A Dream of a Day
As Fitzwilliam Darcy started up the hill from the pond towards the house and passed the trees, he stopped in shock. "Miss Bennet!" he exclaimed.
Elizabeth Bennet stammered, "M- Mr. Darcy!"
Darcy was overwhelmingly grateful for three things at that moment: first, that Elizabeth Bennet was there at his home; second, that he was impeccably turned out and had not given in to an impulse to take a swim that would have ruined his appearance; and third, that he had a firm enough footing, so that when Charles Bingley ran into him from behind, he did not fall over at Miss Bennet's feet.
"Miss Bennet!" echoed Charles, his eyes firmly locked on those of Miss Jane Bennet, who was standing by her sister's side.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Bingley," replied Jane quietly, with downcast eyes.
An embarrassed silence followed during which each of the four wished desperately for inspiration to meet the situation. Darcy determinedly recovered first. "You are very welcome, ladies. Have you been long in this part of the country?"
Elizabeth looked at Darcy with both gratitude and surprise at his civility, a deep blush in her cheeks. "Thank you, sir. We are traveling with our aunt and uncle. We have been in this part of the country but four days. Our uncle felt that we should not leave Derbyshire without seeing your lovely estate. We would never have trespassed on your privacy had we known..."
"Please do not distress yourself... your selves," he corrected himself, with a friendly smile to Jane. "You are most welcome at Pemberley. Please, will you join us for some refreshment? I can send a servant to fetch your aunt and uncle, if you like. They are touring the grounds elsewhere?"
Darcy was acutely aware of the tremendous pounding of his own heartbeat. He wondered if the others could hear it. That he should have some time with Miss Bennet was his dearest wish. To be able to impress upon her that he was not so mean as to resent her because of their last meeting, to show her how he had improved, to earn her approval--- these were the things that hastened his heartbeat. Other possibilities and dreams he pushed back from his thoughts vehemently for fear of straining his heart to death!
Elizabeth seemed to have recovered her equilibrium. Only surprised doubt lingered in her beautiful eyes as she replied to his offer. "Yes, they took the path by the stream. I know that they would appreciate your kind offer..." Elizabeth glanced uneasily at her sister.
Jane looked a bit pale, but calm and poised, as she spoke up, "Thank you for your invitation, sir. We would be glad to join you."
Darcy motioned for the ladies to precede him towards the house. Walking alongside the Bennet sisters he spoke up again, saying, "My sister will be your hostess. I am glad for the opportunity to introduce you to her."
Darcy noticed then that Jane Bennet's step faltered and she grew even paler. She resolutely continued toward the house, however.
He nearly asked if she was well before he realized the turn her thoughts must have taken. This would not do! He had to think of some way to reassure her and correct any misconceptions she held of Charles' relationship to Georgiana. He wanted for the Bennet sisters to love Georgiana, not view her as Jane's rival!
Elizabeth seemed about to say something. Her expression had noticeably darkened. Darcy spoke quickly to prevent her fleeing from him. "Georgiana is perhaps an inexperienced hostess. She is only 16 and has not yet come out. She is easy enough among those she views as brothers , such as Bingley and myself, but I am eager to have her become accustomed to society with others. I know that your warmth and energy must be a welcome influence for her."
Elizabeth looked into his pleading eyes, seeming to understand his desperate communication. She held her peace and took her sister's arm in a comforting gesture.
Darcy turned to Bingley, concerned at his friend's unusual silence. Bingley was a bit confused by Darcy's abrupt descriptions of Georgiana, though he was preoccupied by the current situation. He stared at Jane Bennet as though struck by lightning.
Darcy also noticed the way that Elizabeth seemed to be taking every detail of Jane and Bingley's reactions in for consideration. Though he had no doubt of Elizabeth's acute powers of observation, he was grateful that Bingley was behaving in such a discomposed manner. Elizabeth could have no doubt as to Bingley's continued regard for her sister. Considering Jane Bennet's equally discomposed demeanor, it seemed to Darcy that the two must still love each other. This chance meeting might allow him to undo one of the mistakes that had cost him Elizabeth's affection!
As they approached the house, servants opened the door and waited on the party. Darcy called one of the man servants "Ho there. Please fetch these ladies' aunt and uncle to the Drawing Room to join us for refreshments. They walked in the direction of the stream some moments ago."
