The Best Laid Plans
There were just three days left until the wedding day of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet.Meryton had never seen so much commotion, not even when the Militia had been in the neighborhood.Wedding guests were beginning to arrive from near and far.Excitement in the neighborhood was at an all time high and the Bennet household was all in uproar.
Mr. Darcy had considered it practically impossible to be alone with his fiancée during their engagement.Now it was becoming downright futile, for everyone was fawning over the two eldest Bennet daughters and wanting to get a good look at their beaus.At times Darcy felt a little like a bird in a cage, up on a pedestal for all to admire.Mr. Bingley played his part well, being a very agreeable gentleman. Darcy tried his best to appease them, but he had been known to strut like a peacock at times and ruffle a few feathers.In all actuality, he wanted nothing more than to be left alone with his future bride.His happiest times with her had been on their walks in solitary conversation, but it was December and the weather simply would not permit outdoor activity.
Darcy's invited guests were also beginning to flock into the neighborhood, and duty would dictate that he spend time with them as well.There were to be several social engagements and presentations to family and friends.The gentlemen acquaintances of Darcy and Bingley also had plans for merriment.Colonel Fitzwilliam had organized a party of his own, a Bachelor party of sorts.No formal invitations had been sent, it was more of a word of mouth affair.Bingley looked on it with much anticipation.Darcy, however, was forced to submit to the impropriety of it to appease his friends.
"Oh Darcy, really!" exclaimed Colonel Fitzwilliam."what is wrong with sowing a few wild oats before you become an old married man?"
"True, Darcy!" the Colonel's eldest brother chided."Let your hair down, man!Surely you remember the merriment we had before I was married!"
"Yes, I remember it all too well!" laughed Darcy."I believe you are the one who doesn't remember it!"
"The ladies will be busy with their own wedding engagements.We will be left to fend for ourselves for the evening.That leaves ample opportunity for us to send you on the path to wedded bliss." The Colonel retorted persuasively.
Mr. Hurst walked into the room with a drink."What's this?More wedding engagements?Count me out!"
"You will not attend?Not even for the women and drinking?" Bingley commented poking Mr. Hurst in the ribs.
"When and Where?" Mr. Hurst said with a devilish smile.
"Fitzwilliam, you must promise me this will not get out of hand." Darcy sighed as he relented.
The Colonel swore upon his oath that it would be a tame affair.Of course, Darcy neglected to see the wink he gave Bingley and his fingers crossed behind his back.
Darcy and Bingley made their customary visit to Longbourn that afternoon.The Bennet family, their guests and servants were scurrying about the place, doing this and that.Darcy had to scale the wall of the hallway to get past the hoards of people passing through it.He finally located Elizabeth, who was in the morning room talking with a large group of women.She looked up at him, rolled her eyes and smiled.He made a slight motion for her to excuse herself and come with him, then he slipped out of the room.She waded through the boxes and luggage which had been strewn on the floor as she made her way to the door.
"Say you are my savior, and have come to take me away from all of this!" she teased as she met him outside the door.
"I would gladly rescue you, my love.If only there were somewhere to go?" he sighed and gave her a quick kiss.
Elizabeth's eyes lit up immediately."Come with me."
They priedpast all the people who had assembled in the hallway, until they came to the door of Mr. Bennet's study.Elizabeth knocked three times, then again twice on the door."It's our password." She whispered to Darcy.
"Come in, Lizzy!" her father's voice came from behind the door.
Elizabeth and Darcy quickly entered the study, trying not to be noticed by anyone in the hallway.
"Well now, here is the happy couple."Mr. Bennet looked over his spectacles at them. "Ah yes, the two of do not look very happy."
"Papa?" Lizzy sighed in exasperation.
"What is it?Are you finding the air a bit thin out there?" he chuckled in amusement.
"The air and our patience...sir." Darcy jested in return.
"I suppose there is something needing my attention...somewhere." He got up from his desk,walked over to Lizzy and kissed her on the cheek.
"Thank you, Papa." She breathed in relief."Please don't divulge out whereabouts for a while."
Mr. Bennet shook his head in amusement and left the study to the lovers.
"Finally! Some peace and quiet"Elizabeth shyly laughed."Three more days, then perhaps we can finally be alone."
"Yes, well...that is something I would like to speak to you about." He held a chair for her to take a seat and then sat across from her."I believe we should discuss our accommodations for...for after we are married." He waited for her to reply.
"Our wedding night, you mean?" she blushed.
"Yes, exactly.You do not want to remain at Longbourn?" he twisted in his chair uncomfortably."After all, this is your father's house."
Elizabeth thought she would save him any further embarrassment."Oh, there would be no room for us here anyway...with all these people." She smiled.
"Ah, yes.Well...Bingley has graciously offered us accommodations, but I thought you would not wish to spend the night next to Miss Bingley and the Hursts."
"Definitely not!" she exclaimed under some duress, which made Darcy laugh.
"Well then, I took the liberty of making arrangements at a small inn a few miles from here in the town of Welton.Bingley and I stayed there when we first came to Hertfordshire to look at Netherfield.The proprietor's seem like sensible people and the inn is very quaint and comfortable."He paused a moment and said with a smile on his face, "I paid for every room they have...for two days."
Elizabeth laughed at Darcy's resourcefulness and teased him.He had thought himself quite brilliant in formulating the plan.When she finally stopped scolding him, she asked of his plans for the evening.
"Oh, well...Bingley, Fitzwilliam and a few other acquaintances are getting together.It's nothing really, just a few drinks, some laughs...that sort of thing." Darcy tried to be as nonchalant as he could as he glanced out the window.
"I wish we could be together, Fitzwilliam, but it has become sort of a tradition with the ladies of Meryton that there be a sort of women's party.A Shower, I believe it is called."
"Well...I will try to get along without you." He sighed."Just for one evening though?"He stood up and walked Elizabeth to the door to take his leave.He bent down and gave her a kiss, the kind only two people hopelessly in love would allow."It will take me half an hour to make my way to the front door." He teased her.
"Oh, Fitzwilliam.Do not forget breakfast tomorrow morning.My mother is planning on it!" she yelled at him as he was still fighting off people halfway down the hall in search of Bingley.
The gentlemen all rode into Meryton.There was a boisterous pub at the far end of town that Colonel Fitzwilliam had his eye on as a good candidate for merrymaking.They all walked inside together and the place went silent as its inhabitants stopped to stare at clientele they were unaccustomed to seeing.
"Do these people do nothing but stare?" Darcy sarcastically asked Bingley.
Colonel Fitzwilliam spied some officers at a table and went to speak with them.They were passing through Meryton on a training expedition.The rest of the party found a sizable area of the room and settled in.
