Posted on 2009-02-08
After the wedding, Longbourn quickly started to feel empty. No more last minute preparations, no more complaints from Mrs. Bennet about the lack of time, no more Mary. It gave the family time to breathe and think, unlike before the event, but the eldest three Bennet daughters living in Longbourn wished that Mary still had time to somehow escape. All three of them had secretly wished that Mary had added a "not" to her vow, but they had known that it would not have happened.
Due to her lack of weddings to plan, Mrs. Bennet brought up the idea of Jane and Elizabeth encouraging Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy even more. Whenever this came up, Elizabeth would automatically become withdrawn and silent, never having a witty reply. Originally Jane and Kitty assumed that it was because Elizabeth was disappointed that Darcy still had not proposed, but they finally had teased the truth out of her. She still was under the belief that Mr. Darcy thought of her as a friend, and only a friend.
The rest of December rolled by, the Gardiners left, Wickham was sent away, as was Lydia, although to completely different places. Miss Clancy also departed, leaving behind a sad group of new friends. Mr. Hitchcock left but a few days later to arrive in London a few days before New Years. Shocking to Elizabeth, her prediction at the Farrington Ball did not hold true. Mr. Bingley did not propose to Jane before the year was out. After the wedding, he and his sisters traveled to London for a week, arriving back in Hertfordshire on the thirty-first. The next day he and the Darcys called on Longbourn.
"Good afternoon, ladies," Bingley greeted the three Miss Bennets whom he found in the sitting room.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy," they all replied, curtseying. Bingley requested a walk on the crisp winter day as there was no snow on the ground or strong winds. It was a perfect day for a walk. Naturally, they acquiesced.
They headed out, Jane and Bingley ahead, with the Darcys and the other two Bennets falling into step. At times the back group could not see their front most companions due to their frequent stops to look at the land.
Elizabeth found herself walking next to Mr. Darcy. Her emotions were all in a jumble. She had walked, talked, and danced with him ever since she had found out about his engagement, but each time she did not feel any less. If Elizabeth had taken after her mother, she was sure to have complained about her nerves.
Kitty walked with Georgiana directly behind their siblings, as the path only allowed for two people abreast. Elizabeth and Darcy talked about trivial topics, such as the weather and books that they had read recently. Darcy was left unsure as to why Elizabeth moved the discussion on whenever he began to praise Mary's wedding. Her reasoning was that she did not want to think of weddings and Mr. Darcy together unless it was their own wedding. If she felt any less, she could have said more on the subject of matrimony.
Darcy was wholly confused by Elizabeth's change in manners. Ever since the time she had invited Miss Clancy and Georgina to Longbourn, she had acted differently. Before that time she had been open, almost as if she had relished in his attentions and felt the same way that he did. Ever since that visit however, she had acted colder towards him and a bit more reticent. It was as if she had somehow learned that he did not feel anymore for her than as Georgiana's friend, which was far from true. 'I suppose I shall just have to try harder to woo her,' he resolved. During this time, his companion had fallen as silent as he. Darcy knew that he had already decided that course of action, but now he was determined to do as planned.
He ended the silence by talking of the wilds of Derbyshire, a topic that he knew Elizabeth would have much to say about. The rest of their walk was spent in an easy conversation on Darcy's part and the appearance of it on Elizabeth's. Kitty and Georgiana spent the entire walk talking of the friends in London and of Kitty's wish to meet them. Both Kitty and Elizabeth learned, via their walking companion, that Darcy would be off to London for about a month in a few weeks. After that, he would only be returning for a short time before traveling first to Derbyshire then to visit his aunt. Georgiana was to go to London the second time. They would not return for some time, although Georgiana expressed the wish that they would have to meet in either London or Derbyshire again.
Kitty felt disappointed with the knowledge that her friend would be leaving soon, just as Miss Clancy and Mr. Hitchcock had recently done, but consoled herself with the thought that Georgiana would not leave for a few months. Not to mention they both expressed a wish to correspond.
Jane and Bingley enjoyed their walk as well. They got to know each other more and more. By the end of the thirty minute walk, Jane's face was aglow.
"Let us have tea," she suggested excitedly. Her sisters agreed while the Darcy siblings excused themselves to return to their host's home. Bingley had disappeared at some point. Not ten minutes after their return, Hill entered the room asking for Jane to go to the master. She did as she was bid.
Jane returned shortly thereafter with even greater happiness gracing her face. "My dear sisters, I have such wonderful news!" This was said as she poured fresh tea into their cups.
"Pray tell," Elizabeth said.
"Please share!" Kitty pleaded at the same time.
Jane's smile grew wider before replying, "I am to be married! My dear Charles proposed to me during our walk today. He has already spoken to Papa."
"Jane!" Elizabeth exclaimed, her face held a similar grin.
"Congratulations!" Kitty practically squealed. The three sisters hugged each other, bouncing slightly with happiness.
"Do not forget to write to Mary; you will want to break the news to her before Mama can," Elizabeth cautioned.
"Where is Mama?" Kitty asked.
"I believe she is calling on Aunt Phillips," Jane replied.
"How convenient," Elizabeth muttered to Jane's dismay. This was quickly overcome by giggles of delight and good-natured teasing which lasted until Mrs. Bennet returned. After rattling on about her visit to her sister's, Mrs. Bennet politely asked about their day, prepared to not listen.
"Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, and Miss Darcy came to visit us today," Jane started. Mrs. Bennet was not listening hard enough to figure out that prospective suitors had called while there was little surveillance. "We went for a walk, and," Jane's voice faded. After taking a breath, Jane finished strongly, "Mr. Bingley proposed."
"What?!" Mrs. Bennet shrieked, the only words that had registered were the last three spoken. "You mean that it has finally happened? My Jane is engaged to Mr. Bingley? I thought this day would never happen. I mean, I knew this day would happen, but… no matter! Jane is to marry Mr. Bingley. Oh, there is so much to be done!" Mrs. Bennet continued along this vein for some time before realizing something else. "Well they say that good things come in threes, Lizzy, encourage Mr. Darcy more to ensure that this saying comes true." Mrs. Bennet went on, barely stopping for breath. After what had seemed like too long, Mrs. Bennet hopped out of her chair, excusing herself to go visit her husband. As she departed, her daughters could hear her rambling on about dresses and lace.
"Oh, dear, I hope she does not make your wedding overly lavish, so much as to ruin in," Elizabeth commented after their mother left.
"Mary's wedding was done very nicely," Jane replied.
"And Mary wedded a clergyman, not a gentleman," Kitty quickly countered.
"Mama is a proficient social planner, I am sure that it will turn out well," Jane said, ever the diplomat.
"There is a difference between well and your dream wedding. I want you to have the latter and I hope that Mama understands that as well," Elizabeth replied, tactfully ignoring the unladylike snort that was accompanied by Kitty muttering, "Not likely," under her breath.
The sisters went silent, each thinking of what they would wish for a wedding and who they would want waiting at the other end of the aisle. This peaceful daydream was ruined when Hill knocked on the door a few moments later. The three sisters knew that this was just the beginning of the commotion that would soon ensue. Mrs. Bennet acted as if her nerves were overwhelmed by Mary's wedding, they knew that Jane's wedding would be much worse.
"The mistress wishes to see you, Miss Jane," she said, bowing out of the room. Jane followed, knowing that until the wedding, this call would be quite frequent. She excused herself to go calm her mother's battered nerves, ready to face the onslaught of Mrs. Bennet's effusions. Needless to say, the tea was left cooling.
