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The Road Back - Chapters 37-39

January 22, 2015 03:23PM
Chapter 37

Monday May 10, 1813 – Darcy House, London

It had been rather a tedious afternoon. Mrs. Hodgkins had arranged for them to interview applicants for the position of her ladies maid and so far they had spent two hours interviewing four applicants all of whom would probably have done a satisfactory job although none had impressed either of them as being appreciably better than the others. Mrs. Hodgkins looked up from the letter she was reading, “I believe I have saved the best for the last. It was not totally accidental. Shall I call in the last young lady?””

“Please do. I hope that she can make this decision easier.”

Mrs. Hodgkins passed the letter she had been reading to Elizabeth and then left the room only to return within a minute or two with a young woman of about five and twenty years, attractive and composed, although Elizabeth thought she detected a faint nervousness in her mien.

Mrs. Hodgkins introduced the young woman, “Miss Bennet, This is Julia Derwin who is currently ladies maid to Lady Bettin. Miss Derwin, this is Miss Bennet who is to marry Mr. Darcy and is looking to hire a ladies maid.”

Elizabeth and Mrs. Hodgkins talked with the young woman for almost a half hour discussing the duties involved, her service with Lady Bettin and previous employment. Elizabeth had been quite impressed with her responses and her background was very much superior to the other candidates but there was something that was puzzling her. Finally realizing what it was she became aware that conversation had ceased and the both of the other women were looking at her. “I must apologize. I was lost in some thoughts.” She paused briefly, “Miss Derwin, would you mind waiting in the hall outside for a minute or two while I consult with Mrs. Hodgkins?”

“Certainly, Ma’am.”

After Miss Derwin had left, Elizabeth turned to Mrs. Hodgkins. “Is there something that you have not told me about Miss Derwin?”

Mrs. Hodgkins smiled, "You have caught me out. Lady Bettin wrote me shortly after your engagement was announced to see if you were in need of a maid.”

Elizabeth was taken quite aback, “Why? Did she give any reason? Her references are excellent. I can think of no reason why she would wish to lose such a proficient maid.”

“She gave no reason but she spoke highly and kindly of Miss Derwin.”

"I suppose I will have to ask her, Miss Derwin I mean. I plan to offer her the position if the answer is satisfactory. Do you concur?”

"Indeed I do. I will fetch her now.” With which Mrs. Hodgkins bustled out of the room to return very shortly with Miss Derwin.

Elizabeth smiled at the young woman, “Your record is quite satisfactory but I would wish you to answer one question for me if you would.”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes, well you see, I am wondering why you would wish to leave a situation where you are maid to someone of higher status than myself. It would seem that being maid to Lady Bettin would be preferred. It puzzles me greatly.”

The young woman’s discomfiture was obvious, “Is there some concern with my references, Ma’am?”

“Indeed no. They are excellent. Were you aware that Lady Bettin had written Mrs. Hodgkins prior to our looking for a personal maid?”

“Yes, Ma’am. I was aware she had….in fact, I asked it of her.”

“And she obviously agreed, despite the reluctance to lose you and her affection, both of which are clearly expressed in her letter of recommendation……Why?”

Miss Derwin looked down at her hands, her nervousness more readily apparent. Both Elizabeth and Mrs. Hodgkins remained silent, giving her the chance to regain her composure. Finally, after some moments, she looked up and looked at Elizabeth although her eyes were focused on the picture hanging behind Elizabeth, “Lady Bettin is very kind…I asked to leave…she thought it best that…her son was beginning to pay too much attention to me. We did not talk of it but she could see I was becoming more and more uncomfortable and I must believe she knew why.”

Elizabeth could not hide her dismay. “I am…I find this disgusting that a man should behave so.” She looked at the young woman, “You need not fear such attentions here. We will have to check the references, of course, but the position is yours if you want it.”

“Thank you.“ Miss Derwin’s relief and gratitude was apparent.

“Excellent! I am sure we shall fit very well. Miss… no, Julia ….when can you start?”

“Lady Bettin has given me leave to start immediately. I could begin tomorrow if you wish.”

Elizabeth considered for only a few seconds before responding. “Excellent, I shall check with Lady Bettin today. Mrs. Hodgkins will arrange for your quarters here to be ready for you when we move to Darcy House. You will be staying with me at my Aunt’s home until I am married. Mrs. Hodgkins will arrange for a carriage to transport you there when you arrive here tomorrow.”

Shortly thereafter, Julia Derwin was shown out and the two ladies proceeded to those tasks which awaited them. Mrs. Hodgkins to prepare a room as required and Elizabeth to write a note to Lady Bettin to confirm her recommendation. The note was delivered by a footman instructed to await an answer. He returned an hour later with a short note for Elizabeth.

Miss Elizabeth Bennet,

I am extremely gratified by your decision to employ Julia. I have no doubt that you will find her as diligent and competent as I have done for the last three years. As I said in my reference, I am sorry to lose her but cannot disoblige her desire to improve her situation.

Sincerely,
Lady Bettin


After sending a note to Mrs. Hodgkins that Lady Bettin had responded favourably, Elizabeth called for a carriage to return her to Gracechurch Street. Arrangements would be necessary there also to accommodate her new maid.


Thursday May 13, 1813 – London
Julia emplaced the final pin in her hair and stepped back to scan her work. Her smile of satisfaction was echoed by Elizabeth’s as she did likewise in the mirror in front of her, “Thank you Julia. This looks beautiful.” The warmth of her approbation was easily discernible from her voice.

“It’s a pleasure to work for you, Miss Elizabeth. Your hair is delightful.”

Elizabeth stood and shook out her skirts as a knock sounded on the door. Her Aunt Gardiner stuck her head in saying “Come Lizzy, the carriage is waiting.” As her niece turned to face her, she could not help but exclaim, “You look radiant. Mr. Darcy will be speechless I am sure.” She laughed, “I can hardly wait to hear what the gossip sheets will be writing tomorrow.”

Elizabeth shook her head gently so as not to disarrange Julia’s work, “Nothing too good I warrant.” Walking out of the room she began the task of mentally preparing herself for the ordeal she faced. This would be her second and final public event in London prior to her wedding and, for Darcy’s sake, she was eager for it to go well. She had selected her gown with care and had accepted from Darcy a simple necklace with a gold chain and an emerald pendant which had belonged to his mother. She felt distinctly uncomfortable when festooned with jewelry. As with lace, less was more to her liking and this necklace suited her very well.

