Elizabeth turned around to take a last look at Pemberley before entering the carriage. It would be some time before she and Darcy would return to it and she missed it already. Mrs. Reynolds stood next to her waiting for any last details. "Mrs. Reynolds, I believe I will surely miss you as much as I will Pemberley. What will I do in London without you?"
"I believe Mr. Greeley to be the most competent of Butlers, ma'am. They say he is indispensable to the running of the house in Town." Mrs. Reynolds smiled at Elizabeth.
"I'm sure he is, Mrs. Reynolds. Nevertheless, I will miss all your attentions. Please take very good care of things for me, while we are gone."
"I will ma'am..."
Darcy came around the corner toward the carriage, all the while discussing the details of the trip with his steward. "My dear, are you ready?" He smiled at Elizabeth.
"Yes, the sooner we get going the sooner we can come back!" Elizabeth laughed.
Darcy lifted Elizabeth into the carriage and turned to Mrs. Reynolds. "Good bye Mrs. Reynolds, if anything should need my attention, please communicate it to Mr. Greeley."
"I will sir, have a grand time in Town for the season...good-bye Mrs. Darcy!" she yelled into the carriage. She watched the carriage as it disappeared down the hill. Mrs. Reynolds thought to herself how she too would miss the Mistress of Pemberley. The house had never been as lively as it had been in the last five months.
The carriage rolled steadily along toward Town. It was a long journey from Derbyshire to London and Elizabeth had trouble mustering any enthusiasm for it, other than a chance to see the Gardiners and the Bingleys. It was April, the time to journey to town after the long winter months and be seen in society, however Elizabeth cared nothing for that, but Darcy had desired to spend some time in the company of his gentlemen acquaintances and had business to conduct, so Elizabeth consented.
Elizabeth could finally see London from the window and was glad to know she would be able to disembark from the tediousness of the carriage ride. She felt apprehensive about her new situation. It was the very first time she had seen the house in Town. They had traveled directly to Pemberley a few days after their wedding and all she knew of this place was what she had been told by Darcy and Georgiana. The carriage came to a halt in front of the house. Darcy got out and assisted her. She looked up at the large brick building, sighed and smiled at him.
"This is it Elizabeth, your home away from home."
She raised an eyebrow and walked up the steps. Immediately waiting inside was the staff, at the head, Mr. Greeley, the formidable butler. He had been in the Darcy's employ for longer than Mrs. Reynolds had been at Pemberley. Darcy introduced him to Elizabeth. He stood straight and tall, much like an pole. Elizabeth looked at him and thought him to be stiffer than anyone she had ever encountered. "Madam" he said rigidly.
"Mr. Greeley, I have heard much of your accredited service to my husband's family, it is good to finally know you."
"May I acquaint you with the rest of the staff, Madam?"
My that was...civil...she thought. Mr. Greeley seemed an impeccable character indeed. After the introductions, she looked at Darcy wearily. "You look exhausted, dear. I am a bit done in myself." He turned to Mr. Greeley. "We will retire to our rooms now, please inform any visitors that we will return the call at a later time."
"Will you require anything else this evening, sir?"
"No, thank you, just some peace and quiet." Darcy said as he rubbed the back of his sore neck.
"Yes, sir...Madam." He bowed an even stiffer bow, turned on his heel and departed.
Elizabeth looked at Darcy and grinned. "That man is very severe, is he not?"
"He has always been a bit straight. He used to scare poor Georgiana when she was a little girl. He would catch her in the hallway and ask her what she was doing and she would run sobbing in fright to our Mother's room." He laughed. "However, he is quite harmless and very good at his business. He will see that your every need is taken care of...almost before you know that you are in need of it! Never mind dear...I am very tired and need nothing more than a good nights sleep." He said with a sigh.
Elizabeth awoke to a soft knocking coming from the main chamber doors. She sat up and looked in the bed for Darcy, who was still sound asleep. She could see daylight and the clock on the mantle chimed nine. Elizabeth reached for her robe, put it on, tried to straighten her hair and tiptoed out the bedroom, into the sitting area and opened the door slightly.
"Madam." Came Mr. Greeley's stiff voice.
"Yes, Mr. Greeley. Mr. Darcy is not yet awake." She whispered with her lips pursed.