"What's your pleasure, gents?" a barmaid inquired of the party.
Mr. Hurst took the liberty of telling the barmaid to bring a bottle of scotch and some glasses.A round was poured and he raised his glass in a toast."Gentlemen, there's an old Welsh toast for a man getting married."He chanted a verse in the native tongue and drank his shot.
"What on earth does that mean?" Bingley asked.
"May your wife wear white and keep you up all night!" he laughed and slapped Bingley on the back.Everyone roared with laughter, except for Darcy who tilted back his shot and poured himself another.It was going to be a long night.
Elizabeth unwrapped another package as all the ladies chattered and gossiped.She thought she was tolerating everyone's "good" advice exceedingly well.Jane on the other hand, just sat and blushed and said she would promise to remember it.Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst sat in the farthest corner as was politely possible and whispered to themselves.They had been invited out of common courtesy and had accepted for the same reason, on Jane's behalf.
Lizzy got out of her chair to refill her punch glass.As she walked by the corner of the room where Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst sat she could hear them making rude and rather impertinent comments on the night's festivities.Elizabeth grabbed a small tray of petit fours and crept up on them.Miss Bingley looked up at her with a start as she held the tray out.
"Poison dart...I mean...raspberry tart?" Elizabeth smirked.
Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst each took something off the tray and smiled pertly."Such a splendid party, Miss Eliza." Miss Bingley cooed as she took a bite."And all this helpful, womanly advice.I shall have to remember it all for when I marry."She laughed through her nose.
"You must have an excellent memory, Miss Bingley.I cannot seem to recall things I hear yesterday, let alone things I should have to remember for years."Elizabeth gave a shallow curtsy and went back to her chair hoping that soon those women would go back to wherever it was that they came from.
"Elizabeth, you must open this package now." Mrs. Gardiner requested."It carries all my best wishes for a happy marriage, my dear niece."
Elizabeth unwrapped the paper and unfolded the beautiful cream colored material.She held it up to look at it.It was a beautiful dressing gown with barely any sleeves and a sensuous neckline made of the softest material.She smiled in delight as she looked at it.
"It's beautiful, thank you so much." She kissed her aunt.
"I should think that way too cold for this weather." Mrs. Bennet authoritatively commented."A good flannel would be more appropriate, my dear."
"Mama."Elizabeth scolded her mother as Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst snorted.She found herself wishing the night would end so she could hide in her room and perhaps talk with Jane and Mrs. Gardiner.
The gentlemen continued their revelry at the Meryton pub.The bottle of scotch was by now completely empty and another was brought by the barmaid.Bingley and Hurst were locked in some amusing conversation, while Colonel Fitzwilliam and his brother continued to lecture Darcy on the art of having a good time.The whole party was by now somewhat inebriated to say the least.
"So Darcy, tell us.Where are you spending the wedding night?" the colonel inquired smugly.
"Oh no...torture and all the whiskey in Scotland could not get it from me." Darcy laughed back at his cousin."You'd be the last person I would tell."
"But Darcy!"Colonel Fitzwilliam stopped to laugh and take another drink."We are Family!"
"I know where."Bingley exuberantly exclaimed.
"Bingley!You wouldn't dare." Darcy challenged him.
"I might for another drink."Bingley laughed and Fitzwilliam poured him another.Bingley got up from the table, drink in hand and stumbled over towards Darcy's side.In his path he ran into one of the officer's who was in no better condition than Bingley.
"Sorry, old chap." Bingley apologized to the officer."Did I get you red coat wet?"
The officer just growled at him, looking for any excuse to start a tussle.Colonel Fitzwilliam stood up to intervene, trying to pull rank.The officer backed down and began to walk away when Bingley stuck out his boot and the officer went flying head first.Not since Wickham and the regiment had been in Meryton had there been such a brawl.Things were flying through the air and Bingley was crawling along the floor for the door.After a few minutes, Darcy and the other's made their way to the door having diverted the other's in the pub to fighting amongst themselves.Darcy grabbed Bingley by the coat and pulled him out the door onto the street.
"Fitzwilliam!" he scowled at the Colonel. Darcy and Fitzwilliam pushed Bingley up on his horse and they all headed directly back to Netherfield.By the time they got back, Bingley was all but passed out in the saddle.Darcy got off his horse and yanked Bingley down.He called to his cousins."Thanks gentlemen for the wonderful time, I shall not forget it!" And stormed into the house.Darcy and Hurst tried to push Bingley upstairs to his bedchamber.For every two steps they managed to get up, Bingley stepped back one.They finally left him to his manservant, and to suffer in silence.
Darcy entered his bedchamber and looked at himself in the looking glass."Oh my lord."He looked closer.What he saw was not a pretty sight.He was going to pay for having such a "good time".
Darcy's manservant opened the drapes at an early hour.Darcy crawled out of bed, sat on the edge for a moment, then crawled right back in.
"Sir, you must get up." His manservant protested.
"Please go away, for the love of god." Darcy pleaded.
"But sir, you told me yesterday that you had a breakfast appointment."
Darcy just groaned and rolled out of the bed.His manservant helped him up off the floor to a chair and he sat holding his head with both hands."I can't wait to get my hands on Fitzwilliam."He moaned to himself."Just wait until he gets married."
Darcy took a bath and got dressed.By this time he wasn't feeling too bad, except for the incessant pounding in his head.He thought he may just be able to tolerate Breakfast at the Bennets, and went to see how Bingley faired.
Bingley was in the drawing room sitting on a chair, his head thrown back facing the ceiling.Darcy could not help being amused at the site.
"Good morning." Darcy yelled and Bingley jumped in the air and held his head.
"Darcy, must you speak so loudly?" Bingley groaned.
Darcy sat on a chair across from him and leaned forward to take a better look."You look positively...green.Are you quite all right?"
"No, I am not all right!" Bingley growled at him and Darcy sat back in his chair with a smirk."I do not think I am capable of eating breakfast, Darcy.It is all my own fault, I'm sure I deserve to suffer."
"No Bingley, it is Colonel Fitzwilliam's fault for talking us into such folly.I should like to knock he and Hurst's heads together.Are you quite sure you are up to going to Longbourn?"
"Do I have a choice?" Bingley whimpered.
Darcy just shrugged and rubbed his temple.He got out of the chair and helped Bingley to his feet and pointed him in the direction of the door.
Longbourn was no different this morning as it had been yesterday, in fact Darcy thought it had gotten worse.People were still buzzing around like flies.He tried to imagine what they could possibly be doing, but his head hurt too much to do any thinking.He steadied Bingley and began pushing him through the throngs, as they followed Hill to the Dining room.They were both announced and politely bowed to the Bennets and all the guests.Darcy had to help Bingley stand upright after he bowed and played to the room with an uncomfortable grin.
