The next morning the gentlemen rode again to Longbourn. Mr. Bingley proposed a walk and the same group as had walked the day before accepted the proposal eagerly. This time, however, Jane and Charles kept the pace of the others because they wanted to talk with them. Kitty, Elizabeth and Darcy walked together with Jane and Charles walking close behind, the former holding the arm of the latter. Mr. Bingley spoke.
"I think that the future Mrs. Bingley," he turned to Jane and gave her a smile, "ought make a thorough inspection of Netherfield. Some changes or adjustments might be needed and the sooner they are done, the better."
"I would like to go after dinner, if I could," agreed Jane, "to make good use of the afternoon. In the upcoming weeks I shall go to London to buy my wedding clothes..."
"And all the many other things that Mamma is writing down on a list" interrupted Lizzy playfully.
Jane and Kitty laughed. "That is right," said Jane. "The clothes and many, many other things, and I do not know exactly when I could next pay attention to the house. Lizzy, do you want to visit the house with me?"
Darcy was delighted to hear Elizabeth say that she would love to.
Then, they wandered through the park until Kitty told them she wanted to call upon Maria again for they were not going to see each other this afternoon. They had many things to talk about, for sure. Since Lydia's marriage, Kitty had found that Maria was as wonderful a companion as she could wish for. Kitty always had been devoted to Lydia, but between them was some kind of competition, nonsensical competition, which Lydia had always won. Lately Kitty had been more in the company of Maria, who was sweeter and calmer than Lydia, and they were on very friendly terms. Lizzy liked Maria very much, although the girl sometimes was too influenced by Sir William Lucas's foolishness.
The four friends kept walking together for a while, then Bingley talked in a low voice to Jane and they started a private conversation, with a slower pace than Darcy and Elizabeth, who found themselves alone in the company of the other again.
They were very comfortable, so it gave pain to Elizabeth to talk about Lydia and thus make his memory fly to Wickham, but it was necessary and she was resolved to do it now. She was anxious to thank him and the occasion seemed ideal. She meditated for a few moments what to say next, to make a quick change of topic, and avoid further awkwardness.
"Mr. Darcy, I am a very selfish creature; and, for the sake of giving relief to my own feelings, care not how much I may be wounding yours. I can no longer help thanking you for your unexplained kindness towards my poor sister. Ever since I have known of it, I have been most anxious to acknowledge to you how gratefully I feel it. Were it known to the rest of my family, I should not have merely my own gratitude to express.'' She said hastily due to her anxiety.
"I am sorry, exceedingly sorry," replied Darcy, in a tone of surprise and emotion, "that you have ever been informed of what may, in a mistaken light, have given you uneasiness. I did not think that Mrs. Gardiner was so little to be trusted.'' He repented to say the latter phrase, but that was exactly the situation he had wanted most to avoid: Elizabeth Bennet thinking that she was indebted to him.
"You must not blame my aunt. Lydia's thoughtlessness first betrayed to me that you had been concerned in the matter; and, of course, I could not rest till I knew the particulars." He seemed uneasy, as she had foreseen. "Let me thank you again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortification, for the sake of discovering them.'' She took breathe to change the topic hastily, but he talked again.
"If you will thank me,'' he replied, "let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.''
This made her abandon the topic she had been about to discuss. Elizabeth was too embarrassed to say a word. He had said something too important and they were feeling all the significance of the moment.
After a short pause, Darcy resolved to finish what he had begun, "You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.'' He suddenly was aware that in a short instant he would hate or love for ever the path they were walking upon.
Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak immediately.
"My feelings... have changed so much that, I receive with gratitude and pleasure your... present assurances." Her heart was racing.
He had never felt before such happiness. "I love you, Elizabeth!" He said relieved and elated. "Let me tell you again how much I love you! Oh, my beautiful, my intelligent love. I love you and I admire you. I will keep this minute on my mind for ever. The moment in which you filled me with happiness." He admired her modesty and respected her silence, but he let his feelings flow. "The most beloved moment, when you accepted me, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth."
They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects.
They talked about his aunt and how unwittingly she had united them. They talked about their former feelings and behavior, and would have been talking for hours, but after walking several miles in a leisurely manner, they found at last, on examining their watches, that it was time to be at home. On the way home they talked about his friend.
Lizzy informed Jane after dinner, and her confidante was so delighted to hear those good news that it gave Lizzy courage to face the reactions of the rest of the family and all their acquaintances. The general prejudice against Mr. Darcy was so strong that it seemed impossible task to win them all over.
The gentlemen went to Netherfield after dinner, and sent Mr. Bingley's carriage to Longbourn for the ladies. Of course, Kitty and Mrs. Bennet joined the party.
The tour began with the dinning room and then they moved to the drawing room. Mrs. Bennet cried that both rooms needed new curtains in more fashionable colours and that the armchairs and the sofa must be reupholstered in a fabric that matched the curtains. Mr. Darcy reminded his friend that he must let the proprietor of Netherfield know of the changes. Mrs. Bennet had to agree with this, against of her will.
The billiard room, the library and the smoking room were left aside by Mrs. Bennet, who said they were the men's realm. Then, they all went upstairs. Darcy felt a strong desire to go downstairs and remain in the smoking room, writing a letter to Georgiana while the trip round the house continued, but he wanted to be polite with Mrs. Bennet, so he bore civilly all the boring and repeated comments about the new linen that was needed in all the bedrooms, the new cushions, the new arrangement of the main bedroom and the new pattern they would have.
Elizabeth was a bit upset with her mother. She was deciding everything without asking the opinion of the couple. Bingley was being very polite but he had his own tastes. He glanced Jane from time to time, but she seemed the picture of patience. Lizzy intended to talk about it later with Jane.
