Posted on Monday, 18 July 2005
"Darcy!" Bingley called as his friend made his way to the door, "Where are you going?"
Darcy turned to him with a warm smile upon his lips, his state of happiness clearly visible upon his countenance. He chuckled lightly. "What a rather foolish question, Bingley, and from you of all people. I am to Longbourn, of course."
"At this hour?"
"My Miss Bennet is a very early riser."
"Oh! I see." Bingley replied, unable to disguise his minor disappointment.
"It will matter not in two days time," Darcy offered in sympathy.
Bingley smiled broadly in response and sighed dreamily: "Two days!"
"Yes, two days. And as your home will be inundated with arriving wedding guests later this morning and we shall likely not have a moment alone with our brides until after we are actually wed, I am taking advantage of this last morning of quiet. So I will not dawdle with you any longer, I have a far fairer companion awaiting me at not three miles distance!"
When Darcy arrived posthaste at Longbourn and Hill conducted him to the breakfast room he was more than a little surprised to find only Mr. Bennet, for he had made it quite clear to his bride that he would arrive at the earliest possible hour.
"Ah!" Mr. Bennet remarked dryly as he dropped a splash of milk into his tea. "Ever the eager bridegroom, Mr. Darcy?"
"Yes, well," he replied awkwardly, not without a slight blush rising to his face, for the hour was really not all that is respectable. "I had anticipated finding your daughter prepared for some early morning exercise, sir."
"She shall be down shortly then, I am sure. While my company will certainly be far less engaging, I have no doubt I can keep you at least momentarily distracted."
Mr. Bennet was fairly certain that the unsettling impact Lizzy apparently had upon the customary formality of such a formidable and tall fellow was one of the most amusing spectacles he had beheld in quite some time. It had been nearly two months since this same gentleman had gravely disturbed his equilibrium by claiming his favorite daughter's hand in marriage, but he had found the restitution of the same easy enough as he discovered that, as in everything in her life, his Lizzy had not at all disappointed him. Although upon further acquaintance he could not agree with her that Mr. Darcy was not a proud gentleman, he had most happily learnt that he was not at all a disagreeable one as had been so long supposed by all and sundry about the neighborhood. Indeed, he found his Lizzy had claimed as a husband a profoundly honorable, rather sensible and surprisingly clever fellow. Mr. Bennet, in truth, held great hopes for the union and for his own future entertainment, for there was something altogether delightful in witnessing this fine, reserved gentleman attempt to suppress the enthusiastic sentiments that perceptibly overwhelmed him whenever in the presence of his intended. It was a far more entertaining sight to behold than Bingley's candid and obvious besottedness.
With little choice but to await the arrival of his lovely bride, Mr. Darcy availed himself of a cup of coffee and sat near his future father-in-law, who made no attempt to engage him in conversation, choosing instead to continue perusing the newspaper.
Mr. Bennet's future son-in-law watched him for a moment in silence, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say he stared at the newspaper behind which Mr. Bennet sat. While thus engaged, the eager groom reflected on the very singular gentleman with whom he would soon be so closely aligned. A gentleman more different from his own excellent father was difficult to conjure. Mr. Bennet was so very sharp-witted, so remarkably intelligent, so indisputably charming, and yet so shockingly lackadaisical and negligent. He wondered not for the first time (nor would it be the last) that his Elizabeth and Bingley's Jane should be such superior, such excellent ladies, but it was a query he no longer indulged for more than a passing moment, and surely not one he felt at all inclined to vocalize. It mattered not. All that was of import was that in two days time the most worthy, delightful, charming and bewitching woman he had ever had the pleasure to know would be his wife. His wife, he thought with a deep private elation rising in his bosom-for while Darcy was certainly not of a disposition in which happiness overflowed in mirth, he did feel himself, since that enchanting morning when Miss Elizabeth Bennet had agreed to become his wife, verily flooded with happy expectation. A small, satisfied sigh escaped from between his lips.