"My dear sirs!"Mrs. Bennet exclaimed."We were wondering if you had gotten lost!" she tittered on ceaselessly.
Darcy and Bingley took their seats and Darcy scanned for Elizabeth at the crowded table.When he finally caught her eye, she furrowed her brows and rolled her eyes in Bingley's direction.Darcy just shook his head slightly, then was called back to conversation with Mr. Phillips.The servant poured Darcy a hot cup of coffee, an action which elicited a grateful sigh from its recipient.
"Mr. Darcy, have you heard the latest from Meryton this morning!"Mrs. Bennet was too glad to inform her future son-in-law's of anything she considered newsworthy.Darcy shook his head and glanced at Bingley, who looked only tolerable.
"Well."Mrs. Bennet said in disgust making faces with Mrs. Phillips."It seems that there was quite a brawl in one of the Pubs last night.Some officers passing through I believe."
Darcy felt every muscle in his face tighten.
"And the rumor is that it was started by some Gentlemen!" Mrs. Phillips added.
A barely audible "Shocking." came from Darcy's lips.He took a quick glance at Bingley who gave a moan and started sliding down in his chair.
"My dear!" Mr. Bennet called to his wife from the opposite end of the table, upon Elizabeth's prodding."Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley did not come to gossip.They came to eat breakfast."
Darcy didn't know if he was grateful for the interference or not.He even considered a little "hair of the dog" as a potential alternative to breakfast.
"Oh, yes...of course, Mr. Bennet.Andrews, please serve Mr. Bingley some eggs.Oh, and you must try the headcheese, too!" she smiled please with her talents as hostess.
Darcy saw Bingley getup from his chair, his hand precariously placed over his mouth.Bingley managed to squawk out "Pray, Excuse me!" and quickly moved from the room.
He saw Miss Jane Bennet get up from her chair and move towards the door.Darcy excused himself also and cut off Jane at the door.
"Miss Bennet." He said with reserve."Bingley is a little under the weather this morning.I'm sure it is nothing, just nerves and anticipation of meeting your relatives, I think."He smiled at Jane, who looked to him for help."I think it would be best if I took him back to Netherfield to rest and I'm sure by this evening he will be back to his jovial self."
She nodded her consent with an appreciative glance.
"Please tell your sister that I am looking forward to being with her tonight, and formally meeting all your family and friends."He left the house in search of Bingley.He found him leaning against the side of the house, asking God that if he were to live, he would never again touch another glass of scotch.
Bingley and Darcy spent the rest of the morning sleeping off the last night's jocularity.They would have to be at their very best this night.There was to be a gathering at Netherfield, attended by the families and close friends of both brides and grooms.Georgiana had arrived late that morning with Darcy's Uncle and Aunt Fitzwilliam, who were most anxious to make the acquaintance of Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Darcy's valet got him out of bed again to begin dressing for this evening's festivities.To Darcy's great delight, the headache that had plagued him earlier in the day was gone, and he was feeling quite chipper.It would be good to see his sister and share his joy with her.He was nervous about the introductions.Not that his beautiful bride-to-be would not capture everyone's heart as she had captured his, but with the social contrariety between the Fitzwilliam's and Bennets.Thankfully, his Aunt and Uncle were of a demeanor other than Lady Catherine De Bourgh.
He made his way downstairs to check on the guests arrival and see if Elizabeth was among them.He felt he owed her an apology for that morning, and again had spent a whole day without her companionship.Strangely,there had been times in the last week that he had thought Wickham's propensity towards elopement may have been more of a reasonable idea than he had ever imagined.At least one would only have to suffer everyone's disapprobation after the marriage.He sighed and laughed to himself for having such thoughts.Only one more long, agonizing, exasperating, frustrating, socializing day to go!
He found Bingley downstairs, talking with Colonel Fitzwilliam.
The Colonel called out to him "Darcy! You're looking remarkably well."
"And so are you, dear Cousin.No worse for wear I see."He looked over at Bingley."And has Bingley forgiven you for being the means to his downfall?Did he tell you what happened this morning at Longbourn?"
"Yes, indeed!" the Colonel had a talent for finding entertainment in practically everything."Once again we have diverted disaster at every turn.All is well."
"You must learn to speak for yourself, Fitzwilliam." Darcy smiled mischievously at his cousin."I shall make it my life's goal to plan your Bachelor party."
"Then I shall surely plan to avoid matrimony!" the Colonel conceded.
"I was under the impression that you had both planned to avoid matrimony!" a voice came from behind.Darcy turned around to see the smiling face of his Uncle."My son, I believe there is little hope for you, but Darcy, let me congratulate you on your very wise decision to take a wife."His Uncle reached out and shook hands affectionately with Darcy."I only hope you are worthy of this young lady?"
"This is my sincerest hope as well, sir." Darcy agreed.
Georgiana and Lady Fitzwilliam entered the room.Darcy went to greet them."Georgiana, how are you? And Lady Fitzwilliam."He bowed and then greeted them with a kiss.
"Oh brother, I am so happy for you and Miss Bennet!" Georgiana exclaimed with the exuberance of youth.
"She is so delighted she could hardly keep in her seat on the entire trip here!"Lady Fitzwilliam was a delightful creature. Very elegant, yet not of the elegance owned by Miss Bingley and her society."Where is your fiancée, Darcy?Georgiana has told me all about her beauty and grace, I am very anxious to see for myself."
"I believe she and her family are not yet here.You shall be the first to meet her upon her arrival."
More guests started to arrive and soon Netherfield began to resemble Longbourn in the numbers of people milling about.Servants were passing out apéritifs.One of them came up to Darcy and offered him a glass.
"Thank you, no." he replied and the Colonel laughed out loud.
Bingley came walking into the room again with his lovely Jane and Elizabeth on each arm.He brought Elizabeth over to Darcy and turned her over to her fiancé.She gazed at Darcy with the deepest look of love.He was amazed at her ability to take his breath away with only a simple look. It was only his Aunt's clearing of her throat that brought him back to earth.
"Yes...Lady Fitzwilliam...Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
The two women exchanged greetings and Elizabeth greeted Georgiana with all the affection of a sister.Lady Fitzwilliam and Georgiana then guided Elizabeth over to be introduced to the Earl and Darcy was left standing alone.He wondered if anyone would miss him if he decided to go and play a game of billiards.
He wandered about the room, looking over all the guests and greeted his in-laws to be.He conversed with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner a few minutes, then made his way to the refreshment table, ate something and had a cup of coffee.Lady Fitzwilliam finally brought Elizabeth back to him after a time.
"Darcy, forgive me.I was so enthralled with your lovely fiancée and so busy meeting her charming family, that I completely forgot about you!"Lady Fitzwilliam laughed at him and left the couple alone.