Elizabeth's ill mood faded a great deal when she realized the forbearance that Mr. Darcy was showing. She was sure that the afternoon must be rather dull for him and that Mrs. Bennet showed too much stupidity to make him feel at ease. But instead of excusing himself and hiding himself in the billiard room or in the library, he was there, supporting Bingley's remarks and adding from time to time some sensible comment. And, most delightful to Elizabeth, he always managed to stand near her, close, although they had not yet announced their understanding to the world.
When the tour finished, tea was ready in the drawing room, but not even tea was an impediment to Mrs. Bennet, who could sip tea and ramble on at the same time about the shops they should go to in the city. The others just suffered her more or less patiently. Then, the party took a walk in the front garden until the carriage was ready and they returned to Longbourn.
That evening, Darcy and Bingley had supper in Longbourn, with the unexpected company of the Lucases, who gave very good news.
"Charlotte is expecting a baby!" shrilled Lady Lucas. Sir William Lucas was glowing with happiness and was quite in the mood to share it with the other gentlemen. Mr. Bennet enjoyed and shared the elation of his neighbour, but could not help enjoying the sight of his young guests, too, who were being taught about the worthy pains of parenthood. He also observed that Maria had told the news to Kitty in the morning, and amazingly, Kitty had kept the secret so as not to spoil the Lady Lucas's pleasure in telling the news.
Later, when Elizabeth was serving coffee, Mr. Darcy walked towards her and smiled. He was learning to come to terms with her proximity, and his desire to talk with her. Until this moment, he had not had a chance to speak to her; not a moment for them in the afternoon, and in the evening Lady Lucas and Mary had gained the places beside her at the table, so he had waited to be the last one of the party to get his cup, in hopes of speaking with her.
Elizabeth had had patience when the chairs were occupied again by the girls. She just sat and served the coffee.
"This is very good news that I hear of the Collinses," said Mr. Darcy while Elizabeth offered him a cup.
"I am very glad. I know Charlotte loves children." She smiled and poured coffee for herself. The girls were choosing names for the baby, and discussing if its hair would be blonde like Maria's or brown like Charlotte's. The girls ignored Mr. Collins because they wished the child to be a beautiful and intelligent creature.
Mr. Darcy detached himself by two steps from the noisy and lively table, inviting Elizabeth to do the same. They stood by the window.
"Hunsford will be a merry place, soon," he said looking at Maria, who was in raptures to become aunt.
"Indeed. This baby will bring a great deal of happiness to each member of the family. The baby would be the pride of his father and the best company to Charlotte. A child brought up by Charlotte would grow to be intelligent of mind and strong in moral qualities." Elizabeth's mind flew to Hunsford and there she remembered Colonel Fitzwilliam.
"Have you had news of your cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam? It is a long time since I last knew of him."
He informed her of a letter that had arrived in September. "He addressed it from Salamanca, but it was sent to Lisbon and there it had to wait until a ship could be spared."
"How could you know that?" she asked in playful wonder.
"Because my cousin told me the long journey his letter would take in advance. It is written in his letter." He looked his empty coffee cup. Elizabeth smiled at the sign of his shyness.
"Very thoughtful. But still I do not know how is he, although he must be in good health if he writes letters. Or at least he was well when he wrote it," she teased.
"Yes, he was well at the time of writing the letter. And now he is well, as much as we can learn from the newspapers. Georgiana and I read the news about the militia in Spain every day. The Times and the Courier are faster than his letters, and in them appear the names of the dead and those who suffered serious injuries."
Elizabeth nodded, demonstrating that she understood and approved of the Darcys' concern for their cousin.
He continued. "His letters are not very informative when they arrive, anyway. He talked more about the good food and wine than of the things we long to know."
"I suppose he wants to appear nonchalant," said Lizzy. "The war is a tough reality to live." She could not help a sigh of relief that Mr. Darcy was not exposed to such danger.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Bennet was trying to draw the conversation into discussing Miss King's new gown. She could not help feeling a bit jealous of her neighbour who was to become grandmother sooner than she was. Seeing that Lady Lucas was reluctant to leave the topic of her grandson, Mrs. Bennet called Lizzy quite loudly to gain the attention of the room for a moment.
"Tell me, Lizzy. What do you think of Miss King's new gown?"
"Very much in the fashion, although I like a green less dark. She must wear it to Jane's wedding and when dear Charlotte arrives with her child," she turned to Lady Lucas. "If he is christened at our church. Although perhaps his father's church at Hunsford was chosen?"
Lady Lucas was about to reply but a sudden movement of Mrs. Bennet made her ask: "Are you well, Mrs. Bennet?"
"No, and I am sorry for it, but I have to excuse myself. I have a terrible headache, and I must go directly to the bed before it gets permanently on my head! Tomorrow I will face a very long journey and I have to save all the remaining forces of my poor nerves."
Although it was too soon for the rest of the party to go to bed, the guests expressed intentions of leaving but Mrs. Bennet insisted that they must remain and have a good evening. She only asked not to be bothered at all until the following day.
Elizabeth knew she must find a moment to talk to her mother the following day. She turned to Darcy, and he was absent minded, looking out the window, and his countenance was peaceful.
"Have you finished your cup of coffee?" she asked to make him come back.
He nodded, took her cup "Yes. Thank you", and put them in the table.
Bingley, seeing that his friends were not engaged in conversation at the moment, asked for their attention.
"Miss Elizabeth, Darcy! Come and help us with the schedule for our time in London. We must have your opinions." Darcy and Elizabeth sat with the couple, and the four friends talked about the timetables of the good plays, dinner and supper parties, and days of busy shopping.