As she descended the stairs, she heard an audible gasp and looking up realized that Darcy had moved to the foot of the stairs to await her. From the rather stunned look on his face, she rather thought she had achieved her objective. “Well sir, am I tolerable enough do you think?”

Darcy seemed to be having some problems in speaking but finally managed to utter a succinct but heartfelt phrase, “You are so beautiful!” which brought a delighted blush to Elizabeth’s countenance, “Your flattery is most welcome, sir. It is always wonderful to have one’s efforts appreciated.”

“My dearest Elizabeth, I will be the proudest man alive tonight with you on my arm. Every man will be envying me.”

Elizabeth turned to her aunt, “Does he not say the sweetest things? I am in great danger of becoming quite vain if he continues. I shall become quite puffed up in my vanity and insufferably proud.”

Darcy shook his head in denial and, draping her shawl around her shoulders, placed her hand on his arm and led her and the Gardiners to his carriage. As they were being driven to the theatre, Elizabeth turned to her uncle and asked, “I know you have made the arrangements for tonight but in all the preparations I never thought to ask which play we would be attending.”

“Ah Lizzy you have a rare treat tonight. The incomparable Edmund Kean is performing as Shylock in the Merchant of Venice at the Theatre Royale in Drury Lane. I know you prefer Shakespeare’s histories and comedies so we are doubly fortunate in that a comedy is being performed and that Shylock is also one of Kean’s finest roles.”

“A rare treat indeed Uncle. I have heard much of Mr. Kean but have never seen him perform. I expect to enjoy myself greatly.”

Conversation continued in a desultory fashion until they arrived at the queue of carriages waiting for their passengers to disembark at the theatre. Progress was slow, but they eventually arrived at the entrance. Darcy and Mr. Gardiner were the first out and turned to assist Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner to alight from the carriage. Elizabeth and Darcy looked at each other and she murmured, “I realize that we are attending this performance mainly to satisfy your family’s desire for us to make a few public appearances, but I fully intend to enjoy the play itself. I shall let nothing distract me from that!”

“That is a challenge indeed, Elizabeth. May I not hope to distract you just a little tonight?”

Elizabeth’s smile was heartfelt, “You, sir, are distracting enough as it is. Please do not try to discompose me entirely.” Saying this she began leading them both up the stairs to the entranceway of the theatre. Darcy was content to let her have the last word and, as they walked into the main lobby of the theatre, could feel Elizabeth’s tension as her grip on his arm tightened. So concerned was he with her comfort that he forgot his own discomfort; he looked down and placed his free hand atop hers and whispered, “I said it earlier but it is worth repeating – I will be the envy of every man here tonight.”

With those words they began to wend their way through the crowded lobby trailed by the Gardiners. It was not long before they were approached by a very finely dressed couple of mature years who greeted Darcy, “Darcy, It has been a very long time since we met. Would you introduce me to this lovely young lady?”

“Certainly your Lordship. Elizabeth, this is his Lordship, the Earl of ___ and his wife Countess ___. Your Lordship, Milady may I present my betrothed, Miss Elizabeth Bennet and,“ indicating the Gardiners who had paused slightly behind them, “her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Gardiner.” Turning back to Elizabeth, he continued, “The Earl and his wife are neighbours of mine in Derbyshire and our families have been fairly close for several generations.”

The Earl smiled and nodded as Elizabeth curtsied saying, “We are pleased to meet you Miss Bennet. You are to be married shortly, I believe. We wish you joy.” Elizabeth politely acknowledged the Earl’s comment and, after he and his wife moved on, whispered to Darcy, “I do not think the Countess was as pleased at the acquaintance as his Lordship.”

“I doubt she was. They have a daughter of marriageable age and may have had some hopes of an attachment. We will probably not see much of them since their estate is some forty miles distant from Pemberley.”

As they continued to walk through the lobby towards their box, Elizabeth was interested to observe the varied reactions of those people they encountered. Darcy nodded quite frequently to those they passed. A few were obviously not welcoming, returning only the barest nod and a disdainful look to Darcy’s nod. Most were, if not welcoming, at least civil and in one or two instances politely congratulating them and inquiring as to the date of the wedding. A few people were more amiable and approached them with obvious pleasure in making the acquaintance. One couple in particular elicited a warm welcome from Darcy. “Colbert, I had not thought to see you here tonight!”

“Darcy, it has been quite some time since we met – our family ball I believe.”

“Indeed. Colbert, may I introduce my betrothed?”

“I would be delighted to meet her.”

Once all of the introductions were complete and Lord Colbert had introduced the young lady he was escorting, Darcy smiled at Colbert, “In some respects, I owe you a great debt.” At Colbert’s inquiring look, he continued, “I met a gentleman and his wife at that ball who, several months later, re-introduced me to Elizabeth. So I must thank you for that service.”

“Re-introduced, Darcy?”

“It is too long a story to discuss here. I shall save it for a more propitious occasion.”

As they chatted, they heard the signal bell indicating that the performance would soon start. After expressing their intentions to meet in the future, Darcy, Elizabeth and the Gardiners walked more briskly to their box, not allowing themselves to be slowed by others. As she settled in her seat, Elizabeth was once again quite conscious of the number and intensity of the looks directed at them. If the attention was disconcerting, she allowed no trace of such to appear and made it her focus to converse as naturally as possible with the Gardiners and Darcy. Once the lights dimmed, it was possible to concentrate on the performance on the stage below and before long she was enwrapped in it, murmuring many of the speeches along with the actors on stage. For Darcy, it was difficult not to try and claim her attention. His hand lay on hers on the arm of their adjoining seats but, in deference to her obvious enchantment, he was careful to do nothing to distract her. The short intermission following the first Act was sufficient to allow Mr. Gardiner to exit and return with refreshments. Following the second Act, Elizabeth expressed a desire to walk around. Mrs Gardiner, not feeling up to such an endeavour, chose to remain in the box accompanied by her husband while Darcy and Elizabeth strolled through the lobby.

One very well dressed couple passed them and greeted Darcy briefly in passing. Their deliberate shunning of Elizabeth brought a scowl to Darcy’s face, which Elizabeth became aware of when she felt a sudden tightening of his arm muscles. Recognizing at once the cause, she looked up at him and laughed. “It does not bother me, William. Do not let it upset you.”

“Elizabeth, I can more easily forgive an insult to myself than one to you. That was the Earl of ___. Fortunately, he is not someone that I have had many dealings with in the past. I suspect I will have even fewer in the future.”

