Posted on 2011-03-10
Mr Bennet was sitting at his desk, reading for the third time his daughter's last letter. Elizabeth had been married to Mr Darcy for the past four months now, and seemed to be adjusting well to her new life. If he were to believe her words, Pemberley was a dream, her new sister the sweetest girl that ever lived, and her husband perfection personified. Yet, despite all her claims of happiness, he could not but worry.
He knew when she accepted Mr Darcy she thought herself in love with him. In truth, he knew she would never have accepted him otherwise. His Lizzy was nothing if not a woman of the highest integrity, and she could never have married him for mere mercenary reasons. No, whatever his own wife might think, Darcy's ten thousand a year had nothing to do with it. And still, he was not easy.
During the whole of their courtship, he had tried to talk with the man, tried to get to know him, tried to understand what Lizzy could see in him. And he had come up empty handed. No matter how much he tried, he still did not understand how his daughter could esteem him so much. Granted, he had saved them from utter ruin by forcing Wickham to marry Lydia. It was something that must speak of some goodness. But no matter how much indebted to him they were, he could not like the man.
Part of these feelings was resentment for taking away his favourite daughter. Mr Bennet was honest enough with himself to acknowledge that fact. Truth be told, he would have felt that way for any man marrying his Elizabeth. But there was more to it than just that. Mr Darcy's behaviour throughout the weeks leading to the wedding had been the foundation for Mr Bennet's uneasy feelings. He had observed him very closely, and try as he might, he could not but see a cold and proud man, no matter what Elizabeth said. He had spoken of love when he had asked for Lizzy's hand, but Mr Bennet had never been able to see it. The only thing he could notice was a slight change in his carriage when with Elizabeth. He did seem slightly more relaxed when with her. But apart from that, Mr Bennet could never see any particular regard for his daughter.
In fact, he was so uneasy about Darcy's feelings that he started to wonder why the man had even asked for his daughter's hand. Why a man of his consequence would ever ally himself with a family so decidedly beneath him? Slowly, a disturbing idea had made its way through his mind: had Elizabeth, thinking herself in love with the man, allowed him to place her in a compromising position that forced him to marry her? Not intentionally, of course, she was far too principled for that. But he could easily imagine that Darcy, driven by his desire, had lost his control for a moment and convinced her to let him kiss her. She would not have gone farther than a stolen kiss, Mr Bennet was certain of that, but if they had been seen, it might have been enough to prompt an offer of marriage from him. After all, he might not be Mr Bennet's favourite person, but the older man could not deny that Darcy had a very high sense of duty, Lydia's elopement once again coming to mind. He would be the kind of man who would assume his responsibilities, no matter what his feelings were. The more he thought about it, the more Mr Bennet became convinced that it was the only reasonable explanation for the man's behaviour.
If he was honest with himself, there was a small part of him that was screaming at himself that he was being irrational, and that all these ideas were only jealousy on his part because he no longer held the first place in his favourite child's heart. But his fears were stronger, and despite the letters he received regularly, where Elizabeth described her new life with enthusiasm, he worried about her. He knew a loveless life would destroy her, and he feared Mr Darcy would not be able to give her what she needed.
With a sigh, Mr Bennet looked back at the letter he had in his hand, and read again the last paragraph:
We shall be travelling to Town next week. I have to admit I am loathe to leave Pemberley now that spring is on its way and that the park and the woods are coming to life again. I have truly become attached to my new home and I shall dearly miss it. But London has its own charms and I shall be able to see the Gardiners again. And you will be happy to learn, my dear Papa, that Charles and Jane have invited us to Netherfield, since we shall be so near, and we have happily accepted their invitation! We have not yet decided on a date, since Fitzwilliam needs to deal with some business first, but we should arrive no later than the 18th of May, and stay for a month before going back to Town.
I shall stop my ramblings now, since I know that you must long to go back to your books! I shall write again as soon as we have settled a date.
Your loving daughter,
Mr Bennet folded the letter and put it back on his desk. She would be here in a month, with her husband. It would be a great opportunity to observe them together, and determine once and for all if he had been right in allowing her to marry Mr Darcy. With another sigh, he poured himself a nice measure of port, took his book, and plunged back into the world of Tom Jones.
Elizabeth Darcy sat back in the comfortable seat of the carriage and smiled at her husband and sister. She was sad to leave Pemberley, but the prospect of seeing Jane soon was a great compensation indeed. In fact, Jane living so far away was the only reason these past four months had not been entirely perfect.
