Fitzwilliam Darcy checked himself before donning his cloak. To his chagrin a lovely face appeared in the glass a face with a pair of beautiful dark eyes and an enchanting smile.
Turning away quickly he thought, "What is the matter with you,Darcy, why do you see her face and hear her voice everywhere you go. You fool, she is a country nobody, with no connections and no fortune, yet she haunts your dreams, and your thoughts by day as well, he said to himself. You could not escape her even at Pemberley. It seemed to him that everything he did whilst he was at home in Derbyshire the thought entered his mind. What would Elizabeth think of this, or what would she do if she were here.
Darcy and his sister had returned from their estate in Derbyshire the day before. He had business with Mr Mason his steward at Pemberely, and Georgianna had begged him to take her with him. He could never deny her anything, especially after what had happened last summer .So he consented and took her along. They had enjoyed their time together away from the hustle and bustle of the social scene, as a matter of fact they had stayed longer than they had planned, but he wanted to get her back to town so they had returned.
Tonight he was going to see Mr Shakespeare's play Romeo and Julliet. Mr Bingley and his sisters and Mr Hurst were to accompany him. To his surprise Mr Bingley came rushing down the steps as soon as the carriage pulled up.
"Mr Darcy do not move, my sisters are ready so we must leave with all haste before Caroline decides to change her dress again, he said breathlessly, Come, Caroline, Louisa, Mr Darcy is here and you know how he hates to arrive at the theater late."
"Of course we shall not make Mr Darcy late, Caroline said sharply, why do you think we were ready so quickly."
"Mr Darcy, how wonderful to see you, we have missed you so much since your trip north., she cooed, did dear Georgianna come with you , of course she must have stayed at Pemberley since she is not here. Who could blame her, such a beautiful place, I think I could stay there forever myself."
Darcy looked at her in amazement, how could the woman speak so long without seeming to take a breath, he thought.
Darcy was aware of Miss Bingley's plans for the marriage of his sister and her brother. He himself had harbored such a hope for a short time. He had soon given up such thoughts when he realized that they would never be anything but friends. Bingley thought of Georgiana more as a little sister and she had no romantic thoughts about Charles, of that he was certain.
Miss Bingley, he knew, would be tenacious in persuing her dreams for the future of the two of them, though. He was well aware too, that Miss Bingley hoped that in securing Georgiana for Charles, she herself would become Mrs. Darcy.
"How I do love Mr. Shakespeare's plays," Caroline said with her most seductive smile. "I do not recall though, is Romeo and Julliet at tragedy or a farce, he writes so many that I cannot keep them straight."
Darcy groaned inwardly, Why does she try to appear so knowledgeable when everyone here knows that she really knows nothing of Mr. Shakespeare, she doesn't understand any of the plays we go to, she asks such silly inane questions when it is over.
Why did I not find out if Georgiana was going to accompany me before I asked the whole party, he thought. If I had known I would have invited only Charles, he still seems to be pining for Miss Jane Bennet. I thought a night out at the theater would do him good. I dont't know how much of his sisters I can take though, like my sister I am too tired for this.
As the carriage drew up to the theater he recalled his sisters words.
"Please, William, do not make me go with you tonight, she begged. I don't wish to be in the company of Mr Bingley's sisters right now. Don't they ever find anything pleasing about anyone? It makes me uncomfortable when they make sport of all our other friends,
I wonder what they say of me when they are with others.
I ask you again brother, who is the young woman Miss Bingley keeps speaking of to so sharply, the one she keeps referring to as having fine eyes, I believe she calls her Eliza."
"She is no one you know, dearest, Darcy replied as he turned away so that she would not see the look on his face. She is just a country girl we met when we were in Herfordshire. She is someone you are never likely to meet."
Darcy had hoped to take his sister to many social functions this year, even though she was not out.
He hoped that she would overcome her shyness if he took her to mix in society more. She needed to get out and enjoy herself and meet people other than her family. He must do something to try to get her over the terrible hurt she had suffered. She had become even more shy and reclusive since last summer and the disaster with Wickham. If only he could do something to help her, he thought, but what.
Elizabeth would be able to bring her out, of that he was sure, but there was no chance of that.
"Darcy you are a fool indeed, he thought, why cannot you get this young woman out of your mind. She is impertinent, and disrespectful to you, yet you cannot forget her, WHY, WHY. She has no connections and no fortune, she has nothing to offer a man of your position, except a quick intellegence, wit, and a smile to charm the birds out of the trees.
She is completely unsuitable. No one have ever treated you as she has, she argues with you at every turn, she says no to you when you ask her to dance. No woman has ever dared to deny Fitzwilliam Darcy anything until her. Women have been throwing themselves at you for years, yet the one who laughs at you and relishes besting you in argument and games is the one who occupies your thoughts and dreams.
As they walked toward his box he heard Caroline give a gasp. Turning to see what has made her react in such a way he saw her staring across the room. He turned his head to see what she was looking at but before he even finished the turn he knew, he recognized the sound of her laughter. He stared in shock at the sight of Miss Elizabeth Bennet in conversation with a very fashionable couple. They were standing just outside the box next to his.
As he stood there staring in disbelief, Miss Bennet snatched her brothers arm and hurried him into the box, hissing as she did so, "Make haste Mr Darcy, before she sees us.
Darcy followed Miss Bingley as she rushed a confused Charles into the box. He stopped just outside to watch the party those few feet away. He was sure he could not be seen from there but he could admire Miss Bennet without her being aware of him.
"How lovely she looks, he thought, that shade of green looks beautiful on her. It must be a new dress, I don't remember ever seeing her wear that color before. Her hair is wonderful in that style, it gleams in the candlelight beautifuly. I had no idea it was so long, she looks enchanting."
As he watched several young men of his aquaintance approached the party. Two of them seemed to know the gentleman who she was speaking to and the introductions were made and the usual civilities exchanged. The men seemed to try to crowd each other out in their eagerness to gain the her attention, especially Lord Minor.
Darcy watched with chagrin as she laughed and chatted with the men who surounded her.
With a sinking feeling he started to enter the box, he could not stand here any longer and watch as other men vied for her attention.
As he started to push the curtain aside he heard the voice of his mothers long time friend and his own god-mother Lady Sophia Wellingford.
"Maddie, Madelaine Gardiner, is it really you, she exclaimed, as she rushed to the side of the lady with Miss Bennet, Oh Maddie I have been thinking about you, it has been too long since we have talked."
Darcy was stunned, Who were these people," he wondered. Lady Sophia obviously was well aquainted, yet he had never seen them before.
Darcy took his seat near the back of the box where he could watch the occupants of the next box without being observed. he was also away from Caroline Bingley, he didn't know how long he could remain civil to her if she started her usual abuse of Miss Elizabeth.
Miss Bennet sat near the far side of the box next to Mrs Gardiner and frequently turned to her to make a comment on the performance which she was obviously enjoying greatly. He could picture in his mind how her eyes were glowing with pleasure.
Miss Bingley had placed her party on the far side so that the occupants of the next box could not see them.
"Thank god for that," Darcy thought.
His pleasure was short lived however as Miss Bingley slipped into the chair next to him hissing in his ear, "Mr Darcy we must leave before Miss Bennet is aware of us, or worse if Charles sees her. If he does he will rush to speak to her and all we have accomplished will be for nought. We cannot let them meet.