Darcy looked at Elizabeth in bewilderment.She smiled and touched the side of his face with her gloved hand.Darcy quickly looked around the room, and seeing everyone was otherwise engaged, grabbed Elizabeth by the hand and led her out of the room, towards the library.
"I know this is most inappropriate, but I am becoming a desperate man" he whispered to her once they were safe inside the library.
"I'm glad to see that Mr. Bingley...and you...are feeling much better tonight." She teased.
"Yes, thank you."He was humbled."Allow me to apologize for our early exit this morning.We should have made our excuses and stayed at Netherfield.But, a man will sometimes go to extremes for the love of a woman."
"I have packed all my belongings.There is a trunk to go to the inn and the rest can go on to Derbyshire."
"I will have the servants pick them up in the morning."
There was a dead silence between them.The separation of the last few days had definitely put a momentary stain on their relationship.Darcy thought Elizabeth did not look at all like herself.
"Fitzwilliam?"Elizabeth looked up at him her eyes glassy."You are not having any...regrets, are you?"
"Regrets?" he was confused."You mean, about us? About marriage?"
"About marriage to me.About marriage into my family?"
"Definitely not!What has made you think such a thing?"
"We have hardly spoken two words to each other this night, it is all so very different from the first days of our engagement.Oh!" she stomped her foot"It's all so very frustrating!"
The thought finally hit him... "And you?Are you having regrets?"
"Oh, good heavens.No!"she took in a deep breath.
"This is absolute nonsense." He fumed."Elizabeth, know that I love you and I want nothing more in this world than to have you as my wife.I am convinced I will never regret our union.I have to admit I've found these last few days of our courtship highly regrettable."
She closed her eyes in relief."Yes, indeed.I think if I hear one more piece of good advice as to how to be the perfect wife, I shall scream!"
"Elizabeth, come away with me tomorrow...just for an hour or two." Darcy pleaded with her.
"Fitzwilliam." she was on the verge of weeping."Believe me, I want nothing more than to be alone with you, but...all these people...never giving us a moments peace.I cannot believe that with one more day to go until I marry the man I love, that I am so...miserable!"
He took both her hands in his."I don't care if you have to sneak out of the house.I will bring the carriage and we will deliver your trunks to the inn ourselves, then there is something in Meryton we must do."His eyes burned her very soul.
She nodded her head in consent."I will do it...somehow."
"Will you allow me a kiss.Something to carry with me until tomorrow?" he grinned at her.
"I thought you would never ask?"
At that moment they both realized that all these attentions would not last forever.That there would come a time when they would be at peace, able to spend time in intimacy.That time was not so very far off.
Their moment of passionate solitude was fleeting, for Mrs. Gardiner had come in search of them, bearing the sad tidings that they had finally been missed.They regretfully parted and joined the others, to be socially abused for a few hours more.
Darcy kissed his lovely bride.He had tolerated all the social intervention he could for this very moment.But it was completely worth the wait.They were finally man and wife, sharing this first moment together.He slowly opened his eyes to gaze into hers."Elizabeth".He looked at her face, only to see...ANNE DE BOURGH!"
"AHHHH!!!" He woke up with a start in a cold sweat, hardly able to breathe. He scrambled over to the side of the bed and lit the candle, then took a quick look around him.Falling back into the bed, he stared at the ceiling, fully and completely awake.He got up to put on a pair of trousers and his shirt and go downstairs for something to eat and drink.
When he opened the door to the kitchen area, he saw Bingley sitting at the servants table, a glass of cider in his hand.
"Bingley?What are you doing down here?"
"I should ask you the same question, Darcy?" he didn't look very jolly.
Darcy sat down across the table from him and poured himself a glass of cider."I had a dream."He told Bingley."A nightmare, really."
"I can't seem to even get to sleep." Bingley stared into space, wide eyed."Darcy, I wonder at myself?Do you think I will make a good husband?"
Darcy just raised an eyebrow at him in question.
"I've never been known for my responsible demeanor." Bingley lamented."Unlike, yourself."
"Yes, well I've been allowing everyone's concepts of my responsibilities to cloud my thoughts for way too long." He admitted."Maybe we won't make the perfect husbands, but we are very fortunate to have such loving and understanding wives." He smiled at the image of Elizabeth in his mind.Bingley was lost in his own thoughts of his precious Jane.
"Are you going to eat those cookies, Bingley?"said Darcy, waking him up from his daydream.
The two friends sat there eating cookies and drinking cider until the early morning hours.They laughed and talked of their futures, made a few conjectures as to what makes a good husband and when they finally went back to bed, they slept like babies.
Elizabeth awoke the next morning with more enthusiasm than she had managed to have in the last few days.The hope of spending an hour or two with Darcy greatly livened her spirits.She put on her shawl and hurried to Jane's room.She would need Jane's assistance with her escape plans.Standing before the door, she rapped lightly, then entered.
"Oh Jane!" she heard herself say as she rushed into the room.She was startled by the presence of her aunt."Aunt Gardiner!, please forgive the intrusion, I did not know you were here."
"It is no intrusion Lizzy." Jane assured her."Aunt Gardiner, is very kind to allow me to vent my frustrations to her."
"Frustrations?Oh Jane, I've been so preoccupied with my own feelings.What is the matter?" Elizabeth sat on the bed next to her sister and held her hand.
"Lizzy."Jane just looked down at the bed."I find I am losing my patience with everything and everyone.Last night, Charles and I had a small disagreement, about living arrangements after our marriage.It was nothing really, It is just that I do not think I wish to spend as much time in London as he anticipates we should.I would be much happier settled in one place."
"Oh Jane!"Elizabeth hugged her tightly."I find my patience wearing very thin myself.Last night I accused Fitzwilliam of wanting to back out of our engagement!" she sighed at herself."I was being a ridiculous creature, all because of my present frustrations at being so consumed by wedding details and guests and introductions...and advice."
"Girls."Mrs. Gardiner thought this had gone far enough."I know this is a very stressful time for the both of you...and for your young men.But it should be a time of joyful anticipation."She looked at each of her nieces with a comforting smile."You both are the most fortunate of women!You have managed to secure the love and admiration of two of the most upstanding young men in England.Tomorrow, you will become their wives and begin your own lives together.Do not start your lives off on the wrong foot.You must remember why it is that you love them.I know you have the happiest of times to look forward to."
Both Elizabeth and Jane were properly humbled.With all the commotion of the last few days it had been easy to lose sight of just why each of them had fallen in love.
Elizabeth bit her lip."Mr. Darcy wishes me to join him in delivering my luggage to the inn where we are to stay tomorrow night.He also said there was something we must do in Meryton.I already promised him I would go." Her eyes pleaded with her Aunt.
