Posted on: 2013-05-22
As Fitzwilliam Darcy paced the sitting room in the Inn at Lambton he reflected on just how quickly everything in life could change. Again. He was struck by the fact that the last time his life had been thrown into such chaos had been during a private interview with the same young lady that was now sobbing in a chair across the room. He realized, though, that just as his last interview with Elizabeth Bennet had launched him on a journey of self-discovery, he would do all in his power to bring happiness back to the woman that he loved. His feelings made it impossible for him to do otherwise.
Elizabeth had already made it clear that she felt a marriage between her sister and Mr. Wickham would be undesirable, but the only possible solution to their dilemma if the family was to escape without ruination. Mr. Bennet was already in London searching for the couple, and Miss Bennet's letter had begged for the quick return of Mr. Gardiner to assist in the search.
As Darcy contemplated the best way to track George Wickham and Lydia Bennet, he failed to recognize that his pacing was causing additional distress to Elizabeth. Glancing in her direction, he realized the level of her unease and excused himself from the room. He was almost out the door when he looked back. What he saw in Elizabeth's eyes amazed him. With some shock he realized that his departure was causing additional heartbreak, not relieving her anxiety.
With barely a half formed idea of what he was doing, he abandoned his plan to leave Elizabeth to her grief and found himself kneeling by her chair. As Elizabeth looked at him with relief and confusion, Darcy pulled her hands into his own, bringing them to his lips for a quick kiss.
"Miss Elizabeth, please do not be distressed," Darcy whispered. "I will not allow Mr. Wickham to succeed in bringing misery to your life."
"I am afraid that it is too late for that, Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth replied, crying. "Even if my father and uncle are successfully able to locate Mr. Wickham and my sister, I do not see how a happy ending is possible. If Mr. Wickham can be coerced into marrying my sister she will be miserable for the rest of her life with such a man as her husband. If Mr. Wickham cannot be convinced that marriage is in his best interest, Lydia will have ruined her reputation, along with that of her entire family."
"What if there were another way?" Darcy asked. He was well aware of the fickle nature of gossip, and contemplated the idea of diverting the attention away from Elizabeth's sister.
"What other solution could there possibly be?"
"First, I need to know if your feelings toward me are still the same as they were in April. My wishes and desires are unchanged. Since coming upon you at Pemberley I have felt as if you have softened toward me, but I no longer trust myself to accurately interpret your feelings."
Elizabeth tried wiping the tears from her eyes, but her handkerchief was so sodden that it was not doing its job properly. Darcy quietly exchanged her wet handkerchief with a dry one from his pocket. After some moments of silence, Elizabeth finally answered, though it came out as barely more than a whisper.
"Why would you ask me this now, when all hope of a connection between us must be lost?"
"The actions of others will never affect my opinion of you. There is nothing, beyond your marriage to another man, which could cause me to cease hoping to win your hand."
Elizabeth took a shaking breath, then responded so quietly that Darcy had to lean closer in order to hear her voice.
"My feelings for you are quite opposite to what they were in Kent."
Darcy reached one hand to cup Elizabeth's face, gently caressing her cheek with his thumb.
"That is all that I need to know," Darcy whispered before closing the short distance between them to place a tender kiss on her lips, at the same time forming a bit of a desperate resolve. "As I am sure you are aware, gossip can be dreadful, but can also be very inaccurate. All that we need is a diversion. If we were to elope, but not return to Longbourn until we were able to locate your sister, we should be able to convince your neighbors that they had misunderstood which sister had disappeared. It could be circulated that after you ran off from the care of your Aunt and Uncle, Lydia was brought from Brighton to London to be with family. She would then remain with your Aunt and Uncle until you returned. When we all return to Longbourn together, you as a married woman, most of your neighbors would have all the proof that they need. Our story would be believed."
"But what if we are unable to find them?" Elizabeth asked.
"Then I still get the pleasure of having you as my wife, while we work together to come up with another plan."
"Are you certain that you still want me?"
"I will always want you." The look in his eyes convinced Elizabeth that he was speaking the truth.
"Then, I suppose I had better begin packing. If we are for Scotland, I will need something to wear." The half-smile showing between her tears did much to lighten Darcy's heart. "My Aunt and Uncle should be returning at any moment. I would like to be ready to leave as soon as we explain the situation to them."
"I need to return to Pemberley to make my excuses to my guests, and explain my coming absence as best as I can without raising suspicions. I will return with the carriage within an hour. If we leave as soon as possible we should be able to make it to Scotland by tomorrow night. We could then be married and begin the journey to London the following day. You should also write a letter to your elder sister explaining the situation. She will undoubtedly be worried when your Aunt and Uncle arrive at Longbourn without you."
There were many other thoughts going through Darcy's mind, such as the need to write a letter to Colonel Fitzwilliam explaining the situation, and how much of the truth to tell Georgiana, but time was of the essence. Darcy bade Elizabeth farewell with one more quick kiss, then departed for Pemberley in order to accomplish everything that was needed before his hasty departure.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were very surprised when the maid from the Inn at Lambton tracked them down in the paths around the church they had walked toward. Although the maid gave them no details, they knew that something serious must have occurred for Elizabeth to have them called back to the Inn earlier than planned, especially considering the fact that they had planned a relatively short walk before returning to collect their niece. They only needed to give her time to read her letters.
As they drew closer to the Inn, it was with some unease that they witnessed Mr. Darcy hurriedly mounting his horse and galloping away in the direction of Pemberley. If they would have been close enough to hail him, they would have done so. Unfortunately, they were not close enough to draw his attention. With feelings of great apprehension they entered the Inn and made their way to their rooms.
They were completely unprepared for the sight that met their eyes when they entered their rooms. Elizabeth was in her bed chamber, haphazardly packing her things. It was clear from her red, puffy eyes that she had been crying.
When Elizabeth saw her Aunt and Uncle, she immediately handed them Jane's letters, telling them they had much to discuss, then returned to packing her belongings. By the time they had finished the letters, Elizabeth had packed the basics for a week's worth of travel in one trunk, with everything else placed where ever it would fit in her other luggage.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner started packing their trunks as soon as they were done reading the letters, so Elizabeth sat to write her letter to Jane. As Elizabeth put to paper her current plans, she began to realize what she had committed herself to do. She would be eloping with Mr. Darcy with the hopes they would be able to redirect the rumors and save the reputation of the entire Bennet family. Within the next few days she would be a married woman. She felt woefully unprepared. She decided to quickly finish her letter with hopes she would have an opportunity for a quiet word with her Aunt before Mr. Darcy returned to collect her.
Darcy had never been more thankful for the fact that Bingley's sisters were late risers. When he returned to Pemberley, they had still not emerged from their rooms. He quickly made his way to his rooms where he changed into travelling clothes and instructed his valet to pack his trunks as quickly as possible.
Returning downstairs, he found Georgiana in the music room. He asked Mrs. Annesley to give them a moment of privacy, then proceeded to explain to Georgiana that he would need to leave for some time. Although he was hesitant to explain everything to his sister, his experiences from the last year had taught him it was better to be open and honest with his sister.
When Darcy explained that Elizabeth's younger sister had eloped with George Wickham, he was proud of the way she reacted. Georgiana was full of compassion for the young woman, and expressed the wish that there was something that could be done to assist her.
"That is the reason I am leaving," Darcy explained. Then, taking a deep breath he continued, "I will collect Miss Elizabeth from the Inn at Lambton. We will first travel to Scotland in order to wed before going to London to assist in the search for her sister. Our hope is that since both sisters have been away from home we will be able to confuse the gossips and make it appear as if Elizabeth was the one to elope to begin with. This way we can save her sister from a life with Mr. Wickham."
Georgiana was silent for a few minutes, then looked at her brother to verify that he was indeed going to marry Elizabeth Bennet.
"I am so happy, Fitzwilliam," Georgiana exclaimed, throwing her arms around her brother. "Not only will you be helping Elizabeth's sister you will be marrying Elizabeth. I could not ask for a better sister. What do you need me to do?"
"I hope to be gone before the Bingley sisters make their way downstairs. Will you explain that I have been called away on business and have returned to London? Make sure they know that I will be staying in London for an indefinite period of time. I am sure they will follow me within a few days."
With his sister's agreement he made his way to his study in order to write his letter to Colonel Fitzwilliam. He knew his cousin would be extremely willing to assist in the search for Wickham, especially if he was allowed to treat him in any way once he was found. With Wickham deserting his regiment, his cousin would be free to punish him in any manner he saw fit, without the threat of scandal that would arise in other circumstances.
After also penning a note to his housekeeper in London to ensure the house would be opened and prepared for him and his bride, Darcy asked for the letters to be posted (the one to Colonel Fitzwilliam being sent express), and for Bingley to be brought to his study.
Although Bingley acted the jovial gentleman during the entire conversation, it was obvious to Darcy that Bingley was not really accepting the vague excuse that business was calling him away. Before leaving the room and allowing Darcy to depart he stopped him to ask just one question.
"Will this be my last invitation to visit Pemberley?"
"Why would you ask such a question?" Darcy asked in return.
"It has become clear over the last couple of days that your regard for Miss Elizabeth has grown incredibly since our stay in Hertfordshire. If I am not much mistaken she will soon be Mrs. Darcy. I do not imagine she would appreciate having as a guest in her home a woman who has constantly criticized her in the past."
"You will always be welcome in our homes," Darcy replied. "As for your sister, that will depend on her attitude when she hears the news."
"So, it is certain then. You will be making her your bride?" Bingley asked with a smile on his face.
"Yes, I imagine that by the next time we meet I will no longer be a single man," Darcy replied with a smile of his own.
"You will have to tell me how this has come about," Bingley said.
"That is a story for another time," Darcy replied. "I promise to tell you more when I have more time. At the moment, though, I must be off. There really is urgent business that calls me away." Darcy was ready to lead his friend out the door before he turned back to him and relayed one more piece of advice. "Elizabeth has told me that there are some residents of Hertfordshire that would be very pleased if you were to take up residence in Netherfield Park once more."
"Are you implying that Miss Bennet cares for me more than you once thought she did?" Bingley asked, his smile becoming even more pronounced.
"I can only tell you that according to Elizabeth, Miss Bennet cared for you when you left in November. I do not know how she feels about you now, but if your feelings are even half of what mine are for Elizabeth, then you should return to Hertfordshire and do all within your power to regain her affection."
With her letter to Jane completed, Elizabeth approached her Aunt, who had almost completed packing her luggage.
"Aunt, there is something that I must discuss with you," Elizabeth began.
"Yes, this business of Lydia's is quite distressing. What would you like to discuss."
Not knowing where to begin, Elizabeth fidgeted with the letter to Jane that she still held within her hands.
"What is that you are holding?" Mrs. Gardiner asked.
"It is a letter to Jane," Elizabeth explained. "I would be most appreciative if you would give it to her when you pass through Longbourn on your way to London."
"Why the need for the letter?" Mrs. Gardiner asked, suddenly remembering the way in which they had seen Mr. Darcy leaving the Inn as they approached. "As you will be with us, will you not be able to give it to her yourself, or simply talk with her about everything that you have written?"
"IÉ" Elizabeth paused a moment before continuing. "I will not be returning with you."
After a moment of stunned silence, Mrs. Gardiner recovered herself enough to ask her niece where she would be.
"I will be on my way to Scotland with Mr. Darcy."
"Excuse me?" Mrs. Gardiner asked, clearly surprised. Hearing the tone of his wife's voice, Mr. Gardiner drew closer in order to participate in the conversation.
After taking a deep breath, Elizabeth launched into her explanation. She told her relatives about Mr. Darcy coming upon her immediately after she had read the letters from Jane, as well as everything that came afterward. As she explained Mr. Darcy's idea that their elopement would confuse the neighborhood to the extent that they would be able to take Lydia back to Longbourn without tarnishing her reputation, the Gardiners looked at each other dubiously. Elizabeth finished her explanation, stating that she was expecting Mr. Darcy to return at any moment with his carriage.
In the moments following Elizabeth's explanation, it was clear that neither of the Gardiners knew how to respond. From Mr. Darcy's behavior, they had already come to the conclusion that he was in love with their niece. Of Elizabeth's feelings they were less certain. Although there was a chance they could successfully convince the good people of Meryton that Elizabeth was the sister to elope, there were undoubtedly a great many people that would be suspicious. Their sister, Mrs. Phillips, was a notorious gossip, and it would be unlikely that she would be confused as to the identity of her wayward niece.
By unspoken agreement, Mr. Gardiner retreated to the sitting room to await Mr. Darcy's arrival, while Mrs. Gardiner stayed at Elizabeth's side in order to talk some sense into the young lady.
As soon as Mr. Gardiner left the room, Elizabeth turned to her Aunt, blushing profusely.
"I know this is not a conversation that you expected to have on this holiday, but, well, I will be married in a few days," Elizabeth said quietly, suddenly unable to look her Aunt in the eye. "I really do not know what to expect."
"Elizabeth, look at me," Mrs. Gardiner demanded. When Elizabeth was once again looking her Aunt in the eye, she continued. "Mr. Darcy has offered you a way out of this scandal that may or may not succeed. Either way, you would end up married to the man, with the world aware that you eloped. There would be questions as to why you felt an elopement was necessary. The society in London is not as forgiving as the society in Hertfordshire, especially to an unknown gentlewoman such as yourself. With mutual love and understanding you will be able to face society and come through relatively unscathed. Without the proper support for each other, you may very well be facing a trial that would cause an irreparable rift in your relationship, especially if Lydia's situation is not salvageable. Do you truly feel what you ought for Mr. Darcy?"
"Oh Aunt," Elizabeth replied with tears in her eyes, "Mr. Darcy is truly the best of men. I know that I have not always felt so, but he is now so very dear to me. I would not be doing this if I was not willing to marry him. The circumstances have just necessitated our being married sooner rather than later."
With a sigh, Mrs. Gardiner stopped her arguments, determining that it would be easiest to talk to both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth at the same time to avoid going over all the same topics repeatedly. She then proceeded to ease Elizabeth's mind about what she could expect on her wedding night as they waited for the return of Mr. Darcy.
As Darcy returned to the Inn to collect Elizabeth for their trip to Scotland, he knew that he should feel apprehensive about the talk that would arise when it was discovered that he eloped, or anger at Wickham for once again imposing himself into his life, or guilt for using the situation with Elizabeth's sister to gain Elizabeth as his wife so quickly. There were many emotions that he knew he should have felt. What he did feel, though, could best be described as giddy. He had hoped and dreamed of making Elizabeth his wife for so long, that now that it was coming to pass, he could not but feel excitement. Within a few days they would be man and wife.
After climbing the stairs, and before knocking on the door to their rooms, Darcy took a few deep breaths. The Gardiners and Elizabeth would still be distraught due to Wickham's actions. It would not do to show his eagerness. When he was certain his mask was firmly in place he knocked on the door. It was opened by Mr. Gardiner.
"I see you spared no time in returning for Elizabeth," Mr. Gardiner stated, indicating that he should enter.
"Elizabeth has told you of our plans then," Darcy replied. "That is probably for the best in order for us to begin travelling as soon as possible." Without waiting for a reply, Darcy handed a paper to Mr. Gardiner, and continued to speak. "These are the directions to my cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. He is stationed in London at the time and will be indispensable in your search for your niece. As Mr. Wickham has deserted his regiment, he will be able to use his military resources to help in the search. I have already sent him an express detailing the situation. I would introduce you myself, but our trip to Scotland will mean you will arrive in London several days ahead of us. With any luck, you will be able to locate your niece before we join you in town. If not, I will join the search as soon as we are able to arrive. Either way, it would be best for you to be seen about town with Miss Lydia for a day or two before it is widely circulated that Elizabeth and I have married. This will give credence to the story that Miss Lydia joined you from Brighton after it was known that Elizabeth left your care to elope. If Elizabeth and I are able to leave immediately, I believe we will be in London in one week's time. This will give us two days to travel north to the border, then another four days to travel from the border to London. Although they will be long days, it would be best if we arrived in London as soon as possible to help with the search. If we could travel on Sunday without raising speculation we would do so, but I am afraid that people may question our need to arrive in London so quickly as we will have already married."
While he was speaking, Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner joined them in the sitting room. As soon as Darcy had completed his instructions to Mr. Gardiner he turned to Elizabeth, asking if she was ready to leave. She indicated she was, showing him the trunk that she had packed with the necessities for their travels. As he picked up her trunk he indicated that the rest of her belongings should be sent to Darcy house once they arrived in London. Elizabeth quickly said farewell to her relations, and followed Mr. Darcy from the room, through the Inn, and into the carriage waiting outside.
As they stared in silence at the retreating carriage, the Gardiners wondering just how Mr. Darcy had succeeded in taking Elizabeth with him before they were able to present any of their arguments concerning the necessity of this elopement.
"Well, he is certainly a determined young man," Mr. Gardiner finally uttered.
"And he loves our Elizabeth very much," his wife replied.
"There is very little chance we would be able to stop them now."
"I just do not know how you are going to explain this to our brother Bennet."
"And why will I be the one explaining this to Bennet?" Mr. Gardiner asked.
"Because you are the man, and he is married to your sister," Mrs. Gardiner replied. "This is one of those occasions where it truly is convenient to be able to hide behind the sensibilities that every female is expected to possess."
"I will explain the situation to Thomas if you will explain everything to Fanny," Mr. Gardiner replied.
"Somehow, I think I have the less desirable situation. Are you sure I cannot just give Jane the letter, then gather our children and run off to London before Fanny has the opportunity to discover the truth?"
"That would be entirely too cruel to dear Jane. Now, let us load up the carriage and start on our way. You have almost two days to plot the best way to inform our dear sister that she now has a second daughter that has run off with a man."
Posted on: 2013-05-29
As Elizabeth climbed into the Darcy carriage, she was surprised to find that they were not alone. After Darcy joined them in the carriage, he introduced her to his valet, Carson, and the maid that would be assisting her during their travels, Sally.
When Elizabeth raised her brow in a silent inquiry, Darcy explained that he thought she would be more comfortable on their journey if they were not alone in the carriage until after they were wed. Even as she thanked him for his thoughtfulness, she wondered at his ability to do all within his power to keep within the bounds of propriety, even in the midst of an elopement.
They pressed on in their journey until dusk began to fall, attempting to cover as much distance as possible. In this, they were fortunate that this trip was occurring in the summertime, as the days were that much longer. The nature of their journey had not allowed Mr. Darcy to arrange for horses of his own to be stationed along the route, and Elizabeth found herself hiding a smile as she listened to his mumbled complaints concerning the quality of the horses they were able to acquire.
Even without making prior arrangements, Darcy had very little difficulty in securing two of the best rooms at the Inn where they decided to spend the night. The day of travelling with Elizabeth had been exquisite torture. He was thankful he had thought to include Carson and Sally in the carriage with them. He was determined to prove to Elizabeth that he was, indeed, and gentleman. They only had one more day until they were married. He could keep himself under regulation until then.
As Carson helped him prepare to retire for the night, he realized they had not yet had time to discuss the arrangements that would be needed for the journey from Scotland to London. He felt it was necessary to have company in the carriage for the trip to Gretna Green, but it would be an entirely different situation after Elizabeth was his wife.
"Carson, when we arrive in Scotland tomorrow I need you to secure another carriage for you and Sally for the journey to London," Darcy stated. "If there is a decent carriage for rent, that would be acceptable. If not, you may purchase one. I would not have you travel by Post."
"Very good, sir," Carson replied, gathering the discarded clothing. "Is there anything else that you require?"
"No, not this evening," Darcy replied. "Though, if you would inform Sally of the plans for the carriage it would be most convenient."
Later, as Carson relayed the instructions concerning a carriage for the journey to London, neither him nor Sally tried to hide the knowing smiles that came to their faces.
If Darcy was frustrated with the quality of horses available on the first day of their travels, it was nothing to the aggravation he experienced on the second day. At one stop they had to wait almost an hour and a half before there were horses available to let. When they were finally able to acquire the horses, they were so unevenly matched he considered waiting for another pair. Only when being informed it would be at least another hour before another pair would be available did he relent.
All in all, it took several hours longer to reach the border than Darcy had originally planned on. It was already almost full dark before they reached Gretna Green. As much as he wished to be married the day they arrived, he realized it was much too late in the day to have it arranged to his satisfaction. The wedding, in itself, was not impossible. The blacksmith would undoubtedly be willing to perform the ceremony no matter the time of night. The Innkeeper would probably also be willing to declare them man and wife. Yet, he wanted more for his Elizabeth. They may be getting married in Gretna Green, but there was no reason they could not be married in the church. They would just be required to wait until the morning.