They had little time to consider the Earl’s actions before they were approached by an elderly couple. The gentleman was tall, rather portly and balding. His wife was also fairly tall with a matronly figure and wearing a significant amount of jewelry. Both were finely dressed and radiated the self-assurance of the wealthy and entitled.

“Darcy, I assume this is your betrothed. Would you introduce her to us, please?”

“Certainly, your Grace. Elizabeth, may I introduce you to the Duke and Duchess of ____. Your Graces, my Betrothed, Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn in Hertfordshire.”

“We are pleased to make your acquaintance Miss Bennet.”

Elizabeth curtsied saying, “And I am most pleased to make yours, your Graces.” Elizabeth could feel herself being thoroughly scrutinized by two sets of eyes. It was not totally uncomfortable since neither the Duke nor Duchess seemed censorious and she strove to maintain a calm expression. The scrutiny did not last overlong – probably not more than a second or two – before the Duchess asked Elizabeth, “When do you marry?”

“In less than a week, Your Grace.”

“Will you be in town afterwards?”

Elizabeth looked at Darcy before responding, “I believe we will be in town until June 4” when we depart for Pemberley.

“Excellent! Excellent! We would hope to see you at our ball on the June 1.”

Darcy glanced quickly at Elizabeth and, seeing her slight nod, was quick to accept the invitation. The ducal couple had observed the interaction, filing it away for future reference. Apparently the new Mrs. Darcy would possess the respect of her husband. The Duke gave a small smile saying, “I am glad to see you marrying Darcy. Pemberley has been without a Mistress for too many years.” Nodding once more they moved on leaving Darcy and Elizabeth to consider the implications of this meeting as they strolled back to their box. Darcy turned to Elizabeth, “Are you sure you wish to attend this ball?”

Elizabeth thought for a few moments before answering, “I think so. We planned to attend one and I think it would be most impolitic not to attend this one given the personal invitation we received. I feel we will be received fairly by them at least and their approval will do much to moderate the reactions of others, would you not say?”

Darcy nodded his agreement and Elizabeth continued, “I wish to discuss this with your aunt and cousin. I am sure they can provide some useful guidance and perhaps some information on who else will be likely to attend.”

Entering the box they quickly apprised the Gardiners of the meeting with the Duke and Duchess but the resumption of the performance prevented any further discussion of that topic. It did not take long for Elizabeth to lose herself once more in the play. The remainder of the evening passed quietly. They did receive a few visitors during the remaining intermissions, but all were close friends of Darcy or the Gardiners and delighted to make Elizabeth’s acquaintance.

The next morning when she had returned from her morning walk and begun to break her fast with her Aunt Gardiner and the children, she noticed her aunt scrutinizing the newspaper more closely than was her usual wont. Puzzled, she was about to inquire of her aunt as to what was of such interest when the paper was placed on the table and her attention directed to a brief paragraph in the Society section. With no little amazement she read,

The very public-shy Mr. FD from Derbyshire was seen proudly escorting a Miss EB from Hertfordshire, to whom he has recently become betrothed, at a performance of the Merchant of Venice at the Theatre Royale. Miss EB was handsomely and elegantly garbed in a gown of a shimmering light green silk and wearing a simple but elegant emerald pendant necklace. Reports of her beauty which first surfaced when she attended a performance of Love’s Labour Lost at Covent Gardens can now be confirmed. Miss EB and Mr. FD spoke with a number of those attending the play during the intermissions, notably the Earl and Countess of ___ and their Graces the Duke and Duchess of ____. It is reported that the engaged couple will marry within a week and are also expected to attend a ball hosted by their Graces, the Duke and Duchess of ____ on June 1.

Elizabeth looked at her aunt, “I think this is favourable, is it not? I know my mother will be in raptures if she reads it.”

Mrs. Gardiner smiled saying “I think Countess Matlock will be appreciative as well.”


Chapter 38

Saturday May 15, 1813 – Gracechurch Street, London

It was not the same as in the past. Of course, it could not be. Jane was a married woman now and Elizabeth could no longer expect to enjoy long talks with her sister that lasted into the early hours of the morning. She had learned that all too well at Pemberley and in York. Nonetheless, she had managed to separate her elder sister from her husband for several hours this evening after dinner. They were now ensconced quite comfortably in Elizabeth’s room and endeavouring to relate each to the other all that had happened during their month long separation that could not be comfortably encompassed in a letter.

Elizabeth was most concerned to learn about Mr. Bingley and his involvement in helping her sister and her husband to acquire an estate. If the reason for her interest was to better sketch Mr. Bingley’s character on Georgiana’s behalf, this was not something she could relate to Jane. While it was not difficult to conclude that Mr. Bingley had earned a reasonable degree of admiration from both Jane and Amos Stovall, it was also easy to ascertain that the admiration was that which would be bestowed on a good friend. Jane was very quick to praise Mr. Bingley but Elizabeth could detect nothing of her former feelings in such praise. With an easier heart she encouraged her sister to talk about the estate which she and Amos hoped to make their home when he left the navy.

“Oh Lizzy, I will so love to have you visit. I will never be able to keep you in the house since you will wish to walk and ride all over the estate’s park which is not as large as Pemberley but has as many beautiful views.” Jane paused for a moment or two before smiling, “According to Amos, the winters are quite cold and snow is plentiful. He is already talking about acquiring a sleigh or even two for driving about in the winter.”

Elizabeth laughed, “Jane enjoying a sleigh ride? I do not believe it to be possible. You are a creature of the gardens and prefer a warm room to being out in the cold.”

“I think I might enjoy a sleigh ride a great deal if my husband is next to me!” Jane’s blush prompted a most unladylike snort from Elizabeth which she tried to hide by pretending to cough but eventually gave up the effort and laughed at her sister who also began to laugh happily.

“Jane, I am so pleased to see you so happy. I will be most willing to visit you at Edgemont when you take up residence. Of course, I will insist on William accompanying me in a sleigh of our own.” Elizabeth’s arch look elicited a knowing grin from her sister. “Of course, Lizzy. Of course!”

The two sisters continued to talk for another hour as Elizabeth described all that had happened to her and Darcy since they returned to London. Elizabeth found that as she talked to her sister, the events which she found somewhat overwhelming when they occurred could be placed in perspective. She had met members of the social elite and survived the experience quite nicely. She had been on public display and, if understandably nervous at the time, she had been in command of herself and thought she had acquitted herself well. With the support of William, the Matlock family and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, her first tentative steps into London society had been taken without accident. Doubts that she harboured about her ability to be a good Mistress of Pemberley in all of the facets involved still existed but they no longer seemed ready to overwhelm her. She could face the future with more confidence in her abilities.


