An Unsuitable Marriage
"I am so very glad that you came to Pemberley to stay with us," Elizabeth said as she and Anne walked through the rose garden. The dower house has been empty since the passing of Mrs Reynolds. As you know she turned the reins of Pemberley over to her daughter Mrs Longstreet when she and Carstairs Reynolds retired. We miss them both, but she wished to take care of the house for Grandmother Darcy and we let them stay there until they both expired. I still miss her wise counsel, and Jamison is not yet the butler that Carstairs was. It has been delightful having you stay there."
"I thank you and Fitzwilliam for your kind invitation and your patience with me, Anne replied, I fear I was not the greatest of company when I arrived, but you were right, It was best for me to get away from Rosings Park for a time. I felt the comforting presence of Grandmother Darcy there with me from the day I moved in. It is however time for me to go home, Mr Allison, my worthy steward has asked me to return and I feel it is time. He has handled the affairs of my home very well, but it is time for me to take charge again. This time has given me a new outlook. I am sure I will find some sources of pleasure in my old home now."
"You must not leave before the ball Friday, Elizabeth answered, we would be most disappointed if you do not attend. The children will be very upset if you leave before then."
"Of course I mean to stay until next week, Anne said with a giggle, I would not miss Will's pursuit of Miss Thomas for all the world. Poor Will, I fear he is much like his father when it comes to courtship."
Young Fitzwilliam Darcy stood looking out the window, watching for one carriage to arrive, much as his father had done 26 years ago at Netherfield. Like his father before him as he saw Miss Thomas exit the carriage he then walked quickly to the ballroom.
A frown of consternation crossed his handsome face as the lady in question was quickly surrounded by potential suitors vying for the chance to dance with her.
Mary was vexed at Will's seeming indifference and wondered what she had done to deserve such a look.
"Will Darcy, are you not even going to speak to me, she thought, you are a most vexing young man, I cannot decide if you like me or if you despise me. Sometimes you can be most attentive, but when there are others around you withdraw and look displeased with everyone and everything."
Making her way to his side as he stood talking to his cousin Andrew Bingley she said, "Are you not going to speak to me tonight, Mr Darcy, good evening Mr Bingley, how nice to see you, it has been some six months since we last spoke, I believe. Are you finished with your business that kept you in town so long."
"Yes, indeed, Lady Thomas, Andrew answered with a cheery grin, it was completed most satisfactorily, I than you for asking. May I have the honor of a dance or two this evening."
"Of course, I will be delighted, Mary said, I wonder though if your cousin intends to dance this evening."
"Of course I intend to dance, Will said a bit sharply, and if the first two are not already promised, I would beg that you allow me to claim them. I would imagine they are already gone though considering the rush of young men to your side as you arrived."
"No Mr Darcy they are as yet free and I would be most happy to accept you kind invitation, would you like to put your name on my card or shall I do it." She could barely supress a smile as she spoke, but she knew that for some reason Will was in no mood for joviality at this time."
Taking the card Will took the quill from the inkpot sitting on the table beside them and penned in his name for the first and the fourth set, which would be danced before dinner.
"May I have the pleasure of your company at dinner also, Miss Thomas," he said, handing her back the dance card.
"I would be honored, sir, Mary said with a happy smile.
"Your cousin Quinivere seems to have returned her attentions to Sir Robert, Duke of Ester," she observed as they surveyed the guests.
"Poor Ester, Will murmured, she will not rest until she has him saddled."
"Will, what a thing to say, Elizabeth said as she walked up to the three of them. Quinnie, is very lovely tonight, is she not, she takes after the Fitzwilliam side of the family with her red hair and green eyes. she looks very well in green, his grace seems quite enamored."
Will snorted as they moved to the floor when the music started, "Enamored indeed, it is fifty thousand pounds that he is enamored with."
"Will, Mary laughed, someone will hear you."
As she watched the dancers along with Jane and Anne Elizabeth sighed, "It looks as if Guinivere is going to get her fondest, the young Duke of Ester is I think going to ask for her hand soon."
"Will his mother allow it, Jane asked, she and Caroline do not get on at all, her ladyship cannot let Caroline forget that she is a tradesman's daughter."
"I fear that their financial situation is such that she has no choice, Anne replied, the creditors are hard on their heels since his father died, and if they do not come into a large sum immediately they will lose their estate in very short order. Quinivere's dowery will allow them to pay off their debts and leave enough for them to live comfortably."
"How very sad, Elizabeth said, I cannot imagine what it would be like to be married to someone for whom you have no affection."
She looked across the room and smiled at her husband, "I thank God I am married a man whom I love so very much."
Darcy returned her smile and with a loving look, that startled those about him and moved to ask his beloved wife for a waltz."
Anne and Jane gave each other knowing looks as they watched Elizabeth and Darcy whirl around the floor lost in each others eyes.
"I know of which she speaks, Anne said, but too many care only for position and consequence, affection is not even considered."
"Will seems to be enjoying himself dancing with young Mary, I believe he is very much in love with her, he just has to realize it himself."
"I do hope so, Jane said, I think she has loved him for a very long time, but she seemed too young. I believe there are five or six years between them."
"Anne smiled, "If I remember correctly there are eight between Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam."
"I shall miss Anne but I am very happy to see that she felt well and strong enough to return to Rosings Park," Elizabeth said to George Darcy as she took her place in the chair across from him.
They were very worried about Father Darcy. This past year he had begun to fail rapidly. He could hardly walk at all anymore, his rheumatism in his limbs was so bad that he spent most of his days sitting in front of the fire. At 74 he had lived longer than any Darcy.
"He is still such a handsome man Elizabeth thought as she gazed at the beautiful white hair and charming smile on the man sitting there across from her. I am sure that my Fitzwilliam will the same and I pray that he has a long life just as his father has."
"Yes, she was happy in the Dower House, but there comes a time when one wants to return to one's home," George answered, with a smile for this young woman who he had come to love so much.
"She said she felt the comforting presence of your mother there, I must say I know what she means, when I am in need of some grandmotherly counsel I go there myself, Elizabeth replied. I loved to go there and listen to her tell me stories of when you were young and when my Fitzwilliam was a lad."
"That last day I thanked her for the great kindness she showed me when William and I were first married. How different things could have been if not for her."
"I think you must give Lady Debourg her due, George laughed. If she had not been so overbearing in her abuse of you and her admonitions to the family not to accept you they would not have been there with such open arms. My mother's deeds of course went a great way in paving the road for you, but we must not forget Catherine."
Elizabeth answered with a smile, "Indeed I shall always be grateful to her ladyship for all her assistance. I am happy to think that we made our peace before she died. I am sure William is too."
"Your mother said that she gave us a home because she knew exactly what I was going through, that she had endured the same resistance as I had."
"Yes, my mother died when I was twelve and my Grandmother Hydewaite came to live with us and tend to the house. She was a woman much like Catherine."
She had chosen the Vicountess of Corintia as a wife for Henry Darcy and was appalled when he proposed to Mary Fitzhugh. She ranted and raved and declared that my grandfather must disown His son if he went through with such a marriage. I can imagine the battles that went on between them. My father was as stubborn as she."
"But grandmother was the grand daughter of earl's on both sides was she not," Elizabeth asked.
"Yes, but only a granddaughter, which was not good enought in my grandmothers eyes. My father had refused a title the year before and she was sure that if I married the Vicountess she could persuade him to become the Earl Of Derby. Mary's father was only a country pastor, you recall, and a fourth son. So there was little if any chance of his inheriting the title. That was highly unsuitable to my grandmother."