She did not lie when she wrote to her father about her new life. She loved Pemberley, she loved her sweet, shy new sister, but most of all, she loved her husband. The more she knew him, the more she found to love. He was a fair Master, a devoted brother, and the most attentive of husbands. And then, there were all the little things that only intimacy could uncover: the way he would focus on his book when he was finding it particularly gripping; the way his dimples showed when he smiled (and he was smiling quite often when only in her company, or Georgiana's); and what she found the most endearing, the way he would hold her at night, and wake up the second she was not in his arms anymore. The first time it happened, she had thought it was just coincidence. But it had kept happening, each time she had awoken early and tried to leave their bed without waking him, to go for a walk. Every time, though she was certain he had been deeply asleep the minute before, he had woken up. She had told him about it one morning and he seemed embarrassed for a minute, before avowing that even in the deepest of sleep, he could feel her leaving him, and that the emptiness he felt then was enough to wake him. She had been so touched by his avowal that she had gone back to bed to kiss him, and they had been quite late going down for breakfast that day.
Of course, everything had not been perfect, especially during the first few weeks of their marriage. It had taken time to adjust to their new situation, and it had not been without a few arguments. In fact, knowing both of their characters, it was not surprising. But, after Hunsford, they had learned that talking was the best way to avoid misunderstandings, so talk they did. They had slowly built a trust, a bond that went deeper than anything she had ever known, or even thought could exist. They were each in the other's complete confidence, and she knew all of her husband's business. She realised theirs was a very unusual marriage, and she was grateful for it.
The carriage bumped on a stone and the movement brought her back to the present with a start. She looked at her husband and saw him watching her with a smile and a teasing spark in his eyes. She tried to hide her own smile, and asked in a serious tone:
"And what is it that you find so funny, sir? I do hope you would not dare laugh at your own wife?"
"Indeed I would not dare, Mrs Darcy! It would be most ungentlemanly of me to do such a thing, surely!"
She couldn't help but laugh. This was a side of her husband that was known only to her and Georgiana: he could tease as mercilessly as she.
"So, what had you so lost to everything going on around you that you were startled by a mere bump on the road?"
"I was just reflecting on how truly lucky I was to have you in my life." She turned to Georgiana. "Both of you."
Georgiana blushed with pleasure at her sister's comment, and Darcy took his wife's hand to kiss it
"No, dearest Elizabeth, we're the lucky ones."
As they finally approached the city, Darcy let out a sigh of relief. He hated travelling in a carriage, his tall frame not at all suited for such a way of transport. But the weather had not been favourable for riding, and if he was honest with himself, getting cramps in his legs was worth it if it meant staying in close proximity with his wife.
He smiled as he observed her. She was in deep slumber, and, in his opinion, absolutely adorable. As he looked at her, he thought back on the declaration he had made at the beginning of their journey. He really did think both Georgiana and he to be lucky to have Elizabeth in their life. Especially since he had been so close to ruining everything. Even after four months of marriage, he still woke up sometimes at night fearing it had all been a dream, and that she was still at Longbourn, hating him. Thankfully, those feelings were rapidly dissipating but at the beginning of their courtship, and in truth, during most of it, those fears had not left him. Her refusal had left him insecure where she was concerned and even after she had accepted his second proposal, there had been a part of him that had still waited for her to change her mind and tell him she that she did not love him after all and he was still the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed on to marry. Those feelings had left him even more reserved than before when they were surrounded by her family and friends, for fear of saying something wrong, though he had been very attentive, and even quite talkative when it was just the two of them.
Thinking back on his behaviour at the time, he realised he had probably given the image of someone cold and unfeeling, and he was wondering how his father-in-law would receive him when they would be back at Longbourn. He had noticed that the older man had watched him a lot, and judging by his growing coldness the closer they got to the wedding day, he had the feeling Mr Bennet had been close to taking back his blessing and calling the whole thing off. Luckily for him, he could not do that without creating a scandal, and after the affair with Lydia, it would have been too much for the family.
"Well, after reading Elizabeth's letters, he must know I have not made her miserable. There is nothing to worry about!"
Still, he was not completely at ease and would be sure to be on his best behaviour next time he met with his father-in-law.
As they neared Darcy House, he woke up his wife and his sister.