Posted on 2009-02-15
It was decided the next day that Jane and Bingley would marry the third Sunday of May. Even with this long period of time to prepare for the wedding, Mrs. Bennet insisted that they start as soon as possible, which in her mind was the next day. As her sisters had recommended, Jane wrote a letter to Mary that evening. After writing of her engagement, Jane added a refusal to go to Kent. She was sad that had to do so, but felt that she was needed for her wedding preparations. The letter closed with an expressed hope that she would see Mary at her wedding.
The time after the engagement flew by. As Georgiana informed Kitty, the Darcys left for London for a month, only returning for a short while. Before this time, Darcy did not see Elizabeth nearly as much as he had hoped and expected with his host's engagement. Instead, he kept in touch with what Elizabeth was doing via his sister's accounts of their afternoons together.
During her time in London, Georgiana spent her time with her Derbyshire friends, catching up on and sharing the latest. Upon her return, she did the same with the Bennets. Upon her second departure, Georgiana and the Bennet daughters had a quite emotional goodbye. The four had become very close. They promised to write to each other as much as possible. The only time Darcy truly got to talk to Elizabeth was upon his parting, and even then she avoided him as much as she could.
After the Darcys had left, Elizabeth and Kitty spent more time with the Lucases and Jane spent more time with the wedding preparations. Even among the hustle and bustle of preparations, she made sure to see her fiancée as much as she could.
With about a month remaining before Easter, Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth, and Kitty all headed out to Kent to visit the Collins' home. They stopped in London for a day before moving on, staying in the Gardiner's new townhouse. They were to go to a play with Amy's family.
On the way to the play, Elizabeth, Amy, Kitty, and Mr. Bennet were in one carriage. "Amy, how is your viscount doing?" Elizabeth asked.
She blushed and looked down, "He is not my viscount."
Elizabeth grinned. "Not yet."
Amy smiled at this, but did not reply. After a moment of silence, Kitty asked, "What play are we to see tonight?"
"My favourite, Much Ado About Nothing," replied Amy
"The play you were reading the afternoon Eileen, Georgy, and Diane called on you," Elizabeth recalled.
"Yes, you are correct. How did you know?"
"I remember Eileen teasing you, saying that she had always thought that you were more disposed towards the Bards tragedies. That is, until she had gotten to know you better."
"Have you read any of Shakespeare's works, Kitty?" Amy asked.
"Only a few. I was not interested in reading until more recently. I have found that I enjoy poetry more that stories," Kitty replied. She smiled before adding, "Of course, I enjoy happier stories and try to stay away from stories that do not end as one might wish."
This easy conversation lasted until they arrived at the theatre. After the first act, Kitty was introduced to the other two girls that she had heard so much about--Eileen and Diane. They all had enjoyed the first act of the play; it had been performed well--the actress who played Hero in particular. She had reminded them all of Jane.
The night ended too quickly, it felt, and the next day the Bennets traveled on, arriving at Hunsford in the afternoon. Mary had hastened out to meet them the moment she heard the carriage arrive, with her husband walking not far behind her.
"Mary!" Elizabeth and Kitty called out scurrying over to give their sister a hug. They did not even wait for someone to help them out of the carriage. Mary kissed each of their cheeks before welcoming them into her home. She greeted her father with a kiss as well before joining her sisters. She showed them around the house and where they would be staying. They found their sister quite happy with her situation; the only thing wanting was a better husband. That being said, she was quite happy with the one she had, as for the most part, he left her alone.
They settled in for the evening, Kitty and Elizabeth mostly unpacking their trunks. They had to share a room due to the size of the cottage. The shelved closet did not give them as much room to store everything. It was four days hence when Mr. Bennet started on his journey of fifty miles back to Longbourn after ascertaining that his daughter had comfortably settled in her new home.
The first week at Hunsford established a routine for Elizabeth and Kitty. Mostly, their days were spent in leisure, but they were determined to help their sister as much as they could with the household. Not only did it help her finish these tasks more quickly leaving the sisters more time, it also gave Elizabeth and Kitty more experience in household matters. They were called to Rosings twice that week. This pattern repeated the next week and they fell into this routine easily enough.
None of the visiting Bennets knew what to expect of their first visit to Rosings. They had not even known of their visit until Collins came running into the Parsonage one afternoon. "Make haste! Make haste! We are to leave to see the grandeur of Rosings in but ten minutes!"
"Mr. Collins, when were we invited?" Mary asked, not knowing what invitation he was speaking of.
"Yesterday morning. Hurry! We cannot be late!"
"Why did you not inform us?" Mary persisted. Her husband did not answer the latest inquiry; rather, he herded everyone halfway up the stairs before changing his mind.
"No, we have no time for this. We must leave now, but do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousins, about your apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us, which becomes herself and daughter. Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved." With that, he ushered them out of the door.
As the weather was fine, they had a pleasant walk of about half a mile across the park. Every park has its beauty and its prospects; and Elizabeth saw much to be pleased with, though she could not be in such raptures as Mr. Collins expected the scene to inspire, and was but slightly affected by his enumeration of the windows in front of the house, and his relation of what the glazing altogether had originally cost Sir Lewis de Bourgh.
In Anne they found little character. Due to her mother's domineering nature, Anne had lost most of her liveliness. Rather, she was just left as a shadow of her true self. In truth, she was not nearly as sickly as Lady Catherine had made her out to be, but because of the constant medication and bloodletting, she ended up being weak.
Whenever one of the three Bennet sisters tried to get her opinion on a matter either Lady Catherine would reply for Anne or she would reply as little as she could. It was disheartening for Elizabeth to see that the lady Mr. Darcy was to marry was slowly wasting away. Even with the knowledge that he would marry Anne--something that Lady Catherine mentioned frequently--Elizabeth could not bring herself to dislike Anne. Rather, she pitied her. She did not pity Anne the fact that she would marry Darcy--oh, no, far from that. She pitied Anne for the situation in which she grew up, shrinking under her mother's character. Elizabeth hoped that Darcy would help Anne grow as a person upon their marriage. Perhaps he would be happy. Whenever she would see Anne, it was never far from her thoughts that she looked upon Mr. Darcy's future wife.
The dinner was everything that they had expected from Mr. Collins' raptures. Upon its ending, the ladies returned to the drawing room where they could do little but listen to Lady Catherine. When the gentlemen came to join the ladies, Lady Catherine moved the subject on to the Bennet family.
First she turned to Mr. Bennet who had just settled down in his chair, "Your estate is entailed on Mr. Collins, I think. Because of you," turning to Mary, "It worked out; but otherwise I see no occasion for entailing estates from the female line. It was not thought necessary in Sir Lewis de Bourgh's family." Turning to Elizabeth she said, "Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?"
"Oh! then--some time or other we shall be happy to hear you. Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to--you shall try it some day. Do you play and sing Miss Katherine Bennet?"
"No, I have not had that pleasure."
"Why did not you all learn? You ought all to have learned. The Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income as your's. Do you draw?"
Kitty replied again, "No, not at all."
"What, none of you?"
"Not one." Kitty felt her courage rising at each of Lady Catherine's questions.
"That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity. Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters."
Mr. Bennet took over the answers here, "Mrs. Bennet would have had no objection, but I hate London."
"Has your governess left you?"
"I never employed any governess."
"No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing. Your wife must have been quite a slave to your education."
Mr. Bennet could hardly help smiling, as he assured her that had not been the case.
"Then, who taught your daughters? Who attended to them? Without a governess they must have been neglected."
"Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn, never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might," Elizabeth replied, not wanting her father to offend.
"Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governess will prevent, and if I had known your mother, I should have advised her most strenuously to engage one. I always say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular instruction, and nobody but a governess can give it. It is wonderful how many families I have been the means of supplying in that way. I am always glad to get a young person well placed out. Four nieces of Mrs. Jenkinson are most delightfully situated through my means; and it was but the other day that I recommended another young person, who was merely accidentally mentioned to me, and the family is quite delighted with her. Mrs. Collins, did I tell you of Lady Metcalfe's calling yesterday to thank me? She finds Miss Pope a treasure. "Lady Catherine,'' said she, "you have given me a treasure.'' Are any of your younger sisters out, Miss Bennet? Are you out Miss Katherine Bennet?"
"Yes, Ma'am, I am," Kitty replied, then added, "All of us are."
"All! What, all four unmarried sisters out at once? Very odd! The younger ones out before the all of the elder are married! Your must be very young."
Mr. Bennet interrupted Kitty before she could answer, "Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in company. But really, Ma'am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters that they should not have their share of society and amusement because the elder do not marry early. The last born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth, as the first."
To this, Lady Catherine just sniffed and moved on to another subject.
Other than these visits to Rosings, the Collins' and Bennets did not visit many people. The days passed quickly. They were mostly empty and simple which was a relaxing difference to the atmosphere at Longbourn. In this quiet way, the first fortnight of their visit soon passed away. Easter was approaching, and the week preceding it was to bring an addition to the family at Rosings.
Elizabeth heard that this addition would consist of two of Lady Catherine's sisters' children, but she had not caught which two. Elizabeth was hoping that it would not be Lord Leventhal, hoping that he would stay in London with Amy. She wanted to see how Darcy would act towards his cousin, but was almost afraid to find out. It would be a treat, she decided, if the two were Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam. She would want to see her friend and the Colonel was a friendly, entertaining person.
Finally the day that the de Bourgh's relatives were to arrive dawned. Their coming was soon known at the Parsonage, for Mr. Collins was walking the whole morning within view of the lodges opening into Hunsford Lane, in order to have the earliest assurance of it; and after making his bow as the carriage turned into the park, hurried home with the great intelligence. The next morning, he hastened to Rosings to pay his respects.
Elizabeth was still not sure whether or not she would want Mr. Darcy to be one of the two gentlemen that were to come. She sat partially nervous, partially excited to see who her visitors were. A while after Mr. Collins left, Kitty heard gravel crunching and peered out the window.
It was to Elizabeth's surprise--and slight happiness--that, when she looked out the window, she saw that the two guests were Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. 'It just had to be him; Mr. Darcy just had to be here to make it hard on me. Well I wish him and Anne every happiness," Elizabeth decided, putting up a mask so Darcy would only see friendship in her face. She could hear the door open and hoped that she could pull off, yet again, this masquerade of only friendship towards Mr. Darcy.
Posted on 2009-02-22
The gentlemen's visit to the Parsonage was rather short. It was just long enough for them to pay their respects to Mrs. Collins, reacquaint themselves with Elizabeth, and introduce Colonel Fitzwilliam to Miss Katherine Bennet. After exchanging pleasantries they excused themselves saying that they must attend to their aunt. It pained Lizzy to see Mr. Darcy go off to visit with his fiancée.
After the gentlemen's arrival in Kent, those at the Parsonage saw little of Lady Catherine and her daughter. While they had had limited contact with the ladies of Rosings, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy had called at the parsonage more than once. It was some days before they received any invitation to Rosings, for while there were visitors in the house other company was not needed. It was not till Easter, almost a week after the gentlemen's arrival, that they were honoured by such an invitation. Even then, they were merely asked while leaving church to come there in the evening. The invitation was accepted of course, and at the proper time those from the Parsonage arrived in Lady Catherine's drawing room.
They were received civilly, but it was obvious that her ladyship did not desire company and that they were the last resort. Rather than paying them much attention, she spoke mostly to her nephews, Mr. Darcy in particular. Both of the gentlemen were happy to see the Bennet sisters; anything was a welcome relief from the people of Rosings and both of the gentlemen knew that there were good conversationalists in the ladies--the unmarried ones in particular.
Throughout the evening Elizabeth kept one eye on Darcy and his cousin Anne. It was the first time--church excluded--that she had seen the allegedly betrothed pair together. Her observations were in some ways disheartening, but she was not sure what to think. The entire time they were together the affianced couple acted in a detached, unfeeling sort of way, as if they were not aware of their own engagement. Elizabeth knew otherwise, as Lady Catherine tried to bring up the subject of their future marriage multiple times. Each time, however, Darcy or the Colonel swiftly changed the subject. If nothing else, these counterattacks proved humourous.
It was not long before Lady Catherine requested that Elizabeth play the piano forte for the gathering. It was obvious that she would brook no argument. As Elizabeth sat down to play, almost instantly her ladyship's two nephews moved towards the instrument and its occupant, as if they felt a gravitational pull. The three conversed amiably, while her ladyship was loudly entertained by Mr. Collins' never-ending compliments.
After some time, Lady Catherine became interested in what her nephews were talking of. She did not scruple not to call out, "What is that you are saying, Darcy? What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is."
"We are speaking of music, Madam," he said, when he was no longer able to avoid a reply.
"Of music! Then pray speak aloud. It is of all subjects my delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient. And so would Anne, if her health had allowed her to apply. I am confident that she would have performed delightfully. How does Georgiana get on?"
Mr. Darcy replied with affectionate praise of his sister's proficiency.
"I am very glad to hear such a good account of her," his aunt said, "and pray tell her from me, that she cannot expect to excel, if she does not practice a great deal."
"I assure you, Madam," he replied, "that she does not need such advice. She practices constantly."
"So much the better. It cannot be done too much; and when I next write to her, I shall charge her not to neglect it on any account. I often tell young ladies, that no excellence in music is to be acquired, without constant practice. I have told Miss Bennet several times, that she will never play really well, unless she practices more; and though Mrs. Collins has no instrument, she and Mrs. Collins are very welcome, as I have often told them, to come to Rosings every day, and play on the piano forte in Mrs. Jenkinson's room. They would be in nobody's way, you know, in that part of the house."
Mr. Darcy looked a little ashamed of his aunt's ill breeding, and made no answer. The next few minutes were spent quietly; all sipped quietly on their coffee. Those that were huddled around the pianoforte had gone back to their original seats. The rest of the evening passed uneventfully, mostly filled by Lady Catherine's frequent advice and remarks.
Elizabeth and Kitty were out walking around Rosings' grounds the next morning. Ever since the two sisters became closer, Kitty expressed more interest in morning walks, and nature in general. This interest in nature, combined with Lady Catherine's comments about art while their father was still in Kent, brought up a desire in Kitty to also learn how to paint. She stored this in the back of her mind for the next time she was to see Georgiana.
The two sisters talked of their stay in Kent thus far and of what Jane was missing. While they both wished their eldest sister with them, they thought it a happy alternative that she was engaged and with her fiancée preparing for her wedding. This subject lasted a long while before Kitty suddenly remembered something.
"Oh! I almost forgot! This morning I just put it into my reticule," she exclaimed, hurriedly opening and shuffling through said object.
"What did you forget, Kitty?" Her companion replied.
"Almost forgot," Kitty sniffed, feigning offence before answering Lizzy's question. "I received my first letter from Lydia. It's been months since she was sent away. Finally she replied to one of my letters!"
"I thought that she already had."
"No, no. I just wrote to her. I think she was mad at me and felt betrayed that I talked to her less after… you know. The letter is still unread."
"Do you wish to read it now?"
"Do you mind?" Elizabeth shook her head, and gestured that her sister should read it. Kitty studied the page, reading the letter twice before saying anything.