"I took the liberty of delivering this myself, Madam." He held out a tray directly at her with a small scroll upon it.
"Can it not wait, Mr. Greeley?" she pleaded.
"Madam, it is a communication from St. James'. I believe it has some precedence."
Elizabeth's eyes widened in curiosity. "Yes, of course, thank you."
"Madam, I also took the liberty of bringing up tea and biscuits." He motioned to a maid carrying a large tray with the food. Elizabeth smiled tightly and opened the door wider.
"Please leave it here in the sitting area." She told the maid who left the tray and curtsied as she back out the door. "Thank you Mr. Greeley, you are very...attentive."
Elizabeth closed the door and looked at the scrolled paper on the tray. She shivered as she picked it up and strutted back to bed imitating Mr. Greeley's walk. "Madam." She said and laughed out loud.
Darcy looked so peaceful as he slept. She almost hadn't the heart to wake him, but the suspense was killing her. "Fitzwilliam, Fitzwilliam dear, wake up." She gave him a little nudge.
"Hum...Elizabeth go back to sleep...please." He moaned as he sleepily wrapped his arms around her.
"Fitzwilliam, please." She nudged him a little harder.
"Later my love...I promise...later." He nuzzled her neck. Elizabeth blushed and laughed at him.
"Mr. Darcy, if you please!" she spoke louder. Darcy quickly opened one eye in horror.
"Oh, thank god, it is you!" he said finally sitting up. "What is it...is something the matter?"
"Not at all...and who else would be in your bed except for me, pray? She eyed him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Nothing...nothing." Darcy sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed this neck again then pulled on his robe. He stood up and moaned. "Lord, my body feels dreadful. And my leg is still a sleep." He limped into the sitting area and sat down in a large chair. "I see Mr. Greeley has anticipated our every need this morning." Looking at the tea tray.
"Yes, I believe he has. I wonder if he is so clairvoyant, why he does not know when we wish to be alone?" she pondered out loud. She handed her husband a cup of tea. "Mr. Greeley also 'took the liberty' of delivering this." She imitated him again as she handed the scrolled paper to Darcy. "It is from St. James'."
Darcy took it from her with trepidation and groaned. "The Spring Ball." He opened the paper and read it aloud.
Mr. And Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy,Elizabeth stared wide eyed at Darcy. "A Royal Ball!" This was a shock she had not expected.
The honor of your presence is requested
at the Annual Spring Ball.
The Royal Court at St. James'
Saturday, the 15th Day of April,
Eighteen Hundred and eleven
8 o'clock p.m.
"It would appear that someone is eager to make your acquaintance, Elizabeth." Darcy said, somewhat pleased at it all.
"Do you wish to go, my love?" she said anxiously.
"It is not usually the custom to decline such an invitation...without a good reason." He commented. "I suppose I would enjoy a chance to parade you in front of all of London."
"You are teasing me! That is not kind under these circumstances for I have nothing to wear and I have no idea how to act. This affects my nerves greatly!" Elizabeth frowned at her resemblance to her mother just then. "Perhaps Mr. Greeley could give me courtly behavioral lessons." She said in imitation again.
Darcy shot her a sideways glance and rolled his eyes. "You do not like Mr. Greeley, Elizabeth?"
"Of course I like him, it is just that he is so very...well, he is a stuffed shirt! Yes, indeed...a stuffed shirt." She said resolutely.
"He is just doing his job, dear." Darcy got up from the chair and took Elizabeth's hands in his own. "Tomorrow I will leave you in the hands of a dressmaker so you will have a gown and I will never leave your side at the Ball. Now, if you will indulge me, come back to bed."
Bingley and Jane were shown into the drawing room of the Darcy's townhouse by Mr. Greeley. "How have you been Greeley?" Bingley inquired.
"Quite well, sir." Mr. Greeley blankly stared at him.
"Yes...quite." Bingley looked at Jane and they both smiled uncomfortably and took a seat.
Elizabeth practically ran into the drawing room. "Jane! Charles! It is wonderful to see you!" she hugged them both tightly. "Fitzwilliam will join us in a moment. He's a bit worn out from the long trip and did not get a very early start I'm afraid. Tell me everything. How are you both, how are Papa and Mama and everyone in Meryton! I am so glad you are to stay here with us!"
