Part III--So Handsome! So Tall!
Among the new experiences, that were to befall upon Elizabeth during the time of her engagement to Fitzwilliam Darcy, was one, not very significant, but still amazing and amusing. This new dimension of her life would have Elizabeth realise that a lot of proverbs and sayings may be well-known to you and even bear some trace of meaning. But not until you meet with a reality, that brings them to mind, do they truly come alive and become filled with substance.
The first one was to be in the clouds. It suddenly stood out to her as she wandered happily at Darcy's arm towards Oakham. Now I am doing it, I am really there, I am wandering in the clouds! She felt so light, as if her body had no weight, as if her feet did not touch the ground and her head was very light as well, no ordinary troubles mattered any more, she was above them, in ...the ...clouds! She let out a low-voiced laughter, almost to herself and was promptly addressed and implored to share her mirth. On doing so she learnt, that she was not alone in the clouds!
They did not speak much, but their eyes spoke. Much was to be contemplated and the various sensations and unfamiliar emotions needed free scope. They shared the reflection, that it is a rare blessing to find someone, with whom one is able to spend time in unconstrained silence. In such mutual harmony were they arrived at the crest of Oakham Mount and as Mr. Darcy looked around him to take in the beautiful view, Elizabeth was able to point out to her companion, the very field where she first set eyes on him!
"You were racing Bingley on horseback, ...yours was a big black one."
He observed her, his thoughts wandering back through all those passed months of suffering and longing.
"To think that you were standing here without my knowledge! If only I had been aware that a treasure was to be found, ...of such beauty and grace being within reach .... But I was a conceited fool."
She raised her eyebrows suspicious of his romantic rationalisation, 'What would you have done? Would you have come galloping up the slope to sweep me along, up in front of you on that black steed, kiss me ardently and elope with me to The Land of the Fairy-tales?"
As soon as she had spoken, she blushed and looked away towards Netherfield House, that was partly visible in the distance.
"A fair prospect, I dare say ...' He followed the direction of her eyes saying it, but when she looked at him to comment on its happy situation among the old trees, she saw in his eyes, that he was not referring to the estate.
She inhaled and lost her line of thought .... He seized her hand to hold it in his.
"Elizabeth, my dearest, most beloved, I want nothing more than to travel to that distant land with you and I shall gladly take you there, elope if you like, as soon as we are married ..."
He placed his arm around her waist, holding her near him and after a short pause, let his fingers hesitantly touch her cheek and outline its curve to the corner of her mouth. Elizabeth stared at his face without being able to move. He was breathing faster as his fingers brushed the soft curves of her lips. A faint sound escaped her, as he stroked her chin to cup his hand under it. His eyes looked into hers, the thumb of his cupped hand was slowly caressing her cheek. She lifted her hands to clasp the cloth of his grey coat in order to keep her balance.
"Your eyes are so bright and beautiful, The way you look at me now is enough to ..."
He was dizzy from her nearness ...despite his intentions, he bowed his head to place soft kisses on her eyelids. She moved her hands up to hold on to his shoulders and then she could not stop herself but allowed them to stroke around his neck and come to rest against the back of it. Her lips were tingling, urging her to find some relief and she tilted her head to kiss any part of him. His neck under the chin was within her reach. Without thinking, she pressed her mouth against his skin with a sigh and the pleasure from that unexpected contact with her lips, made him close his eyes and use both arms to violently enfold her. He murmured against her hair.
"You have bewitched me, Elizabeth Bennet, ... so totally bewitched me, that I am scarcely my own master any more."
Saying this out loud made him reflect, realise where they were and sort of wake up to his responsibility. Her innocence, her sincerity and her lively disposition apparently formed a threat on his equanimity. He had foreseen the necessity to bridle his own horses, but he had not reckoned with her being so lovely, her attitude to life ...and love ... being so positive. He reflected, that to balance their relationship during the engagement might very likely prove to be an arduous task.
Once more he imbibed the scent of rose water, then after planting a light kiss on the locks of her temple, placed her hand on his arm and without a word, turned around to lead her back down the hill. Elizabeth was astonished to experience again this sudden change of emotions. She was still in the middle of an emotional turmoil, after enjoying the extent of his tenderness, the new sensation of kissing his skin, and so very happy to find it all utterly delightful.
She wondered at his choice of topic, when he asked her if she had heard from her aunt Gardiner recently. She could easily have endured a prolonged admiration of her eyes and other such pleasantries, but Mr. Darcy was obviously determined to have her name all the Gardiner children and was trying to sort out their ages as well. He would not discuss anything but several aspects of that family, even Mr. Gardiner's interest in fishing and other outdoor activities was inquired into and then, almost too soon in Elizabeth's opinion, they were back within the garden walls at Longbourn
In the evening after some good-humoured efforts at social intercourse, mainly intended for his future son-in-law, the master of Longbourn withdrew to his books and his port. However, Mr. Bennet had not been enjoying the secluded comfort of his library for long, when he was disturbed by a short urging knock at the door. He heaved a sigh and tried to suppress his impatience while answering.
Utterly amazed to see Mr. Darcy enter the room and carefully shut the door behind him, he got up from his armchair in front of the fire to approach his guest.
"Mr. Darcy ...?'
"Mr. Bennet, sir. Forgive me for intruding upon your privacy."
"No no, do not think of it, I beg you."
"I would like a word with you. If you will allow me to take up some of your time."
"Why Mr. Darcy, by all means .... You wish to speak to me?"
He tried, without success, to imagine on what possible errand his awe-inspiring visitor could be turning to him. The most plausible explanation he was able to come up with was something concerning his friends marriage to Jane. It was really a puzzlement. Then he remembered his duties as a host and added.
"Won't you sit down? What brings you here, if I may ask...?"
He offered the armchair opposite his own in front of the fire and watched as the tall figure in a few strides headed for the seat and took place on it. His face wore its usual stern expression, but there was something new in his eyes ..., an eagerness? Even his voice was less moderate, almost anxious as he spoke straight out.
"I have come to ask for your consent, Mr. Bennet."
"Exactly, sir. I request permission to marry your daughter.'