Mr. Bennet could not, for all he might wish to, allow such a surprising display of lover's impatience to pass unremarked. Darcy allowed the good man's insolent indulgence with grace and they settled back into a quiet companionship.
"Sir," Darcy said abruptly, after a short time passed, "I hope you shall not feel it necessary to delay a visit to Pemberley. I am sure Miss Elizabeth will be desirous of your company at your earliest convenience, and of course I have every confidence that you would enjoy the library most particularly."
Mr. Bennet liked very much that Darcy continued to call his intended Miss Elizabeth; he saw it as a mark of the high respect the young man held her in and felt it boded well for her future at his side.
"Have no fear, young man, I shall arrive when I am least expected, of that you may be certain." He was about to inquire again of the library - for it sounded a slice of heaven to the older gentleman--but his fresh-faced daughter entered the room and it was immediately clear Darcy had no further wish to discuss his library.
"Good morning Mr. Darcy! Have I kept you waiting very long?" inquired Elizabeth.
Mr. Bennet smiled, not at his daughter, but at her bridegroom. For the change in his countenance upon her entry was notable: he seemed younger, kinder, less portentous. But Mr. Bennet did not have long to enjoy the exhibition of young love, for the betrothed couple soon made their way out into the chilly autumn morning.
As soon as they were alone and out of doors, Mr. Darcy gave his bride a more intimate greeting. When Elizabeth responded with unanticipated reserve, he could only assume that he had been, in fact, a bit inconsiderate the prior evening when he had so vigorously insisted upon such an early morning walk at a time of year the mornings were particularly chilly, and that she had been too generous to deny him his whim.
"You are not too cold? I am very selfish to want you all to myself before the others arrive," said he penitently as he took her hand and placed it tenderly in the crook of his arm, with no evident intention of forgoing their walk whatever her response.
"It is rather chilly, but I am glad of it and of your company," replied she, her eyes down-turned and looking most attentively to the path just in front of her feet and not at all at her betrothed.
Darcy cocked his head and furrowed his brow. She seemed a little impassive this morning, and very withdrawn. He thought on how trying the last few weeks had been with so many tedious teas and dinners before the wedding. Mrs. Bennet had once proudly boasted of the four and twenty families with whom they dined and it seemed that in a fortnight's time they were destined to be entertained by them all. He recalled how throughout these evenings Elizabeth had consistently and wordlessly attempted to shield him from some of her more boorish relations and neighbors, and concluded she must simply be tired from so much effort. He regretted that she felt it a necessary task, but was grateful nonetheless. With a protective instinct he pulled her closer toward him as they walked on, reckoning that this afternoon would be his opportunity to return her compassionate assistance.
"I anticipate the Earl and Lady Margaret to arrive with Georgiana in time for lunch, later to be followed by my cousins. Georgiana is so eager to see you again."
"And I her. I believe we began to be friends when I was in London last month."
"She admires you greatly Elizabeth. She has told me that she has never met such a confident and independent young lady. She is very pleased you shall be her sister."
Elizabeth took a deep breath; as of late she was feeling neither confident nor independent. "I am glad that she approves of me. You may bear the disapprobation of others with apparent stoicism, but I know you could not have borne the same from Georgiana."
Although the subject was a sensitive one, Elizabeth's tone was flat and dull. Darcy was sure he had never seen her so inhibited. He would have wished to assure her that his uncle's presence at their wedding was testimony to his approbation of their union, but she was too intelligent to not understand it was an unenthusiastic sanction for the sake of appearances. Indeed when Darcy had made Elizabeth's introduction to his family in Town a month earlier the Earl had managed to be both impeccably civil and entirely unwelcoming. Only his aunt had been kind and friendly. Perhaps she was just as weary as he with so many relations interfering in their discourse and disdaining their happiness. He was impatient to have her as his wife and in the warm, intimate sanctuary of their own home.