Elizabeth leaned forward in anticipation, "Well? Are you going to tell me what it says?"
"I shall, one moment." Kitty cleared her throat and began, "'Dear Kitty, you have now sent me many letters asking how I am enjoying myself. I do apologize for not replying as of yet. It's just that I am so busy that I hardly have time for trivial things such as letter writing.'" Here Elizabeth cut Kitty off.
"Wait, this is from Lydia?"
Kitty nodded. "She has always considered letter writing trivial. 'One can always do more important things, such as trim bonnets or flirt with officers' she would say. But we have not even gotten to the best part."
"Sorry for interrupting. Read on."
"Where was I? Oh yes, 'letter writing. My days are filled to the brim with reading, music, painting, and most importantly foreign languages. Not to mention other important parts of one's education. Here I am thoroughly enjoying myself and have made many friends. One of which is the lady I share a room with, Miss Suzanne Kidd. Oh, what a lark we have, embroidering interesting designs and learning the fine points of how one acts at balls. I never knew that school would be so fun. If I had known, I would have begged to go ages ago. The only disappointment is that there are no officers and fewer gentlemen. I think that since I have arrived here I have seen at the very most four gentlemen, one of which is the headmaster of the school.'"
Elizabeth interrupted again, rather incredulously, "You cannot be serious. Lydia is writing that her school is fun?"
"I am in earnest. If you do not believe me, read it yourself," Kitty said, holding out the letter which Elizabeth quickly snatched from her hands.
She scanned it, making sure that Kitty was telling the truth before reading the rest of the letter. It was full of details on what she had been up to. Elizabeth made a comment that she had thought it was supposed to be a strict school, at which Kitty replied by raising her eyebrows. The lighthearted emotion lasted all throughout the letter until the very end, the only part that showed that Lydia had had trouble adjusting. It was there that Elizabeth took up reading it aloud, saying, "I must own that I was not completely honest in my reasoning of why I have not yet written. At first the school was the punishment that it was meant to be. I could only go here one or two more years, making me one of the eldest in this establishment. I, also, am the newest. I was, and still am, very behind in my learning. I did not realize it until this information was thrust upon me. For the first few weeks I continued to act in the manner that I carried on at home, making me few friends. Slowly but surely I stopped being the silly girl that I had become, realizing that here it would earn me few favours. I was miserable and it was mostly my own fault. I did not want to write to you. In my opinion, you were "one of them." One of the people that forced me to go here. Now I am enjoying myself much more and have learned the error of my ways. I am not saying this just to get out of my punishment, but so you will not--in case you do-- worry about me. I hope that you all are still in good health. Your dear sister, Lydia.'" After Elizabeth finished reading this, she slowly folded the letter up and the sisters silently turned back to the Parsonage.
Posted on 2009-03-01
The days came and went, and each morning Elizabeth and Kitty went out for a morning walk around Rosings' grounds. A few times Mr. Darcy joined them, bringing something new to their conversations. Their days were rather repetitive, as if they followed a schedule, but no one really minded. The three sisters enjoyed getting to know each other better and each were surprised at how little they actually knew each other. Together they replied to Lydia's letter as well as Jane's most recent. Not to mention, together they avoided Mr. Collins.
One morning Kitty stayed back from her morning walk with Lizzy due to a headache. It had developed the previous evening while dining at Rosings and would not go away. After being assured many times that her sister would be fine, Elizabeth set out as always.
She wandered, lost in thought, around the manicured pathways. Lizzy's mind brought her back to the subject that she had been thinking about on and off the last few months: the fact that her sisters had grown apart and lost each other's friendships. More recently she began to think that it all started with Lydia. Not that she blamed her; truly it was everyone and no one's fault. Lydia had been the baby of the family, causing Mrs. Bennet to dote upon her. Because of this, Lydia started to become more and more like their mother. However, it was not just that, but she became more and more like their mother for more attention and to get what she wanted. Mrs. Bennet saw herself most in Lydia because of this. Before Lydia's birth, it had been Kitty who had received all of the attention from Mrs. Bennet; upon Lydia's birth her attention had shifted to the newest, causing Kitty try and be like Lydia to receive even close to the amount of attention that Lydia did. By that point, Jane already had been another of Mrs. Bennet's favourites and Jane and Elizabeth had already become close friends. Because Mary was the middle child she was rather forgotten, especially with Lydia and Kitty vying for their mother's attention; not to mention she was the plainest of the sisters, loosing even more of Mrs. Bennet's attention.
So Jane and Lizzy became close. Lydia became a leader and Kitty her follower leaving Mary all by herself, trying to bring whatever notice that she could to herself, good or bad. Only a series of events like the ones that had happened could bring the sisters together and, for the youngest three, back to how their original character. Mary's wedding was what brought Mary back, Lydia's almost elopement made Kitty realize that she did not need to always follow Lydia, and finally the school added Lydia to the group. One might blame it on Mrs. Bennet because of her favouritism, but that was only part of it. It was not just the attention of their parent, but it was attention from anyone. Officers, gentlemen, neighbourhood friends. Elizabeth was satisfied with this answer and put it to the back of her mind for the next time that all five sisters would be together, at Jane's wedding. Not that she would mention it, unless the subject came up. She also wondered if Lydia's behavior would last when she came home for the wedding.
Elizabeth saw a lane to her right and went that way, as there were trees to block her eyes from the sun. After mindlessly ambling a bit further, Elizabeth realized that she was lost. She turned around, hoping that she could figure out where to go, but it seemed different. Right when she was about to try and guess her way out, Lizzy heard footsteps approaching. She hoped that the person was considerably less lost than she was. It was to her great satisfaction when the person emerged, showing themselves to be none other than Mr. Darcy.
"Good day, Miss Bennet," he said bowing.
She returned the greeting before adding, "Sir, do you happen to know your way back to the Parsonage? I find that I am lost."
After chuckling quietly for the briefest of moments, Darcy replied, "Indeed, I do know my way there."
"Would you be so kind as to show me the way?"
In reply, he offered his arm. They walked on quietly, only speaking about the nature around them. Elizabeth found that while the grounds were too uniform, there were patches of wild that she enjoyed.
When they were almost to their destination, Darcy gathered his courage and spoke up, "Not to step out of place, but is there something bothering you?"
Elizabeth's eyebrows scrunched together in confusion, "What do you mean?"
Darcy started to wish that he had not spoken, "I mean that since Mr. Collins was introduced to me, you have been acting as if there is something on your mind. I had thought it to be Mary's wedding and--pardon me--choice of husband, but she is happy with her own home, it seems." He looked away, embarrassed.
"No! No, I mean, that was part of it, but I agree with your assessment."
"So you admit that there is something on your mind," Darcy said triumphantly.
Elizabeth was speechless for a moment, "Well, I…Yes, there is." It was her turn to look away.
"It is just something that my cousin said."
"Is Mr. Collins correct in what he had told you?" Mr. Darcy resisted adding the fact that it was Mr. Collins who had told her this troubling piece of information.
"I would think so. I have heard it hinted at from another source and the subject is one that he cares about greatly."
"So it relates to my aunt or cousin," Darcy correctly guessed.
"Your cousin," Elizabeth whispered before adding in a slightly shaky voice, "and her fiancée."
"Did Mr. Collins inform you that Anne and I are engaged?" Mr. Darcy once again guessed Elizabeth's meaning correctly. If she had looked up at that moment, she would have seen a flicker of hope crossing his face displayed at hearing her near confession.
She mutely nodded, not trusting her own voice.