Louisa and I have worked out a plan, but we need your cooperation."
Darcy merely nodded and she moved again to her seat.
"Charles, she whispered, I am begining to feel quite ill, we will have to leave as soon as may be, before I am too ill to travel in the coach."
Mrs Hurst expressed concern for her sister and agreed that they must be gone as soon as possible.
As Louis awoke her sleeping husband Caroline gathered her things and took her brothers arm, making sure that he was turned away fron the next box.
"I am, sorry Darcy, Bingley whispered, I must, it would seem, take my sister home, she is not well."
"Please,there is no need to apologize, Bingley, Darcy said, Maddox will take you home come back for me, it is no trouble at all."
Caroline stared with dismay as she heard Darcy's words.
"Mr Darcy are you not to come with us," she whispered.
"No Miss Bingley, he replied, I am sure that I cannot make you feel any better, and I do want to see the rest of the play. Maddox will be back before the end and it will be no inconvience to me I assure you"
Caroline was in a quandry, she had already started to play the part of a very sick woman for her brothers benefit, just so they could have a feasible reason for leaving so soon. Right now she was really feeling ill. Mr Darcy was staying.
Darcy settled back into his seat to enjoy the play.
"Thank God she is gone, he thought, I wish there had been some way for Bingley to stay here with me though. Caroline was right in this instance . It was better not to take the chance of a meeting between Miss Elizabeth and Charles."
His attention more and more strayed to the box next door. Miss Bennet turned often to speak to someone in the back but he couldn't see who it was. To his surprise after some time Miss Jane Bennet moved from the back seat to sit beside her sister.
"How fortunate that Bingley had gone with his sisters, Darcy mused, if he had seen Miss Jane it could have proven disasterous."
As he sat there watching the occupants of the other box his cousin Edwards words kept coming back to him.
His cousin Col. Edward Fitzwilliam had been home on a fortnights leave and the two of them as always spent a great deal of time together, making the rounds of the clubs and attending parties.
The best times though were those that they spent at home playing chess or cards while Georgianna played the pianoforte for them.
He had been unaware that he was speaking so much of Miss Elizabeth Bennet until the last night of Edward's leave. After Georgianna had retired they were having a brandy and talking, when his cousin laughed and said, "Darcy, I believe you are in love."
"In Love, Darcy snorted, where ever did you get such an idea as that."
Edward laughed again, "Cousin since I have been home I have heard little about anything or anyone except Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Her fine eyes, her wit, her inetlligence, her lovely voice. You tell me of her skill and daring at chess and cards. Her impertinence toward you, though in a most charming manner." Her figure, her beautiful smile, the sound of her voice and her laughter, yes cousin, you are a man in love to be sure."
"That is imppssible, Darcy sputtered, she is completely unsuitable."
"In what way is she so completely unsuitable," Fitzwilliam said with a big smile.
"Well, er, well,er, why, she is a country nobody, she had no connections and no fortune. Her fathers estate is entailed away from the female of the line to a most odious cousin, who is Aunt Catherine's clergyman," Darcy replied.
"So she has no fortune, what do you need with a woman of fortune, do you not have enough of your own. As far as her connections, what do you really know of them. You say her father is the owner of an estate much smaller than yours, tell me Darcy how many of your aquaintence have as large an estate as you. You say he is but a country gentleman, but that is what you are is it not. You say her mother is vulgarly trying to find men of fortune to wed her five daughters. Is not every mother with daughter that you know doing that very thing. Is not your friend Caroline Bingley doing just that, looking for a man of position and fortune to marry."
"I am the grandson of the Earl of Matlock, Darcy said haughtily, my fathers people have served king and crown for hundreds of years. Pemberley was given to my ancestor by royal decree."
"Where did her family's estate originate, His cousin persisted, do you know at all. From what you have said I believe it has been handed down for many years also, perhaps even as long as yours. Could it be that it too was handed to her ancesters by royal decree."
"You puzzle me Darcy, you find the daughter of a country gentleman, the owner as you have admitted yourself, of a very nice estate, you find her unsuitable. What then of Bingley and his sisters. Was his father not a man in trade? What estate does he own, none that I am aware of. You seem to find all of them suitable for your esteemed company, yet you find the Bennets beneath you.
Is it money cousin, is it Bingleys fortune that raises him in your estimation, how mercenary of you. Do you find Miss Caroline Bingley more suitable to be your wife? I know that she has plans for that herself, she has not been shy about her plans for her brother and Georgianna, and you yourself.
"Caroline Bingley is the last woman in the world I would ever consider marrying, Darcy snapped, where did you ever get such a far fetched idea as that."
"From the lady herself, Edward replied. You spend a great deal of time in her company, too much in my estimation. You are becoming such a snob, cousin, as much as she is. What is worse you begin to sound more and more like aunt Catherine."
"Aunt Catherine, Darcy shouted, you dare to tell me that I am becoming like Aunt Catherine. She is the proudest most uncivil woman in the world. She considers anyone but the royal family beneath her, I cannot be like her."
"Listen to yourself sometime when you are in the company of Miss Bingley, Fitzwilliam answered. You will find that the two of you sound just like our aunt. Have you ver heard either woman say a kind word of anyone of their aquaintence. When you are with Miss bingley you agree with every unkind thing she says, you even make such remarks yourself."
The more I think of it I think Miss Bennet might be too good for you, cousin. You say she has a lively disposition and is charming to one and all. When have you or you friend Miss Bingley been charming to anyone."
Darcy stared at his cousin in disbelief, he could not believe what Edward was saying of him, he would never allow himself to become like his aunt Lady Debourg, he was not an unkind snob.
His cousin had cut the discussion short saying that he was too tired to argue and that he had to return to his regiment on the morrow so he must be leaving.
Before he quit the house he put his hand on Darcy's shoulder as he sat staring into the fireplace.
"Miss Bennet sounds like just the woman you need for a wife, cousin, he said softly, do not let her get away, Darcy you will regret it for the rest of your life."
Darcy had begun to pace about in the back of his box as he went over the conversation between the two of them. He had lost all interest in the play, all he could think of was the lady with the fine eyes and beautiful smile sitting there so close yet so far.
He started as the bell sounded for the end of the first act.
"I must get out of the small confines of this box he thought, I shall take a walk about the theater during this intermission."
Leaving his box quickly he crashed into someone, as he reached to steady the lady he realized it was Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
"Mr Darcy," she said in surprise.
"Miss Bennet, Darcy stammered, I most humbly apologize for my clumsiness, pray forgive me."
When she moved back from him he realized he was still holding her arms and dropped his hands immmediately, his face turning crimson with embarrassment.
"Mr Darcy, how nice to see you." He heard the soft voice of Miss Jane Bennet beside him.
Turning from the lovely face of her sister he made the usual bow to Jane saying, "Miss Bennet, the pleasure is mine I assure you."
Turning to the couple with them Miss Jane said, "May I present my Uncle, Mr Edward Gardiner and my Aunt Mrs Gardiner. Our Aunt grew up near Pemberley, sir. she is well aquainted with Derbyshire."
Darcy acknowledged the introductions saying, I am most pleased to find another Derbyshire native here, there are far too few of us about. Where did you live Mrs Gardiner."
