A Little Less Proper Behaviour
This story starts at Rosings. Lizzy has just met Col. Fitzwilliam as he is making his tour of the park and they are talking about Mr. Bingley.
"Did Mr. Darcy give you his reasons for this interference?"
"I understood that there were some very strong objections against the lady"
Lizzy stopped her walking and paused for a minute and her companion looked at her. Lizzys head was spinning, she knew that the lady must be Jane but who could object to Jane? Miss Bingley certainly but surely no other person could object. Lizzy had to decide whether to seek more information from Col. Fitzwilliam or behave as a proper lady, be polite and show little interest in this topic of conversation. She chose the former.
"Colonel, I am sure that you are aware that I met Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy when they were together last Summer?"
The colonel nodded, knowing this pretty woman beside him wished to continue he added "There is are two benches over there, perhaps you would like to rest while we talk."
Lizzy let her companion guide her to the benches and they sat. "While Mr. Bingley was staying in the neighbourhood he did show quite an inclination towards a lady and this gave general rise to the expectation that they would soon be engaged. Could you explain why Mr. Darcy decided that it would be to his friends benefit to leave a neighbourhood that he obviously enjoyed and where he was displaying the symptoms of love?"
Though he had feelings for the woman walking beside him and he was sure that they could become love, the Colonel knew that he could not marry with so little regard for fortune. Added to this the feeling that his cousin had feelings for Miss Bennet, the colonel knew he must guard his feelings. The more colonel Fitzwilliam thought about it, the more he thought his cousin in love. Keeping this in mind, and the fact that he could not not answer her enquiries he answered her "Oh Miss Bennet, I am so sorry that I mentioned this. As you are clearly close to the situation, I will explain what my cousin told me while we travelled to Rosings.
"Mr. Darcy saw his friend (as I mentioned before, he did not state that it was Mr. Bingley) falling in love with a pretty young lady. Her family demonstrated a want of propriety (though he said that she and one of her sisters were beyond reproach) but this was not his primary objection to the match. She had no connections or fortune, but to his friend this could not be relevant if she loved him, but Darcy saw no symptom of love in her behaviour. She enjoyed his attentions but love was not what Darcy saw. His friends sisters were in total agreement with him so between them, they seperated the couple. Mr. Darcy sees a victory in saving his friend from a loveless marriage. Miss Bennet, I have not offended you have I?"
Lizzy wiped away a nearly formed tear and looked up at Col. Fitzwilliam "No, but as you have been so open with me, I must admit that which I should have told you before, for you would surely not have spoken so if you knew. I will thank you for your honesty, though I cannot account for it. With the particulars you gave, I believe that you were correct in assuming that it was Mr. Bingley. I can further assure you that the lady concerned suffers for your cousins actions." Here the colonel began to interrupt but Lizzy continued as much to keep her tears in check as to prevent her companion interupting her "And I know she suffers for she is my elder sister." Lizzy said the last through sobs that she could withhold no longer.
"Miss Bennet I am sorry for causing you such pain." Col. Fitzwilliam was torn between moving to comfort Miss Bennet and thinking on what she said. It was clear that Darcy enjoyed Miss Elizabeth Bennets company.....she must be the other sister beyond reproach.
Slowly Lizzy recovered and on seeing the pained and concerned look on his face, addressed the Colonel "It is not you that has caused me pain Col. Fitzwilliam. Though you have communicated the situation, it is your cousin who has caused pain again, not only to myself but my sister."
"Again Miss Bennet."
"Yes again. Not long after Mr. Bingley and his party arrived in Hertfordshire, a company of militia arrived in Meryton, among them was an officer who had been wronged by your cousin in a severe way."
"This cannot be true......"
Through the tears that were streaming down her face, Lizzy interrupted her companion "I have once, at the piano I believe, told you of your cousins behaviour that would give you pain, but that was insignificant compared to this. I.....um.... The young ladies in want of a partner will quickly recover after being slighted at a ball but to deny a young man his future."
"Miss Bennet, please explain what you mean for I have been close to my cousin for many years."
"I will tell you as you are his family, but this story does not please me to remember or relate. I would much rather not hear of nor see your cousin again. The officer I speak of grew up on the estate of Pemberley and his father was a steward to old Mr. Darcy...."
Here it was the colonels turn to interrupt. Without thinking he said in a voice more hard than he would usually use in a ladies presence "Wickham".