"Then we will have to send you on your way.I'm sure a little time together will do you both good.Jane, there is also something I need from Meryton.I am sure you and Mr. Bingley will not mind taking your Uncle's carriage to fetch it for me?"
Both girls threw themselves at their Aunt, simultaneously, in the greatest relief.Then they hurried to dress, while Aunt Gardiner, smoothed the way for their separate departures.With the sly assistance of their Uncle Gardiner, Jane and Bingley departed for Meryton and Elizabeth and Darcy for the inn.
Once in the carriage Darcy felt a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.He allowed the good humored teasing of his beloved, even relished in it, in fact.At least he was with her and they were alone.
"I am very happy to see you looking like the woman I fell in love with, Elizabeth."
"I am very happy to be with the man who loves me!" she giggled."So, this inn is very quaint, is it?What is your idea of quaint, sir?"
"I believe it is far from any family member, either Bennet or Darcy.We are not acquainted with the proprietors and there will be no engagements to attend there...well, at least no engagements with anyone, excepting ourselves."
Elizabeth leaned back in her seat and smiled brightly.How she anticipated their night at the inn, and she could see the anticipation in his eyes as well.It was wonderful to revel in romantic ruminations for the moment.It made her heart beat faster in confident expectation of belonging to him completely.
"Elizabeth?"his voice brought her back."Will you do me the honor of accepting this?"He took her hand and placed the ring upon it."The stone belonged to my mother.It was my father's engagement present to her.Now I give it to you.I had it reset and inscribed the band from me to you."
She looked at it in awe. She had never seen anything like it.The stone was a square diamond set in a gold band which was engraved on the outside with intricate scrolled leaves.She slipped it off her hand and looked inside.
"Faithless to none, yet faithful to one." She read in a whisper.
With the sternest of expressions he simply said, "I have always been, and ever shall be, yours.I promise."
"Fitzwilliam, I had finally calmed myself down...and now I think I am going to cry again!I love you!"her emotional faucet wrenched on again.
He handed her a handkerchief and watched her helplessly as she alternated between sobs and laughter.
Darcy pondered aloud in amusement, "My dear, tell me now? Are you going to cry or laugh during the wedding ceremony?"
"Elizabeth!Mr. Darcy!Where in heaven's name have you been?There is so much to be done and when I went to look for Elizabeth she had quite vanished!And Jane and Bingley too!"Mrs. Bennet scolded them, waving her arms up and down like a bird.
Darcy took up his usual spot at the window, on just such occasions as these, and Elizabeth slipped back into her usual annoyed deportment.All was back to the way it had been.People still milling about in the hallways, doing god knows what, Mr. Bennet locked up in his study, and Mrs. Bennet cackling like a hen.
"Mother!Mr. Darcy and I went into Meryton.He wanted me there so that my wedding band could be sized." Elizabeth was besides herself in mortification.How dare her mother be so commanding.
"Well...I suppose in that case it was justified.But you are not to wonder off again."She shook her finger at Darcy."Mr. Darcy's cousin has been here looking for him, and Mary wishes to know what selections to play and sing this evening."Darcy felt a pang of terror at the latter comment.
"You need to be fitted for you gown one more time, Lizzy.And oh yes, Mr. Bennet wishes to speak with you...Mr. Darcy."
Darcy turned around and looked at Mrs. Bennet, then at Elizabeth.What could Mr. Bennet wish to see him about?Elizabeth looked as if she was about to cry again.Darcy submissivelywalked off to Mr. Bennet's study.As he passed Elizabeth, he handed her another handkerchief.
Darcy took a deep breath and knocked on the study door.
"Enter!"came Mr. Bennet's voice."Mr. Darcy, thank you for honoring my summons."
Both men stood standing and wondering what to say and do next.Neither of them had developed much of a relationship with the other, owing to the fact that they were both a little intimidated.Mr. Bennet, by Darcy's stern deportment.Darcy, by the fact that Mr. Bennet was his fiancée's father.
"Won't you have a seat?" Mr. Bennet finally motioned to a chair.
Darcy sat down, and Mr. Bennet sat behind his desk and folded his hands in front of him.Both men sighed.You could almost cut the silence in the room, with a knife.
"Drink?" Mr. Bennet asked him.
"Thank you, no."Darcy fidgeted with his ring." I have become a tea totaler, as of late."
Finally, Mr. Bennet mustered the courage to try to come to the point of his summons."Mr. Darcy...as I think you are aware, Elizabeth, is very near and dear to my heart.I do not wish to see her alarmed or frightened in any way."
"Sir?"Darcy was confused and almost positive he didn't like the direction this conversation was taking.
Mr. Bennet cleared his throat, and searched for just the right words."Son,I know that you have not had the advantage of fatherly advice for some time.I wish to offer you my knowledge and experience in the ways of conducting yourself in a marriage...as a newlywed."
Darcy could feel the blood draining from his cheeks."Good god" he gasped silently to himself. He forced himself to speak."Sir?May I have that drink now?"
Mr. Bennet handed him a glass."Feel free to ask me anything?Anything at all."
"I cannot think of...anything...sir."He choked out as the first sip burned his throat.He didn't dare look his future father-in-law in the eye, for fear of laughing, or perhaps crying.He rather wished he had his handkerchief back!He eventually took pity on Mr. Bennet and himself and fabricated a response."Sir, if it is any consolation, my uncle and I have...talked."
"Excellent!There are many young men who do not know that life is more that sexual combustibility.I know you will respect Elizabeth, as a woman.Well then, man to man, I have enjoyed our conversation and I look forward to having you in the family."Mr. Bennet stood up and extended his hand.
Darcy shook his hand and bolted for the door, but turned around before opening it."Sir?Tell me, have you spoken to Mr. Bingley on this very subject?"
"Not as yet, but I believe I owe him the same courtesy." Mr. Bennet beamed with self worth.
"I will gladly go and summon him for you...this very moment, sir."That being said, he quit the room.
Elizabeth was standing in the hallway waiting for Darcy's departure.She had his handkerchief in hand, wringing it nervously this way and that.She begged him to tell her what had been so important for her father to summon him.
"Elizabeth, please do not ask me.You do not wish to know it?" he smirked."Do you know where Bingley is?"
Colonel Fitzwilliam and Georgiana joined the party at Longbourn on this the eve of the wedding.It was a very casual and early affair, for Mrs. Bennet had instructed that Jane and Lizzy needed time that evening to prepare for the wedding in the morning.Supper was light and tensions were eased, which suited Darcy rather well.Elizabeth and Georgiana both played the pianoforte and to Darcy, this was an evening to be preferred to the last several. He was rather relieved that on the next morning, he would wed the woman that he had loved for what seemed like so long.