"In Lambton," she replied.
"Delightful, Darcy said with a smile, I used to rush to Lambton some afternoons when I was a boy, especially in the horse chestnut season. There is a particulary fine tree there as I remember."
"On the green, near the smithy," laughed Mrs Gardiner.
"The very one," Darcy replied.
"Mr Gardiner, are you enjoying the play," he asked turning to her husband.
"Very much sir, Mr Gardiner replied, I am an avid lover of Mr Shakespeare."
As Darcy replied that he too was a lover of William Shakespeare they were joined by Lady Sophia and Lord John.
"William, dear boy, I did not know that you were here, she said, I see that you are aquainted with my friends the Gardiners."
"We have just been introduced, Mr Gardiner replied. However my neices have known Mr Darcy for some months now."
As the men moved away to chat her ladyship watched her god son. His eyes frequently strayed to watch the dark eyed Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Lady Sophia smiled, "I do believe that Darcy has at last found a woman to love, she thought, I wonder if he knows how much his feelings show on his face, every time he looks at her.
"I must get better aquainted with this young woman, if Darcy finds her of interest I must get to know her well. What a joke it would be on Lady Catherine and all her well laid plans if he were to marry this lovely young thing.
She looks closer to Georgianna's age than his, but what of that, Lady Sophia thought as the bell sounded for the second act.
Darcy returned to his box, refusing the invitation given by his god mother to join them. He had to think.
He had really enjoyed the company of Mr Gardiner, finding him intelligent and an extremely interesting conversationalist. He was well up on events at home and on the continent and made some ot the most inciteful comments that Darcy had ever heard.
He would enjoy getting to know this man, Darcy thought.
Miss Elizabeth and her uncle are cut from the same cloth, intelligent , witty, and forthright," he said to himself.
At the last intermission Dary again joined Lord John and Mr Gardiner for more talk and learned that the man had an uncanny business mind as well. Darcy like him so well that he invited him to go with him to Whites later in the week.
Mr Gardiner however replied that he thought that they would both be more comfortable at his club and asked Darcy to join him for an afternoon at the same.
Darcy was delighted to accept, he wanted very much to talk more with this man. He had never before felt so at ease with a complete stranger but Mr Gardiner's cheerful and amiable disposition made him feel as if he had know him for years.
As he turned to enter his box for the last act he saw Miss Elizabeth Bennet talking animatedly with Lord Percy Wilson. As Lord Percy laughed she turned and gave Darcy an angry glare.
"What was that look for, Darcy thought. What could Percy have been saying that made her so angry.
Darcy found the company of Edward to be extremely pleasing. The man had intelligence and wit. He was much surprised to find that the man's keen business sense brought many of Darcy's aquaintences to him for advice.
The Clubs that Mr. Gardiner belonged to had been attended by Darcy's own father on numerous occasions and he found many of his father's old friends there. He remembered coming to two of them with his Father soon after he finished school.
After a fortnight of meeting and playing cards and chess and enjoying each others company Mr. Gardiner invited Darcy to his home for tea.
Darcy was more than happy to accept, in the hope that Miss Elizabeth Bennet would still be there. He wanted very much to speak to her about his sister. He was certain that Miss Bennet was the very person to bring Georgiana out of her shyness as much as it was possible to do so.
Darcy arrived at the time set and was pleased indeed to find that Miss Elizaeth was still visiting her aunt and uncle.
After a most pleasant visit and a delicious tea Darcy asked Miss Bennet if he could speak to her.
Mrs Gardiner suggested that they retire to the garden to talk to take advantage of the beautiful weather.
Darcy had noticed that Elizabeth was very quiet during tea but attributed it to all the talk that flowed between himself and her aunt and uncle. Miss Jane however had been a most gracious participant in making him feel welcome.
Elizabeth led him into the garden where she sat down on a bench and turned to face him saying, "You wished to speak to me, Mr Darcy."
Darcy paced about looking at the flowers and admiring the garden generally.
Finally gathering up his courage he turned to the silent Miss Bennet.
"Miss Bennet, he said hesitantly, I would ask you the great favor of helping me bring my sister Georgianna out of her great shyness. I am sure that you vivacity and wit are just what is needed to help her. I have I fear been too protective of her and she has not had much chance to meet new people and seems to fear anyone but her immediate family. I would be most grateful if you would allow me to introduce you to her."
"You have the audacity to ask me for help with your sister, you who have responsible for the heartache of my own most beloved sister. Do not try to deny it, sir, Lord Percy has told me of your boasting that you have saved Mr Bingley from a most unsuitable match." YOu cause my dear Jane such pain and then have the nerve to ask me to help your own sister.
Mr Wickham has told me of your sister Mr Darcy, of her pride and arrogance. It would seem to me that she is much like her brother. From the first night of our aquaintance I have seen in your person the most arrogant, conceited, man I have ever met, with a most selfish disdain for the feelings of others I have ever had the misfortune to know."
"Wickham, you take a great interest in his affairs, Darcy snapped."
"Who could not take an interest in his affairs when you have reduced him to his present state of poverty with no regard for your own father's wishes," Elizabeth retorted as she stood and started to return to the house.
"One moment Miss Bennet, Darcy said, You have had your say, now I must be given the chance to defend myself against the charges you have laid at my door."
Elizabeth turned saying, "How can you hope to defend what you have done?"
She took the bench that he indicated however prepared to give anything he might say argument.
Darcy walked about for a few minutes before coming to stand before her and saying.
"We had not been in Hertfordshire but a fortnight when I began to notice that Bingley prefered your sister. It was not until the night of the ball at Netherfield and the remarks of sir William and your own mother that I became aware of how serious his attachment was perceived.
I have known Mr Bingley for many years and have seen him in and out of love too many times to count. Each time he has either been hurt when the young woman turns her attention elsewhere or he himself loses interest and turns to either his sister or myself to help him break thing off with the young lady in question.
I watched Bingley and your sister that evening and though she accepted his attentions with pleasure, I could see no sign from the complacency of her manner that she returned his affections."
Elizabeth started to open her mouth to give a sharp reply when she suddenly recalled that Charlotte had made the same observence a few time while they were discussing her sister and Mr Bingley.
"If I have been wrong and your sister has suffered from my interference,I and truly sorry, but it is too late now." Darcy went on.
"Now we come to Mr Wickham," he said with a pained expression.
"Mr Wickham, is the son of a very honorable man who was my fathers steward for many years and my father respected him greatly. We played together as boys.
Mr Wickham took the position of steward in order to get his wife away from London, thinking that her extravagences might be curbed by a move to the country. I was a fruitless move however and she kept him on the brink of ruin with her reckless spending and extravagent tastes."
"Soon after his wife's death in a carriage rollover Mr Wickham himself died, leaving George in my father's care.
My father was very fond of him and undertook to see that he was well educated sending him to Cambridge with me. It was there that I began to see his vicious tendency. His love of gambling and his womanizing.
Fortunately my father saw none of this side of the man or he would have been heartbroken.
Five years ago my father died, leaving Mr Wickham a trust of 1000 pounds and a codicle that he study for the church, that when the very lucrative post at Kempron came vacant it should be given to Mr Wickham.