Lizzy stopped and looked at Col. Fitzwilliam stunned that he knew this story and still defended his cousin. Though this cousin has the open manners and appearance of a gentleman, perhaps he is as bad as his cousin. Lizzy rose to leave saying "You know this story and yet you defend your cousin, I thank you for your time colonel, I wish to walk to the parsonage alone. Good day" and she began to walk away.
The Colonel thought quickly, 'Wickham has told stories of Darcy to Miss Bennet. While Darcy is falling in love with this woman she believes the words of that person.' Disregarding all proper behaviour, Col. Fitzwilliam took two long strides after Miss Bennet and caught her arm in his hand, stopping her progress. She turned to face him, rage obvious in those beautiful eyes but the colonel had a wrong to right so spoke before she could. "Miss Bennet, I cannot know what Mr. Wickham has told you, but by the other stories I have heard him speak I can only imagine. You obviously listened to Mr. Wickhams side so won't you return to the benches and hear the truth of the matter? surely you see the justice in hearing both sides of a story before drawing any conclusions" Though this was a question, the colonel had guided Lizzy back to the bench as he spoke. She was still looking at him with anger but had relaxed a little and would listen.
"Miss Bennet, what I am going to tell you now is painful to myself and Mr. Darcy and one other. Before I can tell you I need your assurances that this will go no further than these benches."
"Why would you tell me that which is clearly an issue you would rather not discuss. My views of Mr. Darcy can hardly be important to that gentleman."
"There I believe you are mistaken, but I cannot be sure." Fitzwilliam decided to risks his cousins displeasure and indicate what he believed to be his cousins feelings "Remember Miss Bennet, that Mr. Darcy felt your sister and one of her sisters beyond reproach."
Lizzy thought on this for a minute then in a quiet voice "You have my assurance, but I do not see what you can tell me that will make me think better of Mr. Darcy."
Col. Fitzwilliam went on to relate all financial transactions related to Mr. Wickham. He told it in much the same way as Mr. Darcy would write it. After a deep breath and a look at his companion, seeing she was softening toward Mr. Darcy, he continued and told of Georgiana Darcy, Ramsgate and Mr. Wickham.
Lizzy sat silently for a few minutes and then looked at the Colonel. He had told her so much about his family, defending Mr. Darcy. After this story Lizzy thought back to what Wickham had told her. He gave her no details and why would the colonel make up such a story about his younger cousin. No he must be speaking the truth. Mr. Darcy did not wrong Wickham......but what he did to Jane. Perhaps he was correct there. My younger sisters and mother display little sense when in public, and Charlotte also noted that Jane did not show her feelings openly. I have been so wrong. Tears pricked the back of her eyes as Lizzy rose. Col. Fitzwilliam offered his arm, she took it gratefully and they walked in silence to the parsonage.
When she entered the parsonage, the Colonel took his leave and Lizzy began to walk to her room but Mr. Collins stopped her. "Cousin Elizabeth you must hurry, we are invited to dine at Rosings and we will be late, hurry."
"My dear" Charlotte began as she entered the room "We have time." Mr. Collins left the room and Charlotte turned to her friend. "Lizzy you do not look well."
"It is just a headache, perhaps I shall remain here alone and in quiet while you attend Rosings."
"Are you sure you would not prefer me to stay with you?"
She had much rather be alone with her thoughts "No Thankyou Charlotte, I am sure I will be fine." Lizzy turned and walked towards her room. Half an hour later she heard all leave. Lizzy returned downstairs to Charlottes sitting room and paced around the room. Thoughts of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham filled her head. 'How could I have been so wrong?' For half an hour Lizzy dwelled on her previous treatment of the two men. She had convinced herself that Mr. Darcy was not such a bad person, just misunderstood. Mr. Wickham was another matter. He was a rogue who she did not wish to think about. A servant entered the room, followed by Mr. Darcy. The girl left, Lizzy sat down, though hardly knowing how she could sit still or what to say to this man. "Would you like to sit down?"
Mr. Darcy sat, and then rose and began pacing the room much as Lizzy had been doing. He asked after her health, paused and then began "In vein I have struggled........(you know this bit)........"
Lizzy was astonished that such a man loves her, the way she had treated him. Her answer....she did not know what she would answer this morning she would have been barely civil in her reply but now she did not love him but his generosity and caring for his sister, he has virtues she did not imagine he would have heard of, .........but the mode of his declaration. No she could not accept.