Mr. Bennet was quite taken aback. He stared at Darcy in complete perplexity. Marry my daughter! What daughter? Jane ... is engaged, Elizabeth ... detests him, Mary? ... No surely not! Catherine?? He looked at his guest to have him clarify the matter.
Darcy registered the older man's discomposure, and immediately thought of what Elizabeth had told him. They will be surprised to hear of it ...they believe I have no regard for you at all ...
"Perhaps I should inform you, that I have been so bold as to approach Miss Bennet. In fact I did so yesterday, during our walk."
Their walk?? Lizzy!! This was beyond comprehension.
"Oh, I see ...during your ...walk."
He stammered and knew not what to think. Was there some misunderstanding? There was bound to be. Lizzy would never be impressed by wealth and grandeur ...would she? Mr. Bennet took a firm hold of his armrest and leaned back in an attempt to regain control.
"I assure you sir, I would never have taken up your time, if I had not already inquired after her opinion. Miss Elizabeth has permitted me to speak to you sir."
He was interrupted by the incredulous look on Mr. Bennet's face. She has permitted him ...! Good God, why has she done that? Have the unfortunate circumstances of Lydia's marriage made her mercenary? Is this her way to try and help solving our family's economy. Did I arouse her fears by speaking of my being heavily indebted to Gardiner. But she must realise there is little danger now Jane is to marry into riches ....
Darcy could not interpret the shifting expressions on the older man's face. He only felt that they were not to his advantage and, for the first time, knew a minor worry, that there would be some hindrance to his happiness. His confidence wavered. But his resolve was firm.
"That is, she has done me the honour of accepting my hand in marriage. Provided of course, that you yourself and Mrs. Bennet have no objections."
"Hrm ...yes you must overlook my absentmindedness Mr. Darcy. And if you forgive my frankness, I had no idea that you were courting Elizabeth or that she ..."
His voice trailed off as he realised the inquisitive impoliteness of his thoughts. His darling Elizabeth to marry the proud and disagreeable Mr. Darcy? By Jove, that letter from Mr. Collins ...! Was there some truth to it after all?
Darcy was obviously embarrassed and his eyes left the face of his companion to glance briefly out through the window.
"Perhaps ours has not been an ...ordinary ...courtship, but I assure you that my decision is most seriously considered and based on the deepest affection. It is not an act on the spur of the moment. In fact so very far from the work of an instant .... I am able to give you my word as a gentleman that your daughter's well-being would always be my primary concern. I hold her in high esteem."
Something in the young man's eyes when he alluded to Elizabeth touched the heart of Mr. Bennet. He felt suddenly sympathetic towards him. He appears to be very honest and his attachment to Elizabeth is sincere, I believe.
But nevertheless, the man is to be pitied, he is heading for disaster. He must have interpreted her wrongly. It is no wonder, if she has treated him with her usual archery and liveliness. Some words of hers, spoken in jest perhaps, may have misled the poor chap. How can I phrase my answer without hurting him?
Darcy had made every attempt to stay calm and composed, but he found the length of Mr. Bennet's silence to be somewhat alarming. He moved uneasily in his chair, twisting his ring while he attempted to figure out, what objections could possibly be presented to his proposal.
A year ago he would have said none, and with great confidence, but now he knew, that her values had not been in consistence with those prevalent in the fashionable circles, where he had been expected to find his bride. They had been completely new to him and from where had she got them ? Quite possibly from her father!
Mr. Bennet had now decided on his course of action.
"Mr. Darcy! I thank you for the honour you have bestowed upon my daughter by choosing her as your life companion. I shall certainly not object to your intentions, ...but .... I suppose you know my daughter well enough to realise, that she must have her own say in this.
"I wish to speak to her in this matter and if, after doing so, I find that this is all her wish as well as yours, I shall have nothing further to say against the alliance. Provided Elizabeth agrees to it, I shall not hesitate to give you my blessing. Nor shall Mrs. Bennet."
Mr. Bennet looked cautiously at Darcy. The expression of relief on the young man's face was not to his liking. I hope I have spoken clearly enough, for him to understand my condition. That it might make him question his conviction, ... of her being in agreement.
Perhaps he ventured this on an assumption that I would exercise my paternal authority and order her to accept him. He may be right assuming that most parents would wish for their daughters to be so advantageously married.
But not me, Mr. Darcy! If there is one man in England, who is familiar with the evils of an unequal marriage entered into without the indispensable mutual respect and true sentiment, I am that man.
"Mr. Bennet! I am grateful for your courtesy. It is my sincere conviction that Elizabeth could never be united to a husband more thoroughly attached to her than myself. You shall not live to regret this promise, I give you my word of honour."
While speaking that last sentence, he indicated an oath of allegiance by placing his right hand on his heart. Mr. Bennet was uneasy and it worried him, that Darcy should treat the matter as something that was brought to a close.
He himself hoped to talk some sense into his daughter. He waved his hand in a vague gesture of parry but his former suspicion of the genuine nature of Mr. Darcy's feelings was reinforced. He felt the germ of an admiration for him; the man must have some good in him to be able to appreciate Elizabeth's value.
They exchanged a firm handshake and as Mr. Darcy moved to leave Mr. Bennet asked him to send Elizabeth to him.
"I shall inform her of your wish, sir!"
The happy glimpse in his eye on saying that, did not escape Mr. Bennet. When the door closed behind Mr. Darcy, he shook his head and muttered to himself.
"I really believe him to be in love with her. I guess even the high and mighty are human beings after all. And I can't blame him for thinking highly of Lizzy! She is a pearl of a woman if ever there was one. What a pity he started out by making her hate him."
Elizabeth had been anxiously awaiting Darcy's return from the library. She knew her father would suffer to realise he was about to lose her. She was sorry to cause him pain and wished there had been a solution to it. She also hoped Mr. Bennet's surprise to hear of Darcy's errand had not been too manifest.
When the latter returned to the drawing-room, he sent her a relaxed smile and she was somewhat relieved to see it. Soon after that, he approached her at the table where she was sitting with Kitty endeavouring to concentrate on her embroidery. On the pretense that he had come to admire her work, he leant forward whispering.
"Go to your father; he wants you in the library."
She drew breath and immediately went there.