Mr Wickham was in London at the time and replied to my notice that he had no interest in the church and asked instead for 3000 pounds, stating that he wished to study law instead. I hoped rather thatn believed him, but I complied with his wishes and he returned to Pemberley long enough to collect his money and was gone again.
I heard nothing of him for three years when he suddenly returned asking for the post at Kempton, saying that he was in financial straights and now wished to comply with my fathers's wishes for him.
I knew that he was the last man who should be in the robes of a churchman and I refused. After a month of begging and pleading he left swearing vengence.
I saw and heard nothing of him until last summer when we met again under most distressing circumstances.
As I have told you my sister is exremely shy and I thought that perhaps a summer at the seaside would be just what she needed. I hoped that she might meet some young people her own age and learn to enjoy the company of others.
With the help of my cousin Col Richard Fitzwilliam, who my father made one of the executers of his will we selected a Mrs Young as a companion for my sister while at Ramsgate.
Thither too went Mr Wickham, it seems that he and Mrs Younge were old aquaintances.
My sister remembering Mr Wickham from her childhood and being a most trusting young woman was persuaded that she was in love and consented to an elopement.
I went to Ramsgate for a surprise visit since I had been kept from celebrating her 15th birthday with her by business.
You can imagine my surprise when I saw Mr Wickham there with Georgianna and Mrs Younge.
Georgianna in her great joy told me immediatley of their plans. You can imagine my reaction to her news.
Mrs Younge was dismissed immediatly and Mr Wickham whose interest in my sister was the 30,000 pounds she was left by our father, left after finding that Fitzwilliam and I had to power to control the money until Georgianna reached the age of 30. He was vicious to her telling her how easy she was to convince of his love but she was of no use to him if I controlled her finances. That he wanted her only to get revenge on me.
My sister was devastated and has been almost a recluse since last summer which is why I asked for your help. I thought that your interest in music would provide an opening of the door to her coming out of hiding and with your wit and marvelous way with people and your ease among strangers she could be persuaded to enjoy the company of those other than her family.
"I came to Herforshire last fall in a very low state of mind. Mrs Ainsley thought it might be best if Georgie and I were separated for a while so I consented to the visit with the Bingley's. I know that I was not as amiable as my friend but I find myself uncomfortable in the company of strangers."
I don't know for certain by what falsehood Mr Wickham imposed himself on you but if you require proof of what I have told you I have the letter still, from Mr Wickham declining any interest in the church and a voucher from him for the 3000 pounds. Col. Fitzwilliam can also testify to all these transactions since he was a party to all of them."
Mr Darcy then took his leave, while Elizabeth still sat on the bench in a state of shock at what she had heard.
After about half an hour her Aunt came to sit beside her saying.
"What has happened Elizabeth, Mr Darcy seemed most distressed when he left and you are sitting here pale and silent."
"Oh Aunt I don't know what to believe, Elizabeth whispered, and proceeded to tell her aunt all that Mr Darcy had said.
"Elizabeth, my dear, you recall that I advised you when we were at Longbourn last winter to beware of too much interest in Mr Wickham. I think you had better talk to Mrs Wilkins and hear what she has to say. She is an old friend of mine from Lambton. What she has to say will set you right about these two men.
Elizabeth was apprehensive about meeting Mrs Wilkens. What could the lady have to say that her aunt thought was so important.
When the lady arrived Mrs Gardiner suggested that they go into the garden to talk to insure privacy.
Elizabeth did not like the sound of that but she complied with her aunt's wishes. Why was there such a need for privacy she wondered, but she waited for Mrs Wilkens to start the conversation.
Mrs Wilkens was a handsome woman of the same age as her aunt. Elizabeth noted the closeness between the two woman and felt more at ease than she had while she waited for the arrival of their guest.
"Your Aunt Maddie has told me some of what troubles you, Mrs Wilkens said kindly."
"I understand you know both Mr Darcy and Mr Wickham, Elizabeth said, I am seeking the truth about the two of them. I have had such differing stories of each and I am very confused."
"Mr Wickham, Mrs Wilken said coldly is a liar and a cheat. I understand that he is telling his stories of Mr Darcy again. Do not believe a word he says my dear, no one know better than I what that man is."
"How do you know so much of him, Elizabeth questioned, and why do you detest him so. It is quite obvious that you indeed hate the man."
"I have every reason to loathe George Wickham, Mrs Wilkens answered. Sit down my dear and let me tell you of my own experience with the scoundral."
"Two years ago he returned to Lambton after living in London for several years. We were all shocked to see him and find that he was in such financial straits. He had left two years before with a voucher for 3000 pounds from Mr Darcy. He proudly displayed the voucher to all his old cronies and bought drinks for all before leaving town. To nobodies surprise the drinks were paid for by others as Mr Wickham left with voucher in tact.
"He came to town while when Mr Darcy was in Scotland and stayed at the inn in town. He tried to go to Pemberley but was refused admittance, with good reason.
After a month Mr Darcy returned to find Mr Wickham waiting for him begging for the position that he had scorned before. Mr Darcy refused his request for at least a fortnight before Wickham gave up and departed vowing to get his revenge. Telling everyone that the master of Pemberley refused to comply with his fathers wishes and denied him what his father had promised. Everyone in town knew the truth of the matter and paid him no heed.
Our daughter Alice was 15 at the tine and Agnes at the inn but 13. Three months after Mr Wickham's departure we and the Masons found that our daughters were with child by Mr Wickham.
As you can imagine it was a great shock to both families, we were not aware that either girl was at all aquainted with the man. I seemed that he had encouraged each girl to keep their meetings secret, to protect himself. Being so young they both could have no knowledge why the man really wanted secrecy.
To our great dismay we learned that Alice had sneaked out of the house to meet him, climbing out the window after the rest of the house was asleep. Agnes had merely slipped into his room when all became quiet at the inn.
You can not imagine my husbands rage. he went to London at once to search for Mr Wickham but after six weeks of fruitless searching could find no trace of him.
He returned home and as Alice's time approached ever nearer he at last went to Pemberly to enlist the aid of Mr Darcy.
Mr Darcy was horrified but not too surprised at Wickhams actions and instigated his own search, but to no avail. The man had disappeared.
Alice's child was still born and though Agnes's boy lived, his mother died in childbirth.
Mr Darcy felt dreadful that this could have happened. Though there was no fault on his part he seemed to feel responsible for Wickham since he had been a part of Pemberly's stewards family and had been so close to the Darcy's for so many years. Mr Darcy paid for all the expenses incured by both families. He also paid the debts that Wickham had run up while he was in Lambton.
He kindly took Alice to Pemberly where Mrs Reynolds trained her for household duties. Since she was so shamed in town he brought her to London and she now has a position in his town house. She is to marry one of the footman this next month.
"I hope Miss Bennet that what I have told you here will help to clear any doubts you have about these two men. Mr Darcy has been nothing but kindness to all of us and you know what Mr Wickham has been, I need not tell you any more I can see. I am sorry if I have distressed you, but your Aunt wanted you to know the truth."
"Thank you Mrs Wilkens, Elizabeth replied in a small voice, you have given me much to think about. I am grateful to you for telling me this, it is what I needed to know."
Mrs Gardiner found Elizabeth still sitting in the garden an hour later.
"Lizzie, dear, I hope this hasn't distressed you too much," she said.