"Mr. Darcy, I thank you for your proposals but I cannot accept them." He looked at her shocked and a little hurt. Lizzy continued "You have made this declaration in a way that would be difficult for me to accept even if I did love you, though I do not. Until this day I thought that you were proud and arrogant and thought nothing of the feelings of others. I have been wrong. It is hard for me to say this but I had believed another persons views about yourself and I was misled." Lizzy felt genuinely ashamed of herself but the man before her deserved an explanation of her feelings.
"Miss Bennet, I do not understand what you are telling me. I heard your refusal, that my declaration of love did not please you and that your opinion of me was wrong but how has it been corrected, what has happened today?
"Mr. Darcy, please sit down. I see that you are angry but if you wish further explanation I will give it but you must sit, I cannot think with you pacing in that way." He sat, with a look of anger mixed with disbelief at her refusal. Mr. Darcy was sure that she would be expecting his addresses, any other young lady of his acquaintance would have accepted in a heartbeat........'perhaps that is how Miss Bennet is different' he thought to himself. This evaluation was interupted as Lizzy continued.
"A great many things have happened today. I will begin earlier than that though. Many months ago you saw Mr. Wickham" Mr. Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his seat here. Lizzy noticed and continued "please Mr. Darcy hear my story. you saw Mr. Wickham introduced to my sisters and I. I noticed that you and he exchanged cold greetings. Later Mr. Wickham told me of his dealings with you."
Mr. Darcy stood to leave saying "Miss Bennet, this cannot help now. I know not of what he told you but I am sure that it was not the truth and ...."
"No it was not the truth, but at the time I did not know that. I had no reason to doubt his words. You had been in the neighbourhood and were little liked and here was a man confirming the suspicions of all." Mr. Darcy relaxed a little as Elizabeth admitted that Wickham had not told the truth but rather than sit again he moved to the fire place, Lizzy continued as he stared at the flames "Until today I had believed all Mr. Wickham had said, and then when I met your cousin while walking in the groves I learnt a great deal. Your cousin told me a different side of Mr. Wickhams story, I am ashamed to say that I was so wrong about you and he. I can only appologise for my behaviour to yourself."
Mr. Darcy turned to face Lizzy. No longer did he wear a face of anger, but one of sorrow. Lizzy was shocked at the transformation that half an hour had made. For his part, Darcy was curious what his cousin had said and silently thanked him while resolving to speak to him this evening if possible "Miss Bennet, you need not apologise, I have been listening to you speak and as I think, I see that I have not been as I should be towards you. My behaviour has not been that of a gentleman. As you pointed out, even in my proposal I have been mistaken. I had no doubt of your accepting my hand. I can only apologise for my behaviour and hope that one day you will forgive me. I must leave now for my aunt will be wondering where I am. I have one question before I leave, if I may ask" Lizzy nodded "Would you object if I were to call on you tomorrow?"
Lizzy was shocked that Mr. Darcy still sought her company but thought that to begin again and get to know one another would be pleasant. "I thought that you were to leave for London."
"I would prefer to remain and call on you if I may"
Lizzy blushed and Darcy looked at his feet as he awaited an answer "I would be delighted to see you again."
Mr. Darcy left and Lizzy was in a state of confusion. Mr. Wickham was forgotten and her head was filled with pleasant thoughts of Mr. DArcy.
Mr. Darcy arrived back at Rosings in time to farewell the party from the parsonage. He very politely bid them good evening and gave his cousin Fitzwilliam such an expressive look that he knew that Darcy wanted to speak with him very soon. Just as the two gentlemen moved towards the library lady Catherine called to them. As she was in the next room, by silent agreement the cousins walked quickly to the library closing the door before it was possible their aunt could see them.
"Now Darcy, I can only guess where you have been but I can see that you wish to tell me."
"Your guess would be correct, but I do not wish to discuss my visit to the parsonage, I would rather discuss your walk this afternoon."
"Yes.....the park is lovely at present. That field beyond the park boundaries is ....."
"No Fitzwilliam, I do not wish to discuss the landscape as I am sure you are aware, I wish to discuss your company for your walk."
"Yes, I did have the pleasure of Miss Bennets company for some of my walk today. She is a lovely creature with a great deal of spirit. That is one lady who will give her opinions with no reserves."
"Indeed, I am most interested in the conversation you had. Please stop toying with me Fitzwilliam, it is clear to me that you know my feelings for the lady I would like you to tell me what you told her."
"Very well. I wish you to know that I only told what I told her in your defense. We were speaking of general things and the conversation moved to friends and the care that you take of yours. I told Miss Bennet that you congratulated yourself on saving a friend from an imprudent marriage, you remember you told me of it on the way to Rosings."