After all the news of Hertfordshire had been discussed, Elizabeth told them of the invitation to the Spring Ball. "I believe it includes provisions for two guests. Fitzwilliam and I would be honored if you were to accompany us." Bingley and Jane were delighted to be included. Darcy came into the room and greeted them both affectionately.
"I hear we are to attend the Spring Ball at St. James', Darcy." Bingley said with a hint of a tease.
"Yes, Charles. An event not to be missed, I am sure." Darcy forced a smile. "You know how keen I am on such occasions. But, I cannot think of a legitimate excuse." He half whispered.
Bingley laughed at him and shook his head. "Elizabeth seems quite determined to attend. I think her curiosity has been peaked, much as the proverbial cat."
"Yes, indeed." Darcy lovingly smiled in Elizabeth's direction. This was in fact an opportunity unlike any she had been privileged to before. He could not deny her a chance to shine, and he knew that she would captivate those in society as much as she had captivated him. If only he were sure of her temperament towards those people of society. He knew how condescending and small they could be, especially the ladies toward an unknown young woman from the country. He did not want to see her hurt in any way. This would be a test of his abilities as her husband, to shield her from censure and from her own sometimes volatile temper.
Darcy and Bingley let their wives off at the dressmaker, promising to return for them in a few hours. The men were eager to be off to a few of their old haunts and happily went on their way.
Elizabeth and Jane were shown into the viewing room and discussed their preferences with the dressmaker. They were shown many of the new fashions. Elizabeth was not pleased with anything that she saw. "Do you have anything simpler? She inquired after viewing the last one. "Simple, yet elegant. Without so many bows and trappings on it? And no hats and no feathers! She turned to Jane and said in a hush "I do not wish to look like Caroline Bingley."
"Yes ma'am, however the other ladies will be wearing..."
"I do not wish to look like the other ladies, I am simply not comfortable in these flowery fashions. Please indulge me by showing me what I asked for?"
"Yes, ma'am." The dressmaker hurried away and left Elizabeth and Jane unattended.
"Lizzy, do you think you are being too headstrong about these gowns? After all they are all elegant." Jane said sweetly.
"Oh Jane, you are still the sweet, conforming, charming creature you always were. I see marriage to Charles has not changed you." Elizabeth loved her sister so.
"Lizzy, marriage has not changed you either. You simply will not be tamed, will you."
"Good heavens, no! Nor would my husband have me so. At least, I do not think he would?" she giggled.
The dressmaker brought out a gown still on the form. It was perfection! Beautifully pink and cream colored, flowing in a sensuous way. AppliquÈd with lace in the bodice, with sheer short sleeves and a scooped neckline. Elizabeth took in a breath and simply stated. "That is it!"
The dressmaker helped Elizabeth into the gown and brought out a pair of sheer lace appliquÈd slippers and cream colored silk gloves. "Madam, you are lovely in this gown! Very striking indeed!" Elizabeth looked at Jane who was beaming with delight and she nodded her approval to the dressmaker.
The evening of the Spring Ball had finally arrived. Darcy and Bingley were already dressed and waiting in the parlour for their wives. "Have you ever been presented to the King and Queen, Darcy?" Bingley questioned.
"Yes, only once, quite a while ago while I was with my father. He disagreed with King George's decisions against the colonies. He told me he believed that never had a possession been so poorly managed as those colonies by the British Government, but he was as much a fool for pomp and circumstance as the next fellow." Darcy grinned at his remembrance of his late father. "The King is very round and is quite noted for his many progeny." The two men shared a hearty laugh together as Mr. Greeley entered the room.
"Mr. Greeley, will you kindly tell my wife and Mrs. Bingley that if they delay us any longer we will be more than fashionably late!"
"Sir." Mr. Greeley turned and left the room.
"Darcy, I believe that man's face would crack if he were ever to get a joke!"
"Not you too, Bingley." Darcy sighed loudly then turned to face the door at the sound of it opening again.
Jane walked into the room and Bingley immediately went to her with praise on his lips. "You are a vision of loveliness, I dare say!"