"I understand she never forgave either your father or you, Elizabeth said, how very sad. At least Lady Debourg made amends for her behavior and made us most welcome to Rosings Park the last three years of her life. she really did enjoy the children and would have been most happy if we had spent all our time there."
"Catherine was fortunate to have a pastor who put the fear of God into her, George laughed. I am glad though, in spite of our long standing differences that we became friends in the end, that is what really matters."
"Yes, I wish I could have seen my sister Lydia before her untimely death in the wilds of Australia, she was not five and thirty when she went. We never really got on, but I would have liked to see her one last time."
"I understand, my dear, George patted her hand, but you can be content in the knowledge that the man she married after Wickham's murder was so good to her and kept her happy and content."
"I think he was more of a father than a husband to her, Elizabeth sighed, he was but two years younger than our own father. I doubt if his children would have let her stay there if he had preceded her, they despised her. I am sure they would have sent her home to England with all haste."
"We will never know though, perhaps being married to him she became a little bit sensible."
William dismounted his hunter and reached up to assist Mary Thomas from her saddle. He had persuaded her to ride with him this morning and he was hoping his courage would not fail him as he led her to a log to sit upon.
Walking back and forth in front of her for five minutes he at last turned to her and said, "I have so little time with you anymore that I must ask you now while we are alone, before the others reach us, Will you do me the honor of accepting my hand in marriage."
"Yes, William, Mary said quietly.
"I know that I have no title and that there are many who have been courting who are titled and much more at ease among crowds of people, but like my father I do not do well among those not of my family, I cannot think of an answer quickly or a wittisism as Lord Hendly does or his grace of Argon. I can understand if you refuse me, but I thought I must ask you as soon as I could."
Mary began to laugh but stopped as she saw the look of hurt that crossed Will's face. "Will--, she started.
William looked at her with a look of shock, I thought you might refuse me but I never thought you would be so cruel as to laugh at my proposal," he said as he turned on his heel.
"Will, Will, Mary cried as she caught up to him and clasped his arm, I said yes, but you were so intent on finishing you speech that you did not hear me. I am sorry Will I was not laughing at you for asking what I have been waiting to hear since I was but seven years old, I was laughing because, you were so intent on telling me all the reasons that you thought I would refuse you, that you did not even hear my answer."
"You said yes, Will gasped, you said yes, but I didn't hear you say a word. What a silly fool I have been. I was so unsure of your feelings for me that I didn't listen properly. Please forgive me dearest, loveliest, Mary."
"Oh, Will, I am so happy, I have loved you, for what seems like a century, Mary laughed, from the first time you came to our home with my brother I knew you were the only man I would ever love."
"You love me,Will exclaimed in awe, you love me. You have made me the happiest man in the kingdom."
Let us go to speak to you father at once. You don't think he will refuse, do you."
"No, dearest Will, he will not refuse, of that you can be certain. He loves you like a son, and my mother will be elated that we will be here at Pemberley and I will not be making a home far away from Derbyshire."
"Well, Mother Darcy it would seem that we are to have two weddings before Michalmas, Elizabeth as she walked into Lady Anne's sitting room with her embroidery in her hand, Lord Peter Westlake came last evening to ask permission to marry Eliza."
"I wondered how long it would be before he asked her, Lady Anne answered, he has had eyes for no other the entire season. What does my son think of the match?"
Elizabeth laughed, "He would like Lord Peter better if he were not so involved in politics. You know how he feels about politicians. I believe that more than anything has prevented the Darcy men from accepting titles. The thought of having to serve in the House Of Lords is abhorent to him."
Lady Anne joined in the laughter, "Just like his father. I believe George places thieves a step above a politician. He says you can be sure of what a thief will do, but not a politician."
"We shall have to start the guest lists, Elizabeth said, How I wish more of those who were at our wedding would be able to come but there are so many gone or unable to travel such a great distance. Elizabeth would like to be married in London, but her father of course wants both wedding here at Pemberley. I shall try to persuade him to acceed to her wishes. If they are married in town Uncle Edward and Aunt Rebecca will be able to attend since they spend most of there time at the London house now so that they are close to the doctors."
"Will your stepmother and the boys be able to come to both, Lady Anne asked, I know how busy she is managing such a large estate since your fathers death."
"Of course she will come, Elizabeth said with a smile, She does so well taking care of everything. The merger of the two estates with their marriage has made a great deal of work but my father relished it and trained her well when he knew his death was imminent. She is a wise, intelligent woman and he enjoyed teaching her. I always thought my father slothful, but after his marriage to Miriam he became a hardworking country gentleman if ever there was one. I think having two sons gave him what was needed to pull him out of years of lethergy. Of course having a young, lively wife had a great deal to do with the change him him."
"I shall speak to William also, Lady Anne mused, I think that between the two of us and Rebecca we will be able to make him change his mind. I vow, with each year it gets harder to get either him or his father away from Derbyshire."
"Father's rheumatisn makes the journey to town a torture trip I know, Elizabeth said, but perhaps if we can get him to London we can find a doctor who will give him some relief."
"I pray that you are right," Lady Anne sighed.
"Jane Anne's son should be old enough to make the trip by the time Mary and Will are married, Elizabeth said as she picked up her needle. Of course if Lizzy get married in town her sister will be a great help to her. I am sure that will be another argument we might use to sway Fitzwilliam."
"Elizabeth, George and I have been talking about it and we have decided to move to the Dower House after William and Mary are wed. Please do not try to argue us out of it. Two mistresses are enough for Pemberely, three is too many." We are looking forward to enjoying grandchildren but would rather do it in the peace and quiet of our own house. "
"I fear, my dear that the thought of having children running about underfoot does not set well with George at his age."
"I understand perfectly, mother, Elizabeth answered. Perhaps if Williams family gets too large I too will move there." I know how much father needs his rest. How it vexes me to see him in such pain all the time."
As Elizabeth entered Dacy's study and walked over to kiss the top of his head, he turned to her and said, "You and my mother have convinced me to let Lizzie get married in town, the arguments you put forth were just too good to be put aside. Of course I should like to have Uncle Edward and Aunt Rebecca attend. The thought that they might not wish to come to Pemberley never occured to me., which is foolish since they have not been here for three years. I do dislike being in town too long though. I am sure though that Jane Anne will be overjoyed at the thought of helping her sister."
"You and mother will be only too happy to spend time with our grandson too. Young George should be of an age where he can be enjoyed by that time. I am still a bit afraid of small babies I fear."
Elizabeth laughed as she moved around to sit on his lap, to his delight.
"What will you do when William and Mary start to fill the house with children, my love. You will not be able to avoid them when they will be living in the same house."
"Do you think they will have as many as we, he laughed, six children nearly grown, I can scarce believe it."
"Your youngest daughter is but nine, she laughed, so we have some ten years before she will be thinking of marriage."
"Do you ever think about how fortunate we are, William," she said as she curled up under his chin.
"Will will be the next master of Pemberley, George will inherit Briarwood, and dear Anne was so generous to leave Rosings Park to Bennet."
"Yes, I have often thought of how well situated our children are. all three of our sons have fine estates, our two eldest daughter have fine husbands. Even though Elizabeth is to marry a member of the House of Lords he seems like a reasonable fellow, with some sense in spite of being a politician."