"Oh no Fitzwilliam, how could you do this. Miss Bennet told me that you spoke of Wickham but she did not mention this. I do not know why she would ever speak to me again."
"Miss Bennet did confirm for me that the gentleman I discribed was Mr. Bingley and the lady her sister. She was understandably upset but this led to my revealing all of your (and Georgianas) dealings with Mr. Wickham. This seemed to upset her even more. Darcy I apologise if I have wronged you but she was so angry at you for Wickham and I had sensed your partiality for her" Darcy started at this but nodded. "so felt that your best defense was the truth."
"Thankyou Fitzwilliam, telling her this story is not wrong of you, I am sure I would have told her for she is the only woman of my acquaintance who I could trust with this. My life is empty without her and my heart still. I need to make her see that I love her and convince her that she can love me."
"But Darcy we are to leave in the morning."
"No our aunt has asked us to remain another week and I have not yet accepted but I intend to accept the invitation. If you wish to leave, you may have the carriage and I will return to London by horseback later."
"And miss my cousin falling over himself in love, oh no I will remain with you." Secretly the Colonel wished to see his aunts reaction too.
The gentlemen both moved to the sitting room where lady Catherine soon renewed her invitation and both accepted it. The rest of the evening passed with little conversation of interest but Mr. Darcy was thinking of visiting Miss Bennet in the morning.
Thank you all so much for your responses. They really make posting worth while.
Lizzy awoke early the next morning. She had only one week left at Hunsford and wished to spend as much time as possible in the grounds. When she walked into the breakfast room, Lizzy saw Charlotte and Mr. Collins beginning a hearty breakfast. Seeing the bonnet in her hand, Charlotte spoke to her friend "Lizzy, you do look pale pehaps a short walk around the gardens would be of benefit."
Silently grateful for her friends intuition, Lizzy answered quickly "Yes you are right Charlotte, the grounds are so beautiful. I believe I will go for a long walk to refresh myself." Lizzy smiled and walked out of the room before her cousin could speak.
It appeared that not only did Lizzy decide on an early walk but, not five minutes after leaving the parsonage, Lizzy was greeted by Mr. Darcy. Since their last conversation Lizzy had thought about all that he had said and all that Col. Fitzwilliam had told her earlier. Although satisfied that Mr. Darcy had not wronged Mr. Wickham, he had seperated her sister from Mr. Bingley. Even if he did not see the love Jane had for Bingley surely he could be instrumental in redirecting Mr. Bingley back to Hertfordshire.
"Miss Bennet, Good Morning, I was on my way to call on you but due to the early hour decided to walk for a while first."
"Good Morning Mr. Darcy, I was taking a walk before breakfast."
"May I accompany you."
"If you wish." Darcy was a little confused by this less than enthusiastic answer but he too had thought about their previous meetings and realised that he had not been all that polite to Miss Bennet in the past.
They continued silently for five minutes, then Mr. Darcy broke the silence "I believe we must have some conversation, though very little may suffice." Lizzy noticed a hint of a smile on his lips as he spoke and she could not help but smile at his using her words.
"I will speak Mr. Darcy but you may not like my choice of subject."
A puzzled Mr. Darcy answered "You could say nothing that I would not wish to hear."
The compliment of this was not unfelt by Lizzy, it was clear that Mr. Darcy was making a great effort to show her how he felt, but Lizzy had resolved to remove the last obstacle to her forming any kind of attatchment to this man. "Mr. Darcy, I must ask you do you honestly believe that my sister Jane does not have strong affections for your friend."
"I fear you have found a subject that does not give me great pleasure. I had wished to speak with you on this though I thought that we may have some pleasant conversation first. As you have begun, I will continue. My cousin informed me that he had told you that I had recently seperated my friend from a lady. You were correct in your identification of Mr. Bingley and Miss Jane Bennet being the couple concerned. I believe that he also told you that the primary reason for my interferance was my belief in your sisters indifference. Since last night I have been rethinking all of my actions since I met you. Perhaps I did judge hastily, but the assurances that Miss Bingley gave of your sisters indifference urged me to serperate your sister from my friend. Now I can say that I do not believe Miss Bingleys interests to be that of her brother. I should not have involved myself, my interferance though well meant was not well founded. I will call on Bingley when I return to London and suggest that he may wish to return to Netherfield and renew his acquaintance with your family."
