept his clothes, and where he was groomed and dressed by his valet anyway.

When I lost my father years later, I moved into this space as my own, hoping that when I married, I would have found a wife for whom permanent shared chambers would not be offensive. If that was not the case immediately, I hoped I would be able to persuade her, but having lived here alone for 6 years, I know it is not a larger space that I need, it is merely to be in whatever space that is currently being occupied by the woman I adore. I will leave the choice of where we sleep up to you, but I will always want to be wherever you are, Lillybeth. Only you could send me away."

He was looking at her intently now, knowing he had guessed correctly when he saw the warm smile that lit up her face as he spoke. "Oh, Fitz, yet again, I have let my prejudice against your consequence raise fears in my heart about where I will fit in. I am truly blessed to have you in my life, Fitzwilliam. I do not deserve you, but I will enjoy spending the rest of my life trying to." Untucking her feet and rising, she settled herself in his space entirely and spent blissful moments expressing her complete approbation of his sentiments, before propriety intervened and directed their steps to the music room.



CHAPTER 36

The clear night sky sparkled over the lines of carriages inching their way towards Chilton House. Elizabeth and Jane stood together, resplendent in their gowns and in their quiet, expectant joy, looking out from the second-floor balcony over the back garden lit with the glow streaming from the ballroom windows and side terrace doors, through which guests would soon pass seeking fresh air or to cool their overheated figures from dancing one too many sets. They needed no words to enjoy the moment together, knowing their thoughts were constantly bent upon their beloveds, much like a compass seeking north.

Jane's nerves had disappeared in the days preceding the ball, buoyed by the marked improvement in their family's decorum, even to the hopeful conviction that Lydia may yet be redeemed from a wasted future of dissolute dissipation. Elizabeth was far too cynical (she would say clear-eyed) to share Jane's inherent optimism, but she had shed her nerves that day in Darcy's chambers, when she had accepted, to the very core of her being, that he was exactly the man, who in disposition, talents, understanding and temper, most perfectly suited her. Her happiness unbound and her foundation sure, she laughed when Jane would only smile. She drew Jane closer in an affectionate embrace as they waited, careful not to disarrange what had taken their diligent maids many hours to assemble.

Lady Chilton had hoped for a grand entrance and announcement once all the guests had arrived. The sisters had agreed to having their engagements announced at the opening of the ball, but they would only agree to wait until all other guests had arrived and enter, unannounced, by descending the stairs to the ballroom to take the arms of their fiancés just prior to the first dance. It was still entirely too much drama and attention than either of them would admit to liking, but in their heart of hearts, both knew it was the fairy tale moment that all little girls dreamed of and were looking forward to the moment they would see, and be seen, by their beloveds. A maid entered the balcony and nodded as they turned toward her. Their time to descend had come.

The receiving line had melted away with the entry of the last guests and the entire Fitzwilliam clan took up their positions at the foot of the sweeping staircase at one end of the ballroom. Lady Catherine had deigned to appear at the ball, arriving early to give her uncharitable and graceless approval to an entirely indifferent Darcy, who was beginning to appreciate the delightful joy to be had in being diverted, instead of incensed, by the follies, nonsense, whims and inconsistencies of others. Especially of those, who by their behaviour, declared themselves to be wholly unconnected with him.

Looking disgruntled and uncomprehending the joy around her, Lady Catherine bore little resemblance to her daughter Anne, who was utterly delighted and looking forward to seeing the Bennet Sisters, and completely nonplussed at her mother's insistence on making herself available for other suitors. Anne had no intention of marrying at all, and certainly not without affection, as she was, like Darcy, independently wealthy and currently in need of nothing else material. Lady Catherine was slowly beginning to understand that her daughter would likely follow in her mother's footsteps, arranging everything at Rosings according to her own desires, with very little reference to anyone, including her mother.

Anne had promised Georgie that she would remain with her at the opening of the ball to see all the arrivals, hear the announcement and watch the first set, and then accompany her as she retired early. They planned a delightful evening of supper, cards and parlour games above stairs, with Mrs Annesley and Isabella, who had neither the inclination nor the physician's permission to stay and dance at the ball but who insisted on being a witness to the happy announcement. The four ladies, dressed as befitting their stations and consequence, made a happy grouping with Mary and Mrs Bennet, showing the felicity of shared joys untroubled by distinctions of age, rank, manners or status.

Mr Bennet stood with the Earl, Colonel Fitzwilliam and his brother Viscount Harley, and continued provoking the Earl in conversation with pithy rejoinders on his latest political pronouncements to the endless amusement of his sons. Like Darcy, the Colonel was reminded of Elizabeth in her father's conversational gambits and clever ripostes but appreciated how the daughter's charm and genial nature more often softened her badinage, rendering it less pungent than her father's.