"I do miss Anne and Charlotte though, Elizabeth said softly, especiall at this time. They would both so enjoy these weddings."
"Four of Charlotte's daughters have made fine marriages to men we all respect. The other though I fear will never marry. Those who would have her she will not give a consideration and those she would aspire to marry would not even give her a look."
"Lucas does well, Darcy said, I had a letter from him this morning. He still misses her terribly but is doing his best to raise young Lucas to be a man she would be proud of."
Elizabeth laughed softly, "So far none of our children have made what anyone would consider unsuitable marriages, but then we have three to go, don't we."
"Good heavens, Mary's Ester will be getting married soon, and Catherine's Thomas. We are inundated with marriages, my love."
"Don't forget Charles and Jane's two, my love. You are right we are above our heads in weddings, Darcy laughed.
Elizabeth looked lovingly at her husband as he sat in the window seat reading his paper. They had taken their breakfast in their chambers as they did occasionally.
At sixty three his once dark curls were now a snowy white, giving him in her opinion a look of distinction. He still stood tall and proud, proud of who he was and what he had. A wife he adored, 6 living children, 5 of whom had made very satisfactory marriages and Rachel, their youngest, who they were both so very proud of.
Rachel at nineteen had her mothers dark hair, flawless skin and her long thick lashes which curled over the beautiful dark violet blue eyes, which she had inherited from her Grandmother Darcy.
Elizabeth could not but smile as she thought of her youngest child who had come along five years after she thought she was to have no more children. The doctor had informed them after the birth of Bennet that she would be unable to bear another child, yet five years later this wonderful source of joy had been given to them.
Rachel so strikingly beautiful and so unaware of it. Rachel who had the sweetness of her Aunt Jane mixed with her mother's intelligence and quick wit, which brought the young men in London and here in Derbyshire flocking to their door.
"What are you smiling about, my love," Darcy asked as he laid his paper aside.
"Elizabeth smiled at him and said, "Rachel, dear."
"Ahh, that will bring a smile to anyone's face," he said with pride and love.
"We shall have to go down, my dear, more guests will be arriving soon."
"I don't see why we have to have such a houseful, Darcy snorted, do you think Caroline and James will bring Louisa with them. When are they to arrive. Why can't we just have our family here."
Elizabeth laughed, "You know you will enjoy having Jane and Charles here for a month, and Georgianna and David should arrive this afternoon or tomorrow. I expect Jane and Charles before tea time, they were to leave Willows at first light."
"You would not deprive your children the happyiness of celebrating our thirty fifth anniversary, dear. They have been planning this for a year."
"Thirty five years, Darcy said softly, it seems like no more than a fortnight,I have loved you all my life"
"At least 36 years of it," Elizabeth answered with an impish grin."
"My life began that evening at the assembly hall in Meryton, when an impertinant young woman with the finest eyes I had ever beheld found me offensive and not so handsome after all," he replied looking at her with such a look of love that she quickly crossed the room and taking his face in hers kissed him softly.
"As did mine, my love," she whispered, kissing him ardently.
Wrapping his arms around her he whispered in her ear, "I think we shall delay going down stairs for an hour or so, do you not agree."
When she had a chance to catch her breath from his kisses, she readily agreed.
When Darcy left the master bedroom and started down the stairs, dressed in his riding clothes he was met by his eight year old , grandson.
"Grandfather, are you going riding this morning," he asked.
"Yes, Fitz, I am," Darcy replied.
"Could I go with you grandfather," young Fitzwilliam asked hopefully.
"I would like that very much Fitz," his grandfather said with a smile.
"Perhaps we could ride by Mr Simpson's, young Fitzwilliam said, his best horse was lame yesterday and I would like to see if it is better, he depends a great deal on that big Shire, it is indeed a fine animal."
"Well, son, if we are to ride that far you will have to have a bigger mount that your pony, Darcy smiled, perhaps you would like to ride Pegasus, would that suit you."
"Oh, yes Grandfather, that would be wonderful, I will not be long, I shall be in my riding clothes and ready to go by the time you have the horses saddled and ready to go," and he ran off down the hall
Darcy grinned at Elizabeth as she put her arm through his and walked down the stairs with him.
"He loves Pemberley as much as I do, even at his tender age, he said proudly, he is a most satisfactory Darcy."
"Grandfather, can I go too, they heard a plaintif voice behind them, Fitz said he is to ride with you this morning, and on Pegasus, can I come too please, please, Grandfather."
"No Annie, not this morning, he replied, perhaps later we will take a ride after Fitz and I return, if it is not too late.
When 5 year old Anne began to tear up Elizabeth said with a smile, "Oh no, Annie, love, you must be here to help us greet our guests, we need you to take care to see that Janie, and Charles are put in the right rooms and that they are on time for tea. They will be here soon with their grandparents. Don't you remember dearest."
Anne turned to her grandmother with a bright smile saying, "I forgot Grandmother I shall watch for them from the window."
Turning to Darcy, she said, "I forgot about my cousins coming grandfather, I must stay here to help grandmother, I don't know if I shall find the time to ride at all today."
As Darcy kissed Elizabeth goodbye, he grinned and whispered, Well done, my love."
After her husband an grandson left to visit the Simpson farm Elizabeth discussed with Mary the plans for the next fortnight.
Where each out of town guest were to be put, the meals, the orchestra for the ball. Who to sit next to whom at the dinners. The orders to be given to Mrs Price for the supplies which would be needed to feed and accomodate not only those who would be staying at Pemberley but the neighbors who were invited to different suppers, evenings at cards music and conversation.
Last and greatest the final grand ball.
"I do hope Aunt Georgianna will consent to play for us, Mother Darcy, Mary said. She is so very talented. Rachel has already agreed to play and sing. I shall ask Aunt Sara Fitzwilliam to play the harp for them, she does it so well."
"I am sure Sara will agree also, Elizabeth smiled at her daughter in law. Richard is so proud of her when she does so and she will do it to please him I am sure."
"I think it is so romantic the way they met," Mary sighed.
"Yes, a time which seemed to be so dreadful for him turned out to be the thing that changed his life and gave him so very much happiness," Elizabeth agreed.
"How did they meet grandmother", Jane Anne's daughter Madelaine asked.
"Elizabeth smiled at her eldest grand daughter as she replied, "Your cousin, then Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, recieved a wound at the battle of Waterloo which necessitated the removal of his left leg. He was in the deepest despair when Lady Sara Carter came to visit her younger brother, who had the bed next to his colonel. "
"Richard had ordered that he be placed in the same room as he, as he contributed the young man with saving his life."
"He was the younger son of Lord Whitlock and the brother of Sara. She came everyday bringing them fresh fruit, letters and good cheer.
She and Richard found that they held so many interests together and they spent hours talking."
"Even after her brother was removed to Brentwood she continued to visit Richard, and they soon discovered how much they loved each other. He loved her wit and intellegence and she loved the same things in him, plus his sense of humor, shich she found very diverting."
"A year after Richard went home to Matlock manner they were married. Her dowery of fifty thousand pounds and the money he had recieved from the militia enabled them to purchase the estate where they now reside and to live very well."
"Of course you know that they were blessed with five wonderful children, of course you know that well, since one of them is married to your Uncle George."
"Oh grandmother, what a lovely story, I wish I could have seen cousin Fitzwilliam in his regimentals," Madelaine sighed as she asked to be excused and left the room.