"It is a great deal to think about Aunt, Elizabeth replied. How could I have been so wrong, I who have prided myself on my discernment."
Lizzie, I think you know the answer to that. You felt yourself scorned by Mr Darcy while Wickham flattered and courted you, her aunt replied with a smile.
"I accused him of pride when it was my own pride that made me so prejudiced against him, I refused to see that he really tried to be amiable to me after that first night and only saw what I wanted to see to justify my own conceit.
Darcy paced about his room wondering what he should do, Did Miss Bennet believe what he had told her, he had never revealed so much of himself and his sister to anyone before. He was sure he could rely on her discretion, but what was she thinking at this time.
He had been shocked at the hatred in her voice as she hurled her accusations against him.
Did she still despise him or had she softened in her feelings for him.
He knew now how much he loved her. He knew that he could never love any other woman. He wanted more than life itself to take her for his wife but that was impossible, she had made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with him. His money and position meant nothing to her, she saw only the man who had caused her sister pain and distress. He hoped that by now she had made up her mind about George Wickham and that she would believe what he had told her. What perfect revenge for Wickham to win the one woman in the world that Darcy himself could ever love.
Darcy sent a message to Mrs Gardiner that he wished to call in two days time bringing a friend with him if that was permissable. "I may have lost the woman I love, he thought. but I can see that Bingley is reunited with his Miss Jane Bennet."
"Oh dear, Mrs Gardiner said as she read Darcy's note, that is the day I am to help Lady Sophia with the Society For The Assistance Of The Poor."
"I will be most happy to take your place Aunt, Elizabeth said quickly. You can stay here with Jane and receive your guests, I will go to her ladyships."
"Lizzie, dear, you will have to face him sooner or later, you must make amends or you will never forgive yourself" Mrs Gardiner said.
"I know, Aunt, Elizabeth replied, but I just can't face him right now, My mind is still in disarray. Please let me go to Lady Sophia's, I promise I will speak to him but not now, I beg you.
Elizabeth departed but 20 minutes before the arrival of Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley.
Mr. Bingley was overjoyed to find that Miss Jane Bennet was one of the people he was to meet this day. he chatted like a schoolboy in his excitement and made arrangments to walk with her in the park the next day before he and Darcy departed.
Jane was ecstatic as she related to Lizzie the events of the afternoon, and was shocked when her sister began to cry and dashed to her room.
"I thought she would be happy for me" she said to her aunt in confusion.
"She is, dear believe me, she just has a great burden to bear right now. all will be well, you will see."
Mrs Gardiner entered Lizzie's room where she sat down beside her niece and gently took her hand.
"Lizzie, dear, she said, this will not do, you must make your apologies to Mr. Darcy. This is troubling your mind so that it is becoming upsetting to all of us. Jane is most distressed thinking she has been thoughtless to remind you of her joy when you are so unhappy."
"I am so sorry Aunt, Lizzie replied. It was thoughtless and selfish of me not to rejoice with Jane.
I have made my apologies to Mr. Darcy. He was very gentleman like. Telling me that there was no need for me to apologize, that he understood my reasons for lashing out at him in such a manner. He was so kind, I do not deserve it."
"When did you have the chance to talk to him, her aunt asked in surprise. He was here for a short time with Mr. Bingley but said he had business that he had to attend to and left."
"He came to Lady Sophia's to bring a large number of articles for the poor boxes," Lizzie replied.
"Oh, Aunt, he was so kind to her ladyships children. They rushed to him begging him to read them a story. Even though Lady Sophia
chastised them and told him not to bother he laughed and said it was no bother. He then proceeded to read to them, which was a great help since it kept out from underfoot and we were able to finish the work so much sooner.
Lady Sophia told us of all the times she had heard and seen him reading to his sister when she was small."
I have made such a dreadful mistake, aunt, Mr. Darcy is all that I could ever want in a man but I have turned him from me for ever."
"Lizzie, you said he accepted your apology, I am sure he meant what he said when he told you that he did not think it neccessary."
"He was just being kind, Aunt," Lizzie sighed.
"I think, my dear that you will find that Mr. Darcy means what he said, that he places no blame on you for your disagreement, her aunt said with a smile, now come down and rejoice with Jane, you will feel better for it, of that I am sure."
Darcy stood looking out the window watching the people in the park across the street. He felt much better after having talked to Elizabeth that afternoon. She seemed very subdued yet, he thought. She seemed to be unable to accept his assurances that he placed no blame at her door for what had happened that afternoon at the Gardiners.
He was very happy for Bingley, he seemed to be about to burst with joy when he stopped some few minutes to tell his friend of his visit with the woman he so obviously loved yet.
If there were only some way I could talk to Elizabeth without a houseful of people about, he thought, I could get some idea of what she thinks of me now. I love her so much, but I don't know how to tell her, I have not had any experience with these matters.
Jane and Bingley spent every afternoon together walking in the park or just sitting talking together in the Gardiner garden or the parlor.
By the end of the first week, Mr. Bingley had asked for her hand in marriage, and Jane was radiant with joy. Mr. Bingley was making plans to go to Netherfield so that he could speak to her father. Before he could leave there was a letter from Mr. Bennet informing them that he was coming to London. He said he was in dire need of some intelligent conversation and felt that the only way to get it was to come to town for a visit.
Mr. Bennet was surprised indeed at the turn of events in his eldest daughters life, but rejoiced to see her so happy. He was more than glad to give his consent to the marriage.
"I am glad that I will be in town when your mother gets the news, he said. There will be much shouting, dancing and weeping when she gets your letter, Jane dear."
He watched his favorite daughter carefully. Even though she gave him her assurances that all was well with her, he knew better. It was not like Lizzie to be so quiet. She should be as jubilant as Jane but she said little and did not smile like his Lizzie. He did not press her, he knew that she would tell him what was weighing so heavily on her in her own good time.
Mr. Bennet had been there but three days when the invitation came from Mr. Darcy and his sister to a dinner party to celebrate the engagement. He had been surprised to find that the Gardiners had become such good friends of Darcy and even more so by the obvious pleasure that they found in the invitation.
He had always thought his brother in law to be such a great judge of character, yet here he was friends with the most arrogant and prideful man Mr. Bennet had ever met. d
Did they not know of his snub of Lizzie in Merryton. He was certain too that Lizzie's mood had something to do with Darcy, she had paled and become even more silent when her aunt read the invitation. If only he knew what was going on here.
The night of the party everyone was dressed and ready to depart when Lizzie announced that she had a headache and would be staying home.
Mr. Bennet offered to stay with her but Elizabeth insisted that he go with the rest, saying she could never forgive herself if he stayed away from Jane's happy moment. "I will just read a little and go to bed she said, Jane will tell me in the morning all about the festivities."
Darcy was most disappointed when Elizabeth was not with the Gardiner, Bennet party when they arrived.
"Is Miss Bennet unwell, I thought that she would surely be here for her sister," he asked Mrs Gardiner.
Mrs Gardiner took him aside thinking to her self, I must do something for these two.
"Lizzie says she has a headache, she said, but the truth is Mr. Darcy, in spite of your assurances, she still feel ashamed to face you. She feels that her presence will spoil your party, that you will be uncomfortable with her here."
"That is nonsense, Mr. Darcy replied, I have told her she has nothing to be forgiven for, why does she not believe me."