Darcy and Bingley were positioned opposite the rest of the family, dressed in formal black, perfectly pressed and attempting to appear at ease, while glancing ever frequently at the head of the stairs. The guests were milling about in various groups, attending to their own conversations and enjoying the convivial atmosphere. Richard crossed the floor to join them and tipped his head at the rise of the stairs. Darcy's eyes lifted to the petite figure, swathed in the variegated blues of dusk, complete with the twinkling stars that flashed as she moved down towards him. His feet moved upwards of their own volition, matching her pace as she released Jane and rested her hand upon the balustrade, waiting for him. There was a lull in the conversational hum as the guests began to take notice.

He stopped two steps below her, meeting her eye to eye. She saw none but him, seeing herself reflected in his eloquent eyes, lit up with his radiant smile. Her smile, the one he gave only to her. So much more precious for being rarely bestowed. "You are breathtaking, Elizabeth Bennet." She rested her gloved palm on his cheek and brushed his lips with her thumb, laughing at the gasp she had elicited from someone within the watching crowd.

He laughed with her, captured her hand and kissed it, before he turned to escort her down the rest of the way to join Bingley and Jane, who were already greeting the Fitzwilliams. She paused and drew him towards her with a light touch to his arm, not wishing to share him yet. "You are looking very handsome also, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Have you come prepared to dance every set?" He rose to his full height and looked down imperiously at her. "I believe, Miss Bennet, that I have come intending to stand about by myself in a stupid manner and dance with no one." She smiled coquettishly and murmured, "And I intend to dance every dance, Mr Darcy. Will you still be as fastidious as you are intending, or can I tempt you to give up your kingdom?" He bent low to whisper in her ear, "Only if you dance every dance with me, Miss Bennet. I will stand up with no other woman tonight, and I will glower at any gentleman that dares to approach you."

He winked at her before drawing her again to his side and they began greeting the waiting throng. They had made their way halfway down the ballroom before they were arrested by the sight of Caroline Bingley in a tangerine confection of silk and lace that was as fashionable as it was grotesque. Louisa accompanied her with a simper, aware that they were attending purely at the benevolence of their future sister-in-law and hoping to regulate her younger sister's interactions to ensure continued invitations. Her muted puce gown seemed to draw and absorb the reflected excess of orange emanating from her sister.

Caroline extended a bejewelled hand to Mr Darcy, expecting him to take it and greet her in the customary way familiar acquaintances do. He dipped his head but did not reciprocate the gesture. "Miss Bingley, Mrs Hurst. How do you do?" Mrs Hurst was about to return the greeting when Caroline withdrew her hand with a flourish and turned to Elizabeth, "Why, Miss Eliza, I see you are ingratiating yourself with those above your station again. Darcy, Louisa and I have missed seeing you in Grosvenor Street. Only the other day we were reminiscing about all the fun we had at Pemberley the summer before last. It is a pity Charles took us to Hertfordshire all those months ago."

Elizabeth smiled benignly and stepped close around Darcy to look up at him, while drawing up the fabric of her skirts in preparation to move on. He looked down at her, while speaking to Caroline. "I'm afraid I must disagree, Miss Bingley. Spending last winter at Netherfield with you all was the best decision I have ever made." Elizabeth's smile widened as she turned and flicked a glance at Miss Bingley. "Perhaps that is simply because you have learned to live by my philosophy, Mr Darcy? To think only on the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure." Even Caroline, who had pointedly looked away at Elizabeth and Jane's entrance, could not mistake the marked preference Darcy had shown to Elizabeth during the conversation, barely looking at Caroline, even while addressing her.

The insistent sound of a tinkling bell began to be heard ringing over the gathering. Elizabeth smiled with some sympathy, but with a polite, "Excuse me," they began making their way towards the orchestra at the other end of the ball room. There were people in every direction, but at the sound of the bell, the guests began shuffling away from the centre. The Earl had positioned himself at the front of the raised stage and beckoned the couples towards him. He motioned for silence as the bell was stilled. After a few perfunctory words of welcome, he began.

"My nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy likes to think he is above his company. Most of the time he is, but not in the way you think. Those of us who know him well, find him infuriatingly decent, good natured and honest. But if you mistake his reserved decency for cold heartlessness, you have been deceived. It is true that the way to Darcy's heart is not easily found, and it appears that the one who stumbled upon it wasn't even looking for it. But a heart of gold he has, and captured it has been.

A love match is not often aspired to by those of our set, but being a man after his father's heart, Darcy would not settle for less, and could not be argued out of it, once he had found it. Hard though I tried." He winked at Elizabeth, who narrowed her eyes in mock disapproval. She had won him over completely within two conversations, demonstrating her quick wit, her empathy and her intelligent yet passionate discourse on a diverse range of subjects. Her engaging character, lively mind and pleasing address would be of great use to him politically, if he could convince her to employ them as he wished.