Nearly a month had passed since they had arrived in London, and Elizabeth had not had a second for herself. They had only staid a week in Town after the wedding, before removing to Pemberley, so all the Ton was eager to meet the new Mrs Darcy. The last few weeks had been a whirlwind of calls and parties, and to be frank, she had had quite enough of it and was very happy to leave the madness of London for the quiet of the country. She didn't like being the centre of attention and she had grown weary of the gossip always following her everywhere she went. She had not realised until then that her husband had truly been taking a risk marrying someone below his station. Despite what she had told Lady Catherine, she had always been conscious of their differences in status, and she could feel everyone waiting for her to make a mistake, and prove herself to be the lowly country miss they knew she was.
Luckily for her, her new aunt, Lady Eleanor, Duchess of Matlock, had taken a liking to her almost instantly, obviously approving of her character, and of the way she cared for Darcy. Thus, Lady Eleanor had guided her through her first meetings with the ladies of the Ton and applied her substantial influence in favour of showing her acceptance. Elizabeth could not deny it had become easier for her after that. The fact that she had the unwavering support of her husband had also been a great help. She had thought their bond could not be any stronger, but these few weeks having to battle the ill will of half of London had indeed strengthened it.
As she prepared to enter their carriage and start their journey to Hertfordshire, she felt like a big weight was being lifted off her shoulders. In a few hours, they would be at Netherfield, she would see Jane again, and everything would return to normal.
"You do look tired, Elizabeth. Are you sure you are well?"
"Yes Fitzwilliam, I am perfectly well. I do feel tired after spending the last few weeks being gawked at, but I shall be back to myself as soon as I see Jane again, I'm sure."
Elizabeth smiled at her husband, and for a second, he was transfixed. She really is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen!
Mr Darcy was ready to enter the carriage and join his wife and his sister when he was stopped by a courier arriving with great haste.
"Mr Darcy? A letter from Pemberley, sir."
"From Pemberley? Nothing serious I hope?" asked Elizabeth as her husband started reading.
"I'm afraid it is serious. Apparently, they have had some very heavy rains for the last two weeks, and the river has overflowed and caused extensive damages to the grounds and to the houses of the surrounding area. Quite a lot of people are now without shelter and Davies begs for my help." Mr Darcy looked up to his wife before adding: "I'm afraid I really have to go. But you and Georgiana go on as planned. I shall join you as soon as possible."
Elizabeth could not hide her disappointment when she answered. She knew he was right and that the people leaving near Pemberley needed him, but she couldn't help herself.
"Well, Georgiana and I shall try to bear with your absence as best we can. How long do you think you will be away?"
"At least a week, and more likely two."
She could not stop her reaction. "Two weeks!" Then she blushed in embarrassment. "Of course, you will need some time to put things back on track. We shall await you in two weeks time then. But I shall miss you terribly", she added with another blush.
"As shall I, my dearest Elizabeth."
She wished she could kiss him properly before leaving, especially since she would be deprived of his kisses for two long weeks, but she knew she could not do that in front of Georgiana and of the servants. She had to make do with the light kiss he deposited on her hand, before he closed the carriage door.
The next second, she was on the way to Netherfield with Georgiana, already feeling empty inside. How was she to survive two weeks without him?
As he watched the carriage leave, Darcy could feel the emptiness enveloping him. How was he to survive without her warmth and love for two whole weeks?
Sighing, he called for his horse, and readied himself for the journey ahead.
Mr Bennet watched Elizabeth as she poured him some tea. She had arrived five days ago and he had been observing her ever since. Of course, he could not see her as often as he would wish to, since she was staying at Netherfield, but what little he had seen had confirmed him in his opinion: Elizabeth was not happy. She did not laugh as much as she used to, and she did not look well. She had dark circles under her eyes and she would sometimes have a melancholy look that worried him. He was now certain he had made a huge mistake when he had agreed to this marriage and his Lizzy was now paying for it.
When he had first heard of her arrival, he had decided to try and meet her husband with as open a mind as he could. He had spent the few weeks between receiving the letter announcing her visit and her actual arrival thinking about his opinion of Darcy, and he had arrived to the conclusion that, since Elizabeth seemed to be happy with him, until he saw anything to the contrary, he would trust her judgement and at least give a chance to the man.
At last, five days ago, she had come. Alone. Or at least, without her husband, as Miss Darcy had been with her. And all his anger and resentment at the man had come back in a second. Her husband, she had said, had been called away for business at the last minute and could not accompany her. She had tried to look cheerful and unconcerned, but he could see her pain. In his mind, there was no doubt that she was only trying to save appearances, and that her marriage was already coming to an end, after only five months.