As Darcy placed a chaste kiss to Elizabeth's fingers before retiring for the night he could not help smiling at the great changes that would take place the next day. Knowing they would not be married until the morning, and would then immediately set out to return to London, Darcy could only be satisfied that he had requested his valet to make arrangements for another carriage. Although he would never consummate his marriage in a carriage, he would still rejoice in whatever liberties she would allow him before they arrived at an Inn.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner looked at each other with some trepidation as their carriage pulled up outside of Longbourn. Although they had discussed much over the previous two days, they were still unsure of what Mrs. Bennet's reaction would be to the news that Lizzy had eloped with Mr. Darcy. She was just as likely to rejoice over the fact that Lizzy had captured such a rich husband, as she was to lament the fact that Lizzy was adding to the disgrace of the family.
They were greeted at the door by Jane, Mary, and their children. Both Mrs. Bennet and Kitty were keeping to their rooms. Mrs. Bennet due to her nerves. Kitty due to the fact that she was uninteresting in continuing to receive the recriminating looks that others in the household constantly sent her way for not telling anyone else of Lydia's plans, even though they had been told to her in strictest confidence.
When Jane asked after Elizabeth, Mrs. Gardiner gave her the letter, then expressed her desire to see Mrs. Bennet privately. As soon as Mrs. Gardiner entered Mrs. Bennet's chamber her ears were assaulted with the lamentations concerning Lydia's actions. As expected, her words revealed a total lack of sense. After finishing her nervous monologue, Mrs. Bennet asked after her second daughter, lamenting the lack of respect Lizzy was showing her mother by not coming to speak with her the moment she returned to her home. Mrs. Gardiner knew the time had come to share Elizabeth's current location.
"Fanny, my dear," Mrs. Gardiner started. "Lizzy did not return with us to Longbourn."
"That ungrateful girl, where else could be possibly go. I am sure she is only thinking of herself, trying to distance herself from her family now that we are in disgrace. I swear that when she comes to her senses and tries to return to Longbourn I will not welcome her. How could she leave us alone at such a time?"
"I can promise that you completely misunderstand the situation," Mrs. Gardiner replied. "Lizzy is attempting to resolve the situation, but her plans required her to make a detour before returning."
"What does she think she can possibly do to save this situation?" Mrs. Bennet asked. "She has always been a headstrong girl, but even she cannot imagine she can do anything that will make this situation any better."
Mrs. Gardiner took a deep breath before replying.
"Elizabeth is to be married. She may even already be so."
"What are you talking of?" Mrs. Bennet asked. "Lizzy is not engaged. How could she be getting married? And how would her getting married help Lydia's situation? Surely no man of sense would have Lizzy with the scandal looming over our heads." Suddenly, Mrs. Bennet's expression brightened. "That clever girl. She must have secured him before he heard of our misfortune. By keeping him away he cannot hear about Lydia and change his mind before they are married. When did you say they are to be married? Is he sufficiently wealthy to care for the rest of us? I cannot wait to tell our sister Mrs. Phillips. When Mr. Bennet dies fighting Wickham, Lizzy's husband will surely not allow us to be tossed into the hedgerows."
Mrs. Gardiner was amazed at the way her sister's mind worked.
"Elizabeth would never deceive her future husband so," Mr. Gardiner assured her sister. "Mr. Darcy is aware of the situation with Lydia, yet desires to marry Lizzy regardless."
"Foolish girl, why would she tell her suitor about Lydia's elopement?" Mrs. Bennet asked. "Now he will likely abandon her and we will still be thrown to the hedgerows."
"He will not abandon her," Mrs. Gardiner assured. Then, taking a breath, she realized it was time to share Elizabeth's plan with Mrs. Bennet. "After Elizabeth shared our troubles with Mr. Darcy, they devised a plan to divert the rumors." Mrs. Bennet looked as if she were about to interrupt, but a staying motion from Mrs. Gardiner caused her to wait, with an odd look upon her face. "They have made for Gretna Green where they will be married before travelling to London. They will stay in London at least until after Lydia is found. It is our responsibility to circulate the rumor that Lydia did not leave Brighton until after she heard of Elizabeth's elopement. We are to make others believe that Lydia left Brighton to be with her family after receiving the news. After Lydia is found, they will all return to Longbourn together, giving the appearance that she was simply waiting with us in London until the wedding could be verified. We are to deny any allusion to the fact that Lydia eloped."
By the time Mrs. Gardiner had finished speaking, Mrs. Bennet appeared as if she would burst.
"Did you say Mr. Darcy?" she asked as soon as her sister allowed her the opportunity to speak. When Mrs. Gardiner assured her that she did, indeed, mean Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire, Mrs. Bennet again began fluttering and fanning herself. Mrs. Gardiner was fairly sure that she heard the words 10,000 a year and a great estate, before Mrs. Bennet's stilled and she reached for her sister. "But he is such a proud, disagreeable man. Are you absolutely certain he will marry her?"
"We have every reason to trust in his word," Mrs. Gardiner replied. "Lizzy will not return until she is Mrs. Darcy."
At this, Mrs. Bennet fairly leaped from her bed, proclaiming her intention of calling on her sister Phillips in Meryton. While Mrs. Bennet dressed for going out, Mrs. Gardiner tried to convince her of the need for discretion. They wanted to spread the new rumor involving Elizabeth's elopement, but people would become suspicious if Mrs. Bennet's attitude underwent such a drastic change before they had official word that the marriage had taken place. Mrs. Gardiner was finally relieved of her anxiety with the appearance of Mrs. Phillips at Longbourn before Mrs. Bennet was able to leave the front door.
Knowing Mrs. Phillips' penchant for gossip, the Gardiners decided that the less she knew the better. As such, they set about trying to convince her that Lydia had not eloped, after all, and was waiting for them at their home in London after hearing about Elizabeth's elopement. At first they were concerned that Mrs. Bennet would tell their sister the entirety of the plan and their hopes that diverting gossip would save Lydia's reputation. Instead, Mrs. Bennet spent the visit extolling the worth of Mr. Darcy and how clever Lizzy was in securing him.
With Mrs. Bennet's conversation centered on Mr. Darcy, the Gardiners were able to relate to Mrs. Phillips everything that they hoped she would then share with all their neighbors. Although she was a little confused as to how the rumor concerning Lydia and Mr. Wickham was originally circulated, she was not a bright woman. Before long, she convinced herself that she must have misunderstood her sister in her agitation. "Lizzy" and "Lyddie" did sound very similar after all, and both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham had been raised on the same estate, even if one of them was raised as the heir and the other was the son of the steward.
When Mrs. Phillips took her leave, the Gardiner's felt confident that they had made a substantial step toward deflecting the rumors in the way Darcy and Elizabeth had asked them too. They still were unsure that the plan would work, but with Mrs. Phillips unknowingly working on their side, they had gained a great advantage.
When the Gardiner's had arrived at Longbourn with a letter from Elizabeth instead of her sister's presence, Jane was very confused. She knew her sister would never abandon them during a time of trial. She desperately wanted to read the letter. Mr. Gardiner, seeing his niece's distress, quickly herded his children onto the lawn and asked for Mary to accompany them. Jane then felt free to retreat to her room to read the letter. What she read shocked her more than she had anticipated.
My Dear Jane,
You will no doubt be surprised by the contents of this letter, but be assured all is well.
While touring the Derbyshire countryside I happened to renew my acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. He called upon me immediately after reading your letters concerning our sister. As you can conceive, I was quite distraught and did not even attempt to hide my discomposure from the gentleman. My Aunt and Uncle were away from the Inn at the time.
What I will write next is sure to shock you, as familiar as you are with my history concerning Mr. Darcy while I was visiting the Collins in Kent. Before Aunt and Uncle Gardiner returned to the Inn, Mr. Darcy proposed a plan to save our family's reputation, without forcing a marriage between Lydia and Mr. Wickham. As you are reading this letter, I am on my way to Gretna Green. We will elope then make for London. After Lydia is found we will return to Longbourn with her, making it appear as if she left Brighton to be with family after hearing about my elopement. We are relying on you and the rest of the family to begin spreading this rumor. We are hoping that the fact that both Lydia and I have been away from home will lend itself in helping others believe that they initially misunderstood which of us eloped. I know that you will not relish the idea of deceiving our neighbors, but it is for the best. Please do this for me.
I also do not want you to be concerned for me. Mr. Darcy is the best of men. I have come to care for him deeply. I do not want you to think I am sacrificing myself for the family. He still loves me, and I have found my feelings for him are quite the opposite of what they once were.
I will see you as soon as may be.
Your loving sister,
Jane had to read the letter three times before she believed its contents. She had long felt that Mr. Darcy was a good man. She did not find it surprising that his feelings for her sister would not fade with time. Elizabeth was her most beloved sister, after all. She could not fault anyone who chose to love her as well. What Jane found surprising was Mr. Darcy's willingness to open himself up to censure from society by eloping. It was no secret that Mr. Darcy was a very private man who had no desire to have his private affairs spoken of. By eloping with Lizzy, he was guaranteeing that his marriage would be talked about indiscriminately, possibly even speculated about in the papers. She could only be amazed at his willingness to open himself up in such a way to save the family of the woman he loved. Jane was certain that everything would turn out right.
When Jane finished contemplating the letter from Elizabeth, she set out to find her Aunt and Uncle. She found them in the drawing room with her mother and Aunt Phillips. Not wishing to involve herself in that conversation, she took herself out of doors to help Mary with the children until the Gardiner's were free once more.
After Mrs. Phillips took her leave, the Gardiner's called their children inside where they could be more easily monitored with less supervision by placing them in the nursery. Mrs. Gardiner then led Jane and Mary to Kitty's room where they could discuss the situation with more privacy.
Mary did not fail to moralize on the fact that two elopements could in no way be considered better than one, and condemned Elizabeth's actions as much as she did Lydia's, even if Elizabeth had chosen to elope with a much better man.
Kitty was just confused by the fact that although everyone was condemning Lydia's actions, they did not seem to be censuring Elizabeth for doing the same thing. It quite escaped her notice that one sister ran off in the middle of the night, leaving only a note, while the other informed her relations ahead of time. She also could not grasp the idea that Elizabeth would not have been tempted to elope if she were not trying to salvage their family's reputation.
Although there were grumblings from both the young ladies, in the end they were not ignorant of the fact that all of their reputations were on the line, and agreed to go along with the scheme.
Mr. Bennet was tired. Although there was no sign of his daughter and Mr. Wickham north of London, he was unable to shake the feeling that he should make his way to Gretna Green. Knowing that his limited knowledge of London made him a very poor candidate for finding the couple, he decided that making that trip to Scotland could be one of the few ways he could assist in the search. Leaving Colonel Forster's men to search in London, he boarded a Post coach and made his way north, asking at each stop for any indication that the wayward couple had passed that way. There was nothing to give him hope. He arrived in Gretna Green completely discouraged, convinced he had made the trip in vain.
After arriving in Gretna Green he visited the Blacksmith, as well as several Inns. Having no luck, he decided to retire for the evening before continuing his inquiries in the morning. If he was unable to find any news on the morrow, he would return to London and continue the search. His brother Gardiner would have arrived in London by then, and would hopefully provide some insight into locations to search.
Darcy and Elizabeth both woke quite early the day after arriving in Scotland, especially considering the lateness of the hour with which they arrived. Immediately after consuming a quick breakfast, they set off with Carson and Sally to find the church, with instructions to the footmen to remove the servant's belongings to the carriage that Carson had procured at the break of dawn. In the end, he did end up buying a modest carriage from a local tradesman. He left it to the coachman to hire any additional hands they would need to drive the carriage to London.
The church was easy to find, and the parson was willing to perform the ceremony with all due haste. He was not a stranger to clandestine weddings, being the parson in Gretna Green, but even he could tell that this couple was not the type that would typically seek this route. As he said the words that made the marriage between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet official, he wondered why they would choose to elope, but knew better than to ask, especially after receiving twice the normal pay to perform this service.
The newly minted Mr. and Mrs. Darcy walked back down the aisle, then slipped into an alcove before exiting the church. Carson and Sally, who had served as witnesses, passed by them, stepping outside to await their employers.
As soon as they had privacy, Darcy pulled Elizabeth into an embrace, claiming her lips with his own.
"You know not how long I have wanted to do that," Darcy explained, after releasing her. "You have made me the happiest of men."
"I would not have stopped you from kissing me earlier," Elizabeth replied, blushing furiously.
"Yes, but there has always been someone about. I will admit I am very much looking forward to the days of seclusion in the carriage on our way to London."
"I am eager for the time alone as well," Elizabeth admitted. Darcy leaned down and kissed her again, only slightly more passionately. He was aware of the fact that they were still in the church, and was willing to curtail his behavior until they had more privacy. "It almost feels unseemly to be so happy when we still have no knowledge concerning Lydia's fate." Elizabeth confessed.
"Do not worry, my dear," Darcy assured her. "I will find your sister when we return to London, if Colonel Fitzwilliam does not find them first. Miss Lydia will be returned to your family."
Knowing that they needed to begin their journey to London as soon as possible, the two lovers reluctantly left the alcove and exited the church. They would walk back to the Inn, with hopes that all arrangements had been completed with the new carriage so that they could begin their journey as soon as possible.
They had not made it more than two steps in the direction of the Inn before they were stopped by something completely unexpected.
At the sound of her name, Elizabeth turned reflexively in the direction of the speaker. She knew she had no acquaintance in Gretna Green, but found herself looking in the direction of the voice. She was completely taken by surprise to see her father standing on the side of the road, a look of utter shock on his face.
"Papa?" Elizabeth paused only momentarily before leaving the side of her husband to greet her father. "What are you doing here?"
Instead of answering, Mr. Bennet allowed his gaze to stray from his daughter to the gentleman who had just exited the church at her side. As he recognized the gentleman, his face showed even more incredulity.
"Mr. Darcy? I think I am in need of an explanation."
"Of course, sir," Darcy replied. "Perhaps we can return to the Inn for some privacy."
The plan was quickly agreed too, and the three made their way to the Inn where Darcy and Elizabeth had spent the previous evening, Carson and Sally trailing behind.
After they were ensconced in a private sitting room, the explanations began. Mr. Bennet had always considered his second daughter to be his most intelligent, but as he listened to her explanation in regards to her hasty marriage, he wondering if he had given her too much credit. Maybe she was just as silly and ignorant as his other daughters. In any case, the deed was done. He had witnessed them coming out of the church himself. There was no way to convince Elizabeth to change her mind.
By the end of the conversation, it was clear that continuing his search for Lydia in Scotland would be a waste of time. When it was revealed that he had travelled to Gretna Green by Post, Darcy graciously invited him to join them for the trip to London.
After Mr. Bennet left to gather his things from the Inn where he had spent the night, Darcy momentarily considered the possibility of asking him to ride in the second carriage with the servants to allow him some privacy with his new wife. Realizing that asking his father-in-law to ride with servants would be incredibly rude, Darcy immediately dismissed the idea. He would not want to start his marriage by offending his wife. It was only when Elizabeth spoke that he realized his face had betrayed at least some of his thoughts.
"Do not worry, my dear, we will be at an Inn for the evening before you know it."
"Am I that obvious?" he asked, blushing slightly.
"Only because my thoughts mirror your own," Elizabeth confessed quietly.
It was nearly noon before they were finally able to step in the carriages and begin the long journey to London. After handing his new wife into the carriage, Darcy allowed his father-in-law to enter next. As Darcy stepped inside, he had every intention of claiming the seat next to his new enchanting wife, only to discover that the seat was already occupied by Mr. Bennet. Trying to hide his scowl, he settled into the seat opposite Elizabeth, instead. It was only when he heard the light chuckle coming from Elizabeth that he realized he had been completely unsuccessful in hiding his frustration.
"Now, Mr. Darcy, I hope you do not mind indulging an old man," Mr. Bennet said. "You will have many opportunities to sit next to your wife for the remainder of your life. This trip may be the last time I am granted that pleasure."
Although he would rather have asked Mr. Bennet to exchange seats, Darcy graciously indicated his willingness to allow his father-in-law the privilege of sitting next to Elizabeth, though he now thought the whole process of securing a second carriage for Carson and Sally had been a waste of time.
Posted on: 2013-06-05
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were a little more relieved than was proper when they were able to load their children into the carriage and take them all to London. They had remained in Hertfordshire for less than a day, but were still anxious to be on their way. Although they were still a little nervous about Mrs. Bennet's ability to perpetuate the rumor that Lydia had only left Brighton to be with her family after it was discovered that Elizabeth had eloped, they were confident that their three remaining nieces at Longbourn were committed to advancing this rumor as much as possible. As much as any elopement would cause gossip, they were confident that Elizabeth's elopement would, in fact, culminate in a marriage. When Elizabeth returned as Mrs. Darcy the scandal would be laid to rest, at least in Hertfordshire. They had no such assurances that Lydia's elopement would end as favorably, and so would work together to conceal the fact that it occurred at all.
When they arrived at their home in London, they were surprised to find a note waiting for them from Colonel Fitzwilliam, asking to be notified as soon as they arrived. They were aware that Darcy had sent his cousin an express, but had not anticipated he would reach out to them before they were able to contact him at the directions provided by Mr. Darcy. They could be excused for not understanding just how excited Colonel Fitzwilliam was to finally be given the opportunity to bring Mr. Wickham to justice.
When Colonel Fitzwilliam had received the express from his cousin outlining the fact the Mr. Wickham had chosen to desert his regiment, taking with him Miss Elizabeth Bennet's youngest sister, he was astonished. He understood from the letter that they wished to keep Lydia Bennet's involvement as secret as possible to avoid a scandal. When he read to the point of the letter that indicated Darcy's plan to elope with Miss Elizabeth in an attempt to draw speculation away from her younger sister, the Colonel laughed out loud. He was not ignorant of the fact that Darcy found much to admire about Elizabeth Bennet. As they prepared to leave Rosings Park, he had expected Darcy to declare himself. When no announcements were made, he had assumed that Darcy would not allow himself to see past his pride to offer for her. Now, he could only feel a bit of gratitude for the circumstances that pushed Darcy into procuring the only woman who had ever held his interest. There was no doubt in his mind that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy would be a very happy couple.
Although Colonel Fitzwilliam had never liked George Wickham, it was not until the events at Ramsgate that he sought a way to punish the man. At the time, they could not risk exposing Wickham due to the danger to Georgiana's reputation. Fitzwilliam took his shared guardianship of his cousin very seriously, though, and remained on constant vigil for an opportunity to punish him that would not reflect back on his cousin. He could not believe his good fortune when the fool decided to desert.
As soon as possible after receiving the express, Fitzwilliam set out for the address provided by Darcy for Miss Elizabeth's Uncle and Aunt Gardiner. Although Darcy had said they would contact him when they arrived in London, he did not want them to have any doubt as to his willingness to do all within his power to find the runaways.
After leaving a note at the address on Gracechurch Street, Fitzwilliam handpicked a contingent of men and set out to locate Mr. Wickham.
Although Darcy had envisioned much different activities occurring in the carriage ride on the way back to London from Gretna Green, he did not want to do anything that would offend his father-in-law. It was clear by the expression on his face from time to time, that, although it was too late to do anything about the elopement, Mr. Bennet was not entirely pleased to have found Darcy and Elizabeth emerging from a church in Gretna Green when he was on a mission to find a completely different daughter. He was still a bit confused as to how Mr. Darcy convinced the Gardiners to allow him to run off with Elizabeth, though he had to admit that Mr. Darcy was the kind of man to whom he would never dare to refuse anything, which he condescended to ask. That did not mean that he was happy with the situation. He had listened to their arguments, and had to admit there was some sense to them, but still felt there must have been a way to save Lydia from disgrace without jumping into a new scandal.
For the first two hours of their journey, Darcy tried to keep his long legs from intruding on the other occupants of the carriage. As they were drawing closer to an Inn in order to exchange horses and get some refreshments, he allowed his legs to stretch across the carriage a bit farther. He was completely unprepared for the slight brush of Elizabeth's leg against his own. He immediately looked in her direction, trying to determine whether the touch was accidental. With a completely innocent look on her face, she raised the eyebrow that was not facing her father, then proceeded to casually adjust her leg once again, brushing it against Darcy's leg in the process. Just as he was trying to decide if it would be safe to do anything in response, the carriage came to a halt and the door was pulled open.
"It appears to be time to get out and stretch our legs," Mr. Bennet declared, exiting the carriage. "We still have many miles to go today, so I am sure you are just as anxious to escape this carriage as I am."
Although at that moment there were many things that Darcy thought would keep him entertained quite nicely if they were to close the carriage door for a few minutes while Mr. Bennet remained outside, he exited the carriage before handing out his bride.
"Do not fret, my dear," Elizabeth whispered. "We will only be on the road for a few days. It will not be long before we can enjoy the privacy of your home in London."
"Although I am looking forward to introducing you to our home in London, at the moment I am just looking forward to the privacy that will be offered by our rooms at the Inn this evening," Darcy replied, just as quietly. He was completely delighted by the blush that infused Elizabeth's face as he led her into the current Inn for a bite to eat before continuing their journey.