On her entering the room, she was met by Mr. Bennet pacing the floor, looking grave and anxious.
"Elizabeth! There you are, my dear."
He gave her a long troubled look. She stood before him, her hands behind her back and a tiny hint of a smile in her eyes.
"Yes papa, you sent for me ...."
There was a strange ring in her voice. She seemed to be ...happily anticipating his words?
"I have just spoken to Mr. Darcy and I must say he brought me the most astonishing news. He came to ask my consent ...to marry you!"
She nodded and responded to his searching gaze by looking straight into his face. Her eyes were remarkably clear. He was very much upset by her evident determination.
"Are you out of your senses to be accepting this man, Lizzy!? Have you not always hated him?"
He moved to sit on a chair opposite his daughter and tried to calm himself to be able to discuss the matter in a sensible manner.
Elizabeth only uttered half soothingly.
How she regretted that she had ever allowed herself to be entertaining her family and herself by formulating such caustic and infamous remarks to express her former low opinion of him, her dislike, her contempt, her amused ridicule at his pompous conceit. It was now necessary to explain to her father how her regard for him had undergone so material a change, and to assure him with some confusion, of her attachment to Mr. Darcy.
"Lizzy', said her father, 'I have given him my consent. He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse anything which he condescended to ask.
"But let me advise you to think better of it. I know your disposition, Lizzy. I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable unless you truly esteemed your husband -- unless you looked up to him as a superior. My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life."
Elizabeth was affected by his speech. She had not thought she would ever take part in such private exchange with him. Never had they been so close to her father's sharing with her the bitter experiences of his own failure. How could she let him know, that she was fully convinced there was no such risk involved by her forming an alliance with Mr. Darcy.
"Lizzy!? He is rich to be sure, but will he make you happy?"
"Have you no other objection apart from this belief of my indifference?"
"None whatever! We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man, ...but this would be nothing, if you really liked him!"
Elizabeth was close to tears. It hurt her to listen to her father's opinion of him.
"I do, I do like him! I love him! Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. If you only knew his generous nature! Pray do not pain me by speaking of him in such terms."
Elizabeth again explained how her estimation of him had been gradually changing.
"I have not always loved him the way I do. But I love him now so dearly. He is truly the best man I have ever known."
At last Mr. Bennet had to realise, that Elizabeth was as upright as she had ever been and that he had been utterly wrong to suspect the influence of any considerations beyond heartfelt love and sincere esteem.
"Well my dear, if this be the case, he deserves you. I could not have parted with you, my Lizzy, to any one less worthy."
He placed a loving kiss on her hair above the forehead and when he smiled at her, she saw some sadness on his face. She stroked the side of it with her hand, before she left.
She went to her own room to compose herself. It was a heavy weight now lifted off her shoulders. She sat at her window for a while contemplating the state of things. She had not yet told her mother, but the convincing of her father had been infinitely more dreaded and she did not expect to feel at all as awkward informing Mrs. Bennet of her attachment to Mr. Bingley's friend.
When she was able to join the others with tolerable composure, she did so and was greeted by an inquiring gaze from him and at the earliest opportunity a furtive whisper.
"What took you so long? You were truly missed."
Both of his communications were responded to by nothing more than a mild smile of reassurance, for she did not wish to draw attention to their new-found intimacy, before she had spoken to her mother.
When the gentlemen were to return to Netherfield, there was a moment of seclusion partly due to the ingenuity of Mr. Darcy's. They were alone and he seized her hand to hold it between his and then raise it to his lips. She was thrilled to feel his mouth on her skin. His words were subdued and tender.
"Good night, my sweet, my lovely Elizabeth. I shall count the hours till I see you again ....'
Voices scared them apart, but she dared a tender glance at him and with a hesitant stroke barely touched the arm of his woolen coat.
"So shall I."
His eyes returned to her again and again, when the family gathered for their taking leave. She was so lovely, he had no wish to leave. He wanted to hold her the way he had this morning, but not even Bingley could hope for such pleasant farewell.
Elizabeth followed her mother when she went up to her dressing-room at night and made the important communication. Its effect was most extraordinary: for, on first hearing it, Mrs. Bennet sat quite still, and unable to utter a syllable. Nor was it under many, many minutes, that she could comprehend what she heard.
She began at length to recover, to fidget about in her chair, get up, sit down again, wonder, and bless herself.
"Good gracious! lord bless me! dear me! Mr. Darcy! Who would have thought it? And is it really true? Oh, my sweetest Lizzy! how rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have!"
She compared Jane's catch to Lizzy's and declared it to be nothing at all. Then proclaimed her own happiness and got to think of her future son-in-law.
"...Such a charming man! -so handsome! so tall! -- Oh my dear Lizzy! Pray apologise for my having disliked him so much before. I hope he will overlook it."
Then back to the prosperous expectations of her daughter ...
"Dear, dear Lizzy! A house in town! Everything that is charming! Three daughters married! Ten thousand a year!'
Even some small self-knowledge was arrived at ...'Oh, Lord! what will become of me? I shall go distracted."
She was, indeed, not far from it at that moment. But her discernible words were enough to prove that her approbation need not be doubted, and more than enough to have Elizabeth rejoice that such an effusion was heard only by herself. She soon went away, but before she had been three minutes in he own room, her mother followed her.
"My dearest child, I can think of nothing else! Ten thousand a year and very likely more! 'Tis as good as a lord! And a special license! You must and shall be married by a special license! But my dearest love, tell me what dish Mr. Darcy is particularly fond of, that I may have it tomorrow."
Alone in her room Elizabeth reflected that though she was in certain possession of his warmest affection, and secure of her relation's consent, there was still something to be wished for. It was sad to think that Mrs. Bennet had not even mentioned the concept of love, not embraced her daughter to tell her that she wished for her to be happy. Was she even aware of another source of joy than sprung from jewels and pin-money? How might her mother behave towards him if she rattled on like this when thinking of him?
She needed not have worried, the morrow passed off much better than she expected; for Mrs. Bennet stood in such awe of her intended son-in-law that she ventured not to speak to him, unless it was in her power to offer him any attention, or mark her deference for his opinion.