"I thought he might have." He saw a bench behind them, "Please have a seat." Elizabeth nodded again, doing as he suggested. He breathed in deeply wondering how he would correct her misinformation. "I am not engaged to Anne. I never was. I do know that my aunt strongly wishes that we marry. She is under the misapprehension we are affianced and spreads the news of our supposed engagement around. It is not Mr. Collins fault that he thinks that Lady Catherine is never wrong or that he thought this was true."
"Does your own cousin know that you are not to marry her?"
"It was a mutual decision. I sat down to tea one afternoon and Aunt Catherine excused herself, taking Anne's companion with her in hopes that I would officially propose. We did speak of the topic that Aunt Catherine wished us to, but our conversation concluded with a different decision.
"Yet Lady Catherine still spreads the news around?"
"Since then, both of us have tried to correct her but she does not truly accept it. I have found it to be one of her favourite subjects."
"Around Mr. Collins in particular."
"Around me in particular," he countered.
For once since the subject had opened, Elizabeth cracked a smile. "I still cannot believe that I have taken this seriously. All he did at Longbourn was extol Lady Catherine and Miss de Bourgh's virtues, most of them--pardon me--exaggerated."
"Mr. Collins seems prone to do that," Darcy replied with a smile of his own.
"I really should have asked you if it was true, it's just…" Elizabeth trailed off.
"It's just…?" Darcy prompted.
"It must be something."
Elizabeth looked down at her hands in her lap, slowly shaking her head. They were silent again before Elizabeth stood up, curtseying. "Good day. I will see you at tea tomorrow."
Mr. Darcy, ever the gentleman, stood up when his companion did, but he put all of this aside when Elizabeth started to leave. He reached out, lightly grabbing her arm.
"If you do not trust me with whatever you were going to say, I understand. I will not force you to tell me. I just do not understand why you have been treating me differently due to this knowledge."
"You do not?"
"I do not."
Elizabeth cracked a pained smile. "I thought it to good to be true," she looked down again.
Encouraged by the fact that she had replied, Darcy took a greater risk. He reached out and softly lifted her chin with his hand, "I do not understand."
"And here I thought you to be a clever gentleman," Elizabeth endeavoured to answer in a lighthearted manner, but her words sounded empty, even in her own ears. "I felt certain you would have been able to guess my meaning"
For a moment Mr. Darcy remained confused as he contemplated all that she had said.
"I do not, oh! Do you mean that you…" He let go of her chin to lightly seize Elizabeth's wrists, his eyes searching hers for confirmation.
"Even if I misinterpret what you meant, I must say this. In vain have I struggled. It will not do…" Darcy began.
Posted on 2009-03-08
"Elizabeth!" Kitty called, running up, not noticing that her sister had company. "Mary was worried that you had not returned yet and sent me out to find you. Dinner is ready."
Kitty's announcement shook Elizabeth and Darcy out of their own world. Neither appreciated the interruption and Mr. Darcy found it hard to not show his unhappiness.
Kitty, oblivious to the fact that she might have walked by at the wrong time, continued, "Oh, good day, Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth, we have also been invited for tea this afternoon at Rosings."
Elizabeth finally was able to reply, but was rather distracted in this attempt. "That's nice, Kitty. Is your headache feeling better?"
"Much, thank you, I just needed to rest, I suppose. Well, we best be going." Kitty cheerfully said.
Elizabeth turned to join her, only stopping to curtsey to Darcy, "I will see you at tea, then."
"Indeed. Perhaps we can finish our discussion another time?"
Elizabeth blushed, "I would like that." With that, Kitty ushered her sister away. As she went through the door to the Parsonage, Elizabeth looked back, seeing Darcy still standing there. They nodded to each other before Elizabeth closed the door behind her.
As they sat down for dinner with Mary--Mr. Collins was unfortunately detained--Kitty brought the conversation around to Lizzy's walk that morning. "I see that I was replaced as a walking companion by Mr. Darcy."
"I simply got lost and was lucky enough that someone found me."
"You two seemed very intent on the conversation you were having when I arrived."
"Then why did you deem it necessary to interrupt us?" Elizabeth dryly asked.
Kitty made no reply. Instead, Mary took up the subject. "I do believe that he is in love with you."
Elizabeth blushed yet again. In an uncharacteristically timid voice, she asked, "Do you think so?"
"Yes, I do. I am happy for you."
"Thank you, Mary. I do hope that you are right. I have always wished to marry for love."
"So you want to marry him!" Mary exclaimed, ignoring the fact that Elizabeth would have the chance to marry for love while she was stuck married to Mr. Collins. "You just said you love him! Now, if I were Mother I would tell you to snatch him up before someone else can."
"When Mama says things like that, I have the tendency to tune her out. Besides, if Kitty had not interrupted us, I might not be single any more," Elizabeth finally snapped.
"Lizzy! Oh, I am so sorry for not leaving you two alone!" Kitty exclaimed apologetically.
"You could not have known. Besides, I might have mistaken what he had said; although one does not go around saying… Well it does not matter what he said to me. Please promise me that you will not tell anyone of what I have just told you."
"Who could I tell? Lady Catherine? Mr. Collins?" The three ladies chuckled at the thought.
"Well, I did overhear him say that he would wish to continue your conversation. Do not lose hope, Lizzy. Now, let us stop thinking of this; our food is cooling." With Kitty's declaration the three sisters once again resumed their meal.
Tea at Rosings was always a strained affair. Unbeknownst to Lady Catherine however, it was even worse. For the ladies at the Parsonage, they had spent the rest of the afternoon before their appointment sewing and chatting, trying to keep Elizabeth's mind off what might have happened if Kitty arrived a few minutes later. When they reached Lady Catherine's tea room, their first sight was Mr. Darcy which effectively undid all their efforts in this vein. From then on, Elizabeth and Darcy kept their eyes only on each other, no matter whom they were talking to. Lady Catherine noticed this and was on the verge of commenting on it just as Mr. Collins burst through the door accompanied by a ruffled footman.
"Mr. Collins is here to see you," the servant said quickly before bowing out as his companion rushed into the room apologizing profusely.
"I am so sorry I could not have come here earlier to entertain your most esteemed and venerated self. Your most humble servant has been out all morning and was not available when my most modest and accommodating wife received your precious invitation. I apologize one hundred times over." By the end of this speech everyone in the room had rolled their eyes at least once, including Lady Catherine and Mrs. Jenkinson.
"Yes, yes, well Mrs. Collins made up for your absence," Lady Catherine said. Her parson bowed three more times before she barked out, "Sit."
"Thank you for allowing me to place my…"
"Mrs. Collins, pour your husband tea," she interrupted. Mary did as ordered and shuddered when her husband "accidently" brushed his hand against her own when she passed the tea along. She made a mental note to herself to always place the tea in front of him from then on.
The rest of the visit to Rosings was spent as normal, with Lady Catherine stating her opinion and Mr. Collins blathering on about why her most excellent opinion was always correct. Long after they had overstayed their welcome, Mary was able to convince her husband that it was time for them to leave.
It was evening, and the three sisters were embroidering by the fire in Mary's sitting room. They were silent, the only noises to be heard was the crackling of the fire, the sound of thread going through fabric, and the very occasional exclamation of pain when a needle poked its owner. All three of them had the same thing on their mind, but none knew how to bring it up. Finally, Kitty spoke.
"Elizabeth, I hope you do not mind if I do not go out walking tomorrow morning. I was hoping to relax and reread my correspondence. Besides, we have been here for a long time and we have walked almost every day."