When Caroline Bingley first discovered that Elizabeth Bennet was in the neighborhood of Pemberley, she knew that no good could come of it. When Mr. Darcy was called away on urgent business, she was willing to forgo their continued familiarity at Pemberley in order to see him separated from her rival. When it became clear that Mr. Darcy would be in London for an indeterminate amount of time, Caroline began hinting at her brother that they should remove themselves to town as well. She was delighted when he immediately agreed that they should leave Pemberley. Somehow, though, he must have misunderstood. It was not that she was anxious to leave Pemberley, she was anxious to arrive in London. She should have expected the appearance of one Bennet sister would remind her brother of the elder one.
The Bingley party did not leave Pemberley until two days after Darcy had quit the area. They had travelled so long to get there, they saw no need to hasten their departure. As it was, Darcy's urgent business would likely keep him occupied for a few days, so they could not hope to intrude upon his notice immediately upon his arrival in London. It was not until the trunks were being loaded onto the carriages that Bingley chose to inform his sister that he had written a note to the housekeeper at Netherfield Park to have the house opened up for them for a short stay. Caroline tried to convince her brother that if they were going to remain in the country they ought to stay at Pemberley, but Bingley reasoned that it had been the better part of a year since he had last visited his leased estate, and as they had to pass through Hertfordshire in order to reach London there would be no harm in taking a detour to inspect the grounds.
Although she was not happy with the situation, Caroline entered the carriage, certain that by the time they arrived in Hertfordshire she could convince her brother to bypass Netherfield Park and simply continue on their way to London. In order to ensure herself as much time to convince her brother as possible, she also set about delaying their travels in as many small ways as she possibly could. In the end, she was not able to convince her brother not to stop in Hertfordshire, but she did cause so many late starts and delays that the trip that should have been completed in two days took a total of five. They did not pull into the drive at Netherfield Park until a full week had passed since Mr. Darcy took his leave of Pemberley.
When news reached Longbourn that Mr. Bingley had returned to Netherfield Park, Mrs. Bennet was beside herself with glee. Jane Bennet was much more discomposed. Although she was anxious to see Mr. Bingley again, she had received no word of him since his departure from Hertfordshire in November. She had no hope that he was returning to the area for her benefit. Indeed, she reasoned, it would have been better if he had waited to return until all their troubles had been settled. In her own mind, she was ill equipped to manage the turmoil caused by his return while in the midst of worrying about Elizabeth and Lydia. She spent much of the first day after his arrival vacillating between a hope that he would call, and a hope that he would not. Even as she prepared herself for bed with a heavy heart after he failed to appear, she would not admit her desire to see him again may be stronger than her desire to avoid him for the time being.
As the sun began to set on the first day of their journey from Scotland to London, Darcy breathed a sigh of relief. By the end of the day, he and Elizabeth had progressed to the point that their calves were resting against each other, but they dared not attempt any greater level of intimacy while Mr. Bennet was with them in the carriage. It was only a matter of time now before Mr. Bennet would retire to his own room and leave them in privacy to enjoy their wedding night.
After securing rooms for the night, all three were shown to a private parlor to enjoy a light repast before retiring. After only a few bites, Elizabeth excused herself to retire for the evening. Although Darcy wanted to rush after her, he thought she would be more comfortable if he gave her a few moments to herself before joining her in her room.
As she entered her bedchamber, Elizabeth was relieved that Sally had already laid out her bedclothes and was prepared to assist her. As the two carriages were travelling together to ensure they arrived at the same Inn for the night, Sally had not had much time to prepare the room before Elizabeth arrived. After Elizabeth was prepared for bed, she excused Sally, asking to have a bottle of wine sent to the room.
When Elizabeth had asked her Aunt Gardiner for advice concerning her wedding night, one of the things she had been told was that partaking of a glass of wine would help her relax and enjoy the experience. Her aunt had been quick to assure her that such measures would not be necessary regularly, but that the apprehension most women felt on their wedding night could be relieved by the glass of wine.
Elizabeth intended to wait until Darcy joined her to open the bottle of wine, but as more time passed, her nervousness grew, and she decided it would not hurt to have one glass on her own. She settled on the settee close to the fire and poured herself a small glass, leaving the bottle next to her on a small table. After another ten minutes had passed, she reasoned that one more glass of wine would be welcome.
Mr. Darcy had only planned on giving his bride fifteen or twenty minutes to herself before he joined her. As he prepared to excuse himself from the company of Elizabeth's father, he was delayed by answering a question regarding their plans on announcing their marriage. After explaining that an announcement would be put in the paper after Lydia had been found, Mr. Bennet asked him how they attempted to find her. After Darcy explained Colonel Fitzwilliam's involvement, Mr. Bennet asked about their plans for dealing with Mr. Wickham once he was found. Although Darcy was anxious to join Elizabeth, he did not want to ignore Mr. Bennet's questions, either. By the time he was finally able to excuse himself and make his way to Elizabeth's chamber, it had been nearly two hours.
When Darcy first entered the room he did not see his bride. She was definitely not in the bed, though the covers had been turned down. A quick search of the room found her to be reclining on the settee by the fire. When he approached, his heart sank to see that she had fallen asleep while waiting. He quietly leaned down and kissed her forehead before lifting her in his arms to carry her to the bed.
As he carried her across the room, Elizabeth's eyes opened briefly. She smiled at him lopsidedly, then put her hand to his face.
"I am afraid I did not wait to open the wine, dear husband," she slurred out, "but I am well relaxed for the night."
"I am sorry that it took me so long to come to you," Darcy apologized. "It would appear your father had many questions concerning our plans that he did not care to discuss in front of you."
"What kind of questions?" Elizabeth asked, her eyes half closed.
After giving Elizabeth a very brief overview of the types of questions posed by her father, he asked her to not concern herself with it any more that night. If needed, they could talk about it more in the morning.
"You are such a good man," Elizabeth stated, stroking her thumb across his cheek. "Now take me to bed."
Although Darcy was unsure how much wine she had consumed, her words gave him relief that she still wanted to consummate their marriage that evening. After sharing a lingering kiss, he laid her on the bed, then quickly began removing his clothes. Before he had even removed his coat, her soft snoring reached his ears. She was clearly exhausted. As much as he wished to engage his wife that night, he would not take advantage of her state. He wanted her to be responsive. With a sigh, he removed all but his lawn shirt and breaches then retreated to the settee where he had found her. He lifted the bottle of wine to pour himself a glass, when he realized the bottle was almost completely empty. Although it concerned him that Elizabeth felt the need to imbibe so much wine before enjoying their wedding night, it did explain her current state. Setting the bottle down, he resigned himself to a night of merely holding her in his arms while he slept, and hoping her head would not ache too much in the morning.
When Elizabeth awoke the next morning, she had a vague recollection of being held during the night, but found herself alone in her bed. As she tried to open her eyes, she was met with a much brighter light than she had expected. As she stirred, she sensed movement in the room and soon found her husband had joined her at the bedside.
"How are you feeling?" he asked quietly, brushing her hair from her face.
"I am not sure," Elizabeth confessed. "Everything seems a little fuzzy, and my head is aching."
"Here, take this," Darcy directed, dissolving some powders in a glass of water and handing it to her.
After drinking the glass, Elizabeth handed it back, thanking him.
"I must admit that when my aunt warned me that I might feel some discomfort the morning after our wedding night, this is not exactly what I expected," Elizabeth confessed.
"No, I would imagine it is not," Darcy replied with a smile. "Perhaps we will be fortunate enough for you to feel that discomfort tomorrow morning." When Elizabeth looked at him in confusion, he went on to explain, "The discomfort you are feeling now is due to the bottle of wine you consumed before I was able to join you last evening."
Completely embarrassed, Elizabeth tried to look away, but Darcy turned her face back toward his.
"Do not try to hide from me," he requested. "Although I will admit to some concern that you felt the need to consume a bottle of wine in preparation for our wedding night, I would never impose myself on you without your consent, or ability to respond."
"I really did not intend to drink an entire bottle of wine," Elizabeth confessed. "My aunt had told me that having a small glass of wine would help me to relax and enjoy myself. While I waited for you I decided to have another glass. I must have partaken of more wine that I had intended."
"Do not distress yourself, my love," Darcy replied. "I was delayed with your father much longer than I intended."
After only a few more minutes of conversation, Darcy excused himself to allow Sally to help Elizabeth dress. It was not until then that Elizabeth realized Darcy was already dressed for the day, and the sun was much higher than it should have been. As Sally helped her prepare for the day, Elizabeth inquired as to the time.
"It is nearly 9:30, Mrs. Darcy," Sally replied.
"Why did no one wake me?" Elizabeth asked with some distress. "We had planned to be back on the road at dawn."
"Mr. Darcy explained that you needed to rest longer this morning than he had anticipated."
Elizabeth knew that time was essential as they were making their journey. They wanted to arrive in London as soon as possible. Now, both days of their travel to town, they were getting a much later start than they anticipated. The first day they were late due to the necessity of waiting until morning for the wedding, then explaining the situation to her father. Now, they were late because she had foolishly drunk a bottle of wine the night before and was unable to rise when expected. She did not even want to consider her mortification at being so intoxicated she was unable to fulfill her duties the night before.
When Elizabeth emerged from the bedchamber she declined any breakfast, asking instead that a basket be made up to partake of in the carriage. As quickly as possible, they were loaded in the carriage and making their way down the London road. There was very little conversation for the first several hours of their day. Elizabeth's head still ached slightly, and she leaned into the wall of the carriage, trying to rest as much as possible. Not wanting to disturb her, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennet both decided to pass the time reading.
As they left the last coaching Inn of the day before they would find one for the night, Elizabeth turned to her father and requested that if he had any questions for her husband this evening that the time had come to ask them in order to allow Mr. Darcy the opportunity to retire for the evening as soon as they reached the Inn. Showing only a slight flush, Mr. Bennet insisted that his curiosity had been had been sated the night before, and did not currently have any pressing matters to discuss with his new son.
Posted on: 2013-11-12
Fitzwilliam Darcy stood speechless in front of the proprietor of the Inn where they had stopped for the night. It would appear The Fates were conspiring against him.
"I am sorry, sir, but we only have one room available for the night," the man was saying. "It is fortunate that even the one room is available. One of our guests originally wanted two rooms, but arrived on his own and allowed for the other room positioned off his private sitting room to be opened up for another's use."
Although Darcy wanted to decline the room, particularly after learning they would be sharing the sitting room with another guest, it was already quite late.
"I will take it," Darcy replied with a sigh. This was the third Inn in which they had attempted to find lodgings this evening. Darcy had not anticipated any difficulties in procuring rooms for the night on their travels from Scotland to London. Unfortunately for him, the small hamlet where they had decided to stop this night had the inauspicious honor of hosting a bout of fisticuffs earlier in the day. As he eyed the gentlemen revelers in the public rooms, he thought it would be best if he escorted his wife and her father to their room as quickly as possible. After making arrangements for some extra bedding to be brought to their room, he returned to their carriage in order to collect his travelling companions.
After briefly explaining the situation to his very disappointed wife and her father, Darcy escorted his companions into the Inn. Any hopes that Darcy entertained of traversing the Inn undetected were dashed as they passed the common rooms and his name was called out. As he turned in greeting, he was disappointed to see the face of one of his Uncle's colleagues from the House of Lords. Silently reminding himself that they wanted others to gossip about his marriage, he took a deep breath before responding.
"Lord Wilmont, a pleasure to see you, sir."
"This is a pleasant surprise, Mr. Darcy," the Earl of Wilmont replied. "I had always thought you were too reserved for such an exhibition."
"In truth, I am only here by coincidence," Darcy explained. "My companions and I are simply passing through on our way to London."
"I thought I understood from Lord Matlock that you were summering at Pemberley this year," Lord Wilmont replied, eyeing his companions for the first time. "This is a rather roundabout way of travelling to London from Derbyshire."
"Although I would not typically travel this route to London, I found I had some business to attend to in the North before returning to town."
Mentally cataloging all the towns of note along the road to the North, Lord Wilmont once again eyed Darcy's companions. As of yet, they had not spoken as they had not been introduced. As he looked on, Darcy pulled the young lady's hand in the crook of his arm in quite a possessive manner. Certain that his conjectures must be wrong, as Mr. Darcy was much too proper to consider anything even hinting of scandal, Lord Wilmont asked just how far north Darcy's business had taken him. When Darcy replied that they were returning from Scotland, Lord Wilmont requested to be introduced to his companions. He was momentarily blinded by the smile that appeared on the younger man's face.
"May I present my wife, Mrs. Darcy, and her father, Mr. Bennet of Longbourn, Hertfordshire."
"Delighted, I'm sure," the Earl replied, a bit stunned.
"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lord Wilmont," Elizabeth responded.
"I was not aware you were to be married," Lord Wilmont replied when he had recovered slightly. "Your uncle made no mention of the event when I saw him last week."
"Lord Matlock is currently ignorant of the happy event," Darcy explained. "We are on our way to London where I intend to introduce my wife to the remainder of the Fitzwilliam family."
"She has not even been introduced to your family?"
Sensing the Earl's confusion, Elizabeth hoped to use it to their advantage.
"I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with both Miss Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I feel they will be very delightful relations." After a slight pause, she continued with a twinkle in her eye. "I have also been granted the inestimable privilege of being granted an acquaintance with Lady Catherine de Bourg, though she has yet to learn of our recent nuptials."
At the mention of Lady Catherine, Lord Wilmont recalled the many times that Lord Matlock had expressed a desire for his sister to abandon her dream of marrying her daughter to Mr. Darcy. Matlock had always felt that if he need not worry about offending his sister, it would be possible to arrange a politically advantageous match for his nephew. Chuckling, he realized that Darcy had finally decided to take a wife of his own choosing, without regard to the aspirations, political or otherwise, of the rest of his family.
After only a few more moments of polite conversation, the men parted ways, allowing the Darcys and Mr. Bennet to retire to their room for the evening. It did not take long for Lord Wilmont to share the news with others in the common room. Although he had only been in conversation with the new Mrs. Darcy briefly, he was struck by her beauty and liveliness. Laughing at Darcy's willingness to elope in order to claim such a gem for his wife, the Earl had no qualms in relating his conjectures that the young couple had eloped due to the fact Lady Catherine did not approve of his choice of wife. It did not take long for the story to be circulated that not only did Lady Catherine not approve, but that the Fitzwilliams did not approve, either.
The conjectures came as quite a surprise to one Viscount Hastings, Anthony Fitzwilliam, who was enjoying a pint of ale in the common room. Although he was ten years Darcy's senior, he was fairly certain he would have been informed if Darcy was courting a young lady, whether it was a lady that his father approved of or not.
Colonel Fitzwilliam was pleased with his men. Only two days after receiving the express from his cousin, they were able to track down the wayward Lieutenant Wickham hiding out in the slums. The men had been handpicked for their unique backgrounds. He had predominantly chosen soldiers that had grown up in the rougher parts of London. His soldiers were enlisted men, not the pampered officers that paid their way into an easier living. They did not have the resources to consider buying a commission, so their military career would consist of constantly following the command of others. Yet, they were good men who were attempting to better their lives. They had also served alongside Colonel Fitzwilliam in battle, and were loyal beyond measure to the officer that battled alongside them instead of sending them forward as replaceable pawns, as some others were wont to do.
The day he received the express from Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam left his card at the Gardiner residence. Now that Wickham had been found, he turned his horse in that direction once again, hoping they had made it to London. It was important to his cousin that Miss Lydia have a respectable place to reside once they arrested Wickham. He needed Mr. Gardiner to travel with his men to apprehend Wickham. This way, he would be on hand to remove his niece from the premises as quickly and quietly as possible.
As surprised as the Gardiner's had been to find Colonel Fitzwilliam's card waiting for them when they returned to London, they were even more astonished when the man himself appeared at their home not more than an hour after their arrival. His men had found their missing niece. Without taking time to fully refresh himself from his travels, Mr. Gardiner set out with the Colonel almost immediately.
The drive from Cheapside into a less reputable area of town allowed the two men the opportunity to discuss their strategy in removing Lydia from the situation. Knowing the stubbornness of his niece, Mr. Gardiner knew it would not be easy to convince Lydia of the error of her ways. It was also certain that Lydia would want to experience all that London had to offer. To serve as a distraction, it was decided that Mr. Gardiner would invite Lydia to attend the theatre. While she was out of sight preparing for the evening, Colonel Fitzwilliam's men would arrest Wickham.
As their carriage pulled up outside the Inn where Wickham and Lydia were located, Mr. Gardiner let out a sigh. He was disgusted at the condition of the lodgings that Lydia had allowed herself to be housed, but relieved that part of this nightmare would soon be over.
When Lydia answered the knock to the door of their rooms, she was surprised to find her uncle on the other side. She did not spare a thought for how her uncle knew where she was located, simply inviting the two men into their rooms. When Wickham looked up, was not so sanguine about the situation. It did not take him long to recognize Lydia's uncle from their overlapping visits to Hertfordshire. It was not until the appearance of Colonel Fitzwilliam, though, that all the color drained from his face.
Even in the face of incredible odds, Lieutenant Wickham was confidant in his ability to talk his way out of any situation. He was surprised to see Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Gardiner working together, but was certain he could use the situation to his advantage. Unsure at that point how the conversation would play out, he thought it best to exclude Lydia.
"Darling, would you go down at find what is keeping supper," Wickham instructed. "Let them know that we have guests and will require a larger portion this evening."
A little perturbed that no one had thought to introduce her to the Colonel that had arrived with her uncle, she flounced out of the room with a huff. Surprised at the ease with which the two were separated, the Colonel and Mr. Gardiner exchanged a look before the latter left the room in order to "assist" his niece. At the bottom of the stairs, Mr. Gardiner convinced Lydia that this sort of request was best handled by going directly to the kitchen.
As soon as they were alone in the room, Wickham addressed the Colonel.
"What interest could you possibly have in this matter? I believe the conversation in this situation is typically left to the family of the young lady involved."
"That may typically be the case," Colonel Fitzwilliam replied, "but this is not a simple elopement. You are a Lieutenant in His Majesty's Army, and you are currently absent without leave during wartime."
"So, you are here to slap my hands and send me back to my post?" Wickham asked. "I did not realize you were no better than a lackey."
"You, once again, are mistaken. Wellington has had his fill of gentlemen that buy their way into positions as officers than turn tail at the first sign of trouble. You will be unable to talk your way out of the punishment for desertion." The cold tone of Colonel Fitzwilliam's voice disconcerted Wickham. For the first time in his life, he started to doubt his ability to talk his way free, but that did not stop his attempt.
"Surely, you or Darcy would be willing to speak on my behalf, for old time's sake. I am sure we could even work out an arrangement that would save Miss Lydia's reputation."
"What makes you think that either of us would even consider speaking on your behalf after what you attempted with Georgiana? No. You will get no help from us."
"You appear to be acquainted with Lydia's family. Think of how the reputations of all of her sisters will be affected if she returns to Meryton as a single woman."
"Quite honestly, that is not my concern. Now, it is time that we were going."
"But the punishment for desertion is death," Wickham was becoming desperate. "We grew up together. Even you are not so cold hearted as to sentence a childhood friend to the gallows."
"I believe you are confusing me with my cousin," Colonel Fitzwilliam replied. "Now, if you come quietly and are able to get enough of your friends to speak on your behalf, you may be lucky enough to find yourself deported, but alive. If you make a scene, then you will be guaranteed an appointment with the gallows."
Making one last desperate bid for freedom, Wickham lunged for the door, hoping to escape into the night. He was shocked still, though, at the sight of several soldiers standing in the hall with their swords drawn. After a moment, he nodded at Colonel Fitzwilliam, and slowly allowed the soldiers to lead him outside. He would have to attempt to talk his way out of his predicament another way.
As Lydia exited the kitchen after finally convincing her uncle that they had everything they needed for supper, she was surprised to see the back of her beloved Wickham as he was leaving the Inn with several other soldiers. The Colonel that arrived with her Uncle Gardiner approached her to apologize that Wickham was being called away to duty, and would not be returning that evening. It only took a little persuading to convince Lydia to retire to her relation's home for the evening. She readily agreed as she saw it as a chance to crow about everything that she had experienced in Brighton that summer. She was going to be disappointed with the topic of conversation when they reached Gracechurch Street.
When the Darcy's and Mr. Bennet arrived at their room they discovered their suitemate was absent. It was decided that Mr. Bennet would be the first to prepare himself to retire. As soon as the door that separated the sitting room from the bedchamber closed, Darcy pulled Elizabeth into his arms. He had intended to simply hold her in his arms, exchanging a few simple kisses. As soon as he felt her body pressed up against his, though, all the pent up emotion from the day tried to escape. He did at least have his wits about him well enough to settle into the chair that faced away from their bedchamber. Although he was certain they would be able to cease their canoodling before Mr. Bennet made his appearance, he wanted time for them to disengage themselves if he were to hear the door to the bedchamber while they were still occupied. He was not willing to waste the few precious moments they had alone.