Elizabeth had the satisfaction of seeing her father taking pains to get acquainted with him; and Mr. Bennet soon assured her, that Darcy was rising every hour in his esteem.
He declared, that he liked all his sons-in-law -- Wickham being his favourite -- and that he thought he would like her husband quite as well as Jane's.
" I believe he is very much in love with you. I never saw such devoted glances, such admiration, Lizzy! Be sure to preserve that love, my daughter. It is a precious gift!"
Part IV-- Gentlemanlike Behaviour
From the happy autumn day when Miss Elizabeth Bennet was more or less persuaded by her mother, to accompany her elder sister and the gentlemen from Netherfield on a walk -- the outcome of which had certainly never been within the imaginative abilities of Mrs. Bennet -- from that day I tell you, there was a significant increase in the number of hours spent outdoors, mainly walking, by the two eldest Misses Bennet and their fiancés .
The brightest time of day would find them emerging from Longbourn House for extended tours in the neighbourhood, and though they were often leaving together, there was this tendency to hasten ahead or linger behind, that would inevitably separate the couples.
Quite frequently during those daily walks in every direction from Longbourn and Netherfield, did Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet, for particular reasons, choose a topic of conversation that enabled them to deal further with all that had passed between them from the day they first saw each other.
Elizabeth's spirits were soon as playful as ever and she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his falling in love with her.
"How could you begin? I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?"
Surrounded by the splendours of autumn, with the woman of his heart at his side, Darcy experienced a profound contentment that was heightened by the vivacity of his companion. He was as eager as Elizabeth to dwell on every aspect of their love's previous history, to discuss in some detail the events, that had brought them their present happiness. He let his eyes wander over the open fields while searching his memory in vain.
"I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words which laid the foundation.'
He slowly shook his head, and his eyes returned to hers to look with a touch of resigned mirth into them, admitting that he had been captured unbeknownst to himself.
"It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun."
Elizabeth did not mind his lacking accuracy. However she wanted to know what had incited his interest in her person. She proceeded with her inquiry to have him confess, what had made him form an attachment to her.
"My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners -- my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now, be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?"
The shadow of a delighted smile passed on his face.
"For the liveliness of your mind, I did."
She laughed at his civil euphemism.
"You may as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less."
Her countenance showed signs of cheerfulness and as she voiced her own opinion in the matter, arrived at in many a solitary speculation, Darcy could not take his eyes off the fascinating display of shifting smiles, significant glances and ravishing movements of her lips.
"The fact is that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking and looking and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused and interested you, because I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but, in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you."
While her cheeks, becomingly coloured by agitation, and her eyes, sparkling from some flash of wit, were the objects of his admiring gaze, he listened to her summing up the development of his state of mind. In doing so, she had cleverly taken the sting out of her words by rendering an air of ridicule to herself, as well as to the ladies of his former society.
Admitting to himself, that her clear intellect had formed an analysis both sober and entertaining, he let her know of his amusement by one raised eyebrow and an almost imperceptibly arched upper lip. She allowed herself the pleasure of a conclusion that was rather flirtatious, her eyes smiling warmly into his.
"There .. I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you know no actual good of me - but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love."
He thoroughly enjoyed her gaze as the warmth of it spread within him. But he had to remind her of a circumstance that was not as elusive as his other incitements for being head over heels in love.
"Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Jane, while she was ill at Netherfield?"
"Dearest Jane! Who could have done less for her? But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teasing and quarreling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly, by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at last?"
The flow of good-tempered wit and her tantalizing glances certainly did rouse his interest. He could feel again that urge to protect, not only her good qualities, but all of her lovely being. He would not allow any harm to come to her if it was within his power to prevent it. A direct question called his attention back to her continuing interrogation.
"What made you so shy of me when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?"
There was in her eyes a gleam of past torment as she looked back on the hours spent in contemplations of his behaviour. How she had been tossed between hope and despair during those agonizing days. Darcy saw it and remembered his own pain as he answered.
"Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement."
"But I was embarrassed."
"And so was I."
"You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner."
"A man who had felt less might."
His eyes were upon her face, their ardent expression impelling her to draw breath and perceive a disturbing stir in her chest somewhere. Trying to maintain her collected demeanour she persisted.
"How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it! But I wonder how long you would have gone if you had been left to yourself! I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect -- too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? for I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do."
Alternately serious and smiling his gaze had lingered on her beloved features, but now he put his hand reassuringly on her arm to contradict her.
"You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Lady Catherine's unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for an opening of yours. My aunt's intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know everything."
The firm line of his chin as he spoke attracted her eye inexplicably. Slightly confused, she resorted to mockery, but still could not resist having the conversation explore his feelings.
"Lady Catherine has been of infinite use, which ought to make her happy, for she loves to be of use. But tell me, what did you come down to Netherfield for? Was it merely to ride to Longbourn, and be embarrassed? or had you intended any more serious consequences?'
The beginning of his reply momentarily satisfied her need for tender assurances and the rest of it was also rather pleasing.
"My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me. My avowed one, or what I avowed to myself, was to see whether your sister was still partial to Bingley, and, if she were, to make the confession to him which I have since made."
"Which brings us back to the present happy circumstances. For I would consider them very happy ...most of the time; I suppose one can never escape an occasional fly in the ointment."
The addition was made as she recalled the events of the previous evening. Darcy glanced at her questioningly.
"Occasional fly? Whatever can you mean, Elizabeth?"
She sighed and her eyes were somewhat reluctant to meet his as she explained.
"It was so embarrassing to witness the less appropriate behaviour of my aunt Philips' yesterday. I am reconciled that I have to endure some ill-considered statements from my mother, but I should so wish that no additional awkwardness were to result from the inevitable association with our relations."
There had been a gathering of neighbours the previous night at Longbourn and Mr. and Mrs. Philips had been invited to meet Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, the most recent additions to the Bennet family circle. Elizabeth had been dreading this occasion and consequently taken it upon herself to endeavour to prevent Mr. Darcy from being exposed to the excessive amount of pushing pronouncements, that might result from the careless consideration of her aunt Philips.