Sunday May 16, 1813 – Darcy House, London
Darcy was there to welcome them all when they arrived at Darcy House. It had been over a month since he had been in company with Jane and her husband and he welcomed them both with particular warmth. The intensity of his gaze as he turned once again to Elizabeth was matched by hers and as he placed her hand on his arm to lead them all to the drawing room, he murmured, “I have a small surprise for you.” At her quizzical look, he continued, “I shall show it to you very shortly.”

As they entered the drawing room, Elizabeth was surprised to see Mr. Bingley talking to Georgiana. “Is this your surprise, sir? I admit it to be a pleasant one.”

“No indeed, although I am pleased Bingley arrived in time for the dinner tonight. I rather expected he might be late.” Since the Gardiners had not previously met Mr. Bingley, Darcy made the introductions. The Gardiners were very interested to make the acquaintance of one of whom they had received such varying reports. While he had apparently disappointed their niece greatly by his withdrawal of his attentions, he had also been very generous in his assistance to her and her husband in acquiring an estate. It seemed likely that he might be in the company of the Stovalls in the future and it behooved the Gardiners therefore to think well of him. It did not take overmuch time for them to be convinced of his amiability and worthiness.

After a few minutes Darcy spoke to the room, “I have no wish to disturb any conversations taking place but I would like to show Elizabeth her chambers that we have refurbished to her specifications – I hope. Would any of you wish to accompany us?”

Jane and Mrs. Gardiner were quick to show their interest and Darcy led them upstairs to the Mistress Chambers. Before throwing open the door, he asked Elizabeth to close her eyes until told to open them. After some teasing on her part, she complied with his request, her anticipation increasing her reluctance to delay viewing her rooms. Leading her carefully into the room followed by Mrs. Gardiner and Jane he stopped her in the middle of her bedroom and asked her to open her eyes. Despite being warned by the appreciative murmurs of Jane and her aunt, she nevertheless was overwhelmed by the changes that had taken place. Gone were the ornate furniture, brocades and the clutter of furnishings. In its place was a room designed to provide light and warmth and comfort. She walked around fingering the curtains and the small settee in front of the window. Walking into the bedroom she admired the fittings and coverings.

“I hope this meets with your approval.” Darcy’s voice was low and his breath tickled her ear.

“Indeed it does, William.” She paused and turned her head slightly towards his, her lips within inches of his and her voice equally quiet – and she hoped indistinct to her aunt and Jane, “However, I hope to spend but few nights in it!” At Darcy’s uncomprehending look, she broadened her smile a trifle while a blush pervaded her face, “I hope to spend most of them in your bed, William.”

“Truly?”

“Truly!”

“I…ah, I think we should view your dressing room also.” If her aunt and Jane had discerned the cause of Darcy’s reddened countenance or loss of composure, they gave no sign other than a slight smile from Jane. Darcy quickly ushered them into the dressing room in which many of Elizabeth’s recent purchases had been stored. She looked around and nodded her approval. “I must convey to Mrs. Hodgkins my appreciation for the way she has carried out this refurbishing. I shall be most comfortable in these rooms.” Darcy watched with great satisfaction as the three women wandered back and forth in the two rooms admiring the furnishings and the care that had gone into making the rooms so suited to Elizabeth. As Mrs. Gardiner so aptly stated, “I cannot envisage rooms that could more closely reflect your tastes and preferences, Lizzy.”

Once they had rejoined the rest of the party in the drawing room, Elizabeth quickly went to Georgiana and taking her hands expressed her appreciation, “For I am sure that you had no small part in making my rooms so delightful.” Georgiana’s discomfiture at the praise was obvious and Elizabeth chuckled, “I can see I still have much work to do in teaching you how to accept praise.” Further teasing was cut short by the entrance of Mrs. Hodgkins to announce that dinner was ready. Before she could depart, Elizabeth hastened to take her aside and express her appreciation. “Mrs. Hodgkins, you must allow me to thank you for your efforts to refurbish the Mistress Chambers. It can have been no easy task to take the few comments I offered and effect such a delightful transformation and with so little time to accomplish it.”

“Miss Bennet, I was truly happy to do so. I have been the housekeeper here for fifteen years and the happiness that has invaded this house in the last few months has been a joy to see.” With that she patted Elizabeth on the arm and was about to leave when she turned back saying, “I have taken the liberty of writing Mrs. Reynolds at Pemberley about your preferences. She will see to the refurbishing of the Mistress Chambers there.” She then bustled off about her duties. Elizabeth noted that Darcy was waiting to lead her to the dining room and quickly took possession of the arm he extended. At his raised eyebrow, she quietly answered, “I just wished to thank Mrs. Hodgkins for her efforts on my behalf.”

He nodded and led her to sit at his right hand at the head of the table. Georgiana, acting as hostess for the family gathering, sat at the foot of the table which had been shortened to more comfortably suit the number of guests. Bingley and Mr. Gardiner had seated themselves to her right and left while Mrs. Gardiner sat between Elizabeth and her husband. The Stovalls sat to Darcy’s left. Altogether it was an amiable company that sat down to dine and the presence of Bingley and Mr. Gardiner served to envelope Georgiana in an easy conversation that eased her discomfort at being the hostess. Conversation ranged over a wide variety of topics although, not unexpectedly, the upcoming nuptials and the Stovalls experiences in Yorkshire were of much interest. Darcy informed Elizabeth that his cousin, Lady Frances and her husband, would attend the wedding but that his Uncle, Lord Matlock, had declined to do so, citing a reluctance to travel to Hertfordshire. If there were other reasons, they remained unstated.

Elizabeth was pleased that she was able, from where she sat, to observe Mr. Bingley’s behaviour towards Georgiana. Given that he had been a particular friend of Darcy for more than five years and had known Georgiana for as long, she was not surprised to see how comfortable they were in each other’s company. She could not detect that he paid her any attentions beyond those of a close acquaintance; however, Georgiana’s preference was more obvious and, although not improper in any fashion, more concerning. Elizabeth thought she should mention her concerns to Darcy when the opportunity arose.

When dinner was finished the ladies withdrew to the drawing room, leaving the four gentlemen to their port and cigars. Stovall and Bingley quickly fell into a discussion about York and the Stovall estate with Bingley also discussing his plans to purchase an estate in close proximity to York itself, for as he said, “I am too much about my business in York to be separated from it for long periods and yet I like the easiness of country living and manners.”