In settling into the chair that faced away from their bedchamber, they were in full view of the door that opened into the hall. It was only a few minutes later that they wondered why they did not give that more thought.
Viscount Hastings, Anthony Fitzwilliam, made his way to his room at the Inn. He was still thoroughly confused as to how such rumors concerning his cousin could have started. Darcy was the most sensible young man he had ever known. The idea that anyone would make up such a rumor was preposterous, but for the rumor to be true would be even more unbelievable. He wished that his brother, Richard, had not cried off attending the match at the last minute. Surely he would be able to determine where the rumors started and ferret out the truth.
As he approached his room, a few of his friends approached to wish him well and ask him to pass along their congratulations to Darcy. He was trying to formulate a logical response when he opened the door to his sitting room. He was no longer left wondering where the rumors had originated. In full view to him, as well as the friends at his side, Darcy was thoroughly kissing a young lady that he held in his lap.
As all the gentlemen in the hallway had been celebrating, they were a little too intoxicated to consider the fact that Darcy would not want to be disturbed at that moment in time. As Darcy and Elizabeth quickly rose from the chair, righting their appearances, Hastings and his friends filed into the room.
"So, the rumors are true, then?" Hastings asked, perplexed at the situation.
"Yes," Darcy replied, a little flustered. "May I present my wife, Elizabeth Darcy. Elizabeth, this is my cousin Viscount Hastings. He's Richard's elder brother, Anthony."
"Nice to meet you," Elizabeth replied. As she curtsied she was still attempting to return her hairpins to their proper place.
Hastings quickly introduced his friends to Elizabeth before turning to Darcy.
"What is going on?" He was starting to wish he had not celebrated quite so much. Surely this whole situation should make more sense.
"As you can see, I recently married," Darcy replied.
Any reply that Hastings may have made was cut off by the "Huzzah" that erupted from his friends. They all insisted on exchanging a few words with the new Mrs. Darcy, each taking her hand and kissing it in congratulations. Darcy was eager for them to leave. Just as he was attempting to herd his cousin's friends out the door the adjoining room opened, revealing Mr. Bennet in his nightclothes. Another round of introductions was made, the gentlemen being too foxed to even realize Mr. Bennet was not dressed for company, though they did all find it rather humorous that Mr. Darcy's father-in-law was accompanying them.
When the gentlemen were finally shown out of the room, they made their way to the common room downstairs where they spared no detail in describing the situation in which they found Mr. Darcy. It did not take long for it to be discovered that one of the Darcy's carriages had been purchased in Scotland, and that the men that had been hired to drive it to London had witnessed Mr. Bennet searching Gretna Green for his daughter.
The reporter for the Times that had travelled in order to report on the fisticuffs match was not typically interested in the type of gossip that would enter the society pages. Even he knew, though, that Mr. Darcy's elopement would be of interest. Quickly jotting down every rumor that he could gather, he sent his notes off to London by express. Although they were still a two day carriage ride from London (three if you considered the fact that they should not travel on the Sabbath), he had hopes that the express rider would make it by early morning at the latest. It would not be long before all of London would be abuzz with the news.
Posted on: 2013-11-26
After depositing Lieutenant Wickham at the barracks, Colonel Fitzwilliam returned to the Gardiner's home. The conversation that greeted him would have been humorous if it were not such a serious situation. Lydia Bennet absolutely refused to believe that her "Dear Wickham" had been arrested.
"You will see," she was heard to say repeatedly, "tomorrow my Dear Wickham will return. Soon, he will have completed his business, then we can be on our way. By this time next week I will be Mrs. Wickham."
It was apparent by the aggravated looks on the faces of the Gardiners that they had repeated tried to explain the situation in which their niece had placed herself.
"Miss Lydia," Colonel Fitzwilliam interrupted, "I am sorry to tell you that your Uncle and Aunt are correct. Lieutenant Wickham has been arrested for being absent without leave. He will not be returning tomorrow."
"That is not possible," Lydia replied. "When we left Brighton he was following orders. He had some secret correspondence that needed to be transferred to the War Office."
"If his business was with the War Office, why did he not go there himself?" Richard asked.
"He has constantly been attending to his business since we have arrived in London," Lydia replied.
"If he had made an appearance at the War Office, I would have known," he replied.
"But his orders were confidential," Lydia replied. "You may not have been informed."
Marveling at the sheer stubbornness of the young lady, Richard realized that they required a strategy. Remembering the plan that had been discussed on the way to the Inn, he decided to use Lydia's desire for entertainment to his advantage.
"I would like to come to a conciliation," he began. "I understand that you are a great lover of the theatre. This evening there is a production of 'The Taming of the Shrew.' If you are prepared to leave within half an hour, I will escort you and your Uncle and Aunt. If you can avoid all mention of Lieutenant Wickham for the entire outing I will personally ensure you are allowed to meet with him tomorrow. If you are correct, and he is simply completing his business at the War Office, you will have my heartiest apology and I will arrange your transportation to Gretna Green. If I am correct, and he has been arrested, you will return here to your Aunt and Uncle until arrangements can be made to return you to your family in Hertfordshire."
Lydia could barely contain her excitement. She loved attending the theatre. It gave her an opportunity to observe all the latest fashions. The idea of attending the theatre in a private box was more temptation than she could ignore. She was certain all misunderstanding could be cleared up in the morning, so felt no real regret at agreeing not to mention Wickham for one evening. With great exuberance, Lydia thanked the Colonel then hastened upstairs, dragging her aunt behind her. If she only had a half an hour to be prepared to leave, then she needed to make haste.
Fitzwilliam Darcy was incredibly frustrated. After spending his wedding night cradling his drunken wife, he did not think there could be anything more tortuous. His did not comprehend the torment of sleeping in the same room as his wife, but not sharing a bed. After discovering they were sharing a sitting room with his cousin, Viscount Hastings, Darcy had attempted to encourage him to invite Mr. Bennet to share his room, or to sleep in the sitting room. Either his cousin was an imbecile, or he was being deliberately obtuse. As much as he wished to sleep at Elizabeth's side, he would not dare doing so in the same room as her father. So, two pallets were arranged on the floor. While Elizabeth slept in the bed, Darcy and Mr. Bennet each occupied one of the pallets. The sound of his wife's steady breathing occupied his thoughts until the early hours of the morning.
As the sun peaked over the horizon, Darcy arranged for the servant's carriage to leave in advance. They were only a two days drive from London, but the following day was Sunday and they would not be travelling. As the rooms they acquired this evening would be theirs for two nights, it was essential they had a room to themselves.
It was not long after the servant's carriage was on its way that Darcy found himself handing his wife into their carriage. Her father followed her, this time claiming the seat opposite Elizabeth. Darcy was preparing to enter the carriage himself when he was hailed by his cousin.
"I say, Darcy," Viscount Hastings announced, "you certainly start the day much earlier than most. It will be several hours before most of the gentlemen are ready to depart."
"It has always been my habit to rise early," Darcy replied. "I see no need to change my habits while travelling."
"Yes, well I had to send my valet out to chase down your servant's carriage this morning so it would not leave without him. I was only half dressed when I glanced out my window and saw them taking their leave. I had to manage my waistcoat myself."
"Although I can appreciate how inconvenient that would be for you, I fail to comprehend why your valet would need to leave with my servants."
"I forgot that Lynbridge came back to the room after you were already in bed. I planned to tell you this morning. Really it's your own fault. Instead of returning to London as he had originally planned, he is hastening to his estate to inform his wife of your marriage before she hears of it elsewhere. We travelled here together, but I assured him you would be willing to give me a ride to London. He is taking my carriage and will have it sent to London after he arrives home."
Trying to hide his frustration, Darcy accepted the fact that his cousin now made one of his travelling party. Hastings preceded him into the carriage, settling himself next to Elizabeth. Instead of following him into the carriage, Darcy stared, dumbstruck.
"I'm sorry, old man, but I tend to become nauseous if I ride facing the back of the carriage. I assume you would rather I sit next to your beautiful bride then end up losing my breakfast into your lap."
Before Darcy could reply, Elizabeth jumped in.
"It truly is no problem. My father has always preferred sitting in the forward facing seat as well. I will simply exchange seats."
Without waiting for a response, Elizabeth stood as well as she could in the carriage, scurrying diagonally across the space and taking the seat next to her father. Mr. Bennet was still trying to collect himself when he was fairly unceremonious nudged out of his seat and into the front facing seat opposite. As Elizabeth scooted across the bench, Darcy seized his opportunity and swiftly entered the carriage, taking the rear facing seat next to his wife. A smiling footman closed the door, before taking his place on the outside of the carriage. They had been on the road for less than five minutes before Elizabeth let out the largest yawn in the history of mankind then rested her head upon Darcy's shoulder.
Lydia Bennet had a delightful evening. Although she had been to the theatre before, she had never experienced it from a private box. She was certain she saw several furtive glances in her direction, and was sure to preen to the best of her ability. She was so caught up in seeing and being seen that she only came close to mentioning Wickham's name on one occasion.
On the morning following her excursion, she made every effort to look her finest. She did not understand why her aunt's maid did not put in more of an effort, but Lydia was satisfied with her appearance in the end. She was certain that Wickham would arrive to claim her at any moment. Shortly after she made her way to the sitting room she heard the sound of the doorbell. Sitting up straight, she fully expected Lieutenant Wickham to be shown in. She was disappointed when the Colonel appeared instead.
"I see you are ready for our excursion, Miss Lydia," Richard said by way of a greeting. "Your Aunt Gardiner is arranging for your outerwear to be made ready, then we will be on our way to visit Wickham."
"I am expecting Wickham to arrive at any moment, I cannot possibly leave," Lydia replied.
"I am afraid that will not be possible, but I have arranged for you to visit him, as I promised."
"But, where is he located?" Lydia asked.
"I believe I explained his current location fully during our conversation last evening. I know you do not yet believe that I am speaking the truth, but I believe that when you see his present circumstances with your own eyes you will be able to accept his situation."
Although she still would not allow herself to believe there was a possibility that Wickham was incarcerated, she finally agreed to accompany the Colonel and her Aunt to the barracks.
Before arriving at the Gardiner's residence, Colonel Fitzwilliam had visited the barracks and made arrangements for their visit. Instead of taking the ladies into the cells, Wickham would be brought to meet them in the warden's office.
"I know you want to see Lieutenant Wickham as soon as possible, but I have arranged for you and Mrs. Gardiner to wait in the adjacent room," Colonel Fitzwilliam explained. "If you promise not to say a word until I have completed my business with the gentleman, I will leave the door ajar so you will be able to hear our conversation. It should not be long before you are able to join us and judge for yourself the true state of affairs."
Since it was clear she would be unable to see Wickham unless she agreed to the Colonel's rules, Lydia agreed to stay silent in the adjoining room.
Darcy was in heaven and purgatory at the same time. He knew his wife was feigning sleep due to the fact that she had wedged one of her hands between them when she made her show of yawning and leaning against his shoulder. The fingers on that particular hand had shortly thereafter begun making slight circles along the side of his leg. It was the sweetest torture of his life. He could not think of a way to respond in kind without being obvious to their travelling companions. In an attempt to subtly embrace his wife, he yawned as well, bringing his arm up and around her shoulders in the process. Little did he know that there would come a day in which that move would be considered the oldest trick in the book.
Although neither gentlemen across from them were fooled in the least, they did appreciate that the young couple were at least trying to be discreet.
When the carriage came to the first stop of the day the happy couple made a big show of waking while Viscount Hastings and Mr. Bennet exited the carriage. Before following them out, Darcy claimed a quick kiss from his bride.
While returning to the carriage, Darcy decided to enter immediately following his wife so there could be no question as to who was sitting in which seat for the next leg of the journey. After resuming their previous positions, it was not long before both Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy found their pretext a reality as they drifted into sleep.
Lydia was once again fascinated with her surroundings. As she was being led to the warden's office, she did her best to mentally catalogue everything that she would be able to brag to her sister's about when next she saw them. She was having so many adventures that her sisters would never dream of undertaking, and she the youngest of them all!
It was not long after taking her place with her aunt in the room adjoining the warden's office when she could hear Wickham being led into the room. What would come next would being the greatest shock of her young life.
"So, have you come to gloat once again that you have finally found a way to punish me?" Wickham asked. "I cannot think of another reason you would come today."
"You mistake me, old friend," Richard replied, handing Wickham a quill and parchment. "I have simply come to collect the list of friends that would be willing to speak on your behalf. A man as charming as you are, you must have scores of gentlemen that would be willing to speak on your behalf."
After a moment of studying the Colonel, Wickham accepted the quill and wrote a few names on the list then returned it. Looking down at the paper, Richard raised his eyebrows, then looked back at Wickham.
"You truly must be slipping. I only see three names on this list."
"Yes, well, if you had asked me for a list a month ago it would have been much lengthier," Wickham replied.
"Ah, I understand," Richard stated. "Have your debts of honor caught up to you once more? You know they always do. You really ought to learn when to stop."
"It is no concern of yours," Wickham replied. "Now, do I need to come up with a more extensive list, or will the testimony of these three men keep me from the gallows."
"That will depend on what they have to say," Richard explained. "Even you may overestimate the loyalty they will show you when they realize you have deserted your post."
After a short pause in which the men studied each other, Wickham spoke once more.
"I would ask you one more time to petition Darcy to speak on my behalf. He has always valued duty and honor above all else. Surely he can be convinced to lend a hand one last time to his father's godson."
"As I said before, he is out of town at the moment. I expect him within the next couple of days, at which time I will tell him of your request. He lost his patience with you sometime ago, so I would not count on his intervention if I were you."
Wickham only nodded wearily. Before asking to have Wickham returned to his cell, Richard asked one last question.
"Out of curiosity, what possessed you to bring Miss Lydia with you when you left Brighton? She does not have the fortune that you typically aspire to in your conquests."
With a resigned sigh, Wickham confessed, "She may not have a fortune, but she had enough to pay our way out of Brighton. I was desperate to leave before a certain creditor tried to exact his retribution. I had given him all the money I had, promising more the following day. I could not have paid for the coach on my own."
After having Wickham returned to his cell, Colonel Fitzwilliam found a much subdued Lydia Bennet crying into her aunt's shoulder. Although he still felt she had been a foolish girl to elope with Wickham, his heart went out to the young lady. Her tears brought back to his mind tears of another young lady who had also been deceived by Wickham. As much as he wanted to send Wickham to the gallows immediately, he knew that his cousin Darcy would feel guilty for Wickham's death. He would ensure Wickham was on the next boat to Australia, where he could never touch their lives again.
"I would like to return home now, if you do not mind," Lydia finally whispered between her tears. As they made their way to Gracechurch Street, she could not even bring herself to make eye contact with either Colonel Fitzwilliam or Mrs. Gardiner.
When Darcy and his travelling companions pulled into the Inn where they would be spending the night, as well as the Sabbath, he sent up a silent prayer that his valet had been able to secure enough rooms for his entire party. When Carson greeted him at the door, his smile put him at ease.
"Do not fear, sir," Carson assured him. "After your cousin's valet decided to join us in our carriage I was sure to secure a room for him as well. I have already taken the liberty of having the Innkeeper move the trunks for Mr. Bennet and Viscount Hastings into the two rooms I was able to secure at the front of the Inn. Your trunks, as well as Mrs. Darcy's, are in a separate room at the back of the Inn."
Clapping the man on the shoulder, Darcy thanked him as well as he could in the front room of an Inn. Asking his valet to ensure that Mr. Bennet and Viscount Hastings found their way to their rooms, Darcy then dismissed him for the night, instructing him that Mrs. Darcy would not need the assistance of Sally that evening, either.
As soon as Darcy and Elizabeth had entered the room, Darcy locked it behind them, then turned to look at his wife. He let out a sigh of relief as she removed her bonnet. They were finally alone.
Posted on: 2013-12-19
Although the express rider made it to the office of the Times on Saturday morning, it was too late for the Darcy elopement to be included in that day's edition. In the midst of the war, the editor felt it would be in poor taste to place an article concerning an elopement on the front page of the newspaper, but he did place it on the first page of the society section. As there were many ladies who turned directly to the society section of the newspaper, this did not hamper the spread of the news in any way.
So it was that Sunday morning saw a much greater attendance for Church Services than was typical. As it was the Sabbath, neighbor visits would be frowned upon. Although decisions were made to visit with family as much as possible in order to discuss the news, the only way to solicit an opinion of anyone outside of their family circle would be to attend Church. Many a Vicar were pleased, though perplexed, with the sudden enthusiasm displayed by members of the parish.
The only notable absentees at church that day were Lord and Lady Matlock, as well as their daughter-in-law, Lady Hastings.
When Elizabeth Darcy awoke on Sunday morning, she was slightly disoriented. Something was vastly different. As her husband pulled her closer into his chest, she remembered what that difference was. As she cuddled closer to Mr. Darcy she sighed in contentment. She was now very convinced she had made a most advantageous match.
Her mind drifted to the previous evening. Almost as soon as Fitzwilliam had locked the door they were interrupted by his cousin. After Darcy refused to open the door to admit him, Lord Hastings started asking through the door whether or not they were planning on attending Church services in the morning. Darcy had replied that Hastings and Mr. Bennet could do as they pleased, but that he did not anticipate seeing them until later in the afternoon. They had been on the road for close to a week and needed time to rest before completing the journey to London on Monday.
When another knock came to their door a half an hour later, they were much too occupied to even discover the identity of the person on the other side of the door.
Lady Hastings was furious as she scanned the article concerning the elopement of Fitzwilliam Darcy. According to the article, her own husband knew of the elopement, and had even saved a room for them at an Inn. Although her marriage was not a particularly happy one, when she had entered into it she understood that neither of them would behave in a way that could be viewed as scandalous. What was her dimwitted husband thinking?
Lady Matlock's feelings on perusing the article were much different. She had long worried about her nephew, and was relieved he had finally found a woman that would make him happy. If his choice would upset Lady Catherine in anyway, then so much the better. She was a trifle concerned that they had married against the wishes of the young lady's family, for why else would her father have chased them to Scotland? She could not imagine any family that would not be ecstatic to have their daughter marry Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley.
Lady Matlock pondered this question for most of her morning, even asking her husband his opinion while they broke their fast. His response was a non-committal grunt, accompanied by a mutter along the lines of how much better a match he could have arranged if Lady Catherine had realized that Darcy would never marry Anne.
Although the comment was expected, it did remind her of something that was stated in the article. Looking over it again, she realized that it appeared as if the new Mrs. Darcy had already met Lady Catherine, and was not expecting a warm welcome. If the article was to be believed, she had also met both her sons as well as Georgiana. Those three had not been together with Darcy in well over a year. Whether she had been introduced to them all together, or had been in company with Darcy long enough to be introduced to them separately, their relationship must have been of a long duration.
With a start, Lady Matlock remembered a comment made in passing by her younger son after his return from the annual trip to Rosings Park. When she had asked him about the visit, he admitted that he had found it vastly more amusing than usual. When she had inquired as to the reason, he had replied, "Observing Darcy as he simultaneously attempts to spend as much time as possible engaged in one activity, without giving the appearance that he cares about the activity, can be quite amusing."
At the time she had brushed off the reply, determining to try to riddle out his meaning another day if it proved to be important. It was now important. With a quick flourish, she sent off a note to her son, requesting his presence as soon as possible.
Although the women in most households stopped reading after the article concerning Fitzwilliam Darcy, in the Gardiner household the entire paper was examined. In the Saturday paper there had been a small line mentioning Colonel Fitzwilliam escorting an unknown young lady and her relations to the theatre on Friday evening. Although they had hoped the gossips would be able to connect the dots, there was no speculation in the paper that the young lady he had escorted was in any way related to Mr. Darcy's bride. They were relieved that they had made it to the theatre before word was spread concerning the Darcy elopement, and wondered what more they could do to ensure people were aware the Lydia was staying with her relations in London.
When a tray was sent to Lydia's room with breakfast, Mrs. Gardiner included the article concerning the elopement. As Lydia had locked herself in her room, and was refusing to speak to anyone, they had not yet had an opportunity to discuss Elizabeth's plan.
The screech that was heard within the Gardiner household a few moments later would be eerily similar to the screech heard within Netherfield Park the following day when both the Bingleys and the Sunday paper made it to Hertfordshire.
Darcy had never been more content. For the first time in his life, he felt like he could lie in bed all day long. It was late in the afternoon before he and Elizabeth stirred from their room. They agreed that they should at least eat with their relations, even if they did not plan on spending any more time than was absolutely necessary.