Mr Bennet's thoughts were running wild. If Darcy was abandoning his wife regularly on business already (and there was no doubt in his mind that it was a regular happening), he was loathed to think about what he would do after a few years. Knowing men in general, and men of his station in particular, he would probably end up taking a mistress soon after Elizabeth had given him an heir, and not bother with her again from then on. His poor Lizzy would then be left completely heartbroken, and he would have to bear with the guilt until his dying day.
He was feeling a rage building slowly inside him, unlike anything he had ever felt before. He would tell Darcy exactly what he thought of his behaviour the moment he would see the man again, then he would talk to Elizabeth and persuade her to come back to Longbourn. He did not care about the scandal it might cause, she was more important than a little gossip.
Elizabeth sat down after giving her father his tea, and tried to concentrate on the conversation going on between Jane and Georgiana. She thought she could hear something about the last concert they had been to while in Town, but she was not really attending.
She had hoped that when she was back with Jane, and to her childhood neighbourhood, she would be able to rest after her trying weeks in London. Unfortunately, she had soon discovered that she could no longer sleep without being held by her husband. It had been five days now since she had arrived, and she had not had one decent night's sleep. Added to the weariness she had already felt before coming, she was very near exhaustion. And the fact that she was missing him more every second of every day did not help matters. She hated being so despondent, and she knew Jane and Georgiana were starting to be worried about her.
Even the daily letters she received from Fitzwilliam were not enough to lift her spirits. He was trying to be cheerful but she knew him enough to be able to read between the lines: she knew he was missing her as much as she was missing him and it was only adding to her misery. She could only hope that he would be able to leave Derbyshire very soon, thus putting an end to their sufferings.
Mr Darcy entered his chambers completely exhausted. For the last five days, he had been relentlessly helping his tenants rebuilt their homes in the aftermath of the flood. That fact in itself would have been enough to explain his state of fatigue, but he knew it was not the main reason for it. The truth was, he had barely slept since leaving his wife. He had known when he left for Pemberley that this might be a problem. After all, if he awoke when she left their bed, what chance did he have of sleeping at all if he could not hold her?
He looked at the bed, sighed, and left the room. It was no use trying to sleep in their bed when she was not in it. He would go to the library, and spend the night there. There, he would at least be able to find some kind of entertainment to while away the hours until morning. Then, he would be on his way back to his wife. He had been separated from her long enough, Davies could handle whatever remained to be done without him.
Mr Davies and Mrs Reynolds were both relieved when the carriage transporting their master left Pemberley early the next morning. Though they would never admit it to anybody, the past week had been one of the most trying they had had to endure since they started working for Mr Darcy (or, in Mrs Reynolds's case, since she had started working for Mr Darcy's father). The master had been his usual self when he arrived, though of course preoccupied by the situation. But as each day passed, his mood had darkened to such an extent that, for the last two days, some of the maids had actually been afraid of him. He had even snapped at Mrs Reynolds just that morning! Both the housekeeper and the steward knew that he was tired by all the work he had done to help rebuilt what had been destroyed by the flood, and that he had obviously not slept much since arriving to Pemberley, but they had to admit they had never seen him in such a dark mood.
"Well, I do hope he won't have to be separated from Mrs Darcy again for some time, as I am not sure I could withstand again such behaviour from the master, at least, not at the moment!"
Mr Davies looked confusedly at Mrs Reynolds.
"Oh, come on, Mr Davies! You do realise Mr Darcy was only missing his wife, don't you?"
Mrs Reynolds then turned back and entered the house, leaving Mr Davies to ponder her words.
Mr Darcy felt his impatience growing as he saw the landscape becoming more and more familiar. He had hoped to make the journey to Hertfordshire in two days but some heavy rain had forced him to stop near Northampton and he had lost a full day of travel. Even though he was now fast approaching his destination, he could not help feeling more and more frustrated. If everything had gone according to plan, he should have been reunited with his wife for a whole day by now, and every second passing was adding to his torture.
At last, after another half hour of travel, his carriage stopped in front of Netherfield Park. He quickly alighted from it, and after a brief conversation with his servant about his trunks, he finally stepped inside the house. The butler greeted him:
"Mr Darcy, it's a pleasure to see you again. I hope you had an agreeable journey?"
"Yes, thank you Thompson. Do you know where I can find my wife?"