"Elizabeth raised her eyebrows at Mary and laughed as she said, "Only ten years old and already her head is turned by a scalet coat."
Elizabeth excused herself also and went up to her sitting room where she pulled a letter from the drawer of her writing desk and read.
My dearest Elizabeth,
I shall leave this in my drawer knowing that you will find it.
I am writing this knowing that my time is near. Do not grieve for me my dear, I go to my reward gladly.
I love you all so very dearly, but since George's death the greatest light in my life has been extinguished and I await our reunion eagerly.
I write this to let you know how very much I love you, daughter. I could not love you more if I had borne you. You have brought such happiness to Fitzwilliams life as I never thought possible.
I have seen him change from a cold arrogant young man, thinking of no one but himself to a kind, generous, loving husband and master of Pemberley.
I know that as you have so often said the traits were there all the time but they were hidden under misplaced pride and arrogance.
I give the credit to you for that my dearest daughter. Without you he would never have changed, only become worse with time, aidied by his mother and his aunt Catherine.
I know how miserable he would have been married to his cousin Anne, but I was blinded by my own pride and the assurances of my sister that we must preserve the Fitzwilliam and Debourg lines.
You have brought joy into his life and ours.
You have given him six beautiful children, of whom we are all so very proud. Well done my dearest daughter.
My greatest regret is the years I wasted trying to maintain my pride of place and never getting to know what a truly wonderful wife you were.
I robbed myself of three years of our dear Cassandra's life. I was blessed by God to have that last year with her. It seems so hard to bear even yet that we should have lost her at only four years old.
Ours is not to question, though, rather we should be grateful for the time we had with her.
It took our dear Fitzwilliam a very long time to realize that, but your love and devotion brought him through that dark time in his life.
I am very tired so I shall put my pen down now. Know my dearest Elizabeth how very much I love you.
You loving mother,
Lady Anne Darcy
Elizabeth put the letter back in its resting place and walked to the window where she rested her head against the glass remembering the day she had found the letter.
Lady Anne had been gone for six months when Elizabeth was looking for a pin that she had left to Rachel. She had said in her will that it was in the writing desk, which Elizabeth would now use if she so chose.
After reading the letter, Elizabeth had wept and when Fitzwilliam found her and read it he took her in his arms and comforted her. He himself shed a few tears as together they talked far into the night about their life with both his parents and the happiness they all found when at last they came together as a family
Elizabeth left the window quickly as the first carriage with their guests arrived in the courtyard.
"Jane and Charles, she said to herself, how delightful. We can do some catching up before the rest of the guests arrive."
Elizabeth rushed out the front door to greet her sister and Charles. Bingley emerged first with his walking stick supporting him. Charles had suffered a stroke some three years previous and still had to use a stick when he walked. His speech was no longer impaired though, and to the delight of all his happy disposition had not suffered either. He was still the amiable, cheery Charles Bingley, for which Elizabeth thanked God.
"Jane is even more beautiful than ever," Elizabeth thought as she
reached in to to assist her sister in getting her two grandchildren out of the carriage.
"Eliza and Robert wished so much to be here, Lizzie, she said. It is too close to her time though for her to travel even this short distance. I hope we get back in time for the birth of our newest grandchild."
"Well, where is our host, Bingley said with a grin, I had thought that Darcy would be here by your side to greet his guests, He has always been such a proper host. To arrive and not find him here to greet me is insupportable."
Elizabeth laughed along with Jane and Mary and Will as she explained that Darcy and their grandson had gone off to one of the farms.
"Fitz, and his grandfather went together, that must please Darcy, Charles said, to find his grandson so interested in Pemberley at such a young age must make him a happy man indeed."
"Yes, I believe our son is as much interested in what being master of Pemberley means as his grandfather is, " Mary replied happily.
As Mary went off to the kitchen to speak to the cook Elizabeth and Jane retire to Elizabeth's room for a chat, while the children ran off with Annie.
"You seem very melancholy, Jane," Elizabeth watched as her sister went to the window and looked out to admire the grounds.
"This is a happy occasion, sister, we have been married 35 years to two of the best men in all of England. They are good and faithful husbands a fact which is brought home to me each time I think of Caroline and James' Guinevere."
"After giving birth to two daughters she at last produced a son but a fortnight before the death of the Countess. Her dear and loving husband promply upon his mothers death moved into his mistress' house and Guinevere has seen nothing of him since."
"I think it means little to Guinny, Jane sighed, She is the Countss of Ester now and that I fear is all she really cares about."
"Did you ask her to come this weekend, Lizzy."
"Of course, Elizabeth answered, she is your niece, and as such she had to be issued an invitation. I doubt that she comes though, she was undecided when she answered my letter."
"Arhur and Meggin will be here though, such a happy natured boy. He is very much like his Uncle Charles."
"Poor Caroline, she again failed to gain access to Pemberley. She tried so hard to make Guinny marry Will, and when that failed it was Elizabeth and Arthur that she tried to push together."
"I know, though she has made amends to you for her past treatment she still yearns for Pemberley, and who can fault her for that."
As she again turned to the window she said softly, "Lizzie do you never think of those who will not be here, those who we have lost. "Mama and Papa, Mother and Father Darcy, Grandmother Darcy, Lydia and Wickham, Charlotte, Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, and Aunt and Uncle Phillips. Lady Catherine, Anne and her family, Aunt and Uncle Fitzwilliam, Lady Sophia, Lady Fanny, your Cassandra and
our Thomas and Margaret, even our cousin Mr Collins."
"Of course I do, dearest sister, Lizzies joined Jane at the window, putting her arm around her. Right now though I prefer to think of those who we have with us who we could have easily lost. Your dear Charles and Richad Fitzwilliam. How close our cousin came to death there on the battlefield. I try to be thankful for such blessings. Your husband is alive and nearly as well as the day we married, for which "I thank "God", every day."
"And Papa, what great happiness he found those last few years, enjoying his Maddie and his two sons."
Maddie and the boys will arrive tomorrow. I am so anxious to see our brothers. They are quite grown now. Thomas is courting Maria Lucas's daughter. Can you imagine that, how time flies."
"Georgianna and her family will arrive either this afternoon or early in the morning, as will Caroline and James. I think Louisa is going to be with them but I know not for certain. It is a shame she never remarried after Mr Hurst's demise, I really thought she was going to at least twice but something slways seemed to happen and the gentlemen went their ways."
Jane laughed, "They all seemed to be more interested in her fortune than he. When they found that she would not part with a pence and expected them to support her in a lavish style they turned and ran, all of them."
"I hear Fitzwilliams step in the hall, he and Fitz are returned. I hope he and Charles have time for a good talk before the rest of the guest begin to arrive."
"Charles went up for a nap as soon as he found that he was to be without the company of his oldest and dearest friend," Jane said, perhaps I should go and wake him, it has been nearly two hours and he should be rested by now."
As she left the room after greeting Darcy he moved to stand beside Elizabeth at the window, putting his arm around her and kissing her softly on the top of her head.
"It begins," he whispered.
If anyone wants to know how Caroline and Elizabeth burying of the hatchet came about you can find it in the archieves in Musings.
Fitzwilliam Darcy looked with pleasure around the great dining hall filled with guests for the dinner celebrating thirty five years of marriage between Jane and Charles Bingley and Elizabeth and himself.
Each table had a member of their families at the head and foot.