Leaving Elizabeth in the room to the ministrations of her maid, Darcy went in search of Hastings and Mr. Bennet. He was surprised to not find them in their rooms, but quickly followed the noise to the common room where they were engaged in a game of chess, a large crowd gathered to watch. From the conversation of the crowd, it quickly became apparent that the interest was not in the game, but in any information they were willing to provide concerning the newlyweds. Mr. Bennet was largely ignoring the audience, but Hastings was another matter. Darcy did not know how his cousin could have gathered enough information to entertain the crowd for such an extended period of time. They had travelled together one day, most of which time was spent either sleeping or feigning such. It appeared as if Hastings and Mr. Bennet had discussed them extensively when they were not present.
As soon as Darcy was noticed, the attention shifted.
"When will we have the pleasure of meeting your lovely wife?" was the first question volleyed from the crowd after the obligatory greetings.
"Why has your lovely wife no joined you downstairs?" came the first question volleyed from the crowd.
"She is merely refreshing herself," came the reply. "We thought to dine with our relations."
"Yes, she must require quite an exorbitant amount of time to refresh herself," answered one of the gentlemen. "So much so, that her father was able to reach the border before you did. One does wonder just how you engaged your time during the journey."
"I thought I explained that already," Hastings cut in. "It was merely a tactic to avoid being caught. By letting Mr. Bennet precede them to Scotland there was no trail for him to follow. They were able to slip in after he had made his inquiries, and marry before he discovered they had followed him, instead of the other way around. Now, I think I've just lost this game. Perhaps we should retire to dine with Mrs. Darcy?"
Mr. Bennet nodded his agreement and the three men left the room and the gossiping gentlemen behind.
"I have never seen anyone able to carry on such inane conversation while playing a decent game of chess," Mr. Bennet remarked after making himself comfortable in the private parlor adjoining the bedchamber that Darcy's valet had secured for them. "Most believe it to be a quiet game."
"Yes, well, not all of us can be as serious as my young cousin here," Hastings replied. "I believe there should be some levity in every situation."
Although Hastings was ten years Darcy's senior, he still did not enjoy being referred to as young.
"Well, if Mr. Darcy is young, then you must consider me an infant," Elizabeth replied. She had settled on the settee hoping that her new husband would join her. She was not disappointed.
"Oh, no!" Hastings exclaimed. "I learned my lesson years ago. A gentleman should never comment on a lady's age, whether she be old or young. There are a few ways to guarantee offending a lady. Commenting on her age is one of them. If you say she is young, it is inevitable that she wishes to be known for her maturity. If you say she is mature, she will be worried and examine every mirror she passes, searching for wrinkles. You will get no comment from me."
"Very well, but you must know that there are few that would describe Mr. Darcy as young," Elizabeth replied.
"That is due to the fact that most do not remember seeing him in his short pants. It does not seem possible that the little scamp I remember has matured enough to marry."
"That is enough, Hastings," Darcy replied. "I am eight and twenty. I believe that is a full four years older than you were when you married."
"Yes, but you have met my wife. A poorer decision was never made. Perhaps if I had waited until I matured a few more years I could have made a better decision."
"You still cannot fault me," Darcy replied, hoping to disrupt his cousin's sudden melancholy. "I have not only matured several extra years, I have the experience of running an estate, as well as being guardian of my younger sister."
"And how would you feel if you discovered Georgiana had run off to Gretna Green?" Hastings asked. "No matter her reasoning, I am sure you would be disappointed."
Darcy suddenly went white, causing Elizabeth to take his hand in hers and squeeze it reassuringly. Hastings noticed his discomfort, then laughingly continued.
"You need not worry. Your little sister would never actually follow through with such a scheme. She may find your sudden elopement romantic, but she is much too meek to consider an elopement for herself. Even if the idea was presented, I have no doubt she would avail herself of the first opportunity to reveal her intentions so you would be able to stop the plans."
"I, for one, would enjoy meeting such a paragon," Mr. Bennet interjected. "I commend you for raising such a sensible young woman. The evidence is before us that I failed in instilling the importance of a proper wedding."
"Do not be too hard on yourself," Hastings replied. "You may have raised a slightly reckless daughter, but I have never seen my young cousin affected so. She has succeeded in ways that none of the young ladies of our circle could have ever hoped. She has seen him smile."
The conversation moved on to much more neutral topics. After another half an hour, Darcy started hinting that his wife would like to retire. Hastings encouraged Elizabeth to rest peacefully in the adjoining bedchamber, but made no move to leave the parlor. After another half an hour, Elizabeth opened the door connecting the parlor and the bedchamber.
"I am sorry to inconvenience you, Lord Hastings, but would you mind retiring to your own rooms. I am in need of my husband."
"I am not yet ready to retire," Hastings replied, smiling.
"It does not concern me if you choose not to immediately retire to your rooms, but I would be extremely grateful if you were to leave ours."
"There now, it was not such a difficult request to make, now was it?" Hastings asked, cuffing Darcy's shoulder as he winked at Elizabeth.
"Oh, and Lord Hastings?"
"Yes, Mrs. Darcy?"
"Please take my father with you."
"I do believe I need to redeem myself, in any case," Hastings replied. "I need to make up for the game of chess I threw in order to leave the common room earlier."
"It would have been impossible for you to win that game," Mr. Bennet replied. "You had already lost twice."
"But third time's the charm."
"There really is only one way to conclude this argument," Darcy interjected, ushering them out into the hall. Saying a quick good evening, Darcy closed and locked the door while they were still standing in the corridor.
Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam was not surprised when he received the note from his mother, demanding his presence. He was not certain what kind of mood she would be in.
When he arrived at Matlock house, he was shown into his mother's favorite parlor. He hoped that was a good sign.
"I have been trying to puzzle it out all day," Lady Matlock said by way of greeting to her son. "Just how long has Darcy been in a relationship with his new wife?"
"Good afternoon to you, as well," Richard replied, giving his mother a kiss on the cheek. "It is always pleasant to receive a summons to your home."
"Oh, do be serious," Lady Matlock replied with a smile. "You know that all our neighbors are dying to know more. My home is to be invaded in the morning, and I would like as many answers as possible before they arrive."
"Very well. I first met Miss Elizabeth Bennet on our latest trip to visit Aunt Catherine and Cousin Anne. We had scarcely arrived before Aunt Catherine's obnoxious parson came to greet us. I had quickly tuned him out, but he must have said something that sparked Darcy's interest because before I knew what was happening, Darcy had indicated we would follow him to the parsonage to greet his wife and guests. When we arrived, I was introduced to Mrs. Collins, her sister Miss Lucas, and her friend, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I have never seen Darcy so tongue tied. We were in company often, but he rarely exerted himself to a discussion with Miss Elizabeth.
"One day while I was walking the grounds I happened to see them walking together. I may or may not have overheard a bit of their conversation wherein Darcy implied that on future visits to Kent Miss Elizabeth would be a guest at Rosings Park instead of the parsonage. This intrigued me to such an extent that I attempted to intercept them again the next day. Unfortunately, I found Elizabeth on her own, but I did try talking to her about Darcy, trying to gauge her reaction.
"I had fully expected Darcy to declare himself before we left, but no such announcement was made. He was incredibly agitated when we returned to town, but refused to speak of it. I did not hear him mention Miss Elizabeth again until he sent me a letter explaining his plan to elope to Scotland in order to secure her as his wife."
"You mean to tell me you were forewarned that Darcy had eloped, and neglected to inform your family?"
"Yes, I suppose I was. He didn't send you a letter?"
After eyeing her son for a few minutes, Lady Matlock replied that it was unbecoming to pretend ignorance.
As in most households, it was nearly impossible to stem the tide of gossip below stairs. So, when the maids that had been tasked with providing refreshments for Lady Matlock returned below stairs, it was not unexpected that they would discuss the elopement. It was generally understood that all such talk was to stay in the house, and normally it would. It being Sunday, there were one or two servants that were visiting with siblings employed in other houses.
As gossip is want to do, the story was added upon until it barely resembled the original. Within two hours of Colonel Fitzwilliam's visit to his mother, there was a generally accepted rumor spread about the kitchens in town that Darcy and Elizabeth had been secretly engaged since Easter. It was not until retiring for the evening that many ladies were to learn of the rumor from their maids while preparing to retire for the evening.
Posted on: 2014-01-15
As Darcy awoke on Monday morning, one thought pervaded his mind: We will arrive in London today. He could not wait until they had shed the company of Lord Hastings and Mr. Bennet. He did not regret inviting Mr. Bennet to travel in their carriage as he knew Elizabeth would not have desired for him to travel by Post. Yet, it did not make his presence any less taxing.
He was still mildly confused as to how his cousin, Viscount Hastings, managed to join their party. He was fairly certain he had never invited the man, but he was most definitely travelling with them. By the end of the day he would be rid of his cousin as well, having deposited Hastings on his doorstep.
It was not long past dawn when Darcy and Elizabeth descended from their room at the Inn. Although they had not slept much the night before, there was still a long day of travel ahead of them. The first two days of their return journey from Gretna Green to London had started later than they had originally planned, and they had not made as good of time as they had hoped they would. They were within a day's travel to London, but it would be a long day.
When they arrived in the common room, it quickly became apparent that neither Viscount Hastings nor Mr. Bennet were waiting for them. Leaving Elizabeth with Carson and Sally (his valet and her maid) he quickly ascended the stairs in order to encourage the men to make haste.
Darcy had not been gone long before Elizabeth noticed that many of the other occupants of the common room were stealing furtive glances at her, while seemingly absorbed with their newspapers. Although Elizabeth did not think there was much of a chance that her marriage would already have made it into the newspaper, she asked Carson to acquire a newspaper from the Innkeeper. She was astonished when she turned to the society pages, and written in bold for all the world to see was the headline: Fitzwilliam Darcy Elopes.
Although Charles Bingley considered himself an amiable gentleman, he was finding himself quite put out with his sister, Caroline. The journey from Derbyshire to Hertfordshire should have only taken them two days. He could not understand why his sister would choose to dawdle as much as she did, extending their rests for as long as possible, then requesting that they stop for the night when it was still only mid-day. Even with his sister's machinations, he had hoped to be able to make the trip in three days, so that they would arrive at Netherfield Park by Saturday evening.
On Saturday afternoon, they were not ten miles from Netherfield Park when Caroline claimed she had a horrible headache and could not possibly be expected to travel any further that day. Bingley had been tempted to ride ahead of her, but Caroline complained so abundantly, that he finally gave in and spent the rest of the day, as well as Sunday, not ten miles from his preferred destination. Although Caroline lingered as long as she could on Monday morning, even she had to eventually admit that there was nothing else she needed in order to be ready for the day, and they made their way to Netherfield Park.
The housekeeper, Mrs. Nicholls, was relieved when the Bingley carriage finally made its way down the drive toward Netherfield Park. Mr. Bingley had sent a message the week before, asking her to expect him and his sister on Friday. Although she had learned the year before that her employer could be capricious, he had always been accurate when informing her about his travel plans (even if some of those plans were hastily made). She was contented that whatever caused the delay in travel, it did not appear as if any harm had befallen them.
As soon as the carriage came to a stop, Bingley sprung from the door, then turned to assist his sister. After getting assurances that their rooms were prepared for them if they would like to freshen up, Mrs. Nicholls told them to expect a repast in the front drawing room within the quarter hour.
Bingley was delighted to be home. As he made his way to the drawing room, he assured his housekeeper that he would attend to any correspondence or pressing business that afternoon. As the tea things were set out in the drawing room, Mrs. Nicholls deposited a small pile of newspapers next to the tray.
"As we were expecting your arrival on Friday, I have the newspapers for the last few days if you care to view them," she indicated the pile.
"Thank you, Mrs. Nicholls, you are as efficient as ever."
After Mrs. Nicholls left the room, Bingley started fiddling with his cup and saucer. He knew it was much too soon to call on the Bennets as he had arrived less than an hour previous, but that was all he really wanted to do. As he waited for Caroline to descend from her rooms, he absently picked up the top newspaper and started thumbing through it, without really absorbing any of the words. He was preparing to set the paper back down since he heard Caroline making her way to the room, when one headline caught his eye. Grabbing the newspaper back up, he quickly scanned the article, grinning excitedly.
"Really, Charles, what could possibly cause you to have such a grin on your face?" Caroline asked as she prepared her tea.
"When he told me that he would likely not be a single man the next time we met, I had thought he was talking about being betrothed. I had no idea he was planning on getting married so quickly." As Bingley was completely absorbed with what he was reading (a rare occurrence) he failed to realize his sister would have no idea who he was talking about.
"Who are you speaking of, has one of your friends married?"
Caroline was always eager for gossip, so approached her brother in order to read over his shoulder, thinking she would need to scan down the list of wedding announcements. It was unclear which made a louder noise: her teacup shattering on the ground or the shriek that erupted from her throat.
Bingley barely even registered his sister's reaction. He was simply happy that he now had a good excuse to call on the Bennets, even though it was still the day of his arrival.
Lydia Bennet was irate. Although she had to admit that her own elopement had not gone according to plan, she did not understand why no one seemed to be upset that Elizabeth had eloped with the boring Mr. Darcy. If anything, her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner had been pleased to see the news in the paper, but not at all surprised.
In the midst of her aggravated contemplation, she was surprised when Colonel Fitzwilliam was shown into the sitting room where she was sitting quietly with Mrs. Gardiner.
"Have you come to gloat, Colonel Fitzwilliam?" Lydia asked petulantly. "I do not need another reminder that I acted foolishly. I do not think I will easily forget your conversation with Mr. Wickham."
Although Mrs. Gardiner gave her a stern look, Lydia simply adjusted her position so that she could no longer see her aunt's face.
"I came to do nothing of the sort," Richard replied. "I am only concerned at your wellbeing."
"Then perhaps you can explain something to me," Lydia replied. "If an elopement is so scandalous, why does no one disapprove of Lizzy's elopement with Mr. Darcy?"
"Do you truly not understand?" Richard asked, perplexed. When Lydia indicated that she did not, he went on to explain. "The only reason your sister has eloped is as an attempt to save your reputation. Darcy would have rather married her in the more traditional manner, but it was clear that word of your elopement had already begun to spread. They hope that by eloping, it will be generally accepted that Miss Elizabeth was the only Bennet sister to have behaved so scandalously. Gossip is often inaccurate. It should not be too much of a leap for your neighbors to believe you only left Brighton after hearing of your sister's elopement."
Humbled, Lydia acknowledged that her sister had made a large sacrifice on her behalf. The fact that it was a rich young man in a red coat that explained the situation to her may or may not have made a difference.
It was not many minutes later that Richard asked Lydia to take a drive with him through Hyde Park. Giving the impression that he was trying to lift her spirits, he asked only that she not talk about how she came to be in London during the excursion.
Richard had rightly guessed that Lydia was easily distracted by all that London had to offer. She had often heard of Hyde Park, but as she was rarely in London due to her Father's distaste for the city, she had yet to enjoy the paths during the fashionable hours.
While on their drive, Richard was sure to stop and introduce Lydia to everyone he was even slightly acquainted with, stressing her last name. Lydia was ecstatic with all the attention that she received, and all the questions that people asked her. If a disproportionate number of the questions were concerning her sister, Elizabeth, Lydia truly did not notice. This was an adventure she would be sure to write to Kitty about immediately.
When Darcy returned downstairs in the Inn, he was surprised to find his wife with her nose in a newspaper. As he leaned over her shoulder to see what could interest her, he was surprised at the headline greeting him.
"They certainly did not waste any time," Darcy commented quietly.
"Yes, but there is another small line in a different article that I find much more interesting," Elizabeth replied.
"Oh, and what would that be?"
Elizabeth quietly showed him the comment concerning Colonel Fitzwilliam and the "unknown young lady," a look of relief clearly on her face.
"That is marvelous news," Darcy replied, bringing her hand to his mouth for a quick kiss. "Now, come with me. I have given Hastings and your father a five minute deadline before they must be in the carriage or we will leave without them."
Although Viscount Hastings made it to the carriage within the allotted five minutes, it took Mr. Bennet a full seven minutes, as he stopped by the kitchen for a small breakfast that he could take with him.
The time in the carriage passed surprising quickly for the Darcy's, as they succumbed to exhaustion after only a few minutes. As Viscount Hastings and Mr. Bennet shared a laugh over the speculation in the newspaper article, the friendship that had begun to form over the proceeding days solidified.
When Mr. Bingley arrived at Longbourn, the Bennet ladies were in the midst of devouring the article concerning Elizabeth's elopement. Mrs. Bennet was preparing herself to receive the well wishes of all her neighbors at this evidence of her daughter's successful marriage. They were surprised that the first person to come to call was none other than Mr. Bingley.
The Bennets were astonished at the arrival of Mr. Bingley on their doorstep, when they had been assured most distinctly just the day prior that he had not arrived as Netherfield Park. They had heard he was expected back in the neighborhood, but had anticipated hearing of his arrival before actually seeing him.
As Bingley expressed his well wishes on the marriage of the second eldest Bennet daughter (along with unnecessary assurances in the honor of his friend), his eyes could not stray far from Jane. For her part, Jane found it difficult to raise her eyes from the ground. She most definitely did not feel capable of actually meeting his gaze.
When Bingley explained his plans (thought of as they were leaving his mouth) to write a letter to Darcy offering him the use of Netherfield Park at any time in order to visit his new family, Mrs. Bennet was in raptures. Although even she was able to contain some of her words until after Bingley had left, the rest of the family soon learned that having one daughter stay at Netherfield Park as a guest was surely only a step toward having another of her daughters installed as its mistress.
By the time Bingley was taking his leave, Lacy Lucas, Mrs. Phillips, Mrs. Long, and Mrs. Goulding had all arrived to express their well wishes. It did not take much to press him to stay and relate all that he knew concerning the happy couple. All were astounded to hear that Bingley had actually seen the young couple in company not a day prior to their elopement. He was happy to relate that they seemed to seek each other's company, and could often be found gazing at one another. All the women sighed at this evidence of love. When they left the Bennet home, it was to share slightly embellished tales of Darcy and Elizabeth's secret rendezvous in Derbyshire.
After arriving in London, both of Darcy's carriages made their way to Viscount Hastings' home. After Hastings and his valet were both delivered, the servants' carriage departed for Darcy house, while the Darcy carriage made its way to Gracechurch Street and the Gardiner residence. It was getting quite late in the evening, so after ensuring that they had interpreted the newspaper accurately, and that Lydia has in residence, Darcy and Elizabeth departed for their home, with a promise to return on the morrow to discuss in depth any other plans that needed to be made.
When they arrived at Darcy House, they were amazed to discover they were not the only people in residence. Both Viscount Hastings and Colonel Fitzwilliam had made themselves at home in the library, sipping on Brandy and trading stories.
When Darcy inquired as to their presence, Viscount Hastings explained that his wife had not welcomed him home due to his mention in the newspaper article concerning Darcy's elopement. After spending several minutes expounding on the frigidity he had found when returning home, Colonel Fitzwilliam laughingly encouraging him. Darcy finally cut him off in mid-sentence. Telling his cousins they were welcome to stay in any of the unoccupied rooms in the house, he led Elizabeth to their bedchambers. It was not until the next morning that Elizabeth was able to discern anything about the features of the room, beyond the fact that it boasted the most comfortable bed she had ever slept in.
Posted on: 2014-02-04
Lady Matlock tried her best not to roll her eyes at the inanities coming out of the mouth of her daughter-in-law, Lady Hastings. The lady had arrived at Matlock House fairly late in the morning, expecting to find her husband in residence. She was to be disappointed. When it became clear as to why Lady Hastings expected to find Lord Hastings at Matlock house, Lady Matlock had called for the carriage. Lady Matlock had spent the majority of the previous day answering brazen questions regarding Darcy and his new bride. She felt that she had been able to put a fairly positive spin on the elopement. If she decided to place the blame for the elopement on Lady Catherine's shoulders she could hardly be faulted. Richard had confirmed the fact that the two women did not get along, and Lady Catherine had never disguised her hopes for a union between her daughter and Darcy.
When the carriage came to a stop in front of Darcy house, Lady Hastings made it clear that she was surprised at their destination.
"What are we doing here?" she asked. "I cannot be seen going into Darcy's home so soon after his elopement."
"I was under the impression that you desired to meet with your husband," Lady Matlock replied.
"I will meet him at your house, but I will not set a foot inside Darcy's house."
Lady Matlock took a long look at the woman sitting across from her before speaking again.
"We are both going to enter Darcy's house in the next couple of minutes. You can decide how long you stay, but you will most definitely be entering the home."
"But visiting his home will make it appear as if we are accepting of his marriage," Lady Hastings was getting quite indignant.
"I know exactly what it means," Lady Matlock replied. "Now, unless you plan to be cut off from Matlock House, I highly recommend that you follow me inside."
