A Letter From Aunt Gardiner
My Dear Niece,
We have just received your letter with your most wonderful news! Your Uncle and I are absolutely delighted. Please extend our warmest congratulations to Mr Darcy.
I must confess that when I had no reply to my letter explaining Mr Darcy's role in the arrangements about Lydia, I thought that I had offended you with my assumption that there must be some understanding between you. It seemed so clear when we were all together at Pemberley that you knew him somewhat better than we had earlier believed (and liked him somewhat better), and we had really assumed when he came to us with news of Lydia that it was with your knowledge and approval. I was, as I said, rather surprised to find out it was not so. But it is wonderful to discover that we were not so far wrong in our conjecture.
I look forward very much to visiting you at Pemberley. It is almost impossible to contemplate that you will be mistress of that beautiful house and park! What a great Task it will be. But I have no doubt that you will do it admirably, and that Mr Darcy (and indeed all of us) will only have reason to be proud of you.
Will you forgive me for saying that I think he is just the husband for you, my dear Lizzy? He is strong and generous and trustworthy and needs only to be reminded occasionally that life need not be so very Serious. You have asked me to praise him, and there, I have done it. I am so glad to hear that you are so happy and I am sure that your happiness will endure for the length of your life together.
I will not write too long, because I want to send this letter to you quickly. I have a Proposition for you and Jane. I am sure you both have much to plan and purchase before the wedding and your Uncle and I would be very pleased to welcome you both to London for a fortnight to visit the warehouses and seamstresses. I am sure that your mother would be glad of a respite from all the preparations also. What do you think of my plan?
Your Uncle asks me to send you his best wishes, and you know that you have always had Mine.
Yours, very sincerely
Elizabeth sat in the garden reading her aunt's letter. Mrs Gardiner's suggestion had immediate appeal. Mrs Bennet had become, if anything, even more excitable about the imminent double wedding in the short weeks since the announcement of Elizabeth and Darcy's engagement. The strain of the constant fuss was beginning to tell on even Jane's even temper and Elizabeth was hard put to shield Darcy from the worst of her mother's importuning. Whether or not Mrs Bennet would be glad of a respite, she knew that she would.
As she reread the note, a shadow fell across the page. She looked up. Mr Darcy stood before her, smiling gently. She had not heard him arrive and he had come into the garden to look for her.
"It must be an important letter." His eyes met hers and she felt the warmth of an unspoken greeting.
She smiled back, her heart lifting as it always did when she saw him again. "It may be more important than you think".
He held out his hand and she took it, rising from the bench. He took her arm and they strolled towards the wilderness at the back of the house, where the last of the autumn leaves were still clinging to the trees. Elizabeth told him of her aunt's proposal.
"But that is a wonderful idea. I was going to tell you today that it has become necessary for me to go to town next week. Georgiana is there and would be overjoyed to see you."
As they walked and talked, the plan became even more attractive. Darcy was anxious to show Elizabeth his London house, and introduce her to his London acquaintance. And she could tell, although he did not mention it, that the opportunity to escape from her family would not be unwelcome. The only remaining obstacle was her mother.
The following day Elizabeth headed out for a long solitary walk, as was her custom. She strode energetically up the hill side, her skirts occasionally brushing through the puddles. As she reached the top of the hill she slowed, catching her breath as she turned to look at the view.
"And what did she say?" Darcy spoke from behind her, and stepped to her side, taking his hand in hers. She turned to him, giving him her other hand, and laughing up at him with delight that he had guessed her intention to walk this way today.
"Well, after Jane managed to persuade her that the whole idea was her own, she was in full agreement. We will leave on Monday, and stay for at least a fortnight."
His pleasure was obvious and he caught up her gloved hands and bent his head to kiss them. He tipped his head back and grinned at her.
"Bravo Jane" he said softly, causing a catch in her heart. He turned, her hand still firmly in his, and they walked towards the nearby grove of trees, silhouetted against the wintery sky. They didn't speak, but she felt the unspoken communication of his happiness and love in the pressure of his hand.
She skipped, partly to keep up with his longer stride and partly out of pure lightness of heart. He turned to her, smiling and raising an eyebrow in inquiry.
"I'm just so happy" she said, her eyes dancing. "It will be so wonderful to go to London, to see my aunt and uncle, to see Miss Darcy and.... I'm just so happy." He smiled, infected by her light spirits, and raised her hand to his lips. As he lowered it their eyes met and her breath caught as she received a burst of an altogether more serious emotion.
Unable to drag his eyes from hers, he slowly raised his hand to her face, tenderly pushing one escaping curl behind her ear, then gently touching her cheek. Without taking her eyes from his, she inclined her head towards his hand and kissed his gloved fingers.
"I love you" she murmured, all seriousness now. He closed his eyes and reclaimed his hand, and breathed again. He swallowed, struggling to control his need to touch her again, to hold her. Soon he thought. He opened his eyes and smiled at her.
" I love to hear you say it" he said quietly, and, taking her hand again, walked on.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.