Will and Anne. Jane Anne and her husband, Elizabeth and her political mate. George and Elyssa, Bennet and Margaret. Lovely, lively Rachel occupied the sixth for his family with great aunt Phillipa at the head.
Charles and Jane's family was represented by Darcy and Elaine Bingley, Madelaine and Robert Fitzhugh, and Alice and Peter Marshall. Their eldest daughter Elizabeth was at home awaiting the birth of her child.
Georgianna and David had consented to take the place of the mother to be, and Darcy could see that they were enjoying it immensely. David laughed a great deal as he conversed with Lady Bent and Lord Chaterfield while Georgianna glowed with pleasure at the lively converstion going on around her also.
Each of them seemed to be gracious hosts except for Bennet's Margaret who seemed to sit stiffly, smiling on occasion but mostly looking dour as usual.
When Bennet was courting Margaret, he recalled, she seemed to be the sweetest girl in Derbyshire, and stayed so until the birth of their son.
She seemed to start to change soon after they moved into Rosings Park and only got worse with each visit from her mother.
She had been content to be Mrs Darcy until Peter was born. It seemed soon after that as if the spirit of his Aunt Catherine had entered her mind and she began to think herself far above their friends and constantly nagged Bennet to spend more time among the gentry and less among the untitled.
She was not content to just live in the house of Lady Catherine Debourg but now she wanted the title Earl of ---- vacated by the death of his uncle Louis.
She constantly reminded Bennet that though her father had been pastor at the church in Kimpton, he was the younger son of the Earl of ---, and her mother was the grandaughter of the Earl Of ---- and as such they should petition the young Queen Victoria to bestow the title on Bennet.
Darcy could tell that they had quarreled again about it before coming to Pemberley. Though Bennet said nothing his avoidance of his wife and her snappish disposition told him that this was true.
She had tried to leave the two children with her mother but Bennet would not have it. He insisted that they attend their grandparents festivities. Margaret had no qualms about letting one and all know that she would much rather be in Kent with her widowed mother than her in the wilds of the north country.
"Bennet, he thought, kind gentle Bennet, who thought he was marrying a girl much like his dearest Aunt Jane only to find her possesed by his Great Aunt Catherine.
"Why couldn't Ben have as happy a marriage as his brothers and sisters, Darcy thought, but I suppose I should be glad that the rest of them have made such fine matches."
His eyes turned to Jane and Charles laughing and talking among the guests they hosted.
"Charles is in his element, how he does enjoy an audience. It is so good to see him so well again. We were much worried for a time but here he is the same cheerful amiable Bingley."
His eyes swept his own table to rest on his beloved wife, dressed in a deep rich royal blue silk with a small set of Darcy diamonds at her throat and on her ears. The dress was of his favorite color and seemed to glow as did the jewels she wore.
It seemed to him that even they could not match the glow given off by his wife as she talked vivaciously with their guests.
"Time has been kind to you my dearest lovliest Elizabeth, he said to himself. You are even more handsome than you were at twenty and my bride."
Elizabeth raised her eyes to her husbands and held them as she gave him a radiant smile that told him how much she loved him.
"This has been the most successful celebration, Elizabeth said as she took his arm to leave the dining hall to go to the ballroom. the children planned well, my love. Everyone seems to be having a wonderful time.
Except for Margaret, of course, she is determine3d to become Lady ---."
"I believe I can safely say that she will not get her wish, he replied, the Darcy's are not given to accepting titles, as you well know."
Elizabeth laughed up at him as she replied, "Especially if they have wives who find most of the gentry dead bores, and it would seem that the Darcy women have felt so for 400 years or more.
If I recall Lady Hampton expressed the same sentiments when you refused the title Earl of Derby, and she was unbelieving when Uncle Gardiner refused the honor of being knighted. she could not understand that a man could be so happy in his life as a commoner that her would not take the first opportunity to become a member of the gentry."
As the music started Darcy held out his hands to Elizabeth saying, "Would you waltz with me, my dear."
Charles, too took Jane's hand leading her to the floor, and when she at first protested he said with a grin, "I believe, my love that this leg can manage one waltz.
"What do you suppose our children will have planned for next year, Jane smiled at him, it will be our turn then."
Elizabeth sighed as she looked across the carriage at her husband.
"I thought that you liked Luke and Lucas, she said, He always seemed to be a favorite of yours. You know how much Rachel has loved working with him in the ghetto. She feels as if she is making a contribution to a better world for the poor souls who live there."
"Of course I like Luke and his father, Darcy answered, but Rachel. Rachel is so lovely, so good. I hoped she would make a brilliant marriage."
"Would you prefer Vicount DeWitt," Elizabeth asked archly.
"Good God no," Darcy snapped so sharply that he woke the sleeping Kitty from her nap tucked into the corner of the carriage.
Sitting up quickly she said sleepily, "What is it, what is wrong, have we damaged a wheel, are there highwaymen about."
Elizabeth laughed, "No dear Kitty, we were discussing Rachel's suitors."
"But Rachel is engaged to Luke, is she not, Kitty asked, I thought he was her only suitor."
Elizabeth and Darcy looked at each other and laughed causing Kitty to look at the as if they were mad and ask, "What is so funny, what are you laughing about, tell me that I might enjoy it too. Did Rachel have other suitors that I know nothing about.
"Oh dear, Elizabeth laughed there were many my dear sister but the most ardent was the Vicount DeWitt."
"The Vicount DeWitt, Kitty said, the future Duke of Ashburn. Isn't his father the man who asked for Georgianna's hand and then ran off to Italy at his parents insistance so that he would not have to marry her."
"The very one," Elizabeth grinned at Darcy.
"But I don't understand, Kitty went on, what is so funny about this."
"I think that you should tell your sister, dear, Darcy said, she will not be able to rest now until she knows."
Elizabeth sighed, "Some three months ago we were summoned by the Duchess of Ashburn to her home for tea."
"When we arrived Lady Asbury wasted no time in letting us know why we were there."
"You can have no doubts why I have summoned you, she said. My son has informed us that he intends to ask your for your youngest daughters hand in marriage. I tell you now that we will not approve of such a marriage. Robert will marry someone of his own rank. I am sure that you have encouraged your daughter to lure my son into her web. That you hoped that she would accomplish what you sister Georgianna could not, Mr Darcy. But I will tell you here and now that your plans will come to naught, there will be no marriage between your daughter and my son."
"She would not listen when we tried to tell her that we knew nothing of her sons plans, but we were spared further embarrassment by the appearance of the young man himself."
"Forbidding my marriage to Rachel to her parents, Mother, he said. Let me spare you the time, the young lady has refused my offer, in no uncertain terms. It seems she prefers the young clergyman Luke Farrow to the Vicount Dewitt."
Lady Asbury turned white, "She refused you, she cried, that nobody from the north country refused you, the next Duke of Ashburn. Surely you are joking, she could not do such a thing, I do not believe you. She has set a trap for you as I told you, she would not refuse such a title, such a position in society, such wealth."
"Indeed she did, Mother, it seems she finds me a dead bore, selfish and arrogant, with nothing to say for myself except that I shall on my fathers death become a duke. She declares that I make no meaningful contributation to society, to the betterment of those less fortunate than me. That I waste my time gaming and riding to the hounds, and visiting my clubs, while there are people starving outside my door."
"Oh she was very eloquent, mother, she spoke very well of my shortcomings and all the reasons she would never marry me."