Darcy and Mr. Gardiner found common cause as their discussion centred on a common interest – business. Darcy had invested in the Gardiner business and both were considering opportunities elsewhere. Bingley had briefly mentioned that he was looking to expand and neither Darcy nor Mr. Gardiner was adverse to such involvement. They would take the opportunity while in Hertfordshire to talk to Messieurs Johnson and Thompson about the possibilities, although Mr. Gardiner was rather convinced that much of the discussion would fall to his lot since Darcy’s thoughts would be much more pleasurably engaged. After a half hour they decided to join the ladies in the drawing room and were greeted by the sight of Georgiana and Elizabeth essaying a duet as they entered the room. The two young women played charmingly for a further ten minutes, becoming aware that their audience had expanded only by the volume of applause that greeted their efforts. They were pressed to continue playing and obliged for a further quarter hour at which point they joined the others for tea and coffee. Elizabeth took the opportunity to sit somewhat apart with Darcy on a settee, where they could converse in quiet comfort and be deliberately ignored by the others. If there was no obvious contact between them, glances and brushes of a hand on an arm or hand conveyed the affection and desire each was feeling for the other.

Since their plans called for an early departure for Longbourn the next morning, they did not linger afterwards, wishing to return home to make final preparations for their journey the next day. Once the Gardiner carriage had departed for Gracechurch Street, Darcy returned indoors to join his sister and friend. Georgiana wished to retire to her rooms to make her preparations and, if she was to spend more time considering the attractiveness of a certain gentleman, it was no more than might be expected of any young lady who was not yet seventeen. Darcy and Bingley enjoyed a companionable brandy in his study before Bingley acknowledged his fatigue from travelling and retired. Darcy’s thoughts were almost completely of Elizabeth and the realization of his dreams and hope to make her his wife. He did not attempt to deny to himself his anticipation of their wedding night and all the days and nights which would follow.

Chapter 39

Monday May 17, 1813 – Longbourn

“Lord, I hate carriages!” Elizabeth’s exclamation drew smiles and laughter from the other inhabitants in the room. Having departed from London early Monday morning and arriving in Longbourn before luncheon, she had known her mother would want to display her to all the neighbours particularly since Elizabeth had deliberately refused to return to Longbourn for an extended period before the wedding. She was convinced that Mrs. Bennet intended to extract every ounce of patience that Elizabeth possessed and her reserves of such had dwindled alarmingly. Mrs. Bennet had started her campaign almost as soon as Elizabeth had alighted from the Darcy carriage. The Gardiners had barely time to see their children into Longbourn before Mrs. Bennet had commandeered the carriage - and along with it, Elizabeth - to begin the visitations. Mrs. Bennet had, in her good opinion, much to be displeased about; the lack of time for wedding arrangement and Elizabeth’s unavailability to be displayed throughout the neighbourhood were those that excited her greatest displeasure. While she had finally acceded to the desire of the Thompsons to host a dinner on the eve of the wedding, it had taken a forceful order by Mr. Bennet, for her to do so with the barest minimum of grace. She consequently determined that the wedding breakfast would be unrivalled and insisted that Elizabeth accompany her on visits. The satisfaction of boasting about her least-favoured daughter’s excellent match could only be exceeded if that same daughter was present when said boasting occurred. Fortunately for Elizabeth’s temper, she and her mother had to return an hour or two before dinner since the Bennets were entertaining that evening.

When Elizabeth finally returned that afternoon, Mrs. Gardiner and Jane wrested her away from Mrs. Bennet insisting that Elizabeth needed to rest and hustled her upstairs to her room where Julia awaited. A short rest followed by a bath and a period of quiet, as Julia dressed her for the evening, repaired Elizabeth’s mood. Mrs. Bennet’s attempts to orchestrate this process as she thought appropriate were diverted by Mrs. Gardiner who cajoled her with stories of Elizabeth’s evening at the theatre, where she had been introduced to an Earl and a Duke and Duchess. When Elizabeth finally came downstairs she was greeted by a somewhat worried Darcy. “I fear your mother has quite exhausted you, Elizabeth.”

"I am well now, William. But I think I will insist we remain at home tomorrow.”

Taking him by the hand, she had led him to a quiet corner and sitting with him on a settee she had lowered her voice and said, “One of the things I have come to miss greatly are our early morning walks. I plan to walk out very early tomorrow morning around seven. Perhaps I might meet a tall, handsome gentleman on my walk to Oakham Mount. Do you think that possible, sir?”

“You may count on it, Elizabeth.” Their moment of quietude had not lasted as Mrs. Gardiner approached them with a request from her children that Cousin Lizzy come up and see them. Elizabeth had been more than willing to comply and accompanied by Darcy had gone to sit and read with her young cousins.

Once the guests arrived there had been few chances for her to talk with Darcy and she anticipated their morning walk with delight. The evening passed as such evenings do and Elizabeth’s main concern that evening had been to ensure the comfort of both Darcy and Georgiana. With her aunt’s assistance, she was able to ensure that seating at the table placed them both in proximity to people with whom they could converse comfortably and had asked Kitty to attend Georgiana when they removed to the drawing room. She could see that Georgiana, in particular, was not wholly comfortable in the surroundings but not unduly distressed. Darcy returned to her side when the gentlemen rejoined the ladies and attached himself to her side for the remainder of the evening much to the amusement of Mr. Bennet and the Gardiners.


Tuesday May 18, 1813 – Longbourn
The day dawned warm and sunny, which lent an extra spring to Elizabeth’s step and she had not been walking for long before Darcy overtook her on his horse. Leaving the horse to follow behind, he joined her afoot and arm-in-arm they walked in comfortable silence to Oakham Mount. They found little need to talk, limiting themselves to the occasional observation about the scenery or the people that had attended the festivities the previous evening. If Darcy took advantage of having to help Elizabeth over a stile obstructing the path and stole a kiss, Elizabeth raised no objections and conveniently forgot to mention that she had climbed that stile by herself for years.

Once they reached Oakham Mount, Elizabeth let herself be wrapped in Darcy’s arms, leaning her back against his chest as they looked out over Longbourn and, in the distance, Netherfield. Elizabeth’s mind cast back to the previous summer when she had walked to Oakham Mount almost daily to escape her home and her thoughts of Darcy’s offer of marriage. Feeling the warmth of his body surrounding her and the strength of his arms, she marvelled at the change in her thoughts and future that had taken place in less than twelve months. Turning to face him, within the envelope of his arms, she cupped his face with her hands and kissed him softly. She had felt his surprise at her initiative, however, it had taken him but moments to tighten his grip and respond. He had slowly removed his lips from hers after a minute or two, lingering over the taste, and seeing the tears streaming down her cheeks, wiped them with his gloved hand. She had listened to his breathing quicken and thought hers had done so as well. His voice had a husky sound when he asked, “What caused these tears, my love?”