"Thank you, Mr. Darcy. My sister will remain in London until I return with her in a week. How long are you to remain at Rosings sir?"
"I believe that I will be returning to London the same morning that you leave Hunsford." As much as he wished to offer himself and his cousin as escort to Elizabeth and Maria, Darcy knew that it was too soon. Perhaps by the end of the week.
Darcy and Elizabeth walked on for a further hour before returning to the parsonage.They spoke of the weather, travelling, staying home, books and dancing. The time was most pleasant for both of them.
Darcy stopped a little before the parsonage and stopped his fair companion. "Miss Bennet please give my respects to your friend, I will not return to the parsonage with you." The look in Lizzys eye spoke to Darcy. He was convinced that she knew he did not wish to see Mr. Collins and this was the truth, but more, Darcy did not wish for Mr. Collins to believe that there was any type of attatchment between Elizabeth and Darcy for this would surely be communicated to lady Catherine who would not approve. Darcy took her hand, bowed deeply and placed a gentle kiss on her fingers. Lizzy blushed, said farewell and walked slowly to the door. Mr. Darcy watched her thinking how pleasing her figure was.
The remaining week at Hunsford saw Lizzy and Darcy meet accidently in the park four times. They talked and laughed and Mr. Darcy knew that he was becoming more and more in love with Elizabeth and sometimes he thought that she loved him too. They met at Rosings whenever the occupants of the parsonage were invited to dine or drink tea. Col. Fitzwilliam was a pleasant as always but seemed to leave Elizabeth to his cousin, watching the two of them, Fitzwilliam knew that there would be a Darcy wedding before the year ends and it would not have Anne deBourgh as bride.
On their last evening at Hunsford, Elizabeth and Maria were invited with Mr. and Mrs. Collins to dine at Rosings. Lizzy was very pleased, though with his aunt around Darcy was quiet and reserved she did very much enjoy his company. Lizzy hoped that when Bingley returned to Netherfield his friend would accompany him.
After dinner, the party was sitting around in the music room and lady Catherine was instructing the ladies on the only way to pack a trunk (did Mr. Darcy roll his eyes at this, Lizzy thought she saw it) when she began to speak about the journey.
"Where will you change horses...oh yes Bromley of course....Mrs. Collins you must send a servant with them, I cannot stand the thought of two young ladies travelling post alone"
Lizzy made to answer but Mr. Darcy began before she could speak a word "Aunt you are quite correct, two young ladies should not travel post alone. Perhaps they should travel with Colonel Fitzwilliam and myself as far as London."
Again Lizzy began to answer but lady Catherine answered "Darcy that would be fortunate for the ladies but I was to ask you to remain at Rosings until Sunday for you have certainly enjoyed this last week and another four days would allow you to spend time with Anne and"
Darcy cut his aunt off "Unfortunately aunt, I have urgent business that requires my presence in London and I have already put it off as long as is possible. Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Lucas if it is agreeable to you we can collect you from the parsonage after an early breakfast."
Lizzy looked at Maria who was too scared to speak in lady Catherines presence but smiled her consent to travelling more comfortably by private coach than by post. Lizzy was torn between the pleasantness of the idea of travelling with Mr. Darcy who she liked a great deal, and the way that he had not asked her first. Lizzy decided that Mr. Darcy would have asked her first but the opportunity arose¸¸.. so with a quick smile to Mr. Darcy Lizzy answered (as much to lady Catherine as Mr. Darcy for it would not do for lady Catherine to suspect any attachment) ¤I thank you Mr. Darcy, Colonel that would be very agreeable.Ë The smile that decked Mr. Darcys face was wider than any Lizzy had seen before. Lady Catherine was not happy with the arrangement but could put forward no further objections.
The rest of the evening passed without hearing the voice of Lizzy or Mr. Darcy. Though they looked at each other a great deal, they did not need to speak.
Lizzy would no longer deny her feelings for this man but she feared that he would not declare his again.
Mr. Darcy was more in love than before. The way that Elizabeth acted toward him showed that he was very mistaken when he thought she would be expecting his addresses before. When they walked together in the park or even looked towards each other at Rosings he could sense her happiness and hear in all her words her growing affection for him, but he did not know when to speak for to speak too soon could prove fatal. He must be sure of her affections but he wanted nothing more than to have this woman beside him for ever. She would never accept him before Bingley had visited her sister so an opportunity must be found to get Bingley to Hertfordshire and soon.