"This is impossible, it is insupportable that anyone should speak so to you, especially someone so far beneath you you, I will not have it. I will speak to this young woman myself, she must learn to respect her betters," Lady Asbury stormed.
"She does respect her betters, mother dear, but we are not her betters, she is far above any of us. She spoke nothing but the truth. I am a dead bore, and I have nothing but my title to boast of, if I want to do that."
"Mr Darcy, you will inform your daughter that I shall expect her here tomorrow at two o'clock ,' Lady Asbury snapped.
"Indeed I will not, Darcy answered coldly, the matter is closed. You have forbidden the marriage between you son and our Rachel and she has refused his offer, that is the end of it."
"But," Lady Ashbury started.
Her son stood to shake Fitzwilliams hand and turning to his mother said, "Mr Darcy is right mother, do not embarrass yourself by making a scene which will make you a laughing stock. It is ended.
He then graciously escorted us to the door and bid us goodbye.
"I really feel sorry for him, he reall loves Rachel."
"His father came to call the next day to apologise for his wife's conduct. He told me as he was leaving that he still loved Georgianna, that he always would. That is why his wife dislikes the name Darcy so much.
He had hoped that his son would secure Rachels hand, he thinks she would be the best woman his son could marry and he is very sorry that it cannot be."
"What a shame, Ktty sighed, if only he had been as strong a man as Mr Darcy and married Georgianna in spite of his parents objections."
Elizabeth smiled across the carriage at her husband. "There are all too few men of Mr Darcy's ilk, she said, there indeed is only one Fitzwilliam Darcy."
As she spoke they looked at each other with such love that Kitty turned to look out the window.
Mr Darcy reached across to brush his wife's cheek with the back of his hand and she took it in hers and kissed the palm.
Kitty knew that for that short time they were the only ones in the carriage, that she was forgotten. She felt like an intruder in a most intimate moment.
As they pulled into the drive at The Willows, Lizzie and Darcy returned to the present as Lizzie said, "I wonder how many Jane and Charles will have here for the celebration of our thirty eight years of marriage."
"I know that Thomas and Edward and their families will be here, Kitty said. What would mama say if she knew that Maria Lucas' daugher was now Mistress of Longbourn."
"Elizabeth laughed, "Indeed, I too have wondered that many times."
"Well we know that all our children and grandchildren as well as all the Bingley's will be here, Darcy grinned, that alone should be enough to fill the house."
Jane and Charles came out into the courtyard to greet their guests with happy smiles.
"Lizzie, dear, I am so glad that you and Kitty and Mr Darcy are here first. It gives us some time to talk before the other guests arrive," Jane said putting her arms through Lizzie and Kitty's and walking into the house with them.
"When are William and Mary to come, I hope they are bringing all the children."
"They will be here tomorrow, Darcy replied, indeed the children are looking forward to the coming week. They always enjoy coming to visit here with the Bingley's"
"Is Caroline to come, Elizabeth asked, without James and Louisa she must be feeling quite alone. I do feel so sorry for her, Losing her husband and her sister within month's of each other must be devasting."
Charles sighed, "I really don't know, we have written to her several times begging her to come but she does not wish to travel alone."
"We have asked Arthur to bring his mother, I hope he can convince her."
"She would more likely come if Guinevere were to ask her, but somehow I doubt that the Countess would deign to attend such a lowly gathering."
"Charles, Jane said, please do not speak so of your niece, she has duties that she must attend to. Since she is widowed she must prepare her son for his duties as Duke and Master of that great Estate."
"We seldom see Guin, she has little time for her Bingley relations, Charles went on, Arthur though is a frequent visitor. His title has changed him little, he is still the same amiable good natured young man he always was."
"I would say it has been two years since we have seen anything of Quin though, don't you agree, dear."
"Quite so, my love," Jane answered as she took Lizzie's arm and led her to the yellow room for tea while the men went to Charles' study for a brandy.
"Are Mary and Marcus to be here, Kitty asked, I understood that the judge had an important case to hear."
"Mary and the children will come even if Marcus cannot," Jane answered.
"Who would have believed that the young law clerk from Uncle Phillips office so many years ago would today be a noted justice in London," Elizabeth said as he accepted her cup of tea.
"All the Bennet sister have done very well in their marriages. Even Lydia, if all she told us of her second marriage was in fact the truth."
Kitty rose and went to look out the window as she said quietly, "How sad that she should have died so young, just 35, and so contented with the life she had."
Jane rose to put her arms around Kitty saying, "We must rejoice that she found a man who took such good care of her and made her so happy, Kitty."
The three of them turned to the door as Darcy and Bingley entered followed by three of the Bingley grandchildren.
"Look who we found lurking in the hall, Bingley laughed, I am sure these three could do with some tea and biscuits, eh, children."
"Yes, please, grandmother, young Darcy answered. Lizzie especially is hungry. mother and father will be here soon. mother is speaking to Mrs Wilson and father has just returned from visiting one of the tenants, so he went up to change before having tea."
The afternoon seemed to fly by as the Bingley's and the Darcy's conversed and laughed, telling stories of the farms, childhood memories, and plans for the future.
Elizabeth rose early as always to go for her morning walk, today her husband joined her.
"I am worried about Charles, Darcy said, have you noticed how quickly he tires, he fell asleep at least three time last night before Jane made him retire."
"I know, Elizabeh answered, Jane worries that this week might be too much for him, but he insisted so vehemently that she could not deny him. Jane worries too, I do so hope all will go well."
Before she could go on Kitty ran to them saying, "Jane wants you two to come at once, the carriages are arriving so fast that the courtyard can hardly contain them."
Darcy and Lizzie were delighted, as they entered the front parlor to find Richard and Sarah there with their two youngest children.
Elizabeth went quicly to kiss Sarah and remark about what beautiful red hair the children had.
"One can hardly expect less, Col Fitzwilliam laughed, with their heritage is should wonder if the had anything but red hair."
They all stopped talking and stared in surprise as Caroline and her daughter entered the room with a swirl of skirts and feathers.
Elizabeth looked across the room at Jane and raised her eyebrows. The last person they had expected to see was Guinivere, but here she was, with her two children, all smiles and friendliness.
"Mama convinced me that we need some time away from the hustle and bustle of city life, she said. A few days in the country is what we both need, I believe, and it has been all too long since I have seen any of you."
She could not tell them that being the dowger Countess of Ester was the lonliest thing in the world. Most of her husbands friends still resented her and had tolerated her only while he lived, They still thought of her as the granddaughter of a carriage maker. Since John's death in Italy two years before they had all shunned her, while making her children welcome because Paul was now the Duke of Ester.
She was looking forward to a pleasurable week at her Uncle and Aunt Bingley's, but she would never admit it to anyone in this room, though her mother guessed it, she knew.
As she moved over to speak to Elizabeth she said, "I am told that your Rachel refused the hand of Sir Albert Dewitt, Vicount of Ashburn. It would seem that his mother is most irate that a Darcy should refuse her son. Poor Lady Asbury, she is beside herself. She is angry that it has spread about town and cannot seem to understand that it is she herself who started it. When she told Lady Markham she might as well as sent the town crier through the streets with the news."
Guinevere laughed, Lady Markham is the last person in the universe to entrust with a secret, I would think her grace would know that.
"She of course blames it all on the Darcy's, is that not diverting."
Elizabeth looked at her lovely unhappy niece, who was enjoying Lady Asbury's dismay. She knew that the countess was one of the leaders against Guin, but she did not like to hear her enjoy someone elses pain.