She was right to do so, for although the awesome respect Mrs. Bennet had for her son-in-law did to some extent afflict her sister, it did not stop her from being vulgar. She had made some less proper remarks in order to gather more specified information about the wealth of Lizzy's young man. To that effect, she had led the conversation, in a manner that she herself thought was unnoticeable, to the subject of carriages and horses.
Since Bingley's carriage was waiting outside the house harnessed with a pair of shining bay horses, the faint sound of a whinny had made her establish the fact that those fine animals belonged to Jane's fiancé. Then she wanted to know whether Mr. Darcy had arrived in a carriage of his own to Hertfordshire and if so, how many horses he had brought with him.
Elizabeth was humiliated to overhear this, and though seriously displeased, she made an attempt to deal with her aunt jestingly.
"There would be great inconvenience indeed, Aunt, for Mr. Darcy to travel by couch without the necessary horses to make it move. He could not borrow a horse from Mr. Bingley's stable at Netherfield to commence on a journey from London, could he!"
Without allowing her niece's remark to interfere with her intentions, Mrs. Philips smiled sourly before she turned to Mr. Darcy.
"And I suppose you keep carriages in town as well as in Derbyshire, Mr. Darcy?"
Elizabeth rolled her eyes behind her aunt's back, but was amazed to notice Darcy's being uncommonly patient as he answered the lady politely enough, by nodding his consent without going into further detail. But Mrs. Phillips wanted quantified information to feed her future gossip.
"How many in London would you say, Mr. Darcy?"
"I really could not tell you this instant, Mrs. Philips; however, I do believe it would be possible for me to obtain this information and supply it later, if you would, in your turn, be so kind as to let me know for what purpose you need it. Would you need the exact amount of mares and geldings ...there are no stallions in London. Perhaps, all things considered, it would suffice for you to know that there are horses enough -- that is to say, as many as have hitherto been required for the carriage-driven purposes that might arise."
This verbose answer had Mrs. Philips completely dumbfounded. After waiting a brief instant for her reaction, Darcy excused himself with a reserved bow and turned to address the advancing Sir William Lucas. Mrs. Philips was left in total perplexity, and Elizabeth had turned her head away to hide a smile of surprised appreciation of Mr. Darcy's gracious -- and entertaining -- ability to avoid the forwardness of her aunt.
Part IV B
She now complimented him on his manner of handling the situation and expressed her astonishment, that he had been able to suppress a very natural vexation at the unabashed curiosity of her aunt. She was amusing herself while suggesting how he might have behaved.
"I would have quite understood, if you had acted more like your aunt in order to enlighten my aunt. If you had dealt with her condescendingly, exposing her to some of that dreaded haughtiness ...to make her realize her unsuitable insolence."
But Darcy did not smile.
"No Miss Bennet, you may rest assured that in the future, I shall take great care to not give you reason to accuse me of ungentlemanlike behaviour as you once did, to my deepest mortification. I would not want you to look upon me with those reproaching eyes."
Of course he was alluding to the first time he proposed to her. Elizabeth smiled tenderly and mumbled something to ward off his misgivings, but he was persistent.
"It was certainly a most painful experience, perhaps the worst moments in my entire life and I have no wish to live through such humiliating minutes ever again."
"I believe we are both so very different from what we were that day ...the risk of a repetition is not even worth mentioning."
Elizabeth had listened to him and answered him seriously this far, but then, giving in to an impulse, she sent him an arch glance and said:
"If I am not all wrong, I think there must be at least two modes in which to behave ungentlemanlike. And I am of the opinion that, though the kind you were referring to even now had better be avoided, ...as for the other sort ...however objectionable in the eyes of the world, I suspect that there are times, when it might not be at all disagreeable ...to those more closely involved ..."
Darcy gasped at the boldness of her words and also thought there was something provocative about the smile playing on her lips. The sight of it and its possible implications caused hot dashes and an immediate impulse to act upon her challenge. He hesitated ...could he have misinterpreted her meaning? ...He bit his cheek and all sorts of wild wishes crossed his mind as he, slightly frowning, let his eyes rest upon her face.
Elizabeth, somewhat alarmed by the way her half jesting remark came out and was lingering like an echo in the silence between them, thought it necessary to make an addition to her earlier statement.
"Am I to understand you are of a different meaning, sir. Perhaps I was wrong assuming that my view of the matter would be at all coherent with the opinions of dignified people who are of a less frivolous disposition."
That bewitching mixture of archness and sweetness never failed to affect him. He paused to seize her by the arm and make her face him. He was half jocular, half serious and surprised to find himself adjusting his manner of address to her remark.
"Whether my disposition can be described as dignified or frivolous, I believe it is only fair to warn you, Miss Bennet; your teasing may eventually bring me to a point where my gentlemanly behaviour might be put at stake ..."
He spoke in a very low but intense voice and despite the playful note, his eyes were looking fixedly at her. Their expression was one of mingled alarm and what could best be described as anticipation.
Elizabeth was loosing all of her high spirits as the impact of his eager eyes on her face made her feel faint and inexperienced. She suddenly realised that she was too ignorant in those matters, to really know what she was about. But she also became aware of an increasing wish to learn more.
The warmth from his hand on her arm made her blood throb expectantly, and though she did not know it, her face reflected this yearning. Her lips were all soft and inviting . The sight of her was too much for Darcy, silently groaning at his lack of control he pulled her towards him.
"Elizabeth! I am only human. You have no idea how lovely you are ...I had not ..."
All the time he was intensely observing her mouth, which made her sigh and place one hand on his chest, half caressing, half in an irresolute gesture of defence.
"I think I have some vague idea of what you mean ..."
As she looked up into his eyes all helpless from the sensations of her own body, his hold on her arms tightened and he slowly bent his head to finally allow himself the pleasure of her mouth.
The touch of his lips against hers was so sweet, she let go of every attempt to resist him -- or her own improper curiosity -- to almost fall against him, and her hands were moving over the rough cloth of his coat to steady herself . She would have lost her balance if Darcy had not thrown his arms round her for support. While doing so, he still managed to hold back, as he had no wish to frighten her off by any outbursts of passion. He knew, that he might not be able to check himself.