"Thank you Charles. Dear Brother, Lizzy says she will only be a moment more. She looks truly beautiful tonight and I believe she is somewhat nervous. Have patience with her." Jane's caring smile had a calming effect on Darcy and he nodded his support.
Elizabeth glided into the room at that moment and Darcy blinked a double take. He had never seen her look more beautiful, more sensuous and desirable than she was now. He was transfixed on her grace and form. The gown was stunning and she had accentuated her hair by letting parts of it fall onto the back of her neck while the rest of it was twisted up. On her neck she wore a pearl drop enticingly pointing down to her cleavage. On her left hand, the exquisite wedding ring he had presented to her, tooled in gold and inset with his mother's square cut diamond. His mouth went dry and he became conscious that he had not blinked his eyes in some time. "Elizabeth, you look...magnificent!" He had totally forgotten his relatives next to him and they quickly slipped out the door to give Darcy a better chance to admire Elizabeth in privacy.
"Do you approve of me, my dear husband." She breathed in sensuously.
"Oh yes, my love. I approve very much. I hardly know what to say that would be a worthy enough compliment to your appearance. You leave me speechless! Perhaps we could send Bingley and your sister in our place and..."
She laughed out loud and kissed him passionately. "Not a chance. But perhaps with very good luck, we shall return early and..."
He stopped her this time with another kiss and the couple were locked in a splendid embrace when..."Sir!"
Darcy practically jumped through the roof at the sound of Mr. Greeley's deep voice. "Sir, you will be very late if you do not leave this very moment." Mr. Greeley said, shaking his head in condescension.
"Yes, yes. You are very right Mr. Greeley." Elizabeth straightened Darcy's cravat and he took her arm and led the way to the carriage.
The carriage arrived at St. James' and Elizabeth looked excitedly out the window at all the fine carriages bringing their resplendent patrons. She couldn't help but be excited at the sight and sounds of such an event. She looked back at Darcy in glowing wonder of the whole thing. He looked at her, smiled and held her hand tightly.
"Are you nervous, my love?" he inquired.
"Yes, a little. It's not every day a woman is introduced to the King and Queen."
"No, surely not. Elizabeth, please remember that the people who frequent St. James' may not be the kind of people you are most comfortable socializing with. They can be haughty, proud and vain, and may treat you as an outsider." Darcy tried to be delicate, he had been down this road before.
"Fitzwilliam, do not be uneasy. In such situations I can take care of myself."
"That is what worries me." He breathed silently to himself.
The party left the carriage and entered the grand ballroom of the palace. They were announced to the room and walked down the great staircase onto the floor. Elizabeth and Jane had never seen a bigger or grander room. Elizabeth held tightly to Darcy's arm as she was trembling with excitement. She just could not help but be caught up in the splendor of the scene. The couple walked along the floor as the other guests turned to catch a glimpse of Darcy with his new bride. Darcy caught the eye of an acquaintance and escorted Elizabeth toward the other couple to begin his introductions.
"Darcy! It is very good to see you, man!" exclaimed the gentleman.
"Henry, it's a pleasure to see you again." Darcy bowed graciously to Henry's wife. "Mrs. Henry. May I introduce my wife, Elizabeth Darcy."
Elizabeth and the couple exchanged greetings. Darcy turned to Elizabeth, "Mr. Henry and I have been acquainted since we met at Cambridge some years ago and Mr. And Mrs. Henry are newly married themselves." Elizabeth poured on her charm with her delightfully smiling eyes.
"Mrs. Darcy, may I say what a pleasure it is to make your acquaintance. We read of your engagement to Darcy in the gazette and were delighted to hear he had finally found his match." Mrs. Henry smiled a warm smile and led Elizabeth a little to the side so the gentlemen could talk.
"Darcy, your wife is uniformly charming! A lovely creature. Where is it again that she hails from?" inquired Henry.
"From Hertfordshire. Her father's estate is known as Longbourn, about a mile from the small town of Meryton." Darcy informed him.
"Yes, I remember now. We were not surprised to hear of your engagement, but were a little surprised to know to whom you had been betrothed. We made the assumption you would be engaged to Miss Catherine Rutledge."