When the Lucases were gone, Darcy asked Mr. Bennet for a private talk. Mr. Bennet could not foresee the topic of the talk, so he was very surprised when Mr. Darcy stated his desire to marry his dear Elizabeth. Then, after consulting Lizzy, Mr. Bennet at last gave his consent.
They departed on a Friday afternoon after some family quarrels of little importance. On Thursday, very early in the morning, Mrs. Bennet became angry with Mr. Bennet, because he had no intention of going to London. She was trying to convince him, and thus she had followed him into the library, but he was maintaining a hard resistance.
"I just would be a nuisance. I have no taste for muslin and it does not like me very much either," he retorted to his wife.
"I do not want you to see muslin. You must have a new waistcoat!" she argued.
"I am in no need of new waistcoats. I have waistcoats already and they are very dear to me." He teased
"But they are extremely old. Jane is marrying a person of fashion and you just want to look like a beggar!"
"I will become a beggar if I spend my money in golden sewn waistcoats, my dear Mrs. Bennet."
"It is not all sewn in gold! It only shall have some golden braiding. You must have one tailored! You must listen to me!" she cried.
"I am doing no other thing. But still I do not want to go to London." He stared at her with a very serious look and then she burst out.
"No one will listen to me! You do not know what you do to my poor nerves!" She hastened out of the room.
Lizzy left her room. She had heard her parents quarreling and feared it could be caused by her engagement with Darcy. Mrs. Bennet always expressed her dislike of Darcy.
Why is he always imposing his presence? It seems impossible not to be in his company. He is an awful and boring man! Mrs. Bennet had said. As Jane had defended him, the mother had retorted: Quite a gentleman! You are very wrong! He is the most unlikely gentleman I have ever known. He is rude and proud. He thinks us inferior to him and acts like that. I cannot stand him!
Jane had insisted he had been kind to the Gardiners and to Lizzy when they had met in summer but Mrs. Bennet had cried: This cannot be, my dear! He was horrible to Lizzy, and in Meryton everybody hates him. We know his real character. Maybe in summer he was kind with them to pretend he is a good man before his sister's eyes, but I dare say that he is quite different when he is not in her company.
With those thoughts, Lizzy came into the library, and there Mr. Bennet told her he still had not shared the good news with his wife.
Lizzy was deeply relieved when her father explained the cause of the argument, and when she explained her fears to him, he agreed to make all he could to soothe Mrs. Bennet's poor nerves. Lizzy obtained a promise from her father to go to London to have a new waistcoat tailored. He would only need three days, and Lizzy and Jane could support a wiser buy.
Then, Lizzy climbed up the stairs only to find her mother, coming out Jane's room, very upset. Lizzy dared to tell her that she was required in the library, but Mrs. Bennet took on an offended look and said she would be in the drawing room if someone wanted to speak to her. Lizzy entered Jane's room and saw that her sister was frowning.
"How much do you wish to go to London?" asked Jane.
"Very much. Very much indeed," admitted Lizzy.
"I thought so. But mother says that Papa is being rather miserly, so you will have to remain here. She says you do not have any business in town, so we can spare you. But you do have to come, you need a dress. The sooner she hears the news, the better. She was in such bad humour I was not so bold as to reply to her." Explained Jane.
Lizzy felt harmed by the injustice of her mother's decision. Although the item had not been discussed, it had been implied during the day before that Lizzy was to go to London.
"I intended to tell her now, but she is very angry." Said Lizzy
"I think you are too afraid of her. Her opinion of Mr. Darcy is not so awful, and all her objections to him would change instantly when she finds out the engagement: you will be very well settled. Her first worry is your comfort," said Jane. Lizzy nodded and smiled. Jane continued talking.
"Besides, I would like to have your opinion on my dress, and the other things. Yesterday we made plans and I want you to come and stay with me. We could have such a nice time. I am very selfish, only thinking of having someone good to me by my side," said Jane.
"No, you are not selfish. I want to be with you while we choose our gowns, and I want to see a good play together, and fulfill all the appointments we agreed upon yesterday. I want to be there with you and make you forget your sad weeks in London last winter. I do not want you to be alone with mother, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst." Jane was about to speak but Lizzy now was determined and said, "I have no intention of leaving you alone. Soon we will be married and we will never be together again."
"No! Never again is too much, dear Lizzy," Jane said, smiling." I am leaving for a house that is only a long walk on foot from our parent's home."
"Oh, but a very muddy one!" They laughed, and Lizzy continued. "I meant that we will never be living like this together. We will never be again like this, because you are to be a married woman and so am I. I will never enter again your bedroom freely to talk before sleep or... in the morning to help you with your hair when a certain Mr. Bingley comes," she said. Jane hugged Lizzy, and she shed a tear.
"That makes me think..." said Lizzy, "If I am in desperate need of a helpful hand with my hair I will miss Mrs. Hill's old styles or Kitty's pulls." Jane laughed again and dried her eyes.
"I think mother said those words only in despair over her discussion with father. I must have this settled before dinner. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy will arrive at two o'clock and we want to spare them the sight of mother's ill moods." Stated Lizzy.
"Yes, we do. I would go with you but I ought to organize all my clothes," said Jane.
"Do not worry. I hope to be back soon upstairs and begin to pack." Lizzy grinned and walked out of the room.
However, when she got to the drawing room she found her parents talking merrily. Mr. Bennet had gone there to tell his wife he would go to London for a couple of days.
Mrs. Bennet smiled broadly at Lizzy and said "My dear, you should be upstairs choosing your best garments. You must look beautiful in London. Who knows, my dear, who knows! We can still make a good match!"
Mr. Bennet raised an eyebrow, mocking Lizzy. She accepted comment and joking glance with good humour. She sat beside her mother.
"I have very good news. Last night, Mr. Darcy asked Father for his permission and consent to marry me."