It had taken her a moment or two to be able to respond, “I was remembering that about a year ago I sat up here, thinking about you, your letter, my mistakes and errors, my anger at you, myself, my parents. The only joy I saw was the prospect of a tour with my aunt and uncle of The Lakes and I thought I was quite reconciled to never seeing you again. And yet, here we stand and…and I have never been as happy.”

Darcy grimaced unseen as he remembered his feelings of a year ago. When he finally spoke Elizabeth could detect a change in his emotions that his words made clear, “A year ago I was…sunk in the most abject misery of my life. I was angry at you for rejecting me, at myself for laying myself open, for deluding myself of your affections, for my behaviour, at Wickham for poisoning you against me. To be truthful, my thoughts were still in turmoil a month after Hunsford. I could see no joy only duty and responsibility. I was gradually coming to realize the merits of your words but it was hard to bear.”

Elizabeth turned and placed a hand on his cheek, “Come William, when the past brings no pleasure, it must be discarded.”

“Tis easier to say than do.” Darcy laid his forehead on hers, “It helps not that we have had so little time together alone. If it were not for this walk where we can be alone, I fear I should go mad.”

“I find it hard to bear as well. I want only to be in your company.”

Elizabeth moved closer and rested her head against his chest, enveloped in his arms. They stood so for several minutes, each taking comfort from the other when Darcy leaned back and gazed at Elizabeth with a look that Elizabeth was coming to realize meant the subject was one he found somewhat embarrassing, “I would mention something that has intrigued me greatly over the past few days.” At her quizzical look, he continued, “You mentioned, when viewing your bedchamber, that you wished to…ah…spend your time in mine. Did you mean for us to share a bed always?”

Elizabeth looked up. She could not be sure of his concern. She knew that it was the usual practice of his station for wives to sleep in their own bed and for husbands to visit when marital relations were desired. At least, that was the situation she had gleaned from her mother’s ramblings and from other gossip she had overheard. She could not tell if he was offended. “I…perhaps I spoke improperly William. I will follow your wishes but mine are to have you in my bed every night for the rest of my life. If the bed is yours, it matters not, but I wish to be with you. From my days at Pemberley it seems clear that your duties may consume much off your time. I would not wish there to be whole days where we did not see one another.”

Elizabeth’s distress was obvious to Darcy as he could feel her body tensing as she spoke. She had dropped her eyes to the ground as she spoke as if unwilling to see his reaction. He raised her chin so that she could see him, “Elizabeth, my darling Lizzy, there is nothing I would wish more than to share my bed with you for all the days of our marriage.”

“You have never called me Lizzy before!”

He feathered a kiss on her lips, “I think of you as Elizabeth but I shall call you Lizzy sometimes.”

“I like it very much.” She paused for a few moments, “Whatever will we do with the spare bedroom?”

He chuckled, “I am sure that some use will be found. Perhaps a Mistress study?”

He had tightened his grip on her till it was almost painful but she had not minded it, not at all. With no further words, he had finally released her only to take her arm so that they would return to Longbourn. His voice was rough as he spoke, “We had best return or your mother will have them out searching for us.”

“You know my mother too well, I fear. I am sure she is already lamenting our absence. I am afraid I have little reluctance to try her nerves further. The prospect of returning to face a seemingly endless stream of visitors is daunting.” Elizabeth looked up and gave him a mock frown, “You sir, at least, can escape to the quiet of my father’s library.”

Darcy smiled complacently, “And I shall enjoy every minute that I am there.”

“I shall have to think of some way to torment you today in retribution.”

Darcy looked at her thinking, “you are tormenting me now, my love, even if you do not realize it.” He contented himself with shaking his head murmuring, “I have full confidence in your ability to discompose me, my dear Elizabeth!”

They walked for a few minutes in that companionable silence they both had come to enjoy when Darcy thought about Elizabeth’s last words, “I realize you were hurt a great deal when your neighbours began to shun your family. Your anger was quite understandable. How do you feel about them now?”

Elizabeth walked in silence for several minutes and Darcy began to worry that he had upset or offended her and began to try and withdraw his comment, “Perhaps…I did not mean to distress…”

Elizabeth shook her head as she interrupted him, “Forgive me. I am not distressed by the question. I am just trying to form an answer.” She paused a few more moments and then continued, “I was hurt, I admit. Unlike Jane, I expected our neighbours to act much as they did but expecting it and experiencing it are very different. It hurt that people I had counted as friends would only acknowledge me on the street but shun conversation, would not allow their sons to dance with me at an assembly, would not call on us or accept our calls. What truly angered me though was how it hurt Jane. She is so good, so gentle and kind that she could not envisage such treatment. She tried to hide it but I know her too well and her pain was hard to witness. That my father and mother, who bear much of the responsibility, did not appear to suffer as we had done was not conducive to filial affection. This is largely why I wished for Jane and I to escape to London.”

“Do you find that your feelings have changed?”

“I no longer am so angry. How can I stay so when Jane is so happy and I have found you? I am disappointed in those I once counted as friends but their opinion counts for little with me now. I will not hate them but neither will I seek their approval. I understand why they acted as they did but I do not have to condone it and would hope not to behave so I should the occasion arise. I have, I think, forgiven them but I have not forgotten the injury they did.”

Darcy nodded silently, “I understand your feelings. Nonetheless, I have observed that you treat them all with great civility.”

“I have always attempted to be civil – even, as you know - to those I dislike.”

Darcy laughed, “True, I certainly had no suspicion of your dislike at the time although Richard was sensitive to it.”

“My love, we have ample proof of your inability to discern the feelings of young ladies. Fortunately for me, I believe that practice has improved you greatly in this regard.” Elizabeth’s teasing glance drew a small chuckle from Darcy.

“Well, my dear, if I continue on as well as you claim, I have hopes of becoming a true proficient.”