"When I returned to Netherfield last evening I found a letter awaiting me from Mrs. Smyth."
Elizabeth smiled, pleased he had turned their conversation to a less difficult topic. She was, in truth, feeling entirely overwhelmed and excessively susceptible as the day of her marriage approached. It was not in her nature to be such, and yet a kind of timidity had been building within her since they had been to London and she had experienced a suggestion of what her life was to be as Mrs. Darcy.
"She seems an excellent housekeeper. She was most helpful when we were in Town."
"You will be pleased with her. She has been in my employ these four years now and is remarkably efficient. She writes that all your instructions have been completed and she is quite certain you will be pleased with the results. I did make one minor change, which I trust will be to your liking."
"Certainly in your home you may make whatever changes you deem appropriate."
Such an acquiescent response bewildered Darcy and he replied with incredulity. "I suppose you could argue that today it remains only my home, but in two days time it most definitely shall be our home. What is more, Elizabeth, we are speaking of your chambers. I think you would justifiably find me impertinent for making any changes to your instructions." They continued for a moment in a less than companionable silence, before he added: "In truth this is a minor detail. Shall I tell you now or should you like it to be a surprise?"
"Whatever you wish, sir."
He had started the day in such an ebullient mood and he was growing ever more concerned with her decidedly dissimilar humor and he wished almost desperately to lift her spirits.
"Very well, I shall tell you. Do you recall when we were in Town and we visited the exhibition at the Royal Academy? You were so taken with Mr. Constable's paintings that I have purchased you a most lovely landscape so that when we are in London you need not miss your beloved country walks. When you awaken every morning you shall have before you a beautiful vision of the English countryside."
She thanked him with gentle sincerity for his thoughtfulness, but remained altogether quiet and withdrawn.
Disappointed by her muted response, he persisted, thinking he could distract her from her sullenness. "The painting will look lovely, as well, with the changes you have made to your chambers. As I said earlier, Mrs. Smyth is confident you shall be well pleased with the results."
"I do not doubt that I shall be, having spent so extravagantly! I still cannot comprehend that you should have insisted on such extremes."
Much against her inclinations, Elizabeth had allowed herself to be persuaded to spend rather liberally when redecorating what would be her chambers. But Darcy had insisted. The rooms had not been lived in for nearly ten years and had not been redecorated for much more than that, the late Lady Anne having spent so little time in Town during her last years of life. Elizabeth had been more than desirous of changing the décor, for as it was it did not suit her at all, but had felt the final expense too great. For his part, Darcy had delighted in requiring her to spend lavishly upon herself and relished each demonstration of sincere reluctance on her part, for it only confirmed what he had long known: her acceptance of his hand was disinterested and true.
"You were in no way extravagant, my love. You had best become accustomed to greater expenditures, at any rate." He saw her furrow her brow beneath the rim of her bonnet and suspected he had made a rather inelegant and thoughtless remark. "In any case, Mrs. Smyth has ensured me that your chambers are now quite elegant, very warm and very..." he paused a moment as she looked up into his face. She had the most delicate little frown on her lips and her beautiful eyes searched his face questioningly. The chilly morning air had leant an extra freshness to her complexion. She looked terribly lovely.
"Inviting," he added softly. Elizabeth blushed and turned away.