"She thinks that all that she said to you is unforgivable," Mrs Gardiner replied.
Darcy walked around the room. speaking to his guests but his heart was not in it.
Georgianna could not help but notice her brothers mood had changed after the arrival of the Gardiner party. she was sure that it had something to do with the absence of Miss Elizabeth. She was sure her brother felt deeply about this young woman who he had spoken so warmly of since his return from Herdfordshire.
Escaping the clutches of Miss Caroline Bingley she took her brother aside asking, "What is it that troubles you, William, is it the absence of Miss Elizabeth Bennet?
Darcy looked at his sister in surprise, Georgie was growing up so quickly, he thought, how could she know the reason for his distress.
"She feels that I do not wish her presence here, he said sadly. I don't know what to do Georgie."
"Go to her, Georgianna said, I will keep our guests amused until you return. It is your chance to speak to her alone, brother, do not let the opportunity escape you."
Darcy smiled and hugged his sister. I believe you are right Georgie, he said. I hope this does not take too long, but if I am not back in time have dinner without me. I will explain my rude departure when I return."
Elizabeth laid down her book. How was Jane and Charles's party going she wondered.
She moved to the window and leaned her head against the cool pane, I suppose I should go to my room and remove this beautiful gown my aunt gave to me she thought. I know I will not be able to sleep, but there is nothing else to do.
To her great surprise the servant announced Mr. Darcy.
"Mr. Darcy, she said in a shocked voice, I thought you would be entertaining your guests."
"One of the most important guests is here," Darcy replied.
Elizabeth again turned to the window saying, Please do not be so kind to me, I know how much you must despise me. How can you not after the things I said to you, after I believed the lies Mr. Wickham told of you."
"Despise you, I could never despise you, I love you," Mr. Darcy said quietly.
Elizabeth whirled about to stare at Mr. Darcy in shock, "You love me?"
"I have loved you almost from the first night of our aquaintance, he replied, I have formed such an ardent admiration and regard for you that the thing I want most in my life is that you should consent to be my wife."
"You wish to marry me, Elizabeth gasped in astonishment, you are asking me to be Mrs Darcy."
"Yes, he replied, even if you do not return my regard, I want you for my wife and hope that in time you will return my love."
"Return your love, Elizabeth said with tears forming in her glowing eyes. In the past few days I have come to realize that you are the only man I could ever love."
"Darcy clasped her hands in his, "Then you will be my wife," he said.
"I should be honored to be your wife, Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth answered joyfully.
Mr. Darcy brought her hands to his lips, saying ,"Dearest loveliest Elizabeth, you have made me the happiest man in England, indeed in the world. Now shall we proceed to my home so that I may speak to your father and we shall make this a party for two engagements."
Mr. Bennet was surprised beyond words when Mr. Darcy entered the room with a radiant Elizabeth on his arm.
The pair of them approached him immediatley and informed him of Lizzie's acceptance of Mr. Darcy's proposal of marriage. After giving his consent to Darcy he asked Elizabeth to speak to him privately.
"Lizzie, do you know what you are doing, do not let money and position steer you into an unhappy alliance, he admonished her.
"Oh, Papa it is not an unhappy alliance, we love each other deeply, she replied. In the past few weeks I have found what Mr. Darcy is really like, he is the most generous and amiable of men. Give him a chance papa, you will love him as I do.
"Well, I am glad I will not be there to see your mothers reaction to this bit of news, he said with a grin, you know how she feels about your intended."
"Let me tell her when I see her, Lizzie said, I am sure that we will see her here in town shortly. She will come in spite of her nerves to make certain she has a hand in choosing Jane's wedding clothes."
Mr. Bennet laughed, "I believe you are right my dear, I shall expect her before the week is out. Now I believe we are to go down to dinner for here comes Mr. Darcy in search of his intended."
Darcy took Elizabeth arm and pulled it through his own, "Miss Bennet, he said, will you allow me to escort you to dinner. Mr. Bennet would you like to make the toast to the two happy couples at dinner. I was going to do it for Bingley, but it would be unseemly for me to toast myself."
When all were seated Mr. Bennet arose and said. "I wish to make a toast, two toasts, as a matter of fact, To my dear Jane and Mr. Bingley, and my Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy who have just received my blessings for their own marriage."
There was a loud gasp and a crash from Caroline Bingley, who dropped her wine glass.
Darcy sighed, the servant had just announced Caroline Bingley.
What could she possibly want, he wondered, Charles and Jane's engagement had already appeared in the paper so she couldn't be asking for help to break them up. What ever she had on her mind she had better make it quick, he wanted to be off to the Gardiners to see Elizabeth, perhaps to take a walk in the park .
"Mr. Darcy I am so glad that I found you home, Caroline gushed. I have come to have a rational talk with you.
Do you not think you acted in haste last night, asking Miss Bennet to marry you. I don't know how she tricked you into this proposal, but I am sure she used some feminine wile and caught you in a moment of weakness. I know you went to see her when you were informed that she was not feeling well.
Don't you see that this was just a ruse to get you into a compromising position so that you would have to ask for her hand in order to avoid the threat of a scandal."
Darcy could not believe his ears, where did the woman get such a ridiculous idea as this. This was too much even for Caroline Bingley.
He wished that she would stop smiling at him in that silly, inane fashion.
"I can assure you Miss Bingley that there were no tricks or ruses on the part of Miss Bennet. Please do not judge her by the same standards as your friends here in town. I can assure you that I have been wanting to ask Elizabeth Bennet to marry me for some months now but we had differences to settle before I could take such a great step in both our lives."
"You see, Mr. Darcy, that is what I am speaking of, the differences between you two. Miss Bennet is a lovely girl but she is not equipped to be the mistress of such a large estate as you have. She has no connections whatsoever, she has no money, why even the estate where her family resides is entailed away from the female line.
Don't you see, she is looking to better herself by marrying such a rich man as yourself.
"What of your Aunt Lady DeBourg and your cousin Anne. Your marriage has been arranged since her birth has it not," Caroline continued.
"I know of no such arrangements, my parents told me no such thing. My Father told me only to marry a woman who would bring joy into my life. He also told me not to let my Aunt Catherine force me into the marriage with my cousin if I truly felt it would make me unhappy, Darcy replied in crisp tones.
"But what of you aunt and uncle, Lord and Lady Matlock, will they not disapprove of your choice. I strongly encourage you to discuss this with your dear uncle before you make a great mistake. There is still time to escape this debacle," Caroline replied.
Darcy had heard enough, all he wanted was to be rid of this silly woman and be off to see Elizabeth
"If you please Miss Bingley, I must take leave of you, I have an engagement and I must be going. I can assure you that I do indeed intend to speak to my Aunt and Uncle. I am certain that they will be most happy at my news," Darcy said as he took Caroline's arm and steered her toward the door.
Caroline was not at all happy with the outcome of her mission. She knew that she could not let this marriage take place. Mr. Darcy could not marry Miss Elizabeth Bennet. "He is mine,she thought, Pemberley is mine, I must do something to stop this."
Darcy called for his hat and coat and asked that his horse be brought around post-haste. His visitor had made him only want to look into the beautiful eyes of the woman he love all the more. Before leaving he gave a letter to the servant with instructions that it be sent as quickly as possible.