They walked in silence for some minutes when Elizabeth broke the silence, “William, I have been thinking.” She walked a few steps without saying anything further until prompted by Darcy, “Oh, I apologize. I was lost in my thoughts. I was thinking about Georgiana and Kitty. Georgiana will be staying with your cousin Lady Frances until they all come to visit us in July. I was thinking that Kitty needed to be exposed to better society than she will find at Longbourn and would have proposed she stay with the Gardiners but, since my aunt will be confined this summer, I think looking after Kitty would be a burden on her. I thought perhaps we could invite Kitty to travel with them to join us at Pemberley until we return to London in the fall. She would provide company for Georgiana and would benefit from her society. What do you think?”

Darcy walked in silence for several minutes considering Elizabeth’s suggestion. Finally he nodded his head, “I think it an excellent idea. Georgiana will be glad of the company, since I fear you are likely to capture most of mine.” He walked on for another minute or two absorbed in thought before continuing, “I also had thought to invite my Darcy relatives – those two aunts I spoke of once – to visit us in August. Would that be agreeable to you?”

“I would like that very well. Perhaps we might invite your uncle and aunt for a week at that time. Would they be good company together do you think?”

“I will speak to my Aunt Matlock and canvas her opinion.”

“Have you notified your Darcy aunts about our marriage?”

“No, I have not. I will write in a few days to inform them and extend the invitations when I do so.” He paused for a few moments and then smiled, “Pemberley will be coming back to life this summer. I cannot remember – it must be fifteen years or more – when we hosted so many visitors. Mrs. Reynolds will be overjoyed. She desires nothing more than to display Pemberley and the ability of its people to the greatest advantage of both.”

“I fear I will have much to learn if I am not to embarrass you and Mrs. Reynolds.”

Darcy easily detected the note of uncertainty in Elizabeth’s voice and stopping, took both her hands in his and raised them to his lips, “Do not fret, dearest. I have full confidence in you, as does Mrs. Reynolds. Between you both, I know our guests will be most comfortable. My only regret is that I will not be able to command your time as I would wish. I do plan to be quite selfish though and exercise my privileges as much as possible. Our guests will have to find amusements where they may for some of their stay.”

“I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours, William – where it involves myself.”

“I see you have been listening to your mother’s advice. On this topic I cannot but agree with her.”

“For once I have no response, sir. I pray it does not happen with any frequency or I shall be greatly discomfited.”

Their eventual return was greeted by Mrs. Bennet in urging Elizabeth to break her fast in order to prepare for another round of visits. Upon learning that Elizabeth had no intention of leaving Longbourn until it was time to dine with the Thompson’s, her dismay and disapproval was expressed for some quarter hour until Mr. Bennet was forced to intervene, “I suggest Mrs. Bennet that you take comfort in our daughter’s presence here at Longbourn. I have it on good authority she considered being married in London.” Hearing this, Mrs. Bennet resigned herself to only being able to accept the congratulations of those ladies who deigned to call. Elizabeth was not, however, able to avoid assuming her share of this burden and comforted herself that she at least had the pleasure of Jane and her aunt’s company.

~~~

Feet curled beneath her, Elizabeth leaned back against the wall of her window seat. Looking out over the back garden, the pale moonlight cast everything into shades of grey. Only her familiarity with what lay before her allowed her to discern anything more than the barest of outlines. This was her last night as Elizabeth Bennet and she was spending it alone.

Kitty and Mary had come for a short while but she had never been all that close to them and tonight, for whatever reason, she felt even more separated from them both. Jane, with whom she had shared the closest affections, had stayed longer but even she was called to be with her husband. Her mother had visited briefly, shooing Kitty and Mary out of the room. Fortunately, Mrs. Bennet had been accompanied by Mrs. Gardiner. Elizabeth knew as soon as her mother appeared what was to happen. Her beseeching look to Mrs. Gardiner had elicited only the slightest of resigned shrugs – her mother would not be dissuaded from her duty. Elizabeth had attempted to block out her mother’s words. Mercifully, the lecture was short and deviated not a whit from that which Jane had received and recounted to Elizabeth – lie still, it will hurt for a while and he won’t bother you frequently. Once her mother had finished she left the room quickly, her unpleasant duty done. Mrs. Gardiner remained. Seeing no obvious signs of distress from Elizabeth, she explained further that not all marital relations were unpleasant. That, because she was marrying a man who was both kind and much in love with her, it was quite likely that she would find much pleasure since she could trust that her husband would wish to please her. Elizabeth had not really needed those comforting words from her aunt. She had experienced a small portion of the love and care and passion that Darcy felt for her and was looking forward to becoming his wife. If she was nervous, it was more from anticipation than fear or uncertainty. Even tonight, amongst the crowded rooms at Netherfield when everyone’s attention had been focused elsewhere, she and Darcy had managed a brief moment of closeness, a lingering caress from his fingers on her bare arm. She had seen the desire in his eyes and hoped he had recognized hers. She could not let her thoughts dwell on such; she could feel her body flush.

The afternoon had been an event that met every expectation of her mother who could safely and vehemently boast of two daughters married – albeit one whom she had not seen for almost a year and resided across the ocean – and another to be wed on the morrow. Said daughter was not, however, particularly pleased with all the attention and her civility had been tested severely. Finally, escaping her mother’s vigilant eye, Elizabeth had prepared three cups of coffee on a tray which she carried to her father’s study. Upon knocking and being told to enter, she opened the door to find her father and Darcy seated in front of the window concentrating on a chess game. Handing each a cup, which was accepted with the normal courtesy of a chess player in full concentration, which is to say very little at all, she had taken her own and stood behind her father to watch. After determining that it was her father’s move, she considered the pieces on the board for several minutes. Clearing her throat, she touched her father on the shoulder saying, “Check in three moves, mate in five.”

Darcy’s head snapped up, “You know how to play?” His surprise was evident. “But …”

Before Elizabeth could respond, her father shook his head and tipped over his king. “Quite right Lizzy, we are all even Mr. Darcy.” He looked at Darcy, “I taught Lizzy to play when she was but fifteen.” He smiled up at her, “Beat her like a drum for about three years but in the last year or two she held her own.”

“Held my own! I dare say. I seem to remember winning our last three matches.”

Darcy was still shaking his head. “I do not understand. At Pemberley, I offered to teach you to play and you refused. You told me you did not wish to learn how to play.”

“I believe, Mr. Darcy, you have forgotten my exact words.” This was said with a slight teasing smile on her lips.

Darcy frowned in concentration, “I do not remember your words now.”

“I believe I said that I was content to add riding to my list of accomplishments.”

The thoughtful look on his face was replaced by a knowing grin, “And learning chess would not add to them because you already knew how to play. I see …” he paused for several moments and then leaned back and gazed at Elizabeth with the slight smile she had come to associate with his teasing, “I have learned two things this afternoon.”

“Two things, sir? And what may they be, sir?”

“Well first, you know how to play chess and play it well, which should add materially to our entertainments on a long evening at Pemberley. And the second, that I shall have to parse your statements very carefully in the future, Miss Bennet. Very carefully, indeed.”

Elizabeth’s look of consternation prompted a chuckle from her father. “I think you shall suit my Lizzy quite well Mr. Darcy. I have rarely seen her so discomposed.” He started to set up the chess pieces and looking at Darcy, “I believe we are all even with three draws and a win each. Shall we attempt to decide a winner?”

Before Darcy could respond, Elizabeth shook her head, “”My two favourite men have hidden away from our guests long enough. You both must come and at least pretend to take pleasure in their company. I am sure you would not wish my Mama to intrude here to express her displeasure.”

Darcy and Mr. Bennet exchanged commiserating glances and without too much grumbling had rejoined their visitors in the drawing room. Elizabeth had retained Darcy by her side until most of the visitors had departed, but she knew her father had stayed but a few minutes before escaping once more.

She smiled as she considered her William’s discomfort with her neighbours. He was not garrulous but he was also not coldly distant as he had presented himself when he first came to Hertfordshire. He had responded politely and with civility to the many well-wishers and she could ask no more of him than that. That he was more amiable when amongst company with whom he had a prior acquaintance was very obvious at the dinner at Netherfield. There he knew and respected many of the guests, his reserve dropped and he was much more engaged in the conversations.

For herself, entering Netherfield for the first time in almost eighteen months carried an edge of unreality. In truth, she had few good recent memories of the house and her last memory – that fateful ball – was particularly painful as she knew her family, with the exception of Jane, but certainly including herself had displayed themselves quite, quite poorly. If she was discomfited by being there, she had to wonder at Mr. Bingley’s feelings; however, she had not been able to discern anything from his countenance nor had she the opportunity to discuss it with him during the evening. To be greeted by the smiling faces of the Thompsons as she entered the foyer dispelled much of her unease and seeing Darcy moving quickly towards her banished the remainder. As she walked to the drawing room, she surveyed her surroundings and was quite pleased with the changes she found. Mr. Bingley, since he had only leased the property, had accepted the furnishings that came with the lease. The Thompsons were clearly of a mind to establish their permanency and had, in the half year that they occupied Netherfield, refurnished many of the most used rooms to their own tastes. She approved those changes that she saw and had said as much to Mrs. Thompson, to that lady’s gratification.

Of the dinner and the evening itself, she could remember little. She found herself rather fatigued by the almost constant activities of the past two days and Darcy, seeing her so, had secured them seats which allowed her to relax and recover. She had appreciated the comfort he had secured for her and remembered his query as to whether she was nervous about the next day. She thought she detected a touch of nervousness in his demeanour and teased him about it. She was not prepared to believe his assurances that he was not nervous at all. She knew that she was – the ceremony would mark the end of her life as Elizabeth Bennet and the beginning of one as Elizabeth Darcy, wife to Fitzwilliam Darcy, mother of his children and Mistress of Pemberley. “My dear”, she said quietly, “I cannot anticipate such a change without some degree of nervousness, but I would brave a lot more for a life with you.” She looked at him carefully, “I trust that you will not consume too many brandies after I depart tonight?”

Her raised eyebrow as she glanced at him elicited a brief smile, “I promise to be quite abstemious tonight. Fortunately, Richard is not here to lead me into a sinful indulgence.”

“I see, you propose to lay all such behaviour at your cousin’s feet then?”

“Of course, he is not here to contradict me.”

Their quiet respite was not to continue and they were joined by others and required to engage in such polite conversation as was customary on such occasions.