"Well, Darcy."The Colonel took up a place next to him by the hearth as Elizabeth and Georgiana were at the pianoforte."Tomorrow will find you the most fortunate of men."
Darcy smiled warmly at his cousin."Yes, Fitzwilliam.It shall."
"I do hope one day to fall in love and know your joy." For all the Colonel's protests against marriage, he was truly envious of Darcy.
"I am convinced that it will not elude you much longer, Cousin.For there is a woman waiting out there to tame you.I can feel it in my bones."Darcy teased him.
Darcy turned around to keep his eye on Elizabeth, but as he met with the pianoforte, he saw Elizabeth's sister Mary sitting down to entertain the room with her talents.Elizabeth was walking towards him, holding onto Georgiana's arm, with a look of despondency.
"Miss Bennet." He exclaimed as he walked over to the pianoforte."It is very gracious of you to play for us tonight.However, if you are agreeable, my cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, has an excellent voice and would be most honored, I'm sure, to engage in a duet with you."
Mary looked at him is disbelief.She had never heard him string so many words together, at one time.However, when she looked at the Colonel and saw his happy manners, and willingness, she consented.
"That is, Fitzwilliam, if you would do the honor of accompanying Miss Mary Bennet." Darcy baited him well.
"Well, if Miss Bennet would not mind, it would be a pleasure" he politely bowed and accepted the challenge."I have never had the pleasure of hearing you play and sing, Miss Bennet. Pray tell me what songs you know and I will attempt to do them justice."
Darcy muttered the word "Incredible" with a smile and resumed his place, knowing full well triumph would soon be his.He still had a score to settle with the good Colonel for the Meryton affair of the other night.He did not wish to cause any embarrassment to Miss Bennet, but just this once he allowed some impropriety in his actions and "lived a little".Elizabeth could not believe what she had just witnessed.She stood in the corner holding onto Georgiana, muttering in disbelief.
"It is less than fifteen hours until I am to wed this man...and he has gone quite mad!Quite mad indeed!"
Darcy took his place between his sister and Fiancée and relished in the moment.Miss Mary Bennet made her selection and the good Colonel agreed.She began to play and the room went still.She gave the cue to the Colonel and they began their duet.Darcy enjoyed every moment that the Colonel struggled to keep Miss Mary on key.It was true, he had an accomplished voice, but he was no match for the talents of Miss Mary Bennet.Darcy stood savoring his victory, however small it was, and showed his appreciation with a thundering round of applause.
Neither Darcy nor Bingley spoke much as they rode back to Netherfield that night. It was clear and cold and the mist of the horses breath billowed around them.They both thought of how they had come to Hertfordshire.Bingley, in search of a place to settle and Darcy as just an advisor to his friend.Tomorrow marriage would make them brothers and it seemed only fitting that they would enter into it together.Their friendship had been a lasting one, even with the odds of their respective dispositions working against it.They approached Netherfield and left the horses with the attendants.As they walked up the steps to the front entrance, Darcy stopped Bingley with his hand.
"Bingley, I wish you every joy that your new life has to offer.I would never have expected, when we came to this place, that things would turn out this way.You will be an excellent husband and master of your estate, and I believe if I ever need any advice at all...I will come to you."
Bingley was honored.He had relied on Darcy's good opinion for so many things that he had never realized that he may have good opinions of his own.He smiled in appreciation.
"I should think that Elizabeth will miss her family, when we are in Derbyshire.Will you and your wife visit us soon?" Bingley nodded his assent."Good night, Bingley.I think I shall wander about a few moments out here, then I think I shall just go to bed."
"Good night, brother."Bingley smiled and walked into the house.
Darcy took a turn around the outside perimeter of the house.Looking up at all the windows which were alit. He remembered how he had traveled this route many a day and night, thinking of the beautiful brown-eyed woman who had struck his fancy.Debating whether or not he had actually fallen in love with her, or if it was just a spell he had fallen under.Contemplating the disapproval of his relations, if he were to disregard their wishes, to do what temptation offered him.Wondering if she ever thought about him also.
He had suffered many realizations since then.He had discovered that reality could be a cruel thing, but also that it could end in fulfillment and happiness.He thought of Lady Catherine and his cousin, but only briefly as to not destroy his good mood.He thought of Miss Bingley, and how reality must have been a cruel awakening to her as well.But mostly he anticipated his own happiness and wondered what his future had in store for him.He had come full circle, around the house and decided he had better try to get some sleep.
There was a soft knocking on the door, which Darcy did not hear.His valet had just finished helping him tie his cravat and was brushing off his formal coat.Darcy just stared into the looking glass at himself.
"What? What is it, Stevens?" he jumped at the sound of the valet's voice.
"The door sir? Someone is knocking on the door!"
Darcy raised an eyebrow and went to see who it was.Georgiana stood outside in the hallway.
"May I visit with you a few moments? That is...if I would not disturb you." She said timidly.
"Come in.You are never a bother, Georgiana.He led her into his dressing room, then went back to fussing with his cravat."Blast these things!They are always crooked.Perhaps it is my neck that is crooked?"He made a face at himself in the looking glass.
Georgiana giggled at his impatience."Are you nervous, brother?"
"Nervous, me?Oh good god, no!"He looked back into the looking glass feeling guilty for the little white lie.He turned around to face his sister again."Well, perhaps just a little." He laughed."You know how well I fare in a crowd."
"I'm sure you will not notice anyone else...once you have seen your bride!"
"You have quite a romantic soul, little sister." He teased her."How do I look?Will Elizabeth approve, do you think?If she doesn't...well...it is just too late!"he allowed his good humor to carry him away for the moment.She giggled and the two of them passed a half an hour most agreeably, just by themselves.
Bingley rapped at the door and pushed it open upon hearing all the laughing inside the room."Are you having a party without me?Are you ready, man?It is time to go to the church...now!"
Georgiana and Darcy started laughing at Bingley, who was even more nervous looking than Darcy had been. Bingley and Georgiana grabbed Darcy and pulled him out the door, while he was still fussing with his clothes.
The grooms waited in the room off to the side of the alter in the front of the church.Darcy paced back and forth and Bingley just watched him.
"I say Darcy, you will be quite worn out, if you do not stop that tedious pacing."
"I am not pacing, Bingley!" as he stopped and looked at his friend."Dear god, what if something goes wrong?What if Mrs. Bennet drives Mr. Bennet into an attack of apoplexy? It is possible, you know!"he began pacing again."What if..."
"Oh Darcy, really!The only one having an attack of apoplexy is YOU!"