They continued walking in silence and Darcy could not catch the expression on her down-turned face, covered from his view as it was by her bonnet's rim. In truth, Elizabeth found herself in a most unusual state of mind on this morning and speaking of her chambers simply reminded her of all that was to come. As their wedding morning approached she felt herself unexpectedly anxious, in general but most particularly about the wedding night. She could not speak of her concerns even with her sister Jane, for when they once briefly discussed it Jane had only said that it was so delightfully sweet to be kissed by the man one loves, she could not imagine the wedding night any differently. Yet Elizabeth found herself uneasy. The tender liberties she had allowed during their time of betrothal had incrementally unsettled her composure, and now with the wedding only two days away she found herself in anxiety. Darcy's tender attentions had been delightful and pleasurable beyond her imaginings, but she could not deny to herself that she was, if not fearful, certainly discomposed by his ardor. Well contained as it was, when he embraced her she could feel such powerful emotions emanating from him and the term 'violently in love' never seemed so apt. He was all that was tender and gentlemanly and devoted, but she sensed his taut emotions and bridled passion and found herself fearful of being unequal to his demands when the time came. She had come to understand during their time of courtship how very much more worldly and experienced he was, how much her life was to change and at moments she felt an immaturity and innocence which was disquieting and seemed to be aggravated by the nearness of her wedding morning. She was highly displeased with herself for such a silly state of emotions.
They continued on, each engaged in their own thoughts, until Darcy guided them into a sheltered lane. Walking toward a tree he leaned his back against it and pulled her into his embrace.
"Are you still chilled? Let me warm you."
He did not feel her own arms twine around his waist as she was wont to do when he would hold her so, but instead saw as she clasped her hands together beneath her chin and rested her head against his chest. She had been so quiet and seemingly downhearted all morning and he knew not what to make of it, so different from his own mood of thrilling expectation as it was. He had thought to find her the same, so close to their wedding day.
"In two days you shall be wife and I shall be your husband. I must confess, before I knew you I should have never imagined that I could look forward to my marriage with such joyful anticipation. I have witnessed so few truly happy unions."
"Nor have I," she remarked softly.
"But ours shall be."
"Yes," she replied and he was gratified to feel her snuggle her head closer against him.
"You are very quiet this morning, Elizabeth."
Darcy released her from his embrace that he might see her face and took hold of her hands. "Are you troubled?"
She looked at him for but a moment and cherished his expression of tender concern. Looking away and blushing softly, she replied: "A little, perhaps."
"Tell me," he urged.
Elizabeth took a deep breath and gathered her courage. "I am a little embarrassed to say."
"I should never imagine you uneasy in any circumstance."
She smiled at his confidence. "I do not know that I should be pleased you believe me wholly without shame, but I do possess some demureness."
"There you go," he said playfully, "willfully misunderstanding me anew." When she did not respond with even a smile, he continued more seriously. "I did not intimate any such thing. I do, however, believe you courageous. Tell me, whatever it is. We shall soon be husband and wife and I would wish that between us there be no hindrance to conversation, that we trust one another to speak of anything."
"Anything at all?" inquired she, lifting her face to his. He was struck as though for the first time with the expressiveness of her eyes; therein he could perceive her uneasiness. Lifting his hand he softly caressed her cheek.
"For my part, I would wish it so. And you?"
"Then tell me. Why are you so shy with me this morning? It is not your nature to be such unless you are unsettled."
"We do begin to understand one another."
"Most happily we do. But I suspect there is much we have yet to learn, much that can only be learnt when we live together as man and wife." At this allusion she turned away. "Speak without reservation, my love."
His gentleness eased Elizabeth's uncertainty. "We wed in but two days."
"I fear I may be ill prepared; I find there is much about being a wife I do not wholly comprehend."
"I expect we shall both strive to be respectful and devoted to one another. My hope is certainly that we shall be always affectionate and unguarded as well. What more is there to comprehend?"
Elizabeth began to play with the buttons of his great wool coat, but would not look up to him. "My concerns are more specific."
"I do not know what you expect of me, as a wife," said she, still determinedly playing with the buttons of his coat.
"Expect of you?" Darcy laughed lightly, he found the concern so peculiar coming from his confident and indomitable bride. "Why nothing at all apart from your continuing to be the same charming and lovely lady I so deeply admire and so ardently love."
Elizabeth sighed in exasperation, thinking him uncharacteristically imperceptive this morning. "That is very pretty, but you miss my meaning."