Darcy raised an eyebrow in discomposure. He was hoping to avoid this. Darcy had kept the company of Miss Rutledge two seasons ago. He had known at the time he was not ready for marriage, and did not intend to attach himself to the woman, however this did not seem clear to Miss Rutledge, her family nor her friends.
"I had never been engaged to Miss Rutledge, Henry." Darcy said still unnerved.
"I fully comprehend you Darcy, but may I caution you to take care tonight. My wife informs me that Miss Rutledge and her friends will be here this night, and they were all displeased that you chose Mrs. Darcy over Miss Rutledge. They may mean to cause your wife some discomfort."
Darcy was again discomposed. He had not thought that this had gotten as out of hand as the communication described. He kept a close eye on Elizabeth as she spoke with Mrs. Henry. He would not let her out of his sight the entire night if he had to and he would have to enlist Bingley's help as well.
"Thank you for sharing this confidence, Henry. I shall certainly be on my guard."
"What are friends for Darcy. My wife seems taken with Mrs. Darcy, I hope they will become friends."
"Yes, your wife is a very generous and friendly woman. I would be pleased for Elizabeth to keep company with her." Darcy said still keeping watch over Elizabeth.
By this time a small crowd had gathered to make the acquaintance of the new Mrs. Darcy. Elizabeth was enjoying the attentions and was glad to be introduced by Mrs. Henry. Darcy saw no one who would be a threat to Elizabeth as yet, but he would have to hurry and inform Bingley of the situation and perhaps Jane as well.
The men that gathered around Elizabeth enjoyed her smiles and "fine eyes" and the women admired her gown and wedding ring, and everyone extended their congratulations to her and Darcy on their union. Darcy finally caught Bingley's eye and waved him over.
"Darcy, this is a grand time is it not?" Bingley said in enjoyment.
"Not quite Bingley. I must enlist your help and that of your wife's."
"What is it, man? You look as if you have just sat on a saber." Bingley laughed.
Darcy quickly informed Bingley of Mr. Henry's communication concerning Miss Rutledge and her friends. Bingley was taken aback.
"Good lord, Darcy. You do not think they will cause Elizabeth any uneasiness, do you?"
"I don't know Bingley, however I should have known something like this would arise. Now I know why I have never been comfortable in this society. I shall not allow myself to be caught off guard again!" Darcy was becoming agitated.
At that moment the sound of fanfare blared loudly in the ballroom. Darcy hurried over to Elizabeth and escorted her to the side of the room. The ball guests formed two lines on either side of the room, as if to allow a parade to pass. The King and Queen were announced and began to walk the line of guests stopping to speak with certain ladies and gentlemen on their way. Elizabeth watched in anticipation as the guests bowed to their sovereigns as they passed.
The procession finally reached the place where Darcy and Elizabeth were standing. Darcy gave a deep bow and the King stopped to address him.
"Your name sir." The King inquired.
"Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Derbyshire, your Majesty." Darcy was as tense as Elizabeth had ever witnessed. "My wife, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth's heart almost stopped. She curtsied low with her head bowed, still holding onto her husband's hand.
The King took her other hand. "Let me see you, my dear." He said. Elizabeth raised her head and met his gaze. The Queen moved to face her also and smiled admirably.
"Very lovely, very lovely indeed!" she said comfortably. Then the monarchs made their way further on down the line.
Elizabeth finally took a deep breath and looked at her husband with a broad smile, eyes twinkling. He looked back at her and nodded his approval. She gently closed her eyes and took another deep breath. What a night this had been already!
The line of guests was finally beginning to disperse, buzzing to each other about the events. Darcy led his wife to a more secluded area of the room to give her a moment to compose herself before being surrounded by the crowd again. He admired the way she conducted herself during the encounter and told her so. She was very pleased by his admiration. She wanted so much to be an asset to his stature in society.
"You must allow me to give you warning, Elizabeth. There is a woman, who's family possesses some affluence here in London. I was acquainted with her two years ago. I unfortunately, have been informed that she viewed our acquaintance with more import than I ever imagined, and that she and her friends do not look kindly on our marriage. It had never been my intention to attach myself to her in any way. You must believe it!"
Elizabeth, just stared back at him in disbelief.