Guin, dear, let us forget the Ashbury's this week, she said, I think we will all be happier if we just enjoy our own families."
"You are right Aunt Darcy, Guin replied. I shall think of no one but this family for the next week."
"Is that Rachel, she asked, what a beauty she is, such a beautiful smile. I can see why the young men were all so much in love with her last season. Is that Mr Farrow her betrothed with her. A fine looking young man."
"Yes, it is Luke, Elizabeth smiled, his mother was my best friend , I am so happy for them."
By the end of the week all were exhausted, Charles more than anyone, but his happiness at the celebration was so apparant that everyone hated to leave.
As Jane and Elizabeth walked their brothers to their carriages they each promised to visit Longbourn sometime in the summer.
"How much Ellen looks like her mother, Elizabeth said to Thomas as she kissed him goodbye. What great friends we had in the Lucas' when we were growing up, but I would imagine Maria has told you all about that. Give her our love, brother."
As the lst carriage left the courtyard, Elizabeth and Jane collapsed into each other's arms.
"What a wonderful time we all had, Lizzie laughed, but I am getting too old for this, so many people when you count the children and grandchildren. We will soon not have room for all of them if they keep this up."
"Well, my love, at 66 I am but a lad, what a shame that I should be married to and old lady," Darcy laughed.
Elizabeth dropped the curtain with a sigh. She had been watching out the window for a carriage which was to bring Jane to Pemberley for the Holidays.
Since Cahrles' death 10 months ago Jane had been from home. Going from one home to another visiting friends and family. Anywhere but The Willows where she and Mr bingley had loved so happily for 38 years.
First she had come to Pemberley for a month, then to Longbourn to visit her brothers for a month. She had stayed with Thomas in their old home, for she could not bear to spend time with Edward at Netherfield, where she and Charles had lived for the first year of their marriage.
From Longbourn to stay with Kitty, then to London with Mary and tehn on to each of her own children and the sons and daughter of aunt and Uncle Gardiner.
Young Charles had begged her to come home but she declared she could not until at least the holidays were over.
Elizabeth and Darcy had received a letter from him just two days ago asking them for help in bringing their mother home to them. The grandchildren missed her terribly and asked if their grandmother were angry with them and would never come back.
She turned and looked across the room at her husband. He was still the handsomest man of her aquaintance. The once dark hair was now snowy white, though still thick and curling. He was still a vital vigorous man at 68, for whick she thanked God every day.
He sat in the chai with a book in his hands and she smiled at the sight. They were both still avid readers. The smile turned into a chuckle as she realized that he was asleep.
She moved across the room to kiss him softly on the top of his head and he awoke with a start.
"Oh dear, I fear I fell asleep, has Jane arrived. I fear I have not been very good company, my love, falling asleep like this."
"I would not wonder at your being tired, Elizabeth said with a loving smile. You were out before first light to visit your tenants. Has all been set right with Mr Dillion and Mr Cartwright"
"It was really nothing, took less than an hour to settle. But with all the unrest among the tenants on some of the other estates I must keep my own men satisfied. So many of the young people are going to work in the cities and the mines instead of following in the foorsteps of their ancestors on the farms. Young Cartwright, however has returned to help his father and take over the farm soon. He found that working in a hole in the ground for little pay and dismal conditions unsatisfactory and was very happy to be received with such open arms by his family. His father was so angry when he left that he thought he would never be welcome again. all is well though."
"I know, my love, but enough of that. You will go up and rest. I insist on it."
"But I must be here to welcome Jane, my dear," he answered.
"There will be plenty of time for that, Elizabeth said firmly, You will go up now though, I insist. You know that Jane and I will have a long talk when she arrives and I know how you hate listening to gossip."
"If you insist, dear, have I ever said you nay, Darcy said with a chuckle as he kissed her and went from the room with a yawn, I believe I could use an hours nap."
He had not been gone a half hour when Mrs Birtwait came to tell Elizabeth that her sister had arrived.
OH Jane, dearest Jane you are so thin, Elizabeth cried. Come we have time for a good talk. william is sleeping, he was out before dawn this mornig and was in need of a rest.
"I have had a letter from Charles, he is very worried about you. Your grandchildren it seem fear that they have done something to anger you so much that you stay from home."
"But I love them all so much, how could they get such an idea, Jane said, I am sure you are wrong Lizzie, they know how fond I am of them, I am sure."
"It has been nearly a year Jane and you know how children always think that they have been naughty if something untoward happens about the house."
"You cannot understand Lizzie, I cannot bear the thought of the house without Charles. If something were to happen to Mr Darcy I am sure you would feel the same."
"I think not, Jane, I pray that Mr Darcy remains in good health and never leaves me. I something should happen though I believe I would prefer to stay here at Pemberley, here in these room where we have spent most of our married life, where we have been so happy. I would prefer to be here where I could feel his presence and talk to him when I needed to. He will always be with me Jane, and I would prefer to be here wher I feel closest to him. But we have never thought alike, Jane dear. You must suffer through your grief in your way as I should in mine."
"Oh Lizzie, I never thought of it that way, Jane sobbed. Of course you are right, that is what I have been searching for these past 10 months, somewhere where I could find Charles, while running from it all the time. Thank you dearest Lizzie, I shall feel better now, I am sure, I shall go home."
"Not until after Christmas, Lizzie laughed, your family is coming here, you can return to The Willows then. It is but two days to Christmas and it is too late for them to change their plans.
Perhaps you can be there for the New Year, Charles has taken steps for Boxing Day so you will now have to worry about that. I feel that this is going to be a good holiday, Jane, I think you will find the peace you have been searching for."
"How were all the relatives? Is Kitty getting on better with her daughter in law? Becoming a countess seems to have gone to that young womans head, she has become most unpleasant, thinking of nothing but her station and cutting out many of her old friends, even her won family."
"Kitty is doing well, she has moved to the Dower House. Robert visits every day, but Magdalene never. He sspends more time there than at his own house. He finds his wife becoming more and more unbearable. He has hired mor people to help raise the children and brings them to their grandmother daily. He fears that if they spend too much time with their mother they will become the same insufferable snobs a she is."
"Kitty a Duchess, and Mary the wife of a noted justice. All the Bennet girls have done well, have we not Jane. How Mama would have boasted. she would have lorded it over the neighbors until they would run when they saw her approaching," Elizabeth laughed.
"Yes, we have all chosen our mates well, Jane smiled, even Lydia found a good man in the end. I wonder how many of the people who declared our marriages unsuitable and that we were reaching beyond ourselves still feel that way."
Five years later:
Fitzwilliam Darcy put dow his quill and leaned back in his chair. He was the sole master of the Pemberley estates now.
For the past year his father had been confined mostly to his room. At 73 his heart would not tolerate the work any more and if he came downstairs it was in the lift that he had installed.
His mother spent most of her time up there with his father, taking her meals for the most part with her husband, unless there was a special occassion, such as a birthday or Christmas. His parents had been married for 45 years but he feared his father would not live to see 46.
His mother had gone to visit one of the tenants this morning however. Some of the older ones still insisted on dealing with his parents so she went to talk to them since his father was unable to.
As he sat remembering the happy days in this house his reverie was interupted by the housekeeper crying , "Master Darcy, Master Darcy, come at once. The stableboy has come running to tell us that the horses which were pulling your mothers carriage have returned to the stable without the carriage. Hurry master, it has started to rain, you must find her. They know not what is amiss, but there must be trouble if the horses returned without them."