Fully aware that his feelings for Elizabeth Bennet were not to be compared to anything he had hitherto experienced, he thought it best to keep them locked up for the present time. He had had some contact with the violence of his love and he also knew that once this road was entered upon, there was no turning back. So he saw to it, that the kiss was restricted to a brief meeting of their lips.
It was not easy to refrain, the sensation of her mouth against his being so beguilingly alluring, and especially since he had now had such overwhelming evidence of her wishes in this matter.
She wanted to stay in his arms. It was quite obvious that she would permit him to indulge in some ...ungentlemanlike behaviour .... He loved her for it, but with an inner control that amazed him, he planted a soft kiss on her cheek and then slowly shoved her at arm's length from him. His voice was not all firm and composed though, as he feverishly tried to think of something sensible to say.
"Dearest ...most beloved Elizabeth! I think we ...had better ...continue on our way back towards Longbourn. We are expected back in time for dinner ...."
The faint look of disappointment on her face made him smile tenderly down into her blushing face .... His love for her apparently never ceased to grow. Over and over again he had this experience. He discovered new things about her to make her even dearer to him. And today, though he had been entertaining some hopes regarding the warmth of her affections, he had not dared to imagine it would be anything near this committed sweetness.
He was touched by her apparent trust in him and made himself a promise that he would never give her cause to regret it. They had begun to walk slowly along the path, her hand on his arm, her face slightly averted.
"Elizabeth', he exclaimed after a while, noticing that she kept looking around her at the birds, towards a farmer working on a far off field or even up into what was left of the brown and yellow foliage ...anything but him.
"Have I done anything to offend you?'
She gave a stifled sound, half laughing, half sobbing, but her voice was decidedly closer to tears when she spoke.
"You !! To offend me? I would say it is quite the opposite. I am painfully aware that I have been behaving very badly. On such occasions as this, it is the lady ...if she is a true one, who should ...draw the line and make the gentleman realise his duty ...."
She cast a quick, embarrassed glance towards him and then instantly looked away.
"I ...I...feel so ashamed ...my conduct was ...what must you think of me? ...'
She was furiously blushing and dared not look at him.
Darcy, overwhelmed by tenderness on seeing and listening to her abashed bewilderment, made her stop and once again, much against his better judgment, embraced her. He put himself in danger, but it could not be helped.
"My loveliest Elizabeth, ...dearest, your conduct is all that a man could ever wish for ..., why it has made me utterly happy, I can assure you.'
He looked down into her agitated face and was almost choking from his feelings.
"I would not wish for you to behave in any other way ....You are so lovely and today you have done, what I did not believe possible. You have given me still another reason to love you ...more than yesterday. If only ...'
His voice broke as his feelings for her threatened to overpower him. Elizabeth was looking at him inquiringly. What she saw in his dark eyes and heard him articulate, induced her to audaciously blurt out.
"There must be something seriously wrong with me. I seem to be lacking in decency, for I keep wishing you would not talk so much ..."
He let out an inarticulate sound and pulled her very close.
"Elizabeth', he whispered hoarsely,' We are soon to become united in marriage. I promise you, that once we are married, I won't talk half as much ..."
His fiery gaze made her smilingly insist, 'I want you to cease talking this minute,' and she placed her hand around the back of his neck, to pull his head down. This and her raising herself on tiptoe, enabled her to reach his mouth and taste again that sweetness, she had recently learnt was too be found on those firm lips.
He closed his eyes and for a second was nearly giving in to her seductive power. But he was resolved to behave, so that no stain could be attached to her reputation, knowing that some rumours of her arts and allurements were circulated by his aunt. It was his responsibility to see to it, that she was not led astray by his behaviour. Though he found it terribly hard to carry out his decision.
Thus was it that even this time their lips barely met, for a brief and light kiss; his cautiously closed, brushing against her mouth, while she attempted to entice his mouth into prolonged pleasure by pressing her lips eagerly to it. It allowed them both a momentary delight before Darcy, exercising all of his willpower, managed to reluctantly pull his head back. He got hold of that adorably caressing hand around his neck to bring it to his tingling mouth and violently cover it with kisses, before folding it in his with a heavy, trembling sigh.
"I love you most fervently, Elizabeth. I hope you are in no doubt of that! If you are in any way questioning the depths of my feelings, I believe I shall be able to convince you once we are married.'
Having said as much and unconsciously giving some of his improper thoughts away, he could not resist from letting his eyes sweep caressingly over her. The bold nature of that short glance, and the skin on her hand still flushed from his recent ardour, was enough to make her blush, as she indistinctly realised to what he was alluding. She gave him a confused and almost shy smile. Very rare combination on her face and it was enough to melt his heart completely.
"You are, indeed, my most precious, irreplaceable Elizabeth!"
He put his arm around her shoulders to hold her for an instant, the way he used to hold Georgiana affectionately, brotherly. Then placing a tender-hearted kiss on her forehead, he let go and linked his arm with hers, saying that he would probably never get another dinner invitation from Mrs. Bennet, if they did not make haste to cover the rest of the road back to Longbourn.
His heartbeat was slowly resuming its ordinary pace as he glanced without seeing the scenery before him and breathed the cool air in deep gulps. He knew it was unwise, but some unruly and exultant thoughts ran through his head without his trying to impede them. Do I deserve this happiness? How come I am so blessed by fate, that the loveliest woman in all of England wants to become my wife ...to have me kiss her and to kiss me back with such warmth ...to belong to me? Not only is she admirably rational and intelligent, amusingly witty and of such judicious capability as I seldom saw in a woman. She appears to be a most passionate partner when it comes to love-making ....
Next to him walked Elizabeth, in her mind accepting that at present, Darcy was the best judge of the appropriate extent of indulgence in amorous manifestations.
Fitzwilliam Darcy furtively glanced at his fiancée, who had regained some of her lighthearted mood as she smilingly turned her head to inform him of the trouble Mrs. Bennet was taking to make sure he would approve of the awaiting meal.
Part V--A Day Apart
Not many days had dawned, proceeded through zenith and returned to dusk since the sixth of October without a meeting of some sort taking place between Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. There had been a few, when engagements of different kinds had kept them apart. This November day was about to be one of those.