"Yes, sir. I shall fetch them immediately," replied the man.
"Mrs. Reynolds, good day." said Darcy with a warm smile,. "May I introduce Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. They and their aunt and uncle will be joining us for refreshments in the Drawing Room. Can you tell me where I might find Georgiana?"
Mrs. Reynolds greeted the sisters warmly and said, "You will find Miss Georgiana in the Music Room, sir. The child plays and sings all day!"
"Georgiana is very accomplished," offered Bingley in an attempt to finally join the conversation. He was surprised when Darcy turned to glare at him at this statement. Elizabeth looked as though she wished to say something, but was at a loss. Jane avoided his gaze and looked to the floor, a resigned expression on her face.
Darcy turned again to Mrs. Reynolds. "Mrs. Reynolds, would you be so kind as to show our guests to the Drawing Room? Mr. Bingley and I will go to find Miss Georgiana."
To her credit, Mrs. Reynolds' surprise that Darcy and Bingley would leave their charming guests to go find Georgiana instead of sending her as she'd anticipated, (she'd already begun walking in the direction of the Music Room.) was only noticeable to Darcy and an alert Elizabeth. Mrs. Reynolds gracefully changed direction at once and pleasantly ushered the Bennet girls away from the gentlemen. Elizabeth looked back as she and Jane departed. Darcy looked her in the eye with determination.
"Darcy, what on earth is going on? Why did you look at me so meanly just now? Why have you arranged for us to speak alone?" burst out Bingley.
Darcy took a deep breath and motioned Bingley to a nearby bench, "Sit, please. We must talk."
"What I am about to tell you will shock you, Charles," said Darcy. "Please try to believe me when I say I thought I was acting in your best interest; and that I hope you will be able to forgive me; and that I hope you can control your anger enough in the next few moments to make the most of this golden opportunity. Miss Bennet, Miss Jane Bennet, loves you and always has." Bingley's mouth fell open in disbelief as he sank weakly to the bench.
"I joined with your sisters to separate the two of you because I did not believe that she loved you and I did not believe that a match with her would be advantageous," Darcy continued. "I later discovered I was in error on both counts. Your sisters' part in the scheme was to lead Miss Bennet to believe you to be in love with another, in truth, Georgiana. So, just now when you praised Georgiana, you inadvertently gave pain to Miss Bennet. Also, Miss Bennet was in town some months over the winter and we all concealed that fact from you. She even called on your sisters at the town house."
Darcy remembered the sad set of Miss Bennet's shoulders as he had seen her leaving after her visit with the Bingley sisters that cold winter day. It was the first moment that an inkling of doubt had crept into his mind regarding her sentiments for Bingley.
His thoughts returned to the present as Bingley's face changed to a mask of rage. "WHAT!!!!" cried Bingley in horror. He leaped from the bench and moved toward Darcy angrily.
"Hush, man, or they'll hear you!" whispered Darcy fervently as he put up his hands to push Bingley back from him. "You have every right to detest me until the end of time. I grant you that. I was absolutely in the wrong. But did you hear me? SHE LOVES YOU. As to the advantages of the match... what could be more advantageous than being married to the woman you love more than anything in life, especially when she loves you just as much in return?"
Bingley looked as though he might weep he was so overwhelmed by the turmoil of his emotions. He sank back down and put his head down in his hands. He recoiled when Darcy put a hand on his shoulder and said, "Steady, old friend. I would not have told you in such a manner but for this incredible, unforeseen circumstance. They are here! Carpe Diem."
Bingley stared up at Darcy and took a deep breath. He took a second deep breath and sat back straight against the wall. "Well, I shall have to find a better way to explain everything to Jane than that. Do you not think?"
Darcy chuckled weakly, "Your options seem limitless." He offered Bingley a hand up and set off down the hall.
Bingley grinned in reply as he followed. His look grew more serious as they approached the Music Room. Beautiful music could be heard from within. Bingley put a hand on Darcy's arm and paused, "Darcy, we shall need to discuss the situation in more detail when time allows. I need time to consider what you've told me... time to consider what you've done... and, my sisters!" Bingley shook his head in disbelief and continued, "Yes. I shall need time to think. For today, however, I thank you for your information. I believe I could be on amicable terms with Bonaparte if he gave me right information indicating that I might have a chance with Jane!"