Her sister sighed in relief, "I do not mind; I believe I will set out anyway, however." Kitty nodded back, the three of them hoping beyond hope that Elizabeth would once again see Darcy out on her walk and that they could finish the discussion that Kitty had walked in on. The reason for Kitty relinquishing their daily walk the next day required no unordinary stretch of the imagination, though it was not the true reason for her remaining at home. She privately hoped that if she was not there, Elizabeth and Darcy would have the opportunity to talk.
After embroidering for a while longer the sisters gradually left the room to go to bed. The next morning, Elizabeth was the first to arise. Her feelings were akin to those of a child on Christmas morning. As she got dressed, she realized how indecisive she could be. She opened her closet and pulled a dress off the shelf. After unfolding the dress, Elizabeth decided that it was not the dress for the occasion that might be taking place that day. So she went back to the closet.
After going through the entirety of the wardrobe she had brought with her and spending at least thirty minutes choosing a garment from among its contents, Elizabeth was at her wit's end. Kitty entered as her sister exclaimed, "With all these dresses to choose from, one would think I could find something to wear! Why does my apparel suddenly seem so unsatisfactory to me?"
"It is not, you know. You are simply anxious because you want today to be perfect," Kitty said, causing Elizabeth to jump.
"Oh! When did you enter? I had not known you were in here."
Kitty continued, ignoring her sister's question. "Now, if this is how you act on the day you are supposed to become engaged, I fear for your sanity on your wedding day." She finished this observation with an unladylike snort, to which Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. Then in a heartfelt tone, Kitty consoled, "Do not worry, sister. Mr. Darcy will love you no matter what you wear. He already loved you throughout the entire time you acted coldly towards him," Kitty almost continued her thoughts on this subject, but she sensed Elizabeth glaring at her so instead she just gave a brilliant smile.
"Why are you here?" Elizabeth grumbled.
"To help you. Sit down; I will do your hair."
"Can I trust you with my scalp?"
Kitty did not deign to give answer this question. Instead she lightly pushed Elizabeth in the chair and started to brush out her hair. Kitty ended up only doing a simple bun that cleared Lizzy's hair out of her face, but it highlighted Elizabeth's eyes. From there, Kitty moved to the bed and perused the dresses laid out on it. After lifting a few dresses up, she chose one.
"Put this on."
Elizabeth did as told and turned around so her sister could button her up. Glancing into the looking glass after she was dressed, Elizabeth conceded that it was the best dress for the occasion. It was her nicest and newest morning dress, and it matched her spencer and gloves perfectly. She lightly threw her arms around her sister. "Thank you, Kitty! I do not know what I would do without you."
Kitty let out a slight chuckle before answering, "You would already be engaged, that is what!" The sisters grinned at each other before heading downstairs.
Posted on 2009-03-15
Elizabeth wandered around Rosings. Unlike the day previous, she kept her mind firmly planted in observing what surrounded her. After walking for about an hour, she slowly became more and more discouraged. 'What if he went to the Parsonage instead?' 'What if I missed him?' 'What if he could not walk out this morning?' The questions raced through her head. As she turned to go back to her sister's home, Elizabeth was struck with an idea. She knew exactly where to go.
Mr. Darcy had been out walking since he had broken his fast. After a short detour to the bench that they had sat on the day before, he went to the clearing where Elizabeth had gotten lost. After walking around that general area for about an hour, Darcy slowly lost hope that they would meet that morning. Doubts ran through his mind, 'What if she was out walking somewhere else and did not think to look here?' 'What if she was detained?' 'What if she was waiting at the bench or the Parsonage?' He decided to check at the bench once more before returning to Rosings for the morning. He headed back.
Not long after Darcy had left the clearing, Elizabeth started to make her way to that exact spot. Both had become absorbed in the same sort of thoughts and questions, along the lines of, "What if I missed him?" Naturally, the 'him' would be replaced with a 'her' in Mr. Darcy's mind as Elizabeth was definitely female. Not far from the spot Darcy had so recently vacated, Elizabeth mindlessly stumbled into something. She realized a moment too late that Darcy was walking her way. As they both had been fixed on their respective destinations and thoughts, neither paid attention to where they were going.
To keep from falling, Elizabeth reached out and grabbed the first thing that she could, Darcy's arms. This shook her companion out of this thoughts and he automatically reached for her to balance her. Darcy righted Elizabeth, his hands firmly gripping her waist which he had taken hold of a moment before.
"I...I am sorry! Please forgive me for not watching where I walked," Elizabeth said, still lightly grasping onto Darcy's arms. She could feel the warmth of his hands through her dress where they still lightly lay.
"It was my fault. I should have paid more attention." Neither of the two noticed that each other's excuse sounded remarkably similar.
Elizabeth tried to reply, but was too captured up in her companion's gaze that any protest she might have said died on her lips. She found herself thankful a moment later that she had not tried to speak as her lips became more agreeably engaged.
While Elizabeth and Darcy both wished for this… pursuit… to continue, they quickly drew apart, knowing that they were behaving scandalously. However, their need for air was the main reason that they eventually separated, even if the first was what they convinced themselves was true.
"I…I am sorry!" Darcy said, repeating Elizabeth's words from earlier.
"This was not your fault!" The two faintly realized in the back of their minds that they were starting to sound like Jane and Bingley, always trying to relieve others of blame.
"I initiated it." Speaking this short sentence was all he could do, standing so close to Elizabeth after such a momentous occasion. It had not occurred to either that Darcy still had yet to let go of Elizabeth's waist nor had she let go of his arms. Instead, he clung to her a bit tighter and she slid her own hands higher up his arms. Neither wished to let go as they found this position quite pleasant, to say the least.
Elizabeth was the first of the two to regain her wits. After a slightly stammering start, she said, "I do believe you just compromised me."
This statement hit Darcy like a bucket of ice water. This allowed him to recover his own wits, shaken out of his puppy-like state. He had been staring into his companion's eyes again and found himself as lost as ever. "What will you have me do about that?" he replied teasingly.
"If my cousin is to be believed, nothing, as you have a fiancée."
"Did we not clear that subject up yesterday?"
"I do believe you are correct."
"Then you still have not answered my question."
"What one is that again?"
Darcy let a small smile surface; Elizabeth truly lost her train of thought when she saw this smirk play at his lips. She had the urge to take the smile off his lips in the most agreeable way possible then became shocked at the turn that her thoughts had taken. Instead of following through on her idea, she just slightly smiled in response. She quickly found out that she was not the only one with the scandalous thoughts, but found that unlike herself, Darcy actually followed through on the idea.
When they pulled apart the second time, Elizabeth gasped, "I do believe that you compromised me a second time!"
Darcy kept himself from letting another smile peep through. "I do believe that you are correct," he mimicked Elizabeth's words from before.
Elizabeth had to keep her own smile in check while replying, "Is there not something you should do about it?"
"I know not what you mean."
"Perhaps it relates to what you were telling me on the bench before we were interrupted."
"Perhaps it does not."
"Well what?" Darcy felt content letting this conversation go its course. He knew what she meant, obviously, and knew that he would get around to it, but at the moment, he was comfortable. His arms were still around his love and he was in a teasing mood. They were on the subject, they would get to the question soon enough. Darcy was surprised at how calm he felt; perhaps it was how Elizabeth was encouraging him.
Elizabeth gave in, "Would it not be the custom, then, for you to propose to me? I believe it is the natural thing to do after compromising a lady. If that is accurate, which I am sure it is, you now owe me two offers of marriage."
Darcy let a lazy grin appear before answering, "And you think that this relates to our conversation from the day before?" Elizabeth did not answer this. Instead, she let out a sigh and shook her head in exasperation. They stared at each other for a moment before Darcy added, "How am I to know that you did not compromise yourself just so you can gain Pemberley and ten thousand a year?" He raised an eyebrow, challenging Elizabeth to come up with a reply to that.