The parsonage party departed early so that the ladies could prepare for their journey. Mr. Collins took it upon himself to thank lady Catherine for arranging such agreeable transportation for his cousin and sister in law and thanked Mr. Darcy with such enthusiasm for his generosity that Lizzy was embarressed when the gentlemen arrived the next day.
The Colonel and Maria conversed happily for the first day of the trip. Lizzy contributed a little to the conversation but Mr. Darcy appeared to be satisfied to listen and watch Lizzy. Lizzy had sent an express to her uncle in London to inform him of the change in travel arrangements that he did not send his servant to meet them. They stopped the night at the home of a friend of the Colonel. Lizzy went for a short walk about the grounds while the gentlemen played billiards. The travellers had a light supper and then retired for the night. They were to have an early start that they would arrive in London by 3 o'clock.
The second day passed much as the first day of travel. Darcy did not feel at ease speaking with Lizzy in company so only contributed a little to the conversation. The roads were good so Lizzy and Maria were delivered safely to Gracechurch street before the time expected.
The Gardiner children were out with Jane when Lizzy arrived. While the servants unloaded the trunks Lizzy and Darcy stood and talked only to be interupted by Mr. Gardiner "Lizzy come say hello"
"Hello uncle. May I present Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy this is my uncle Edward Gardiner." Lizzy saw her aunt walk out the door of the house so left the gentlemen to exchange pleasantries and joined her aunt.
The servant soon came to inform Darcy that the carriage was ready to depart. Lizzy and her aunt had joined Mr. Darcy and Mr. Gardiner in time to hear the end of their conversation
"Mr. Darcy, I must thank you for your trouble in delivering these young ladies to London."
"I assure you it was no trouble at all"
"Even so, please would you and your cousin care to join us for dinner tomorrow evening?"
"Thankyou I will accept the invitation, though my cousin is to return to his regiment tomorrow."
Lizzy felt that she may be able to do her sister a service and save Mr. Bingley a trip to Hertfordshire "Mr. Darcy, perhaps you would care to bring a friend with you, other wise you will grossely be outnumbered by ladies as my sister Jane is also guesting with my aunt and uncle."
Although she did not know what motivated her neice, Mrs. Gardiner seconded the invitation. Darcy did understand Elizabeths meaning quite clearly and said "Yes I believe that that is a lovely idea Miss Bennet, I will call on my friend early I am sure that he has no other engagements" (or he would break them when I make my confessions to him).
Mr. Darcy and Col. Fitzwilliam left as Jane and the children rounded the corner. Lizzy thought it best to tell her sister of the expected visitors so when her sister embraced her Lizzy whispered "I have need to speak with you Jane" and out loud Lizzy said "Jane would you come help me unpack?"
Jane consented and followed her sister up the stairs as Maria ushered the children inside. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were very pleased with Mr. Darcy and even after such a short acquaintance they were sure that he loved their neice.
Jane was shocked at all Lizzy had to relate, but the expectation that Mr. Bingley would be dining with them the next day. Lizzy told all her news to Jane and they were together for above an hour before being required by their cousins. Lizzy did not leave out any details of what the colonel had told her, nor did she leave out what Mr. Darcy had told her. What Lizzy did not communicate to her sister in words was that she was very much in love with Mr. Darcy. Jane was dealing with a great many feelings of her own, but it was quite clear to her (for she was not blind or dim) was that Mr. Darcy and Lizzy were very much in love.
After Lizzy and Jane parted for the evening, Lizzy looked dreamily out the window thinking about Mr. Darcy as she had done any time they have been seperated over the last week. ╬Elizabeth Bennet' she thought ╬How could you love a man who you have only really known for a week. Yes you had met him before but you have only known his true character for a week? How could you decide that you would accept this man?' ¤What???Ë she exclaimed aloud. Now rather than think to herself she began speaking, though quietly to herself ¤It is true that I only found out his true character a week ago, but the walks we have had, the effort he has gone to to secure my affections shows me that he is all goodness. I look back now at all he has done, how he has always been, he has not changed, I have. I know him now and I believe that I truly love him.........Ë With this Lizzy fell back on to her bed and did not know whether to laugh or cry. Jane who had been standing at the door, waiting to enter and speak to her sister heard Lizzys monologue and smiled to herself, closing the door silently and walked away thinking that Mr. Darcy and Lizzy are very well suited indeed.