At that moment the minister called them into the church to begin the ceremony.They took their places in the front and Darcy looked at all the people in the church.He began to sweat and his hands went numb.However, even though he did not see Elizabeth in the back of the church, he heard her laugh and he felt some relief.When he finally did see her walking towards him to take her place at his side, he only had eyes for her.She was composed and calm, and had a blush about her cheeks that made her appearance radiant.They turned to face the minister, and for the first time in his life, Darcy thought he would bawl.He had watched all of her emotional upheavals of the last few days and had thought them charming.Now here he was at his own wedding ceremony, close to breaking down.He stood very still and straight, afraid to move, trying desperately to come to grips with his composure before he was asked to say something.
They came to the portion of the ceremony when he was to recite his vows to her.He took a deep breath and faced her.She looked at him with such love and devotion, but she had suspected his nervousness and tried to convey to him a soothing look.He fell into her trap and beamed back at her, happy to be lost in her eyes.The minister recited the words and Darcy carried it off, as long as Elizabeth had him locked in her gaze.Elizabeth heard him exhale as the minister pronounced them man and wife.She couldn't help but giggle at him and he laughed a little at himself.The ceremony was over, yet their marriage just beginning.They both knew that the best laid plans, sometimes go awry, which had been true until that moment.The events of the last few days just did not matter anymore.
The two happy couples spent a good portion of the rest of the day, visiting with their friends and families at Longbourn.Darcy did not mind being on his pedestal right then, for lovely Elizabeth was his, to have and to hold, and he did not mind hearing about it.Her family did their best to remain in good social graces on this occasion and made no attempts to outshine the Brides and their Grooms.Mrs. Bennet, however, was heard on occasion to remark on how lucky she was to have three daughters wed.
Bingley and Jane soon made their excuses and departed for Netherfield.Elizabeth and Darcy stayed to wave good-bye and to console her mother.
"Mama...I believe that we too shall be on our way!She explained to her mother again that they would be at church on Sunday, two days from now and that after church, they had planned to begin their trip to Pemberley.Darcy helped Elizabeth into the carriage and waved good-bye, for a few days at least, to their family and friends.
It was not all that far to the inn and they used the time in the carriage on the way to steal a long kiss and reminisce on the days events.When they walked into the inn, they were greeted by a smart looking older couple, the proprietors of the inn, Mr. and Mrs. Dickenson.They were treated to a wonderful supper, all by themselves in the dining room, since they were the only guests at the inn this night.They laughed and talked and flirted with each other, as most newlyweds do.Mr. and Mrs. Dickenson kept their distance and only intruded when there was food to be brought or dishes to be cleared.Finally, their conversation came to a halt and they both found themselves anxious to be completely alone.
"Will you allow me some time to change, husband?"Elizabeth shyly requested of him.
"Of course.Will half an hour be sufficient?"
Mrs. Dickenson accompanied Elizabeth upstairs to their rooms, while Darcy remained at the table, lightly tapping his fingers.
Mr. Dickenson interrupted him."Mr. Darcy sir...we will not bother you tomorrow, just ring for us when you are in need of something and we will quietly see to it."Darcy gave him an appreciative smile."Oh, by the way sir.This message was delivered for you earlier today."
"For me?" he sighed in abhorrence, for who could know where they had intended to stay.He slowly opened the letter and read it.
The last laugh is on you, for I have discovered your whereabouts, since you so rudely declined to disclose it.However, the information I needed was only to send along a bottle of the finest contraband French champagne for you and your bride to enjoy on this night.Much joy and happiness!
P.S.Your bride was certainly a vision in white this morning.May I suggest that you limit yourself to one glass of champagne, for you must be able to keep up your part of Hurst's prophesy!
Darcy threw the letter on the table and began to laugh.He sat there for ten minutes laughing to himself, almost in tears.Mr. and Mrs. Dickenson stood in the hallway listening to him, shaking their heads in wonderment.After he composed himself, he walked out into the hallway and up the stairs to their rooms.
Darcy quietly opened the door and stepped into their rooms.There was a roaring fire in the fireplace and a delightful sitting area by it. The room itself was not fancy, but rather romantically rustic.Darcy smiled when he spied the champagne and two glasses sitting on a table.He looked around the room, but his wife was no where to be seen.Darcy assumed she was still in her dressing area, so he proceeded to open the champagne.
Elizabeth was indeed still in her dressing room, staring at herself in the looking glass.Fixing her hair this way, then that way, letting it fall on her shoulders and making faces at herself."What a ridiculous creature I am!" she whispered to herself.She wanted to look perfect for him.She had on the gown her aunt had given her, and she was pleased with how she looked in it.Now if only he would be pleased!She reached for the door handle to the main bedchamber, then faltered and quickly took another look at herself.She heard the cork on the champagne pop and she jumped in the air and grabbed her chest in shock.She took a deep breath and tried to bring herself back to that calmness she had possessed during the wedding."What must he think of me?" she muttered to herself."He is waiting and here I am still in my dressing room.You are just a little nervous, is all." She told herself in the looking glass. She had always thought with her heart, why should this moment be any different?
Darcy removed his watch fob and placed it on a dresser, underneath the looking glass.He removed his coat and threw it across a chair, then stared at himself in the glass.He had the same strange feeling in the pit of his stomach.The one he always had whenever he saw Elizabeth for the first time after a separation.He tried to clear the jumble that was in his head.He wasn't thinking anything in particular, visions just flew in and out.He had always been a man who was sensible in his thoughts, and rarely ever thought with his heart.He had been taught to analyze the situation, then take the appropriate action.He realized that this philosophy was not appropriate at the moment.He wasn't sure what to take off next, so he procrastinated and stood there looking at his reflection.A reflection behind him caught his eye, and he tried to remember to breath in.He stared at her image in the glass, she was standing still, just staring at him.
He took that as his cue to turn around and face her.He tried to think of something to say, but every time he started to speak, his mind told him it was not the right thing.He just stood there looking at her and his hands went numb again.She stared back at him, then turned away unable to match his gaze.
"Uh...would you care for a glass of champagne?" he finally brought himself to say something.
"Yes!" she smiled.
His hand shook a little as he poured two glasses, then he picked them up and walked towards her, handing her one.She took a small sip and placed the glass on the table.
"You are more beautiful than I have ever been able to imagine.I have never seen you look..." his voice trailed off and he sighed.He put his glass down without touching it's contents.
She looked up at him, noticing his nervous reactions.She smiled when she recognized the naiveté he possessed in matters of his heart.It was one of the things she loved about him, once she had understood it.She took a deep breath and found some calm and clarity to the moment.She reached out and touched his cheek and let her hand caress his face down to his chin.She moved closer to him and intoxicated his senses.They began to discover the love that unites two people for an eternity.