Mrs. Bennet turned swiftly to her husband, and he, wasting a good opportunity of amusement tormenting her, said he had given his consent. Mrs. Bennet immediately was in raptures, feeling joy and relief. Relief to have another daughter married. Joy for the advantageous union. She expressed her feelings loudly and on a confused way, due to her extreme surprise at the news.
Lizzy leaned over and kissed her mother's cheek, then hurried out of the room. She climbed the stairs speedily, knocked on Jane's room and said to her "I told her. I am packing". Then, she rushed into her room and opened her wardrobe.
With no interruption, Jane, Kitty and Mary entered her room.
"I was sure it would make her very happy" said Jane, but she could be hardly heard due to Kitty's excitement.
"I guessed! I guessed! Maria told me that Charlotte had told her Mr. Darcy was quite probably interested in you. Did he propose yesterday? Or it was the Tuesday? Maria told me I must not be your chaperone and I did not want to get in your way." Shrilled Kitty
Lizzy and Jane were amused by Kitty's maneuvers. Mary glared at her sister, with no effect on her, who had reached Lizzy and was hugging her warmly.
Mary solemnly said "I wish you any happiness, small as it is, that can be reached in this world. Mr. Darcy is a serious, decent man and I am very glad for you." Then she kissed Lizzy gently.
When Lizzy was alone again, she started to ponder her favourite gowns, which were the ones that best suited her, which were the smartest ones. She did not have as large a collection of dresses as Charles Bingley's sisters'. Anyway, she preferred to dress simply, and those sisters favored the opposite of simplicity.
"They are only simple in the use of their minds," said Lizzy, out loud. Her smile faded when she recalled their behaviour towards Jane. She folded the creamy yellow light overcoat. "They are not so simple".
She took the creamy yellow dress and folded it. "I will not think more about them. Jane returns to London in triumph, and so do I." She smiled again when she took the beautiful white gown. "You were last worn in November. I will make a good use of you again." She did three steps of a dancing figure and smiled to her partner, who she saw in her mind. She felt a pleasing thrill in her stomach. She folded the dress with an absentminded smile.
A few moments later, Lizzy heard there was a commotion. Kitty was crying downstairs.
"There, there. What happened, my child?" asked Mrs. Bennet.
Mary came out of the library and glanced at Kitty. "You should be glad for the time for reflection you gain" she stated snootily. "I remain at home very content. There is nothing in the city for you."
The tears ran down Kitty's cheeks. She sobbed in her handkerchief. Lizzy's heart melted at the sight of the poor silly girl suffering the consequences of Lydia's acts. Kitty was guilty of no more and no less than the deep influence of Lydia in her. However, as far as Lizzy could see, the way of improving the girl was not confining her to the company of her sister, who had the opposite character from Lydia but was equally silly. Mary enjoyed moralism but seemed to have no more common sense than Lydia in her own way.
"And that is all? You cannot come to London, my dear. Remember your father's words," said Mrs. Bennet.
"But I would be in your company all the time," said Kitty, her voice thick with crying.
Mr. Bennet opened the door. "What happened here?" he asked. He had heard the voices in the hall.
"Mr. Bennet, your child is very miserable. She wants to go to Town but she cannot." Mrs. Bennet's voice was calmed, as if she wanted to maintain the peace.
"Hum." He looked at Kitty carefully. The girl was really sad. "Hum," he said looking at Mrs. Bennet, who expected an answer. "Hum." he saw Mary holding a book of sermons and then saw Lizzy nodding slightly at him.
"Catherine, my dear, I made you a promise of keeping a close eye on you, so I suppose you must come to Town and return when I do so," he said.
Kitty looked at him in amazement for a moment, then gave him a warm hug. "I will be good, I promise." Her face was glowing. She ran upstairs elated.
Mrs. Bennet turned to Mary. "Mary, will you come, too? You can be of help, amusing our parties with your music."
"I would rather not, Mother. There is nothing in London that could appeal me. I will enjoy a little time of solitude at home," said Mary.
"Are you sure, Mary?" asked her father. "My visit is intended to last few days, but it could end up being a week. Do you really want to be alone for a week?" Mary reassured him that she would not go to London, so the matter was settled. Everybody but Mary would go.
"The poor child must feel slighted. After all, she has not traveled since I do not remember when," said Mrs. Bennet. The others did not mention what they thought, and then everyone went back to their tasks.
They had dinner when Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy arrived, as punctual as ever. To Lizzy's dismay, it began to rain, so they remained indoors, subject to her mother's chatter. She was amiability in person towards Darcy. She kept asking Charles and Darcy all afternoon long about the distance between their houses and the Gardiners, their house and Buckingham Palace, their house and the Houses of Parliament, and thus every other well known place in town, and all the good shops in between, as if she had never been to Town.
Mr. Bennet had a pleasant time talking with Darcy and Charles, when one of them was spared by Mrs. Bennet's chatter. They talked about the last news of the wars. Lizzy overheard something regarding Spain, France and North America , and was eager to learn something new about the wars.
However she scarcely said anything. Lizzy was not in the mood of conversation. She had too much in her mind and her sensibility was aware of the new air conversations and looks had now. Kitty was absent minded, feeling completely happy. Jane, equally absent minded, was probably worried about all the things there were to do and the time they would take. Mary was on the opposite side of the room, with her book.
This sight of Jane and Kitty made Lizzy smile. Lizzy took her eyes off her sisters and looked again at the gentlemen talking near her. She saw Darcy glancing at her. She could not help engaging his look for a moment, swiftly looking at her needlework.
"You are very silent, Lizzy!" her father called to her suddenly, realizing this fact. He was beginning to think highly of the mind of Mr. Darcy and wanted her to show off Lizzy's intelligence and wit, as a proud father of his accomplished child. Moreover, he thought few people of their acquaintance were intelligent enough for her quick mind. Apart from Lizzy's elder sister, Mr. Bennet only thought Charlotte was at the same level.
