Lizzy Meets Lady Fitzwilliam
Lady Fitzwilliam let herself into the library and sat in the large chair in front of the fireplace. She planned to stay there until some of her guests arrived, to avoid Miss Caroline Bingley, who had hopes that she would join her in talking her favorite nephew out of what she called a disastrous marriage to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Miss Bingley had already called twice to enlist her help, telling her that Miss Bennet had trapped Darcy into proposing. That, though Darcy found her charming and admired her fine eyes, she found them small and calculating. Lady Fitzwilliam smiled at the thought that Caroline might be describing herself. Her ladyship was well aware of Miss Bingley's attempts last winter to manipulate her brother Charles into a marriage with Georgiana, and, as she told all who would listen, she looked forward to truly calling Georgiana sister, hinting broadly that Darcy would in turn ask her to marry him. Her ladyship smiled at the thought of Caroline's embarrassment at Darcy's engagement, and she well knew how society was having a hearty laugh at the collapse of all her well laid plans.
Her reverie was interrupted by the opening of the library door, and in the mirror above the mantle she saw her nephew Darcy enter. As she was about to speak to him, she became aware that he had someone with him, but she could not see who it was, as Darcy was between her and the one with him.
She heard him say, "Do not be so worried my love. You will love my aunt and will soon be best of friends. She is not at all like Lady Catherine." She could not hear what the young woman said, but a hearty laugh from Darcy made her smile. So, she thought, she not only makes him smile, she makes him laugh. Darcy had done little laughing or smiling since the deaths of his parents and it was a welcome sound. Evidently, the young woman had a happy effect on her favorite nephew, which in itself was a recommendation for the young lady.
Sensing that they were about to depart she said, "Darcy, bring Miss Bennet here that I might meet her." Darcy came to her chair and proudly introduced Miss Bennet, who dropped a rather nervous curtsey. As she lifted her head, Lady Fitzwilliam found herself looking in the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen, wide and dark and fringed by the longest, lushest lashes she had ever beheld. There was an open, candidness about them and, somewhere there in the back, a touch of laughter. "Sit down my dear," she said, indicating the chair across from her where she could get a good look at her. "You may leave us now Fitzwilliam," she said to Darcy, who had taken Elizabeth's hand. He looked at Elizabeth who gave him a reassuring smile. At the door he turned and smiled again at Elizabeth, who returned it with such a look of love that her ladyship felt as if she had intruded on an intimate moment.
"So you are the young lady who had the audacity to refuse my nephew's proposal," she said.
The beautiful eyes widened in surprise as Elizabeth answered, "Yes, Ma'am."
"Good for you," said her ladyship, patting Elizabeth's hand. "No self-respecting woman would accept such a proposal; though, there are some who would gladly say yes, I fear. It does a man good to have some of the conceit taken out of him once in a while.
"Yes, Darcy told me all about his disastrous proposal and the reasons for your refusal. It made him take a good look at himself, and he found that you were right and that he was sadly lacking. He had never met anyone like you before. Women had always catered to him and fed his vanity--until he met you. You however knocked the wind out of his sails."
Lady Fitzwilliam was delighted by the laughter from Miss Bennet; not the polite titter of the boring women of so-called polite society, but a rich beautiful laugh of joy, that made her join in. She liked this young woman. She sensed an honesty and intelligence in her that was sadly lacking in most of the women she knew.
"Well, my dear, if you will give me your arm so that I can get out of this chair, we should join the other guests." Elizabeth put her arm toward her ladyship, and let her pull herself up by her own power and in her own time.
As they reached the door, she turned to her ladyship and said, "I do love him so very dearly."
"My dear anyone who has seen the way you look at each other could have no doubt of that. Love in marriage is as rare as daisies in the snow in this world today, so it warms my heart to see the two of you," replied her ladyship.
As they entered the drawing room arm in arm, Darcy came forward to give her ladyship his arm. The smile that she gave him made him smile happily at Elizabeth. During dinner Lady Fitzwilliam was amused by Darcy's inattention to her conversation while he watched Miss Bennet charm his lordship with her intelligence and wit. Looking at Caroline Bingley, who looked like she had tasted something sour. What a contrast, she thought, Elizabeth was so full of life and joy. Darcy will be a happy man.
© 1997 Copyright held by the author.