The butler was somewhat surprised at the brusque answer, though he concealed it well. Mr Darcy was renowned among the staff to be a very polite and proper gentleman. For him to speak in this manner, not even asking about his host, was definitely out of character. But Thompson was also a very observant man, and having noticed Mrs Darcy's despondency since she arrived, and clearly hearing the underlying anxiety in Mr Darcy's voice, he could well imagine what was causing both their distress. He smiled internally, wishing he were young, and in love again, and answered:
"Mrs Darcy was in the library when I last saw her, sir, though I cannot say for sure if she is still there."
Darcy was already half way to the library before the poor butler had time to finish his sentence. Finally, he would be able to take her in his arms, to kiss her, to bask in the love shining from her beautiful eyes. His torment was at an end.
But on entering the room, Darcy was frustrated anew by the sight greeting him. Instead of his Elizabeth, he suddenly found himself in the company of her father.
Darcy bowed rather stiffly. He vaguely remembered he had promised himself to change his father-in-law's opinion of him, but right at that moment, he couldn't care less if he had sounded proud and arrogant. He would think about it after he had finally been reunited with his wife.
Mr Bennet observed his son-in-law carefully. Mr Darcy's greeting had been as haughty as he expected and had fuelled his anger. How had his daughter ever been persuaded to marry such a disagreeable man?
"I suppose you've just arrived? How was your journey?"
He couldn't help noticing the young man's annoyance. He clearly was not in a mood to make small talk. Well, is he ever?
"My journey was not bad, sir, though I had to stop for a day because of the rain" He paused, then added:
"I'm sorry sir, I do not wish to be rude, but I had hoped to see my wife. I was told she was in the library. Do you know where I could find her?"
Oh, so you wish to see your wife now? What for? Do you need her to appear in some stupid party to keep up appearances? You leave her to fend for herself until you need her? It must be with very important people if it is so urgent…Well, I do not wish to embarrass Bingley in his own home, so I won't tell you what I think of you right now, but I won't leave my Lizzy to face you alone…
"Well, she was here until a few minutes ago, but she left me to take a turn in the garden. I believe she said she would go and inspect the roses."
Elizabeth had actually told him she was going to the pond, but Mr Bennet reflected that the time lost by Darcy looking for his wife in the wrong part of the garden should leave him time to find his daughter and offer her his support when she would finally meet with her husband.
Darcy thanked him and left for the garden. Mr Bennet waited a few minutes before going to the garden himself. He then made his way to the pond, taking a side lane that made the walk a little longer, but would conceal him from Darcy. It was not really like him to have recourse to such subterfuge, nor was it like him, to be honest, to exert himself so much over any situation. But, after seeing his favourite daughter so unhappy, he felt it his duty to protect her at least when she was in Longbourn, or in this case, Netherfield.
The walk to the pond took him longer than planned, and not just because he had taken a longer route. Earlier in the week he had sprained his ankle while visiting his tenants and while it was nothing serious, it still impeded him and made him walk rather more slowly than usual. So it was, that when he finally reached his destination, he could see Darcy had preceded him, and was almost level with Elizabeth.
What he saw then made him stop in his tracks.
Darcy left the library and made his way outside as quickly as he could. He took the path that would lead him to the rose garden and started walking as fast as he could. But when he finally reached it, Elizabeth was nowhere to be seen. He cursed. Where was she? His need for her was becoming unbearable. He just had to see her!
He had just decided to go back to the house when he suddenly remembered she liked to walk by the pond. Maybe she had grown tired of the roses and had gone there? Well, it was worth a try. He therefore set in that direction and before long he was in view of the water. And there, on the bank, reclining against a tree, Elizabeth was reading. Finally! His face broke into a smile, and he called her name. She looked up and smiled that radiant smile of hers before getting up and running into his arms. He held her tightly and buried his nose in her hair as the tension left his body. At last, all was well again in Fitzwilliam Darcy's world.
They stayed like this for a while, before Darcy, unable to contain himself anymore, took her head in his hands and kissed her with everything he had. She eagerly returned the kiss and they only stopped when the need for air became a problem.
"God, Elizabeth, I missed you so much!" he said, holding her by her waist again, and kissing her neck, her cheeks, her eyes.
"I missed you too Fitzwilliam! Promise me that you will never leave me again!" As the words left her mouth, she knew that what she was asking was ridiculous. Of course there would be other times when they would have to separate, but at that moment, she didn't care.
Smiling, Darcy answered in between kisses: "I promise next time something unexpected happens, I shall take you with me, if only to spare Davies and Mrs Reynolds!"