On account of his recent and incomparable happiness, Darcy had allowed matters of his estate to be somewhat ...neglected. After realising that the letters on various subjects concerning Pemberley ...and his London House, had been literally piling up on the writing desk in his chambers at Netherfield, he had been guilt-stricken and even believed he was able to hear, somewhere within, the voice of his father.
Fitzwilliam, you must never forget, that you are the one ultimately responsible for conditions all over the estate. If a tenant of yours falls foul with the law, if fences are falling apart, if the storage of corn is inappropriately managed, it is all your concern. There will always be hundreds of matters, great and small -- problems for you to solve, conflicts for you to settle.
Of course you do not have to deal with everything personally, but you must see to it, that you have chosen the right people to assist you in supervising everything, and they must always know, that you are to be informed if something out of the ordinary occurs. Every man and woman, even remotely connected with Pemberley, must know that you are to be relied upon.
Therefore Darcy was in the Netherfield library and before him on the writing desk were heaps and heaps of paper, mainly letters. The mail arriving for him during those last weeks, had been opened and read as was his custom, but if the messages were not of a private nature, that is, congratulations on his upcoming nuptials, their contents had seldom been urgent enough to draw the attention of Pemberley's master from his prime concern; the frequent calls at Longbourn, the participation in the social life of the neighbourhood, in so far as Miss Elizabeth Bennet was involved, even attendance at various dinner parties and gatherings, including a few dancing assemblies located in Hertfordshire. All of those undertakings with one delightful purpose only, the courtship of his fiancée.
On this day, however, it had been agreed upon that they were not to meet. Yesterday, Elizabeth had explained to him that there were household chores at Longbourn, that had been for several years entrusted to herself and Jane, and which would now have to be passed on to their younger sisters.
Jane would be free to instruct them tomorrow, for Mr. Bingley had accepted an invitation to spend the night with a Mr. William Palmer at Bollitree Castle. His design was to partake in a day's shooting and since Mr. Darcy had declined that same invitation referring to an increasing amount of unattended business matters, the obvious solution had presented itself. Elizabeth would join efforts with her sister and the following day was to be devoted to several duties that had been rather neglected of late.
It seemed reasonable when decided. Just one day, yes that should be enough to catch up on things. But Darcy had no sooner returned to Netherfield on the eve before, than he began to regret his decision, bearing in mind that the next day would neither offer him the joy of her company nor that of his friend. He had endeavoured to pass his regrets off with a joke, as he watched Bingley making arrangements with his groom and valet in anticipation of the hunting expedition.
"I shall be mending my pen and sharpening my arguments to secure the game I am aiming at through letters, while you make the grounds around Bollitree highly unsafe for every winged or four-footed creature ...stray horses and bird dogs included ...with your rifle. Perhaps we should compare the outcome of our efforts at you return. To see who has achieved his aims and made the biggest catch ...."
Bingley looked at his friend and perceived that he was somewhat low-spirited. This was a reminder of the great difference in their obligations. Though he did sometimes envy Darcy the splendours of Pemberley, he also realised that an estate of the Netherfield dimensions was more easily combined with the carefree way of life he loved. He placed his hand on the back of Darcy's shoulder to pat him encouragingly.
"The day after tomorrow I think we shall both be otherwise occupied. We will be in pursuit of other, vastly more pleasant, things than are associated with steward or fowl."
The consolation intended was gratefully received. Despite his exertion to master the emotion, the affectionate smile was soon succeeded by one of unrestrained delight at the indicated prospect.
All this was yesterday; he had shared an early breakfast with his friend before Bingley was off and now, with the assistance of his man, had brought all of his correspondence down on the large table in the library to be sorted and overhauled. He would commence by placing them in different stacks. Darcy heaved a sigh and grabbed the first letter ....
When he was able to decide on his course of action promptly or after a brief consideration, he wrote a letter in reply to his lawyers, his tailor, boot-maker or whatever gentleman was the sender.
Those letters, however, that were sent from Pemberley, were sorted in one stack from his steward and another from Mrs. Reynolds. The same procedure was applied to the letters from his London House butler and its housekeeper, Mrs. Tuddler. His design was to answer all of their queries in four letters.
On writing to Mrs. Reynolds, he did not restrict himself to answering the questions put by her; for they were often connected to the fact that he would bring a new Mistress to Pemberley on his next visit. He saw fit to let her know of some preparations that were to be done before their arrival.
His old housekeeper appeared to be very pleased with his choice of wife, not that she would ever be so forward as to comment openly, but it was to be read between her lines. She made some references to her brief encounters with dear Miss Bennet in August. This was gratifying reading for Darcy. He was pleased to notice her approval and a tiny smile was playing on his lips as he instructed her to have the master bedroom put in order. The bedding equipment was to be renewed, but no other redecorating was to take place yet. Not until Mrs. Darcy has seen the chambers ... He had decided, that the matter should not be brought to Elizabeth's attention, until she was acquainted with the rooms and ...was his wife.
When the letter to Mrs. Reynolds was finished, he got up and walked over to a window. He had allowed his thoughts to dwell on her and now his longing to see her was acute. He was staring out on one of the gravel walks as a valet passed outside with three of Bingley's dogs.
The sight of the Grand Dane flashed a remembrance before his eyes. His wistful gaze deepened as he pictured her dancing teasingly round about the dog, trying to pull the wooden stick from him. The dog baring his teeth, hanging on to the stick, the black spots on his lithe body and the furiously whisking tail, all of it contrasted to the mixture of soft cloth, flying curls and gracious movements. The memory of her undaunted liveliness compelled him to sigh in despair at his present solitude.
He forced himself to return to his desk and to give his entire attention to the number of letters from his steward. For the next two hours he managed to involve himself in Pemberley matters, and as he finally laid down his pen before he began to seal the stack of letters, he stretched the fingers on his right hand to ease the strain of the muscles and fetched a deep sigh of exhaustion and contentment.
A glance at the clock on the mantelpiece told him, that it was almost four hours since he had breakfast and he rang the bell for some food and wine to be brought into the library. He pressed his seal into the hot lump of sealing-wax and again breathed out his relief when he placed that last letter on top of the stack.