"I am very concentrated in my work. But talk to me, I will listen and answer if you ask me."
Darcy's attention was fixed on her. "We were arranging the luggage and the seats for tomorrow."
"Are the arrangements made, then?" she asked. Mr. Darcy nodded.
"Where will my gloves go?" she teased.
"They will travel in my carriage."
"That shall satisfy me. They will have a comfortable journey," she said, smiling.
Darcy explained the seats arrangements "Bingley and I will go in my carriage. Miss Catherine, Miss Bennet and you will go in Bingley's. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in Mr. Bennet's."
Then he gave details about the loading of the trunks. She realized the little happy moment of having him in the same room talking to her. She was deeply happy and she anticipated the journey with pleasure.
The party arrived to London on the late hours of the afternoon. Their first stop was at the Gardiner's house. The luggage was unloaded, and the Bennet family parted from the two young gentlemen.
The following morning was Saturday, but they managed to make some worthwhile visits to the shops that first required their attention. Mrs. Bennet did not want to waste the occasion, and the first stop was with Mr. Bennet's tailor, where she described the required design and Mr. Bennet pronounced his desire for discretion in the making of the garment.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Gardiner took Jane, Kitty and Lizzy to the seamstress who had made her party gowns on other occasions. There, Kitty chose a fabric and a model, and they agreed that they should have a similar one made up for Mary, whose measurements Lizzy had taken the day before. Then, they purchased a piece of the same fabric to line two pair of new slippers for the young girls.
The rest of the day was spent at the Gardiner's preparing for the supper gathering at Bingley's townhouse. The two couples had agreed to join the three families together. It was an important assembly because it was the first time the Bennet's and the Bingleys had come with each other after the engagement. The Bingleys were going to be family and Jane felt anxious due to the significance of the meeting. She would gain two sisters that had showed so much ill will towards her family in the past. Lizzy could not help feeling sorry for Jane, and very happy for herself. Georgiana would be a charming new sister for Lizzy, sweet in temper and intelligent mind. She only had one fear: that her family could embarrass her. She hoped Kitty or Mrs. Bennet would not mention the militia, and that Mr. Bennet would not comment how was the first impression Mr. Darcy and Lizzy had of each other.
Anyway, Lizzy wished the evening to be as pleasant as possible, so her determination to support and cheer Jane became more fixed than ever. She devoted a great deal of time helping her sister with her gown and hair, which was arranged in a beautiful way, and then praised her sister's graceful figure, making her smile and laugh until the hour to depart.
Mrs. Bennet was very excited at the prospect of the party. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley were now her most cherished acquaintances, with such a supreme taste for fashion and such delicate manners; such distinguished, elegant air of people that enjoy the best material comforts and know the most selected of society. She was the first to start to dress up, and rushed often into the rooms to see if the girls were ready, and to give advice in tiny details of their appearance. When all the family was sitting downstairs in the drawing room waiting for the carriages, Mrs. Bennet could not help pacing about the room, now looking herself in the mirror, now rearranging Kitty's hair, who did not mind due to her own elatedness, as Lizzy had told her she would meet the Mr. Darcy's lovely young sister, a girl her own age.
Fitzwilliam Darcy had nothing to fear for himself, nor for Elizabeth Bennet. Quite the contrary, he barely could feel anything apart from contentment and happiness. He only hoped that his sister felt at ease with her new family.
Charles Bingley was in a mood of quiet happiness. He did not feel the slight anxiety that Jane felt. His kind heart had forgiven his sisters, although now he knew them for what they were better. His remarkable intelligence had always been blinded by his kind heart in matters regarding his loved ones. He was morally superior to Louisa and Caroline, and he had always known his siblings' flaws, but had made the decision to ignore them. But now there was a difference, he had someone he loved profoundly. There was nothing in Jane to be ignored or forgiven, because she was such a kind, good, lovely woman. These the traits were the ones which most appealed him, and were the reasons that compelled him to protect such a wonderful creature from people that could hurt her. He loved Jane.
Bingley greeted his guests, offered Jane his arm, and introduced Georgiana Darcy to the Bennets. He did not want the party to be formal, so he let his guests form small groups without interfering. He joined Jane, telling her in a low voice how beautiful she was and welcoming her to the house that would soon be hers. She was started by this comment and they laughed together at her surprise, that she would soon be the mistress of the place. Her mind was so full of the tasks to be accomplished before the wedding that all the day she had forgotten she was to be the future mistress of the house.
However, Mrs. Bennet had not forgotten that important fact for a second, and asked Caroline Bingley for a tour of the house. Miss Bingley was vexed by the idea of Mrs. Bennet being a guest of more importance than herself in her parents' house, but proceeded civilly to give the tour, and not reluctantly, as it was a mean pleasure to show Mrs. Bennet the superior condition of her family. They saw the first level before the supper was announced.
Elizabeth had concealed her own excitement from herself very well by taking care of Jane but when she entered Mr. Bingley's hall, she felt the excitement again when she saw Darcy. They stole a glance at each other, he nodded gently and she beamed. She saw he was talking to someone. He moved slowly to the left and Elizabeth saw he was with Georgiana. Bingley introduced the girl, and then Lizzy, keeping Kitty by her side, started to talk to Georgiana, hoping that Kitty would follow the conversation. Georgiana was determined to be as amiable as possible. She did not talk very much, but she smiled and responded in a friendly and engaging manner. She was very glad to see Lizzy again, and had looked forward the party at which she would meet two of Lizzy's four sisters: Catherine, who was near her age, and Miss Bennet, who was to be Mr. Bingley's bride. Her brother had praised Miss Bennet very much recently, and had told her Catherine was lively and amiable.