"Then pray be explicit. We know I am not yet accomplished at reading your thoughts."
Taking a deep breath, she barely whispered out the words: "I do not know what you expect of me on our wedding night."
"Oh, my dearest Elizabeth," replied he with breathless tenderness. "This is what has you so shy and unlike yourself?"
She slowly nodded her headed in affirmation, but continued to stare at his chest. He lifted her chin so she would look at him and the smile she beheld upon his face was so gentle, so very adoring she felt all at once very foolish for such maiden anxieties, but they persisted, foolish or no.
"I expect only that we shall be joined as man and wife."
He saw that she was not reassured - but it mattered not, now he knew the cause of her disquiet. He was immensely pleased that she had revealed the source of her shyness, for he in truth desired that between them there be none of the barriers that the standards of propriety and civility often created. He hoped between them would exist instead a sort of honorable, respectful forthrightness, and he was confident she desired the same.
"I said to you earlier that I wished we could speak of anything. May we speak then with frankness, Elizabeth?"
More than a little apprehensive about what such frankness would reveal, but encouraging of the same, she replied that they could, that she would be grateful if they would.
Darcy paused a moment before continuing, for he never spoke of such things. He had always found it dishonorable and pitiless when gentlemen discussed their amorous conquests like it was nothing more than sport. Yet he exulted in the opportunity that she was giving him to speak of such a delicate subject with forthrightness and all it signified for their union. For if they could speak now with frankness, surely between them there would be no barriers.
"I will not disguise that my father ensured my education in all aspects of life." He paused again, more than a little self-conscious, but persisted. "That is, he ensured I should be in possession of all required knowledge."
Elizabeth felt this conversation was most uncomfortable, but if they were to speak frankly, she would not have her concerns silenced by awkwardness. "Practical knowledge?"
It did not escape her that he blushed profusely when he replied. "Excuse me? I am not sure I understand exactly what you wish to imply."
"I believe you do," was her quiet, emphatic response. "Proper young ladies are not wholly ignorant and it is understood that, well, that..." she stammered inelegantly and felt her courage fail.
"What is understood? Elizabeth, please, we can hardly be anything but explicit now we have gone so far!"
Bravely, almost defiantly, she raised her eyes to his and spoke in an even tone. "It is understood that young men of your set frequently take on mistresses before they wed, some even after they wed."
"Plainly, that is true," Darcy replied.
Elizabeth lowered her face anew, a pang of disappointment piercing her heart as she heard his affirmation. For all she felt she had no right for such a sentiment - she understood that society would always excuse the transgressions of a wealthy bachelor of eight and twenty and she should be grateful for his honesty - still, the pang was real and sharp and she could not look him in the eyes, afraid he would see her censure. But Darcy insisted and lifted her chin again and waited for her to look at him directly. Only when her gaze was rightly and fully engaged with his own did he continue.
"Elizabeth, I am not one of those young men. Perhaps I ought to be offended that you think I would be, but all that matters in truth is that you understand that while I am perhaps not an innocent, my love, be assured that I go to our marriage bed as virtuous as you."
He saw her face brighten and a smile creep from her lips to her eyes.
"Truly. We shall teach one another." He lifted his hands to caress her cheeks, red and blooming from the chilly air and her blushing happiness, and as he took her face within his hands he thought hers the most pleasing countenance he had ever beheld. With a broad, impish smile he continued, "I suspect we shall have no difficulties in this regard, we need only be tender and forthright and we shall be quite able to love one another as only a husband and wife ought."
"I am very silly," she laughed as he clasped her to him.
"No. You are very lovely."
He kissed her with such a beguiling mixture of tenderness and craving that all her misgivings dissipated in the wake of such unsullied affections. That for all his worldliness and sophistication he should come to their marriage as chaste, as vulnerable as she made her feel inexpressibly contented and she felt liberated to love him without shame or reserve. She had never felt so close to him as at this moment. Winding her arms around his neck she snuggled her head beneath his chin.