With a pleasantly clear conscience he moved over to await his meal in one of the comfortable armchairs by the fire. Staring into the flames he saw her face before him. He thought of her eyes, the look in them, the untamed sparkle to challenge him and the calm sagacity that induced him to listen to her. So far away in delightful thoughts was he, that he winced when a tray was put before him.
He devoured his food reflecting to himself that he had indeed been concentrating, for he had not even noticed any hunger until his work was done. Nor was there much time for amorous fancies, he added, thinking of the immediate reappearance of Elizabeth in his thoughts the minute his concentration slackened. The basic needs make themselves felt, he smirked mischievously to himself gulping his wine down. But he immediately regretted his coarseness and grew serious, when her person was again vivid in his mind. Imagining her clear eyes upon his face he acknowledged that her importance to him was of an altogether different dimension. I have been indoors too long, I need some exercise, a ride, ...why not in the Longbourn direction. I could make a short visit, at least I would get to see her. That should be highly agreeable.
When he was closing up on Longbourn House without any signs of his arrival being noticed, he turned in the direction of the stable. He dismounted and entrusted the gelding to a stable boy, who was told to take the horse inside and tie him up for half an hour. The boy recognised Mr. Darcy and made no objections, especially since the reins were placed in his hands accompanied by a coin. As he left, Darcy turned his head to stare hard at the lad and made his wish known.
"There is no need to announce my presence, if you please ...."
He then approached the house from the garden, wondering how he would best gain information on the whereabouts of Elizabeth, when he was so fortunate as to meet his future sister-in-law.
Jane had just left the still room, when she happened upon Mr. Darcy, who came striding towards her from the stables. She smiled at the sight of him, for she knew her sister would be happy and before he had time to ask her, let him know that Lizzy was busy in the still room, and that this place was accessible through a door on the left side of the house. She directed him there and, most considerately, left him to communicate his presence to Elizabeth himself.
Darcy was most appreciative for her discretion and as he pressed down the knob on the tiny green-painted door could feel his heart beating in anticipation. Since he neglected to knock, his entrance was not noted. Thrilled by being near her without her knowledge, he closed the door slowly, suddenly anxious to remain unobserved.
His eyes swept the room, bunches of herbs were hanging from the ceiling, pots and bottles were lined up in several rows on shelves along the walls. The sweet fragrance from a large bowl filled with rose petals mingled with the soothing scent of lavender from above, and in the middle of all this stood the rosy-cheeked joy of his heart in a pale grey frock with an apron round her waist. The soft material with its pink pattern of small dots enclosed her pleasing figure in a most becoming manner. He dearly wanted to put his arms round her and pull her close, but his sobriety prevailed over his fervour.
Elizabeth was about to pour a fragrant liquid into several tiny bottles, a task which apparently required her undivided attention. He understood that she must not be disturbed and attempted to stay immobile, breathing as soundlessly as he could manage and only feared that his presence might startle her while she was busy. He observed her closely, her dark curls were somewhat untidy which made her look even more bewitching. As soon as she had put the larger vessel safely down on the workbench, he spoke.
"I have now the testimony of my own eyes that my future wife is as industrious as she is beautiful."
Elizabeth twirled round in amazement and cried out, joy and fright mingled in her voice.
"Fitzwilliam Darcy! What can you mean by frightening me like that? My heart almost leapt out of its place."
"Then give it to me at once. I promise to cherish it most affectionately."
An enchanted smile spread on his face as he stepped near her and reached for her hand to kiss it. His being so tall made his head push against a thick bouquet of dried lavender and some bright blue flowers rained over him. This amused her audibly, but he was merely happy that he had drawn out her infectious laughter.
"I beg your forgiveness Madam, for the rudeness of my sudden appearance. I had not initially intended to take you unawares, but that bottling business impressed me with the belief of its being rather difficult. Please forgive my deranging of arrangements as well. Mmm, you smell of sweet flowers and intriguing herbs, my alluring sorceress; it is as if you bring summer back to me."
He inhaled the rich aromatic vapour encircling them. She was delighted to see him, but could seldom leave an opportunity to tease him untested.
"Why Mr. Darcy. How come you are here to inspect my work ...and what about your own obligations? Was not today to be a day of mere duties?"
"I know ...and I have tried to stick to our agreement. This is but a short visit, since I found myself in the neighbourhood. I suspect my horse has grown accustomed to the path leading here and ..."
Her face was increasingly amused as he spoke and finally she interrupted him.
"Blame it on a poor animal by all means. So you found yourself near Longbourn by accident? How is that to be interpreted?"
The colour on his cheeks and earlobes was slightly heightened as he admitted.
"After spending the entire morning, hours and hours of letter-writing and business considerations, locked up in the library, I felt an irresistible need for fresh air. I simply had to get rid of the dust in my lungs. But I might as well confess, that no other direction held any charm for me in comparison with the familiar road to Longbourn ...and you. I sincerely hope that my coming here unexpectedly does not annoy you?"
She dried her free hand against her apron and reached out to gently stroke his cheek while looking into his eyes.
"I should think not. This day seemed very long and desolate this morning. But now it has suddenly proved to be exceedingly pleasant."
The happiness derived from hearing her and feeling her soft caress enticed him to squeeze her hand and whisper.
"Are we alone in here or ..."
"For the moment yes, ...but still, no ...Kitty will be back soon with more empty bottles ..."
"Ah, perhaps I had better be gone before she returns then?"
He was not able to hide his disappointment.
"I guess, perhaps that would be prudent ....But you will come tomorrow ...accompanying Mr. Bingley I trust?"
She blushed at her improper forwardness, but he was more than grateful to know she wished for him to call on her.
"Wild horses shall not be able to stop me."
She smiled lovingly at this assurance and dared to brush off a few tiny blue lavender flowers from the shoulder of his grey coat. Her hand was caught in its movement and covered with ardent kisses. Then he released her and turned to seize his hat and gloves.
"Until tomorrow then Elizabeth. May the hours pass by at double speed!"
His eyes looked warmly into hers, the door was opened and the next moment closed behind him. Elizabeth remained standing where he left her, immovable, her eyes longingly staring at the green wooden pattern of the door. She raised the hand he just kissed to place it against her lips and a short sigh escaped her. On her face was an introspective dreamy smile.
Continued in Part 3
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