"Lizzy told me you play the pianoforte very well," said Kitty with eagerness, addressing Miss Darcy.
As she spoke, Lizzy feared Kitty would want to dance, and force Georgiana to play for her, but such was not the case.
"I love to hear music. I would help you with the sheets if you would play something", said Kitty. Georgiana agreed immediately without feeling shy. Such instant alterations were only possible when caused by the willingness of young girls disposed to be friends. The two young girls sat at the piano, having a look at the partitures.
"I hope that your gloves have arrived in a suitable condition." said Darcy when they were left alone.
Lizzy was delighted to see he was open and amiable. "I thank you, they have arrived in perfect condition. They never have been treated better." She beamed and he smiled more broadly.
"Did you have a good day?" he asked.
"A good day, indeed. Although we decided to divide in two groups. These will be hectic days, due to the huge amount of tasks to accomplish." Both smiled shyly.
Mrs. Gardiner approached them to sit on an armchair and Darcy asked her if her family had been in good health since their last meeting.
Mrs. Hurst was sitting with her husband, debating which group she should join. She did not consider Mr. Hurst company.
Darcy and Lizzy turned to Mr. Bennet, who was assuring the company that he had been less bothered by the journey to London than by his short visit to the tailor. The Gardiners laughed at his tale, and Darcy smiled.
Georgiana started to play a cheerful air, chosen by Kitty, and all the room paused to listen to the music. Georgiana felt embarrassed and stopped. Kitty turned her head to the party.
"Please, do not pay heed to us. We are just playing random lines," she said.
At her request, the room was filled again with the sound of pleasant conversation and Georgiana started to play anew. Mrs. Gardiner scolded Mr. Bennet gently and told him that he needed the new waistcoat. Darcy looked at Elizabeth with a meaningful glance of gratitude and she wondered at how well she understood him, now that she knew better his character.
The butler announced that the dinner was ready. Bingley took Jane's hand, and led her to the dining room. The seats had not been previously arranged, instead everyone chose to sit near the people that he or she had been talking to. Mr. Darcy was very pleased to sit next to Elizabeth; Mrs. Hurst sat near her husband; Caroline Bingley was trapped by Mrs. Bennet, who was in raptures after viewing such a beautiful house; the young girls sat together without hesitation.
Elizabeth and Darcy had sat at the same table several times, but they had never sat side by side. It was easy for them to start to talk, as everyone near was engaged in a conversation. Georgiana, next to Darcy, spoke to him just one or two words about the second course. She was listening to Kitty, who was telling her the good luck of Maria Lucas, who soon would have a nephew or a niece. If Kitty expressed to Georgiana her hope to be both aunts soon, it was in a very low voice.
Mrs. Gardiner, next to Lizzy, decided to converse with her husband, Mr. Bennet and Mr. Hurst, although they were talking about hunting and fishing, and she was not interested in those sports at all. Mrs. Bennet was happy to engage the attention of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, although from time to time she needed to express some comments in a louder voice to be heard by the rest of the table, calling for answers to certain questions.
Miss Bingley gazed once or twice to the part of the table where Elizabeth and Darcy were sitting. She wondered what they could be talking about. Elizabeth was confident and Darcy was open. They were enjoying each other's company very much.
Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst managed to restrain gaping when Mr. Bingley gave them, hours before, in the morning, the happy news of the engagement between Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. When Darcy arrived, both sisters made haste to greet him and wish him all the happiness in the world. Later in the evening, they would have to express their best wishes to Miss Eliza, and tell the Bennets how happy they were to closer their acquaintance becoming family. The waiter refilled some wine glasses.
Mr. Darcy was delighted to see his sister enjoying Kitty's company, and turned to Elizabeth, who was well aware of her aunt's intentions, as Mrs. Gardiner pointedly ignored her favorite niece.
"I suppose that you have taken many books from Longbourn?" asked Darcy, calling for her attention.
Elizabeth smiled. "Quite the contrary. My uncle keeps a very good library, so I took only the book I am currently reading."
"Which book are you reading?"
"The Princess of Cleves, by Madame de La Fayette"
"The Princess of Cleves" he repeated. "I have not read it. Is it good?"
"Very good indeed. It is not the first time that I have read this novel, but I always enjoy it."
"Indeed? Some books seem to gain a certain affection on the reader. What is The Princess of Cleves about?" he asked.
"It is the story of the mademoiselle de Chartres, who marries the Prince of Cleves in the beginning of the past century. She lives within the King of France's court. The novel depicts the life of people of high rank in those years. It is very interesting."
"If you would recommend it, I would read it", said Darcy.
"I only speak for my own taste. I am not sure if you would enjoy this novel."
"I always enjoy good literature, and if I have not read this book is because I have never heard of it before." His countenance was pleasant.
"Although it is a very well known novel, I guess why you hear of it for the first time now." She paused playfully, willing to sting his curiosity.
"Why?" he said amusedly.
"It is a book mostly read by women. I can not imagine your book seller convincing you to read it." She was amused. "I am sure Mr. Bingley knows the novel. He has two elder sisters"
"Are you sure? I have never heard them mention the book. And I can assure you he never spoke of it to me" he stated.
Lizzy recalled by this comment that the Bingley sisters read very little, but she still kept her opinion.
"Perhaps they read it years ago. That they choose not to mention it to you does not change the fact of they mentioning it to Mr. Bingley, thus knowing the book." She was smiling. "And it is very likely he did not bother to mention the book to you."
"I do not think so. Mr. Bingley and I enjoy reading, and he knows I always want to know about good books," he smiled too.