"In the end, wisdom advised that I side with my nephew, as he has more to give. So, I am pleased to announce two engagements tonight. The eldest Bennet Sisters of Longbourn, Miss Elizabeth and Miss Jane, have at last been persuaded to accept the hands of their most fortunate suitors, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy and Mr Charles Bingley." After loud applause and several hushed cries of dismay, the Earl continued. "The couples will be opening the ball for us tonight, so I advise you to take a good look before they are wed and retreat to Pemberley and Netherfield. There's no telling when we may be graced with their presence again!"

The sets formed, the players began, and the dancers moved as one. Glad to have the formalities over, Elizabeth was delighted to indulge in one of her favourite pastimes with her future husband. The spoke when it was called for and enjoyed a companionable silence when it was not. They were of one mind, and felt they really were designed for one another. True to his word, Darcy would not stand up with another woman that evening and glowered at every man who might have approached his fiancée. True to her word, and to Darcy's gratified joy, Elizabeth danced every dance she wished to, only with him. When not dancing, their arms were ever entwined and their eyes rarely roving from the other, even when in conversation with their numerous acquaintances, both close and distant, who made free to wish them joy, sincerely or otherwise.

As such, it was clear for all to see that the unbending and normally reserved Fitzwilliam Darcy was at once soft, tender and solicitous for his fiancée, and the usually lively, gregarious and sociable Elizabeth Bennet eschewed much conviviality with all but her beloved and had never looked happier. Both knew this was an exceptional moment and gave in to their desire this one night to offer comfort and companionship to each other almost exclusively. There would not be another opportunity where such general incivility would be acceptable to others or possibly even desired by themselves, but this night it was to be indulged. Those who loved them best did not repine, those who loved them not, did not matter.



CHAPTER 37

Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. Jane and Elizabeth married, as planned, though a little earlier, in July, on a warm wet day in Meryton. The wedding breakfast was a riotous clash of country manners and London civilities, borne with the humour and disdain to be expected from either party. Jane's radiant beauty was matched only by Elizabeth's sublime confidence. In contrast to their behaviour at the engagement ball, Darcy and Elizabeth mingled independently and widely with all the guests. It was a parting gift of sorts, a final leave-taking for Elizabeth and a grateful acknowledgement from Darcy of the people and society that helped create the gift that was his wife. It was also exquisite torture to know she was finally his, mere hours from consummation and yet on the other side of the room, arrayed in all her glory and sharing her laughter and smiles with all but him.

Georgie remained by his side, or with Richard, still uncomfortable with the society of virtual strangers, but incandescently happy for all of that. She would be enjoying a holiday from her studies for a time, after staying with the Fitzwilliams in town, as she would then join the Gardiners on their planned visit to Derbyshire, with Mary accompanying them also, to see the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak and more importantly, to visit Lambton, a little town of no consequence to any but those who had ever lived in it, and conveniently a mere 5 miles from Pemberley. The new Mr and Mrs Darcy would welcome them home, as their extended wedding trip, leaving from London a few days after their wedding day, was to take them slowly north toward Pemberley also, breaking their journey primarily in the Lake District.

Their final goodbyes were poignant and sweet, understandably distracted at least on Darcy's behalf. They left early to ensure safe passage to Darcy House for their first night together as man and wife. Jane and Bingley were returning to Netherfield, with strict instructions there would be no visitors, under any circumstances, made very clearly to all the Bennets. Their preparations to begin their wedding trip only two days after the wedding was a clear indication of the confidence they placed in their instructions being followed. The Bingleys would reunite with the Darcy's at the end of summer also, breaking their return journey south after their wedding trip to Scarborough to introduce Jane to Charles' extended family there.

Elizabeth and Darcy waved from the carriage windows until the Bennets were no longer in sight, and both then reclined into their seats facing one another with identical sighs of exhaustion. They broke into shared laughter for the sheer joy of it. Once their mirth had subsided sufficiently, the enormity of her future momentarily overwhelmed Elizabeth and made her suddenly uncomfortably shy, which simply vexed her. Darcy had been contemplating the exquisite sensation of the knowledge of desires long withheld, soon to be propitiously satiated.

"So, husband of mine, what do we now?" Elizabeth blurted out the words in an effort to overcome her inexplicable discomfort. "I fear I am beginning to be a little afraid and will soon have to resort to impertinence to overcome it." In a heartbeat, Darcy was next to her, and smiling widely at her look of surprise, he gathered her up in his arms like a child and peppered her with innocent kisses like those she would receive from her little nieces and nephews. "I would not have you afraid of me, my love," he whispered in between his kisses.