"William, I believe I shall very much like learning to be your wife."
"I am very happy for that, for I know that I shall very much like learning to be your husband," replied he as he lifted her face to his own and kissed her once more.
When Darcy had told his bride, three mornings before, as she was so unexpectedly beset with maiden anxieties, that he expected nothing of their wedding night but that they be joined as husband and wife it had been as much a statement of reassurance as it had been a testament to his own inexperience, as he later more explicitly disclosed. Indeed, he could have never imagined on that crisp autumn morning how the night would unfold, so that when Darcy opened his eyes on the first morning of his married life and looked across at an empty bed, the disappointment that promptly invaded his heart was acute.
She was not in his bed, but he would not fault her for rising in the night and retiring to her own. Nevertheless he would not deny to himself his regret at her choice for he would have wished it differently; he was, truthfully, surprised that she would have retreated to her own chambers. The consummation of their marriage had been so much more than he could have ever anticipated-and certainly far removed from the tales he had sometimes heard while at university that veered from the lewd and bawdy to the cold and clinical. In one another's embrace they had known neither extreme. No, their union had been blissfully sweet, marvelously tender, shy and yet uninhibited, patient and delicate; and oh, such an astonishing sense of closeness as he had surely never experienced. He placed his hand on the cool linen of the pillow where her head had lain and lamented her absence and her decision keenly, so that at first the sensation of coldness upon him seemed only a reflection of his heart's selfish discontent, but he soon realized it was the room's cool morning air against his bare shoulders and he peevishly thought she could have at least drawn shut the bed curtains when she abandoned his side. Softly rolling over to do just so, he caught his breath and a warm, adoring expression diffused across his countenance.
She had not abandoned him at all but stood at the window looking out at the morning. She was perfectly motionless and he made not a sound so as to avoid disturbing her occupation that in turn he might indulge in the sight of her while she believed him still sleeping. Yet he did not long exercise such indulgence, for what he most desired was to see her face, to see the expression of her beautiful eyes on this of all mornings, now they had given themselves one to the other.
"Elizabeth," came his voice, softly, half in question, half in verification.
She turned to him, and neither husband nor wife smiled, instead, for a long moment they gazed at each other in silence, a gaze filled with all the tenderness of new understanding. Darcy's heart swelled in his breast as he beheld his wife standing across the room and looking at him with such sweet affection. He had told her once that he could not know when he had begun to love her, but at this moment he felt he was loving her as if for the first time, seeing her for the first time, and he had never in his life felt such profound, exhilarating and unfettered joy.
"Elizabeth," he said again after a time, breaking the gentle silence between them. "What do you there by the window where it is cold?"
She turned her head back toward the window. "I am watching the day break. I would often awaken at Longbourn and go to my window to do the same. Daybreak over a city is altogether different," she said as she returned her gaze to his, but making no movement toward him.
"When we are at Pemberley, you shall be able to watch it break over the peaks."
"Is it very beautiful?"
She stood still and calm, her hands folded neatly before her, her head ever so slightly tilted and a small, incipient smile upon her lips. Darcy had seen her in just such a posture countless times and had never quite deciphered the allusions that seemed to be held within her beguiling autonomous manner. That she should be standing in his bedchamber with that selfsame bearing--with her lush, thick hair slightly tousled from sleep as it fell over her shoulder until it lay over her bosom, dressed in no more than a robe - excited him and thrilled him in a manner heretofore unimaginable to his finely regulated person. Oh, he found her handsome, to be sure, and the discovery the prior evening of just how remarkably pleasing was her lithesome and nimble figure to his sight and touch when unbound had been powerful no doubt. Yet, it was this in her, this posture, this manner which had bewitched him, and it was her spirit that transfixed him. He felt himself, body and soul, stir with passionate admiration.