"Thank you for the opportunity of talking through this in the future. You are too generous, Bingley. I was utterly in the wrong. I should never have interfered. I do, of course, wish you Godspeed. Again, I apologize," replied Darcy. He turned away from Bingley and opened the door to the Music Room.
Georgiana stopped playing when the door opened. She smiled uncertainly at the gentlemen. "What is wrong, William?" she asked, looking in concern at Bingley.
Darcy and Bingley exchanged glances. Bingley straightened both his cravat and his expression. Darcy stepped forward and took Georgiana's hands in his. "Do not be concerned, my dear. Bingley and I were only having a discussion. We have... some visitors. We would like for you to meet them and perform your duty as hostess." Georgiana nodded yes, curiosity and trepidation evident in her face.
Georgiana took Darcy's proffered arm and asked, "Who are our visitors? I did not know you were expecting anyone."
Darcy allowed some of his excitement to show as he smiled at his sister. "I was not expecting them. It is a pleasant surprise. Do you remember my mentioning the Bennet family of Hertfordshire? Bingley and I made their acquaintance last fall. Two of the Bennet sisters, Miss Jane Bennet and Miss Elizabeth, are visiting Derbyshire with an aunt and uncle. They are here at Pemberley today."
Georgiana nodded and smiled. "I shall enjoy the opportunity of making their acquaintance."
They entered the Drawing Room. Elizabeth and Jane were sitting together on the sofa with their heads close together in serious discussion. They both stood as the gentlemen and Georgiana entered the room. Elizabeth smiled. Jane blushed.
Mr. Darcy said, "Miss Jane Bennet, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, may I present my sister, Georgiana. Georgiana, Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth." The ladies curtsied to each other.
"I am so pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Darcy," said Elizabeth with a warm smile. "I have heard much about you."
"And I about you," managed Georgiana shyly. She then turned to Jane. "It is a pleasure to meet you too, Miss Bennet. Welcome to Pemberley."
Everyone took a seat and Georgiana called for tea. There was an awkward pause in conversation until Darcy recalled that the ladies had been traveling.
"Tell us about your travels, Miss Bennet." Elizabeth obliged with vivid descriptions of their recent adventures. Her vivacity and charm left Darcy so breathless that he feared he might appear insensible. Georgiana was obviously taken with Elizabeth as well, to his great joy.
After some time, Elizabeth turned to Georgiana and sweetly, encouragingly teased, "Now, Miss Darcy, you must assist me in entertaining the company. I have so dominated the conversation that I am beginning to lose the interest of at least half of the party." Charles and Jane seemed able to only stare at each other or avoid looking at one another altogether.
Georgiana responded shyly to Elizabeth's invitation. "Oh, I could not begin to do half so well in conversation as you, Miss Elizabeth. I..."
Elizabeth smiled understandingly and leaned in to share with Georgiana, "I've told your brother before that conversation and ease in company are talents that must be practiced. I have heard much praise of your dedication to practicing music and that as a result you are a very accomplished musical performer. I have no doubt that you will apply the same principal to mixing with company and become equally successful in that regard. Warmth, intelligence, and sweetness give you a definite advantage over many!"
Georgiana warmed under the radiance of Elizabeth's confidence and praise. Darcy was delighted at the friendship developing between the two women. He noticed, however, that Bingley and Jane were still distracted and quiet. He decided that drastic action was needed.
He smiled and spoke up in what he hoped would pass for an easy manner, "Ladies, this talk of music has put me in the mood for a song. I should be exceedingly happy if either or both of you would oblige me. Perhaps we could adjourn to the Music Room. Oh, Miss Bennet has not finished her tea. Bingley would you be so kind as to keep Miss Bennet company while she finishes her refreshment? Also, you would be able to guide the Bennets' friends to us in the Music Room when they arrive. That would be a great help."
Before anyone could protest he stood and smilingly offered Georgiana his arm. She followed his lead easily. Jane looked startled. Elizabeth seemed a bit uncertain, but did not offer protest. Bingley stared at Jane.
© 1997 Copyright held by author