Elizabeth looked up at Darcy and took pity on him. He looked uncomfortable and truly confused by the revelations he had confessed. She had no doubt of his love for her. She smiled up at him. "My love, I appreciate your honesty in revealing this most unfortunate circumstance to me. I would never have expected you not to be acquainted with other woman before me and I have complete confidence in your love. I have known you long enough to be certain you chose your wife to your liking, and I am eternally grateful that I was your choice."
Darcy sighed in the greatest relief. "You make me wonder at my good fortune everyday, Elizabeth! I believe I must have done something good to deserve you, however I am at a loss to know what that may have been."
"I'm sure it must have been your tolerance of my relations." She laughed aloud.
Darcy almost blushed in good natured embarrassment and took her to the refreshment table. He was relaxed now and determined to enjoy the rest of this evening in the company of what he considered the most desirable woman in the room. He handed Elizabeth a glass of wine and took one for himself. He heard a voice from behind address him and he turned in it's direction with a smile.
"Mr. Darcy, won't you do me the honor of introducing me to your lovely wife."
The voice belonged to none other than Miss Catherine Rutledge. Darcy went pale for a moment and cleared his throat. He turned to Elizabeth to convey a revealing look, then made the introduction. Elizabeth caught on to the game and looked back at Darcy to communicate her understanding.
"We have been in anticipation of making your acquaintance Mrs. Darcy. We have heard practically nothing of you." Miss Rutledge was as snide as Miss Bingley could ever dream of. "I had no idea that Mr. Darcy was so fond of the country, until I read you hailed from the quaint area of Hertfordshire. My Father tells me he had visited there once, but could not recall any fondness for it."
Elizabeth forced a smile. "Miss Rutledge certainly resembles a ferret." She thought to herself trying to lighten her own mood.
"Yes, well, it was very good to see you again Miss Rutledge, if you will excuse us. Elizabeth may I introduce you to another of my acquaintances from Cambridge." Darcy bowed to Miss Rutledge and moved Elizabeth off in another direction.
Miss Rutledge followed the couple across the room with her eyes. She was convinced that Mr. Darcy had made a grievous mistake by marrying this woman, and she was determined to acquaint him with his folly before the night was over.
Music could be heard near the dance floor and couples began to line up in sets for the first dance of the evening. Elizabeth stood across from her husband and her face lit up. She remembered a time when she stood across the dance floor from this same man. Her intent then had been to cause him discomfort, now she wished to give him pleasure more than anything else. That time had seemed like so very long ago, but it had only been a little more than a year. They danced a set and returned to the side to rest and visit a moment with the Bingley's. Jane was having a wonderful time, but Elizabeth wanted to inform her of the horrid Miss Rutledge.
"My dear, if you will excuse Jane and I, we will only be gone a short while."
Elizabeth told Jane of her meeting Miss Rutledge and the uncivil things that woman had said as they walked to the powder room. Jane was shocked to hear of such rude behavior from a young woman. Dear Jane had always thought well of everyone. As the ladies entered the powder room they overheard a group of women in conversation.
"It's shocking that the King and Queen should have shown her such attentions! A woman who has never been in any kind of society."
"How true, Cynthia. Mr. Darcy knows not of what he has given up by marrying such a nobody. He should have connected himself with the Rutledge Family as was intended by Catherine and her mother. He will be condemned by every good family of London society."
Elizabeth was livid as she heard their censure of her and denounced the good name of her husband. What catty, contemptible creatures they were. Jane put her hand on Elizabeth's shoulder to keep her temper in check. A woman's voice loudly rang from behind Elizabeth.
"Mrs. Darcy, please do not take what these women say to heart. They are only displaying their envy and jealousy at your good fortune to have won the heart of such a handsome and desirable man, for they have no such connections of their own."
"Mrs. Henry, what a delight to see you again!" Elizabeth was truly grateful. She looked back at the other ladies to see them walk away in remorse. "Thank you for your kind words and timely interference. It was most welcome."
"Mrs. Darcy, anyone can see the affection you and your husband share. I have met with censure in these circles myself because of my marriage. They also think me unworthy of my husbands connections. I believe it would be best if we banded together."
"Please will you come sit with my sister and I, we would truly enjoy your company." Elizabeth was beginning to admire this young woman for her courage. She hoped to become very good friends with Mrs. Henry.