He wanted to visit his favorite aunt and uncle as soon as may be to let them know of his plans and make arrangements for a meeting between then and Elizabeth. He knew that his Aunt Rachel and Elizabeth would become fast friends. "They are very much alike," he thought as he mountd his horse and took off at a gallop.
In answere to the question about Daarcy. The first was meant to be like Daarcy, Daarcy, what lousy timing.
The second with Caroline is supposed to be like some one who always says "Daarcy, darling, how wonnnderful to see you. I always hate it when some one addresses me this way.
For anyone who wants to read about Lizzie's meeting with Lord and Lady Matlock you can go to the archives and read.
"Dinner Party at the Earl and Countess of Matlock's", by Karin and if you like the one listed at the bottom of her page.
Lizzie and Jane sat discussing the party at the Earl's house while they worked on their embroidery.
"I see very clearly why Lady Matlock is Mr. Darcy's favorite aunt," Jane said, I found her most agreeable. She has a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor."
"I quite agree, Elizabeth said with a smile. I wonder though when we are to meet his aunt Lady Debourg. Lady Matlock advised me not to let her intimidate me, I wonder what she meant by that. If she is half as cordial as her brother we shall be fast friends."
The words were scarcely out of her mouth when the heard a harsh voice in the hall saying, "I shall not wait, take me to this adventuress at once. I will speak to Miss Elizabeth Bennet now, do you hear me."
As the maid opened the door to announce Lady Catherine Debourg she was rudely shoved aside by a large sharp faced woman who said loudly, "Well, which of you is Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
Elizabeth cooly answered "I am Elizabeth Bennet and this is my sister Jane."
Giving Jane an icy stare Lady DeBourg said coldly, "Begone, sister, I would have a word with Miss Bennet in private."
Jane looked at Lizzie in alarm but Elizabeth only nodded and told her to tell their aunt that they had a guest.
"I have no business with your aunt, her ladship snapped, my business is with you. A report of alarming proportions has reached me. I have been informed that you, Miss Elizabeth the daughter of a Herdfordshire nobody is plotting to wed my nephew, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy."
"And how did you come about this news, Elizabeth asked in amazement, I am sure that Mr. Darcy's letter went to you only this morning."
"Never mind how I know, a friend of his who is worried about his making the greatest mistake of his life was kind enough to inform me of your plans." Lady Catherine replied as she took a seat.
Pounding on the floor with her walking stick she shouted, "I do not know what arts and allurements you have used to seduce my nephew but I am here to tell you that the marriage will never take place. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my own daughter Lady Anne DeBourg, what do you say to that, Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
"I have heard of no such engagement, I have seen no banns posted," Elizabeth replied.
"The engagement is of a peculiar kin, her ladyship said, from her cradle my dear sister and I planned this union, now at the moment when both our wishes are to be accomplished by their marriage, is it to be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth and no connections, whose fathers estate is entailed to my own clergyman, Mr. Collins.
This is not to be borne, I will not have it."
"That is a matter to be taken up between you and your nephew, Elizabeth replied, I beg you to excuse me your ladyship," and she moved to leave the room before she lost her tmper and said things that they would both regret.
Lady Catherine rose and blocked her exit saying, "Not so fast young woman, I will have your promise that you will not marry my nephew, I will not leave this house until it is given."
"Then your stay will be a long one, Elizabeth snapped, for I shall give no promise of the kind.
"Uncivil, impertinent girl, do you know to whom you speak, I will not tolerate such talk, you will show proper respect to you betters. I will not have such as you in my family," her ladyshop shrieked.
Are the shades of Pemberley to be poluted by a country nobody, it will not be, my daughter will be mistress of Pemberley, not you."
"You have no say in the matter, aunt, the voice of Fitzwilliam spoke from the doorway, I am going to marry Miss Bennet, Aunt Catherine and that is my final word."
"This is not to be borne, Lady Catherine gasped, see what she has done to you nephew, never before have you spoken to me in such a manner."
Turning to Elizabeth her ladyship shouted, "Do not think you have won Miss Elizabeth Bennet, I shall have a word with my brother and Darcy's godfather. They will know how to act. I shall prevent this marriage no matter what the cost."
"I can hear that your voice is in good order, Catherine, Lady Rebecca said as she walked into the room. I could hear you from the street screeching like a street vendor. I am sure that many a vendor would give a weeks profits for such a voice as that."
"You are in this too, I might have known, you will go to any extreme to vex me," Lady Catherine snarled at her sister in law.
Where is my brother, I will have a word with him. I shall speak to Sir James too. The will not contenence this marriage I assure you. Richard shall know that again you plot against me."
"Your brother and Sir James are well aware of our nephews plans, they agree that indeed Miss Bennet is the perfect mate for dear William."
Lady Rebecca gave a short laugh, "Pemberley slips through your fingers again, eh, Catherine."
"What do you mean by that," Lady Catherine, snapped.
"Oh Catherine, Catherine, everyone of our aquaintence know that you have had your sights set on that beautiful estate since you first laid eyes on it. When George prefered your sister and wed her you settled for Henry, for his title nothing else.
After the deaths of the two of them you made no secret of the fact that you wanted George and you persued him with a vengence. The poor man escaped to his clib when he was in town and his hunting lodge in Scotland to escape you."
"I will not be spoken to in such a manner, Lady Debourg shrieked, you Rebecca, and you Miss Elizabeth Bennet, you have not heard the last of me."
"Enough Aunt, Darcy shouted above her, I will not allow you to abuse the woman I love any further, I demand that you leave this house at once."
"Love, love, her ladyship shouted, love is for mistress, the family honor all that matters. Your dear mother and I planned your marriage to Anne since the day she was born, you cannot go against her dearest wishes."
"Catherine, you are the only one who ever planned that marriage, Rebecca said in exasperation, Anne worried that you might do just what you are trying to do right now, force William into a marriage that would be a disaster for all just so you can get your hands on Pemberley. Everyone knows that if he should have given in to your wishes and married your daughter you would take command of his life as you always have hers."
Lady Catherine lunged at her sister in law brandishing her walking stick.
Darcy caught her arm and forced her through the door saying, "Leave now aunt, or do I have to call the servants to remove you forcibly."
"If you persist in this marriage you will regret it, Lady DeBourg shouted as she went down the hall toward the outside door. If you marry this woman I shall never see you again."
"I shall go to Sir James, I will make him see it my way, do not think that this is over by any means."
"I am so sorry Elizabeth, my love, that you should have been subjected to this," Darcy said as he kissed her shaking hands.
"Do not distress yourself, Elizabeth said quietly. I do have some pity for her ladyship she must be so dreadfully disappointed that all her well laid plans have come to naught."
Don't wast your pity on that old harridan, Lady Rebecca answered. What a joke William dear, now Catherine will have to bring Anne out and have her presented at court. The expense will make her ill, I fear. You know how she pinches every pence. She never had a coming out for Anne because she thought she could force you into the marriage of her desire. Now she will have to make a great display since her daughter is past the age of presentation for most young women. I am sure that some impoverished nobleman is waiting somewhere to marry such a wealthy woman even if such a mother goes with her and she is in poor health."
"I wonder how Aunt Catherine knew of my betrothal," Darcy said with a puzzled look, "I sent her my letter only this morning, she surely could not have received it so quickly. It must take her at least three days to prepare for the journey from Kent and half a day at least to reach town."