She reached over and touched his cheek again, then followed the curve of his face to his cleft. He slowly awoke to see her smiling at him with sleepy eyes."Is it morning already?" he whispered.She snuggled closer to him and closed her eyes.He kissed her forehead and drifted back to sleep.
The morning light had begun to creep into the room and he stirred to consciousness. "Elizabeth?"
She stirred slightly, not yet ready to awaken.
"Elizabeth?" he whispered in her ear."My love?Are you awake?"
"Yes." She moaned gently."No."
"What should we do today?"he inquired as he nuzzled her.
She giggled as she replied, "Anything we wish to."
When they finally left their bed they rang for breakfast.Darcy went to the window and opened the shutters.
"It has snowed!" He exclaimed with a grin.
Elizabeth ran down the stairs to the lobby of the inn, all bundled up in her woolen coat, scarf and mittens.Darcy had told her to meet him out front when she had finished dressing, but he would not tell her why.She was delirious with excitement."What could he possibly want to do outside?" she thought to herself.
"Good morning, Mrs. Darcy." Mrs. Dickenson exclaimed upon seeing her.
Elizabeth stopped short on hearing herself referred to as Mrs. Darcy.She laughed, her eyes sparkling in excitement."Mrs. Dickenson!Can you tell me where my husband is?
"He is outside, Mrs. Darcy.Waiting for you."
"Thank you!" she called out as she ran to the front doors.Her coat and woolen scarf flapping behind her.When she made it out the doors, she saw Darcy, bundled up as well, leaning against a horse drawn sleigh.He opened his arms and she ran over to him and he lifted her up onto the seat.They spent the remainder of the morning scouring the countryside in the sleigh.Darcy had a marvelous time at the reins, for it had been many years since he had taken out a sleigh.Elizabeth waved to people she didn't know as they whooshed past little villages and farms...
When they returned to the inn, they again retired to their rooms and snuggled under a blanket in front of the fire, drinking tea while Darcy read aloud from one of Elizabeth's favorite books.They later devoured every bite of their supper, for outdoor activity makes a person famished and crawled off back to their bed.
They laid underneath the warm quilts, nestling each other in silence.Elizabeth sighed, "May I ask you questions?"
"What?" he said, startled back to consciousness.
She leaned up on an elbow and looked at him."Questions?How can I know all there is to know about you, if I do not ask you?"
He smiled as he stared up at the ceiling."Ask away."
She settle back down into his arms."What is your favorite color?"
"What is your favorite tea?"
"Earl Grey." He chucked, for no one had ever asked him such things.
"I don't think I have a favorite flower." He looked down at her.
"Of course you do, everyone has a favorite flower."
He had to think about that one for a moment."Lupines, I think.Yes, Lupines"
"What do you love the most?" she ventured.
"You." He said resolutely.
"No, not a person.A thing or feeling or something like that."
"Elizabeth?" he scolded her.
"Fitzwilliam, please." She commanded.
He sighed and scratched his head."Fishing, books, discussing politics...sometimes, stealing down to the kitchen in the middle of the night, sandwiches, the violin, leaving London, a good glass of sherry after supper, shirts that don't itch, Yorkshire pudding,the way your hair smells"He nuzzled her hair.. "a broken in pair of riding boots, Pemberley, constellations, that feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see you, and quaint little inns...not necessarily in that order."
She was delighted with the response."Is there anything, else?" she giggled as she looked him in the eye.
"No." and he hushed her lips with a kiss.
The day they were to leave came entirely too soon.Elizabeth walked down the steps into the lobby and took a look around it.She wanted to always remember the way it looked.When she was satisfied that the memory was impressed upon her, she looked at her husband.
"Mr. Darcy, sir!"Mr. Dickenson, the proprietor of the inn called out to him."You have left us too much money, sir.Your bill only came to this amount." He pointed to his ledger.
"Mr. Dickenson, that is your tip, and may I say you earned it!"
"But, Mr. Darcy?You hardly called upon us at all...in fact it was the quietest two days my wife and I have ever spent!"
"Exactly, Mr. Dickenson.And worth every penny!"He grinned from ear to ear and took Elizabeth to the carriage.
They arrived just in time, to attend church that morning as they had promised her parents.They were content to sit in the back, somewhat shielded from all the nosy neighborhood gossips.When church was over they made their escape to Longbourn and waited for the others to arrive.
"Darcy!"Bingley bounded into the house to greet his brother."How are you?I trust your stay at the inn was splendid!"
"Yes, splendid.And you?" Darcy said with a wry smile.
Bingley nodded his assent with a smile and raised eyebrow.Jane went over to Elizabeth and hugged her.Each woman looking at the other and smiling with the radiant serenity that only a bride possesses.Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and the rest of the family entered the house in a commotion.
"Oh my dear Mrs. Darcy!"Mrs. Bennet exclaimed and hugged Elizabeth tightly, fawning over her, while Jane, Mary and Kitty gathered around them.Mr. Bennet walked up to Darcy and looked him sternly in the eye.Darcy matched his stare with some difficulty.
"Mr. Darcy!I trust you will take good care of my daughter?" he said emotionless.
"I will, sir." Darcy replied calmly wondering at Mr. Bennet's bad temper.
"I will know it if she is unhappy, sir."Mr. Bennet's expression softened."But mostly I will miss her."
Darcy severe expression waned as well, upon the realization of the sadness her father must feel."Sir...you are always welcome in my home, whenever it is convenient to yourself."
"Thank you, I believe I shall pop in from time to time...to check up on you!" Mr. Bennet slapped Darcy on the back and went to see his daughter.
Darcy heaved a sigh of relief and stood watching Elizabeth and her family.Mrs. Bennet turned around and looked at him.
"Oh! And Mr. Darcy!I quite forgot about you!" she exclaimed."You look very...very...satisfied."
Everyone turned around and looked at him.He flushed and he could see Elizabeth laughing at him with her eyes."I believe breakfast is ready" he stammered and turned to walk into the dining room.
The Darcy's carriage was ready to leave Longbourn.Elizabeth hugged her mother and tears welled up in her eyes when she kissed her father good bye.She and Jane held onto each other for some time."I promise I will write every week, Lizzy." Jane assured her.Elizabeth smiled at everyone and Darcy helped her into the carriage.She waved to all her family and they were on their way.They sat huddled next to each other, covered with a heavy blanket to keep out the cold.He took out a letter he had received from his steward informing him of all the business happenings since he had been away.She tried to work on embroidering a few handkerchiefs for him, to replace those she had destroyed the few days before the wedding.It was a long trip between Hertfordshire and Derbyshire.One they had both made before, in less happier times.This time however was different, for they made the trip together, anticipating their life ahead...and knowing that there were many quaint little inns along the way.
© 1997 Copyright held by author