A note arrived for Mr. Gardiner at breakfast and he read it at the table then turned to Lizzy. "Lizzy, it seems that Mr. Darcy will be bringing his friend for dinner this evening, a Mr. Bingley. I suspect that you knew that is who he would invite. Jane paled a little at the mention of Mr. Bingleys name but Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were very curious to meet this man whom they had heard so much about.
Maria also received a note at breakfast. Hers was from her father. It seems that he has business in London and will collect her in the afternoon. She is sorry that she will be leaving Lizzy and Jane but she is keen to be with her own family again.
The gentlemen arrived an hour before dinner was ready and the children were still downstairs (Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner had decided their children would eat early and remove upstairs while the adults dined.) The presence of the children broke any tension. When the gentlemen entered, they found Lizzy and Jane moving from their seated position on the floor with the children. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner greeted their guests politely and then sat on a sofa to watch the scene before them.
Mr. Bingley greeted Jane enthusiastically, it was clear to Lizzy that Darcy had confessed his errors in seperating Jane from him. He turned his attention to Lizzy for a polite and civil greeting and then returned his attention to Jane. Darcy greeted Jane while Bingley greeted Lizzy, and then turned and bowed to each of the children. They bowed and curtsied with differing degrees of success dependent on their ages, then sat back down on the floor leaving Darcy to sit beside Lizzy.
Jane and Bingley soon had eyes for noone but each other, and although they tried not to look constantly at each other, Lizzy and Darcy were scarcely less attentive to the room. Mr. Gardiner left the room, neither couple hearing his reasons or the fact that he left. It was not until Mrs. Gardiner began to lead the children from the room that Lizzy and Darcy remembered that they were not alone. As they were leaving the room the second youngest child, Annabelle, ran to Lizzy and jumped into her arms to force a good night greeting. Lizzy said her goodnights to all the children, stood still holding Annabelle and carried her to the door and deposited the child behind her mother so that she could leave and go to bed. Much to Lizzys embaressment, the five year old turned to her cousin and in a childish whisper (that is to say loud enough that all in the room heard what she said) "I like Mr. Darcy, he is handsome and I think he likes you Lizzy." Mrs. Gardiner stifled a giggle as she ushered her children from the room.
Lizzy did not know what to do or say. She began to move to a chair further from Mr. Darcy when he stood "Miss Elizabeth, please" He indicated the seat she had vacated "You do know that your cousin was correct in her last remark, I do like you, quite a lot actually." Lizzy sat, smiled and blushed, Darcy took this as encouragement enough "Miss Elizabeth, you must allow me to speak to you on a matter of some importance." She looked at his face, he took her hand in his and continued "A little over a week ago I told you that I loved you. I was wrong." Lizzy looked shocked and tried to remove her hand from his. Mr. Darcy held onto her hand and quickly continued "Then I did not love you. I admired you and was drawn to you but over this last week I have become convinced I did not know you but now I do and I love you more than I could imagine a week ago. I cannot love any other and cannot imagine a life without you in it. Elizabeth Bennet, will you marry me?"
"Mr. Darcy, I am surprised and pleased by your current declaration. Only a week ago I did not know you or myself. I too have learnt what it is to love in this last week and you are the only man I could imagine marrying. Yes I will marry you." Darcy drew her hand to his lips and kissed it gently all the while looking at the eyes of his fiance.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner entered the room to see a scene before them that shocked and pleased them. Mr. Darcy had Lizzys hand to his lips and Mr. Bingley was holding Janes hand to his heart. It seems that two engagements were formed under their roof. Mr. Gardiner cleared his throat loudly and was rewarded by three blushing faces looking at him. Mr. Darcy was still looking at Elizabeth.
The meal was a happy affair. The two happy couples had explained their closeness in the sitting room to the aunt and uncle and all were happy for the couples. Through dinner they talked and laughed and smiled and were so happy that the gentlemen did not wish the ladies to be parted from them at the end of the meal. As quickly as propriety allowed the gentlemen joined the ladies.
Over the course of the evening it was decided that the ladies would remain one further day in London and would travel to Hertfordshire with their gentlemen. Mrs. Gardiners housekeeper, Mrs. Thomas, had a daughter in Hertfordshire who she wished to visit so she would act as chaperone.
Jane and Elizabeth Bennet arrived at Longbourne at 2 o'clock on Monday, accompanied by Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Thomas. Mrs. Bennet had seen the arrival of the coach from an upstairs window and immediately called her younger daughters to the window to see the fine carriage that had brought her daughters home, she had expected the Gardiners carriage but this one she did not recognise.