She curled sweetly into his frame and giggled with delight at his whimsy. It was apparent he had no intention of returning her to her seat, so she made herself more comfortable, at the momentary expense of his, and encouraged him to continue. Thus, they whiled away the relatively short journey acclimating themselves with the intimacy of prolonged proximity that had been denied them until this day. Partial satiety and an enjoyable apprehension of what was to come for them both, ensured they were both surprised at their fleet arrival at the front door of Darcy House, with staff, refreshments and privacy, ready and waiting to receive them.

He found a parcel on his pillow when he returned to his chambers, having supped with his wife and completed his ablutions, dismissing his valet, along with the rest of the household, as early as could reasonably be achieved. He was sure it had not been there when he entered his chambers earlier. He could hear Elizabeth and her maid continuing her toilette, so he took the opportunity to open it.

It was a journal, entitled First Impressions. He began to read his wife's flowing script, revealing her memories of their encounters, her anger, frustration, amusements, doubts, amazement and eventual love, joy and contentment. As he leafed through the pages, he noted the words were accompanied by dozens of sketches of the two of them, individually and together, which Elizabeth credited to Miss Maria Lucas. She must have taken most of them at Rosings, and her ability to capture both countenance and expression was remarkable.

Elizabeth's words provided the colour and detail which gave these first impressions life and spirit. His heart filled with the confidence she displayed in him by handing to him this precious gift of herself. How grateful he was that she did not persist in believing her first impressions, that she was willing to overlook his failures and give him a second chance. His fingers brushed over the simple ink facsimiles of her face, so absorbed in the familiar and beloved features that he did not notice her entering the room and coming to stand beside him. Words could not fully express his love and gratitude for the gift she had given him, and the gift that she was. Fortunately, few words were necessary.

The weeks that followed rendered blissful memories for the couple to look back on, and a resolute and granite bedrock upon which to base their joyful union. And full of joy it was, despite the commonplace aggravations and frustrations that attend all human unions and endeavours. Their life together was not marked for unusual adversity, but their strong dependence and nourishment of each other, saw them multiply the joys and share the griefs in a life filled with the birth of seven children, three boys and four girls, including a beloved still-born daughter, perfect in every way such that she was taken immediately to heaven; the not unexpected family crisis brought on by Lydia's poor judgment, disastrous marriage and flight to the continent, never to be heard from again; the happy or indifferent marriages for all of their other sisters in due course; the unbreakable sisterly affections of sisters only separated by an easy distance of 20 miles of good road, within 2 years of their joint wedding; the unexpected early death of Colonel Fitzwilliam some years later to a debilitating disease; the expected and yet no less grieved early death of Cousin Anne, closely followed by her mother, estranged until death from them; and the grief attendant upon the loss of parents, whose death at any age can ever seem too soon.

The Bennets passed within 3 years of each other and having seen the safe birth of 16 grandchildren to 4 daughters, Mrs Bennet enjoyed those 3 years of widowhood, not in the hedgerows, but in the Dower House at Pemberley, surrounded by her most deserving daughters. Longbourn was passed peaceably to Mr & Mrs Collins, who had named their first son, William Bennet Collins, thus ensuring the Bennet name remained associated with Longbourn for a generation to come. They welcomed Charlotte's sister, Maria, into their home, the only Lucas child never to marry.

Maria Lucas continued to sketch and paint portraits and landscapes, especially of the Darcy family, earning some commissions through their connections. Her first large scale landscape was an anniversary gift to the Darcys. It took her 2 years to perfect the scene she had caught that afternoon, in the grove at Rosings, of Elizabeth and Darcy, with the Colonel and Anne. Maria had no idea what the future held for the figures she sketched at the time, then painted and perfected in that scene, but her gift carried the weight of truth in every brush stroke, provoking bittersweet reminiscences for the family who remained. It held pride of place in the Pemberley Gallery, along with Elizabeth's journal, which was kept in a display case beneath it for many generations. Maria was unflinching in her devotion to her art throughout her short life, but her artistic endeavours went largely unnoticed until many years after her untimely death, at age 41. The collection of her work, catalogued and maintained first by Elizabeth and eventually by The Darcy Trust, which then bequeathed it to the Fitzwilliam Gallery in Cambridge, finally received the recognition it was due as the gifted work of a female artist ahead of her time.

The Darcys weathered the storms of political and social unrest as imperfectly as many others of their time, managing as best they could the transition to a mechanised and industrial age, which changed the landscape and the fortunes of Pemberley as it marked the lines and grooves on the faces of its master and mistress. For good or ill, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, they chose to laugh and love together, trusting all to the providence of their creator. Their love left a lasting impression, a sufficient encouragement for the generations that followed.
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Sufficient Encouragement: A P&P Variation Chapters 35-37 COMPLETE!

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EvelynJeanSeptember 15, 2022 02:32AM

Re: Sufficient Encouragement: A P&P Variation Chapters 35-37 COMPLETE!

MichaSeptember 14, 2022 09:30PM



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