She did not have to meditate her response. She knew enough about Mr. Bingley's sisters. "Maybe his sisters did not enjoy the book, and Mr. Bingley took the notion of it being a dull book, but still he must know it."
He accepted her challenge amusedly "If you are so sure, we can ask Mr. Bingley himself."
"I am quite sure. We can ask him," she said with a teasing smirk.
Elizabeth and Darcy looked at Bingley, who was in front of Georgiana, and waited to reclaim his attention. In a pause of his conversation with Jane, Darcy addressed him:
"Charles, Miss Elizabeth and I are discussing a novel. She claims you know it and I doubt it. Can you help us?" He said discreetly, smiling.
Bingley smiled too, and said "Please, tell me the title"
" The Princess of Cleves , by Madame de La Fayette," said Darcy.
"I am sorry for you, Darcy. I am afraid Miss Elizabeth is right. I know the book. I hope you are not losing much money on this bet."
Bingley, Jane and Elizabeth laughed, and Darcy, smiling, bowed his head to Elizabeth. "You were right. My apologies for doubting your words."
"I accept them. Now you would have to read the book," she teased.
"You would enjoy it," said Bingley. "When Miss Bennet talked to me about it, she said it was very good." He looked at Jane, remembering they had talked about it in Netherfield.
Lizzy opened her eyes in surprise and Darcy laughed. "It seems I was not entirely right. My apologies, Mr. Darcy, for doubting your words," she laughed.
Their laughs attracted the attention of the party, and Bingley made good use of it. He stood up and announced that he and Mr. Darcy would host a ball in eleven day's time to introduce their fiancees to their London acquaintances. There were many expressions of approval. To Lizzy's amazement, Kitty did not cry in elation, she just expressed her excitement quietly. During the night Lizzy found that Kitty behaved the same as her company and new friend, and was becoming much more discreet than other times.
The gathering ended very soon, as most of the guests were tired and wanted to keep their energy for the next busy days. Lizzy would have remained for hours gladly, teasing Mr. Darcy.
The next day, Sunday the seventeenth of October, the Bennets and the Gardiners were heading towards the church. Mrs. Bennet was talking to Mrs. Gardiner.
"My dear, he has always been very amiable and quite a gentleman with us. He was to be the best man in Jane's wedding, and that was almost like being family. I am so glad that he is Mr. Bingley's closest friend! Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley have a steady friendship that some siblings never come to reach, and that is very good for the girls. They will see each other frequently," said Mrs. Bennet.
Mrs. Gardiner nodded, hiding a smile, and said, "He is amiable and polite, and his behaviour towards our family could not be more generous and kind." Mrs. Gardiner was not sure about how to explain Mr. Darcy's kind heart without revealing too much about Lydia's wedding to her sister in law.
Mrs. Bennet went on with her rambling. "And his little sister is so lovely. I thought last night she was very happy with Kitty, and Kitty very happy with Miss Darcy, I would say." Mrs. Bennet looked back at Kitty, walking a few steps behind. Then she looked at Lizzy.
"I am elated. Elated, sister! Mr. Darcy is such a good match for Lizzy. Let Charlotte Lucas marry twenty Mr. Collinses. Lizzy is so intelligent! Mr. Bennet always said so, and it is true. From the very beginning of their acquaintance she set her mind on Mr. Darcy, and I am sure that she invented that he had been quite disagreeable with her only to let all the other girls grow a keen dislike of him! He is a good man, and some of us could see it. We knew he was a worthy fellow, but many people thought he was disdainful and aloof. My Lizzy is so intelligent! I am very proud of her."
Mrs. Bennet did not know the effect her words were having on her confidante, because Mrs. Gardiner hid her amusement very well.
Some steps behind them were Lizzy and her father, talking much more quietly.
"It will be a good thing for her to go out in your company," said Mr. Bennet. "I had not thought about it, but perhaps that way she will forget her wish to live with Lydia, whose life she could see as a model of perfect joyful life." Mr. Bennet's wit wanted an object of amusement, but his mood towards his children had changed. The girls were no longer the objects of his acid remarks. He kept his good humour, but took much more care about their future.
"We will try to keep her mind occupied with things that could improve her," said Lizzy. "I confess I had not much faith in Kitty taking a sudden interest in painting or playing music, but yesterday night she behaved very properly and made friends with a girl who could have a very good influence on her."
"Or give her example," said Mr. Bennet. "But would Kitty take example of Miss Darcy, having had Lydia as former model? I must hope so." He sighed.
Lizzy thought about the mistake both Lydia and Georgiana had made, and amazed before the turns and twists of life, being now Miss Darcy a good example to Kitty, having made the same error as Lydia.
After the service, the Bennets and the Gardiners met the Bingleys, Hursts and Darcys, with the intention of taking a walk in the park before dinner, to enjoy the fine weather.
The Bingley sisters were swiftly captured by Mrs. Bennet's ramble about muslins and the sisters started to wonder if the woman intended to buy all the national stockpiles of the material. Mrs. Gardiner found herself trapped in this group too, but she was eager to have a closer observation of what was their real character, and how they behaved with others.
Mr. Gardiner commented upon an incident that had happened near the Houses of Parliament and the gentlemen started to talk about it. The girls were together, taking care of the Gardiners' children. Georgiana was enjoying the Bennet sisters' conversation and the merry fuss of the children.
A few minutes later, the older members of the group wanted to have some rest on a park bench. The Hursts sat themselves, too. Mr. Darcy could see Miss Bingley glancing at him desperately. She wanted him to rescue her from Mrs. Bennet's chattering, but this was a privilege she had lost, having shown so much ill will towards Elizabeth and Jane in the past. Her friendship with Mr. Darcy never recovered the strength it had. Once someone lost his good opinion, it was lost forever.
He nodded at her politely and left his conversation to join the young ladies' group.