"I think I see the fine hand of Caroline Bingley here," Lady Rebecca laughed, "she came to us twice you know, trying to convince us that we should intefer and put a stop to your plans."
"Caroline, what is it to her?" Darcy asked, "what right has she to intefer in my plans?"
"William, William, surely you know that she has had her sights on being Mistress Of Pemberley," Rebecca answered with a shake of her head.
Darcy shook his head in annoyance, "I have never given her any reson to believe such a thing," he said
"Well, one good thing has come out of this debacle," Lady Matlock said with a smile, "You will not have to make those trips to Rosings Park that you so abhor, at least not for a while, if I know Catherine it will be a long while."
Elizabeth waited nervously for her mother to get up from the nap she was taking after the trip from Longbourn.
Mrs Bennet had arrived with a rush of fluttering hands and wails about how her poor nerves suffered from the ride with three lively daughters. Two at least were giggling and silly as ever but Mary kept herelf in the corner of the carriage reading her inevitable book.
Her mother"s arrival had been delayed by Lydia's declaration that she did not intend to leave Hertfordshire and the officers for a trip to London to visit her most boring relatives and be ignored by everone as they gave all the attention to Jane and Mr. Bingley. She had been persuaded however when her mother received a letter from their father stating that Lydia and Kitty would accompany their mother or he would return and no one would go to town. If Lydia however persisted and the rest agreed to come she was to be put in the care of Mrs Merriweather who would take the time while she was there to teach their youngest daughter manners and deportment. She was not to leave the house without the afore mentioned lady and was to attend no balls or parties until the rest of the family returned. Under no circumstances was she to be allowed near any officers. He had already contacted Mr. Merriweather and she had agred to take Lydia until they retturned.
Needless to say this was all that was needed to persuade the errant Lydia that a trip to town would indeed be a pleasure. Lydia knew Mrs Merriweather very well. She had been the governess of Jane and Elizabeth and for a time Mary. Lydia knew that the lady highly disapproved of her and Kitty and would enjoy greatly keeping her under her thumb. Mrs Merriweather was one person that Lydia feared.
Mrs Bennets promise that the girls would all have new dresses ordered while they were there was all that was neded to send both Lydia and Kitty packing for a hasty departure, the promise of shopping in town was too much to resist, and Lydia had learned that Mr. Darcy's cousin was a Colonel in the militia and would be there for her to meet.
"What fun, she thought, what a great joke it would be if I could snare the cousin of the great and haughty Mr. Darcy."
Mrs Bennet at last came down crying for tea and biscuits. "I have not eaten a thing since breakfast, she wailed, the girls dined at the inn at Bromley, but I couldn't touch a bite, my poor nerves would not permit it."
As she finished her tea she turned to Jane saying, "Now dear Jane we must make plans to visit the wharehouses as soon as may be. It will take time to select styles and materials."
"There is no need Mama, Jane replied, Elizabeth and I have already chosen the patterns and materials and the dresses are being made up even as we speak."
"Elizabeth, what does Elizabeth know of selecting wedding materials, she has refused any man who has asked for her hand. She is well on her way to becoming an old maid. To think that she could be the wife of Mr. Collins and living under the patronage of Lady Catherine DeBourg.
He was not good enough for our MIss Lizzie however, and now he is married to Charlotte Lucas. You have no understand at all of how this vexes me."
"Jane, Aunt Gardiner, please take the girls out, I must speak to our mother," Elizabeth said quietly.
"What could you possibly have to say of interest to me, Mrs Bennet snapped, you have given up perhaps your last chance for a good marriage."
When the others had left the room Elizabeth walked about the room for a few minutes before coming to stand befor her mother.
"Well, well, what is it that is so important," Mrs Bennet said sharply.
"Mama, Mr. Darcy has asked me to marry him and I have accepted, Lizzie said quickly. Papa has given his consent and the banns will be posted tomorrow. I asked Papa to allow me to speak to you before anything was made official."
Mrs Bennet sat for some minutes in a stunned silence, opening and closing her mouth, but nothing came out. She got up and walked to the divan where she sat for a minute looking at Elizabeth with a dazed expression. She then arose and walked around a small table nearby holding on to it as she passed, she then walked back to the chair she had been sitting in when Elizabeth made her announcement, flopping back into it she managed one small squeek.
AT last she managed, "Mr. Darcy, Mr. DARCY," and again lapsed into stunned silence.
AT last she leapt from her chair to hug her daughter.
"Mr. Darcy, you are to marry Mr. Darcy, I cannot believe it, she cried, oh Lizzie, Mr. Darcy, 10,000 a year and likely more. Dearest Lizzie what gowns you will have what jewels, what carriages. Your pocket money will likely be more than some make in a year. Lizzie, Lizzie, I am so happy.
How wise you were my dear to refuse Mr. Collins, who would believe that you and Mr. Darcy would become man and wife. How Lady Lucas and Mrs Long will envy me. I must write to Lady Lucas at once.
Mr. Darcy, oh, dear, Lizzie do you think he will be able to forgive me for disliking him so much until now. Now I am sure that he will be my favorite son in law. OH dearest Lizzie I cannot tell you how happy you have made me."
Shouting, "Kitty, Lydia, Mary come at once you must know what Lizzie has told me. Lizzie is to marry Mr. Darcy. Have you ever heard such happy news girls."
As her sister crowded around her shouting questions, Elizabeth hoped fervantly that their enthusiasm would subside before Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley arrived.
Caroline Bingley sat morosly in the corner of the coach as her brother and Miss Darcy chatted excitedly about Georgianna's meeting the other Bennet sisters as well as Mrs Bennet. Caroline was dreading this afternoon, but Charles had insisted that his family must call on the Bennets this very afternoon.
"Not only did I lose Mr. Darcy to Miss Eliza Bennet, she thought, but I must be subjected to the rest of her family for at least two hours."
To sit and listen to Mr. Bennet crow about the wonderful marriages of her two eldest daughter was almost more that she could bear.
She had tried to talk some sense into Mr. Darcy's head but he was so angry that she had written to his aunt she decided she had better let the subject drop before she was banned from all the Darcy property and shunned by all of his friends in society at his instruction. Never had she seen him in such a temper and she had made a quick exit.
"What did I do wrong. What did she do right, she thought, why does he love her so much and despise me."
This is all Charle's fault, if he had not taken that stupid place in Hertfordshire, this would never have happened," she thought as she glared at her brother and Georgianna.
Mr. Darcy had refused to ride in the carriage with them but prefered to go by horseback. She knew he could not abide the thought of being in close proximity to her. She sat there trying to think of some way she could get back into his good graces. the thought of never being invited to Pemberley again was more than she could bear.
She did not even have the company of Louisa for comfort. There was not room enough in the carriage for five so Louisa and her husband were following in their own carriage.
Louisa had begged her not to write to Lady Debourg, but she would not listen, now she was bearing the pain of not listening to her sisters wise council. "Oh Louisa, why did you not destroy that letter before it went to Rosings Park" she thought.
The carriage came to a halt and Charles cried with great joy, "We are here at last, You will meet your new sisters in just a few moments, Georgianna."
Caroline moaned as the other two exited the carriage and she herself stepped out.
Continued in Part 2
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