Without giving Lady Hastings a chance to reply, Lady Matlock tapped the door to indicate they were ready to exit the carriage. Ever efficient, the door was immediately opened and Lady Matlock and Lady Hastings were both handed out.
After their late arrival at Darcy house on Monday night, Darcy and Elizabeth enjoyed a private morning in the master suite. It was not until quite late in the morning that their conversation turned to the Fitzwilliam brothers that were undoubtedly somewhere within the house.
"Why do you think they are here?" Elizabeth asked.
"I'm sure that Richard wants acquaint us with any news concerning Lydia," Darcy replied. "As for Hastings, I thought he waxed fairly eloquent on the topic last evening."
"Yes, his wife," Elizabeth grimaced. "Is she really so horrid? Do you think she will try to make things difficult for us?"
"That is difficult to tell, though I am sure we will find out soon enough."
They were interrupted by a knock on their door by a servant announcing the arrival of Darcy's relatives Lady Matlock and Lady Hastings.
"This is a good sign, at least," Darcy stated before dropping a quick kiss on his wife and making his way toward the door to his dressing room.
"How is this a good sign?" Elizabeth asked.
"Apparently, my aunt has decided to publicly accept our marriage," Darcy replied. "You are soon to meet the true head of the Fitzwilliam family, and it appears she is predisposed to approve."
With a smile he disappeared behind the door, and Elizabeth rang the bell for Sally to come and help her get ready for the day. It was time to meet the relations.
Caroline Bingley had occupied her Monday contemplating the elopement of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. At first, she had been furious that Charles would run to the Longbourn as soon as he discovered an excuse to call on the Bennets. The more she thought about it, though, the more she realized she could use this to her advantage.
Although she was disappointed that her attempts to attract Darcy's attention had failed, she did not wish to lose the privilege of visiting Pemberley or the other benefits that the association with Mr. Darcy had brought into her life. By the next morning she had decided that the best way to ensure she remained welcome within the Darcy sphere of influence was if they were family. Charles was clearly still besotted with Jane Bennet. It should only take a mild push and he would propose. With her brother married to the wife of Darcy's sister, Caroline was certain that her place in society would be secure.
With her new plan in place, Caroline informed Charles that she would join him on his next visit to Longbourn. A rather perplexed Charles told his sister he was planning on visiting that afternoon.
As Elizabeth laid her hand on Darcy's arm to be led downstairs to meet his relations, Darcy chose not to resist the temptation to pull her to him and steal one more kiss. They were interrupted by a loud clearing of a throat from behind them.
"At least it is comforting to know that we have gone through all this hassle for a woman you love." They turned in unison to find Colonel Fitzwilliam approaching from the direction of the bedchambers. "A pleasure so see you again Mrs. Darcy."
"The pleasure is mine, Colonel Fitzwilliam," Elizabeth replied, moving into a slightly more proper position next to her husband. "I trust that you slept well."
"You cannot deny that you took great delight in finding Wickham," Darcy added. "I do not think any of this has been an imposition for you."
"You are correct," replied the Colonel, as the threesome made their way down the stairs. "I will be forever grateful that you allowed me to go after that man. It is a relief that he will be out of our lives forever."
A shadow crossed Darcy's face. Before he could ask after Mr. Wickham's fate, Richard ensured him that he would not face the gallows.
"He will be leaving for Australia by week's end. If you desire to see him one last time it can be arranged, but I would recommend that you do not. You have done everything you could to help Wickham throughout his life. You have done more than your father asked. It is time to let go." Richard did not miss the way that Elizabeth's hand squeezed Darcy's arm in comfort, or the stoic look that overcame his cousin. "Besides, this is a time for celebration. I do believe I failed to offer my congratulations last evening, so let me offer them now. Welcome to the family, Mrs. Darcy."
"Thank you, Colonel Fitzwilliam," Elizabeth replied. "I only hope that the rest of the family will be as welcoming. I fear that Lord Hastings' presence here last night was a bad omen of things to come."
"Do not let that worry you, I have lost count of the number of times the two of them have had an argument that has driven my brother from the house. You would think that their house would be large enough for them to coexist. I am afraid that my brother rather likes having his wife collect him after an argument."
"So, should I be expecting him here often, then?" Elizabeth asked.
"No, I am afraid that I am the cousin you should expect to see regularly," Richard replied. "Since I share Georgiana's guardianship, Darcy long ago offered me a room in the family wing of the house. Anthony typically goes directly to Matlock House."
It took a moment for Elizabeth to realize that 'Anthony' was Lord Hastings, but then she felt silly for thinking his brother would refer to him by anything other than his given name.
"What do you think prompted the change?" Elizabeth asked.
"That is a mystery that only Anthony could explain."
They had arrived outside the parlor that housed their guests. Elizabeth returned her attention to her husband, and was relieved that he appeared to have returned to good humor. Since it was clear that neither of the others would take the lead, and it felt ridiculous to wait for a servant to open the door for them, Darcy turned the knob with a murmured: Once more unto the Breach, my friends.
Jane Bennet was thoroughly overwhelmed and confused. From the moment the Bingleys first arrived at Longbourn she found the prospect of raising her eyes from the floor to be much too daunting of a task to attempt. Although she had convinced herself that she would be able to meet with Mr. Bingley again, he was not the main cause of her unease. She had always easily imagined altruistic motives for those around her, no matter their offense. She found herself in the unenviable position of being in the company of a young lady to whom she could not assign noble motives, and she did not like the feeling. The source of her confusion was clasping her arm as they circled the room.
When Miss Bingley had first asked Jane to accompany her on a turn about the room, she thought it was an attempt to separate her from Mr. Bingley. It was not until they were several paces away from Mr. Bingley that it became clear that Miss Bingley had asked Jane to walk in an attempt to share confidences.
"Now Jane, I know I should not be telling you this," Caroline started (though Jane could not remember giving her permission to address her so informally), "but my brother greatly admires you."
"Indeed?" Jane was much too confused to formulate a more articulate response.
"Certainly," Caroline replied. "He thinks of you constantly, and I am sure that if there had not been pressing matters he would have returned to Netherfield Park long ago."
"Pressing matters?" Jane's mind was in such turmoil that she could do little beyond repeating a few of Caroline's words, but it appeared as if Caroline did not need any more encouragement than that.
"Why yes!" Caroline exclaimed in a whisper. "First he had such a dreadful amount of business in London, then as soon as the weather cleared we travelled to Scarborough to visit some relations. We were there several months before travelling to Pemberley. Then, we came here as soon as we could politely take our leave after Mr. Darcy left so abruptly."
"Abruptly?" Jane looked back toward Mr. Bingley, trying to determine how best to shed herself of Caroline's company and return to his, without making it appear as if she was seeking his company.
"It took us completely by surprise," Caroline continued. "Though, perhaps it is for the best as it allowed my brother to return here sooner than expected. He has not been the same since leaving Hertfordshire. I am afraid that he left his heart behind. If I had understood at the time how much he suffered I would never have imagined giving up on our correspondence. I am convinced we will soon become friends again. Will that not be nice?"
"Friends?" By this point Jane was only listening to half of Caroline's words as her eyes had met Mr. Bingley's and she had not looked away. Caroline was getting frustrated at how completely dull Jane appeared to be, but if she could secure her place in high society by Jane's marriage to her brother, she would do everything in her power to make it happen.
As Caroline opened her mouth to continue her monologue that was disguised as a conversation, Jane was saved by Mr. Bingley rising to his feet.
"Your activity has inspired me to wish for a walk among the gardens. Would you be inclined to show them to me?"
Before Jane could respond, Mrs. Bennet eagerly agreed that it was a splendid idea. As everyone readied themselves for the outdoors, Mrs. Bennet took Mary and Kitty aside to instruct them on ways to keep Miss Bingley occupied in order to allow Jane and Mr. Bingley as much privacy as possible. Her instructions were unnecessary as Caroline had felt she had already done as much as she could do in one afternoon. She could only hope that her brother would take advantage of the privacy afforded him. Both Mrs. Bennet and Miss Bingley were to be disappointed.
Although both Mr. Bingley and Jane enjoyed the time together in the garden, it was still much too awkward between them to come to an understanding. As the Bingleys took their leave later that day, both Mrs. Bennet and Miss Bingley starting considering ways they could throw the couple together again.
When Darcy opened the door to the parlor, he was surprised to find that Lady Matlock and Lady Hastings were alone. His cousin was nowhere in sight. Introductions were quickly made, with Lady Matlock truly delighted, and Lady Hastings saying as little as civility allowed.
"Now, you should know what is being said," started Lady Matlock. "I had quite the most informative day yesterday. I do not know how the rumor came about, but you should be aware of the fact that many believe that the two of you have been secretly engaged since April. I may have intimated that one of the reasons you chose to elope was to avoid discord between the Fitzwilliams and the de Bourghs. It is fairly common knowledge that Lady Catherine has always hoped for a marriage between Darcy and Anne, though few actually expected the union to take place. So, you eloped in order to save my dear husband the uncomfortable choice of either supporting you or his sister."
"And, is this story being generally accepted?" Darcy asked.
"I understand you must not, as of yet, seen this morning's paper." All in the room turned toward the voice, to see Viscount Hastings entering the room, newspaper in hand. When Darcy extended his hand, the newspaper was handed to him. Elizabeth unabashedly looked on from his side, with Colonel Fitzwilliam reading over his shoulder.
"This is a remarkably positive article," Darcy finally indicated. "I am amazed at some of the information they were able to gather."
"I do know how to spread a good rumor," said Lady Matlock. "I had at least a hundred women in and out of my parlor yesterday. All it takes is a seeming innocent comment to one, and another piece of the story to another. They then all circulate through different houses all day long comparing notes. It does not take long for them to draw their own conclusions. There are so many young ladies reading novels, that it was not difficult to convince them of the romanticism of it all."
"Yes, but how were they to know of Elizabeth's original dislike? Though, the article indicates that she pretended a dislike in order to better hide the engagement."
"You can thank Elizabeth's sister for that bit of wisdom," Richard cut in. "I took her for a ride in Hyde Park yesterday. She can be remarkably loquacious about a variety of subjects, especially when ladies and gentlemen of fashion are asking her questions. She is the one that told people that everyone in Hertfordshire had thought you disliked each other dreadfully. In the course of the afternoon she also mentioned that you had been guests in the same house for several days while the eldest Miss Bennet was ill. I will admit that it was only after my encouragement that she seemed to remember your propensity to stare at the then Miss Elizabeth while in company."
"Well, now there is enough information spread around to have everyone talking for a great long while," Lord Hastings interjected. "Mother, I am assuming you are here to plot the next step, of introducing Elizabeth into society."
"Yes, and you wife graciously agreed to accompany me, so it should be clear to society that Mrs. Darcy has been well received by the family. I have given it some thought, and I think Lord and Lady Berwick's Ball would be the ideal occasion to launch her into society."
"They are holding a ball?" Darcy asked, though he was not the only one astonished.
"What is so surprising?" Elizabeth asked.
"In February, Lord Berwick married his much younger mistress. This will be Lady Berwick's first ball."
"And, why is this the ideal occasion?" Elizabeth asked.
"Everyone will be so occupied with the scandalous nature of the hosts that your elopement will pale in comparison. In short, there will be much more interesting gossip on which to attend."
It was quickly agreed upon that the Berwick Ball would be the ideal situation in which to introduce Elizabeth to London Society. When Lady Matlock revealed that it was not for another fortnight, Darcy was more than happy to agree as that gave him an agreeable amount of time secluded with his wife.
Lady Matlock indicated she would make arrangements for her modiste to visit Darcy house within a few days in order to begin Elizabeth's wedding clothes ("Every bride needs wedding clothes.") She was certain there would not be an issue in creating a new ball gown in time for the ball.
Darcy and Elizabeth saw Lady Matlock and Lord and Lady Hastings to their carriage. A few steps from the door, with his wife's hand still on his arm, Lord Hastings brought Elizabeth's hand to his mouth for a kiss. Throwing a wink in Darcy's direction, he once again expressed his pleasure in making her acquaintance, then handed a fulminating Lady Hastings into the carriage. Even if she had managed to avoid saying more than two words directly to Mrs. Darcy, those passing on the street had just been given the impression that she was willing to accept her into society. She did not care to think that her husband had the ability to manipulate her, so chose to believe that it was mistakenly done.
It was only after returning to the house, that they remembered Colonel Fitzwilliam was in residence. Wishing to be alone, but knowing that they needed to know everything that had occurred in London concerning Mr. Wickham and Miss Lydia, they joined Richard in the parlor. It was several rounds of refreshments later when Richard felt he had divulged all of his dealings with Mr. Wickham and Miss Lydia.
Although Darcy would have preferred to have Elizabeth to himself for the following fortnight, it was agreed that Mr. Bennet would bring Lydia to Darcy house in the morning, at which time they could discuss future plans. With a sigh of relief, he watched Richard leave the house in order to convey the message to the Bennets and the Gardiners. Without saying a word, he took Elizabeth's hand in his own, and the two of them disappeared for the rest of the evening.
AN: If wikipedia.com is to be believed, Thomas Noel Hill, 2nd Baron Berwick of Attingham (born in October 1770, so 41 years old in February 1812), married his 17 year old mistress, Sophia, in February of 1812. As to whether or not they held a ball the following season, is complete conjecture on my part. Both Sophia and her sister Harriette Wilson were "highly fashionable courtesans."
Posted on: 2014-02-18
Darcy and Elizabeth were just finishing a late breakfast when Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr. Gardiner, Mr. Bennet and Miss Lydia were shown in. Elizabeth immediately stood and approached her sister, stopping a few paces away. Neither knew quite what to say, though it was clear by their eyes that both were nervous for this first meeting since their elopements.
"Lyddie," Elizabeth whispered, raising one hand toward her sister.
That was all the encouragement that Lydia needed. With a ruffle of skirts, Lydia threw herself into her sister's arms, tears streaming down her face. With a look from Elizabeth, the gentlemen left the room, giving the young women some privacy.
"I am so sorry," Lydia whispered through her tears. "I was so caught up in being the first to marry that I made a mess of everything. Can you ever forgive me?"
Elizabeth was astonished at seeing her sister's tears. It had been years since Lydia had shown true remorse. As Lydia's tears stained her morning dress, Elizabeth's heart opened. She did not know everything that had happened to her sister since that fateful day in Brighton, but there was little doubt that it had affected her immensely. Elizabeth suddenly found herself missing the silly girl that she had always known.
"You are already forgiven," she replied. Then, trying to lighten the mood, she added, "I suppose I really ought to thank you."
"Why would you thank me?" Lydia asked.
"You have saved me innumerable arguments with Mama. It has been many years since we could visit the modiste without a disagreement arising. Can you imagine how upset Mama would be with me if I did not take her advice with my wedding clothes?"
Lydia's tears slowly turned to giggles. As she was approaching hysteria, she suddenly burst out, "Your wedding clothes! I had not given that any thought. Are you going to have wedding clothes?"
"Yes, my new Aunt insists that every bride needs wedding clothes. She is arranging to have her modiste visit Darcy House shortly."
"Oh! A private visit with the modiste! I did not realize how rich you would be. Can I help you pick out your gowns? Do you think she would make something for me?"
With a smile that resembled a grimace, Elizabeth realized that the spoiled and annoying sister that she knew and loved was not completely lost.
While Elizabeth and Lydia were experiencing their reunion in the breakfast room, the gentlemen gathered in Darcy's study.
"What news is there?" Darcy asked.
His cousin, ever the tactician, was the one to reply.
"Wickham's boat leaves in two days. As of yet, it appears he has kept his mouth closed concerning Miss Lydia. He is much too concerned that you will withdraw your support for his deportation over hanging if word of their elopement were to surface. He has decided it is in his best interest not to cause us more trouble.
"My mother has kept her ear to the ground. She has reported on all of the various rumors concerning your elopement. Although she does not know about Miss Lydia's situation, she is astute enough that she would immediately advise me if there was something being spread. It would appear as if London Society has not concerned themselves with Miss Lydia, or her reputation, beyond what they can glean from her concerning your elopement with her sister.
"I received word from Colonel Foster late last evening. He and his wife have agreed to spread the story that Miss Lydia left Brighton abruptly after receiving news concerning her sister's elopement. As they had kept her initial elopement as quiet as possible, it appears as if this story is being accepted."
"Excellent," Darcy replied. "Have we had any news from Hertfordshire?"
"We received a letter from Jane this morning, but it was a few days old and had very little news of consequence," Mr. Bennet replied. "She is a dear girl, but half of her letters take an inordinate amount of time to reach their destination as she is in the habit of writing the direction very ill."
"Perhaps it would be best for one of us to return to Hertfordshire in order to gauge the situation," Mr. Gardiner replied.
"Let me first attempt to send a letter to Mr. Bingley," Darcy replied. "When we left Pemberley, I had the impression that he would make Netherfield Park his next destination. I am sure he will be able to tell us of any rumors circulating around Meryton."
The gentlemen then agreed between themselves that Mr. Bennet and Lydia would return to the Gardiner's for the rest of the week, but would take up residence in Darcy house the following Monday. They would all remain in town until after the Berwick Ball, after which they would travel to Hertfordshire together. They were content in the knowledge that everything was proceeding as planned.
The visitors were invited to stay for luncheon, so Darcy went in search of his bride and her sister. He found them standing in awe in the middle of Elizabeth's closet. The remainder of Elizabeth's luggage had been brought over to Darcy house with Mr. Gardiner and the Bennets, and Sally had already ensured that Elizabeth's clothes were hung in their proper places.
"Planning your changes already?" Darcy asked with a smile.
"How can you say such a thing, Fitzwilliam," Elizabeth replied. "These rooms are amazing. I do not think I will ever own enough clothes to fill this closet."
If the girls had been alone, Lydia would have made a sarcastic remark concerning how easy it would be to fill the closet with the amount of money Lizzy now had at her disposal. Instead, she was struck dumb by the fact that Mr. Darcy replied in a similar vein.
"You forget that the modiste will be here tomorrow, and if my aunt has her way you will spend an inordinate amount of money on filling this closet beyond its capacity."
"I cannot imagine needing so many clothes," Elizabeth replied. "Surely not even your aunt would expect me to fill this closet with one visit with the modiste. The hours spent in fittings alone would be enough to drive me to distraction."
"You are, of course, free to order as many or as few dresses as you choose," Mr. Darcy replied. "It may behoove you to remember, though, that you can either make one very large order, or several small ones. You can decide just how many times you wish to be inconvenienced, though I typically visit my tailor just once a year. A few days of extended poking and prodding have always seemed preferable to spreading the torture out over several afternoons."
"I can see your point, and I will certainly keep that in mind, tomorrow," Elizabeth replied.
"Now, it is time for luncheon. Our companions are waiting for us below."
Charles Bingley could not remember a happier time in his life. He had received encouragement from his friend, and now his sister, to pursue the woman he loved. He had already visited her twice since returning to Netherfield Park two days previous. If her shy smiles were any indication, she was not completely indifferent to his presence. Before leaving Longbourn on Tuesday, Mrs. Bennet had pressed the Bingleys to return for dinner on Wednesday.
If Bingley had been able to take his eyes off of Jane, he may have been amused by the antics of Caroline and Mrs. Bennet. It was almost as if they were in a competition to see who could come up with the finest reasons to leave the young couple alone. As Mr. Bennet was still in London, there was no separation of the sexes after dinner.
Almost immediately after settling down in the parlor, Mrs. Bennet sent Kitty to retrieve Jane's latest example of needlework. As Mrs. Bennet had taken the time to hide the article in the deep recesses of her closet before dinner, she knew that Kitty would be occupied for some time.
Shortly after Kitty left the room, Caroline asked Mary if she would mind entertaining them by playing the pianoforte. Although Caroline never thought she would actually make such a request of the middle Bennet daughter, there was not a pianoforte in the parlor where they were sitting, so it would require Mary to leave the room. Mary was delighted at the opportunity to exhibit, and quickly shuffled away.
Caroline and Mrs. Bennet then turned their eyes on each other, each contemplating the best tactic of removing the other from the room. Caroline made a passing comment on the quality of the meal. Mrs. Bennet made mention of the superiority of their chef. Caroline expressed an interest in meeting the chef, and Mrs. Bennet offered to make the introduction immediately. In unison, both women rose, took a surreptitious look at Jane and Bingley, then left the room. Whether or not the chef would appreciate the intrusion into her domain so soon after dinner, while dishes still needed to be done and servants needed to be fed, was of little importance to either lady.
It was only when they heard the click of the door that either Jane or Bingley realized they had been left alone. Although Jane was embarrassed, Bingley was delighted. Finding his courage, Bingley reached for Jane's hand.
"Miss Bennet, there is something of which I would like to speak to you."
Jane slowly raised her eyes to his face and smiled. She still preferred Mr. Bingley's company to any other man she had ever known. Her heart raced in anticipation of having every one of her dreams coming true.