"If I were that sort of person, I would have put this plan into action a while ago and in a place that would ensure that we were found--for example, when we all went to Pemberley after being rained out of the picnic."
"Very true." Darcy made no move to kneel or propose in any sort of way. Instead, he waited, wanting the perfect opening.
Elizabeth decided to wait no longer. She could not claim to be insolent, but she was definitely closer to impertinent than closed-mouthed and respectful. She decided to act. First, she assumed an air of exasperation before starting her short and somewhat false mock rant, "Look, sir, I have known you for a half a year. I have four sisters and two are already spoken for. One of my younger sisters has gotten married and we all know that the eldest are supposed to marry first. I have become a friend of yours, your sister, and, at least acquaintance of more than one cousin. I do believe that it is your turn to bring something to this." Here, Elizabeth visually calmed herself. She sniffed, "And I believe that that something is Pemberley and ten thousand a year. With our marriage tossed in there somewhere." She had to keep from laughing. Elizabeth knew how ridiculous she sounded and was rather proud of her performance.
While he was entertained, Darcy was shocked. More so, as to say that he was shocked would be an understatement. Things like this were simply not done, even if teasingly. He, once again, gathered his wits together before replying. First, he looked her up and down once and acted as if he was going through a great deal of thought before he replied, "Are you proposing to me, then?"
"So it would seem." By this point Elizabeth was getting nervous. She knew what she did was incredibly brash and hoped that her companion would not think of her any less for what she said. Normally, she was impertinent, not brash, but she could not take their banter any more.
"Well, then. I accept. But only on one condition."
"That you will in turn consent to make me the happiest of men by accepting my hand in marriage. Miss Bennet, Elizabeth, will you marry me?"
Elizabeth definitely felt relief at this point and did not hesitate to exclaim, "Yes!"
It was a very good thing that they had just become engaged. If they had not, then Darcy would have succeeded in compromising Elizabeth for the third time that morning.
Posted on 2009-03-29
The rest of their morning walk was spent ambling around, arm in arm, talking of everything and nothing. Whenever they could, they would accidentally brush against the other, relishing in their new status. By the time they finally could bear the thought of parting, they had been out quite past the time that they should have returned. Mary and the rest of those at the Parsonage did not worry as the Bennet sisters had figured that Elizabeth and Darcy would be out for a while if all had gone well. By the amount of time that had passed, Mary and Kitty assumed that all had gone well. Those at Rosings did not have this knowledge, but Lady Catherine and Anne did not notice his absence as they were occupied by Anne's latest illness. Colonel Fitzwilliam noticed that his cousin had yet to return, but assumed that it related to the eldest Bennet sister residing at the Parsonage.
When Elizabeth finally did return, Mary simply raised her eyebrow, perfectly copying a facial expression that her sister who now received it frequently wore. Elizabeth shook her head dazedly, feeling as if she were walking on clouds.
The next day the inhabitants of the Parsonage were visited by Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. The two gentlemen were traveling back to London that evening and they wished to take leave. Darcy approached Elizabeth while his cousin stayed with the rest of the group.
"Today I will travel to London and, if it is satisfactory, tomorrow I will travel to Longbourn to ask your father's permission for our marriage."
Elizabeth smiled. "It is satisfactory. I am to leave in a week from tomorrow. Is there any way that you can inform me of your plans so I can travel to be in Hertfordshire with you?"
"I will think of a way. After I receive your father's permission, I will travel to London to complete my business there so I do not have to travel again."
"I will have to for my trousseau." Elizabeth paused, "I had an idea earlier this morning."
"Perhaps we could share a double wedding with Jane and Mr. Bingley, assuming that they, and you, are willing."
"I am definitely willing. Not only would I be sharing my wedding with one of my closest friends, we would be marrying much sooner that if we did not."
Elizabeth just smiled and nodded. They moved on to another topic and continued to talk. Not long afterwards, the gentlemen departed. During the rest of the day and the next, Elizabeth fidgeted due to needless worry. She was afraid that her father would refuse to grant permission to her newly betrothed. She knew that Mr. Bennet had only heard good things about Mr. Darcy and had a good opinion of the gentleman whenever he came up in conversation. The two seemed to get along when they talked, but none of this consoled her. Her nervousness was so obvious that even her brother-in-law noticed it. He berated her upon her constant movements, saying that Lady Catherine does not approve of that sort of behaviour. Lizzy was so distracted by her thoughts that she did not even hear Mr. Collins speak to her.
On the third afternoon, just as they were sitting down to dinner, an express rider appeared at the Parsonage.
"Is there an Elizabeth Bennet?" he asked, sliding down from his horse after they came out to meet him.
"I am she," Elizabeth stepped forward.
"For you," he reached into his bag and pulled out a letter, which he offered to her. Elizabeth took it as Mary went inside to pay the rider.
Elizabeth scanned the short missive. It read:
Your father granted his permission. Now you have the news, and an excuse to come home early.
Elizabeth smiled to herself before exclaiming, almost agitated sounding, "I must travel to Hertfordshire at once!"
"What is it Cousin Elizabeth?"
"My father has need of me; it is very important."
"Hasten to Rosings at once and take leave; Lady Catherine will be most displeased."
"No. There is no time. I need to go as soon as my belongings are packed and I have a carriage. I cannot waste time and visit Lady Catherine."
This effectively quieted Mr. Collins as he wondered how visiting Lady Catherine was a waste of time. This confused him so much that he stood pondering the statement. He made no reply as he was concentrating on thinking. He was so absorbed in his reflections that he did not even argue the matter. Elizabeth would not call on the ladies of Rosings.
"Miss, a carriage is coming as well. It set off before I did and I believe that it will arrive soon. I only just passed it."
"Very good, thank you."
The rider nodded and swung back up on his horse. He touched his hat before riding off. Mr. Collins excused himself and went back inside for the repast leaving the ladies outside together.
"What does it say?" Kitty asked, breaking the silence that had come over them.
A small smile grew on Elizabeth's face, "Just that my father has granted his permission."
"Really?" Kitty squealed, jumping up and down, clapping her hands in excitement in a very unladylike manner.
"Congratulations!" Mary exclaimed at the same time. She seized Elizabeth's hand, squeezing it in a non-verbal version of what she had just said. Quickly, the two sisters started badgering Elizabeth with questions.
"Enough!" Elizabeth said with a smile, "I can answer all of your questions when you come home, Kitty, and when you next write, Mary. I need to pack."
"I will help you, Elizabeth," Kitty offered.
"And I will pack a hamper of food for the road. Our dinner was interrupted," Mary paused before adding, "Perhaps Kitty can travel home now as well. There is no point in both of you traveling separately."
Her sisters nodded before scampering up the stairs to pack. They were able to complete this task quickly and appeared downstairs just as the carriage pulled up. Outside the carriage, alongside the driver sat one of Farrington's stable boys. He jumped down, stowing away the luggage before climbing back up.
The Collinses came outside to see their sisters off. Mary pressed a basket of food into their hands before hugging each of her sisters. Mr. Collins stood back wringing his hands, murmuring that he should take leave of Lady Catherine on behalf of the departing ladies; she would see it as a slight, but it might lessen the severity of her ladyship's disapproval.
Collins stepped forward to help the ladies into the carriage and stepped back so it could pull away. He and his wife stood, waving as the vehicle drove down the lane, taking its passengers from the Parsonage.
The ride to Hertfordshire was comfortable, even if the horses were hurried. The carriage had a fine crest on it, one that she recognized from Georgiana's letters. It was comfortable and rode smoothly. Both of its occupants were able to lean into the seats, relaxing after their hurried departure.