It was Kitty who first recognised the gentleman assisting Jane from the carriage as Mr. Bingley. Once Mrs. Bennet heard this, she did not care for any other person. Kitty saw the second gentleman assist Lizzy from the carriage and recognised him but her mother heard not a word that she said.
Jane and Elizabeth entered the room where their mother and sisters were sitting and greeted them all warmly. Mrs. Bennet kept looking behind them and to the door in an attempt to see Mr. Bingley but he did not appear.
After ten minutes of sharing news Mrs. Bennet was interupted by the entrance of her husband followed by Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Bennet was exclaiming at her husband that he rarely came to this room when her eldest daughters walked behind him to each take the arm of a gentleman and lead him into the room. Mrs. Bennet stopped speaking when she saw her daughters escorting the gentlemen into the room. Before she could put a phrase together Mr. Bennet spoke.
"Mrs. Bennet, it seems that our daughters have been busy while absent from Longbourne. The two gentlemen you see before you interupted my reading in the library with the intention of taking something from my home. To all appearance the items they came to take have no objections to leaving." Mr. Bennet had the attention of all ladies in the room. He smiled at Lizzy and Jane and continued before his wife could speak "Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley have sought my consent to marry Lizzy and Jane. This I could not refuse them so we are soon to loose our eldest." Turning from his wife to his prospective sons in law with the intention of saving them from any display his wife would give said "Now gentlemen perhaps we should leave the ladies to their needlework."
Reluctantly Darcy and Bingley stood, kissed their lady on the cheek and followed Mr. Bennet from the room, giving Mrs. Bennet a brief salutation.
"Oh Jane, Lizzy you will be so rich and so grand, what carriages and jewels you will have." Mrs. Bennet began. She continued in this way for near ten minutes and to her daughters it seemed that she did not take a breath. For an hour both Lizzy and Jane were subjected to their mothers joy and their younger sisters petitions for balls parties and use of the library at their homes.
At the entrance of Mrs. Hill Lizzy and Jane saw their opening and left the room quietly while their mother was distracted. They found their fiances at the stables readying for departure for Netherfield. Both men had promised to return the following day and departed with smiles from the ladies.
The next two weeks passed pleasantly for the eldest Bennet daughters. Miss Darcy arrived at Netherfield two days after her brother so the elder Miss Bennets visited Miss Darcy almost daily and of course the gentlemen remained in their company whenever they could, even accompanying Lizzy and Jane back to Longbourne. Netherfield was the only place the couples could escape their mothers wedding plans and all of Merytons congratulations.
Miss Darcy was as pleased with the matches as Miss Bingley was upset. Miss Bingley received a letter announcing his engagement and an invitation to Netherfield. She immediately accepted the invitation but rather than congratulations she offered her brother every reason not to marry Miss Bennet. At her mention of their connections, Darcy could stand it no longer and prevented his friend replying with "Miss Bingley, would you deny your brother marrying the sister of Mrs. Darcy."
"Sister of Mrs. Darcy, of what are you speaking, there is no Mrs. Darcy."
Her brother replied at this point "Caroline, there is to be a Mrs. Darcy, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is to Marry Mr. Darcy the day that my dearest Jane becomes my wife. We will have no more insults of the family of these ladies."
As you can imagine Caroline Bingley could not say a word. The looks on the faces of both men convinced her that they spoke the truth and the arrival of the Misses Bennet with Georgiana at that moment caused Miss Bingley to burst into tears, run from the room and arrange her hasty departure from Meryton.
Two weeks after their engagements were formed, after insulting letters from Caroline and lady Catherine, Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet left Longbourne for the last time as single women. Mr. Bennet was sorry that his daughters were to leave him but the love their husbands had for them made him glad of the good husbands they had found.
Mrs. Bennet crowed over her neighbours for the next month about how rich and handsome her daughters husbands were. Lydia was not permitted to go to Brighton, her father had a long talk with one of his son in laws and was convinced that at least one of the officers was not a gentleman of good character, and Lydias behaviour nearly prevented some recent Bennet marriages. Mr. Wickham left with the regiment and it was heard that he eloped with a young lady of moderate fortune.
As for the Darcys and Bingleys well, they were both happy. After a year the Bingleys moved to an estate near Pemberley so the sisters had not only the happiness of their marriages and children, but were within two hours travel of each other. Mr. Bennet and the Gardiners often visited Pemberley and Bingley house and shared the love that flowed from both places.
Every day Darcy thanked whatever devine force caused his cousin to tell Lizzy the truth in such an improper manner.
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