"It was not long after coming into the neighborhood that I felt myself in love with you. I regret that I allowed myself to be persuaded from addressing you last November. I did not dare to dream that you had similar feelings for me, until Darcy encouraged me to return to Netherfield Park." If Bingley had been a more observant gentleman, he may have noticed Jane's slight furrowing of her brow and slackening of her smile. "He spoke to me as he was leaving Pemberley, encouraging me to discover if you still have tender feelings for me. I have never loved another to the extent that I love you. I immediately decided to return and declare myself. Even Caroline has come to encourage me in my pursuit of your hand. Would you do me the greatest honor and consent to be my wife?"
By the end of Bingley's speech, Jane's smile was much more frigid than it had ever been.
"Would you have asked for my hand if Mr. Darcy had not encouraged you?" Jane asked quietly, casting her eyes back down. Bingley paused a little longer than he should have before replying.
"I am certain I would have returned to Netherfield Park eventually. I have not been myself since I left."
"Even if you returned to Hertfordshire, would you have asked for my hand if you had not been encouraged to do so by Mr. Darcy or your sister?"
"Certainly," Bingley replied, a puzzled expression on his face. "It seems unimportant to discuss the unknown possibilities at this point, though. I truly want your hand in marriage. Will you not answer me?"
Jane drew her breath, and let it out. She wanted to accept Mr. Bingley's hand. When she heard he was coming back into the neighborhood, she had dreamed that he was coming back for her. But, she thought he had made the decision on his own. She had hoped he had grown to miss her to the same extent that she missed him. Instead, it appeared as if he had no real plans to return until he was told to do so by her new brother. Could she marry him, knowing that her feelings appeared to be stronger than his? What if they were unsuccessful at completely silencing the gossip concerning Lydia's disgrace? Would he come to resent her?
"When you arrived in Hertfordshire, you immediately came to express your well wishes on the marriage of my sister, Lizzy, to your friend, Mr. Darcy. Would you have still come if there was no news concerning the Darcys, but instead there was gossip indicating that my sister Lydia had eloped with a soldier, with no evidence that they were married?"
"Why would you ask such a question?" Mr. Bingley was very confused.
"It is important to me. Please tell me what you would have done," Jane replied.
"I do not know. I suppose that Caroline would have wished to travel straight on to London. I would probably have taken her for the season, hoping that she would marry. After she married, I would have come back."
"But, what if she did not marry this season? How long would you have waited?"
"I really have never given such a thing a thought, and I do not understand why you would even be considering such a scenario. Why is this so important to you?" Bingley was starting to become ruffled. He had planned to be celebrating his engagement by this point. Now, instead of kissing his betrothed, they were in the midst of a debate. There was a reason he did not participate in debate while at University.
"If it were not for Mr. Darcy, you would have been welcomed to Hertfordshire by the gossip concerning Lydia. Elizabeth told him of Lydia's actions, and he suggested they elope as well." In stunned silence, Bingley listened as Jane outlined the rest of Darcy's plan to confuse the gossips. "Even though things seem to be going as they hoped, there is always a chance that gossip will spread concerning Lydia. Although I do care for you, I will not marry you if there is a chance you will regret the union. If others discover Lydia's actions, will you regret your offer?"
Bingley sat in thought for a few moments. He was never very good at thinking on his feet when it came to weightier matters. Darcy had always advised him in these sorts of situations (not that he had ever been in quite this same situation before). It was only as Jane began withdrawing her hand from his grasp that he was brought back to the present. The idea of losing her was much worse than the idea of withstanding gossip concerning her sister.
"No!" Bingley exclaimed, reclaiming her hand. At first, Jane was uncertain where he was protesting the removal of her hand or if he was answering her question. "There is nothing that could make me regret marrying you. I was surprised by the news, but that does not change the fact that I love you."
"Are you certain?" Jane asked, her smile finally softening slightly.
"Certainly," he replied. "Though, if we could refrain from telling Caroline I would be grateful. I do not know that she would agree that the benefit outweighs the risk, and may withdraw her support."
"And would that matter to you? If your sister no longer supported your decision, would you still marry me?"
"Now that you have assured me of your regard, there is nothing anyone else could say to dissuade me from pursuing you."
"Then, my answer is 'yes,' Mr. Bingley," Jane replied.
"Yes, I will be your wife."
When Caroline and Mrs. Bennet approached the parlor a few minutes later they both pressed their ears to the door as discretely as possible. They shared a smile at the realization that there was complete silence on the other side of the door. They stood outside for just a moment, both talking much louder than would typically be required, before opening the door to the bright smiles of their relations.
Posted on: 2014-03-24
Although the Darcys attempted to stay away from society as much as possible, they still felt completely inundated from their family during their fortnight of seclusion. Elizabeth would never know how Lady Matlock was able to arrange for Lady Hastings to return to Darcy house for the visit from the modiste, but the two ladies arrived shortly before Madam Beauvant. Lydia had not yet taken up residence at Darcy house, but Elizabeth had agreed that she could visit while the modiste was attending her.
Madam Beauvant had appeared on Bond Street twenty years previous. She quickly made a name for herself, and after only a few years stopped taking on new clients unless they came highly recommended by one of her current customers, which made her even more sought after. Lady Hastings may not have been so confused over Madam Beauvant's willingness to have a private sitting in a new client's home if she had remembered that Lady Matlock had been one of the first ladies to appear at a ball in one of Madam Beauvant's creations.
Although Lady Hastings had determined that she would be silent for the entire endeavor, she did find herself fascinated by the conversation. At first, it appeared as if Miss Lydia had very little fashion sense. The suggestions she made became more and more outrageous. At one point, she even asked if it was possible to have a dress made entirely of lace. She was well on her way to being offended on her cousin's behalf, until Mrs. Darcy laughed.
"Oh, Lydia, you have been doing a marvelous job of impersonating Mama, but I don't think even she would make such a suggestion."
"I'm not so sure," Lydia laughingly replied. "Do you not remember how she described the lace on Mrs. Hurst's gown when we first made their acquaintance? I think Mama would be ecstatic to own a gown covered from head to toe in the finest lace she could manage."
Both sisters tried, unsuccessfully, to contain their mirth when Lady Matlock joined in the conversation.
"My dear, there is a very important difference between having lace cover the entire gown and having the gown made of nothing but lace."
"Yes, mon chre, though a dressing gown made entirely of lace is another matter, entirely. I do not think Mr. Darcy would be offended by such a garment," Madame Beauvant interjected, causing Elizabeth to blush exceedingly. "Now, we really must choose the patterns for the rest of these gowns."
As the ladies continued their lighthearted selection of Mrs. Darcy's trousseau (with slightly more serious suggestions from Miss Lydia), Lady Hastings came to regret her decision to remain out of the conversation. Her pride would not allow her to take part in a discussion that she had sworn to remain apart from. She petulantly concentrated on the La Belle Assemble she held in her hands. It did not seem fair that in the course of a few days, Lady Matlock was already treating Mrs. Darcy in a much more familiar manner than she had come to expect from her mother-in-law after fifteen years of marriage.
While Elizabeth was being pricked and prodded for her trousseau, Darcy decided to escape the house for a short time. Although he did not want to spend any time away from his wife, he knew he would not have her to himself for many hours.
Darcy had initially agreed with his cousin that it would be best to let George Wickham disappear from his life with no further contact. When he realized that the ship that Wickham was departing on would be boarding during his wife's visit with the modiste, he decided that he would at least give himself the closure of seeing him depart.
When Darcy arrived at the docks, he was only mildly surprised to discern his cousin attending personally to the transfer of the prisoner to the ship. He momentarily considered joining the men on the docks, but thought better of it. In the end, Wickham didn't even see him, as he walked, head bowed, toward his destiny. Darcy stood there for over an hour, watching the comings and goings of the crew. It was only as the ship set off with the high tide that he realized his cousin had come to stand next to him.
"It is done," Colonel Fitzwilliam stated when he knew he had his cousin's attention. With a nod of acknowledgement, the two men boarded Darcy's carriage in order to return to Darcy House. Each breathed a sigh of relief that one more obstacle had been hurdled. They were one step closer to being able to claim victory in their scheme to keep Miss Lydia's reputation clean (and by extension, the rest of her family).
When Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam arrived at Darcy House, the ladies were still ensconced with Madam Beauvant. Not wanting to interrupt the ladies (or be drawn into a discussion concerning lace, or any other fashionable accoutrements) they made their way to Darcy's study. Just before closing door, they heard the ring of laughter coming from the parlour. Both men paused a moment, with smiles on their faces.
"I do not think I appreciated the value of laughter before I met Elizabeth," Darcy admitted.
"I have only recently come to realize why so many officers are drawn to women that love to laugh," Richard replied. "We have seen too much war. It must be refreshing to go home to a wife that is free from the cares of the world."
On Mr. Bennet's final day at the Gardiner residence, he was surprised at the sudden appearance of Mr. Bingley. At first, he was concerned that something had happened at Longbourn that he should be concerned about. As Bingley stuttered through his reason for travelling, though, Mr. Bennet came to realize that there was nothing to be concerned about. He was about to lose his eldest daughter to marriage. Although he was a little surprised that he would be losing more than one child within such a short amount of time, he reasoned it was better to have as so many changes happen at the same time. This way, when everything settled down, they would be able to settle in to their new routine with a longer stretch before new changes were to occur.
With permission granted, Bingley spent less than a day in London, returning to Netherfield Park (and Longbourn) as fast as humanly possible.
As Darcy and Elizabeth were often late to rise, it became common for Mr. Bennet and Lydia to take breakfast with Colonel Fitzwilliam before he was required to report for duty for the day. Mr. Bennet was happy with the arrangement, as it gave him some intelligent conversation before disappearing into the library for the day. During that time, Lydia's mood was entirely unpredictable. Some days she would be morose, but others she would be happy, engaging in all sorts of silly discussions. Two days before the Berwick Ball, she arrived positively giddy. That evening, Darcy confided in his cousin that there was now evidence that Lydia had not fallen with child during her time with Mr. Wickham. Colonel Fitzwilliam found he could suddenly breathe easier, though he did not care to examine exactly why.
Posted on: 2014-05-05
The morning of the Berwick Ball dawned clear and bright. Elizabeth could only hope it was a good omen for the day. Their entrance into society that evening would either bring more anxiety, or put their minds at ease.
It was decided that Mr. Bennet and Lydia would join them at the ball. After ensuring that London was aware of Lydia's presence in town with her relations, they did not want to do anything that would make it appear as if they were hiding her.
Although Elizabeth and Darcy had remained as secluded as possible with guests in their house, there had been many opportunities to observe her little sister. In many ways, Lydia appeared to be much as she ever was. Elizabeth was not ignorant, though, of the many times her sister would be caught up in a memory and a melancholy look would shadow her eyes. The look was always gone within moments, but it was clear Lydia had finally started to use her head for more than a location to place her bonnet.
As Elizabeth's maid prepared her for the evening, she was surprised by the appearance of Lydia in her dressing room. Lydia was already dressed in a gown that was much finer than any she had owned previously. The girls made small talk while Sally finished Elizabeth's hair. After Elizabeth dismissed Sally for the evening, Lydia finally felt free to speak openly.
"I've realized this week just how much I almost lost when I eloped with Mr. Wickham," Lydia admitted. "I do not know how to thank you for saving me."
"The best way to thank me is to promise never to elope again," Elizabeth replied, smiling.
"I think that is a promise that I can easily make," Lydia replied. "I have learned my lesson. It will not happen again."
"That is all I ask," Elizabeth replied, bringing Lydia in for a hug. Before the hug could be complete, though, Lydia jumped away.
"Don't muss my hair!" she exclaimed. "The maid has done it up so nicely, and I won't have a bit of sentimentality ruin it before the evening has even begun."
Being only the first week of September, it was still early for the Little Season. Yet, there seemed to be an inordinate number of people attending the Berwick Ball. The ball did not begin until after dusk, letting the heat of the season cool slightly before introducing the heat from the hordes of people attending the ball. Even with all the windows thrown wide open, Darcy was certain the heat would become unbearable much earlier than it would be acceptable to leave. Glancing at his wife, he realized that, even with the heat, he was likely to enjoy this ball more than any other he had ever attended.
As they made their way through the receiving line, Darcy was impressed with Elizabeth's grace. She did not bat an eye as she was introduced to the very young Lady Berwick, and the fairly old Lord Berwick. She only blushed slightly when they both overheard Lydia whispering that Lord Berwick must be very rich, indeed.
There were only a few paces away from the line, when there was a small commotion behind them. Turning around, they saw a female being escorted off the property. Lord Berwick appeared quite upset. It was only as they walked away that they learned that Lady Berwick's sister, Harriette Wilson, had tried to gain admittance to the ball. Since it was a well-known fact that Miss Wilson was still very active as a courtesan, Lord Berwick had insisted his wife cut ties with her sister. Although it may have seemed hypocritical, considering the fact that Lady Berwick was a courtesan before her marriage, she had agreed to the break. It appeared as if her sister was not so resigned to the action.
The receiving line broke up almost immediately, and Lord Berwick led his wife in to start the ball. Darcy led his wife to the forming set. It was only as they claimed their place in line that he realized they had been followed to the dance floor by his cousin and Elizabeth's sister.
After the first pair of dances, the foursome found Mr. Bennet speaking quietly with Lord and Lady Matlock, as well as Lord Hastings. As Lord Hastings was ten years Darcy's senior, and Darcy was eight years older than Elizabeth, there were fewer than a dozen years that separated Lord Hastings and Mr. Bennet. As such, especially considering the time they spent travelling with the Darcys on the road to London, Mr. Bennet found it much easier to converse with Lord Hastings than with his father, the Earl of Matlock.
After a short change of pleasantries, Lady Matlock questioned Elizabeth about the scene they witnessed after arriving at the ball. Darcy was not only surprised that his aunt would be interested in the latest gossip concerning Lady Berwick and her sister, but also that she would ask about it so loudly in a public place. While Elizabeth was in the midst of explaining the scene, in a much quieter tone, they were approached by Mrs. Davenport and her daughter, who were seeking an introduction.
Although Lady Matlock and Mrs. Davenport were not close confidants, they were friendly. Due to Mrs. Davenport's love of gossip and matchmaking, Darcy had avoided her whenever possible in the past. After the introductions to his wife were completed, Mrs. Davenport casually questioned Elizabeth concerning the scene with Lady Berwick's sister. Only then did Darcy understand why his aunt had asked the question so loudly. When Mrs. Davenport's curiosity was sated, she politely excused herself, then could be seen relating the contents of their conversation to another acquaintance.
"As I predicted," Lady Matlock began. "There is much more interesting gossip to attend to at this assembly. There will be very few who bother to censure you this evening for an elopement between two perfectly respectable individuals, even if your fortunes are not equal."
As the evening progressed, Lady Matlock was proven correct. There were still a handful of women who turned up their noses in Elizabeth's direction, though the cynical might be inclined to mention that those who still spurned Elizabeth's acquaintance all had daughters of marriageable age.
To Darcy's vexation, the young gentlemen seemed the most ready to welcome Elizabeth into their circle. As Darcy stood at the edge of the room, watching Elizabeth being led through one dance after another, he could not help but wish propriety would allow him to dance every dance with his own wife, as he had no desire to dance with another. He did take some comfort from the fact that it did not appear as if any of Elizabeth's dancing partners were behaving in a way that would set her ill at ease.
As the supper dance commenced, and Darcy was once again able to claim his wife as his partner, Elizabeth did what she could to allay his agitation.
"Fitzwilliam, I must admit that I am surprised at the attention a married lady can receive at a ball in London," she said, accurately predicting that just mentioning his given name would do much to alleviate the tension in his shoulders. "In Meryton, the married ladies are largely ignored to allow the single ladies a greater opportunity to dance."
"At this moment, I cannot but think I would much prefer to be at a country dance," was Darcy's reply.
"I have learned something fascinating from my many dance partners, though." When Darcy did not reply, she continued, "Do you not wish to know what that may be?"
"You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."
"Well then, it would appear as if all the young men who have asked me to dance have sisters who have married within the last few years. Apparently, you did not ask any of their sisters to partner you in a dance until after they were safely married and could not raise any matrimonial expectations. They have asked me to give you their thanks for the wonderful idea, and to expect they will ask for a dance at every ball we attend together this season."
From the side of the ball, Lord Hastings and Mr. Bennet took great delight in trying to guess at the content of Darcy and Elizabeth's conversation. It was clear she was taking delight in teasing him in some way. By the very slight smile and blush that adorned Darcy's face, it was clear he enjoyed being the object of her wit.
"She will be the making of him, I think," Hastings said with a smile. "Darcy has been entirely too dour these last several years since his father's passing."
"I will admit that I was not pleased to see them coming out of the church in Gretna Green," Mr. Bennet replied. "But, Mr. Darcy improves upon acquaintance. I am now inclined to think Elizabeth will do very well with him."
It was not long after that Lord Hastings excused himself to the card room, where he jovially played his part of witlessness. By the end of the night, some attendees left the ball feeling as if they had been able to trick Lord Hastings into admitting the true reason the Bennets had originally opposed the match to Mr. Darcy.
As the evening was drawing to a close, Colonel Fitzwilliam was canvased for his knowledge concerning the rumor. Hiding his mirth as best as he could, he said that he could neither confirm nor deny the fact that the Bennet family had been concerned that Mr. Darcy was too much of a stick in the mud to make their daughter happy.
Although most of the gentlemen thought it was ridiculous that any family would disapprove of a man of fortune based on his personality, many of the women found it romantic. Some of those in arranged marriages even went so far as to sigh over the advantage of having a father concerned about the future felicity in marriage of his daughter.
It was not until the last dance of the evening that Mr. Darcy realized that every dance that he partnered his wife, his cousin partnered her sister. He was surprised that Richard would show such preference to anyone, especially a young lady half his age that he knew had been less than chaste. Knowing that the ball was not the best place to share those concerns, he filed the information away for later, determined to enjoy the dance with Elizabeth.
As they waited for their carriage at the conclusion of the ball, Lady Matlock assured both Darcy and Elizabeth that the night turned out even better than she expected. It was not until Elizabeth was safely in the carriage with her family that she expressed her hope that things would go half as well when they arrived in Hertfordshire.
After arriving at Darcy house for the night, Darcy invited his cousin to share a nightcap with him before retiring. Although the invitation was also given to Mr. Bennet, Darcy was relieved it was declined. The sooner he could have this discussion with Richard, the sooner he would be able to join his wife in bed. After pouring the port, Darcy decided there was no need to beat around the bush.
"Are you out of your senses, to be considering Lydia? You do realize she is less than half your age. She can only be a year or two older than Anthony's eldest daughter."
"I would have thought you would be happy to know your new sister had an admirer," Richard replied.
"I thought you needed to marry with some consideration to money."
"I must, that is true," Richard replied.
"Then, why show Lydia such preference this evening?"
"Do you know she would not believe Wickham guilty of being a reprobate until she heard it from his own mouth? She is fiercely loyal. Do you have any concept of how attractive of a prospect that is when you are required to be gone for months at a time in battle?"
"If you were to marry a lady of fortune you could resign from the army and not have that concern."
"There is more than one way to consider money when entering matrimony. It is certainly true that I could not marry a society lady without an impressive dowry, as I do not have the ability to support that lifestyle on my own. I have recently come to accept that the cynical nature of the ladies of the ton do not attract me. I would rather support a joyful wife on a colonel's pay, then live shackled to a harridan. It is clear that Miss Lydia does not find the life of a soldier's wife to be unappealing, or she would not have eloped in the first place."
"Are you determined to have her, then?" Darcy asked.
"I have not yet decided," Richard admitted. "It is clear that her joyful nature has begun to be restored over the last week, but I do not know if she has come to care for me. When she looks at me, I am afraid that I am seeing what I hope to see instead of what is actually there."
"Give it time, she is still very young," Darcy suggested. Then, hiding a smirk, he added, "You could always ask Anthony to invite her for a visit. I am sure she and your niece, Rosemary, could become great friends."
"However much you may joke about that possibility, it really is not such a bad idea," Richard replied with a laugh.
Elizabeth had no idea that attending one ball would end up bringing so many callers to her door. For the rest of the week, she was inundated with several callers a day. There were times she counted the minutes until the acceptable calling hours were over. She was almost nostalgic for the fortnight before the ball, when they were in relative seclusion with their families, even if it did not feel like seclusion at the time.
It was clear that, with Lady Matlock's help, London society had generally accepted the new Mrs. Darcy. There were several ladies who only stayed the quarter hour that propriety required in a social call, but there were not a few that stayed as long as they politely could, hoping to form a closer acquaintance or friendship with the new mistress of Pemberley.