It did not take long for the sisters to fall asleep in the deep seats and before they knew it, they had arrived at the Gardiner's town house. The poor housekeeper had to scramble to prepare rooms for them, but she, being the proficient that she was, did not show that their arrival had been anything out of the ordinary.
When they had pulled in it was late in the evening, so after a short, warm meal of a light soup, the two sisters turned in for the evening. The next morning, Kitty and Lizzy awoke with the dawn even with the lack of restful sleep that they had experienced. The sisters tiredly made their way downstairs to a light breakfast before setting out again. An hour after breaking their fast, they were once again on the road with a hamper of food accompanying them--the housekeeper had insisted on refilling their basket.
Before they knew it, the horses were slowing their pace and Elizabeth and Kitty were able to look out the window to the sight of Meryton.
"We are almost home!" Kitty exclaimed excitedly.
"I hope that Darcy is back in Hertfordshire by now. I do long to see him," Elizabeth said, mostly to herself. Kitty just smirked across at her sister. Little time passed between this exchange and their arrival at Longbourn. The sisters were greeted by Mrs. Bennet rushing out of the house shrieking about her daughter's success. Her husband followed at a more sedate pace, chuckling to himself at his wife's silliness. To this scene, all Kitty could say was, "Home, sweet, home."
Posted on 2009-04-06
Mrs. Darcy relaxed back into the arms of her husband. They had been married a little over three years and many changes had occurred during that short period. That evening was the night before the last of the Bennet sisters' marriages. Elizabeth sighed, sinking further into her husband's embrace, thinking of all that had happened. Darcy's thoughts were following the same vein.
Suddenly he spoke up, cutting into the silence. "I am glad that Lydia was convinced to share her wedding date with her future sister-in-law."
Lizzy smirked, "She did not wish to be outdone by the fact that Jane and I shared ours. While Lydia has grown up, she still has a competitive side to her. Instead of competing for attention like she would a few years back, she competed for the best wedding." Elizabeth thought for a moment before adding, "Anyways, they are technically already sisters-in-laws. They are siblings through Bingley." The next morning, Lydia was to stand up in church and marry the younger of the two Colonel Ashleys. The next morning, Caroline Bingley was to marry the other Colonel Ashley. Almost everyone that was acquainted with the second couple was surprised when they announced their engagement as they seemed to be polar opposites, but they both were happy. Everyone just hoped they would stay that way.
Darcy chuckled. "It seems as if we are returning to the place that started it all. The Bennet sisters of Hertfordshire are now to be the married Bennet sisters of Derbyshire."
"The first part meant that we all are returning to where our story together started--where we all met. Now, my second sentence was just something that had struck me. Before you had all become engaged and married you were all from Hertfordshire. Now all of you are to be living in Derbyshire with the exception of Mary and Lydia, if she travels with her husband."
Elizabeth cocked her head. "I must say that you are right. With Kitty's marriage to Mr. Hitchcock last year and the Bingley's move to a house but thirty miles from here, we all shifted to the north of England. It is a comfort that the Gardiners live up here as well."
They lapsed back into a comfortable silence, both of their minds wandering about the events since they had first met. Since learning the truth about Anne and Darcy's engagement--or lack thereof--Elizabeth had berated herself many times for believing her cousin rather than asking someone who was directly involved, namely Darcy. She felt sad that Anne was still unengaged and unattached as the other two gentlemen that Lady Catherine had tried to secure at soon became engaged.
"I do feel for Anne. To be looked over so many times. First with you--although, I would not have it any other way--then with your two cousins. I am glad that they had all found the women of their dreams, but I do feel sorry that she is still left at Rosings with her mother. Especially with Lady Catherine's anger towards our match. Only this year did she begin to forgive me for 'polluting the shades of Pemberley.'"
Darcy nodded, chuckling slightly to himself. Upon the news of their engagement, Lady Catherine set out to confront the happy couple about it. Slowly she was coming to accept the match and Elizabeth and Darcy had quickly learned to derive amusement from the sentiments that had been shared. After pausing, Darcy asked, "Did you truly believe that Lady Catherine had a chance with Leventhal?"
"Of course not. By that point he was practically engaged to Amy. I am so happy for them. Their two year old daughter and four month old son are so adorable." There the happy couple smiled at each other. Thus far, Elizabeth had not conceived, but Darcy had not lost hope. They had plenty of years ahead of them.
"He has only had eyes for Georgiana since her coming out. I was surprised that you had not noticed." Darcy muttered back an incoherent reply, making his wife chuckle. "Did you say something, dear?" To this he did not reply. "I would venture a guess that the engagement between Mr. Lucas and Miss Clancy brought you surprise as well. Perhaps as much as Caroline's did?"
"I had not noticed any affection growing between the two. I noticed that she danced with him as much as any other gentleman in the room and that he looked at her a little bit more than most. The only feelings that I noticed were on his side."
"If that is truly what you noticed, then might I venture to say that you should never interest yourself with other people's romances?"
Darcy scoffed, "Why would I do such a thing anyway?" It was Elizabeth's turn to murmur a disjointed reply. "Pardon?" he asked, teasingly. To this, Elizabeth wrinkled her nose.
"I remember clearly one afternoon not long before the Netherfield Ball when my friends and I were seated in one of the drawing rooms. We were talking of inane, feminine things when the topic of marriage popped up somehow. After speaking evasively about who we preferred--or in a few cases, dreamed of--someone, Eileen, I believe, expressed a wish that we were all sisters or cousins. At the time, it seemed to be just another silly idea or topic that fit in with the rest of the conversation, but now that I am thinking, we are all somehow sisters and cousins by marriage."
"With Amy's marriage to Leventhal she became your cousin. Eileen's marriage to Mr. Ashley made her Diane's sister. With Lydia's future marriage, you became both of their sisters, and with your marriage you became sisters with Georgiana. Of course, Jane was born sisters with you, so that ties in," Darcy replied, figuring out Elizabeth's comment.
She smiled, "Exactly," Elizabeth sighed. "I feel too young to be an aunt, yet already Jane has a daughter, Georgiana is about four months pregnant, and Eileen has had two sons. Kitty has a son as well, and Mary has already lost a child. Then to add to that, Amy has two children."
"What about the somewhat-newly married Mrs. Diane Dalton?"
"I have the sneaking feeling that she is pregnant, but barely along. While talking to her yesterday, she was acting most peculiarly, very similar to Eileen and Amy when they first became pregnant." Elizabeth sighed again, "All this talk of my friends going through pregnancy is making me feel old."
"If you feel old, how might your aunt Gardiner feel? She is surrounded by friends and nieces-in-laws that are giving birth making her a great-aunt many times over."
"And she is hardly much older than I. She is about your age."
Elizabeth yawned, "I do believe that we should go to sleep soon if we do not wish to be yawning throughout Lydia's wedding tomorrow. It is to be bright and early."
"Bright and early has never made a difference to you," Darcy replied, rather confused, "I thought you always enjoyed waking early."
"I have, yet recently I have been feeling much more tired."
"You are not sick are you?"
"Not to my knowledge. I am sure it is normal for people in my condition. I can always ask around."
"People in your condition? What condition?" Darcy started to worry.
Elizabeth smiled innocently, "Have I not told you yet?"
"Told me what?"
"It will not be that long before we join the ranks of our friends in parenthood."
Elizabeth grinned as her husband turned to her with his mouth hanging slightly open in shock. She giggled and childishly jumped onto their bed before blowing out the candles.
After a moment she called out, "Well? Are you going to join me?"The End