William had for the last two years had control of the affairs of the Darcy estates. His father's health would no longer permit him to do the work. As a matter of fact the past year he had seldom left his room. At 73 his heart was in such a condition that the stress of coming downstairs was too much.
His mother spent most of her time with her beloved husband. The only time they came to the table anymore was for special occasions such as Christmas or their 45th wedding anniversary. They took all of their meals in their chambers.
As he started to leave his fathers room the housekeeper, Mrs Rathborne came to tell him that one of the tenants wished to see his father. William said that he would take care of it but Mrs Rathborne said that the young man had insisted that his mother would speak only to his either the Master or Mistress, not the son.
"Tell him to come up, Darcy sid, I will speak to him."
"No, my love, I will go down to him, Elizabeth answered, I would expect that I will have to go to see what is troubling Mrs Maxwell this time."
After speaking to the son it was apparent that the old lady would tell no one but Fitzwiliam or herself what was bothering her.
Elizabeth sent for the carriage to be readied over her son's protests. "Never mind, William, dear, she said, I shall be back before sundown, I do not think this will take long."
Four hours later a stableboy came running to the house crying that the horse had returned to the stable without the carriage.
William shouted for the servants to prepare warm blankets and bricks to warm the bed, for it had started raining and he feared that his mother would be wet and chilled.
"Send a boy for the doctor, Mrs Rathborne," he shouted as he ran out the door carrying a large heavy coat.
He found his mother a mile from home, carriage turned over and a broken wheel. As he had feared the rain had soaked her through and through.
"Mama, do not fear, I will have you home in a trice."
"I know, dear she said, but I fear my arm is broken, so have a care when you lift me out of this mess.
The doctor arrived at the same time as they and ordered hot tea for the mistress.
William carried his mother up the stairs and would have taken her into her room had his father not come into the hall insisting that they put her in the large comfortable bed in his own room.
"Fitzwilliam, dear, do not fuss, Elizabeth laughed as her husband followed closely Williams progress across the room, let the doctor in, my love. The pain is becoming unbearable and I must have his attentions.
"William bring your father the chair there that he may sit here by me and hold my hand as the doctor examines me. It will be a great comfort to me."
"Well, Dr Basford said, You are very fortunate Mrs Darcy, your arm is broken, but it is not a bad break. I am more worried about the dampness, you seem to have a chill."
"Yes, Elizabeth replied, the arm would not be so painful if I could but stop shivering."
"The laudnum will take care of the pain in short order, but there must be warm blankets and hot bricks for the bed all night long, at your age the possibility of pneumonia is my greatest worry."
The doctors fears proved correct and in the next sennight William and Mary could see his mother slipping. Her breathing became labored and painful.
His father in spite of all they said would not leave her and they worried for the strain on his ailing heart.
Bennet had come as soon as he received the message from his brother. As he and his children left the sickroom, young Elizabeth, who at twelve was much like her grandmother said, "Father, Grandfather keeps saying over and over to grandmother that he loves her. They are old father, how can they love like that, love is for young people."
"Tell me children, what do you see when you look at your grand parents?" Bennet asked.
"Charles laughed, " What do I see, why what else is there to see but two old people with white hair and spectacles."
"Come with me, all of you grandchildren, Bennet said as he took them to the hall of their ancestors.
" So you see two old people, he said as he came before his favorite portrait. This is what they see, children. He looked up with a soft smile at the picture of a beautiful young woman in a pale yellow dress, with roses in her hair standing beside a handsome young man, a look of love and pride on his face.
"To each of them the other will always be young and handsome. The greatest gift I could ever wish for you is that you would find the same kind of love as they have, that in the eyes of your mate you will always remain young and beautiful."
On the ninth day Elizabeth said weakly to her husband, "I am so cold, my love, will you not warm me."
"Of course, dearest Elizabeth," he said as he climbed into the bed beside her wrapping her in his arms.
"Oh, my love that is so much better," she said as she snuggled up to him.
"Do you realize Fitzwilliam, that of all those who were there to see our courtship and marriage, save for Georgianna and Kitty, we are all who are left. Charles is gone these four years and my dearest Jane three. I am so tired, Fitzwilliam, when I sleep I see Jane and father smiling at me."
Darcy held her tightly for some minutes until he realized she had ceased breathing.
William, Mary, he shouted, send for Doctor Basford, we have need of him."\
"There is nothing more I can do for her Master Darcy, the doctor said, it was the pneumonia."
After the doctor left William said, "You must come into mother's room father, you cannot stay here."
"I shall stay with her tonight, children, his father said, leave us now."
"Father, please," Jane Anne, cried.
"Come, all of you, Mary said quietly, leave them be, let him have this time with her."
William could not sleep, he went to the door of his wife's room, but she was sleepig so he crossed the room to look out the window, which looked out on the back of the estate, faced the pond where his father had stoppped for a swim on the day his mother had come to Pemberley for the first time, faced the bench which she had placed on the spot in the little vale between the hill where the pond was and the rise in the lawn going to the house.
He stepped closer to the window to get a better look, the moon was full and very bright. There was a young woman with dark hair sitting there on the bench. She rose and started toward the house as a man started down the rise toward her.
She was dressed in garb from twenty years past. She put both her hands out to the tall, dark haired young man who came to her, dressed in clothing from the same time. He took them and kissed first one and then the other and turned with her to look back at the house. Taking her right arm he pulled it through his left and they started down the rise toward the bench where a soft mist was beginning to rise. As they approached the bench they again turned toward the house and looked up at the window where he was standing. She seemed to be saying something to him. He took her face in his hands and kissed her forehead, her eyes, her nose and lastly her lips. Then he turned her around again and put his arm around her shoulders while she put hers around his waist. They went down to the bench where the mist seemed to swallow them.
"William, he heard the soft voice of his Mary say, did you see the same as I."
"Oh, my love I did not hear you come in, he said. Yes I saw, I don't understand, who were those people. How often I have seen my father kiss my mother like that."
"Yes," she replied.
"Father, he whisperd, father."
Rushing to the door he flung it open and ran down the hall, Mary running behind him. As he came to his fathers chamber he flung open the door and rushed in, crying, "Father, father."\
There in the bed was his father holding his mother. "Come father, it is time to go to the other room," he said touching his shoulder.
As soon as he touched him he knew, and with a cry he stepped back.
"William, love, you have to know that he could not live without her, Mary said as she led him to a chair and sat him in it, It has been the sheer force of her will that has kept him alive this past year. Without her he felt he had nothing left to live for. As much as they loved you and the rest of their family, I have always known that there was just the two of them in their heart of hearts."
"Yes, I know, Wiliam answered, we knew that they loved all of us very dearly, but their greatest love was always for each other. That, I believe was why we had such a happy home. Their love was so great that it reached out and engulfed us."
"William, what is it, Lizzie asked as she came into the room, you made such a great racket running down the hall shouting for father that you awoke all of us."
As she turned to look at the bed she said, "He has gone with her hasn't he."
Walking to look at them she said, "I can understand how his arms could be around her but how did hers get around him?"
Mary and William looked at each other in amazement, "It was them," she said.
"What was them, Rachel asked, what are you speaking of."
Charles came into the room saying, "The couple at the bench, yes William, I saw them too, they lived together these 45 years, they have gone to their reward together."
© 2001 Copyright held by author