Miss Rutledge edged over toward Darcy. He stepped aside from the group of men he had been conversing with to have another glass of wine. Miss Rutledge saw her chance.
"Fitzwilliam Darcy! You are a very hard man to catch up with, I dare say." She paused as he looked at her in disdain. "You hurt me deeply by your hasty marriage." He said nothing to her in return. "We families of society must remain together for the good of the Empire. Perhaps an annulment could be obtained without much trouble on your part?"
Darcy's eyes widened and his anger reached an all time high. "You are very presumptuous to believe I would ever entertain designs on you, Miss Rutledge. I knew from the beginning of our acquaintance that you are a conniving, gold digging..." He could not go on with this thought and remain in the boundaries of good taste. "Do not ever entertain thoughts of remaining in our society!" He backed up, turned on his heel and stormed away from the crowded dance floor in search of Elizabeth.
Darcy never desired to be away from anywhere as he did from London at this very moment. He would take Elizabeth back to Pemberley. He would be happy to remain in Derbyshire the rest of their lives. In quiet peace and solitude if need be. He was quite resolved. He saw Bingley in his path.
"Charles, I wish to take Elizabeth home. I have had quite enough of society for one night, nay, for a lifetime!"
Bingley tried to match Darcy's quick, long strides. Elizabeth and Jane were making their way back to the Ballroom, when they encountered their husbands. Darcy stopped short of his wife and said, "Elizabeth, we must leave, this moment. I won't subject you or myself to anymore of this nonsense."
"I could not agree more! I'd like nothing more than to be at home with you."
Darcy smiled happily and escorted his wife outside the palace. Gladly leaving behind all the vanity and weakness he had come to despise. Their carriage was called for and it soon departed for the townhouse. Darcy was very quiet on the trip home, holding Elizabeth's hand tightly and staring angrily out the window. He had succeeded in acting exactly in the manner in which he had thought Elizabeth may have succumbed to. He let go and laughed out loud at himself, recalling his temptation to let Miss Rutledge have it. Elizabeth knew it was only a matter of time before he would learn to laugh at himself.
The Bingley's said their good nights and retired to their rooms, leaving Darcy and Elizabeth alone in the Study. Darcy sat down in the large stuffed chair and put his feet up on the ottoman. What a night it had been! Not necessarily one he cared to remember, except for the memory of his beautiful wife. He was lost in his own thoughts when Mr. Greeley interrupted, "Sir."
"Yes, Mr. Greeley, what is it?
"There is a communication from Pemberley, sir, which requires your attention."
"Yes, I will attend to it directly." Darcy said with a groan. "Will you wait here for me, Elizabeth? I shall not be long."
She nodded and he quickly left the room. Mr. Greeley remained in the Study with Elizabeth.
"Madam, I hope you had an enjoyable evening?"
"Mr. Greeley, I believe I managed to derive some enjoyment from this evening's festivities. A very little." She sighed. "Mr. Greeley, won't you tell me something?"
"Why have you remained in the employment of my husbands family for so long?" she inquired.
"I am very...fond of Mr. Darcy, as I was fond of his Father before him."
"Really, Mr. Greeley?" she said beaming.
"Yes madam. When old Mr. Darcy passed on, I knew that Master Darcy would return to this place one day...that he would return with a wife and someday a family. I was curious to see whom he would choose, as a wife...madam."
Elizabeth just raised an amused eyebrow at him, but said nothing.
"I believe I can safely say that Mr. Darcy has made an excellent choice. Madam."
"Thank you Mr. Greeley. That means a lot to me at this moment." Elizabeth was overwhelmed. "Mr. Greeley." She held out her hand to present him with an embroidered handkerchief bearing the initial G. "I finished it this morning. It is not much, but it carries my appreciation and affection with it."
"Thank you, madam. I shall treasure it." He bowed and left the room.
"Elizabeth, I just saw Mr. Greeley walking down the hallway?" Darcy said as he entered the room.
"Yes, dear? What is so strange about that?" She asked.
"Nothing, it's just that he looked..." He paused slightly. "Jolly?"
Elizabeth began laughing and ran over to him, hugging him tightly around the waist. He returned her embrace and they held onto each other for a long while in silence. How good it was to be in their home, completely alone and in love.
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