His eyes had been roaming freely and slowly up the length of her figure, from the tiny little bare toes that stuck out from beneath the robe, up her slim, elegant frame until they came to rest upon her beloved face. Her smile had grown and one eyebrow arched impertinently. She was awaiting a reply.
"Yes, it is very beautiful," he at last replied.
His tone was rich with craving and he could not know the picture he made to his bride. For all this time he had remained reposed on his side as he gazed in wonderment upon his wife. His hair seemed all the darker against the crisp white linens and the shadow upon his chin and jaw seemed a foil expressly designed to accentuate his attractive features. His broad shoulders - which she had found so appealing upon discovery--escaped the confines of the thick, burgundy coverlet. And upon his handsome, noble mien was the most adoring of expressions. She was altogether captivated.
A mellow intimate stillness came over them again, and Elizabeth did not move. Waiting patiently and without awkwardness until he lifted his arm and stretched his hand out toward her. "Will you not return to your husband's side?"
As she placed her hand in his he grasped it tightly and their mutual gratification at this renewed touch was evident in the warm glow of their countenances. He pulled her toward him until she came to sit upon the bed at his side. He remained recumbent as he looked into her beautiful eyes that had entranced him from nearly the first-they were luminous and brimming with uninhibited, pure love for him and he could not look away from such splendor for even a moment. His long, penetrating gaze disconcerted her at last, and she looked down to their joined hands with a becoming blush.
"So this is happiness," remarked he into their delicate silence.
"You have not been happy then?"
"I have not been unhappy, but..." and then he stopped, abruptly.
Elizabeth looked at her husband and smiled, for he was blushing, although she could not say why. She lifted her hand to his face and caressed his check, enjoying the roughness of his stubble against her delicate fingertips.
"You most certainly cannot leave your thoughts only half expressed," said she.
"Not at all. Had we not agreed but two days ago that between us there shall be no reservation? Has it not served us admirably well already?"
"Admirably!" he replied with a chuckle, for when a certain awkwardness had overcome them on the prior evening they had found in their promised forthrightness a ready escape from the initial discomfiture of the night's promised intimacy, so that the journey from standing ill at ease as they faced one another in her rooms to glorious consummation in his bed had been all that is natural and good.
Darcy raised himself at last from his recumbent state and gathered his wife into his arms. "I have not been unhappy. But this, Elizabeth, this sweet communion seems to me apart from anything that has come before and anything that might come after."
"Indeed," whispered she in response as their mouths came together in delicious reunion.
She lowered her head and nestled it into his neck - she inhaled his scent and felt a delightful heady elation - and smiled. He cradled her in his arms and she felt a previously unfamiliar sense of protection. She recalled how disconcerted she had become before they wed about the intimacies they would share; even after he had calmed her she had not anticipated such a joyful, stirring nearness. He had called it a sweet communion - yes, indeed it was - the sweetest possible and she felt almost triumphant to know that their children would not be born of some reluctant and unpleasant dutiful union as young ladies were often taught to expect, no, not at all, theirs would be born of this sweet communion.
Her head still nestled against him and his own resting softly atop hers, Elizabeth lifted her hand and almost imperceptibly grazed the bare skin on his chest with her fingertips, feeling it rise beneath her as her husband took in a deep and satisfied breath. The delicate, surprisingly communicative silence was heartening in its ease, and yet Elizabeth was compelled to speak, but knew not words which could express her sentiments rightly. She lifted her head and looked into her husband's face, so close to her own, so handsome, so diffused with open admiration. Placing her hand against his cheek, she smiled and whispered out: "So this is happiness," repeating his earlier avowal.
"So it would seem."
"I told you I thought I should like learning to be your wife. Yet I confess, I did not anticipate such delight." She blushed at her admission, but held her gaze steady within his own.
"Oh, my precious wife," he murmured as he brought her deep into the warmth of their bed.
And indeed both Darcy and Elizabeth felt, on this first morning of their matrimony, this is happiness.