On the Eve of His Marriage
Late on the eve of his marriage, Mr. Darcy lay abed, but sleep eluded him. His mind was a tumult of questions, memories, hopes and anxieties. At length, he rose and drew his heavy robe about his shoulders. The fire had long ceased to throw any warmth into the room, and the winter chill had penetrated its far corners. Darcy, however, did not seem to notice the cold as he walked to the window and drew back the heavy brocade drapes to gaze upon the prospect before him. A fine dusting of snow had fallen during the evening and now covered everything within view. His window faced the long avenue in front of Netherfield and he marveled at the clean, white expanse, unmarred by carriage wheel, hoof mark, or human vestige of any kind.
The many weeks of wedding preparations, in Hertfordshire, in Derbyshire, and in London, were now at an end. There had been innumerable legal matters to deal with, in addition to plans for the return to Pemberley. Immediately after the marriage ceremony and wedding breakfast, he and Elizabeth would proceed to London for several days' stay. Bingley had anticipated they would first spend a few days together at Netherfield, but neither Darcy nor Elizabeth had desired this plan. Darcy was anxious to be far from the interminable round of dinners and parties in the weeks before the wedding, and Elizabeth concurred. There would be a few receptions in London, to be sure. The Gardiners had promised a small gathering of close acquaintances, for which he and Elizabeth were grateful. Lord and Lady Ellison, however, had insisted on inviting half of London society to felicitate the happy couple. This was an evening to be dreaded, but it was the price to be paid for a few days of solitude with Elizabeth. Then, he and Elizabeth would proceed at last to Pemberley. It was a long journey by coach, especially so in winter, and they would be required to break their journey several times, but they would soon be at home as man and wife. How strange that sounded ... man and wife. Little more than a year had passed since his well-ordered, self-centered life had been shattered. Less than half a year before, he had despaired of ever seeing Elizabeth again.
He had a few surprises for her at his ... their ... home in London. He had chosen several very fine pieces of jewelry to present to Elizabeth when they were alone, for he abhorred even a hint of ostentation. There was also a pendant which his father had given his mother on their marriage and which he intended now for his bride. But his secret delight was reserved for the gown and robe which Georgiana's couturiere had fashioned under his guidance. A fragment of heavy ivory satin, exquisite to the touch, glimpsed in the workshop, had sent him searching the warehouses, for French tissus were difficult to come by in those days of war and trade embargo. He had succeeded, however, and the results were captivating. The intimate nature of the garments had momentarily caused him a pang of embarrassment, but Madame C. had always been the soul of discretion. Perhaps, I have a hidden talent, he laughed. A shame that none, excepting myself and Elizabeth, shall ever see my creative genius.
The thought of Elizabeth's gift focused his mind in another direction which lately was causing him some anxiety. Although he had been to university and had traveled quite extensively in the years since, Darcy was unschooled in the ways of love. One might wonder how an intelligent and wealthy young man had neglected that aspect of his education which might now be so useful to him. Darcy, however, had always prided himself on being above the measure of other men. He traced this fastidiousness, if it can be so called, to advice his father had given to him and to George Wickham on their departure for Cambridge. The elder Darcy had enumerated and warned the young men against the temptations a young collegian might encounter in that city. Later, when they were alone, he repeated the advice to his son. "I hold you to a higher standard than I do George, for, although I hope to see him settled in a position worthy of his education and character, you alone will carry the Darcy name forward, Fitzwilliam. I expect you always to act in a way that is honourable, in a way that will reflect well on our name."
Perhaps his father had already suspected some of Wickham's vices, which Darcy had taken care not to expose. Darcy had long disapproved of Wickham's habits, but he shrank from disclosing Wickham's character to his benefactor for fear of disappointing his father and for fear of appearing petty and jealous of Wickham's favor with his father. To act in a generous and honourable manner at all times was a benchmark by which he measured his own behaviour.
At Cambridge Darcy saw the temptations and the way in which Wickham and several others among his acquaintances were eager to succumb. He, however, had remained aloof, preferring to indulge his spare hours in reading and discovering the historical, rather than the temporal, wonders of the city. To yield to curiosity he considered beneath his dignity and to yield to lust was unthinkable. He held himself to a higher standard, and because he did so, he was often considered disdainful and arrogant. He did not, however, intend to forever lead the life of a monk. His moral code and extensive reading had created for him an ideal of the perfect union of the emotional, intellectual and physical beings of a man and a woman, and until he met Elizabeth, no woman had ever approached that ideal.
Now on the eve of that perfect union, he felt himself rather unprepared. He knew from brief, intimate moments with Elizabeth that she would be an eager partner in this aspect of their married life, but that thought, however exciting to contemplate, did not completely dispel his discomfiture. I shall have to make the best of it, he mused. After all, I am certainly not the first man to find himself in this situation, nor the last. Suddenly he became aware of his feet on the cold parquet and dropped the drapes. He returned to his bed, now thoroughly chilled, and drew up the heavy counterpane. He felt lost in its white expanse until visions of Elizabeth engulfed him. Her voice and her soft laugh surrounded him and comforted him. The love and trust which she had bestowed upon him renewed his confidence and peace of mind. My beloved, he whispered in the night, we shall make this journey together. On the morrow I shall be wholly thine and thou forever mine. And sleep triumphed at last.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.