Elizabeth pulled her head back a little and looked at her husband quizzically. Disappointed at being deprived so suddenly of her, as he had certainly not finished kissing her, Darcy whimpered and tried to bring her mouth back on his. He succeeded for a few seconds before she backed away again, looking at him expectantly. He opened his eyes then, wanting to know why she had stopped kissing him, and met her questioning face. Puzzled, he asked:
"Is there anything wrong, my love?"
"Why would you need to spare Mr Davies and Mrs Reynolds?"
"Oh…" Lost in his passion, he had already forgotten his comment about the steward and housekeeper. Blushing slightly in embarrassment at what he would have to say, he answered:
"Well, let's just say that I was not in the best of tempers these past few days. I was tired from helping the tenants in salvaging what they could after the flood, I could not sleep because… well, because I could not hold you, and I was just missing you terribly and not bearing it well, and I'm afraid I was a bit short with the servants."
By the end of his explanation, he was blushing furiously. But Elizabeth could see he had not told her all, so she waited.
"And I…might have snapped at Mrs Reynolds just before leaving Pemberley," he added sheepishly.
"Oh dear! She was so proud of telling every visitor that she had never had a cross word from you since starting working for your family when you were just four!" Elizabeth couldn't help but laugh, though she was sorry for Mrs Reynolds.
"Yes, well, I'm not exactly proud of my behaviour. I know I was being ridiculous, but everything was feeling so wrong without you I just couldn't help myself. I shall apologise to her when we are back at Pemberley" he said, smiling.
"Do not feel too guilty! I was not faring much better, even if I hope I held my temper in better check! I was quite despondent while you were away, and I'm afraid Jane and Georgiana were starting to worry about me! And maybe my father too… he was looking at me oddly just this morning…"
But by then, Darcy had had enough of talking. He finally had his lovely wife in his arms, and he just wanted to go back on kissing her. Which he did, and Elizabeth really had no complaint about it. And it was quite some time before either of them remembered that he had, in fact, arrived from a long journey, that he really needed to change his clothes, and that the Bingleys and Georgiana had yet to be told of his arrival!
Mr Bennet stood in the middle of the lane, watching the events unfold before him first with bewilderment, then with fascination, and at last, with shame. Concealed as he was by a few bushes, he could watch and listen to his daughter's reunion with her husband without being seen. Truth be told, he doubted either of them would have noticed him, had he been standing right next to them, so entranced were they by the other.
At first, he could not believe his eyes: Elizabeth actually looked delighted to see her tyrant of a husband. And then he looked at him, and his puzzlement increased: the thunderous look that had adorned Darcy's face when he had entered Netherfield's library was gone, and in its place was the biggest smile Mr Bennet had ever seen! He was certain even Bingley had never worn such a bright smile. And to see that smile on Darcy's face was utterly astonishing!
He then watched in fascination when they started kissing with obvious passion, and he listened with growing interest to everything they said, from Darcy's account about his behaviour while away from his wife, to her explanations about her own behaviour since she arrived in Hertfordshire.
At last, after hearing his daughter's last words, and recalling his conduct with his son-in-law when he had arrived earlier, he felt ashamed of himself. Observing the couple as they resumed their ardent kissing, he finally admitted to himself that he had been driven by jealousy. Darcy had certainly never been as open in his affections as Bingley, but Mr Bennet now realised he had never seen the depth of love the man was obviously feeling for Elizabeth because he had never wanted to see it.
Leaving the place as quietly as possible, Mr Bennet slowly walked back to the house. He had a lot of pondering to do, and he was thinking that a glass of port in one of the comfortable seats of Netherfield's library was just what he needed.
During the ensuing days, Mr Bennet had numerous opportunities to witness the deep affection shared by his favourite daughter and her husband. Now that he was finally aware of it, it was glaringly obvious, at least for someone looking for it. Darcy was still very reserved when in company, but the adoration in his eyes when he was looking at his wife was clear for anyone that cared to see. As for Elizabeth, though still discreet, she was more open than her husband, and nobody could miss the glow of happiness radiating from her when she was in his presence.
Mr Bennet's respect for Darcy even deepened when he overheard (again!) a discussion between the couple about what was to be done for the tenants that had lost their homes because of the flood, and he realised, to his astonishment, that the young man not only shared his business with his wife, but even sought her advice on certain matters.
When the Darcys' visit ended, Mr Bennet had definitely reconciled himself with his Lizzy's marriage, and could at long last admit that he had been blinded by prejudice and resentment, and that she had been right. As he watched the carriage leave, he could feel his worries finally set at rest.The End