He stood by Elizabeth, who was asking Georgiana where she could buy a new partiture for Mary. She only knew one music shop and wanted to know a better one.
"The shop I use to buy in is next to St. Martin in the fields. Mr. Beresford, the shopkeeper, always has the latest music from the best contemporary composers. It is on the fourth number of *** Street," Georgiana replied to the question.
"*** Street? What good luck! It is near to our new seamstress. We shall go tomorrow morning without delay and get a music book for Mary. Thus she would have it as soon as you return," said Lizzy looking at Kitty. "If we are lucky I suppose by noon we would have finished our visit to the new seamstress and the shop will be still open."
Jane, who was seeing to the shoelace of one of the boys, commented, "By the way, I hope we would like her works."
"Do you know any good seamstress fashionable but not too much in fashion?" asked Kitty to Georgiana.
Georgiana dared to speak again. "My favourite seamstress makes beautiful models that tend to last." She paused, and saw Lizzy's pleasant countenance listening to her with interest. This encouraged the girl, so she added, "They always seem elegant, and always on fashion at the same time. Mrs. Annesley helps me to add some new details when a new season comes." The rest of the girls appreciated Georgiana's modesty, as she could have renewed all her wardrobe every year.
"Please, tell us the address." Said Jane. "I am not sure of liking entirely the style of Mrs. Rhea". The girl gave Jane precise indications to find the place and then approached discreetly to her brother and whispered a few words to him. He nodded.
Mr. Bennet stood up and started to settle the hour to meet that evening at the theatre, which all the party would attend. Everybody fixed their attention to the appointment and said the farewell to the Hursts and Miss Bingley, except Darcy, who was looking at Lizzy, offering her his arm.
The party started to move towards the Gardiners' house, and the couple kept some distance from the rest. Lizzy guessed that he sought some privacy to talk to her. Indeed, when he was free from being heard by others, Darcy spoke quietly to Lizzy.
"My dear Lizzy, I am looking forward the moment to show you your new home in London." Lizzy was delighted and surprised, and felt full of love for him. She was happy to find in Darcy's countenance that he was equally moved.
My dear Mr. Darcy she thought.
He continued speaking. "I would like to host a familiar gathering to supper tomorrow, if you agree." His tone was lower and he had a tender look in his eyes.
She held his gaze and tightened her hand around his arm.
"I would be delighted to. My wish to see our home as soon as possible is strong."
Darcy stroked Lizzy's hand and kept his over hers.
She talked again. "I confess I have had no chance to think about the house itself. All my thoughts have been devoted to how confusedly happy I feel. It is now four days since we got engaged!" She beamed.
"Four days" he repeated, smiling. He was amazed that their daily routine was the same as ever, but their lives had changed forever. "I have to confess in return that I had planned many things at Rosings... and planned again, when we met in Pemberley."
Lizzy opened her eyes in wonder, and it made him smile again.
"I could not help it. I am used to arrange and provide. At Rosings the task seemed necessary, as I was sure I would be accepted." He explained. "Then, I had no hope, but I rejoiced in torturing me thinking how my life would be. Then again, after our meeting in Pemberley, I had very little hope, but I began to think and plan more."
Both were equally surprised to talk about the painful past so easily. But the engagement had changed the way they looked at the past. As the present was happy and the future promising, they could not fear talking about the past anymore, as all its pain seemed to have a reason in its former existence and all it helped to reach their present happiness.
"So you have everything planned already! I do not know whether to admire your prevision, fear your control or oppose your officiousness," she teased, with a smile.
He laughed. "I did not expect less from you than opposition to my officiousness. As for your admiration, it is something I am eager to win. But, please, dear Elizabeth, do not ever think you could fear me."
" I must give an answer to this," she said, beaming. "You won my admiration months ago, Mr. Darcy. I will provide an exact date of when it started, if you want, but it will take some time, as I had not planned it." Darcy laughed again. " As for my opposition, you have it secured, as it is that arguing with you is my favourite pastime." He laughed again.
"I deserve it," he said.
"Certainly." She nodded, laughing. "However, I agree that fear has not, and should not have, a place between us. I remember Mrs. Reynolds' words."
"Mrs. Reynolds?" He repeated.
"Your... our housekeeper," she explained. He smiled and caressed her hand again, but he did not speak and just nodded, willing to hear more. "When we visited the rooms of Pemberley, she told us of your good natured character, your good temper, and over all, your kind heart. I have had the chance of confirm this is true."
He sighed, and said, "I wish you had had a better understanding of my character under more joyful circumstances."
"I wish it too, but those were the events, and I am deeply grateful of your kindness. I am glad that you showed so much loyalty on our friendship when we barely had had time to be friends."
"I have to admit that, although I had small hope in you loving me, I felt at Pemberley that we had a real bond of friendship. I saw it clearly when my poor sister had to hear Wickham mentioned and you helped her to feel at ease again. We had argued and exchanged painful truths, but still we both shared a secret and protected my sister. I could not, and would not, act less loyally than you."
Lizzy said, "It is only your good heart that I cannot help noticing beyond those facts. My assistance to Georgiana cannot be compared with what you did for Lydia. I did nothing remarkable. But you did. Thanks to you, my sister is no longer the object of anxiety and pain." She looked tenderly at him.
Darcy replied at once "I wish you would be kinder and more sincere with yourself. You did what you could and so did I. I only had a better chance to show my loyalty and my love. That you are so inclined to think about my goodness only shows your own good heart."
They had reached the Gardiners' home, so Lizzy said in a low voice to Darcy "You are very wicked, Mr. Darcy. You give me no choice than to admit I have a good heart, and this is a terrible way to end our argument." Darcy had to laugh again.
Continued in Part 3
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