The Darcys decided to remain in London one week after the ball before returning to Hertfordshire. Darcy had already received an invitation to stay at Netherfield Park with Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth had also received a letter from Jane telling of her engagement. They decided they would stay with Mr. Bingley until the wedding, at which time they would depart for Pemberley, for some much needed time in relative seclusion, having only Georgiana and her companion as the other occupants of the estate.
Lady Catherine sat fuming. She had read the preposterous articles in The Times. She did not understand why society seemed ready to blame her for the poor choices of her nephew. She regretted ever inviting the Parsonage Party to dine while Miss Bennet was a guest of the parsonage and Mr. Darcy was a guest of Rosings Park. She believed the reports in the paper, and wished she had somehow been made aware of the secret engagement at the time. If she had, she was in no doubt that she would have been able to put a stop to it. Now that the marriage had taken place, she knew there was little that she could do, beyond ignoring the existence of Mrs. Darcy. So, she sent the Darcys no letter of congratulations. Instead, she wrote a letter to her brother, Lord Matlock, demanding that he explain to Darcy that his wife would never be welcomed to Rosings Park, and that he would not be welcome until he was ready to apologize for the insult of marrying anyone that was not her daughter Anne.
She would be waiting for a very very very long time.
Posted on: 2014-10-09
As the carriage pulled away from Darcy house on the morning of their departure to Hertfordshire, there was a collective sigh of relief. Colonel Fitzwilliam was unable to join them due to the fact that he was in the Army, and had some responsibilities which kept him in London. As the second son of an Earl, he was given a great amount of latitude, but abandoning his post on a whim was generally frowned upon.
It was decided that they would go to Longbourn first before Darcy and Elizabeth made their way to Netherfield Park. They were not completely surprised to find Mr. Bingley in attendance at Longbourn when they arrived, though the presence of Miss Bingley was surprising. All members of the London party were equally astonished at the general rapport that Mrs. Bennet and Miss Bingley seemed to share. For a few minutes it seemed as if they were competing for the honor of showing the most excitement about the recent nuptials of the Darcys, and the upcoming nuptials of Mr. Bingley and Miss Bennet. It was not until Mrs. Bennet gave Mr. Darcy a kiss on the cheek to welcome him to the family that Miss Bingley had to silently concede defeat. Though, she did console herself with the fact that the Darcys would be returning to Netherfield Park with her and her brother, where she would have the opportunity to show them her enthusiasm for their company. If either Darcy or Elizabeth noticed the vast change in her attitude, neither chose to voice their opinion.
Although Darcy and Elizabeth had not planned on remaining at Longbourn for long on this visit, they found their plans were changed as the Bingleys appeared to not be in a hurry to return to Netherfield Park. Being only a two hour's trip from London, they had arrived in time to stay for luncheon. They were surprised that they were still in attendance when it was time for tea.
As the Darcys and the Bingleys departed for Netherfield Park, Darcy and Elizabeth were immensely pleased that they were in their own carriage, and the Bingleys in another. Although they were relieved that there had been no allusion to Lydia's elopement, they were both a little disconcerted at the ease with which both Mrs. Bennet and Miss Bingley had discussed how soon they could all assemble as a family party at Pemberley. From time to time there had been a look in Miss Bingley's eye that showed she would much prefer to visit Pemberley without her soon to be Bennet relations, but she was conscious of the fact that she need to pay every arear of civility to the new Mrs. Darcy if she wanted to retain the right to visit the illustrious estate. If that meant she would need to brave the estate at the same time as her new relations, then so be it. If she was required to spend time with her new relations, she would much rather do so in the country than during the London season.
"Do you think our luck will hold tomorrow?" Elizabeth asked as they were lying together late that night (completely ignoring the fact that they had been given separate bed chambers).
"What do you mean?" Darcy replied, cuddling his wife closer into his side.
"Today my mother was distracted by our arrival and my incredible fortune in obtaining you as a husband. I almost do not think she even rightly remembers Lydia's indiscretion at this moment. Eventually, though, she will recall the reason for our elopement. I only hope there are no neighbors in attendance when she remembers."
"We shall just have to continue to distract her," Darcy replied. "For the next two months she will be suitably distracted in planning Jane's wedding to Mr. Bingley. With any luck, she will have been able to put it out of her mind by then."
"And if she has not?"
"We will just have to come up with another way to distract her."
"And what would you suggest?"
"I am certain the approaching birth of her first grandchild would be sufficient."
"We will have been married less than three months by the time Jane and Mr. Bingley marry. That would be incredibly rapid," Elizabeth replied.
"Well then, I suggest we spend as much time as possible attempting to accomplish the feat," Darcy replied with a smile. Although Elizabeth laughed in reply, her response was quickly smothered. There was no further conversation that night, though they did put their discussion into practice several times before the sun rose the next day.
As the morning lengthened into day, Mr. Bingley found himself completely astounded. He had never known his friend to stay abed past the seventh hour. As it neared ten o'clock Bingley wanted to leave for Longbourn, but there had been no sign of his friend. He had even checked with Darcy's valet, but Carson had assured him that his master was in full health, and there was no reason to be concerned. When Darcy and Elizabeth finally emerged, Bingley was dumbstruck by the smile that graced the face of his friend.
If Elizabeth had thought that by eloping she would be able to avoid having her mother parade her in front of her neighbors, she could not have been more wrong. Before Elizabeth could remove her outer wear, Mrs. Bennet voiced their plans to visit with their neighbors. After greeting the Bingleys and sending them in the direction of the parlor where Jane was waiting for them, Mrs. Bennet joined the Darcys in their carriage and set off for Lucas Lodge.
"Charlotte! I am so happy to see you!" Elizabeth exclaimed after they had been shown in to the parlor at Lucas Lodge.
Although Mrs. Bennet had not been aware that Mr. and Mrs. Collins were visiting the Lucas family, she could not help but preen at the thought that she would be able to compare their relative sons-in-law side by side. It may have still rankled her a bit that one of her daughters would not be inheriting Longbourn, there could be no question as to which of the men was a better catch. It was easy to feign indifference when she could throw around words such as "house in town," "estate in Derbyshire," and, "his uncle the earl."
"I must confess I am not nearly as surprised to see you here as you are to see me," Charlotte replied. "When we arrived a few days ago my mother told me that you were expected."
"I confess I am glad for the opportunity to spend time with you. I do not think we will be receiving an invitation to Rosings Park any time soon, so I had thought it would be some time before we saw each other again."
"No, I do not foresee an invitation coming from that quarter," Charlotte replied with some humor. "Although I have assured Mr. Collins that if you had in fact become secretly engaged while visiting us you would have surely confided in me, we still felt it would be best to absent ourselves from the neighborhood until emotions had a chance to settle."
"Oh Charlotte, I did not even think about how my elopement would affect you. I hope things are not too exceedingly uncomfortable for you."
"In many ways, you could say it has been the opposite," Charlotte replied. "I think that Mr. Collins is just as pleased by our new relation by marriage as your mother. When we first left Hunsford we spent a fortnight in Bath, where Mr. Collins was constantly praising his cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy." Seeing the slightly uncomfortable look on Elizabeth's face, Charlotte hastened to add: "You need not worry that we will be expecting invitations to visit your estate. It is only that Mr. Collins is exceedingly proud of the fact that one of his family could draw the attention of such a man as Mr. Darcy. It has even given him more confidence."
"And how has Lady Catherine reacted to this new found confidence?" Elizabeth queried.
"I am sure we will find out shortly after returning to Kent," Charlotte replied. "I must confess I am looking forward to the first time that Mr. Collins refers to Lady Catherine as his relation. I take comfort every day in the fact that once a living is bestowed it is exceedingly difficult for it to be taken away again."
Posted on: 2015-05-22
The Darcys had been in residence at Netherfield Park for a fortnight before Mrs. Bennet was satisfied that she had paraded her daughter sufficiently in front of the four and twenty families with which they dined. Elizabeth was fairly certain she had even seen the inside of a fair number of drawing rooms where she had never before set foot.
As time passed, Mrs. Bennet immersed herself in wedding plans for her eldest daughter. Since she had been robbed of the opportunity to plan a spectacular wedding for Elizabeth, she was determined that Jane's wedding would be the finest Hertfordshire had ever seen. Mr. Bingley's wealth may have been nothing compared to Mr. Darcy's, but it was still an excellent match.
It was not long before Mrs. Bennet and Miss Bingley settled on a scheme to throw a ball in honor of the Darcy marriage and the engagement of Jane and Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Bennet could only delight that she would have her first opportunity to throw her other daughters into the path of rich young men. Miss Bingley's thoughts were not far off, as she contemplated which of Mr. Darcy's friends should be her next target.
The two ladies who cared the most about attendance to the ball planned it for two days prior to the wedding. Mrs. Bennet and Miss Bingley both hoped that by having it so close to the actual wedding, they would be able to attract more of the eligible bachelors from town. They were not to be disappointed.
Every guest room at both Longbourn and Netherfield Park were occupied by friends and family in the days leading up to the ball and subsequent wedding. When Colonel Fitzwilliam arrived without notice, Miss Bingley was both scandalized and relieved when Mr. and Mrs. Darcy volunteered one of their rooms for his use. Although all of the servants were well aware that only one of the rooms the Darcys occupied had required tending during their visit, Caroline had remained purposefully ignorant of that fact.
During a late breakfast on the day of the ball, Charles Bingley overheard Colonel Fitzwilliam lightly teasing Darcy about his change in morning routine. Although Bingley had come to accept that Darcy's habits had changed, he had not really thought about the cause after being told that he should leave for Longbourn whenever he desired, whether or not they were ready to accompany him. As realization dawned as to the nature of Richard's teasing, Bingley blushed much deeper than Darcy, causing Richard to delightfully change the target of his teasing.
Although Mrs. Bennet had planned to have both Darcy and Elizabeth in the receiving line of the ball, no one had bothered to tell either of them. As a result, their preparations for the ball lasted much longer than others expected. By the time they were refreshed and dressed appropriately, most of the guests had already arrived.
Darcy soon found one benefit to his wife having so many sisters. By the time he danced with all of the females in the Bennet and Bingley families, there were only a few dances remaining for the evening. He was even able to find some amusement when his acquaintances from town asked Elizabeth to dance, as they had at the Berwick Ball. Knowing that they were asking Elizabeth to dance due to the fact that she was now married only gave him satisfaction to know he was the one that had married her.
Although Mrs. Bennet was just as loud as she had been at the last Netherfield Ball, the comments she made were fact instead of rumor and speculation. Elizabeth had married Darcy, and Jane would be marrying Bingley within a couple of days. There was one tense moment for a few of those in attendance when Colonel Fitzwilliam asked Lydia to dance, and Mrs. Bennet exclaimed how happy she was that Lydia had failed to throw her life away on a mere lieutenant. After the dance, Richard led Lydia to her elder sisters instead of her mother. Darcy chose the following dance to be the one that he danced with Lydia. Richard took it upon himself to ensure that it would not be necessary for Lydia to return to her mother's side over the course of the evening.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner had arrived the day before, and were in attendance at the ball. After the near disaster, they silently appointed themselves as chaperones for Mrs. Bennet for the rest of the evening.
Unsurprisingly, the Bennet carriage was again the last carriage to be prepared to return home. By the time it arrived, most of the guests that were staying at Netherfield Park had already retired to their rooms. Darcy retired to the library with Richard, after asking Elizabeth to come and fetch him when she was ready to retire to their room.
The two gentlemen had been sipping port for some time when the topic of conversation turned to the Bennet family.
"Their mother truly is ghastly, is she not?" Richard asked.
"Ghastly is a rather strong word," Darcy replied.
"Well then, which word would you use?"
"I believe I used the word objectionable."
As Richard laughed, both gentlemen were surprised when someone else responded.
"I believe you also said she had a total want of propriety."
"Did I say that?" Darcy asked, turning red.
"I believe I have the evidence in our room if you would like me to fetch it."
"Evidence?" Richard asked, chortling.
"Have you still not burned that letter?" Darcy asked.
"It is still the only letter that you have written me," Elizabeth replied. "I do not plan on burning it until I have something to replace it with."
"Am I to understand, that in the only love letter Darcy has penned you he told you that your mother was objectionable and displayed a lack of propriety?" Richard was now finding it slightly difficult to breathe as he attempted to stifle his laughter.
"I wouldn't call it a love letter, per se," Elizabeth replied, "more, a letter of explanation."
"And what exactly was he trying to explain?"
"Oh, a great many things," Elizabeth replied. "But, as now everything has been put to rights, it is unimportant."
"And I will be forever grateful that you were willing to forget my awful proposal and consent to be my wife," Darcy interjected. "Now, it is well past time to retire, are you ready to go to our room?"
"Wait a moment!" Richard exclaimed. "What awful proposal?"
"That is really none of your business," Darcy replied.
"Will you at least tell me when this happened?"
"In Kent," Elizabeth replied with a smile. "I am still amazed that the gossips were able to discover that Darcy had proposed during that time, even if we were not secretly engaged."
Everyone slept late the day after the ball. While Bingley found it necessary to entertain all of his guests with a shooting party, Elizabeth returned to Longbourn to help with all of the last minute preparations for the wedding. As the Darcy carriage returned her to Netherfield Park that evening, she realized that the day apart had been their longest separation since they had run away from the Inn at Lambton.
When she arrived in their bedroom, she was delighted to see a letter waiting for her from her husband. She quickly opened it and began reading.
Words cannot express the great joy that you brought into my life when you agreed to be my wife. I will endeavor to show you every day how much I admire and love you.
In the meantime, burn the other letter.
Posted on: 2015-07-24
Every bride hopes for a perfect day to mark the beginning of their marriage. Not too hot, and not too cold. Unfortunately, Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley were not getting married on April 25. The best way to describe the breaking dawn on the day of the wedding was "gray." It was truly hard to tell when dawn actually broke. The sky was so overcast, it was impossible to tell.
"With any luck, the rain will hold until after everyone has returned to Longbourn," Elizabeth said with a sigh as the Darcy carriage arrived at the church.
"I think the only hope of that would be if the vicar speaks uncommonly quickly," Darcy replied.
The vicar did not.
As the marriage ceremony came to an end, the sound of raindrops hitting the roof of the chapel could be heard. It was not until the Bingleys reached the exit that Charles remembered how romantic he thought it would be to drive away in an open carriage.
As Charles looked back and forth between his bride and his carriage, hoping for a solution to magically present itself, Darcy had his carriage called forward and offered it to the happy couple. With a sigh of relief, Charles handed Jane into the carriage and started down the lane to Longbourn.
Mrs. Bennet offered to let the Darcys ride with them in the Bennet carriage, but they would not fit. Although Miss Bingley wished to offer them a space in the Hurst carriage, Mrs. Gardiner was closer and quicker to extend an offer. Darcy gratefully accepted, leaving Colonel Fitzwilliam to ride with Miss Bingley and the Hursts.
"If would appear your plan to divert attention away from Lydia has been successful," Mr. Gardiner commented as the carriage started to move.
"It has been much more successful than I could have imagined," Darcy admitted.
"Why would you embark on a plan if you did not think it was likely to succeed?" Gardiner asked.
"I had hoped to meet with some success," Darcy replied. "I just did not expect that even those who are family and close acquaintances in Hertfordshire would be quite so easily deceived."
"Although I love my sisters, neither of them are inclined to deep reflection towards anything that is not immediately before them. As long as Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Phillips are distracted, then Lydia's reputation will be safe."
"I have tried to encourage Elizabeth to provide another distraction to her mother," Darcy replied with a smile.
"And I have tried to explain to my loving husband that it is much too early to take his suggestion," said Elizabeth.
"You would only need to mention that you have been a little ill the last couple of mornings, and let her draw her own conclusions."
"Only if it is absolutely necessary," Elizabeth insisted.
As it turned out, Elizabeth did not need to tell her mother anything. Mrs. Bennet had decided to serve fish.
Elizabeth was just glad she was able to make it out of the room before the retching started.
"If you remember, I was the same way," Mrs. Bennet could later be heard stage whispering to her sister, Mrs. Phillips. "By the time Lydia was born, I wondered if I would ever be able to eat fish again."
When Elizabeth tried to tell her that they only had suspicions, but nothing was definite, Mrs. Bennet patted her hand, assuring her that she would be the soul of discretion.
Naturally, by the time that Charles and Jane Bingley pulled away in their borrowed carriage everyone in attendance was aware of Elizabeth's news. Many of them approached her to quietly offer their congratulations, assuring her that they would not tell anyone else.
It had long been decided that the Darcys would be travelling to Pemberley immediately after the Bingley wedding. Their departure was only delayed an hour or two by the necessity to wait until their carriage returned from carrying the Bingleys to Netherfield Park.
As the afternoon progressed, Mrs. Bennet began discussing her plans to travel to Derbyshire to be of assistance to Elizabeth during her confinement. As her plans progressed, the amount of time she planned to spend with her daughter began to increase. As neither Darcy nor Elizabeth really wanted Mrs. Bennet to spend five or six months with them, they began to suggest that Longbourn could not go that long without its mistress.
The idea was suggested that one of Elizabeth's sisters could attend her instead, with Mrs. Bennet arriving shortly before the baby was expected. Although Caroline Bingley tried to offer herself as a candidate due to the fact that they were practically family, it was decided that Lydia would be the one to travel to Pemberley.
Although Darcy and Elizabeth were ready to enter their carriage as soon as it entered the drive at Longbourn, not five minutes before it arrived Lydia had made the suggestion that she travel with them right now, to save the trouble of her travelling at a later time. Mrs. Bennet grasped onto the idea with glee, and send Lydia upstairs to have a maid assist her in packing her trunks.
This only caused another two hour delay.
Although it was nearly four o'clock in the afternoon by the time Darcy, Elizabeth, and Lydia were prepared to depart, they would not hear of delaying their departure until the following day. They were barely ten miles out of Meryton before they stopped at an Inn for the night. Ironically, it was the same Inn that had housed the Bingley siblings on their journey from Pemberley to Netherfield Park. As none of them were trying to delay the trip, the rest of the journey was accomplished within less than two days, unlike the four that it had taken the Bingleys.
Although Darcy and Elizabeth had only intended on having Lydia live with them for the several months leading up to Elizabeth's confinement, it quickly became clear that Lydia and Georgiana formed an instant bond. This was most likely due to the fact that in each other they found a kindred soul, to whom they could be completely frank about their disappointed hopes and dreams. By the time the Darcy heir was born, they had invited Lydia to make her home at Pemberley permanently.
This situation suited Colonel Fitzwilliam just fine. At first, he did not try to think about his motivations for visiting his cousin as often as possible. He tried to convince himself that he was just drawn to Lydia due to his part in saving her from a life with George Wickham. It took him two years to finally realize he could not live without her. Much to the delight of Lord Hastings, and the aggravation of Lady Hastings, Darcy had been correct in predicting that Lydia would become great friends with his niece, Rosemary, who was less than two years her junior. Lord and Lady Matlock were so relieved that their younger son had finally agreed to marry someone, they didn't concern themselves overmuch with who it actually was.
Mrs. Bennet and Miss Bingley were granted one of their greatest wishes. Everyone autumn the combined family invited themselves to Pemberley for an annual houseparty. At its conclusion, Mrs. Bennet was able to return to Hertfordshire to crow to her friends about the how immense of a home her daughter was mistress. Miss Bingley was able to enter the season, being able to casually drop into conversations how wonderful her time at Pemberley had been that year. Caroline was certain that this is what brought her to the notice of a minor baron, who proposed within a month of making her acquaintance.
Charlotte Collins was finally able to understand how Mr. Bennet was able to find amusement at the absurdities in life. The first time Mr. Collins referred to Lady Catherine as his relation, he received in reply a look so cold in return it would have petrified another man. As Mr. Collins had never been very good at interpreting facial expressions, he completely missed it. Charlotte was certain that their invitations to Rosings Park would evaporate, but they continued to come. It took her several months to realize that Lady Catherine continued to invite them because Mr. Collins' prattling monologues were the only source of news to be had concerning the Darcy family. Although Lady Catherine still despised the fact that Darcy had dared to marry anyone besides her daughter, she needed to keep up appearances. The rest of society expected her to know all the latest news concerning the Darcys. She would never admit that her nephew had dropped all correspondence, and her brother refused to pass along any information, so she had to get her news from the only source available to her.
Bingley and Jane did very well together. Their tempers were by no means unlike. They were each so complying, that nothing was ever resolved on; so easy, that many servants thought to cheat them, but so generous, that the servants decided it would serve them better in the long run to treat them honestly.
Darcy and Elizabeth were incandescently happy. Their first child, a boy, was born nine months and a day from the day of their marriage. Although Lord Hastings found this quite humorous, Mr. Bennet decided that he would rather not think about the timing of anything.
It was only eighteen months later that Elizabeth gave birth to a little girl. The Darcys would go on to have eleven children total, causing some members of the family to question if they really understood how babies were formed, though Lord Hastings may have replied once or twice that it was obvious they were very familiar with the process.