~~~

If Elizabeth had any interest as the evening progressed, it was in trying to sketch Mr. Bingley’s character or, as she thought, perhaps intentions was the more appropriate term. He had spent some time talking with Georgiana, her pleasure evident only to one who knew her very well. However, he had also engaged Miss Thompson in conversation for an extended period alone or in company with others. His attentions were not marked but to one who was scrutinizing him closely, his interest certainly appeared to have been piqued. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was certain that Georgiana had also discerned his interest and was made unhappy by it although making every effort to hide the fact. There was little that could be done at the moment but Elizabeth was sure the subject would arise sooner than she wished.

If she could retain any memories of the evening at all, they would be quite disjointed. The warmth – heat – of William’s hand on hers, Georgiana speaking so comfortably with Mary, Kitty and Miss Thompson, Mrs. Bennet’s uncivil attitude towards Mr. Bingley when he attempted to greet her, Miss Thompson’s slight mortification with her mother’s attempt to forward an acquaintance between her daughter and Mr. Bingley, and the latter’s good humoured and courteous handling of both situations.

She could not think much on the dinner now as she looked about her room. She had lived here for almost her whole life and none of her possessions remained. The memories of Longbourn she wished to treasure were from her childhood and youth, but Longbourn was no longer her home. That would be Pemberley but even so, she felt as though her ties to Longbourn had been fraying for quite some time. She was sure that she should have some regrets about leaving but she could not. It was difficult now to see clearly but she rather thought the process had begun when she returned from Hunsford and her family’s shortcomings had been exposed in Darcy’s letter. Her time in London with the Gardiners had not been long enough to make it her home. It had only been when she arrived at Pemberley that a sense of belonging had begun. Home had now become Pemberley and while all her belongings had been removed to Darcy House, they were destined very shortly to be sent to Pemberley. That was a natural process to be sure and one that every bride faced.

A soft tapping on her door startled her from her reflections and the sight of her dearest Jane in the doorway brought a lift to her spirits and a smile to her face. Jumping down from the window seat, she embraced her sister who led her to the bed. Once they were both comfortably ensconced on the bed, Jane took Elizabeth’s hands in hers. “I could not rest if I did not have a final late talk with my dearest sister. I cannot stay long but wish to…we will not see each other for several months or more. I shall miss you sorely.”

“I am thankful you came. I was becoming quite melancholy and part of that was the loss of our talks. I will miss you also.’

Jane reached over to the table and picked up a hairbrush. Moving behind Elizabeth she began to brush her hair with long slow strokes. As she brushed, she could feel her sister relax and they began to talk much as they had in the past sharing their concerns, hopes, fears. Before Jane left the room an hour later, she performed a final, small task – to cover her sleeping sister with a warm blanket.
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The Road Back - Chapters 37-39

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